* Posts by Ian Mason

40 posts • joined 27 Jun 2014

Couple wrongly arrested over Gatwick Airport drone debacle score £200k payout from cops

Ian Mason

They probably ran up all those hours because the police's legal team dragged it out as much as they could, generated as much of a smokescreen as possible, put forward all sorts of facile defences that still have to be refuted and so on - basically just weaselled as much as they could to avoid putting their hands up and saying "Sorry, we got it wrong". Rule one of being a copper if you're done something unlawful - lie, bluster and obfuscate until the problem (i.e. the truth) goes away.

What would be instructive would be to know what the police's legal costs were (including internal costs). I'll bet that adds another cool £200,000 to the bill that the public is having to foot. FOI request anyone?

Competition? We've heard of it. MoD snubs cloud rivals to hand Microsoft £17.7m Azure hosted services gig

Ian Mason

Re: Security??????

"The clue is in the name: civil servants serve, and who do they serve? The public, but specifically the democratically-elected representatives of the public..."

So you clearly haven't seen the excellent documentaries on the Civil Service: "Yes, Minister" and "Yes, Prime Minister". For those still under the mistaken belief that these were a series of comedy programs, find a honest friend or relative who works in the Civil Service and ask them which programme category they belong in.

Keen to go _ExtInt? LLVM Clang compiler adds support for custom width integers

Ian Mason

"transistor layouts for FPGAs"

Produce "transistor layouts for FPGAs"? Hmm, I think somebody doesn't actually know how FPGAs work. A clue is in the name, "Field Programmable Gate Array". Any transistor layout was well and truly fixed when the original FPGA design was cast into silicon, the "field programmable" bit works by routing signals using switches (and their component transistors) that are already part of the physical design. Note that the erroneous description is Keane's, not the reporter's. Do we really want someone specifying a feature that is ONLY intended to be used for FPGAs when they don't know how an FPGA works?

How does £36m sound, mon CHERI? UK.gov pumps cash into Arm security research

Ian Mason

Money for old rope.

What's laughable about this is, this "research" that costs millions boils down to rehashing work already done at Cambridge in the 1970's by Maurice Wilkes and Roger Needham. See "The Cambridge CAP computer and its operating system" ISBN 0-444-00358-4 (pub. 1979) and "Capabilty-Based Computer Systems", Henry M. Levy, Digital Press 1984.

Chef roasted for tech contract with family-separating US immigration, forks up attempt to quash protest

Ian Mason

Re: Flaming idiot, social justice warrior and political hack

The person I feel sorry for is the one who had to transcribe the note, doubtless scribbled in angry crayon, onto a computer.

Just add water: Efficient Energy’s HFC-free chillers arrive in the UK

Ian Mason


By my calculations that makes 1 lb of lard 16,209 BTU, which seems more of an el Reg unit to me.

Which scientist should be on the new £50 note? El Reg weighs in – and you should vote, too

Ian Mason

Re: Bertrand Russell

> Another one to add to the set...

Which would be incomplete without Kurt Gödel.

Internet be nimble, internet be QUIC, Cloudflare shows off new networking shtick

Ian Mason

Shome mishtake shirley?

Would it be too much to ask that El Reg, when doling out work, gives the stuff out about network protocols to people who have, even a vague, grasp of how they work?

The relationship of UDP to underlying IP addresses is exactly the same as TCP's relationship to underlying IP addresses, as indeed is QUICs. So saying "And the reason is that TCP intrinsically assumes you will stay at the same address on the network while you are sending and receiving information." as if the very same thing doesn't apply to UDP or QUIC is a huge clue that the writer is outside the zone of their competence.

An "explainer" article should do that, not muddy the waters further.

Rant launches Eric Raymond's next project: open-source the UPS

Ian Mason

Re: Lack of clue

Granted, but if you were going to build a house you wouldn't pick out the specific joists to use, and say "We'll leave the rest to the architect/civil engineer/builder, we must get one of those."

BUT they have already chosen a processor board they would like to use (an A20-OLinuXino-LIME2). In practice this sort of thing doesn't use a Linux based commercial board such as they have picked, but a microcontroller picked to have all the right interfaces for controlling the power electronics. Heck, there are microcontrollers dedicated to power electronics control with much of the control circuitry already there for the taking. That's where you start, picking which of the dozens of MCUs in that space best fits your first iteration of power electronics design, not "Let's have something that runs Linux". That Olimex board costs 45 euro, an appropriate MCU would likely be sub $1 in quantity, and the whole bill of materials for the power control board (including MCU, display, some buttons and a USB connector) ought to come to less than 45 euros. Carry on designing like that and you'll have a 500 euro bill of materials before you've added a case and a battery.

