* Posts by David Lester

75 publicly visible posts • joined 3 Jul 2007


Pompey boffin bags €1.3m off EU for dark matter research – shame a no-deal Brexit looks more and more likely

David Lester

One Slight Correction...

Because this H2020 funding is for science from the ERC -- and is therefore an individual grant -- Dr Beutler is at liberty to take his €1.3 million to any EU institution he chooses. This is unlike the H2020 funding from FET which is awarded to an Institution, such as Portsmouth University.

This makes researchers with ERC grants very attractive on the international market: they come with their own funding!

Good for Dr Beutler; not so good for Portsmouth and UK Science more generally.

(I have been awarded both ERC and FET funding in the past.)

Reach out for the healing hands... of guru Dabbs

David Lester

Dabbsy and the Bogon Hypothesis

“Idiots emit bogons, causing machinery to malfunction in their presence. System administrators absorb bogons, letting machinery work again.”


Adi Shamir visa snub: US govt slammed after the S in RSA blocked from his own RSA conf

David Lester

Re: Here's some suggestions ...

Quite right too!

I'd forgotten my last conference (as participant) was in Maastricht. A visit to the castle and another civic reception by the regional mayor (or whatever) in the Regional Parliament.

But it did involve a long long series of train rides out of Brussels. Three, I think.

David Lester

Here's some suggestions ...

The visa issue has been around in some form or another for at least a decade. As an academic conference organiser, I have seen the UK Border Agency turn down PhD students from the German Supercomputer Centre. After paying €700+. Admittedly, both were Iranian nationals, and on reflection I should have been more careful in obscuring the nature of our get together: mentioning "supercomputers" in a visa reference for an Iranian national was a bit of a red rag to a bull.

Now, on the practicalities of organising conferences. Ideally you'd like to be able to fly in directly to an international airport, hop in a taxi, train or bus and get out at the destination hotel/venue. Since there are a lot of PhD students attending, you need to keep the price down, but you also need the facilities available. For this reason, out-of-season holiday destinations can be quite attractive.

So, in no particular order here are some suggestions for conference venues where visas are less of an issue:

North America: Vancouver, Montreal, Toronto.

Italy: Amalfi Coast (fly in to Naples), Sardinia, Sicily (involves an extra flight).

Greece: Any of the Island (but involves an extra flight)

Belgium: Bruges (easy to get to from Brussels).

Germany: ICE trains make airport connections in Munich dead easy. Rhineland wine-growing regions are only 30km from Frankfurt Airport.

Sweden/Denmark: A bit expensive, but there are often youth hostel type hotels in interesting destinations in the islands and forests.

France: Try working out from Lyon rather than Paris (CdG). North to the Mâconnais, or even the city itself. The area around Marseille can be good.

I'd also think about Romania or Estonia these days.

Wanted: DVLA CTO. Must love cloud, open standards, agile – and retiring outdated kit

David Lester

£120,000, eh? Do they think we're stupid?

Last year one of our Manchester Undergraduates walked into a £155,000 starting salary.


The only person likely to take on the DVLA's particular poisoned chalice is someone who just doesn't care.

And probably can't deliver.

EU plans for domestic exascale supercomputer chips: A RISC-y business

David Lester

Re: I'm a little skeptical about this kind of industrial policy...

Absolutely right about the cost and complexity of the interconnect (and thanks for the historical correction; DEC Alpha supercomputers, eh? There's a blast from the past!)

Nevertheless, I thought InfiniBand now counted as "stock" -- if somewhat expensive -- hardware?

David Lester

Re: I'm a little skeptical about this kind of industrial policy...

The important thing to understand is that Supercomputing is nowadays about taking stock components and putting lots of them together.

Historically, since custom Mainframes died, that's always meant using Intel processors.

But the bread and butter for Intel are the chips in the laptop I'm using at the moment. Likewise for ARM it's the Washing-Machine Chip du nos jours.

Supercomputers are just for fun!

David Lester

If you want an open source ARM, there's always the Cortex-M0? But why would you? Either the core you've selected is up to the job (in which case licensing is easy), or it isn't (in which case you add an accelerator, which probably doesn't impact the ARM IP, and so is easy, too).

The M0 is not my first choice core, but it does have a very low MIPs/W quotient.

