* Posts by A Long Fellow

60 posts • joined 2 May 2012


Hold on. Here's an idea. Let's force AI bots to identify themselves as automatons, says Cali

A Long Fellow

What if I miss the first 10 seconds of a conversation where the bot declares its identity?

I believe that an entirely different _syntax_ is necessary in order for a society to interact with bots in an appropriate fashion. Pronouns are easy markers for this.

I covered the concept here: http://alongfellow.blogspot.com/2017/12/needed-neo-japanese-syntax-for-ai.html

From Vega with love: Pegasus interstellar asteroid's next stop

A Long Fellow


…what happens in Vega doesn't stay in Vega.

Creepy tech tycoons Zuck and Musk clash over AI doomsday

A Long Fellow

Running off the invisible cliff

"As the ex-Google machine learning expert Andrew Ng has sensibly pointed out, fearing a rise of killer robots is like worrying about overpopulation on Mars. You have to get there first."

I suspect that part of Musk's caution is based on the idea that we are unlikely to know exactly when we "get there". For all I know, we're already there, and the genie simply won't be put back in the bottle.

We have certainly already built systems that are inimical to human interests and extremely difficult to dismantle, insofar as they are deeply embedded in social, economic, and political structures and will require little less than a revolution to undo. Maybe Musk was doing the Hari Seldon-esque thing and simply playing out forces over a 20-50 year span; finding that these forces and systems conspire to the inevitable development of an AI that is both uncontrollable and hostile to (some) human life.

In this matter, I'll trust Musk over Zuckerberg.

Hundreds of millions 'wasted' on UK court digitisation scheme

A Long Fellow

Longfellow's law of large projects

The larger the budget for a project the greater the odds that it will be both disproportionately late and disproportionately over budget.

The reasons why are both clear and inevitable: too many people in the food chain with a vested interest in keeping the taps open, and therefore not enough odds that any heads will roll for repeated failures to deliver.

Anybody describing these projects as "agile" either hasn't got a clue about agile in the first place or is too busy cashing checques to care. How else to you spend £270m on a web-enabled database that could reliably run on just enough hardware to fit into a closet?

Planned Espionage Act could jail journos and whistleblowers as spies

A Long Fellow

"Espionage" seems to imply an "us vs. them" mentality. Indeed, the notion of relationships here is critical.

When a _spy_ leaks information to _an enemy power_, that damages _our country_ by compromising _our national_ interests.

When a (journalist) leaks information to (the citizens), that damages (who??) by compromising (whose??) interests.

It seems obvious that this bill casts citizens as the enemy of the rulers.

Stung by Dynamics 365 hike? Microsoft has a deal for you... just don't expect much

A Long Fellow

"Rothwell said Microsoft hoped the three-year window would give customers "long enough to evaluate where they want to go next"."

I should hope that the answer would be "Somewhere else".

Post-outage King's College London orders staff to never make their own backups

A Long Fellow


Somebody's following the ITIL playbook to the letter -- and completely ignoring that there are _humans_ involved in the equation. I studied this a few years ago* and concluded that the hallmark of a superb IT support operation is sensitivity to users' realities. It's not (just) about the tech, it's how well you support the people behind it. Support the humans, not the systems.

Yes, I'm linking to it: http://hdl.handle.net/2381/9556

Yahoo! couldn't! detect! hackers! in! its! network! but! can! spot! NSFW! smut! in! your! office?

A Long Fellow

A solution without a problem

Let's take this off the computer screen and see how much sense it makes:

"We're going to post a guard at the entrance of the building who will check everybody's person and carried items to ensure that NSFW items do not enter the premises."

If it's senseless in meatspace, then it's senseless on the computer screen.


Mark Zuckerberg and the $3bn cash fling: He's not your father's tech kingpin

A Long Fellow

Great headline; stupid science

It is categorically impossible to "cure all disease" within the context of current human biology. It's like suggesting that we're going to make everybody happy, all the time.

