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Comment Re:I have no debt and a hefty savings account (Score 1) 386

>They are based on hard data

They are based on hard aggregate data, not individual patterns of behaviour.

People with no history of debt are less likely to pay it off because on average people with no history of debt have been refused credit because they have no money.

Now, you may ask why someone with a healthy savings account might need credit. In theory, they probably don't, but the whole payments system now revolves around credit. Cash is a either a financial disadvantage if you're trying to book a hotel or hire car (you'll be expected to provide a deposit up front against unexpected charges) or a cause for suspicion if you're carrying out a high-value transaction, such as buying a car, or even simply booking an airline ticket. People who are financially atypical but perfectly creditworthy in these scenarios are significantly disadvantaged by the way credit scoring works. There used to be human involvement that could override the rules in these circumstances - but you have to have very high net wealth before you're afforded that luxury these days.

Comment Re:Have they improved Vim emulation? (Score 2) 103

Well, Unix (or Unics. initially) was developed on a PDP-7, which was an 18-bit processor. However, 18-bit processors would typicaly pack 3 6-bit characters to a word. Teletypes, which were an early form of interface used a 5-bit code. Common VDU-style terminals used 7- or 8-bit codes. I'm not aware of any (western) devices that used more than 8 bits.

Comment Re:Brits love to complain (Score 2) 136

British prohibitions against this are much weaker.

They are, but European prohibitions are actually quite strict. As long as the UK remains a signatory to the ECHR and remains a member of the EU this proposal is open to challenge by courts that have shown themselves more protective of individual liberties than the US courts have of late.

Of course, at the same time, the present UK administration is also trying to find a way to remain a signatory to the ECHR without actually being bound by it and to renegotiate its relationship with the EU to "repatriate" powers. If it succeeds in these things, then there at least will be an independent Scotland for us to move to.

Comment Re:You should have expected this. (Score 1) 132

The UK biobank was set up to collect medical information (including DNA) from about 500,000 people in the UK between 40 and 69 as part of a long term programme to get a better understanding of the factors promoting different tyes of disease.

As part of the solicitation process they produced a Q&A and one of the points they had to cover, obviously, was privacy. And basically all they could say was "we'll do our best" - they'd have to comply with any court orders and they couldn't foresee what future changes in legislation might require them to hand over the data. They still managed to hit their recruitment target, so I guess people other than me didn't care. Or thought they didn't care.

And that's the real danger - if mass use is ultimately made of this data and it starts to have unexpected consequences for the participants it will deter people not only from participating in medical research but even from seeking medical treatment. It's not just privacy that will be the ultimate casualty.

Comment Re: Don't care (Score 1) 174

It's a bit more subtle than that. The BBC is obliged to have more than 50% (I forget the exact figure) of its programming made by third parties. This was done because of agitation against the "monopoly" status of the BBC when most of its programming was made in house and was supposed to encourage the development of a lively creative sector which would boost the British economy by selling its content abroad. And there was, briefly, an explosion of independent production companies. mostly founded by people who walked away from the BBC with contracts to make the programmes the BBC would otherwise have made itself, likely with the same people. A lot of those companies were then sold to international media conglomerates.

So, the BBC is basically now in a position where it is taking money off the UK licence payer and giving it to multinational commecial enterprises to make programmes for which it only has the UK rights. Where the BBC has been making and exporting its own formats (eg. Strictly Come Dancing / Dancing with the Stars) it has been criticised by conservative politicians for being too populist and unfairly competing with commercial broadcasters for "their" audience.

It does appear that there is a political determination to turn the BBC into something like PBS - domestically-produced dull, worthy, talking-head programmes with a few higher-budget internationally-produced dramas interspersed with desperate appeals for money.

Comment Re:The web has outgrown HTML 15 years ago (Score 4, Insightful) 95

If you want an app, write an app.

I had a look at your 16-year-old example. Frankly, I'd have quit after the "Now Loading" and "Click to Start" and never got as far as skipping the pointless "intro" as well if I hadn't felt obliged to go the extra step in the interests of exploring your argument.

I just want the information, particularly on a mobile device. I don't care about the "design". I don't care about "immersive". I don't want to waste my time with pointy and clicky things that shoot around the screen for no apparent reason. That's what *you* want. And that's just as bad as what all those ad-merchants want - it's just crap that gets in my way and wastes my time.

