* Posts by Milton

880 publicly visible posts • joined 14 Jun 2016


UK judge gives Google a choice: Either let SEO expert read your ranking algos or withdraw High Court evidence


I'm waiting ...

I'm waiting for the moment when Google is given a corporate truth drug and says—

"Actually, our analyses show that 99.3% of internet advertising is completely worthless shit. 97.7% of SEO is rubbish too. The vast majority of clicks—that we get paid for, yuk yuk—are by robots, and even the meatbrain ones almost never lead to a sale. But we made a ton of money from the wishful thinking of totally gullible idiots. Turns out, when you've convinced a critical mass of halfwits that the emperor is wearing clothes, there's another even bigger tranche of halfwits competing to describe them to all the remaining halfwits. Who suck it up cos our predecessors (thanks, consumer business!) convinced them that buying shiny trash made them happy, and that spaffing their credit card balance would get them laid. To be honest, we've been wondering for years when you morons would figure it out ... anyway, 'Don't be Evil'!! Mwah ha ha ..."

Zoom's end-to-end encryption isn't actually end-to-end at all. Good thing the PM isn't using it for Cabinet calls. Oh, for f...


Unprecedented stupidity

People are asking about the role of the security services and assuming that the poor buggers are not, right now, slapping their foreheads and rolling their eyes to the tune of—

Boss: "You mean Number Ten Downing Street just installed an ordinary public app to conduct a virtual meeting? They didn't pick up the phone to GCHQ, for chrissake, to ask what to do? They didn't think to check with anyone who had the first clue what they were doing? You shirley can't be serious??"

Shirley: "Well, the PM is a known liar, mediocre student of dead languages, can't keep his flies zipped, doesn't retain or understand even basic details, knows absolutely sweet FA about technology (and everything else, actually) and has a well-earned reputation for laziness and incompetence. And he's surrounded himself by useless yes-men. one of them used to sell fireplaces! We've learned to expect this level of idiocy."

Boss: "Fucking hell. What secrets has he let slip?"

Shirley: "None. We stopped telling him the sensitive stuff when he was still making a fool of himself in the Foreign Office."

Boss: "I don't know whether to laugh or cry."

Shirley: "Personally, I recommend you begin drinking heavily. And stop calling me Shirley."

NASA mulls restoring Saturn V to service as SLS delays and costs mount


Trouble is, it so very nearly makes sense

Like all good Apriphulian japes, there's enough reason and 'bottom' to this to earn that double-take.

In a very sad, child-like way ... I'd love this to be true.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, health secretary Matt Hancock both test positive for COVID-19 coronavirus


The most worrying thing

The most worrying thing about Liar Johnson's statement was that he intended to continue to lead the government in the fight against coronavirus.

Really, he should go to bed, rest, relax, and do nothing. Let someone else do the "leading".

He'd be doing himself a favour.

And the country.

House of Lords push internet legend on greater openness and transparency from Google. Nope, says Vint Cerf


We're Google ...

"We're Google ... and if, after everything that's happened and that you ought to know about during the last two decades, you have even the slightest scrap of trust in us—then you are a stunningly ignorant complete idiot."

Ok, Google can't say that. But they do have, in current British government circles, a very wide range of stunningly ignorant complete idiots to choose from. Starting at the top.

Plus, find a way to underhandedly finance a holiday in the Caribbean ....

Rocket Lab wants to break free, hopes next mission is more 'A Kind Of Magic' than 'Another One Bites The Dust'


Ring any bells?

"However, there remains no confirmation on if NASA will require Boeing to repeat the test flight. More work, according to the agency, is still required."

The last sentence reeks of political bullshit.

The test is, I believe, contractually required before Boeing is allowed to fly a manned mission. It was intended to to verify that the capsule could reach orbit, dock and then safely return to Earth. It did not reach orbit. It didn't dock. Worse, if it had astronauts aboard, one of the discovered failure modes would likely have killed them.

So in what world can Nasa even be considering letting Boeing off the hook for a full soup-to-nuts real, integrated test? (Not a simulation.)

It seems that this might be the world in which Nasa is conscious of scheming by the US Congress—completely bought, paid for, names taken and receipts printed by Boeing lobbyists—to make Boeing the sole supplier of manned orbital operations and edge out SpaceX despite the latter's considerably better and cheaper performance.

If so, it truly stinks. The Boeing approach seems to be: "We cannot compete on performance or price unless we somehow cheat. Whom can we improperly influence to look the other way while we contrive the necessary, devious compromises and kludges?"

Well, does this ring any bells?

If you're wondering how Brit cops' live suspect-hunting facial-recog is going, it's cruising at 88% false positives



It's easy to hype the supposed merits of miraculously wonderful technology, which can purportedly do the work of hundreds or thousands of actual trained, skilled people.

That's why NSA and GCHQ have recorded millions of hours of phone conversations, which they will have properly analysed by 2317AD—if they are able to find several hundred more speakers of highly colloquial Arabic dialects, that is.

It's why police will have petabytes of camera footage just waiting for the perfect recognition technology, so that sometime in 2080 people wanted for relatively trifling crimes—i.e. those who did not make use of elementary disguises, like wearing Coronavirus masks—can be positively identified ... and their graves visited.

To be more serious, it's why there is no substitute for good old-fashioned humint and shoe-leather. But the miracle tech is so inviting, isn't it?

As with companies still buying Oracle: it's amazing how stunningly gullible and ready to part with taxpayers' money supposedly intelligent senior executive-level people can be. We expect a certain level of outright stupidity from our politicians (look at what's befouling the Home Office at the moment) but senior police and intel types ... not so much. Then again, these are the same (mathematically illiterate?) buffoons who keep banging on about secret backdoors in E2E encryption. Cue, Trumpian tantrums where an arrogant fathead keeps screeching "But I want it! I want it !!"


Re: "inaccuracy rate of 87.5 per cent"

We don't know how many of the wanted people sauntered past undetected.

Of the 8,600, exactly 8,590 were wanted or suspected robbers, rapists, terrorists, burglars, wife beaters, fraudsters, and serial litterers, all of whom were geniuses in the highly technical business of wearing wigs, false facial hair, hoodies or spectacles or any combination thereof, and/or capable of using theatrical wax to change the shape of nose or ears, and/or those at the absolute pinnacle of their skills ... with fat wodges of gum stuck in their cheeks to change facial shape.

The other two were foreign intelligence agents of record, using none of the above basic methods, preferring skin coatings, invisible to the naked eye, which use preferentially reflective spectral compounds to fool camera sensors about what they are seeing.

In an unintended irony, the half dozen or so police officers and MI6 agents who would have spotted the foreign spies using Mk#1 Eyeball—if they'd actually been in the crowd—were instead sitting in the camera nerve centre, diligently analysing the almost completely incorrect recognition data.

Ivan and Valentina were back in the Russian embassy by teatime, having concluded their dead-letter mission, unrecognised and unmolested.

Fancy that: Hacking airliner systems doesn't make them magically fall out of the sky


two sidestick controllers

"Since there is no physical connection between the two sidestick controllers and no simulated control load feedback in that Airbus model, neither pilot could feel what the other was doing."

This is the thing that has always bothered me. It's possibly the only thing that I believe Boeing does better than Airbus. I have never understood why Airbus thought it was ok not to provide tactile feedback to the control surface items in the cockpit—meaning the rudder pedals and the sidestick.

