* Posts by MacroRodent

1626 posts • joined 18 May 2007

Snapping at Canonical's Snap: Linux Mint team says no to Ubuntu store 'backdoor'

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Lenovo supports

If Lenovo makes sure both Red Hat and Ubuntu run on their systems, then installing other distributions is likely to be painless. Recall it is about hardware support, and the part that talks to the hardware - the kernel - is shared infrastructure in all distributions. Even if Lenovo were to release some support only in blobs and closed kernel modules, instead of donating it to kernel.org kernel, they really cannot make those usable only on Red hat and Ubuntu. And why should they even try?

This'll make you feel old: Uni compsci favourite Pascal hits the big five-oh this year

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Re: Berkeley Pascal

I think the free (as in no cost) was less important than that there was source (*) and documentation about Unix. You could run assignments like add feature X to unix. Try doing that with VAX/VMS.

(*) Strictly speaking, Unix was not "open source" as we now know, but its source was easily available to academic institutions. Eventually Berkeley reimplemented bits and pieces and eventually released the result under a liberal open source license, leading to lawsuit by AT&T, which was settled in 1994. Long-standing uncertainty about the legal status of BSD is one reason Linux is the most used free OS, and not FreeBSD or NetBSD...

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Berkeley Pascal

Another implementation that was used in universities was Berkeley Pascal, which came with BSD Unix. As a student, I wrote some lengthy pieces of Pascal code in it for analysing Petri nets. (Now I hardly remember what those things were). This implementation produced native code for the VAX, and had enough nonstandard additions to make it just about practical for programming.

Compared to the alternatives available (K&R C and Fortran), it was the best choice for this task, in the sense that the resulting program was more likely to be correct.

Surprise! That £339 world's first 'anti-5G' protection device is just a £5 USB drive with a nice sticker on it

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PT Barnum

Most Barnum comparisons do him injustice. He was actually just a showman who honestly sold entertainment, and not snake oil.

Trump issues toothless exec order to show donors, fans he's doing something about those Twitter twerps

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Re: Simple Response.

> He could of course always open up on TikTok.

I noticed that gab.com posted a thread advertising themselves below one Trump tweet. They said they already had created an account for Trump.

Really wish he and his followers took their marbles there. This would improve Twitter considerably.

Linus Torvalds drops Intel and adopts 32-core AMD Ryzen Threadripper on personal PC

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Re: Quite an upgrade...

The book does not mention buying the 387, and at the time it was a rather expensive add-on that was considered useful only for people with number-crunching needs. The Linux kernel also has included code for 387 emulation starting from quite early versions. So my guess is he did not have it in his first 386 computer. But further research is needed to be sure.

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Re: Quite an upgrade...

He had a Sinclair QL, but started writing Linux only after getting a 386-based PC. The man himself describes shopping for it:

"January 2, 1991. It was the first day the stores were open after Christmas, and my twenty-first birthday, the two biggest cash-generating days on my calendar. [...] It was at one one of these small corner shops, sort of a mom-and-pop computer store, only in this case it was just pop. I didn't care about the manufacturer, so I settled on a no-name, white-box computer. The guy showed you a price list and a smorgasbord of what CPU was available, how much memory, what disk size. I wanted power. I wanted to have 4 megabytes of RAM instead of 2 megabytes. I wanted 33 megahertz. Sure, I could have settled for 16 megahertz, but no, I wanted top of the line." (from "Just for Fun", Chapter IV).

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Re: Quite an upgrade...

> I've got a photo somewhere of his old student 486, which is on display in a museum in Helsinki.

Thanks. I did not know it was on display (and I live in Helsinki). Definitely on my places to visit list when museums reopen. Some info from the University of Helsinki web pages:

"The Power of Thought" is a permanent exhibition of the University of Helsinki and its students, teachers and researchers. [...] Later objects in the exhibition include a computer used by Linus Torvalds and a student boilersuit from 2007. The exhibition is situated on the 3rd floor of the main building of the University (Fabianinkatu 33).

Microsoft drops a little surprise thank-you gift for sitting through Build: The source for GW-BASIC

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The main program comment

The comment of the main program in GWMAIN.ASM is interesting as it says who wrote the original MS BASIC and when:


--------- ---- -- ---- ----- --- ---- -----


--------- ---- -- ---- ----- --- ---- -----







Mind your language: Microsoft set to swing the axe on 27 languages in iOS Outlook

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Speed learning

> Affected users have been given until the end of June to switch to a supported language in order to continue using the Outlook for iOS app.

