* Posts by Palpy

676 posts • joined 11 Nov 2014

Page:

No more installing Microsoft's Chromium-centered Edge by hand: Windows 10 will do it for you automatically

Palpy Silver badge

Re: Hating on MS

Snake, I get it: Edge per se is a non-issue. As you say, it's just anodder Blink brwozer. Shipping an OS with a default browser is a non-issue; every OS I ever installed comes with a browser.

The issue is installing it and then making it impossible to uninstall. The issue is installing it on machines on which the user has already configured software to his/her liking. The issue is pulling cheeseball, stupid-arse tricks like hiding the version number.

(From Reg article: "The current version of Microsoft Edge will be hidden from UX surfaces in the OS – because people don't need to know such things. Also, Chromium Edge does not support uninstalling the update.")

The issue is Microsoft controlling the user's machine. I buy my machines with money; they belong to me. I control them.

The hate comes from Microsoft's track record: you WILL use Win 8 if you want a Window's machine, even though the interface breeds dung-flies. (That died fast, didn't it? Overstepped a bit, MS.) You WILL let MS download data from your machine. You WILL take this update even though it will bork your machine.

So: "You WILL install Edge, you WILL NOT uninstall it, and WE will manage your installation" is where the hate comes from. Simples.

**FULL DISCLOSURE: I do not run Windows much, so I probably don't know what I'm talking about. I do have a Windows grandpa-box, but Linux does everything I need at this point.

Palpy Silver badge

Re: @Zippy

You might try this: start your music playing ("Mothership Led Zep" is what I have on right now, something like an hour and a half of Robert Plant's best adenoidal screaming plus Page bowing his guitar strings with his nose, I love it) and then disable Javascript. To do that in one click, install the Javascript Toggle add-on. Poof. No more ads.

On my setup (Firefox), this does not stop the "want to continue listening" popup from YouTube. There's an extension to that too...

Enjoy.

Microsoft announces official Windows package manager. 'Not a package manager' users snap back

Palpy Silver badge

Re: More than one distro?

Guilty of that, myself. Unconcerned about it, though. Manjaro, Mint, Ubuntu Studio, Q4OS, Kodachi. I think I have Parrot on a thumb drive somewhere too, and probably Puppy. Oh, and Qubes. Fergodsake.

Different GUIs, different repos, different -- well, strengths and weaknesses. Not all applications are available or up-to-date in all possible repos. You can (almost) always find a way to install or build an application in Arch or Debian or Slack, but how much time do you want to spend and how much trouble do you want to take?

Personally, I like variety. Keeps an old man young.

You know this Land of the Free thing, yeah? Well then, why allow the FBI to trawl through America's browsing history without a warrant?

Palpy Silver badge

But, but, but!

Putting Americans in prison is a money-making proposition! We can't allow the private-sector prison-services corporations to slow their incredible growth, you know. (Even in states where private corporations don't run the prisons, they still provide phone and commissary, at incredibly inflated prices.) Not to mention the economic benefits of slavery -- prison labor is used by big players like Walmart and McDonalds because convicts can be paid virtually nothing, as little as twenty-five cents a day. Therefore, despite having a larger percentage of its citizenry living in cages than any other country, Republicans will champion American freedom by freeing the FBI (and every other law-enforcement agency possible) to arrest as many poor people as they can. It's money, you see.

Land of the Free, my arse.

https://www.sentencingproject.org/publications/capitalizing-on-mass-incarceration-u-s-growth-in-private-prisons/.

Could it be? Really? The Year of Linux on the Desktop is almost here, and it's... Windows-shaped?

Palpy Silver badge

Is there a fly on the Windows?

The Microsoft user-monitoring capabilities of Windows is thus expanded to suck in those edge cases who need Linux-on-Windows (for dev work mostly, I assume, since the Windows ecosystem encompasses more user-land applications than Linux).

Don't mean to be overly paranoid, but MS really is out to get you. Er, your data, anyway.

Main boxes are Linux (Manjaro) and Mac here. Old laptops, various.

Now there's nothing stopping the PATRIOT Act allowing the FBI to slurp web-browsing histories without a warrant

Palpy Silver badge

Re: Paranoid and competent

Paranoid? It's not paranoia if they really are out to get you, as the saying goes. Competent, well, as I mention way down the thread, anonymous Linux tools -- TAILS, TENS, Kodachi, a host of "pentest" systems like Kali and Parrot -- have become much easier to use than they were even five years ago. TOR seems faster now, and the privacy-oriented VPNs seem more reliable too.

But you're right, IMHO, in that Windows 10 is insecure by design. Stock Android too, though I haven't explored the successor to ParanoidAndroid (I am doubtful).

Of course, if a nation-state really, really wants to own you, it will. Full stop. If the nation-state lusting after your a** is the one you live in, you're sunk. If it is a foreign power, they may find it harder to use physical means -- breaking and entering to install discreet hardware, for example.

And yes, Intel and AMD chipsets have intrinsic vulnerabilities which potentially defeat any OS-based security. Probably ARM chipsets too, though I haven't researched that.

So for me, the thing is: If you want to minimize surveillance, you do the best you can. Run an amnesiac OS from a thumb drive, use TOR Dns or DNSCrypt, use TOR itself, use a security-oriented VPN, use browser privacy tools (Privacy Badger, Ghostery, CanvasBlocker, and so forth -- too many to list). As it turns out, it doesn't take as much competence as it would seem, because the tools have gotten so much easier to use. Of course, the opposition -- the A-hole Team -- have upped their game as well, I'm sure.

Your mileage will vary.

Palpy Silver badge

Sooner or later,

configs like VPN+TOR+DNSCrypt run from a thumb drive without persistent memory will be made illegal in the USA, I suppose. Though that may be hard to enforce. Meanwhile, in the years I've been fiddling with them, distros like TAILS and Kodachi have gotten much, much easier to set up and use. I'm posting this from Kodachi Linux, which IMHO comes with more preconfigured options than others.

Billionaires showered with wealth as experts say global economy set for long and deep recession

Palpy Silver badge

Ah, the joys of [mostly] unfettered capitalism.

Any fule kno that unregulated capitalism is destructive: the capitalist mandate is to make money, no more, no less. If that means working people to death in unsafe, unsanitary, unregulated slaughterhouses (see "The Jungle"), then that's what capitalists will do. If it means disregarding safety during chemical production and gassing people to death (see Bopal), then that's what capitalists will do. If it means dumping cancer-causing waste where people live (see Love Canal), then that's what capitalists will do.

If it means megacorporations loopholing legislation in order to profit from bailouts meant to help small businesses during a global recession, then that's what megacorp capitalists will do.

This is a no-brainer. The founding documents of the US state that it is the job of government to safeguard the rights of citizens to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It is, in fact, the job of government to regulate capitalism in order to minimize the destructive social harms that unfettered capitalism will inevitably cause to citizens.

