* Posts by Long John Silver

159 posts • joined 21 May 2018


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.

UK's National Cyber Security Centre recommends password generation idea suggested by El Reg commenter

Long John Silver

Set up for dictionary based attacks?

Three 'random' words if adopted widely sets up the user for dictionary based attacks and for simple brute force attack. The latter made more easy by virtue of only alphabetic characters (upper and lower case) requiring anticipation.

Every bad agent with access to a powerful computer will revel in this proposal. Shall GCHQ, supposedly on the side of the angels, similarly rejoice?

City of London Police warn against using ‘open science’ site Sci-Hub

Long John Silver

Desperation of copyright rentiers?

Recently there has been change of emphasis by copyright rentiers in their rearguard fight to convince people of rentiers' inalienable 'right' to own, almost in perpetuity, ideas and their digital representation.

Regarding popular entertainment (recorded music, TV shows, film, books, etc.) the argument has shifted away from the foolish mantra "copying is theft", from worry over artistes denied bread for their children, from issuing dire threats of legal action (easily avoided) against individuals illicitly accessing rentier 'content, and from claiming creative accountancy 'losses' indicate collapse of entire industries, to issuing 'public spirited' warnings of dangers arising from coming into contact with an international criminal underworld.

Attention is drawn to malware pre-installed on devices allegedly designed for streaming illicit 'content', to credit card fraud, and to involvement of organised crime in copyright infringement with implication that persons aiding criminals by using their services are participants in drug running, child prostitution, human trafficking, terrorism, money laundering, and all other things bad: scare tactics.

PIPCU, not exactly the most on the ball police force in the UK, has latched onto this in general sense and is now applying it to the academic malfeasance of not paying through the nose to access the 'high culture' end of human collective achievement. Unfortunately for PIPCU the message that accessing Sci-Hub, LibGen, and similar, poses risk of exposure to malware, to hacking university computer systems, and to Russians stealing industrial secrets, is risible to the target audience.

For some time I have maintained the concept of 'intellectual property', other perhaps than applied to trademarks and brands, has been revealed in this digital age as specious and inherently not enforceable. My belief is that copyright shall collapse first in its application to academia. There is simple reason for this based on two factors. First, the nature of the people being scammed by rentiers. Second, clear distinction between medium and message; that is the rentiers have control only over distribution (medium); they have no ownership of the ideas (message) they disseminate or control over 'derivation' from those ideas; indeed, derivation is the lifeblood of academic endeavour, the only sin being plagiarism (i.e. denying attribution to the rightful persons).

That medium and message are separable in general sense was established by introduction of digital encoding when it became obvious the message (indefinitely replicable) was not tied to particular instances of a physical medium. The medium might possess scarcity - an essential feature in market-economics for setting price - but the message does not.

This carries over to all digitally encodable culture. Importantly, it shows the dangerously restrictive nature of the comprehensive copyright (medium and message) applied beyond the realm of academic output. Ideas, whether represented in prose, musical composition, or film, mainly do not arise ab initio but rather as drawing upon one or more predecessors. Where would academia be if 'derivation' (with attribution) required permission and perhaps payment of a fee or continuing share of rental (royalties) arising?

Copyright stultifies culture and/or access to it across the board. Derivation is the stuff of creativity.

Digital representation and the Internet free the creative from dependence on a host of middlemen claiming 'rights' which can be traded. What is marketable is imagination and skills to realise it. Individuals and groups can compete for patronage. Reputation is the underlying commodity. Reputation rather than end-products - these if of digital nature not subject to market-economics and hence of zero monetary value - is what requires protection in law. False representation of being originator of an idea can lead to fraudulently gaining patronage. Attribution is all.

Cultural renaissance awaits after copyright and patents are binned.

Long John Silver

Which would you rather do?

Obtain information the 'official way' or circumvent a set of irritating and time-consuming obstacles?

Sit at home, in the office, or anywhere else, with your PC or laptop and gain instant access to a publication that takes your fancy (e.g. a citation in what you are reading at the time) and study it whilst fresh in your mind or login to your institution's library and follow what may be lengthy procedure to get it? If the paper, book, letter, or whatever, is not held in the library do you initiate a request for it to be loaned from elsewhere or perhaps seek it by disapproved means?

If you are not affiliated with an institution likely to hold what you want do you cough up money to a rentier, work around paywalls, or give up?

Missile systems software dev leaker has sentence almost doubled after UK.gov says 4½ years was too soft

Long John Silver

Veracrypt's deniability feature?

Veracrypt offers a deniability option whereby the container holds two sets of data each with its own access key. One key leads to unremarkable content: the other to the hidden data. According to Veracrypt's makers, it is not possible (by which I think they mean exceedingly difficult) to tell whether a container has two differing sets of contents. When opened the non-covert version offers a directory to which more information can be added up to the titular capacity of the container; that risks destroying the hidden content.

The 'open access' content ought at least be deemed confidential (e.g. bank details and other personal information such as Bitcoin wallet containing trivial amount of coinage) to give justification for having encrypted it. The key to this can be handed over. I suggest a more professional malefactor or security agent would profess great reluctance to hand over the false key by virtue of privacy concerns etc. Only when push by the authorities becomes real shove with charges laid should the false key be disclosed.

Millimetre-sized masses: Physics boffins measure smallest known gravitational field (so far)

Long John Silver

Dark matter exemplifies Kuhn's thesis

Thomas Kuhn in his work "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions" highlighted the role of aberrant observations in promoting ferment leading to what he termed "paradigm shifts" e.g. from a geocentric universe to heliocentric.