Now, the Cortex-M4F: that's what we've selected for our 10,000,000 core machine. With a few accelerators for the key features we need. I'm quite pleased with my five cycle exponential function, and then there's Marsaglia's JKISS-64 in just one cycle (pseudo-random number generator for Monte Carlo Simulations).

David Lester

You're probably right, though I think I heard Valero suggesting a power budget of just 10MW.


I have the following constraint from the Head of Department: "You have a machine room with a 100KW supply".

"Can I have any more?"

"No. Any more and the CS Department will need a new electricity sub-station!"

Luckily SpiNNaker self-powers down when no one is using it, so I don't think the electricity bills will be noticed for a while.

David Lester

Since ARM are involved -- as partners -- in many of these EU HPC initiatives, I think the licensing costs are the last thing to worry about.

Besides, an Exascale machine will need at least 1MW of power; that comes to about €1 million per year running costs. The pennies per processor licensing costs will be dwarfed by the running costs.

How to stealthily poison neural network chips in the supply chain

David Lester

You can call me Mr Thickie here, but ...

... any chip design I've been involved with has used _all_ the available silicon area -- meaning that there is little room for widespread switchable functionality.

And why is it necessary to have switchable functionality for this attack to work? Well, I presume there is some automated acceptance testing to check for functional/non-functional chips. And, if you're going to test the chip, it might as well test whether umbrellas can be distinguished from Bolivian Seaborne Marching Powder.

Chief EU negotiator tells UK to let souped-up data adequacy dream die

David Lester

Re: Well, duh

The real problem which both the UK and the EU have to grapple with post-Brexit is WTO non-discrimination rules.

Anything the EU does for the UK, without a trade deal (and no one's expecting that for five to seven years), can then be claimed by any other nation in their trade deal with the EU. And similarly for the UK, which will have no trade deals in place, and therefore for whom every other WTO member is a "Most Favoured Nation".

So, if the EU accepted our request to sit in on GDRP, then a similar request from Russia, China, or more plausibly the USA would need to be looked on with similar favo(u)r. This may go some way towards explaining the current local difficulty.

Just accept the Swiss view: no negotiation with the EU is ever actually over.

HMRC delays digi tax plans amid Brexit customs woes

David Lester

Re: I hope that HMRC...

You write: "The only party who had all this organised and ready to go was UKIP."

The Panto season starts early again this year? "Oh no they didn't!"

Don't believe me? Then ask Dr Richard North of www.eureferendum.com , who was Nigel's principal researcher in the 1990s. North did indeed have a plan -- Flexcit, which involved a staged reatreat via EEA/EFTA -- but Dear Nigel (correctly, in my opinion) veto-ed it on the grounds that more people would vote Leave if they didn't know exactly what they were voting for.

Britain shouldn't turn its back on EU drone regs, warns aerospace boffin

David Lester

Re: Opportunity?

The issue with other nations joining EU regulatory bodies lies in the small print.

In particular the use of the ECJ to adjudicate disagreements. That's why Switzerland and Norway have no trouble signing up, but why a post-Brexit UK cannot use any of these agencies. Well, if the PM sticks to her guns about not being subject to the ECJ, that is.

In reality, there's been no activity by HMG to re-establish any of the regulatory agencies we'll need post-Brexit -- up to and including new IT systems for HM customs, expanded port and lorry park facilities at all of our ports, plus whatever they come up with to stop smuggling between Northern Ireland and the rest of the EU -- so forgive me if I remain skeptical about a full-on Brexit.

ps Of much more interest to The Reg readership is what happens to CE registration of consumer electronics. Again, when push comes to shove CE resorts to ECJ judgement. I assume we'll be re-instituting the old BS standards, hopefully in pounds and inches, just to double our manufacturers' red-tape quotient.

Email proves UK boffins axed from EU research in Brexit aftermath

David Lester

Re: Is anyone surprised?

Mr AC writes: "It's effectively a breach of contract on the part of the EC."

I'm afraid not. The rules of this funding vehicle require a group of academics to form a "consortium" to bid for the grant. Because of the lack of clarity about free-movement post-Brexit, potential partners elsewhere in the EU are necessarily sceptical about inviting UK participants to join. It is a right PITA to dump someone part way through a grant.

So, nothing about what is happening is the fault of the EU. Instead, it is an understandable reaction of individual academics throughout the rest of the EU.