There is no known system which is better for creating economic responsiveness to supply-and-demand than capitalism; that's been demonstrated in real time and real events. And the dangers of capitalism have been equally well demonstrated in real time and real events.

As any ful kno.

Ransomware scumbags leak Boeing, Lockheed Martin, SpaceX documents after contractor refuses to pay

Palpy Silver badge

Education is incomplete.

To wit, where I used to work at least two outside engineers (not IT, construction) routinely emailed documents from unrecognized accounts (home? phone? WTF?) and subject lines like "heres pdf for filtration project plz review". The email itself would typically contain no text, just an attached document.

It was a great way to prep an organization for successful spear-phishing.

Idiots.

Want to stay under the radar for a decade or more? This Chinese hacking crew did it... by aiming for Linux servers

Palpy Silver badge

Re: Major targets

I believe that the US military uses Linux for some purposes. So do some of the US three-letter agencies, again, not exclusively by any means but for certain purposes.

Remember that clinical trial, promoted by President Trump, of a possible COVID-19 cure? So, so, so many questions...

Palpy Silver badge

Re: "Not sure I get the point of your post..."

Fair enough. On the ventilators, I agree that millions of ventilators for the US is not overstating, and it may well go upwards of 10 million.

The point of writing the post was, for me, to demonstrate to myself if not to others, that while there are a lot of unknowns, there are some reasonable checks you can make. Compare those to some of the statements being floated, and you can see how wildly off-target some officials are. Trump, obviously, but he's neither knowledgeable nor educable.

But, an example that's all over the news today: Fauci recently estimated 100,000 to 200,000 deaths in the US.

Right, then. If 30% of the population is the lower bound for herd immunity in this epidemic, and we assign a very conservative fatality rate -- 0.6% of total infections -- then US deaths will probably total 576,000, not Fauci's 200,000. And we calculate that 576,000 number using very, very optimistic assumptions.

That's the real point of the post: Check the statements being made about the pandemic. My guess is that Fauci put out unrealistically optimistic numbers to avoid alarming the citizenry. But if you want to have more realistic ideas about what is probably coming, check the numbers.

Palpy Silver badge

Re: Survival and death rates

John Brown (no body): "And even that doesn't really inform us on survival or death rates. No one has a clue as to how many are infected and never get ill enough to go to hospital, let alone those who get infected and don't even realise they got it."

Strewth! We can't even assume that tested-and-confirmed cases keep a constant ratio to real infections. With little testing, one may estimate that each positive case implies 17 undetected cases (1:17); if testing is increased, the ratio may decline to 1:8 or less. One can try to estimate the magnitude of the infection in one region from known COVID-19 deaths -- 50 deaths divided by the death rate -- but one needs to put a number on the death rate. 3.4%, 5%, 1%, 0.6%? Assumptions must be made at every step of the way, and the pandemic is moving faster than we can quantify it.

Palpy Silver badge

Re: Italian COVID-19 patients in ICU 14 days...

Thanks for that statistic.

Taking that at face value puts the worst-case hospital bed need at pretty near 6 million.

But 'cos it's a curve, the peak infection rate will be far above the "average" rate. So maybe the original "tens of millions" would look sensible when the curve is hitting the highest rates of disease.

I'd like to know what percentage of Italian patients require ICU versus how many make it with standard hospital support. And how many in ICU require a ventilator versus making it with supplemental oxygen.

But all the numbers I put out ignore granularity -- some communities will be devastated first, some will hardly be hit until later, some may escape with only "drastic" and not "catastrophic" rates of infection. Some will be OK initially, only to be hit with a wave after other parts of the country have reached herd immunity levels. Treating the US population as a block, as I did (for lack of expertise) makes for a very cloudy crystal ball.

YMMV.

Palpy Silver badge

Re: Ventilators: "You need millions of them, tens of millions..."

Mmmm, I'm in sympathy with the content of your post. Numbers, though.

Epidemiology suggests that this epidemic will die out when a population achieves somewhere between 30% and 60% immunity. Between about one third and two thirds of the population have to catch COVID-19 and recover before the spread will peter out.

Assume the US population is 330,000,000.

Best case scenario, 30% infection: 99,000,000 cumulative cases. If that number of people become infected over the course of 6 months, then there will be an average of 550,000 new infections per day. If 20% of these need hospital beds for four days during their illness, then the need for hospital beds would be 440,000.

Worst case scenario, 60% infection: 198,000,000 cumulative cases. If that number of people become infected over the course of 3 months, then there will be an average of 2,200,000 new infections per day. If 20% of these need hospital beds for six days during their illness, then the need for hospital beds would be 2,640,000 beds.

That last is 2.66 million beds, not ventilators. And these scenarios assume a linear infection rate, which we know. is wrong -- it's a curve. But even so, I don't see the need for ventilators reaching into the tens of millions.

For me, the more important part of this exercise is the realization that in order to reach the lower possible bound of herd immunity (30% immune) in six months, the US will need to endure an infection rate averaging 35 times higher than the infection rate today, 3/28/2020. And obviously the US will have to sustain this onslaught until the end of September, 2020.

Most of us are techies, here, so: numbers.

Drones, apps and packed lunches: The latest on big tech's COVID-19 response

Palpy Silver badge

Thank DEITIES!

"IBM's Watson, running on IBM's cloud, crunches the data from sources such as the World Health Organisation, and the results can be viewed in a variety of media, including a location map or trends."

Or you could just look on one of the many detailed online pandemic maps, or consult pandemic figures online, broken down by US county.

There's an app for that? Put a bird on it.

Singapore to open-source national Coronavirus encounter-tracing app and the Bluetooth research behind it

Palpy Silver badge

To add to the pessimism, the 3-letter agencies --

-- already have this, don't you think? I mean, if non-spook devs can come up with an app like this in a couple of months, then surely the spook-devs who have been working on this stuff since phones got smart have already gotten there.

The squeeze right now is the testing. Your app can't know that the person you just brushed past is CoV-SARS-2 positive unless they've tested positive, and if -- as in many countries -- you're only testing 0.5% of the population, then the app is a cool toy but fails as a tool to prevent infection.

Taiwan collars coronavirus quarantine scofflaws with smartphone geo-fences. So, which nation will be next?

Palpy Silver badge

Re: Which is more important, society or individual?

For a couple of centuries, this question has been answered somewhat differently in the progressive West than in the Asian East. The US has taken individualism to an extreme; China and some other Asian countries go the other way, and expect individuals to always yield for the good of society. This is in general, of course, and there are plenty of examples in both spheres in which people have swum against the cultural tendency.

From what I read, until a vaccine is developed, there is no way to "defeat" the Co-SARS-2 virus. Until somewhere between 30% and 60% of people have been infected and either recovered or died -- ie, until the population as a whole has enough immune individuals to defeat the virus' ability to find individuals to infect -- then the virus will continue to spread.

