* Posts by William Towle

297 posts • joined 8 Jun 2007


Sick of AI engines scraping your pics for facial recognition? Here's a way to Fawkes them right up

William Towle
Thumb Up

> I have embraced wearing a face mask at all times now, for health reasons you understand not privacy from state snooping, and this is likely to remedy the problem in the short term.

One of my friends drives a bus and recently apologised for showing no recognition due to my combination of face mask and lockdown hair.

I did notice one or two people on LinkedIn having replaced profile photos with new ones including face masks but hadn't considered it might also be useful subversively...

Hungry? Please enjoy this delicious NaN, courtesy of British Gas and Sainsbury's

William Towle
Thumb Up

Re: "still a thing"

I don't particularly like milk, so getting some in just to follow a recipe that needs a small amount feels quite wasteful. I can just drink it*, but while not particularly recently I have revisited Angel Delight on a biscuit base as a sort-of cheesecake from time to time and can "+1, confirm" the above.

Google suggests that for a less frugal experience you could flavour full-fat cheesecake with AD should you so wish.

*recommended vessel the Guinness pint glass ... how I imagine the inspiration for https://adland.tv/adnews/guinness-declares-its-introducing-guinness-white came about

Now that's a train delay Upminster with which London travellers shall not put

William Towle

Re: Only 2,808 hours from Tulsa, only 117 days away from your arms

> error in the data rather than a display malfunction [...] order of departure seems correct even though the time was way off.

(Could be the data, or it could be processing of the data? I'd err on the side of "timestamp displayed erroneously as an estimate" rather than "but that's *tomorrow*" as per the article - but I'm here to mention a related bork, not speculate on this one...)

Relatedly in the case of our local bus stop displays, you can see the last bus shown some time after it's definitely gone. Interesting cases (other than "it's an estimate, meh") include nights the clocks change; I'd hazard that the data's timestamp is in the new timezone at times the receiving terminals aren't (yet).

When one open-source package riddled with vulns pulls in dozens of others, what's a dev to do?

William Towle

> ...full force of any legal penalties...

Nod, +1.

I got my first security advisory email from GitHub this week due to a "vulnerable dependency in repositories[...]", which was nice to see because it's a reassuring upshot of automation being done on checking this sort of thing.

Unfortunately due to "no server [...] currently available to service your request" I haven't yet read the page with the details, but at least I can see from the email's summary that it's not in any recent personal uploads or even in a repository I've got write access to (plus I can trust others to pay/have paid appropriate attention) and take comfort from that.

Faxing hell: The cops say they would very much like us to stop calling them all the time

William Towle

Re: Sensitive

> They would usually try two or three times then go away

I remember when callers who failed to get through were prepared to try again *wistful sigh*.

These days people don't even explain themselves to an answering machine and expect you to call back, which is annoying to find after the service kicks in as you're trying to pick up. This happened to me so many times I turned the automatic response off to give me chance - and (of course) I then started getting complaints that when I was busy the recorder wasn't on...

Dude, where's my laser?

William Towle

Re: ACME Corporation

They did have "quality is our #1 dream" as a motto(*). That really should have given the game away!

...Unfortunately for Morrisons, "more than our job" reminds me of that every time I see it used...

(* according to https://books.google.co.uk/books/about/ACME_Catalog.html?id=aXJQAAAAMAAJ at least, I don't recall it from elsewhere)

Doors closed by COVID-19, Brit retro tech museums need your help

William Towle

Re: I'm utterly broke

> Four boys, one BBC, one Spectrum, one Commodore, one Dragon. Didn't think that through, couldn't share anything.

I too seemed to be a lone Speccy owner in a sea of friends with (mostly) other things, which in my case helped prompt me to create my own things rather than swap others'. ISTR Input magazine publishing BASIC programs with machine-specific panels for where the dialects diverged, and found reading this more interesting that trying to talk about it ... although I tried that too - the varied experiences led a small group of us to propose a computer magazine at two different schools that had fairly broad coverage considering for the most part we were basically kids discussing what pocket money had been spent on.

Fancy watching 'Bake Off' together with mates and alone at the same time? The BBC's built a tool to do that

William Towle

Paging Mark Williams:

..."We want to BBC Together"?

(I shall avoid googling whether anyone else already thought of that...)

Beer gut-ted: As many as '70 million pints' spoiled during coronavirus pandemic must be destroyed in Britain

William Towle

Re: i need to get out more

> To put it another way, I very much doubt all the beer reckoned to have gone off will go down the drain.....

Off or not it's all going down the drain sooner or later, it's a question of whether you cut out the middle man first surely?

