* Posts by Henry Wertz 1

2600 posts • joined 12 Jun 2009

Brit bank Barclays probed amid claims bosses used high-tech to spy on staff, measure productivity

Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge


"avoid breaks for 20+ minutes, 2–3 times a day"?

Seems like odd advice.

These systems are known as "tattlers" in the US. Truckers (lorry drivers) got the first taste of them; supposedly put on in case of truck theft, it rapidly became companies complaining about the length of fuel stops (allocating 0 time for using the restroom), objecting to 31 minutes lunches, and so on. Other than a few states like California, the US has almost no privacy protections, no protections from poor workplace practices, etc., but de facto they have workplace revolts (I don't think it usually gets as far as a strike) when they get too heavy-handed with the tattlers.

On the one hand, I would not care to do all the work while spending time with a bunch of freeloaders; on the other hand, I've worked for places that try to track time down t the second and they tend to be the stingiest bunch of bastards you'll ever see.

One I worked for "generously" (they used the term generously!) provided 2 days of paid time off per year -- and that 2 days PER YEAR included sick leave! I don't necessarily expect to get paid for work when I'm not working; but, they had no provision for *unpaid* time off, they thought after I got a cold and was home sick for 2 days that I was NEVER going to take a day off for the rest of the year even if I was sick! I quit when I was getting top performance ratings, but got a talking too anyway because I was "almost" late every day -- I was never late, but only coming with a minute or two to spare, they really thought I should be coming in 15 minutes ahead of time. I pointed out if they wanted me there 15 minutes earlier they could start the workday 15 minutes early and pay for it. My recollection is I did not quit on the spot right then, but not that long after that.

Ancestry.com: Let arbitrator decide on auto-enrolling membership lawsuit

Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

the problem

the problem is, you sign up for ancestry.com you've signed up for ancestry.com, I think it's clear it charges until you cancel. The DNA kit is sold off the shelf in a store, then it's mailed in, you go to a site to get the results that THEN pump the user for credit card info -- many assume it's to tack on like $5 for results and don't realize it's to charge for ancestry.com until the end of time.

Mozilla warns more Firefox website breakage to come because devs just aren't checking for SameSite snafus

Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

Not too bad to fix

So, I'm not a big fan of rolling out breaking changes on release (ala Chrome); rolling it out in a Beta is fine.

But independent of that... sites this does break, at least they don't really need to "fix" the site (some redesign, moving bits to different domains or whatever, so the cookie use is "Lax" at least); they should, but at least they can just put the "SameSite: none" or the like into the headers.

A tale of mainframes and students being too clever by far

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I saw a scanner like this; it was kind of cool. No scanning software required, it showed up as a small hard disk. Turn it on, the disk is empty. Push "scan", a single JPEG would show up with the scan in it. (In actuality, no hard disk, it just a MB or 2 of RAM to store the scan.)

Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge


"The college IT administration was not happy. My instructor was even more unhappy since he felt it reflected upon him personally.

I did not finish that class. I did not continue my education at that college."

Crazy. When I was in college (1999), I was in a parallel programming class and we'd just done an assignment on using shared memory; someone in my class managed to crash the CS departments 16-processor SGI. Professor (who was from one of the ex-Soviet countries and sounded rather high strung now and then), at beginning of class he slaps a hand onto the table "So!!! Someone has crashed the SGI! Which student has account 17!!" Everyone's looking around, this student looks like he's going to crap his pants. He points "You!!!!" (about then student is probably expecting to get expelled or something.) (normal conversational voice) "Shared memory should not crash the entire system, we'll need to write up a bug report to send to SGI."

Honestly, that's the reasonable response for a student's program unintentionally crashing the system.

My life as a criminal cookie clearer: Register vulture writes Chrome extension, realizes it probably breaks US law

Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

DMCA was and is a horribly written law

DMCA was, and still is, a horribly written law. Also poorly understood. For example, there is a penalty clause for companies (or whoever, but lets face it, it'll be a company) that make false DMCA claims -- they are legally attesting the content they file against IS violating their copyright, not that it MIGHT be, with penalty of perjury plus additional penalties for false claims (intentional or not.) I.e., they can automatically scan for files, but each and every time they file based on those scans without checking the content first, they are committing perjury, and it can be shown they committed perjury when they flag files that are nowhere related to the song or movie or whatever they are filing about. There are DMCA penalties for this besides the perjury. BUT, I've only ever heard of this clause being used once.

I'm with EFF on this one. I will absolutely NOT be told what kind of software I can or cannot write, or what I can discuss; this thoroughly violates people's first ammendment rights. In a more specific sense, your site sends data to a web browser, the browser can interpret it however it wants. It is NOT obligated to track cookies, it is NOT obligated to run javascript, it is NOT obligated to pop a giant "buy it" box over the text on the screen. My personal preference now, so during the prohibition, several beer and liquor companies published pamphlets or booklets "warning" people how beer is produced so they don't accidentally leave the hops and such in there to ferment and produce beer, since that's illegal.

My personal objection to these paywall sites right now, the "new tabs" thing in firefox has article links with no indication of if they are "3 free articles then you are done" sites or not, often I would not "use up" my free articles to click on some link. In one case the page failed to load properly, so I reloaded, at which point that had used up my "free" article for the month. On several sites... and per the DMCA, I'm warning you so you don't accidentally do this... you better not hit the "stop" button too quickly, on several sites the article will load but the box covering it will not if you simply hit stop early enough; whatever you don't do that because it may violate the DMCA supposedly. Thank you, I'm here all night!

