* Posts by Buzzword

1030 publicly visible posts • joined 30 Jun 2010


Google Bard can now tap into your Gmail, Docs, more


I, for one, welcome our new AI overlords - but they're useless

I gave Bard access to my emails. Then I asked it a few simple questions:

Q: "Based on my emails, how much have I spent at Tesco in the last month?" — A: "You have spent £290.46 at Tesco in the last month" [Correct]

Q: "Based on my emails, what are my plans for this weekend?" — A: "I cannot find any specific plans for your weekend in your emails." [Wrong]

Most of the answers are terrible.

Q: "How much is a room at the Sunderland Travelodge on Tuesday?" — A: Spews out a load of Google search results, without actually giving me the answer.

Even trying to focus the results doesn't get me there:

Q: "How much did I pay for a room at the Sunderland Travelodge last Tuesday?" — A: "I could not find any receipts for hotels in Sunderland in your email." [Wrong]

It even fails on softball questions like this:

Q: "Are there any emails that I need to reply to?" — A: Yes there are two: [real personal email] and [random newsletter]

Bottom line: it's a long way off replacing human personal assistants.

Canada plans brain drain of H-1B visa holders, with no-job, no-worries work permits


Re: Short term visas

Plenty of foreigners work in places like the UAE or Saudi Arabia, where they have no pathway to citizenship. (Actually the UAE does now offer a pathway, but numbers are low for now.)

Intel pours Raptor Lake chips into latest NUC Mini PC line


Re: Digital signage? WTF?

Corporate insists on installing McAfee DLP Endpoint Protection, Trellix Endpoint Security, and a whole host of other background processes from the standard corporate build. Can't run those on a Raspberry Pi.

Microsoft promises it's made Teams less confusing and resource hungry


Teams will be less like WhatsApp, more like Facebook

The changes to Threading are really significant, and I don't think you've gone into enough detail here. The chat bar moves to the top (like Facebook); each thread is now like a Facebook post, with comments below it. This will reduce noise like "hello" or "thanks"; and it will be more searchable. Overall this should improve productivity.

Tech job vacancies hamper England's digital health plans


Pay seems low

A keyword search for "software developer" on the NHS Jobs site shows the majority of roles are in the 30-40k range. Make of that what you will...

Apple's M2 MacBook Pros, Mac Mini boast more cores, higher clocks and bigger GPUs


8GB extra for £200

The upgrade from 8GB to 16GB on the Mac Mini still costs £200 extra. No wonder Apple is so profitable.

Google's Dart language soon won't take null for an answer


TypeScript is better these days

TypeScript supports non-nullable and non-undefined types with the --strictNullChecks option. You can still break it by assigning a null of "any" type; but you can also prevent that with the ESLint rule "no-explicit-any". In theory this means TypeScript is perfectly type-safe; but in practice many developers don't use these checks; or don't enforce them on CI builds.

x86 Raspberry Pi Desktop is a great way to revive an old PC


Power consumption

This is all very well, but an ageing x86 PC is likely to be a power hog. You'd spend more in electricity in a year than the purchase cost of an energy-efficient Raspberry Pi 4B.

Alphabet's Wing drone unit inks supermarket delivery deal


Better suited to pharmacy products

Supermarket products are low-margin and bulky. Drugs are lightweight and valuable; and people who are sick don't want to go out. They're the ideal product for drones.

Could BYOB (Bring Your Own Battery) offer a solution for charging electric vehicles? Microlino seems to think so


Comparison with Citroen Ami (electric)

The Microlino costs € 12,500 and is classed as a heavy quadricycle (L7e).

Top speed of 90km/h, range 230km.

In France: you can drive unaccompanied at age 18 with a full B licence.

In Italy: you can drive unaccompanied at age 16 with a B1 licence, if the vehicle is speed-limited to 80km/h (50mph).

The Citroen Ami costs € 6,000 and is classed as a light quadricycle (L6e).

Top speed of 45km/h, range 70km.

In both France and Italy, you can drive unaccompanied at age 14 with just an AM licence. This is roughly equivalent to the motorcycle CBT in the UK: no theory test, just a one-day training course.

