Alex Salmond’s promises seem to be evaporating faster than he can make excuses for them. Today, the Chancellor outright stated that there will be no currency union between the UK and any independent Scotland. He also has support from all three major Westminster parties. It’s pretty clear that Westminster thinks its a terrible idea.
It’s a one-sided idea.
Salmond has been giving the Scottish public one story while privately he knows another. His chances of entering the European Union, and all the benefits that brings, rely on every single European Member State voting unanimously to amend the treaties binding them, the very backbone of the European Union. Those odds are very small, if they exist at all. In nations like Ireland, it would require the passing of a referendum. Yet Salmond promises it will happen..
He also knows that North Sea oil and gas are a resource of the past and will only continue to dwindle. His publically stated figures for offshore production vary from 25% to 70% more than the oil industry’s own estimates: I’d sooner trust the industry than a politician with his political life on the line.
So why is he so adamant on using London’s money while decrying London as the root of all evil?
In a currency union, the two countries would have to underwrite each other’s loans, support each other’s banks, agree on interest rates and so on. Alex Salmond’s independent Scotland basically gets a blank cheque underwritten by the British taxpayer. When his economics turn out like independent forecasts predict (anything from “unaffordable” to “catastrophic”), he gets to have London bail him out. Now is it obvious why Alex Salmond likes the idea so much? It’s a safety net for when his high-spending policies turn into economic “difficulty”.
Westminster would have no choice but to bail Scotland out, otherwise the mere presence of the currency union would act to strongly harm the British economy. It’s exactly why Germany had to bail Greece out so heavily, Greece just couldn’t be allowed to fail.
A report and analysis by the Treasury (PDF) has four major points to make:
- There is no rule, precedent, tradition or principle requiring, obliging or even hinting that it would be a good idea to form a currency union with a departing state.
- An independent Scotland would be more exposed to risks from volatile industries like finance and energy than the rest of the UK.
- Nations with direct control over monetary policy can better cope with economic difficulty, and better take advantage of economic success.
- The Eurozone crisis has underlined that a shared fiscal policy and financial guidelines are easily flouted, rarely observed, difficult to enforce and do not result in stability.
The British Parliament, therefore, has no intention whatsoever of handing over the keys to the Bank of England to a foreign country.
It’s such an obviously bad idea that it has Ed Balls actually agreeing with George Osborne!
"Alex Salmond is saying to people that you can have independence and keep the pound and the Bank of England – that is not going to happen.
"It would be bad for Scotland, it would place an unacceptable burden on the UK taxpayer, it would repeat the mistakes of the euro area, in fact, worse.
"It won’t happen, I wouldn’t recommend it. Scotland will not keep the pound if Scotland chooses independence."
Even worse for Alex Salmond, the Treasury’s permanent Secretary (who sort of knows his stuff) has given civil service advice (PDF) to the Government. It isn’t pretty for the Scottish National Party.
"Currency unions between sovereign states are fraught with difficulty. They require extraordinary commitment, and a genuine desire to see closer union between the peoples involved."
Does this Scottish government seem to have that “genuine desire”? Exactly the opposite. Salmond’s party wants to distance Scotland from the UK, not forge any form of “closer union” – You can’t have a closer union while destroying that same union!
"The Scottish Government is still leaving the option open of moving to a different currency option in the longer term. Successful currency unions are based on the near universal belief that they are irreversible. Imagine what would have happened to Greece two years ago if they had said they were contemplating reverting to the Drachma."
We can imagine, and it isn’t pretty. Euro-based financial markets would be closed, investors would flee in terror and the Greeks would have no way whatsoever to pay their debts. As a state, Greece would have failed exactly like Zimbabwe did in the 2000s.
"If you follow Treasury advice and this week rule out a currency union in the event of Scottish independence, you can expect the Scottish Government to threaten not to take on its share of the United Kingdom’s debt. I do not believe this is a credible threat."
