* Posts by Peter Prof Fox

303 publicly visible posts • joined 20 Jan 2014


Windows XP's adventures in the afterlife shows copyright's copywrongs

Peter Prof Fox

What's the monetary damage?

It's a good couple of decades since I researched this but I seem to recall that if A copies B's work then:

(a) It's a civil matter not a crime

(b) B has to show the work is a 'copy'

(c) AND claim damages for actual loss.

In the case of XP, Microsoft would have to claim it's being(or potentially) deprived income which would be a bit difficult. It might claim to want to sell retro copies to 'collectors' but that too is a bit of a stretch.

YMMV in the US which might allow punitive damages.

Individual data platforms for all health providers under controversial NHS plans

Peter Prof Fox

Lock-in and patient access to data.

So suppose a supplier 'P' get the overall contract and turn out to be utter shits? How can 'P' be ditched? And the exfiltrated data returned? Is that baked-in to the contract?

Also, will independent people have access to systems for audit and chasing-up bad-practice. How will these experts in the murky world of medical records 'being suddenly lost' be trained? Anyone who has had to deal with hospital staff on behalf of a relative will know how opaque hospitals are when it comes to actual information, and how often blatant lies are given. (Social care staff are worse.) How is anyone to know what decisions, assumptions, 'communications' and data are available to put a spanner in the works of runaway, headless bureaucracy? Hint: 'Commercially confidential' isn't the answer and neither is in-house bods who might get round to it next year if chased.

New IT can be a wonderful breath of fresh air into foetid medical cliques and private empires. Done it myself. It can also be ludicrous box-ticking, arse-covering, stupidity. Where are the good guys? Why are they marginalised by business deals?

Tough Euro crackdown on AI use passes key vote

Peter Prof Fox

Jack the Ripper

There have been many attempts at discovering who Jack the Ripper was and writing a book about it. Names (of dead people) have been named. The method seems to be think of a possible perpetrator then collect/invent/suggest evidence. AI machines are clever guessers with encyclopedias. It's statistics. Insurance companies and mortgage lenders have been using statistics and data for a long time. They statistically infer certain risks from you being married or single. We know sometimes the data these systems use is perverse when applied to individuals. (Good at paying-off debt? That's 10 points. Never had any debt? Ohh! Dodgy.) Then (still not yet in artificial territory) the fact that you visited a web site about drug rehabilitation or went on a stop something protest gets added without your knowledge and without any real reason to your background checks. Now we're into bad-lands. It's not the clever-guessing AI that's the problem but the data-hoovering and ability to correlate it and then come to some judgement. (With plenty of opportunities for circular 'reasoning'.) "Which of these five people pictured is most likely to ..." is a matter of prejudice when done by a human, and a matter of clutching at opaque statistics when done by a computer. It's easy to see that this sort of thing is desperation. But there's an everyday use which is just as pernicious and that's red-flags for organisations without any intelligence. Hello Social Services, I'm looking at you. A red flag should be a prompt for investigation not a one-size-fits-all response. When the staff have no time or skills or trust then the 'safest' or cheapest option will be rubber-stamped.

Conclusion: Opaque and unjustified data collection is the main danger. Letting 'the system' decide is cheap and 'not my responsibility'... But not fit for purpose.

When you try to hire a freelancer to write SQL and all you get is incorrect AI garbage

Peter Prof Fox

Re: AI?

What? You seem to imply you're reading articles yourself. In 2023 that's a machine's job.

OpenAI's ChatGPT may face a copyright quagmire after 'memorizing' these books

Peter Prof Fox

A mirror-image legal issue

Suppose in my great work I explain in detail the steps needed to fix your gonkulator using only a gormwacket. Then you, having brought one of those cheap gonkulators, ask some AI-bot for repair instructions. You followed the instructions naively and didn't do what any normal trichycoographer would do. Bang! Who do your relatives sue? Perhaps on page one of my book it says in big red letters 'For qualified trichycoographers only' but the AI-bot simplifies this to 'make sure you know what you're doing'.

This would seem to imply that when it comes to instructions, AI-bots needs to direct the enquirer to the original with all the context and never paraphrase. That is, act as intelligent librarians not all-knowing experts in their own right.

Stop OpenAI training its models on your chats by turning off history

Peter Prof Fox

Is there such a thing as unbiased?

Should there be?

