* Posts by Brian O'Byrne

30 posts • joined 20 Feb 2009

NASA reveals the new wavy Martian wheels it thinks can crush the red planet

Brian O'Byrne

There is also the question of the sand composition.

Lunar regolith consists of sharp granules of various sizes. Martian sand is subject to weathering, so it is smaller, rounded granules. Martian sand is therefore more free-flowing so its interaction with wire mesh wheels would be very different than the lunar surface.

KFC: Enemy of waistlines, AI, arteries and logistics software

Brian O'Byrne

So what happens when a construction worker forgets to turn off the stop sign after packing up. Every autonomous vehicle sees his van as a stop sign while he drives back to the yard.

Or someone could decide that it would be fun to hide one of those stop signs beside a major motorway. Instant long tailback while the plod search for a small device in the undergrowth.

Months after breach at the 'UnBank' Ffrees, customers complain: No one told us

Brian O'Byrne

True story. Some years ago a British tourist lost his passport. A criminal used the passport details to start a business in Germany. This criminal decided not to pay some taxes (I think it was a case of VAT fraud). The German revenue commissioner came knocking on on the Brit's door demanding their money.

Details of identity documents can be abused for large financial gains. I have nothing to hide but I don't want to be investigated by some foreign government for tax fraud.

SpaceX makes successful rocket launch

Brian O'Byrne

Especially when you consider that the entire constellation consists of 66 satellites with 6 in-orbit spares (and further spares on the ground).

I think Mr. Corfield needs to check his facts and figures.

The solution to security breaches? Kill the human middleware

Brian O'Byrne

Re: Maleficent High Voltage USB sticks


The device uses the power provided by the computer over the USB port to charge capacitors then discharges the capacitors through the data data pins.

In most cases that will quickly kill the USB port, and often the computer.

The device is unaffected and can be re-used.

.. and it is very easy to make, you don't need to spend €50 plus shipping to get one if you have some skill with a soldering iron.

TalkTalk teen hacker pleads guilty as firm reveals £22m profit jump

Brian O'Byrne

There is more than enough blame to go around

The child is just that; a child.

TalkTalk is a major corporation with the legal responsibility to protect data gathered from its customers and the resources to do just that.

TalkTalk was hacked by a child.

In addition to whatever punishment the court sees fit to impose on the child we should see TalkTalk execs including the CIO and CEO in the dock on criminal negligence charges.

.. and don't bother trying to convince me they got justice in the form of a £400,000 fine.

Trumped? Nope. Ireland to retain corporate tax advantage over the US

Brian O'Byrne

Re: Ireland can compete

I'm not saying wage inflation is A Bad Thing. The Donald's policies might have the effect is increasing domestic investment by bringing home the trillions of dollars of cash held offshore (which is good for just about everyone) and of increasing wages (which is good for workers).

In the context of this story; which is talking about the effect of these policies on Ireland; I think the wage inflation and barriers to trade in the US will make Ireland more competitive as a location for the multinationals to invest.

I think a protectionist trade policy will improve the domestic US economy, but will also drive more globalization as companies seek to invest outside the protected bubble.

Brian O'Byrne

Ireland can compete

According to the most recent 2016 world competitiveness survey Ireland is ranked 7th (up from 16th) and the US is 3rd (down from 1st).

There is no doubt that a reduced US corporate tax rate will encourage money back to the US from abroad and give those corporations more incentive to invest at home. As others have already noted; there is a huge cash stockpile waiting offshore for that to happen. Getting that money properly into the economy can only be beneficial.

However the president-elect is not just talking about lower corporate tax rates; he is also talking about massively protectionist trade policy and restrictions on importing a skilled workforce. Those things will lead to inflation on the consumer price index and to wage inflation, directly affecting competitiveness.

A protectionist US trade policy will make it all the more necessary for multinationals to have a presence in the EU.

In those circumstances I have no doubt that Ireland can continue to win direct investment and the gap in relative competitiveness will continue to reduce.

Europe to order Apple to cough up 'one beeellion Euros in back taxes'

Brian O'Byrne

The money goes to the Irish revenue commissioners, regardless of what happens elsewhere in the EU.

And yes, that does make it a bit 'interesting' to see the Irish government vow to appeal the ruling. We could do with an extra billion in the coffers. The thing is that the government would prefer to have a ruling that says there was no breach of the state aid rules even if that costs a billion in back taxes.