So about one and half months to learn a new language... and in some cases a new script as well. Maybe there is an app for that.

ALGOL 60 at 60: The greatest computer language you've never used and grandaddy of the programming family tree

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Re: Algol 68 is not ALGOL 60

Defining procedures inside procedures was already in Algol 60 and in most languages descended from it. I recall using it enthusiastically in my beginner Pascal programs. In fact, lack of this feature in C and C++ is rather the exception.

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Re: Algol marches on

Besides modern FORTRAN has about as much resemblance to the original 1950's FORTRAN as Algol 60 has to C. It is in practice an entirely different language.

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Re: Algol 68 is not ALGOL 60

> lgol 60 begat both Algol 68 and Pascal ... and quite a few other languages along the way (Simula, anyone?).

I never used Algol 60, but I did do an exercise in SIMULA-67 at the Helsinki University of Technology. It had the same syntax as Algol 60, but added classes, with objects allocated dynamically, had garbage-collector (like Java decades later...), strings, and a sensible I/O library.

It actually felt a way more practical language than the Pascal compiler used in earlier courses. Pascal at the time omitted too many real world features. It was impossible to make a portable program that processed a named file. In fact, making a portable program that reads a string from the terminal, and prints something in response, was impossible, because the INPUT stream was defined to work in a way that only a theorist would love. Every implementation had a different workaround for this, or just redefined the I/O semantics, like Turbo Pascal did.

The end really is nigh – for 32-bit Windows 10 on new PCs

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Re: I honestly thought it never existed

> and yet, for a while, at least, one could run Win16 software under Wine on 64-bit Linux.

Interesting. Perhaps it used instruction set emulation for the 16-bit code.

For Linux, there is a fork of DOSEMU (an old VM86-based system for running MS-DOS) that handles 16-bit code on 64-bit Linux using the modern virtual machine features, instead of VM86. I have yet to try this project myself, but here it is: https://github.com/dosemu2/dosemu2 .

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Re: I honestly thought it never existed

> I think AMD's decision was fairly sensible; 16 bit modes had to go, and if not then, when?

AMD did not remove the 16-bit support entirely. At start-up even the 64-bit x86 CPU runs in "real" 16-bit mode. You could in principle boot it into MS-DOS, but I suspect the modern peripherals and motherboards could cause compatibility issues. Also, if you run a 32-bit OS on it, the VM86 mode is still available.

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Re: I honestly thought it never existed

DOSBOX is probably the easiest to set up for casual MS-DOS use. It includes an emulated DOS, so no need to install FreeDOS or any other additional package. (If you really want, it is possible to run a real MS-DOS or FreeDOS inside DOSBOX, but that is more complex and usually not needed).

It is slower than a VM, but on modern machines, its emulation executes programs at least as fast as they ran on actual 80's PC:s. There is actually a setting for slowing things down, for some games.

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Re: I honestly thought it never existed

Another thing a 64-bit Windows does not do is running MS-DOS applications out of the box. You have to install an emulator, such as DOSBOX, or install VM software and run MS-DOS in it (not sure if it is possible with VMWare or VirtualBox these days)

These limitations really boil down to the decisions AMD made when x86 was extended to 64 bits. The VM86 mode is not supported when running as a 64-bit CPU.

Total Eclipse to depart: Open-source software foundation is hopping the pond to Europe

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Re: A long time coming

> It is a mess for data transfer,

A few years back, I needed to make a Perl script to report test coverage data in a format that Excel can read. As it happens, some users had Finnish-localized Windowses (we use the comma like the Germans), some not. So CSV output caused some problems. I solved them by making the script output SYLK. This is an old text-based data interchange format (think RTF for spreadsheets), and is still supported by Excel and others. More complex than CSV, but not hard to generate from Perl, if all you have to do is to make a table with labels. And it is immune to the comma issue.

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> and Europeans want to have at least one open-source foundation that is distinctly European.

Thanks and welcome, but we already have at least one, the Document Foundation (https://www.documentfoundation.org/), the home of LibreOffice.

