* Posts by Lukin Brewer

236 publicly visible posts • joined 12 Sep 2007


The bunker at the end of the world - in Essex

Lukin Brewer

Disguised as a bungalow...

As previous posters have touched on, this was probably down to a token, "we might as well - we ought to do something," effort to fool the USSR, plus a more concrete desire to fool Joe Public. Ideally, we weren't supposed to notice all those lumps, bumps, concrete structures and masts that were scattered around the country, let alone worry about what they might be for.

Star Trek: The original computer game

Lukin Brewer

C+VG Magazine published a version of that...

...back when they still did listings and hadn't abbreviated their title. Issue 5, March 1982, to be exact. This version was credited to one Lance Micklus, ran on a TRS-80 in 24kB (or 16kB if you left out the REM lines and disk I/O routines), and featured not only Klingon-killing but also exploration and planet surveying. 494 lines of BASIC. In fact, since the whole issue (and many more besides) is available on archive.org, here is the URL: http://archive.org/details/cvg-magazine-005

Attention, CIOs: Stop outsourcing or YOU will never retire

Lukin Brewer
Thumb Up

Re: Nothing new under the oak ceiling, I'm afraid.

Laurence J Peter expounded on all of this in The Peter Principle back in 1968. The famous quote summing this up is the one about "every employee rising to his level of incompetence" - basically, an employee in a post they are competent in will be "rewarded" with promotion into another, "better" post, until eventually they find themselves in a post they are not competent in, whereupon promotion will be withheld from them as punishment for their incompetence. He also describes some of the steps he had to take to avoid such a fate himself: in one case, while a bunch of senior managers were trying to persuade him to accept a promotion, he paused, took out a cigarette and a magnifying glass, stood in the sunlight streaming through the office window, carefully focused the rays to light the cigarette... and then gave another polite but firm refusal, which the bemused bigwigs finally accepted.

On International Woman's Day we remember Grace Hopper

Lukin Brewer

Caption for that last picture: -)

The Buck Stops Here. President Ronald Wilson Reagan, oldest man ever to be elected president, tries to maintain a winning smile as he confronts a woman five years his senior. With his Commander-In-Chief hat firmly on his head, and a bone-crunching pain shooting through his fingers, he orders Rear Admiral Grace Hopper to stand down and accept retirement.

Twenty classic arcade games

Lukin Brewer

Re: Ahh, thems were the days

Yup, it was Berzerk. I think the opening phrase was "Get the humanoid, get the intruder!" It would also interject with "Attack it!", "Charge the humanoid! and similar during gameplay. It also featured hurry-up enemy Evil Otto, the most deadly and indestructible smiley face ever (Alan Moore's Comedian can eat his heart out. :-) Look, there he is now, at the top left of the post! Time to go!! :-)

Experts troll 'biggest security mag in the world' with DICKish submission

Lukin Brewer

The funniest line IMO:

"I hope that you will enjoy reading this issue as much as the authors enjoyed writing their articles."

Reg hack uncovers perfect antidote to internet

Lukin Brewer

Re: Barrier tape?

As I recall, all mains electrical products must be designed and proven to handle voltages in excess of 415V without posing any risk to anyone attempting to operate them. Devices are allowed to fail safely (i.e. burn out, blow fuses, trip cutouts etc.), but they may also carry on normal operation. These gold-plated safety standards, eh?

China's patent EXPLOSION could leave West behind

Lukin Brewer

Difficult in practice.

Apparently, one of the top ten lies told to venture capitalists by startups (though the lie is sometimes told out of ignorance) is: "We have applied for patents on our main inventions, which will protect our intellectual property." Startups pitching for venture capital are advised to mention their patent situation, just so the VCs know that they are aware of it, but not dwell on it, or appear naive or deceptive by making out that it will actually protect their intellectual property. Because chances are that they will have neither the time nor resources to pursue anyone with deep enough pockets to make it worthwhile.

How to go from the IT dept to being a rogue trader

Lukin Brewer
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It's like on that office grafitto...

If you can do a job right, then it's done. If you can do the same job wrong umpteen times, you'll have job security.

Enraged wives hand Pakistani polygamist vicious shoeing

Lukin Brewer

One answer...

I was informed once by a Muslim activist that there is a conspiracy by the UN and so forth to misreport the ratio of the sexes in order to discredit Islamic law. He claimed that the real ratio was around 3:1 in favour of women.

