* Posts by Long John Silver

194 posts • joined 21 May 2018


Rest in peace, Queen Elizabeth II – Britain's first high-tech monarch

Long John Silver

Technology and monarchy

RIP Elizabeth II

The putative Charles III has had an unhappy relationship with technology. His analogue mobile phone conversation (the "tampon" call) with Mrs Parker-Bowles gave rise to unwelcome amusement. Also he has pranged a Royal Navy vessel and a military aircraft.

Ad blockers struggle under Chrome's new rules

Long John Silver

- but where the resources would come from?

Answer: donations as through crowd-funding.

The collective mindset at present centres upon making "investments" and taking a proportionate share of revenue generated. Investment is about "ownership".

The Internet has global reach. It enables people with common interests to communicate. Thus, a well-presented and plausible R&D proposal arising from people with track-record of successes and of spotless reputation regarding probity may gain funding from sufficient among the billions of Internet users.

The point is, each donates what he wishes to afford. There is expectation of obtaining a useful digital "product", and perhaps listing among a roll-call of contributors. No donor, however large the amount, has any claim of ownership of the "product". The makers (be it software, film, music, or literature) stand to enhance their reputations, thereby placing themselves in better position when competing again for a share of individuals' discretionary disposable incomes. Also, nothing prevents them vending support services, bespoke variations (still under an attribution licence), and associated "added-value".

This mode of business/finance sits best with "cottage industries". To be hoped for is resurgence of this form of enterprise at expense of bloated behemoths.

The Luddites' revenge?

The crime against humanity that is the modern OS desktop, and how to kill it

Long John Silver

Windows has become portal to "consumer" services

Windows "Home edition" is oriented towards serving "consumer needs" i.e. to aiding Microsoft and "trusted partners" together with general advertisers to peddle their wares. That obviously impacts the start menu because it is the one location all users must visit from time to time.

A savvy user can disable some of the tacky nonsense but not all. People demanding potential total control over their devices seek out another OS, preferably open source. Nevertheless, loading the latest Windows (sourced unofficially) as VM on a Linux system offers source of amusement to people blessed with a 'black' sense of humour.

Tech industry stuck over patent problems with AI algorithms

Long John Silver

Re: Use the light bulb test

This makes good sense in context of traditional (now questionable) doctrine regarding "Intellectual property".

Long John Silver

A false proposition generates all propositions, true and false

In formal logic, a proposition designated as 'true' can, in combination with other 'true' propositions, lead to a chain of reasoning, which if it obeys the rules of inference, results in a 'new' proposition which also MUST be 'true'. Contrary to that, an initially 'false' proposition leads to pseudo-deduction of ALL propositions with no means to distinguish the 'true' and the 'false' among them.

This concept generalises to less rigidly formal modes of discourse, law being among them.

In essence, legal constructs start from statements deemed axiomatic (e.g. the Judeo-Christian-Islamic Ten Commandments). Thereafter, consequences and applications are deduced in as rigorous way as feasible in context of ordinary language (general deploying variants on Aristotelian logic). The body of law has shifting sands resulting from societally dependent fresh interpretation of the reach of axioms and addition of new (e.g. the concept of "human rights").

Regardless of whether operating within constraints of formal logic or of legal argument, any initial proposition deemed axiomatic yet containing occulted internal contradiction, will somewhere along subsequent chains of reasoning/application result in anomaly, and eventually, blatant contradiction.

Law, unlike mathematical reasoning, is subject to two criteria of utility: logical consistency AND considerations of practicability which include enforceability and acceptance by dominating societal powers (persons and institutions).

Copyright and patents rest upon the idea of there being "intellectual property" akin to the more tangible kinds of property mentioned in the Ten Commandments. Ideas are endowed with ownership. For copyright, 'ownership' involves "right" of distribution; this extended to encompass restraint upon "derivation" by others. Patents are about "right" to apply an idea in context of trade and commerce.

Before introduction of 'rentier' concepts,"property" was something tangible e.g ox, ass, land, and wife. Physical assets could be traded. Physical assets could be stolen. A market price could be set on an asset; this predicated upon the scarcity (often uniqueness) of supply.

Cutting short intermediate reasoning, to be presented elsewhere, flaws in the notion of "intellectual property" have slowly entered awareness over the past three and more centuries; these were temporarily patched in various ways. Inception of a digital economy has made obvious the irremediable contradictions concerning copyright. Patents will follow suit when technology (e.g. 3D printing) usurps traditional means of production. In the meantime debate over whether AI systems can be credited provenance/ownership of patents is amusing nonsense. It's akin to metaphysical discussion of how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. Doubtless, some of the finest legal minds will be roped into arguing one way or another according to their clients' wishes.

AI-friendly patent law needed 'as a matter of national security', ex-USPTO boss says

Long John Silver

1793 - too far behind the times for IP applied to digital artefacts to continue?

In 1793 and thereafter until onset of the digital era matters IP were relatively simple to understand.

Slight correction: arrival of non-messy and cheap to use photocopiers together with home taping set the seal upon nightmares yet to come for IP rentiers. In retrospect, that worry was trivial.

Digitally represented information, regardless of whether conveying entertainment or used as 'recipe' in 3D printing, has turned the tables upon conventional thought about what may be deemed 'property' and how property rights may be protected. At present threat is greatest for digital artefacts covered by copyright. Eventually patents will be damaged and later go into abeyance too. Patents are prone to two kinds of attack.

First, a poor nation might sensibly decide no longer to abide by international conventions; pharmaceutical products being likely precipitating factor. Its leaders if neither 'bought' by IP interests nor within reach of US Marines may do their sums and conclude the national economy (including individual disposable incomes) would be bettered despite invalidation of IP owned by its citizens. Should a major nation, e.g. China or Russia, decide to scrap all IP law (replacing it with entitlement to attribution for creative people), it would be the 'nuclear' economic option; however, despite loud bleating by people whose livelihood depends upon distributing IP 'products', closure of law firms, and loss of sundry middlemen, the entire globe would end up the better for it.

Second, despite patents (including those involving digital artefacts) at present being far more easily enforced than for copyright digital materials, their vulnerability is immense. Automated manufacture is becoming both easier to organise and cheaper to implement; advances in 3D printing presage return to small scale local manufacture to meet local demand: cottage industries. Depending upon complexity of that to be printed and demand level for output of particular physical artefacts, we may expect 3D printing plant to spring up in towns, neighbourhoods, and family residences.

This ubiquity will extend to pharmaceuticals because technology is in the offing to brew drugs etc. in small amounts and bespoke for particular patients. Starting in hospitals this will spread to primary care services, perhaps beyond too.

The point is that 'recipes' can be shared just as at present is the digitised howling of a 'pop star'. Access to required ingredients is unlikely to be difficult; perhaps, spawning further cottage industries.

It's no good jumping up and down complaining about broken law and supposed 'property rights' denied. That which is not enforceable - prospectively or retrospectively - makes for bad law and becomes a matter of personal rather than societal morality.

Inception of the digital era exposed the fundamental flaw in the concept of IP. Hitherto, IP-related products, e.g. books, recorded music, and, latterly, A/V 'content', depended upon being 'inscribed' on a physical medium, e.g. paper and vinyl disk. The medium containing the 'content' could be sold according to traditional market-economics supplemented by legal monopoly protection.

Digitally expressed 'content' no matter upon what inscribed is separable from its physical substrate. Digital sequences cannot be corralled once arriving in public spaces. Sequences, are easily replicated with accuracy and readily distributed electronically with a variety of storage media available. Thus, they lack the "scarcity" necessary for market price-discovery; no amount of legal proscription and technological defences can force digital 'content' back into being ersatz physical property.

Truly creative people will still be able to make a living so long as they convince others to offer patronage for the construction of creative 'content'. Patronage differs from 'investment' because finished products, being digital, possess no intrinsic (scarcity derived) monetary value. The Internet offers global reach in seeking patronage e.g. by crowd funding. Reputation, derived from attribution, underlies a creative person's imagination and skills being marketable (not sale of end products).

