* Posts by Man inna barrel

28 posts • joined 10 Jun 2019

Bill Gates debunks 'coronavirus vaccine is my 5G mind control microchip implant' conspiracy theory

Man inna barrel

Re: Very good skeptoid podcast recently debunking this stuff

I am not surprised that there are many people that misunderstand radio technology. I do RF electronics and antenna design at work. My colleagues consider this deep voodoo. This is in a company chock full of mathematicians and other educated folks.

US restricts visas for folks working at Huawei and other Chinese tech makers – seemingly over China's human-rights abuses

Man inna barrel

The CCP scores a direct hit in the foot

I think the Chinese Communist Party are doing some serious foot shooting at present. I am still pretty sure that Huawei are not especially evil, because their headquarters are in China. I think there may be laws in China about Chinese companies being governed by whatever rules the CCP dreams up, and even a company with the stature of Huawei will have to bow to those rules, so this worries the security folks. But major companies based in so called liberal democracies are also subject to political influences, in exchange for a few billion quid.

I think it quite right though, that we stop buying cheap Chinese kit, because we do not like the politics of their government. This is just basic diplomacy, of the kind that does not need an army, or posh blokes shouting. Perhaps Huawei could relocate to Wolverhampton, then we can all get on with useful stuff.

One year ago, Apple promised breakthrough features to help iPhone, iPad, Mac owners with disabilities. It failed them

Man inna barrel

Voice control for the mute

I find all this very funny, because I am unable to speak, for medical reasons. My boss gave me a mobile phone when I was in hospital. This is quite useful to text messages to and fro. But when someone leaves a voice message, I am expected to say some magic words before I can access the message. I laughed, or rather, I wheezed in some rhythmical manner. If you are old enough, you may recall a cartoon series called Wacky Races. I am Muttley, for my sins. And I do not like dogs.

I recall an engineer friend who got a spiffy new mobile phone. He said he could call anybody on his contact list, just by saying their name. To demonstrate this wondrous feature, he tried to call his wife, whose name is June. "June..." Nothing happened. "JUNE...". Still no response. And then, at the top of his voice: "JUNE!!". This activity drew embarrassing attention to our party, so my friend resorted to prodding the screen, and let his wife know that he would be home shortly.

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

Man inna barrel

Re: “which functions are meant as internal or external. Function names get exhausted..."

As far as I know, all functional programming languages (e.g. Ocaml, Haskell) use nested function definitions.

Britain has no idea how close it came to ATMs flooding the streets with free money thanks to some crap code, 1970s style

Man inna barrel

This is why we make prototypes

I have had a few "blue smoke moments" when testing prototypes. One of the worst was when testing a power supply for endurance at full load. It took hours for the thing to warm up, then "boomf!". I took the lid off, and there was a bit of a crater in the PCB. A few power devices had died. It looked like there had been a short, perhaps due to bad soldering. I thought this because our regular technician was busy at the time, so the production engineer did the soldering. The board was patched, and the dead parts replaced. Switch on, load up, and wait. A few hours later -- "boomf!". OK, this was not bad assembly. Something was overheating. I eventually tracked it down to a device that needed a higher voltage rating, in order to reduce leakage current that caused thermal runaway. I should have known about this, but the data that would have warned me was somewhat buried in the component datasheet. "Every day is a school-day", as my boss said at the time.

This faffing about with repeated lengthy tests delayed the product launch somewhat, but you have to consider what may have happened otherwise. Say we shipped hundreds of PSUs in the winter, and they did not overheat at that time. Come the summer, and they start going "boomf!" all over the country. Multiple callouts at our expense, and all profits wiped out.

Tesla sued over Tokyo biker's death in 'dozing driver' Autopilot crash

Man inna barrel

Driver has nothing to do. Dozes off. Bang!

If the car AI takes control of tasks that the driver would normally do, then I do not think it surprising that the driver fails to pay attention when they need to. I get the impression that train drivers need special training to cope with long periods of doing nothing, while paying attention all the time.

This reminds me of a description of one of the worst jobs ever (in my opinion). This was in the 80's. In a canning factory, there is a labeling machine. Labelled cans stream out of the machine many times a second. An operator observes the cans zooming past. It is just a blur of colour. The operator's job is to stop the line if there is a visible change. If the machines are working well, the operator might never see a fault all day. I do not know if operators got special training for this, or were only put on inspection for limited periods, to preserve their sanity.

