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* Posts by Lee Dowling

1188 posts • joined 28 Mar 2007

Microsoft poised to make biggest ever buy – Skype

Lee Dowling
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Sony Syndrome

I'm afraid you've caught Sony syndrome, where you support a company because you like a particular instance of a product and are prepared to write off all manner of other evils because they are done "elsewhere" and not to you personally. That works really well until one day, that companies methods come back to bite you hard - sure, you can jump ship, but the point was that other people saw it coming. Your experience *so far* is okay but you're not listening to others who have been stung as a matter of course by their dealings with MS.

What you're saying is: If I buy a cake from the local baker's, and it's what I want at the price I'm prepared to pay, I don't care who the baker is. A fine sentiment, until you hear that baker's been banned form producing food in several other places for poor hygiene, using dangerous ingredients, blowing his nose on the currant buns, etc. Ignorance is bliss - but some people won't give money to a company on principle even if a particular instance of a particular product was okay for them.

And MS have been providing me with a career too - usually fixing their crap that doesn't work. In fact, most of my pay is directly derived from MS stuff not working how it should. It doesn't mean I want more of their crap not to work to create more work for me.

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Pippa Middleton in $5m grumble flick offer

Lee Dowling
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Italian

Roughly the same in Italian too, but involving the hands, so I'm told.

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TomTom Oz to repeat Netherlands data sale

Lee Dowling
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And?

The police cannot profit from this unless you're stupid enough to speed. If you speed and get caught - it's not like it's a huge shock that you weren't aware you were going faster than the legal limit (or, if you weren't aware, then you were driving without due care and attention). You can say "everyone speeds" or "it was only a little bit over" to your heart's content but if you have one or a million speed cameras (i.e. cameras only activated by someone breaking the law by a significant margin), it should make NO difference to you at all. Average speed cameras are more of a concern because they can be used to track your journeys but people aren't exactly crying out about that and they've been in place for years - no, they're crying that they can't do 50 in a 40-posted area. Aw, diddums.

If you're braking for a speed camera, even because the guy-in-front was braking because he was going too fast, then you're driving too fast / too close / without paying attention. Similarly, if a policeman on the side of the road pointing things at you makes you slow down, you weren't aware of your speed or knew you were breaking the law.

In this case, the data is anonymised and statistical, so most of the privacy worry is gone with that, and you're left with complaining that police are seeking data on where people speed the most. I hope they are. That's kinda their job. And TomTom are only backing down in order to look like the good guy among their customers. Nobody is making you pay fines that you haven't incurred yourself.

I never understood the speed camera fuss - if an officer pulls you over with a radar gun, do you give him an earful? Usually not. But if a more accurate automated device sees you commit an offence, with indubitable photographic evidence that has to be human-verified, that's somehow "wrong"?

Put me in charge for a year - you'll have an average speed camera system on every single junction and won't be able to speed down your own road. And cars without valid number plates would trigger priority alerts to all nearby police units and be crushed when captured (and a ban from driving would mean just that). Maybe when you can prove that, as a nation, we can keep to a limit, then it might be worth RAISING that limit to something which helps traffic flow better (and I'm undeniably advocating no-limit motorways in such circumstances providing they all have 4 lanes and the tarmac quality of the German Autobahn's - they are a pleasure to drive down, more because everyone gets out of your way and isn't slamming brakes on for no reason).

Pillocks accelerating towards visible and signposted speed cameras are the bane of my driving life. More because I find myself shaking my head and trying to work out WHY they bother than anything else. And don't talk to me about 41mph drivers on a 40mph average section - WHY? You've pulled out and changed lanes twice in order to creep past me like a snail gaining an advantage I can regain in about 0.5 seconds once it goes back to the normal speed limit.

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Hacker cops to payment card fraud worth more than $36m

Lee Dowling
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Well

Thank God most criminals are that stupid, to run off and buy luxury items that'll flag warnings on any tax audit almost immediately. Because if he'd been quietly stowing it away into untraceable off-shore accounts and then emigrated one day, you'd never have heard of him and he *would* live a life in luxury probably in a country that didn't support extradition back to the US, like at least one of the "Great" train robbers did. And that's if the police could even trace it back to him by then (the article suggests they were after a petty criminal and found a major one-man operation they knew nothing about).

Greed is behind most crimes, when you think about it, whether it's greed for money, power or whatever. The sensible criminals could easily never have to work ever again and never have to steal ever again after their "big" job, but they always come back to have one last pop out of greed and usually end up getting caught because of that.

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FTP celebrates ruby anniversary

Lee Dowling
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Worst protocol in history

FTP shouldn't be celebrated, it should be binned.

Still most places that use FTP are using plain-text logins. The "secure" FTP is basically established a secure tunnel and then talking old-style plain-text FTP over it - nothing to do with FTP itself - or one of three OTHER secure protocols that are all quite similar bodge-jobs.

FTP is one of only a handful of protocols stupid enough to try to embed IP addresses in the data stream (which is an OSI layer violation for a start, and causes no end of problems with all sorts of systems). Every NAT system on the planet has to have a special exceptions module to handle FTP data connections.

It also doesn't standardise file-listings (which can be literally a "dir" or a "ls" command output, or anything in between, and you have no idea what until you start receiving it) and don't even get me started on the SITE command abuses that are possible.

It's an abomination that should never have come into common use and should have died years ago. But still it's used and even seen as a "reliable fallback" by some people. Kill it off now. It shouldn't have made 4, let alone 40.

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H2O water-powered shower radio

Lee Dowling
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WTF?

Eh?

Green? WTF? So the power shower isn't using energy to run it at all, then? That's probably why it didn't work on the tap-shower-thing because there's only base water pressure through it and, thus, no power.

And how is it green? It has a rechargeable battery and sits there stealing power from the water pressure that someone, somewhere has had to pay and use energy to be pressurised. And it has a rechargeable battery in it too! Energy-saving (on the order of pence per decade) if you have high enough water pressure already, maybe, but green? Er, no.

This is yet-another "green" invention that actually makes things worse but helps lazy people think they are doing something for the environment while they stand in a pressurised, heated spray of water sourced from reservoirs miles away. Let's get this straight - the Trevor Bayliss clockwork radio is orders of magnitude more green than this tacky piece of ill-thought-out junk. And then look at the price! I could buy several dozens battery powered radios for that, or a handul of wind-up ones, or even just one and a shed-load of normal batteries (and still, strangely, be more green!).

This isn't green. It isn't even an application WORTH saving energy on (it's 80mW of output, ffs, and radio circuits take virtually nothing which is why crystal sets used to be "unpowered"). And certainly not one worth pushing your plumbing through a cheap bit of plastic for. I bet it even invalidates any warranty on your shower, too. It's a stupid idea. Stupid people will buy it. But, Reg, ffs, can we please moderate this kind of junk off the front page at least?

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UK mobile punters get swift network switcheroo ability

Lee Dowling
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Better than me

Better than me: I tried to cancel a "contract" (which I hadn't signed or agreed to by that point) on a phone they'd sent me (but had never arrived, Royal Mail had no trace of, Three wouldn't re-send, etc.), that I'd then reported to them as stolen (and had the IMEI / SIM blocked BY THEM) and it took weeks. They didn't mind setting up a Direct Debit and pouring money out of my account but weren't so hot on actually giving me the damn phone I was supposed to be signing up for, chasing up with the postal service, sending me another, checking if the damn phone was being used or not, or actually anything at all.

Apparently the parcel was lost in the post but they wanted ME to chase it up (er... no... not at my neighbours, not at my local post office, your problem - they didn't even have tracking on it because it was sent second-class parcel post). For all I know, someone stole it from my front door or the postman walked off with it, so I just reported it stolen (after 28 days waiting for delivery) and wanted them to send another. The phone (and, presumably, the contract inside the same box that they assumed I had "agreed to" by that point) was worth about tuppence.

I took what I consider to be vastly drastic action to cancel a £9.99 a month contract on something that I never received - I had to call my bank, explain the situation and after confirming that the transactions weren't for any delivered good or service (I'd had Three block the IMEI / SIM of the unarrived phone by then, so it was unusable even if I *DID* have it) THE BANK cancelled the Direct Debit and refunded ALL the payments I'd made on it.

Three threw a wobbler and kept repeatedly phoning me and telling me they wouldn't stop calling and threatened me with everything but were unwilling to follow through on their threats of breach-of-contract action (inviting them to court got a strange reaction because I think they assumed I wouldn't follow through with it - I even offered to initiate the action in small claims if they wanted) - strange that, seeing as I had no phone, service, or even SIM to show for holding my side of the contract and paying everything required. They called every 20 mins for about 4 days.

In the end, I advised every person who called me from them that I was recording time and date of the call because it was gathering evidence for my harassment claims. It didn't stop them but it made the conversations very much briefer each time. A few weeks later I got a letter from them saying how kind they were being by cancelling my contract for me and "refunding" my payments and "rescinding the charges for non-payment". Thankfully haven't heard from them since, and haven't used them either.

All I wanted was what I bloody ordered, or failing that, a fecking SIM on the contract I applied for - I'd have swallowed the cheapy feature-less phone that was thrown in free if they'd just sent me a replacement SIM on my £9.95 a month contract.

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Attack hijacks sensitive data using newer Windows features

Lee Dowling
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Erm

Only if your networking config is that bad in the first place. I.e. if it allows rogue DHCP servers, if it allows promiscuous traffic sniffing / injection, etc.

Any decent network config with, literally, an off-the-shelf £100 switch will let you stop such things happening. And then "compromised PC" (of any ilk) is only able to contact things it was ALLOWED to contact anyway.

Seriously, this isn't a Windows/Linux/etc. problem. It's a networking problem. If you have crap networking, this could affect the network. Otherwise it's a single rogue PC (and the implications of that, e.g. if it stores plaintext passwords, etc.)