Leonardo da Vinci made physical constructs and disseminated ideas. He attracted greater patronage as his reputation spread. Even should it have been feasible, da Vinci, and his ilk, would never have impertinence to demand every viewing of his works, and every 'derivation' from his ideas', attract royalty payment.

Misguided call for a 7-Zip boycott brings attention to FOSS archiving tools

Long John Silver

GUI and Linux

Lack of a GUI version of mainstream 7-Zip for Linux is unimportant. For instance, the Linux Mint repositories contain several graphical utilities for compression activities in universally compatible 7z format. I don't know whether these are simply wrapped around Pavlov's code or contain derivatives tweaked in various ways.

Cookie consent crumbles under fresh UK data law proposals

Long John Silver

Please clarify

I followed the link you provided and found a reasonably clear description of how the marketing industry keeps tabs on potential customers.

Please explain why server-side activity is harder to keep in check than client-side? In order for information to be processed and stored on the server it first must be allowed free passage from the client. Cannot that passage be blocked in similar manner to inward intrusions such as scripts?

Long John Silver

Intrusions are avoidable - teach people how to deny access

I suppose everybody commenting here already implements one or more of the free to use 'apps' and browser add-ons available for blocking intrusions from 'commerce' on their personal devices. For some years I have managed a cookie-restricted, free from pop-ups, and 'ad-free' existence. For most interactions with the Internet little more than basic configuration of these protective utilities suffices. Sometimes, when sites by default push a large number of ancillary connections it is desirable by trial and error to identify which can be blocked e.g. script injecting sites.

Perhaps, the generality of mankind deploys at most limited scope tools bundled with the MS Windows Home Edition and some may buy programs and suites offered on the Windows 'Market Place'. Because recent Windows Home incarnations have become marketing and entertainment places, ordinary users have limited control, but still can use the free tools alluded to above. Maybe some proportion of these users enjoy garish 'ads', 'pop-ups', tailored 'ads', and notifications; I doubt the Windows user interface would be so 'busy' were not that the case.

Nevertheless, many users of Windows and Android devices are unaware of the power they have to curtail intrusions. Legal restriction on cookies etc. are almost irrelevant when a device is properly configured; the only truly annoying feature for which seemingly there is no workaround yet is the the permission seeking overlay which can deny access unless acknowledged.

Almost universally in Internet connected schools across the globe Windows devices are used some of the time as teaching aids. Pupils generally have Windows PCs and laptops for home use and Android phones are ubiquitous in the West. Presumably all pupils are exposed to some general teaching about computer technology and IT; that is the point at which protection against commercial intrusion can be introduced. So far as I know, schoolteachers in the UK retain some flexibility concerning how a syllabus is approached. Should not teachers with IT knowledge accept as professional responsibility need to acquaint pupils with how to curb commercial intrusion? This particularly in context of Windows and Android devices. Given Microsoft's cleverly concocted dominance of educational computer use in schools and colleges, it may be too much to ask for pupils to be introduced to operating systems (primarily Linux variants) not inherently designed to service commercial marketing.

The Return of Gopher: Pre-web hypertext service is still around

Long John Silver

Fond memories

Thank you for the pointer to Firefox add-ons.

The simplicity and elegance of solely textual displays aroused nostalgia.

Why the Linux desktop is the best desktop

Long John Silver

Re: Mint needs to drop Ubuntu as its base distribution

Do you know what information is passed when Linux Mint with snap calls home to Ubuntu?

Can it be blocked somehow?

Long John Silver

Horses for courses?

Linux Mint offers an easy to install OS when default options are accepted.

Recently, I was obliged to go through the installation process for MS Windows 10 home edition. This was because although I opted not to buy Windows it was necessary for the laptop vendor to set Windows up for pre-sale testing. I could have installed Mint directly but wanted to give the laptop a run under Windows to check basic operability; the vendor does not guarantee Linux compatibility although I have not have trouble in the past.

Windows setup was excruciatingly horrible. It was simple enough but long-winded and necessitated sharing (false) personal information with MS. There was a step where choice was required about advertising trackers: personalised or pot luck. Eventually reboot stage was reached; if I recollect correctly, at least twice plus security updates. During the process I was begged to allow immediate "free" update to Windows 11.

Once logged-in, I was exhorted to take out an MS Office subscription. I had option of a personal licence or a family licence: neither cheap. The GUI was a complicated clutter of garish icons and messages. The entirety was compatible with the notion of Windows 10 home edition being aimed primarily as an entertainment and shopping centre enabling contact with Microsoft's "trusted partners"; I won't speculate upon whether MS "trusted partners" merit trust by other than MS itself.

To give the new laptop a run at video rendering I opened Edge and linked to YouTube. When running a randomly chosen piece of popular crap presented on the opening page a message popped up inviting me to install a free add-on for subduing adverts and sponsorship messages. I assented and the add-on worked. I was puzzled by MS endorsing this type of tool.

Running a second video led to the pop-up returning and telling me I had only a couple more free uses of the add-on before having to take out a subscription. Following a link led to a webpage purporting to be an independent company, perhaps a "trusted partner". One year subscription to best of my recollection was in excess of £90. In other words I was being offered a slightly discounted equivalent to "YouTube Premium" for which monthly subscription of £11.99 is demanded.

My conclusion was that MS, YouTube, and an intermediary were in cahoots to extract money from naive users of Windows. Readers here are likely to be aware that YouTube add-blocking is attainable using Mozilla Firefox add-ons or even better by deploying "FreeTube" which in addition enhances privacy.

Then there is the Microsoft Store to consider, but enough is enough.

So. the experience offered by MS Windows 10/11 home edition is best summed up as tacky.

However, Microsoft cleverly crafts its home-use products to appeal to the interests and tastes of what market research deems the average home-user. Clearly, MS believes these users are flattered by personalised advertisements, are enthusiastic about "special offers", and sanguine about parting with modest sums of money, particularly on monthly basis.

For comparison it would be interesting to obtain market demographics of people who install widely known flavours of Linux.

British cops arrest seven in Lapsus$ crime gang probe

Long John Silver

Naughtiness exposing incompetence?

What these boys did should not be condoned. Yet, their actions are those of bright inquisitive youth. Their motivation can be understood. It was fun, and if a few Bitcoin tokens can be collected along the way, so much the better.

Obviously, they must be set on a different course. However, the long winded punitive legal system benefits neither the boys nor anyone else. Find them challenging computer-related tasks. Show them too possibilities for intellectual challenge and entertainment not involving keyboards. Keep a firm but kindly eye on them.

The 'victims' of crime have no practicable recourse to compensation other than recovery of missing Bitcoin. Punitive action of destructive nature is merely vengeful.

The supposedly innocent victims are in the same boat as persons whose household doors and windows are left open whilst valuable items are on display. Put forth temptation and don't be surprised when other people succumb to it. Furthermore it is unlikely many of the 'victims' stand upon high moral ground regarding other aspects of their lives/businesses.

There's little gained by concentrating on the alleged wickedness of the burglar after having failed to engage a competent locksmith.

Russia mulls making software piracy legal and patent licensing compulsory

Long John Silver

Sooner or later so-called IP was bound to become a weapon in sanctions 'diplomacy

Russia's proposed breach of IP based rentier economic hegemony is welcome.

The concept of IP is inherently false. Even worse, it endangers the thing it supposedly protects: creativity and industrial innovation. In a world where knowledge is kept behind paywalls (copyright) and monopoly is applied to applications of knowledge (patents) a core precursor for free-rein of ideas is stifled. Scrapping copyright and patents would release cultural ferment. The alternative to rentier economics is return to competing for patronage to support projects ranging from the mundane (pop music and film) via literary culture to innovation in science. In fact, the higher reaches of culture, as once were exemplified in universities, were, and many still are, dependent upon patronage from public funds, charitable bodies, and individual donations.

