* Posts by Ian Mason

104 posts • joined 27 Jun 2014


Scientists use supercritical carbon dioxide to power the grid

Ian Mason

Downvoted for using units of Kelvin Watts.

Ian Mason

Re: Energy or power?

Presactly. I gave up at that point and came to the comments to look for the green ink button and start writing because I cannot trust someone to write about thermodynamics (that's what this is all about right?) if they can't distinguish units of power (10 kW) and units of energy (10 kWh).

If the person writing is that ill informed then there's nothing stopping the people feeding them this information from pulling the wool over their eyes. Fine, Sandia are unlikely to do that, but what if someone lets them interview the latest of those series of chancers doomed to failure peddling wireless power for your x (where x has been several things, but the latest set of chancers are targeting gaming gear) - cf Batteroo, uBeam, Energous et al. The latest, the one targeted at gaming, is called Quaze (which sounds like a school kids' Metal band).

NASA selects 'full force' for probe into UFOs

Ian Mason

Re: SpaceX

Yeah, "Elon Musk remained silent on the matter" that could be a 2020's definition of oxymoron.

Two years on, Apple iOS VPNs still leak IP addresses

Ian Mason

That's simple, if someone ever publishes anything critical enough to actually upset someone at Apple, then Apple throws its toys out of the pram and, like a sulky teenager, refuses to ever speak to them again. They are notorious for doing so "in the trade". It's an organization with an ego more fragile than Donald Trump.

In the past Apple typically only did this to individual journalists, as far as I know el Reg was the first time that they've done it to a whole publication but I'm more than willing to be corrected on that point.

Post-quantum crypto cracked in an hour with one core of an ancient Xeon

Ian Mason

What purple and commutes?

An abelian grape!

I'll get my coat. It's the one with the Euler identity printed on the scarf hanging out of it.

US EV drivers won't be able to choose vehicle safety alert sounds

Ian Mason

A single fixed sound?

A single universal fixed sound is probably missing a trick. If we mandate that every EV sounds the same as every other EV how will we be able to tell if the best warning sound was selected in the first place? If there are a range of sounds in use then time will tell which are effective and which are not, just as time has done with various emergency vehicle warning sounds. There needs to be just enough commonality so that a warning sound is recognisable for what it is, but no more than that - for the time being.

Ian Mason

Re: Horse power

No, it was the sound of panting whippets and the swish of a tweed flat cap being doffed.

Is this you in this explicit snap? No, it's just Discord phishing

Ian Mason


> Back in the day, one of The Register's own vultures was on the receiving end of one of these scams: an email blackmailing the mark into paying a ransom to prevent the leak of an explicit, compromising video that didn't actually exist.

I find this disappointing. Back in the proper "back in the day" the Reg's contributors were entertaining enough that there was very little likelihood that wasn't kompromat a plenty to be had on them.

India extends deadline for compliance with infosec logging rules by 90 days

Ian Mason

Pushy ignorant boss syndrome

The Indian Government seems to acting like a pushy boss who knows nothing about computing but just insists that their staff can do the physically impossible or wholly impracticable if they're pushed hard enough.

Well, the worst a boss can do is fire you or make things bad enough that you choose to resign, a government can gaol you. The pushy boss either eventually gets fired themselves or their company goes under (the syndrome seems to attach to business owners more often than employed managers). Your only way to deal with a government like that is to leave the country or overthrow it. I wonder what's going to happen to the Indian government?

Microsoft-backed robovans to deliver grub in London

Ian Mason

Re: Canals....

Given the number of vehicles I've seen floating in Ferry Road Teddington, not long. If the drivers being used as training material are the same quality as the muppets who regular park in the flood zone at the end of that road then it's simply a matter of time.

Who knows, perhaps the middle of the Grand Union will look like a pristine, unoccupied area of parking tarmac to a diverless (sic) vehicle's AI? For sure if it's trained on DPD driver's data it won't look for signs permitting parking before doing so, just pull up anywhere (like the middle of a single lane road), slam on the hazards and "the job's a good un".

Ubiquiti sues Krebs on Security for defamation

Ian Mason

Re: I cannot wait...

Probably more so. An external hacker just wants to make a buck, a disgruntled (ex-)employee wants them to HURT.

