* Posts by Richard Barnes

104 publicly visible posts • joined 12 Mar 2008


Court throws out BT's plans to reduce pension rates

Richard Barnes

Pension contribution holidays

It's funny to remember that many pension funds in the 1980's were forced to take pension contribution holidays by law as the government wanted to prevent them from being overfunded.

FCC douses America's net neutrality in gas, tosses over a lit match

Richard Barnes

It also serves as an excellent example of what happens when the legislature is captured by corporate lobbyists.

'Mafia' of ageing scientists, academics and politicos suck at picking tech 'winners'

Richard Barnes

Courage and honesty

Governments of all political colours have been proven down the years to be awful at making investment decisions. So why do they still do it? I think the answer is that they are scared of being asked the question "what are you doing about X?" and being unwilling to give the courageous and honest answer, which is: "X is not a matter in which government should be directly involved. It is for the market to decide".

Instead, the knee-jerk response from politicians to every question has to be: "look how much money we are spending on X. Aren't we great! Vote for us!"

Dr Hannah Fry: We need to be wary of algorithms behind closed doors

Richard Barnes

It doesn't have to be computerised

Surely in the world at large public and private sector administrators use rule sets every day whose rules are not open to inspection by the general public? It doesn't really matter whether the processing of these rule sets is automated or not, there is still the possibility of perceived unfairness.

For example, underwriting rule sets may or may not be computerised, and they will determine whether I can buy insurance or get a mortgage. I don't have access to the rules and I cannot question them.

What exactly is new here?

User jams up PC. Literally. No, we don't know which flavour

Richard Barnes

Re: Good design my a***

Something similar on my Asus laptop, where the on/off button is exactly the same size and shape as the Delete button right next to it. Guess how many times I have turned off my laptop by accident.

Get orf the air over moi land Irish farmer roars at drones

Richard Barnes

Re: A perfect opportunity to get creative

Yes indeed. Crossbows? Catapults? Trained falcons? I can see a new rural industry being born.

Anti-smut law dubs PCs, phones 'pornographic vendor machines', demands internet filters

Richard Barnes

Re: How would this even work?

And if you order your device online, is it Amazon's / (insert online vendor of choice) responsibility to add a filter to every device posted to a North Dakota address?

How do elected representatives get to be this stupid and still have a job?

UK.gov has outsourced tech policy to Ofcom because it is clueless – SNP techie

Richard Barnes

Judge an MP by what they say, not by what party they belong to.

There's sense and nonsense spouted across all the parties.

The UK's Investigatory Powers Act allows the State to tell lies in court

Richard Barnes

Before we all get carried away

On reading section 56 (1) of the act, it would seem that while nobody is allowed to disclose any evidence of interception in court, unless I've missed something the act would not seem to allow witnesses to lie outright about the origin of information.

Where does it say in the act that somebody is allowed to perjure themselves? Surely, all anybody would be able to say is something like "I am not lawfully allowed to answer that question"?

LeEco Le Pro 3: Low-cost, high-spec Droid takes on the big boys with a big fat batt

Richard Barnes

Still not hugely competitive

I still can't see why you'd spend $400 on this compared to the GBP189 for a Motorola Moto G4 which can take a second sim plus a removable memory card. What extra are you getting with LeEco?

No super-kinky web smut please, we're British

Richard Barnes


The answer to why is puritanism - the haunting fear that somebody somewhere is enjoying themselves.

Hence, why we are all nagged never to drink more than 3 units of alcohol and the poor old vapers still have to stand outside in the freezing rain with the cigarette smokers.

WileyFox Swift 2: A new champ of the 'for around £150' market

Richard Barnes

Re: But, the reviews ...

If it helps, I have a dual-sim G4 which can also take a micro-SD card. It does the job extremely well, though using dual-sim in conjunction with Android Auto in the car is a little problematical.

Panicked WH Smith kills website to stop sales of how-to terrorism manuals

Richard Barnes

How pathetic is this?

I see that Google points to an edition of the Improvised Munitions Handbook available in pdf format for free, so what does it achieve if WH Smith stops selling it?

