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* Posts by Milton

377 posts • joined 14 Jun 2016

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Uncle Sam's treatment of Huawei is world-class hypocrisy – consumers will pay the price

Milton
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Re: Facesaving indeed

"Huawei would give full access to its source code to GCHQ experts in a clean-room environment. It was examined, and pronounced clean. Completely pointless, since there is no assurance that this code is what actually goes into production devices."

Duh! Of course, none of the folks at GCHQ will have thought of that. It employs only some of the best mathematicians and software experts in the country, after all—every one of them too thick to even consider the possibility that actual production devices will need to be randomly sampled for checks to ensure that the digital fingerprints for the "clean code" can still be verified.

Thank heaven for the geniuse—, commentards at El Reg, to put those poor duffers straight!

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Hold on to your aaSes: Yup, Windows 10 'as a service' is incoming

Milton
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The Great Deception ...

The Great Deception ... way back when .. was to convince customers that the OS was a cool, aerodynamic rocketship of a product ...

When in fact it was then, and is now, there just to run programs, safely, securely, without fuss.

A thoughtful computer user should not have to give a phlying phart about his OS. It exists only to execute code and do basic housekeeping.

In point of fact, a really *good * OS is, or soon becomes, invisible.

MS appears to be heading in the opposite direction, trying to sell its ever-more-obese spying technology with bells you don't need and whistles you don't want, long after you'd settled on Win7 and thought "Ok, that'll do the job".

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Swiss cheesed off after Apple store iPhone does Samsung Galaxy Note 7 impersonation

Milton
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Note to the literate ...

"Explode" is not the same thing as "catches fire".

If you've *ever* been near anything that actually exploded, you'd know the difference.

Instead of earnestly scrawling "explode" in every story about lithium batteries sometimes combusting, you could go for the "my readers might actually be adults" style of journalism. Go on, give it a try ... who knows, you might grow up too.

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FBI says it can't unlock 8,000 encrypted devices, demands backdoors for America's 'public safety'

Milton
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Talking to the Hand

Because that's what it feels like. Comey talked arrant shit about backdoors despite a virtually endless queue of experts, including the NSA, explaining it simply cannot be done in the way the Feds envisage. Now Wray is doing the same thing, despite being told the exact same thing by the same people. I cannot believe the FBi doesn't have a few high-end crypto people of its own, who must shake their heads in despair every time the Boss gets on its hind legs and talks the same stupid crap.

Why do they do this? I appreciate that the math of modern encryption systems is a bit beyond the average FBI head's ability to make change, but surely to heaven they have at least enough nous to ask the experts? And having heard the unanimous answer ("No! It just cannot work, at all, ever!") they would accept the advice, and move on to battles they *can* win.

I simply do not understand why they are so mule-headedly stubborn. It isn't just stupidity. It's something more than that. What makes a senior FBI guy—or a politician like our own hopeless imbecile Theresa May—keep saying "I want the world to be flat" despite being told again and again and again that it just. Is. Not. Possible. Why??

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1980s sci-fi movies: The thrill of being not quite terrified on mum's floral sofa

Milton
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Resolution, resolution, resolution

Resolution, resolution, resolution—the mantra of screen real estate. The article is interesting for its nod to the influence of video, but misses a significant point: how have the increasing, and arguably unforgiving advances in screen resolution affected the required standards of SFX?

Sure, cinema had always offered vastly better resolution than your TV screen, but it was, as the article, said, a transient experience. You got to see the Thing morph into a disembodied organ, or Jeff Goldblum curiously rip off bits of his body, only *once*, then and there, and you couldn't ask the projectionist to rewind the reel for loving frame-by-frame inspection. The pace of the story, clever cutting and camera angles, even the composer's score to distract you—it all helped the SFX to bite you on the emotional arse and then move on, quickly, before you could raise critical faculties to make judgements on shiny latex, unconvincing red jelly, or jerky stop-motion robometalskelebots.

VHS was low resolution, and arguably was kinder than cinema to the SFX: the "problem" of high resolution really kicked in with Blu-Ray and HD broadcasting. It wasn't just that actors and presenters began to worry even more about their makeup, concerned that—oh, horror!—pores were now visible: it was the SFX guys too, realising that they had fewer and yet fewer places to hide.

If personal (i.e. outside the cinema) screen resolution had remained low, I wonder: would CGI and SFX technology have developed with the urgency and pace that it has? Answers in a freeze-frame please ...

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Skynet it ain't: Deep learning will not evolve into true AI, says boffin

Milton
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I don't like to say—

—I told you so. That said, most Reg readers didn't need to be told this, I admit. Unlike the general tabloid-wiping population, technologists have a healthy scepticism about claims for "AI", as should anyone who's ever considered what a Turing test really tries to elicit, or indeed, who has ever considered what intelligence really is.

"AI" is not here, not in any form worth the "I" part of the acronym, and only marketurds, fathead politicians (well, *all* morons, as a supergroup) and some lazy journos believe otherwise. "AI" is not going to be here for at least another two or three decades at the soonest, I would suggest, because even if we could solve the problem of simulating the number and type of neuronal connections in a human brain—monumentally difficult all by itself—we have barely begun to appreciate how biological implementation may be critically different from the electronic kind, and have gone basically nowhere in synthesising an understanding of motivation, agency and emotion in a machine context.

Here's a stick-me-neck-out prediction. First, uncontroversially I think, within ten years, computing platforms will exist which seek to pass a (video) face-to-face voice-to-voice Turing-type test when challenged by a reasonably well-educated normal human being. The 'Uncanny Valley' problem of human face simulation will have been solved and vocal intonation, use of grammar etc will also be good enough to be convincing. The sheer quantity of data and pattern recognition resources available to this "AI" will make it seem awesomely well informed.

And my prediction? I predict that as soon as our "AI" goes online, there will be competition to see who can devise the neatest, simplest, most elegant ways to expose it most quickly. There will be burning rivalry among those who seek kudos for formulating the fastest ways of fooling the computer—the questions, answers, statements, requests, digressions, lies, emotional cues and responses which most rapidly reveal the machine behind the curtain. Think of them as "filters" which briskly separate a definite human from a definite fraud.

And for many years, I submit, the best filters will always succeed within 60 seconds. I wouldn't be particularly surprised to find that we'll still be concocting them in 50 years' time. Who knows, we may even call them the Voigt-Kampff Test ....

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When neural nets do carols: 'Santa baby bore sweet Jesus Christ. Fa la la la la la, la la la la'

Milton
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Wrong genre

Should let the so-called AI (which is clearly and above all things, NOT "intelligent", artificially or otherwise) practise on rap—you know, rap with the silent 'c'. It's incoherent, moronic drivel *already*. "AI" could only improve it.

PS: Since it becomes more obvious every single day that "AI" is a misnomer, just marketing hype, and that the systems flagged as "AI" are just highly specific machine learning systems incapable of actual thinking or creativity, shouldn't we rename them? We could even keep the initials if we just opt for truth and call them "Artificial Imbeciles".

Or will that cause confusion with the White House?

