* Posts by SImon Hobson

2205 posts • joined 9 Sep 2006

BT Wholesale wants the channel to give SMBs a nudge before copper sunset in 2025

SImon Hobson Silver badge

Re: Dear Mr OpenReach...

No big problem with the ubiquity of cheap and simple switch mode converters.

G7 countries outgun UK in worldwide broadband speed test

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I'm surprised that the USA does so well

Their figures are "well fudged".

They have a system rigged to make the numbers look good. If a single premises in a block can get a high speed service then the whole block is counted as having that speed available - even though they can't have it. If you search this site, you should find some articles about it.

Tests/research has proven that the official figures are about as real as ... OK, I can't think of a simile for how rubbish they are.

Talent shortage? Maybe it's your automated hiring system, lack of investment in training

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Re: Why is there a shortasge of candidates?

But that doesn't account for the adverts that want "5 years experience in ${new technology that only appeared 2 years ago}". So the only people that can pass the sift are the bullsh**ers - honest one's will get rejected for only having 2 years where 5 is required.

And it doesn't account for the adverts that want lots of experience in loads of different things - i.e. the sort of thing many of us could do after a few decades in the industry. But then you realise the pay is for a first line helldesk droid. So honest people fail the sift because they aren't experts in a gazzillion different things, experienced people don't apply because they can see through the bull**it, and only the bull**ers get through because they blatantly pad their CVs with "creative wording".

And as the bull**iters get more brazen, the hiring droids over-egg the requirements even more to compensate, and they stop even more capable and honest people from passing the sift.

Italian stuntman flies aeroplane through two motorway tunnels

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Re: Hopefully...

There are still use cases, but the usual problem is that you have to add on a chunk of time to get from where you want to start from to where you can start from, and similarly at the other end a chunk of time to get from where you can land to where you actually want to be.

At a previous job, we had a site on the Isle of Wight, and as you describe, getting from the north west to there was either a 3 day trip by other means, or a longish one day trip by light aircraft. For us though, the biggest hassle was the hour and a half drive to get to the airport at our end. And where I work now, they run their own mini airline flying a regular shuttle service around the country (but from a much nearer airport) simply because of the time it saves.

Think you can solve the UK's electric vehicle charging point puzzle? The Ordnance Survey wants to hear about it

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There was an (in)famous case of a call centre for a mobile network where planning permission severely restricted parking - as you say, to nudge people to other forms of transport. The obvious and predictable result was when it opened, all the local streets were clogged with parked cars.

So the data centre's 'getting a little hot' – at 57°C, that's quite the understatement

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Re: Power outages, UPS's and overheating

Oh, that sounds a bit familiar - but not on that scale.

But you raise a good point - it's no good providing a long runtime off a UPS if the systems are going to overheat from lack of cooling before the batteries give up.

At my last gig we used natural air cooling - a fan to draw air in, and another to blow the hot air out. As it took very little power, that was wired into the UPS. Running a big chiller plant would be a different prospect and, as you point out, just fixing the diesel genny is likely to be a better option.

But going back another job hat, I worked for a smallish giftware manufacturer. At the time we had a fair number of power cuts due to being on the end of a long rural electricity network. Each time we had a power cut, manglement would ask about the price of a diesel genny - what's the point of having backup for the server and phones if the lights and PCs are off in the offices ?

Each time the facilities manager would dust off the old quote from his drawer - choice of big genny, runs whole site; or little genny, runs specific services but needs investment in switching - and each time they'd decide (with the lights now back on and hence no obvious problem) it was too expensive.

SImon Hobson Silver badge

Re: A week without Aircon!

Seen something similar with a client a few years ago.

Small server room, one rack for servers, one for switches and cabling. One small AC system screwed on the wall. I knew the AC was suitable as before it had been installed, I had the client forward me the details so I could check it was suitable for the continuous use and very dry air - the manual was very detailed with it's performance tables for the various combinations of humidity and temperatures :-) All worked well for a couple of years - then we got a call from the client to say there was a lot of beeping from the server room, it was getting a tad warm in there.

So they propped the door open, and directed a fan to circulate air which kept it cool enough until the AC engineer could get there. The symptoms were a bit like the system had lost it's gas - there was hint of cooling, and then the unit tripped.

To be fair, the engineer did turn up in a reasonable time. But then declared that it was the wrong sort of system. When challenged he then declared that it was "the wrong sort of room" and too much heat was coming in through the ceiling - so the clients went and got a roll of insulation to put over the ceiling which, not surprisingly, made no difference.

After a few rounds of this sort fo thing, they phoned and asked for me as one of those "knows a bit about everything" people. I had a discussion with the AC engineer who was adamant that the system could never cool that room, and he didn't care that it had been working for a couple of years just fine because it can't have been.

So I rang the AC company, spoke to the service manager and (politely) expressed my opinion that the service tech was "not making sense", the service manager agreed with my opinion, and within a few hours the fault was found (stuck reversing valve) and the unit was fixed. But until then the client had been in a standoff with the AC tech who refused to accept there was anything wrong with the system. So just getting the tech on-site isn't necessarily the end of your troubles.

