* Posts by Alan Jenney

56 publicly visible posts • joined 15 Aug 2007


BMW tests laser-guided car junction buddy

Alan Jenney

Detects road markings?

So, this avoidance system will be triggered by road markings.

Well, in that case we had better fund a multi-million pound investment by each Local Council and the Highways Agency to paint all the barely-visible lines back in. At almost every junction I see, the give way lines and centre lines have been worn away.

Garmin intros roadcam-fed satnavs

Alan Jenney

Watching TV on the move

I have to agree that the idea of distracting drivers from the traffic building up in front of them with the option of looky-loo camera updates is probably not a good safety feature.

I have seen that in the event of a crash, the Highways Agency often stop the publicly available camera feeds anyway.

Everest climber finds 3G signal, sends Tweet

Alan Jenney

Not O2 - Or Orange

I cannot get a decent Orange GSM signal where I am, let alone 3G. And yet the tower (disguised as a fir tree) is quite visible from here. Mind you, it's the nearest one and the other networks are rather shabby, too.

Electric cars not as 'green' as advertised

Alan Jenney

Bad science is bad - correct

The comment that "no extra electricity" is needed, so "no extra emissions" may seeem a little illogical - the energy for these cars has to come from somewhere - but there some truth in this, as power-stations (especially coal-fired ones) struggle to cope with the fall and rise in demand cycling over the working day*. This inequality led to things like "economy 7" and storage heaters, to even out the usage patterns by offering cheap leccy off-peak. If cars can be charged overnight (some feature programmable timers to select the times it draws current), this will help a lot!

*Hydro-electric systems are often used to cope with things like everyone putting the kettle on at the end of a footy match or an EastEnders special.

Sony to unveil PSP... car?

Alan Jenney

Break in here

Why would you want to advertise the potential that there is a bit of expensive kit in the car by having a badge on it saying what's likely to be inside?

California to get 'space age' three-wheel EV

Alan Jenney


Even on the conituously variable transmission of the Pruis, there is something like PRNDL - PRNDB, "B" meaning braked - it offers the same kind of downhill engine braking as engaging "L" (or any lower gear) on a conventional auto.

Alan Jenney

Three versus four

Wheels - is it not the case that the crash requirements for four wheels are more demanding than three or less, just like the requirements for neighborhood vehicles (such as NEVs) are a lot less stringent?

'Ruggedised, weaponised' raygun modules now on sale

Alan Jenney

Pointing the right way...

Cannot help feeling that the "laser exit port" is aimed directly towards the poor sod who's connecting up the cables and stuff. Most weapons have the "dangerous end" pointing away from whoever's servicing it.

"Just tighten up the coolant pipe..."

"Mmm, spanner seems to be in two pieces. Where's me hand?"

DARPA seeks 'Machine Reading' AI auto-analysis bot

Alan Jenney

Chicken-and-egg: self-taught

Now if only they had some software that could read and understand the formal language of the brief, which can create some software that could read and understand the ...

French mini M.Go is go for Q1 2009 launch

Alan Jenney

16A supply

That's 16A in Europe, where there is higher currrent with lower voltage. It's the power required that matters and in the UK, a regular 13A 240V would suffice.

US Air Force outlines combat raygun safety

Alan Jenney

Getting in the way...

It takes a fair bit of bad timing to step in the way during the firing of a projectile / rocket / bullet, but these beam weapons need to be trained on the target for several seconds to get the desired effect. I'm just imagining a plane flying through the beam having it's wing nicely softened enough to cause it to snap off.

Unicaresoft loses MSNLock case against Microsoft

Alan Jenney

It's not still called MSN Messenger, though, is it?

All this talk of "MSN" relating to instant messaging and defending of Microsoft's branding of their IM client seems to be a bit pointless now.

I'm not surprised that the Dutch firm have renamed the product - haven't Microsoft re-branded Messenger as "Windows Live Messenger" and dropped the association with the letters "MSN" altogether? Just like,

MSN Search = Live Search,

MSN Passport = Windows Live ID,

MSN Hotmail = Windows Live Hotmail.

