* Posts by Magnus

62 publicly visible posts • joined 10 Jan 2008


Police told: Delete old criminal records

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That kind of extensive DNA database is dangerous

because of the pervasive delusion that if they find a DNA match on the database they must be guilty. In these cases there is (usually) only 1 true positive. If you have several million people on the database and you have a false positive rate of about 0.001% then that still leaves you with 10+ false matches and with no guarantee that your actual perp is on the database and hence amongst the 10. (that is also glossing over the likelyhood of a false negative...)

And so we begin the tech sector's journey into the Heart of Darkness


Banks desperate to cash in their shares drive down the markets

The price of shares is also being pushed down by all these funds and banks HAVING to sell shares to improve their reserves. As everyone knows if you have to sell something to stave off bankruptcy then the person on the other side of the table will drive a hard bargain...

Google and the End of Science


QM etc

"But if QM is inconsistent with general relativity, it must be false if GR is true."

Well, seeing as neither fully describe what happens to things across the board they are BOTH "false" at some level. If that wasn't the case one would have been discarded to join Newton's theory as good but superseded attempt at describing how things work.

This also glosses over the fact that Physicists are well aware of the limitations of both these theories and a working hard in finding better ones.

In any case, yes it is very handy to have a large heap of data being able to ask a question and then get an answer back. However if asking random specific questions only leads to narrow answers to that particular question. It's all when and good asking: "I have a cart of mass 1000kg being pushed by a force of 100N, how fast did the carts we witnessed in the past accelerate?" and getting the answer "They averaged 0.1 m/s^2." but it still requires another leap of thought (and a few more good questions) to get from this question to F=ma.

Belgian operator will sell iPhone simlock-free


Why the shock at the price? Contract phones are cheap for a reason...

The deal is that operators give you a "free" or cheap phone up front and you effectively repay them for subsidising the handset over the next 12/18/24 months of your contract.

Criminal record checks: More often wrong than right


@John Miles

So, some sex offenders are foiled but at least the same number of innocent people are labelled as deviants for life and can't help out with their children's after school activities etc.

I for one don't want to think I'm entering a lottery every time I want to help out somewhere with the "jackpot" being a potential lifetime of ostracism...

I'm all for preventative measures but any system where you have roughly the same number of false positives as true positives is broken.

EU accidentally orders ISPs to become copyright police



@"Freetard paranoia"

"Freetards" pay for the same service from their ISP as you do. If the stupid ISPs have mis-priced and/or mis-advertised their offering that is a different matter in my eyes.

@Hidden gems and otherwise

All the first paragraph Quadrature is quibbling with seems to state is that National Regulators can set minimum standards for devices and software as long as these standards don't prevent the functioning of the free market within the EU. As far as I can tell this just re-affirms the status quo.

On the "cooperation" one I can see a bit firmer ground as that seems to be in effect whatever the current stance of a particular country is. That and "cooperation" could be very broadly defined by some companies we all know and love.

Then again all this stuff is so badly written...

Transatlantic data sharing talks stumble over access to justice


Considering these are the people

who are currently negotiating ACTA, which no-one outside a bunch of privileged insiders knows any details about, who signed a one sided extradition treaty with the US, who signed an agreement to allow US carriers to fly on European domestic routes but not vice-versa and so on...

It seems to be a long running theme when it comes to treaties with the US what is good for the goose isn't good for the gander.

In any case it isn't as if any of these Politicians give two hoots about our civil rights. They have been focused on limiting them as much as they can.

Firefox 3 makes up world record to set world record


You mean to say most of the records aren't made up on the spot?

Considering I recall such things as the longest underwater hand of Poker...

Mine's the one with the record number of cross-stitched animals.

DOJ sinks another EliteTorrent admin


Re: Disturbing 2

I don't decry this conviction too much, I'd say what they did goes beyond what most people consider acceptable. I'd take issue with the sentence however (and the fact that they shoehorned things so that they could bring them up on criminal charges). Not to mention that most of the investigative work was done by one of the parties involved and not the Police (again that does concern me because I'm not sure how diligently the data and evidence provided was taken at face value rather than double checked).

