* Posts by Alex Hawdon

37 publicly visible posts • joined 9 Aug 2007

Reg readers take mobile makers to task

Alex Hawdon

re Internet access

"deliberate ploy to make you hit internet connection functions by accident in order to deliver more revenue to the telcos"

haha - "oh, hold on - it's run off to the internet again" - used to be a frequent comment when using almost-smart phones like the k800, where every second button seemed to fire up either a web browser or some really heavy, gaudy, pay-content-delivery system which you had to wait to load (5/10 seconds) and then menu -> quit ->YESIMFRIKKINSURE before you could get on with using it....

NASA works on robo-podcab scheme

Alex Hawdon


So basically like the concept of pay-as-you-go cars, with the following differences:


Pros: No infrastructure investment other than the vehicles; better range due to fact taht return on investment will drop off massively after the main roads have been monorailed-up.


Pros: No 'traffic jams' if properly controlled; ability to automatically re-locate vehicles to accomodate demand; self-drive=less accidents; better fuel economy (probably...)

Sounds like a win to me. IF you can pursuede someone to fork out for the initial investment. So no then.

Spotify: iPhone sideloads for £120 a year, unlimited

Alex Hawdon

@ Graham Cobb

Exactly what I'm talking about - a total rental model where individual 'ownership' of published music doesn't really happen any more. I'll be sad to see the end of my CD collection, and lord only knows what this will do to HiFi, but I think that's the way it's going.

As regards paying the artists, I believe the best model would be that the artists work directly with the likes of Spotify and recieve a proportionate percentage of that £5/month - based on what you've listened to that month. That would be the fairest option by far.

At this point the role of record companies will change into little more than music-orientated loan companies - sources of finance that artists use when they need to invest in advertising/touring expenses/making videos/expensive producers.

Alex Hawdon

No Oasis...

...I'm sold!

Joking aside though I think everyone saying that £10 a month is 'too expensive' is missing the point.

Music lovers used to pay around that, possibly more, every month before the stealing/digital-revolution. Aside from the quibbling about how the money is divvied-up the fact remains that money does need to go into the industry to keep it alive.

In the old economy £10 a month would buy you one album. Beyond that you were back to radio and swapping tapes with friends. Now they're offering you access to anything you want to listen to (this is still new - stop complaining that they don't have *everything* - neither does your local HMV), at high quality (with the new streams), anywhere (home=PC, out=iPhone/other mobile device).

I'm sorry - but that's bloody good.

There's the argument that if the service disappears then so does your music, but if this is the way forward, and I believe it just might be, then the only thing that'll kill one service off is a better offering from another - so that makes it a moot point.

Hubble's 486 back-up springs into life

Alex Hawdon
Black Helicopters

"...to restore science operations"

I knew it! I always suspected Hubble had some other purpose! Why else would they spend so much time and money on it when surely these days you could send up something much better.

SOL anyone?

Utah boffins in terahertz spybeam infra-computing quest

Alex Hawdon


"It's not [as far as I'm aware, in my limited knowledge of all this science stuff ]foolproof so why bother?"

What a wonderful argument. I suggest you have a chat to the security attendants at the airports about ceramic weapons the next time they unreasonably try and get you to walk through the metal detector...

Police tech agency rewinds on smartphone CCTV

Alex Hawdon


Possibly a poor choice of words...

I meant to imply that the back-end systems and processes are not as effective as they might be. For the same 'loss of privacy' (i.e. the same number of cameras) we could have a much more effective criminal deterrent through using technology to leverage our existing investment...

Alex Hawdon

Time to effectively use existing 'deterrents'

Enough crying about the 'surveillance society' - in some cases we're already there and it could be used to make our towns a safer place, rather than an empty threat.

For example, our town centre boasts '100% CCTV coverage' within the town's ring road. However, as it's not used effectively it doesn't prove much of a deterrent.

If everything was hooked up to a computer and people's positions were tracked then in the event of an assault/robbery police could use their PDAs to quickly pull up a map and track people who were in the area at the time but are now fleeing, then apprehend the possibly suspects and [hoodies permitting] check their face against a still taken from the footage and detain them on the spot. If this was a realistic risk for would-be criminals then I would imagine it would make our streets a safer place.

