* Posts by Simon Harris

2677 posts • joined 1 Mar 2007

Campaign groups warn GCHQ can re-identify UK's phones from COVID-19 contact-tracing app data

Simon Harris Silver badge
Joke

Re: Thank you

Judging by the contents of my workshop, I should get a job with GCHQ.

It's full of crap I should have thrown away years ago, but 'might come in handy' one day.

Simon Harris Silver badge

Re: Thank you

As I suggested elsewhere it probably can’t tell either if you are within 2m of a virus carrier, but safely separated by a wall.

Simon Harris Silver badge

Re: Numpties!

Is NHSX the new format of the NHS?

NHSX is to NHS as DOCX is to DOC.

Windows Terminal hits the big 1.0: Fit for production?

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When I saw the name Windows Terminal, I was sure it was going to be an updated version of HyperTerminal that came with Windows 98.

Doors closed by COVID-19, Brit retro tech museums need your help

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Devil

If a passerby can get to Wordpad or Notepad they might be able to knock out a bit of HTML and JavaScript to replicate their 1980s shenanigans.

ALGOL 60 at 60: The greatest computer language you've never used and grandaddy of the programming family tree

Simon Harris Silver badge

Re: .. never used .. ?

When I was studying Electronic Engineering in the early 1980s, ALGOL was the first language we were formally taught - I remember the ALGOL-68R language guide was a Ministry of Defence book.

The Rise of The (Coffee) Machines: I need assistance. I think I'm running Windows. Send help

Simon Harris Silver badge

Re: First person

I've even seen bus destination blinds that say 'I am out of service'

Giving a bus self awareness seems like a step too far.

Simon Harris Silver badge

Re: Not quite Windows

I remember back in the 1970s when memory was tight Tiny BASIC had just three error messages:

What? for syntax errors.

How? for run time errors.

Sorry for out of memory errors.

Simon Harris Silver badge
Alert

Re: Not quite Windows

Certainly more informative that the errors that some software I've used throws up.

A dialogue box that contains just two items - the icon over there ---> and an OK button. Err- what exactly am I OKing there?

UK finds itself almost alone with centralized virus contact-tracing app that probably won't work well, asks for your location, may be illegal

Simon Harris Silver badge

Re: False sense of security?

UK government figures for infections are just shy of 200,000. Multiply that by 10 and 2 million is only about 3% of the population. Just a little bit short of 55%

Simon Harris Silver badge

Mine's so old and knackered, the only contacts the app would find would be those within reach of a charger.

Simon Harris Silver badge

Re: It is your duty ^D^D^D^D obligation to install the app

"Not green on the app? Sorry, no public transport"

Or the simpler solution - just keep people in lock down for so long that they've forgotten where they've put their season tickets and work passes.

Simon Harris Silver badge

False sense of security?

Ignoring aspects of personal data security for now...

German science is suggesting that coronavirus infections may be 10 times higher than official figures (presumably based on those tested)

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/may/04/german-covid-19-cases-may-be-10-times-higher-than-official-figures

If this is true and is also reflected in the UK population (may well be a higher ratio as Germany has a higher number of tests) then while the app may tell you if you've been near someone who's tested positive, it may well miss many more contacts with people who are positive, but haven't been tested (and if they are non- or mildly-symptomatic may never be tested) - surely this will give a false sense of security to the population as the false negatives in contact detection may overwhelm the true positives.

Or maybe I'm missing the point and the app and a false sense of security are really designed to extend the hypothetical 'herd immunity' rather than to isolate those infected.

Simon Harris Silver badge

Re: It will be voluntary, but not really.

This scenario of not having the app on your phone strikes me as triggering the same police overreach as 10 years ago or so when, although photography in a public place is completely legal (UK, anyway), they'd start being obstructive and threatening if you so much as got your camera out because "terrorism".

Simon Harris Silver badge

Can tell when you're within 6' of an infected person? Skeptical.

