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* Posts by John H Woods

1308 posts • joined 14 Nov 2007

Getting documents all too easy for Snowden

John H Woods
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Re: It's a people problem

"Access all areas" costume:

0) Attitude

1) Dark suit, smart but not too sharp, with boring tie

2) Clipboard

3) Credit card sized photocard on lanyard

4) High Vis Jacket

5) Hard hat

I reckon you can get into anywhere if you have all 6.

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UK claims 'significant lead' in drones after Taranis test flight

John H Woods
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When I read the introductory quote, I wondered ...

... if there's a market for drones which kill people by stealthily dropping tortoises on their head. Maybe only works for bald targets ...

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HP's hiring: UK jobs for, er, UK workers.... maybe

John H Woods
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"our priorities of cloud, big data, security and mobility"

Aren't everybody's? I have heard this mantra from a few companies. This is what it appears to mean:

cloud = any (rack in a) remote data centre hosting VMs

big data = any database too big to run under MS Access

security = the only staff who can get onto the servers are the penetration testers

mobile = apps are still the thing, aren't they?

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Sony set to axe 5,000 workers worldwide as it flings PC biz overboard

John H Woods
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Re: Their market -- agreed

I shall be sending my son to uni with a nice cheap, robust Thinkpad to do proper portable work on. With the money I save I shall buy a nice monitor he can use back at digs. And maybe a nice Thunderbolt external graphics box in case he fancies a spot of gaming.

In my experience Stinkpads survive drops, spills and years of 'utilitarian' handling. They also don't attract attention. If he does break it, or loses it, I'll just buy him another. My stepdaughter's dad bought her a MacBook pro costing more than a good-enough laptop and a great gaming rig combined. It does look the bomb, but ... and I bet it's not insured.

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fWHoaR! Trick-cyclists crack eternal mystery of WHAT WOMEN WANT in a man

John H Woods
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Unhappy

Perfect timing ...

... as my son has just been moaning that he has inherited my square head. But I really think that if I had to look like a famous Scandinavian, SWIMBO would have prefered Alexander Skarsgård to Anders Breivik.

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Dejected NFL fans seek smut after Super Bowl blowout

John H Woods
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Re: A safe-for-work blog post?

... indeed, FB refused to accept a comment with that URL.

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Bletchley Park spat 'halts work on rare German cipher machine'

John H Woods
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Re: Museum of bolted stable doors

What happens if BPT fails? Do some people make some money from selling the prime development land on which it sits, by any chance?

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Devs: We'll bury Candy Crush King under HEAPS of candy apps

John H Woods
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In the UK ...

... SAGA is a holiday company catering to a specific demographic. I think it is "Society for the Appreciation of the Golden Age" but most Brits think it stands for "Send a Granny Away"

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ISS astronauts to grow tomatoes and rice …. IN SPAAAAACE

John H Woods
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@Vociferous Re: Of course they are safe.

Rhubarb!

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Blocking BitTorrent search sites 'ineffective': Pirate Bay ban lifted for Dutch ISPs

John H Woods
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Re: Are media companies *driving* piracy ?

Case in point: Breaking Bad. Widely considered one of the best things to ever appear on TV, it showed in the UK for two seasons on FX / C5 and then you had to subscribe to Netflix to watch the rest of it.

I have no idea as to current status but I know that the UK Netflix once compared very poorly to the US Netflix in terms of content. As someone with an everything-but-the-porn (I have the internet for that) SKY subscription, I was pretty annoyed not to be able to watch Seasons 3 to 5 except with a brand new subscription to a service I wanted nothing else from, or to buy - long after air dates (and therefore critics' spoilers), box sets of DVDs or Blurays.

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Want a touch-friendly solar-powered laptop? Apple just patented it

John H Woods
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Re: Sure smells like apple innovation in here

The trouble with your ideal lone-inventor situation is that it is now almost impossible to get a patent that will stand up by doing it yourself. If you can't afford tens of thousands of pounds for the work of patent lawyers etc there's almost no point applying for a patent.

I have/had what seems to be a patentable and profitable idea, but soon realized that I just cannot raise the the capital to bring it to fruition - and if I could raise it, I probably couldn't risk it.

The lone worker is much better off creating a work of art, at which point they can receive the full protection of the law by simply writing Copyright *Year* *Full Name* on it. Most patents are now little more than yet more gambling chips for big corporations, their investors and their lawyers.