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Microsoft Surface Book 2: Electric Boogaloo. Bigger, badder, better

Milton
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That horse has bolted

Notwithstanding a completely stupid Apple-level price, I guess I'm not the only one who experienced one of the early Surface3 devices and found it a ridiculously unreliable POS and now will never go near anything with the word "surface" in it.

Sure, I could technically afford one and I am thinking of a new portable ... But even half that money buys more power, function, expandability, reliability, a bigger screen - so why piss my cash up a wall? So that colleagues will say "Ooh"?

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Astroboffins say our Solar System could have – wait, stop, what... the US govt found UFOs?

Milton
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Where's the mass panic?

"A fucking wing fallen off the back of an intergalactic lorry. No way. Where's the mass panic?"

Figure it out.

If the aliens had come along even five years ago and blown the White House to smithereens, there'd have been mass panic.

Now it's 2017: the Year of Lunatics Taking Over the Asylum. There's more likely to be panic if the aliens *don't* blow up the White House.

Once again, humanity has shown—with Trump, and Brexit—that it is unfit to govern itself. So if the aliens want to have a go at running things, let 'em. (Unless they're also a bunch of fat old greedy lying white men, that is.)

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Missed opportunity bingo: IBM's wasted years and the $92bn cash splurge

Milton
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And the consequences ...?

I don't think it's particularly controversial to point out that IBM, like a solid majority of big businesses, has grown a cadre of supremely incompetent senior managers. It's typical and commonplace because unless they are very, very careful indeed, almost all companies' senior strata, as they grow, become parasitised by people who think and act like politicians instead of professionals, and IBM—whom I have worked alongside, but never worked for—certainly appear to have that problem in spades. Once you have allowed the upper levels to be colonised by self-serving liars and greedmongers, it's all downhill.

This sad story perpetuates and multiplies because there are few consequences for failure, however abject. Being "rewarded for failure" is a cliché, almost, because of its widespread applicability to politics and big business.

And thus to IBM. It has been badly managed both strategically and tactically, making a decade's worth of unforced and sometimes even obvious errors, shortsighted, blinkered, unimaginative, hampered by institutional arrogance. What will its Board's pay cheques look like this year? Will there be bonuses, even? Will *anyone* responsible for this mess pay *any* kind of price?

Or shall we see yet another Marissa Meyer moment, as the architect of disaster, almost single-handedly to blame for a series of stupid decisions, walks off with a few million?

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That was fast... unlike old iPhones: Apple sued for slowing down mobes

Milton
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Not a welcome opinion

I know this is not something many people want to hear, but ...

If you pay about three times as much for a phone than is necessary, largely because it's a status symbol, knowing perfectly well that without the slightest technical or engineering justification its battery cannot be simply swapped by you; not to mention that it will also lack the simple expandability and versatility of a uSD slot, again with no good reason; and for which the $23 actual difference between various models' storage levels is charged to you in a $200 increment ... well, you get what you deserve, don't you?

There's an almost infinite range of phones out there costing far less, offering greater versatility, reliability and expandability, with batteries you can swap in 10 seconds flat, with operating systems *not* designed to steal from you, with a value-for-money proposition that makes the iPhone look like a lump of pointless jewellery—

—but you'll continue to buy massively overpriced Apple shinies so that, even when the battery has yet again died, you can leave it displayed face down on the desk so that everyone knows *you* paid out of your arse for it.

In sum: Apple get away with this kind of reprehensible, dishonest, avarcious behaviour because people slavishly buy into their marketing propaganda and simply *have* to be in the herd.

You get mugged because you keep asking for it.

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WordPress captcha plugin on 300,000 sites had a sneaky backdoor

Milton
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Cockroaches

I'm old enough not to be surprised any more, but really ... I am still amazed by the proliferation of greedy, amoral cockroaches out there. If you thought the worst lice were confined to Westminster or the upper reaches of FT500 corporations, it is deeply depressing to find that these people still clog up civilisation, nucleating together like human bogies wherever there's a sniff of money.

Does our species benefit, in any way at all, from the breeding of vermin like Mason Soiza?

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Special delivery: Pizza, parcel-slinging drones inch closer to reality

Milton
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... what damage can be done ...

"The craft operated and under 400 feet, and was limited to carrying parcels that weighed less than five pounds."

The terminal velocity of a dense object falling from 400 feet could be over 90 mph. At 2kg it will have about the same kinetic energy as 7.62mm rifle bullet (old soldiers will know how much damage an SLR round could do).

Thus we must hope that parcels will be equipped with parachutes or wrapped in fluffy shock-absorbent layers.

Because otherwise, the choice of every child in the playground is simple: be killed outright if it hits your skull corner-on, or get lucky if it strikes flat-side-on—merely breaking your neck for a lifetime of quadriplegia.

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We need to talk about mathematical backdoors in encryption algorithms

Milton
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Simplify and add lightness

I am assuming that the emphasis on "mathematical backdoors" is strict, which means that we can analyse the issue without going down a level to the *implementation* of the math.

A math backdoor is something we should be able to find by looking at the math itself, in the knowledge that if it were perfectly and without error implemented as algorithm and program code, the backdoor would still be there. We're NOT discussing deliberate wrinkles in the coding of the system. (If we do include those—think of an implementation that is deliberately careless with registers, for example—then I would have thought such failings would be discoverable by minutely comparing the *intention* of the math with the actuality of the code.)

If it is a math-only issue, "simplify and add lightness" would seem to be particularly relevant, because the more complex the math, the easier it will be to hide weaknesses in the thicket. Whether it's elliptic curves or something else, we should be bearing down hard on the simplest solutions that do the job (and yes, I recognise that "simple" is relative in this case!)

I guess I am a little surprised to have received the impression that we may be using algorithms whose fundamental math has not been exhaustively analysed, distilled and checked out by armies of brilliant sceptics ... hmm, if Bruce Schneier won't come along to this thread and make a post, I'm gonna have to go beard him in his lair ;-)

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Milton
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Re: Not A Backdoor

I think you are only partly justified in saying that. Ofttimes a cryptographer*¹ has or guesses at a crib—some plain text he knows or shrewdly expects to have been included in the original message—and uses that as a lever to begin teasing out the key, thereafter decrypting the whole message. Indeed, feeding cribs into an adversary's information system can be helpful. Let Station X, known to be using Cipher69, learn of your grave concern about the ship "Wazottliqueeg" on its mission to deliver vital "Sponzagurgs" and hope that they soon after transmit a message to HQ (preferably triggering a chain of concerned conversations throughout their network) and you have seeded an unusual crib into his commo which just might help you crack his encryption.

Pursuing that example a little further, if you have introduced yourself, or are aware of, mathematical weaknesses in Cipher69 (NOT the same as knowing the key or having an alternate key, something I think not all commenters here have understood: sorry) then you are in a vastly better position to use those weaknesses and the crib to prise open the whole caboodle.

*¹ "Cryptographer" in this case being the mathematicians and coders who wrote a code-breaking program

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Facebook confesses: Facebook is bad for you

Milton
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Opiate of the idiots

Colour me surprised that FB has admitted something that has been jaw-droppingly obvious for at least five years: using FB is basically bad for you and frequently constitutes damaging addictive behaviour.

