* Posts by Smooth Newt

1165 posts • joined 6 Jul 2009

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UK government marks 'at least' £115m for new Brexit systems against backdrop of chequered IT project history in customs and border control

Smooth Newt Silver badge
Meh

Re: Brexit is coming

I trust the opinions of people like the Road Haulage Association, whose members actually have vast experience in shipping goods across national borders, over those of a pseudonymous comentard who does not. The Road Haulage Association view is no deal, no jobs, no food. I also rate academic studies over Daily Express articles, for example on the anticipated impacts of Brexit scenarios on UK food prices.

The UK imports 80% of its food, about 25% from the EU. We buy it with foreign currency. As sterling collapses, so that food will become more expensive. Food is also subject to WTO tariffs, which we generally don't have to pay now - even with third countries - because of EU trade agreements.

Smooth Newt Silver badge
Flame

Re: Brexit is coming

And the EU wants to spend more. Hell the talk of 'hold outs' are 4 countries unhappy that they are being pressured to put in even more to the excessive monetary black hole.

You really think I give a shit about this sort of twaddle when I'm worried about there being enough food in the shops?

Smooth Newt Silver badge
Meh

Re: The positives

If your customers used to only be in one of the 31 countries of the EEA + Switzerland (as is the case for about 150,000 UK businesses) then trading with all your customers outside of the UK will become a lot more challenging. A chunk of them might consider giving up on selling to people outside the UK altogether.

Count Northern Ireland as outside the UK too. There will be customs posts between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and if you want to trade into there you will have to submit NI import declarations. Anything that HMRC deems at risk of being moved across the land border into Ireland will then be subject to EU tariffs. You can claim your money back if you can convince them otherwise. Good luck with that.

Smooth Newt Silver badge
WTF?

Re: Brexit is coming

Thats not a bad idea. Some people might even believe it but once people see the costs of signing up to it they will likely reject the EU outright instead of it having to be crammed through the back door and forced on us.

In 2018 the UK paid £15.5 billion to the EU. It got £4.5 billion back in payments to the public sector projects. So the EU cost £11 billion. Government spending was £864.9 billion. 11/865 ~ 1.3% of government expenditure.

HMRC estimated in 2018 that the average cost of a single customs declaration was £32.50. There are about 200 million intra-EU transactions each year, and each will now require two of them - one import declaration and one export declaration. £32.5 x 400 million = £13 billion a year extra cost just in filling forms in. So, by leaving the single market and customs union, we will be spending about £2 billion more than the cost of being in the EU just in filling in the extra customs paperwork!

This is just the cost of doing paperwork. It doesn't include the additional costs of export barriers like tariffs and customs delays, or the costs of replicating the 50 odd agencies that we are no longer a member of (EASA, EMA, EMSA etc), or the costs of mitigating of the loss of other benefits.

Smooth Newt Silver badge
WTF?

Winter is coming

It’s coming, the EU and it’s allies have tried to stop it over the last 4 years but here we are. Everyone should be looking forward in the new direction this ship has embarked on. Everyone must prepare.

We stocked up on three months food last time. Over the past months we have been using and replacing the expiring sell-by date stuff, but I'm now thinking get a further three months in on top of that. There will be months of supply chain problems. Supermarkets emptied in March when there wasn't even any holdup in the supply chain.

And what sort of inflation are we expecting to accompany the tariffs, the shortages due to goods and transport being blocked in Customs and paperwork hell, the pound going down the toilet because of exporters unable to compete in the EU and all the other fifty countries where the UK enjoyed free trade access courtesy of EU agreements, and the tax rises because of the shrunk economy?

I'm thinking 25% isn't unreasonable, so I'm buying ahead anything else I can.

.NET Core: Still a Microsoft platform thing despite more than five years open source

Smooth Newt Silver badge
Meh

I.e, I am fairly confident I could port GCC from Windows 10 to "Windows 11". I am not confident that I could port Java's JVM or .NET's VM and CLR.

And how long would the open source versions of .NET Core, C# or F# last if Microsoft decided to drop .NET, as they have for so many other developer products - J++, J#, Visual FoxPro, Silverlight, Direct X etc. etc.

