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* Posts by Paul Crawford

1375 posts • joined 15 Mar 2007

GIANT FLIP-FLOP IN SPACE switches between X-ray and radio emissions

Paul Crawford
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The millisecond time-scale is the pulsar's rotation period (i.e. damn fast for something so massive!) while the abstract says "Within a few days after a month-long X-ray outburst, radio pulses were again detected" which implies that the matter accretion process is much longer and thus believable.

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Bill Gates: Yes, Ctrl-Alt-Del salute was a MISTAKE

Paul Crawford
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Unhappy

Re: reset while windows was running ...

Oh the joys of non-journalling file systems!

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Paul Crawford
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Re: Sun Server Keyboard...

But the Sun keyboards had support for a mouse coming out of them, which was long before USB hubs, etc, and such a neater arrangement. Also we had optical mice on our Sub machines of ~1992 which were cool, though they needed a gridded mouse pad.

Shame that Sun screwed up so badly, and Oracle has done even worse :(

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PC sales shrank less than expected during back-to-school 2013

Paul Crawford
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causation is not correlation either!

"Touch notebooks accounted for 25 per cent of the total this year, which would seem to validate Redmond's touch-centric strategy for Windows 8"

Er, did MS not push OEMs hard to include touch screens, hence no big surprise that a large number of buyers got them whether they want to use touch of not?

If you want to "validate Redmond's touch-centric strategy" you need to be reporting on the number of users of laptops with touch screens that actually use that feature.

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Boffins debate killing leap seconds to help sysadmins

Paul Crawford
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Boffin

Re: @John G Imrie

Closed network on a power station? Then buy at least two GPS and LW equipped time servers for redundancy.

For example:

http://www.galsys.co.uk/ntp-servers/nts-6001-dual-ntp-server.html

http://www.timetools.co.uk/ppc/ntp-time-server.htm

http://www.meinbergglobal.com/english/products/rail-mount-ntp-server.htm

http://www.spectratime.com/products/ireference/

Simplez!

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Paul Crawford
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Mushroom

Another rant

Just to add to my already excessive comments here, the problem is not actually the leap seconds, it is the handling of time-steps by OS and/or applications.

Now if we eliminate leap seconds we still will have the occasional time-step in real systems, as someone monkeys with the clock, or a machine with a poor clock is forced to jump from time to time to keep up, or when a NTP server is blocked for several days due to a firewall or ISP fault then comes back on-line, etc.

In all of those cases, a time step will happen, and you have to deal with it or face problems. If the software developers DO NOT TEST for this, problems will happen. That was the lesson from last year's Linux bug. In fact, getting rid of leap seconds will mean even less testing and probably a BIGGER risk later when time steps happen for other reasons.

What happens if you don't test =>

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Paul Crawford
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Re: @dkjd

GPS itself uses atomic time starting 1980, so no leap seconds BUT, and this is where you are really wrong, the GPS ephemeris gives you the offset from GPS-UTC, so you can and do get leap-second information that way.

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Paul Crawford
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Re: Stopped clocks

In the Linux case it knows (from NTP) that a step is pending, and it jumps accordingly. The ntpd slewing/stepping is for "normal" time errors.

How VMs handle this is another story. From our experience VM timekeeping is pants anyway, so this is just another minor issue. If an OS/application really needs good timekeeping for some task (e.g. audit of network delays for security such as MITM detection), it really has to run on a physical machine.

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Paul Crawford
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Re: Stopped clocks

AFIK the leap second problem that affected Linux last year was down to some timers getting dead-locked, and that was due to a kernel patch that broke the previously correct time-handling for leap seconds. And nobody realised or tested it until the live event:

http://lkml.indiana.edu/hypermail/linux/kernel/1203.1/04598.html

A short check shows a RedHat article including a leap second simulator so you can test a system for its behaviour to debug this predictable event:

https://access.redhat.com/site/articles/199563

While a big event, it just shows the price you pay for not testing something for all expected conditions.

Google slew their machines over 1 day, so no step but also same long-term behaviour. Of course, during that day they are up to 1s out, but clearly that is no big deal for them.

