* Posts by PaulVD

82 publicly visible posts • joined 28 Jul 2010


Cosmic rays more likely to glitch out water-cooled computers


Simple solution

A tinfoil hat will protect your computer from slow neutrons.

ChatGPT has mastered the confidence trick, and that's a terrible look for AI


Re: It doesn't stop impressing me

Merging the ads will be trivial: to whatever search term you enter, Google 2.0 will just append in the background "and include an advertisement for <whoever wins the on-line bidding for this ad slot>".

The result is that the AI's response to your query will have the ad seamlessly integrated into the returned content, so that naive consumers (the great majority) may not even realise that the ad is there. And Google's development costs for this tremendous advance in human welfare marketing will be trivial.

But I mostly worry about the future of aManfromMars. Her contributions to our ruminations will no longer seem as interesting.

Microsoft feels the need, the need for speed in Teams


Not my most common action

"switching between ... or joining a meeting ... are among the most common actions taken by Teams users."

Not for me: my most common action is shutting it down. I can't tell whether MS has accelerated this.

In the meantime, if I could be bothered, I would try to work out how to stop Teams starting up at boot (I can't uninstall it because I need it once in a blue moon for a commercial client).

Google hit with lawsuit for dropping free Workspace apps


Re: $5M for not getting something for free

That's why the suit makes the point that the users contributed to the development of the software through their feedback, and that their contribution was valuable. Without valuable "consideration", there would be no contract for the Court to enforce.

'Red-rated' legacy IT gets refresh in UK as US battles theirs with bills


Pygmies inheriting from giants

Why is it that our predecessors of 50 years ago could build systems like these, but that we - far richer, better educated, with outstandingly better hardware and software - can no longer do so? I get that updating and extending an undocumented old system is impossible, but it seems that we cannot even build a modern system from scratch to do the same job, so that we could then extend it.

I am reminded of the Saxons, building hovels in timber, surrounded by great Roman stone buildings which they had no way to emulate.

Windows 11 usage stats within touching distance of... XP


They promised us that Windows 10 would be the last version of Windows

I intend to hold them to that promise, by not installing another one.

European watchdog: All data collected about users via ad-consent popup system must be deleted


Re: Agree 100%

But I DO get asked again next time. That is how I know that my Firefox setting "Discard all cookies when I close the browser" actually works.

Linux Mint 20.3 appears – now with more Mozilla flavor: Why this distro switched Firefox defaults back to Google


Firefox updates

In Firefox Settings, General, Firefox Updates

change the selection from Automatically install updates (recommended)

to Check for updates but let you choose to install them


It's time to delete that hunter2 password from your Microsoft account, says IT giant


But biometric identification is not secure either

People keep reusing their fingerprints on different sites.

Gov.UK taskforce publishes post-Brexit wish-list: 'TIGRR' pounces on GDPR, metric measures


Re: 'Net zero'

"transformational new technologies on a scale not seen since the creation of the internal combustion engine" is a reference to the Great British Blockchain.

This will be bigger and better than European blockchains because it will be built using Imperial Bits, which are 1.38794 metric bits.


Re: If I see a GDPR popup...

Nah, I just accept it. But since my Firefox is set to discard cookies when I close it (several times a day), it doesn't do the data miners much good. The only downside is that the site then asks me to save cookies the next time, and the time after that.

Global Fastly outage takes down many on the wibbly web – but El Reg remains standing


Re: “On-premise”?

That premises that the premise of your proposition is properly positioned on the premises where you work. Or something.

US slaps tariffs on countries that hit Big Tech with digital services taxes ... then pauses them immediately


Re: About bl**dy time

I'm puzzled. I operate a one-person consultancy firm. I am largely retired, and my firm now has only one remaining client: the Australian subsidiary of a US firm. All of the value is provided in the US, all of the revenue is billed and paid from Australia, and all of the cost is incurred in my country.

So perhaps you could explain to me, is my firm's profit earned in my country, in Australia, or in the US?

Since this appears to be much clearer to several commentators than it is to me, perhaps someone could explain how the tax laws need to be "fixed" so that my firm pays its taxes in the correct country.

To my way of thinking, the firm makes a profit, but it does not make the profit in any particular country, and there is no "correct" country that should levy the tax. What we see is a tax grab by countries that feel they are missing out, and would like a piece of the action.

Just what is the poop capacity of an unladen sparrow? We ask because one got into the office and left quite a mess


No mention of poop volume, but ...