Android's Messages, Dialer apps quietly sent text, call info to Google

Ian Mason


I would not be surprised to find that this falls within criminal stalking legislation in some jurisdictions.

Facebook fined peanuts after Giphy staff quit and firm didn't tell UK competition regulators

Ian Mason

Surely we need a "totting up" system for corporate scofflaws

OK, a few million in fines is chump change to the likes of Facebook. They can afford to ignore regulators.

So, as well as fines, why not have system that says "If your business is fined X times in Y years, then you get an automatic penalty for being a scofflaw". It could be withdrawal of permission to operate in certain markets at all for a number of years, or an automatic fine set at a level that no business could ignore based on a significant percentage of profit or turnover, escalating rapidly if they do it again. So, if you're Facebook you can absorb the first few millions in fines, but the tens of billions in automatic fines for being a scofflaw you couldn't ignore.

We do it in the UK for driving offences, why not for corporate ones?

(For the non-Brits, you can lose your UK driving licence by committing too many relatively minor traffic offences within a sliding window of time. If you accumulate 12 penalty points within a three year period you get an automatic 1 year ban from driving; the minimum for any offence is 3 points, more serious offences carry more points.)

Instant Ump: HP Inc's subscription ink services hiking prices from next month

Ian Mason

Re: Ability?

A friend at university was a comic book and commercial artist on the side. Because of his *ahem* flexible attitude to deadlines he styled his work as having been penned by "Last Minute Inc.".

More contractor pain: Parasol's sister firms, SJD Accountancy and Nixon Williams, confirm cyberattack

Ian Mason

Clearsky too?

At time of writing Clearsky's main website is up as normal, but their customer portal seems to be offline although they are resolving in DNS (to a Microsoft address block, so one presumes an Azure instance). They have NOT emailed their clients with any information, at least I haven't received any notifications from them.

Buy 'em by the punnet: Raspberry Pi offers RP2040 chips in bulk

Ian Mason

Re: Unobtainium

At this point in the game I'd be happy with a guarantee that I could design in any particular STM32 and expect to be able to order them in batches of 20 at any time; rather than see what I can buy, see it if suits and making a "last time buy" of as many as I can scrape funds together for.

It's got so bad that I'm even thinking of buying Microchip (Atmel) parts or NXP. :(

Digikey have 48,500 RP2040s in stock at time of writing. Shame it's no use to me...

Snap continues to make a spectacle of itself as it tries to trademark the word spectacles

Ian Mason

Re: You could see that decision coming

On refraction it was obvious that someone would say that.

US Army journal's top paper from 2021 says Taiwan should destroy TSMC if China invades

Ian Mason

Re: US Army plans to destroy world economy.

No it’s not, and if you think that a company that represents 50% of the world’s fab capacity is just turning out “3090 graphics cards or other 5nm parts” then you’ve got a rather poor grasp of what the semiconductor industry produces.

Ian Mason

US Army plans to destroy world economy.

"US Army journal's top paper from 2021 says Taiwan should destroy TSMC if China invades"

And then watch the Western economy tank as the world supply of all the many various vendor's chips TSMC manufacture for them dries up. One only has to watch what's happening at the moment with semiconductor shortages to get a flavour of that. TSMC has a 50% market share of the total world silicon foundry market, heavily biased toward the more crucial high density and low power areas of the market.

In other news, Pinocchio cuts off his own nose to spite his face.

A proposal to beat below-the-belt selfies: Crowdsourced machine learning using victims' image stashes

Ian Mason

Re: They’d know they’d been spared the sight of some bloke’s bits

That's exactly what prompted me to hit the comments - "What happens if you want to send someone a Duckpic?".

The likelihood of me sending a dick pic to anyone, even for legitimate reasons to a medical professional, is vanishingly small. The probability however of me sending a duck pic to someone is quite high, it sounds exactly like the kind of thing I would do. I would not wish to make a pariah out of myself just because of some innocent comic ornithology.

Ian Mason

But surely that fails at the mens rhea test in (b) as one presumes that the intent of most senders is for the recipient to swoon in admiration and immediately succumb to a rush of lust to the, erm, head.