Boeing decided to retain the traditional yoke, even when it too moved to fly-by-wire controls, and the yoke is not only big and very visible, it does allow the pilots to sense what the control surfaces are encountering and, critically, whether other control inputs are being made too.

If Air France 447 had been operated by a Boeing that sad night, everyone in the cockpit would have seen instantly that the pilot pulling back on the yoke was pulling back on the yoke—the damn thing would have been pressing into his belly. The sidestick, on the other hand, was virtually invisible and betrayed nothing of what the pilot was trying to do.

Possibly even worse, the other pilot's sidestick relayed nothing of what was being input on the other side of the cockpit: there was nothing to clue in the other pilot that his oppo was pulling back. In a Boeing, the other pilot would have certainly noticed the wayward control input—he'd have felt it.

Furthermore: If American Airlines 587 had been operated by a Boeing on 12 Nov 2001, the co-pilot, who had been incorrectly trained to use the rudder enthusiastically to compensate for turbulence (caused by preceding large jets, sometimes experienced during climb-out) would have felt the enormous resistance of the rudder as it was fully deflected in a high speed airstream: likely he would have thought twice about doing this a second time, instead of continuing the action until the vertical stabiliser snapped clean off the plane—it was overstressed way beyond design limits by the pilot's excessive control inputs. (The plane crashed in Queens.)

Don't get me wrong. Until the 737MAX fiasco I would have said that Boeing and Airbus both built superb planes to very high standards, and I've never lost sleep over flying in one or the other manufacturer's equipment. But I do believe that the Airbus decision to move to sidesticks and to follow that with abandonment of feedback was bordering on the cretinous.

I cannot believe that any actual pilot supported that decision, because after years of training, starting in single-engine prop planes and working up through multi-engine turbines, plain old seat-of-the-pants airmanship would have ingrained the sense of "wearing" an aircraft, something that's only possible by actually feeling what it's experiencing and doing.

The Air France crew have been criticised for lack of airmanship, but spare them a sympathetic thought: airmanship is very hard when you can't feel the plane.

London's top cop dismisses 'highly inaccurate or ill informed' facial-recognition critics, possibly ironically


MI5 head "increasingly mystified"

And if you're still not tired of senior people who should know better talking absolute shyte, this gem from today's Guardian:

'MI5’s director general ... Sir Andrew Parker says he has found it “increasingly mystifying” that intelligence agencies like his are not able to easily read secret messages of terror suspects they are monitoring.

'Parker called on the tech firms to “use the brilliant technologists you’ve got” to answer a question: “Can you provide end-to-end encryption but ... provide access to stop the most serious forms of harm happening?”'

It would appear that mathematical literacy is not a required attribute for the head of Britain's counter-intelligence organisation. Nor even sufficient common sense to pick up the phone to ask someone at GCHQ for a quick sanity check on what he was about to say. Because they do include knowledgeable mathematicians, who (off duty) would have answered the question—

“Can you provide end-to-end encryption but ... provide access to stop the most serious forms of harm happening?”

—with: "NO".

But then, the poor thing would probably have just continued being "mystified". Perhaps it happens a lot.

Samsung will be Putin dreaded Kremlin-approved shovelware on its phones, claims Russia


point out the pun

I think you're being a teensy bit disingenuous, but I'll point out anyway, that El Reg subs—all lovely people, who volunteered for the "Reset Sensayuma to Age Twelve" experiment in college—are incapable of resisting the urge to say "Putin" for "putting" or "put in", despite the fact that this wasn't remotely funny even the very first time someone said it.*

*Which, since you obviously want to know, was uttered for the first time at a treff with a supposed Stasi double-agent in Leipzig, October 1988. Or I could have made that up ...

I'm sorry, Elon. I'm afraid I can't do that... SpaceX touts robo-rides for orbital vacations, lift-off in 2021-ish


Funnily enough ...

Funnily enough ... although I am (rightly) scathing about Virgin Galactic's sub-orbital stunt flights, I can see why your average obscenely rich individual might go for that, rather than these oribtal flights—which don't sound very realistic to me anyway.

With the Virgin system, you get your nice shiny Astronaut badge, even though you've done nothing but fly up 80km and then come back down again. (Well, "astronaut" who hasn't even flown into orbit, or even reached 100km.) You're only aboard the ship long enough to get the badge. Just afew hours.

Whereas the SpaceX scheme ... who does want to spend four days in a tiny, smelly space with three strangers, with virtually no privacy, and a very same-y view out the tiny window? What are you gonna do if one of the other rich idiots keeps puking? Or has a heart attack? Or goes a bit bonkers and refuses to follow procedure? Has chronic flatulence?

Starship may be big enough to afford some comfort to tourists, but Crew Dragon? Really? No, I don't see it.

The very rich twits will pay Branson for a chance to fly not even to the Karman Line, and get a pretty badge if they survive.

The obscenely rich will wait for a stateroom aboard Starship.

One man is standing up to Donald Trump's ban on US chip tech going to Huawei. That man... is Donald Trump



"Say what you want, The Orange has made it to the top. A perfect role model for schoolyard bullies everywhere."

Yeah. I've read that the Biff Tannen character in Back to the Future was based on (younger) Trump. "About as useful as a screen door on a ... submarine".

But I have a question. Trump does indeed talk like an idiot, and this particular self-contradictory nonsense is therefore no surprise. He either has a terrible memory or he lies so much that he's really just puking up whatever is in his head at any given moment.

Has he always been like this? I mean, yes, I know he's always been a pathological liar—there are enough stories of the pretence and deceit from his NY real estate days—but as he always been so wildly inconsistent? Have his memory and reasoning power always been this bad?

Because if any other 70+ fella spoke the way he does ... they'd be off for dementia testing pronto.

Not a Genius move after all: Apple must cough up $$$ in back pay for store staff forced to wait for bag searches


What do you see in the mirror?

It's a question I could ask of many senior executives and most politicians, when their behaviour is so reekingly bad. Do some people lack even the most basic sense of shame?

Several extremely well-paid senior managers, belonging to one of the wealthiest and cash-rich companies on the planet, not only decided that minimum-wage employees should not be paid for time spent obliging the company's security, but they they further and repeatedly attempted to deny them justice when this was exposed, making the most bizarre and even childish arguments in front of a court. Who thought this was decent behaviour in the first place? What kind of people persisted in trying to deny their employees a fair settlement?

Did nice Mr Tim Cook, squatting on millions, think this was a good use of Apple's lawyers?

I'd like to say such foul behaviour by a large, rich corporation surprises me ... we should all be utterly disgusted with this. If "beneath contempt" has any meaning in these Trumpian days, it applies to the executives who implemented and defended this disgusting policy.

Crypto AG backdooring rumours were true, say German and Swiss news orgs after explosive docs leaked


Re: Once again ....

No. The whole point of publishing and widely dissmeinating crypto algorithms and code is to bring the broadest, deepest and most expert range of challengers devoted to knocking it down and finding vulnerabilities.

I would not trust crypto that only I had authored and only I had the opportunity to analyse for weaknesses. That would be crazy.

I'd bet you good money that even a guru like Bruce Schneier would say exactly the same. The best crypto is utterly transparent in algorithm and code, and has been hammered away at by experts of every stripe.

I trust crypto which the world's best minds have tried and failed to break—even knowing exactly how it works.

There's got to be Huawei we can defeat Chinese tech giant, thinks US attorney-general. Aha, let's buy stake in Ericsson and Nokia


Ignorance-fuelled decisions

So is this an admission by the US government that they were expecting other countries to a) deny their markets to Huawei, and then b) turn to the US (primarily Cisco and Juniper) to supply their equipment.

