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* Posts by Milton

693 posts • joined 14 Jun 2016

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New Zealand health boards write down losses on Oracle implementation

Milton
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Re: a troubled Oracle implementation.

"tautology at its redundant best"

Didn't you mean an "unnecessarily, redundantly superfluous tautology"?

That's probably how it would be described in an Oracle manual. I consulted for a while in the mid/late 90s for an company that had recently become an Oracle victim customer, and we used to laugh at the way a single CD would arrive in a box the size of a desktop PC. The whole impression-vs-actuality image was quite telling.

Anyway, hands up anyone who is surprised, even the tinest bit, that public sector procurement and management combined with Oracle competence and efficiency has resulted in anything other than disastrous delivery and ruinous waste.

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In 2018, Facebook is the villain and Microsoft the shining light, according to techies

Milton
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Legislate, regulate

Legislate and regulate—

1. No company to be allowed to store more than operationally required user data. No marketing-oriented analysis or profiling is to be permitted based on any data, ever. User data in any form may not be shared or sold, ever. If you're caught doing it, you will face existentially heavy fines. (Cautious exceptions for clinical, law enforcement reasons etc)

2. Advertising may be targeted by publication but not by user. So, it must conform to the print model: you may advertise horsey things to readers of myhorse.web, but under no circumstances create or publish ads on a per-user basis. Fines, etc.

3. Use of cookies and any other user-recognition systems to be strictly confined to operational purposes (e.g. returning customer). Such data may never stray outside the site placing the cookie. Fines, etc.

4. All software, whether locally or cloud-based, may collect only minimal operational data with minimal essential context, never to include any users' data. All data capture must be by explicit opt-in with prominent ability to cease at any time and permanently.

5. Any company allowing user data to be compromised will be fined according to a scale of data importance and proportion of users affected. Lose 20% of users' data which includes cellphone numbers and email, fine is 10% of turnover. Some redistribution to affected users. Lose 40% of data including credit card details, you're out of business, assets seized, redistributed in proportion to affected users.

6. The web will be rejigged to ensure that all email and any other messaging costs (say) 0.1p/¢, to send. You use email/ Wossapp/Signal/&c., you pay a lump sum per 1,000 messages. The revenue is used to (a) finance the project; and thereafter, (b) fund a globally-based, scientifically-founded, independent, objective, professional fact-checking service which grades websites and apps for news, politics, marketing, blogging, reviewing etc etc, so that any visitor/user can see immediately how factually accurate its information is. A five-star rating will be highly prized. Less than three stars or no rating at all: you're liars and everyone can see it. All methodology, research, stats, analyses to be transparent at all times. (There will of course be £$billions available for this heroic effort.)

7. Anonymity is prohibited. A site wishing to host anon users must apply for a licence and give a very good reason (AA; drugs rehab; repressed minority movements, perhaps). You write an opinionated letter to your newspaper, you've always had to include verifiable name and addess. Why on earth should the net be any different? If you're too cowardly to stand behind what you say, perhaps you shouldn't be saying it.

Good Things That Flow From This Draconian Policy:

✩ No company relying on exploiting your data and selling you in exchange for a "free" service will be able to function. Google, Facebook, Twitter will have to charge an above-board sub. (Google may adopt the email model: pay £10 per 10,000 searches or similar.)

✩ The likes of MS will be confined to collecting only the narrowest of essential data, never, ever user-identifying.

✩ Data loss and consequential loss to users will effectively cease within months.

✩ Spam dies immediately.

✩ Social media uptake falls off a cliff, as does its use and traffic. If it'll cost you an extra £5/month to upload crass, bad photographs of your salad, you'll think again. Who knows, people might even confine themelves to using FB for what they say they like (staying in occasional touch with distant family) instead of what they actually use it for (boasting, bullying, lying, etc).

✩ Noxious websites promoting hate, various *-isms, bigotry etc will virtually disappear. When hate-tard Jimmy English starts peddling lies and nastiness about his brown neighbours, he can no longer hide behind anonymity. Propaganda is pushed back off the mainstream to the dark, dirty corners of the world where it belongs. Haters, bigots, racists, and the rest can crawl back into the muck instead of being gifted a free soapbox. (Even on sites like this we'll have to think twice about what we say ... but grown-up responsibility is not a bad thing.)

Drastic? Yes: for sure.

Reintroducing a long overdue dose of grown-up responsibility into this ever-crazier world? I think so. Humanity needs to return to adult civilised thinking and behaviour: else we're screwed.

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'Say hello to my little vacuum cleaner!' US drug squad puts spycams in cleaner's kit

Milton
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The War on Drugs (by idiots, for idiots) was lost long ago, if you believe its purpose is to combat the illegal drugs trade and reduce social harm. It's rather obviously done the exact opposite. But if its real benefits are the maintenace of a large law-enforcement and security apparatus with huge manpower and budgets (also known as 'means of controlling the population') then it's been a huge success. Behind every self-righteous hypocrite bleating in Congress or Parliament about the scourge of drugs, while fondling those distillers' share certificates in his pocket, lies a government bureaucracy and a hundred little Napoleons just loving their budgets and headcount. It's a form of institutional insanity.

As for the shop-vac, I would guess there was a specific operational environment where (a) significant drug criminality was suspected, and (b) the presence of one or more cleaning devices would have been unremarkable. A large office space, warehouse, institution? This doesn't strike me as a routine procurement of standard issue kit: more like a mission-specific bespoke buy. Look for similar procurements using the same basic idea for different environments. Say ... radio-mics concealed in takeaway food packaging; GPS flares hidden in vapekits; cameras peeking out of innocent-looking wall switches, thermostats, even installed in ceiling lights: your recce team identifies common, harmless looking objects in the operational zone, Q branch ponders awhile, a suit signs off and a procurement request goes out.

PS Why use an existing orifice? The machine pictured looks like its carapace is a black heavy-duty plastic cylinder. So fit a matt-darkened window into a cut-out occupying maybe 30° of the circumference. Disguise it with an innocuous '2,000 Super Sucker Power' sticker (lower, clear half over the window) and you've not only got an unremarkable exterior feature, you have a decent field of pan. Hell, fit out a small production run with the dressing but no cameras, and even the users won't be surprised to see some new go-faster stripes on the rectnyl-delivered Mk17B... the lovely new filter assembly inside, which apparently needs never be opened, explains itself to the curious ... show people a commonplace in keeping with their expectations, they'll never ask a question. (And an industrial vac is heavy enough for no one to notice the extra 8oz of long-endurance battery concealed in the bottom.)

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Bloodhound SSC reaches the end of the road for want of £25m

Milton
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Sorry, but—good riddance

I'm not without a jot of sympathy for those who invested heart, soul and some cash in this, but really ... it was flippin stupid idea, wasn't it? Others here have already made the point that you could strap any arbitrarily-huge rocket motor to something with wheels, find a long enough, flat enough bit of planet—at which point the "engineering challenges" are about doing some really pointless stuff: (a) keeping the vehicle glued to the ground with its otherwise useless wheels, and (b) preserving the life of someone who didn't need to be in the thing in the first place. Yeah, if it was traction-motivated there might be some justification for seeking a record, but what is the point—what, even, are you proving—with the "fastest wheeled rocket artifically and very dangerously held down by aerodynamic forces"?

A Land Speed Record makes sense if confined to vehicles pushing off against ground, i.e. traction through wheels. Otherwise it's all just daft contrivance.

And if they'd succeeded, and the stunt attracted enough interest and cash for others to compete? Aerodynamic forces dominate. You need lots of downforce to ensure wheels remain in contact with ground. The next rival, then, uses AoA and proximity sensors to calculate pitch and separation of chassis from ground. It feeds its computer 10,000 times a second with commands to the downforce aerofoils. The system's purpose is to keep the wheels just barely touching the ground at all times, sufficient for rotational contact but otherwise causing the least possible friction. It is now an aircraft fighting its own ground effect and sheer speed to push down just enough undercarriage to qualify as a "wheeled land vehicle". Silly, isn't it? Why wouldn't all future attempts on the record work this way, making a mockery of the whole concept? As another poster implies, we may be lucky to have been spared the spectacle of Rocketdyne F-1s bolted on to god-knows-what ....

Despite temptation and hilarious example, I never did install a RR Derwent in my old Chrysler Voyager (...)

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Boffins build blazing battery bonfire

Milton
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More

Interesting start but the article is shallow as a puddle and left me wondering "Why silicon?". I did a search and found a decent brief for the layman here: New Atlas 'MIT Sun-in-a-Box' (no, I'd never heard of the site before either).

Seems like silicon is good because it's cheap, abundant, has a high and stable melting point and has the self-sealing attribute mentioned in the article, forming a carbide and preventing further corrosion. Salt, of course, becomes bastardly corrosive at anywhere near these temperatures, ISTR Soviets (?) had issues in early attempts to use molten salt in reactors (was it for subs?). The NA article also says a bit about extracting energy using the light radiated from molten silicon to energise photovoltaics instead of what you'd expect (a steam turbine). That's intriguing, as is the possibility that this system may have very few moving parts: the attraction isn't just in presumed (storage:recovery) efficiency ratios—it may be also be in low maintenance costs, long life time and reliability. It sounds like something you could mass-produce remarkably cheaply and, if located sensibly, would be safe even if if it failed in Spectacular Mode.

We're used to a 'spiffing wheeze' every week in this game, but this one does tick a lot of boxes ....

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It's official. Microsoft pushes Google over the Edge, shifts browser to Chromium engine

Milton
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"What's next? Windows 11 will be based on 7 UI?"

That is about the only thing I can think of which would get me to remain as a Windows user after W7 support dies. Along, of course, with the ability to permanently, completely, verifiably switch off all telemetry, spyware, nagware, updates bugger-ups &c. Doesn't seem very likely, somehow; but I'll be damned if go anywhere that unreliable pile of clumsy UI and spyware called W10.