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Facebook HipHop serves 70% more traffic on same hardware

Lee Dowling
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FAIL

Benchmark Fail

root@BRIDGE:/usr/local/squid/var/logs# ls -l *.log

-rw-r----- 1 squid squid 11350103 2011-04-01 11:31 access.log

-rw-r----- 1 squid squid 46765524 2011-04-01 11:29 access_unfiltered.log

-rw-r----- 1 squid squid 55224 2011-04-01 11:30 cache.log

-rw-r----- 1 squid squid 196443 2011-03-04 14:58 cache_unfiltered.log

-rw-r----- 1 squid squid 16290905 2011-04-01 11:31 store.log

-rw-r----- 1 squid squid 76547872 2011-04-01 11:27 store_unfiltered.log

root@BRIDGE:/usr/local/squid/var/logs# time sort cache.log >/dev/null

real 0m0.001s

user 0m0.000s

sys 0m0.002s

root@BRIDGE:/usr/local/squid/var/logs# time fgrep info cache.log >/dev/null

real 0m0.001s

user 0m0.000s

sys 0m0.000s

If I can sort a 50k file, and search for a particular phrase in it, using standard C-compiled Linux tools, in less than a quarter of the time your program needs to count instances of a similar phrase on a tiny CVS file, you have bigger problems than a benchmark.

BTW: That was executed in the middle of a working day, on a production system, using Slackware 13.1's standard tools on a desktop-class machine that was also running our Mediawiki / Apache Intranet, firewall/filtering/Squid cache/VPN server for 450 users, incoming/outgoing fax-to-email system, SMS reception and transmission, a Jabber server and several MySQL databases and network monitoring functions, not to mention a network-accessible 3Tb software RAID over Samba for the whole root filesystem (while logged into via SSH from the other end of the site).

4ms? That's enough time to perform 10,000,000 cycles on a 2.5GHz machine. Some people really need to check before they start benchmarking crap like that (and the fact that your program is "cvsbygroup.exe" tells me you're using Cygwin or you're used to using Windows, which might explain something).

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Sega Mega Drive gets micro makeover

Lee Dowling
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CRT

Wouldn't they only work with a CRT TV, not the modern LCD's?

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RM revenue declines in face of UK.gov slash fest

Lee Dowling
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RM

I have a similar story over the last 10 years - having worked for several schools from primary through to secondary/sixthform. In the end, I specialised in moving schools AWAY from RM and was very successful at it but eventually tired of having to deal with RM incompetence - such as saying that a certain wireless-connected laptop would "DEFINITELY" work with their network, before overhearing them whisper "but we don't have working drivers for that, they just crash the system" (because of their AWFUL packaging / rebuild system on CC3 networks).

One machine arrived, from new, without a motherboard jumper (not even rolling about in the case or anything - just completely missing) that set the processor speed to an invalid value and it refused to do anything except POST-beep. Not the sort of thing you can miss with QA testing. And their custom BIOS defaults to not warning on over-temperature or failed fans.

Three others were sent back to RM several times for repair (by the school, not by me) over six months, each time coming back with the same fault - "CMOS Battery Failed" displaying on startup and not continuing through the POST. 50p each and a new CMOS battery later, there were three fully-working machines (which admittedly worked for several years) and one very happy IT Technician who was given a job on the spot (I was there on a one-day visit to see if I could help solve their RM-related IT problems, ended up working there for 4-5 years).

And I saw *dozens* of machines die the "Capacitor Death" because of the cheap-crap motherboards they use. First the ports start to go, one at a time (usually USB and then network), before the machine eventually dies. Their solution? They install PCI USB and Network cards in them when it happens to eek out another 6 months of use.

I have no end of horror stories from RM, who basically HATE independent technicians who can call their bluff on everything they do, and moved several schools off them over the years. Now I work in a private school, partly because in the interview they said they would never touch anything RM with a bargepole.

Don't even get me started on their application software...

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Antarctic ice breakup makes ocean absorb more CO2

Lee Dowling
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Balance

It gets me that people think the Earth is fundamentally incapable of looking after itself, like some kind of elderly relative.

The fact is that if such balances and controls weren't already in place, we wouldn't be here and the place would be a rock anyway. CO2 has risen and fallen for millions of years and where there's an opportunity for a CO2-thriving mechanism to take advantage, it will do, and will evolve to do so more, until CO2 comes back into line and then *other* mechanisms take over to restore balance the other way. The whole ecosystem is a balancing act and, most importantly, autonomous. Where there's too much CO2, various elements of the biosphere thrive on it and, by bringing about their own starvation of it, restore things to a more "normal" level. Similarly for the complete opposite.

Now, I have no doubt that human activity has an effect, but mostly this effect will only serve to trigger some compensatory mechanism that has kicked in millions of times before in order to restore order. That might mean making the planet (or parts of it) uninhabitable to us, but that's *our* fault. In the end, though, the Earth knows how to look after itself and it's been here a million times before.

When we talk about environmental issues, we never seem to worry about bringing on our own death, and that's really the only threat here... other species have been evolving and/or dying off for millennia and there's virtually nothing we can do about it.

I would be absolutely shocked if, in 50 years time, we discovered that our models of today were anywhere near accurate and modelled reality. I would not be at all surprised by things like this discovery occurring over and over and over again before that.

It doesn't mean we should be throwing our garbage around as easily as we do, but was anybody really *shocked* that there's a self-correcting natural mechanism that compensates for something, which we'd never taken account of?

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Fuel foolery, merger warnings and Budgetary boons

Lee Dowling
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Pension age

I think what you're missing is that pensions are not to compensate for "death" so much as "the inability to earn".

How many people do you know over 65 who are in a full-time job, or could manage a full-time job, or can *get* a full-time job? It's not zero but it's also not a huge percentage - yes, you have hard-workers carrying on way past infirmity and people slinking off with a bad back in their 20's but the 65 is the age at which it's harder for you to earn money because of illness, infirmity, or just plain inexperience with the necessary tools. Unemployment is already high and do you think it's the 20-something's who will work for £6 an hour, or the 60-something's who have worked themselves to exhaustion, got huge pensions nearing and have been earning many times that who will keep their jobs?

Hence the rise in age-discrimination legislation to counteract that, and making retirement more voluntary. It probably won't be enough.

Pensions are a complicated and now almost outdated thing, and the age will keep rising and rising and although our health rises, it rarely rises in line. Our earnings will never cover more than an "insurance" and so ages will be pushed back, contributions will be pushed up and pensions will be pushed down as necessary to ensure it balances.

The fact is that I, at 31 years old, won't see a pension. By the time I do, I'll either be dead, or on some kind of disability benefit that effectively negates the need for a pension. By that time, the retirement age will probably be closer to 80. As an IT guy, if my skills are still "current" at age 65, let alone 80, then the IT world has more serious problems than the pension contributions of its members.

If I do work for 60 years (I was 20 when I graduated) and pay X percent to the government and live that long and hold a job for that long and then retire, I probably won't get much more than state pension is now, in relative terms, no matter what happens - unless I'm infirm where it'll get paid for me anyway (not to mention things like Winter Fuel Allowance). You also have to contribute the SECOND you start work (they used to say from 18, but you can still be in education at that point today, so how is that going to affect the tax I pay towards those people's pensions now and in the future?) and never miss a payment to get the pittance allocated anyway.

And then people wonder why the younger generations aren't engaged and aren't worried about their pension contributions. Myself? I just pretend that pensions don't exist. I don't contribute to them (but obviously pay my NI etc. in full) - and I work in education and have access to some wonderful final-salary pensions - and don't expect them to contribute back to me in the long run. It's a sad situation but it's one that I have to take account of - it's the most likely outcome that I will never draw it and if I do, it's unlikely to be much more than a token pittance.

Hence when legislation for a "compulsory" pension payment from your salary etc. have to come in.

I can only hope that I won't be around to scrape a living by the time retirement comes along. It's very doubtful that any pension scheme in the UK at that time will do anything useful for me.

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UK.gov uses purple-panted-berk to get 'young men' to do census

Lee Dowling
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Heh

Yeah, and I privately wonder just how many forms arrive BEFORE that date and have to be invalidated, and a new form sent back (I presume). If you can *only* fill in the census on that date, what advantage does distributing them so far in advance get, except lost/mislaid forms, early invalid completions, etc.

And, to be honest, I'm going to do mine online. So the paper was a complete waste of time and money and postage. Would have been much better off sending out a single page mailing describing your legal obligation to complete the census and then a way to request a paper one to be delivered nearer the time, if necessary.

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BA jihadist relied on Jesus-era encryption

Lee Dowling
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Rule #1

Rule #1 of encryption, randomness, steganography, copy-protection or a million and one other related areas:

Just because you *think* it's better than a published algorithm reviewed by thousands of experts, doesn't mean it *IS* better.

Rule #2: Never "make up" your own encryption, random number generator, steganographic technique, copy protection etc. - it'll never work and if you *ARE* an expert, you'll know that you'll need to have people attacking it for decades before you declare it "secure enough". Even using the published ones "with a twist" or a new from-scratch implementation will compromise your encryption most of the time.

Rule #3: Don't trust in God when 2048-bit, peer-reviewed, PKE exists and has *never* been "cracked", even when terrorists used it and we needed access to the information contained within for anti-terrorist purposes. Seriously. There's never been a case where "real" encryption that wasn't hideously out-of-date was used and some random three-letter agency managed to decrypt it. There's a reason for that - that's what it was DESIGNED for.

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Hadron Collider 'could act as telephone for talking to the past'

Lee Dowling
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Quantum

If you don't take account of quantum effects, your atomic clock (which each GPS satellite in the constellation has, usually caesium) won't be accurate enough to do GPS with. Thus you need to understand quantum physics to effectively even HAVE working GPS.

Similarly, quantum effects have knock-on effect on satellite orbit decay and even things as "commonplace" as MRI scanners. It doesn't mean you *can't* do them, it just means that without quantum knowledge put to work, those things are more difficult, more expensive and more likely to not exist.

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Lee Dowling
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Actually

It's not as "out-there" as it sounds, and its a very limited phenomenon, nothing close to that claptrap in the book (but that's the point of most sci-fi books, to be fun to read using science as a plot element, but not perfectly accurate).

If we take quantum physics as an example (and we *know* that works, or you wouldn't have computers as fast as you've got now, and just about every satellite would crash into the ground, and your GPS would be so inaccurate as to be useless) - it's been theorised and well-known for some time that quantum mechanics is incredibly complicated and counter-intuitive despite never breaking its own "laws". There are quantum particles, that "borrow "energy from their future selves. I.e. they suddenly get a ton of energy from nowhere, do something with it and then later "give it back". It works out only if you consider time to be merely a dimension that such particles can traverse.

