* Posts by Graham Cobb

1131 posts • joined 13 May 2009


Brexit dividend? 'Newly independent' UK will be world's 'data hub', claims digital minister

Graham Cobb Silver badge

Re: I guess that's the main aim?

So "technological development or demonstration" presumably encompasses any form of software development. So you can process any data you like as long as it is part of developing technology - such as software to process that data!

VideoLAN to India: If you love FOSS so much, why have you blocked our downloads?

Graham Cobb Silver badge

Surely not! You are talking about a Government here!

Rather than take the L, Amazon sues state that dared criticize warehouse safety

Graham Cobb Silver badge

Re: Who are their lawyers?

No, but a reasonable approach would be for:

i) a discount on fines if the company immediately admits fault and fixes it, or

ii) a stay of requirements until an appeal is heard - at which time the discount is no longer available, and affected employees would be entitled to complain in their own legal proceedings that the company was aware of the problems from the date of the original notice

iii) no further delays available - if the company wants to appeal further they have to do it after acting on the order.

UN's ITU election may spell the end of our open internet

Graham Cobb Silver badge

Re: Who's paying the piper?

Who, specifically, owns those servers?

It doesn't work like that. Many different people own those routers - and they agree to work together to make routing work. There is no body that can veto anything.

In addition, anyone who wants to (you, me, Google, Facebook, my government, your government, ...) can add routers and can choose to which routers they choose to send their traffic. Of course, they need to make sure that replies (from people they care about) can reach them back again.

What that means, in practice, is that some big players (facebook, etc) and some big countries (US, China, EU, etc) can control their traffic any way they want. And other players have to play by their rules if they want to participate.

Is it time to retire C and C++ for Rust in new programs?

Graham Cobb Silver badge

Re: C/C++ - really?

Err... unwinding is for much more than memory deallocation!

If you are used to an exception-based error handling model, it is extremely powerful but it means taking many actions other than calling destructors during unwinding. Various external entities (objects within the system, and external systems outside it) will require being told to stop doing something, to release resources or cancel reservations. Many housekeeping and tracing systems have to be informed about the unwind for logging, debugging and understanding performance.

If you don't understand the power of, and need for, stack unwinding and its handlers then you should never be allowed to raise an exception in the first place!

Girls Who Code books 'banned' in some US classrooms

Graham Cobb Silver badge

And a lot about "outsiders" and people who are different.

And, mostly, about freedom.

All purely political topics.

Alert: 15-year-old Python tarfile flaw lurks in 'over 350,000' code projects

Graham Cobb Silver badge

However, the manpage lies... -P is used for extracting as well.

Graham Cobb Silver badge

-P is an option for writing tar files, not for reading them according to the tar manpage on my system.

BT CEO orders staff: Back to the office or risk 'disciplinary action'

Graham Cobb Silver badge

Yes, but that does not necessarily mean 3 days a week.

I have almost always worked for foreign companies, and since the late nineties with my boss in another country. As technology improved, we got a lot of work done with videocalls. Latterly I took to going to head office for about 1 week a month - sometimes just me and about one trip in 3 with my colleagues from other countries all coming at the same time.

Some people didn't like it but it worked quite well in my case.

Queen's shooting star was actually meteor, not SpaceX junk

Graham Cobb Silver badge

Re: Islay

Nope... Bowmore.

But Ardbeg has the best views.

Graham Cobb Silver badge

Re: Islay

...mutter, mutter ...grumble... "a remote, southern island of the Inner Hebrides of Scotland."

Since when do you need to tell people where Islay is? Surely everyone drinks Scotch? :-)

And it's only remote by US standards. It's got two ferry routes and an airport!!

Now, if you really want remote Hebridean islands...

Demand for software experts pushes tech salaries higher in UK

Graham Cobb Silver badge

Re: Imbalance

It's no more our fault that they aren't choosing IT than it's our fault that they are choosing to be primary school teachers.

Do you have any evidence for that claim? I think there is a lot of blame to go round. And the lack of engagement of girls at school with STEM subjects, particularly at higher levels, is largely society's fault.

Graham Cobb Silver badge

Re: Imbalance

I don't want to force anyone. I want to excite. That means: investing in great teachers, interesting opportunities (we had a science club that went on trips to local technology sites), science labs, even just pointers to exciting Youtube videos (much better than the Shell, etc films we occasionally saw at school).

Graham Cobb Silver badge

Re: Diversity should be a consequence, not a goal.