As people have pointed out above that kind of sentence is far more than fraudsters and other criminal enterprises can expect. The mean sentence for fraud in the US is 12 months, embezzlement, 10 months, bribery, 16 months, tax offenses, 17 months, antitrust fraud, 13 months (and money laundering 46 months). Of course this difference can be partially accounted by the fact that the figures given for the damage caused by filesharers is astronomical, somebody should work out at one point what percentage of GDP these industry groups claim have been wiped out by filesharing.

(sentencing data nicked from http://www.onlinelawyersource.com/criminal_law/white_collar/penalties.html who themselves don't quote the source of their numbers, hence might need to be taken with a pinch of salt)

Google urged to make a more loving cloud


@Simon Painter

As a profit driven company they will make a profit driven decision. Will opening up the Big Table code get them more new customers (as they now feel more comfortable using it) than they would lose from the additional competition.

The other thing is that if they do open it up and it becomes a popular de facto standard in the SaaS world they are going to be inflicting large costs on their competitors. Google already has all their systems set up for Big Table. Amazon etc will have to invest money to convert or make their systems compatible to remain competitive.

There are reasons why Microsoft or Adobe, who no one will argue aren't out for profit, give out some of their software for free.

eBay calls for end to grey import laws


Well, that's one thing I agree with eBay on.

Real free trade for once. Not free trade unless inconvenient for farmers/content companies/politicians/distributors etc...

Ruby flaws send security researchers into shock



"specified by its implementation rather than having a laid down formal grammar"

I think that was rather his point. Yes, that does indeed mean that he seriously dislikes the design philosophy Ruby is based on.

Flirty texting could land Scots in jail for 10 years


Keep a Lawyer on retainer...

Between this, copyright laws etc you start wondering whether you should start letting a lawyer vet all your interactions...

Firefox 3 Download Day falls flat on face


heh, the world record site seems to have gone down...

I've had issues loading the Spore page as well. :o)

Canada moots tough sanctions for DRM flouters


Region coding is a DRM technology

Just to quickly answer the above, yes it is.

Yes, DRM is often easily circumvented. This is why they want to introduce these draconian laws. They don't expect the technological barrier to work. The point is that they can now slap any kind of silly DRM scheme on any of their stuff defining whatever restrictions they want. This means that if you want to do anything they haven't explicitly approved they can then invoke the DRM circumvention clause, without even mentioning any specific copyright infringements in their case.

Download al Qaeda manuals from the DoJ, go to prison?


@Matt Bryant

The unfortunate person who should by now be enjoying himself in sunny Algeria was not a illegal immigrant. He was legally in this country and was applying for permission to stay here indefinitely once his current visa ran out. Since he was currently an applicant they were able to toss him out without any further by you leave.

From what I can see, neither person did anything which would have got them convicted if they were to stand in front of a judge. Witness the fact that the person who was a UK citizen/already had leave to remain indefinitely had no further action taken against him. So the powers that be tossed the person who couldn't defend himself to the wolves just so they could polish up their anti-terror statistics. I bet you this will be counted as one more terror plot foiled when the security services' glowing numbers are presented to the House of Commons.

Tories would have to compensate ID vendors



ah, so breaking a contract is all nice and wonderful as long as it's not you ending up out of pocket.

As much as I hate how the current government is spending our money if they sign a contract we have to honour it. Now looking at the kind of off balance sheet liabilities they've saddled the country the UK might be bankrupt in 10 years but at least we'd be honestly bankrupt instead of being another bunch of weasily crooks.

Mozilla guns for Guinness world record with Firefox 3.0



Yes, that's partially because they automatically roll patches out across most of their install base. People will actually have to go out and bother to get FF3.

As for my own personal experience of it? FF3 has been fast, easy to use and with a bunch of handy new features. Nothing broke when I installed it (in fact in my case I had more hassle when I tried out Opera). Add to the fact that I have now got used to how FF makes pages look as opposed to Opera and the likes I don't think I'll be switching away from it in the near future.

As for the general rhetoric being thrown about, all I'll say is that I have yet to meet a Saint.

In Google We Trust: Health docs depo now open to Americans


Compare that to the NHS Spine though...

