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Comment: Re:sorry but (Score 1) 234

by Dan1701 (#46786325) Attached to: Criminals Using Drones To Find Cannabis Farms and Steal Crops

Actually, if you read the original story this is just one man talking, and there's a pretty good chance he could just be spinning a yarn for a journalist. Drone aircraft are rare here in Britain, and thermal cameras are similarly rare and expensive to buy (the thermal imagers fitted to high-end BMW cars are about the cheapest such units).

All UK police forces which operate helicopters (which is pretty much all of them) have a stated policy of keeping the thermal image camera turned on whenever the helicopter is in flight, and the operator has standing orders to note the location of any unusually warm buildings for later assessment by ground units. This is likely where this man has got his idea from, but I seriously doubt that he is actually putting it into practice.

Comment: Bugs in the system (Score 2) 987

by Dan1701 (#46626317) Attached to: UN Report: Climate Changes Overwhelming

The problem here that people are failing repeatedly to grasp is that science does not actually have an overarching "THEY" who will police the system and prevent rubbish papers being published. Science works on peer review, meaning that the peers (i.e. other scientists in the same field) of the person submitting the paper get to police what is written in the paper. This works if the peers are more or less skeptical, and fails badly if most peers either subscribe to or have a vested interest in supporting a set world-view. In the case of climatologists, a prophesy of doom is just what is needed to keep the grant money rolling in, hence there is a presumption that any paper that agrees with this orthodoxy must be correct.

The second bug in the system is how research is funded. Research grants typically fund a post-doctoral researcher (a person who has taken a degree and a doctorate in the subject) to work on the topic for three years. Typically this means a year to work out how to do the work, a year to actually achieve something and a year of blowing one's own trumpet to try to secure another post-doc posting. This is, as you might imagine, an inefficient way to fund research.

The third bug in the system is a lack of research support for climatologists. To be a good climatologist you have to know a lot of physics, a good deal of mathematics and a smattering of biology, meteorology and so on to actually have a vague clue how a climate system works. To model climate you need a doctoral-grade level of skill in quite sophisticated programming, including how best to use massively parallel machines. If instead of looking at the emails from the University of East Anglia leak you go and look at the code, and the HARRY_README file, then you see how this is working or rather not working in practice. The UoEA code was mostly cobol. Mostly, because Cobol sucks rather for manipulating strings; the coder used shell calls to handle these bits. You or I would likely use Perl or Python to do the same thing and would make a much better job of it, but the coder in the UoEA case was self-taught. Two words that ought to send a shudder through anyone tasked with debugging and maintaining code: Self. Taught.

That code was a mess. A complete and utter dog's dinner. The original coder was learning by making mistakes, the sorts of mistakes that get drummed out of newbie coders in their first year of a degree. Things like a sub-program failing silently, instead of screaming blue murder on STDERR, for instance. Things like not keeping adequate backups. The UoEA lost their input raw data, because they didn't have enough storage. Once the raw data was gone, they had no way to start again from scratch.

Climatology is like particle physics was fifty years ago. Particle physicists started off as jacks of all trades, and very quickly realised that an army of engineers and computer techies was needed to support a few researchers. Climatologists have yet to quite realise that they need a small army of coders and computer sysadmins to provide them with the kit and the code to run their simulations, and no, this support cannot be done by the hired help on a shoestring. Until they realise this, we will not be able to trust their results.

Comment: Re:Everyone is a potential criminal in L.A. (Score 2) 405

by Dan1701 (#46564711) Attached to: L.A. Police: <em>All</em> Cars In L.A. Are Under Investigation

This is factually and actually correct; governments in Britain have presided over an incredible increase in the number of statute laws, to the extent that the Blair/Brown government enacted rounghly one new criminal law (i.e. one new felony) for each day that they were in office. As an example of silliness, it is now illegal to cause nuclear explosions in Britain.

What is more telling is that with a few exceptions such as anti-terrorist laws, most of these new statutes lie unknown and unused on the statute books. Terrorists causing explosions are dealt with using a law from the 1830s, mostly because the lawyers know this law down to the very letter and prefer laws where all causes, effects and precedents are known over new, untried and untrusted laws.