At the start it was regarded as drudge-work and was closely related to other jobs where women were strongly represented such as bookkeeping, accounting machine operator, data entry clerk. My mother had been an accounting machine operator and toyed with moving into computing before deciding to become an accountant in the '70s.

It was like in "Hidden Figures" - computing was regarded as an unimaginative clerical task until, all of a sudden, it became an exciting new area of research! But most of the new programming jobs went to men, leaving many women doing data entry punching cards or stacking cards and changing tapes as operators.

Graham Cobb Silver badge

Re: Imbalance

I believe that part of the problem is the still appalling unbalance of interest in STEM subjects at school. I was a child of the sixties and I assumed my generation would be the last which knew serious gender discrimination as we were pretty much all committed to ending it.

But it seems to have got worse with some very old-fashioned groups gaining power in control of some schools, and all schools suffering from serious money shortages. In my view, we won't solve the problem until we can get schoolgirls interested in STEM careers in much larger numbers.

Musk seeks yet another excuse to get out of Twitter buyout: This time it's Mudge's severance check

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Re: Confused

Yes, probably. And, of course, there is the complication that the current share price is less about the underlying value of the company and more about taking bets on the outcome of the litigation and how the money will move afterwards!

As one of the biggest internet players, I suspect many Twitter shareholders are fairly risk-averse and may well sell soon as they don't want to price in those risky bets! But I am no stock market analyst (I have no Twitter shares!).

Graham Cobb Silver badge

Re: Confused

In addition to the information in the answer above, bear in mind that it is Twitter's owners - the shareholders - who will lose out if Musk is allowed to cancel the deal.

It doesn't matter, now, what the board wants - if Twitter let Musk walk away without giving Twitter's shareholders all that cash he promised then the shareholders will sue the board for allowing it to happen!

HP pays $1.3m to settle dispute over printer security chip

Graham Cobb Silver badge

Lesson learned: Don't buy HP

HP has a history of serious abuses of the DMCA and other interference with the rights of owners of their devices. I have not done any business with HP since the Snosoft affair in 2002 and will not until they renounce abusing copyright/DRM laws. This latest action shows they still are not ready to acknowledge that if they sell me a product they cannot impose restrictions on how I use it.

US warns cryptominers must cut power use to avoid busting US carbon goals

Graham Cobb Silver badge

Re: Comparing wax apples with silk poppies

People can't be trusted to consistently vote in their own interests.

Ah. That is the telltale cry of dictators everywhere.

While it is true, it is irrelevant. Ultimately, if we the people decide to vote ourselves into annihilation that is fine. The universe will go on without us ants on this planet and it is likely that eventually a people will arise who do not vote themselves into annihilation.

Meanwhile, we the people here can make our own decisions, thanks.

Open source biz sick of FOSS community exploitation overhauls software rights

Graham Cobb Silver badge

Re: I wonder if Lightbend as a company depends on FOSS

That is irrelevant. It isn't hypocrisy - it is completely their choice to decide to stop working on the FOSS project and work on something else. The existing software hasn't gone away and people can both use it and modify it just as before.

Of course, I prefer to use, and certainly to contribute to, software with licences which provide stronger freedoms, which is why the software I publish is under GPL.

If anyone wants to, they can take the existing code and choose to support it and/or develop it and make it available for no charge. It just won't be Lightbend doing it.

Graham Cobb Silver badge

Re: "Everyone loves Open Source because of the freedoms it provides"

FSF is useful, and does some very important work. I used to support it financially but I stopped when they brought Stallman back as a director. His controverial history is bad for the FSF brand, and he should have voluntarily stood down as a director. He does have valuable skills, and experience, but if FSF needed those they should have brought him back as an employee or consultant - not in control.

Graham Cobb Silver badge

That is a philosophical opinion that I don't, personally, agree with. However, I agree that "Corporations running a business using FOSS software must be prepared to face the consequences of no one being willing to provide free updates/changes/fixes to the software at any time. with no notice".

If you want guarantees, pay for them.

Graham Cobb Silver badge

Re: New concept

It would be cheaper to just fork the project.

Which is fine. If you have decided to build your own business on a FOSS product then you have built-in to your plan what to do in the event that the product stops being developed. That might include moving to another product (works well if the API you are using is an industry standard like SQL) or continuing development/bug-fixing yourself, or paying a third party.