Internet of Sins: Million more devices sharing known private keys for HTTPS, SSH admin

A Long Fellow

So, really, we're looking at the inherent (in)security of Windows 95 in a burgeoning array of IoT devices. And not just a single behemoth obsessed with profit at any cost, but a teeming host of companies that are solely concerned with making this quarter's earnings call.

What could possible go wrong?

All hyperbole aside, isn't this -- on a slightly different scale -- precisely the situation that will ensue if the TLAs prevail in their demands for backdoors that "only the good guys know about"?

German minister seeks facial recognition at airports, train stations

A Long Fellow

"Germany's interior minister Thomas de Maiziere wants facial recognition systems in the country's airports and train stations to identify terror suspects."

That's the problem right there: he says he wants to identify terror suspects, but he's going to wind up identifying _everyone_, and if you can't imagine how this information will be misused, then you've drunk way too much of the corporate kool-aid.

We need a new conception of privacy and property -- one which acknowledges the power of "big data" to aggregate and correlate previously discrete data points into a damning whole, and one which treats such data points for both individuals and groups of individuals as valuable property to which we have inalienable rights and ultimate control.

BMW web portal vulns pose car hack risk – researchers

A Long Fellow

Obligatory Luddite Quote from Star Trek III

Scotty: "The more they overthink the plumbing, the easier it is to stop up the drain."

Make mine a horse or a bicycle.

Are Indians too stupid to be trusted with free Internet?

A Long Fellow

Is "free" == "good"?

Parallel: food aid? Notwithstanding the edge case of famine, nothing destroys local farming quite as effectively as low-cost food dumped into a poverty-stricken country.

A western-owned company offering "free" internet will effectively kill any Indian company that might have wanted to establish a business in the "low-cost" internet provision space. Keeping Facebook out will encourage local industry and innovation.

Could a "manipulation" story be written around the decision? Yes. Could the decision have been reached for reasons that are entirely beyond the sphere of the imputed manipulation? Also yes.

Ultimately, wide-scale internet access is India's problem. If India wants help, it surely has a voice to ask. And if it rejects an offer, I'm willing to consider the possibility that the decision-makers might be wise enough to have made their own decisions.

Verizon sees AT&T 'sponsored data' billing scheme, says 'me too!'

A Long Fellow

Just a thought

I do not believe that barriers to entry are inherently bad.

Would this lead to more compact web sites, where content is valued more than frivolous decoration? Where images are sized appropriately and the code is both lean and efficient? Where advertising implicitly costs more? Where site-scrapers will (I think) have an inherent disadvantage over content originators?

I detest the telcos, but there may be a silver lining here.

Microsoft's top lawyer: I have a cunning plan ... to rescue sunk safe harbor agreement

A Long Fellow

In case you thought this was functionally simple...

At least one of the complications is that large-scale services such as social networks will store information (or copies thereof) as locally as possible -- either in part or in whole.

What happens when Brussels Bill and California Carl become Facebook friends? I don't know FB's data architecture, but I can guess that at least some of Bill's data is going to be replicated in California, while some of Carl's data will be replicated in Brussels. When the cops come knocking in California, the server should cough up only data on Carl, while keeping schtum on Bill?

On a much smaller scale, what would this mean for a small business owner who has customers or clients worldwide? Whether I'm using a cloud CRM or a desktop database, I am bound to be breaking the law.

Even under Safe Harbour, this was problematical, insofar as an undertaking to uphold _either_ US or Euro standard would place me into averred conflict with the other -- and we can thank Schrems for forcing the conflict into the open.

For pity's sake, you fool! DON'T UPGRADE it will make it worse

A Long Fellow

Re: surprise- a translation company doesn't understand IT (@Bassey)

The difference is that replacing a broken chair requires no specialised skills. Thanks to codification, even mains electrical work and plumbing are probably more tractable than the inherent complexities of a comprehensive IT implementation. Ironically, the more codified a profession or trade, the less autonomy practitioners typically possess, but the higher the salaries they can typically command.

I suspect that even the best-constructed IT infrastructures cannot be managed and maintained by a succession of replaceable technical folk.

