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* Posts by Lee Dowling

1188 posts • joined 28 Mar 2007

This week's BBC MELTDOWN: Savile puppet haunts kids' TV

Lee Dowling
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Re: F*** me!

Or, was two children playing with toys as normal.

And why did you "have" to explain this to your four-year-old? One of them knocked over the other's toys... what's to explain exactly other than one of them is a little git interrupting the other's quiet playtime?

Get a grip, indeed.

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SimCity to teach SimMaths and SimScience at school

Lee Dowling
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Re: "what will a SimBoss make of a SimCV?"

And he'll end up hiring Simpletons.

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White House raises the signature threshold for petitions to 100,000

Lee Dowling
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Re: They are NOT listening

"Crystal Maze"-voting.

If you get a 100,000 MORE "agrees" than "disagrees", you respond to it. Until then, you don't waste your time.

The only problem with that is that there would never be another response and the site would get caught up in the next purge of useless services offered by the previous government masquerading as "cost-saving". But then, maybe that's not such a bad thing after all.

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Lee Dowling
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Petitions

I remember when I was a kid. Several times a year, someone would approach me in the playground or classroom and ask me to "sign our petition". Sometimes they were quite sensible ("Open both doors at the East entrance at lunchtime so we don't get trampled trying to get in or out") but most of the time they were absolute crackpot that only made sense when you were a child ("Get Mr Smith sacked because he gave me an unfair detention!" or "More/larger chocolate desserts for the same price at lunchtime", etc.)

Even back then, I never bothered. Honestly, it just wasn't worth it. You could have the entire place sign the thing and nothing much would ever happen about it, even if the idea was quite sensible (the doors never were both opened as long as I was at that school, for example - I assume there was a reason for this but never quite found out). Petitions really were the playground democracy and, let's be honest, the government will ignore most petitions just like my school did. Even the sensible ones.

It's a gauge for government, that's all. If the country was ruled by public opinion, people would be hung before they were tried, some celebrity would be in charge (until they made their first mistake) and road deaths would increase ten-fold after all the changes people wanted (like to be able to drive like nutters on

the motorway). All the petitions do is give a sense of "contribution", provide statistics about public opinion, but don't actually change anything. If the Jimmy Saville thing had come out earlier, and every person in the country voted to hang him without trial, it still wouldn't have happened. But they can use the list to look at the most-named ones and garner a lot of votes by giving a pseudo-statement to the effect that they'll look into it, and talk about it in the news (because people obviously want to hear about something being done about it, but obviously don't care about the three bills I slipped through the Parliament back door last week).

The largest petition on there attracting over 200,000 names was "Convicted London rioters should loose all benefits." Apart from the bad spelling, this suggests that people who were convicted of a crime should have a punishment not assigned by a court, in a rash legal change, for a single incident only (presumably OTHER criminals are okay, but the wording of the law), etc. etc. etc. And what was the response? No, basically. Of course it was.

The next ten more popular petitions of all time? No, we have already passed the law you didn't want. No (though we talked about it). We did nothing about this (though we talked about it). No, dropping the petrol taxes will cripple the country. We take your point but we can't stop people coming into the country. And, no, because PSHE classes already teach pupils enough financial acumen to survive in the world (really?).

The biggest trending petitions still open are the moment are ALL media-related (West Coast mainline, badger cull, tax at Rangers Football Club, etc.). That should worry more than anything - people care more about things that the news outlets place on their front pages than anything practical or sensible . Lots are inherently misguided. And some are just plain crackpot ("Alopecia Areata - Research Needed" has more names to it than "Save Royal Bolton Hospital").

A petition of any volume WILL NOT CHANGE ANYTHING. All the petitions on that site HAVE NOT CHANGED ANYTHING (and if they were successful, I'd argue they could have been without the petition anyway). If you don't want the West Coast Mainline to change, sure air your view. But the only thing that will actually make any difference is to NOT use the West Coast Mainline if it changes to a company you don't want to support. And that won't even be a government effect, just a purely profit one. The fact is that if it did change, and the government approved it, lots of people would shout for change while still using it every day. You can say "we had no choice", but that just proves how unimportant it is for the government to respond in such cases - they KNOW you have no choice, so there's little point taking your view into account.

It's like objecting to planning applications. Sure, you can. It's there. There's a process, and a form, and a guy, and a meeting that has to happen, and all the rest. But unless there's a REALLY good reason that nobody ever thought of and nobody ever checked and nobody's checklist forces them to consider already anyway, the chances are that your objections will be ignored and overruled. Chances are the number of objections upheld is really quite pathetic, and has more to do with things slipping through the net or personal favours rather than anything to do with "listening to the people".

A petition is worthless. All the ones people have ever pushed into my face have come to nothing. And an electronic one means even less. Of all the government petitions I see for the UK, you only have to get to page 4 of 623 at the moment (20 petitions per page) of the closed petitions before everything goes under 10,000 names. Currently open ones? Page 2. That means that just churning through and responding and administering those petitions is actually causing LESS things to get changed overall than if we didn't have that. We've wasted more man-hours petitioning online and responding to petitions that it would have cost just to carry on as we were and do something ourselves. And the government response to almost every petition? No, or doing nothing, at great expense.

Seriously, if your MP doesn't do anything when you personally write them a direct, open, well-considered, precise letter, what makes you think that an electronic tick-in-a-box does anything for the way they work? It doesn't. It just gives them an indication as to what the best thing to "cover-up" with is at the moment.

What's the solution to actually getting change? I don't know. But a petition is probably the last and worst thing to do.

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Record numbers of you are reading this headline right now

Lee Dowling
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Re: "a quarter that of The Sun"

Half the Mirror Group readership or a quarter of The Sun's... that's pretty impressive. I don't dabble in media but that seems very good to me. Maybe there are more people out there with a brain than I initially thought.

So the next question is, how long until we see The Reg on the shelves in our local newsagent? :-)

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Here we go again: New NHS patient database plan sets off alarm bells

Lee Dowling
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"It is crazy that ambulance drivers cannot access a full medical history of someone they are picking up in an emergency"

It's crazier to assume that ambulance staff are going to be sitting in the ambulance reading the patient's medical history for anything other than keywords. Keywords that, should they impact on the paramedics ability, are most likely to be printed on a bracelet about that person in a recognised design to attract the attention of a paramedic.

"Allergic to"

"Suffers from"

"Must not be given"

etc.etc.etc.

There are not thousands of people dying every day because the ambulance has given them something they didn't know the patient couldn't have. And if there are, nothing more than a summary of keywords needs to be stored ANYWHERE, or transmitted to ambulance crew. Thus this is a fabricated problem, which makes me wonder the true intent.

The other part, about GP's etc. having consistent access to medical records - there, I grant you there's a use. But I'm afraid you just dug your own grave by going above and beyond what it quite a simple problem (digitise all medical records) to something that's unnecessary, expensive, needs lots of specialised equipment (a GP I expect to have a PC already, an ambulance doesn't need any more expensive electronic crap put into it), and transmits my personal medical details around the country for no real reason.

What you need is a common electronic file format. Not a cloud-based system with poor controls on it. Under the current system, I know that my doctor has my medical records, and can supply them to other vetted people if necessary (at his own risk). If he had a common electronic file format, he could easily supply that information to various places as and when the need arises for my details to transfer (even, say, a one-time transfer to a central location which can pass them out to ambulances should I get run over and be identified as the patient). What ISN'T needed is a way for everyone, everywhere, with an NHS machine to access my records willy-nilly, confuse me with a similarly named / numbered stranger, and to have little to no control over, say, seven thousand people all accessing celebrity X's medical records to see if he really DID have a nose job last week.

What you NEED is a common electronic medical file format. When you have that, and you publish it, and software manufacturer's can compete to provide the best system to handle those formats, then you may convert my records. How you distribute those records once converted - that's an ENTIRELY different question, and I'd personally go for a token-checkout style method. Anyone on the NHS can checkout a record (with suitable permission and checks that they are allowed to do so), but only ONE machine/user can checkout my records at a time. Those checkouts are logged and recorded and I can QUERY THEM myself from the Government gateway website at any time (I don't need personal medical details on there, either - I just want to have a list of when my token was checked out and who's currently holding it, and a short history of token changes). If a hospital in Strathclyde reads my details (I haven't been a doctor in nearly 10+ years except to register, and live nowhere near there), I will want to know WHY, and have people held accountable. And without the token request, you cannot see ANYTHING of my details.

Then an ambulance, or a Casualty department, can have "priority", take the token away from any current holder for my records (suitably logged of course) at any time. And I will KNOW they did that. And they will see what they want. And the common file format thus devised will provide the minimum of access necessary for their job (i.e. a list of important conditions and nothing more, unless they request to probe further but most likely that would be a doctor in the Casualty rather than the paramedic who does that) so they can see if I'm allergic to penicillin but NOT, say, that I recently had a colonoscopy or whatever.

Everything you do above and beyond a simple, secure system like that makes me question why. Usually the answer is simple greed ("I have a friend in the medical software business who needs some work", for instance), but that's indistinguishable from government corruption in the early stages, so you need to do things to reassure me that's NOT your intention.

And the best thing you can do? Not pilot another humongously expensive NHS IT scheme (which now have a reputation for complete and utter failure worse than anything else in IT), but a small, simple change that will make all such future schemes easier, cheaper, more practical, and still compatible with what you've done. Gimme a common file format. Then we can talk about digiting records. Then we can talk about centralising records. Then you can give me a token system that prevents abuse. Each step in a few years work at absolute worst, do-able within a reasonable budget, and helps the next steps take place.

Until then, you keep that brown envelope that my local doctor still holds and has about three slips of paper in it describing an injury to my eye at birth and - well, that's about it. I have nothing to hide in my medical records, but the WAY you want to use them doesn't give me any confidence at all in the presence of simple ideas that would work much better and that you actually stand a chance of implementing successfully inside a single term of leadership.

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Wanna really insult someone? Log off and yell it in the street - gov

Lee Dowling
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I should be able to call someone a swearword. Everyone from Dickens to Shakespeare has done it, and it's not in any way affecting a normal person's life. We really are wasting people's time here by trying to regulate that.

Also, the only logical conclusion would be that films and TV shows would have to ban almost all swearing - if the act is illegal itself, then depicting someone getting away with that act might well end up being regulated by the same rules, whether by word or law, or fear of prosecution, and we'll wind up in the same situation as smoking on TV has experienced. I can probably name 10 famous characters from movies who were never depicted without a cigarette or cigar, but try to do it with modern ones. They've gone. Sure, you can still see cigarettes but the law had an impact on silly things like movies too. (Side-note: I'm a non-smoker and always have been).

I can think of a myriad variations that are "threatening", "abusive", or "grossly offensive", but that's not the sort of thing I mean, so the law is getting closer to a common sense rebound. "Insulting", however - why should that be a crime? If you're an idiot, I can say you're an idiot. It's insulting, sure, but it's hardly devastating to your life unless I do it in an "abusive" manner or I "threaten" you - both of which are covered.

