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* Posts by Mike Richards

3579 posts • joined 28 Feb 2007

BT's 'illegal' 2007 Phorm trial profiled tens of thousands

Mike Richards

@ Matthew Hepburn

Unless you're using a very naive bank (in which case I have some friends in Nigeria who would love to meet you), all your bank transactions will be encrypted with https. Phorm can look at the packets all it likes, but it will only see garbage.

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Local council uses snooping laws to spy on three-year-old

Mike Richards

@Alex

'What exactly then is a council suppost to do then if it suspects fraud? Ignore it? Sit on their arses?'

'Suggestions please?'

Oooh I dunno, have someone from the education authority call the parents in for a nice chat/interview during which their address is discussed and they are reminded about the rules over catchment areas?

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Met police plans to track cops by GPS

Mike Richards

GPS???

Should work well just so long as London doesn't have any cars and buildings or a large subterranean railway network.

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Sony, MS want control of PS3, Xbox iPlayer, Beeb boss claims

Mike Richards

@Andy Turner

'“If you want to get [iPlayer] on the PlayStation or Xbox, they want control of the look, the feel and the experience. They want it done within their shop, and their shop only,” Huggers claimed"

'Seems fair enough to me.'

Clearly you haven't used the sluggish, buggy, unintuitive abomination that is the PS3 shop.

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US will sky spy-sat to eye spy-sats

Mike Richards

Might be a good thing...

...if it could also track debris clouds from exploded satellites and spent boosters which are the real threat to satellites.

I'm not sure about the claim in the article about needing to keep track of geosynchronous satellites - it's very unusual for a geosync satellite to ever move out of its destination slot, and when they're there, they stay put relative to the ground, so not much tracking needed.

Possibly the US is interested in satellites such as those that hang around in high, or the extremely elliptical Molniya orbits which are used by communication and reconnaissance satellites as well as the Russian Oko early warning satellites.

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Biologists track down elusive lungless frog

Mike Richards

James Bond

Now what would happen if you cover its skin with gold?

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Minister: Waste wood is 'huge potential resource'

Mike Richards

@Anonymous coward

Wood does decay naturally, but decay produces a good amount of methane which is a much more potent greenhouse gas than CO2.

Burning wood turns it into CO2 which can be captured by the next generation of trees.

Actually, the world's forests are currently largely being felled to provide land for soya and oil palm. So I prefer to blame deforestation on ecohippies and their biodiesel VW Beetles. ;)

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US Army cyber colonel in call to network arms

Mike Richards

Sounds like lyrics from an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical

"There was a day when we were operating at foot speed,"

"Now we're moving at cyber speed."

Think Tron on rollerskates.

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Ofcom reins in TV psychics and adult chat

Mike Richards

@Anonymous Coward

Get thee to eBay and find yourself a TiVo - the one true PVR.

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Information Commissioner: Phorm must be opt-in only

Mike Richards
Happy

@Sam

'What was the share high? I want to gloat at the difference, and you want to post it, admit it!'

Guilty!

You can keep track of Phorm's tanking shares here - it looks like the Matterhorn:

http://www.iii.co.uk/investment/detail%3Fcode%3Dcotn:PHRM.L&it%3Dle

It peaked £35.06 in mid-February, since then it's been downhill all the way with Phorm now trading at its lowest price in six months.

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Japan turning itself into Cyberman machine civilisation

Mike Richards

@ Anonymous Coward

'Look at Iceland they've had very low immigration over the last 1000 years and have a very 'clean' Viking gene pool but have a 'very' healthy population.'

Actually you couldn't have chosen a worse example. Iceland has a disproportionate rate of genetically determined mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and alcoholism precisely because of the limited gene pool of the original settlers. Conditions that would normally have been 'bred out' by a constant flow of new immigrants and the interchange of people have persisted in the gene pool simply because of Iceland's remoteness.

The relative health of the Icelandic population is a recent occurrence as their country moved from a pastoral/fishing society. Reports as recently as the 19th Century talk of how the Icelanders had a marginal existence. Cheap energy, access to global markets and the post-war Scandinavian social model of government are responsible for the modern healthy Icelander.

