* Posts by Phil Bennett

97 publicly visible posts • joined 3 Apr 2007


Ex-director cops community service after 5,000-file deletion spree on company Dropbox

Phil Bennett

Scummy company practices cause data loss

So a company folds and a new company forms, but the new company is still using the resources of the old company? That's a bit dodgy in itself, no?

Surely when company A shuts down, all assets and liabilities (e.g. files, dropbox contract) are closed down or bought by another entity - which could be company B, but that transfer would've required the approval of company A (including the defendent in this case) or the receivers (in which case passwords etc should've been changed immediately).

AI of the needle: Here's how neural networks could detect nighttime low blood-sugar levels using your heart beat

Phil Bennett


If you only detect potentially fatal conditions 82% of the time then what the hell is the point?

Revealed: NHS England bosses meet with tech and pharmaceutical giants to discuss price list of millions of Brits' medical data

Phil Bennett

"Anonymised" data again?

Pseudoanonymised healthcare data has been shown time and time again not to work - medical histories are often easily used to identify (especially vulnerable) individuals.

In addition, once this data is out there, and the more it's spread around the higher the chance of that, it isn't like you can put the genie back in the bottle. You can change a password, it's a bit harder to change your generic code.

Oi, Queenslander who downloaded 26.8TB in June alone – we see you

Phil Bennett

Could easily be a restore from offsite

Yes, agreed, that's a fair bit of storage, but it isn't ridiculous - it's less than 2 HDDs worth of stuff these days.

Being the responsible IT people we all are, we know that you should always have an off site backup.

Given the number of fires that Australia has had recently, I'd be tempted to test my restore too.

Amazon sticks AI inference chip up for rent in the cloud for machine-learning geeks

Phil Bennett

TOP of the POPs

Surely 2000 TOPS should be written as 2 POPS?

Irish eyes aren't smiling after govt blows €1m on mega-printer too big for parliament's doors

Phil Bennett

I've worked on larger (and more expensive) inkjets...

If you're emitting ridiculous amounts of paperwork - mine was in an insurance company, so low quality but high volume - you stop measuring print speed by pages and start measuring by metres.

Our reprographics department (high quality digital print) had a similar cock up because while they checked the size, they didn't check the weight of the central module for their new toy. We had to tear up and replace a reinforced path through the building from the loading docks.

BT launches all-singing converged 5G product for... oof... £58 a month

Phil Bennett

Not their fastest broadband product

I've just had a look at Halo, and they're thrilled to be able to offer me a 100Mbps service (not even the 150Mbps version)!

Sadly, I'm already on a 330Mbps service (I get over 300, I'm basically on top of the green box) - through BT g.fast.

Shame really, as g.fast isn't a cheap option, but I'm not dropping to a third the speed.

Devs getting stuck into Windows 10X on Surface Neo will have to tussle with UWP

Phil Bennett
Thumb Up

Immature giggle

We call these shared technologies 'one core'," says Megiddo.

US lobby group calls for open standards to fight Huawei 'threat'

Phil Bennett

Pot, kettle

"given China's previous willingness to steal technology secrets, allowing Huawei into critical infrastructure was too big a risk"

Hahaha. This from the people who brought you PRISM etc.

If you have any evidence at all, bring it out. Otherwise this is just US companies getting pissy that they are losing business to China because they're not as good at R&D any more.

Larry Ellison tiers Amazon a new one: Oracle cloud gets 'always' free offer, plus something about Linux

Phil Bennett

Bollocks to that

As much as I dislike the idea of being tied into AWS / Azure / Google's equivalent, I would rather move everything into any of them *and* sandpaper my testicles before locking myself into another Oracle system.

The legacy stuff using their core DB product is bad enough.

Now that's what we're Tolkien about: You need one storage system to rule them all and in the darkness bind them

Phil Bennett

Bloody difficult to do

Consider a simple business object like an order form. You'd think it would be straightforward to have a canonical order form, but you very quickly land in xkcd standards country as each system, grown over decades of mergers and development, has different requirements. Some need line by line. Some need the ability to mark partially complete. Some need different currencies supported. Some need suborders, backorders, etc.

You can build up to a single source of truth field by field if all the applications can consult whatever you are using to hold the golden data, but in a large organisation you might have many, many different platforms and storage systems to work with, from mainframe to as/400 to SQL or noSQL databases to big data platforms to object storage and more.

Not easy, unless you're essentially a greenfield site.

