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* Posts by Milton

649 posts • joined 14 Jun 2016

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

Milton
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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.

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

Milton
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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
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"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.

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

Milton
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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
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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
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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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First it was hashtags – now Amber Rudd gives us Brits knowledge on national ID cards

Milton
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"If even that question stumps you ..."

"The one-time Tory leadership contender, who fell from grace amid the Windrush scandal, begun by asking how often people clear their cookies. 'If even that question stumps you I suggest you get a tutorial,' she said adversarially – which seems a bit rich from the person who didn't know the difference between hashing and hashtags."

The problem, Ms Rudd, is that you have already repeatedly demonstrated that you are (a) not awfully bright, (b) not very knowledgeable about technology—or indeed anything else, based on the evidence of your career and remarks thus far, (c) display authoritarian instincts through breezy and often ignorant dismissals of what are, in fact, issues at the very core of a free society, and (d) cannot articulate an evidence-based case for the benefits or cost-effectiveness of what you are asking for.

Your relentless vague blather may suit Mme Tussaud's Dumpster Collection propped up on the Tory back benches, but it cuts no ice whatever with people who actually understand the technical issues and care about the true consequences of your proposals.

For one thing, those who have observed governments over the past 35 years—the period since the mid-80s when Career Politicians began to parasitise everything, and governments forgot that they did not exist solely to provide corporate welfare—know that any extra powers are always abused. It has become a fact of life. When even local councils are exploiting anti-terror laws to spy on folks' wheelie bins you know that the cat is entirely out of the bag.

You cannot keep repeating "Those with nothing to hide have nothing to fear" with a scrap of credibility. Successive governments' actions clearly prove otherwise. A tool of criminal investigation becomes a tool of repression in the blink of an eye. In short, no one but a naïve fool would trust you.

I doubt that as many as 25% of El Reg readers¹ could be less intelligent and knowledgeable than you, Ms Rudd—it's one of the depressing aspects of modern life that, whereas once we could respect politicians, even those we disagreed with, now we regard them with the contempt they earn daily through stupidity, ignorance and dishonesty. Bluntly, we see right through you and your claptrap.

So please, stop mouthing. Just go away. Find some socially productive employment suited to your abilities. I daresay you and Mr Johnson might, for example, make a formidable team cleaning Euston's public toilets? He can quote Classics while scrubbing diligently. You could learn to conjugate.

¹ And probably no more than 75% of Mail or Express readers, even, which allows us to position you informatively on the Mouthbreather Index, too.

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$200bn? Make that $467bn: Trump threatens to balloon proposed bonus China tech tariffs

Milton
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"bean counters who value ... index of growth"

"I think, from what I've been reading, constant growth is not a demand of modern economics ( which hasn't really changed that much) but of modern commerce . i.e. bean counters who value companies on an index of growth rather than earnings."

Broadly correct. I've written elsewhere about the appalling damage done by allowing bean-counters to have management responsibilties, but in truth, in this case, they are merely a symptom of a much larger problem wherein everyone focuses on what can be crudely measured instead of looking at more subtle, nuanced indicators of "goodness".

A brief story. Late 90s, IT boom, Yrs Truly is "Director, CRM and EAI" (actually one step below Board level) for a youngish consultancy in the City of <100 pretty good, skilled developers, architects, technologists etc. (Job title sounds bigger than the responsibilities.) Lots of recent senior recruiting, two utter first-rate Mongs have found their way into the Board, for Marketing and Finance. Founders consideirng IPO, got starry-eyed at recruiting "credible, heavyweight, highly-paid individuals" and fell prey to propaganda instead of shrewd assessment of past performance.

A certain level of IPO greed is kicking in so lots of poeple can become rich overnight. Many fancily printed potentially lucrative share entitlements are printed and distributed. But the problems (not least, inevitable bubble bursting) are in sight, for those with the wit to see it.

The City, it appears, will magic a successful IPO if quarterly revenue and profits steadily increase. There can be only a steady rise. Nothing else is tolerable. Abruptly, management types like me are being pressed to put in lots of billable hours. Abruptly, further hires are stalled. Abruptly, investment in training, research, in-house dev and anything else of long-term value is stopped. Personally I cannot properly manage, motivate and look after a young and eager team if I am also putting in too many billable hours—so my team's morale, coherence and performance—their belief—immediately starts to suffer. To Board I submit presentations predicting how and why this will hurt us badly in the months to come, as project quality degrades, deadines are missed, mistakes made, people leave. I actually show one slide showing the collapse in revenues for the next quarter. (Later turns out to be bang on, sadly.) Barely any reaction. No one cares. Maybe no one believes it. The only goal is "More revenue, by any means, and cut costs to keep profits 'growing'".

A few months later many staff (the better ones, of course) are leaving almost daily. Contributory factors include widespread incredulity about Marketing Idiot's mouth and foot problem, and the Finance Fool picking ill-informed fights with clients, who then decline to pay (and I didn't blame them). One of Finance Fool's favourite sayings, always glibly thrown out there, about staff who might not be billing maximum hours next month: "Can 'em. Just can 'em." (None of the people he wishes to "can" have less than a 30-point IQ advantage on him.) But the worst damage is done by the abrupt short term obsession with quarterly figures, which damages absolutely everything in the operation, including the morale of what used to be good, future-oriented teams of expert young developers.

Older, wiser, collecting my embarrasingly fat redundancy payment many months later, I pointed out neutrally that this was all entirely predictable. The answer: "Why didn't you say so?"

No IPO. Company blown away like a tumbleweed nearly 20 years ago. It could have survived well, grown slowly and spasmodically, learned along the way, probably eventually sold out handsomely to one of the BigX consultancies ... where, admittedly, it would have been infected by their own brand of greed and incompetence, but the founders would have got their payoff.

Instead, shortsighted greed and a moronically counterproductive obsession with just a couple of numbers, completely destroyed it.

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Dear America: Want secure elections? Stick to pen and paper for ballots, experts urge

Milton
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In short, the British system

Oddly enough, the relatively primitive and mostly manual system, as used in the UK, is highly secure and would work perfectly well in the US. Population size is less of a problem than wide geographic distribution, but it doesn't really matter if some regions return results after 48 hours. The "chain of evidence" approach to marking, collecting, transporting and counting ballots, and doing this in a way that always allows for independent observation, makes it very hard to interfere in a British election—especially to do so in a hidden way. That last point is important.

The ballot machines used in a number of US states are not only woefully insecure insofar as their counting can be tampered with, but worse, much worse—this can be done in such a way that the very act itself can then be concealed. Even if there is suspicion of a rigged vote, what can you do about it, if there is no alternate means of checking? Without a backup paper-receipt approach, there is no way to know how a vote was rigged or how to correct it—even, indeed, if you had 100% certainty that it was rigged.

The British system may seem quaint, but not only is it reliable, any attempt to subvert it would require hands-on interference which would be eyewateringly difficult to conceal. An internet-based attack by some GRU goons in Leningrad is relatively deniable. There may be no apparent physical interference. On the other hand, a conspiracy of balaclava'd thugs at a polling station or a returning centre is kind of hard to overlook.

Ultimately: on the one hand you have the marketurds, lobbyists and other assorted paid liars from the voting machine manufacturers, plus the gullible morons they are selling to. On the other you have the independent, evidence-based, rational, logical reasoning of experts. There's no real question, among adults, about who is right, or why. The question is only whether gullible morons have any shame.

Since they are frequently politicans, and they don't even have enough brains or humility to realise they are gullible morons ... well, I'm not holding out much hope.

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I've seen the future of consumer AI, and it doesn't have one

Milton
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So-called "AI"

El Reg, by comparison with ordinary, mostly dunder-headed news outlets, actually knows enough to be perfectly well aware that there is not yet any such thing as "Artificial Intelligence"—unless the meaning of the word "intelligence" is cut back to its smallest conceivable level ... as in, say, "the intelligence of the US president", where we would expect it to be equivalent to that of yesterday's roadkill.

So perhaps the Reg has a duty, as a responsible organ, to style the term as "AI" in quotes, or better still to write: "so-called 'AI'".

The term is so completely misused that it has lost any meaning. All the world's supercomputers standing in a line still cannot simulate in real time the mind of a Staffordshire Bull Terrier: the idea that so-called 'AI' usefully exists in Google, Facebook, Fort Meade, your phone, toothbrush or iShite, is a completely ridiculous con for the absurdly gullible and uninformed. Complicated algorithms can process photos and sounds, and do some impressive things in other extremely circumscribed, rules-based, confected environments, like playing Go—but not one of them could hold a worthwhile, convincing, wide-ranging and empathetic conversation with you.

