* Posts by Matthew Gaylard

12 publicly visible posts • joined 14 Jul 2007

Brit global warming skeptics now outnumber believers

Matthew Gaylard

Re: That's what you get when you cram it down our throats..

"Yet to see anything to convince me that humans are the primary cause"

I despair. You've read and understood the science on which 99% of climate scientists agree, but you're not convinced?

Ok, I'll try. Imagine going for a walk 20,000 years ago. Do you think things would have looked a bit different? Think a little bit about those differences. Then ask yourself, is it really so hard to believe that we might be affecting the Weather? We don't struggle with the idea that cities create microclimates. We don't struggle with the idea that agriculture can alter rainfall patterns. So add it all up, and ask yourself, is it really so implausible that burning fossil fuels laid down over millennia in a few hundred years and radically disrupting the way soils fix carbon through cultivation on a massive Scale?

Can Windows 8 bag Microsoft 20 more years at the top?

Matthew Gaylard

OS isn't what it used to be

Stating the bleeding obvious clearly sometimes is useful, so here goes.

It seems to me that the cloud and web-based apps *are* a game changer that have the potential to make the Operating System much less important than in the past. Microsoft's business model is fundamentally based on leveraging the Windows/Office/VBA eco-system. Consumer use has steadily pulled developers away from that towards the web, and that is starting to filter back to business environments with growing momentum.

If I was in charge of Google, I would be turning google gears/gmail/google docs/g+ etc into a proper platform to rival and exceed office/outlook/exchange/vba. The key here is productivity applications that you don't need to be a rocket scientist to customise for specific business purposes.

My guess as to how revenue from productivity applications will be structured in future is by tying them to carriers. Using the cloud increases your bandwidth requirements, and you pay for that. So I think consumer device speeds are going to be less important (already happening with tablets and smartphones vs laptops) and internet bandwidth more important and you're going to see a redirection of resources (investment and intellectual capital) in this direction. I believe after the dot.com boom there was a perception for a time that bandwidth was in over supply. That is patently untrue now.

Facebook IPO: Boom or bubble?

Matthew Gaylard

The people directory

I don't think that the collapse of MySpace is indication of the likelihood of the same thing happening to Facebook. The collapse of MySpace was a result of the fact that both companies provide a useful service - an online "people directory" - that will inevitably be dominated by the provider that builds an unassailable momentum in terms of user numbers.

I suspect that most Facebook users are like me. They occasionally use it to look up or contact someone whose contact details they don't have. That is a very useful service.

Researchers: Arctic cooled to pre-industrial levels from 1950-1990

Matthew Gaylard

@ Adam 73

Funny how the cranks like yourself pontificate about the scientific method but seem to consistently have some pretty basic and easily checked facts wrong. It's not too hard to see where the good science is here.

Hubble eyes sun-roasted exoplanet

Matthew Gaylard

Space Travel

My brother and I were having an interesting conversation that sparked a chain of thoughts for me (as often happens in conversation with him). We were discussing the possibility that one of the reasons for the apparent scarcity of intelligent life in the universe (i.e no-one has contacted us yet) might be the existence of a universal bottle-neck on life preventing inter-stellar travel. The argument goes along these lines ...

... The process of developing the technologies required for interstellar travel is so dangerous and carries such a risk of species extinction or even just major cultural disasters e.g. atomic wars, systemic destruction of the environment and the eco-systems required to support civilization that it perhaps only very seldom - or never - occurs ...

If this is the case, overcoming such a bottleneck might require radical shifts in consciousness in an intelligent species. My strong suspicion is that colonialist impulses are unlikely to survive such shifts. What would space exploration look like as practiced by a non-colonialist species?

From this perspective the problem is less one of "interstellar" and more one of "travel". i.e want constitutes "travel". In its simplest sense, travel means going to a place. But we're talking about going to a place and experiencing it. Experiencing it is more than simply a matter of sensory immersion - although this is a huge part of it. It is also a matter of having agency in the destination i.e. being able to manipulate the environment to which you have "traveled".

This means the logistical problem presented by interstellar travel has two parts - resolution, and communication. We have made significant progress with the first part of the problem. We have much better resolution of nearby stars than 100 years ago. We know a little bit about their structure. We even have some evidence of planetary systems (in relation to our own solar system, several probes (including Viking on Mars) have significantly improved our resolution of our own planetary system).

The second problem, communication, addresses the issue of agency. Manipulation of the environment is a fundamental part of "being there" and this is essentially a problem of communication - theoretically similar to that encountered by people experiencing locked in syndrome.

When viewed in these terms, space travel at light speed becomes possible. In fact, the Viking probe to Mars represents a primitive form of such travel. Although the initial journey to Mars was much slower, now that Viking is there, we can "travel" to mars at light speed. Obviously, there are massive technical problems associated with signal strength and bandwidth over interstellar distances, but at least we have identified a spectrum of light-speed carriers, and this seems the sort of problem that may have solutions.

At present we must accept that the placement of an interstellar transceiver to accomplish light-speed travel must itself happen at slower than light speed unless we can establish a communications protocol with an interstellar being that can accomplish it for us. The toolkit one provides such a sub-light speed mission obviously becomes very important. It must be expandable and remotely programmable. One conceivable strategy would be to include organic tools. This has been contemplated with respect to Mars already - the possibility of planting extremophile microbes that would release oxygen into the martian atmosphere, for instance.