If you don't like this change then just treat it as though they had announced there would be no further development and activate your plan, whatever it is. You can balance that against deciding whether to pay for their new, non-FOSS, software.

Cyberattack brings down InterContinental Hotels' booking systems

Graham Cobb Silver badge

Re: IT systems - which ones?

As far as I know, IHG really doesn't operate hotels - it is about branding, marketing, reservations, etc. With the hotels being fairly independent. So I would not expect an "IHG" hack to have much impact on hotel operations - such as rooms, staff, etc. Even payments - my experience is that even if I have used a card to make a reservation, the hotel still requires that I give them a card for local payments.

California lawmakers approve online privacy law for kids. Which may turn websites into identity checkpoints

Graham Cobb Silver badge

Re: ID checkpoints

Hi downvoters... I could be wrong but if so please let me know. As I understand it, AgeId is the market leading age verification service. Is that not the case?

AgeId is part of PornHub/YouPorn/RedTube/MindGeek.

Graham Cobb Silver badge

Re: ID checkpoints

At least California would be less likely to sell me to the advertisers.

Err... who do you think is the biggest player providing age verification on the internet? Pornhub

Graham Cobb Silver badge

Re: Won't somebody think of the adults?

And, of course, by far the largest company in the age verification business is... wait for it... Pornhub!

This is a fake think-of-the-children bill, enabling the pornographers around the world to gather all the traffic data not only for every adult but for every child as well. Just think of the opportunity... "Congratulations on your 18th birthday. Today you are an adult at last! To celebrate, have a month's free access to all our porn sites. And as we know you have been looking at tourist information about Yosemite, here is a voucher for a free bottle of tequila at our partner Adult Titty-Bar of Yosemite! Have a great adult life!!"

Google Maps, search results to point women to actual abortion providers

Graham Cobb Silver badge

Re: Using google is a bad idea for privacy

That is likely true. But many (almost certainly most) people in that situation will still use Google so this is an important step.

I guess the only better step would be to respond to that request with "we are unable to provide you the necessary confidentiality for this search - please use DuckDuckGo instead".

Smartphone gyroscopes threaten air-gapped systems, researcher finds

Graham Cobb Silver badge

Re: The elephant in the air gap

Many "air-gapped" systems have some of: data ports, external drives, CD/DVD drive, network card, unlocked computer chassis. All that is meant by "air gapped" is that remote access is not possible, not that the systems can never be connected to anything else by people on site.

IIRC the Stuxnet intrusion was believed to have happened through service engineers systems being compromised (back at base) and then brought into the secure area and connected to the airgapped control computers for maintenance activity.

Presumably Stuxnet has led to many improvements in security, but I still think it is unlikely SCADA systems are never connected to other devices for maintenance purposes.

Graham Cobb Silver badge

If you want to defend you need to understand the value of what you are defending, the potential attackers and the weaknesses.

Just because the attacks you need to defend from do not include (or you are unimaginative enough to miss) a friendly person/device in the same room having been corrupted (knowingly or unknowingly) does not make research on that scenario unnecessary.

In addition, it is vital to understand what are the constraints attackers will suffer - if you need to protect something where the value is a large amount of data then you might choose to ignore attacks with extremely low data rates. But you need to be able to document and explain why you are ignoring them and this sort of research is vital for that. Someone else, where the attack is not in the data itself but in choosing when something happens, say, may need to defend against exactly the attack you have the luxury of ignoring.

Banned Tornado Cash code reuploaded to GitHub in free speech test

Graham Cobb Silver badge

Re: Cold weather report from Hell

I think you have misread the article. They say they "will challenge that decision in court". My reading was that this action would be against the US Government OFAC, not Microsoft.

Presumably the challenge would either be a first amendment case against the government for OFAC using threats to improperly pressure companies like Microsoft to remove speech, or a wider case regarding an improper lack of clarity in the OFAC order (the lack of clarity over "Tornado Cash").

Graham Cobb Silver badge

Re: Github is not the government, so first amendment doesn't really apply, but...

Big Government deciding that businesses are required to host other people's stuff

No one is suggesting that businesses are required to host stuff.

But we are very much allowed to ridicule them, despise them, and criticise them for their actions. We can make loud protests - even waving placards outside their offices, if we want. We can show them the serious errors of their ways, the unintended likely consequences, the conflicts with other statements they have made, or even just why we think they are expletive deleted for their actions. We can try to influence people to switch to their competitors or even to create their own protests.