Training a computer the size of a garage with several hundred cores to trawl through twenty petabytes of data using terabytes of RAM to manage something previously achieved by the litre of blue jelly inside my head is impressive—in computer terms.

In terms of the incredible versatility of a human brain ... meh, it doesn't even shift the needle.

So take a deep breath, Reg, and help to inoculate the world against this constant diarrhoea of marketing nonsense. It is not AI. There is no AI. There won't be any AI for another decade or two. There's just big computers with lots of data, doing a few very, very specific things really fast. There is only "so-called 'AI'".

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Thunderstruck: Azure Back in Black(out) after High Voltage causes Flick of the Switch

Milton
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How odd ...

How odd ...

... that when modem'ing into the university mainframe in 1981, a lightning strike in Texas didn't stop me working.

... that when developing a C++/ASM module to support an airline Clipper application in 1993, the weather in America didn't bring everything down.

... that while working on an 800Mpx 5-layer image yesterday on my four-year-old desktop PC, some rain 4,000 miles away didn't bring me to my knees.

The efficiency, robustness, reliability and security of 'cloud' is truly a wonderful thing. Until you find that you're paying for latency, sluggishness, mysterious interruptions, literally endless excuses and get-out clauses, and single points of failure arising from the inclusion of absurdly over-complicated and often unnecessary systems, all of which, when you come down to it, are primarily contrived to extract money from you, hold your data to ransom, entrap your business's livelihood, spy on you and steal your IP.

Go right ahead, make yourself dependent on this or that monopolistic internet giant. Tell yourself they have your best interests at heart. Wait till you've foolishly let yourself become dependent, wriggling on the punji sticks of their 'ecosystem'. And when they put the prices up to whatever doesn't quite bankrupt you, squeal as loud as you like.

Better still, make sure you grabbed that 'cost-saving' bonus last year and ran for the hills ...

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If you weren't rich enough to buy a Surface before, you may as well let that dream die

Milton
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Not rich enough to keep getting it fixed

"Rich" is relative, but ok, we were "rich" enough to get a Surface for my daughter to use at college. But we weren't rich enough in time and patience to keep sending the blasted thing back for replacement, downloading and creating bootable USB sticks, refreshing and resetting the OS, painstakingly restoring backups or mourning lost data. That long-since-finally-dead Surface now gathers dust and is mistaken, during domestic mining ops, for a tablemat. It is of no greater use.

So my daughter has been using a little rose-gold Apple laptop without a word of complaint for two years now.

You don't need to be rich enough to afford a Surface. You need to be rich enough to survive the experience of owning one, paying an excess of blood and tears and then buying something else that you can trust to work reliably.

(Some will claim that new Surfaces are more reliable—but like any badly-burned customer my answer is "Don't care now. That dodo flew into the sunset long ago.")

There is now just one Microsoft-branded piece of hardware, an Xbox, in this house, while from Apple (which our family of four all regard as eyewateringly over-priced) three phones, four tablets, three laptops, one bleedin great thing I don't know the name of on my wife's desk, plus an uncountable assortment of watches and ear-bud thingies. I don't use any of 'em (I don't even particularly like Apple), but ... the Family Has Spoken. They bought MS: a shite experience. They buy Apple: stuff just works.

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Microsoft takes a pruning axe to Skype's forest of features

Milton
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Try just *asking* the users

Although big tech and its enthusiasts keep wittering on about "innovation", there is actually very little of that going on. It is not "innovating" to find yet another field where an app can be levered in as a parasitic intermediary between a service and a customers (taxis, food, room lets, what's next?). It is not "innovating" to add yet another CPU core to the dozen or so already shoehroned onto a die. It is not "innovating" to make incremental performance improvements to a phone or a laptop or a tablet. And it certainly was not "innovating" to take a relatively simple application that just does what it says on the tin and slap on endless pointless and unwanted frills, furbelows and witless nods to social media.

Microsoft could have asked Skype users what they wanted from the application and what improvements were needed ... but I'm afraid if you gave MS devs, marketurds and UI folks the design for a hammer—which has been basically the same for 10,000 years—they'd "innovate" and "improve" it to the point where (a) it was difficult to use it to drive nails in, and (b) the blinking lights and paisley-themed interface used too much battery power.

I was so disgusted by the v8 Skype "up"grade that I reinstalled 7.44 on my phone and have killed autoupdates to stop it rising from the grave again.

I suspect the problem is (as ever) that Skype is supposedly free, meaning that corporate greedmongers are obsessively looking for ways to monetise it. As with social media and search, a great many problems, ranging from usability to data privacy, would be solved if you simply had to pay for the software. Give MS a $10 credit and get 500 hours of calls or something. The pressure to tinker with the app would largely evaporate, and even better, would be driven only by what rivals could successfully offer, and that would mean only what customers actually prove to desire.

(Paying for Skype and ensuring it couldn't become part of a data-collection 'monetise the user' paradigm would improve the product and encourage rivals to emerge for true competition, and this is also true of other currently "free" services. The solution to many search and social media problems is right there, too ...)

Let me guess: even as I write some jackass is patenting the WebiHammer™, an Internet Of Shite-connected "nail driving innovation" which connects to an app to provide real-time user feedback about the force and strength of blows, with affiliate links to online nail purchasing opportunities. Worse, the USPTO will grant that patent.

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Huawei's Alexa-powered AI Cube wants to squat in your living room too

Milton
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Countermeasures

If innocent consumers trying to buy home electronics for one purpose find it increasingly infected with monitoring devices, there will be a growth market for countermeasures—by which I mean, going beyond any manufacturer's "promises" that you can opt-out, or that they won't really be listening because you asked them nicely, or that the mic is really off-switchable, or in fact trusting a single word on the subject of personal privacy or respect for your rights uttered by the likes of Google, Amazon, Facebook and the rest of the vampires.

I can see this ranging from clumsy guarantee-busting physical switches, through neater methods like magnetic or tilt switches (place device at 10° incline, mic and camera connection severed) all the way to subliminal noise generators which sit next to the suspect device and act to cancel voice sounds, or clutter the spectrum, or even feed in constant sotto voce gibberish. Perhaps the network-minded will find ways to block packets containing outgoing audio data from specific devices (hm, could be extremely tricky to implement). It'll go beyond the piece of tape stuck over your webcam.

Indeed, how long before the boxes are emblazoned with "Super High Res, Ultra Shiny, Surround Audio, PLUS Certified Free of Surveillance Technology"?

Some of this Alexa-type crap would be a tremdnous boon to folks with disabilities, but are we otherwise too lazy or incompetent to tap a screen or type a few characters? While absolutely anyone could be watching and listening to your family in every room of the house?

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C'mon, if you say your device is 'unhackable', you're just asking for it: Bitfi retracts edgy claim

Milton
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Which is why ...

Which is why ... I have the regrettable habit of referring to a certain group of people as "marketurds". There is little to love, and not a thing to respect about people whose sole purpose is to manipulate others into handing over money via the sustained use and incontinent dissemination of spin, propaganda, flannel, exaggeration, misdirection and outright lies.

Marketurds belong firmly in the same zoo as politicians, salecreatures, recruitment agents and realtors, along with a horrifyingly large proportion of large companies' senior executives—parasitic organisms lacking the skill, wit and appetite for work that produces concrete things of value, instead wasting oxygen on endless gusts of hot air fuelled by ignorance, arrogance and vanity: and thriving off the real work done by others.

A pox on all of 'em.

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Spies still super upset they can't get at your encrypted comms data

Milton
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Can they actually BE that stupid?

How many times does it have to be repeated: algos for excellent encryption already exist, as do others for impossibly obscure low-bit-rate steganography, and others still for completely convincing data randomisation, all of which represent genies long since out of the lamp, and all of which can be implemented by any one of a few tens of millions of competent coders across the globe.

Anyone with non-trivial security needs, most especially Black Hats, will be able to encrypt and hide messages and even quite large data among the few billion bytes created and uploaded every single day. Even plausible deniability isn't remotely difficult now.

The only people who will be "detected" or "caught" by any kind of backdoor system (which is what we're talking about, even when other terms are bandied about) will be (A) lazy, thick, low-level crooks of no great importance, and (B) absolutely everybody else who uses encryption at any point on the Net, for banking, retail, site authentication, insurance, taxation, accounting, research, medical records, government, law enforcement, military, &c &c—because it is an iron-clad and historically proven certainty that any scheme accessible to government quickly becomes abused, misused, corrupted and ultimately leaked. If NSA can't keep their secrets, why would you be stupid enough to imagine that anyone can?

It always boils down to this, oft-stated yet worth repeating yet again:

Anything which weakens crypto for one person weakens it for everyone.