Only the portal/service provision retains the MSN branding and that's not what the product was locking.

Like the time that they tried to copyright the word "Windows", they've got just as little a chance with "Live".

Apple rewards developers with bricked iPhone

Alan Jenney


Temporary paperweight?

Need a new duster? Avoid Woolies

Alan Jenney

Multi-function spray nozzle

I once saw a new attachment for a hosepipe being offered for sale at a major DIY store which had sign above a basket of the product - a multi-function spray nozzle. Printed In letters a few inches high, the word began F and ended in ION, but the letters in between were transposed...

BT preps 2000 per cent evening call price hike

Alan Jenney

"Customer Retention"?

Customer Retention? They've changed the package that attracted me away from the other providers, making the calls I make really expensive.

First thing I did on opening the letter that told me about these changes was consider going back to my old provider again. Idiots!

Sun will swallow Earth: Official

Alan Jenney

Well, they just acquired MySQL, so...

... I guess Sun will take over the entire earth at some point in the future, but achieving that in 7 million years is not the sort of business plan that's attractive to your average investor.

Sony to pump ¥22bn into OLED production

Alan Jenney

Do you think they might use OLED with computers?

All this talk of OLED panels being used in television and media players, but given the 40% saving in power consumption, the thin and light construction and the excellent contrast, is there not a case for them to be used in laptops and monitors? Or am I missing something here?

NASA, UK boffins plan tunnelling Moon mole robot

Alan Jenney

Conductive vs. conducive

Is the Moon conductive to human life? Some ancient civilisations may have believed that the Moon was a God that had significant rule over on life on Earth, but in these enlightened times we've narrowed it down to tides, menstural cycles and the like.

Looking at alternative meanings, the Moon (under the grey outer surface) appears to consist of rust, so it's not conductive to electricity even. Now I'm just being silly.

Ton-up electric Reliant Robin offered for '09

Alan Jenney

...waiting for the East Asians

@Colin Millar: unfortunately, the G-Wiz is fairly typical of the sort of cars coming from the East. It was for the Indian market initially.

For instance, there's a Chinese EV that looks like a Smart. It is capable of 25 mph and 60 miles. It's all they need in their home countries. Copying existing designs is the order of the day, so expect lots of inefficient petrol engined hulks adding to the global problem until the West produce an electric car that in demand.

Alan Jenney


Whilst a tricycle may be a simple way to bring such a vehicle to market, I'm with The Reg. on this one: the last thing that the fledgling electric vehicle market needs is another "car that is not quite a car", whether it be for having fewer wheels or no need for a safety rating like a car would have.

@Spegru: They do compare ecologically well to the internal combustion engine - when you look at the total energy, impact and efficiency of the mining of coal through to the electric power to the road, it's over twice as effective than the extraction of oil through to the petrol engine power to the road. If you can use "green" sources, all the better.

I'm a strong supporter of electric vehicles, but I still believe that people need a "proper" car that can run a couple of hundred miles and get up to motorway speeds under reasonable acceleration, carry a few people and their luggage. Not only that, but be supported by a dealership, service and repair network and good guarantees for battery life and resale value comparable to a regular car. It would only need to be as good as a second car in a household - a runabout for errands and local trips.

Charging a battery whilst the car is not in use isn't too much of a problem. Most cars spend most of their life stationary. It's just a different habit to get into instead of finding a cheap petrol station.

Dutch fire up petrol-pumping robot

Alan Jenney

How is this any different to trusting the automatic car wash?

All these alarmist comments about not trusting a robot arm to find a hole to fill! Most people who own a car are willing to trust an automatic car wash, for example to use it's circular brushes at ground level to do your wheels and not your sills. All that is achieved without some database of cars to cross-reference!

Although, I have to admit to holding my breath on ocassions when that half-ton gantry of cross-beams starts lumbering towards my car menacingly, hoping it's not going to thrust the blower nozzle through my windscreen.

On the other hand, it's great to see a ROTM story - it's been quiet for a few months. Maybe they were trying to lull us into a false sense of security.

