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Letters A Texas woman has filed a $30m lawsuit against MySpace.com after her 14-year-old daughter was sexually assaulted by someone she met through the site, we reported earlier this week. My, my, you are a suspicious lot:

Quote from the article:

"MySpace is more concerned about making money than protecting children online."

Sounds to me like the parents and/or lawyer involved here are likewise more concerned about making some cash themselves than about their daughter's welfare. How about suing themselves for not doing enough to protect the girl, or suing the power company for providing the electricity that ran the computer she used?

Whatever happened to taking responsibility for things yourself? Or perhaps just simply accepting that sometimes "shit 'appens", and no-one can be, or should be, to blame for it.


Things like this make me wonder about parents. Why do parents always blame the internet for their failings as a parent? I have an 11 year old niece, and if she was to use my computer to surf the internet I would ensure that I was there watching her to make sure she surfed safetly.

If I had children of my own of that age, I would make sure the computer was in an area where my child could not hide what they were doing, I would also educate my child on the dangers of the internet.

Seriously, give a kid a computer, the internet, then stick the computer in their bedroom so they are out of the way, and you are asking for trouble. For a few quid you can get blocking software on a router to help protect your child, for free you can drill into your kid that the internet is full of weird people and christians. Or you can give your kid the tools to fall prey to weirdo's on the internet then sue someone because you allowed your kid the access to the weirdo.

David


Responsible parenting issues aside, no doubt the mother will be donating her hard-won $30m (if she gets it) to some children's protection charity in it's entirety as she is more concerned about protecting children than making money...

G


The University of Abertay is to run "stringent" background checks on applicants for its new Ethical Hacking course "to make sure they are not likely to abuse the knowledge they will gain".

The idea of attempting to check the ethical motivations of students applying to study a university course seems to swing the pendulum back to pre-enlightenment days when students needed the right theological connections to study at a university. Indeed Cambridge and Oxford dons were expected to be nominally celibate until relatively recently dating back to when universities were monastic institutions.

It is the universities' business to develop knowledge through research and to teach it through courses. It is not our business to be accountable for whether graduates go on to use knowledge we teach for good or for evil. As someone teaching security topics I may well have a personal preference that this knowledge be used ethically. Any university must also take proper care to check that a prospective student is sufficiently equipped to benefit before a place on a course is offered, but this is framed in terms of our responsibility to a prospective student and not to society at large. We are not responsible in any wider sense for what our graduates do with the knowledge they acquire, and should not act in a way that creates this false impression. Would you make metallurgy lecturers responsible for whether their students create swords or ploughshares? If not then please don't hold those of us interested in security systems to different standards.

Richard

Readers are hereby invited to suggest exactly what metallurgy lecturers should be held responsible for. They're a shifty lot, make no mistake.


This seems reasonable, I had background checks for working in a Bank, but how many of the following students are screened:

High Energy Physics (Nuclear Bombs) Chemistry (Drug / Noxious substance production) Bio Chemistry (Bio weapons) Accountancy (Fraud) Land Management (Shooting Trespassers) Cybernetics (Making ROTM Style robots to destroy the world)

Fraser

And Metallurgy (Swords).


And next we will refuse to educate any with "some background problem". Keep 'm dumb, that 'll teach 'm. Maybe the unselected should then also be barred from using a computer entirely. They just might be able to gain the information by other means. Just in case they don't intend to comply, they should also be put on permanent watch as they could evolve into dangerous terrorists. Better yet, the unselected should be thrown into prison for having "some background problem". Then we can be sure that they will be re-educated and definitely have a background which immediately can be used to throw them into prison permanently for having a background problem.

-- Greetings Bertho

PS. the emperor always fears the knowledgeable...

Agreed. Hanging's too good for 'em.


Spain has slapped a levy on blank media, much to the chagrin of many locals. Apparently, though, this outrage was actually perpetrated a few years back:

Last week Congress voted to approve reforms to intellectual property rights, the levy on blank media has been in vigor since 1st September 2003.

A bit of quick and dirty research suggests that the levy raised 29 million euros in 2004 and 70 million in 2005. In 2005 the charge per blank CD was 22 centimos (15p) and 90 centimos (62p) per DVD both up 30% on the previous year. Which rather flies in the face of "the levy is usually extremely small".

Next time you pay 10 pounds stirling for a 25 pack spindle of DVDs imagine paying an extra 15.50 pounds. It has already got past the point where most Spaniards have little if any sympathy for the artists or SGAE, RIAA equivalent.

Since the introduction of these levies I haven't noticed any reduction in the number of CDs/DVDs for sale on the blankets of immigrant street vendors. As I haven't bought anything from them I can't comment on whether they have upped their prices to cover their costs. What a laugh, as if they get their CDs from legitimate sources, common sense tells me that the media itself is not of the highest quality and they are probably not bought from the local supermarket.

