June 30, 2005

Europhobia - a vision from the future

Europhobia (who has still to show me why the EU is a good idea, but I keep looking) has brought a vision from the Tyrant Blairs future into the present.
"What was surprising yesterday was that four people, in Bundesgrenzschutz uniform got on the train at Colmar in France and during the 10km journey to Saarbrücken in Germany, went through the entire train demanding to see the ID/Passports of everyone on board. After showing one of them my passport, I asked the man (who was, I should add, friendly, courteous and polite) why border passport controls were still taking place 15 years after Schengen. 'Oh, it’s not a border control,' he said, 'just a random, spot check'"
Personally I cannot stand the idea of being stopped and have my papers demanded from me, simply for the privalege of existing under the benevolent gaze of our Dear Leader. I do not need a licence from the government to exist.

I thought twice about posting this because as a Eurosceptic it might me construed as a jibe at the Germans, it isn't it is a jibe at ID Cards and the authoritarians that love them.

using the ban on protest as a protest on the ban on protest

Since the Tryant Blair banned protest in central London, with in typical New Labour style legislation so bad that it actually also bans wearing slogan t-shirts and wrist bands, some informed citzens at pledgebank have thought up a very cunning protest.

They want as many people as possible to request the right to protest for a month in that area using up police time and demonstrating exactly what a bad and stupid law this is. I'm not in London and so will not be able to do this pledge as you have to hand your application to a police station in the metropolitan area, but should anybody that is able to take part stumble across this blog please take the pledge 'I will apply for authorisation to demonstrate in the vicinity of Parliament every day for a month from 1st August 2005'.

Opinion - Anatole Kaletsky Times Online

Anatole Kaletsky of The Times argues that blair has a historic oppertunity to save the EU from itself. All he has to do so reverse the Aquis Communitaire and restore democracy and diversity to the EU, rather than continued integration, transforming it into a free trade area.

After which I guess he would solve the Isreal/Palestine conflict, find a cure for cancer, and show how to get around the Laws of Thermodynamics to create perpetual motion generator to solve the worlds energy needs. Sorry nerver going to happen, the best that we can ever hope while we are in it is for the EU to slows it's integration down. The only way to actually get to the situation she proposes is the complete destruction of the current EU and it's replacement with something else.

This is of course ignoring the simple fact that our Dear Leader hates democracy, and anything that could lead to his people experiencing more of it. While Britian may be in her words "eccentric", meaning
British-style “eccentric” countries, characterised by liberal individualism, pragmatism, grassroots democracy and disdain for authority.
as opposed to continental style "concentric" meaning
French-style “concentric” countries, respectful of order and authority, rigorously rational and politically centralised
, Blair isn't. Blair is not culturally British, from his actions whilst in government we can see he does not believe in liberal individualism, or grassroots democracy. If anything the Blair government is chariterised by a love of imposing authority of the people that it controls and destroying liberal individualism. Blair cannot promote the British culture because he is not part of it and does not like it, he much prefers politically centralised and respect of imposed authority.

Britain's First Jedi Member of Parliament

Apparently we have a Jedi Member of Parliament, OK he was mainly using this a ploy to ridicule, rather easy to ridicule, the Religous Hatred Bill. But does this mean that when the New Labour authoritarians push this bit of crap through I won't be able to say that Phantom Menice sucked, remember telling the truth (or even not meaning any harm) is not an excuse under this bill.

June 29, 2005

Atheism-poverty link challenged.

Harry's Place has a link to the devastatingly simple reposté to Mark Steyn of the Telegraph who said " there aren't many examples of successful post-religious societies", the answer Japan secular yet very stable and despite being marred in recession for a long time very sucsessful. Personally I would also point out that it is the area's where there is the highest level of religous involvement in social life, that is the theocracies, tend to be piss poor hell holes.

Greenpeace on Fusion.

Tim Worstall has picked up Greenpeace's oppersition to Fusion. But if you want the source here is the original press release, containing this jem:
Fusion energy - if it would ever operate - would create a serious waste problem, would emit large amounts of radioactive material and could be used to produce materials for nuclear weapons. A whole new set of nuclear risks would thus be created.
So many errors in such a short space.

"if it would ever operate":
It does opperate, now. JET has been producing reliable fusion for years. Fusors for decades and on the kind of bugets that mean you can build one yourself in your garage. The problem is getting more energy out than you put in. JET could just about hit break even, and Iter is set to go beyond that.

"would create a serious waste problem"
The ash is Helium, a gas that is chemically inert, non-toxic, and non-radioactive. This is the gas used by deep sea divers for years as a replacement for nitrogen to avoid the bends.

