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* Posts by David Roberts

1289 posts • joined 25 Jan 2007

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Visa fingers 'very rare' data centre switch glitch for payment meltdown

David Roberts
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WTF?

Still not understanding

Why it took so long to disable the failing switch once it was identified.

Assuming that if the switch had completely crashed the backup would have taken over, then why not just turn the damn thing off?

Unless assumptions were made about the maximum size of the backlog/queues which could build up during failover, and the system just wasn't sized to recover from a massive backlog due to an undetected partial failure.

This does sound quite likely, as the report talks about clearing out queues before switching to the backup switch. Perhaps the system couldn't recover if transactions were more than a certain age? Although you would expect that old transactions could be assumed to have failed (as was the case here) and been automatically recorded then purged.

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OpenBSD disables Intel’s hyper-threading over CPU data leak fears

David Roberts
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Paris Hilton

Bulldozer?

Just checked and each pair of cores shares a single branch prediction engine (amongst a lot of other stuff).

So is this about to lose half the (half) cores?

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Which? calls for compensation for users hit by Windows 10 woes

David Roberts
Silver badge
Windows

Blast from the past - W7 to W10

Just updating a friend's PC which has been stored for a while; long story but he bought it off a mate and then never got around to using it because of lack of Broadband.

I told him he could tether it to his mobile, and helped him set that up.

Having quite fast Broadband I said I would get all the latest updates on. I found that it had the Windows 10 update queued up and all updates turned off. Does make me wonder if this is why his mate flogged it on, but more likely he just turned off updates because he didn't know how to stop the W10 update. Just looked back and the forced updates were around March 2016.

Anyway, cue a quick installation of GWX followed by clicking all the buttons to clean up, and Windows 7 is now happily up to date.

All this just made me realise how far back the whole upgrade cockup was.

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Tech rookie put decimal point in wrong place, cost insurer zillions

David Roberts
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Windows

Re: Y2K Blither IBM?

"only IBM..."

I think that you will find that ICL mainframes were also hexadecimal and used BCD. EBCDIC if my rather hazy memory serves me.

First used in the ICL System 4, which was a licensed RCA Spectra, which in turn was a rip off of an IBM 360 IIRC. The BCD was almost identical to that used by IBM. I think one value was swapped round to get round copyright or whatever. I saw one of the very early "System 4" machines which still had the RCA logos on it.

The 2900 range followed on from System 4, and the 1900 range was dropped. One of the more mind bending parts of my career was to get involved in machines (2960 then 2966) which ran microcode emulation of a 1900. Having cut my teeth on Hexadecimal it was a bit of a wrench to go to using Octal. All those nice letters had disappeated, along with 8 and 9.

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Don’t talk to the ATM, young man, it’s just a machine and there’s nobody inside

David Roberts
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Happy

Re: Ah FUBAR - NFG

I recall an apocryphal tale of a bus driver who signed off his vehicle as NFG.

Cue a manglement bollocking and his response that it stood for No First Gear.

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Drupal drisputes dreport of widespread wide-open websites – whoa

David Roberts
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Joomla?

Drupal and Wordpress getting a kicking but no word about Joomla.

Recommendation, or so bad not worth mentioning?

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Doctor, doctor! My NHS Patient Access app has gone TITSUP*

David Roberts
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Unhappy

EMIS?

Other systems are available and also less user friendly.

I miss EMIS.

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GCHQ bod tells privacy advocates: Most of our work is making sure we operate within the law

David Roberts
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Unhappy

Whistle Blower Protection

Not the direct subject, but relevant to the discussion.

I have always been at least a little unconfortable where International Law effectively says "If you do something we consider obviously morally bad, even if it is within the local law and you are ordered to do it, then you are a criminal and we will get you later.".

This places the individual in an impossible situation; sacrifice your job, family, possibly your life to maintain the moral high ground?

Given that whistle blowers, especially in the NHS, have been persecuted and driven out of their jobs for highlighting unsafe and often illegal practices there is enormous pressure to conform driven from the top down, so it isn't surprising if the majority keep their heads down and do as instructed. It isn't really surprising if some become very enthusiastic because they see a clear way to gain favour from their superiors.