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Ancient video of Steve Jobs launching the first Apple Mac found

John H Woods
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Sensitivity to context ...

... the most important part of critical thinking; I suppose you object to the superb(ly titled) Antique Code Show, as well?

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Facebook debunks Princeton's STUDY OF DOOM in epic comeback

John H Woods
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Re: Of great didactic value.

Also worth remembering xkcd 552

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UK.gov: NO MORE tech deals bigger than £100m. Unless we feel like it

John H Woods
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Is this the first time that ...

... the lessons from 'lessons learned' have actually been learned?

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UK.gov recruiting 400 crack CompSci experts to go into teaching

John H Woods
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The real elephant in the room ...

... is the idea of prioritising teaching kids the most outsourceable skill in the entire world.

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Walking while texting can – OUCH! – end badly, say boffins

John H Woods
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"I'm all for boffinery in any guise but..."

... I'm strangely uninterested in the somewhat counter-intuitive finding that it is an *increase* in head movement that may be responsible, or that using kinematics to quantify the effects of distraction on motor control might be interesting or even have future applications.

If I may comment on your own research proposal, I think it would be useful to determine the approximate probabililty of getting into an unpleasant fracas by shouting 'Oi, Muppet!" at someone looking at their phone.

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Brit boffin tests LETTUCE as wire for future computers

John H Woods
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Re: The University of West England?

@Chris W

I see what you mean ... but ... University and Polytechnic meant specific things. In particular, Polytechnics could not award their own degrees, these were certified by an external body (the CNAA, I think). I agree with you that university degrees seem to have become somewhat undervalued but I don't think we can blame that solely on the reclassification of Polytechnics (many of which were already highly regarded) to Universities.

I'm pretty sure we can't blame Labour, either - IIRC it was the Higher Eductation Act of 1992 that made Polytechnics into Universities (I was half way through a PhD at Oxford Poly when it became Oxford Brookes University, sarcastically referred to as Oxford "B"). So the change happened either under Thatcher or Major, can't remember which.

PS I was actually a bit annoyed - Oxford Polytechnic had a good reputation in my field - and the new name had no reputation at all :-)

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John H Woods
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Re: The University of West England?

It appears you don't know what research is: firstly, if you had done some of your own you would know UWE is actually fairly well regarded academically; secondly, you would know that good research can get done at poor institutions (or in a garden shed) and that bad research can still get done at highly regarded ones.

I have no affiliation with UWE. If I did, it would make it easier for those with a critical thinking deficit to disregard what I have said above, although it would not, of course, invalidate my argument.

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Good news: 'password' is no longer the #1 sesame opener, now it's '123456'

John H Woods
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Joke

Dvorak keymap helps ...

If I press the keys P-a-s-s-w-o-r-d on my keyboard, I get "Laoo,rpe". And if I switch back to Qwerty, "Password" comes out as "Ra;;,sho". Both of these pass muster as strong passwords on nearly every site I try.

It's also useful if you leave your computer momentarily whilst it is still logged in, it's pretty hard for your 'friends' or colleagues to do much of anything in a short time when only the A, M, and the number keys are in the same place!

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EE BrightBox routers can be hacked 'by simple copy/paste operation'

John H Woods
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Pressure required...

... same old story, day in, day out. Is it not possible to sue EE for exposing one to such risks? There's got to be a project here for an enterprising law student, surely?

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Even 'Your computer has a virus' cold-call gits are migrating off XP

John H Woods
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@scub

glad you mentioned that. I have played along with these a number of times to see if I can get any information that would assist in making a report. I have come to the conclusion that a lot of the staff think they are actually working for a legitimate company, and are just as much dupes as their targets.

I may be wrong, too trusting, etc, but that's how it seems to me - also explains how many of them can be so convincing.

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Furtive ebook readers push Hitler's Mein Kampf up the charts

John H Woods
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Obvious choice missing ...

... Justine or anything else by de Sade.

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Staffs Police face data protection probe over 'drink drivers named' Twitter campaign

John H Woods
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Police above the law ...

... it can go the other way ...