It is possible to conceive of far more sophisticated interventions exploiting extremely good use of bandwidth. There may be ways of tackling the problem of resolution that we cannot presently conceive of or are only beginning to guess at. Furthermore, a civilization willing to plan over the 1000's of years it might take a probe to reach its destination is likely to be operating on different planning cycles to us. An intervention might take the form of insertion of particular genetic code into an environment. If this is true, it makes a search for evidence of intelligent design against the backdrop of general evolution rather meaningful. Such a discovery might well yield the information we need to decode a communications protocol and interpret the instructions for setting up a transceiver. We may even be embarking on such a project without being conscious of it.

It therefore seems presumptious to assume that intelligent life is not attempting to communicate with us. It may even be attempting to communicate "with" us in the sense that we are its tool of communication with earth i.e. communicating through us.

Secret ancient code, basis of all modern civilisation, cracked

Matthew Gaylard

Well, yes ... but

the ancient Greeks were rather marvelous. I'm not sure that what we consider "thinking" today would be possible without them in a way that is not true, for instance, of the modern americans.

Firefoxers howl as privacy add-on auto updates with 'bloatware'

Matthew Gaylard


Sorry, but this sort of holier-than-thou attitude irritates me no end. The majority of people, including those such as myself with an intense interest in software, whose core function is not that of test applications for deployment on large corporate networks, do not have time to research each and every software update. Yes, we have Windows auto-updated, because it's the only realistic option for us in terms of time. And for this reason we're rightfully indignant when windows/mozilla/ubuntu updates don't work or install stuff they shouldn't.

Just stop with the tech snobbery. All it says is you either occupy a rather narrow niche in the corporate IT landscape - software testing - or have loads of time on your hands to micro-manage your personal network.

Apple reels as Steve Jobs Flashturbates

Matthew Gaylard

No way but down

Apple - innovators? As I understand it, MacOS X is based on the BSD Unix interfaces - it's certainly looked familiar the one time I had to fix a booting problem on a mac laptop, and the couple of times I've peeked at my brother's Macs. The whole iPad thing is truly mystifying. Apple certainly weren't first out of the block in terms of the tablet format - but it seems large numbers of people will pay big bucks for the Apple consumer experience.

But this is part of a bigger story - the number of "innovators" motivated by intellectual curiosity is significantly larger than the number of innovators motivated by a desire to make huge piles of money by developing proprietary products that lock out other independent innovators. I'm basically an optimist, despite everything, and in the long run I suspect that innovators rather than businessmen will determine the direction of technology in general - and IT in particular.

In fact, the important thing that has happened is that Microsoft's stranglehold on the development community by virtue of it's desktop monopoly has weakened to the point that its point of leverage - the PC - is now starting to be undermined. Apple's attempts to replicate Microsoft's strategies are certainly enjoying success right now, but I strongly suspect that this is going to be a much shorter arc than that enjoyed by Microsoft. The genie is well and truly out of the bottle now, and whether it's called Android, Chrome OS or Ubuntu the platform of the future will be open source.

Chrome-fed Googasm bares tech pundit futility

Matthew Gaylard

Ted obfuscates the issue

Thank you Alexander - it's useful to have expert comment. It seems to me that the tech journalism industry - el Reg included - frequently do us a disservice and this sneering at people who think Chrome is an OS is a good example.

It seems to me that much of current discussion about the relative virtues of OS's and browsers you read on tech pages doesn't really help people understand the problems around software architecture.

An important instance of this is in terms of browser security - and what Alexander has to say about the OS maintaining a namespace is of relevance. Of course one wants a secure OS, but the security of the OS is really perhaps a different and less important problem than it seems at first. You can always disconnect your computer from the Internet, for instance. It defeats the purpose to disconnect your browser from the Internet though and the browsing privacy and what is done with data we store online represents the real security issue. Sandboxing the browser doesn't solve this and it doesn't really matter whether the browser is an OS or not. It's what people are encouraged to do online that is important, and what online service providers can and can't do with our data.

Interestingly, the fact that Chrome is open-source doesn't matter. We can peer at the communication between chrome and google all we like - it doesn't solve the problem, because in the end the security problem is not - nor ever has been or will be - a technical one. It's a social one. It's the fact that google has all my email and I've trusted them with it. Good technology can sometimes help delineate the problem and give users a degree of control, but it never resolves it. Creating a situation where I can trust service providers with my data is about preserving the public nature of the internet. This means making sure that the public space is not subverted by private interests in ways that we're not aware of or can't reasonably give informed consent to.

I'd like to be reading more about these issues in tech forums, because the opinions of a wider section of the tech community actually matter on these issues. On whether google is a browser or an OS only the opinions of a small section of that community matter, and the issue matters much less than the vitriol it appears to have evoked would suggest.

Mozilla opens the doors on Messaging subsidiary

Matthew Gaylard


Thunderbird can read mail settings for outlook express, and eudora - so it does support auto-configuration, doesn't it?

Microsoft vs. Google – the open source shame

Matthew Gaylard


I think that the way that Google functions - and yes, from the perspective of the user they are admirable in the extent to which they implement open data formats and provides access to information about interfaces (and practical) - is in part a reflection of the impact of the Open source *business* model and *ethics* in the market place.

This is a good thing, no?

Certainly, we need corporations to be greener, more worker friendly etc. And it seems possible to me that these things could provide competetive advantage.

OLPC czar shames Intel into board seat

Matthew Gaylard

Yes, some journalism please

If I want unsubstantiated posturing I can consult my cat.