Here's why your Samsung Blu-ray player bricked itself: It downloaded an XML config file that broke the firmware

Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge


"Does a standalone device such as this need to phone home (and all the rest)?"

I thought the same thing; apparently it's for the netflix support etc. Agree 100%, if I used my bluray player just to play blurays, I would NEVER let it online. Why should I?

"I'm guessing it's running Linux and bdpprog segfaulted on the NULL. Any mission critical process should catch SIGSEGV and at least log an error before it dies."

It probably does, if you solder those wires up to the on-board serial port. You don't want to have it log a log file to the flash, then you would have your flash filled up with error logs. This is pretty stupid of Samsung, but embedded systems are tricky!

"Or failing that have a parent process that catches a crash and fails nicely"

It does catch the crash, unfortunately the "nice" failure mode is to reboot the player. Given a video player software would usually NEVER crash, if it did crash playing some bluray or whatever, would it be the player code itself, or a buggy driver? If a driver has bugged out, could you restart the driver or did it leave the system in a buggy state? Given all this a reboot is usually a reasonable recovery.

"Of course from a geek perspective it would be nice if any failure resulted in a drop into a shell so you could plug in a USB keyboard and try and fix it."

Not a bad idea actually! If a USB keyboard is plugged into your newer DVD player, bluray, even into your TV (which has a USB port anyway...), why not have it pop up into some recovery console?P

"How much, if anything, the device logs and reports back should be user defined."

Should point out on my parent's Samsung TV (.... which I now hope they don't send a bad XML file to..... ), there's like a page or two of privacy settings. Partially, it's like "that's nice, I can turn everything on or off", partially it's like "how much info is it sending to how many different vendors?" (In the interest of fairness, it has regular TV, "Samsung Plus" streaming TV... which appears to be PlutoTV's channels.... and a bunch of other streaming apps, so the privacy settings are to cover all of them I think.)

SoftBank: Oi, we paid $32bn for you, when are you going to strong-Arm some more money out of your customers?

Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge


Careful! I'm a big fan of ARM, the low power ones are very low power, the fastest ones are quite fast while still having excellent performance per watt. BUT, for a lot of devices it's just a matter of needing some kind of CPU that runs Linux (usually, but WindRiver or VXWorks or something possibly.) MIPS is kind of dreary (usually not even an FPU) but plenty of access points and such have them, RISCV is completely free and has a full Linux and toolchain (GCC etc.) support. Apparently (at higher power points) the POWER CPUs are coming back into their own.

One of the things that has kept ARM successful for so long (Qualcomm does the same thing really) is to make sure to keep their various prices and fees high enough so they are rolling in the dough, but low enough so it's not seriously worth redesigning existing products to switch CPUs, probably not worth looking into other CPU designs for future designs either, or god forbid worth it for them to roll out their own CPU designs to potentially compete with ARM.

I was screwed over by Cisco managers who enforced India's caste hierarchy on me in US HQ, claims engineer

Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

Good luck sir

Good luck on your lawsuit sir.

I have to admit, in HR's defense (not much of a defense but still), it is rather unbelievable that a) There's still an alive and well caste system and b) That people would leave the country but bring the caste system with them. I mean, *I* believe it but would not be surprised if some simply didn't believe it.

Second issue in the US -- discriminating based on race, gender... well let me google it... "race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, or age" is illegal. Caste is none of these, so if the HR department views their goal as merely avoiding illegal behaviors, they did. I've seen both, some HR departments are all about "compliance", if they are compliant with the relevant laws that is it, job done; other companies do have HR truly try to help work out interpersonal disputes and so on to help have a more harmonious workplace.

Apple said to be removing charger, headphones from upcoming iPhone 12 series

Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

charging standard

Of course, there already is a charging standard that EVERYONE but Apple uses. If the goal was ACTUALLY to get rid of numerous incompatible chargers, Apple could just include a USB-C charger (that everything but Apple products use) and the USB-C to lightning adapter cable they already include in the box.

What a ridiculous cash grab. I can get an Android phone for like $75 and it includes a charger! (Doesn't include headphones, but has a standard headphone jack so I can get like $5 headphones if I want.)

Once again, racial biases show up in AI image databases, this time turning Barack Obama white

Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

Not racially biased, color-blind

Honestly, AIs are not racially biased, they can be "color-blind" (ESPECIALLY when photos are taken in varying lighting conditions). They focus on feature recognition, since they decide on their own what features to look for they can ENTIRELY miss the point sometimes. So, you look at these photos and obviously it's not the same person. You look at FEATURES, and they are surprisingly similar. The eyes in the photos are not brown and blue, to me they both appear black due to lack of resolution. The ears are very similar, the pose is identical, they have the same hair line (including this triangular bit hanging over the forehead), and the lighting they both have a shadow in the top-right corner, the right side of the forehead.

Don't get me wrong, it definitely shows a big problem with facial recognition systems; I'm not a fan of them for privacy reasons either.

One tale of woe regarding AIs.. 10 or 15 years back, the military (don't know if it was US or UK?) was going to test a neural network-based "friend or foe" system. They brought out various airplanes onto the tarmac, took photos to feed in. They train this thing, test it in the wild and it DOES NOT WORK AT ALL. It turns out, most of the friendlys were photographed in the morning, and the rest in the evening, so ALL the AI was basing it's "friend or foe" on was if the plan was lit up from the left side or the right side, it was not looking at what kind of plane it was, the plane markings, etc. at all.

Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses... but not your H-1B geeks, L-1 staffers nor J-1 students

Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge


"It is unclear, however, how many unemployed Americans will be willing (H-2B covers temporary, seasonal labor) and/or qualified (H1-B is earmarked for specialized skilled roles."

No problem on finding qualified people. H1-Bs are almost 100% a scam these days, they have been abused for decades by tech companies in the US. The intent originally was so, for example, if Siemens was building a reactor somewhere in the US, they could bring some Germans along to help set it up without too much red tape, or some particularly finicky factory equipment where it might make sense to have someone from the company that made it stay in the US.

But in the tech industry, you have systematic abuse of the H1B Visa system, simply to replace US employees with lower-paid overseas workers with H1B Visas. The galling part of it is, reportedly these H1B employees will cost, say, $65,000 instead of $90,000 a year, but as far as I know these companies do not try offering positions at $65,000 a year, they just assume there'd be no takers and go directly to H1B employee outsourcing companies like Infosys. With the weak economy the last several years, I really do think they could just list their jobs at the lower wage and would have takers. These outsourcing companies specialize in following the letter of the law while making sure they don't actually hire anyone but H1B employees, whether there's locals qualified for the position or not.

Facebook's $500k deepfake-detector AI contest drama: Winning team disqualified on buried consent technicality

Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge


I'm real conflicted on this one. On the one hand, I really feel for this team; Facebook has never given a crap about privacy so who would expect a clause like this? And, furthermore, the NVidia data set they used is obviously for neural network training (NVidia is not going to collect a data set like this just for the hell of it) so one would assume it was OK.

On the other hand -- I do agree with the goal of explicit consent. I would not mind being involved with a system used for detecting deep fakes, but facial recognition neural networks are a tool of the modern police state and I would NEVER consent to my face being used for that! (That said, I don't throw my photos on Flickr or Youtube, and DEFINITELY not on Facebook!)

"The *architecture* of the network is left - e.g. if an artificial neural network, the number of layers, the number of nodes in those layers and the sequencing of them, how the training converges, how the nodes are linked, the thresholding function, and so on."

But even then, in some cases the neural network is trained, then one with somewhat different number of nodes, layer, connectivity, etc., is trained, the another with different parameters; in other words, besides being TRAINED off the image data, the size and shape of the network is actually determined off the data set. This is a relatively recent technique, it would have taken way the hell too long in the past but you know, Moore's law and all that (plus NVidia shipping out these cards with like 5000 CUDA cores on them) has helped with that. Sometimes this technique works great, sometimes effectively it's overfitting the data, the neural network works great trained with THAT data set but not another one.

Don't like Mondays? Neither does Microsoft 364's Outlook Exchange Online service

Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

"27 minutes to acknowledge a europe-wide outage?"

Well, yeah, they probably tried to coordinate things via Outlook first

GitHub to replace master with main across its services

Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

I'm fine with it

When someone (I think it was California) some years back wanted to replace the terms "master" and "slave" for IDE hard drives, I thought that was dumb, IDE drives were nearly off the market, SATA does not have this concept anyway, plus they were not changing the terminology, just changing their IT manual to use made-up terminology that nobody else on the planet used. (Plus, many drives had "MA" and "SL" jumpers on them, along with "CS" for "cable select", so really...)

Now? This stuff's being currently used, and really "master" is not even an accurate or descriptive term for the current version of a version-controlled piece of software, I don't know if "main" is either but it's not a bad term to use. I don't feel any racial connotations from it but also have no attachment to the current term, if anyone is at all uncomfortable from it by all means change it!

The people complaining about changing "blacklist" to "blocklist", they are 100% right, the term blocklist is already used. I've used software already that had an allowlist and a denylist, these are perfectly serviceable terms to change to if you want. People are right that point out blacklist is not a racial term; but, denylist is clearer in indicating what the list is for anyway. I'm all for it.

Windows Server to require TPM2.0 and Secure boot by default in future release

Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge


"Well now, this may push administrators to alternate operating systems such as Linux. Not every IT department can afford new server hardware every year. Many IT departments are cash strapped as it is. Now to mandate new hardware when upgrading an operating system is a joke."

I'm not a Windows fan, but no; usually by the time someone considers slapping a new Windows Server version onto an old server, they find out what Windows Server actually costs and decide blowing a license for that kind of money to stick onto a 10-15 year old computer is silly. Also, similar to going from like XP to Vista or 7, let alone 10, usually they find enough increase in system requirements that the old server would also need a hardware upgrade just to do what it's already doing, let alone anything new.

That said, my two cents on this... Cent one... linux does not run into all these problems despite typically not using secure boot OR TPM. Cent two... I think this is snake oil for systems that just download updates whenever they'd like. That said, I do think this is useful for things like slot machines (I've seen one boot up.. it booted a bootloader, which checksum'ed the BIOS, itself, and a second-layer bootloader... the second-layer bootloader looked suspiciously like grub, but first ran a script to verify the first-level bootloader, the kernel, and the ramdisk it was loading; the ramdisk AGAIN checksum'd the kernel, ramdisk, the bootloader, and whatever code it ran after that. The code than ran after that booted into a slot machine software loader, which ran further checks; FINALLY, the slot machine software loaded and began executing.)