The geocentric stance enabled prediction of planetary position but this required introducing the notions of 'epicycles' fine-tuning underlying major cyclical movement. Heliocentricity simplified matters considerably and, on the principle of parsimonious explanations (and tools of prediction) being preferable to elaborate constructions leading to the same outcome, the paradigm shifted.

Kuhn gave examples of how seemingly secure physical theories came under challenge from anomalous observations. When such observations become accepted as reproducible the natural (indeed sensible) course was to suggest adjustment of the core theory. Eventually these adjustments become so ad hoc that serious attention begins to shift towards as yet tentative alternative theories. This is well illustrated by move from classical description (and prediction of behaviour) of atoms to Quantum Theory.

'Dark matter' is propping up General Relativity. It remains to be seen whether direct observation of dark matter will remove need for the prop. Should that not be the case then expect a roller-coaster ride to the new paradigm.

MPs slam UK's £22bn Test and Trace programme for failing to provide evidence that it slows COVID pandemic

Long John Silver

Re: The crucial number ...

There is a Firefox browser add-on for bypassing newspaper paywalls.

This post has been deleted by a moderator

Microsoft announces a new Office for offline fans, slashes support, hikes the price

Long John Silver

Support for what?

From whence does need arise for expensive rental arrangements offering support?

Might it be that suites of integrated office software have become so complicated to administer and to use that they can bring down the systems upon which they sit in a manner leaving IT professionals puzzled and desperate for a rapid solution?

Complicated software almost inevitably has lurking bugs which can manifest in curious ways. As evident from MS Windows 10, enhancements and security fixes can introduce new bugs. For operating systems and office suites it seems increasingly likely nobody in the vendor company can keep detailed grip on the totality. Hence, unexpected consequences from changes made to one component become increasingly likely.

This poses conundrums for vendors and users alike. Vendors must ask at what point the game of software capability expansion ceases to be worth the candle. Because it is possible to introduce new features does not mean they should be. Many of the existing bells and whistles in this monolithic software are used by very few people. Hazard arising from introducing a new feature must be weighed against the number of people likely to benefit and the number content with simpler features discommoded by collapses warranting external support.

From the point of view of enterprise and institutions using office suites the question must be how much money is justified in buying support to fix problems many of which should never have arisen in the first place?

Where does the balance lie?

Wells Fargo patent troll case has finance world all aquiver so Barclays, TD Bank sign up to Open Invention Network

Long John Silver

Perhaps markets do have wisdom

Powerful financial entities appear to be grasping the fact that rather than promoting innovation 'intellectual property' (IP) stifles it. Realisation has been long in coming but should have immense consequences.

Despite powerful rearguard action there must come a point when the penny drops that ideas cannot be owned and neither can their expression in digital format. This applying across the entire range of culture from 'pop' songs to academic literature. The Internet is daily making this obvious. Modern times Luddites are people and organisations stuck in pre-digital ways of thinking. They continue to assert IP 'rights' and rely upon destructive rentier economics supported by monopolies in a pseudo-market that assumes IP tradable in the same manner as physical goods. The assumption is false because ideas and digital sequences cannot be forced into the mould of scarcity, supply and demand, and price discovery.

Law attempting to prop-up erstaz markets is inherently bad law. Bad because ultimately it is not enforceable when people rebel. An irony is that Luddites were engaged in cottage industries. These were replaced by more efficient mass production. The modern variety are corporate entities and conglomerates anxious to preserve control over culture and able to sustain gross inefficiency via ability to price gouge in context of monopoly. I perceive an unstoppable imperative to localise production of physical and digital artefacts, the former according to local need/demand. Hence return to the cottage.

Making this inevitable are technologies like 3D-printing. These fit well into localised economies, in some cases down to the individual household. To use these technologies one need be in possession of requisite raw materials and a recipe for assembly. The latter is digital and easily shared and distributed regardless of modern law supporting neo-Luddites. This technology is extending into manufacture of pharmaceuticals, possibly soon tailored to needs of individual patients.

Localisation carries forth to production of entirely digital products such as film and recorded music. Hollywood and the recorded music industries are under threat from more versatile and less risk averse independents.

The dying rentier business model primarily supports a plethora of intermediaries and distributors. It is lazy and based upon 'entitlement'.

The new way of doing things recognises that ideas and their expression in digital format are not commodities. What can be sold on an open market is skill in their creation. Possession of reputation replaces copyright and patents. People and cottage industries thus endowed may on basis of current achievements seek voluntary patronage for continuation. That just as Leonardo da Vinci did. He relied on wealthy patrons and the church. Modern innovators have, via the Internet, access to the entire globe. They can solicit donations from admirers and finance big projects via crowd funding.

Essential for reputation is attribution. That is the only area where law is applicable. The sin of plagiarism and attempts to gain financial advantage by misrepresenting oneself as another of reputation requires civil, and sometimes criminal, legal remedy.

Dev creeped out after he fired up Ubuntu VM on Azure, was immediately approached by Canonical sales rep

Long John Silver

Avoid the big beasts in the jungle

When people place themselves in thrall of entities like Microsoft and Canonical, perhaps for apparently sound commercial reasons, they almost inevitably sacrifice some autonomy; they depend upon the competence, probity, and goodwill of a behemoth.

Biden said to be assembling cyber dream team to sort out US govt computer security

Long John Silver

Room for lateral thinking?

Why not start off by setting up competitions for teenage hackers and obsessive adults to penetrate systems underlying (alleged) national security? It could be like an online game with pots of gold hidden away at various depths in the system. The deeper the cache the greater the reward.

