* Posts by Flocke Kroes

1402 posts • joined 19 Oct 2007

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HMRC fails to plan for £10.4bn contract exit... because it's 'too risky'

Flocke Kroes
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If the customer cannot afford to cancel ...

... the most profitable thing to do is to ask for a year's extension and a 10% budget increase every year.

Now the government know where they stand, the only question is to decide if they want havoc now for ten billion, or in three years time for thirteen because it is certain the software will not be ready 'real soon now'.

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Leaked doc: Europe's justice chiefs forming plans to cosy up to ISPs

Flocke Kroes
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I want radicalising material on the internet ...

... where it can be publicly debunked. The only reason to suppress would be if it were all true. Are they talking about MP's expenses?

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Seagate's spinning rust most likely to crash, claims backup biz

Flocke Kroes
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RAID

It used to stand for redundant array of inexpensive disks. The first one was made out of drives that were so far out of warranty that they were expected to fail. The idea is that redundancy allows the use of cheap drives. If you have done your calculations correctly, and can tolerate the drop in performance when a drive is replaced, then the cheapest disks could be the right answer for you.

The manufacturers preferred RAID to stand for redundant array of independent disks, and charged extra for drives 'designed' for RAID. For some use cases, that is the right solution.

Blackblaze mentioned their disks experience vibration. My own 3TB Seagates rest on the foam the came with, and none have failed yet (doesn't matter if they do, as I can live with the down time of a restore from backup). If Blackblaze kept their disks like mine they would need a much bigger data centre. Replacing cheap drives killed by vibration could be cheaper for them.

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Free Windows 10 could mean the END for Microsoft and the PC biz

Flocke Kroes
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Apology for Big_Ted

I am sorry I thought Reg readers were smart enough to recognise a clear example of Microsoft being able to correct an unpopular decision before the next major release. In future I will try to dumb things down for you.

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Flocke Kroes
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Not entirely convinced...

If Windows 10 is a flop it will not be a disaster for Microsoft, and they will not have to wait two years to do something about it. Someone will sell a start button, and Microsoft will include one in version 10.1

I always thought a new version of Windows was a disaster for manufacturers and distributors. Customers delay replacing equipment until other people have got the new version working.

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Will fondleslab's fickle finger of fate help Windows 10?

Flocke Kroes
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@AC / technical expertise?

I am not entirely convinced that Android phones and Chromebooks require technical expertise. I would like to throw my TV and satnav into the same category. The router has an excellent user interface with well written documentation. I have not tested to see if a computer illiterate person can set one up, but somehow lots of people have got online. They cannot all be technical experts, and I doubt that many are using Windows based routers. (Is there such a beast?)

There is plenty of room for debate about the amount of required technical knowledge for Pi's. Mine are video/music/backup server/clients. Usage is trivial - as tested by computer illiterates. Setting them up required some technical knowledge back when they were new. Millions of Pi's are used as video servers, so the barrier to entry cannot be that high any more.

Turning the first Chromebooks into Debianbooks used to required an experienced techy, but these days it can be done by a reviewer working for The Register. The 'Desktop' at home is a SolidRun Cubox-i running Debian. This was as easy to set up as a Pi, and is used by non-techies.

There was a time when Linux knowledge was rare among techies. Now lack of Linux knowledge is rare among techies. Microsoft has publicly admitted the trend: Linux on Azure and Office for Android. Microsoft has enough cash to subsidise Windows for years. One day they are going to pass the maintenance costs onto their dwindling user base. On that day will you be locked in to Microsoft software, or will you be a penguin?

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Sorry, Qualcomm, Apple – your patents don't scare us

Flocke Kroes
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First mover advantage

IAVO. So old in fact that I pre-date software patents. Back in that stone age programmers could profit from there software without any 'protection' from the patent mob. If someone wrote something equivalent to your software, by the time they got it to market you would have version 2 ready.

Later when the patent office started accepting patents for 'computer implemented inventions', some companies had sufficient stupidity to patent their software. Patents take years and money to obtain, then even more years to sue someone into paying a license fee. The companies that focused on patents rather than products went bankrupt and sold their portfolios for a pittance to trolls. The trolls had a horrible time monetizing their patents until they stopped aiming at programmers and hit the merchant bankers instead. The breakthrough 'invention' was pastel bars on graphs to guide the reader's eyes from the scales to the wiggly line. The bankers caved in without a fight at gave the trolls the money they needed to file enough niucanse litigation to get regular pay days.