European privacy body slams shut backdoors everywhere

Brian O'Byrne

All hail diversity

Diversity is a Good Thing.

That includes the sort of diversity that comes from having one jurisdiction where backdoors are specifically prohibited and others where backdoors are either tolerated or required.

That will force software 'engineers' (I'll remove the quotes when the software industry is held to the same standards as civil engineering or another real engineering discipline) to understand crypto and privacy in a way that is currently not necessary. Better understanding can only lead to better implementations.

Is digital fraud big in UK? British abacus-botherers finally have some answers

Brian O'Byrne

Re: Rethink time


Software is definitely the problem. Software needs to be written for the people that will use it, instead (at best) it is written for a hypothetical user that always behaves exactly as required by the system. At worst it is written without any regard for the user at all.

Imagine an office building for 1000 staff. The elevators are designed to carry up to 1000 people per hour. When everyone arrives at about 9am there are queues of up to an hour to at the elevators. Is that because the people are stupid for all arriving at the same time or because the building was designed without proper consideration for how it will be used?

That is not a perfect analogy, but a lot of software issues are like that; there are assumptions made about user behaviour that are not valid or not safe. As an industry we then blame the user for not behaving as designed. We should blame the system for being badly designed.

Europe's Earth-watching sat beams back icy first pic

Brian O'Byrne

Polar orbits 180 degrees apart... so on the same plane but moving in opposite directions? .. or on the same plane moving in the same direction but on opposite sides of the planet?

El Reg's plucky Playmonaut eyes suborbital rocket shot

Brian O'Byrne

Re: Great, but....

There is a HUGE difference between getting up to 100Km and falling back vs. getting up to 100Km and staying there in orbit.

Wikipedia suggests you can do the former with about 1.4Km/s of delta-v, the latter requires over 9Km/s.

It will be a while before a cheap amateur rocket can deliver 9Km/s to a payload of any size.

'Duck face' selfie in SPAAAACE: Rosetta's snap with bird comet

Brian O'Byrne

Re: Of course, there's one important question...

This is an ESA mission, so NASA rules do not apply.

This link appears to be relevant in terms of the rights granted to the space images:


Data entry REAR-END SNAFU: Weighty ballsup leads to plane take-off flap

Brian O'Byrne

There is one problem with that approach: the test is very late in the process.

Pilots and crews are busy enough in the final few minutes before takeoff. You are talking about adding another technical check at that busy time.

If there is a problem detected what should they do? You need more procedures and to determine how to correct the weight distribution and the co-operation of the passengers.

The existing procedures should work. They failed in this case because there was a problem at checkin: the children were checked in as adults. Adding another test at that time would be much more cost-effective than adding a test minutes before pushback.

Google's NEST can't stand the heat, needs patch for use in kitchen

Brian O'Byrne

Re: WTF?

'Moderately useful'? Perhaps. But still a really bad idea.

These things will be connected through local Wi-Fi, which is often insecure in a domestic installation. You could disable these security systems by getting access to the local Wi-Fi link and spoofing a message from Chocolate Factory Central.

Having a physical security system that can be attacked over the internet is just a bad idea.

HTML is a sexually transmitted disease, say many Americans

Brian O'Byrne


Also wrongly decoded as the "Personal Computer Miniature Communications Interface Adapter".

iPhones, tablets... Pah: By 2020, we'll froth over hot new SOFTWEAR

Brian O'Byrne

Re: How many shirts do you own?

You are only making my point for me.

I'm not going to wear an armband over a suit or wear a scarf or hat indoors. I don't look good in earrings and I dead the thought of all those people who now look at their handhelds all the time wearing dark glasses instead.

My computing requirements are completely independent of clothing requirements.

Brian O'Byrne

How many shirts do you own?

... and do you want to own that many wearable computers?

If this wearable technology really is built in to the sort of soft fabrics that people feel comfortable wearing for a day before washing them, then you will need a lot of wearable computers (or a daily cycle for washing your shirts).

And what about the fashion sense? People wear different types of clothes for different occasions. Are you going to have a few work/casual computers for the normal week, a few formal computers for meeting customers, some comfortable old t-shirt computers for the weekend and something hard-wearing for when you are out-and-about?

Sounds like a nightmare, and stupidly expensive.