In post-rentier economics (essentially return to what pertained at the time of Leonardo da Vinci) the end product - be it an idea or digital artefact constructed from an idea - has no monetary value whatsoever. Similarly, use of ideas for constructing physical artefacts like widgets and pharmaceuticals carries no expense beyond that of construction.

In rentier economics applicable to the world of ideas, all constructed artefacts, digital and physical, are deemed as products to be sold on a open market. Supposedly IP determined markets are fallacious. They operate on monopoly basis. There can be no price discovery. 'Scarcity' is absent although pretence is made of it being the driving force. Lack of scarcity is obvious with digital artefacts because they can be copied endlessly without degradation. Scarcity of physical products protected by patent is false too and attained by restriction on production.

Post-rentier economics primarily consists of markets in skills. People, and companies, must convince other people that what they offer to produce given adequate funding is of cultural worth or monetary worth when later developed as physical product in an open (non-monopoly) market. The bedrock for markets in skills and imagination is 'reputation'. This is earned through previous deeds other people set store by. Reputation alone has value. This determines whether patronage can be obtained. It is reputation that requires legal protection: not any ideas generated. A key to disseminating reputation is an ethic requiring full disclosure (attribution) of ideas from other sources which have been re-presented (e.g. an alternative ending to a novel written by somebody else), otherwise borrowed from, and/or developed along new lines.

A simple example should suffice. Consider post-rentier economics film making. Many would-be film makers emerge from college with a short work they created during their studies. That past attainment indicates potential for greater things and access to resource raised through patronage enables undertaking bigger projects. Most likely, the sample "short" would act as passport into joining a co-operative of the like minded or being taken on by a cottage industry film company. The company would raise patronage for further works on basis of reputation gained from previous works. Patrons (e.g. through crowd funding) are not "investors". They seek no financial return. They look forward to a finished work to which they may have contributed a tiny sum.

The final product in digital incarnation has no intrinsic monetary worth despite cost of making it. Anyone may distribute it so long as attribution is intact.The originators may generate further income through selling added-value goods and services associated with their works. Global reach of the Internet enables easy dissemination and maximises prospect of recognition, i.e. reputation, from people interested in that film genre.

Just as for Leonardo da Vinci, people making a living through film (writers, technicians, producers, directors, and when applicable, actors) live off income streams generated through patronage. Nobody owes them a living other than that which is freely given. They have no royalties to live off and thus must make pension arrangement from income. Use of imagination offers revenue from sale of physical artefacts. For instance, autographed - indeed personalised - DVD copies much as when a photographer sells signed copies of his work. Operating in this manner encourages financial prudence regarding operating costs. A host of intermediaries effectively made redundant by digital production - they don't yet know it - are surplus to requirements and cannot gorge off a carcass from which production companies receive only a small share. End recipients - so-called 'consumers' - are left with greater personal disposable income and if so inclined may exercise more power of patronage.

Russia is proposing only limited renunciation of "rights" culture. However, that may be sufficient to provoke broad questioning of the rotten foundation to a huge body of law. Doing their sums, nations might begin to grasp that total abolition of the concept of IP along lines mentioned above, would produce greater benefit to their own economies than losses resulting from not being able to enforce indigenous "rights". African and Latin American countries could start by renouncing copyright on academic materials and patents for pharmaceuticals.

The only deeply vulnerable nation is the USA. It is highly dependent upon supposed IP rights. Perhaps the USA shall rue the day when it bearded Russia.

US Senate to vote on stopping Big Tech extracting 'monopolist rent' from app developers

Long John Silver

Re: Aim high

I agree.

Quoting from the article -

... for making third-party apps act in place of default apps, and for hiding or deleting pre-installed default apps.

That statement is but a step away from a requirement for mobile device manufacturers to make "rooting" and installation of an alternative OS hassle free.

Purchasers of desktop and laptop PCs can install a different OS with relative ease. Some vendors offer option of pre-installed open source software (e.g. a Linux flavour) or no pre-installation (disk formatting etc.) of any OS. If one doesn't want MS Windows one need not pay for it only to discard it later.

The mass market for mobile phones, other Android devices, and conventional PCs, is likely to continue to demand pre-installed software. However, individuals purchasing them must have choice of installing alternatives to the proprietary software and this unimpeded by unnecessary obstacles.

A related issue is demand in the USA from farmers to be permitted to access the OS of, say, tractors in order to facilitate maintenance and repair. At present they are locked out by law. Only "approved" agents may access the OS.

The Android OS, that is proprietary variants, has become a tacky medium for pushing advertisements, product sales, and related commercial surveillance. Irritatingly it has insinuated itself on smart TVs and finding workarounds is tricky.

Privacy is for paedophiles, UK government seems to be saying while spending £500k demonising online chat encryption

Long John Silver

Think of the children?

In no implied order of importance do the following.

1. Forbid children taking smart phones and similar devices equipped with cameras into schools. Permit simple voice only telephony devices.

2. Persuade parents to allow access to devices equipped with cameras and microphones only in the communal living room.

3. Inform parents of dangers emanating from setting up Internet connected security cameras in bedrooms and playrooms.

4. Greater emphasis on personal security (Internet and generally) within school curricula. Explain why sharing intimate images can lead to distress and worse, even with close friends.

5. Rejig for the Internet era the long standing advice given to children not to talk to casual strangers. Reiterate this frequently.

6. Police and other agencies to move away from the relatively simple low hanging fruit concerning circulation of illicit images and concentrate effort upon tracing original creators of images and persons using the Internet to entrap children into physical sexual contact. To facilitate this, brownie points distributed to police forces and groups of officers should be weighted heavily to rewarding successful investigations into tracing core offenders; there being analogy with the near futility of cracking down on illegal drug users rather than key importers, manufacturers, and distribution networks.

7. Imbue the public with understanding that a totally risk free environment with regard to almost all hazards in life is unattainable and of necessity for protective resources to be prioritised according the benefit offered.

No more DRM-free downloads as Amazon's ComiXology app set to disappear inside Kindle

Long John Silver


The distinction exists only in the realm of physical goods. I am not discussing law but instead reality.

Try as people might, digital sequences cannot be forced to behave as if physical entities. Business models based on that assumption eventually shall fail.

The alternative is abandonment of the spurious notion of 'intellectual property" and replacement by entitlement to attribution. Under this regimen, people believing they can produce something other people might find informative or entertaining must seek patronage from anticipated admirers. In days gone by, e.g. the time of Leonardo da Vinci, patrons were exclusively wealthy individuals and institutions. The Internet makes patronage in small gobbets from ordinary people accessible. Crowd funding is one means. Its reach is global.

Reputation, this suggesting ability to produce pleasing works, becomes the only commodity regarding digitally expressible culture. People creative within a particular cultural genre compete with each other in an open market. Completed (digital) works have no definable monetary value. Yet their cultural worth - on metrics beyond the ken of copyright rentiers - assists building reputation and funding to support further works.

For instance, a would-be author must offer up his works freely in hope of gathering a following of patrons. A publisher is not necessary but specialist skills may be hired to assist. The facilitator would have no claim of ownership over the finished work.

The present tangle of ownership claims and distribution rights would collapse. No longer can supposed 'ownership' be protected. Anyone may derive from another's works. Thus it is reputation which needs protection from unscrupulous operators. With little, if any, change current laws can protect against misrepresentation (e.g. absence of attribution) and offer civil law succour and in some instances the weight of criminal law.

Thereby, a host of rentiers living off past glories (generally in fact those of others) and distributors enjoying monopoly rights would disappear. Cutting out middlemen would hugely reduce costs of accessing digitally expressed culture. From thence it follows that individual and national discretionary disposable income would no longer be taxed by an idle rentier class of businesses. Released funds not only provide scope for offering patronage but also many other opportunities cultural and otherwise.

There would remain a modest place for some distributors. Although not possessing exclusive rights they could draw income from offering 'added value' services and goods connected to the free-at-source digital cultural artefacts they hold. Some such might be extensive annotated archives and reliable high speed Internet access. No great imagination is needed to come up with more add-ons tailored to specific cultural niches.

