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Japan To Offer \$20,000 Subsidy For Fuel-Cell Cars

Re:Why isn't the U.S. doing things like this? (154 comments)

Well, efficiency informs us on cost. Let's couple those costs with efficiency and use the same fuel source.

Natural gas power stations vs hydrogen (from reformed natural gas)

Gas power station = 60% efficient [1]

So a battery vehicle powered by electricity generated from natural gas :

Gas turbine efficiency * transmission line efficiency * battery cycle efficiency

0.6 * 0.94 * 0.95 = 53%

Natural gas is primarily methane. Methane releases 810kJ per mole [2] on burning, and contains 4 moles of hydrogen atoms which would form 2 moles of hydrogen gas. Assuming we remove the carbon from a mole of methane, we get 2 moles of hydrogen molecules. Energy of combusion of hydrogen gas is 286kJ/mol [3], so that's 572kJ/mol per mole of methane or just over 70% of the energy. I'm going to be very generous and assume that steam reformation costs no energy and that no hydrogen is lost in the process.

Methane reformation to hydrogen efficiency * fuel cell efficiency

0.7 * 0.5 = 35%

Therefore starting with the same fuel as an energy source, storage tank to wheels, the fuel cell car requires at least 50% more fuel. Therefore it costs more per mile, and that's before any of the other engineering considerations.

Please don't try to tell me that the cost of electricity produced from natural gas is completely decoupled from the cost of hydrogen produced from natural gas.

2 days ago
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Japan To Offer \$20,000 Subsidy For Fuel-Cell Cars

Re:Why isn't the U.S. doing things like this? (154 comments)

The horse is still high enough. Twice as high as the pony that fuel cells rode in on, at the least.

Making electricity from a power plant with a traditional thermal conversion cycle (40% efficiency, at best) and making hydrogen by electrolysis (50% efficiency) and using it to power your fuel cell car (again, about 50%) yields

0.4 * 0.5 * 0.5 = 0.1 or 10% efficiency for the fuel that went in. That's half the efficiency of a traditional internal combustion engine.

Efficiency of an ICE averages about 20%. And I'm being generous with that because that does not take into account the losses from refining raw fuels (like coal, which can be burned unrefined).

Not sure what the efficiency of making hydrogen with steam reformation is, but logically you're throwing away a lot of the chemical energy in the original compound, because in a combustion cycle you'd be burning the carbon as well as the oxygen, and if you want the "green" benefits you also have to spend resources sequestering the carbon byproducts so produced. If it's above 80% efficient (which would seem on inspection to be impossible because of the lost carbon), then you have a vehicle that is clean at the tailpipe but just barely more full-cycle efficient than an ICE based vehicle, all other things being equal. Which they aren't because of the expensive platinum catalyst, heavy cryogenic high pressure tanks, etc, etc, etc.

Battery cycle is about 95% efficient. So even if you burn fossil fuels (40% efficiency) and suffer transmission losses (in the US, 94% efficiency), you still get a car that is more efficient than both ICEs and fuel cells.

0.4 * 0.94 * 0.95 = 35% efficiency

So at less than twice the efficiency of ICEs, electric cars are not the magical panacea that they are painted to be, but they are much better than ICEs and fuel cells. The major play available is in the first stage - the electricity generation. When you start replacing those coal fired power stations with other sources of electricity, they start to get much much greener. And they don't demand the construction of an entirely new fuel distribution infrastructure with difficult engineering challenges.

I remain certain in my position that hydrogen energy is primarily an investment of the fossil fuel industry, designed to help prolong the market for "vintage biomass" as long as possible, either by actually putting hydrogen cars on the road, or diverting investment away from battery technology.

2 days ago
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White House Approves Sonic Cannons For Atlantic Energy Exploration

The parts of our brain structure that are most associated with our cognitive abilities evolved from the parts that processed smell. Whales clearly communicate using their song, so what's to say that the parts of their brains that process sound (which would be the bulk of their sensory needs) aren't undergoing the same transition?

2 days ago
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Apollo 11 Moon Landing Turns 45

And the retroreflecting prism arrays sent to the moon, that anyone with a big enough laser can bounce a beam off and determine what the distance of the moon is at the moment, were presumably put up there by Elvis on his way home. Hell, it's just a few pairs of his rhinestone trousers that fell out of his trunk.

