* Posts by Peter Prof Fox

212 posts • joined 20 Jan 2014


National Crime Agency says Brit teen accused of Twitter hack has not been arrested

Peter Prof Fox

Walk in to a zoom meeting just like that?

I haven't used zoom so this is a bit strange to me. In essence 'zoom-bombing' is a predictable and difficult to stop thing? As a general rule I don't hold meetings in the street. How was the court so vulnerable? isn't this 101 stuff?

Once considered lost, ESA and NASA's SOHO came back from the brink of death to work even better than it did before

Peter Prof Fox

Do another deep-freeze experiment first

As the team have shown how it's possible to bring it 'back from the dead', why not make a planned close-down with the intention of seeing what can be resurrected after say 12 months. Not only would this be instructive about the toughness of dormant technology on long space voyages, but also, if the instruments 'work better than before' then long time base observations can be useful to measure gradual change.

Aggrieved ad tech types decry Google dominance in W3C standards – who writes the rules and for whom?

Peter Prof Fox

We don't all need the latest

I'm not 100% sure how all this works but a relentless monthly upgrade, all or nothing, is irritating and unnecessary. I don't have my car go to the garage every month for removal of X, addition of Y and interface 'improvements' to Z. Many of us customise our browsers with no-script and ad-blockers only to find a browser maker has deemed them 'unsupported'. The same for all sorts of niche plug-ins. Why can't we have a 'fix stream' of patches without the add weird features some wonk thinks is cool and removing other functionality.

Oh what a cute little animation... OH MY GOD. (Not acceptable, even in the '80s)

Peter Prof Fox


The whole point of the hacking ethos is to prove you can do it. If you go for a week of meditation in the woods to find your inner self or spiritual roots that's absolutely fine, but tell somebody so that you don't have rescue teams and helicopters looking for you. Inconsiderate hacking is arrogant oafishness. Even when your super-hacking-powers have been used to save the day, management's skin and a drowning kitten, modesty is more becoming. Also more awesome for the mere mortal spectators.

An email banning our staff from using TikTok? Haha, funny story about that, we didn't mean it – Amazon

Peter Prof Fox

Wonderful Pythonesque erruption.

Hey folks. Did you realise that communicating with hundreds or thousands of people may not be 100.000% secure? WHATEVER the reason, it ain't going to be private for long. So on that basis, only the loons or stupids (may overlap) would bring out this sort of thing. An organisation can decide which side of the line it wants to be when communicating with employees:-

(a) End to single-end encrypted to trusted employees who know what's coming to them if they blab

or on the otherside.

(b) anything else. (Fred Flob's Fitness Freakout is just as much a risk as China State Snoop-mail.)

Stop pretending!

Soft press keys for locked-down devs: Three new models of old school 60-key Happy Hacking 'board out next month

Peter Prof Fox

Hack your cheap keyboard for calm continuity

My scheme is to use a £10-ish keyboard that 'fits me'. In my case proper key-press travel and enough tactile feedback. If it's not for you then try again.

Then hack (That's what hackers do, right?):-

* Replace the rear brackets to give the slope and non-collapsability I want. I use carved hard foam.

* Put felt pads along the front to stop the plastic case thumping the desk on every stroke

* For wireless, add larger batteries and an on/off switch.

When that's sorted, buy an identical model and put it in store so that after a million words, or too many cat-related events, I've got a painless transition.

University ordered to stop running women-only job ads

Peter Prof Fox

Keep up the +ve discrimination

What the 'bad thing' brigade forget that there's not a level playing field in the first place. I rather admire the objective of 30% female staff 'so that they get a proper voice' in the culture. If that means +ve discrimination then go-ahead. The number one disadvantage is children/child care. While women are expected to do most of this it is bound to impact on availability, opportunity for training, continuity of employment, willingness to work far from home and sheer time required to find daily child-care. That's before mentioning prejudice against 'getting pregnant' and 'always needing time off to look after sick children'. +ve discrimination is a helping-hand up for those who need it to counter the obvious and pervasive -ve discrimination. The university is trying to do the right thing.

I was screwed over by Cisco managers who enforced India's caste hierarchy on me in US HQ, claims engineer

Peter Prof Fox


Plenty of evidence.