A former Warwickshire magistrate, Alan Marks, drove off a Stratford-upon-Avon roundabout into people drinking coffee at Costa's pavement tables, injuring several people including himself in April last year. Police decided not to charge anyone due to 'insufficient evidence'. Seems to everybody here that there's plenty of evidence the driver lost control of the car and there's a case to answer. Sure he may be found not guilty for a number of reasons, but the fact there won't even be a trial (and apparently at the decision of the police, rather than the CPS) is pretty incredible.

** Edit: after a public outcry, and a second investigation, the case has finally come to court

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Google poised to become world's first TREEELLION DOLLAR company?

John H Woods
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Re: Pha!

Guys, the use of the short scale for pounds sterling is not only standard but official ...

http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/written_answers/1974/dec/20/billion-definition#S5CV0883P0_19741220_CWA_439

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Snapchat vows to shut its hole in wake of 4.6 million user data breach

John H Woods
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Re: Most pointless leak and breach ever

Piro: "It's like leaving your door open, telling people you left your door open, then being surprised when someone nicks your TV."

... not so much your TV, but all your clients' property that you were storing for them.

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Chinese Jade RABBIT SIGHTED ON MOON by NASA probe

John H Woods
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Joke

Wouldn't it be better if solar panels were ...

... less shiny?

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Snapchat: In 'theory' you could hack... Oh CRAP is that 4.6 MILLION users' details?

John H Woods
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That turned down $3bn ...

... is fading into the distance.

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IBM spends holiday season wrangling e-tail FAIL

John H Woods
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Re: Whatever,

Honest answer ...

I don't know, because I don't know if you consider me one of the drooling masses :-)

I live four miles outside Stratford-upon-Avon. Driving into 'town' (and parking) costs more than having most items delivered to the house next day, even if I valued my time at 0/hr (which I don't). I work mainly from home so delivery is not a problem and even when I am out during working hours I have completely trustworthy neighbours (and live in a place where all but the highest value items can be safely left outside the house anyway).

Online retail in the UK often undercuts retail prices very significantly, which is another factor: I bought three 1m HDMI leads through Amazon for less than the price of a single one from our local consumer electronics outlet. Outside big cities, local retailers have limited stock - I can buy e-cigarette liquid locally, but not the brand my wife uses.

Being in the UK, I have a lot of additional rights when I buy online, the key one is the ability to return items uncontested if I change my mind for any reason. I don't worry too much about ID theft, having taken a few basic precautions, and if the worst came to the worst I'm not worth that much anyway.

I suspect a lot of people find themselves in the same circumstances; does that answer your question?

Edit: I do, however, support my local shop and non-chain and small-chain local businesses.

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Analogue radio will CONTINUE in Blighty as Minister of Fun dodges D-Day death sentence

John H Woods
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DAB vs 3G

I have tried DAB in the car, it's horrible. FM has become pretty bad too - I can't help feeling an earlier post suggesting they've powered down some FM stations must be correct.

The big surprise is that a phone on '3' on an all-you-can-eat data plan gives more continuous coverage than DAB - and sounds much better too, not to mention having almost infinitely more choice - even before you count the replay services such as iPlayer radio.

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Excise Xmas prezzie indecision MISERY with El Reg’s gift guide²

John H Woods
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Re: Hard-learned lesson

I always install some kind of remote desktop on computers belonging to friends and family the very first time they ask for help. Principally because the 'non-technical' seem to think it's ok to revert to utterly helpless mode when they ask for assistance. People who correctly realise that phoning their garage to tell them "my car doesn't work" would be ridiculously vague still seem to think that's all they need to tell you about a PC, tablet, etc.

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Snowden latest: NSA stalks the human race using Google, ad cookies

John H Woods
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Re: Fuck Off!

Live DVD as an ISO image, VM with no disk device boots from that. Open the browser, snapshot the VM.

Everytime you want to browse, run the snapshot.

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HP’s ENORMO-SLAB: The Slate 21 MONSTER tablet

John H Woods
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Re: 350 squid, lol

Not sure it would be that easy. From what I've heard of this screen you'd need to spend 150 to equal it, and 20 to get reasonable speakers. That leaves you 159 for your (presumably linux) PC.

Even if you could beat it, you'd end up with the standard ugly box, kb, mouse and screen. I think HP have hit a real sweet spot with this price.

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Why Microsoft absolutely DOESN'T need its own Steve Jobs

John H Woods
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Re: A fine line between Vision and Arrogance

" There are principles of User Interface discoverability which TIFKAM drives a horse & cart through."

