* Posts by jdiebdhidbsusbvwbsidnsoskebid

339 publicly visible posts • joined 24 Aug 2020


Getting to the bottom of BMW's pay-as-you-toast subscription failure


Re: Moving House

"The nice thing about sentimental value is is that it's not actually dependent upon the symbolic physical token.

You can always take the physical token out of the equation and access these internal productions more directly."

I disagree totally. It's the actual physical objects that have the sentimental value. I can listen to certain music on the radio or stream it all day long, but it's only when I get my original CD of it out, hold it in my hand and I see the wear and scratches on the box that reminds me how old is it, that I'm truly taken back to that sunny weekend in May XX years ago when I bought it, just after that particular relationship break up, and all the memories come back, all those years later.


"If they are going to fit the more expensive type of seats to the car anyway, then there is no ongoing cost to BMW to allow you to use the switch to operate them."

True, but there is the one off profit that they have missed out on by you not paying for them in the first place - or the ongoing profit if it's a subscription.

I presume they actually save money by fitting things like electric seats to all cars, since it simplifies the production line management and stock control systems, assuming that enough customers pay up for those things. There are probably many accounting spreadsheets constantly checking that model all the time.

I think the only new thing here is the subscription model. It's been common for years for different cars to have the same engine, but different power outputs governed by the ECU and what the customer was willing to pay for.


if you tolerate this then your chilled air will be next.

Nice reference, very nice. Well played!

UK civil servants – hopefully including those spending billions on tech – to skill up in STEM


This is old news, STEM Futures has been around for years.

I can't blame any Reg journalist for this as the UK Gov source material is off the mark on this.

STEM Futures has been around for years and people from many different government departments have been involved. DSIT claiming to be the "... first central government department to join STEM Futures..." can only be true if there are some heavy caveats, maybe about what exactly a "central government department" is or some other weasel words.

And if people hope that this is a route for non-STEM civil servants to get some STEM experience, sorry. The scheme is about those already with STEM skills (usually early career scientists) developing their skills and careers through interchange with industry, academia etc. I had plenty of people out on secondments to industry, ex government labs etc. Usually the hardest job was to hold on to them when they returned. But at least when they left they joined organisations that were still part of the UK's STEM base, so not a bad thing if you look at the big picture.

NASA still serious about astronauts living it up on Moon space station in 2028


"...it's not as if there is any point in having humans on the moon..."

It's all about building the staging post to mars, which is why Gateway is called Gateway.

80% of execs regret calling employees back to the office


Headline doesn't match the article

The headline "80% of execs regret calling employees back to the office" doesn't match the article wording. The article actually says (quoting the report) "80% of executives say they would have approached their company’s return-to-office strategy differently if they had access to workplace data to inform their decision-making."

No mention of regret, or the wrong decision being made, just that they had to make decisions in the absence of data. And using a different strategy does not necessarily mean coming to a different decision. Note that the company who produced the report specialises in workplace management, including managing workplace data, so naturally they will be pushing the "must have data" angle - that's their business.

But isn't that what executives are meant to do, make decisions when faced with uncertainty and incomplete data? Isn't that why they earn the exec pay?

The price of freedom turned out to be an afternoon of tech panic


Re: D'oh

"Exactly. Playing around with an idea is all fine and well, the problem comes when that quick and dirty prototype someone bashed out ends up becoming the official solution."

Seen that as well. Came across a spreadsheet that someone once put together as a quick and dirty prototype. Before long it was full of complex cross references and a set of instructions telling you how to select the data you wanted in the graph that was then copied in a regular customer report every quarter (it was so complex it was no longer obvious or intuitive). This spreadsheet had become THE definitive reference for the quarterly customer report. Only problem was that it had become so complicated that it was hard to trust that the data you got was the data you wanted and of course there was zero test documentation to support it.


Re: I'll assume this was America

"complex system of cross tipping between the staff in North America."

I didn't realise that on one of my early visits to the US. We didn't leave a tip on the bill for our waiter, intending to just leave cash when we left. Waiter got all concerned and wondered what was wrong for us to leave no tip. We explained how we wanted our tip to go to him and him only rather than going through the till (where we assumed some if it would get creamed off by the business). The waiter explained how it works and all was well, we all parted happy, a bit wiser and still thinking that the other's system was just weird - just how foreign travel should be.


