* Posts by Ball boy

311 publicly visible posts • joined 10 Aug 2009


Crowning glory of GOV.UK websites updated, sparking frontend upgrades

Ball boy Silver badge

If they *really* want to improve the experience....

They should start by dragging their services into the modern age. I recently had to use DVLA (UK vehicle and driver database) to update my address and here's the message from their front page:

Use this service to change the address in your log book to a new UK address.

This service is available from 7am to 8pm.

What the heck? Does this mean any overly fast driving at night won't result in a ticket because their database is having a little nap? ;)

ChatGPT starts spouting nonsense in 'unexpected responses' shocker

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The solution is simple

What we need to do is pass the output from these LLM's to a human operator - let's call them editors - who can check the text for errors, plagiarism, copyright issues and so on. If the subject matter is beyond their comprehension, they can call on someone else - a subject matter specialist, perhaps - who will be able to draw on their experience in the field.

Oh, hold on...


Dave's not here, man. But this mind-blowingly huge server just, like, arrived

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And there's me thinking...

DR stood for Disaster Recovery. Turns out, it means Dope Repayment. Who knew? ;)

Southern Water cyberattack expected to hit hundreds of thousands of customers

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Re: They've known about this for 3 weeks

As the communication posted by AC reads:

Southern Water takes its data protection and information security responsibilities to you seriously, and so we are bringing this to your attention as soon as we can

Beggers belief - but the 'we take your data security seriously' is the standard phrase dolled out each time this kind of thing happens. They must all go on the same PR course!

Chrome engine devs experiment with automatic browser micropayments

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I see a serious issue with the idea

Firstly, roll-out: it'd be a brave site that implements this wallet scheme when its competitors still rely on ad revenue: until they get to critical mass, income from their website will drop like a brick.

Secondly - and more worryingly - what happens when (not if) a site gets hacked and the bad actors insert their own micro-payment code that scrapes a visitors wallet - or a coding error means I get double-charged by the host? For any repayment claim, the user would have to provide full details of when they visited the site in question. Chances are, for the fractional sums involved, no individual would bother going through the process. Net result: it becomes very profitable to slip rogue code into legit. sites.

Researchers remotely exploit devices used to manage safe aircraft landings and takeoffs

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Backup solution?

Every major airport will now have, as standard, a barrel of Jet-A1 and some spare rags at the end of the runway. At the first sign of trouble, a vest-wearing, chain smoking cop will whip out his lighter and knock up substitute landing lighting. Problem solved!

FBI confirms it issued remote kill command to blow out Volt Typhoon's botnet

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It'll get a lot worse!

At the moment, at least, the black hats seem to be focussing on corporate routers - but with the huge increase in home-based working, it won't be long before there's more value to be had in poking about in the home router market: a made-to-a-budget home router hooked up to an unmonitored network that has a couple of PC's used by the children (virus updates current? Umm...not entirely sure there'll even be an AV app, never mind updated definitions!) and now the veep's laptop is hanging off the same address pool? Good luck, folks!

Wait, security courses aren't a requirement to graduate with a computer science degree?

Ball boy Silver badge

A purely theoretical curriculum

You could read Theology at any one of a number of places. Last time I looked, that was pretty thin on practical lab work ;)

AI-driven booze bouncers can ID you with face scan

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One presumes the mugshots are deleted immediately after the analysis has been done - or are they kept for a period of time 'to be verified if required' or 'to improve the AI model'?

I think we should be told.

There's also a huge potential for scope-creep here: for now, it's used to check ages when you buy alcohol. However, it makes sense for the retailer to use it for all purchases so they can better understand the profile of its customer base. All that lovely extra data!

Users now keep cellphones for 40+ months and it's hurting the secondhand market

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No real surprise

The evolution of smartphones has slowed: there's little the latest model can do that can't be done with the existing (unless you count bragging rights for having the latest and greatest). Unless I have exceptionally deep pockets, there's really no need to upgrade.