Long John Silver

Re: Easy to download your drm free backups

Github is fast becoming a no-go area for anything copyright rentiers choose to find objectionable.

It's time for extensive use of Darknets for storing backups. Live versions of code repositories might be mirrored using onion sites. It's to be hoped the entire open source movement regarding tools inimical to rentiers and/or viewed with disfavour by governments migrated from the open Internet.

Long John Silver

A counterproductive nuisance?

DRM for eBooks is an irritation but nothing more than a circumventable nuisance.

People parting with money to obtain access to e-publications ought refuse to regard their payment as nothing more than rent. Tools exist to liberate e-books. Sooner the broad population becomes aware of this, the better. Rental of culture (both 'high' and 'low') is a business model best relegated to oblivion via mass user disobedience.

In another context, at least one leading publisher of academic journals offers non-subscribers an elaborate set of options. For a ridiculous sum they may purchase a copy and download it. For lesser sums they may 'rent' online access for specified times. Of course the savvy go off to Sci-Hub but presumably there are plenty of takers for purchase of ephemeral digital sequences and for the privilege of reading online.

Snap continues to make a spectacle of itself as it tries to trademark the word spectacles

Long John Silver

Spectacular hubris?

Move along, there's nothing to see here.

The dark equation of harm versus good means blockchain’s had its day

Long John Silver

Silly questions?

I have read about Bitcoin but not the blockchain protocol itself. Discussions on various fora I visit centre upon whether Bitcoin is money and/or store of value, comparison of Bitcoin with physical gold, and estimates of potential Bitcoin worth vis a vis present day fiat currencies. Concerning the last it is not difficult to make crude estimates based on published figures for global GDP (and similar) with assumptions about proportion of US dollar based transactions transferred to Bitcoin, and arrive at enormous eventual Bitcoin worth on the further assumption this translates into purchasing power.

Bitcoin's inherent, pre-defined, scarcity is its unique feature compared to gold and commodity backed currencies. Yet it is not scarcity of something desirable or useful to possess in its own right. In the physical world, theoretically one could devise a currency based on shares in Rembrandt paintings or on shares in Shakespeare's original manuscripts; each being finite in supply and with few more, if any, yet to discover.

Bitcoin are discovered in blocks with difficulty of 'mining' increasing as the number of blocks remaining diminishes: hence corresponding computational energy expenditure from competing miners. From that observation stems my difficulty understanding where this will lead.

Miners have two specific roles: 'digging out' Bitcoin and, for a fee, facilitating Bitcoinage transfers among Bitcoinage owners. Ordinary Bitcoin nodes initiate transfers and receipts and collectively oversee integrity of the entire process.

That leaves the question of what happens as ever fewer Bitcoin remain to be mined. How does the business economy of mining work when few coins are left? Presumably miners drop out of the business one by one. Apparently, below a certain number of active miners it becomes feasible for a bad actor to subvert or disrupt the Bitcoin protocol. How is that prevented at the end-stage of a tiny handful of miners?

When the last Bitcoin is mined, or everyone gives up seeking it, shall enormous energy concentrated on mining be needed to sustain whatever activities remain open to miners? Is prospect of each miner taking a small share of Bitcoinage shifting in ownership sufficient to demand high energy use? What shall complicated computation be for other than seeking the last elusive Bitcoin? Is the sheer size of a global Bitcoinage-based economy sufficient to ensure the transfer role of miners is profitable?

The term "Bitcoinage" is used to distinguish between the current output from mines which I am led to believe must be in multiples of whole Bitcoins and the unlimited division into smaller units transferable among Bitcoinage players.

Changing the Bitcoin protocol appears doable when there is adequate agreement among node operators, this signified by them adopting the modified protocol. "Forking" seems a painless way of doing this because each owner of Bitcoinage at time of the 'fork' retains the same nominal holding of base entities in each fork. Hence, for example, Bitcoin Cash and Bitcoin Gold were "hard-forked" from Bitcoin into distinct tokens individually traded against traditional currencies and between themselves (Bitcoin included) competing for a share of 'investment' capital held in traditional exchangeable currencies.

From this arise further questions. Shall Bitcoin fork again to a version no longer requiring miners because remaining coins are not worth the bother? And, consequent upon this, shall independently operated ordinary nodes somehow take on all transmission functions? Shall node operators be rewarded by a share of coinage passing through their nodes as means for encouraging node creation and the resulting security and stability of the network.

A consequence of the hypothetical fork would be reduction from two tiers of node to one.

Mining nodes these days are by necessity powerful computational resources and require high bandwidth Internet connections. Nodes run by Bitcoin exchanges need considerable computing power (perhaps more akin to that of servers than mining rigs) and bandwidth too. Similarly, if Bitcoin is taken up, if only as a hedge, by financial institutions and central banks, many more strong nodes will arise. Collectively these would number greatly more than current mining nodes.

A major theoretical strength of Bitcoin's reliance upon a distributed network rather than centralised processing rests with resilience and constant audit by truly independent nodes. Thus one imagines an ideal Bitcoinage world filled with free-standing nodes operating in spare capacity on personal computers and on those of institutions not connected to finance.

How might this scale? If Bitcoin is a medium of exchange then fast transaction speed is essential. If a store of value, robustness and diversity of the nodal network may be paramount.

Warning: China planning to swipe a bunch of data soon so quantum computers can decrypt it later

Long John Silver

Re: Decryption Chaff

Taking that back into the broader context of other encryption techniques - which are inherently less secure because 'one time' methods are impracticable when several people on unspecified occasions want access to information - the question of how an adversary knows encryption has been broken becomes important.

Assuming quantum computers are the wonderful beasts they are made out to be, difficult questions remain when decoding data not in advance known to have been encrypted by a particular class of method (e.g. a pubic key based system). Heavily secret communication among a small pre-defined number of people can be based upon well-known algorithms but in combinations varying according to whether the message is first, second, third, etc. from a particular sender among the group.

Ordering the algorithms, number and types, can be separated from keys which need to be known for a particular instance of use of a given combination of algorithms.

Encryption/decryption takes place under supervision of an overarching algorithm which requires, in this example, a 'sequence number' and the keys. The former is not embedded in the code. Human operators must keep track of position in each individual's sequence of message sending to the group. Each sequence number invokes a pseudo-random number generator within the overarching algorithm. The generator is seeded exactly the same in all distributed copies of the overarching algorithm.

This degree of additional obfuscation would make it difficult for the quantum computer's algorithms to determine whether decoding is successful. Further obfuscation of the original data is easily applied using variants of insecure techniques such as letter substitution.

It would not be a matter of the computer eventually spitting out plain text. Unless, the quantum computer is, or is connected to, a very powerful pattern recognition device it might be necessary for human operators to check output from many steps of the process. Thereby speed of quantum computers is slowed to a pace humans can stand and also, as in the case of some messages among the military, it matters not at all if by the time the code is cracked events referred to have already taken place.

Long John Silver

A further twist?

Among files an adversary may be able to access, deposit some others particularly heavily encrypted and containing detailed plans for projects in which subtle flaws have been introduced.

Mention has been made of creating many files of encrypted garbage alongside genuine files. This 'needle in a haystack' technique is pretty sound in its own right regardless of adversaries' decryption capabilities.

Alleged Brit SIM-swapper will kill himself if extradited to US for trial, London court told

Long John Silver

The Extradition Act 2003 does not go far enough

The 2003 Act was response to palpable defects in a previous agreement drawn up with the USA. Even so it does not go far enough.

In general, if the accused is a USA citizen whose purpose for residing in the UK can be shown as little more than evading US justice then extradition ought be appropriate. Caveats might include doubt about US motivation being political and US sentencing policy being deemed too severe by UK standards.

Similar considerations could apply to other foreign nationals resident in the UK. However, if strong connection with the USA cannot be established and the alleged crime is not considered gross then deportation to country of origin may simplify matters from the UK perspective.