Along the same line as this above I'm thinking about how Google got a working Beta of something similar to the NHS Spine completed as a side project. I also add that I'm far more likely to trust Google with my data than Crapita/EDS/other random govt. contractor.

It is somewhat depressing when you think about it...

Comcast mulls overage fees for bandwidth lovers


Well, at least they are making the limits explicit now...

I wish ISPs over here would do that too instead of harping on about "unlimited" broadband. If ISPs were actually offering a properly uncapped service then I would be more upset.

If all ISPs make their limits public and actually advertise them, then we might actually be able to make a rational comparison between them. Which would be much better than the current situation of all ISPs claiming to offer the same thing (even though they are not) and basically only differentiating themselves on price.

Hollywood awarded $110m against TorrentSpy


It was a default judgement, the Torrentspy people sunk their case

Basically, the judge didn't have to ponder the merits of the MPAA's case as Torrentspy shot itself in the foot by lying to the court, destroying evidence etc. The judge then passed down the statutory sentence laid down by law.

See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Default_judgment <= I know it's wikipedia but it does give the basics...

Wikipedia goes to court to defend defamation immunity



If someone only quotes and looks at one reference, whatever it might be, for a serious bit of research then there is something wrong in any case.

Wikipedia is useful, it has serious shortcomings but so do many sources. The point is to evaluate it and check exactly how far you can trust it. One of the things I like about Wikipedia is that you can see how and what shaped the article which makes assessing it easier. The COIs for many other sources are far harder to pin down.

Google questions Verizon 'open network'

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If they signed the agreement the better bloody well honour it...

To all the "let Google whine" people.

Google did put their money on the table. Yes they didn't put more than they needed to to achieve what they wanted. However they could still have been left holding the baby when they got the bidding to the open access threshold. Verizon new full well what they were getting into when they outbid Google (and whoever else might have been involved) and they are just trying to bend the letter of the law as far as they possibly can to their advantage.

Now I for one cannot begrudge them that attempt but I don't approve of actions like that and I definitely won't cheer them on from the sidelines.

Apple blocks cheaper UK iPod sales


Should be the benefits of globalisation at work

But no, if it is good for consumers rather than companies...

Companies have gotten too used to being able to isolate individual countries and maximise their profits by doing so. They should get used to the fact that customers won't let them get away with that for much longer.

If duties or transport was the issue than all these resellers would not be able to make any money...

Welsh student exposed to nude webcam operators


@Hollerith & Var

The job posting does not seem to be discriminating by gender. It seems men would be just as open to taking up this wonderful opportunity as women.

Now, I wouldn't work in that kind of job, but I as long as the job/activity is not outlawed then I do think they should be allowed to advertise in Job centres. The major issue there might have been (that to qualify for JobSeeker allowance you have to take nearly any job offered to you) does not apply here since it specifically states that not taking up this job will not affect any benefits.

(New) dirt-cheap bots attack Hotmail Captchas



As stated above Captchas are not a solution for broken Captchas. A limit on how many e-mails you can send through a free webmail account would make these far less attractive for spammers but would not have a major impact on total spam volumes (as the majority come from compromised Windows PCs at the moment). As long as the spammers can turn a good profit with low risk of capture and prosecution they will find a way to circumvent any casually usable security system we can currently implement.

"Free" e-mail isn't free. The companies providing it aren't doing it out of the kindness of their own hearts. They have made a cold heated analysis and the benefits they gain from providing these services outweigh the costs. You might not see cash leaving your account but they are still getting their ounce of sweat one way or the other.

Courts slam Blair's 'abject surrender' to Saudi prince


Why do we care?

Well, let us just say that some people believe that laws are actually useful (god forbid). The crucial thing is though that they are only so if as everyone can know what the law is and what law applies. In addition that everyone is judged by the same laws be they king or pauper (one thing that the high commander across the pond seems to disagree with...).

A solid systems of laws and conflict resolution is one of the reasons why western society has been so successful.as opposed to countries where bribery and patronage is rife.

So I for one should think that we should do our level best to make sure that we remain a country governed by the rule of law however personally convenient some politicians might find it if it were not always the case...