So please don't trivialise the required personal sacrifice required to go against corporate culture.

Drifting even further off topic and introducing a Brexit Godwin on Windrush, if a significant proportion of the population take Brexit as a "send the wogs home" mandate, is it any surprise if a lot of them are working for one of the largest UK employers? In probably low grade but effective positions.

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Dixons to shutter 92 UK Carphone Warehouse shops after profit warning

David Roberts
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Dixons - photography

Nobody so far has mentioned the photographic side of Dixons, which has always seemed pretty good.

I bought my first (and only) film SLR from Dixons. Chinon own brand but took popular lenses. I eventually bought my first (and so far only) Nikon digital SLR from Dixons because they had the best price at the time.

As far as I can tell the camera market is being impacted by mobile phones (at least all the TV adverts seem to be about the cameras) and the mobile phone market is being impacted by the lack of new major featyres. The PC and other electronics markets are being impacted by the 'good enough' performance and long life of current goods.

So the whole marketplace seems to be contracting, with volumes down and no new super must have features to drive new purchases.

This seems to leave the only option in the sector to accept reduced volume and revenue and consolidate to reduce fixed overheads. Not an industry to invest in and expect massive growth, I would say.

We still shop at Currys for white goods because the prices are competitive and there are very few other places where you can walk round the display area and see/touch/feel the product. This is another area where they seem to be "last man standing" (honourable mention to Hughes). People may well remember when the high street was full of department stores and other shops selling white goods. Again a contracting market.

A bit like IT. No longer a massive market for highly paid specialist. Much more a low pay commodity market.

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Ex-staffer of UK.gov dept bags payout after boss blabbed medical info to colleagues

David Roberts
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Lack of context encourages speculation

Reading the report, the natural reaction is to speculate on what kind of medical complaint the staff member had.

There is mention of depression, but that seems to be a major factor in the seriousness of the case; the depression makes the impact of gossip far more serious.

My first thought (mea culpa) was "Please don't be offended if Joe refuses to shake hands. It is for your own good." however I can't see any obvious reason for a manager to share details of a staff member's illness unless specifically requested to. The staff member is perfectly capable of doing that if desired.

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Remember that $5,000 you spent on Tesla's Autopilot and then sued when it didn't deliver? We have good news...

David Roberts
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Windows

Over hopped craft IPAs?

Bugger. Does that mean I've become a hipster without noticing?

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Can has a verry hoppy IPA. Mmmmmmmm......

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David Roberts
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Holmes

Autopilot?

The term 'pilot' doesn't just apply to planes. It can also apply to shipping.

A quick flex of a search engine will find loads of references to yacht autopilots. Single handed long distance sailors use these to let the boat sail itself whilst they go below and cook meals, ablute, and sleep. So there is a use case where an autopilot can be left to run the show whilst the human is asleep. Therefore it is not unreasonable for a keen yachtsman to expect similar features on a car autopilot. With an alarm to wake up the driver if a hazard is detected.

As far as I know merchant ships also have autopilots and it is not unknown for the above experienced yachtsman to tell hair raising tales of nearly being run down by a freighter in the English Channel with nobody on the bridge. The tale sometimes/often features a barking dog.

So the term autopilot implies more capability than a cruise control, and can therefore be misleading.

You wouldn't normally use an autopilot on your yacht in a busy shipping lane or entering/leaving a harbour or mooring but it is perfectly fine for tootling along on the open sea.

Tesla marketing people please note.

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International Maritime Organisation turns salty gaze on regulating robotic shipping

David Roberts
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Facepalm

Chain of logic?

Design a robot ship!

But pirates....

Add robot defences and shoot any attackers!

And there you have it. An autonomous fully armed ship designed to repel and kill any unauthorised humans. What could possibly go wrong?

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Is your smart device a bit thick? It's about to get a lot worse

David Roberts
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Windows

Re: IT training in Primary Schools? Computer Science?

I think you will find that very few of the people who built the massive everyday support infrastructure in the '70s and '80s (including banking, billing) had Computre Science degrees or Maths degrees. Nor did they have computer specific academic qualifications. A lot of COBOL programmers, though, with training by the company.

