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Comment Re:Why would the festival cooperate? (Score 1) 134 134

ANPR in the UK works on a very heavily regulated target: UK vehicle licence plates. The size, font and spacing of the letters on these plates is legislated for, and non-standard plates are hunted down by the police.

By contrast, a human face is a very much more difficult target to recognise. Generally speaking, most systems up to now (notable examples being purported terrorist-spotting systems at airports) have suffered from such huge false positive rates that they were useless. I would strongly suspect that the system that the police here are employing would suffer from similar levels of false positives.

Repeatedly arresting a person on the basis of unproven technology would, if done frequently enough, count as harassment and it is for a court of law to decide (based on previous precedent) what frequency of false arrest would constitute such harassment. UK courts have not looked particularly kindly on police conducting trawls like this in the past, so I therefore suspect an ulterior motive for this surveillance.

I think this is not intended to catch criminals, but rather to frighten them out of the area.

UK criminals are typically rather stupid individuals in the main, and are also already used to pervasive CCTV and how to evade it (the standard chav uniform of baseball cap and hooded top is intended to conceal the face from overhead CCTV), and are well versed in what powers police have as well. As a result, I rather think that most criminals here would just go to the festival anyway, and trust police incompetence and the inherent uselessness of the technology to keep them unmolested.

Comment Re:The main challenges... (Score 1) 142 142

No, if you go and chase down the original article the electrolyte is NOT unknown, but an anhydrous aluminium chloride/organic chemical. The cells the researchers are producing are putting out around 1.9 to 2 volts, and the cells are resilient over at least 7500 charge/discharge cycles. The cathode is graphite foam built on a nickel foam substrate, the anode is aluminium foil.

To be honest, the only real kicker about the entire battery is the fact that water in the electrolyte severely reduces the performance, but this could at least be mitigated in production by adding in a water absorbing chemical of some sort to the system. Apart from that it all seems very promising indeed, and as aluminium and carbon are both extremely common (as opposed to lithium, where the resources are limited) then commercialising this battery would seem to be an eminently sensible thing to do.

The basic problem with power we have at the moment is not that we don't have enough, but that all the easy sources are diffuse and low density, or are bursty in nature. Solar cells, for instance, produce no power at night. Tidal generators also produce power only at set though predictable times. We already have good storage batteries, but the problem with them is that they are expensive.

These cells have the potential (*ahem*) to be cheap. Cheap power storage solves a very great many problems, since we can then concentrate on developing cheap, efficient and durable solar cells knowing that there will be a market for the power and that this power can then be stored efficiently; if you lack power storage, then the effective momentary market price of solar electricity drops to almost nothing when the sun shines, and rises astronomically as the sun sets.

Comment Re: Moral obligation? (Score 5, Insightful) 87 87

Britain is currently about to have a general election, at the start of May. We apologise for the loss of sanity and indeed coherence from our political classes; they are currently competing to see who can be the most entertainingly inventive liars.

Normal service will be resumed mid-May.

Comment Re:Having security meet him at his desk (Score 4, Insightful) 279 279

I worked for a company like that for a while; complete and utter bastards to work for. What that sort of behaviour towards their employees got them was a complete lack of any loyalty whatsoever. Since they were also a bunch of idiots who never planned anything, and always bodged things to run until the next last minute bodge, then however motivated a saboteur might have been, it would have been rather difficult to think up any action which would show up against the background level of incompetence, malevolence and managerial stupidity.

Most people simply got out of the door quickly, and took care never to work for them ever again, figuring that the company would come to an eventual bad end. It did, as things turned out, and the UK law would still like to have a long, comfortable chat with the company directors in the unlikely event of them ever setting foot in the EU again.

My take on easter eggs and sabotage like this is simple: DON'T DO IT! You never know when you might need a reference or a job involving some of the people in that last job, and it helps to have maintained a professional aspect and outlook throughout whatever shenanigans led to your departure. People tend to appreciate that sort of thing, and it also gives you the moral (and legal) high ground subsequently. It also means that you're not forever after worrying about whether the law are after you for unspecified crimes, and if you're the worrying sort like myself, it helps not to give yourself anything much to worry about in future.

