* Posts by Emir Al Weeq

91 posts • joined 28 Mar 2020


I'm feeling lucky: Google, Facebook say workers must be vaccinated before they return to offices

Emir Al Weeq

My personal view

I remember watching familiar landmarks go by as I rode from my home to the hospital in the back of an ambulance, thinking "will I see any of these things again?". Pubs, Tescos, even a bloody McDonalds. I had Covid.

Two days after I left hospital, I was offered a vaccine, but had to wait another 28 days before jab one.

I had my second vaccine over three months ago and I don't know if the covid or vaccines are responsible for the constant fatigue and the muscle aches, but if I have to choose between another vaccination or making that ambulance ride again: I'm rolling up my sleeve.

The UK is running on empty when it comes to electric vehicle charging points

Emir Al Weeq

First thoughts would be something akin to a relay attack as used on keyless entry vehicles today. A small extender fitted over the socket relays the victim's charging transaction to another unit on the plug belonging to perpetrator's car (which can link to a nice big antenna hidden in the car to read weak signals from the extender). As per keyless, clever encryption doesn't matter: you just relay the encrypted signals and once the victim's authenticated, juice starts to flow.

If there is a warning that the car is not charging then the victim will likely blame the charger and try another, especially if the helpful chap (aka perp) next to him says "that one didn't work for me either".

OK, I've never actually used an EV charger so this probably has holes in it. Anyone care to plug* them.

*Pun intended.

Exsparko-destructus! What happens when wand waving meets extremely poor wiring

Emir Al Weeq

Re: Er ...

"Failed with enthusiasm"

I'm going to keep that one for future use.


Our Friends Electric: A pair of alternative options for getting around town

Emir Al Weeq


I don't know if it's still like it but there is/was a one-way system in Limehouse, East London (Horseferry Road & The Narrow) where cars went clockwise but the cycle lane (just painted, not separate) went anticlockwise and, IIRC, on the right hand side.

Cue lots of drivers pulling out in front of cyclists coming the "wrong" way.

Ah, I see you found my PowerShell script called 'SiteReview' – that does not mean what you think it means

Emir Al Weeq

Keeping a stash is one thing...

...emailing it to all and sundry is another.

Many football* world cups ago I received an email from my boss with an Excel spreadsheet attached. The spreadsheet was apparently just an electronic version of the wall-charts used to track who’s playing who etc.

As someone who doesn’t find the Beautiful Game particularly beautiful, I was about to delete it when I noticed the spreadsheet’s size: even by Microsoft standards of inefficiency, it was huge.

A bit of digging revealed that clicking on a country’s name, although not obviously a link, brought up a picture of a young lady wearing nothing but a body-paint flag of the nation in question. I carefully checked all other country names to see if they had similar images: they did. Some needed to be checked more than once.

Looking at some of the names in the email’s “to” list it was obvious that my boss didn’t appreciate what he’d just sent out. However, he was one of the good managers who always watched our backs, so I had a quiet word. The look on his face when he first saw one of the pictures was priceless! The Recall button was his friend that day.

*that’s “soccer” to left-pondian readers.

The world is chaos but my Zoom background is control-freak perfection

Emir Al Weeq

Office background

For the first few weeks of WFH, I wanted to go back into the office to photograph it from where my webcam had been located pre-lockdown; thus providing the perfect background image.

Common sense prevailed: that's hardly a reason to break lockdown.

Stob treks back across the decades to review the greatest TV sci-fi in the light of recent experience

Emir Al Weeq

Re: Seems like a very good and remarkably simple facility 4ElReg2Pioneer and Driver.*


I thought of you as soon as I read The Governor's words. It all makes sense now: you are Q and I claim my £5.

We don't know why it's there, we don't know what it does – all we know is that the button makes everything OK again

Emir Al Weeq

Re: A Story about Magic

So you are saying that after fitting another piece of cheap kit from the Halfords boy-racer add-ons department to a Capri, ie a car that had probably already been "upgraded" by the previous owner/his mates/your brother/that bloke who "knows about cars", the electrics worked in a way that defied physics.

What's your point?

UK launches consultation on forcing landlords to allow gigabit broadband upgrades

Emir Al Weeq

Re: Leasehold, fleecehold

It may be rare but I was responding to J.G.Harston's question relating to this particular situation.

Emir Al Weeq

Re: Leasehold, fleecehold

Fair point, but if you have a third party company as the building's landlord and it needs money, you can't just say "no, don't want to", so what difference does it make if the landlord/freeholder is your own company?