If the Scottish Government were to do such a thing, it would be viewed by the markets and credit ratings agencies as a debt default and its ability to borrow on the financial markets would end up in ruins.
As the oldest Parliamentary democracy, Britain is the origin of the doctrine of Parliamentary Sovereignty. This means that Parliament can do whatever it wants to do and can pass any law it chooses.
This is why the Tories aren’t too keen on the Human Rights Act, as it restricts what Parliament can do and goes against this doctrine. Indeed, no real “Bill of Rights” can be compatible with Parliamentary Sovereignty, as such laws attempt to restrict the government, while the doctrine states that the government cannot be restricted. It’s why Britain has no written constitution and is very sceptical about European attempts to obtain one.
A currency union would undermine this same doctrine. Parliament would have to hand over influence on interest rates, loans, creditworthiness, banks and all the related laws and regulations regarding all of the preceding – I’m sure Holyrood would relish the opportunity to have power over one of Europe’s biggest economies. The Tories have taken enough beating from their party extremists about handing over sovereignty to Europe, handing over enormously more than that to Scotland is unthinkable.
Personally, I’m more ambivalent about the wider principle of Scottish independence. I support the idea of self-determination, and I believe Scotland takes more than it gives to the Union (Alex Salmond apparently believes so too, he wants so much to keep the bits that benefit Scotland), such that it would benefit England if Scotland were to go its own way. I’m much more sceptical about Alex Salmond’s ability to deliver on what he’s promoiing.
Make whatever you like out of this. As a Humanist and part-time Discordian, I take it to mean that humans are inherently good and benevolent towards their fellows.
Lay not on any soul a load you would not wish laid upon you, and desire not for anyone the things you would not desire for yourself.
Words of Baha’u'llah, Gleanings
Treat not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.
Do not do to others what you do not want done to yourself
Analects of Confucius, 15.23
In everything, do to others as you would have them do to you; for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.
Words of Jesus, Matthew 7:12 (from Leviticus 19:18, which reads “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself.”)
WHAT IS THE MATTER WITH THAT, IF IT IS WHAT YOU WANT TO DO? "But nobody Wants it! Everybody hates it." OH. WELL, THEN STOP.
A humanist makes their ethical decisions based on reason, empathy, and a concern for human beings and other sentient animals.
The British Humanist Association
This is the sum of duty: Do not do to others what would cause pain if done to you.
Not one of you truly believes until you wish for others what you wish for yourself.
Words of The Prophet Muhammad, Hadith
One should treat all creatures on Earth as one would like to be treated himself.
Words of Mahavira, Sutrakritanga
When he went before Hillel, he said to him, ‘What is hateful to you, do not to your neighbour: that is the whole Torah, while the rest is the commentary thereof; go and learn it.’
Words of Hillel, Talmud, Shabbat 31a, commenting on Leviticus 19:18 “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself.”
Native American Spirituality
We are as much alive as we keep the Earth alive
Words of Chief Dan George
We affirm and promote respect for the interdependent existence of which we are a part
I am a stranger to no one; and no one is a stranger to me. Indeed, I am a friend to all.
Works of Guru Granth Sahib, page 1299.
Regard your neighbour’s gain as your own gain, and your neighbour’s loss as your own loss.
T’ai Shang Kan Ying P’ien, 213-218
Do not do unto others whatever would injure yourself.
Shayast-na-Shayast 13.29 (Leviticus re-phrases many other parts of Shayast-na-Shayast, this is Lev. 19:18 and is just one of them)
We can sum this all up with the word “benevolence”. I wonder when our worldly religions will start seeing this as their goal to be aimed for and achieved, not an advertising ploy to put on a good public facing image.
The Tory party has frequently portrayed itself as “the conscience of the nation”, something I’m rather pleased to be able to demolish today, though I wish it hadn’t come to this.
A few years ago, the major internet service providers (ISPs) were threatened with legislation by the Labour government if they didn’t take action to block child pornography. We were assured that the system would only ever be used to block access to child pornography.
