* Posts by Tony W

217 posts • joined 14 Aug 2007


UK data watchdog confirms it's probing complaints about spammy marketing for NHS COVID-19 contact-tracing app

Tony W

Re: Worked as intended

It is not a Serco app. They had no connection with the design of the software. If you know better please give references.

Burning down the house! Consumer champ Which? probes smart plugs to find a bunch of insecure fire-risk tat

Tony W

Re: Not just smart plugs!

Scary. But citation please.

Samsung slows smartphone upgrade treadmill with promise to support three Android generations on Galaxies

Tony W

Change is possible - it happened with cars

It used to be received wisdom that new car sales were largely to companies that would keep the cars for only a few years before selling them. Therefore it didn't matter if cars rusted because it didn't affect sales of new cars - and of course scrapping cars kept the market going. Until a few manufacturers, I think they were Japanese, started giving long no-rust guarantees. Quite quickly it became impossible to sell a car that rusted.

Of course the difference is that rust is obvious and susceptibility to malware isn't. So it's up to Samsung to buck the trend by making adverts that are actually tell you about the product rather than hitching the brand to an exciting lifestyle.

And while you're at it, Sammy, how about an easily replaceable battery?

Gone in 15 minutes: Qualcomm claims new chargers will fill your smartmobe in a flash

Tony W

Is this still true?

"Bad news from science land: Fast-charging li-ion batteries may be quick to top up, but they're also quick to die."


Sick of AI engines scraping your pics for facial recognition? Here's a way to Fawkes them right up

Tony W

"16th century failed assassin Guy Fawkes"

For those who need to be told who Guy Fawkes was, this is an odd way to describe him. He was indeed born in the 16th century but the plot without which he would have remained in obscurity was a 17th century event. And assassination usually means the targeted killing of an individual, while the Gunpower Plot was more like what we would now call terrorism. Although I don't think there's an English word that does justice to the murder of the head of state and the entire legislature in one go.

Health Sec Hancock says UK will use Apple-Google API for virus contact-tracing app after all (even though Apple were right rotters)

Tony W


Prof Nello Cristianini, Professor of Artificial Intelligence, University of Bristol, said (referring to the Apple/Google option):

"With information collected from other sources (including the fact that your phone receives the Bluetooth mac address and name of the other persons device when you make ‘the contact’) it may still be possible to put together a list of all of the contacts that a particular device has seen, and re-identify some of them. Further, as we point out in our recent papers the registration details you provide when downloading, installing and registering the app, along with metadata collected by your ISP and the central (even though we are calling it decentralised) server means that those operating the server may still be able to identify you, your contacts, where you have been (location) and when."

Source: Science Media Centre, the original text includes the references.

I don't know if this is right. Anyone else?

Brit MP demands answers from Fujitsu about Horizon IT system after Post Office staff jailed over accounting errors

Tony W

Re: Any chance

Cummings not being prosecuted over his apparently clear breach of the law (the drive to Barnard Castle could not be called leaving home for an essential reason) is normal, probably not special treatment.

But that doesn't excuse him giving an explanation so idiotic that it is beyond satire, and an insult to any intelligent person. He has aroused huge rage among many Conservative voters - see the Daily Mail coverage - and if he had been a mere cabinet minister he would have been forced to resign. So either he has some sort of hold over Johnson, or else it suits Johnson to subvert his own message about the need for strict adherence, not to the letter of the law, but to government guidelines. Or both.

To test its security mid-pandemic, GitLab tried phishing its own work-from-home staff. 1 in 5 fell for it

Tony W

Just click this link

Still far too many legitimate emails that look like phishing. Just now received one from Ebico energy supply company. 'Don't reply to this email, just click this link. ' If it had been fake it could get a username and pw, and there are enough people who re-use those to make it a worthwhile attack.

Better late than never... Google Chrome to kill off 'tiny' number of mobile web ads that gobble battery, CPU power

Tony W

Re: Bugger AdBlock, it's Internet advertising that's theft.

I am astonished at the number of upvotes here, I thought The Register had a technically savvy readership. Does it really have to be explained that it is the web site owner who gives Google and others the right to place ads? In many cases, the resulting revenue is all that pays for the content. You could argue (and many do) that using an adblocker is theft. If you don't iike the ads, don't visit the site.