They've suddenly discovered that there are actually other network manufacturers that are neither Chinese or American, and have suddenly realised that they might not be raking in the millions after all. (Because let's not forget that the real reason for going after Huawei is to stifle the competition for US products)

I'm not sure that this is as clear as you suggest, but in truth I doubt that Trump sees anything but a bargaining chip in his trade dispute with China. Given his lickspittle attitude to Putin and carelessness with security generally—oh heck, Trump probably doesn't even know how to spell Huawei. He probably couldn't find distinguish Taiwan from Japan on a line map of the world. He actually manages to make our Prime Minister look knowledgeable about the world. Cretin.

But IMHO he has done the right thing, albeit for the wrong reasons. I am an unapologetic China sceptic, and in any case, as I've said before: it's capabilities, not intentions that matter here.

I have no idea who persuaded the idiot Johnson that there is some unbridgeable gulf between the "periphery" of a network and its "core", or who then went on to claim that UK security could magically protect against malicious actors routing traffic hither and yon—because that is what they're doing, after all. I wonder which part of the word "n∙e∙t∙w∙o∙r∙k" Boris failed to comprehend? But I do believe that allowing a Chinese-controlled company to place soft- and hardware inside our networks is absolutely insane. Some of the money wasted on the Brexit fiasco would have been great for building a home-grown, British system, come to that. The providers may be hyping 5G but there's no real urgency, when you come down to it. For most people it will make little difference to their lives, except higher phone bills.

But there. I think we can already see a steady trend towards the new government producing reliably bad, dumb decisions and brain-dead policy. Huawei. HS2. Heathrow. Red lines. Counter-terrorism.

It ain't gonna be pretty.

You can easily secure America's e-voting systems tomorrow. Use paper – Bruce Schneier


Re: And we think the UK government is bad

Give it time. The second of two blubbery pathological liars is coming along very nicely and should be lickspittling the first very soon: a matched set for incompetence, dishonesty, racism, bigotry and all-round ignorance—oh, plus ridiculous hair.

The Age of Stupid gets what it votes for.


Leave it to mathematicians

I read an article (sorry, don't recall where) which made an excellent case for allowing only an independent body of mathematicians to set district boundaries for elections. Politicians obviously shouldn't be allowed anywhere near the process: too stupid; too corrupt; in many cases, too both.

Perhaps it's time for a radical overhaul of election systems in many countries. In the US gerrymandering and the ridiculous electoral college system produce bizarrely unrepresentative results (Trump wins 3m fewer votes and is still elected??) and the UK isn't much better: boundaries are less of a problem, but the absurd first-past-the post system wildly exaggerates the influence of a relatively small number of "swing" marginal constituencies. The most recent example of course is that a party in favour of Brexit has huge majority despite the fact that more people voted for parties against that policy than in favour.

It isn't difficult to devise the bones of systems quite obviously fairer than the ones we have in the US and UK—any Year 9 Civics class could come up with a decent outline—and it is disgraceful that we haven't achieved this yet.

Very little helps: Tesco flashes ancient Windows desktop on Scan-As-You-Shop device


The many failure modes of Tesco

"Scan as you shop" is exclusive to Tesco Clubcard holders who, because they have allowed the retail giant to slurp their shopping habits, can presumably be trusted to wield the Windows-based handhelds rather than hand their baskets to a checkout clerk or endure the snort-inducing "unexpected item in the bagging area" from the self-service machines.

You have a choice.

1. "Traditional" checkout: which closes just as you approach it and queues are getting longer at the few remaining open ones, but, no matter: they're manned, or womanned, by people who'd much sooner have a nice leisurely chat with the previous customer until the exact moment you open your carrier bags, when they start hurling bottles, bouncing tender produce and sliding fragile goods at you in a frenzied avalanche. Time wasted: 10 mins. Avg Staff Reqd: 1.2

2. Auto Checkout: of which about 60% are actually working, with a queue longer than anywhere else (except #3), always surrounded by a horde of staff tasked to help with the litany of exotic failure modes known only to automated checkout systems and whose main actual activities comprise either chatting amongst themselves or verifying that (a) I'm old enough to buy alcohol, or (b) my purchase of a child's rounders bat has no terroristic motivation. Time wasted: 10 mins. Avg Staff Reqd: 1.4

3. Scan As You Shop: truly monumental queues, staff thronging in an advertisement for How Not To Be Productive And Efficient By Getting In Absolutely Everyone's Way Including Your Own, for a system driven by an algorithm which says "This person has never failed a bag audit, so pester them today, again, by diligently and very slowly counting the number of garlic bulbs" and by some miracle managing to require more time and effort than option #1. Time wasted: 10 mins. Avg Staff Reqd: 2.3.

(To all of these must be added, on a one-visit-in-five basis the extra calendar time need for an item lacking the correct bar code or other feature, allowing a generous five minutes for anyone to even deign to come along to fix the problem and then another 10 minutes for that worthy to get hopelessly lost in their own store.)

Of course, there's option 4, for delivery of the wrong items, slightly damaged or lacking freshness or both, if not substituted, but really—who'd buy Tesco's overpriced "fresh" produce without being able to inspect it first?

If we didn't happen to live within a 10-min walk of an Extra store, we would never go near Tesco. But I work from home and benefit from a daily stroll ... (That said, Sainsburys, by determined effort, is managing to overtake in the race to the bottom: what the hell has happened to them?!)

ESA trumpets 'world's first space debris removal' with 4-armed junk botherer


Missions for mini-sats?

Some trends coming together:

* CPU power in a small light volume

* Sensor and comm tech, likewise

* Ever-cheaper launch of oodles of mass-produced small satellites

—so why not have an international competition to design and engineer the smallest possible satellite capable of:

* Being given a target spec and/or image and/or position

* Pootling off to find said target

* Joining to the target (glue? sticky foam? space web/net? physically drilling an attachment point, even?)

* Applying gentle but steady thrust, over weeks or perhaps even months, to de-orbit the target and itself

* Largely autonomous, except for attachment and trajectory-setting

Some clever bugger will probably come up with a <100kg device to tick all the boxes. If SpaceX can mass-produce internet orbital routers, this is surely possible? And economies of scale will render it affordable ... he said, hopefully.

You might even build a bigger version specifically designed to lift some high-orbit items up into the Graveyard Orbit. The tricky stuff would seem (to me ) to be (a) political acceptability, therefore international so no one worries about skulduggery, and (b) the attachment technology: how you safely and remotely attach a little engine to a satellite so you can reliably push it where you want it to go.

All work to be funded by space powers based on the mass of rubbish they've so far left up there ...?

As for RoI, there's not only the value of not having millions of bits of debris whizzing around up there, there's also what we'll earn about remote, semi-autonomous space operations, potential asteroid capture etc.

What''s not to like?

AI snatches jobs from DJs and warehouse workers, plus OpenAI and PyTorch sittin' in a tree, AI, AI, AI for you and me


The Artificial Idiot, or the real one?