Politicos demand full list of Fujitsu's public sector contract wins in wake of Post Office scandal

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Long term government contracts

There's inherently several issues that won't help - and I'm in no way defending the process here:

1.) Projects will almost certainly change scope during their lifetime (political masters being what they are and all that). A bit like Triggers broom, it'll bear little resemblance to the original specification after a few years so it's hardly surprising the software - all of which have 'snag lists' that require re-working during roll-outs - struggles to evolve correctly;

2.) The project leaders change over time. This makes it far more difficult to hold people to account, especially if they've long retired;

3.) Government ministers are not project specialists: they outsource this job to those that are. I'd argue that, pretty much by definition, someone very specialist in designing the spec. for a system such as Horizon must come from a supplier that has skills in that area. As such, their project definition can only be skewed in favour that supplier's solutions even if it's not the ideal fit.

Add in the inevitable 'incentives' and blame dodging ('Yes Minister' and 'The Thick Of It' are not comedies, they're documentaries) and, well, it doesn't exactly aid transparency and critical thinking!

HP's CEO spells it out: You're a 'bad investment' if you don't buy HP supplies

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A virus going from ink tank to network? Yep.

The tank talks to the printer which talks to the the print driver and onto the client-side app. That then checks with HQ to make sure you're being a good boy.

Yep, I can totally see why that could be described as a virus - and I can also totally see a certain manufacturer designing their products to take full advantage of it for financial gain. Way to go Enrique Lores; you win the Internet today for making it clear to us all!

Microsoft braces for automatic AI takeover with Copilot at Windows startup

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Easy to 'turn off', is it?

Fair enough but there's a point of principle here. At idle/unused state, it may 'only' be a few handles, some loaded DLL's (or whatever Borkzilla use these days) some memory, a few system calls here and there - but all these little bits add up. Add in all the other cruft and it goes a long way to explain why the machine specs need to be so damn high. They also introduce a larger attack surface. I find all this harder and harder to justify when the purpose of the OS is, I thought, to allow me to interact with applications I choose to install.

NASA, Lockheed Martin reveal subtly supersonic X-59 plane

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No forward view? No real hindrance

Concorde had heat shields that popped up over the nose to streamline it at supersonic speeds. There were two little side windows so pilots could see where they'd been but not where they were going to be. Hardly a backward step if we were doing it in the 60's - plus they'll have TV's to help this time around. This isn't general aviation: these things will be flying in controlled airspace so it's ATC that make sure they have a bubble of space around them (we have been doing this right for many, many years, give or take the occasional runway incursion). Quite honestly, if you think your reactions are up to seeing, never mind avoiding, another aircraft coming at you at cruising speed then you're doing better than most and, anyway, action to avoid an extreme air proximity incident would almost certainly overstress the airframe so the end results would be similar but with only one hull destroyed.

I would imagine the hardest bit would be pilot acceptance, despite all the 'partial panel' training they already do.

Drivers: We'll take that plain dumb car over a flashy data-spilling internet one, thanks

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It's probably only a latter of time...

I'd argue that the manufacturers are dying to move to a lease-only model. The sales pitch will be that this is to help with product recycling but, if they get away with this, your car goes end of life when the vendor decides it's no longer making enough profit for them: when you've stopped buying additional monthly subs and your data has been milked dry then it's of no further use to the manufacturer and gets recalled. Never mind the inconvenience of the heated seats or what-have-you no longer working: the entire car will cease to function and the lessor will have to cut a deal with a vendor for a whole new vehicle.

Welcome to the Brave New World. Now pass me my Government mandated Soma pill.

Boffins demo self-eating rocket engine in Scotland

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Re: An interesting idea...

Simple, innit: you have another rocket pointing the other way that pushes on the far end...

Oh, hold on...


