* Posts by Nile

10 posts • joined 3 Dec 2013

Never mind the HORSE MEAT, trading standards cuts'll hurt IT crowd, too


Re: Have your cake and eat it.

Some 'cake'... It's a s*** sandwich, and it'll become a literal s*** sandwich if we don't eat it up and pronounce it delicious.

Here's why:

Lobbying and laws can only do so much, and the big software, music and media publishers know it: you need infantry on the ground - or rather, regular checks on Sunday markets, corner shops, dodgy sales off the back of a van, and a back-office operation who know consumer law and how to run a rolling campaign of small-scale legal actions. In short, a local force, in every locality.

That force is already in place, and it's the local authority Trading Standards Officers.

I don't like FAST, but we could have it a lot worse: they - or rather, their backers in the music industry as well as the software sector - have the lobbying power to shift this to a privatised for-profit enforcement model. You know, like parking and clamping contractors; only as an agency in their own right, with statutory powers of their own and absolutely no accountability to the public.

So TSO's need a powerful backer and, distasteful as it might be, the only one that I can see is FAST, and their sister organisation FACT.

Meanwhile, imagine a world in which supermarkets could misprice and mislabel at will - or sell dangerous goods - in the sure and certain knowledge that there's no enforcement whatsoever. It's not just the Sunday Markets and the dodgy bloke at the pub that get a visit from Trading Standards, and there are powerful commercial (and therefore political) interests who want the TSO to be abolished, or cut to nothing - like the HSE and the Factory Inspector, or the DEFRA inspectors who *used* to do the spot checks that would've caught the horsemeat turning up in the human food chain.

Local Authority TSO's were the boots on the ground, checking the meat - or lack of it - in beefburgers when the horsemeat story broke last year. They are also the people you will call when hairs and rat droppings turn up in the sandwiches you bought for lunch - unless you fancy taking on a supermarket in the courts, or asking a media outlet to run stories against a major advertiser, all by yourself.

I wasn't joking when I sat s*** sandwich.

Bank-raid ZeuS malware waltzes around web with 'valid app signature'


Talking 'bout a Revocation

Someone's cert has been stolen. And, presumably, their keys to other things as well...

That's their problem. It's our problem - and your problem, and Microsoft's problem, if the Certificate Revocation mechanisms aren't working.

● Is this about a certificate not being revoked?

● Or is it all about Windows failing to check the cert before installing?

If the cert isn't beng revoked, we might just see if certificate authority can be withdrawn, or or blacklisted as untrustworthy; or just waved through, move along, nothing to see.

And as for a major OS vendor's installer failing to check for revocation and act on it - that's *unthinkable*. Said Paris, because all serious remarks on the The Register are parody.

Inside Facebook's engineering labs: Hardware heaven, HP hell – PICTURES


An event horizon for economists?

Talking about external suppliers and 'In-House' expertise is an interesting exercise in economics: we know it makes sense for small and medium-sized companies to use external expertise for almost every 'non-core' skill and activity.This is less true for larger companies - but big companies still contract-out everything from catering to networks and desktop support.

Are they wrong? Or is there a size of company that's so big that they are a nation unto themselves and their internal IT functions are bigger than IBM? Or, at least, bigger than any hardware supplier and service provider that would take on an S&P500 company's IT?

It's staggering that an IT software and service provider - and that's what Facebook is - is so large that it 'in-sourcing' the hardware supply budget can generate internal economies of scale that exceed the efficiency of the world's biggest hardware suppliers. That's supposed to be an economic absurdity - one company, one hardware customer, is a bigger market than the entire customer base of the world's biggest hardware supplier, or their second and third-largest rival?

Is there no advantage to specialisation at all? Or some kind of economic 'event horizon', beyond which space and time and economics curve around and disappear when a gravitation amassment of money exceeds some critical threshold?

Basic economics reads the FaceBook 'in-house' hardware supplier as a signal that the IT hardware industry has a *lot* of room for consolidation, and efficiency gains, and for trimming excessive profit margins. Except that competition should've done that already, if economists are right. And we've already got a heavily consolidated industry with dominant suppliers and razor-thin margins.

Could it be that consolidation and shrinking margins have left us with unresponsive monopolists and no money for investment in cheaper products and more efficient production?

Meanwhile, management: is a company that size actually manageable? As in: controllable in terms of internal direction and supervision?

It goes without saying that we've long since passed the event horizon for external supervision by governments and the rule of law to prevent abusive monopolies, regulatory capture, and tax evasion.

Brit boffins brew up blight-resistant FRANKENSPUD


The bit you missed...

They're splicing in genes from wild potato strains and testing the results: this is quick and fairly easy.

