* Posts by Ashton Black

332 publicly visible posts • joined 10 Dec 2010


Neuromorphic progress: And we for one welcome our new single artificial synapse overlords

Ashton Black

Thinking Machines.

"Thou shalt not make a machine in the likeness of a human mind."

I always had a bone to pick with that. Isn't it just as likely we'll combine with a neural lattice to enhance our own abilities, rather than use a separate created consciousness. In other words, by the time an A.I. can be considered to be "alive", we'll have extended our own intellect using similar technologies.

'Hey, Homeland Security. Don't you dare demand Twitter, Facebook passwords at the border'

Ashton Black


This must just be security theatre.

The problems, as I see them are that any reasonably paranoid person (criminal or not) would:

1) Not use his/her social media for anything that would arouse suspicion.

2) Alternatively, have multiple accounts, some of with which he/she could hand over to placate the authorities.

3) Not bring cell phones/laptops into the country that weren't sterilised, as it were.

I mean it's basic field craft and this has been pointed out numerous times to the authorities, which leads us to the conclusion that this isn't about finding criminals at all, but seeing to be doing "something" no matter how ineffective.

As an aside, I listened to a report on Radio 4 last week, which asserted that starting in the weeks the "Muslim ban" has been in place, the number of people of all ethnicities that have flown into the US has declined by 8%. (Compared to the year before and factoring in economic variables). The tourist industry must be loving Trump.

SETI Institute damps down 'wow!' signal report from Russia

Ashton Black

I for one...

Welcome our vaguely implied, mysterious, signal generating overlords.

EE looks at its call charges, hikes a bunch, walks off giggling

Ashton Black


As much as I hate this, one can suspect our hand held computers, which sometimes get used as phones, are more geared, these days, for OTT services rather than pure voice. The market for voice is falling year on year, so it's bound to have hikes like this. (http://uk.businessinsider.com/ee-stats-on-decline-of-voice-calls-in-uk-2015-10?r=US&IR=T)

UK local govt body blasts misleading broadband speed ads

Ashton Black

Well I never...

So I've been seeing this sort of article for years, but nothing ever substantial came from it. The big ISPs will still lie. At this point in my comment I would have, in the past, regale the other commentards with my shitty throughput stats. But I've signed up to a small ISP here in deepest Somerset called Wessex Internet which uses microwave to a fibre backbone. Now getting a solid 30Mb down and 10Mb up, with a static IP thrown in. It's been epic so far.

To be fair, the local council did help, with a voucher to partially cover the installation cost. (Our village pooled them together to get Wessex to run their network to us.) So thanks to "Connecting Devon and Somerset". This cost about £10,000.

As an aside, BT wanted £197,000 to do essentially the same.

HMRC's IR35 tweaks have 90% of UK's IT contractors up in arms

Ashton Black

I agree with AC.

Spot on!

Meet the chaps who run the Black Hat NoC and let malware roam free

Ashton Black

I would love to see a full documentary about this event. Looks like great nerdy fun!

Teen thugs lure, rob Pokemon Go gamers

Ashton Black


Sure, I've heard of it, but it sounds dodgy to me. I'll stick to traditional MMOs thanks. :-p

Eds off their meds: Does this headline REALLY need to be so astronomically long it can be measured in parsecs?

Ashton Black

New Study Shows Drinking Pepsi Coke is Better For You than Breathing!!!*.

*Advertorial by Pepsi Cola Inc.

Oh snap! Facebook zaps crap yap gap in web chat, natter app flap

Ashton Black

Re: I've not read the article yet...

Me threether, but I bow down to that headline. Nice work indeed!

Comcast slapped with eight-figure tax bill after package fails to impress

Ashton Black

What's this? A relatively sane decision by a government agency? Whatever next? A politician telling the truth?

UK eyes frikkin' Laser Directed Energy Weapon

Ashton Black


We had 4 of these to protect against rocket/mortar attacks at Basra, Iraq. They're damn effective bits of kit, once calibrated they were getting a 90% kill rate, even on the 90mm jobbies. Interestingly the rounds the phalanx fires are set to explode after a certain period of time to prevent them from landing again in downtown Basra. This meant a farty sound when they fired and a popcorn popping sound a few seconds later. Plus at night they made pretty lights... oooo pretty.

Now add a Big frikken laser!

Hewlett Packard Enterprise hiring temps to cover for redundancies - sources

Ashton Black


This has come up on my radar a good number of times, I'm happy sticking with my current contract. (A six month-er that has turned into rather longer.)

Label your cables: A cautionary tale from the server room

Ashton Black

Made a rod for my own back...

I client I had had been Dymo'ing labels in the "flag" style with a cheap "home and small business" Dymo. After a couple of years wafting in the outflow of the various servers and arrays they'd dry up and fall off. I persuaded him to by a bit more of an industrial wrap around type and had the dubious pleasure of replacing the labels in two data centres. It took weeks and about 20 rolls of tags to do the several thousand cables. Did not enjoy, but the client was happy.

A UK-wide fibre broadband investment plan? Don't ask awkward questions

Ashton Black

Ahhh BT.

