* Posts by JulieM

718 posts • joined 27 Nov 2014


Amazon shows off robot warehouse workers that won't complain, quit, unionize...


Re: Pah!

Yeah, but unlike anything out of Boston Dynamics, at least this thing doesn't fall over if it stops moving.

Tough news for Apple as EU makes USB-C common charging port for most electronic devices


Re: Micro-USB

"10 items or less" is correct, since "10 items" is an amount of stuff. "10 or fewer items" would also be correct, since the count of 10 is not bound to a noun.

Keeping your head as an entire database goes pear-shaped


If you can read the rest of this message after `/bin/poweroff` then yes, they sanitise their input.


It looks like Bash code that defines a function to start lots of process, each doing nothing except start two more processes like it and feed the output of one into the input of the other, until the machine runs out of something.

Distrobox 1.3.0: Run (pretty much) any Linux distro under almost any other



It still sounds like the most pointless thing since "How to speak French" was translated into French.

Nothing is unique to any Linux distro, by design. If there is a configuration tool from another distro that you like, there is nothing stopping you from downloading the Source Code and building it on your own favourite distro.

Beware the fury of a database developer torn from tables and SQL



It's more or less the same in English! "Effing", obviously named for the F-word, is mostly biological in origin; whereas "blinding" (from "God blind me!", which got corrupted to "cor blimey") is mostly theological in origin.

"Bloody" -- which you might naïvely think was obviously effing -- is actually an example of blinding, as it is a corruption of "by our lady".

Nvidia open-sources Linux kernel GPU modules. Repeat, open-source GPU modules


Another explanation

There's another explanation why a company like NVidia might suddenly pull a 180 on releasing Source Code.

The low-level abstract mathematics behind decompiling a compiled binary program -- determining which instruction belongs to which loop -- is exactly the same as the low-level abstract mathematics behind shape recognition -- determining which vertex belongs to which shape. And currently, the "holy grail" of shape recognition is identifying people's faces in moving pictures of a crowd of people.

Meaning, around the same time as a properly-workable face recognition system comes into general availability, we should expect someone else to be releasing a properly-workable decompiler.

And when a company working in the graphics and high performance computing spaces, who have hitherto been insanely protective of their own Source Code, suddenly start releasing some of it, that suggests a possible ulterior motive to me. I think NVidia have a good idea about something that's going to be coming down the pipeline any time soon; and in the name of damage limitation, they are releasing as much of their own Source Code as they can before somebody else decides to release it for them.

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


Last Day job

The only "last day sabotage" I ever did was to type up a Word document containing nothing but mis-spelled words on my boss's laptop while he was out at lunch, and added the lot to his dictionary.

That was pretty mild, really; considering the "19-day week" I had to work to finish a job which subsequently sat untouched on a desk for the best part of a fortnight, and the nightly decision whether to catch the bus home and stay dry, walk home and have the fire lit for an hour or walk home and have something to eat.

Any fool can write a language: It takes compilers to save the world


Re: KISS 2: Generic Code

It's my conjecture that any sufficiently-sophisticated IT project ends up implementing a Turing-complete interpreter. (PHP is an example of one such that escaped and became feral.)

One day I'll write a SPICE deck for that microprocessor I designed, and see if I can implement an interpreter on it .....


Re: Yes

Fair enough. There are plenty of other people out there who do want my business.


Re: Too Scary, Too Complicated

I can only seem to find pre-compiled versions there.

Bank had no firewall license, intrusion or phishing protection – guess the rest


Re: What I don't understand...

Why don't people who hack into banks' computers start out by purging all the loan and mortgage records?

Fedora inches closer to dropping x86-32 support


Re: In other words...

Not at all! Any software that doesn't try to use more than 4GB of memory will build on a 32-bit architecture.


Re: Fun to ensue

What's wrong with just repeating the configure and make steps?

Alarm raised after Microsoft wins data-encoding patent


Re: Ban software patents.

This is completely the wrong way around. There should be a presumption of non-novelty and obviety, and it should be for the applicant to show beyond reasonable doubt that their physical prototype is new and non-obvious. Then the patent office should decide on a fair royalty amount; which might be nil if the invention is sufficiently important to need widespread adoption.