2 days ago
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White House Approves Sonic Cannons For Atlantic Energy Exploration

i) They aren't fish, they are mammals
ii) They have social grouping activity, the thing that separates the smart animals from the dumb ones, and the thing responsible for the growth of humans into the dominant species

2 days ago
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White House Approves Sonic Cannons For Atlantic Energy Exploration

Re:You're more right that you know (270 comments)

70% of US corn is fed to livestock. Because of all the economic subsidy that corn receives this means the price of meat in the US is artificially low.

US meat consumption is multiple times that of the next nearest nation ; even if you cut your meat consumption by half, you'd still be eating a lot of meat, and you'd free up vast tracts of agricultural land to grow other crops.

2 days ago
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White House Approves Sonic Cannons For Atlantic Energy Exploration

Re:The White House isn't stupid.. (270 comments)

To expand on the sibling's post about Saddam switching oil sales to Euros :

The economy of the US is propped up by a vast debt. We're not talking loans to banks, or China. We're talking petrodollars.

The de-facto currency that oil is traded in was for a long time, the US dollar. Which meant that nations speculated in it, hoarded it, retained reserves of it for the purpose of trading oil.

This meant that the US printed more dollars with impunity, as long as oil markets expanded, meaning the government enjoyed the ability to spend vast amounts of money backed not just by US wealth and productivity, but the wealth and productivity of the whole world.

Then it was proposed that it would be a good idea to start trading for oil in currencies other than the US Dollar. The US financiers were terrified by this.

If the nations of the world no longer needed their dollars to buy oil, they would seek to exchange them for other things of value. And if the nations of the world no longer needed US dollars to buy oil, they would no longer want to accept them in exchange for things of value, so the bulk of the balance would have to come home to the US to be exchanged for things of value there.

This would cause US inflation, devaluation of the US dollar, and vast tracts of US interests suddenly being owned by foreign nationals. The incumbent administration (or rather, their financier friends) could not permit this, so they made an example of one of the countries that dared to make noises about trading their oil for Euros.

It's no coincidence that Iran is having it's feet held to the fire at a time when it is once again proposing to open a non-dollar oil bourse.

2 days ago
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White House Approves Sonic Cannons For Atlantic Energy Exploration

i mean why have 6,8,or 10 children? when you can only feed 2 or 3(without assistance)?

Historic precedent, based on two factors -

* High levels of infant mortality
* The need to provide for one's retirement

These countries don't have functioning social care systems. Your children are the only care you're going to get in your dotage. That, combined with the historic trend of high infant mortality, means that high numbers of children are perceived as a form of great fortune. They don't have the career driven lives of the West that are leading our populations to shrink because we're producing fewer than one child per person. Even if the healthcare systems improve and infant mortality rates drop, there is some time before the culture catches up.

2 days ago
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Japan To Offer \$20,000 Subsidy For Fuel-Cell Cars

Re:Why isn't the U.S. doing things like this? (154 comments)

The costs of the primary fuel are paramount - the cheapest way to get hydrogen is from steam reformation of natural gas, not from electrolysis. Therefore that is the source that will be used, because the economic cost determines what happens in the market.

Subsidies of fuel cell vehicles are likely the result of lobbying from the fossil fuel industry, since they have the most to gain. As the sibling poster says, battery electric vehicles right now are suitable for over 90% of journeys, and battery technology continues to improve, with faster charging and better capacity and longevity.

And as you yourself point out - fuel cell cars raise the cost of the primary fuel - whatever it is - by a factor of four. It's still the same dichotomy we have now with battery versus chemical fuel.

You can either have a vehicle that has a long range and a rapid refuel time at the cost of ALL the journeys you make being expensive regardless of their length.

Or you can have a vehicle that has very cheap journeys 90% of the time at the cost of additional refuelling time on some of the longer journeys. Given the state of the technology now, it's more like 20 minutes every four hours, than four hours every 20 minutes. And to be honest, I think I could benefit from a 20 minute break after four hours of driving.

3 days ago
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Japan To Offer \$20,000 Subsidy For Fuel-Cell Cars

Re:Why isn't the U.S. doing things like this? (154 comments)

CNG can be stored easily in standard pressure tanks. The carbon atoms in the molecules grant these gases the property of having van der Waals forces which allow them to form liquids at relatively low pressures.