Comment Pointing out the stark, bleeding obvious... (Score 4, Funny) 247 247

A couple of hours of no power input from solar power is not, and never has been a problem for the European power grid. This sort of thing happens extremely regularly, every night. We're used to it, and can cope. Thanks for worrying about us, though; it really was extremely kind of you.

Comment Re:Backpedalled? (Score 3, Insightful) 740 740

I would contend that a person's freedom to be an idiot starts and ends with themselves, and does not extend to endangering the life of their child, or indeed the lives of other children damaged in an epidemic of a preventable disease.

This is one of those cases where science and state really do know better than a Bronze Age religion. One of the many, many cases.

Comment Hello insurance fraud (Score 5, Interesting) 199 199

The most obvious reason for an attack here is to commit insurance fraud. At present, an insurance company is forced to base an insurance premium on all the meta-data they can possibly gather about the prospective client, excepting their sex if they are in the EU (although this may well lead to a quite astonishing number of men called "Sue", if insurance companies attempt to bypass this and link first names to insurance risk).

A data-gathering dongle would seem to offer a much better deal, allowing the company to charge more if the user indulges in risky behaviour of some description.

A possible reason for hacking into the module would therefore be to falsify the data sent back to the company; a boy racer who regularly breaks speed limits, corners absurdly fast and brakes late if at all would gain substantially from a fraudulent data recording which portrayed him as someone with the driving habits of an octogenarian grandmother; such a person might also think that the gamble of sending such phoney data was well worth the savings when set against the fairly low risk of getting caught.

It therefore worries me that companies are this lazy when building such equipment. It really doesn't take all that much to keep out the majority of crackers right from the start, and as the skilled ones are in the minority, taking a little care initially would pay dividends down the line.

Comment You'd almost think there was an election due... (Score 1) 77 77

Actually, there is an election due in the UK. All of this feckless noise is electioneering, to try to sway the opinions of the Great Unclued out there.

The nitty-gritty detail is the usual sordidly mucky mess of politics everywhere. You may wish to skip this part and move on to calling me silly names if politics bores you.

Britain is a member of the European Union, but is not a member of the EU currency union (the Euro). The EU is institutionally corrupt, to the extent that its own tame poodle of an auditor will not approve its accounts, and has not for the last seventeen years. The EU may be thought of as an empire-by-stealth, one of the few to actually start out decadent. As a result of this, the Euro currency is failing, and the EU is responding by asking for more money from its member states, and by churning out ever more regulations.

Most UK politicians like the EU, but few are able to articulate why this is the case, nor why the EU is such a great entity. Notable exceptions are the UK Independance Party (UKIP) which despite attracting a broad spectrum of loons, does have widespread appeal in Britain.

David Cameron is the leader of the Conservative Party (or Tories). This party is currently in a coalition with the Liberal Democrats. Opposing them is the Labour Party, led by Ed Milliband. The Tories and Labour are currently about level pegging in electoral stakes; UKIP may alter this a little, but not all that much.

Cameron is trying presently to become more popular. He is unfortunately being advised very poorly, and is also being influenced by the Home Office, the government department in charge of domestic security, policing and the like. The Home Office has the reputation of being the department where useless civil servants get parked to serve out their time without annoying anyone important; it also has the reputation of slowly driving and Home Secretary insane, to the point of totalitarian leanings.

So, what you're seeing is electioneering plus silly politicians plus nutcase advisors plus at least one nutcase political party, arguing against another load of nutcases in the country next door.

This entire post probably makes very little sense to anyone in the USA. Don't worry, though; it makes almost as little sense if you live in the UK.

Comment Re:There is a difference ... (Score 1) 105 105

Actually not bullshit at all. Even thirty years or so ago, even local anaethesia was not used on injured children, mostly because one shock response seen in children but not adults is to freeze. Thus it was when, thirty years or so ago I tripped up in the back of a Renault 4 van and gashed my head on the metal surface of the inner wheel housing. The damage was stitched up without the aid of local anaesthetic and I remember the pain to this day.

