* Posts by Tim Brown

42 publicly visible posts • joined 1 Dec 2007

Brown to Sugar: 'You're hired'

Tim Brown

I guess that means that...

...we should no longer refer to Surralan but (in best Dick Van Dyke cockney) Lorblimeyalan!

Opera 10 debuts with 'Turbo' boost

Tim Brown
Dead Vulture


"Sadly, the browser has yet to implement a way to manage which websites get to execute Flash, javascript and similar client-side programs and which ones don't."

Huh?? Unless they have removed a feature already present in Opera 9 you can already do that. Just right click any page you're browsing and click 'edit site preferences' to turn off/on scripting for a site or for individual bits of a page 'block content'.

Cobol hits fifty

Tim Brown

y2k fearing indeed

My first proper job after leaving University was converting a banking back office system written in COBOL to use four-digit dates. It was a nightmare!

I remember it ran on a set of RANK-XEROX Sigma 9s (rumour had it that NASA had used these machines to help get man to the moon) and crashed all the time. I know cos I used to get woken in the middle of the night to get it running again.

Fraud guardian uses 'unfair business practices', Judge rules

Tim Brown

And a fraud alert is what exactly?

From Experian's web site:

"Fraud alert messages notify potential credit grantors to verify your identification before extending credit in your name"

Er... 'scuse my niavety but shouldn't they be doing this anyway?

Taking a first bite out of Wolfram Alpha

Tim Brown

A long way to go

I played with the site today, and, apart from entering queries as prompted by their examples, everything I tried just got a 'Huh' reply.

Maybe I was just being dumb, but certainly the hype about being able to interpret 'natural English queries' is definitely unfounded.

Google suffers international outages, slowdowns

Tim Brown

Google's pervasiveness is bad for the web

The problem now is that so many other sites use Google Adsense or Analytics or both that if Google has a problem so does a lot of the web.

So many web pages stall loading with a 'waiting for pagead2.google.com' or whatever.

Microsoft: Don't rush to download Windows 7 RC

Tim Brown

Ah... another classic

Since I've recently being playing around with Virtualbox I thought I'd have a look at the release candidate.

However going to the download page, I see I need a Windows Live ID... I don't have one... why is there no signup option? Why? Well because I'm using Opera 9 and their download page is broken when viewed with Opera and the signup button is missing!

The Pirate Bay loads cannon with official appeal

Tim Brown

Bus pass?

Hasn't Macca (aged 66) picked up his pensioner's bus pass then? Then he wouldn't have to pay.

Google money machine defies common sense

Tim Brown


My company, careimages.com, advertises with Google. One of the kewords we use is, quite obviously 'care'. I monitor click responses closely. In the last month or so I'd noticed serveral clicks for phrases using the word 'car'. Quite clearly they weren't misspellings either as they'd be phrases like 'car transporters photos' and 'car racing pictures'.

Totally irrelevant to us and I had to block that by using a negative keyword. I also wonder quite what's going on with clicks on our ads anyway with phrases like that. Why would anyone interested in car transporter photos click on an ad that mentions community care for the disabled?

This also illustrates the importance of monitoring your ad clicks yourself through your own server logs rather than Google's own reports. Since Google does not provide any information on 'fuzzy' keyword matching.

I long ago abandoned the idea of their 'content network' as virtually all the clicks I was seeing from that appeared dubious (try telling Google!) and only advertise on the search results page.

Profs: Sex with oldies or youngsters will give you the clap

Tim Brown

Speaking from experience?

'“It’s all about the risk of the partner and sometimes we forget that,” commented Richard A Crosby.'

Is it possible that the good professor may have had to visit the clinic himself on more than one occasion?

Serial killer may have been conjured by DNA blunder

Tim Brown
Black Helicopters

This is what worries me about DNA

Unlike. say, fingerprint evidence, us ordinary mortals can't see DNA evidence for ourselves. Instead we have to rely on the officers, scientists, analysts (and now it seems, swab manufacturers), to all do their job dilligently and honestly. In the end we just have to believe what they tell us.

