* Posts by David Roberts

1585 posts • joined 25 Jan 2007

Telcos crammed 8.5m fake comments against net neutrality into FCC's inbox

David Roberts Silver badge

Confirm email address?

When joining most online sites, purchasing or fora, you are asked to confirm your email address by responding to an email.

I assume that this simple measure was considered too complicated?

Or perhaps too limiting?

Of course, automated generation of emails from a small number of privately owned domains gives the chance to automate the confirmation, but that might look suspicious.

Although suspicious doesn't seem to be a factor here.

Researchers say objects can hide from computer vision by seeking out unusual company that trips correlation bias

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Makes AI seem almost human

Reminds me of the classic experiment where observers are asked to focus on the actions of subjects in the foreground and don't even notice someone in the background

Watchdog 'enables Tesla Autopilot' with string, some weight, a seat belt ... and no actual human at the wheel

David Roberts Silver badge


When I first read that bit I assumed that a weight had been placed on the seat.

I knowy car uses a weight sensor to detect if there is someone in the passenger seat and display an alert if the seat belt isn't fastened.

I assume the Tesla has such a sensor.

If so it looks like programming logic


Is seat belt fastened?

If not, is seat occupied?

Not sure how easy it would be to test; presumably I would need to fasten the seatbelt, sit in the seat, then later climb out (as suggested up thread).

However assuming the driver's seat has a weight sensor that should be regularly checked, not just a weight on the steering wheel.

Note to self: check if fastening the driver's seatbelt then applying the foot brake will allow the car to be started.

Not a true test but then this isn't a car with any kind of autopilot or lane keeping system.

It will certainly run quite happily with nobody in the car.

Then again, doesn't really prove anything.

Something went wrong but we won't tell you what it is. Now, would you like to take out a premium subscription?

David Roberts Silver badge

Error handling

One reason I moved on from COBOL programming to more interesting things.

About two days of enjoyment coding the logic.

Then two months of excruciating boredom grinding through the systems spec to produce the myriad of subtly different error messages.

BOFH: Postman BOFH's Special Delivery Service

David Roberts Silver badge
Paris Hilton

Late night front garden job

Ah, the romantic memories!

At least, I assume that was what the description meant.

Better say no more in case I get myself into trouble.

Imagine your data center backup generator kicks in during power outage ... and catches fire. Well, it happened

David Roberts Silver badge

Re: Flywheels....

I have a vague memory of Motor Alternator sets wher a massive flywheel was spun up by mains power and drove an alternator.

This was meant to smooth out minor variations in the mains supply which would upset the mainframes

Didn't smooth out power dips, though, and I still twitch when the lights flicker.

'Anomalous surge in DNS queries' knocked Microsoft's cloud off the web last week

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Is it DNS?

It can't be DNS!

It was DNS.

[Traditional IT saying]

Openreach out and hike prices on legacy fixed-line products: Broadband plumber pulls trigger after Ofcom gives the nod

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Unused FTTP poles

I know two locations (one outside here) where there are the knobbly things on top of the poles ready for FTTP.

Two years or more and no sign of any service offering.

I have no idea why.

Bad news for automakers: That fire at the Renesas chip plant was worse than expected

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Machine learning devs, rejoice: You can now rent up to 16 Nvidia A100 GPUs on a single machine via Google

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Blurred face?

Not sure how this soles the issue of posting pictures of naked children.

Ministry of Defence tells contractors not to answer certain UK census questions over security fears

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Re: Census 2021 -cash for stats is ridiculous. Gov have EVERYTHING already. The list incomplete

As a very occasional auditor there is a case for asking for all the data then checking how closely it agrees with the electronic systems.

I doubt this is the intention though.

What could possibly go wrong? Sublet your home broadband to strangers who totally won't commit crimes

David Roberts Silver badge

Look at them yo-yos that's the way to do it

"Money for nothing but your nicked IP"

Kudos for the headline.

I have run a VPN server locally which trombones incoming connections so that when abroad I can still access services in the UK from my usual IP address.

