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* Posts by Alan Brown

10310 posts • joined 8 Feb 2008

Morrisons supermarket: We're taking payroll leak liability fight to UK Supreme Court

Alan Brown
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Re: I expect to be flamed

"If your payroll data is internal then your backup admin can probably get at it. "

And as such, you need to observe GDPR or data protection rules - starting with the absolute minimum set of people able to have access as possible and controls to prevent misuse.

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Brit smart meter biz blamed Apple's iPhone 7 launch for its late taxes

Alan Brown
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Re: Good on the judge

"All because I accidentally paid a few bob extra, on a VAT payment only worth about £900."

Now we know where the former British Leyland manglement ended up.

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London flatmate (Julian Assange) sues landlord (government of Ecuador) in human rights spat

Alan Brown
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"The judiciary take a very, very dim view of contempt of court."

My experience begs to differ (sitting in a courtroom, observing). They may well take a dim view of it but punishment for bail-related offences (including skipping out) tend to amount to a slap on the wrist and "Don't do it again" unless they're _serious_ (as in, people got hurt/major property damage is done) and the offender is a recidivist.

"Causing police overtime" and having said coppers standing outside 24*7 was a political stunt, not a practical one.

In all liklihood Jules would get about a week in the cells (maybe a month) and then told not to darken the court's doorstep ever again on any other charges. As for the extradition matter, it's ongoing, he's now proven he's a flight risk and he won't get bail again.

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Alan Brown
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"Being held in"

Saint Jules the Asshat isn't being held in anything. He's hiding indoors and free to go for a walk at any time. In fact his hosts would like him to do so.

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FYI: Faking court orders to take down Google reviews is super illegal

Alan Brown
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Re: Or he could have just used the money to make his business not so crap

> I've noticed that some Amazon reviews are now annotated with a Verified Purchase tag,

Which they've had for about a decade.

> which offer me slightly more confidence in them.

Don't.

The simple way of ditching bad reviews from genuine purchasers is to change the product code or phoenix the company in extreme cases. Lampalous being one example which got away with this for quite a while.

Plus you can game "genuine purchaser" tags with about 2 minutes thought.

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Alan Brown
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Re: Or he could have just used the money to make his business not so crap

"Slagging off your competitors, as well as planting fake positive reviews of your own business, is now standard practice in the raw sewage that is the Internet."

If he got genuine court orders to take down reviews, then he probably knew where they were coming from and there are a number of defences one can legally use against that kind of targetting.

Again, this kind of slimeflinging attack isn't new. The Internet merely makes it a little easier to perpetrate - but as we've seen from skiddies SWATing people, noone is untraceable and a competitor or other harrasser is unlikely to take many steps to cover their tracks.

That said, forging a Beak's signature is a pretty good indication that perhaps the reviews might have been deserved and the original orders might need going over to see if the targets were ever actually validly served.

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Alan Brown
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Re: How long before the courts move into the modern world?

"fax was considered a legally-admissible format for a document"

Supposedly on "interception" grounds.

However when faxes start going to wrong numbers, things can get "interesting".

If you think the scam of emailing to a target to change the bank account number they're paying their builder on is new, then you haven't been around long (It goes back at least as long as the Spanish Prisoner scam). The first 419 scam I ever saw was hammered out one character at a time in ALL CAPS on a telex in the early 1980s and we'd already seen fax fraud by then.

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Alan Brown
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Re: He should have simply faked his own reviews

"best way to deal with bad press is to bury it in made up "

"The Big Lie" pinciple. It's what outfits like Reputation.com reply on to "sanitise" your internet records (which brings up the point that when looking someone up, it's worthwhile going to at least page 2 or 3 of the results to see if there's a marked change in what's being said)

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Alan Brown
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Re: Sooo, they fined him less than he spent to do it legally

"Remember, anyone searching on his name will find this story from now into eternity."

Until he invokes his "right to be forgotten"

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41% of Brit biz: Setting up a price-rigging cartel is all good... isn't it?