A given area can reach "herd immunity" quick, or it can do it slowly.

Doing it quick means a massive death toll. Mmmm, maybe 600,000 to 1.5 million Americans dead of the virus in a few months, and a smaller number of deaths due to lack of medical support for other cases (for instance, if your grandma needs a ventilator when her emphysema worsens suddenly in the middle of April, just plan her funeral).

Doing it slow means locking down society to a considerably greater extent than the US or any western nation has done. Theoretically, by slowing the spread of the virus and keeping the medical system from overload, I think we could hold the direct death toll to maybe 240,000 in the US. Medical support for non-virus purposes would be mostly unimpacted.

But in the real world, responses like Bob's make it clear that Americans won't slow the spread of the virus. US politicians have already failed in taking much easier measures, and it's politically infeasible to go the Singapore or Taiwan route. Even if the government tried to impose Singapore-style measures, too many Americans would find ways around them, and the measures would fail on the ground.

So it's pretty much a done deal: The US, the UK, France, Italy, and Spain are going to take the faster, deadlier ride.

But that may not prevent the FBI and other three-letter agencies from pushing enhanced surveillance laws through Congress. They want tracking and face-recog, and this provides an excuse. The ratchet only works in one direction, as we know: emergency surveillance is never rescinded, emergency powers are never revoked.

(In a similar vein, the economic recession or depression-to-be will allow the 10% to 14% of American corporations which never made enough profit to cover their expenses -- "zombie" corporations which are sustained only by repeated low-interest loans -- to take out yet more cheap money under the cover of a necessary bailout. Ditto for the low-profit high-margin fracking corporations which were formed when oil was $80 per barrel -- now that it's down to $30 a barrel, those corporations are dead in the water. But they'll receive bailout money anyway.)

It's possible that the virus will mutate to a less-virulent form. That's favored by evolution; a disease which kills its host is not as likely to persist as one which just makes them cough and sniffle for a week. It would be GREAT if CoV-SARS-2 mutated in that way. But the probability in the short term is quite low. Not a winning lottery ticket.

It's also possible that a seasonal component will become apparent, and the pandemic will slow as the northern hemisphere enters the summer months. I don't see much evidence of that happening. Some watchers have claimed that it's spreading more slowly in southern areas of the US than northern, but Florida seems to be notching up infections as fast as Washington, and Florida is about as warm as the US gets in March.

My personal takeaway: Yes, the three-letter agencies will push for enhanced surveillance-and-tracking powers, and they will use the pandemic to justify it.

No, it won't make any difference in the spread of CoV-SARS-2 in the US. We're already on the fast-and-deadly route for our epidemic.

Looming ventilator shortage amid pandemic sparks rise of open-source DIY medical kit. Good thinking – but safe?

Palpy Silver badge

Re: I agree with "don't panic".

But I don't agree with pollyanna optimism.

Bob, what I'm seeing in the trends from California and New York does not show a slowdown of the infection rate. It's still rising on the same exponential curve as it it did in Italy 21 days ago (I make the doubling rate in California to be 3 days right now). The bite comes when the curve hits Day 14 or so.

Der Spiegel ran some commentary from Italian health workers two days ago. Writes an anesthesiologist in Rome:

"We know from colleagues in Milan that they have stopped accepting corona patients who are over 70 years old and have pre-existing conditions. People of that age who have pulmonary or lung disease or have an advanced-stage tumor are no longer being hooked up to ventilators. Under such conditions, we doctors suddenly are forced to make decisions about life or death. It is terrible."

Take a look, Bob: https://www.spiegel.de/international/world/coronavirus-in-italy-reports-from-the-frontlines-of-covid-19-a-3434cf83-e947-4aaa-9ee7-da15bac5a24e

Here's my problem with saying "OK, Doomer". Look at the kids partying on Orange Beach, listen to Devin Nunes telling everyone to go out to a restaurant. Wrong. People need to take this quite seriously. Pretending that it's all gonna blow over in a month is BS -- it's been 23 days since Italy hit 300 known cases, and the infection continues to grow in Italy, with a doubling rate of about 4.5 days.

My job, before I retired, included brief but intense bouts of industrial emergencies. I'm not great at it -- better at carrying water than leading the charge -- but what I know is this: take it seriously, look at the situation very coldly, keep thinking ahead, plan for the worst, and never count on a deus ex machina to save your ass. (It never does.) And no, don't panic. Panic is a scare-word that fools throw around. I never panicked, not that I remember, and I only knew one of my cohorts who might have, very briefly. Bless his scabrous soul, he did exactly what he had to do -- shut one gas valve -- before he got the hell out of danger.

When you say we'll have it under control in a month, that's pretending that a deus ex machina is gonna save our biscuits. It's pretending because China controlled the spread with a draconian regional quarantine around Wuhan, and strict social lockdowns elsewhere. We're not doing that. And I believe Americans cannot do that. And so we don't get to be China, or even South Korea.

Plan for the worst. Watch Italy.

Pervasive digital surveillance of citizens deployed in COVID-19 fight, with rules that send genie back to bottle

Palpy Silver badge

Re: Golly, wasn't there something about website -- yeah.

So I should have read a little more widely. This in the news, concerning the two pilot sites Verily has set up in California.

First, secrecy: "Staff at two of the company’s pilot locations Tuesday said that press were not welcome, and that they did not want media to observe, even from a distance. A security staffer at one location said he could not answer any questions because he had signed a non-disclosure agreement."

Second, data harvesting: "The website has already prompted major privacy concerns, even as its site reached capacity for scheduling new tests only hours after its launch. ... The pilot screening tool, from Verily’s Project Baseline, required users to login with a Google account, or to create one."

Third, the usual denial of malicious intent: "'All the data provided by Baseline users for screening is stored separately and not linked to any of Google’s products and services,' a Verily spokeswoman said in a statement on Wednesday. 'Data will not be used for advertising purposes.'"

Yeah-huh. Sigh. All this could be done so much better.

Palpy Silver badge

Golly, wasn't there something about website --

-- being designed so that US citizens can input symptoms and get advice about testing? Golly, do you think the government might correlate data which the user inputs with a massive database of personal information already stored on Google's servers, and set the user up -- surreptitiously, of course, don't want to be a bother -- to be tracked as tightly as possible?

With limited testing available in the USA, it is very important that people find out if they will be allowed a test, and if so, where to have it done. Suspicion that the putative "testing website" will set in motion covert tracking activity generates distrust. I'm thinking bad thoughts about it already.

Mercury, the closest planet to the Sun, surely has no frozen water, right? Guess again: Solar winds form ice

Palpy Silver badge

Re: Interesting process... with iron...

One of the hot Jupiter exoplanets (WASP-76b) has been shown to have iron vapor in the atmosphere. Like Mercury, it's tidally locked to its star, so on the dayside the temp runs around 2400 deg C. Strong winds appear to carry the vapor from the dayside into the night, where the temperature drops to around 1400 deg C, cool enough for the iron vapor to condense into droplets and rain out.