In a trial run, Google Chrome to corral netizens into groups for tailored web ads rather than target individuals

Long John Silver

The introverted world of the marketing industry?

"Advertising is essential to keeping the web open for everyone, ..."

Really? Explain why.

Indian government slams Facebook over WhatsApp 'privacy' update, wants its own Europe-style opt-out switch

Long John Silver

Where does Brexit Britain stand?

Detached from the EU, the UK when negotiating a new trade deal with the USA will be under immense pressure to not interfere in business practices of American owned vendors of goods and services.

Windows Product Activation – or just how many numbers we could get a user to tell us down the telephone

Long John Silver

Windows will eventually be free bait

MS Windows is principal portal to a host of subscription features and marketing opportunities for MS and its "trusted partners". Also, by dabbling in open source and Linux it may decide to adopt the business model of commercial providers of Linux. That is selling maintenance and bespoke services to corporate enterprise.

That way of doing things makes giving away instances of the base OS, but not the source code, a sensible move. MS hegemony enables it and 'partners' to gain considerable control over Internet activity and set up barriers to doings (e.g. 'piracy' of other software and distributed 'content') of which it and 'partners' do not approve. Cloud based subscription services are more easy to manage than selling discrete products.

Desktop Linux will remain a niche for people seeking total control of their devices. It facilitates parring down the OS for bespoke purposes. Linux will support each of enterprise and 'Wild West' Internet activity; individuals bypassing and 'infringing' MS and 'partner' rights will be small beer in context of overall revenue flows and to be ignored.

The future looks rosy for Microsoft so long as it can avoid anti-trust action against it.

'Following the science' rhetoric led to delay to UK COVID-19 lockdown, face mask rules

Long John Silver

What 'science'?

Science may be viewed in each of two ways. First, as activity operating in general accord with descriptions by Popper, Kuhn, and Feyerabend. Second, as a body of consolidated knowledge arisen from practitioners of 'scientific method'.

The former is always provisional. The latter consists of consensus 'understanding' of processes sufficient to make predictions adequately reliable for useful application of science in context of engineering, and the like. Applied science is stable but its basis remains open to challenge and revision within the activity of science rather than application. Yet consolidated knowledge despite not being the current bee's knees of supposed understanding retains utility e.g. planetary orbits are for all practical purpose calculated using Newton's Laws rather than General Relativity.

The bearing of this on Covid-19 is existence of a large corpus of knowledge concerning communicable disease control, a subset of which pertains to viral infections. This knowledge was available from onset of the pandemic. At that stage 'cutting edge' science was irrelevant to disease control. Similarly, opinions of current practitioners of 'science' should have carried little weight compared to practitioners of disease control

Only as the pandemic unfolded might a role for scientists emerge. This to engage with puzzles and speculation which one day could enhance understanding and control of the Covid class of viruses. The timescale of urgency necessary for applying consolidated knowledge just cannot be imposed upon practice of science. If corners are cut the resulting 'insights' have no more epistemological standing than the hypotheses driving the research. Yet hasty ersatz science is evident during this pandemic. Findings have been rushed into print without adequate scrutiny and with scant replication of studies. Supposed experts have pontificated on basis of little more than unsubstantiated opinion.

Perhaps the most egregious example of influence from non-science purporting to be other is uncritical adoption of computer-based disease models emanating from Imperial College. These were taken on trust and disastrously influenced disease control in the UK and some places elsewhere. Technically, these models have no standing as product of 'science' because there is no history of their validation in comparable previous circumstance.

'Science' and purported scientists has been placed on a pedestal unmerited in context of an active epidemic. Perhaps some insights have been offered but their import ought have been judged by practitioners of communicable disease control rather than committees of narrowly based 'scientists', the government Chief Scientist, and politicians indulging in wishful thinking.

Politicians' naive faith in 'science' pulling rabbits out of hats during a putative emergency says as much about the politicians themselves as of scientists in their employ. The political class is woefully ignorant of sciences, technology, quantitative reasoning, and risk analysis. Seemingly, politicians' education, some at prestigious centres, has not passed on transferable skills necessary for interrogating 'experts'.

SolarWinds: Hey, only as many as 18,000 customers installed backdoored software linked to US govt hacks

Long John Silver

Pesky Russians wot dun it?

The author of this piece has uncritically accepted the prevailing view in the USA that all America's woes are attributable to fiendishly clever Russians hiding in Mr Putin's closet. It would be more productive to look into home grown ineptitude, carelessness, graft, and political misdeeds before pointing fingers elsewhere.

Why did Johnny and Jenny's exam grades yo-yo over the summer? Here's some of the code behind UK results chaos

Long John Silver

What else should anyone have expected?

We have a government which by inept handling of Covid-19 has run our economy into the ground, accrued massive debt for useless technological 'solutions', and soon shall preside over a deluge of unintended consequences. Incidentally, I don't suggest that any other grouping drawn from the present day dismal Commons would have done better.

Lives of school pupils and university students have unnecessarily been disrupted at critical stages of their development. They cannot socialise with their peers and develop related skills for adult life. Education in schools now takes place in an extraordinarily regulated environment. Fearful teachers, often too ignorant to question the basis of diktat from government and downstream petty officials, preside over classes of physically separated mask wearing pupils. They all have been inducted into what doom-sayers declare the 'new normal'.

University students are imprisoned in their residences, punished when they gather to do things natural for their intellectual and emotional development, these encouraged by hormones, and subject to considerable restraint upon learning imposed by inherent inadequacies of solely electronic communication.

