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'Nobody in their right mind would build a naval base here today': Navigating in and out of Devonport

Twisting and turning like a twisty-turny thing


Boatnotes II As HMS Severn continues hosting the Royal Navy's Fleet Navigating Officer's course, The Register has taken a closer look at the precision demanded of naval officers conning their ships in and out of one of the most cramped ports where the Navy routinely operates.

Entering and leaving Plymouth, home to Devonport naval base, is a tricky operation under naval rules as we observed.

Plymouth, Devon, England, UK: Devonport naval dockyard in the Hamoaze Estuary

"Nobody in their right mind would build a naval base here today," quipped one officer. The entrance to Devonport consists of a long and winding route to follow the marked deep water channel. Although Severn isn't the largest of ships in the fleet by a long way, she still followed every twist and turn of the channel on the way up.

HMS Severn (click to enlarge) Pic copyright: Helen Harper

Each student navigated the ship along one precisely-planned leg, either entering the port or leaving it; as a training ship, Severn does this several times a day. Precision is the order of the day: whereas a civilian sailor might bring their ship into port by glancing at navigation buoys and steering as required so they don't bump into anything, the Royal Navy plans every single turn and straight leg and speed with military precision.

An old friend of The Register passed Severn as she left Portsmouth: HMS Enterprise, which hosted the original Boatnotes series from the Arctic Circle (click to enlarge)

"It's about building the skillset," one of the FNO course instructors told your correspondent. "Yes, we as the Navy do this [entering and leaving Plymouth] countless times during our careers but planning the pilotage means that when we're entering a new port, the skills are there to get it precisely right first time."

The quartermaster's position on the bridge, where the ship is driven from. Note the two levers for the main propulsion, the bow thruster lever - and the steering wheel! (click to enlarge) Pic: Gareth Corfield

During one practice run into Devonport naval base at night we got a flavour of just how much precision the Navy demands.

"Wheelover… port 10," said the trainee navigator from his post at the pelorus, the navigation instrument in the centre of the bridge.

A police launch cleared HMS Severn's path of civilian sailors, including this pretty little sailing vessel. Note the outboard motor (click to enlarge) Pic: Gareth Corfield

Wheelover is the point on a navigation leg where, as the name suggests, the crew must start turning the wheel to intercept their next leg. Some maths based on ship's speed, rudder angle (Severn's twin rudders can swing up to 35˚ in either direction) and tidal flow tells you where the wheelover point ought to be.

The view from HMS Severn's bridge as she entered Plymouth harbour (click to enlarge)

"10 port on, sir," said the quartermaster, on the ship's wheel.

"On track visually. Midships. Steer 328. That's seven cables to the anchorage," continued the student navigator.

Outside the bridge windows, dark land masses loomed ever larger. Outside on the bridge wing, a crew member called in a bearing from a nearby navigation light.

"On track visually," repeated the student. "With three cables to run, expected depth 28.5 metres-"

"Depth 29 metres!" interjected a bridge crew member, keeping a steady eye on the ship's echo-sounder.

"Roger," replied the student.

WECDIS plot of the NATO task force during a 2018 trip to the Arctic in the HMS Enterprise (click to enlarge

Another navigational technique for fixing your position is comparing your height above the seabed with what the chart says. Just like in hillwalking, if you're passing over a recognisable lump or bump from the chart that gives you another clue about where you are. Combining that with bearings from landmarks above water can be a useful cross-reference.

While the student nav is keeping the ship on track, another student is monitoring the radar. These being British coastal waters there's always a number of pleasure craft and kayakers around. On a daylight run into Plymouth Severn was preceded by a police launch, shooing civilian sailors and paddleboarders out of the warship's path. A less precise operation than the one going on inside the bridge, but necessary all the same. ®

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German court rules cookie preference service that shared IP addresses with US firm should be halted

Schrems II starts to be felt in Europe

A German court has ruled that sharing IP addresses with US-based servers for the purpose of cookie consent is unlawful under EU data protection law and the EU Court of Justice Schrems II ruling.

The university Hochschule RheinMain in Germany was this week prevented by Wiesbaden Administrative Court from using a cookie preference service that shares the complete IP address of the end user to the servers of a company whose headquarters are in the US.

A complainant had alleged that the CookieBot consent manager from Danish provider Cybot transmitted data such that IP addresses were shared with US-based cloud company Akamai Technologies.

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Virgin Media fined £50,000 after spamming 451,000 who didn't want marketing emails

Data watchdog shows it's keeping its PECR up

British telco Virgin Media is facing a £50k financial penalty after spamming more than 400,000 opted-out customers urging them to sign back up to receive marketing bumf.