The parallels between social media addiction and drug/alcohol abuse hardly need to be rehearsed here, and the solution is broadly the same: stop. Just stop.

No one can do it for you. You alone have to find the character and willpower to do the right thing for yourself. The pushers and distillers aren't going to go away while there is money to be made, and prohibition isn't on the cards. So you, personally, have to look into the abyss and ask yourself whether you want to spend the rest of your life as a slave to the tiny pricks of curiosity and titillation that fleetingly tickle your pleasure centres but leave you, in the long run, feeling worthless, miserable, resentful, irritable, depressed and ever dissatisfied with yourself.

Social media, used in moderation as just another means of staying in touch with family and real friends (not your hundreds of FB "friends") is one thing, and has a place. But it has become a manipulative environment serving corporate greed, full of anonymous cowards and the foul views they wouldn't dare spout in public, boasting, lying, posturing ... sucking us all in to an artificial world of nonsense.

You do not NEED Facebook. You do not NEED Twitter. You could revert to a feature phone enabling you to have actual conversations with people you know when they're not around. You could spend real time with real people.

Just say No.

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Brit film board proposed as overlord of online pr0nz age checks

Milton
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Heaven forfend that vulnerable minds ("Of course, it doesn't affect ME") should see other humans having it off, but at least they'll still be able to watch atrocious violence, abuse, terrorist executions and the rest on all the other non-porn websites. Always wondered what kind of mental cesspits would-be censors must have, that they'll mouth stridently about a spot of shagging, yet have almost nothing to say about media depictions of people being shot, blown up, tortured and creatively murdered all over the place. It's ok to watch Schwarzenegger blast half a dozen people to bloody chunks, but GET THAT NIPPLE OFF THE SCREEN!

Take several lazy-minded, self-righteous idiots, add a huge dollop of technical ignorance, and get—bad, stupid laws. It's called modern politics.

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UK.gov delays biometrics strategy again – but cops will still use the tech

Milton
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Re: Does it exist? (When is a lie not a lie?)

"...and it's being written by the same team that have been doing the Brexit impact assessments."

Heh.

• Imagine any institution, other than government, in which a senior executive, attempting to justify a controversial policy, repeatedly claims that a large body of exhaustive analytical work has been completed, to inform decision-making.

• Imagine that said executive is shown to have fabricated the purported work and has no plausible reason to have serially spoken these untruths to multiple people on multiple occasions and in public.

• Imagine that when the lies are exposed, he claims forgetfulness and makes statements like "an analysis of impact isn't the same thing as an impact analysis".

Imagine that this person is not disgraced, summarily dismissed and hounded out of the industry.

Only in government—and perhaps, among the democracies, only in a British or US government, at that—could a serial liar, spectacular fool and monumental incompetent like David Davis not have been shamed and kicked out. People like him disgrace government—but those who make excuses for people like him, and allow them to continue polluting the institution, are arguably even worse. They leave a stain on everything they touch.

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Checkmate: DeepMind's AlphaZero AI clobbered rival chess app on non-level playing, er, board

Milton
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AI = Marketing = Lying

I've bored the assembled commentardsphere more than once by pointing out that there is presently no such thing as "AI" and probably won't be for at least another decade—not the "artificial intelligence" that people meant when using the term for the last 50 years, before the marketurds got their slimy hands on it, anyway.

But if even the Reg simply won't be bothered to call out this brazen misuse of the term, slapped onto anything that uses "machine learning" techniques, I guess there's little chance for the rest of the media, scientifically and technically illiterate as 97% of it is.

Let's be clear, though, that the fibs, bias and propaganda associated with the various Alpha achievements are absolutely to be expected in this context. "AI" is being relentlessly hyped and exaggerated, the label is being misused, sometimes hilariously, machine learning tech is frequently being misapplied and wasted, and everyone who might have a dollar to spend is being told they've got to have it (usually via eyewateringly awful web ads). We saw this with "cloud", when the 1970s architecture of connecting remotely to powerful computing resources was resurrected as if it was a Wonderful New Thing; we've been seeing it with the Internet of Shyte, as every greedy idiot on the planet comes up with increasingly ludicrous reasons for connecting your toaster, dog, toothbrush, greenhouse and left lower molar to the internet, thereafter to be infected by malware and used for mining {Enter This Week's New Bit Currency Here} before it steals your identity, money, wife and aforementioned dog.

If politicians and marketurds are the scourge of our age, it's because they have one thing above all else in common: lies, lies, constant lies.

And poor dog.

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Kaspersky dragged into US govt's trashcan as weaponized blockchain agile devops mulled

Milton
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Re: Sigh... it's geographical as well a geopolitical, innit.

Why is the post by Palpy being downvoted, I wonder? The key point the author makes is this—

"Eugene K. may be a helluva a good fella running an excellent technical security company. But he doesn't control his country, and his country has extraordinarily coercive leverage over anyone or anything in its domain."

—and this is of course true beyond any reasonable argument. Democracy no longer exists in Russia, after a brief post-Gorbachev flowering, the legal system is an entirely corrupted joke, any independent journalist lives in fear and political opposition is a risk to life.

So yes, when the Kremlin "requests" any damn thing it chooses, you'd better say Da.

I wouldn't be surprised if Kaspersky products are entirely clean and perhaps better than most western rivals (and they did offer sight of their source code), but it doesn't matter because where Russia is concerned (and this should be true of China and North Korea too, at least) we are looking at capabilities, not intentions.

Trump is an imbecile, and probably doesn't understand one-hundredth of what he's putting his pawprint on, but in point of fact you should not let your national security depend upon soft- or hardware which may be open to compromise by unfriendly nations.

The US (or the UK govt for that matter) should not be using Kaspersky any more than it should allow electronic components made in China into any of its secure systems. It boils down to common sense, does it not?

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Berners-Lee, Woz, Cerf: Cancel flawed net neutrality vote

Milton
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Entirely the wrong model?

I'm not against private enterprise and all in favour of people risking their cash in researching, inventing, building, manufacturing, investing and competing. The free market is a good thing provided monopolies are forbidden, healthy competition is fostered, excessive greed is punished and companies in general are reminded—forcibly when necessary—that with their rights come social responsibilities.

All of which said, I'm increasingly of the view that some services—things you could fairly describe with the term "strategic, essential national infrastructure" should not be in private hands. In the UK we have seen frankly appalling things happen since the privatisation of energy, public transport and communications.

How many of you remember when first post arrived by breakfast, and second delivery was done by 2pm? Now we're lucky to see any post at all by 3pm. Consider how much worse the rail services are now, even compared with much-maligned British Rail—the UK's rail services now being measurably worse even than Italy's, and costing far, far more. Look at the ridiculously contrived "market" in energy, where a bundle of different greedy under-investing companies all sell you exactly the same electricity and gas coming from the same sources.

IMHO, the provision of internet connectivity falls into the same category of strategic, essential national infrastructure. Competition, such as it is, has not proven particularly useful, especially given the suppliers' usual gimmick, learned from mobile phone networks, of trying to confuse customers so that simple price like-for-like comparisons cannot be made. (Funny how those who squeal loudest about the virtues of competition are always the first to try to suppress it, isn't it?)

