* Posts by SImon Hobson

1996 posts • joined 9 Sep 2006

With a million unwanted .uk domains expiring this week, Nominet again sends punters pushy emails to pay up

SImon Hobson Silver badge

Re: Dear Nominet...

merge all the co,me&org .uk domain registries with the TLD, so that a single purchase buys&renews access to the four UK domains

And what about all those where there are DIFFERENT organisations/people with the same name part ? I know someone with a .org.uk who could not get the .uk because it was reserved for the "owner" of the .co.uk domain - who never registered it. When the 5 year period expired, it got snapped up by a squatter.

So much for "holders of existing domains will get preferential access" promise made all those years ago. If I wrote what I thought, the post would be deleted for breaking the house rules on profanity. A pox on all their houses.

IT blunder permanently erases 145,000 users' personal chats in KPMG's Microsoft Teams deployment – memo

SImon Hobson Silver badge

Re: And here we go again...

And as if by magic ...

See IBM ordered to pay £22k to whistleblower where it says : ... only for internal Sametime chat app transcripts shown in evidence to give the lie to their claims. It's not inconceivable for a judge to demand transcripts of "personal" chats between actors in such cases - and to draw negative conclusions (i.e. infer that there's something being hidden) if they cannot be produced.

SImon Hobson Silver badge

Re: And here we go again...

“Private” chats are not classed as “records” and therefore not subject to any legal retention

Has that been tested in court yet ? If not, then I'd suggest it's ... a little simplistic.

It's quite possible that in a court case, all it needs is for the court to believe something relevant was said in a private chat and ... suddenly as far as the court is concerned it is now a relevant record. All it would take is for just one witness to slip up* to give the court the information they need. Produce it stat or explain why you failed to retain it in accordance with the laws on record retention. Telling the court that you do not retain them as a matter of policy and you may find yourself being asked to justify why that is the case - which would mean proving not only that you have a policy of "no business conducted in private chat", but a process for actually enforcing that policy. AIUI courts have a tendency to look at the "what is actually done" rather than the policies that say how the business thinks it should be done - I know from experience that the two are often different, sometimes very different.

* Or it could be that disgruntled ex-employee who was "managed out" for asking awkward questions about company ethics just plain telling the court "yes it was against company policy, but we used private chat all the time for business because there wasn't a record kept". I believe there's precedent for that sort of disclosure about policy vs real world.

Um, almost the entire Scots Wikipedia was written by someone with no idea of the language – 10,000s of articles

SImon Hobson Silver badge

Re: Wee radge bastard

Now, as someone who's only experience of Whisky is getting the odours from mates who are imbibing, all I can say is that Laphroaig makes me thing of Jeyes Fluid.

Actually, one night, a mate left his fiancé holding his glass while he popped out to water the porcelain. She explained that she had a theory - he would get a glass of this stuff, then leave her holding it while he popped out, as a means of warding off any potential suitors intent on chatting her up. The odour is certainly powerful enough for that.

Epic move: Judge says Apple can't revoke Unreal Engine dev tools, asks 'Where does the 30 per cent come from?'

SImon Hobson Silver badge

Re: A pox on both their houses etc

The bit you've missed there is that starting up a new phone business does not help one little bit in selling your wares to Apple users.

I know car analogies are usually rubbish - and TBH this one is no better. But I'll give it a go.

So lets say we have two big car manufacturers, who for historical reasons have virtually all of the market between them. Lets just pick two big names, say Ford and GM. Lets assume that, like the phone market, the competitors have near enough disappeared.

The big difference here is that there's no real roadblock to another manufacturer (say Tesla) setting up - because unlike phones, people buy cars for the car, they don't buy them for the games they can play on the in-car infotainment system (yet). It's this bit that makes the analogy so rubbish - but bear with me.

So you can buy a Ford which will run loads of games and other applications. You can buy a GM which also runs loads of games and applications. But if you buy some little known Korean car, then you find you can't get most of the games or applications you'd like to run on it - or at least it's so complicated getting them installed that you can't deal with the hassle.

So here we are, Ford can correctly say that if you don't like Ford's policies, you can buy GM. And GM can say you can buy a Ford. But either way, you are stuck with policies that are to all intents identical - basically you can use your car in the way Ford or GM say you can.

You bought a Ford. Ford dictate what petrol you can use, and take a cut from the petrol company. They dictate what GPS system you can use, and take a cut from that - but what's more, they can dictate that the GPS provider can't include certain roads that Ford says you can't use. You have to have your Ford serviced at a Ford approved main dealer, using Ford approved parts, and using Ford approved consumables. If you want to add accessories such a tow bar or bike carrier (and this is probably where the analogy comes even close), then you can only use ones Ford approves and ... you've guessed it, Ford takes a 30% cut.

You could argue that 30% is a fair cut for handling the issue of getting your bike carrier or other accessory to the main dealer and then to you. But when you have fitted your bike carrier, you find there are optional extras - say specialised clips to hold certain bikes. You can't go direct to the bike carrier manufacturer - yep, you've guessed it you have to go to Ford who take a 30% cut. And Ford have put "technical measures" in place to stop you going direct - try fitting a non-aproved device and the car stops working.

Daft as it may seem, for those of you with a short memory, this isn't all that far from how car manufacturers used to operate. While they didn't put any technical measures in place, so you could fit a third party bike carrier without the car stopping working, they would completely void all warranties unless you serviced your car at a main dealer, using genuine parts, and approved consumables. Needless to say the reasons they gave for this were "for the consumers' own protection" - only genuine parts are safe and all that sort of thing. BMW did go the technical route in as much as they introduced their famous service light - as you drove, the computer would work out how fast you were "using up" the service interval and put a light on when a service was due - and guess what, for a while you could only reset the light by having a service at a BMW main dealer. And as electronics started getting more common, all the manufacturers had proprietary systems which were only made available to their own dealer networks.