Comment: Re:You Don't (Score 1) 384

To be honest, if the company are horrible enough for you to want to leave malicious easter eggs behind to torment them, then you really do not (and should not) do so. Vile companies usually have enough systemically wrong with them to make working for them a torment for all concerned, including the people causing the problems. In these cases, just walk away.

Sartre was correct; hell is indeed other people and companies like this will cause the remaining employees way more torment than you ever could.

Walk away and forget them.

Comment: Re:Really? (Score 1) 311

by Dan1701 (#44910925) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Does Your Work Schedule Make You Unproductive?

On this topic, a dishonourable mention for the open-plan office really must be made. If a person is trying to concentrate on a task, then quiet is what is needed. Where I work at the moment, I'm in an open-plan office and in these environments there always seems to be some moron with no brain, not much appreciation of others and a LOUD voice.

So, any chance of getting the concept across to management that noise and disruption do not mean more working output?

Comment: Re:Having watched the... (Score 1) 222

by Dan1701 (#44644209) Attached to: Syrian Rebels Claim Hundreds Killed By Poison-Gas Attack

I'd go further on this one: what are you not seeing in those clips which you would expect to be present?

What you are not seeing AT ALL is any personal protective equipment. The medics are not wearing respirators. They are not wearing protective clothing. The general public have not been excluded; there are people running around all over the place in their shirtsleeves. This, remember, is supposed to be the aftermath of a chemical warfare attack.

Chemical warfare involves deploying deadly chemicals, especially ones which are deadly by skin contact. The victims of such an attack are by definition the people who have been exposed to, and are covered in a deadly chemical; they're chemical hazards in their own right and here we have a scene of pandemonium with completely unprotected people and medics walking about completely unconcerned about contamination with deadly toxins. Either these people are complete morons, or they know something we don't know.

This scene has been staged. There are no deadly chemicals present and the medics know it, because they know what was fired. Assuming that this was an actual attack, I would guess that hydrocyanic acid was used; this decomposes into hydrogen cyanide which is deadly and causes the symptoms seen but which is very volatile. Fire the shells, let the scene air out a bit and the gas dissipate and the entire thing is safe to enter, and the casualties are safe to handle. HCN was the active ingredient in Zyklon-B, which was used by the Nazis as a tool of extermination precisely because it could be removed from a room fairly easily leaving no toxic residue.

Were this an actual act of war, then the medics would be dressed in full NBC suits with respirators and there simply would not be all the idiots milling around in the room; any sane commander would exclude them and set up a decontamination system before triaging the patients. If this was not done, then the myriad of bystanders would rapidly become patients in their own right as they got contaminated with the nerve agent or blistering agent.

No, this is a staged event of some kind. It may be pure sham, or it may have been HCN shells fired by these people at their own civilians to create this scene, but make no mistake this was NOT an military attack.

Comment: Re:Honesty? (Score 1) 440

by Dan1701 (#44348383) Attached to: How Climate Scientists Parallel Early Atomic Scientists

This is the basic problem: assumptions. When formulating any hypothesis, you always have to state the assumptions you are making, and take steps to show why these assumptions are valid ones; if you don't then someone else will, and bang goes your scientific credibility in your field (this is another failure mode for scientific social systems; scientists exist in fields and just because someone is famous in their field doesn't make them marvelous; they can just be mediocre in a field of dunces).

In the case of climate change, the assumptions have to include things like "Solar irradiance and solar wind either don't change or have no effect" and "We know about, and have allowed for all long-term cyclical changes that the climate makes". As you can well appreciate, neither of these assertions is completely false or completely true. However, as the models fail to predict either the Elizabethan mini-ice age, or the Roman and Medieval warm periods no matter how accurate the supplied data are, it is certainly true that we are missing something somewhere.

The next question that arises is simple: we know that all our models are missing a mysterious something which renders them incapable of predicting these quite sizeable though relatively short-lived climatic swings. Is this lack a significant flaw for long-term models? The only answer is that until we know what the flaw is, we cannot say. To sum up, the climate models we have are inaccurate but we do not know why they are inaccurate or whether this inaccuracy is significant or not.