Obligatory online peticion can be found at

http://www.todoscontraelcanon.es/

Sign, before this arrives at a cinema near you.

Regards, Chris Winpenny

Yup, we ran a piece on the petition yesterday. The current signature total stands at a little over 418,000 en route to the planned 500,000.


Taking this story along its obvious (?) path, when could the Spanish (or anyone else) see a levy on toilet paper, because someone might be reading whilst sat on the loo, want to copy something from a published work and write it on the only paper available.

Of course, if one has written non-copyright data to a CD and finalised it so it can't be written to again, shouldn't one be able to claim back the levy?

John

Yes, but the rebate would be entirely cancelled by the levy on the paper you used to make the written claim (22 euro cents per sheet to reimburse impoverished authors whose works are printed out without the necessary licence).


I use industrial quantities of CDs, either for my music or those of people I represent. Why the flying fuck should I pay Michael Jackson for music by the Grant Willard Conspiracy, or by my own band that I'm trying to place. Because that's what this 'law' means.

And take note from someone who REALLY knows what they're talking about (music publishing professional). This money is a 'blanket fee', known in the industry as 'black box'. It is NOT paid to songwriters - the vast bulk of it is paid to Warners, EMI, Sony/BMG, and Universal Spain who simply keep the money. I know. I have seen the relevant contracts.

I'm not in the least bit worried about the overall situation - I work for an international music publishing group who beat the majors hands down on efficiency. We pay black box. We pay all that is due. We are completely transparent. We make money on turnover - that's it... all of it. My job is to write the relevant software.

Jerry

By an amazing coincidence, "Why the flying fuck should I pay Michael Jackson for music?" is a sentiment often heard at Vulture Central.


Just a thought: In spain, do they call it "¡Yahoo!"?

Sadly not, although we'd like to point out that this question should be: "In spain, ¿do they call it '¡Yahoo!'?"


Moving swiftly on, a bunsen of German/UK boffins is about to fire up its GEO600 gravitational wave detector:

"If there is a supernova in our vicinity during the next couple of months, our chances of detecting and measuring the resulting gravitational waves are good," said Professor Karsten Danzmann.

Call me paranoid, but if there is a supernova in our vicinity, won't we all be vapourised in an incandescent ball of fire? Shouldn't Prof Kanzmann be spending his money on developing some sort of atomic rocket that is capable of blasting supernovae out of the sky?

And why aren't you demanding that the government immediately sets up a programme to provide every man, womand and child with a sun hat, dark glasses, and sun cream, and brown paper to stick over our windows until the calamity is safely over and we can return to our shattered lives?

Nick

A "bunsen", btw is the correct collective term for boffins. Another Reg neologism later...


...but for the moment, a bit more science-based feedback, re: the worsening aircraft C02 emissions crisis. Are we all going to die? Maybe not:

I think you can sleep easy on this one - I'm an Airframe mechanic and I can tell you, every possible tiny way to make a turbofan engine more efficient is being, and has been researched continuously ever since gas-air turbines came into being. Evey pound of fuel that can be saved in-flight is one more revenue-generating pound of passenger. If you want to see what is in store for the future, check out the GEnx engine here - it's what is being used on the 787. Cool stuff, lots of composites - this stuff is on the bleeding edge of advanced materials research.

Anyways, if you start to toss and turn over the big bad aviation pollution at night, just remember that air travel is still the cheapest, safest, and cleanest way to travel, bar none.

Thanks for reading my harassment ;-)

-Matt


I very much doubt that aviation pollution in 2050 will be anything like as bad as it is today, let alone much worse. The reason for this is that there will be very few planes in the sky. We are very close to being at 'peak oil', where the rate at which oil can be pumped out of the ground peaks for geological reasons and then declines inexorably year on year, throughout the world. By 2050 the world supply of oil will be a tiny fraction of the 85M barrels per day that the world burns now. There is no realisitic alternative fuel for mass aviation, not even Richard Branson's faviorite, bio-kerosene.

The world as a whole does not realise the full implications of this epocal change. Economists assume that all resources are infinitely flexible, and it is simply a matter of throwing more money at the problem. What they don't realise is that the whole of modern society, including the fractional reserve banking system, is predicated on cheap and flexible energy, namely oil. Once the oil goes, so does the economy. Gas is not as flexible an energy source, and will reach it's own geological peak soon after oil. Coal is nowhere near as good an energy source and hopelessly polluting. Also, although there are large reserves, the 'low hanging fruit' has already been plucked, and future coal will be progressively more expensive.

