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New EU Rules Will Limit Vacuum Cleaners To 1600W

RDW Re:Do the math (336 comments)

They haven't finished banning things yet. The common Class C halogen bulbs that fit in standard GLS light fittings are going to be killed off in 2016 in the UK: http://www.nationallampsandcom...
Don't know if anyone has bothered marketing a 'rough service' bulb of this type. The lighting quality is very nice, and the GLS halogens are/were a good drop-in replacement

about a week ago

New EU Rules Will Limit Vacuum Cleaners To 1600W

RDW Re:Do the math (336 comments)

In the UK it's perfectly legal to sell 'rough service' incandescent light bulbs (supposedly tougher glass, reinforced filaments) to anyone, which is a loophole a couple of companies are now exploiting.

about a week ago

Would Scottish Independence Mean the End of UK's Nuclear Arsenal?

RDW Re:Hopefully. (375 comments)

'400 rads, ladies and gentlemen. A lethal dose to anyone within ten yards. Get it while it's hot!'

about a week ago

How to Maintain Lab Safety While Making Viruses Deadlier

RDW Re:Huh (218 comments)

Slashdot editors - please fix the submitter's grotesque misreading of the linked article in the summary! Creating fictional outbreaks of lab viruses leading to thousands of deaths should be left to bad movies, not 'news' sites. Which isn't to say, of course, that there aren't genuine risks to consider. High level containment of various viruses in China and elsewhere has been breached on a number of occasions in the last few decades, sometimes with fatal consequences, e.g.:

"... there have already been three escapes from BSL-4 containment since 1990: a Marburg virus laboratory-acquired infection at the Vector facility in the Soviet Union in 1990, a foot and mouth disease virus escape from the Pirbright facility in England, and a SARS virus laboratory-acquired infection from a BSL-4-rated biosafety cabinet in a Taiwan laboratory."

"SARS has not re-emerged naturally, but there have been six escapes from virology labs: one each in Singapore and Taiwan, and four separate escapes at the same laboratory in Beijing."

Luckily, none of these incidents involved 'gain of function' strains, but the potential for a catastrophic incident is certainly there.

about two weeks ago

DNA Project 'to Make UK World Genetic Research Leader'

RDW Re:Also get the karyotypes please (65 comments)

You can process genome sequencing data to get the same sort of information you'd get from a karyotype (translocations, missing or extra copies of chromosomes or particular cytobands, etc.), but at much higher resolution. Unlike a traditional karyotype it generally won't be derived from a single cell, though (which has advantages and disadvantages).

about a month ago

DNA Project 'to Make UK World Genetic Research Leader'

RDW Re:First steps (65 comments)

It wouldn't help the individual patients, as the risk factors are pretty difficult to avoid in today's world.

It can help at the time of treatment. We are already sequencing not just the germline DNA of the patient, but also the damaged genome of the tumour tissue. If a specific gene is found to be mutated that can be targeted by an existing drug, then the treatment can be tailored to the individual case.

about a month ago

UK Government Report Recommends Ending Online Anonymity

RDW Re:Online in England, maybe (282 comments)

Maybe they forgot that the Internet has no borders?

No, they remembered:


'The only way as we see it to resolve questions of jurisdiction and access to communications data would be by international treaty.'

Coming soon to a legislature near you!

about a month ago

Newly Discovered Virus Widespread in Human Gut

RDW Re:Did they sampled it? (100 comments)

There's a bigger problem with the summary than that - timothy has misread the BBC article, which refers to 'half of all samples from the gut'. These aren't human cell samples, they're faecal samples. The phage presumably infects gut bacteria, not human cells. From the proteins that the phage encodes, the researchers predict the genus of bacteria the host belongs to (Bacteroides).

about a month ago

Genetically Modifying an Entire Ecosystem

RDW The beautiful part (52 comments)

Because CRISPR itself is so precise, we can envision a number of safeguards. Alterations can be reversed by releasing a new drive with an updated version of the change.

...and when wintertime rolls around, the gorillas simply freeze to death.

about a month ago

Hacking Online Polls and Other Ways British Spies Seek To Control the Internet

RDW Never had one fail? (117 comments)

The secretive British spy agency GCHQ has developed covert tools to seed the internet with false information, including the ability to manipulate the results of online polls

Right now on Slashdot, you can see the results of this blatant manipulation in the service of their sinister paymasters in the energy-saving lightbulb industry...

about a month and a half ago

How To Fix The Shortage of K-5 Scholastic Chess Facilitators

RDW Re:It's a joke article (128 comments)

It's not a joke article or astroturfing. He's just using humorous examples of improbable technical solutions to the problem, when of course the real answer is to get more adults involved in helping the kids to learn chess (which is his real point). He's written elsewhere about a K12 chess tournament sponsored by his company:

about a month and a half ago

The World's Best Living Programmers

RDW Knuth (285 comments)

ITworld's Phil Johnson has rounded up a list of what just might be the world's top 14 programmers alive today.