As for browsers, although I'm a grizzled old-school coder among other things, I've never much bothered to interest myself in browser rendering engines. It's always seemed slightly pointless to have significant differences between browsers at such a low level. We have, or ought to have, a very clear and precise worldwide standard for HTML, agreed by all, and equally precise and unambiguous rules for how it is rendered so that the only remaining question is whether the code that does the job is high performance, high quality and above all secure. I guess I assumed that by 2018 convergent evolution would have produced a winner, almost certainly open-source, and that differences among browsers would have been based on stuff like footprint (heavy, feature-rich, ok for desktop; or light, slimmed down, great for mobile) and UI customisability (from very basic, not much you can change, to almost infinite choices right down to preferences of, say, automuting some sites and not others). My analogy might be old TV sets: from small cheap monochrome with three controls to a big colour console that even lets you adjust the saturation, the core of how they work is always identical (heck, they even made the colour 625-line PAL signal backwardly compatible with black&white!) withbthe same processes being used to extract the same basic image from a complex signal, and the real differences are built on top in terms of bells, whistles and expense.

Google is rotten to its core by this point, but if the core rendering engine is open-source I'm not sure we'd have much to worry about. Much as I like Mozilla for being not-Google, the truth for me at least is that Vivaldi offers by far the best browsing experience (Blink engine, and many critically useful tiny touches, like the ability to zoom a single page and not an entire site). (And of course, Firefox is unusably awful on Android, where Brave [Blink engine again] does a fantastic job.)

Yeah, I'm looking at you, CNN.

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European fibre lobby calls for end to fake fibre broadband ads

Milton
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Hardly the first time

Hardly the first time that the regulators have been left looking at best pointlessly ridiculous, and at worst complicit in marketurds' lies.

If it was somehow—by Wonderland reasoning, and the mutilation of meaning that one normally expects from lying politicians—okay for providers to claim "unlimited" speeds when they did, in fact, practise restriction and throttling, it's surely no surprise that they are now allowed to state that they provide fibre connections when, in fact, they simply do not. A connection's maximum speed is that of its slowest component—something even the dozy pillocks of regulators should be capable of understanding—and any rational rule of marketing based on purported speed should enforce that the slowest component is duly emphasised.

"We cleanse, disinfect, filter and test your drinkable water supply (until the last three yards, when it runs through an open sewer to your taps)" wouldn't be allowed, would it?

For some fool to say it's ok to lie because the punters don't care is positively imbecilic: the reason the providers are claiming that they offer full fibre is because customers do care about speed: if they didn't, this emphasis wouldn't exist. The very fact that the suppliers are being so dishonest is proof in itself that the punter does care. Certainly, the suppliers and their professional liars marketing departments think so.

It would be refreshing to be at least slightly surprised by this crap, but if we weren't living in the Age of Stupid we'd certainly be in the Age of the F**king Liar.

Pardon the tautology

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GCHQ pushes for 'virtual crocodile clips' on chat apps – the ability to silently slip into private encrypted comms

Milton
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Self-serving loss of perspective

If avoiding the arrival of a Maverick missile depends on your crypto, you're most likely not relying upon any of the standard P2P encrypted apps, because you know (a) every effort will have been made, using nation-state resources, to compromise them, and (b) you die if you trust third parties.

So my question to seemingly backward-looking spooks—who are so full of their self-righteousness and -importance that they apparently cannot even understand why a free democracy must have strong civil liberties if it is even to deserve to exist: and are, therefore, perhaps nowhere near as clever as they think they are—are fairly simple ones.

1. Have you, comfortable suited eavesdroppers, acquired an algorithm which can with more than 50% reliability identify large, dirty, noisy images which have very low-order, low-density steganography within them? How many of the 2,000,000,000 images shared every day are you managing to identify as having secret content? To the nearest ten?

2. Have you access to any reliable method of breaking a modern encryption standard such as AES256, or Blowfish or similar? What would be your success rate against messages, even allowing a crib phrase, of say 2kB in size? (Quite enough for decent Atrocity-Time-and-Date instructions.)

3. Alternatively, have you managed to compromise the world's open-source codebase of crypto algos so that no one, not even the designers, will notice? So that none of the world's several million competent coders could write a homebuild, effective crypto app?

4. Have you found a method of ensuring that Black Hats cannot access two computing devices with encrypted drives (whether tiny phone or workstation), one of which is never, ever connected to the net?

5. Have you found a way of ensuring that the BHs can't run whatever software they like on these devices?

Given that the answers are most certainly No, No (<1:1x10^6), Not a Chance, No and No, isn't it true that actually, sigint is pretty much uesless against a well-disciplined, intelligent, well-equipped enemy (i.e. the very kind you should be most worried about)?

Isn't it true, in fact, that against your most serious adversaries, you need to infiltrate, blackmail, cajole, observe, corrupt, befriend, compromise—what we, back in the day, used to call humint: a version of tired old plodding shoe leather and nasty, grubby risks? Have you considered how many Arabic speakers you could recruit for the cost of Latest Billion Dollar SuperSexy MegaHarvesting Computer? (You know, the one that pointlessly stores petabytes of innocent civilians' data obsessively logging shopping habits, personal interests, porn preferences and extramarital dalliances)?

Isn't it true that your gasping appetite for code-breaking is actually peripheral grandstanding, with a big dose of laziness? That the appeal of sitting cosily in your pyjamas, sipping cocoa and reading Ahmed's email, is rather selfishly idle? That while you are begging for ever more budget, power and self-importance to spend on ever bigger aerials and computers, your neglect of the difficult, gritty, risky business of humint is most likely killing people?

You can sip cocoa at the keyboard, and yes, we need a few of those; but if you weren't so deep into deluded self-serving groupthink about crypto, you'd understand that if you were doing your jobs properly, you'd be risking your lives drinking gritty tea in a dusty back street somewhere far away. Not quite so appealing, eh?

One wonders whether GCHQ and NSA and their Five Eyes ilk have really been so dim and unself-aware as to fall into one of the oldest of psychological traps: for them, owning a hammer, every problem becomes a nail. It certainly sounds that way.

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Huawei MateBook Pro X: PC makers look out, the phone guys are here

Milton
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Aspect ratio common sense

Thank goodness for some aspect ratio common sense! Although the tech industry likes to blather on about how "innovative" it is, the truth is it spends almost all its time following like sheep. The pursuit of what is fashionable is epidemic. Sometimes it is possible to believe that "What's fashionable?" is equivalent to "What are the stupid people all doing now?"

A hi-res 3:2 screen sounds excellent for serious work and let's face it, if you're looking for a latop with a lot of TV/movies/YouTube in mind, you wouldn't buy this anyway. One of the bigger widescreen tablets capable of doing all the entertainment stuff would give you about the same overall width (not diagonal) anyway, and cost a fraction of the laptop's price (unless you're paying the Idiot Tax).

As well as signs that actual thinking is occurring in laptop world, we have encouraging murmurs from the East that the obsessive, lemming-like adherence to of the Apple phone form factor is finally being broken, as flip-phones return*¹. Plus, thank the heavens, not everyone has decided to copy the inane Hideous Notch of Cretinism. There may be hope ...

*¹ Where is my Westworld laptabphoneputer?!*²

*² And does it come with a free Sarafyan ...?

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Boeing 737 pilots battled confused safety system that plunged aircraft to their deaths – black box

Milton
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Computer knows best?

Yes, this reignites the old debate about who should have the final say when it comes down to human-vs-computer (or, if you like, in broader terms, human perceptions-vs-instruments), but in truth it needs to be informed by people who are experts in the subject matter, not—forgiving the few exceptions on these pages today—BTL commenters who have never worked in aviation.

The problem is, there is no perfect, dogmatic answer. Those are only open to ill-informed amateurs. The software is generally superb but not foolproof but, far more significantly, it has to rely upon information fed to it by sensors. If the sensors, be they pitot tubes, AoA, radioaltimeter etc—all of which have been implicated in fatal crashes even within the last 25 years—provide bad data, then GIGO applies. It is why Airbus systems, for example, have multiple degradation modes depending on what information is missing or suspect—'Alternate Laws' handing progressively more control back to the flight crew. It is why Boeing, ironically as it turns out, have been known for the philosophy of ultimately un-restricting the pilot's ability to operate the controls, even outside safe limits, in extreme circumstances. (This isn't a Boeing v Airbus contest: both build superb planes. I personally don't like the concept of the zero-tactile-feedback sidestick, but that's just me.)

I suspect any analysis of the last 30 years' major airline incidents will show very few which were the sole result of sensor/instrument/computer failure. Even disasters whose precipitating events are such a failure tend to have been survivable, if only the pilots had done the right thing. AF447 would have survived if the pilots had followed a standard procedure for mutliple conflicitng airpseed warnings. The Lion Air plane would have stayed airborne if this flight crew had known (or remembered?) how to disable the stall prevention system. (Aeroflot 593 would have lived if the pilots had ... just ... let ... go. (Though that wasn't precipitated by instruments).)

It is particularly saddening to think that Boeing's engineers may well have had incidents like AF447 in mind when setting up the stall avoidance system. One could argue that they should have allowed sufficient sustained back pressure on the control column to disable that system, similarly to how other aircraft autopilot channels can be disabled after positive sustained pilot input. The counter-argument—emphasised in the case of AF447—is that a panicked pilot may just keep pulling back, even as the plane plummets. Like I said: no perfect answers.

One last point. This tragedy puts me in mind of Scandinavian 751. In that crash, a safety system of which the crew were unaware was triggered and caused an otherwise avoidable crash.*¹ Sound familiar? I'll allow the interested to read the Wiki article, but the parallels are a little eerie.