The actual reaction produces high energy neutrons, which can alter the isotpes of the materials used to make the structure and turn it radioactive. But being locked into the structure reach the outside, and tend to have short haft-lives. Calculations show that after you switch the reactor off for about 20 any radioactive isotopes within the stucture will have decayed back to the original non-radioactive isotopes.

Most of the neutrons are absorbed in a lithium blanket turning the lithium to helium and tritium, which is radioactive. But the tritium is feed back into the reactor as it is one of the fuels, it never gets into the enviroment. So there is some radioactive material produced, but it is never released and most of it isn't "waste" it's fuel.

"could be used to produce materials for nuclear weapons"
How? For atomic fission weapons you need heavy isotopes, Uranium or Plutonium. Fussion reactors generate helium. Any isotope changes in the structure are never going to produce elements this heavy.

To generate weapons grade Plutonium you do need high energy neutrons, which could be found from fusion reactors. This is why the military funded fussion research in the 1950's. Until they found fussion reactors are simply not very good at this role, so they stopped funding. Nobody is every going to use a fusion reactor for generating weapons grade Plutonium for the simple reason that they arn't good at it, and there are other methods that are.

Now for fussion weapons you need exactly the same fuel as for fussion reactors. So by burning it you are destorying "materials for nuclear weapons" not producing them.

It appears that when the BBC quoted them they got rid of the more stupid stuff and left just the more plausible reasons for not liking Iter. However in the light of that press release their real objection seems to be "nuclear bad, change scary".

BBC Have Your Say on "Do you support ID cards?"

a few notes from BBC NEWS Have Your Say on Do you support ID cards?
I work in the computing industry and have interests in security and socio-political issues. ID cards are a disaster waiting to happen; they impinge on the liberties of the individual; they would not solve the problems they purport to; they would introduce whole new types of fraud; they would be costly to introduce and maintain. The government says that this is a manifesto commitment and they must proceed.

It didn't stop them introducing top-up tuition fess when the 2001 manifesto said they legislate to prevent it, did it? I will not submit information to the database and I will not pay for a card I do not want and have actively protested against having. Which part of no is proving to be a problem, Mr Blair?
Darren Stephens, Whitby, UK

As an IT worker, the prospect of ID cards scares me. To say that the system will be foolproof is an utter misconception. Users will be able to access the system; I'm sure that someone, somewhere along the line, will offer information for sale. And, what happens when there's an error in the data? Look at how annoying it can be when there's an error in your credit rating and you are refused a loan; imagine what it would be like if there is incorrect information held and you are stopped by the police or at passport control?

Who will they believe your insistence that the data is wrong, or the database? Do you get seven days to provide the correct information? A terrorist could raze London to the ground in that time. If they are not compulsory, and don't have to be carried, what is the point? Use the initial money (and the inevitable overspend) for a better cause. I certainly don't want to invest my own hard earned cash in this new-age, New Labour totalitarian state.
Andrew, Newport, Gwent

As a former rescue IT project manager - somebody who spent his time putting right large scale IT projects that had previously gone wrong, I am quite certain that the ID cards scheme will be the largest public sector IT disaster in history. The pomposity of the politicians in dismissing the considered opinions of the LSE team is disgraceful.

By the time we have wasted more than £18bn, the present collection of politicos will have long since moved on and we the taxpayers will be left with the bill. And, by the way, I have no intention of taking one up - something that Stalin or Hitler would have loved is not for me - thanks.
John Shelton, London, UK

I work in the industry. Nothing on a computer system is 100% safe. Also, anything can be forged (chip + pin has not stopped fraud on cards). Biometric passports are coming in, which means we will all have to travel to an office to get one and how many offices will be set up? The bottom line is that it could take up to 10 years for everyone who wants a passport to get a new biometric one. How do you force people who don't get a passport to get an ID card? There are huge problems with this scheme even before you start on civil liberties, terrorism, etc. Forget the ID cards for now and just get the passports working.
Peter, UK

current vote levels on " Should the UK have ID cards?"
Yes 17%
No 83%
5669 Votes Cast

MPs narrowly back ID cards plan

so we've taken another step towards the big brother society so beloved of New Labour as MPs narrowly back ID cards. As a sop Charles Clarke has said that he will cap the costs, he hasn't said at what level however, and anyway that would just be the up front cost as the scheme will still be paid for with tax payers money, our money, no matter how far the costs spiral.

There where 20 rebels, hopefully this number will grow on the third reading. So now it is back to the House of Lords, increasingly becoming the only balwark between us and this authoriarian government. They will be overruled eventually, using the Parliment Act, despite the House of Lords having been "reformed".

