Original URL: https://www.theregister.co.uk/2006/09/22/letters_2209/

California's anti-car fortnight causes concern

As does HP's new snowballing habit. Ew

By Lucy Sherriff

Posted in Bootnotes, 22nd September 2006 13:40 GMT

Letters Take a deep breath in. Breathe out and congratulate yourself. You have made it to Friday, and are soon to be rewarded with a weekend (unless you work on Saturdays or something).

Regardless of all that, the one remaining challenge is to make it through the good old letters page round-up. Here are the things that have been troubling you, this week.

Let's kick off with the great news that our mobile phones are to be deployed in the battle against terrorism. Yes, clever sensors in the mobes of the future could detect chemicals - like explosive ones, or, less dramatically, pollen:

Doesn't feel right to me : smells like lawsuit territory. The first person to get a rash will rush to his lawyer and sue the industry maker for millions on grounds that the device didn't warn the user that poison ivy was likely to induce itching. You know I'm right.


p>It would be cool if you could use this feature in conjunction with other phones linked via Bluetooth to triangulate the position of the person who just dropped a really obnoxious fart ;)

Other than that, I can't see the point regarding terrorism - most chemical attacks will be using highly lethal gases - if you can detect them, you're already getting exposed. The only possible benefit might be if the phone would analyse the chemicals and information about anything it did not recognise would be sent (maybe via text) to a server that would identify it and tell you what it was.

Then again, the last thing I want as I gag for air and my organs melt and pour from my orifices is a text message from my phone telling me "U R GNG 2 DIE" with some kind of content-tracking "intelligent" ad offering me a discount on undertaking services...


"with sensitive enough detection technology it should be possible to provide a warning before the symptoms kick in"

Whoa, not so fast, ombre. With sensitive enough detection technology it's surely inevitable that the false positive rates will go through the ceiling, and the hospitals will clog up with the worried well (cf the Tokyo sarin attacks) immediately prior to the devices being banned.

What happens if you keep it in your back pocket and you fart, incidentally? Do you need to teach it pong recognition. (-:


I'm no expert, but I'm sure watching the James Bond films will uncover plenty of prior art for this one.



Yet more anti-evolution ranting, this time from Bishop Boniface Adoyo, who objects to an exhibition of fossils collected by Richard Leakey. Not to the exhibition, as such, more to the claim that we might be related to any of the dusty exhibits:

" 'When you use evolution as God's tool in creating man in his image, you have to reckon with the fact at what stage in the evolution process does man attain to that image?' (Bishop Boniface Adoyo) told Wired.com."

...Not yet, as far as I can tell, and probably not any time soon... Mike

Sorry Boniface, but given the absence of proof, God is still a theory too, so you should word your protests differently, as in "I don't have a clue about what any of this means, but it bothers me so please don't let me in".


"God could be anything and I'm afraid I cannot put my faith in a 'changing God' or an 'anything God'." Oh ye man of little faith :D I wonder how he explains the bloody stupid design of pharynx leading to both windpipe and oesophagus, then. It's been around for millions of years, you'd think a creationist God would have noticed it's a bummer by now.


This reminds me of that rather accurate phrase i heard once, that Man made God in his own image.. not the other way round!!


Next, California sues car manufacturers. No, really:

There may be some method behind their madness: the car companies are suing the state because some of the laws being made by the state for clean air and efficiency of cars are, according to the car manufacturers, illegal and unfair. The suit the state is making can, if that is the case, be seen as a "two can play that game" gambit.

Unfortunately, the argument showing this isn't there. E.g. "The accused are guilty of deliberate environmental damage because they are fighting <these> statutes based, not on the environmental impact but on legal finessing" would help show that this lawsuit is more about stopping the manufacturers stonewalling than a blanket "cars are bad" suit.


So California is to sue car makers... rather than considering logical approaches such as taxing fuel in an effort to persuade people to drive more fuel efficient cars??

