* Posts by Dr Paul Taylor

325 posts • joined 15 Jul 2009


Businesses should dump Windows for the Linux desktop

Dr Paul Taylor

Security: suits me if M$ dominates the market

The best protection against burglary is a neighbour with all the flashy stuff.

While M$ dominates the market, the crooks will put their effort into targeting Windoze machines.

What worries me more is that M$ may use their "secure" boot to force manufactures to prevent me from installing Linux on any computer that I have bought, as in this recent story.

Student crashes Cloudflare beta party, redirects email, bags a bug bounty

Dr Paul Taylor

third party mail handling

Sounds like yet another reason why you should never allow tech giants to mangle your email.

Europe passes sweeping antitrust laws targeting America's Big Tech

Dr Paul Taylor

A Brexit Opportunity, at last!

You can be sure that the "UK" "government" would have made sure that none of this would have happened.

Just in case anybody misinterprets that, I am in favour of this action by the EU Parliament and regret that I will not see the benefit of it.

Boris Johnson set to step down with tech legacy in tatters

Dr Paul Taylor

Yes Prime Minister

I didn't find it credible when Jim Hacker became Prime MInister, because (despite or because of supposedly having been a polytechnic lecturer) he didn't look like he had the intelligence.

I see now that I was wrong in believing that to be needed.

O tempora! O mores!

How to explain what an API is – and why they matter

Dr Paul Taylor

screen scrubbing

In the 1970s APIs were called modular programming. It was the essence of Unix.

Problem is, the teenagers who implement a lot of the gizmos on the Web care more about making their sites look pretty than providing information to others.

Besides this, there is a widespread attitude that "no robots must be allowed in", ie under no circumstances should other sites be allowed to build on "my" information.

For example, when Jamie Jones and I were implementing istopbrexit.info, I thought "we've got the user's postcode and that of this meeting, let's tell them how to get there". A site called traveline.info seemed to be providing passable public transport information, but I couldn't see how to feed postcodes to its interface.

When I enquired, they told me I had to pay £500 for a license. This is a pretty stupid attitude, because if they provided a simple API, more people would find out about their site (and see their ads).

As for Google maps, it's only for Californians who never get out of their cars. It lacks any detail for pedestrians. streetmap.co.uk is far superior in Britain and increasingly openstreetmap.org across the globe.

(We took istopbrexit.info down when the disaster happened, but also because the major anti-brexit organisations were determined to compete with me instead of cooperating, and for personal reasons. Unfortunately, the domain name was taken over by a porn site.)

US, Europe formally blame Russia for data wiper attacks against Ukraine, Viasat

Dr Paul Taylor

finishing line?

So where is the "finishing line" to which you want the Ukrainians to fight? Moscow? Vladivostok?

Napoleon and Hitler tried to invade Russia. Their best generals fought back - Generals Janvier and Février - who didn't even have nukes.

Besides, Putin is a street thug, who relates that he learned his most important lesson from a rat that he cornered when he was a kid. Inexplicably, I got downvoted for pointing that out before.

Слава України! nevertheless.

Putin reaches for nuclear option: Zuckerberg banned

Dr Paul Taylor

Mathias Rust managed to fly into Russia (in 1987).

As for Putin and Zuck - they were looking so well matched!

Finnish govt websites knocked down as Ukraine President addresses MPs

Dr Paul Taylor

Ipatiev House in Yekaterinburg

It was demolished in 1977, the operation being supervised by one Boris Yeltsin,

at least according to our old friend Wikipedia.

Russia (still) trying to weaponize Facebook for spying, Ukraine-war disinfo

Dr Paul Taylor

Re: Pull the plug , Scotty.

In previous wars it was necessary to dig tunnels into the enemy territory or fly over dropping (bombs and) leaflets. Both of these were highly dangerous operations.

For the first time in history we have a dense pre-installed network of cables (etc), through which the message could be delivered to the Russian people, about what is being done in their name to their Slav brothers and sisters and why the outside world its wrecking their economy.

All we need to do is to hijack some of the HTTP/port 80 outgoing connections from Russia. Maybe some clever Ukrainian geeks are already doing this.

Why do you want to do something so stupid as to destroy this system?

Biden says Russia exploring revenge cyberattacks

Dr Paul Taylor

"I am going down, I'll take everyone else with me."

Putin is fundamentally a street thug. Look up the story that he tells about chasing a rat when he was a boy.

Epson payments snafu leaves subscribers unable to print

Dr Paul Taylor

Re: So the moral of the story is...

No, the moral is, don't buy anything that is called "smart".

