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

by Dan1701 (#48403387) Attached to: How To Anesthetize an Octopus

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

by Dan1701 (#48398873) Attached to: The Downside to Low Gas Prices

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

by Dan1701 (#48244877) Attached to: "Police Detector" Monitors Emergency Radio Transmissions

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

by Dan1701 (#48189335) Attached to: Manga Images Depicting Children Lead to Conviction in UK

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

by Dan1701 (#48054363) Attached to: Obama Administration Argues For Backdoors In Personal Electronics

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

by Dan1701 (#47790135) Attached to: Islamic State "Laptop of Doom" Hints At Plots Including Bubonic Plague

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

by Dan1701 (#47790115) Attached to: Islamic State "Laptop of Doom" Hints At Plots Including Bubonic Plague

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.

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

by Dan1701 (#47790099) Attached to: Islamic State "Laptop of Doom" Hints At Plots Including Bubonic Plague

During the second Sino-Japanese war (1937 to 1941) the Imperial Japanese military frequently used both chemical and biological weapons against the Chinese, to no really marked effect. Toxic gas attacks only really work on an unprepared enemy, and take some time for the agent to spread out enough to be useful. Biological warfare is even less predictable; the Japanese military during this war frequently suffered quite large casualties in their own army as a result of biological agents blowing back onto them. Civilian casualties were large, but the military effect of all of this was quite small and you have to remember that this was conducted in a time before widespread countermeasures were available.

These days, attempting to breed up the hundreds of millions of fleas needed to spread plague then trying to contaminate them, and subsequently disperse said fleas in the environment would be a huge job, and largely futile given the fairly low amounts of insecticides needed to kill off fleas. Spraying large areas of towns and cities with chemicals like deltamethrin would of course not be particularly popular, but it would stop a flea attack dead.

Similarly weaponising anthrax is not a job for the faint-hearted, nor for the inexperienced or indeed anyone who has not got access to the antibiotics needed to treat an infection with this disease. As an aside, weaponised anthrax was the stand-by weapon devised in World War 2 for if the D-day invasions had not worked; the Scottish island of Gruinard was the original test target, and was only decontaminated by soaking the entire landmass in a seawater-formaldehyde mixture. The problem here once more is that a weaponised biological powder is hard to disperse, and ridiculously easy to counter as commonly-available HEPA-grade masks will keep it out of a person's lungs.

The final point to remember with terrorism is one of motivation. Terror attacks only work to achieve the terrorists' aims if they are very carefully targetted and choreographed along with a political campaign, to make them look like attacks against a mutually-disliked foe. This is why the IRA in Eire and Northern Ireland are largely silent these days; they changed from being seen as freedom fighters to being thought of as a general blight upon the entire society. Islamic terrorists are already being cast as such a blight, and never really get the chance to put over their side of the argument.

Comment: Re:Actually learning something (Score 3, Informative) 421

by Dan1701 (#47643805) Attached to: Slashdot Asks: Should Schooling Be Year-Round?

You've never tried to teach kids, have you? You're basically trying to regulate the behaviour of a group of somewhat-socialised hyperintelligent monkeys, and you're trying to reinforce the hyperintelligent bit whilst stamping down on the monkey bit. This is why homeschooling often works; one-on-one attention lets you mould behaviour much more effectively because the parent has only a few kids at most to control, not a class of thirty or so.

However, we who live in the real world know that homeschooling only works with a good parent or two about; quite often the parents are dumb as a box of rocks themselves and are incapable of teaching the kids anything, and have next to no inclination to do so. I suspect a torrent of existential abuse from that last statement, but the honest fact is that homeschooling requires a parent with a brain and if the parent lacks this, then the kid's innate talents will be wasted.

The original posting here brought up something that most teachers know: kids are only civilised because they are taught to be so. It takes time to impose the conditioning on kids not to start showing off to each other and to settle down and concentrate on the matter in hand, and the long summer vacation is so long that the conditioning wears off. The kids forget how to be civilised in large groups, they lose some ability to concentrate and they forget things that they knew before the summer vacation, as they've had a long period of doing not very much.

Yes, the few memories we as adults retain from these years are very nice, but we forget much and retain very little. More shorter vacations spaced through the year, possibly even with some "floating" vacation time that the kids/parents can take whenever they choose (to allow flexibility in planning vacations) would greatly reduce the phenomenon, and would improve learning in children. This is precisely why it is being suggested.

Comment: Re:Every stupid idea is common (Score 1) 348

Yes, I know. The reason we have agreed-upon standards for machines where I work, which include as restrictive a firewall as is possible without compromising machine usability, is that this basic set of guidelines prevents a lot of smart but woefully ignorant people from shooting themselves in the foot. We're not quite at the level of routinely portscanning machines, but the luser I encountered yesterday who hadn't troubled to put a firewall on his Debian box "because there isn't anything listening on it" (nmap proved otherwise, BTW) will shortly be having a short lecture on the merits of listening to security experts and installing a bloody firewall, damnit!

Computer security and standard health and safety are actually a lot alike. There are basic rules to each which are enforced because they prevent trouble; we systems administrators administer the rules because we're the poor schmos who get to clear up the mess after the twit who thought he could ignore rules finds out that in fact he can't.

Comment: Re:Translation (Score 2) 121

by Dan1701 (#47483473) Attached to: New York State Proposes Sweeping Bitcoin Regulations

They're doing this because legislators are effectively being paid to legislate, rather than use the existing laws to their best advantage. A previous government in Britain created one new criminal (felony) offence for every day that it was in office, with a significant proportion bordering on the silly, insane or just plain stupid. It is, for instance, now illegal to explode nuclear weapons in Britain.

I do suspect though that were anyone to actually do this, the Victorian laws forbidding the unauthorised use of explosives like dynamite would be used instead, because lawyers tend to conservatism, and stick to what they know works.

The idea that not taxing people would permit them to be more honest has never occurred to any legislator, ever.

Comment: Re:Fishy (Score 1) 566

by Dan1701 (#47118197) Attached to: TrueCrypt Website Says To Switch To BitLocker

I suspect that first of all (and I am probably wrong on this point, but bear with me) the Truecrypt project was the product of very few people, perhaps as few as two or three. Lexical analysis of the coding styles might assist here. I also suspect that as the encryption in operating systems improved, the perceived need for Truecrypt decreased, and some of the project members dropped out, became inactive or lost interest.

At some point, the project dropped to just one obsessive coder who has now undergone some sort of mental breakdown, hence the rather frantic message and the hurried changes to the code.

At this juncture, several things may happen. The other project members may re-join (assuming they've not been locked out) and clear up the mess this one individual has caused. If they've been locked out, then they'll fork the project and put out a non-messed with version. Or, finally, they may simply all walk away and we'll hear nothing more.

Someone must know some or all of the project members and care about them, so in the fullness of time we'll hear something.

Comment: Re:That sounds like great news (Score 1) 626

by Dan1701 (#47051523) Attached to: Driverless Cars Could Cripple Law Enforcement Budgets

If you wish to see this in action, look no further than the UK.

Local councils here have the ability to hang on to fines from parking offences, and do so gleefully. In doing this, they have effectively imposed a tax on motorists shopping in town centres, especially as councils are rarely smart enough to build large multi-storey car parks to give the harried motorists somewhere legal to park. The end effect is retail businesses simply closing down and moving to large, out-of-town shopping malls where parking is free; this cuts the income of councils as the take from business rates diminishes when this happens.

Comment: Re:sorry but (Score 2) 258

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.

Every nonzero finite dimensional inner product space has an orthonormal basis. It makes sense, when you don't think about it.