In the EU at least, TPTB decided that the safety arguments just didn't cut it, and ended the closed shop. So Ford cannot now insist that you only have your new Ford serviced at a Ford main dealer - and they are required to make diagnostics info available to others, as well as using a standardised diagnostics connector. And guess what, from my limited experience (I've never owned a car new enough for that to be a consideration), the main dealers had to compete with independents and are no longer as highly priced (relative to the independents) as they used to be. But the bigger change is that other garages can diagnose issues that once were restricted to main dealers only.

So yes, while the analogy is rather rubbish - there are parallels. And the arguments that "it's for the users' benefit' is/was equally invalid for both phones and cars.

SImon Hobson Silver badge

Re: Switching to Android

Unfortunately, due to the complexity of compilers - and in particular, optimisation techniques - compiling the same source code on different computers doesn't necessarily create the same byte code out the other end. That's especially true if the compile time options aren't sett 100% identically.

I recall reading a discussion about this some time ago, and at the time there was work going on to write tools that would deal with this problem.

It is a big problem, and not new. I would signpost you to Ken Thompson's Turing Award acceptance speech in which he shows how to invisibly insert a backdoor into the Unix Login program - by hacking the C compiler to not only add the relevant backdoor code to the Login program, but also to add the relevant bits when it is used to compile the C compiler. And as he points out - the deeper things go, the harder to verify that such backdoors don't exist.

Peer-to-peer takes on a whole new meaning when used to spy on 3.7 million or more cameras, other IoT gear

SImon Hobson Silver badge

Re: Under 10%

And that's before the vendors decides to just shut down the service - or is bought by a bigger fish (e.g. Google) who then shuts it down.

You had one job... Just two lines of code, and now the customer's Inventory Master File has bitten the biscuit

SImon Hobson Silver badge

Re: Adding a comment sometimes caused compile failure

The House of Lords is an anachronistic legislative chamber ...

Here I beg to differ with you. While you are correct that the new entries appear to show a certain amount of "thanks for your previous help, here's a place in the Lords in return" - or just "promoting people to somewhere they can't do any harm" - the House of Lords is an important part of our system.

If you look across the pond, you see that their upper house which is elected seems to have all the same faults that other elected houses seem to have. Most notably, a tendency to think about what is most likely to get you re-elected next time round rather than what is best for the country long term. BY having a non-elected house, they don't have that distraction and so have the luxury of long term thinking.

Their ability to actually create law is very limited, in fact I don''t think they can. All they can do is amend the output of the lower house and send it back. But because they don't have to worry about re-election, they can challenge (and in extreme, I believe they can block it) bad law proposed by the lower house who are looking at the next election. That is why Tony B Liar put so much effort into dismantling the Lords - as punishment for reigning in some of his worst megalomaniac tendencies.

The fact that each side rewards it's favoured ones with seats in the Lords does mean that overall they stay relatively balanced - we certainly don't have the wild swings that elected systems have. For example, we don't see the farce the other side of the pond have when one house is Democrat and the other is Republican - and no laws can get passed because the upper house will reject everything the lower house proposes "just because party lines".

As the old saying goes, what we have is far from perfect, it's just less imperfect than the alternatives.

Australia to force Google and Facebook to pay for news and reveal algorithm changes before they whack web traffic

SImon Hobson Silver badge

Re: If you require them to tell you exactly what algorithm they use

That's the equivalent of a friend telling you "there's a good baker, red door, 2nd on the right past the lamp post".

That's fine if you are looking for a baker, and you happen to know that your friend knows a baker (or your friend knows that you are looking for one). It's not much use when you have a new requirement, and don't know any friends who've ever had any dealings in that area.

I've just been going through that with some plumbing requirements. Regular plumbing stuff, no problem - I just pop down to my regular plumbers merchants. But with the stuff I've been looking for, it's a case of "computer says no !" and as far as they're concerned it doesn't exist.

I've relied on search engines to track down manufacturers' sites around the world, and then track down local suppliers. Without search engines, I'd have been reliant on rather limited data sources - e.g. local suppliers who don't know about the stuff I want.

An axe age, a sword age, Privacy Shield is riven, but what might that mean for European businesses?

SImon Hobson Silver badge

Re: The point of the EU

I dont think that the EU CAN do a lot about this, tbh, as so much of the data which lubes up conglomerates and other big businesses transfer all over the place

Well the simple answer si that it will have to change. Businesses have been happy to keep kicking the can down the road - soon they'll find out there's nowhere left to kick the can to. That's not a problem with EU privacy regulations, it's a problem with business practices and "lack of privacy laws" in some countries.

What I do feel sorry for are the many smaller business who will get caught out and find that the assurances from their IT providers turn out to be a polished turd.

As an example, we've seen proof that Microsoft US can dip into data centres holding client email in Ireland. The CLOUD act would appear to just legitimise that. Yes I know that some IT providers are quite happy to tell clients that it's completely safe to use Office 365 for email "because MS say it's safe". But even if your data is stored in an EU data centre, and if MS didn't have the ability to directly dip into it - access to your data is mediated by a global network of authentication servers, all of them working under a US controlled DNS zone.

SImon Hobson Silver badge

I'd agree, but ...

As the article states, sometimes it's someone you "have to" deal with for one reason or another.

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

SImon Hobson Silver badge

Re: Why...? Just Why?

To which the "correct" response should be to take the disk back to the retailer and tell them "it won't play". Some will then demonstrate that it plays in their player and tell you it's your player at fault, others will replace/refund the disk and send it back to their supplier - this is the key, it adds costs up the chain and the entire chain in retail hates costs, and by association hates actors within the system that create costs.

If LOTS of people did this, then studios turning out "stuff that won't play" would find themselves shut out of major retail businesses.