To be fair, the board is listed on their 'strawman' list, but they're so far into Dunning Kruger that they don't realise how far off the mark they are. Very typical programmer hubris (Says this programmer who just happens to know rather a lot more about electronics than the average programmer).

Ian Mason

Lack of clue

Yeah, the LiPO battery thing is stupid. Lots of little cells that you need charge balancing circuitry, and cell protection circuitry for instead of a single, big sealed lead acid battery? Yeah, that'll keep down your bill of materials - not!

The problem is that this seems to be being driven by software weanies and there's no evidence of any power electronics folk's input in the specifications. The fact that they find managing a bypass switch challenging is evidence of that:

"This may have to be a mechanical switch (possibly flipped by a solenoid, but not a traditional spring-loaded relay that resets to a specific state when power is removed). Implementing the option in software seems hard, especially if this UPS is supposed to protect against intermittent voltages and overvoltages as well (i.e. cases where bypass is the wrong response and there’s no software running due to lack of power)."

i.e. They have never heard of latching contactors or solid state relays (i.e. triacs).

Further evidence for the supposition that this is just a bunch of programmers are the facts that the current specification has no, zero, zip, mention of the options for power conversion technology to be used, or the type of output waveform to be supported, or any of the basic questions that an Electronic Engineer would ask first. Like, they've said 300W for 15 minutes (based on measurements apparently) but no mention is made of a figure in VA - probably because they have zero clue what a "power factor" is.

They need to get some power electronics engineering experience on board very fast or this is going to become another "Arduino Maker Project" designed by programmers. Do that on mains attached power electronics and watch your house burn down.

UK takes first step towards criminalising driverless car hackers

Ian Mason

Re: The number of laws we have...

> The number of laws we have surely there is already one that would cover this?

Of course there are. Interference with vehicles contrary to section 9 of the Criminal Attempts Act 1981 and offences under the Computer Misuse Act 1990.

Whenever we get new laws because of the "something must be done" crowd there is almost always existing legislation that is more general, better thought out and better tested in the courts.

Ian Mason

Re: Manufacturers should be liable

The approach we've taken so far is that manufacturers are liable for their products. Because of this they insure against such liabilities. The insurance companies then, for free, police the manufacturers and refuse to insure them unless they follow the insurer's advice about reducing risks of product flaws that might give rise to liability. It's not a perfect system, but it has been reasonably successful in making the manufacturers address safety issues as a matter of enlightened self-interest rather than as a pure 'race to the bottom line'.

Arrrgh! Put down the crisps! 'Ultra-processed' foods linked to cancer!

Ian Mason

Have you noticed that Jamie Oliver is gradually turning into Ray Winstone? Seriously, next time he's on TV compare him to a twenty year old photo of Ray. Anyway, this leads to the obvious conclusion that the experiment should take place, not in an adult jail, but in the borstal from "Scum".

Nork hackers exploit Flash bug to pwn South Koreans. And Adobe will deal with it next week

Ian Mason

Re: Flash, begone in a flash

Ditto. Been Flash free on this machine since July last year and there hasn't been one occasion where I even needed to notice that it wasn't installed - except when I read about the latest bug/exploit and then I remember that it's not installed and feel smug.

Give us a bloody PIN: MPs grill BBC bosses over subscriber access

Ian Mason

Re: iPlayer and the License

"From the report it doesn't sound like the MPs have really considered the implications of requiring everyone in the UK to create what amount to social media accounts to access content from our state broadcaster."

Erm, hasn't that already happened with the BBC now requiring a login to iPlayer.

'Don't Google Google, Googling Google is wrong', says Google

Ian Mason

We had gerunds once,

It took the exterminators six months to get rid of them.

I'll get my coat.

'Open and accessible' spambot server leaks 711 million records

Ian Mason

Mostly junk

> Many of the addresses are repeated, defunct or otherwise unusable, according to an initial analysis by Troy Hunt, the security researcher behind the haveibeenpwned.com breach notification service.

