* Posts by Rob Aley

53 publicly visible posts • joined 30 Oct 2007


Scotland Yard trackers operate fake mobile base stations

Rob Aley

In 1997 the door almost fell off one of them:


Someone sold the Met a turkey...

Dell bundles Ubuntu Linux on PCs in China

Rob Aley
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I do, its great, it gets out of the way and lets me get on productively (or unproductively, depending on my mood...!)

9/11: The day we lost our privacy and power

Rob Aley

> The UK population is now officially 62 million, or really 77 Million - http://www.independent.co.uk /news/business/comment/city-eye-facts-on-a-plate-our-population-is-at-least-77-million-395428.html.

I really wouldn't put much faith in the numbers in that article, for two reasons :

1 - food waste is a huge problem, All the food companies (be it producers, manufacturers or retailers) can tell you is how much food THEY sell (and how much THEY waste), not how much WE actually EAT vs. how much WE waste. We waste a lot more food than the food companies want to talk about, because our waste is easy money for them.

2 - As demonstrated in the article regarding supermarket market share, they have an inherent bias towards making the market seem as large as possible.

PHP users warned to stay away from latest update

Rob Aley
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Why its still there

If you don't use the crypt function, but need the other fixes included in the update, then it would be sensible to use the release. If you use the crypt function, or deploy it on shared hosts etc. where others may use it, then you should avoid the update.

I.E. it is still useful for some, so it shouldn't be pulled, just flagged as it has been.

Google SHOCK! Snaps up Motorola phone biz for $12.5bn

Rob Aley
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Re: a

This has parallels with Google & Mozilla. Google have their Chrome browser, with Mozilla Firefox being one of their main competitors. Google still pump tens of millions of dollars into Mozilla while Firefox tries to take market share from Android. Why? Because Google win either way, their market is advertising and they get a slice of the pie from either browser.

As long as you make more money than you would otherwise, jumping into bed with a competitor is often not the worst thing to do. Strengthening the market sector you're in may benefit others in that sector, but as long as it take share from other sectors (i.e. Apple) you're all quids in.

Companies like these will always have had a plan B at the back of their minds, even before this news, as Google could have messed up with Android in many different ways. It was never a proven platform. But at the moment, and perhaps for the foreseeable future, Android is still a better bet than the alternatives (Windows, Meego etc.). Google has the potential to drive a lot of advertising dollars its way through a diverse, happy Android ecosystem, probably a lot more than Motorola hardware sales could bring in. Google, and these other manufacturers, know this. Everybody wins (in the Android world, at least) if there is plurality in the Android harware market.

ECJ gender ruling 'could throw insurance into turmoil'

Rob Aley

understanding, just disagreeing

Chris, I have never denied that males have more motor claims than females, I agree its provably true (by bayesian inferance or probably by plain old frequentist infernece). And again, as I've stated above, its therefore financially prudent to price on this basis and understand why insurance companies do it.

However its still incorrect to say that it is provable that being a male is a higher risk than being female. This is a distinct concept from males as a group being higher risk than females as a group. You can apply bayesian inference to this hypothosis of individual risk as well, and may well come out with a high probability of it also being correct. But without being able to prove the basis on which you started (i.e. that you have either selected otherwise identical males and females from which to collect evidence and you have selected out any other possible traits which may affect driving from the group (not possible in my opinion)) then you have a major souce of inductive bias which makes the results worthless (or at least without a solid footing).

The judgement in question is simply saying that unless you can prove that my individual risk is affected by (not inferred by, not has a high probability, not is statistically likely, but is linked to) the risk of my gender as a group, then you are discriminating against me. You can show that my risk of testicular cancer is affected by me being male (the presence of testicles is a contributing factor I'm led to understand), but you can't show that my driving is affected by (or linked to) me being a male.

The law doesn't allow for statistical probabilities or inference, precisely because they are useless for accurately determining an atribute of an indiviudal. If you studied the prison population you would probably find some very strong statistically significant traits among the inmate populus. But it would not be wise to apply these to someone on trial to help determine their guilt.

I think we both understand the statistics, I think we just differ on what is fair to use in policy pricing (or, where the line should be drawn in fairness vs. practicalness vs. profitableness, and in group vs individual risk). Something I think we probably won't ever agree on.

I can't comment on the linked article as I'm poor and can't read it. I do understand bayesian inference and many other statistical techniques, I work in statistical programming day in and day out, so no courses necessary. Thanks for the suggestion though.

Rob Aley
Paris Hilton

Re: Sorry don't get it done, Dude*

"Car insurers exist to make a profit - what, just like every other business then? Feel free to set up your own car insurance not-for-profit business if you like, be sure to let us know how you get on."

There are plenty of not-for-profit insurers, search for "mutual insurance", the NFC is one off the top of my head that I've dealt with before. Anyhoo, I've not got a problem with them as a business making money, I was pointing out that your description of insurance as pooling the risk wasn't an entirely accurate description of how many/most current insurance companies operate.