MIT boffins turn black up to 11 with carbon nanotubes that absorb 99.995% of light

Phil Bennett


"It’s probably down to the material itself and its structure."

As opposed to, say, evil unicorns? What exactly could influence colour that isn't covered by material and structure, given we're talking about something at a fixed temperature?

Stalking cheap Chinese GPS child trackers is as easy as 123... 456 – because that's the default password on 600k+ of these gizmos

Phil Bennett


That's the stupidest combination I've ever heard in my life! That's the kinda thing an idiot would have on his luggage!

Last one out, hit the lights: UK energy supplier SSE to axe 115 bodies from tech department

Phil Bennett

Genuine shame

While I'm not sure how SSE's broadband services are rated generally, they really were much better than I expected when it turned out the no minumum contract period market was astonishingly small (shared house, I was the only one willing to take on the broadband contract, and I didn't know how long I was staying but expected less than 12 months).

Despite a less than straightforward situation (existing line still in the name of the previous housemate with pending hold of some kind, legacy and allegedly still active business line with no apparent sockets) they kept me informed throughout the process and I was up and running as scheduled. Fab customer support people, never seemed stressed, rushing or blocked by their own tools, which meant calls were much quicker and infinitely less annoying.

Neuroscientist used brainhack. It's super effective! Oh, and disturbingly easy

Phil Bennett


"possible to take an electrocardiogram reading of the heart from up to 200 meters away"

I can't find any info on this - is my Google-fu weak or is this some kind of barely theorised idea? Normally you need 10 electrodes on the body, many in spots that are likely to be under clothes, so this seems unlikely to me.

Bonkers British MPs rant: 5G signals cause cancer

Phil Bennett

Wait, this isn't Nadine Dorries?

Oh fuck me, there are more of them.

Microsoft unveils HoloLens 2: Pitches AR goggles at suits

Phil Bennett

Re: AR for suits

Eve Online?

USB4: Based on Thunderbolt 3. Two times the data rate, at 40Gbps. One fewer space. Zero confusing versions

Phil Bennett

What about power delivery?

And alternate mode?

Those are the things that turn USB3 from a minor annoyance ("my device is running at 5Gbps instead of 10gbps - must be a slow port") to a game of what will work with this usbc port.

I've recently shopped for a laptop dock, and half of them use the Alternate Mode to support at least one of their displays. Does the port on my laptop support HDMI alternate mode? Displayport? Neither? Neither. Great.

I've also been shopping for a new power adapter for my Nintendo Switch, which uses USB-C (ish, apparently). All I need is USBC PD, right? Nope, there are 4 different voltages and god only knows how many power ratings.

So much for the Universal part of the name...

Autonomous vehicle claims are just a load of hot air… and here's why

Phil Bennett

Autopilot fun

I've been known to sail on the Solent, and not being anywhere near there I rent a boat. One of them had an autopilot system that had been disabled apparently on the orders of the insurance company, because too many people were setting the same course, so rather than having the whole sea to play in all the boats were in a narrow corridor and the crew weren't keeping proper watch.

I predict flocking behaviour will be an interesting failure mode for fully autonomous cars...

IBM claims its machine learning library is 46x faster than TensorFlow

Phil Bennett


I've got a new ML library called WeightedCoinToss that takes the training data, works out the odds of a click, and returns an appropriately weighted random value.

It's incredibly quick to train, and even faster in production.

Without some measure of the accuracy of predictions, saying one ML library is faster than another is a bit useless.

Does Parliament or Google decide when your criminal past is forgotten?

Phil Bennett

Difficult case, this.

On one side, I can see the arguments in favour of keeping records around of fraudsters activity for a long period of time to prevent them getting up to the same mischief again. On the other hand, it's a bit unfair to make someone continue to suffer after their punishment is in theory over.

Possibly some kind of financial version of the sex offenders register?

It's equally difficult to root for Google, the omnihoover of personal information, or someone engaging Carter-Fuck...

PPI-pusher makes 75 MEEELLION nuisance calls, lands £350k fine

Phil Bennett

Company merry-go-round

A friend of mine had office space in a building which also hosted a scummy marketing company. It was a group of people (I think about 10) who folded their company at the first sign of trouble, usually 12-18 months in, then the next person in the group set up a new company doing the same thing. Even if one of them was banned from being a company director, that only lasts a certain length of time (7 years?) so they were always clear again by the time their turn came back round.

Directors have to be personally liable for criminal acts, and that has to actually be enforced. The current situation is untenable - this company made enough calls to contact everyone in the UK, making the world a worse place, and nothing will be done about it. Again.