Having said that, I use Vivaldi browser with adblocker enabled for most sites. This is partly pure selfishness, and partly an anti-malware move.

FYI: Your browser can pick up ultrasonic signals you can't hear, and that sounds like a privacy nightmare to some

Tony W

Good security will always need some user action

I generally hate posts that say "I've done this so I'm OK." But we have to face it, security will always take some effort and most people won't be bothered.

So, on my Android devices I have simply denied access to the microphone to any apps that don't need it in order to work - which is everything apart from the phone, sound recorder and conferencing app. It is hardly very difficult. I have ignored the dreadful warnings that sometimes appear. As I run Facebook in the browser that is also covered.

Wakey-wakey! A quarter of IT pros only get 3-4 hours' kip – and you won't believe what's being touted as the 'solution'

Tony W


Nothing to say how the sample were found or selected so the data are pretty well meaningless.

But considering those who did respond, it looks as if the problem is stress rather than overwork as such. Of course overwork can cause stress if it makes it difficult to fit in other necessary things such as looking after home and family.

But stress directly related to work is different - it's about feeling personally responsible for failure. It's prevalent amongst those in insecure employment and self-employed people in responsible jobs. From personal experience, it can help to focus on covering your back first and getting the job done second.

UK snubs Apple-Google coronavirus app API, insists on British control of data, promises to protect privacy

Tony W

"Details" are irrelevant

Most people who object to this would also object to anything with Google or Amazon's name on it.

The rest of responsible people will sigh and install. Those worried will think, we can uninstall when it's all over.

Hopefully there will be enough non-compliers that non-compliance will not automatically mark individuals as supsicious, even when combined with other data. The many who are not completely following the lockdown rules will be in no hurry to install.

Vivaldi browser to perform a symphony of ad and tracker blocking with version 3.0

Tony W

Re: How is Vivaldi funded?


Oh Hell. Remember the glory days of Demon Internet? Well, now would be a good time to pick a new email address

Tony W


Chosen because it had a connection with our actual surname. But it worried a lot of Americans on Usenet who thought we were satanists. That had never occurred to us but it was too late to change.

Apollo 13 set off into space 50 years ago today. An ignored change order ensured it did not make it to the Moon...

Tony W


I find the narrative of the thermostat contacts a bit strange. If the problem was increased current, why did the current increase? A higher voltage would require a lower current to do the same job.

But the increased voltage, rather than current, caused the contacts to melt, it must have been because of arcing. In that case the design must have been perilously near the limit even for the lower voltage.

Was the power DC? I'm not sure if the snap action bimetallic heat sensitive switch (as used in all kettles) had been invented by then, so maybe designing DC thermostats to avoid arcing would have been a problem. That makes the story more comprehensible, but running so near the limit doesn't look like good design. The obvious answer would be to use a low current thermostat to control a relay.

Drones intone 'you must stay home,' eliciting moans from those in the zone: Flying gizmos corral Brits amid coronavirus lockdown

Tony W

Common sense, what's that?

No-one has been able to explain to me what it wrong with getting into your car and travelling any practicable distance to a place where you can walk or cycle in the open air while keeping a good distance from others. Does it make sense to force most of the population to take their exercise in the urban spaces where they live? If you are stupid enough to disobey the basic distance rules, you can do it more easily in a town or city than in a national park.

I suppose you might have a motor accident and put additional strain on the NHS. But if that is the concern they should ban use of motorcycles and reduce all speed limits by 10 mph.

BT's Wi-Fi Disc ads banned because there's no evidence the things work

Tony W

Re: "Only we guarantee Wi-Fi in every room"

Of course the BT disk system is mesh not extender so it's a lot more convenient for the user. Although it's not quite like other mesh systems because the hub is part of the mesh so you might need only one extra item. They sent me the special hub plus disk to say sorry, after they had sent the wrong powerline extenders three times in a row. (The cock-up was pretty typical BT, I've found their support system extremely willing - but their organisation is obviously very dysfunctional.)

The disk setup works superbly. I have had several goes at powerline systems and they were unreliable and far worse than the disk even when they worked.