June 28, 2005

Fussion reactors, a little more progress

Finally, the location for Iter has been decided, it only took 18 months of wrangling. Iter is to be in southern France so now construction can begin on this 10 billion euro project. Iter itself will not generate electricity, but it should get beyond break-even and actually start producing more energy than it consumes. JET managed to just about get to thermodynamic break-even, so if you added all of the energy that it was putting out in all of it's forms it was equal to the amount of energy put in. Iter will not finish construction until at least 2016 but it should do better than JET actually release more recoverable energy than it consumes. Beyond that we are looking at DEMO, the first actual fusion power plant. Typically the greenies are up in arms about people attempting to make new things and push the boundaries of technology:
"With 10 billion [euros], we could build 10,000MW offshore windfarms, delivering electricity for 7.5 million European households," said Jan Vande Putte of Greenpeace International.

"Governments should not waste our money on a dangerous toy which will never deliver any useful energy. Instead, they should invest in renewable energy which is abundantly available, not in 2080 but today."
Much of which is actually true as Iter is very expensive (personally I think that much quicker progress could be made by investing in Electrostatic confinement devices such as trying to work the bugs out of Fusors which are much cheaper and can therefore have a greater number of experiments and faster iterations between) and will not actually generate any useful energy. But like always whilst extolling the virtues of wind power they forget to mention that a back up is needed for when the wind doesn't blow, a backup capable of generating 80% of the energy of the wind turbines. With only current technologies capable of doing this are fossil fuels or fission. Strange that they never mention this.

The EU to Introduce Exchange Controls? Actually no

A couple weeks ago I was reading Village Hampden when I came across a post about the EU possibly introducing exchange controls. I'm rather ignorant as far as proper economic theory is concerned and so on opining that if this where so it would be a bad idea I mentioned that I would really have like to get opinions from people that actually know something about economics. Well the blog gods have smiled and Tim Worstall has answered (I guess mentioning him by name helped).

I’m not sure if people know that this is a restriction already enshrined in most domestic law. It really is about limiting cash transfers and is mostly justified by the drugs trade (not terrorism).
So not really new exchange controls of the type that where seen in the 1950's, but rather the simple yet another take over of what was formally an issue of national law by the EU.
No, I’m not in favour of these laws at all. But just to make the point, they have nothing to do with exchange controls.

Tim Worstall: ID Cards...Waste of Space, Time and Money.

Tim Worstall is not very happy about ID Cards...Waste of Space, Time and Money apparently.

Evening Standard demolishes the £1.3 billion identity fraud hype

SpyBlog has found a nice article from the Evening Standard which demolishes the £1.3 billion identity fraud hype, identity fraud being the reason de jour for ID Cards which will of course be replaced as soon as this kind of thing get to a wider audience:
"And thus the Governmet's supposed £1.3 billion tally of identity fraud falls to no more than £150 million, just over a tenth of the claimed figure."

and there are much cheaper alternatives than the £90 (a wild underestimate) that the governments claims an ID Card will cost, which actually will protect you from identity fraud and without most of the destruction of your personal Civil Liberties (obviously why the government isn't promoting them).

CIFAS, once a leading supporter of ID cards, now seem to have turned rather lukewarm about the Government's grand design. "It's very hard to say that ID cards will prevent identity theft," says Young. "It could have some benefits - that's as far as we'll go."

However, if you are worried about identity theft, there are rather more effective and cheaper safeguards than an ID card. For £11.75 you can ask CIFAS for "protective registration", which means they will carry out tough extra checks on any new application in your name. For £45, you can sign up for monitoring with a credit reference agency such as Experian, so you'll be alerted the moment anyone tries to apply for credit as you.

BBC, Do you support ID cards? No

BBC Have Your Say today is on ID Cards, currently their poll is running:
"Yes 16%
No 84%
3611 Votes Cast"
Nice to know that the vast majority are in favour, as Charles Clarke keeps telling us.

The far left meets the far right

Thanks to anit-semitism stirred up in relation to Isreal David Aaronovitch of The Times is reporting the merger of far right neo-nazis holocaust deniers and the far left Trotskyists of SWP
There are a couple of questions left begging there. Are the readers, in the SWP’s usually magisterial and definite opinion, right to “feel” that the distinction between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism is being blurred, or not? And is Atzmon being exempted from banishment because he is merely a disorganised racist?

Or is it that an influential section of the far Left has, in this instance and on this issue, completely and disgracefully lost its political and moral compass?
So is there any room for a mreger between these two seeming polar opposites? Yes, a S
shameful and stupid hatred of Isreal and Jews, and and equally shameful and stupid hatred of freedom.

Space Ring Could Shade Earth and Stop Global Warming

An interesting idea found by Tim Worstall that a space ring could shade the Earth and stop global warming better than the Kyoto Protocol. While it would be very cool to have an extensive ring system, and be the only rocky planet to do so, there could be problems, such as with this many small particles around it would make for a very hazardous enviroment for saterlites, and returning to a pre saterlite age (as with uninventing any technology, as greens always seem to want) would be a major hardship for civilisation due to, for example, the degradation in accuracy of weather forcasting.

