* Posts by John H Woods

1472 posts • joined 14 Nov 2007

Ministry of Fun tries again on mobile mast planning permission

John H Woods
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NIMBYs

Somebody once told me, on a dark post pub evening, that they had led their local nimby-masts-cause-cancer campaign to successfully have a proposed discrete village mast banned.

I asked them if they could see the street light down the road. They said of course, and when they looked back at me I shone my torch in their face. They were pretty annoyed about that; but I've never bettered it as a practical demo of the inverse square rule.

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C’mon Lenovo. Superfish hooked, but Pokki Start Menu still roaming free

John H Woods
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Re: You can always try YumCha

I think he's getting his Dimms and Simms confused with his Dims and Sims.

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John H Woods
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Re: The problem starts with punters and prices

"how to fix it will be very controversial: do you ban certain types of software, can you force a "data security" warning on certain software like the warnings on cigarettes?" -- Anonymous Blowhard

Not sure it will be that controversial; as I'm pretty sure that *certain* types of software are already doing something that is pretty much illegal. This is *exactly* what consumer protection legislation is for: you are assured a minimum standard of electrical safety when you buy your laptop and you should similarly be assured of a minimum standard of cybersecurity.

I wonder if you could actually use the UK Sale of Goods Act to claim that such a computer was not 'fit for purpose' given that the purposes the customer reasonably expected included being able to make secure online transactions?

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$533 MEEELLION – the cost of Apple’s iTunes patent infringement

John H Woods
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What is this?

"three patents related to iTunes, specifically regarding the accessing and storing downloaded songs, videos and games"

I'm guessing that's the patent on storing them somewhere and accessing them somehow?

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SSL-busting adware: US cyber-plod open fire on Comodo's PrivDog

John H Woods
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Passing off

I still can't understand why this isn't passing off. IANALBIPOOTI and I believe that Reckitt & Colman Products Ltd v Borden Inc established that there are three criteria: the trader enjoys some goodwill; there is some misrepresentation by a third party; and the trader suffers damage to the aforementioned goodwill.

OK, so HSBC has some goodwill. Yes they launder drug money; help people evade taxes and charge you a fortune for incurring a small overdraft. But nevertheless, you trust them not to hand over your account to a third party for them to do as they will.

When you https:// to hsbc.co.uk, you are using their goods and services, to wit, their online banking facility. Part of that service is your assurance that you are connected to HSBC before you start typing the sort of stuff you really want to remain private. When you see the padlock in the address bar, you believe that you have a connection to an entity whose identity is assured by another entity that can be trusted to assure that identity. Any software that presents you with an MITM certificate for hsbc.co.uk signed by one of these dodgy outfits who have installed a bogus (yes I really think that's the word) root cert is surely passing off their own certificate as the certificate which has been presented to you by the organisation you think you are connected to?

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'Utterly unusable' MS Word dumped by SciFi author Charles Stross

John H Woods
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Content and Style

I've never understood why an author would need a word processor to write a book. The content producer should write it in plain text, and the publisher should mark it up. The only real reason to use Word is in the circumstances where you are responsible for the final presentation style yourself. I'm sure there are other functions on top of a plain text-editor that would be useful to an author (dictionary, change tracking) but I'm pretty sure that formatting and style is completely surplus to requirements.

The problem starts to become apparent in business when you are producing client-facing documents which have a strict style set by your marketing department. Theoretically, it is possible to take the style they have painstakingly (but often inexpertly) created, and fill it with content which will automatically take the corporate style. In practice, however, I have found this very hard to achieve.

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Lenovo to customers: We only just found out about this Superfish vuln – remove it NOW

John H Woods
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"Unfortunately, in this situation a vulnerability was introduced unintentionally by a third party"

Errr ... no. That vulnerability is the entire purpose of the software produced by that third party ... and you were paid by that third party for including that software.

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For pity's sake, you FOOL! DON'T UPGRADE it will make it WORSE

John H Woods
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Re: have you tried....?

If you think upgrading software or hardware is expensive, wait till you try to upgrade your wife.

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Euro broadcast industry still in a fug over that 4K-ing UHD telly

John H Woods
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Re: HD, schmaydsdee

Indeed. Best case for decent eyesight is about 1 arcminute. At 3m from the screen (you won't be much nearer a TV, even in a cramped British living room) that is around 0.9mm per pixel, or a 1080 screen around a metre high. At an aspect ratio of 16:9, that is a diagonal of 1.9m.

So you need a TV with a minimum 75" screen to see pixels at 1080 / 16:9 / 3m viewing distance. In fact, I watch a 720 picture on a 100" diagonal on a projector that (2nd hand) cost less than 100 quid from eBay and I can't see the pixels when I'm watching my rPi playing TV (although I can make them out on the OpenElec screen when I'm choosing files).

