* Posts by ibmalone

1078 posts • joined 6 Jul 2017

Page:

NHS tests COVID-19 contact-tracing app that may actually work properly – EU neighbors lent a helping hand

ibmalone Silver badge

Re: As far as I can tell, Northern Ireland is part of the UK....

So far as I could see, it wasn't even really being publicised in NI, though I didn't go into Belfast, so maybe they have signs up there. Currently 252k users, which isn't as many as needed to make it effective, however apparently NI's contact tracing effort has been quite successful compared to England, so ironically it may not be as necessary.

Anyway, it's pretty slick and the T&Cs and data use policy are well-crafted (bar a couple of typos). I have noticed that despite saying it runs if the app is closed it doesn't actually appear to do potential exposure checks (according to the android notification settings) unless it is running. Not sure if that means it wouldn't be collecting contact RIDs either.

ibmalone Silver badge

Re: Like to have an expert check the privacy statement & app

Having used the Stop Covid NI app while I was visiting for two weeks shortly after launch I was pretty impressed by the data use policy, very clear about purposes of use, what data was collected, what data stripped and at what point, conservative on retention period and with an opt out available at any time. This is in very stark contrast to the policy for the previous NHSX app (and the contact tracing programme) which said approximately, we'll hold all the data you give us for 20 years, we'll be using it for whatever we can think of, no you can't withdraw consent, yes, we'll make it available to Serco.

Geneticists throw hands in the air, change gene naming rules to finally stop Microsoft Excel eating their data

ibmalone Silver badge

Re: I must be missing something...

People doing data analysis on genetics shouldn't really be using excel, I think the quoted "Biologists in particular are reluctant to invest time in learning programming skills." is somewhat condescending when this is the community that produced Bioconductor. Experts in their field know how to analyse their data.

University of Cambridge to decommission its homegrown email service Hermes in favour of Microsoft Exchange Online

ibmalone Silver badge

Re: Single point of failure

Well, there are the days when outlook is down and you're left twiddling your thumbs for that email. And you're left relying on third party assurances about data security that you can't rely on (when persuaded to shut down our departmental email server and join the cloud service one we asked if we could get details of those policies, the most we got back was a paragraphs about where it was processed, which was soon rendered irrelevant as it became clear US companies could be compelled to hand over data anyway).

Also it's Cambridge, user support needed was minimal, I don't remember a single student who couldn't figure out the Pine terminal in the JCR. I institutions which use outlook the local team still handle things like password resets, not MS "support".

(Finally, a 4 year degree does not mean 25% annual user turnover, otherwise there'd be nobody to teach them.)

Doctor, doctor, got some sad news, there's been a bad case of hacking you: UK govt investigates email fail

ibmalone Silver badge
Joke

Re: Former UK trade minister and current Conservative MP Dr. Liam Fox

I think you'll find that, for historical reasons, in the official title it's "disgracèd former defence secretary"

ibmalone Silver badge

Re: Delusional Officialdom

This was my thought, willing to wager he was ignoring the advice he was getting.

'I'm telling you, I haven't got an iPad!' – Sent from my iPad

ibmalone Silver badge

I have upvoted, but only with reluctance as this story of somebody attempting to cover their own mistakes by vociferously lying to put the blame on others, being proved wrong and still rewarded for it saddens me. The one bright note is being able (twice) to pull out unambiguous proof to the contrary and have it believed.

What the duck? Bloke keeps getting sent bathtime toys in the post – and Amazon won't say who's responsible

ibmalone Silver badge

Re: As funny as this is...

This is why you have to list purposes of processing. It's quite possible to have data that you're allowed to use for one purpose but not for others. I'm not quite so blasé about what's going on here. Okay, the ducks are fairly harmless and slightly amusing (is he a friend of James Veitch?), but it's fairly easier to conjure up much more sinister pranks using this method, so Amazon's response when he objected is pretty poor. Just as you used to be able to have a block put on nuisance callers they should be willing to prevent any further shipments from that purchaser.

Google extends homeworking until this time next year – as Microsoft finds WFH is terrific... for Microsoft

ibmalone Silver badge

Re: ... welcome to the machine

In a way we're all on a bit of a dystopian SF kick at the moment.

