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* Posts by John Robson

1871 posts • joined 19 May 2008

Another UAV licence price hike? Commercial drone fliers rage over consultation

John Robson
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Re: No...

"I have to pay to use a car park. Blue badge holders don't. Therefore my payment isn't for the car park after all. Is that your logic?"

No, it's not.

The payment is not to use the road. It's to use *that vehicle* on public space (roads or otherwise).

You have a choice of vehicle, a blue badge holder does not have a choice and so in many (not all) car parks they get additional time and/or no fees charged.

If it was permission to use the road then it would apply to the person, not the vehicle - which is how the blue badge scheme works...

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John Robson
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Re: No...

"It is indeed a tax to drive on roads."

So why are so many vehicles charged zero VED?

Are they not entitled to drive on the roads?

What about the vehicles that are completely exempt (of which there are a surprising number of classes)?

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John Robson
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No...

Car Tax isn't a tax on the roads - nor does it pay for them any more than any other tax.

There is a reason Churchill abolished road tax...

"Entertainments may be taxed; public houses may be taxed… and the yield devoted to the general revenue. But motorists are to be privileged for all time to have the tax on motors devoted to roads? This is an outrage upon… common sense."

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Universal basic income is a great idea, which is also why it won't happen

John Robson
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Re: UK UBI

"Er,... so take money off earners via taxation, and give it back to them? What? This is preposterous. It's admin crazy"

It's really not.

It means that everyone gets one payment (that is therefore utterly trivial to administer) and employers have a slightly simple bit of arithmetic to do when they do the PAYE calculations (because a significant number of employees will be on a single tax rate rather than two tax rates, one of which is zero).

It also means that there is no question about whether employment will improve your financial situation - it clearly will, because you don't lose the UBI when employed.

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John Robson
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Tax increase?

So the current Scottish welfare budget is £20b, and this would cost £28bn.

Given a UBI, do we still need a 'tax free' earnings band? If you simply drop all the thresholds by £11.5k then....

Quick browse suggests 2.5million people are employed in Scotland - let's assume they all earn £11.5k or more (the current tax free allowance)...

That's 20% of that 11.5k that they'd pay in tax - a little under £6b of the deficit is instantly recovered.

Of course there are a number of people on higher levels of tax - for whom the marginal tax rate would be higher - if 30% of the population earns over £33.5k then you already have the £8bn needed (and there will be a smaller proportion whose marginal tax rate is higher still).

This assumes:

- Sanity (with the UBI replacing tax free allowances).

- No reduction in benefit fraud

- No reduction in benefit administration costs

It also ignores targeted benefits (e.g. disability living allowance etc)

So yes, it would cost a little more, but I don't think this is as costly an option as people make out...

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Prosecute driverless car devs for software snafus, say Brit cyclists

John Robson
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Re: Cycle lanes/paths

"I'd be happy if all cyclists use designated cycle lanes/paths when they are available."

I'd be happy if cycle lanes were of a consistent, and high, standard that *allowed* cyclists to use them.

Generally they are dangerously narrow, stop at any time they might be useful, and expect you to cede priority to vehicles coming from behind you who want to access a parking space.

I'll stick to the excellent national cycle network which cyclists campaigned to have built.. it's called the roads.

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John Robson
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Which document did you read?

"The underlying thrust of Cycling UK's comments (PDF, 5 pages) appeared to suggest that driverless vehicle technology in the UK should be banned in all circumstances except for operation on motorways. Their concerns stem from unspecified concerns over "immature, under-regulated technologies"."

No - the thrust is that you can't just ignore the criminal responsibility when you push insurance liability around.

If a person is unlawfully killed then there shouldn't be a way to just ignore the criminal responsibility - which current legislation doesn't transfer to the (corporate) authors of the software, but also cannot leave with a driver who isn't taking any action.

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John Robson
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Absolutely - as a cyclist I'd far rather have self driving cars around. It's well known that the most dangerous bit a car is the nut behind the wheel.

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John Robson
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Re: Fair enough, but...

"Perhaps it's also time they were required to carry insurance?"

