* Posts by Owen Milton

37 publicly visible posts • joined 14 Mar 2008

Judges set timetable for McKinnon case resolution

Owen Milton

My only real objections...

My only objections in the matter are that:

He was threatened with a US military trial initially.

By US definitions he is a terrorist, and the US is a country with an established reputation for sending convicted and suspected terrorists outside the US for "interrogation".

After 10 years there's going to be no way to dispute the evidence.

All of his "Great Digital Break In" efforts were only possible due to the complete failure of a US government organization to follow even the most basic of security standards on machines both accessible to the internet and that contained "sensitive" information.

What he did, amounts to digital vandalism. The equivalent of walking into a house that has it's door swinging wide open and after rummaging through the drawers spray paints "Noob! Lock yer doors! That's why it has locks!" on the walls. It's something you slap someone upside the head for and have them pay reasonable compensation for the damage and suffering. Instead he's facing anything and everything up to over a century in the US prison system.

Google leads shoppers into pay-by-wave future

Owen Milton

Re: Still giving stuff away

That's rather the point. Your cards redundant. If the reader at the shop isn't working, they can't process anything, be it cards or phone. The cashier being clueless doesn't matter, as indicated by the fact that people can surprise the cashiers "Oh I didn't know it could do that".

This allows you to carry a phone and your ID instead of a phone, and a wallet full of cards and your ID. And allows you to keep an organized eye on what you're spending where. That's about it.

Innocent passengers targeted to protest subway agency

Owen Milton

re: What about emergency communications?

BART has emergency contact phones regularly spaced and well marked. They're pretty decent about such things actually.

You also have to consider, they've only been adding support for cell phones in the underground tunnels/platforms for a few years now, they've had to deal with emergencies of every type for decades.

US may disable all in-car mobile phones

Owen Milton

Hummm.... possible problem.

Last time I checked, disabling cell phones with jamming equipment was illegal in the US.

Add to that the fact that car companies are busy snuggling up to the "emergency assistance" companies (Such as OnStar) to put cell-based technology in vehicles.

Finally, as it's been pointed out elsewhere on here and around the world, people are still bad drivers with or without cell phones. Cell phones just make it easier.

All around I'd say it's more likely we'll see mandatory self-driving cars before we see mandatory cell jammers in cars.

Hey kids, wanna build your own Vulture 1?

Owen Milton


I have this curiosity in me. I'd like to see someone take these designs, adapt them to use a thin plastic shell, print it out on a reprap/makerbot type of thing and see how well it would work and what kind of payload it could carry.

Of course I also want to see a version made light enough to carry a small processor, micro-film solar on the wings, small electric engine and then see how well the low-cost spy drone works. If you thought google street view was bad...

Tumblr and 4chan knock each other out

Owen Milton

Re: Do I have this right?

Nah, they didn't attack because they had fluffier kittens.

The thing to remember about 4chan (and to an extent Anonymous) is that they're not some group somewhere plotting to right the world's wrongs and become the next robin hood.

4chan is a bunch of people with too much time on their hands and a desire to provoke reactions. They didn't attack the RIAA because the RIAA is wrong... they did it because the RIAA annoyed them. A bunch of them didn't become anonymous and attack CoS to show the world the horrible wrongs the church does... they do it because it's fun.

Apparently attacking a site dedicated to fluffy (non-fluffer) kittens was seen as a source of amusement this week. Imagine the guys from the start of A Clockwork Orange if they couldn't indulge in personal activities but had to be limited to Internet actions.

Group slams airport naked body scanners

Owen Milton

the alternative...

The alternative is apparently to be given a deep pat down... meaning they're going to be grabbing repeatedly at buttocks and your underwear regions in detail. Some people find it objectionable that the choices come down to

A) Don't fly in the first place.

B) Have naked full body snaps end up on the Internet.

C) Get groped in a manner that would call for a sexual assault charge if you didn't agree to it.

D) Refuse B and C at the last moment and get hauled off for interrogation as a terrorist suspect.

Miracle-tech that could fix almost everything: Major advance

Owen Milton
Thumb Up


I thought the big discovery about 10-15 years ago with superconductors is that there was a magnetic feedback effect in proportion to the energy transmitted? Start shoving large amounts of power through a small wire and it generated enough of a magnetic field that it started generating a counter-current that shut down the superconductivity? Still means you can super-conduct, you just can't do it with a power line the size of a hair.

On the plus side, if loss-free energy transmission technology was developed it would be the cost-savings justification needed to largely rebuild the US power grid, as well as power grids elsewhere... something that is desperately needed.

