* Posts by Paul Crawford

2594 posts • joined 15 Mar 2007

Fanbois designing Windows 10 – where's it going to end?

Paul Crawford
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Democracy?

"but like real democracy, it only works if every person has one vote"

That aspect appeals to the idea of fairness - that the robber barons, etc, don't get to dictate over the views of the proletariat by virtue of money or connections.

But the problem with democracy in practice is the same as MS has, the voters are often ill-informed or idiots, and the choices they have have been pre-selected by a few with vested interests.

However, it should also be stressed that GUI stupidity is not a MS exclusive, as we see various flavours of Linux desktops, browsers like Chrome and Firefox, and the anointed "master" of GUI design Apple all pushing unwanted and/or ugly and/or irritating changes our on long suffering users.

Really what a lot of people don't want is just that - change for no good reason (as they see it). Would I be so pissed off with the Office ribbon if there was a small config option to put the menus back as they were? No. Same for changes Gnome has made, etc.

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Germany licks lips, eyes new data gulp with revised retention law

Paul Crawford
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Re: Report contains several factual errors

You seem to have ignored the part that it will be the service operators who hold the data, not the police. so they have to make a request, with justification I hope, as they currently do for phone billing records.

Also it might not be a case of you being a criminal, you might also be the victim and said short-term metadata might be of help.

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Paul Crawford
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Re: Report contains several factual errors

I doubt very much that data retention has helped stop terrorist attacks, etc, in spite of all that Gov around the world claim as the justification.

However, I can see some use for normal policing of being able to access recent data (maybe several weeks as the Germans appear to be proposing). For example if someone goes missing in suspicious circumstance to find the last place their mobile was seen at, etc, or if someone is accused of committing a crime in a given location/time window.

The real issue most folk have about data retention is (a) the time-scale and what long term hoarding that means for digging dirt on those who fall out of favour, and (b) access by world+dog in government on the slightest pretence, and (c) feature-creep when it becomes useful for something else that is profitable, etc.

So personally I don't have a problem of short-term retention of several weeks and all access being by a properly justified court order.

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Fedora 22: Don't be glum about the demise of Yum – this is a welcome update

Paul Crawford
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Unhappy

"Nautilus, the default file browser which has about 30 per cent of the features it once had"

And that kind of sums up the whole GNOME 3 experience. In fact it seems to sum up the majority of GUI changes these days, pointless tinkering with eye-candy and the removal of features that some up-their-own-arse developer decided you didn't really need.

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It's not over 'til Saturn's spongy moon sings: Cassini probe set for final Hyperion fly-by

Paul Crawford
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Wasp's nest?

Sure its not the Wirrn?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Ark_in_Space

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The rare metals debate: Only trace elements of sanity found

Paul Crawford
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Thumb Up

Thanks for an interesting article - certainly I had no idea of the definitions used, and how by-product elements are, by definition, ones without reserves.

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The time on Microsoft Azure will be: Different by a second, everywhere

Paul Crawford
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Re: Obviously the sensible solution would be...

No, the UNIX time_t follows UTC and so is not able to perform correct time duration calculations over the leap-second period as there are discontinuities at those points.

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Paul Crawford
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Real "Root of the problem"

A more general problem with programmers is they use "clock time" as a substitute for "order of events".

This works well if all events are being recorded with consistent time stamps, say for conditional compilation on a local machine where you can check if the .o file in one location is older then your .c file in another, or when you pressed the "build" button in the GUI, etc.

Things break due to time faults: such as the same conditional process on a network file system where the time stamp of some files is due to the servers' clock, and others locally are from the client's clock which is different, or the file system's time resolution (e.g. 2 seconds on FAT32 as a worst case) is now greater than the interval between steps, etc.

Then we get in to all sorts of debates abut keeping leap seconds to work around dumb programming. But really what the programmers & software architects should be asking is down to the ACID database situation - how do you guarantee correct order of events in a process if the local clocks are not fully in sync?

