* Posts by PJD

43 publicly visible posts • joined 3 Nov 2011

Tool bag lost in space now tracked by garbage watchers


Re: Spanners

When I worked in the mines adjustable parallel jaw wrenches were universally called 'AFS spanners' aka 'Any F*ing Size'..

California toys with digital vehicle titles on private DMV blockchain


Except it already is. When I went to sell a vehicle in CA recently and couldn't find the title document for it to save my life, I just went to CA DMV's website and filled in the handy 'get a replacement copy of your title' form and they mailed me a new one. There is even an option in the form to also transfer the title to someone else at the same time, so people in my situation could skip a step and have the title transferred to the new owner and have the paper copy of title sent to the new owner.

So in short, the canonical version of 'who owns this vehicle' is tied to a database entry in a DMV database, not to the piece of paper already. Not sure what benefit moving that from a database to a blockchain will do, but that's a different question.

AI detects 20,000 hidden taxable swimming pools in France, netting €10m


Dazzle camouflage makes a comeback?

"scanning for telltale signs of pools such as blue rectangles in backyards" - I'm seeing a sudden resurgence in interest in WWI style dazzle camouflage, painted over the bottom of one's pool to confuse AI.. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dazzle_camouflage)

FIDO Alliance says it has finally killed the password


Edge cases

a) my job requires me to go into jails, and to log in to access electronic health records while I'm in there. Carrying a cellphone into a jail is a misdemeanor, so phone-based MFA is out. And our jails have disabled usb ports, so yubikey-like devices are out too. Maybe one day they'll update their terminals to have something that can handle biometrics, but it ain't going to be any time soon and $5 says they'll disable it anyway for some demented reason.

b) We all die. Even the idiots on the FIDO board. When I die, particularly if that's a sudden or unexpected event, I need my spouse to be able to get into absolutely any non-work related account and device I own, and I need my co-workers to be able to get into any work related account and device. Biometrics get a bit ghoulish at that point.

Edge cases are *important*. And everyone has at least one. Passwords have persisted in part because we've discovered most of the edge cases (usually the hard way) and come up with solutions. The fact I can immediately name two edge cases, one of which is a *universal* 'edge case', and the whole FIDO approach doesn't seem to have addressed it is a bit worrying.

NASA taps Lockheed Martin to build Mars parcel pickup rocket


Eh, the lunar landings were achieved by having two different vehicles (Apollo command & service module + lunar module) designed and built by two different companies (North American Aviation and Grumman respectively) delivered to lunar orbit courtesy of a three stage launch vehicle where each of those stages were manufactured by yet another company (first stage by Boeing, second by North American Aviation, third stage by Douglas Aircraft), not to mention the engines, avionics, and other key components all being manufactured by yet another set of contractors. The only thing different about the Mars sample recovery thing is that half the mission is being done without the hardware for the second half of the mission having been designed yet (or even contractors picked..). Otherwise it's standard NASA operating procedure since at least the 1950s..

Ubuntu 21.10 brings GNOME 40 debut and a focus on devs


Desnapify ubuntu

For what it's worth, here's how to get rid of snap on a fresh install (tested on 20.04, will be curious to see if it gets harder on 22.04..)

sudo snap remove snap-store

sudo snap remove gtk-common-themes

sudo snap remove gnome-3-34-1804

sudo snap remove core18


# look for line ending /snap/snapd/[some number] (may be /snap/core/[somenumber]

sudo unmount /snap/snapd/[some number] # or sudo unmount /snap/core/[somenumber]

sudo apt purge snapd

sudo apt-mark hold snapd # prevents it being reinstalled as a dependency, will prevent installs of things only available as snaps

rm -rf ~/snap

sudo rm -rf /snap

sudo rm -rf /var/snap

sudo rm -rf /var/lib/snapd

Scalpel! Superglue! This mouse won't fix its own ball


Apple powerbooks

My variant on this story was when a trackball on a powerbook 170 stopped working. Trackball was in the keypad, simple twist ring to open and remove the ball for cleaning (like a regular mouse on its back). The ball 'rolled' on two small rollers. My rollers appeared to have rubber rings about 2mm wide on them, I assumed for traction. One was delicately peeling off the underlying roller. "Aha" I thought, "the rubber ring has perished, I just need to replace them". Called the local computer parts shop specializing in apple stuff (this, thank God, was prior to 'genius bars' and other stupidities). Much confused back-and-forthing as I explained I wanted to order replacement rubber rings for my mouse rollers, and they thought I wanted new rollers, and I insisted the rollers themselves were fine I just needed the rings. Eventually the problem clicked for the woman I was speaking to and she said "I kind of suspect those 'rings' are matted hair and fluff - try removing it from both rollers and putting the ball back in". Problem solved, but quite embarrassing..