Breaks all the laws of Newtonian physics but we know that most of them aren't representative of the universe anyway (Newtonian physics only works on a large scale, quantum physics only works on a small scale, somewhere we hope there's a theory that can explain all scales without such inherent contradictions). Yeah, you can guess at where a planet will orbit but in terms of space-bending tricks near black holes and tiny-scale stuff, Newtonian physics is pretty useless.

Quantum stuff is *weird* when you start getting into the complications of it. It's not just space-bending stuff but time-bending too. And "Brane theory" is an even more complicated way to try to unite most physical theories (i.e. it fully accepts quantum's implicatons and merely tries to find a single way to unite that with other theories).

So even quantum physics, that stuff we can teach first-years in university, or even younger if you're a good teacher and ignore the curriculum, has stuff we can't easily explain without considering "time travel" to be possible. There's just an ENORMOUS difference between a quantum particle borrowing energy from itself in the future and people going back in time and punching Shakespeare ("That's for every schoolboy and schoolgirl for the next 400 years!"). And that's exactly what the article says too.

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BT Openreach's founding father quits job

Lee Dowling
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Nice idea

Can I place money on the option:

"Yes, because you made a fuss and we had cameras in our faces, but the poor guy in the flat next door will have the same trouble next week when *he* wants a line and, without the publicity, will also wait 5+ months for his bit of copper (the length and quality of which is surpassed by the stuff I regularly buy from my local Cat6 cable reel supplier) to appear."

Last time I asked for a new business line from BT, they fitted an ADSL faceplate that was completely useless. The follow-up engineer took it away to the exchange (which is over the road) and hunted around for an hour in there to find a replacement faceplate (because they no longer supply that one at all, apparently, despite it coming from a new install only weeks before). What he came back with was thicker than War and Peace and consisted of three disparate faceplates that mated into each other, which he said was all they had and he'd had to salvage that from the "bits box". At least it worked, though.

Then they tried to bill us for the visit, which had already been rescheduled twice (and that was *after* all the initial installation fiasco). I wouldn't mind, but I could *literally* throw an Ethernet cable across to the exchange that serves the whole town from the window that we wanted the new line in. And that's for a private school that does several million pounds of business a year. God help you if you're just a guy who wants to get on the net.

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Microsoft releases IE9 for chip happy Windows world

Lee Dowling
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WTF?

Browser

Name: Browser

Purpose: To display an image on my screen given an image description that was obtained via HTTP from a public, potentially eavesdropped, Internet connection.

Problems: Security - every browser has had exploits with information disclosure or, worse, some even have arbitrary code execution flaws.

Solution: Convert the already overly-complicated array of several protocols and image formats that do nothing more than describe an image, which you already render in the worst possible way in non-compliance of all published standards, into a format suitable for GPU processing via hardware accelerated interfaces involving yet-more protocols and conversions, reliant on driver compatibility and hardware being available, and on only a single operating system that has those interfaces (renowned as the most attacked system in the world, usually via browser weaknesses), in order to render the 1Mb page that took several seconds to decrypt/authenticate/respond/download onto the screen a teensy fraction of a second faster, consuming more resources, generating more heat and using up more of your computer's bus bandwidth than strictly necessary.

Well done, MS. You've got that one aced. Can't imagine why no-one else wants to follow your lead especially when, on the whole, their browsers already match or beat this new one on almost every count (security, stability, speed, standardisation).

Now if you'd said that the browser loaded quicker, I'd actually be more interested (something tells me the startup times might be ENORMOUS even if the render times are technically quicker compared to its predecessor). Or worked on XP (acceleration or not). Or had had no security problems in several years of beta. Then I'd be impressed.

Didn't MS spend years trying to prove that IE *was* an integrated part of Windows, only to have it proven that it wasn't, only to be told that they had to separate it, to now making it as vastly Windows-only as they could manage to the point that it doesn't even work on some versions of Windows any more?

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Router-rooting malware pwns Linux-based network devices

Lee Dowling
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Really?

I have Virgin but I just hook in direct to the cable modem which is on the line. Anything local network can't get to that point because the wireless router I use blocks such things (why would someone on the local WAN need to touch my cable modem? Unless there's a problem with my cable modem... in which case I have to be sitting in front of it to reboot it / re-cable it / test it anyway.

Seriously does ANYONE use the bundled junk that comes with an ADSL connection? Most people I know end up popping down to PC World (yuk!) and buying a better router as one of the first things they do when they get Internet. My workplace has dual-ADSL2+ business lines from BT. One of the router's they supplied hasn't even been out of the box, the other one only to see what junk they were peddling for installation (BT OpenZone = put router back in the box). And same config there - frontline routers (in this case a load-balancing Linux PC) connect to modems that *aren't* accessible from the local net in any way.

Stupid people with stupid hardware with stupid passwords running stupid security settings and doing stupid things despite incessant warnings. Amazing how much in the world of IT can be accounted for by that select group.

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ASA rules BT Wi-Fi service works with invisible routers

Lee Dowling
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Why?

Maybe because he didn't want yet-another-WAP taking up the three (yes, count them) unique channels that a 802.11g wireless can occupy without interference for no reason, or BT OpenZone customers bringing down his wireless and Internet speeds by accessing his wireless router and using it for whatever they want while he's trying to use him home/business connection for himself.

Or maybe he just *didn't* want crap that's enabled by default that he, personally, will never, ever, ever use. The same way I disable WMM and uPNP on any router I have - because it's pointless as none of my hardware supports it, or dangerous because I *don't* want it enabled and there are security problems with it.

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IT job seekers can't smell spell

Lee Dowling
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Well

I got my current post via a good recruiter and interview.

Browsing on Edugeek one afternoon, knowing I had to move on before long, and saw a position in my field. Emailed the guy a query, he asked for my CV. Emailled my CV (updated the night before, absolutely NO errors) and got a "pre-screening" interview immediately. Within ten minutes of the interview, I had him thanking me because I beat all his other potential candidates by miles.

1) I had a CV relevant to the job, not just a generic thing.

2) I knew what the acronyms meant and could provide a real-life example of my use and understanding of them.

3) I could speak on his level - he was technical but not a technician, if you get what I mean, and I could easily translate "geek" to English when asked.

4) I was well-presented and professional.

Went to the interview, with both the recruiter and his client there, and came up against two very technical employees who would be my bosses - worst nightmare because you either have to struggle to keep up yourself, or you end up having to correct them on technical points. They had a 24-point list of projects they wanted to do. I'd done all of them in the past, to the point where I was naming software I'd used/written, problems I'd run into, and *they* skipped the last eight because they were already answered by the previous 16.

I was wearing a shirt and trousers, no tie, no shined shoes, but "neat and tidy". You'd get into nightclub but probably not into the Oscars.

Got the job. Got told I was the most impressive candidate by miles. It's a private school with a strict dress code, which I tend to ignore on the whole because, as I explained in the interview, I'm more likely to be pushing cables through a hole, or hunting down the back of dusty machines than I am meeting parents (i.e. clients) face-to-face. Of course, if they *want* me to greet parents in a ripped suit with huge dust marks all over the knees, that's fine. I don't think I've ever worn anything as "smart" for work since the interview.

You don't need a huge suit to get a job. You need to be *presentable*, you need a good CV that you've had several dozen people check for you (amazing how many people are ashamed of their CV and/or secretive of it in case I copy it), you need to be the right person for the job. You *don't* need to be in a suit.

1
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Health experts flip over McD's burger-flip toy

Lee Dowling
Silver badge
WTF?

Who cares

Put sugar in the salad. So what? Think that's any worse than 99% of the crap out there that nobody ever checks or understand? Ever eaten muesli? Now go look at the nutritional information on the box. They *fry* the stuff, to all intents and purposes. My honey-coated, peanut-ridden frosted flakes of corn usually beat or match things like Special K and muesli in most nutritional factors, compared portion to portion.

There are healthy foods and unhealthy foods. There are clearly-marked nutritional information leaflets and tray-inserts at all fast-food places. How many people read them? No-one. Why? Because nobody really cares. Not out of ignorance, or laziness, or misunderstanding - they don't CARE that the big burger they just ordered is high in fat. I know, I ORDERED the fecking thing. I also don't care about whatever I order at the local greasy spoon, because I don't have it for every bloody meal. I don't care if *YOU* think it's unhealthy for me to do that, or to feed it to my kid occasionally, because it's not your body and not your kid. (And my child actually perfectly follows the weight charts for her age and has done ever since birth, to the point where the "ideal" weight line and hers deviate by less than two whole graph-paper squares if you add up all the deviations over her entire live (one above, one below)).

Just like the Mixed Grill at my local Harvesters is humungously over-sized, or the takeaway pizza I ordered is stupidly high in fat and cholesterol because of all that cheese (melted cheese - one of the WORST things you can eat). I don't care.

I want to be able to eat it occasionally. It might taste like crap to you but it's a quick, cheap, filling meal to me. I've weighed a little over 10 stone for most of my life and now weigh 12 now that I'm dating someone who feeds me pasta. For 16 years of adulthood I've eaten "crap" and got on quite well, thanks very much, and it's only since I stopped doing quite so much that my weight rose from "underweight" to "ideal" for my height. I've cycled 20 miles to work every day, I've worked 18+ hours a day when the money was tight, and it's been so long since I needed to go to the doctor's / dentist / etc. that they keep de-registering me.

You can't live off carrots, if that's all you eat. You can't live of Branston pickle if it's all you eat. And you can't live off McDonald's if that's all you eat. Stop scaremongering that fast food is somehow the scourge of society - some people are stupid and abuse high-fat foods, high-sugar drinks, high-alcohol beer, and high-class restricted drugs. Don't paint the whole world with your better-than-thou brush.

On another note, I'm now hungry with all that thinking about food and will pick up an extra Cornish Pasty on my way home just to annoy you. My body won't notice. If yours does, then YOU stop eating it. Nobody's force-feeding you.