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Golden State passes gold-standard net neutrality bill by 58-17

Milton
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Re: no surprise

Spanners: "PS anti-fascist includes the far left, socialists, liberals, center-right and classic conservatives.It may include libertarians but I've not met many real ones"

You missed out "anti-fascist includes ..." → "any and every remotely decent, compassionate, thoughtful person who actually has got their shit together as a mature, adult human being"

Let's face it, history is 100% right about this: fascism is for ignorant, squalid-minded, loudmouthed imbeciles. It works in much the same way as one of its beloved components, racism: being a racist is as good as having a tattoo on your forehead, handily spelling it out so no one can be in any doubt: "I am a nasty idiot". Really, it's a pity some fascists wear suits or otherwise conceal themselves in faux respectability: the "Nasty Idiot" tattoo would make them so much easier to avoid.

I guess the online equivalent would be to hack one's browser so that words like "trump" or "bombastic" were auto-replaced with descriptive epithets. Any suggestions ...?

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Russian volcanoes fingered for Earth's largest mass extinction

Milton
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Antipodal shock

Jack of Shadows: "We need to figure out what the dynamic is here that initiates million year long volcanic events."

Interesting question. Geologists occasionally muse about the way surface and sub-surface shockwaves propagate from major impacts, in particular the fact that, as they radiate around the globe from the impact point, they come togather again at another point on the antipode—i.e. on the other side of the planet (so, for example, London's antipode is a few hundred km south-east of the southern end of New Zealand). Some modelling (though I'm not sure of the quality, so far) suggests that this re-focusing of the shockwaves may have major effects, such as earthquakes, possibly fractures of the crust, and therefore maybe precipitating volcanic eruptions.

While it's a reasonable hypothesis, so far as I'm aware it remains unproven, particularly as to the violence and ultimate significance of any antipodal seismic disruption. By contrast, it may be that shockwaves can have more devastating effects closer to the impact point, for example as they refract through different denstiies of material. In other words, it's possible that the eruptions generating the Siberian Traps were caused, or made worse, by an impact, but the latter need not necessarily have been at the antipode (which would have been Antarctica today, hence some early interest in the Wilkes Land Crater features, which I think are now known to be too young to be guilty, if indeed they are impact features at all).

I hope that a good few excited geology postgrads are looking, firstly, at the historical evidence: it can actually be quite difficult to find really old impact points, and then determine that what you've found really was caused by an impactor rather than being a perceptual artefact or—like Silverpit—possibly rock collapsing due to salt exfiltration (also, viz the mention of WLC above). Secondly, let's hope they'll also be hooking up with some seriously powerful computing power to more accurately model and understand how impactor shockwaves propagate through the Earth's quite complicated mixture of layers and densities. There is an awful lot yet to be learned about this subject.

14
0

No, eight characters, some capital letters and numbers is not a good password policy

Milton
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It's just a mental trick

Passwords really don't have to be so hard. Most people have heard of concepts like mnemonics and even the memory palace, where highly visual oddities are used to aid memory.

So you need a new Amazon password? Picture a bloody great water snake chowing down on a heavy load of pound coins. Twist the expression of the words. Get: "5nake(<LBs" [You have (< for an yawning mouth with a forked tongue, and LBs for the imperial representation for pounds as a weight. The word formed has quite a striking appearance, especially the caps. You can say it, but an eavesdropper still won't actually be able to type it correctly merely from the sound. You won't forget it, or the association with Amazon.]

Corporate login for your health insurance employer? Picture your thoroughly unpleasant boss plummeting onto a hospital bedpan. Get "91tHI75h1t". You can say it ("git hit shit"), but again, an eavesdropper still won't actually be able to type it correctly merely from the sound. And again: memorable, visual, the word itself quite striking in appearance.

Why is it a good defence? Not a single word suceptible to dictionary attack. Ten characters of mixed case alphasymbonumeric, for a choice of at least 70. A bit under three quintillion possible passwords. The most common entry mistake you commit will be typing a letter for a digit or vice-versa, which you probably won't do three times in succession—so, common errors will rarely lead to lockout.

Allowing The Adversary "magic tech" that could try a million different passwords every second without lockout, it would take nearly 90,000 years to try every single possibility. I'm pretty sure your company's planning horizon doesn't extend beyond a decade (and the Board's doesn't extend beyond next January's bonuses) so you should be just fine.

Take a creative two minutes to dream up your new password, stamp the image in your mind, and away you go. (If all else fails, use mental pictures of things connected with food and sex, which are particularly prone to stick in the mind's eye, for some reason.)

Go on, give it a try. Go on, go on, go on ... ;-)

2
0

Unpicking the Pixel puzzle: Why Google is struggling to impress

Milton
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Why buy?

That is my question. The only persuasive selling point is the updates, but as others have pointed out there is a conspicuous flaw in that proposition:

"Pay far too much for this second-rate gadget solely because its core systems may be so poor that you will need to receive constant fixes"

I'm not an Android hater by any means, but this implicit message is really not a good one.

I'm not a gadget lover either—I cannot imagine laying out more than £300/£400 for a versatile pocket computing and communications device (aka 'phone')—but I can understand the broad appeal of some of the flagship handsets: and it is very hard to see why anybody would choose the Google phone when for similar outlay they could have one of Samsung's latest, frankly fabulous ones.

But then, as yet others have said, this is mostly about monetising human lives, and Google's rapacious appetite for harvesting personal data has long since become a thoroughly obnoxious feature of the company that laughably coined "Don't Be Evil".

18
3

Security MadLibs: Your IoT electrical outlet can now pwn your smart TV

Milton
Silver badge

"shouldn't be on … network in the first place"

"… new way to break thing that shouldn't be on your home network in the first place"

I guess we're all a leetle tired of saying that just because you can do something doesn't mean you should. Personally I thought that even non-technical consumers would have developed some healthy scepticism by now, rather than continuing to swallow the endless drivel spouted by marketurds. But the Internet of Shyte tide just keeps on coming in, bringing at best utterly pointless and at worst positively dangerous connectivity to a Useless Device Near You.

But it's not only about personally inconveniencing twits with more money than sense, is it? It's potentially way bigger than that.

Given the recent article about research into how abuse of connected devices could be used to bring down regional power grids, and the never-ending news about Russia's GRU hacking, invading and weaponising every damn thing in sight, you could be forgiven for wondering why western governments aren't taking control of this. If it was common knowledge that hostile Crotobaltislavonian intelligence was planting remote-controllable demolition charges around UK or US strategic infrastructure like power grids, water and gas pipelines, reservoirs, railways, motorway bridges ... why, there would be massive bloody uproar. If gullible consumers were buying those cute imported Crotobalti Slobberpups, unaware that, upon receiving a broadcast command in years to come, these seemingly inoffensive canines would tear their owners' throats out before causing mayhem on the streets, there would be swift and decisive action.

Yet, as something very similar but intangible is happening right now in the field of internet technology, nothing effective is done at all.

One of the few things worse than Brexit would be if Vlad The Emailer switched off Britain's lights for a week. The cost of the chaos is almost unimaginable. Is it a good idea to keep doing things that make this easier for him?

Incomprehensible, to imbecile politicians.

42
1

GitHub goes off the Rails as Microsoft closes in

Milton
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The joy of the worthless pun

The head and subtitle—

GitHub goes off the Rails as Microsoft closes in

The content of the article—

" ... Ruby still has a place at GitHub – Lambert referred to the company as a Ruby shop ..."

Wouldn't want to sacrifice a worthlessly infantile pun on the altar of accuracy, would we?

5
4

Home Office seeks Brexit tech boss – but doesn't splash the cash

Milton
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Tempting, in a funny kind of way

I live close to Croydon and might even qualify, though some of my relevant CV (the more senior corporate IT stuff) is quite old. And as several people have pointed out, although the salary is laughably pitiful for the level of responsibility theoretically involved, the situation is indeed just that: "theoretical"—no sane, experienced adult expects any aspect of Brexit to be anything other than a massive, chaotic, expensive, ultimately cataclysmic clusterphuk.

So if the salary is derisory for the purported task, perhaps that is in recognition of the futility of the role and its context? Perhaps, in fact, they might as well give the job to the first CV that comes in the door, given it will make no difference whether they appoint an experienced IT professional or a bumbling fool (perhaps BoJo should apply, he is too lazy, ignorant and stupid to bother with detail)?

Trouble is, as soon as your feet are under the desk, cynicism comes under assault from "Maybe I could make a difference, just a little ... what if I do this ..." because you figure that a bit of reason, evidence and logic might actually help, and, who knows, you could convert some clueless civil servants and their imbecile political masters to reality. Before you know it, you actually care about the deck chairs, despite the captain steering deliberately straight at the iceberg—and then the stress sets in, and once again you are burning out in the face of staggering public sector incompetence and the utter uselessness of politicians.

And the £100k wasn't worth it after all.