Testosterone levels are positively correlated with cloacal bacterial diversity and the relative abundance of Chlamydiae in breeding male rufous-collared sparrows. Camilo Escallón, Matthew H. Becker, Jenifer B. Walke, Roderick V. Jensen, Guy Cormier, Lisa K. Belden, Ignacio T. Moore. Functional Ecology 2016 https://doi.org/10.1111/1365-2435.12696

Linux Mint emits fix for memory-gobbling Cinnamon – and future version may insist on some updates


Re: "In a few of them it might even insist."

"operator error induced by computer illiterate end-users who don't even have the computer sense to describe how they made the error in the first place!"

Some years ago, my system was being regularly crashed by Cinnamon. I was eventually able to reproduce it by the following steps:

(1) Reboot Mint.

(2) Go to bed and come back next morning. Cinnamon was hogging far too much memory.

(3) Go away and leave the machine for the day. By the next morning, Cinnamon was hogging even more memory.

I reported the issue, and it disappeared in the next release. But for that release, I had to swtich to another desktop, because I could not use a machine where R crashed half way through a long analysis for a client because Cinnamon had gobbled up all the memory.

My suspicion is that Cinnamon was being bamboozled by some feature of my hardware, although it is always fun to blame systemd. If it is a hardware issue, I can't fault the Mint team for not being able to reproduce it on their machines, and I salute their approach of offering a software workaround until they can get better information.

Ad blocking made Google throw its toys out of the pram – and now even more control is being taken from us


Re: "...the stuff that reaches only the right people is worth far more..."

That's DuckDuckGo's business model - they sell ads that are placed next to your search response, and nothing else. So they have no need to track you. They claim to have been profitable since their first month in business (although they will never be as profitable as Google).

Congrats, Meg Whitman, another multi-billion-dollar write-off for the CV: Her web vid upstart Quibi implodes


There are sites that make a lot of money out of 10-minute videos

They sell porn, or so I am told.

Something to look forward to: Being told your child or parent was radicalized by an AI bot into believing a bonkers antisemitic conspiracy theory


El Reg missed a trick

OpenAI declined to comment on the record.

Why didn't you ask GPT-3 to comment? Ze would no doubt have been happy to respond at length.

Wired: China's Beidou satnav system, 35th bird in orbit. Tired: America's GPS. Expired: Britain's dreams of its own


There is no such country as Taiwan ...

... and yet Taiwan is one of the first customers for a Chinese satellite positioning system. Gotta love the hypocrisy of today's Middle Kingdom.

Machine learning helps geoboffins spot huge beds of hot rocks 1,000km across deep below Earth's surface


Re: My guess is..

My bad - thanks for checking my arithmetic. I think I must have used a 10m thick crust rather than 10km.


Re: My guess is..

Not that much momentum. A large slab of rock 1000km x 1000km x 10km deep, being subducted at say 1cm a year, has about the same momentum as a 100-ton jumbo jet travelling at speed. And when planes crash, their momentum does not carry them very far down into the earth.

It is gravity, not momentum, that moves stuff around in the mantle, working on thermally-induced density variations. And ocean crust is largely solidified mantle material, so when it is subducted and melts again its density will not be terribly different from the mantle material that surrounds it.

But the discovery of vast hot spots down at the edge of our planet's core has got to be the coolest science of the year. (I'll get my coat.)

Moore's Law is deader than corduroy bell bottoms. But with a bit of smart coding it's not the end of the road


Amazing how many smart El Reg readers missed the point

The authors picked a really simple problem for which we have a lot of analysis and some very good solutions, and showed that a really poor algorithmic choice falls far outside the achievable frontier. No doubt they did a bit of searching over languages etc to find a really bad starting point.

But it is beside the point to argue that they should have used a modern BLAS library, a better language, and other optmisations that are obvious to all of us. They showed that there are design choices which make orders-of-magnitude differences to the performance of this very simple and well-understood problem.

But now, apply that to problems that are not well-understood and for which there are no conveniently pre-optimised libraries: the database structures from which you extract that complicated query, or the nonlinear pattern-matching algorithm, or whatever programming and software design task you get paid for. Can thinking more carefully about your fundamental approach to the data structures or the mathematics yield orders of magnitude improvements? Given that we can no longer count on major improvements in future processing speed, we will have to depend on improving our high-level thinking about data structures, algorithms, and suitable programming languages.