Young adult students are at minute risk of harm from Covid-19. Those and older students believed vulnerable should have been isolated in planned comfortable circumstances along with, but separate from, grannies. Even so, despite edict from the shambles of government and its ill-chosen advisors, risk free existence can never be guaranteed. Students, just like the bulk of the ovine adult population, have been introduced to a world of anxiety centred upon useless viral testing and ridiculous isolation of asymptomatic people in a manner better suited to smallpox.

Controlling this at policy level is a person who even within low standards expected of present day parliamentarians hits rock bottom: ex-fireplace salesman Gavin Williamson. When placed in charge of defence by Mrs May he made a pigs ear of the job and became laughing stock among international opposite numbers and diplomats. His utterances then and further ones concerning the epidemic (e.g. lauding the UK's 'success' in being first in the world to fast-track a vaccine) are risible.

One must conclude that Johnson put Williamson in charge of education because intellects even lesser than Johnson's own pose no threat. Williamson barely has any education of his own unless one believes a degree in sociology passes muster (it's obviously superior to one in, say, 'Tourism' or 'Gender Studies'). Even should Williamson's accomplishment be considered adequate in a general sense that still leaves him with a mind, much like his master's, unlikely to have been honed into rigorous thought or capable of basic quantitative thinking concerning risk and its balance against deleterious consequences from attempting to negate it.

Even should conventional examinations have been impossible (they were not) Williamson managed to mess up and cause anxiety (and receive ridicule) for grossly mishandling the alternative.

Nobody expects Williamson to read computer code or have deep knowledge of the basis for assumptions underlying the code. Yet as a government minister he should have had sufficient general nous and reasoning ability to pose well-directed questions to his advisors. He failed dismally as did his master when the latter fixated upon snake-oil salesmen from Imperial College and put naive faith in 'science' to quickly pull rabbits out of a hat like at the ending of a Hollywood movie about an epidemic and zombie plague whilst ignoring the extant huge body of knowledge based upon consolidated science and long experience among medical experts in epidemiology and communicable disease control.

I suppose it is onwards and upwards to the 'Lords' for Williamson, thus enabling him to share insights with other great minds such as that of Kinnoch.

Ad blocking made Google throw its toys out of the pram – and now even more control is being taken from us

Long John Silver

Re: Illegal in the EU

The point in your final paragraph is key to understanding much of what is going on around us today.

"De-regulation" coupled with "privatisation" is the dominant political theme in the UK and USA as well as in other nations in reach of the US Marine Corps and similar 'assets'.

It is a core belief of Neo-liberalism which was spun up by the Austrian School economist Hayek. It promotes a world where almost everything can be given monetary value and thereby 'monetised'. That which cannot yet be monetised is of no value and may be ignored when impinged upon by commercial considerations (e.g. as trivial 'externalities'). It is an ideology eagerly grasped by the misanthropic Ayn Rand amongst whose writings is a paean to 'selfishness'.

Business schools now teach 'profit maximisation' as goal of business. This leads to differing consequences from profit optimisation which entails long term planning and sensitivity to the social context of operations. Short term measures lead to practices like rampant share buyback giving an illusion of growth and rich pickings for executives 'compensated' by receipt of shares in bonuses. There is an underlying ethos of 'the market always knows best'. More generally neo-liberal focus on de-regulation led to rampant abuses (e.g. gold price manipulation and issuance of 'derivatives' wrapping worthless assets) straying deeply into unethical and criminal territories. Hence the 2008/9 economic collapse and the second inevitable collapse triggered but not caused by Covid-19.

Mrs Thatcher enthusiastically introduced neo-liberal thinking in UK politics. It was furthered with great fervour by Blair. It now is core belief of people controlling the Conservative and Labour parties and their backers in the shadows. Brexit is a natural step toward disentanglement from regulation having social purpose in addition to promotion of honest trade and commerce.

In essence, market-capitalism is moribund and thought of benefits from mixed economy (societal as well as private ownerships) abandoned. Monetisation as primary goal is sterile. It destroys long term communal and cultural aspiration. Perhaps China is the only extant major economy with built in mechanism for far sightedness and recognition that markets must serve societal needs rather than the other way around. An intriguing blend of market-capitalism and Communism. It too doubtless harbours corruption, an unavoidable feature of human existence, but keeps it within bounds.

Elsewhere, unbridled conglomerates and capitalism effectively dead because most capital and the opportunity it represents has been sequestrated within unprecedented concentrations of wealth, the outlook is bleak.

Ad-scamming, login-stealing Windows malware is hitting Chrome, Edge, Firefox, Yandex browsers, says Microsoft

Long John Silver

Re: imagine a future without ads

I have not been troubled by ads for years. Doubtless that is true for many readers. Of course it helps to not use an operating system like Windows for domestic users which in recent incarnations has become centred upon pushing products for Microsoft and its "trusted partners'.

Linux is not immune from ads as evinced through bundled proprietary versions of Android on devices. However, there is plenty of software available to kill ads without need of the complexity and perils of 'rooting'.

The worst examples of add-pushing are found in Amazon's Kindle pads. It has reached the point where people face dual pricing; that is having to pay more for Kindle devices without the most blatant and intrusive advertising turned on.

That did not deter me from buying a cheaper version and then using Google platform tools to disable nasty features including the Kindle store, Google store, and software updating. It is used as a simple 'book device' (DRM disabled works) and only connects to the Internet for side-loading from F-Droid and to my Intranet for transfer of reading material. I may root it when helper software becomes available for my recent model but even as now is (i.e. software disabled rather than deleted) the device offers excellent value for money.