Co-Operative Bank today 'terminated' Capita's outsourcing contract years before it was due to expire

Ian Mason

Co-Operative Bank clearly wants to leave on good terms, saying that working with Capita had been a "positive experience" and "we'd explore opportunities to work with them again in the future."

I think someone missed the soto-voce end of that sentence ", when hell freezes over."

Russia blows up old satellite, NASA boss 'outraged' as ISS crew shelters from debris

Ian Mason

Molesworth! See me in my study before prep!

Not only MSPs: All cloudy firms are in line for UK security law crackdown

Ian Mason

I am so pleased that the government, that is clearly world-leading in the arena of setting computer standards, and consummate at delivering computer systems that are on-time, on-budget and hugely successful, is going to create mandatory frameworks that we will all have to use and pay for - NOT!

If they go down this route there is a genuine risk that after you've paid all various minister's mate's companies for your audits, certifications, mandatory training and so on that there won't be any money left in the budget to pay for any actual security.

UK Treasury and Bank of England starting to sound serious about 'Britcoin'

Ian Mason

Re: No

You don't seem to realise that a central bank cryptocurrency doesn't need to be a "proof of work" currency like Bitcoin et al, it will be a fiat currency that is 'issued' by the Bank, just as it currently issues sterling. It will require nothing more energy intensive than a digital signature or three, similar in energy impact to the cryptography being used to convey my words to you.

Nothing to see here, says IBM, Redbooks are still a thing. Move along please

Ian Mason

Re: "There was no backtracking here"

Yeah, exactly that. What message are your sending if it's obvious to all and sundry that you're lying through your teeth. Oh I know, "You cannot trust the people I speak for."

Labour Party supplier ransomware attack: Who holds ex-members' data and on what legal basis?

Ian Mason

Re: Didn't Labour recently recruit a former Israeli Spy

Yes, Israelis have to do national service for 2 1/2 years - he was in a cyber warfare unit for 5 years (and there's nothing to say that is his sole time in military service) so I think that says 'career military' rather than 'conscript'. That doesn't imply that he's a malicious actor, unless one is predisposed to regard any Israeli military volunteer as malicious.

That said, I'd be deeply suspicious of any foreign national with a military intelligence background embedding themselves into the administration of another country's major political party, especially where they could potentially have unfettered access to membership details, emails, etc. Employing such seems a bit careless to me.

I've passed over job applications from similar when I was working in the telco/ISP arena. "You what? You hired an ex-spy from another country to work on core telecommunications systems and you didn't think that might be a problem?" Yeah, best to dodge the inherent risks with that one.

One of the companies I worked with during that time was Finnish. Over there it's a legal requirement for telco employees to be vetted by the Finnish Secret Police. Might seem a bit extreme, but I can see the logic in it. One hopes that the Finnish Secret Police were pursuing a security angle rather than looking for people they could subvert; I wish I could say that I thought MI5 would be that honourable in similar circumstances.

Navigating without GPS is one thing – so let's jam it and see what happens to our warship

Ian Mason


In precision timekeeping, of the electronic variety, there is a technique known as the three cornered hat that allows you to take three clocks (as in signals with a defined but slightly varying frequency) and figure out the most likely estimate of the 'true' time and plot variances in the accuracy of the three individual clocks against the 'true' time. Without knowing at the beginning which clock(s) are 'right' you can work towards knowing the correctness of all of them. For those who care, it's done by comparing covariances of each pair of clocks with the third. One place it can be used is in figuring out the 'true' time according to GPS and hence your 'true' position.

The mathematics of the three cornered hat technique ought to work just as well on three bearings, as long as you took continuous bearings to give yourself the time series that the technique requires. Not exactly practical unless they are either radio bearing that you can automate, or you've got three Ensigns you want to keep busy and out from under proper officer's feet. I just found the parallel with the 'cocked hat' and the similarity in names quite intriguing.

Clegg on its face: Facebook turns to former UK deputy PM to fend off damaging headlines

Ian Mason

The outrage is that the Lib Dems promised not to raise fees and then did a U-turn and supported the Torys in doing so. In the cesspit that is politics the Lib Dems stood for two things: integrity and pursing policies based on reason rather than doctrine. The first time in ages that they had any power they immediately abandoned both and in the process abandoned everybody who supported them because they espoused those values. They became the same as the other parties "will do or say anything to gain power or hold on to it".