Boys outnumber girls 6 to 1 in UK compsci classes

Dr Paul Taylor

citation required

In Scandinavia they encourage women and girls to do anything they want. The result is less women taking up traditionally male-dominated subjects, not more.

Dr Paul Taylor

what careers do women want

I have found myself in this discussion many times before and it often descends into a shouting match.

To be objective about what the gender issues are in computer science we need to have some idea of what happens in the occupations that women choose instead of IT.

What about mid-wives? How many of them are men? Do they have soul-searching debates or shouting matches about how to encourage more boys to consider midwifery as a profession?

According the one conversation that I have ever had with a mid-wife, the ratio is 100:1.

(As a gay man, I have not had occasion to use their services.)

Nominet suspends 'single digit' number of Russian dot-UK domain registrars

Dr Paul Taylor

blowing raspberries

We have random companies imposing random sanctions (IT and otherwise) on random other companies with supposed links to Russia.

Nobody seems to be giving any thought to whether these sanctions have any effect, or whether there might be some other course of action that would be more effective.

This really just amounts to blowing raspberries (not even Pis) at Putin.

Supposedly we are fighting an economic war, because it's far too risky to fight a shooting war.

But we have no economic generals capable of planning that war.

Chip world's major suppliers of neon gas shut down by Ukraine invasion – report

Dr Paul Taylor

Re: Theres a bit of Neon in

the atmosphere.

Yes, it's produced by distillation of air. There's no other way.

So this could be done anywhere with a power supply. No excuse for there only being one source.

Enterprise IT finds itself in a war zone – with no script

Dr Paul Taylor

Cutting Russia off from the InterWebs is stupid

In past wars, getting your message to the population of the enemy country required flying over them and dropping leaflets.

The Internet and Web make this far easier. Just hijack (some) port 80 connections out of Russia and make people watch videos of the effects of bombing Ukraine and what captured conscripts think, before redirecting to the intended site.

But also bear in mind that all this will force dictators to be more IT-self-sufficient, so the effectiveness of such measures will be reduced next time round.

Taiwan, for example. China is taking notes.

Good: People can spot a deepfake video. Bad: They're not so hot with text

Dr Paul Taylor

why the politics?

I'd be more convinced if the "soundbites" were on topics about which the experimental subjects didn't already have opinions.

Cf BBC Radio 4's Unbelievable Truth panel game.

Ukraine invasion may hit chip supply chain – analysts

Dr Paul Taylor

Neon production

world's neon gas supply (I guess it leaks out of rocks there? or do they condense it out of the air with cryopumps?

According to Wikipedia it's condensed out of the air. (Anyone have a better citation?)

This could be done anywhere, with a good electricity supply. Iceland,maybe?

Study: AI detects backdoor-unlocking DNA samples

Dr Paul Taylor

Bobby Tables

Exactly, and it's frankly irresponsible of El Reg and the authors of this work to present this in this fashion, because when The Great Unwashed get hold of the story they will not apply the reasoning that Commentards can.

Its difficult enough already to get IT-illiterate bureaucrats to accept information from plain HTML webpages used in the way that Tim Berners-Lee intended; they demand it "as an email attachment", which is of course less secure.

I don't know anything about Stuxnet, but presumably it was programmed to recognise the characteristics ("hostname") of the Iranian equipment. The malware was in the code that did that recognition (and of course the security holes in the equipment), not in the "hostname" itself.

OK Bobby Tables shouldn't have had punctuation in his name, but we have no idea what stray "punctuation" there might be in DNA.

It does make me wonder, though, whether we might have a sample of Putin's DNA and could manufacture a drug (using the technology that gave us Covid vaccines) that would target him specifically.

US imposes sanctions as Russia invades Ukraine

Dr Paul Taylor

3 day week

The three day week was during the Tory government of Ted Heath. I remember going home from school in the dark. Get your history right.

Ubuntu applies security fixes for all versions back to 14.04

Dr Paul Taylor

Ain't broke, don't fix it

Ubuntu snap zoom-client wasn't broke on 25 January. Then it updated itself automatically and now its audio is broke. And there seems to be no old versions available to which to revert, even though snap provides a machanism for this.

Journalist won't be prosecuted for pressing 'view source'

Dr Paul Taylor

wilfully decode ASCII

Once upon a time I used to be able to read (binary ASCII from) punch tape.

Make assistive driving safe: Eliminate pedestrians

Dr Paul Taylor

A few minutes away

"Minute" is unit of time or angle, not distance.

According to Einstein, time and space are the same, the exchange rate being the speed of light.

Dr Paul Taylor

Re: On foot, on crutches, in wheelchairs

What a selfish entitled git you are!

