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Comment Re:lego bricks (Score 1) 204

My son (just turned 5) never really liked megabloks, duplo or any of the bigger 'block' construction toys, but loves standard Lego. He has quite a few Lego City sets, so generally vehicles, and a large bag of ebay sourced 'mixed bricks'. Nothing from any commercial tie-in theme, which he wouldn't recognize anyway. He is capable, when in the mood and not too tired, of following even quite long instruction books through, although it is a rare construction that does not then get heavily modified afterwards.
If he is particularly lucky he gets to play with 'Daddy Lego'. My old technic sets, some of which are approaching 40 years old.

Comment Re:Astro Stuff (Score 1) 204

Do not encourage solar observing at a young age. Wait until they are old enough that you can trust them to carefully inspect the filter for damage and check it is properly in place before EVERY time they use it. Besides which, cheap filters will only let you safely see a silhouette of the sun, so are good for transits or eclipses, but that is about all. If you want to see proper solar activity you need a narrow bandwidth filter for the hydrogen alpha (other wavelengths are available) wavelength, and they are very expensive.

Comment Surge protectors may not protect (Score 1) 236

All my kit used to be connected to surge protectors, but having had the main trip switch go a number of times I got a professional electrician in. He commented that surge protectors and RCD units (not old fashioned fuse-wire) in the main distributor box can interact to cause slight earth leakage, leading to the trip. Sure enough, changing the surge protectors back to standard 4/6/8-ways stopped the frequent failures.
In addition, and this is UK specific and may not apply in the US, the way the national grid is designed prevents the sort of high spike on the live connector that a surge protector is meant to block. In the unlucky case of a _very_ close lightning strike to the ground there will be a surge, but it will come through the earth wire, not the live, which the surge protector cannot stop. Phone line spike protection can still be a good idea though.

Comment Re:n/t (Score 2) 278

Yes, CO2 does increase the heat capacity of the atmosphere. Yes, industrial processes release CO2.
HOWEVER, if that was all there was to it, the global temperature increase would pretty small. (Probably measurable over a long enough period, but not enough to have a serious impact.) It is the supposed secondary effects that are claimed to produce the large changes. e.g. A slight increase in temperature increases the water evaporation rate faster than it increases the rainfall rate, so leads to an increase in cloud cover, and clouds trap heat, so the temperature goes up further. To model this sort of thing accurately you need a very good model, otherwise you get answers that are probably wrong, although also possibly just what your assumptions lead you to think it should. Early climate models did not even include clouds, and the above chain reaction was used outside the model as an 'obvious' argument for global warming. I have not looked at the current state of models for some time, but even after some started to incorporate cloud modelling they still did not include atmospheric dust. Higher temperatures lead to more ground dust, which is picked up by the wind and becomes nucleation centres for rain drops to form on, reducing the cloud cover again, counteracting the above change.
Why do you think that the models have not predicted the pause in the temperature rise for most of the last two decades, where explanations such as deep ocean heat absorption are now been suggested? It is because the models are incomplete, and so provide forecasts that may sometimes coincide with reality and sometimes diverge.
My background is as a physicist, and I used to produce computer models. Just simple ones of a dozen electrons, but changing a few parameters slightly could lead to large changes of behaviour. When somebody says that drastic action needs to be taken I need more assurance than 'The computer model says so.'

Comment Technical ineptitude (Score 1) 94

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. From the article:
For example, parents may not be aware that network-level blocking systems are unable to selectively filter ‘encrypted’ traffic. ‘Https’ encryption is a way to make traffic unreadable by intermediaries such as ISPs. It is widely used in online financial transactions, for example. It is also increasingly common in routine, everyday Internet use. New browsers are built to check if encryption is available, and if so, to use it. Encryption makes it impossible for an ISP to ‘check’ the web address the user is visiting.
For example, recently BT was ordered by a court to block customers’ access to ‘Newzbin2’. But that does not prevent people from visiting ‘’.

Somebody doesn't understand the difference between an address and a protocol.


Officials Sue Couple Who Removed Their Lawn 819

Hugh Pickens writes "The LA Times reports that Orange County officials are locked in a legal battle with a couple accused of violating city ordinances for replacing the grass on their lawn with wood chips and drought-tolerant plants, reducing their water usage from 299,221 gallons in 2007 to 58,348 gallons in 2009. The dispute began two years ago, when Quan and Angelina Ha tore out the grass in their front yard. In drought-plagued Southern California, the couple said, the lush grass had been soaking up tens of thousands of gallons of water — and hundreds of dollars — each year. 'We've got a newborn, so we want to start worrying about her future,' said Quan Ha, an information technology manager for Kelley Blue Book. But city officials told the Has they were violating several city laws that require that 40% of residential yards to be landscaped predominantly with live plants. Last summer, the couple tried to appease the city by building a fence around the yard and planting drought-tolerant greenery — lavender, rosemary, horsetail, and pittosporum, among others. But according to the city, their landscaping still did not comply with city standards. At the end of January, the Has received a letter saying they had been charged with a misdemeanor violation and must appear in court. The couple could face a maximum penalty of six months in jail and a $1,000 fine for their grass-free, eco-friendly landscaping scheme. 'It's just funny that we pay our taxes to the city and the city is now prosecuting us with our own money,' says Quan Ha."