IANAL but my my other half is and she is in exactly this situation (flat owner and joint freeholder) and it seems to work.

Emir Al Weeq

Re: Leasehold, fleecehold

You do.

The property owners each own a share of the freehold, it is their responsibility to manage the maintenance of the building itself. Typically a freeholders' association either manages it themselves or subcontracts the work out to a maintenance company who can be held to account.

Thanks, boss. The accidental creation of a lights-out data centre – what a fun surprise

Emir Al Weeq

Re: A&E light switch

It wasn't me but, having worked in an office whose door release buttons looked exactly like light switches, my Pavlovian training would have me immediately pressing such a switch if I spotted it before the Big Metal Button.

Given your reason for visiting A&E, the irony of your story is not lost on me, but I'll refrain from any wisecracks and wish you a speedy digital recovery.

How many remote controls do you really need? Answer: about a bowl-ful

Emir Al Weeq

Old tech still going

I've still got a ~20 year-old Phillips Pronto 2000 (the monochrome one) universal remote going strong. The original rechargeable battery lasts almost a week and my children have yet to destroy it.

I rely on it so much that I can tolerate the only downside: I have to keep my last Windows machine (XP) firewalled to maintain the configs.

For those that don't know, the Pronto looks like an overweight smartphone whose relatively low-res screen can be configured to show whatever button design you want (it's all greyscale bitmaps). These can be configured by learning from remotes, RC-5 or raw hex or to provide macros based on other buttons.

The server is down, money is not being made, and you want me to fix what?

Emir Al Weeq

Happy ending

I was hoping that this story would end with an account of how the post-outage report included the delay in the recovery timeline.

Whoop! Robot/human high-fives all round! Oh, my fingers have disintegrated

Emir Al Weeq

On the other hand, I recently bought a replacement cistern flush unit. I had to smile every time I got a "these toilets may interest you" email.

Waymo self-driving robotaxi goes rogue with passenger inside, escapes support staff

Emir Al Weeq

If a car has stranded itself in a live traffic lane, not knowing all the details of that vehicle does not make you incapable of assessing how likely it is that another vehicle will hit you.

He presumably felt safe but, given how erratically it was behaving, I could understand if he'd chosen to get out.

Emir Al Weeq

Agree with your first your first two points but not the third. If the car is stationary and he opens the door, it absolutely should not move.

They may have warned him but they are not there to assess the situation. He may decide it's too dangerous to stay in the car.

Are you ready to take a stand? Flexispot E7 motorised desk should handle whatever you dump on it – but it's not cheap

Emir Al Weeq

Re: Motor?

"Although frequent cranking in a busy office environment may irritate colleagues."

Quite. Nothing worse than an office full of crankers.

10.8 million UK homes now have access to gigabit-capable broadband, with much of the legwork done by Virgin Media

Emir Al Weeq

Re: So close, and yet so far

I thought katrinab's comment was wrong: lightspeed wouldn't be significant, so I did some sums*...

Wikipedia says a 2nd shell satellite will be just 540km up, that's a round-trip-time of about 3.6ms assuming each end of the link is more or less directly below. But worst case would be a 3rd shell satellite (altitude 570km) on the horizon, about 2,750km* away, which gives 18ms RTT, assuming each end sees it on the horizon. Reality is going to be somewhere in between.

Have an upvote katrina.

( *which used basic geometry with Earth radius of 6,371km. )

Protip: If Joe Public reports that your kit is broken, maybe check that it is actually broken

Emir Al Weeq

Re: Civil service paying for excuses

I've been on the other side of that:-

To the planning team: will you be using X in the next 5 years? If not I can save ££££ on my project.

Planning team: no we won't.

To the design team: will you be using X in the next 5 years? If not I can save ££££ on my project.

Design team: no we won't.

To the architect team: will you be using X in the next 5 years? If not I can save ££££ on my project.

Architct team: no we won't.

Six months later... We've just started a project to install X.

Elon Musk hits the brakes on taking Bitcoin for Tesla purchases

Emir Al Weeq

Re: What is the point

Bitcoin, the original blockchain, needs someone to add the next block (ie the latest version of the ledger) to the overall chain; but in a decentralised system, who? If everyone submits their version the next block, chaos ensues.