I go to meetings and performances. It's afterwards discussing my take on what went on that I clarify for myself and others my position or response. "Billy shouldn't be in charge because he's as thick as two short planks and won't take advice." That sort of thing doesn't get put in anodyne minutes. (Or I get thrown out for drawing attention to the failure modes... Only to have people come up to me later apologising for not supporting me at the time.)

Sometimes of course controversies don't lead to consensus. Nowadays I'm expected to counter '5G uses microwaves and the Earth is getting too warm' with a lecture series on physics... Which won't shut them up because 'how do I know'. In a world where rational and sensible is getting rarer, don't we need levels of 'bias' to be big guns to shut-up people who don't want to listen?

FTC urged to freeze OpenAI's 'biased, deceptive' GPT-4

Peter Prof Fox

Eh? Everyone (except Google) knows this

1 It looks like Google has spent a few bob on trying to hobble its rival. A rival which threatens its revenue stream. In the interests of transparency: USA. Mega-rich corporations. Happy to use all the dirty tricks in the book. The logic flows.

2 The whole point of AI is that you train it to be biased. It isn't doing mathematical proofs but looking for plausible patterns. The cleverness of the new systems is their bloody good guessing at what text means then having contexts and knowledge realms to guess some answers. I could train an AI system to correlate the sort of wallpaper various demographics bought. Hey-presto! All you 30-40 year olds in Northampton with two children at school and a green sofa... You should buy this tasteful pattern like all the others (supposedly) did.

Politicians think controlling bias is their job.

3 Dangerous? You mean like guns? Any opinion could be classed dangerous. When you look at the crackpots on the internet, an AI system which spouts woke stuff like 'The USA has a terrible healthcare system' is rather cuddly. That's why so far it's been kept out of politics... Except it can't last for much longer. Coming soon in a Congress near you: A law to stop shady AI criticising politicians because you have to have your own and can't say "Hey Chat-GPT. How about $$$ to change your opinion." It's 'dangerous' because nobody knows how to control this new 'voice'. It's also dangerous because it incites people to question things. "How many lives would be saved by banning cars from London completely?" Letting people educate themselves is scary!

Chat-GPT is already very useful. There are lots of good things AI can bring. One system being hobbled (a) won't work (b) will cause weird and twisted development (c) stop a plethora of as yet unknown innovations. It'll also stop 'objective' evaluation. Suppose AI was trialed in business management. Two days I give it before it mysteriously falls down the stairs. It's a threat to the mediocre and an opportunity to the rest of us.

British Prime Minister Sunak’s plans for UK NFT on ice

Peter Prof Fox

UK Government NFTs already exist... Peerages

Somebody pays a lot of money to the Conservative Party then gets to boast about their 'honour'.

OpenAI rolls out ChatGPT plugins, granting iffy language model access to your apps

Peter Prof Fox

Technical versus recreational consumer

When I do a web search for 'Nelson' the first four hits are for Hotels, Hotels, University of Northampton(Really such a thing?) and BBC weather in Nelson. At last we get to Horatio Nelson. I expect if you type in Python you'll find something similar. If the consumers are interested in hotels and weather and discovering universities in unexpected places then that's fine. But when I want non-trending, non-dumbed-down stuff then either I have to know where to do a curated search or wade through 'Ten things you didn't know about Northampton.'

So how is ChatGPT different? Won't it be another race to the bottom?

It's quite good at bits of tech I know about but hardly ever use. eg Write a bash script to ... which does the fiddly bits. DALL-E illustrations are really handy. So long as I'm relatively clear what I want the system can 'understand' me and offer choices. But how will 'recreational' users who have vague ideas, limited literacy and just love achievement through spending money skew results. For example if BP or Shell spends a lot of money in convincing ChatGPT that they're greener than an Irish cauliflower then that PR slant will dominate.

While these models were in the lab they didn't get too much attention from public relations teams gaming the system. Now it appears YOUR MESSAGE HERE is the order of the day. Wikipedia has feedback mechanisms but there's nothing similar so far in AI. The hate still gets through in Facebook. Systems which are trained to give a certain message will be here tomorrow masquerading as sparkly hi-tech which is so much safer.

Alarming: Tesla lawsuit claims collision monitoring system is faulty

Peter Prof Fox

What do you expect?

Human drivers are not 100% perfect. If they get found guilty of causing an (specific) accident they get a penalty.