Apple voids warranties over cigarette smoke, users say

Owen Milton

mild rant

Just as a sort of personal rant, I can easily see an Apple Tech opening a case, seeing it full of tar and random other substances and saying "It failed due to users neglect". I'd fully agree. No problems.

That's not what happened though. They involved the whole health and safety thing. Which means the tech didn't even open it, just looked at the tar stains on the outside and said "This is a personal space health hazard, it's classified as toxic waste, so I'm not even going to open the case and say it failed due to tar, 'cause that would expose me to toxic materials! Icky!"

There is a Big difference between honouring a warranty and saying the device failed due to smoke damage, and simply refusing to even look at it because it was tar covered.

US judge rules quadriplegic can bear arms

Owen Milton

stray thought

Just as a food for thought for the collective, assuming New Jersey is like New York state, there's a surplus of dear every year... as in the state pays people to go and kill them even after all the hunting permits and such have been issued. So Mr.Shooting Chair isn't going to be causing any more horrible pain and suffering than would already have been mandated. And it's at least somewhat likely that his care-giver might take the meat and actually use it for something.

As for the safety issue, meh... The guy can't load the gun or unload it without a lot of help. Even basic aiming will require assistance, so unless his care-giver (trained in firearm safety) is a complete moron (always a possibility) there's no greater chance of him shooting a person than anyone else with a gun.

Globo-renewables all electric future touted again

Owen Milton

re: breakfast@15:32

Actually it can take up to a couple decades to plan, design, build etc.

As for the representatives, put it on yourself for a moment.

You can Do The Right Thing For the Future by suggesting building fission power plants now. And then you get to deal with people screaming "Not In My Back Yard!" about disposal, having the plants running and so forth thus being certain to not only lose your job but ALSO to get known as a tool of the nuke lobby, thus ensuring that your career is finished.

Oh, and if you suggest one of the efficient recycling plants you'll be labelled as a terrorist supporter for making weapons-grade fissionables more readily available.

Or you can make vague comments about how we should study the issue and make plans, pass the legislation that makes you MORE popular with the majority of people and enjoy your climb to the top.

A phone in every car gains hard-won GSMA support

Owen Milton
Big Brother


Is it just me, or would it be the case that after the legislation was passed every time you buy a car you are also buying into a lifetime contract with the cell phone company for "support" at 20-40 USD a month? And of course if it's required by law and makes things "safer" that's another reason for insurance for anyone who doesn't have this wonderful safety feature to go up. Granted automakers could just attach a low cost chip and cheap mike and pass the cost along as a fixed cost to the consumer, but I can't see them NOT wanting to provide "increased functionality" for profit if the person has no choice but to buy it.

Oh, and just the tinfoil hat thing, every car wired with microphones connected to a cell that is remotely activated when the police (at least in the US) have already had such systems activated in the past to gather evidence against criminals... yea... that really makes me feel all warm and fuzzy.

Men far worse than women on password security

Owen Milton


First I'll take an order of numbers 2 and 6, just because they are amusing when combined.

Now in general I'd question the accuracy of taking a sample of 4500 all from visitors to one website, and then projecting it forward to broad terms like Men, Women or French. Kinda like Option 1, we have too small a sample size to get meaningful results.

However if it's a company that sells password management tools, security software and such I'd say it was a perfect survey, conveying Exactly the right message. Amazing how that can happen.

Judge acquits mother in MySpace suicide case

Owen Milton

From what I recall...

From what I remember at the moment, the prosecution couldn't come up with any crime on the books that would actually stand a chance of sticking... This of course led to a flurry of outraged statements from lawmakers pledging to do something about it, I suspect there are probably several rather draconian bills floating around with bits that say that misrepresenting yourself online is a terrorist act deserving of time at whatever detainment camp is handy.

Ultimately while I disagree with what the woman did, it's the legal equivalent of walking up to someone on the street whilst in disguise and sitting down next to a person day after day and having a nice chat with them, and then one day repeatedly telling them how worthless and useless they are... annoying as hell, but not actually illegal what with that whole freedom of speech thing. She wasn't attempting to steal from the girl, or trick her into using her access to gain anything for the woman, there was no risk to the public, she was just being evil.

If it was illegal to mess with peoples minds then we'd have a heck of a lot of marketers in jail right now.

Mechwarrior maker claims Microsoft 'destroyed' studio's culture

Owen Milton

RE: Fasa's Great IP

Actually there's an open source game that is attempting to be built up using the ShadowRun 4th ruleset, with (apparently) the approval of MS on the basis that it always clearly identifies it's associated with MS and is not charged for.

MS doesn't own the rights to the tabletop RPG stuff for Mechwarrior or Shadowrun, just the software rights.