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Paul Crawford
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The UK's position

Thankfully, it seems the UK's position is sensible, as covered here:

http://www.itu.int/dms_pub/itu-r/oth/0a/0e/R0A0E0000960014PDFE.pdf

Basically they point out that not only would it mean that "1 day" in no longer synchronised to the Earth's rotation as common sense expects, but that you either end up with a long term problem of sun rise/set getting seriously out of sync with our working hours, or you have bigger but less frequent steps which are worse then a 1-2 year leap second in terms of impacting badly designed systems.

Really, why don't they just make proper time-keeping a mandatory requirement for software systems and force vendors to test and demonstrate they can handle it? That is the biggest issues here: most folk don't have (or will pony up for) an NTP simulator to allow them to set up and test the OS/application reaction to these predictable and recurring events, so they simply hope for the best and, surprise, surprise, they get the worst!

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Paul Crawford
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WTF?

Bollocks presentation

Have you read the linked slide show? Three obvious political-style lies are included:

Page 6 - "Leap seconds interrupt normal operation of timekeeping infrastructures and are costly in staff time to implement" - no, you use NTP and it just happens! Unless the system gets broken due to bad/untested software, you need no interaction whatsoever.

Page 6 - "On June 30, 2012, every clock in the world had to stop for one second" no the fscking did not "stop", they simply stepped one second when needed. If you rely on a basic time-stamp then you might get it repeated, etc, but if monotonic time actually matters deeply for program flow or synchronisation, you use one of the system supplied functions that gives you that. (e.g. clock_gettime() with the CLOCK_MONOTONIC flag) or you implement your code to cope in other ways.

Page 12 - "and significant cost reduction in their implementation" - no, you use a system-supplied library that handles time correctly and then only one competent programmer needs to do it, and everyone else "just works". Having monkey-grade programmers implementing basic time keeping over and over again, and getting it wrong (by not RTFM) is a sign of a far deeper problem in your organisation and choice of staff.

How to we get this joker to correct this and apologies?

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Paul Crawford
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FAIL

Oh FFS!

So in order to deal with incompetent or poorly tested OS designs that don't actually bother to address the definition of time that has been around for several decades, they want to break compatibility with anything that actually uses that definition by assuming that Earth rotation is never more than +/-1 sec from UTC?

A triumph of the incompetent many :(

Why don't they just tell folk to fix their software, its not a new problem after all?

And for those devices that are not connected to "know" about leap seconds, how exactly would they be keeping accurate time in the first place, and even if they do, how would that matter if they don't interact with systems that are kept in sync?

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Deep Impact succumbs to 'HAL bug' as glitch messes with antenna

Paul Crawford
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Re: It was a Y2K problem ..

Calling that Y2K seems a bit misleading given it is 13 years past that point!

But really, it seems odd that they did not have the on-board memory to store just a single byte more for the date/time and then have absolutely no chance of the system running out of time-keeping before its hardware & power supply died.

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Nokia Lumia 1020: It's an imaging BEAST... and it makes calls too

Paul Crawford
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Re: @Betacam

Most humour pokes fun at _someone_ and in many cases humour/satire is the way people deal with terrible things.

If you can't laugh then you will cry.

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You thought slinging Photoshop into the cloud would fail? Look who's laughing NOW

Paul Crawford
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Re: The real reason for the laughing

I'm guessing these software patents are only valid in the USA?

Seems the rest of the world could go another way, and I'm guessing if the software was free then no issue with a company having to have a business presence of any sort in the USA. Also, I'm guessing that the majority of users don't need the majority of features, so probably not that much to fix, say, GIMP's problems with 16-bit filters, CMYK output, etc.

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Paul Crawford
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Re: The real reason for the laughing

You have to wonder how much money would be needed to rectify the issues with having an acceptable alternative to some of these packages. Get a few hundred users together, get them to contribute 1/2 the current fees each and see if that would pay some competent folk to implement the necessary code changes to GIMP, etc...

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Microsoft hooks up with AT&T, gazes into YOUR data center

Paul Crawford
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Black Helicopters

No thanks

Outside the USA and going to put data in the hands of AT&T & MS, both who seemed happy to turn over everything to the NSA?

Yes, I know they probably have no legal choice in the matter, but was PRISM not a paid-for arrangement to make the process nicer and maybe even profitable?

Closest to a tinfoil hat icon =>

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Google smacks Surface with free Quickoffice for Android, iOS

Paul Crawford
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Re: Didn't Microsoft kill off a better browser by giving away an inferior one?