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Paul Crawford
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Re: Root of the problem

Time-obsessives have two things:

1) Atomic time, which is precise and monotonic (the spherical cow).

2) Human/civil/UTC time that follows the Earth's rotation (upon which our concept of time and units were based). And there are differing degrees of the (look up UT1 & UT2 if you want to know more). This is your real cow, and equivalent choice of Frisian, Aberdeen Angus, etc...

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Paul Crawford
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NTP handles leap seconds in the "correct way" as far as it is defined, in that it makes UTC follow its defined values. The problem in the more general sense is you have two concepts of time, you have:

(1) The UTC/Civil definition of days being 24 hours, of 60 minutes of 60 seconds always, along with a formulae for dates that make up the Gregorian calendar (lets keep quiet for now about other calendars).

(2) You also want for various reasons staying in approximate synchronisation with the solar time - i.e. that at, say, 0 longitude the 12:00 local is, on a yearly average, the time the sun is overhead.

Now the second is define these days with extreme precision, but the Earth's rotation is variable and, worst of all, not quite predictable due to stuff moving around inside as well as tidal friction, etc.

The correct way to do all of this, of course, already is known and implemented in some systems that really matter, and that is to have you clock keeping "atomic" time that has no discontinuities, and then to apply a leap-second correction to get "civil" time. See:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Atomic_Time

That is exactly how the GPS satellites do it, and their own GPS time was in sync with UTC in 1980 and is now 16 seconds different.

What is a problem for more software when it comes down to second "accuracy" is the most computer libraries are based on (1) and:

a) They don't quite know how to deal with the 59-second or 61-second minutes that happen when you get a second removed/added.

b) Also to perform the conversion to/from atomic time you need the offset values and as they have to be updated as the Earth's motion is observed, so it is hard to do correctly on anything stand-alone. You then would need internet access and the security problem that brings, and the grief caused when in a few years some web developer stupidly change URLs of important data for no obvious reason when tarting up sites.

Finally, there is a project (which I have not checked/tried yet) to give you a local NTP "fluid time Wednesday" effect here:

https://support.ntp.org/bin/view/Dev/LeapSecondTest

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Paul Crawford
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NTP handles this correctly.

Most OS can handle it correctly as well, but from time to time (groan!) someone changes the time-handling code and then fails to test it on leap seconds and you get problems, like the Linux glitch a year or so ago.

You can get GPS simulators and create your own NTP servers that push out this sort of thing for testing, so its quite possible to do, but people don't. And the results are predictable. Of course, you also get programmers doing dumb thing to implement delays, etc, rather than using the proper OS calls, leading to more bugs.

I personally think they should step the second backwards and forwards every Wed for a couple of months - then we would get OS and application software tested and fixed. One can hope they would fix it...

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BRAIN STORM: Nine mislaid cerebra found near railway line in New York

Paul Crawford
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Re: It wasn't zombies who left them...

I think it's an Igor you are looking for...

(don't worry one will appear behind you as if by magic)

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Yay for Tor! It's given us RANSOMWARE-as-a-service

Paul Crawford
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Facepalm

"ransomware...as a Windows screensaver"

Really, are people STILL falling for that one?

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Shuttleworth delivers death blow in Umbongoland dispute

Paul Crawford
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Boffin

Re: Umbongoland

Another minor aspect of the Umbongo "soft drink" was it would not ferment.

In spite of claiming to be fruity juice there must have been some non-volatile preservative in there as even boiling it up, then cooling it and adding yeast, etc, failed to produce any viable fermentation.

I'm sure you will understand how important this information is to your whole day...

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Paul Crawford
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Out of curiosity (and really not trolling here) can you point to an example of the agreement so other commentards can judge?

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Microsoft to TAKE OUT THE TRASH in the Windows Store

Paul Crawford
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Exactly - that is what proper reviews and feedback is for, to let potential buyers know if its any good!

That and a half-decent try before you buy option to let you see if it really does what they claim.