Need to plug in an EV? BT Group kicks off cabinet update pilot

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Sounds a bit like a PR stunt to me

The current capacity of the cable to the box will need to be upgraded if it's to serve more than one charge point (there's one box serving the 20-something houses in my close, a fairly low contention rate), while the point of delivery would have to be relocated because - as so many have pointed out - the current location of boxes tends to be at street junctions where parking is generally forbidden by the Highway Code. In practice, it sounds like the presence of a box doesn't really lend a great deal of value to the proposed solution. However, it does mean BT can transfer the cost of maintenance - and eventual removal - of these boxes to a third party and that's smart thinking for their bottom line.

What next? Water companies proposing adding charging points adjacent to the downstairs loo 'because it'd be trivial to run cables to them through the existing sewer network'? I'm joking, by the way: please don't take that as a serious suggestion (unless you're a paid-up gubberment blue-thinker - in which case, remember me when the financial bungs start getting thrown around!)

Damn, even the Pope thinks AI and autonomous weapons need reining in

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I'm athiest for a reason!

"That positive outcome will only be achieved if we show ourselves capable of acting responsibly and respect such fundamental human values as 'inclusion, transparency, security, equity, privacy and reliability'."

And how's that worked out for various religions over the years then, your Holiness? There's a pot over here that wants a word with your kettle!

And the winner of the horrible Microsoft Paint sweater is ...

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In my best Trump voice...

I know about votes. I know more about votes than anyone and I can be telling you now that I won this.

I got biggly more votes than this Pete2 person. What kind of name is that anyway? Sounds like a made-up name and that tells us all we need to know: this vote was RIGGED by the FAKE MEDIA and STOLEN from my wonderful supporters who know I am the true winner. We will fight this wrongly verdict.



...goes on for another few weeks until head explodes.

On a serious note: congrats., Sir! Well deserved :-)

It's ba-ack... UK watchdog publishes age verification proposals

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"The rules apply to services with links to the UK – where the UK is a target market, or the service has a "significant number" of UK users"

Anyone know, offhand, what percentage of p0rn sites actually *target* the UK or otherwise meet this 'significant number of users' malarkey? Furthermore, anyone care to guess how many of those that are registered outside UK jurisdiction will be willing to expose (see what I did there?) this kind of data about their user base to a curious UK government official?

Surely the market for p0rn is pretty global so I'd be surprised if any of the top 10 sites actually meet the definition - and that's before anyone in gubberment figures out that content unsuitable for a minor can be hosted on sites that are waaaay outside the definition of 'p0rn': my child (16) told me they'd seen a video on Tiktok of someone getting run over by a bus (as in properly ending up under the wheels). Not p0rn - but hardly bed-time viewing for anyone.

I'm afraid I can't offer a workable solution to this problem but I can easily see some muppet in Whitehall deciding that the only practical solution is to force age verification for, well, any use of the Internet.

40 years of Turbo Pascal, the coding dinosaur that revolutionized IDEs

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Richard, you've damaged me!

Just read today's 'Who, me?' and gave a wry smile at the mention that 'a Pentium 133 running Office 97 on Windows 95 was the height of business computing - after all, I can reasonably convince myself that was only a handful of years ago, right. scandisk? Yup, I remember using that, too, and it really wasn't that long ago surely.

Now you come along and mention an IDE I remember using (with some fondness, too) but mercilessly highlight the year of its release. 40 years ago. Damn you. I'm now officially an old git ;)

Experienced Copilot help is hard to find, warns Microsoft MVP

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If this AI stuff was good...

...then you'd only ever need to install one seat. Then you tell it to figure out your IT infrastructure and set about installing itself correctly into the environment...

Okay, okay, I'll get my coat.

Share your 2024 tech forecasts (wrong answers only) to win a terrible sweater

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Quarter by quarter

Q1: Not much happens. No, really: MS post a full set of entirely bug-free patches for all current releases.

Q2: Windows 14 announced. Leaked hardware specs cause orders for HPE Cray EX hardware to skyrocket.

Q3: Pottering announces that what Linux really needs is some kind of central registry for all things system and settings. Names it SystemX in honour of the recently ennobled Lord Musk.

Q4: Elon Musk makes a bid to take over Microsoft. Post reading "It's in the bag" cause the press, world wide, to take no bleedin' notice of him whatsoever. Ever again.