The idea of patents was to reward inventors for publishing their invention with a 'time limited' (20 year!) monopoly. Nobody reads patents anymore - unless they get sued. In part that is to avoid tripple damages for knowingly infringing. The other reason is that the vast majority of patents would be obvious to a crushed worm if they were not written in obfuscated patent language. Now that inventors do not read patents if they can possibly avoid it, the value of publication has gone, and the monopoly reward should vanish with it.

Although setting fire to patent lawyers sounds very gratifying, I would rather just fine them for racketeering.

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Polish chap builds computer into a mouse

Flocke Kroes
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I do not see the value in putting it in a mouse

The website mentions working on an inductive charging pad, wireless image transfer and wifi, so you can get the number of cables out of the mouse down to zero - at the cost of finding out what happens to your hand if you keep it right on top of all those RF emissions all day.

The other option would be to bolt the computer to the monitor and use a bluetooth mouse. People have held bluetooth devices to their heads for years without obvious problems and with mouse separate from the computer you can plug in lots of USB things without having to move the mouse through a tangle of cables. Also, when someone puts the mouse in their coffee, replacing the mouse is going to be cheaper than replacing the computer.

I do not see a use case that cannot be handled better by one of the many existing small cheap computers.

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Scary code of the week: Valve Steam CLEANS Linux PCs (if you're not careful)

Flocke Kroes
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@someonelse

someonelesesbox has a misconfigured ssh server. Take a look in /etc/ssh/sshd_config for:

#PermitRootLogin yes

and change it to:

PermitRootLogin no

If you need root access on a remote machine, log in as an ordinary user, the use su. Reading the whole of man sshd_config would be a good idea too.

Noddy's guide to shell scripts:

People who do not know any better start bash scripts with:

#! /bin/bash

A better choice is:

#! /bin/bash -e

The -e means exit if any command exits with non-zero status. Now when something goes wrong, the shell script will not plough on regardless doing stupid things because of the earlier failure. There is also some chance that the last text send to stderr will contain something useful to diagnose the fault. With the -e switch, today's disaster can be caught with:

[ -n "$VARIABLE" ]

A better choice would be:

if [ -z "$VARIABLE" ]; then

echo >&2- "$0: Environment variable VARIABLE is empty"

exit 1

fi

Finally, if you do not know how bash will expand something, ask it with echo:

echo $(type -p rm) -rf ~

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EU-turn: Greenpeace pressure WON'T mean axing of Chief Scientist

Flocke Kroes
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@Matt 21

Science has nothing to do with being balanced. In science, the test of truth is an experiment. If someone claims a particular genetically modified plant is poisonous, and someone else claims it isn't, then it is time to get a flock of rats, put the genetically modified plant in the food of half of them, and the unmodified plant in the food of the others. After a couple of generations, the experiment will show if the modified plant is more poisonous... to rats. After the experiment, at least one side is proved wrong, and a balance or consensus view is for people who cannot face reality.

I would not expect one scientist to know absolutely everything, but I would expect one scientist to be able to find another scientist who does understand whatever issue politicians want advice about. I would also expect that a competent scientist can tell the difference between a scientist and a trick cyclist far more easily than the average politician.

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GRENADE! Project Zero pops pin on ANOTHER WINDOWS 0-DAY

Flocke Kroes
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The origin of patch Tuesday

Back in the stone age, Microsoft ran adverts that 'proved' Windows was more secure than Linux. The proof was to go through all the software in all the Linux distributions, and add up all the security patches in a year. The number was huge in part because it included types of software that Microsoft did not sell, multiple forks of the same software, multiple pieces of software that did the same things and all multiplied by the number of distributions. The 'equivalent' number for Windows was 52.

Decide for yourself:

A) I like patches to be delayed so they arrive on a known day of the week.

B) I like patches as soon as they are ready.

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Demon Internet goes TITSUP: Outage borks ancient ISP

Flocke Kroes
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Re: CHAP

CHAP came back before lunch, but the DHCP server wasn't talking to me. DHCP got fixed during lunch, and I could ping the gateway, but nothing beyond. Full service was restored some time before I posted this.