*¹ During climbout he plane had suffered surging from both rear-mounted engines, caused by transparent ice breaking from the wings. Crew followed correct procedure, retarding the throttles to keep damaged engines alive long enough to allow an emergency landing, but an (unknown to them) safety system advanced the throttles again, thereby causing the engines to shake themselves to bits. (The good news is, the plane pancaked in a snowy meadow after losing a lot of speed clipping the hair of a conifer forest, and although it broke into pieces on impact, there was no fire and everyone survived. A real feel-good story. Pity it all happened too fast for a movie.)

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3ve Offline: Countless Windows PCs using 1.7m IP addresses hacked to 'view' up to 12 billion adverts a day

Milton
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Aha

Now I know why the people buying internet advertising have this fond (rather charming) little delusion: that their deluge of crap actually works.

There is a certain poetry in the idea that a billion shittily-produced, cheap, nasty adverts, so bad that they might as well be generated by Artificial Idiots, are being "viewed" by a billion bots programmed by shitty, nasty, Artificial Humans.

I guess it's all of a piece with the zenith of human technological and civilised progress: half the species concentrating on lying to the other half so they'll buy crap they don't need with money they don't have.

Well done, us.

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Openreach names 81 lucky locations to be plugged into its super-zippy Gfast pipe

Milton
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Local regs + trees

Fifteen years ago I ran a small personal office for consulting work in a business centre about 300m from my house. My previous career having accustomed me to heights I climbed (sans 'chute) onto the roof of the house to confirm my suspicion: there was indeed a line of sight from the apex to a window of my lovely new office. You can guess what came next. Two Yagi antennae; some time drilling holes in the house, and further ladder expeditions: and I was using my own internet connection from the office. Not super-quick, but serviceable. And with no incremental fees to the landlord.

But.

But, I'd done my work during the autumn, when the trees weren't very leafy. Come spring and the sightline began to fill with leaves. I'm here to confirm that microwaves and leafy trees do not play well together, no matter how much you crank up the power.

(The Yagis found a second life at a local school, linking bits of campus, so it wasn't all wasted ...)

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Great Scott! Is nothing sacred? US movie-goers vote Back To The Future as most-wanted reboot

Milton
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It's the Age of Stupid, stupid

It's just more evidence that air pollution or radiation or social media or {enter your favourite hypothesised cause here} is causing a steady diminution of IQ worldwide.

BttF is one of the few 80s film productions that my kids (born around the millennium) really enjoyed, and watched more than once. (Along with The Princess Bride, oddly enough.) It stands as the ideal film-school example of perfect casting, pacing and script: not a single wasted word, every line has a purpose, and even in BttF2 it pulls off the phenomenal trick of keeping you abreast of what is, when you think about, a dizzyingly complicated plot and timeline. That anyone would consider a remake is proof, should you need it, that Joe Public is as dumb as a stump.

Considering Brexit and Trump and the general state of the world, from the citizens in the street to the rantings of a man-child in the White House, British ministers demonstrating towering ignorance on a daily basis, or the adolescent, ill-considered bletherings of Musk ... I dunno, maybe it's due to alien rays broadcast from orbit to stupefy the entire planet's population in preparation for a bloodless invasion.

But yeah: we are now deeply, darkly into the Age of Stupid.

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What the #!/%* is that rogue Raspberry Pi doing plugged into my company's server room, sysadmin despairs

Milton
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Infosec staff quality

I'm slightly off topic, or at least the point is tangential ... but I suspect I'm not the only one who's noticed that people in corporate infosec jobs seem to vary wildly in their abilities. IT remains generally infested with cowboys and all-purpose oxygen thieves, but sometimes I wonder whether infosec is the secondary magnet (after management roles, of course) for those who talk a good game while knowing basically nothing.

I have some tragic familiarity with a major British airline whose infosec team seems to have no clue about risk, prioritisation, mitigation etc and therefore resorts to absolutist dogma whenever challenged, usually because after some probing it turns out they don't really understand the technology or the ramifications of their "policy". It may, for example, seem like a good idea to look tough and competent by blocking all admin-level access to all machines, but have you thought how that might affect agile*¹ development teams? Do you know how many man-months of work are wasted because you didn't think to enquire before implementing such a draconian policy?

And are you really insisting on 2FA via SMS for 'extra security' ...? Cue, howls of laughter.

*¹ That's 'agile' with the silent 'FR'.

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Oi, Elon: You Musk sort out your Autopilot! Tesla loyalists tell of code crashes, near-misses

Milton
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Marketurds vs Reality

Yeah I do seem to be giving the 'turds a bit of a bashing lately but I can't be the only person massively sick of BS, lies, exaggerations and outright propaganda, whether from politicians or corporates. It is becoming quite sickening.

A few observations:

* Thanks for some really well-written posts here today

* I am horrified that anyone thinks Agile is acceptable for safety-critical systems. Agile is only ever acceptable when you have a tip-top team and where errors and failures are a tolerable event in the development process. You wouldn't use (fr)Agile to develop airliner software, would you?!

* No one seems to point out that if "AI" were anywhere near as intelligent and capable as corporates and their marketing liars insisted, it would be in cars like Teslas now, and this kind of debate would be redundant. We'd be talking about sensor failures/weaknesses, not about software capability.

For years, when challenged about the supposed intolerant arrogance of my view that 50% of the population are imbeciles, I have always had the irrefutable reply: "Go drive on different roads for the next hour or so, observing, thinking and remembering, then come back and tell me I'm wrong." No takers.

Well, now I can up my snark level. The next time some fathead starts extolling "AI" I can tell him to take an "autopiloted" car and let it drive him through the centre of a big city, circle it on a freeway and come back. Then he can dwell upon the difference between actual intelligence and the "artificial" kind ... if he ever returns, that is.

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Scam or stunt? It's looking like the latter... Xiaomi so sorry for £1 smartphone 'promo'

Milton
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There is reason, you know ...

... why I tend to refer to a specific form of parastic life as "marketurds".

As others have pointed out, if it seems too good to be true ... well, then, it is not true.

Also, remind ourselves that if there is any kind of condition attached to an offer, it is not free.

"Buy One Get One Free" is not free. It's a half price offer. It would only be free if it were "Just come and collect it, leave without paying". And even then, if it were "Just come and collect it, leave without paying after supplying your email address", it wouldn't be free: you had to surrender something of value; a condition had to be met.

Not only was Mr Heinlein correct (TANSTAAFL), the world's most widespread technological phenomenon is founded upon a lie: neither Google nor Facebook nor Twitter are free, because you surrender something of value to prying, lying manipulators.

It is really quite astonishing how utterly stupid so many people can be. But that's what pays the marketurds' bills, and keeps them from rummaging in wastebins (assuming, on the evidence, that they have no beneficial skills).

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Brit boffins build 'quantum compass'... say goodbye to those old GPS gizmos, possibly

Milton
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Physics and engineering are not the author's speciality, are they?

It isn't a compass. It's a new method for implementing the venerable concept of an inertial guidance system, which is itself simply a technological form of dead reckoning practised since the first manned boat got lost in poor visibility 11,174 years ago.

Inertial navigation systems are still very important to submarines (such as boomers, spending long periods under water and unable to receive GPS) and I might guess that they would be the first operational priority for this new tech, given that its early-version mass and size won't be prohibitve in a sub, compared with a missile or an aircraft.

It will be extremely interesting to see how the noise problem will be managed. With mechanical weaknesses such as friction removed (it is a core problem of current INS tech), the sensitivity of the new system is both advantage and disadvantage. There will need to be some clever design in dealing with local mascons, determining honest-vs-deceitful frames of reference, multi-axis rotation and relativistic effects—the latter cease to be ignorable when you're finely analysing the performance of kit which may accelerate at 100g, moving in three spatial dimensions, potentially rotating around one or all of those as well, and reaching speeds in the miles per second range¹.

It'll be even more interesting to see what kinds of countermeasures might work against such a system. I'm guessing local EMP would banjax it thoroughly, as would an x-ray laser, not to mention finely tuned peppering by minute chunks of high-velocity debris (strikes by waves of microgram particles timed to arrive in a sequence to ensure destructive interference). That said, if you can shoot close enough to achieve that, you're probably close enough for a kinetic kill anyway ...

¹ Consider that even the 1960s Sprint ABM had incredible performance at this level, and furthermore that a rapidly spinning missile is one obvious countermeasure against laser strikes.)

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Bruce Schneier: You want real IoT security? Have Uncle Sam start putting boots to asses

Milton
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More seriously

More seriously, one should listen to Schneier not simply because he is one of the world's foremost security experts but because, notwithstanding his command of the jargon, he usually talks unvarnished, refreshing common sense.

Watching him debate or act as an expert witness before politicians, as he has done a few times, is an eye-opener. It's like observing a patient teacher dealing with six-year-olds. Stupefying ignorance isn't enough: the politicians' floundering lack of fact-based rationality and logic always ends up painfully exposed to view. "I want π to be 3! I want it, I want it, I want it!" cuts absolutely no ice, no matter which faeces-hurling congresscritter is hooting.

We can dare to hope that Mr Schneier and the evidence-based community will eventually get through to these cretins (or vote for less cretinous cretins), but as others have observed, US politics is now so corrupt that it's not gonna happen soon. Indeed, you could argue that US politics is basically doomed to unrepresentative, dysfunctional chaos unless and until there is a root and branch reform of campaign finance. "Lobbyist" is as dirty a word as "politician" these days.

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Milton
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Re: IOT is only going to grow as an issue long term

But is that "mist" in the German sense? A variation on the idea that transparently abusive corporations like Google and Facebook are a "gift" to us, even?