"any extra premium charged to a higher risk group (eg males) can be used to reduce premiums to a lower risk group (eg females)"

And charging people called Smith more could reduce the premiums of people called Jones. Its arbitrary. Many comments imply that females will now be subsidising bad drivers and that isn't fair. But as good male driver I'm currently subsidising them and that is fair?

"There is no doubt that, as regards car insurance, males have more accidents than females. Note that this remains true even if we control for other factors - location, age, experience, etc. So gender is undoubtedly a provable risk factor in car insurance."

No, there is plenty of doubt. To prove it, you need to either control for ALL other factors (and not just those that the insurance company ask about or know to ask about), or prove a causal link between gender and risk (e.g. testicles are more likely to get caught in the brake pedal). You are correct that it IS true that males have more accidents than females, but this may be due to another factor. I.e people have more accidents because of factor X, and more males have factor X than females, and so have more accidents. The correct response to minimise cost to the pool and fairly reflect risk is thus to charge higher premiums to those with factor X, not those who are male. Factor X may not be known or too costly to calculate of course, in which case the correct action isn't to discriminate, but pool the risk across everybody.

The court also concluded the same, that it was not a provable risk to be male, and that is the only basis on which discrimination is allowed. It may be shrewd business planning to maximise profits by doing this, but no other business is allowed to make money by discriminating.

"so is it equally inequitable to charge a 50-year old more for life assurance than a 20-year old (or vice versa if car insurance is the topic)?"

No and yes. Being a 20 year old is like being male in the driving stakes, not directly relevant. Its experience that counts, so experience (e.g. number of years driving, number of miles driven, advanced driver training etc.) not age should be the determining factor. Life assurance is a different beast, it is not a pooling of risk. It is ASSURANCE not INSURANCE. It is essentially gambling with the providers money. But taken on the same "fairness" terms (and assuming that no master race of immortal humans emerges), it is a mathematical certainty that each day older we get the higher the probability of dying becomes, tending towards 1,with all else being equal. So I would say it is fair to make it a factor.

Rob Aley

Re: Wait a second...

"Do you really want an actuary living with you full time? Also maybe a tax inspector to assess YOUR risk of becoming a tax-evader? And a policeman to vouch that you are not a terrorist?"

The the facts about me above are already asked for (maybe not about the fluffy dice) by most insurance companies. I'm not in favour of them becoming more and more intrusive, in fact I would choose an insurance provider who asked me the least number of questions (and pay a bit more as a result). My point is that whatever information I choose to provide the insurance company with about me (in return for a reduced premium maybe) should be used soley on a PERSONAL RISK based basis. Telling them I'm male doesn't provide them with any useful statistics on my risk. Telling them I've had 23 accidents in the 1 year I've been driving does.

"And why would you want anyone to know that much information about you? Nothing to hide, nothing to fear?"

I am personally happy with the insurance companies knowing the information I suggested above, for me it provides a nice balance between benefits (cheaper premium) and comparitively low risk. I think maybe you misunderstand my point, its not that they should know everything about me. It is merely that what they do know (and what they should know is a whole other debate) should only be used to increase my premium if there is a fair and reasonable expectation that it increases my risk to the pool. There are no data to suggest that me being male increases my risk to the pool.


Rob Aley

you have to look at the individual

Destroy All Monsters :

"As any statistical hypothesis testing would show. And that's why insurance isn't calculated on star signs."

And also why, as described in court, premiums shouldn't be calculated on gender either. There is no statistically significant evidence that justifies gender based pricing.

"Men have more accidents. Being a man doesn't cause accidents."

"Causality is irrelevant. Learn2statistics."

I've "learn2statistics", I work in statistical programming at Oxford University. Causality is only "irrelevant" if you're not interested in systems that are equitable and based on what the statistics actually say. Inferring the risk of an individual from population based statistics is problematic at best, and in this case mostly wrong. It only "works" for the insurance companies as their goal is profit, not equitable risk pooling. It is a cheap hack that meets that goal that mostly works for them.

Compulsory insurance must be fair. In no sense of the word is gender based pricing fair (on the consumer). I should perhaps have clarified in my first post that I understand why the insurance companies do this. I also understand how that differs from their justifications.

Rob Aley
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Sorry Chris

Car insurance pricing at the moment isn't about pooling risk, its about maximising profit for the insurance company. Charging me more for simply being a male does nothing to lower the risk/cost for the pool as a whole. Charging me more for causing more accidents or parking in a dodgy area does, as it disuades me from doing so and increasing the risk to the pool.

The example you give of knowing so much that the premium charged is equal to my claims is based on a false premis, that being that knowing all specific risk criteria means you can predict accidents with certainty. As long as you don't know enough to predict specific accidents (i.e. you only know the risk), the concept of pooling that risk means that you have an average chance of your premium being lower than your claims.