Perhaps needless to say, during initial setup I registered a dummy Amazon account and declined to link it to a credit card. Now that it has been purged of various nasty features it can no longer call home. Moreover, drain on computational resource must have been reduced by disabling many background tasks.

Using it primarily for offline tasks and storing no personal information means security is not an issue.

EU Medicines Agency hacked, BioNTech-Pfizer coronavirus vaccine paperwork stolen, probe launched

Long John Silver

Submissions to regulators must be public domain

All submissions placed before regulators of pharmaceutical products ought become public domain immediately upon receipt. Following the deadline for manufacturers/distributors there ought be an interval during which other parties may submit comment and/or additional evidence; this too entering the public domain at the time the regulator publishes its decisions.

Pharmaceutical products are of special public interest. All submitted information regarding drug/vaccine efficacy, effectiveness at population level, adverse effects, and cost-utility, must be open to general scrutiny. There must be no excuse for withholding information under pretext of it being proprietorial trade secrets.

Pharmaceuticals are due for massive shakeup now that malpractice, inefficiencies, stiffing effects of patents, and price gouging on large scale have become evident. Hitherto excuses by the industry for exceptional treatment in the market no longer wash. High prices have been 'justified' on basis of immense R&D costs with many lines for inquiry being abandoned. Forgotten is that most of the research underlying development takes place in universities and other public institutions; it is funded by the state, by philanthropic institutions, and charitable donations; in so far as the concept of 'intellectual property' has any meaning ownership rests with the public. Much of what is written off as development is, particularly in the USA, aggressive marketing.

Bear in mind too that most clinical trials, particularly phases II and III, take place in healthcare facilities. The UK and some other socialised national health services offer an ideal setting for this. Their services from primary through to tertiary care tend to be integrated and to share comprehensive information systems. Pharmaceutical trials in the UK NHS receive considerable hidden subsidy because true costs of services in which they are embedded are not recouped either at trial stage or when production goes into profit. Fragmented health services in the USA offer sterile ground for large well-organised clinical trials.

The industry has been pushing its luck for many years. Technological advance has made it more easy than ever for independent manufacturers to step in and offer generic products efficiently. Highly priced patented preparations are under suspicion. It requires but one reasonably advanced economy, one out of reach from US Marines, to renege on the international 'intellectual property' scam for the whole rotten edifice to collapse; any such nation will find that increased vibrancy of its economy shall far outweigh loses resulting from other nations 'stealing' its supposed 'property'.

Useful quantum computers will be impossible without error correction. Good thing these folks are working on it

Long John Silver

If the answer is not 42 then ...

... you know the quantum computer is faulty.

Apple appears to be charging Brits £309 to replace AirPods Max batteries, while Americans need only stump up $79

Long John Silver

£45 ?

£45 retains consistency with the other quoted UK prices. How on earth did it become £309 and be overlooked?

No skin off my nose because I would never buy Apple products.

Court orders encrypted email biz Tutanota to build a backdoor in user's mailbox, founder says 'this is absurd'

Long John Silver

Would the following be feasible?

It might be a nonsense idea but let's assume investigative agencies are given legal authority to do the following, but only after high level judicial review in each case.

Authority to make a mirror of as much as necessary of the email company's data store and operating software.

In the mirrored version to disable security checks such as delays between login attempts and limiting number of attempts.

To circumvent two factor authorisation, if present.

To subject the borrowed data to intensive password cracking techniques. Also, in light of knowing the exact type of encryption deployed to use the information to narrow down choice of whatever powerful heuristic decryption tools the agency possesses for a frontal assault on the content of the message.

There is no guarantee of success but with powerful computational facilities, presumably ever growing, and awareness of even hardened criminals being sloppy with passwords the desired result may be obtained.

Obviously this would be absurd for routine investigations. However, serious terrorism plots and the like may justify the use of resource.

If this is feasible, it doesn't appear to contradict privacy laws because state agencies already are entitled to attempt breaking into encrypted messages of suspect criminals. Involvement of the email provider under court order does not appear to break new ground either. If in doubt, the legal provision could be kept hidden from scrutiny within loosely worded general legal regulations pertaining to national security etc.

The option also could hidden from (untrustworthy) legislators who constructed the legal framework from which the provision arises (e.g. by Order in Council in the UK). The email provider could be gagged under terms of the court order to disclose nothing in public. Later no court need hear of the data intrusion because it should after enquiry have provided readily admissible evidence from other sources.

In Five Eyes nations this is a well trodden pathway to increasing surveillance powers.

The nightmare is real: 'Excel formulas are the world's most widely used programming language,' says Microsoft

Long John Silver

A spreadsheet too far?

All readers are aware of the convenience of spreadsheets for storing data. Moreover, tabular representation can reveal by visual inspection, this supplemented by some basic calculations and easy graph/chart construction, key features relevant to decision-taking. Appeal rests firmly with how readily spreadsheet technology enables people to do many tasks without recourse to others with specialist skills.

Downside arises from the restricted view of data analysis imposed by spreadsheets. it may be encouraging many to seek increased analytic power by beefing up spreadsheets rather than looking for simpler to use alternatives. Additionally, other than for simple analysis spreadsheet formula use, built in or now bespoke, is a messy approach to programming. I hazard that complicated cross-referencing formulae embedded in cells is not only difficult to set up but also error prone.

Thus, instead of continuing with increasing spreadsheet complexity their distributors, commercial and open source, might offer better service by complementing spreadsheets with easy to deploy software that abstracts necessary rows and columns for analysis. Perhaps sometimes the results can be returned to the originating spreadsheet but oftentimes they may better be displayed by other means; statistical analysis beyond basic descriptive statistics is an example of the latter.

