All entries for February 2008

February 28, 2008

BACS: The "C" is for "Crap"...

Here are two scenarios:

  1. I use my computer to access my bank's computer-based Online Banking system. I log into their computer and the computer presents the interface. I have already passed the authentication process, so the computer should be happy that I am who I say I am. I tell the bank's computer to send some money to another computer to settle a bill. It does so, but it takes three fucking days.
  2. I physically go to my bank (or the nearest cash point) and physically remove some physical money. I then get in the car and physically drive (let's approximate to a maximum of 8 hours, which it about how long it would take to travel the roughly 600 miles from the top of Scotland to the bottom of England at 70 mph in a straight line) to the physical headquarters of the company that issued the bill. I physically hand them the physical money to settle the bill.

How the hell can I get physical money across the country faster than the banks can send virtual money in the form of electricity!?

If we assume the electrical signal travels at the speed of light, then if it takes 3 days for the money to arrive, that means the signal has had to travel about 2 million times around the equator (I love Google) before it eventually reaches its destination...

I've already established my identity with my bank's computer by passing the log in screen, I have the money available in my account, I'm assuming it's just computers that are handling the transaction, so what takes them so long?!

It's ridiculous.

UPDATE: Just found this on Wikipedia:

The BACS system, and in particular the time taken for money to move between accounts, has been widely criticised by consumer groups as inefficient and archaic, especially as it is the system used for money transfers made by telephone or internet banking. This compares unfavourably with other developed countries, particularly in Scandinavia, where the "Elle" system ("Early Late / Late Early") allows money transferred before lunchtime to reach a payee's account on the same working day, or money transferred after lunchtime to reach the payee's account the following morning.

February 27, 2008

TROTT's Four Laws of Robotics

Isaac Asimov's "Three Laws of Robotics" have just been referenced in something I was watching, and it made me think: as I understand it, a lot of Asimov's novels present these perfect laws and then go on to explore how they can be broken.

So, with that in mind, I present TROTT's Four Laws of Robotics (with the first three being spookily familiar):

  1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  2. A robot must obey orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
  4. A robot must never fuck about with the laws.

Problem solved...

February 25, 2008

Auto Cite Link

Writing about web page

It's not the first, and it probably won't be the last, but I've created a JavaScript... script... that takes the CITE attribute of <q> and creates a superscript link to the referenced page, and takes the CITE attribute of <blockquote> and creates a normal link at the end of the block, if anyone's interested.

You can download it to add to a specific website and you can also install it in Greasemonkey.

It appears to work fine, but let me know about any problems you encounter.

Do you promise to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?

Here's something amusing I just found out: apparently making a promise in God's name - such as in the stereotypical US courtroom line in the title of this entry - is (ironically) un-Christian, because as Jesus said:

Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, "Do not break your oath, but keep the oaths you have made to the Lord." But I tell you, Do not swear at all: either by heaven, for it is God's throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. Simply let your 'Yes' be 'Yes,' and your 'No,' 'No'; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.

February 22, 2008

I can see Stargate Atlantis from here…

According to Wikipedia, in the discussion regarding the new McKay-Carter Intergalactic Gate Bridge, General Hank Landry states that the distance between the Pegasus and Milky Way galaxies is "three million light-years", suggesting that the series takes place in the Pegasus Dwarf Irregular Galaxy.

According to Wikipedia, the Pegasus Dwarf Irregular Galaxy is at RA 23h 28m 36.2s DEC 14 44' 35".

Therefore, according to Google Earth's sky view, this is Stargate Atlantis' Pegasus Galaxy:

Stargate Atlantis' Pegasus Galaxy

You know you're bored when you hunt through the Universe to get a picture of somewhere that doesn't really exist...

February 20, 2008

Not something you get to say every day

Here's something I never thought I'd be in a position to say: I've lost my Bluetooth GPS receiver...

February 17, 2008

Sharia Law and the UK

There's been quite a furore over the Archbishop of Canterbury's comments on Sharia law and the UK, and I'm not entirely sure that people haven't got the wrong end of the stick.

According to a BBC News article from 7 Feb:

Dr Williams argues that adopting parts of Islamic Sharia law would help maintain social cohesion.

The important word to note here is "parts"; he is not suggesting that the entire of Sharia be officially acknowledged in the UK, in fact he even says that later on:

Nobody in their right mind would want to see in this country the kind of inhumanity that's sometimes been associated with the practice of the law in some Islamic states; the extreme punishments, the attitudes to women as well.

What he thinks is that Muslims should not have to choose between the stark alternatives of cultural loyalty or state loyalty. After all, Jews don't have to: the UK already recognises Beth Din (a rabbinical court of Judaism) with the main court (at Finchley in north London) handling a wide range of cases including divorce settlements, contractual rows between traders, and tenancy disputes.

Obviously the punishments would need to be tweaked, but since there is no strictly static codified set of laws of sharia this would probably be an acceptable compromise. It would, after all, be part of adopting parts of Islamic Sharia law.

It is also important to point out that the Archbishop did not say that Sharia should be directly woven into British law such as to govern everybody; it would be there as an option for Muslims to use to settle their disputes if both parties agreed to use it. Theoretically non-Muslims wouldn't even notice the difference, because there wouldn't be one for them.

This is exactly the case with Jewish Beth Din. Did you know it existed here? I'm guessing "no", because most of you probably aren't Jews (and even then I think it's only Orthodox Jews), so it obviously isn't affecting you. The only time it comes into play is if two Jews agree to use it to settle their dispute.

But anyway, I digress...

According to The Sun (which I don't read, but I thought the tabloid perspective would help get a balanced argument... ironically) former Tory Home Secretary Ken Clarke said:

It's a subject he should not have gone into. We have only one law here.