SImon Hobson Silver badge

Re: I once had to do something similar in a Skoda...

Well if we're swapping overheating car stories ... the icon illustrates what an overheated car can look like.

A while ago, a friend used to do off-road rallying, and at the time I drove a Discovery (an early 3 door V8 - the "pass anything but a petrol station" engine option, except this was converted to gas to make it vaguely affordable to feed). Normally I had no problem, but unknown to me the viscous coupling for the fan had failed. So off we went, having picked up the rally motor from his mates farm, and headed ... up Shap. Well actually, we overheated before we got to the bottom of Shap - the higher load and lower road speed towing another vehicle showed up the cooling problem.

Pulled over, diagnosed the problem, let it cool a bit and topped up the water - now what to do about the fan as we faced the climb up "that hill". Rummaged around, and found a piece of baler twine in the hedge. Wrapped the loose ends round the hub of pulley and put the resulting loop over a fan blade - then started up. Rotation just took up any slack and it gripped really well, driving the fan at full speed - noticeably noisier, but kept us cool for a few hundred miles up to Scotland, around the various stages for a couple of days, and back home again. Always keep a bit of baler twine lying around, it has many uses :-)

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Re: That reminds me...

When we arrived, the AC was iced up, literally, there was a block of ice hanging out the ventilation flap!

Common problem, and often caused by incorrect specification/selection of the cooling system - put another way, the air is too dry so it's iced up. I've had this conversation a few times, because it sounds crazy - how can the air being too dry cause ice formation ?

With a system designed for comfort cooling in a typical office environment, there will be a fair bit of water vapour in the air. As the air is cooled, the water will condense, and this takes a lot of energy extraction to do. As a result, for a given rate of heat extraction, the evaporator will run warmer than if it wasn't having to extract all that latent heat of evaporation from the water. If everything is within specs, then the evaporator will stay above freezing point (of water), and so the water will dribble out and go down the drain.

But put very dry air through that same system, and for the same (or less) energy extraction, the evaporator will now run a lot colder - and as a result, what water vapour does get condensed will freeze. As bits of ice will prevent airflow over/through localised bits of the evaporator, then those will get colder still as will the adjacent areas - thus the ice will get colder and harder. Left unchecked, this will continue until airflow is blocked completely by the ice, and the ice will be set "like concrete" in a now exceedingly cold evaporator. The best way to deal with this is by turning off the compressor but keeping the fan running - if that's possible. This will (unless things really are completely blocked) pull above-freezing air over the heat exchanger, warming it up and melting the ice. Better systems will detect such conditions and automatically defrost the heat exchanger - whether that's in the inside unit in cooling mode, or the outdoor unit in heating mode, many don't (I've seen a building with a whole wall full of "blocks of ice" !)

Apple's bright idea for CSAM scanning could start 'persecution on a global basis' – 90+ civil rights groups

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Re: Naked babies

So I am a loving father of two kids, and yes I have naked pics of them in the bath, in the pool etc

As will many, probably almost all, parents. It's normal and one could argue that not having such photos would be abnormal.

BUT in the UK it's illegal - and it's a strict liability offence meaning that there is no allowance for "but it's just being a normal parent" or any other similar defence. So technically, being a loving and normal parent could end up with you on the sex offender register, your life turned upside down, your family torn apart, etc, etc. Even the files not being accessible to you, or being files you don't knwo the existence of, isn't technically a defence.

Even if at some point the police of CPS decide not to pursue the case, you'll have had all your computers taken for examination (don't worry, you'll get them back ... sometime ... perhaps a few years later ... and maybe even still working), you'll have lost your job because no employer want to be seen employing a known paedophile, you'll never be able to go anywhere without the neighbours looking at you in a "funny way" because clearly there's no smoke without fire, and the kids will be traumatised by all that's going on. But that's OK, it's all done because "think about the kids".

And no-one can argue that such a situation is absurd - because to argue against any measure brought in to "think about the kids" must mean that you are thinking about the kids in the wrong way. That's how things like this happen - the wedge goes in, and bit by bit it's driven in harder and harder, and people argue "think about the kids" until it's too late to get the wedge out when they realise what a crazy situation they've created.

Zoom incompatible with GDPR, claims data protection watchdog for the German city of Hamburg

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Re: Great Data Purging Revolution

I couldn't decide whether to upvote you for the first bit. or downvote you for the second - so I've done neither.

I believe that GDPR has done something for privacy, just not as much and as fast as many had hoped. I believe it will come sooner or later.

The problem which you point out, that none of the big suspects such as FaecesBorg have been fined yet is that technically they haven't broken the law - because they've used mechanisms that have officially been endorsed by the authorities. First it was Safe Harbour until Shrems I killed that, then the hurriedly cobble together Privacy Figleaf until Shrems II killed that. But with the latter, there's still this "grey zone" while TPTB work out what to do. They can't ignore it, but equally there's a lot of pressure to avoid completely killing trans Atlantic trade - which would harm us as much as it would harm the US.