Perhaps the Home Office advert should read: "Poisoned Chalice: £100k p.a. for first person stupid enough to think they could make the slightest difference."

18
0

Drama as boffins claim to reach the Holy Grail of superconductivity

Milton
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Extraordinary claims—

Extraordinary claims ... require extraordinary evidence. That's almost an immutable scientific law by itself.

Some earlier posters' incautious statements aside†¹, superconductivity at anywhere near room temperature, especially if practically achievable (i.e. outside specialised lab conditions) would be an epochal discovery. It's impossible to overtstate the effect of such a thing. Multiplying the efficiency of national power grids; delivery of vast power from far away, e.g. from solar concentrators in the Sahara to Europe, something of a Holy Grail for an entire continent; cheaper and more compact MRI and almost everything else that uses superconducting systems, from medicine through industrial imaging to directed energy weapons; manufacturing industry revolutionised; huge improvements in vehicular electric power systems ... the pattern of energy generation, distribution and use would be upended, and the speed and effects of the changes in our world would make even a world war look tame. There would be secondary benefits to science also, as it would become much easier and cheaper to create very high energy particle experiments; and it hardly needs be said that it would also be a big step forward toward steady hot-fusion generation (even if it ultimately shows us that that approach isn't the best one: but that's merely a personal inkling, no more).

A company exercising a patent on practically achievable, economically useful room temperature superconductivity would conquer the world. Apple would look like a minnow by comparison.

Regarding the more or less instant expressions of doubt, though, it isn't solely because of the extraordinariness of the claim: the article clearly shows that the noise data points attracted immediate suspicion. That's a red flag the size of, say, Trump's tongue. Consider: if your student were to graph current in the microamps scale versus varying millivoltages across a range of room-temperature resistive substances, you'd expect to see very consistent data points in a predictable relationship, because V = IxR. But if said student were also minutely recording and graphing Johnson noise from those devices (essentially random low-level racket) and when marking the work you observed a series of matching data points in the noise—even if scaled differently—you would be extremely surprised, if not incredulous. The average or overall trend of such noise might vary, but to see discretely identical inflections would simply make no sense. Short of imputing some heretofore overlooked and yet radical property of the physics of resistive materials—which would, I think, overturn a lot of what we know about quantum mechanics—there is not even a theoretical basis for such a thing. You would, in short, know straight away that the student had sloppily copied the noise data from one experiment to the others. (Of course, the student might have done this because it's "just noise" and therefore not relevant to V=IxR ... but by doing so, even without intending dishonesty, calls into question everything.)

All of which aside, the answer in science is the same one it's always been: can these results be replicated?

†¹ Hot fusion works, as any sunbather can tell you (or the designer of multi-stage nuclear warheads); cold fusion occurs frequently—it's a common tabletop practice for enthusiastic amateurs—but it never gets close to break-even; string theory and its "descendants" such as M-theory are arguably the best there is right now, notwithstanding that gravity remains stubbornly intractable; and quantum computers are functional, though in fairness it remains to be seen whether they will, or even can meet their theoretical promise.

36
0

When's a backdoor not a backdoor? When the Oz government says it isn't

Milton
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Disadvantages everyone—except the actual bad guys

Disadvantages everyone—except the actual bad guys, who will use any one of a dozen superb freely available encryption algorithms and code, along with nice big keys, to secure their data or messages, storing them among randomised data blocks on their systems providing plausible deniability if seized, thereafter to steganographically embed the encrypted data at a very low rate among some large but poorly-resolved, "noisy" images on the web (with only two billion per day to choose from).

Law enforcement will ultimately be in the position of having to demand passwords from suspects. Thus it will have to have been through the process in which it identified suspects, established in most jurisdictions some form of probable cause, got warrants, extradited or otherwise actually found and detained the supposed malefactor, proved that there even is some encrypted data, somewhere, and finally said "Give us the key". The latter part of the process will be conducted with defence lawyers present and the distinct possibility that even if you have arrested a Black Hat, you cannot be sure that s/he has encrypted anything in the places you've searched. Maybe that scruffy 5Mb image has some "off" byte values; or maybe it's just got noisy crap in it. Maybe that disk sector is a random mess of junk, or it's a diagram of beryllium straws for stage two of a nuke; maybe BH really has forgotten the password.

Not only will you have to prove your case through a jury, you might notice that almost all the work you did to get to the point of having a suspect to interrogate is the exact same shoe-leather-heavy, tedious, detail-oriented, human-based police work that you had to do in the past, before all these tech miracles and encryption came along.

In other words, while trying to create impossible and useless backdoor policies, you've proven that there are actually no magic technology bullets and that you should have concentrated on proper police work in the first place.

12
0

Former NSA top hacker names the filthy four of nation-state hacking

Milton
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Re: Rofl

streaky, you're right about one thing, and one thing only: "treating people like crap and expecting things to carry on as they are before" was a disgrace, contributed to by both major UK parties, though the Tories and Osborne's imbecilic and cruel austerity has been by far the worst factor.

If your point is that lots of people voted Brexit as a way of sticking two fingers up to austerity, the epicene Cameron and vile Osborne, rather than a reasoned, well-informed consideration of Britain's position in the EU, then I've no doubt you're right.

But your continued assertions, against a vast stack of publicly-available evidence, that Russia by technical means and those of financial corruption did not try to influence the Brexit vote is just plain silly. It is by now beyond debate that just as Russia wanted Trump to win (because, duh, they've said so) and worked to try to make that happen (and failed, by nearly 3 m votes), so it is conspicuously in Russia's interests to destabilise and weaken the EU. To pretend otherwise, or to claim they haven't tried damned hard to make it happen, is just ... fantasy. (You might have said that Putin is justified in worrying about Nato's eastward expansion and the breaking of promises after 1991, and therefore we should see Russia's concerns about the EU through that prism ... but instead you're making disprovable counterfactual claims.)

I'm not going to get involved in pointless debates about evidence given that you could so easily search, as a start, for the UK Electoral Commission, follow its findings on Brexit, and then spend as long as you wish pursuing other links to an abundance of evidence. The stuff really isn't hard to find, and much of it has excellent provenance.

As it is with the "whole we'll be richer out thing"—another assertion by this point utterly disproved on an hourly basis—if you choose to ignore any and all facts, evidence and logic that don't fit your carefully cherished opinions, what's the point attempting adult conversation? Thus with a lot of right-wing propaganda these days: if you've got to make stuff up, you already lost the argument.

Volume doesn't equal Veracity. Every toddler's tantrum ends with the same realisation.

8
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Oh my Tosh, it's only a 100TB small form-factor SSD, SK?

Milton
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Re: No-one will ever... need more than 64TB on a 2.5inch SSD

History is littered with "No one will ever need {enter new capacity here}" statements, whether it's speed of travel, range, power of weaponry or computing power. So far, someone's always found a use for more. If you'd asked me even as recently as 2005 whether I personally would really need and exploit a computer with eight cores running at 5GHz, stuffed with 32Gb of RAM and 8Tb of machine storage, I would have laughed. And yet right now I am speccing out 256Gb RAM workstations, because of the difference it will make in my work. No, it's not mainstream office productivity, but I am not a rocket scientist either. Elbow room is always good to have, and many of the things we do will continue to add orders of magnitude to the usefulness of simpy storing data.

I absolutely can see why you make your statement, mind you: I can't currently imagine a legitimate use for 64Tb of local storage ... but ask either of us again, in five years.

As for—

"Actually, I'm waiting for someone to invent a storage system that uses long transparent crystals. That would be cool."

— sounds like a cri de coeur to go in the book along with the flying car, moonbase, International Rescue and trips to Jupiter: things we were promised in the 60s and 70s. I remember the crystals from the original Christopher Reeve Superman (1978?) ... let's hope photonic processing and memory doesn't disappoint. (If you could stop wasting time talking rubbish on Twitter and undermining the west coast like an obsessive termite, Elon, I have a better investment for you ....)

14
5

Encryption doesn't stop him or her or you... from working out what Thing 1 is up to

Milton
Silver badge

Speaking of a war ...

Speaking of a war, I don't want to rain on the researchers' parade but the basic concept here dates back at least to WW2. Traffic analysis upon unbroken ciphers was an important tool—ands even better if you can introduce some specific behaviours within the network—something an adversary would certainly want to do when compromising an IoT-infested LAN. By changing the internal state of a supposedly fully encrypted network, you can cause it to leak. It might be as simple as ringing the doorbell.