David Lester

Re: Is anyone surprised?


I have applied for one of these Marie-Curie PhD Training Networks before, and as you say they are "competitive".

The real reason that I'd avoid a UK partner at the moment is the enormous question mark over free-movement. The whole idea is that a PhD student from one country is taught in another. If the UK cannot guarantee that the students and there supervisors have the right to free movement for the next four years, then there seems little point in a UK partner.

(You might note that Switzerland is not permitted to be part of these actions due to restrictions on the free movement of EU citizens from Slovenia.)

Neuroboffins use supercomputer to partially build DIGITAL RAT BRAIN

David Lester

Re: A section of rat brain


No need to apologize!

The one point I'd make -- having played student politics at Brasenose against one D Cameron -- is that simulating a politician's brain would be a very tricky task indeed..

David Lester

Re: Neuron and Synapse Oversimplified?

R Olsen writes: "@David Lester: I'm not a neuro-scientist but I like to follow the research/read articles etc. It seems like there are complexities in synapse and neuron function that would need to be accounted for to make the model valuable."

Well, I'm not a neuroscientist either!

You've hit on exactly the right question. What level of modelling accuracy is required to obtain the results you're interested in? Steve and I are particularly interested in "plasticity and learning", i.e. mechanisms that allow animals to learn and remember their responses to previous stimuli.

"I'm sure you are aware of many more examples, but two I've been reading about recently:

1-Dendrite preprocessing of information, seems like there is a lot more going on there than previously thought, not sure if the models take that into account.

2 - Neurons switching between slow and fast firing type depending on conditions.

Are the models being used (for synapse and neuron activity) good enough to think the entire model will provide a reasonable simulation of actual?"

Let's answer this in two parts: Henry's model does indeed feature dendritic computation and the neurons also switch modes. Our simplified SpiNNaker models do not currently feature the dendritic computation feature (instead we model the currents passed into the neuron as a linear rather than multiplicative property), but by using the Izhikevich neuron we do get the bursty-ness property.

Previously we'd have been able to say "well our model shows many of the same properties as Henry's more complicated models", but this wouldn't say anything about how well that matched biological reality.

So, for us the interesting next test is: "Do we need non-linear dendrites?" Because everything in SpiNNaker is done in software, we can make this change, but it will affect the speed and or density of function we can achieve. One thing to point out is that the systems we're developing in HBP can model one brain area in high fidelity and the rest of the brain at a much lower level of detail.

David Lester

Re: 1.2 Billion Euros ...

Schultz writes: "Is that a financial stimulus package or do they expect to get 1.2 billion worth of scientific knowledge out of their supercomputer?"

Well, the results reported here are part of the Blue Brain Project, which has been primarily funded by the Swiss Federal Government. The Human Brain Project -- of which I'm a part -- is funded on a biennial basis contingent on results, probably to the tune of about €0.5B in ten years. This funding originated in FET-ICT ("Future Emerging Technologies for ICT") whose mission is to foster industrial collaboration between different ICT companies in the EU. Currently, the money is coming from DG Connect, which is part of the EU's Digital Agenda, which I think was established by The Register's favourite recently-retired EU Commisioner: Neelie Kroes.

The University of Manchester contribution with Technical University of Dresden is a new 28nm SpiNNaker component. SpiNNaker-1 cost the UK research council ~£5M for a 130nm component. Our HBP funding is order €10M.

David Lester

Re: A section of rat brain

OK, let's be a bit less gnomic, and try to place Henry and the rest of Blue Brains' work into an IT context.

A cortical microcircuit is really the minimal functional unit of a brain. An analogy is to consider a neuron as a transistor and the microcircuit as some sort of generic IC. One of the achievements of this work is to provide us with a provisional count for the number of distinct neuron (i.e. transistor) types. When you consider that biology has what we'd call an "extremely high process variation" and that neuroscientists are basically given a pile of 37,000 different cells and asked to classify them into "morphologies" then you're getting an idea of what's needed.

Another key idea in this paper is that the places where connections are made occur geometrically, that is wherever the "wires" get sufficiently close to permit connections (synapses) to form. Obviously, it remains for the results to be confirmed by other labs, but if this result proves true, then again our task becomes a bit easier, as the biology becomes a bit less tentative.