Is this the same California that's governed by Arnie; the guy who twisted GM's arm so hard that they gave in and bought the rights to start mass producing civilian versions of the 16mpg Hummer?

What's next..? How about suing oil companies for supplying the fuel for people to burn?? Should we sue god for creating carbon dioxide in the first place? When will these whackos learn?

Jo Phenna

A good point, and well made, but one point. We can only assume that the 16mpg figure you quote refers to metres, not miles. If the Hummer had a fuel efficiency like that, well, people probably wouldn't feel the need to hump them in public.

Click through to page two...ah, go on...

Staying with all things West Coast and Terminator related, we also brought you news that Arnie was planning to irritate driving cell phone users, by fining them for their dastardly behaviour. Only a little bit, though:

Arnie is a joke !

No driver should be allowed to operate a cellphone while a vehicle is in motion - no one!

The fine for the first offense should be $500. A second offense should be $5000 and loss of license for a year. Three strikes and you permanently lose your license, get fined $10,000 and go to jail for 5 years. That is what the law should be worldwide.What's a persons life worth?

It has been proven that ear plugs and speaker phones are still an unacceptable distraction in a moving vehicle and must be avoided at all costs. Are people so goddamn stupid they don't understand that people talking on cellphones in cars are killing people everyday? WTF is wrong with society when they can't leave their cellphone off while driving?

Is that friggin phone worth DYING for?


Maybe what they could do is say "if you are in an accident and we check up on your phone record and you were using a mobile phone around that time, you are by default the one at fault.

If both parties in an accident are on phones, then the monies will go to RoSPA (well, whatever similar org there is in Cal)".

E.g. if you are on the phone, you are by default negligently driving.


So when are they going to ban other things that keep your hands off the wheel? Such driving whilst holding you coffee cup? or lighted cigarette or eve a lighted match?

Would you rather drop that mobe in a hurry or the full supersize jumbo coke?


I know I must be really stupid, but I really don't get this. If the problem is being distracted by phone calls whilst you're driving, what difference does it make if it's hand held or hands free?

Seems to me some people just aren't happy if they can't ban things and fine people - whether it makes any real sense or not.

We have bans and fines here in Europe, but on the other hand the vast majority of cars here have manual gearboxes, and you can't steer and change gear with one hand. But in California, almost cars have automatic geaboxes and can be driven perfectly well with one hand.


Why does Arnie, in common with so many others, assume that the distraction lies in the phone rather than the conversation? Hands-free kits appear to be no safer -



Best - Mark.

And the story that just will not lie down and die: fingerprinting the kiddies. This set, in response to your responses, that were in response to another set of...oh, you know what we mean. The original story was here:

I have done a fair bit of work on this, some in Middle East states where laws r not the same as uk. Fingerprint ID systems DO NOT store the original print so it is not good for the FBI, MI5 et al. They just store a code generated by the print.

There is not even a standard for data xchange between rival groups Identix et al. Some systems have an option to store the original print and this should be DISABLED there is no valid reason for it except BigBro.

HOWEVER it is fairly ez to fake a print which is y credit card/ATM cos do not use prints. Prints can be taken off glass, recently dead/chilled fingers work fine. Photocopies do not work. Retinal scan is the only biometric system that works and it co$ts. UK PINnChip is a larf.

Evenso print id is a good quick n dirty authentication system and could save a lot of time tears n money if more widely.

For instance print authentication would add buttons to a mobile phone, save a lotta time at airports (which r going to have it anyway) etc etc.but not schools The money would be better spent on weapons detection.

Prints are poor for picking a suspect from a large database - DNA is much better. UK Govt crime print analysis is very poor and subjective - there is at least one case of a print conviction being thrown out on appeal. Prints never change, even after fingers being injured. ID twins do NOT have the same prints.

A very tiny number of people do not have prints. One of these holds a senior banking security post!

