* Posts by T. F. M. Reader

824 posts • joined 19 Dec 2012


Network sniffers find COVID-19 did not break the internet – though it was behind a massive jump in outages

T. F. M. Reader

heads up their rhetoricals

That's a most unexpected use of the word. True to form, it was used to a significant effect without affecting the actual information flow. Was it intentional?

Forget it - that was a r....l question. Have an upvote.

Microsoft forked out $13.7m in bug bounties. The reward program's architect thinks the money could be better spent

T. F. M. Reader

Amazing insight!

Finding and fixing bugs earlier in the lifecycle is cheaper. Who'd have thunk?...

Who was behind that stunning Twitter hack? State spies? Probably this Florida kid, say US prosecutors

T. F. M. Reader

Re: More and More the Soviet Union Every Day

Particularly if you start with demented nonsense such as: "Increasingly we rely on platforms like Twitter to receive news and other information that is important to our lives,"

Not in the slightest.

You might want to rethink that. You may not rely on Twitter for news directly, but I am increasingly under the impression that mainstream and every other news source does. To the point where the bulk of many news articles consists of screenshots of tweets and a staggering proportion of news items is rooted in someone tweeting something, which becomes news in and of itself.

I certainly agree it is demented nonsense, but it also seems to have become demented reality. Disturbingly, it makes the above quote factually correct...

'I'm telling you, I haven't got an iPad!' – Sent from my iPad

T. F. M. Reader

The most important tech angle?

I've never had an iPad. Are you saying it could do email but could not cut autoresponse loops???

Google extends homeworking until this time next year – as Microsoft finds WFH is terrific... for Microsoft

T. F. M. Reader

... welcome to the machine

E. M. Forster's Machine? I actually read it while in lockdown. s/Machine/Technology/g and it becomes eerily prescient. Self-isolation, zoom, webinars, and avoiding human contact - all envisaged in 1909... Recommended.

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

T. F. M. Reader

Randomized poisoning

Can the "poisoning" have a random component so that every uploaded picture looks different to AI, preventing "tagging", effective search, etc., etc.?

960 LinkedIn employees will be let go... If only there was some kind of 'social network for suits' to assist job hunts

T. F. M. Reader

Ah, the carefree days of the early internet...

@Zippy´s Sausage Factory: "someone losing their domain once because someone complained..."

Not quite the same thing as losing a domain, but in the relatively early days of public Internet and spam (think ~25 years ago when a lot fewer than 100% of members of the public had non-uni accounts and hardly anyone owned a domain) I started getting emails from an MP (not in the UK) who urged me to vote in a particular way in a municipal election. I didn't even live in the city in question and wasn't eligible to vote there. I sent an email to abuse@<ISP> (the ISP was easy to figure out from the personal email address the MP used), and to my surprise I got a thank-you note from the ISP the next day saying the MP's account had been deactivated due to my complaint.

In those days spam was starting to be a problem and ISPs were quite concerned about being blamed for allowing spammers to operate. Hence the swift reaction.

The recollection still gives me a warm and fuzzy feeling after all these years. Not because I didn't like the MP's politics, but because a spammer was neutralized (and, in this case, hopefully learned his lesson).

Spam from LinkedIn is much harder to get rid of. You'd be complaining to an interested party...

FYI Russia is totally hacking the West's labs in search of COVID-19 vaccine files, say UK, US, Canada cyber-spies

T. F. M. Reader

The malware supports HTTP, TLS and DNS communications methods,” said NCSC

Is this a "new normal" way to say the malware sends stuff over HTTPS after a bit of name resolution? Sorry, but am I the only one who thinks the sentence just reads weirdly?

€13bn wings its way back to Apple after Euro court rules Irish tax deal wasn't 'state aid'

T. F. M. Reader

"the jobs brought by these companies are more valuable than added taxation."