The solution is to have "miners" compete to find a specific number (called a nonce) that links the new block to the previous one according a set of rules defined such that this nonce can only be found by trial and error (mining). This is what takes a lot of power, but once found, the nonce can be easily verified by all and sundry so the new block can be accepted. To encourage people to mine, the rules allow them to add a bit of extra currency to their account in the new block. This system is known as Proof of Work.

Now that concept of a distributed ledger is more established, people are more open to use different consensus mechanisms to determine who adds the next block. One such example requires miners to stake their own "coins" and the next contributor is chosen according to rules based on this stake. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proof of Stake for such an alternative.

US declares emergency after ransomware shuts oil pipeline that pumps 100 million gallons a day

Emir Al Weeq

Thanks for the link.

Loved the CIO's entry...

Marie is recognized as a leader in the energy industry for her technology leadership, cybersecurity expertise

More than 1,000 humans fail to beat AI contender in top crossword battle

Emir Al Weeq

Re: they can [be] solved by an algorithm the uses a dictionary that cross-references clues

I once wrote a Sudoku solver using nothing more than VBA in Excel. The logic was not totally brute-force, rather a process of elimination of illegal values, one cell at a time repeated over and over until solved. If it got stuck, it picked a cell with the fewest alternatives and recursively applied the process using each value.

The machine was a fairly standard domestic box puchased in the age of Windows XP. It could solve the most fiendish puzzles I could find in less than a second.

Watchdog 'enables Tesla Autopilot' with string, some weight, a seat belt ... and no actual human at the wheel

Emir Al Weeq

Re: Genuine Question

"engine braking or actual brakes"

Given that, in a Tesla, the engine is an electric motor, "engine braking" can be very effective.

Working from a countryside plot nestled in a not-spot? Consultation opens on new rural mobile planning laws for bigger masts, wider coverage

Emir Al Weeq

"I haven't seen many of those in other areas of the continental US"

Reminds me of the old joke: I went to buy some camouflage clothes yesterday but couldn't find any.

Home office setup with built-in boiling water tap for tea and coffee without getting up is a monument to deskcess

Emir Al Weeq

Re: Get a b'desk!

Foot rest with warmer: £50

Or just use the laptop.

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

Emir Al Weeq

Re: bring the problem back into cyberspace

Absolutely right.

In the same way that my vehicle insurer won't pay out if I don't have an MoT[0]; my contents insurance won't pay above a certain value for jewellery unless items are kept in an approved safe etc.

You are also right to say that this will take time to mature, but we need to start somewhere.

[0] Left-pondians: an MoT is an annual, legally required test of road-worthiness.

Blockchain may be the machinery of mischief, but it can't help telling the truth

Emir Al Weeq

Re: The blockchain doesn't have that problem.

The BTC are not lost. They are still there in the ledger for all to see which wallet they belong in. The problem is, without the wallet, you can't prove that they're yours.

Ticker tape and a binary message: Bank of England's new Alan Turing £50 must be the nerdiest banknote ever

Emir Al Weeq

Re: Any idea where I get one of these

Edit - I meant "insert". Inert denominations wouldn't me much use.

Emir Al Weeq

I once had an ATM (in Southwark I think) dish out a couple of £50 notes. I remember thinking "there's a sign of inflation", but it was a few years ago and I've not had it since, so I assume it was not popular.

Emir Al Weeq

Re: Any idea where I get one of these

Although somewhat tongue in cheek, for a long time I've said that if you want to forge a note, just make up your own: it saves the effort of trying to accurately reproduce an existing one. Hand it over and say 'oh, it's one of the new <inert denomination here> notes. Have you not seen one before?"

The 40-Year-Old Version: ZX81's sleek plastic case shows no sign of middle-aged spread

Emir Al Weeq

Memory lane (all 32K of it)

This article was a good memory jog. Wow, has it really been 40 years?

I remember visiting my uncle back in 1980, who showed me his new ZX80. I decided there and then to start saving £80 for a kit. Being just 14 it took over a year to reach the £50 mark by which time the ZX81 was out; am I right in saying that you had to pay extra for a mains adaptor that was included with the pre-built version? I ordered one as soon as I could and although it didn’t arrive on time, I don’t think the delay was that long.

Once assembled I remember the proud moment of the great switching-on and the grey screen that greeted me: nothing could persuade it into life. After much disappointment I carefully checked that all the components were correctly placed and oriented, which they were, and then went over the board touching each soldered joint with the iron to remake the connection. Success! For the first time, I was greeted with the cursor that was a black square with a “K” in it.