UK cops eye shotgun cartridge Taser

Owen Milton

random title

I would assume (note I in no way speak with certainty on this matter) that like the civilian tasers each shot would be good for one use and then needs to be reset at the taser factory.

It's another tool, and given the choice between getting shot in the head at 2 feet with a deer slug vs this tazer I'll probably take the tazer with the chance to live. The main catch being that like others I suspect that any police force issued with Less-Lethal weapons like this will take it as a license to use it whenever they can to avoid risk to themselves.

US telcos reject broadband cash as connections drop

Owen Milton

AC @14:52

Actually even in urban areas you can be limited. I live in an area that was built up less than 5 years ago in the US. My choices for TV? AT&T or a satellite dish, the cable company is not allowed. My Choices for broadband? Any provided they are either AT&T or I pay AT&T for the land-line and wait large amounts of time while they grant access to a different DSL provider. The reason for all this is that the landlord signed exclusivity contracts when the place was built.

Cost is also a factor, I can get the cheapest possible DSL connection from a company I hate for $20/mo or $480 for 2 years OR if I was 10 miles south of my current location I would have to get the satellite link at a cost of $2,000 for 2 years (minimum time) at the same speed as the cheap AT&T line.

I'm not saying there are not options, there always are. Sometimes they are simply not suitable for purpose.

El Reg space paper plane christened Vulture 1

Owen Milton

no popping, how about a deployment platform?

I believe a previous article stated we're not allowed to suggest just popping the balloon.

Might I suggest looking at some of the glider release for R/C models? They would be about the right weight/size and be an already pre-made and tested system. put the bulk of the electronics and gear for tracking it "going up" in a little unit on the balloon rather than on the plane to keep it's weight to a minimum. That way the deployed assault vehicle will only need enough power (batteries) to keep track of everything on the way down.

For the sake of economy and recovering the launch platform, you can even have the balloon vent a little of the gas and do a semi-controlled descent, allowing you to plan on reusing the same launch platform for Vulture II next year. Or it can just pop and deploy a parachute.

US bank deposits checks via iPhone camera

Owen Milton

This is less bad than it may sound

The US has some creative cheque processing. In a lot of places if you write a physical cheque they will scan it for the relevant numbers and send the information off, the banks then immediately transfer the money like a debit transaction. They then turn around and hand the cheque right back to you. Granted, I mostly ran across it when I was down in the whole Florida/Alabama area, but I don't think scanning the cheque visually via camera will be much worse then what they do to pull the numbers off it now.

Robo soup chefs wrangle ramen

Owen Milton

Five minutes to do a 1 minute job

So install 5 sets of arms and it's up to par with human norms.

On the one hand, this is *why* machines don't replace people in fast food, people are more adaptable.

On the other hand, the machines are getting better at adaptability and faster.

Gripping hand, once they do achieve a tipping point in productivity there will be a mass shift to robots... after all they don't care if it's day or night, never take time off, never turn up to work drunk... they have problems unique to robots, but it generally takes less time/money to fix then people.

Government claims on immigration ignore IT industry

Owen Milton

Canada and others do much the same...

For the general "evaluation" of immigrants. If you have Y years of education you get X points, X points for knowing French, X points for knowing English... The theory being that educated people are the ones you want moving to your country and the rest can go on a waiting list. Unless I misremember Australia does the same thing, or at least they did years ago when I was considering moving there for a job.

Let's NOT go to the "close the borders" route please, I have yet to see a historical situation where that has worked out well in the long term (If you know of one or more, feel free to offer it up).

Spider-Man director to helm World of Warcraft

Owen Milton

it's a million to one, but it just might work...

If they veer away from the "It's a game" aspect and instead start tell a cool story it might just work and be worth seeing. I'm talking about something with a story on par with the Looking for Group webcomic.

Granted, then it's less about the game and more "It's a cool fantasy movie that has the same name"!

Robot land-steamers to consume all life on Earth as fuel

Owen Milton

Actually a better use...

Might be to train plant and roadkill eating bots, and release them along highways. Never again will you have to see a weed or untrimmed lawn or dead skunk. With appropriate training, they could handle all the public lands yard maintenance, thus saving people some valuable tax monies which could be redirected to DARPA.

'Metal muscle' memory-alloy robot flapper bat shown off

Owen Milton

@this tech was developed quite a while ago

It's still maturing, I've been keeping a lazy eye on it over the years. Most of the chemical reaction "muscles" have issues with speed and others had/have issues with durability and mostly with power. We've been able to make something bat-shaped that will flap it's wings for over a decade, just not fast enough to fly. If they can actually get the speed/power/durability enough to keep this little bat flying it'll be quite a step forward.

