Original URL: https://www.theregister.co.uk/2006/11/07/letters_0711/

Identify yourself, science dodging cow-human


By Lucy Sherriff

Posted in Bootnotes, 7th November 2006 16:44 GMT

Letters Tony Blair has set out to defend his ludicrous and intrusive ID card and national identity register project with an opinion piece in The Telegraph. We'll not go into this in detail again, but suffice to say that you have (again) failed to be convinced by his arguments:

Blair, self confessed science-dunderhead, assures us that the ID cards scheme is going to work, based on what track record, I don't know. He says that the cards will only cost £30 as well as your passport £66; even if this is what we will have to hand over for the privilege of having our privacy invaded, does he really think that we believe the short fall won't be made up by tax? ie: money that we have to pay the government.

Incidentally the only biometric that is required on passports is a picture on the chip, this is hardly the same as a full scale national roll-out of a multi-biometric ID card system. They seem to be getting away with this little white lie more and more often.



So, here's a question from America. The Register is of course rightly worked up over ID cards, and rightly so. But is the message getting through to citizens in the UK, or is it a non-issue to Joe Public? I'm glad W is distracted by his war, because you can stop a war, but it's harder to turn off surveillance once it's started. In 1999 I would have bet big money that Americans would never have put up with being stopped by uniformed guards and having their travel papers scrutinized. Maybe that's why I don't like to fly anymore.

Sigh.   - Kurt

"Biometrics give us the chance to have secure identity"

Which shows exactly how much he knows...

As it happens, my identity is fine, thanks, although my identification may occasionally get screwed up, usually by government agencies.

Once you substitute the word 'identification' for 'identity' in this sort of rhetoric, the paranoia begins to deflate, and the real issue becomes a bit clearer. No wonder it doesn't get used...

James Pickett

"He goes on to promise ID cards will cost no more than £30 on top of the £66 the biometric passport will cost"

What on earth does this mean.  Could it mean that if I don't have passport, an ID card will cost me 96 quid. Or more likely, does it mean that ID card and Passport are a "2 for 1" deal and you can't have one without the other.

But then you have to wonder why one needs two different IDs, two different databases, two different issuing bodies?  Why not use passports for all purposes?

- Geoff

"I simply don't recognise some of the figures that have been attached to ID cards which, too often, include the costs of biometric passports."

There's something of a pattern here, the Dear Leader also had trouble recognising some of the figures attached to the number of Iraqi WMDs.

Mike Richards

YouTube? No, that's MyTube, thank you. And this is my lawyer. Notice the shiny lawsuit:

Have a quick solution for this quandry : Universal Tube should buy the domain universaltube.com, or unitube.com, and settle the issue on their own. For the modest price of a few dollar bills, they can get themselves out of the storm and continue doing business on the Internet. It's amazing how companies and people just go to the judge instead of looking at things critically.

Is Universal Tube going to lose customers because of a change in domain name ? I think not.

Is Big U going to gain anything by raiding YouTube's domain ? Not really.

So why not do the sensible thing ? Besides, getting the utube domain for Universal Tube was lazy in the first place. YouTube can arguably maintain that they have nothing to do with the mistake, and it's not their fault. Nobody is going to win this one, and while the lawyers get more pork, the situation stays the same.


I like a man who knows a good revenue-generating opportunity when he sees one. Maybe Google should hire him to find a viable business model for YouTube. Good on yer Ralph.


Well, it seems they are doing a whole lot of nothing to fix the problem. The front page of their site is a whole 1mb in size! Had they used semantic markup, css, and appropriate image compression techniques they probably would have felt very little impact.


You've got to laugh. I assume Universal Tubing is American, as only in the Land of the free (well until G Dubya passed all those nice anti terror laws recently) could a company start throwing the lawyers about because they got too many web site visitors. It's not like these visitors aren't going to realise their mistake in the first 30 seconds and go ask their mate how to correctly spell the second person singular pronoun in the nominative case. (Although I fear these days the reply would be "Da wot?").

Oh well, got to admire their nerve though, personally I wouldn't fancy upsetting Google and finding myself magically vanishing from their search index!

Maybe they should be going after Nokia et al for making mobile phone keypads so small people gave up spelling correctly, or whatever bright spark decided on such a small size for the SMS so abbreviations became required...

You should be careful though, they might come looking for you next. I'm sure more than a few Register readers have gone to have a look at their site. Be afraid!