Alan Brown
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"a whopping 35 per cent thought dividing up customers between rivals was also legal"

And yet, that's exactly what some companies (and their disties) do.

The CMA is publishing this as a warning shot across the bows.

Companies which believe they have "exclusive UK distribution rights" and attempt to block acquisition (or even threaten to do so in an attempt to intimidate a customer) are also at risk of having their collar felt by the CMA.

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European Commission: We've called off the lawyers over Ireland's late collection of Apple back taxes

Alan Brown
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Re: Weren't there protest in Dublin about hosuing costs recently?

"loads of newly built houses in "ghost estates" had to be demolished, "

Mostly having to do with shitty construction quality making them illegal to occupy rather than an actual dearth of occupants.

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UK defence secretary ponders £50m hit to terminate Capita recruiting contract

Alan Brown
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Re: Whilst I'm no lover of Capita...

"No, that's the MoD you're thinking of. And particularly their fundamentalist wing operating out of a base in Abbey Wood, Bristol. "

The MOD have skin in the game. Politicians on the other hand are merely rabble stirring things up on the sidelines and encouraging the fighting.

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Alan Brown
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> we can evaluate using "market reputation" and award the contract to "best value"

Only if you use the right wording in the tendering process and are willing to fend off a potential challenge from lowest £££ bidder.

It was another country and a very long time ago but I was rigorously schooled to include the words "Lowest or any tender not necessarily accepted" as the final sentence.

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SCISYS sidesteps Brexit: Proposes Irish listing to keep EU space work rolling in

Alan Brown
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Re: Well that's weird....

"Note, by the way, that ESA membership is nothing to do with the EU."

Indeed, but membership of the high accuracy parts of Gallileo and suchlike DOES have a requirement of being part of the EU - and that extends down to subcontractors, so there isn't a lot that will be allowed to happen in on the British mainland before the people signing the contract cheques get stroppy.

This "stupid rule" was rammed through by the UK on behalf of the USA, in order to lock China out of Gallileo's military bits. China's response was to say "ah, ok" and revive it's Compass/Beidou 2 plans instead.

Given that this turn of events took a significant chuck of change out of the Gallileo budgets, ESA and the EU are more than happy to let turn and turn-about be fair play. In most other cases, these "Unfair EU rules" about non-EU members not being allowed to play were actually drawn up by the UK in the first place, so the rest of the EU is engaging in a large degree of quite justified Schadenfreude.

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Alan Brown
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Re: I'm not sure it's that easy

"EU members did think that some might want to go it alone, and they made sure that the EU would not suffer from such selfish behaviour."

Ironically enough, this entire section was written by the UK.

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Alan Brown
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Re: I'm not sure it's that easy

"I would have thought there'd be EU rules in place to prevent taking EU money and simply punting that outside the EU, offloading EU contracts to those with third country status."

There are - and also a bunch of rules requiring EU percentage ownership, etc.

That was mostly a response to the USA's protectionist measures, but it's just as applicable to UK (outside the EU) as to China (who it was targetted at) and the USA.

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Alan Brown
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Re: The big companies can mitigate this

"Just move HQ and most of the business to EU and leave a small operation in UK."

Why bother with the latter part? Brexit means Brexit after all.

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Oz to turn pirates into vampires: You won't see their images in mirrors

Alan Brown
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Re: If someone knows the IP address of the site, they're still quids in, of course

"What's coming next, will Australia ban brains? "

Pretty much.

About 30 years ago, a fairly well-known scientist was engaged in a number of cases as an expert witness showing how radar speed traps were unreliable because of the (appallingly poor) way that Australian police were operating them.

Instead of implementing better training schemes so that police would operate radar in manners that wouldn't be fooled into giving false readings by the rear end of a truck a mile down the road, or a corrugated iron fence, or with multiple vehicles in the beam or when operated at the wrong angle to the road (for oblique angle radar which uses a cosine calculation and will report very high figure if the angle isn't _exactly_ correct), the response of the Australian government was to pass legislation stating that police radar was utterly infallible at all times no matter what and no scientific evidence to the contrary was allowed in court to prove otherwise.