Of course, if you are told that your player is faulty, you complain to the retailer you bought it from and create costs that way. Either way, you create costs for accepting the Digital RightsRestrictions Management.

That effectively gives your player a 6 year life as that's the limit (in England at least) for civil action.

We've paused Sigfox roof aerial payments, says WND-UK, but we'll make you whole after COVID

SImon Hobson Silver badge

Re: The Race to the Bottom

only financially sustainable when being supported by continual investor funding

That applies to many (most ? all ?) business for at least some time during start up.

Something like this is stuck in a catch-22 situation: They need the infrastructure to provide coverage before they get users, they need users to pay for the infrastructure but won't get them without the coverage. So for at least some time, they will have a situation where the infrastructure costs more than they get in revenue - the question really is how long that "some time" is.

IMO there is a market there (and for once, there's a genuine use case for many of the IoT things they are supporting), it's just a case of whether they can grow the user base fast enough to cover the costs.

SImon Hobson Silver badge

Re: Where's the plug?

From my point of view it seems like there was a deer in the headlights kind of thing going on

Sounds like that to me. If you are relying on a significant chunk of money about to come in to stay afloat, and then that doesn't happen, it can be a challenging time. Better communication would have helped - as suggested, I think most people would accept deferring payment if told, but when the money dries up and you've heard nothing then you start to assume the worst.

Privacy watchdogs from the UK, Australia team up, snap on gloves to probe AI-for-cops upstart Clearview

SImon Hobson Silver badge

Re: Opt out ?

I don't understand how posting my photo on social media can mean I no longer have copyright over it

You do still have copyright of it - but you no longer have any rights whatsoever as to what it may now be used for. By your own admission you posted an image, therefore you must have signed up to an account - and accepted the T&Cs. You did read the T&Cs didn't you ? No ? Well that's your own fault then.

Typically when you sign up you either assign copyright, or more normally grant the site full rights to do whatever they like with it. That's the bit typically worded along the lines of "you grant ${business} a global licence to use, redistribute, sell, edit, or repurpose the image for any use they want".

This made the TV news a few years ago when someone found their photo being used in an advert in their local bus shelter - turns out they'd not read the T&Cs of a photo sharing website, and the site had licensed the photo to the company doing the advertising. All completely legal - but IIRC the advertiser did remove their photo and use a different one for any new material.

SImon Hobson Silver badge

Re: How do I ENFORCE my copyright?

Well you could sell your soul and sign up with one of the devils (Google) who do actually offer a service for that. You upload a photo (or video I believe) and they'll notify you if they find it elsewhere. But of course, once you find out, your rights are not very enforceable unless the culprit is in the same jurisdiction as you AND that jurisdiction is friendly to copyright holders.

SImon Hobson Silver badge

Re: Keep things to yourself

Yes, but you can be as clever as you want - it doesn't help when your "friends" and family just ignore any basic idea of privacy preservation.

Firefox 78: Protections dashboard, new developer features... and the end of the line for older macOS versions

SImon Hobson Silver badge

Re: I hope they finally cleaned up WebRTC

No current OS uses it's MAC address in it's global IPv6 addresses any more - that was deprecated a lot of years ago. They are still used in link-local addresses - but they are not accessible other than on the local link.

SImon Hobson Silver badge

Re: I hope they finally cleaned up WebRTC

If you have IPv6 working on your router - presumably by default on an ISP supplied router - then it's pretty well a given that it will be using a statefull firewall. The default for the firewall will be to block all inbound connections - so you are as safe behind IPv6 as you are behind IPv4 and NAT. In some ways you will be safer as the default these days is for end user devices to change addresses every so often - so an attacker would be targeting something that's using just a handful of addresses out of a block of 2^64 addresses (itself only part of the wider internet of 2^128 addresses.) In principle, your device could use a different address for every outbound connection if it wanted to and thus present a "never in the same place twice" moving target - but nothing has got to that stage yet as it would break too many things (such as websites that expect relatively static client IPs).

In any case, probably the largest attack vector these days isn't from the outside working in, it's from a beachhead (via a compromised device) on the inside where it has full access and a full view of what's on the network. [sarcasm]All these devices that maintain outbound connections to all sorts of stuff they don't tell you about - yeah, that's a really good idea and not open to abuse [/sarcasm]

Analogue radio given 10-year stay of execution as the UK U-turns on DAB digital future

SImon Hobson Silver badge

Re: Radio 4 LW?

You can even use Radio 4 LW masts as a Non Directional Beacons when flying, it's also better slightly listening than the morse idents of other NDBs

Actually, isn't tuning to 200 (near enough to 198kHz to pick it up) a better use of the NDB receiver than using it for navigating ? It's a long time since my licence expired, but isn't (wasn't) Test match Special on R4 LW - I vaguely recall listening to that on one trip.

We're no longer helping UK Post Office persecute postal workers with our shonky system, says Fujitsu

SImon Hobson Silver badge

Re: Money missing....people went to jail....but no mention of independent audits? Strange!

One suspects that the auditors, when they were allowed to audit, did in fact find that there was a

problem - but since such a finding would be inconvenient to mangelement, the auditors would be told to go and do something else. Wasn't that a suggestion in the recent Panorama program on the subject ?

UK police's face recognition tech breaks human rights laws. Outlaw it, civil rights group urges Court of Appeal

SImon Hobson Silver badge

If the rights were balanced by allowing the police to scan for their normal rouges gallery and nick them to keep peaceful protests peaceful, but didn't attempt to identify people and didn't retain the footage, I can't see too many objections personally.

And there, in one sentence, I think you sup up the issue.

Like most people, I accept that the police need to have certain powers, and sometimes those powers might inconvenience me what going about my business as a law abiding citizen. However, I expect those powers to be of a scale appropriate to the task, and used in the most limited way possible.