To me, as someone tasked with providing an even more simplified version of this circuit (but running in real time, rather than taking hours to simulate a second, as the model reported in the original article does) the true significance is that we have a "reference semantics" against which we can compare the behaviour of the SpiNNaker model.

A test version of SpiNNaker-2 has been taped out in July, and we should get back the result just before Christmas. Although the test chip is just trying out ideas (in 28nm), our[*] aim is to permit a microcortical circuit of 40,000-100,000 neurons[**] to be realised on a single one Watt chip.

There are of course any number of features which Henry's model does not yet include, but the intriguing thing is that the model already makes a number of predictions about the results of future experiments.

[*] Sebastian Hoppner (TUD), Christian Mayr (TUD), Steve Furber (UMAN), Dave Lester (UMAN).

[**] Both the number of neurons and the number of connections increases as the animal's brain complexity increases, e.g. for a macaque we're looking at about 80,000 neurons with a fan-in/out of ~5,000. For the rat we're looking at 37,000 neurons with a fan-in/out of ~1,000.

David Lester

Re: A section of rat brain

Mr Mage opines "I'd bet it's absolutely nothing like ANY biological brain..".

What stake do you have in mind in Mr Mage?

Dave Lester (Chip designer for Human Brain Project, led by Henry Markram)

EU reduces science cuts as Juncker finds €500m down back of sofa

David Lester

Re: Disappointed


As part of GEC Hirst Research Centre, I had the immense privilege to work with Pierre America's POOL/DOOM team in my first EU project: ESPRIT 415.

My favourite moment was being asked to explain to the lab director how it was possible for a meeting "to have ordered and consumed over a bottle each for lunch?" My reply, which was accepted, was: "There were a significant number of Frenchmen attending the meeting, Sir."

Since the project meetings took place every six weeks, my late father also took to asking: "When are you going to get a real job? You're enjoying this one far too much!"

I also discovered that despite it's no alcohol policy, GEC accountants must have assumed that "wijn" was dutch for some sort of duck!

David Lester

Re: Academics need a reality check

As an academic getting some EU money (about 15%, since you ask), here's your reality cheque:

(*) If the UK is to make savings from its exit from the EU, it cannot be intending to recycle the money in exactly the same way; otherwise where would the saving be? It'd be pretty naive to think that my current EU grants would continue upon Brexit, and fairly unrealistic to expect that the UK would pay for further EU science participation.

(*) All academic funding in the ICT field is made with an eye to enhancing technological competitiveness. I have an interesting project which is stymied because it is not in the UK's interests to let industrial tech leak to Australia, and not in Australia's interests to boost our Tech Industry. So this project is never going to happen. Nor will it happen if/when we are out of the EU: it would still not be in Australia's interests to pay for ARM to become more dominant.

(*) Academic funding is offered for a number of reasons. Some are to provide individual researchers with funds to do their own thing; examples are responsive-mode EPSRC (UK) and ERC Advanced Grant (EU). Others, such as Marie-Curie (EU), or EPSRCs DCT (UK) grants provide funding for PhD students. And some are to promote collaborative research, i.e. H2020 FET-ICT (EU) and EPSRC Programme Grant (UK). I find a mix of these is the most effective way to undertake my research: the collaborative programmes give you a much broader perspective of how your research fits into a wider field. (Full Disclosure: I believe the only grant scheme I have not held from the list above is the Marie-Curie.)

(*) There is no requirement to have a weak European partner, and every reason to avoid them: they will make effective working extremely hard.

(*) Both Switzerland and Norway pay over the odds to be members of EU Science, as does Israel. In addition they do not sit in on the meetings to decide on the next five year research agenda. The Swiss have complained loudly about being cut out of the Marie-Curie and ERC schemes, which was a result of their referendum refusal to extend free movement to Slovenian nationals. In particular the withdrawal from ERC caused problems since their universities have been using the award of ERC advanced grants as a proxy for the academic quality of their academics.

(*) Finally, the last I read about Juncker's proposed alternative destination for the H2020 money it was supposed to go to the CAP. The UK receives more than it pays into the science budget, but far less than it pays in from the agriculture budget.

Jeb Bush: Repeal Obamacare and replace it with APPLE WATCHES

David Lester

This is possibly a marginally better idea than that of our new lords and masters:


Ada Lovelace Day: Meet the 6 women who gave you the 'computer'

David Lester

And there I was, expecting a quick mention of the crytanalysts at Bletchley Park.