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What will happen to the oil price? Look to the PC for clues

Flocke Kroes
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@Dogged

I was suspicious of similar claims about solar powered transport, until I did the maths myself. Half the area of my home in the south of the UK would be sufficient to charge an electric car for my rather modest personal transport needs (I would have to cover the whole house and garden to transport everyone living here). The cost of the panels and regular replacement costs of the batteries make fossil fuels cheaper, but solar panels and batteries are getting cheaper.

Algae are much more efficient than land plants. I do not have all the numbers required to calculate the costs, but if I find them, it is worth doing the calculation. At a guess, it might work out in places with cheap land and plenty of sunshine, but I think the technology would have to mature before it could be cost effective where live.

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Flocke Kroes
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Re: Transport counting as survival

Last time I looked, the total human food supply was more than enough to feed everyone but there are still people starving, and poor people with crops they cannot sell locally because of over supply. Take away our advanced transport infrastructure, and we too can enjoy years of plenty and years of famine.

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Are you running a Telnet server on Windows? Oh thank God. THANK GOD

Flocke Kroes
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Very different from shellshock

There were cgi-scripts written in bash. The most obvious one converted man pages to html. Doing a Google search for almost any unix command would give a list of servers hosting man-pages and half of them would be using bash. The barrier to entry (knowledge of bash and cgi) was so low that there were thousands of people playing with it. IIRC within two days over 44000 different attack scripts had been detected - and that is just the people foolish enough to leave a trail across the internet. What is more, http was not the only service using bash in an exploitable manner.

AFAIK, there are nothing like the number of target machines for this Windows/telnet exploit. I would hope that the majority of people able to enable telnet on a Windows machine know why it is a bad idea, would only enable it as a last resort, would prevent access to it from the internet and not advertise the service so it could be found with a simple web search. Even then, it looks like exploiting the vulnerability requires considerably more than noddy level understanding bash and cgi.

Many penguinistas used to think that it was safe to allow remote execution of a carefully written bash script. No-one with a clue ever trusted telnet - which is why I found the idea of a security patch for it so surprising.

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Flocke Kroes
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Please help a penguin

I thought the purpose of telnet was remote code execution, with the option to send unencrypted passwords to local network sniffers. I use it to talk to embedded systems too dumb for dropbear (trimmed ssh) over a dedicated network cable. The idea that telnet could be secured or required a security patch seemed strange, so I tried looking up vulnerability. Microsoft's knowledge base tells me 'server error in / application'.

Can anyone explain what is going on?

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SanDisk's flash chip nightmare: How I'd escape black hole if I was in charge

Flocke Kroes
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Do these chips have rounded corners?

"The Netlist-filed document argues that SanDisk must obey the injunction because the storage biz has been actively selling ULLtraDIMM technology since April 2014 while knowing Netlist was taking Diablo to court"

Being taken to court is nothing to do with being found guilty. The rulings from patent litigation are fairly random (but the lawyers always win). If this goes to appeal, the results of the appeal will be equally unpredictable, so by Netlist's logic, if there are grounds for appeal then the injunction should be cancelled because Netlist knows the bickering can continue for another decade.

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What do UK and Iran have in common? Both want to outlaw encrypted apps

Flocke Kroes
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IIRC ...

This was tried years ago by a US politician famous for adapting Arthur Scargill's speeches. The result was some steganography software that disguised encrypted messages as text in the style of Arthur Scargill's speeches. (web searches are not giving me relevant links, so I might have misremembered whose speeches were copied.)

"The first duty of any government is to keep our country and our people safe."

The biggest danger to any government is not a guy in the desert with an AK47. It is a citizen with a vote. An AK47 with no ammo is reasonably safe. To make a person safe, a government has to take away his vote. The government can already do this on four easy steps.

1) Take the voter's computer.

2) Pick some files, and claim they contain steganographically hidden encrypted data.

3) Require the person to decrypt the files.

4) Send the voter to prison for being unable to decrypt a file that did not contain steganographically hidden encrypted data.

Prisoners do not get to vote. If you want to keep your right to vote, go through every picture, video and document you ever created, and replace them with new versions that have the following steganographically hidden encrypted text:

Cameron double plus good duckspeaker. Love big brother. Joycamp unneeded.