Exhibit 1: Plausible complaint from Doe.

Exhibit 2: Failure to address complaint by Cisco, who instead gave a 'Innocent' plea with no further info.

Mirror mirror on the wall, why will my mouse not work at all?

Peter Prof Fox

Only way

If I'm forced to use a mouse and not a trackball, I can ONLY use it 'upside down'. It's perfectly natural. (And that other great bit of Windows UI: Being unable to find out how to close it down. Silly me! You need the button marked Start.)

NHS contact-tracing app is best in the world, says VMware CEO... whose company helped build it

Peter Prof Fox

Re: Wear the mask -- Not that simple

A mask is a badge of paranoia. People who wear them tend to be much more concerned about hygiene etc than others. However going round breathing through a dirty snot-rag is serves no purpose other than smear a trail for further. Albeit it should be a narrower trail. Everyday breathing may exhale some virus particles but one virus particle isn't enough to spread the disease. Coughing on the other hand is a great way to spread a mighty cloud. If you're worried about airborne transmission then avoid coughing or contain coughing and sneezing. But what you used to contain the cough or sneeze is now a source of contamination via touching. Hence the original advice: Use and dispose of tissues. Unfortunately the manners of many brits are disgusting and don't stretch to any hanky.

The Great British anti-5G fruitcake Bakeoff: Group hugs, no guns, and David Icke

Peter Prof Fox

But Duck Turd is an exception.

Lunatic tweets about suggestions for of cures so bad that drinking Dettol is one of the lesser harmful ones is fine for Trump. Why hasn't anybody from the torpid and craven media asked Trump to go ahead and give a demonstration?

(Dreading 'pass the sick bag Friday' when pompous idiots will try to highlight their Churchillian qualities only to be howlingly patronising.)

Academics demand answers from NHS over potential data timebomb ticking inside new UK contact-tracing app

Peter Prof Fox

Great idea (Not)

This way it'll be able to track down which phone masts are giving us the virus.

So I'm in my house and somebody walks past the front window. Ping! and a light flashes on the console of the hollowed-out volcano.

Hey look Sarge. Red alert! Get out the riot gear. Ice cream van in the park has hundreds of people 'near' it.

* Remember GPS positioning isn't accurate to the nearest metre.*

There is no way 'near' can be interpreted as 'a close contact with a probability of transmission'.

The key to success is not space but time. If somebody tests as infectious then you want to trace contacts ASAP. Sooner if possible.

The ever so easy way is (a) record tracks with data remaining on personal mobile phone. This can be done as GPS etc, but more usefully as postcode-ish size zones and transport journeys and shops. I wouldn't expect the state of the NHS (National Hacking Service) to have the AI to work out you're on the 8:15 train from Biggleswade, but there is another solution. All busy areas have wi-fi hotspots. We can use those as beacons to tag locations including trains and buses.

(b) If needed, in the first instance this is a diary prompt for who was at your Dettol drinking party. The clue is in the phrase close acquaintance.

This might lead to a triage of people at further risk.

(c) Algorithmically we can upload a beacon/time history to a central server as step 1. (When infection confirmed.) Step 2: Now to alert people who might have been at the same place and time. "Hey" (subset of people known to frequent the busier hot spots regularly as a rough filter so as not to broadcast Carlisle stuff to Cornwall.) "mobiles, compare your tracks with our Lurgi Locus" Step 3 is a result of 'Coughing Charlie was in SHOPINGCENTREHOTSPOT at 11:43:12 to 11:55:35 2020:04:29 ' from which a human-target message can appear (info derived from (b) above) on the phone saying "An infectious male in his 50s, Blue Overcoat, receding hair, was in Sainsburys on Wednesday approximately between 11:30 and 12. He then may have caught the same bus as yourself."

False alarms will sink the system. The time/place scheme is going to be overflowing with irrelevant alerts. Great for fostering paranoia, but otherwise worse than useless. So the suggestions system outlined in (c) where there's real-world information on which people can judge is needed.

Forget tabs – the new war is commas versus spaces: Web heads urged by browser devs to embrace modern CSS

Peter Prof Fox


How I love the smell of purity in the morning.

Diddums! Hard for likkle machiney to read beastly syntax for those tewwible humans.