'Ex-staff said iHeartMedia has been playing around with AI software capable of mixing music, a job traditionally left for DJs. "They’ve decided to replace a lot of workers, a lot of live shows, with AI … and another DJ in another state, another city, not in Fresno, don’t know nothing about Fresno,” Monisha Mann, a former DJ at B95, an hip-hop radio station owned by iHeartMedia, said during a live video feed on Instagram and Facebook. “I just sat in my car, like, damn. This is it for me. … I just got laid off from something I loved so much.”'

i can't speak for iHeartMedia, but if its standards are anything like British popular music radio, even the dumbest and most inarticulate Artificial Idiot would be better than a meat-based DJ. My lovely wife listens to the radio while cooking (and yes, before anyone asks, I do my share too) and I am frequently gobsmacked with disbelief at the inane vacuity and sheer, vapid stupidity of the "conversation". Whether it be fake anecdotes, risible contrivances or staged laughter at witless "jokes", the DJs' drivel is sometimes nearly as bad as the truly atrocious adverts (I mean, what?—you couldn't find a voice actor to do a remotely convincing French accent for your hilariously awful advert for whatever-it-was? You are that cheap??)

If you were looking for some pointless activity that an Artificial Idiot couldn't possibly do worse than a human being, I guess radio DJ fits the bill.

I hope there are some left over, though: we need 600+ to replace useless mouths in the House of Commons, too.

Not call, dude: UK govt says guaranteed surcharge-free EU roaming will end after Brexit transition period. Brits left at the mercy of networks


Re: Bankers

Very few people understand how banks really work. One 20th-C American president, I believe, remarked that if people understood what banks were doing to them there would be bloody revolution.

I was going to post a lengthy explanation of why this is so, but the topic has been better elucidated by others before me, so I'll leave it for anyone who's interested to do the searches. There were/are even some good high-level lectures on YouTube, ISTR.

If you've never really explored the topic before, go sniff around and understand it: you will be horrified and—better still—angry.

Petition asking Microsoft to open-source Windows 7 sails past 7,777-signature goal


Dirty laundry

Several posters have explained why MS will not open-source Win7, citing cannibalisation of its revenue stream, revelation of vulnerabilities, loss of proprietary drivers and codecs etc. All true, and ultimately of course the loss of revenue is the main driver people focus on. MS has never not been obsessively greedy, always at its customers' expense.

But even if ways were found to replace the lost revenues (for example, those offering paid "Win7: The Clone" services of any kind pay a fat commission to MS), they still wouldn't do it. In fact, MS wouldn't open Win7 even if it was guaranteed a huge payday.

And that is not because folks will find some vulnerabilities, or rip off some of the code.

It's because (a) the quality of the coding will make MS look awful, and (b) some naked theft will be provable, probably right in the core of the system. MS, in short, knows that its reputation would be blasted to cinders if the knowledgeable world gets a good, sober look at the wretchedly inefficient, derivative, obscenely bloated rubbish that it spackled together to make its least awful operating system. El Reg would have a whole year's worth of dreadful headlines to publish, and run out of puns and goofy clichés inside a month.

And of course, the story would only get worse, because once out of Redmond's clutches Win7 would go from strength to strength. A grateful world would discover just how good, and nice to use is a well-supported, efficiently refactored Windows OS, designed for the productivity and ease of use of customers—rather than as a series of entrapments and wholesale spying.

MS can't open Win7 because it would choke to death on dirty laundry.

Everyone loves our new desktop web search design so much – the one with ads that look like links – that we're tweaking it, says Google


Auto-ignore seems to work

Like many Reg readers I spend more time than is good for me sitting in front of a screen, and a non-negligible minority of that doing (mostly technical) searches. I use DDG*, only resorting to Google when I suspect I'm missing something (and, of course, never Bing) and I want to ask: doesn't everyone now have a completely automatic mental reflex that hides adverts? I probably "saw" an ad sometime in the past 10 minutes and couldn't tell you what it was trying to advertise. I cannot even remember what colours it used. Isn't the truth that ads are so common, so boring, so poorly made, that the eye and brain almost literally don't even see them?

I suspect that an independent study of online advertising—one which somehow manages to verify which links are genuinely clicked on, and determines reliably whether a purchase followed—would find that contrary to what vested interests claim (Google, to start with), its effectiveness is pitifully poor; that almost all online advertising spend is wasted.

As with radio advertising, which is the only thing more vacuously awful than internet ads, the cheapness, abysmal quality and sheer volume of adverts works constantly against their effectiveness.

Perhaps this multi-multi-billion-dollar industry is based on a vast deception.

*DuckDuckGo: Why don't they do themselves a huge favour and change the name? It's meaningless, clunky, ugly and sounds like something for children—who knows how many potential users don't even try it, because of its trivially silly monicker? Heck, they could have competition to see who can come up with a better name—maybe based on guessing what the initials stand for ... Diligently Depriving Google?

Controversies aren't Boeing away for aircraft maker amid claims of faulty oxygen systems and wobbling wings


Re: That awkward moment when fiction becomes fact

TBH I did not think it was a great book. It was an implausible mish-mash of actual airline incidents cobbled together to try to make a spectacular story. Crichton has done some interesting stuff on the techno-thriller front—especially if you can look past his woeful characterisation and thudding dialogue—but I'd argue that Airframe is one of his poorest efforts.

And no, beyond the fact that the storyline is about aviation safety, I don't see the justification for "fiction becomes fact". As I said above, the story was based on the facts of previous air incidents, and wasn't particularly predictive of anything. Corporate greed, the damage done by allowing bean-counters to assume management responsibilities beyond the confines of their abacuses, and inevitable cover-ups of safety issues are not exactly a new or even surprising thing.

What was Boeing through their heads? Emails show staff wouldn't put their families on a 737 Max over safety fears


Greed + Kludge = Dead

Scott Pedigo wrote: "From what I've read in various news articles, they needed to add bigger, heavier engines to get more power or better fuel efficiency, and this changed the center of gravity to the rear, making the aircraft less stable. To compensate, the MCAS was added.

"I suppose the proper thing to do would have been to change the engine mounts or move the wings farther forward, but doing that would have counted as a significant design change and necessitated a costly re-certification. Which is what they were trying to avoid."

Not quite. the problem was that Boeing saw rival Airbus's A320neo fuel economy as a serious threat. They wanted to offer similar economy in a similarly sized aircraft but didn't want to suffer the cost and time to market in developing a completely new aircraft. (Mistake#1: Greed).

To get the required economy from the by-now ancient 737 basic airframe design, engines with bigger fans were needed: as it turns out, much bigger fans. But the 737 is almost uniquely ill-suited to having larger diameter engines because of its already low ground clearance. (It's why previous 737s had those 'bulgy' looking engines, because they had to relocate the gearbox when re-engining the planes, in order to keep this clearance; it's only 17 inches.) To accommodate these much fatter engines, the only option was to move them forward and upward on the wing, changing the mounts. (Mistake #2: a nasty kludge.)

Having done this, they realised that this mucked up the plane's CG and, even worse, greatly increased the pitch-up-on-power experienced by all planes which have podded under-wing-mounted engines (the position of the engines creates an upward pitching moment when they power up.) The plane's handling characteristics were now different enough from its predecessor that fresh pilot training and certification would be required. This would cost the airlines a ton of money. Boeing decided to find a way to pretend that such training wouldn't be needed. (Mistake#3: Greed, again.)

(Even so, they needed to lengthen the undercarriage to keep the clearance at 17 inches.)

MCAS was created to counteract the pitch-up—which might have led to a very dangerous stall, if the angle of attack became excessive—by noting the AoA and, if too high, forcing the plane's nose down. In this way, the aircraft's new, potentially nasty habit, would be concealed. (Mistake#4: a nasty kludge, needed because of the previous nasty kludge.)

