* Posts by JulieM

675 posts • joined 27 Nov 2014


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.


How does a computer solve crosswords?

How do you even begin to get a computer to solve a crossword? I mean, something like "Johnny rents out a flat in Paris! (6, 6)" or "Trains, whether in whole or in part" (7) is hard enough for a human. And those are just entry-level, double definition clues. Just wait till you get onto sound-alikes and awkward letter-by-letter constructions.

I suppose you could just about get used to a particular compiler's preferred style of wordplay, and pick up on common themes they used -- maybe they always or very often use a particular phrase to indicate a particular construction.

Or you could cheat; ignore the clues altogether to begin with, and just search for dictionary words that fit with each other in the grid. Then you might be able to reconcile one or more of the more obvious clues closely with one of the possible answers.

But deciphering crossword clues always struck me as being a very human thing that just would not be at all easy for a machine. It's effectively reverse-engineering extreme poetry.

Still, all kudos to anyone who has managed to pull it off .....

Can't get that printer to work? It's not you. It's that sodding cablin.... oh beautiful job with that cabling, boss


Re: Time was...

A company for whom I used to work used an external cleaning firm. When their contract came up for renewal, they were dropped in favour of a newly-started cleaning firm promising to do the same work for less.

Even towards the day of the changeover, most of the actual cleaners (whom I got to meet while hanging around in the lab for as long as possible after hours before finally being chucked out and having to decide whether to catch the bus home, or walk and eat) seemed unperturbed, as they had been promised work elsewhere and a better hourly rate to boot.

In the end, they found themselves working for the abovementioned new company, contracted to clean exactly the same offices and workshops as before -- but given less time in which to do it, amounting to a pay cut.

When people get treated that way, it's hard to begrudge them getting a bit of their own back.

Vivaldi update unleashes the 'Cookie Crumbler' to simply block any services asking for consent (sites may break)


Re: Come on, Mozilla!

Unless there is a raw .tar.gz in there, no. I can't tell the difference between a genuine effort to help me avoid remembering how to spell "make install" and an attempt to trick me into installing something I would rather not.

Here is a bowl of Smarties. One of them -- only one is poisoned. All the rest are harmless. Go on, eat a handful! Most of them won't kill you!


Come on, Mozilla!

I had a look at the Vivaldi site; but when I came to download it, I could only find pre-compiled packages. No raw .tar.gz, not even a git repository to clone.

You wouldn't eat food if it did not have the list of ingredients and the nutritional breakdown on the pack. Because there are some foods you definitely wouldn't eat, even if they *did* have that information on the pack. And if someone seems to be making an effort to stop me from finding out what's inside something, that most probably is because they don't think I would like it if I knew what was in it.

I'm sure "cookie crumbling" functionality will be coming to a browser I can actually trust in due course. In the meantime, the methods I'm already using to protect myself will have to suffice.

Michael Collins, once the world's 'loneliest man,' is dead. If that name means little or nothing to you, read this


Re: RIP Michael Collins

Only because we afford them excessive credence.

If we treated these people in the same way as we would treat "cathode ray liquid crystal deniers" who profess to believe that TV sets actually contain tiny people who act out all the shows, they would soon go extinct.

Don't cross the team tasked with policing the surfing habits of California's teens


Re: Free school meals

Because there is an idea going around that nobody should ever get anything without paying for it.


Re: Free school meals

And this, I fear, is the real aim of the project.

Universal free meals would cost no more than the present means-tested system, there would be nothing for kids to forget, in fact it's almost a no-brainer .....

Except you don't get to normalise intrusions into privacy that way.


Re: Free school meals

And I bet all this technology, just to determine who is and who is not eligible for free meals, ultimately ends up costing more than it would cost, just to make free school meals universal. Then you only need *one* system, and you are not chasing many small sums.

But Tories would rather spend thousands of pounds on shiny crap than give away one penny to someone who might not be "sufficiently deserving".

Apple begins rejecting apps that use advertising SDKs for fingerprinting users


Now for the next level

To take this up to the next level, it will need to start employing active measures to thwart attempted Web tracking. Things like returning falsified cookies to analytics sites (bonus points for breaking the backend with something it wasn't expecting!), and lying, as opposed to merely refusing to answer, when asked a question to which the proper answer is "mind your own bloody business!" Instead of just refusing an app permission to access my contacts, why can't I send it page after page of procedurally-generated fake contacts?

We are far too soft on these parasites.

A floppy filled with software worth thousands of francs: Techie can't take it, customs won't keep it. What to do?