FYI Russia is totally hacking the West's labs in search of COVID-19 vaccine files, say UK, US, Canada cyber-spies

ibmalone Silver badge

Re: When only money is the matter at hand

Which company is keeping their vaccine development secret? Are you aware one of the leading contenders is an academic-industry partnership? Who is going to be doing the research and manufacturing? Will you be paying them? Do you really think 'open sourcing' 'the' vaccine will speed things up (n.b. on 'the', we have candidate vaccines, we don't know if any of them work, so lots of people are investing in developing and testing possibilities)? It's not code you compile on a computer, it's processes, cell lines, manufacturing (GMP is an entire issue), you are not going to be making this in your garage.

ibmalone Silver badge

The article is about industrial espionage in vaccine research, what did you think it was about? Are you saying Russia will not need a vaccine?

ibmalone Silver badge

Why do you think the data is not being made public?

Do you think the Russians aim to make it public?

Do you realise that there is a chance this activity might cause loss of the data they are after or interruption to the research work?

ibmalone Silver badge

What exactly do you mean by free though? Who is paying the researchers working on it? Who is paying for equipment, premises for trials? Who is paying for production, distribution, and administration of the vaccine? Because someone has to provide all of those.

Provided at cost, paid for by governments seems the most likely model, and a lot of the companies involved have said they're going to be providing it pretty much at cost. There's not much win for them in gouging prices over this, given the scale of the vaccine effort just at cost will be a massive turnover boost to them. There's also an argument that institutional investors owning pharma companies will overall benefit from a vaccine even if it doesn't directly boost their pharma holdings because of the economic benefit.

I don't see Russia really benefits from this kind of activity, they've got their own vaccine efforts, which use different technologies. If you really did want to steal information, why not wait till a working vaccine had been demonstrated? Even if the details of the final vaccine were secret (which they wont be), they'd have to shoulder production (including the technology development) and distribution costs themselves.

And there is a risk, if their hacking was to cause data loss or even just disruption to institutions that discover the intrusion and have to down tools to re-secure their networks. It almost seems that this is a somewhat thoughtless effort, as in they have a remit to carry out industrial espionage and that this is an industrial target and therefore we're going to steal it.

Oh what a cute little animation... OH MY GOD. (Not acceptable, even in the '80s)

ibmalone Silver badge

Re: Head

While it was maybe not the case for those songs, they did have to stop things being too overt, there were the Mary Whitehouses to be placated, or at least not overly agitated.

It's fairly accepted the radio programmes like Round the Horne got away with what they did at least partly by the use of slang like polari, sometimes it's not innuendo, it just sounds like it, sometimes it really is innuendo, and sometimes it doesn't sound like innuendo but very much is. How much the censors knew about and were letting slide, and how much just flew over their heads, is an open question (even the cast had varying levels of familiarity with it).

The world's nonsense keeping you awake in middle of the night? Good news. Go outside and see this two-tail comet

ibmalone Silver badge

Re: So many comet flops

Yes, think I got lucky on Saturday night, Sunday it was less easy to see with some hazy cloud, and now the forecast here is cloudy for the next two weeks. Ah well, Jupiter is very nicely visible right now and not going anywhere fast.

ibmalone Silver badge

Re: So many comet flops

Managed to see Neowise from London last night. You do need a low horizon, and it's easier with binoculars or camera, but once you know where it is it can, just about, be seen with the naked eye. Would be much better in properly dark skies though.

Smile? Not bloody likely: Day 6 of wobbly services and still no hint to UK online bank's customers about what's actually wrong

ibmalone Silver badge

Re: Not Smiling

I don't know, but wouldn't think so. You can contact them by phone, so banking is still possible. I'd say, "still contact them by phone", but several years ago they stopped providing phone banking for most situations (sounds like you're a customer, so I guess you probably know that), which makes the resumption of phone service for these outages a bit of a novelty.

ibmalone Silver badge

Re: Smile, a trading division of the Co-Operative Bank

In the UK the financial services compensation scheme covers you up to £85,000 per institution (banking license), small savers (if you think £85,000 is small) and current account holders would be inconvenienced, but would not lose their money to cover losses.

ibmalone Silver badge

Re: one egg in one basket

Absolutely, I'm always amazed by people who happily load everything onto their phone. So, that's your credit card, travel card, means of communication and device for validating access to pretty much everything you own? And your plan if it gets pinched from your table in the bar (incidentally, why do people do that?) is what exactly?

ibmalone Silver badge

Have you tried restarting your router, rebooting and deleting cookies?