I went on to buy a third-party, bag-of-components that became a 32K expansion pack (yes, double the Sinclair version). It had no case, just an exposed circuit-board but I suspect that the lack of weight is what kept it wobble-free. This all eventually ended up inside a keyboard kit that I had to butcher to get most of the memory board in. That kit was so cheap that the keys came with clip on, clear plastic tops under with was placed a legend that was cut out from the printed sheet of paper provided. One thing was for sure: when I told people that I had built my own computer, nobody ever doubted it.

I eventually sold it to help finance a ZX Spectrum. Looking back, I’d love to have it now to show to my children. Throw in the long-gone Sanyo cassette-player and I could teach them Z80 on the assember I wrote.

Hey, maybe we should all be cat-faced eco-warriors on our daily video chats

Emir Al Weeq

Too specific a tax?

I don't really agree with the concept of a Bitcoin tax. Put a tax on carbon-polluting energy consumption by all means; but why is it any worse to waste energy on Bitcoin (if that's your thing) than it is to spend it gaming all night or running a hot tub? (I do none of these.) Once I've bought my kWh and paid whatever taxes are appropriate for its means of generation, I should free to use it how I like.

Nothing new since the microwave: Let's get those home tech inventors cooking

Emir Al Weeq

Re: Smart heating system?

For me personally, lockdown actually improves the case for getting smart heating. The thing is I currently have a dumb thermostat with a week-scheduler which works for me so well that, before lockdown, I actually changed my phone more frequently than I changed the heating settings.

This means that I would have spent more time installing the app on each new phone than I would have actually adjusting anything.

That all changed with lockdown: I had to modify the schedule when we all began working from home in March and, assuming we start going into offices in the next two years or so, I will need to put the schedule back to what it was. That means that if I had had a smart-heating app on my current phone I may have been able to use it twice! What a missed opportunity.

Microsoft claims to have 200 million education users as it pushes new hardware and updated Classroom Pen

Emir Al Weeq

Re: Nightmare in the making

Excellent comment b0llchit

Quixotic Californian crusade to officially recognize the hellabyte and hellagram is going hella nowhere

Emir Al Weeq

Re: U prefix

I fully support uvavumetre but I think "iranu" is actually spelt "eranu" due to a remarkably clear memory of Ulrika Jonsson wearing a tight T-shirt with it printed on.

If you're a WhatsApp user, you'll have to share your personal data with Facebook's empire from next month – or stop using the chat app

Emir Al Weeq

Re: Signal isn't an easy option

So you are saying if, lockdown aside, I send out a WhatsApp saying "I am taking my children to the park at noon, anyone want to meet us there?" I am breaking the law? Sorry but I find that very hard to believe.

Emir Al Weeq

Re: Signal isn't an easy option

Hi Simon,

You may have a point for some groups (eg Dance class) but in most cases being part of the WhatsApp group is not a requirement. I do not need to be part of the parents’ group to be a parent at the school. Not being on WhatsApp just means that my children are likely to miss out on informal activities arranged through it. I could rely on someone to phone or email “that awkward sod who was worried about some geeky technicality in the app that we were all using to help get us through the difficulties of home schooling whilst trying to keep a job, work from home, deal with bereavements* etc, etc”. But, in reality I'll just end up alienating myself and, by proxy, my children. Social groups are not corporations and do not have privacy policies.

*Not hypothetical, these are all real examples.

The PTA does not make it a requirement but for some discussions outside of formal meetings WhatsApp does get used. I could stick to email but again would need to rely on someone to keep The Awkward Sod in the loop. For formal meetings they currently use Zoom, no sign-up needed.

With a lot of effort and bad blood I may be able win people over, but I think you've helped make the point I was getting at in the title of my post: Signal is not a easy option.

Emir Al Weeq

Signal isn't an easy option

I am in the UK and received the new Tc & Cs to accept from WhatsApp today (07/01).

I have children whose age means that their social lives are totally organised by their parents. This is done almost exclusively through WhatsApp and is the reason that I reluctantly started using the app. Classmates’ parents have a group, the school’s Parent-Teacher Association members, of which I am one, use it as a primary means of communicating with each other, my children’s dance classes use nothing but. I am in two more groups related to my children too.

In short, I cannot leave without massively compromising so many activities unless I can convince all other group members (some of whom I hardly know) to switch to Signal or similar and, having seen what some people share, privacy is of no concern to them.