China to push RISC-V to global prominence – but maybe into a corner, too, says analyst

Ian Mason

Re: better power consumption performance promise

You're missing the point. In the microcontroller sector power consumption performance is not about environmental impact, it's about "How long will the battery in this remote sensor last?", "How heavy will the battery be in this portable device?" and other similar performance/weight/longevity tradeoffs.

Intuit branches out into email marketing by splashing $12bn on Mailchimp acquisition

Ian Mason

Re: Yes, that's exactly what I need

I did that, including banning lots of other domains associated with mailchimp, ages ago because all they did was spew spam. In the several years since I've had to add *one* exception for something that I actually want to receive.

DoorDash, Grubhub, Uber Eats sue NYC for trying to permanently cap delivery fees

Ian Mason

Re: Working class?

The word "moratorium" doesn't mean whatever it is you think it does.

Apple stalls CSAM auto-scan on devices after 'feedback' from everyone on Earth

Ian Mason

Re: Hey Apple!

> How exactly do you propose that Apple create an OS that prevents them, the OS developer, through a mechanism they cannot break through, from making changes to it?

How? Very simple, require a trusted third party to review their code and certify that it not sliding any back doors in. Add usual code signing mechanisms so that an iDevice won't run anything at system level that's not signed by "The committee of security experts for keeping Apple honest", just as Apple do for third party developers. The irony here is that there's enough hardware security on current iDevices to make this practicable.

Ian Mason

Hey Apple!

You took your reputation as "more on the side of your customer's privacy than any other vendor out there", you doused it in petrol, and set light to it.

"pause"? - Don't make me laugh cynically in your face. You think that "pausing" the rollout will help mend your reputation? Nope, you're toast. If you ever run another "privacy focused" ad campaign like you did recently in the UK you'll just remind customers that you're a bunch of hypocrites. The only thing that might save you is an about face, adding security mechanisms to your products that make it impossible for you to ever try adding anything like this again, and *proving* it to the public.

You've already, to my personal knowledge, cost yourself sales from this - i.e. people have said to me "I'm not buying any more Apple kit because of this." and one person I know is in the middle of eradicating Apple products from his house (quite a few) as a direct consequence of this.

Spring tears down math geek t-shirt listing because it dared to mention the trademarked word 'zeta'

Ian Mason

Erase them from the Internet

OK, I may not be able to erase them from the whole Internet, but I can erase them from my bit of it:

> ian@desk:~$ ssh root@nameserver


> No mail.

> Last login: Thu Sep 2 19:52:08 2021 from desk

> 20:01:25 up 16 days, 7:57, 1 user, load average: 1.54, 0.56, 0.20

> root@nameserver:~# cd /etc/bind

> root@nameserver:/etc/bind#


> root@nameserver:/etc/bind# ed policy.zone

> 11253

> /insert new records here/a

> teespring.com CNAME .

> *.teespring.com CNAME .

> .

> w

> 11278

> q

> root@nameserver:/etc/bind# make

> Zone file policy.zone changed.

> Updating serial number on policy.zone.

> Notifying nameserver to use updated zone policy.zone.

> Done.


> root@nameserver:/etc/bind# exit

There, done. The delights of running your own DNS firewall, you can blackhole any domain you like.

Leaked Guntrader firearms data file shared. Worst case scenario? Criminals plot UK gun owners' home addresses in Google Earth

Ian Mason

Re: Storage

That's wrong in just about every way. Lots of people keep firearms locked up at home that are only used for target shooting with an express endorsement on their firearms certificate that that is where they are to be stored when not in use.. Private possession of a Handgun has not been permitted since 1997 and would land you in court for possession of a section 5 prohibited weapon followed by a mandatory minimum of 5 years in choakie.

Fix five days of server failure with this one weird trick

Ian Mason

Re: Power supply on the floor?

I used to support these in their Convergent Technologies guise, who were the original equipment manufacturer for the badge engineered Burroughs/Unisys version.