If we had, using old-school tech, checkpoints at all entries to [somethings], and police there with "papieren bitte" making lists of all who attended - and known to be keeping those lists, and cross referencing them with all other information they hold, "forever" - then people would be "not very happy with it".

But here we are, the police have this new tech and it appears are operating on the "we can do it, therefore we should do it" - thus keeping those lists, with much lower accuracy and hence opportunity for innocent people to be categorised as offenders, in a much less overt way.

There is an argument in favour of AFR - but only if the checks and balances and restrictions are in place. The very first limitation should be that the lists of people should not be allowed to be kept. The second should be that any positive matches thrown up by the system must be reviewed by a person and all rejected records deleted.

But at present, there is effectively no oversight, no rules, no limits on what the (by all accounts, very inaccurate) information may be used for and how long it may be kept. Thus the means for long term mass tracking AND PROFILING of large numbers of the population without their knowledge or consent. As mentioned above, it's not that dissimilar to the police having found a way to covertly take fingerprints of everyone passing a checkpoint - and collecting that information with no oversight or rules. The only mitigating factor at the moment is that the information is of limited use to them due to the carp accuracy of the system - so far.

Facebook accused of trying to bypass GDPR, slurp domain owners' personal Whois info via an obscure process

SImon Hobson Silver badge

Hmm, does the US have something similar to the UK's "vexatious litigant" rulings ?

Since it's clear that faecesborg is running an automated system to ask for details of registrants for domains that are clearly not infringing, then their litigation is clearly vexatious and the registrars really ought to go down that route. It would be wonderful to see - in the UK, AIU if a litigant is declared by a court to be vexatious, then they are barred from further litigation without getting permission from the court first. Yes, that would be so loverly to see applied to faecesborg.

Ah, it appears the US does have such a thing, but it appears to be a fairly high hurdle to clear.

ICON - imagine a very large pile of manure hitting a very large fan

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

SImon Hobson Silver badge

Re: I will never buy a fridge you have to plumb in.

Depends on the run length. At our last house, there was about 3 feet of pipe from the boiler to the washer connection. OK, it was a combi, so the argument isn't really applicable - but gas heated water is cheaper (and quicker) than electric heated water.

When I get my thermal store fitted (currently on hold as the factory shut down), there'll be a circulating pump on the DHW for exactly the reason you cite - I'm peed of with the amount of water we have to waste before we get the hot water we want (often a small amount). Will that be energy inefficient ? Not for most of the year when the heating would be on anyway, and the pipes will be lagged.

SImon Hobson Silver badge

Re: home use printer that doesn't dry up between uses

From memory, if you want good photos then Dye Sublimation is a reasonable choice. And being solid, the ink doesn't dry up.

I've no idea how the financial side works out though.

And then there used to be a wax printer that used solid blocks which it melted and then spat at the paper ala ink jet (IIRC). No drying up there, but I suspect the wax blocks aren't/weren't cheap.

An Internet of Trouble lies ahead as root certificates begin to expire en masse, warns security researcher

SImon Hobson Silver badge

Re: Lawyers... start your engines

But this is about the equipment "failing" because a part of it has stopped working. IN this case I think it's a "slam dunk" case as our US friends might call it.

Has the equipment ceased to function - either in whole or part ? Yes

Is that due to a fault ? Yes, it's because a certificate has expired and so the equipment can't make secure connections.

Was that fault present, or could it reasonably be believed to be present, at the time of sale ? Yes, the certificate was part of the software, and it would have been obvious to anyone that it would expire on [some date].

So unless the retailer can that at least one of those statements is not true then they are liable and will lose in court. But since all three of those would be a given for the issue being described, they don't stand a chance. It's a completely different situation to the likes of Revolv where the equipment still "functions", but can't do something because an external service has stopped.

But that's a different (though related) debate - there needs to be some guarantee over provision of such services for at least a set time.

SImon Hobson Silver badge

Re: Um...?

I vaguely recall that yes, you can add certificates yourself - but there's a restriction in that you have to have lock screen security turned on.

SImon Hobson Silver badge

Re: Lawyers... start your engines

They will sue, sue and sue until they get a solution

Sale of Goods and Services Act (or whatever it's replacement is called this week) is your friend here. There is an automatic assumed warranty of "reasonable durability" - where "reasonable" is not defined in law, but would be considered on a case by case basis in court. Taking something simple to understand such as a pan for the kitchen - if you buy a pan for 50p off the market, then you can't reasonably expect a lot of durability from it; but if you splash out on something expensive (such as those heavy and expensive cast iron things from Le Creuset) then you could reasonably expect the handle not to drop off after a few months.

The key things is that in law there is no time limit to claim for faults which could reasonably be assumed to exist at time of manufacturer - though the statute of limitations constrains you to 6 years (5 years in Scotland). A certificate expiring and bricking a device is a built in fault - absolutely no wiggle room out of that one.

The claim is against the retailer, not the manufacturer - so as long as the retailer is still in business there is someone to claim against. I would imagine that if the likes of Dixons Group (owners of Currys & PC World) or Asda or Tesco, or ... turns round to manufacturers and basically said "you're carp has cost us £XM in claims - compensate us or never sell another product though us ever again" then there's enough clout to get the attention of the beancounters in even the biggest manufacturers.

But that relies on consumers realising what's gone on and actually claiming rather than just adding to landfill and buying more tat.

California bigwigs rule Uber, Lyft dial-a-ride drivers are employees, not contractors

SImon Hobson Silver badge

Re: I know many people who work so-called "gig economy" jobs here in California.

Contracting to multiple service providers is a problem if three of them want to set your hours to overlapping times - see there's no difference. If your terms of employment or contracting allow you to pick your own hours (as I believe both Uber and Lyft do), then it matters not whether you are contracting to them or employed by them.

