Archives for: "February 2009"

Sell off Royal Mail? No thanks

So the government's plans to sell off about 30% of Royal Mail are again getting attention.  Most of the newspaper world are of course siding with the government on this.

The Sun says that this "shambolic" operation should of been sold off long ago.  I say The Sun newspaper should of been thrown in the bin ages ago, and Rupert Murdoch sent down into our underground sugar caves. I'd also suggest that this would be a good time to try and push your Sun-reading friends over to better newspapers.

As far as I can see Royal Mail works fine, I get my post just fine.  In fact a couple of weeks ago I ordered a few bits and pieces off the internet, all at the same time and all were dispatched the same day.

The first item to turn up?  The one sent through Royal Mail (1st class), not only was it the first to turn up, our postman normally gets here around 11:00, it also was considerably cheaper than through the other couriers, CityLink got here about 4 hours later, DHL got here a couple of days later.

Not only that if it does turn up on a day I'm not at home I only have to walk over to the sorting office to get it.  If I miss a CityLink or DHL delivery - damn I have to walk to Bristol or Taunton or somewhere to go and get it, kind of difficult, that or try and juggle it with days I have off work.

Sure Royal Mail has a £5.9 billion pension deficit.  Oh of course we can't put the money in towards that, where on Earth would we get the money from?  Oh wait - we found hundreds of billions for the banks, I'm sure we can find a few billion for Royal Mail to sort their pension fund out, if not we'll just take the national lottery's profits for a couple of years.  Problem solved.

Of course this also highlights the problems with company pensions.  I say get rid of them, let the state handle pensions itself.  Simple no more hassle, no more paper work, no more worrying if the company is going to fold.  With today's technology we can really get some nifty stuff going on too.  How about being able to change your National Insurance contributions through DWP website where you can easily see how much you pay in and see how much you'd get back in your pension.  Failing that in Post Offices have a table and a form to send off to do the same thing.  Simple.  Everyone get's a pension, yes we'd need a bigger state pension, perhaps something that could bring us up to the European average, and those who want a bigger pension can pay in more money.  No more worrying about companies going bust and the like.  And yes, companies will be legally required to pay you the value they were putting into any pension scheme.  We need to unhook people's pensions from the disaster that is capitalism.

Anyway, enough rambling about that over Royal Mail we should demand the following:

1) Sack Peter Mandleson, send him down the underground sugar caves with his mate Murdoch.

2) Demand all Labour MPs to bloody stand up for the workers for a change.  I'm sick to death of the government having its way thanks to the Tory vote.

3) Give Royal Mail the £6 billion they need to plug their pension hole, and another few billion for genuine modernisation (not the cost cutting modernisation) where required.

4) Look into the feasibility of establishing Royal Mail's monopoly on postal services again.

5) Get those Post Offices open again, heck make them branches for our nationalised banks (yes might as well finish nationalising the banking system while we're at it).

Empire Total War demo

The Empire Total War demo went up today, after waiting almost 6 hours for it to download (Steam was under a bit of strain, the UK server was trickling it down at 12KB/s, so I had to use the US East Coast server which wasn't much better at about 100KB/s),

Like previous Total War games this feels a bit glitchy - in fact it has crashed once.  Load times are also a bit on the long side.  Performance other than that seems great, runs flawlessly at 1920x1200 here with the detail maxed out (Windows 7, Core 2 Duo @ 2.4Ghz, 4GB RAM, Radeon 3870) and yes the game looks stunning.

The demo has one land battle, the Battle of Brandywine Creek of 1777, which historically takes place on the British march to Philadelphia.  But also, best of all features naval battles hurrazz!  Again only one in the demo, the Battle of Lagos in 1759 during the Seven Years War.  In both battles you play as Great Britain, I've heard quite a few of our separatist friends complaining about that already.

Battle of Brandywine Creek

Impressions: good easily up there with the previous games in the Total War series and already I have to say better than Medieval 2 (no matter how cool slaughtering King Harold in 1066 was).  But I'm a little worried about the AI.  After attempting to send my cavalry a couple of miles down river to flank the rebel's artillery and seeing them completely wiped out by infantry hiding in the woods (argh) you might of expected me to lose, after all sending my infantry in, across a river, against dozens of 16 pound guns in a very well defended position doesn't sound too clever.  But for some reason the AI sent their infantry out to attack mine, which were already nicely formed up and positioned behind a hill to try and avoid their artillery.  So for some reason the AI shot themselves in the foot and basically wiped out most of their forces.  Obviously a welcome turn of events from my point of view and perhaps one a fresh faced separatist general might make.

Battle of Lagos

The biggest addition is of course naval battles!  We've not had naval battles in a computer game like this, ever.  There's literally no comparison.  Although there's less strategy involved then the land battles you do need to keep an eye on things, such as the wind direction as I've lost one battle by allowing my fleet to break up too much, and the French picked off the few stragglers before I could turn my ships around and get back there as the wind was against me, other than that all you need to worry about is keeping your guns facing the enemy ships - but this is where I have a problem, the ships turn way too fast, which means you don't get penalised as much for screwing up as you can get your ships back into position too fast.