Absolutely. I know fine that the charms menu slides in from the middle right when I go to the top right or bottom right corners, but i still find myself putting the mouse in the middle of the right hand edge momentarily, before remembering that its origin is not its trigger.

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Brits to do £5bn worth of their Christmas shopping online

John H Woods
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UK Question

Doesn't using click-and-collect immediately divest one of ones rights under the Distance Selling Regulations?

If I buy something online I can return it if I don't like it. I cannot be charged a 're-stocking fee' regardless of the T&Cs of the seller. The return cannot be refused because it has been 'used' or 'is not in its original packaging', despite the efforts of many big corporates to hide these rights from their customers.

But I think actually going to collect it from the shop counts as buying in the shop, albeit with online 'reservation' and the DSRs no longer apply. Or do they only cease if you *pay* in the shop, whereas you are covered if you pay online and just collect the goods from the shop? Any lawyers able to comment?

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Reg man inhales the smooth, non-cancerous, taste of USB nicotine

John H Woods
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Re: Not the same as the real thing

Actually there are cig-type e-cigs that *are* quite good, although they are more expensive. My wife is happy with V2s for smoking outdoors and a tank-type thing for smoking at home. She is a previously moderate-to-heavy smoker who hasn't smoked cigs since her brain told her to stop in Feb 2010 (by having a stroke).

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Undercover BBC man exposes Amazon worker drone's daily 11-mile trek

John H Woods
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Re: How long did he do it?

"... something like 20 minutes for lunch with 10 of them taken up by going through security to get to somewhere..."

This is probably the only really unfair thing here. Company security needs to be done on company time. But as for the walking - plenty of people do that - binmen for example. In fact, I'd love to have a non-sedentary job, but the pay tends to suck.

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FAT PIPE for ALL: Britain’s new tech firms take it from the telcos

John H Woods
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if i weren't broke...

I would register featheredbuttocks.com and put a link to this marvellous rant.

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LG: You can stop hiding from your scary SPY TELLY quite soon now

John H Woods
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Re: Encrptyed?

"Man, if I ever saw encrypted info leaving my network from one of my appliances, it would be hammer time for certain. And not just on the TV, if I ever found any of the devs..."

Make sure they give you the names of the managers and execs responsible first ...

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Wolfram's new equation: Mathematica+RPi=child geniuses everywhere

John H Woods
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If you're interested in maths education...

although somewhat limited in scope, for those parts of the curriculum where it can be used Geogebra is extremely good.

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Cryptolocker infects cop PC: Massachusetts plod fork out Bitcoin ransom

John H Woods
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Re: Opening attachments

Mike 16,

Much better expressed than my earlier ramble. It is simply not acceptable to say to people that they should not open attachments. If it were, it would be perfectly acceptable to configure the destination mail server to reject any mail with attachments. The business would put up with that for exactly 1 second before screaming to IT to change it back.

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John H Woods
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Re: To be fair ...

Sorry Keith, you're right - for Cryptolocker the documented cases are executables. It should certainly not be possible to one-click an executable from an email and have it run. In this case it is not a helper application but the email client itself which is at fault. However, I think my point - in general - still holds. One SHOULD be able to open non-executable attachments in emails, that really are PDFs, JPEGs etc, with no other risk than the content not displaying, or the user not really liking the content that is displayed - and absolutely without the risk that one's machine will be compromised.

The advice that attachments should never be opened unless you know what they contain is logically meaningless as I have already said; the advice that you should not open them unless you are expecting them gives a false sense of security when you *are* expecting an attachment; and the advice that you check the identity of the sender is (in the absence of a digital signature) is meaningless. And even if one were sure about the originator, who is to say the originator is not compromised?

So I'm sticking to my guns about helper applications, but accept that in this case I'm off topic. However, Many thanks for the heads-up about mapped drives - that is an important point.

... John

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John H Woods
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To be fair ...

... the advice about not opening attachments is not helpful. Sometimes there's nothing in the email but the attachment and sender addresses can be spoofed, so unless you have a policy that all incoming email has to be digitally signed (in which case no unsigned mail should never be delivered to the user, so they can't open it anyway) you are, at some stage, going to have to open attachments. I mean, honestly, who can say with a straight face that you shouldn't open attachments unless you are sure of their contents? If you are sure of their contents you don't need to open them at all!