Hypernormalisation: Adam Curtis on chatbots, AI and Colonel Gaddafi

Richard Barnes

Other comments

For those unable or unwilling to traverse the paywall, I share some pertinent comments on Hypernormalisation from Mr. Gill of the Sunday Times:

"It is long and coherence-straining. Once Curtis starts, he can’t stop. There is precious little editing for clarity. The connections keep falling like snow, until they are a blizzard that blots out the point. You simply have to grasp the bits that make sense to you, and leave the rest on the side of the plate.

....The problem is that there is no end, no denouement, no summing up or message. In Curtis’s work, there is a log jam of things to see, but nothing to learn, nothing to make, no hope of change; and his well-rehearsed paranoia makes you question his motives."

Richard Barnes

Re: Adam Curtis summary

Yep - that's the one!

Richard Barnes

Adam Curtis summary

I believe that the best comment on Adam Curtis documentaries can be found right here:


Samsung wants your exploding Galaxy Note 7. Have a new one instead

Richard Barnes

Re: Just looked at the price

Having had a couple of Lumias, the only problem I can see with them, and the reason I got rid of my last Lumia, is that car connectivity is limited. While it is common to find cars with Android Auto and Apple Carplay, there are few cars that I know of with Windows phone software. If you spend a lot of time in the car, I find that it's very useful to be able to connect your phone to the car via dedicated software rather than just Bluetooth.

UK's climate change dept abolished, but 'smart meters and all our policies strong as ever'

Richard Barnes

Re: Shockingly Inaccurate

So, since you're a man in the know, would you have a smart meter yourself?

Sociology student gets a First for dissertation on Kardashians

Richard Barnes

Durham? Really?

I find that a little surprising as I thought they were better than that.

Don’t let the Barmy Brexiteers wreck #digital #europe

Richard Barnes


This piece is perfectly judged - capturing as it does the essential viewpoint of the entrepreneur as parasite. Well done sir!

Pothole campaigner sprays Surrey street with phallic paintings

Richard Barnes

But the neighbouring village is called Bookham.

They have a shared police station - Fetcham and Bookham.

True fact.

Look out, law abiding folk: UK’s Counter-Extremism Bill slithers into view

Richard Barnes

Might as well just abolish 'innocent until proven guilty'

I'm afraid the Reg's sub-editor is behind the times.

Innocent until proven guilty has already been abolished for a range of crimes under the heading of "Strict Liability".

Richard Barnes

Please could somebody tell me...

... why we need this new law when there is a perfectly good offence of Encouraging or Assisting a Crime already on the statute books in the Serious Crime Act 2007?

What exactly is the nature of this speech that on the one hand doesn't break this law but on the other is deemed extremist?

Steely wonder? It's blind to 4G and needs armour: Samsung Galaxy S6

Richard Barnes

What's wrong with Volvo's?

I don't drive one myself, but just asking....

Saudi Arabia to flog man 1,000 times for insulting religion on Facebook

Richard Barnes

Re: "right to freedom of expression" @Doug S

The right to freedom of expression is not absolute.

For example, the Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006 part 3A says "A person who uses threatening words or behaviour, or displays any written material which is threatening, is guilty of an offence if he intends thereby to stir up religious hatred."

There are also numerous other English laws that circumscribe completely free speech, most notably the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 Section 4A which states:

(1) A person is guilty of an offence if, with intent to cause a person harassment, alarm or distress, he— (a) uses threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, or disorderly behaviour, or (b) displays any writing, sign or other visible representation which is threatening, abusive or insulting, thereby causing that or another person harassment, alarm or distress.

Luxembourg: Engine-room of the tax-break economy

Richard Barnes

Re: Legality?

You're right. In tax issues what is legal is a matter of opinion and the corporations can afford to spend a great deal of money on tax lawyers explaining how their opinion is the right opinion.

IMHO, the root cause of the problem is the complexity of the tax laws. Tolley's Tax Guide on UK law alone now runs to 11,500 pages - a doubling in length in the last 17 years. If only legislatures could get together and agree on a massive simplification of tax laws then it would make it harder for wealthy entities to avoid.