I kid you not.

Boney M frontman checks out at 61

Lukin Brewer

From a future edition of Hellboy...

Rasputin: Robert Farrell... You use *my* name, make it - make *me* - the subject of a facile, cretinous ballad. You make of me a straw puppet in your shambolic culture, and paint my name across the lips of carousing fools. Then you presume to journey to Russia's sacred soil - to stand in the locale where I departed from this world, if only briefly, and, on the day of that death, repeat your insult? Do you wonder that I am come to deal with you and your effrontery? I will see you choke your last here, little entertainer, and give your bones to Baba Yaga to play on!

'Blitzer' railgun already 'tactically relevant', boasts maker

Lukin Brewer

And in English...

,,, the word for wooden shoe was clog. Hence "clogging up the works."

Hadron Collider switches to heavy ions, tinfoilers wet pants again

Lukin Brewer

Ah, yes. The big red button.

The best way to safeguard your lab.


Startup promises money for fanbois

Lukin Brewer

The legal position...

A shop is private property, and the owners can permit or forbid photography as they wish. Anyone photographing without permission can be told to stop and/or have their admission withdrawn and can be removed using reasonable force if they do not leave when asked. The usual, in other words.

Now, as to *why* they forbid photography, it''s rather less clear. Some give the justification that such photos can be useful to shoplifters. Since most shoppers memorise shop layouts without even trying, this justification doesn't really count.

Boffins mount campaign against France's official kilogramme

Lukin Brewer

Celestially inspired.

Heh. The Mesopotamians and Babylonians also started western astrology. Most people are familiar with the 12 signs of the Zodiac. However, each sign (or house) was divided into three decans (because there are three signs ruled by each of the four elements, natch) and each decan was graduated into 10 degrees (for accurate recording of the positions of the planets - do keep up). 12 houses make 36 decans make 360 degrees. Simples! So much nicer than those dreary new grads, too.

If it's ease of use (and factorization) that you want, I'd say go for a binesimal system: divide the circle in half, then keep halving the divisions until they come out small enough, like with a compass rose. How does a 512-degree circle (and a 128-degree right angle) sound? 'Cause, as any physicist will tell you, the only measure of angle that's scientifically meaningful is the radian, and I can't really see Joe Public getting to grips with that.

Hackers plant Firefox 0day on Nobel Peace Prize website

Lukin Brewer

Kissinger got one too...

...as did Teddy Roosevelt, Sadat and Begin, Arafat, Rabin and Peres. It reminds me of the redemption of Darth Vader at the end of Return of the Jedi - after whole careers spent using conflict as a tool, they managed a little peacemaking and got a Nobel for it.

The Chinese reaction isn't surprising: they weren't at all happy about the Dalai Lama getting his Peace Prize in 1989, nor was the Soviet Bloc about Lech Walesa '83, South Africa about Archbishop Tutu in '84, or the country formerly known as Burma about Aung San Suu Kyi in '91. To paraphrase Ogden Nash, you can't work against oppression unless you're prepared to piss off the oppressor.

Christian group declares jct 9 on M25 cursed

Lukin Brewer

Python got there first.

Anyone remember Terry Gilliam's animation :"There's a five-frog curse on the motorway!"

As for unspooled tapes, those had been appearing, an all classes of roads, for donkey's years. You'd see them in gutters and strewn across the tarmac all over the place. I think lads in passenger seats would loop a tape around something before the car drove off, or let it stream out behind when the car was moving at speed. I've only ever seen it happening once: I was cycling along Cross Deep towards Twickenham when I suddenly got the weird impression that the whole road to the right of me had been cordoned off suddenly. Then I was able to get a proper look at the thing that was hanging in the air beside me, and saw that it was a cassette tape, and was already dropping towards the ground.

Heh. It would be funny if the god squad actually caught someone in the act. "Hello, police? I'd like to report an incident of littering and abomination in the eyes of God."

Ranting Ohio Republican scares interwebs

Lukin Brewer

Republican on the edge of a nervous breakdown.

It will be interesting to see if any other examples of his public speaking surface, but it looked like inexperience, stage fright or possibly prescription drugs. He came over more shrill than scary, and sounded like he was on the verge of tears. His perambulations around the stage suggested a full bladder or, more likely, adrenaline jitters. I'm trying to think of a less-polished public delivery that I have witnessed, and am having difficulty: student union candidates, nutters at Speakers Corner, market vendors and people ejected from licenced premises can all usually put themselves across in a more convincing manner than Mr. Davison did here.