Both types use Bluetooth to detect other nearby phones also running the software. Thus, when someone catches the coronavirus, people can be warned if their phone was within 6ft of that patient's phone for more than a few minutes.

I'm somewhat skeptical of this, considering how our neighbours sometimes used to feed their music through our Bluetooth enabled TV soundbar (until I took it out of service!). Sure you can get an idea of distance from signal strength, but that's not going to be particularly accurate - depending on chipset, obstructions, reflections, antenna orientation, etc. Could a Bluetooth type system suggest that I might be infected simply because it's picking up my neighbour's phone from next door, even though we never get within several metres of each other outside (only an example - hopefully my neighbours are actually fit and healthy)?

From the Bluetooth consortium's own recommendations:

RSSI is Different for Different Radio Circuits

You may notice the variation of the RSSI value even on a fixed location or distance. One factor for the variation could be the hardware/radio platforms. For instance, on iOS devices where there aren’t many different chipsets, the RSSI value could accurately reflect the relationship to the distance. The RSSI value from iPhone A probably means the same strength value on an iPhone B. However, on Android devices where we have a large variation of devices and chipsets, the absolute value of RSSI won’t help you easily map to a location. The same RSSI value on two different Android phones with two different chipsets may mean two different signal strengths. However, the RSSI value could still be very helpful in the proximity applications if you use it to get the trend of the RSSI value change. That trend could give you meaningful data.

How Can I Use RSSI in a Proximity Aapplication?

Avoid using the absolute value of the RSSI—use the trend instead

Based on the fluctuation of radio signals, we can get a fairly accurate result of the RSSI trending. We can easily know if the signal is getting stronger or weaker, therefore, we will know if we are moving towards or away from the source. Even better, if we understand the specific mapping between the RSSI and the location of the specific receiving device, we could have a fairly accurate estimate of the distance.

https://www.bluetooth.com/blog/proximity-and-rssi/

Sure, you could use Bluetooth to tell if you moving towards or away from an infected person's phone, but I doubt that it would accurately tell you that you're 2 metres away.

Prank warning: You do know your smart speaker's paired with Spotify over the internet, don't you?

Simon Harris Silver badge
Devil

Rickrolling...

'Spotify, play "Never gonna give you up" on my mate's smart speakers!'

Simon Harris Silver badge

Re: FFS.

A while ago SWMBO got a sound-bar for the TV with wired, optical and Bluetooth inputs.

We went for the wired input, but from time to time we'd get blasts of Bulgarian music through it - it seems if it detects a Bluetooth connection it will automatically switch to that, and the neighbours would occasionally accidentally connect to it - it's one of those devices with a preset pairing code that really doesn't care what it connects to.

The sound bar is now relegated to a box somewhere and TV sound is piped through the purely analogue hifi amp.

RetroPie 4.6 brings forth an answer to 'What do I do with this Pi 4 I bought last year?'

Simon Harris Silver badge

Re: Jupiter Ace?

I can understand them using a Z80A as the basis for the Ace as the designers had previous worked on various Sinclair ZX development and I believe the external expansion was designed to be Sinclair compatible, but I would have loved to see a 6809 based 8-bit Forth machine - the dual stacks (system and user) would have made it a natural choice for implementing the language.

Happy birthday, ARM1. It is 35 years since Britain's Acorn RISC Machine chip sipped power for the first time

Simon Harris Silver badge

Wilson had created a simulation of the 32-bit mpu's instruction set in 808 lines of BBC BASIC

It was very forward thinking of Acorn to make their BASIC integers 32-bit right from the start (even before BBC-BASIC), rather than the 16-bit integers most other 8-bit BASICs used are the time. Just that feature must have helped facilitate simulating a 32-bit CPU in such a relatively small number of program lines.

A new El-Reg unit?

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Boffin

A new El-Reg unit?

I just noticed this in today's Guardian Coronavirus/Politics blog:

https://www.theguardian.com/world/live/2020/apr/27/uk-coronavirus-live-news-boris-johnson-back-at-work-amid-talk-of-easing-lockdown

A foul clump of wet wipes and other unflushable items as heavy as a rottweiler has been dragged from a Thames Water sewer, as the number of blockages the company has to deal with has increased by 8% during lockdown.