I don't see why you keep mentioning the obviously true statement that GitHub are not required to host the material as if that were an answer to the criticism of GitHub for removing the accounts and material.

Graham Cobb Silver badge

Re: Fascinating....

The relevance is that we need to keep pressure on private companies not to (choose to) do the government's dirty work for them. We can, and should, pressure them to help us preserve freedom. We have every right to do that, just as they have the right, if they so choose, to not do what we ask.

This is particularly important for the largest private companies.

Graham Cobb Silver badge

Re: Cold weather report from Hell

No, they are not. They are trying to criticise Microsoft for their choices.

The First Amendment does not state that you can speak freely and will bear no criticism or consequences for so doing.

Graham Cobb Silver badge

Re: Cold weather report from Hell

The one the UK government are trying to get rid of: the Human Rights Act.

Graham Cobb Silver badge

Re: Cold weather report from Hell

If Microsoft's choice offends you, you are very welcome to not use their products or services.

Thank you.

I think you will find I am also welcome to loudly criticise their choices, and even yours in choosing to support them in their behaviour.

Network congestion algorithms have design flaw, says MIT

Graham Cobb Silver badge

Explicit congestion signalling

Personally, my thought is that explicit congestion signalling (as mentioned in the article) is the best way to manage congestion. Unfortunately, it immediately creates incentives for "rogue" systems to ignore the signal and take advantage of everyone else reducing their offered load to steal unfair amounts of bandwidth.

On the other hand, the world has changed a LOT since the 1980's and 90's. In many ways there is much more of a mono-culture of transport layer implementations. In particular, if Microsoft and Linux implement fair rules that would deal with most end points counted by device (corporate networks, phones, etc).

But it wouldn't prevent a new entrant with its own devices, such as an entertainment system (think Apple TV, or a games console) or large scale video network (think high-def surveillance cameras) creating their own "rogue" implementation to get unfair transfer rates at everyone else's expense.

Ransomware attack on UK water company clouded by confusion

Graham Cobb Silver badge

Re: Passport scans and driver's licenses?

That makes more sense, but it clearly shows that the policy is wrong. The tiny value to society from proof of doing right-to-work checks is less than the risks to society of having copies of passports and driving licenses lying all over the internet!

Graham Cobb Silver badge

Passport scans and driver's licenses?

Why are a water company keeping copies of passport scans and driving licenses?

Yes, I can see that they might be some need to verify them at some point (there shouldn't be - it is none of their business who I am as long as the bills are being paid, but that is a separate battle). But they should keep a record of having done so, not the data itself! What possible excuse is there for a utility company or other business keeping such critical personal security data on their systems?

Whatever the tiny benefit, it is completely outweighed by the massive risk to society of large quantities of important security information being exposed.

UK hospitals lose millions after AI startup valuation collapses

Graham Cobb Silver badge

They ran their business, spent real money, borrowed money and created future plans and commitments as though the money existed. That spending has been made and will have to be replaced with real money, or plans and projects discontinued. The money spent on projects that have been cancelled, or the borrowing needed to replace the missing assets, is lost.

Graham Cobb Silver badge

Re: They should've gotten cold hard cash for it,

Someone (a gambler) would have paid something for their shares. Probably not very much, but that was the exact value to the NHS trust - not the speculative value. We don't pay NHS managers to gamble on the stock market, we pay them manage life-saving organisations with stability and predictability. They should resign and the auditors should be replaced.

Graham Cobb Silver badge

Re: All conspiracy theorists take a step back from their keyboard

No public money has gone anywhere

But, unfortunately, it has. Entirely through the stupidity of the Trusts' senior management. The money never existed, but was put on the balance sheet as though it did! For several years it seems that budgets were set, plans were made and projects funded on the basis that it existed.

And then it disappeared - because it never really existed. I am sure it was just stupidity, not fraud. But I would expect to see the responsible executives (CEOs and CFOs of the Trusts) resign, and the auditors be pressed hard to explain why they allowed it to happen.

Graham Cobb Silver badge

Re: Shoddy reporting

Of course they never had that money to start with. But due to the stupidity of the CEO and CFO of the trusts, the trusts have lost millions. They should never have accepted the shares in the first place - they should have demanded cash.

Graham Cobb Silver badge

NHS trusts gambling on the horses next?