Skynet it ain't: Deep learning will not evolve into true AI, says boffin

Phil Bennett

Re: Deep learning?

You could argue that the existence of a Planck length is weak evidence that we're in a simulation - why would nature need to quantise everything, including distance and time, unless it was doing the equivalent of computing at a certain precision? Why isn't everything analog?

The second point is that the people within the simulation can't see the outside universe, so what we think of as very small or very large might be a small fraction of the scales available to the outside. If their Planck length is ridiculously smaller, like 20 orders of magnitude, then running us as a simulation becomes much much easier.

The third point is that the simulation doesn't have to run at or above real time - we're looking at simulating brains (I think from memory mouse brains?) but it'll run at 1% real time because we simply don't have enough compute available at the moment.

The fourth is that you don't know the bounds of the simulation - it's almost certainly the size of the inner solar system now we've got permanent satellites lurking around other planets and the sun, but it would be pretty trivial to intercept e.g. Voyager and produce plausible radio waves from the edge. There would essentially be a screen around the simulation beyond which everything was roughly approximated - think the draw distance in computer games.

I don't personally believe we're in a simulation, if only because surely no ethics board would allow the creation of an entire civilisation of sentient beings capable of misery.

Nvidia: Using cheap GeForce, Titan GPUs in servers? Haha, nope!

Phil Bennett

This isn't a DC...

It's just two very large (cluster) computers.

Defining exactly what constitutes one computer isn't massively easy (think IBM mainframes on one extreme, pi clusters on another, and high power workstation for rendering 3D for another). Can't do it by number of GPUs, otherwise SLI is dead. Can't do it by CPU count, because multiprocessor stuff is common in workstations. Could possibly do it by motherboard count if you're willing to abandon blade and VM users I suppose.

I'm seeing this more as a cash grab on VDI users to be honest - they don't need anything like the horsepower of the Tesla's but benefit a lot from a bit of 3D acceleration.

Walk with me... through a billion files. Slow down – admire the subset

Phil Bennett

Object storage? Alternatives?

This article reads a lot like an advert, but being charitable and assuming it's just a regurgitated press release, how does QFS compare to other modern large scale storage architectures?

While there are tasks that are slow on traditional file systems, like the slightly artificial example given, the feature that is most requested and causes most hassle is search within file, and you shouldn't be using the filesystem for that - you should have something external like elasticsearch. Once you have external management software, keep the smarts there and let the filesystem store files. If you need something using the metadata and it's going to take ages to run, you've not correctly designed your infrastructure.

Want a new HDMI cable? No? Bad luck. You'll need one for HDMI 2.1

Phil Bennett

So when do we get proper 8k?

This is a standard to support 8k, which is nice given 4k is, well, here in force, but it only supports it with subsampled chroma, so it will be useless for anything with fine detail (like computer monitors).

When do they plan to support the full monty? 2020?

No humans allowed: How would a machine-centric data centre look?

Phil Bennett

No humans allowed

I assumed this would be about a datacentre structured for zero maintenance, so no aisles.

We've more or less got to the point where it isn't worth unracking and repairing troublesome hardware at the kind of scale the behemoths are operating. I see the future datacentre as modular units designed around heat flow - e.g. you might have a bottom tier of machines with low tolerance to heat up to a top floor capable for running past 100 degrees (and that top floor could be much, much higher than the current top of rack). Machines would be loaded in by autonomous forklifts. Once in, machines wouldn't be touched - if they fail, turn off power and ignore. Upgrades would be for compute per watt, and you'd build a new datacentre with the new machines, keeping the old datacentre alive until the spot price for compute dropped below the cost of supply.

Oracle promises SLAs that halve Amazon's cloud costs

Phil Bennett

...for now

One of the major worries around moving work to other people's computers is lock in - it's bloody difficult to replatform a deployed application and you need to retune everything.

You would have to be certifiably insane to tie yourself to Oracle with their reputation unless you were already so committed to their DB that leaving was unthinkable.

Red Hat banishes Btrfs from RHEL

Phil Bennett

People are still using btrfs?

After the RAID5/6 issue which still isn't fixed a *year* later(!), people are still trusting their data to btrfs?

For small storage, there are loads of options (and boot from ZFSoL is still new enough to be a concern, if not a blocker)

For huge storage, you probably aren't using ZFS - you're looking at cluster filesystems (gluster, ceph, hdfs etc)

For medium scale storage, ZFS is hard to beat. Work out a way to get ZFS on Linux compliant (even if that is to reverse engineer it) and move on.