When I started out as a COBOL programmer in the early '70s there weren't many CS bods around for at least two reasons.

(1) There just wasn't the supply.

(2) Their training was not in commercial programming. Spending time learning to write self modifying code in the smallest possible footprint to make the most of the limited capabilities of an obsolete last generation microprocessor does not make you a shoe in for writing clear, easily maintainable commercial code. In practice it was like taking on a badly trained horse. You had to break all the bad habits before you could start training with the good habits. Far swifter and easier to start with an untrained horse.

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David Roberts
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Windows

IT training in Primary Schools?

What's that all about then?

I was taught(ish) a lot of stuff at Primary and Secondary school which hasn't really come in useful since and is mainly forgotten. I include Latin and the more obscure parts of English syntax/grammar.

I chanced on IT as a career after leaving University with no prior training. Took me about 6 months to become a mediocre programmer and another 6 to decide that this programming lark was going to get very repetitive and boring very soon. So I turned to more detailed stuff about how computers worked. The rest, as they say, is history with a touch of geography thrown in from time to time.

Let us assume that today's cannon fodder exits the Higher Education scam (mainly designed to make the unemployment figures look good) at the age of 25 with no useful skills apart from flipping burgers or serving coffe which they learned in summer jobs. It looks as though they are going to be working until they are at least 75 so six months intensive training in an IT discipline should hopefully yield 49.5 years of productive work in IT. How is a programming course taught in Primary school going to significantly shorten the training? Unless they are actively programming at meaningful tasks all the way through including University nothing of significance is going to stick. What are they going to achieve and what is the short term reward? I very rarely progam any more because I have no need. I don't know anyone else not directly employed in IT who does either. IT has gone from being something new, exciting and arcane with high pay to being mundane stuff supplied for free (usually) on cheap consumer devices.

I also doubt that many of my contemporaries remember or use any Latin. This programming thing is, IMHO, just smoke and mirrors to deflect the eye from the real issue; not many 25 year olds with above average intelligence are going to look at the current IT marketplace and think "Wow! This looks like an amazing career with secure and highly paid long term prospects.". They are more likely to decide that in 5-10 years flipping burgers will be more secure and pay better.

And breathe!

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You know that silly fear about Alexa recording everything and leaking it online? It just happened

David Roberts
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Trollface

Looked through their logs....

Obviously the logs for your device are also available locally so that you can check them from time to time to confirm that the device has only been activated when you expected/intended.

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Ongoing game of Galileo chicken goes up a notch as the UK talks refunds

David Roberts
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Unhappy

Brexit <-> Remain ping pong and negotiation

Watching the usual mud slinging, one option seems to have been ignored; that the UK government is working very hard to make the negotiations fail. Stream of dodgy logic to follow:

(1) The whole referendum thing was a desperate attempt to stop the right wing of the Tory party decamping en masse to joing UKIP thus destroying the Tory party as a force in government.

(2) The cabinet positions are a transparent move by TM to get all the unscrupulous lying shits who promoted Brexit from within the Tory party to carry the can for the negotiations and the eventual result. (Othet unscrupulous lying shits are also available).

(3) The long term aim of the central Tory party is to make the right wing so politically toxic that they will be unable to muster a credible influence for at least a generation.

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If this is anywhere near reality then the tactical/strategic move is to have Brexit turn out to be the biggest pile of steaming toxic shit possible and responsibilty to sit clearly and unequivocally with those seen anywhere near that red Battle Bus.

It may even be strategic to let Labour win the next election with a note saying "You sat on your hands throughout the negotiations, so let's see how you sort out this mess!".

None of this is for the good of the country, but it is a long time since anything idealistic has played any part in the plans of professional politicians.

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Microsoft patches problematic OS to deal with SSD woes

David Roberts
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Trollface

Fall edition?

Still waiting for a few weeks without another major bug report before turning on my only W10 system and allowing it to update. Will this happen before the Fall Edition hits the streets/fan?

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TalkTalk plans to sell family B2B jewel to Daisy Group for £175m

David Roberts
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Windows

Re: Shafting?