Comment "It would likely cost quite a lot of money ..." (Score 5, Interesting) 124

It used to be around 5K USD for a one-way trip across the atlantic, so it was already a lot of money then, and the only reason the cost wasn't higher was that the planes were gifted to the airlines.

And despite the trappings of luxury, that money bought you speed but no real comfort. The seats were narrow, the aisle was narrow, you were relieved of coats and other encumberances because there was no room in the cabin for them. There were fewer catering options than 1st class owing to space limitations. The extinguishing and relighting of the afterburners as part of noise control procedures was rather disconcerting for infrequent travellers, as was the temperature of the inner skin of the aircraft. And you had to sit next to the incurably self-important.

I've only flown Concord by accident (when the 747 service was cancelled) and while it was a novel experience, the plane was a technical curiosity rather than a practical form of transport - and well past its sell-by date by the time it was taken out of service.

Comment Re:I foresee a sudden demand for raises (Score 2) 430

The problem here is that companies like Google don't have a clue what their employees are contributing. They don't even know (in any meaningful sense) why they employee a lot of them - look at all their abandonware. They have a huge amount of money coming in and hire people they think they might be able to use, possibly not right now, possibly for no purpose yet defined. They may work more or fewer hours, commit larger or smaller numbers of lines of code, but does that ultimately translate into better or worse value for Google? Who knows? The line manager almost certainly doesn't.

That means salaries aren't really tied to any concrete business metric, but to extrinsics - how much managerial time would have to be spent replacing people, how much empire-building the line manager is trying to do, how much you want to stop your competitors having access to the "best" talent. In other words, they're going to be arbitrary, to all intents and purposes.

Comment Your card will likely not be welcome... (Score 1) 294

In parallel with this trend, European countries are getting increasingly fussy about which cards they will accept. Recently, railways in The Netherlands, for example, wouldn't accept cards that had Visa or Mastercard logos - only V Pay or Maestro (European debit card variants). These latter aren't even routinely issued in the UK where most debit cards are branded Visa or Mastercard and are viewed as "credit" cards in most European countries. If you wanted to buy a railway ticket in Amsterdam station, your best bet as a visitor was normally to withdraw cash from the ATM and then queue at the ticket counter. There has been a recent change of policy, but you'll pay an additional 50c for the privilege of using your Visa/Mastercard.

You'll also find that stored-value cards for things like transport are increasingly common and often the only way to get the best-value fares. However, the card will likely have limited geographical scope (eg the London Oyster Card), so if you're travelling widely you'll need a bunch of them or pay higher fares.

While these schemes may make life easier/cheaper for locals, they can make life for visitors increasingly complicated.

Mind you, these supposedly transnational card networks have always been rather parochial. A lot of years ago I came across an ATM in Germany with a handwritten signed attached saying "Nur Deutschen Eurokarten"...

Comment Re:And just like that, UK has a GeStaPo.... (Score 1) 83

The only thing about this that's new is the scale - modern technology has simply enabled surveillance that would not have been feasible a decade ago.

And as you say, it doesn't flow from politicians, per se. You only have to look at the unproven, but plausible reports of the security services pursuit of Prime Minister Harold Wilson to realise that elected politicians too may be the target if they are suspected by the establishment of deviating too far from the status quo.

Comment Re:Stop charging for checked bag (Score 2) 273

Actually, the IATA proposal was a recommended MINIMUM size for cabin baggage (actually, two sizes, there's a smaller capacity defined for very small aircraft) so that passengers could acquire one bag that they could take everywhere. There may be a common size in North America, but in the rest of the world there isn't and oversize baggage charges are a source of some considerable revenue to budget airlines and annoyance to passengers, particularly when their journey involves more than one budget carrier. There was certainly never any intent to prevent airlines carrying larger bags in the cabin if they wanted to. Indeed aircraft manufacturers are going to be fitting larger overhead bins to planes to deal with the increase in carry-on luggage. However, this has been spun essentially as a "Mars bars are getting smaller" story, so the proposal has, now, AFAIK, been withdrawn in face of intense public opposition to something that was never proposed in the first place...

Intel CPUs are not defective, they just act that way. -- Henry Spencer