I also remember the pain of having the stitch or stiches removed some days later.

Comment Re: Stupid, trucks cause the problem (Score 1) 554 554

Greetings from the Peoples' Republic of Great Britain.

Might I point out that over here, Income Tax was a "temporary" tax introduced in 1799 to cover the expenses of a war. Note my use of the word temporary, please.

I would also point out the sky-high road fuel costs over here, such that if we take as an example gasoline (called petrol over here) at 133 pence per litre, the price breaks down as follows:

57.95p: Fuel Duty
47.8p: Cost of Gasoline
22.15p: Value Added tax on the sum of the above two
5p: Retailer's margin, plus delivery

As the more astute readers will now be realising, in the UK the cost of the fuel and duty combines is also subject to a tax; we tax an already taxed product.

Current gasoline costs in the UK are roughtly $7.30 per US gallon.

This is what happens when you let governments get away with levying fuel taxes, and these taxes DO NOT GO DOWN, EVER. The most that you will ever see where fuel taxes are concerned is politicians sanctimoniously declaring that they are helping us by scrapping planned fuel duty rises, (whilst likely eyeing the seething masses fingering hemp ropes, and DIY guillotine kits).

Do not encourage politicians to raise taxes. If you do, you will regret it, and you will deserve what you get for arrant stupidity.

Comment Re:someohow I think (Score 1) 215 215

In Europe, radar detectors are mostly useless. Police here use laser devices, and a laser detector mostly serves as early warning of an impending fine.

More effective are laser jamming systems, but once again the police are a few steps ahead, as one might imagine. If the same car causes police laser speed measuring equipment to fail twice in succession, then that owner then gets a visit from the traffic cops, on suspicion of impeding a constable in the course of his duty. This is an ancient offence going right back to the dawn of policing, and is still in use today. It is a lot more serious than a speeding ticket.

As for an Airwave radio detector, I'd wager that all it would take to get around such a system is a re-write to the software of the handsets, to greatly increase the time interval between network handshakes, or even to make the device do dark most of the time and only handshake with the network when it is actually in use. Given that a simple scanner can pick up on these network handshakes quite easily, and given that one can crudely detect the range of the handsets just by adjusting the scanner squelch setting (equivalent to a signal to noise ratio control) so that one only hears noise if the handset is quite close by, I would think that the police will be well aware of these sorts of tricks already.

Comment Re:Distasteful stuff, but should not be illegal (Score 4, Interesting) 475 475

The LA Times link above briefly mentions a few rather interesting and salient points about known paedophiles:

Firstly, compared to their peer group, they are on average an inch shorter, their IQ is about 10 points lower and a much greater proportion than is normal are left handed.

Secondly, compared to their peers or even other prisoners, they have a lot less white matter in their brains.

Thirdly, paedophillia does not appear to be learned behaviour; being the victim of a paedophile does not predispose that person to becoming one.

These apparently point to paedophillia being partly caused by a developmental disorder, one which strikes fairly early in life, even before birth. As such, we ought really to be looking for whatever environmental toxin is causing this problem, with a view to removing it. My guess would be an almost-harmless virus, or perhaps a heavy metal of some sort. It would be interesting to know if paedophillia is linked to lead in the environment, as is more general forms of criminality (which are again linked to disrupted brain development).

The final point is a not-so-obvious one. What we need to know is if pornography acts to incite acts of paedophillia, or acts to satiate the desire to perform such acts. The easiest way to tell might be to compare cultures where normal pornography is easy to get, to those where it is very difficult to get, and see if the rates of sexual attacks and deviant acts vary between the cultures. Does anyone know if such a study has been done?

Comment Re:Update to Godwin's law? (Score 1) 575 575

This is exactly the point to bear in mind. Do not think about how a security measure will work, think about how it may fail whilst in operation.

If you mandate that all devices sold must have a software back door, then you immediately open up a lucrative market in known-secure software which does not have the back door. You then impose another additional round of unreasonable searches since not only must you try to prevent completely secure software appearing, but you must also try to locate and remove such devices as fail the insecurity testing.