Perhaps the answer is to integrate one robust national internet system, working similarly to how telecoms once did, with guaranteed service levels and coverage, with surpluses used for re-investment or sent to the Treasury for NHS topups, instead of siphoned off for greedy shareholders. It would quickly solve the problem of failure to invest in areas where geography and population are otherwise claimed to be unprofitable, too.

There's no good reason why this wouldn't work in the UK and the US, and it sucks the oxygen out of the neutrality debate if we do what is sensible and logical: treat the internet as a necessary public service and free it from political bullshit and greedy lobbyists.

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Microsoft asks devs for quantum leap of faith

Milton
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Overcoming a wee tad of scepticism

Like many, I suspect that while quantum computing holds promise, it's being grossly over-hyped right now (yes, like so-called AI) and, for practical results, may remain "a few years away" for a decade or two. (Indeed, there are defensible grounds for believing that true AI will not exist until quantum computing actually works to scale.)

As for Q#, which I've taken a look at (without, I may add, pretending to understand all of it during an hour's perusal!) I can make one confident prediction. Most Reg readers long since realised the truth of the fact that where coding is concerned there are indeed sheep and goats. We've all worked in places where there were both (and of course, management were incapable of understanding the difference). Now, though, I predict that we new a new animal analogy. Henceforth, we'll have to refer to sheep, goats, and ... Racehorses? Gorillas? Any ideas ...?

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Once again, UK doesn't rule out buying F-35A fighter jets

Milton
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What did I miss?

I haven't time to read every comment, sorry. So someone has probably already said—

"But F-35As are not designed for carrier ops (no arrestor, landing gear too weak)"

"The F-35C is the carrier variant designed for catapault takeoff and arrested recovery"

"The F-35C has performance (range, payload) similar to the -A and waaay better than the crappy -B"

"The F-35B is now our only option for the carriers, having flogged the 'obsolete' Sea Harriers to USMC"

"The carriers don't have and never will have CATOBAR" systems, thanks to government mind-changing repeatedly during procurement"

The RAF has rarely shared planes with the Navy because the specs of the planes are too different. In the Falklands some RAF Harriers were supplied to augment embarked Shar squadrons but that was possible only because Harriers don't need special equipment for carrier ops.

BUT the RAF will not want to cripple itself by adopting the feeble F35-B. Its payload and range are simply too crummy, in addition to all the multitude of failings shared by all F35-variants.

In short, the F-35 procurement has echoes of Brexit. A series of increasingly stupid decisions fuelled by politics, arrogance and ignorance has led us to a place where there are now no good alternatives left.

The only "good" thing about F-35 is that in any war against a competent adversary, we won't lose the carriers because of the lousy plane—we'll lose them because the carrier "battle group" will have so few escort ships, due to defence cuts, that the ships will be sunk in less than 24 hours anyway, probably by a swarm of Russian vampires.

And if these billion-dollar behemoths were not built to be able to take on a serious adversary ... why was the money spent in the first place? To blow up Tommy Taliban's 21-year-old $500 pickup in the desert, using a £800,000 missile as part of a £3.17m strike mission?

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Drone collisions with airliners may not be fatal, US study suggests

Milton
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Stating the obvious, much?

Ok, the British study was an incompetent politically motivated exercise (imagine our surprise) but it makes sense to conduct some realistic experiments, just as has been done in the past with the "chicken cannon"—which ISTR once caused a lot of damage with an un-defrosted fowl?

But I don't think we're going to learn much that common sense couldn't have told us. Yes, most impacts by small drones will be unlikely to bring an airliner down. Given we've seen 737s, 747s and others make successful landings with some big bloody holes in them, even with half the undercarriage torn away, on a couple of occasions with major damage to the control surfaces, we know that modern western airliners can take a fair bit of punishment. A drone is unlikely to hit a plane at 37,000 feet where sheer speed might magnify damage.

The real question is, what's the realistic likelihood of a worst case scenario? That would seem to be a drone being inhaled by the turbofan of a twinjet at MTOW just as or before it leaves the ground. Given that either Terrorist Bastard or a foolish amateur photographer might be responsible for such a calamity, it is worth considering. In the scenario I've described the plane should be able to continue its climbout, albeit at a reduced rate, and safely return later for landing after using up some fuel—IF the engine suffers only a contained failure, without explosion or fire or other collateral damage (e.g. to control surfaces, fuel lines, hydraulic pipes etc).

Given turbofan engines are tested literally to destruction (usually by blowing a fan blade clean off at full power in a static ground test), we can *hope* that five or six pounds of Li-Ion battery and a mess of wires and cameras will not cause an uncontained failure ... but this is surely the likeliest and riskiest scenario, so this is the one I would have expected to see tested. It would be an expensive test, so it should be done once and correctly. (IMHO I'd like to see AAIB plan and supervise it, not those clowns at Qinetiq.)

And of course it still doesn't insulate us against malice: An ordinary drone bearing three and half pounds of the hardback set of "Fifty Shades of Utter Crap" might not cause an uncontained failure ... what about our evil friend, Terrorist Bastard, if he puts a couple of kilos of tungsten shrapnel in, instead?

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Oracle rival chides UK councils for pricey database indulgence

Milton
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Pity the infected

Those who have already been bitten by the Oracle bug are mostly doomed. Oracle has been fiendishly clever in creating an interdependent ecosystem of (surprisingly poor) application suites, often adding very little value but still of course chargeable, along with and further interpenetrated with essential functionality like finance (also done startlingly badly) to feed off its database (which itself is no longer particularly competitive) and thereby ensure it cannot be binned. Buying Oracle is like swallowing an alien parasite: before you know it you are being bled dry, the tentacles extend into every vital part of your organisation and if you try to surgically remove any part of it, destruction ensues.

Very few organisations, especially those which have been sacking all their best, experienced people in favour of outsourcing to supposedly cheap employees, are remotely capable of freeing themselves from Oracle's clutches. Indeed, the outsourced ones now exist to funnel money to two parasites—Oracle and their outsourcers: though sometimes the parasites allow their hosts to keep just enough money to keep breathing.

So really we have to focus our message on those who haven't yet got the facehugger wrapped round their heads, because only they might be saved. "Run—don't walk, RUN—from that Oracle saleslizard, and we'll send a dropship for evac".

PS: A virtual pint for whoever's first with: "I say we take off, and ..."

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Russia threatens to set up its 'own internet' with China, India and pals – let's take a closer look

Milton
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Kremlin, lying? Colour me astonished ...

As the article gradually makes clear, the Kremlin's propaganda about this is fundamentally untrue: it has nothing to do with the USA blocking Russian sites. It has everything to do with Putin wanting to censor what his citizens can see and do on the net, because he has envious eye upon China's brutally repressive control of its citizens' online activity. Fact and opinion are information which, if freely shared, have always been the single greatest threat to authoritarians and dictators.

When you boil it down, Putin's desire to control his "own" internet is a simple outgrowth of the lessons of the past and the current demonstration of China's successful crushing of its own people's freedom.

