* Posts by alain williams

1655 posts • joined 29 May 2007

Singapore to accelerate digitalisation of COVID-kicked economy

alain williams Silver badge

A good excuse

to be able to track all payments.

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

alain williams Silver badge

Re: not the terminal, the punch card

One reason is to stop people having too many levels of indent. Especially helps with an 8 width tab stop as indent.

Nokia's reboot of the 5310 is a blissfully dumb phone that will lug some mp3s about just fine

alain williams Silver badge

Would this be a good 'phone to have ...

when crossing some international borders. "No, I can't login to social media from this 'phone."

But I don't know how long 2G will be enough everywhere.

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

alain williams Silver badge

Fine grained control

The device surely contains a Psi circuit that decodes you brain waves to determine your current intentions. It then morphs its protective shield so that you can chat to your analyst or cook your lunch.

Boeing brings back the 737 Max but also lays off thousands

alain williams Silver badge

Re: What will insurance premiums be ?

not room for more undercarriage

Exactly: which is why it should have been redesigned, but that would have taken it out of spec as far as 737 pilots certification - so the pilots would have had to do some training. They were afraid that the training need would have reduces sales - so they pushed the engines forwards which made the plane unstable, so they came up with a software bodge to correct the instability.

Unstable: engines in front of the center of gravity, so more thrust pushes the airplane nose up.

alain williams Silver badge

What will insurance premiums be ?

If/when the 737 MAX takes to the air they are going to need to be insured. How will Lloyds, etc, assess them as a risk ?

It would have been far cheaper for Boeing to have done a proper redesign job and made it higher off the ground when the fitted the bigger engines. The few bob saved on retraining pilots just would not be noticed compared to the consequential loss from by cutting corners. This is what you get when you let bean counters rather than engineers make decisions.

While waiting for the Linux train, Bork pays a visit to Geordieland with Windows 10

alain williams Silver badge

Re: Need a bit of Raspberry Pi action

It's also worth remembering that if you buy (or licence) a product from someone, the law offers you a lot of protection in the event that product doesn't deliver what you requested.

Whoo hooo! When was the last time that anyone successfully sued Microsoft for bugs in their stuff ?

eBay users spot the online auction house port-scanning their PCs. Um... is that OK?

alain williams Silver badge

My firewall - getting updated

iptables -A INPUT -i lo -s -d -j ACCEPT

It seems that I was naive, I now only allow some connections. Its going to be a pain until I get the rules right.

Contact-tracing app may become a permanent fixture in major Chinese city

alain williams Silver badge

Hong Kong

is the next place where they will want to roll this out. Very useful.

BoJo buckles: UK govt to cut Huawei 5G kit use 'to zero by 2023' after pressure from Tory MPs, Uncle Sam

alain williams Silver badge

Security or politics or economic competition ?

Be slow to take the alleged reasons as being the true ones.

China has grown a lot in economic and political power, it is doing a lot of things that we do not like: interning Muslims, reducing freedom in Hong Kong, internal surveillance, ... and lastly threatening the West's world dominance.

You can either believe that international relationships should be warm & cuddly and all countries work to mutual benefit; or that it is dog eat dog and every country acts to achieve dominance. If you are weak (economically, militarily) then you try to cuddle. If you are strong then countries seem to try to dominate; the USA has done that for years (even before Trump's "America first" policy). China is increasingly trying to dominate.

So how should others react to China's bullying actions ? Do we let it continue and become ever stronger or do we clip its wings ?

It seems clear to me that the Huawei debacle is about clipping China's wings.

The USA cannot just do so, World Trade Organization rules prohibit discrimination between trading partners, but provides exceptions for environmental protection, national security, and other important goals. So a reason needs to be found: security is a good excuse.

If we ban Huawei then Western kit will be bought. This reduces the money that we send to China and benefits Western manufacturers - although, sadly, probably not any British ones -- although Brexit might (maybe) allow the UK government to help such initiatives -- if they can see that clearly.

I leave this to you to decide if stopping Chinese dominance and rebuilding domestic manufacturing (at a price) is a good thing or not.