As matters stand, if the alleged crime is not regarded such in the UK there should be no grounds for considering an extradition request. If it is a crime in the UK too then American authorities ought seek to convince UK authorities to mount prosecution.

Unfortunately the 2003 Act was botched. Mental distress and possible suicide should not be the only grounds for refusing extradition of a British citizen.

The tragic case of Julian Assange makes all too evident where successive British governments' sympathy lies. If there had been an iota of humanity among our self-aggrandising leaders a Home Secretary (perhaps instructed by the cabinet) could have used existing powers to halt extradition proceedings. Even were such powers unavailable Parliament, under our titular monarch, is supreme.

FYI: If the latest Windows 11 really wants to use Edge, it will use Edge no matter what

Long John Silver

Is this so across all flavours of Windows 11?

Presumably Windows 11 will, like its predecessors, come in distinct flavours and prices. If so, is the restriction discussed here across the board or only applicable to the home user platform?

Not that I much care other than watching Microsoft entering the special hell reserved for bloated organisations riddled with complacency engendered by market dominance and, in this case, saddled with a chequered legacy demanding backward compatibility.

Microsoft touts Windows 11 SE: A locked-down OS to give Chromebooks a run for their money in schools

Long John Silver

Device vendors and sofware providers in an unholy mix?

According to the article there are several hardware options available to schools. Yet, these, certainly with Microsoft, are tied into a software provider. No only that, but Microsoft, it being a (the?) major supplier of proprietary software, a vendor of in-house designed equipment, and highly influential over independent hardware manufacturers' specifications (e.g. 'secure boot' and TPM), is setting the pace for ever tighter control of users' devices with, for example, TPM offering chip-level DRM. Conceivably, 'consumer' devices shipped with Windows 11+ will for all intents and purposes be locked into Windows products for all users apart from the technically savvy. Similarly, business users will notice tightening of licencing enforcement.

Not all the matters raised above need have immediate impact upon how schools use computers to support teaching. However, they exemplify a complicated commercial backdrop with priorities not necessarily consonant with those of education. For instance, Microsoft operates a mode of business akin to Tom Lehrer's "The Old Dope Peddler" viz. -

"He gives the kids free samples

because he knows full well

that today's young, innocent faces

will be tomorrow's clientele".

Cleanup on aisle C: Tesco app back online after attack led to shopping app outages

Long John Silver

A reasonable expectation?

My family on weekly basis uses the Tesco home delivery service. We were not affected by this glitch. Had we been, I would willingly set aside grievance had Tesco adequate means of informing customers of the problem and for updating on progress in resolving it.

I don't expect Tesco or any other similarly reputable online business to be totally free from human error, from technological mishap, or from attack by criminals. What I do demand is immediate openness when problems occur, and, so far as practicable, righting serious wrongs (especially financial) to particular customers in timely manner. On such matters reputation rests: Tesco knows that. Its management must learn from each mishap and take steps to improve resilience.

Online harms don’t need dangerous legislation, they need a spot of naval action

Long John Silver

Re: There's still the old problem

I agree. 'Hate' has morphed into 'giving offence'. The 'offended' whine to the police rather than muster words in response.

There are movements, one of which you mention, manoeuvring into a position whereat they cannot be criticised even when using moderate language. They, on the other hand, happily accuse everyone who dares treat them with anything less than total respect as suffering from one sort or another "phobia".

By using "phobia" they make false claim of others fearing them. Perhaps it eggs their importance in their own eyes. Depending upon context the 'phobic' are expressing some of the following: disagreement, distaste, ridicule, and contempt. None of those four stances ought of itself alone fall within the remit of criminal law.

Microsoft shows off Office 2021 for consumers ahead of the coming of Windows 11

Long John Silver

Byzantine pricing: Machiavellian schemes.

The Microsoft (MS) pricing structure for its products has become so elaborate that soon individuals and enterprise will need to hire independent consultants to arrange the best deal.

No wonder some businesses fall foul of licence infringement, this arising from confusion alone. The complexity encourages one or other of two strategies.

First, pay through the nose for the full caboodle, even though much may never be used, rather than deploy company executives to debate how many MS licences fit on the head of a pin.

Second, use workarounds without much caring whether the strict MS nitpicking regimen is followed to the letter. MS snoops cannot be everywhere, particularly outside the USA. In other words contribute what one thinks the product is worth to one's business. Private individuals for the time being can fairly easily resort to 'pirated' copies.

When the goal of getting everyone connected to the MS cloud is reached, the company shall have total control over a captive customer base. Also, having licence keys inscribed on chips in PCs will almost eradicate 'piracy'.

Ironically, although it may be argued that digitally represented software and other 'content' lacks intrinsic monetary value because being reproducible without limit it has no scarcity (other than that artificially created by anachronistic copyright law), under an exclusively cloud-based mode of operation MS can legitimately be said to be offering a tangible service i.e. added-value to monetarily worthless streams of digits.

Samsung: We will remotely brick smart TVs looted from our warehouse

Long John Silver

Re: Help i'm choking here...

One wonders whether the author was able to attribute meaning to his own fractured prose. However, it is impressive corporation-speak. Think of the hours spent in business school necessary to master the art of saying sod-all.

Long John Silver

Owner control over devices purchased

I possess an excellent Sony 4K TV. Unfortunately, this like other devices from Samsung, Amazon, and elsewhere, comes with a pre-installed operating system (in Sony's case a variant of proprietary Android). As with mobile devices, taking full control by rooting is littered by obstacles. Indeed, I must not root my mobile phone because a daily use banking 'app' would refuse to operate; this being a not unreasonable security protection implemented by the bank. Other readers will be only too well aware of the unwanted crap sent to smart TVs and mobile devices. Although there are various 'apps' available to mitigate the worst, one is unable to configure a device as one would wish. For instance, my TV insists on displaying the latest vulgar rubbish available from Disney despite my not having a subscription.

Superficially, bricking stolen devices has attractions. Samsung's use of this is small beer protection against theft from warehouses. Perhaps enhanced physical security during storage and transit would achieve better? Individuals who purchase devices should have choice over whether these when stolen can be bricked. In any case, phone operators can deny its use for telephony with its current SIM card.

I suspect Microsoft, and similar, would love to disable PCs and servers when copies of their software are unlicensed. I don't doubt they possess the means. Holding them back is reputational damage and huge compensation awards to entities accused in error. Just imagine the comeback should corporate servers wrongly be disabled. That applies to any device/software distributor with legal presence in the USA or other litigious nations. Samsung ought beware.

This thin edge of wedge leads to application of bricking for infringing 'rights' to any kind of software and digital 'content'. Elsewhere, I have speculated that Microsoft and other proprietary operating system manufacturers have a potential market in selling access to anti-infringement tools to copyright holders. So long as only the infringing 'content' is disabled, perhaps with a 'call home' identifying the miscreant, it seems unlikely the software vendor would end up in hot water.

LibreOffice 7.2 brings improved but still imperfect Microsoft Office compatibility

Long John Silver

Avoidable incompatibilities?

The first word-processing package I used was Borland Sprint. Within expectations of its day Sprint was customisable and versatile; Borland's separate spreadsheet software was excellent too. Sprint enabled me to prepare a book for a publisher. Thereafter I dipped into WordPerfect, early MS Office applications, and OpenOffice. LibreOffice has served my needs for several years. However, being retired I have little demand for facilities enabling collaborative authorship in an institutional setting. These last are where matters concerning compatibility of software packages arise.

Lack of full inter-compatibility may be much less a problem than the article suggests. Within any institution, standardisation of software in use may be enforced (commerce) or encouraged (universities). When collaboration crosses institutional boundaries it obviously is desirable to agree on a document format supported by software from differing sources. I suggest the huge bulk of documents in production contain simple text and undemanding graphics. Format compatibility worries should rarely come to fruition.