Online dole queue tech 'not grounded in reality', say councils

Brian O'Byrne

Public code for public money

So the councils are hiring private contractors to build these bespoke systems. Who owns the rights to the source code after the system is delivered?

Presumably the contract can / should be written such that the code is owned by the council paying the bills. In that case there is no reason the council cannot decide to share that code with anyone they like. That could include the other councils or the public at large.

I can see that people might be wary of allowing updates from just anywhere, not least because it would make maintenance more difficult. That problem can be overcome with a small expert team acting as the gatekeeper to new checkins, as in the 'benevolent dictatorship' model in some of the most popular open source projects.

Rovio chucks up Angry Birds successor, hopes it will fly

Brian O'Byrne


Can anyone explain why a paid game (not the ad-supported version) needs permissions to read the phone status and identity, get physical location information and access NFC features?

I can understand the first two of those being useful on the ad-supported version, but NFC?

Too many developers are extracting the urine when it comes to permissions requests on their apps, and far to many punters are blithely accepting them.

Verisign admits 2010 hack attack, mum on what was nicked

Brian O'Byrne

Isn't this a sarbox violation?

If I remember the furore around Enron and the Sarbanes-Oxley legislation that was brought in afterwards, one of the key features was that the senior management was required to make sure they became aware of all risks to business continuity and the bottom line.

If the management was not aware they cannot hide behind that. They are still liable for criminal prosecution if the SEC takes the view that investors were not informed of the risk to the business in a timely manner.

Watch this space. If sarbox has teeth and the regulators are serious about keeping things under control then we can expect sanctions against the directors here.

Underground tunnel complexes FOUND ON MOON

Brian O'Byrne

Lunar habitat

One of the significant problems with a permanent lunar habitat is protection from solar radiation. Do the sub-selenian tunnels offer a ready-made solution?

GCHQ: The uncensored story of Britain's most secret intelligence agency

Brian O'Byrne

Visit Bletchley

Any code buff should take the time to visit Bletchley Park at least once. Nice gardens, good country home, and more stories of the war, clever people and their inventions, and thousands of people working in amazing levels of secrecy than you can shake a very large stick at.

Google's Wi-Fi sniff probe reveals 'criminal intent' - PI

Brian O'Byrne

Not listening, recording. Not Speakers Corner, home.

Consider a different analogy. Google is driving past your home with a parabolic microphone and recording your conversation. Is that a breach of privacy? After all, you are broadcasting your private conversation to everyone within listening distance. OK, maybe Google has especially good hearing with its parabolic mic, just like they have particularly good wifi reception with their channel-hopping, large antenna-d wifi radio.

Stick a fork in floppies - they're done

Brian O'Byrne

All the same media

When we went shopping for floppies at the time we'd always buy the 1.44MB disks. They had to be reformatted for ADFS from DOS but with that detail done they worked just fine at a capacity of 1.6MB. The format was different but the physical media exactly the same.

Having said that we would go for the better quality floppies. The really cheap DOS disks did tend to die quite quickly.

Brian O'Byrne

BBC & Acorn floppies

As I remember the BBC & Acorn machines formatted the '1.44MB' disks to 1.6MB under their ADFS. I think it was on the BBC Master Compact computer that my brother and I wrote drivers that used the trick of varying sector and track sizes to fit about 1.8MB on the same disk. How we wondered at the puny skills of Microsoft.

Halogen days indeed.

Foreign Office changes tourist advice after Israeli inquiry

Brian O'Byrne

What passwords have no biometric details?

I don't believe I have ever seen a passport without biometric security details. Doesn't every passport include a photograph? ... and confirmation of the sex of the passport holder?

These are details of the biology of the passport holder that can be measured, hence bio-metric.

Want Gmail? Best have your mobile handy

Brian O'Byrne

So how does this marry with data protection?

You know.. the law that says a company cannot hold data for longer than required to provide the service?

So I can just send Google a DPA notice to provide me with all the data they hold on me, plus the reason they hold it. They send back a list including by life history. I point to the mobile number and say: you don't need that, delete it.

If they fail to delete it, they get prosecuted for data protection violation.

And I know Google have offices here in Eire, so they have to respond to an Irish court.

NASA 'scope captures ferocious gamma ray burst

Brian O'Byrne

Batten down the hatches

18 billion light-years away, and stuff moving at no less than .999999c, so I guess that means we should start feeling the particle flux in about 18,000 years.


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