Google's OpenSK lets you BYOSK – burn your own security key


Doesn't work in settings where devices are banned

The ridiculous problem I've been facing recently is a health data system that needs to be accessed by doctors treating inmates in a jail - the jail has a rigorous ban on phones and usb keys or similar, but local law requires 2FA for accessing health information. Fortunately the jail hasn't noticed that all the docs are sporting iwatches these days, so that's been our unofficial workaround. The official workaround will involve printouts of one-time pin numbers.. Gah.

It's a cert: Hundreds of big sites still unprepared for starring role in that Chrome 70's show


De facto 'hack me' list

This is basically a list of web sites where the server/site manager is not doing this full time and is definitely not tracking security patches etc. ie it's basically a de facto 'come hack me' list..

Reg man wraps head in 49-inch curved monitor


Re: Hand it back?

"'and a beer tap loaded craft beer that gets unlocked at 11 am every weekday. 'How on earth do you get any work done?"

Well if you're a 9-to-5 type, that's two hours of work on something where you need to be able to mentally manipulate more than one complex concept followed by an hour of work where things degrade a bit followed by a liquid lunch at the local followed by four hours of increasingly problematic social media posts. Sounds like a normal day at the office for most of the people I work with..

China: Cute Hyperloop Elon, now watch how it's really done


This is what happens when all the leaders are engineers

Something close to 90% of the upper levels of the Chinese government are engineers (http://siliconafrica.com/90-of-top-chinese-government-officials-are-scientists-engineers/).

This is what happens when a bunch of engineers get control of the treasury - they go nuts with infrastructure projects. Not that I'm objecting, this particular project looks pretty cool, and anything that embarrasses my current country of residence (the US) into upgrading its absolutely woeful infrastructure is also good.

Boeing preps pilotless passenger flights – once it has solved the Sully problem, of course


Re: There's something fundamentally important they're missing.

"No matter how good the safety record - how do they persuade people to get on the plane?"

Price. For an airline, removing the need to hire, manage, keep trained, handle payroll, benefits, retirement, pay for hotel rooms between flight legs etc of a whole corps of pilots is going to save a lot of money. And at least initially until passengers get used to it, passing that savings on to ticket prices may be a pretty good incentive. LA to San Francisco for $30 instead of $70 is attractive..

Staff, projects shed as Ubuntu maker Canonical tries to lure investors


I dunno, I wouldn't say I'm some mad linux fanboi but I've been using linux in various iterations happily on the desktop consistently since 2010 (and before that more of-and-on switching between mac and linux desktops back to about 2001). But my day job is as a researcher in public health in academia, so my needs are basically tools for data manipulation and an OS that doesn't get in the way. Which these days means mint/cinnamon works quite well thank you. Mac used to be nice but running *nix tools got too fiddly and the OS got too intrusive. Windows just looks like a child's toy, I could never understand why anyone would use it other than to run a legacy app, preferably in a VM. But that's my needs - other people doing other work/play might find other OSs far more suited to what they're doing.

Skype-on-Linux graduates from Alpha to Beta status


When I got sick of not being able to video-conference with more than one person at a time, and when I started getting a blue strobing effect using skype on linux I basically gave up on it and switched to google hangouts - multiple people in video at the same time, screensharing works (including picking just one application to share vs sharing the entire desktop), and it's genuinely OS agnostic.

Loyalty card? Really? Why data-slurping store cards need a reboot



For the supermarket ones where you get a (sometimes substantial) price difference if you use a loyalty card and where you can give them your phone number, in the US I always just use 8675309 with a local area code - it's the number from that annoying early 80s song, and *someone* has always filled in a card application using it.. You get the discount, and the store gets the most bizarre purchase logs ever (hundreds of people all using the same account..).

Skype for Linux users can crash-test video calls in v1.10 Alpha


.. which is why I've been telling all my underlings and grad students if they want a video conversation with me it's going to be in hangouts as I no longer use skype. Well, that and hangouts does multi-person video without having to pay for it. Not that I love the chocolate factory, but at least hangouts works reliably.