Or, conceivably, the taxes paid by the relatively affluent employees and by all the local goods and services providers who get both the company's and the well-remunerated employees' custom more than offset the tax revenue "lost" due to the low corporate tax rate. I do not know for a fact how it works out for the Irish government coffers, but if this is the case then the "hey, don't forget that taxes support healthcare and what not" argument in another paragraph of the article may lose any relevance as well.

You're testing them wrong: Whiteboard coding interviews are 'anti-women psychological stress examinations'

T. F. M. Reader

I interview tecnical personnel occasionally

Write code on whiteboard? Never. Some quick'n'dirty architecture diagrams - sure, but not code. I do a first interview, mostly looking at how the candidate presents himself/herself, and how much awareness is manifested of the context of the past job(s). "I wrote C/python/java/C#/whatever" functions - not interesting, next! "There is this huge problem in the Universe and this is how what I did helped solve it" gets full marks.

And then I ask for some non-confidential code samples or offer a home assignment if the candidate hasn't got a "portfolio". Something that should take no more than a few hours of thinking and maybe 30-40 minutes of actual code-writing. The specification includes a meta-requirement that it does not matter if the code actually compiles, runs, or produces the expected result (good candidates will do their best, anyway). Send in your solution, partial though it may be, by Wednesday and come for another chat on Thursday and explain your design choices, discuss tradeoffs, etc., etc. That's the interesting part, always. This kind of "filtering by design review" works very well, in my experience. I never cease to be amazed by what a really good candidate can produce over a weekend - worthwhile people just shine (and show they are willing to invest time and effort in getting the job). StackOverflow copy/paste, on the other hand, is totally trivial to filter out - it's just a matter of personality, or lack thereof, showing.

Linux kernel coders propose inclusive terminology coding guidelines, note: 'Arguments about why people should not be offended do not scale'

T. F. M. Reader

Re: Loaded words replaced by euphemisms

@Maelstorm: "I for one will not bow-tow to the mob."

You may be blackmailed into that (or into kow-towing, if you are not in Newhaven).

The internet becomes trademarkable, sort of, with near-unanimous Supreme Court ruling on Booking.com

T. F. M. Reader

So what happens if ...

Booking.com forget to pay the fee for the domain? No, not that farfetched - even Microsoft forgot, and more than once. So, if the domain is a trademark, will the registrar (or a "drop registrar" as the case may be) be able to release the domain and transfer it to someone else, or will the trademark holder say, "Hey, no one but us can use it!"

Basically, a domain is a rather valuable property. Effectively, Booking Holdings (that's the company, not "Booking.com") pay the managing entity (the registrar) a fee for the right to use the domain name. Stop paying and you lose this right. A part of that "rent" goes to VeriSign who operate the .com TLD (among others). There is also ICANN. There are auctions, "high frequency trading" (by drop registrars) and other processes that are managed within this rather non-trivial infrastructure. Does the court's decision throw a big spanner into the wheels of this machine? The mechanism for registering a trademark has been completely independent from domain name management until now. How will it all be reconciled?

CSI: Xiaomi. Snappy Redmi Note 9 Pro shows every fingerprint, but at least you get bang for your buck

T. F. M. Reader

Re: !!Stupid Question Alert!!

Xiaomi are in the smartphone and accessories business. Huawei are in the telco equipment business, and also make smartphones. It is the telco equipment part, not the smartphone part, that seems worrisome to (some) authorities.

City of Los Angeles sued for tracking rental scooter rides – that's the rideshare company's job says EFF and ACLU

T. F. M. Reader


I tend to think of myself as very privacy-conscious, but in this case my knee-jerk reaction is, "please explain the details". In my mind, the crucial point is whether the data gathered is about scooters only or is linked in some way (credit card, phone number or ID, whatever) with who operated the scooter between point A and point B. In the latter case I'd argue that there is a potential privacy issue even if the data are anonymized. If it is just about scooters then I don't see a problem. And for tracking congestion or optimizing collection of abandoned scooters there is no need to collect anything about the renter. "The same person commutes regularly between A and B" is none of the City Hall's business.