But in the interim, many services have improved their contractual terms and don't sell you without your permission - though that doesn't get round government snooping. Long term I think we'll see many more setting up the web of separate legal entities and technical barriers such that you'll be able to sign up for a service, and have some confidence in the data staying within the EU.

At the moment there isn't that confidence (at least amongst those with a memory longer than that of a goldfish), because Microsoft demonstrated the day after the CLOUD act was passed into law that people in the US could access and copy data from a server located in Ireland. Because of the complex way connections (especially for authentication) bounce around the globe, I'm not sure Microsoft can provide that guarantee with their current setup regardless of what they might claim publicly.

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Re: The fundamental problem

...it offered no real protection in the face of overriding federal law allowing government agencies access to personal data regardless of the terms of contracts between the parties to data transfers

Which is the key point.

We all knew Privacy Figleaf Shield was dead as soon as it was announced. But hey, it bought people another 5 years while Shrems II worked it's way through the system. No doubt TPTB will come up with another grand sounding scheme that everyone can sign up to - and it'll buy another 5 years while Shrems III grinds through the mill and that scheme gets tossed out.

But ultimately, there is a fundamental incompatibility between EU and US law - unless one or both change their law significantly then there will never be a system which withstands scrutiny. I don't believe the EU will change, let's face it, there's enough member countries that understand (thanks to events within living memory) the importance of privacy. And I can't see the US government upsetting the corporate sponsors that bankroll the elected members' ...

So I think we can look forward to "son of Privacy Figleaf" followed by Schrems III; then "son of son of Privacy Figleaf" followed by Schrems IIII; then ...

SImon Hobson Silver badge

So why they do seem to insist on using Zoom is unclear to me

It's there, it's reasonably priced, it's fairly easy to use - and also, I've found that it's fairly easy on system resources on my aging old laptop.

It's time to decentralize the internet, again: What was distributed is now centralized by Google, Facebook, etc

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Re: Bullshit article premise

You don't have to use them, use a non-conglomerate outlet.

And here we see another area where you have to admit that Amazon spotted an opportunity and went for it.

As a shopper, people are now used to going to the larger places, where there's parking, and lots of shops all together. Sure, they can still go to the high street - struggle to park miles from where they want to be, and trudge in the rain from one shop to another until they find what they want.

But many, much to the detriment of the high street, realised that they can drive a few miles out of town, park easily, and spend the day in the dry with everything they could want for sale.

So as a seller, you have a choice. You can stay on the high street and hope that enough people will brave the poor parking, and the weather, and ... and shop with you. Or you can go and open up in the shopping centre where many of your customers have gone. The reality now is that if you aren't on Amazon and eBay then it doesn't matter how good your (online) shop is, you will be missing out on a lot of potential customers.

So you have to pay to built your own systems to sell to fewer customers; or you can pay to use systems built by someone with massive economies of scale to sell to more customers. But apart from anything else, if you choose the latter, then your landlord is also your competitor and is helping himself to all your sales data to help them compete effectively with you.

Apart from prohibiting the combination of "being the landlord" and "competing with your tenants"; I'm not sure how anyone could put the "massive outfit outcompetes anything smaller" genie back in the bottle.

SImon Hobson Silver badge

Re: Bullshit article premise

This is why Amazon makes lots of money, because other people are incompetent at selling their stuff. They put all sorts of obstacles in the way of you giving them money.

That is only a small part of it.

If all Amazon did was act as a well oiled online market hall (or shopping centre, or mall for our US friends), then that would be OK. But it's more like Amazon being the owners of the only market hall in your town - if you want to sell in your town, then you have to be in the market hall that people in your town go to. So far, not a problem.

Where it becomes a problem is that they not only own the market hall, they have their own stall. Again, not automatically a problem.

But they also require that if you sell in their market hall, you must use exclusively their systems so that they can see who your customers are, what you sell, and how much you sell it for. No, is there anyone who can't see a problem with one vendor having access to all the sales information for all of it's competitors ?

So the situation with Amazon is that it has visibility of what everyone else sells, how much for, and to whom. They can let others bring new products to market, and based on real data (not having to do their own research) decide whether it's something they can profit from - and if they do decide they can profit, they immediately know who is buying it and for how much, so can set predatory pricing. And of course, they are in a position to push their own offerings up the search rankings and thsu ensure that their offerings are seen first.

In short, Amazon are in a position where they have an unfair advantage over all the independents using their site, and that allows them to use predatory tactics to ensure that no-one else can be "too successful". And this is brought about because they are both the market hall operator and a stall holder in their own right - and have no isolation to prevent the stall holder part having an unfair advantage from seeing all the data from the other stall holders.

Amazon's size would be of significantly less a problem if they didn't have this duality - if they either didn't have their own stall in the market, or if their stall holder operation was properly separate from the market hall operations. But properly ensuring such a separation is a difficult task at the best of times - when you have an organisation that's as happy to sail close to the wind (if not past it) regarding legal obligations, then it would be near impossible to enforce.

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Re: Bullshit article premise

You might think that, but if it all stopped working today, you'd find out how much of what you use regularly has that sort of stuff behind the scenes.