The great advantage of abstracting data for analysis rests with the code being easily re-used and adapted. It naturally encourages good coding practices.

Obviously the approach mentioned above is already in widespread use. When databases of greater complexity than spreadsheets are handled it is necessary to abstract desired collections of information as raw input to other programs; note that in the minds of people drawing from complicated database structures there is no inclination to believe embedding analysis within the database, even if feasible, offers advantage. Also, some statistical packages in common use, e.g. SPSS, store data in rows or columns, give users opportunity to derive further rows and columns, but don't make analysis procedures part of the notional cells in the data store.

It seems time to recognise that spreadsheets have gone further than desirable as combined data stores and analytic engines.

LibreOffice 7.1 beta boasts impressive range of features let down by a lack of polish and poor mobile efforts

Long John Silver

Too many bells and whistles?

I admire the work of open source developers of 'office' software. However, in efforts to compete with Microsoft products they may be following the latter into a dead end.

On taking a first look at MS Office and its free competitors one might be bedazzled by a display resembling in complexity the instrumentation on a passenger jet. Admittedly it looks an impressive portal to using a powerful engine. However, it suggests a steep learning curve even for doing simple tasks.

Users of this software have a wide range of requirements. Home users generally have simpler needs than workplace users. The latter are heterogeneous in needs. A small business and most users even in a corporate setting have but a few staple requirements. Yet the software offers features encompassing needs of publishing houses, intercommunication among office workers, letter writing, and simply making a note for later use. Ever more advanced spreadsheet capabilities offer power but at risk of people wrongly using features and misinterpreting the result; moreover, there can be false impression of a spreadsheet (with its superficial simplicity) being the best tool for a task when perhaps bespoke software is better suited (e.g. for statistical analysis). Then there is equation handling facility with natural temptation for developers to converge on Mathematica and its like. Whether all this, and additional features such as presentation preparation, represent wondrous opportunity or a sorry mess rests with the eye of the beholder.

Perhaps this is an interim stage toward software showing 'intelligence' for adapting to each user's needs and offering sage advice on how to proceed; software which 'Alexa'-like answers questions and sets itself up for the task in hand. Maybe existing modular code can be incorporated in this but the user would be presented with an initially simple (yet adaptive) interface based upon speech, touch screen, mouse movement, and typing. Those days may not be far away but in the meantime current interfaces would benefit from simplification.

UK infoseccer launches petition asking government not to backdoor encryption

Long John Silver

Pie in the sky?

This measure, being based on 'noble' sentiments, may well gain traction during these times of a punch drunk compliant parliament. Few MPs are likely to understand the technical issues involved or to bother getting up to speed. The large Conservative majority makes passage of legislation almost inevitable. Labour MPs wearing 'decency' on their sleeves could support it; perhaps some will indulge in the same inane kneeling gesture they did for BLM.

Yet one must question just how much damage this proposal actually could do if implemented. Commercial purveyors of social communication platforms within 'Five Eyes' jurisdictions shall be obliged to obey. For speakers of English and other European languages these platforms (e.g. Facebook) predominate. However, people intent upon conducting their private and working lives secure from intrusion don't use these means to socialise and to do business. Unencumbered encrypted communication shall continue using VPN, secure email services, and messaging applications procured from foreign sources. Long established open source tools for specific purposes, e.g. PGP, will continue in use as shall transfer of divers 'content' in compressed encrypted format. Then there is Tor and a number of distributed peer to peer networks all at advanced stages of maturity.

Internet recruitment and predation upon children must in the main depend upon mass social media. Hence, in theory neutering encryption on these media would accrue benefits. As for other criminal enterprise fruits from encryption back doors will be minimal in number and in terms of sophistication of crime; this because criminals along with sensible honest folk have other means to converse.

Even benefit from detecting crime against children is moot with respect to enacting back door access to 'conversations'. It might help gathering incriminating evidence against those already suspect but fishing expeditions into a huge accumulating pile of decrypted communications doesn't seem worth the bother.

Governments appear to place huge faith in technological solutions to problems better tackled by other means. We are seeing this now with respect to Covid-19: a pretty useless phone 'app', testing asymptomatic people, and the proposed "Operation moonshot". Concerning crime they would do better by increasing provision of traditional policing methods; when so, technology becomes a support rather than driver of activity.

Crime dependent upon the Internet is largely abstract until it impacts the physical world. Connection between the two realms is tenuous until people seek physical contact, pay for services with money, and deliver physical items. That recognition has enabled police forces to prosecute vendors and recipients of 'deals' transacted in the quite secure environment of Tor. Conventional policing through steady observation of nefarious activity with cross-referencing within and between Tor and the open Internet has enabled investigators to pick upon human errors by criminals which give clues to identity.

YouTube is going to splash adverts all over your videos, and won't pay creators unless there's a big enough audience

Long John Silver

Not everyone participates in tacky rentier economy

There are two approaches to creative activities (including cat videos).

The first is based on supposition of an originator being internally driven: an urge which must be satisfied. On this view no monetary value is associated with the product, particularly if it is digitally represented and thus cannot be subject to market economics based on scarcity. There is no expectation that other people will like it at all; rejection may be because the 'content' is inherently mundane or because it is as yet too challenging: only time will tell. 'Driven' people have throughout history been midwife for major cultural advances in the sciences, technology, humanities, literature, music, and visual arts.

Leonardo da Vinci exemplifies driven innovation. He did not start out with personal wealth to indulge his intellectual fantasies. In order to gain support for his activities he had to begin with small projects bringing his talents to recognition, accruing reputation, and gaining entrée to sources of patronage for bigger schemes. Once completed, his works brought in no continuing stream of income but stood as examples to consolidate reputation.