As people are wont to point out, personally I find religion offensive and insulting, especially if they tell me I will burn in hell, or that I'm not "one of God's children" or whatever fancy phrase they want to use to separate me from an ordinary person. That's insulting in the same manner. And though I'd quite like to shut them up, I don't think this law (which would have eventually permitted me to do just that) is sensible or reasonable or can be enforced fairly while it contains the word "insulting".

Insults happen, thousands, even millions of times a day. There is no clear line of justification in the word "insulting" that you can use that separates incidents that are harmless, and those that are not. The definition is just not clear enough.

And I don't see why you can't call someone the same things in person as you do online with the laws as proposed. If something is "grossly offensive", then it overlaps and will be covered in the same definitions as "abusive" or "threatening" in some manner - the only difference is that online publication allows posts that are not just verbal but visual too, and thus "grossly offensive" covers things that include obscenity of a non-verbal nature too, which I think it needs to.

If you're insulted by something I've said to you, maybe you should either ignore those people, or fight your corner (verbally speaking). I find people who are "insulted" but can't be mature enough to ignore childish ramblings, or provide their own justification for someone not doing that to be the "babysat" adult of the worst kind.

If my opinion matters to you, and you're insulted by me, maybe you're doing something very wrong and should look at what you did to cause it. If my opinion doesn't matter to you, then you won't be insulted by anything I say. The same is NOT true if you substitute "insulted" for "threatened" or "abused" (however, it does work for "offended", hence why "grossly" has been added to the definition to push it into the realm of extremes, not the everyday).

This seems a sensible step, and the fact that someone in government has GONE BACK and CHANGED SOMETHING quite publicly means they recognise that. Maybe now we can spend less money on enforcing the ridiculousness that the police and prosecution services should have just said "we're not able to enforce that well enough" in the first place and never tried to (they have done just that for several other laws in the past).

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Soot forces temperatures more than thought: AGU

Lee Dowling
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Re: Particles

Soot particles in the air cause a lot of health problems - article about Beijing's air quality on this very site today.

But what's more important is that ordinary volcano activity basically wipes out all of man's contributions for a year in terms of soot. Short of putting a hat on every volcano in the world, we aren't going to be able to stop the largest sources of it.

As with everything "global warming"-wise, we can't stop it all, natural processes have been beating us in terms of pollution on almost all fronts for millions of years (possible exception of mercury, etc. but the global warming stuff, certainly), and yet still nobody actually proposes solutions.

Let's assume the soot in the air is THE MOST IMPORTANT factor. How do we get rid of it? Stop burning wood. Stop using diesel. Fine. Let's assume (somehow) we make them both illegal and nobody ever burns a piece of wood in open air again, across the entire planet, and we combat all the natural sources of such. Now we save "half a degree" (per year? per decade? for ever? The article isn't clear). Now, what do we do instead? We now have entire fleets of vehicles out of action. The alternatives are petrol and electrics (which are nowhere near viable on that kind of scale - i.e. replacing diesel - and bring their own problems of supply sources and pollution). We can't use wood-burning stoves anywhere so we have to buy more gas, or more electricity, or more paraffin or SOMETHING to make up for it.

So even if they are right, even if we implement a perfect solution, even if we claw back that half-a-degree that "buys us ten years" (Until what? Death? On what? A century? A millenia?), we have no way to replace the things we were doing that we had to stop doing. People are out of work, transport systems near collapse, we're burning more of other things that we're also told not to burn, etc. I've taken it to extremes using perfect (and unachievable) assumptions, but the same happens on any scale you try (e.g. say we find a product that "collects" soot from the air on an industrial scale that can be fitted to anything - even a wood fire - how much is it going to cost, what is it going to be made of, how many will we need, how will we get them to everyone we need to use them, etc. etc. etc.)

It's the usual "global warming" problem: I believe you, in general. Let's assume I believe you 100% and that your science is absolutely perfect (unlikely, but let's just assume). Now what do we DO about it and, MOST IMPORTANTLY, what does that fix cost us? Because if it costs us more than it saves us, we might as well just carrying on doing what we're doing. Let's say we will eliminate soot, or CO2 or whatever we think is causing the problem: What's the knock-on effect of our fix, or reduced levels of those things (i.e. are we likely to trigger some natural process or even affect plantlife and wildlife because of a rapid change in the other direction?), and just what do we have to "break" elsewhere in order to "fix" this part? Robbing Peter to pay Paul comes to mind, and the situation comes up in ALL of these discussions but is never mentioned.

Let's assume we all stop burning any oil-based fuel tomorrow and go with the best alternative. Just what does that mean, not just for us, but for the switchover, for the long-term transition, for the costs of transitioning, for people caught up in that change, etc. If it's not PROBABLY less (and you can't say that without looking as deeply into it as you do the problems of global warming) than what we imagine to happen under global warming, then it's actually more sensible to DO NOTHING.

We're humans, we have a brain. When we change things it's often got side-effects that we didn't bother to think of and that can be worse than the original problem was (e.g. cane toads in Australia). And nobody is really looking at that.

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Security audit finds dev OUTSOURCED his JOB to China to goof off at work

Lee Dowling
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Re: What's the problem?

Probably anyone involved in network security or data protection or even software licensing.

- He fedexed a two-factor authentication token to an unknown Chinese person to use.

- He provided them with VPN access into the internal company network.

- They were writing software (which should now, by rights, all be audited), which was deployed into the company network and nobody now really knows for sure what it did historically or what it does today.

- At any point, those Chinese programmers might have been culling other company's proprietary code to use for that job (illegal!), or similarly taking the company's code and selling it on to Chinese companies etc.

The man is a genius. But he's a genius that broke several contracts and (quite likely) a few laws in doing what he did. The company might choose not to do anything about it, depending on the work they did and the data they processed, but it's not as clear cut as "good luck to him". A lot of people will now have to do a lot of work auditing code and explaining themselves to data protection agencies. Basically all the work he did will now have to be undone at great expense, unless the company is really willing to turn a blind eye to it (which may be illegal too!).

It's like finding out that there's been a guy coming into your office, because he always came in with a certain employee, and logging onto the corporate network for years and now people find out that NOBODY has any idea who he is or what he was doing and that he was nothing to do with the company. It's serious stuff.

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Sheffield ISP: You don't need a whole IPv4 address to yourself, right?

Lee Dowling
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PlusNet used to be amazing. I had them for decades and they were fabulous and the ultimate test "knowledge of the first guy to answer the phone" was passed flawlessly (changed my ADSL interleaving settings to alleviate latency in interactive connections within, about, 1 minute).

Hell, they even took over the company hosting my domain names, and I'd again looked long and hard for a good company there and ended up with a fabulous one that I was happy for PlusNet to take over because they were similarly fabulous.

Then they got taken over by BT. Since then it's been downhill I think. My brother has been fighting for three months with the domain-name host that is now owned by them because all of a sudden tons of things just stopped working properly, after literally 15 years of perfect operation. The ADSL side drops in rating every time I read an ADSLGuide review. And the technical side is now abysmal if people I've recommended to them are telling me the truth (and I have no reason to doubt them).

Now they've "run out" of IPv4 addresses (telling me that BT don't have enough to go around? Honestly?), but can't be bothered to run a proper IPv6 trial. How about "If you let us issue you with only IPv6 addresses, we'll give you 50% off?" - an INCENTIVE to the technically literate on both fronts, and a way to free up IPv4 addresses for the technically-illiterate who have no idea what that service is or what it means to sign up for it. And last time I recommended someone, they were told you couldn't sign up over the phone, and given that the person in question had no Internet, they just used someone else.

No, basically, BT have killed PlusNet. Hell, I had more IPv6 connectivity through PlusNet several years ago than they even offer today. It's ridiculous.

I wouldn't sign up for it. I'd actually take it as a sign to move on to another provider.

On an pseudo-related note, my external server host (not PlusNet related) is still offering 5 IPv4 IP's (no reason or signing things required) with every virtual server they sell, from £9.99 a month. Can't be that much of a shortage of them. Hell, if it came to it, I'd rather pay the £9.99 extra and VPN all my stuff through a real external IP.

But really, the fix here is to offer IPv6 instead. But no, they don't even publish AAAA records for their main domain so that people can even GET to their website using it, let alone use it as part of one of their products.

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Amazon-bashed HMV calls in administrators, seeks buyer

Lee Dowling
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Re: Sad, but...

People will do what they did with Amazon - go to the cheapest supplier. If Amazon fails to be the cheapest, you go elsewhere.

Not saying there couldn't be some collusion and price-fixing, but the thing about online sales is that you can't get EVERYONE to sign up to you. If some local guy selling WHATEVER out of his house has a good website and a reasonable price, I'll use him quite happily. In fact, sometimes even in preference to Amazon. I've bought car parts from such people rather than pay garage or online-spares prices (even on "spares price comparison" sites) and never had any real trouble.

People care about receiving the product for a decent price. They're not particularly fussed about a 1-2 day delay (as evidenced by high-street deaths), so long as they get the product, don't get conned, and can find it quickly and easily on your site (and that your site pops up on Google, for instance). If every big-name online store shut down every bricks-n-mortar store, then doubled their prices, we wouldn't use them. It's even easier to move onto "guy who charges the original price, plus £1, to cover his website expenses" than it is to even walk to the shop next door.

Online shopping wiped out the competition by being more convenient and cheaper. If they aren't more convenient (i.e. their prices are high and force you to check several sites for the best deal), and aren't cheaper, the same Darwinian selection will happen to them.

Methinks the tax issues are more likely to raise online prices on Amazon than anything they do themselves.

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Lee Dowling
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Went in there before Christmas with the girlfriend. Walked out empty-handed.

Went in there on their 25% off sale just last weekend (and it was 25% off the prices they were normally charging not a "sale-to-put-things-back-how-they-were-priced-anyway"). Walked out with £50 worth of stuff but - to be honest - that was more impulse purchase than anything else (we were both checking with each other "if it's okay to buy that" because we knew we were just impulse-buying and could get those films cheaper anywhere else), and they sell a lot of foreign movies that my girlfriend likes (we bought three foreign movies and two dvds-of-a-series). We had put a lot of stuff back on the shelves when we weighed up the value of it. There were no queues that time, either (which is unusual - they had some atrocious queues before Christmas, even weeks before, and not enough staff - enough to make me walk out without even looking because I wasn't going to queue through that for an impulse buy).

And what value do the staff add? None. It's basically a DVD and music library - flick through, get what you want, take it to the counter. What's the advantage over Amazon, etc.? Immediate availability of the most popular titles only (for years, they didn't know what "Just Good Friends" was when I was trying to buy it on DVD, didn't have it for years, and could only try to order "Just Friends", some American comedy movie).

Same as Comet - products on a shelf, pick your product, staff are useless, most things not in stock anyway, and pay over-the-odds to get what you can get elsewhere. It's basically a big supermarket for non-perishable items that's more expensive and more hassle than the alternatives.

Notice, also, that WHSmith have several large stores that have no DVD's at all on shelves (one in Watford has only two little turntable shelf things with about 20 unique DVD titles on there, most of them kids' films). They know they can't compete. About the largest WHSmith DVD section I see nowadays is the one near the BBC which sells, surprisingly, mostly BBC documentaries and comedies. They're quite good at knowing what sells on impulse and they've cut right back from the days when you had walls of DVD's in there, the same as they used to have shelves of ZX Spectrum tapes back in my youth but now don't sell videogames at all.