Google rolls out pro-privacy DNS-over-HTTPS support in Chrome 83... with a handy kill switch for corporate IT

alain williams Silver badge

Who do you want to hide from ?

DoH needs a server to answer DNS queries - that server gets to know a lot about you.

Use normal DNS and your ISP/company can see what you are trying to resolve. Even if you do not use its DNS servers it can sniff the packets as they go by.

If you live in a repressive regime (eg Egypt, China, ...) they can make your ISP hand over your DNS history or change stuff on the fly; so DoH might be good, although they can still see where your IP packets go to.

What about the DoH provider - what does it gain ? Knowledge of all the sites that you visit - good meat to the advertising machine for Google & pals - even when those sites do not run google analytics (or you have blocked the javascript). These DoH providers are subject to the Patriot Act or local equivalent - so, for some, the security is a fig leaf.

Oh - just because you do not think that your regime is repressive does not mean that your government is not snooping on you. DNS over TOR might be an interesting idea.

If you do run DoH then you might be visited by shady men and told to change your browser options - packet sniffing via your ISP will make it obvious if you have taken their 'advice'. So: will you make yourself a target for future visits ?

Could it be? Really? The Year of Linux on the Desktop is almost here, and it's... Windows-shaped?

alain williams Silver badge

Re: If only!

You beat me to it with that comment.

If you want to run MS Windows & Linux on the same machine (plenty of reasons why you might) the only safe way is to run MS Windows under Linux - that way the Linux part remains safe from snooping.

I wonder who might be sponsoring Microsoft to do this work ? How big is the NSA budget ?

You overstepped and infringed British sovereignty, Court of Appeal tells US in software companies' copyright battle

alain williams Silver badge

Should WPL exit the USA ?

If all of its income there is to be garnished by SAS there is little point in bothering.

It will be interesting to see what SAS does. It could go after the USA side of the banks and get an order there. The bank will then have to decide which jurisdiction to obey. Remember these cases where people who left the USA as infants were persued by the USA IRS which forced banks in England to close their accounts, if not the the banks risked penalties of huge fines. IMHO this is international terrorism.

The Rise of The (Coffee) Machines: I need assistance. I think I'm running Windows. Send help

alain williams Silver badge

What annoys me intensely ...

about this sort of error message is that it offers no clue as to what might be wrong.

Far too much software does this and it can take a long time to suss a simple problem due clueless messages like this.

Just as bad are the intensely precise messages that require deep understanding of some protocol & access to the source code to learn what is wrong.

I know that writing good error messages is hard & takes time; unfortunately the programmer will only be complained at if s/he does take the time, the cost of understanding is paid by the user, not the developer.

Microsoft's Family Safety app drills into kids' screen time, browsing habits to help 'facilitate a dialogue'

alain williams Silver badge

How much of this ends up in the advertising database ?

Is there something in the EULA that says that you agree to this or did MS forget to insert that paragraph ?

There's a world out there with a hexagon vortex over its pole packed with hydrocarbon ice crystals. That planet is Saturn

alain williams Silver badge

The 7 mists are really 7 veils

All will be revealed if we sit back and watch the dance.

There's a black hole lurking within 1,000 light years of Earth – and you can see stars circling it with the naked eye

alain williams Silver badge

1,000 light years away is a bit too far ...

for us to be able to chuck some of our more irritating politicians into it.

I'm hoping that they will spot a closer one.

Baby Diesel? Little d'Artagnan? There is another child of Musk in the world

alain williams Silver badge

The father might deserve it, but the newborn son does not.

UK COVID-19 contact-tracing app data may be kept for 'research' after crisis ends, MPs told

alain williams Silver badge

Re: Three things...

EULA controls what the End User can do. You should be after something that controls what the government can do (with the data).

UK IT contractors slipping back into old ways of working now IR35 tax reforms delayed

alain williams Silver badge

HMRC's CEST is deliberately flakey

and gives different answers at different times to IR35 rules that are vague/hard-to-understand. The inevitable result of that is that companies will take the path of least risk to them: push people into IR35, even if said risk is very small. So: the winners get what they want, the winners being the large consultancies who get to push their underqualified staff at inflated prices.