Smooth Newt Silver badge
Happy

What's up with non-.NET developers thinking?

I'm thinking there are just too many programming languages and platforms doing exactly the same thing to be bothered with them all.

Don't make any sudden moves: Huawei urges UK government to wait before declaring it 'unreliable'

Smooth Newt Silver badge
Unhappy

Re: Too late Huawei

But hey, kiss Trump's ass, pay far more for US-bugged Ericsson kit and smile.

The UK is headed for no deal with the EU at the end of the year.* All they have left is the Americans, and the Americans know this, so expect a lot of chapped lips from all that kissing.

*Formerly known as "Project Fear" - where was that promised in the referendum.

Smooth Newt Silver badge
Mushroom

Cummings might be a weasel, but he doesn't appear stupid. In a similar vein, I do wonder whether Trump has been given a 'nuclear key' or whether the military considers a dummy device to be altogether safer?

The 'nuclear key' doesn't initiate automated missile launches. Whatever hushed tones are used to talk about the esoteric mysticism of the "nuclear football" and "Gold codes", they are just a way of very rapidly sending orders to the top level of the military hierarchy - the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the US case - to initiate one or other pre-prepared retaliation plans in the face of inbound ballistic missiles.

I am sure the Joint Chiefs of Staff have absolutely no illusions about nuclear war, and the resulting deaths of millions of US citizens. If there was no credible nuclear attack on the US underway, then I imagine the order would get lost amongst their paperwork for at least a few hours until Trump's toys were taken away. And Trump's toys would be taken away, or Trump at least be forced to change his mind, because even his most ardent and corrupt yes-men don't to want to die in a retaliatory nuclear explosion - after all what is in it for them?

NASA trusted 'traditional' Boeing to program its Starliner without close supervision... It failed to dock due to bugs

Smooth Newt Silver badge
Pint

Re: Competitive pricing

That would be one of the last Leander-class frigates built.

Yes. It was HMS Andromeda.

Smooth Newt Silver badge
Pirate

Competitive pricing

The key statement is at the end - you need multiple suppliers, principally to allow for competitive pricing. Alternatively to allow for double the pork-barrelling.

You also really need to build a proportion of the stuff yourself, so you know how much it really costs. Otherwise you won't spot the cartel or the price gouging. It's not hard to smell a rat if they charge billion quid each when you've just built one for a quarter of that.

The Royal Navy did precisely that for its ships from the fifteenth century until the 1960s. Whilst the majority of their ships were built by private companies, the navy had its own dockyards where it built a small proportion itself. The last one was a frigate launched at Portsmouth Dockyard in 1967.

Linux kernel coders propose inclusive terminology coding guidelines, note: 'Arguments about why people should not be offended do not scale'

Smooth Newt Silver badge
Happy

Re: I'll just leave this here

As long as the statues are displayed with the proper context, I see no problem.

Taking away a statue does not take away the historical event. Instead it hides it for next generations.

I was going to comment on the renaming of Adolf Hitler Platz in Berlin, but then I remembered there aren't any statues left of him, so none of you will know who I'm talking about.

Smooth Newt Silver badge
Happy

Re: Thin end of the wedge?

"because black is bad in English culture"

Are your books far enough into the black that you can afford that little black dress you've been drooling over?

But that dress wouldn't be suitable for black tie dinners, in fact it would be a bit of a white elephant.

Smooth Newt Silver badge
Happy

Sexism too?

... and won support from other Linux maintainers including Chris Mason and Greg Kroah-Hartman.

I feel Chris Mason and Greg Kroah-Hartman could work harder at eliminating offensive words from the vocabulary. It is not just racist terminology, but sexist too.

For many, Mason is a reminder of the appalling Mason–Dixon line that marked the physical border between freedom and slavery, torture and death. For others, it is an abhorrent reference to Regular Freemasonry, a network of organizations that exclude women from their membership. And I don't need to point out the problems with Hartman.