I'm not shocked. All these big, established chains wanted to do what they've done for 90 years and not change. They didn't stand up for the consumer (hell, imagine if they'd said we only sell DRM-free disks? That would be a kick in the teeth for their suppliers and also have consumers feeling they were on the same side). They didn't innovate. They didn't compete. They didn't change when they knew they couldn't compete. They just drive themselves into the ground, blinkered to reality.

Go find a sheet-music shop. It'll be some tiny back-street affair with a few instrument in the window, some adverts for tuition, maybe tutorials and CD's, spare parts, you name it. Because they know how big the market is, and what they have to do to keep afloat.

Now find a CD shop (HMV was pretty much the only one left - Virgin Music is dying off too and has been for years). They are IDENTICAL to how they always were, even down to rifling through bins of CD's put into four genres, with high prices, huge premises, and useless staff who got the job because they "like listening to music" (so, only about 99.9% of the population to choose from then). And nothing much else. No online shop, no burn-to-CD service, hell, they could have stuck some instruments in there and set up a £5-a-go recording studio for teenage group and try to sell the instruments on the side, but no. They didn't even TRY to change. They didn't even try to engage their core market (seriously - these music-fans wouldn't be interested in an instrument section, or some band trivia, or even indie band gigs in-store?). I have no doubt they made a lot of money for a LONG time, but it's hardly shocking that that came to an end.

I actually chose HMV as the "next to go" when I was shopping in there just after Comet went bust. I don't think Dixon Group will hold the monopoly for long, they just held out for longer but have the same problems as Comet did. WHSmith has held on pretty well in my opinion, but that won't last forever given the changes I've seen lately. I'd probably go for Pets At Home next - can't see how they make money from the occasional sale of a rabbit and some overpriced dog-food (and, hell, you can't even get a kitten or puppy from them!), especially with their usually-huge premises. That or Hobbycraft, but Hobbycraft covers quite a diverse range of people and products.

To be honest, wouldn't be surprised to see one of Wickes, B&Q or Homebase go soon, either. Overpriced tat and dumb staff in huge premises.

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Today's antivirus apps ARE 'worse at slaying hidden threats'

Lee Dowling
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Devil

Re: Problem is people don't like not having access to files

I don't understand why every Windows program isn't "bottled" into its own private area. Let it write to the Program Files folder. Just not the "real" one, and let the admin determine which overrides what (so you can have the "real" Program Files folder always take precedence over anything installed by a particular app).

When you uninstall, you delete the bottle. Thus, you don't cripple Windows by removing vital files that it overwrote. You don't leave traces of the program everywhere. You don't end up with a million old copies of msvcrt.dll because everything bundled one and left it around "in case it broke something". You can rollback to previous versions of a bottle without worrying about X needing DLL Y and vice versa. Do the same for registries (because that's just another abstraction over a file access).

If a program wants to work on a user document, a copy is created inside its bottle (so it only sees the files that the user actually gives it - hell, it can list all its wants of what the user lets it see, but actually opening a particular user file requires permission SOMEWHERE) and, if the user wants, the changed file is propagated back into the users documents when its closed (again, with suitable rollback - we have Shadow Copies - USE IT!).

Do the same for ANY startup list or service (and having several of these lists is RIDICULOUS) - let the program do what it thinks it's doing, then ignore it, then have the user decide (by domain policy, or user restrictions, or popup, or whatever combination is appropriate) whether it ACTUALLY gets to do that for real, and with rollback. Then it doesn't matter that program X comes bundled with toolbar Y that always tries to install - it thinks it's installed successfully, even when run as admin, can't tell that it hasn't, and the user isn't affected (and network admins can just have all these options turned off so programs think they are trashing C:\ or installed in the root, or in the startup entries, or have installed their pseudo-printer or whatever, when in reality nothing has changed for any user, even the admin).

Programs can do anything stupid at any time. Let them. Then ignore that stupid action. That's how it works, without having to stop things running (and cause uproar from users and application producers alike), without seven million permissions dialogs, and without breaking backward compatibility. Don't just allow virtualisation of the OS, let every program be "virtualised" and think it's writing to C:\ when in fact it's writing only to its own private bottle. MS even understands how to do this - some registry compatibility layers for old Windows do exactly this kind of thing!

A program demands admin rights for some archaic / stupid reason? Give it to them - as a user that is limited but can "fake" any access it likes. Hell, let it be "admin10437" inside a chroot-like jail that only admin10347 writes to or reads from, which it is unable to escape because it is IMPOSSIBLE to tell that it's in a bottle (i.e. it writes to C:\ as far as it's concerned, it just doesn't happen for real) and which is contained inside a subfolder of the real OS that is able to ignore any and all registry, file or other things inside that bottle at will.

There's no excuse for sloppy task management, not even "compatibility", or confusing administrators. It can all be done TODAY. And then when a virus comes along, it ends up in a bottle, on its own unable to see anything or do anything interesting, and - if detected - can be rolled back safely in a second including any and all hooks it TRIED to put into the OS (and, obviously, would have failed at doing on any non-trivial permission setup).

Fact is, as the most limited of users, you can still wreak havoc on a typical Windows PC even if that's just making it so busy that you can't log it off, or deleting all that users documents. That SHOULDN'T happen, ever. We have the technology, it's there. Just make every execution run inside a bottle rather than have access to the system itself.

A program may REQUEST that I put it into startup lists, but it cannot MAKE me, or do it for me unless I want it to. It shouldn't even be able to detect whether I have allowed that or not. Windows still hasn't sorted silly little things like this (hell, startup lists - some of them, not all - have been hidden away inside msconfig for years and aren't user-friendly at all).

Solve this sort of thing, and you don't need to break ANYTHING, and the rest solves itself.

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Lee Dowling
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AV is ineffective. It does some things but not nearly enough to justify its cost, performance hit, and other problems. You only need to work in IT for a while, especially with the front-end of business and networks, to see this. We deploy it because even some things like PCI certification require "up-to-date anti-virus".

In all the years I've been deploying AV, I've seen it stop only a bare handful of the most benign infections. Most of the real ones, that start popping up pornography on student's PCs, or trying to delete entire drives, or even things like "encrypting" every single file on every shared network drive that it has write access to and deleting the original, have gone undetected no matter what the manufacturer, or how often you apply updates.

AV is a bouncer's list of who not to let in, and about as accurate. Sure, it stops some known troublemakers but 90% of the people who start a fight inside the club aren't being dealt with for years after their release (my bursar just got an AV update that marked an email that was FIVE YEARS OLD in his archive as a virus - it was a true detection, but it took that long for the signatures to appear that it could recognise it). You wouldn't let your bouncer JUST stop the people on his list and ignore the fights breaking out behind him (which is the bit that SHOULD be dealt with by "heuristics" but they are even more performance-killing and ineffective), so why do we tolerate AV?

Basically AV is a miner's canary. When it falls over, because a virus has disabled it usually, that's tells you something is wrong. That's not the ONLY indication you are given, and sometimes it doesn't give an indication at all. But it's the only useful purpose of AV (and I've seen more AV drop off the network because a virus turned it off, even without admin access!, than I have successful network detection of viruses).

We use it because some stupid people think it's necessary. What the actual fix is is less-powerful users, easier-to-control permissions, and easier-to-roll-back-from-anything systems (I should not have to put entire machines back to a known-good state just because one program as a limited user ran riot and infected their own files). Until then, AV companies will still reel in the money detecting next-to-nothing and ghosts in the machine rather than actually STOPPING programs being able to delete or write to arbitrary files without permission.

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5

Satnav blunder sends Belgian granny 1,450km to Croatia

Lee Dowling
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Re: Question:

Never driven through Europe?

Usually the first you know about crossing a border is when your phone connects to a new network and sends you a text saying "Welcome to Germany". You literally just cross a sign at 70mph a few seconds later (like "Welcome to Middlesex" - style) without stopping and you're in another country. Not even a line, or a person, or a checkpoint, or a different tarmac on the road or anything. And there are sometimes even houses and streets that straddle the border.

I did a 2500 mile round trip around Europe and wasn't hindered once (France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Czech Republic, Austria, and then looping back to the UK through France and Germany again - the only reason I didn't get further is that my companions had to fly back to Australia and we lingered too long in Germany, but we were planning Italy, Poland, Spain, etc.).

Some countries do have physical borders that they don't even enforce (e.g. France or Switzerland -> Italy means going through tunnels or over mountains, and they stop you and charge you money for a badge that allows motorway usage, but don't actually check your details at all).

Europe is pretty open. It's incredibly easy to not even know what country you are in if you're not on the main motorways. And it's so easy to cross countries that you can literally do it accidentally, and with nobody knowing. Which can be a bit of pain when UK customs stop you on the ferry back and ask you to prove where you've been and start searching the car thinking that a lone male on a "road trip" to Europe with friends that can't be contacted is probably not being honest. Hell, I didn't even have a receipt for any of the hostels we stayed in because I was doing the driving and petrol because I had the car and a UK credit card, and the others paid for the accommodation because they had cash in Euros. I swear that the 5 customs officers who took an hour to search my car at 3am in the freezing cold were certain I had something even after they removed all my door panels and took my boot apart. But through Europe? Nothing until you hit Calais or the former Russian states, basically.

Europe is pretty open, until you get to the extremes.

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Hyperspeed travel looks wrong: Leicester students

Lee Dowling
Silver badge

Re: Did someone

Artistic license means you can say that your spaceship goes faster than any spaceship is capable of, or that your main character can really jump that far and swing around a pole and still shoot straight.

It doesn't account for a script line which basically says that someone is "3 litres tall", or "wider than a cheetah's top speed". It's an error. And I don't see a lot of time wasted on it, but it's certainly wrong.

Part of the filmmaker's job is to suspend disbelief and make us think we are "there". Someone saying something completely nonsensical, stupid and wrong and NOBODY present in the movie questioning it does the opposite. We all just go "What? Did I hear that right?" and miss a minute of the film while we all laugh at it.

And, literally, the fix was to get someone in who knew the tiniest bit about space (I mean, literally, even a student spots the error!) on your space-themed movie and have them look things over. On a multi-million dollar budget, I'm sure you could hire, say, a PhD for a day just to look over your script.

This is basic diligence when writing scripts, also. Star Trek (the other nerd-franchise that I don't watch) used to have the script-writers write "insert techno-babble here" and then they'd pass it off to a real scientist who would insert the bits about Heisenberg Compensators etc. (which is what artistic license REALLY allows). It costs nothing, it aids in the suspension of disbelief, it stops you looking like an idiot, and it stops making X% of your fans CRINGE every time they hear the line.

If you want an example of this in the modern day - try getting something wrong in The Big Bang Theory. It would be stupid, and embarrassing but we still would give you an awful lot of artistic license when in comes to most stuff. But even Howard using the wrong unit, unless it was a plot element and picked up on by the other characters, would jar in people's heads and make them forget they are watching entertainment - and that's the ONLY job you have if you making TV or films.