Science daily link: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/03/200311121832.htm

Supply, demand and a scary mountain of debt: The challenges facing IT as COVID-19 grips the global economy

Palpy Silver badge
Pint

Re: In Italy --

@ noonoot: Interesting to be in Italy right now. You may insert your own values for "interesting"... I read a Twitter feed several days ago, written by a medical professional in Italy, which described some desperate times in the hospitals. My understanding is that Italy has a good first-world health system. From your post, it sounds like some creative and intelligent emergency measures are being taken.

New York has previously worked out scenarios for a flu-like epidemic: "But a panel convened a few years ago by the state found that in the worst-case scenario of a flulike pandemic, New York could be short by as many as 15,783 ventilators at the peak of the crisis."

Just on the numbers, New York is about 2 days "ahead" of California on the extrapolated infection curve. I really, really hope these extrapolations turn out to be drastically wrong, or that the affected communities do manage to flatten the curve a lot. I would very much like to see this cup pass us by in some way.

@ Jellied Eel: Good points, and I appreciate the biology info on COVID-19 coronavirus. Some of the sites I've been on mention organ failure, and the ACE-2 receptor connection explains how that would come about. On the common cold, yes it can kill, but while I could find estimated fatality rates for influenza, SARS, and MERS, and so on, I couldn't find any for the rotten old rhinovirus that causes our winterly naso-pulmonary sorrows. The rhino is apparently, by contrast, pretty tame. To equate COVID-19 with the common cold, as Bob did in his now-vanished post, is even more egregiously misleading than equating it with influenza.

--------------

I notice that Bombastic Bob's initiating post has been scrubbed. I suppose it violated reasonable rules about spreading misinformation about COVID-19. Too bad, but I see the point.

Palpy Silver badge

Re: graph data looks odd, and I see what you mean.

The only obvious thing I see is that the FRED graphs seem to indicate all debt, whilst the one El Reg posted appears to be labeled as corporate debt only. The early 2001 recession followed the collapse of the dot-com bubble in 2000, didn't it? Would that suggest that a plethora of corporate defaults -- a bunch of failed internet start-ups, I guess -- show up on the El Reg trend, but on the FRED trend they're not as prominent because in that particular recession there were not a lot of non-corporate debt defaults?

I think my suggestions here are stretched damned thin. Tom Waits, playing the devil, delivers a great line in The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus: "Ooohhhh, I think that's a very unlikely hypothesis."

Somebody has to have a better explanation.

Palpy Silver badge

Re: Just wait 2 weeks, Bob

Two weeks is a good timeline: it took Italy 14 days to go from 322 cases to 10,000+, at which point there were not enough hospital beds and ventilators for the hardest-hit victims. California is on Day 3 of their own 14-day count-up. So far the progression looks similar to Italy.*

Nobody I know has jumped off a cliff, Bob. Some people are wearing gloves, and many where I live seem to be spending less time in crowded public areas. I don't see any panic, though.

As far as "just a bad cold", that's ignorant Fox News bullshit. Colds might open up a vulnerable person to pneumonia, and a secondary infection could be fatal, but common colds themselves don't kill. For COVID-19, one would expect 6 or 7 of the Californians on the Day 3 count to shuffle off this morbid curl, mortifying crawl, mortal coil, whatever. And no one in the US is immune; at least with the flu a fair number of people get shots, which are at least 60% or 70% effective.

Shoot, Bob, I thought you'd been kicked off the forum or something. I have to say, I admire your grit. Can't be all that much fun, posting reactionary messages to a forum which seems to get more progressive by the week.

* I arbitrarily started each count-up when known the infections reached around 320 cases. The first week of Italy's count, 322 to 2502, seems to give the infection an initial doubling rate of 2.45 days. (See also this chart.) Applying that number to California, with a starting count of 319 instead of 322, today (Mar. 16) should see 562 cases; the count as of 20:00 EST is 557.

Coronavirus pandemic latest: Trump declares 'two very big words' – national emergency – and unexpectedly ropes in Google to help in some form

Palpy Silver badge

Re: ...Is he [Trump] afraid of losing votes...?

He's afraid of looking bad in public. Trump's entire sense of selfhood appears to depend on others seeing him as biggest, best, smartest, infallible, always right.

Losing votes is a proxy for that -- losing votes means those people no longer see him as superior.

If he had the self-confidence to believe in his own worth, he would not be so fragile. But, being very fallible (a career built on his father's money and six bankruptcies) and not all that smart, his subconscious is (IMHO) a swamp of insecurity and self-doubt. Well silenced by self-protection, never allowed to bubble up into the forefront of his mind, but down there like an uneasiness you can't identify or explain.

Again, IMHO.

-----------

Incidentally, in my first post, I wrote "watch California" -- I didn't mean like "watch them poor suckers squirm". I meant that what happens in California over the next two and a half weeks can be compared to what happened in Italy starting at the end of February, and that might give us some ideas about how COVID-19 will spread in the western USA. Different culture, different transportation regime, different urban-rural landscape, etc.

Palpy Silver badge

Re: Hmmm. This will be interesting, test kits

As mentioned, the COVID-19 testing situation in the USA is complicated. Past policies -- cuts in the very programs and personnel meant to handle epidemics and pandemics, lax rollout of best-of-class medical technologies, and so forth; price of the kits and lack of universal coverage in the USA; and availability of working kits.

This just in: "California had the capacity to conduct 8,227 tests as of Thursday, [Governor Gavin] Newsom said in a press conference. But many of the testing kits provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were missing the key components to conducts the analyses."

“'The test kits do not include in every case the RNA extraction kits, the reagents, the chemicals, the solutions that are components of the broader tests,' he said. 'This is imperative that the federal government and labs across the United States, not just state of California, get the benefit of all the ingredients, the components of the test. I am surprised this is not more of the national conversation.'”

Really? Sending out incomplete test kits still? It's a joke. A sick joke.

Palpy Silver badge

Re: The toilet paper and ramen Apocalypse...

Heh, good one. Out here in darkest Oregon the bears (black bears, not grizzlies, and usually quite timid) do, as the saying goes, sh*t in the woods. Us backpacking types follow their example, so the toilet paper thing is, well, it isn't really a thing at all. I've done without before and will again.

How did I get going about that?

I agree that politicians are bureaucrats of the first order, and respond as bureaucrats, which is to say with the speed of mollusks. And the government can't "save" us. However, government can make things better for many people. For instance, the COVID-19 test costs a bit over a thousand dollars. When the relief bill gets signed into law, that potential medical bill goes away for all Americans. And again, a young relative just got a part-time job at a restaurant. No benefits -- but the bill will pay for sick time if he contracts COVID-19. Again, a real-world benefit to real people. From the government.