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Alan Brown
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Re: whack a mole time again

"They are never ever going to be able to stop piracy no matter what they do. "

Back in the early days of microcomputers one very effective tactic beat down every other - making the software cheap enough that nobody bothered.

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Alan Brown
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Re: You already know what happens next...

"using an open DNS server like 8.8.8.8 instead of their ISP's."

Unless you're using DNSSEC, how do you _know_ you're actually using 8.8.8.8 and not a transparent proxy redirecting you back to the ISP's server or something being run by the ASIO?

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Former Google X bloke's startup unveils 'self flying' electric air taxi

Alan Brown
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Re: Not again!

"The first ever 'manned flight' that was well attested would be the Montgolfier Brothers balloon in 1783 - though the Chinese probably had man-carrying kites in antiquity."

For that matter European military commanders were using man-carrying kites well before the Montgolfiers.

What the Wrights got was the first _sustained, controlled_ powered flight. More importantly, they had someone onhand to actually photograph it.

Pearse probably got into the air before the Wrights for some brief hops. His engine was certainly unique, but the design was essentially even more uncontrollable than the Wright Flyer (And I say that advisedly, as a Kiwi - the Wright Flyer was dangerous contraption using wing warping techniques which was only barely controllable in the air. The Wrights themselves abandoned it in favour of a Spad-type design. There was a lot of interest in powered flight at the time, with the Wrights only being a few weeks ahead of competitors in getting into the air first with "sustained controlled" flight, but not necessarily "safe, controllable repeatable" flight. - there's a similar story on the Transistor. It may have been invented "first" at AT&T but there were several groups independently working on developing the thing. The AT&T point contact version was only days ahead of the thin-film one that Philips got working - and Philips were able to commercialise their version whilst AT&T were still trying to work out how to make reliably repeatable batches of their version.)

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EU aren't kidding: Sky watchdog breathes life into mad air taxi ideas

Alan Brown
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> And surely it doesn't count as shooting down, when the plane was already on the ground. Surely this calls for the phrase "shooting up".

It's not the first time something like this has happened. The last incident I saw reported (there are doubtless others) resulted in the massacre of an adjacent cornfield when a tech accidentally inserted a safety clip the wrong way up in the wing of an Aermacchi MB326 at Ohakea in the 1990s. That one supposedly barely missed another aircraft on the ground.

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Alan Brown
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Re: Antigravity

"Many small ones around the airtaxi, instead of four big ones."

With that you arguably don't need a vertical stabiliser, but the practicality of the whole thing is still questionable, just like the ideas of generator-connected turbines driving multiple ducted fans on a wing.

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Alan Brown
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Re: In Germany there actually is a strong push for those ideas in the ruling party

"How will we stop bad eggs/suicidal/depressed people/terrorists from getting jobs as flying taxi drivers"

$Hint: robot air taxi drivers have fewer things to avoid than robot ground taxi drivers. This is an area where monkeys won't be allowed to take the controls.

In any case this is mostly a bad idea. "Flying cars" comes from the "personal freedom" brigade, but we don't have the energy resources to sustain existing demands for everyone on the planet, which means that it results in more societal stratification and more terrorism (poverty, inequity and deprivation breeds such things)

Solving the energy problem without poisoning the biosphere (hint: "renewables", wind and solar are all rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic) is a more pressing problem. Flying cars can come later.

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Leaked memo: No internet until you clean your bathroom, Ecuador told Julian Assange

Alan Brown
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Re: @MonsieurTM

"I have the utmost respect for Wikileaks and what they tried to achieve (I still do)"

The problem with Wikileaks can mostly be summed up as "Julian Assange"

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Mobe networks battle to bring comms back after Hurricane Michael smashes US Gulf Coast

Alan Brown
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Re: You'd think the Air Force would move the $150 million apiece fighters out of the storm's path

"http://www.thedrive.com"

A pity that's inaccessible to those of us who block marketing cookies or are in GDPR-land.