Focus consumers? That is what they do now. Completely focus up.

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Brit water firms, power plants with crap cyber security will pay up to £17m, peers told

David Roberts
Silver badge
Windows

Re: Legacy systems exposed to the Internet

Was going to post much the same.

Upstream was the proposal to mandate private networks.

Everything these days is "virtual" so a Virtual Private Network should meet the security requirements; that is, transported over a common carrier (the Internet) without any access to the Internet. I am not surprised that Kilostream is being phased out. There is an overhead in maintaining dedicated physical circuits plus a lack of resilience to physical damage. You need discreet physical routes all the way for your minimum two circuits, instead of doubled up connections to your nearest two network nodes. You need to manage the whole network not just the end points. You are limited to one supplier.

As far as I can tell the main problem is people wanting to have access to and from the network to the Internet. Just say no!

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It's 2018, and a webpage can still pwn your Windows PC – and apps can escape Hyper-V

David Roberts
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Coat

Flatulence?

For some reason this sprang immediately to mind when I read the phrase "Microsoft’s back end cloud".

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Hacking charge dropped against Nova Scotia teen who slurped public records from the web

David Roberts
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It took them a month to reach that conclusion?

In reality that is pretty damn quick to persuade various senior people who went on record about this that there was no way to conceal that they had been talking out of their collective arses.

Alternatively/in addition there could also have been a lot of "Yes, I know, but you have his computer now. Surely there must be SOMETHING we can charge him with.". I'm guessing that he was lucky that he never chanced on anything looking even slightly like a dodgy porn site.

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David Roberts
Silver badge

Pay increase not a pay increase?

Sounds like the old Civil Service incremental pay scales where your salary increased each year as you moved up the scale, and increases in the scale only mattered when you reached the maximum point.

This explians why the Unions used to campaign for any increase to be slanted towards increasing the maximum point not all points equally. All that really mattered to the punters was the minimum and maximum point.

So you get your contrsdictory statement where there has been a "pay freeze" for a few years but most of the punters get a nice salary increase. So the wage bill goes up but can be spun as "pay restraint" until too may people congregate on the max. Then the trouble really starts.

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Australian prisoner-tracking system brought down by 3PAR defects

David Roberts
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WTF?

Verified as stable?

Presumably they didn't bother doing this before. Or perhaps this is publicity speak for "hasn't fallen over again yet".

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Broadcom's Arm server chip lives – as Cavium's two-socket ThunderX2

David Roberts
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Qualcomm testing the market?

Hey, Microsoft, lovely bit of kit here. Shame if something should happen to it....

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Android P to improve users' network privacy

David Roberts
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Re: Couldn't they just change permissions on /proc/net?

Wouldn't it be sensible to log access for a while instead of just turning it off?

At a minimum any Apps using/abusing it could be identified and warned.

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Kremlin's war on Telegram sees 50 VPNs stopped at the border

David Roberts
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Trollface

Re: Good advertisement for it

Streisand effect? Or Brer Rabbit?

Brer Fox, don't throw me into the briar bush!

Assume Russia has a way to crack the crypto and then think of the most effective way to encourage people with secrets to use it.

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Heir to SMS finally excites carriers, by making Google grovel

David Roberts
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Is the implied message

That all Chat apps will eventually monetise your data?

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FCC boss to block 'national security risk' companies (cough, Huawei, ZTE) from US's $8.5bn broadband pot

David Roberts
Silver badge
Holmes

Paranoia

Then again, just because you think they are out to get you, doesn’t mean that they aren't.

Buying stuff from abroad is an obvious increased security risk. Is it outweighed by increased functionality and reduced cost? Now? In a year?

How about supplier lock in?

Insoluble because we all know that if you run a captive market in your own country then building a bigger barrel for the pork is a higher priority than innovation and cost reduction.

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David Roberts
Silver badge
Pint

Re: Used to, as in...

I don't drink any more.

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I don't drink any less, either.

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UK.gov unveils cyber security export strategy – only thing missing is the strategy

David Roberts
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Re: "UK faces a diverse range of threats from hostile state actors. "

Well, that just about puts the bowler hat on it.