This is a very self-evident point, for which the authors have offered a correspondingly trivial example. My initial thought was that the article was not interesting enough to be publishable. But a surprising number of commentators have attacked the example and missed the underlying point, so perhaps the point is not as self-evident as it ought to be.

Bite me? It's 'byte', and that acronym is Binary Interface Transfer Code Handler


At least the manager was validating/sanitizing the inputs.

'A' is for ad money oddly gone missing: Probe finds middlemen siphon off half of online advertising spend


A special offer to advertisers

If I read the article's terminology right, I am on the demand side of the online advertising business.

So I have a deal for the advertisers: I will stop demanding ads if you will stop supplying them. Everybody happy now?

We're going on a vuln hunt. We're going catch a big one: Researchers find Windows bugs dominate – but fixes are fast


Re: Howabout a breakdown of OS vs Browser bugs maybe?

Preferred safe browser: Firefox + Noscript, with cookies discarded whenever I close the browser (which is several times a day).

And every now and then I turn off Noscript while visiting el Reg, and click on any ads that appear.

Oh ****... Sudo has a 'make anyone root' bug that needs to be patched – if you're unlucky enough to enable pwfeedback


It's okay - Lennart Poettering is on to it

A sudo replacement is the next feature to be added to systemd.

Are you getting it? Yes, armageddon it: Mass hysteria takes hold as the Windows 7 axe falls


Why are you being mean about my Win10 phone?

See title.

H0LiCOW: Cosmoboffins still have no idea why universe seems to be expanding more rapidly than expected


Re: Riddle me this:

The Hubble constant is the reciprocal of the age of the universe, about 1/(14,000,000,000 years). Since my height is rather less than 2m and my age about 70 years, over my lifetime the expansion of the universe has increased my height by about 2*70/14,000,000,000 m, that is 10^-8 m or 100 Angstroms.

Of course, local space-time is heavily distorted by all of the matter around me, so this calculation is only illustrative.

Kiwi tax probe squeezed $25m out of Microsoft – now it's Oracle's turn


Re: Alternative Minimum Tax

NZ has an interesting wrinkle, which is probably what gave the taxman leverage in these cases: if the authorities consider that a tax arrangement unduly lessens the tax otherwise payable, they can simply set it aside and work out the tax differently. In principle, this is a horrible idea, because it means that no one can really work out with any certainty what tax is due. But it means that people who try to be too clever by half are likely to wind up on the wrong side of a big bill.


Staff that work in NZ pay tax in NZ on their salaries, just like staff employed by any other firm. This issue is about how much tax the company that employs them should pay in NZ (instead of in other countries).

Bad news: 'Unblockable' web trackers emerge. Good news: Firefox with uBlock Origin can stop it. Chrome, not so much


Re: I'm forced to wonder

Firefox has had this for years. Options > Privacy & Security > Cookies and Site Data. Check "Delete Cookies and Site Data when Firefox is closed" then click "Manage Permissions" and note any sites that you want to "Allow" to retain cookies after you close Firefox.

You will no doubt need to clear all existing cookies to start fresh.

Voila! All functionality (logins, shopping baskets, whatever) works during a session. But when you close Firefox everything is gone unless you agreed to retain it. No distinction between first-party and third-party.

It does not solve every problem - you probably need NoScript to block fingerprinting, for example - but it consistently wipes out persistent cookies that you did not ask for.

Fairphone 3 stripped to the modular essentials: Glue? What glue?

Thumb Up

On my shopping list

For when Microsoft stops supporting my Windows phone in a few months (yes, that says what part of the market I occupy!)

Not so much for repairability, as for its ethical sourcing of materials and components.

Fix LibreOffice now to thwart silent macro viruses – and here's how to pwn those who haven't


Re: Defaults...

Ditto on Linux Mint 19 / LibreOffice 6.5.2. Logo is available as an extension, but not installed by default.

God DRAM you! Prices to slide more than 40% in 2019 because chip makers can't forecast


Re: Crystal ball

No doubt the number was truncated for publication: if the fall had been 20% in the first 173 days of the year (to 22 June), then extrapolating to the full 365 days would have given 42.1965% for the full year. But presenting a forecast to that much precision would have been silly.

Red flag: Verify to be marked 'undeliverable' by gov projects watchdog


I am already able to safely and securely access both private and public online services

I use a password manager.

SpaceX reveals chain of events that caused the unplanned disassembly of Crew Dragon capsule


That's why we do the test

To explore how the real world differs from our understanding of it.

(Icon shows test result in this case.)

