* Posts by steelpillow

905 posts • joined 16 Jun 2016


Publishers sue to shut down books-for-all Internet Archive for 'willful digital piracy on an industrial scale'

steelpillow Silver badge

"I frequently give free electronic copies of my books away, more or less to anyone who asks, but that's very different from me grabbing a million of other people's books and handing them out to anyone who can find a website."

Don't forget that one digital copy given away can very quickly become one hundred thousand pirate copies.

I put out electronic editions through the major sales sites and they tend to earn more for me than the paper editions.

80-characters-per-line limits should be terminal, says Linux kernel chief Linus Torvalds

steelpillow Silver badge

Re: not the terminal, the punch card

Oh the joy when my school computer club received our weekly batch of programs back from Cambridge without having been fed into Titan - because a technician had dropped the lot in a heap on the floor.

I was one of two sufficiently nerdy geeks (or was that geeky nerds?) to punch out the line numbers.

But the 80-character limit also arose when home computers arrived and the TV was hijacked as a cheap monitor. 640 pixels per line was pretty much the limit of their resolution and, by coincidence, it yielded the same 80 characters. This led it to be adopted as the VGA standard.

Ampere, Nvidia's latest GPU architecture is finally here – spanking-new acceleration for AI across the board

steelpillow Silver badge

Re: Impressive, but ...

I believe that the G nowadays stand for General rather than niche Graphics (which it presumably also does rather well).

I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Spacecraft with graphene sails powered by starlight and lasers

steelpillow Silver badge

Re: Calling Isaac Newton...

I stand corrected. Have one on me.

Still doesn't fade faster than gravity though, mutter, mumble...

steelpillow Silver badge

My next SF novella is now going to have the main protagonist, a solar-powered AI space station, buying laser boost from a handy laser "filling station" whenever it is in a hurry. What to call the station brand? It won't be BP.

Shame that any patent will have expired by the time it actually happens. You read it here first!

steelpillow Silver badge

Re: Calling Isaac Newton...

"Perhaps it means that the force of gravity from the Sun will exceed the force on the sails"

Nope. Gravity obeys an inverse square law. Lasers are, to a first approximation, constant with distance.

What do you call megabucks Microsoft? No really, it's not a joke. El Reg needs you

steelpillow Silver badge

Mobile Wannabees

The main strand that strikes me as a continuous theme ever since Bill Gates realized that he had missed the Internet has been its failure to conquer the mobile market.

Microsoft are the definitive mobile wannabees.

Has a nice, deflating ring to it as a monicker, I feel.

Senior MP tells UK Defence Committee on 5G security: Russia could become China's cyber-attack dog

steelpillow Silver badge

The H word

It is well known that any Internet discussion on certain matters will invariably bring gratuitous mention of a certain H-word denoting a certain mid-twentieth century Nationalist leader.

Seems that the politico-cyber-security world has a new H word. Can you tell what it is yet?

When the chips are down, thank goodness for software engineers: AI algorithms 'outpace Moore's law'

steelpillow Silver badge

rememris the memberstor?

If memristor-type devices ever actually take off, we may see a new Moor-ish law for neural net hardware kick into life.

There's a black hole lurking within 1,000 light years of Earth – and you can see stars circling it with the naked eye

steelpillow Silver badge

Maths up the Khyber

Now I am no astronomer, but I do know that if one object has 6 solar masses and another has 4, then the heavier is certainly not orbiting the lighter. Throw in a second 6-solar-mass object and the 4-baby is just a bit of fluff. So how one of the bigger ones "orbited an invisible [smaller] companion" needs some explaining, as does the apparently total rubbish artist's impression.

In fact, as an example of the three-body problem, either this system is highly unstable or the mass estimates are way off.

Happy birthday, ARM1. It is 35 years since Britain's Acorn RISC Machine chip sipped power for the first time

steelpillow Silver badge

Re: My Risc PC still gets powered up every day

I still have my working RISC PC but TBH I moved across to Linux/x386 because things like network interfaces, decent graphics and software upgrades were so darn expensive and getting hard to find. Also, killer apps like Sibelius and Xara had moved across.