As Dabbs says, pedestrianism is the natural state.

You should be banned for life from using your lethal metal box on wheels.

Use Zoom on a Mac? You might want to check your microphone usage

Dr Paul Taylor

Also no audio on Ubuntu Snap Zoom-client

I "went" to an online seminar on 24 Jan and Zoom worked fine. When I "went" to another one on 31 Jan there was no audio. Now it denies that I have either a mic or a speaker.

Apparently the Ubuntu "Snap" for zoom-client was automatically updated and there is no previous version available to which ti revert.

Does nobody test these things?

12-year-old revives Unity desktop, develops software repo client, builds gaming environment for Ubuntu...

Dr Paul Taylor

burn out

In the past this happened with maths rather than programming. Some very smart kid (usually boys but there's at least one famous girl) would do their A-levels at age 10, compete in the International Mathematical Olympiad and want to go to university at age 12.

They they would burn out.

One such student whom I knew was told to wait a year before starting university at 15, and then skipped the first year. He started a PhD but never finished it. He became a programmer and died of liver cancer at the age of 41.

There are other things to learn when you're 12 besides maths or programming.

Privacy Shield: EU citizens might get right to challenge US access to their data

Dr Paul Taylor

EU collecting personal data on USA citizens

That would only be possible if there were a Euromicrosoft and a Eurogoogle and a Eurofacebook and all the rest. But Europe has failed to create those things and so surrendered long ago. (As for the little island floating adrift in the Atlantic, it only knows how to lick American boots anyway.)

When forgetting to set a password for root is the least of your woes

Dr Paul Taylor

Re: Back in day with Unix NFS auto-mount

Some of us learned lessons like this when the world was innocent.

Hardware boffin starts work on simulation of an entire IBM S/360 Model 50 mainframe

Dr Paul Taylor


Cambridge University bought an IBM 360 in the 1970s. Since JCL is not fit for humans, they wrote an operating system called Phoenix, a scheduler called Eagle, a scripting language called Wren and lots of other bird-themed programs. Meanwhile, the top American universities were developing Unix and the FOSS world. I saw Knuth's TeXbook in a bookshop and asked, why can't we have clever software? Of course Phoenix was abandoned in the end. Such a tragedy that all of this intellectual effort went down the drain!

(Separate story) A friend of mine who had been to school in Moscow had an IBM360 manual in Russian, because the Soviet's had "emulated" it.

Email blocklisting: A Christmas gift from Microsoft that Linode can't seem to return

Dr Paul Taylor

Same with Google

My website and email are hosted by a small company (with which I have excellent first-name relations) who are in turn hosted by Linode. During 2020 my emails to Gmail and other Google-managed addresses was going astray, with no error reports or accessible blacklist. My hosting company gave me advice but couldn't fix it, so I re-routed my outgoing email. I don't know whether Google has yet un-blacklisted this IP address.

Nationwide Building Society's Faster Payments turn into Slower Payments for 2022

Dr Paul Taylor

cunningly scheduled the financial and tax year

Just as the width of our railway lines (and probably everyone else's) is derived from that of Roman carts (go to Pompeii to see the original ruts), so our tax year starts with the old Roman year on 26 March (Julian calendar). To make sure no-one lost out on rent, interest, etc, this became 6 April when adopted the Gregorean calendar, about 170 years after the southern half of Europe.

Who you gonna call? Premium numbers, but a not-so-premium service

Dr Paul Taylor


I used to have a phone number beginning 555 (Stratford, London E15). Americans wouldn't believe it was genuine. (Because they reserve 555 for helplines and TV shows.)

For a while I was getting "adult" calls, though most of them cut off when they heard a male voice. Eventually I persuaded one to explain where he'd got my number. It was in the Daily Star "newspaper", listed as "Mature Edin". So the callers were so dim that they were calling the wrong city. I did manage to get is stopped, but I forget how.

Academics horrified that administration of Turing student exchange scheme outsourced to Capita

Dr Paul Taylor

Re: Why Turing?

Until not so long ago, Turing was barely known to the population at large. That he has achieved seriously belated posthumous fame is a tribute to the massive amount of work done by Andrew Hodges and the late Barry Cooper. I don't know who led the campaign to get him on the fifty pound note. That the miserable brexiters abuse his legacy does not detract from it.

Dr Paul Taylor

Re: Why Turing?

As a gay great grand-student of Turing's, I am appalled that he was conscripted as a brexiter.

Google's 'Be Evil' business transformation is complete: Time for the end game

Dr Paul Taylor

Actually, what Laocoon said in Aeneid book II was "timeo Danaos, et dona ferentes" - "I fear the Greeks, even when they're bearing gifts". He and his sons were then eaten y a sea-serpent.