5
0

Seagate launches XP-supporting 3TB drive

Lee Dowling
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Thumb Up

Overlays

These sorts of drive overlays have been around for decades without major problems. I used an IBM one to get around the 2Gb limit when those drives first started coming out, and another for the LBA limits (138Gb or so? I can't remember).

Basically, they locate the sectors that Windows XP *tries* to boot from (sometimes the first sectors but not in this case, it seems). They copy the normal boot sector somewhere ease and in its place they they insert a small "TSR"-style program that override the normal BIOS controls for accessing the drive. When the machine is booted from that drive, the overlay runs BEFORE anything else and from that point on, the drive is "supported" by the BIOS overlay, not the BIOS itself. If you have a multi-drive system, the overlay is installed on the boot drive only (even if that doesn't need an overlay itself).

When executed, the overlay installs transparent support, then "jumps" to the *real* boot sector, which is normally shifted further down the drive somewhere. Yes, if you trounce your boot sector, you lose the overlay and get back into a "non-bootable" configuration. But then you just run the software again (usually a FreeDOS boot disc that jiggles the boot sectors and installs the overlay program in the right place) and all is well again.

Data recovery consists of either re-running the tool (and thus shifting 512bytes of boot sector which is easily replaced later on, with an FDISK / MBR if necessary - once the overlay is loaded, FDISK just "sees" the modified boot sector location as the "real" one) or putting it into a machine that doesn't *need* the overlay at all (i.e. any 64-bit OS by the sound of it), or installing it as a second drive in any machine that has the overlay installed. All that happens on other machines is the overlay detects it's not needed and stops loading, or just loads anyway when you boot the disk and only intercepts those calls that are necessary. Some boot-sector tools (e.g. system rescue CD's, LILO, etc.) will jerk on not having an MBR they expect if you want to recover only the DATA but you can install one temporarily for those programs if necessary. The data is still in the same places and still readable, it's just that the boot sector "bootstraps" a real BIOS that can see the large drive.

I've installed and managed several computers with them, as growth meant that the drive capacity outstripped the BIOS capacity of the machines several times. DDO (disk drive overlays) are common and even supported under Linux (initially with specific boot-time flags but now with slightly more obscure commands, like adding 1kb to every offset) when you install LILO etc. on the disk, but always documented where supported. Those machines ran flawlessly and you could do anything on them and move their discs into their replacements without hassle. Worse that happens is you would tape a floppy disc to the front of the machine to remind you that it has to follow that drive until BIOS's start supporting it.

A LOT less hassle than upgrading a BIOS (if even possible) and installing a 64-bit OS, though.

0
0

Vodafone's network knackered by thieves

Lee Dowling
Silver badge

@Anonymous

Slackware 13.1. Has custom kernel with load-balance routing patches from http://www.ssi.bg/~ja/#routes

- Install two (or more) ADSL2+ modems on two Ethernet ports, configured to just push all config to the Ethernet port ("Bridge" mode or whatever your device wants to call it, basically DHCP on the Ethernet cable should prompt the modem to ask for an IP from your ISP and propogate THAT IP and all packets back down the Ethernet cable transparently).

- Install one network card for LAN (Gigabit with Squid proxy and 100Gb disk cache for our setup).

- Do the usual NAT / iptables magic (nothing special at all, haven't modified a single one of my usual firewall / NAT scripts)

- Put in a default route as mentioned on the page for those patches that "nexthop" to the two external Ethernet cards and make sure it's in your startup.

With the patches, you can pull a plug, and everything just continues on as normal, even when you put it back in. Without the patches, your routes disappear and you're into custom scripts to detect failed connections and rebuild routes each time - not so tricky with DHCP but still a royal pain.

And extends to any number of interfaces that present themselves as a network device - 3G stick, PPP Modems, etc. The routing just handles it all.

Only problem is remote access / hosting, which you have to take special account of. Otherwise the machine "chooses" a favoured route for each path and if your remote users don't connect to the right IP that gives that route, you get nothing. Of course, you shouldn't be hosting anything important on an ADSL connection, and I personally give each VPN user *both* IP's and tell them to try them both (it is failover, after all, so one may well be down), others have an iptables / routing exception hard-coded to always accept VPN traffic on only a single given interface.

As a side bonus, you also get a lot more torrent-peers by having two connections....

0
0
Lee Dowling
Silver badge
FAIL

Er

Several replied to you, but here would be my response: Actually, I work for schools. You know, those things with zero IT budget and what is there is spent on Visual-Basic-filled-with-clipart "curriclum-vital" software.

You're complaining about having a single point of failure when you use a single company. If you have Cisco-only gear and Cisco go out of business - you're stuffed. You can say "it won't happen" or "we need to use Cisco" until you're blue in the face. When it goes bust, nobody will care about your problems.

If an exploit hits a Cisco-only bug (say, the million-and-one IOS bugs), you're stuffed. I'm not saying you shouldn't use Cisco, but you should be prepared for the consequences of such a mono-culture. It's like saying "All Windows PC's are more susceptible to viruses". Completely correct but sometimes you "have to" use Windows. It just means: Don't be surprised when a virus hits and all your Windows stations go down (but not your Linux stations), or all your Cisco IOS gear is exploited (but not your D-Link gear or whatever), or all your engineers are out of reach because all use one mobile phone network. Complaining that MS, Cisco or Vodafone are to blame for not having their own processes to manage their mono-cultures is as silly as you relying on that mono-culture. It may be *practical*, *sensible*, cost-effective, but it's still a mono-culture.

And thus, you can't push blame to Vodafone for not doing your job. Yeah, you can complain and get service requests and claim on your business support contract (you *DO* have a written legal statement of constant availability from Vodafone, yes?), but nobody can "fix" that problem of you only using one operator because "they are the best" (this incident kinda negates that kind of thinking, I believe). Any one of your people could be using any mixture of any mobile operator without any problems at all and no difference to you except three separate bills instead of one combined. Or, in an emergency, any of them could be instructed to get / issued with a PAYG SIM on another network for the day.

My school has a dual ADSL2+ line load-balance/failover setup - we get 48MBps of Internet connectivity and can turn off any one modem without affecting the school in any way (who rely on the Internet to fill in exam papers, pay wages, contact parents, etc.). Both lines are linked to our local exchange. We *know* this and don't expect it to operate in the case of an exchange fault - it's to cover *other* eventualities, or else we'd get in a leased line from another exchange deliberately.

By a similar token, you should NOT expect your business to operate in the case of a mobile operator fault (or even the tower nearest your main site of operations having a fault), by the sound of it. Tell me, what happens if your VOIP/landline telephone system goes haywire, or are you just relying on that to "always work" too? Our actual "emergency" backup for Internet connections is a handful of 3G sticks all on different mobile operators that can run the entire school network just by us plugging them in and running a script (they are always active because we also use them for SMS reception / transmission). Latency goes up, but users continue as if nothing had happened at all. When we hit the traffic limit on one stick, we replace the SIM with some other PAYG with £1/day data. Not perfect, but it works and gets us out of trouble.

Where's *your* emergency backup, except to shout at Vodafone and say "it should work, it's been working for years!"?

And personally, we do *not* rely on one manufacturer for PC's, printers, etc. It's just too easy to have a problem with a certain support contract, manufacturer, buggy driver, etc. and get put into an impossible-to-fix-in-time situation. Even our two IT suites (13 computers each, so you can tell we're HUGE) have 13 identical computers but of two different models for that reason. There is a hot spare of each type in my office. Staff laptops are many and varied, for that reason. Printers are many and varied, for that reason (some manufacturers like to sting you on toner / drums if that printer wasn't very popular). Every server is a different manufacturer. We deliberately mix manufacturers in RAID array drives where possible. We even have two unique lines and two different types of fax modems connect to the main Linux server (which has a "hot backup" already imaged and sitting in the next room in the case of a problem) to send / receive faxes over the network.

Redundancy and avoiding monoculture isn't hard. It doesn't mean it will save your arse or cost the world. But saying "what if" to yourself about business-critical things occasionally is always a good idea. Ignore the whole thing about manufacturers and suppliers. Now just say to yourself "what if the phones don't work" and then think of several reasons why that might happen (local tower fails, landline fails, extended power failure in the local area, 9/11-like-incident swamping the phone lines so they are limited to emergency use only, etc.). You don't need to be IBM to be thinking about things like that. It was important enough for you to rant about how it's all Vodafone's fault. But not important enough for you to have ANY backup whatsoever, even in an emergency?

9
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Lee Dowling
Silver badge
WTF?

Erm...

"I now have an entire work force with no mobile communications. Does the phrase "single point of failure" spring to mind."

Yeah. You relied on one single mobile communications network.

19
5

Orange Cash goes live, O2 Money goes to Ireland

Lee Dowling
Silver badge

Contactless

And while they're contactless, I'll be steering clear. Sorry, it's just too easy to my mind to create a "contactless" reader that you can hold near people in a crowd and get payments from them and thus is in any number of money-laundering or other schemes, even if it's just the hassle of me having to cancel that card and get a replacement.

My old-fashioned credit card - so long as it stays in my wallet, nobody can use the information on it unless I choose to give it to them, or they get it from a source that I have chosen to give it to. It won't be long before you find that your little sojourn through the Tube cost you more than you think because your credit card was "wireless". There's little point doing it on Oyster but it's still been done. There's little point doing it until it's mass market. But when it is, I'll be clinging to a physical card for my live.

0
0

Storm brews over Chinese synchronised goldfish

Lee Dowling
Silver badge

Erm

Correct me if I'm wrong but fish is one of the few animals that you *can't* (or at least, couldn't until very recently) be done for cruelty to. Someone in law told me that once and unless they've changed things since they told me that, I'm inclined to believe it was and still is true. That's not to say it's acceptable, just that there are very few grounds on which to cause this man libellous injury.

And from the looks of it, it's more likely a trick than electrocuting some fish, like maybe there are invisible glass channels / lines in the tank. I don't see how you'd insert enough magnetism or electricity in such an orderly fashion into a real fish to make it do that in concert with the others and have them split/merge properly. More likely, they aren't real fish that you see at that moment, the fish are influenced by some extremely simple means (something visible to them through the sides of the tank that's moved about, shadows, hand movements, etc.) or are trained to respond to such stimulus. You can train a goldfish. Mythbusters did it and they learned to navigate an obstacle course to get to food via following coloured indicators. What's to say that each fish isn't trained to a particular colour and the various hand-waving / stuff you can't see outside the tank isn't them just following the same urge?

