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Letters We all love to complain about the state of the railways, so when last week's weather chaos brought services to a standstill, we all had a bit of a moan. Things got even worse in the aftermath when one rail bigwig came out and said packed commuter trains are safer. Cue outrage. You lot were very vocal on this issue (see here), but one reader, incidentally a rail worker, has been in touch since to set the record straight:

As a rail worker who works with the infrastructure of the UK's railways, you get to see much more than the average commuter who simply sees a guard to complain to. So while I understand these people have a serious point about the congestion and pricing on the trains, there is another side to this debate.

To all those who wish to decry the state of our railways today, the main culprits are NOT the Train Operating Companies (TOCs). No, its the Rolling Stock Companies (ROSCOs). The high price charged for the hire and maintainance of the trains leads the operators to increase their fare prices to cover these costs, or face running fewer services, with less reliability.

Simply blaming companies like First Great Western (whom I travel with on a regular basis) will have little effect, as they are under control of the ROSCOs. Until the government sorts out the pricing fiasco, the situation will not change.

Also, the main cause of delays and cancellations is again not the fault of the TOCs, but of the lack of pro-active maintainance put foreward by Network Rail. The situation is slowly improving, but much of the rail network is sorely in need of updating.

So while you have your complaint forms out for the ROSCOs, whack a comment or three in about NWR getting its arse into gear and sorting out what will undoubtably be the main method of transport when the roads finally grind to a halt. After all, prevention is better than cure.... Mike


Also harking back to Tuesday's mailbag roundup, some of you had more to say on BT's apparent omission of the configuration code required to fulfill GPL requirements.

Just a quick point of correction.

BT are not actually required to publish teh GPL code they use, what they are required to do is to supply the source code used to build any binary using GPL code - but only to those they supplied the binaries to. So you and I have no direct right to demand that BT supply me with the code - but anyone supplied with one of these units IS entitled to it if they so desire.

Whilst BT can most easily achieve the required distribution by publishing it on the net and providing their customers witha link to it, they could equally well just supply it on the disk that probably already goes in the box with the unit.


China's Communist Party leader Hu Jintao has vowed to purify the web by ensuring "that one hand grasps development while one hand grasps administration". Hmmm. Sound like a feasible idea, comrade?

Give chairman knife so that he may neatly cut water.

Clamping down on the internet, Hu? 137 million users with an opinion and a keyboard... good luck with that one. We should send him a link with King Canut's helpful tips on how to command the tide not to come in.

My fortune cookie says: "Genie that has left bottle, not so keen to get back in".

Very well said, sir.


Quite right too. Manys the day when I accidentally find myself "more interested in salacious pictures, bloodthirsty games and political scandal than Marxist lessons", and often think "if only there was someone out there who could purify the 'net."

When he's done with the Chinese internet, perhaps he could take a look at ours..

Andy


The US also had a crack at keeping a grasp of the reins by slipping out its Silent Guardian this week, a crowd calming weapon that heats those in its path to about 50°C. You were, rightly, sceptical about the whole thing:

Beebman says: "too painful to bear and forcing them to dive for cover" USMilitary says: "does not cause injury because of the shallow penetration depth of the millimetre wave"

Who do you believe, eh? I give it 4-6 months before the first YouTube clip appears showing some Iraqi guy forced into a corner and cooked alive by this thing.


I've worked with Raytheon before and they never saw a promise they couldn't make or deadline they couldn't break. It also helps when your Senator has been there forever. Oh, I'll bet these units are not armored so that one sniper, just out of effective range, can disable this expensive toy before it gets to give an angry mob a hot foot.

Others were just plain amused:

Hi Lester,

I was just reading your report on the US rolling out the 'Silent Guardian'. In your report you cited many facts but 2 of them jumped out at me. When you put these facts together, it really doesn't make sense and kind of makes either the US Army or Raytheon look rather silly. The point that it is supposed to heat the skin to 50 degrees and the point that they intended to roll it out to Iraq. Put these points together and it makes me think...

"Well, that wouldn't make much of an effect now would it!? It's about 50+ degrees over there anyway!!"

It amused me, anyway.

Regards, Phil


The rays penetrate up to 1/64 of an inch into the body.... I make that to be 0.4mm. Therefore, this year, I shall mostly be protecting myself from Heat Energy Rays with a newspaper!

Cheers.

We always knew there was a use for those broadsheets...

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