One does not simply repurpose an entire internet constellation for sat-nav, but UK might have a go anyway

ibmalone Silver badge

Re: "quantum compass technology"

I think we're talking at cross purposes slightly, I was answering the "coverage over UK only" criticism of a scheme like Japan as justifying a full UK-GNSS. That would still be capable of the 'value added' facilities you mention (maybe I was lax in bundling things like search and rescue as 'civilian use', but I mean in opposition to military use), as would staying in Galileo (which would be sensible but insufficiently brexity).

The one advantage having our own gives is it can't be turned off if we need it for defence purposes. If we had our own full global system then that would allow us to conduct operations across the globe even in the case where we'd fallen out with both the USA and EU... I think our forces might have other issues in that case. A smaller UK-overhead system would give the value added features, only missing the ability to conduct an overseas war that all our allies objected to.

(Also, I think the missile shut-off is receiver based, it's not something building the constellation gets you control of, it's something fabbing your own chips gets you control of.)

ibmalone Silver badge

Re: These satellites have high precision atomic clocks on board?

So, we could develop new GNSS satellites, build and launch them instead of the different satellites which they had already designed, but hadn't built and were planning to launch then? I'm failing to see the master-stroke in that move.

ibmalone Silver badge

Re: "quantum compass technology"

The point I was making is actually that for at least some of these systems we are reliant on the US for things other than just GPS, and while making that point mentioned that Trident is likely one system that we can supposedly use independently of them. Which is almost the opposite of claiming we need GPS for Trident...

ibmalone Silver badge

Re: "quantum compass technology"

Which NATO parties do we want to benefit from them? The US? European countries? They've got their own, leaving, apart from a handful of small states, Canada and Turkey. I must say it's pretty altruistic of us to be building military infrastructure to give Turkey a global reach.

The argument for a positioning system, particularly for splashing big sums of cash on it, usually relies also on the civilian navigation aspects, for which we only need UK coverage.

ibmalone Silver badge

Re: "quantum compass technology"

It's the other stuff that we *don't* have without reliance on the US and paying people lots of money.

Although... the weapons we have that rely on it are largely US made anyway. Supposedly we have control of Trident, but is anyone sure they can't just push an update on the F35 if they feel like it?

ibmalone Silver badge

Re: "quantum compass technology"

So here's the funny thing, Japan, a mid-latitude island nation, has its own small collection of satellites (4) to supplement GPS: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quasi-Zenith_Satellite_System

Cost, approx £1.2B, more than buying up some random junk hoping it will work, less than £5B. That seems like an opportunity for a bit of knowledge exchange with Japan, who we keep saying we want trade deals with and whose satellites will always be the other side of the world from ours.

We probably do have much more pressing things to spend our money on, but if anyone feels like paying me for another report...

White elephants in the mist: Google's upcoming Pixel 4A may ship without Soli motion recognition, per FCC filing

ibmalone Silver badge

Telekinesis

Only slightly related, but I've observed an interesting behaviour with my phone (not a Pixel) at times, it responds (very infrequently) to near-tap that (not quite making contact). Since the touch sensitivity is usually capacitance-based I'm guessing it might be due to static electricity or similar, possibly depends on humidity.

CompSci student bitten by fox after feeding it McNuggets

ibmalone Silver badge

You'd think in Australia of all places "don't interact with the wildlife" would be common knowledge.

(However, foxes don't belong in Australia, nor do rats or rabbits. The local wild animals might appreciate them gone.)

ibmalone Silver badge

It's the circle of life.

Winter is coming, and with it the UK's COVID-19 contact-tracing app – though health minister says it's not a priority

ibmalone Silver badge

I agree, should have been clearer, I meant if they tested then they might have a better chance of getting people to follow the guidance.

ibmalone Silver badge

The centralised version is also no use for contact tracing unless a large enough proportion of the population use it. And whatever you build on top of the google/apple model can interact with contact tracers, just not in detail about who your contacts were, but it could put you in touch as 'exposed' and get you scheduled for a test. The promise of not just having to hole-up for a fortnight unnecessarily and having a positive test result if you did need to I think would really increase compliance. Bear in mind the 1/4 not 'engaging' with our current contact tracing process, some false negatives would be worth bringing that number down (it'd also be interesting to see data about the infectivity of false negative people, because I'll bet that means lower virus levels in the airways and less transmission, hard to measure though for obvious reasons).

ibmalone Silver badge

Re: Feels like no one cares whether the app will work

I've had to upvote because I don't feel you deserve a downvote just for asking the question.