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Windows 10 won't help. The PC biz is doomed, DOOMED, I TELL YOU

Paul Crawford
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Re: Does anybody remember

I'm not sure even XP was worth it. I bought w2k and it was pretty good, but then the only noticeable feature it added compared to NT 4 was support for USB stuff, and I turned off the Fischer-Price menus and went with 'classic' which made it more or less the same.

Most folk who need Windows and have an interest are using Win7, which is basically Vista fixed, and only a few with 8.x even though there are underlying OS improvements. But as you say, its boring and nothing an OS does is exciting, more what it doesn't let other do to you that matters...

So most Windows sales will be down to replacing failed/obsolete hardware, and these days its either broken in a year or so due to a fault or works for 5+ years as a decent enough machine (gaming, etc, excepted).

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EU net neutrality could kneecap the Tories' opt-out pr0n filter plans

Paul Crawford
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Re: What has Network Neutrality got to do with this

"If one doesn't want it then its a 30 second operation to turn it off. What is the problem ?"

"If one wants it then its a 30 second operation to turn it on. What is the problem ?"

There, fixed it for you.

Or do you really think we should all be treated like morons and/or sheep by the ISPs & gov in order to keep a few frothing idiots in Westminster or on Mumsnet happy?

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Finally! It's the year of Linux on the desktop TITSUP

Paul Crawford
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Sad to see any business go under, but we have not used that distro since around 2009. I quite liked the 2007 era desktop and it worked quite well and also I bought a bootable USB with it pre-installed which was quite a novelty then.

But they messed up and we moved to Ubuntu. Who also messed up post 10-12-ish, but they seem to be the best-ish around for general use and sadly most others are also going down the "make it dumber and uses systemd" path.

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There's a Moose loose aboot this hoose: Linux worm hijacks Twitter feeds for spam slinging

Paul Crawford
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Re: Except...

You are partially right, in that its hard to get anyone to understand stuff like cryptography in the first place, let alone to apply effort in to making it better by review and bug-fixing.

But you are also wrong in two very important ways:

Firstly having something open makes it a bigger risk to back-door, and certainly makes it very hard for anyone to be offering it and not to have the come-back if they were the one putting in back-doors or spyware. With COTS stuff you have to take it on trust, which is low these days, or to try and intercept all communications with wireshark or similar and to decode/decrypt them to find out what is happening. Are people willing to do that any more common that those willing to review open source code?

Secondly the idea that open source is not needed any more is utterly wrong, as today perhaps more than ever, we are seeing a "walled garden" approach to machines where some company decides what you can do with your own hardware, and what others are allowed to offer you. Similarly having data open only works if (a) the format is published AND correct, and (b) you have access to alternative software to make use of it. Without FOSS options there would be no pressure on the likes of MS, etc, to even pretend to offer open standards and protocols.

Remember how it took an EU anti-trust suite to get the SMB/CIFS protocol opened? Or how Oracle tried to sue Google on the basis that APIs should be copyright and thus no one can make interoperable code without a license?

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German watchdog rips off Facebook's thumbs after online fracas

Paul Crawford
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Re: Twitter et al should be covered by this too

We see more and more reasons to use a Tor-like system for everyday browsing, and it has nothing to do with legality or otherwise, and all about basic privacy. No need for the multi-hop effort of Tor, just a system (even browser plug-in) that randomly redirects your request to others in the same country as the target web site (so it can be presumed the content is legal there) for the short term path. That and keeping each tab private and deleting automatically on closing so cookies, etc, are not shared between sessions or sites you open separately. And also makes everyone's browser look like one of a very small set to render fingerprinting pretty useless.

A shame that web browsers are not really interested, instead keep pissing away effort on ever more useless GUIs and advertising revenue options.

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Skype hauled into court after refusing to hand call records to cops

Paul Crawford
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Courts should be involved

MS are quite right here. There should be a proper and judicially supervised system for accessing any data, and some process by which it is reported beyond the investigation.