Galileo, Galileo, Figero

EU Referendum is talking about the EU's Galileo system, designed to rival the American GPS. It will of course never be particually sucessful if it is ever launched, why would you pay to use an untried system when there is an already very sucessful one running that can be used for free? Anyway there has been a EU fudge so that what was supposed to be two rival bids, which might have actually led to (shock, horror) competition and value for money, has become a typical EU stitch up so that everybody can get their nose in the trough.

One of the proposed uses for the Galileo system is to facilitate road charging based on the number of miles you drive, and tracking the locations of every car in the UK (you didn't expect this government to come up with an idea that didn't push their authoritarian agenda). So as a bit of public service blogging, here are the flaws in the system, and how to exploit them.

It will have to have some kind of system to discourage tampering. This can either come in two forms, immobilisation or phoning home to report you to MiniLuv.

If they choose immobilisation this can either happen when you tamper with the Gestapo Chips, (which is not really required anyway), or when it loses signal from the satterlite. They will not immobilise your car when the chip loses signal. This is because there are ligitimate places where it would not be able to get signal, such as the underground car parks at Westminster used by MP's, and in tunnels.

Imagine the charnage if everytime a car enters a tunnel it's engine cuts out. We are talking about daily multiple pileups, and even for this government would think twice about that. Or even worse MP's park their own cars in an underground car park, if they could not start them they might have to face public transport. Not something that they are even going to contemplate happening.

So it's got to be the phone MiniLuv option (why did I think it would be this one). However again there are ligitimate places where it will not be able to get phone signal either, such as the underground car parks at Westminster. So it will not be able to kill the engine simply because it can't get hold of Big Brother to tell it what to do.

So all that you need do is stop signals getting to the Gestapo Chips antenna, you do not need to get the chip itself so any tamper protection there is circumvented. This can be done with a simple tin foil shield over them. Details of where they are will appear on the internet within days of the chips being released into the wild (I'll link to them as soon as I find them). Remove it when you go for your MOT and replace afterwards. If they quiery why the odometer is so different from the amount that you've paid in road charge simply either disable the odometer (this will affect re-sale price) since having one is not a requirement, or just tell them that you enjoy driving around in private underground car parks (which will give you some strange looks).

Guardian prints some good sense on the folly of ID Cards

The area of the blogosphere that I inhabit does not noramlly have many kind words for the Guardian. But it appears that today they have printed something that we can all agree with, ID Cards are folly:
"Yet for a textbook illustration of the place of folly in British politics, it is unnecessary to look further than the government's preoccupation with the identity cards legislation that returns to the Commons today. That there is a case for identity cards is no more in doubt than that there is a case for the invasion of Iraq or for closing your eyes and wishing for poverty to disappear. The problem - as in these other cases - is that the case is simply not strong enough and that the government has not made it.

"It is difficult for an independent minded person to argue with the approach put forward by David Davis on this subject when the government first began to paint itself into a corner in support of an ambitious biometric ID card system more than a year ago. Any proposal, Davis argued, had to be measured against four criteria. Will it work to achieve the stated goals? Is the government capable of introducing such a system? Is it cost effective? And can civil liberties be safeguarded?

"With the best will in the world, it is hard to answer yes to any, never mind all, of these questions as things stand."

This is not just in one editorial, but two, the second on Surveillance creep and the ever extending reach of Big Brother and the New Labour project for forging an authoritarian Surveillance state:
The report from the academic team is not just based on their own expertise. They consulted widely across the world with over 100 industry representatives and other experts. They identified six potential flaws. The most obvious was that no government in the world had undertaken a scheme on such a scale. More worrying was that the best ID systems were clear and focused, but the British plan had multiple purposes.

It was on this last point that yesterday's two indictments overlapped. Richard Thomas had given an earlier warning of how Britain could be "sleepwalking into a surveillance society". But yesterday's statement was much more detailed. He expressed two deep concerns. The first was that the government was collecting and retaining too much information, ranging from all the addresses where people had lived to logging and recording every use of the ID card. The procedures would allow governments to build up a detailed picture of how an individual lived which was both "unwarranted and intrusive".

His second concern, like the LSE team, was the broad sweep of purposes: national security, crime prevention, immigration controls, ending illegal working and delivering public services. If there were to be ID cards, they should be a tool within the individual's control. Instead the proposals risked "an unnecessary and disproportionate intrusion into individuals' privacy". He urged MPs not just to look at the desirability of the cards, but the acceptability of governments holding such surveillance powers.