I think any reasonable person will agree that the inclusive alternatives of Bricklayer and Kroah-Hartperson should be adopted as soon as possible.

Euro police forces infiltrated encrypted phone biz – and now 'criminal' EncroChat users are being rounded up

Smooth Newt Silver badge
Meh

Re: So...

He was pretty sure that the most common ways of breaking cryptography were sex, drugs and money, with a little blackmail thrown in for good measure.

Coercion is often called rubber-hose cryptanalysis, and is much cheaper and easier than the mathematical kind. It is even enshrined into UK law in the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act.

Smooth Newt Silver badge
Happy

Re: So...

The Vice article contains the following request

Do you know anything else about Encrochat? We'd love to hear from you. Using a non-work phone or computer, you can contact reporter's name securely on Signal on blah, Wickr on blah, ...

There's some sort of irony there I think.

UK space firms forced to adjust their models of how the universe works as they lose out on Copernicus contracts

Smooth Newt Silver badge
Happy

Re: This project is, though

But didn't the UK invent the industrial revolution?

And the Romans invented Roman numerals, but that doesn't make Italy the world leader in mathematics.

Smooth Newt Silver badge
Boffin

Re: This project is, though

You also need somewhere to launch your satellites. Preferably near the equator to have earth's spin assisting you.

Maybe Diego Garcia (if the Americans don't mind)

I imagine ESA are happy with their Centre Spatial Guyanais launch site in French Guiana. For one thing, it is closer to the equator than Diego Garcia.

Smooth Newt Silver badge
Trollface

Re: This project is, though

If we are still pumping cash into it then it isn't eu funded! , as I said, no play no pay, remove all funding, and just to avoid being shafted again stop funding or buying anything from abroad. Get back to developing and making it ourselves, when we have recreated the expertise we can export it or at least not give money away

Maybe you can make a start by working out how to employ British factory workers at £2.27 per hour.

Brit MPs vote down bid to delay IR35 reforms, press ahead with new tax rules for private-sector contractors

Smooth Newt Silver badge
Unhappy

Re: In the foreseeable future ...

I anticipate a near future where the majority if not all of new hires are contracts under IR35. As this absolves the employer from paying for pensions, holiday and sickness benefits and permits dismissal at a moment's notice it's likely to catch on quickly.

This might fit well with the Government's "buccaneering" Brexit strategy of having cheap employees without rights, since it would allow them to guarantee on paper to the EU/electorate that workers rights will be maintained by virtue of the various employee rights legislation. But it won't actually apply to most of the serfs, as we will be a different class of worker to which the legislation doesn't actually apply.

Smooth Newt Silver badge
Unhappy

Re: In the foreseeable future ...

Not quite. Dreadful that zero hours contracts are, the employees are at least entitled to pensions, holiday pay, and sick pay.

Zero-hours employees also have rights, that contractors do not, under the National Minimum Wage Act, Working Time Regulations, Equal Pay Act, Sex Discrimination Act, Race Relations Act, Disability Discrimination Act, and regulations prohibiting discrimination on grounds of religion or belief, sexual orientation and age, Part Time Workers (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations, and the whistleblowing and other provisions in the Employment Rights Act.

As a simple example of how this works, a client company can perfectly legally contract black- or female-owned service provider companies, or any other group it wants to discriminate against, at half the rate of others they hire. They don't even have to pay minimum wage.

And harassment is OK too. Unless it is covered by a specific termination clause in the contract between the service provider company and client company (or agency), the service provider company is in breach of contract if the service provider walks out because she is sick of comments about the size of her tits. Unlike the zero-hours worker situation, she isn't employed by the client company so she can't take it to any employment tribunal.

Smooth Newt Silver badge
Trollface

Re: And...

...cue the usual polarised stream of comments from those who feel aggrieved at how it will affect them and those who think contractors have it too easy and they had it coming...

I am sure it will seem like all their Christmases have come at once when their employer threatens them with redundancy unless they change their employment status to "contractor".

Employers will be increasingly enthusiastic to do this because contractor now means "staff member with no employment rights".