Developers renew push to get rid of objectionable code terms to make 'the world a tiny bit more welcoming'

T. F. M. Reader

A glimmer of hope?

Will this liberate us from the slavery of "agile development" when "scrum masters" are put against the wall?

If Daddy doesn't want me to touch the buttons, why did they make them so colourful?

T. F. M. Reader

Re: Many years ago...

... a friend of mine worked with an international team on a construction site for a new nuclear power station in a Northern European country (yes, it really was many years ago). He said the installation included a big red button labelled "GET THE HELL OUT OF HERE!"...

'Beyond stupid': Linus Torvalds trashes 5.8 Linux kernel patch over opt-in Intel CPU bug mitigation

T. F. M. Reader

Obligatory Covid-19 analogy

1. There is a high risk population (of processes).

2. They become paranoid about sanitizing (the cache).

3. As a result, everybody is driven into lockdown (poor performance) and frequent (cache) flushing, etc., regardless of risk.

4. In the end, Linus (who is Swedish even as he comes from Finland) applies "the Swedish model" and rejects said lockdown, citing the lack of compelling data in the process.

Am I overthinking it?

Microsoft blocks Trend Micro code at center of driver 'cheatware' storm from Windows 10, rootkit detector product pulled from site

T. F. M. Reader

Dieselgate 2.0?

[Comment is optional]

Das reboot: That's the only thing to do when the screenshot, er, freezes

T. F. M. Reader

Re: Funny that

@big_D: "Switching the language"

These days you don't even need to switch anything. I found out that Google present the initial Account/GMail login screens in the language they guessed from (I suspect) your IP. Now, assume you see everything in an unfamiliar language and an unfamiliar alphabet. That's everything, including an unobtrusive link or button you need to use to switch languages...

Mind your language: Microsoft set to swing the axe on 27 languages in iOS Outlook

T. F. M. Reader

Quite possibly ...

... it is not about neglecting the number of people using Urdu or other languages with a large user base. Maybe MSFT made an assessment of how widely used iPhones (and Outlook on iPhones) are in the lands where those languages are spoken and weighed the potential losses stemming from pissing off some section of the market against savings on Product[*]/Development/QA work.

It would be interesting to know the corresponding statistics if anyone can dig them up, and also whether the same languages remain available for Outlook on Android.

[*] I suspect the Development and QA parts are intuitively clear to the commentariat, but in my experience people don't tend to give much thought to, say, the real estate on menus/labels/tooltips/etc. and what exactly will be usable/intuitive in every supported language until one actually encounters the problem in a multilingual setting. "Why is this input field so far right?" - "Because the French/Russian/Welsh/whatever label next to it is longer than the English one that you see right now" kind of thing.

Attorney General: We didn't need Apple to crack terrorist's iPhones – tho we still want iGiant to do it in future

T. F. M. Reader

Re: Apple told The Register - ????

This must be "the new normal" everyone is talking about these days...

You can't have it both ways: Anti-coronavirus masks may thwart our creepy face-recog cameras, London cops admit

T. F. M. Reader

A small, informal suggestion

Should El Reg change the Anonymous Coward icon?

Stop tracking me, Google: Austrian citizen files GDPR legal complaint over Android Advertising ID

T. F. M. Reader
Big Brother

Re: From my own investigations.....

@Pascal Monett: "No ads on Brave."

Hmm... I went to Google Play on my Android phone and found Brave. The first thing I saw was "Contains ads". Are you saying it's Google's FUD?

I'll probably believe a Reg commentard sooner than the Chocolate Factory...

Total Eclipse to depart: Open-source software foundation is hopping the pond to Europe

T. F. M. Reader

Re: A long time coming

Actually, I believe the MM/DD/YYYY date format stems from the pre-computinghistoric practice related to manual filing of business documents (invoices, receipts, orders, etc.) in filing cabinet drawers labeled by month, Inside a "January" drawer they were sorted by date, and last year's were moved to a storage room or wherever, so all you really dealt with was MM/DD.