Almost - they killed its financial viability and locked lots of corporations in to a now-regretted dependency on IE5/IE6 which even MS can't/won't port, even as 2nd class application, to later versions of Windows.

But Netscape's legacy is still around as Firefox, and doing not too badly.

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Paul Crawford
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New?

Depends, many older options did not work very well, maybe Quickoffice will work to a "good enough" standard?

Still, has MS not been in "protect Windows cash-cow at all costs" mode the last few years, it could have make Office properly available on IOS (at least) and Android and seen much more sales. Oh, and saved 1B$ in write-down on the unloved WinRT fondlslabs...

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Oracle revenues miss expectations – AGAIN

Paul Crawford
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Re: SPARC hardware

Citation?

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Leaked docs: NSA 'Follow the money' team slurped BANK records, CREDIT CARD data

Paul Crawford
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Re: Hmmmm....

There are many ways to decrypt a message that do not involve "breaking" the cypher.

As already pointed out: hacking in before it is encrypted, using you 'influence' to get a copy of the key(s), compromising the key/certificate generation software, compromising a closed-source implementation so it leaks information that you have the key to make use of...

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Meet the Unmagnificent Seven: The critical holes plugged in Firefox update

Paul Crawford
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Re: Linux anyone?

I use Linux and recommend it to friends/family, but I never tell them it is "safe". You have to always be careful and never, ever, assume the machine is immune.

On a side point, most distros disable the apparmor profile for firefox - that is a dubious step to allow easier file down/up load from a non-default directory. If you are very serious about security you should enable it to sandbox the browser.

Oh, and if really serious, us another account for dubious browsing, maybe a 3rd for very important browsing. And change the /home/* directories to remove 'other' access.

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One year to go: Can Scotland really declare gov IT independence?

Paul Crawford
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Re: Sigint capability

You are forgetting the likelihood that our puritanical overloards would be quite interested in spying on our activities. Look at how they enacted pr0n+ laws that tried, and in cases, succeeded in going beyond the stupid UK-wide changes that made drawing a dick on Bart Simpson a potential jail-and-sex-register crime.

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Redmond slips out temporary emergency fix for IE 0-day

Paul Crawford
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Re: But why?

Corporate drones - they have no choice but to use the IT department's image.

Corporations that have screwed up IE6/7 only internal systems, where the users have to use IE and it becomes a dirty (or enforced) habit on t'Internet as well.

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Microsoft no longer a top Linux kernel contributor

Paul Crawford
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Re: @M Gale

Today you are only likely to worry about kernel size for embedded applications, and there you probably are going to roll a customised kernel with just what you need.

As you say, Windows has a lot of micro-kernel like aspects, but still has become bloated and need rebooting for way too many patches. Most of the bloat is probably not 'kernel' in the classic sense, but it is an issue for smaller devices like phones & fondleslabs.

And it misses the point - if going microkernel you really would be doing it primarily for security and fault tolerance/recovery, so you need a _VERY_ minimal 'kernel' and everything else as user-space modules.

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Paul Crawford
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Re: Otherwise it'll become bitrotten

Now then, where do I buy some new hardware to natively run my ZX81 games?

Or why can't I get this NT4 driver for my old SCSI scanner to play with Windows8?

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Paul Crawford
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Re: at this rate

There are a lot of good reasons for going microkernel in terms of security (even "binary blob" drivers get ring-fenced access) and in-memory footprint (only in-use drivers need be loaded).

But...usually performance hit of going in/out of ring 0 for every driver/file system action means it gets side-lined, and few have the stomach for trying to compete with Linux/Windows (even BDS) for developer attention.

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Cloud storage: Is the convenience worth the extra expense?

Paul Crawford
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Re: Total loss of control.

This is a valid point, but one solution is along the lines of Nate's post above you - have your own managed server with encrypted storage that you alone have the key. For storage/backup only you don't even need the physical server to be isolated, as you can encrypt-on-write at the client machine(s).

Of course, that is not going to stop a court order for access, but at least they have to deal with your own country's laws which, in theory, you have a democratic input to. That is very different to any foreign host where you can expect a different treatment even to the locals.

And as Trevor points out, you still need a local copy in case the provider has gone badly wrong or is holding your data hostage with usurious fees to migrate your data to another provider...