Science-boosting thickie questionnaire backfires

Tim Brown

I think I see the logic here...

Since 71 - 80% includes the exact figure it cannot be roughly correct. Therefore 61 - 70% is the range which answers the question correctly! (roughly...)

My coat is the one with leaky pockets.

Twitter force-fed $35m in venture capital

Tim Brown

What confuses me about Twitter is...

if everybody that uses it was being honest about what they were up to at that moment, surely all the entries should be a variation on "right now, I'm posting on Twitter..."

Spinning the war on the UK's sex trade

Tim Brown


I think the author of this piece has picked a very poor platform on which to triumph his liberalism. I too would describe myself as a liberal and I have no issue with whatever consenting adults get up to in private (or even, in most cases public!). However the key word there is 'consenting'. If someone makes use of the services of a prostitute who they know or believe is being coerced into providing those services, then I'm quite happy for a suitably heavy book to be thrown at them as, I would hope, are the majority of society, liberal or not.

Saying that the scale of the problem has been exaggerated is just a red-herring. Even one person being forced to provide sex-services against their will is one too many.

I would agree that this government is far too fond of making laws just for the sake of it, and I am somewhat surprised that there isn't already existing legislation under which such cases could be prosecuted. I would also be wary of this law being mis-applied. However those are different arguments. Liberalism is not the issue here.

Redmond security guru explains IE vuln miss

Tim Brown
Gates Horns

In practical terms

Another site with the story has fuller details and includes pseudo-code of the bug

int MaxIdx = ArrayOfObjectsFromIE.Size()-1;

for (int i=0; i <= MaxIdx; i++) {

if (!ArrayOfObjectsFromIE[i])






Basically, if I understand it correctly, other threads could update the array being used in the loop so that MaxIdx wasn't necessarily valid for the duration of the loop. For all the throwing of acronyms around it still comes down to the programmer(s) not fully understanding the environment they are coding in.

Europe-wide emergency number is go

Tim Brown

cars phoning in when crashed

What I find interesting is this tidbit tucked away on their website:

"automatic in-vehicle emergency calls: according to an action plan agreed between the Commission and industry, all new cars should be equipped with “eCall” from 2010 onwards. This technology will call the emergency services in case of an accident, using 112 to send accident data, including the car's location. Many Member States need to upgrade their infrastructure to enable the emergency services to receive and process the “eCall” data."

I hate to think how many timewasting calls such a system will generate!

BBC's speak you're branes collapses under Brand-Ross sex outrage

Tim Brown
Paris Hilton

that's showbiz!

Bad luck on the old bloke, as if getting repeatedly hit on the head with a spoon by John Cleese wasn't enough humiliation for one lifetime.

However the granddaughter is doing alright out of this. As they say, there's no such thing as bad publicity in showbiz... and I hear she has no retained that pillar of the community, Max Clifford as her PR agent. Watch out Abi Titmuss is all I can say!

Paris, cos she knows all about showbiz and scandals!

Linux at 17 - What Windows promised to be

Tim Brown
Thumb Up

As a server, nothing else will do for me

I've tried Linux on the desktop but gone back to Windows largely for application compatibility reasons. However for a server, I would choose nothing else.

I administer a web/email/file server for my organisation which runs Linux and it's incredibly stable and reliable. It just recently completed 611 days of continuous uptime before having to be rebooted and only then because of maintenance at the datacentre. Show me a Windows server with that sort of reliability! Also of course, no pesky licences to pay for.

DoS attack reveals (yet another) crack in net's core

Tim Brown


"Lee said he and Outpost24 colleague Jack Louis discovered the bug in 2005, but decided to keep their finding secret while they tried to devise a solution. After largely hitting a wall, they decided to go public in hopes that a new infusion of ideas will finally get the problem fixed."