Useful when you travel abroad (as far as I can remember - it's been a while).

I wouldn't sell that as a service though.

Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp pause usual data collection with an outage

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'No' does not mean 'yes'... unless you are a scriptwriter for software user interfaces

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And another thing - well some?

Cure for the "roots of your pubes" problem can be obtained from citizens of Brazil.

Some advances in language have unexpected results.

I'm pretty sure that the parents of Gay Search didn't anticipate that nominative determinism would force her to seek a same sex companion

I can recall when gay meant happy, laughing, cheerful person.

[May still do, of course....]

As opposed to being a replacement for more demeaning terminology.


What noise does a dog make?



David Roberts Silver badge

Re: Well - spare?

Can I propose we now use:




To avoid any confusion.

Microsoft settles £200,000+ claims against tech support scammers who ran global ripoff from cottage in Surrey

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Answering Machine

If it is genuine they may leave a message.

Scammers almost always don't.

US National Security Council urges review of Exchange Servers in wake of Hafnium attack

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Re: re: guess it's time to check the ol' servers... on an unpaid weekend...

Ummmm....point on the Exchange Server to where the man hurt you?

Seagate UK customer stung by VAT on replacement drive shipped via the Netherlands

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Re: I believe that Seagate disks are made outside of the EU

I feel seen.

Happy birthday, Python, you're 30 years old this week: Easy to learn, and the right tool at the right time

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Re: Why do some people not like python's indentation=code block container

I've waded through the tab and white space thing with minimal comprehension.

What I do remember is working on source code where braces "{ }" enclosed blocks of code, and this seemed a reasonable approach.

I also recall text editors (gvim?) which could highlight code blocks in different colours by matching open and close braces.

Then again, that was a while back.

David Roberts Silver badge

Good reference guide?

My last programming was about 12 years ago in Perl.

Still probably my go to language for quick hacks of text based data.

I thought I might have a look at Python and downloaded a couple of free introductions onto my Kindle but either I am missing something or they are crap.

So Python 101 please.

Free if possible but I can pay if I have to.

David Roberts Silver badge

Re: not so easy to learn


Microsoft issues emergency fix for Wi-Fi foul-up delivered hot and fresh on Patch Tuesday

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Re: Got me twice, I think - 2004

One Dell system I had to wait a long time for 2004.

Turned out that some drivers related to Thunderbolt needed updating before it was suitable to upgrade.

Dell update utility identified all the out of date drivers but hung when trying to apply them.

Much cursing and manually installing each patch later all was up to date.

Then some days later the update appeared

We know it's hard to get your kicks at work – just do it away from a wall switch powering anything important

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Re: My favourite one....RJ45

Especially the ones with shrouds to protect the "easy release" tab.

Had to cut all the flappy stuff off with wire cutters to get a cable out of my laptop the other week.

Dept of If I'd Known 20 Years Ago: Call centres, roosting chickens, and Bitcoin

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Re: Call Waiting...Gateway 2000

In defence of Gateway their UK operation was pretty good.

I recall support via email, and having a support engineer come out and fix a hardware fault on my Tower system under warranty.

Footfallcam kerfuffle: Firm apologises, promises to fix product after viral Twitter thread, infoseccer backlash

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I mentioned the tweets to El Reg over a week ago (they were already on the case) and I was wondering why the write up was delayed.

ThinkPad T14s AMD Gen 1: Workhorse that does the business – and dares you to push that red button

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About ball mice....

Anyone else remember a tiny ball mouse which would clip to the side of a laptop keyboard?

Wonderful idea but haven't seen one for decades.

Hacked by SolarWinds backdoor masterminds, Mimecast now lays off staff after profit surge

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Re: RPi

More likely they were seeing increased use of the tool set and decided to include the repo in the standard install.

My suspicion is that for the users the penny didn't drop that any standard repo will obviously be polled for changes every time you update.

The maintainers could consider this so blindingly obvious that they didn't think that they had to mention it explicitly.

Probably a large part of the user base just updated (or new installed) without reading the release notes.

I hold my hand up to doing that with a quick and dirty install from time to time.