It is a charitable Foundation under German law: Gemeinnützige rechtsfähige Stiftung des bürgerlichen Rechts, so there!

Visual Studio Code 1.45 released: Binary custom editors and 'unbiased Notebook solution' in the works

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Tried to like it, but

VS Code was one of the code editors I occasionally try - and then go back to Emacs. The one-window restriction was a major reason. Even Netbeans (which has its own suite of other problems) is better in this respect. Supporting only one window was excusable in the MS-DOS age, but not afterwards.

I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Light-powered nanocardboard robots dancing in the Martian sky searching for alien life

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Re: Dust

Why not hydrogen? Easy to produce from the water on Mars, and It isn't going to be explosive in the Martian atmosphere that contains almost no oxygen.

Source code for seminal adventure game Zork circa-1977 exhumed from MIT tapes, plonked on GitHub

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Re: Odd? We already had this?

People have MDL compilers from the era (see the DECtape

At this time, a good language spec might be more useful. The wikipedia page suggests to me an interpreter could be implemented with some LISP hacking, the languages appear to be related.

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Peeked at some of the files. This MDL language looks interesting. A lot like a variant of LISP, but with <> used instead of () in some places. Wikipedia has a description [ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MDL_(programming_language) ] but no link to any implementation. So anyone porting Zork would have to start making one...

Pew-pew woo-hoo! Hong Kong reopens video arcades shut by coronavirus lockdown

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Re: Dense city

It sees to me many in the far east cities wear masks anyway, as a custom that was established long before coronavirus. In Helsinki, Japanese and Chinese visitors were the only people seen wearing masks before corona times.

'VPs shouldn't go publicly rogue'... XML co-author Tim Bray quits AWS after Amazon fires COVID-19 whistleblowers

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Re: "XML"

Right up to the point you want to validate the random sequence of characters claiming to be data.

Sorry but I have to disagree here. The syntax of JSON is far simpler than XML or ASN.1, so a coder is more likely to get it right, and anyway there are JSON parsing libraries for almost any programming language you care to name ( I have never had to write a JSON parser because of this). These either turn the "random sequence of characters" into a nice data structure, or return an error.

The one situation where processing JSON is inconvenient is a shell script, but why on Earth would you want to do that? Just use Perl or Python instead.

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Re: "XML"

XML has valid uses, but unfortunately, at the top of its hype curve it was pushed as the data representation solution for everything. Frequently leading to 10K of XML boilerplate wrapping 1 byte of actual information... Nowadays JSON tends to be used instead, which makes far more sense for most purposes.

Fright at the museum: Bored curators play spooky Top Trumps on Twitter over who has the creepiest object

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Re: A few years ago in Cornwall

The natural history museum in Helsinki has a two-headed calf, stuffed. Possibly even worse: during one visit as a child, I recall glimpsing through a half-open door (that probably should have been shut) things in glass jars that belong to a horror movie...

What's vexing Linux-loving Gophers? A few things: Go devs want generics, easier debugging

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Link the world

ou can build self-contained executables that run pretty fast without the bloat or hassle of shipping a large runtime.

On the other hand, last time I looked you cannot escape this self-containment, which means it is no good for smaller programs. Each exe carries with it much of the runtime system, so they start at about 2Mb in size. By contrast, the loated version of the "cat" command on Fedora Linux is 46K.

Lockdown endgame? There won't be one until the West figures out its approach to contact-tracing apps

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Re: Wrong answer

Indeed, if it turns out that immunity to coronavirus is short-lived, an effective medicine may turn out to be the better solution (there is precendent: there still is no HIV vaccine, but the disease can be kept in check by an antiviral cocktail). Of course, at this point we do not know which is it, so looking for both a medicine and a vaccine are top priorities.

India kicks off competition for home-grown video conferencing clone

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Open Source?

I think there are a number of open source options, like Jitsi discussed at https://lwn.net/Articles/815751/

(never used any of them myself, but then, the only conferences I need are the webex ones provided by my employer).

Ofcom waves DAB radio licences under local broadcasters' noses as FM switchoff debate smoulders again

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Re: Many problems

In Finland, people are encouraged to have some battery-powered radio at home, for getting announcements and news in case of the WW3, zombie apocalypse or other disasters. We don't have DAB at all (it was tried for a year or two, then discontinued as nobody was listening), so I have a little Sony FM + shortwave radio that runs for days on two AA batteries.