Production of completed works intended for consumption beyond institutional boundaries (e.g. annual reports and brochures) generally requires specialist skills for page layout (including choice of fonts and colours) and for preparing/adjusting illustrations regardless of intention to typeset a printed document or to distribute in digital format (e.g. web pages and/or PDF). At this stage residual annoyances from incompatibility among software deployed to make the draft can be ironed out within whatever software is chosen to facilitate publication. The entire process should pose little challenge to persons willing to consider workarounds rather than demand perfection.

Debian 11 formally debuts and hits the Bullseye

Long John Silver


On one device I use Linux Mint which is a Debian derivative. On my two desktops (kept at differing locations) I deploy openSUSE. The latter is through habit because its was the first distribution I was happy with a couple of decades ago and I remain content. Sometimes it is convenient to run a minimal Debian system within a virtual machine on openSUSE.

That said, I am confused as to justification for multiplicity of variants based upon a core distribution as is so for Debian and some others. Options for stable releases, for quasi-stable rolling releases, and for very much at one's own risk 'cutting edge' versions make sense given varying needs among users. However, beyond those what is justification for additional bespoke general use versions? The underlying architecture of each bespoke version is pretty much the same and mainly transparent to ordinary users. The most visible difference rests with default GUIs. Nowadays, on every (?) distribution/variant the user may easily install any of the commonly available GUIs or settle for command line and the X Window schemata. Indeed, if one wishes one may easily swap among GUIs on the same computer.

Compared to MS Windows, Linux is new on the block and mysterious to many potential users. This disregards Linux's roots in the well tried and powerful UNIX systems deployed for several previous decades upon mainframe computers. Thus, in many respects Linux is the most mature and reliable operating system across the range of modern devices. So why the apparent fragmentation now Linux is well established?

Continuing existence of major quasi-commercial distributions such as Red Hat and openSUSE is explicable from their origins and their underlying business models of free open source software with competition for maintenance contracts from corporate users. Nevertheless, that doesn't explain the plethora of additional bespoke versions. Windows and OS2 have retained their identities but open source Linux variants give impression of volatility rather than their true underlying stability.

Apple is about to start scanning iPhone users' devices for banned content, professor warns

Long John Silver

Re: A stalking-horse for copyright protection

That was my first thought too upon reading the article.

The proposal as stated needs examining in the light of cynicism and pragmatism.

I don't doubt most (near all) executives of companies tempted by this technology support curbing, by feasible means, the spread of illegal pornographic images. Doubtless as private citizens they would report suspicious materials via existing channels. That can be deemed a moral imperative.

There is no moral, legal, or business obligation to set their companies up for systematically monitoring 'content' passing through their hands. There would be absolutely no commercial sense. If by chance they fall upon it then citizen obligations arise.

Introduction of the technology for purpose stated in the article is most unlikely to be efficient/effective use of resource to tackle the underlying problem which is creation of recent (potentially traceable source) images for which there is prospect of the perpetrator manufacturing more through continuing abuses.

Other readers have made plausible argument why using databases of images and/or an AI capable of differentiating hitherto unknown images depicting harm from an innocent photo would raise immense ethical and legal problems merely through fact of the screening process taking place. Add to that differing world jurisdictional criteria for distinguishing abuse from art (age being a factor too) then the only safe ground upon which screening could operate would be that of images so dreadful that agreement by legislatures is near certain. The last option may be justifiable but why oblige business to seek needles in haystacks? After all, one suspects the most prolific abusers to be phone and Internet savvy and therefore not prone to stuffing their material onto clouds. A similar point arises regarding the other weasel concept justifying surveillance: terrorism.

Tracing and curbing copyright infringement makes more sense. Even companies not in the business of creating or distributing copyrighted 'content' could be induced to take part in screening customers' data. Copyright rentiers would pay a fee for the service.

The shaky ground upon which copyright rests has been revealed by the Internet to all who care to look. Purveyors of film and music are fighting rearguard action. They are becoming ever more desperate. Unofficially streamed sport (consequent upon rampant price-gouging by official outlets) has joined the centre of attention. On the bright side, academic publishers have lost the battle but most don't yet know it.

For some time I have thought the final battle will take place on the turf of proprietary operating systems. Here and elsewhere I have mooted Microsoft will discover a lucrative market by offering Windows, at least household versions, as Internet access guardians. 'Consumer' versions are pretty much battened down regarding scope for user modification and bypassing some features. For instance, updates, especially those purporting to correct security flaws, can, at most, briefly be delayed. 'Windows Defender' is almost mandatory and it should be easy to make it so.

'Defender' represents an engine in place to serve copyright rentiers, surveillance unavoidable from advertisers with their trackers and from other agencies, plus snooping for illegal 'content'. 'Security updates' will be means to refresh hash databases and so forth. Returning data to Microsoft home poses little challenge because Windows is doing so all the time already. Given low cost high bandwidth connections and agile processors in devices the ordinary user will notice no difference. Those needing to push devices to their limits already have, or will, migrate to open source operating systems where users have complete control over configuration. 'Gamers' will stay with Windows only because Linux versions of popular games are sparse. Perhaps they will remain scarce when 'games houses' grasp the great potential for Windows to control DRM more than now.

'Defender' upon recognising files containing unlicensed 'content' could have several options: disable playback/viewing, erase the file, and call home with details. 'Defender' could also render Darknets inoperable; either prevent Windows from running on them them or, with greater subtlety, make access slow or by other means unreliable.

Introduced stepwise and without public fanfare these measures need not be noticed by most users. MSM, in thrall to governments and copyright moguls, is unlikely to raise a fuss. Muttering could be stifled by appeal to welfare of children (not just regarding abuse) and to fear of the ubiquitous terrorists lurking behind trees.

That, I suggest, will be the final battlefield and I cannot predict the victor. One outcome will be surveillance societies with restricted freedoms and human culture all but dead; the enthusiasm with which people have adopted the chaotic Covid narrative makes this plausible. The other will be abandonment of rentier economics. This will release considerable opportunities for nations to use more productively the resource currently channelled, usually overseas, to parasites rather than genuinely creative people. Release of restriction on 'derivation' should lead to cultural renaissance: hitherto unparalleled innovation and reduction of grossly inequitable wealth distribution.


Released under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 international licence.

Long John Silver

Re: A stalking-horse for copyright protection

You refer to USA law.

Europe mulls anonymous crypto-wallet ban, rules to make transfers more traceable

Long John Silver

Sensible people keep private wallets solely on their own devices

Savvy people keep their Bitcoin wallets solely on their own devices and should they wish to transfer elsewhere they connect a node, let the blocklist update, and then do as they please.

That is sustainable for persons holding already acquired Bitcoin as a long term speculative investment i.e. those who would not tangibly suffer should their Bitcoin drop to zero fiat value. Analogy to a lottery ticket.

People seeking to 'invest', regularly to engage with the market, or to use Bitcoin as means to purchase goods and services, have little choice other than using open markets. Europeans, regardless of location of exchanges holding their asset would sooner or later be caught in any net the EU (and other jurisdictions) set in place. Even so, nothing stops them transferring gains to an anonymous wallet kept solely in their own possession. Officialdom would know who transmitted the coinage but not anything about recipient wallets. It wouldn't be easy to tell whether recipient wallets were caught in the supervisory net and thereby subject to follow-up surveillance.

Single large transfers might attract attention. Authorities may enact regulations deeming for tax purposes the coinage as still held by the recorded owner. Onus would be on the titular owner to establish nothing nefarious had taken place. However, it's unlikely frequent but irregular small transfers will attract attention given that careless 'big fish' swim in the pond. When the owner ceases transfers to one or more private wallets and is able to sit tight for months, perhaps years, the heat will be off. Also, until such time as there is full international agreement with enforcement a private wallet is easily 'cashed in' when visiting a non-compliant nation.

No sensible advocate for Bitcoin ever suggested that Bitcoin transactions and their histories are completely untraceable. However, degree of obfuscation makes them preferable to transferring money via banks and similar regulated agencies.