Swedish plods cuff remote-access robbery ring

Alan Jenney

Defining "robbery" vs. "theft"

The term "robbery" is used to describe taking things where there is physical violence or the threat of physical violence involved.

"Theft" is just taking something. Frankly, they didn't even seem to manage that.

Mobile phone signals prevent sleep, claim boffins

Alan Jenney

Content of call rather than the radiation

Having worked on-call support, I've always found that it's the CONTENT of the call that leaves you stressed, disoriented and unable to sleep at night rather than any electromagnetic radiation involved in receiving the call. Interesting to read that it could be the phone itself causing some of the problem.

Apple tells iPhone vendors not to reveal sales figures

Alan Jenney

If it's not a high figure...

Well, I'm sure Apple would be wanting O2 and CPW to release figures if the iPhone had sold in large numbers, so that leaves the logical alternative: it's sold in smaller numbers than Apple would like.

... waiting for iPhone that has data and camera specification in line with competitors.

Spam spewing printer attack pulps security

Alan Jenney

Only possible if...

The first key statement was in the article, you need the IP address. You also need that IP address and port to be routable and accessible from the internet. If your firewall isn't specifically configured to let traffic through to the printer, it ain't going to happen.

So this is only possible if you can actually get to the printer from (a) the internet or (b) a compromised PC. You can make a user's PC the source of the attack by social engineering, but if you can compromise the PC then you're probably going to be looking to do something like keylogging rather than printing.

In another scenario, insufficiently secured wireless networks could easily be targetted, but again doing some printing doesn't seem like a hacker's priority.

Comet Holmes and the case of the Disappearing Tail

Alan Jenney

Incoming giant jellyfish

When observed through simple binoculars, there is considerably more brightness around a central area as well as the outer glow, looking like a fried egg.

Because of the position of the Earth and Sun relative to 17P/Holmes, when observed at night the tails of the comet appear behind the bright centre of the comet. These streamers have been quite noticeable as they have come and gone. Looking through a telescope, the impression you get is of a central complex, colourful halo with the tails in the background. Just as if there was a 100-mile-wide jellyfish heading for Earth. Wait a minute...(!)

Toyota ponders plug-in hybrids

Alan Jenney
Thumb Up

All it does is put the pollution back to the power station

"All it does is put the pollution back to the power station" is quite a long-lived argument. When you look at the economic and environmental cost from the source to getting power to the road, there's a hell of a lot of mucking about.

With petrol, you've got to pump the oil out of the ground, forward it to a refinery, refine it and distribute it in tankers (first in ships, then on the road) to filling stations. Then there's delivering the power to the road, with the efficiency of the internal combustion engine running at 15-20% at best.

With electric, you've got to dig the coal out of the ground, transport it to the power station, where it is burned with around 85% efficiency. It's then distributed through the existing network (which isn't quite as bad as an earlier poster suggested) before charging the battery, where there are losses due to resistance. The power is delivered to the road with 85% efficiency. Trouble is, battery technology that is affordable, envinronmentally friendly and gives reasonable performance at the same time is only just starting to materialise.

With hydrogen, the hydrogen has to be extracted from some other source (such as water or gas). This is very inefficient and in practice may use more energy than is actually contained in the final product. If you create the hydrogen away from the filling station or home, there are inherent problems in transporting and managing it. Or indeed, getting a wide enough distribution network going in the first place. And the current fuel cell technology uses rare and environmentally unfriendly products in its manufacture.

Okay, with the electric option you could choose to buy from "green" sources, thus removing the reliance on fossil fuels and the inherent pollution but none of these is a particularly pretty or efficient way of doing things. The real answer is to eliminate the need for travel and transport...

Alan Jenney

How Green is a Prius?

The trouble with a hybrid is that extra weight. A lot of the benefit is lost because you're carrying around a battery, a powerful electric motor and an extra bit of transmission to mix the power from each of the two sources.