See, even if it was working NOW we'd still be decades away from being able to use it to make 50' tall combat mecha, so it doesn't get the large sums of military research money. ;)

I didn't keep up with the eye-implant, but I know they experimented with camera inputs... I suspect it ran into the same headache as most other cybernetic implant tech, the body REALLY does not like having bits jammed into it, and it becomes a pain to power and control.

9/11 hero mutt cloned

Owen Milton

A Human Clone

Last time I checked, which I admit was a while ago in the US at least corps could file patents on the genetic material they work with in the lab. So you may be able to create a clone, and it would have full rights as a person but it would also be the patented property of his/her creator corporation. The PERSON would be free, the corp would have the right to dictate how/where it is used... Do we really want people who are free but owned? That sounds double plus ungood.

Granted, fix the patent system to fix the abuses and clone away!

IBM launching American-only software support

Owen Milton

British Columbia

To answer all the people asking why people from the US are tested, it's a joke... If they actually KNOW the answer then clearly they are not proper Americans and are clearly Terrorists or Commie Mutant Traitors or whatever the buzzword is these days.

Symantec, McAfee cough up $750,000 on auto-renewals

Owen Milton

@David Wilkinson

The only drawback to your suggestions is that I don't see any profit to the credit card companies to implement them. In fact just the opposite, I've had a credit card company come after me for an automatic charge I wasn't aware of that happened to a card number that had been closed for a year.

The only way to make the kind of changes you are talking about is with serious legal changes, and who is a politician going to listen more to, the average consumer who is periodically annoyed but has an attention span of "Oooh! Shiny!" or the credit card company reps who freely offer a few hundred thousand to their reelection campaign fund?

I am glad the AV companies got a slap on this one though, I've known too many largely computer illiterate relatives who got random bills for this kind of thing.

Engineers are troublesome 'expert loners', says prof

Owen Milton

Silly question...

Coming from a software background, can someone tell me what the actual development alternative is? I mean, rather than studying the problem, breaking it into tasks, giving the tasks to the most suitable people, and then keeping everyone informed on status... The only thing that comes to mind is a bunch of people sitting around a room arguing about why a case statement is preferable over a nested if-else for several hours rather than writing it and leaving it.

Brit hover barges, airships offered to Canadian oilfields

Owen Milton

Doubt it will happen soon...

I'm from Alberta and used to work in the the Industry. I would expect that there will be some experiments done and most of this tech will be largely ignored for the next decade or so. After the Oil prices started dropping like a rock companies up north have been canceling plans, laying off oilfield workers and starting the dance that is the "Bust" part of the Boom-Bust Oil and Gas cycle.

Which really kind of sucks, the airships and retro barges just need someone with a lot of money to throw at them to work out the kinks and make them more common.

Aside to Hollerith: A&W (The burger joint) started selling that whole line of burgers again a few years ago. The monster equipment is even bigger now. Some things never change for long. ;) To the USA-ians, yes it's the same chain as in the US and no the menu/food in Canada is nothing like in the US... it's actually good.

McKinnon's lawyers hope UK prosecution will derail extradition

Owen Milton


My apologies for making the ever-wise Moderatrix read yet another comment but...

After so long in the news, I don't actually care where the person in question is tried as long as 2 things happen.

First, that whatever judge is involved investigates the damage claim. I don't think anyone who's worked in IT thinks it's not inflated.

Second, from what I remember reading here and elsewhere (This may be in error), when they were originally talking about extraditing him the wonderful American prosecution team were threatening him with a US Military trial. If it can be verified that someone was telling him this, they need investigation and "correction".

Vehicle spy-cam data to be held for five years

Owen Milton

RE: It's none of your business

While it's perfectly true that it's wrong to store and track the plates of people who are not guilty, thanks to the widespread range of ill-defined laws everyone is already guilty of something. Given the recent theme, probably of several things involving the word "terror". Welcome to the new and perfect world. Now please pass over all that data so that we can tell just what you are guilty of in case we need to detain you.

Busts 4 Justice battles Bulgarian airbag tax

Owen Milton

Production runs, not material costs and fat passengers

Speaking as one of the fat people, I'd like to point out that ordering *any* form of clothing, the larger sizes can cost more (in general, there are always exceptions). It's not material costs, it's production run size and market. It costs almost as much to do a small run of an unusually large/small size as it does to do a large run of a common size. Since the market for larger/smaller sizes is much smaller (smaller portion of the population) you generally only ever do small runs. In addition, smaller market, less competition, blah blah econ 101, higher prices. So what is the solution? Clearly the world needs to make DD+ breast size more common to increase the demand and lower the per-unit costs! This is a solution I think we can all get behind, including the back-injury specialists who would appreciate the extra business.