Two years ago, the High Court decided that the system, as it was already in place, could be equally used to protect the income of private business, so The Pirate Bay and other filesharing search engines were blocked. The promise the Government had made was broken.
Nowadays, Cameron’s band have pushed the major ISPs so far that they now are forced to censor out completely legal content. Gambling, adult content, religion, tobacco, alcohol, dating, hate speech, self harm, and charities and services aimed at proving support to vulnerable children relating to alcohol, self harm, and so on.
I’m not even joking. They’re working on a “whitelist" so that specifically approved services are permitted. – They know there’s a problem and they have no intention of fixing it properly, just making it appear on the surface to be “we’re working on it”.
They’re not even trying to hide the fact that they’re endangering the most vulnerable children by restricting access to avenues of support. The Tories plain do not care, and Labour support this also, they’re completely amoral: They get there way, and if a few 13 year old girls avoidably commit suicide as a result… then who cares? It’s the price that Whitehall has to pay in order to achieve its real goals: Control, restriction and oppression.
It’s morally reprehensible and, as the father of two small children and an IT professional, I will do everything in my power to ensure the Tory Kiddie Killer net-censor is absent from my household. If, when she gets older, little Daniella feels her only avenue of support is a charity’s website (we were all teenagers once, they’re not entirely rational) from the safety and privacy of her own room on her own laptop or tablet, it absolutely will not be made unavailable to her by some Tory internet censor.
That’s my promise as a father. It’s also my big “fuck you” to Cameron and his cronies.
It’s amazing what comes from the minds of children. If gravity stopped working, we’d all float away, right?
Not so fast: We wouldn’t. We’d all die, really, really quickly.
The atmosphere is held here by gravity, so the bottom of it is squished by the top, it’s compressed, and so denser. Dense enough for us to breathe.
When gravity is turned off, the pressure of the bottom of the atmosphere, here near sea level, pushes the rest of the atmosphere up. Ever seen the demonstration of a low grade vacuum resulting in the air around it crushing a can? That sort of force is pushing all the air away from Earth.
It wouldn’t be instant, I don’t even know how you’d begin to estimate this, but I guess it’d take a few days before air at sea level is too rarefied to breathe. We can capture and store air really well, it’s what tyres do! So you get your air compressor out as soon as gravity goes off, and you fill everything you can with compressed air. Years of it. You need about 600 grams of oxygen per day (300 ml a minute) and one cubic metre of air will keep you going for 2 hours.
So we compress the air to about 120 PSI, which is what an air compressor you’re likely to keep in your car is capable of, and is about 8 atmospheres. We’re in physics experiment land, so let’s fill a house with it. We get about 300 cubic metres. This is, at 1 atmosphere, 2,400 cubic metres of air, so you have 200 days of air. That’ll last you long enough to see what’s going to happen, at least.
Immediately, you don’t feel as heavy. In fact, you can fly. Just flapping your arms is good, you’ll take five or ten minutes of intense flapping to get to speed, but you’ll be able to fly about as fast as a house sparrow. You can easily fly back down again, so that’s a good idea. You’ll get the hang of it.
So you spend six hours flying around and the sun goes down. Earth is still rotating, and you’re rotating with it, that doesn’t change, you don’t suddenly get flung off. It’ll be snowing, no matter where you are (unless you’re in a dry area like a hot or cold desert). The reduced pressure is already lowering temperatures globally.
Without a gravitational bind to the Sun, Earth is very literally flying off on a tangent. So is the Moon. Earth is going at 30 km/s tangentially to the Sun, the Moon about 1 km/s tangentially to Earth. The Moon will drift away, and Earth will fly through the solar system (as will every other planet), but always away from the Sun.
If we know the length of tangent C, then its distance outside the circle is given by B, where the radius of the circle is A, according to C^2 = B(0.5xAxB)
After a day, the Earth has travelled 2,500,000 km. Solving, as we know A is 150,000,000 km, we get:
2,500,000^2 = B(0.5×150,000,000xB)
B = 6,250,000,000,000 / 150,000,000
B = 41,667 km.