Drivers on the phone face the slammer

Alex Hawdon
Paris Hilton


Good stuff! Totally agree with Nigel's comment - I regularly see people with nice shiny cars who don't seem to think they can afford a handsfree kit and it pisses me off! I'm a bit of a die-hard pedestrian and I love stepping out in front of them (in a controlled manner, of course) while their gesticulating wildly and trusting their Merc's autopilot to take care of the rest.

With regard to the mobile-detecting GATSO - why the hell not?! If you can rig up a highly directional antennae that can figure out whether there's a phone in use in a moving car and take a shot to prove there's no one else in the vehicle (infra-red?)... I think we have the technology!

Hrm... do I use the STOP or GO icon?.... Paris it is.

N95 struggles to find itself

Alex Hawdon
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3's Crippled Variant

N95 comes with plain GPS, which is utterly useless, and AGPS, where a server on the Internet helps out the GPS - which works really nicely.

However, the 3 AGPS server that their phones comes configured to connect to doesn't bloody work! So all but the persistent and pseudo-technically-minded just end up thinking the whole package is a white elephant! Point it to Nokia's AGPS server and all is well...

I hate how re-branded phones lack polish and updates, but I'm not brave enough to mess around (de-brand) with something I can't afford to replace...

Nokia to turn cameraphones into foreign food finders

Alex Hawdon
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The N95 already has a bar-code reader - but from what I can see it's only good for those fancy 2D barcodes that direct you to more information online.

What it DOESN'T do (as far as I can tell) is read 1D EAN / UPC (whatever - been awhile since I worked on that stuff) codes that we get on everything. I would have thought that being able to scan a barcode on a product in-store and have your app find out what the product is and subsequently get either alternative online retailer info or reviews or whatever would be a no-brainer! Obviously not.

Instead they think that I want to take a photo of a t-shirt and have the computer help me figure out where to buy it is a good idea...

I'm still utterly convinced that there's a big fat marketing strategy standing between us and a phone that is really, supremely, useful. We've had the tech for ages but vendors seem really resistant to putting all the pieces together.

Punters call for laptops with built-in mobiles

Alex Hawdon
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Where printed....

Where printed 'would like to see mobile broadband built into...', please read 'have been disappointed with using bluetooth to access the internet over their mobiles and would like to see something that works. And the perception is that built-in things generally do.'

seriously, what a joke.

Dutch teen swipes furniture from virtual hotel

Alex Hawdon
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I trust this means that the Dutch police have managed to solve all the other crimes in Holland?

I hope someone high up in their police force gets wind of this and heads roll. It's like when random celebs get curfews or house arrest or whatever it's called and then you see about 12 officers on the front page of the Sun going 'round to check that said celeb perp is honouring their agreement - rather than actually going and fighting crimes committed by dangerous people...

Robot builders hunt for a killer application

Alex Hawdon

Human Interaction...

Finn, quite so!

We don't want robots that wander around our houses knocking vases over, stepping on the family dog and cheerily reading our email - we want things like Roomba, but better.

The sales pitch needs to be more along the lines of 'you pay us £800 for a robot that you'll never see again - but you'll also never have clean your floors or mow the lawn again'.

Ubuntu goes 3-D

Alex Hawdon

Finally... (nearly)

To answer the comment made above about Linux not being ready for 'the man in street' due to you eventually having to resort to using the command line (a point which I completely agree with); I think we're nearly there!

Installed it yesterday on a HP laptop. Everything worked out of the box with the exception of the Wireless card and the 3D effects. Restriced devices manager quickly and effortlessly took care of both of these things and an hour from booting the laptop I was connected to my WPAd wlan and enjoying the 2007-ness of Compiz.

I hear they've done a lot of work on the codecs/web (flash and all that) side of things - I've yet to check all that out, although I did make a quick visit to YouTube to see if Flash was working out of the box (it wasn't) or if that add Flash wizard they have a shot of on their release blurb would appear - it didn't.

So my main criticism now is again back to DOCUMENTATION! They have all these amazing new features listed on the release blurb, but you can't find simple, basic documentation on what they are - where to access them and how to use them... No doubt I will find all this stuff - will the less geeky have to wait a month or two whilst the official 'documentation' for the OS catches up with the latest release? Probably.

Alex Hawdon

But will it include...