Spam filtering services throttle Gmail to fight spammers


@IP ban won't work

The point is that the spammers are out to make money. Anything that eats away at their margins will cut down the type of spam they can profitably send and hence the overall volume of spam.

Has anyone made a study of the profitability of spam operations btw? What is a Gmail account valued at these days? I presume the people running these kinds of scams are reasonably canny are are making a good profit for the legal risks they run.

Biologists track down elusive lungless frog


Backwards Evolution?

What are you on about? If lungs are a disadvantage in your current environment and you don't need them to survive then why should it be a "backwards" step to lose them?

Then again it does make things slightly awkward when the water turns "warm and turbid" and you suddenly can't breathe anymore...

UK.gov will force paedophiles to register email addresses


Paranoia alert

1. Demand paedophiles register their e-mail addresses.

2. Oh look, they can sign up to free e-mail services using fake details.

3. Require a validated online identity to sign up to e-mail and other services.

4. Government will validate said online identities which will be linked to ID register.

The above is obviously ludicrous but I couldn't help but spin it through my head. :op

Rogue trader sues SocGen for unfair dismissal

Dead Vulture

Kerviel's Lawyer states: "no court proceedings have been launched"

Kerviel's Lawyer, Elisabeth Meyer, has told Reuters that no court proceedings have been launched. So unless he has got a new lawyer without telling his old ones etc it is just the Times jumping the gun or not checking their facts properly.


Everyone's a winner in the Comcast - BitTorrent detente


@ Michael

Yup, that is indeed what airlines used to do. Sell you a ticket and then sometimes bumped you off the flight when they overbooked it. It happens far less these days now they have to compensate passengers when that happens...

Draw what conclusions you may out of this.

Patent shields customer support from customers


No wind up, look it up on the uspto website

This link should send you straight to the patent: http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO2&Sect2=HITOFF&p=1&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsearch-bool.html&r=1&f=G&l=50&co1=AND&d=PTXT&s1=7353016.PN.&OS=PN/7353016&RS=PN/7353016

The primary claim is: "In a wireless telecommunications network, a method for providing assistance at a mobile phone, the method comprising: receiving at the mobile phone a user-input phone number indicating a request for instructions or information from a customer support agent at a call center coupled to the wireless telecommunications network; before or after placing a call to the wireless telecommunications network based on the phone number, determining that the phone number matches a particular phone number stored in the mobile phone; launching an application locally stored on the mobile phone, wherein the locally stored application provides a displayable list of local customer support functions upon detecting that the entered phone number matches the particular stored phone number; receiving a user-input selection of one of the local customer support functions on the displayed list; and providing at least one displayable screen of information in response to the received user-input selection."

Vista SP1 customers get free support


@Andy S

Yup, it does mean that you have to go yourself for support. The reason the OEM version is so much cheaper is that the hardware vendor is supposed to be responsible for any support you might need. Now that does mean that if you bought an OEM copy as a private individual you cannot run to MS if you have a tech or product query.

You get what you pay for I'm afraid.

Civil Serf blogger faces disciplinary action


I can't blame them for investigating and perhaps sacking her

but I'm sure none of the dubious behaviour she described will be looked into... Since they will most likely be characterised as scurrilous allegations with no factual basis.

hmm, it would be interesting if she raised her concerns via "proper" channels as well as she might then be covered by whistleblower legislation.

Well the likely outcome is one career wrecked and an interesting blog shut down.

So what's the easiest box to hack - Vista, Ubuntu or OS X?


@Michael Segall

The contest doesn't end when a computer gets hacked. People can still try and get the other two (and claim the bounty on finding the exploit which compromises that computer as well).

As people above have pointed out it isn't about which platform is the "most secure" but about finding possible vulnerabilities for the major plaforms with a fairly standard hardware/software setup for each platform.

Ofcom to hold operators responsible for dodgy dealers



Everything does cost money and indeed there is no such thing as free lunch. I believe 90% of people on both sides of the debate agree with that.

That being the case I don't believe ISPs should be able to claim in their advertising bold print that they are offering a 24/7 always open, 8 or 24 MB connection (depending on which network you are on), with no download limits. Because fundamentally that is not what they offer and not what we are paying for. We are paying for between 4 gigabyte and 40 gygabytes of download capacity, bandwidth generally 60% of that advertised.