UK or California law - makes no difference to the fundamental problem (or non-problem) you bring up.

SImon Hobson Silver badge

Re: I know many people who work so-called "gig economy" jobs here in California.

They don't need, nor do they want, multiple different "employers"

Firstly, there is no problem having multiple employers - unless one of them insists on an exclusivity clause.

But the main thing is that if someone truly wants to be a contractor and work for Uber, or Lyft, or ... then that is quite possible within the law. All they need to do is to setup their own business - whether as (to use UK terminology) a sole trader or a limited company - and contract with one or more others. Particularly if the one business contracts with more than one of the services, and provides their own equipment, and insurance, and controls it's own employee pay (noting the rules on minimum wage, holiday entitlement, sickness cover, etc, etc, etc), and has the right of substitution (e.g., if one is sick his/her spouse could take over), and ... then it would be clear that it is a service provider subcontracting provision of services. Under UK tax law, contracting with multiple clients (e.g. with both Uber and Lyft) at the same time would be a good indicator against it being disguised employment.

But what Uber and Lyft and the others offer is not a contract for services that such an arrangement would provide - they offer what is clearly a contract for employment with some weasel words that time and time again have been shown to be just a way to try and wiggle out of their legal obligations.

So no, from what I read, "not wanting multiple employers" isn't a valid reason to allow thousands to be taken unfair advantage of.

UK.gov announces review – not proper inquiry – into Fujitsu and Post Office's Horizon IT scandal

SImon Hobson Silver badge

Re: Letter (email) Written to my MP

For things like this, I ask my MP "please ask the minster responsible ..." - preferably naming the appropriate minister. That way, they have little to do themselves, but the ministers get a lot of queries from MPs. Ministers don't like this, and it takes (according to sources I had years ago) only a few letters from MPs to get their attention.

But I understand your frustration. Our previous MPs were much the same - if the answer could be done by copy-paste of a party soundbite then you might get one, otherwise it was unlikely (especially as most of my queries conflicted with policies of his party). At one point I was intending to go and see him in person and ask direct - why don't you answer any of my letters ? Harder to ignore when you're sat across a desk from them, but I never got round to it, and I really didn't write many.

The alternative is to not bother writing at all because "it doesn't change anything". That is a self fulfilling prophesy since if nobody complains, then TPTB can assume that everyone is happy.

SImon Hobson Silver badge

Re: Letter (email) Written to my MP

Indeed, everyone please write to your MP and demand a proper public enquiry - subpoena privileges, penalties for perjury, etc. Anything less is seen as an attempt to cover up the cover up.

Off to do mine now ...

'One rule for me, another for them' is all well and good until it sinks the entire company's ability to receive emails

SImon Hobson Silver badge

Re: Been There...

That reminds me of an incident we had at a previous place, way back around the turn of the millennium, and when email was in it's infancy. Our first email server was a package who's name I can't recall running on a Mac IIcx that was a hand me down from the art&design dept. We were migrating to a more capable server, and to avoid the "go round and do everyone's settings at once" trick, did mailboxes one at a time - and as each user moved, we setup a forward from the old server to the new one.

It was working fine, then one day we "had a problem". The two servers had different mail size limits set. A largish mail came in, and was forwarded to the newer server, where it exceeded the mail size limit and got bounced - back to the old mail server. The old mail server then attempted to deliver to bounce message (which included ALL of the original large message) to the user at the new mail server. It was actually rather fun to watch - it went fairly slowly as both servers were not exactly the fastest computers around, and we were probably still on 10M ethernet back then.

Even more fun was when someone external sent a 10MByte email to a user at a remote site. Our internet was 64k ISDN, and it was another 64k link to the remote site. When the email "hadn't arrived", the external user resent it. Then they sent it again, and again, and ... Back then, Demon allowed you to query the mail queue - and there were several of these 10MB messages blocking the line and causing all the other email to be delayed. "Explanations were given" to the user regarding the practicalities of large emails, and why not to expect instant delivery, and why not to have them resent.

SImon Hobson Silver badge

I had never seen (other than in films/on TV) a computer before I got to 6th formin the late 70s. There was a rumour that the secondary school had one, somewhere, but I never found it. At 6th form they had not one, but two - Exidy Sorceror, one has 16k the other had 32k RAM, and storage was on cassette.

I bought one while I was at 6th form and was one of only a very small number of people to have a computer. Mine was an Ohio Superboard (1MHz - yes, that's not a typo) 6502 and 1k byte (no, that's not a typo either) of RAM (expandable to a whopping 8kbytes of RAM). And I'm sat here typing on a rather aged laptop, grumbling about being limited to only 8G of RAM (hardware limit) with more than 8G of swap space in use.

As an aside, it's interesting to note that years ago I was in business selling and supporting computers. My colleague had this story about how he went to demonstrate an accounting package - and after an hour someone asked why he kept pressing buttons on the keyboard. They genuinely though tthat you just showed (e.g.) an invoice to the computer and it read it. Now, getting on for half a century later, we are almost to the point where that can be done - AIUI some of the advanced features can now interpret a scan (or photo in the mobile enabled age) of an invoice - or at least make a half decent stab at it.

The downside to all this is that we are using applications and OSs that take up gigabytes of disk space, and most people have no idea how any of it actually works. Even with something like the Arduino, there's a huge layer of middlewhere to isolate the programmer from what's actually happening - a far cry from the days of hand assembling code to run on my computer with only 1k of RAM.

I suspect I don't have a computing device in the house that isn't orders of magnitude more capable than those that first put a man on the moon ! Actually, that's not quite true, the old Superboard is still in the attic.

Amazon declined to sell a book so Elon Musk called for it to be broken up

SImon Hobson Silver badge

As an author, one is not a consumer but a content creator entering into a contract with a distributor

That is notionally true, but ...