4
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This just in: What? No, I can't believe it. The 2018 MacBook Air still a huge pain to have repaired

Milton
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Death by Apple?

My current client was bemused a couple of days ago on a site visit when I hauled out my 14-year-old HP laptop and thunked it down to do some work. (I was astonished myself at its age, having had to count back to when I bought it). Having cost less than £1,000 originally, it had a replacement screen 6/7 years ago, a memory upgrade around the same time, and because it's big, it has room for and got an SSD replacement for its OS+apps drive and a 2Tb spinner for storage. Had it to bits once more, maybe 3 years ago, to suck out dust, chewtoys and mummified sloths, as you do.

My point being that this 17-in quad-core i7, still tooled up with W7U, scores no points for newness, fashionability or beauty, and for anyone who hasn't experienced full marching order its portability would be an issue too.

But it works. It slogs on, chowing down every productivity task I can throw at it, multitasking happily and zipping along well enough with its ancient combo of cores, SSD and RAM.

In terms of reliability, repairability, capability and performance measured against any kind of value for money and cost-effectiveness you can think of, it eclipses shiny iBaubles by an order of magnitude.

Yes, the Chinese slaves produce very pretty gadgets for Cupertino. Much cleverness goes into making them unrepairable and un-upgradeable, to ensure victims keep buying new ones ... as the landfill swells, and the air becomes more toxic by the day. Samsung makes very pretty screens for them too. And to add the final shine as a status symbol (for the needy and credit-worthy), the result is priced at about three times what the device is worth.

But for all that we rightly condemn the imbecility, cowardice and folly of politicians, perhaps the best symbol for our dead planet and the inevitable charnel mound of consumers' corpses will be a half-eaten apple perched on humanity's gravestone above a simple epitaph—"Suicide: The Stupidity of Lemmings".

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Dutch cops hope to cuff 'hundreds' of suspects after snatching server, snooping on 250,000+ encrypted chat texts

Milton
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Much ado about the supremely irrelevant

Let's stipulate that 'effective encryption' can mean, for most purposes, the ability to input a memorable keyphrase (say a 30-char speakable, but unguessable babble¹) into a well-written algorithm (like say AES256), thereafter to encrypt a pithy secret message (shorter the better), and even better to steganographically bury the result in the lowbits of large, deliberately noisy photographs posted anywhere among the trillions publicly accessible on the net (from among millions uploaded every single day) ... it would be a colossal surprise, would it not, to find that law enfrocement or security agencies were catching any except the most lazy and incompetent evildoers?

If you make the effort to create and remember good keys and to ensure your devices never store said keys, no one is going to be reading your mail. No amount of backdoors or other political ignoramuses' nonsense is gong to affect that in the slightest.

In short, if you have good crypto and practise the disciplines of persec and opsec, your focus of worry should be shoulder-hackers, cameras and keyloggers. Presumably you'll take care of those issues sensibly.

After that your main worry is loyalty. Will your Little Criminal Girlfriend³ keep shtum about the content of your message after three nights without sleep or food, and into the fourth hour of today's stress positions?

It's funny how, after all the security-service, law-enforcement and political drivelling about encryption and backdoors and how existentially threatening it is that the Black Hats have this tech—Terrible Ahmed, the Terrifying Terrorist Terrorising Near You—it always comes back to basic cunning, tried and tested police methods versus loyalty among criminals.

Perhaps instead of pretending there are slick, cheap lazy answers among backdoors and other rot, authorities should accept that there is and never has been any substitute for humint, and slogging, painstaking, boring, patient, thorough police work?

.

¹ '18mY8ud9er1gR_5x/4n1te=io<12yr' ²

² "I ate my budgerigar five times a fortnight, ten in one-twelfth of a year". It's meaningless rubbish, but a memorably absurd phrase which you only have to formulate as the enumerated gibberish to be able to remember accurately. With over 50,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 possible combinations, even an implausibly good QC is gonna take 50 years to crack it. NSA's best supercomputer would need the lifetime of thirteen universes, back to back.

³ Identify the movie, for a virtual beer

2
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Google logins make JavaScript mandatory, Huawei China spy shock, Mac malware, Iran gets new Stuxnet, and more

Milton
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"uranium subterfuges", O Joy

"Stuxnet was able to physically destroy uranium subterfuges"

Some typos—or perhaps quasi-Freudian slips—are things of beauty. Who doesn't now want to read "The Centrifuge Subterfuge", a gripping thriller about Israeli intelligence? If, that is, it hasn't already hit the waves as Big Bang episode title ...

... anyway, to the writer of this article: whatever was going on in your head, cherish it forever.

(I also eagerly await the post-impeachment tome by the WaPo team, "The Trump Dump".)

/coat

18
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Imperial bringing in budget holograms to teach students

Milton
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"much greater sense of [BS]"

He did, however, attempt to justify the decision not to use tried-and-testing video-conferencing software by saying that these ‘holograms’ “have a much greater sense of presence”.

Only yesterday we had some perfect idiot from Apple drivelling to the Guardian about how the iShiny Shops were really "town squares" (read it: it's hilarious shyte), and now we have someone else infected by marketurd-itis: the shameless ability to talk transparent crap in defending the indefensible.

They're not holograms. They're not even Pepper's Ghost. They're not even particularly cleverly implemented, by modern standards. They add nothing to education. They don't help to convey information better, or even as well as, the presence of one of those rare birds, a good teacher.

They are, in short, a facile gimmick.

Try giving the students a variety of good text material, written with different perspectives and explaining things using different models, analogies and examples. Try giving them bi-weekly personal access in small numbers to really good tutors to help them through the thickets and monitor progress. Try giving them fortnightly lectures by serious experts who communicate well, inspire and motivate. Those with interest and ability will flourish.

Finally, try ever so hard not to be tempted to 'cheap out' with third-rate YouTube presentations, murkily rendered pages askew from a printer, soul-deadening computerised 'learning', constant testing and hasty meetings with the cheapest tutors you could find.

'Education' is derived from Latin meaning roughly 'to lead into the light'. This is done by real, competent, intelligent, inspiring people in close proximity to other intelligent and motivated people.

Technology may offer cheap, lazy, superficially convincing ways of pretending to do the same thing ... but it isn't the same thing and mostly, it just does not work.

10
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Nikola Tesla's greatest challenge: He could measure electricity but not stupidity

Milton
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Anti-intellectual?

The article is messy and contrived and nowhere near some of Mr Dabbs' better efforts, but he does pick out a stinging point of concern: the appearance of rising anti-intellectualism and dismisal fo expertise in the "educated", "civilised" west. It's one thing for a bunch of religion-stoned goatshaggers to be hostile to science, but it is positively baffling to see the same thing in Britain, a home of the Enlightenment, and the US, the world's pre-eminent nation of scientific achievement.

What's going on?

We have cretins like Michael Gove saying "we've had enough of experts" (no, actually, we've had enough of you, Mr Gove, with your incessant lies and staggering incompetence), the vaccine-conspiracy idiots, and Dumb-as-a-stump-Trump bleating ignorant tosh about climate chnage, which he can barely even spell.

Is it the internet, letting people imagine they understand a complex topic because they've read a Wiki article? Resentment by the less educated, left-behind? Exploitation of ignorance and fostering of bigotry by vile populist politicians? Air pollution giving us new generations with lukewarm IQs?

We live in a world that exists only because of science, many of whose critics are alive only because of science, and yet this breathtaking ignorance and foolishness abounds.

I ask again: what the hell is happening??

42
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'He must be stopped': Missouri candidate's children tell voters he's basically an asshat

Milton
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It's just not that hard to figure it out

"You see his signs everywhere. I don't understand how people can put out his signs knowing the comments that he's made."

A large minority of Americans voted for Donald Trump, long after it had become obvious even to a dullard—perhaps especially to a dullard—that he was an ignorant, pathologically lying, sexist, racist, bigoted imbecile. This was man who'd boasted about being a serial sexual assaulter of women. This was the self-proclaimed "genius" who had managed to parlay the inheritance of vast wealth into no less than four bankruptcies; a man with eighth grade literacy, and not even a sophomoric comprehension of the world's biggest issues. Possibly the most stupid and dishonest human being ever to be even a candidate for president.

You may ask: why did so many people vote for a lying, stupid racist?

Perhaps beyond all the complex (and partially justified) speculation about inequality, economic despair and lack of opportunity there is the deepest and ugliest truth of all, answered in this one question:

Given America's unspeakable history of slavery and civil war, given its crumbling education system and utterly corrupted politics—why do you suppose millions of white people would vote for someone who is an undisguised racist sack of crap?

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'Privacy is a human right': Big cheese Sat-Nad lays out Microsoft's stall at Future Decoded

Milton
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Cognitive confusion

Like every scrap of technology since the wheel, through metal working and chemistry, to nuclear fission to so-called "AI", these things have the power to be used for good or to be twisted into use to exploit, enslave and even kill.

The problem, of course, is that for all Satnad's predictable guff and the fatuous babblings of marketurds, neither Microsoft's nor any other internet giants' business models allow for genuinely positive, healthy use of these technologies. The virtuous words are just camouflage. Against the malign influence of bean-counters, spreadsheets and shareholders, the dollar is first, last and always. People who love money can care about nothing else.

Even the laughably monickered "Don't Be Evil" transitioned in a virtual eye-blink into an all-consuming exploiter. Once the avaricious and simplistic amorality of corporate management sets in, a company' soul, if it ever had one, is gone. It becomes no more than a machine (sometimes a very cleverly designed one) for wringing out a multitude of human beings so that a small minority can reap vast wealth.