Re: D'oh

"myriad of tortured use cases Excel has been forced to serve. -------->"

Many years ago, I had a job to build something called a beamformer. Lots of transmitters (could be radio, sound, any waveform really) arranged in irregular 3 dimensional space. When they all transmit, the superposition of the waves creates beams in certain directions. Control the phasing of the individual waves and within certain constraints, you can form any beam shape in any direction you like. If anyone reading this cares, the beampattern is the Fourier transform of the array and vice versa, in as many dimensions as you are working in.

New in my role, I was waiting for the new software development environment to arrive, so I was twiddling my thumbs wanting to make a start. The only software I had to start creating the model was ... Excel! So before long I had a fully functional 3 dimensional beamformer running in Excel! Admittedly out was only narrowband but the process of squeezing it into Excel taught me a lot about the maths behind it and what shortcuts and optimisations you could make. The final version (written in C++) was a lot better (more efficient) than it would have been had I not done all that early Excel tinkering.

Cumbrian Police accidentally publish all officers' details online


Re: For all the billions spent on giant...

"Absolutely this. I have a sneaking suspicion that this info wasn't consciously published but simply copied to some folder on the intranet that is being used as a document archive for the web server, and whoever copied it had no idea."

Seems the most likely explanation to me, or maybe someone not even knowingly doing it. Dragging and dropping files on a GUI, the GUI freezes momentarily meaning that your mouse operations don't happen where you thought they were happening and before you know it, a whole other directory has moved to somewhere else and you're spending the first few seconds thinking "bloody computer!" followed by "did anything actually happen then?" and at least the next few minutes finding out what actually happened, where it went, is it back in the right place now, what even was the original file structure and finally will I get in trouble for this?

And that's just the GUI doing you in. As the saying goes, to err is human, to really fowl things up requires a computer. Given today's data driven world, this has never been more true.

US Supreme Court allows 'ghost guns' to fall under federal purview


I think some context in the article would have helped to indicate what exactly Lt. Paul Phillips had never seen in their 30yrs on the force.

I'm guessing it's the prevalence of home made guns, but it could easily be the idea of home made guns itself or even the legal activity/inactivity (depending on one's perspective) in regulating them. Could be anything.


Re: "suspected ghost guns"

"How can one not immediately see that it is a 3D-printed gun"

I think the phrase "20,000 suspected ghost guns" actually meant that it's suspected that there are 20,000 ghost guns, not suspicion that any particular gun is ghost or not. If you had a 3d printed gun in your hand to inspect, it might be obvious.

And that's the point behind all this, that "ghost" means these homemade guns are untraceable so it's impossible to know how many there are, or who has them. And for a few years now they seem to be capable enough for that to bother law enforcement.

Tesla hackers turn to voltage glitching to unlock paywalled features


Re: soft locks on optional, but installed, features

I'll bet some people here remember overclocking PCs in the 90s when it was a case of switching jumpers on the motherboard until you got to the highest speed the CPU would run at regardless of what it said on the chip's casing.

I'm pretty sure it was AMD who had electrical links on the chip casing selectively broken to set the speed. Rubbing the broken links with a graphite pencil was sometimes enough to turn a 100MHz CPU into 133, which in those days was a lot.

Voyager 2 found! Deep Space Network hears it chattering in space


Re: The disco-era spacecraft

Disco balls in space did you say?


Thames Water to datacenters: Cut water use or we will


Re: Beware apologist Commentards

"But if you are that way inclined, it's genuinely not that difficult to come up with a system to capture grey water."

It certainly isn't difficult, I do it in the summer to water the garden. But if you store any water for use domestically, you need to treat it. At a minimum you need to treat it to prevent legionnella growing, which can cause respiratory issues when aerosolised and breathed in. Even if only used for toilet flushing it can spread via droplets put into the air.

This is why rainwater capture systems, even if just for flushing turds down the drain need regular draining and flushing with clean mains water.


Re: someone please explain

"I too would be interested in how water is used and contaminated during the cooling process in DC's these days?"

