* Posts by RobHib

674 posts • joined 17 May 2013

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Software engineer leaked UK missile system secrets and refused to hand cops his passwords, Old Bailey told

RobHib
Thumb Up

Re: re: one assumes

"This is not a sound assumption."

Right. Seems then I've a good chance of a job there.

RobHib

Has to be your third paragraph, surely.

RobHib
Facepalm

One assumes this guy is the full quid when it comes to intelligence or he wouldn't be a BAE engineer. So presumably he either has some psychological problem or he wants to spend time at her Majesty's pleasure - perhaps he's trying to escape his spouse on a long-term basis.

What other reason could there possibly be for him doing what he did? He couldn't have been caught more easily other than to have walked out the gate and said to security "look what I'm carrying out".

Apple wants privacy 'nutrition labels' on all new and updated apps in its software store from next month

RobHib
Angel

Bright flashing red and yellow striped icons needed!

I've monitored the amount of user data many of those apps send home and often it's considerably more than the foreground channel. I'd suggest some are so bad the only appropriate way to warn uses would be to alternately flash/flicker the program's icon with another one that consists of bright red and yellow stripes (perhaps every time user metadata is sent it could flicker madly).

That said, Android apps are generally much worse than Apple's. There's one consolation though with Android, if you've a rooted phone you can nuke an app's ability to use its internal broadcast/receive messages subsystem—that's the app's hidden signaling system that tells it to listen/wake and broadcast home, etc. That's achieved by tampering with (nuking parts) of the program's manifest data that contains the 'what-to-do' instructions.

It's an amazing experience to watch one's network logger fall silent after one's nuked all the call-home infrastructure on one's phone. Up goes the battery life too.

UK regulator Ofcom to ban carriers from selling locked handsets to make dumping clingy networks even easier

RobHib

Re: If only...

Likewise, I wish Australian regulators would do the same.

Incidentally, this locked-in crap didn't just come in with mobile phones, it was first introduced in the 1920s in AM radio receivers. A radio station would arrange for slightly cheaper fixed-frequency (no tuning knob) radio receivers specifically tuned to its own frequency to be available for sale in department stores, etc. Mind you, they didn't last long, by the '30s fixed-frequency was essentially dead, from then on they all had variable tuning capacitors.

By the time mobile phones came out, the whole locked-radio fiasco had been forgotten about. By then, the 1920s people had either died or they were too old to remember. Clearly, telcos didn't forget. It's interesting to note that locked mobile phones have now been around much longer than the locked radios ever were. Probably the telcos did considerable research beforehand, and it seems this time they made it watertight.

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

RobHib

Re: Assuming that were not the case. And what happes to people who don't own phones?

"The problem with the slippery slope argument is that all laws can be abused that way so no law becomes acceptable."

Note, at no time did I ever say that anyone should disobey the law. What I actually said was that significant numbers of people do not have smartphones for whatever reason. I did not say that they avoided having one so as to deliberately disobey the law.

However, I did imply that social pressure to conform effectively makes ownership compulsory. That's already happened because of pressure (advertising etc.) from the likes of Apple and Google, etc. It's why over a third of the world's population owns one.

So then what happened in Australia that is so odd? During the COVID-19 pandemic—and without ever having made any legislative changes—the Government (Prime Minister et al) repeatedly spoke to the population in tones that implied that EVERYONE not only already owned phone but also specifically a smartphone (as the COVID-19 app can only run on smartphones)!

Effectively, this is 'legislative' creep without any backing law (as parliament has never enacted any legislation with respect to this matter, nor did it have to). As we've seen in many other areas, this nefarious approach to generating unwritten law is seriously harmful to Democracy.

RobHib
Flame

Re: I'm not addicted to social media, in fact I never use it

This round of posts to this story is almost unbelievable. Have you all been on the jungle juice?

Again, read what I have actually said. Now do it again! Right, you've even quoted my words above correctly, so why don't you actually understand them? They're really simple. Let's try again:

'I'm not addicted to social media, in fact I never use it'

Let me say again what this actually means. I DO NOT use social media and I have no social media accounts. Now let me repeat that again in even simpler English: this means that 'I have no addiction to social media' BECAUSE I cannot even use it. If perhaps that is still insufficiently clear enough for you, then let me restate it again in an even more laborious way:

* I do not have a Google account.

* I do not have or use Gmail.

* I do not have a Twitter account.

* I do not have a Facebook account.

* Nor do I have any accounts with similar entities like that of Facebook (such as LinkedIn, etc.).

This means that I cannot use social media even if I wanted to (that is, unless I actually created an account, which I have not done)! Surely that's clear enough!

Feedback to El Reg is NOT the equivalent of social media! These posts are a somewhat like letters to the editor of a newspaper. Clearly, you are not old enough to know what newspapers are. Therefore, I'd suggest out of self improvement that you research both the history of newspapers and letters to the editor!

RobHib

Re: Assuming that were not the case. And what happes to people who don't own phones?

"Rob, you need to step back and think how diseases spread." "The people who don't own phones will benefit almost as much as those who do." "This is about limiting the spread, not saving individuals."

I said or implied nothing of the sort! You too have simply misread what I've said (see my reply to another post). It's truly unbelievable how people can so easily misconstrue what others have written. Such errors are serious, especially so when misinterpretations have consequences.

If only you knew how really wrong you are about my understanding of COVID-19. In other endeavors I've been extremely active in trying to get others to behave responsibly, to wear masks etc. In fact, I've written volumes on the matter. What you've said just makes you look silly.

RobHib

Re: Assuming that were not the case. And what happes to people who don't own phones?

Right, a belated thanks. I've made that point clear in reply to another post.

Oh, and ironically, this post is very late because for a while I was without internet access and when I got online again I simply forget to check back. Thus, this little issue of mine only goes to show that when the Prime Minister and others spoke to the nation in all-inclusive tones (as they always did) then they actually failed to connect with many people. This, in my opinion, was pretty unforgivable.

RobHib
Stop

Re: Assuming that were not the case. And what happes to people who don't own phones?

That's not what I said. You can effectively mandate something by virtue of the fact that those still on the outer either feel excluded or they're ostracised by those on the inside, thus they're essentially forced into joining (buy a smartphone). Why do you think so many of the world's population have smartphones? It's because cleaver marketing by Apple, Google etc. made those who didn't have one feel left out, thus they felt obligated to get one whether they wanted to or not.

What happened in Australia was that the Prime minster and others continually spoke to the nation as if everyone had a mobile phone—and a smartphone at that which could actually run the app. This was not the real situation. It excluded all those without a phone for whatever reason as well as the large number of those people who own other 'non-smart' phones (which, incidentally, are still on sale by all Australian telcos).

I've never claimed to be a Pulitzer Prize winner but I do make myself reasonably clear in posts, Not only is it annoying when people misread or misconstrue what I've said but also it's taught me a valuable lesson, which is that people all too often just read into what's written what they actually want to believe. It's little wonder there's so much crap and fake news on the net.

RobHib
Coat

Assuming that were not the case. And what happes to people who don't own phones?

"You cannot – to use medieval plague language – be treated as a ‘leper’ because you have decided not to download the app. Not using the app therefore cannot be grounds to refuse a contract, refuse entry to premises or refusal to provide or receive goods or services".

Assuming that were not the case. The fact is that not everyone in Australia owns a mobile phone and a significant percentage of the population still do not possess their own internet account either. So what does that mean for countrywide tracking and surveillance? I'm tech-savvy and I rarely bother to carry a mobile outside the home (I don't need to be interrupted with bothersome calls that I do not originate—and also I'm not addicted to social media, in fact I never use it). Does that mean that I could be pulled up and fined by the police for not having a mobile in my possession whilst I'm on the move (in the same way a licensed driver must have a driver licence to drive)?