Carrying it to the computer world is pure insanity, of course. ;-)

Personally, I tend to use YYYYMMDD more often than anything else, because it is so damn easy to sort.

Australia's contact-tracing app regulation avoids 'woolly' principles in comparable cyber-laws, say lawyers

T. F. M. Reader

Re: "Here I Go, Again On My Own..." - DLR

@AC: "There is no location data"

There is no location data stored within the application. However, I suppose the app is useless if one's high precision location data service is turned off. So, if you download the app and want to use it you must enable "location services" or whatever it is called, at all times. And then your location information will be available to the world and his sister regardless of any privacy mechanisms the app may have. There you go.

I assume the set of people who don't keep GPS permanently on is significant. I am not cynical enough to think that the app was created to shrink that set, but I don't see a big red warning along the lines of "if you use the app your privacy will be significantly impaired as your location will be traceable by independent means" being mandated, either.

Why should the UK pensions watchdog be able to spy on your internet activities? Same reason as the Environment Agency and many more

T. F. M. Reader

Pensions Regulator ...

... sounds much less ironic in the context than National Authority for Counter Eavesdropping.

Or is it just me?

So how do the coronavirus smartphone tracking apps actually work and should you download one to help?

T. F. M. Reader

@Cuddles: agreed. I only switch Bluetooth and GPS on when I am in my car, GPS only if I really need navigation to a place I am not familiar with and don't rely on just reading street signs. Of course, when I am in my car I am isolated from the rest of the world and thus pretty safe, epidemiologically.

Having said that, I suppose that I am "different"... And so are you... ;-)

Reg fashion special: Top designer says 'video chat accessories' are in for spring!

T. F. M. Reader

Re: What would we do without fashion?

@joeW: Come back, Telephone Sanitisers - all is forgiven.

They are back!!! So says the BBC.

Pandemic impact: Two-thirds of polled Reg readers say it's business as usual in the IT dept, one in ten panicking

T. F. M. Reader

A completely non-scientific poll of my own

I suspect many IT departments could not budget/source/configure a large number of corporate laptops for employees who have never worked remotely before, at short notice. Is anyone concerned about letting the newly remote workforce connect to VPN from their personal computers at home? I mean, who knows who really 0wns those?

Self-driving truck boss: 'Supervised machine learning doesn’t live up to the hype. It isn’t C-3PO, it’s sophisticated pattern matching'

T. F. M. Reader

Basic stuff before AI

While the Commentariat discusses AI vs pattern matching as applied to autonomous vehicles, I am struck by something else in the article that looks much more basic to me. The stuff in Waymo's Open Dataset Challenge: frankly, and possibly naively, I'd expect those problems to be solved "beyond reasonable doubt" before any talk of autonomous driving can be taken seriously.

Netflix starts 30-day video data diet at EU's request to ensure network availability during coronavirus crisis

T. F. M. Reader

Increasin social distance ...

... between pixels?

Microsoft's Bill Gates defrag is finally virtually complete: Billionaire quits board to double down on philanthropy

T. F. M. Reader

What happened to my El Reg?

No puns on Gates finally applying himself to rid the world of viruses?

How does Monzo keep 1,600 microservices spinning? Go, clean code, and a strong team

T. F. M. Reader

Re: Optimise for readability

"...our engineering principles" ?


“<...> [P]rogrammers have spent far too much time worrying about efficiency in the wrong places and at the wrong times; premature optimization is the root of all evil (or at least most of it) in programming.”

- Donald Knuth, TAOCP [circa 1968]

If you're wondering how Brit cops' live suspect-hunting facial-recog is going, it's cruising at 88% false positives

T. F. M. Reader

Re: By all means be against facial recognition but please stop getting the maths wrong.

@bencurthoys: your hypothetical numbers are absolutely correct. Full marks - and I used to teach data analysis and statistical methods.

Your conclusion that the numbers make your hypothetical detector a "useful tool" is quite wrong though, at least within a free society (which is almost the whole point here).

