58 posts • joined Wednesday 26th September 2007 23:34 GMT
Eggs and baskets
Google are going to be seriously stuck if the market for web adverts dries up. ITV's business model was also based on selling adverts in a particular way, and look at the state they're in now. What will happen if there's a web advertising recession? I'm not sure it's really a good idea to follow some of MS's practices either. The Windows API is a mess of functions, some not very different from the days when they were used in OS/2, some poorly documented, and some that were supposed to become obsolescent but couldn't be removed because they were used too much. That's even without tricks like the DR-DOS/AARD incompatibility in Windows 3.1 beta: http://www.theregister.co.uk/1999/11/05/how_ms_played_the_incompatibility/ or the Stac Electronics/DoubleSpace affair
Also from the report
"- All police officers should have their own DNA collected as a condition of employment"
Probably worth highlighting this. After all, nothing to hide, nothing to fear, yes?
Could have potential though
If you could assign them to different incoming numbers then you could play "The number you have dialled has not been recognised. Please check and try again" at people you didn't want to talk to. Alternatively you could just chuck the phone at people.
Couple of small changes I might make though. One is to have the date and time of each story and to have them in strictly date order so you know which is the most recent. Another, if there's room, is to include the category so you know if you're about to read the latest about El Reg's mascot or a very dry story about a hardware company's financial results.
Not him again
Can't help thinking that Wallace needs treatment rather than a fine, preferably at a secure facility. There must be something behind his constant spamming other than just wanting to make a quick buck. I quite liked this 10 year old User Friendly cartoon about him:
There's always someone grumbling about the clocks going back at this time of year but people don' t seem to complain as much when they go forwards again in Spring. I can't help wondering how many people would still complain about the clocks going back even if we did switch over to CET.
A woman could piss it out, as the lord mayor of London said about the last one. Somehow I'm not sure that's a quote they reach in schools though.
Ah, the IT Angle
Of course, some of us who work in IT like to do a bit of MMA training or something similar as a break from being stuck in front of a keyboard (but not necessarily in drag), and it was partly due to martial arts in computer games that I got into doing them for real. As well as being a pretty good way to keep fit there is a bit of an overlap between the skills you need for programming and for setting up a submission. Doing something like a choke hold or a joint lock is more about planning and sequencing moves than just brute strength.
Good luck with that
So, how will the system be able to tell when you download copyrighted material legitimately? Spotify, iTunes, last.fm, Youtube and artists' own websites are all quite acceptable places to use, plus any more that may be added in the future. How will the ISPs know which sites are allowed, and what happens if an industry group has a squabble with one of them, like Youtube and the PRS? Sometimes you can tell that something just cannot work.
Another pointless upgrade
Problem with Office is that there's only so many ways you can rejig a word processor, slide drawing programme and email client. A lot of it is window dressing, and I've never understood why the Office team seems to have carte blanche to ignore the Windows interface guidelines. I think the last version that followed them was the version for Windows 3.1 with Word 6 and Excel 5. However there are a couple of things that Office could do that would be a massive improvement. One is a decent page-based drawing package (instead of Powerpoint, or Word's drawing functions which have a habit of putting things everywhere except you want them). A cut down version of Visio with just a few basic stencils might be an idea.
The other thing is Excel. Most corporates don't bother with the more expensive version of Office which includes Access so they try using Excel as a database or even a programming environment instead. As a software developer with an interest in grown up databases this keeps me in work but it is a pain doing Excel -> RDBMS stuff (be it SQL Server, Oracle or something else). What might work is an Excel front end to SQL Server Express that looks enough like Excel to keep the bean counters and project managers happy, but with proper data integrity and validation so you don't get people trying to put commas in numbers or confusing thousands with millions. You could also get SQL Express to replace the Jet database backend in Access rather than be an alternative to make it much more powerful and make it easier to migrate to the full version. It's also about time they finally got copy & paste to behave in Excel the same way that it does in every other Windows application. I've been using Excel since version 4 (in 1992) and it's never got it right. Excel is OK for financial modelling and charting but it just isn't a database.