If AI randomly gets involved in an accident (Remember AI isn't 100% perfect) then who gets the blame? There are plenty of ways to point fingers... And plenty of ways for manufacturers to shrug off their responsibilities as being 'too perfectionist'.

Thought you'd opted out of online tracking? Think again

Peter Prof Fox

How much is my adblocker costing advertisers?

Can somebody give some idea of how much each advert is being hawked for?

OpenAI CEO heralds AGI no one in their right mind wants

Peter Prof Fox

It's useful. (Unlike most must-have tech)

Why type in some key words into an advertising search engine when I can ask for real stuff?

I have struggled to write Bash scripts in the past but brackets and quotes tripped me up again and again. So ChatGPT gives me what I need in less than a minute and I can adapt the last 10%. The tech bits have been done and so long as I know a good guess at the tech I can do what I want. A couple of days ago I asked ChatGPT about writers associated with Devon. I didn't get a list of search results with Devon and Writer as keywords but a reasoned list of ten which made good sense to me. If I'd been searching for a place to stay in Devon then, do you know what?, I'd have typed that in.

AI on-demand is the end of ad-search. It isn't the whole answer but it's a rich starting point for people who know lots but not all. (It's also a magic spiv-tool to fool everyday people with selected 'facts'.)

Now, when I have a 'who should I ask' situation, ChatGPT is a really good starting place. If only because it forces me to be clear what my question is and how I want to trim the results.

Learn the art of malicious compliance: doing exactly what you were asked, even when it's wrong

Peter Prof Fox

If God had meant us to iron shirts

She wouldn't have given us jumpers.

Four top euro carriers will use phone numbers to target ads and annoy Google & Facebook

Peter Prof Fox

How does this work?

Let's suppose Addpush Co. 'has my consent to use my phone number to ID me'. How then does it 'target' me? That means Adpush Co. knows what sort of ads for drain-rods, bus times, plastic macs and special 'books' I want. Either I tell them explicitly or they build a profile of my web browsing or use 'AI' to leech from my emails. Surely that's just more creepy surveillance? But also if you have a 'smart' TV that'll be tied to a phone number without you thinking about ads being pushed to your telly as well. Get your adblocker while you still can. (Has anyone seen an advert for an adblocker?) Oh and did I mention option-out after a while. How effective will that be? Not, because the ad networks have the ID and all they need to know is that it's a 'unique' ID. You know how when you move into a new house and keep getting post for the previous residents? How will you 'reset' or 'zero' your new phone number? And of course credit cards numbers are tied to phones.

Google's AI search bot Bard makes $120b error on day one

Peter Prof Fox

Amateur -v- expert

I've asked ChatGPT for fancy poetry and programming tasks. Very impressed. Especially when I'm rusty, I'd be struggling with quotes and comas in the right places and so on. But what it gives isn't a finished thing. If it's given you say a cool bash script in one minute then most likely you'll go 'Oh. Maybe I should have asked a slightly different question.' Then with the slog done, I'm free to manually upgrade that work to a finished thing. Just because 'It's that magic AI' doesn't mean there's no need to check and test.

The poetry is at the 90% of humans would struggle to do so badly. ie. Tedious verse but definitely a good first attempt. AI is also good at suggesting ideas in some sort of structure. "Draw me a fox on a horse in the style of a woodcut" gives half a dozen suggestions in a minute or two. That's planted a few creative seeds I can explore as I hit the ground running. AI isn't like a coffee machine where you press some buttons and you get the finished cup, it's a recipe book where you start from. Use your own parameters to adjust to your needs and add your own special sauce.

Another RAC staffer nabbed for storing, sharing car crash data

Peter Prof Fox

Grinding nomenclature

customer solutions specialist == Someone on a checkout. In this case a call centre operator.

Scientists conclude cats only have three personalities after YouTube clip binge

Peter Prof Fox
Thumb Down

Thanks for the tip Register

Gosh! Lucky I came across this 'cos the idea that animals can be either:

a aggressive

b wait to see what's actually going to happen

c shy, afraid and defensive

is scary to somebody who has enjoyed the company of cats most of his life. Does this mean I need cages, engagement protocols and cat-counselling, or will I get away with just a few cardboard boxes on the one hand and a vacuum cleaner on the other?