And it is fundamentally driven by the same motives that cause Donald Trump to constantly denounce any media that criticises him as "fake": when you are a despotic liar, nothing frightens you more than truth.

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Night before Xmas and all through American Airlines, not a pilot was flying, thanks to this bug

Milton
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The unbeatable combination: greed and stupidity

You see it in every single corner of our societies now: the desperate and heedless grasping for lucre, coupled with dumbfounding stupidity.

In a well-managed company (there may be a few left, but I've only encountered one in the last 20 years and it was a non-profit) there are some tasks a manager naturally performs. They are not something you should automate until and unless we have true "AI", which will look and behave unlike anything currently being touted as "AI" by the marketurds.

One of those tasks—along with setting priorities, agreeing goals, organising appropriate training, resolving disputes and acting as an early-warning detector for problems, and so many non-negotiably essential other roles of the good manager—is to approve leave. The manager does this because s/he is responsible for the team's/department's overall delivery, has the best view of who is doing what, and also should have the best ability to ensure fairness in allowing time off. As anyone who's had these responsibilities knows, sometimes it can be tricky to decide who gets to take leave at particular times, when you also have to ensure sufficient resources to cover the work. Occasionally you have to make a tough call and disappoint someone. Being fair and decent and transparent about it, so that people don't feel it's arbitrary, or suspect favouritism, is a uniquely human skills, as is the soothing of ruffled feathers when someone is ticked off.

That the approval and allocation of leave requests could be assigned to an automated process—I find astonishing. Pilots have managers in the flight ops department, whose very purpose is to ensure that resourcing, rostering, training and much else is well organised to ensure a functioning machine and a satisfied work force. If that's not what they're doing, why are they employed?

This is a classic case of greed (let's save some expensive man-hours) and stupidity (give a task requiring human judgement to a chunk of code).

And, of course, as always happens when greed and stupidity come along hand in hand, the end result is that the business is less efficient in the long run, incurring additional costs because of the mess created by the original, dumb decision-making.

Whoever thought it was good idea to save money by letting code perform a human manager's tasks should now be answering some tough questions about why pilots will have to be paid 50% extra to fly planes. For an airline this size during peak season, the cost will be in the millions surely?

PS: Except, of course, the idiot who "saved" this money has most likely pocketed their "cost-saving bonus" and fled to cause another disaster somewhere else ...

11
0

SpaceX 'raises' an extra 100 million bucks to get His Muskiness to Mars

Milton
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"unfortunate penchant for explosion"

"Some SpaceX rockets have an unfortunate penchant for explosion – including the infamous Falcon 9."

42 successful missions for the Falcon 9 family, and two failures: one during climb, one which blew up before launch.

For space launches, only two failures out of 44 is pretty good.

But whatever the grown-up facts of the matter, we have have the childish "penchant for explosion" and "infamous Falcon 9", don't we?

So much to like about El Reg, except these (thankfully quite rare) moments of editorially juvenile silliness—oh, and about half the supposedly funny but, in truth, adolescent-humour headline writing.

A tip for the Reg: I don't think your readership are all late-developing spotty nerds any more. They grew up about 20 years ago. You might give it a try?

1
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Judge stalls Uber trade-secret theft trial after learning upstart 'ran a trade-secret stealing op'

Milton
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It's part of the greed culture

Companies like Uber (Airbnb being another obvious though apparently less loathsome example, or JustEat and so many others) are founded on the concept of making as much money as possible while taking as little responsibility (socially, legally, financially) as possible. They provide a technical means for People Who Want to Buy Thing to connect and pay money to People Who Can Provide Thing, and rake off some commission for having done so.

Thus Uber has no interest in the customer except as a provider of money. It has no interest in drivers except to transport customers. The connection system it does provide will be as automated and cheap as possible. The amount of money it passes on to drivers will be the least it can possibly get away with. It will fight tooth and nail to avoid being responsible for *anything*. It will try to accept no duty of care or liability to the customers. It will try to accept no duty of care of employment commitments to drivers. As far as it's concerned, everything including people is commoditised and exploited to squeeze out cash.

A business which depends upon customers getting a safe, comfortable, efficient ride for their money which accepts no responsibility to those customers. A business which depends upon drivers being rested, relaxed, competent, qualified and healthy accepts no responsibility for those drivers.

The result is a cesspit of cynical, black-hearted greed that treats people like shit and has no respect for laws, regulations or standards. It's all about the crass, ratlike pursuit of cash.

And as for Uber's seemingly nonsensical valuation? Same problem, really: greed. The investors are *not* hoping that Uber will be an efficient, safe business competing well with others (truly free markets and effective competition does not lead to obscene profits). They're hoping that their bad money will help Uber drive out the good, so that properly licensed, responsible, regulated taxi companies are pushed out and ruined, so that Uber becomes a de facto monopoly. All the billions lost so far are merely a stake in the game, which will be won back when Uber can raise prices as the only game in town.

And guess what? Even when Uber is a monopoly and using one of their rides costs you more than it ever did ... the drivers will still be paid and treated like shit.

It surely can't be a surprise, then, that this kind of corporate culture leads to other vile business practices.

15
1

£160m ploughed into 5G is a fair sum. Shame the tech doesn't really exist

Milton
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Ah, political speak

"... minister Matt Hancock, who earlier this month said he has travelled all over the world and has yet to see a country as far ahead with 5G trials as the UK ..."

Presumably "I have yet to see" means "I didn't look properly, to enable me to lie with plausible deniability".

I'll add this to my Translation Guide to Politicians' Statements, which already includes such gems as—

"I mis-spoke" = "I lied and got caught doing it"

"My words have been taken out of context" = "I lied a LOT"

"I don't recognise that {incriminating} interpretation" = "I'm gonna keep lying till the proof is published"

and the all-time weasel—

"I apologise if some people took offence" = "I'm too much of a turd to apologise honestly for my offensive behaviour"

6
0

Watchkeeper drones cost taxpayers £1bn

Milton
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Not an encouraging read

Am I the only one to find these two statements, applied to the same aircraft, mildly troubling?

" ... two drones were written off after they mysteriously flopped into the sea ..."

"... have successfully conducted a test flight in civilian-controlled non-segregated UK airspace ..."

Compared to the US, the British military has a relatively relaxed tempo of killing civilians by colliding with civil aircraft, and I do hope this isn't about to change just because some nitwits at Defence are hypnotised by new technology (which is sexy and *must* be deployed—rather like the Internet of Shit—because it's new and shiny, even if fundamentally useless).

8
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Rolls-Royce, Airbus, Siemens tease electric flight engine project

Milton
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"powered by batteries and an onboard generator using jet fuel"

"The BAe 146 demo aircraft will at first have one of its four gas turbine engines replaced with an electric engine, powered by batteries and an onboard generator using jet fuel. The team will then move to two electric engines once the technology is stable."

So—what's the point? A gas turbine generator, like the APU that provides auxiliary power for every modern airliner, is a machine for turning kerosene into electrical power. It's generally some form of turboshaft system. The turbofan engines you see under the wings of modern airliners are also a form of turboshaft, increasingly so depending on the bypass ratio: the more cold air shovelled round the core, proportionally the more work the fan is doing and less of the thrust comes directly from hot jet exhaust.