Facebook's cool with sharing the President's nonsense on its mega-platform – but don't you dare mention 'unionize' in its Workplace app

Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

A real problem

Whether you like unions or not, your company has a real problem if there's SO MANY unionization messages on your company feed or whatever that it's like "so many messages, I need to filter these out." Of course, I'd just use the China technique. (They avoid their national filter's filtering by picking words that phoenitically sound similar, or have Chinese symbols that look similar, to banned words and phrases.) "Union" is blocked? OK, suddenly people might be really into "onions" instead.

Facebook pays for exploit to catch a predator, voting software security under the microscope...

Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge


Just to call them out, since they deserve it, AT&T was sued 2 years ago for poor security allowing a SIM swap to occur, AFTER the customer TOLD AT&T someone was trying to take over their account and AT&T claimed they increased security on his account. SIM swap occured anyway, and whoever stole $651,000 of his cryptocurrency. It's awful to WARN your phone company and they STILL can't put your account on some kind of proper lockdown. T-Mo was also sued, 2 people lost $650,000 in currency total, although no mention of those people warning T-Mo ahead of time. These were JUST in 2018.

In the US, Sprint still won't let one just freely swap SIMs between devices (T-Mobile just bought them, but up to that point they were still not fully upgraded to 4G, so it was a weird mix of 4G LTE SIM-based authentication and IMEI from the still-in-use CDMA network.) Verizon Wireless went from CDMA to 4G LTE, so they now fully use SIMs, but they are more or less competent compared to AT&T so there have not been these kinds of complaints with them.

Someone got so fed up with GE fridge DRM – yes, fridge DRM – they made a whole website on how to bypass it

Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

1st ammendment

"categories where repairs that require breaking digital locks are still not allowed, like boats, medical equipment, and game consoles."

Except, due to that pesky 1st ammendment, I can tell you how to crack boats, medical equipment, and game consoles as much as I want, and they can't do jack shit about it.

And if some judge decides to ignore the bill of rights and US Constitution, one can then fall back to the prohibition-era policy (this is when the nutjobs in the US tried to prohibit alcohol...), a few of the brewers published guides to make sure you DIDN'T produce unauthorized alcohol like "Make sure you don't put in 2 spoons full of barley; after that, I implore you, whatever you do, DO NOT store the bottles for 30 days or they may go through fermentation and produce unauthorized alcohol." 8-)

Thought you'd addressed those data-leaking Spectre holes on Linux? Guess again. The patches aren't perfect

Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

Remove high accuracy timers?

Is it possible to just remove nanosecond-accuracy timing sources from Linux?

When they found (much to everyone's surprise and alarm) that both Firefox and Chrome had fast enough Javascript (JIT compiler compiling the Javascript into native code) to allow these timing effects INSIDE THE BROWSER, Firefox and Chrome simply removed access to nanosecond-accurate timers; they Javascript high-accuracy timer calls are now simply rounded off so they have like 1ms (1/000th of a second) accuracy. Could the same be applied to the Linux user-space itself? Maybe 1/10,000th of a second accuracy (since things like ping show 0.1ms timings)... there's a lot of wiggle room between that and the nanosecond (billionths of a second!) accuracy timers that exist now.

Is there a technical problem with this, like instruction counter or something that's hard to trap? Otherwise, this'd let most mitigations be left off with no ill side effects.

IBM to power down Power-powered virtual private cloud, GPU-accelerated options

Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge


Odd. IBM made a big big deal about POWER servers with GPU running Linux. From what I've heard, POWER is pretty good performance-per-watt-wise; ARM went at it from one direction, taking low-powered chips and bumping up per-core speed (hopefully without increasing power too much..) and large number of cores (recently 80 cores). POWER chips have always been fairly quick but last several years put on a serious power diet (also 80 cores or so).

Brit MP demands answers from Fujitsu about Horizon IT system after Post Office staff jailed over accounting errors

Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

Time for the lawsuits

I'd say it's time for the victims to sue Fujitsu BIG TIME, sue the Post, and sue whoever falsely imprisoned these people rather than doing their jobs and realizing a brand new, buggy as hell, computer system is brand new and buggy as hell. The people faslely imprisoned should get LARGE settlements, the others (who reimbursed, or were slandered against) should get a healthy check as well.

As anti-brutality protests fill streets of American cities, netizens cram police app with K-Pop, airwaves with NWA

Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

Re: radio channel

Our area did this (eastern Iowa), RACOM has a multi-county mutli-agency radio system, basically a TETRA-like system built probably from some of the police, fire, and ambulance agencies existing sites plus whatever other ones make sense for coverage. But this is actually surprisingly uncommon in the US.

A lot of the US, the police, radio, and fire may or may not even have compatible systems, they are seperate, coverage varies depending. Some areas have at least combined these (when they went to digital trunked service) so there aren't different coverage areas depending on if your police or fire for instance.

FirstNet I think was envisioned as a TETRA-like arrangement, but in reality the band was given to AT&T, they run LTE on it, and so it's really not for radios, it's for data and phone-type services for agencies that want to contract it through AT&T FirstNet instead of some other cell phone company.

Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

Re: radio channel

"If only I could get my friends to investigate me if I ever get accused of a crime, just like the police get

In this day and age, that sounds a bit, well, rubbish. I remember using a VHF radio to tune into British police radio traffic when I was a small lad, but that was decades ago...technology and security have moved on."

Nope. Here in the sticks, a company called RACOM rolled out a multi-county multi-agency radio system, it's encrypted and rotates keys hourly. The counties here do not have loads and loads of radios so they went to the expense to replace them over a pretty short time. In contrast, a few big cities, the cost of replacing all the radios is so high, and budget poor enough, they are STILL on plain old FM. Not very many as far as I know but yes a few.