I'm not alone either: whether it's still a fact or not I'm not sure, but for years and years the presenter of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's long-running Science Program, Robin Williams, never owned a mobile telephone and what's more he never used a computer but instead he used his trusty manual typewriter. Right, one doesn’t necessarily need to use a technology to be able to understand it—and just because some people deliberately choose not to use some aspects of technology doesn't mean they're Luddites either. (Unfortunately, this is a fact that far too many techies and regulators fail to comprehend.)

Mandating the use of a particular technology throughout the length and breadth of a country not only poses serious moral and ethical dilemmas but also if a government insisted upon implementing it for everyone then I'd suggest it would cost it a minor fortune. Moreover, can you ever imagine even the dumbest of terrorists planning a 'job' knowing full well that government was tracking every move they made—not in the 'anonymous' sense as in the recent past with disposable phones but rather tracking them as identifiable individuals? No way, they'd just not use mobile phones and revert to better planning and timing as did bank robbers of old in the days before mobile phones. It's also likely that operatives without mobile phones of any kind would—for all the obvious reasons—be more difficult for the law to catch.

Paragon 'optimistic' that its NTFS driver will be accepted into the Linux Kernel

RobHib

Re: Whatever for?

Unfortunately, almost all commonly available external USB hard drives come already formatted with NTFS. One could reformat them to one of the Linux formats or perhaps exFAT but there are problems in doing that.

The first is that mucking about with these prepackaged ready-to-go hard drives is not something many casual users want to do, all they want is to plug it in and go.

Second is the compatibility issue. With the majority of machines still being Windows based, thus NTFS, there's a need for Windows compatibility. I regularly have to move these portable drives from my Linux laptops to Windows machines, so here Linux's formats are nuisance.

Third, reformatting the drives from their default NTFS to exFAT sounds like the solution but it's not a particularly good one as exFAT on these large USB drives often results in data loss usually from premature/improper removal combined with uncompleted delayed (buffered) writes. From my experience, the data loss can be serious. In this regard, there's precious little difference between exFAT and FAT32. On the other hand, NTFS is much, much more solid in these circumstances. Essentially, this means that Microsoft's donation of exFAT to Linux isn't all that it's been made out to be. Now, if MS had donated NTFS instead of (or as well as) exFAT then that would have been actually useful instead of just being tokenism.

The problems with large exFAT storage is also showing up elsewhere. Thumb drives 64GB and above are usually formatted in exFAT rather than FAT32 and they're usually compatible with Android smartphone's OTG (it also uses exFAT), so they're used to transfer data between phones and PCs. The same exFAT data loss problem comes into play here too, and it's particularly acute when the larger portable HD drives (500GB etc.) - as mentioned above - are again reformatted from NTFS to exFAT for the same reasons. Unfortunately, most smartphones don't support NTFS, however there are a few exceptions such as Huawei which has its own inbuilt native NTFS driver for OTG (it's a damn nuisance that most other manufacturers don't follow suit).

Thus, the obvious solution for Android OTG users is to get Paragon's Android NTFS driver.

All this mucking about wouldn't be necessary if Paragon's NTFS driver were to be added to Linux, for then it would ultimately filter down to Google's Android distributions and the compatibility problem would be solved. (If this were to happen then it'd be good if phones' micro SD cards could also be formatted in NTFS (They can't at the moment).)

On grounds practicability, I'd most certainly welcome Paragon's NTFS driver into Linux. It's a no-brainer if we want to maximize Linux's acceptance on the desktop.

UK Information Commissioner OKs use of phone data to track coronavirus spread

RobHib
Coat

Re: Bugger

“Well the Australian government isn't doing that. What I want to be clear about is the policies and measures that we will put in place for Australia will be right for Australia.<...> "

Funny that! The Oz Government's never had an original idea before. For many decades just about every law on the Australian Statutes comes from either the UK or US or some silly mashup of the two.

So I wonder what that 's all about—probably a hiccough in the Concepts Regurgitation Department and wrong words spilled forth.

Of course, when this crisis is over Oz will return to normal and continue to do what it's always done best: (a) blindly follow everyone else's ideas so long as they're only from elsewhere in the Anglophone world, (b) act as the world's quarry for minerals and gas which it sells off to all comers at cheaper prices than the local Australian inhabitants can buy them for, and (c) be a large goldfish bowl for bemused tourists who are always eager to gawk at its curious inmates.

The UK and US could do Oz inhabitants a favour by charging Australia with breaching copyright of their laws!

P.S.: Two notable concepts unknown in the land of Oz: 'Local manufacturing' and 'Self sufficiency'.

Oh good, the FTC has discovered acqui-hires... American watchdog to probe decade of Big Tech takeovers

RobHib
Stop

Re: How in the hell can you "unwind" a decade old deal?

Forget it, nothing will ever happen as too much money is involved.

Even if it were theoretically possible to take money out of the equation then lobbying and backhanders would ensure the result would be the same.

Ever wondered how Google-less Android might look? Step right this Huawei: Mate 30 Pro arrives on British shores

RobHib
Flame

Re: I'd go for that...

"Becoming somewhat more difficult these days"

Very true, especially machines like the moto g5s plus and the g6 plus which are pretty easy to brick permanently if you upgrade to LineageOS and then have a change of mind and reinstall the stock ROM, that is unless you've a guaranteed watertight backups of your IMEI and WiFi configs (Don't trust TWRP just because it's said its done a backup--go check and inspect the actual data for yourself.)

This leads on to the obvious point which is that with the millions of rooted machines already in service you'd reckon by now that some enterprising company would have marketed a reasonably high end machine with the bootloader unlocked and LineageOS or like kind already installed—but sans any trace of GApps. I reckon there'd be a huge demand for such a phone especially after the Facebook privacy scandal.

Frankly, I'm damn tired of these phone companies fucking us about when it comes to rooting our machines. They're are forever crapping on about adding extra protection to phones under the guise of increasing security such as Google's stupid changes to its WiFi APIs which can lead to faults that irreversibly change the WiFi MAC address to 02:00.00 etc. Chances are that if this happens to you then you'll end up with a permanently bricked phone. The fucking hide of these bastards.

Moreover, I'm also extremely annoyed with Huawei as I got caught out by the company. Several months before the company arbitrarily decided to switch off providing access to the bootloader, I bought one of its phones in good faith and on the understanding that I could unlock the bootloader but I didn't try to unlock it until it was too late (as I was unaware of the deadline which was published after I bought my phone). Essentially, even though the company knew my phone was purchased well before its deadline, it decided to play bastard and failed honour the status quo under which I purchased the phone. If Huawei had said "that it would not provide access any phones purchased after xyz date" then it still would have been a bitch of an act but one could have at least understood it.

Well, with fucked ethics and shithouse customer support like that I wouldn't put anything past the Huawei, and I hope it gets everything it deserves--which ought to be an even harder time than it's having now. However, one thing is absolutely certain, I'll never buy another Huawei smartphone or other appliance again.

RobHib
Facepalm

...Becasue Google is the problem.

Specifically because Google is the actual problem! Isn't that abundantly clear?

Mind you, I use F-Droid and of course Aurora Store if I ever need anything from the Google Spy-Store which, fortunately, is hardly ever. Essentially, if you spend a little time looking around you can get just about everything you'll ever need without ever going near the Spy-Store.

P.S.: After you root your your phone, if you're smart you'll get rid of all the Google crap, especially Google Play Services and Google Play Store before you put your machine online for the first time. Given the smallest of chances, this pernicious software does everything it can to steal your personal info. It's so effective that it puts many viruses to shame.

Windows 7 back in black as holdouts report wallpaper-stripping shenanigans

RobHib
Windows

Win 7 - No problems here....

No problems here with Win 7....

But then I've had Automatic Updates turned off for years!

Mightn't catch viruses with updates on but catching 'diseases' from Microsoft is worse.

ReactOS 'a ripoff of the Windows Research Kernel', claims Microsoft kernel engineer

RobHib

Re: Is there any reason to suppose this latest accusation is any more plausible?

