Cybermen solve plane door crisis with gaffer tape

Well, there you go

Letters Two IT related letters and a whole load of rambling thoughts on topics as diverse as cybermen and airplane doors.

But let's kick off with the tech. Microsoft hands its file formats over to the European standards body, Ecma International. Yah boo sucks, you said:

Interesting story, but your coverage is sadly inadequate even for a quick look. You fail to note the critical points that 1) Microsoft hasn't given open access to implementing the patented XML schemas central to their file formats, and 2) it's by no means clear that Microsoft is disclosing the binary components included in the schemas.

The implications of these circumstances are that there's far less here than meets the eye. Without royalty-free access to the XML schemas, no Open Source implementation to read and write them is legally possible -- and Open Source implementations are THE important competition. And without documentation of the binary black-boxes in the XML, meaningful file compatibility will be impossible in any case.

And this doesn't even begin to consider the behavioral question of whether Microsoft will *actually* adhere to these formats, or will tinker and revise and tweak them every year so that any "compatible" implementation is forever out of date. Past and present performance suggests that the worst assumption about Microsoft's behavior is most likely to be accurate.

Regards, Steve Hersey

Well, you have to give it to Microsoft - their move is brilliant. They can own the office application market again in no time. If you are interested, there is already Open Document format published by OASIS ( That's the XML format used by the OpenOffice suite (

Of course, Microsoft would not use that format, oh no, how they would control the specification then? Of course, they need their own format with their own quirks so that their office suit remains the "most compatible" with their spec. Would you expect anything less? And the reaction time of Microsoft management is impressive.

OpenOffice is only about to begin the climb towards displacing MS Office but Microsoft is already moving in to kill. Unfortunately, I can see nothing one could do in this situation. Microsoft is a legitimate Ecma International member and they are in their right to submit their own specification. And, no doubt, they will have support from their friends to make sure it happens fast. Where is Sun Microsystems when you need them?


And back to the important question of just how dangerous it isn't to try to open a door on a plane. While it's flying. At 30,000ft. Sounds scary, but in fact:

The idea that someone could open door inflight is just a myth. The cabin pressure is something like ten times higher than the outside pressure. By the inside pressure the door is pushed outwards, and must be move inwards to open.

so one cannot open the door inflight even he would be the strongest man in the world. I think it is comparable to somewhat like lifting a car. I like your magazine, but please do not try to push things up like " and was only prevented from enjoying her last cigarette by a sharp-eyed flight attendant" there was no danger at no time at all.

- Michael

She musta had some REALLY good CRACK before she took the sleeping pills !!!


Endangering the safety of an aircraft?! She wouldn't have open the door if she tried.

It's designed to be opened by being pulled in, an act sadly prevented by cabin pressure. The doors, after all, are meant to be used once the airplane has crash landed (seeing as your seat cushion can't be used as a parachute).

This has been the default way all doors operate ever since that guy escaped police by parachuting from his hijacked airliner with a bag of cash (and a whole bunch of others thought they could copy him).

It's retarded to punish her anyway. What, the prospect of death isn't deterrent enough?


I have an issue with national dialects to bring up here. I'm not sure how this could have escaped your editorship, seeing as I didn't think it was strictly an Americanism, but the word that you use in many articles to refer to cigarettes, "fag," is a very offensive term for homosexual males here in the States.

If this isn't common usage in the UK, I'm surprised no one has brought it to your attention before (especially with Ashlee Vance in California all the time). If it is, then why do you persist in propagating one of the most bigot-flavored words in English? The fact that it can also (apparently) mean "cigarette" or "bundle of wood" doesn't excuse the term or eliminate its ugliness.

I'm sure you can think of other offensive words, perhaps targeting other minorities; words you wouldn't dare imagine putting in print even if they had secondary, morally neutral meanings. So please extend the same courtesy in this case.


Mike, Mike, Mike.

In the context of the article, it very clearly means cigarette. Unless, of course, you are proposing that the phrase "smoke a fag" could, in this context, be interpreted as meaning that at 30,000ft the woman in question was overcome by an urge to shoot a gay man she had spotted clinging to the wing of the aircraft.

Airliners typically cruise with about an 8PSI pressure differential between inside and outside. It saves having the passengers wear pressure suits and oxygen masks.

Let's guess that an airliner's entry door opening is 32 X 74 inches. That's 2730 square inches, times 8PSI holding the door into its tapered gasket seat, or nearly 22,000 lb (10,000Kg for the metric fans). It would be a bit of a struggle to pull the door INward, as is required to open it. Even if the passenger's nicotine addiction were strong enough, the door handle probably isn't.

Ray (Commercial Pilot/Flight Instructor)

Next, a bit of football banter, inspired by news that lottery scammers are targeting Liverpool:

I can take the criticism of Liverpool's goals record this season, and I don't mind that it has come from a Manchester United fan... I'm just agog that we've found one that can string a sentence together...

Well done, mate. Maybe you could teach your mate Wayne a few tricks...


Man Utd. supporter?! Pfft.