Linux Mint 20 isn't exactly bursting with freshness but, hey, there's kernel 5.4 and it's a long-term support release

Smooth Newt Silver badge
Happy

Re: Linux flavours

"Are all the cool kids still using Mint"

All the cool kids I know are entirely Apple based.

Fortunately, being cool has never been particularly cool.

'It's really hard to find maintainers...' Linus Torvalds ponders the future of Linux

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Pint

Re: I wonder why?

That's a very poor starting position. Functional programmes tend not to have all their bits set to zero. Start with it filled with random data. That way there is a "chance" it will work first time. In the unlikely event it doesn't you will hit one of the many possible solutions sooner than starting with all zeros..

I guess that is true. 00 is quite often a NOOP instruction - it is on ARM, MIPS and Z80 anyway - so an all zeroes initial condition could be a valid, but very dull, program on those but probably not on anything else.

Best plan would be some sort of very complex quantum computer that could try all possible bit patterns simultaneously.

Smooth Newt Silver badge
Pint

Re: I wonder why?

@Smooth Newt

Toss in a genetic algorithm and you might find your solution before the heat death of the universe.

I have a great technique for generating the genetic algorithm. First you take a block of memory and initialise it to all zeroes...

Smooth Newt Silver badge
Pint

Re: I wonder why?

As the late, great Eric Morecambe once said: I'm playing all the right notes, just not necessarily in the right order ...

The following simple technique can be used to address that. Decide how big your program needs to be. If you get that right then the technique is absolutely guaranteed to produce the desired bug-free program.

Allocate a block of memory of the necessary size and initialize it to all zeroes. Then:

1. Execute it as a program. If it does what you want, then job done.

2. Otherwise, treat it as one single very wide multibyte binary number and increment it. (first time round 000...000b->000...001b, second time round 000...001b->000...010b etc)

3. Go to step 1

Smooth Newt Silver badge
Joke

Re: I wonder why?

Linus' potty mouth notwithstanding, let's not forget that some of this shit is hard

It's all just ones and zeroes. If it isn't a one then it's a zero. How hard can that be?

One does not simply repurpose an entire internet constellation for sat-nav, but UK might have a go anyway

Smooth Newt Silver badge
Trollface

...which describes the expensive experimental works that have been undertaken, the various new/modified experimental technology they've come up with, whether as prototypes to be tested, or as monitoring technology to test the prototype (because sometimes in research, you need to build the measuring device you need before you can build the thing you want to measure). Also there will presumably be various computer simulations/numerical models, probably run as parametric studies testing sensitivities to various parameters. And yes, I expect there will be a report. In fact, there will probably be many dozens of reports.

Oh God. It's been pissed away on some useless research project. The only questions that need answering are How Much and How Long. Why didn't they just ask the people who have already delivered GPS systems.

Smooth Newt Silver badge
Happy

Gravy train

Assuming you paid the smartest boffins around 100 quid an hour,

You are way too cheap on this. £300 an hour + VAT is a more realistic billing rate for a junior muppet from the sort of outfit the government uses. The people themselves get maybe 20% of this.

A senior management consultant will be much, much more expensive. And the government loves those. Think £12,000 per day + VAT. And they will have two or three junior people assigned to them just to carry their bags and fetch their coffee, and the government will be billed separately for those.

Expenses are on top of that, of course, and no-one is going to be exactly slumming it.

Stinker, emailer, trawler, spy: How an engineer stole top US chip designs, smuggled them to China to set up a rival fab

Smooth Newt Silver badge
Coat

Re: "aggressively investigating and prosecuting these crimes"

Goes to show that criminals are stupid, even when they have a doctorate degree.

Only the ones who get caught. Even then, they have to be very unlucky too.

e.g. UK clear up rate 7.8%, and that's of the tiny proportion of crimes that are even reported. Don't know what proportion of crimes are actually reported, but perhaps 1 in 50?

(Coat icon, because that's not his coat)

When one open-source package riddled with vulns pulls in dozens of others, what's a dev to do?