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Get your special 'sound-optimising' storage here, hipsters

Flocke Kroes
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Some USB cables ARE better than others ...

Some have thinner power wires that are OK for to connect to a powered hub, but have to much resistance to spin a disk.

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BAN email footers – they WASTE my INK, wails Ctrl+P MP

Flocke Kroes
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A law is the way to go

I recommend an RFC proposing a new SMTP response:

rejected: excessive legal boiler plate

Recognising legal junk should be easy for a spam filter.

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Ex-Microsoft Bug Bounty dev forced to decrypt laptop for Paris airport official

Flocke Kroes
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But the UK law makes much more sense

The excuse/justification for the law is to catch paedophiles and terrorists. You do not have to provide your password - just can spend 5 years in prison instead. Of course, 5 years is less than a likely sentence for paedophiles or terrorists.

If you need to take Snowden2 data abroad, do not carry it with you. Encrypt it, put it on the net, travel, download, recrypt with a new key and shred all your copies of the old key.

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Samsung forks 4K with Tizen tellies

Flocke Kroes
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Easy enough to fix a TV UI...

...get a raspberry π.

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Tor de farce: NSA fails to decrypt anonymised network

Flocke Kroes
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Wasting taxpayer funds is a strategic goal

You can defend a much bigger budget with a high FPR.

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Flocke Kroes
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Who is the biggest danger to an MP?

1) A guy with a gun in Afghanistan.

2) A comentard in the UK.

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For the love of Bong! He's Chief Contract Killer Evangelist... for WHAT NOW?

Flocke Kroes
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Targeted Advertising

Today is your day to die!! Have you put your affairs in order? Click here for lawyers ready to write up your will this morning!! Why not take a break for your final meal at one of our sponsors? Do you have a message for the person who hired your hitman? Say it with flowers. Don't forget to cancel that dinner appointment!!

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Sony FINGERS DDoS attackers for ruining PlayStation's Xmas

Flocke Kroes
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It would have been better if Kim had done nothing

Every techy and his playmonaut already knows that Kim rewarded DDOSers. Perhaps the DDOSers will wait till next year before doing it again and again. If you pay Danegeld all you get is more Danes.

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Buses? PAH. Begone with your filthy peasant-wagons

Flocke Kroes
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Cycle shopping

The trick is to buy small amounts each day on your way home from work. That also lets you pick fresher food, or half-price food on its smell-by date. It reduces the chance that something will go off because the week passed and you did not need it. Personally I prefer a bus because it is hard to read a book while riding a bike. The subsidy is worth it. If some of the passengers had to drive (or ride a bike) everyone else would have a really bad day.

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Open Source's 2014: MS 'cancer' embrace, NASDAQ listings and a quiet dog

Flocke Kroes
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@Phoenix50

One of the big differences between penguinistas and commercial software users it that penguinistas read the license (and either follow the rules or use something else). Microsoft has a long history of open source. The first open license I remember from Microsoft said something like "If one of your developers could have glimpsed this source code we can sue you for copyright infringement". They have progressed through stages with licenses like "If you use the source code, we can sue you for patent infringement" and "You can distribute something compatible with our documentation, but it won't be compatible with our software. If you distribute something compatible with our software, we can sue you".

.NET has been shared source since 2007, but the license was the Microsoft Reference License. That was enough to convince plenty of penguinistas not to take an interest in .NET, and to take care that they did not rely on it for anything that mattered (or anything at all, depending on their level of caution/paranoia). The new .NET license is an MIT variant.

The MIT/BSD licenses are an excellent choice for academic institutions with government funding. The license includes a requirement to retain attribution of where the source code came from, but has few other restrictions. The chances are you can use MIT licensed software in your commercial or open project with minimal inconvenience (read the licenses and check, because there are variations). The author of the software can then point at all the places her software is used as evidence that the grant money was used effectively.