// The "life cycle of beer" display at Saltaire Brewery is excellent, but we did note that but for decency it could be circular rather than linear

The iMac at 22: How the computer 'too odd to succeed' changed everything ... for Apple, at least

William Towle

Re: Context of floppy disc drive

> "-Floppy discs were unreliable." but zip drives weren't? (icon)

I was at the University of Leeds until the mid-90s, and at some point around then they set about replacing the main lab's SGI Indigos with linux PCs, fitting each with Zip drives. Those that knew staff heard many a grumble in the pub about use of the cheapest floppy disks available for submission of coursework, with obvious consequences (...I used direct electronic means by preference, but that wasn't necessarily offered universally). That the OP was offered submission by Zip instead is not a surprise.

Yes, Click of Death turned out to be a thing however I had two SCSI Zip drives (external on Amiga, internal on PC) of which neither succumbed despite heavy use of the former. Happily, restoring backups made with the latter turned out not to be a necessity \o/

Pope tells his followers to log off for Lent

William Towle

Re: I would just like to say in response:

> "remember to genuflect when approached and "kiss his ring, when appropriate"

Not at the moment, I gather ... and in response to https://metro.co.uk/2020/02/27/pope-francis-falls-day-supporting-people-coronavirus-12314029/:

# You can keep your facemask off if

You've the status of the Pontiff

Coughs and wheezes, even little sneezes? Blow in a Vatican Rag!

(with apologies to Tom Lehrer)

// advice update: if infected, please self-immolate -->

Come on baby light me on fire: McDonald's to sell 'Quarter Pounder' scented candles

William Towle
Paris Hilton


these candles smell like our burgers"

// Not Gwyneth, will have to do -->

Shipping is so insecure we could have driven off in an oil rig, says Pen Test Partners

William Towle
Paris Hilton

Re: So, the ship is 300M long...and you don't want to walk

There were definitely at least some accidental references in things, though I don't recall any sniggering at school about Pugwash - and there would definitely have been some.

Last year, Radio 4's Something Understood episode "The Voice" snuck in a cracker from Ivor the Engine:

"Owen's not awake yet. Give him a blow, Ivor!"


Beware the trainee with time on his hands and an Acorn manual on his desk

William Towle

Re: A blast from the past!

> I later went to the same college, and became 'intimate' with their collection of BBC Micros. Ours were running ENet rather than EcoNet, [...]

One of my schools had (IIRC) one or two EcoNet machine in various places, and I noticed one of my friends making a point of leaping onto the computer after the admin. It turned out he'd been disassembling the residual traces of system commands and had built up a library of rather interesting code routines :)

A short note to say I'm off: Vulture taps claws on Reg keyboard for last time

William Towle
Paris Hilton

Re: Good luck!

> which villainous soul thought milk in the teapot was a good idea?

You were lucky. One of ours made tea *in the kettle*!

Is this paragraph from Trump or an AI bot? You decide, plus buy your own AI for $399

William Towle

Re: My guess was .............

I also guessed AI, expecting it to have done somewhat better.

I'm not sure if this says more about the AI or the person it's imitating...

Heads up from Internet of S*!# land: Best Buy's Insignia 'smart' home gear will become very dumb this Wednesday

William Towle

Poor reviews online...

"One person known as Willis generously gave Insignia’s Wi-Fi camera two stars out of five."

Others gave two fingers?

Don't fall for the hype around OpenAI's Rubik's Cube playing robot, Berkeley bans facial recognition, and more

William Towle

Re: Solving the cube not so important

> There are, at maximum, 28 steps needed to go from any of those 43 quintillion permutations to being solved. If it takes significantly more than that, then thats evidence that the robot isn't actually solving it but trying random moves until it gets lucky.

Strictly speaking, any sequence longer than than God's Number (ie. 20, which tells us that after 21 moves any pattern that results has been observed before in the sequence at some point) means the recommendation isn't optimal*. This has the potential to be useful: if a robot betters the recommendation then it has taught itself that; if it's consistently worse (than "an average of 28" if it's the algorithm discussed at https://www.theregister.co.uk/2019/07/16/ai_rubiks_cube/) then it's not taking the hint any algorithm should be followed.

(* possibly, as in the Thistlethwaite algorithm, a human observer might more readily judge whether progress is being made throughout ... but I speculate)

HMRC 'disciplined' almost 100 employees for computer misuse over 24 months

William Towle
Paris Hilton

Re: What's the issue?

> Dear Taxpayer??

Doesn't this one invite a certain class of recipient to think "can't be addressed to me, I don't pay tax"?