Out of the 231 email addresses reported to me for this 'breach' by "have i been pwned" for domains I control, only 9 represent email addresses that have ever been used or supplied to 3rd parties. The rest are (largely) random attempts to create an email address that might work, but doesn't.

Biometrics watchdog breaks cover, slams UK cops over facial recog

Ian Mason

Confidence in the police? I think it's already gone.

> Wiles also notes that the facial images database has increased in size to 20 million...

Given that the UK population, including babes in arms, is about 65 million, that represents a bit over 30% of the population. Somehow I find it hard to believe that 30% of the UK population is so criminal and dangerous that the plod need the ability to automatically recognise their faces when they pop up in public.

> He also noted that there was a "real danger" that the number of facial images held by police keep increasing and "undermine confidence in policing" if proper policies aren't put in place.

Given the above statistics, any reasonable person who heard them would come to the conclusion that that point has come and gone.

Canadian sniper makes kill shot at distance of 3.5 KILOMETRES

Ian Mason

The writer said 'target rifle' by NRA rules. If he'd said 'match rifle' he could have been using a scope, but 'target rifle' implies nothing more sophisticated than a peephole sight - no magnification, lenses or other optical aids in sight.

Subpostmasters prepare to fight Post Office over wrongful theft and false accounting accusations

Ian Mason

"We continue to have confidence in the Horizon system, which has around 78,000 users across 11,600 branches nationwide to process six million transactions a day."

Ah, this is what I like to call the "Eat Shit!" argument, much beloved of advertisers in the 1960's - "Eat Shit! Seven billion flies can't be wrong!". When someone claims that a system or product *must* be good, purely on the number of users or size of the system you know that they either don't have a clue or must be lying.

"Taxation! It must be widely loved because almost everybody pays tax!"

"Death! So popular that everybody does it!"

etc. etc.

Lochs, rifle stocks and two EPIC sea gates: Thomas Telford's Highland waterway

Ian Mason

Re: Not slouching

My Father was one of those. In action they would carry packs up to 60 lbs so 35 lbs was light relief. They arrived at the 60lb limit by sending a bunch of lads out on a forced march across the Highlands and staging an unexpected unarmed combat drill at the end. They kept piling on the weight and doing it again with another bunch of mugs until they got to the point where the lads were no good in a fight at the end of the forced march and settled on a few pounds less.

How do I know this? My Father was the Lance Sergeant shouting at them as they had the punch-up at the end of the march. The fool managed to get himself shot in North Africa relatively early in the Commando's war activities so actually spent much of the 2nd World War in the West Highlands as a Commando unarmed combat instructor (A fact I never fail to mention to anybody who looks like they might one day want to pick a fight with me, it's been an unfailingly successful deterrent) and fell in love with the place. Thus many family holidays were spent there in what to the teenage me was magnificently wild, but stunning dull, surroundings. I've since done my penance for thinking that about the Highlands by walking the West Highland Way and stopping off at Spean Bridge and tipping my hat to the lads on the Commando Memorial.

Ian Mason

Re: Great article - shame about the copyediting

"The Imperial units are useful for historical content and authenticity but modern units are useful for those of us under 80 so that we know how bit things are."

Ah, so you're the idiot I was stuck behind doing 40 kph in a 40mph limit today.

People may have been wrongly sent back to prison over faulty tags

Ian Mason

They do know because there has been at least one court case fought about it, they just don't want to admit that they knew ages ago (2014) that there was a problem but did nothing about. Ross Anderson (Professor of Security Engineering at Cambridge University) did an analysis of the tags and presented evidence about them as an expert witness - his analysis of the tags was not favourable to the government's case. See here: https://www.lightbluetouchpaper.org/2014/12/13/curfew-tags-the-gory-details/

UK Snoopers' Charter gagging order drafted for London Internet Exchange directors

Ian Mason

Re: Hmm, Legal advices from unnamed sources, new paid executve directors, new constitution

The last time the LINX directors tried to amend the constitution and presented it to the membership as a "done job" (to make LINX commercial as opposed to not for profit) most of the board was effectively forced to resign at the member's meeting that it was presented at. That included the paid full-time chairman who suddenly didn't have a job (at the time, the only paid director). The current directors and staff might care to take note of that.

[Full disclosure: I was a LINX director for a couple of years and was one of the few (from memory two, the other was Nigel Titley) directors who voted against taking any pay for doing the job.]