Anyone who's designed hard- or software will recognise this vicious cycle, whereby a seemingly sensible kludge later means you have to make another kludge, which then means you have to ... sigh, we've all been there. We've all reached the point where we've looked in the mirror, said "Shit, what am I doing?" and started again from the beginning. With a new design.

Boeing still made things infinitely worse. By making MCAS dependent upon the AoA, it created a very dangerous situation: a rogue AoA readout could force the plane's nose down very suddenly, even when close to the ground. It was easy and straightforward to minimise this risk by using two AoA sensors (or even three) and making sure that if they disagreed, the pilots would be told. It would be called an 'AoA Disagree Warning'. Instead of making this available by default, Boeing decided it would be a paid-for optional extra ... without explaining the new, potentially grave consequences of relying upon a single AoA sensor. (Mistake #5: Greed ... and yes, again.)

Al of this, and the invertebrate nature of the so-called regulator, FAA, meant that Boeing could pretend that pilots didn't need expensive sim time in order to fly the new 737 ... based on a half-century old airframe design. (Mistake #5, by the FAA: being spineless, captured, and beholden to the corporate interests it was supposed to regulate.)

Consequence: a single AoA sensor—a cheap part known for its fallibility—goes wrong. MCAS kicks in. Pilots who weren't even told that MCA existed are taken entirely by surprise. Their iPad-based "training" does mention how to disable it, but to do so required specific and unusual action, and in particular, recovery of the plane meant that pilots would need to reduce power and airspeed during climb-out (to reduce forces on the control surfaces, especially the elevators). This is a bit like expecting a show-jumper to loosen the girth before competing a course: it's completely counter-intuitive. No pilot—especially one who's suspicious of stall warnings produced by an AoA reading—wants to pull the throttles back, and thereby lose airspeed, when still near the ground. It is in pilot DNA to keep airspeed up, with lots of nice lift, when flying low. Else you can die very quickly.

Greed drove kludges, which then multiplied as they are wont to do; greed drove deception and spin, which led to fatal reliance on single points of failure; greed drove the misleading of airlines and, even worse, pilots who, when confronted by something they weren't warned about and didn't understand, could have saved themselves only by performing counter-intuitive actions that they were not drilled or trained in.

Yes, it's true that pilots properly drilled could almost certainly have saved both aircraft. (It's also true that Sully could have landed back at the airport instead of in the Hudson ... but only if he had perfect knowledge of what was happening and acted instantly.) The pilots of the two doomed planes would in fact save their planes and passengers' lives, given a second chance. But they didn't know then what we know now.

As Boeing's previous actions these emails reveal: they were driven by greed to cut corners and build kludges upon kludges, compounding their disgraceful behaviour with lies and deceit. If the flying public refuses ever to set foot in a 737 MAX, Boeing deserve everything they get.



Boeing Employee: "Would you put your family on a Max aircraft? I wouldn't"

Regardless of the FAA and even the airlines, this is an unforgettable question that some, perhaps many pax will ask. I can't see Boeing getting away with renaming the plane. It just might be doomed. The DC-10, remember, was pretty much killed by early bad press due to accidents (avoidable accidents*, whose root cause was understood even before the plane was certified, and which the manufacturer neglected to fix even after an almost fatal accident: pace Dan Applegate).

I wonder if Boeing has advanced contingency panning for a write-down sale of the entire 737 MAX project—blueprints†, tooling, dies, jigs, unwanted planes and all—to China?

* Though to be fair, the Chicago crash was due to improper maintenance when changing engines; and the Sioux City accident was down to an inclusion in a titanium ingot used for the turbine; neither had anything to do with the notorious cargo door problem, or overall aircraft design. That said, the DC-10 was a lazy, conservative, unimaginative effort, whereas its contemporary rival, the Tristar L-1011, was a fabulous, advanced and exceedingly safe design.

Silly me: the complete blueprints for the plane, stolen from Boeing, are stored on a server in Bejing, next to the seventeen and a half terabytes of data on the F-35, stolen from Lockheed‡.

Unfortunately, the Chinese aren't going to build an exact copy of F-35 ... they still think it's an elaborate American trap to get them to spend a ton of money constructing a laughably terrible aircraft.

Flying taxis? That'll be AFTER you've launched light sabres and anti-gravity skateboards


Poor old Sniffler

Mr Dabbs is right to mention some of the vast host of impediments to air taxis, many of which also apply to drone delivery. The marketurds who keep blathering on about this will, if sufficiently challenged about the likelihood of heavy things occasionally falling on people, hospitals, playgrounds, electrical substations, busy motorways, roofs, etc etc and etc, start to talk about "airline levels of safety" ... as if we are to believe them. They appear not to understand, perhaps purposely, what is entailed in achieving such reliability and safety.

If drone delivery or the airborne taxi is to become a thing—in the sense of routine, frequent, regular and accessible to everyone, rather than something confined to the very wealthy, or a service provided only the countryside—that implies many thousands of vehicles in cities' skies. To be cost effective it also implies high duty cycles and fast turnarounds. Who will manage the hundreds of vehicles in city airspace at any given moment? Who will ensure that the seventy four-delivery drones laden with books, kitchenware, groceries, electronics and hot food, airborne over Camden during twilight will not collide with the rotors of the eleven taxis in the air at the same time? Who will believe that the fleet of hundreds of drones, maintained by depressed, minimum-age warehouse staff worried about their next toilet break (allowed in 44 m 21 s and counting) will keep to 99.99% reliability? Because they won't, they can't, if operated under commercial exigencies. Does anybody think that a company like Uber—which won't even employ drivers—will pay for teams of expensive engineers to maintain their air taxis to the same standards as $100m airliners?

When a car has a power failure, the worst that usually happens is that it slinks in embarrassment to the kerb. When a flying thing suffers the same, it falls very fast out of the sky. The options for gliding an air taxi or autorotating a drone to a landing over a busy city are essentially zero. Even ordinary, mainstream helicopters, maintained to very high standards, are not particularly safe compared to civil air travel.

Even if anyone is fool enough to believe the marketurds' lies to begin with, how many crashes do you think it will take before authorities are forced to ground entire fleets? Imagine the press hysteria over a single five-kilo gift set of For Dummies crashing through the roof of a school. The liability lawyers who infest the US and are increasingly parasitising other nations will rub their hands with glee, and the compensation awarded to old Mrs Grumpleigh merely for the trauma of witnessing her pet Sniffler's tragic loss of his tail to a wayward Amazon drone, would pay for a local fleet of delivery trucks and drivers.

When you consider what is really involved in these airborne enterprises, particularly the commercial imperatives versus the risks involved—and most especially magnified a hundredfold if operated as a mass-availability service over cities—it becomes clear that it simply is not going happen.

Ring of fired: Amazon axes multiple workers who secretly snooped on netizens' surveillance camera footage


First Law of Cloud

If your sensitive data, either as plaintext or encrypted using a key not exclusively accessible to you, is secured on a device or system that neither belongs to you nor is controlled by you...

... it is no longer your data; it is not private; it is not secure; and you do not have control.

Windows 7 and Server 2008 end of support: What will change on 14 January?


"ways to keep old stuff patched"

"There is a degree of artificiality about this key "end of support" date and ways to keep old stuff patched, but the security risks are real"

For those of us still incredulous that Microsoft followed the excellent Win7 UI with the reeking mess that is Win8/10, it would be nice to know more about those "ways to keep old stuff patched".

That said, I've used Linux servers forever and don't expect to choke too badly when I migrate to a decent desktop version. The transition from the nice UI of Paint.Net to the unpleasantness of GIMP will be harder, and that's the only thing holding me back from the final transition.