A rather nice photo of Joan Clarke is in the article:


NO SALE: IBM won't cash in its chips with GlobalFoundries after all

David Lester

300mm (= 1') fab

"DiMarco, a longtime IBM employee, was previously in charge of designing, building, and running IBM's 300mm fab in East Fishkill, NY."

Really? 300mm? One imperial foot?

Like wow!

Are you sure you're not having a Dr Evil moment?

(should it in fact be 30nm?)

Ex-Sun journalist charged with handling a stolen mobile phone

David Lester

Re: Is it wise leaving comments open on a live crown court prosecution?

Patrick writes:

"What bothers me is - does turning it on to see in the lock screen has contact info count as "using it without authorisation"?"

Well, to put the icing on the cake. After handing the phone in, and getting a receipt ("We don't want you to be done for receiving stolen goods, do we Sir"), the WPC turned it on, and because the PIN wasn't in use, she rapidly found "Mum" under the contacts list.

The ensuing conversation "She did what? On the bus?" did not bode well for a happy Mother-Daughter reunion that evening!

David Lester

Re: Is it wise leaving comments open on a live crown court prosecution?

Right, in that case -- as someone who found a mobile on a bus one morning and turned it into the police (rather than the bus driver) -- what is the protocol in this situation?

David Lester

Is it wise leaving comments open on a live crown court prosecution?

Your lawyers may have "views"!

Memory muddle muddies Intel's Exascale ambitions

David Lester

Re: I don't know why this is a problem..

"Exascale does not just mean "ARM based vector processor".... for specialized applications."

Talking with NVidea executives in the back of a taxi in Lausanne: "Exascale is just a marketing term; it means whatever we want it to mean!"

Still, to be serious for a moment, the major energy consumption is going to lie in the interconnect. Making it fully general purpose and scalable will be extremely expensive. As most supercomputers are made of stock Intel components, it might be useful to consider custom interconnect in order to drive energy costs down. The different supercomputer customers have wildly different requirements. Google, for example, the largest user of supercomputers on the planet has no (or very little) need of floating point.

What I expect to happen with next generation supercomputers is:

(*) Vectorization (drives down fetch-execute costs)

(*) DRAM stacked 3D (reduces memory access energy costs by factor of 5 at 28nm)

(*) As many cores as you can put in. (Steve's on record saying that energy efficiency dictates that these cores need to be as small and simple as possible; my only comment as the programmer is I'd like one heavy-duty core to handle IO)

David Lester

I don't know why this is a problem..

Furber and I announced an ARM-based vector processor for neuroscience applications with an equivalent power-performance ratio in Lisbon in June, and no need to invent new technologies, just 28nm, mobile DRAM, and 3D packaging.

... Of course, if you insist on something as power-hungry as x86, you'll need to be a bit more inventive, ...

Stephen Fry explains… Alan Turing's amazing computer

David Lester

Re: Am I missing something?

AC writes: "What he seems to have said doesn't look particularly wrong to me. Turing had written Computable Numbers in 1938..."

1936. See http://www.cs.virginia.edu/~robins/Turing_Paper_1936.pdf

"... but it was only after the war, at the NPL, that he focused on building the universal machine. Due to the lack of momentum at NPL he decided to go to Manchester where at least he would have access to a working computer."

True. But part of the problem at NPL was too many people trying to "help" design it. Turing included.

"For a mathematician he was very hands on, and did lots of building of electronics."


"Finally, it is arguable that the Manchester device was the worlds first programmable digital logical computer, rather than a calculating machine which is what all previous devices were (and mostly analogue)."

Argue away...

Euro boffins plan supercomputer to SIMULATE HUMAN BRAIN

David Lester

SpiNNaker and HBP

Paul Turner has kindly pointed out similarities between SpiNNaker and the HBP proposal. This is no accident: Steve Furber and I have had considerable input into HBP, and we are major partners in this project.

As far as we are concerned, we gain immeasurably from access to interested Neuroscientists and the other skills we do not have. For example Seth Grant (Edinburgh/Cambridge/Sanger Institute) is one of the foremost scientists in the field of genetics and neuroscience. Stanislas Dehaene is a great Cognitive Scientist.