However, on real people are dying. Yes, although as Intractable Potsherd points out it is still relatively limited. That's not to say it should be ignored, hundreds of thousands of people are dying before they should, tens of thousands in this country alone. And we should get the tracking app working, there's no reason but arrogance that we have spent so long fannying around rather than using the solution that two of the largest technology countries in the world have developed to work on their platforms. But the app is only going to make a degree of difference, and throwing out rules on privacy, creating something that's half-baked just for the sake of creating something, those are not good ideas.

My area of research is dementia. It's responsible for over 10% of deaths in the UK https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/blog/research-dementia-UK-biggest-killer-on-the-rise not just for a few months but for years and it's increasing. This is important. But I wouldn't advocate forcibly recruiting people to studies or throwing away their right to consent or not to have their data used for research, it undermines the trust of the people whose help we need for our work, contradicts our concern for their wellbeing, and in the long run harms us all.

ibmalone Silver badge

Re: Feels like no one cares whether the app will work

I don't entirely know about balance out, excess deaths numbers for some South American countries seem to suggest that coronavirus deaths are essentially not being reported. In Ecuador they've started distributing cardboard coffins for free and that doesn't feel like it tallies with a few dozen deaths a day in a country of 17 million. (Of course, maybe it's a publicity stunt, or maybe they always use cardboard coffins.) But that's a country that is not going to be helped by a UK tracing app anyway.

ibmalone Silver badge

Re: Feels like no one cares whether the app will work

This one:

https://www.kcl.ac.uk/news/symptom-tracker-app-hits-15-million-uk-users

They've already published some work I believe.

Edit:

I should add that a contact tracing app will not simply make coronavirus go away. Though it will possibly pick up contacts that manual tracing does not (and miss some it does) https://www.lshtm.ac.uk/newsevents/news/2020/uk-modelling-study-finds-case-isolation-and-contact-tracing-vital-covid-19, meaning the "we find people prefer the personal touch" answer given is misinformed about the difference between the two approaches. Whether it's intentional to confuse the two or not I don't know. (Manual contact tracing also relies on a website, and apparently people are encouraged to fill their contacts in online, so the personal touch is somewhat missing there.)

ibmalone Silver badge

Re: Feels like no one cares whether the app will work

Epidemiological research is already possible, see the app from Kings for example. Trying to make it identical to contact tracing is a problem. You do not need to recruit everyone in the country to do research, and this is the barrier they have unnecessarily raised for themselves.

If Fairphone can support a 5-year-old handset, the other vendors could too. Right?

ibmalone Silver badge

My last Samsung got updates usually within about a month of Google updates, with quite a long pause at the version update and then nothing after about 18 months (there was extra delay as it was via the network operator, so Samsung had to roll out the Google update and the operator then had to roll out the Samsung update, which at one point just didn't happen for a long time). My current Sony (an Android enterprise recommended model which was originally supposed to get longer term updates) got frequent updates that stopped at just under two years. Lack of patches was a big part of why I upgraded last time, so I'm not surprised at all that they just stop. This is something countries should be pushing them on, it's inherently bad for the environment and for security.

It's something that Apple are a bit better at, if you can put up with them gradually downgrading performance for much the same reason.

No surprise: Britain ditches central database model for virus contact-tracing apps in favour of Apple-Google API

ibmalone Silver badge

Re: Use an API tailored to the task

All it's needed to do is tell if people have been in closish proximity for some length of time. Of course it will generate false positives, it's a precautionary measure to help reduce transmission of a pretty hard to eradicate virus.

ibmalone Silver badge

App Hancock Re: Had to happen

"Save us Dido Harding" is not something I ever expected to say.

As an observation, I saw it pointed out recently there are a number of these £108m incidents. Track and trace, ferries, PPE (https://twitter.com/JolyonMaugham/status/1272479030265118720). It must be some kind of discretionary spending limit.