Healthcare: Look anywhere you like for answers, just not the US

A Long Fellow

Health as a profit center

I've lived in all the systems mentioned above _except_ France, and I must say that the US model is genuinely striking. Only in that country do we have the situation where the optimum economic situation is that everybody should be _just well enough_ to go to work, but not actually healthy.

In most countries, the optimum economic condition is one in which people are healthy until the moment that they die; in the US, the government/corps generate the largest amount of revenue by keeping everybody moderately ill until they run out of money.

Screwball ruble closes Apple's Russia store, whole kit and caboodle

A Long Fellow

That picture...

I must be tired AND showing my age, but that picture just slammed me into a Tetris flashback.

Deprivation Britain: 1930s all over again? Codswallop!

A Long Fellow

Perception and reality

I suspect that a large portion of the disaffection is founded on the schism between expectation and reality. We are constantly told of the opportunity and the golden futures awaiting us -- yet the reality falls far short for a number (an increasing number?) of people.

From teachers to entertainment to politicians... all promising a brighter tomorrow. "You can be anything you want to be!" "Follow your passion!" "The land of opportunity!"


El Reg Redesign - leave your comment here.

A Long Fellow
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Not good in either usability or readability

Love el reg, having been with the site almost from the very beginning. That said, I'm not too keen on the design; the more I live in it, the more I dislike it.

I was okay with the "five featured stories" at the top of the main column -- the single headline story is going to be a hit-and-miss proposition, now. With five stories, there was a better chance that at least one would be interesting.

In general, it feels as though the information density has dropped a lot.

I also dislike the black > grey link status. The grey-on-white combination fails 3 out of 4 accessibility standards. This is important: the design is hostile to users with non-optimal eyesight.

And finally, I take issue with the 'live popup' sections at the top of the screen -- particularly since they're pinned to the top of the window. This means that going up to any of the browser application menus or the browser window's buttons will probably -- unless I'm very quick about it -- cause irritating visual interference with what's on the screen. Putting that kind of thing left or right would be better, since it would not interfere with browser activity.

All in all, it's quite off-putting. Sorry.

Now Uber can take EVERYONE for a ride

A Long Fellow

Let's see -- a soundtrack for two icky companies getting together for a marriage made in Las Vegas...

Like all good playlists, there has to be a conceptual development of sorts, in this case moving from the idealism of young love through to realism/cynicism and then on to mature acceptance of the inevitable fate -- whatever that is.

Early Innocence:

Among the Clouds - John Williams

What a Wonderful World - preferably Maceo Parker

Burning Rope - Genesis



Smoke Gets in Your Eyes - the Platters

Who's Fooling Who - Mike Rutherford

What a Fool Believes - Doobies

(What's) The Name of the Game - ABBA

(Star Wars IV) The Last Battle - John Williams

Tie Me at the Crossroads (When I Die) - Bruce Cockburn



Ten Years Gone - Led Zep

When All is Said and Done - ABBA


Note that this playlist should, in most cities, be long enough for a trip of about eight blocks.

All but full-fat MS Office to be had on iPads, Droidenslabben for NOWT

A Long Fellow

Can't do Word Art!

The inability to commit WordArt is at least one way in which the tablet versions surpass the desktop apps.

Facebook's new self-destructing pic app SELF-DESTRUCTS

A Long Fellow

re Big Boobies: Obligatory "'Allo, 'Allo" Reference

Where's the Fallen Madonna?

You've made the product, now get it to the customers

A Long Fellow


Thanks for the insights, Don Jefe & Robin Birtstone.

However, I believe that the discussion is chiefly applicable for established, commodity products shipping a few containers per year. I'm currently working with an innovative quasi-publishing project; getting my product into the channel now is going to be practically impossible. However, I suspect that two years down the road, with an established brand and proven sales figures, I might be able to farm out the order fulfillment and product delivery process.

Between now and then, however, I suspect we'll be moving from kitchen to (heated) garage and then (VCs willing) to office/workshop before I have the luxury of worrying about logistics. Besides, early product updates will be based heavily on feedback that comes from direct contact with customers.