Lukin Brewer

Vorsprung durch Realtechnik.

The Nazis *did* have a working flying saucer. It was a ducted fan VTOL craft, though, and never made it beyond the (top secret) prototype stage. The invading Allies (the US, to be precise) took this work in progress back home and commissioned Avro to continue research and development - again, under top secrecy.


Of course, while they did try to keep the test flights top secret as well, people did witness and report them. And one of the first pieces of disinformation that the government deployed in order to misdirect attention was - you guessed it - extraterrestrial origin. They also began creating more secluded centres where they could test such aircraft - such as Area 51.

North Korea mobilizes Red Star Linux rollout

Lukin Brewer

I thought it was a classic, though I don't know how old...

I've seen a few English versions, and they all started off with the example from history:

Feudalism: you have two cows. Your lord takes some of the milk.

The "Lehman Brothers" example started off as "Hong Kong Capitalism", and was pretty much the same thing except that it ended: "Meanwhile, you have the two cows ritually slaughtered because the feng shui is bad." Later on it was amended to "Enron Capitalism", and ended "You sell one of your cows and buy the president. The US government buys your bull."

Other examples off the top of my head:

Anarchism: You have two cows. You trade the milk with your community, choosing a low enough price so they won't just decide to rob you instead.

Surrealism: You have two giraffes. The government requires you to take accordion lessons.

Magpies hold funerals for fallen feathered friends

Lukin Brewer

Not just carrion meat.

Corvids do eat carrion, but are quite capable of taking live prey if the opportunity arises. They're not quite as efficient in the killing and tearing up stakes as specialist birds of prey, but I've seen them grab, kill and peck apart goslings and songbirds. If they did want to make a meal of a fallen magpie, they would not need to wait for the corpse to "mature" before tucking in.

Flying car & roboplane-worthy air traffic digi-net go for 2025

Lukin Brewer

Ye cannae change the laws of aerodynamics

I thought the cast iron limiting factor on takeoff and landing intervals was aircraft-generated turbulence. The vortices generated by an airliner in flight can take over a minute to dissipate, and would make final approach a rather hairy experience for all concerned.

IBM tries to patent teleconference sound effects

Lukin Brewer

I thought that this had been around for decades

...in the form of automatic level/gain. It's a simple analogue feedback circuit that starts ramping up the gain of the microphone amplifier if the output stops peaking above a certain level. As a result, if there is a pause in the proceedings being recorded, the amplifier noise, background hiss, 50hz pickup and aircon etc swiftly fade up to audible levels and become obtrusive.

Still, with the new digital system in place, you could substitute the opening to Pink Floyd's Atom Heart Mother and get a similar, but more interesting effect. And if nobody has said anything by the time the choral section starts, it should be permissible to slip away and do something more useful and interesting with your time.

Is Gordon Brown safe to work with vulnerable people?

Lukin Brewer

Seems uncomfortably apposite

From the film "Downfall - Hitler and the End of the Third Reich":

Registrar of Marriages: (awkwardly) My Führer, I… The Race Laws require me to ask you this: My Führer, are you of pure Aryan descent?

Adolf Hitler: Yes.

Registrar: May I see your ID?

Hitler pauses.

Josef Goebbels: You’re talking to the Führer.

Registrar: Yes, sir… And are you, Fraulein Braun, of pure Aryan descent?

Eva Braun: Yes.

Registrar: Then the matter is… there are no obstacles… I ask you: do you my Führer Adolf Hitler, take Eva Braun to be your lawful wedded wife?

BTW, this is not a "Brown is a Nazi" post (though the actor who played Hans Krebs was a dead ringer for him :-\ ).

On the subject of clubs, what sort of club will the vetting database be? The Freemasons? The Conservative Club? The golf club? The local church or kirk, back in the days when non-churchgoers could be prosecuted for godlessness?

Crap. Didn't the Nazionale Socialisten Partei regard themselves as something that all decent menschen should want to be part of, and regard refusal to join, send children to the Hitler Youth, or display a swastika flag as suspicious? Sigh. Welcome to the United Kingdom of Great Suspicion and Nasty Innuendo; join in the fun - or else.