Beige Against the Machine: The IBM PC turns 40

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Re: "agile" or "faster"?

Indeed, OS/2 Warp was ahead of it's time - too far ahead and the hardware couldn't really do it justice. IIRC full multi-tasking and 32 bit at a time when Windows was some 32 bit extensions to some 16 bit graphics shell, running on an 8 bit OS from a 2 bit company :D

But that meant the hardware requirements were "hefty", and when run on the sort of setup most people could afford, it was "a bit slow". One can only imagine how it might have fared had it been released a year or two later and allowed hardware specs/prices to develop a bit.

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Re: Crime against humanity

Possibly, but more likely it would just have led to a different empire rising - based on DR-DOS. Just think if Gary Kildall had met with the IBM suits that day ...

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Re: expansion slots

Indeed, there were many systems with busses - the Apple ][ was well known, and in education circles the RM380Z was also well known (as were the rubber bands that kept it working !)

But what people forget is that IBM didn't actually design it. AIUI they basically took the data sheet for the processor, looked at the reference design given in that, and built it - and bought in the software to make it work. But for IBM where programmer productivity was measured in how many lines of code you could add to something, actually fitting working code into such a small footprint (i.e. persuading programmers to remove boat rather than add to it) must have been quite a culture shock.

But shortly after the PC came out, I started work in the stereotypical IBM shop. "Information Services" was god when it came to anything to do with processing information. So if you wanted to do that, you had to apply and justify having a terminal off their mainframe - for which you paid them rent as well as paying for all the storage and processing time you used. In our place, you could easily spend a year in the queue to get a terminal.

But this was also when I was getting into computers, and I was friends with the local Apple dealer. He told me that he kept a stock quote to hand for an Apple ][ - and told anyone from this big company who enquired that a) they'd not be allowed to buy it (they weren't), and b) they'd get their terminal within a week (they did). The moment anyone put in for permission to buy an Apple ][ to get their work done, on the basis that the IS dept. hadn't provided them with a terminal in [some long time measured in months], magically they've go right to the top of the list and the terminal would be on a desk within the week. It really was like that - the IS dept did it's utmost to block anyone buying anything without a blue badge on it.

And THAT is why the PC (which bluntly was rubbish compared to the Apple ][, Commodore PET, and even the TRS 80, took off - because of all those big corporates who would then buy it simply because of the badge.

Where I worked, our small development group got a Compaq 286. It took some effort and the question was basically "justify why you can't do it with an IBM" - not can you do it better/worse or anything like that, but could you do it at all. We fluffed about needing some feature for our programming and embedded systems development and managed to get it passed. But the Compaq, for less money, gave us more ram, bigger hard drive, bigger floppies (yeah, remember when you could get 1.2M on a 5 1/4" floppy !), ... but we still struggled to justify spending less money for more capability on something without a blue badge.

The history of those days is quite interesting to study. But for a mere quirk/misjudgement, we could have been running DR-DOC and Microsoft would have remained a small outfit selling compilers.

Apple is about to start scanning iPhone users' devices for banned content, professor warns

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Re: That's instant jail for whoever tries that in Switzerland

But didn't you read that gazzilion page long licence agreement before clicking "I've read and accept it" ? Somewhere it'll ask for permission, and you'll have explicitly given them permission to do this. So potentially completely legal under GDPR.

I say "potentially" because GDPR also prohibits burying stuff like this in long agreements, and also prohibits making such acceptance a requirement where it's not actually required for the product or service to work. Look up how long Max Schrems has been going at FaecesBorg for - and that's probably how long you can wait for any practical enforcement action.

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Re: "scanning individual users' iPhones"

They just have to put in in the "no-one has a couple of days spare to read it all" agreement you have to sign before any modern stuff works and it becomes legal - as in "we can do it, we asked for permission (on page 273 of 425 pages) and you said yes".


The UK is running on empty when it comes to electric vehicle charging points

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Re: Perhaps a hybrid would be a better solution?

and is most difficult to restart if it does fail completely

Indeed, and they learned that lesson the hard way back in the 1940s - i.e. too long ago for most people, and definitely any engineers still working, to remember. I note that according to Wikipedia, Drax was opened in the late 70s, so it's no wonder the engineer writing that doesn't remember a "real" nationwide black start.

It's a tale my dad used to recall when a suitable subject prompted it.

When they built the grid, they'd worked on the assumption that "there'll always be power" - and most of the power stations were designed on that basis. As that article points out, power station need power in order to start up - to run control systems, pumps, fans, etc, etc. So when we had a nationwide blackout - it was " a bit of a problem" getting things going again.

AIUI they had to manually visit substations, disconnecting loads so that what power stations could start up could power up the grid without being overloaded by everyone wanting their lights back on. Thus, they could route power to the blacked out stations can get them online - finally reconnecting loads as power became available.

After that, they had a program of retrofitting small gas turbines at most power stations to provide power for a black start. As a bonus, these were later useful for peak lopping - this was when the bulk of generation was coal which is slow to respond, and TV was watched live so when the ad-breaks came, millions of kettles went on at once.