As you enter into that contract, do you have any negotiating power beyond "take it or leave it" ? No ? Not exactly a "meeting of minds" is it.

And as an author wanting to get reasonable sales, can you really afford to say no to Amazon ?

And therein lies the problem. To a sizeable part of the population, "buy a book" means "go to amazon.com" - and if your book isn't there then it doesn't exist. They may not have a monopoly, but they certainly have significant market dominance - which makes their ability to determine "what is truth today" something of a problem, and IMO their dominance is getting close to (if not already there) being sufficient to say it's not reasonable for them to "just decide not to do business with you". If what you are selling doesn't fit with "the world according to Amazon" then they have the power to effectively kill your sales - unless you are in a position to do sufficient marketing to overcome the "doesn't exist according to amazon.com" problem.

SImon Hobson Silver badge

While (without having looked at it) I think we can assume the booklet is a pile of drivel, you either accept that people are (more or less[0]) free to say/write what they want, or you accept (as mentioned above) that books will be vetted by the committee of truth. In this case, you have a powerful commercial organisation imposing it's own committee on truth with no oversight and without even saying what rules it's applying.

[0] Yes, there's the obvious thing that shouting fire in a crowded theatre is "not a good thing", and neither is inciting people to violence. So you can never have complete and unfettered rights to freedom of expression. But in civilised societies, we have the bare minimum of restrictions so as not to suppress fringe ideas - and lets face it, history is littered with "crazy fringe ideas" which later turned out to actually be rather sensible. The big problem is the much larger number of properly crazy ideas that aren't sensible.

BoJo looks to jumpstart UK economy with £6k taxpayer-funded incentive for Brits to buy electric cars – report

SImon Hobson Silver badge

Re: Electric cars....

how many nuclear power stations have been FULLY decommissioned, with the old fuel stored safely for the next few thousand years, and at what cost?

Ah, that good old standby diversionary tactic !

The first thing to bear in mind is that typically the pro-wind lobby like to compare 50 year old nuclear designs with the newest windmill design - and argue that because old designs had problems, all nuclear must have all the same problems. That is really what most people would call a lie.

When we started with nuclear, in what could well be considered a lack of forward thinking (I wouldn't disagree with it) they didn't really consider decommissioning in the design. That in itself makes decommissioning more expensive than it needs to be.

But the anti-nucular lobby managed another PR hit by demanding that we deal with nuclear "waste" in teh most difficult and costly manner possible. Lest say you have done the Sunday roast, and have a roasting tin that's been in the oven and is nice and hot - do you a) leave it to one side to cool down before trying to clean it, or do you b) insist on cleaning it while it's still too hot to touch without special protective measures (an oven mitt) ? Logically you let it cool down till it needs no special handling - but the anti-nucular lobby have managed by "lies and halftruths" to get the masses so worked up that they demand TPTB deal with nucular while it's still too hot to handle.

For example, consider the old Magnox stations like Calder Hall. AIUI they did have a plan in mind when they built them - the plan being that at the end of life they shut it down and just leave it to cool for a bit, when it's cooled down enough you remove the fuel, and remove all the ancillary stuff leaving just the reactor and containment. So you'd be left with a block of concrete something like the size of a house, post a guard in case someone tries to graffiti it, but otherwise it's a risk to no-one and no use to a terrorist. Apart from this small house, the rest of the site can be returned to greenfield if you want. After 100 years, it's still so radioactive (yes, that's sarcasm) that you can just cut a hole in the side, walk in and carry out the carbon moderator blocks. But no, that sensible plan is no good - never mind that we could put 1p in a savings account, and thanks to the wonders of compound interest that by the end of the universe it will have grown to pay for your bill at Milliways ... oh sorry, went off at a tangent there. But it would be fairly easy to set aside some money now that would pay for all the costs in 100 years time. Instead certain groups insist on us doing it NOW and having to handle the benign stuff that is more or less the same as common coal as nucular waste needing careful and expensive treatment and storage. And having made people do stuff the most difficult and expensive way possible - then use the cost to "prove" that nucular can't be cheap.

And that's before we get into the discussion about the fuel "waste". How we handle nucular fuel is roughly the equivalent to going to a petrol station, dispensing a few gallons into a bucket, using a thimble to pour some into your car, and then throwing the rest away. Naturally several gallons (less the thimbleful) of petrol is hazardous stuff so will need expensive handling and storage "for ever". Yes, it's crazy, but that is how we use nuclear fuel - we throw most of it away with all the costs of disposal and storage that entails, rather than actually using it. I believe that if we built the right sort of reactors, we have enough processed fuel in storage (but labelled as waste) to supply all our (the UK's) lecky for something like a century. And at the end, we'd have a small amount of waste left over.

and nuclear is not carbon free by any stretch

And neither is wind. It would be interesting to see an accurate comparison taking into account all the factors through whole of life. Simple things like : a windmill uses a lot of steel and concrete in it's foundations - nothing like the quantity used in a nuclear power station, but then it'll never put out anything like the energy the nuclear power station will. So if you take all the windmills that would be needed to match the energy output of the nuclear station, how big a pile of steel and concrete would that be ? That's just one "for example" (and ignoring the non-recyclable composites sypically used in the blades) - no I don't have the answers, but I do know that there are orders of magnitude difference in the power outputs.

If you are still with me, yes you might just get the feeling that I think most anti-nuclear people are "severely misguided". Many because they are misinformed by lies, some because they have a vested interest in staying misinformed.

lastly, even the eye watering cost of a new nuclear power station is something that needn't be. For the record, I agree with the anti group - it's a "sh*tload" of money ! But it's not inherent in nuclear power, it's only inherent in how we've done it up till now. So far our designs have basically been large reactors that need complex safety systems - and that adds cost. So there's a driver that says the bigger you make the reactor, the less the safety systems cost in terms of £/MWHr - with the result that we now see (or don't as they aren't exactly getting built en-masse) multi-GW rated plants at "GDP of some countries" prices.