What is the actual duration you can use a modern battery-powered DAB? (or how many batteries you would have to stockpile for a week of listening in your bunker?)

Mozilla plugs two Firefox browser holes exploited in the wild by hackers to hijack victims' computers

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Re: One returning to the fold

I had been using Chrome almost exclusively on Fedora Linux, but the other day the Webex remote meeting system my firm uses mysteriously stopped working on Chrome, claiming this platform combination is not supported. Still works fine on Firefox, so I had to switch. Not much difference otherwise, Firefox performance seems to have caught up. It used to render some JavaScript-heavy sites slower.

Cloudflare family-friendly DNS service flubs first filtering foray: Vital LGBTQ, sex-ed sites blocked 'by mistake'

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Re: And the problem is?

>> For instance, I would not block nudity but I would block violence, religion and pro-suicide sites.

OpenDNS allows this, it has various categories. However, you might not always agree on how a given site is categorized. For instance, it often classifies anything with nudity as porn, even though nudity has its own category (in my "family values", nudity by itself is not objectionable, it all depends on what the nude is doing).

If you've ever wished Visual Studio Code could be more open source, the Eclipse Foundation would like a word

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Re: UI performance issues

> in any case if the Eclipse tool discussed in the article is NOT "scripty" but instead uses actual Java code

It sounds like a fork of VS code, and compatible with its plugins, therefore it, too, must have been written in JavaScript, running on Node/js.

Whther that is "scripty" is a matter of debate. The performance of JavaScript on Node/js is pretty good. It does JIT compiling. Certainly faster than, say, Python or Ruby. It is actually a question I have meant to investigate how much actual speed and memory usage difference there would be between JavaScript on Node/js, and C++ code that is written in the modern way using the standard containers and strings, instead of a "C-like" style. The answer could be surprising. The C++ containers basically do reference-counting based memory management, whereas Node/js does garbage collection.

Lost in translation and adrift in cloud storage

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Re: google translate anyone?

> who creates admin accounts with a localised name?

Maybe the localisation system? I don't know this particular system, but if you install Windows to use Finnish, it helpfully shows nearly everything in the UI in Finnish. The underlying admin user name might not be altered, but what the GUI shows is.

My son accidentally set the language to Spanish when taking his new Windows PC in use. That was fun (and lucky it was not Hebrew or Chinese). It still occasionally shows some texts in Spanish, even after trying to tell it we want to run it in Finnish. Probably would require a reinstall.

Remember that clinical trial, promoted by President Trump, of a possible COVID-19 cure? So, so, so many questions...

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The other way...

As a kid I once did the reverse, treating white spot disease in my aquarium with ground-up malaria pills, left over from a journey in Africa (this was in the early 1970's when chloroquine was still effective in Africa). I reasoned it should work because both diseases are caused by protozoans. It was a success.

Finally – news that something is guaranteed to be healthy and well looked-after for the next six months. That something is Windows 10 1709

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Actually, not so many people use chloroquine as a malaria prophylactic anymore, because in most places the malaria parasite has become resistant to it.

Doctors are currently throwing anything they can find in the medicine cupboard at the virus, in the hope something works. I suspect the effect was discovered because of this.

Microsoft's GitHub absorbs NPM into its code-hosting empire: JavaScript library vault used by 12 million devs now under Redmond's roof

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Re: TypeScript + NPM = ?

Well, these ecosystems are already really the same. TypeScript is implemented as a kind of wrapper around JavaScript, and if you go to the TypeScript web site, they suggest you download the language with NPM, see https://www.typescriptlang.org/download

Meltdown The Sequel strikes Intel chips – and full mitigation against data-meddling LVI flaw will slash performance

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Re: If these exploits carry one

The common thread in all these exploits is speculative execution, which is performed by all advanced CPU:s these days.

I wonder if this sparks interest in research on architectures that would be reasonably efficient without speculative execution.

What was the last Intel CPU without speculation? The original Pentium, I guess.

Let's Encrypt? Let's revoke 3 million HTTPS certificates on Wednesday, more like: Check code loop blunder strikes

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Re: What's this, a bug caused by a language quirk?