Be good if all motorists did that:

- https://www.mib.org.uk/media-centre/news/2016/september/one-million-uninsured-drivers-still-too-many/

- https://www.churchill.com/press-office/releases/2016/uninsured-driving-hotspots-in-the-uk

Almost all cyclists do carry insurance - either as part of membership of organisations like British Cycling, Cycling UK, Audax UK etc...) or through their household insurance.

Yes - your household insurance almost certainly has a public liability clause which covers you when out cycling.

Insuring a cyclist costs a few pounds a year - because they simply don't have the destructive capacity of a tonne of metal which can propel itself at 100mph...

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80-year-old cyclist killed in prang with Tesla Model S

John Robson
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As a cyclist, a motorist and someone who can't wait for self driving vehicles to be the norm

First up - condolences to the bereaved family...

This case interests me greatly.

An 80 year old cyclist is particularly vulnerable - both from not carting around a tonne and a half or armour, and from the 80 years they have spent on the earth.

An 80 year old cyclist is also unlikely to have been a novice - most of the octogenerian cyclists I am aware of are life long cyclists continuing to do what they enjoy.

There is a pretty good chance that at least the authorities will get excellent data on the incident.

Assuming the normal case of motorist at fault (75% according to the police) then if any of the 'auto braking' systems have been actively disabled then I can't think that anything less than a manslaughter charge is appropriate.

If the cyclist has had to take evasive action for a road defect then I would hope that the courts would view that as a normal course to take.

It is also possible that the cyclist had a heart attack in the couple of seconds preceding the incident...

We just don't know - but I am interested in the investigation.

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Brace yourselves, fanboys. Winter is coming. And the iPhone X can't handle the cold

John Robson
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Re: Diversity figures are meaningless without context

"Almost all populations are roughly 50:50 male:female so if only 10% of your local midwives are male, that looks bad, right? Men are clearly underrepresented and likely being discriminated against? Wrong. Only 0.3% of qualified midwives are male so a 10% figure would be far too high and indicative of rampant sex discrimination against women."

Or it indicates that men are massively discriminated against in the selection for training...

Or there is some other reason that it is a female dominated industry...

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Los Alamos National Lab fires up 750-node RPi cluster

John Robson
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Re: Not enough buzzwords

“It is designed *not* to be fast or useful in itself. It is for developing cluster software on.”

It is designed to be useful - a cheap dev environment is *very* useful

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Greenhouse gas-sniffing satellite to be built and tested in Britain

John Robson
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"I don't know why the greens have such a down on CO2, it is a harmless plant food and so necessary for life on this planet."

Too much of a good thing is no longer good.

You'd be happy breathing pure oxygen? Or how about the risks associated with dihydrogen monoxide exposure?

The historical record shows that this isn't a 'normal' variation in climate (which does happen), we have released the carbon sequestered over millions of years in the space of a couple of hundred. That's something we now know wasn't a good idea...

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The NAKED truth: Why flashing us your nude pics is a good idea – by Facebook's safety boss

John Robson
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Re: Why does FB have to do the hashing?

I did think about internal encryption of the hash as well, shouldn't be that hard - but you need to be able to stop people reading the hash out of memory before it's encrypted - and you need to add some other information (date and time, some random stuff etc?) to the hash to ensure that the encrypted messages isn't as valuable as the hash itself.

As for the 'minor changes' argument - they're using hashes which are designed to be resistant to changes in the image.

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John Robson
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Re: Why does FB have to do the hashing?

The argument is that if the PhotoDNA algorithm was available publicly (even only in a compiled binary) then miscreants could keep tweaking photos and seeing what they needed to do to change the hash sufficiently to get away with posting the image they want to post.

There isn't an easy answer, but I'm pretty certain that any answer with humans in the loop at submission time is not a good one.

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UK.gov: IT contracts should be no more than 7 years. (Not 18, Fujitsu)

John Robson
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Surely...

it should be 'until the next election'

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How do you like them Apples? Farewell sensible sized fones, forever

John Robson
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Re: I like

Yep...

I'd be quite happy with an even smaller phone (maybe a clamshell design) that had iMessage, access to my iContacts for calls etc... BT tether to the iPad (mini) would be nice, as would apple pay..

I suggest the issue is that everyone wants a different 10% of the features....

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Facebook's send-us-your-nudes service is coming to UK, America

John Robson
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Why...