Perhaps this is one case where the proposition is so appauling and unjustifiable that it is impossible to craft a compelling arguement even using the Guardians sometimes flexible approach to logic.

June 27, 2005

eclectech : the very model of a modern labour minister : a tribute to charles clarke and his id cards

eclectech : the very model of a modern labour minister : a tribute to charles clarke and his id cards

Boffins create zombie dogs

I like all kinds of dogs, but I've never seen a zombie dog before, judging by the Romero films taking them for a walk could be a little slow. But why would you want a doggy of the dead? Well this is just another step towards cryogenic and cold sleep technologies that could in future have serious implications for health care and space travel. Have a patient that you can cure? just stick them in the freezer until you can.

Government to sell access to ID database?

Murky.org on ID cards, with a link heavy article tearing all the reasons so far given into tiny little pieces.

Big numbers and the meaning of life

Been away for a while. First breaking my ankle in a rock climbing accident. Basically a fight with cliff, I won. It ended up with bits missing and I didn't. They on a holiday that I had booked months ago and was going to take.

Anyhow this has left me with some thinking time. One of the things that I was thinking about was how life began, Creationists always say that there had to be a Creator because of the simple unlikelyhood as something as complex as a human spontaneously coming into being (forgetting of course that people didn't spontaneously come into being, they evolved). And they are right that to create chemicals capable of self replication is not trivial, however neither are the numbers involved. We are not talking about biology here, where numbers may be a few million to a few billion, but chemistry where you routinely deal with numbers so large that they have no names for them and that can only be expressed in terms of scientific notation.

Take a simple example, 1 litre of water. This small amount contains 3.3121 x 1025 molecules of water. If there is just one in a trillion (a level that is almost undetectable) replaced with an amino-acid, the building blocks from which all the known chemicals of life are made, it would still contain over 33 trillion. This is over 5 thousand (roughly 5059) for every man woman and child on the planet. Or over ten thousand ( roughly 10752) for every bas pair in the human genome. This is in one just litre of water and at an almost undetectably small concentration.

In the 1950's experiments where carried out as to if it where possible for amino-acids to form spontaneously in what they believed to be the conditions present in the earths very early history around 4 billion years ago (3999993994 years before many Creationists consider the universe to have come into being). The results where impressive, in only a few days the water in the experimental jar had turned green from the quantity and diversity of amino-acids produced. Today the consensus on the composition of the earths atmosphere in thoughts early days is different from in the 1950's but even with the less favorable conditions that are currently believed to have existed amino-acids are produced, and at levels that dwarf the parts per trillion used earlier.

Lets continue to use this level of one part per trillion, despite it being far far lower that any actual concentration in the early oceans.

The numbers in just 1 litre of water where vast, but what about when scaled up to the volume of the oceans? There are approximately 1.4 billion cubic kilometers of water in the worlds oceans. Each cubic kilometer contains 1 trillion litres, so the oceans contain 1.4 x 1021 litres of water. Using the number that I worked out earlier of 33 trillion amino-acids per litre (at a concentration of 1 amino-acid per trillion water molecules) that means that even at this miniscule concentration the worlds oceans would contain 4.62 x 1034 amino-acids, a truly mind boggling number.

With such enormous numbers involved it seems bazaar that not one would be configured so that it could take the other chemicals that it encountered around it and transform them into rough copies of itself. It would only take one, once that single lone individual happened to come into existence it would make more of itself, and the amount of this chemical precursor to life in the worlds oceans would grow exponentially turning it into a potent broth from which life to emerge. With numbers like 4.62 x 1034, or even larger, coupled with exponential growth suddenly life doesn't look as unlikely. In fact it looks very likely indeed.

June 14, 2005

EU To Introduce Exchange Controls By The Back Door

The EU is to introduce exchange controls according to Village Hampden. Now I'm not an economist (so hopefully someone that is such as Tim Worstall will give some proper answers on this) but the last country that I know of that introduced exchange controls was Agentina just before it's economy fell off a cliff. Exchange controls do not mean that the economy is about to eat itself, China has had them for some time. But they are dangerous as, like Morphine, they deliver powerful relief from short term pain, but can easily lead to addiction and dependency.

Universe Today - Large Rocky Planet Discovered

A large rocky planet has been discovered in another solar system. This is the first rocky exoplanet ever discovered, all the rest being gass giants. You annot really call it earth like however, certainly not something that people would want to colonise, having 7.5 times more mass and orbits it's star in only 2 days meaning that it must be very very close and so very very hot.

June 13, 2005

Who Should You Vote For? And How?