So Earth got just 41,700 km further away from the Sun in one day. I used a lot of rounding there, but it’s correct enough, we’re about 5% either way from the “true” value, but that’d also depend on the time of year, as Earth is not always the same distance from the Sun.
A week later, and the atmosphere is about what you’d find at the top of Everest. You can’t breathe it for long without suffering hyopxia, and it results in temperatures around –80C at night, and about normal in daytime. We’re now 292,000km further away from the sun, but this is small, less than Earth’s orbital eccentricity adds per year.
If we go four weeks later, the atmosphere is almost a vacuum and we’re 1,1700,000 km further away from the Sun, but still, this is less than the difference between its furthest point (June) and closest (December). Daytime is scorching at 150 C, but night is frigid, it drops to less than –100C. The Moon is still around, though in the same point of the sky and showing the same phase constantly. It is travelling with us, and only gets 86,400 km further away per day. After 28 days, it is 2.4 million kilometers further away, over six times it’s current distance. It’ll be only just visible as a disc.
As the atmospheric pressure is so low, the oceans are now boiling away. Water boils as low as 30C.
If you haven’t died of cold, heat or thirst by now, congratulations. Everything else on Earth probably has. Heat is still around, geothermal in origin, but water just sublimates straight to steam and escapes. This is Earth’s ultimate fate – it will boil off all its water after first freezing it.
At day 200, when you’re finally out of oxygen, Earth has travelled just 8 million kilometers further from the Sun (not far enough to really change anything, if gravity were still working), the atmosphere is long gone, water on the Sun-facing side sublimates instantly due to the lack of any atmosphere, resulting in steam geysers from what little water is left.
It’s the atmosphere leaving which is the big killer.
Science has this weird way of having to conform to evidence, observation and proof. Each branch of science has its own major theory, the “all-encompassing” theory which unites that branch of science. Biology and Medicine has Evolution, widely considered the strongest theory Science has. Chemistry has Molecular Orbital theory, VSEPR (Google it) theory, both of which are well understood and work very well. We get to physics… which has the Standard Model of quantum physics and General Relativity.
General Relativity describes how gravity works, does so precisely and has resisted every attempt to find observations which it cannot explain, but is widely regarded as weak and incomplete. While it works fantastically well, it has no means of explaining why gravity exists. The Standard Model has the Higgs Boson to give particles mass which was detected at the Large Hadron Collider in 2013, but this was a bad result for physicists: They expected it, it didn’t teach them anything new. They still have no idea how to introduce gravity to the Standard Model. Higgs gives mass to particles, but why does mass cause gravity? Nobody knows.
Science can tell us how a bacterium will evolve resistance to an antibiotic (MRSA will eventually kill off all Creationists, as they think methicillin should still work, since staph. aureus cannot evolve resistance if evolution doesn’t exist!), it can tell us how to synthesise a food additive which tastes sweet, but doesn’t undergo any metabolism and passes straight through (like sodium cyclamate), it can even tell us how electrons can jump past a barrier too high for them just by being close to it, and we can make mass market computer parts based on that (flash memory).
It can’t tell us why mass has gravity. So it’s okay if you died on day 200, science still can’t tell us how gravity works.
In news lately was Tory MP Mike Weatherley, former entertainment industry executive, now the Prime Minister’s Intellectual Property Advisor.
He believes that if you watch TV via BitTorrent instead of iPlayer, you should be tossed into jail. If you listen to music by downloading it instead of, say, Spotify, you should be deprived of your freedom and become a burden on the taxpayer.
The Tory Party is so far detached from you and me that they think that watching or listening to the same content, on the same equipment, same screen, same speakers, same headphones, same cost, same price, but doing so “the wrong way” is grounds to slam you in prison.