The hub is not so controllable for the user as many readers here would want. But it's not aimed at you.

I have also used an acoustic modem and watched text appear on screen at the speed of a slow typist, but I am not particularly proud of it. Just another thing that comes with being quite old.

Appy days? Microsoft's Word, Excel and PowerPoint now live under one roof on mobile – but look out for Office 365 popups

Tony W

What, pay?

If you know a free office suite for Android with good capabilities, please let us all know. From my limited knowledge, the MS free version compares quite well with other free offerings.

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

Tony W


Oh yes, Outlook the "standard". That's the PIM that had a non-standard system for attachments, incompatible even with other MS products. And that caused me huge problems when I moved from Outlook Express to Outlook and imported all my old emails. Too late I discovered that Outlook had thrown away all the From: addresses keeping only the names - a bit like the office junior saving space when filing letters by cutting off all the letterheadings. And it was a MS program - not sure if it was Outlook or Outlook Express - that had a very long-standing bug whereby certain attached PDFs would become completely invisible on the receiving machine (although still extractable from the raw email by devious means) because the number of bytes was incorrect.

MS Office isn't even compatible with itself because it has a habit of changing the way things display between releases. Word Art became crippled so any document that used it did not display properly after an update. (I admit, I used it when I was young and foolish.) More important, my carefully formatted spreadsheet charts also looked completely different depending on which version of Excel you used to open them. Even the colours changed. How hard is it to preserve RGB values?

Despite this it's inevitable that if appearance is vital you are better off sticking with the majority. But if you are mainly interested in the content, or prepared to convert everthing to PDF before sending to clients, then LibreOffice is fine.

Why is the printer spouting nonsense... and who on earth tried to wire this plug?

Tony W

Re: DIY Electricians

If the circuit doesn't have an RCD, a plug wiring mistake is potentially lethal. I had a very close shave once when I was alone in a building at night. My boss, a trained engineer who should have known better, had added a skirting board power point and wired it live-neutral reversed. It wasn't his job to do that, but working on a local radio station we were used to taking short cuts to be helpful to the programme making staff. A couple of professional reel-to-reel tape recorders, built into table height steel trollies, were plugged into the errant double socket. I had been woken at 2.30 am and called out because one of these had stopped working and it would be needed at 6 am to prepare for the morning broadcast. A quick check showed that it had blown its mains fuse so I replaced it and switched on. Luckily for me, the fuse immediately blew again and I realised more investigation was needed. I then discovered that although the plug looked OK, the whole trolley had been wired earth-neutral reversed. The fuse had blown because I had moved the trolley so it was touching its properly earthed neighbour while at mains voltage. If the machines hadn't been touching I could so easily have put a hand on each. I drove home quite shaken. Both faults had existed for some time with no apparent ill effects, and despite almost ubiquitous RCDs nowadays, I have been fanatical about correct mains polarity ever since.

In tribute to Galaxy Note 7, BBC iPlayer support goes up in flames for some Samsung TVs

Tony W

Re: TV of the future

The TVOTF will be firmly locked down to make sure you can't show anything unless you're individually identified and/or have paid for it.

Your eyeballs will be tracked to make sure you actually watch the ads.

It will stop working one month after the guarantee runs out and be unrepairable.

None of this will matter much because there won't be anything on that you want to watch.

Traffic lights worldwide set to change after Swedish engineer saw red over getting a ticket

Tony W

Would someone explain

I find this hard to understand. Either you have time to stop after seeing the yellow light, or you don't. That depends on reaction time, speed, distance, tyres, road surface, weather and so on. What has turning right (equivalent to left in the UK of course) got to do with it?

Tinfoil-hat search engine DuckDuckGo gifts more options, dark theme and other toys for the 0.43%

Tony W


You will never do well with an idiotic sounding name for your product unless you have really good marketing, or else of course a lot of users who get roped in automatically. Otherwise it looks like something that's not for the general public.

Renaming now would be a very good idea. They wouldn't lose any existing custom, and the renaming itself would generate a bit of free publicity.

Google sounds the alarm over Android flaw being exploited in the wild, possibly by NSO

Tony W

"do not download any apps from untrusted sources"

From several other Reg articles, including a recent one referring to the Egyptian government, three words are superfluous here.