Battle of Lagos

To sum up, despite my niggling issues I have with it this game is looking to be fantastic, easily up there as a potential game of the year.  Now I just have to wait a week and a half for the full game to be released.

Questions for "Evolutionists" part 2

I had a comment posted on my original Questions for "Evolutionists" post by someone called Eli, they make some highly effective arguments.

Something that evolutionist can not answer is why are there planets that spin in the opposite direction? Remember now..Conservation of Angular Momentum? Now your answer has to be a fact not a guess.

Ignoring the minor detail that "evolutionists" study biology, not stellar and planetary formation. Young solar systems are chaotic places. There are more forces at work that you haven't taken into account, solar system bodies interact with each other, sometimes extremely violently. A small moon having a retrograde orbit isn't hard to explain, many moons especially irregular ones are captured after their formation, and as such can be orbiting in any direction. Planets revolving different to other planets also isn't hard to explain with large impacts that were common in the early Solar System.

Also I find it interesting they believe in the atom, yet they can't see the atom, but they see its effects. God is the same way.

Except of course we can't put god in a clock so he can tell us the time, caesium atoms work quite well.

Many many evolutionists keep saying "The fossil record proves evolution." Yet those same "scientists" will later say.."Throw out the fossil record it doesn't prove a thing." Which one is it?

Its the one that you didn't just make up.

Sounds like a bunch of confusion to me.

Argument from ignorance, just because you don't understand it doesn't mean it isn't true.

Cosmos view in WorldWide Telescope

A new feature that WorldWide Telescope implemented in a recent release was the Cosmos view.

This takes data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey which is in the process of mapping the distance to a million or so galaxies. You've probably seen images like this one:

Which are taken from the SDSS and similar surveys. Now however you can view the data in 3D in WorldWide Telescope.

No these images don't do it justice. Instead open up WWT go down in the bottom-left corner of WWT and tell it to look at the Solar System, then click View at the top, and check the Cosmos box, if you haven't done this before you'll get a message recommending that you have at least 256MB of video memory else performance will suffer. Once enabled just keep zooming out from the Solar System.

Wizzing around the large scale super-structure of the universe = epic win. The only trouble now is I can't wait until the whole sky is mapped, out to say 10 billion light years, I've got a feeling I'll be waiting a while for that.

Daily Mirror fails big time - Moon hoax nonsense

The Daily Mirror seems to have found out about the Moon hoax nonsense, and of course - are republishing the nonsense, with just some minor token sceptisism thrown in. So let's sort em out, again.

But were the Moon landings really mankind's greatest scientific leap or the most fantastic hoax ever pulled?

Well I wouldn't call it mankind's greatest scientific leap. I'd call it humanity's greatest engineering triumph.

But anyway on with the nonsense:

In 1979, when the first suggestions began to emerge that NASA might have been up to some dirty tricks, six per cent of Americans thought the Moon landing was a hoax. In 1999, the number had risen to 11 per cent.

When they counted again recently, they discovered no fewer than 22 per cent believed that the Apollo 11 Moon landing never happened.

OK, but that's two different polls. One asking if the Moon landings were a hoax, and the later one asking if Apollo 11 landed on the Moon - there could be genuine ignorance about that particular mission - maybe it was one of the orbiters. Either way the figures aren't comparable.

Ever since President John F Kennedy pledged at the start of the 60s that man would travel to the Moon and back within a decade, the Americans were desperate to beat the Russians in the space race.

The Americans had already lost the space race on April 12th 1961. Surely you can only consider something a race if the other side is competing in that race.

That summer of 1969, Moscow was only a month from launching its own manned Moon shot.

False. "Moscow" didn't even have a rocket capable of such a mission, let alone the lander and everything else you need, all of which existed only on paper. Development of a rocket capable didn't even start until 5 years after the Saturn V. The N-1 was designed to launch heavy cargos into Earth orbit, like space stations and large military satellites, sure the N-1 could have been adapted to use for a manned lunar mission, that's certainly what Mishin would have liked but let's face it, after Korolev died in 1966 that was that, Mishin had no chance of getting funding for any serious lunar attempt, Brezhnev just wasn't interested. The N-1 was under-funded and never worked, it was scrapped in the 1970s and development on the Energia superbooster started instead.

The USSR did however launch a series of robotic missions to the Moon, including sample returns and even rovers, perhaps they're getting manned and unmanned mixed up?

Technology then was positively primitive. The computer developed for the Apollo programme had only a tiny fraction of the power in a home PC today. The satnav that guides your car is many times more sophisticated than the machine which, so we are assured, steered a mission 250,000 miles to a few square yards of the Sea of Tranquility and back.

...And you can fly a plane with no windows with a map, watch and a compass, so what? The biggest technological hurdle were the engines, not the onboard calculator.