Smooth Newt Silver badge
Pirate

The problem is easy to express

It's the lack of compartmentalization in conventional web software frameworks. These should be analogous to Android and IOS where each software package runs in its own sandbox with access only to the particular set of features that it needs.

You are never going to be able to police and properly maintain all these software packages, so there will always be security (and other) bugs. And validating inputs only gets you so far - whilst a bit of simple syntax gets you past the stupid, simple problems like SQL injection, once you start thinking about context it can be enormously difficult. So a solution is to assume that these bugs are going to be present and design the framework in which they sit accordingly. Hence some security compartmentalization.

Ex-barrister reckons he has a privacy-preserving solution to Britain's smut ban plans

Smooth Newt Silver badge
Stop

every significant world power is overpopulated

"Now every significant world power is overpopulated,"

Don't you need a very large population to be a significant world power? That is why China, India and the United States are significant world powers and Greenland is not.

"Overpopulated" is also dubious. Perhaps you are just visualising the busy cities. But the United States population density is just 87 people per square mile. It is just that people like to bunch together in cities near the coast, leaving the boondocks empty. Wyoming has a population density of 6 people per square mile.

Smooth Newt Silver badge
Meh

I have serious concerns on the long term effect on society of these videos being freely available.

Pornography has been freely available online for more than 25 years now, so we are in the long term and whatever harms there are should be evident.

Smooth Newt Silver badge
Meh

Re: What could possibly go wrong?

Anyway, it's not a new idea: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evil_bit

It is closer to the existing "rating" HTML metadata tag.

< meta name="rating" content=value > where value is one of:

general

mature

restricted

14 years

safe for kids

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

Smooth Newt Silver badge
Happy

Re: L-1

What newly minted American STEM graduates are finding is that they are competing against H1-B workers who are willing to work at reduced wages and under strict contract requirements for many years in trade for a green card so that very wealthy corporations don't have to pay Americans competitive wages.

In 2016, college graduates backed Clinton by a 9-point margin (52%-43%), whilst those without a college degree backed Trump by nearly as much (52%-44%). I doubt this is intended for the benefit of college graduates.

Incidentally, the NACE salary survey for Winter 2019 projected a 4% rise in salaries for engineering graduates compared to 2018. A new masters graduate in computer engineering gets you a median salary of $77,000. You would not expect these sort of figures if there were more graduates than available jobs.

Smooth Newt Silver badge
Meh

Re: L-1

I can understand the motivation for stopping some of these visa types, but stopping L-1 would surely defeat the purpose?

It's not a policy based on a strategic analysis of the socio-economic consequences for the United States, it's about pleasing an increasingly disenchanted fan base. Nothing else matters for the impending election. All you have to know about the motivation is "foreners are steelin are jobs".

CERN puts two new atom-smashers on its shopping list. One to make Higgs Bosons, then a next-gen model six times more energetic than the LHC

Smooth Newt Silver badge
Meh

Finding that new particle might be the key to unlimited cheap energy

If you restrict yourself to only solving the little problems you'll never get very far. Finding that new particle might be the key to unlimited cheap energy, which would go a long way to solving all sorts of economic problems, including homelessness. We'll never know unless we try.

One of the problems with this sort of argument is that it ignores opportunity cost.

There is a very limited amount of research money. And a dozen ways that could be used to produce cheap energy that it could properly fund. Backing a complete outsider on the off-chance that it may turn up something useful is not good sense. It's like betting most of your money on the 1000 to 1 horse.

IR35 tax reforms for UK freelancers glide through committee stage: D-Day set for 6 April 2021

Smooth Newt Silver badge
Trollface

Re: IR35 Status - Furlough Status as Evidence

Surely being unable to claim under the Furlough scheme is evidence enough of not being a disguised employee?

No, because they are out to stuff you. Reality left the building a long time ago.

Health Sec Hancock says UK will use Apple-Google API for virus contact-tracing app after all (even though Apple were right rotters)

Smooth Newt Silver badge
Happy

Re: distance and signal strength

Better would be to use sonar. Send an ultrasonic 'chirp' through the phone speaker and pick up the reply via the microphone. The round-trip time of ~12ms is rather more manageable, though having the microphone live all the time would not be easy to sell...