Square peg of modem won't fit into round hole of PC? I saw to it, bloke tells horrified mate

Man inna barrel

Re: ain't no problem in the world that can't be solved with hot-snot

Best kludge I ever saw was a small teapot welded to the output of the exhaust of a two-stroke bike. Improved the resonance, apparently, so sucking through more air and fuel. This was a lady biker. I am not sure the blokes approved, but no one dared argue with her.

Assange should be furloughed from Belmarsh prison, says human rights org. Here's a thought: He could stay with friends!

Man inna barrel

Julian Assange is just another prisoner

There are plenty of prisoners who should be given priority when it comes to early release on license, in order to mitigate the effects of a Covid-19 outbreak in prisons. There is a sizeable elderly population in prison, and there are many prisoners with bad health, who would be more at risk from Covid-19. I do not see Julian Assange fitting into these categories. Also, his previous behaviour indicates that he is likely to try to escape justice if released from prison, which would be a no-no for any consideration of early release, I believe.

Microsoft decrees that all high-school IT teachers were wrong: Double spaces now flagged as typos in Word

Man inna barrel

Re: Kerning

Oh cripes! Inserting an 18pt space in 12pt text; what a hideous kludge! I have not tried this, but I suspect it might affect line spacing. I am never entirely sure what a word processor might decide is the "right thing" when I try to micromanage layout like that, which is one reason why I very rarely use a word processor.

Man inna barrel

Re: Word processing programs can kern and should use n and m spaces

I have said this before, but Times New Roman is rubbish for the average report or letter printed as a single column on A4 or letter paper. The letters are deliberately made narrow to fit into newspaper columns. The clue is in the name. It was based on a font designed for the (London) Times newspaper.

When Times New Roman is used for typical office purposes, the lines tend to be too long for legibility, unless the type size is enlarged, which looks a bit odd. I learned that I good target for line length is about 60 to 80 printed characters. I found that most serif fonts other than Times New Roman would meet this. You might need wider margins than you are used to. I use 12pt Palatino in LaTeX documents, and this looks well balanced on A4.

I do not understand why a specialist typeface like Times New Roman was chosen as a default serif font. I am not saying that it is badly designed or ugly, but it is just unsuited to the tasks for which it is most often employed.

Man inna barrel

Re: spare disk space

I write notes to myself in a text editor, using a monospace font. It has never occurred to me to type two spaces after the end of a sentence. I might try it. If it improves legibilty, I might adopt the practice. For proper documents, I use LaTeX, where hand-crafted typesetting is largely ignored, and quite right too.

Man inna barrel

Re: I chose "I don't care"

There are greater things to be concerned about with word processors than whether to accept one or two spaces after a sentence. In my experience, word processors tend to be rubbish at typesetting in general, and their use results in badly laid out documents, inconsistently applied style rules, illegibly long line lengths, and so on. If you are concerned about the amount of horizontal space after a sentence, how about the amount of vertical space before and after a section heading?

I had typesetting rules down to a fine art using Wordstar on DRDOS. Inserting the correct markup was a matter of muscle memory. When trying the same using Microsoft Word on W95, I kept on getting into a right mess. Sanity was eventually restored through the discovery of LaTeX on Linux. Thankfully, my present employer prefers LaTeX for engineering documents. The sales and marketing bods can use Word if they want to.

Keen to go _ExtInt? LLVM Clang compiler adds support for custom width integers

Man inna barrel

An FPGA is not a CPU

When generating code for a typical CPU, it is generally more efficient to work with native integer sizes, rather than penny-pinching on word lengths. I believe the CPU has to do some work to align smaller types onto the favoured word boundaries. In an FPGA, I am assuming that there is no optimum word size, and allocating more bits than you need consumes some gate resources. So declaring a five bit integer type could be more efficient than using a standard eight bit type, because the larger type commits more gate resources, which are not needed in practice. I do not think this type of economy happens much in normal coding for CPUs rather than FPGAs. Packing data into smaller sizes is an optimisation for disk storage, perhaps. There might be some merit in packing data if one is concerned about RAM usage, but I have found that there is always some work unpacking the data before it can be used.