Also.. in many US areas, the digital radio system is not some seperate system from the older analog FM system. They upgraded to digital trunking (instead of manually changing channels among several) decades ago usually but still run FM voice, then added encrypted voice as a replacement to FM voice later. So it's a pretty standard thing in the US for radios to fall back to FM if an FM signal overpowers the encrypted digital signal.

'Beyond stupid': Linus Torvalds trashes 5.8 Linux kernel patch over opt-in Intel CPU bug mitigation

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I wonder about a different approach... a vast majority of these attacks rely on access to a high accuracy timer to measure time between cache misses and hits. I wonder if it would cause any major issues to simply limit user space access to timers (and I guess Linux jiffy counter?) to like 1/10,000 of a second accuracy or so, instead of the nanosecond accuracy it is now. That's what the web browsers did recently; Javascript on chrome and firefox would actually be JIT (Just In Time) compiled and run fast enough for some of these attacks to work; they simply made the Javascript time functions round off their results a bit.

Nokia's reboot of the 5310 is a blissfully dumb phone that will lug some mp3s about just fine

Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

2G only paperweight

2G only? How long before this thing's a paperweight? Here in US, Verizon quit allowing non-4G (with VoLTE) phone registrations a almost 2 years ago, AT&T has shut down their 2G network. T-Mo says they're dumping it around 2022. Sprint had no plans (hadn't even finished rolling VoLTE yet...) but got bought by T-Mo, who is rapidly dismantling their antiquated network to roll out additional 4G channels.

Don't get me wrong, the cell cos sell a handful of "dumb phones" models here (the unofficial term since they are the opposite of smart phones.) But they support 4G and VoLTE, since everything earlier is getting shut off ASAP here. My dad has a LG Exalt LTE and it's odd.. the ONLY hint that it's not a 10 or 20 year old flip phone is the "4G" symbol at the top, better call quality (since it's HD voice), and waaaaay down in the settings (which do use the menu buttons -- no touch screen) there's a "wifi" and "hotspot" menu. Hook it up to a Linux box and be shocked to find that it's actually running Android 7 (properly locked down so nothing can be sideloaded onto the phone.)

I'd suggest Nokia do that, do a 5310 LTE. It's not for me but it'd expand the potential market a lot.

Embrace and kill? AppGet dev claims Microsoft reeled him in with talk of help and a job – then released remarkably similar package manager

Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

Standard Microsoft

Greybearded old scrote beat me to it saying this, but this is 100% standard behavior of the Microsoft of old. The antitrust trial against them was not because they were at near-100% market share in OS sales, this is legal; it was because of the anticompetitive behaviors they had through the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s. One standard thing they did was imply they would merge or buy out some company due to a specific product, go take a look around, then "change their mind"; a bad clone of that companies product would be out within 6 months.

Just one example of so many.. seriously, M$ of the 1990s was doing this a few times a year at least... Stac electronics, for one, made Stacker which would compress your disk storage on-the-fly, roughly doubling your storage space. (And most hard drives back then were so slow it was usually speeding up your disk access too). Microsoft got into talks, had someone go around their office and all that, then put out DoubleSpace which was a total infringement on Stack's patents. After they lost a lawsuit to Stacker, they made trivial file format changes to claim they weren't violating their patents (whether they were or not is an open question); this was DriveSpace. This made it clear they'd just keep making enough changes to make sure Stac never got business again, then they bought Stack electronics out for a large amount of money, but less than what they owed them when the lost the patent infringement lawsuit big time (they'd already lost by then, so effectively they had to pay themselves.)

Frontier: Yes, yes, we've filed for bankruptcy protection, but that's not stopping us giving key staff $38m in bonuses

Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

Thank goodness I'm not in a Frontier market

Thank goodness I'm not in a Frontier market.

I'm not saying Frontier is incompetent or something. But, as NECAmerica says, Verizon determined which markets were unprofitable and sold them off.. i.e. areas with long copper runs, old copper, and rural enough so there were not all these clusters of houses to put DSLAMs closer to.

So, Frontier inherited this, but without Verizon's Internet backhaul to the existing DSL equipment or Internet backbone, so when they first took over they had inadequate internet backbone and backhaul -- users who already had 1-3mbps DSL (or less) saw speeds decline further due to lack of backhaul initially. Then, Frontier drastically raised prices (like doubling them, over $100 in some cases) and imposed ridiculous data caps (like 150 GB a month or less hard cap with cash overage.) This was in a misguided effort to rake in more money for less internet usage, but backfired big time since it made them more expensive that just getting satellite internet or 4G wireless broadband, both of which were also faster.

More recently, I've heard they are fine -- no more backhaul problems, reduced prices from that $100 to like $20-30 a month, they did put in some DSLAMs in those relatively few areas urban enough for one to make sense (100mbps if you're close enough to one), but honestly it's probably too little too late, they bled too many customers due to the past problems above, and the ones coming back are paying much less than in the past ($20 or $30 for service that Verizon would have charged $50 for, and at a loss at that or they wouldn't have sold off the market.)