An observation about Thomas C. Greene's obvious newbie error in his early reports from Dublin:

Your Dublin correspondent, Thomas C. Greene, can't have lived here for very long if he has to be corrected by a Sunday Times hack regarding our PM's speech patterns, or rather mangling.

Bertie Ahern is renowned throughout this Emerald Isle for his inner Dublin accent and lack of oratory prowess, frequently stumbling over himself, "eh-ing" and "ah-ing" and generally striving for that right word and failing miserably to find it.

Even more amusing is the odd occasion in our House of Commons, the Dail (pron: Doyle), when he comes under sustained attack from members of the opposition. At times like these he descends into an inner-inner Dublin sneer-type rant with spittle flying everywhere and words picked seemingly at random as he retaliates like the boot boy he is. The end result is that the observer is left nonplussed as to the point of his rant as word follows meaningless word seemingly at random.

Plus, he drinks Bass, an ale-like local beverage that not even the most desperate down and out would use to reach the land of inebriation in place of his Buckfast.

May Thomas soon attune himself to the peculiar pattern of Bertie song so that he need no longer demean himself to the world-wide readership of The Reg. However, a word of friendly warning Mr.,Greene; don't, whatever you do, try to decipher the Mayo accent of the esteemed leader of the opposition, Enda Kenny (or Indakinny as our national press fondly remonickered him).

Yours, Paul

Another opportunity to smack the Dear Leader (Mr. Blair) around the head. This time in relation to his comments about science being fundamental to the future of the British economy:

"He said failure to engage in rational debate ... contributed to the scare over the MMR vaccine."

So this would be the same Mr Blair who refused to confirm that his toddler had been given the MMR jab, then? The one whose wife buys into any new-age tosh that happens along?

Something about motes and beams springs to mind.


If the Dear Leader is so keen to promote science in Britain, he should prevent creationism from being taught in state schools such as the Gateshead Academy, which is sponsored by the anti-evolutionist Vardy Foundation.

He should also reverse the recent decision by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency to allow manufacturers of homeopathic products to make claims about the medical efficacy of their products, a move that has been condemned by a dozen of Britain's leading scientific and medical institutions (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/6085242.stm).


Blair really just doesn't get it. The reason people are not falling over themselves to get a science degree is because it simply doesn't pay. Someone in Marketing earns more money, gets more respect - and faces less risk of having their job outsourced to the lowest bidder in the Far East. Is it any surprise that science graduates are in short supply?

I've said this before, and I'll say it again: Cheap labour for industry and a science-literate population are mutually exclusive goals. (The state of dumbed-down television has done nothing to generate any scientific interest since the 1980s, anyway!) Labour has opted for the former, but is now lamenting the state of the latter. But that's just life - you can't have everything!


How exactly does Blair's new stance on science align with his religious beliefs, his unrelenting support for 'faith-based' schooling at the taxpayer's expense and his public support for the teaching of biblical myth as historical or scientific fact. He publically supports, and provides government subsidies to, Sir Peter Vardy and his Emmanuel College, where fundamentalist biblical literalism is taught as fact - Flood Geology, for instance, and, of course, the perennial favourite 'intelligent' design.

Science isn't just a career option. It involves thinking about and questioning the world around you. To fill kids heads full of bronze-age mythologies as fact and then expect them to pick up a career in science is completely self-defeating. We either bring up our kids to think and explore or we keep them in the dark, hating all the others who don't use the same dark age texts.


"Tony Blair is set to deliver a speech in Oxford today calling for Brits to "stand up for science", in a bid to make scientific careers more attractive to young people."

Excuse my French, but what a load of bollocks - he might want to start by making scientific careers more attractive to those who are already in them. Only in this godforsaken armpit of a country could someone a) be penalised for having the audacity to better themselves, educationally or otherwise and b) have a PhD in physics, several years of commercial software development experience *and* a shiny new P45 ...

Oh, and while he's at it, our beloved PM might want to look at the dumbing down of science courses at both GCSE and A-Level although this isn't a new thing despite what the meeja would have you believe; I had the misfortune to have to teach undergraduates at what is supposedly one of the top 5 universities (York, in this case) and let's just say that I'd expect people embarking on physics degrees to have at least a basic grasp of mathematics ...

It were never like this when I were a lad, etc.etc.