As a completely (I assume!) fictional example: even if you couldn't break a newly deployed Japanese Naval Cipher, you could infer a great deal about lines of communication, organisational hierarchies, importance and purpose of specific bases, and even specific intelligence about the likely content of encrypted messages, by watching the traffic patterns. Let's say you plant a story about the lack of starter cartridges for American combat aircraft in the eastern Pacific theatre, making sure you quote or invent an unusual and lengthy specification or part number, "accidentally" revealing the name of a cargo vessel and a couple of ports it will need to call at while delivering said vital components.

First, you've triggered a flood of encrypted messages, the timing, frequency and length of which will tell you a great deal about the enemy's interception capabiltiies, response times, analytical tactics, command structure, plus a good chance of learning the dispositions of some enemy forces, like submarines, that may be tasked with attacking the 'vital' shipment ... I'm sure everyone here gets the picture.

Second, you've thrown some nice cribs into the encrypted streams: by choosing some specific names (ports, ships, islands) you can be fairly certain that those will occur in the ciphertext, encrypted. Using a long-ish and unique phrase (like our hypothetical part number) of supposed significance, we can add an additional particularly handy crib that will be included only in messages specifically resulting from our planted story. Its uniqueness and length can both be helpful to the cryptanalyst: 'COFF222BVER888HPSTART' is more useful than 'Rabaul'. (Note a couple of handy character repetitions, too.)

This doesn't automatically break a good encryption scheme: but it does mean that whatever weaknesses it may have (especially human-factors weaknesses, like a lazy or hasty clerk reusing a key) are more likely to give you a way in.

The crypto schemes used in local networking are far better than the relatively naïve ones of 1942, but—as we've seen with WPA2 during the last year or so—still have vulnerabilities.

I'd be very interested to read the researchers' next paper, where I hope they move on from passive sniffing and "inferring" to finding ways of planting subtle seeds (probably using completely innocent-seeming and plausibly deniable interactions) which then expose vast additional troves of data.

25
1

Profit-strapped Symantec pulls employee share scheme

Milton
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About those beancounters

I see extensive mention of the much-maligned beancounters here. Now appraoching my seventh decade on this unconvincing simulat- planet, I remain convinced of a rule the ineffable truth and rightness of which dawned on me after about five years into my second career (sort of fell into IT in the mid-90s, long dull story, eventually included a surprising amount of consultancy stuff).

The rule is this: beancounters, sometimes styled as accountants, most accurately referred to as book-keepers, should never, ever, ever, ever be allowed anywhere near a corporate board, or indeed, above the middle-management layer (and even in the latter circumstance, they should be "managing" only other abacus-fondlers). Their function is and should always be confined to applying rules and doing sums. Their purpose is to obey the rules and perform simple arithmetic. The idea that such (admittedly, in all other respects undoubtedly wonderful, charismatic and richly virtuous) human beings should be allowed to influence policy is simply crazy, explains much that is otherwise appalling and mysterious in the commercial world, and is suggestive of some kind of mind-control infection.

Why on earth would any business actually need a CFO? To provide inflatory, buoyant support for an otherwise empty suit, while repeating through Death By PowerPoint what Anon B. Counter already said in his monthly report (which was 96.3% automatically generated by computer anyway, the only wrong bits of which will be because ABC screwed up an Excel chart and should have let a monochrome graph speak for itself anyway)?

Seriously, if you can only see income and expenditure; if you can only think in the ten available digits; if you see costs as only ever a sink of value, always to be cut; if your mind is moated by the metaphors of an indifferent grey suit and crippled by zero-sum philosophy: then you're looking past almost everything that actually matters.

For those who doubt this as a mere curmudgeonly jeremiad, ask yourselves this: having heard so much recently about computing and automation potentially replacing human skills, and considering the emphasis of these speculations so far on low-paid, unskilled jobs—what traditionally highly-paid, very senior role can you see being effortlessly performed by a robot?

In short, if any so-called "profession" ought to be quaking in its boots for fear of redundancy-by-robot, how can beancountery not be at the very top of the list?

30
2

Oracle's JEDI mine trick: IT giant sticks a bomb under Pentagon's $10bn single-vendor cloud plan

Milton
Silver badge

Right for the wrong reasons?

Ok, no one trusts Oracle to be anything other than the greedy, arrogant, morally unhygienic company it's always been. No one expects it to suddenly—or even, ever—offer top-class, good value products or services that in any way resemble their marketurds' onslaught of hype. The Oracle dodo was already disappearing over the horizon 20 years ago when the company Christmas tree (the RDBMS that was, once, valuably distinguished) became invisible under the unholy spawn of too many acquisition orgies—the festoon of shiny baubles of (badly-) "integrated suite" shyte.

So no one believes that Oracle's motivation for this legal complaint is anything except self-serving.

But that doesn't mean they're wrong about the principle of the thing. DoD's excuses for single-sourcing (and doing it conspicuously badly, if you look close) are even leakier than a littoral combat ship:

"[DoD] ... justified its decision by saying that running a multiple-award contract would slow down the bidding process, increase project costs, and complicate management. ... Pentagon has argued it will avoid lock-in through built-in exit points and various contractural [sic] requirements on portability and price"

—which translates as "DoD is (i) incompetent to manage a major competitive tendering process, (ii) doesn't realise the phenomenal financial and delivery risks of lock-in, (iii) has either failed to conduct or has dismissed the results of a SWOT analysis of this initiative".

Now, an ironic perspective on this might acknowledge that DoD has had an entire century of procurement mismanagement experience—with the F-35 fiasco only the latest reminder of its heroic institutional incompetence. This is an organisation, after all, that knew exactly what had gone wrong, how, and why, with the F-111 program fifty years ago, and then went ahead and made all the same mistakes again. So the DoD statement is bizarrely truthful per pt (i) above ... though probably unintentionally so.

Pts (ii) and (iii), though, ought to have rung alarm bells right round the E ring, because whatever costly dependencies the Pentagon may tolerate with its hardware (or, to be fair, are inflicted upon it through corrupt pork-barrel congressional greed), this is major information technology we are talking about. Russia and China may be celebrating the stupidity of F-35, but they cannot do any more than Lockheed, Congress and the Pentagon have already done to turn that particular project into a military Achilles heel: they can't subvert the plane while in flight and make it crash, or turn right round and shoot up its mother ship. At best they can just hope for chips of runway concrete chipping the stealth paint for a 36-hour trip to the skincare salon.

IT is another matter entirely. The foes mentioned above are bad enough, but there's also an almost limitless number of smaller nation-states with the intent, the potential and eventually the capability to inflict strategic-level damage on US military IT. Why on earth would you make their job even easier by single-sourcing? Bear in mind, wars can be lost for a lack of shoes as much as missiles: claiming that your precious data is "only" logistics, HR, supposedly unglamorous or even trivial support stuff is actually the same as saying "If it busts, we lose".

Of course DoD should be looking for multiple suppliers, and Oracle's stated reasons are sound enough, but the far more crucial one is national security. Inevitably, the Pentagon will come to depend more and more upon its suppliers—sucking in the unwary, holding them and their data hostage and then lovingly fleecing them is what every major cloud provider ultimately aims for, after all—and the idea that it will depend upon just one is ... unbelievable.

·

One of them appears to be trying out the unique military strategy of overwhelming a nation's defences via BlitzTweet.

Not to mention the Orange Idiot's "400lb guy sitting on a bed".

No, not the one mouthbreathing around three Big Macs while gaping at Fox&Friends. That's Vlad the Emailer's BlitzTweeterBot. Do try to keep up, guys ....

9
2

Whoa, AWS, don't slip off your cloudy perch. Google and Microsoft are coming up to help

Milton
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Just one 'winner'?

Reading some remarks here about who will 'win', and wondering if that's really how things will pan out. Sure, one provider will be 'bigger' than the others at any given point in time and by whatever measure (income; storage; geographic spread; number of customers; etc) and you may even find that the top spot changes hands occasionally—but given (a) the foolishness of putting all your eggs in a single basket and (b) the constant competition among providers, which sometimes might even be called innovation, I'd have thought we'd see maybe five or six big providers jostling in the long term.

I do wonder whether we will see an explosion in security intermediation, since one of the overwhelming concerns about trusting other companies (and other nations' companies ) with your crown jewels of data is that you simply ... shouldn't. The almost inextricably thorny issue of how you can store properly encrypted data on someone else's cloud and also work with it (without shuffling it back on-prem, decrypting, processing, re-encrypting, sending back to the cloud) is unlikely to go away. Indeed, it'll only take a few hugely damaging breaches to change the nature of this discussion in a very big way.

That said, I am on the paranoid end of the security-and-trust scale, and perhaps there are large corporates entirely happy to risk their valuable data on the word of businesses like Microsoft and Google, who have earned such glowing reputations for honesty and corporate integrity.