US cable subscribers are still being 'ripped off' by creeping price increases – and this lot has had enough

Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

Taxes and fees

Yup, I cancelled my Mediacom cable when the "broadcast basic" here went from $13.91 to $25.00 all at once. They even tacked on the "sports surcharge" when the package I was on included ZERO sports channels!!! "Broadcast Basic" is literally just the channels you can get over the air if you have good TV reception... my area gets poor reception (70 miles from most of the stations that supposedly cover the area!), but ended up installing a very large (about 4 foot) Grey Hoverman antenna and amplifier to pick up my channels.

This package was only $13.91 to begin with due to a special arrangement with the city of Iowa City, otherwise it was already costing $35 in surrounding areas. Again, for nothing but what you can get over the air for free. The next package up is over $75 a month. I don't know what the $75 service REALLY costs though, they do tend to stick on like $20 or more of "taxes and fees", and that's not counting the box rental and such. (And they wonder why they are losing customers to Dish, which starts at closer to $40.) Or, you can get "triple play" some kind of TV, some kind of internet, and landline phone (yeah..) for like $99 a month (probably $130 with fees). It just goes up in price from there.

One positive with Mediacom, the over the air channels, and the SD versions (non high def in other words) of cable channels, are unencrypted and viewable on any digital TV, no cable box required (and more important to me and my MythTV system, also receivable with a digital TV tuner hooked to a computer). Several cable companies in the US encrypt EVERYTHING, even the over the air channels that they are legally prohibited from encrypting (someone a few years back went to the FCC to report this, and asked the FCC to enforce their own rules, the FCC declined.)

eBay users spot the online auction house port-scanning their PCs. Um... is that OK?

Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

Probably fine

First off, from a practical standpoint, I have no problem with EBay trying to detect fraudulent software running on people's machines. This will prevent both the user and EBay from fraud caused by people running greasy greasy unpatched infected-all-to-hell Windows; some people seem to think they can run as infected a system as they want and it should be (EBay, bank, etc.) responsibility when their account is "mysteriously" abused.

That said... GDPR? That's tricky, GDPR honestly makes a lot of normal computer activities a legal grey area. The computer fraud and abuse part.. can't speak about Britain but in US it's very clear, trying usernames and passwords, or buffer overflow, etc., if it succeeds it's gaining access to areas you are not already authorized to access and is a legal problem. Running a port scan is not exceeding anything; the system is willingly answering or refusing connections on each port, and the port scan is not trying to bypass anything on ports that are answered, it's merely closing the connection. This is clearly legal here.

Man responsible for least popular iteration of Windows UI uses iPad Pro as a desktop*

Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

Overpriced joke

"Obviously iOS is not Windows; but you can do a hell of a lot with an iPad Pro, and for the money "iPad onna stick" compares pretty well to MS' "Windows onna stick" offerings."

Yeah, they are both an overpriced joke.

Anyway, I'm a fan of tablets, but a tablet is in no way a replacement for a PC. I mean, it literally is a direct replacement for people whose use of a PC is web surfing, social media type use, and causal gaming -- and that is the use for many people. But the form factor is not there (those little rubber bluetooth keyboards suck, and typing on the screen sucks even worse) and, despite a newer tablet having enough RAM and CPU power, the apps are simply not there for certain uses. I find it impossible to take anyone seriously that advocates buying a tablet for 4-8x the amount I've paid for any PC.

Microsoft announces official Windows package manager. 'Not a package manager' users snap back

Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

Not a package manager

They are 100% right, an app that runs installers is in not a package manager.

That said, it's one of those "release as early as possible so people can see what we are working on" types of situations, so I do assume eventually this will become at least closer to a package manager. I'm not a Microsoft fan but I won't rag on stuff that is in preview or prerelease (as long as they don't start abusing it by keeping apps in permanent "preview" status, which so far they haven't.)

Lawsuit klaxon: HP, HPE accused of coordinated plan to oust older staff in favor of cheaper, compliant youngsters

Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

Don't sign?

If you are being laid off involuntarily and given the shaft, WHY SIGN ANYTHING? I know a few places used to claim (PROBABLY illegally) that they would interferere with pensions if you didn't nicely sign everything. Do you think HP is NOT going to screw you out of whatever pension they said you had either way? I signed some non-compete at one place because I knew darn well I was not going into the same industry, and left on good terms. But if laid off, I'd consider carefully everything and anything I sign.

"And, worse yet, after the Preferential Rehire Period is over, per HP policy that age protected employee can never be rehired by HP again."

I bet some time in the past HP was caught laying people off then rehiring on day 61 so they could wipe out their benefits and seniority, they would then be a new hire again. Unfortunately, companies like this will agree to some rules to specifically address past abuses, then figure out how to actually use those rules for further abuses.

DirectX comes to Linux (via WSL2): Microsoft unveils tricks needed to flash a GPU at a penguin

Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

"How do.you know? Have you asked every single Linux user? No you have not.

You have PRESUMED because YOU don't want this no one else on the entire planet won't either."

But, they're right, no Linux user will want this. If they are providing OpenGL and CUDA (and preferably OpenCL and Vulkan) via a "guest addition" video driver that's converting everything into DX12, fair enough, with no physical video card in a VM the driver has to be doing something and that's a reasonable thing to do when the goal is to use a GPU in Windows. But, it's truly WSL2's job to provide OpenGL and CUDA interfaces in Linux if they are claiming Linux GPU acceleration; it's in no way the programmers job to rewrite their fully functional code just to support a single VM system.

That said.. I don't even think Microsoft is expecting Linux users to use DX12 (I sure hope not!), i think this is likely a proof of concept (getting tensorflow up under it is not a bad start...) and they'd ultimately have normal OpenGL and CUDA support in WSL2.