Currently it is almost impossible to hold your provider to account (since they rarely spell out exactly what their fair use policy is or when they change it) or to tell what kind of service a provider is actually offering because all the literature looks the same even though the "fair use" policies (which set out what the actual service terms are and which should be the headline stuff on their advert) and so forth vary wildly,


Cashback schemes

I used to work for e2save (a few years back now) and yes, we did rely on a significant slice of people never bothering to claim their cashback.

The competition certainly used to be so fierce that when we tracked how many people were actually claiming and that we could improve our deals slightly while still turning a profit we did so. We did get stung on some deals where far more people claimed than we estimated, but that's life. I won't say e2save did not ever turn down a valid claim while I was there but we never did so intentionally.

The part of our FAQ covering cashback was the part of the FAQ that was the most worked on. It is surprisingly difficult to phrase a set of un-ambiguous instructions, especially when networks sometimes send an additional bil or sometimes don't... Sending in the wrong bill at the wrong time and people having not paid their previous bill (the commission we receive gets clawed back if a customer has unpaid bills) were the two most common reason for rejection.

Anyways, I'm another person unhappy about the "Unlimited" thing. If the carrier advertises it why should it blame people for taking them at their word? All a fair use policy does is to give the carrier a way to modify the service they provide to their customers without having to notify them or get them to agree to new terms, since the limits are never set down. The amount you can download and the time you are allowed to spend connected are the fundamental measures of the service they are charging for, they should not be allowed to leave those ambiguous.

BT admits misleading customers over Phorm experiments


TOR obfuscates the PATH not the CONTENT

repeat: TOR obfuscates the PATH not the CONTENT. It prevents people from tracking a connection back to you or from someone seeing where you are sending data to. It does that well but obviously not perfectly.

If you want to send any confidential data (I was going to say through TOR but...) then make sure it is encrypted.

Korea's P2P pirate goes legal, targets Europe


Monthly fees, only if the majors don't rig it please

The only issue I have with fixed fee, and a regulator/industry body distributing it, is that they'll probably hideously fudge the way the money is distributed.

They will make assuptions and if the big record labels have the biggest clout (which they'll lobby their way to one way or the other) Then they will of course assume that most people are swapping their music and not say Imogen Heap.

They have a levy system in Canada to compensate rights holders for educational, library and other such things. They recently released a report analysing how it works and the upshot was that no one knew how it did work, the content creators were being paid peanuts and the distributors got the bulk of the haul.

Anyways, if they get it to work and if they distribute the money fairly then I'm all for it. I'm just scared that the majors will by hook and crook set up a system which nets them a large monthly cheque without them needing to do anything other than taking certain people on nice junkets...

Eurosecurocrat plans EU-wide stop'n'scan plodnet


Not to talk about false positives, bad database management etc...

Even if you assume unfeasibly low false positive rates when you are checking against a database of half a billion entries you will get plenty of false positives (and false negatives for that matter).

It also assumes that they have nice, clean, correctly taken prints for every EU citizen, that there are not a significant number of people whose fingerprints have been damaged or made unreadable by injuries etc.

Whenever I see those kind of projects I always think that while it would be nice if the world was nice, clean and simple then these things might work but then we would most likely not need them.

Gilligan's bomb: Is it time to panic yet?



I'd suggest it keeps being trotted out because it is a pithy and well turned phrase which perfectly reflects a strong sentiment felt by many people.

It isn't merely an appeal to authority.

Google eyes Cleveland medical records


I'm ashamed to say...

that between Google and Her Majesty's Government I know who I'd trust more.

For one thing Google know they would be litigated to oblivion should something go seriously wrong while all our dear civil servants have to fear is a government whitewash and possibly some gardening leave.

Microsoft opens APIs and protocols to all


Well, got to give them some credit

Looks like they they finally see the need to respond to a changing world. Ironically, if they do all of this properly it will most likely make their products much more popular. Heck, since I notice they didn't include XP in the list (anyone surprised?) it might become an incentive to switch to Vista...