In the unpublished final volume of The Art of Computer Programming, Knuth describes an algorithm that can provide a complete emulation of any of the other 13.

about 2 months ago

Programming On a Piano Keyboard

RDW Re:MIDI? (57 comments)

You can send MIDI through USB if you have the drivers and your keyboard supports it, but pro keyboards will also have dedicated MIDI ports. The idea is to transmit which keys are played (with timing and velocities, etc.) to a virtual instrument on the connected computer. When set up this way, your keyboard's built-in sounds aren't used. This arrangement gives you access to a huge range of sophisticated virtual instruments, light years away from the unconvincing beeps you probably heard in the 90s. There are single instrument libraries (e.g. from a specific grand piano) with well over 100Gb of samples.

about 2 months ago

Firefox 30 Available, Firebug 2.0 Released

RDW Re:Anybody please! (270 comments)

You linked to the list of bugs *fixed* in 3.6

In the first link, the relevant text is the first bit ("Firefox 3.6 is no longer supported and is affected by vulnerabilities fixed in newer versions of the program"). In the second link, many vulnerabilities fixed in subsequent versions are listed. I suspect neither of us knows exactly how many of these already existed in 3.6, which is sort of the point - it's no longer audited or supported. Why risk using a vulnerable browser when it's perfectly possible to make Firefox 30 behave like Firefox 1, using Classic Theme Restorer and a bit of tinkering with 'Customise' and about:config? It took me about a minute to get 30 working the way I wanted (by moving the navigation buttons), since most of the customisation I'd done for earlier versions carried through. Only the previous upgrade to 29 took longer than this (basically the time it took to discover, install and configure CTR). Most of the earlier updates have required no changes to retain my preferred UI. It's irritating that the Mozilla devs insist on foisting a Chrome-style UI on us, but it's so easy to fix this (when necessary) it's only a minor annoyance.

about 3 months ago

Was Turing Test Legitimately Beaten, Or Just Cleverly Tricked?

RDW Re:I see. (309 comments)

But seriously, yes, it was 'legitimately beaten', just like it's been 'legitimately beaten' in times past, going back to ELIZA in the 60s.

How does that make you feel?

about 3 months ago

3D Printed Gun Maker Cody Wilson Defends Open Source Freedom

RDW Re:Who Cares? (354 comments)

Should DNA sequencers contain hashes of the DNA of virulent organisms so they can call the NSA/CIA/SAS/UN/boy scouts when they are being used for possible bioweapon related work? (Hopefully they don't rain hellfires on the CDC.)

Some people have indeed suggested that both DNA synthesizers (which write the sequence) and DNA sequencers (which read it) should have such safeguards:

At least some companies that synthesize custom DNA commercially already have pathogen sequence screening in place, but this doesn't seem to be universal or necessarily effective. A few years ago The Guardian had a (small, defective) fragment of the smallpox virus genome synthesized without setting off any alarms, and wrote a rather hyped-up article about it:

Practically, this sort of thing is always going to be hard to police, much like the situation with 3D weapon printing - e.g., a terrorist could always use older technology that lacks the safeguards. On the other hand, assembling a dangerous microorganism from the genome up is hardly the most cost-effective way of causing mayhem - you'd need a proper, well-equipped lab and a terrorist cell of trained scientists to carry out your evil schemes.

about 3 months ago

Which desktop environment do you like the best?

RDW Re:GNOME 2, then 3. (611 comments)

'GNOME' is really too vague. The results would probably have been more informative if the options had been:


since MATE pretty much is GNOME 2.

about 3 months ago

Why You Shouldn't Use Spreadsheets For Important Work

RDW Re:Spreadsheets destroy data (422 comments)

Spreadsheets tend to mess with strings that look somewhat like a date, it will automatically convert it to a date when it sees things like that. You need to be really careful about spreadsheets automatically reformatting your data, make sure you properly indicate whether a field is Text or not.

e.g. the infamous 'Excel genes', when a gene name like SEPT1 is silently converted to numerical date format:

Excel makes it far too easy for this to happen (just opening and saving a .csv file with Excel will silently corrupt it instead of invoking the data import wizard that would give you a chance to set data types per column - a great design decision!), and it's hard to spot corrupted cells if you have a list of hundreds or thousands of genes. Some of these have made their way into major online genetic databases:

Excel in bioimformatics? - just say no, kids.

about 3 months ago


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