Seasons greetings one and all!

Surface Duo crashes the party as Doctor Who celebrates 60th birthday

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Maybe Clippy can make a return!

"It looks like you're trying to fight a Dalek. Do you need help with that?"

IBM-led advertising X-odus gains steam as more flee Musk's platform

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Yaccarino is damaged goods

She can't really walk away yet, it's too soon and would look like she misunderstood her role (which wouldn't bode well when looking for another position). On top of that, having taken Musk's poison pill, she's damaged her chances of getting hired by any major company for fear of being somehow linked by association with The Great One himself.

Her best bet - by far - is to hold out for another six months or so then strike a deal with a publisher, hire in a ghost writer and try to make a killing with a 'life under Musk' exposé.

Scientists use Raspberry Pi tech to protect NASA telescope data

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I'm reminded of early space exploration

Back in the day, I remember hearing a story (true or not, I don't recall) about NASA spending a small fortune developing a ball-point that would work in zero-G, on damp paper and so on. The Russians solved the same problem by sending their lads up with pencils. KISS makes a lot of sense, especially so if you can't easily service or update your tech.

* Update: Just checked. Not entirely true about NASA - but the principle still holds! ;)

Vote now on who should take the lead in Musk: The Movie

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I see your Mike Myers...

...and raise you Peter Sellers.

Who could forget his socially inept Clouseau or - even better - the very unhinged Dr. Strangelove.

Tool bag lost in space now tracked by garbage watchers

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The irony

Said NASA: the bag contained some tethers....

Bet someone wishes they'd used one of them now! :)

Bug hunters on your marks: TETRA radio encryption algorithms to enter public domain

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Obsolete within a year, maybe - but still be in daily use

TETRA is used extensively and it won't be an easy upgrade if it can't be patched to cope seamlessly with both old and new standards. By way of example, in the UK, each regional Police force has its own budget. In order to swap their radio kit to a new standard, all forces would have to align their strategies and buying cycles. If not, they'd be pretty much obliged to stick to the old standard until their neighbouring forces had also upgraded. At a time when budgets are under huge pressure, I can't see this being a quick change for them.

Granted, some users (higher security users like government spooks and other very specialist sub-groups) might get new kit sooner - but the existing hardware is in the hands of so many 'normal' users it could take a while to effect a changeover unless in-field patching is possible.

Bad eIDAS: Europe ready to intercept, spy on your encrypted HTTPS connections

Ball boy Silver badge

Worrying - esp. in the UK

Given governments aren't generally in the business of running IT systems, the UK will doubtless put the management of root certificates in the hands of their favourite outsourcing partner. Now if the idea of the gubberment having access to your TLS handshake is worrying, consider the additional risk of an outsourcer's misconfiguration accidentally allowing world+dog to lift and copy certificates. Yes, the same could happen now - but I'd argue there's a fundamentally approach between supplying a core service directly to the industry and simply satisfying the (usually rather poorly defined) terms of an outsourcing contract for a government body.

To prevent 'lost' nukes, scientists suggest storing them in a hall of mirrors

Ball boy Silver badge

Not sure it's the right tech. to monitor nukes

Monitoring a warehouse of one-off artworks, yes: I can see that a warehouse owner has a vested interest in making sure the articles haven't been tampered with; it's far less intrusive than installing movement sensors in picture frames, more able to cope with the introduction of a new item or intentional removal of one (re-signal the area, keep the updated signature), etc. - but for nukes? I'll monitor the silo a country has declared but how do we know that's the *only* silo the bad actors are using to store their fresh-from-the-factory atomic hell?

Boffins find AI stumbles when quizzed on the tough stuff

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AI makes it to management consultant level!

Rather than reply: "I'm sorry, in context your question doesn't make a lot of sense" MML/MLL enthusiastically answers with something that is wrong, misleading or just not particularly useful?

I sense a long and fruitful career working for....no, I better not end that sentence for fear of a lawsuit!