Better to use a one-way ultrasonic pulse. Phone sends an ultrasonic burp and a Bluetooth broadcast at the same time. Bluetooth signal arrives at listening phone more or less instantly, and distance is proportional to delay before corresponding acoustic signal arrives.

The microphone doesn't have to go active until Bluetooth broadcast received, and even then only has to be live for a hundredth of a second. If the burp takes more than a hundredth of a second to arrive, then the phone is more than 3 metres away and we don't care about it.

Smooth Newt Silver badge
Flame

Re: with respect to the UK app

one suspects that two tin cans and a piece of string would seem totally world-beating.

If it is British then it will be deemed to be world-beating. Even if the string is missing.

They don't care - this is a public relations crisis for them, not a public health one.

Nothing fills you with confidence in an IT contractor more than hearing its staff personal records were stolen by ransomware hackers. Right, Cognizant?

Smooth Newt Silver badge
Meh

Re: Lol

Out of an abundance of caution...

What about an abundance of caution before this happened?

No surprise: Britain ditches central database model for virus contact-tracing apps in favour of Apple-Google API

Smooth Newt Silver badge
WTF?

I really wish they'd find some adults to take charge

Pandemic planning, emergency stockpiles, lockdown timing, care homes. ventilator challenge, personal protective equipment, school reopening, track 'n trace, UK entry controls only when it became pointless, and now the app

It would be amusing if it hadn't already cost tens of thousands of lives.

For years, the internet giants have held on dear to their get-out-of-jail-free card. Here are those trying to take that away

Smooth Newt Silver badge
Happy

Bots and idiots

I'd supress bots for a start. Its not so hard to do by a series of measures, such as randomly requiring a Turing test for about one in twenty posts so that large scale bot farming requires significant human effort, and blocking accounts where the majority of posts don't come from at least the country that the user claims to reside in (and don't let them use VPNs).

Smooth Newt Silver badge
Megaphone

Re: Censorship is bad mmkay

Social networks should make an effort to surround those hateful, loaded, or misinformed opinions with competing opinions from the opposite end of the spectrum.

Much of the problem is the prolific use of bots to amplify and mainstream otherwise outlandish and hateful views. Adding more and more bots shouting ever louder at each other would just be a pointless arms race.

Amazon's not saying its warehouse staff are dumb... but it feels they need artificial intelligence to understand what 'six feet' means

Smooth Newt Silver badge
Unhappy

Re: What this is really going to be used for

Most people are smart enough to realise than unless someone sneezes or coughs directly on you the chances of catching covid when walking past someone in the street or supermarket are next to zero so we don't bother to distance in those circumstances.

Large numbers of low probability interactions mean that infections will still frequently occur. For example, if there is a 1 in a hundred thousand chance of catching Covid through a single interaction, then after 3000 interactions (e.g. average 30 interactions a day for 100 days) then a person will have a (1-0.99999^3000 =) 3% chance of catching the disease.

Another way of looking at it is that there would be about 30 new infections every day in a population of 100,000 interacting people.

Whose side you on, Nominet? Registry floods .co.uk owners with begging emails to renew unwanted .uk domains

Smooth Newt Silver badge
Boffin

Articles of Association

I'll just leave this here.

Articles of Association of Nominet UK (the "Company")*

...

Public Purpose

1A In exercising their duties to promote the success of the Company for the benefit of the Members as a whole the directors shall have particular regard to the impact of the Company’s activities on the general public.

1B The objects of the Company are to undertake activities, particularly (without limitation) as were formerly set out in the Company’s Memorandum of Association, and to do so for the public benefit.

Admission of Members

...

(for another 12 pages)

*https://media.nominet.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/11091511/Nominet-UK-Articles-of-Association-AGM-2017.pdf

Splunk to junk masters and slaves once a committee figures out replacements

Smooth Newt Silver badge
Happy

Re: Where will this end....

And, is it unfair to call irrational numbers "irrational" ?

Yes. Henceforth they must always be called "judiciously challenged numbers".

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