File suffixes: Who needs them? Well, this guy did


If you think that's bad

I wrote a nice web app where suppliers could upload data straight into our systems from a CSV file, to save me from 20 minutes of mucking about with awk every time anybody e-mailed us a spreadsheet. I already had a collection of headers, so I used them to make it smart enough to work out -- within limits, but those limits were still pretty broad -- which column was what.

Within minutes of putting it live, I had a customer on the line insisting that it was not accepting their .csv file.

It transpired that, instead of following the clear instructions with screenshots showing where to change the file type in OpenOffice.org Calc and Excel, they had simply used whatever the Windows equivalent of `mv` is to change the extension of an .xlsx file .....


Re: Still humans in the mix here not just machines

"it should be possible to identify html or xml just by looking at the first few characters" so you have to open the file??? Trusting the OS to identify it is recipe for disaster and doesn't work in a text interface.
That's literally what the `file` command does.

Reading data from a file is not inherently dangerous. What's dangerous is executing instructions from an unknown file.

Journalist won't be prosecuted for pressing 'view source'


Re: Transcendental question

It probably should more correctly have been "the circumference <ins>in metres</ins> of a circle one metre in diameter". It's just easy to miss out the "in metres" bit because the metre is the fundamental unit of length.


Re: Transcendental question

Yeah, I once tried seeing if it was possible to create a system of units where by definition c=1 and also Earth's g=1. All I ended up with was a length-unit that was ridiculously long and a time-unit that was ridiculously short, by the standards of classical mechanics. But probably fine for quantum mechanics .....


Re: Transcendental question

It's in the USA, so there are several different values of π over there!

Every schoolchild outside the USA knows π as the circumference of a circle one metre in diameter. But that's because we use only the metre to measure length.

Americans, with a choice of several different units for measuring any quantity and none of which are sensible multiples of the proper ones, have a whole table of values of π! You have to look up the units that have been used for the diameter and the circumference, and find the appropriate value. For instance, if the diameter is given in inches and the circumference is in feet, then the value of π is approximately 0.261799387799149.

No defence for outdated defenders as consumer AV nears RIP


Re: Bit dubious about this arguement.

The problem with that is, surely you still have to get through a layer of brick (cutting which is very noisy) followed by a layer of insulation (which may be loose-filled, and won't do your brick-cutting tool any favours) and then another layer of brick or breeze block?


The Real Problem

The real problem is, Windows relied for too long on locks that were screwed on from the outside and gave away keys that opened far too many of them compared to what was needed. A lot of "legitimate" software, written by self-taught coders with pirate copies of programming languages and incomplete documentation, relied for its operation on techniques also used by malware -- and also became indispensable. Making the underlying OS more robust against malware would have had the side-effect of killing off a lot of business-critical software.


Re: Failure of capitalism

Know the size of the population and the resources required to satisfy their needs.

Automate every job it is possible to automate.

Give everyone food and shelter in return for their share of the residual labour.

Everyone ends up working a 16-hour week and retiring in their thirties.

This malware gang plants incriminating evidence on PCs, gets victims arrested


Re: "malicious Microsoft Office attachments"

I don't blame Microsoft for *hiding* filename extensions; I blame them for *perpetuating* file extensions, which are just an ugly leftover from the days before it was possible to have nested folders.

Less than PEACH-y: UK's plant export IT system only works with Internet Explorer


So what happens if

So what happens if, as a consequence of a "youthful indiscretion", you are barred from buying Microsoft software?

MySQL a 'pretty poor database' says departing Oracle engineer


A Bag of Grapefruits

They don't like MySQL because of the licence.

MySQL is licenced under the GPL, which says explicitly, "Not sharing is stealing". Every contributor to a GPL project can be sure nobody is going to take their hard work that they intended to be for everybody, alter it very slightly and turn it into a proprietary project that denies users the freedom to enjoy, study, share and adapt it.

Google love the Apache licence, which only says "Sharing is not stealing". You can release an entire application in binary form only -- not a single byte of Source Code anywhere -- under the Apache licence, and proudly trumpet it as being "Open Source". The Apache licence gives you permission in theory to study, share and adapt the Source Code; but crucially, it does not require the licensor to make this possible in practice.

It is this loophole in the Apache and BSD licences that makes them so ripe for abuse by bad actors such as Google.

Three key ransomware actors changed jobs on October 18 – the same day REvil went dark


Re: When is a crim not a crim?

The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.” -- George Orwell.