0
1

Dear alt-right morons and other miscreants: Disrupt DEF CON, and the goons will 'ave you

Milton
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Be relevant or be gone

Provided the oranisers are within their legal rights to bar and/or eject any person they want to, at their sole discretion, and provided attendees have signed up under those conditions, it shouldn't be hard to tell irritants to get out, but I guess you have to be careful how you do this: the law will reasonably expect some proportionality in any force used to evict troublemakers. If it's going to come to physically escorting people off the premises and then ensuring they don't return, I'd suggest a heavy presence of CCTV and body cams, not to mention some very professional minimum-force bouncing skills. Right-wing loonies wil be only too happy to bash themselves in the nose, head-butt a chair (or even arrive with self-inflicted injuries under their clothes) to play the victim card.

You need to play it dead straight, no matter how angry they may make you, and treat them like unpredictable, furious, unbalanced, volatile, fragile children. Which is not so very far from the truth anyway.

Remember the Number One Rule of Right Wing Extremism: "We lost the argument 70 years ago; all we have left is lies."

(Rule #2 is "Focus on the gullible".)

4
1

DEF CON plans to show US election hacking is so easy kids can do it

Milton
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"... the Republican caucus in Congress shot down an amendment ... that would have allocated $250m to US states to be used for hardening election systems against attack."

Bizarre, non? If the known multitude of attempts, principally by Russia, to swing US elections had been aimed at helping the Democrats instead of the Republicans, do you suppose these cretins would have voted differently?

And have they ever scraped up enough of their dregs of conscience to wonder why Vladimir Putin's Russia, America's most dangerous and consistent enemy, is in favour of a Republican president and Republican candidates?

Beyond all the nonsense about "No collusion" that's now weaselled into "Even if we colluded, it isn't a crime", is it possible that even someone as stupid as Trump hasn't asked himself why an enemy state would like to see him as president? (Yes, the question may be inflammatory: but it's based on facts and principals' statements, of impeccable public record.)

—"... for if it prosper, none dare call it treason"

6
2

Did you know: Lawyers can certify web domain ownership? Well, not no more they ain't

Milton
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Let's Encrypt

I guess I'm mildly surprised that everyone is not now using Let's Encrypt. I set it up for the first time on a server a couple of years ago and after some initial permissions wrangling, it's worked regularly and reliably ever since. What's not to like?

3
0

'Unhackable' Bitfi crypto-currency wallet maker will be shocked to find fingernails exist

Milton
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Perfect vs Trade-offs

Surely we all know there is no such thing as "perfect" security (or "perfect" anything), and that phrases like "100% unhackable" are doomed to disproof. In IT, effective performers have long since learned that striving for perfection is to waste time, when in truth all we should ever have aimed for is "good enough". Thus knowing "what good looks like" is an important ability—and, by the bye, is vital for both customer and developer.

Security is no different. There is no Perfect. There are only the trade-offs of money, time and expertise invested in protecting stuff, versus the consequences of its compromise, all stacked against the capability and intent of potential adversaries.

Example: You've got a good, solid garden shed. Breaking through its doors or windows would cause so much noise that the potential burglar would be discovered and arrested. The only way in, then, is through the padlocked door. You've used security heads and decent fixings, so the burglar has to open or destroy the lock. That's his only option. Let's assume that with a glance through the window, the burglar can quickly assess the value and desirability of what's inside.

Now if the shed contains tatty old gardening equipment and a 10-year-old mower and rusty tools, you may fit a cheap padlock that acts as a visible deterrent. For the sake of dragging away a heavy old mower he'd only get £20 for, the burglar simply can't be bothered to spend fifteen minutes hacksawing off the lock. There are better pickings along the street. Move on.

Suppose instead you have a brand-new beautiful titanium and carbon fibre top-end mountain bike worth £10k in there. Now you're gonna think harder, and spend some time finding a better padlock. One of the things you'll consider is "How difficult will it be to break this lock?" which also amounts "How long would it take?" You cannot buy a perfectly unbreakable lock. But you can find one which, for a price, would take a long, long time, special tools and great effort to bust through. Our friend the burglar may now by much more motivated to get into the shed, and he may come back with a serious set of bolt cutters (thus, intent and capability are both markedly greater) ... but if he's still chopping away futilely at sunrise, your "good enough" security has done its job.

In fact, all security is like this. There is no absolute unbreakability, but we can invest in a level of difficulty which is appropriate to the value of the asset and the capability and intent of adversaries. If you're using an encryption scheme with larger key sizes, for example, you are not guaranteeing that your messages will never be broken, but you are ensuring that they'll remain secret for, say, 50 years. (Notwithstanding quantum possibilities, which are driving some paranoid agencies to deploy high-tech one-time pads again.)

The Bitfi trips over its silly and unrealistic claims, proving once again that marketurds are awful liars. It would have done better to emphasise why its security made the product a better option—but not claim a perfect one. Possibly the tsunami of scorn would have been averted.

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Cache of the Titans: Let's take a closer look at Google's own two-factor security keys

Milton
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But is the code open source?

Notwithstanding Yubico's well-founded concerns about the use by Google of notoriously insecure Bluetooth in part of the process, I have a more fundamental question: is this system open source? I cannot think of a more fundamentally important first question to ask of any encryption/authentication scheme.

While I absolutely understand that commercial companies want to keep potentially valuable IP confidential, I don't see how anyone with serious crypto requirements (which ought to include more and more of us these days) can trust a system with closed source code at the cryptographic layer. Sure, it's fine that the radio protocols, comms drivers and other higher/transport-level stuff may be secret—in other words, any part that handles only messages which are already fully secured and therefore gibberish—but I cannot envision putting trust in closed cryptographic code. That strikes me as "Just Trust Us", if not downright crypto-by-obscurity (which any sane person should regard as worthless), and means that neither I nor anyone else can verify that the crypto is solid: not merely that it's free of mistakes, but does not, at worst, contain backdoors.

We cannot 100% trust anyone not to have been leaned on by NSA, or the Kremlin, or GCHQ. We cannot put 100% faith in crypto algorithms, crypto-chip hardware or code we haven't seen line by line, so that every expert on the planet—people straospherically beyond my level of knowledge—has had a chance to poke holes. That's not paranoia: that's a by-now age-old cast-iron and fully-hyphenated fact.

As for Google in particular: given that we hear they are disgracefully working on a version of their engine for that authoritarian, murderous, militaristic, repressive regime known as China, why, in fact, would any sane person do anything but utterly mistrust them? (I wonder how many of those noble, free-thinking, self-consciously virtuous coders at Google are refusing the bucks for this particular exercise in squalid greed ...? )

I'd like to be wrong about this ... answers on a BTL please!

"Dont' Be Evil" ... now just funny, in a dark, sick kind of way.

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Make Facebook, Twitter, Google et al liable for daft garbage netizens post online – US Senator

Milton
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Deckchairs

Some laudably intended and even slightly tech-literate suggestions in there—something of a miracle coming from a politician—but I still think we're fiddling with deckchairs here, tinkering at the margins with rules that will have, at best, incremental benefits.

I've suggested before and will say it again: we need to deal with the two fundamental problems that were virtually built in to social media right from the outset: free services; and anonymity.

Dealing with anonymity first: it's beyond obvious that a large minority of people are cowardly lice who wouldn't have dared to scream their hate, bigotry and ignorance in public 20 years ago. Now they can be anonymous cowards of the worst kind, spewing their bile here and there, and worse, nucleating an audience of like-"minded" wretches who raise the temperature of their own little echo chamber until they are repeating increasingly hysterical nonsense to each other and believing it. There were and are abundant reasons not to want Hillary as president, but the infantile garbage about Pizzagate, twisted stories about the Foundation, the incessant lies and conspiracy nonsense ... a sizable chunk of the social media using public sounded like mental patients.

I accept that the loss of anonymity will have some consequences too, but the price of it is too high: it is too much of a shield for people who, in truth, should be too scared to spout their filth in public, for fear of entirely justified opprobrium.

As to "free", perhaps it is radical, but I believe governments should create and enforce a ban on any non-government entity from collecting, holding, processing or analysing any user data that is not strictly required for operational usage. Go back to the bare bones of name, address, recent orders, payments, delivery options, complaints and fixes. Nothing else. No profiling, no selling of customer data, no deep analyses, nada.

This means that Facebook, Google and the other parasites will have to earn revenue in another way: they'll have to charge for their services. It needn't be expensive. Perhaps £20/year for Facebook? A tenner buys you credit for 5,000 Google searches? And suddenly the users, instead of being the product and treated like mugs, become customers, with a right to privacy and dignity.

I suspect that a lot of mostly good things would flow from such enforcement, some of them surprising: for example, competition would open up. Advertising would become more expensive and would therefore have to improve: driven from the current atrocious standards, which are even worse than radio, to something more like a good TV channel, where ads are sometimes even funny, and clever.

