Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/01/26/letters_2601/

China net purification efforts shot down by Silent Guardian

Dressed in a tinfoil suit

By Tracey Cooper

Posted in Letters, 26th January 2007 15:48 GMT

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...

It's time to augment the tinfoil hats with tinfoil suits! I bet that stops the microwaves from their 1/64" penetration. Of course, you're not very stealthy in your shining armor...

I'll get my tinfol hat then,... eh, tinfoil suit I mean.

It is actually amazing that they can talk about "without causing injury" and "minimises collateral damage" in the same piece. I always thought that collateral damage was just an euphemism for generating dead bodies not intended to be killed...

-- Greetings Bertho


Ok, last one. Steel yourself for it:

I can predict the commentary on this article - liberal extremists soft in mind and body protesting that this is just a weapon that the evil government is going to use to torture people. I even see a comment that the inventors of such a device should be forced to use it on their children to see how it can torture people.

Well, anything can be a torture device and cause horrific pain and suffering, from a billiard ball in a sock to a rifle. Banning potentially useful law enforcement devices because they can be used inappropriately is typical of the sadly pathetic and lazily hopolophobic mindset that believes in criminalizing things, not actions. Of course the effects of microwave guns are going to have to be extensively studied.

In fact, I personally think its a stupid idea. Our cops already have highly effective crowd-control technology. Its just this little thing called "inevitable random chance" that causes people in riots to get hurt no matter how "gentle" the law is trying to be and how well trained they are. And all the armchair commentators who can't accept this, that in a large, violent, and chaotic situation, people are going to get hurt, encourage the development of more and more complex (and therefore unreliable) technologies like this microwave gun. As if the neccessary use of force is ever going to be 110% safe like they want.


Awright gerrof it, a rare African chromosome was discovered in Yorkshiremen. And why not the obverse.

How do they know it's not "rare Yorkshire chromosome discovered in Africa" - by 'eck ? Sithee, Mike

"On finding the west African artefact in one individual, researchers were able to recruit six other men with the same surname, and assign all of them to the rare haplogroup, which previously had only 25 known members worldwide, all of whom were African."

Which could, of course, just as readily mean that some obscure Yorkshireman got some African girl(s) pregnant, since the 18th century. One Yorkshireman working for a slaver company in the 18th century, or for the Raj in the following century, would have had ample opportunity to start paternal lines, possibly in several distinct places, in West Africa; while his brothers kept his Y chromosome going back home. If we could identify the most recent common paternal-ancestor of the Africans involved, and he predates British intrusions into Africa, we'd have a compelling argument for believing the chromosome came from Africa to Yorkshire; however, we probably don't have such detailed records of births and marriages for the Africans' paternal-ancestry as we do for our Yorkshiremen (leaving aside the quite general problems with how such records relate to paternity). So this may actually be a Yorkshire artefact which was first discovered in West Africa and only subsequently in its land of origin.

What we know is: we have a few Yorkshiremen with an 18th century common ancestor; and a few (but not quite as few) Africans with whom they share Y chromosome; which implies a common ancestor in their paternal-ancestry tree. This doesn't tell us whether that common ancestor was a Yorkshireman or an African.

A very careful study of the "alleged-paternal ancestral" trees of all involved might yield some clues - each mutation-or-misallegation should show up through sub-trees of alleged brothers having different Y chromosomes; and we can safely assume that the actual paternal-ancestral tree genuinely has one root at which the mutation arose - but only in so far as relevant records exist to establish the trees.

- Edward


Are we to expect a new brand of 419ers?

Eh, by gum. 'Ave got 'ol pile a brass 'ere wit yon name on eet. Y'ad be daft as brush t'turn't down. Jus' gizzer bank details, 'n all's well.

- Keith


The good news of the week that the PS3 will hit shelves on 23 March was dampened by the cost we'll have to fork out on this side of the ditch:

current exchange rates put the European model at $777 (US) and the UK model at $837 (US) for something that sells in the US for $599...

why are we in the UK continually getting shafted like this?

when the Wii was launched, it was cheaper to buy one from Japan, pay £20 postage and pay import duty. you'd have savd about a tenner on the UK shop price.


You thought French newsreader Melissa Theuriau receiving the accolade of "YouTube's hottest babe EVER" was just good news all round though:

Lester,

Top link, thanks.

Apparently "Forbidden Zone" is on channel M6, which is available in HD on satellite Astra 1G. If any Reg readers work out how to get this on a standard Sky dish/HD box, it would be your public duty to share...

John

Get to it, then. And when you know, there's a few hacks at Vulture Central who'd pay good money for the info too...see you next week. ®