Chat among yourselves: New EU law may force the big IM platforms to open up


Re: Tap

No, it wouldn't break end-to-end encryption. The message can be encrypted on the sender's device using a public key looked up from the recipient's ID, and decrypted on the recipient's device using the recipient's own private key which resides there. None of this depends on what channel the message is sent through -- it's still encrypted end-to-end.

What potentially would be broken by a measure that makes E2E encrypted messaging providers interchangeable, though, is the ability for the messaging platform to control the private keys -- and therefore, to benefit from information gleaned by decrypting messages in transit without making any of this information available to anyone else through whose equipment it may have incidentally passed.

But of course, technology companies would never, ever display such brazen contempt for their own paying customers .....


Re: Tap

No, it means they want to enforce interoperability; so that irrespective which client software you are using, you can still talk to anybody -- even if they are using different client software.

(Does anybody remember a piece of software called GAIM? History repeats itself .....)

Academics tell Brit MPs to check the software used when considering reproducibility in science and tech research


Product Testing

When I was working in the electronics industry, many years ago, listings of any computer programs we wrote for testing purposes -- e.g. to operate inputs and monitor outputs via experiment boards, so a module could be under continuous test while being cooked, frozen or shaken to bits -- were considered as integral a part of the eventual report as any other detail of the testing procedure. The stated aim of the report was, after all, to allow anyone to replicate of the experiments in future.

We did not think at the time that it might not be fully reproducible if the experiment board (or, as actually happened, the 8-bit expansion slot into which it fit) became obsolete .....

Microsoft engineer fixes enterprise-level Chromium bug students could exploit to cheat in online tests


Clue in Question

You are assuming that these systems are being created by competent people.

Competent people tend either to demand wages that reflect their competence, or to work for companies who provide them with advantages not measured in pounds.

This is a problem that has been brought about by a combination of (1) people acquiring a sheet of rub-down transfer lettering and suddenly imagining they can do anything an experienced calligrapher can, and (2) people wanting the services of a calligrapher but not prepared to pay the going rate.

Linux PC shop System76 is building a new desktop environment in Rust


Re: No causation

If people really liked their product, they'd have pirated it rather than the other.
That's not the way people see it in real life. Remember, there is a human instinct which boils down to "paying full price for anything feels a bit like cheating", and a human instinct to prefer not to get your hands dirty over trivia. If you buy the cheap package, you save £450. If you pirate the expensive package, you save £500. Pirating the cheap package only ends up saving you £50, meaning you might just as well have bought it, saved £450 and kept your conscience clean -- or pirated the expensive one and at least felt as though you stood to be hanged for a £500 sheep, as opposed to a £50 lamb.

(Just because you're smart enough to see through the fallacy in the above, doesn't mean everybody else is.)

The market for pirate copies wants the most expensive, best-known stuff with the biggest marketing budget behind it. Software that is sold for affordable prices gets bought by the few law-abiding people that end up hearing about it, or squozen out by pirate copies of unaffordable software.

And meanwhile, businesses without the option of piracy have to pay for licensed copies of all the big-ticket packages their staff learned to use pirate copies of in their spare time -- so why would the vendors make too much of an effort to prevent that, if it might lead to workers asking their bosses for a less-expensive, competing product?


Re: No causation

Actually, piracy *does* hurt sales. Just not in for whom everyone thinks it does.

If you are selling a £50 software package that does more than enough of what a £500 software package does for most people's purposes, selling it as a way of saving £450 versus buying a £500 big-name package, you're up against people who think it's even better value to pirate the big-name package and save £500.

Nobody need ever actually make a single unauthorised copy of your £50 package for you eventually to go out of business, entirely due to rampant piracy. And to add insult to injury, if the authorities ever manage to seize some assets from criminals, the share that ought to have been yours -- because you certainly would have sold a lot of copies for £50, if the big-name package had only been available for the full £500 -- will end up going to the major players whose works were actually seen in pirated form in the wild because people were using them for free instead of your work.

Calendars have gone backwards since the Bronze Age. It's time to evolve


Re: What did you expect

Don't give Boris Johnson ideas!


What did you expect

What did you expect? The system is performing exactly as designed.