Sadly I can't find any references to this online - my searches either come up with modern events, or wartime stories.

I've got a broken combine harvester – but the manufacturer won't give me the software key

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Re: I do wonder how much it would cost

A half penny, a.k.a. ha'penny, usually pronounced 'hay penny'.

For those of us with a few years under our belt, a ha'penny would be a token small amount of money - and when I were a lad, it was the smallest coin in circulation. A penny (pre-decimalisation) being one 240th of a pound, or a 12th of a shilling (a.k.a."a bob", equivalent to 5p in new money).

And there used to be a common phrase back in the day that someone would "spoil the ship for a ha'penneth of tar" - meaning that cheapskating on basics (tar being a material used in waterproofing ships) and spoiling something much more valuable than what has been saved.

Here endeth todays etimology lesson from a grumpy old git.

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Re: End user options

But the majority of users just don't get that. Until you get away from "new phone each year, subsidised by the network, throw (or give) the old ones away" attitude from many people, then things won't change.

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Re: There's another reason Apple is linking camera modules to phones

As cars go all electric I expect we will see the same linkages of parts to the car's serial number

I've got news for you, you're a decade or two behind the times there - some stuff has been like that for a long time. Modern (and some not so modern) cars are networks of many computers, and some manufacturers have gone down that very route - you can't (for example) just grab a replacement ECU from a crappy and drop it in, it needs coding to the rest of the ECUs so they'll talk to it.

Again, some of this is security - no (as a thief) overriding the "engine won't run because it's in securely locked mode" by simply swapping out the ECU and then driving away. But some of it is to drive business to authorised repairers.

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Re: A contrarian view

Have an upvote, because however unpopular the view, I agree with it.

Firstly, too many consumers are concerned with just two things - how many bells and whistles, and how cheap ? Building something that's easily and economically repairable, and which will last (say) 20 years does cost more than something that's designed to be cheap to manufacture - and when consumers will buy your competitors model for (say) 10% less if you do design it to be long lasting, then you are quickly into niche markets where the difference is a lot more than 10%.

And I agree on the reliability argument. People complain about how the British car manufacturing industry collapsed a few decades ago. You don't need to look hard to see why - "Friday afternoon" cars that did well to make it off the forecourt, "variable" build quality in general, unreliable (hence your dad carrying tools and spares with him), and lets not get into supply issues when the union guy shouted "all out" !

Then the Japanese arrived with what were pretty boring cars - but which didn't (mostly) fit the description of "if you listen carefully, that's the sound of it rotting away" (which seemed to fit some Italian marques very well), and which you could generally trust to get you from A to B when you wanted to go there and without adding a few hours roadside tinkering contingency time.

I inherited my late father's car a few years ago, It's a common Japanese model, not very exciting, but apart from the usual stuff (brake pads & disks, alternator, usual service stuff) it's still going reliably at 15 years old.

So yes, there's a flip side to this "hard to fix at the roadside" stuff - it's also far less likely to need fixing than it used to.

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Re: Alas

No, they'll reply that the sensor needs replacing, and once it's replaced then the machine will be perfectly fine. And the reason the machine stopped because of sensor failure - we'll that's to protect your investment by avoiding engine damage that could have occurred had the machine continued to operate when it was obviously overheating.

It's a perfectly valid response to a claim that "a part broke".

"Not fit for purpose" would come into it if parts kept breaking during reasonable use.

And the manufacturer not being able to cope with demand for repairs in a timely fashion is also not a valid cause for "not fit for purpose".

Now if there were (say) a wheel slip sensor and it stopped the machine because a wheel was slipping - then that would be a valid "not fit for purpose" reason given that agricultural tractors need to operate in a variety of conditions, many of which have restricted grip.

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Re: Americans throw away 416,000 cell phone

I didn't have kittens down as a typical Japanese menu item. OK, I'll get my coat ...

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Re: I do wonder how much it would cost

It would cost, therefore it won't be done - end of discussion. Mass production is all about shaving 1/2d off here, 1/2d off there - and over time all those 1/2ds add up.

That only changes if the manufacturer gets found out doing something that affects it's reputation badly enough to affect sales, or it gets caught out doing something illegal and gets fined, or it simply shaves a 1/2d too far and it's warranty costs explode (perm any one or more of those - bonus losses for a hat trick).

And don't forget that we also have to thank our governments for some of it. Taking just one aspect - emissions. Over the years governments have screwed down allowable emissions - past the point where anyone who understood reality was telling them that it was going to be either impossible or very expensive to meet them. Result, we've had several manufacturers caught designing systems to pass the tests without necessarily having the same emissions in real use. In practical terms, it was inevitable as the standards are (AIUI) virtually impossible to meet in any generic real-world way.

And speaking personally, I think it's hard to say any of the manufacturers (whether you include all those doing it, or just the ones who've been caught) have broken the law - because the law simply says "you must meet this spec which requires these emissions limits under these conditions". If the law doesn't say anything about limits under other conditions, then it's not breaking the law to not meet those non-existant limits. But I'm digressing.