Hydrogen molecules are tiny. They slip into the crystal structure of metals and render them brittle. They slip through the gaps in seals. And making hydrogen into a liquid requires extreme pressures and temperatures.

3 days ago
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New Treatment Stops Type II Diabetes

Re:There's another treatment that stops most T2 (253 comments)

Corn producers like corn syrup because it doesn't spoil and it absorbs what excess crops they have after supplying the human and animal markets (as does the ethanol synthesis scam).

US Sugar producers also like corn syrup because it lets them keep the price of their sugar high (if the sugar import tariffs that protect the Florida sugar growers profits were lifted, natural sugar would be cheaper than corn syrup - without corn syrup, the supply of US sugar would be inadequate to meet the needs of food producers, which would cause a wave of lobbying to get sugar tariffs lifted).

Food producers like corn syrup because it's cheaper than (expensive Florida) sugar and produces foods that have a long shelf life and a taste that inspires the formation of habits.

Natural corn doesn't get a look in. Most of the corn used for the syrup isn't food grade anyway, and if it was, it would still be inconveniently prone to spoiling (lower profits) and less scrummy than a twinkie (lower profits).

4 days ago
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New Treatment Stops Type II Diabetes

Re:There's another treatment that stops most T2 (253 comments)

No, because

It would be a harder sell.

* One price for... what, how many years of life? Do you sell it for more to a 40 year old than a 50 year old, because they have more life left?

* That much money for one shot (or a course of them)? When clearly the material cost is so much less than the prolonged treatment?

While the actual cost of manufacturing pharmaceuticals already has very little relation to their price (while in patent), it would be too much to swallow that you should pay tens of thousands for a dose of something manufactured in bulk for ... what, a few hundred a pint, tops?

The risk that some Indian pharmaceutical company is going to just synthesis a few thousand gallons of it and sell it on the black market, killing your profits for an entire generation (by which time it will be off patent) is also quite high.

The PR value would be *great*, but you can't take good feelings to the shareholders meeting.

4 days ago
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New York State Proposes Sweeping Bitcoin Regulations

Re:They are killing bitcoin (121 comments)

IT. ISN'T. ANONYMOUS.

The transaction log is public. BitCoin *is* the transaction log (and the protocols for updating it).

Every transaction is visible, by design. BitCoin can't work otherwise.

If you only ever trade BitCoin that you mined yourself on your own private hardware, you might have a shot at anonymity. But if you make any kind of exchange transaction to buy them that someone can track, then you can be associated with your entire transaction history. I guarantee that right now there are programs in the major SIGINT orgs of the world that are devoted to associating traditional transactions with BitCoin transactions.

4 days ago
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New York State Proposes Sweeping Bitcoin Regulations

BitCoin is a bank (121 comments)

The IRS and many people, it seems, don't understand BitCoin. It doesn't help that the name also misleads in this way.

BitCoin is not analagous to actual coins, objects which can be exchanged. BitCoin is a distributed peer to peer bank.

Why is it a bank? A bank is no longer a store of actual physical objects, it is merely a transaction ledger. Transactions are logged that determine the number of tokens that a given account controls. Account balances and so on are merely a digest of this transaction log - the log is the thing.

BitCoin is likewise a transaction ledger. The rebuttal to the usual bone-headed arguments about people "copying" coins because they are just numbers reveals this. Unlike the transaction ledger of a traditional bank which relies on a lot of central security to prevent people writing to it, BitCoin welcomes people writing to it's ledger, and then farms out the task of deciding whether those transactions are legitimate to the network. Balances are again, merely a digest of the ledger.

A BitCoin wallet ... isn't a wallet! It contains no coins. The blockchain (aka the ledger) contains the coins (along with certificates as to who mined them, then subsequently, transaction records of where they were transferred). The wallet ONLY contains something that proves you control (or "the network agrees that you control") a given set of coins - your private key.

A BitCoin is not an asset you hold. Transferring coins is a service the network provides (like any other bank). If your wallet is destroyed, no BitCoins cease to exist... but the network now has no way to transfer them (unlike a real bank, which can fudge it because it shares control of it's ledger with no-one).