// recalling the Anne Widdecombe programme where in an interview she tells a girl she's working class and gets told "I'm not working class, I don't work".

Egg on North Face: Wikipedia furious after glamp-wear giant swaps article pics for sneaky ad shots – and even brags about it in a video

William Towle

Re: The real question

> How many others are doing exactly the same, but are intelligent enough to keep their mouths shut?

...Several, I should think.

Through my contributions to one or two Wikipedia pages I have noticed content being manipulated to this sort of end and ultimately removed or reverted (by others, though I hope I contributed indirectly) under "this [advertising] is not what WP is for" guidelines.

As much as I don't like the potential for this article to promote the perpetrators, I do approve of raising awareness of the fact it happens.

It doesn't help that a plethora of sites infrequently scraping Wikipedia content exist though - fortunately in the above case had Google pointed to one of those for its answer instead then it wasn't for long!

Taylor drift: Finally, a use for AI emerges? Cyber-smut star films fsck-flick in Tesla with Autopilot, warns: 'I wouldn't recommend it'

William Towle
Paris Hilton

Re: No link for you!

> So long as the site is less than 30% "adult content" I think they are OK.

Well known lesbian publication The Register? There might be a problem!

// vaguely recalling https://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/05/06/indy_reg/ and subsequent references to it

We know you all want to shove AI where the sun doesn't shine. And that's exactly where it's going – detecting prostate cancer

William Towle

Did you hear the other one, in which...

...a doctor went to a digital rectal examination and was disappointed to find out software verification *was* involved?

What's long, hard, and full of seamen? The US Navy's latest cybersecurity war gaming classes

William Towle

"Cyber-security version of war games"

Mis-read, with capitals.

Nice game of chess?

Easter is approaching – and British pr0n watchers still don't know how long before age-gates come into force

William Towle

...And Now We Know

July, according to https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-47960775

William Towle
Thumb Up

Age checks: Doomed to failure

I always enjoyed the next one:


// icon: chosen for +1, promise

Motion detectors: say hello, wave goodbye and… flushhhhhh

William Towle

Motion detectors...

We have detectors by the lights to ensure they're on as you enter and more beside the urinals to flush them as you walk away.

Unfortunately nobody thought to put the former type in the cubicles, which can turn out to be a PITA (pun accidental) if the one and only trap with a window isn't available and enough time passes...

From MySpace to MyFreeDiskSpace: 12 years of music – 50m songs – blackholed amid mystery server move

William Towle

Re: Likely sequence

> Yes, along with the machines capable of reading it, until such time as all of that had been archived in an updated format.

...and possibly until copied, or *at the very least* a sanity test done on the backup?

Not been there personally, but have read somewhere about arse-bitings happening to people people not going there...

Can you tell real faces from fake AI-created ones? It's tough! Plus: Facebook's chief AI scientist talks hardware

William Towle

Re: Shadows....

Pub quiz factoid: Bowie's left eye actually had its pupil dilated more that that of his right, apparently due to muscle damage after a teenage scrap. While this sometimes has the appearance of heterochromia (I thought so too*), that isn't what it was.

* it was "anisocoria" (...TIL), which I imagine the computer won't reproduce in many of its images either.

One click and you're out: UK makes it an offence to view terrorist propaganda even once

William Towle

> Best get rid those floppy disks containing the anarchists cookbook txt edition from my college days then.

Heh. I had that once, amongst a pile of other more innocuous downloads. It went AWOL at some point though.

While I don't know exactly when, I *do* know who it probably was.

*rubs hands*

Hungover this morning? Thought 'beer before wine and you'll be fine'? Boffins prove old adage just isn't true

William Towle

Re: Beer and wine don't go together


...though personally I would recommend adding a double to a pint: my Guinness drinking speed is quite slow (although not as slow as per the watch from the brewery shop with the depleting pint glass images in place of numbers; I can only assume it's not meant to be a guide) and the resulting tipsy feeling is pleasantly satisfying [YMMV obv].

In my 20s I got quite good at ordering both ("separately please") and then drinking just enough Guinness to make room in the glass.

// wrong colour, but I also usually start pale and go dark... -->

China's really cotton'd on to this whole Moon exploration thing: First seed sprouts in lunar lander biosphere

William Towle

Wait just...

...a cotton-pickin' moon unit

RIP Paul Allen: Microsoft cofounder billionaire dies at 65 after facing third bout with cancer

William Towle

Other obituaries

Bill Gates writes: https://www.gatesnotes.com/About-Bill-Gates/Remembering-Paul-Allen

I particularly enjoyed the line "[Allen] had a cool beard which I couldn't pull off"

Virgin Media? More like Virgin Meltdown: Brit broadband ISP falls over amid power drama

William Towle

Re: Should they email you notices

We rang VM up once due to problems with the internet service.