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UK child database is 'not fit for purpose'

Mike Richards

The reason they press on despite the evidence

It's a trend which really began under the crumbling Major administration, but which was turned into an artform under Blair. If a minister can show they stood up to a select committee / pressure group / Today programme it gives them serious kudos with the sheep on the backbenches. If they can do it by snarling and bullying all the better, it shows a vigorous government in action.

A minister who's seen to bend to any external interest is clearly not strong enough for the job and needs to be replaced by a more loyal member of the Politburo.

And if their policy turns out to be screaming disaster, it doesn't matter, a successful minister will have been promoted out of that portfolio and will be busy screwing up something else entirely. There's no better example than John Reid who was woeful in every job he did, pissed off everyone he ever met and left a trail of wreckage behind him - but didn't stop him being considered as PM material.

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Is Europe's war on Islamist terror running out of terrorists?

Mike Richards

Problem in the UK

Is that the government has drawn the definition of 'terrorism' so broadly that anything much beyond dropping a crisp bag is going to fall foul of one or another pieces of terror legislation.

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Scientology threatens Wikileaks with injunction

Mike Richards

@JonB

'Please don't think I'm one of them - I'm very definitely an atheist. Hubbard wrote it in '65ish I think. Which means the copyright is due to expire and then it's quite rightly a free for all, we can all grab a copy and set up our own whacky cults.'

'Dianetics' was first published in 1950, but it's copyright will belong to L Ron who went to meet Xenu in 1986. Under US copyright law, it will expire in 1986 + 70 = 2056. Unless of course a powerful, rich, well-connected organisation can persuade Congress to extend copyright again. Ah...

On an unrelated note, is there any chance we can get amanfrommars in a conversation with a Scientologist, or would that break the universe at a fundamentally weird level?

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Defra moves to protect UK honeybees

Mike Richards

The power of RTD

Vanishing bees get mentioned on Doctor Who on a Saturday, and a government taskforce (presumably complete with helicopters, thrilling logo and fully-reclinable secretaries) is on the case by Tuesday.

Now that's impressive!

If he puts a line about global warming into the next episode, we should have that licked by next Thursday.

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Apprentice contestant to offer Zeppelin trips above London

Mike Richards

@Ian Ferguson

Yup, Zeppelins were used to bomb the UK, France and Belgium between 1915 and 1918.

They were a huge propaganda success - the thought of Germans attacking the enemy capital was wildly popular in Germany and produced near panic in the UK. But the raids were little more than a nuisance in terms of the damage they did - about 500 people were killed in Britain by Zeppelins throughout the war.

The biggest problem for the Germans was their navigation, they rarely found their intended targets and even when the did, precision bombing was impossible. The Zeppelins were soon outclassed by improved planes with incendiary bullets, forcing them to fly even higher which made them even less useful.

Perhaps surprisingly, by the end of the war bomb loads were in the tonnes - far higher than the aircraft of the time. But the cost of the Zeppelins and their fragility made them obsolete as the Germans, including the Zeppelin company, developed long-range multi-engined bomber planes.

Zeppelins did do a bit of reconnaissance for the German fleet and for the army over the Western front, but incredibly no one seems to have thought of using them in association with U-boats to find Allied convoys and direct attacks.

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London Olympics drives dash for terrestrial HDTV

Mike Richards

"People are used to buying new boxes now"

Says it all doesn't it? Bugger upgradability, people will buy a new box.

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Plugs pulled on satellite paedo tracking after pilot flops

Mike Richards

@Ian

"I wrote to my MP when the ludicrous proposal was first made, and got a patronising ``experts say it'll work'' response from the hilariously named Paul Goggins. Nice to see I was right and they were wrong."

Go on, write again asking if he'll apologise for misleading you.

Writing to MPs is the last legal type of bear-baiting allowed in this country. Enjoy it before it's banned.