Even recently, when President George W Bush announced the USA's ambition to return to the Moon, he was told it would take 11 years to put the engineering together.

If NASA had a proper budget they could do it in 10 years, if the United States kept science and engineering education up to a civilised level - and education wasn't bogged down fighting creationism and religious fundamentalism. They could probably do it in 5 years.

How, for example, could an astronaut (below) be walking through a shadow, or have the sun at his back, and yet be brightly lit from the front, showing off all those bits of his spacesuit, especially the Stars and Stripes flag, in technicolour?

Err because the lunar surface reflects light surprisingly.

If you were posing this in a studio, with so-called in-fill lights blazing from every angle, you couldn't have produced a better result. The response from NASA? Well, you have to understand that on the Moon light can behave in odd ways.

Light on the Moon works the same way as light on the Earth. It's just these dumbasses don't even know how it works on the Earth - light reflects off things and illuminates things. That's why shadows aren't infinitely black, because there's light coming around from their environment, off walls, the floor or anywhere else - just like on the Moon where you have a big white Lunar surface reflecting light at the astronauts.

There isn't the atmosphere to spread it around like on Earth, but there is an open surface to reflect it where you might least expect it. So where are the stars? In every photo, the sky was ink black, with nothing at all twinkling out there.

That's because they were taking photos of the Moon - not the stars. They used fast exposure times on their cameras because it was day time on the Moon - the Sun was up lighting everything up. Even standing on the Moon with the Sun up you won't see stars unless you hide the bright lunar surface and the Sun from your view - then if you give your eyes some time to adjust to the lower light levels you'd be able to see stars.

To capture the stars you'd need exposure times of several seconds, and the lunar surface would be massively over-exposed.

The lunar surface during the day is very bright. It's been compared with ice or snow on the Earth.

And how come, when the spidery landing vehicle hovered above the surface and fired blasts from its retro-jets to lower itself down, it didn't even appear to have disturbed the very ground underneath it.

Because the thing had a throttle - if they were firing the engines at full blast they'd be taking off not landing.

Secondly unlike the Earth there is no atmosphere, therefore the actual flame from the engines would have to touch the lunar surface to disturb it.

And the flag planted by Armstrong and Aldrin. The sceptics say the shadows cast by the astronaut, the lander and various rocks seem to go in all directions when they should be parallel, while the flag doesn't cast any shadow at all.

Look at shadows running over some bumpy ground on the Earth, they all change direction slightly (none of the lunar photos show shadows going in all directions), as the shadow follows the contours of the ground.

Perhaps most outrageous of all conspiracies is that three men did indeed go to the Moon but there was not the technology to bring them back. They were sacrificed for US pride. The Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins, who reappeared on Earth were lookalike actors

I'm sure their wives would of noticed something a bit different after 40 years!

Today only Aldrin, now 78, keeps a high public profile. He was confronted two years ago by a TV reporter who demanded he swear on the Bible that the landing wasnt a hoax. Aldrin's response? He punched the guy on the nose and narrowly escaped prosecution. More proof, said the HBs, of the pressure of keeping a 40-year secret

He wasn't just asked to swear on a bible - he was called a "coward and a liar, and a thief". Here's the video:

Bart Sibrel has been harassing the Apollo astronauts for years - it's about time he got what he deserved. Nice punch Buzz.

That small step begins to look even more mysterious than ever.

Nah - you're just dumber than usual.

The case against unbundling Internet Explorer from Windows

Yes this thing just won't go away will it. Crippling the user experience to keep companies that are mostly a waste of space like Opera (although their mobile browsers are capable and fairly successful) in business is unacceptable.

We've seen this before, when the Java VM was unbundled from Windows it caused pain, not just to a few people but hundreds of millions who were forced to go to Sun's website and dig around and find the Java runtime - sure that was slightly different to this - but the end result is the same the user experience is reduced and millions of hours are wasted. Today we have to put up with junkware being installed along with Java - which is why it is banned from my machines.

We saw the same thing with media players. We see RealOne complain to the EU, a company which produces a horrible media player that had utterly failed in the marketplace, not because Windows comes with a media player (back then nobody used it, Winamp was probably the most popular), but because it was terrible. What do we get? The waste of space N versions of Windows - which nobody, ever has or will buy.

Operating systems should come with internet browsers, just like they should come with networking stacks and more than 2 fonts. Just like cars should come with more than 2 wheels.

The EC has showed once again they are clueless when it comes to technology. Hopefully they won't come up with too many whacky plans, like actually removing IE from Windows - too many 3rd party applications depend on it, and it brings about the interesting problem of trying to download another browser from the internet without a web browser to start with. I don't want to be ordering web browsers on CD and waiting 6-8 weeks for delivery. Thank you.

A bit of snow

Had a bit of snow fall the last couple of days, what does that mean? Picture time.

Almost makes up for the fact its cloudy and I can't photograph Comet C/2007 N3 Lulin.