But guessing that they're being tortured without visible signs of distress? That's pushing it a bit, and it would be *EVEN MORE* difficult to actually make the fish continue swimming, swim against each other, etc. in that way. Unless we're assuming that he implanted a device into every fish that isolates a whole cotchel of muscle-activating reflexes in order to keep the fish swimming, turning etc. If he has, I think a lot of the bio-interface guys would want to talk with him.

0
2

IT grad claims £5m for crap degree

Lee Dowling
Silver badge

Hmmm

Same degree here, same grade.

No employer has ever asked for proof of it. My first employer cited it being on my CV as a reason to trust me when I had no other experience except running my own business (I was in the middle of tinkering with their entire business-critical network at the time, and did a better job than 2 paid IT consultancies that had looked at the problem). Every employer since has gone on the results and good word of the previous employers (even starting bidding wars and poaching me back from them, etc.).

To be honest - nothing I learned in uni would have helped with the work I do. I use the stuff I *already* knew before entering university, the stuff I have learned on my own throughout, and the "theoretical" stuff from CS was only ever used when I was helping the 4th-year MSc's with their programming assignments as a first year BSc, and/or when I program the occasional game for myself and want to use the proper techniques rather than just some heuristic.

I find my grade a bit embarrassing, if I'm honest, and regularly hang out with PhD's and Masters graduate friends and my field is education so virtually everyone I work with has a 2:2 degree and PGCE at minimum. But sue the university? They'd have had to literally been stapling my exam paper shut to the desk or something. My third is my fault. Hindered career advances? Not in the least. In fact, the only thing that could really do that would be to do something ludicrous like make it into the news for suing my university because I didn't "pass".

2
0

AdBlock Plus: Open source for fun (not funds)

Lee Dowling
Silver badge

How about you? Why do you contribute to open-source projects? And how do you contribute?

I contribute for many reasons.

Firstly, I've used so much freeware and open-source software in my professional and personal lives and it's invariably saved my butt. Whether that was saving several hundred pounds on buying a nice firewall/router/filesharing combination, or giving me a recovery OS to recover data and programs from dying machines, or just giving me a decent non-destructive DOS partitioning tool (back in the days of DOS 5), or letting me re-use old machines to do things I needed to do, right through to hand-stitching AD domains back together in the middle of a critical downtime, saving schools thousands on software that does exactly the same as the freeware/OS equivalent (and not even in the "Office" realm, but just silly stuff like TuxPaint and Irfanview), etc.etc.etc.

Because of that, I find that freeware and OS software often fills needs that others don't and there's *always* a utility somewhere to do what you need. So I automatically seek out and (almost always) find free and OS software first when I have a job that needs doing. Sometimes that finds a gap in the market that, although covered by commercial software, isn't adequately filled by free software. If I got that far in looking, so have others and it's in the IT guy's nature to share wisdom and tools when someone is desperate for a solution (The "John, have you ever had this problem..." phone call), so I've ended up giving away scripts and little programs that I've later found companies charging for equivalents.

As a programmer myself, it's also inherently more likely that when a problem presents itself I will want to know the cause. This has lead to me finding and diagnosing bugs and publishing solutions and patches for commercial software before the authors even knew the bugs existed. I've even been thanked by several companies for fixing things that they wouldn't have been able to track down without buying an expensive education-specific network from a particular supplier to test on. My solutions are always free to those that I feel are trying to fix a problem. I know they are just "stealing" my work, so to speak, but I don't care. My own personal itch was fixed and it's just nice to share that with everyone (I never share with *just* the company in question, or they might just sit on the bug - the Internet makes it easier to share with the world than the one guy next door)

But obviously, because of all that, I have a lot of OS software deployed and bugs also crop up in that, so if I do the same diagnosis to fix my internal problems, it's easy for me to patch it and then sending that information to the authors is "contributing" to OS software too even if they decide to rewrite it, or fix it another way, or do nothing about it (I was using a patch that someone made to fix VLC hotkeys long before it ever made it into the program's codebase).

And then, occasionally, I happen to find these gaps in the "market" (even if it's just a tiny conversion utility, or a set of instructions, or a free equivalent of something else), fill them and lots of people then use my solution, extend it, etc. Hey presto, an OS project.

And sometimes I just like to program for fun. An awful lot of programmers don't get this, especially those who focus on business programming. It's an intellectual challenge that actually has a productive result. Anyone can do a sudoku in their lunch hour and doing more sudokus just makes you better at sudoku. But if you start even the simplest of programming projects, your mind will be taxed from all angles and you'll never meet exactly the same problem twice. And every problem, and every solution found, make you a better programmer because you avoid those mistakes in the future, learn new techniques, etc.

When I was a kid, programming was fun - it's what made computers interesting rather than just games machines. All my friends had Gameboys, etc. but nobody was writing their own games, in the middle of maths class, that could run on a calculator - a dozen people bought the same calculator as me just so they could run the games I was writing. When I went through uni, I learned lots of algorithms and how to analyse them, and lots of new techniques, so programming was still fun. Now I've grown up, programming is still almost always fun.

If I see a game I like, I try to make my "own" version of it - whether to work out how it works, or to make a cheaper version, or just to fix their own inherent bugs. If I think of a new idea, I try to implement it myself. If I think that a particular game would go really well on a certain handheld, I'll port it. And inevitably that code eventually makes it online in some form and people work from it to make bigger games, more games and more ports.

OS software is the Seti@Home of programming. All the idle downtime of the human race can be put towards improving something and achieving something tangible and practical. Sometimes it leads to an answer, sometimes it doesn't, and sometimes the project itself is outshone by a particularly enthusiastic contributor. But every little minute I put into programming something means a slightly greater chance of helping someone, somewhere to do something they want to do - whether that's just me opening a particular file, or someone on the other side of the world being able to use a piece of my software to help run their schools.

It "costs" me nothing except my idle time, and I get enough out of it that my idle time feels "well-spent", and as a side-effect other people sometimes benefit too. Now you'll excuse me, I'm actually working on a rather interesting little problem with Hylafax and trying to craft a filter to stop my school from spamming their suppliers when they make a mistake when sending a fax. It's actually lunchtime here, but I won't rest until I have that problem sorted - and yet nobody but me really *cares* about that problem, to my knowledge.

3
1

UK tech retailers are rubbish

Lee Dowling
Silver badge

And?

It's entertainment to me.

My wife used to do mystery-shopper work in Currys, Dixons, etc. and drag me along. Basically all she had to do was buy things, act the idiot, check prices were correct, etc. Sometimes she did a longer "audit" where she had to check hundreds of items were priced correctly and drag the manager around with her.

I took to entertaining myself while I waited by listening out for the "advice" handed out and correcting it where people were not just stupid but obviously trying to scam punters. But it's not just Dixons, Currys, etc. - good staff are hard to find everywhere. I was in Maplin's only the other week and was watching a poor couple being "talked at" by one of the sales staff. They were buying a portable hard drive (I don't even know if that's what they wanted, but I assume it was) and the sales guy wouldn't leave them be. Instead he was *insisting* that they absolutely NEEDED a surge protection strip to plug it into. As in, the thing would blow up and die if they didn't because it was so fragile.

The poor couple had no idea about computers whatsoever and were literally umming-and-arring over getting the surge protection strip. Sales guy wandered off to find one and came back with a £50 model (!) that he insisted they must have (the same price as the damn drive they were buying!). He was so insistent that they honestly thought it was something vital (even to the point of "Oh, yes, I've seen one of those at X's house and he has a drive too"). The sales guy got distracted and went off (presumably to find a more expensive model).

At this point, I considered it my geeky duty to step into the conversation and whispered in the couple's ears that I'd worked in IT for 15 years, couldn't imagine a situation where a surge strip would actually be needed in London, certainly not one that would save you from corrupt data (or where the stuff on the drive at the time of this "supposed" lightning strike would figure against the cost of rebuilding your home after the fire), and had yet to ever hit a situation that required a surge strip for anything - certainly not just a portable hard drive. And if they REALLY wanted one, Argos sold one for under a tenner. They thanked me, and bought the drive and left while the sales guy's back was turned.

(I would have pointed out that for £50 they had a UPS on the shelf behind them instead of a silly extension-lead-with-a-fuse and that would do an infinitely better job at surge-protection and their drive not conking out mid-power-cut, but didn't want to confuse matters.)

And then people wonder why I get stroppy about the constant "Can I help you, sir?" and "advice" offered by these people and never buy anything from those stores (a poor relative bought me a £5 Dixon voucher once - I threw it away after finding there was NOTHING in the store for less than £10, not even a USB cable, or something simple). Your sales staff are there to help. If they can't help, they are useless. Most sales staff actually ARE useless in any technology-related place and I tell them where to go as politely as possible.

"Can I help you, sir?" Yeah, stop insulting my intelligence with your prices, your undertrained staff and your sub-standard products. Thanks.

9
0

Passenger cleared after TSA checkpoint stare-down

Lee Dowling
Silver badge

Wrong

It's private land, so they can *eject* but even the UK police can't seize films / destroy photos / remove your property without going through an awful lot of paperwork (if at all). Hell, be too rough when ejecting them or damage that property even in a minor way and you'll be before the court, not them. The police can't even ask YOU to delete the images, technically.

I can put up "No filming" signs in my street. Poke the camera into my house and you have a privacy violation and I can call the police who may well arrest you (sign or not) but I can't take that equipment from you (necessarily). Film unobtrusively and without invading my privacy and neither I nor the Police can do anything without arresting you first (and then you have to prove they did something illegal, like here, which is very difficult).

If I own a nightclub, with a "no-filming" rule, I can ask you to leave if you film. I can call the police if you've been filming up girl's skirts. But *I*, nor anyone but the police, can legally seize your camera or make you delete the photos except in order to detain you until the police arrive (and if you *haven't* technically committed a crime, that could be seen as unlawful imprisonment).