Which leads to the obvious question: why use a kerosene fuelled gas turbine to generate electricity which you're then going to turn fans/props with, when you've already got a system for doing it *without* a generator and electric motors?

Today's high bypass turbofans run at extremely high core temperatures to achieve unprecedented fuel efficiency. A gas turbogenerator will sacrifice some efficiency in converting its energy to electricity, and electric motors will sacrifice some in turning the freshly-minted electricity back into rotational energy. It's extremely difficult to see how you'll get more fuel efficiency by introducing extra conversion losses.

The only light I can see here is if the turbogenerator has outstanding efficiency for recapture of energy and/or the engine's fans/props are regenerative, e.g. generating some electricity during descent. But I confess I am still deeply sceptical. What am I missing? Perhaps this is intended only for relatively slow, smallish prop planes ...?

(And what kind of phenomenal electric motor can keep up with a turbofan pushing over a tonne of air every second—up to 100,000lb thrust?)

24
5

Bulletproof Coffee lacks bulletproof security: Nerd brain juice biz hacked, cards gulped

Milton
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"Maybe the Darwin Awards need a sub-section"

You're on to something there.

Q: How to raise the population's average IQ by weeding the stupid from the gene pool?

A: Create lots of ridiculous food and drink fads, with basically pointless idiocies like, oh, say, internet-connected kettles; expensive machines to squeeze juice for you; "special" anti-oxidant smoothies that are actually less healthy than just eating fresh fruit (but ten times the cost); or some absurd wheeze to sell coffee with added fat ... and include the newly Crispr'd virus which silently brings on sterility.

Catch enough nitwits with more money than sense *before* they've had a chance to breed, and you have a brilliant way to improve the gene pool and get rich.

For ages I've been wondering what was the point behind all these imbecilically superficial fads—now I take my hat off to the cunning genius of this diabolical plot.

5
0

Thou shalt use our drone app, UK.gov to tell quadcopter pilots

Milton
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And about those ads

About those ads, he said, veering wildly off topic—the next article which stimulates a shytestorm of criticism at the atrocious quality of internet advertising will include a fair number of sobbing "I told you so" lines from the commentardsphere: because the current Rackspace ad on this site, with its ghastly jerky-sliding faces and the saccharine copy "Look, our staff have actual names" is ... simply unspeakable. It is the perfect example of how woefully misguided online marketing can be.

Boy, I hope Rackspace had to pay a LOT to manure our eyeballs with that crud.

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Milton
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Polices the irresponsible, perhaps: not the wicked

I can see this may minimise the idiot brigade who think it's clever to fly drones near airports. But we're all aware that it's easy to buy pretty much all the modularised tech needed to build your own fully functional drones and, furthermore, build them to your specific and possibly nefarious purposes. If you know how to build a timer-detonator circuit for a bomb (and not die) you're certainly capable of learning how to build your own drone.

And that should be a worry. Because a big drone that needs to fly only for two or three minutes can carry a sizeable payload of explosives or even just ball bearings and shrapnel to instantly trash the rotating parts of a turbofan engine. This law won't necessarily stop evildoers who fancy flying their home-made drone straight into a jet's turbofan intake at 150 feet as it climbs away—something that *shouldn't* kill everyone on board but *would* create terror, fear, disruption and so on. Losing an engine, even with a contained failure, at full MTOW during climbout is not remotely funny, and a shrapnel-filled payload might even cause an uncontained failure: nightmare.

It's our good fortune that today's "terrorists" are disaffected losers whose level of evil sophistication is restricted to driving 4x4s into crowds: what a technically capable one might achieve should frighten us all.

To defeat that kind of smarter terrorist, we'll need a lot more joined-up thinking than "require every Joe Pleb to have a drone licence".

4
3

A certain millennial turned 30 recently: Welcome to middle age, Microsoft Excel v2

Milton
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"the dodgy Google/Libre duo"

"There's little that Excel did that I cannot accomplish with one of the dodgy Google/Libre duo"

What's "dodgy" about them? I don't use anything provided by Google except its Translate page, as a matter of principle, but I wasn't aware that people considered it dodgy.

I'm a heavy user of the Libre suite (not Database or Presentation, but only because I don't have any need of them), and find it powerful, reliable and nicer to work with than MS stuff. Given that it doesn't spy on me, steal personal information, runs locally with no need for internet and seamlessly secures my data, I'd say Libre is by many definitions much *less* dodgy than either Office or Google.

20
3

Mythical broadband speeds to plummet in crackdown on ISP ads

Milton
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Cognitive dissonance?

So one speck of good news—that ISPs will be compelled to tell fewer barefaced lies when conning their customers—is matched by a spot of (let's face it, much more predictable) stupidity:

'CAP's sister body, the Advertising Standards Authority, also today ruled that it is not materially misleading to describe broadband services that use fibre-optic cables for only part of the connection as "fibre broadband"'

—because no matter how many miles of fibre there are, the choke point will always be the non-fibre section, which makes non-fibre the most significant part of the entire connection. Even if you've got just six feet of non-fibre, that's going to be the bottleneck. You'd think that even the dozy pillocks at Advertising Standards would comprehend this and insist that providers cannot describe a connection as "fibre", with the clear implication you'll get fibre speeds, if in fact you will get speeds limited to non-fibre transport.

If Nissan market a new car as having a top speed of 180 mph when it's got a governor on the engine that limits it to 110mph, will Advertising Standards tell us that's ok?

0
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Arm Inside: Is Apple ready for the next big switch?

Milton
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Re: Complete rethink

I'm rarely averse to seeing the results of some clever folks doing a "complete rethink"—in fact, it's a healthy thing to do in almost any discipline every couple of decades or so, because it shakes things up, old assumptions get challenged, and cruft gets ditched.

If there is a requirement for rethinking computer architecture—and I am doubtful right now only because it seems to me that the subject is getting a lot of attention anyway—then indeed it should focus on security, because that is one of the things we're doing incredibly badly. But it's not the *only* thing we're getting wrong: bloat and inefficiency are appalling too. With the help of Moore's Law, we the IT community have been complicit in creating systems and software which are unnecessarily, crazily complex and which use a hundred times more resources in CPU cycles and memory than is required for many tasks. Ok, we're not in the days of writing assembler printer drivers for 6502s, and no one doubts the usefulness of libraries and full-featured OSs and a host of daemons, but it's far too easy to find yourself creating a 400Mb package of code to do something which, if you'd had to do it 25 years ago, would have run to 200kb. We're writing monstrously obese code to run on porcine operating systems, and—to come full circle—that makes things so complex that we're also constantly building in security defects. Complexity is the enemy of reliability and security.

Some famous engineer is reported to have told his disciples: "Simplify, and add lightness". Damn right. That's the kind of rethink I'd love to see.

As for security vs science, I respectfully suggest that may be missing the point. The last three major projects I worked on (two on encryption, one molecular modelling), all three eventually ran their computing work on a shedload of GPUs, and two of them required air-gapped systems in a basement. My (admittedly subjective, limited) perception is that if you're doing scienc-y stuff, it's very complex and needs a ton of security too.