"All of the above" - well the Prius does do everything that you suggest (except the plug-in part): when accelerating uphill, both sources are used, when the gasoline engine is over-producing, it's used to recharge the battery. Adding the plug-in charger is only a technical issue: some conversions to achieve exactly this have been done for some time (in the US). You need a bit of kit to provide the suitable charge current converted from the mains and monitor the state and temperature of the battery.

I'm not sure that the "mode" is hard wired into the design as suggested.

Second Life mounts assault on reality

Alan Jenney


Just because something is not "tangible" in the real world, doesn't mean that it's not worth money or fighting for. Just look at the software and music industries.

The points that other people have made about copyright abuse on Second Life are very true. When a "painting" or a "sound effect" that somebody is "selling" consists merely of an image scanned in or sound sampled and uploaded (that are clearly not the user's own work) and then they make their L$ "money" from it, that's fraud. Making real money from other people's work as "Linden dollars" which can be exchanged for real-world cash.

Even those who spend hours building unique items sometimes trade on a real-world company's name - I've seen "Nike" trainers or "Rayban" sunglasses that are in the image of the real-world items, but I seriously doubt they have any connection with the real-world companies.

Given that precedent, it's rather difficult for someone to call "foul" when their sex-bed scripts get copied. It will be interesting to see the outcome of this as it may have serious implications for all the above if the copyright and trademark holders get busy.

BBC readies global web and TV expansion

Alan Jenney

@ Anon (About Farging Time) / (Joost)

I'm all for ex-pats and fans around the world paying $30/month for a BBC subscription service. That's more than I pay in a licence fee and in terms of potential market, there's more people living outside the UK than television licence holders in it.

However, it might be worthwhile accepting an advertising-led service. And by sticking to their own proprietary iPlayer, they can keep tight controls on the type of advertising and the copyrighted material like they do already without to much extra work.

On an aside, I'm still surprised how little advertising there is on (UK) Channel 4's 4oD on-demand/download video service. Although it is stlil marked "Beta".

Boffins dredge up oldest living animal

Alan Jenney

Boffins CARVE UP oldest living animal

'nuf said.

Online scammers exploit California wildfire disaster

Alan Jenney

What is this "eeb" that Websense are scanning...

... and shouldn't they be looking on the web instead?

Reg Standards Soviet defines temperature and force

Alan Jenney
IT Angle

@ Larry and earlier... not only are there not degrees Kelvin

But it seems that there are no longer "degrees centigrade", having been replaced with Celcius, which is identical apart from the fact that you're not allowed to use the degree symbol, so no "degrees celcius", either.

Now, I'd swear that SI units already included something called the Coulomb, a measure of charge, which is also denoted by C.

Of course, the standard unit of "charge" was previously measured in "Archers" (bribes) but is most frequently associated with peerages these days.

21CN: It's not the data saviour

Alan Jenney

The good old days

Long, long, long before the advent of ADSL. When you lot were on 33K and 56K modems, I was on a cablemodem trial in the Nynex Manchester region for 18months.

Websites and content were so simple that they arrived on my computer screen in the blink of an eye and webcams updated at 10fps.

Them was the good old days when the internet was simple: when men were men; women were women; and small, green furry creatures from Alpha Centauri were...

Samsung to mass-produce 14in OLED TVs in 2010

Alan Jenney

Do I detect a tongue-in-cheek?

"Not-quite-HD" at 540 lines? Do I detect a certain amount of tongue-in-cheek here? That's much less than many five-year-old LCD panels had.

Mind you, the industry managed to sell millions of "HD-ready" panels over a couple of years that were 1366x768 or similar, knowing full-well that the HD standards were heading for 1080 lines. Now we're being convinced to buy "True HD" for a couple of years before the OLED version turns up.

UK minister pledges policing for Second Life

Alan Jenney

TV is passive

Most people's idea of "interacting" with TV is changing the channel - even the amount of activity involved to do that has reduced steadily since the introduction of sonic and then infra-red remote control.

When will these media freaks get it into their heads that, for the majority of the population, TV is something that is passively watched whilst creating a gradually greasier, deeper impression in the sofa?