One thing that your conclusion does not take into account is the principle of presumption of innocence. You propose actually stopping, detaining, and verifying 10,000 absolutely innocent people on suspicion of them being terrorists. What is that going to do to their lives? This is simply not an acceptable price to pay to catch a few terrorists (who, statistically, don't do much damage, by the way - that's another facet of "numbers don't always care weight").

Another thing your conclusion misses is alarm fatigue. The signal to noise ratio in your hypothetical setup is very low. The efficacy of (human) police who will be doing verification will be very low, and the ultimate ROI of the system will be very low as well. In addition, the verifying police who will check 99 people only to find false positives will be quite likely to make a mistake in case number 100. The fact that rather than checking 1M people you need to check only 10K flagged by the terrorist detector is not relevant in the context. Yes, this might be an improvement on stopping a million people in the streets and checking each and every one of them. I'd discount this argument (and I consider myself fortunate to live in a society that allows me to do so...).

A reasonable alternative approach is doing actual police and intelligence work and not involving 10K innocents in the first place. That should require a significantly smaller army of investigators, too.

After 16 years of hype, graphene finally delivers on its promise – with a cosmetic face mask

T. F. M. Reader

Re: has not said quite how its cosmetic face masks will benefit from graphene

@GruntyMcPugh: No need for a modem. iPAQs were damn useful around 2001. Laptops were bloody expensive, so business trips - any trips, really - involved an iPAQ and a Nokia phone. Turn the IR on both to face each other, the phone serves as a modem, the iPAQ receives and sends email. It was quite affordable back then, too - the telcos hadn't figured out how to fleece the traveling populations yet.

A foldable keyboard made it almost a laptop.

And IIRC at least some iPAQs had cameras which made them very handy to take pictures of whiteboards in business meetings.

I remember thinking, "Wouldn't it be nice if this thing could also make calls...."

The self-disconnecting switch: Ghost in the machine or just a desire to save some cash?

T. F. M. Reader

Re: How much?

@Evil Auditor: "And that was the only finding he had."

You underestimate the deviousness of beancounters. Any beancounter worth his salt will take $2.40 from petty cash before an audit on purpose. It is very important to let the evil auditor find something trivial and obvious so that he leaves with a feeling of a job well done.

GitLab can proclaim diversity all it likes, but it seems to have a real problem keeping women on staff or in management

T. F. M. Reader

Revenue earners

@AC: "What about actual technical, revenue earners?"

I guess you are not a CFO, CEO, VC investor, or board member. To all those revenue is earned by Sales. "Actual technical" people are cost centers. You'll understand when you grow up.

Artful prankster creates Google Maps traffic jams by walking a cartful of old phones around Berlin

T. F. M. Reader

Google says its latest chatbot is the most human-like ever – trained on our species' best works: 341GB of social media

T. F. M. Reader

Executive summary

Google chatbot designers are outstanding in their field.

Star wreck: There's a 1 in 20 chance a NASA telescope and US military satellite will smash into each other today

T. F. M. Reader

Pittsburgh, Philadelphia?

Is there a small chance that it is different from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania?

From Soviet to science fiction icon, the weird life of Isaac Asimov 100 years on

T. F. M. Reader

Not just Sci-Fi

Asimov will be forever remembered for his contributions to Science Fiction, of course. However, his creations are not limited to that genre alone. Besides popular science I would like to give an honourable mention to "Asimov's Guide to the Bible" and "Asimov's Guide to Shakespeare", among others. I enjoyed both immensely when I discovered them.

'Supporting Internet Explorer is hell': Web developers identify top needs – new survey

T. F. M. Reader

Re: "If you allow web applications to be more like native apps"

What happens now when the hackers walk into the control room?

The old 3G defence paradigm (3G = Gates, Guys, Guns) works not badly at all, and Stuxnet-type penetration is a tall order even for the most sophisticated nation-state attackers. The new 5G (do-everything-from-browser-using-public-IPv6-address) approach has not been proven totally reliable yet, and that's my late entry to the Underestimation of 2019 contest.