One thing I have never done, though, is run a Windows desktop in a VM ... ah well, always good to learn new things ...

Blackout Bug: Boeing 737 cockpit screens go blank if pilots land on specific runways


Re: Lifestyle change

In a previous life, my colleagues and I used to chopper around quite a bit—Wessex, occasionally Sea King, lots of Puma and a ton of deafening Chinook, one memorable ride in a Huey thanks to friendly Spams—and I certainly couldn't tell you to the nearest ten how many journeys—some of them almost embarrassingly brief—I made in the course of 12 years.

Since that time I've learned a lot more about helicopters.

I'm glad I didn't know then what I know now.

I remain mildly amazed that I'm still alive.

If at first you don't succeed, pry, pry again: Feds once again demand Apple unlock encrypted iPhones in yet another terrorism case


What more could Apple do?

"If Apple then refuses to provide access to the phones – which is highly likely – the Feds are in the best possible position for a potential legal challenge."


"As for Apple, its formal response so far has been the following: 'We have the greatest respect for law enforcement and have always worked cooperatively to help in their investigations. When the FBI requested information from us relating to this case a month ago, we gave them all of the data in our possession and we will continue to support them with the data we have available.'"

Not quite sure what more Apple could conceivably do. They can't "provide access to the phones" without the encryption keys, which they do not and almost certainly cannot obtain: their entire system is designed to prevent anyone from doing this, no matter how intimate their knowledge of the phone's secure architecture. Which is exactly the way it should be, because everyone here* knows that security through obscurity is not security at all, and that if an individual person or organisation possesses specific privileged knowledge, that information leaks. Even NSA has leaked, copiously. Does anyone seriously believe that knowledge of Apple's "secret sauce" wouldn't soon become public? This kind of stuff always does.

Furthermore, Apple clearly states that it has given the feds "all of the data in our possession". So what, exactly, is the point of the request at all?

Based on the seemingly limitless stupidity of the politicians and security-complex bureaucrats who drive this kind of behaviour, is it possible that someone still believes that Apple has a Magic Key to unlock their phones? Like the Super Ultra Magic Key that the government will keep safe—"honest guv, you can trust us"—while using it to cripple messaging encryption?

If you use a secure encryption scheme and key known only to you, to save a message which you subsequently print and store in a safety deposit box, for how long will government idiots pursue the bank to do more to help decrypt the message? The bank can only hand over the contents of the box: the printout. It cannot provide the cryptographic key, because it doesn't have it.

Is this so difficult to understand?

* That is, a readership which largely understands the critical distinction between ignorant, wishful, often deceitful "thinking" (politicians) and fact-based, evidence-driven, truth-respecting, logical reasoning (scientists, engineers, technologists).

We live so fast I can't even finish this sent...


Obvious, innit?

A secret sigil, displayed on your mobile device using the specified Pantone colour, opens the wormhole which connects the toilet you're in with its far-flung global twin. Really, why else and in what other circumstances could you plausibly display the latitude and longitude of a destination portal—to which you can travel in privacy, unseen?

Next time someone tells you they're going to the loo, you'll know why you didn't see them again for a week, when they turned up filthy, covered in leeches and suffering from malaria.

Of course, before taking a dump while reading this article on your phone, you may want to check the twinning status of your cubicle ....

LibreOffice 6.4 nearly done as open-source office software project prepares for 10th anniversary


Re: Lost for words

It sounds like you have had some extraordinary bad luck, because the thousands upon thousands of folks who are using LO for some very demanding work (often based on exceptionally large files) are not all wrong. LO has its quirks, but in my lengthy experience it's no less reliable than MS Office.

This isn't Boeing very well... Faulty timer knackers Starliner cargo capsule on its way to International Space Station


Relying on a single timer? Really??

"... a malfunction in the Starliner’s Mission Event Timer clock caused the control software to think the main rocket firing was already underway. The engine wasn't firing, though ..."

For literally anyone who's ever designed and written software that interacts with mechanical equipment: you always ensure that consequential actions are programmed very carefully, to guarantee they happen when they're supposed to, in the right circumstances, and in the right way. You always try to create well-guarded gates and conditions in your code, written in a way that considers what could be wrong or missing, factoring in the consequences of doing/not doing the right thing at the right moment. Even when it isn't a matter of life and death (it might be as trivial as, say, relays wearing excessively because a dumb instruction activates them too often) you try to think ahead about what could go wrong, or even go right but the wrong way. Every competent coder does this.

Now I freely admit it's easy to be the Monday morning quarterback, to be smart with hindsight, but even so ... if there's an action which should occur only if the main engine is firing, then for pity's sake wouldn't your conditional logic include querying the realtime mainRocketIsFiring parameter?

Why, I ask with tears in my eyes, wouldn't you??

Vivaldi opens up an exciting new front in the browser wars, seeks to get around blocking with cunning code


Side note: Vivaldi is excellent

As a technical user who may have a dozen windows open to extremely similar-looking interfaces (even Dev and Prod for the same customer), Vivaldi's flexibility, customisabiity and profile management is peerlessly wonderful. I can use a specific, tailored icon to open a specific profile to a specific page, giving me a window with a specific logo/colour in its title bar, so that I know exactly what to open and where I am at any time, in any window. It allows me to zoom a specific, solitary page, without causing the whole site/domain to follow. Best of all, it doesn't spy on me, giving me the best features of the Chrome engine without toxic Google spyware.

It has a longstanding problem: it crashes my machine at least once a day, though rarely twice (I suspect memory management issues related to caching)—and I still use it. That's how good Vivaldi is.

Post Office faces potential criminal probe over Fujitsu IT system's accounting failures


Re: Good for them & the judge

"I'm not a Solicitor"

You should have stopped right there, because that's obviously the only correct part of your statement. You appear to be confusing "malicious prosecution " with the looser concept of "vexatious litigation", the former being a criminal law issue, the latter being civil. For more, and accurate information—well, speak to your esteemed colleagues.

Put the crypt into cryptocoin: Amid grave concerns, lawyers to literally dig into exchange exec who died owing $190m


Why so long?

I'm not the only one wondering why it's taken so long for serious questions and proper investigation of Cotten's passing. I guess that in the first days there was (a) a body and a death certificate and (b) no suspicion of wrongdoing: so the processes for dealing with the purported death will have been drearily quotidian. One obvious question, mind you: who identified the body, and when and where?

Whether or not the body proves to be his, further questions will presumably focus closely on the aliases he used—both the known ones, associated with the dodgy transactions, and exposing other aliases not yet known. The latter will of course be of profound interest to investigators if the body is not his: a thread to pull on when tracking him and the missing money.

Fascinating story, come what may ...

Deadly 737 Max jets no longer a Boeing concern – for now: Production suspended after biz runs out of parking space


Run the numbers?

Has anyone done an informed estimate, comparing how much Boeing expected to save by kludging oversized engines onto a half-century-old airframe design (and the inevitable chain of further kludgery), with the eventual likely losses incurred by the consequences of the two crashes?

I am 100% certain that plenty of engineers, both junior and senior, will have raised increasingly worrisome issues as the 737 kludging progressed. It seems equally certain that damnfool greedy management ignored them.

The fan sizing fiasco lies at the heart of this, necessitating one compromise after another, increasingly nasty kludges to try to rectify a problem—often caused by the previous 'fix. Undercarriage length; engine pylon re-placement; CG problems; handling changes and trim issues: eventually leading to a clumsy attempt to cater for the resulting pitch-up-on-power tendency—which then had to be tucked away, to preserve the supposed common type rating in order save money on pilot training.