An MIT variant is not the GPL, and there are good and bad reasons for using it. For example libgcc is required by any software compiled with gcc. If libgcc were only GPL, it would not be legal to distribute closed source software compiled with gcc (the actual license is GPL plus some exemptions for distributing close source binaries). For parts of .NET, an MIT variant is an excellent choice for a language intended for both open and closed projects. The down side of the license is what happens when third parties contribute improvements. If the improvements have the same license Microsoft can include them in a closed source variant of .NET, say .NET++. The next step would be to create reasons why people need to buy .NET++ instead of using open.NET. Microsoft have repeatedly demonstrated their outstanding ability to find the smallest difference required to make an expensive upgrade essential to the bulk of their users. This is sufficient reason for a hefty chunk of developers to pick different project to contribute to, and will slow the progress of .NET.

The MIT variant license is a very small sting in the tail. Like many penguinistas and closed source software distributors, I use many pieces of BSD/MIT licensed software. With this change of license in progress, my reason for not using .NET is because I no experience with it, and plenty of experience with its competitors that have been open for a long time. If a useful piece or .NET software turns up, instead of running away screaming as I would have done last year, I will read the license and then take a decision.

Sun went through a similar period of change with some of its executives understanding how to benefit from free software licenses and others holding them back. There was a sequence of license changes, each better than the last, but with obvious reasons to convince third party developers to take no interest. Sun's profits plummeted and they were bought by Oracle. I can understand Microsoft taking their time to get it right rather than rushing into a broken compromise. Given their history, Microsoft will have to deal with the fact that penguinistas will search any gift-horse dilligently for the slightest possible hint of a way for Microsoft to exploit lock-in.

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Online armour: Duncan Campbell's tech chief on anonymity 101

Flocke Kroes
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Another way to partially validate high profile keys

Wait a week or two, and see if a substitute key hit the news.

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Reg man confesses: I took my wife out to choose a laptop for Xmas. NOOOO

Flocke Kroes
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@Simon Rockman

Decoding computer requirements from non-techies is tricky because they lack the computer literacy to ask for what they need. I find delivering Microsoft Word without question leads to angry technical support calls when Microsoft Word fails to read a document created by a different version of Microsoft Word. So far, incompatibility problems have been solved by upgrading to Libreoffice. These days, I get users to try Libreoffice first. Perhaps one day I will come across a non-techy with a genuine requirement for Microsoft Word, but it hasn't happened yet.

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Flocke Kroes
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If she likes the colour ...

Look up the model number and see if it is easy to install your favourite Linux distribution. The effort required could be anything from a year of frustration to five minutes of set-up plus half an hour reading a book while everything downloads. Linux runs fine on modest hardware, but for Chromebooks you have to check that either the internal storage is reasonable or for an SDHC slot.

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Sony releases Nork flick The Interview straight to DVD (digital video download)

Flocke Kroes
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One possibility

Sony could have made the bomb threats themselves for the publicity. I have no evidence at all, but far too much cynicism.

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Stop Xiaomi, oh stop Xiaomi: Samsung to debut Tizen mobe in India in January

Flocke Kroes
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How Ubuntu competes

I could not quickly find the number of software packages in the Ubuntu repository, but it rides on the back of Debian with over 37500 packages. Lack of developers or software is not a problem. What is a problem is that Android/iOS users have invested in software, but Linux users expect more for free. Even worse, everyone getting a percentage from an app store would rather not compete with a Linux distribution.

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Careful - your helmet might get squashed by a VOLVO

Flocke Kroes
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Please wear something reflective

The first time I saw a cyclist on an unlit road in the dark, he was only about 5 meters away. He is still alive because I was keeping to the speed limit, paying attention, and I have good reflexes. He did have lights, but they were pathetic compared the amount of light that comes back from the road with the head lights on. If I had killed him, it would have been my fault and I would have been very sorry but he would still be dead.

Reflectors are far more visible than bike lights. I have one velcroed to my back-pack for when I go cycling. It won't stop idiots from thinking: 'cyclist - cannot possibly be doing 30mph on a steep down hill section, so I can pull out in front of him - what's that loud screeching sound*?'. It will give sensible drivers plenty of time to slow down or overtake safely.

* Narrow road, lots of turnings, two schools near by, so the 30mph limit is thoroughly justified. The new brake blocks were really loud. Three drivers saw me and pulled out anyway. I wish I had had a camera, because the expression on the drivers' faces were priceless. After three emergency stops on the ride home from the bike shop, the brakes were worn in and stopped screeching. Anyone know how to fix that?