Apple weans itself off Intel with 'more ARM chips' for future Macs

Ian Mason

> Apple does have some experience using non-Intel processors in the Mac, albeit long ago.

That was barely 10 years ago, the last PPC Mac rolled off the lines in November 2006. That's not "long ago" unless you're a teenager; is The Reg replacing the aged curmudgeons that we've come to know and love with child labour?

TV anchor says live on-air 'Alexa, order me a dollhouse' – guess what happens next

Ian Mason

Anybody who watched Blake's 7 knows that voice activated computers ought to

1) Confirm their activation word with a chime or a very irascible "yes?"

2) Ask "Confirm?" after being given an order.

Given that an 80's TV sci-fi scriptwriter can get it right, it's a little sad that Google, Amazon et al. can't quite manage to get there.

The UK's Investigatory Powers Act allows the State to tell lies in court

Ian Mason

"It is always legal to quote statute in a court of law. Though any barrister that keeps doing so will quickly find themselves running out of work."

Actually, judges *rely* on barristers doing this to keep them up to speed. It's quite common for great chunks of statute and supporting materials to be submitted by barristers on both sides in their 'bundles' before a trial has even started. A judges role is to rule on what the law means, not to recall it wholesale and act as a legal reference library. (if you're ever a litigant in person, which the English legal system now forces on most of us, this is a thing worth remembering - always politely remind the judge of the law in a fashion that looks as if you're trying to help the court, don't rely on them recalling it.)

Apple’s macOS Sierra update really puts the fan into 'fanboi'

Ian Mason

Re: Try safari clean start

If there's one thing that's more of a resource hog than Safari, it's Firefox. Firefox is the only thing I've ever run on a Mac that is capable, with nothing else running, of forcing the OS into thrashing.

Great British Block-Off: GCHQ floats plan to share its DNS filters

Ian Mason

Re: Toxic reputation

And if a scorpion asked you for a lift across the river and promised not to sting you, you, I take it, would trust them?

Penetration tech: BAE Systems' new ammo for Our Boys and Girls

Ian Mason

Re: Not selling ammo to civilians

That of course doesn't stop the Army giving it away. Myself and some friends were down at Bisley just after the Army's Skill at Arms competition and just before the civilian 'Imperial Meeting' with the intention of getting our eyes in for the latter. An Army Sergeant drove a Landie over to our firing points and dumped down an ammo box with a few hundred rounds of RG green spot in it. "My officer says this isn't worth taking back to camp with us - nasty and heavy and all that - and wondered if you gentlemen would be kind enough to dispose of it for us?"

Needless to say we did. With 7.62 running at around 70p a round at the time it made for a very cheap day's shooting and more to be spent in the pub later. God bless the British Army.

P.S. This was the same day that the red flags went up because some idiot ignored about a gazzilion signs and walked their dog out of the woods and along the backstop of Century range - directly just above the targets and lots of hot flying lead.

Czech Republic to rebrand

Ian Mason

Re: kidding aside

<cite> At least they might have a laugh, as Cz is "Ch" (Chicken) isn't a combination used anywhere in the English language either. </cite>

It gets more confusing as it's one of those orthographies then seems to change as it moves around Central Europe. I used to have a colleague called Jan Czmok, pronounced Yan Schmock.

Helpdesk? I have a software problem. And a GRIZZLY BEAR problem

Ian Mason

Re: Ha!

(2) Fuck! I hope my boss doesn't get incinerated. I think that's a sackable offence, and it wouldn't look good on my CV.

I don't know, it can be useful to say honestly to a future boss, in a certain tone: "The last man to say that to me burned to death."

I've been known to say "The last man who borrowed tools from me and didn't bring them back is dead. And not of natural causes". Which is *entirely* true - and naturally I omit that the twat wrapped his bike around a tree while riding too fast on too much beer. RIP Dave.

FTDI boss hits out at 'Chinese criminal gang' pumping knock-off chips

Ian Mason

Re: Fakes damaging FTDI's reputation

Yup. I've run into fake FTDI products before, it never caused me to think less of FTDI. What caused me to think less of FTDI was their stupid, possibly criminal and certainly anti-social, response to the fakes. And they've done it again. FTDI mate, the person who's damaging the reputation of your products is you.