Comment: Re:confused meddler (Score 1) 186

by Dan1701 (#43882061) Attached to: In UK, Search Engines Urged To Block More Online Porn Sites

What is going on is politicians trying to sound as though they are "getting tough" on paedophiles whilst not actually understanding how the internet works. For instance, some years ago I read an article by a self-confessed paedophile on how internet access to this illegal material is actually managed. As I am sure nobody here will be surprised, the serving system is via encrypted filesystem virtual servers, hosted off-shore, working entirely over https, where the web address is usually a plain IP address or dynamic address changed frequently. The payment gateways into these systems are publicly visible; the actual systems need a username and password to get in and even see anything other than a login screen.

Actually tracking one of these vhost servers down is difficult, and as the illegal pornographers will, on being discovered, simply delete the machine and its encrypted filesystem and start afresh elsewhere, it is mostly a futile exercise. Similarly the internet Watch Foundation is mostly a waste of time, save for performing back-door censorship of web sites. It catches some paedophillic sites, but the vast majority are not detected or filtered.

The way to actually hurt paedophile websites is to follow the money, and attack the revenue stream. Hosting illegal material is only worth it if the hoster is getting paid, and paid extremely well for the risk. Going after the punters paying for the material is mostly just an exercise in identifying and recording potential paedophiles (all of whom then need to be carefully screened and assessed); it provides nice headlines for tabloid papers and pleases police chiefs, but it doesn't actually hurt the suppliers. Locating the payment systems and heavily fining them for being complicit in the supply of illegal materials is the way to go (or at least until everything switches to Bitcoins).

Comment: Re:the actual investigation (Score 1) 190

by Dan1701 (#43704577) Attached to: Data Leak Spurs Huge Offshore Tax Evasion Investigation

So, the government got a huge dollop of data on supposed tax evaders from a source which can best be described as nefarious and which ought to be described as downright untrustworthy. Who is to say that this data dump is correct in its entirety? It won't be complete, and it is likely the fruits of computer crime. Indeed, it might be almost entirely bogus, put where moron investigators can nab it simply to land these fools in the smelly.

You simply cannot trust data from nefarious sources like this; you certainly cannot make it stand up in court.

Comment: Re:Hypocrisy (Score 1) 893

by Dan1701 (#43369617) Attached to: Massive Data Leak Reveals How the Ultra Rich Hide Their Wealth

Your problem here is actually proving that they are breaking, or broke the law. To put it another way, think how you might get an innocent rich man into trouble with the authorities?

This trick works thus: Grab a large amount of sensitive data, and into it insert lies which you wish to be believed about the target. Then you leak this doctored document to the press, and await results. Most of the document is true and checkable; the bits that are untrue or uncheckable will be believed anyway.

All this fails as soon as a court of law is encountered, for defence lawyers are wise to these sorts of shennanigans.

Comment: Re:Didn't they get the memo? (Score 1) 628

by Dan1701 (#43320799) Attached to: North Korea Declares a State of War

This is pretty much the size of it. The NK political situation is quite simple really, it is a rather unusual medieval-style monarchy, with generals substituting for barons. Poor, pampered Kim just got made king, and all of a sudden he goes from being nobody much to this guy whom everyone wants dead.

The generals however didn't know who else to make king, and Kim is currently trying to keep them too busy to decide. Hence the state of war; not aggression, more make work.

Comment: Re:Making Peace? (Score 1) 270

by Dan1701 (#42885477) Attached to: North Korea Conducts Third Nuclear Test

To be honest, the main arbiter of what happens now will be China. China is the local large power, with ambitions to be the local super-power which it will be by default if the Americans can only be persuaded that setting up more of a presence in the neighbourhood is a waste of money. North Korea, which was long kept as a sort of pet of many Chinese administrations as it was vaguely Communist as long as you didn't look too hard, has just done the pet equivalent of crapping on the carpet after being repeatedly told not to.