Right, wheel out an 'unknown' name like 'Axel Rietschin' to present its corporate thinking and Microsoft can deny or say whatever it likes later with impunity.

...And why target ReactOS after all this time? Perhaps ReactOS is actually getting close to being useful.

RobHib

@simonlb - Re: ReactOS is in Alpha

Exactly!

Seems Axel Rietschin is both far too young to know that and has suffered brainwashing at the hands of the Microsoft marketing department or otherwise he wouldn't be so stupid to make such utterances.

P.S.: Also, it's pretty much proof he failed history at school.

ReactOS 0.4.11 makes great strides towards running Windows apps without the Windows

RobHib

@johna - Re: Window of Opportunity?

There's still a need for a Windows replacement now and it will remain so for a few years yet. There are many reasons for this but probably the most pressing is that there are some situations and compatibility issues where a direct replacement for Windows is just a more practical option than a Linux/Wine combination.

I already use Linux and Wine but on some machines—and given that we've vowed never to move beyond Windows 7 because of the Win 10 spying fiasco—it would be easier to just replace it with a non-MS O/S that ran Win32/64 APIs in native mode.

Yes, it would have been great to have a solid-working ReactOS or equivalent a decade or two ago around about the time XP hit the scene but that was not to be. In those years, I was a strident critic of ReactOS and in many of my posts, I called it the 'Going-nowhere OS' but essentially this was out of sheer frustration more than anything else was. With it becoming stable so late in the day it's very unlikely it'll ever now reach the utility that it once ought to have deserved.

(I could never figure out why the vehement opposition among many, many elite techies to Microsoft and its high-90s percent monopoly of the O/S market never ended up providing more than just a trickle of support for ReactOS. (As was the case in earlier days with the Tandy TRS-80 when the cognoscenti quickly and eagerly replaced TRS-DOS with the considerably more capable NEWDOS-80, you'd think both commercial and open-source developers would have been falling all over themselves for a piece of the Windows-clone action.))

"The basic drivers (NTFS is/was a big problem for ReactOS), the zillion support DLLs... that's the trouble. Implementing that and implementing it in a 99.999% compatible way is very hard.

Of course, you are correct; the core issues are driver and DLL compatibility and ensuring the majority of main apps run on it without crashing. Over the years, ReactOS has been plagued with stability issues and the lack of drivers; it has been the major reason why up until now I have only viewed it as a curiosity. I've not tried this version yet but I've noticed that over the past year or so it's stability has improved very significantly.

In my opinion, the moment users perceive ReactOS has become stable and reliable then much more development is likely to follow. Changes will quickly follow; for starters expect to see the drab W2k UI to be titivated almost immediately.

Why does that website take forever to load? Clues: Three syllables, starts with a J, rhymes with crock of sh...

RobHib
Devil

Re: I facepalm in your general direction, Java Script "programmers"

Bloody JavaScript - never have it on by default.

And guess what, I get pages that load in one third the time, ads are mostly nuked without JS and all the other advantages of improved security. It's a no-brainer really.

If perchance I ever do need it then I've a large red/green toggle on my browser that turns it on/off. Being a large button, I can't accidentally forget to nuke it.

Return of the audio format wars and other money-making scams

RobHib

Is there any real issue?

I don't fully understand this report. What's the issue? Rippers never went away and I've never had major problems moving audio or video across various media, or across wireless or BT or across the net.

The last thing we need are more damn codecs and container formats!

RobHib
Angel

@Stumpy- Re: MiniDisk? Bah!

Yeah, OK! It may seem incongruous but a large percentage of my smartphone audio files originated from 78s. Several reasons: (a) eliminating recordings from the first half of 20th Century just because they're on lower quality 78s is stupid; (b), most early 78s are now copyright-free and thus easily accessible; and (c), there are some unique performances on 78s that are not available on later media. (It's a no-brainer if one's musical tastes extend marginally beyond rap and hip hop.)

Always remember the long-held recording maxim: the quality of a recording is always secondary to its data content. (For numskulls, that simply means only listen to recordings of higher technical quality if the performance is actually better than that of the lower quality one.)

So there....

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

RobHib

@Omgwtfbbqtime Re: "(2)In this section “record” includes a photographic or electronic record."

Yeah right. As I mentioned in another post, there are several issues at work here.

1. The web has any number of references to dangerous materials and processes that have many legitimate uses but which if accidentally or intentionally abused, mishandled or weaponized can take on altogether different and sinister characteristics which makes them a serious threat. For instance, having dangerous, potentially explosive petroleum to use in ones' car is completely legitimate but diverting it into other uses may not be. The world as we know it would cease to exist if we banned these essential things.

2. Most look up information about such materials or processes on the web or in Wiki for legitimate purposes but it's dead easy to follow related or nested links that take us to nefarious sites where illegitimate uses are described. Our curiously almost inevitably lands us on these nefarious sites unintentionally—thus our browsing habits are likely to bring us to the attention of authorities.

2.1 This is a serious problem, especially so because our governments have effectively passed the monkey from their shoulders to ours. By not tackling the problem (or not sufficiently understanding it), governments have made us take complete responsibility. Like Pontius Pilate, they have washed their hands of the problem at our expense. Thus, by enacting laws that make us netizens take full responsibility, governments have acted both immorally and in an undemocratic manner (as democratic governments should never deliberately endanger their citizens or put them at risk).

2.2 This problem is greatly exacerbated by virtue that such dangers are only a click or two away from our initial search objective. In these circumstances, it's outrageous to think government are now making landing on nefarious sites a criminal act. We really have to do something about this politically; simply too much is at stake to ignore the issue.

3. Techies—scientist, engineers, technicians and hobbyists etc.—have more of a problem as they are often unusually curious about many technical matters and this curiosity is more likely to make them click on links that authorities frown upon. Techies are also more likely to think of technical scenarios that are away from mainstream thinking then search for them. Again, this is more likely to draw attention to their searches.

3.1 It seems to me that when searching for information there are two different kinds of sites which may draw attention that curious techies are likely to land upon: sites that have deliberate evil intent (where landing on them is neither desirable nor recommended) and those set up by other techies to demonstrate curious phenomenon etc. and whose effects are potentially dangerous (I often end up on such sites).

For example, here's a link to a section of the respectable Fourmilab site that discusses 'Frisky Molecules' specifically FOOF or O2F2:

https://www.fourmilab.ch/documents/chemistry/FOOF/

Many chemists and those interested in chemistry are likely to be interested in this molecule specifically because of its extreme reactivity. That said, no reasonable person is going to attempt the difficult task of making it, and even those who've evil intent in mind would use something more appropriate—and even if they ever did and actually survived the attempt, then they fully deserve to be caught out.

Leaving issues of censorship aside, this example highlights the considerable difficulties posed in trying to classifying Web material. Unthinking governments who enact simplistic law solve none of these issues; in fact, they make matters worse because, for the most part, it puts innocent citizens directly in governments' firing line (as this stupid new UK law will do).

The matter of what governments say we netizens should and should not view online has been contentious for years but it's now reached new heights with this law. I reckon this is sufficiently serious that it ought to be a call to arms for us netizens. Clearly, it's time for political action to bring a halt to stupid totalitarian laws, otherwise we'll lose the internet altogether.

___

BTW, I leaned the thermite Fe-Al reaction at school. There were photos of the process in our chemistry textbooks and we would have been expected to know the chemical equation of the reaction for examinations—even the process of igniting the thermite with special tapers was taught, not to mention the special ceramic crucibles used for containing it. What's more we kids often used to watch railway fettlers joining railways lines from just outside railway property. Back then, thermite welds were just another industrial process where safety was a primary concern. The thought of regulating the process would have been unthinkable.