It comes into the data centre as clean drinking water and leaves via the sewers whereupon it heads back through the sewer network (along with all the, err, sewage) to the processing plant and turned back into drinking water again. Regardless of what treatment it needs, all waste water regardless of its previous usage is treated together. This is probably a lot cheaper for the data centre operator than building a closed loop system.

There's no mechanism in the UK water network for used water to continue straight for drinking with no process in between. And I say "drinking" because all water supplied through the network is clean for drinking, whether it's used for drinking, cooking, washing, toilet flushing or data centre cooling.

So water coming out of a data centre might still be clean and safe for drinking, but there's no way of sending it straight for drinking without some serious changes in regulations. And despite the criticism the water network comes in for about leaks, sewage discharges etc. the one thing it does really well is supply clean safe water everywhere, that's pretty much non negotiable. Under normal circumstances, tap water anywhere in the UK is safe to drink.

It's been proposed many times over the years that the water network supplies two types of water: one safe for drinking and the other not but still clean enough to wash, flush etc. The same for sewage, separating storm water and household sewage. Storm water and sewage travel along the same puppies which is why sewage discharges happen when it rains heavily and the sewage network gets overloaded with rainwater. This would save a lot on processing costs, but to change the whole UK network would be prohibitively expensive, so we stick with how it's always been done.

A room-temperature, ambient-pressure superconductor? Take a closer look


Re: Grauniad Science... a superb howler

"That sort of 'lost the superscripting' error occurs pretty much everywhere, including El Reg on occasions"

It's not the superscripting error that's amusing, it's the mention of "molecules"

Our AI habit is making us less environmentally friendly, Google admits


Not carbon neutral since 2007 then?

How strange. For years, Google's home page said "CO2 neutral since 2007" http://web.archive.org/web/20230702000204/https://www.google.co.uk/

Now it merely says "out third decade of climate action: join us".

Ho hum.

Judge lets art trio take another crack at suing AI devs over copyright


Re: Seems this is a judge not understanding "AI"

"Saying they need to provide more facts as it seems "implausible" is evidence of the judge not knowing how this AI tech works."

That's not how I interpreted that bit. I thought it meant that the judge thought it implausible merely on the evidence presented. Hence, giving them the chance to go back and come up with a better case.

Bizarre backup taught techie to dumb things down for the boss


Anyone who uses the "deleted items" folder (what it's called in my corporate outlook incarnation) for storage deserves what they get. But it probably doesn't help that it isn't really deleted items (if it was anything going there would immediately disappear forever) but instead it looks pretty much like any other folder and actually works better. I can even create subfolders in it for goodness sake and a single keypress sends things to it once I've read them.

Using a pre IT times analogy, it's like every other filling cabinet in the office except for the handwritten label on the front. Once someone realises that it never gets emptied, has near infinite storage capacity and even has a special magic spell to move stuff to it instantly that no other filling cabinet has (the delete key), is it any wonder that people ignore the label on the front and just use this magic cabinet instead?

OECD finds 27% of jobs are under threat from AI


"Have they taken into account the new jobs that will be created firefighting the errors that the AI creates"

Maybe this accounts for the stat in the OECD report that "48% of employers in manufacturing respond to AI by hiring new workers"

Only 14% said they respond to AI by "attrition or redundancies".

Does this mean more jobs created than lost due to AI? Not necessarily as number of employers != number of jobs.

You're too dumb to use click-to-cancel, Big Biz says with straight face


Re: As an example of how easy things are currently....

"Click Continue to cancel"


Brits negotiating draft deal to rejoin EU's $100B blockbuster science programme


Re: Waiting for leave voters to die and remain voters to be old enough to vote.

"The problem with this theory it assumes today's youth don't turn into tomorrow's Daily Heil reading xenophobic morons."

Exactly. As I said I don't know if that was taken into account. Shouldn't be too hard to do though, if you've got a decent model of voting preference Vs age. It's probably not that simple though.

The voting age was a big deal though. Before the referendum, there was a discussion on allowing 16yr olds to vote or not. The grossly simplified version was that remainers wanted younger people to have a vote, leavers didn't. Leavers claimed that excluding younger people was a violation of human rights by denying them a part in the democratic process, brexiteers said there was no precedent and it would mean changing the age limit for all elections. Like a lot of brexit campaigning and retrospection after, the same inputs, steered by one's own ideology lead to opposite conclusions.