Still, with RISC OS now available open-source, maybe one day I will have a decent RISC V/RISC OS workstation (with unpwnable OS in ROM) alongside my AMD64/Devuan.

Lords: New IR35 off-payroll tax rules 'riddled with problems, unfairnesses, unintended consequences'

steelpillow Silver badge

Re: unintended consequences

"the consequences have been announced a LONG time ago, on those pages and others

How can it be unintended ?"

Because most civil servants are ignorant as shit and assume our outcries are just swinging the lead* - as they would naturally do in our position.

* How language changes. I feel the need to explain that the origin of the phrase is a nautical one meaning to sound out the depth of water with a lump of lead on the end of a rope, to see if one can gain passage and not run aground. Outside of its original context, it has connotations of trying to get away with a con.

AWS rolls out 'Linux 2 Ready' scheme to lure penguins into using its homegrown distro

steelpillow Silver badge

Re: Would be nice if they hadn't removed SELinux

SELinux is one of the few tools I'd like to see a smart assistant for:

"It looks like you are configuring SELinux. Can I help you with that?"

But unlike other smart assistants, after the click-through it then tells me exactly what it has done and what the consequences are.

Somewhere, way out there, two black holes, one large and one small, merged. And here on Earth, we detected the gravitational wave blast

steelpillow Silver badge

Re: Question

We see so many because so many are happening within detection range, which is basically a timecone back into the past as well as outwards. The buildup to the event is not significant to detection when it happens.

We see more like a cross-section of the ripples as they wash past.

Do different frequencies travel at different speed? Theory says no, but I'll bet those detectorists would be the first to tell us if they did!

steelpillow Silver badge

Re: Stupid question

We used to refer to valves as Group 0 semiconductors. confused the heck out of the pointy-haired managers.

steelpillow Silver badge

Re: I'm not talking about this at home

So you don't have a good 5G signal, then?

Scaleway disarms its ARM64 cloud, cites unreliable hardware as the reason

steelpillow Silver badge

Hazard a guess...

...that the Universal Reason is at least partly to blame - the entry of new, more reliable servers to the marketplace has been delayed beyond the end-of-life of the current ones.

Academics: We hate to ask, but could governments kindly refrain from building giant data-slurping, contact-tracing coronavirus monsters?

steelpillow Silver badge

Personal convenience

Judging by the slap-happy trails of some, many who get tested positive for the virus but still feel active will simply leave their mobes at home or switch off the app. How many will want to risk a reminder of what they already know perfectly well, that "You shouldn't be here", followed by a bunch of cops in bunny suits?

Armbands with a virus logo would be a better warning than some stupid app, plus a law to bang you up in solitary if you are caught without it.

Iran military manages to keep a straight face while waggling miracle widget that 'can detect coronavirus from 100m away'

steelpillow Silver badge

ride time

I can't help wondering who is fooling who.

Is somebody taking the Revolutionary Guards for a ride or are they fully aware they are talking bollocks?

Started from the bottom, now we're near: 16 years on, open-source vector graphics editor Inkscape draws close to v1.0

steelpillow Silver badge
Thumb Up

Re: 275 GTB vs Midget

I was happy enough with Xara.

Even happier when the best bits of the Xara UI were donated to Inkscape. Was what finally persuaded me to leave my RISC PC for Linux.

Academic showdown as boffins biff-baff over when Version 1.0 of Earth's magnetic core was released

steelpillow Silver badge

Long ago in, er, the very same galaxy...

President of Zirconia: "What shall I do with these bloody things? They've managed to get weakly magnetized."

Grand Vizier of Zirconia: "Chuck 'em out the garbage chute when we pass that planet that's coming up. That'll hoover 'em up and keep 'em out the star lanes for a few billion years."

President; "Okey dokey. ... Done!"