The important thing, of course, is that appropriate type declarations tell the compiler what you want to do, which then means that the constraints imposed by your stated intents can be checked at compile time, and optimised code is generated within these constraints.

Vodafone chief speaks out after 5G conspiracy nuts torch phone mast serving Nightingale Hospital in Brum

Man inna barrel

Re: Some folks just need an excuse for mayhem

I agree with you that there are people that will treat any criticism of their views as part of the conspiracy. But in the end, this is an ineffective way of thinking. It is good for burning witches, but not much good at putting food on the table. Unless you like roast witch for dinner.

Man inna barrel

Some folks just need an excuse for mayhem

Some of the people causing this destruction may be misguided activists, who believe they are doing the right thing. Perhaps such people can be persuaded by rational argument that they are mistaken. However, I fear that there are other people that just like wrecking stuff for the fun of it. No amount of rational argument will dissuade them.

From Brit telly presenter Eamonn Holmes to burning 5G towers in the Netherlands: Stupid week turns into stupid fortnight for radio standard

Man inna barrel

The Wednesday night "footbal club"

I had a very informative experience of the type of people that do this kind of mindless vandalism. My local pub had an upstairs room, that could be hired for functions. There was a "football club" meeting every Wednesday. Some of the supporters would turn up a bit early for a pint. I am not kidding, but the pudding head next to me could not even order a pint of lager.

"Pint of lager... Please"

"Would that be Foster's, or Carlsberg, Sir?"


A bloke in a suit with a briefcase came later, and everybody went upstairs. The landlord had his suspicions, and called the police. It turns out that the "football club" was known to the police. Nasty neo-fascists of some kind. The police prevailed upon the landlord to let them meet at his pub, because that way, they knew where they were. The locals all had a good laugh when the loonies weren't there.

The point here is that there are people whose stupidity is beyond imagination. No amount of scientific argument will dissuade from their views. They just like an excuse for a bit of mayhem, hur hur.

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

Man inna barrel

Perhaps Inkscape is not an engineer's tool

I used Xfig for years for making various engineering diagrams, that did not fall into the category of CAD. Inkscape can be use for this, but things that I found easy in Xfig are a bit clumsy in Inkscape. I suppose what I really want is Xfig with a Qt interface. I am not an artist, but I like a good clear layout, and I like a tool that will make it easy for me to get all my boxes lined up, rather than a bit off, which was always happening with Inkscape. There appears to be an odd attitude about when the attributes of a brush or pen are assigned, before drawing anything. To my mind, you select a brush size and a paint colour before putting paint to canvas, but Inkscape wants you to draw first, and set attributes later. A former engineer colleague of mine says that this behaviour was inherited from an early version of Illustrator. Xfig, for all its clunkiness, gets this right.

RAND report finds that, like fusion power and Half Life 3, quantum computing is still 15 years away

Man inna barrel

Re: Timeline

Not all fusion reactions produce neutrons. Hydrogen-boron fusion produces alpha particles and no neutrons. Unfortunately, that particular reaction needs much more energy to initiate than the more common deuterium-tritium reaction.

Man inna barrel

Re: 15 years away

As far as I know, terrestrial fusion cannot achieve the densities that occur in stellar fusion. Magnetic confinement and so on cannot do the same job as gravity. The answer is to vastly increase the temperature over stellar values, so that slamming nuclei together overcomes electrostatic repulsive forces.

Minister slams 5G coronavirus conspiracy theories as 'dangerous nonsense' after phone towers torched in UK

Man inna barrel

How to put up a radio mast

Erect the mast, and install some boxes and cables, but leave out the transmitter equipment. Wait a bit, until the locals complain of headaches, rashes, canine dementia, or whatever. When the objections are taken to court, point out that there was no transmitter equipment installed at the time of the alleged effects. Case dismissed. Then install and switch on the transmitter.

Brit brainiacs say they've cracked non-volatile RAM that uses 100 times less power

Man inna barrel

What about background radiation?