Alan Jenney

What's new?

Ever since the f-word was first typed at 75 baud and received at 1200 baud by literally dozens of bulletin board-users, one of whom was a minor, there have been calls for the industry to regulate itself.

So there's now there's yet another /slightly different/ way for one human to use or abuse another "online", we get the same old messages.

It's up to parents to regulate a child's use of a service such as Teen Second Life. In exactly the same way that they regulate watching TV, playing on portable games consoles. And to instill those good values that the Lord is so keen on.

Wii propels Nintendo sales to record heights

Alan Jenney

No surprise really

It finally became clear that there is a bigger market for straightforward games than there is for hardcore gaming.

New tune for Microsoft software design?

Alan Jenney
Thumb Up

Physician, heal thyself!

It's clear from this report that you want Microsoft to heed this envangelist more than any third-party developers out there.

"Physician, heal thyself".

One aspect that was not mentioned is that the addition of further features increases the introduction of bugs just opens up the software to more exploits. Microsoft's approach of 'focusing on security' seems to have been as a result of so many holes in the parts of the software that the 'average' end-user never touches. A lot of effort fixing bugs and closing loopholes could be directed elsewhere.

Apple iPod Touch

Alan Jenney
Thumb Down

Cannot enter contacts? Cannot read/write e-mail?

There's a massive disappointment. Being able to enter contact information into a PDA is one of the things that lets you show off your latest acquisition. In competitive arenas, it's a bit of a blow to your self esteem when you have to ask somebody for their card or worse still, say that you're going to write down their name and number on a napkin and enter it later.

Read/write e-mail? I guess you could do that "online" using the web browser, but that would appear to be a particularly heavy way of doing something that's simpler with an application that's designed to work with the Touch's interface.

Windows update brings down TV newscast

Alan Jenney

Automatic download, automatic install, automatic reboot

The trinity of how to break your systems without human intervention... automatic download, automatic install, automatic reboot.

I don't even do these things automatically on my personal computer, let alone mission-critical servers. Having a machine "notify of updates" is as far as I'm prepared to go with automation.

(a) automatic download - when that massive Service Pack gets posted to Windows Update, your network is at risk of being flooded with incoming stuff.

(b) automatic install - all those individual updates can drag a system's performance down. Plus, should you rely on Microsoft getting a fix right first time?

(c) automatic reboot - never, ever let a critical system reboot itself without it being a planned maintenance activity (i.e. during a low-risk time window)

Get your operators to go through each system in turn rather than letting them all go nuts after Microsoft say so.

Of course, I'm talking of your handful of major critical systems here: you have to make an exception if you've got hundreds of parallel blades to manage.

Telly vision: future display technologies

Alan Jenney

LASER projection sparkle

A lot of sparkle is due to de-focussing of the beam in order to prevent eye damage. Very few commercial LASERs do without this.

Many people experience red LASERs used for presentation pointers, etc. and see a fair amount of sparkle around the illuminated spot. It can appear to be floating in the space between the LASER and the surface.

Green and blue LASERs have a great deal more sparkle and also the human eye can "see the beam" more intensely in these colours - these are the ones that tend to be used for "spectacular" displays and astronomical pointers as it's the beam, not the illuminated spot, that is important.

A LASER TV projector undoubtedly uses scanning beams instead of the back-lit grating that other technologies employ. The narrow scanning beam will pick out airborne particles between the apparatus and the projection surface. For a large system, the amount of twinkling could be horrendous.

I'm not surprised that the mentioned military system was difficult to watch!

Alan Jenney

How thin does "thin" need to be?

Obviously there are other advantages to OLED over LCD, but the media focus seems to have been on how thin these units are.

Currently, the OLED sets that have been demonstrated are no chunkier than the largest LCD laptop screens or even some LCD computer monitors.

The physical packaging of Laptop screens rarely exceed 0.5", desktop monitors 2" and the biggest LCD TV I have seen (50") wasn't exactly "deep" at less than 6". Internal to each of these, the LCD panel itself is a few millimetres "thick". Exactly how thin does "thin" need to be?