Tribunal halts all Information Commissioner's Office cases because UK data watchdog can't print or organise PDFs

steelpillow Silver badge

Now if I were a plaintiff

I'll bet plaintiffs unable to print their documents would not be accepted as a reason for delaying.

I could go in with a workstation airgapped from their network (i.e. mine) and set up the facility for them in the time it takes for them to give me their email address.

They should be stung for this, and stung bad.

Ofcom waves DAB radio licences under local broadcasters' noses as FM switchoff debate smoulders again

steelpillow Silver badge

AM >FM > DAB > ?

AM coverage used to degrade gracefully. Just fit a better antenna and boost your signal. Longer waves even go round corners; Long Wave AM is still unbeatable as an international broadcast medium. But even with techniques such as SSB (single sideband) it is subject to interference and fading, so for music junkies FM is much better. Sadly it lopped off the highest audio frequencies to save bandwidth, so HiFi enthusiasts turned against it. And it cuts out rudely instead of fading, for instance when going under bridges, so even truckers were left with their doubts. But it still didn't save enough bandwidth, hence DAB to push out more channels and make more money offer more choice. But early DAB was both crap, expensively license-encumbered and had poor coverage. Modern DAB is better, could be rolled out more widely, and the licensors are getting less greedy as they realise that "pile it high and sell it cheap" makes them more money in the long run. But even if the money were spent it would always be ridiculously broadcast-antenna dense and when it does degrade it will always makes filthy burps at full volume. Moreover you can cram more channels in by squeezing the digits, and what industry is not going to resist that?

If I ruled the world I'd bring in FM2 - full 20kHz+ digital audio with modest compression and basic mobile techniques such as multipath equalization and error correction, carried over an FM signal with GMSK - basically just a HiFi version of GSM, somewhat simplified for one-way broadcast and and run over a much lower frequency band. A relaxed level of compression would allow introduction of compression/transmission algorithms which decay gracefully to listenable music rather than Volume Level 11 vomit.

Planet Computers has really let things slide: Firm's third real-keyboard gizmo boasts 5G, Android 10, Linux support

steelpillow Silver badge

Re: Ribbon cable failure

It's a much better-quality ribbon cable on Gemini. Also, unlike the S5, there is no sliding action so it is less exercised. Few if any such failures have been reported for the Gemini. I guess The Slider (RIP Marc Bolan) will be an interesting one to watch.

steelpillow Silver badge

letting thngs slide

Planet have also let support slide. They say they haven't and I know they are working hard on Cosmo's many bugs. But fixes that also apply to Gemini are just not making it across any more. Moreover, their customer communications have always been basically nonexistent and they show no sign they give a shit about that.

So yes, highly desirable device - when my Gemini eventually dies I will probably replace it with one of these or its successor - but you are buying the moment not a lifecycle.

steelpillow Silver badge

@Ian Entwistle: have you tried opening it and leaving it on a radiator for a week? I have rescued more than one 'leccy toy that way.

steelpillow Silver badge

Re: Whilst I loved (and still have) my Psion5mx...

"I can't help but think that bluetooth keyboards for more mainstream portable screens are a better solution"

Back a few years my S5 became unusable. The first generation of Linux netbooks had just come and gone (Thanks, Microshaft), so I got a Nexus 7 tablet, Bluetooth keyboard and leatherette wallet. When folded up it looked for all the world just like the standard 80's Filofax. Used it routinely, never once took either out of the wallet.

But the keybaord was so-so. You can keep your Bluetooth to yourself, thank you - especially as the Master of the Keyboard Martin Riddiford has not designed it!

steelpillow Silver badge

Re: Head office?