I find it a real bugbear of mine that films where people do incredibly stupid things for no reason other than to support a badly structured plot really annoy me. It makes me switch off and not watch the film again. This is on a par with the "Oh, the chainsaw murderer is after us, so we'll all split up, not call the police, not prepare a defensive weapon, hide out in a convenient abandoned cabin, get killed off one-by-one through our own stupidity and separation, and then the last one will run through an empty, dark forest they don't know late at night while they know the murderer is outside and inevitably trip over something (and only then will we realise that the weird one in the group was the murderer all along). Then we might 'capture' the murderer, and lock him in a room with a nice large window and convenient replacement weapons."

By comparison, say, Aliens: "I say we take off and nuke the site from orbit." Good man. Let's go. Even "The Thing": Let's gather everyone in a room, aim guns at them, formulate some sort of test and burn the hell out of whatever one turns out to be the alien (or just wait forever guarding them if we can't find out) - about the only "odd" point of that movie is locking a man they think is going insane in an outside hut while it all goes on, which is perfectly feasible in the circumstances, but a little odd that they forget about him so much.

You have to "believe" in the characters. The ones who do stupid things (and, let's face it, that line is there SPECIFICALLY to show off how fast his ship is, and fails to do that and everyone he speaks to takes it utterly seriously), you can't believe in.

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2

Twitter's Tweetdeck must 'file accounts or be struck off'

Lee Dowling
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Re: My question is @Lee

$40m seems expensive when you could have just blocked your API, or put some restriction on it that would then make this software illegal.

The worst that would happen is some web-scraping monstrosity would appear, that didn't use the API, and had to be updated every time you changed the way Twitter worked (which you could do whenever you liked for minimal cost). And, to be honest, you'd be within your rights to do what you liked to the internal code to make it almost impossible for them to keep scraping - eventually to the point where people would just give up on the app because it wouldn't work half the time and would need constant updates.

No, there's more to it than just removing an unwanted "feature" from a third-party's access (i.e. there's nothing to stop anyone else doing exactly what that software did and waiting to also be bought up - it's like paying off terrorists, all you end up doing is making all the others raise their prices and encourage them to try harder because they know there's a pay-off in it).

I bet there was some patent or other property in the business that they wanted, probably related to collating tweets, etc. and which they either already stamped on, or intended to.

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Lee Dowling
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Re: My question is

Hype.

Some people talk a very good game. Notice that the original director is a "multimillionaire", and has got away perfectly legitimately, one assumes, with lots and lots of money on the basis of setting up a company that did exactly what you describe and nothing more. You'll probably find he's done that in several places and, to be honest, well done to him. He's worked out how to make lots of money legitimately on the basis of fools paying him for something which isn't worth what they think (which, if it were illegal, would mean that almost everything would collapse overnight).

And he's not the one who's looking to be delisted, or the one who hasn't filed accounts (you'll probably find he files accounts religiously every year because - well, he's doing nothing wrong from what I can see), or the one who future companies might look at and say "Oh, hold on now - I heard something about this - you went under, didn't you?". In fact, he was so good he founded it from nothing, sold it for $40m, and only when he was no longer involved (and almost the moment he left) did everything go down the drain. If anything, that makes him sound better!

Similarly, Facebook was never worth what it was floated at. Never. Still isn't now. But some people made a LOT of money by shuffling shares and cash around for a very brief moment (and got rich doing legitimate things), and then dumped the shares on those fools who thought they could only go up in value (which they haven't - in fact, they've done almost nothing but go down in value, and look likely to until the company disappears).

It was never worth $40m. But some entity THOUGHT it was and paid it. It's like someone paying me $40m for a painting I find in my loft that I know is just a cheap painting. So long as I *don't* misrepresent it, or otherwise commit fraud while selling it, if they want to give me $40m for it? That's up to them. I'm not going to argue. I might even tell them I have other bidders (if I do) or that I won't let it go for less than $50m. I'm not going to say "But it's only worth tuppence" unless I'm an absolute idiot - but if **I** said it was a genuine Picasso when I know it's not? That's a different matter.

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Lee Dowling
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A £40m asset that can't even be bothered to comply with statutory legal regulations.

That would have me hastening to distance myself from it, more than any "bad report" of profits could ever do. Hell, you could have made a £40m loss last year and STILL it wouldn't be as bad as failing to supply the information necessary about that by law.

I do like the punishment, though. Prior warning. Reasonable fine and another warning. Reasonable fine and (now) a sterner warning. And - if they continue - now you're not a company any more, making it illegal to trade, forcibly winding up the company and presumingly legal investigation into the actions of the directors etc. I think that's quite fair, given the circumstances.

The pitiful profit is neither here not there. Many companies make a pitiful profit whether they are valued at billions or not. The important thing is that there's a book somewhere with a record of what you did with your money - and not filing returns is HIGHLY suggestive that that book doesn't exist or would reveal something that's illegal. It's telling that the last director filed a return before he left, and the new owners have filed NOTHING.

Maybe they didn't buy what they thought, or it's been embarrassing to report they've tanked the company, or they have uncovered discrepancies that stem from the previous director's reign. But not telling which (or even initiating a lawsuit in the case of the latter) is more detrimental, and more telling, than anything they could have done.

Hell, if it comes to it, probably just asking for more time would have worked wonders. But silence and not filing? I'd do everything to disassociate myself the second I heard that if I had anything to do with them.

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CIOs: Don't listen to tech vendors on ICT skills, listen to US

Lee Dowling
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And so breed a generation of coders that think you need to reformat machines every time they exhibit the tiniest of bugs. Lovely. Exactly my point.

P.S. How are you going to install to download and install the OS on the RPi machine in the first place, how are you going to get it to receive updates, how are you going to follow online tutorials for it, how are you going to make sure the kids can't just brute-force passwords or attempt DDoS on the servers using their lovely £20 machines with network connectivity, or spamming the Internet because they "downloaded a project" for the Raspberry Pi that turns them into spam-spewing zombies, how are you going to stop them bypassing filters, etc.etc.etc?

By having decent security on the network to detect and/or block such activity no matter what machine tries to do it - which is necessary anyway, so what have we achieved? Nothing. This is the entire problem with BYOD, by the way - sure it can work, but what you're basically doing is APPLYING SECURITY so that it doesn't cause you legal or technical problems when used from an unsecured machine (which is kinda a daft thing to do, but that's not my problem because I don't do it). A school was fined hundreds of thousands of pounds not-so-long-ago for having a laptop stolen that was unencrypted and had children's reports on it - there wasn't even a suggestion that anyone actually has that data or has distributed it elsewhere or caused any damage from that data leak. We're not even talking highly-sensitive data (school reports usually contain name and a brief summary of their progress from their teachers - not even their address or anything related to medical / psychological problems they may have), and they did all the reporting of the theft as prescribed by law. The encryption (and subsequent password management, and security ensuring the staff member doesn't "unencrypt" even quite harmless data by putting it onto a USB stick and leaving that in their car - which has ALSO been prosecuted) is there for a reason - and to be honest, it causes me problems and I'd love to be able to do without it for client machines.

Fact is, computer systems in schools (and businesses) are like that because they contain data that needs to be protected and which can't be passed off to cloud systems, can't be easily put into the hands of third-parties without explicit contracts, can't be unavailable - e.g. emergency medical information on children and/or required exam coursework for them to work on that happens to come under the DPA. There are legal requirements to store and protect that data for years (and if a kid has a photograph with a name attached to it, or even some information about themselves like, say, a test CV - that's "personal data" under the terms of the DPA, so we're not just talking about things on the "admin" network here, but the "curriculum" network that the kids use too), and doing so in accordance with various laws which mean passing it off to a third-party cloud host in the Bahamas doesn't let you off, and in fact gets you into more trouble.

Even letting a single rogue host onto an unsecured network that can get access to something it shouldn't can be defined as a failure to protect that data (even if it's the kids' own work, on a kids-only network, from kids-only hardware!), and can be prosecuted - which is where basic network security comes in in terms of approving applications and plugins, limiting users, blocking off the Internet, keeping on top of antivirus and vulnerabilities, etc. comes in.

Fact is, there's nothing that CAN'T be done on a properly secured network, otherwise there would be no point trying to secure the network at all (hell, virtualise everything, if it comes to it!). It just has to be done in consultation with your IT people and with due care and process. Thus why I call horse-manure on this particular quote. If security is interfering with your ability to teach ICT, you're teaching ICT badly or your IT people are failing in their job. But if there's NO security at all, in the name of not interfering in lessons, your IT people will be disappearing so that they aren't named on court proceedings when it comes to a DPA violation and your external providers will all have clauses that mean they are immune or that it's your problem, not theirs, that little Johnny's personal details just got splatted all over his friend's Facebook pages, traced to a school dataset).

Want a school that doesn't have basic security applied? BYE!

Want a school that has lessened security because of perceived "problems" on the user end? Slippery-slope into all-users-being-admin areas, and inevitably you'll find holes everywhere that you can't stop without being as strict as the average school network security policy anyway (that's WHY those policies are that strict as a minimum).

Think that end-users are hindered in their use of a properly-configured computer on a properly-secured network? Tell your software manufacturers, especially educational ones, to pull their fingers out and not require admin access, local installation, out-of-date Quicktime and Shockwave etc. browser plugins, in order to show three croaking frogs on the screen and let the user click one of them to be directed to an external website that runs Java plugins and hasn't been updated in years. Then see how "necessary" it was to change security policies to stop "hindering users".

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Lee Dowling
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"Important aspects of Computer Science and Information Technology teaching and learning are being compromised by the need to maintain a secure network – in the same way that health and safety myths are holding back practical science."

Like what? I'd be very interested to know where and when IT security of a network involving children's data and access to communication facilities with them trumps them being able to pass an A-Level and exactly where they conflict to the point that education suffers.

Unless, of course, you're counting wanting to "do everything" on a machine, install plugins from every content manufacturer that wants admin access to your machine to administer a test in Flash, or where filtering of pornography stops students getting onto sites they need to use. Because, obviously, those things are VITAL and MUST BE DONE THAT WAY. <end sarcasm>

I mean, seriously - if there's any hindrance here, ALL schools, universities, government departments and businesses will also be similarly hindered, and thus that's perfect training for students not to expect to be able to do those things.

Or is that just a sponsored message from your local junk educational software producer (who've only just got out of the habit of using Quicktime and still haven't grasped network paths yet).

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Disney World slaps pay-by-bonk stalker cuffs on grown-ups

Lee Dowling
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One-site-only TODAY. Never forget that things deployed by a single corporation today are what you'll be using in your corporation tomorrow (or some unspecified point in the future unless some other fad comes along). Otherwise health & safety statements would be two lines long in most places.

That said, the technology is there to do this, I just wonder about the practicality. Can my child run off and buy a load of junk without me knowing while I pop to the loo? When do I find out? When I get home and see a credit card bill with one huge number from Disney on it (i.e. not even itemised)? How do I query it, get refunds, etc. and how do you know I *DIDN'T* go on that ride, but actually just brushed past the reader while opening my backpack after I gave up queuing? Not having cash in your pocket is a good thing, but if it's linked to a credit card that's in my pocket anyway, what do I gain? Am I going to go to this place without a credit card or cash because I "know" I can use this device? Or am I going to soak my wallet anyway because I had to have it with me and I went swimming and forgot it? Does this really *solve* any problem that currently exists? I don't think so.