Nespresso smart cards hacked to provide infinite coffee after someone wasn't too perky about security

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No mention so far and it does make an exceptional cup of coffee.

However mine rarely gets used as I start the day with a very strong instant coffee then daren't drink any more or I'm still twitching at midnight.

Transcribe-my-thoughts app would prevent everyone knowing what I actually said during meetings

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Keep it brief and pertinent.

Once attended a document review when the project had announced a change of scope which rendered the document redundant.

Authors still wanted to review the document.

Presumably one of their performance targets.

SpaceX powers through bad case of wind to nail Falcon 9's eighth droneship landing

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Makes NASA look a bit pedestrian.

On his way out, Trump emits exec order suggesting US cloud giants must verify ID of all foreign customers

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Was it Trump?

Sounds vaguely sensible so perhaps someone else drafting it.

Punting a good idea at the last moment to claim kudos seems trivial in the great scheme of things though.

As noted, the devil is in the implementation detail.

SolarWinds mess that flared in the holidays: Biz confirms malware targeted crocked Orion product

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Trust noone

The biggest flaw in all this was the perhaps lazy assumption that the software was safe and secure.

It is an overwhelming challenge to trust noone. Not the OS, not the network, not the AV, none of the applications in house or external.

Not the compilers, source code country, nothing.

Paranoia is expensive, though, and there is a temptation to assume that somebody else has checked it because they are using it.

We are all doomed, aren't we?

Explained: The thinking behind the 32GB Windows Format limit on FAT32

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Paris Hilton

Command line?

My probably dumb assumption is that the dialogue box is merely a front end to save the dumb user from having to use the command line and remember the options.

If so it shouldn't (hah!) be a major development to update the dialogue box to allow a larger cluster size and larger volume.

Unless I am missing something obvious.

Well, on the bright side, the SolarWinds Sunburst attack will spur the cybersecurity field to evolve all over again

David Roberts Silver badge

Funding model?

As already mentioned upstream this might be all down to the money and time available to the core developers to look internally at their processes and not just at the agressive targets for the next commercial release.

Like a high security business with massive front office security, turnstiles, finger and retinal printing etc. Which, it turns out, makes it impossible for the developers in the basement working 7 days weeks to meet an arbitrary deadline to get out of hours pizza deliveries. So they modify a back door to the server room so the alarm doesn't sound when the delivery guy calls.

Possible moral is to spend a bit more on your core team even if it makes the performance metrics look worse.

We didn't get hacked because.....is very hard to prove.

No doubt the blame will fall on the developers and not those responsible for not funding internal security.

Noting also that if you are a criminal one of your primary aims is to subvert the police force. Also noting Burgess et al.

BOFH: Time for the MMOCC. You know, the Massively Moronic Online Christmas Call

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Merry whatever

Too busy cooking and eating to check for a new episode.

However I am with the PFY in not wanting to touch home systems.

Unless trying to install the same software on Windows from 2000 to 10 plus Apple variants, chrome books, that interesting ARM device, a netbook running obsolete Linux......is seen as an interesting challenge.

Well, unless the aim is to nuke them all from orbit.

Roma, we've had un problema: When every flight's final destination is a date with Windows Boot Manager

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Staff hide

Memories of a {cough} few years ago coming back from a holiday in Italy.

Flights disrupted, Italian passengers mobbed information desks shouting and screaming and all the staff ran away and hid.

All very strange, but apparently traditional.

Very different from the "Sorry, old chap, hate to bother you but..." approach traditional in the UK at the time. (See icon.)

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

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Passive monitoring?

If the software checks for active monitoring software and access to the Internet then presumably passive monitoring at the network boundary would see the traffic.

Getting towards watching the horse bolt out of the stable door, but at least you can watch which way it is going.

David Roberts Silver badge

Re: Mr Irrelevant Tweets what?

Good to see the rest of the administration are basically ignoring Trump.

Google reveals version control plus not expecting zero as a value caused Gmail to take an inconvenient early holiday

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No wonder they were stuffed.