Not today, no. But there was, in the days when French money was still in Francs.

Deno 1.8: Node.js alternative gets 'out of the box GPU accelerated machine learning'


JavaScript for mathematical applications?

I can see one slight problem with using JavaScript for mathematical applications.

The thing about maths is, you often end up doing a lot of additions. And it's nice to be able to phrase an addition as an actual addition, as opposed to subtracting a negative number. Which would require an actual addition operator that treated things as numbers .....

Splunk junks 'hanging' processes, suggests you don't 'hit' a key: More peaceful words now preferred in docs


Words vs Actions

Not using insensitive language is good up to a point, but there is still no number of times anyone could say "stopped hole" instead of "blind hole" that would ever make up for leaving a baby changing table down in an accessible toilet.

What's CNAME of your game? This DNS-based tracking defies your browser privacy defenses


Time to fight back hard

It is time we fought back at all this. I'm thinking browser extensions with the explicit aim of poisoning Web analytics and even trying deliberately to crash badly-written code. I'm thinking a smart DNS sever running locally. I'm thinking all this should be included in popular distros.

Only today I was a victim of back-button hijacking. Preventing a person from leaving a physical store until they have spent long enough looking at advertisements is not something that would be tolerated in real life.

Some of us are not going to put up with this anymore.


Re: Waste your money tracking me...

"Treating fines as opex" needs to be made an offence in its own right.

Apache foundation ousts TinkerPop project co-founder for tweeting 'offensive humor that borders on hate speech'


Obligatory XKCD


There are already enough real racists, misogynists, homophobes and others in the world, without the need for anybody else to pretend to be such in the name of humour. A joke will never be funny as long as the thing being joked about actually happens in real life.

What's that, Lassie? Dogs show signs of self-awareness according to peer-reviewed academic study?


STD: Smart Telephone Dog

I had a GSD cross who, if I had not answered the phone for a few rings, would bark; and sometimes even grab my sleeve gently and lead me to the phone!

I did not teach her to do this; she managed to work it all out entirely for herself. I guess she must have thought the phone was crying and I was making it better by talking to it.

Euro privacy watchdog calls for end of targeted advertising plus a squeeze on the processing of personal info



Individually-targeted advertisements are insidious and need to be banned.

Everyone who sees a traditional advertisement on TV, a billboard or in a newspaper sees the same advertisement. And this is important; because if the advertisement crosses any lines -- if it is racist, sexist, homophobic, ableist, transphobic, relies on other offensive stereotypes or is just straight-up factually incorrect -- somebody who cares about such things will be certain to see it, and complain about it. Maybe some people are just over-sensitive, sometimes there is genuine offence; but there is always an inescapable background of responses to any traditional advertisement, giving some rough indication of its level of social acceptability.

Individually-targeted advertising totally subverts this social filtering mechanism. When an overtly racist advertisement is shown only to a carefully-selected audience who already harbour some level of racist sentiment and nobody complains about it because it was carefully hidden from anybody who might object, those racists are going to form the mistaken impression that the lack of complaints means the advertisement passed social filtering. Those pesky SJWs are using Facebook too; but they have not said a word about a video clip advertisement in which someone actually said the P-word out loud. Case closed, the P-word is now officially socially acceptable. If you snowflakes didn't complain about an actor using it in an advert that was all over the Internet, then you've no business complaining when someone says it in real life.

(It need not be racism, of course. It could just as easily be a straightforward falsehood; such as the absurd concept of a members-only institution offering a departing member better terms as a guest than they enjoyed during their membership.)

And so, unconscionable ideas get lent a veneer of bogus legitimacy. Because when you show somebody a targeted advertisement, you aren't just showing them an advertisement: you are also showing them a (false) background of (manufactured) acceptance, artificially created by violating the presumption of universality of experience.

Individual targeting of advertisements should be referred to as what it is: Psychological warfare.

Takes from the taxpayer, gives to the old – by squishing a bug in Thatcherite benefits system


We won't get to 9999. The world is going to end on 19 January 2038 at 03:14:07, when those who only know about human-readable date formats will be expecting it the least .....

Fedora's Chromium maintainer suggests switching to Firefox as Google yanks features in favour of Chrome


Re: "blocks

Yes, if you build it yourself that way.

Flash in the pan: Raspberry Pi OS is the latest platform to carve out vulnerable tech


Flash player

Can't you just recompile it?