Contrast ratio, colour gamut and frame rate are all far more important for image quality. The only reason to welcome 4K resolution is for computer displays.

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Want a MEEELLION-year data storage? Use DNA of course

John H Woods
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Re: You could duplicate it ...

"Reading DNA pair-for-pair quickly is pretty advanced stuff y'know.."

I do know (was a biologist before reincarnation as an IT guy) -- but surely any sufficiently advanced civilization will be able to read DNA. A couple of decades technology setback would stop you reading it, I agree --- but a couple more decades of technology advance will let you read it again.

The real challenge is self a self describing code. It's easy to store stuff in binary form that proves intelligence and knowledge - binary encodings of pi, e, the Fibonacci sequence etc would be recognised by any sufficiently advanced intelligence, however alien. But how do you (or even can you) embed some kind of Rosetta Stone that bridges the gap between this material and the advanced content?

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John H Woods
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Re: You could duplicate it ...

"It could duplicate itself - that's kind of its raison d'etre..." -- Warm Braw

No, it really can't :-) and it really isn't.

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John H Woods
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You could duplicate it ...

.With appropriate checksumming / redundancy, you could always duplicate the DNA before sequencing it. The truly great thing about DNA though, is that we'll always know how to read it!

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Did NSA, GCHQ steal the secret key in YOUR phone SIM? It's LIKELY

John H Woods
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Re: @All Names Taken -- Don't be daft?

"It seems to me there's a secret, well-rehearsed magic script that security gnomes read to politicians (or more likely instruct them to follow) when they first get into government that scares the shit out of them and which simply puts the kibosh on any genuine well-intentioned plans." -- RobHib

"I've often wondered about that myself so you could well be onto something." -- AbelSoul

Isn't it quite simple? "We know everything you've ever said, done, seen, searched for on the Internet. Do what we say and we'll get along fine. Cross us, and we'll ruin you for ever"

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Shodan boss finds 250,000 routers have common keys

John H Woods
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Re: @Dan 55

"A public key is the product of two large primes" - Flocke Kroes.

It's not usually as simple as that; and if you are thinking of the RSA cryptosystem the public key is an exponent and a modulus, whilst the private key is another exponent (and the same modulus).

I may be missing something here but ... when you ssh to a router, you check the public key is the one that you expect, then you store it. So, the small problem is that, as they all have the same public key, you could mistakenly recognise another router for your own. But the big problem is that they all have the same private key, as you said. So if you go and buy a router at the shop, and extract its private key, you now have the private key for tens of thousands of routers, rather than just for the router you have purchased.

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Apple design don Jony Ive: Build-your-own phone is BOLLOCKS

John H Woods
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So I take it ...

... that Lego is design anathema ... and all modular systems of any kind whatsoever?

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HOLY SEA SNAILS! Their TEETH are strong enough to build a plane

John H Woods
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Space Elevator potential?

Come on, we're nearly there ...

... (IS2R Kevlar would be strong enough to build one on Mars, but not quite good enough for Earth).

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Want to find LOVE online? Make sure your name is high up in the alphabet

John H Woods
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Re: Forty years of feminism

"And I still hear women discussing potential dates as a "good catch" listing good salary, own house, impressive car etc., as key points." --- Zog_but_not_the_first

Presumably you haven't heard what 'key points' men discuss about female potential dates?

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Think you’re hard? Check out the frozen Panasonic CF-54 Toughbook

John H Woods
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Re: @John H Woods: Ouch

I agree with everything you are all saying, but I was really contesting the perspective of the article which seemed to me to be epitomized by this:

"In fact, they are suggesting that the CF-54 is the first semi-rugged laptop you may just want to splash out for, even if you are just a regular consumer. Albeit one with deep pockets."

and this:

"Still, at least you’ll be getting a laptop that you can safely let the kids loose on from time to time and even pass it on to them when the time comes"

and this:

"Probably the most useful feature to the man in the street is the swappable DVD drive and battery"

So 'ouch' was a little dumb for a post title, because it looks like I'm saying there's no need for anyone to buy devices like this. But there's no way I'd buy something like this without having very specific requirements, and I didn't think that was really reflected in the write up. Possibly the reviewer was disadvantaged by the sales people being averse to allowing testing of many of the claims regarding impact, drop, and spillage - if Panasonic are as confident as they should be, this reluctance doesn't put the product in the best possible light.

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John H Woods
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Ouch

That sort of money buys half a dozen refurb 16GB i7 Thinkpads T410/T420s with SSDs.