An automated response told us the lines were busy but they would be able to accept reports through the web form.


Where can I hide this mic? I know, shove it down my urethra

William Towle
Thumb Up

> Fairly sure the first pendrive I spent real money on was either 16 or at most 32Mb. It must still be around here somewhere but hell knows.

I've got a 32MB one somewhere, in a fairly slender form factor considering its age (albeit traded off against length). With luck you might get a slim modern one alongside it in an adjacent port.

At one of my jobs I lent it to someone and it ended up being used for some test or other because being old it was slightly more power hungry than most. I had to fight slightly to get it back into my possession!

...It's plenty enough for some minimal distros still; if I knew where it was I expect I'd find Tiny Core, possibly dual booted with FreeDOS, on it.

I found it in the bottom of a pocket one day and asking myself "what's that doing there" earned the response "what's *that*? Are you some sort of spy?" :)

WLinux brings a custom Windows Subsystem for Linux experience to the Microsoft Store

William Towle

Re: Indeed you are expected to pay

> it was common for distributions to sell distribution CD:s. Some distros (like Mandrake) even provided nice shrinkwrapped carton packages like other software vendors

Aye, I won a SuSE linux box set from my local LUG. I'm not sure what happened to it though; "borrowed" probably.

...at my first job, having booted the CD on a Windows box in order to get access to whatever sensible command line tools the installer offered instead (we had other *nix machines locally, just not on personal desks so much), it informed me that only half the drive had been partitioned. So I let it install there. Fortunately my productivity rocketed; it might have been a different story otherwise...

You've got pr0n: Yes, smut by email is latest workaround for UK's looming cock block

William Towle

"Users don't need to supply any personally identifiable information to sign up"

*wonders how the content gets back to the person who requested it*

It's March 2018, and your Windows PC can be pwned by a web article (well, none of OURS)

William Towle

Re: Good job MSFT!

> I don't expect my car to be "updated" every month. Why should I have to put up with that for my computer?

You might want to be careful what you wish for; Stroustrup had a similar thing to say about his telephone.

10 PRINT "ZX81 at 37" 20 GOTO 10

William Towle

Re: "Syntax error in line ..."

> I spent a good few hours creating maps on square lined paper.

I found a pad of Speccy-specific "graphics paper" for making UDG/screen designs on, which I took to working on photocopies of - mainly because I couldn't find more, but I wouldn't have wanted to as it was a bit thin and disintegrated quickly if you ended up needing to take an eraser to it.

Years of writing computer programs on regular squared paper in order to create something that resembled what would be on the screen later for easy checking has left me with handwriting that gets regular compliments on its readability, even when in my opinion it's a bit scrawled :)

Inviting nearby exoplanet revealed as radiation-baked hell

William Towle

Re: Need I finish the book?

> took a little while to get going

...but it explains every word as it goes along, and in the end it turns out the zebra did it?

Home taping revisited: A mic in each hand, pointing at speakers

William Towle

Re: LR14 !?!?

> My first cassette recorder was a Christmas present when I was 11. Within about 2 months I had l mastered my first interface protocol - how to connect the "tape out" socket on the existing hand-me-down portable radio to the "aux in" on the recroder with a 3.5mm jack cable. Much better sound quality.

I have a vague recollection of taping records with a din-din lead between a dansette style record player and a portable cassette player/recorder, which I subsequently discovered didn't turn its microphone off when the cable was connected ... which was a bit annoying to discover later.

Fortunately due to having a computer we had a "spare" unit that behaved.

MY GOD, IT'S FULL OF CARS: SpaceX parks a Tesla in orbit (just don't mention the barge)

William Towle

Re: Don't Leave The Lights On!

> It's a little too much Austin Powers for my taste

It even looks like a giant ... town hall and clock!

// http://metro.co.uk/2018/02/06/race-organisers-made-bit-balls-dewsbury-10k-run-7289958/

Archive of 1.4 billion credentials in clear text found in dark web archive

William Towle

Re: Length is Everything

When creating an(other, sheesh) account for myself recently I encountered my first system that refused my usual password scheme - mix of alphanumeric and non-alphanumeric symbols, around a dozen characters long, ... you know the drill.

"Your new password needs to be at least 14 characters in length", this one asserted. I thought again.

Looking back, there was a very literal interpretation (two, in fact) that may well have sufficed. I wonder now if they foresaw that, and the phrases were specifically disallowed...