Rise of the Machines at Sea: The British firm building robot boats


Re: "ASV is working steadily towards true artificial intelligence (AI) on its boats"

If drug smugglers aren't already using these I'll be shocked: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Underwater_glider

Is it time to unplug frail OpenOffice's life support? Apache Project asked to mull it over


Re: VinceH : People still use this!?

"What are these vendor-enforced obsolete formats you speak of? I regularly read Word documents from the 80's and early 90's in Office 2010... No problem."

That's nice. Meanwhile, my copy of Windows Office 2010 can't open any of the hundreds of documents I wrote in Word 5.1a for Mac through the 1990s. When I really needed one of those documents last year I ended up wasting most of a day setting up Basilisk II on linux to emulate OS 7.6 so I could run Word 5.1a and re-save the critical document as rtf (if anyone has a less painful solution I'd like to hear it, because although not critical I would like to have the rest of those documents in a readable format, preferably without having to open and re-save every one of them).

'I'm sorry, your lift has had a problem and had to shut down'


Other OS

The Los Angeles Metro light rail has screens showing expected arrival times of the next train; a couple of years ago I was at a station and saw the usual 'next train' screen replaced by a out-of-the-box ubuntu desktop display.. Sorry, didn't think to take a photo.

Windows Update borks PowerShell – Microsoft won't fix it for a week


Re: MS Board Meeting

"Users are so used to Windows crapping out on them that they just resignedly put up with it, even when it's a fixable hardware fault."

Leading to the old joke 'windows is like the faint smell of piss on the subway - it's everywhere and you can't get rid of it'

Google's dream city isn't a new idea


Good. The sooner google fucks off and leaves San Francisco to revert to the chaotic, artistic, crazy social experiment it was before google and the rest of the tech industry drove rents up to such an extreme all the artists and wingnuts couldn't afford to live there, the better.

X-ray scanners, CCTV cams, hefty machinery ... let's play: VNC Roulette!


Medical records

http://vncroulette.com/index.php?picture=8 is (for me at least) showing seven people's names, medical record numbers, and full home address - in highly litigious southern california. I'm half tempted to print off the screenshot and drop a copy in the mail to those seven people with a note suggesting they call a lawyer and start having fun.

Apple engineers rebel, refuse to work on iOS amid FBI iPhone battle


Re: The end of Apple

"Please tell me exactly on what grounds anyone could be kicked out of the country. "Pissing off the FBI" is not a crime."

If you're one of the (many) Apple engineers on a H-2B visa, your ability to reside in the country is linked to you continuing to work for the company that arranged the H-2B for you. So if you quit Apple, you just quit your residence visa too.

LOHAN sponsor knocks up nifty iMac fish tank


The 'register an explosives company in Spain' option is beginning to look like it might have been the quick and red-tape-lite option..

NASA's Orion: 100,000 parts riding 8 million pounds of thrust


Metric yet?

They also still don't seem to have upgraded to metric (look at the max loadings painted on the floor).

Pan Am Games: Link to our website without permission and we'll sue


Re: "...mockery..."

I've hitchiked from Kununurra to Exmouth, both via the coast road and highway 95.. Never took less than 4 days.

Climate change alarmism is a religious belief – it's official


And plate tectonics are a myth too!

I kind of love that the Reg has a climate change denialist as their main correspondent on the topic. It's highly entertaining. I'm looking forward to them digging up someone still opposed to the notion of plate tectonics to rant at us about that too. Something for the Reg's weekend edition perhaps?

Evil mining firms? Please. Obeying profit motive is KINDER to the environment


Ore vs working conditions and technology

Having grown up in Newman, one of the older Pilbara iron ore towns, I can safely say the reason Fortescue is staying profitable has nothing to do with the quality of the ore (Mount Newman Mining is still sitting on some of the highest quality deposits in the world), it's because a) they have newer mining infrastructure (which reduces costs and can be slow, hard, and expensive to retrofit older mines with), and b) they've reduced labour costs with a combination of technological development and poorer pay packages for workers (less workers and paying them less).

The Apple Watch and CROTCH RUBBING. How are they related?


Watches are for driving

The thing that baffles me about all these recent smartwatches is I've yet to see one which capitalizes on one of the few times I'd really appreciate one - when driving. It's easy (and relatively safe) to quickly glance at your wrist when driving, whereas fumbling around with a smartphone while driving (as I can attest because I do it daily) is slighly insane. The person or company who comes up with a clever way to display context sensitive information on a wristgadget (you're en-route to a meeting - driving directions; you're within a block of the final destination - nearest parking; you're parked - floor & room number and who you're meeting..) will make out like a bandit. And if reading this inspires you to write such an app, you're welcome, and feel free to buy me a beer with your millions.

