* Posts by John Lettice

172 publicly visible posts • joined 3 May 2007


Farewell Felix Dennis, deal-maker supreme of tech publishing

John Lettice (Written by Reg staff)

Re: Re: El Reg

I think I didn't have any kids last time I saw you. Now I've got two grown up, sheesh. Drop by if you're ever in London - current Reg local is a real ale pub run by a loud-mouthed Geordie.

John Lettice (Written by Reg staff)

Objection sustained. I didn't mean to suggest I bogged off immediately, and nobody was kicking me out. I actually did some work for them on the response to the ZD invasion around then, but I think they found my recommendations a bit too weird.

John Lettice (Written by Reg staff)

Re: Re: El Reg

It was PCN we worked on, you dozy git. How the devil are you, Nige?

Doctor Who Episode One: Through a glass. Darkly

John Lettice (Written by Reg staff)

Re: Foggy memories and nostalgia

Almost certainly. But I do remember impressively large piles of bodies as the Daleks ran riot through Vulcan. Doubt you'd get that level of violence in before the watershed these days. Also remember the Dalek innards looked kind of like scrambled eggs.

Gaping hole in Google service exposes thousands to ID theft

John Lettice (Written by Reg staff)

Re: Bounty?

Seems to me if you're running a system you have some responsibility to audit what happens to the data entered into it, including after it's left your system. If Go Compare wasn't vulnerable to this flaw, then just maybe it was because Go Compare's techies were doing their job, right?

John Lettice (Written by Reg staff)

Re: Bounty?

As Google is insisting that the hole is in somebody else's system, I do believe I'd have to go legal in order to get any money out of them.

The Register and Australia-New Zealand

John Lettice (Written by Reg staff)

Re: Underwhelmed

We're not altogether ruling out some kind of mechanism where you could set your region, but it really would not make a great deal of difference. Today, for example, the only story on The Reg worldwide that's set region-specific is this one. More usually I'd expect there to be two or three for Australia, and that'd be that.

UK passes buck on Europe's cookie law with copy-paste proposal

John Lettice (Written by Reg staff)

Re: Corporate Puppet

All your life, Alex? What a sheltered one you must have led. But you do PI a disservice by persisting in viewing this issue as black v white. It's not just about big faceless industry v the people - it's also about how small publishers (inc the Reg and Struan) can continue to provide information to the likes of you for free. If you don't start thinking about solutions that will work, you're going to lose. Inevitably.

Apple adds 'make the web go away' button to Safari 5

John Lettice (Written by Reg staff)

Re: Not That Long

It rather depends on where Apple intends to go with it, if anywhere. As it is, it's a piece of user-controlled functionality within a minority browser, and it's not worth publishers bothering about while that remains the case.

If it got bigger it might be an issue, but I'd guess that it would gain functionality and flexibility as it did get bigger. Presenting new content in some kind of book chapter format is kind of meh, IMO, so that would have to change.

For what it's worth, our tech people have had a look at it, and it looks like it could be blocked if that's what a site wanted to do, or (heh) ads could be inserted in it if that's what a site wanted to do.

Prisoner of iTunes - the iPad file transfer horror

John Lettice (Written by Reg staff)

Re: A question for you John

For writing the on-screen keyboard's perfectly usable, and I don't think I'd have a problem doing reasonably large pieces with it. They'd still likely need polishing on a 'proper' computer though. I don't think I'm qualified to comment on Numbers and Keynote, as I don't really do spreadsheets and powerpoint. Numbers comes with a template - just the one, unless I've accidentally deleted the rest - for a running log. What you weigh, how far you ran, time, calories burned. Weird...

John Lettice (Written by Reg staff)

Re: No Shit Sherlock!

Ah, you're guessing my expectations. Initially I didn't expect the iPad to be particularly useful to me, but I've found it comes in handy, and I think it has potential.

The file transfer stuff is however crud, and I don't know where you saw the adverts that said this. I just thought I'd get that out of the way prior to doing an assessment of it as a mobile productivity device. Which is next. Probably.

John Lettice (Written by Reg staff)

Re: lol crapple

Well, as I understand it Nokia does have some previous in the control department, but very little experience of selling 2 million tablet devices in a month or so (au contraire...)

Apple may well have problems in resolving the iPad's contradictions, but they'll be problems of success, nice ones to have.

John Lettice (Written by Reg staff)

Re: A bit out of date.

I'm not sure how that's relevant to the gripes that I was covering. But 'open in' isn't one of my favourite features either. Sure, I can open a link in Safari from Twitterific, but then I drop out of Twitterific and lose my place. Fix one problem by creating another, IMO.

The commercial cuckoo hiding in the BBC's global mission

John Lettice (Written by Reg staff)

Re: I get the impression...