There is an alternative in the form of small modular reactors - which many groups are investigating/designing. With a small enough reactor you can "fuel it for life" and thus remove all the problems/costs associated with in-service refuelling, you can make it small enough that it's made in a factory and delivered complete on a lorry and thus remove a lot of the costs associated with on-site construction of pressure vessels etc, you can make it inherently or intrinsically safe (so you can just pull the plug on the ancillaries and it won't "blow up"), and you can make it low enough in cost that it's possible for modest enterprises to install them without needing underpinning by government level guarantees. Hopefully we'll see some progress on that front soon.

SImon Hobson Silver badge

Re: Electric cars....

The UK hasn't burned any coal (for leccy generation) for well over a month

Yeah, great statistic - the sort trotted out by renewables PR greenwashers.

Coal usage has been falling generally for a long time. In summer, most coal plants are shut down - because they aren't needed when lecky consumption is down. And we're in the hardest recession in memory, with a significant chunk of all industries shut down. It would be more of a surprise given the combination of factors if we were buring any coal at all.

But, as I write this, I look at the grid stats and guess what ? It's after sunset so zero solar. It's calm, and wind is doing less than 5% of the fairly low demand. But CCGT (i.e. gas, a hydrocarbon fuel) is doing 58% of demand.

The reality is that we are still very heavily dependent on fossil fuels and that is not going to change until we have a heck of a lot more nuclear. Adding a load of demand for charging lecky cars, and that's going to come from burning more fossil fuels. I do wonder how many of the "nuclear bad" group are also in the "lecky cars good" camp ?

SImon Hobson Silver badge

Almost. Rudolph Diesel used peanut oil for his new engine.

If Daddy doesn't want me to touch the buttons, why did they make them so colourful?

SImon Hobson Silver badge

Re: More of a Who Me? except he got away with it

Well-designed anything is hard to come by

I think it's partly a cultural thing.

Go back a generation or two and the expectation was that you'd pay good money and things would last (and be repairable). As I say, a cultural thing - few would consider or tolerate the disposable culture we seem to have now.

Roll forward and expectations have changed - possibly in a positive feedback loop. Mass production has lowered prices, and living standards have risen, making more "stuff" available to more people. Along with those lowering prices, the relative cost of repair vs replacement has changed - making it more economic to simply replace rather than repair. So expectations have changed, and that's fed back into the supply side - making things cheaper and less repairable.

If you think about it, from the supply side, the question becomes : why invest more in making a more expensive but repairable product when that means selling less of them due to the higher cost ? And so you end up in a race to the bottom of the pond.

And of course, a whole generation brought up to think about "price" rather than "value" feeding the supply side of that.

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

SImon Hobson Silver badge

Re: My 2 pence worth

The judges comment at the in the sixth judgment on the Bates v Post Office group litigation are quite telling

Thanks for that link, his comments sum up all you need to know really - the PO and FS were a bunch of liars who'd rather send people to prison than admit that their precious system could be flawed.

One very interesting avanue is mentioned at the end of that piece : "If these cases are overturned, claimants could bring charges of malicious prosecution against the Post Office"

Now that could be interesting, if each person did that as soon as they were acquitted, that in itself would cause something of a new sh*tstorm for the PO. Not only that, but absent any action from government, I believe a judge in such a case would be able to declare the PO as a vexatious litigant which would in practical terms bar the PO from making it's own (unsupervised) prosecutions in future. But I bet that doesn't happen either.

Watch an oblivious Tesla Model 3 smash into an overturned truck on a highway 'while under Autopilot'

SImon Hobson Silver badge

Re: It is autopilot but not autonomous

Oops, correction - it's the THIRD post in the comments.

SImon Hobson Silver badge

The responsibility is clearly with the drivers

Technically yes, but as I've already explained in another post, when you reduce stimulation, then driver alertness will reduce. As the first poster pointed out, another car driver spotted the obstacle a reasonable distance before and took avoiding action. But that driver would have had situational awareness already - not taken time to acquire it when the "oh sh*t" moment happened.

So yes, there is a big problem with these advanced cruise controls - it is inevitable (basic human factors) that even the best driver will be less aware and alert when the car is cruising along under "autopilot". It's not the "fault" of the driver, it's basic human factors than make this inevitable - the only thing under driver control is how much effort (yes, positive effort) he puts into keeping alert, and then you get into a question of "if you are expending that much mental effort, why now just drive the darn thing yourself ?"

SImon Hobson Silver badge

Re: This is a driver assist not an autopilot !

Ah, but the TCAS worked - it's warnings just weren't followed.

Bear in mind that at the time of this crash, TCAS was fairly new and it would appear that there was some confusion on the part of one crew as to whether to follow the TCAS or ATC. These days it's very clear - you follow TCAS and then tell ATC what you've done.

As an aside, the reason TCAS uses climb/descend for Resolution Advisories is that vertical position is (or certainly was back then) a lot more precise than horizontal position. These days with extensive use of GPS and Mode-S, fully equipped aircraft know where they are to high accuracy and transmit this via Mode-S broadcasts. Other aircraft can pick these up and do the maths to gain accurate situational awareness.

But back then, position was largely a case of "the signal came that that direction" which is not very precise and "the signal was X strength" which is also very imprecise as received signal strength depends on both the transmitted power, and the orientation of both transmitting and receiving antennae. But with a properly calibrated pressure sensor, (relative) vertical position is fairly accurate - you don't need to know your height above ground or MSL (changes in atmospheric pressure change the relation between pressure and height), only the difference between yourself and the other aircraft.