Simon (boffin, and proud of it)

Shame he didn't take his own advice! But then he's probably not bright enough for science.


We brought you the fabulous news that you can now read War and Peace in mere moments with the aid of a mobile phone. But are you big fans of speed reading? Er, not so as you would notice.

Oh great, instead of taking two weeks to appreciate a good book and regret finishing it, I'll just need two hours to "absorb" it and get the to same point. What is it with this society that everything has to go faster and faster?

What is wrong with actually sitting down for two good hours of mind-enlarging, paper-enhanced storytelling, with the knowledge that tomorrow there'll be more hours of fun ? I am a good reader. 800 pages in a book do not impress me, and I can read that in a day if I want (and have the time).

I have more than a thousand books at home (but not all of the 800-page variety) and I've read every one of them at least twice - and many times more when it comes to my favorites. I realize that speed reading has its uses, and I also realize that this is not mandatory, but please, can we avoid transforming every aspect of our lives into some sort of competition with computers ? Taking it slowly brings it own rewards.


Sure, why not? Reading goes faster when you don't sweat comprehension.


Yeah, and in theory I can speed-up a song or movie to be heard or watched in only a quarter of the time. The question is, who really wants to do that? What pleasure or relaxation can be found in doing that?

Like listening to music or watching a movie, reading is an escape for most people. It's a chance to unwind and let the brain slow down from having to deal with the plethora of varying stimuli we throw at it all at once over the breadth of a day. All that speed reading concepts such as Book Muncher will do is keep the brain just as frantic as ever so that we can't relax.

The reason this and rivals have not achieved a breakthrough in the market is because there is no market. They've reached the few people that get a kick out of it and no one else wants it. We don't read to overstimulate ourselves. We read to unwide from the overstimulation that typically fills the day.


An alert and vulture-eyed reader notices something wrong with an expert's explanation of the car-molesting radar installation in Norfolk:

Defence expert Jonathan Levy explained to the Standard: "The phase shifters control the frequency of the radar. When this changed it could have moved the frequency close to the immobilisers of cars. The effect would be like disrupting a circuit by putting a magnet near it."

Some fu*cking expert then. Perhaps the clue is in 'phase shifter', since phase shifters affect the PHASE not the FREQUENCY. What a twat. I'd also like to see a demonstration of affecting a circuit by putting a magnet near it. Jeez, you can't get the experts these days .... Phase shifters are probably used in a phased-array antenna to shape the beam. If they are faulty the beam could potentially have been diverted onto the road instead of into the sky, but then the safety interlocks should have disabled the radar. Many years ago I watched high power radars be used to knock pigeons out of the sky by mates-who-must-remain-unnamed at a defence research establishment. If I were one of the victims of the car immobilisation events I'd want an explanation from the MoD about the power densities these folk experienced and what the Health and Safety Executive was going to do about it, since those kinds of power levels can be hazardous to health (cataracts, sterility and other nasties being symptoms).

I presume the interlocks were present and working? Ah, but no, they couldn't be or they would have turned the radar off. Still, if the public doesn't know this is dangerous why should the MoD tell them?


Science is harder than media studies, the House of Lords says. We say: Gosh, really?

I write w.r.t. the article "Students shy away from 'difficult' science"..... I'm an admissions tutor in higher education, for years I've tried to recruit to my course giving "better" (more easily achievable) UCAS points offers to students studying maths and sciences (I teach computing/programming) and for years I've been told by our admissions and records office that we should treat all subjects equally. It's all just a part of the politicisation of education and the "emperors new clothes" attitude towards academic achievement we have now in the UK. So I say to your article "hear, hear!" let the mythes of these education snake oil sales men be exposed.


Researchers reveal a proof of concept Mac OSX virus that, should it infect you, is unlikely to do much damage:

It seems to me that readers interested in the McAfee product for Mac OS X would also be interested in a similar product for a much greater threat:

Experts agree that the star nearest our own planet, the sun, is in the "early stages" of supernova. The threat of supernova will greatly increase in the future.

For a small monthly subscription, my company's software will prevent the threat of a solar supernova from affecting the computers on which it runs.

Somewhat sincerely,


To forestall the pedants who will doubtless write in about this one, we know our sun isn't actually big enough to go supernova. We think Joel probably knows this too. Step away from the keyboard...

Small business will save us from terrorists by being terribly innovative about surveillance. Apparently:

Amazing. These unnamed evil terrorists also run fabs to produce evil exploding chips? Or what is it exactly that justifies using more and more thecnology to spy on the common man?