RobHib

Re: HARD TO ACCEPT THAT THE TORY PARTY WAS ONCE THAT OF CHURCHILL

The UK has been a 'nanny' country for some years now, banning the aged and outdated The Anarchist Cookbook, etc., and has implemented laws that far outweigh so called 'authoritarian' countries such as the one I live

Right. The banning of that cookbook exemplifies the stupidity and senselessness of such bans. After all, the average high school chemistry textbook has as much or more 'useful' information about such matters, and furthermore the details therein are more precise—anyway, that was the situation with my chemistry textbooks when I was at high school (I know I still have one of them). Step up to undergraduate chemistry texts then you've orders of magnitude more stuff government's gnomes and bureaucrats would consider 'dangerous'.

The only conceivable reasons for the ban would have been that the word 'Anarchist' is in the title and that it presents its 'projects' with a somewhat mocking, tongue-in-cheek, 'up you' attitude that might encourage some silly teenagers to try the experiments out (if anything, they're more likely to hurt themselves than anyone else). It's years since I've seen it but I seem to recall the tenor and writing style the author adopted was to deliberately shock chemistry-illiterate elites—you know the types, pen-pushers, lawyers, etc. Seems the author meant it more a joke than anything else.

Rather than banning it, an enlightened establishment would have put it in the hands of high school chemistry teachers who'd have used it to demonstrate the dos-and-don'ts of laboratory safety. In my opinion, it would have been an excellent training resource for teachers to teach lab and chemical OH&S (which kids usually find so boring), it would have been effective specifically because of its naughty and provocative nature.

This brings me to a related matter, which is the pathetic state of ignorance that exists amongst the General Public with respect to most things chemical. These days, society has an almost irrational fear of chemicals that I put down to ignorance of basic chemistry, scaremongering by irresponsible news reporting and unfortunate chemical accidents by irresponsible chemical companies. Te only true way to overcome this is with effective education.

BTW, many articles in the A/Cookook have been lifted from articles in 1940s and '50s magazines such as Popular Mechanics.

RobHib

@ Jake - Re: Chemistry

Is it illegal for me to possess the chemistry textbooks that I was required to purchase to get my Masters in Organic Chemistry

You've packed much into that statement and its potential ramifications may be huge. It raises matters I'm unfamiliar or out of touch with, or the protocols have changed since my time. I'd appreciate it if you'd take a moment to unpack what you've said.

Obviously, I don't expect any specifics, but if you purchased textbooks then they would have actual book publishers, unique ISBN identifiers etc. so you could actually purchase them—and presumably anyone else could as well. As it seems theses textbooks were/are illegal to possess without authority, how did you initially find out about and then get permission to purchase them? Did publishers deliberately obfuscate the texts' titles/authors from their normal book lists?

Similarly, as you're no longer in the field, presumably you were required to surrender the texts. When you'd finished with them to whom were they surrendered, the uni, your employer or the government, or were they officially shredded? Were you compensated for this loss?

Having had to sign secrecy agreements myself in the past, I understand why research organizations deem certain information 'sensitive'—the need for IP secrecy and or for government/strategic reasons, etc.—thus relevant documents about the research are restricted to internal circulation and never leave it except under strict protocols. As such, the institution in question would automatically own and manage the docs thus you wouldn’t be required to purchase them. (Using an obvious example, an organization researching say organophosphate nerve agents would both own and keep strict control over access to all relevant documentation.)

As we know, students usually only have access to published texts and published research articles (usually via the uni library, etc.). If say you were working for a research establishment where research was secret and you needed to upgrade your qualifications in that field whilst employed there, then again the restricted info which you needed access to would be automatically owned and paid for by your employer/said organization.

So what gives, are various published texts now been banned from normal circulation so the general public no longer has access to them?

RobHib

@ jmch

...Freedom fighters target the state while terrorists target the civillians

I don't see your point in raising this matter. If you're discussing strict nomenclature or arguing definitions down to their finest granularity then you may be technically correct—even then that's only if you're arguing from the perspective of some legal systems, so you'll have to be specific about which ones you mean. The fact is there are no firm and universally agreed definitions for either one. Here for instance:

https://www.academia.edu/1557605/Attempts_to_Define_Terrorism_Terrorist_or_Freedom_Fighter

Leaving semantics aside, you'll mostly find that these days civilians are often caught up in the fighting irrespective of what the attackers call themselves. (Keeping only to modern times), with warfare between states (i.e.: militaries under the control of states and supposedly subject to international war treaties), as far back as WWI chivalry and avoiding civilian losses was almost a lost cause—the zeppelin bombings of the UK for instance.

By the time of Guernica (1937) active targeting civilians had become acceptable to some states, and by 1945 just about anything goes for even the so-called civilised countries such as the UK and US. For example, the UK and US's bombing of Dresden in World War II killed tens of thousands and the US targeting of Tokyo's civilians [it's silly to argue any other purpose] killed er well we're not sure but at least in excess of 100k.

Post war, both freedom fighters and terrorists—call them what you will—essentially saw that there were no rules of any kind, thus we ended up with unimaginable horrors such as the 1990 Rwandan Genocide where the number of civilians killed was almost unimaginable.

In such circumstances, grinding nomenclatures fine is essentially irrelevant.

RobHib

@DevTrail

This gives them an enormous power because they can choose when and against whom to apply the law. It's a fundamental step towards the creation of the authoritarian state.

Precisely correct. It's essentially what I've posted but in a more succinct way. Laws have to be written in clear and unambiguous ways that when read or interpreted are neither obtuse or ambiguous. Moreover, the limits and extents of every law must be clearly defined. Even then, if there's still a chance of ambiguity then multiple (and widely different) case examples ought to be attached to laws.

Naturally, this would lead to fewer lawyers being needed to interpret the law (and as lawyers already draft the laws, don't expect this to be rectified anytime soon).

RobHib

@Blazde - I agree with you, but...

I fully agree with your view of the modus operandi for such laws and the reasons why The Establishment would want to enforce them the way you suggest (clearly that's what happens in practice).

The trouble is that with this approach to lawmaking many people are disenfranchised by laws that are written in this way or that are policed in such a manner. Especially, so those segments of the population who are either timid and or do not have the time or resources to risk or 'test' the extent or resolve of the lawmaking process/system (I'd probably put myself into this category).

As I've mentioned elsewhere in these posts, many citizens will stay well clear of what they perceive to be the limits of the law and thus they effectively rob themselves of existing freedoms—i.e.: actions not specifically encompassed by law and prohibited by it but sufficiently close to be easily mistaken as part of it.

This has the effect of dividing society into classes based on an individual's perceptions of the law and by his or her propensity to break or flout it. We already know that those of more risky dispositions are in a better position to take advantage of situations but I'd contend that it's not the role of a democracy and or its democratic processes to exacerbate this problem any further.

Doing so makes a society more divided or disrupted (and as we've seen in recent times, disruption in society is already rampant), thus I'd suggest it's unethical to enact laws that don't have clearly defined bounds or for democracies to police laws in either haphazard and or selective ways (i.e.; in ways that are primarily of convenience to lawmakers and those policing the law rather than the citizenry as a whole). This has nothing to do with the discretion of those who have to police the law or of the judicial process per se. (As every case is different and everyone's circumstances vary considerably, discretion is and always should be a necessary and vital part of keeping the law).

RobHib

Re: 1984

Well, technically, he'd be arrested for being part of a terrorist cell with his exploits in Catalonia.

Right. Today, Orwell would be considered more than just being subversive. ...And tragically this clearly illustrates how times have changed in our so-called liberal democracies. Trouble is we citizens actually put up with it. Like the frog in heating water, we remain essentially unconcerned and oblivious of the final consequences.

RobHib

Re: Goodbye Youtube?

The hypocrisy of lauding Mandela's terrorism these days shows up how truly farcical our systems of government (not to mention 'political speak') have become. That Mandela was a terrorist is indisputable even though his reasons were very laudable. The same type of doublespeak occurred over China when it was accepted into the world's trading system. Justifying that a 'wrong' is actually acceptable in certain circumstances by hiding the fact under a carpet is totally unacceptable as, amongst other things, it belies the true politics of the situation.