While it can be entertaining to hear the frequently ludicruous self-delusion practised, and spoken, by the likes of Satnad—who has to find some way of seeing his own face in the mirror when he shaves, I guess—these are people who are of the same stripe we see in politics: rationalising greed and self-interest to the point where they may even convince thmselves that they are noble defenders of freedom and the public good. They are not, of course: they are fundamentally just liars ... ofttimes good enough even to fool themselves. Once you have power, you can believe that you're entitled to more leeway and excuses than those who don't: the truth is the exact opposite of course, but the kind of people who seek power in the first place have precisely the wrong character to exercise it.

You don't need to get up in the morning and say "I am bad person and I'm going to harm a lot of people today" in order to achieve wicked things and make the world a worse place. You just need to be greedy, selfish and studiously, unreflectively dishonest with yourself. That's all it takes, whether you're as smart as a Satnad ... or as dumb as a Trump.

"Adaptive algorithm machine learning systems"—

—or better still—

"Huge and massively powerful computing systems using vast storage, memory and CPU cores, capable of performing in carefully selected, confined and delimited strict rules-based environments to sometimes equal the performance of 25 oz of blue sludge found in a human skull, and otherwise displaying less genuine adaptability and behavioural intelligence than a field mouse."

6
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Apple's launch confirms one thing: It's determined to kill off the laptop for iPads

Milton
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Incremental != Innovative

Despite the word being thrown around endlessly by marketurds (and journos who ought to know much better), there is extremely little true innovation in the IT industry. Like aerospace, it's a business that uses the word constantly but does it basically never. If you stop and consider all the advances of the last 20 years in IT (make it nearer 35 for aero), they are almost entirely incremental improvements. They are not radical or evolutionary inventions. Even the first iPhone was mostly a clever repackaging of stuff already done elsewhere before.

Yes, Apple's design is excellent. Yes, its QA/QC of their oriental slavemaster manufacturers is excellent. Yes, they get green screens built for them by Samsung. Yes, the OS is good, and I very much like their attitude to user privacy.

But the latest iPad is ... just another expensive tablet (and arguably superfluously over-powered for 99% of use cases). The lappie is a marginally improved and expensified version of something you could buy four years ago. The idea that any of this shiny stuff will "change the way we think about computing" is simply risible. It's marketing drivel.

Ultimately, and as the article hints, practical cost-effective decision-making doesn't favour the tablets for serious work. Here's how it goes:

* It's nice, it's powerful, it's pretty and fashionable—but I need a good keyboard here and now. I got work to do!

* Ok, so here's the laptop ... and it's short of ports, has no removable media and I can't swap the battery ... plus it's eye-wateringly expensive

* Oh look over there: way less money buys me a good brand well-built laptop that has all the things I need, at least as much power as the iShiny, lots of expandability and versatility

* So, do I need to work, or pose on a catwalk? If the former, I won't be buying the Apple. Lovely as it looks, it just makes no sense.

And no, I'm not an Apple hater. I think their products are great. But the value for money is ... nonsensical. You're buying humdrum, readily available tech for jewellery prices. It's crazy.

5
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Unsure why you can't log into Office 365? So is Microsoft

Milton
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Incomprehensible complexity

I have a tiny (almost invisible) scrap of sympathy for the manijur-level ijits and their hasbeencounters who get suckered into cloud: they are so frequently the kind of twits who say things like "I don't do detail", as if they're actually proud of their laziness, or think it's clever to make whooshing-hand-over-head gestures when challenged by fourth-grade arithmetic—it's plainly true that air pollution has caused a massive drop in intelligence, if corporate senior management are any indication—BUT, to topic: they don't know any better. They'd accept anything a Microsoft saleslizard said to them if it promised a boost to their "cost savings" bonus next January.

We technical types have no excuses.

We know perfectly well that systems (sometimes not even massively large ones) can become so complex that no one person, however smart, can hold all of its functions and foibles in his/her head. The ever-increasing layers of programming have run the gamut in 50 years from punching in hex on a pad to writing incredibly abstracted, layered OO code with mouse clicks. We can build very complex and powerful systems, but with ever diminishing understanding of how the clockwork really meshes to make things happen even on a good day. It's easy to write today in ten minutes or an hour what would have taken a day or two many years ago; it's also predictable that the old code would have been sized in kilobytes at most, while the new will scale to megabytes at least.

My point being that the ever-increasing and supposedly productivity-oriented layering of the cloud in particular has created multiple and incredibly elaborate levels of abstraction, some of it the result of algorithms creating other algorithms, often monitored and checked and managed by code whose only job is to handle the inevitable errors and exceptions, with the result that (a) no one truly understands even a tenth of it, (b) it is increasingly vulnerable to tiny glitches ramifying through the entire thing, causing entirely unpredictable and often bizarre effects, (c) it is too big and expensive to re-engineer for reliability, so instead it keeps acquiring cancerous "fixes", which are really hastily-slapped on kludges of sloppy code upon worse code upon bad code upon mediocre code upon what was once, when you dig deep enough, half-decent code.

At some point, the cloud becomes monster of dubious reliability and, even worse, can no longer be provably defined as secure. Both consequences should be scary. "Cloud" really does mean "amorphous and poorly understood mess".

Executives and bean-counters aren't capable of understanding this, I accept (and are incentivised not to understand anything which negatively affects remuneration anyway) ...

... but what excuse do the rest of us have?

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Official: IBM to gobble Red Hat for $34bn – yes, the enterprise Linux biz

Milton
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"they will buy a lot of talent."

Not necessarily. They will certainly pay for a lot of talent: whether it's still there in six months' time is another question entirely.

If IBM's corporate culture manages to drive away a sufficient number of good RH staff (who, arguably, are pound-for-pound a more valuable resource than the average IBM equivalent) then the money will have been a spectacular waste. After all, if they'd merely wanted an OS, they could be using CentOS :-) and my guess is IBM will have to work hard to overcome RH customers' natural (and IMHO largely justified) suspicion of Big Blue.

What happens over the next 12—24 months will be ... interesting. Usually the acquisition of a relatively young, limber outfit with modern product and service by one of the slow-witted traditional brontosaurs does not end well.

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UK.gov should spend more on AI, bleat VCs and consultants. Oh? Why's that then?

Milton
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Government requires artificial intelligence ...

Government requires artificial intelligence ... because it lacks any other kind.

Imagine presenting your shiny new AIBot to the committee.

—"Goofacesoft's new bot, sitting here in front of you, is guaranteed to be as intelligent and capable as a living, breathing human."

——"That is a most impressive claim. We take it you have been training AIBot at Oxford, Cambridge, and so on?"

—"Not exactly. We wanted it to reflect the capabilties found in government."

——"Very well. So let me ask instead, what is the overall level of AIBot's intelligence? How far does its brain exceed that of the late Prof Hawking, for instance?"

—"It doesn't have the Prof's particular scientific genius. As I said, we had a specific government focus."

——"Specialisation makes sense, I suppose. Which of our brightest and most talented civil servants would AIBot compare to, then?"

—"The civil service were too busy, alas. We trained AIBot using some Members of Parliament who were available."

——"Excellent! Decision-makers. An inspired opportunity, I should say! Which MPs devoted their experience and brilliance to the programme?"

... [long pause]

—"We used Iain Duncan Smith, Angela Leadsom and Owen Paterson."

... [AIBot starts singing "Daisy"]

——"Master-at-Arms! Remove the Goofacesoft executive from this committee room and take that machine to the Hazardous Waste Incinerator."

4
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Apple boss decries 'data industrial complex' while pocketing, er, billions to hook Google into iOS

Milton
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He's mostly right

Notwithstanding our inalienable right to snark at whiffs of hypocrisy and self-interest, I submit (again) that Cook's central proposition is correct: democratic governments must act to prevent companies holding any data on people that is not of genuine, hard, operational use. This "profiling" nonsense has got to stop. It is proving to be extremely damaging in a raft of ways that, in one respect, were unpredictable and yet seem chillingly obvious to anyone who's read Nineteen Eighty-Four.

It's not just about invasions of privacy. It's not just about the how the culpable stupidity of the "free" model has led to human beings themselves becoming product. It's not only about the woeful uselessness of supposedly targeted advertising, which attracts billions while simply not working. More than any of those pernicious things, it is about the internet as an echoing cave for people's darker, nastier, more vicious, less tolerant aspects—in fact, let's say just say medieval vices—where anonymity, malice and ignorance confect a perfect storm of absolutist, partisan, screaming hatred. This isn't just ugly: it is existentially dangerous.

In the 500 years or so since Enlightenment and the rise of science, fact and reason have gradually nudged out superstition and ignorance, and people—especially those of us privileged to grow up in western, industrialised democracies—have learned to be infinitely more social, cooperative, inclusive and discursive in their approach to each other in groups both large and small, whether majority or minority. We have become, by and large, more civilised, wrapping essential layers of cooperative, tolerant sociability around our evolutionary heritage as rapacious, vicious animals.

When your means of political expression was a signed letter to the newspaper, printed only if you hewed to a degree of fact, logic and arguable opinion, you made your case as well as you could and for the most part without pointless abuse or childish lies. We had moved past the days when grubby boys, paid a ha'penny by this or that aggrieved party, scattered vicious libels on the streets of London.

The internet has allowed us to revert. The damage is all around, for all to see. Anonymous cowards—those who would otherwise be obliged to conceal their essentially malicious, hateful nature—can fabricate the most outrageous nonsense for the blinkered and ignorantly partisan to repeat to each other. Before you know it there are apparently sane human beings telling you that of course there's no smoke without fire, so there must be something to the story about Democrats running a paedophile ring from the basement of a pizza shop ...

Better education and awareness will help, but cunning vermin will find a way to pollute the debate: just look at what Vlad The Emailer has been up to.

The only answer is to put the net onto a properly paid-for-service footing: exorcise anonymity, ban the retention of non-op data and bring the web back from the brink of medieval barbarism. We have to do this or we're in bigger trouble than we can imagine: Trump and Brexit are just the warm up.