Managers will have been repeatedly warned, by worried engineers about this chain of kludgery. What did they say? What did they do?

Someone, or several someones, in very senior positions at Boeing said: "We've gone too far now. It'll cost the company (and my bonus) too much to change course to a new airframe. Keep quiet. Keep kludging."

The human and financial cost of this shortsighted, weaselling greed has been staggering.

Who made those decisions?

Where's our data, Google? Chrome 79 update 'a catastrophe' for Android devs with WebView apps


There was a time—

—when you sold your software on a CD. Go back far enough, you may even have sold it on a floppy. You had to print millions of the things and ship 'em across the world to an equally enormous number of people and organisations.

The cost of a screwup, financially and reputationally, could be existential, so you had absolutely no choice but to ensure that you tested the stuff very, very, very thoroughly.

Nowadays we have the world's biggest companies reaping billions while treating end-users as unpaid beta testers of startlingly flawed software. The billions accumulating in Google's pockets (and those of Microsoft, for that matter) are directly stolen as the losses of time, data and damage incurred by customers who have to waste effort and lose money, yet again compensating for the shoddy wares inflicted upon them.

From politics to finance to the tech business, increasingly I see a world in which a sizeable majority of basically lazy, unaware, gullible people might as well be hooked up to IV lines as they are relentlessly bled for the benefit of the few.

I'd like to believe this is just a bit of cynical moodiness speaking, really I would—but everywhere I look, and as recent political events demonstrate, a vast number of people seem to walk, sheep-like and heedless, directly into the abattoir ... staring transfixed at their stupid little screens, probably.

Admins sigh as Microsoft pushes Teams changes – let everyone play!


Ecosystem as punji trap

It's yet another example of a supplier's 'ecosystem' of cloudy software being used as a punji trap. The big providers like MS are primarily interested in making you dependent upon their services: once your business and your data has been taken hostage, you're basically screwed, lying at the bottom of the pit, bleeding. You will be squeezed until the pips squeak. It's a similar model to outsourcing; once the client becomes sufficiently dependent—even on a very poor service—with the outsourcer's tentacles entwined in the client, the latter becomes a life support unit for the outsourcer, gradually drained because they have become helpless.

In this respect cloud has been an absolute boon to the big providers, because it vastly magnifies the ways in which they can make their clients dependent upon them.

That said, the spectacular stupidity, short-termism and greed of typical executives, especially beancounters, has played entirely into the hands of predators like MS. Even before cloud a majority fo the world's businesses were happy to pay for an operating system inferior in almost every respect to freely available alternatives. Marketing, like politics, is the triumph of lies and imbecility over facts and rationality.

Teams has a conspicuously nasty UI (I have to use it with one of my clients, who seems entirely unaware of how much it distracts his consultants from doing real work), performs worse than Skype and positively encourages ill-considered communication and decision-making—its ability to obscure the important and highlight the trifling is a kind of dark brilliance—and adds yet more manure-for-the-eyeballs to corporate collaboration, and admins absolutely should discourage its use. Beyond some video- and screen-sharing features, well-trained, competent, capable staff simply do not need its raft of clumsily integrated baubles: and if they're not well-trained and competent you have big problems alteady ... which Teams will make worse.

And then there were two: HMS Prince of Wales joins Royal Navy


Are lessons ever learned in time?

Thanks to the many posters (I skimmed this lot, TBH) offering informed comment, triggered it seems by a reference to the dreadful loss of the previous Prince of Wales in WWII. I read somewhere that Churchill was profoundly depressed by the news, as well he might have been: terrific speech-maker and motivator he may have been, but his strategic blunders and interference with military decisions cost the UK very dearly. Perhaps his support for Bletchley Park and sensible advocacy for Magic/Ultra is some compensation.

My point to topic, though, is whether politicians and defence planners are making the same mistake now, with regard to aircraft carriers, that was made before and during WWII with regard to battleships. Overly influenced by Mahanist doctrine (the assumed critical importance of a decisive naval battle between powers equipped with the most and biggest battleships, to over-simplify horribly) and a seeming vindication thereof at Tsushima Strait, the Great Powers cruised well into the early years of WWII still wedded to battleships, unaware that they had been rendered almost obsolete by carrier air power. The war in the Pacific theater might have proceeded very differently if the Nips had sunk American carriers at Pearl Harbor, instead of battleships. (I know the carriers weren't there on the day of the attack, but my point is that strategic priorities and planning might have brought about a different type/timeline of attack, with a very different result.)

Now, these vast and majestic carriers may in their turn be frighteningly vulnerable in an age when adversaries like China and Russia (and even potential ones like India) have fielded super- and hypersonic anti-ship missiles and have an abundance of conventionally powered, quiet submarines. Not to mention the rising threat of drones: it simply doesn't take that much well-placed HE on a busy flight deck to ground a carrier's air wing for a day or two. The CAPTOR equivalent of an underwater drone can lurk for weeks until it hears the unique sound of a supercarrier's screws overhead, follows its programming and detonates half a tonne of HE under the ship's keel: or among its rudders.

I nurture the suspicion that we are indeed repeating exactly the battleship mistake, spending vast sums on assets which will prove remarkably vulnerable to new technologies and ways of war-fighting. If I am right (and scared as I am of China, I hope I am wrong) then the inevitable collision in the Pacific is going to turn into a shockingly rude awakening for the USA ... which, if it were 'lucky', would get a bloody nose-cum-reality-check from Iran, giving it time to adjust its strategy and procurement policies before the whole house is bet on a conflict with China.

There is perhaps some evidence of a gradual awakening, like the recent order for a bunch of extra SSNs for Pacific duties, but then again, I wonder too; have we really thought through the survivability of these boats, if pitted against an opponent who can, for the price of a single nuclear hunter-killer, deploy 5,000 passive- and active-sonar drones above and below the inversion layer, each of them ready to phone home at a moment's notice?

Like generals, admirals have a habit of fighting the last war, and it may be cause for grave concern.

With a warehouse of unsold AR goggles, Magic Leap has a brainwave… let’s rebadge ‘em and sell to business!


Contacts, anyone?

Interesting discussion about how glasses might be used in this territory, and I find myself wondering about contact lenses.

Haven't we solved most of the basic problems here?

* We know that flexible displays can be constructed.

* We know that it's possible to make a display material that's also transparent

* We know that we haven't reached peak pixel density yet: what DPI level would suffice for a lens-sized display?

* Contact lenses already comprise a focusing medium

* Well made and maintained ones can cover most of the cornea if necessary (especially if routinely worn for no longer than, say, 10 hrs a day)

* There's abundant technology now for short-range high-bandwidth data transit

—so the only radically new feature of this item would be its power source: maybe body heat conversion, or perhaps (if the energy requirements are low enough) some kind of localised wireless power transmission. However sci-fi that may seem, I am one of those whose boyhood rites of passage included building my own crystal radio (back in the 1960s) so I know that it's possible to extract useful energy from an AM radio signal coming from 200 miles away. How much energy does a display need if it's < 3cm away from your retina?

All the heavy CPU work would be done by the connected device in your pocket, so the lens has to do only one thing: authenticate (pair with) and display an image feed.

Maybe in 15 years my daughter will routinely ask the optician for prescription 'active' lenses, instead of old-fashioned 'passive' ones, so that she can use a cornucopia of AR content and help beamed from her phone.