Blighty's oldest working telly discovered

Lukin Brewer

Reminds me of that urban legend.

This young couple are going round all the electrical retailers in town looking for a TV for their new home. They’re not that bothered about size or price, but they have one vital requirement: it must have doors and a stand. Of course, none of the shops they visit have anything like that, and they get a lot of funny looks, and salesmen trying to sell them other things. Finally, they try the town’s old department store. The electrical department there is a bit small and a bit dated, and the old departmental manager, who the floor assistant passes their request on to, is very old school – shirt, tie, waistcoat and pocket watch on a chain. But he does know his stuff.

“Ah yes,” he replies, “we used to sell a lot of sets like that, back in the day, but nothing like that exists now. There were specialist models, for schools and the like, that had doors and stands, up until a few years ago I believe, but the new flat screen models have rendered even those obsolete. Of course, the idea was that the domestic television was supposed to stand as a piece of furniture on its own, and one could close the doors and pretend it wasn’t there. There was a lot of snobbery against ownership of televisions back then. That has all changed of course, and, in my opinion, not entirely for the worse. To my certain knowledge, though, no set like that has been available at retail for over thirty years.”

“Are you sure?”

“Quite positive. Why would you want such a device, if I might ask?”

The couple look embarrassed, and then, with a resigned look, the man admits, “Because if it’s got doors and a stand, it counts as furniture, and we can get Social Security to pay for it.”

Japanese airport trials 'personal mobility vehicles'

Lukin Brewer

It's like...

a Segway for people who can't handle Segways.

Microsoft's Bing in travel trouble

Lukin Brewer

They look the same...

...as every other travel planner type web page. There are umpteen other companies that Kayak could have gone after, but, I suppose, few with the "give us a six figure sum and we'll let you market your new toy in peace" potential that Microsoft has here.

US city demands FaceSpaceGooHoo log-ins from job seekers

Lukin Brewer

Bozeman makes a U-turn


The policy was rescinded at noon on Friday.

Couldn't help thinking how "Bösemann" would mean "evil man" in German. :-)

Minority Report command sales system pushes Euro UAV

Lukin Brewer


The name has been used, and used many times. The list in Wikipedia probably isn't a complete one, but will give you some idea.


The question is, will the GE killbot share any parts of its design with the Avro Avenger? Or even the Hillman Avenger?

Welsh mum amazed by Marmite Messiah

Lukin Brewer

It looks more like one of the BeeGees.

Or Lemmy out of Motorhead. Or Eric Clapton during his hairy phase. Or Mike Ratledge out of Soft Machine. Or, basically, anyone with long, dark, wavy hair who has ever sported a beard and dark glasses.

Ocarina makes waves with lossless image compression

Lukin Brewer

Are they mixing up "patented" and "secret"?

If the process is patented, it can't be kept secret - you have to declare all the details in the patent. Well, that was the idea, anyway. I suppose if the US patent office allows patents that are so general that they could apply to anything, there would be room to declare enough basic details to enable them to sue anyone who began developing along the same lines, but still keep the vital details secret.

I thought that the JPEG2000 project had already come up with much more efficient compression algorithms for images, taking advantage of the big advances in processor power etc since JPEG compression first appeared. However, the creators of the technologies, quite understandably, wanted to be paid for their work. And since, as has been said, storage capacity has also made big advances in that time, few if any system or application developers felt a need to buy in.

'Thieving' sperm whale caught on CCTV

Lukin Brewer

Thieving marine predators.

To one extent or other, fishermen tend to regard all top predators in this light: taking the fish that are rightfully theirs. For instance, the Canadian seal cull is intended to reduce the number of hungry mouths competing with the fishing industry - the profits from the cull itself are tiny considering the amount of input required.

Overall, the fishing industry finds itself in something of a Prisoner's Dilemma. If they all worked to their full ability, they could fish the oceans empty in a very few years. Even if some crews could be relied on to fish responsibly, there would be plenty of others who wouldn't. This is why we need to find quotas that work, and enforce them.

Gov 'smart meter' plans: Sky box in charge of your house

Lukin Brewer

We had a similar thing...

...in the form of our United Artist/Telewest/Virgin set top cable boxes. Roughly two times every year, one or both of our boxes would stop receiving any channels. We would make a service call, and, once we'd worked our way through the system, someone would confirm our boxes' serial numbers and reactivate all our allotted channels remotely down the cable line, while we waited. I would be highly wary of the same sort of thing happening with the smart meters: random termination signals going out in error, shutting people off. Possibly in the middle of the night. Possibly in midwinter.