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Space, the final blunt-tier: Binary system ejected huge 'spliff' asteroid, boffins reckon

David Roberts
Silver badge
Trollface

Does look like a turd

I wouldn't want to meet whatever parted with it. Giant mutant star goats are scary at the best of times.

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Windows 10 to force you to use Edge, even if it isn't default browser

David Roberts
Silver badge
WTF?

Windows Live Mail?

"in 2017 found Windows Live Mail had one per cent market share"

What has this to do with the Mail app in W10?

WLM has been abandonware for years now and difficult to get hold of. I haven't spent much time on trying it out on W10 (upgrade from W8.1) but it didn't seem happy.

Still running it under W7 and W8.1 because it reminds me of Outlook Express and I like the user interface.

Thunderbird is my emailer of choice on socially supported W10 systems for friends.

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Rhode Island proposes $20 porn tax. Er, haven't we heard this before?

David Roberts
Silver badge
Facepalm

20$ for kiddie porn?

American Express?

That'll do nicely.

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10 PRINT "ZX81 at 37" 20 GOTO 10

David Roberts
Silver badge
Windows

Generational thing. Passed me by.

By the time this came out I had been computing on mainframes for a long time so had no real idea that small computers were a thing.

Only really got into it when the kids were old enough to take an interest, and got an Atari STe which also did word processing and spreadsheets. Games for the kids, of course. Dot matrix printer that could do imitation hand writing instead of the usual fonts.

Fascinating how a decade of enthusiasms can pass you by if you are the wrong age.

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'A sledgehammer to crack a nut': Charities slam UK voter ID trials

David Roberts
Silver badge

Who might be at risk of fraud or be disenfranchised?

Firstly, houses of multiple occupancy such as occupied by students and poorly paid workers. Only one name on the utility bills. Secondly a house with a large family; three generations, perhaps, but only one name on the bill. Very hard to provide ID.

I assume that the homeless are considered unsuitable to vote.

Ethnic minorities and especially those with a poor grasp of English and local law. They may find that someone helpful has registered them as voters by helping them fill out the forms (or doing it for them) and then helpfully collected the voting card for them and used it to vote for them.

Traditional home owners should have little problem with voting; the most you might get is someone using your polling card when you are away (or in hospital, perhaps). It is the poor who don't own or rent their own home who are most likely to be disenfranchised. People living in temporary accomodation, hostels and the like.

A robust system of ID cards would help to solve many issues to do with disenfranchisement of voters. The Police State issues associated with ID cards may be too high a price to pay. Would you fully trust the current government not to abuse this system in any way?

However, if you go on holiday to France or Spain, for example, you have to produce ID whenever you book into any accomodation. They still seem to manage to be reasonably democratic. So who knows?

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'Repeatable sanitization' is a feature of PCs now

David Roberts
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Coffee/keyboard

Wipe down all the time.

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New algorithm could help self-driving cars scout out hidden objects

David Roberts
Silver badge

So just like a mirror to see round corners

Except not smooth with a reflective background but rough with a potentially non-reflective background.

I can see this working in USA cities with grid pattern roads and glazed shop fronts because meat sacks can do a very similar trick. Using a rough barked tree as a mirror would require serious illumination coupled with a very high ability to discriminate between reflections from the target and from noise.

I assume that you can tag the light (or other wavelengths) you emit so you can detect which incoming light is a reflection.

I would have thought the first stage would be to detect the reflections round the corner from other light emmiters. Such as the meatsack trick of seeing car headlights reflected in the store front on the corner. Can cars do even that yet?

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World's biggest DDoS attack record broken after just five days

David Roberts
Silver badge

Re: ISPs could mitigate this - car MOT

Just one small flaw in your plan. The MOT helps to secure road safety in the UK from dangerous cars on the UK roads and is policed in the UK where the cars physically are.

How do you propose to enforce an MOT on servers all over the world and completely outside your jurisdiction?

If you can't knock on (kick down) the door then you can't tackle the problem at source. You have to police the borders (just like illegal goods) which is the point where you can take physical control.

So having ISP routers acting as border guards is probably one of the more effective ways to address the problem.