In our little village in deepest Somerset, BT wanted, on top of any taxpayer cash given to it, £197,000 to connect us up to a fibre enabled cabinet. We're quite far from the nearest cabinet of any sort, to be fair. People in the village currently max out at about 1.7Mb. Wessex Internet have come along and offered to do a RF connection to their backbone. This would give us, each, about 30-50Mb with a low latency. They only required we pay £9000 in install costs, and set aside some land for the uplink, plus £25 per month per user. The setup cost is going to be covered by the Broadband Voucher Scheme from the "Connecting Devon and Somerset" council quango.

BT can eff off.

Samsung chuckles, swerves around Apple's Q1 phone sales crash

Ashton Black

My migration.

Was similar. My last iPhone was the 3S and it was iTunes that propelled me into over the walled garden into the somewhat mucky arms of Android(s). Hated that app with a passion.

'Panama papers' came from email server hack at Mossack Fonseca

Ashton Black


From what I've read, a lot of the docs were scanned and ocr'd. So yeah, it could conceivably go back that far.

Your pointy-haired boss 'bought a cloud' with his credit card. Now what?

Ashton Black

Fair enough

Which is fine where, off the shelf, non-sensitive, non-business critical data is held. On this I couldn't agree more. However, where we diverge in opinion is where there is customer sensitive data and all the legal, security and other implications of using the public cloud.

AWS have an uptime SLA of 99.95% and a penalty of 10% (in credits) so if they broke that SLA, no matter how long for, you'd get 10% off your monthly bill (assuming it was less than a month). Not really an inspiring SLA.

Three-bit quantum gate a step closer to universal quantum computer

Ashton Black

Re: Byte me!

This is uncertain, in principle.

NASA preps silicon-photonic modem for space laser internet test

Ashton Black

Re: Wow!

I feel your pain, brother. (1.7Mb here in deepest, darkest, Somerset)

Ashton Black


"The ESA's recent test demonstrated space-to-space optical communications, but ILLUMA will be a space-to-Earth communications system like NASA's previous optical demonstration, a 622 Mbps-down, 20 Mbps-up payload on its LADEE lunar probe."

Just wondering why, on a science probe the D/U ratio would be so skewed?. Would it not make more sense to have a greater upload, since the bulk of the data is coming from the probe?

SpaceX: launch, check. Landing? Needs work

Ashton Black

To quote a great Kerbal

"Needs more struts." - Wernher von Kerman

Intel lobs out new Core m3/m5 Compute Sticks, shouts 'Fetch!'

Ashton Black

Media PC?

I've come very close to getting a media PC, but then I got a smart TV which connects to all my media storage devices (My desktop PC and a Synology box), so what would be the point of getting one of these?

Genuinely curious as to a home use, apart from a media PC.

Swiss try to wind up Apple with $25k dumb-watch

Ashton Black

Time waits for no man.

Swatch this space!

On the face of it, this wins, hands down.

(Ok, I'll stop(watch)!)

Activist investors want tepid Yahoo! to reboot crashed Marissa Mayer

Ashton Black

Ya Who?

Oh are they still a thing?

I have you now! Star Wars stocking fillers from another age

Ashton Black

Re: Ah yes...

Upvote for Fizzog!!

DEAD MAN'S SOCKS and other delightful gifts from clients

Ashton Black

A very blokey Xmas gift!

Working out in Iraq (civvie contractor), I fixed a guy's lappy just before xmas, he gave me his 250Gb External HDD choc full of grumble flicks. He was about to go home and didn't want his Mrs finding it! Merry Xmas!

Rupert Murdoch wants Google and chums to be g-men's backdoor men

Ashton Black

Re: Idiot

Well, he isn't dumb. I would say he's a ruthless, amoral, doucehnozzle, but that's just my opinion.

That said, when one's fortune/power/influence depends on not understanding something, in this case the subtleties and consequences "backdooring" encryption protocols, then I'm pretty sure he can come across as thick as a whale omelet.

Electrician cuts wrong wire and downs 25,000 square foot data centre

Ashton Black

Impact Assessment

These days, before any major change Risk of failure isn't the only variable taken into account, it's just a multiplier. The impact of failure is the other factor and in this case, the impact is the highest it can be, even with the risk being small. Bad management for not knowing this and bad JF for not making the impact clear.

No "employee of the month" for anyone involved. :-)

Microsoft Windows: The Next 30 Years

Ashton Black


That's an interesting take on it fung0, have an up. I agree in the main. I will disagree with the comparison between the Surface and the iPad, however. The surface (mine is a pro 3), is more of a decent laptop replacement that doubles as a content consumption device. The better comparison would be with the MacBook Air, where it compares quite favorably.

Your taxes at work: Three hours driving to turn on politician's PC

Ashton Black


I got a bottle of good scotch, once, for hacking into a Win XP (stand alone) that he user had forgotten the password for. (Ahhh Hirens, a great CD)

Has Voyager 1 escaped the Sun yet? Yes, but also no, say boffins

Ashton Black


I seem to recall (I'll need to look it up) but both Voyagers used three computers, one of which was the GE-18bit TTL (the same as on the Viking probes) The other two were custom jobs based on that chipset. I think it's fair to say, that even if you knew the assembly language there will be many custom instructions to learn.