All it does is make it more difficult to query transactions, requires everyone to have an "accepted" credit card if they want to visit (I assume non-users will have to pay a transaction fee or somehow suffer for not letting their bank lend them a thousand pounds on easy-access terms, and I bet it doesn't work with pre-pay credit cards, for instance, where you don't know how much you're going to spend that day and can't just hold onto £200 just-in-case they spend that much, like with normal credit cards), and not give the customer ANYTHING they don't already have in some form.

And, thus, it's just "technology because". This is what primarily annoys me about even things like board games now. Monopoly has version that use electronic cards to do your adding up for you, and also even an iPad version where each player loads their RFID card into their iPad to play a board game. Just what, precisely, do they add to the game? And what do they do about the bits it TAKES OUT (like kids having to add up to play the game with mum & dad, while trying to peel them away from the damn computer?).

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Hey, open sourcers: Who's your code's daddy?

Lee Dowling
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And thus simple facts mean you should audit ALL code you write, whenever and wherever, if you've signed this sort of contract (which he had). Hell, technically using a company pencil to sketch the idea might somehow "infect" the code (and companies complain about the GPL!).

And, yes, although there is a lot of jurisdiction, contract, fairness, common-sense, and direct judicial decision-making here, it doesn't mean that it's "clear-cut". In fact, the opposite. If a judge has to decide an issue for you, even if it means having to get a lenient judge over a by-the-book judge, that's NOT clear-cut - and it means that the legal issue is still there - the individual circumstances may differ, but in the law the "crime" committed is identical (copyright infringement because of an inadequate license to allow you do to distribute said copyrighted material).

In the same way, running a red light by accident leaves you open to a case of EXACTLY the same charge as someone who does it deliberately. The judge might side with you (notice: MIGHT), but it's not clear-cut, not something you should give assurances on (i.e. telling someone you'll be out of court in ten minutes and/or that you will be in Monday morning to do your normal taxi job, etc. - the same as giving others code that you tell them you had a legal right to assign the GPL license to!), and not something that you can guarantee - ESPECIALLY if you have signed a piece of paper in the past that clearly lays out your employer's side of the argument.

Common-sense is all well and good, but if it ran the legal systems of the world, there'd be a lot less lawyers.

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Lee Dowling
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Those who have signed contracts which even MENTION code contributions should carefully audit all their contributions to anything, no matter when, where or how those contributions take place. It's quite easy to know if you are writing code and distributing it or not.

And those who publish code under an open-source license better have permission from the entity that OWNS that code (doesn't mean the same entity that wrote it!) or they will be in serious trouble and cause trouble for others. There is no distinction in law between distributing GPL code that your employer claims to own and didn't give you permission to GPL, and someone who takes an internal company project - say, their latest proprietary software - and makes it public on the web for people to download and even encourages them to download it with a "fake" license agreement. Both are the same legal incident and just as likely to end up with fines, sackings, jail or whatever is deemed appropriate in your jurisdiction - so consider writing GPL code on company time, or after having signed a company contract about your code contributions, exactly the same as just giving away Microsoft Office to newsgroups if you worked at Microsoft. Though you *might* be able to obtain permission from companies to do that (lots of companies give things away, from Serif giving away their DTP software for years, to other companies giving away their ancient versions, to companies - yes, letting you give away their original source code, like Quake) the two things are viewed as essentially the same act.

This isn't anything "new" or exciting here. If you have signed a contract regarding code that you write, then it's up to YOU to enforce that contract to the best of your ability, which includes CHECKING what you are doing at all stages and not just assuming that your (possibly-soon-to-be-ex-)employer will always allow it.

In the same way, if you sign a contract that says that the furniture in your office is the company's, you better not have a yard sale or giveaway from your office when you leave without checking with someone in authority on that contract first.

The biggest problem with mentioning open-source is that everyone assumes that somehow the law applies differently to it than everything else. Companies and end-users assume that "Free" means they can do what they like with it, and some coders assume that they are somehow exempt from copyright law because of it or don't need to audit their contributions. That's NOT how it works. Open-source code is a property like any other - and needs appropriate permission to do most things on it. The contracts/licenses may give you that permission implicitly or explicitly or not at all, but it is that permission that is still required.

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Is this possibly the worst broadband in the world?

Lee Dowling
Silver badge

Still don't think it comes CLOSE to profit, that's the point.

You can badmouth BT all you like but keeping a phone connection open even just for emergency calls costs them money on every bit of the backend from your copper connection up to their national infrastructure.

ADSL just add huge data requirements on top. And even if you assume they should plough back every bit of profit into upgrading lines, etc. it doesn't add up to supply a line that will make a loss (after nothing but running expenses) for 25-30 years, and which at any point you can tell them to stuff it and go with their competitor who might not pay toward their upkeep of that same line but run their own cables by then. Add on actually having to make a profit (they ARE a business, not a government entity any more), and having to subsidise other, even poorer connections elsewhere (some of them by government order, e.g. the "proper" rural broadbands like the islands and the 50km runs, etc.) and it's of course going to be damn expensive for the homeowner.

But the fact is, even if you popped down to your local cabling supplier and picked up some ADSL backend hardware and did it yourself over 2km, it's going to be YEARS before you save enough to make it cost-effective, and even more years if you had to do the same for the whole town (which is why just about every "community broadband" supplier ends up folding, conceding, with ludicrous prices or low-speeds, or selling out to a multi-national in order to stay afloat).

Hell, if it's THAT profitable, buy yourself a leased line at business prices (they will run it to your door and GUARANTEE uncontended service, no matter what the obstacle), and offer it out over wifi (no cabling costs) to the entire town. You could easily run a 100-1000 customers over a single leased line of a decent speed, but I doubt you'd ever pay for the line itself, BT involvement or not. That's what a load of community project did and you realise that actually it's damn hard to make any money at all, let alone recoup the outlay.

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Lee Dowling
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Price up 2.5km of cabling, including digging up pavements or erecting poles to run it to the exchange (or 4km of fibre for the equivalent "independent" option).

Price up a leased line of your own maximum speed from that exchange to an Internet hub somewhere that will peer with you.

Now divide by the number of people that would serve (one). That's how much your house will cost to wire for broadband no matter who does it. If it's cheaper than a leased fibre line direct to your house, I'll be amazed.

Now consider the only economy of scale. Do the same calculation for a line to EVERYONE in the town (including all the cabling etc. that would cost, extra cabinets, etc.). Multiply up the leased line to the exchange to handle some proportion of them being "online" simultaneously. Now divide by the number of people who would buy it. I will still be similarly amazed if the per-customer cost was recoupable from the profit you could make in under 25 years of everyone being connected -ONLY with you - on your most expensive package.

You don't live "out in the sticks" but you do live 2.5km from an exchange, which is probably 20+km away from a point it can connect to the Internet reliably with an SLA. It costs as much to wire you as any company will quote you for to wire just you anyway. Hell, even if you imaginarily did a Heath-Robinson job, you're talking 2.5km of cable or fibre and technology out of your price range on either end before you even start.

You do not have a right to broadband access. And providing it to you, like BT has been saying for DECADES, costs more than the 50-year-old copper line that gives you phone calls cost to install (which is probably something that, nowadays, they wouldn't fund either with increasing metal costs). This is why cable is only in pre-cabled areas (because companies went bankrupt running that cable to you, because they could never make their installation costs back, and only the companies that snapped them up "for nothing" actually run a good cable service in this country - because they basically got the copper installed for free - and that's why they won't install new areas unless the end cost of X% of customers paying £Y a month for Z years actually makes their money back AND A BIT MORE).

You are stuck. Until someone funds a closer exchange, a better leased line to that exchange, or some other alternative that passes closer to your house and doesn't cost about £10,000 to install (which you won't pay back on a basic ADSL service for about 42 years - and that's assuming there are NO ongoing costs in keeping it running).

Suck it up, or fund it yourself. Much as I like to point out how crap BT are, they really do have a point about rural broadband installation.

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'Better than Adobe' Foxit PDF plugin hit by worse-than-Adobe 0-day

Lee Dowling
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"The offending code, highlighted by Micalizzi, is a simple loop that copies the entire URL into a fixed-sized buffer while scanning for '%' escape codes"

Programmer-facepalm.

Seriously? A fixed-sized buffer that you didn't bother to check the contents fitted inside? I mean, not even a check, let alone actually sizing the buffer properly in the first place?

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Time has already run out for smart watches

Lee Dowling
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Casio

I wear a watch. I've worn the same watch since I was a kid. It's a Casio W-59. In fact, I've never worn any other sort of watch, except other Casios that look identical but that have different backlights (and they do a model that does the MSF radio-clock time-setting, I believe). Every single example of that watch I've worn has lasted 3-4 years and then the strap breaks and I buy another. I have a drawer full of the mechanisms with no straps on them that are STILL WORKING 10+ years later with no battery change (and changing the battery probably costs as much as a replacement even if it does ever happen). It shows me hour, minute, second, day-of-week, and date-of-month at a glance and has a little light so I can see it in the dark. When I was younger, I could read books in bed in complete darkness by the tiny light it gave out. I can set an alarm if I've nothing else on me capable of doing so. It's waterproof and pretty damn solid (even the strap, which takes YEARS to give out) so I've never managed to do any damage to or lose one from my arm even when swimming and forgetting it's there.

And how much do I use it? Barely ever. In fact, I put it on every day and probably spend more time over my life putting it on and taking it off than I ever do looking at it, but I miss the weight of it if it's not there.

Actually, I probably spend longer adjusting my watch once-every-six-months or so to make sure it's on "my time" than I do looking at it. Why do I carry it? Sheer habit. When I was younger I used it all the time for school. When I go to job interviews, I like to have it there to make sure I'm on time. Every other time, I don't use it and have actually pulled out a smartphone before I've realised that I'm wearing it (and, bear in mind, I've worn one every day for the past 15-20 years). I have a bad memory and so have a morning routine which involves the watch and, also, a pat-and-count of my body to make sure I have taken everything (without which, I would end up driving miles to the shops and not have my wallet on me when I get there, quite easily).

Watches are inconvenient. If you wear long-sleeves, you have to pull them up to look at the screen. You have to sacrifice the usefulness of both hands to check the time, in that case. You have to put them on and take them off and be used to them being there (I have caught mine several times on things when working around the house and given how long I've worn them, that's quite telling).

I work in front of a machine that displays the time, in an office with a clock, on an office phone that shows the time, with timed bells (I work in a school). At home, I have a machine that displays the time, a clock that displays the time, a TV that displays the time and various ways of discovering the time otherwise (including a drawer full of watch-faces!). In the car I have a radio that displays the time and a clock that displays the time. Walking around I have a watch that displays the time and a phone that displays the time (even when locked). I don't go anywhere without both.