Another day, another Google cull: Chocolate Factory axes 49 malicious Chrome extensions from web store

Peter Prof Fox

Just a naive idea

Surely apps should have a limited set of domains they can talk to, set up in some manifest. Then if they happen to whisper secrets elsewhere there's an immediate gatekeeper violation.

Watch out, everyone, here come the Coronavirus Cops, enjoying their little slice of power way too much

Peter Prof Fox

Reality check

When I go out cycling into the (much quieter now) country, I take a shopping list with me. Item1: Loaves. Item 2: Fishes. If the 'Oy! What are you doing' moral guardians stop me I can tell them 'I'm going shopping and here's the proof!' If they don't get it, I'll point out the 5000 people with me.

British Army adopts WhatsApp for formal orders as coronavirus isolation kicks in

Peter Prof Fox

Operation name needed

Market Garden? Inflatable Dolly? Barbarossa? Torch? Rabbit-in-headlight? Latrine-Roll?

It's not real without an operation name.

Apple grudgingly opens up its check book, pays VirnetX $454m in patent royalties after a decade of wrangling

Peter Prof Fox

Switch the burden of proof?

If I win once then perhaps an appeal (If on genuine and reasonable grounds -- Does the US system have that sort of nuance?) should be allowed. After two wins then the boot should be on the other foot. ie. Prove a mis-trial. Hard to do since at the appeal one would presume all legal guns would be blazing. Surely at third trial the question of incompetence of lawyers must arise. "Oh yes your honour, we lost because of utterly incompetent lawyers." shouldn't be a defence,

Good result.

Rockstar dev debate reopens: Hero programmers do exist, do all the work, do chat a lot – and do need love and attention from project leaders

Peter Prof Fox

10% rule

If you look around you'll often see a spectrum of skills, disease resistance, aptitude, physical ability and so on. The majority are the mediocrity. Roughly 10% are left handed. Roughly 10% have double-strength tooth enamel. A few develop awesome memories of who won the FA Cup. Some should never be allowed to drive ever. Organisations are either founded by way-above-average people or only tolerate them if they're safely in a 'cage'. For example political parties.

In my mind there is no doubt that some people are massively more productive than others when it comes to niche skills or singular vision. Ego and arrogance can negate those benefits. Knowing what you're talking about can be uncomfortable when your potential employer has a more miserable, expensive, muddles vision. (Eh? Why are you recruiting six people for six months when one person could do it in six weeks with no sweat? I didn't get that job.) But of course there is more to projects than cutting code. Every Batman needs a Robin is a good place to start. You're likely to need at least half a dozen different inputs into a project. Make sure you have a team-leader, or better a 'house-mother' who develops everybody's skills as they go. Why keep test data and testing separate from feature development. Why keep design away from user experience?

Who says HMRC hasn't got a sense of humour? Er, 65 million Brits

Peter Prof Fox

As useless a a hat full of busted arseholes

HMRC's IT. Over the years they think I've filed 3 times late. They won't take me to court to get their money though because they daren't put their systems under the slightest scrutiny. One year I got a £73 refund then a non-filing complaint. How could they give me a refund if they hadn't had the return? You tell me. Every year my tax return reiterates these things but they take no notice. So HMRC need to get their own house on order before moaning at other people.

Why is the printer spouting nonsense... and who on earth tried to wire this plug?

Peter Prof Fox

Matrix printer shenanigans

A railway research centre, somewhere in the Midlands, rang me up complaining that my program wouldn't print anything to their matrix printer. Sure enough, when the right commands were issued, nothing at all happened. Was the right cable properly connected both ends? This was strange. Luckily I was familiar with Epsons and asked what lights were on on the front. None. The user helpfully suggested he should try other commands in my program but by my dogged determination paid off when I asked him to check the power cable was properly seated in the back. Silence. "I've found the problem. Thanks for your help." I stopped him putting the phone down until after he'd admitted that there was no power cable.

Revealed: NHS England bosses meet with tech and pharmaceutical giants to discuss price list of millions of Brits' medical data

Peter Prof Fox

Worthless stake

What value is a stake in a company when all you can do with that stake is sell it? And then the NHS doesn't have a stake. Even profits get creamed-off before distribution by offshore tax-fraud, huge pay packets and convenient commercial shenanigans like odd buy-outs. (Except through the heart.)