Waiting for leave voters to die and remain voters to be old enough to vote.

"wait for a sufficient number of the ... leave voters to die off first"

That may have happened quite soon after the vote. There was an academic who looked at the general trend of brexit vote preference with age (younger people more likely to vote remain, older to vote leave) and worked out that after only 12 months the natural churn meant that if the referendum had been rerun and everyone voted the same as before (or how they would have voted if they were old enough), the vote would have shifted to 50/50. Within another 12 months it would have reversed to 52% remain 48% leave. This wasn't due to people changing their minds, just due to demographics. I don't know if they took into account the likelihood of individuals changing their minds as they got older, or even if that would happen.

This is the first reference I could find to it with a quick Google. https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-45098550.amp

I think this is the biggest thing that annoys me about brexit. Leaving the EU was such a huge decision to make with lots of serious and long term consequences. Yet we made that decision on the flimsiest of margins - a margin that depended on the timing of a referendum, rather than any serious decision making.

The death of the sysadmin has been predicted for years – we're not holding our breath


Re: Biased A.I models written by white men

"You know, observing reality."

Quite right, woke meaning (from the Collins English Dictionary):

"...very aware of social and political unfairness."

If that's cultish, then where can I sign up?

Google accused of ripping off advertisers with video ads no one saw. Now, the expert view


Re: It Pays to Advertise?

"I read an article (long time ago now) that is mostly not about you buying product X now but more about brand awareness so that when you do want product X you will think about brand Y first."

I'm sure that's still the case. Why else would car companies show an ad in the UK with the disclaimer "not UK spec"?


Re: It Pays to Advertise?

Totally agree. All advertising seems to say to me "see how terrible our adverts are, why would you ever want to buy anything from us? "

Sometimes it's just very poor quality ads, other times it's the outlandish claims they make, but the result is the same.

The ZX81 finally gets the keyboard it deserves


Re: Still a crap layout.

I had a 3rd party keyboard with full keys and a space/break bar at the time and I secretly felt like I was somehow cheating.

I can't remember who it was made by but it was a metal case with the original ZX81 innards inside, and a lot bigger than the original plastic case. It looked like a C64 but without the round corners and made out of bent sheet metal. The flat back made the stock Sinclair ram pack less wobbly though. It had a metal U bracket to secure it.


Re: Well deserved

I don't ever recall the ZX81 suffering from switch bouncing. Mainly I suspect because the time it took to refresh the line of text you were typing was sufficiently long, before the keyboard would respond again. There was no such thing as a keyboard buffer.

I remember if you were typing in a line that was more than a couple of rows on the screen, the line refresh meant it could be several seconds between each key press.

Dialup-era developer writes ChatGPT client for Windows 3.1


Re: One question

I was definitely burning CDROMs at work back on Win3.11. rarely worked first time as I recall as most CD writers had little or no buffer, so data had to come off the hard disk at just the right rate, for about an hour or so. You certainly didn't use the PC for anything else in that time in case it interrupted the data. Even the screensaver coming on would sometime knacker the process.

Ah, those were the days.

Missing Titan sub likely destroyed in implosion, no survivors


Re: "craft's carbon fiber hull"

"Several thousands pounds per sq inch starting at just 3000ft. It just goes up almost exponentially from there."

Not at all. The pressure increases linearly with depth, it's not exponential. Roughly one atmosphere for every 10 metres. At 3000ft, that's about 1350psi.

A column of water just 10m high weighs about the same as a column of the atmosphere all the way up.

Europe to vote on AI laws with potential 7% revenue fines


Re: Typical UK conservative approach

"But do go on and tell me its the free markets fault for the states actions (council and government levels)"

Well, now you've got me wondering how much lobbying of government was done by the building companies, resulting in the complex sequence of events that resulted in that disaster.

In the years leading up to Grenfell, the Government made cost savings in things like Building Control, by allowing the building companies to self test and self certify their materials against the the regulations. The Government savings meant there wasn't the resource to properly check what those companies were doing, they were trusted. It turns out that trust was misplaced. There is a lot of evidence that has been submitted to the inquiry (still running I think) from employees that claims the companies were deliberately and knowingly falsifying the tests to gain compliance certificates.