I don't have to save my work, it's in The Cloud. But Microsoft really must fix this files issue


Re: I could train 1st line to be fluent in 'user'

Forget AI - what the world needs is Artificial Users.

Switchzilla rolls out Wi-Fi 6 kit: New access points, switch for a standard that hasn't officially arrived

Black Helicopters

The backdoor is not required by the standard, but is allowed in the implementation.

Northern Virginia cements spot as bit barn capital of the world with jigawatt capacity


Re: Jigawatts? Only for flux capacitors in DeLoreans. . . .

(1) "rare and archaic pronunciation of Gigawatt with a soft 'g' sound". Also such rare and archaic words as Giant, Giraffe, ....

(2) "Jigawatts are often referred to in Internet forums in order to make fun of someone's electrical knowledge." So that's why El Reg used the word, of course.

Aussies, Yanks may think they're big drinkers – but Brits easily booze them under the table


I call bullshit on these statistics

"... each additional chain outlet is associated with a 35.3 per cent increase in intentional injuries, including assaults, stabbing, or shooting ..."

Some years ago, New Zealand allowed wine and beer to be sold in supermarkets. There are several hundred supermarkets in New Zealand. Conservatively supposing that this increased the number of chain outlets by 200, then 1.353^200 means that intentional injuries must have increased by a factor of more than 10^26. I am sure we would have noticed even a much smaller increase in injuries (say a factor of 10^5, which would leave everyone in the country injured every day).

But when an alcohol academic can quote a frightening number in support of his wowserism, the fact that the number is nonsense is no consideration. After all, modern journalists can safely be assumed to be innumerate (always excepting our favourite Vultures, of course).

"Rum: Generically, fiery liquors that produce madness in total abstainers." Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary.

Use an 8-char Windows NTLM password? Don't. Every single one can be cracked in under 2.5hrs


There are 203 passwords in my password manager

Most of them unique, and many of them used maybe a couple of times a year.

No rules for password complexity, passphrases, or other similar solutions come close to dealing with the problem that I have to remember 203 of them, and I have to remember which memorable phrase was used for which site or account login. It ain't going to happen.

One of my banks supplies a dongle for two-factor authentication, and a few sites offer my phone as a second factor. But carrying round a keychain full of dongles is not going to happen either.

There is simply no alternative to a password manager.

Oz auditor: Number of times failed government biometric project met a milestone = None


So, how much is PwC going to be sued for in respect of their incompetence in working out the requirements?

Tens to be disappointed as Windows 10 Mobile death date set: Doomed phone OS won't see 2020


Actually, I still think the phone is quite nice. I will certainly keep using mine up to the end. Having previously owned a couple of slurp-phones Android devices, I am not looking forward either to returning to them or to paying the Apple tax.

IBM: Co-Op Insurance talking direct to coding subcontractor helped collapse of £55m IT revamp project


Agile waterfall

It is a new development methodology known as Agile Waterfall. This is also the technique adopted by people who go over Niagara Falls in a barrel, and the success rate is similar.

Google logins make JavaScript mandatory, Huawei China spy shock, Mac malware, Iran gets new Stuxnet, and more


If Google can prove it is human...

... then I will submit myself to its ReCaptcha test.

'He must be stopped': Missouri candidate's children tell voters he's basically an asshat


Re: It's Missouri

Sounds like a good precedent: maybe the Democrats could nominate a dead man (or woman!) as their next Presidential candidate.

Yes, Americans, you can break anti-piracy DRM if you want to repair some of your kit – US govt


Re: Status?

Go back and read the story. Congress delegated this specific power to this specific agency - to be exercised only once every 3 years.

Ex-UK comms minister's constituents plagued by wonky broadband over ... wireless radio link?


Spokesperson was telling the exact ruth

"We're sorry to hear about the issues with broadband in Fernham, and we'd like to reassure residents that we’re doing all we can to resolve the matter."

(1) We are indeed sorry to hear about this. We had hoped that nobody would tell us, so that we would not need to do anything about it. We are not, of course, sorry that there is a problem.

(2) We would like to reassure residents. However, we are not in a position to reassure them, because we are doing as little as possible.

HTC U12+: You said we should wait and review the retail product. Hate to break it to you, but...


Re: 40 Year Old Lesson?

"But the Chinese consumer industry is relatively young and so is going to recycle ideas that never made it to commercial production in the West,"

Except that HTC is from Taiwan, not China. I know, China says there is no difference; but when it comes to experience of consumers, there should be.