* Posts by Peter Prof Fox

239 posts • joined 20 Jan 2014


UK Cabinet Office spokesman tells House of Lords: We're not being complacent about impact of SolarWinds hack

Peter Prof Fox


I thought Government plans were kept on the back of a fag packet. They 'lose' those all the time and just jot down something new as they're told. You know, "Schools MUST reopen for one day before Christmas."

Over long US weekend, GitHub HR boss quit after firing Jewish staffer who warned Nazis were at the Capitol

Peter Prof Fox

* genuine answer

Private Eye. Fortnightly. Funny as well as satirical. Investigative journalism that makes you care about uninteresting things you'd never heard about.

Peter Prof Fox

A waft of warm air

So has 'head of HR' been properly sacked or just shuffled to somewhere else in Microsoft?

So has the person who moaned been investigated for knowingly smearing religious faith?

So perhaps the management can tell us:

(a) Lessons learned

(b) How to reclaim trust with (at least) those who complained at the original decision.

It's been a day or so and nope, we still can't wrap our head around why GitHub would fire someone for saying Nazis were storming the US Capitol

Peter Prof Fox


Management with too much time on their hands and too few braincells in their heads is bound to lead to dysfunctional decision-making. Clearly they didn't weigh up the consequences of alternatives. Who said the sky will fall in if we 'do nothing'? Watch them hide behind 'procedures'. Yeah... How about the 'procedures' derived from 'employee safety'. Those delicate traceries of tissue should be fun to audit.

Windows might have frozen – but at least my feet are toasty

Peter Prof Fox

Re: Cold breeze

Sorry to educate you:

Some people have chronic poor circulation. It's not at all rare. 'Socks' is like shouting louder to a deaf person. At this very moment I have my feet on a 200w tubular heater driven through a dimmer switch. The soles of my feet are now warm but my knees are icy. I might have to set the 650w 'silent' fan heater going.

Trump administration says Russia behind SolarWinds hack. Trump himself begs to differ

Peter Prof Fox

That tweet is real?

Not a parody? Not an impressionist? I've done my best to avoid the splutterings of Duck Turd so I seem to have missed a great thread of couldn'tmakeituptertainment.

Cats: Not a fan favourite when the critters are draped around an office packed with tech

Peter Prof Fox

Re: Hasn't been too bad here

1) Shiny new thing arrives.

2) Take opportunity of disruption to 'tidy' desk. Put papers etc into bottom of box.

3) No matter how small the box, the cat will have a new home.

Everyone happy...

...Until the 'watch dog' (hear cat?) timer realises the fridge door is overdue for opening.

Exonerated: First subpostmasters cleared of criminal convictions in Post Office Horizon scandal

Peter Prof Fox

Make the film!

Hollywood, where are you?

Little people fighting back.

Most media deaf, dumb and blind. -- Hurrah for exceptions, especially Private Eye

And the best bit is they can portray these evil LIVING people where the facts are pretty straight forward.

Privacy campaigner flags concerns about Microsoft's creepy Productivity Score

Peter Prof Fox

Measure what exactly?

Oh good our surveillance dashboard shows Bloggs has just spent three hours on [so-called productivity tool]. That shows it must be making a difference to productivity. Possibly negatively when he doesn't know how to use it properly, is using it for the wrong thing, is getting in a right fury at the sodding straight-jacket, and isn't allowed to 'be productive' with a tool he's been using effectively for years.

Gosh! Look was a good communicator Smith is. Constantly interrupting people because he doesn't understand simple instructions is worth a gold star. Give the monkey another peanut.

It appears this 'productivity measurement' is the opposite. How much time and effort is diverted from actually producing things.

I work therefore I ache: Logitech aims to ease WFH pains with Ergo M575 trackball mouse

Peter Prof Fox

No brainer

It's always exactly where you left it, so no need to fumble for it after keyboarding.

Never runs out of space.

It actually fits the (right) hand. Rest you hand on it while browsing and scrolling etc.

The pointer doesn't move as you get hold of it.

The pointer doesn't move as you shuffle your papers.

It keeps its orientation so you don't have to adapt every time.

Rest your elbow on the chair arm while reaching for it and using it.

If the cat lays down on your computer bench it doesn't click anywhere randomly.

Also, when the cat is in in 'just in case you'd forgotten your friend, it's nearly lunch time' mood, taking an interest in the human's activities, 'what's this do?' doesn't result in a game of poke the movey-mouse.

The MX570 has an issue with the micro switches under the buttons failing after a few years of use, but otherwise is robust enough for general use.

When even a power-cycle fandango cannot save your Windows desktop

Peter Prof Fox

How do you shut down Windows?

I remember being rather cross that there was no way to shut this fancy software down. In desperation I tried clicking on START.

Trump fires cybersecurity boss Chris Krebs for doing his job: Securing the election and telling the truth about it

Peter Prof Fox

Come to watch the lunatic

For part of the 17th century the Bedlam Hospital (Roughly London lunatic asylum) allowed and encouraged the public to come and look at the patients. It was one way to raise funds. That sort of thing is terribly frowned upon nowadays... But I have no qualms about buffoons in power being mercilessly mocked. Let's not hurt harmless lunatics but the 'Napoleons of the 21st century' should be jeered into oblivion.

The revolution will not be televised because my television has been radicalised

Peter Prof Fox

Better still

Do away with it completely. Off buttons are a HUGE first step for people but after you've been TV free for a few months and you see something, then you'll be amazed at how even 'quality' programmes are contrived.

Also add a 'chainsaw' button for chopping off the waving arms and gesturing hands of reporters who stand in front of what's interesting or pretend there's something interesting behind.