Back to the original article and the theme of government regulation: The free market can deliver, but left to itself, corners get cut in the interests of profit. When you don't properly regulate, things like Grenfell can be the tragic outcomes.


Re: Typical UK conservative approach

If we're taking about Grenfell, that's become a case study on why the free market should not be trusted to deliver public safety without government oversight. The local authority were responsible for enforcement of the regulations but effectively transferred that responsibility to the contractors, who failed to do so.


Re: Typical UK conservative approach

I interpreted your comment as the free market solving the problem. But I wanted to point out that free market solutions (or any kind of solutions actually) often come with negative side effects, which is where regulation or some other government action often has to step in to mitigate them.

Your examples for instance of driving, salt, computing and smoking. All things that people want to do, but where government action has to control negative side effects.


Re: Typical UK conservative approach

"Those rich people only make money if they offer something the rest are willing to pay for."

That doesn't mean it's a wholly good thing free of negative side effects just because people are willing to pay for it. The tobacco industry is probably the biggest legal example I can think of.

A toast to being in the right place at the right time


Re: Monday 07:30 Outage

Colleague and I were staying at a pub for work once. After a long tiring day in the field we got back to the pub and the friendly landlord asked us if we could look at his broadband connection and see what was wrong with it. We said yes as he was a nice chap despite us wanting only to grab a shower and dinner. It shows how tired we were when after 45 mins of head scratching, pinging, DNS changing etc. we only then noticed he had no ADSL filter plugged in.

Two lessons learnt: 1 check the obvious first and 2 always keep the pub landlord sweet (we drank for free that night as his way of saying thanks, so 45mins well spent).


Re: Friday 5:00 Outage

As soon as your said it was thin ethernet, my first thought was the office staff repurposing the cabling for some network DOOM action on a Friday evening.


Re: What to do in case of a real fire...or other alarm

I remember very early in my career working on a site that had lots of different stuff going on. So there were multiple types of alarm depending on what flavour of s*** had hit which fan that day and how hard.

One alarm meant leave the building, another meant don't stay outside and get in the nearest building, unless that nearest building was sounding the "stay out" alarm at the same time. That sort of thing.

At our site induction, lots of young eager scientists (including me) kept bombarding the presenter trying to figure out all the possible permutations and what we should do in any circumstance. We even got to asking what to do if two buildings were emitting the "get in nearest building" alarm, but you were equidistant between them, or if going to the nearest safe building meant going past the "keep away" building on the way.

After a few moments, the presenter, quite rightly, stopped the conversation and said "I thought you lot were meant to be clever, just use your common sense!".

Metaverse? Apple thinks $3,500 AR ski goggles are the betterverse


Re: With the phone 'switched off'?

"or extremely accurate as-built drawings of every major building (which don't exist and never will)"

Don't be so sure. Apple got a patent years ago for using a conventional phone camera to take images of its surroundings and combined with the motion sensors, build up a 3d map of its environment. The patent described doing it silently and patiently while you were using or carrying the phone normally. This was before they incorporated the lidar into the iPhone.

It might be connected with this patent, I don't think this is the exact one I was looking for:


AI needs a regulatory ecoystem like your car, not a Czar


Re: If I hammer in a nail with a lathe...

Agreed. Current AI systems are just tools. Yes, the manufacturers of those tools should be legislated to ensure that their tools are safe to use, but the onus is on the user to make sure they are used safely and properly for the job in hand.

A bit like cars, where regulation makes sure they are safe when used properly, but can't prevent people using them in unsafe ways. I prefer the analogy of hand tools: AI is a tool like a power drill. The supplier has to ensure that in normal use the tool is safe and won't explode in your face, but the supplier can't be responsible if the user has poor work practices and builds a poorly constructed house with the tool. The example of lawyers using AI and not checking the output is an example of this poor work practice.

Maybe what we need is training to understand what the safe uses of AI are, like knowing that a power drill is just that and not anything else.

IR35 costs UK Research and Innovation £36M – the same it spent funding tech projects


This isn't a fine, it's just tax that hasn't yet been paid.