BitCoin should really be BitBank

But you can imagine how quickly the banks would have moved against it if it was called "BitBank".....

BitCoin are not assets. BitCoin is a service.

4 days ago
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Australian Electoral Commission Refuses To Release Vote Counting Source Code

It's true that there is no difference in security between

* A closed source, perfect, crypto component
* An open source, perfect, crypto component

If it's perfectly secure, the privacy of the source code makes no technical difference.

private encryption can be much more secure than public

As above, if the security of your solution is perfect, privacy makes no difference - public can be much more secure than private.

The privacy of your solution DOES make a difference to other factors.

* Trust

People are more inclined to trust something they can inspect. If someone says "my security system is PERFECT... but you can't look at how it works", my first impluse is to think that they have something to hide. And that something could be a super cool proprietary technology, but it could just as easily be a gaping security hole a script kiddie could exploit. Given the fact that if you patent your super cool technology, the detail of it is public anyway, but I still can't steal it, the bias is that it's far more likely to be that your solution has problems, whether they be stupid mistakes, back doors for the NSA to exploit, or rude comments in the source code.

* Peer review

Good security is hard. Even if you're some kind of security savant, people think differently and someone may spot a gaping hole in your solution that you just have a blind spot to. Open, standard security technologies have multiple people poring over them looking for holes. There are people who get their kicks that way. Exposing your technology to as many of them as possible and letting them tell you what their opinion is, is the best way to evaluate your solution.

It's easy to come up with something YOU can't break. It's much harder to come up with something that no one can break. The difference between private and public is that you'll only get to find out AFTER something is depending on your solution not breaking.

Skype make a pretty big deal out of the security of their solution, but the truth is that leaked documents have made it very obvious that intelligence agencies can trivially intercept Skype communications - and we don't know whether this is because there are back doors, or because the security of the protocol is just crap, because we can't inspect the source code and there is no public documentation of the protocol. It's most likely there are back doors, because properly implemented crypto is not trivial to break. So this is a private system that many people trust, yet it's obviously not worthy of that trust.

So closed-source security solutions are not the best idea, for exactly the reason you propose that they ARE.. if you keep the source private, you keep the security holes private. It will just take longer for someone to exploit them, or it will be insiders that exploit them. If you open the source up, when holes get found... yes, some of them will be by bad actors. But some will be found by people with an interest in seeing them fixed.

4 days ago
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New Treatment Stops Type II Diabetes

is caused by a combination of lifestyle and genetic factors

That's the key right there - in the majority of cases, you need the combination.

As many have posted, some people are huge fatties with low cholesterol and well controlled blood sugar. This concurs with the above - they are lucky enough not to have the genetic components.

Type II diabetes is of low incidence in India, but of high incidence in those of Indian-Asian ethnicity living in Western cultures. What's the difference? In India, people eat differently and exercise more. Despite their increased genetic predilection to Type II diabetes, they don't get it from their genetics alone.

The assertion that it has one root cause is false - the human metabolism is a complex system with many factors. The fact that you can't control many of these factors seems to be a vast comfort to some folk, as if it somehow absolves them of responsibility - but it remains true that you DO have control over factors that by themselves can prevent you getting the disease.

4 days ago
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New Treatment Stops Type II Diabetes

Re:There's another treatment that stops most T2 (253 comments)

Only a half-wit conspiracy theorist dumbass would think they aren't trying to find a cure.

I think this is one case where conspiracy theory is basically the truth. Big pharma has created one of the most systematic systems of scientific fraud on the planet - running multiple studies and carefully cherry picking only those that happen to produce positive results to promote their new drugs, over the old ones with expired patents being just one of the tricks they use. If you want to see an excellent discussion of it from a statistical epidemiologist, read Bad Pharma by Ben Goldacre.

In some cases, the new drugs have actually been proven to be worse than nothing at all later on, a fact that the drug companies almost certainly knew when they released them onto the market.

Believing that a company that is ostensibly devoted to improving the lives of people, but actually engages in this crap, just to make a buck, would deliberately withhold a cure for something in order to continue selling a repeat treatment? All too easy.

4 days ago
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New Treatment Stops Type II Diabetes

Re:There's another treatment that stops most T2 (253 comments)

No, but it does mean that some of you who would have gotten cancer, don't.

As the original poster suggests, it's all about learned response to food.