Don't they provide a hashing program and ask for hashes of pictures you don't want published...

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Google, Twitter gleefully spew Texas shooter fake news into netizens' eyes

John Robson
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Google, Twitter, Trump....

We need to go back to a time when people took thirty seconds to check their sources. Have some news organisations who are more interested in accurate reporting than in being first to publish...

(Heck even a news organisation that rates their own articles as 'rush job', 'cursory sanity check', 'got told twice', 'actually asked someone', 'have a trusted source', 'verified by talking to someone directly involved')

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This could be our favorite gadget of 2017: A portable projector

John Robson
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Does it have...

Any cabled input options?

I might have just missed it in the review, but I don't recall any detail about it's charging power source either?

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Jeff Bezos sells ONE MEELLION Amazon shares, makes ONE BEELLION dollars

John Robson
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Depends how many are voting shares as well

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Bored 'drivers' pushed Google Waymo into ditching autopilot tech

John Robson
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>"It’s rather good on motorways "

>Maybe if you're usual commute is during the wee hours, but in my experience the rest of the time it's pretty choppy.

I don't commute on motorways, but actually that's where the next level CC comes in really handy. Set 70 as the max speed, and let the car moderate the distance in front of you. (Note I've not had a chance to test this)

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John Robson
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“Without cruise control when you take your foot off the accelerator the car starts to decelerate. With cruise control it only starts to decelerate once you press the brake pedal.

There was a demo rig at one of the museums (science, I think) illustrating the extra distance traveled in that time.

If you cover the brake it might reduce stopping distance, but nobody drives on cruise control with their foot hovering over a pedal.”

I do...

Cruise control isn’t appropriate in most situations which might need such a sensitive response. It’s rather good on motorways (de facto or real) though. The rest of the time I use the ‘speed limiter’ feature of the CC.

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John Robson
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What delays does cruise control create?

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First iPhone X fondlers struggle to admit that Face ID sort of sucks

John Robson
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Re: Do you know what works better than Face ID and Touch ID?

> A PIN number

That's much better better...

Touch ID works pretty well actually, given the fallback to a more-secure-than-I-would-otherwise-use PIN... A fallback which is compulsory on power-on, or after a significant period of not having used the device (I can't recall if the timeout is configurable).

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C'mon, edgelords: The APIs are ours to command – do we do good or evil?

John Robson
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Or...

You don't drive through twisty bits of city at 60kph...

Surely that wasn't that hard to solve.

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Robot takes the job of sitting on your arse

John Robson
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I was more thinking site mc sit face - but they possibilities for mispronouncing that are maybe a bit too close to NSFW in many places.

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Only good guys would use an automated GPU-powered password-cracker ... right?

John Robson
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Re: Yeah but...

Is that not a list that then gets sent to HR for redeployment?

TO be fair I have replied to said emails on occasion - but only when I knew it was coming, and I changed my password to an 'IT aware' one for the duration of the time they needed it...

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It's time to rebuild the world for robots

John Robson
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Re: Roads were not built for cars...

Cobblestones aren't noisy - the cars driving over them are noisy...

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John Robson
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Roads were not built for cars...

http://www.roadswerenotbuiltforcars.com

In many ways I agree that we can easily make life much easier for autonomous systems (RFID in cats eyes seems a particularly easy way of giving lane/speed limit/distance to next junction information)..

But the cobblestones weren't removed for cars - the removal enabled cars - and look how badly that has turned out for vast swathes of the country.

There are other transport modes, but we are in the thrall of the car, and everything must bow down before it. eugh.

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You're doing open source wrong, Microsoft tsk-tsk-tsks at Google: Chrome security fixes made public too early

John Robson
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Facepalm

So MS think...

...that they are the only people to have tried such futzing?

That's quaint.

If they can discover the bug then so can someone else... To claim that there is nothing people can do when the source code is updated is also wrong. Most people won't compile a new version, but the option is there.

When MS release a patch to a subset of their OS versions then it announces the bug in older versions pretty reliably (and this is despite the lack of source code) and those people will *never* be protected, because they can't recompile a fixed version from the source...

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Concerns raised about privacy, GDPR as Lords peer over Data Protection Bill

John Robson
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I really hope this isn't what is written...