Because clearly, everybody who didn't vote for the current government is a terrorist.

If I'm dead wrong, can anybody please tell me what the current PC definition of "terrorirst" is and why such a person is by definition so technologically savvy that there is danger of the establishment losing some sort of race? Because they are people with arms?

Please do tell before I'm merely dead, shot while traveling the tube.


A Spanish judge has ruled that sharing CDs containing recordings music downloaded for personal use is not illegal, as he dismisses a case against an anonymous 48-year old man :

Just writing to say that I think that the paragraph at the end of your article...

"Over 100 students at Växjö University, southern Sweden, have been banned from using the institution's network in the past two years because they downloaded copyrighted material without permission in their apartments on the university campus."

needs to be put into context. The way you wrote it makes it sound like the students were totally banned from using the University's network when in fact, as I understand it from the stories I have read in the Swedish press, it was only the connection directly in their dormitory room that was disconnected, they were still able to use other connections in the computer lab and library, and the ban on their dormitory room connection was only for two weeks for each transgression. This, I feel, is much less severe than your article leads the reader to believe.

Also the two men who were earlier fined in Sweden were both unemployed and since in Sweden the actual amount of a fine is expressed as a multiple of x days wages, they did not actually pay very much in fines. They were sentenced to pay 80 days wages of 250kr, so their actual fine was 20,000kr (£1455 or $2777). Not very much when you consider one of the men was accused of downloading more than 13,000 songs (that's cheaper than iTunes where individual songs cost 9kr).

I live in Sweden and I get the feeling that the government's heart really isn't in helping the RIAA and other international bodies prosecute individuals. They appear to be doing the minimum necessary to keep the RIAA and the American government happy. When you consider in a population of only 9 million people it is estimated that 1.2 million participate in illegal file sharing, just what are the government supposed to do? Fine or lock up 10% of the population?


The judge is wrong as reality will demonstate shortly.


And we hear from Oli again, in connection with news that a case claiming that two Russian companies hacked into a London computer system can be heard in English courts:

Hang those friggin scumbags by their balls !



UK banks have agreed to share data on suspected financial criminals with the government, and in return want access to public sector information:

Does anyone else find the whole concept a bit disturbing ?

The jist seems to be that if the government (or their delegated authorities) decide that someone has done something wrong, then instead of all that troublesome collecting of evidence and prosecution, they can just slap a corporate ASBO on them and skip all that bothersome right to fair hearing etc ! And to top it off, having slapped on this order with no right of review or appeal, it then falls on business to enforce sanctions - again with no oversight or review.

So yet another step down the road to "conviction by accusation" and "guilt until proven innocent" as the cornerstones of our legal system.


Knock knock. Moos there? A cow human crossbreed. Pull the udder one...

"Dr Stephen Minger" is happily developing a bovine-human hybrid. Funny. I thought that's what minger meant...


For the record, I am in favor of stem cell research, but the stories about transgenic embryos put me in mind of a series of stories written some fifty years ago (give or take) by Cordwainer Smith (pseudonym of Paul Linebarger: check out http://www.ulmus.net/ace/csmith/linebargerbiography.cfm --he was quite a remarkable fellow!) under the rubric of "The Instrumentality of Man," which was a 'future history.' A race of transgenic "underpeople" was bred as workers.

In the fullness of time they had their own revolution and their own "Joan of Arc." I know it's just fiction, but it's interesting to think we might be moving down that road.


The Scottish Council on Human Bioethics say, "you may begin to undermine the whole distinction between humans and animals."

What is that distinction again? I rather thought that humans were animals. If we're not animals, I wonder if the SCHB could advise what we are? A particularly complex fungus perhaps?


Nigeria buys a satellite from the UK. Your response was kind of inevitable:

Re: Nigeria plans 2009 satellite launch

Dear Lucy, Your name comes highly commended to me. I have ten million pounds tied up in our Nigerian Space Satellites and need someone to act as an intermediary to release it from the bank.

If you will help perform this service you will receive US$1M and a free ride into space.

please respond ASAP as we cannot hold this for long regards Monazir Ahmed --- p.s. this is a poor attempt at humour

General monazire Ahmed of Nigeria

Provided we don't get stranded in orbit after following up on that most exciting offer, we'll be back on Friday with more from you. ®