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It's big, it's blue, and it'll be raining down on you – it's 3200 Phaethon

Milton
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"whizzes through Earth’s atmosphere"—oh dear, oh dear

"Then, as it whizzes through Earth’s atmosphere, bits and pieces of the object break off."

How to give away, in a single sentence of less than 20 words, that you have absolutely no understanding whatever of the subject you're writing about. Kind of impressive, in a way.

No, journos don't have to be experts on every topic, but surely to heaven someone in the team knows enough to have spotted this howler?

25
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F***=off, Google tells its staff: Any mention of nookie now banned from internal files, URLs

Milton
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The mewling quim vs the corporate hypocrite

Pleased to see a few mentions of Loki's judgement of Black Widow. I was thunderstruck when I heard the phrase, and like others here, then realised I was about the only one in the audience who understood it. Whether I owed that to early exposure to Shakespeare or grammar school in Yorkshire, I cannot say.

But, to topic, Google's stinking hypocrisy should surely be called out. "Don't be evil" was always a touch naive, but it has become risible in the years that Google has corporatised—and lost whatever scraps of basic decency might have motivated its founders. The lies over the hacking of WiFi during Streetview patrols left a rotten taste, as does the relentless attempt to monetise every aspects of other human beings' lives, but nothing beats the cosying up with those murdering bastards in China. You really have to wonder whether anyone on the Google board looks in a mirror any more. Or can even bear to do so.

China has a truly vile, undemocratic, authoritarian regime which has a bloody record of murdering its own citizens when they dare to speak out; is curently in the news for establishing "re-education" camps for minorities; has illegally annexed and in some cases created territorial expansions outside its borders in clear military adventurism; constantly undermines its neighbours and steals even from its trading partners—in short, it is a reeking pit of barbarous corruption poorly disguised by shiny gadgets—and "Don't Be Evil" is bent over, trousers down, just to make some more money?

I suppose it's like the "boil a frog slowly" analogy. Google started out in the belief it could use tech to do a worthwhile thing, and may even have been right about that. But bad money insidiously drives out good, doesn't it? And now we have a destructive leviathan of pure conscienceles appetite that literally cannot tell right from wrong, provided the dollars roll in.

25
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FYI: Faking court orders to take down Google reviews is super illegal

Milton
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Worship of paper

The worship of paper is kinda dumb: not least because it makes forgery easier, not harder. I had to acquire Power of Attorney when my mum became unable to manage her own affairs, and have been perpetually amazed by the insistence of so many organisations on seeing the original documents ("wet signed", one of them called it, I think).

Repeatedly I ask: what's wrong with a copy, or even just the Ref Code? Surely no one would trust a supposed original (given the power of photoshopping, these days) when they ought to phone the Office of the Public Guardian to verify that a document Ref so-and-so, really does name me as having PoA for one D Trump, when I ask for his tax returns?

But they don't. They trust the eminently forgeable "original paperwork" instead of just picking up the telephone. It's a lamentable example of "we've always done it this way" stupidity.

Every corporate greedmonger on the planet is busy trying to shoehorn the word "blockchain" into his company's name and/or his CV and yet we're not using the technology for exactly the purposes it would be ideal for. Baffling.

I needed to know if it was true that he'd actually be bankrupt for a fifth time if the Moscow Narodny Bank hadn't made him a zero-interest loan of $700m just before the election. Sadly, I cannot tell you because I'd have to kill myself ...

3
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Silent running: Computer sounds are so '90s

Milton
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Chirpy chirp

I find that vibe makes it a little too easy to miss calls amd messages: the device might be in a loose pocket, a bag or on a soft surface, and the buzz is missed. The compromise is a ringtone—of sorts. I nicked the first couple of chirps from the Star Trek (TOS) annunciator sound effect. It's easily distinguished from other sounds, penetrating and recognisable but too brief to be annoying to anyone. By the time most people are wondering if they actually heard anything, it's done: but I know my phone farted.

I suspect there may be a small piece of modest but worthwhile undergrad work figuring out what kinds of annunciator effects meet the criteria for 1. brevity, 2. low volume, 3. penetrativity without aggravation.

Once the essential characteristics are understood, there's conceivably a patent (certainly in the US, where you could get a new patent for the wheel) but certainly a niche business opportunity: an app which crafts 'chirpies' to individual taste so that in the office, everyone will know and recognise their own almost-subliminal chirp while ignoring others'. I'd guess that combinations of pitch, rise and fall, mutli-tone, spacing and intensity should allow at least a hundred recognisable combos. The human ear and brain are pretty trainable.

Send my 10% of sales to GOSH children's hospital.

5
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Take my advice: The only safe ID is a fake ID

Milton
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Don't tell the ꓕ⍳o⇂⇂ꙅ

And of course, for internet noms de plume, one is assisted by the cornucopia of potential mischief presented by Unicode. Which search will unearth the mysterious pimpernel, Ǡɭʪʈɑɩг—known to mirrors as plain old ꙅdd∂ꓷ, for example?

My personal incognito nom de merde is of course unguessable ...

—ꟽᴉ⇂ʇou

Yes, sadly they seem more like noms de guerre these days, and yes, coat is being fetched ...

5
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Chinese Super Micro 'spy chip' story gets even more strange as everyone doubles down

Milton
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The invisible hardware advantage

One reason for doubts is that it should be easier, more deniable or more flexible, or all of those, to introduce spy- or malware into soft- or firmware than to use a physical addition which can be discovered, potentially attributed and analysed.

That said, it is counterintuitively true that a hardware spy may be more effectively hidden than a software one. A software intruder cannot be permanently dormant and, without a hardware element, has to run somewhere on its host's substrate. Look hard enough and long enough and you'll find it, even while it isn't doing mischief. Its code has to execute somewhere.

A hardware intrusion, on the other hand, can run on its own substrate, completely invisible until and unless it gets a wakeup call, or a timer activates, or some other conditions are met. (It may, for example, passively observe traffic for days or weeks before deciding that its host is likely in production and working hard.) You might very well program the thing to sleep for the first n hours or days after power up, for example, sacrificing some data gathering time for undetectability.

It's also been argued that it would be more logical to build the nanobugs into existing chips ... but that is not necessarily so. Arguably, chips are where you'd look first, and their small size makes investigation relatively easy. Whereas, introducing a nanobug into the layers of a board—perhaps right underneath a ground zone or a heatsink, where x-rays will be fuddled—might make perfect sense. A mobo offers a lot more real estate than a chip for your visitor to hide in.

If it were not for the fact that the chubbier electroytic caps tend not to be attached to data lines (for obvious reasons), I would have thought them an excellent hiding place, given their in-plain-view innocent appearance. Maybe investigators should look for electrolytics that are not doing their job, and, on a close inspection, squat in proximity to subterranean data lines? Not so difficult, if you're a board manufacturer, to slip a few extra whisper-thin leads from the bottom of a component into the third or fourth layer of a complex board, surely? Make them fine enough and you might not even notice them when you yanked the component. (Also, as standard non-tantalum electrolytics, you could self-destruct them without suspicion. The only component you'd expect to occasionally blow its own head off.)

I'd also point out that once the technology has been cracked—once you, Black Hat, have successfully built and tested a virtually nanoscale bug—you may well look for all sorts of hosts: why be confined to motherboards, when a tailored version could go inside an RJ45 plug? Why go to the trouble and expense of finagling them into a run of 10,000 servers when you could sneak them into routers, switches, sockets—heck, even into cable runs?

I cannot speak to the veracity and completeness of the story itself: but if it is not true, I'd have to ask— whyever not? Given their appalling track record, the Chinese absolutely would do this if they could. I for one am guessing they can.

PS: Putting nanonbugs in phones has also been suggested. But why not put them into even smaller things, especially those which can become indirectly connected? Why not headphones and watches? Say, anything that can talk Bluetooth. Let Fred Contractor dutifully leave his phone in the Faraday cage at reception, and the earbuds in his pocket can do some light data harvesting while he wanders the building, only to phone home when they are connected for some Buns&Noses relaxation on the commute home through Maryland?

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Apache OpenOffice, the Schrodinger's app: No one knows if it's dead or alive, no one really wants to look inside

Milton
Silver badge

Who could possibly care less?

Well, I'm typing so I must care a teensy bit ... ;-)

... but LibreOffice does everything I want, is very stable, has never lost my data yet, makes remote storage of encrypted files particularly easy, and best of all, remains uncontaminated by association with Oracle. One does rather get the impression that as soon as Oracle gets its greedy claws on something, it is doomed. Certainly as an original OpenOffice user I was driven away to LibreOffice; just as my Linux enterprises quickly left MySQL behind for MariaDB.

Let's be honest, the likes of Oracle don't "support" a FOSS venture/service for the reasons drivelled by their marketurds and PR lobotomonkeys: they do it because they perceive an advantage either to suppress a cheaper rival, or to entrap its users, or both.

Jobs wasn't in pursuit of excellence when frothing about Android, he was driven by ego and greed: if he could have spent a billion to buy it and kill it, he clearly would have done so. Likewise Microsoft and Linux. Likewise Oracle and MySQL. This is not about noble motives and providing choice for the consumer: those are just words for the gullible. This is about greed and, wherever possible—as Oracle demonstrates so transparently with its notorious sales and marketing practices—wringing the customer till the pips squeak.

Considering the forces ranged against them, I am heartened by the enormous success and uptake of MySQL/MariaDB, Linux and LibreOffice.

In short, AOO is not only redundant at this point, it has lagged far behind its much superior fork and, with Oracle's sweaty paw on the helm—who'd want to touch it anyway?