(Hacking could be a problem, mind you ... and, hm, temperature regulation?

Internet world despairs as non-profit .org sold for $$$$ to private equity firm, price caps axed


Greed is gooood

Except of course, greed is not and never has been "good".

Everywhere you look throughout the whole of human history, you see that greed is destructive. Ultimately it is self-destructive of its practitioners, but before that point, so much damage is done to so many people. Whether it's greed for power or greed for treasure, the human race may not survive unless it finds a way to inoculate itself against this mental and emotional scourge.

Magic Leap rattles money tin, assigns patents to a megabank, sues another ex-staffer... But fear not, all's fine


Re: "JP Morgan Chase.. brought in $1bn and was a critical anchor partner: "

John Smith 19: " ... $2.6 Billion So what's that get you? ... That would have Reaction Engines build their ground test engine core, E/D nozzle combustion chambers and inlet and be well on the way to their flight test vehicle. ..."

Nice to see someone else mentioning Reaction Engines—glad I'm not the only one making the point that RE are doing some very serious and promising work, still on something of a shoestring, while absolute stupidity-vanity-bollocks like Virgin Galactic gets attention for its plans to fire rich idiots to literally nowhere.

Magic Leap is further evidence that there's too much capital in search of too little innovation, its purse 'guarded' by greedy, credulous halfwits.

What a world we live in, when shallow fools are so obsessed with counting their cold, dead currency that they cannot lift their eyes even for a moment ....

Move along, nothing to see here: Auditors say £100k grant to Hacker House was 'appropriate'


Translation: open season

In other words, anyone could set up a shoddy front company, publish a site and some marketing drivel, fill in a few forms and ask for money, and provided they have cited a UK address and someone answers the phone, there's a good chance of a six figure handout from the taxpayer? The point is not whether serial liar, adulterer and Man of Dishonour Johnson behaved in the manner to which we have all become accustomed: the point is that such pitiful safeguards existed to stop this kind of ridiculous waste of public cash.

Like many readers here, I run my own limited company and find myself wondering how little I would need to do to BS my way into superfluous government grant money.

In other news, on my way out this morning I checked the ditch, hoping to find a fat, ugly, useless, recently expired Brexit, but ....

(Crikey: I hope the walking compost heap didn't get it on with the equally unedifying Ms Arcuri. If they did and the tabloids got hold of the photos, a nation's eyes would bleed ...)

Cyber-security super-brain Rudy Giuliani forgets password, bricks iPhone, begs Apple Store staff for help



The Secret Service uses codenames for those it protects; past presidents have been variously "Rawhide", "Deacon" and "Renegade"*, to name but a few. If they'll break with tradition and move up to appropriately descriptive codenames, all sorts of possibilities open up. Why, I can easily imagine a Giuliani-Trump supper meeting being immortalised over the airwaves—

"Uh, Control, we're in position ... location is secure ... we have eyes on Crazed Gerbil sitting down with Tiny Paws."

* If you're interested ... respectively: Reagan, Carter, Obama.

Come on, you can't be serious: Now Australia mulls face-recog tech for p0rno site age checks


There's something in the air: that has to be it

I'm in my seventh decade and have watched with (first) disbelief and (then) horror as the Age of Stupid has suffused the brains of the human race, seemingly with a particular effect on politicians: collective IQ has plummeted. I am almost seriously wondering just what effect atmospheric or food-chain pollutants are having on people's brains.

Whether it's the colossal idiocies represented by Trump and Brexit, the suicidal denial of climate change, or the simple inanities of little things like the porn age verification fiasco (both Aussie and UK versions)—it all seems to point to folks getting ever dumber. (It reaches the heights of absurdity when ignoramuses post non- or even anti-scientific drivel online, using the very technology that science has made possible.)

For me it is summed up right now by politicians repeatedly banging on about installing backdoors into the encryption of E2E messaging, despite their being told again and again, and yet again—with an abundance of factual evidence, reasoning and even mathematical proof—why it's a terrible idea. Are they really so stupid that they cannot understand?

What gives?

Are imbeciles born or made?

Deepfakes, quantum computing cracking codes, ransomware... Find out what's really freaking out Uncle Sam


Tiny, invisible spies and saboteurs?

He warned that components sold in the US, whether networking equipment or smartphones, should be manufactured stateside or in allied countries.

If you accept (as you should) that where dangerous adversaries are concerned, you must address capabilities rather than intentions, this statement is absolutely correct. Even leaving soft- and firmware aside, it is simply too easy to hide nano-nasties in hardware, and incredibly difficult to find those intelligently crafted to lurk dormant until some set of conditions exist. The Internet of Shite means that many erstwhile dumb devices are now net-connected, often for no good reason, and it's entirely plausible that a seemingly gormless appliance, supposedly intended to monitor your stock of chilled dairy, is (a) much smarter than it appears and (b) relaying everything heard and seen in your kitchen to Beijing. Or Maryland.

And when you consider the fantastic complexity of, say, PC mobo design—no individual has a perfect knowledge of every component and connection in one of these things today, nor ever will—there are so many places and methods of sneaking in a hardware nasty no bigger than a blob of solder that it would be brave indeed to claim that one you hadn't personally designed and built was guaranteed free of infection. When you're talking national security like nuclear systems, utilities, military logistics, political data, banking and high-tech research, 'brave' becomes 'foolhardy'.

Pretty soon every country and alliance that can self-source its high tech will do so.

If you're still wondering why, ask yourself a question. Supposing your adversary is an authoritarian, secretive regime with complete control over its citizens, scientists and corporations; that it employs supremely gifted and capable biologists; expends huge resources on research in this area; and that it has developed advanced technology to support these efforts: would you allow it to contribute to your national blood bank?

Virtual inanity: Solution to Irish border requires data and tech not yet available, MPs told


It's smuggling, stupid

Even if we believed the typically delusional Brexiter thinking about miraculous, invisible technical solutions to not only tracking but verifying the content of purportedly legitimate traffic across the border, this does nothing to deal with the 900lb gorilla in the room: smuggling.

The whole point of Brexit—insofar as there is any point at all—is that the price and/or desirability of some goods will differ on either side of the border. If they didn't, NI would still be in the EU. That difference is the motivator for smuggling, which can be hugely profitable. I am here to tell you that unless certain experiences in the 1980s badly misled me, NI is as well-stocked with folks with the aptitude and inclination for criminal enterprises as anywhere else on earth.

In short, as anyone with a scrap of common sense can foresee, smuggling will assume an epic scale. Throughout the whole of human history, the only way to prevent it is to inspect goods crossing the border. And you need to do it at the border, not 50km away after all the goodies, and baddies, have been methodically dispersed.

Suffice to say, the inner Ireland border (ha: echoes of the old IGB) is unfathomably complicated. Supposing, though, some invisible network of tens of thousands of cameras and motion detectors were able to survey every car, milk truck and delivery person crossing the border about their business 20 times in a day: whom would you target? Even large-scale smuggling would be a drop in the ocean of legitimate movements—and you can be sure that the smarter crooks will go a long way to disguise their operations.

There cannot be border infrastructure.

Illusory technical magic cannot replace border checks.

Large-scale smuggling would be both inevitable and unacceptable.

A border in the Irish Sea is hilariously unworkable.

Therefore, NI has to remain within the EU's customs union and single market.

Therefore, Brexit can't happen.

Those pesky facts won't go away. No matter what hysterical lies and fantasies emerge from No 10.