The difficulty with multi-disciplinary research projects is finding people willing to cooperate and willing to invest the time to understand the new languages used to describe other fields of science. For example, integrating the SpiNNaker chip into robotics is not something many mainstream roboticists wish to undertake, and with good reason. With most robots one would want to be sure about what it will do, for safety reasons if no others; this is not an option if the device's behaviour changes as it learns.

Steve and I have already invested time and effort talking to the "neurorobotic" part of the project: Alois Knoll and the rest of his team in Munich (there's a SpiNNaker board there already linked to one of their robots), Murray Shannahan at Imperial and others.

We also need the biological insights that will come from the neuroscience part of the project led by Henry Markram at EPFL Lausanne. Without this, we will struggle to make our work "biologically relevant".

Of course, there is also the Graphene research that won the other €1 billion prize; they're celebrating on the floor below me!

Learning about chip design from Silicon Roundabout

David Lester
IT Angle

So, about that Steve Furber Interview...

... I'm making damned sure he's up to his eye balls in EU funding proposals at the moment (it's my job); but if you like we'll see what we can do after Jan 6.

Future of computing crystal-balled by top chip boffins

David Lester

It's a shame Faggin isn't a bit younger...

... because I rather fancy a wager on the success of neuro-computing.

Say $50 on the Human Brain Project ( http://www.humanbrainproject.eu/ ) turning out something useful if it gets ten years funding.

The snag with teaching yourself neuroscience is that it's really an entirely new subject; you'd be better off getting real experts involved. So HBP involves people like Henry Markram (Neuroscience), Steve Furber (ARM designer), and Seth Grant (Human Genome project, neuro-genomics expert).

Dave Lester (APT Manchester / HBP project)

Boffins fear killer gamma death blasts from space

David Lester


I'm looking through an old book of mine ("Approaches to numerical Relativity" Ray d'Inverno, CUP 1992), and numeric simulations of colliding neutron stars appear to occur over very short periods: ie the final approach from 20km to merger takes about 2ms.

Does anyone have any more recent estimates? There's also an assumption that the pulsars are not shredded at 20km, which would have been a necessary simplification 20 years ago, but may be considered unrealistic nowadays. Anyone?

Faster-than-light back with surprising CERN discovery

David Lester

An observation from a Physics outsider ...

Does this tie in with the observation that neutrino bursts from distant supernova appear to arrive 20 minutes prior to the visual confirmation? Is this the right time difference to match the experiment? (Previously explained as "dust" interactions.)

As neutrinos notoriously don't interact much, could this be something to do with the virtual particle creation/destruction in transit.

Boffins step closer to steam-powered Babbage computer

David Lester

An issue for steam-powered computers...

... is that of heat transmission.

One of the "computing engines" in the Science Museum's collection is Carter's Ringing Machine. This was devised circa 1900 by Mr Carter, who was a Birmingham Bell-ringer, and -- for afficionados it was capable of ringing Stedman Triples on hand bells via an electro-mechanical linkage. The problems was that with the original steam engine, heat was transmitted via the drive shaft into the system causing sufficient expansion for the tolerances to be exceeded and the machine to seize.

In more recent times, the machine has rung a "full extent" of Stedman Triples (that's all 7! = 5040 changes or about three hours), using an electric motor as power supply. It's worth a look if you can get the curator to give you a private demonstration.

ARM daddy simulates human brain with million-chip super

David Lester

Reply to Mike 137

The topic for discussion next Monday with Kevin Gurney (Computational Neuroscience, Sheffield) is: "The striatum: what do we know? Can SpiNNaker model it convincingly?"

But the point about Robots is well-taken. We have already made contact with both UK and EU robotics potential partners. What Tim has not focused on (there's rather a lot of work behind the press release) is that the system runs in real-time. And it's low power --- each chip consumes 1A at 1V (for 1W power consumption) and for the neural simulation it has the computing power of a typical high-end desk top. The full system runs at less then 50kW (depending on work-load).

Still, the question we all have is: just what do you have to do to get an article filed under RiseOfTheMachines? Buy all the London-based staff beers?

Psychology graduates remain poor for life, study shows

David Lester
IT Angle

Lewis: there's an IT flip side...

Whilst the popularity of Psychology probably lies more in it's promise to aid understanding of other humans, rather than subsequent employability; there's a mystery as to why -- here at Manchester -- our Computer Science courses are so un-popular, at least for UK students.