"it will make re-identification of de-identified personal data unlawful"

If you can reidentify it then it wasn't de-identified (whatever that means).

Even ignoring that I suggest that we at least need an exception for research/security analysis - else you can't tell if you have actually anonymised the data.

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NASA readies its asteroid warning system for harmless flyby

John Robson
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UTC <-> BST is pretty easy to deal with.

In the same way that UTC <-> EQT (or whatever it was) is fairly easy to deal with if you are in EQT.

If the asteroid was going to impact somewhere then by all means use that TZ, but add UTC in parentheses.

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Equifax: About those 400,000 UK records we lost? It's now 15.2M. Yes, M for MEELLLION

John Robson
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Re: What are your thoughts on...

"The problem is, the card is your proof, your data is still stored in a Database controlled by the government or outsourced to a company to run. That can still be hacked, data stolen, changed etc. Then used in countries that don't use your ID card."

If only we could have a system that allowed the data held on a card to be trusted. Say by a combination of digital signatures and encryption.

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Footie ballsup: Petition kicks off to fix 'geometrically impossible' street signs

John Robson
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Re: Nope.

Waste of time/money?

Correcting a document published by government should not take a huge amount of money.

It doesn't need to go through the overpaid airbags in parliament, it can be entirely handled by one or two people at the relevant agency in about an hour.

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Ghost in Musk's machines: Software bugs' autonomous joy ride

John Robson
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Re: Really??

"60g is survivable.

Its also an average across the 0.05 second time the car decelerates. At the first moment of impact, zero deceleration, zero G, the airbags have yet to be triggered, fired and inflate. Realistically the G it is going to spike to a much higher value. And in such a fast crash, if the car stops in four feet and 0.05 of a second, then by the time the airbag is fully inflated (say 45 milliseconds from the crash sensor being triggered to full inflation of the airbag), the initial impact is almost over. If it stops in five feet, the car's gone under more than half the trailer width and although the G force may be lower, the loadbed of the trailer's probably come through the windshield and connected with the driver's head as they flop forward on the seatbelt.

You get to the point where survival is a possible outcome"

Yes - but an F1 car comes to a stop from 150+mph in well under 4 feet fairly often (thankfully they are generally good enough drivers that it isn't *that* often, but it happens)

No airbags, although better restraints/HANS devices etc.

I'm not saying it's gone to a 'certain kill' to a 'will absolutely walk away from', but the chances of survival are dramatically better with than without.

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John Robson
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Re: Really??

"You could more reasonably attribute the death to the lack of safety features required by law in US HGVs

I doubt that. JB's two tonne car was doing 74 mph when it hit the truck, it'd be a very impressive side under-run bumper that'd stop that. Even if it had, to avoid a similar fate, the vehicle has to stop in about four feet - which means that even if the bumper, the car body, and the airbags spread the deceleration evenly during the circa 0.05 seconds of the impact (which I doubt) then the driver would be subject to a minimum of about 60 G."

60g is survivable.

OK, they have better safety harnesses etc, but F1 drivers often walk away from 50g crashes.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kenny_Bräck came away from a 200+g crash, and returned to racing...

It wouldn't have prevented all injury, but it would have made a significant difference to the chances of survival (which were always ~0 without the bars). You take the collision down in speed over the first four feet and the A pillars would probably do more 'lifting' of the trailer, and get you even more deceleration time.

You get to the point where survival is a possible outcome - and not a completely fluke one either. That's even ignoring the fact that having something of substance at that height would also likely have been sensed by the radar systems...

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John Robson
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Re: Really??

"If you have speech recognition, you would not call it a but if it didn't recognise every word"

I like what you did there ;)

"I would also contest whether that it was a bug. It was clearly sub-optimal(!) but a bug is where something has been programmed incorrectly."

That is also true, I've just got a vision of old film with people carrying a plate of glass across a road ;)

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John Robson
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Really??

"The Joshua Brown crash – driving at full speed into a clearly visible trailer – is arguably one such example as it “would never happen to a human being,” Hollander says."

Has he never been on the road?

There are *so* many cases of people driving into things that are perfectly visible (because there are very few things that aren't visible)

And of course Joshua Brown is another of those - that the human behind the wheel didn't brake in response to the trailer either. You could more reasonably attribute the death to the lack of safety features required by law in US HGVs.