The other approach derives from the spurious notion of 'intellectual property' and generation of continuing income from completed works: rentier economics.

As an aside it is noteworthy that academia operates primarily in a patronage ethos. Published works are seed corn for others to take forward. The only restriction on 'derivation' is that it must be accompanied by attribution of source which is basis for reputation: plagiarism is a cardinal sin. Academic output is rapaciously monetised by publishers assigned distribution 'rights' but these cannot control, and draw rental from, 'derived' works. Rental income does not feed back into financing academic projects. Inevitably, publishers across the range have striven to have legislation (and case law) give them ever tighter control over what they distribute; for instance, fonts, text layout, and images are 'owned'; thus in a 'derived' work the author cannot merely replicate a table of figures as represented in the original without gaining permission.

Most of the rest of culture is nowadays wholly mired in rentier economics. This has disastrous effect by greatly restricting 'derivation' for many decades and thereby stultifying original impulse.

YouTube exemplifies the parlous state of modern culture. Instead of paying rent, YouTube's visitors subject themselves to bombardment by advertisements; these are crafted for the individual if silly enough to engage with Google's tracking mechanisms. Setting aside people posting to YouTube without thought of drawing income, YouTube is an instance of meretricious 'entitlement', i.e. 'rights' based, culture at its worst. Notably the recorded music industry posts 'content' and seeks to prevent visitors from using their end-device's inherent capability of keeping a copy. The industry has its cake and eats it by virtue of free posting and a share of Google revenue; nobody forces it to place its 'content' in what de facto is a public forum.

Yet, in many away, YouTube is a brilliant conception. It demonstrates the feasibility of self-publication culture. There is a downside too arising from overzealous, allegedly biased, censorship not restricted to blatantly obnoxious material. The upside is ready means for people to acquire reputation. Regardless of receipt of income from YouTube they are well placed to solicit voluntary patronage (the opposite of rentier 'entitlement') funding further works.

It costs immense sums to support YouTube's network of servers. Thus a source of finance is necessary. However, for the discerning not seeking a 'quick buck' from paltry effort it is becoming viable to post free of charge on a number of burgeoning distributed peer to peer networks. Commercial publishers, of which YouTube is one, are set to go the way of the dodo. Cottage industries shall emerge to offer added value services relating to publication but none of the 'content' going through their hands shall be owned by them; that doesn't prevent them gaining a share of attribution to support market/brand reputation.

[The above released under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 international licence].

Linux Foundation, IBM, Cisco and others back ‘Inclusive Naming Initiative’ to change nasty tech terms

Long John Silver

Unbounded idiocy?

Using the skewed logic of the motley band containing divers people extolling the virtues of absolute 'non-offence' in midst of 'diversity' - i.e. the PC, 'gender identity' warriors, feminists, BLM enthusiasts, LGBQTxyz alphabet fetishists, and sundry others - I anticipate demands for current and for newly produced software to be boycotted if its underlying code has not properly been Bowdlerised. Knock on effects to books about coding and training manuals will result in a mass burning; as on all such occasions, the woefully stupid and ignorant, these burdened by imaginary grievances and overweening sense of entitlement, shall dance with glee around bonfires.

Perhaps people who code, regardless of their personal proclivities, are made of sterner stuff than the tiny, yet noisy, band of troublesome fools?

New lawsuit: Why do Android phones mysteriously exchange 260MB a month with Google via cellular data when they're not even in use?

Long John Silver

Re: Simple answer.

Why should anybody care about being down-voted? Setting aside the obviously inane, which tend to be ignored anyway, negative popularity contributions turn out either to be interesting mavericks or to have tweaked the tail of some 'entitled' state or commercial entity.

Long John Silver

Rooting may not be an option even when feasible

Rooting a device offers full user control. However, I am deterred from doing this because my banking application, perhaps others too, would refuse to operate. That is a security precaution protecting bank and customers.

Google has dug itself into a position whereby it not only directly controls many activities on a device but by doing so also places constraint upon how individual users and independent commercial entities may interact with it. Thus, because I need the banking application I am limited to anti-Google measures short of rooting.

UK, French, Belgian blanket spying systems ruled illegal by Europe’s top court

Long John Silver

May as well leave security services to do as they wish collecting data

Legal frameworks regulating state security data collection activities are, at best, cosmetic and of no avail. This is because ordinary citizens cannot just knock on the door of GCHQ and its like and demand to verify legitimacy of activities. Oversight devolves to government ministers, parliament, judiciary, and perhaps a committee of the Privy Council.

Government ministers have conflict of interest because they may draw upon information derived from surveillance. As evinced by numerous IT cock-ups presided over by ministers, they, regardless of political party, are (proudly?) ignorant of matters mathematical, scientific, technological, and computational. They are incapable of detecting attempts by sharper minds than theirs to pull wool over their eyes. Parliament and its committees are equally devoid of capacity to detect male bovine excrement.

Senior judiciary generally have very sharp intelligence but very few are equipped to probe deeply into data related activity at GCHQ, MI5/6, etc. The Privy Council is a non-starter because it supports the Crown, i.e. embedded kakistocracy, rather than subjects of the Crown.

The only setting where data malfeasance could be detected is during a trial when provenance of information is challenged. That is wholly theoretical in two respects. First, trials bringing forth 'sensitive' information take place behind closed doors. Second, security and police forces need not reveal nefarious means of investigation which are merely 'leads' to findings capable of independent verification (e.g. we acted on a tip off and found the data and physical evidence now presented to the court).