Of course, legislatures are full of lawyers, so why would they want to reduce their earning opportunities?

Kingston's aviation empire: From industry firsts to Airfix heroes

Richard Barnes

And let's not forget the IT angle

British Aerospace were one of the few companies who trained up programmers from scratch. I worked at a software house in Guildford in the early 90's and several of my colleagues were people who had cut their first lines of code on a BAe training scheme.

Poverty? Pah. That doesn't REALLY exist any more

Richard Barnes

Re: Now let's see part 2. Where you point out that inequatiy is *rising"

I'm afraid that the facts disagree with you.

The Gini co-efficient has been decreasing for several years now, meaning that inequality is reducing. Indeed the Guardian reported last year that the Gini co-efficient was at its lowest point in the UK since 1986.

Buying memory in an iPhone 6: Like wiping your bottom with dollar bills

Richard Barnes

Paying 50 times the price

How about the cost of a cup of coffee made at home (about 6p) with the cost of a cup of coffee from Starbucks (about 3 quid, or more if you're at an airport / motorway service station)?

iPhone 6: Most exquisite MOBILE? No. It is the Most Exquisite THING. EVER

Richard Barnes

Re: is it double irony

And possibly the shitest camera ever put in a smartphone.

UK government accused of hiding TRUTH about Universal Credit fiasco

Richard Barnes

Re: Are there ANY success stories?

Projects which involve us mugs paying more money to the government seem to have gone in OK.

As examples:

- HMRC Real-time Information

- London congestion-charging scheme

- Automatic issuing of fines triggered by speed cameras

Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid: The plug-in for plutocrats

Richard Barnes


We're definitely in the wrong business. My NHS dentist sends his son to Eton and his daughter to Wycombe Abbey - that will buy you a Panamera every 15 months.

Balls to the World Cup: Brazuca wins in the wind

Richard Barnes

Re: I remember the old leather footballs

In the professional game of the 50's, apparently it used to be part of the skill of a winger to cross the ball with the laces facing away from the centre-forward's head!

What can The Simpsons teach us about stats algorithms? Glad you asked...

Richard Barnes

For real expertise...

..... in manipulating different data sets to produce misleading statistics, look at the marketing departments of Fund and Asset Managers. When one fund gets closed down and merged with another, all sorts of statistical shenanigans are possible.

NASA stitches 3.2 gigapixel 'Global Selfie' mosaic

Richard Barnes

Re: The location of the selfies

I spotted HM The Queen amongst the pictures - I'm pretty sure she's not a Yank.

Melting permafrost switches to nasty, high-gear methane release

Richard Barnes

Moving averages

Back in 1998, I noticed that the temperature in my fridge (an old one, which I'd had since 1980) was a little too cold and I upped it from 4c to 5c. I'm lucky enough that my fridge is still working and still at 5c.

I note that the average temperature of my fridge for 2000 to 2010 was higher than for 1990 to 2000, which in turn was higher than for 1980 to 1990. Based on the latest decadal figures, my fridge is continuing its warming trend - maybe it's time for a new one.

UK cops: Keep yer golden doubloons, ad folk. Yon websites belong to pirates

Richard Barnes

Re: 'Evidenced and verified'

Exactly. It seems that the police need to be reminded that it's a court of law that decides on whether a crime or a tort has been committed, not them. I'm sure they'd love to do away with that whole tedious trial process, but hey, rule of law etc.

Bono bests Bezos in Fortune's 'World's 50 Greatest Leaders' list

Richard Barnes

WTF is Bono doing in that list?

This is supposed to be a list of leaders. OK, I can see why we might recognise a good number of people on this list as leaders, including Bezos. But Bono? WTF has he ever led?

Fortune magazine's editorial judgment is now worth nothing.

Microsoft loses grip on Christmas shoppers... despite XBox boost

Richard Barnes

Re: My experience with Windows Phone

Over the last couple of years, I've had a Samsung Galaxy S2 as a personal phone and an iPhone 5 as a work phone. The S2 was OK, but battery life was poor to mediocre even with batterysaver apps activated, the screen was so-so and I found Android slightly hard work. The iPhone had the same mediocre battery life and the great screen and app ecosystem, but it was absolutely useless as a phone both where I live and work - dropped calls all the time.