Once over, a regular "tune up" was normal - either the owner or a mechanic would check and adjust the points, the timing, and the mixture, along with replacing some parts (points, plugs) as necessary. Then in teh name of emissions control, we started seeing seals on the adjusting points for carbs. and it's been downhill ever since in terms of sealing adjustments off from those who would tinker with them - and affect emissions. And of course, the modern electronically controlled engine needs lots of sensors to be working properly - so when a sensor fails (no matter how cheap or non-essential) then the control system needs to deal with that. If it puts on the MIL (malfunction indicator lamp, a.k.a. engine warning light) then that's one thing - but when it brings a harvest to a standstill then that's another.

SImon Hobson Silver badge

That was my thought when I read "$10k" losses.

It would not take too many claims for that to "educate" manufacturers in the error of their ways.

In the UK we have the "Unfair terms in Consumer Contract Regulations" (UTCCR) which can make a variety of contract terms automatically void - basically anything which removes a consumer's rights under various other laws is automatically void. And useful they can be if you know your way around and are prepared to make a fuss.

Unfortunately, UTCCR only applies to consumers - businesses are assumed to know how to negotiate a contract. Unfortunately, if the choice is "own a tractor and be able to farm" vs "not own a tractor and not be able to farm" then negotiation over terms such as "if it breaks and you lose all your crop because we screwed you over, and you agree that we aren't in the least bit liable" is going to be a very short negotiation. We also have a legal principle that it's possible for a court to set aside some contract term if the court is satisfied that the contract wasn't arrived at by a "meeting of minds" because one side had all the "negotiating" power - but I suspect the threshold for that is fairly high.

Scam-baiting YouTube channel Tech Support Scams taken offline by tech support scam

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Deleted his own account ? That must have been a really REALLY good scammer.

Google promises its days as a cold-eyed API-killer are behind it

SImon Hobson Silver badge

Trust ?

Hmm, does anyone actually trust Google not to do whatever is best for Google at any time regardless of what it might do to the rest of the world ? It always seems to me that working with any of these big outfits is a bit like being a male Black Widow spider at mating time, it might be good while it lasts, but you're in trouble once your mate decides you are no longer useful.

There used to be a joke going around in the 90s : How many Microsoft people does it take to change a lightbulb ? None, they simply change the industry standard to dark ! This seems to apply very well to Google these days.

South Korea tables law to remove app stores' in-app purchase monopolies

SImon Hobson Silver badge

Re: I don't get how this works

Well the logical result if Google etc don't play ball is that they find the market in that country closed to them. S Korea might be a small country, but you can be sure that none of the big corporations want to see the precedent that they can be banned entirely - just think how many other countries would be thinking "well it worked there, perhaps we should do it too".

Not to mention, the possibility of the companies employees (especially senior execs) being forever unable to visit that country because of the risk of being arrested.

But if it does pass, you can be sure there'll be brinkmanship and a PR offensive.

LibreOffice 7.2 release candidate reveals effort to be Microsoft-compatible

SImon Hobson Silver badge

Re: "improve import and export compatibility with Microsoft Office"

Actually, I don't think it's as prescriptive as that. It;s entirely possible to allow for a standard to be extensible - and I vaguely recall the open standards support that. That's one of the beauties of properly structured standards and file formats - it's possible to support additional features which older versions of the software (or different packages) might not be able to understand, without making that file un-openable to the other version.

Unfortunately ISO would have been powerless to stop it. All MS had to do, and did do, was pay enough people to volunteer for the relevant national standards body committees and vote it through. In doing so they also crippled said standards bodies for a while as the paid shills then didn't take part and so many committees were left without a quorum to do other work.

SImon Hobson Silver badge

Re: "improve import and export compatibility with Microsoft Office"

More to the point, it is against MS's interests to have compatibility. They need incompatibility because if users had a choice of software, then MS would have lost it's grip. So it is vitally important to MS that no other package can import/export with high fidelity an MS document - and I'm sure that if anyone every achieves it, they'll change the standard to break it. it's what they've always done, and I can't see them changing.

Office Open XML is an example of the finest non-standard money can buy by stuffing national standards bodies. it really should have been rejected, and would have been had MS not stuffed the committees with paid shills to approve it. It's (as the article mentions) not implementable, and it not possible to build (an independent) compliance test for the same reason. Now, if only a few large governments had turned round and demanded MS subject their own products to an independent test of standard compliance - that would have been interesting, but I guess MS would simply have paid an "independent" to create a test that passed everything regardless.

Very old joke alert ! How many MS people does it take to change a light bulb ? None, they just change the industry standard to dark. That's always been their approach to standards, and I don't see the leopard changing it's spots.

Open-source dev and critic of Beijing claims Audacity owner Muse threatened him with deportation to China in row over copyright

SImon Hobson Silver badge

Re: Illegal bootleg of the 'Pirates of the Caribbean' theme

But it's not theft. Theft is clearly defined (in the UK at least) as "intentionally depriving the rightful owner of their property". He hasn't done anything like that - the files are still there.

It's more akin to leaving your back door open, and someone pops in and takes photographs of your artwork hung on the wall. You still have your artwork, it's just that someone else now has photos of it.