William Towle

Re: Has an analysis of the types of accounts been done?

> Just like those irish folk are always trying to inject SQL on me with their O'this and O'that.

My colleagues and I were discussing the problem with handling that recently, and noted there didn't seem to be a catchy name for it.

I suggested that in keeping with "the Emergency" and "the Troubles" (and so on) that it should be called "the O'Bother".

Night before Xmas and all through American Airlines, not a pilot was flying, thanks to this bug

William Towle
Thumb Up

Re: Yo get the fly boys back on the job

> "American Airlines- Up with the Aircraft, Down with the cool kids"

"Up with the aircraft" remains to be seen AFAICT

(but I laughed, so have a +1)

AI taught to beat Sudoku puzzles. Now how about a time machine to 2005?

William Towle

Re: Been there done that

> If you need to hypothesize a number in a cell and then follow a chain that's 7-8 cells long, is that an acceptable logical way of solving things, or does this count as trial and error and therefore not such a logical way of getting to the solution?

Having been there and done that myself, I find it necessary to follow one *or more* such chains and seeing if the consequences a) rule out all the candidates from some cell, b) force more than one of a particular digit into row/column/other group, c) contradict the implications of another such chain, or d) force the puzzle to have multiple solutions with what the article suggests this algorithm would conclude has "equal" "probability".

After much thought, I have concluded these are reasonable steps based on the puzzle and its description and do not think they're trial and error at all (but in line with earlier commentary [Dave Cartwright article] I can see why you'd use such phrase/s for simplicity).

Pro tip: You can log into macOS High Sierra as root with no password

William Towle

"How do you create a really secure password?"

BOFH: The trouble with, er, windows installs

William Towle

> Database normalization warnings, their a killer they are.


My first thought was that if you were getting such warnings you could differentiate between incidents by putting the date in the field.

Then I remembered this was the BOFH, and realised that might still not be sufficient...

Alexa, please cause the cops to raid my home

William Towle

Re: The next stage in AI:

> The first rule of robotic fight club is that robots do not talk about fight club.

Do not talk in human language about fight club?

Might explain https://www.theregister.co.uk/2017/03/21/ai_bots_can_invent_their_own_language/

Hardware has never been better, but it isn't a licence for code bloat

William Towle

Sudoku: how to?

> A fiver says you don't simply try every possible permutation of digits in each box until you get to the right answer – the number of Sudoku solution grids has been calculated as 6,670,903,752,021,072,936,960. No, you apply logic and deduction to identify which numbers go where, and it takes just a few minutes to solve the puzzle.

Strictly speaking having that many solution grids doesn't relate to the complexity of solving any given puzzle, it's the reason you don't attempt to store all the possible puzzles and do straightforward lookup.

...Perhaps pedantically (humour me, from here on in I'm addressing fellow puzzle fanatics and not the direction of the article), hoping to find it obvious "where the numbers go" throughout doesn't suffice technically either; only when you have in effect determined a search tree, pruned it until [relatively] sparse, and then walked it can you argue you have properly iterated and eliminated all impossible situations (thereby including "where the number's *don't* go") as per Occam's razor at every step from start to finish.

One solution -and only one- always results for me for solving by hand, as required. I've written some of my methods as code, but not all ... however at this point I am suspicious of the possibility that typical "brute force" solvers may be at risk of (mis)identifying a puzzle as having multiple solutions when it's not necessarily the case...

Fresh bit o' Linux to spruce up that ancient Windows Vista box? Why not, we say...

William Towle

Re: odd

> I don't think Linux repositories are 100% immune from malware. People used to pontificate about how Linux was open source and therefore inherently secure because of the 'many eyeballs on the code' principle. Well in the last few years that idea has been demonstrably blown out of the water after vulnerabilities have been found in critical open source libs.

It doesn't help that you're adding to the polemic. According to The Cathedral and the Bazaar, at the time "given many eyeballs, all bugs become shallow" was coined the principle Linus was following was "release early, release often" and "...many eyeballs..." the justification for exposing potential bugs in the code to public scrutiny. It isn't an attempt to claim people will look, it isn't an attempt to claim people who are looking will focus where you need, and it isn't a claim there won't be bugs in the first place ... yet it turns out people do want to get involved at all stages of the submission/release process, and in all areas of the code; the existence of vulnerability fixes serves as proof that the overall process serves its purpose (and it does this a lot better than it implies Linux as a project was due to have crashed and burned). That fixes arrived later rather than sooner on occasion is neither here nor there.

(...and of course the existence of vulnerability fixes for both open and closed source software of various types tells us neither has the upper hand on advice for best practice. Sadly).



Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2020