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Global-warming scientist: It's worse than I thought

Mike Richards

@Kevin Patrick Crowley

'Check out the Bakken Oil Reserves'

Yup lots of oil in the Bakken formation, it's already producing oil in South Saskachewan. Sadly the porosity of the Bakken rock is generally very low - good oil fields have very high porosities which allow oil to accumulate between rock grains and move through the rock. The lower the porosity, the lower the amount of recoverable oil. Highly productive fields generally have porosities in the 20 - 25%. The exceptional Ghawar field in Saudi Arabia has 35% porosity; by contrast Bakken in down around 3 - 4%.

The numbers about Bakken are derived from mathematical models with only isolated drill logs and production figures. It's hard to say how much of the oil that could have been formed in Bakken has migrated into traps where it can be exploited; how much remains locked up in useless non-interconnected pores and how much has been lost through faulting or pyrolisis. Oil geologists are very wary about citing figures like these because there is a long and fabulous history of new elephant fields proving to be entirely dry.

The conservative industry figures for recoverable oil in Bakken, add about 10% to the known US reserves. These figures might be improved with horizontal drilling and hydrofracturing, but they would not come anywhere near the headline figure of 413 billion barrels.

There's far more recoverable energy in Montana's enormous coal fields, though exploiting them would be an ecological catastrophe for the American west and the rest of the World.

Mine's the one with the Silva compass and the geological hammer in the pocket.

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EU sets cellphone users loose in aircraft

Mike Richards

Simple solution

If the spokesdroid really thinks "In-flight mobile phone services can be a very interesting new service especially for those business travellers who need to be ready to communicate wherever they are, wherever they go."

Then put the picocell in £20K wanker-class and a nice thick bulkhead between those tossers and the rest of us travelling as veal.

(Unless of course I'm one day invited to turn left on entering the plane, in which case I want the upgrade to be accompanied by the sort of Zen-like calm needed to answer questions like 'what is the sound of one mobe being rammed up an EU commissioner?')

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FIPR: ICO gives BT 'green light for law breaking' with Phorm

Mike Richards

Not a lawyer - but...

BT says the trials in 2006 and 2007 were legaland were not in breach of RIPA or the DPA, as a consequence they did not need to inform the customers nor amend the terms and conditions of the service.

HOWEVER, before WebWank goes live, BT says it must amend the terms and conditions of the service. Presumably to protect themselves from the wrath (hah!) of the DPA and RIPA.

So which is it? Legal or illegal?

Well my DPA request is in the post to BT. I'm awaiting their response with interest.

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Top cop: e-crime is the new drugs

Mike Richards
Coat

Clarification needed

"Some [UK police] forces don't have a high-tech crime unit at all," he said. "Those that do spend 90 per cent of their time on child pornography."

Investigating or downloading?

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BT: 'We did not let anyone down over Phorm... it was not illegal'

Mike Richards

Pro-forma to BT for anyone wanting to make a DPA request

If any of you are BT customers, feel free to adapt this to your own purposes.

I'm not a lawyer, I'm sure others could do better, but if you're wondering how to start a DPA request here's a start.

It'll help if you have your BT account code. And don't forget you'll need to write a cheque for £10 to cover processing costs.

I'm secretly hoping they say they can't tell me any of the information because then questions are raised how they recruited and kept track of those people in the trial and where that information has gone. All of which should interest the Information Commissioner greatly

Data Protection Manager,

Box 17,

BT Centre,

81 Newgate Street,

London.

EC1A 7AJ

Dear Sir / Madam,

I am a customer of BT Total Broadband and I am gravely concerned by the revelation that your company may have been illegally intercepting my communications. During 2006 and 2007, BT and a third party, Phorm, held secret trials of targeted advertising software involving many thousands of BT customers.

Please send me the information which I am entitled to under section 7(1) of the Data Protection Act 1998, informing me:

• if I have been unknowingly involved in any trials of Phorm software during 2006 and 2007

• the dates of any trials to which I was subscribed without my permission;

• what data was intercepted during those trials, and;

• to whom this data was transmitted.