If the memory cell states can be changed using far less power than now, isn't there a risk that memory will get corrupted more easily by the effects of background radiation? This has to be accounted for in space electronics, due to cosmic rays. That is seriously heavy stuff, which is not normally a problem at normal altitudes, where the earth's atmosphere provides shielding. But there is always a bit of weaker radiation about, that could cause trouble for this technology. Perhaps you cannot use this technology in Cornwall. I would not fancy it anywhere near a cancer treatment machine, either.

Apple tipped to go full wireless by 2021, and you're all still grumbling about a headphone jack

Man inna barrel

Re: My goose is cooked

5V DC is a very poor choice for power distribution. It requires thick wires to avoid volt drop, and so wastes copper. Industrial DC power distribution often uses 48V DC. For the same power delivered, 48V requires about 1/10 of the current than is needed at 5V. Also, we can tolerate ten times the volt drop at 48V than we can at 5V, for the same tolerance on delivered voltage. This means that wires for 48V power delivery can be nearly 1/100 of the cross sectional area than would be required using a 5V bus.

When the IT department speaks, users listen. Or face the consequences

Man inna barrel

Re: Beautiful

Electrocute means to exeCUTE by ELECTRicity. It is a method of capital punishment, once used in the USA. Unless you are some kind of zombie, you have never been electrocuted.

Bloodhound rocket car target of 550mph put on ice after engine overheat

Man inna barrel

Not the real land speed record?

Call me old-fashioned if you like, but I think the last real land speed record was Bluebird (Donald Campbell, 1964, 403.1 mph), because the motive power was driven via the wheels. Ever since then, land speed record vehicles have in effect been jet or rocket aircraft that do not take off. I remember thinking at the time that Craig Breedlove's jet-driven Spirit of America was cheating.

Electric cars can't cut UK carbon emissions while only the wealthy can afford to own one

Man inna barrel

Hydroflouric acid from burning Lithium batteries? I would like to see your chemistry. Hydroflouric acid production is already a problem with ICE engine compartment fires. It is due to PTFE insulation on wires getting hot enough to denature. Fire services are aware of this, and take precautions to avoid exposure.

Hydroflouric acid is indeed very nasty stuff. Unlike, say, sulphuric acid, it does usually not burn on contact. But over a few hours, it penetrates the skin, and the flouride ions then muck up calcium chemistry in the body, by making calcium into insoluble flouride.

Bit of a time-saver: LibreOffice emits 6.3 with new features, loading and UI boosts

Man inna barrel

Re: Fourier transform?

One of the first spreadsheets I wrote was for Fourier series analysis of non-linear distortion in amplifiers. Prior to that, I drew out a matrix of rectangles on a piece of paper, and banged out the contents of each cell on a calculator. I am a bit nerdy about Fourier transforms. Bloody useful stuff. One of the first programmes I wrote in C on my first home computer was an implementation of the Fast Fourier Transform (FFT), based purely on a couple of pages in Bracewell's excellent book. I did not understand malloc and pointer doodahs, so all the arrays were on the stack, but it worked.

I could throttle you right about now: US Navy to ditch touchscreens after kit blamed for collision

Man inna barrel

Soft keys

I detest touch screen interfaces for most things. My character error rate on texting is typically around 20%, using a modern mobile phone. I am seeing much more touch screen interface stuff on complex test equipment like spectrum analysers. One of the problems I first encountered was pointing out some interesting feature on the screen, and the stupid instrument responded to my touch and Did Something. So I had to reset to defaults and start again.

I have quickly glossed the comments, and I am surprised that I could not find a reference to a soft key interface. This is where the interface has a graphical screen surrounded by anonymous physical buttons. The functions of the hardware keys can vary depending on what task or mode the user has selected, and adjacent labels on the screen tell the user what the current function of each button is. I really like this system for controlling complex test equipment. It is often augmented by a numeric keypad and spin wheel.

I will grant that this interface is more expensive to implement than a touch screen, but for complex RF test kit and military stuff, it would appear to be vastly superior. The screen and buttons can be made very rugged. And it still has the advantage that button names/functions are programmable in firmware, and not hard wired.

Idle Computer Science skills are the Devil's playthings

Man inna barrel

Call yourself a computer scientist?

Keep him on the course, but ban him from the computer terminals.

Real computer science does not require the use of a computer. Edsger Dijstra famously did not use a computer for years. Pencil and paper were good enough for him.


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