The depth from front-to-back of an LCD case tends to be because of the bulky connectors, control boards and any wall-mounting hardware. The demonstrated OLED panels had all the guts in a separate box. Surely that's more of a packaging issue than an advantage of OLED?

I mean, if you made an LCD TV with just the frame to keep it stiff and some cooling in the flat part and put the gubbins in the stand - wouldn't it be similarly thin?

Genetics boffins on the verge of artificial bacteria

Alan Jenney
Dead Vulture

"Grey goo" in Second Life transfers to the real world?

Funny you should mention Second Life: my thoughts turn to what happened when self-replicating scripted objects appeared in the virtual world. The place was littered with a "grey goo" that took Linden Labs a significan effort to clear up.

The argument comes up that is frequently brought into the debate about the introduction of anything articficial, or not native... GM crops, the American grey squirrel and so on. If an artificial bacteria designed to eat dangerous waste products and produce useful energy plus harmless byproduct goes rogue, we could see a mass of grey goo taking over the entire planet.

However, the benefits may outway these drawbacks.

Solar storm rips tail from comet

Alan Jenney

CMEs and comets

The question of what effect the CME might have on course of a comet when the tail can be distorted so much can be brought into analogy with blowing on a candle: you can knock the flame about with a breath, but blowing the candle around itself is a completely different order of magnitude!

Police watchdog urges use of data recorders

Alan Jenney

Not just for police vehicles in the US

In the States, many public vehicles, not just those owned by State Police departments, are fitted with data recorders. A discreet camera and twenty seconds worth of data from the car are buffered and kept in the event of a collision.

This provides invaluable information, especially in the case of vehicles that seem to get more than their fair share of damage. It can help secure a conviction, but also provides evidence for insurance claims in non-criminal circumstances.

They are cheaper than the rather more sophisticated video-gathering equipment that is installed in UK police cars. It is unclear yet whether they can earn their cost back, but it is noted that the driving standards of car users who are not aware of the system in the car are questionable from some of the published footage.

Nobel-winning boffin slams ISS, manned spaceflight

Alan Jenney

Neil Armstrong's summary of the US space programme

In a recent TV interview...

My neighbour's dog would chase after cars up the road. One day I decided to stop to see what he would do if he caught up with it: he cocked his leg against the tyre.

That's essentially what we did with the moon. We finally had the means to get there, so we went and p***ed on it.

Orange speaks out with new voice

Alan Jenney

Have u noticed (Old voice, new voice)

150 (customer services) is mostly in the new voice.

"Anytime" prompts are the old voice "Anytime GPRS", "Anytime Texts" and so on.

123 (answerphone) is completely in the old plummy voice.

Hmm "Estuary English" accent. Most (British) people prefer an authoritative, femail voice on automated system. The Germans like a strong male voice. When speak to a "real person", celtic accents are found to be more popular.

James Bond ditches the Aston Martin

Alan Jenney

Nationality @JonB

Absolutely. Many of the comments here seem to be about what's happened to the car industry after a 1967 T would have been built at the Pym's Lane plant in Crewe.

Packard Bell pitches UMPC-like laptop

Alan Jenney

Niche or gap in the market?

I'm not entirely convinced that there is a niche in the market for UMPC or this micro-laptop.

For people who want to carry around an under-specced computer in their pocket, the current range or smartphones, communicators, PocketPCs etc. satisfy that need and can be synced with a full-scale laptop or desktop.

For usability, in the past Psion reached a limit with the usability of a keyboard that you could touch type on when it was on a desk or squirrel* in your hands. This laptop is too big for a pocket and to heavy for extended squirrelling.

At the other end of the scale, for people who want the usabilty of a "fully-fledged" PC, this laptop clamshell design offers better usability than regular UMPCs but doesn't offer the all-round compatibility of a sub-notebook. I would suggest that this machine would still want to be synced with a full-size laptop or desktop. When you look at the price of having both, a pocket-sized machine offers the functionality without the pitfalls and cost.