Other operating systems have managed to include this feature for quite awhile... I wonder when Ubuntu will catch up and sort this out. Or just continue relying on shoddy upstream documentation and hundreds of duplicated wiki articles and forum how-tos as they have been doing.

I nearly made the switch to OpenSUSE after my growing frustration at the lack of proper, official documentation. But then I plugged in my wireless USB stick and nothing happened...

YouTube invades Google Earth

Alex Hawdon

Camera + GPS

Is anyone doing it yet? I love being able to rely on my digital camera's ability to remember when I took a photo, next I want to know *where*.

iPhone version 2 with 4+MP camera and GPS... we can dream.

(Everyone; for the love of Jehova please don't respond with any comments about how great/crap the iPhone is. Lets be better than that.)

BOFH: Skip diplomacy

Alex Hawdon

@ PC Paul, Guy and Jim Bloke...

So you guys regularly accidentally damage an important communal resource in a fit of carelessness then manage to repair it with clever thinking / quick tricks before most people notice....

Do you work in IT?

DRM on steroids controls backfires on Blu-ray

Alex Hawdon

re:Software update on Blu-ray

also, is there a 'Blu-ray owner spec' that specifies that owners must have an Internet connection?

If they really wanted that much control then why not do a deal with the mobile phone networks and have it phone-home that way? It's hardly going to cost very much to put GSM-ness in each unit and it would make the consumer control so much easier...

The whole thing is laughable, but unfortunately inevitable.

I'm just praying that something good rises out of the ashes of the media giants' empires. Sadly I fear this may not be the case as they refuse to die quietly and instead are determined to piss as many people off as possible in the process; driving people toward free, pirated media. Once people are used to getting something for free it changes their mindset and devalues future work.

Geeks and Nerds caught on film lacking geeky nerdiness

Alex Hawdon


"But this stuff isn't always easy to figure out. We probably spent a couple $k in staff time diagnosing a bad $100 disk."

How much would it have cost to replace the whole computer and migrate the user's data... $700?

I would say it may be easier than you think, if you don't want to be a hippy about it... ;)

Alex Hawdon

False Market...

The fact is that most home PC Repair stuff is a pretty false market... (more on that later)

IMO the only way it can be done correctly and economically is to hire people who don't know much and have them go through simple diagnostic tests which will diagnose 95% of faults within a couple of hours (hardware or software? If hardware then swap test hardware until fault is localised, etc.) and charge £30-40/hr for diagnosis.

Experts get paid more and therefore have to cost more. You would have to charge closer to £100/hr if you wanted to employ mid-level PC techs. Granted, they would be able to diagnose more faults, but when most PCs cost less than £400, there isn't any point.

What I mean about a false market is that most people who would bring their computers to these places are the people who paid £1500 for the 'best' PC package a few years ago. To them it's still the dog's proverbials, but they don't realise that they could just replace the base unit with something better for about £300; diagnosing/fixing it just isn't economical.

UK police can now force you to reveal decryption keys

Alex Hawdon

It's just random data

Seen as decent encryption is supposed to make encrypted data indistinguishable from random noise, what happens if one claims that the DVD full of encrypted goodies is actually just a one-time encryption pad they made for an exercise?

I could see that argument going on all day

"No it's not."

"Yes, it is."

"No, it's not."

"Yes it is."


BT cranks VoIP & BlackBerry Enigma machine

Alex Hawdon


It appears you know too much. High quality tinfoil-hat wearing GHCQ fanboys are also removed from the internet and replaced with Korean gamers. Be aware.

Hugo Chavez rails against teen Bulgarian airbags

Alex Hawdon


One thing I do like about these would-be dictators is that they exercise their freedom to go on telly and lambaste their subjects when they're being idiots, as is the case here.

Anyone who might even *suggest* to their 15 year old daughter that she needs larger breasts isn't a very good human being.


Sun Solaris upgrade snuggles with Linux

Alex Hawdon


It's a great debating tactic!

But seriously, perhaps 'mongrel' was a poor choice of adjective as it has negative connotations. I was just trying to communicate how it's much easier to end up with a server farm with lots of different distros and/or releases due to the varying merits of Linux distributions and their fast release cycles and (often) shorter support periods. Due to the whole 'cost-centre' mentality most IT departments are pushed to the limit and don't have time to think about 'needless' upgrades to keep everything current which can easily leave a very disparate environment. Thankfully, RH, et al., are bucking the trend.