Thus, there is little point to getting upset about mass surveillance through tapping into the Internet. The strongest objection to mass surveillance rests on its inefficiency. That is, collecting masses of data on off-chance of it being useful is mindless compared to setting skilled people onto targeted investigations.

Regardless, honest citizens and competent crooks have access to various means of protecting their digital security. At very least they can obfuscate their activities such that mere data trawling does not arouse suspicions for follow-up by targeted surveillance.

QR-code based contact-tracing app brings 'defining moment' for UK’s 'world beating' test and trace system

Long John Silver

Re: Re: Hm.

When possessing a smart-phone, scanning QR codes, and enabling Bluetooth becomes compulsory, I recommend setting the phone to ordinary still photography using flash. Thereby dimwitted enforcers will be thwarted. Immediately after admission to premises switch off the device and if feasible put it into a Farady Cage bag.

People requiring constant phone and Internet connection will need an dimwit-phone and a tablet or other device without phone capabilities. Privacy trumps inconvenience. Two fingers to clueless politicians who believe contact tracing a smart idea in context of Covid-19.

Long John Silver

Re: Hm.

I have instructed an adult son living at home to give false credentials when asked in restaurants and pubs. The idea of some busybody calling round and telling us all to isolate for some period of time appals me. If we were still living in an era when smallpox was a hazard I would obey: not so for Covid-19. An upfront lie saves later aggravation should officialdom seek to verify compliance.

Open access journals are vanishing from the web, Internet Archive stands ready to fill in the gaps

Long John Silver

Sci-Hub, Library Genesis, and the Internet Archive lead the way

Digitally encoded cultural artefacts require organised preservation lest loss occurs. This includes academic literature in 'papers', learned books, and student texts. Digital 'content' is, compared to paper embedded equivalents, cheap to replicate, transmit, and store. Seemingly, unattended digital archives degrade more quickly than stores of paper and depend upon backward compatible electronic technology. On the plus side it is not too costly for digital archives to be replicated across the planet in sets of single storage locations and in distributed storage donated by users of Internet connected devices (e.g. as with the Freenet project). The fate of the ancient Library of Alexandria can thus be avoided.

To properly preserve digitally encoded culture and to make it accessible requires shift in thinking about the concepts of property and ownership. 'The Ten Commandments' seek to protect a man's oxen, asses, and wife, from appropriation by others; that seems reasonable but wherein lies justification? A little thought makes clear this arises from the physical nature of said 'property'. If oxen, asses, and women could be replicated for negligible effort no man could be said to have been deprived of use of his property by another.

'Intellectual property' always was a dodgy notion: ownership of abstractions known as ideas. With, for example, printed books 'ideas' and the substrate (paper) containing them were inseparable. A book was inevitably a physical object. Books can be traded in the same manner as widgets. The property of being tradable rests entirely upon that being traded possessing scarcity.

Modern technology demonstrates the inherent impossibility of imposing scarcity upon sequences of binary digits held on electronic devices. Increasingly vain attempts are made to prop-up ersatz markets in 'rights' through imposition of monopoly induced pseudo-scarcity. Fortunes continue to be made through distribution of 'content'. Yet, disobedience to copyright is growing. The legal concepts of copyright and patents can no longer be founded upon physical realities; copying a sequence does not deprive anyone of anything. But, one might say, it deprives the originator of income.

We live in a cock-eyed world where a couple of centuries or so ago it was ordained a creator could control and draw almost indefinite 'rent' from distributing his ideas embedded in physical substrate. Turning this on its head, and in light of our digital era, it is clear that digital sequences have zero intrinsic monetary worth regardless of the cost of making them. What can be traded is skill in constructing sequences others admire: not the sequences themselves. Leonardo da Vinci sought patronage, not 'rights'. These days, the internet facilitates seeking patronage (e.g. crowd funding) from across the globe.

The concept of intellectual property rights is arbitrary and persists only because hitherto nations have considered it advantageous. Challenge (i.e. disobedience) by one 'rogue' nation will be sufficient to collapse the entire rotten edifice. Said nation had better be beyond reach of USA military.

Academic literature exists under a tacitly different copyright regimen from that of, say, a caterwauling 'pop musician'. There are distribution 'rights' but authors cannot prevent other people from deriving fresh angles on an idea; nobody owns an equation and its logical consequences.

Academia depends upon derivation. Popular music relies on preserving each dire emanation in aspic: woe betide someone borrowing a sequence of musical notes and taking the idea forward. Thereby, general culture has innovation stifled: one may have to wait for 70 years after an originator's death before developing his idea. Meanwhile 'rights' to the originator's idea can be traded on a pseudo-market.

But one could opine entertainment as differing in intent from academic endeavour. Not so, each is based on the pleasure principle. Genuinely creative people innovate because they enjoy (feel driven) so doing. In all contexts of culture innovators may be judged by the satisfaction they give others; satisfaction encompasses indulging curiosity and aesthetic considerations (e.g. a deeply moving string quartet and an elegant mathematical construct).

Clear separation of freely mutable (with attribution) 'content' from distribution rights in academia paves the way for recognising general cultural malaise. 'Distribution' rules the roost. It is where money lies.

Academia is where the most successful opposition to the stranglehold of 'rights' is to be found. Sci-Hub and Library Genesis lead the way. The Internet Archive does sterling work too; it is under threat from avaricious holders of 'rights' angry about the Archive relaxing borrowing restrictions during the Covid-19 epidemic.

Creation of across the board archiving of digitally encoded culture, made freely accessible, must rely upon people contemptuous of so-called 'intellectual property law'


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