Play stupid games, win stupid prizes: UK man gets 3 years for torching 4G phone mast over 5G fears

ibmalone Silver badge

Re: He used the wrong excuse

No, the left, same as the side you're supposed to drive on.

Wait, I think I see the issue now.

ibmalone Silver badge

Re: He used the wrong excuse

It's the one on the left. Maybe try squinting a bit? There's a title attribute if you're using a screen reader.

ibmalone Silver badge

Re: He used the wrong excuse

Some fans of blind-driving in the house tonight I see! Mind that wall.

(Or maybe they were trying for the upvote, I guess the buttons are quite close if your vision is blurry.)

ibmalone Silver badge

Re: He used the wrong excuse

Well, the original post was a joke, but it's interesting how "pour en-(ou de-)courager les autres" never lands on the peripatetic amateur ophthalmologists. (Who were also meant to be discouraged from their activities.)

25 years of PHP: The personal web tools that ended up everywhere

ibmalone Silver badge

Re: Newest prefixes and units to the rescue

I was going to make a comment about how this lack of units explains a lot about PHP, but actually, the slides say "7.5B kg less CO2". (Which he's basing on 0.5kg CO2 per kWH.)

Legal complaint lodged with UK data watchdog over claims coronavirus Test and Trace programme flouts GDPR

ibmalone Silver badge

Re: What to do if you're contact trace positive... Huh?

@"If you know you have been exposed, you quarantine. "

Nah. You want to talk it up, but that's not what happens. You go home avoid contact, wear a mask outside, wash your hands.

No. You do not go outside. You might still wear a mask and avoid contact with other people in your household, but you don't leave. This is what sensible countries have been implementing anyway. (Let's not waste time wondering what the UK is doing this week.)

@"It's all about preventing the spread of disease, m'dear AC."

Yeh, and the point at which you could potentially spread the disease was 11 days earlier and no time machine is invented, so you should do the protocols anyway.

If you've been a contact of someone who had the disease then the point is that if you have caught it from them then you have not had it for long and are likely in the presymptomatic stage, you may not even be spreading it yet. If you got it in the past week then how were you spreading it 11 days earlier? (Without the use of that time machine.)

"Face coverings" (not surgical masks, most countries are having people use improvised masks) are slightly better than nothing, but they're far inferior to not being anywhere near other people.

Talk about a control plane... US Air Force says upcoming B-21 stealth bomber will use Kubernetes

ibmalone Silver badge

DevStar?

Is that a reference to Death Star? A terror weapon built by an evil empire which blew itself apart due to a fundamental design flaw? It's certainly a bold choice of name.

Contact-tracer spoofing is already happening – and it's dangerously simple to do

ibmalone Silver badge

Re: This is not how security works

It's a mea culpa, I was being too light on detail, the actual site is a subdomain, https://contact-tracing.phe.gov.uk/ (plain phe.gov.uk doesn't appear to exist, www.phe.gov.uk is a redirect to a www.gov.uk page, but they seem not to have got the certificates right for anyone specifically requesting https://www.phe.gov.uk)

ibmalone Silver badge

Re: This is not how security works

I suppose maybe they could be an amateur scammer.

ibmalone Silver badge

Re: This is not how security works

I saw on TV in the last week, ministers and advisers have been asked twice how we'll know it's a genuine call. And twice they've said more or less the same thing, that it'll be obvious you're talking to a professional. Sorry, UK_GOV but that IS NOT HOW SECURITY WORKS!!

This is so poor. There's actually a process, they're meant to refer you to the contact tracing site (in fact, it's meant to be the preferred route for providing the details), which you can confirm from gov.uk guidance (domain is phe.gov.uk). If even the people at the podium don't know this then what hope do the rest of the country have?

ibmalone Silver badge

Re: Jumping the gun a bit, aren't they ?

The level of confusion, even on this forum which should be relatively clued-up, between the contact tracing effort and the contact tracing app tells you a lot about our government's success in communicating its plans.

Privacy activists prep legal challenge against UK plan to keep coronavirus contact-tracing data for two decades

ibmalone Silver badge

Re: Democracy in action!

That's not the data holding in question though, this is the data held by the contact tracing service and accessible to the likes of Serco employees, not your medical record, which they can't just pull up on a whim.

Page:

SUBSCRIBE TO OUR WEEKLY TECH NEWSLETTER

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2020