Which quite clearly is not true because, as I've already mentioned, Jewish Beth Din already exists here.

Dolores Joshi, 50, (I don't know who she is, but she's quoted in the Sun article) said:

I totally disagree with what the Archbishop said. This is a Christian country. Introducing aspects of Christian law would never be entertained in a Muslim country.

Setting aside for a moment the fact that only 38% [of the UK] proclaims a belief in a God, surely accepting parts of Sharia law would be less childish than saying "they don't accept out laws so we won't accept their laws". After all, if they disapproved or our policy of not jumping off cliffs, would you jump off a cliff just to spite them? (Somewhat facetious, I admit, but I'm sure you see what I mean.) She goes on to say:

If he knows the word of God, why is he entertaining Islamic law? Christ would never have allowed such a thing to happen. Our law is in the Bible, and that's where it should remain.

Which leads us into somewhat grey area because I'm sure most Muslims would insist that it is Islamic law that is God's word (or at least part of God's word) and not Christian, and also Christ seems very much to have focused on "love thy neighbour" so might not have had too much to say about the principle of Muslims having their own law but I think he would have disapproved of the extreme punishments... but then there was never any suggestion of integrating the extreme punishments, after all nobody in their right mind would want to see in this country the kind of inhumanity that's sometimes been associated with the practice of the law in some Islamic states.

On the subject of our law being in the Bible, I find it interesting to note that:

Then God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth.

which appears to be God permitting incest, and :

He made the Sea of cast metal, circular in shape, measuring ten cubits from rim to rim and five cubits high. It took a line of thirty cubits to measure around it.

which would suggest that ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter is 3 and not Pi, and:

Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves. You may also buy some of the temporary residents living among you and members of their clans born in your country, and they will become your property.

which appears to be God permitting slavery, and:

Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ.

which appears to be Jesus' apostle Paul having no quarrel with slavery, and:

The priest is to write these curses on a scroll and then wash them off into the bitter water. He shall have the woman drink the bitter water that brings a curse, and this water will enter her and cause bitter suffering. The priest is to take from her hands the grain offering for jealousy, wave it before the LORD and bring it to the altar. The priest is then to take a handful of the grain offering as a memorial offering and burn it on the altar; after that, he is to have the woman drink the water. If she has defiled herself and been unfaithful to her husband, then when she is made to drink the water that brings a curse, it will go into her and cause bitter suffering; her abdomen will swell and her thigh waste away, and she will become accursed among her people. If, however, the woman has not defiled herself and is free from impurity, she will be cleared of guilt and will be able to have children.

which appears to be God telling Moses that the punishment for an unfaithful wife is that she should suffer and be rendered incapable of bearing children, and:

One day, after Moses had grown up, he went out to where his own people were and watched them at their hard labor. He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his own people. Glancing this way and that and seeing no one, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand.

which appears to suggest that Moses was a murderer, and:

If in spite of this you still do not listen to me but continue to be hostile toward me, then in my anger I will be hostile toward you, and I myself will punish you for your sins seven times over. You will eat the flesh of your sons and the flesh of your daughters.

which appears to be God using cannibalism as a punishment.

Looking at that, the literal word of the Bible doesn't strike me as a more appropriate moral compass than Sharia law.

But again I digress...

Gerald Sterne, 63, (again, no idea who he is) is quoted in The Sun as saying:

Anyone who comes to this country should respect our church and abide by our laws.

But this doesn't explain why Jews have sanctioned access to Beth Din courts, or why the approximately 270,000 Jews in Britain have more right to their own laws than the UK Muslims that are believed to number 1.8 million, or why the 390,000 individuals [that] proclaimed themselves as "Jedi Knight" in the 2001 census don't have their own court either.

Getting back on point, the Archbishop said that:

That principle that there is only one law for everybody is an important pillar of our social identity as a western democracy

But he also thinks that it is a misunderstanding to suppose that means people don't have other affiliations, other loyalties which shape and dictate how they behave in society and that the law needs to take some account of that.

What he appears to want is a fair compromise with which everyone is happy: Muslims in this country being bound by our laws just like anyone else, but having the option to settle disputes with other Muslims in their own courts like Jews already can. He is not suggesting that we abandon any laws or values we already have. He is not suggesting that we all follow Sharia law. He is not suggesting that the entire of Sharia be woven into British law. What he is suggesting is that Muslims should be given the same option as Jews: the ability to resolve day-to-day disputes in their own courts... remembering, of course, that nobody in their right mind would want to see in this country the kind of inhumanity that's sometimes been associated with the practice of the law in some Islamic states

So remember these wise words: love your neighbour as yourself, I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it, and love with your heart, use your head for everything else.

February 15, 2008

'Dyke chairs BFI film organisation'

Writing about web page

When I read that headline, I immediately thought: "Hang on. That's a bit rude, isn't it?"

But it turns out it's about Greg Dyke, former director-general of the BBC, so that's OK.

February 14, 2008

TROTT Saves The World: Rising Sea Levels

If the consumables for a Hydrogen Fuel Cell come from sea water, then all we need to do is put a lot more effort into developing the fuel cells, and then use all the sea water to power cars and cities and such.

Two birds, one stone.

I know it won't be as easy as that, but it's as good a place to start as any... 

February 12, 2008

Illegal downloaders 'face UK ban'

Writing about web page

Surely the most cost and time efficient way to stop illegal downloading is to target the services, not the individual people.

After all, which is going to take less effort: tracking down one person that's running a service and thus automatically stopping hundreds of people using it, or tracking down the hundreds of users?

February 2008

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