Massive outage grounded US flights because someone accidentally deleted a file

Peter Prof Fox

A rather big Oops

Register readers are used to Who Me sort of disasters. Why did it take three hours to twig the cause and copy the fix. 30 minutes perhaps when caught trying to guess decisions in the cyclone of everything going tits up but three hours? Three minutes when (Reg readers know what I'm talking about) an Oh Fuck moment happens. Nobody in IT is perfect but we don't do risky things without watching and having the magic spear of 'Fixed. Must have been a glitch' ready.

Fraudulent ‘popunder’ Google Ad campaign generated millions of dollars

Peter Prof Fox

Why would the ad networks care?

Their job is to claim as many impressions as possible for their clients. Clients go "Wow! a thousand ads a day. Must be working." Google is taking its cut from every click so why should it care?

Norway has a month left until sun sets on its copper phone lines

Peter Prof Fox

Uxbridge English Dictionary

Plummer Even more plumish.

Perhaps the writer meant plumber; from the latin for 'new depths of illiteracy'.

Epson zaps lasers into oblivion, in the name of the environment

Peter Prof Fox

Fake Out of Toner messages

My tiny Samsung laser printer has a habit of telling me it can't continue because it needs more toner. Bollocks! Give it a shake or thump and the life is doubled. Printing technology is inherently dishonest. I'm sure even the butcher substitutes pig's blood for ox. But good news, you can get away with not actual goose feathers for quills. Works fine on goat, sheep, even hamster parchments.

iFixit stabs batteries – for science – so you don't have to

Peter Prof Fox

Fruit Rollup?

Can we have that in English?

Just follow the instructions … no wait, not that instruction to lock everyone out of everything

Peter Prof Fox

Poor flake

If you want entertainment then this is the wrong place. The Register is about enlightenment. Who Me and On Call are lighthearted and not meant to feature wide-screen, technicolor horror for the benefit of hedonistic comentards.

Musk sows more Twitter chaos, now with Official policy snafu

Peter Prof Fox

Promise of slapstick comedy

'Twitter will do lots of dumb things in coming months.' is a trailer for those of us who like to watch incompetents get hurt by a never-ending series of self-induced calamities. Ha Ha. "Hey! Hey! Lookout a billion dollar banana skin!" Whoops! There he goes again. Oh dear. Drilling some 'freedom' holes in his boat is letting more water in. Splash! Splash! Whoops! Ha ha. Now he's trying to stop the rats leaving by blocking their exits with money.

More ludicrous antics next week!

Elon Musk reportedly outlines horrible Twitter layoff process

Peter Prof Fox

Takeover tumble

(Oblig. Never twitted.) It is sad when pioneers who struggled to bring something useful to the rest of us are elbowed aside by accountants who think they can milk the project and charge for previously free stuff or remove essentials or initiate a paradiddle of marketing-driven changes with little relevance to the core users.

On the other hand, this is Twitter. An opportunity, if ever there was one, to learn from the mistakes of others and build something better. Not sad at all.

Firefox points the way to eradicating one of the rudest words online: PDF

Peter Prof Fox

Long live PDFs

Reader applications can be a bit quirky but when you know what your human reader can see (eg "just to the left of that big number 3") then everyone is literally reading from the same hymn-sheet. None of your Fisher Price interaction. If you've ever tried making a 'technical' e-book you'll know the uselessness of hoping the device has a clue about even where to put your stuff on the screen. You can't say 'In the figure above...' because it might get put below. Try forcing decent columns.

Mind-you PDF readers need a big overhaul in usability. Why is it practically impossible to sign a PDF form? Yet financial institutions are all doing it.

Tetchy trainee turned the lights down low to teach turgid lecturer a lesson

Peter Prof Fox


(a) Attend a meeting without an agenda.

(b) Allow yourself to be sent on a course before checking the actual syllabus.

Learning is helped by knowing where to attach knowledge to existing knowledge. Having the overview from a proper syllabus clarifies this. It also means that you say to whoever trying to send you on a day/week/month of tedium "I know all this." Save the money and give me time off. Alternatively you might do some background reading or other preparation.

Pentagon: We'll pay you if you can find a way to hack us

Peter Prof Fox

What about a name for the prize?

Gary McKinnon Prize.

Or Lori Love award.

Comes with FREE extradition and DECADES in the slammer.