Basically, nobody is allowed to touch someone else's personal property (or person, technically) except in the process of arrest (possibly "citizen's arrest") on suspicion of a crime. You can't just put a sign up and make your own private laws. You can eject, if you do it within the agreed legal parameters. You can ask for them to be arrested. If it's serious enough, you can "arrest" them and call the police who will probably end up having to let them go anyway.

But you *can't* seize their camera, make them switch it off, switch it off for them or get them to delete photos. You can only refuse entry to people with cameras and / or eject people from the property if they use cameras against your "rules". In this case, the airport was classed as public property and, as long as there wasn't a *genuine* security reason, the airport was deemed wrong in demanding that they guy turn off the camera. It's also *NOT* illegal to film your child's school play, no matter who's in the photo, but you *could* be ejected from the school (there is a quote from a senior ministry about stopping such "nonsense rumours" going around - it's not illegal, it's just a per-school rule that makes people THINK it is illegal). It's not even illegal to film in a public street whether you ask people's permission or not. But it's considered polite.

The law is surprisingly liberal in this area. Whenever someone comes to you claiming 1984 is occurring, have a look at what a private citizen is *allowed* to do. You might still be harassed by police but the last few times they got the law wrong on the street, photographers held a protest in London and the police chief had to send around "guidance" to police officers across the country.

20
0

Utilitybidder gets disconnected by developer

Lee Dowling
Silver badge

Doubtful

Legal bods err on the side of caution for no other reason than to get paid more and protect their ass.

The snarkiness of the message does him no favours, and the bigger problem is that designer doesn't necessarily mean host. They might well have contracted him to design a website, put that onto a host (or had it do that by giving him the password) and then he's logged into that to change the document *AFTER* the effect and locked them out of their own website. That *probably* isn't legal.

He doesn't necessarily have a *right* to do that. However, if you do not pay, there are lots of justified means of removal of the service you provided, and ways to recoup your losses beyond just what you were going to charge them. If you take your car into a garage, have work done and then refuse to pay, they can *legally* keep your car until you do - and they can even charge you for storage. My father did it many times as a garage owner, and it's completely legitimate. Similarly, if you don't pay a webhost, they can just take you offline until you do.

A breach of contract, by definition, breaches the contract. Which means there *is* no contract after that point because it wasn't fulfilled (there is an element of reasonableness but that's usually covered by a couple of polite "you haven't paid me"'s). If the company breach the contract and refuse to rectify it, you are no longer bound by the terms of the contract so long as, up until then, you'd fulfilled all your obligations under that contract (with reasonableness built in again). Otherwise, nobody would ever fulfill any contract and you'd STILL have to provide them with free goods / services.

If my bank consistently and wilfully fail to abide by a section of my contract with them, I'm no longer legally obliged to keep paying them. They *can* take me to court, try to start eviction proceedings etc. (so it's an enormous hassle) but they actually can't do much about it in a court of law if they breached the contract. So long as a court sees I was playing fair and not gaming the contract and not being unreasonable, they can't demand I carry on paying (and they end up paying to rectify all the hassle they caused). Of course, I'd be in a ton of hassle and have to change banks / mortgages, etc. and there'd be threats of *EVERYTHING* but it doesn't mean they'd see it through or that you shouldn't tell the debt collectors etc. to bugger off.

What keeps most people from questioning contracts they are in is actually hassle, not legality. Whether it's a mobile phone contract, or an airline demanding you pay hundreds to change their own spelling error, etc. the legality in almost any imaginable reasonable situation is on the side of the consumer. It might not be worth the hassle, but it doesn't mean you're wrong.

I tried to buy a phone from Three. It was a phone + contract that would have saved me money, but it actually never arrived. They wouldn't resend it. They wouldn't refund it. They wouldn't stop taking Direct Debits out of my account. I reported it to the bank as a fraudulent transaction in the end because they did not have my signature (the contract I was supposed to sign was in the box that never arrived!) and, even if they *HAD*, it wasn't signed by me, and even if it *WAS*, they had failed to deliver me a phone and/or service (they admitted themselves that the phone had never been used, and I'd actually phoned up originally to have them block the IMEI as soon as I realised it hadn't arrived so it was unusable in the UK after that). I asked to provide me with a copy of my contract which they insisted I "must have" signed to get that far but they never did so.

Then they started with the crap - they threatened legal action ("PLEASE DO!" was my response, but it never came to anything after months of constant threats), they told me I had to chase it up with the Post Office ('fraid not!), they told me I had to pay for the service even if I didn't have the phone (Nope!), they told me that cancelling the Direct Debit was illegal and a breach of contract (What contract? How so? How is you not getting a phone to arrive in comparison for your obligations of the contract?).

In the end, I refused to speak to them except in writing because they kept threatening legal action - I had to explain that and hang up each time and they'd phone me 5-10 times a day. It took weeks for them to stop calling (with me threatening to report them for harassment, especially after they'd agreed several times to never phone me again and communicate only in writing). Eventually a letter arrived, saying they were going to be so-extra-nice to me that they wouldn't charge me for the "false" Direct Debit cancellation - strange, because my bank were quite happy to take on that challenge for me, and the Direct Debit scheme would have had a whale of a time with that ("We want to take money each month for a service we're not providing and never have provided, please!").

The hassle was *RIDICULOUS*, and for a £10 a month contract. Yep. £10 a month. And the phone was worth about £30. But the point was, my contract obligations were fulfilled (i.e. they took three payments by that time (i.e. £50)), theirs weren't, so I was legally entitled to reclaim my money. Fortunately, the Direct Debit scheme works wonders for that so I just recouped all my money in one ten-minute phone call without their co-operation and then they had to do the running-around to try to get their money back.

Funnily, no court case happened and I never needed a lawyer (my invitation to them to initiate the court case on their behalf didn't go down too well). Strangely, despite their insistence, they had no contract signed by me. Weirdly, even if they DID and could prove it (which would have been a miracle), they breached it first and I was more than reasonable enough to allow them to rectify it (I wanted them to send me another phone, or just refund the £30 and send me a SIM, but they point-blank refused). My reply was along the lines of "Thank you for fulfilling your statutory legal obligations which, up until now, you have been failing to do. Now please stick your company up your ass, T-Mobile gave me a better deal and didn't threaten to sue me for their own mistakes over £10."

It's hassle that an honest lawyer will avoid (i.e. "the case is probably not viable") rather than righteousness. Righteousness doesn't pay off in the real world very often (and is rarely worth the time and hassle). But a breach of contract does just that - breaches the contract and frees you from your contractual obligations.

1
0

Lane Fox promises sub-£100 PCs

Lee Dowling
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Schools

Because 99% of the curriculum-conforming software out there is Windows. And precisely 1% of the stuff on Linux etc. that *claims* to be "for kids" isn't curriculum-conforming (and is therefore a waste of time except for "spare time" activities - i.e. when a kid has finished their work). Look at 2Simple Software that produce tons of Windows programs - I could write any one in an afternoon with a graphic designer, but they are focused to certain parts of the curriculum, updated regularly, and are simple to learn. Shame they are Windows-only.

I've worked in school IT since I left uni. The hardware and OS are basically completely the same. What matters is the end-user application software. There are precisely zero big-name educational suppliers selling Linux educational software, even when it's been written in a cross-platform library and allows them to pump out Windows and Mac versions from the same codebase.

The stuff that *does* run is mostly generic applications (so OpenOffice *can* and *does* replace Office in many schools, and TuxPaint is incredibly popular in primary schools - because it effectively replaces the next-nearest equivalent which is RM Colour Magic) and that's sufficient for Internet research, writing notes and printing and some very basic tasks - they are the pens and pencils of the IT world, but what about the textboooks? IT is in *every* subject and there is a big fuss about linking into the curriculum content and there is nothing on Linux that even *tries* to do that. A brilliant piece of software with a million features is useless if it cost £100 and only satisfies one line of the curriculum. Instead a crappy, years-old, Quicktime-based point-and-click game designed for Windows 95 that DOES satisfy the curriculum effectively is worth a lot more, and a lot more investment in IT to get it to run.

Some pilot schools are entirely Linux. This is usually done by, for example, buying a subscription to educational online content that has UK curriculum focus in all the subject areas (companies like Espresso Education specialise in selling schools Linux boxes that have Apache, Squid and 500Gb hard drives that download educational content overnight so the whole school can play a curriculum-aimed video / clip / game simultaneously the next morning - updated every day with every single change and news-relevant topics). Most schools hate that because it locks you into a particular service that you have to pay for every month and when you stop paying, you lose everything. So they stick with crappy, years-old, supported programs that they've owned for years, that are curriculum-oriented, that the teachers are familiar with and that run on anything Windows (with some tweaking).

Software as a service is pushing into schools at the moment (hell, you're basically renting Windows now too, so why not either rent a whole system or move away and rent an online service?) and that's making educational software a bit worthless. But the largest manufacturer of interactive whiteboards (SmartBoard) has had Linux drivers and application software for years, and the hardware is all Linux-compatible (I push Linux into every school I can, where it suits their needs), and the infrastructure is Linux-compatible (you can logon to Windows Servers with Likewise Open quite easily from Linux), but the end-user application software isn't. It doesn't even exist. What does exist is one or two guy's ideas of what everyone should teach (and that's the worst thing you can assume of another teacher) and doesn't cover even the most basic of needs.

When all schools are on Software as a Service, then 99% of the thin-clients, servers, etc. they use to do that will be Linux, because it really doesn't matter any more. But the fact is that the applications ONLY exist on Windows, at the moment, despite there being a Linux market. You should have gone to BETT in Kensington Olympia last week - there's not a mention of anything non-Windows in their software section and what looks like rubbish to you and me is worth THOUSANDS to the teachers because it covers their portion of the curriculum completely and is up-to-date.

7
0

George Nazi assumes Alcatel 'senior execution role'

Lee Dowling
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Fear of a name

Fear of a name? Associating everyone who has that name, subconsciously, with a particular example from history (not matter how bad)? Sounds more like prejudice than anything else.