As another commentard pointed out, most of the new stuff really has appeared in older languages. Sometimes much older. For example, Simula 67 (from 1967 like the name says) had most of the same features that make Go or Java safer. Managed memory, run-time checks, no wild pointers, compilation with strong typing. Even classes and inheritance. But almost nobody uses it any more.

Go etc. add finesses, and also follow a syntactic style that people are now familiar with. Simula 67 syntax is based on Algol, so long keywords, begin ... end instead of { ... } ...

I think one reason the older innovative languages have fallen by the wayside is that at the time they were introduced, known implementation techniques did not allow making the fast enough for production use, and computers also were slower and had less memory. I recall Bjarne Stroustrup saying he started developing C++ for a project where he first tried to use Simula, but it ran too slowly.

So programmers were enticed by the low-level, anything goes C, and later C++. Then managed languages became more feasible, thanks to faster computers and innovations like better garbage collection algorithms and JIT, but these were applied to new languages instead of attempting to resuscitate old ones. It is easier to "sell" something syntactically C-like to programmers who grew up with it.

I'm fine with this. Having done most of my professional programming in C for decades, I now believe very few programs should be written in it. Mainly kernels and drivers. (Perhaps one should have a license to use it). Everything else should be programmed only in managed, checked-to-hell-and-back languages. Even then programmers will keep making stupid errors, but there is some hope there will be a a bit less of them, and they are caught earlier.

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Re: What's this, a bug caused by a language quirk?

> what is the point of these new languages other than an ego trip for its developers and a lock-in to the environment.

Would you then prefer coding in FORTRAN IV or COBOL, since newer languages are just ego trips? Of course not. No language can ever guarantee absence of bugs, but improvements can be made nevertheless.

Ob car analogy: Modern cars are much safer that what people drove in the 1960's, but fatalities still sadly occur. That does not mean all the improvements were pointless.

AI-predicted protein structures could unlock vaccine for COVID-19 coronavirus... if correct... after clinical trials

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Re: Does not matter at all

Determining the structure of the virus proteins might also help in developing a molecule that disrupts the operation of just those proteins, and not anything else in the human body.

Time to svn commit like it's the year 2000: Apache celebrates 20 years of Subversion

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Re: Fond memories

I don't really get this "similar to CVS" claim. I have used both, and find SVN works totally differently. For example, you don't have branches, but separate directories that act as the branches. OK, it works, but it is nothing like how CVS does things.

Version numbers in SVN also are entirely different, not 1.2, 1.3 ... but a huge number without any structure that counts commits since the beginning.

In all, CVS and SVN have about as much in common as CVS and Git.

The Wristwatch of the Long Now: When your MTBF is two centuries

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Re: This is a nonsense comparison.

Could be, but it is 197€ here (local webshop) and I'm uneasy ordering such stuff from abroad.

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Re: This is a nonsense comparison.

A year or two ago I actually looked for a mechanical watch for daily use, but the ones I found were either dubious-looking Chinese, or well out of my spending limit for this (not going to pay much more than about 150€ for an item suffering daily wear and tear - I also apply the same to smartphones).

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Re: This is a nonsense comparison.

Mechanical watches are still being made, mainly for the luxury market, and while they are fewer, the trade of watchmakers still exists, and will exist as long people use mechanical watches, for whatever reason.

Flat Earther and wannabe astronaut killed in homemade rocket

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but not unexpected: an amateur who keeps attempting to launch himself in a homemade rocket will get killed, sooner or later. It's rocket science, after all.

Call us immediately if your child uses Kali Linux, squawks West Mids Police

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Would be happy ...

to see my kid with Kali Linux. I have been trying to interest him with other aspects of computers besides just playing games, but to no avail.

Judge Vulcan-nerve pinches JEDI deal after Amazon forks out $42m to pause Microsoft's military machinations

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Re: It was the end of history....

I found it quite amusing that the headline references two classic sci-fi universes, but the picture was from the third... maybe they represent the spectators, munching popcorn.

Uncle Sam: Secretly spying on networks around the world without telling anyone, Huawei? But that's OUR job

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Standard feature

As everyone in the industry knows, LI (lawful interception) is baked into telecom network equipment from ALL vendors. It is mandated by laws and specified in the standards.

The reason law enforcement people worry about messaging apps with strong end-to-end encryption is that when it is used, standard LI is useless for snooping.


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