Hmm... call me cynical.... but I suspect they decided to go public to get a load of publicity for themselves. The truth is this 'news' story with a complete lack of any concrete facts simply serves to spread FUD. They've known about it for three years yet can't work out a solution?? Pleassse......

Revealed: Street View's UK invasion schedule

Tim Brown

Did he have it all down on a scrap of paper because....

... the imba online scheduling and task management system that Google have undoubtedly provided, doesn't work properly??

Crimeware giants form botnet tag team

Tim Brown
Black Helicopters

The way to get them

Forget trying to track the net comms, the way to catch these people is to do it the old-fashioned way, follow the money and infiltrate. Computer evidence will only be useful when you know who they are and can sieze their machines.

The problem seems to be a lack of desire on the part of the relevant powers to really want to shut them down.

Copyright lawyers accuse 25,000 UK videogame filesharers

Tim Brown

Will they sue themselves?

I do hope Davenport Lyons have thoroughly checked their computers for unlicenced software. After all anything found on their network must have been put their by them and not some some hacker who's found a weakness in their network security...

A third of Vista PCs downgraded to XP

Tim Brown

Incremental updates anyone?

Am I the only one that thinks the whole concept of releasing a new OS every few years is past its sell-by date?

The computer market is mature enough now in that people have largely got what they want. Modern OSes are, if anything, overspecced for home use. Unless and until there is a major new must-have innovation that simply won't work with existing operating systems, better to patch the devil you know than dump it all for the bug-ridden unknown.

Ryanair cancels aggregator-booked tickets in escalating scraping war

Tim Brown

So the first losers will be the customers?

Presumably this means that any customers unlucky enough to have booked through any of the aggregator services will end up having to fight to get their money back from somewhere. I dare say some of them will also end up at the airport unaware their tickets have been cancelled. Not a situation designed to foster good customer relations.

Though why Ryanair have trouble blocking the scraping at source rather eludes me.I would have thought a few firewall rules would do the job!

Kaminsky (finally) reveals gaping hole in internet

Tim Brown
Dead Vulture


Eh? Dan Kominsky 'finally' released details of the bug on his blog at http://www.doxpara.com/ on the 24th July after the speculators had pretty much guessed it (as I'm sure you reported in the El Reg at the time). So please stop going for the sensational (and inaccurate) headlines.

Steve Fossett may be alive, investigator claims

Tim Brown

Give the search and rescue guys a break

The comment about finding 6 other planes while searching for him, probably meant that they were involved in 5 other successful searches during the period they were still looking for him... not that they happened to stumble over 6 wrecks by chance!

UK gov announces Road Pricing 2.0 - Managed Motorway

Tim Brown
Black Helicopters

You WILL comply

There's something about the words 'monitoring and compliance' when uttered by this government that send chills down my spine.

Putting a mule on a cloud: one man's battle with Amazon S3

Tim Brown

S3 very useful

I recently started using S3 to backup important files from the dedicated server I administer.

I searched around for a while before deciding the most straightforward method was using some open source software called s3fs. This enables you to have an s3 account mounted as just another directory under Linux. Making backups is now as simple as copying the files to that directory. For added security I also encrypt them before copying.

Oyster system failure causes travel misery

Tim Brown

So adding 142 and 344 together we get...

Given that a lot of cards need to be replaced, I think maybe that this was a trial of some sort of anti-hacking patch in response to those Dutch researchers?

Of course, it all went horribly wrong and disabled a load of legitimate cards instead...

TSA says 'checkpoint friendly' laptop bags on the way

Tim Brown

Time for a real test...

At some point, a demonstration should be set up where a group of ex-special forces people join a flight, naked and without luggage. They then proceed to hi-jack a plane using improvised weapons from items already on the plane...

It would be interesting to see what regulations the airports come up with then!

Ofcom swoops on caller ID-faking firm with... request for information

Tim Brown
Black Helicopters

Expect a rash of...

...new celebrity scandal stories in the tabloids as the less scrupulous journalists cotton onto the idea of listening into other people's voicemails effortlessly.