One way of (partly) fixing this would be to force a company (if asked) to take someone 'found' to be within IR35 fully onto their payroll complete with holiday, etc, benefits. This might also benefit the lower paid gig workers such as Deliveroo riders.

GCC 10 gets security bug trap. And look what just fell into it: OpenSSL and a prod-of-death flaw in servers and apps

alain williams Silver badge

Re: Look at valgrind

When will you port this to Linux ?

alain williams Silver badge

Look at valgrind

valgrind is an excellent tool that lets you find similar bugs.

However: for valgrind to work you need to run the program and execute a code path that triggers the bug, not always easy. So static analysis is a great addition.

alain williams Silver badge

Re: El Reg (or the readership) really has changed

Just listen to the news, you hear things like "Rishi Sunak, Chancellor of the Exchequer, said ...".

Most Brits will (should) know who he is but they still remind - just in case.

It irritates me slightly but I accept since not everyone does - especially listeners from other countries: El Reg equivalent of non techy readers.

Microsoft decrees that all high-school IT teachers were wrong: Double spaces now flagged as typos in Word

alain williams Silver badge

The Brexit brigade will be up in arms!

A single space after a full stop is called French spacing. Farage will be apoplectic and wanting to know why Microsoft has sided with the EU!

Why should the UK pensions watchdog be able to spy on your internet activities? Same reason as the Environment Agency and many more

alain williams Silver badge

Re: In other news

Bring on the mandatory wearing of masks. What price Facial recog then eh?

They will just insist that our face masks have our social security number on them.

Tor Project loses a third of staff in coronavirus cuts: Unlucky 13 out as nonprofit hacks back to core ops

alain williams Silver badge

13 staffers were 'let go'

No they were not - they were sacked. 'Let go' suggests that they wanted to leave and were forgiven a minimum notice period, or something.

Please can we not have the corporate euphemisms that suggest that they always smell of roses. In this case I understand why they were sacked, but they were not 'let go'.

El Reg - please say it as it is.

Trello! It is me... you locked the door? User warns of single sign-on risk after barring self from own account

alain williams Silver badge

Never trust a data store that you can't touch

always keep a local backup. Yes: it is more work and management but anything that you do not possess can be taken away by whoever does own it.

It is not just unexpected policy changes, like with this story, but also a technical issue. Your data is worth much more to you than the company that has it, so they will not put much effort in to recovering it after some error.

Another issue: who can read your data when it is in someone else's cloud ?

UK MPs fume after Huawei posts open letter stating: 'Disrupting our involvement in the 5G rollout would do Britain a disservice'

alain williams Silver badge

Re: The problem with China...

There is a lot that it good about globalisation, but there are bad things as well - as you point out.

One benefit should be that you don't wage war on countries that sell you stuff, (one of the ideas about the EU), but it also makes you wary about upsetting them too much and so avoid complaining about human rights abuses, etc. It also makes for a more fragile supply chain & the loss of local jobs.

But a lot of this is driven by the desire for short term corporate profits by managers who do not care a jot about things like human rights. I would like to say that this is where politicians should step in to encourage the right thing - but most of them only pay lip service to the issues that they should care about.

Signal sends smoke, er, signal: If Congress cripples anonymous speech with EARN IT Act, we'll shut US ops

alain williams Silver badge


They've tried terrorism, drugs, and now child porn.

It is nothing new, they are the Four Horsemen of the Infocalypse a term coined in 1988.

The USA shouts 'repression' when this happens in China, Egypt, ... but then claims that 'it is for your good' when they do it.

Commit to Android codebase suggests Google may strong-arm phone makers into using 'seamless' partitioned updates

alain williams Silver badge

And how long will Google maintain/update versions ?

Hopefully more than the normal pathetic 'product lifetime' which is basically until 6 months after the next model is on the market.

Dixons Carphone top brass take 20% pay cut as swathes of Brit workforce furloughed

alain williams Silver badge

I would be more impressed ...

if he paid himself the furlough maximum of £2,500 per month. 80% of his annual £850,000 is £56,666 per month - about 22 times the furlough maximum.