Xiaomi Mi 9 owners furious after dodgy Vodafone software patch bricked their mobes

Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

"The rep claimed that a patch is in the final stages of testing and should be deployed to customers by the end of the week at the very latest."

Why bother testing? Obviously they didn't test the initial update... OK just kidding.

"No it didn't. Processor throttling reduced performance to avoid a shutdown due to declining battery output, but it never came close to the 'point of unusability' unless your battery was completely fscked"

Inaccurate. Look online, and people complained of devices that were normally 1.4-1.8ghz being reduces to like 600-800mhz. This is a very large reduction in speed (I'm surprised, I thought it was like 10-20%...) and could easily make people decide their previously usable phone was unusable. This was a ridiculous design flaw, every other vendor realizes old used batteries sag a few 10ths of a volt under load. My BlackBerry KeyOne has a battery rated for 3.85 volts, so most likely it uses 3.3 volt hardware. No problem with sag there!

You overstepped and infringed British sovereignty, Court of Appeal tells US in software companies' copyright battle

Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge


"The sooner that the rest of the world wakes up and recognises that and even passes laws specifically denying the applicability of each and every US Law in their jurisdiction the better the world will be."

As a USA'ian, I fully agree. Nutjob Trump doesn't help things any, but even before that for at least several decades US courts and gov't officials seem to be unable to recognize that foreign countries are foreign, not some kind of US protectorates.

Users of Will.i.am's Wink IoT hub ask 'Where is the love?' as they're asked to pay for a new subscription service

Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

How much did they pay though?

How much did they pay though? I mean, obviously, servers don't run themselves for free. But, I've seen online subscriptions where they obviously don't have common sense, it's like $10 for a lifetime membership or whatever for something that heavily uses their servers. If it's like that, suck it up. I've seen other things (TiVo in past years for example) where the fee is like $300. If I paid $300, then told I'd have to pay a monthly fee, I'd be pretty pissed.

Microsoft doc formats are the bane of office suites on Linux, SoftMaker's Office 2021 beta may have a solution

Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

Word processors are not for page layout

"It's 2020 for Pete's sake, and there is still no guarantee that a word processed file will display and print properly across different machines. "

Yup, word processors are for word processing and not page layout. Even if you have slightly different margins on your printer, Office systems can and will re-wrap all your text to accomodate it, not cut off stuff that's past the margins (as a page layout system would.)

""there is still no guarantee that a word processed file will display and print properly across different machines" Yes, and it's exactly that reason why companies "trust Office" and therefore buy it - and nothing else. It's not an accident."

No it's not! Have you tried opening a file from Office for Windows on Office for Mac? one from "Office versus x" with "Office versus x+1?" These absolutely do cause little formatting and font changes. Printer margins (as I mention above)? Change layout. If you read the article, even going from office to online office changed things a bit. People buy office because they're used to buying office, so they continue to buy office (or not -- several of the small businesses I saw just used whatever version was force-bundled with their business PC, even having non-matching office versions on their systems.) A lot of these people ARE NOT interested in paying monthly and would put libreoffice on in a second if they weren't using a "pay once" version of Office still.

The point of containers is they aren't VMs, yet Microsoft licenses SQL Server in containers as if they were VMs

Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

Fair enough

Fair enough. First off, I'd just use MySQL or the like anyway, screw SQL Server.

But, for the practical purposes of "lets run a bunch of seperate junk on one system" use of running containers or VMs, they are functionally the same for that purpose other than the containers having less overhead. I bet if I wanted to run 5 copies of SQL Server on one machine I'd be expected to pay for 5 copies of SQL Server... so, this way, I'm paying for 5 but at least only have to pay for the subset of CPUs (or threads or whatever) actually assigned to that container. The containerized SQL Server (I assume) will have less overhead and so run a bit better than the SQL Server in a VM under yet another copy of Windows (you're saving on paying for a VM copy of Windows at least!)

edit: Nope, you can pay for all cores on a system and run as many SQL Servers as you want. But still, this provides the offer of giving it like 1 core to save money on some monster 128-core or whatever box.

Surge in Zoom support requests was 'unexpected', says tool team as it turns taps down

Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

Ticket closed.

"The Register contacted Zoom for comment, but while the company acknowledged our query, we have yet to receive an official response."

Response: Your ticket is closed.

Hah but seriously, I don't blame Zoom for this. I've seen way to many people with a barely functional virus-ridden piece of shit of a computer, and they suddenly decided it's that companies tech support's job to clean up their computer; or even worse, the viruses finally win and the computer dies, they blame the last piece of software they installed and not the piles of viruses and spyware they installed just before that. (Thank goodness for Linux, I don't have to deal with all that!)

NUC NUC. Who's there? It's Intel, with a pint-sized 8-core Xeon workstation

Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

Universal Media Server?

I've used UMS to stream to a Samsung TV. It was not set right, the TV supports everything through H.265 4K 12-bit, and UMS wanted to re-encode everything above like MPEG4, but worked once I persuaded it not to do that. Don't think it supports Miracast either though...

Ex-Microsoft Office chief reflects on early malware and the 'global attack on the new Windows PC infrastructure'

Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

Not that early

These weren't THAT early of viruses... UNIX systems after all had already been getting viruses 10 years earlier, and in fact DOS systems had been getting viruses throughout the 1980s too.