Now they know which genes work, and which wild strains carry them, a directed programme of cross-breeding will produce the a hybrid strain containing these genes *as if they had been spliced in*.

This is slow (takes 3-5 years) but not as slow as the trial-and-error process of hybridisation without detailed prior knowledge of which genes are effective and productive.

Elderly Bletchley Park volunteer sacked for showing Colossus exhibit to visitors


A conspiracy theorist writes...

The boring old experts and their boring old contraptions are not wanted because, at best, the new managers want a textbook 'interactive' museum with a row of awards (great for grants and lottery funding) Key Stage 4 curriculum-compliant 'learning packs' for profitable school trips, and lucrative sponsorship deals with prominent IT companies. Or TV companies, or supermarkets, or bogroll manufacturers - it's all the same and it's all money, isn't it?

An expert who actually worked on the machines on display when they were 'live' in the 1940's - and I spoke to one when he was still working at the museum, a decade or two ago - isn't worth as much *money* to the museum as a shiny and expensively-worthless sponsored games-console exhibit.

...And that's the best possible interpretation.

The worst?

That's valuable housing land there: wouldn't want anyone to think a failing museum with declining visitor numbers was losing money on valuable land, there...

ITU signs off network spec for personal medical devices


Paranoid? Me? Aliens ordered the NHS to stop prescribing tinfoil hats

I hope that the new standards include authentication and encryption for insulin pumps and pacemakers.

And, for that matter, basic testing and audit standards: Toyota's recent experience with 'spaghetti' code in their accelerator control chips suggests that there's a lot of embedded software in safety-critical systems that can kill you when the bugs are discovered after the system's in production.

US military's RAY-GUN truck BLASTS DRONES, mortars OUT OF THE SKY


The blind spot in your knowledge about lasers

Any laser capable of damaging a mortar round at a range of a kilometre will blind every human being within a 5km radius - even those who are not looking directly at the target, or a specular reflection from the beam that hit it.

'Specular' reflections - light reflected off a mirror, or a gun barrel, or your fingernail, will cause permanent damage to your retina, anywhere that isn't over the horizon of a battlefield using lasers capable of taking out a mortar shell. There's an element of bad luck in that, in that specular reflections have a narrow linear path and a short duration - but you get a *lot* of them, bouncing from object to object, and they go a very long way.

Non-specular reflections - laser light scattered as a diffuse 'backwash' off a matte surface - will cause permanent whole-of-the-retina damage hundreds of metres from an industrial laser (that's why they operate in a totally-enclosed lightproof containment with circuit-breaker cutouts), and battlefield weapons are an order of magnitude more powerful than that.

Let's spell it out: the laser intensity required to damage a mortar shell is hundreds of thousands of times more powerful than that required to inflict scars, blind spots or total burnout of the human retina. And it doesn't have to be 'visible' light to do that.

IT MELTDOWN ruins Cyber Monday for RBS, Natwest customers


Y'all still reading, this far down the comments?

Some of this is complete cobblers. Some of it isn't, and you should read earlier El Reg threads on similar RBS screwups over the past two years.




Some of those comment threads have the ring of truth; not just 'too close for comfort' but spot-on, detailed analysis and explanation from people with first-hand knowledge.

I choose not to say which is which - and I make it *quite* clear that all that I say online is my own opinion and does not express the views of my employers or clients, past and present - but the comedy gold and the common-or-garden-cobblers is mixed in with dangerously-accurate commentary.

...Which will probably trigger some scary correspondence from Sue Grabbitt and Runne.

In the USA, those dangerously-accurate commentators would be testifying to the OCC - the USian equivalent of The Bank of England's oversight committee - and a bank in RBS' position would be facing nine-digit fines, resignations of executives with bans from ever working again in banking, and a monitored regime of supervised compliance and systems remediation under a 'Consent Order', backed up with a credible threat of license withdrawal and the forced sale of the retail banking arm.

How fortunate we are in England, that our regulators merely have to hint of such a thing - so quietly that ordinary citizens barely hear it - and that the managers of RBS Nat West are such models of impeccable rectitude and technical competence that those vulgar American regulatory intrusions are unneccessary here. Thus, every citizen and business in the Kingdom rests assured that such a thing can never happen; that the consequences are quietly and competently being dealt with behind the scenes; and that this will never, ever happen again.

...And if, after reading that, the learned gentlemen of Messrs Sue, Grabbit & Runne* come asking for the names of those dangerous commentators, I will point them straight at the first mention of Paris Hilton: obvious satire does not constitute an actionable libel.



*Actually, it's some bloke called Futter-Crack, or Frotter-Cluck...Fotty-Sticker? Dear me, my memory these days... Something like that. A rum lot with a talent for intimidating letters and clients wiith very, very deep pockets who can litigate you into destitution.


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