* Posts by James

70 posts • joined 13 Apr 2007


Skype violates open source licence


GPL less than stellar

This seems more of a demonstration of why the GPL is a sometimes barrier to code re-use instead of an enabler. IIRC a CD of the machine-readable source with each phone would satisfy the GPL but would be an additional cost to the manufacturer. Whether this, coupled with the cost of the lawsuit, would be enough to make the manufacturer implement proprietary code or even use a BSD kernel I have no idea.

US wants trucks mounted with frikkin' laser beams


Eye damage inevitable

The weapon would be a class 4 laser, capable of causing eye injury even from a reflection from a diffusing, non-shiny surface.


Behind the Apple vs Universal breakup


What losses due to "free music"?

The record companies haven't conclusively shown there are losses from "free music". Record company wild guesses don't count as each downloaded song is not a lost sale. When you allow for people who wouldn't buy the music anyway and those who buy a high quality version after downloading from P2P, filesharing increases sales. The decline in CD sales went hand in hand with a declining economy, luxury goods are the first cut out of a budget when money gets tight.

Don't forget that people are getting much smarter about DRM and they don't like it. iPods and PC's don't last forever and more and more people are finding out what DRM really means when their PC or iPod dies or is lost. Sales of EMI's catalogue went *up* when iTunes started selling DRM-free versions. Have there been sensationalist headlines about EMI tracks showing up en masse on P2P? No, and you can bet there would be if it had happened.

Universal and the others need to get their heads out of their collective arses and start looking at licensing schemes such as that used by broadcast radio. Everyone gets paid and consumers are happy. The only thing not to like is the loss of monopoly for a monopoly holder but that business model for the music business is dying anyway.

Wind-powered phone-charger coming to market?



Looks neat idea though it must be said that for use at Glastonbury it may find more use in a waterwheel configuration given the rain :D

UK mulls drink-drive limit cut


Not far enough

Dropping the limit to zero is the best option. If you're driving, don't drink. It's very simple. The current system is vague and wooly. Alcohol affects different people to different extents, two drinks may render one person unfit to drive but not another. The only guaranteed way to not be unfit by way of alcohol is to not drink. A great many people are unfit to drive anyway let alone when they've had their thought processes and reflexes dulled by booze.

Before I'm accused of being part of the temperance brigade, I'm not. I like a drink but I never touch any if I'm driving.

Acer outlook not so sunny after all


MS' Fault

I can see that lack of demand for Vista is in fact MS' fault but it's not lack of marketing. It's because Vista is bloody awful. People know and like XP which is fairly reliable with good driver availability. Vista isn't and is notorious for driver problems so people don't want it.

Downing St ambivalent on open standards


Now we know who to lobby....

At least dear Tony gave us a link to who decides on formats:


They don't seem to be very clever people though, a quick search for software that supports OpenDocument Text (*.odt) files produces a claim that no software whatsoever supports it!

Paris Hilton dragged back into court


US legal system a laughing stock

The US legal system seems to have reached new lows of stupidity with this case. Treating celebrities differently sends two very destructive messages:

1. Celebs, do what you like and we might give you a smack on the wrist. Cry a bit and we'll send you home.

2. Ordinary people have their (probably already tattered) belief in justice further eroded.

She broke the law, she should suffer the same penalty as the rest of us would. If it's really that bad for her then perhaps it might actually be a deterrent and therefore an effective punishment. 2000-3000 feet from her pad is hardly house arrest, she has a clear couple of square kilometers she can roam with that....

So what's in a URL? The Reg URL?



The .co.uk part of the URL is part of what attracted me to the Reg years ago. It suggested it wasn't a run of the mill US-centric site and this has been borne out with the British humour and stories. Losing the .co.uk to become uk.theregister.com would feel like changing into a small, after-thought subsidiary of just another US tech site and lose much of the unique Reg brand appeal.

BT declares ceasefire in broadband speed wars


Speed matters unless you can't provide it....

Speed matters to me as what I want from an ISP is a nice fat pipe with low latency. Principally this is for gaming but VoIP, VPN and fast browsing are also useful. I couldn't give two hoots about bundles of managed services and content. That's all just electronic hot air as far as I'm concerned.

BT are remarkably thick if they believe speed doesn't matter to Joe Consumer. He likes watching videos on YouTube, emailing unreduced photos of little Jonny from his 8 megapixel camera, browsing bandwidth heavy FLASH sites and let's not forget downloading all those banner ads. He wants all that to happen fast.

Gov. resists ID card scrutiny


Shredding Day?

So who's thinking the OGC is trying to stall for time while they figure out a way to have a Red Ken style shredding day so they won't have to reveal what are likely to be extremely damning documents?

Probability (or better, certainty) of public disclosure would probably do wonders for cutting the amount of dishonesty, backhanders for friends and sloppiness in government procurement.