John Lettice most certainly does not approve of Fox News. John Lettice does however note that an allegedly public service broadcasting operation is parlaying the BBC's international reputation into a commercial operation that will ultimately be privatised, still bearing the BBC brand. I don't need to have an alternative favourite to know that that's dodgy.

John Lettice (Written by Reg staff)

Re: without the BBC the UK would suck

What does the UK export these days?

Well, there's The Register...

The iPad, news saviour? Murdoch may have something here

John Lettice (Written by Reg staff)

Re: link economy

Well, the link economy may be all well and good in a Second Life kind of way, but from where I'm sitting it kind of fails in the sense that the currency of links does not readily exchange, at any kind of viable exchange rate, with that absurd paper stuff that might allow me to buy beer, loose cars and fast women. I obviously don't get the web...

John Lettice (Written by Reg staff)

Re: An "edge case" though....?

Agreed, subscription probably is a hurdle for general news. But if newspapers do go electronic, then part and parcel of that surely has to be the ability to pay for a single day's issue. The iTunes store can contrive to charge me 59p for a low-cost app, it oughtn't to be beyond the wit of man to charge me £1 for today's Telegraph, if I happen to have an attack of The Blues one morning.

Biometric passport 2.0 scrapped alongside ID cards, NIR

John Lettice (Written by Reg staff)

Re: You still have to asked yourself

I believe we'll have a fuller run-down along shortly, but you could check here in the meanwhile:


ContactPoint covered, but only mention of NHS relates to funding. Surely a goof? The document's a little repetitive, so clearly a rush job.

Guy Kewney, pioneer, guru, friend - RIP

John Lettice (Written by Reg staff)


I thought it was. They were impressively cross, AIR. But weren't your features usually in bits to start with? (-:

Good to hear from you, even under the circumstances.

IPS turns to asylum for help with ID scheme database

John Lettice (Written by Reg staff)

Re: yeah, this is a title

There are more NI numbers than there are people in the country, and some of the entries are for dead people, apparently. I've no idea how long they keep them.

John Lettice (Written by Reg staff)

Re: WTF?

Oh all right. I'm far too old to have ever crossed swords with a proof of age card, so I bow to the superior knowledge of the younger lot.

Manchester's on fire for ID cards, claims ID minister

John Lettice (Written by Reg staff)

Re: Indeed...

Actually there's no great reason why HMRC should care particularly about who you really are. For most of the dosh it's just a matter of making sure the employers are doing approximately the right tax deductions and bunging it across. From that point of view, HMRC should care less if the NI number is attached to Mickey Mouse, a Shetland Pony, or whatever, so long as it's being appropriately taxed.

John Lettice (Written by Reg staff)

Re: Passports for jobs

It was always intended that this be the case. When Blunkett first proposed them, they were to be called Entitlement Cards, the notion being that you had to prove who you were and what your entitlements were in order to claim them. So making employers liable if they employ illegal immigrants and forcing banks to impose tougher ID checks (you know the way your bank keeps asking you to prove who you are, no matter how long you've banked with them? - government's fault) forces people to prove who they are more often. Thus creating a greater demand for ID cards.

You could think of it as the New Labour ID Card Hamster Wheel System.

John Lettice (Written by Reg staff)

Re: ID card minister makes stuff up.

10,204. (http://www.theyworkforyou.com/mp/meg_hillier/hackney_south_and_shoreditch)

The only thing that'll shift a Hackney Labour MP is the Hackney Labour Party. I did that once, you know... (-:

Where does Mozilla go when the monopoly witch is dead?

John Lettice (Written by Reg staff)

Re: I wish journalists would...

Well, if I'd been selecting stats to fit my agenda, I'd surely have chosen the 50 per cent one. It seems to me the browser wars are pretty much done and dusted, but if Microsoft still has over 60 per cent and the only competitor with a credible share has about 25, maybe they're not.

Which is a pity, because it's really time we got to move on.

With MS funding, No2ID gains entry to EU eID group

John Lettice (Written by Reg staff)

Re: Did I miss something?

MS has several top-notch identity boffins on-board, including Kim Cameron and Stefan Brands, and you may recall Jerry Fishenden slagging off the ID card scheme while he was still MS UK national technology officer.

On ID, it seems to me Microsoft is now broadly sensible, maybe even with the good guys. Besides, it's only travel expenses they're paying.

IPS in cunning 'get an ID card, get crucified' scheme

John Lettice (Written by Reg staff)

Re: Link or It Didn't Happen


John Lettice (Written by Reg staff)

Re: A question...

Unless they changed the rules when I wasn't looking, if you're not resident in the UK you don't qualify for an ID card. So presumably you'd have to give it back, or something. Not that that would be likely to get you off the ID register...

You and what Android? The Google iPhone killer that isn't

John Lettice (Written by Reg staff)

Re: HTC might be the manufacturer but....