It doesn't mean I'm never late, or that I always know what the time is, but the time is everywhere. So my watch could easily do more and I would be right alongside that idea because I carry my watch and extraneous gubbins around with me all the time out of habit. But a watch that "does something" has been around since I was a kid - everything from calculators to measuring tapes to hidden pens to radios to TVs to - now - "smartwatches". I don't believe that people use them practically because they aren't in a convenient position for a) looking at anything without sacrificing at least one arm's position while you do it, b) hearing anything it does without it disturbing others, c) it hearing you speak, d) the size of the interface available on the watch, e) pressing buttons (which you have to do with your other hand rather than the "same-thumb" technique for holding a smartphone), f) being unable to comfortably use it once you've removed it (so that limits its ability and value if, like me, you take your watch off when your indoors).

The watch is just not a convenient interface for anything, even hands-free. Nor are bluetooth headsets, I'd like to point out, but a watch even less so (not even close enough for audio in a noisy environment, for instance). Of all the space-age tech we saw in sci-fi and Bond movies over the last 5 decades, the gadget-watch has been around the longest and enjoyed the least success. I'm not surprised watch companies won't touch gadgets with a bargepole.

Hell, I even laugh at the star-trek badge that has to be tapped to talk. I find that hilarious, given how much of a pain that must be to keep pressing (and I bet it wears a nice little hole in your nipple after a few years of busy pressing), and that's halfway between a headset and a watch for communication purposes.

Honestly, watches are fashion items and items of habit. Nobody's needed one since mobile phones, same as address books, calendars, and calculators. Making it "smart" won't make it an overnight shock success (though, obviously, you'll always sell SOME of them). In fact, all it will do is make smartwatches things we can all laugh at.

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SMART, Micron 960GBs: Safe pair of NANDs or more cloud guff?

Lee Dowling
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Price?

Because with SSD's, not much else has mattered since they were first on the market.

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Review: HP ENVY x2 Windows 8 convertible

Lee Dowling
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I entered the competition.

But if I won it, though, I'd sell it. I mean, seriously - it's an overpriced tablet with a docking station. Sell it, buy a nice tablet (if that's what you want), spend the rest on a real laptop, get on with life.

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Reg Hardware Awards Best of 2012: VOTING NOW OPEN

Lee Dowling
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Worked fine for me just a minute ago. Though I'll be damned if I'm going to remember the specs / reviews of 10+ model numbers of computer and nominate which one is best on the basis of that.

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A pre-ticked box in web forms should NOT mean consent - EU report

Lee Dowling
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And, presumably, the better workers at that.

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Drop that can of sweet pop and grab a coffee - for your sanity's sake

Lee Dowling
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Muesli is fried. It's probably one of the worst things you can eat. Go compare the nutritional information to any other cereal (e.g. honey-nut cornflakes) next time you are in a supermarket.

That said, it tastes like bird-seed and I'm with you on the first part, so I avoid it for that reason.

I'd like a life experienced for 70 years, than death avoided through sacrifice of that experience for 100.

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Lee Dowling
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Re: Deadly

True, but the diet versions are generally worse, believe it or not. About the only other difference between diet and not is presence of "real" natural sugar or some artificial substitute.

And sugar/acid rots your teeth, don't you know? But simple physics tells you that drinking it down (and even through a straw) instead of sipping it / swilling it around your mouth (like kids do) is actually better because the exposure time on the enamel is lengthened significantly if you swill it and that's the biggest danger. You can watch a tooth dissolve overnight if you leave it in coke, but that's not what happens in your mouth if you just drink it normally.

Hence, we should make straws compulsory, and drinking the drink in one go, in preference to any kind of ban whatsoever because that has a quicker, more obvious, harder to tackle, and easier to manage effect on teeth than anything to do with calcium-leeching. Which kinda makes it obvious just how relevant the damage to your calcium is compared to anything else you eat/drink damaging you (i.e. not).

Personally, I drink SO MUCH coke that you'd probably recoil in horror. Seriously. I do not drink tea, coffee, alcohol of any kind (not religious, just can't stand the taste and don't see the point, and have a father who worked for breweries all his life which has meant "free beer" since I was old enough to try it) or water (except at work where I'm not allowed to bring in fizzy drinks - I work in a school) and my main beverage is actually coke. I buy it en-masse from the local Costco, because I get through that much of it. When they don't have it, I use Pepsi or some equivalent. When I go shopping, I do not buy any other beverage unless it's for guests.

My ex-wife was the same, and independently of myself before I met her, her father has also been the same for years and researched the effects as a "proper" scientist too and made her stop holding the drink in her mouth when she was little - same for sweets, a boiled sweet or chewing gum running around your mouth for ten minutes does more damage than 2 litres of coke passing over only your tongue. He's also a professional fitness instructor, qualified science teacher with several PhD's, and they both ran karate clubs for decades which killed almost all visiting black-belts through sheer stamina and fitness levels that were unrivalled outside of professional sports. With my ex, it was caffeine-free diet coke though (even though that has more of a calcium-leeching effect).

I've done this for literally years - since I was a teenager living at home. My parents have Coke on standby for when I visit because they are so used to it, my girlfriend's parents in Italy stock Coke especially for me, and when I meet up with my ex- or her father still we invariably have two cokes. When I go to a pub or restaurant, no matter the country, or how posh, I drink Coke. When I go to a friend's house, they know it's Coke or nothing. I have a sip of wine at Christmas to be social and toast with others, but otherwise it's Coke. It doesn't even need to be "proper" Coke, or Pepsi, or a named brand.

My teeth? I haven't been to a dentist in about 15 years and have no problems with them (in fact, when I was starting university I had to have many milk and wisdom teeth forcibly removed to make way for adult teeth - they were all in pristine condition and refused to budge without an operation).

My bones? I've never even broke, fractured, or damaged a bone in my entire body in my entire life (but that's purely anecdotal and doesn't indicate they won't be weaker in years to come).

My sleep? I drink caffeine all day long, every day, and never have trouble sleeping (this is because caffeine has a tolerance effect that builds up, of course, but I still love it when people drink coffee all day long and then refuse a coke unless it's caffeine-free because "they won't sleep tonight". When I don't have coke for a day, I get a slight headache the next day and then it passes - tested on periods up to two weeks long).

My weight? I'm actually bordering on underweight, have no diet (or toilet) problems, and eat like a pig all day long.

My doctor? In the last 15 years, I've seen three doctors, and only to register with them and to have interventions not related to diet or lifestyle (e.g. wisdom teeth pulling, swine flu etc.). I can count on one hand the total visits to doctors over that time. Whenever I register with them, the blood tests and fitness tests pass straight through without comment. My blood pressure, weight, BMI, etc. are normal, always are every time I have them measured.

About the only downside to my beverage of choice? When I had norovirus a few years ago in Italy (the last illness of any kind I had, and not surprising when you change country and meet 50+ people for the firs time), I'd just drank Coke and the resulting explusion was black. It merely made people think they needed to phone for an ambulance until it was explained.

If you want to enforce bans, then you need to ban the right thing. A fizzy drink isn't dangerous, even if you're drinking literally hundreds of litres a year and nothing else for decades. What's MORE dangerous is washing it over your teeth for an unnecessary length of time (your teeth have no taste sensors, so why do it?). Thus the "ban" should be on boiled sweets, chewing gum (even "sugar free" which has the exact same sweeteners in it as diet drinks), anything that "fractures" in your mouth or sticks to your teeth like popping candy or chewy bars or even cereal bars.

Similarly "banning" fatty foods should start with muesli. It's fried. Don't believe me? Go compare the nutritional information of muesli with ANY OTHER CEREAL (last time I did so with sugar-covered honey-nut corn flakes, the corn-flakes won hands down no matter what the brand, sometimes by as much as half the fat/carbs/sugar as the muesli).

Also, a school banning those things (like mine, and most others, already do) does nothing - the parents will still pack it in lunchboxes (and be told off by the school, so they'll put it in their kids bags and tell them not to tell the teachers), the older children will pop to the tuck shop down the road, and the others will go home where it will be freely supplied. All you would do is increase the chances of kids desiring it because it's "illicit" in schools. It would have to be a BAN, outright, and that seriously infringes on my lifestyle choice that is literally hurting nobody and not added ANYTHING to a health service burden.

Ideally, though, what we need to ban is stupidity and people drawing single-line conclusions from newspaper reports instead of finding out THE TRUTH about what they are eating.

Ban muesli.

Ban tomato sauce (serious health risk as it's almost impossible to tell when it's gone off and is often consumed outside of the best before dates, that's before you even consider the sugar in it).

Ban straws.

Ban boiled sweets, toffees and most sweets in general.

Ban cereal bars.

THEN you can ban a fizzy drink for leeching your calcium.

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'Leccy-starved Reg hack: 'How I survive on 1.5kW'

Lee Dowling
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Pay the money, or find an alternative, rather than struggle along with something that's unsatisfactory.

I would be equally happy, in the same situation, to stump up for an external box and installation to it to the local sparky (who, buy him a beer, and he'll do it a lot cheaper than the usual tourist-idiot-quote). If you're worried about aesthetics, buy a load of stone of the same type and build an outhouse for it that blends in.

Or, similarly, to just tell the electrical company "No thanks, then" and cut off the supply entirely. I'd probably then ring round their competitors and see who could hook me back up with a decent amount of power. Failing some corporate back-pedalling, I'd then just buy a couple of solar panels or a genny and go off-grid. Seriously, if you're paying every month to be struggling with only 1.5KW, you might as well do it on your own terms and without reliance on someone else. 1.5KW is not a lot of instantaneous power to generate and you won't be doing it 24/7 (hell, I bet any modern house only pulls that when you have tools or appliances or heaters turned on, and you don't have something on for 24 hours a day except possibly lighting and background electronics like clocks, alarms, TV etc.) - hell, if you're living there permanently you don't want the hassle of the power problem and if you're living there sporadically (e.g. holiday home) you win big time by just doing it yourself.

Honestly, if it was that prohibitive, I'd find an alternative and not suffer it even as a fallback (why, if they provide such pathetic service?). If it's not that prohibitive, then you should just pay it. It's not like the £10,000 that some ADSL ISP's want to charge some people because they are 20km from the nearest town and they have no cables that way - there's a reason there that costs, and if they seriously are charging too much, why would you faff about with a dial-up that cuts out every hour when you could just go with a satellite or wireless provider?

Honestly, I think you're being a cheapskate and then whinging because of it. And if you're not a cheapskate, shell out the not-a-fortune on your own power independence and solve the problem once and for all.

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Big Brother is prosecuting you: More cops to use court vid chats

Lee Dowling
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Re: Sure those numbers are right?

And is it just me hoping that the typo is actually for 300,000 hours because, otherwise, it all seems a bit of a waste.

300,000 hours sounds like the sort of number where it become worth saving over 70,000 cases (i.e. several hours per case), but otherwise it all seems to be a bit pointless and expensive if it doesn't save AT LEAST that much.

Hell, it would probably be quicker and cheaper to just let them dial in evidence by phone. It's not like the video-part of it adds anything to proceedings that the court can act on ("This witness is obviously lying because he looks a bit shifty", etc.) or is recorded for posterity, or broadcast to the world.

Let them give evidence by phone (with suitable verification), save all the fancy-schmancy tech and get the same (or better) result.