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Uber: Hackers stole 57m passengers, drivers' info. We also bribed the thieves $100k to STFU

Milton
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You could knock us down with a feather ...

You could knock us down with a feather ... because we are all SO surprised that Uber turns out to be a bunch of scummy, greedy, unprincipled liars.

Still, Uber's constant haemorrhage of dishonest, avaricious, amoral, disgraced executives means there'll be a plentiful supply of exactly the kind of people suited to Congress.

5
0

Twitter's blue tick rule changes may lower the sueball barrier

Milton
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Are Twatterers *that* stupid?

So users of the "infamous online cesspit" were, to the great astonishment of absolutely no one, so stupid that they misinterpreted the blue tick of "confirmed identity" as "we like this 140 characters of superficial tripe".

They continued with this erroneous and simple-minded misconception despite being repeatedly told "No, no, no, it ain't so".

Their stubborn brainlessness eventually led the cesspit to say "Hey, you idiots were right all along".

Was it beyond the imagination of said cesspit's managers to dream up a different way of indicating verified identify—something incredibly difficult to come up with, like, say, a little icon saying "ID'd"—and, if they felt the need to stick their necks out, re-purpose a more obvious "Like/Don't Like" icon for approval?

Yeah, I'm being a wee tad sarcastic but really—this level of dumbness over a frakking little *tick*??

We *knew* Twatterers were mostly egotistical time-wasting morons, and we knew that even before the Cretin-in-Chief started manuring the world with his "thoughts", but until now it wasn't quite so obvious that the company's management fell into the same category ...

7
0

SagePay's monster wobble... On the third day of sale week, UK retailers start to weep

Milton
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"Oh for a reliable, sensibly-priced online payments system"

"The problem is that most of the others are almost as bad. Oh for a reliable, sensibly-priced online payments system. And a sensible way to see what they charge."

Quite so. But as someone else said, as soon as such a system gets enough traction, one of the big lousy providers comes along and makes an offer, the investors in the decent new system sell out, and what was good, having now been swallowed for its captive customer base, soon turns to shit.

Although it's not confined to the internet world, there is a truism that seems to happen online faster than elsewhere: Bad money drives out Good.

8
0

New UK aircraft carrier to be commissioned on Pearl Harbor anniversary

Milton
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Re: Coffinships

"Previous Prince of Wales was obsolescent and sunk by the Japs in a few hours. Present could be taken out by Chinese missiles designed to sink far better protected US carrires)"

The previous PoW wasn't obsoloscent by the standards of the day—she'd been built comparatively recently and I think you'll find she was still fitting-out in 1941, with civilian contractors aboard, when sent into action against the Bismarck (she was present at the battle of Denmark Strait when Hood was unexpectedly and abruptly sunk).

OTOH, you may be making a more general reference to the obsolescence of battleships in a carrier era, in which you are undoubtedly correct. Until (arguably) the Battle of Midway, both Axis and Allies were still somewhat influenced by the Mahanist doctrine of The Decisive Battle fought between combatants' biggest capital ships—a view pushed by one Alfred Thayer Mahan (who, amusingly, wasn't a very good sailor) even before the Battle of Tsushima Strait in (Russia-v-Japan 1907 I think) seemed to reinforce the lesson.

What's interesting is that while popular belief has it that Pearl harbor's carriers, on the day of the Japanese attack, were missing by incredible luck, they would not necessarily have been Yamamoto's first targets: because he too believed the Mahanist doctrine about battleships. From a 1941 perspective, it was still possible to imagine only one outcome if a bloody great battleship got within gunnery range of a flattop.

Yamamoto is rightly regarded as a smart cookie, especially compared to the egregious buttheads who constituted most of the rest of the Nipponese military, but even he didn't realise that sinking battleships was a mis-step, that carriers would have been much better, or that—even with the carriers missing—he would have achieved more by destroying Pearl Harbor's facilities and tank farm, gutting the US Pacific Fleet's fuel, ammunition, resupply and maintenance capabilities. I forget which of his admirals made the fateful decision not to send in a further wave of strikes against those facilities while they still had the light, but it may well have been a critical error.

To topic (sorry), yes, the new QE and PoW are massive floating targets. Even if they finally operate a few of the wretched F-35s (with their appallingly limited range, payload and manoueverability), cuts have savaged what would have been the carriers' escorts. There simply aren't enough other surface ships to keep them alive against a vampire assault by a competent foe. Russia or China have sea-skimming cruise missiles which, in a serious conflict, reduce UK carriers' life expectancy to mere hours.

12
0

Amazon Key door-entry flaw: No easy fix to stop rogue couriers burgling your place unseen

Milton
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But everything is hackable

Why would anyone in their right mind allow any third party to remotely open their front door?

Because you trust an internet giant? Because you trust their security to guarantee their system is never hacked? That some wiseacre won't unlock 5,000 front doors in West London for the hell of it (or because he's got 50 very busy friends with large vans)?

I'd point out that pretty much all the risk is borne by the consumer, and for what? So that Amazon saves a few pence per item in delivery time?

The privacy and security that people are prepared to give away in the name of trifling, often illusory convenience leaves me dumbstruck.

People say we live in the Age of Stupid, mostly a phrase that's come into relevance since the US presidential election. But I wonder if it's more accurate to call it the Age of the Lemming.

4
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Kaspersky: Clumsy NSA leak snoop's PC was packed with malware

Milton
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What's implausible ...

Notwithstanding the irritating posts that appear to be firmly grinding axes one way or the other, the thing that most surprises me is that a NSA staffer would be working on *anything* at home—or indeed, anywhere that isn't at the office. I don't know NSA's policy specifically, but I can't be the only commentard with some trifling insight into how similar agencies work, and I would be astounded to hear that NSA allows folks to work from home—there should be nothing on an NSA employee's personal devices that even hints what she does for a living, much less scraps of code from her current project. There's a reason Ft Meade has a car park the size of Delaware. A vanishingly small number of senior employees will have dedicated connections and kit in their homes, which will be swept regularly and security audited to a fare-thee-well. A slightly larger number will have thoroughly encrypted mobile devices for field ops (and I'd expect those to be treated much the same way as guns in the Army: you don't take 'em off the premises without approval and are signed back in while still warm). But that's pretty much it.

For me, the "WFH" part of the Kaspersky story doesn't make sense. I'm not imputing any evil motives to them, but I don't need to: isn't it simply common sense these days, not to use Russian or Chinese stuff? For the person who asked "Who to trust? NSA or Kaspersky?", the answer IS easy: neither.

And while I'm yammering, a final thought: again, I'll be astonished if NSA itself does not keep a minutely close eye on its employees' use of internet, their deployment of security products, even browsing habits. Surely using a pirated Windows would have earned the offending party an interview without coffee, at the least??

9
1

The Quantum of Firefox: Why is this one unlike any other Firefox?

Milton
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Rolling back after 8 hours

Despite having a tonne of memory and cores I was happy to give a new Firefox a chance, and I even made a supposedly helpful posting soon after about keeping bookmark folders handy.