I possess a handful of Bitcoinage. This bought circa 2013. Upon Bitcoin collapsing my notional losses would be trivial.

My intention is to pass my coinage wallet onto my children. It won't figure in the value of my estate. They can decide how to use it and how to avoid attention.

Ad tech ruined the web – and PDF files are here to save it, allegedly

Long John Silver


PDF was and remains a handy format for sharing documents. PDF's current ubiquity exemplifies how neither a commercially produced program nor the ideas behind it can remain corralled by copyright/patents for long.

I am surprised Adobe continues to market it, bells, whistles, and all. Perhaps businesses, too lazy to look for now legitimate alternative sources of PDF software for their Windows-based devices, happily shell out subscriptions. They have become inured to paying through the nose for Windows operating system, and MS office software, so why not Adobe too?

Linux varieties are well endowed with PDF creation and reading software. I find LibreOffice excellent for creating PDFs. Presumably Windows versions of LibreOffice offer the same facilities. I would not be surprised if MS Office does too.

Restoring your privacy costs money, which makes it a marker of class

Long John Silver

Class divide not unexpected

A 'class divide' regarding information security and protection from annoyance predates the Internet.

Nowadays, people such as readers of The Register use an array of free protections on their devices and maybe a low cost VPN subscription too. Perhaps most people with discretionary disposable income lack the (minor) technical savvy or time to make their own arrangements. Security and convenience products are already marketed to them and the market shall thrive. This regardless of the competence with which products are constructed.

Thus, there shall always be a segment of the population largely free from experiencing the 'ad'-based nightmare.Yet, this is unlikely to discommode the marketing industry and those dependent upon it.

Consider three population segments.

1. People with immense disposable income. Very high end luxury goods e.g. yachts, are not advertised alongside the generality of 'consumer' products and services..

2. Professional classes and other high income people are mostly targeted via interest groups to which they subscribe.

3. The remainder, in UK terms the lower middle class and below, are the income generating prey for advertisers. They make up the huge bulk of the population. It is they seeking the best/cheapest bleach, washing powder, kitchen goods, DIY equipment, TVs, motor cars, holidays in some Spanish hell hole resort, and so forth. For them, general advertising and some targeted towards specific interests may actually be a boon. In aggregate these people represent a huge pool of disposable income into which to tap.

Verified: UK.gov launching plans for yet another digital identity scheme

Long John Silver

Don't hold your breath

The government, the current one especially so, has a solid track record of incompetence and waste regarding contracting for software development.

Perhaps a phone 'app' shall appear. One way or another it will be hackable or circumventable.

The NHS 'app' relating to 'track and trace' is a risible failure at three levels.

First, its conception in context of a moderately severe 'flu-like epidemic.

Second in its construction and use; notable at present is endangerment to the economy via "pingdemic".

Third, it, as is or modified to be an 'internal passport'', is impracticable as a 'real time' identity and immunisation status checker. A robust and rapidly responding online database capable of coping with immense numbers of peak time requests is pie in the sky. Reality would be delayed responses and frequent crashes. If the 'app' is intended to allow entry to restricted premises it will end up with extremely angry users and similarly cross owners of premises. It stands to fail spectacularly.

If points raised for the third level hold then the 'app' must be designed to cope with being unable always to phone home. That entails the device running the 'app' holding an updatable version of the central record. That easily can be altered and the device when interrogated could falsely indicate connection to the central database. Doorkeepers lack forensic computing skills.

That said, such an 'app', should point four be acknowledged, could be a success in terms of widespread uptake by a suitably gulled populace. Having a small self-directed percentage of the population play ducks and drakes with it must be regarded inevitable and not stoppable.

I shall play with my feathered friends.

Open-source RAW image editor Darktable releases major update to version 3.6 – and it's very accessible

Long John Silver

Blind deconvolution?

I don't know exactly what DarkTable offers. However, I would welcome open source release of high quality and versatile blind deconvolution software.

This type of manipulation seems to be sewn up by expensive proprietary software. When last I looked, tools like ImageJ offer deconvolution but not the 'blind' variety.

Perhaps I am wrong about availability of blind deconvolution?

Data collected to promote public health must never be surrendered to police

Long John Silver

We inadvertently are protected by government incompetence

Present day governments and their underpinning pseudo-democracies, the latter being easily manipulated crowds of the ignorant, are way out of their depths for applying intellect, and of too narrow education, for comprehending complexity of the modern world within and between nations. Perhaps trend towards inability to cope took off immediately post-WW2. Technological advance proceeded at unprecedented pace. Setting aside the role of weapons for mass destruction in adding menace to chaos, the major problem rests with almost unbridled interpersonal and international communication.

Digital encoding, high prevalence of personal computational devices, and the Internet have enabled actions and responses easily capable of getting out of hand. The Twattersphere exemplifies this: "going viral" is a positive feedback loop and the converse of silencing 'unacceptable' opinion by menace is a dampening effect on discourse. Into this Wild West of ideas, most of which are chatter among lowest-common-denominator minds, politicians and other "public figures" dip with false expectation of manipulating it to their advantage; thereby they get caught up by increasingly frenzied action and reaction in their roles as nonentities in the greater scheme of things.

It's been obvious for at least three decades that British politicians (and most elsewhere too) cannot grasp modern technologies; many utterances concerning technologies display pig ignorance. No wonder the history of government procurement of computer-related technologies so often ends in costly failure or expensive sub-optimal performance.

There are two sides to a bargain. The government side rarely has the nous to specify what it wants. Contractors easily pull wool over the eyes of government and usually talk-up their ability to deliver. The credulous nature of government ministers, and Parliament as a whole, was exemplified recently by two things. First, falling for the pitch from snake-oil salesmen from Imperial College. Second, the test and trace fiasco and the phone 'app'. By the way, what about "Project Moonshot"?

Worries expressed about overreach of Covid 'apps' in the pipeline don't apply to the section of the population capable of self-direction. Even should a project for internal passports not fail dismally it remains true that the inevitably bodged scheme can be circumvented. Already in the pipeline is an open source project for mimicking an official 'app' and rendering it harmless. It is well advanced. The project's website has to stay on the move. However, the developer using ProtonMail keeps subscribers to a mailing list informed of the site's current whereabouts.

Inactive 'participants' will have nothing to fear from the law regardless of how stupidly draconian it is framed. Sensible Civil Servants will be aware that 100% coverage is impossible to attain and that 90% is sufficient for any malign intent the government has in mind.

Given fixation by politicians upon technologies they can't begin to understand, it seems likely there will be international agreement on a computer-based Covid passport for international travel. That too will soon have workarounds similar to those being developed for the Johnson et al internal passport vanity project.

We've been shown time and again that strong encryption puts crims behind bars, so why do politicos hate it?

Long John Silver

"Think about the children" - Yes but not this way

I don't know about other nations but the UK went down the wrong track with its well-meaning but disastrously framed legislation concerning indecent images of children (IIoC). I refer to The Protection of Children Act 1978 and the Criminal Justice Act 1988. Visit Free law essays for detail.

The legislation concentrates on "making" IIoC. The term is misleading because it refers to receiving images on a computing device with their retention in transient or permanent memory rather than being originator of the images. Thus press reports of someone convicted of making IIoC, the haul often large, are read as meaning the offender took the original photos/videos (or perhaps paid another to do so). Everyone sighs with relief when another dangerous predator on children is put away. Huge resources are spent on supervising offenders in the community regardless of whether there is evidence of originating IIoC or encouraging others.

There is analogy to curbing trade in illicit drugs. It is relatively easy to catch 'users' and low level distributors but difficult to trace importers and manufacturers. It is the latter two in need of arrest if impact on the trade is to be achieved. Police forces gain easy brownie points by picking up 'users'. Each 'user' punished somehow makes for a better society.

It appears safe to assume most people engaged in 'making', i.e. downloading, IIoC are merely voyeurs. Moreover, it may further be assumed, in absence of evidence otherwise, that most IIoC have been in circulation a long while. That is not to say that voyeurism is acceptable but rather to place it in perspective.