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Good luck saying 'Sorry I'm late, I had to update my car's firmware'

David Roberts
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As if millions of voices cried out

Help me Obi-Wan Kenobi, I need to know if you have a firmware update for me.

Either polling out from each device in each home or (heaven forbid) each device listening for an incoming call through the firewall.

Should ramp up the traffic a little. Could also open an opportunity to DDoS the update server. Small request and then big download.

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Boffins discover chemistry that could have produced building blocks of life in space

David Roberts
Silver badge

Re: Oh, the hyperbole

Earliest forms of life on Earth had very little to do with oxygen, IIRC.

Allegedly blue green algae used oxygen as a metabolic byproduct to kill off the competition which was, I think, mainly relying on Hydrogen Sulphide for energy.

Then again that could have just been free oxygen.

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This job Win-blows! Microsoft made me pull '75-hour weeks' in a shopping mall kiosk

David Roberts
Silver badge

The big question

Is about the role. Was it managerial and compensated as such, or was it just rated as managerial to avoid paying overtime?

Much as in the gig economy workers are forcibly qualified as "self employed" to avoid sickness and holiday pay.

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A computer file system shouldn't lose data, right? Tell that to Apple

David Roberts
Silver badge
Mushroom

Sparse file system?

Some parts are so sparse you can't even locate them!

Still trying to digest that the lower levels of the OS report an error but it just gets ignored. Still, nothing special about writing data these days, is there? Plenty lying around spare in those bucket thingies.

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Astro-boffinry world rocked to its very core: Shock as Andromeda found to be not much bigger than Milky Way

David Roberts
Silver badge
Facepalm

Re: Dark matter?

Doh!

Our estimate of total matter was wrong. So our estimate of dark matter was wrong.

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David Roberts
Silver badge

Dark matter?

So someone just found out we didn't need to fiddle the numbers for Andromeda quite so much because our estimate of light (as in non-dark) matter was wrong.

How long before we sort out the rest of the dodgy estimates and don't have to add a correction at all?

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HomePod, you say? Sex sex sex, that's all you think about

David Roberts
Silver badge

Re: >> Antibiotics for flu?

Given that a virus will usually clear in a week then by the time most people get to the stage of demanding and starting to take antibiotics they are starting to get better anyway.

You could prescribe almost anything from water upwards with equally effective results.

My Doctor is wonderful. He cured my flu with his special treatment of vintage champagne and rough sex with the pool boy. In a couple of days I was cured!

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When it absolutely, positively needs to be leaked overnight: 120k FedEx customer files spill from AWS S3 silo

David Roberts
Silver badge
Holmes

Alternative suggestion

AWS scan the bit buckets and mail the owners asking for positive confirmation that the bucket should be public.

Without a positive response the bucket is locked down until the owner confirms in writing that it should be public.

That should at least clear all the forgotten ones, and may even make some people think before they click on the prompt to open the whole thing up to the world.

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Charity accused of leaving sensitive notes behind after office move

David Roberts
Silver badge
Facepalm

Re: Why do they say this stuff??

Policy update #1. Check the office has been cleared on moving out.

Brought to you free of charge by the department of the bleeding obvious.

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If this laptop is so portable, where's the keyboard, huh? HUH?

David Roberts
Silver badge
FAIL

Interesting story

However my initial take on it (and nothing so far seems to contradict it) is that old trusty was replaced with new shiny but IT was far too special and busy (or perhaps not even involved) to perform a proper customer handover.

Otherwise somebody would have done the "This is how you dock and undock, and you can use it stand alone like this." talk.

I assume some budget cutting strategy where you throw the kit at the punters and hope they will help each other to sort it out. Followed by "but surely everyone knows that" when the support calls come in.

Nobody should be given new kit without someone confirming that they are familiar with it and basic methods of operation.

My sympathy is with the poor, embarassed user.

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David Roberts
Silver badge

Re: There's portable... and then there's portable

HP network analysers.

Can't remember the model numbers any more but there was one I termed a "tarts handbag" which was ucking huge.

Taking it on the train to some site to fault find an X.25 connection was non trivial. Suffered from back problems for a while but i was young and foolish then.

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