It's always DNS, especially when a sysadmin makes a hash of their semicolons


Re: Corporate edicts can be helpful sometimes

Code that emits warnings is, to borrow from John Cleese in Clockwise, a discourtesy to others.

When people build your code, they are going to see every warning it generates; and if they downloaded your program as opposed to writing one themselves, they probably are not going to be as aware as you are, which of those warnings are safe to ignore and which ones mean anything.

For instance, if you've got a variable that apparently is defined once and never accessed again, another programmer might reasonably suppose that has something to do with a build-time option they didn't enable; but then, why didn't you just move it inside the relevant #ifdef where it belonged?

Have you so little hubris, you don't even care about your build process looking ugly?


Re: Programming interminable comments

I had to use BASIC recently (I'm working on a retro project .....)

I couldn't work out why PRINT; was not starting a new line .....

Let's... drawer a veil over why this laser printer would decide to stop working randomly


She has a "heating + HW / HW" switch (no "heating only" position)?

That suggests an ancient system with a gravity-fed hot water cylinder, and probably a boiler with a standing pilot burner getting through the best part of a kilowatt of gas.


Re: Rain? Luxury!

There was a reason why they always used to put the sewage pipe on the outside of the building .....

OK, so the reason probably was mostly "to show the whole world that you have an indoor toilet"; but even without the passive aggression, it still seemed the more sensible place for it.

Test tube babies: Virgin Hyperloop pops pair of staffers in a pod, shoots them along 500m vacuum tunnel


Just waiting for .....

I'm just waiting for some PHB to appear on TV talking about "vacuum tube technology" .....

You can't spell 'electronics' without 'elect': The time for online democracy has come


Re: E-voting

And how can you be sure that the machine did not print out a receipt clearly showing you voted for candidate A, whilst recording a vote for candidate C?


Low Tech Solution

Universal Franchise means there is no such thing as a person who is not allowed to vote at all, just a person who has already voted. And you don't care who has or has not voted once the polls close. So this problem is easily resolved with a Sharpie.

Brave browser first to nix CNAME deception, the sneaky DNS trick used by marketers to duck privacy controls


Time to get aggressive

Why would someone be using a CNAME to disguise third-party content as first-party? Answer: Because they know people object to third-party content. It's straight-up deception; trying to sneak in the back door because you correctly guessed you would not be welcome via the front door.

Instead of just passively blocking third-party content, it's time browser manufacturers started taking a harder line; for instance, returning altered cookies to poison the trackers and invalidate what they are collecting.

If you are going to play silly buggers, don't take on an Olympic medallist.

Why, yes, you can register an XSS attack as a UK company name. How do we know that? Someone actually did it


Re: No, this computer is not for personal use - it's my woke one.

You aren't allowed a business name such that someone could commit a crime by uttering it aloud, so it would not be a massive stretch to block a business name that someone could commit an offence under the misuse of computers act by entering into a computer.

On the other hand, a Companies House employee entering a name into a Companies House computer in the course of their regular employment probably would not be unauthorised, so there still might not be any offence committed.

And if we do end up with a new law to prevent this, it's almost certain to be unfit for purpose .....

Happy birthday to the Nokia 3310: 20 years ago, it seemed like almost everyone owned this legendary mobile


Re: I'll See Your 33xx and Lower You

I preferred the 3210, which had a shape that fit more nicely in the hand.

Nokia also (accidentally) pioneered the idea of "one charger to fit them all", for awhile .....

AWS unleashes a new homegrown Linux that's good enough to bottle


Re: Missing tools? @Pascal

Whenever I hear of containers, I can never help thinking somebody has taken "Prevent rice from sticking by cooking each grain in a separate pot" and run with it.

Brave takes brave stand against Google's plan to turn websites into ad-blocker-thwarting Web Bundles


Not obvious

What is there to prevent someone from downloading the bundle and extracting the files, wanted and other; but then not running any of the scripts or displaying any of the images?


Time for governments to act

I think we are now at the point where the only thing that can make a difference is state-level action. Some country with a Minister for Information Technology who actually knows their stuff needs to pass a law requiring all Internet-delivered content to be cleanly separable into editorial and advertising, such that users have the opportunity to block 100% of advertisements without prejudice to the integrity of the information they are seeking.

Relying on plain-text email is a 'barrier to entry' for kernel development, says Linux Foundation board member


Re: We've been there before


I would expect the Venn diagram of "People who are dissuaded by the complexity of configuring an e-mail client" and "People with the potential to be bare-metal developers" to resemble two circles with a wide space between them.