Ireland bucks trend with anti-blasphemy law

Lukin Brewer

The original point of having blasphemy laws...

...was so that once the religious authorities had decided that someone had been blasphemous, they had the option to hand them over to the civil authorities for punishment.

NASA gets cold feet on Moon base plan

Lukin Brewer


NASA can take over the old Nazi moon base that was constructed during the legendary 1940s. Most of the creaky old Nazi scientists will have died and gone on to Walhalla by now, leaving just a few twitching mechanical arms, a load of dusty swastika banners, the odd doomsday device, and maybe Hitler's brain in a jar. I suppose, though, they ought to send Hellboy up there to check it out first, just to be on the safe side.

Euro space 'scopes go for 14 May launch

Lukin Brewer

For Science!

I know I shouldn't have, but I immediately thought of Agatha Heterodyne: http://www.girlgeniusonline.com/

They should have got Phil Foglio to design the emblem for them.

The scientist, because it's the nearest thing they have to a Spark.

Revealed: Mega City One's top e-car - according to Peugeot

Lukin Brewer

It looks nothing like a Lawmaster.

They're more square and blocky. If anything, it looks more like one of the lightcycles from Tron. Or perhaps one of the bikes that Steve Bisley drew when he was artist on ABC Warriors.

Google splits with Mozilla on 3D interwebs

Lukin Brewer

Can't you just do this in Shockwave/Flash?

Which is already present on most systems?

(This is a rhetorical question, BTW. Of course you can.)

Of course, Google can't buy out Macromedia and acquire SWF, because Adobe got there first...

HP ScanJet 3C takes lead on Bohemian Rhapsody

Lukin Brewer

Back in the last century...

...they would have had this on "That's Life". Music performed on strange instruments was a regular feature on that programme.

There was an impact dot matrix printer (9 pin, I think) in the Faculty of Science computer room at Kingston Poly that I'm sure could have been made to play "Uranus - the Magician" from Holst's "Planets" suite if I'd composed a suitable print job. Fortunately for the faculty computing office, I never tried. Not only would it have been a waste of paper, but "That's Life" was still being broadcast back then...

US Navy unveils superconductor 'cloaking device' destroyer

Lukin Brewer
Black Helicopters

The Philadelphia Experiment

One explanation that I heard is that the ship sailed into a fog bank at night, and an inexperienced observer saw this and thought it had vanished. All the rumours started there.

The conspiracy theory is that they were testing out a way to make ships invisible, but instead it caused the ship and its crew to be transported through space and time and so on.

A middle ground explanation is that there was a top secret (naturally) project to make ships invisible *to radar*. And it worked. Unfortunately, the intense electromagnetic fields interfered with the brains of some of the sailors, causing hallucinations and psychedelic episodes. Since it turned out to be impossible to screen off the sailors from the effects so as to keep them fit for combat, the project was quietly shelved. But by this time, a number of sailors had hallucinated a lot of stuff, and were no longer competent to keep silent about it.

Universal Music chief renews commitment to P2P battle

Lukin Brewer

The risk record labels take by backing new artists...

...is borne, to the greatest extent possible, by the artist. The record company will front the recording fees for the first album, but they will expect to be paid back. Promotion fees and so forth can be lumped on as well if that was in the contract that the band had to sign. And the record company actually owns the music that the band create under contract. If the band are sufficiently successful, they will be able to pay back the record company out of their (small) percentage. If not, and the record company drops them, they still owe them the money. Yes, this is just business, and yes, the band members can declare themselves bankrupt like anyone else, or fail to pay off the debt in good time. Actually, this is quite common. There are plenty of unsuccessful former bandsmen from the 80s and 90s who are still paying off their record companies.

Why do you think so many of the bigger bands demonstrated their appreciation of the value-added service that their record company provided by abandoning them and starting their own companies as soon as they could?

It used to be that if you wanted to make a successful career in rock/pop music, you had to get signed by a record label and record in a professional studio. Now you can mix a record on a commodity pc with cheap software and peripherals. You can sell music and promote the band on the internet, post live videos on YouTube, take your time and build a following on your own schedule, and never have to see the inside of a record company or surrender most of your sale proceeds to them. In other words, the record companies can see a future where their business model no longer works because they are no longer necessary. No wonder they don't want to move forward.