(Fingers crossed the conners don't win today.)

One man's mistake, missing backups and complete reboot: The tale of Europe's Galileo satellites going dark

Peter Prof Fox

Boris will sort it out

Having had personal experience of this positional persiflage by not being able to find his ditch, Boris-UK will make its own navigational system. Written in Latin, calibrated in fathoms, with an origin of the London Garden Bridge it will be staffed by Etonians and be 'on-time' for fifteen years.

ZTE Nubia Z20: It's £499. It's a great phone. Buy it. Or don't. We don't care

Peter Prof Fox

What about Skypiness

Surely (I don't have a mobile with a touch screen and I don't do anything like Skype) it would be ideal for 'having a meeting' while on the 8:37 from Surbiton... OK - I admit it's a very bad idea.

Move along, nothing to see here: Auditors say £100k grant to Hacker House was 'appropriate'

Peter Prof Fox

And what did we get for that dosh?

A postcard from the USA or something worthwhile and value for money (Ha ha ha hahhh...)

Q. Who's triumphantly slamming barn door shut after horse bolted at warp 9? A. NordVPN

Peter Prof Fox

Was broken. Is dishonest

Right, so the object of a VPN is that middle P.

Like the insulation on electric wires that's what the P is.

Except the insulation wasn't insulating.

(Let's forget the how it happened: Let's look at what happened next.)

So when the cock-up that shouldn't have happened who did anything?

Nobody at Nord. Their dedicated sales team kept on pushing their product.

Now we have a PR offensive (Who guessed? Nord is the Richard Branson/Elon Musk of VPNs.)

Reputation? Register readers will eschew Nord but the great unwashed will carry on.

Running on Intel? If you want security, disable hyper-threading, says Linux kernel maintainer

Peter Prof Fox


If I'm in a high performance environment then I've already done boundary stuff or weeded out fringe activities. No screen-savers for me while I'm AI-ing the next national lottery numbers.

For the rest of us why not enable whizzo cache stuff only when CPU usage exceeds 85%? That way most of the time there is no point in poking around with fancy caches and long before Mr. Black Hat has winkled-out any cross-contaminated trivia I'll have detected or changed.

Switch about to get real: Openreach bod on the challenge of shuttering UK's copper phone lines

Peter Prof Fox

Will my traditional telephone still work?

Apparently not. I don't see any consumer heads-up for all your phones will need to be replaced. Neither is there any upgrade path such as VOIP-ready. Conspiracy of silence or just the usual failures?

I could throttle you right about now: US Navy to ditch touchscreens after kit blamed for collision

Peter Prof Fox

Pothole resistance

If you're twiddling a knob when you go over a pothole then it's no great issue. But if you're fingering a screen the bump (a) moves your finger (b) causes you to 'click/press'. Great. Wonderful. Now what's happened! Certainly not what you were expecting.

Psst. Hey. Hey you. We have to whisper this in case the cool kidz hear, but... it's OK to pull your data back from the cloud

Peter Prof Fox

Craft bollocks!

So this 'Craft brewing' outfit is really a sham automated and optimised production line. "This includes programmable logic control and process automation for brewing—right down to opening and closing valves. " The only bugs in beer should be Lambic!

Neuroscientist used brainhack. It's super effective! Oh, and disturbingly easy

Peter Prof Fox

Gaydar and 'therapy'

Is only one use the people who need it most (ie politically powerful) will fund. But don't worry, it will be as effective and well-regulated, as police face recognition.

Y2K, Windows NT4 Server and Notes. It's a 1990s Who, Me? special

Peter Prof Fox

Naming machines

Stickers are a must, but naming is more subtle. As we're talking hardware which is the actual thing we're labelling we should be giving it a name like, say, a ship. Not the purpose like 'Foo server'. My system is interesting boy's names for computers and girl's names for peripherals. So for example when somebody a hundred miles away says the "invoice printer isn't working" you start by asking them for the printer name. That's a unique identifier assigned and controlled by you. Then it turns out it's a replacement printer for some hardwary reason and you're half way home. When dealing with servers frequently, you and colleagues get to know the quirks of 'Brock' and 'Samson'. Also there's a mental step you have to take before 'fixing a server' as you have to translate 'Constantine' into what he actually does.