If these people genuinely hold such contradictory beliefs without seemingly any question (which I strongly suspect), then it show us how fundamentally vulnerable our governance is.

Funny isn't it that governments and bureaucrats who are in power today never seem to consider that the power they wield has its roots in terrorism. For instance, the established governments of the day would have considered their opponents (who were ultimately the winners), in the English Civil War*, the French Revolution and the American War of independence, as terrorists. (Whether they were freedom fighters or terrorists depends on which side of the fence one stands, and in almost every case, no side had or has a complete mandate with respect to virtue or what's right—grey is everywhere and that matters if one has the morals to think about it.)

I'm certainly not lauding revolution even if justifiable as means of achieving change as it's nearly always bloody and brutal but it raises the serious issue of how people achieve change when implacable governments and bureaucrats refuse to bend to the will of the people or to yield power (you only have to look at Venezuela today to see what I mean).

Unfortunately these days our so-called democratic governments are moving towards bureaucratic totalitarianism as a means of control rather than solving problems at the grass roots—just because it's hard doesn't mean the authoritarian option is acceptable.

* I'm aware this example needs expansion and justification but that's for another time.

RobHib

Re: Goodbye Youtube? ...And it's even worse than that.

It's actually worse than that. We've now the ludicrous situation where we've serious stuff on sabotage available that's actually been supplied by government—training films on sabotage that have been declassified from World War II are to be found in various places on the internet. I won't go into the specifics for obvious reasons.

Surprisingly, I did not find these videos by searching for 'sabotage' on the net, I actually came across them by accident in a sale of cheap DVDs at my local mall!

As a techie, I found them fascinating from a technical standpoint, and in my opinion, they are still relevant. When I first viewed them, I was surprised they had been declassified. That said, one would have to be both highly motivated and have to go to considerable trouble to implement them.

As I mentioned in a post further down, these days information on 'subversive' techniques is available just about everywhere: in books, public libraries, and in TV and movie plots etc. So where does one draw the line? Are we going to purge books and libraries of this information? Clearly, such an undertaking would be both impractical and would have serious ramifications for citizens and for democracy in general. It would have serious implications for free speech as citizens would have restrictive limits put on what they say and read.

Essentially, this is what this damn stupid law has already done for the internet, it also shows up how stupid and ill-conceived the law actually is as it only covers a part of the information sphere.

Note well however, it only takes an extra step for government to extent the law to encompass every other information-related activity that we citizens engage in.

RobHib

Does this mean we'll witness public burnings of library books too?

...anything factual concerning names, locations, schedules, physical assets around politics, policing, judiciary, utilities, transport etc etc. So basically, CBeebies, Daily Mail/Mirror, and cat videos* are permitted, everything else you'd need to prove your innocence.

You're right. This law is quite outrageous because where does it stop. Go to any public library and you'll find literally hundreds of books containing information that could easily be deemed as dangerous if it were to fall into the hands of terrorists—information which in past years no one would ever have blinked an eyelid over.

What's going to happen to this information, general censorship perhaps? I seem to recall a country—whose name I won't mention for fear of succumbing to Godwin's—burning books in the 1930s for ideological reasons—and make no mistake this law is essentially ideological in that it'll have little effect on terrorists who'll just use VPNs and other private means to view things.

The more damaging effects for democracy is that government is intimidating ordinary people in that they'll be more scared to extend themselves to even the limit allowed by the law for fear of accidentally breaching it. Intimidating law like this reduces people's freedoms. When people become too timid and fearful to the extent of even becoming aware of certain information or ideas then we really do have serious problems with democracy. Dictates or laws like this cannot be considered anything other than the work of an authoritarian state.

Even I act prudently (and timidly) these days even when viewing Wikipedia pages. I'm interested in many technical issues and often I find myself following many internal Wiki links that when all pages are taken collectively could be considered as subversive by mindless ideologically-driven bureaucrats.

The fact that some of this 'subversive' stuff even appeared in my 'Boy's Own Manuals' and such when I was a kid doesn't matter, I now assume everything I do online will be watched and that some bloody little bureaucrat could easily arrive at the wrong conclusion over completely irrelevant harmless facts, and thus it's not in my best interests to pursue certain things online.

Let me give you a rough idea of what I mean: say I'm looking up a chemical reagent on Wiki for information about its totally legitimate applications but I also note certain unrelated applications of which I was unaware but which pique my interest and I follow those links to other Wiki pages, and so on. Eventually any curious techie ends up on pages where 'dangerous' things (or things deemed by gnomes or bureaucrats as dangerous) are mentioned.

So where do I/we draw the line, at what point do we daren't cross it? How do we limit or inhibit our curiosity for fear of the government watching us? (Of course these damn laws never include typical examples of where that line is—as with most law they're vague, wish-washy and not rigorously defined, actual extents and limits are rarely given, thus the interpretation is left to lawyers (right, self-serving lawyers write the law don’t they?).

In instances such as I've mentioned above, I'll often stop and go no further when I realise I'm getting to the juicy bits. If I've off-line reference books that cover matters I'll then refer to them. With respect to the above example of chemicals or reagents that some may deem dangerous, when I reach the point where I consider it imprudent to go any further I then consult say my own copy of Merck Index or other chemistry texts I own.

It's outrageous that I have to practice internet searches in such a manner, moreover, I know from others that I'm not alone in acting this way.

We citizens only have ourselves to blame for this situation. Tragically, in recent decades the citizenry in all the Anglophone countries has become both malleable and overly compliant—governments simply get away with 'murdering' our rights and freedoms and bugger-all people actually complain about it. These days, we citizens are bureaucrats' dreams we're so easy to control.

It's damn terrible really.

BTW, When I was at school decades ago we were actually taught and had to learn how to make 'Black Powder' including its formulaic chemical equations, moreover we actually made the stuff and tested that it went 'bang'. These days, unless truly necessary I'd consider it foolhardy or imprudent to do searches on this or related subjects.

My, my how things have changed for the worse.

Huawei Mate 20 Pro: If you can stomach the nagware and price, it may be Droid of the Year

RobHib
Mushroom

I would never own another Huawei - FULL STOP!

I would never own another Huawei no matter how good it is!

In May this year Huawei withdrew the option of unlocking the boot loader from its smartphones. I now have a piece of Huawei junk that I cannot use.

I'm so annoyed that I'm thinking about making a YouTube video of me running over my brand new Huawei smartphone with a forklift. If nothing else, it would give me great satisfaction.

El Reg, you shouldn't encourage bastards like this with good reviews.

Fuck them!

That syncing feeling when you realise you may be telling Google more than you thought

RobHib

Re: "yo FYI you're currently logged in to Gmail" - @ Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese

Apart from the internet's greatest forte—that of increasing the entropy of spelling and grammar faster than any other mechanism known to humankind—I'm getting to the age where I just cannot fathom how we've gotten to the point where we've let these arrogant, usurping, corporate carpetbaggers who peddle privacy-leaking crapware overrun and commandeer our internet without a struggle. It simply defies me.

Are we so addicted to the electronic heroin these corporations peddle that we've actually lost true sense of reality; or is it that we've become so busy with the circus of modern-day life—or both—that we've simply become incapable of complaining any longer?

Given the actual damage and harm these bastards have done to us in recent years, we ought to be rioting in the streets.

In a race to 5G, Trump has stuck a ball-and-chain on America's leg

RobHib

Re: Experts - @ Florida1920

"Do you understand the differences between a cell phone and a microwave ‎‎oven? If not, I'm glad you're not making dinner.