Since the thread has also devolved into comments on airline passengers, I'll also throw in the comment that I fully support the idea of a pay-per-weight scheme. Since most airlines now make people buy 2 seats if they are fat it would *lower* my flight costs. Hopefully it would also help curb the asshats who like to bring full sized bags and cram them into the overhead bins, which is one of my pet peeves. They have checked luggage for a reason.

Telegraph falls to the Tw*t-O-Tron

Owen Milton

Alberta, not Canada.

Having just read the article, it's encouraging people to move to Alberta specifically. So where it's fairly easy to get into Canada with a few skills, Alberta is one of the places I'd suggest NOT moving to (in fact it's where I moved AWAY from, only to end up in California of all places). It's generally a good place, don't get me wrong... just consider that you're moving into a place that has had it's effective population double over less then a decade thanks to high oil prices. So not enough doctors, not enough public transit, skyrocketing housing costs etc, and in the event oil prices come down significantly, it'll all dry up and blow away again.

If anyone is still interested, the Canadian government website has a skilled worker test to see if you'd qualify. (short version: Speak English or French? Have a degree? Have a job offer? you're probably in)

IBM fills chips with water

Owen Milton

Perfect solution...

All we need to do is run the water through the chips and then dump it via a heat exchanger to more water... a built-in coffee (or tea) maker in every computer! Mwhahaha, my plans to over-caffeinate the world will proceed at flank speed!

UK to outlaw cartoons of child sexual abuse

Owen Milton

Another log (law) on the fire

So in short, this is a near unenforceable law that will get added to the books and largely forgotten about... Just like so many others that exist in the laws of pretty much every country in the world. Really all this is going to do is put another law on the books that can be hauled out when the police or black helicopter folk want to Make An Example of someone.

They're not going to bust down the doors of schools for the sake of Romeo, they're not going to start a house-to-house search and arrest entire towns or cities. All that will happen is it will sit around until some local council member decides that he doesn't like the way you cut your lawn and orders surveillance on you, which turns up the fact that your computer once did a Bittorent search for Legend of the Over-fiend. Then the laws get hauled out, you are outed as a horrible child molester and whoever moves into your house mows his lawn the same way as everyone else. Granted, your life is over but you can always move to some place like Moose Jaw Canada and try to start over.

Hooray for vague laws that only get enforced when someone in power has a grudge

AVG revamps free security scanner

Owen Milton


From the sounds of it, this is bundling some of the anti-spyware and other small apps into the main scanner, I've been running them all separately and can claim they are not bloatware. To my experience they are just as smooth and small footprint as the other AVG apps. In fact the *only* annoyance I have with it is the fact that my system tray is full of icons for the various Grisoft apps, which this new version should reduce to a nice single icon.

Apart from that, I'd volunteer that like others on here the first thing I do when someone asks me to "fix" their home computer is remove Norton and install AVG. Smaller, faster, more likely to catch things (IMHO) AND it's not a "big name" that is usually targeted by attacks as something to bypass.

Gates calls on Feds to plug tech investment gap

Owen Milton

H-1B a bad thing?

Hey AC! You *do* realize that getting an H-1B is one of the few ways for a skilled worker who *wants* to move/live in the US to actually do so?

It is also a piece of paper that is only of value IN the US and only for a certain number of years before you either have to have a green card or get your ass kicked out of the country. I'd have to recheck the numbers, but as I recall the first issuance is for 4 years and you can renew it one time for another 4. After that you are either an American or gone.

Last year, the available H-1B slots were gone within a matter of days, and as my immigration lawyer pointed out they have so many candidates you're not even getting looked at seriously unless you have at least a Masters. And of course, you need a job lined up ahead of time, which as someone so kindly pointed out is often underpaid for the work. It's illegal to do so, but hey this is the US we're talking about. Of course, the immigrant is completely at the mercy of the company during that time because if they decide to fire you, it's out of the country you go.

So on the one hand, we have a lot of American citizens who say that allowing immigrants steals jobs from Hard Working Americans. On the other we have highly educated often young people who are willing to put up with a DECADE of being underpaid, and treated as a corporate slave for a *chance* at American citizenship and the opportunity to pay taxes and contribute to the US.

Guess who's side I'm on?

As an aside, I do happen to agree with Geoff's comment that it's a largely artificial shortage, I just happen to object to comments like those by AC to the effect that blocking off immigration of skilled workers will solve problems.