Sweet Christmas: Micron more than triples SSD capacity with 9200

Phil Bennett

Hey look, another large ssd announcement with no guide price

How about a roundup of all the announced drives including guide prices? At the moment it seems to be press release -> article without any useful journo input.

I'm not even asking you to bite the hand that feeds IT, just stop sucking the fingers in public.

Toshiba fires off trifecta of SSDs with 30TB range-topping whopper

Phil Bennett

Come on, El Reg

The one thing everyone wants to know, even if it's bullshit list prices, is how much this is going to cost. I realise it's easier just rephrasing a press release but please pretend to be actual journalists while doing so.

Sun of a b... Rising solar temp wrecks chances of finding ET in our system

Phil Bennett

I thought the point of Europa was that there could be liquid water under the ice? I mean, yes, this rules out waiting around for the sun to warm up to the point where ice melts, but who cares? If there is liquid water down there we need to check if there is anything living. If so, fantastic! If not, we've got a new source of water in the outer solar system. If we're still going when the next step change in solar radiation happens, we will deal with it then without going to a temporary refuge.

When can real-world laws invade augmented reality fantasies? A trial in Milwaukee will decide

Phil Bennett

Re: a Mortal Threat...to augmented reality games

These days, people at concerts tend to be staring at their phone screens (while taking horrible quality videos of the gig).

Actually, I wonder if that counts as AR and we can make Apple/Samsung/Google liable to pay for the toilets etc...

While Facebook reinvents Sadville, we still dream of flying cars

Phil Bennett

Video calls?

"hold up their phones and have a regular video call where they can see their actual friends?"

Do people actually use video calling? I've only ever used it to speak to far-flung friends and family there is no chance I can see in person in the near future - I don't think I've ever had an actually mobile video call. Hell, hasn't voice calling fallen off a cliff?

Virtual spaces sounds like an amazing utopian idea, it's just a shame you have to let real people in who spoil it all. Perhaps someone like Greg Gopman can pop up and suggest a terrible solution that can be hyped for a couple of weeks.

EU 'net neutrality' may stop ISPs from blocking child abuse material

Phil Bennett

Easy to solve

"Terminal equipment-based restrictions put in place by the end-user are not targeted by the Regulation."

So just have an option on the router to turn on blocking for the local network. Slightly annoying that the bandwidth is still wasted shipping adverts etc to your local network, but doesn't require adblock on every device.

'Daddy, what's a Blu-ray disc?'

Phil Bennett

Re: quality..

Quote: "http://www.cnet.com/uk/news/why-ultra-hd-4k-tvs-are-still-stupid/

Paying for a gaming video card that can do 4k , is an extra dimension of pointlessness . Unless you are playing the game in a CINEMA"

You did read the article you linked to, right? Where they explained patiently that *viewing distance matters*?

I haven't yet updated to a 4k capable PC, so I've got no skin in this game, but I tend to be playing about 50cm from the screen rather than a more normal TV viewing distance of 2+ metres.

My next PC will have a 4k display because extra resolution is incredibly useful for work (my current PC has 3 monitors, a single large 4k screen will replace them all). Will gaming look any better? Probably, but I'll be using VR goggles instead (viewing distance: 5cm) :)

Toshiba flashes 100TB QLC flash drive, may go on sale within months. Really

Phil Bennett

Really low endurance or mistake?

The QLC drive would have a 3PB to 6PB workload over its lifetime, with the disk having 900TB (written).

This is a 100TB drive so 9 full writes in its entire life, and just 30-60 reads? That's a far cry from Facebook's desired 150 writes.

Ban ISPs from 'speeding up' the internet: Ex-Obama tech guru

Phil Bennett

Re: Slow it down, speed it up

Exactly. Ask people involved in HFT about speeding up connections - shorter network paths (both number of hops and even physical length of cables), faster routing, preferred traffic.

For more normal bandwidth uses, enhanced caching (local CDN servers), no DPI on trusted sites, no IWP filtering, no court ordered block filters, etc. All of these things can speed up your connection in the same way a bypass speeds up road traffic. The cars are going the same speed, but the traffic is faster.

Interpreting that tweet as implying ISPS can selectively accelerate individual packets is just being an arsehole.

This is how the EU's supreme court is stripping EU citizens of copyright protections

Phil Bennett

Lack of control

If I publish a link to a site that contains something freely distributable, then the naughty server admin changes the content of the site to something that infringes copyright, should I really be criminalised?