But the point about publicly funded bodies paying another part of government is well made. There was a rumour years ago that the government were looking into paying government employees tax free to save on admin. I also heard that the idea was scrapped as being too complicated!


"So the tax owed by the monitoring and assessment officers is equal to the amount spent on actually doing what the department is meant to do"

No, that £36m quoted is a tiny part of UKRI's overall annual budget of over £8bn. And the tax bill is over 5 years. It's a cherry picked number that just happens to be very close to but not relevant to the number that is the subject of the story. I'm verging towards "shame on you el reg".

Perseverance rover shows up Curiosity with discovery of Martian water park


Re: powerful stream in the area

"IMO over a billion-year geological solar-system time-scales, in space(!) etc, all bets are off! "

A lot of time doesn't necessarily mean lots of things could have happened. Mars's orbit around the sun has stayed pretty much the same over that time and the sun's output similarly, so you can rule out a lot of things. If you start with the hypothesis that you are looking at erosion by some sort of liquid, there aren't many liquids that could have formed and stayed stable enough for long enough in those conditions. Things like liquid methane for example require conditions just wouldn't have occurred on mars. Water is a very likely candidate, we know it exists elsewhere in the solar system and its stable over time.

Spain gets EU cash to test next gen network, and US 'scrum for 6G' already under way


Re: Use case <-> specification link?

More devices connected (particularly critical devices like autonomous cars) means there has to be better multiplexing of more signals - more signals overlapping each other without interfering will probably need different modulation schemes. As a minimum, even if it's going to be existing modulation schemes but with greater numbers of modulation depths, those schemes need specifying and codified into standards. Data rates are likely to rise as they always do so there's going to be a greater bandwidth requirement too.

There's an ongoing drive to reduce transmitted power levels, so that will mean more basestations and so the switching between networks and stations becomes more important.

"reliability, bandwidth and latency" all need to improve to meet the future use cases. It's not a simple case of the existing standards being able to meet those future needs.

Balloon-borne telescope returns first photos in search for dark matter


Re: Stabiliser?

High altitude balloons are surprisingly steady. High up, the winds are quite stable and free of turbulence, generally. So the balloon would drift with the wind but with very little buffeting etc.

Chinese scientists calculate the Milky Way's mass as 805 billion times that of our Sun


Re: "the paper's reviewers hailed the research as the most accurate to date"

That's how science works. You observe, theorise a model, test that model, then repeat over and over.

It's unfair to say the maths is flawed. More accurate to say that the current model is as yet unproven.


Re: "the paper's reviewers hailed the research as the most accurate to date"

You don't need to know the number of stars to know how much mass there is. It's easy to imagine calculating the average mass of a sample of stars, then multiplying by the number of stars overall but that's not how it's done.

The motion of stars as they orbit the galaxy is measured and from that you can estimate the galaxy's mass. The more stars' motions you look at, the better the result will be. It's just like working out the earth's mass from measuring the orbital parameters of a satellite, it bypasses the need to count all the earth's particles and sum their masses.

This is the method that led to the notion of "dark matter" in the first place. Measuring the mass of galaxies via stellar orbits and comparing to the mass derived from measuring the energy output of the same galaxies showed a big difference. It suggested that a lot of a typical galaxy's mass is not in shining stars, hence "dark".

European datacenters worried they can't get cheap, reliable juice


Re: Smells like bullshit

Well, this is all "according to a report by British electricity biz Aggreko". What do Aggreko do? Basically they provide electricity via generators etc. From their website:

"We’re the leading provider of mobile power solutions, working around the clock to giving our customers the power, heating and cooling they need."

So, read this whole article with a big pinch of salt. There might be a certain amount of marketing and self promotion contained therein.

Theranos founder Holmes ordered to jail after appeal snub


Re: Deterrence effect

That BBC story doesn't say how many convicted killers were released in total over that decade, only that "over 30" killed again. Neither does it say how the proportion of convicts who killed again compares to the overall rate in the population as a whole.

CAN do attitude: How thieves steal cars using network bus


"The only way to protect your vehicle is to put a disclok on the steering wheel"


They'll just lift the cars away instead. In the story above, police think the cars were stolen for scrap, meaning they wouldn't even need to get the car into a workshop somewhere and use a disk cutter in slow time to cut the steering wheel lock off.