Incidentally, the underlying philosophy of most Western democracies is that governments are put in place by the people in order to ensure the welfare of the people -- to safeguard the rights of the people to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Not quite a quote from the American Declaration of Independence, but close. The welfare of the citizens is exactly what the governments of the USA, the UK, Germany, and the rest of the West should be looking out for.

Cue the righteous cynicism.

Palpy Silver badge

Hmmm. This will be interesting.

# At least one news outlet has indeed contacted Google about the website Trump mentioned, and they report that Trump's lying. Google is not building any such national clearinghouse for COVID-19 testing. As El Reg reports, another company is in the first stages of putting together a website, but only for the San Francisco area.

# I suspect the House has Trump over a barrel on the relief bill: it will look terrible if the President vetoes a bill offering emergency assistance to Americans during a national emergency, so he has to sign to avoid tremendously bad optics. Of course the bill goes nowhere near his desk unless the Senate acts, and last I heard they were being real a**holes -- trying to use the emergency to shoehorn in anti-abortion language and so forth.

If Roche can get their analytical machine into the field quickly, the US can begin to target resources more effectively. I heard the virus' spreading characteristics described as "irruptive and chaotic", meaning the spread cannot be easily forecast using theoretical analysis. Weird shit happens: while the average COVID-19 patient infects two other people, one "super spreader" can pass the virus to dozens or even hundreds of people. That means the infections can mount unpredictably, and act differently depending on quirky factors.

All that means that real-time, on-the-ground data is necessary to manage this epidemic.

Sobering: Around Feb 26 Italy had 322 known infections; a week later 2502; a week after that, 10149. Now they have 17660 and, as we've all read, doctors are having to triage patients -- they allocate all the ventilators they have to the patients most likely to recover, and the patients who are very elderly or badly compromised have to be left to die. Ugly situation.

Watch what happens in California. It's about the same size and very roughly the same population as Italy. Tested and confirmed cases in California stand at 247 as of March 13. (Yes, we know testing in California was, and remains, inadequate. Hopefully that will change.)

US prez Donald Trump declares America closed to those flying in from Schengen zone over coronavirus woes

Palpy Silver badge

Re: Everclear for the antivirus win!!

Damn it, gin is my high-octane flavor of choice. Hulk say, "GIN NOT STRONG ENOUGH!!" (Bruce Banner says, "Don't buy me a drink... you wouldn't like me when I'm drunk)."

I put together a spreadsheet with variable factors for rate of spread, death rate, calcs for current infections based on known deaths and as extrapolated from foreign vs community sources of infection, etc. USA only, I'm afraid.

This is strictly amateur stuff, based on current data and assuming that the US infection rate behaves as a block, with no regional quirks and discontinuities -- WHICH IS UNREALISTIC. So caveat lector, and I put it in italics so you'd notice.

For the US, the (caveat lector!) upshot seems to be 100,000 infections by the end of March, 1,000,000 by the third week in April. Total deaths hit 4000 by the last quarter of April as well.

There's bound to be a drop-off in infection rate as the number of immune individuals -- those who have been through the viral wringer and so acquired immunity -- becomes appreciable. I don't know where that epidemiological break-point is and I am too lazy to look it up. It may be around the 30% infection benchmark, as mentioned in the Tomas Pueys essay. I ramped down the infection rate starting at about 900,000 cases, but it's not enough. At the peak, May 18, I still end up infecting more than the entire population of the USA.

Maybe the spreadsheet is telling me the virus jumps to dogs after it infects 900,000 humans. Um. No, can't be right. Maybe it's user error... just maybe...

Note that a vaccine is probably 12 to 18 months away. At current rates of spread, the vaccine is the horse that slept through the race.

Palpy Silver badge

Re: Tomas Pueyo's article --

-- Thanks, AC. Took me a while to work through the maths, but -- keeping in mind that the figures are meant as very rough estimates -- most of the essay makes sense. At least to my muddled mind.

Funny, waiting for the other shoe to drop. The people I have to worry about are relatively few, and while both myself and my wife are in the danger zone age-wise, we're both lean and healthy with strong lungs, so our odds for recovery are good. If infected. So my concern is being socially responsible about limiting the spread.

Few people here in southern Oregon seem to be taking precautions. Two days ago no one at the supermarket was wearing gloves or wiping shopping cart handles, except me. Right now the officially known cases in Oregon stand at 15, but with no travel restrictions inside the USA, I expect that will change as the epidemic travels along Interstate 5 from northern Washington and central California.

Palpy Silver badge

re: Antibacterial sprays and wipes:

If the spray or wipe contains at least 60% alcohol, then it is effective against coronavirus.

A lipid membrane holds together the virus' proteins and DNA, and because that membrane is rather fragile -- no covalent chemical bonds -- alcohol breaks it up. So does soap, for that matter.

So wash yo' danged hands! And if you don't gots no soap and water, use alcohol-based wipes and sanitizers.

White House turns to Big Tech to fix coronavirus blunders while classifying previous conversations

Palpy Silver badge

Re: You're writing about sample swabs. Testing requires more.

The detection requires analysis and identification of the genetic material of which the virus consists. It ain't just a Q-Tip. Either you, or your sister, or both, are ... shall we say, misinformed.

Here's a list of what is needed to test for COVID-19. "IRR" stands for International Reagent Resource.

Equipment and Extraction Kits – These kits are used in the preparation of specimens

1. QIAGEN with QIAmp DSP Viral RNA Mini Kit (obtained from IRR)

2. QIAGEN EZ1 Advanced XL with EZ1 DSP Virus Kit (obtained from IRR)

3. QIAGEN QIAcube with QIAmp DSP Viral RNA Mini Kit (obtained from IRR))

4. Roche MagNA Pure LC with Total Nucleic Acid Kit

5. Roche MagNA Pure Compact with Nucleic Acid Isolation Kit I

6. Roche MagNA Pure 96 with DNA and Viral NA Small Volume Kit

II: rRT-PCR Test Kits (CDC 2019-nCoV Real-Time RT-PCR Diagnostic Panel) – These kits include vials of test reagents that detect the virus that causes COVID-19 in respiratory specimens (obtained from IRR)

III: Reagents –

1. Master Mix Kits (rRT-PCR Enzyme Mastermix (TaqPath™ 1-Step RT-qPCR Master Mix, CG) –

These kits contain the enzymes and other components needed to run the PCR test. (obtained from IRR)

2. Human Specimen Control (HSC) (obtained from IRR)

3. EUA Positive Control (obtained from IRR)

The reason the USA in particular is experiencing a shortage of the chemicals required for the testing is ... well, those in charge did not order them when most other countries did. Everybody else got in line ahead of the USA.

Palpy Silver badge

Re: Testing in US is not as bad as reported?

I'm not sure about that. You may be right, but what I'm reading hasn't yet borne that out. As of yesterday, the reports indicated that the US has tested about 23 people for every million people. Fifteen times lower than the rate in the UK. About 25 times lower than South Korea.