Microsoft changes encryption, another D-Link bug, phishing dangers, and more

Tony W

Google think it's fine apparently


The ultimate URL does appear at the end of the string, albeit not necessarily including http:// or www, but I suppose it could be obfuscated.

What is the advantage to Google, Adobe etc of these redirects?

OK, let's try that again: Vulture rakes a talon on Samsung's fresh attempt at the Galaxy Fold 5G

Tony W

It's the way Android takes control of the OS away from the user

that makes disposable devices sensible and very expensive devices just a form of bling. That's because the useful life is determined mainly by the availability of security updates. Other OSs also have a limited security updates but they usually go on much longer than Android's.

That doesn't make a folding screen silly, I can see it being very useful in many work situations and for those who love films. So if Samsung have got the hardware problem cracked (if that's the appropriate term to use) and if they can produce enough to get the price down a lot, they could be on to a winner.

As browser rivals block third-party tracking, Google pitches 'Privacy Sandbox' peace plan

Tony W

It's not just (or even mainly) about 'relevant' ads

If you say you don't want relevant ads, why do they still track you?

It's about amassing as much personal information about you as possible, in the hope and expectation that they will be able to make money out of it.

And for an ordinary person it is almost impossible to avoid.

Stopping tracking and privacy-busting scripts in a browser will break some useful sites. If your friends and extended family use Facebook to keep in touch, and all their friends do the same, you can ditch it yourself only at considerable social cost. And my most recent example: not wanting to use gmail as a backup to my independently hosted mail, I tried my ISP's email, only to find that it's Yahoo and I would have to accept an appalling set of anti=privacy terms and conditions to use it.

TSO Host no closer to solving customers' email issues as Brit firm pops up on more blacklists

Tony W

Best before

From my experience over the last 25 years with a few small sites, web hosting providers should be treated as if they have a limited useful life, and you should migrate every five years or so.

'Deeply concerned' UK privacy watchdog thrusts probe into King's Cross face-recognizing snoop cam brouhaha

Tony W


Apologies for being a bit slow, but what are they using it for?

(I was also going to say, how do they tie a face to an identity, but then I remembered all the people using Facebook who insist on tagging all their friends with their real names on public posts.)

Brit couch potatoes increasingly switching off telly boxes in favour of YouTube and Netflix

Tony W


And yes to your question. On of my offspring has done this for many years.You have to explain your setup (incapable of receiving broadcast) and possibly respond to license demands and repeat the explanation several times..

Hacker swipes personal deets of 20,000 peeps from under Los Angeles Police Dept's nose

Tony W


It is an organisation.

Therefore what is paramount is, firstly, the good of the person in charge.

Secondly, the good of the organisation.

Thirdly, if the organisation is honest, its stated aims.

This has been demonstrated time and again with charities, churches etc. No organisation is so moral that it doesn't need careful oversight.

It's all in the wrist: Your fitness tracker could be as much about data warfare as your welfare

Tony W


I wonder whether this is a trollingl article, intended more to generate comments than as a sensible contribution to a debate. It argues two different sides and then with no proper discussion comes to an obviously nonsensical conclusion. Reg, what are you doing?

Brit hosting provider tsoHost takes needleful of 'unauthorized code' to the servers, suffers week of outages

Tony W

Re: So, what's a good alternative...

I've been through five hosting providers in the past 25 years, and had to leave four of them because of rapid and extreme deterioration of service when they got taken over. Tsohost (however they spell themselves, I've never bothered to remember and it hasn't mattered) have lasted the longest and (typing with crossed fingers) are still good. For a cheap provider the speed of support is unbeatable. Which is not to say they are perfect of course.

Wondering where that upcoming meeting with 'Cheap Viagra' came from? Spammers beat Gmail filters by abusing Google Calendar, Forms, Photos, Analytics...

Tony W

Re: Does anyone still use GMail, or Hotmail?

So, does anyone know a reliable and cheap email only hosting company?

I wouldn't recommend ISP's email because you lose your address when you change ISP to get a better deal.