My daughter likes processed crap as much as any 10 year old, but she loves home cooked food with plenty of veggies. Last Friday she was literally using both hands to cram the broccoli into her face (it was tempura broccoli, deep fried but basically nearly raw with a very thin coating of batter on a large piece of broccoli).

She was brought up with a wide variety of fruits and veggies in her life. Until she started dance lessons, where there is a little pocket money tuck shop, she thought that the only kind of sweeties was dried fruit. She has always received encouragement to try new things, and never been restricted from eating foods because they are "too good for children" or "too grown up".

On one notable oocasion when we were driving home from the supermarket we heard a "scronch, scronch" from the back seat like someone was eating an apple. But we didn't buy any apples. It's my daughter, eating a yellow bell pepper straight from the shopping bag with every sign of enjoyment.

I'd be inclined to agree with the sibling poster I see now as I write this ; you're not just stuck in a childhood, you're stuck in a childhood where your parents did you no favours from a food point of view. But I don't agree that healthy has to mean rough or tangy - even something as simple as lentil soup is very healthy but very consistent in texture.

4 days ago
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Australian Electoral Commission Refuses To Release Vote Counting Source Code

Actually it's easier to mess with paper ballots. Messing with software leaves a trail.

I) Messing with software doesn't necessarily leave a trail. For example, a system by which your votes are tallied and the results placed in a file on an SD card for collation in a central location, relying purely on security by obscurity, means that you could mess with the data file in transit and no-one would be any the wiser.

II) It's easier to mess with paper ballots, principally because comptuer systems are understood by fewer people than slips of paper. For precisely the same reason, it's much harder to audit voting systems involving computers. Widespread fraud in paper voting systems is difficult to pull off, because the manual nature requires a lot of observers, and most people can understand handling votes in a trustworthy manner. Voting systems based on computers can be manipulated by a single agent, often without a trace. And the pool of people capable of auditing them shrinks the more complex you make them - mickey-mouse ciphers included.

Paper voting spreads trust over a large number of people. Computer voting concentrates it in the hands of a very small technically adept priesthood, much easier to buy off or intimidate. I'm the first to geek out about some cool new method of using crypto, but I've come to realise that as much enthusiasm I have for the technology, I'm not really comfortable trusting the election of my government to it because it's so easy to subvert.

Submissions

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Eric Schmidt urges regulation of mini-drones

Dr_Barnowl (709838) writes "The BBC reports that the CEO of Google thinks that drones should be regulated. Drones are certainly a hot topic, with appearances on both side of the divide in Cory Doctorow's novel Homeland — with the authorities using them to distribute riot gas, and the noble hackers using them to post the video of them doing it. Is Eric really concerned over how the public will use drones against each other, or is he more concerned that they might eat into Google's pie somehow?"
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UK Government - "Pay a £20 fee to acquit yourself of file-sharing (maybe)"

Dr_Barnowl (709838) writes "The BBC reports that the UK government plans to introduce a £20 fee if you wish to appeal against an allegation of copyright infringement, within 20 days of your accusation. Note that this doesn't guarantee acquittal, as only "excuses" covered in the Digital Economy Act will be valid even for consideration. This scheme could be in place as early as 2014, so John Smith, General Secretary of the Musicians' Union says "We urge ISPs to begin building their systems now and to work constructively with rights holders, Ofcom and government to get notice-sending up and running as soon as possible,". What are the thoughts of Slashdot?"
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EU Proposes HFT Transaction Tax

Dr_Barnowl (709838) writes "The BBC reports that the UK opposes a proposed new tax on transactions with at least one end Europe. Why is this "News for Nerds"? The proposal includes tax on derivatives, an instrument the High Frequency Trading stories we've been chowing down on recently. With the proposed tax being 0.1% or 0.01% for derivatives, the story highlights the sheer volumes involved — it's speculated that the tax would earn some €57B a year (\$78B), around 80% of it from the City of London. A transaction tax like this is something frequently proposed in Slashdot HFT discussions. The UK says that it will veto the tax "unless it was imposed globally" — should the USA follow suit and impose a similar levy targeted at the trading desks of the NYSE?"
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Blogger humilates town councillors into resigning.