Sony, Honda tease EV that aims to be a lounge on wheels

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Missing a trick!

Strap a mattress to the roof and bolt a barbecue to the rear and they've solved - at a stroke - the housing shortage too!

Or maybe it's just that Honda know something about future traffic jams that we can only guess: they're betting we'll need a /lot/ more to entertain us while we queue-up in our cars...

Birmingham set to miss deadline to make Oracle disaster 'safe and compliant'

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I'm confused by this

Surely there was a period of dual-running? When migrating massive systems like this, you don't simply turn off the SAP services on a Monday morning and rely entirely on the as-yet-untested Oracle: you populate the new system with test data and check it does what you need it to do. If it doesn't work, you halt or delay migrating users and live data until the problems are ironed out. Sure, you won't catch them all - but being able to do something as routine as producing financial statements must surely have been a baseline requirement.

Even then, there's usually a period of parallel running where data is entered into both the known system and the 'new' system. Again, if the outputs don't match - or if you discover a process takes 30 people rather than 3 - then you should delay the disarming of the old, stable, system.

Sounds to me a bit like BCC need to swallow a bitter pill and renew their SAP licenses. Yes, it'll cost a fortune because SAP know they have them with their pants down and will aim for full penetration - but it wouldn't be the first time a major project organised by a public body was badly managed (I give you NHS IT, HS2, any number of power stations and, if the Eye is to be believed, the northern Freeports). Umm...unless they didn't keep the SAP system current - abandoning that system this early in the changeover would be almost criminal!

If I'm missing something, forgive me - and do please help further my education.

Scripted shortcut caused double-click disaster of sysadmin's own making

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"The master boot record was gone, and with it Ricardo's dignity."

Sums it up perfectly. And who amongst us has not had that sinking feeling at one time or another?

You've just spent $400 on a baby monitor. Now you need a subscription

Ball boy Silver badge

The future is even more worrying

Picture the scene: a boardroom of a company selling IoT devices like this. Last year they sold hardware & their cloud-backend and made 20% margin. If they swap to a subscription model, they can add some 25% in access fees per year (sub. in your own numbers, the logic still applies).

However, these new profits quickly become normalised and the investors want the return to improve...so they start selling off advertising space. Hell, they already know the subscriber is willing to part with cash and they know a fair bit about what kinds of adverts will hit home. Win-win!

The future, my friends, isn't looking particularly rosy.

$17k solid gold Apple Watch goes from Beyoncé's wrist to the obsolete list

Ball boy Silver badge

Phones, 'smart' watches and the like are all destined to be throwaway devices: if nothing else, the demands placed on them by the upgraded OS that comes out after the hardware means it'll eventually die even if the hardware itself were to magically keep working forever. Same applies - on a slightly slower timescale - to PC's (my daily driver is 14 years old, TYVM).

On the plus side, I suppose these solid gold watches - like the diamond encrusted Nokia's of the 90's - are far more likely to be recycled than your run-of-the-mill Samsung simply because of the inherent value in the materials. Or they'll become collector-pieces that get traded for however many years Apple is still a 'thing', meaning their recycle value pales into insignificance compared to their perceived value (you could use the same argument for a van Dyke painting, I guess: worthless as raw material....but very valuable all the same).

If we want to stop the e-waste then we need to design products that are built to last (replaceable components, active third party suppliers market, etc) AND do something to address the obligation to upgrade just because the OS/app suite needs newer/faster/more extension-aware hardware. Not sure how we do that, though. Imagine: would we all be happy with a i286 running at 8Mhz and all its inherent memory limitations because that's kind of what we should have stuck with if we're going to subscribe to the 'don't evolve' logic.

I don't have the answer - I don't think anyone can square this particular circle.

Data breach reveals distressing info: People who order pineapple on pizza

Ball boy Silver badge

An open letter to the blackhats out there:

Could you please focus on exposing data on politicians; their home addresses, bank details, phone numbers and so on?

If you did that successfully, we'd very quickly evolve procedures to mitigate data losses like this.