Then you have the fact that any item with a built-in back door is insecure by design, and this designed-in insecurity then becomes the number one target for every black-hat hacker on the planet (along with every white-hat who wishes to stick one to the Government).

Even if you don't have these back doors, you still haven't really lost anything much. The vast majority of paedophiles prey on their own children inside their own family; lone sex attackers preying on other peoples' kids are very much in the minority. Proposing forcing insecurity on millions to make the prosecution of a very few sex attackers is bordering on the insane.

A very similar argument applies to terrorists. Most terrorist sympathisers are what one might term the keyboard warrior sort; they write a very good war indeed but harsh words and crimes against good grammar are as far as they ever go. An Internet sweep to identify persons who are writing about terrorism and saying that they'd like to go help out the Elbonian Liberation Front (to make up a terrorist organisation that does not, indeed cannot exist) nets a large number of blowhards and very, very few actually dangerous people. The 9/11 terrorists never sent any emails to each other; they used the email drafts folder as a dead letter drop instead; an email sweep wouldn't have caught these people.

Catching terrorists requires actual human information. Is there someone busily buying up lots of hydrogen peroxide whilst definitely not running a hairdressing salon? Are some people learning to fly airliners whilst not troubling to learn how to land them? Is someone showing an unreasonable interest in dung-heaps (for saltpetre) or are they buying up quantities of nitric and sulphuric acids without explanation? Being able to trawl such folks' cellphones for pictures of that funny moment when we almost blew up the lab trying to nitrate cotton isn't really all that much use; knowing that some idiot is trying to make explosives is much, much more use.

Comment Re: But is it reaslistic? (Score 2) 369 369

There is still the political aspect to all of this. What a terrorist is trying to do is to convince someone or lots of someones to do something different. What this current bunch are trying to do is actually quite vague; they haven't articulated any actual goals, nor do they seem to have thought about this themselves. They do not have a stated victory scenario, so getting to this is more or less impossible.

All that seems to have been articulated is that they want to establish an Islamic Caliphate. This amounts to a religious dictatorship led by one man, with all laws being those in the Koran. As at some point in the development of these laws the authors had a nasty experience with a loan-shark, quite a lot of modern monetary concepts such as interest on loans and the like are completely forbidden. This leads to the phenomenon of "Islamic banking", which to an outsider such as I looks suspiciously like "Dream up a complicated scam and get a mullah to say it is OK". The basic problem with a Caliphate is that it is a dictatorship founded on pretty primitive laws, written in an ambiguous fashion in a mixture of Old Arabic and Old Aramaic; in other words a bloody mess.

This leads to the other phenomenon seen very often in religious groupings: sectarianism. Islam is no different to any other religion in that it has several different sects such as Shia, Sunni and Kurdish, plus an assortment of others. All share a common characteristic of not really liking any other sect, which shades through to absolute and outright hatred between some adherents. Sectarian religions tend to unite against common enemies, but if the enemy is cunning enough to leave the field of battle, then the different sects normally forget their common cause quite quickly and go back to business as usual and start fighting amongst themselves.

What I'm getting at is this: Islamic terrorists won't succeed because there's a heck of a lot of different groups, all of which hate all the other ones.

Comment Re: But is it reaslistic? (Score 5, Insightful) 369 369

Western culture sees men and women as more or less equal, with neither having a right to oppress the other. This leads to areas of the middle east where the women get liberated, empowered and at that point the culture is forced to get a lot more open and the male-domination gets tempered by a great deal more discussion. Quite a lot of men in that culture cannot handle this sort of thing, and fall back on their religious document (written by a Medieval primitive) as justification for their prejudices.

The Islamists making all this noise are the thick ones, the losers, the unsocialised and frankly maladaptive ones who cannot make the switch from a prescriptive male-dominated society that uses females as property, to one where women have a culture and an equal say in things. Basically, we're listening to losers yapping away at everything and everyone, because they cannot quite handle the Western way of life.

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