I can also never understand the "ban the swastika" rubbish. Promoting fear and "badness" for a symbol with six strokes in it seems incredibly stupid, especially if other people want to gather under its banner in the future and that it's been used perfectly peacefully in the past. More sensible would be to, well, just ignore it and carry on doing what everyone does (incidentally: best way to deal with terrorists, from the point of view of the general populace: "Al Qaeda made my bus late again" is infinitely preferable to "Oh no! Al Qaeda! We're all going to die!"). No fear of the word "Nazi", no fear of a logo, but still promoting disincentive for a repeat of history. It's like not referring to yourself as British (or using it as a surname) because someone from a former British colony might be offended.

Fear of the name, and the logo, is ridiculous scaremongering. Nobody wants another WW2 and the atrocities that occurred during and before, but equally no-one *really* wants to be living in a world where six strokes of a brush, or mentioning a four-letter word, could lead to universal hatred and condemnation. Similarly, there are thousands of Hitler families in the world, and thousands of Adolf's.

Don't be scared of the name. Be scared of the thing that's actually scary - killing people. Best thing we could (and should) have done? Nick-name all the toilets "Nazis" and mark them using a swastika symbol as the universal symbol for toilet. Would have done *infinitely* more for disregard of the whole Nazi regime than going "ARGH! AN ASSOCIATION WITH NAZIS! OH MY GOD! REMOVE IT NOW! PEOPLE WILL THINK WE'RE COLD-BLOODED KILLERS!". Would extremist groups be using the swastika or calling themselves Nazi's if we'd all done that?

5
1

Runaway hydroponic fungus attacks real-world Starship Voyager

Lee Dowling
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WTF?

Eh?

£166,000 of which was written off as bad debt as he tried to use it for "marketing" his Trekkie flat and failed. It *wasn't* his money that he did it with and has gone through bankruptcy because he *couldn't* pay it back. Then spends £30k (presumably of his own money but there's no indication of that money's origins so could well be a bank loan - if they *do* still lend to him, a friend's loan, his ex-wive's loan, or just money that should have gone on food and clothing) more on doing that same thing?

Any idiot can obtain and throw away a quarter of a million pounds over several years. It's called a mortgage (though apparently they're harder to come buy now) or just applying for lots of unnecessary loans/credit and then never paying it back / destroying what it was secured on. The moral grounds I base it on are a) it wasn't his money - creditors must have appeared at his bankruptcy, b) he undoubtedly threw it away on a nonsense venture that should have realised it wasn't going to happen long before he got that deep and c) he's still doing it. And there isn't any mention of what funds that in any of the linked articles - we can only hope he has a job and (yes, I'll say it) isn't living off the state in the meantime. But considering he left his last job as a DJ because he was unable to continue - makes you wonder how he makes that kind of spare cash when apparently pressing a couple of buttons and putting on a set of headphones is too taxing in comparison.

1
9
Lee Dowling
Silver badge
WTF?

Eh?

Declared bankrupt for over £100k of debt trying to turn it into a business already, so spends another £30k doing it up and fighting mould. Please tell me this guy has a *job* since he "had to" give up DJ'ing, or is at least throwing away his own savings (hard to believe if he's been made bankrupt before).

Or is he really doing what I think he's doing? Spending money he doesn't have on Trekkifying a flat that he could have sold to clear his debts if it wasn't for the fact that his Trekkifying made it worthless. What about all those suppliers who haven't been paid or got only a token payment from the administrators?

Seriously, if this guy hasn't got a job, someone should be kicking down his door to put him away. As my bursar said to me the other day: bring back debtor's prison.

5
13

Mozilla takes on web data miners with privacy icon release

Lee Dowling
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Agreed

Agreed. If you're selling my data anyway, you obviously don't care about my privacy. And it's like all things online - if I don't GIVE you the information, you can't USE that information poorly (a.k.a. Facebook syndrome - don't put your mobile number on there, and people can't suck your mobile number from it!).

Funny that you have to wear the equivalent of a web-condom for every site you go to. But then asking thousands of separate, globally-distributed entities to all respect even a single set of laws is wishful thinking, let alone respect your advertising preferences.

0
0

Christmas shoppers hit by BT fire

Lee Dowling
Silver badge
FAIL

Well

A lot of cards now are "Electronic Use Only" (i.e. non-swipeable). Also, I think Chip & Pin was partly designed to get rid of that possibility too.

I blame BT but, most importantly, the stores. You're raking in millions of pounds worth of business and can't afford a second independent connection to the Internet? Hell a 3G stick would probably do in an emergency, or a leased line, or a sat connection, or something.

You're seriously telling that if the exchange goes down you can't take cards *at all* except (possibly) by an intensively manual process that most customers wouldn't be arsed to wait for you to do?

0
0

Bummed-out users give anti-virus bloatware the boot

Lee Dowling
Silver badge
FAIL

And?

Hardly a shock. It is intercepting EVERY read, reading an ENTIRE file, comparing it against known checksums (which can take ages to produce a single checksum once from even a small file), and then trying to apply "heuristics" to see if it's doing dodgy stuff - BEFORE it will let you or Windows access any file whatsoever.

Of course it's a resource hog - you only have to look at the path. And the more viruses, the more heuristics, the more opening of files, etc. the greater the time it takes. That's *before* you get into badly-written AV, AV updates that use synchronous DNS lookups, on-the-hour updates and complete disk scans etc.etc.etc.

An AV is there to save you from your own stupidity. If you execute a rogue file, chances are it will DISABLE your AV before your AV even knows that virus exists. I've certainly never seen an AV "stop" a virus in it's tracks on anything but the most perfectly managed setup (and home PC's are nowhere near that category - nor are *most* business setups!).

If you need a program to not only intercept every disk read / write that you do, but to scan every byte of every disk each day, and to update itself hourly, just to stop you RUNNING PROGRAMS YOU SHOULDN'T then you better put up with the performance drag of such a task.

Or you could just learn to keep your *important* software up-to-date (e.g. browser), use secure browsers, not execute things that try to download without your permission, not have a PC that's open to the world (i.e. use a firewall which *doesn't* impact your PC's network access anywhere near as much as you think it might because it only sees IP/Port numbers most of the time and acts on only the initial packet of the connection - mine is an advanced software one and stores a cached list of authorised programs so once a program is authorised, you don't even NOTICE that it's going through a firewall), and not install every piece of junk that ever appears.

16 years. 16 bloody years without a single antivirus program running and the only virus I've ever had was from a very-reputable magazine coverdisk when I was a kid (on a copy of Sin!). Zero damage, immediate detection (by myself), immediate cleanse and removal. Just stop double-clicking on things and using ancient versions of IE to browse the Internet. Follow the rules and no anti-virus is even CLOSE to being practical or useful. That's held from DOS through to my current setup (XP SP2!), none of which had any "explicit" protection that's supposed to save you from rogue programs (unlike Vista, 7, etc. which STILL are targeted by viruses every day!)

In the schools whose IT I've managed, we load the machines with AV because performance isn't an issue and certain regulators like the reassurance but it's still yet to detect a single GENUINE virus (plenty of false-positives) on 150 machines for 450 kids (in my current school) and thousands of desktops / tens of thousands of kids (overall in the last 10 years) before it actually gets shut down - we call it the "canary" effect... when the AV stops calling home to the central server, that probably means it's been transparently and completely disabled by some virus that slipped straight past it. That's about its only real use.

Currently on a 5-year-old XP image at the moment (which has been transferred between 3 actual computers in its life). No AV in it's entire life (but has ZoneAlarm Free edition from the first second to let me go online to get updates, decent browers, etc. safely). Autoplay is off. Never had a virus. Passes all virus scan checks. Show no suspicious activity whatsoever. Worst that happens is I get a dodgy email that *might* be genuine - I have to download it (safe, because my browser isn't stupid), then re-upload it to something like VirusTotal's online scanning service to determine if it's genuine. Happens about once a month or so when someone else's AV goes potty and thinks genuine files are viruses and I have to prove they aren't and / or when someone sends me something that I just don't trust (because they are stupid and probably *do* have a virus).

Stop buying this junk. Stop installing it. Stop supporting this industry that will never "end" while people are making broken operating systems and browsers. Instead, use your brain and don't execute anything you can't verify, and don't use incredibly pathetic programs to go on the net with.

10
3

'London black cabs to go electric in 2 weeks' – Boris Guardian

Lee Dowling
Silver badge

(Untitled)

Yeah, I know. I wasn't going to mention that. Solar is really a crock.

But it's the transfers and origins that matter, not what fancy new technology you use. If the energy to run your car comes from solar power originally, then it's quite simple to work out Watts required and how large/efficient a solar panel you'd need to do a single journey. If you assume less than 50% efficiency overall for such things as transfers, conversions, storage losses, etc. then you'll see if it's even *viable* (and that just assumes you *can* get losses down to 50% at all). If doesn't matter if it's via hydrogen, direct electric, compressed air or whether you're synthesising oil, it's the origin of the energy that matters.

Electric cars work. But somewhere you're burning 80kW worth of coal, or a huge FIELD of wind/wave/solar power at very inefficient ratios rather than 80kW worth of petroleum. I know very well that we don't have much of that left, but until even *one* of the renewables technologies can compete on a real scale (without subsidies, taking its lifespan into account, actual envrionmental cost of setup and maintenance etc.) it's a waste of time and we're just burning coal / oil / gas / uranium in order to make up for the low, unreliable yield of a field full of plastic towers stuck in a hostile environment that are difficult to repair.

Personally, I just think that petrol cars will get more efficient (efficiency hasn't really been a selling point historically) and then we'll find a slightly different grade of petrol that people can run on in the meantime and that's easier to find (e.g. we'll go back to 90 octane instead of 95/98 or something). People are more likely to own an LPG car in the next ten years than they are an electric car.

2
0
Lee Dowling
Silver badge
FAIL

Erm

Not to butt in on a perfectly good argument but....

Electrolysis requires electricity, and isn't 100% efficient. So you're actually just running an electric car but with an intermediate step of storage of a highly flammable material under high pressure (you have to pressurise the hydrogen to store any decent amount of it). And if you're doing conventional water electrolysis, you're doing so in the vicinity of huge amounts of highly-oxidising... well... oxygen. Read "explosion waiting to happen". This is why the Hindenburg was a bad idea, by the way - it stored huge amounts of hydrogen.

