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British Spies To Be Allowed To Break Speed Limit

jregel They've already been doing it anyway (278 comments)

A couple of decades ago there was a special forces unit, 14 Intelligence Company, who did undercover operations, primarily in Northern Ireland. I've read a couple of books about it (this is a good one: http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Operators-Inside-Intelligence-Company/dp/0099728710) and they all mention how operatives were given training in advanced driving.

In one instance, they were pulled over by police during training, but when they provided a code word they were allowed to continue.

So I guess they've always been doing this, but now it's just been formalised.

about a year ago

Inside the Guardian and the Snowden Leaks

jregel Re:Reference Newspapers (239 comments)

In the UK, I rate the Independent, along with the aforementioned Guardian.

about a year ago

UK Minister: British Cabinet Was Told Nothing About GCHQ/NSA Spying Programs

jregel Re:I'm shocked, shocked (85 comments)

You do realize that "Yes Minister" and "Yes, Prime Minister" were documentary and not comedy?

Possibly the most true and insightful comment I've read on Slashdot for a long time!

about a year ago

Frameworks 5: KDE Libraries Reworked Into Portable Qt Modules

jregel What's the best distro for KDE? (68 comments)

Honestly not trying to start a flame war here, but what's the best Linux distro for running KDE? Which ones do a really decent implementation of it (and which distros get it really wrong and should be avoided)?

about a year ago

Interviews: Ask J. Michael Straczynski What You Will

jregel Re:Settle that damn dream sequence, please! (215 comments)

The dream was covered in volume 3 of the B5 scripts books. To paraphrase what it says there:

Ivanova with a raven on her shoulder: A symbol for Ivanova being the voice of the resistance, the bird being a reference to Norse mythology where they brought news. The "Do you know who I am" refers to her being a latent telepath.

The "man in between" refers to Sheridan himself, described by Lorien as being "in-between" (life and death).

However, in one of the other books, there is a scan of some of JMS' notes and next to "man in between" is the handwritten question "raised by Vorlons?". This suggests that at one point JMS was considering other possibilities.

My favourite bit though is (to quote):

"As for the dove on Garibaldi's shoulder... that doesn't mean anything. I just liked the idea of making Jerry Doyle have to stand around the set all day with a bird on his shoulder"

about a year and a half ago

Interviews: Ask J. Michael Straczynski What You Will

jregel B5 universe unresolved plots... (215 comments)

Is there any chance that B5 fans will ever get insight into what you actually had planned with Crusade after the Drakh plague was cured? I know it was something to do with Earth wanting left over Shadow technology, but did you have anything specific in mind? Did you have an outline for each year?

And similarly, will we ever find out who or what The Hand were about (in Legend of the Rangers)?

And, not a question, but a big "thank you" for B5. I'm taking a friend through it for the first time and we're currently mid-way through season four. She's now totally hooked and has borrowed my season one DVD box set to see it again now she understands some of where it's going.

about a year and a half ago

Barracuda Appliances Have Exploitable Holes, Fixed By Firmware Updates

jregel Re:A major flaw (88 comments)

Um, the network I manage has dual Cisco ASA firewalls in an active/standby configuration.

And we install 2 switches for every 1.

If you're running business critical servers without that redundancy, you're exposing yourself to a single point of failure.

about 2 years ago

Elite Creator David Braben: Games Like Elite 'Too Risky' For Publishers

jregel Exciting! (109 comments)

Elite was a huge consumer of my time during my teenage years. I'd originally tried it on the 8bit Acorn Electron (the BBC Micro's baby brother), but was a bit too young to really get it and was hopeless at playing the game. But when I got my first PC, I was able to really get into it, spending hours playing when I should have probably been studying for my GCSEs, eventually getting the missions and the coveted Elite status.

All this was done on the CGA version, low resolution in four colours. On loading, a menu would allow me to select wireframe graphics only, or if the PC was really fast (6Mhz 286 or greater I seem to recall...), then you could select solid filled polygons. I had a 20Mhz 286 so could enjoy the enhanced version. Didn't matter though, because the imagination filled in the gaps.

When Frontier:Elite 2 came out, I was amazed at all the things we wanted to do in the original could now be done (landing on planets with a seamless transition between space and atmosphere, different ships that could be bought and equipped, more missions). But the flight model was a bit too complicated and lacked the immediacy of the original. I was never really taken with the "Star Dreamer" time acceleration feature either as it was too easy to skip through things (like docking).

Never played Frontier: First Encounters as I think I had moved onto girls by then, but having read that it was released by the publisher in an unfinished state, it sounds like I've not missed that much.