Here's an excerpt from a news story written by Brian Resnic and David Scott yesterday (March 11):

"Dr. Anthony Fauci, the federal government’s top infectious disease scientist, called the testing situation a 'failing' at a congressional hearing on Thursday."

“'The idea of anybody getting it easily the way people in other countries are doing it — we’re not set up for that,' he said. 'Do I think we should be? Yes. But we’re not.'“

"While the testing situation in America is getting better — private industry has stepped up to fill in the slow rollout of tests from the CDC, and the Cleveland Clinic announced it has developed a new rapid test that gives results in eight hours, rather than taking days — problems remain. The number of tests that can be performed per day is still limited and varies by testing facility. Part of that is due to a shortage of key chemicals needed to run the tests. It’s becoming increasingly clear that too-stringent testing guidelines early in the outbreak stymied researchers in knowing if Covid-19 was spreading in the US."

“'There was clear lack of foresight,' Nathan Grubaugh, an epidemiologist at the Yale School of Public Health, says. 'We were very slow to roll out testing capacity to individual places — wherever that came from, it was a very bad strategy.'”

"Part of the confusion here is that there are different figures floating around for the number of tests that have been done. As private labs take up the slack from public health facilities, there’s no centralized database of numbers."

“'I think that we could have probably controlled this, if we had effective testing,' Angela Rasmussen, a Columbia University virologist, says."

"We haven’t. As of March 11, according to an investigation led by the Atlantic, a little more than 7,000 Covid-19 tests have been performed — a number far behind other developed countries. (The Atlantic’s investigation is in partnership with independent researchers and is being updated daily.)"

"South Korea, for example, has tested more than 140,000 people and has even set up drive-though testing stations for people to access. So far, the Trump administration’s promises to increase testing have fallen flat."

Palpy Silver badge

Re: @as Limbaugh said, and thoughts and prayers for Rush

I didn't know Limbaugh has lung cancer. However, the only way to escape death is to never be alive. Limbaugh was born, therefore Limbaugh will die. Thoughts, prayers, good vibrations won't change that. For any of us.

He'll have all the morphine he needs to go out in a soft pink haze, until life stops. If you made him choose between "thoughts and prayers" and drugs, then you bet he'd take the drugs. So will I, when my time comes. (And it will, one way or another. That's a 100% solid bet.)

So my point is, Rush Limbaugh is a man who has used lies, racism, denigration, and hate in order to make a fortune as a talk-show clown. He's driven wedges of hatred deep into American society. Now he's got cancer. Tough break. But I'll keep my thoughts and prayers for others. He'll be much happier with the morphine.

Palpy Silver badge

Oh my goodness -- the US administration is thrashing?

What a surprise. Trump's first response was to deny that there is danger, next to minimize it (not as bad as influenza? COVID-19 has about 10 times influenza's fatality rate), then to blame somebody else (Obama, he said? the regulatory process for vaccines which Trump complained about has been in effect since 1997 and had nothing to do with Obama), and now to cloak his administration's response in secrecy -- as classified information.

There's been no noticeable, large-scale action by the Feds. They're thrashing, which is a very poor way to respond to any looming crisis.

But Facebook, Twitter, and Google could make a start by aggressively knocking out misinformation in their respective bailiwicks -- no, drinking bleach will not help; Jim Bakker's silver colloid is completely ineffectual; yes, the virus is spreading; and no, it is not "a common cold" (as Limbaugh said); yes, sanitizing wipes kill the virus as long as they're at least 60% alcohol; no, closing borders at this point will not help. Etc.

My guess: Zero effective action from the Zuckerman. Near-zero from Twitter. Possibly some window-dressing from Google, ie, notifications on the search page... but no modification of the search algorithm to block or warn about crap-and-scam coronavirus disinformation.

I'm not sure what "big tech" can do other than work on a vaccine and on anti-viral treatments. Tracking the outbreak using genetics is flashy and cool, but it's tracking, not preventing or curing or even ameliorating symptoms.

Gonzalo Raposo is quoted: "If big tech gains access to medical data and patterns, they can support containment efforts by quickly pinpointing the source of illness within vulnerable communities."

Riiiiiight. The US doesn't have the physical capacity to do extensive testing for the virus right now. By the time enough test supplies are manufactured and distributed -- say a month -- the horse will have well and truly left the barn and anything big tech can do to "support containment efforts" will be moot. Afterwards, big tech will do a superlative job of retroactive analysis I'm sure.

Google: You know we said that Chrome tracker contained no personally identifiable info? Yeah, about that...

Palpy Silver badge

re: "Does this affect Chromium as well as Chrome?"

I believe the answer is "yes". An earlier El Reg article mentions software dev Arnaud Granal as challenging Google over the header info, based on what he had seen in the open-source Chromium code.

----

My purely personal, naive opinion: we should consider any open communication network as a public space, and there can be no expectation of privacy in a public space. Where I went wrong early on was thinking that the internet would allow private connections to one or a few other individuals. Shouting at a friend on a busy sidewalk is not private, and neither are the intarwebs.

I think that Google-Amazon-Facebook-et-al pragmatically use people's automatic expectation of privacy in order to harvest data. The ways they can do this are multitudinous. The article to hand only deals with Google's header-info. List off some of the other data-harvesting techniques we know about -- cookies, system profiling, ISP records, tracking beacons -- and then remember that the best data harvesting tricks are the ones that aren't yet public knowledge. Those techniques won't be on your list.

For most normal internet purposes ("normal" in the sense that one wishes to buy 60-degree corner clamps, or pay a phone bill, or post a picture on WhatsThatBug.com) one has to surrender some information. One must consider that at least some of that information will be public, and proceed appropriately. In a few instances it may be possible to limit most tracking and obfuscate the rest, but I think that now we're talking about Snowden-level secure communications. Communication between individuals who are both taking extreme care and who have prearranged anonymous connections and encrypted streams. Not people buying corner clamps.

I'm not saying we should behave as if online privacy is a lost cause. I think we should raise a hell of a fuss about it. But I think the assumption should always be that, viewed pragmatically, our online activity simply is not private.

Sadly, the web has brought a whole new meaning to the phrase 'nothing is true; everything is permitted'

Palpy Silver badge

Re: "...could I borrow $60 (US) via PayPal to mend the shed"

You, sir, are not the composer "Two-sheds" Jackson, you are the poet Ewan MacTeagle. Even though you are wearing the MacDonald tartan. What's fifty quid to the bloody Midland Bank?

Hey, fatso. If you're standing desk-curious, the VariDesk Pro Plus won't break the bank

Palpy Silver badge

Varidesk, yes, had that.

I had one at work, and my wife had one too. They are sturdy, easy to use, and the design is pretty good. But standing for long periods is not that great; many people find it uncomfortable after awhile, and standing still doesn't burn calories much faster than sitting. That said, sitting for long periods isn't all that great either.