"Clarify and simplify" tends to be synonymous with "abolish". UK law (I know about the different English vs Scottish legal systems) on sale of consumer goods is pretty good, but a lot of companies either aren't aware of it or keep quiet about it (ISP service is covered by different laws). How many companies know that guarantees cannot exclude things like being reasonably fit for purpose or being of reasonably quality for example? Even those little "warranty void if removed" stickers are inapplicable in law. If something goes wrong within the first 6 months of purchase, it's up to the retailer to prove that it wasn't faulty when it was bought. I hope "clarifying" doesn't mean "diluting" in this context.
If it's for parking enforcement, wouldn't it be cheaper and more effective just to hire some more traffic wardens? A camera cannot issue a parking ticket on its own (or indeed do anything else): you still need someone to post it out or whatever.
I think the best way to sort this out would be to put all the lawyers in a room, lock the door and throw away the key. Doesn't matter what happens to them afterwards, just get rid of them. Sometimes these discussions come across like Tweedledum and Tweedledee. Who's going to make any money at all if no one can watch the videos? Groucho Marx had the right approach for dealing with lawyers: http://www.chillingeffects.org/resource.cgi?ResourceID=31
PR Reviewed Research
Has anyone done any studies of how accurate these surveys are? It might be interesting to dig out a Gartner or Forrester report from 5 years ago and see if what they predicted actually happened. Suggesting things that might happen is easy, and the analysts seem to be getting into more mainstream media, but it's a bit of a waste of time if what they predict consistently fails to happen.
The innocent have nothing to fear. At least that's what that nice Ms Smith tells me.
I remember Bruce Schneier suggesting that if you think terrorists are trying to destroy your infrastructure, it might not be a good idea to dismantle it yourself (http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2009/01/helping_the_ter.html). The tabloids do need to be careful with their scaremongering because there's nothing to say that they might not be banned next. Terrorism laws don't just apply to people who look or sound a bit foreign.
Probably about the only that stands out about this is that it has a gov.uk address. A lot of forum admin consists of chucking out spam registrations where the spammer wants to post links to sites full of fake drugs, counterfeit shoes and pr0n sites that are about as compelling as the Kays catalogue. Most of these registrations are automated using stuff like Xrumer or just doing a Google search for things like inurl:smf or inurl:phpbb. I've seen other forums where there are about 20 legit users and hundreds of spam ones. The only real way with to deal with it is manual account activation and checking if the emails or usernames haven't been used to spamvertise on other forums.
Building a bigger haystack
I hope the intelligence services like reading terabytes of spam every day, especially when it usually gets sent from fake email addresses. Most spam is sent via SMTP servers on botnets where the PC owner often isn't aware that their machine is pwned. Will there be requests for information sent via these machines? Alternatively, what if the baddies decide to use botnets for their own purposes? I'm still not convinced that swamping GCHQ with garbage will improve national security.
Think of the Children!
Why is Andy Burnham giving interviews to the Telegraph rather than spending time with his family over Christmas? If he really allows his kids to roam free online when he's talking to journalists, perhaps it might be wise for him to re-evaluate his priorities.
Could it be that people with violent tendencies are attracted to computer games?
Whether or not games do cause violence, there's also the point that an hour spent in front of GTA IV is an hour not spent doing something violent in real life, unless you decide to torment the cat while you're playing. Maybe a certain socialite could do with venting her frustration by playing a few games instead of throwing mobile phones at hotel receptionists.
Trains do have a emergency alarm or an intercom so you can speak to the driver. One time I was on a train when someone had a heart attack just as we left Peterborough and we stopped pretty sharpish.
For dealing with families, I like the idea of having family carriages on trains. Allocate groups booking child fares reserved seats there first, and have a few toys and child friendly decorations to attract people without reservations. You could extend this idea and have a business carriage with plenty of sockets for chargers and more tables for people who want to have meetings. It would also be good for ogling people's laptop screens as you're walking to the buffet if you're feeling nosy (I deliberately only do work with pen and paper if I'm travelling for this reason). Doing this kind of thing means that people without kids or an urgent need to spend time with Powerpoint have an idea which carriages to avoid. Something else I'd like to see is bike racks that cannot be used for luggage or pushchairs.