But Elite:Dangerous sounds like the sort of game I really want to play! A huge universe as a playground? Flying through the clouds of a gas giant? Mining asteroids? Teaming up with friends to complete missions? Yes please!

So far I've pledged a little, with the expectation I'll pledge more before the Kickstarter finishes. As a [very] occasional gamer these days, this is something I want to spend my evenings playing.

about 2 years ago

Torvalds Takes Issue With De Icaza's Linux Desktop Claims

jregel Re:Sorry, Miguel, it's your fault (616 comments)

I have sometimes wondered what would have happened if the efforts invested in KDE and GNOME had been put into completing GNUstep. I seem to recall many objections back then about Objective-C, but that doesn't appear to be much of an issue for all the current Mac OS X and iOS developers...

The Linux world could have been a *very* different place.

more than 2 years ago

Ask Slashdot: Understanding the SNES?

jregel Re:Not just *NES (157 comments)

I agree that Elite is a technical tour de force, but perhaps a more impressive game is Exile, also on the BBC computer. It could run in 32K RAM and used a procedurally generated landscape, had a decent physics engine, a "realistic" form of AI for the creatures and was absolutely huge.

The most amazing thing (to me) is that problems in the game were solved not by following some pre-programmed rule (put "key A" into "door C"), but by manipulating the environment. So "key A" did fit "door C", but you could also use a sufficiently powerful weapon to blow the door open, or throw an imp through a hole so it goes down and presses a button to open the door. Totally amazing sense of freedom.

There is a play through on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vbLndV_f_vo

And some technical details here: http://exile.acornarcade.com/devel.html

If you've never seen Exile, you owe it to yourself to spend some time just marvelling at what could be achieved in 32K RAM.

If the games industry had managed to put the 16bit and 32bit machines as hard as Elite and Exile pushed the 8bit BBC, games would be far more advanced today.

more than 2 years ago

Christopher Hitchens Dies At 62

jregel Re:And now he finds out ... (910 comments)

I'm pretty sure that's not in the New Testament, but would be interested if you find a reference.

more than 2 years ago

30 Years of the BBC Micro

jregel Re:Memories (208 comments)

"L" was the game that first got me hooked with computers. I played that game through to completion on one of our school's BBC micros, even though it involved doing so during break times, lunch and after school. I was very fortunate to have a maths teacher that was really into the BBC and knew what could be done with computers. We had an Econet network, fileserver and a computer room that we could spend our breaks in.

The OS and built in BASIC in the BBC are extremely elegant: functions, procedures, a VDU driver that treated the screen as 1280x1024 logical units, so graphics plotting worked, regardless of the physical screen resolution, multiple filesystems, support for additional languages, the ability to peek and poke from with BASIC as well as the amazing built-in assembler. The hardware could be upgraded beyond anything the other 8bit micros of the day could due to a huge number of I/O ports. I remember being very confused when I got my first PC and QBASIC was the only bundled language. It all felt so primitive compared with the elegance of Acorn's 8bit range.

I've still got a mint condition BBC Master with an internal second processor (offload the program to the co-pro and use the base machine for I/O duties only). Very tempted to add a Retroclinic Datacentre so I can plug in USB sticks and run software from there.

The BBC micro, in the hands of a good teacher, was a machine that shaped lives. I'm in IT because my maths teacher "got it" and passed on his enthusiasm.

more than 2 years ago

Dennis Ritchie, Creator of C Programming Language, Passed Away

jregel The BBC News article... (725 comments)

The BBC news report on Dennis Ritchie's death: here.

Would be good to see this hit the Most Read section of the site.

more than 3 years ago

Dennis Ritchie, Creator of C Programming Language, Passed Away

jregel Shaped many of our careers... (725 comments)

It's no exaggeration that without Dennis Ritchie's contributions, many of us would have very different careers. I've been fortunate to spend the first 12 years of my IT career working on multiple Unix and Linux systems, and although I'm not much of a coder, I've compiled a fair amount of C and recognise that if it hadn't been invented, neither would C++ or C#, which constitutes a lot of the code in use today.

Without Unix, what would the Internet been built on? Perhaps something like VMS? Would tools like Sendmail or BIND been developed in those environments? The influence of Unix can be seen everywhere in IT.

Actually, without Unix, we wouldn't have had NeXTstep, which became MacOS X, which became iOS. We wouldn't have had Minix or Linux, so no Android. So the mobile landscape would have been different as well.

I don't think it's too much of an exaggeration to say that Dennis Ritchie's legacy is the IT industry we have today. Most of us stand on this giant's shoulders.