Wife now has a treadmill desk, which she loves, and I cope by spending less time in front of a screen -- since I am retired and all. Though I do spend quite a bit of time standing in front of an easel now. Go figure.

And now, speaking of less screen time... // logs off //

Flat Earther and wannabe astronaut killed in homemade rocket

Palpy Silver badge

Dave Fischer and FELFAT.

"The original flat earth was confined, restricted, and twisted into a perverse spherical shape by a conspiracy of TELEVISION BROADCASTERS in an attempt to realize their dream of TOTAL HUMAN MIND CONTROL through subserviant captive homogenized market share. ... Before the Earth was enspherized, people could escape television broadcast beams by direct linear travel. This is no longer the case, as television broadcast transmissions encircle the finite globe. The goal was not spherization, but limitation. The most obvious solution, to cut off the remainder of the planet beyond a small fixed inner area, giving a flat, bounded earth with the traditional falling-off-the-edge-of-the-world, would have been too obvious, and would have left too much evidence of the deed."

From Dave Fischer's "Flat Earth Liberation Front Against Television". Been around for ages. Dave is an artist with an obviously quirky sense of humor.

'An issue of survival': Why Mozilla welcomes EU attempts to regulate the internet giants

Palpy Silver badge

On that vein...

...get a fokkin' haircut, Boris, you look a right unsexy twat and that lawnmower job on your albino locks will not get anybody to buy you a drink and offer to take you home. Not to mention your wobbly gut, you pallid walrus.

Go ahead, let's criticize men for their looks for a change.

But she's right, you know. The Internet is badly warped. Google, Chrome, Facebook, Amazon, et al, have enabled the warpage. They're sure not going to fix it.

Firefox is my go-to precisely because I trust Mozilla much more than I trust Google-Chrome.

Among those pardoned by Trump this week: Software maker ex-CEO who admitted hacking into rivals' systems

Palpy Silver badge

chubby_moth: "I fear more to come..."

Me too. There are reasons authoritarian non-thinkers are gaining power around the world, and I think it will get worse.

Turkey faces a refugee crisis as well as economic woes and restive Kurds. People are scared, and when scared, they stop thinking clearly and they vote for big-daddy figures. Hence Recep Erdogan.

Well, Brexit and Boris Johnson. Would you Brits say the general pop, especially those of an isolationist, nationalist bent, were running scared before and during May's tenure? Is Johnson a big-daddy authoritarian figure to them?

Here in the USA, the lower and low-middle classes see their quality of life declining while religious conservatives (quite a lot of overlap with the previous group) see greater egalitarian freedom. And those who even subconsciously view white culture as superior see more and more brown faces in the demographic, to their dismay. All these things cause angst, and thus a desire for an "Only I can fix it!" authoritarian leader.

France and Canada buck the trend so far.

But I don't think the world will become a more peaceful place any time soon, nor will migrants quit migrating, nor will the gap between rich and poor cease widening.

So large demographics in many countries, including the USA, will continue to support crypto-fascism and authoritarianism. The risk of outright dictatorship is quite real.

It's official: In May, Microsoft will close the door, lock the vault, brick over the entrance of dreaded Windows 10 1809

Palpy Silver badge

Re: No longer a "religious" UI fanatic...

Me neither. I spent a couple of years distro-hopping in Linux, now staying with Siduction, Ubuntu Studio, and Mint, and the wife uses only Mac. I can work with just about anything, including Win 10. Er, Win 10 with some customizing, that is. But I customize my Linux desktops too.

The Windows UI has never been truly atrocious, except in Win 8 of course. Complaints about flat-look are, IMHO, whinges about aesthetics, and not serious complaints about usability.

Bada Bing, bada bork: Windows 10 is not happy, and Microsoft's search engine has something to do with it

Palpy Silver badge

RE: dragged all the shortcuts into categories

That's the way all the Linux GUIs I've used do it by default. Well, almost all. Back in my distro-hopping days I saw a lot of desktops. Liked most of them for some of their strengths, was mildly annoyed by some of their weaknesses (as I perceived both).

It stuns me that Win 10 does not search local files without Bing... does that mean that a Windows computer which is offline cannot search its own drive? I'd test it, but I'm on the road and my sad Win 10 box -- which is allowed Internet access once every three months or so for updates -- is at home.

Greetings from the future where it's all pole-dancing robots and Pokemon passports

Palpy Silver badge

But the drones!

Drone deliveries up your street every 3 or 4 minutes. Similar to having a leaf-blower passing back and forth outside your window. Mangled sparrows littering the pavement, dogs driven mad. Jeff Bezos waving at us all from Mars, where the atmosphere is too thin for drones anyway. He can enjoy his morning cuppa in peace.

And the tell-all docu-drama revealing that makers of AI driving programs resorted to hiding midgets -- whoops, vertically-challenged humans -- inside dashboards to control vehicles after their AI went rogue and began awarding itself "population-reduction" points for hitting pedestrians. Can't admit you went down the wrong path, boys?

Thanks for the future memories, Dabbs.

LibreOffice 6.4 nearly done as open-source office software project prepares for 10th anniversary

Palpy Silver badge

Re: "Has Excel succeeded?..." at charting?

Excel is fine for simple charting. So is LO.

Try trending 30,000 data points in Excel. It does not excel. But neither does LO.

Use real software for tasks like trending and statistical analysis of large data sets. (Really large, that is.)

US and China wave white flags, hit pause button on trade war

Palpy Silver badge

China hasn't "caved".

Trump put some of his tariff threats on hold effective immediately; China made what appear to be quite vague promises about "structural reform" and future agricultural purchases.

Unlike the hold on US tariffs, which is now, the Chinese actions are pegged to future actions... ie, promises which are amenable to strategic modifications, reinterpretation, and reconsideration. China gamed Trump on trade in exactly the way Kim Jong-un gamed him on disarmament -- make a general agreement in order to obtain specific actions in return, and then play the generalities as the game goes on. Well, China is doing it more effectively than Kim Jong-un, I think.

Impeachment of Trump -- the general analogue of an indictment -- will happen. It looks like a few House Democrats in red districts will defect, but party politics will pressure enough to remain to win a vote in the House. Trump's removal from office will not occur. No Republican in the Senate will vote for removal.

I received a reply from Oregon's only Republican congressman, and in it Greg Walden defended his earlier vote against pursuing an impeachment investigation. His defense was simply GOP / Fox News talking points: The impeachment is partisan politics, Republicans have been shut out of the impeachment debate, removal of a president thwarts the vote of the people, the actions of the President are not legally sufficient for impeachment.