(Currently illustrated by a witch's hat on the front page). Pretty appropriate as Jacqui Smith seems to be using Dolores Umbridge from the Harry Potter books as a role model. I think one of the biggest problems is that Home Office policy is based on populist authoritarianism rather than anything to do with being right or left wing. It's like the politicians' logic scene in Yes Minister, where Sir Humphrey explains that politicians feel that something must be done. This is something, therefore they must do it.
While it may be possible to have massive databases collecting all kinds of stuff, being able to get anything meaningful out of them is a lot harder. It's the old problem that you don't find a needle by building a bigger haystack. There's also the problem of mistakes, including getting profiled because you dial a wrong number that happens to be on some watchlist (or what happens if a spammer sends out forged emails), and things like records not being updated when someone moves house. As mentioned on Mock the Week, if the Home Office says that 5% of the records are wrong then the true figure is probably more like 2 out of 3.
What's wrong with debit cards?
Visa and Mastercard already have established networks for electronic cash so there doesn't seem a lot of point having another network. Having credit stored on the device itself leaves it open to being hacked, as happened with the first wave of pay & go mobile phones. An online system requires some kind of network connection and all types need some kind of power supply, which isn't a lot of good for a small newspaper kiosk.
The old "why don't we standardise spelling to match pronunciation" thing comes up every so often. It usually goes away again pretty quickly when someone points out you need some way of differentiating between words that are pronounced the same but spelt differently, such as cede, seed and the final syllable in supersede. I wonder if Professor Wells will be changing his name to Profesor Jon Welz and telling everyone he studies foanetiks.
SATs do seem to be one of the most pointless exams around. You don't get a certificate for them and you can't use them as a qualification. Their only purpose seems to be for school league tables. Would it really be a major problem if league tables were abolished and the money spent on something a bit more useful such as new books and equipment? Sometimes the best way to deal with something broken is just to throw it away.
Rumour has it that that going for a non standard meal means you get something better than the usual airline food, although my mum's experiences with veggie ones tend to contradict this.
Meanwhile, I'd like the Home Office to explain how wasting time and money gathering data about people they know to be innocent is supposed to make everyone safer and more law abiding. You don't find a needle by building a bigger haystack, and every second spent investigating a person you know to be innocent "just in case" is one you can't spend investigating someone who has done something wrong. How many real crimes have been overlooked because the intelligence services have to wade through reams of useless information about people whose biggest transgression is to take their library books back a day late?
I saw the Leeds one on Wednesday evening parked on someone's driveway in Burley about half a mile from Kirkstall. Presumably this was where the driver lived and it was parked up for the night rather than a particularly closeup photo shoot.
I upgraded from AVG 7.5 to 8, but after a few days I got fed up with it. It wasn't just the linkscanner or the memory bloat but also the massive number of false positives when it did its daily scan. Switching off heuristic detection reduced the number slightly but it still caught a lot that it shouldn't. After a couple of days I removed it and then switched first to Antivir (which displays an advert when it updates; a minor inconvenience but nothing to get too worked up about), and then a month or so later I found you can get a free copy of Kaspersky internet security if you use certain banks' online banking services.
AVG 8 might be free but it's worth every penny.
This one was just some chav wanting to show off. For a more impressive one, how about someone showing up at the Leeds office of West Yorkshire Trading Standards hawking a load of counterfeit DVDs: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/07/18/confused_dvd_pirate/
Nothing to hide/nothing to fear
Funny how the politicians don't quote their favourite mantra when they're being investigated.
Incidentally, some of the old vagrancy acts refer to the big house as the House of Correction.
Contracts made for illegal purposes such as fraud or extortion are void under common law, so good luck with that one. Also, court records are public knowledge and it would be tricky for botnet herders and their clients to remain anonymous if one decided to sue the other. Personally I'd like to see it if a case like this ever did come to court.