Sorry, chaps! We didn't mean to steamroller legit No-IP users – Microsoft


I'm going to have to call bullshit on this one - it's 4pm Pacific time and the no-ip address I had still isn't resolving to anything. On the other hand, no-ip's website seems to be back up.

Microsoft's anti-malware crusade knackers '4 MILLION' No-IP users


Collateral damage

Yup,my mail server 'disappeared' this morning. While I'm out of the country and can't physically access the machine. And it's still happily pulling down mail from external accounts via pop.. Fortunately the ip address the domain was pointing to is still listed in my account details on no-ip's website, so I've been able to connect via the ip address and switch services, but I've just wasted a morning while on an expensive business trip. Good one microsoft, nice well-targetted action there..

Tell us about your first time ... on the internet



Started an engineering degree at University of Western Australia in 1986. Got a unix account (on a vax 11/750 :) which was connected to the outside world. Joined several special interest newsgroups and marvelled at asking and answering questions with people scattered around the planet in almost real-time. Also marvelled that the university would send an email every time you posted on a non-AUS newsgroup informing you that 'this is not a bill, but your posting to the international newsgroup <blah> just cost the university 23 cents'.

Windows XP fixes flaws for free if you turn PCs into CASH REGISTERS


POS is stripped XP

POS machines run a rather stripped version of XP - you'll get updates for the bits of XP that are in the POS version, but not for all the bits that aren't. So better than nothing I guess, but don't be lulled into a false sense of security. So to speak..

Firefox, is that you? Version 29 looks rather like a certain shiny rival


Re: yes but...

I did the same thing for the same reason about a year and a half ago. Then got sick of chrome's inability to handle disqus and a handful of other near-ubiquitous parts of the modern web and reinstalled firefox for 'those few sites' and discovered the old problems had been solved, so switched back. And will happily go the other way again if needed..

Ubuntu 14.04 LTS: Great changes, but sssh don't mention the...


How about a server review?

This desktop edition stuff is all very well, but I doubt I'm the only one here who migrated to mint on the desktop but still uses ubuntu on the server..

Friends don't do tech support for friends running Windows XP


You had me at...

You had me at "Friends don't do tech support for friends running Windows". Then you added some extreaneous letters.

Handsome young autopilot reports for spaceplane duty


Sheds and budgets

Speaking of budgets, at some point I'd love to see a list of everything that went into designing and building LOHAN and what it would have cost if you'd bought it all off the shelf. You've slowly accumulated rather a lot of in-kind support from some very nice suppliers over the life of this project, which is great, but not duplicable by the average shed tinkerer..

Recommendations for private cloud software...


Sparkleshare. Does what dropbox does, but on your own server with encrypted transport.

500 MEELLION PCs still run Windows XP. How did we get here?


Re: If you've got to do all this work to change your OS..

"A surprising number of distros seem to release new versions that can only be installed by zapping your old installation."

A surprising number do, but if that's a problem for you then it's equally true that a not-so-surprising number don't require zapping your old installation and you should probably chose one of those..

First rigid airship since the Hindenburg cleared for outdoor flight trials


Re: Where will the test flights happen?

They're based in San Diego, but that photo is in front of the Tustin hangers: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marine_Corps_Air_Station_Tustin Which have their own quite remarkable history.

CIOs: Are you your CEO's business partner or their gimp?


Now tell us how boards think about this stuff

Ok, you said what it's like to be the CEO barfing numbers to the board on a monthly basis. Now tell us what it's like to be on the other side of that lie factory and how the CIO plays into that. With comedy stylings, of course.

Ubuntu for Android: Penguins peck at Nokia's core problem


Re: help help

You only need to carry around one gadget - your phone completely replaces your laptop or desktop. On the go, you have a phone. When you're around a keyboard & monitor, you have a desktop machine. I've been waiting for the cpu power of phones to get good enough to do this for a while.. This probably isn't it, but in one more generation of gadgets it will be.

Is your old hardware made of gold, or just DIRT?


Ball mill

I used to work as a CIP gold mill operator back in the day. What happens if you run ewaste through a ball mill (eg http://tinyurl.com/3jfertk) same as any other ore? Under 2g/ton was economic in unblasted dirt in the '90s when the gold price was < USD$300/oz; I can't imagine that ewaste is that low/ton, and the gold price is over 5 times higher now..