A link isn't the content. You can deal with copyright content by attacking the source (whackamole might make this difficult).

A link with the description "get the latest Hollywood blockbuster here" might be an incitement, abetment, or whatever, but the link itself isn't illegal, its the combination of content and description (I'm not sure of it would still be an infringement if the link didn't go to copyrighted content, in the same way selling harmless substances as drugs is still illegal).

It should come back to everyone's favourite argument "significant non infringing uses", which is why TPB gets prosecution while www.google.com/#q=torrents does not.

Illegal drugs and dodgy pics? Nah. Half the dark web is perfectly legal

Phil Bennett

Authorised employees or..?

"employees of banks advertising services, including laundering money, to interested bidders"

So Panama online then?

Not Bitcoin, but close: Red Hat and Microsoft bite into blockchain tech

Phil Bennett

Escrow / vetting services

The banks will be interested in being trusted brokers (for a fee, naturally). After all, its all very well transferring money to an anonymous swiss bank, but even better if you can guarantee that the Swiss bank account belongs to a person of impeccable credentials (which we have recently determined means 'can afford a lawyer in Panama')

Elon Musk takes wraps off planet-saving Model 3 vapourmobile

Phil Bennett

Re: Tesla a greencar, really ?

You've included all steps of the electrical power generation process but assume your diesel magically appears fully formed in the tank of your car? Curious choice.

Flying Scotsman attacked by drone

Phil Bennett

New threat to grouse about?

If only trains had to consider the possibility of a several kilo flying object hitting a moving train, then we wouldn't be grousing over potential drone impacts, we'd just flip drone operators the bird.

Investigatory Powers Bill lands in Parliament amid howls over breadth of spying powers

Phil Bennett

ISP level protection

In the wake of 3 starting to offer network-level ad protection, could an ISP simply route all traffic (except BBC iPlayer :)) through a different company located in a civilised nation? Then the ICR available would be 'user X connected to the VPN', no more detail available, and the ISP would avoid spending extra money on compliance with this ridiculous law.

De-anonymising data should be a criminal offence, says MPs report

Phil Bennett

Honest, guv?

Could this be a pre-emtive strike against people pointing out that the big database of Internet Connection Records are totally possible to link to people?

Open APIs for UK banking: It's happening, people

Phil Bennett

"Informed consent"

such access should be only be facilitated where bank account holders have given their "informed consent"

Would this be the usual "give your consent or don't have access to banking and all banks are signed up so good luck if you're unhappy, chum"?

Terror in the Chernobyl dead zone: Life - of a wild kind - burgeons

Phil Bennett

Despite me being pro-nuclear...

This article is a bit pants.

The quotes you've pulled from the hippie article say that there are serious morphological effects, that the HEALTHY population is likely due to immigration, that there will continue to be an effect for decades and that levels of some incorporated radionuclides will remain dangerous for mammals.

The other study is looking simply at population, and confirms it has risen (i.e. that the radioactivity isn't at a level where it's killing everything faster than humans in the area would).

A vast population of unholy mutated deer, thirsty for blood and glowing in the dark would not contradict either study despite being suboptimal for humanity.

Was Chernobyl not as bad as it was painted? Yes, absolutely. Is it a nature preserve I'd love to live in? Absolutely not. We don't need more extremely biased articles from either side, we need sensible planning - remember the disasters, plan for them (and any others you can imagine), and get new plants built to provide lovely low carbon energy.

Green your data centre – without ending up in the Job Centre

Phil Bennett

Power density

The other constraint you tend to operate under is power density, so "a blade-based server with single-power supplies and fan units shared between server modules" might sound good overall (reducing total power usage) but because the rack can't power / cool stuff at that density it costs you more in hosting charges.

The UPS in power supplies thing seems fairly ridiculous - yes, there is a cost to running the power through a large scale UPS, but there is also a cost for running it through a small UPS, and in general big converters are more efficient than small ones.

Has there been any progress on DC power distribution? At one point that looked like the future, enabling you to have very efficient power supplies running entire racks rather than multiple PSUs per server.

The voters hate Google. Heeeeyyyy... how about a 'Google Tax'?

Phil Bennett

How is the small companies exemption different from the VAT rules?

"There's also a more minor point that can and should be made, which is that companies doing less than £250m in business are apparently going to be let off this"

While not a tax person, surely if this was a reason for an EU challenge the UK VAT rules would have been struck down years ago? They've got a threshold value for turnover and no-one is challenging them as state aid...