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The march of Amazon Business has resellers quaking in their booties

Alan Brown
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Re: So I guess WALL-E was a documentary?

"sooner or later, you're going to have a winner with enough influence to set even governments aside "

Even the Gettys eventually ended up being sidelined by anti-trust legislation.

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Alan Brown
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Re: They brought it on themselves

"Also, the number of layers between pencil manufacturer and customer can be staggering, each of which takes their own cut meaning stupidly high prices for basic items."

When there aren't many layers, the middlemen seem to decide to put in stupidly high markups which has much the same effect.

I've seen US$9000 devices selling from the "exclusive UK agents" at £12000 (where the US maker is offering them FOB Tilsbury at $6000). And then said wholesalers throwing a screaming hissy fit upon being informed that we're buying from a German supplier with much more sensible pricing policies and a pan-european warranty.

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NASA gently nudges sleeping space 'scopes Chandra, Hubble out of gyro-induced stupor

Alan Brown
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Re: Self driving cars

"I think I'll believe in them when NASA is put onto designing and programming the electronics."

That's the same NASA whose "Break not at all if possible, fix judiciously" policies resulted in launches with venting O-ring joints and bits of foam striking the wings, on the basis of "It hasn't caused a problem so far"

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Amazon's sexist AI recruiter, Nvidia gets busy, Waymo cars rack up 10 million road miles

Alan Brown
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Re: And I will Drive 10 Million Miles

"In learning to drive (in the UK), I probably drove not more than 3,000 miles "

When you got your license in the UK, you were regarded as barely competent to drive(*) and needed a lot more practice to become actually _good_ at it. Unfortunately a lot of people actually reach the peak of their abilities for the test - which is a bloody good argument for mandatory periodic retesting.

Robot cars don't need to be perfect, just better than most humans - and that's a very low bar to get over, considering that even the best drivers make a couple of mistakes per minute on average. It doesn't matter if they all drive like old grannies - if the traffic flows smoothly around town you'll actually get there faster. Impatient monkeys overestimating their abilities and underestimating the laws of physics is the primary cause of road deaths.

(*) Which is why you faced swingeing levels of insurance and other restrictions. It takes _years_ of experience to understand not only the mechanics of driving but also what makes other drivers tick - something that a lot of humans never master.

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Alan Brown
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Re: AI Recruitment

"Tech people should have learned long ago that CV scanning software based on looking for keywords is a woeful way of recruiting intelligent people to often complex and multi disciplined roles."

Most tech people know that.

Most manglement don't. It's "shiny shiny" magic stuff.

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Alan Brown
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Re: I'm not so worried about Waymo's customers

"What I am concerned about is collateral damage to pedestrians, pets, objects is situations that don't quite fit the actual and simulated situations that Waymo has tested."

Given one of the more whacky real world situations that one of the Google cars encountered (a group of ducks running around on the road and a person on a motorised wheelchair chasing them), I think the "collateral damage" will be minimal to none (the car stopped and waited for them all to get out of the way)

Waymo seems to get it that "streets are for people", which is likely to become more and more the catchphrase with the living streets initiatives taking root worldwide and fuel prices climbing rapidly.

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Alan Brown
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Re: Amazon’s sexist AI

"Trouble is these days its career suicide to do any research that might be seen to produce sexist (or racist) results."

Except that....

"The irony of it all is that of course the machine learning has not a clue what black or white, male or female etc means, its just throwing out matches that reflect society as it really is. So if one considers this is a problem, then the need is to change society, not the AI."

More precisely, these AI "learning" algorithms are taught using data containing existing human biases and end up locking them in a "computer says no" way (where people accept the result unquestioningly, because "computers are never wrong".)

It doesn't matter that illegal drug use is the same among poor black and rich white people - with enforcement, prosecution and conviction rates all being biased against poor black people, the AI perpetuates that kind of enforcement.

What these AI results actually show is the inherent biases of what's feeding into them and therefore in this case the inherent biases of the existing selection processes used by HR dimwits.