Cars in driver-assist mode hit a third of cyclists, all oncoming cars in tests

Peter Prof Fox

Funny misapplication of technology

Shouldn't it be the robot monitoring the human? DON'T rules are a lot easier to specify than fancy situation recognition. "If you speed once more Dave then you'll be reported to the police." "Why is your foot still n the throttle when there's red lights ahead?" "Get off your sodding phone." "You have noticed that Fire Engine with flashing blue lights haven't you?" But nag-bots aren't sexy. The UK government is in thrall to the hype.

Why the Linux desktop is the best desktop

Peter Prof Fox
Thumb Down

Out of the box...

New win devices come with rafts of dubious bloatware and practically uninstallable anti-virus. Most people don't seem to notice, then get scared when you say "let's remove this and this and this. To see if that makes it faster." Linux is much more start with a bare shell and add the bits you want. Also there's no pressure to register/activate/give an email address, or worse some id to 'improve' the experience.

If you fire someone, don't let them hang around a month to finish code

Peter Prof Fox

Assembler, machine-code and PAPER

Voice from another age here. We knew that any code was difficult to follow if it became lengthy, So we spent ages writing with things called pens on a thing called paper to design and document smaller and smaller modules until they were nugget size. Some rooms were walled with whiteboard and had assembler/machine code in screeds and cartouche flow-chart snippets.

In-line documentation is like having architectural plans in each room on a room by room basis. "This room is a meeting room for up to six people with a projector." and so on. I'm worried that the lack of skills in top-down design, lack of understanding the whole and undercurrents and lack of practice of creating a whole (sub)system picture has an even worse impact when people become unfamiliar with reading specifications and rush off to play with toys.

PS We need a grey-beard icon.

Never mind the Panic button – there's a key to Compose yourself

Peter Prof Fox

A much better method is single-key cycling

Because you tend to use a few 'accent' or 'adapted' characters frequently, even to chess symbols, it's easy to get used to pressing the base character and then (say) F8 a number of times. 2 then F8 will give you squared. e then F8 gives é, pressing F8 again gives ê and again gives è and so on. You might want these sets in combination. The magic thing is that if you get it wrong then put the cursor on the incorrect character and cycle, through the base character if necessary, to the one you want.

The learning curve is short and simple. The sequence Base - Accent - Accent say will give you your frequently used character decoration or symbol. For a UK keyboard £[F8] gives a euro. Automatic after a couple of times if you need euros. £▶€▶£, $▶¢▶$, c▶©▶c (Those arrows were ">-F8.)

It's far more complicated to describe than use. Free of course. http://vulpeculox.net/ax/index.htm

(Sadly, I don't know how to make a Linux keyboard driver, but the innards of the system are incredibly simple.)

Cryptocurrency 'rug pulls' cheated investors out of $8bn in 2021 – report

Peter Prof Fox


Would you accept my 10-Frufru banknote from the Bank of Ohmygiddyaunt?

What happened to sense? It used to be common.

Midwest tornado destroys Amazon warehouse, killing six after worker 'told not to leave'

Peter Prof Fox

Lessons 'will be learned'

I hope so.

Except for some reason I guess big corporations fancy lessons/laws/taxes/humanity don't apply to them.

How is it that ENORMOUS corporations with INCREDIBLE resources don't have the common sense CARE to get serious about safety until it's too late?

New UK product security law won't be undercut by rogue traders upping and vanishing, government boasts

Peter Prof Fox

Real person not needed

Anyone following the shambles that is the regulation of shell companies and LLPs in Private Eye will know that no checking goes on.

Why machine-learning chatbots find it difficult to respond to idioms, metaphors, rhetorical questions, sarcasm

Peter Prof Fox

Who cares?

The 'conversation' I've seen on social media seems to involve a lot of having to explain to actual people that certain messages were full of slippery ball bearings. Pointed irony and sarcasm are 'whoosh' over many people's heads. Of course that's the good reason for those of us with a grasp of communication to drown the ant-brains with more. Anyway Good People, keep Tickling the Tortoise.

(TtT is a great bogus business bullshit phrase to use in meetings. Drop it into the sludge and watch the buzz-phrase jockeys pretend they know what you mean.)