As far as I know, to get a good and reliable host for your own domain is a significant cost and unles you pay a professional to sort it for you requires tech savvy well above most. And it might be trouble free at the start, but four hosting companies I have used in the last 25 years started well but their service became dreadful after they were swallowed by bigger companies.

Not sure what I would recommend actually, especially to someone hard up for whom the cost of a domain means going without something else they want.

It's that time again: Android kicks off June's patch parade with fixes for five hijack holes

Tony W

"Regular" security uodates

Android One promises regular security updates, which is a typical marketing phrase that sounds as if it means something other that what it does. For my Motorola phone it means regularly four weeks late, which is certainly better than most. But why the four week delay? And using Android One has made me realise the value of some of the alterations and additions that manufacturers make to stock Android.

Breaking news: Bank-card-slurping malware sneaks into Forbes' mag subscription website

Tony W

List of affected domains

Don't bother to look at the list of affected domains. There are 63 pages which appear to list 1249 domains. Nearly all of them are "upgrade to view."

It's May 2. Know what that means? Yep, it's the PR orgy that is World Password Day... again

Tony W

Two password managers

so that there is twice the target to attack?

Don't be an April Fool: Update your Android mobes, gizmos to – hopefully – pick up critical security fixes

Tony W

Re: All done

My Motorola One, bought direct from manufacturer, running Android One, gets patched around a month late on average. That's a lot better than most, but why the delay?

Google takes a page from Microsoft of old and revives browser ballot on Android

Tony W

Dog in the manger

Google's attitude to their Search app is obvious from Andoid 9 One. The search bar demands five icon spaces on every home screen even if the app is disabled so it is completely inert. Even more annoying than apps that I never use but can't uninstall.

But I have now got used to the dead space and treat it as a reminder of who is in charge of "my" phone.

LibreOffice 6.2 is here: Running up a Tab at the NotebookBar? You can turn it all off if you want

Tony W

Re: And without learning regex

The attitude that all users need to learn regex is one of the major problems with open source software. I can do all I need in MS Office quite easily without knowing that regex exists.

Tony W

Re: "Everyone loves a bit of REGEX torture"

And without learning regex, search and replace of paragraph markers or newlines is impossible. Vital procedures for reformatting other people's work. Sorry, this is great for geeks, completely useless for ordinary people.

Pewdiepie fanboi printer, Chromecast haxxx0r retreats, says they're 'afraid of being caught'

Tony W


As an ordinary user I am completely mystified by this. If I look in forums I find vociferous arguments about whether it's safe for me to leave UPnP enabled on my home network. There is no apparent consensus, just a lot of people shouting "Just turn it off" and others saying it is useful and low risk.

I am also told that disabling it may break my Chromecast and Chromecast Audio, and possibly Skype which is vital to my family (for work.)

The router supplied by BTInternet has it enabled by default in the advanced menu. The only comment is "We recommend you keep 'Extended UPnP Security' turned on to make sure your home network is secure." It's on, so that's all OK is it?

How can I make sense of all this? Please don't say turn it off and see what happens. I already have more than enough things to check if I get an obscure network problem.

Amazon's creepy facial recog doorbell, Facebook open sources machine learning code and much more

Tony W

More solutions looking for problems

There is more music out there by good composers than any normal person has time to listen to. There is music by lesser composers inspired by the great composers if you want that. Machine generated music, done in this way, isn't even interesting scientifically as if won't help us learn how music actually works. So why?

Home users due for a battering with Microsoft 365 subscription stick

Tony W

Downvotes invited

I have zero respect for MS. I don't need to go over how the behaviour of their systems has hurt me in the past, any reader here will have had the same experiences. But when it comes to office suites you should face facts.

Libre Office works adequately for many purposes and as it's free you can hardly complain if it isn't perfect. Now that I've retired I can afford to use it, and on my next new PC I won't be installing MS Office. But Libre Office is an inferior product.

For example, to replace things such as newlines and new para markers (a basic tool for tidying up other people's documents) you have to use regex: a real pita for the average user.

And it's not compatible with MS. Going backwards and forwards between the two (which I do quite a lot) can muck up the layout of documents. With spreadsheets it completely alters my carefully set up chart formatting. I would never trust an important presentation generated in Libre Office to show properly on Powerpoint - I've been badly bitten. It's unfair that compatibility is a klller, but it's a fact.