If you live on the continent and have (or are) a teenager who needs to attend college in the next town over, both of these are preferable to taking the bus.

Google fixes 'Chromebork' one-character code typo that prevented Chrome OS logins


Re: "clear local data on the device"

I thought the whole point of Chromebooks was that they didn't store any local data on the device?

With incoming iOS 15, update refuseniks will be given choice to stay where they are while still receiving security patches


Not enough space

The only reason I haven't upgraded is because I don't have 1.5 GB spare to actually perform the upgrade.

Now if Apple could offer a service whereby somebody goes through your photos and deletes the blurry ones, that would be most welome indeed.

Chancellor launches £500m business software subsidy in the UK. What's 'approved' software then?


Productivity-enhancing software

If the software is genuinely productivity-enhancing, it should pay for itself in no time, and the govt wouldn't need to chip in.

Transcribe-my-thoughts app would prevent everyone knowing what I actually said during meetings


Easy solution: share the minutes on-screen

When the meeting starts, share your screen and put the meeting agenda at the top. As the meeting proceeds, write the meeting minutes in real-time with everybody watching. This helps keep the meeting on-track and avoids duplication - everyone can see if a point has already been made. Similarly, if the meeting gets too long and the notes spill beyond what can fit on one screen, you can say "I think we have enough to take away for now" and call the meeting to a close.

A new take on programming trends: You know what's not a bunch of JS? Devs learning Python and Java ahead of JavaScript


More people learn Java... because it takes longer

If it takes two weeks to learn Javascript but six months to learn Java, then the stats will make it look like Java is more popular to learn.

If it takes a week to write an application in Java but only a day to do the same in Javascript, then the stats will show most development time is spent in Java.

The best metric for evaluating a programming language is some combination of learning curve + maintainability. (Perl is notoriously unmaintainable.)

React team observes that running everything on the client can be costly, aims to fix it with Server Components


Turning UI devs into Full-Stack devs

One language (or framework) to rule the entire stack. This helps balance out resources across front-end and back-end. How many times has a front-end dev's work been delayed because the back-end devs are behind; or vice-versa?

Problem is, this doesn't solve the next level down in the stack. Somebody still needs to manage database changes, server configuration changes, auth model changes, hardware; and all the other weird and wonderful things further down the stack.

Alleged Ponzi mastermind on the run from FBI hid in lake with sea-scooter, collared after he surfaced half-hour later


Re: "pay back the millions they owe"

The smart move would be to put the millions into BitCoin, encrypt it with a strong password, copy it onto multiple media (USB keys, hard drives, DVD-R discs, whatever), and distribute those media to friends / family / associates. When you get out of prison, go visit all your old friends and see (a) who bothered to keep the device, and (b) who is willing to return it to you for the lowest fee.

Of course, all this relies on knowing exactly when the cops are coming and having the time to perform all the steps above before you're caught. Most criminals are greedy and prefer to spend the money immediately on tangible goods, rather than invest for the long-term.

Worn-out NAND flash blamed for Tesla vehicle gremlins, such as rearview cam failures and silenced audio alerts


Re: Who makes ROM these days?

You've linked to an article written by researcher Barry M. Lunt of Provo, Utah; who discovers that the best long-term archival medium is the Millenniata M-Disc. By an incredible coincidence, that same Barry M. Lunt is also the co-founder of the Millenniata company.

Trump H-1B visa crackdown hit with legal double whammy: Tech giants, Chamber of Commerce challenge rules


Re: Elephant in the room?

The weather is nicer. That's enough for a lot of people.

Also, unless you're working in London / southeast, your pay is likely to be considerably higher in the USA.

Consultant leading Surrey County Council's £30m jump to new ERP system will bag £177,000 as £83m cuts bite local citizens


How did they cope before?

Seriously, how did large organisations Plan their Enterprise Resources before dedicated ERP software came about? Is a £30m IT package really cheaper than a room full of secretaries?