The example risk criteria I listed above (driving record, parking locations etc.) are already asked by most insurers. I would be fine with completely pooling risk, i.e. everybody pays the same insurance premium regardless. However where, for whatever reason (be it to reduce the risk to the pool or increase the profit to the provider) it is necessary to break the pool down for charging purposes, it is only equitable to do it on a basis of factors one can reasonbly influence, and which lead to a provable risk for the individual in that pool. Gender fits neither of those criteria.

With regards to non-compulsory insurance (e.g. life cover), consumers don't win in the current system anyway. The risk isn't pooled, its minimised by removing risky people from the pool (not by minimisng the risk itself). The only winners (on average) are the insurance companies. All other companies have to build business models which ensure they don't descriminate unfairly, the insurance industry should be the same. If being male increases my risk (testicular cancer) then increase my premium. If not (car driving) I'm just part of the general pool, charge me accordingly. If your business model won't work that way, look closer to home to see the problem.

Rob Aley

Understand statistics

This ruling isn't saying everyone "must be equal in all things", in fact it is saying the opposite. it is saying you can't generalise, you have to look at the individual.

Statistics only reflect a given population, not a given individual. But the insurance companies don't calculate a premium for the given population (i.e. all men) and then charge everyone in the population the same, they calculate it & charge for an individual.

The fact I have a penis doesn't make me drive like all other men. My wife has had more accidents than me, but gets a lower premium (with all else i.e. age, driving years, address, car etc. being the same).

This ruling simly says look at MY risk. Not my genders risk. Not my populations risk. But risk that can be attributed to what I choose to do (i.e. MY previous driving record, MY years of experience, MY choice of cars, MY choice of address, MY choice of parking location, MY selection of fluffy dice).

If you split the population into those with surnames begining A-M and those with surnames begining M-Z you would likely find one group to have a higher number of claims than the other. But it would be unfair to charge you a premium based on your surname because there is nothing inherent about your surname that affects your driving. This ruling is based on a similar fact, that there is no evidence that anything about being a man causes you as an individual to be more likely to make a claim.

Men have more accidents. Being a man doesn't cause accidents.

Nerd alert: First Lucid Lynx Ubuntu beta fun

Rob Aley

This is what OSS is all about

Canonical may not be doing a lot of the development work, but they are doing the bits Red Hat et al are failing to do (at least well(, namely bundling the right bits together, promoting and distributing, and supporting users. And excelling at it. Open Source means you don't need to re-invent the wheel, you can take other peoples work and add what you are good at to the mix, to the benefit of society at large.

Like every good development they are standing on the shoulders of giants. And many other smaller fish are standing on their shoulders too.

BBC Trust won't probe iPlayer open source gripes

Rob Aley


Use the form to make a complaint about not being able to make a complaint about iPlayer using that form. Simples!

Why you subsidize Google's Soviet-style Net

Rob Aley
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car analogy

When I drive to the supermarket, it costs me money in petrol, insurance, road tax etc. However you wouldn't claim I'm subsidising the supermarket. The bandwidth I pay for to access google services (and promote my websites on their search engine) I would argue is in the same class.

Greens more likely thieves and liars, says shock study

Rob Aley
Paris Hilton


They were told the could help themselves to the cash and given permission to answer the questions incorrectly, presumably by the people running the study. That means that they weren't stealing or being dishonest. The real test would presumably be being told they shouldn't do either and then see who actually did do so?

Beer drinking model to get caned in Malaysia

Rob Aley
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Breaks the skin

Just incase anyone is in doubt, the cane used is designed to break the skin and leave long-lasting scarring. Its not just a "spanking" as some here have described it as.

This punishment is inhumane, regardless of wether the law she broke was just or not. And it was not a just law - most countries ban various substances (the UK bans various drugs), but this law was discrimatory in that it only applied to women, which makes it unjust.

Violent punishments simply keep a country in fear, rather than safe.

Shuttle X 5000TA

Rob Aley

eee-top & linux?

Does anyone know how this compares to the very similar EEE-top?

And how about its compatibility with Linux? Are there drivers for the touchscreen etc?

Privacy campaigner vows legal challenge to Google Street View

Rob Aley
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Hoisting, own petard etc.

I think that their legal problems may stem from their own attempts as bluring faces. By doing so they have acknowledged there is a privacy issue here, which they say they have solved by using face blurring algorithms that do the job in all but a very few exceptional cases.

However they must be aware (if they have used Street View at all themselves, which one would assume they have!) that their algorithm is in fact not that good.