As to the original article ...

I'm divided on this. Muse are in a difficult position - they are required to try and protect their own and others' intellectual property, amongst other reasons because otherwise copyright holders will rightly tell them where to go. But I think it's quite restrained in pointing out the error of Tang's ways to him without involving the law - and lets face it, many other businesses would have gone into "full on lawyer mode" for less. And I'm inclined to suggest that Tang needs to be careful given the situation he is in - whether anyone likes it or not, if he is found to have broken the law then he faces having to leave.

Poking a hornets nest in his home country (especially knowing what China is like with dissidents), and then poking a hornets nest in his current host country, doesn't seem like a good course of action to me.

Not picking sides, simply commenting on what I see.

Engineers' Laurel and Hardy moment caused British Airways 787 to take an accidental knee

SImon Hobson Silver badge

Lucky there weren't injuries. IIRC in a previous incident of that sort, the sudden change in attitude meant that a pallet rolled forward and caused significant injuries to the loadmaster.

How many Brits have deleted life-saving track and trace app from their phones? No idea, junior minister tells MPs

SImon Hobson Silver badge

Re: The greatest hoax ever

Well for one data point, I've had 3 or 4 PCR tests so far - all negative so 100% not positive. How does that fit with your claim of 100% false positive ? I know others in the same situation.

Yes, there is a false positive rate, and there is a false negative (or selectivity) rate as well. No, I;m not going to try and explain it to someone who clearly has no interest in (or it seems, connection with) reality.

I assume you are probably following the idiots who have read "PCR can find anything" and misinterpreted as meaning it can find something even if it's not there, instead of what is meant, that it can find something even if it's only there in tiny amounts. Bear in mind that some people have an interest in "misinterpreting" things in a way that will support some agenda - an agenda which is very different from one of "wouldn't it be nice is we were honest and actually gave a s**t about each other".

Vaccines are not exactly a new phenomena, and have been proven effective over many decades - and how they work (not modifying the host's DNA) is well known. We've more or less eliminated smallpox, polio, measles, rubella, and a few others - all of which used to cause massive loss of life and/or debilitation. Again, they do have risks, small risks which are really very much outweighed by the harms they avoid. Sadly, there is a section of society that is unable to look at history and see what things used to be like before we had vaccinations against these infectious diseases.

The rest of your rant is ... nothing but more of the same male bovine manure. Pity I can only give you one downvote.

Restoring your privacy costs money, which makes it a marker of class

SImon Hobson Silver badge

Re: Privacy is free!

Few people are worried about someone recognising them in the street - we all grew up with that and the expectations that come with it

That's not people are bothered about. The current situation is more akin to having a vast army of people with clipboards following your every move, and I mean every move ... Went to loo, took 8 min 23 seconds, and it was a bit of a stinker. Had nooky with mistress, took ... I think you get the picture. If your neighbours were that nosy, I think that quite a few people would have a problem with it.

And even in a village, you have some control over what the neighbours see. On the internet, control is all but taken away even if you try and have nothing to do with the evil empires. For example, I have nowt to do with FaecesBorg - but I know that people I do know are using WhatsApp, and that WhatsApp will have illegally persuaded them that illegally handing over my details (home address, phone numbers, etc).

The thing is, had FaecesBorg "done the right thing" and offered a paid-for option without the nastiness then some of us would probably taken them up on it - yes, I can see the value of (some bits of) it's service. If they offered it now then it would be a case of "you expect anyone to trust you at all now ?". They could have built a good service legally - but they've actively done it the illegal and evil way so there's no way anyone would trust them now.

SImon Hobson Silver badge

I use ( and need) to synchronise my calendar between my phone and PC


A while ago I had to find alternatives when Apple removed Sync Services from OS X and my previous solution of Missing Sync for Android (and before that, Missing Sync for Palm) stopped working. Yes, it takes effort to install and run, but if you value privacy then it's worth it - your data, on your system, with your backup schedule, etc.

Still haven't found alternatives for some of the functions, but it got the basics (like Calendar) sorted - and far better than I had before.

The coming of Wi-Fi 6 does not mean it's time to ditch your cabled LAN. Here's why

SImon Hobson Silver badge

Re: This months of work from home showed too....

Powerline ethernet should be taken out the back and shot - it's illegal, the vendors know it, but for various reasons the various public bodies that should have stopped it in the first place have put a lot of effort into finding reasons why it's "not my problem". https://www.ban-plt.org.uk/fuss.php

OK if you don't care about you own use of radio, TV, internet* ... and you live at least 1/2 mile from anyone else. Otherwise it's the equivalent of putting the living room stereo up to 15 because you CBA to find a portable radio to take into the garden - but all the neighbours are stuck with your choice of noise regardless of what they might to listen to (which might be "quiet").

SImon Hobson Silver badge

Re: This months of work from home showed too....