He's coming home, he's coming... Hutchins' coming home: British Wannacry killer held in US on malware dev rap set free by judge

Peter Prof Fox

Not exactly Lord Copper

Two years wait for what the judge considers a worthless case.

Rise of the Machines hair-raiser: The day IBM's Dot Matrix turned

Peter Prof Fox

Health and safety gone senile

Now everyone wears name badges on lanyards. (Bow-tie wearing engineer opts-out of that! )

Fantastic Mr Fox? Not when he sh*ts on your lawn, kids' trampoline and your soul

Peter Prof Fox

Is it YOUR problem or a NEIGHBOURHOOD one?

I suspect the latter. From https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn23167-culling-urban-foxes-just-doesnt-work/ it appears foxes will repopulate suddenly 'vacant' territories within four days. Looking at the issue this way suggests some group activity which could include, just for example, mapping, educating humans about what foxes eat and not to feed them, getting a neighbourhood wolf, getting a wild-life expert to give a lecture on their life, likes and dislikes.

Perhaps your garden just happens to be a junction of three territories where foxes from various tribes face-off?

YouTube mystery ban on hacking videos has content creators puzzled

Peter Prof Fox

Lockpicking is fine then

Bosnia Bill and The Lockpicking Lawyer routinely demonstrate how crap merchandise is. For how much longer?

DeepNude's makers tried to deep-six their pervy AI app. Web creeps have other ideas: Cracked copies shared online as code decompiled

Peter Prof Fox

I'm impressed and worried

The speed of reaction of the sub-culture is impressive. Just a few days and a complicated set of tangled 'problems' has been 'solved'. Why is it I'm worried that this energy, intelligence and enterprise will be used for better poison gasses than better drugs? Making and spreading fake news will triumph in any war against detecting and quenching fake news. It would be rather nice though if a new strain of a virus could be nailed in weeks and the logistics of dealing with a natural disaster could be solved in hours.

Techie with outdated documentation gets his step count in searching for non-existent cabinet

Peter Prof Fox

"While you're here" should be encouraged

When people ask you a "While you're here" that means they trust you. (Or they are demanding, entitled, whiney and greedy, but I think most techs can spot those.) Step two is to find what is really wrong. Step three is to wave a magic wand or, and this is why it's worth encouraging, is either profit from the new requirement or get to the bottom of some fundamental system flaw that's been causing grief, repeated call-outs etc. because the right person never got to look at it.

Veteran vulture Andrew Orlowski is offski after 19 years at The Register

Peter Prof Fox


A knowledgeable journalist looks at news from the side. Reporters follow on behind. Opinionated fill-spaces whine like mosquitoes with no direction. Good luck.

UK is 'not a surveillance state' insists minister defending police face recog tech

Peter Prof Fox

Ankle-tag every policeman

And store the data for fifty years. Just in case.

Now Ponder Mistakes: NPM's heavy-handed management prompts JS code registry challenger

Peter Prof Fox

Bloatful architecture. Needs curation.

I've just done a duplicate content check on my tiny (80Mb) node files, which already share as much as possible, and found 75% is duplicated. The 'normal' method of NPM-ing is to build a dependency library for each project! Not so great if I want a simple utility.

1 A registry should be a lot more intelligent than this.

2 Throw-in code and forget is a recipe for poor quality code. Oh yes somebody else comes along to fix the crap (out of frustration) that's good... But without curation eg retiring superseded and pointing to replacements and taking responsibility for doing so, it's going to be a free, handy soup-kitchen.

Baffling tale of Apple shops' 'non-facial' 'facial recognition', a stolen ID, and a $1bn lawsuit after a wrongful arrest

This post has been deleted by a moderator

Microsoft debuts Bosque – a new programming language with no loops, inspired by TypeScript

Peter Prof Fox

Wrong end of the telescope

So no object instances then. Sorry, but trying to simplify validation, a task that can be automated, forgets that we've got machines to do that. The difficult bit of coding needs to allow for complexity as the world we're working in is complex. There are of course so many things that can go wrong, which is why structured programming helps turn a soup of code into modules with, err, structure to contain our many egregious errors.