The problem is in the helper applications. Adobe's PDF Reader is a particular culprit. There is no way that viewing any kind of document should EVER allow any executable code to run without further explicit confirmation from the user. We are far too lenient about applications that allow remote execution exploits.

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Winamp is still a thing? NOPE: It'll be silenced forever in December

John H Woods
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Like Tie Rack ...

... I thought it had gone away years ago.

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Google shows off scanned-in Gettysburg Address drafts

John H Woods
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My favorite version of the Gettysburg Address ...

http://norvig.com/Gettysburg/sld001.htm

... is also the best critique of PowerPoint that I have seen to date.

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Patent law? It's all about Apples, Newton and iPads

John H Woods
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Re: @John H Woods - economics in two pages never really works

Dear AC 04:21,

It is impossible to answer your question, if indeed you really seek an answer, without understanding the distinction you intend to convey by quoting "education" in that manner.

I am naturally aware, as are many people, that there is a risk that at least some medical journals may effectively operate as the part of the marketing departments of Big Pharma (Smith, 2005; Spurling et al., 2011; Handel et al., 2012).

Presumably we could agree that the ability to read and understand cogent arguments (i.e. that some journal articles should be taken with varying sizes of pinches of salt) and come to our own conclusions about them is a product of (perhaps a certain kind of) education. As, I would suggest, is the ability to go beyond feelings such as "there's no smoke without fire; it's obviously a conspiracy" and consider the evidence directly -- in this case that the benefits of MMR massively outweigh its risk.

A recent example: there was outrage a few weeks ago from some politicians that approximately £700 of the cost of an NHS childbirth was insurance premium. This was repeated ad nauseam by the journalists, and many people relayed this "news" to me (I have worked on projects for Insurance Companies, and the NHS) as if it were shocking. When I asked them what was shocking, that the risk of an accident necessitating life-long support of the child might be "as high" as a few cases in 100,000 or that the cost of that life-long support might be "as much" as a few £million, these people looked at me as if I were a special kind of idiot - of course those figures are perfectly reasonable. But, nevertheless, wasn't it shocking that insuring against this risk cost several hundred pounds?

This is what I mean by lack of education being the opposite of a public good. The politicians expressing the outrage are either uneducated themselves, or are exploiting a lack of public education to promote a political agenda. The journalists repeating it are either uneducated themselves, or are exploiting a lack of public education to report a good story. The people repeating it to me as if it were amazing are mostly intelligent people who have unfortunately missed that part of their education that would have empowered them to think critically about what is presented to them and to realize that it is not really all that amazing. In fact, I think it is mainly lack of empowerment (i.e. self confidence to apply their own intelligence and reach their own conclusions) rather than ability. Nevertheless, I did not see a single politician or pundit on the TV, Radio or in print putting forward the point of view that the insurance premium is pretty much the right order of magnitude for the insured risk. I'm sure some did, but it would certainly not have attracted the same attention.

Now that little storm in a teacup subsided without apparent harm, apart from wasting everybody's time. But it is the same sort of thing preventing us from using more nuclear power, even though the radiological risks are lower than those of fossil fuels; causing children to die of preventable illnesses, even though the risks of preventative vaccination are tiny in comparison; and numerous other public policy problems.

---

Handel et al., 2012 BMJ 2012;344:e4212

Smith R., 2005 Medical Journals Are an Extension of the Marketing Arm of Pharmaceutical Companies. PLoS Med 2(5)

Spurling et al., 2011, The Lancet, 378

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John H Woods
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Re: economics in two pages never really works

"The whole sorry tale of MMR and the triple vaccine is an example of what happens ... WHEN MEDICAL FRAUDS SUCH AS ANDREW WAKEFIELD PUBLISH BOLLOCKS." The very fact MMR take-up is still depressed actually supports the inverse of the hypothesis that education is a public good; i.e. that lack of education negatively impacts a society.

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LOOK UP! Comet ISON could EXPLODE in our skies – astronomers

John H Woods
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Re: Can we stop ...

I suppose some journo must have seen C2012/S1 (ISON) written down and thought the contents of the brackets was the unofficial name rather than the source of the designation.

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PlayStation 4 BLUE LIGHT OF DEATH blamed on power cords, TV sets, butterflies in China

John H Woods
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Re: Shows how stupid it is having one indicator that covers all possible failures

Agreed, power-on BIOS beeps can be surprisingly informative

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