If you have to work in truly adverse conditions, something like this could well be worth it. But for nearly all other situations, having a more expendable device; a couple of spares; and keeping nearly a grand saved up in the bank would seem to be preferable.

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ATTENTION SETI scientists! It's TOO LATE: ALIENS will ATTACK in 2049

John H Woods
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Re: Death by Alien Cockup ...

"Most pathogens are species specific" -- Brewster's Angle Grinder

True, but some organisms can transfer genetic material even between kingdoms (e.g. Agrobacterium tumefaciens). And pathogen is as pathogen does: the symbionts or commensals you mention would, if they harmed us, also be pathogens :-)

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John H Woods
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Death by Alien Cockup ...

Extrapolating from our own society (I realize it's a sample of one, but it is also currently the entire known population) any visitors would be, at least initially, wide-eyed enthusiastic researchers rather than a full-on military invasion force. They'll probably end up obliterating us by accident, by bringing native pathogens with them (a sort of reverse War of the Worlds).

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Gullible Apple users targeted by bogus order cancellation scam

John H Woods
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Re: The Oracle of technology

"bad grammar may well be intentional to grab the slightly less intelligent"

This pdf from Microsoft makes a fairly compelling case.

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Watch: China has made an internet censorship THEME SONG

John H Woods
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re: Portmanteau word needed ...

... horrimused?

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CAR? Check. DRIVER? Nope. OK, let's go, says British govt

John H Woods
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Re: Would you actually, really get in one?

"...even then your house might get hit by an airplane which drops out of the sky due to an autopilot software glitch" --- joeW

I always turn the landing light off, just to be sure.

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John H Woods
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Re: Interesting ethics ahead

"A driver faced with a child walking out from between two parked cars will subjectively "do their best" to avoid a collision. Whatever the outcome."

I think the computer will do the same, only better and faster. The passenger is in a metal box with a seat belt, and airbag and a crumple zone. The driverless car is also likely to be tootling through the town slower than the wetware. In the end, hitting a child who has stepped out between parked cars is always the drivers fault - you were going too fast for the conditions.

The instinctive response of a human is often to swerve into oncoming traffic --- the very worst avoidance strategy, whereas immediate maximum straight line braking is much easier for a robot.

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John H Woods
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hi tech saviour of fading historic asset

"But seriously, driverless cars will allow people to be more sociable in more rural areas." --- Dave 126

Interesting, perhaps the highest tech we have will save our country pub?

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Skin colour's irrelevant. Just hire competent folk on their merits, FFS

John H Woods
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Ethnic Origin:

African --- aren't we all?

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Worried you got PINK EYE when you shook hands? Doctor Google will see you now

John H Woods
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Re: Kudos for that JKJ ref

Just reading your comment had me laughing as I remembered the incident of the comic song.

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Swedish National Font marches to the sound of whalesong

John H Woods
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Words on flags ...

We could do with some words superimposed on our flag, even if it is just THIS WAY UP. Bloody annoys me when I see it upside down, not quite sure why (probably growing up in the bosom of the British Army of the Rhine). Or just stick that Welsh Dragon on it, that'd make it a bit more obvious, as well as giving them a proper place on the flag. But, for goodness sake, keep those responsible for the London 2012 logo WELL AWAY.

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Boffin the boffin and his boffinry pals in double dwarf super-prang alert

John H Woods
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Re: Boffin schmoffin

dsuden: "What is this unending fascination the Register has with the term, "boffin?"

It is a recurring in joke shared with the regular readership in a similar style to those which appear in Private Eye

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WATCH IT: It's watching you as you WATCH IT (Your Samsung telly is)

John H Woods
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It'll get even worse than that ...

... these things will be shipped with data SIMs eventually, so even if you forbid WiFi they'll be looking for a way to get onto the network.

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Smartphones don’t dumb you down, they DUMB you UP

John H Woods
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Re: GIF

A double? I see yours is a LARGE ONE!

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First look: Ordnance Survey lifts kimono on next-gen map app

John H Woods
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Re: Openstreetmap and Osmand

I find Maverick (Pro) a very good [Android] application for consuming the OS Explorer maps. For a few quid, you really can't go wrong (although there's so much in the free version that I only coughed up to support the developer, rather than get any more features).

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O2 notifies data cops 'for courtesy' ... AFTER El Reg intervenes in email phish dustup

John H Woods
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plus form addressing

Although some companies incorrectly forbid it, it's worth using unique email addresses of the form username+companyname@emailprovider, e.g. jhwoods+O2@live.co.uk. The email turns up in the normal address box but you can still see the original address that was used and incorporate it in filters etc. If you start getting phishing emails with +companyname in the to: address, it's a pretty safe bet your details came from them.