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Microsoft kills its Euro pane in the a**: The 'would you prefer Chrome?' window

Flocke Kroes
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Europeans got their money back

Step into the TARDIS and revisit the era this decision came from. Last millennium phones were for talking to people and they had physical buttons with numbers on for sending text messages. Apple had a small niche market and Linux was less famous than the BSD Unixes are today. If a techy searched really hard, he could buy a desktop PC with freedos, but everyone else (and anyone buying a laptop) had to buy Windows. By itself, having a monopoly is not illegal. Using a monopoly in one field (ie Operating systems) to gain a monopoly in another (like web browsers) is illegal.

The wheels of justice grind at the speed of a doped two legged donkey. By the time the EU even noticed, Netscape Navigator as a commercial product was already dying. The actual complaints were about media streaming and network file systems. People were using cheap ARM CPUs and SAMBA for NAS instead of power hog Intel CPUs and and expensive NT server licenses. Microsoft fiddled with the protocol to break SAMBA and require people to use Windows. After years of delaying tactics from Microsoft, the EU fined Microsoft €497 million and ordered them to document the SMB protocol (now called CIFS). Again Microsoft took their time, and were fined an addition €1.5 million per day for 187 days before they made the documentation available for purchase (the fine was about to go up to €3 million per day).

That €777 + 80% of the EU's legal expanses were tax revenue that Europeans did not have to pay. It would be nice to claim that Europeans made of profit on the deal, but clearly breaking the law was benefiting Microsoft (and costing Europeans) between 1.5 and 3 million Euros per day.

SAMBA was not made using Microsoft's documentation, which apart from being years later and expensive, was incomplete and inaccurate. SAMBA was in fact made by bugging the network connection between and Windows sever and client, guessing what the packets meant and trying them out to see what the server or client did in response (the result was more reliable than Windows - perhaps because SAMBA devs did not rely on defective docuementation). It would be nice to say that your NAS does not require a €599 Windows server license because of the EU court order, but that would be stretching the truth. Windows licenses prices are kept below €999 per CPU core because Microsoft has to compete with Linux (if they didn't, home users would still be using a descendent of ME). The European Court of Justice are certainly too little and far to late, but they do pay for themselves many times over.

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Flocke Kroes
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@LDS

Concerning your comments about iOS: Apple can bundle whatever they want and restrict what is installed because I can buy something else.

Concerning your comments about Android: AFAIK, Google do not charge money for Android. If you choose to buy and Android phone, one of the things you are buying is the manufacturer's extensions to Android. I would be happier if you had a choice about that.

All of this stuff about IE was for desktop computers, where customers are required to buy Windows whether they want it or not. If seems that unlike me, LDS and Neil B are happy to pay for software they will never use. I would like the pair of them to put their money where their mouths are and contribute to some open source projects.

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Flocke Kroes
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Most people never had a choice . . .

So you decide you want to use Midori web browser on you new computer. That is fine, but you have to buy IE because it comes bundled with all new computers. You decide you want to use Vi/Emacs. That is fine, but you have to buy notepad because it is bundled with all new computers. The same used to be true with media players, until an EU court ruled otherwise (Microsoft was required to release an EU version of Windows without a bundled media player. Anyone know if the EU version was cheaper, or if Europeans were still paying for the Microsoft media player that wasn't installed?).

Microsoft required manufacturers to install Windows and a pile of Microsoft software on all new PCs. The famous way to avoid getting caught was to sell Windows at a high price, but offer to pay 'Marketing expenses' to manufacturers that pre-installed Microsoft's software on all new PC's. (Do not bet on this being legal. Intel did the same thing, and had to buy a get out of jail card from AMD for $1billion in cash + buying AMD's old foundries for $1billion over the market value.)

Netscape used to sell Netscape Navigator and had 90% market share. A few years after IE was bundled with all new computers, Navigator's market share fell to 1% - even though the price fell all the way to zero. Navigator was released as open source software in the hope that it would receive development work that Netscape could not pay for. Netscape was bought by AOL, who later ceased all work on Navigator.

These days, the situation is hardly any better. Dell will sell you a Linux PC - if you know it is an option, hunt it down and insist you do not want Windows. It has been a long time since I looked at Dell's web site, but the Linux machines they sold had cheaper hardware than Windows machines the same price. It looked suspiciously like you were still paying for a Windows license, but not actually getting the software. Other PC retailers either did the same, or did not have secret a Linux option at all.