Last year the department led the Engineering and Science Faculty tables on employability. Has this led to a major improvement in applications? Of course not! As Admissions Tutor I will be one of the few in the University going into clearing again this summer, and this despite having the target reduced by 10% a few weeks ago.

Perhaps the Reg readership would like to get to the bottom of the subject's unpopularity. Is it that compulsory IT GCSE leaves people with the mistaken impression that Computer Science is IT? Do most people not realise that the subject is either discrete maths or electrical engineering, and consequently fail to get the requisite maths A-level? Answers on a postcard, please ...

Still it's the same story over in Chemical Engineering, and they're the most well-rewarded newly-minted graduates.

Journos 'risk charges' for covering Parliamentary debates

David Lester

Who do you invite to a Dinner Party with Andrew Marr?

Another question is the old Private Eye trick, whereby we conclude an article about the fragrant Imogen, with -- apropos nothing at all -- a quick: "Lester Haines is 57".

I noticed rather a lot of that in the last issue, including apparently interesting speculation on who best to invite to a dinner party with Andrew Marr.

I think it'd be best if their Lordships got their thinking straight on these relatively simple matters before taking on the complexity of the interwebs.

Intel: Windows on ARM won't run 'legacy apps'

David Lester

... And I thought our spin-out (Transitive, now IBM) had solved the binary translation problem?

Binary Translation, anyone?

(Seriously, if this is the best Intel can muster, then the writing really is on the wall isn't it?)

Plague of US preachers falsely claim to be Navy SEALs

David Lester

The combat-to-clergy transition

The most famous example in the UK would be the late Robert Runcie MC: a tank platoon commander in 1944/5; latterly ABofC.

Microsoft to Apple: 'Oh, yeah? Well, your font is too small'

David Lester

For the First Time ever ... I support Microsoft!

Not content with "genericness", we also have "fact-intensive assessment" inflicted upon us.

All I can suppose is that it makes a pleasant change to the usual lawyerly[*] amble through the sunlit uplands of "fact free" legal discourse.

[*] What do you mean: of course any noun can be f**kingly adverbed. It's part of my first amendment rights.

Ten... fantasy swords you wish you owned

David Lester

Hrunting Hellfire!!! ...

... you've only forgotten the most famous sword in Anglo-Saxon folklore (we'll ignore the Romano-British Excalibur, shall we?)

WikiLeaks.org resurrected in US of A

David Lester


As someone who's been acting as ambassador to my boss on contract negotiations with the EU, the whole feel of these diplomatic cables gives me deja vu.

The boss (for whatever reason) cannot attend the mid-level meeting. He can read the minutes. But what he really needs is a feel for how the meeting went. That's what these thumbnail portraits (of foreign worthies) and gossip (the stuff that's not minuted) really represents.

And with few exceptions, what we see is that US diplomacy in private is virtually identical to what it says in public. And that's a jolly good thing.

French woman chased up tree by wild pigs, rescued by copter

David Lester

Add Pheasant ...

Typical porcine behaviour; boar are viscious buggers when they're defending their young.

Still to add to you list: pheasants...


This is from a memorable Xmas special BMJ issue (1987); they used to reserve their strangest articles for the holiday period.

Jobsian fondle-slab in SEXY FILTHGRAM CRACKDOWN

David Lester

I have a Dream!

Steve Evans writes: "Jeeez The US patent office will allow a patent on anything won't they!"

I would like to patent a device that can automatically generate a patent that the US patent office will reject. Provided that such a device/software/buisness method is granted a patent -- and I'm unaware of prior art, nor do I think such a device is obvious to practicioners of the art -- then I think I can then diagonalize (after Georg Cantor) the US patent office, and we will never hear from them again.

Google ops czar condemns multi-core extremists

David Lester

I'm writing a Wimpy multi-core OS, as we speak ...

... well more an RT executive, truth be told.

Whilst Amdahl's Law cannot be revoked, our intended application (neuroscience) has P=1 (ie everything is parallellizable). And hence, (modulo interconnect performance) a million chips runs a million times faster. By Amdahl's Law. Cool eh?

An 18 core ARM chip running at 233MHz? Pretty wimpy. (But can be powered from the USB port)

A million of them, with sufficient interconnect? Now that's what I call interesting ...