Who Should You Vote For? has another test thing on which style of elctoral reform suits you best. Apparently I should look into Cellular Constituencies and Single Transferable Vote. I don't like andy system that breaks the like between employee (my MP) and employer (me), particually if they mean that the politcals parties gain power at my expense. So the dislike that it shows for Party List systems appears to be accurate.
Who Should You Vote For?

Electoral Reform

Key: FPPTP = First Past the Post; AMS = Additional Member System; SYV = Single Transferable Vote; JAV+ = Jenkins Alternate Vote Plus; PLS = Party List System; CC = Cellular Constituencies. For explanations of these systems, please read the electoral reform FAQ. For more information about electoral reform in general, visit the Electoral Reform Society or Make My Vote Count.

AMS -2
STV 15
JAV+ -14
PLS -9
CC 12

You should support: Single Transferable Vote (STV). STV requires larger constituencies than is currently the case, each electing between 3 and 5 MPs - with parties able to field more than one candidate in a constituency. Voters rank the candidates in order of preference with candidates being elected through a combination of first preference and weighted second/third/fourth etc preference votes. The system delivers a more proportional result, but is complex and still biases against smaller parties and is more likely to deliver multi-party coalition governments.

Take the test at Who Should You Vote For

M4 speed cameras make driving dangerous

This one is so funny. M4 cameras dangerous because they mean that there are large numbers of people driving at just below the trigger speed, with over haft the people on motorways going above 70mph. There has in fact been an increase in average speed since the introduction of speed cameras .

This tendency towards a very small range of speed (between 70mph and the trigger speed of 80mph) leads to large numbers of people bunching together without enough space between them in order to stop properly in case of an emergency. This is a much more dangerous situation than a few people driving very fast, especially as it could lead to more multiple accidents as drivers without enough stoping distance plow into each other if the lead has to slow down suddenly. Since the speed cameras proponents claim they are all about safety, and are not a revenue raising exercise, perhaps they should start campaigning for their removal since they obviously are not increasing road safety?

Perv-O-Vision returns

Perv-O-Vision, the technology that allows security guards to get some entertainment from using high frequency microwaves to see through cloths is back. This time using using high energy x-rays Backscatter X-ray Technology allows the same thing, a strip search without your knowledge, luckily this time the results aren't quite as good looking so there might be fewer instances of gurads insisting the more attractive passangers just go through the scanner one more time.

US expected to abandon Biometric passport plan

US expected to abandon Biometric passport plan, which is the most used excuse as to why the UK ID Card.

I wonder what excuse they will come up with now?
  • They've used terrorism, despite ID cards not stoping the Madrid bombers.
  • They've used ease of having all you identity documents in one card, making it easier to steal.
  • They've tried identity thieft, why having to steal or copy just one card instead of many makes things harder for the thief I don't know (and niether do they).
  • They've tried saying that they are 'entitlement cards' for the NHS, except that nobody is saying that amublances will leave people by the roadside if they don't have one and the GP's role as gatekeeper does effectively block much of what is called 'health tourism'.
Perhaps the truth, they want to be able to control our lives in as much detail as possible.

Why we should refuse National ID Cards

some more reasons why you should refuse National ID Cards. Personally my reasons for opposing ID Cards is a very simple cost benefit analysis. I know how much it is going to cost, between £70 (the up front fee) and £300 (the upfront fee, plus the amount that I'm going to pay indirectly through tax) every five years. Well that is the cost at the moment, before the cost overruns and delays.

But what do I get out of it? I know what the government gets out of it, more control over me and greater powers to check what I'm doing at any time. But what do I get out of it? My passport lets me get into other countries, and is therefore useful to me. My driving licence shows that I've been trained to pilot a ton on mechanised death across this small and crowded island, which is again useful. But what to I get from an ID Card, all it does it say I'm me. Well I know that I'm me. I've been me for quite some time, I've lots of practice and can safely say that I'm the person best at being me that I know of. Of course once the ID Cards come in the resultant spait of identity thieft may mean that there are in fact plenty of people better at being me than me, but at the moment I'm top banana as far as being me is concerned.

So what do I get out of it? The removal of some pesky civil liberties and the knowledge that I am safe under the watchful gaze of our great and dear leader The Tyrant Blair? Yeah that's about it.

June 09, 2005

Europe's data retention laws: dead or alive?

The European Parliament has voted against the new privacy destroying laws from the EU that will require all ISP's and Telecoms companies to maintain records of all the numbers that we call and websites that we visit for 3 years. So what is the EU going to do? Ignore them of course.