Since when have NHS Trusts been allowed to gamble? AIM-quoted shares are an extremely risky asset and the Trust accounts should have been heavily qualified by the directors and auditors as not a suitable investment for such an institution. If they accepted the shares at all they should have been immediately sold for cash and not held.

There should be an official enquiry into how these shares ever appeared on these balance sheets as an asset. Have the Finance Directors who allowed the shares to be included in the annual report been disciplined?

Venture capitalists tell us they assume 9-in-10 of their backed companies will fail but 1-in-10 will make more than 10x gains. That is fine if your business is being a venture capitalist. It is not fine if your business is running a health service and, what's more, you are only holding shares in a single high-risk company!

Your AI-generated digital artwork may not be protected by US copyright

Graham Cobb Silver badge

Putting El Reg journos out of business?

"wide-angle shot from below of a female astronaut with an athletic feminine body walking with swagger toward camera on Mars in an infinite universe, synthwave digital art,"

So, Katyanna, what 30-odd words did you use to generate this article? :-)

Obviously generating The Register articles would be the real Turing test! How about a competition to let several AIs write articles using the same text and see which gets the most upvotes by the commentards?

Court voids 34,000 unfair Fuji Xerox contracts

Graham Cobb Silver badge

Re: Is there a single printer vendor...

I was about to say the same. My Brother colour laser printer works well, hasn't done anything nasty to me or caused me to spend any money except paper and toner, and works with FOSS software.

Of course, I'm not stupid: I don't let it download software updates or talk to anywhere on the Internet, in fact.

To be fair. my wife's much cheaper entry-level colour laser Lexmark is the same. We turned off software updates but she does use the proprietary Windows drivers. It hasn't done anything nasty either.

These are both consumer models, and consumer purchases - I can't comment on how they work if you go for a business contract.

Facebook hands over chats to cops in post-Roe abortion case

Graham Cobb Silver badge

Re: America

Please repost with a real account, not AC. Then we will read your post and discuss it.

Graham Cobb Silver badge

Re: America

Thank you for at least posting using a named account, unlike the many ACs here unwilling to own up to their opinions.

The point is that reasonable people can disagree as to when a foetus should become "an innocent child" with rights separate from their mother's whim. Personally my view is "at birth", as that seems the most logical and consistent position for society to use.

I understand the many people who would declare an earlier date based on likelihood of survival outside the mother. Although that is not my own opinion I think it is probably the majority opinion here in the UK, where the current UK laws seem to be regarded as a reasonable compromise.

I also accept that as I am male my opinions should count for little in this debate.

Tech industry stuck over patent problems with AI algorithms

Graham Cobb Silver badge

Use the light bulb test

In my mind, most of these questions can be answered by considering applying them to a claim for a patent for a better light bulb.

1) Inventiveness. The new light bulb requires some inventive difference. Maybe a new filament material or a new shape of bulb or something.

In my mind, trying all possibilities and selecting the"best" (least-worst) is unlikely to be sufficiently inventive. However, researching previous attempts, reading academic reports of different conducting materials, building a theory of how light emission works (even if it is wrong) can all be part of inventiveness. Even if those are analyzed by some sort of AI.

2) Effectiveness. The new light bulb has to work. So, it needs to be tested and the results analyzed and documented. In almost all cases, there will need to be many attempts, with results fed back into the inventive process to improve the invention. With current technology this is unlikely to be performed by robots, although it could be in the future and I don't think using AI or something for this phase would prevent it being patented.

3) Reproducible. The invention needs to describe how the invention can be implemented. This means sufficient instructions are provided to allow someone else to manufacture the invention once the patent expires. This is nothing to do with how the invention was developed or tested - just how the resulting invention can be built. This is the key reason for patents: the inventor gets a limited monopoly in exchange for releasing details of how to build the invention (but not how to reproduce their inventive process).

In these steps, AI could be a tool. But the inventor has to be a human - otherwise it is not inventive. And the invention has to be reproducible (but there is no requirement to document the process of developing the resulting invention - the AIs involved can be secret). In the old days, the inventor might have been the head of a lab employing hundreds of people (think Edison). Similarly, the inventor may use AIs - but they are just development tools.

GitHub courts controversy by suspending Tornado Cash developers and reneging on cookie commitments

Graham Cobb Silver badge

Re: What a confusing country...

See my other posts. Mixers are used for privacy. That might be for money laundering or it might just be to keep Fred from down the street knowing how much I spend on booze and hookers.

Every Bitcoin transaction is public! That is why mixers exist.



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