Conspiracy theories aplenty as Amazon delists gay books

Lukin Brewer


I do see your point, all the more clearly for being calmly put. You're right in what you say, but miss out a few important factors.

Yes, identity politics can cause unnecessary divides in the greater community. At its worst extremes, you can get people falling out over ridiculously arbitrary things, like which football team they support, which postcode they live in, or what anime they watch. I wouldn't deny that some gay activists would like to separate themselves off from the straight world, and that this is not the way to go.

However, there is also the matter of specialization. The amateur astronomy community aren't trying to divide society, but they do have their own magazines, websites, discussion boards, meets and conventions. This is because not everybody shares their interests. If you built a home-grown five telescope array up in the highlands of Scotland and spotted and plotted a 50-metre wide asteroid that wasn't on any of the official databases, the mainstream press would be seriously underwhelmed, and would be unlikely to cover you and your boring bit of rock. By contrast, Astronomy magazine would probably give you a two-page spread at least, along with an effusive write-up on "the advanced amateur matching the big, funded agencies at their own game".

While the situation has improved over the years, there is still a lot of hostility towards homosexuals. It's been driven out of the mainstream a bit, and underground a bit, but it's still there. Hence a desire to create places where they don't have to worry about this, and support networks with supporting voices. Sometimes these don't need to be created - at our workplace we have had two parties for gay colleagues who were getting hitched to their partners. I don't know if there were any homophobes among our colleagues, but if there were, they kept quiet about it. There are plenty of places where homosexuals will get a hostile reaction, and there are also plenty of places where homophobes will get a hostile reaction. You can't really blame homosexuals for wanting to create more of the latter.

It's not as if this applies to homosexuals alone. There are other people who have to watch where they hang out or reveal themselves. Cross-dressers, train-spotters, morris dancers, BDSMers, furries, philatelists (USA only) - they all have places where they would be subject to ridicule or hatred, and other places where any haters would find themselves outnumbered.

Maybe, one day, Martin Luther King's dream will come true, and there will be no need for different groups to band together like this. Maybe the gay media and blogosphere will be able to shrink down and just cover the few items that are of interest to homosexuals only. Maybe the BDSMers will be able to go about their business in full bondage gear, and football hooliganism will stop through lack of interest. Maybe, one day, but it's a long way off. We still have people getting kicked to death by idiots because they look different, and people like Anonymous C***** Tuesday 14th April 2009 11:52 GMT calling for book burnings just because he/she/it doesn't like the material. While that goes on, there will be a gay blogosphere, and it will resist all attempts to make it go away.

By the way, it's not a problem if you just don't like homosexuality - or Marmite, for that matter. You're not expect to partake of Marmite just because you're in a Marmite-loving crowd, or even look at Marmite if you don't want to. But verbally abusing or attacking someone because they have Marmite in their shopping trolley is right out. Not even if your church tells you that Marmite is the Devil's soil. (Although you are allowed to use reasonable force against anyone who smears Marmite on you without your consent.) Your friends ought to respect your preferences, and yes, they should choose whether to keep their preference in sandwich spread a private matter. However, as a rational adult in the modern world, you ought to be able to handle the knowledge that they have Marmite in their cupboard, provided they keep the door shut when you visit.

Lukin Brewer

Where the hell did that thumbs up icon come from?

I didn't select it. If I had picked an icon, it would have been the unhappy or the !pling.


Yes, there are blogs on gay issues. There are blogs on every sort of minority issue and on every political viewpoint. There are blogs on Christianity, Islam, Judaism and every other religion. In fact, I would imagine that every subject and interest out there has at least one blog or website dedicated to it, if not a whole community of them. Some of these communities perceive themselves as a target of attacks by others. In some cases, their perceptions are accurate. Some of these communities are constantly attacking each other. Some of this has been going on for a long time; pre-dating the internet, even. It's too bad that you don't like it - I don't think it's going away.

Lukin Brewer
Thumb Up

Could be unofficial policy.

There is often a generous gap in businesspeople's scales of principle, between the point at which they start objecting to something, and the point at which they refuse to have anything to do with it, even if it will make them money. A fair few newsagents are neither proud nor happy about the publications that they keep on their top shelves, but they carry on selling them nonetheless.