The grim 40kg bundle had snarled up a temporary pipe in Maidenhead, Berkshire, where Thames Water, the UK’s largest water and wastewater company, has been repairing a collapsed sewer.

Should the Rottweiler be included in the official list of El-Reg weights and measures? - 1 Rottweiler = 40kg of foul stuff apparently.

I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Light-powered nanocardboard robots dancing in the Martian sky searching for alien life

Simon Harris Silver badge
Coat

Biochemical Analyser

If they were to look for Life On Mars by scanning samples for DNA fragments, it could be called the Gene Hunt.

I'd get my coat, but it's been in the closet for the last month ------>

We lost another good one: Mathematician John Conway loses Game of Life, taken by coronavirus at 82

Simon Harris Silver badge

Re: Two's company, infinity plus one is a crowd

That playlist definitely deserves an upvote.

Simon Harris Silver badge

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Boeing 787s must be turned off and on every 51 days to prevent 'misleading data' being shown to pilots

Simon Harris Silver badge

Re: Millisecond roll-over?

The ratio difference between 49.7 and 51 days is suspiciously close to 1.024 though.

One for the super rich fanbois: Ultra-rare functional Apple-1 computer goes on auction

Simon Harris Silver badge

Re: How do they know it's real?

It is perfectly possible to build a replica that will fool a so-called "expert" using off the shelf components.

Could not the so called expert could commission The Woz to give an assessment on its authenticity? Would there be a better authority on such matters?

FYI: When Virgin Media said it leaked 'limited contact info', it meant p0rno filter requests, IP addresses, IMEIs as well as names, addresses and more

Simon Harris Silver badge

"records of whichever site they were visiting before arriving at the Virgin Media website"

The only times I ever visit the Virgin Media site are from a non-Virgin device to find out why my Virgin cable has gone down again.

It's only a game: Lara Croft won't save enterprise tech – but Jet Set Willy could

Simon Harris Silver badge

Re: Arent' FPGAs only re-programmable a finite number of times?

"and Defender a 6809."

I always though Defender was two 6809s, but according to Wikipedia, it's a 6809 as the main processor, and a 6800 to do the sound effects.

Simon Harris Silver badge
Pint

FPGAs are cheating for legacy hardware...

making it out of individual transistors is the proper way to do things!

https://www.theregister.co.uk/2016/05/18/chaps_make_6502_by_hand/

Simon Harris Silver badge
Facepalm

Re: Striplights in a meeting have never dissolved a hangover for me

My problem is that a day of quiet hungover coding is then followed by two days of noisy expletive laden debugging.

Simon Harris Silver badge

Re: ZX Spectrum != Legacy corporate IT

"I'm.pretty sure Intel have developed CPUs with FPGA components on die for specific compute too."

The Intel Agilex SoC FPGA range have Quad-core 64 bit Arm Cortex-A53 CPUs on board - not sure if that's a case of a CPU with an FPGA on board, or an FPGA with a CPU on board.

Simon Harris Silver badge

Re: Arent' FPGAs only re-programmable a finite number of times?

For devices where the logic configuration is stored in non-volatile memory that is the case (at the extreme there are one-time-programmable devices), but for those using static RAM to store the configuration there is no reprogramming limit.

e.g.

https://www.intel.com/content/www/us/en/programmable/support/support-resources/knowledge-base/solutions/rd07022001_8599.html

If there's a bustle in your hedgerow, don't be alarmed now: Brexit tea towel says it'll just be the gigabit broadband

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Coat

The Internet of Hedgerows

It will be protected by Privet Key Encryption.

Mine's the one with the garden shears in the pocket --->

Hey, Brits. Your Google data is leaving the EU before you are: Hoard to be shipped from Ireland to US next month

Simon Harris Silver badge
Coat

Re: What makes a user a Brit?