Just one customer complained to the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) about receiving the spam – but that was enough to spur the regulator into investigating.

In a message disguised as a routine communication about tariff prices, Virgin told the unfortunate 451,217 recipients it knew full well they'd opted out of marketing emails but wanted them to opt back in.

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Microsoft signs settlement with US Justice Dept over 'immigration-related discrimination' claims

Must revise visa evaluation process

Microsoft has settled with the US Justice Department over immigration-related discrimination claims.

At the heart of the investigation were allegations that the Windows giant discriminated against non-US citizens based on their citizenship status as well as against lawful permanent residents.

The problem was the level of documentation the DoJ alleged had been asked for by Microsoft. In this case, it was more documentation than was legally required to show sponsorship for work visas were not needed, as well as repeatedly demanding evidence to reverify the continuing permission of employees to work in the US.

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Flash? Nu-uh. Windows 11 users complain of slow NVMe SSD performance

Microsoft aware of the issue months ago, but not fixed yet

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Quill users advised to export chat history before servers turned off for Twitter buyout

Yet another Slack rival goes offline, but text-adventure fans need not panic

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2033 is doomsday for 2G and 3G in the UK

Surely the Great Coming of (Huawei-less) 5G will have happened by then

The UK government has announced measures to phase out 2G and 3G networks by 2033 ahead of Digital Secretary Nadine Dorries' meeting with US Secretary for Commerce Gina Raimondo.

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Google launches lawsuit against a blockchain-enabled botnet

Two Russian men and 15 Does named in Glupteba Enterprise case

Google says it has taken legal and technical action against Russia-based botnet Glupteba.

"Botnets are a real threat to internet users, and require the efforts of industry and law enforcement to deter them," wrote Google's vice president of security, Royal Hansen, and general counsel Halimah DeLaine Prado.

The ad giant claimed that its own investigation revealed that Glupteba encompasses about one million compromised devices worldwide, sometimes growing at a speed of thousands per day.

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Open hardware smartphone PinePhone Pro starts to ship – to developers only, for now

New e-ink tablet, too. Open mobiles, tablets and laptops are coming... slowly

Open-source-hardware vendor Pine64 has started shipping versions of its upgraded smartphone and new e-ink tablet – but so far, only to developers.

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Hong Kong vendor Pine64 started out with the crowd-funded $32 A64 SBC, but then started building this core design into laptops, smartphones, tablets, even smartwatches – with open designs that support multiple operating systems.

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We can unify HPC and AI software environments, just not at the source code level

Compute graphs are the way forward

Register Debate Welcome to the latest Register Debate in which writers discuss technology topics, and you the reader choose the winning argument. The format is simple: we propose a motion, the arguments for the motion will run this Monday and Wednesday, and the arguments against on Tuesday and Thursday. During the week you can cast your vote on which side you support using the poll embedded below, choosing whether you're in favour or against the motion. The final score will be announced on Friday, revealing whether the for or against argument was most popular.

This week's motion is: A unified, agnostic software environment can be achieved. We debate the question: can the industry ever have a truly open, unified, agnostic software environment in HPC and AI that can span multiple kinds of compute engines?

Arguing today FOR the motion is Rob Farber, a global technology consultant and author with an extensive background in HPC and in developing machine-learning technology that he applies at national laboratories and commercial organizations. Rob can be reached at info@techenablement.com.

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But why <i>that</i> VPN? How WireGuard made it into Linux

Even the best of ideas can take their own sweet time making it into the kernel

Maybe someday – maybe – Zero Trust will solve many of our network security problems. But for now, if you want to make sure you don't have an eavesdropper on your network, you need a Virtual Private Network (VPN).

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Why WireGuard rather than OpenVPN or IKEv2? Because it's simpler to implement while maintaining security and delivering faster speeds. And, when it comes to VPNs, it's all about balancing speed and security.

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Boffins demonstrate a different kind of floppy disk: A legless robot that hops along a surface

This is fine

Those of us who fear future enslavement by robot overlords may have one more reason not to sleep at night: engineers have demonstrated a few of the legless, floppy variety making some serious leaps.

Animated pancake-like droids have demonstrated their ability to execute a series of flops in a fashion their creators – soft robotics engineers based in China – describe as "rapid, continuous, and steered jumping."

"Jumping is an important locomotion function to extend navigation range, overcome obstacles, and adapt to unstructured environments," Rui Chen of Chongqing University and Huayan Pu of Shanghai University said.

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