Please would you also advise me of the logic involved in any automated decisions taken by you about me pursuant to section 7(1) (d) of the Data Protection Act 1998.

If you are unable to provide the information requested above, I will refer this failure to the Office of the Information Commissioner, so that they may investigate further.

As required under the Data Protection Act I have enclosed a cheque for £10 to cover any processing charges. This should enable you to complete this request within the stated period of 40 days.

If you do not normally handle these requests for your organisation, please pass this letter to the Data Protection Officer for BT Total Broadband or another appropriate officer.

Yours faithfully

[YOUR NAME HERE]

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Mike Richards

Just filed a DPA request...

...asking BT to disclose all information they have regarding my involvement (or otherwise) in the Phorm trials.

The following paragraph mentions I won't be satisfied if they say they don't have that information, in which case I will make a formal complaint to the DP Registrar.

The one after that tells them that if they confirm I was in the trial I will consider all legal options under RIPA 2000.

So anyone else DPAing BT's ass?

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Blu-ray Xbox 360 to be sold at a loss?

Mike Richards

Money better spent...

...would be for Microsoft to invest some serious money in raising the build quality of this wretched console.

Mine's just back from the all-to-familiar RRoD repair and it's already developed a rattle like a fan is improperly seated or is sticking. So I guess in a few weeks it'll die on me, then it's back to the repair shop.

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Child protection project hit by delays

Mike Richards
Coat

Simpler solution

Get all the kids to put all their information on Facebook. They want to do it and they'll tell you everything you want - and so much more. That's the sharing bit of the equation and the government hasn't had to spend a penny.

But it gets better!

When they get the inevitable 'do you want to see some puppies' IM, the precious little snowflakes can call the Home Office approved paedosquad number at the top of the screen - so that's the child protection bit taken care of, *AND* it shows joined-up government in action!

Mine's the one with £10 million of consultancy fees in the pockets.

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UK.gov demands 999 ads on social networking sites

Mike Richards

Okay did this get held over from yesterday?

'It also found that 34 per cent of 16 to 24-year-olds were happy to give out sensitive personal details including their mobile number and, or, email addresses.'

So the New Labour Net Nanny is appalled that millions of people are sending personal information to unaccountable organisations where that data might be misused, lost or stolen?

Imagine Jacqui Smith's reaction if someone suggested that it would soon be compulsory for people to hand personal information to an unaccountable organisation where that data might be misused, lost or stolen!

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Fixing the UK's DAB disaster

Mike Richards

Graph lies

The graph does *not* show a failing format; it shows a slowing rate of adoption - sales are continuing to grow but at a slower rate. There are a number of reasons, it could have been a technology that matured relatively rapidly and can't grow into a mass-market because the cost of receivers is noticeably higher than that for analogue sets, or it could be failing in the sense no one wants DAB at any price. But that graph proves nothing.

I have plenty of other problems with DAB, but to claim evidence based on that graph is misleading on a scale Alistair Campbell would be proud of.

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Blighty's Museum of Computing forced to go mobile

Mike Richards
Flame

Funding...

You just know if this had been a third-rate Italian knock-off sculpture of a sub-par Roman interpretation of a lost Greek original picked up by the syphilitic elder son of an 18th Century nobleman during a wine, poetry and all-you-can-eat shagging tour of Europe [deep breath]; then the know-nothing likes of Tessa Jowell and the great-and-the-good kleptocracy at the top of the arts world would have willingly blown ten million quid of public money to preserve 'an essential bedrock of British culture'.

Perhaps if we can show that a *BRITISH* BBC Micro was used to formulate the first foetid nugget of totalitarian policy at the Home Office, they'd consider computers to be 'an essential bedrock of British culture'?

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Assyrian clay tablet points to 'Sodom and Gomorrah' asteroid

Mike Richards

Sodom and Gomorrah

I love the fact a complete lack of archaeological evidence for either city ever having existed, doesn't get in the way of a media-friendly theory about their destruction. A shame they didn't go so far as to explain the halification of Lot's wife, but perhaps that's a follow up paper.