Thank you.

Oracle at Europe's largest council didn't foresee bankruptcy

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If Ellison called out this Birmingham 'win' as a triumph for Oracle then surely it's time to hold his feet to the fire: he should now pay the costs of making it functional.

Meet Honda's latest electric vehicle: A rideable suitcase

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I can see it now: fit Monkey bars and drop the seat down and back and we have a reboot of the classic Easy Rider.

We can call it Eeasy Rider. Just be in slo-mo. :)

Google outlines Outline SDK: Censorship, geo-block-beating tool to drop into apps

Ball boy Silver badge

There's a trust issue at stake

So, rather than allow a Government to possibly spy on my comms or have authoritarian regimes block what sites I can visit, I'm meant to put all my faith in a company that makes the vast bulk of its revenue by using the marketing data it has syphoned off from the very people passing through its services?

Not sure I like that very much.

Square blames last week's outage on DNS screw-up

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Square also outlined how it hopes to avoid this sort of meltdown again:

It claimed it has made changes to its DNS and firewall servers to "protect against the issue we saw," and has taken other defensive steps.

In English: We changed the admin password from p4ssw0rd to something a bit harder to guess and told the PFY to leave the fuck alone next time

Right to repair advocates have a new opponent: Scientologists

Ball boy Silver badge

This thing measures your *soul*?

If this device can measure our soul then we have a problem in the making.

To quote from the Good Book: The argument goes something like this: "I refuse to prove that I exist,'" says God, "for proof denies faith, and without faith I am nothing."

"But," says Man, "The Babel fish is a dead giveaway, isn't it? It could not have evolved by chance. It proves you exist, and so therefore, by your own arguments, you don't. QED."

Substitute for Babel fish and simplify.

We need a machine that measures irony - but the scale would have to go to 11 ;)

Southern Water to drink up tech deals worth up to £358M

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Don't overlook "the company has a relationship with UK outsourcing firm Capita". Private Eye call them 'Crapita' for a reason.

UK flights disrupted by 'technical issue' with air traffic computer system

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A 50P coin for the meter, toggle the Big Red Switch and the job's a good 'un.

Do I have to think of everything 'round here?

'Millions' of spammy emails with no opt-out? That'll cost you $650K, Experian

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A 'business cost' of 0.06% of their profits?

Yep, that'll definitely scare every C-suite into thinking twice before firing off marketing campaigns won't it?


Cisco's Duo Security suffers major authentication outage

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Cisco’s top priority is the satisfaction and support of our customers."

No, it isn't: its top priority is to be profitable because if it fails at that then the company folds - and if that happens then, by definition, you won't have customers. Just ex-customers.


Moscow makes a mess on the Moon as Luna 25 probe misses orbit, lands with a thud

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Western press: "Russian space probe crashes attempting moon landing"

Russian State media: "Glorious scientists first to firmly place explorer module on moon's south pole"


PowerShell? More like PowerHell: Microsoft won't fix flaws in package gallery ripe for supply chain attacks

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Business case for PowerShell?

"Wouldn't it just be easier for the users, and cheaper for us, to improve the tools we already have?"

Well, they didn't really have any. Using the Command line was a hangover from the days of DOS and wasn't that flexible (it didn't need to be: it was conceived to address the needs of a single user on a single computer running a single program). What Microsoft quickly found - I suspect - is that when you want to manage a server, you tend to need to do things that a GUI simply can't address - and building a GUI to cover /all/ eventualities would be impossible...so a scripting tool was required. Voilla! PowerShell was born. In its own way, it's MS concession that servers need CLI rather than flashy GUIs (or, if you prefer, the *nix way of managing server-grade systems was probably right after all!).

Voyager 2 found! Deep Space Network hears it chattering in space

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Voyager 2, the signal decoded...

It reads as follows:

"You don't call, you don't write. It's like we just drifted apart"

Joking, natch. Well done to the boffins wot picked up a heartbeat in the noisy clutter of deep space and let's hope for a successful reset on the 15th