Xen Project officially ports its hypervisor to Raspberry Pi 4


Re: Beautiful Madness

Looking at floating-point performance alone, the RPi 4 is equivalent to an Intel Core 2 Duo from circa 2007.

The Honor MagicBook Pro looks nice, runs like a dream, and isn't too expensive either. What more could you want?


Re: Order early to get free gifts

Screen brightness is only 300 nits too. That's low - plenty of other manufacturers reach 400 or even 500 nits.


Order early to get free gifts

If you order early, they throw in a free Honor watch and router. As I have no need of either device, I think I'll just wait until the pre-sale is over.

The cynic in me thinks it's just a ploy to get their router hardware installed in lots of people's houses, all the better to spy on us.

Samsung slows smartphone upgrade treadmill with promise to support three Android generations on Galaxies


Competing with Apple

One of Apple's key appeals is that you can still get the latest OS on a four year old phone. Samsung needs to compete on that feature. Longevity is important when you're dropping £1,000+ on a new phone.

OOP there it is: You'd think JavaScript's used more by devs than Java... but it's not – JetBrains survey


This metric doesn't measure "popularity"

Let's say you have a particular functionality requirement. It takes 20 hours to code it in Java, but only 10 hours to code it in Javascript. Your metric would conclude that Java is twice as popular as Javascript; when in fact it's just twice as tedious.

I'm not claiming that Java is less productive than Javascript; just that we can't tell from the given metric alone.

As Twitter blocks white supremacists posing as anti-fascists, FBI appeal is flooded with images of cop violence


"white supremacists posing as anti-fascists"

How can they tell?

"The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which."

Ever felt down after staring at your phone late in bed? It's not just you – mice do too


Did they try other colours too?

Had to read the original paper to check, but yes, they compared blue vs pink. Only blue caused the depressive mood.

Microsoft announces official Windows package manager. 'Not a package manager' users snap back


What about the Microsoft Store?!?!

Windows already has a tool for installing pre-packaged apps: the Microsoft Store. Sure, it sucks; but why not improve it rather than inventing a whole new tool?

Mad dash for webcams with surge in videoconferencing has turned out rather nicely for Logitech


Video calling - a solution looking for a problem since the 1990s

Once the novelty of teleworking has worn off, most people will realise that video calling isn't all that useful. Video phones have been around since the 1990s, but never became popular anywhere in the world. Even video-calling the grandparents on Skype is more trouble than it's worth. Far easier to just pick up the phone and make a voice call.

Microsoft doc formats are the bane of office suites on Linux, SoftMaker's Office 2021 beta may have a solution


Compare with WPS Office?

See title

Samsung calls it a day on liquid-crystal display, says quantum dot is really hot


Apple holding out

Of the current iPhone range, only the top-of-the-range iPhone 11 Pro has an OLED display; the rest are plain LCD.

What do Apple know that Samsung (and the rest of the industry) don't?

Delivery drones: Where are they when we really need them?


Vertical cars?!

cars of the future will include vehicles that travel up and down the outsides of such buildings

What are these futurologists smoking?

Taiwan collars coronavirus quarantine scofflaws with smartphone geo-fences. So, which nation will be next?


What if you leave your phone at home?

Or better still, borrow a neighbour's phone when you go out, so that you have something to show if the police ask.

I'm not condoning such behaviour; just that compliance seems to depend a lot on the detainee's willingness to follow orders.

Apple grudgingly opens up its check book, pays VirnetX $454m in patent royalties after a decade of wrangling


Here's the detail

There are four patents at stake:

6,502,135 - Agile network protocol for secure communications with assured system availability (filed 2000)

7,490,151 - Establishment of a secure communication link based on a domain name service (DNS) request (filed 2002)

7,418,504 - Agile network protocol for secure communications using secure domain names (filed 2003)

7,921,211 - Agile network protocol for secure communications using secure domain names (filed 2007)

All four of them mean broadly the same thing: When you try to connect to server X, the software first checks if X is known to be a secure server. If so, the software sets up a VPN to initiate a secure connection; if not, it initiates an insecure connection. The details vary between the patents, but the gist is the same.