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Lee Dowling
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Re: Sure those numbers are right?

Yeah, 300 man-hours. That's two-weeks of work for a single officer. On that amount of cases, you probably spend ten times that much by having police toilets 5m more than away from their offices / entrance.

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Nuisance calls DOUBLE, Ofcom vows to hunt down offenders

Lee Dowling
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Treat the telecoms companies like an ISP spamming emails.

Too many nuisances, originating from a certain international telecoms company, and you list them in a public blacklist and UK telcos are required to block all calls from them until they clear up their act (i.e. until that international telco monitor their customers and at a MINIMUM demand identification details from large callers, limit call volumes, act on abuse complaints, etc.). Don't worry about the companies that are doing the calling - that's up to the foreign telco to act on and put out of business. After all, they are paying customers of that telco and subject to the same legal jurisdiction as the telco too. Just make the telcos block the entire source (if you don't know what cable that international call has come in on - well, you shouldn't be a bloody telco). When the international telcos can't call Britain, they will go through and expunge most spammers from their customers and/or enforce things like valid Caller-ID, etc. in order to get that facility back (or, at least, stop the spammers calling the UK so they don't lose access and carry on letting them spam everyone else, but who cares about that?).

Additionally, LOG ALL FECKING CALLS. Don't tell me you can't, because you bill me for them, itemise them every month, and if I'm being harassed BT are very happy to intercept my entire telephone line, take all calls, trace the harasser (Caller-ID or not) and report them to police. I know, because years ago someone from a caller-ID-withheld number was spamming my phone line so that it was just going off all the time for hours. Eventually I had BT intercept the line, they traced it, called the BANK that was faxing me private banking details thinking my home phone was one of their branches (and I didn't have a fax machine to hand or I'd have received that data myself) and had their faxes set to mad auto-redial. Even the number traced wasn't an incoming phone line, but they had customer details on hand and phoned through to the bank's data protection department to get the problem sorted.

If you log all the calls, and then ENFORCE Caller-ID (i.e. don't trust the caller to supply it), and then I get a dodgy phone call, then you can provide everyone with a number (e.g. the numeric equivalent of "SPAM" on the phone) and when I dial that you can have an automated system reel off the last X numbers that called, with times and dates, and let me press 1) to report unsolicited calls, 2) to report silent calls, 3) to report harassment, 4) to block that number forever. Just what is DIFFICULT about that for a telco? And, hell, why can't I just block ALL international calls except from country X (where my relatives live) at no cost? Because there is no business interest in the telcos allowing you to do so at the moment and that's the biggest problem.

OfCom is toothless, telcos are uninterested because they get paid to ferry spam back and forth. Fix those problems and the actual, technical and political problem is very easy to solve internationally (for UK customers at least). We can nearly make porn-blocking--at-your-ISP-by-default law, but we can't make it so that telcos are obliged to provide number-blocking services for free? It's also like the Royal Mail spam-con. You can tell them you don't want to receive unaddressed spam but you still end up with some of it via them no matter what, because they are getting paid to deliver it.

Personally, at home I don't answer the phone unless the Caller-ID comes up with someone I know (and I have an answering machine, so leave a message if it's that important, or my bank is calling or whatever). And my mobile phone, I google the numbers before answering and spam ones go into a "SPAM" contact that has a silent ringtone. BECAUSE THE DAMN TELCOS want me to pay more to let them do that for me.

Is it any wonder that people are moving onto things like Skype and abandoning traditional telephony? At least with Skype spam amounts only to "Do you wish to add gahdkjghakjfdhg@hgfsdjhg.com to your contact list?" which is no worse than my MSN account which has about 10 blocked addresses and has been running every day since Hotmail was still plain HTML.

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Oracle, Dell, CSC, Xerox, Symantec accused of paying ZERO UK tax

Lee Dowling
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Re: Go right ahead...

That's like saying if you raise income tax everyone will emigrate. Only if you do something INCREDIBLY stupid and price the company out of the market. A £3bn company isn't going to disappear overnight even if it wanted to and certainly isn't going to stop selling licenses until it *costs* them money to supply them. You would literally be looking at something like 70-80% tax on profit before that happens (remember, it's a tax on PROFIT).

Additionally, if Oracle has to leave the UK because it can't afford to operate... FABULOUS. There'll be a humungous rush for the database market in the UK that doesn't involve them, and lots of other companies will make SOME money (maybe not on the same scale as Oracle did) and we'll pay less for database licensing. Same for Symantec. Same for Xerox. Same for Dell. Same for just about any company.

These companies are doing nothing against the law. Which, in effect, means the law is broken because being able to say you made zero profit in the UK because you paid YOURSELF in another country all the profit, is a blatant tax loophole. Just because it's legal, doesn't mean it's right, or that it should be legal tomorrow.

You could enforce corporate tax on those profits, and tax them to 50%. It'll change the market, but there won't be a mass exodus. If anything, it'll only make things better - you and I will have more money or pay less tax (because the government doesn't need to make up that shortfall any more from our income tax), and those industries will have more competition.

Hell, it might even boost open-source take-up and force government procurement to use suppliers that are more suitable. But that's probably just a pipedream.

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FAVI smacks your dumb TV with £30 Android SmartStick

Lee Dowling
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Quote from the article: "Which is important as (in common with most sticks) there's no Bluetooth support."

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Lee Dowling
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Again proving that your TV is nothing but a display device.

This is what makes me doubtful of any such magical "Apple TV" announcement that was supposed to be forthcoming and legendary and world-ending. Pretty much anything that can be done on a smart TV, can be done with a £30 box and some open-source programming stuck on the TV instead.

I'd buy one, but the controls sound a pain and I already have an IR-extender and a Wii-sensor mounted atop my TV as the only things you can actually see apart from the TV and the remote control. Everything else is tucked away in a cupboard, but another HDMI run, plus USB / PSU, plus IR-out, plus some sort of wireless mouse / keyboard combo - it's too much mess. But it would be cool to have my Google Play account on the TV and playing things like Slay on it (just bought the Android version - about the tenth time I've bought that game, one way or another, since Windows 3.1).

Make me one that forgoes the IR and supports bluetooth mice/keyboards/Wiimotes, say, and you have a deal. It can't be that hard. A bluetooth dongle is only £1 now and you could literally just hide that internally and run some of the native Bluetooth support software for HID devices and Wiimotes and you're done. Probably a lot easier and cheaper to make than all that IR junk, to be honest.

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Nvidia takes fight to Sony, Nintendo with Android handheld console

Lee Dowling
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Re: Android and Linux

I think it's more cheap, ubiquitous computing being the driver here, not so much the OS (hell, I'm as Linux-mad as anyone, just ask around). The power to hold a decent specced tablet, phone or computer in your hand and run it off batteries in a lightweight, cool, silent device that costs less than a full price game in some cases (you can get Android tablets for £50 if you look around) - that's pretty new in computing but you're already accustomed to it.

I don't think it's all Linux, I think it's a combination of factors - good Linux support from a large multinational (Android - Google), good hardware standardisation (OpenGL, ARM, etc.), cheap LCD screens, large batteries, good battery life, ubiquity of wifi and bluetooth etc.

It's driving a convergence. It's now possible to make something so small that it's hard to use. It's now possible to make something so powerful that nobody will notice next to something only half as powerful. It's now possible to put so much storage into a tablet that we don't need disks of any kind any more. It's now possible to connect to the Internet wirelessly as a routine operation and expect broadband speeds with low latency. All these things converge and without anyone, the project stated would be dead in the water or have to make serious compromises. But now, literally anyone can license an ARM chip (or just buy one), slap it on a board, get to a Linux prompt, have OpenGL graphics of some use, and sell it as whatever they like (anything from the Raspberry Pi to the OpenPandora to the SteamBox to a media centre PC to a tablet computer to a "Surface" heap-of-junk to a smartphone). You didn't used to be able to do that.

That said, it's certainly an interesting time but I think there's going to be a period of massive confusion about to hit. Soon, anything and everything will be running Android or Windows or something similar and we'll have a mish-mash of hardware that's all pretty similar and your smartphone does all the stuff your console can do and vice versa (except phone calls, but we have Skype now), and eventually it will all settle down. In the meantime, it's almost pointless to buy any of them - I have a tablet PC for work that I've barely touched in favour of a "proper" laptop and a smartphone. Between the two I have any combination of raw power and portability that I want. And 99.9% of the junk on the Google Play store I find unsuitable for what I want it for and the stuff I do want is worth paying for - but only a few dollars.

Sure, there's a bit of a renaissance at the moment as people discover how having a device that can "just connect" to the world can alter their lives, but once we're there, it's all just different flavours of the same thing. To be honest, I don't think most people know or care whether their phone is an iPhone, Windows Phone or Android phone beyond designer-labels and fashions. They all do pretty much the same thing (unless you're a developer, etc.) and have the same apps available for them.

And we're literally only a handful of years away from disposable-cost computers now. I bought my 4-year-old daughter a tablet - if she breaks it, she breaks it. She might not get another until her birthday/Christmas/whatever but the fact is that it's almost a throwaway gift between family (my mum and dad have one, and neither of them know the first thing about computers and just play Angry Birds on it).

Linux adds to it, but this sort of thing owes more to ARM, OpenGL, Bluetooth, Wifi, cheap LCD's and even half-decent batteries or even nVidia than Linux.

That said, a world filled with cheap Linux devices isn't something to be dismissive of. Hopefully the "PC" will die a death and then MS will find out that it doesn't have enough of any other market to make a difference and hold us captive. Hell, even MS Office is slowly sliding out of existence and most people can get by perfectly fine with Google Apps and a copy of Firefox.

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Valve hauls down The War Z, offers refunds

Lee Dowling
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Re: Had enough of El Reg's moneygrabbing bull****, I QUIT!

I have, many a time, announced that I wouldn't touch a game again (either in an existing thread or elsewhere) and then, shockingly, never touched that game again. Worms Reloaded comes to mind - no matter what machine I tried, I couldn't get multiplayer to work at all, because they used a multiplayer system that - by their own admission - only two Steam games used: Theirs, and another which had lots of reported multiplayer problems.

They had no intention of fixing it, and never did, and to this day I still haven't loaded it back up except when they claim to have "fixed" it and then I just prove to myself that, actually, it's still exactly the same. I haven't loaded it in over a year now, I don't think, and gave up looking for updates. And that also stops me from buying any of their other games too.

If I've paid for a product, and I have problems, I will post my problems on your forums (don't expect me to sort things out entirely in private - there's a reason that I publicise the problems even for my favourite products - to get them acknowledged, fixed, and show people the difference between a company that cares and one that doesn't). That's what forums are there for.

I will post them in the most relevant area possible and contain them in my own thread unless another is very similar and I can "piggyback" on their comments. I title them with a relevant header and search before I post. That let's people know the various problems and come straight to a relevant post when *they* do the same. I've had posts that were literally titled with the error message that only I and a group of others were getting and until I made the post, all the previous entries were just "It doesn't work", "I get an error", etc. with no details and no follow-up (or follow-up on the 32nd page which is *USELESS* for other people trying to find help).