North Korea isn't a Communist state. Communist states strictly separate the military from the political, and make sure the military is subordinate. Communist states also don't have much trouble retaining power in the ruling group when the original boss-man dies or is deposed, but this is a problem in North Korea. The best political model for North Korea is a feudal Royal one, where an usurper has taken power a while ago and only now are his descendents approaching a steady state of power.

The net political effect in NK now is that everything is unstable. The new king isn't secure; his barons who control the armed forces are restless and uncertain as to how much they think of the new king but nobody wants to break ranks and rebel in case everyone else attacks the rebel to cement their reputation as loyal followers of the king. North Korea right now is a Game of Thrones in a modern world.

This is what the nuclear test was all about: this was partly a show of strength and partly a provocation, so the new king can demonstrate to his barons that the entire world is out to get them, so unity is the only option. Only problem here is, the barons ain't completely daft and probably don't buy it, but as the only real alternative is inviting in China and spending one's retirement in a cell somewhere, they ain't complaining.

Like I said before, China is the arbiter here. If the NK leadership has any brains at all, this will be the last nuclear test (and the last ballistic missile test) for a very, very long time. If they carry on raising the pressure, they're going to get invaded by China simply to get rid of America's main excuse for being in that area, and also for international brownie points for removing a known mad dictator from power. The only thing is, I have grave doubts as to the intelligence and indeed the sanity of the current NK leadership; I am not at all certain that they know just how close to an invasion they are pushing China.

Comment: Re:nothing new at all needed (Score 1) 717

by Dan1701 (#41600619) Attached to: How We'll Get To 54.5 Mpg By 2025

Raising fuel prices to insane levels is EXACTLY what the UK Government has done. As a result, fuel consumption has dropped dramatically, leaving the Government considerably puzzled as to where all that lovely tax revenue just went to. One outcome of this is that the old road-pricing black box idea is being raised yet again, despite universal unpopularity.

Lunatic fuel prices notwithstanding, reading the comments of mostly American commentors is, for a UK resident such as I, really rather hilarious. As has been repeatedly proven over the last few years, especially with vehicles like the Subaru Impreza, Mitsubishi Evo X and similar types, it can be very quickly and easily proven that a 4-cylinder engine plus a turbo can give a scarily quick machine that is also tough, and extremely agile. Our roads police use these vehicles since they are about the only thing on four wheels that can catch a speeding Jap motorbike. Woe betide the fool who tries racing one of these with a US-made V8 vehicle; the first couple of bends will sort that one out.

Even down at more sensible levels, European and Japanese designs are still far, far ahead of US domestic car designs. I drive a Toyota Avensis diesel; universally regarded as staid, boring and not especially quick. However, driven correctly this car will accelerate to 60 in about 10 seconds and carry on to over 100 in similar times, will cruise quietly and easily at 70 and still return close to 50 MPG. This isn't using strange, alien technology; just a 4-pot direct-injection turbodiesel and a 6-gear manual gearbox. This is a 2008 model; the latest variant will do over 60 MPG on a combined cycle, again without needing to use hybrid technology.

It isn't difficult to achieve this sort of economy. It isn't even difficult to do it and still have quite hefty vehicles that accelerate very sharply when asked properly, and you don't even need to be driving a plastic box to do it.

Comment: Re:Trolling? (Score 1) 594

by Dan1701 (#41514651) Attached to: The Day Leo Traynor Confronted His Troll

To be honest it sounds to me a lot like the kid's major existence was on assorted social networking sites, and much of his social self-worth was about getting reactions from other people in these social networks. There're only a few ways of consistently getting such reactions; always posting wise and apposite comments (which I manage maybe 30% of the time, try though I might), posting jokes or humourous cat photos, and posting attacks which attract the schardenfreude tendency of others.

However, I think that social media must have become pretty much ALL of this kid's socialisation and social life; like all teens he is mentally driven to socialise as much as possible, but he's not actually meeting people face to face much so isn't getting the all-important slaps in the face for being rude, aggressive or basically just a jerk.

The cure is to limit his access to social media and try get him socialising face to face a good deal more. He simply hasn't learned the rules, and won't do either, not if socialising is confined to texting on a smartphone or somesuch.