The 'power brick' was connected by a rather stiff flat cable with, from memory, RJ-10 connectors on both ends - one of the wider RJ variants anyway. Power bricks were a known cause of trouble as far as we were concerned - "Try a different power brick" was our equivalent of "Have you turned it off and on again?". The customer should have got Convergent hardware and support from us instead of the same thing with a Burroughs/Unisys badge on the front. :-)

As to "server" - not really. These were desktop machines. Convergent did make 'proper' server versions of these, but this is obviously a case of "The bank that likes to say 'Computer says no'" cheaping out and using desktop hardware in lieu of the, significantly more expensive, server variant. That or the appropriate hardware wasn't available from Unisys but only direct from Convergent - the Burroughs/Unisys versions of these used to lag several years behind the Convergent machines.

The Convergent NGEN, as it was properly known, was actually quite a cool machine - way ahead of PCs of the time for ease of configurability. Add-ons came as 'slices', boxes in the same form factor as the base CPU unit. To add a hard disk, a fancy graphics card, a tape drive, or somesuch to the machine you just turned it off, took a clip-on blanking plate off the side of the machine, pushed the self contained 'slice' onto the side, flipped a lever that locked them together, put the blanking palte back on and powered it back up. Total time 30 seconds plus boot time. The worst case was if you'd exceeded the power budget, in which case you needed to add an additional power brick to bring it back within spec. Also come with builtin local area network as standard (a multidrop serial affair running at a few Mb/s) at a time when an Ethernet card or any networking in a PC was a rarity.

Razer ponders how to fix installer that grants admin powers if you plug in a mouse

Ian Mason

Re: "[Apple] complies with the laws in the countries it operates"

They really have screwed the pooch on this one, in the breif space of a couple of weeks they have effectively gone from "We're the champions of our customer's privacy" to "Let's face it, we were lying through our teeth and you really should have worked that out".

I note that they have stopped running their privacy campaign adverts in the UK. I don't know whether this is because they can't bring themselves to continue to tell such a bald faced lie, or whether it's simply that they realise they'd be wasting what they really care about - money.

Fancy joining the SAS's secret hacker squad in Hereford as an electronics engineer for £33k?

Ian Mason

Re: No comment

And in the very next story I read on el Reg, they're paying McKinsey £3 million for 8 weeks work. I'll save you reaching for the calculator - that's 242 years at £33k a year.

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

Ian Mason

You can't train an AI on hashes, it has to have the original images.

In the UK at least, as originally put into law, mere possession with no regard to the intent of possessing such images is a criminal offence.

This originally led to a regime of selective prosecution just to work around the sheer stupidity that the police were committing criminal offences by retaining the same as evidence. I believe that particular stupidity has been legislated away, but mere possession is still strictly illegal for individuals/companies whether they know they are in possession or not, and whether they are in possession for what anybody would see as a legitimate purpose (e.g. to create hashes, preserve evidence to hand to the police etc.). Witness the senior Met. police officer (Ch Supt Novlett Robyn Williams) who was prosecuted for possession when she claimed not to even know that someone had sent her the material.

Ian Mason

Re: Don't use your iPhone in church

No, that's "whitewashed". Even Jesus said so. ;-)

Ian Mason

So Apple have solved the problem of what to do with that pile of cash?

That'll be handing it over to all the people who sue them for this. If the police in most civilised countries need a warrant to search your possessions for unlawful material, what authority do Apple claim for this gross abuse of civil liberties? What theory of law do they have that they think they have carte blanche to start searching through people's phones?

What do their marketing department think about all that money that they've wasted touting Apple's privacy credentials now that another part of Apple has just completely trashed those credentials overnight.

Really Apple? With all your shouting about privacy I really expected better from you.

Anyone who says "Think of the kiddies" and there's no doubt going to be some here: It's always used as the excuse for inserting the thin end of the wedge, and then at the first excuse whacking the other end with a bloody great mallet. A recitation of the evils that follow bending the rules of civil hygiene for some "special case" ought not to be necessary. But for those thinking "Well, it's only going to affect paedophiles" anyone with one jot of sense knows that if this is permitted then there will be another "good and worthy" case permitted, then another less worthy until it trickles down to the point where your phone's camera will feed the onboard AI, which will note the double yellow line you just parked on and immediately debit your bank account the parking fine and put points on your digital driving license.