Telecom companies understand how toxic Microsoft made the PC market. Part of the success of Apple and Android was that the networks wanted ABM.

One day, ordinary people might be able to select which OSes are pre-installed, and only pay for their selection. Today, only Techies have a choice.

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Judge spanks SCO in ancient ownership of Unix lawsuit

Flocke Kroes
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TSG is not SCO

Everyone and his Penguin called the Santa Cruz Operation "SCO", but its name was the Santa Cruz Operation. That 'SCO' bought the right to collect license fees for SVRx Unix (and derivatives) from Novell (who retained the copyright). They also distributed a Linux based operating system (which did not inherit source code from SVRx).

SCO sold its Unix business to a new company and changed its name to Tarantella. The new company changed its name to The SCO Group, and (with some success) got people to call it SCO. TSG is not the Santa Cruz Operation. TSG try to claim Santa Cruz Operation's work on SVR4 code as their own, but the are not the same company, and did not buy the source code because the Santa Cruz Operation never bought it. They were supposed to collect Novell's licence fees, hand over all of Novell's money to Novell and in return Novell would hand back 5% commission.

Novell bought SVRx from Unix Systems Laboratories. USL was created inside AT&T because AT&T were forbidden from distributing an OS because of an anti-trust ruling against them. AT&T transferred SVRx to USL who promptly sued the regents of the university of Berkeley for copyright infringement of SVRx. Berkeley Software Distribution (who are not the same as the regents of the university of Berkeley) distributed a version of Unix that was not derived from SVR4 (or its predecessors). USL did so badly in court the they paid the regents legal fees in return for the regent's silence. It turns out that Unix was originally distributed in source code form without any copyright notices. Patches were sent back to AT&T again without copyright notices or licensing agreements. Some of those patches were incorporated back into AT&T's Unix.

So, TSG (not SGO) threatened to sue everyone and his penguin for using SVR4 code that they did not own and wasn't in Linux. Even if there was some code that TSG owned, it was released under the GPL by SCO anyway when they distributed Linux. TSG did this despite USL's failure to do substantially the same thing. They sued IBM, who are famous for their ability to blacken the sky with lawyers, and they did so when Novell told them not to (Novell had the contractual right to prevent SCO and successors from engaging in litigation related to Novell's SVRx source code).

Now who gets the award for idiocy:

A) Darl McBride who was in charge of TSG, and kept making false statements to the press that were immediately debunked by a horde of penguinistas.

B) David Boies who said his law firm would do all the legal representation for a share of the profits.

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V. R. R. Stob's magnificent saga A Game Of Dog-and-Bones

Flocke Kroes
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If there had been patents of litigation ...

...would the lawyers have been riding skinned dire wolves? After all, "A barrister always flays his pets."

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ESA: Venus probe doomed to fiery death on weird planet's surface

Flocke Kroes
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Can't you tell it is a real photo?

I borrowed the space shuttle Atlantis from the visitor complex at Cape Kennedy and deployed an orbital sun screen to darken Venus express. That is why the stars and the space ship are visible in the same photo. Ivan borrowed the Бура́н prototype from the Technik Museum. He followed behind Venus Express with a big lamp so the back of the communications dish is not completely black.

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Flocke Kroes
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No artificial gravity

The fuel isn't being pulled to the bottom of the tank. There is some spin to point the instruments at Venus, and some rotation to point the comms at Earth, but surface tension is stronger. Until the engine fires, the fuel is probably in a blob somewhere inconvenient for starting the engine. Even when the engine is firing, the fuel sloshes about in a determined effort to avoid being measured.

The 'fuel gauge' works by firing the engine and measuring how much the mass of the fuel reduces the acceleration of the spacecraft. As the spacecraft has been repeated tearing through the top of a corrosive atmosphere it is surprising that any fuel was still inside the tank.

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'Turn to nuclear power to save planetary ecology from renewable BLIGHT'

Flocke Kroes
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20 loony greens in a room with 19 bullets

I was looking for the productivity ratio for modern chemical fuelled agriculture compared to dark age rotation of crops. The closest I could find are the number of man hours required to make a chicken for the last hundred years, and wheat yields in developing countries over fifty years.