As for 'sport'! Sport is something you do while something you watch is entertainment.

UK tax dept's IT savings created 'significant risk', technical debt as it faces difficult conversation with Chancellor

Peter Prof Fox

Misuse of English

The 'Technical debt' appears to be inability to deliver what was promised earlier. (Oh and now that's gone tits-up we have to spend more on fixes and more on work-arounds.)

Then 'technical debt' seems to mean they can't do what they've been doing. What's the reason for that? Really? Oh [shuffles papers after three months of continual prodding] here's the answer: We want to go all cloudy. That'll fix everything.

Tim Berners-Lee asks everyone to do new biz a Solid and let him have another crack at fixing the Web's privacy

Peter Prof Fox

And the Titanic sinks?

What will happen to 'precious data' when (possibly decades away) the boat sinks?

All data is precious (for values of precious).

Those values of precious go negative. Eh? What? Yes. 'Amazon books marketing' sent me emails in Chinese I presume -- All of hieroglyphs -- (I deleted it obviously.) -- But it goes to show that just the taint of a 'relationship' can be a lure.

PS Go to merlinsmallbone.shop for great books about interesting people in interesting situations.

Gosh! Did I write that? Yes I did. Welcome to the shillnonet.

Malicious backdoored NPM package masqueraded as Twilio library for three days until it was turfed out

Peter Prof Fox

I'm impressed

Isn't this how the internet is supposed to work? (Says an old fogey.) Issue --> Fix it. Anyone who expects the fire brigade to be on the scene before the fire breaks out is expecting too much.

Hackers hack Hackney: Local government cries 'cyberattack' while UK infosec officials rush to figure out what happened

Peter Prof Fox

The WHOLE council?

Why is it that huge swathes of an organisation get stuffed? The people who sweep the streets don't need to be in constant touch with housing benefits. If some master data centre is used then how does such a juicy target get hacked, and where are the proven mitigations? The response seems to be "Oh dear! We're not prepared for whatever it is."

Supermassive black hole turns unlucky star into spaghetti

Peter Prof Fox


You're getting confused with meatyorites.

Nominet refuses to consider complaint about its own behaviour, claims CEO didn’t mean what he said on camera

Peter Prof Fox

Re: Clearly out of control

Company Law. Here I would expect that disgruntled members could ask a court to rule that the directors are not running the company properly. eg. In their personal interests to the disadvantage of the complaining members. ISTR A limited company has to make the register of shareholders an openly accessible document.

In short, change from within unless there is financial maladministration bordering on fraud. There should be significant auditing requirements but many people question the willingness of auditors to blow the whistle, and there's many cases where auditors have connived at burying bodies.

Airbus drone broke up in-flight because it couldn’t handle Australian weather

Peter Prof Fox

Why so negative?

Technology changes as alternatives are proposed and tried in the real world. If YOU flap your arms and jump off a cliff then it's quite likely YOU won't learn but OTHERS will. The lessons they take away might differ. Sometimes it's a breakthrough application of new technology, others more experience, more understanding and improved tools.

Typical '80s IT: Good idea leads to additional duties, without extra training or pay, and a nuked payroll system

Peter Prof Fox

Wotsits' law

I carefully wrote down the name of the chap who gave his name to the law which states 'No backup is perfect' in case I should need it. Needless to say I can't find it.

QR-code based contact-tracing app brings 'defining moment' for UK’s 'world beating' test and trace system

Peter Prof Fox

Thank goodness

At last! I was feeling a bit wheezy but went to the pub anyway. SAVED by a QR code. It's so simple I wonder why nobody thought of it earlier.

Something to look forward to: Being told your child or parent was radicalized by an AI bot into believing a bonkers antisemitic conspiracy theory

Peter Prof Fox

Have they tried asking it?

Problem: Could easily be led up the garden path by toxic inputs.

Solution: "How do we stop this GPT-3?"

Problem: People will believe any old shit, no matter how ludicrous. (Say Boris' billions on testing where the best accuracy with ordinary tests is 38%, so wrong roughly twice as many times as right. And antibody tests are practically irrelevant.)

Solution: "How can we educate people GPT-3?"

Enquiry: "Is there anyone in charge of the asylum who can do anything?"

US senators propose yet another problematic Section 230 shakeup: As long as someone says it on the web, you can't hide it away

Peter Prof Fox

Thank goodness

We'll never get this in Dear Old Blighty.

I won't be ignored: Google to banish caller roulette with Verified Calls

Peter Prof Fox

It'll ONLY appeal to the scammers

Great for any scammy business masquerading as honest-joe. Look Doris! It's been approved as genuine by Google so it must be OK to give them my bank details.

UK electricity and gas regulator Ofgem puts up £30m 'to respond to urgent requests to complete projects'

Peter Prof Fox

So now wo know (one) cost of knee-jerk management

Obviously everything at Ofgem has to be a crisis. None of that boring three-year plan stuff. Clearly this is about spending money not scoping issues then designing budgeted solutions. With the Lamborghini on stand-by there's no question of cheaply walking to the shops for a pint of milk. This is the Cummings future.

UK.gov to propose new rules for online political campaigns after last election marred by an avalanche of fake news

Peter Prof Fox

Strangle comment

Suppose the Campaign For Wobbly Things wants to draw attention to the disastrous effect of Government policy. It AND EVERY MEMBER posting will have to identify themselves. Government ministers on the otherhand, with aides ad PR connections to the media can sneak things out. Example from BBC web yesterday: "A source close to Priti Patel said Ben & Jerrys were cheap trash..."

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.



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