Oh, and if you’re merely suspected of doing so, maybe by by that neighbour who’s cat keeps shitting in your flowerbed, your Internet should be disconnected and you should be put on a blacklist.
Why do foreigners keep calling us a Nanny State? Why do the Tories keep being called the Nasty Party?
On the old blog, I often went through the ingredients lists of various foods, or its advertising claims. This time, it’s Heinz Weight Watchers in the firing line.
This had better be the absolute messiah of “good for you”, and even if it is, then it had better not be engaging in deceptive advertising: Good quality fodder wouldn’t need to lie to you or mislead you.
Let’s see what it has to say for itself.
“Steaming technology”… Really? STEAMING TECHNOLOGY? Dudes, you put some fucking water in there and then the microwave boils it. That’s sort of what microwaves do to everything that goes in them.
We’ll deal with the “Low Fat” and “Low Sugar” claims in a bit. Note how it’s arranged like a checklist, as though artificial colours and flavours are a bad thing. Arsenic is a natural flavour. Cupric sulphate is a natural colour. I wouldn’t like to ingest either. No artificial preservatives either, other than freezing the hell out of it in a perfectly natural kitchen freezer applicance, taken from the freezer tree. Freezing causes real chemical changes in food, which Heinz doesn’t seem to know about… Or doesn’t want you to know about.
Thankfully, the Titanic was okay because it hit a natural iceberg.
“No Added MSG” is an even more shaky claim. MSG is monosodium glutamate, or alternately glutamic acid. It’s an amino acid, one of the building blocks of life, the raw material from which your body’s organs and muscles are made. It’s so flexible as a building block of life that it is very desirable as food. To that end we have taste receptors specifically for it! They detect the “savoury” or “umami” taste, which is widely experienced as pleasant. Your body is telling you this stuff is good for you, and it absolutely is. It’s found in very high levels in both Japanese and Mediterranean diets, both linked to long life expectancy.
So we know the food is not linked to a long life. Thanks, Heinz. We love you too. Fuckers.
What actually is in this thing then?
In general, a whole concoction of vegetables mechanically chopped and tossed in there with pre-cooked rice. Two things ring hilarity bells: Soya Sauce (not soy sauce, that’s too common, albeit the exact same stuff) and Yeast Extract. What’s in these? MSG. Lots and lots of MSG. That’s why Heinz said “no added MSG”. This stuff is loaded in it. Not that that’s a bad thing, Heinz just wants you to think it is, and then hide that it’s loaded to the gills with the stuff. It’s added for taste more than anything, as we saw a few paragraphs up, your body loves this stuff.
What next, Heinz? “No Added Vitamins” or “100% Mineral Free”? Maybe “Now 100% Rat Poison Free”?
Eventually, what’s it give you in raw numbers?
Not a lot, and what it does give you is all the wrong stuff. 18.6 g of protein (this is good), 36.1 g of carbohydrate (carbs, this is not good) and just 4.2 g of fat (this is not good either). Of those carbs, 11.9 grams of it are straight up sugar, that’s two and half teaspoons! (1 tsp = 5 g)
The nutrition balance is completely out of whack. It doesn’t have enough fat, has far too much sugar and carbohydrate and way too much protein. It’s food for body builders, essentially. They don’t want fat, as this is fuel, not definition, they want a lot of protein and a lot of carbohydrate, since this doesn’t store as body fuel very well and is more immediately available for strenuous activity like weight lifting or running…
Except there isn’t much of it. 266 calories. Even if you’re slimming, to a budget of 1500 calories (note: they use the male GDA, not the lower female GDA, as they’re not required to!), this isn’t even a main meal. It’s not even half of one. It has just 13% of your daily calories, but a cool 28% of your daily salt.
Not good for you, but probably better than whatever else its target market would otherwise be eating.
A 649-page "White Paper" was released by the Scottish National Party, detailing their plans for an independent Scotland.