And Window (circa late 1990s) lack of security can't be blamed on a 1960's-style lax culture... UNIX (especially BSD UNIX) definitely has a countercultural background to it, and in fact was quite insecure in the 1980s*. Morris worm came out in late 1988, and woke up the UNIX vendors that security is important. The Microsoft and UNIX cultures were just so seperate that, despite the clear warning on what can happen to insecure networked systems, Microsoft decided to totally ignore security until things seperately came to a head on Windows systems.

*flaws in 1980s UNIXes.... just to name 3 off the top of my head... UUCP -- UNIX-to-UNIX CoPY -- typically set up so actually any file off the system, including the password file, could be requested for download; unpassworded guest accounts; some vendors kept a root-level "field service" account on their systems, username: field and password: service.

Amazon settles for $11m with workers in unpaid bag-search wait lawsuit

Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

Wasn't a problem where I worked..

"However, what about "right to work" (i.e., "right to get fired for any reason, or no reason at all") states?"

I worked at a place that did these bag checks on the way out, any sort of bag that got brought out "on the floor", and in a right to work state. They were pretty stingy in every other respect, but did realize that was on company time and paid for that time.

Honestly I'm surprised Amazon would even try it in California!

UK COVID-19 contact-tracing app data may be kept for 'research' after crisis ends, MPs told

Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

Good reason not to use it

Good reason not to use it. Would I use a COVID-19 app? Yes, iff (if and only if) it a) Uses bluetooth beacons not the privacy-ignoring tracking the persons GPS all over the place. AND if and only if b) There's a definite statement that the data will be used ONLY for this purpose, then deleted. I will not have my private contact data analyzed and reanalyzed by whoever until the end of time.

Steam cleaned of zero-day security holes after Valve turned off by bug bounty snub outrage

Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

Fair enough

I'd say fair enough... Mr. Hax (not real name) found exploitable holes, submitted and was snubbed. Well, at that point, he did the "responsible" thing and Valve claim they are not interested in these exploits since they failed to pay the bounties per their participation in the bounty program. No problem, Mr. Hax is free to disclose them however he wants at that point since Valve have already (by failing to pay) claimed they don't view these exploits as exploits.

Back when the huge shocking thing that felt like the end of the world was Australia on fire, it turns out telcos held up all right

Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

Will generators help?

Would more generators help? I have Verizon Wireless here in the US, which does brag about having generators on their sites, and the few times power went out here it worked.

But, I can't help but think of what I read about a carrier in NW Iowa here (probably bought up and absorbed by AT&T or someone by now), they bought and installed generators on every site, awesome. The first test of this? Ice storm. Knocked out power to almost every site simultaneously (100+ sites), plus iced up the roads -- when gravel road properly ices over, you can get up to about 10MPH before there's significant risk of sliding off the road into the ditch. Since these are all rural sites, they had 2 or 3 people planned to refuel sites, apparently got someone to ONE site to refuel it before the power ran out on their 100+ sites. So they had some few hours of use, then no service anyway. Apparently after THAT, they went ahead and removed the generators and sold them to another cell co.

I see this situation in Australia as analogous -- having service stay up is awesome. But service would have stayed up for some few extra hours, then been down for days or weeks (no access to refuel the sites) anyway.

Spyware slinger NSO to Facebook: Pretty funny you're suing us in California when we have no US presence and use no American IT services...

Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

Class action suit?

Class action suit? These greasy f*cks just admitted, in court, that they sent mal-formatted WhatsApp messages to numerous devices, at which point they DID gain unauthorized access to those devices, violating CFAA each and every time.

As Brit cyber-spies drop 'whitelist' and 'blacklist', tech boss says: If you’re thinking about getting in touch saying this is political correctness gone mad, don’t bother

Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

Political correctness gone mad

"If you’re thinking about getting in touch saying this is political correctness gone mad, don’t bother."

Well, this is political correctness gone mad. And, no, replacing industry-standard terms on your web site with your own terminology you just made up is not improving your site in any way.

I do recall when certain space cadets decided to replace the industry-standard terms "master" and "slave" with the non-standard and ambiguous "primary" and "secondary" (these are ambiguous because on systems with two IDE channels, the first CHANNEL was the primary, so you'd have "primary master" and "primary slave", and secondary channel had secondary master and secondary slave). People have quit using the terms master and slave because they don't use IDE any more.

India to build contact-tracing app for feature phones that still use 2G, don't have Bluetooth and can't run apps

Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

Don't need GPS

Well, you don't need GPS *or* network location tracking, if your real goal is simply contact tracing. They plan to do the non-privacy-preserving tracking every phone in the country type of thing. I suppose they would set up a text number to text if someone DOES have Covid 19? Anyway, I don't see network-based tracking being accurate enough to determine if phones have been in close contact with each other (as opposed to bluetooth, where the devices really do have to be within like 100 feet or less).

China strings up red tape barrier that shows businesses they're better off buying local tech

Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge


"This site seems to be getting trolled by too many sock puppets who just don't want to hear any criticism of the communist regime, which is of course a major characteristic ;-)"

No, they've got no problems criticizing the Chinese. People just object to the "look at what China is doing here, blah!" and then pretending US and UK are not doing the same things; make no mistake, USA is continuing to run their illegal and unconstitutional spying program against their own citizens with both main parties gleeful support; and UK has widescale surveillance of their own citizens too, and effectively is a police state. I'm not pleased to say they are no better than China (in terms of spying on their citizens), but if they don't want people like me to say this, there's a simple solution... QUIT SPYING ON YOUR CITIZENS!


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