RIP Dennis Ritchie.

more than 3 years ago

Politics: Libyan Rebels Announce Creation of a Republic

jregel Re:Freedom Fatigue (154 comments)

I don't know where you're posting from, but in the UK, the protests in Egypt, Tunisia, Bahrain, Yemen and Libya were/are running as lead items on the main TV news. It's major news and being treated in the same way the Orange and Velvet revolutions were.

more than 3 years ago

Paul Haggis vs. the Church of Scientology

jregel Re:Welcome to the club (426 comments)

I was going to point out the danger of quoting a couple of verses from the Bible without establishing context, but even taken on its own, Mark 10:29-30 isn't advocating the sort of disconnect being discussed.

Try reading it in its context: http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Mark%2010:17-31&version=MSG

(using a modern paraphrase, The Message, because it gets the point across in everyday language. If that bothers you and you want a more literal translation, try this: http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Mark%2010:17-31&version=NIV)

more than 3 years ago

Universe 250+ Times Bigger Than What Is Observable

jregel MEMO: New Slashdot Standard Analogy (506 comments)

Dear Slashdot Readers

This article (and subsequent posts) have demonstrated that the once trusted car analogy is no longer in favour and from now on, complicated subjects should be explained using balloons instead.

Thank you for your co-operation in welcoming our new balloon overloads. Or something.

more than 3 years ago

Americans Less Healthy, But Outlive Brits

jregel Re:Who says we don't have the best healthcare? (521 comments)

You might not be racist, but using the BNP website (the UK's far right - and generally loathed - political party) as supporting evidence doesn't do your argument any favours...

about 4 years ago

Libya Takes Hard Line On Link Shortening Domains

jregel Re:About those European freak-outs... (354 comments)

I'll try and answer but bear in mind this is the perspective of a single European...

While you are mystified about the European attitude towards guns, many (most?) Europeans are equally mystified by the American attraction towards guns.

Guns are rarely encountered in everyday life over here and many people would become concerned if that changed. For us, the lack of guns reduces the amount of gun violence (check the per capita. The US isn't the top, but it's just below places like South Africa, Colombia, Zimbabwe and others (source: http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/cri_mur_wit_fir_percap-crime-murders-firearms-per-capita)).

In the UK, when gun crime does happen, the police armed response units appear to adopt a tactic of shoot to kill. The last two instances where there was a stand-off, the gun wielding individual ended up dead. Whether this is a deterrent or not is arguable, but gun crime is pretty rare (although regrettably, knife crime is on the increase because more young people are carrying knives).

Hope that makes sense.

more than 4 years ago

The Value of BASIC As a First Programming Language

jregel Another BBC BASIC comment (548 comments)

It never ceases to make me smile that any discussion about BASIC invariably brings BBC BASIC fans out of the woodwork, and I'll add myself to that list.

To be honest, BBC BASIC spoilt me. I was familiar with the concepts of using procedures and functions, but never progressed to the built in assembler. The thing is that BBC BASIC and the sheer power (for the time) of the MOS (operating system) was so far advanced of the other 8bit machines available at the time. I then moved to the 32bit Acorn Archimedes range which also features BBC BASIC. So, when I got my first PC it was a complete shock - there was QBASIC, but it didn't work the same way and seemed far more limited. It didn't integrate so elegantly with the operating system.

For me, BBC BASIC and the MOS is a truly amazing piece of work and went with a truly revolutionary piece of the hardware. As an example, the BBC B hardware (the most common computer to run BBC BASIC in the early 80s) has a built in floppy disk drive port, parallel and serial, a programmable ADC port, a digital "User" port for controlling mice etc, a 1Mhz(!) bus for controlling other devices such as sound synthesisers, the ability to add an Econet module to create a local network and the "Tube", an interface/protocol for interfacing with a second processor (the first ARM processor was designed using the Tube interface). How many other 8bit machines in the early 80s could do any of that? The operating system also supported paged RAM/ROM and a very sophisticated display driver (called "VDU") where screen co-ordinates mapped to a virtual screen resolution, effectively allowing your routines to be resolution independent.

If you have an interest in old computers, or elegant design, but have never played with a BBC or even a BBC Emulator, you owe it to yourself to track one down.

more than 4 years ago



Elite:Dangerous Kickstarter gathers momentum

jregel jregel writes  |  about 2 years ago

jregel writes "Following an initially shaky start, the ambitious follow-up to the granddaddy of all space games, Elite:Dangerous, has raised over £871,000 out of a target of £1250000 with 14 days to go. Promising a procedurally generated galaxy and an open universe in which to trade, fight and explore, Elite:Dangerous now has a teaser trailer, development diaries, a concept video and podcast interview available. In a generous move, Chris Roberts, creator of Wing Commander, who has recently been successful in financing another space game, Star Citizen, and has encouraged his backers to also back Elite:Dangerous."
Link to Original Source


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