It's possible that smarter scammers will trim the +form, but in practice I've found it a useful technique to determine who is sharing emails. However, in this case, the presence of PUK codes (who else do you ever share those with?) is pretty much a slam dunk, isn't it?

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UK not-spot deal: When we said '2017’, we meant 1 DAY BEFORE 2018

John H Woods
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By 2017

If someone promised me something by 17:00, and I didn't get it till 17:59, I would be a lot happier with an apology and an acknowledgement that it was an hour late than I would be with them trying to tell me that not only did they actually mean any time between 17h and 18h, but that everybody knows that's that what it means.

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New claim: D-Link router exposes unprotected config controls to web – DNS hijackers, ahoy!

John H Woods
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Sale of Goods Act

(IANALBIPOOTI) If I had one of these, I would be sending it back to the *seller* for a refund or replacement. We need to establish that routers that have vulnerabilities like these are simply not fit for purpose; any more than an ostensibly secure door lock than can be opened with a bit of judicious jiggling.

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BY JUPITER: The science behind Friday's Solar System light show

John H Woods
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Flash

Just uninstalled it. Make your minds up guys! :-)

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Apple CEO: Fandroids are BINNING Android in favour of IPHONES

John H Woods
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Re: "Only 15 per cent of iPhone 6 customers have upgraded from other iPhones."

You should hang on to YOUR MISSUS for dear life. Small hands.

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Twitter ATTENTION SEEKERS can now blab to each other IN PRIVATE

John H Woods
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Joke

Re: Dear Claire,

#weirdo

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Hoaxer posing as GCHQ boss prank-calls PM Cameron

John H Woods
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Re: Two very different incidents

"You have to assume that anyone with an agenda already knows the phone numbers of most of your workforce" -- NumptyScrub

Agreed, but I don't think that being aware that serious actors already have this information should cause one to drop one's guard -- I doubt the person who provided the number thought it through and decided, well, all our enemies have the director's personal number anyway, so what's the harm? Giving away a personal detail like this is symptomatic of an organisation inadequately defended against social engineering attacks.

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John H Woods
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Two very different incidents

It seems to me that it may not be that big a deal that someone fluked a call through to the PM, as long as he's smart enough not to be social engineered (is he?). But the handing out of a mobile number, whether classified or not, for any employee, let alone a senior one, is a serious security breach. You try phoning my company (a bit of Googling will tell you who it is) and I will be absolutely gobsmacked if they give you my mobile number, job title or even confirm that I work there.

We expect GCHQ to be at least as resistant to social-engineering as major corporations, don't we? What really worries me is if the disclosed number was used to enable the second incident - did DC see a caller ID which initially led him to believe it was the director of GCHQ?

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Thailand: 'The nail that sticks up gets hammered down'

John H Woods
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Re: I respect this ...

"It would be interesting to hear the author's view of how repressive and intrusive UK legislation and proposals are vs. Thailand."

It would be interesting yes. But I've never been a sucker for the fallacy of relative privation ("it's so much worse in Thailand, so what are we complaining about"), and I think we need to be clear that, inasmuch there are 'nuances', these should not exist at the level of the IT professional, however senior or experienced. Judge says surveillance on those people there, IT professional says OK. Anybody else says surveillance on those people there, IT professional says NO.

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John H Woods
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I respect this ...

"I would have been obligated to spy on and report on my customers, monitoring their communications for “sedition”, and I found the prospect of that intolerable."

... but I wonder if you've been following the UK news whilst you've been away?

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Ex Machina – a smart, suspenseful satire of our technology gods

John H Woods
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"Next: the sphincter-tightening terror of tensor calculus." --- Destroy All Monsters

Ah, yes the method of steepest descent can give one the willies --- especially if one is in a complex plane (like an Airbus a320)

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Oi, Aussie sports fans! Take that selfie stick and stick it

John H Woods
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Re: I don't watch much TV.

"What is a 'selfie stick'?" -- Bleu

A selfie- or narcis-stick is a (usually telescopic) handheld monopod to increase the field of view available when taking a selfie. As for whether you need one, you may find this flowchart helpful

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SURPRISE! Microsoft pops open Windows 10 Preview build early

John H Woods
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Re: Boot

"My laptop does that all the time. It's Linux Mint and it's called a "feature" :D"

It's not Mint, it's GRUB. And it's easy to configure to, amongst other stuff:

1) autostart an entry after n seconds

2) default to the last started entry

3) not show a menu unless requested

Sounds like you need (2) and (3) - a few minutes work with a search engine will tell you what to do.

[Edit: you can use the tool grub-customizer if you don't fancy editing the config file]

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