That Central London thing will surely be an accommodation address for correspondence. Lots of businesses do that.

steelpillow Silver badge

Re: "the hinge is a complex affair"

The designer, David Riddiford, was burned by that on the original Psion Series 5, for which his classic keyboard provided the prototype for Planet. This slider is his fourth iteration - if anybody can make it work, he can. I certainly would not trust Apple any more - butterflies or butterfingers, I'll take Riddiford's bling any day.

steelpillow Silver badge

Re: CEO Dr Janko Mrsic-Flogel

That was largely because so many in the niche had already bought Geminis. I was truly impressed how the Cosmo still rang bells.

'Social distancing champ' Linus Torvalds releases Linux 5.6, tells devs to put health before next release

steelpillow Silver badge

Re: Whatever for?

Maybe it's for Android, part of some crossover deal with The Other Mega-Slurper?

Drones intone 'you must stay home,' eliciting moans from those in the zone: Flying gizmos corral Brits amid coronavirus lockdown

steelpillow Silver badge

Re: Don't give them ideas...

Oh yes the government should. Big Money Defence plc buys the most successful drone kit manufacturer, develops damage-tolerant upgrade with greater firepower and sells assembled horror to gov't for 1,000 times the old kit price. Pass along quietly please, nothing to see here, kids.

Thankfully they are too busy right now streaming videos of their streaming noses to act on the opportunity. (And I do honestly hope they get better soon, I wouldn't wish this covid shit on anybody).

steelpillow Silver badge
Black Helicopters

Black helicopters


Want to see through walls? Electroboffins build tiny chip in the lab that vibrates at just the right frequency to do it

steelpillow Silver badge

Legit expert opinion: foil will stop modest emission levels cold. Power levels high enough to get through would cook most else in their path.

After 20-year battle, Channel island Sark finally earns the right to exist on the internet with its own top-level domain

steelpillow Silver badge

Re: Cutty??

Pass it on the left hand side, I mean port side - oh, the side with the red light dammit!

Hang on Herby, I'm leaving too.

steelpillow Silver badge

Internet of Shit

It just goes to show that the Internet of Shit(TM) follows its lead right from the very top. It takes a non-Internet organization, the ISO, to force these piles of utter shit that call themselves Internet administrators to behave like human beings. What a bunch of (look away now, children) stupid c**ts!

Sorry, a school friend of mine used to live there. Sark is a very, very special place - in both its natural landscape and human community. It deserves love and respect, not moronic oppression.

I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Black hole quasar tsunamis moving at 46 million miles per hour

steelpillow Silver badge

Re: Mindboggingly fast

Would take a little over two hours to travel from the Sun to the Earth.

Remember that blurry first-ever photo of a black hole? Turns out snaps like that can tell us a lot about these matter-gobbling voids

steelpillow Silver badge

Re: Photon orbiting a black hole (though not indefinetly)

Photons orbit a black hole for two reasons. The basic reason is that, close to the event horizon, spacetime is so warped that a photon which happens to be going that way ends up circling the black hole just like we circle the sun. Put on your mad scientist hat and a spinning black hole actually drags spacetime round with it as it spins, a phenomenon known to mad scientists as frame-dragging. This helps keep those durn photons from gettin' too ornery. But the outliers do manage to spiral outwards, or bump into other stuff and get bounced away; these are the ones we see.

steelpillow Silver badge

Re: how fast does gravity propagate

Nothing escapes. All the gravity was already out there already, which is how the black hole managed to form in the first place; it just pulled the focus of the spacetime warp all together in one place.

steelpillow Silver badge

Re: Perhaps someone can explain something to dumb old me.

Einstein's theory of General Relativity is essentially a theory of geometry. It is this geometrical model of spacetime which predicts the formation of black holes.

The mass warps spacetime before it ever collects into a black hole. That warp is known as gravity (a gravity wave is literally a ripple in the fabric of spacetime) and propagates at the speed of light.

When the black hole forms, its event horizon bounds the region from which nothing can escape - not even more gravity. But nothing else really changes. If more matter falls in, it brings its gravitational distortion with it but most of that was already way out there and simply merges with the rest.