BTW. We all know about what was meant to be happening in Sodom, but what the hell was going on in Gomorrah?

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Jules Verne creeps up on ISS

Mike Richards

Jules Verne?

One of the greatest imaginations ever and his name is given to a cargo truck?

Couldn't we call it the L Ron Hubbard and celebrate each time it's consigned to fiery oblivion?

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Get your German interior minister's fingerprint here

Mike Richards

Don't count a victory just yet

Because if this does defeat current fingerprint readers, the companies will simply wail loudly and apply for more money from the public teat. Biometrics have become so much of an article of faith with the UK government that they can't be seen to lose face - bottomless amounts of taxpayer pounds will be made available to any multibillion pound company who needs the cash.

The security lobby is today's military-industrial complex - not that that's gone away. Hmmmmm Perhaps it's more accurate to say that the security lobby is the bastard child of the military-industrial complex and David Blunkett.

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Want to get into 10 Downing Street? Get a Lithuanian ID card

Mike Richards

Of course this would never have happened...

...if we had ID cards - oh hold on, something's wrong there.

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Botanist sues to stop CERN hurling Earth into parallel universe

Mike Richards

Credit where credit's due

An American has noticed what can be colloquially called 'the rest of the World'.

And it's thrilling to see commaed geography back in action 'Generva, Switzerland' - bless. The latest in a veritable Whicker of glamorous destinations, 'Paris, France', 'Venice, Italy' and everyone's favourite 'London, England'. Though it really needs a bit of stock footage for full effect - possibly a cuckoo clock or a vault filled with Nazi gold*.

*That's for Generva, Switzerland obviously; not Paris, France or London, England**.

** which can only be summed up by a consumptive Julie Andrews in a bowler hat.

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Send your loved one's ashes to the Moon for $10k

Mike Richards

@ Anonymous Coward

'Did Neil Armstrong et al bring their poo poos back with them or leave them behind?'

Worryingly, I know the answer to this one.

After rendezvousing back in orbit, all the trash and dirty nappies were loaded into the lunar module which was then crashed into the Moon for the benefit of geophysicists* and their seismographs.

* Children the lot of them.

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Mike Richards

@Matthew

We're pretty damned sure there's no life on the Moon, nor has there ever been. The US and USSR both returned samples from the surface and we have a large collection of lunar meteorites, which (amongst many other fascinating bits of geochemistry*) have one thing in common - they're completely anhydrous - there is no water on the Moon, either on the surface or in the minerals***, so no water for life. The killer temperatures and solar radiation would also do for organic chemistry.

And before anyone jumps on the story that bacteria were found on the Moon during the Apollo 12 mission to the Ocean of Storms...

Apollo 12 landed right next to the abandoned Surveyor 3 lander. The two astronauts took samples from Surveyor to see how it had withstood 18 months of radiation, heating, cooling and micrometeorite bombardment. When they were brought back to Earth, spores were found on some of the insulation. These were cultivated and found to belong to Streptococcus. For a long time it was believed that the spores had set when a lab technician assembling Surveyor had sneezed on the instrumentation, and that they had survived their exposure to space.

HOWEVER, this is now disregarded. The samples were not placed in biological isolation on their journey back from the Moon or on their way to the lab and it is far more likely they were contaminated on the way back to NASA. And experiments on the same species where they are exposed to freeze/thaw/dry cycles like those on the lunar surface always results in dead bugs.

* if you're a geochemist**

** guilty as charged

*** there *MAY* be some superficial ice at the Lunar South Pole carried by comets, although the evidence is somewhat patchy.

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T5 opening turns into Airplane 3.0

Mike Richards

Gets worse...

A friend who's trying to fly BA out of Terminal 5 just sent me a message saying that all check-in has been suspended.

Bodes well for Day 1 of the Olympics don't you think?

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First permitted in-flight mobile call made

Mike Richards

Reminds me of an IT joke

A passenger is sitting in an airliner using his laptop, and a message appears on his screen:

'Bluetooth: new device found: Airbus A310'

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Transgender man prepares to give birth

Mike Richards

Good luck to them...