As an example, I spent about 10 minutes looking at the streets here in Oxford around the hospitals, and found any number of unblurred faces. Here are some of them, I haven't posted links to others including children and people going in and out of the hospitals themselves :

Near the JR & Manor hospitals :



Near the Churchill and Warnerford hospitals :




Given that it only took a short time to find this number (and more), Google really can't claim that its only exceptional cases that aren't blurred automatically. If they keep claiming that, knowing it is false, I think they are heading towards stormy waters. And if they acknowledge the problem, and don't fix it or withdraw Street View, they they likewise may find themselves in hot water, as by attempting the bluring in the first place have acknowledged a privacy issue.

HMRC bigs up success of online tax returns

Rob Aley
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Worked on 31st

Filed my on Saturday, i.e. the last possible moment (er, to test the availability, you know, not as I'm disorganised...!) and it worked fine, the website was quite "snappy" actually!

The error page pointed too in the article is just their default "we're snowed under page" that you get directed to if there is a problem, it's there all the time and doesn't mean that there is a problem happening then and there.

Study spanks Adobe Flash for abuses of power

Rob Aley

@jake and others, re CFLs

Stop spouting rubbish about CFLs and Mercury.

- Modern CFLs contain less mercury than coal plants dump into the atmosphere when generating the extra power needed for the equivalent incandecent bulb (by a ratio of about 6:10).

- CFLs are very recyclable, and the manufacturers are obliged to provide such a scheme by the WEEE directive. The only issue is that there are few collection points at the moment. The RecOlight scheme (http://www.recolight.co.uk) formed by the major manufacturers is being rolled out and many local authorities are signing up to participate. In the US you can recycle your CFLs at any "Home Depot". Buy CFLs now, buy the time they burn out there will likely be a recycling facility right near you, and if there isn't, put them in a box until there is. They last a long, long time so you won't need a big box.

- Some older CFLs and some given out free now (as they are older stock) are rubbish in terms of their light output, not really giving the same light per equivalent watt. But, as any good Reg reader will know, technology moves on. Go into any supermarket or B&Q etc. and buy a modern one now, and you'll see the difference (or rather you won't).

To sum up : They're better for the environment and you'll save money with no noticable difference.

UK.gov says extreme porn isn't illegal if you delete it...

Rob Aley

@Richard Cartledge

> Ugh! This is gross, who cares if it's banned?

Not my cup of tea either, and not the kind of thing I would like to see. Mind you, neither is organised religion, football and xfactor. I do care if they ban such things though, its whats known as "a slippery slope" :

"In Germany, they came first for the Communists, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist;

And then they came for the trade unionists, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist;

And then they came for the Jews, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew;

And then . . . they came for me . . . And by that time there was no one left to speak up."

Main BBC channels to be broadcast live via web

Rob Aley

@ James Prior

You have a couple of points wrong :

- To get a warrant from a court they need to show a probably cause, which the courts have held is more than just the fact that you don't have a license, you have a TV, or you just won't let them in. They need to give the courts evidence to show why they believe you are USING the TV or PC to receive or record live TV. This is usually in the form of detector van evidence, or a statement to the effect "As their curtains weren't shut we could see from the street they were watching what appeared to be a live showing of Eastenders" or "We could hear through the letter box what sounded like a live showing of Corrie".

- "My partner just had to do a doorstep interview two years ago " - no, they didn't "have to". You do not have to open the door to them or talk to them in any way shape and form unless they have a court order.

- "You may complain about your liberties". Damn right. It really is a slippery slope. I have a license as I watch live TV, but if I didn't I would put up with them keep bothering me rather than let them into my house when they don't need to be. Our system of law and freedoms works (or rather did work) on the basis of "Innocent until proven guilty", rather than "Your guilty until you can prove yourself innocent". The way the law is changing around to this way of thinking, and how people like you are letting it, is one of the reasons I left the police force.

Several other people seem confused by who needs a TV license and who doesn't, mainly because the law changed relatively recently and the licesing authories don't shout about it. The ONLY people that need a TV license are those who RECEIVE, VIEW OR RECORD live TV programs at the time they are broadcast live on air using ANY kind of equipment through any kind of transmission (over the air, from satellite, over the internet, mobile phone etc.). Simply Owning a TV or PC or otherwise having the potential to view TV doesn't require a license. You only need it if you watch it.

The Long Fail: Web 2.0's faith meets the facts

Rob Aley
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@ Gulfie

"If something in the long tail proves to be even slightly popular then it would move outside of the definition of the long tail. Ergo, the long tail remains worthless"

Yeah, but no, but yeah, but no. You see, take my business for example. We sell specialty niche tea, coffee and chocolate. Most of our profit comes from products like the Sweet Potato, Mocha and Rosemary chocolate bar :


Compared to Cadburys chocolate, not that popular in the market place, so still part of the long tail. But for us it (and similar products) are a big seller, so they aren't worthless to us. Our big tail is different from the markets big tail. We still make money.