"they have the sex-tape of your conception."

Good luck to them scanning that grainy 8mm movie-reel!

Mine's the one with all the 'what do you want to do with your pension' spam in the pocket --->

Going Dutch: The Bakker Elkhuizen UltraBoard 950 Wireless... because looks aren't everything

Simon Harris Silver badge

I get an early 1980s home-computer vibe from the picture.

Sort of what an Oric 1 might have looked like if it had an Apple IIc keyboard.

Dual screens, fast updates, no registry cruft and security in mind: Microsoft gives devs the lowdown on Windows 10X

Simon Harris Silver badge

Re: Er, who?

Does he have seven mystical daggers?

Very little helps: Tesco flashes ancient Windows desktop on Scan-As-You-Shop device

Simon Harris Silver badge

I've occasionally shopped in my local Tesco at that time in the morning, but then my local is a 24 hour petrol station Tesco.

Simon Harris Silver badge

Re: The many failure modes of Tesco

re: what the hell has happened to [Sainsburys]

I blame their takeover of Argos and their insistence on devoting a sizeable section of their larger stores to the aforementioned laminated dream shatterer.

Simon Harris Silver badge
Coat

Pocket Browser...

in the bottom left corner.

Does that automatically browse your pockets for items that have 'accidentally' bypassed the scanner?

Mine's the one with the 'I don't know how those got there, honest, guv' items in the pocket. ---------------->

Google says its latest chatbot is the most human-like ever – trained on our species' best works: 341GB of social media

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Terminator

Surely such a comment demands this icon ----------------------->

Simon Harris Silver badge
Paris Hilton

Re: Don't understand...

"trained it using social media posts"

In that case I'm surprised the chatbot didn't want to talk about the CardassiansKardashians* or the conversation descend into Nazi hate-speak (they must have learned their lesson after Microsoft's attempt!).

* more alien to me than the Cardassians.

Equally vapid ------------>

Simon Harris Silver badge
Pint

Re: Broken by design

"The manner will be relaxed, joyful and possibly all over the place involve beer"

It won't be a convincing AI unless it can stand a round.

Simon Harris Silver badge

Do you know why you're so good at counting words? Because you're outstanding in your field!

Remember that 2024 Moon thing? How about Mars in 2033? Authorization bill moots 2028 for more lunar footprints

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Getting to The Mood sounds like a jazz compilation album.

Curse of Boeing continues: Now a telly satellite it built may explode, will be pushed up to 500km from geo orbit

Simon Harris Silver badge

Re: Where will the bits go?

Presumably the idea is that there won't be any bits as it will be shunted out of the way and shut down so the batteries don't get a chance to explode.

Windows 7 back in black as holdouts report wallpaper-stripping shenanigans

Simon Harris Silver badge

Re: What did you expect from microsh#te?

It turns out that it depends upon which type of licencing set-up you have. If it was OEM or retail I think it never expires (barring hardware changes), if it's a corporate volume licence (which this was) it can need renewing at intervals.

Simon Harris Silver badge

Re: What did you expect from microsh#te?

Happily running windows 7 pro offline and off grid....no problems.....

I used to run an air-gapped Windows 7 system - after a few months it decided that not being able to phone home was a sure sign than it must be a pirated version and would foist black wallpaper on me with a message to the effect that my perfectly legal Windows 7 installation was a counterfeit copy.

Simon Harris Silver badge

An el Reg comments factoid:

The surest way to accumulate more down votes is to ask why your previous post was down voted.

Simon Harris Silver badge

I'd rather not follow that mystery link if it's all the same to you.

Microsoft boffin inadvertently highlights .NET image woes by running C# on Windows 3.11

Simon Harris Silver badge

Re: "Visual Studio is a paid-for product"

I remember in the late 1980s paying sub-£100 amounts for my own copies of Turbo C and Turbo Assembler (I used Turbo Pascal too at the time, but work paid for that so I don't remember the price), but I have some recollection of there simultaneously being a 'professional' version that was somewhere closer to £500.

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