UK judge gives Google a choice: Either let SEO expert read your ranking algos or withdraw High Court evidence

alain williams Silver badge

The ranking algorithms should be disclosed full stop

Given how important they are, how much they affect how web sites are seen, how much they affect what you see, it is not right that these are secret. The broad specifications should be known to all. Not disclosing it is like an airline not giving its precise route between London and New York.

OK: the details might not be put on the google web site but they should be audited at random, but frequent, intervals to keep google honest.

The same goes for Bing, DuckDuckGo, StartPage, etc.

Will this increase gaming of google's algorithms ? A bit: but it will hopefully level the playing field.

Why is ransomware still a thing? One-in-three polled netizens say they would cave to extortion demands

alain williams Silver badge

We should all help here

Tell, show, remind, nag our friends to backup their systems. We are IT literate, we understand the issues, so help those who do not and those who just cannot be bothered. Also: point out that cloudy storage cannot be relied on: if you can't touch it you don't control it. Oh, you might also accidentally delete stuff - stupid, but we all are sometimes.

I give friends memory sticks, but have to remind them to use them.

It is not just ransomware & machine failure or loss: my sister lost a bunch of photographs on her laptop when she was given a new iPhone and set it up.

Boeing 787s must be turned off and on every 51 days to prevent 'misleading data' being shown to pilots

alain williams Silver badge

Re: How long does it take to reboot a 787 ?

My point ? None at all - just a question.

Yes: I provide a reference comparison - is that a problem ?

alain williams Silver badge

How long does it take to reboot a 787 ?

I imagine that it is longer than the 30 odd seconds it takes to reboot my Linux box.

Huawei signs non-aggression patent pact with membership of Open Invention Network

alain williams Silver badge

Re: "What of the company's controversial status today?"

The only controversy about Huawei is why the US Government is harping on about it without ever bringing any concrete evidence to the table.

The answer is quite simple. Under World Trade Organization rules it prohibits discrimination between trading partners, but provides exceptions for environmental protection, national security, and other important goals.

So the only way that Trump can run his protectionist policies is to make false allegations of Huawei being bad for national security.

His assertions of security issues are largely fake news.

Huawei has to do what the Chinese government says, but so do companies in the USA and companies in the UK and in most other countries.

At the Supreme Court, Morrisons pops data breach liability win into its trolley – but it's not a get-out-of-compo free card for businesses

alain williams Silver badge

Error or malicious act

Organisations need people to do things. Some of these things can be delicate. The best that an organisation can do is to train people so that they know what they must & must not do and to make it technically hard for them to do the wrong thing.

But there are limits on what can be done to stop an insider, who needs access to sensitive data to do his job, from abusing the trust that they have been given.

This is cold comfort to those who's data was spaffed around the place, but they are victims of Sketon not Morrisons. It is right that Skelton is now eating porridge.

Announcing the official Reg-approved measure of social distancing: The Osman

alain williams Silver badge

"two metres (six and a half feet)"

Two meters might be 6.5 feet (well, 6.5616798 feet) but I would assert that "six feet" is a better convertion as it is simpler thus easier to remember/understand.

The point is that the recommendation of "two meters" is a guideline, it is not a matter of scientific accuracy such as "2 meters and you are safe, 1.85 meters and you are at much greater risk of catching it".

Brit housing association blabs 3,500 folks' sexual orientation, ethnicity in email blunder

alain williams Silver badge

Gay kids

You are correct - only the tenant, others in the household are not mentioned in the spreadsheet.

They still have not answered to tell me why they sent me a copy.

Britain's courts lurch towards Skype and conference calls for trials as COVID-19 distancing kicks in

alain williams Silver badge


I have been playing with Jitsi - free, open source, trusted -- Skype goes via Microsoft servers. No special software needed - just a web browser; most devices have camera & microphone these days.

HMCS should set up something like this.

I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Black hole quasar tsunamis moving at 46 million miles per hour

alain williams Silver badge

Re: Mindboggingly fast

46 million mph is incomprehensibly fast

To give an idea: that would cross the earth (ie diameter) in 0.17 milliseconds.