New Facebook phone app allows you to stalk your mates

A Long Fellow

Re: Opt-out

Stacks of menus? Good heavens, no. You'll have to go your local planning office, where you'll find the form in a dark cellar with no stairs, in the bottom of locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying 'Beware of the Leopard.'

I like the idea of Facebook becoming the marketing department of Sirius Cybernetics Corporation, if only for the comfort of knowing what fate awaits them.

Hyper-V telling fibs about Linux guest VMs

A Long Fellow

FUD like it's 1991!

It's déjà vu all over again. See Graham Lea's article from 15 years ago in a newish, youngish, website that was just starting to rake up the muck:


The article quotes Brad Silverberg: "What the guy is supposed to do is feel uncomfortable, and when he has bugs, suspect that the problem is dr-dos and then go out to buy ms-dos."

The coy, "Hah, hah, just kidding!" from Microsoft will do nothing to appease the PHB standing over your shoulder when that little warning appears.

Helpdesk/Service Desk Recommendations

A Long Fellow

Another vote for GLPI

I've implemented GLPI and all were fairly happy with it. Also does a brilliant job of asset management and inventory tracking.

Google to Supremes: End this Street View fight once and for all

A Long Fellow

Slight difference?

If I understand correctly, Google is equating its slurpage with the actions of sysadmins who are engage in securing their own networks and thus 'listening' to traffic.

If this is the argument, Google needs to have its collective ass kicked, starting with the legal team. The sysadmin who secures his/her own network is working within an organisational boundary, where a reasonable argument can be made for judicious oversight. In applying this logic (?) to its own activities, Google appears to tacitly assume a paternal oversight of _all_ computer communications -- and that is something to be struck down with no subtlety whatsoever.

The very act of making this claim begs further punitive action.

The plot to kill Google cloud: We'll rename Windows Azure to MICROSOFT Azure

A Long Fellow

What a career!

Consider the sad probability that several somebodies are likely getting paid several handsome salaries to formulate the "strategy" and the "communications" behind this.

Can you imagine meeting your maker with this on your record?

Droid: I operationalized an emergent reimagining of corporate communications, materializing meaningful cognizant evolutions in the conceptual metaspaces of user consciousness.

Maker: You changed the word "Windows" to "Microsoft".

Droid: Indicative cultural signifiers demonstrated -

Maker: You go to hell.

Thanks a lot, Facebook: Microsoft turns Office 365 into social network

A Long Fellow

The spokesdrone says: "Today, the world has become a giant network where connections make information more relevant and people more productive,"

The use of social media does not necessarily make information "more relevant", and absolutely nobody is "more productive" from its use.

It will be depressing to see how many managers drink the Koolaid.

MtGox MELTDOWN: Quits Bitcoin Foundation board, deletes Twitter

A Long Fellow

Virtual Currency - what isn't?

I am not an economist, but aren't _most_ currencies effectively virtual these days? Control mechanisms vary, but in most (all?) cases, that colored sheet of stuff that you exchange for goods and services doesn't actually correlate to anything other than blind faith.

Facebook adds 50+ gender options: Stalking your 'Friends' just got more LGBT-friendly

A Long Fellow
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"...a good level of respect from Facebook."


Facebook is only respecting its ability to tag you with ever-more-focused labels for its own marketing benefit -- not yours or mine.

WHEEE... CRUNCH! iPad Mini tops list of most breakable slabs, mobes

A Long Fellow

Balance between industrial design and user responsibility

Although I'm a big fan of good design, there's an point at which responsibility for device integrity passes from the manufacturer to the consumer and -- by extension -- to third-party accessory suppliers. I suspect that a more realistic test would have included the "case + device" situation.

Personal experience: I have an iPadMini and I've housed it in both soft and solid Trexta cases. Dropped it, thrown it, spilled water on it, and tossed it into a bag filled with sharp metal bits: not a scratch on the Mini, which speaks well of the device and the cases.