EU consititution continues to be ratified

The Constitution is dead, but they are still going to implement it. Not the foreign service this time, the EU space policy. This had nothing to do with ESA (which was working rather nicely thank you), but rather is an attempt by the EU to take it over. However with out the constitution there is absolutly no basis for it to do so. Nice that this 'defender of democracy' listens to the voice of the people, ha ha.

search engines

Tim Worstall had some questions about search engines.
1) When you set up a blog at Blogger (or one of the other free alternatives) does it automatically get indexed by Google? Is it something that will, inevitably (even if after a few weeks) get included? Or does one need to add the URL manually, with all the possibilities for rejection that this encompasses?

2) In terms of being indexed by the engines, how does something like blogrolling work? Say you have 5 blogs. Same blogroll from blogrolling on each of them. When the spider or bot comes round to read the page, does the blogrolling list get treated as part of the page? Assume that the links in such a blogroll are links from that page to another? And if you’ve got the same blogroll up at five sites does this mean that the spider thinks there are five pages pointing to that site?

3) At the free sites for blogs is it simple to add things like sitemeter, blogrolling, google ads etc to the template? By simple I mean cut and paste. Or does one need to know some html?
For which I have answers.

1. Google indexes Blogger automatically, they bought it many to get more data into their indexes so not indexing would be counter productive.

2. As for Blogrolling (the one from blogrolling.com) it will not follow any links from that as that is a piece of Javascript that calls down the data and generates the list when it is run. The googlebot does not understand Javascript (and will probably ignore everything between script tags) so links from a Blogrolling blogroll will be ignored by the bot.

What you described is often referred to by seach engine optimisers as a 'gateway site' basically a secondary site (or set of sites) that it tuned to look good to googles crawler rather than actually be of any use to humans. As it is specifically designed for crawlers it will sail up the relevancy ranking and generally come out close to the top, showing that the specialist has done what they where paid for. A little Javascript, which google ignores, is then used to redirect the actual viewers to the real site. Also being linked to by a set of high relevancy sites will boast the PageRank of the site that they are linking to.

You can't do this with blogrolling.com as it is javascript, you have to actually write in the HTML. Doing it with a hand coded system is also getting harder as Google recently upgraded there system to ignore the effects of gateway sites.

There are other things that you can do to manipulate your PageRank upwards, one of the best being to own your own domain name. If the domain has been around for a long time it helps, if it is not up for renewal for a long time it helps. Also the way that you gain links will help with ranking, not just the number of links. If the links increase steadily over a large period of time it is better than to have a large number that suddenly appear, and then have that number remain static. The closer it looks to google like your site is being linked to by actual people the better, and people link to things slowing.

3 Yes adding stuff is easy. Normally the provider of free stuff will give you the HTML that you need to paste in the template so it is just copy and paste. They want there stuff used by as many people as possible, so want the barrier to use as low as possible.

June 07, 2005

Not so fast Sailor

Snafu at Not Proud Of Britain (But Would Like To Be)has found this story about a sailor that was caught speeding as he returned to base. Personally I have a very different view on this as I don't think that the speeding laws are very good law anyway, particularly the way that they are rigidly and mechanically enforced as little more than a revenue raising exercise. Any law that is broken by the majority of the population that it covers is flawed, with these ones a particularly bad example (I could show you two roads within 100 yards of each other, both with a 60mph limit, one where going 90mph is perfectly safe, the other where any attempt to get over 30 is very unsafe and will probably destroy your vehicle).

I am therefore not happy that a man that was trying to get back to base in order to potentially put his life on the line for his country was fined. This is a case where quite clearly things are out of kilter, trying to avoid the much greater crime of not being on his ship when it sailed he ends up fined. More flexibility and a more just solution could have been found, probably involving a few words with his CPO about instilling proper time keeping. Luckily the driving ban will be over by the time he gets back, possibly an advantage of the inflexibility of automatic sentences in this case.

Apple goes to Intel

Apple CEO promises two-year Intel conversion. This is the biggest tech story to happen an a long time and I miss it due to my bloody ankle.

This is maybe a good thing, maybe a bad thing. It is very risky for Apple. But lets get one thing strait first, OS X is not going to be able to run on any old white box PC. No way no how. Apple is a hardware company, it writes software in order to sell more hardware. The last time they played with allowing clones it very nearly killed the company. Sure some geeks will find ways of cobbling together a box on the cheap to run OS X, but it won't the easy and will probably involve buying a real Apple motherboard and firmware, exactly as some geeks have done with Apple running on PowerPC.

Now Apple have made a CPU transition before from 68k to PPC, and it went seamlessly. The OS didn't run as fast as it could as large parts where being run through a 68k emulator but from an end users point of view there was no noticeable change. This time the core UNIX parts of the OS are already run on x86, and in fact the open source Darwin project that maintains them has targeted x86 primarily for years. The development libraries that form the Cocoa environment have been run on x86 before, during the time they where developed by NeXT (before it took over Apple) programs had Fat Binaries (one binary file containing the program compiled for several hardware platforms and a switch to the OS which to use) that users could use on any of four very different hardware platforms. Fat Binaries also cushioned the switch between 68k and PPC.