In it, its core premises revolve around vastly increased public spending. The Universal Credit would be abolished and the "spare room subsidy" or "bedroom tax" housing benefit cap would also be abolished, allowing small families to occupy vast houses on the taxpayer’s wallet. These are not great expenses, it’d cost about £125 million a year for both.
To pay for this spending going forwards, the SNP propose an "Oil Fund", investing the profits of North Sea petroleum as Norway did, as this would be upwards of 10% of annual income. 90% of North Sea oil is in waters which would be Scottish after independence. The "Oil Fund" would have been sensible 40 years ago, but North Sea oil is nearly exhausted and will decline sharply after 2020, the money would be needed on a much shorter scale to satisfy SNP’s spending. (Tony Mackay, "Prospects for Gas Demand and Supply in the EU, 2010-20")
How would Scotland pay for the SNP’s promises? A million new skilled taxpayers? Well, immigration isn’t really touched on (having just voted for independence, are the Scots really going to be keen on immigrants?) but it’s unlikely Scotland would try to attract the best of the international labour market.
An independent Scotland assumes it would continue to be business as usual with a currency union with the UK, and continue to observe the Bank of England’s policies, and use the Pound Sterling. This is foolish, as Scotland would necessarily inherit a portion of the UK’s public debt, weakening its ability to pay that debt: It cannot raise interest rates to run the inflation engine. Scotland would also reject a portion of public debt if it could not keep the pound, this appears to be its bargaining chip. Right. Like Westminster is stupid. An independent Scotland absolutely would not be able to dump its existing debt on the UK.
Sir John Major, former Prime Minister (who should know a bit or two), completely writes off the idea of a currency union as It “would require the UK to underwrite Scottish debts”
That other big currency union, the Euro, survives because of a strong political bond and commitment among its members. Scottish independence is a move in the opposite direction and a currency union with Scotland would be risky in the extreme for the rest of the UK – which is Scotland’s trading partner for 70% of Scottish exports. The First Minister of Wales is already on record stating he would oppose a currency union, Westminster is unlikely to be more accomodating. The arrangement would be inherently fragile, as citizens of the UK would be uneasy bankrolling Scotland (as Germany did with Greece) to preserve their own currency. This would damage investor confidence on Scottish government bonds even if Scotland’s economy did somehow perform as the SNP is assuming it will and see eight quarters of record growth. (Armstrong and Ebell, "Scotland’s Currency Options")
Not only does a currency union dilute Scottish independence, it exposes the UK to financial risk it need not be exposed to.
Scotland is proposing that the single-tier pension will begin at 1% higher than the rest of the UK, then rise by the no less than 2.5% per year, or inflation, or average earnings for five years longer than in the UK, and it will keep the retirement age lower, it has only hinted about a future rise to 67. Scotland proposes it will maintain a single UK Pension Protection Fund, yet an independent Scottish Pensions Regulator – Without Scotland buying its share of the Fund (which is eminently unaffordable, even neglecting the SNP’s commitment to very high public spending), it is unclear how this could be done. Would Westminster really tolerate some northern upstart toying with its Pension Protection Fund?
The SNP makes it very clear: The Trident system, the UK’s submarine based nuclear deterrent, would be repatriated immediately. That’s fine, and the UK can rebase them (at some expense) in Plymouth or similar. What is not so obvious is that Britain has NEVER permitted any foreign power to build its warships. With BAE supporting thousands of jobs on the Clyde, Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael has gone on record saying it would be "difficult to see" how the work would "go to Scotland": Defence spending is significantly intended to boost local economies, Westminster would not tolerate what is effectively British economic aid going to Scotland. It would be politically and economically impossible.