And I agree: the practice of taking a vast base of FOSS code, tacking on a few trivial additions and then selling it is odious, naked greed; but it succeeds only because fools and their money are exceptionally easily separated. I note that Paint.net (an excellent but sadly Windows-only picture editor, with a nicer UI than Gimp) remains free but has closed its source because of endless rip-offs. Can't disagree with the reasoning, I'm afraid. A sizeable minority of the human race appear to be, well ... lice.

18
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Microsoft yanks the document-destroying Windows 10 October 2018 Update

Milton
Silver badge

Definition of insanity?

I freely acknowledge that if I were a less cautious user, with poor perimeter defences, I wouldn't be saying this.

But I am typing right now on a 4.5 yr old machine (FYI: 32Gb, 8 cores x 5GHz AMD; used for some serious crunching at times) using an MSDN Win7Ult which I installed once and, having updated on the day, then disabled all updates, patches and even notifications for eternity. It has worked flawlessly for all this time, almost as if it were one of my Linux servers or an Apple machine. I am completely familiar with the still excellent interface, which works well with 2xUHD and 1xHD monitors (no touch nonsense or tiles) fully parallel overlapping windows etc etc.

Once I am forced off W7 I'll finish the move to Linux. Some of my collaborators insist of using Office, Teams (another bizarrely inconsistent MS offering) etc, and for them I will probably buy (my first) neat little McLap to sit in the corner.

But Windows 10? Sure, mobile devices needed a variant to suit them, but from here all I can see is that Win 8 and onwards have been huge steps backwards, actually taking away some of the usability and flexibility of earlier versions. All, it appears, in the name of trapping users forever in the MS ecosystem. And is it helping anyone, really? I see this saga of stories about how the latest update has trashed yet more work and wasted yet more time, and I wonder why anyone tolerates it.

No, thank you.

What improvement, never mind a radical makeover, did Win7 really need? What major benefit has the Win8-and-onwards travesty brought to users? After XP it was the only Win OS of which you could honestly, "looks ok, does what it says on the tin". That's all I ask. just keep doing what it says on the tin—and don't waste my time.

5
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Indiegogo pulls handheld airport pervscanners off crowdfunding platform

Milton
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Getting to the bottom of things ...

... forgive the atrocious pun, but (a) this is El Reg, so there are many worse floating about already, and (b) this topic is so thoroughly unpleasant that I feel the need to introduce a note of levity.

So here is the question: why do we consider it difficult for a suicide bomber to get a bomb aboard an aircraft? If we're talking about a committed lunatic (which, let's face it, you have to be to want to kill a few hundred innocent civilians), then some risk and discomfort don't count for much. Nor does dignity.

I don't believe that the aforementioned lunatic, dieted and otherwise well prepared, could not fit at least two pounds of HE where the sun don't shine. Neither watery eyes nor a slight waddle ever barred anyone from boarding a plane. The battery and active parts of a detonator are trivial to conceal in something no larger than a ballpoint, which is also ideally shaped to be inserted in its (very) final destination.

And if you're going to that much trouble, it's worth the effort of researching your tail number, seat plan, and figuring which toilet is the best one for effect: all information easily available on the net.

The good news is, wannabe terrorist loonies are apparently badly educated, unimaginative cowards. If they weren't, we'd be knee-deep in trouble. The worry is that some new crop of aggrieved nutcases will turn up with all the righteous anger preserved— and a half-decent scientific education.

Heck, they get as much attention and disruption for failing as for succeeding. Planes are strong. It wouldn't be the first time a jetliner has landed safely with a chunk of fuselage missing, although this might be messier than most. It's commonly pointed out that airport security is mostly theatre, especially the absurdites of America's TSA nincompoops: but what good is it really, against a determined and clever foe?

I'm not going there, but anyone who knows a bit about airliners and their catastrophic failure modes will be able to work it out.

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Facebook's new always-listening home appliance kit Portal doesn't do Facebook

Milton
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Aww, the Stasi would be proud

As one of the crusties who's old enough to feel (yes, bizarrely) a little nostalgic for the Cold War—it turns out western societies were, on balance, healthier then than they are now: for every step forward made with PC tolerance, we've made two steps backwards into the internet-fuelled Age of Stupid—I cannot help wondering why anyone with the remotest scrap of intelligence would voluntarily pay money for a microphone to install in their most private retreat, their home.

Once upon a time (and for all I know, it's the same in Putin's kleptocracy today) a conversation with a Russian or an East German might well be punctuated with a brief silence and a finger pointed upwards: which in the language of the times meant, "They are probably listening."

We now live in an era where some western governments have arrogated to themselves spying powers and invasions of privacy which even the KGB and Stasi didn't contemplate. And democracy is more fragile than ever, with populist little-Hitler vermin up on their hind legs from the White House to Turkey and beyond. The large internet companies are notorious for harvesting every fragment of data they can, selling you for a profit, and cosying up to ever more authoritarian governments at every turn, and almost daily acknowledging the compromise of millions of people's private data.

And many of you actually want to install always-on listening devices in your homes? So you can save your poor little tired fingers from a dozen keystrokes ...? Really??

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Decoding the Chinese Super Micro super spy-chip super-scandal: What do we know – and who is telling the truth?

Milton
Silver badge

You'll never buy bullets from China

I agree it's impossible to be certain who is accurate/misled/mistaken/lying through their teeth. Unless you have actual knowledge of this event, first-hand, you are guessing.

But here's the thing: this is an obvious and highly effective means of espionage, for which a highly technicallly capable nation state, one which lacks checks and balances, and which is well motivated to spy upon foreign governments, militaries and corporations, and which is an ever-increasing source of computers and computing components to the rest of the world, is the perfect source. China, in short, has both powerful motive and ample means.

Consider that no one with serious security concerns brings a computing device back from China (or if they do, it's quarantined, stripped, analysed and then incinerated). Consider that China's spyware has been busy for many years siphoning data from western firms and governments. Consider that even consumer grade devices have been found 'phoning home' with personal data from their owners. If any nation could build the necessary hardware into a speck 100-μ on a side, no thicker than a hair, would you seriously bet against China's best? And bear in mind that China is desperate to become the world's next hyperpower, and that arguably only US technology and economic strength could stop them.

Add it all up, and whether the SuperMicro story is total bollox, or 100% true—it hardly matters: of bloody course the Chinese will be trying this kind of trick, and it would be frankly amazing if they haven't already succeeded here and there—and perhaps already on a large scale. How many devices get national security examination or Amazon/Apple level audit? How many ways, how many places, how many disguises could there be for a cleverly designed sequestration/exfiltration nanobug?

Off the cuff, I'd say that for the next few years this battle is already lost. Amazon will probably say anything to deny that its cloud has been compromised, but I remain confident in saying that if you trust vital data to anyone's cloud, you are a fool.

I said a while ago that in due course, nation states and their allies will bring in-house the manufacture of hardware and software for critical components and infrstructure. Expensive as it is, what choice can there be? Soon enough, computing components will be like ordnance. You may make missiles yourself, or you may buy them from the USA; but you'll never buy them from Russia. Or China.

12
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Screwed SAP salesman scores $660,000 jury award

Milton
Silver badge

Extraordinarily filthy behaviour

"Its argument? That the salesman only gets paid when the customer pays SAP and that he can only get commissions while still working at the company. So even though he did the work and closed the deals, the company didn't get paid until after it had fired him, so he didn't deserve any compensation."

More and more often these days, when witnessing the conduct of a large company or a government, I find myself wondering: how can these ... creatures ... stomach looking at their own faces in a mirror?

Whether a modern senior executive or a politician—and saving the few notable, honourable exceptions—it seems that the behaviour of a lizard and the morals of a stoat are all that's needed: these are people missing some important piece of humanity, and they certainly know no shame.

How much more disgusting is our species to become as its members, jostling like swine at a trough, grub blindly for money?

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Brit startup plans fusion-powered missions to the stars

Milton
Silver badge

Quite a bit of nuclear fallout

"While Orion, which could have lofted immense amounts of mass at the cost of, er, quite a bit of nuclear fallout, was axed in the 1960s"

Actually, no. The quantity and quality of fallout from a modern-day Orion using the cleanest warheads we know how to build would be minimal, vastly less even than the single small device used on Hiroshima. Launched from a remote location, most of the pulse-bombs detonated at altitude, with careful pauses for different layers of the atmosphere, you could get a massive Orion into orbit with negligible environmental impact. I think the most recent analyses suggest that a big Orion (say, something big enough to put an entire self-sustainable colony on Mars in a single voyage, supplies and all, maybe a 25,000-tonne ship) could be launched for the statistical "price" of one or two extra cancer cases worldwide.

Put another way, the solid science behind pollution analysis tell us that we could colonise the entire solar system with dozens of Orions and thousands of people, for about one-fortieth of the environmental impact and increased disease/death rate caused by Volkswagen cheating its emissions tests. And you could build the fleet of ships and pulse-bombs for about four times what VW has lost because of that same fraud. Any of the top twenty armed nations' miltary budgets could handle sedveral Orion missions if turned to exploration. The UK could swap Trident for Orion and have money to spare; along with bragging rights for the first serious spaceship ever flown. Oh, and immediate global dominance.

Indeed, if the benefit of an Orion fleet is decreased pollution and greater wealth on Earth—through building orbital and Moon-based solar power arrays; pulling metal-rich asteroids into the Earth-Moon system for mining; moving the worst polluting industries up into space—then we are insane not to do it. The likely benefits of Orion to our species so vastly outweigh the possible downsides that, from an economic and scientific point of view, we are verging on suicidal stupidity by ignoring this opportunity.

We don't even need to invent any radical new tech. Orions are surprisingly basic and easy to build. Even the pusher plate survives nuclear hammering much better than you'd imagine (mild ablation can be tolerated), and for sure we know how to build tidy, tiny warheads with precision launch and detonation ...