I understand why this notion will attract a lot of initial and reasonable scepticism, but I have the feeling that if smart people put their thinking caps on and address the deep systemic flaws that make the web such a toxic place these days ... great improvements might yet be possible,

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FBI boss: We went to the Moon, so why can't we have crypto backdoors? – and more this week

Milton
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Re: Mr Wray

Charles 9 wrote: "What's needed is a way to make this so simple to describe that even a total idiot can understand it ..."

I get where you're coming from but actually I'm not sure this would work. Wray is clearly one of the majority whose knowledge of math is feeble, and a great many of those folks perceive it as both a bit magical but also malleable—rather like their superstitions: your god(s) can be whatever you want them to be.

A tangible analogy referencing house keys might well get the response "Yeah, but they are physical, and math isn't: you can do/write/prove anything with math". They are wrong, but lack even sufficient knowledge to realise how completely wrong they are. This is, after all, a common problem with politicians and people who behave like them: their need to believe counterfactual evidence-free rubbish, coupled with ignorance of the topic, tends to produce mouths flapping earnest recitals of nonsense ... against all reasoned rebuttal.

What I really cannot fathom is why Wray doesn't simply ring his pals at Ft Meade and ask them. One phone call would save him repeating embarassing drivel in public—and save our ears, and many calories of expended frustration.

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Another German state plans switch back from Linux to Windows

Milton
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Re: Tax office...

Thanks for that information, but it seems only to deepen the puzzle.

1) teleworkers are using an official laptop, which is (in this state at least) locked down quite heavily, encrypted drives, limited usage of USB drives etc.

—isn't really relevant to compatibility, and is surely a minimum expected standard for government work anyway.

2) Unfortunately in Lower Saxony they gave out Windows laptops while in the office they used Linux. So two operating systems install sets + software need to be maintained

—one inexplicably stupid blunder isn't a particularly good reason to make another; and if the laptops belong to the state, why not simply have one OS, Linux? What's the point of having Windows on them at all? Is using a VM out of the question, for that matter?

3) a number of the new tools (for calculating and checking tax declarations) are developed for Windows clients (with Linux servers, partly, and ancient mainframe architecture mostly)

—are we to believe that stand-alone Windows tools are required for remote tax workers to be able to do their jobs? Colour me sceptical, but surely the tax office has a server-based system, lovingly maintained to keep up with legislation, allowances, interest rates etc, and this is what all users rely upon for "calculating and checking tax declarations"? When you're with a client, you are surely using a web-based system for the back-end submissions and verification stuff, and a spreadsheet to do basic sums and estimations?

The whole thing smells like a bad case of "We've mismanaged things and made some bad decisions, and intend to continue doing just that" ... also known as "We dug a hole and we're gonna keep digging".

Could it be that the plan is really about executive level face-saving? It's a practice notorious for its cost, wastage and futility.

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Milton
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Re: The problem is not Linux itself...

"The problem is not Linux itself ... it's the lack of applications on Linux, and the compatibility of existing ones with their Windows and Mac counterpart."

I'm a tad puzzled by that statement, and the rationale advanced by the Lower Saxony tax office quoted in the article—

"... decision is driven by compatibility: field workers and teleworkers overwhelmingly use Windows, while the OpenSUSE variants are installed on its office workstations"

If we are talking about specific business applications which exist only for Windows, what are they, and does this mean that the tax office has extant Windows servers running some back-office Win-only stuff? Presumably any such systems have long since been integrated with the users' workstations—so that could not be the rationale for such a statement.

Presumably also, "field workers and teleworkers" are absolutely not using unauthorised business-specific apps on their computers. So we are talking about standard office functionality, aren't we? The remote workers use email and office applications, such as Outlook, Word, Excel, maybe something for PDFs, and naturally enough tend to default to banging out *.docx, *.xlsx, *.pptx and/or perhaps their predecessor formats depending on versions installed.

Is it immensely expensive to train remote workers in the fiendishly complex and exhausting process of, say, selecting *.odt as their output format instead of *.docx? Or, better, is it beyond a German state government's resources and skills to tell remote workers to download, install and henceforth use LibreOffice on their Windows machines? I'd point out that it is technically trivial to identify incoming file extensions, filter these and send a polite rejection to the sender if the type is wrong. There'll be AV filtering and other security running already anyway.

Both office and remote staff will surely be using web-based diary, calendaring, meeting and workflow solutions, so that cannot be the problem either.

The direct, indirect and consequential security costs of adopting Windows are astronomical compared with the abundance of good (and usually more secure) FOSS stuff that performs the same functions.

The purported rationale for the migration makes no sense.

So ... what is going on?

. "Sorry, you've sent us an MS Excel (.xlsx) file: we don't use those. Please resave the file in the correct OpenDocument (.ods) format, or better still for future ease of use, import it into LibreSheet and use that application instead. For help on doing this, installation of Libre, and avoiding this problem in the future, see the Document Compatibility Help link <u>here</u>, and the Department Software Policy for Staff <u>here</u>. Danke schön!"

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ReactOS 0.4.9 release metes out stability and self-hosting, still looks like a '90s fever dream

Milton
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Win10's horrible interface

Several people have remarked on how unpleasantly backward the Win10 interface is. I don't use W10 unless required by my work. Have had a W7 Ultimate setup on my ridiculously powerful personal desktop for years now, and when support is terminated I'll move over to Linux, which I know pretty well from server use. (I'm down to just one application that absolutely requires Windows, the excellent Paint.Net, and will have to transition to Gimp.) I'm not a gamer: the horsepower was bought for molecular modelling, math, stats and later on, crypto stuff.

I admit I will regret it, a little—W7 runs beautifully and is arguably MS's supreme achievement in UI—but even if I weren't deterred by Microsoft's spyware, why on earth would I want to become the victim of an ugly flat tiled touchscreen-y interface, apparently designed for a tablet, when I'm using half a dozen major applications plus browser sessions on a 5 GHz 8-core 32 Gb system across three screens totalling 18.6 Mpxl of display?

I'd happily pay for a W10 where I could choose a W7-style interface and switch off the spyware. But that's not gonna happen, and I wonder: am I a rare specimen, or are there, perhaps, a lot of people who'll be off to Linux, abandoning Windows for the last time, in a year or two?

I'll pop back in a while to receive feedback on whether I'm an outlier dinosaur as well as visiting curmudgeon ... ;-)

AMD, in case you're wondering

3
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Facebook's React Native web tech not loved by native mobile devs

Milton
Silver badge

Two kinds of development innovations

I think there may be two kinds of development innovations, whether these are new languages, new frameworks or even resource kits.

One kind, which might be described as traditional, is what you get when someone realises that something new is needed, or has become achievable and will be useful, so they invent a new language or whatever. If they are right about the opportunity, and the new thingy performs well enough, it gets adopted and sees some success.

The other kind, which appears to be a new phenomenon, is when a corporation decides that it wants to entrap yet more wallets in its ecosystem, and builds a new shiny thing, with an attractive interface and a shyteload of marketing crud, to allow folks to do whatever they were already doing but without any fundamentally important improvement.

Possibly I am being a little cynical. But these days every time one of the net giants emits a New Thing, the first thing you look for is: where are the sticky patches, the snares and the traps, the clever little dependencies designed to draw you inexorably in, get you hooked so that privacy and wallet can be sucked dry?

I'm getting old ....

11
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Declassified files reveal how pre-WW2 Brits smashed Russian crypto

Milton
Silver badge

Paranoia and hot pockets

Paranoia about hyper-computers, quantum computers and rumoured breathroughs such as fast-factoring algorithms in the last five to 10 years seems to have fuelled a quiet resurgence in one time pads (OTPs).

Thus Boris, politely invited to step out of the queue because he (a) travels alone, (b) has minimal luggage, (c) has a certain unmistakable bearing, emits a brief burning-plastic smell before he says "Bozhe moi, phone smokes!" and with practised humility explains in fractured English that his crappy East European phone must have a bad battery. Another quarter-gigabyte of OTP has just been roasted—with plausible deniability.

And there are now many Borises, Jacks, Maurices, Joses and even a few Rachels and Tatianas, couriering the wondrous globe with excellent passports, over-rated language skills, lamentably giveaway body language (always the weak point) and tiny silicon chips the size of pinky-nails concealed hither, thither and even yon.

We're close to inventing a (possibly quantum-tech) OTP which can be read only once, thereafter erasing itself without the need for Boris or Rachel to tickle the "Blown" button—useful, if only to relieve many small rooms in large airports of the smell of melted secrets.