IIRC, agriculture backed by a modern technology is 20 times more efficient than peasant power. (The graphs I found are 5 or 6 to 1, but do not measure a switch to 'sustainable' agriculture.) If 20 loony greens can agree on which 19 of them are going to commit suicide then I am happy for the last man standing to inherit the resources of the others so he can lead a tech free life style. This is to include manky fruit during the winter (no refrigeration or intercontinental shipping), no modern medicine and a good risk of starving to death if the crops fail.

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We are never getting back to... Samsung's baking Apple's 14nm 'A9' chips?

Flocke Kroes
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Samsung licenses ARM too

Anyone want to look up which out of Samsung and Apple designed an ARM based SOC first?

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Flocke Kroes
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Yes, of course they would

Apple negotiates very hard on price. So hard that careless manufacturers make a loss - on a huge scale - and go bankrupt. Sometimes Apple picks up the pieces for a pittance. Samsung have more brains than that and would happily tell Apple to get their displays elsewhere if Samsung does not like the price.

I am sure the price of these CPU's includes the cost of being sued again - after all, Apple needs to keep finding ways of diverting money from share dividends to their lawyers.

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Finland ditches copyright levy on digital kit, pays artists directly

Flocke Kroes
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Three distribution models:

If format shifting is legal: I buy a CD, format shift it and listen to the music with whatever device is convenient.

If format shifting is not legal: I don't bother to buy the CD because I cannot listen to the music on whatever device is convenient.

Now can someone explain to me how the manufacturers of MP3 players are reducing music industry revenues?

(I would rather buy a license to listen to music from the performer, and download the data from a pirate site - that way the performer gets all the money without having to pay anything for distribution. For some reason, the distributors are not entirely keen on this business model.)

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Cisco: Think we're a lawsuit-hurling villain? 'Complete garbage'

Flocke Kroes
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With similar logic ...

... I am the handsomest prince in all the land because I have a bicycle.

They say the last time they sued was eleven years ago. We have no idea how often they threatened to sue, or how may products were never developed because Cisco would either sue or require royalties big enough to make a new product uncompetitive.

If Cisco had 0% market share, then this lawsuit could not be about protecting market share. Having 80% is not evidence that is is not about protecting market share.

If Cisco had shut up, the only 'evidence' would have been the rantings of a defendant in legal trouble. As Cisco needed to prove they are not a patent bully with defective logic, they have convinced me that Arista's claims have some merit. Also I think the only thing that having 13,000 patents proves is that the patent system is badly broken.

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Firms will have to report OWN diverted profits under 'Google Tax' law

Flocke Kroes
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It is only a draft law

On the day a finished law is actually passed, the accountants will know precisely how to avoid the new tax.

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Flocke Kroes
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552 pages for the draft bill + 126 pages of explanatory notes

That puts this law well beyond the comprehension of 99% of politicians, and they are going to vote on this.

I can see this law making money for lawyers to argue about it, but the projected revenues must be like 84.7% of statistics: made up on the spot.

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It's nearly 2015 – and your Windows PC can still be owned by a Visual Basic script

Flocke Kroes
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It could be worse

Most (almost all?) browser exploits depend on javascript for their operation. The current POODLE for TLS requires javascript. Plenty of sites - like this one - do not require javascript. I do almost all of my web browsing with javascript disabled.

Imagine how bad it would be if banking and commerce sites required javascript ...

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Flocke Kroes
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Accountability

A quick web search for "microsoft sued for security flaws" shows several people/organisations have tried. I would like to draw your attention to the instructions for using the GNU GPL, which includes the following:

This program is distributed in the hope that it will be useful,but WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY; without even the implied warranty of MERCHANTABILITY or FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE. See the GNU General Public License for more details.

That is in just about every piece of software I write. I can hardly blame Microsoft for including something similar in their EULAs. Every time Microsoft avoids massive fines for security flaws I get some more confidence that it is not my turn next. IFAIK, there is no legal requirement that Microsoft has to find flaws, create patches and distribute them for free. For really old pieces of software like DOS and Windows 95, Microsoft do not provide patches just like there are no security patches for ancient Linux Kernels.

There are plenty of things I blame Microsoft for, and would be happy for the courts to do something about if they could. Bashing them for providing security patches for free is not one of them.

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