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Angry Brazilian whacks NASA to put a stop to ... er, the NSA

Paul Crawford
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NASA security

This probably covers it:

http://xkcd.com/932/

NASA has a lot of public-facing low-importance web sites that don't get maintained/updated for years. I'm surprised this is not more common really.

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Cold-blooded, INHUMAN visitor hitches ride on NASA moon rocket

Paul Crawford
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Unhappy

Re: Communicating with the rocket via Kermit?

Damn, I forgot I was that old

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Paul Crawford
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Trollface

Re: Mais attendez!

Try your local Tesco for burgers.

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Chap unrolls 'USB condom' to protect against viruses

Paul Crawford
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Trollface

Re: USB condom?

Do you have a bigger one for me?

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Paul Crawford
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Re: Beware cheap cables?

Ah, the joys of Windows' autorun? First thing (well, almost) you should do is this:

http://support.microsoft.com/kb/967715

And just go for the 0xFF hack to disable EVERYTHING that could autorun.

Still, if the cable identifies itself as something known (e.g. a mouse) then Windows will still install a driver for it without asking for your consent, and it is conceivable that a USB keyboard-like device could be used to inject commands to a system at some point. That sort of attack would also work on Linux, etc, but the attacker would have to know what system it was to successively inject badness.

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Box morphs into Google Docs competitor

Paul Crawford
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Client side encryption?

Really, if they want to survive outside of the USA, and are competing with MS & Google, they need something special.

Having an open-sourced encryption layer that ensures that only those with the private password can (easily) decrypt the server-side data would be something worth having.

Yes, I know there are lots of ways to compromise that, obviously if you are using a compromised OS, but privacy by design would be a decent selling point.

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City of Munich throws Ubuntu lifeline to Windows XP holdouts

Paul Crawford
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Re: I bet a lot more people would switch if...

AFIK the default installation will dual-boot with XP.

Only fly in that ointment is occasional rogue Windows DRM-style program that would write to the boot sector area assuming only the MBR is used and trash the grub loader. That may be fixed now (saw that 3-4 years ago).

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Paul Crawford
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Re: Half measures

They are also telling they are on their own if they don't switch...

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Paul Crawford
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Re: How does this help?

It helps simply by giving those folk the idea that (A) the current XP support will end soon, and (B) they can do *something* about it for free (as in money, not in time).

The alternative is to either let them be and watch as all of those machines become infested and cause all sorts of problems to the users and local business, or to force them to pay up for new machines that will probably not run a decent portion of old stuff / old hardware, and will have the radically new TIFKAM interface in any case.

There is no simple answer to what to do if you don't have a big budget to refresh and retrain users. Trying Ubuntu (or getting the local tech person to help you try it) is way better than doing nothing.

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One day we'll look back and say this was the end of the software platform

Paul Crawford
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History repeating

There is an irony that Android's success comes from being cheap and "good enough" for a generation brought up with the low expectations of a (non-technical users) Windows PC's reliability and longevity. After all, that is largely how MS succeeded over other, and technically better, platforms to achieve Windows' current desktop dominance.

It will be interesting to see if MS can move away from the "Windows + Office" cash cow and deliver products that users want to have, and not to use said products to push only MS' legacy profit centres.

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IETF floats plan to PRISM-proof the Internet

Paul Crawford
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Re: Ho Hum.

No one is, or should be, surprised that GCHQ/NSA/etc break codes and spy on people. That is, after all their job, and the other side (e.g. China) will do the same.

What people are, and rightly should be, upset about is the presumption that everyone is a criminal and should have all of their activity recorded, decrypted and analysed "because they can".

It goes far beyond what most folk consider is acceptable under the usual police requirement of justifiable suspicion. Add in to that the secretive and rather despotic use of orders that you can do jail time for simply revealing that you have been ordered to do something, and the apparent lack of meaningful judicial oversight or even political knowledge outside of a select few, and it is a very wrong situation for society to find itself in.

We don't need unbreakable encryption or other silver bullets, all we need is widely used non-compromised encryption that means it is not trivial to gather everything about everyone you unless you are already under suspicion, rather like the old days when an agent had to be posted to watch you and resources limited that to the "most interesting" of all.

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Startup claims 1W wireless charging at 10 metres

Paul Crawford
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Re: Imagine a Starbucks with one of these in the ceiling

Yes...and this business of a 'safe' limit of 10mW/cm^2 sounds a bit forgotten as I doubt an iPhone is 100cm^2 of perfect antenna and conversion electronics to get 1W.