I couldn't let this question pass without comment. …And the answer: yes, over ‎‎three orders of magnitude in power levels between them I'd reckon. It's the ‎‎key point here. ‎

‎1. Non-ionising RF/EMR power does affect living tissue through ‎‎‎'primarily' heating effects. I say 'primarily' because whilst there's ‎‎conjecture about the existence of other effects on health being caused by very ‎‎low power EMR, there's still precious little agreement among experts as to ‎‎whether they actually exist even after many years of research (let alone not having ‎‎discovered and or quantified their modus operandi).‎

‎2. At the low power levels of cell phones, health effects are demonstrably ‎‎negligible. Why? Well, we've had radio communication and RF devices since ‎‎the beginning of the 20th C. and we've no demonstrable evidence of people ‎‎dropping dead because of the increase in background EMR. If effects are there ‎‎then they're pretty close to noise/background levels.‎

‎3. The definition of 'low power' and the amount of time one is exposed ‎‎thereto—i.e.: what's deemed to be a safe level of cumulative exposure—is ‎‎debatable. Exposure guidelines exist for both ionising and non-ionising ‎‎radiation; these vary by circumstance. The matter is comparatively clear-cut ‎‎with ionising radiation, it's why nuclear workers wear dosimeters and why ‎‎we've a unit of measurement of radiation as it pertains to its effect on health—‎‎the sievert. With non-ionising radiation, the matter is less clear for reasons I ‎‎explain below.‎

‎4. With both non-ionising and ionising radiation the level of one's exposure ‎‎always matters, the more one is exposed the more likely one will experience ill ‎‎effects. Despite decades of research, it is still unknown whether there's any ‎‎threshold level below which non-ionising radiation is completely safe. The ‎‎matter is much more poignant with ionising radiation as none of us can escape ‎‎the natural background level of ionising radiation that's caused by cosmic rays, ‎‎etc. ‎

‎5. Essentially, there are four parameters when determining EMR exposure ‎‎levels: power, frequency, length of exposure and concentration across an area ‎‎of tissue (and or within a given volume of it). The higher the EMR frequency ‎‎the more dangerous the radiation as the effective Energy (Joules) of each ‎‎quanta increases with frequency according to E=hv where h is ‎‎Planck's const. and v is frequency. This is why radio waves can become ‎‎ionising radiation if their frequency is increased high enough—it's why say AM ‎‎radio waves are not ionising and gamma radiation is.‎

‎6. The 2.45 GHz EMR from microwave ovens, whilst non-ionising, is more ‎‎dangerous than is say that of AM radio broadcasting (≈0.5—1.6 MHz). Whilst ‎‎individual quanta at microwave frequencies have more energy than those of ‎‎AM radio, the main reason for the danger is that their shorter wavelength ‎‎makes it easier for them to be concentrated onto a small area of tissue. It's ‎‎why I was once instructed never to look into a microwave waveguide even if ‎‎the power was only a fraction of a watt as the eye is extremely susceptible to ‎‎such heating injuries [same with lasers]. One would never consider an ‎AM ‎radio transmitter of say only one watt to be similarly dangerous (in ‎practice, ‎EMR from an AM TX is not as dangerous as the effectively equivalent ‎amount ‎of microwave radiation).‎

‎7. That said, cell phones work at the lower end of the microwave spectrum, ‎‎which is some three orders of magnitude higher in frequency to AM broadcasting and ‎‎thus we need to consider this fact. As a reminder, I would point out that my ‎‎occupational exposure to high EMR radiation that I mentioned in my earlier ‎‎post above was some 2/2.5 orders of magnitude higher in frequency than ‎‎AM—exposure that's had no known or observable effect on me or my co-‎‎workers even after a span of decades.‎

‎8. None of this stuff is new; we've known from at least WW-II that if power ‎‎levels are sufficiently high then the heating effects of microwaves are ‎‎dangerous. This became evident after military personnel found that they could ‎‎warm themselves by standing in front of RADAR antennae that radiated peak ‎‎pulse powers of between 10 and 50 kW or even higher and suffered the ‎‎consequences (internal burning, etc.). Similarly, there are stories of people ‎‎being accidentally locked in tank circuit rooms/enclosures of HF broadcasting ‎‎transmitters and essentially being 'melted' by RF.‎

In summary, these horror stories involve EMR power levels that are orders of ‎‎magnitude higher than any cell phone is capable of producing and thus are ‎‎essentially irrelevant here. As I see it, if the matter of the health effects of ‎‎minuscule amounts of non-ionising EMR cannot be resolved to the satisfaction ‎‎of sufficient numbers within a reasonable timeframe then perhaps we should ‎‎put signs on phones warning of potential dangers. It's just possible this might ‎‎even spawn additional health benefits—by reducing the number of phone ‎‎addicts—an addiction that seemingly afflicts a majority of users. ;-)‎

Alternatively, we just ignore the entire hullabaloo over virtually nothing and ‎‎eventually it'll die a natural death (in the same way that when passenger trains ‎‎became common in the 19th C. some thought that the human body ‎‎couldn't travel at such high speeds without injury, and later when cars were ‎‎first introduced and were only licensed to travel on roads if a man walked ‎‎before them with a flag)! ‎

RobHib

Re: Experts

Right, the trouble is we give oxygen to these nutters by actually publicising them. It'd better to just ignore them completely, as no amount of evidence will change a zealot's cemented-on views.

BTW, years ago, I used to work on top of TV/FM towers whilst they were broadcasting. The near field RF voltage gradient was sufficiently high that my digital watch's LCD used to go black and the RF would burn holes in my jeans at the knees when I wrapped myself around the tower pole (I could see arcs from my knees to the pole—the RF burned but didn't shock). Digital multimeters wouldn't work as the RF rendered them useless, the only electrical instrument that would was an analog meter—an AVO-8—which used a copper oxide rectifier whose frequency response cut off a little above audio frequencies. Judge for yourself whether non-ionising radiation addles or scrambles the brain. Could a scrambled brain actually write these words?

[Now, please don't start an argument over RF and its heating effects, those of us in the RF game are all aware of cases where people have come to grief due to long exposure to extreme levels of RF, trouble is there's so few of them that we usually can't even cite references.]

Developer goes rogue, shoots four colleagues at ERP code maker

RobHib
Joke

Re: A gun is involved in every single mass shooting.

Privacy issue: yuh can tell from the down-votes who the Americans are!

Australia's Snooper's Charter: Experts react, and it ain't pretty

RobHib

@ Neon Teepee‎ - Re: Still Puzzled!

All this legalisation will do is to catch amateurs and fools (not to mention inconvenience ‎lawful users, further subvert democracy etc.). Perhaps this is the Government's main aim. ‎There's also little doubt that this legislation is meant to intimidate the citizenry.‎

Serious players, criminals, terrorists, etc., will simply revert to computer-generated one-time ‎password/key systems where neither Alice nor Bob have the passwords and messages are ‎destroyed after sending/receipt (i.e.: plaintext never saved anywhere).

Alice and Bob will ‎have effectively reverted to what happens in older POTS communications; therein the only ‎information that is recoverable at the conclusion of transmission exists in the minds of the participants.‎

This ought to be damn obvious to everyone – even legislators.‎

Intel AMT security locks bypassed on corp laptops – fresh research

RobHib
Thumb Up

@ conscience - Re: Staggering

1. AMT, as implemented, was always a bad idea. As with UEFI, it has more to do with reclaiming control over a user's PC than any security measure—security is always the 'justifiable' excuse to take control away from the user. What Intel, Microsoft et al primarily want is to make the PC more proprietary and they have been doing so for years.

2. "I'm starting to wonder if there is anything they bothered to design correctly?"

You're correct. Look at Intel's record, it goes back decades. Now, we've not only Intel's AMT stuff-up but also the other big news that of the monumental problem of the 'Meltdown' and 'Spectre' chip bugs.

3. However, long before these fuck-ups there was the Pentium bug—remember that? What's fundamentally important to remember about the design flaw in the Pentium chip is that the very nature of the bug itself was the result of substandard and irresponsible engineering design—one that any first year engineering student could easily have pointed out.