Ubisoft's Constant Net Connection DRM Confirmed 631

A few weeks ago we discussed news of Ubisoft's DRM plans for future games, which reportedly went so far as to require a constant net connection, terminating your game if you get disconnected for any reason. Well, it's here; upon playing review copies of the PC version of Assassin's Creed 2 and Settlers VII, PCGamer found the DRM just as annoying as you might expect. Quoting: "If you get disconnected while playing, you're booted out of the game. All your progress since the last checkpoint or savegame is lost, and your only options are to quit to Windows or wait until you're reconnected. The game first starts the Ubisoft Game Launcher, which checks for updates. If you try to launch the game when you're not online, you hit an error message right away. So I tried a different test: start the game while online, play a little, then unplug my net cable. This is the same as what happens if your net connection drops momentarily, your router is rebooted, or the game loses its connection to Ubisoft's 'Master servers.' The game stopped, and I was dumped back to a menu screen — all my progress since it last autosaved was lost."

Steampunk Con Mixes In More Maker Fun 50

California has once again been blessed with another steampunk convention, this time to be held in Emeryville, CA on March 12-14 as the "Nova Albion Steampunk Exhibition." This year's event promises to mix in much more of the DIY/maker flavor for a greater hands-on feel. Steampunk has been gaining much broader appeal in recent months with the continued growth of maker communities, and the many delightful varieties of music and literature. The con will feature, among other things, a 2 day track of 2-hour how-to, hands-on, and interactive workshops gear towards makers, DIY-ers, mad scientists, and evil geniuses. Of course, if you are an evil genius you probably don't need a workshop except as a gathering for potential test subjects.

Facebook Mafiosi Go To the Mattresses vs. Zynga 102

sympleko writes "Zynga has the lion's share of traffic in Facebook applications, and Mafia Wars is one of their most popular social games. Collapsing under the weight of over 26 million users, Zynga has been scrambling to thwart hard-core gamers who reverse-engineer URLs or script the game to optimize their enjoyment. Many of the workarounds have annoyed users who were accustomed to various game features, and even worse, the hastily-deployed changes have resulted in many players losing access to the game, in-game prizes, or statistics. Fed up with a software company seemingly bent on discouraging people from enjoying their product, a number of tagged players have organized a boycott of all Zynga games. The first 24-hour boycott on Sunday 12/13 resulted in an 11% decline in Daily Active Users, and an emergency thread on Zynga's forums (from which most of the flames were deleted). The current boycott, extending Wednesday through Sunday is being supported by a 428K strong Facebook group. At issue is the social contract between software companies and their devoted user base, as well as the nefarious tactics Zynga has used to raise cash."

Dad Delivers Baby Using Wiki 249

sonamchauhan writes "A Londoner helped his wife deliver their baby by Googling 'how to deliver a baby' on his mobile phone. From the article: 'Today proud Mr Smith said: "The midwife had checked Emma earlier in the day but contractions started up again at about 8pm so we called the midwife to come back. But then everything happened so quickly I realized Emma was going to give birth. I wasn't sure what I was going to do so I just looked up the instructions on the internet using my BlackBerry."'"
First Person Shooters (Games)

Infinity Ward Fights Against Modern Warfare 2 Cheaters 203

Faithbleed writes "IW's Robert Bowling reports on his twitter account that Infinity Ward is giving 2,500 Modern Warfare 2 cheaters the boot. The news comes as the war between IW and MW2's fans rages over the decision to go with IWnet hosting instead of dedicated servers. Unhappy players were quick to come up with hacks that would allow their own servers and various other changes." Despite the dedicated-server complaints, Modern Warfare 2 has sold ridiculously well.
Emulation (Games)

Nintendo Upset Over Nokia Game Emulation Video 189

An anonymous reader writes "Nintendo is investigating potential copyright infringement by Nokia during some video demos of their N900 phone, which can be seen emulating Nintendo games. Nintendo spokesman Robert Saunders says: 'We take rigorous steps to protect our IP and our legal team will examine this to determine if any infringement has taken place.' In the video, Nokia says, 'Most publishers allow individual title usage, provided that the user is in possession of the original title.'"

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