Alex Hawdon

RE:RE:RE: @Matt re: Solaris migration

Calm down.

I think (server!) Linux is wonderfully mature. And you're right; it's been a long time since I checked out the current state of RH support/documentation; I've been busy reading the *mountains* of well-written AIX documentation / redbooks that IBM has provided...

I was merely playing Devil's Advocate and presenting some points to counter your rant about 'Slowaris', or whatever.

Interestingly enough:




Alex Hawdon

@Matt re: Solaris migration

Solaris is produced and supported by a large company, and as such engenders certain expectations regarding its reliability and security, especially at CIO-level in big companies.

There is also the benefit of the fact that every Solaris system looks like every other; you can get contractors in to help you fix problems or interchange you IT staff more easily, leaving you less exposed to risk.

Also, the vendor sells hardware and software as a complete package; this is very attractive. You have one throat to choke when things go wrong - when you're mongrel Linux farm starts dying half the problem is figuring out who’s fault it is ("sure as hell isn't mine!") before you can even start work on the solution.

Oh, and Solaris has documentation... that is up to date... and in the same place.

Yes, I know companies like RedHat are addressing these issues, but their offerings just aren't as mature.

So for a CIO wanting to simplify, consolidate and possibly outsource infrastructure, migrating to a common, well-supported platform with hardware and software offerings (backed by support and reputation) and datacentre services is quite an attractive proposition.

Alex Hawdon

@Matt, and re: Virtual Desktops...

"[*]new[*] server to come with VMware's [*]new[*] hypervisor [...] with proven capability"

^that sentence doesn't make a great deal of sense to me.

I think the point behind Containers being able to host Linux is for people who want to migrate to Solaris and take advantage of Containers but are held back by one or two apps that won't run on Solaris. Rather than layering Containers on Solaris on VMWare and co-existing with Linux this offers a much simpler (and by virtue of which, potentially more reliable) solution. And when the app vendors catch up then you just mothball the Linux container and not have to think about re-doing your datacentre from the VMWare level.

Regarding XDMCP... whilst you're technically right, maybe sun are offering something that will run without requiring a 100mbps link between the server and client...

At the Toyshop of Doom

Alex Hawdon

@Jason Clery...

Yeah, you're absolutely right about the porous state borders thing, and (though a little extreme) I do agree with your comments about fighting, which are especially poignant these days when if some thug starts on you and you push him over and he accidentally dies you'll almost certainly do lots and lots of time...

I guess the problem boils down to this: if the world was mature enough for everyone to carry guns without massive adverse effects, then they wouldn't make things any safer.

The reason I believe it would be a massive problem is the rampaging herds of chavs and general idiots; the people who are irrational and quick to anger and perceive everything as 'disrespect' as they don't have the capacity to properly analyse anything. These antagonists used to be into fighting. Over time the bar has been raised and now they're more disposed toward stabbing - do we really want to raise the bar further?

*goes back to his Daily Mail* ;)

Alex Hawdon

@Jason Clery and the NRA, or whatever it's called...

As far as I'm aware America satisfies points 2-4, and although we only hear the horror stories about states where anyone with a working hand can go and buy a gun, conversely there must be states which have stict licensing regulations; are these states particularly safe places, given that they satisfy all your criteria?

Alex Hawdon

@Rob Mossop

"The problem I have with The Register writing articles like this is not necessarily the equipment itself, but the show that they are giving advertising to."

Advertising... hardly. I don't think anyone in the market for the wares on display at this show is likely to be browsing the Reg on their lunch hour. And if they are I don't think their reaction, upon stumbling across this article, will be anything near "Oh sh1t! How did I miss that arms fair?! Fire my secretary and make sure I get a ticket for next year you incompetant fools!"

Weapons Systems != FMCGs...

And to all the people wondering why this has been covered - simple: thinking up better ways to kill each other / stop other people killing us advances technology faster than anything else. Nothing like a good war between the most technologically advanced states to stimulate 50year's worth of technological progress in a fraction of that time.

Canonical and VMware team on mini-Ubuntu

Alex Hawdon


Maybe he'd really like to see what a laptop Linux is like when all the peripherals, buttons, lights and magic works - out of the box. Without sacrificing a goat, or trawling forums looking for references to your obscure (only issued in Essex, for two weeks) model numbered laptop.