Sovereignty? We've heard of it. UK government gives contract to store MI5, MI6 and GCHQ's data to AWS

Dr Paul Taylor

Re: Amexit?

Some States tried to do Amexit c1860. Look what happened to them.

Nearly 140 nations – from US and UK to EU, China and India – back 15% minimum corporate tax rate

Dr Paul Taylor


Permanently blocked in NoScript, apparently without any problem.

Revealed: How to steal money from victims' contactless Apple Pay wallets

Dr Paul Taylor

Re: Colour me old fashioned

Yes, I saw exactly this happen. Moreover, the ticket inspector refused to identify herself, with the excuse that she had left her staff id card at home that day.

If it's going to rain within the next 90 mins, this very British AI system can warn you

Dr Paul Taylor

Re: Helpful solution to DIRECTION of rain

Is that moving back-and-forth or forth-and-back? Arrows (for the wind) would be clearer, and simpler to program.

Fake 'BT' caller fleeces elderly victim of £30k in APP app scam

Dr Paul Taylor


Ten years ago my father was in hospital with his terminal illness and my mother was in a care home with advanced Alzheimers.

One day I was on a bus that could have taken me to the hospital when I got a call with number withheld. I didn't take it because someone else was harrassing me and also withholding their number.

I subsequently worked out that it was the hospital telling me that my father was in danger for his life, although in fact he survived that particular incident.

So I very nearly missed seeing my father for the last time because of this stupid and unprofessional NHS policy.

Dr Paul Taylor

"security" questions

It should be a criminal offence to phone someone up and ask them "security" questions. I mean especially bank staff and management. It is precisely because banks do this that people are trained to answer them from scammers.

Is it OK to use stolen data? What if it's scientific research in the public interest?

Dr Paul Taylor

Re: No.

Several good examples have been posted on this page to illustrate that this question is far from being morally clear.

Dr Paul Taylor

when is collected data stolen?

Phyllis Pearsall compiled the original London A-Z maps (in part) by trudging the streets and copying down their names. Was this breach of the copyright of whoever made the street name signs? Probably not. If someone else reproduces her index, is that breach of copyright? Yes. The difference is the "added value" of her legwork.

Cecil Sharp collected folk songs from the west of England and published them. Was that breach of copyright? I think there was a case against him. Did he do a cultural service? Yes, because otherwise those songs would have been lost.

Ransomware-hit law firm secures High Court judgment against unknown criminals

Dr Paul Taylor


So, if this law firm were about to be flooded or burned down, would they deal with the problem by getting a court order against the water or fire?

On the other hand it is interesting legally if it sets a precedent that "papers" can be served by email.

In other news, apparently handing them to PC Plod guarding the respondent's home is not good enough.

The Register speaks to one of the designers behind the latest Lego Ideas marvel: A clockwork solar system

Dr Paul Taylor

More to the point, the orbital distances are way of scale. Necessarily.

The purpose of the measurement of the timing of the transit of Venus in Capt Cook's time was to discover the absolute scale of the Solar System.

(How Johannes Kepler knew the distance for one of his laws, I have no idea,)

Confessions of a ransomware negotiator: Well, somebody's got to talk to the criminals holding data hostage

Dr Paul Taylor

Re: A must listen to is the BBC File on 4 Podcast - Held to Ransom

I've seen this cycle too. I've even had cards posted through the door saying they came but I wasn't in -- even when I was in!

I don't tell them I don't have a TV, because it wouldn't save me any hassle. On the other hand, it would give them a name for a computer to generate a summons to a magistrate's court that couldn't attend because of covid.

Best just to ignore the threats.

Facebook used facial recognition without consent 200,000 times, says South Korea's data watchdog

Dr Paul Taylor

Re: So 26 million won is $22,000

For a long time, the unit of currency in Italy was the "mila".

Solar System's fastest-orbiting asteroid spotted, flies closer to the Sun than Mercury

Dr Paul Taylor

No, Russell's Teapot orbits between Earth and Mars. This is Vulcan. which is actually more important in the history of science.

Don't believe the hype that AI-generated 'master faces' can break into face recognition systems any time soon

Dr Paul Taylor

reverse engineering

All these comments are based on recognising faces as humans do. But we are talking about an algorithm, which inputs some bits and outputs some bits. If the input bits really do encode a face, the algorithm might recognise it. But it's still just looking at patterns of bits, in a fundamentally undocumented way. Maybe it could be triggered by a "master" pattern that would not be recognised by a human as a face.



Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022