Nissan to debut anti-prang tech next week

Rob Aley
Paris Hilton


On a motorway, aproaching a coned off area, or maybe an accident in lane one. The car detects you're crossing into lane two by the markings. What then? How does it know you didn't mean to do that? Perhaps if you've turned the stearing wheel it knows you meant to make the manouver. But what if the cones start on gentle left hand bend? You keep the wheel straight to go into lane two, "computer says no", pulls you back into the cones. Dead workmen, crashed car, cd's containing personal data on thousands of people scattered across the road. I can see it now.

Farmers demand 'special' climate deal for flatulent cattle

Rob Aley
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To sum up the facts

The main problems with cows :

- cows fart methane which is not photosynthesisable(sp?) like CO2

- most industrial cows are grain fed

- grain is produced using high inputs of oil-based agro chemicals

- grain fed cows fart more than grass fed cows, particularly those that aren't allowed to roam

- roaming grass fed cows also help to preserve grass lands from crop farming. Grass lands are great carbon sinks.

Two solutions :

- eat less cow meat/milk

- what you do eat make sure it is grass fed (easiest way in the UK - look for the "Soil Association" organic logo).

This will reduce the climatic impact.

New no-advertising domain will deter some cybersquatters

Rob Aley
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Might be useful

Certainly it will be scammed, theres no way of stopping that 100% on anything.

However I think it will find customers as it already has a pre-cursor. Its not much use on the web, but on phones it may be. Lots of companies already have phone numbers that they advertise like "dial 0800-HOTPIZZA to get, er, hot pizza!" using the letters on the number buttons of a phone. People can never remember phone numbers from a quick advert, so this is similar (but easier to type) e.g. "dial hotpizza.tel for, er, hot pizza"

So it won't carry advertising, but will feature in it instead. Hmmm.

Europe gives temps same rights as permanent staff

Rob Aley
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Small biz owner

As the owner/MD of a small company I welcome these laws.

Mind you, as I already understand that my business is built on the back on my employees and they are the most valuable asset it has, temps & part-timers are already given the same pay and conditions (except for contract length and working hours, as appropriate) as full-time permanent staff. So it won't really affect us.

Those that see staff as another "utility" like electricity, broadband etc. to be turned on and off at wil,l at the minimum price, may well get hit hard. Maybe they'll learn the real value of people.

Criminals hijack terminals to swipe Chip-and-PIN data

Rob Aley

Re: Photograph for identification

No, it wasn't that there was no money to be made, it was that it was a rubbish idea. If you can clone a regular card and print it good enough that a shop keeper won't notice, you can print your own photo on there as well. And for physically stolen cards, if they don't check the signature, they won't check the photo.

Net shoppers bullied into being Verified by Visa

Rob Aley

A merchants view ...

As a merchant (www.oxfordethical.co.uk) we weren't allowed to accept maestro cards until we enrolled in 3D secure with our provider (barclaycard business), which then rolls it out across all card types. I generally welcome it and think it can do for online sales what chip and pin did for card holder present sales i.e. generally reduce fraud without affecting sales levels (in some cases increasing them as chip and pin can be faster, which is why the likes of MacDonalds are now accepting cards).

However it needs to be implements fully, across all cards, and made mandatory.

- Without it at all, there is lots of fraud

- With it partially as it is now, there is some fraud reduction, some increase, and lots of customers put off

- With it rolled out fully, there will be lots of fraud reduction and customer familiarity will mean that they aren't put off (well, most of them).

The only downside in the way it is implemented now is that it is too easy for fraudsters to "copy". When I use my egg card which is enrolled, there is a "customer message" line which appears on the screen asking for my password. This should contain something such as phrase I have provided them in advance, so I know it is a genuine screen. However currently it just has a marketing or generic "this is all secure" type message. Make this work correctly, roll it out across all card types and banks, make it compulsory and fraud will drop dramatically.

Nothing is ever perfect or will stop fraud completely, but I think this is the best current bet. And for those saying the banks are only doing this to protect themselves, well, duh! But remember that being as they are, they would pass down the extra costs of fraud to customers or the merchants (who mostly add it to the price of their goods) anyway. They'll never let it touch their profits, but at least this way consumers don't end up paying for it.

Trousers Brown Counterpoint: Is Gordon right?

Rob Aley

@Dunstan Vavasour

"I salure you"

Thanks...I think...my GCSE french tells me "salure" is the measure of salt in something...you therefore wish to measure my salt levels....it's good to have people looking out for my health! :)

Rob Aley

Organic food

Some food has to travel (if we want to eat it, that is). Things like coffee, tea, bananas and other tropical fruit, rice etc. don't grow well locally.

Growing food organically is an often overlooked way of keeping fuel related costs down on these products. No oil based agrichemicals, minimum machinery used and oil based packaging (plastics etc.). Organics are showing higher yields in the southern hemisphere as well, proving more drought and pest resistance.