SImon Hobson Silver badge

Re: It is autopilot but not autonomous

See the very first post on this. The driver would not have been very alert as most of the stimulus that keeps a driver alert and aware of his surroundings have been removed - that's the whole point of the high end adaptive cruise control. It makes no difference who says what or what it is called - this cruise control is designed and marketed as a way of letting the car take over a lot of the work and decision making, and that does mean that the driver is less involved in the task than he would be without it.

So you are cruising along, enjoying the scenery as you don't need to concentrate on the driving - the car is doing that for you. Then "what ?", "err ?", "oh sh*t !" - and the driver simply does NOT have the time to assess the situation, work out where the other vehicles are on the road, consider available exit strategies, pick one, and execute it. It's easy to sit in comfort, knowing what's going to happen, and watch a video - and say "what an idiot, all he needed to do was ..."

In the time available to him, getting the brakes on hard enough to emit smoke was pretty good going.

As an aside, one of the biggest problems in commercial aviation (well apart from most of it being on the ground at the moment) is crew alertness. Short haul flights probably not too bad, but on long haul it's largely a case of take off, wheels up, engage flight management - then sit back for a few hours, a few radio calls with ATC, perhaps a few course changes into the FMC, and wait till you arrive at your destination. There have been a number of occasions when flight crew have, lets remain polite, become distracted from the job of flying the aircraft - I recall one where the crew claimed to have been discussing rostering and failed to hear ATC calling them repeatedly as they over-flew their destination can carried on for a while, before turning round and flying back to where they were supposed to have landed.

AIUI, with the best of the management systems these days, the pilot can line up on the runway then the management systems can take off, fly the route, and land at the other end with the pilot only required to brake and then taxi off. I doubt that it's done very often, but you think of the challenge of staying alert for hours on end with that level of automation.

SImon Hobson Silver badge

Re: I get that the cameras may not have picked out the truck...

once you've learned how big something (like, say, a fully grown cow...) looks at a given distance

Sorry, couldn't resist


UK.gov dangles £400k over makers of IoT Things: Go on, let's see how you'd make a security cert scheme

SImon Hobson Silver badge

Re: What about our networks?

You are correct, but I can't see that changing any time - at all, not just soon.

ISPs don't care - as long as the router they ship to you "free" is a) cheap to them, and b) allows you to reach WhatsTwitFaceBorge then they are OK.

As to segregated networks, there are some real practical problems there. As it happens, SWMBO just got an Echo Dot - no I didn't buy it, I don't want it in the house, but SWMBO says otherwise and one of our daughters got it for her birthday present. I setup another SSID to connect it to with client segregation turned on - but then I also need to put SWMBO's phone onto a specific IP address and configure the network to allow the phone and the Dot to talk to each other. I'd use VLANs as well but none of my switches are VLAN capable and I'm not keen to spend on that right now - but if I did then that would complicate things even more as there'd be no ability for the config program to find the devices it needs to configure (usually based on being in the same broadcast domain). Of course, VLANs on a wired network would mean that you can't just randomly plug any cable into any socket where it fits - yes, that's the level of many people, if the plug fits then it must be the right connection (even if it's an RJ11 phone connector into an RJ45 network socket).

Now, I can do this as I've been in the IT business for <cough> decades. Your average user will not be able to even grasp the concepts. And automation really really will not cope with it.

Contact-tracer spoofing is already happening – and it's dangerously simple to do

SImon Hobson Silver badge

Re: Unhearing government

ha ha, yes I recall that sort of conversation where I explain that they've called me, so I'm either me or someone able to answer my mobile phone - so a very small set of people - but they could be absolutely anyone from anywhere in the world, so no, I am not going to tell them anything whatsoever until they prove who they are. Ah, but if we prove who we are, we could be telling someone else that you bank with us. I still don't care.

On that occasion, I think it was implied that the call was urgent, so I called the bank back using the number on the back of my card - only to find out (eventually) that it was just trying to sell me something I didn't want. I made an official complaint - the result of which was that the bank put a note on my account to say I didn't want marketing calls.

I did once get a call (from the same bank) that was genuine and urgent - fraud on one of my cards. Bu they still didn't get it. When I refused to identify myself, the person suggested I phone back and started giving me a number - I interrupted and pointed out that there was no way on earth I'd use any number given to me by some random caller who couldn't prove who they were. So again, called them back using the number of the back of the card, and took a while to get through to the right department and find that it was a genuine call.

80-characters-per-line limits should be terminal, says Linux kernel chief Linus Torvalds

SImon Hobson Silver badge

Re: not the terminal, the punch card

40 characters, you upper class wimps.

On my first computer* I had to make do with 24 characters, and I was glad of it. It also had only 1k bytes of (static) RAM.

Oh the joy when I upgraded to an ITT 2020 (licensed British version of the Apple ][) with disk drives, lots of memory (I also had a 64k memory card), and ... COLOUR !

Oh that seems a distant time as I sit here with my GHz clocked processor, 8Gbytes RAM (max for the machine), and 12G of swap in use. Even my phone eclipses those early computers.

* Ohio Superboard II, 1MHz 6502, room for 8k max of memory unless you added the expansion board. I think it was 24 characters, but that's a lot of decades ago now.

Railway cables overpowered errant drone's compass and flung it back to terra firma

SImon Hobson Silver badge

Re: Relocating office...

all CRTs where flickering like hell whenever a train passed

Pa, that's nowt. Try welding current being passed through the frame of a steel portal building.

"A few" years ago, our offices were being expanded - the factory & warehouse kept moving along into new extensions, then office were extended into the newly vacated bits. The contractors decided on "belt and braces" so welded all the joints as well as bolting them. Cue 'kin big welding transformer with welding earth cable just clamped to the nearest bit of framework while the welder goes round all the joints. The magnetic field has "very interesting" effects on the CRT screen the other side of the wall - "wobbling" the picture right off the screen !


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