Money well spent
Is it worth asking why the department responsible for buying paper clips needs a logo in the first place (or indeed any goverment department)? It's not as if there's another quango set up to do the same that they might be confused with after all. That said, they aren't exactly the cheapest around: http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2006/dec/14/publicservices.politics
Keeping them at bay
One way to make free email services less attractive might be to have a 24 hour delay between registering and being able to use the account. Maybe get to use it faster if you pay a small fee (which would at least allow some kind of audit trail even if the details were stolen).
What is this standard actually for? The Office .doc and .xls formats are pretty much a de facto standard anyway and MS has published their specifications (currently at http://www.microsoft.com/interop/docs/OfficeBinaryFormats.mspx). Realistically this means people can go for the "official" OOXML format (which involves buying and installing new software) or stick with the existing binary format files which are supported by pretty much every word processor or spreadsheet written in the last 10 years. Just because something's an ISO standard doesn't necessarily mean people will use it. The .gb top level domain was based on one but no one bothered to use it (apart from the Defence Research Agency) and it has now fallen out of use.
Anyone else find themselves sniggering when they were doing Windows API programming and discovered the shItemID structure, not to mention the pointer to an ID list (or PIDL)? I think a certain MS bigwig could do with washing his mouth out with soap and water.
Oh wait, this *isn't* about El Reg's word of the day.
On commenting, I think it's a judgment call. I've done a lot of tech writing stuff because there's no documentation at all and support needs to know exactly why a particular error message occurs. A lack of comments in the code mean I've got to work out what's going on and it can be tricky if it was written several years ago by someone who's long since left the company. Call it silly names like "code smells" if you will, but the right type of comments make it easier to maintain and support code. Paying an experienced developer to read and document someone else's uncommented code is a lot more expensive than getting the original developer to spend a few seconds explaining what's going on and why they did things in a particular order. "If we don't do that it costs us money" seems a pretty compelling argument to me.
A lot of email spam is sent via compromised machines on botnets with their own SMTP server. Check the headers of a couple and towards the bottom you'll probably see a received line with some kind of DSL host. There will probably be a couple of fake received lines as well. Personally I quite like the idea of ISPs keeping an eye out for botnet style behaviour or open relays and blocking traffic from potentially compromised hosts until the owner is made aware of what's happening and either agrees to do a virus check or explains why they need to send thousands of emails to random addresses. It would certainly be more useful than booting people off just for using Bit Torrent.
As for web mail accounts, a forum I admin gets about 40 - 50 spam registration attempts a day. I have various blocks in place so none are successful but I do get to see which domains they use for registering. A lot of these are free webmail services such as GMX or Gmail. I think a lot of the addresses are never actually read (although the XRumer forum spamming software does include something that can "process" verification emails) and are used because they're not likely to be blocked. The purpose of forum spam is linkspamming. A forum member list is just a collection of links. Get enough links pointing to the same site and it scores highly on Google. Search for one of the main spammy products and you'll probably find a memberlist.php or a vbulletin /members/ quite high in the results. Breaking the Google CAPTCHA means the spammers can also use Blogspot/Blogger for linkspamming.
As I mention above, I do think the only way to stop spam is through economic means, but I think this needs to take place at a higher level than just educating end users. Pump & dump spam might not be so popular if the shares on penny stocks were automatically suspended if certain "suspicious" activity was detected such as a sudden massive increase in the number of shares changing hands. OEM software spam would probably reduce if the software publishers found out who was selling it and took steps to stop it.
During the 90s a very common "computer" crime was nicking the memory chips out of machines. RAM was very expensive (c. £30 - £40/MB) and easy to carry so it was tempting to crooks. The price fell drastically with the release of Windows 95 because the manufacturers overestimated the demand. Now RAM is more like £30-£40/GB and you can buy a whole new machine for about £3-400. Computers still get pinched from time to time but the economic reasons for stealing RAM just aren't there any more.