It's taken eight hours on and off at the PC today for me to give up and roll back. The utterly pointless cosmetic changes were ... tolerable: stupid, but tolerable. Having to use Customise to put things back where I've got used to them was irritating, but possibly worth 20 minutes of faffing.

Minor annoyances, magnified by the fact that they all appear to have been done for sake of making changes rather than any actual purpose. Still minor, though.

But finding that when I open a new tab, expecting to find my default home page, instead getting some "popular websites" crap ... last straw. Yes, I've poked around to see if there is a "open new tabs at home page instead of shit" option, but if it's there it's nicely hidden, and life is short ... so, sorry Firefox—while I'll never touch Google with a long spoon, you've made it that little bit more likely I'll look out for a new browser.

Here's a radical thought (sorry for the caps, I'm having a YouTube moment):

WHEN SOMETHING WORKS—LEAVE IT THE F*** ALONE.

6
0
Milton
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Re: auto aupgrade

"... its buggered up my bookmarks. they used to be all tidy in folders. now they aint!"

I thought that too, at first. But it turns out that they're all there in the Bookmarks menu, and if, like me, you prefer the folders handy on the toolbar, use Customise to bring the Show Your Bookmarks button onto the bar (it looks like a star sitting in a tray, who on Earth knows why). The default button, which is hilariously supposed to represent books leaning against one another, seems a bit useless.

Why Mozilla feel the need to prat about with pointless redesigns of buttons or the radiusing of tabs I have no idea. It's surely a no-brainer, here in 2017, to leave the defaults alone and simply encourage users to load Themes to give them the appearance they want?

It might be faster and less hungry, but on this machine (8 cores and 32Gb RAM) it makes no difference. Be nice if the Android experience is less crap, though.

4
0

80-year-old cyclist killed in prang with Tesla Model S

Milton
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Re: The Man Who Fell To Earth

" ... It's is likely that it was traveling at a substantial speed ..."

You're speculating about speed when there is no evidence whatsoever, yet, of the speed of either party, or why or how the accident happened. We might just as easily speculate that the cyclist failed to stop while crossing a road and piled into the side of a stationary Tesla—but no reporting has told us *anything* so it would be equally stupid to start assigning "probabilities".

The incontinent spraying of uninformed theories and blame at this point, some of it betraying nothing more than witless axe-grinding, should put Reg readers to shame.

1
1

How can airlines stop hackers pwning planes over the air? And don't say 'regular patches'

Milton
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Beware the idiots

Beware the idiots (some in the national security apparatus; many politicians, though it's a tautology in their case) who would like to be able to remotely take control of an aircraft suspected of being hijacked. The topic has been revisited by morons several times since 9/11, and more recently MH370's disappearance.

And if you think that can't happen, there are greedy airline bosses who have seriously suggested reducing flight crew to *one* pilot, and even wondered aloud if they could allow plans to be completely automated¹.

Now, Reg readers are smart enough to know that when an robocar fails, it can fail-over to drift to an embarrassing stop at the side of the road, at the small risk of maybe four or five people; whereas a roboplane may fail into the ground at 500 kts, at the major risk of 600 people (in the aircraft alone). It's an important difference, but greedmongering executives and imbecile politicians are easily blinded by cash and flattery, so ... like I said, beware ...

¹ Yes, the obnoxious pillock O'Leary: how did you know?

10
1

Sure, Face ID is neat, but it cannot replace a good old fashioned passcode

Milton
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It's all about Purpose

Apple are not the only manufacturer to use their marketurds to deliberately confuse and mislead customers, so this is not an anti-Apple dig except insofar as it is the most high-profile recent offender.

The problem is that fingerprints and face-id are not only not the same as PIN, they are actually for different purposes. It's a mistake (a deliberate one by Apple et al) to conflate "*quick* access for me" with "access *only* when I approve".

Fingerprints and face-id provide a means of quick access which works for the user while making it unlikely that anyone else in the vicinity can get the same ready access to the device. Some effort is required to copy fingerprints, and bit more still to replicate faces. It's perfectly obvious that both are insecure given that the Stasi can physically coerce you into swiping a finger, or even more easily just wave your own phone at your face, to unlock. More sophisticated black hats can copy prints and so on, which makes both technologies quite useless for those with real secrets, against whom professional resources would be worth deploying.

PIN, on the other hand, while being inherently slower and more fiddly, fills the "access *only* when I approve" purpose. Using a 10-digit mixed-alpha-symbo-numeric passcode gives you around 3 sextillion options (3x10^18) which, even if we assumed the phone's code was so poor as to allow endlessly repeated tries every millisecond, would take a mean time of over 40 million years to successfully brute-force. And of course, while the Stasi can fingernail the PIN out of you, that requires time and effort and some damage, a risk and investment that goes far beyond simply waving the device's camera at you. Even Trump's imbeciles at Homeland Security know better than to leave torture marks on journalists. (And of course, a properly secure device will allow a purposely incorrect passcode to permanently wipe its contents, so that the paranoids and spooks can trash the data even while the splints burn down to the quick.)

So I submit that we're missing the point with blanket dismissal of fingerprint or face-id, and should be more specific in our criticism.

Face-id and fingerprint are fine for quick, easy access and very poor security.

Long, random PIN/passcode, well implemented on an properly encrypted device that does not allow repeated rapid brute-forcing, is the only truly secure system if you really need secrecy.

And bear in mind—no one should need to be told this in 2017—leaving stuff on your mobile device like bank details, stored passwords, automatic logins, may well count as "needing secrecy". You don't necessarily need to be a spook or a Guardian journalist.

The enemy of decent security is laziness, when you come down to it.

6
1

Metal 3D printing at 100 times the speed and a twentieth of the cost

Milton
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Revolutionary!

Many of the somewhat carping comments here seem to have either not finished reading the article—which does *not* pretend that every form of metal-object manufacturing will be obsolete next year—or are focussed on high-strength, high-durability use cases which are, for the moment, excluded. Yes, it probably will be a while before we're making trustworthy HP turbine blades using 3D printing, but in the meantime I think I go along with another commenter who suggested that this new facility would be a really useful extra capability to supplement all the other stuff we do currently.

I was particularly struck by the point about reducing the number of moving parts in certain assemblies. Let's think of that as "separately manufactured and then tediously linked together" parts, and it becomes easier to see why a 100-piece assembly might be functionally replicated as a 10-piece one. The article itself makes the point that a functioning hinge can be printed as an integral item, instead of making the base plates, pins, then slotting them together etc, and when you consider the mechanical complexity of some bits of machinery ... it's not difficult to see why imagination and ingenuity can let you replace an item that once required 100 different bits to be made and assembled by something requiring only 10. I'd be surprised if young engineers will not find ways to massively improve on traditional designs, producing equivalent functionality cheaper, lighter and better. Not every metal engineered part has to support a London bus.

In passing, mention of Nasa immediately made me think of Item One in the packing list for the next manned Moon or Mars-shot: a couple of top-end multi-material 3D printers, a tonne of various ingots, and the data needed to repair or remanufacture every critical part of the spaceship, suits, habitats—to be used by astronauts/colonists who've been trained to design and make new stuff as needed, too.

Plus, of course, the data and materials needed to make additional 3D printers ;-)

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