Current nuclear technology cannot be ramped up enough to replace oil as an energy source, because the world supply of uranium is limited as well. Once peak oil has passed, we will soon reach 'peak net energy', where all forms of energy together reach a point where the energy spent in (say, low grade uranium ore procressing) is so large, that the remaining net energy from the (in this case nuclear) power stations actually starts declining. At that time the global economy must, by the current definition of GDP, go into reverse. This at a time when the global population is still increasing by 75M people a year.

Renewable energy of course has a part to play, and airships are a very efficient form of transport. However, these are not infinitely expandable sources of energy. Biofuels in particular require large areas of land to be set aside for fuel crops, and already palm oil plantations in Borneo are destroying the last habitat of the Orang'utan. World grain stocks are declining rapidly as the world is eating more food than it is growing as it is. Converting grain, corn or sugar to ethanol to power SUVs is going to be seen as deeply immoral in future generations, even if it were economically sensible. If you want to know more about this (and I strongly recommend it would be worth your time) start with these web sites:

http://www.theoildrum.com/ http://www.powerswitch.org.uk/ http://energybulletin.net/

for recent news, try Michael Meacher, MP , ex environment minister

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/money/main.jhtml?xml=/money/2006/06/26/
ccpers26.xml&menuId=242&sSheet=/money/2006/06/26/ixcoms.html

(a bit garbled and pushes the geopolitical points a bit too far, but not bad for a politition).

In the future the human race will use a lot less energy. We can either plan for that fact or face the consequences.

Yours

Ralph Williams


Well, it isn't all bad news: we may be soon down to our last drop of oil, but at least the chances of us getting clobbered unexpectedly by a killer asteroid are about to be substantially reduced:

You say: "The grand plan is the response to a 1998 Congress mandate which required NASA "to identify 90 per cent of near-Earth objects larger than 1 kilometre across by the end of 2008"."

I wonder how NASA will know when they've only got 10% of unidentified NEOs left to identify? Clever chappies, these scientists.

Cheers, Tim

When they've used 90 per cent of their budget, we reckon.


Which silliness leads, as is the local custom, to the usual round-up of comments on Vulture Central lingo. Straight out of the blocks is Kevin with a traditional complaint regarding last week's Letter of the Week.

wazzocks?!? WTF is a wazzock? You know, I REALLY enjoy reading El Reg, but sometimes I need a freaking English-English translator. In fact, I am a source of continual amusement for the two Brits in our office when I ask them what <insert obscure British colloquialism here> means. Take pity on a poor Yank who enjoys your "news" service. Didn't you used to have a terminology page? Perhaps you could include some of the silly colloquialisms that periodically appear.

Kevin

Yes, we seem to remember some form of Reg terminology guide, but it certainly didn't contain "wazzock". Apparently, the word may be derived from "wiseacre" - someone who pretends to wisdom or intelligence, so you can extrapolate its current meaning from that, me old china plate.


Guy Kewney's up next for a bit of linguistic stick for an outrage in his MySpace opinion piece:

As complaining about word choices in ElReg articles is a popular sport [for the record, I have no problems with mobe, lappy or boffin; keep 'em coming]:

please don't EVER use an atrocity like "evildoer" again. This horrible non-word can be used when adressing a five-to-six-year-old with only a vague comprehension of the big bad world, but there the line must be drawn. Popular usage by impopular persons does not alter that fact.

The English tongue is rich with alternatives, --- try Princeton's WordNet for example, their <sisterterms> are enlightening. Adapting Mark Twain's advice, write "bad people" everytime you want to type "evildoer"; then the final editor will invariably replace it, and everything works out fine.

All the best, Marv


Finally, (and, let's face it, mercifully), another Register neologism as promised, as coined in this week's story about Borneo and its amazing technicolour chromoelastic snake:

Surely, "chromo elasticity"? Plastic deformation goes beyond a yield point, so "chromo plasticity" is suggestive of not being able to return to an original colour... whatever that was.

Neil - nails his colours to the fence.

Mast, Neil - you nail your colours to the mast, in the process demonstrating that you're not standing on the fence while doing your nailing.


Not sure if you knew this when coining "chromoplasticity" but I seem to remember that the colour of flowers is determined by cells that are indeed called "chromoplasts".

Richard

There you go then.


Hey there Lester,

Chromoplasticity eh? Cool word... see we are already seeing the improvement since banning mobe and lappy!

Jez

Hold on a minute, both you and Marv have just used the proscribed terms mobe and lappy. We've got your IP addresses, and the pair of you are accordingly banned for a week from reading El Reg. Everyone else will be able to enjoy more reader musings next Tuesday. Keep 'em coming. ®

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