The cynic in me finds it interesting that Facebook/WhatsApp have chosen to do this at a time when so many people are more dependent on on-line communications than ever before.

I’ve already accepted the Ts & Cs so I’ll bet the backtracking as per the 1900UTC update won’t apply to me.

All I want for Christmas is cash: Welsh ATMs are unbeatable. Or unbootable. Something like that

Emir Al Weeq

Re: Social Distancing

This reminds me of the time I was queueing at a store (Next, London Colney) to make good on the second part of a “click and collect” service. This was during the relaxation of the first UK lockdown and the queue was a long one in terms of queuees*, made geographically-longer by the two-metre distancing. During my slow journey to the till, a touch-screen machine came into view that claimed to allow entry of click and collect codes.

I left the queue and went to the machine. The attempt to enter a code was greeted with a message along the lines of “This service is not available”. I had several codes, having sacrificed my place in line, I tried them all, but it was in vain. So I journeyed to the back of the queue and then slowly approached the till where, along with a great show of excess usage of their hand sanitiser, I complained about the machine not working and the inconvenience it had caused me.

“Oh, yeah: that service has been disabled to stop people touching the machine.”


*They say that those who live in the Arctic circle have a hundred words for snow, so why is it that we Brits (who have a reputation for queueing) don’t have a similar number for those who queue? I had to make “queuee” up. If you know of a genuine word for this: please advise.

What does my neighbour's Tesla have in common with a stairlift?

Emir Al Weeq

Re: EVs = bad for planet, bad for poor people, bad for practicality

>This is wrong. If every car in the UK became a Tesla overnight then we'd need ~67GW per day to cover average journeys. Max UK grid capacity is ~75GW...

I can't follow this. You seem to be confusing energy with power.

UK union pens letter to data watchdog on icky workplace monitoring systems like Microsoft's Productivity Score

Emir Al Weeq


Anyone else get an ad for TimeDoctor in the middle of this article?

I wonder how many leads that will generate.

SpaceX blows away cobwebs at dormant California pad with satellite launch as a Falcon 9 makes touchdown number 7

Emir Al Weeq

Re: That's quite a speed

I think you missed the kilomiles reference (kmph). My sums make it 3%, which is a bit more respectable.

Who knew that hosing a table with copious amounts of cubic metres would trip adult filters?

Emir Al Weeq

At least he got a warning

I once had this problem when a supplier I was dealing with finished an email with "if you have any questions cum comments...": a perfectly legitimate word in this context. After repeatedly chasing the supplier via email for the information I was waiting for I called my contact only to be told that he'd been responding to each chase by resending. We both spoke to our helpdesks to track down the problem and found that my end was binning the email without telling either the sender or recipient of what it was doing. Not helpful. I can understand not telling the recipient, thus avoiding annoying someone who is being spammed, but tell the sender, and if it is spam: who cares if we spam them back?

When even a power-cycle fandango cannot save your Windows desktop

Emir Al Weeq

Re: a perfectly understandable error

Agreed. A button to copy the error text to the clipboard would be helpful too.

[Checks meeting agenda...] Where does it say 'Talk cr*p and waste everyone's time'?

Emir Al Weeq

Cold feet

"since the laptop usually sits on the floor at my feet"

Mine too. I am planning on using it as a heated foot-rest over the winter.

Snap-crappy: 183 Brit local authorities operate 80,000 CCTV cams between them, says surveillance watchdog

Emir Al Weeq

At least they're saving taxpayers' money by buying average speed cameras rather than top-of-the-range ones.

Linux 5.10 to make Year 2038 problem the Year 2486 problem

Emir Al Weeq

Re: A Place for Everything, and Everything in it's Place

Have an upvote for describing my system. 128GB SSD cost me £120.

Toshiba to sell off-the-shelf quantum key distribution kit, eventually offer it as-a-service

Emir Al Weeq

Re: Quantum Key Distribution only

Eclectic Man,

I'm not sure I follow the last bit of your comment. Assuming you've used QKD to send the one-time pad, the symmetrical encryption would use this and thus have no backdoor; a simple XOR function would suffice.

I agree that the overhead would use a sizable percentage of the bandwidth, I suppose that's just the cost of security.

Spain's highway agency is monitoring speeding hotspots using bulk phone location data

Emir Al Weeq

Who's driving?

Difficult to fine someone unless you can prove they weren't a passenger just from phone data.



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