And when I announce that I am quitting a game (Age of Booty - Gamespy never worked properly. Worms Reloaded - funny UDP multiplayer mode on Steam never worked properly - both probably because I have a software firewall and a hardware one, but that's no excuse when thousands of other games work online just fine. The new X-COM demo - I got into an infinite loop in the menu and could not get out of the game without a full process kill, nobody was interested so I didn't buy it. I could go on.), I quit it. Whereas when I announce that I have a problem and someone aids me in diagnosing it (Zombie Driver - I found a crash-bug related to having a joystick device installed that wasn't really a joystick device, but a keyboard-based emulation of one), I'm happy to post the solution and go on my merry way and sign the praises of the developers.

That's how this works. Put out junk, and expect your complaints department to get overwhelmed. And in the online world, the complaints department is a publicly visible forum where everyone has their own grievance.

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Google, Microsoft go head to head in Santa-tracking tech race

Lee Dowling
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Bets please

Bets taken on how long it will be before the "Azure cloud" (strange colour for a cloud, by WTH do I know?) powering the service gets overwhelmed and everyone jumps onto Google's version instead?

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Frack me! UK shale gas bonanza 'bigger than North Sea oil'

Lee Dowling
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Re: Three questions:

"(1) Where are the millions of gallons required for Fracking coming from given that the UK regularly suffers water shortages;"

You mean the untreated, basic water sucked from any local water source (like the sea) and then (possibly) recaptured if necessary because a bit of dirt won't stop it being useful, as compared to the filtered, tested, sanitised, flouridated, pressurised water you pay to come through your tap over a copper pipe from miles away? Only one ever has a shortage, and only for domestic supplies, and only temporary, no matter what you might believe.

There's PLENTY of water around. It's just not all tappable for drinking water. If you don't believe me, fill your garden with water butts this winter with no tap on them. I guarantee you will run out of water butts and space before you run out of water after just a month or so (one night of rain = enough to fill all those butts no matter how many you put out there). It's just what you do with it that matters, and what we have a shortage of is *TREATED* water that's safe to drink. We don't need to shove Evian down there.

"(2) Where the the millions of gallons of waste water generated by Fracking going to be dumped;"

It's water. It will drain away, or collect in underground voids, or more likely just find its way back to the ocean. It will be "contaminated" with rocks and dirt and a bit of gas, maybe. Nothing that it wouldn't contain anyway. Or you can collect it and reuse it if it's really a problem (very doubtful, though). And it's quite a long way down that you're firing this stuff so the chances of you doing anything to it (including collecting it, or noticing that the hole that was filled with natural gas is now filled with a lot less water) is virtually zero

"(3) What is going happen to the windfall revenue generated from Fracking licences?"

It'll go into the UK monetary system like everything else. But only if you reduce the taxes enough to encourage the industry to grow so that when there are 50 fracking plants, you can raise the tax and get money from them all to pay you back. Just because the government make 50p more this year doesn't mean you'll get 50p cheaper tax, or products, or anything else. To suggest so means you SERIOUSLY misunderstand both economics and politics. If that's the answer you're after, you should really just give up now - IT WILL NEVER HAPPEN, no matter how much you bold your text.

You can wrap a political message (having to mention Thatcher, really? I was born the same year she got into power and that was LONG time ago now) in all the hyperbole you want, you still come off as the local nutter here by just not thinking things through properly.

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Suspected fake internet cop trio collared by real cops

Lee Dowling
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Re: I consider it a public duty

Phone scammers? There, you are costing them. Same as phone spam - they have to *pay* to do it to you (in time and phone call unless you're stupid enough to live in a country that charges the RECEIVER of a call for its cost) and that's what costs.

Online scammers? It's probably not even their computer, or their connection, that you'll be wasting. Same as online spam - they don't pay a penny per million emails, or millions "visits" to their compromised site, so they don't care what happens. But the courts may take a dim view of you, say, DDoS'ing a hospital network because a single computer was compromised and you retaliated to the scam running from it (not saying they would do anything, but it's not black-and-white that they'd just ignore you either).

My email logs have something like 10,000 compromised IP's trying to send me email (most of them home ISP connections and even the occasional business-with-a-proper-domain-and-authenticated-smtp). I don't even notice, the senders won't even notice (until their ISP cuts them off) and certainly the actual spammer doesn't care if I've refused his email or not or whether, like one example I have, the same IP tries 30,000 times and gets rejected before it even gets to SMTP HELO each time. He probably doesn't even know that's what happened.

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Lee Dowling
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"suspicion of running a ransomware scam that fooled victims into paying £100 fines."

It didn't "fool" them, they knew exactly what they were doing if they paid up. And they probably paid up because they were doing something wrong in the first place (or had been and thought that must be what it was about).

I don't doubt that the odd clueless granny got caught up in it, but they would have got caught up in anything that asked them to pay money. But if someone puts up a sign from the Met Police on your computer saying you need to pay a £100 fine and you pay it, you haven't been "fooled" into doing it. You might have been "fooled" that they were the police, or that they could levy fines like that, but you voluntarily paid it - without question, appeal, investigation, even paperwork.

Hell, you don't even get a speeding ticket without some paperwork dropping through your door, verification of your driving license, a signed statement of guilt from yourself, information concerning your right and method to appeal, and a ton of other stuff too - and that's probably the one thing that *could* (law permitting) be automated down to the point where you just get an updated paper licence in the post with an endorsement written on it.

Such scams should, rightly, be stopped and the people convicted. But I can't say I feel a single pang of sympathy for any victim that was of sound mind (and those not of sound mind? Shouldn't have access to a credit card that lets them pay fines like that without someone checking first).

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UK cops: How we sniffed out convicted AnonOps admin 'Nerdo'

Lee Dowling
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Re: IRC is not secure

I don't think we're dealing with expert hackers here who thoroughly considered the link back to themselves.

Tor and Truecrypt use wouldn't be enough to cover your tracks online on their own. Tor, in particular, can be inherently leaky unless you're paranoid about what packets you send out over it (accidentally leave your IM/Skype/Email running? Whoops, there's identification right there). These people were caught by unencrypted browser histories (by the sound of it, which suggests use of non-full-disk encryption, or encrypted dual-systems - TrueCrypt's "plausible deniability" - where activities spilled over into unencrypted parts, or the part covered by the password they *did* share, of the disks).

And leaving proof-of-hosting just laying around on encrypted partitions? That's just amateur.

Organising over IRC? In comparison that's quite minot, but that's just asking for trouble too, because you leave full logs wherever you go - even accidentally - because a lot of people record IRC 24/7 so they can go to sleep and "catch up" on what happened later. Coordinating the attacks over IRC with random, unverified people (who were probably NOT using such methods to keep their identities hidden) seems a bit daft - especially if some of those people then moved onto social networks to pull in more people. And even using the same username - though that's hardly hard evidence, it suggests a complete lack of thought between connections of you and your activities. You couldn't convict on that alone, but if it gets to the point that there's some decent suspicion you were involved and YOUR Internet name has always been X and Internet name X appears on connections associated with the suspicion, the hosting, the IRC admins, etc. then it's just another nail in your coffin.

That said, not much would have saved them by that point anyway. I suspect that if they *didn't* hand over their TrueCrypt details, that's enough to convict them anyway (perverting the course of justice by failing to provide evidence - though there's a question of self-incrimination - or one of the newer laws would handle that quite nicely). So they weren't going to get away with it once it had come down to a handful of people of interest, and giving away your username, geographical location, and leaving a trail of history since your teenage years on those same details would give police an address in a matter of minutes (one phone call to XBox Live, I would think). Even if it was only as a suspect, you would be having a word with the boys in blue within moments and then explaining why you won't decrypt all those hard drives you have is going to be tricky to make stand up in court.

The story could well have been very different, but only if they actually knew enough about computers, and bothered to try to hide their identities properly. But even then, just finding evidence of connecting to the IRC channel and (then) a TrueCrypt volume that you refuse to decrypt is enough to throw you in jail.

They were sloppy, and got caught, and probably thought they were immune right until the verdict. One of the reasons I would be *useless* in any sort of online activism. I often find programs connecting that I'd forgotten all about (even with software firewalls that warn me), have DNS settings that for years send DNS requests to my old ISP's server, etc.

An example? Windows Vista and above talks to a server to establish the "Internet Connection" or not status of your connections. There are registry entries to tweak what server it talks to and what it expects to find in a named file on that server. I tweaked mine to point to my own private server (the theory being, if anyone is stupid enough to steal and then turn on my machine while it's on the Internet, I would capture their IP from the Apache logs), and then forgot about it for ages until I wondered why my icons never showed Internet connectivity. That's just the kind of stupid stuff that would catch me out before I even started.

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Falling slinky displays slow-motion causality

Lee Dowling
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Re: They can explain why a slinky does its thing...

Maybe not, but I can explain why you think it's obscenely expensive:

You're not a businessman running a hotel for profit.

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Lee Dowling
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Re: Is this 'signal propoagation' stuff...

Not really, actually.

The point you miss is that even if you have a 4-light-year-long device, it's still a physical device, made up of atoms. Those atoms have to impart force on each other and literally MOVE in order to propagate the force to the next atom. It's nothing weird or special, just the sheer length of the thing means it will take a while for the atoms to compress up to the point that they push the next atom, push the next atom, push the next atom, etc. until you have a wavefront moving towards the other end as the action takes place. Think of the rod as, say, a sponge and you'll get the idea, no special physics here, you just have to push enough for the material to see the effect all the way along (and we don't tend to deal in single materials longer than, say, a couple of hundred meters on Earth, ever, so we never "see" this effect but it's there even on the most exotic of materials and when you're talking 3.8 x 10^ 16 meters, those effects would be a little more visible).

You would have to have an entire incompressible material and absolute zero for any weird physical effect to do with the speed of light (and we already have an implausibly long, straight, perfect rod that stays as such when subjected to forces necessary to move a 4-light-year-long piece of material, so we're way out of the bounds of "practical" physics here). But the effect is inherent and visible with just simple Newtonian physical explanations too.

Here there is no "gravity signal", it's just that the bottom of the spring is preventing from falling because it is suspended by the bit above it. The very top of the spring may be released but that takes a fraction of a second to move any appreciable distance and yet all the parts underneath are still suspended to the atom above them (which has gravity acting down, and an attractive force from the atom above it). There is no "speed-of-light" or sub-atomic effect acting here, though the principle is similar. It's literally just going to take a little while for the top of the spring to compress the spring and impart physical forces on the atoms below it that overcome their attractive forces to each other. Again - happens in all materials, just this one is particularly pretty to watch because it takes long enough that we can see it because of the springy nature of it.

(The speed-of-light effect, for instance, of the material "realising" that nothing was holding it up and thus the entire material was subject to gravity would travel a 30cm slinky in 100 picoseconds, not 0.3 seconds - one 3,000,000,000th of the time).

This is a simple, Newtonian effect of having a solid material made of atoms imparting forces on each other and nothing "fancy" at all. In fact, the whole "signal" speak is very dubious from a physical point of view and I think is being misinterpreted to make it sound more interesting. The "signal" is just physics taking effect as the atoms "catch up" with their neighbours.

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