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Pair of complete tits sorry for pervy app

Paul Crawford
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Trollface

Re: Swings both ways

Beat me to it. I was going to suggest a jockstrap

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Enterprise storage: A history of paper, rust and flash silicon

Paul Crawford
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Optical storage

AFIK when the CD-ROM came out the ~650MB capacity (not writable, at that point) was way bigger than the ~20MB consumer-cost HDD of the day, but after a few years was overtaken by HDD progress.

DVDs were useful for archive for a while. At launch they were comparable to HDD size, but now 4.7GB hardly seems much at all!

And let us not forget the laser disk, not digital as such, but fantastically better then VHS at the time, and they did attempt boldly to use it as an archive store:

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

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That earth-shattering NSA crypto-cracking: Have spooks smashed RC4?

Paul Crawford
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Or the recent cases of Visa/Mastercard refusing to deal with certain VPN suppliers. Like the ones who maybe don't play ball with the USA and/or implement more secure options than the piss-poor PPPT?

http://torrentfreak.com/paysafecard-begins-banning-vpn-providers-130825/

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Paul Crawford
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Re: Huawei et al. are looking a lot better

No, it is not making Huawei, etc, look much better as they are almost certainly doing the same as Cisco but for the Chinese.

What it should be doing is drawing the attention of nations to the fact that closed/secret designs are likely to have issues of trust. Or incompetence. In fact, the latter is just as big a threat to most folk.

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OK, forget the 3D telly fiasco: 4K is gonna blow you away - say tech giants

Paul Crawford
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4k benifits?

I kind of want 4k to succeed, not because it will make much difference to me TV viewing, but maybe it will put an end to the sh*t laptop monitor resolutions we have these days.

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Reports: NSA has compromised most internet encryption

Paul Crawford
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Re: @AC

The whole point about SElinux (or apparmor, for that matter) is to deal with the problem of internal trust between processes that run with root privileges, or (like web browser or PDF reader) are likely attack routes. That is a big problem in ANY computer system. It is open sourced, so you or anyone else can check it!

Like the fools who say AES is back-doored because the US use it, it completely misses the point. They want good security for themselves and US gov, as much as they want to break others, as they know Russia, China, etc will be doing the same in return.

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Paul Crawford
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Re: Such a surprise?

"Not the *whole* concept."

No, not the certificate system at a basic level, but the fact there are so many signing authorities that are installed and trusted by default by most web browsers and their users.

There is a need to, somehow, verify that certificates for a given domain are not duplicated or otherwise certified by another issuer and that any changes are flagged and investigated.

However, this last part (which, for example, is the bit where SSH can reveal an attempted MITM attack or, more often, a re-installed server) is fundamentally broken with all non-paranoid geeks who just see a warning pop up and click "yes, whatever" to see more cat videos.

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Paul Crawford
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Unhappy

Such a surprise?

For those with a good range of metallic headgear, this should come as no big surprise. After all, few bank robberies actually break the safe door, they either get the keys (by bribery or coercion) or they go in via the walls that are weaker.

It has long been known that the whole concept of SSL is fundamentally broken: compromise any one of the ~600 issuers and you can fake a certificate for man-in-the-middle attacks, and yet no one has serious tried to fix this in spite of the occasional publicised attack.

Similarly a lot of VPNs use only PPPT as it is MS's favoured option, though known to be also fundamentally broken w.r.t MITM attacks, etc.

And with MS being on such good terms with the US gov it is hard to avoid the conclusion that they would work with three-lettered agencies to either allow direct access, or not to close useful holes unless the "bad guys" start using them. Why are the likes of skydrive (and Google's offerings) not client-side encrypted by default? Maybe laziness, maybe to help? Who knows, so adjust your hats accordingly...

None if this means that encryption is not a good way of protecting your privacy, it is. But what it means is you cannot trust most of the current players that should be delivering it to be acting in the interest of you, the customer.

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Panasonic whips out MONSTER fondleslab for serious S&M sessions

Paul Crawford
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Pros & Cons

On the plus side, we have a device that has a decent screen resolution at last!

On the minus side way to expensive.

I can't see CAD folk using this without a mouse and keyboard, in which case it is not really that attractive compared to a powerful desktop with 2 * 30" monitors, which is about the same price.

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