Once you realise that all these AI stores are a result of "garbage in, garbage out", you also realise there's a lot more to these stories than initially meets the eye. It's all very well pointing and laughing at how the stupid computer is producing sexist/racist results but the harsh reality is that the stupid computer is merely doing exactly what is _already_ being done, just somewhat faster and without someone looking at things along the way, then saying "hmm, that seems a little _too_ biased, we'd better fudge things a bit so we don't get accused of rascism/sexism"

(IE: it's peeling off the veneer and exposing the ugly reality of the assumptions of the selection processes)

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Powerful forces, bodily fluids – it's all in a day's work

Alan Brown
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Re: Silver/Tin whiskers

"will grow what look like whiskers on tin plated surfaces."

Conformal coating is your friend. Apply liberally in hostile atmospheres (including the inside of galvanised cases)

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Alan Brown
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Re: Shrapnel...

"or indeed a metal casting facility for jet engine parts."

There are appropriate casings for those environments.

Not choosing the right one is definitely a PICNIC error.

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Alan Brown
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Re: Monitor

"The (supposedly) gold-flashed contacts in the network jack turn green, or the punchdown contacts do. Replace the offending jack, and the problem is solved for a few years."

IP67 enclosures not being a thing in such environments?

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Alan Brown
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Re: Monitor

"My personal bugbear is the "cable tester says it's OK" when the port(s) are clearly not fine for the intended purpose."

Mine too. Most cheap cable testers run at DC.

Ethernet runs at a few hundred MHz. You have to have the mindset that these are fancy (and sensitive) antenna cables, with an RF approach required for best results.

You can do a _basic_ test with a cheap tester but it's not the be-all and end-all. On top of that badly wired connections will frequently pass on the expensive testers if they're less than 100metres. (The most common failing is tails which are _way_ too long, or rotten IDC punchdowns.)

It's cheaper to toss a dodgy connector than to rewire it.

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Alan Brown
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Re: Monitor

"There is a full explanation of these in The Twilight Zone - A Matter of Minutes"

Of course if you arrive late, the Langoliers might get you instead of the leftovers.

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Alan Brown
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Re: Monitor

"recently someone put a digger through a 450KW supply cable and blew up £20,000 of hardware, that we restored by diagnosing and replacing only £3000 of parts that were ACTUALLY faulty"

I know people who do that with lightning strikes. The problem is that over the next few weeks/months, the components which were overstressed but didn't _quite_ initially fail will decide they're really pining for the fiords and shuffle off their mortal coil. End result is a bunch of callbacks.

It depends on the circumstances, but loss of customer goodwill and labour costs usually outweigh any advantage on trying to cheap out on "got too many volts up the wrong end" type of repairs. You'll usually find that attempting to charge for revisits and extra parts is a non-starter too, unless you like your name being Mud.

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Alan Brown
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Re: Diagnostic process

" ..a Letter sized document sent to a printer loaded with A4 but that requires typing in my password.."

More often than not it simply requires pressing OK on the printer to override.

I wrote a wee sed script to mangle "Letter" to "A4" on our print server. A lot of problems stopped after that.

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It is 2018 and the NHS is still counting the cost of WannaCry. Carry the 2, + aftermath... um... £92m

Alan Brown
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Re: NHS upgrades antiquated IT systems to Windows 10?

"If the apps are configured to be ergonomic and intuitive"

That'd be a first. 90% of apps and programs are ergonomic disasters.

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Alan Brown
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Re: £150m deal was signed with Microsoft to update systems to Windows 10

"...people persist in thinking "The NHS is one entity" despite each trust being operationally independent and having it's own independent IT department...."

It's usually far worse than that. If you think there's only ONE independent IT department in a trust then you have a wakeup call coming, and several more if you think they're actually run by people who know what they're doing. Guerilla IT is a very real thing, as are managers who know nothing about complex network structures and think that everything runs on desktops.