The same applies to spam. It happens because it makes money. Before broadband and wireless were widespread there were a lot of problems with rogue diallers which disconnect the connection and redial using a premium rate number. Difficult to run one over ADSL though. At some point the spammer will receive money from some sap who decides to buy their product. One line of enquiry might be to follow the money trail and find out where it ends up. It would take a bit of work as it's probably laundered through a web of Paypal accounts, "financial manager" mules and other means, but I think it's the only real way to reduce spam being sent in the first place.
If it goes wrong in the first 6 months, it's assumed the fault was there when you bought it and it's up to the retailer to prove otherwise. The retailer DOES have to refund postage charges if the goods are faulty and Dabs specifically were told off by the OFT last year: http://www.oft.gov.uk/news/press/2007/96-07. The distance selling regulations allow you to return something within 7 days of it arriving no questions asked and again the retailer has to pay the postage costs. After that, it's up to them to decide.
What's the point?
Mass surveillance is obviously very attractive to politicians, but is there any proof that it actually works? First you need to define "works", but that would mean exposing any hidden agenda about social control or providing some govt cash for companies such as Entrust or eGovernment Solutions which have pretty close links to ministers. eGS used to be owned by Liam Byrne until the Mail on Sunday found out and he had to get rid of his shares: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/news/news.html?in_article_id=406687&in_page_id=1770&in_a_source=&ct=5.
Also, isn't the need to prove your identity a requirement generally set down by the home office? It's a bit like saying "I've infected you and you can only use the cure that I provide". The more important it becomes, the more valuable impersonation fraud (not "identity theft", please) becomes.
Nice try, but
Patent 4,242,539 was filed in 1979 and covers caller ID. Got to be careful or this kind of lawsuit can end up getting your patent invalidated. I think the only way to stop this nonsense would be for judges to award nominal damages when the plaintiff is obviously pushing his luck. In the UK this is fixed at £2 and something similar in the US might stop people who are just trying to get a bit of cash.
Why is a company more normally known for building aeroplanes being paid silly money to construct an overengineered fence? Also, how come the US govt (or indeed the UK's) doesn't have some basic criteria to check they're not about to spend taxpayers' money on overpriced contraptions that either don't work or could be done by simpler devices for much less money?
.....Julian le Grand could get a proper job? As well as this his smokers' licences were going for £200 back in October last year and he wanted employers to provide daily exercise periods. Some people have far too much time on their hands, such as a certain socialite. If he wants to improve people's health, why not go in for something more useful, such as a GP or a personal trainer?
To misquote Sam Goldwyn, EULAs aren't worth the paper they're written on.
For online ordering, the distance selling regulations apply so you can cancel within 7 days of receiving the goods with no questions asked and get a full refund within 30 days. If the retailer wants the goods returned, they have to pay the postage. Dabs.com got caught out by these regulations last year: http://www.oft.gov.uk/news/press/2007/96-07
However, it's worth remembering that consumer legislation (the sale of goods act et al) only applies to consumers and not if someone buys something in the course of business. If I buy a copy of MS Office from PC World for my own use, the legislation applies. If my employer buys a copy for me to use, it doesn't.
I don't see anything that suggests the chips will be removed once the con has served their sentence, or if the conviction is quashed on appeal. The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act allows petty crimes to be treated as "spent" after a certain period, but having a chip permanently implanted seems more like a return to the medieval practice of branding people for minor offences, even if they turn out to be innocent.
Teaching him a lesson
Have to say I like the idea of the kid's mother tuning the TV to the Mexican equivalent of BBC Parliament and leaving the remote just out of reach. If he's going to skip school he may as well learn something in the mean time. Either that or put one of the home shopping channels on.
Not the first
In 2000 Liam Byrne set up an IT procurement company called eGovernment Solutions Ltd. At the time he was working as an advisor to 10 Downing St. In 2004 he was elected to parliament in a byelection and in 2006 he was briefly minister for the police before being moved to immigration. At the same time a number of police forces ordered a computer system from EGS while he was still a shareholder in the company. The Mail on Sunday found out and he had to get rid of the shares rather quickly: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/news/news.html?in_article_id=406687&in_page_id=1770&in_a_source=&ct=5
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