I'd have thought there'd be prior art to invalidate all of them, but U.S. patent law is a curious beast.

Microsoft, Google, Slack, Zoom et al struggling to deal with a spike in remote tools thanks to coronavirus


Remote working hype cycle

"big tech has viewed remote working as a potential goldmine for years"

Really? The same big tech that insists all their employees live in Silicon Valley? The same big tech that builds shiny new campuses with all services on-site, so that staff never have to leave? I'll believe the teleworking hype when the FAANGs embrace it.

Password killer FIDO2 comes bounding into Azure Active Directory hybrid environments


Re: Get rid of the commercial middlemen

Can you point to one company that actually uses SQRL?


Re: Infrastructure

This particular article is about enterprise scenarios, where it's perfectly reasonable to be able to track users (i.e. employees) activity on enterprise systems.

On the broader question of whether FIDO tokens can behave like super-cookies, the answer is no. Your sign-in key for e.g. Google will be completely separate from your sign-in key for Microsoft. Neither company can access the other's keys - that's part of the WebAuthn spec.

Google exiles 600 apps from Play Store for 'disruptive advertising' amid push to clean up Android souk's image


Disruptive ads

An example of a disruptive ad would be one that covers the entire mobile device screen, without an obvious way to get rid of it.

Like those ads on YouTube which don't have a "Skip Ad" button?

UK contractors planning 'mass exodus' ahead of IR35 tax clampdown – survey


Re: It's not just IR35 though

VAT is a cost for everyone. Last year's total VAT receipts were £125bn. If that were still taxed at the old 17.5% rate, we'd collectively save £15.6bn. That's around £230 for every man, woman, and child in the country.


Re: It's not just IR35 though

Don't get me started on childcare.

In 2005, Childcare Vouchers were introduced, saving a higher-rate taxpayer up to £2,916/yr.

In 2011, higher-rate taxpayers' savings were capped at £1,484/yr.

In 2018, childcare vouchers were finally scrapped, replaced with Tax Free Child Care. This offers savings of up to £2,000/yr. If you earn £99,999, you qualify. But if you earn just £1 more, you face a bill for £2,000.

You can use pension contributions to reduce your "adjusted income" to below £100k; but pension contributions have an annual limit of £40,000, so if you earn over £140,000 then you can't bring yourself below the magic £100k mark again.

Even that £40,000 limit represents a new tax of sorts. The pension contribution annual allowance for the 2010/11 tax year was £255,000 but reduced to £50,000 for the 2011/12 tax year and £40,000 with effect from April 2014. Not to mention the fact that pension allowances taper off above £150k.

Look, I don't expect much sympathy for people on £100k+ wages. But understand that the environment today for skilled (i.e. high-earning) workers, particularly contractors, is nowhere near as attractive as it once was. No surprise that many of them are planning to leave these shores.


It's not just IR35 though

There have been a lot of tax increases in the last few years, making the UK a significantly less desirable place to work for high earners. Many contractors from EU countries are actively looking for work elsewhere in Europe; and fewer are arriving here.

Recent tax increases include:

* Pension Lifetime Allowance of £1.5m introduced (2006)

* Personal allowance withdrawal over £100k (2010)

* Additional Rate tax over £150k (2010)

* VAT rises to 20% (2011)

* High Income Child Benefit Charge (2013)

* Air Passenger Duty continuous rises

* Marriage Allowance excludes high earners (2015)

* Dividend tax (2016)

* Travel and subsistence expense clampdown (2016)

* Pension Lifetime Allowance reduced to £1m (2016)

* BiK (Benefits in Kind) clampdown (2017)

* IR35 for public-sector (2017)

* Tax Free Child Care excludes anyone earning over £100k (2017)

* Insurance Premium Tax rises to 12% (2017)

* Dividend tax threshold reduced (2018)

* Pension contributions capped at 20% (2020?)

The rising burden of regulation on limited companies means accountancy fees have been rising too.