Orion sits there as a stunningly obvious, practical solution to spaceflight and arguably our best chance of survival as a species. We ignore it because of the N-word: in almost complete, oblivious, witless ignorance and foolishness.

23
2

First Boeing 777 (aged 24) makes its last flight – to a museum

Milton
Silver badge

Re: 777?

"... mum ... has a shell scrape dug and was on top of us ..."

You are ex-Forces, probably British Army, and I claim my tenner.

0
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Judge: Georgia's e-vote machines are awful – but go ahead and use them

Milton
Silver badge

Re: Scanning?

People who say "hand counted paper ballots work where I live and will in the US too" don't understand US elections. As I keep saying every time someone brings this up as if to say "stupid Americans just do things like us" when your ballots and precincts are nothing like ours.

The response to which is embarassingly simple and obvious. Separate the critical political offices from the rest of the mess and ensure that elections which really matter (congressional, gubernatorial, presidential) are held to an extremely high standard of transparency and hygiene. The fact that this is done with ease in other countries, like the UK, where elections simply cannot be interfered with electronically, suggest that the American "system" is, indeed ... stupid.

But of course, it's much worse than stupid. By supposedly venerating democracy to the point where you elect the Dog Catcher and up, you create a system where responsibility is not given to those best qualified, but to those with a large mouth, the lies to use it for, and the "friends" to supply campaign funds. Add a hefty dose of gerrymandering and your democracy is quite certain to be corrupted. Add a further ingredient of blithe stupidity—internet-connected e-voting without a paper trail—and you can also be quite certain that hostile foreign powers will try to subvert what scraps of democracy may remain. Indeed, they may already have done so, and you'll most likely never even know for sure.

Finally, given that your current president, an unhinged pathologically lying racist sex-assaulter and egotistical lunatic man-child, got nearly three million fewer votes than his rival but was given the job anyway ...

... I suggest that the word "stupid" barely begins to describe the US voting system.

Then again, a lot of people do vote for Trump and Republicans, despite the fact that the party of the rich presides over eyewatering levels of social inequality—people subsisting in trailers voting for billionaires—perhaps it is a kind of democracy, and the people are getting what they deserve.

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No wonder Oracle exec Kurian legged it – sky darkens as cloudy tech does not make it rain

Milton
Silver badge

"Anyone who is shopping for the best database in terms of reliability, in terms of ease of use, in terms of the best cost, they're all going to use Oracle," Ellison [said]

I agree, it's hilarious rubbish, but I suppose he's got to say it, hasn't he? I also agree with the general sentiment that anyone who's had to work heavily with Oracle once, will avoid doing so ever again. Even if the products and services were as great as claimed (they're not) or used to their full (never, since they are ever more weighed down with useless gewgawery), the experience of dealing with such an arrogant, greedy and deceitful company leaves a vile taste in the mouth.

Presumably fewer and fewer customers are taking up Oracle for the first time—why would you, when there is by now a solid range of cheaper, quicker, easier to use alternatives, with smaller footprints, that cost vastly less?—so existing cystomers must be relentlessly gouged, and gouged yet again, while in the meantime Oracle's frankly unimpressive cloud, and other endlessly second-rate ancillary services, are used to try to ensnare unwitting new victims.

It is interesting, I guess, to speculate on Oracle's inevitable demise. It is in the very early stages of circling-the-drain and I suppose it's not impossible that some superb acquisition might yet rescue the company, but it's hard to see the current management having the imagination or the humility to make a radical correction. The skipper could learn of the icebergs and their existential danger: but will he listen to his junior lookouts? Will he believe their assessment of the risks? Does he have the humility to change course? Knowing Ellison as we do, it seems we think not: Oracle's captain will tell everyone, and himself, that the ship can crush those little bergs and sail serenely through the field.

And he'll probably be repeating it as he sinks along with the wreckage.

Hard to feel any great sympathy, in truth ... I suspect that this skipper spends most of his time at the stern, looking backwards.

5
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A basement of broken kit, zero budget – now get the team running

Milton
Silver badge

Bad managers are like knotweed

His boss, however, seemed incandescent with rage. "She yelled at me for humiliating her in front of her HQ peers," Hugh said, with a shrug. "Ya just can't make some people happy."

Whereas, if she were remotely fit for a leadership role, she'd have laughed, stood up publicly with an abashed air, said "I live and learn", apologised for the hassle and then thanked Hugh fulsomely. She'd have won admirers.

Bad managers and useless "leaders" seem to be one of the commonest weaknesses of UK business (and British politics for that matter, heaven help us). It's easier by far to work with Scandis or Germans; they seem to understand that you cannot just promote somebody and expect them to write "Now I are a manijur" in PowerPoint the next day. British bad management—and I mean, really, hopelessly ignorant, tone-deaf, counterproductive and often arrogant dimwits, the kind of suited oafs who are proud to say stuff like "I don't do detail"—well, it is like knotweed: insidious, destructive, and bloody near impossible to root out.

What has always puzzled me is that we have arguably the best-led military on the globe (notwithstanding its grotesque underfunding); Sandhurst turns out excellent leadership material and even runs management courses for civvies these days. A society tends to assimilate some of its cultural standards and tics from its armed forces—quite a few Army officers go into IT, especially stuff like project management; I've worked at one 50+ consultancy that was about one-third ex-Forces—so I have never quite grasped why the UK civvy corporate management system is so abjectly crap.

I'd be interested if anyone has a notion to explain this ....

A comparison. On the one hand, a besuited corporate prat who thinks he is demonstrating his importance by whooshing a hand over his head when being told key detail, and seems proud of the fact that he cannot use Excel. On the other, the infantry full colonel (OF-5, if you care) who listens hard when told that, this time, the details matter, asks the relevant questions ... and is still able to strip and reassemble his sidearm in the dark. Two entirely different creatures, it seems. It's weird.

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Euro bureaucrats tie up .eu in red tape to stop Brexit Brits snatching back their web domains

Milton
Silver badge

Small minded petty eurocracy

"It's exactly this sort of nonsense that drove many in the UK to vote for Brexit in the first place."

Well, it is nonsense, and it is one more reason to despise the worst instincts of petty eurocrats who, in truth, would be of more value to the human race if ground to fertiliser and sprayed on cabbage fields in Thanet.

It is not, however, what "drove many in the UK to vote for Brexit". It's long since become pretty clear that the principal reason for a (tiny) majority¹ Leave vote was disillusionment, anger, despair and economic inequality brought on, ironically enough, by the actions of strong Remainer George Osborne and his epicene vacuity of a Remainer chum, David Cameron. Possibly no finer example of Buddies In Stupefyingly Imbecilic Incompetence has existed at the top of UK government since 1956—with an option on 2003, and perhaps 1938.

I'm following developments keenly as I have some .EU business domains. My registrar didn't ask for extra ID, proof of nationality, citizenship, residence or geographical base of business. But when we decided to go for server datacentre hosting with a Netherlands-based outfit, we had to provide quite a bit of said doco. They were surprisingly diligent, for people who wanted our money.

Fortunately I have access to a dual citizenship, which may make this fixable if the eurocrats do proceed with this bizarrely small-minded stupidity ... but it'll be interesting to see how this all turns out anyway, especially if folks start looking for workarounds.

¹ Or even more tellingly, a mere 37% of the eligible electorate.

² Because extant and pending UK law at the time, plus the malign influence of the US, virtually guaranteed untramelled and indefensible invasion of privacy. My view is that only idiots and scoundrels peddle the "If you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear" garbage—given that no UK "anti-terror" law has failed to be stretched, abused and exploited beyond its stated purpose before the ink had even dried on the statute book. Plus I am of the old-fashioned "Get a warrant" disposition. Recent findings show that we sceptics were right all along.

[Edited to add title]

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US govt confirms FCC's broadband speeds and feeds stats are garbage

Milton
Silver badge

A binary world

I'm beginning to think that the underlying problem with this increasingly dysfunctional, dangerous, inhumane world is not right-wing politics, not the internet, not political tribalism, not social media, not anonymity, not sewerpress tabloids, not even lack of education ... although all of those things have toxic effects, they are symptoms of a deeper malaise, one that is embedding itself deeply in our culture and behaviour.

The problem is lies.

We think the 'real war' is between right-wing culture (greed, callousness, selfishness, massive incompetence: its worst defect a kind of unprincipled ruthlessness) and the left (compassion, decency, humanity, frequent incompetence: its major defect a lack of principled ruthlessness); or simply between Haves and Have-Nots; the stronger vs the weaker ...

But when you scrape away all the political verbiage and excuses and justifications and sophistries, you get to the core, fundamental conflict: Truth vs Lies.

This story about FCC statistics is just one more data point about deceit, misleading information, political spin, propaganda and all the other shit that pollutes our brains.

The world is becoming a binary place where a literate and aware, rational adult—a member of the 'evidence-based community'—often knows what to expect from someone simply by knowing what they do for a living. For a brief subset—

Scientist. Teacher. Doctor. Soldier. Researcher. Engineer. Their job is honesty. Accuracy. Facts. Objective realities. Truth.

Politician. Marketer. Political appointee. Advertiser. Salesperson. Their jobs is deceit. Spin. Diversion. Excuses. Propaganda. Misinformation. Lies.

The problem with the second group is that they actually think this is ok. They really are that mediocre, as human beings.

The problem with the first group is we are not stomping all over the second group's f**king dishonesty and holding them accountable. We tolerate this mediocrity. We're letting the lunatics and the children take over.

Perhaps we should wake up and stop being tolerant—before it's too late, before we allow our kids to drown in a swamp of pollution on an over-heated planet?

Failing which, I say again: humans are unfit to govern themselves.

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