If it's going to rain within the next 90 mins, this very British AI system can warn you

Peter Prof Fox

Re: Helpful solution to DIRECTION of rain

What a surprise that as a Met Office person you can't see what's missing from your example. Those patches or rain could be moving in any direction. What use is that for predicting the next hour or so? None at all. Hence the two snapshots compared. Everything is fine at the Met Office...

Peter Prof Fox

Helpful solution to DIRECTION of rain

I'm rain averse. But if looking at a metoffice rain radar I can't tell what direction the rain is moving.

SOLVED! By the power of less than 200 lines of good old javascript you can see for yourself in a so-obvious-no-wonder-the met-office-aren't-interested way.

Here is my bench-top prototype. https://vulpeculox.net/misc/jsjq/rain/index.htm

It's the end of the world as we know it, and we should feel fine

Peter Prof Fox

Some rotten foundations and missing bits

No. We don't have everything we need. Not by a long chalk. Pioneers and innovators are still needed. It's not a matter of polishing the edges and adding some shiny trim.

* How about date/times that understand 'Not yet' and 'September 2021' or '31st January 2020 plus one month'. (https://vulpeculox.net/day/index.htm)

* How about instant access to cells in spreadsheet files as if it was a database?

* How about single key accents and special characters. i.e. using the same key for all modifications? (http://vulpeculox.net/ax/index.htm)

* How about backup software that anyone can use reliably?

* How about a calculator that spots errors by 'understanding' the compute?

* How about database sanitising that management can understand and businesses can implement?

* How about weeding the wrong and obsolete technical 'documentation' and trouble-shooting pages sloshing around the web?

* How about web search engines that allow you to exclude aggregation and recommendation sites. For example look for a place only to be swamped by poorly curated junk or Trip Advisor twaddle or properties or 'news'. If I want say 'electrical supplies' then I'm perfectly capable of typing that in. Search Engine - he say you can have all the other junk because we think it's popular.

It's great we have stuff that mostly 'just works'. It's sad that the ace minds of yesteryear have been replaced by the 'anyone can do it' brigade. eg Track-n-trace. There's very little quality in IT projects. Planning? Experience? Knowledge? Problem-solving at the design stage? Bring back limited resources where you had to work really hard in your head to get the essentials into the system.

Australia gave police power to compel sysadmins into assisting account takeovers – so they plan to use it

Peter Prof Fox

Evidence m'lud...

If the police can hack an account willy-nilly, including changing content, then I put it to you that any 'evidence' is planted.

Open-source software starts with developers, but there are other important contributors, too. Who exactly? Good question

Peter Prof Fox

Teaching collaboration

Should it not be de-rigueur that university-level students are taught collaboration as an important part of how to function in a rich environment? The open source-ness isn't important but knowing how to ask nicely, contribute and be a valued part of a software society are.

Think you can solve the UK's electric vehicle charging point puzzle? The Ordnance Survey wants to hear about it

Peter Prof Fox

Parking time and charging time mismatch

A lot of cars spend a lot of time parked. That seems fine until you realise it means one charging unit per car and a great deal of unused infrastructure. Suppose my car is parked at my home for 12 hours each night. In a garage I can hook up some wires and leave it. But as for public charging points... If the charge time on most days is say 2 hours, then that's 10 hours when it is occupying a charging unit doing absolutely nothing. Of course I could get up at 1am and move it (where?) to allow somebody else access.

Many residential streets don't have room for cars, let alone charging infrastructure.

One solution might be to have lots of charging at workplaces, but somehow I can't see that happening except in the few places with dedicated employee parking taking a tasty government subsidy.

Apple's bright idea for CSAM scanning could start 'persecution on a global basis' – 90+ civil rights groups

Peter Prof Fox

What if say Ford or Toyota...

What if motor manufacturers built-in tracking systems? Great for tracking down speeders (good) but also great for who attended what rave or political meeting. Where data is banked against the time it might be 'needed' by some enforcement agency, there is no opportunity to defend the most obvious defence "My car may have been there but so what?" Joe McCarthy lives! According to our records (sorry citizen, you can't get a complete copy of what we (and our partners) hold on you) you're a heterodox recidivist. Your car can be as good as a fingerprint even if it is another driver. As AI gets more prevalent (I didn't say more sophisticated) there will be many more false connections and it will be up to YOU to come up with a defence against a fluffy snowstorm of 'evidence'.