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British Airways' latest Total Inability To Support Upwardness of Planes* caused by Amadeus system outage

Milton
Silver badge

CG & Weight Restrictions

A plane could theoretically tell from undercarriage sensors how heavy it was and, very approximately how that weight was distributed ('v. approx' because realistically you have only the nosewheel as a reference point of sufficient moment). It might be enough to warn flight crew not to attempt a takeoff because of excess weight or out-of-bounds CG. But, as others have remarked, finding this out after all pax and cargo have been loaded is expensive. You have to decide where to put heavy ULDs before loading anything, and for every aircraft you'll need to consider its MTOW, worst-case flight duration, predicted head/tailwinds, plus fuel for alternates. A well-designed loading system will put the right masses in the right places, not just for safety but to ensure that the crew don't have to tinker with compensatory trim—you have to consider centre of lift as well as centre of mass—thereby saving fuel: a nicely balanced plane can be trimmed for most economical cruise. Also makes for a nicer ride: an out of trim plane can be mysteriously unsettling, with almost imperceptible low frequency vibration. (If the crew find themselves having to trim a plane more than usual, it can indeed be because the CG isn't right; and yes, fuel management is important, both to preserve lateral evenness, cross-feeding between wing tanks*¹, and fore-and-aft balance, as modern planes may have large centreline tanks, often ahead of the wing box section, and additional tanks aft, in the empennage. (Concorde used to have to pump fuel fore-&-aft during flight to adjust the CG, as the centre of lift moved drastically in the supersonic envelope

So while it may seem reasonable to put sensitive weight sensors in the undercarriage, they'll never replace the load sheet calculations and stowage decisions. Tilt switches are fitted to the undercarriages of commercial airliners, but their job is primarily to detect when the plane's weight is settling onto the wheels during landing, so that systems like spoiler autodeployment can work correctly (spoilers are armed during finals, so that as soon as the undercarriage "feels" concrete, they will pop up automatically to interrupt the airflow over the top of the wings and destroy the lift, thus ensuring that the plane stays stuck down and doesn't bounce back into the air, and the wheel brakes will have full authority).

After verifying that any imbalance isn't caused by a leak, else you may find yourself gliding a flamed-out widebody over the Atlantic ... lookin' at you, Air Transat. Good flying, though. ;-)

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People hate hot-desking. Google thinks they’ll love hot-Chromebooking

Milton
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CME Holiday?

I'm being a bit tongue in cheek, but given it's only a matter of time before a really spectacular Coronal Mass Ejection crisps the grid and leaves large parts of the industrialised world with serial, rolling blackouts for months as a new generation of transformers is built, and 100 million black boxes devoted to shovelling TCP packets are replaced, how long will a "CME Holiday" be, I wonder? By making one's company, livelihood, salary, all entirely dependent on a low-latency high-bandwidth internet, one must ask: how many businesses and jobs will be lost when the lights go out?

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Google to build private trans-Atlantic cable from US to France

Milton
Silver badge

What about contingency?

Whenever I read stories about undersea cables I am reminded that the only institutions equipped to sever them are navies, all of which are operated by governments, none of which can be trusted in the slightest, especially in times of warfare. And 'warfare' might cover more than missiles, these days, what with the rise of asymmetric ops and cyber-tactics. (One might also wonder about the security of landing zones and dry infrastructure: perhaps a radicalised nutjob could perform prodigies of economic harm with a crowbar and a can of petrol ...?)

Perhaps this seems like a paranoid viewpoint. But I would suggest that at the very least, major businesses should think hard about figuring out what happens when they lose, say, their transatlantic cables, or those to the Far East. If you were to map high-bandwidth seafloor cabling you might be surprised at how so few wires carry such vast torrents of information—I'll stick my neck out and make a wild guess that if you charted the routes, the nodes, the traffic and the operational criticality of the latter, you would find some horrifying dependencies. This spectacle, visualised, could be extremely sobering.

It is extremely difficult to maintain ultra-high bandwidths without cable—and of course, satellites can be disabled or even shot down—but I wonder if we are devoting enough truly "innovative" thinking to other means of securely and reliably moving data wirelessly. Satellite TV and various web wheezes would suggest we are not exactly asleep on this, but who is actually looking at practical wirwless fallbacks if oceanic cables are lost? Some very clever work has been done on degradation-resistant encoding-and-encryption systems for potentially unreliable pipes, but more can be done. What could be achieved with state of the art laser tech, and satellites stationed in high defensive orbits, or even at Lagrange points? Latency might be high, but that is easier to cater for than crippling loss of overall bandwidth.

I'm not expert on this, though I've worked on the degradation-resistant stuff, so I'd be interested to know what readers think.

'operational criticality':: clumsy phrase, and not an easy thing to estimate, I think: but basically I mean "Assess how much direct economic and other consequential damage (e.g. reputational; data breach; fractured tactical/strategic decision-making loops; loss of competitive advantage; etc) might accrue from sustained interruption of the data pipe"

'innovative':: as compared with today's use of "innovative" to mean "incremental features no one asked for or needs"

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Samsung’s new phone-as-desktop is slick, fast and ready for splash-down ... somewhere

Milton
Silver badge

WIMP

'WIMP = “Windows, icons, mouse, pointer” in case you’ve forgotten or are too young to know better'

Windows

Icons

Menu

Pointer

—surely? Mouse and Pointer is duplication.

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'Fibre broadband' should mean glass wires poking into your router, reckons Brit survey

Milton
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Integrity: optional

There must be some psychological trick to it: perhaps a mental switch you can click to OFF ... because how else do marketurds manage to meet their own gaze in the mirror? I assume it is some sort of neat shortcut of the conscience which they share with others, like politicians. It enables a person to tell barefaced lies and mislead others, for no better reason than to extract money from them—and then continue walking around, talking, laughing, behaving as if nothing had happened, as if, indeed, they were actually normal humans.

I wonder what happens if the switch fails at, say, four o'clock in the morning? Does a rush of unadulterated shame lead to suicide? Or, as with politicians, is the shame gland first surgically removed as a safety measure?

How do people sleep, when their purpose in life is to lie to others in order to take their money?

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LG G7 ThinkQ: Ropey AI, but a feast for sore eyes and ears

Milton
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May we please stop calling them phones?

Given that this review—it's interesting and informative and I have no particular beef with it—says not a word about the telephony (call reliability, dialling, contacts, dropouts, sound quality, networks) perhaps it really is time to find a new word for these versatile hand-held personal computing and communication devices we're all carting about in our pockets? When you can review a "phone" without feeling the need to mention its phon-i-ness, we are surely in need of a new label.

El Reg is the ideal place to start brainstorming ideas: it prides itself on a certain ironic and irreverent outlook, not to mention abysmally juvenile humour, and is read by one of the more informed and even sometimes intelligent audiences around here.

Let's invite submissions, which must consist of an easily pronounceable single word of no more than three syllables, preferably able to be vocalised by speakers of any language, acronyms allowed if they adhere to those criteria. Submitters may offer a single sentence <35 word justification/explanation for their suggestion. Then build up a list, and get some votes (making sure you don't allow anon multi-submissions).

How about it? Should be fun at least, and might even start something interesting.

14
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AR upstart Magic Leap reveals majorly late tech specs' tech specs

Milton
Silver badge

Re: talks about things that he hasn’t actually experienced ...

"talks about things that he hasn’t actually experienced in a way that strongly implies that he has"
"In plain English: he lies."

The media seem strangely reluctant to use that simple, blunt word. When Trump repeated Blatant Lie #4,677 the other day, we were treated to a variety of phrases such as "He falsely stated", "Counterfactual statement", "Not supported by the evidence", "Claimed incorrectly", "Misleading statement" and other euphemistic waffle. Looking at other known liars, no reputable media that I'm aware of simply said "Foreign Secretary Johnson lied that {enter BS here}" or "David Davis told another outright lie today ...". Pretty much no one wrote in the last year, "President Trump lied when he said {...}".

And it's not just a problem of simply getting things right, there is more importantly the question of managing the epidemic of lying. It appears that an infection formerly confined to newly evolved social media websites, around 2000 jumped the species barrier and began to rampage through the human population. One high profile victim was British PM Tony Blair, previously a somewhat honorable man, who began to lie serially (possibly after contact with one Smirking Chimp, who was infecting Washington DC with equally deceitful fellow sufferers such as Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rove and others).

It seems that right-wing extremists, racists, bigots, religous nutjobs etc are predisposed for infection, since they have only tangential acquaintance with truth anyway. In this case the disease acts as a symbiote, helping to compensate for lack of evidence by providing comforting fabrications instead.

Arguably, the pathogen now having found high-profile hosts such as Donald J Trump, various British and East European politicians, and latterly even Elon Musk, it is attaining its pandemic stage and risks overwhelming the human race's immune systems such as science and education (and decency, common sense and integrity).

We can start by calling a liar a liar, but it may not be enough.

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