Get it real. Halifax Town is where its happening. None of this Premiership 'honest, I support them, I do' malarkey, just proper football! :-)

We are 5th in the conference you know! ;)


Typically Chelsea raises the stakes - apparently I was one of 20 lucky winners of £1,000,000. I’m a bit miffed they sent my personal notification via the Linux Kernel mailing list. Now lots of people know.


3 words:

Champions Of Europe


There is apparently no sympathy for the poor Swiss, who despite being in charge of making great chocolate and hoarding lots of money for people, are not allowed the perk of a .eu domain. The reason why is very simple: Switzerland isn't in the EU:

re: No .eu domain for the Swiss

Tough shit, frankly. If you don't want to join the club, you don't get to use the facilities. If these countries want the domain so badly, they can open an office in the EU and throw some jobs our way - it's only polite.


what a load of scaremongering rubbish. as if nestle and swatch don't have subsidiaries located within the eu...


So let me get this right....

The swiss who decided not to be part of the EU when it suited them now want to be able to get .eu domain names which are for eu members only. Can the multi lingual Swiss say 'members seulement'. (excuse my french).

It is difficult to feel sorry for the swiss, they have always done really well at looking after themselves no matter what is happening to their friends and neighbours (nazi gold, early european financial integration around the time of the ERM), so now they loose out, what a shame.... guess they can just stick it in their fondue pot and suck it up!!!


Ooer, missus.

And where have all the physics teachers gone? You had some ideas:

I'll tell you were they have bloody gone! Since HM Gov brought in the National Curriculum in 1982, and lumped Physics Chemistry and Biology into "Science" (and specifically the "Double Award" GCSE), all teachers of the subject are officially "Science" teachers. And so the schools are filled with two-a-penny Biologists (no offence, some of them are lovely) who, of course, are all Intelligent Design advocates. (Actually, that last bit was a lie, but it seems the only way to get a letter mentioned in El Reg is to include ID somewhere...)


There could be a solution to the lack of interest in science. Simply associate each science with subjects of interest to teenagers - as well as a slight re-direction of the law.

What disaffected youth could resist the subjects, Sex (Biology), Drugs (Chemistry) and Blowing Things Up (Physics) as A Levels.

In the US an admirable attempt by teachers to move in this direction has been made already, several of which have made public recognition by going to prison for their experiments with students (sex), as well as the well meaning, but poorly thought out decision of one Floridian teacher to teach his students how to make bombs.

As for the slight re-direction of the law well 1/Sex with students should probably remain illegal, but sex between students seems ok. 2/Feeding drugs to students should probably remain illegal, but teaching them how to produce some of the more benign varieties seems ok - as long as all assignments are collected before the class leaves, RE on acid could prove troublesome for the next teacher. 3/Limiting experiments to those involving gunpowder, as opposed to MIT's open door policy on its nuclear reactor seems a more sensible approach.


Lets face it Lucy,

Physics is a rubbish sport and that's why nobody wants to play. All the kids are interested in is basketball and soccer.

Seriously, if the FA (ok PhA) want to increase the number of players they must:

Get rid of the safety specs - nobody wants to look like Brains any more; Replace the white labcoats with something a bit more contemporary (hello Lycra, GoreTex) - with an iPod pocket; Reduce the speed limit to something more achievable than "the speed of light" - SMART objectives fellas; Stop all this "in a vacuum" nonsense - or at least get corporate sponsorship - the Dyson clyclone challege for example.

Just some ideas - I'm here to help,


A belated return to Doctor Who's Cybermen, and their sartorial savvy:

Is it me or does our new cyber villan look a tad camp! Just a thought?


As a serious Cyberman fan (Spike Milligan did for the Daleks with his comic sketch "Pakistani Daleks"), I was well chuffed with the new look of the Cybermen.

Never thought of the Troughton era Cybermen as fetish friendly though, I shall have to have another look at those stories!

The moonboots and Duncan Fearnley batting gloves from the 1980s were a bit cringeworthy, especially when you have both items at home. Add in a decorating oversuit and hey presto - home made Cyberman! Looks like the flares thing is back again, they were wearing them in Revenge Of The Cybermen.

It is a bit hard to look menacing when wearing flares...


And in related news, Kevin Warwick, Professor of Cybernetics at Reading University, is suing the BBC for copyright infringement over an image produced to illustrate his vision of future human/ technology hybrids.


Am I the only one who's noticed that your Cyberman seems to have indulged in a bit of Beckham-esque thong-related cross dressing?


And finally, a mini flame. Not deserving of its own FoTW award, but funny nonetheless. The story that prompted it is almost irrelevant:

> Placing gaffer tape on the edge of a CD may make it ...

What the man said - if you hadn't exposed your ignorance of roll-based adhesives by suggesting "gaffer tape" you might have got away with it. Gaffer tape - not to be confused with the proprietary "Gaffer's Tape" - is a heavily gummed, low residue, cloth based tape with a pvc backing you DOLT! There are many suitable foils that would not be problematic for 1x read speeds.


Shame on us for our lack of knowledge about tape. We are rightly chastised and will punish ourselves for our failures. OK?

Now we're off to the pub to begin the punishment session with several lagers. Whose round was it again? ®

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