FYI I bunked off whenever I felt like it at school and uni, 2 many teachers have only regurgitated tosh on offer anyway. It did not stop me getting an MSc engineering ... Teachers (at any level) should be rated by attraction and in any case who wants to teach to prisoners? Teaching does not mean regurgitating textbooks (often wrong and out of date) or the party line. If kids bunk off they have good reason. It's a wonder they can think at all by 18. Now, pass me that hammer ....


Howard, we thank you for your contribution. But next time, please (for the love of Vultures) write to us using proper words, not txt spk, or we'll be forced to break out the Red Pen of shame and send your email to sub-editing hell.

In your roundup "Censorship, naughty teens, biometrics and butt-plugs", Steve writes: "I work in a school as the Network Manager... Well unfortunately she isn't teaching anymore and most teachers hate calling out a register because of the short attention span of the kiddies... After a few months of research I felt that the only way we could be 100% sure that students were in lessons (and other students that shouldn't were not) was by using fingerprinting."

Steve describes himself as a Network Manager, not a teacher, yet he claims to speak for 'most teachers'. If Steve actually is a teacher, he worries me; teachers have more hours of a child's waking day than their parents do over the year, and yet Steve clearly feels that teachers can have no real idea who is sitting in the room with them unless some piece of technology tells them. A regular teacher who doesn't know the people in front of them is not doing their job correctly and someone who actually teaches should know this; good teaching at this age range demands personal interaction with each and every pupil. By all means use tech aids where they can help - a supply teacher would have a much easier job with a register which included pictures of the class and access to any relevant absences logged with administration - but they do not constitute a replacement for teacher-pupil interaction.

Claiming that fingerprinting will allow them to know who is present or absent from the lesson is something which can only engender a dangerous sense of diminished personal responsibility to the member of staff concerned. Lest ye forget, it is that same member of staff who stands in loco parentis for the duration of the lesson; the fingerprint machine is not the responsible, self-aware adult. This whole palaver is a complete waste of money which would be far better spent on improving the education of those faceless pupils that the staff don't recognise, and therefore in all likelihood haven't taught anything to this year. I wonder if Steve would also argue that he needs to forcibly fingerprint all the teachers so that the children can verify their attendance.


The Information Commissioner rules that communications watchdog Ofcom is wrongly withholding information about mobile masts from the public:

It's laughable that Ofcom thinks that this data makes it easy for terrorists to target transmitters. It's not as if they are hidden!

However, there's an interesting point that if the transmitter is above 15 metres high it requires planning permission. I note one very near my house that is supposedly 14.9 metres high but from counting bricks from the ground up is probably above 15 metres high.

It's worth checking out just to find transmitters that are too high.


Re Cellphone locations.

A few years back even the cellcos didn't have cell transmitter locations properly recorded. I remember seeing an internal map at one of the UK's big three cellcos. It showed cell locations as circles whose colour and size indicated usage patterns.

There was a significant cluster of transmitters in the bottom left corner of the map, somewhere in the sea to the south west of the Scilly Isles. When I asked about them, I was told that those were the transmitters with unknown locations. I've always wondered how they got serviced.....


Wikipedia founder forks Wikipedia, and we get pulled up on spelling:

It's "Reaver", damn it. With an "a". Not "Reever", despite what some pasty fanboy writes on universeguide.com. It's had that spelling since at least 1615, if the OED is anything to judge by, and I rather think it is. From Old English "reafere", cognate to "rover" and "robber".

A "reever" is a wooden instrument for collecting the crushed apples from a cider mill. Scary in its own way (what are they doing with those apples?) but not, I suspect, what Joss Weedon had in mind.



And finally, when good headlines go bad. A perfectly innocent news story about the escalating scandal at HP got read horribly out of context:


With reference to "HP's snowballing shame", (http://www.theregister.co.uk/2006/09/20/hp_investigation_roundup/) I misinterpreted the headline...


Now THAT would make a story!

Keep up the good work,


We will try. And in the meantime, we'll head for cover in yonder drinking establishment. Whose round was it, anyway?

Have a good weekend. ®