NBD: A popular HTTP-fetching npm code library used by 48,000 other modules retires, no more updates coming


All software is terrible

"Developers using *INSERT SOFTWARE NAME* today are often including layers of indirection in order to port those old patterns to new ones," he said. "This shows up in bundle sizes, performance, and debuggability, and there are numerous newer libraries that don’t have these problems."

Applies to nearly everything. Windows. Linux. Office. You name it, it's a cesspool of legacy fixes, edge case hacks, and backwards-compatibility kludges. Let's put a strict time limit on all software - ten years of active development, five years of LTS - followed by not just a rewrite, but a completely new product every decade.

NexDock 2 revisited: Could it be more than a handy Pi hole?


It's like an electric car

Yes, there are plenty of times when a NexDock2 and a Samsung phone, with their limited capabilities, are sufficient to work productively. But there are enough times when you need a proper laptop, so you might as well get one and save yourself the hassle.

Yes, there are plenty of times when an electric car, with its limited range, is sufficient to get you where you're going. But there are enough times when you need a normal car with longer range, so you're probably better off with a normal car.

As the original review of the NexDock2 pointed out, for the same money you can get a decent second-hand laptop. With a UK keyboard.

I'll get my flameproof coat.

They can't collect your bins or fix your roads. They let Google stalk visitors to their websites. Yes, it's UK local government


Why do public sector websites have adverts at all?

I can just about understand advertising on bus stops, or on the London underground. But why does a public-sector website need ads? (NationalRail.co.uk is one of the worst offenders.) By definition, the ads are getting in the way of delivering the service. Does the local council's telephone line play radio ads when you're on hold? Do the local authority's offices have billboards plastered all over them? Just don't do it, guys.

It's calculated Apple leak time: Cheaper iPhone, laptops with proper keyboards, and, oh, a Tile competitor


Re: Tile user base vs Apple user base

The correct comparison is the number of Tile users versus the number of Apple device owners.

Tile has sold 25 million "tiles" since it was launched. Apple sold 70 million iPhones in the last quarter alone.

Therefore you have a far greater chance of a passing iPhone user finding your lost item than a passing Tile user.

Shopify goes all in on React Native for mobile development 3 years after Airbnb dropped it like 3rd-grade French


Lack of type safety in Javascript

FWIW, you can decorate your code with JSDoc comments (@type, @param, @returns, etc.), then use either the Typescript compiler or the Google Closure compiler to validate the type-safety. If you find yourself in an environment where you can't use Typescript directly, this is the next best thing.

As miscreants prey on thousands of vulnerable boxes, Citrix finally emits patches to fill in hijacking holes in Gateway and ADC


Boxes? Boxes?!!1!!!11eleven!!1!

The plural form is "boxen", Gareth. You used to know this sort of thing:



Did the Reg's style guide change?

The Six Million Dollar Scam: London cops probe Travelex cyber-ransacking amid reports of £m ransomware demand, wide-open VPN server holes


Outsourced and out of sight?

From April 2017: https://www.peterboroughtoday.co.uk/business/leading-peterborough-employer-to-move-city-jobs-to-india-1-7896706

"Foreign exchange company Travelex, based in Worldwide House, in Thorpe Wood, has been consulting with staff for months over its plans to move some jobs to Asia. It is understood that about 75 finance jobs will be lost to Peterborough. Travelex employs up to 400 people in Peterborough. The remaining staff cover a variety of functions including human resources, IT and customer service. It is understood that the company is seeking to make the redundancies to improve efficiency and to cut costs."

Sounds like only finance roles were relocated, not IT. Would be interested to hear more from any present or former insiders.

Dell slathers on factor XPS 13 to reveal new shiny with... ooh... a 0.1 inch bigger screen


Re: 13" screen?

I'm inclined to agree - how does anybody over 40 manage to read the text on a 13" screen?

'Supporting Internet Explorer is hell': Web developers identify top needs – new survey


Re: Sigh

Yep. WebAssembly isn't what most people think it is either. It's just an engine for high-speed number-crunching. It doesn't help at all with large string processing or DOM fiddling, which are the most common choke points for large web apps.