When there are a bunch of proprietary interests, all competing not for a share of a market but for the whole market, compatibility and interoperability are dirty words. Every player wants to be the only game in town. So when dealing with something fundamentally simple like dates (there are a few standardised, universally-comprehensible ways of expressing a date) and human-readable text strings (there are also standardised ways of incorporating embellishments with text), they have to introduce "unique features" of their own; not for any actual benefit to the user, but to introduce deliberate incompatibilities with other providers of outwardly-similar services.

And given a choice between making something that might end up being compatible with another player's offering or omitting a feature that would really benefit users, the big tech players will go for disappointed users every time.

Am I a terrible person for wanting them all to perish in a fire because the local fire brigade's proprietary hoses did not fit the buildings' proprietary dry risers?

You can 'go your own way' over GDPR, says UK's new Information Commissioner


That pretty much was the idea of GDPR before it got watered down.

I think people need to start taking more pro-active measures to thwart corporate data harvesting. If the correct answer is "none of your business" but there is no option for that, then there is no obligation to be even remotely truthful. Maybe eventually, the data they are harvesting will be too poisoned to be of any use to anyone. Someone needs to create a browser extension for filling forms quickly with random data .....

Happy 60th, Sinclair Radionics: We'll remember you for your revolutionary calculators and crap watches


Re: Other earlier hardware

That is because the voltage of a badly-designed power supply, especially one using an old-fashioned steel-cored transformer, and even more so one using a cheaply-made transformer, is very load-dependent; and without the leakage current flowing through the loudspeaker and its coupling capacitor, the voltage can rise above the PIV of the collector-base junction of one or the other output transistor and start it conducting when it should not be.


Re: Sinclair pocket calculator

Rounding errors are far from new. If you use a book of four-figure log tables (such as Frank Castle's "Logarithmic and Other Tables for Schools") to multiply two by two, you will get the answer 3.999.

I am always nervous about using log tables since I learned of the possibility of publishers inserting deliberate errors as canaries for plagiarism. What would happen if somebody designing a bridge inadvertently landed on such a deliberate error, and the bridge ended up collapsing?

US SEC chair calls for crypto regulation


Re: Probably Long Overdue

It works like this:

Mark meets Alice, looking somewhat glum.

Alice: "I asked my landlord, Bob, to repaint one of my rooms. Bob's abroad, so he promised to pay me £100 if I bought the paint and did the job myself, and sent him the receipt for the paint and this photograph of the completed job with the empty paint tins in shot as proof. But he won't be home with the money till next Thursday, and I'm left short until then."

Mark: "I'll give you £25 for that picture and receipt!"

Alice: "No way! I'm not that desperate. £75?"

Mark: "£50, and that's my final offer."

Alice: "Done!"

(Next Thursday)

Mark: "Hey, Bob! You know that ton you promised Alice if she painted her room herself? Well, I've got the receipt for the paint and a picture of the work here. She's made quite a good job of it, too!"

Bob: "Who the f**k is Alice?"


Re: Probably Long Overdue

Agreed. Cryptocurrency is based on a fundamental error: that proof of labour is necessarily equivalent to proof of value.

What a cryptocurrency token essentially is, is film footage of you setting fire to a pile of money.

And the only people who are not going to lose out when, not if, the whole lot goes Tango Uniform, are the ones selling matches.

Make-me-admin holes found in Windows, Linux kernel


Re: Was there ever a time when it did make sense ?

That's the thing, though. Having a single folder with a well-known path where programs installed system-wide can write their configuration in free-form, human-readable text files, but allowing the configuration to be overridden by a file with the same syntax in the home folder of the user who launched it is just too old-fashioned.

Ad tech ruined the web – and PDF files are here to save it, allegedly


I suspect that when you are selling expensive, proprietary hammers, everything looks like a nail.

India IT minister denies illegal use of NSO Pegasus spyware


Whether governments used it legally or illegally is not the point

Whether governments used the Pegasus spyware legally or illegally, and whether or not NSO supplied it to anyone other than a responsible government department, are beside the point. The point is that the software exists, and is in use; therefore, the vulnerabilities that enable it to work still exist.

Which means any Fred in the Shed with the time and the inclination to read some long and boring documents and experiment with a few second-hand phones that can be bought cheaply on the Internet could, if they applied themself to the task, recreate what Pegasus does.

Have you forgotten the 1980s already? Suddenly, out of almost nowhere, a bunch of kids who otherwise might have been punks started getting creative with the microcomputers of the day and making their own video games. Multiple times, on incompatible systems; and with scant regard for anyone standing over them with a big stick demanding payment for the use of a character. It was all about proving you could do it.