It's boilerplate bullsh*t. Republicans have no problem with partisan politics (calling opponents "human scum" and listing off the failures of a Democrat's son in battling addiction, for instance), but are eager to scream in pain when Democrats play even a little hardball. I watched Devin Nunes, Elise Stefanik, and Doug Collins haranguing the floor throughout the impeachment proceedings, and they were not shut out. They had to follow House policy on time limits, just like every other House member -- but that does not constitute "silencing" them. They're playing the sad snowflake card, quite cynically, I would say. On "thwarting the vote of the people", well! In the first place, the impeachment is not about rewriting history. It is about present and ongoing corruption in the office of the President. But more people voted for Hillary Clinton than for Donald Trump. Americans voted Clinton to be President. The Electoral College thwarted the will of the popular vote. If Republicans were honest and honorable, they would agree that removing Trump would validate the popular vote of the American public.

And finally: Fergodsake, Trump used congressionally appropriated military aid as a threat to get a foreign country to smear one of his political opponents. US election law forbids that. You cannot, legally, invoke the aid of foreign powers to influence a US election. That impeachable. Some 200 lawyers and legal scholars have said so.

But it doesn't matter. Trump will be impeached but not removed from office. It will be spun as a "win" for Trump and the Republicans, though it will mean nothing about the seriousness of the charges; all it really means is that there are more Republican senators right now than Democratic ones.

*shrug* The corruption is real; the political acquittal is theater.

Ever wonder how hackers could possibly pwn power plants? Here are 54 Siemens bugs that could explain things

Palpy Silver badge

Optimal design is often a unicorn.

In my experience in the field, real-world design --

-- may have to run machine-level kit which uses decades-old software;

-- may compromise security to facilitate process data handling across networks;

-- may come under pressure from management to permit remote or wireless monitoring-and-control;

-- may have to implement back compatibility in order to interface with existing control subsystems.

And so forth.

I hope that when commentard kmedcalf wrote, "It is highly unlikely that the Systems Engineers or Instrumentation will get it wrong" he or she was being sarcastic. For one example, Boeing system engineers and instrumentation experts certainly managed to "get it wrong" multiple times in designing the control automation for the 737 Max.

You cannae break the laws of physics, cap'n... Boffins call BS on 'impossible' black hole, fear readings were botched

Palpy Silver badge

Re: Don't black holes accrete mass... until they are supermassive?

It seems to me that one star, one black hole would be the most common way black holes form.

But we are pretty sure that, if black holes exist, then there is a non-zero chance that two black holes can merge. (We think we've "seen" that: LIGO page from CalTech). And as the gravitational well grows, it may capture another black hole... or a neutron star... all of which increases the original hole's mass.

So it would seem to my non-astrophysicist mind that while holes in the 70-sol mass range might be rare, they are expressly permitted by the laws of physics, and there is a plausible mechanism for their formation. No laws were broken. Physics police may stand down.

Supermassive black holes may originate:

1. By the collapse of supermassive gas clouds (perhaps early in the life of the universe);

2. By multiple collisions of stars in a crowded stellar neighborhood, like the center of a galaxy;

3. and / or by accretion of stellar black holes.

It's a billion-ton, 14-million-mile long mysterious alien formation – and Earth is heading right into it

Palpy Silver badge

Re: Science, all part of the fun.

Indeed. My understanding of pre-industrial ice age dynamics is that it is, in a word, complicated. There is some evidence (Shakun et al, Nature -- sorry, abstract only, full article paywalled) that, first, the Milankovitch orbital cycles came around to the "a bit warmer" part of Earth's shifting orbital configuration. Then the slightly warming seas were forced by the laws of physics to release some of the CO2 dissolved in the water; this caused more warming.

In other words, according to Shakun, the 600 to 1000 year lag between the onset of warming and the rise in atmospheric CO2 is one lag in the warming feedback loop. Approximately 93% of the interglacial warming occurred after the rise in CO2; the prior Milankovitch rise in temperature was therefore only 7% of the total interglacial warming. It only takes a nudge, perhaps.

However, it's more complicated than that.

Glacial erosion during the ice ages also "fertilized" the oceans, especially once the ice began to melt and the volume of glacial flour -- very finely ground rock -- washed into the sea increased. Iron, in particular, is a limiting nutrient in much of the ocean, and glacial outwash put more iron in the oceans. That would increase phytoplankton growth, sequestering CO2. But the erosion would also expose fresh carbonate rock -- limestone, marble, et al -- to weathering, which would release more CO2.

But it's more complicated than that.

As the continental ice sheets in North America and Europe melted, the influx of fresh water in the north Atlantic shut down the meridional overturning circulation (AMOC), causing local cooling in the northern hemisphere and warming in the southern. Apparently this inconsistency between hemispheres caused some instability in temperature: the northern hemisphere above about 30 degrees latitude bounced between warmer and cooler from about 15 to 11 thousand years ago. The equatorial and southern regions warmed fairly steadily over the same period.

And yet more complications.

Summertime albedo over the areas covered by continental ice decreased as the snowline moved north, exposing dark earth and stone. That enhanced warming. Increased amounts of gaseous H2O (water "vapor", fergodsake, it's not steam or vapor, it's H2O in gas phase!) in the atmosphere led to increased heat capture (H2O is a "greenhouse gas") while at the same time presumably increasing cloud formation (now, a cloud, that's like steam), especially in the tropics, thereby increasing albedo and reflecting more sunlight during daytime. But trapping more infrared radiation -- heat -- during the night.

And never mind the volcanic eruptions which probably reversed the warming trend temporarily during the Little Ice Age. And the apparent minimum in solar activity in the middle of that cool period, the Maunder Minimum.

So the dynamics of Earth's heat budget are complicated. It a nest of interlocking feedbacks. But the composition of the atmosphere -- methane, CO2, gaseous H2O, sulfur dioxide (from volcanoes), etc -- seems to be the largest driver.

Two can play that game: China orders ban on US computers and software

Palpy Silver badge

Mr. Trump has certainly taught the rest of the world...

...to be wary of supposedly stable governments.

I expect that China sees Trump's tariff war accompanied by his shifting and illogical negotiating tactics as a clear sign: China must not count on international suppliers for government-essential hardware or software. Communist China's history includes considerable opposition from Western democracies; China's government may be paranoid, but it is to some degree reasonable paranoia.

So, on the face of it, moving away from foreign technology is not stupid. The US and UK concern with Huawei is (mostly) the same shoe, just on the other foot. (There is the subject of technology theft too.) But if Windows was a Chinese product, the US military and intelligence agencies would be foolish to use it. (Yes, US military and intelligence agencies use some Linux systems, but I believe that the majority of general-purpose office PCs are Windows.)

As others mentioned, the snotty part is using a top-down mandate to rebuild a hardware-software ecosystem. I doubt that the top leaders in the Chinese government are any more tech-smart than the average US congressperson. Senator Wyden excepted.

I expect the process will be harder and take much longer than the leaders of the PRC imagine.

Page:

SUBSCRIBE TO OUR WEEKLY TECH NEWSLETTER

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2020