There's a rider to that that gives a two year parts and labour warranty for EU customers, one year elsewhere in the world. But at the moment the seller isn't in the UK. You can buy from the UK, but you get whacked for shipping and customs on top of the price. I'd imagine when the Vodafone deal kicks in and they do start selling in the UK they'll be fiddling with the wording.

John Lettice (Written by Reg staff)

Re: Microsoft are not a success because they don't specify hardware?

That's not quite what I meant. Microsoft has issued quite detailed design guides for the PC over the years, and has effectively specified the hardware. But it doesn't absolutely dictate what's in the finished product, because it can't, if it's presiding over an ecosystem that is supposed to allow for a measure of diversity. So Microsoft left the hardware to others a bit, not a lot, but enough for it to make a difference IMO.

It seems to me that there was a point in Microsoft's history (warning - incoming crazy theory) where it could have built its own hardware. That would have been a tricky one to pull off without pissing off the PC companies, but MS could maybe have contrived it via some kind of consumer/multimedia closed box aimed at the living room, and/or a re-imagination of Xbox. Or it could just have entered the mobile market with its own hardware, and the hell with trying to replicate the PC model.

The advantage would have been that it could put out a stand-out consumer product without it being buried by similar, average partner products. The disadvantage though is you probably can't get away with owning one of the teams when you're running the playing field.

John Lettice (Written by Reg staff)

Re: Re: Game changing product? Reply

Well, they got a better deal from the operators than seemed rational at the time (to several of us on The Reg, at least), and it contrived to skim off all of the added value sales via the app store, leaving the networks to make their money off of voice and data. And it also managed to screw the networks by dumping a huge increase in data traffic onto them. But that one was more of a cheap gag they deserved than a seizure of power.

Remember that both networks and hardware companies have in the past tried and failed to set up their own revenue-generating walled gardens, one of the reasons they've failed being the argument over how the revenue gets divvied up. Apple has succeeded.

Remember also that the operators losing control is not the same as the users winning control. One to bear in mind as Google rides to the rescue of the US cellphone market, ahem.

John Lettice (Written by Reg staff)

Re: Game changing product?

In my opinion the iPhone WAS a game changer. Prior to its launch the networks and the hardware manufacturers were in a constant struggle for control. And the networks quite often won, even (notably?) against Nokia. Our own Bill Ray, discredited prophet of the iPhone's failure, yesterday made the point that "Back in 2006, Apple's lack of experience with operators proved its advantage: Steve Jobs pushed far harder than anyone else would have dared and the operators proved far more flexible than expected."

More fool them. Apple certainly did seize power from the operators, and it's an interesting notion that it might have done so because it didn't know any better. But Apple is run by a maniac, and the people who run Google are just creepy. So although Google also seems to want to take control from the networks, what it's got so far seems to me to be pretty feeble, and they're probably not vicious enough to push hard enough.

I'm with you on the phone that works in the sticks though, as is Bill.

John Lettice (Written by Reg staff)

Re: Who cares they don't make it.

Um, yes there is a whole bunch of stuff, aside from the case. I believe Apple has sent Nokia a list. (-:

Traffic reports for the wrong country? There's an iPhone app for that

John Lettice (Written by Reg staff)

Re: UK's just not supported

I hadn't thought of Navigon selling me a non-existent product as a possible explanation. Wonder what the App Store gods would make of that?

I'll check it out tomorrow and report back.

John Lettice (Written by Reg staff)

Re: Solution

I've been to the Pas de Calais, and you're right, it's not that big a deal. Which is why I'm not inclined to go back.

MS kills 'Bing buys the news' furore, but Google could still lose it

John Lettice (Written by Reg staff)

Re: MS kills 'Bing buys the news' furore, but Google could still lose it

You're right, but I don't think it just for the Google Brothers to be allowed to just walk up and steal Microsoft's nickname as well as its lunch.

We're just going to have to find another one for them.

John Lettice (Written by Reg staff)

Re: MS kills 'Bing buys the news' furore, but Google could still lose it

As I keep saying, they're only going to do it if there's a business case for doing it. Murdoch has threatened to do it, probably because he thinks that will have some positive effect on subscription revenue, and little negative effect in terms of new reader recruitment. We'll need to wait till he does it to see whether or not he's right.

It's also possible that a business case exists for some non-subscription titles deindexing. If more of your traffic is coming through the front door, maybe that makes people more likely to stick around and browse, and that readership is going to be worth a lot more to you than single clicks from Google News. Clicks, reads and shoots, as you might say.

But that's not a theory I'd currently care to test myself...

Google shrinks its door to free WSJ stories, slightly

John Lettice (Written by Reg staff)

Re: Google shrinks its door to free WSJ stories, slightly

No, wrong point. When you click on the link from Google News, you go through to the host site, right? Prior to the changes, you could click on as many WSJ links from Google News as you like, and always get the full story displayed. But now Google is permitting sites to put a five click (or more, if they so choose) daily cap on an individual's number of free reads.