California takes a shot at mobile 'killswitch' mandate

A Long Fellow

Who needs due process?

The excuse that this will deter crime is absurd; it's an excuse to inject further government control into your everyday activities. If they think you're a bad 'un, this will just make it easier for somebody to shut you down. Your car, your phone, your 'leccy...

Just waiting for them to try shoving a (figurative or literal) barcode up my butt.

Apple's Tim Cook: Fear not, worried investors, new product salvation is 'absolutely' on the way

A Long Fellow

The Value of Analysts

Analysts are great... as ballast.

Microsoft seeks patent for blade server chassis

A Long Fellow

Prior Art

I once set a Bladecenter chassis on its side.

My lawyers have been mobilised. Don't bug me whilst I shop for my private island, okay?

Your squirty insecticides make bumblebees SHRINK, warn boffins

A Long Fellow

No surprises here

Unintended consequences, anyone? I am increasingly depressed at the blunt stupidity of people who think they can cause large-scale disruption to biological systems without incurring long-term damage.

I would like to see the end of efforts by marketing departments (a.k.a. government rubber-stamping agencies) to assure us that their concentrated concoctions are anything other than deferred debts.

I'm not (yet) a luddite, but I would like to see a greater willingness by industry participants to project the consequences of actions beyond a simplistic "this miracle powder will keep bugs off your plants and doesn't have any long-term effects on rats that we could observe in a two-week test period and we don't care what happens beyond our next quarterly earnings call anyway".

Target's database raided, 70 MILLION US shoppers at risk of ID theft

A Long Fellow

Re: This is precisely why...

"hackers" are lovely; it's "crackers" you might want to target.

If you're reading this site, you should probably know the language. See


Then read backwards to "(TM)" and forwards to "zorkmid".

You... (Sigh). You store our financials in a 'Clowds4U' account?

A Long Fellow

Common core with edge/fringe additions

I've been the victim on both sides of the IT management / user divide, so I sympathise with both perspectives. I can respect the pressures from both sides, and I usually try to reach a compromise between them. Ultimately, both extremes are untenable. Whether IT tells me that I am _required_ to use only sanctioned hardware and software, or a user tells me (as IT dept) that I am _required_ to support everything he happens to like using, the extremes show a lack of leadership.

In practice, this is easy to set up and requires only intelligence and flexibility to sustain: there's a common core of functionality and support offered by IT that extends as far as management can stretch; a user who wants to venture beyond those 'safe waters' does so without the support of IT.

Unfortunately, the unholy trinity of bean-counters and careerist IT managers and MBAs has led to rigidly-defined decision structures that incompetent manager cling to in lieu of thinking.

I want to play with VMs

A Long Fellow

I'll cast another vote in favour of the free base version VMWare ESXi. While OS-based hypervisors are fine to start with and for casual desktop use, the additional features of ESXi are well worth the marginal learning curve. With all due respect to my colleagues, I maintain that the desktop hypervisors don't offer a compelling platform for somebody who really wants to explore the power of a VM infrastructure.

As for hardware, any contemporary CPU is an acceptable starting point, but I would consider 16gB RAM to be a reasonable minimum. I would also very strongly recommend having four (or more) network ports, allowing you to manage traffic more effectively. Start with a capable but humble bit of server hardware, knowing that ESXi will allow you to shape hardware utilization far more effectively than a non-virtualized OS. Also understand that, in 12-18 months, your new-found understanding of virtualization -- and your own requirements/interests -- will allow you to spec your _next_ VM host far more efficiently.

Of course, this may only be the start of your voyage into the lovely world of VMs, but using ESXi and a low-end server config will give you enough experience to venture into some fairly deep waters.

Google's latest ad push gives LONE LAWMAKER the creeps

A Long Fellow

Off by default, perhaps

I don't recall setting my privacy settings for my gmail account when I first created it, but when I recently checked those settings in response to a notification of this new 'feature', I discovered that the 'permission to use' was already checked OFF. It _seems_, therefore, to be "off by default".

Anybody else look at this?