Every attempt to introduce caged software into the Open Source development process must be resisted. There is no benign caged software. It is always a trap, always ultimately a way to restrict your ability to use your computer freely; and manual methods are always to be preferred to the use of any proprietary tool.


We've been there before

There is form for this sort of thing.

Way back in the mists of time, before Git was invented, Linux kernel development was carried out using the proprietary BitKeeper system for version control; with the suppliers "generously" offering free licences to kernel developers, in the expectation that giving away free licences to a major Open Source project would serve as a good enough advertisement for the paid version to make up for what they were giving away.

Of course, it was a matter of time -- and not much time, at that -- before a bunch of highly-talented developers comfortable with working at the bare-metal level and steeped in the Open Source ethic managed successfully to reverse-engineer the proprietary protocols and created their own improved Open Source client software, which was fully amenable to independent audit and improved on the feature set of the paid-up BitKeeper client; following which (and just as predictably) BitKeeper spat out their dummies and withdrew their goodwill.

Thus was created Git, the only version control system powerful enough to deal with the complexity of the Linux kernel development project; and thus did BitKeeper vanish into obscurity. And even although you have forgotten all about BitKeeper, Kernel developers will remember. "Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me", as the old saying goes.

Adobe yanks freebie Creative Cloud offer – now universities and colleges have to put up or shut up


Thank you

I am borrowing that phrase!


Re: Good

Universities have been using Open Source and in-house-developed software for as long as they have had computers; restrictive licencing and binary-only distribution are recent phenomena, and hopefully short-lived ones.

There are people in academia who are used to writing PostScript in vi, and can still do a better and quicker job than anyone with Microsoft Word.



For years, Adobe have squozen competitors out of the market, by tolerating rampant piracy of their products. Why would anyone put up with something a bit like Photoshop for 10% of the price, when they could have The Real Thing™ for 0% of the price? Meanwhile, a steady stream of people who have been learning to use Adobe software -- whether via educational discount or piracy -- have been getting jobs in the industry and asking for Adobe software. And Adobe haven't been letting businesses get away with using more than they have paid for .....

Well, now their greed is about to bite them in the arse.

There will be some universities who will drop Adobe products altogether, and teach students to use alternatives, probably including Open Source software. The wailing and gnashing of teeth of learning to use a new software package when you are already familiar with something else is a one-time cost; anyone who knows the general principles and is prepared to put in the effort will manage to make the switch. And learning to use anything from scratch is approximately the same amount of effort anyway.

And when people who learned other software than Adobe start getting jobs in the industry, they probably will ask for what they already know. It's not like businesses are going to have to fork out licensing fees for the likes of GIMP or Inkscape.

This one is for all the developers out there who were unable to sell software competing with Adobe, because of piracy; even although nobody ever made a pirate copy of your software.

WSL2 is so last year: Linux compatibility layer backported to older Windows 10 versions


Obvious now

By now it should be blindingly obvious that Microsoft's long-term plan is to retire the Windows kernel; replacing it with a proprietary layer running on top of a Linux kernel.

FYI: Chromium's network probing accounts for about half DNS root server traffic, says APNIC


Re: OR we could fix the root of the problem

Why is the UK government going to repeal the laws already in place?
To ensure a less-unfavourable-sounding trade deal with the USA.

NASA to stop using names like 'Eskimo Nebula' and 're-examine' what it calls cosmic objects


Fine Words Butter No Parsnips

Speaking as someone who at least has some eyesight even although it could never be described by the spivviest of salesmen in the worst-fitting polyester suit as HD, I would rather a hundred people forgot to say "stopped hole", than one person left something on the pavement and created a tripping hazard.

Words aren't the real problem. If people think it's OK to use certain words, that is invariably because they are in an environment where people's actions suggest that words are the least of anyone's problems.

Mozilla doubles down on anti-tracking tech: It'll be tougher for wily ad-biz cookie monsters to track Firefox


Re: I can't remember...

Yes, why not? If they are doing business in the UK, they must either be making money in the UK, or be deliberately running a loss-making business in the UK to disguise profitability elsewhere in the world. Taxing a small portion of every sum entering or leaving their bank accounts is the only way to be sure they pay their share.


Wouldn't it be simpler

Wouldn't it be simpler just to wipe all cookies set by any site that just redirects without displaying anything?

Or even return "crumbled" cookies -- deliberately altered from what the site was trying to set, to devalue and poison tracking data (and maybe even crash servers with poor input sanitisation!)



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