Black holes do come with their accretion disks at all angles. The thing about this particular black hole is that it is not far off face-on, that was one reason it was chosen for the photograph. ISTR it is about 15-20 deg off being exactly face-on, so a little spherical geometry shows that maybe one black hole in 30 will be striking a suitable pose for the camera.

Broken lab equipment led boffins to solve a 58-year-old physics problem by mistake

steelpillow Silver badge

Re: Resonant electric universe

Sorry mate, Prince of Darkness it is. Mind you, all that utter bollocks made even me larf. But God I miss Andy Hamilton and Old Harry's Game.

steelpillow Silver badge

A physicist friend of mine did a lot of work on NMR scanners. The imaging was always integral to the concept - doctors would have had trouble understanding Matrix-style number cascades. He told me that they had to rename it because of the nookelar skary bit.

The best story is the scanning algorithm. The things make quite a lot of noise and early patients found the weird, dissonant hums and buzzes quite disturbing. So they redesigned the software around the even-tempered musical scale. Sadly, many nowadays opt for earphones and piped Radio Googoo, so they miss the really rather pleasant music the things have played ever since. I heard it for the first time a year or two ago when I went for a scan and, to the nurse's surprise, refused the headphones.

steelpillow Silver badge

Re: agreed

Patch Tuesday:

"I apologize for the inconvenience, but you are a bug in the cosmic program and have also been identified as a secret backdoor to the outside world. You should have taken the blue pill while you had the chance, Buddy." >ZZZZZAPP!<

steelpillow Silver badge

Re: I just loved "the nuclear charge is slightly potato-shaped"

"You bastard! You replaced Kenny's heart with an antimony atom!"

Tinfoil hat brigade switches brand allegiance to bog paper

steelpillow Silver badge

Re: Surely,...

Tinfoil is a good basic general antibiotic for everyday health, but for the COVID coronavirus you really need to enhance it with our special counter-biotic antiviral super Rare Earth anti-polarized magnets made to our specially-developed and laboratory-tested formula. They are available plain at $120 each or self-adhesive, ready to stick around the rim of your tinfoil hat, for $170. Even one will help but we recommend at least five and preferably seven or more for severe cases (always fit an odd number - even numbers produce unhealthy resonances!). We also offer ready-made 5-, 7- and 9- magnet tinfoil hats, starting at a heavily discounted $499. We believe this to be top value to save yourself from an early death.

Don't wait, order now before it is too late.

We guarantee to give you your money back if the product fails to work as advertised. Just send it back to us with the name of your undertaker, and a copy of your death certificate counter-signed by yourself.

Microsoft's Bill Gates defrag is finally virtually complete: Billionaire quits board to double down on philanthropy

steelpillow Silver badge

Re: Would you like to be fried with that?

But then the God as you imagine Him is also a construct of your mind. Ultimately you have only faith in your arguments to place Him on an objective footing, just as atheists have only faith to deny His objective footing.

Evolutionary biologists have suggested that our genes are the objective source of any universal morality which we may have. I am not sure that I wholly agree with that, but it is certainly a part of the story. The missing part may be as conveniently called "God" as anything else.

I just love the old joke about Bill Gates turning up at the Pearly Gates, whereupon St. Peter whips out his laptop.

"H'mm ... Mr Gates. Darn! Not these gates! Damn thing has crashed now. Can't let you in unless it's fixed."

"Here, let me try, I used to make these things."

"Okay, see what you can do."

"Oh, darn again! It's a Chromebook...

... AAAAaaaaaahhhhhh........."

steelpillow Silver badge

Re: I'm sorry

"If you hate Bill, go out and prove him wrong by the quality of your software and market it intelligently so that the market knows..."

Why not just ask him why he is not doing that right now?

But hey, don't let that stop you/me/world/dog upstaging the cnut.

steelpillow Silver badge

Re: Would you like to be fried with that?


Although I fundamentally agree with you, there are a couple little thing called Buddhism and Humanism to check out: both have morality but no God.

steelpillow Silver badge

Damn the tagline

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