And solar panels? Really? You know the ecological impact of them and the amount of power they can *actually* produce and the amount of infrastructure they require to store it for the other 16 hours of the day? You'd be lucky to generate enough for a car journey or two in a car (if you're talking intermediate electrolysis) from a petrol-station sized solar panel, and you'd have more lead, acid, copper and plastic than you would solar panel. All of that has to have had used energy to extract it, refine it, combine it, package it, ship it and replace it. You really are no better off.

And notice how *everything* comes back to electricity, plastics, semiconductors, rare-earth materials, extremely high precision engineering, transporting heavy stuff to lots of places around the country and constantly repairing it etc. all the time? Don't think fancy methods - think volume. You need the energy to push a car several hundred miles on a tank. That energy, eventually, comes from electricity (e.g. solar). How much impact and time does it take to generate that amount of energy from your method of generation even with 100% efficiency? (e.g. solar = all day, coal-fired power grid = fraction of a second). Now factor in just how many other items are required, just how many transfers (e.g. thermal -> electrical -> chemical -> electrical -> physical) etc. are required, their efficiencies etc.

Electric cars are *STILL* a nonsense. When we can get a solar panel that can literally power an entire car to run 16 hours a day from a square meter on the top of its roof, then it's worthwhile. Until then, you're just putting "green-looking" steps into an inherently "ungreen" process and ignoring everything else you've done wrong.

Electric cars are good for milk floats. They were 30 years ago and they didn't *pretend* to be green - they AREN'T - but the tech that drives your modern electric car is actually inherently WORSE in green credentials than a 30-year-old milk float.

3
0

Anonymous turns attack drones against fax machines

Lee Dowling
Silver badge

Simpler

I have a simpler solution:

- Place Caller-ID of known fake callers on a block list on your telephony system, and block non-ID phone calls.

- Tell Jane who deals with the Fax-to-email gateway emails to just delete anything that looks like junk.

Saves paper, provides solid logs of all incoming calls and requires no more effort to deal with than a targeted spam attack.

0
0
Lee Dowling
Silver badge

Hmmm

Trouble is that there are *much* more concrete and established laws against malicious telecommunication over a phone / fax line than over the general Internet. It's likely to be much easier to punish people, e.g. by cutting off *their* phone line. All you'll do is get MyFax into trouble, who'll then push it back to you or secure their service properly. Probably takes a minute to add their Caller ID number to a blocklist on the fax system at the other end, or to just not answer all non-caller ID calls, and then you're back to glorious silence and only slightly more hang-ups than usual.

And, to what end? They would just advertise another (up until now private) number to their clients who *really* need to fax something to them, which may or may not eventually make it into the attack list, when they then move to another number - but basically it's more a nuisance than anything constructive (or even destructive). I know that the schools I work in have a dedicated switchboard line and external number for fax, and mostly it goes straight to a Fax-to-email gateway of some kind, and if a primary school has that kind of setup, you can be sure that a huge organisation has a much better one. All they've done is stuff people who are, say, abroad and need to fax proof that they are the person who lost their Visa card, etc. Hurting people who have no connection to the actual events is likely to make things infinitely worse overall than actually targeting your message properly.

I wouldn't be surprised if someone like Visa has hundreds or even thousands of fax lines, all automated by some Asterix-esque hunk of metal. Sure it's a nuisance for the person reading them but then that's likely to be some lowly secretary who receives and treats it just like spam email. The software company might be a bit smaller, but still they probably have a decent setup. It's unlikely to be costing ink or paper in this day and age, with fax-capable MFD's, scanners and photocopiers before you even get into Hylafax setups or the like. It's just the same as sending a bit of spam and holding up the phone line for 30-seconds or so.

It's childishness, aimed at avenues that are, ultimately, pretty weak and unrelated. Next some idiot will suggest attacking the UK Police websites because they're the ones who arrested him, and then you'll be in *actual* deep trouble, rather than just being treated as a bunch of random idiots with a petition (which is *exactly* how Anonymous behave: "sign my petition to end taxation and make cocaine legal!", and they get viewed by others in exactly the same fashion as such petitions would be).

I'm not even sure *what* the grievance is so far, except possibly "We think you might eventually, possibly, take our ball away, mister". An organisation committed an almost certainly illegal act (whether they are prosecuted or not doesn't reflect on the actual illegality of the act), went public, then had it's funding cut by credit card companies and banks (who can do that for *no* reason if they really want to - read your terms and conditions), its hosting denied by a company that has T&C's against hosting such content (and probably has a US-hosting-presence so is absolutely in danger if they continue to allow it to be hosted on their servers), and a random publicity-seeking idiot from the organisation has been arrested (voluntarily) on unrelated charges which will have to be proven in court, from a country that's subject to EU law with regards to extraditing people.

I actually think there's been a huge amount of restraint in dealing with this and that, actually, there's not much to react over. The UK police even sent his arrest warrant back several times because it wasn't filed 100% correctly. Now it has, they have arrested someone who INFORMED the police deliberately of where he is in case he needed to be arrested. The banks and card companies, and server hosts? That's their right. If you're found dealing drugs online, they will seize or terminate your account. If you're found hosting an illegal porn site, they will seize or terminate your account. In some cases, if their T&C's say not to operate that kind of site using their services, they will terminate your account (e.g. almost every web host has a "no porn" policy, even if it's completely legal porn). Where's the difference? Where's the actual unfairness that's applying to Wikileaks that hasn't been applied to millions of other people in the past and will continue to be applied to millions of other people in the future?

You can say what you like (within reason). But no company in the world has to sponsor your speech, or provide you with a free soapbox. And disseminating illegally-obtained confidential material and publishing it is very much a legal red area. Whether they can get a prosecution is a grey area but almost certainly it's illegal to do what was done. And for what? So we can find out that some people called the Korean leader some names, or that America was asking us about our anti-terrorism preparations. There was no huge piece of news that resulted from the leak - just diplomatic sundries, personal comments and a handful of "revelations" that weren't really that surprising to anyone with a brain. If you'd found evidence of, say, mass torture and illegal imprisonment, with government complicity, in a supposed democracy, without trial - that's news and I'd be defending your right to get that into the papers in as big a headline as possible. Instead we end up with "The oil-rich Niger Delta is a hotbed of corruption", that "China and US share a common frustration in dealing with Burma." and that "The IRA took advantage of the economic boom in the Irish Republic to diversify into the property market". Wow.

8
1

Diary of a server failure

Lee Dowling
Silver badge
FAIL

Duh

1) If your rebuild-from-backup time is 3 days, why don't you invest in something minor (like a 1Tb eSATA- (or even USB-) connected disk like I can buy from any Maplin's shop for about £50-100) that will *not* provide any extra security or redundancy but *will* provide a restore time on the order of minutes rather than days. Permanently connect it, have backups write to it as an external medium in the usual backup procedure. It won't save you in a fire, but it'll cut your restore times by orders of magnitude when it comes to most hardware failures. Especially handy if you know your drives have been troublesome lately. Or a nice, cheap NAS box is the perfect "local restore" backup for things like this - you barely need to do *anything* to make it work and Gigabit restore speeds certainly sound better than waiting days for backup tapes to be found.

2) If ESXi was so finicky about what it would install on, you're purely lucky that it installed at all. What would you have done if it didn't like the only card that could see your RAID, so that no matter WHAT machine you used for restore it wouldn't install?

3) If your RAID5 rebuild times are that high, that's why RAID6 was invented. At the cost of an extra disk, it's a MASSIVE reassurance when you have long RAID restore times (and even a double-failed array can be read raw off the disk and reconstructed, assuming point 4 below apply).

4) Your RAID was highly dependent on the chipset implementation given to you. This in itself is a *fabulous* argument for Software RAID (which has closed the gap tremendously in terms of speed) or for using a RAID setup that has a well-documented layout (and thus can be loaded in any machine with something like Linux "md" driver, at least enough for data recovery). If the chipset had changed, or the format had been upgraded, or newer chips didn't come with the backwards compatibility, you would be stuffed again.

You were damn lucky, basically. And all for something that an extra hard-drive (either in the RAID or as an external backup device) would have turned into a mere afternoon job without panic.

3
0

Gear4 UnityRemote

Lee Dowling
Silver badge

Sod the iphone

Sod the iPhone, release this as just a generic Bluetooth - IR convertor (including both way interaction by the look of it's learning functions) and release code / specs for it. It's already tricky to find things supported by the likes of LIRC, so this would be brilliant if it was even vaguely programmable.

Throw the iPhone stuff out of the window - just sell it as an ordinary Bluetooth - IR convertor and I'd probably end up buying it, especially if any Java phone with Bluetooth, any Linux device, even my Windows laptop with built-in bluetooth could operate it.

0
0

EXPLODING GARBAGE TERROR hits Florida

Lee Dowling
Silver badge

And

And then you'd have another fecking bin for "explosives" that would only get collected once per annum, and you'd be fined for putting a dead match in your normal refuse.

2
0

How to kill your computer

Lee Dowling
Silver badge

Cat

I once took my laptop to the mother-in-law's down in Cornwall. Woke up in the morning to a dead laptop. Turned out the cat had been sick and managed to direct it into the side-vent and toasted the motherboard.

Never did see any compensation for that and apparently the house insurance "didn't cover it".

1
1

Tube to get phone coverage by the Olympics

Lee Dowling
Silver badge
Thumb Up

Data, SMS

Don't care about phone calls (hell, ban them on the trains for all I care) but it would be handy to do SMS and / or data on the tube, and a lot less troublesome - no real-time requirement there, it can literally wait until it hits the next cell before it sends/receives the data from the train and signal loss / conversion isn't a big deal so long as there's a cell somewhere on the train that can queue things up properly until signal returns.

Hell, they do it on the First Great Eastern trains already - there's no reason you can't extend this to the tube and I bet a lot of people would be willing to pay an expensive tariff in order to do it. Just one caveat - DO NOT text me when I join that network to tell me prices / offers / etc. If you do, I may have to find your cell equipment on the train and join it to the middle rail with a nice iron crowbar.

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