HPE goes on the warpath, attacks AWS over vendor lock-in

T. F. M. Reader

Re: What lunch?

But that fibre line into your building also provides you with your cloud service.

I think the point is that in this setup their cloud service to their premises is not mission-critical. Their customers' cloud service is, but that would not be affected if that fibre were severed, right? What would be affected is their DevOps ability to manage said cloud, and that could be temporarily remedied by said DevOps working on laptops somewhere else, at home or at a local coffee shop, off the data path, until the now-non-mission-critical fibre is mended.

Hate speech row: Fine or jail anyone who calls people boffins, geeks or eggheads, psychology nerd demands

T. F. M. Reader

I feel a sudden urge...

... to use the term "trick cyclist" in the most pejorative way possible.

Advertisers want exemption from web privacy rules that, you know, enforce privacy

T. F. M. Reader

Lawmakers meet technology

OK, assuming this law passes in California, I want a couple of technological solutions to enforce it:

1. A browser extension or plugin that will send a request to delete all my data whenever I leave a site or close a tab. I have such a plugin that deletes cookies, so it must be possible. Wait, does an appropriate standard exist for data deletion requests and is it mandatory under the law? Ah... So the only way to delete the data will be through s link under 137 clicks? Or registered mail only?

2. A proxy in CA that will make all my browsing appear as if I resided in that enlightened state that has that brilliant law on its books. That could even be an excellent business opportunity to someone in, say, Mountain View, by the way. They could even make it free and monetize by collecting huge amounts of data on their out-of-state customers and selling them to advertisers (and to every bidder, not just the highest one), all without falling afoul of the law. The GDPR-mandated consent may be buried in paragraph 405k of the TOS, per SOP, no sweat. Such a business would be able to corner the market if advertisers wouldn't be able to do the same thing directly. Wait, is that the real reason for this law, and may that be the real "intermediary" the advertising associations are in arms against? For fear of being fleeced, not fear of consumers not buying enough advertised goods?

Cynical, moi?

EFF warns of 'one-way mirror' of web surveillance by tech giants – led by Google

T. F. M. Reader

Cypher, the report author?

Is it a real name? Or is it an ironic pseudonym chosen to remind (some of) us of a graph query language the likes of which (Gremlins, etc.) are probably used behind that one-way mirror?

Irish eyes aren't smiling after govt blows €1m on mega-printer too big for parliament's doors

T. F. M. Reader


I used to work for a company that made HW, including big half-a-rack (21U) boxes that could be delivered as a pair in a full rack. Dimensions and weight - e.g., elevator ratings - were always checked. We always checked, for such deals. A vendor selling such a specialized and oversized piece of equipment should have checked, IMHO. They were stuck with storing the thing for some time at their expense.

But to the best of my recollection we never sold to a Parliament, who may make their own laws, of course...

There seems to be a conflict of interest whenever democratic lawmakers meet mathematics or laws of Nature...

Dead or alive, you're camming with me, says RoboPup: Bomb squad hires Boston Dynamics Spot to snoop on suspects, packages

T. F. M. Reader

Re: A new cyber-nightmare scenario

@batfink - a very good catch ==================>

No editors or proofreaders were hurt in developing this scenario.

Gospel according to HPE: And lo, on the 32,768th hour did thy SSD give up the ghost

T. F. M. Reader

Re: fucking incredible

I know of several cases where an unsigned long counter of milliseconds (not hours, which is weird in itself) overflowed after 7 weeks and a bit. I was involved in a manufacturer's investigation of mysterious switch resets myself. The most famous case, however, is that of someone who managed to run Windows for 50 days without rebooting for the first time in history in the 90ies. Well, he almost got to 50 days' uptime - the machine crashed on the 50th day because a 32-bit counter overflowed. The counter had been there for many years without anyone noticing.

T. F. M. Reader

Re: you never know when your SSD might be used in a time machine.

A short integer counting hours... Highly unusual in computer firmware, IMHO...



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