Apple is about to start scanning iPhone users' devices for banned content, professor warns

Peter Prof Fox

A stalking-horse for copyright protection

I have a copy (of uncertain provenance) of that iconic 1977s session by the Five-aside-archers with Beetle Wulvis on Bass Guitar. Sony Music just happen to have signed a hoover-up contract with somebody who claims to have some derived title to the tracks. In England they might sue me under copyright law but if it wasn't currently for sale they can't show a loss so that's two-fingers to them. (They have to demonstrate a loss.) But with other (c) enforcement regimes there are other consequences. Furthermore, having and playing (in England) is neither a crime or a civil tort unless they can prove I'm not entitled. (For example my copy came from Big Joey Frobisher himself.) But in this new world YOU HAVE COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL ON YOUR DEVICE! GO TO JAIL. DO NOT PASS GO. is the default position these mega corporations expect us to accept.

Stack Overflow survey: Microsoft IDEs dominate, GCP and Azure battle behind AWS

Peter Prof Fox

VSC doesn't tell me how to edit

We like our editors to be our hearths and our home. A familiar and threat-free place where we can do scrimshaw, knit, make poker-work pipe racks, train hamsters or whatever. Sometimes we go out hunting the Java dragon or COBOL monster or have a git-knot to untie. So we go, from our base into rough territory. But we are confident because we have weapons at our fingertips, ready after a nanosecond of reflex alt-ctrl-slash-bodge or whatever.

After dozens of editors (especially notepad++ over the years), I'm now using VSC. It doesn't tell me how to edit. (Actually it does; but I found how to switch-off all the annoying prompts for things my fingers know after all these years.) There's a huge amount of cleverness going on inside. So, out of the box it is missing features or intrusive. But those things can be fixed.

The 'code' bit of VSC is important in that it assumes you're actively coding not just hacking a config file or scanning a log file. There's always that ghost of Clippy pointing out spelling mistakes from another universe.

Survey of astronomers and geophysicists shines a light on 'bleak' systemic bullying

Peter Prof Fox

Did they do another test?

I'm 100% against bullying and abuses of assumed power. But did they ask the question: "Those of you who have been working for less than a year...Do you feel bullied?"

There's a big difference between 'Bullying cultures are allowed to exist' and 'Bullies target women/disabled/etcetera.'

An important point to remember is that people who feel they're being picked-on assume it doesn't happen to others. It's a victim's mentality that the aggressor catches on to and exploits.

Hundreds of irate UK Parliamentary staffers sue IPSA over 2017 salary spreadsheet publication snafu

Peter Prof Fox

The judge is wrong

Fred Smith of 22 Acacia Avenue might be 'harmless', but it's an instant prompt to look up his entry in the wild data. So it's not just the name and address being spread around.

How to use Google's new dependency mapping tool to find security flaws buried in your projects

Peter Prof Fox

One leaf out of a whole tree.

I know most people can't be bothered but what about using the information to prune library bloat. For example, suppose my Hello World application uses some date library which uses some internationalisation library which uses some foo and some bar. Except that my HW only actually uses one API call from the date library which only uses one API call from the internationalisation library. No matter, there are 100 extra routines lurking in my code. So surely I'd want to spend a Friday afternoon cutting out the tiny bit I do need, or rewriting etc. to avoid the date library overhead. Then I have a much more manageable development environment with fewer risks of being struck by a wild issue from out of the Wide Blue Yonder. (Plus other benefits.) Perhaps somebody could invent an 'optimising compiler' for or 'standard library internal dependency map reader/writer'.

New IETF draft reveals Egyptians invented pyramids to sharpen razor blades

Peter Prof Fox

A useful project

Although it may not have worked to sharpen razor blades, it got you (and me) interested in experimenting and actually trying something for ourselves. Was there something in our set-up that wasn't quite right. How do you actually make a pyramid? Is sellotape or compass direction going to interfere with the 'forces'. When you give up you're able to face loonies with confidence, and tell them if it's so easy they why don't they show you a working system.

In a world where opinions smother facts, actual experiments are fresh air. For your pleasure I enclose a link to a page I wrote long before Google existed. https://vulpeculox.net/misc/try.htm Seven easy to do-it-yourself experiments which are quirky know-all bait.

The Microsoft Authenticator extension in the Chrome store wasn't actually made by Microsoft. Oops, Google

Peter Prof Fox

qui authenticators et authenticas reddat?

An age old question.