I too stopped specifying or buying FTDI products or sub-assemblies with FTDI products after the first fiasco. My purchasing power in these regards is small but I know of hundreds of others who've said the same and I know some of those have some serious purchasing power. Anybody who doubts this, just try searching FTDI on the EEVBLOG forum where a lot of professional electronic design engineers hang out.

Kids' TV show Rainbow in homosexual agenda shocker

Ian Mason

Re: Sentenced to zippy.

Muffin the Mule.

Is it legal?

Ian Mason

Re: Sentenced to zippy.

>Remember the hoo-ha there was for a while over the role-playing game Dungeons and Dragons? Apparently I and my friends (and many others around the world) were engaging in Black Magic and Satanism.

You've got to remember that most of the Fundamentalist/Pentacostal/Evangelical/Born-again type Christians genuinely believe there is a literal Devil and that humans literally do magic in league with him.

Back in the seventies there was a woman called Doreen Irvine who claimed to have been installed as the "Witch Queen of England" who converted to Christianity and was touted around the various evangelical flavour churches of the UK as a success story come cautionary tale. She wrote a book "From Witchcraft to Christ" and I heard her speak at a meeting on the South Coast. She laid claim to have participated in all sorts of magical rituals with all sorts of fantastical physical outcomes.

In the nineties I got to know quite a few people who were centrally active in the british magic scene in the sixties and seventies, including some prominent academic historians of british magic. Not one of the former knew her and none of the latter could place her into British magical history.

So, she was either a complete fantasist (i.e. crazy) or a complete and utter Tony Blair. Either way, the evangelical christian churches took her to their collective busom and uncritically swallowed every word she said.

The moral to this is, that many, many otherwise well meaning Christians will believe any old baloney if it fits the script and it's fed to them by an authority figure within their religion.

Name that HPE boozer: Last orders please

Ian Mason

The Bung and Backhander

As it'll most probably be full of sales and marketing types - The Bung and Backhander

$250K: That's what Lenovo earned to rat you out with Superfish

Ian Mason

Re: Heads will roll?

Prior to the Sony rootkit scandal, I used to buy a lot of Sony kit, since the scandal I have bought no Sony products, not one. I, for one, won't be buying any Lenovo at any point in the future - and I had recent planned to buy a Lenovo Yoga tablet.

BT: Hey guys, we've developed NEW MOBE TECH! It’s called... 2G

Ian Mason

Re: Hm, picocells .... can those work with SIP?

> so i'd argue against all sip handsets being crappy

The issue isn't that the handsets are crappy, it's that call quality *over mobile data* is crap or at least unpredictable and frequently too poor to be useful.

Ian Mason

Re: Hm, picocells .... can those work with SIP?

Take a look at Andrews and Arnold's SIP2SIM service. Slip a SIM into any mobile phone (NO on-phone SIP client required - the dumbest phone will do), the voice and signalling go over O2 and are then backhauled to wherever you like as a SIP call (and vice-versa).

I use it in conjunction with Asterisk. If I'm 'in' Asterisk knows because it can see the phone's bluetooth and directs calls to my desktop phone, if I'm 'out' (bluetooth out of reach) it routes calls, via SIP, to the mobile.

Farewell Felix Dennis, deal-maker supreme of tech publishing

Ian Mason

I think John's got his cronology a bit muddled in some places:-

Ziff-Davis arrived in the UK 90/91 (I worked on the launch of PC Mag UK, but for the life of me can't put a precise date on it.) Computer Buyer, (Dennis' response to Spliff-Davis) was '91, as Nigel has said.

PC Pro (which I worked on as Tech Editor) was launched November '94 and Maxim was in '95. John was definately still around at Dennis around this time as we used to pass in the corridors regularly.

The Reg didn't arrive until '96. I vaguely recall that John and I both left Dennis around the same time.

On the rare occasions in 94/95 that Felix was in the Dennis offices he was always quite affable with me. His nominal office was right next to PC Pro's and I'd run into him probably more often than most as I had a habit of hanging out in the corridor, smoking and editting copy next to the stairs. He quite surprised me by actually knowing my name when we met for the first time in said corridor.

On the subject of PC Pro, as mentioned by Anon IV and Nigel: James Tye was Deputy Editor at the launch of PC Pro and it gave him his first real leg-up at Dennis, so I suspect he looks on it perhaps more fondly than he might otherwise.


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