Report into MP bugging: MP was bugged, no laws broken


@ the "Be Grateful" AC

The point is rather that we are supposed to be free and democratic societies and we are a better place for being so. As opposed to all these nasty brutish totalitarian citizen abusing governments. I for one believe that our freedoms is what made democracies more successful than totalitarian governments the world over (barring those who hit a natural resource jackpot).

One more thing, if you look at the leading causes of death worldwide (as according to the WHO's "The world health report 2004") terrorism doesn't even merit an entry ("War" ranks 60 out of the 79 causes listed). However for some reason terrorism is suddenly the prime threat against the civilised world and billions of $, £ etc have to be deployed to fight it, the Executive branches of governments and spooks the world over have expanded their powers massively while reducing the amount of oversight the public have over their activities. While all this happens there are people like you happily cheering them on...

Geordie cops arrest two for Wi-Fi squatting


Re: Computer misuse act

I suppose the main issue is defining what is meant by "personally giving permission".

If my computer "personally" contacts their computer and it gives my computer permission to access it, which is basically what happens when you leave you network unsecured (or secure it and give the person concerned the key etc), then I would say you can argue that you haven't breached it. In this your computer acts as you agent, you have given it the power to act on your behalf (in a similar way that you are responsible if you set up your computer to lie on your behalf).

Are there any legal precedents out there? I'd say that's the main issue with most of the legislation out there either formulated specifically for all these new technologies or old laws shoehorned into use for them is that they mostly haven't been tested. There isn't a broad basis of opinion out there. All of it is not helped by the fact that most of the legislators or judiciary are totally unfamiliar with how most of these things actually work.

My opinion is that if you leave your network unsecured you are making it public and have given permission for people to access it. In any case it is going to be very interesting to see how all these social conventions will develop.

Lords look again at internet security


The Lords looking more competent than the Commons once again...

Meh, It's depressing that the level of debate and general analysis of what is put before them is better in the un-elected chamber than the elected one.

Well, I suppose they do have more time and fewer Whips on their backs to push the Government's next favoured piece of legislation through unread and unaltered.

Wikileaks judge gets Pirate Bay treatment


To people calling for anything like Wikileaks to be shut down

I just go "gah". If people are totally incapable of evaluating the quality of their sources then what the hell are they are they doing, well, passing any kind of judgement or commenting on anything really.... Then again I might have too much faith in the capabilities of the average journalist and population?

Anyway you won't prevent people from slandering other, calling them names, spreading rumours and so forth. The only thing which the internet does is to potentially expose all this private gossip which has been going on since ages immemorial to public eyes.

You could lock down the entire affair, vet every line of writing on it and so forth but it would kill so many advantages of the net that it just wouldn't be worth doing that (not to mention the general outcry by most users). Unfortunately that would be the only way to prevent malicious rumours from ever surfacing, and as stated above once they're out there they tend to stay out there.

One thing that might be useful would be to introduce a "judgement of Fact" or whatever you might care to call it. Basically, If you identify a slanderous comment which you want to address you can bring it to the attention of a judge or arbitration panel and contest it. They'll evaluate the evidence for and against and issue a ruling. It would e a way to set the record straight and if, say, a potential employer/client were to ask about something they read on the net you could point to that judgement. Details would need to be nailed out etc (who would pay, who will argue for the potential slanderer, etc).

MS showcases Red Ring of Death Xbox 360 at expo


16% is a problem when the competition is at 3%

The problem is that having a 16% when your competitors are hovering around 3% is bad PR and shows inherent design issues compared to the competition.

BitTorrent busts Comcast BitTorrent busting


To the Cowherd

P2P distribution is one of the major ways communities have been able to distribute data. Yes there is Piracy but it also enables many community and open source projects to get off the ground which wouldn't have otherwise due to otherwise prohibitive hosting costs.

As trite as it sounds it is currently the best way to put the distribution of data into the hands of the people. Looking at how much power people have gained from controlling information and so forth I don't want an elegant way of distributing it to be destroyed.

If you want to get upset about your poorly performing internet connection complain to the ISP for over promising and under delivering. They knew damn well they couldn't provide the speeds promised and now they are handily blaming it all on the evil, data stealing filesharers.