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Comment Re:Of course they do (Score 1) 34

I don't have specific experience as a contractor, but - with a different spin - it seems eminently plausible. I was a permanent employee for decades, and IBM was always keen to encourage people to develop potential patents, in any area and on any topic whatsoever (and reward them for doing so - a few people made serious money in the process). The attitude was basically that a patent you owned was of value, whatever it might be and whether it had any relevance to your direct business or not, even if it only meant that a competitor agreed more readily to mutual access to THEIR patents (which is why I always smile wryly whenever I see another, outraged "IBM has patented xxxxxx!" post). Ideas that were good, but not quite up to true patent quality, were disclosed, to put them in the public domain and render them useless to other potential filers. I have no doubt that they would have attempted to get contractors involved as well. I guess that if you see yourself as a body for hire, only there in the short term, you might see the process as an attempt at "strip-mining", but seen from another angle I knew plenty of people who had multiple patents to their names (and on their CVs), who would never have brought them to publication without the program in question.

Comment Re:Electric Mountain, Wales (Score 1) 324

Sounds like a variant of Electric Mountain in the UK. The same thing is done, only instead of moving trains up the hill they move water instead. There's more in the Wikipedia article - essentially though, this idea works fine.

Can't help thinking that water is the better option (where it's an option at all). Whether or not this method is, as claimed, more efficient - which caim, frankly, strikes me as more of an issue of politics and engineering than of physics - it's still going to take one heck of a lot of trains to store the same amount of mass (and therefore potential energy) as one decent-sized reservoir.

Comment You can have too much of a good thing... (Score 1) 173

Elevated CO2 levels might, up to a point, have at least some useful, maybe even vaguely beneficial, effects (I'm no expert - I'll defer to those who are). But even if that's true, like everything in the whole climate discussion, it's wise not to forget that changes aren't likely to just stop at some convenient point - they're not only likely to keep going, but in a worst case to snowball utterly beyond our ability to do anything but hang on and watch (in a worst-case scenario, that may already be the case).

To draw a vague (but possibly familiar) parallel...

Anyone who's done any home brewing, or who simply understands roughly how brewing works, knows that it takes yeast. And yeast feeds on sugars. Add a little bit more sugar to your brew, you'll increase yeast productivity. Unfortunately, that's only part of the story - because the effect doesn't scale indefinitely. Add TOO much sugar, and the yeast won't grow at all. (It's also worth pointing out that things don't normally exactly end well for the yeast. which eventually dies from its own waste products - roughly what we're in danger of doing, in fact. But that's a slightly different point.)

Comment Re:It never works (Score 1) 98

Sadly true. I worked inside a big, household name corporation for years, and my reaction was exactly the same as yours - if you want to change your culture fast, the only way you'll do it is to rip people out, root and branch, all the way up the corporate tree. You CAN turn the culture of a company around less dramatically, but it usually takes years to decades, because mostly the culture is the people, and just telling everyone to work, let alone think, differently, simply isn't enough to make it happen - even if they want it to. They simply come with too much personal (and interpersonal) baggage. From observation, I used to reckon that you could manage just about ONE big process or methods change a year (out of maybe a dozen or more that most people were involved in). Anything beyond that, and it didn't happen - sure, people would say that they were doing the new stuff, but in practice they were simply too overloaded with the need to actually get a job done to focus on doing everything the "new" way - and whenever the chips were down, they'd pay lip-service to the new stuff, but fall back on the old, tried-and-tested ways under the covers.

Comment Inaccurate (Score 1) 156

No, algorithmic traders don't do what he's accused of. The accusation is basically that he routinely placed and then deliberately cancelled big buy or sell orders with no intent of completing them. The reason for doing that would be to bounce precisely those software traders into responses that he could predict and profit from. The facts don't seem to be greatly in dispute, but what's odd here is that, whilst what he's doing is an offence in the US. It's NOT, in and of itself, an offence in the UK. And the treaty under which extradition is being sought is SUPPOSED to only apply to behaviour that is illegal in both jurisdictions. The problem is that a court has ruled that he can be extradited, and it's normally hard to see that renowned bastion of individual freedom, the Honourable Member for Maidenhead (a.k.a. Theresa may, the Home Secretary) actually telling the US it can't have whatever takes its fancy.

Comment No question. The shipping container. (Score 1) 330

For my money, the most disruptive technology of the last century - the one that has genuinely done THE most to change the society we live in and the lives of everyone in it - is the humble standardized shipping container. Containers and the infrastructure to handle them mean that we can now ship immense quantities of goods of all shapes, sizes and types from one side of the planet to the other, at a cost per mile per item that's so small it's barely measurable. They mean that it is, literally, cheaper now to move many manufactured goods from one side of the planet to the other, than it used to be to ship them 10 miles down the road. As a manufacturer, it means that, in principle, you can source your materials and parts from anywhere on the globe. Want to manufacture part of your product in Europe, but assemble it in Asia? Do it. Ban shipping containers tomorrow, and the global economy would grind to a shuddering halt in days. And it doesn't matter what other technology you care to point to as a candidate - it's shipping containers that make it globally available. Head and shoulders the winner.

Comment Re:Don't overthink it (Score 1) 174

Back them up.

I have slides that my parents took. Sadly, the colour decayed in many of them, and my mother threw far too many of the "worst" ones out (including ones of several episodes in my life that I'd love to have the record of now). A real shame, as when they came into my possession on her death, and I scanned such as were left so that various branches of the family could have copies, the scanner software was perfectly capable of restoring the colour balance. But the message is still there - slides decay, and they're irreplaceable. Take a backup.

I keep my important files under single directories on a hard drive on each of my two desktop machines. I back them up regularly with an incremental backup, excluding deletes, to (a) a second hard drive internal to the machine, and (b) an external hard drive. I don't delete images from my cameras until I'm happy that I've backed them up successfully, both internally and externally. I also swap to new directories on the backup drives from time to time and do a new, complete backup, and to new drives every couple of years or so. I check-sample the content of the originals and backups every once in a while. I can't guarantee that I won't lose something important eventually, but in practice I have quite a few copies of just about anything you care to name, and it's going to take something pretty extreme to do it.

Comment Yes, but. (Score 3, Interesting) 139

Presuming they were able to detect the CMB - which would NOT look the same in all directions - and "correctly" identify it (i.e., presuming that that's what we've done), they would then also be able to calculate their own relative movement, and correct for it. So they'd reach pretty much the same answer that we do.

Comment Re:Where are the old men in limos? (Score 1) 258

It's an utterly traditional British usage - deliberately OTT stereotyping to make a point. We have: "White Van Man". "Mondeo Man". "'Disgusted' of Tumbridge Wells". "The Man on the Clapham Omnibus" (a term met in the courts here, no less). "NIMBYs" ('Not In My Back Yard'). Even, going back a bit further, "Colonel Blimp". Probably half a dozen more that don't spring to mind right now. They all use exaggerated characterisation to draw an impression of a certain type of person. You'd need to be either foreign or pretty new to the UK not to understand that the speaker isn't using the description literally.

Comment Only going to get worse (Score 4, Interesting) 262

OK, so there's a security patch available. So what? "We regret that you crashed at 85mph yesterday - please download our latest patch?" The problem is not the software per se, but the mere fact that there's external access at all. Because there's simply no such thing as "flawless" code. And the internet's been around long enough to show us that, if there's any legitimate way in, people who want to abuse the system will get in as well, and find a way to subvert it. And right now all we're seeing are "white hat" attacks; just wait until the black hat guys start getting creative.

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