Alex Salmond has repeatedly stated that Scotland would negotiate entry into the EU from within the EU, he believes the EU will bend rules because Scotland is a special case. The EU does not see it this way: Were Scotland to leave the UK, it would not be an EU member. It would not get the opt-outs that a nation the clout of Britain was able to negotiate. The SNP reads article 48 of the Treaty to think Scotland would be admitted via a procedure permitting amendments to the Treaty by unanimous consent of its member states. Spain has already stated that it would not support such a move as it would stir up the already restive region of Catalonia. Spain uses the lack of EU membership to deter Catalonia from even holding the referendum! Were Scotland to become an EU member under Article 48, Spain would absolutely lose Catalonia. Spain would never allow that.
The white paper dismisses Article 49 (procedure to admit new candidate states), however there is no other means of gaining. Article 48 would not be permitted, Spain would veto it instantly, Germany is unlikely to support it and the UK would likely be more ambivalent.
Scotland would have to apply as normal via Article 49. It would have to adopt the Euro: It lacks the economic clout that Denmark and Britain used to secure exceptions. The exceptions Britain negotiated would not be inherited by Scotland either, and let’s face it, Germany does not want any economically uncertain new members. Merkel is pissed off enough with the Hellenistics.
If Scotland really wants to be independent on its merits, rather than pure ideology (that’s cool too), it needs to better research those merits, as it seems the SNP wants to drag a blind Scotland head-first into something it hasn’t mapped beforehand, doesn’t have the money to deliver and has core precepts involving “Assuming Westminster is very stupid” and “if the EU is really, really dumb”.
The Supreme Court has ruled that hating your fellow man is not protected by religious freedom laws. A purely evil couple who ran a B&B turned away a gay couple because they believe… Hell knows, something about being evil and hate filled. Doesn’t make much sense, but you don’t expect sense from folk like that.
That’ll be all.
Those following technology will be well aware of a patent war where a broken system is being exploited by mostly Apple, trying to prevent Samsung, Google, HTC, et. al. from releasing products which compete with and beat its own products.
In 2009, the telecommunications giant Nortel collapsed. Nortel’s patent portfolio in the “smartphone wars” was seen as the equivalent of a nuclear weapon, exceptionally dangerous in the wrong hands. 6,000 patents and patents pending covering wireless data, 4G standards, data networks, optical data, routing, networking, UX and algorithms and even semiconductor manufacture. These patents were auctioned off later in 2009.
Bidding reached $4.5 billion and was acquired by Rockstar Bidco, a shell company set up specifically to license Nortel’s patents. Rockstar’s owners include Microsoft, Blackberry, Apple, Sony, Ericsson, EMC and some smaller names but not Google – Google was out-bid.
Last week, Rockstar announced a huge swathe of lawsuits against Google and Google’s suppliers, including most of the world’s top phone manufacturers: Samsung, HTC, Huawei, ZTE, etc. These were filed in the district of East Texas, a haven for patent litigants as courts there have historically been very friendly to them.
Rockstar, while owned by the Microsoft & Apple led consortium, is operated as an autonomous (if not independent) entity and operates entirely by reverse engineering third party devices to determine if they infringe ex-Nortel patents, then seeking fees. It is very careful to not operate a business outside litigation and patent trolling, as this would expose it to counter-suits from the very companies it wishes to stifle the innovation of.
What we have then, is a strategic nuclear weapon in the hands of interests who very much wish to see successful and market leading Android (Google) fail. If enough damage can be done to Android, then Apple’s increasingly unpopular “iPhone” line and Microsoft’s struggling Windows Phone line will have more of the market to themselves.
It remains to be seen how Google will respond, but Rockstar is going for Google’s core business – search – in several patents which “invent” how to display search results. Google absolutely will retailiate, though it remains to be seen how and what with.
Suspecting this onslaught was coming, Google broke out the cash reserves and bought Motorola Mobility for £12.5 billion, entirely for its patent portfolio, and has been aggressively chasing down smaller companies with large patent holdings, to swallow them too.
If the enemy has nukes, you need nukes too.
Many keyboards have been battered in an attempt to assert how much hardware is needed to run a Minecraft server. Some dramatically underestimate it. Some fantastically overestimate it, such as the popular calculator site you can find out there.