Sure, MS and similar should freeze any records from deletion immediately on any reasonable police request, but to actually get the data there ought to be a proper system of oversight and one that will protect journalists, whistle-blowers, etc, form abuse by those in power.

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Geofencing: The ultra-low power frontier for the Internet of Things

Paul Crawford
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Re: Lawn mowers & logo

Same for unsecured 3D printers. Its all about the willy...

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2.8 million victims squared up by malicious Minecraft apps

Paul Crawford
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Re: In two minds here...

Better solution is for the OS to give the user the choice of permissions to allow, with default as more or less none. Then make the app developers justify each and every one of them before they get ticked.

Sure it will piss off a lot of 'free' apps where the business case is about whoring you from advertiser to scam artist, but maybe the long-term result would be a lot better.

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SLOPPY STELLAR CANNIBAL star is a NASTY 1, astroboffins squeal

Paul Crawford
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Relativity

"catching binary stars in this short-lived phase"

That is short-lived by stellar life times, still long as measured by our humble time upon this Earth.

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Windows Server 2003 end of support draws ever closer

Paul Crawford
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Trollface

"what did you do during Windows Server 2003 end of support?"

Opened a nice bottle of wine, sat back in my chair, and laughed.

Seriously, I have enough problems of my own without worrying about other's...

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New relay selection fix for Tor to spoil spooks' fun (eventually)

Paul Crawford
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Re: Hmmm

The gov paper is surprisingly sane and well thought out. Basically it says trying to ban stuff like Tor is a stupid plan as its difficult to do and would make the jobs of police, etc, harder in practice.

It remains to be seen if technically stupid and knee-jerking politicians listen to those who know something about the subject though...

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SAVE THE PLANKTON: So much more than whale food

Paul Crawford
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Is it not closer to tree cum then?

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High-level, state-sponsored Naikon hackers exposed

Paul Crawford
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Re: an executable file with a double extension.

Are systems still not filtering this stupid (but obviously effective) trick some 20 years after the dumbness was first noticed?

Strewth, as our antipodean cousins might say.

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Microsoft: Free Windows 10 for THIEVES and PIRATES? They can GET STUFFED

Paul Crawford
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Re: Where's my checksum?

Come now, what a silly suggestion!

If MS were to offer a correct list of file sizes and SAH256 checksums for all genuine files where would you get that joy of AV software borking your machine by misidentifying MS's own software?

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Blocking pirate sites doesn't weaken pirates say Euroboffins

Paul Crawford
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I think all but the most hardened freetard will accept the piracy reduces sales, but many would argue that things like stupid geo-restrictions and flaky device-specific DRM have a much more negative effect on sales of legitimate content.

But if you think El Reg's commentards are bad, just take a wander over to TorrentFreak. The articles there are very well written and often news-breaking, but the comments are often depressingly dumb and knuckle-dragging.

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Hacker 3D prints device that can crack a combo lock in 30 seconds

Paul Crawford
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Re: Brings back the memories

I think this is what you mean:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Permissive_Action_Link

And indeed there was an element of Dr Strangelove being a documentary not a black comedy.

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Dying to make time lapse videos? No? Well, Microsoft is doing it anyway!

Paul Crawford
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If it works as well as the demo they did a year or so ago it will make such videos tolerable!

No longer having to sit though 30 minutes of tedious juddery video when you can swoop though in 5 minutes of vaguely interesting and stable footage.

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4K refresh sees Blu-ray climb to 100GB, again

Paul Crawford
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Joke

Re: Neil Barnes

"Never mind the quality... feel the width."

Are the pr0n studios interested then?

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It’s Adobe’s Creative Cloud TITSUP birthday. Ease the pain with its RGB-wrangling rivals

Paul Crawford
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Re: Different angle

If you are not doing massive images, etc, you might want to create an XP or Win7 VM and use that for your photo editing. I have a few VMs with old CAD and editor software just for that sort of job - saves my having to dual boot now.