Even when there are people who actually know how to manage the IT side, the politics of getting anything done without the flamethrower of pending criminal charges playing across certain people's feet makes swimming in treacle look like a pleasureable alternative.

I know of health trusts which have managed to get things right - usually by having IT report directly to the CEO and giving them the power to give orders to senior medics when needed, instead of the other way around.

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NASA's Chandra probe suddenly becomes an EX-ray space telescope (for now, anyway)

Alan Brown
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" NASA has experience in determining what it needs to know in order to find out what goes wrong."

With Apollo 13 (contrary to the movie), every single thing that was done (including the filter hack) had been worked out on the ground a long time before the mission.

Let's see if this latest safing has already been simulated and planned for.

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Russian rocket goes BOOM again – this time with a crew on it

Alan Brown
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Re: "scuttle it and start again"

"Now that the payload and orbital building capabilities have been lost"

Not.... entirely.

Falcon Heavy springs to mind

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Alan Brown
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Re: Performed as expected...

"The two lost Shuttles were destroyed by:"

A shitty design, necessitated by conflicting demands that made it big and ugly (a camel) and so dangerous that the USAF (whose demands drove the increase in size that forced it to be mounted to the tanks instead of riding on top of the stack) walked away from it very quickly.

Incident 1 wouldn't have been fatal if the orbiter was on top and incident 2 wouldn't have even happened.

The primary reason Buran only made one flight was because the Soviet space engineers refused point blank to allow humans to fly in it. They built it to prove they could and to understand its purposes (something capable of bringing large items down has immense military tactical value - it can be used to attack satellites) but having done that they wanted nothing further to do with it (The Buran designers wanted to put the thing on top of the stack, but were overruled because it would take too long to develop - after the first flight it was decided that the cost of redesigning to put it on top so it could safely carry humans was too high for any possible benefit inherent in having a "shuttleski")

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Alan Brown
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"Do China have the available capacity to help out, and would they be willing to?"

Even if they do, China's been fairly explicitly shut out of ISS by the USA from the beginning (which is why they have their own space stations) and undoing that is a big ball of string to deal with.

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Alan Brown
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"If they've been up there 3 months already, they'll develop serious health problems if they're up there that long."

They're perfectly fine up there. The health problems start happening on the ground if you spend too long in zero-G

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Oh no, Xi didn't! Chinese spymaster cuffed in Belgium, yoinked to US on aerospace snoop rap

Alan Brown
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"Which, as we know pretty much killed the aero industry in the US until Mr. & Mr. Wright's patents expired.

Luckily, France (and others) ignored those patents and made aeroplanes"

The Wright flyer was extremely dangerous and a dead end technologically (wing warping). The French designs were only a few weeks behind the Wrights in getting into the air and were the basis for most development of the first 50 years.

In a similar manner, the transistor may have first been invented in the USA, but the first _practical_ transistor (as in repeatably produceable and actually commercially usable) was made a few days later by Philips and they were turning out quantities whilst AT&T were still struggling to get prototypes out of the lab.

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Alan Brown
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"The Chinese only recognize patents/copyright by Chinese companies and citizens. Basically, someone in China can file a patent or copyright on your product and they then have free reign to wreck as much havoc as they want."

It pretty much works the same way in most countries. if you don't register your patents worldwide, then you lose them in the countries where you don't file and if you don't assign copyright enforcement, the same thing effectively happens.

If you want your IP to be recognised in China, then you need to file registrations there (It's cheap to do so) BEFORE trying to find someone to make the product - and invest in a lawyer who can protect your IP there - This is exactly the same advice anyone wanting to do business in the USA used to get until quite recently too, because they'd have their ideas ripped off in 5 minutes otherwise.

Accusing China of state sponsored industrial espionage is pretty rich, considering the USA has been doing exactly the same thing for a couple of centuries.

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Russian 'troll factory' firebombed – but still fit to fiddle with our minds

Alan Brown
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Re: Don't be silly.

"And, subscribing you to dating sites for bizarre fetishes."

I've discovered a few interesting new fetishes in this manner....

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