Most non-professionals don't need office software at all or can manage with a free web-based system. But for many professionals, there is only practical office suite. So it's a monopoly: they can screw us and they know it. I'd be astonished if there aren't MS teams generating incompatibilities, so we can't expect that Libre Office will ever catch up.

US Homeland Security installs AI cameras at the White House, Google tries to make translation less sexist

Tony W

Guessing is not good enough

The problem is far more basic: Google should admit when it is guessing. Then it would stop making my Japanese friend keep referring to "your" "his" or "her" mother, son, daughter etc., when she means her own mother etc. I can mentally strip out these wrong pronouns but why cannot Google mark words that it is interpolating or guessing the gender? And the same goes for Microsoft of course.

It is not about what is "reality." The relative number of male and female surgeons in various countries is quite irrelevant. If the original left the gender ambiguous then so should the translation, otherwise it has a good chance of being incorrect.

Analogue radio is the tech that just won't die

Tony W

Re: not much better than AM

Radio broadcasting as a means of providing high sound quality is probably an anachronism. If you want hi-fi you can get it on line - if someone is prepared to provide it. BBC R3 on line has quite respectable sound quality - better than FM or DAB. And as for AM - don't make me laugh.

When DAB was invented, radio broadcasting engineers were excited about the possibility of overcoming the bad aspects of FM, particularly for car radios. What they didn't realise is that most people have no interest in high sound quality, and digital systems would allow the top management to decide on the balance between sound quality and the number of channels. The re sult was inevitable.

And for those extolling low distortion AM sound quality - when did you last listen to it? Restricting the frequency range to a theoretical best of about 4 kHz (from the 9 kHz channel spacing) is a serious form of distortion. And that's just the transmitters. When I measured a range of AM receivers in the 1980s the -3 dB bandwidth was typically about 2.5 kHz. Broadcasters use heavy multi-band audio compression, trying desperately to push more high frequencies through the system, to be louder than the competition, and to combat after-dark co-channel and adjacent channel interference. So the frequency response is continuously jumping about. That seriously alters any music and In my book that's distortion. I could go on. Yes, speech on BBC World Service DAB sounds nasty - but still better than AM. If you add typical AM background noise or restrict the frequency range to AM limits, it more than hides the DAB artefacts.

Your RSS is grass: Mozilla euthanizes feed reader, Atom code in Firefox browser, claims it's old and unloved

Tony W

Please tell me how to do this!

RSS is like cleaning materials that are cheap basic chemicals. People don't know about them because it wouldn't pay to advertise, and in the end the cheap product becomes hard to find because there's 'no demand.'

I used to use RSS and really liked it. For me it was the only way to keep up with a very large number of sites without wasting lots of time. Then several readers stopped working for one reason or another ("upgrades") and every time I had to change reader it was to a worse one and I lost all my bookmarks. In the end I gave up, but I still miss it.

Of course sites have also been removing their RSS feeds, or making them hard to find. There is no large-scale future because If it did become popular, advertisers would surely make it a condition that feeds were removed.

Microsoft yanks the document-destroying Windows 10 October 2018 Update

Tony W

Re: Not Cloudy Here

Off-site backup?

Super Micro China super spy chip super scandal: US Homeland Security, UK spies back Amazon, Apple denials

Tony W

Strong denials

The standard for adequate denials has been raised. If future denials are in less strong terms conclusions will be drawn.

Which is not to say that even the strongest denials should necessarily be believed. History is full of strong denials that were complete lies so I am very cynical about all organisations, public and prvate. Any organisation will lie through its collective teeth for its own advantage if they believe that they won't be found out.

But if several apparently independent organisations tell the same story, it seems more likely to be true. So in this case I would bet on Bloomburg's story being wrong, but not a lot of money.

The pressure is on Bloomburg, as their reputation will have a long shadow cast on it unless they can show that they behaved reasonably. If that Bloomburg story is in doubt, why not all their others?

Russia: The hole in the ISS Soyuz lifeboat – was it the crew wot dunnit?

Tony W

Re: ...suction clamped to the surface...

Erm ...there is still air, it hasn't all escaped yet.



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