Also for most VMs (certainly VMware player) you can save the VM state mid-operation so you can then shut down or reboot your main PC and then later resume the VM from *exactly* where you were...

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World of the strange: There will be NINE KINDS of Windows 10

Paul Crawford
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Re: How about the following?

You might be pleasantly surprised by dosemu for Linux as a way of running 16-bit code. Its not perfect (but then XP's NTVDM wasn't either) but you also have some options to customise it or even fix problems if dedicated and smart enough.

Also if you are brave/foolish/need it you can give dosemu direct hardware access to certain I/O ranges or interrupts, this can be useful for some cases when you have special hardware.

We do, and it allows our 22 year old software & custom hardware worth £££ to work just fine. You get the simple DOS "so what you want" ease of doing I/O but with the relative security and remote maintenance of a modern OS. And good time-keeping if you configure dosemu to use the host (NTP adjusted) time.

Sure we could have re-written our software to use different OS (and had to do that multiple times going to various Windows HAL changes, maybe then to Linux to escape the product activation and similar silly buggers screwing things over at inconvenient times) but why? It works well, has hundreds of equivalent year of debugging already, and after spending 6-12 man months of time & cost it would have done EXACTLY THE SAME job. How do you sell that to your business manager?

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SHOCK! Robot cars do CRASH. Because other cars have human drivers

Paul Crawford
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Re: Evidence

Down-voted for wanting accidents independently investigated - any down-voters care to say why the DON'T want that?

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Paul Crawford
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Re: "so far caused by human error and inattention"

How do you know they are doing so well?

Yes they have managed OK on a pretty regular US system, but how much do they depend upon GPS/maps being completely correct? how do they cope with partially closed roads? What about twisting country roads with passing places? Temporary traffic lights? Polices flagging them down due to an accident or similar? Dumb meat-bags doing stuff that another meat-bag would see the warning signals of high stupidity and/or intoxication and keep well away?

Though Google are pop-pooing it, the accident rate seems to be about 5 times more than average, so its hardly a stunning display of everything being just right.

And Google have a vested interest in playing up the success and not talking about any known problems, do you really want to end up buying the high-tech Ford Pinto?

THAT is why there needs to be an independent analysis of what has actually been tested, and when failures have occurred, what should have been learned.

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Paul Crawford
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Re: Evidence

Very true, unless it is withheld for "commercial reasons" or trade secrets, etc..

We really need the equivalent of the air crash investigation board to deal with such events in a way that the manufacturers cannot legally get out of, or withhold evidence from.

OK, maybe not as rigorous in minor cases, but to trust something as new and potentially dangerous like this demands an independent analysis.

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Paul Crawford
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Terminator

"so far caused by human error and inattention"

By the Google car under manual override, or by other road users?

When do we get an independent analysis to see if they were really unavoidable, or if the software messed up in some way that a typical human would not have?

I doubt I am the only one, insurers will want to know and I bet people considering such a car will want the equivalent of the NCAP ratings for 'droid drivers.

Yes, I sound negative, but the burden of proof has to be one the suppliers that they are better than the average human in all reasonable situations for most people to be willing to accept them. And that includes in dealing with the other human drivers that will be around for decades to come even after commercial availability.

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With WWDC looming, Apple kicks out third iOS 8.4 beta

Paul Crawford
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Facepalm

Re: Huh?

You clearly have missed El Reg's "Biting the hand that feeds IT" mission statement.

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BILLION YEAR SECRETS of baking hellworld Mercury UNLOCKED by NASA probe crash

Paul Crawford
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Re: Yet another stunning achievement...

Not intelligent life.

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Microsoft's secret weapon in browser wars: Mozilla's supercharged Asm.js

Paul Crawford
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Re: Andrew Richards

SVV said it for me - the lack of strong data typing to catch mistakes in data use is the single biggest thing by far. Fine and less effort to write for a 20 line shell script, pants for anything complex.

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Paul Crawford
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Good for MS

While I happen to believe that javascript is basically a pants language by design, it has to be said that it is the lowest common denominator for web applications and they are jolly useful ways of deploying software/services to end users.