If anyone can pull this off Apple can, as they demonstrated with the 68k PPC switch.

The problem is pulling their independent software vendors (ISVs) along with them. This can be a problem as even with a good emulator layer emulated software will always be slower than native optimized stuff. So in order to give the best performance all the ISVs will have to port all there software across. If the code is properly written and abstracted then this should be a simple case of changing the target architecture and hitting compile.

However as someone that works in the software development industry I can guarantee that it won't be that easy. Some of the problems will be due to optimization for the old platform. PPC has more registers than x86, a different byte order, and a special vector unit called Ativec. In order to wring the most speed out of there software many developers will target these features directly which is going mean that that piece has to be rewritten to operate on the new platform. Whilst maintaining exactly the same results, including any weird quirks, as before. It's these weird quirks that are going to bite people. Many of them will not even have been known about before this brings them to the fore, and will often not have anything to do with the actual operation of the system. But they will be expected and so when they do not happen could have side effects elsewhere. Rewriting the bits that it turns out where reliant on the quirks isn't an option either as that will simply spread the problem as yet more pieces reliant on them become unstable because of quirks that they where reliant on, and so on until you end up rewriting large chunks of the entire program.

Much of this would be avoided if the developers where given enough time to make sure that all the software is properly abstracted in the first place. But that won't happen, since as software always gets delayed simply due to it's complexity, the developers never really have the time to do that for everything. It could also be avoided if the software was written in a language where side effects are have to produce, such as Lisp, but that does not happen either because C++ (a language I personally have very little time for) is fashionable with the managers that actually run large ISVs, see Paul Graham for why, he's talking mainly about Java but the same arguments apply (Jave evleved out of C++, and is in many ways actually better).

Apple needs it's ISVs, as they write the majority of the software that turns a computer from the worlds most complex and expensive paperweight into the the worlds most flexible and useful tool. In Apples case the one that it particularly needs is Adobe, the makers of Photoshop. Apple's main market is graphics professionals and for them Photoshop is a must have. There is simply nothing else that comes close to it in terms of quality. The GIMP may be good value for money, in terms of getting actual work done Photoshop blows it away. One of the main reasons that the Carbon framework (the same libraries as Mac OS 9, but able to run in a modern UNIX type operating system and access the OS X graphics libraries) exists is that Adobe did not want to port Photoshop to Cocoa. Getting them to port to OSX on Intel could be a problem.

June 03, 2005

EU's Strategy For Success

EU Rota has found EU Referendum's strategy for success try to avoid contact with the general population.
  • When the actual number of votes cast is less than 1% of a country's total population the Yes side has a 100% success rate.
  • When the actual number of votes cast is more than 1% of a country's total population the No side has a 67% success rate.
And has the nicely tabulated statistics to prove it.

June 02, 2005

The Road to Euro Serfdom: Idealistic European Youth?

The Road to Euro Serfdomis linking to and article about the differences between the generations in their opinions of the EU. The woman in question is talking about a generation that has gone out and been able to see the glorious diversity of European culture, and how they are more skeptical than there elders. They see that the European demos does not exist and that there are as many differences as similarities. But they are not afraid, they see these are to be cherished rather than crushed under the harmonising heel of Euroland.

Bird flu: we're all going to die!

No nothing to do with the aftermath of the No vote in Holland Bird flu has gone off the media radar screens. That means one of two things.
  1. The pandemic threat has passed as the number of inections is now negligable
  2. It has, like car accidents, started to become so common that it is no longer 'news'.
The answer is probably a bit of both, but remember the 1918 outbreak killed more than World War 1 and since then transport, and so the speed that the dease can spreed, has sped up dramatically. However so has the rate of progress of medical science, but is it just me that remembers this? They made a complete cock up of a desease that does not affect Humans, and is non lethal to the animals that it infects. How will they cope with a desease that does affect Humans and is lethal.

June 01, 2005

The Dutch Say NO

63%, two referenda in three days to say No. The next is Luxembourg which will probably say Yes, and after that Denmark where I expect a No.

What I also expect is that the ratification process will continue, and continue producing more No votes than yes when actually put to a popular vote rather than waved through in the parliaments. At the end of the ratifications there will either be a fudge, possibly involving the No voters having to vote again under threat of expulsion, and the constitution will be ratified anyway. Or if that does not happen then the new powers that the constitution will be implemented quietly under existing treaties. Either way Euroland is getting it's Foreign Service, and other increased trappings of the nation state that it aspires to be.

Dutch to probably say No as well

another Referendum another no, or at least that is how it looks at the moment.