I have no idea how long it would take to cross Wales or a football pitch or any other El Reg favoured unit of measurement.

Yes, true, fusion reactors don't work quite yet, but, er, maybe AI can help us stop our experiments from imploding

alain williams Silver badge

Re: Kaboom!

The nice thing about fusion reactors is that any Kaboom will be much smaller than you would get with a fission one and there is much smaller amount of radio active emissions which are far less harmful.

UK government puts IR35 tax reforms on hold for a year in wake of coronavirus crisis

alain williams Silver badge

Re: The number of p155 takers ruining it for genuine contractors

So long as your paying your correct taxes contract all you want, but pay your correct taxes like non contractors do.

Is it fair if two people who work together with the same income but one of them: does not get sick or holiday pay; is there for a few months & lives 100 miles away but has to pay train & hotel out of after-tax income; etc ?

Yes: some contractors were taking the piss, but some do have real extra costs and take real risks.

Open-source bug bonanza: Vulnerabilities up almost 50 per cent thanks to people actually looking for them

alain williams Silver badge

Re: Why does Python consistently have a relatively low number of exploits?

It is misleading to compare levels of bugs between languages and assume that it is down to features of the language, libraries, etc.

The other big variable is the type of programmer who use different languages. Eg PHP is much easier to do something simply than Python and so is used by less skilled and less capable programmers. These 'lesser' programmers are going to make mistakes that better programmers would avoid.

However: finding the skill levels of the programmer and then comparing what they produce in different languages is almost impossible to do.

UK Defence Committee probe into national security threat of Huawei sure to uncover lots of new and original insights

alain williams Silver badge

Who operates Huawei kit ?

Any threat from Huawei does not come from the hardware/software but that we outsource the running of the kit to Huawei. So (if I read that article properly) what we need to do is to stop being penny pinching and train up our own engineers to understand the kit and be able to make it do what we want.

I suspect that many Huawei staff working in the UK are born Brits and could be tempted to work for a UK company if offered a decent salary. OK: there is more to it than that, but that is the direction in which we should travel. Having the engineers under UK management should help a lot.

I do agree with all of what the A/C parent says.

alain williams Silver badge

They really understand their onions - not

They say here that:

Your uploaded file must be a single Word, ODT or RTF document

One of those is a program, the other two document formats, sigh :-(

Morrisons puts non-essential tech changes on ice as panic-stricken shoppers strip stores

alain williams Silver badge

Re: "throughput of goods is in excess of the usual Christmas peak"

running out of toilet paper sucks

Just buy a copy of the Daily Mail - I can't see any other reason for wanting to.

More than a billion hopelessly vulnerable Android gizmos in the wild that no longer receive security updates – research

alain williams Silver badge

This is what the vendors want ...

something to fall out of support so that the user feels pushed to have to buy a new one.

They should be forced to support them for a least 5 years after the last one is sold - not from when it is first released.

They hate people like me: my 'phone runs Android 4.3 (released July 2013). It would be nice to have an update, but I don't really care as I use it as a 'phone, so: voice, text, address book is what I use most. I do sometimes use it as a modem (tether my Linux laptop) and maybe once a month use the web browser. No apps other than what it came with, no Google account.

I don't use its email client (I don't trust the 'phone enough), I don't do facebook or twitter.

Most of the time: Internet, GPS, ... switched off so the battery can last a week.

Sadly, the web has brought a whole new meaning to the phrase 'nothing is true; everything is permitted'

alain williams Silver badge

Re: Penny for a cup of tea, guv?

How about: "bus ticket, where to ? I'll buy it for you."

I remember, years ago, being asked to help with the price of a meal. So I offered to buy a kebab from the shop that we were in front of; I was told "I do not like kebabs" -- so I walked off. If he had been hungry he would have accepted.

alain williams Silver badge

Some people lie, some people cheat, ...

and some always have - back to the dawn of human time.

That they do so using the latest tech should not be surprising. What this tech does is to allow them to try to scam more people much more cheaply than they ever have done before.

It is not a tech problem, it is a human one. It will never be 'solved' but might be reduced, this will be by human means (eg lock them up). Tech means might help a bit but cannot provide a cure.


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