I'm just off to rebuild Notre Dame, using only Lego 'cos that system means I can't heap bricks up randomly and I'm sure having to work around the limitations of Lego will be a pain worth having. Or not.

Supreme Court of UK gives Morrisons the go-ahead for mega data leak liability appeal

Peter Prof Fox

It's the management's job...

to steal from employees by subverting the pension fund. Obviously an enterprising employee can't be given the same protection.

Three planets and two stars adds up to one research team made very happy by Kepler's unique discovery

Peter Prof Fox

Counting assumption

You can only see a transit if the plane of a planet's orbit intersects (approximately) with the axis of viewing from Earth. Surely when 'counting', if you get say three hits from star A that's a good count, but if you get none that's an absence of data. Somebody must have an idea (roughly) what proportion of stars have a suitably aligned planetary disc.

Hello, tech support? Yes, I've run out of desk... Yes, DESK... space

Peter Prof Fox

*BEER* shouldn't be 'cold cold'

You can have fizzy crap as cold or as warm as you like -- why would I care? It's your loss. But the Register shouldn't be perpetuating this myth beloved of corporations. (Budweiser advertise the fact they use rice as an ingredient.)

As Dr Ian Hornsey writes in his seminal Brewing "The ideal temperature for traditional ale is 12-14C." So stick to cellar temperature.

You don't (do you? Really?) have cheese straight from the fridge. Cider and beer are the same. The only reason white wines are served chilled is ignorance and an attempt to add piquancy to an everyday product!

If the Register wants to promote standards then remember standards of decency. (Not to be confused with the Whitehouse, the standard of indecency.) I'm ashamed I can't find a large enough fine china cup so I have to use a pottery pint mug for my tea But I still warm the pot first. I propose the Proppacuppa where for example chilled fizzy-crap rates 0.1.

Thought you were done patching this week? Not if you're using an Intel-powered PC or server

Peter Prof Fox

Updater is Windows only

First I've heard of this tar-pit but I thought worth a look. Win==fail.

This image-recognition neural net can be trained from 1.2 million pictures in the time it takes to make a cup o' tea

Peter Prof Fox

You can't make a cup of tea in 90 seconds

Boil the kettle: 2 mins.

Warm the pot: 30 sec min.

Brew: Absolute minimum 3 mins.

ACLU: Here's how FBI tried to force Facebook to wiretap its chat app. Judge: Oh no you don't

Peter Prof Fox

Here's the fundamental hypocracy

On the one hand the US gov claims it needs to protect the public, yet won't admit the public needs protection against the government.

When rampant snooping is going on without supervision, then how is that different to sneaky plotters (or ne're-do-wells by prejudicial suspicion) being naughty on-line. Both are bad. When governments say "trust-us" then WE KNOW they're up to no good. History speaks clearly. Abuse of power goes back millennia.

The bigger the outfit the bigger the lie and the bigger the evil.

You like JavaScript! You really like it! Scripting lingo tops dev survey of programming languages

Peter Prof Fox

Oh dear! Nothing is perfect

JS is what it is and if it really was as awful as 'they' say then why is it so popular?

I /fume/ at various issues and how slow it is to become properly OO, but Java has been 'proper OO' fro a couple of decades and has it's own issues just as aggravating as the unrelated Javascript. JS does a remarkable job in a maelstrom of Browser (and other) environments. IMHO a much bigger issue is how JS is allowed to consume cycles (BBC 'sounds', I'm looking at you for a simple listings page.) Still, I'd rather have Fred and Freda able to write simple web pages than blocked by cliffs of learning curves. This is about quality in web pages not any particular language.

Looming EU copyright rules – tackling Google news article scraping, installing upload filters – under fire from all sides

Peter Prof Fox


From what I understand here this proposal tries to set up methods and limits. I'd say that is useful but a better way would be to make it easier to enforce legislation that already exists. If you copy my book I can sue you for actual damages. But how will I be able to do that? Take-downs are not enough, by then the damage has been done. So I'd set a rate per 'view' (based on the same metric as used for advertising, I believe 5 seconds of watching a youtube video counts as a 'view') and let the Googles of this world collect royalties for me until they remove the content. This still leaves wholescale international theft untouched, but until trade organisations are really strong there's nothing much that a small (or large) content producer can do.



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