Dr_Barnowl (709838) writes "In an occurence first postulated in sci-fi and lampooned by stick figures, it would see that a blogger has actually been responsible for the mass resignation of elected officials (a British town council), largely by calling them "jackasses" and Nazis.

What's next? The desposition of the president with "your mom" smacktalk?"

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Sony to convert online bookstore to open format

Dr_Barnowl (709838) writes "The BBC reports that Sony are to convert their online bookstore to the EPUB format.

While this format still supports DRM, it's supported on a much wider variety of readers. Is this a challenge to Kindle? It's nice to see Sony opening up to the idea of open standards ; even if you still have reservations about buying a Sony device, you might be able to patronise their bookstore sometime soon."
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Google to release another open-source OS

Dr_Barnowl (709838) writes "The BBC reports that Google are planning to release another operating system : Google Chrome OS.

This is apparently going to consist of the Google Chrome browser, running in "a new windowing system". The browser is the platform, much like it is in the Palm Pre smartphone, part of the intention being to provide a fast boot time.

They are setting their sights first on the growing market for netbooks, with ARM and x86 compatibility planned out of the starting gate.

A "browser OS" would probably do just fine for the majority of users, but I don't think I'm ready to give up my heavy client-side platforms just yet. What will be interesting to see is the Microsoft response to this — they have enjoyed an alleged "96%" share of the netbook market OS recently, so anything designed to eat into that will not be popular in the Redmond boardroom."
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EA releases license deactivation management tool.

This isn't a perfect solution, since it's still possible to run out of activations in the event of hardware failure or other source of data loss, but since the announcement that this particular DRM system will be dropped for The Sims 3 , it would seem that EA has had a minor epiphany about DRM."

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British IRS loses database of every child in UK.

Dr_Barnowl (709838) writes "News breaking in the UK is that the HM Revenue & Customs (the UK version of the IRS) has lost in the post discs containing the entire Child Benefit database. Every child in the UK is entitled to receive Child Benefit, so this covers some 25M people (out of the UK population of some 60M), 7.25M families, and contains names, addresses, dates of birth, bank account numbers and national insurance number (aka SSN).

The lost data has failed to turn up under a search by HM Customs (famous for rooting contraband out of tight spaces) and the UK police.

This is data loss on an unprecedented scale. Many of the people questioning the Chancellor of the Exchequer at this moment are using the issue to raise questions about the UK government plans for a national ID database.

The data was apparently "password protected". The word "encryption" has also been used, but not in connection to the data, so it could well be something as simple as a passworded ZIP archive. The data was placed onto a couple of optical media and sent to another government office, for audit purposes, via the internal post system provided by a third party courier. This was not the first occurrence of the database being transferred in this way.

While there is no evidence so far that the data is being put to nefarious uses, this will cause total chaos in the UK banking system ; affected accounts are being flagged and mothers across the country will be phoning their bank in a panic."

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Swedish company trials peer-to-peer cellphones

Dr_Barnowl (709838) writes "TerraNet is trialling a p2p based mobile telephony system. Phones are used to route calls onto other phones, constructing mesh networks of "up to 20km".

The BBC reports the natural tendency of the big telecoms providers to want to squash this. I can see other problems though. The advantages in an environment with sparse cell coverage are obvious, but network effects mean that the number of connections in a heavily populated mesh grow exponentially. What happens to your battery life when your phone becomes a node? And while the company is optimistic that they have a viable technology model from IP licensing, the demand for devices supporting this is going to be proportional to the number of devices that it can connect you to.

On the plus side, it would provide some great experience with mesh networks."

top Dr_Barnowl (709838) writes "The BBC reports in prose and in video that Robert Soloway, an alleged user of zombie spamming networks, has been arrested in Seattle. He will be charged with aggravated identity theft, the first such charge since the relevant law was passed in 2003.

While it's highly encouraging to see spammers brought to book, the spam level has not noticeably decreased since his arrest, testimony to the more prevalent spam output of eastern European and Asian sources."

top Dr_Barnowl (709838) writes "The CEO of Sun Microsystems blogs that "no amount of fear can stop the rise of [...] free software". While he avoids specifically mentioning a certain software company by name, he links directly to the interview in Fortune that started all this brouhaha.

He makes a special point that Sun "... decided to innovate, not litigate."

You have to wonder who else from the corporate world may pitch in at this point."

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