Well, there's no reason to suppose somebody has not thought "I wonder if I could sneak an app onto a phone ....." and gone ahead and done it.

If the good guys can get in, that means the bad guys can also get in. And someone might be aiding and abetting them.

When security gets physical: Mossad boss hints at less-than-subtle Stuxnet followup


This is terrorism

This is terrorism. Why is it not being prosecuted?

We don't know why it's there, we don't know what it does – all we know is that the button makes everything OK again


Re: The light..

Wow, you've just reminded me of how you were supposed to set the time of day on my old number pager, with its one-button user interface.

It was much easier just to put the battery in at midnight .....

This AI could save a firefighter's life


Re: The eternal problem with thermodynamics

You are probably thinking of the n+1th Law of Thermodynamics; which states that for any energy calculation in which simplifying assumptions have been made, there will be a scientist questioning those simplifying assumptions.

Accidentally wiped an app's directory? Hey, just play the 'unscheduled maintenance' card. Now you're a hero


VAX/VMS solved this years ago

I was at uni in the early 1990s, and VAX/VMS had versioning baked into its file system.

Why Microsoft did not bring this obvious feature into NTFS when they had Dave Cutler working for them will always be a mystery to me.

Google Play to require privacy labels on apps in 2022, almost two years after Apple


What I Really Want

What I would really like is the ability, whenever an app wants permissions to access my contacts, location, message history or whatever, then instead of just denying it, to give it access to an inexhaustible supply of procedurally-generated, bogus information; but which would be indistinguible, as far as the app were concerned, from real personal data.

More than 1,000 humans fail to beat AI contender in top crossword battle


Re: How does a computer solve crosswords?

Could you please give us a clue to the clues?
I thought I had! ;) Anyway, this is as close as I can take you to the actual answers without a blatant spoiler, so you can still get to feel the light bulb coming on.
Johnny rents out a flat in Paris! (6, 6)

I can see that's an anagram on "Johnny Rents" and the clue is "a flat in Paris" - or just possibly the other way round - but I can't get it.

That's because you are partitioning the clue wrongly. The first definition is just "Johnny" and the second is "Rents out a flat in Paris". "Parisian landlord" is too long by itself (and why would he called Johnny specifically?) Remember English has plenty of prefix-suffix combinations that would be perfectly sensible constructions, but are not used -- or at least are not used in all senses -- in normal conversation. For instance, "drawer" always refers to a sliding storage compartment in a piece of furniture, and never -- at least, not outside the mind of a crossword setter -- say, an artist, or an oscilloscope (although neither sense is strictly invalid except by habit, and would certainly be understood from the mouth of a young child or a non-native speaker). This is one possible example of somewhere a computer might actually have a slight advantage over a human, if it has not already assigned too low a probability score to some search paths. What does a landlord do? They let out property. And Paris is the capital of France. Now go searching depth-first, literally -- start in the gutter .....
Trains, whether in whole or in part (7)

Trains as in teaches, or possibly as in engines, but the other bit? Don't know.

You are on the right lines (pun definitely intended) with two meanings for "trains". Think "trains in whole" = gives instruction, and "trains in part" = parts of (railway) trains. "Carriages" is too long, "cars" or "wagons" is too short, and anyway neither of those can be reconciled with the first part of the clue .....


Re: Crossword Puzzles

There is a lot to interpreting a crossword clue, like "Social worker carries record player to a church next door" (8). You first have to work out how the word is being clued -- whether it is by reference to the meaning of the word, by reference to its pronunciation, by reference to the letters that make it up, or in some sort of composite fashion. Then you have to deal with the wordplay, which may involve obscure popular culture references. (Would you know what particular animal "Basil's Nest" might be a reference to?)

I don't think it's a trivial task at all. If all the answers are unadulterated dictionary words, you probably could try to brute-force a set of words into the grid so all the shared letters matched; but it might well not be unique, and it's a coin toss whether you might be able to disambiguate it by making it fit one of the clues. In a really bad case, you might get a false positive match on a wrong answer that throws everything else out. And this method is not going to work for some really complex crosswords such as The Listener, where the clue does not directly indicate the answer but a word that has to be modified in a certain way before writing it into the grid.



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