The Pentium bug was in the ANSI/IEEE floating point standard subsection (the once 8087 IEEE math chip). Essentially, in order to speed up the chip Intel did the unthinkable, instead of implementing proper algorithms to do floating point mathematics as per the 8087, Intel took a shortcut and in part used a lookup table which was inherently prone to errors—and naturally calculation errors manifested themselves.

Whenever I think of this error I wince. It says much about Intel's deign philosophy which essentially put profits over data integrity. If Intel were prepared to commit such a cardinal design sin in the name of profit then we should be prepared to expect anything from the company.

US government: We can jail you indefinitely for not decrypting your data

RobHib

@ A.C. - Re: The USA – OK, and there's another point.

The unforeseen issues that have arisen from the act of one just looking/possession only are both very vexing and troublesome as there's great potential for genuinely innocent people to be hurt and or have their reputations irrevocably tarnished.

As the law stands such images are 'dynamite' in their own right; irrespective of reason anyone in possession of them is in serious trouble. Say Bob has a falling-out with Alice and seeks revenge by planting some on her PC; although eventually proved innocent she will have had a lot of explaining to do–not to mention her great angst, and the stench of the incident will never fully leave her reputation.

Obviously we have a duty of care to kids and we must protect them in every way we can, nevertheless as it now stands the law appears an overly blunt instrument–it somehow seems to be incomplete.

I certainly don't have an answer to the problem but it seems to me that 'weaponizing' an image in law is both unsophisticated and potentially dangerous.

Australian oppn. leader wants to do something about Bitcoin, because terrorism and crypto

RobHib

Amen!

"...fuckwittery <...>, even by our standards."

Amen! [...and again and again.]

It's so depressing I despair.

RobHib
Unhappy

Whose fault is that?

"The whole Australian government is a joke when it comes to technology understanding..."

Whose fault is that? We vote these miserable accounting/lawyer non-techie cretin-types into parliament. We get what we deserve! [Unfortunately!]

RobHib
Facepalm

Re: leftish-of-centre

"If you ever hear of anyone starting a Labour Party in Australia, please let me know because I'd love to join."

Right, I once thought there was a "Labour Party" in Oz in the days of the very effective anti-Vietnam War demonstrations but I was very wrong. From at least the Chifley Labor Government of 1945 onward The Australian Labor Party hasn't been able to organise its way out of a wet paper bag on the deck of a sinking ship without a fight.

HMS Windows XP: Britain's newest warship running Swiss Cheese OS

RobHib
Coat

Yawn

A lot of heat over very little. As was demonstrated with the WannaCry, XP played a negligible role. And who said these XP systems are on-line anyway (I know of many XP machines still in service that aren't)?

The open source community is nasty and that's just the docs

RobHib
Meh

@Oh Homer - Re: Meanwhile...

"So which is better: abuse that is subject to public accountability, or abuse that goes unchecked forever?"

Probably the former but it's a moot point because all too often ordinary users do not get the software that they actually want from either camp—from the users' perspective, software is almost always a compromised kludge which doesn't really work the way they want to. For them, the real issue is minimising the 'kludge' factor—thus users use whatever best fits even though they're not happy.

Long ago, I concluded the principle reason that users are unhappy with the software they use is that the majority of client-side software developers principally write for themselves rather than for users and it's so whether or not they are writing open or proprietary software (but the effect is much more pronounced with open software). (There's excellent long-established evidence for this which intrinsically arises from current software engineering methodology that I won't discuss here as we'll get sidetracked into debates that are not winnable by either side.)

Whenever I've put this proposition previously developers usually retort the only solution is for me to write my own software. True enough, but it is usually not feasible for one person to say develop tailor-made versions of Windows, MS Office, LibreOffice, Photoshop or Gimp—all of which have significant operational peculiarities that the developers have refused to alter but which many users would change in a flash if they had the means to do so.

From my experience, developers of open software are usually much more reluctant than commercial developers to cater for user's needs (probably because there's no pecuniary reward involved).

Let me give you some examples without being too ground down in specifics, I'll begin with OpenOffice/LibreOffice. You'd think that the developers of this product would go overboard to propagate it as widely as possible but their actions have never indicated that this is so.

Given that the majority of users around the world use MS Office, you'd think that OO/LibO developers would take very special care to make it as easy as is possible for MS Office users to switch over but this is certainly not the case, nor has it ever been so. I'll only give one example here but there are dozens more I could raise. Over its many years of development, OO/LibO developers have never even bothered to replicate the common MSO shortcuts into OO/LibO despite a clear demand for such compatibility. Why ever not? You'd think that even if they had an utter aversion to using any idea tainted by Microsoft that it wouldn't actually stop them from providing the MS shortcuts as an option/switch for the convenience of MSO users (nevertheless, it's a fact).

Similarly with Linux: you'd think one of the very highest priorities for Linux developers would be to make Linux as completely user friendly for Windows users as was humanly possible. For instance, to integrate Wine completely and seamlessly into Linux to ensure its compatibility with Win-32/64 APIs was almost total. However, this has been far from the case, in fact many Linux developers are actually quite hostile to such proposals (seemingly mainly from an ideological standpoint).

The consequence of developer hostility towards the actual needs of users is particularly obvious in the Linux case. The two prime examples are (a) The City of Munich potentially turning its back on Linux despite the City's considerable efforts to embrace free software, and (b) Google's development of Android—look at how that more 'human' form of Linux overtook the world when its traditional developers were completely bypassed.

On the evidence, it's just not possible to arrive at any other conclusion than the fact that most developers of (especially) open software develop primarily for themselves and that they consider it a major imposition to be forced to do otherwise. I have no obvious solution for this, for after all they're the ones pulling the strings, as they're providing their time for free.

As I see it, probably the only long term solution will be to change the programming paradigm, especially those aspects of it that relate to the way users actually interact with software. Perhaps we need new more flexible development tools that would automatically allow for users to say change certain software features—especially those that pertain to human interaction, GUI features, etc.—whether or not the programmer programs in such flexibility.

UK ministers to push anti-encryption laws after election

RobHib

Re: Irony-o-meter exploded!

"Indeed, and only a mere couple of weeks since a major malware outbreak based on leaked vulnerabilities amassed by security agencies showed that said agencies clearly can't be trusted to securely safeguard any back doors that they might demand."

Strange isn't it that all this extra surveillance capability hasn't manifested in fewer "WannaCry"-like viruses or the capture of the ratbags behind them.

It would be very informative to see a graph plot of 'results' versus 'degree/amount of mass surveillance' over time/recent years. If such a graph actually exists then I'd reckon it'd be classified Top Secret—as it would show that governments have wasted millions of taxpayers' money to little effect.

Oh, BTW, it seems to me that democratic government would be much more democratic if the nameless government bureaucrats who propose these anti-democratic schemes were actually named (i.e.: by force of law, their name, rank and serial number so to speak had to be attached to all related documents, both secret and public).

These anonymous power-mongers have been getting away with 'democratic murder' for far too long.

RobHib
Unhappy

@Graham Cobb - Re: UK ministers to push anti-encryption laws after election.

"When I was child, younger than the innocent victims here, I used to be very scared of an imminent nuclear attack from the USSR. My parents didn't tell me not to worry, they explained why we had to stand up against the threat: to protect the same freedoms that they had stood up for in WW2."

I can only concur with you completely. I also grew up in that Cold War era and your experience is identical to mine.

I am terribly scared of the continuing march towards authoritarianism by so-called Western democratic governments. A few years ago, the trend was just alarming but now it has become very frightening—and like the frog in the ever-warming water—most of the population seem not to be aware of its implications nor what is ultimately at stake—a fact of which opportunistic governments have taken ruthless advantage.

Moreover, these disingenuous governments have never put forward truly substantive evidence or reasons for their increasingly authoritarian actions—instead they hide truth and facts behind walls of secrecy; nor have they ever engaged in any proper discourse with the public over these issues—the most they can muster is FUD, Fear Uncertainty and Doubt, and opportunistic pronouncements (as here, as a consequence of the terrible Manchester tragedy).