I no longer have a burning hatred for Jewish people, says Googler now suddenly no longer at Google

Ian Mason

Re: This is confusing

"... but I also fail to see why people with American nationality can't also acknowledge their ethnicity at the same time."

But the impression is that they do it all the the time, regardless of how removed from that original ethnicity they are. Brits don't do it, Canadians don't do it, Aussies and Kiwis don't do it. Of all the major English speaking peoples only the Americans seem to have this need to identify as something more than plain American.

It took me years to discover that a British mate had Ukrainian grandparents on both sides. As far as he and I were concerned he was English, well "Saaaf Lundun" actually. If he was an American he would have told me he was "Ukrainian American" on or before the second time we met. At least he would have based on the Americans I know personally, all of whom I can recite (often long removed) ethnic origins for. As it was, his Ukrainian ancestry took 10 years to come out when provoked by its immediate relevance to something we were discussing.

Windows 11 still doesn't understand our complex lives – and it hurts

Ian Mason

"... whatever Teams calls its sub-Slack group chat system."

John Wayne ... ? (I suspect only Rupert will get this. Well, him and anyone old enough and imbued with sufficient Slack.)

I'll get my coat. It's the one with a pipe in the pocket.

EE and Three mobe mast surveyors might 'upload some virus' to London Tube control centre, TfL told judge

Ian Mason

I wonder whether "TfL’s barrister Mischa Balen" is related ....

... to one General Sir Anthony Hogmanay Melchett? They certainly say things that sound like the kind of things Melchett would say, cf:

"Security" isn't a dirty word Blackadder.

"Crevice" is a dirty word, but "security" isn't.

It's terrible what hundreds of years of inbreeding can do to the human mind.

Now, no doubt, they will be fretting over the tribunal judge pooh-poohing their claims about the risks of letting those horrible engineer and surveyor oiks into the building..

After staff revolt, Freenode management takes over hundreds of IRC channels for 'policy violations'

Ian Mason


So, Andrew Lee finds himself on a boat with a smoking gun in his hand, blood pouring out of his foot, and water welling up underneath it where the new hole is, and it's everybody else's fault that the boat is now sinking? Yes, Andrew; good luck with getting anyone over the age of two to believe you.

RIP Spencer Silver: Inventor of the Post-it Note, aka the office password reminder, dies

Ian Mason

Yes, but what's his gravestone going to be?

I dearly hope that he, or his remaining family have the wit to produce a memorial fitting to the co-inventor of the Post-It note.

Ian Mason

Re: RIP Spencer

Not under the keyboard, but a tale of passwords on little notes:

Many years ago, after a cock-up at work that meant a magazine ended up late at the printers because someone was away and their network share was thereby inaccessible, the editor issued an edict that the managing editor should be given copies of everyone's passwords and a clipboard was produced with a list for everyone to add their password to and pass around. After yours truly pointed out the idiocy of handing the keys to the whole kingdom in plain sight to everyone we compromised on passwords in sealed envelopes being handed over.

Being personally a bit distrustful of this situation I changed my actual network password to "F**k off Johnny you nosy bastard" and duly recorded this in a sealed envelope. The theory was if Johnny decided to take a sneaky peek when he shouldn't have he wouldn't believe that this was actually a password and give up at that point. Trust me, anybody who knows Johnny knows he's exactly the type to read other people's email if he could. It was a pain in the posterior to type - in an age where most people's passwords were 6 characters - but it was vaguely satisfying to know that at some point he was going to have read it and couldn't say anything about it.

Names changed to protect the guilty.

Microsoft demotes Calibri from default typeface gig, starts fling with five other fonts

Ian Mason


Bierstadt looks a bit fuzzy to me, and I expect it's going to look a lot less attractive in the morning.

UK's National Cyber Security Centre recommends password generation idea suggested by El Reg commenter

Ian Mason

Password reset.

> If anyone's got a practical method of resetting your face after your encrypted mugshot is abused by crims, let us know by sticking it in the comments.

Not since the Printer's Devil pub in Uxbridge was knocked down. In the section reviewing pubs in the annual student handbook at Brunel University it was the only one with an invariant review year-on-year: "Good place to get your face customised by the locals."



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