Yes, the cap is to be implemented by the publisher, not Google, but Google is setting the minimum the cap can be at 5. So one assumes that if a publisher just went ahead and served a registration page after one click, Google would kick them out of News.

When algorithms attack, does Google hear you scream?

John Lettice (Written by Reg staff)

Re: shopping sites

Including its own? http://www.google.co.uk/products?hl=en

John Lettice (Written by Reg staff)

Re: Spamfestation of search results

That would seem to me to be one of the problems. If price comparison sites are bad per se, then price comparison sites should be uniformly penalised.

But, Google itself does not think price comparison itself is bad. The introduction of price comparison under the banner of 'universal search' is, according to Google, in response to the Google equivalent of customer demand, and in this case I believe them. If you put in a search for a specific product, then you probably want that specific product, so in that case you're not likely to want a whole bunch of price comparison cruft shouting at you. But much more often, people will be running searches that imply they're shopping for stuff, in which case they'd surely welcome results that present them with relative costs. In which case price comparison sites are perhaps not bad per se.

So why are some penalised and others not? Neither The Reg nor the New York Times can get straight answers on this, and it seems to me that Google, simply, has no valid mechanism for assessing the value of price comparison sites. Except when it comes to its own, which are by definition perfect.

The Twitter storm that saved freedom of speech

John Lettice (Written by Reg staff)

Re: Secret

I'm not a great enthusiast for the current regime at the Guardian, but this time they did precisely what they should have done. Publish and be damned would likely have been extremely expensive for the paper, given that judges get just as uppity about contempt as MPs get about privilege. What the paper did do instead was to get its lawyers onto overturning or amending the injunction. It quite probably would have succeeded in this, and the other party folding an hour or so before the hearing might suggest that they thought it was going to succeed. Plus the Graun got shedloads of positive publicity by screaming about being gagged.

Total result, IMO. Very well played.

As for what would have happened to you... Probably nothing, given that nothing is likely to happen to anybody now. But if the cards had fallen differently, if you'd published while being unaware that you were covered by the injunction - and could prove that you'd been unaware - then nothing would have happened to you. Apart from having to prove it, that is. And considering the amount of screaming there was about it, it seems to me it'd be a difficult one to prove.

John Lettice (Written by Reg staff)

Re: You're not going to be able to allow comments on this article...

I'll grant you we'll keep a pretty close eye on comments on this one. But you give me an opportunity to point out that the law on linking to whistleblowing sites is by no means settled. M'learned friends with a pecuniary interest in the suppression of information have an interest in it being at least possible that linking to something that breaches somebody's copyright (or whatever) is in itself a breach of copyright and/or an inducement to breach copyright.

But t'aint necessarily so, and it's never been tested in a UK court. That said, I'd rather not be doing the testing myself, so keep it down people - don't go trying to start anything for a laugh.

How much of the EU's data will the UK lose?

John Lettice (Written by Reg staff)

Re: What is the relevance...

The lady in question is from a STORK brochure from last year, pic lifted by Reg editorial for illustrative purposes. So we didn't think of it, they did - draw your own conclusions.

Apple and Snow Leopard take-downs - just say no

John Lettice (Written by Reg staff)

Re: Memory

I don't recall that one. Years ago we did a lightning host switch after some dope at the ISP pulled the plug out. Then there was the mystery thing that kept knocking over the site (see: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2001/08/13/fear_and_loathing/), which went away when we moved hosts. And then there was the DDOS attack a couple of years ago. But I don't think we've ever had a host pull us because of a DMCA. We do get DMCAs, sure.

John Lettice (Written by Reg staff)

Re: If this annoyed them ....

We were secretly hoping they'd send us another one for that. Two days in a row would have been cool...

John Lettice (Written by Reg staff)

Re: I do hope

I considered referencing General Tony McAuliffe vs OKW (1944) or Pierre Cambronne vs British Army (1815), but the latter at least seemed inauspicious, so I didn't. (-:

The Internet's most evil company?

John Lettice (Written by Reg staff)

Re: It must be Friday

It really, really is not DRM. It is information about the content, including copyright information, that is associated with the content by the publisher. There's an interesting and informative comment about its purpose on boingboing (hey, it happens, and it's from Ars anyway), here:


John Lettice (Written by Reg staff)

Re: a stringer?

I'm sorry, I'm sure. I added a footnote just for you.

KIlling ID cards and the NIR - the Tory and LibDem plans

John Lettice (Written by Reg staff)

Re: But will they actually do it?

It's a possibility, so it seems to me valuable to nail their commitments down so it's a lot harder for them to forget them.

John Lettice (Written by Reg staff)

Re: Spelling!

Cut and pasted from Hansard. Hassle them about it.