...and get an agent with Channel 4 on speed-dial, they're always in need of new shock doc docs.

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UK's biggest meteorite impact rocked Scotland

Mike Richards

@The Prevaricator @Slaine

Silverpit is still not confirmed as an impact crater (and probably won't be unless someone stumps up the readies to drill it). There are problems with it being an impact structure because it doesn't resemble anything else on Earth - multiring craters such as those seen on the Moon and the Galilean moons of Jupiter are usually orders of magnitude larger than Silverpit.

There is a plausible alternative hypothesis that it is nothing more than a collapse caused by the withdrawal of the underlying Zechstein salt deposits.

@Slaine

Some of the reports are putting this as a 145 gigatonne explosion, it would have thrown enough crap into the air to darken the skies across the entire Northern Hemisphere, so yes, the good burghers of Inverness would have had plenty to worry about.

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Hutton: UK must become world No 1 in nuclear power

Mike Richards

Another example of joined up thinking

Hutton being a minister in the government that just flogged off state-owned BNFL's Westinghouse reactor-building business to Toshiba in return for a quick buck. So rather than the taxpayer (finally) getting some money out of BNFL, we're all going to have to pay to import technology we once owned.

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Virgin taps Boeing for 787 compensation

Mike Richards

@Edwin

Actually it's the pilot's decision whether he or she can fly the plane with a failed system. Some things (such as an inoperative engine) automatically rule out a take-off, but a plane can still be rostered if a suitably redundant component has failed.

If planes were grounded for not being in 100% working order, the airlines would have failed long ago.

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China unbans the Beeb

Mike Richards

Putting money on...

...the service being blocked the day after the closing ceremony of the Olympic Games when the Chinese government don't have to try and play nice any more.

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Religious MPs get free vote on hybrid embryos

Mike Richards

Extraordinary

The likes of Ruth Kelly and Des Browne were in the Cabinet that voted for war on Iraq and were expected to toe the government line, but when it comes to this all of a sudden their consciences are paramount.

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ICO queries Heathrow T5's huge fingerprint scam scan

Mike Richards

@Graham Dawson

More likely the culprit will be BAA who regard the whole airplane malarkey as getting in the way of turning airports into shopping malls.

Haven't you noticed that the ever-earlier time you need to turn up at the airport and the curious absence of seating in the departure lounge leaves you all the more time to mooch around BAA's crappy, overpriced shops?

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BBC Micro creators meet to TRACE machine's legacy

Mike Richards

Isn't the BBC Micro just a synonym

for 'middle class'?

Yeah after all these years I'm still embittered and jealous of the owners of these lovely machines.

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BBC races away with five-year F1 rights deal

Mike Richards
Flame

Undisclosed amount

How the hell is the BBC allowed to refuse to say how much they pay for people pottering around in motorised fag packets and wankers like Jonathan Ross? We all pay into their budget, it's only reasonable to know where it's going.

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Famous Five film lined up

Mike Richards

It gets better

The BBC article is either a: the funniest thing you've ever read, or b: the raping of your childhood.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/7306752.stm

Now am I just being unduly cynical or do they all look more than a little like the cast of Scooby Doo?

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Mike Richards

Anyone else thinking of Thunderbirds the Movie?

In other breaking news;

Kirrin Bay is now Kirrinatoga, California!

They all have superpowers!

Everyone enjoys lashings of Coca Cola at the local McDonalds!

Timmy's a robot!

George's dad is a scientist working for an evil maniac in the secret volcano lair on Kirrin Island!

The American kid saves the day!

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V-22 Osprey combo-copter hits fresh tech snags

Mike Richards

Is it some rule in America?

That anything, no matter how small has got to have a flag-waving-salute-the-stars-and-stripes-gorge-rising patriotic theme?

'Osprey's AE1107C "Liberty" turboshafts'

Dear god in heaven above. What will I do when my MkIII "Iwo Jima" bezel gromit fails?

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