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

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Heat sinks should have fins?

Some time after the last cat died (aged 23) I was investigating an overheating problem in our PCs.

Apart from the usual fluff, all the fins of the CPU heat sinks had become smooth with all the gaps between the fins filling up with crud.

I assume it was cat related.

All working again apart from one which may have a flaky PSU.

I'm a bit wary of investigating that for fur, fluff and filth

What does my neighbour's Tesla have in common with a stairlift?

David Roberts Silver badge

Re: If it was me...SORN

Do they do SORN in France?

Japan pours millions into AI-powered dating to get its people making babies again

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Eventually self fixing

If the ethnic Japanese continue in this way then the required replacements will eventually be provided by immigration from other cultures

Either there will be a constant flow of young people who are willing to assimilate and not breed or the new young will not accept the conditions which are currently depressing the birth rate.

Either way there will be genetic and cultural drift until the whole thing sorts itself out.

Over population and over work to prop up a society which does not want to breed is eventually self limiting.

Which makes me also wonder if ethnic Japanese who want a work life balance and to raise kids will emigrate to other societies which offer these options, thus making the situation even worse for Japan but possibly better for the diverse human race.

Useful quantum computers will be impossible without error correction. Good thing these folks are working on it

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photonic cat qubits

More special than the dog's bollocks.

A 1970s magic trick: Take a card, any card, out of the deck and watch the IBM System/370 plunge into a death spiral

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Re: Those were the days Tester


They were purged in a Tester cull.

Mysterious Utah monolith mysteriously disappears without trace

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Re: Monolith?

Is the one in France the Monolitha?

For every disastrous rebrand, there is an IT person trying to steer away from the precipice

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One Per Desk?

Also branded as Tonto for some stupid reason.

PC makers warn of battle for air freight capacity, will have to fight for cargo space with... the COVID-19 vaccine

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Fly more planes?

There are a lot parked up at the moment.

If I pedal faster and feed it spinach, my robot barman might pull more pints

David Roberts Silver badge

Re: I want to get something to help me walk

I'm struggling with the concept of enduring discomfort and reduced mobility to avoid "looking like a rambler".

I give very few tosses over the opinion of others if something makes my life less painful.

Sorry to hear about the damage, though.

Considering the colonisation of Mars? Werner Herzog would like a word

David Roberts Silver badge

A few points

For those saying effectively "well we colonised America, how hard can it be?" I could point out that America (and Australia for another example) were already populated by humans when the modern invaders arrived.

There were abundant supplies of food and water and plenty of raw materials to build shelters and the climate was agreeable for most of the year.

Survival required little more than basic tools to get started, although you did need some survival knowledge and tool making and agricultural skills would help (remarkably lacking in a lot of early expeditions I read).

Those talking about masses of people moving off Earth. This is not the most fuel efficient way to populate a new planet. Far more efficient to move well engineered production facilities out and replicate humans on site. Ovaries and testes are remarkably compact compared to the finished product and you can screen for (in your view) desirable traits in the producers. Compare this to our planet where the "bangs per buck" made it cost effective to move humans in bulk to provide labour in the colonies. Hence prisoners and slaves.

The poor aren't going to get a look in either. The high cost of shipping humans to orbit and beyond and sustaining them will almost certainly lead to an indentured elite living off Earth under conditions dictated by the financiers who provided the transport and accomodation.

So for the race overall it makes sense to move off planet and spread the risk. For all but a vanishingly small minority it will make no difference. We are stuck on this polluted mud ball and so are our descendants.

The planet will most likely survive in some form whatever hits it. It has so far. Life will also survive, although not as we know it (Jim). Humanity is a fly speck on the timeline of Earth.

Anyway, go Elon. Humanity needs to infect the Universe before this local infestation gets sterilised.

David Roberts Silver badge

Re: Locusts? Triffids?

Read the original book by John Wyndham.

Triffids were of terrestrial origin and from genetic engineering; a crop to produce oil cake as feed IIRC.

I hear that someone modified the plot to turn it into a film with some bollocks about them dissolving in sea water.


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