Now I have a Nokia Lumia 720. The app ecosystem is obviously not as good and there are some annoying gaps, but it has all the basics plus a much better battery life, better onboard keyboard for typing (similar to the ones available for Android) and MUCH better call quality (with the same network provider). No dropped calls now. Haven't had the phone for long, so can't comment on build quality, but to be honest it does feel a little plasticky.

So what I think I really want is an iPhone with the battery life and call quality of the Lumia, Any chances do you think?

Clink! Terrorist jailed for refusing to tell police his encryption password

Richard Barnes

The Golden Thread

If you are a fan of Rumpole of the Bailey, you'll remember his waxing lyrical over the Golden Thread that ran through British justice. These were:

- The right to silence

- The presumption of innocence and the fact that the burden of proof rests with the prosecution

- The right not to be tried twice for the same offence.

Pillars of justice that had stood for centuries were removed in the space of about 10 years between 1994 and 2004 after terrorist attacks that killed, in this country, rather fewer than the number dying in road accidents in two weeks. Rumpole's Golden Thread is no more.

iOS 7 SPANKS Samsung's Android in user-experience rating

Richard Barnes

Re: Bell Telephone

Reminds me of the comment Bjarne Stroustrup is alleged to have made: "I have always wished for my computer to be as easy to use as my telephone; my wish has come true because I can no longer figure out how to use my telephone".

Private UK torrent site closes, citing 'hostile climate'

Richard Barnes

Re: Stupid Big Media

Usenet (alt.binaries.sounds.radio.bbc) and radioarchive.cc are your friends here. The former contains very helpful people who are always ready to supply a missing programme from a series. You may find the latter also has many of the series you missed first time around.

When UK.gov asks 'Who's your daddy', companies HAD BETTER reply

Richard Barnes

Bearer shares

IANAL, but as I understand it UK law still permits companies to issue bearer shares, which means the owner of a company is the person who physically possesses the shares at any one time. The opportunities for obfuscation of ownership are clear.

If it were me, I think I'd opt for the Robert Maxwell solution - have all my companies ending up in a family trust based in Lichtenstein.

Amazon readying smartphone with 3D DISPLAY – report

Richard Barnes

3D phone, no thanks. 3 Day phone - YES PLEASE!

I think that 3D is a bit of a gimmick that doesn't really offer anything useful. However, I will go and buy right now any smartphone that lasts for 3 days. I'm so fed up discovering my phone is dead in the morning because I forgot to put it on charge before I went to bed.

Would any manufacturer's representative care to tell me which of their phones I can buy?

Tesla earns first profit, Model S wins '99% perfect' rating

Richard Barnes

Re: Profits?

You're right - there are lots of us in that category. However, I'm not sure about the cost / benefit case of spending £90k on a car to get me to the station and back every day, even if I don't have to pay for petrol or road tax.

Forget choice: 50% of firms will demand you BYOD by 2017

Richard Barnes

Why not make this a regular slot

Let's have a regular slot where an El Reg journo looks at previous predictions from Gartner etc. and sees how they panned out.

Should be a recurring source of good laughs!

Senate clears bill to block warrantless email searches

Richard Barnes


...... use one of the many email encryption services springing up - preferably one which hosts its servers somewhere where they have some respect for individual privacy and a willingness to tell the U.S. to naff off when necessary. France, perhaps?

Drunk driving: No more dangerous than talking on handsfree mobe

Richard Barnes

Re: Texting whilst driving leads to arrest

In Lord Ahmed's case, I think the police established that he sent his last text 2 minutes before the accident, so it was not possible to prove that the texting was the cause of the accident. That's one of the reasons his sentence was lighter.

Samsung's new Galaxy S 4: iPhone assassin or Android also-ran?

Richard Barnes

What I'd like to see...

.... is a smartphone that can last a whole waking day of heavy use without having to re-charge or swap the battery out.

Pretty please?