GCHQ starts hunt for tech-savvy apprentices

Ashton Black


Hmm, I think the younger me would have loved to do something like this. (I joined the army, rather then go to uni.) Plus you wouldn't come out with massive debts!

Good luck to them, I just hope the quality of the education is as promised!

Bacon can kill: Official

Ashton Black


Agreed about the recommendation. Bad Science is a great read. A correlation statistic is not the same as a casual factor.

TalkTalk shares drop 10.7% despite research that breaches don't cause drops

Ashton Black

Speaking of short term.... I would look at who made money by shorting these shares. Not that correlation is causation, but still. Makes you wonder eh?

Don't Panic: Even if asteroid showers cause mass extinctions ...

Ashton Black


Ok, the only way we are going to survive long term is getting off this mudball, but with enough "stuff" that would allow whoever is not left behind to rebuild after some future catastrophe. (See Seveneves by Neal Stephenson for his take on just this point)

The trouble is, that getting that "stuff" up there, wherever that may be, costs a fortune in energy and keeping it running costs yet more. We've had a massive revolution in information processing but no concurrent revolution in energy storage/production. (The last major step was fission, back in 1939!)

Until such time as it's relatively cheap to do do, we're pretty much screwed.

VMware sees BILLION-DOLLAR upside in Dell buy

Ashton Black

It sure is a roll of the dice.

Could Dell have used the 67 big bucks for other things that would be more profitable, longer term?

This is a risky stratagem, but could pay off. Interesting times.

Microsoft, Tesla, build battery that knows how much (energy) you suck

Ashton Black

Re: Will it link to one of those newfangled health apps?

Ohm my god. That comment induced resistance! Watt are you up to next Faraday?


Ashton Black

I, for one, welco..... oh nevermind.

Silicon Valley now 'illegal' in Europe: Why Schrems vs Facebook is such a biggie

Ashton Black

Yoiks. I do wonder how the big players will react to this. There is a small possibility that it could fuel a trade war. On the other hand, could we in the EU grow some companies to rival the big US Tech firm's services?

Unlikely, I know, but it would help.

Junk patent ditched in EAST TEXAS

Ashton Black

It all boils down to money

To pay for independent experts, which I would suggest would not be cheap, either the cost of the patent process has to come from general taxation or from the fee recovered from the applicant. Either way, someone is not going to be happy. (Those without deep pockets, or Republican/Conservative/Libertarian "small state" types)

THESE ARE THE VOYAGES of the space probe Discovery

Ashton Black
Thumb Up

Re: Good news for computer science

Upvote for a groan.

Who wants a European Broadband Award? Anyone? *tumbleweed*

Ashton Black

Re: not my ISP, not yet anyway

That's a weird asymmetric. (I think you have those the wrong way round.)


My Speeds:

1.7-3.0Mb Down (It depends on things like how much its rained, wind direction and phase of the moon, I think)

300k Up.

EE: Yes, our broadband service is a total clusterf**k – but we promise to improve

Ashton Black

More customer service peeps

Does not equal better service. A better designed, maintained and resourced network would probably help somewhat. Of course, it's always cheaper to hire more call center workers than good engineers.

Ashley Madison lawsuit drops GoDaddy and Amazon as defendants

Ashton Black

Isn't the cat already out of the bag?

The harm is already done, as it were. Just from a quick search (not google) shows it doesn't take that long to get access to the data and it's in a place not mentioned in this case (granted it could be one of the 16 Roes). They will only create a longer trail to get access, not shut it off completely. Oh, and then there's the Streisand effect to consider.

Reviewed: Shadowrun: Hong Kong, Until Dawn, Hearthstone expansion and more

Ashton Black

Heathstone... very addictive and I have put many hours of play into it. Pretty much got the full set of Classic, Naxx, GvG and Blackrock cards. TGT cards are slowly incoming using the method described above, play dailies until 150G then play Arena and open all packs that come up.

I wouldn't like to have to start again, I spent many months getting to around rack 20-10. Now I average 5-10. I need to get much better to hit Legend, but I remain hopeful!

As for money, spending, say £10 per month to get packs isn't that bad, when you remember playing more to play games like WoW or Eve.

Court battle date set for £300m BT Cornwall termination dispute

Ashton Black

If Cornwall has enough evidence of failure, with a "reasonable" attempt to resolve the issues then I wish them luck. Obviously, we don't have the data, so that could be way off, but I'm rooting for the council.

US mulls unprecedented Chinese sanctions in wake of hacks – report

Ashton Black

The need to be seen.

The US government need to be seen to be doing something, but I doubt they'd risk a trade war with PRC. Since this is just "rumors" I suspect it's just brinksmanship.

NCA arrests six Lizard Squad users after gaming firms, retailers targeted

Ashton Black

Tony Adams!!

Nice to see he's keeping himself busy!