To find out, I went and ran one on this server.
By default, Minecraft runs with the command line:
javaw.exe -Xms1024m -Xmx1024m -jar "Minecraft_Server.exe"
This is a bit wasteful, and completely pointless. It sets the minimum Java heap size to 1 GB, same as the maximum. Java cannot actually use more than 1 GB on a 32 bit system, but a more useful Java heap size is “-Xms256m” and “-Xmx1024m”. You can run -Xms lower, and it will improve startup performance, but it should not be below what the server “idles” at. A stock unmodded server usually idles around 40-50 MB, so setting 64 or 128 MB is acceptable if RAM is limited (e.g. 512 MB Linux or Windows 2000/XP/2003 servers). I settled on 64 MB.
This improves startup and reset performance, while still allowing Minecraft to use 1 GB of memory if it needs to.
After four months and an upgrade to a 64 bit OS, the server had expanded a little to be using 160 MB idle. The command line now read:
javaw.exe -d64 -Xms256m -Xmx4096m -jar "Minecraft_Server.exe" nogui
The server was free to use as much as 4 GB memory if it needed (it never did), and started off at 256 MB, so avoiding having to allocate more chunks at startup. This performed very well and became my standard loader, even for heavily modded servers.
Next up is server bandwidth use: Variously vitriol-laden forum posts have asserted that 1 Mbps per player/2 players/5 players is ideal. This is, of course, rubbish.
When piddling around doing very little travel, each player will use less than 10 kbps of bandwidth. If, say, building a house, farming plants, chopping wood or mining, a player will peak at maybe 50 kbps. It’s basically how many block updates need to be done per tick as the server really only has to synchronise the clients.
However, players running around like mad, riding minecarts, sailing boats or dealing with large numbers of creatures will peak at much higher bandwidths, sometimes as high as 300 kbps each (complex mechanisms are similar). Minecraft is very tolerant of jitter (changes in ping), so we can fit in five players comfortably in a 1 Mbps upstream connection.
In an ideal world, we would guarantee 100 kbps for each player and have 250 kbps extra for every 5 players. Two players, then, need 200 kbps basic and 250 kbps more, so 550 kbps for a very responsive lag-free server. We rely here on larger numbers of players being unlikely to all be in the same area doing the same thing if that thing is very intensive, so not all wanting to peak at the same time. Ten players would work out at 2.5 Mbps.
This was calculated at a LAN-party, with a server logging its bandwidth use over the session. With two players, we saw average baseline around 50-100 kbps, with spikes to 300-600 kbps quite often. Ten players gave the server more to think about, we saw spikes as high as 5 Mbps but if we limited the access WiFi to just 2 Mbps, nobody actually complained.
Ping (latency) is important, a connection where all players are below 50 ms is ideal, but 100 ms is perfectly acceptable. If you can tolerate a few slowdowns or judders here and there, give 120 kbps per player and have done with it.
The above image shows a 100 Mbps server handling two Minecraft players over about five minutes, as well as general hosting. We can see that it never exceeds 1 Mbps (never comes close) and 500 kbps would encompass virtually all traffic.
Disk space is also not usually a problem. A single world server which has expanded to about 20 region MCA files (five players playing for 20 days) can fit in 50 MB. NTFS disks can use compression to accelerate reads (less data at the same speed is a quicker finish), but MCAs compress only to about 80%. MCAs are the “world”, they describe how the blocks are placed and so on. A rather large player-created village makes its MCA file about 10 MB. A fully-equipped home with farm with fields and livestock and a pretty large mine results in about 5 MB. A freshly spawned untouched MCA region is 300-1,000 kB.
For my use, CPU load was a problem, especially when I went with a complex modded Feed The Beast server. This server is powered by a dual core AMD at 2.6 GHz, so it isn’t fantastically powerful. I saw a lot of CPU load and associated judder in the world, until I added the “-nogui” argument to the command line. This dropped CPU use to nearly nothing!