Come to think of it, all that needs to happen for this service to get put on ice is for someone with the mobile numbers of a few high-profile politicians to get dialing... then again... maybe being able to pick up cabinet ministers' voicemails would lead to a new era of open government!

ASA slaps down Vodafone 'unlimited' data claims

Tim Brown

Nothing new

Advertisers have so corrupted the usage of language that we might as well abolish the toothless ASA and just remind everyone 'caveat emptor'.

Never buy anything without doing your own research.

Anyone want a pizza with 'free' delivery (£2 discount if you collect)?

Teen battles City of London cops over anti-Scientology placard

Tim Brown
Black Helicopters

Word association...

Scientology... Freemasonry... Senior... Police... officers...

nothing changes :(

ICO queries Heathrow T5's huge fingerprint scam scan

Tim Brown

Why stop there?

Why not go the whole hog and just give everyone a quick swab to collect their DNA?

Then in the future those with a genetic disposition to in-flight traumas can be safely taken off to the domestic internment, er sorry, holiday camp without ever setting foot on a plane.

BT preps 2000 per cent evening call price hike

Tim Brown
Thumb Down

Moneygrabbers and cheats

In between leaving my London home and moving into a property I'd bought in France, I rented a flat for 4 months. I arranged with BT to have a phone service there. Everything was fine until I came to move out and they told me that I had 8 months remaining on a contract and they were going to charge me for them. This despite the fact that I'd explicitly agreed with the person who I organised the line with that there would be no new contract. I am now 6 months into a formal complaint...

Put some MVC in your PHP

Tim Brown

Design and code can never be completely seperated

However hard you try, for anything but the simplest applications design and code in php can never be completely seperated. Indeed, it seems to me you often end up with a more complicated structure to a php application if you try. With the code calling 'templates' which in turn contain small bits of code for things like looping and conditional tests and often also call functions (more code) to fill in all the little bits and pieces. I think this sort of arrangement can often be harder to maintain, although has its place with large public php apps such as Wordpress.

Why Borland trashed its spreadsheet

Tim Brown
Thumb Down


So you are messing around in DOS 'typing' binary files which really you have no need to do, get offended by a Friday afternoon comment left by some bored programmer and go squealing to the company? 10/10 for sense of humour failure.

My own particular favourite was a question I saw on a pub quiz machine a few years ago (slightly sensored to avoid libel!)

Q: What did U** G****r become famous for?

and one of the possible answers was:

For being a twat.

Sysadmin admits trying to axe California power grid

Tim Brown

20 specialists?

"20 computer specialists 7 hours to restore the system"???

That's the really scary bit, all he did was push an off button! What happens if something REALLY goes wrong?

UK censor to appeal against Manhunt 2 verdict

Tim Brown


I'd like to suggest the BBFC introduce an 18R rating for games like this. Indicating that the content is so bad that the customer is entitled to an automatic refund.

I'd get my coat but I think I left my dirty mac in the sex shop...

Forces pay mess blamed on human error

Tim Brown
Dead Vulture

@Anon Coward re £250m

So, paraphrasing, it's complex because people have to input detailed (and confidential, top secret) timesheets? Well, blow me down, £250m is reasonable after all...

Tim Brown


If small buisnesses can get payroll systems for a few hundred pounds, how does the government justify spending £250m? Sure they have a lot more personnel to cope with, but computerisation is supposed to make scaling easy. I'd imagine getting 10 good people and paying them £1m each would have got them a better system...

Ugly view mars Windows Vista birthday

Tim Brown

Time to stop the 'new OS' madness

There's a simple reason for the poor uptake of Vista, XP works pretty well now and most people don't want to go through the trauma of an OS change for little obvious benefit.

At what point will Microsoft give up on the whole 'new product' cycle? It is just an excuse to squeeze the poor consumer for more money. A paid service pack would make more sense if there really are great new features that are worth money.