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Legacy clearout? Not all at once, surely. Keeping tech up to snuff in an SMB

John Robson
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Re: One model of PC or laptop?

A short while ago Dell had docks you knew would be supported for years that worked across a load of different models. Not any more.

To be fair - If you consider the USB-C port to be a docking connector (which it pretty much is) then that era is returning - potentially with docker ports that are compatible between different vendor's products as well...

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BBC Telly Tax petition given new Parliament debate date

John Robson
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Re: If you have issues with the Telly Tax...

>>I have spent several years ignoring the TVL letters sent to me on a ridiculously frequent basis...

>If the frequency starts to bother you, just answer one. I now get just one email every four years which

>I think simply exists for people to perjure themselves should they get caught out.

I did answer one - hence ignoring the remainder.

That was after doing the online declaration as well...

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John Robson
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Re: If you have issues with the Telly Tax...

"There are proven non advertising based channels out there like Netflix and hbo. You need a TV to watch them but owning a TV in the UK is equated to needing a licence/watching the beeb."

No you don't...

You need a license to receive broadcast TV (Cable/Sattellite/Terrestrial) or iPlayer streaming.

Other streaming services do not need a TVL.

I have spent several years ignoring the TVL letters sent to me on a ridiculously frequent basis...

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Rosetta probe's final packets massaged into new snap of Comet 67P

John Robson
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Re: Amazing!

Manœuvre nodes...

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Computers4Christians miraculously appears on Ubuntu wiki

John Robson
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Re: Your point of understanding is wrong

Nebuchadnezzar didn't perform an experiment though, so you can't repeat it.

Interestingly there is a significant amount of scientific theory which we find ourselves unable to test, and yet seem to be defended religiously by people who don't understand them fully...

I'd suggest that the original premise (From my point of understanding : If a Deity truly existed there would be no need for religion..) is about as valid as "If democracy truly existed there would be no need for voting".

Religion isn't needed per se - a relationship doesn't *need* the structure of organised religion (I'm assuming that it's organised religion that is being objected to). However it's common for groups to form when they have a common interest/relationship, and it'd common for those groups to have a set of behaviours which reflects their common interests/relationship.

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Vibrating walls shafted servers at a time the SUN couldn't shine

John Robson
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Re: I call bull

Depends on the field strength, and on the memory type...

Strong enough field could easily induce currents that would basically scrap any data in RAM (or at least in flight to/from, which from the machines perspective is as good as flinching the RAM...

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Nokia updates classic comeback mobe 3310

John Robson
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Tethering (via BT) makes sense as a feature on a phone like this - even more important if 2G is actually going EOL at any time soon (I'm not holding my breath though).

I have had feature phones with tethering and they actually make a great deal of sense - because they enable a load of otherwise disconnected devices to connect up easily...

It's also financially advantageous to have just the one SIM.

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So. Should I upgrade to macOS High Sierra?

John Robson
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Re: Backup server?

"I’d rather have a single, slender Thunderbolt 3 cable connecting my very thin desktop to a compact, quiet.RAID box"

I'd even run with a USB3 cable (and do actually for the Mac mini)... The data on there isn't 'hot', so USB3 works fine for the 5 drives...

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John Robson
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Re: Backup server?

Mac mini with an external tower... Seems perfectly reasonable to me.

I must look at whether there is a time machine docker container available...

Ooh - yes, there are several. That's me sorted then (just need to decide on one)

HP Microserver, SSD for a base OS, now have three large HDDs, will add a fourth at some point. Going to use clusterFS and snapRAID on those...

Then everything gets containerised away to make life far easier than it would otherwise be...

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Hotter than the Sun: JET – Earth’s biggest fusion reactor, in Culham

John Robson
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Re: Didn't they used to have a flywheel?

400MW from each flywheel, 575MW from the Grid feed...

Yep, 1.21GW is rather easily possible - we could add a third flywheel of course, that might do quite a good job, surely we can make it do 410MW?!

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John Robson
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Re: Snake Oil

"Its always 20 years to success or anything near that since last few decades."

Depends on your definition of success...

Have you seen the list of spinoff technologies developed?

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