As for illicit drugs, one must get at the roots rather than cut the branches. Regarding IIoC it is clear that genuine manufacturers of IIoC are in direct contact with children and may do far greater harm than, say, simple pictures of nudity suggest.

Realistically, voyeurism on global scale is an intractable problem and won't go away. Maybe a lid should be kept on voyeurism but most effort ought go into rescuing children recently abused and preventing abuse of others. Obviously the Internet is nowadays a major channel for bringing abusers and children together. Targeted use of resource, instead of present scattergun approach, is necessary. Identifying abusers and the abused requires locating physical people rather than just their digital presence. That is where conventional policing is essential. Technical solutions such as circumventing encryption are but hot air promulgated by simple minded politicians.

Just when everyone thought things might be looking up, Dido Harding admits interest in top job at NHS England

Long John Silver

Re: In fine tradition?

You make a good point. Perhaps I can salvage the essence of my position with the following?

They have little to no insight regarding limits of their competence. Putting someone with a sharp mind and sufficient brazenness to pose searching questions among them leads to deep anxiety. Obviously, the solution when feasible is to banish said person to a nether-land of harmless endeavour.

Better yet is not to be in that position in the first place. Surround oneself with those among whom one feels comfortable. People one knows who never 'think outside the box'. People whose thought processes are as stultified as one's own. Obviously, that is not how they articulate it to themselves. They naturally recognise others of their kind.

You mentioned Williamson the fireplace salesman. He is the government's extra-special-educational-needs person (the rest being barely above 'special educational needs') required to occupy a slot in conformance with equal opportunities legislation. Williamson's background definitely is not conventional 'Shire Tory'. Thus, he fills the role of nominal plebeian in the Cabinet. Hence 'Gav the Chav' who is humoured by his 'betters'. That said, Hancock and the rest of them, apart from the Chancellor, are no exemplars of human higher cognitive abilities.

Of course, that's democracy. The weak minded electing into governance the louder mouthed and pushy amongst their number.

Long John Silver

In fine tradition?

Rising to the level of one's incompetence is an expectation instilled early on in life for such as this 'Baroness'.

The point being, she and those around her (e.g. Cameron, Johnson, and many others born with well-developed sense of entitlement) are mutually supportive in recognising each other's incompetence and helping them on their upward path. This is to their collective benefit because the nearer to the pinnacle one gets the greater the risk of exposure as a fraud. Why else has Johnson surrounded himself by such a bunch of prats?

This suitably undistinguished woman who in no sense would be regarded a 'lady' other than by ill-applied 'ennoblement' has qualities defined by their absence ensuring continuing rise in the stagnant pond she inhabits. Everyone knows what is to be found on the surface of stagnant ponds.

Blessed are the cryptographers, labelling them criminal enablers is just foolish

Long John Silver

Australia, where's that?

Despite there being an opera house Australia has no claim to being a cultural powerhouse in any respect. The brightest, thrown up by through regression towards the mean by even the most unpromising stock, leave. Thereby they make no contribution back toward maintaining genetic diversity.

Quantum computing: Confusion can mask a good story, but don't take anyone's word for it

Long John Silver

Monte Carlo insight

The description of Monte Carlo methods given in the article was revelatory.

I have devised algorithms based on Monte Carlo and permutation methods to meet my specific needs in context of statistical analysis relating to biomedical data.The technique holds no mysteries but the idea that one is drawing samples from 'answer space' places it in different perspective. In other words, Monte Carlo methods are the poor man's quantum computing. One does not need to explore and catalogue the entire 'solution space' to get reliable answers.

Linear computation though advances in conventional electronics is becoming increasingly powerful with respect to speed and capacity for handling data. One such machine can run a sequence of Monte Carlo simulations with rapidity. An array of physical parallel processors offers prospect of increasing the number of 'solution space' computations in a given time period in linear proportion to the number of processors added to the array. Distributing a Monte Carlo task across processors in a single location or a set of networked devices is becoming established procedure.

Perhaps there are problems only QC can satisfactorily elucidate. Yet, meanwhile samples drawn from the huge 'solution spaces' open to QC enable useful work to be done. Practical QC rests as tantalising prospect on a horizon that may not be reachable.

How to hide a backdoor in AI software – such as a bank app depositing checks or a security cam checking faces

Long John Silver

Would you trust a stranger to make sensitive decisions now delegated to AI?

'AI' is a 'black box'. What goes on inside and how or why particular outputs arise is pretty impenetrable to persons designing and to those training neural networks. Designers at the level of coding would be little more able to give specific meaning to a given set of weights than anyone else.

Bear in mind, it is the weights assigned by 'learning' that have closest analogy to what human software coders do. The weights are the program. Code specifying an untrained neural network and transaction protocols among 'neurones' is better regarded as equivalent to background firmware; few ordinary programmers need delve into firmware code.

Present day AI has become established as an heuristic tool of value in circumstances involving assessing and classifying complicated patterns within data submitted to the AI. However, current AIs offer no insight into how they arrive at results. They can (supposedly) reliably draw inferences and make prediction, each within their realm of operation, but they cannot explain underlying 'reasoning'. That would necessitate a higher order of functioning wherein not only incoming data is processed but there is an introspective mechanism for examining some currently assigned weights as if they too are data; this loosely called sentience.

UK watchdog would cease to enforce data protection law if Supreme Court sided with Google, its lawyer tells judges

Long John Silver

Excellent reporting

Congratulations on very clear exposition of these fascinating legal proceedings.

UK government resists pressure to hold statutory inquiry into Post Office Horizon scandal

Long John Silver


Fault here rests not with defective software but rather with how the Post Office dealt with contracted postmasters when anomalies suggestive of fraud arose. Either by accident or design a blind eye was turned to possibility of glitches associated with the computer system and with underlying records managed by the system. Some Post Office senior-management-tier people were responsible for this mess. The nature of attachable blame may range between indolence/incompetence and direct complicity in a cover-up.

The buck stops at the CEO and board of directors just as it must for the captain of a vessel sunk through ineptitude of the 'officer of the watch'. However, apart from chosen scapegoats all may hide within the amorphous nature of corporate governance.

Perhaps responsibility rests with the shareholders? They elected board members and ratified appointment of the CEO. They collectively are chartering the corporate vessel because they set/approve broad policy for its course.

In reality shareholders of major corporations are merely there for the ride. Perhaps stockholders with major stakes can individually or together exert influence. When shareholdings are distributed more evenly (e.g. as when Building Societies morphed into banks) one ends up with a fairly easily manipulable 'democracy' as in political context.

Obviously, 'democracy' is an ideal state for the titular chairman, CEO and board because of their control over information and setting meeting agendas. Paralleling the 'political class' at Westminster - one such that members across political parties have more interests in common than with their constituents - is a corporate governance class consisting of chairmen, CEOs, and board members, who rotate among companies. Companies of long standing are no longer entrepreneurial or particularly beholden to an individual with emotional and financial stake. Entrepreneurs take a long view. Business school graduates slotted into major companies take the short term self-interest view as seen through bonus culture and share buybacks permitted by USA law.

In the case of the Post Office the hit for irresponsible actions, possibly deliberate malfeasance, shall be taken by shareholders facing a tiny drop in dividend to cover compensation of victims, fines against the corporate entity, and legal fees.

What's lacking is clear individual accountability. When dire matters come to light the responsible chairman, CEO, and board members, may have retired or rotated to a position elsewhere.

How to achieve a moral and legal ethos for corporate entities which demands accountability of individuals is a conundrum. If the Post Office scandal gives rise to a public enquiry then the most worthwhile outcome would be a general framework for accountability to be considered by Parliament for inclusion in statute.

How do we stamp out the ransomware business model? Ban insurance payouts for one, says ex-GCHQ director

Long John Silver

An excellent idea

A ban on insurance payouts would focus people's attention on security. I presume GCHQ is doing its bit too for curbing this type of cyber-malfeasance.



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