Many organically grown flowers from Africa have a lower carbon footprint than those from Holland, even with travel included.

Food prices, security & environmental impact isn't always about distance, the method of production can have a huge impact too.

Disclosure of bias : I run a Fairtrade & Organic certified tea and coffee merchants (OxfordEthical.co.uk).

File system killer Reiser rejected 3-year sentence

Rob Aley

Re: Appeal??

Obviously an appeal based on "i didn't do it" probably wouldn't be successful, but given he was initially offered a deal to cop for manslaughter rather than murder, there may be scope for an appeal for a reduced sentence if they can show that it was only manslaughter. Obviously he shouldn't have lied to the court and confessed to what had happened from the start, but that doesn't mean that he should be punished for murder rather than manslaughter (if that indeed is what it was). Perhaps a bit of extra time for perjury or such would be appropriate.

Re: Am I the only one...

No Paul, you're not the only one, I too am of the opinion you should should be able to give up your rights. It leaves the system too open to exploitation. For instance if an innocent person is stiched up they may take a deal to reduce their time thinking there is no other alternative, particularly if they have a crap lawyer. Even if they then get a better lawyer or new evidence emerges, they're screwed.

It always irks me that you get a lesser sentence for admitting guilt. It means if a person is actually innocent, and pleads innocence, should they get found guilty then the miscarriage of justice is all the greater as they will serve longer than someone who actually committed the crime.

Nut launches death threats at Debian women

Rob Aley

the fringe elements of the open source movement

Er, it's not really "the fringe elements of the open source movement", its the fringe of society. Sexist shit like this happens in a closed source environment too, quite often, but the commercial "sensitivities" mean it is covered up and the perpetrators paid off or promoted. At least in the open source movement it is getting some airtime.

Gordo's DNA database claims branded 'ridiculous'

Rob Aley


@ keiron d

Yes, they will have kept your DNA profile, if they were following the guidelines.

@Dan, @Tom

They can (and do) take it and keep it when you are arrested, being charged isn't even necessary. And if you are naive and agree, they can take and retain it at any time.

Shameful disclaimer : I'm an ex cop.

Think tank slams paedophile paranoia culture

Rob Aley

@ Louis

Sorry Louis, but the description you've given for the enhanced CRB check (which is soon to overtake the basic check in terms of numbers done) isn't quite complete. The enhanced check also includes any intelligence the police officer (just one officer, no cross checks) who supplies info from the police side to the CRB for each check deems to be relevant. This can (and usually does) include arrests that resulted in no charge, allegations that didn't result in arrest, and even just "intellegence" without the need to even give sources. And while the Police will say that it is up to the employer to decide whether to use that info in deciding to give you a job, what employer will "take the chance"?

Another interesting fact - If you apply for a job (of whatever nature, including voluntary) with the Police, they skip that nasty semi-independent CRB and do their own checks.

An even more interesting fact - If you apply to be an independent custody visitor, someone who is meant to keep an independent eye on how people are treated in custody (including innocent people who may be under arrest) and how the Police process them, guess who does the vetting? Thats right, its the Police themselves! Kinda removes the "independent" part.

If a malicious allegation is made against you, one of the first things Police officers will do is check for previous allegations before deciding whether to arrest you. Yes, that means that if you've been wrongfully arrested before, it makes you MORE likely to be wrongfully arrested again in the future!

The answer to all of this is simple : If you are not convicted of a crime, all data on you and the allegation should be removed from PNC shortly after the investigation is complete.

This state of affairs arose from the Soham murders. While tragic, and while there is a small possibility such a tradgedy could occur again, innocent peoples lives are being ruined right now. And not just a few, but a lot. Every year.

Although many are happy with it, a lot of cops aren't, but they can't speak out. I left the force because of issues like this (and unfortunately many other abuses of human rights due to the current way the law is policed), so I can speak out now.

Oh, and I do (and have) helped out when I've seen someone in trouble, even though I am afraid of allegations, I don't think I could live with myself if I didn't, and I would encourage everyone else to do so. Otherwise you let "them" win.

Rob Aley


The problem isn't people with criminal records, its CRB checks, which check much more than that. CRB checks include ANY allegation made to police including those that were unsubstantiated, even just intellegence that didn't result in an arrest, let alone a charge or caution.

These records are unproven in court, indeed "suspects" have no legal right to challenge their accuracy, or in most cases to even see them, but they affect whether you can get a job or not.

The war on photographers - you're all al Qaeda suspects now

Rob Aley

@Clint Sharp

Don't get me wrong Clint, I agree that most of what has been described here is wrong and much of it illegal.

People have the right to take photos in public, including crime scenes etc. and the Police can't confiscate cameras because of that. HOWEVER, in the spirit of making sure people know the law, people should be aware that the police CAN confiscate them IF they may contain evidence. A good copper should of course ask for your cooperation first before demanding it, and only when there is a genuine need for that evidence.