Whilst the present zeitgeist and today's politics are different, the effective undercurrent of what is now happening is not very different to what happened in Germany in 1933 or in the latter Cold War East German Stasi era.

To date, governments have not yet needed to resort to jackboots in the streets as they did in Germany some 80 years ago; instead, they've now adopted more sophisticated PR and psychological tactics to gain control over the citizenry. And if or when these methods fail they then act unilaterally, as they know the citizenry won't react as it's essentially in a state of somnolence and passivity. The widespread use of mass surveillance, ever-increasing online censorship and the moves towards the banning of encryption by governments is essentially not that different to what happened in the Nazi book-burning era—in the end it amounts to the same thing, that of smothering freedoms through intimidation. Seems we've forgotten "the price of liberty is eternal vigilance".

People, even if still allowed, have or are becoming frightened to access various forms of online information for fear of being 'marked' or put on some secret government list about which they've no right of reply or ability to question—these are the very essence of the tactics used by the Abwehr, Gestapo, Stasi and KGB to control the population. As it is, I'm now forever mindful about what I do online and I find myself self-censoring searches that most people would have considered completely innocuous a decade ago.

In this new political climate if trends continue as they have been doing over the past decade, then I would not be surprised to see books that were part of the curriculum at my university, which I once had to study, such as Thoreau's Civil Disobedience and Rousseau's Social Contract, etc. being banned from the internet, as they're now deemed too subversive for citizens to access freely without being monitored by The State.

If we were able bring WWII veterans back to witness what is happening nowadays then they would be utterly appalled to see the very ethics, moral values and freedoms they fought and died for being subverted and just cast aside by unscrupulous and morally corrupt governments for effectively no other reason than for them to gain even more power.

This is a terrible state of affairs.

Why Microsoft's Windows game plan makes us WannaCry

RobHib
Flame

Re: It is the apps tied to ActiveX that cause the problems [and more important matters].

"That article tells Microsoft to do the work for free because they had money... It sounds like a disconnection between academic and commercial environment."

1. That's not the way I read it. Rather, my take on it is that Microsoft has made such vast sums of money simply because it opted out of its social responsibility to develop good code in the first instance (on evidence, a very deliberate decision on its part)—and that it took this course of action because it was NOT compelled by any law to ensure that its software products worked properly and securely before they were released. Certainly early on, the only things that mattered to Microsoft were its rush to market and maximizing its market share, security was hardly even on its horizon.

2. You have not addressed the other very real issues [useability difficulties, etc.] as to why users do not upgrade. (Presumably, as an Anonymous Coward, you are a software writer or developer and these points have hit a raw nerve.) These issues are very real concerns for many users and they need to be addressed by not only Microsoft but also the software industry as a whole.

3. As far as end users are concerned, the software industry suffers from very serious problems—major systemic issues that not only hinder software development per se but also ensure that software is much less secure than it ought to be. Specifically:

(a) The industry obfuscates its dirty linen behind the fact that source code is compiled (i.e.: remains hidden from users and security personnel alike). Thus, as source code cannot be analysed by third parties, design errors, bugs and security faults escape independent scrutiny to the perennial disadvantage of end users.

(b) The laws of most—probably all—countries militate against fixing these problems in any truly effective way and have done so for many decades. The lack of software 'fitness for purpose' laws essentially force end users to use software 'as-is' without any guarantee that faulty, buggy and insecure software will ever be fixed by vendors—this is especially relevant where software has been licensed for monetary profit (as in most other parts of the free market warranty laws, etc., actually apply).

Moreover, this already inexcusable situation is aided and abetted by mad, lopsided and very unfair copyright law—the DMCA for instance—where it even stops users and or independent investigators from investigating bugs and security faults (at risk of their liberty and freedom).

Furthermore, recently we've seen the truly detrimental effects that have resulted from the absence of appropriate software law that would require commercial software source code to be opened up to scrutiny by third parties in order to protect users against shonky and dishonest software developers; for example, the outrageous Volkswagen emissions scandal. In a democracy (or for that matter any civilised society), the fact that such laws do not already exist is nothing short of being outrageous. How many people have to die because of faulty software produced by shonky developers before legislators will act?

(c) The lack of adequate and satisfactory law to regulate and govern both the quality and security of software has seriously hindered the technological development of software industry over many years; in fact, its lack thereof has effectively stopped it from becoming a proper engineering discipline/profession (as, for instance, chemical engineering is). For—as past decades have shown—without any such law or regulation, the industry—whose self-discipline has been demonstrated on myriads of occasions to be as rare as hens' teeth—has little or no incentive to improve itself; the only effective incentive being the default one—that of monetary profit (hence the huge and obscene profits made by companies such as Microsoft, Google etc.).

When there are precious few if any constraints on an industry's actions (as in a world full of insects without any spiders), bad behaviour runs amok exponentially.

With respect to the last bullet point, (c), before calling me a nark or going into flaming mode, I'd suggest that I'm far from being alone in this assessment. I refer you to the following article: Software's Chronic Crisis, W. Wayt Gibbs, Scientific American, September 1994, p 86., which is aptly prefaced by the comment: "Despite 50 years of progress, the software industry remains years-perhaps decades-short of the mature engineering discipline needed to meet the demands of an information-age society."

Here is the PDF version and this is a HTML one.

One must consider this SciAm article was written close to 23 years ago—that's nearly a quarter century ago, which is utterly eons in computer time. Also, now consider the many security issues that currently surround the WannaCry/WannaCrypt virus (and the various implications that arise there from), thus—as far as the end user is concerned—one is left with very little choice other than to question whether any practical (i.e.: effective) progress has been made in computer science since the time that article was written.

With the plethora of evidence that's available and able to indict the industry on this account, there's precious little doubt that any reasonable person, even after applying the tiniest modicum of logic, could conclude other than that W. Wayt Gibbs was spot on target all those many years ago.

It's a tragedy the software industry has made so few really relevant improvements over these intervening years.

RobHib
Flame

Re: It is the apps tied to ActiveX that cause the problems

"I feel sorry for anyone running a milling machine or centrifuge which is controlled by XP, otherwise in perfect condition."

1. A short while ago I visited a factory and saw a precision 5-axis milling machine worth about $400,000, it was still running Windows 2000. With that in mind I asked the factory manager how long it would be until they upgraded the Windows software to the latest version. His answer was "2025, the machine was purchased in 2000 and has an expected life of 25 years and the manufacturer provides no Windows upgrades—we expect W2K to be still on the machine at the end of its service life"

Like it or not, the fact is that XP and even earlier Windows will be around for a long while yet, we have to live with that fact!

2. The best article I've read to date on WannaCry is the New York Times one on the 13th by Zeynep Tufekci, associate professor at the School of Information and Library Science at the University of North Carolina:

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/13/opinion/the-world-is-getting-hacked-why-dont-we-do-more-to-stop-it.html

She hits the nail on the head as to why many do not upgrade/patch their systems, here's a short list of her reasons (read her article for the rest):

* Unlike other manufacturers, software vendors are NOT responsible for manufacturing defects in their software products—like others, the law needs to make them so.

* To get security updates, users have to upgrade to later OSes that often include features that are often unwanted (GUI changes etc.) and they are often very reluctant to do that, quote:

"Further, upgrades almost always bring unwanted features. When I was finally forced to upgrade my Outlook mail program, it took me months to get used to the new color scheme and spacing somebody in Seattle had decided was the new look. There was no option to keep things as is. Users hate this, and often are rightfully reluctant to upgrade. But they are often unaware that these unwanted features come bundled with a security update."

* In the case of Windows 10, users have had to sacrifice their privacy for a more secure system. This is not a palatable or acceptable option for many.

It's time we all stopped whingeing about XP and started complaining about the many other real causes of the 'patches problem'.

'

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