MS Word deserves DEATH says Brit SciFi author Charles Stross

A Long Fellow

Piling in on Word Abuse

I have four complaints with Word.

First, it attempts to overwrite system fonts with its own -- often inferior -- versions. It does this on the assumption that you will ONLY use Microsoft products to create and view your work.

Second, it commits the sin of execrable typography. Last time I checked, ligatures were turned off by default, and it still can't seem to handle kerning pairs.

Third, it can't seem to handle styles in any rational form. I guess I could take a few days to create a handful of 'never-to-be-modified' templates, but I'd rather get on with the task of creating content, rather than accommodating the tantrumesque child that Word has been for most of its life.

Finally -- and this is the big one -- Word invariably pisses me off by trying to think for me. Word persists in pretending to know what I want, changing and re-arranging without my having asked it to do these things. This is why formatting gets changed, pagination gets fouled up, images won't stay where they are (or move when they should), and lists look like garbage.

Of course, it's possible to wrestle Word into submission -- one tedious document at a time. And if you're locked into some corporate style and workflow that somebody else has created, then all you have to do is follow somebody else's script and ignore the indignities. But if you're trying to create original work that doesn't match the preconceived notions underpinning the software, then you're in for a world of pain.

Google: Now your mom will try to sell you toilet paper

A Long Fellow

Re: opt-in or opt-out?

I received an alert from Google that this would be happening, got a fairly informative page that told me what they planned to do, and saw some inks to control the "opt-in/opt-out" setting. When I went to that page -- which I had NOT seen before -- it was definitely an opt-IN, so the default setting is not malicious.

Standard Model goes PEAR-SHAPED in CERN experiment

A Long Fellow


I always thought antimatter was spontaneously consumed after the aperitivo and before the primo.

Furthermore, it's clear that the real reason for the pear shape has to do with an excessive indulgence of the secondo, not to mention the formaggio e frutta.

Office Software Checkpoint

A Long Fellow
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A distasteful bit of shilling

Maybe I missed a turn somewhere, but this is clearly an advertorial, yet appears to be billed as 'reportage'. For all the protestations in the "whitepaper" that it is not an advertisement, it clearly is -- not least because it has MS plastered all over it, there is a preponderance of pro-MS rhetoric, and the conclusions are remarkably kind.

This is a disappointing term for The Vulture, which in this case more closely resembles a haggard and violated chicken.

Geolocation tech to save 60 Londoners from being run over next year

A Long Fellow

But... _which_ 60 Londoners?

In principle, this seems like a good idea. However, I would very much like to know exactly _which_ 60 Londoners won't be culled from the gene pool. These things matter.

Rackspace sues 'the most notorious patent troll in America'

A Long Fellow
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Re: Watch out Apple

Apple are hardly an NPE, thus not a troll by all but the most bilious definition.

Monkey poo probe reveals secrets of middle-management brains

A Long Fellow

"her examination ... will encourage them to breed"

"...Edwards is now studying horny rhinos at Chester Zoo. She hopes her examination of sexy hormones in the animals will encourage them to breed."

That depends on how she examines their hormones, doesn't it? I mean, maybe she's doing her fieldwork whilst wearing that sexy off-grey number that accentuates her horn and shows off her well-muscled...

Wait, did I misunderstand that sentence?

Microsoft gives away Windows 8 to Mac devs

A Long Fellow

Re: Why are you so sure that they are scheming?

My experience is different -- I've found Parallels to be the least stable and most problem-prone of the OSX-based hypervisors... and on the Mac I've used them all since Connectix Virtual-PC with DOS back in the early 90s. YMMV.

I'm afraid that "scheming" makes perfect sense in light of two decades of MS behavior. The last thing MS really want is for Mac devs to have a good time using their computers. Far better to sour the milk with a little FUD.

How the iPad ruined the lives of IT architects

A Long Fellow

Am I missing something?

Do people really get paid to write stuff like this? Ever? Do people pay to listen to it? People can actually make a living out of this?

I always thought you had to know something, be able to do it, get the job done, and preferably not piss off everybody in the process.



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