Its good that you are willing to share your snaps if they ask nicely, but chain-of-custody rules are likely to mean that they usually need to take at least the card/film there and then, rather than arranging for you to download and email the photos later. Otherwise the defence solicitors will be all over it - "he deleted/photoshopped the photos that prove my clients innocence before giving them to the police". Of course the officer should politely explain this to you and justify why the seizure is necessary, before resorting to more forceful tactics.

I've seen an officer seize a shops whole CCTV recording system at a serious incident because none of the staff present knew how to download the relevant video to DVD. He explained why he had to do it nicely, and they were (relatively) happy.

I only brought up the subject as the Reg's guide didn't really cover that area of the law, and its important people know what rights they DONT have as well as those they do.

I'm very much against the current police & surveillance state that the Government are creating, which is why I'm not part of the force anymore.

Rob Aley
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Legal advice not quite right

I'm an ex-cop, it's partly due to sh*t like this that I left the force.

However there is something missing from your guide to what you can and can't do.

Police have the right, without needing a court order, to confiscate evidence of a crime. This means that if you have taken pictures of a crime scene before, during or after a crime (or where it is reasonably thought a crime may take place or have taken place), or if the Police think that you may have taken pictures of yourself committing a crime, they can seize the film/card at least. And a court would likely to class it reasonable to seize the camera as well if the officer isn't confident they can extract the film/card safely, or in the case of digital if they reasonably suspect the camera has in-built memory.

The aftermath of a car accident. building fire, fight etc. are considered crime scenes even once the Police have arrived. So any pictures you take can still be considered evidence (you may have caught one of the perpetrators still hanging around, images of substances that are about to get washed away by the pending rain cloud etc. etc.) so an officer can still confiscate with warrent in those circustances. Note that it is not necessary to prove that you HAVE taken useful pictures, just that there may REASONABLY be the chance that evidence may appear in them. The press are generally afforded professional curtisy in these situations (although not always), on the basis that they will likely publish anything useful anyway.

So remember, its not always taking the photo that is the crime, it is withholding evidence of another crime.

But of course the officer has (usually, or at least should have) discretion...and some common sense may be nice..?

Small, awkward and looking for love: Delphi for PHP 2.0

Rob Aley
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I'm a big fan of Delphi (as in the original Win32 Pascal based Delphi), I've used it for most of my programming career and we still use borland studio 2006 at work. I also use PHP extensively for web stuff and scripting stuff.

I was intially excited when I heard about this. However having tried it, it doesn't live up to delphi or PHPs potential.

As I'm moving all of my machines over to Linux, I'm making the switch away from Delphi for GUI applications. Where am I headed? At the moment it looks like PHP-GTK. It's cross platform, has the simplicity and power of PHP, and of course is open source. The downsides are its complex (or at least tedious) to install and deploy, and at the moment there isn't an itegrated Delphi style IDE. If someone can pull that all together (perhaps incorporating something like Glade) into an IDE with the simplicity of Delphi, and make installation and deployment a click-and-go procedure, then they will have a killer product for cross-platform GUI application development.

MS bashes Gay(wood) Xbox Live gamer

Rob Aley

Re In other news...

>Really, "Automated name-filtering software catches person with potentially

>offensive word in their name/nickname". This hasn't been news for at least 10

>years now.

That may not be news, but this is. "Gay" is NOT an offensive word. Welcome to the 21st century, Microsoft may enter it soon, too.

Minister: Waste wood is 'huge potential resource'

Rob Aley
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Re: Better than compact fluorescents (CFLs)

With our properly insulated 1930's semi, we usually have the heating on for a max of 4-5 months a year. That means that for 7-8 months a year our CFLs are saving the full wack of energy.

Still sounds worth it to me.

The 'green' car tax grabs that don't add up

Rob Aley
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Re: Sigh

Timothy, dear Timothy.

It should be "within the ken of someone intelligent enought to" write for "this journal" to understand the difference between

a) Given a fixed amount of money, maximise the number of lives you can save (as NICE do)


b) Put a price on life (as your article advocates)

Compare these two sentences : No amount of money paid now can offset/compensate for a life lost in the future that could have been saved through action. 50p can save a childs life in Africa now. See the difference?

Rob Aley
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Cost of a life (back at ya & ya)

@Spleen & Matthew

How many lives you can save for a given amount of money (which certainly should be maximised) doesn't mean that the amount spent per life saved is the cost of a life. Spending 50p to imunise a child doesn't mean that that child's life is worth 50p.

The money taken in tax isn't money taken from other life-saving endevours. And the idea of a green tax is to not take the tax at all, but to reduce the usage so that you take no tax in the end.

The point of the article was that we can offset the cost in lives in the future with a monetary cost today. While there is often a fixed amount of money that can save lives, there isn't a fixed amount that can compensate for the loss of a life.