Just imagine....

(I can't)

btw - I use Ubuntu on my laptop and think it's great. But it would be better if Toshiba had kept Linux in mind and ensured my SD card slot and sound card worked properly.

ISPs turn blind eye to million-machine malware monster

Alex Hawdon

IIS vs Apache (digression.... whatever...)

We digress, but I like this argument. The stats here are ripe for (IMHO) misinterpretation to support agendas, usually those of the *nix fanboy...

The vast majority of websites are built by unskilled people working with resold packaged services running on faceless server farms. The fact that Apache is free software and runs on free operating systems means that it is well suited as a webserver for this business model (software costs do not scale with capacity in the same way that licensed software does) and, more importantly, is more likely to be administered by technical professionals that know how to properly configure and secure their servers.

IIS, on the other hand, is marketed as a good choice for everyone else. Due to its ease of use it's more likely to be used by non-tech businesses with less skilled IT staff and as such it's more likely to be left with an insecure configuration.

Viewed this way we can see that the disparities between attack success rates on IIS and Apache are more a result of marketing and economics than other factors. There are many companies who have successfully implemented complex, high-volume websites running on IIS and complementary proprietary back-end languages and do so pretty securely. The fact that these are rarer than their F/OSS counterparts is more complicated than some simplistic 'Microsoft/Closed-source is rubbish' arguments would suggest...

And in case you're wondering my home network consists of 3 Linux boxes, which work very nicely - for the most part! I accept that neither Linux nor Windows is going to be problem-free but I can generally solve problems encountered on Linux a little faster then I can on Windows, though I'm confident I, or anyone else competent enough, could happily run a spam-free Windows network if necessary.

Are you serious about security?

Alex Hawdon


Jeremiah, you'll find that 'connexion' is an anachronistic, though still valid, spelling.

*Runs to avoid an irate Reg. readers' assault on everything I've ever written*


Alex Hawdon


Is this an advert/joke?

I won't pick it apart but I did manage to read as far as "Since the network cannot be breached..."...

Why mention all the other revolutionary 'features' that this product offers if this is the case? Surely if someone has come up with a product that simply prevents networks from being compromised then that's big news!

Or maybe that's a load of rubbish...

Compact Disc: 25 years old today

Alex Hawdon

"Good Enough"

The problem is, that whilst CDs are definitely good, mp3s are 'good enough'.

I'm sure all the HiFI aficionados have been through this with their unenlightened friends; you try and show them how much better a CD is then an mp3, and even on your own beloved system you can barely register a nod out of them. On their own cheapy midi systems you'd be hard pushed to tell the difference yourself.

Unfortunately for us, nobody cares! As long as they can hear it well enough to make out the words they're happy.

So with the decline of CDs wonder what the future holds? Either the major distributors will start selling lossless digital files to us (at a premium, no doubt) or maybe HiFi manufacturers, desperate to save their industry, will do a deal with the record companies and start to distribute very high quality digital recordings to their customers - which will no doubt be at a *massive* increase in price...

'Linn Digibox' or the 'Medidian FLACbox' anyone....


And - thanks for the theory and the recollections, GrahamT, interesting stuff!

UK VPN security is outstandingly mediocre

Alex Hawdon

Linux at work...


To authorise the connection of a new device/OS to the company's VPN the IT department has to audit the device to ensure it satisfies certain criteria. Going forward they would also be responsible for ensuring that future releases don't introduce any problems, as well as keeping up to date with patches and ensuring that all users do the same. This all incurs significant administrative overhead and possibly additional skills and expertise.

When they purchased the product from Cisco it came with certain assurances from the vendor that carry a lot of weight. A lot more weight, in terms of corporate risk management, then a bunch of academics on a mailing list extolling the virtues of this 'Linux' thing.

You may expect them to make an exception becuase you're 'special' and you 'know what you're doing', but it frankly isn't worth the risk (to the company, and the IT dept as individuals with responsibilies), and to do it properly isn't worth their time. If home working is a requirement then I suggest you install VMWare on your Linux system and then request the company purchase a copy of XP that you can install on it and use this to do your work.

(I use Linux and it's great and I wish I could install it on my work PC but I understand why I can't)