Vista upgrade revisited


Glad to hear Vista stinks at WiFi

"Once everything is loaded and has calmed down a little, it trundles along at around 15 per cent per CPU core and around 55 per cent memory (remember this a 2GB machine)."

This is not even remotely reasonable behaviour for an OS to consume 15% per core all the time. Consuming 1.1GB of RAM is also ridiculous.

I was very happy to read that Vista's wireless connectivity is shockingly poor. I know that sounds like an odd statement but it reassured me that the problems my mother was having connecting to her perfectly functional but non-SSID-broadcasting access point were down to yet more cruddy code from Microsoft. It is intensely frustrating trying to help your family out with tech problems over the phone when Vista doesn't even approximate reasonable behaviour. One thing I found striking was that despite manually setting up a connection, Vista wouldn't connect. Why? Because it's an encrypted connection (Vista knows this) yet Vista asks for the SSID but NOT the damn passphrase >_<

I have never been more certain that once I can no longer use XP, I will simply shift off Microsoft OS's forever.

Greek cops to paintball rioting fans


Finally, an effective weapon?

With all the uproar about this tactic by the Greek police, it seems to me that they might have finally found an effective deterrent....

100,000 'erroneous' records on DNA database


PNC taken as gold standard?

I seem to recall that a large number of PNC records are found to be incorrect even after being checked by a supervisor. The PNC is hardly a suitable gold standard for checking data against. How many records have got the wrong data attached to them?

Downing Street rejects Vista petition


Petition that hasn't been rejected?

Anyone care to name a petition that hasn't been rejected? The ones I've signed (no ID cards, road pricing) have been met with a politely worded "F*ck off you horrible little voter, we know best so stop thinking."

Virgin throttles national cable network


What About Gamers?

While I personally don't give two hoots about Joost or video transmission on Skype, I am going to be very interested how this affects net games like EverQuest2, WoW and the like. How much data per hour do they transfer?

Perhaps more important than the total bandwidth consumed (it's perfectly possible to have 6 people playing while sharing a single 4M/256k cable line) is the latency introduced by queuing disciplines. Even as little as a second's packet loss can cause havoc if the players are in the middle of an intense battle.

Because of the popularity of latency critical applications like gaming, I predict that this is the first step towards ISP's like Virgin Media offering specific premium deals for low latency connections.

Latest AACS crack 'beyond revocation'


Unwinnable position

The sad irony is that the copyright owners can never win if they want us to be able to play their content. Any cryptographic system can be reduced (roughly) to

CipherText + Key + Algorithm == PlainText

We buy the CipherText as the DVD, the algorithm is pretty public and not problematically so. The strength is all in the key and if we want to watch the DVD on a consumer device we must have the key *somewhere*. All we have to do is find it and the system is broken. Since the producers want us to keep buying and watching DVD's they'll have to keep giving us the keys to do so and the whole exercise is utterly futile.

Funny to watch the likes of AACS LA squirm as they learn a painful lesson in information theory though :D

Oyster-Barclaycard hybrid passes first technical trials


Differential Pricing?

I can't help but wonder if all the goods you pay for via Oyster will cost nearly half what they would normally, like TFL's services do...

Researchers, spooks favour satnav-based road pricing


Technology cannot do certain things

There are certain things that GPS can't do. Sadly for the government, track cars reliably enough for taxation is one of them. Sadly for us, this won't even register as an objection. Even perfect biometrics for ID cards can only tie a person to a document, they can make precisely zero claim for the veracity of the information linked to that document. A simple case of can't work, won't work, implemented anyway.

GPS needs a clear view of the sky, without it the position can jump markedly especially with cheaper GPS receivers. I've seen a GPS fix shift 400 yards across a river and back in a steep sided valley in a matter of seconds. That kind of error would result in at least a speeding fine or charging for being on a road I was nowhere near.

Tunnels pose an interesting problem too. Total signal blackout can cause a GPS to believe it has stopped and often not reacquire position on exiting the tunnel. I have to reset my GPS manually on the rare occasions I use the Dartford crossing tunnel. I can't see people doing that if they're going to be charged for it but I can see the government sending rescue teams into the tunnel to find all the people who went in and never came out...

It's also not just malicious interference that affects GPS, sunspots also impact accuracy. Not hugely but enough to get you charged for being 100ft away on the high toll road instead of the low toll one you're on.

Fuel duty is the only meaningful way of taxing mileage, it's extortionately high now and will get worse. Even with some meaningful investment is made in public transport, governments need to accept that frequently there is no alternative to driving at all let alone a viable one.

Researchers serve up obesity gene


Just another risk factor

Sadly the mainstream press seems unable to distinguish between a cause and a risk factor. This is no different from cancer genes like BRCA1, it simply increases risk of cancer not causes it (mutant BRCA1 actually causes cells to fail to repair DNA properly making any damage from external sources much more likely to lead to cancer).

As we all know the true cause of obesity is failure to wear your tinfoil hat, the population is so much easier to oppress when it can't muster the energy to get off its collective fat arse and oppose the govt



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