"The money spent on reducing carbon emission could be used very cheaply to save lives right here and now, it's just not as trendy"

Are you currently donating the money you will be taxed to these causes? Nope, neither is anyone else. And even if you are, you will still have that tax money to donate if you cut your carbon usage (and with the benefit of saving lives in the future as well as now).

"For a science/engineering/IT audience, I'd expect more enthusiasm for measurement of cost/benefit."

For a GOOD science/engineering/IT audience I would expect an appreciation that the "cost" in "cost/benefit" isn't just a monetary one.

I run a small business selling Fairtrade Tea & Coffee. We have adopted a low-carbon approach, and saved money doing it. We save now, and help with the future.

Rob Aley

"Fellow of the Adam Smith Institute"

I missed that byline initially, but now the article makes sense!

The Adam Smith Institute recently published a report saying Fairtrade is wrong, and leaving coffee growers and the like to the free market is the best thing for them, failing to note that its the free market that caused the social and economic deprevation in the producing communitites in the first place.

For an example closer to home, the current state of the railways is due to the Adam Smith Institutes recommendations on how to privatise it.

And they want to ban free libraries. Lock up that knowledge, and we won't learn that money isn't everything...

Rob Aley
Paris Hilton

Its not economics

The problem with your argument is that it is based on economics, i.e. that the tax should pay for the damage done and so everything balances.

However, (in my opinion at least), balance isn't necessary. The purpose of the tax is to deter use and prevent the damage in the first place, and it doesn't matter if it costs more to do so than the costs of the damage that would occur. Because even though the economists (and you) may think you can put a price on a life, you can't. And global warming will cost lives.

If you think you can put a price on a life, tell me how much. I will give you the money and then kill you.

Paris, because even she has more of a clue than you.

Time to rewrite DBMS, says Ingres founder

Rob Aley

Storing databases in RAM?

> How do you keep data safe when dealing with system ?

> reboots or server downtime?

> Nothing is ever up 100% of the time.

Easy. For system reboots, simply copy the databases to disk before rebooting and load them into ram again on startup(makes reboots a bit longer, but on a production server they shouldn't happen that often). Or even send them to another machines ram over the network.

For unplanned downtime/crashes etc., work out how much data you are willing to loose. Is the past hours worth ok to loose for an average crash once a year? If so, then back up the ram to disk each hour. This is a task that can run in the background while your box continues its job.

Swedish police cuff seven for online pill sales

Rob Aley
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Does anyone else find it slightly worrying that the only reason they intercepted and opened the post was that someone was sending parcels abroad on a daily basis? Running a legitimate small ecommerce business, being an avid ebay trader etc. means that the police get to snoop your mail?

Or is only illegal material sent abroad nowadays? perhaps I'm behind the times...

The 'blem wit' error messages

Rob Aley
Gates Horns

Tablet PC

Not quite an error message, but one that wouldn't let me pass :

I was re-installing Windows XP Tablet Edition on my Motion Computing slate (i.e. no keyboard) Tablet PC.

The installation went fine, until the point Microsoft asked me to press F8 to accept the terms of the license.

It now runs Ubuntu.

100Mbit/s sewer broadband rollout coming your way

Rob Aley

Re: why people need to download at a rate greater than 24 hours of TV per day

To Ian :

Remember that there tends to be more than one person in most houses. Imagine a family of four :

Kid 1 and Kid 2 in their bedrooms each watching a different live streaming HDTV channel. Kid 2 chatting to freind Belinda on VOIP about that eversohansom pop star she is watching. Kid 1 downloading the latest multi GB linux ISOs.

Parent 1 in the study working away on the net, watching streaming bloomberg TV or similar while using VOIP to make trades on some foreign stock market.

Parent 2 in the kitchen, streaming Delia/Jamie/Gordon in HD while making dinner and chatting to aunty over VOIP.

All while the internet connected fridge contacts Microsoft Update and downloads the latest patches for WindowsForIceMakersOS.

It all adds up bandwidth wise. And if history is anything to go by, the more we get, the more new and exciting uses we discover for it that we can't think of at the moment.

So there certainly is a use for that kind of bandwidth. Whether there is the central infrastructure to support it is, as you say, another question. My money is on the old "supply and demand" pony sorting that one out in time.

Hope this all doesn't put too much of a dent in your livelyhood ... might be time to consider a career change?

Caffeine doubles miscarriage risk

Rob Aley

1 in 3 mis-carry

There are quite a few comments here along the lines of "how did they ever manage to give birth before all this advice" trying to imply that miscarriage is a minor problem.

It might help to reflect on the fact that around 1 in 3 pregnancies end in miscarriage in the first three months. Thats a third of all pregancies. And it was higher in "the good old days". While it may be "natures way", it isn't a comfort for those it happens to.

In my humble opinion anything that can reduce that figure is a Good Thing (tm).