... we struggled to find properties that had structured cabling, even with new builds

I would suggest that "especially with new builds" would be a more appropriate description. Until you get into "high end, custom fit" new build, then the rule is "can we save 1/2p ? Yes ? Then do it !" applied to all aspects - so insulation down to the minimum the architect could get past building control, the ground floor concrete slab is unheated to ensure that your feet will always be cold, electrics will be the minimum they think people will tolerate, and communications might be a token phone socket next to the TV point in the living room.

Had the conversation with the vendor of a new build my mother looked at a few years ago - and got the response "it's all wireless these days" - and when people did get phone lines installed, they'd have a washing line from a pole and down the side of the house because putting ducting in would have cost money. For good measure, everything in new builds is done to make maintenance (such as adding the stuff they CBA to fit) is as hard as possible - gone are the days of easily lifting a few floor boards to run cables.

Trouts on a plane: Utah drops fish into lakes from aircraft and circa 95% survive

SImon Hobson Silver badge

Re: wondering

I was wondering if any of them were thinking on the way down ... "so big and round ... I'll call it ground ... I wonder if it'll be friends with me ?"

Microsoft broke British and European competition laws, UK reseller tells High Court

SImon Hobson Silver badge

Re: Imagine if they did this with books

Hmm, I now have the Mission Impossible tune in my head ...

This book will self destruct in 2 weeks - read fast !

I suspect that if they thought they could get away with it, they would.

After 15 years and $500m, the US Navy decides it doesn't need shipboard railguns after all

SImon Hobson Silver badge

Re: It’s not 15 years

Diesel is really, really hard to make go "BANG"

Hmm, actually there are some very easy ways to get a tankfull of liquid fuel to go bang in a very big way. Go and find some photo of a plane crash - the sort where it's gone into the ground at high speed, such as Lockerbie. The 'kin great big linear craters weren't created by something scooping the earth, they're the result of the big bang as however many tons of Jet A1 in the wing tanks came to a sudden stop, with the corresponding spike in pressure.

As the aircraft accident investigator who's talk I had the pleasure of attending a few years ago put it, when an aircraft dives into the ground it first concertina's in until the fuel tanks reach the ground. The fuel then goes bang, with the blast driving all the front end bits hard into the ground, and shreds all the tail end following it down and turns it into confetti.

Put a HE shell into a fuel tank and I rather doubt it's going to just go "pfft" like throwing a match onto a tray of diesel would. Not quite the same thing, as getting a big tank to do 500mph to standstill in 5 feet, but once that HE shell goes off there's going to be some very high pressures around, followed in very short order by a large quantity of now atomised fuel mixing with the air in the surrounding compartments/tanks/outside of the ship.

SImon Hobson Silver badge

Re: It’s not 15 years

Indeed, a mind numblingly high electrical power for a very short time, and at currents which even if handled carefully are likely to cause some electromagnetic issues to nearby systems and disturbances to power supplies. On this, I recall that at teh JET project at Culham, they had to install a couple of large flywheel generators to create the (relative to the railgun, moderate) power pulses needed to fire the system - otherwise they'd have causes massive power quality problems across the UK.

And of course, yet another demonstration that electrical power might be good for many things, but it's hard to compete with the energy density and "recharge speed" of chemical energy storage (a.k.a. chemical propellants).

Google has second thoughts about cutting cookies, so serves up CHIPs

SImon Hobson Silver badge

Does seem like another "lets break the internet and everyone else will fall into line because we're too big to fight with" idea from Google. I was going to rattle off a list of examples, but then realised I don't have time in the day for that !

You can hijack Google Cloud VMs using DHCP floods, says this guy, once the stars are aligned and...

SImon Hobson Silver badge

Re: It seems to me

You're missing how the server knows what position it is in. It can be done using ... ooh, some form of dynamic provisioning protocol like ... ooh, DHCP. But then you're back to the original problem of protecting systems from rogue DHCP.

But once you get to the size of network where management is "a thing", then it's not too hard to block & detect rogue DHCP packets - it's a common feature on switches once you get out of the mud at the bottom of the feature pond.

This always-on culture we're in is awful. How do we stop it? Oh, sorry, hold on – just had another notification

SImon Hobson Silver badge

Re: Not office hours? No contact

I agree, remote wipe of company data is a great idea. But remote wipe of my device and all MY data is a different thing altogether. Incidentally I once tried that with Outlook and my work account at my last place - same thing, needed to be an admin with the ability to wipe the device so didn't happen.

Why won't you copper-ate? Openreach offers capped fibre line rental to wholesalers in bid to shift all that FTTP

SImon Hobson Silver badge

Re: I really hate this

But none of that argument makes sense for Openretch's fibre network.

It makes sense for xDSl services as there's a direct tradeoff between frequencies used for downlink vs frequencies used for uplink. Before FTTC came along, we had customers (at my last job) on Annex M ADSL to get a higher uplink speed.

Given the inherent bandwidth capacity of fibre, and that I'd be really surprised if they weren't using pairs of fibres everywhere but the last drop, it's hard to see any reasonable technical reason for the asymmetry. So basically it comes back to the marketing people in "punters are used to it, most are gullible enough not to question it, so we'll artificially screw up residential connections just so we can charge more for non-screwed-up lines" mode.


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