On a similar note, there was a complaint in some Native American blogs a few years back, that people commenting on Native American titles on amazon.com were allowed to flame away, but people attempting to make pro-Native American criticism of anti-Native American titles had their comments deleted. We'll have to see whether Native American authors get the delisting treatment as well. And keep an eye on Richard Dawkins and Michael Moore as well.

NASA probes seek remnants of lost 'Theia' planet

Lukin Brewer

There is no tenth planet.

...or ninth now that Pluto has been demoted. Yes, Uranus was discovered from the perturbations it caused in Saturn's orbit, and Neptune was discovered from the perturbations it caused in Uranus's orbit. Then Pluto was discovered, apparently, from the perturbations in Neptune's orbit. But Pluto appeared to be too small, and so the hunt for a tenth planet commenced. All sorts of possible theories and configurations were proposed to explain the existing data. The expanding branch of chaos theory added to the mess: relatively small changes or inaccuracies in initial values could change the behaviour of the model completely, and they only had estimates for the masses of the planets, based on observational data. When the Voyager missions concluded, it gave them, among many other things, accurate mass data for the outer planets. They plugged in the new data and ran the simulation again. Result: no anomalies - all the observed perturbations were accounted for. Unfortunately, "Tenth Planet Ruled Out" did not make a good headline outside the scientific press, and so it isn't common knowledge. The only major worry from a scientific viewpoint was that it might then make the discovery of Pluto, in the location predicted by the erroneous model, a wild fluke. However, observational data from the new Hubble Telescope showed that Gerard Kuiper's theoretical belt of planetoids and cometary nuclei was actually there beyond the orbit of Neptune, and some of the bodies were actually planet-sized. Pluto just happened to be the one in the place where they were looking.

Google throws secret auto-updater to open sorcerers

Lukin Brewer

I don't have it either...

...and I have Google Earth, and I haven't disabled or fiddled with the the task scheduler (that reminds me...). Perhaps I disabled something else vital to its existence - I did have a major process prune many years ago... (again, that reminds me....)

Yes, the number of applications that poop update schedulers and other services onto your computer is annoying. Realplayer got replaced by Real Alternative and QuickTime by QTLite for that very reason. Also annoying are the tortuous, interlinked dependencies between Windows services, making it impossible to disable some bits of useless cruft without losing some components that you need. We also have Ubuntu here, and its update system is far more satisfactory, not to mention trustworthy - you never know what Redmond is going to spring on you next. Of course, Windows Update does encompass some third party drivers and stuff, but it looks like you need to be both pretty big and friendly/non-competitive with Microsoft before you can get on that particular train.

In the absence of a unified update system, the way to go about it is to (offer to) check for updates when the application is launched. Lots of apps do it this way. I think Acrobat Reader did *both*, until I went at it with HijackThis (and replaced it with Foxit Reader when it became available).

Look, here's another example: the (unused) LightScribe function of my DVD burner has its own service, running all the time. *clickety* Not any more, though. And time, I think, for another look at the rest of that services list.

Google streams data center pods to world+dog

Lukin Brewer

Narration in monotone.

Maybe they should have got an appropriate professional voice actor to narrate. Like, perhaps, Ellen McLain, who did the voice of Overwatch in Half Life 2 and GLaDOS in Portal. :-)

Just as well there wasn't any Google-provided *cake* promised...

Sadville besieged by bitey 'spampires'

Lukin Brewer

What took them so long?

My friends were bumming around on vampire MUCKs back before the Web appeared. And progression/advancement systems like that have been used by cults, religions and get-rich-quick schemes since the birth of capitalism.

Report: Legalising drugs would save UK plc huge packet

Lukin Brewer

@how did this happen? By Rob

It was combination of tradition and the relative lobbying powers of the manufacturers and their opponents.

In the case of cannabis, it was banned because it had been used for making paper and rope since historical times. William Randolph Hearst, the print baron, wanted to protect his investments in wood pulp paper manufacture. Du Pont Chemicals, who had developed the wood pulp process that he used, also wanted to sell their new-fangled nylon rope, a competitor to the traditional hemp rope. Hearst's main financial backer was Andrew J Mellon, bank owner and Treasury Secretary. Together, they were able to get cannabis outlawed, and appoint the first anti-drugs commissioner. The drug aspect was just an excuse. If cannabis had the THC but not the rope and paper making fibre, the political will to get it banned might never have come about.