Anything that allows fast and usable code cross-platform to be developed without resorting to flaky and/or propriety systems like ActiveX, Java applets, or NaCl stuff is to be praised.

Hopefully the MS implementation will remain "standard" and thus be fully cross-platform (browser, OS, and CPU) and future web developers will look at using this best (OK, fastest) sub-set for writing stuff.

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Facebook echo chamber: Or, the British media and the election

Paul Crawford
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Re: @Youngdog

The FPTP system is basically broken if you have more than 2 candidates per seat, and even then a tad doubtful with only 2. Some sort of AV/PR system is going to give you a more balanced seating.

However, the biggest problem is not how we vote for the devious, thieving two-faced bastards, but that so many of them are useless at their jobs and do little more than knee-jerk to get voted in again. Until we deal with who stands for election, and what skills they ought to have (you know, like having had a REAL job for some time and not been a carer politician) then nothing will really get better.

As for Scotland, 50% voted SNP but they got 95% of the seats which is not exactly representative. Still, the only glimmer of justice is UKIP got more votes than the SNP but only 1 seat...

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Flash banishes the spectre of the unrecoverable data error

Paul Crawford
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Re: Triple RAID and the use of very small numbers

Usually the biggest error made in predicting RAID failures is the presumption of uncorrelated faults. Most of us know from bitter experience that faults are much more likely to happen in a strongly correlated manner due to:

1) Manufacturing defects (or buggy firmware) that impact on a lot of disks, and you have all from the same batch...

2) A stress event prompting the failure, such as power cycling after years of up-time, or an overheating event due to fan failure, etc, that is common to most/all of the HDD in the RAID array.

So you should start by assuming HDD faults of around 5% per year and do the maths from that, not from claimed BER figures.

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Paul Crawford
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Re: FUD

And you don't see the problem in losing/corrupting a chunk of your data without knowing what file it was?

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Paul Crawford
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First point has already been made - you just can't do all-flash for a lot of cost & space requirements.

Second point, as most folk will know sooner or later, HDD don't suffer from simple random bit errors, they are almost always big clusters at a time and generally much more common than the quoted BER figures would tell you.

Worst still is that most file systems don't tell you if something is corrupted, so if you do get a rebuild error on sector 1214735999 then how do you know which file to restore? Yes it is possible to work that out but it is a major PITA to do so. Further more, you can have errors that are not from disk surface read flaws, such as the odd firmware bug in HDDs, controller cards, etc. So you really want something that protects against all sorts of underlying errors if you have big volumes of data (or really important stuff). Enter ZFS or GPFS as your friend - they have file system checksums built in. And if it matters make sure the system has ECC memory so you don't get errors in cached data being written to disk!

The multiple day rebuild times are not such a problem in some ways just so long as another HDD doesn't fail during it. So if you have any biggish array you should start by using double parity. It is much better to have 8+2 in a stripe than 2*(4+1) in terms of protection against double errors, etc.

Finally if you have an array make sure you regularly scrub it - most RAID support this (hardware cards, Linux's MD system, ZFS, etc) and it forces the controller to read all sectors of all disc periodically so errors can be detected and probably corrected before you have a HDD fail completely (they will do the parity checks and attempt a re-write, probably forcing a sector reallocation on the flaky HDD). For consumer HDD do it every week or two, for enterprise you can probably get away with once a month.

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NSA spying is illegal? Then let's make it law, say Republicans

Paul Crawford
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Re: That ship has already sailed

One day? How about the Boston Marathon bombing? That had the so-called PATRIOT act in place, shit they even had warnings from Russia that these guys were trouble, and what did it prevent?

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JavaScript CPU cache snooper tells crooks EVERYTHING you do online

Paul Crawford
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Re: How does this work?

I don't see how they can tell (yet?) which key was pressed, but they might be able to find out your password's length and so target brute-force on a subset of users with short-ish passwords.

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