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* Posts by Lee Dowling

1188 posts • joined 28 Mar 2007

Money for nothing – and your (gambling) kicks for free

Lee Dowling
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FAIL

eh?

That doesn't invalidate anything I said. I just said that there will be X outcomes, all of which have to be covered. I was using a simplified example (e.g. not just win / lose but draw) because there are undoubtedly people who read that article and would only bet on "win" or "lose" and not think about the other possibilities. At no point does my assumption of covering X outcomes counteract the arguments within my post, or does the post assume that things like draws aren't covered in either bet (or a specific, extra bet).

Also the possible outcomes are greatly affected by the exact details of the bet, which means more small-print reading. What if the match is abandoned? What if a goal is later disallowed? What if the entire game goes to arbitration because it presents a problem never seen before in the sport? What if a rule-change at the wrong time meant that, during the course of the game, a goal SHOULD have been disallowed because of the rule-change, i.e. the outcome was "win" but that the FA are trying to get it change to a draw? Yes, all this stuff is probably catered for if you read the small print but that small print may well differ between the several dozen bookmakers that the article is inferring you would have to use in order to make a big enough return, and thus you have to take account of those too. They've got a million-to-one chance of affecting your "betting system" but if you don't take them into account, you *will* lose (i.e. does an invalid result return your money or do you just lose it because it's only the free-startup money? I know *I'd* have a clause that the "free" credit was unrefundable in the case of something going wrong, unlike real cash - you already can't withdraw it unless it generates real returns, so you're already distinguishing between free and real cash in the accounting systems).

If you intend to play these sites off against another as a living, you need to know and check every detail. And we've simplified it to football but there are also a million and one other things you could bet on, all of which are capable of providing unexpected but rare results (and thus my "X" results and not just "2". The exact same principle applies to betting on, say, each individual team winning the World Cup. If you get the odds right, and check the small print, it's exactly the same thing because *ONE* of them has to win (assuming you've catered for any possible rare circumstance into your odds calculations). Simple bets may cover it in your head but in the small print, it might say otherwise - especially if you are playing off one betting contract against another betting contract from another company. Not everything is as clear-cut as it made out here.

Does the EULA for any of those websites prohibit such covered betting? Maybe they say you can only use them if you don't bet on that same event elsewhere? You don't know until you've read them ALL. That's the problem, not the betting system (which OBVIOUSLY gives you returns so long as it's as simple as stated. The other problem is that it's not as simple as stated and can lead to more work than just... well... working for your money.

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Lee Dowling
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FAIL

Gambler's fallacy.

This free money is a sure thing if I use your system, right? You can't lose! And like the single example you can point to I could make thousands of pounds! Sounds a lot like an awful lot of stuff I've heard since I had to explain to a taxi driver that, no, black does *NOT* have to come up after a run of reds and such things are *not* a good betting tactic.

So you have to find a betting event where there are only X possible outcomes. (Let's ignore the fact that in almost all sports the outcomes aren't that simple - e.g. draws in football). For each of those outcomes you need to sign up to a betting account and (probably) make a hefty deposit, as well as read every inch of small print. You then have to find the odds for that outcome from all those betting accounts and pick a combination that will give a return. This combinations are constantly changing, no doubt the betting companies are watching the same sites as you are, and are planned so that *YOU*, on average, lose. Thus any margin is likely to be tiny and short-lived and you have to be watching like an eagle to actually get the combination right.

But you *will* win. Of course, you just bet on every possible outcome. And you will win peanuts unless you do this hundreds of times a day. That return is then paid into your account for one of the outcomes and not the others. Chances are there are minimum terms for the number of bets before you can withdraw and/or limits to how you can withdraw that "free" money and credit card fees and banking fees and withdrawal fees etc. You'd probably find, actually, that the money you spent would be better off in a bank and / or your hours of diligently number-watching, EULA-reading and betting would have been better off on eBay selling off some crap for the old granny down the road.

This *isn't* free or easy. Consider: You find a product that a company wants to buy for X pounds. You find a supplier that will supply it for less. You sign contracts with both, buy the product and give it to the buyer for more money than you paid - FREE MONEY! It's the same thing, just with a slight automation and a hell of a lot more paperwork and effort.

You can even "bet" like this on stock markets, and have been able to for years, if you have the slightest knowledge of what you're doing. The problem is that the knowledge is specialist and thus the potential market is extremely small and you'll get a LOT of people who get into it thinking it's "free money" only to find they're working 8 hours a day in order to get their £25 sign-up bonus for "nothing", or worse making a tiny, critical error and end up costing themselves an awful lot of money.

I'm glad you have found a way to make money for yourself, and that you obviously enjoy doing it. I find it hilarious that you don't give your name - the bookmakers know *exactly* who's doing this - guess what, it's the guy who's had an account with us for ages but only ever qualified for the free bonus, has a referrer header from those sites you mentioned, is active on their forums, and only bets on the things where he can profit from a difference in odds between bookmakers. It was cancelled out by all those other guys who signed up with us to do the same thing but happened to lose on their account here instead of elsewhere.

It's not magic. It's not new. It's *not* easy. And it's *not* a reliable income. For a start, it's only a matter of time before such "free bet" offers start to disappear for exactly this reason (and the other you mentioned - that times are hard).

Good luck to you - go make your money for all that effort. To me, even reading through a single EULA for a bookmaker's withdrawal conditions is something that I expect to be paid a damn sight more than their £25 free bet for, but hey, I just work for a living.

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How I used Space Shuttle tech to insulate the living room

Lee Dowling
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Ouch

Please tell me you did a cost analysis that takes into account:

- Potential saving on heating?

- Potential expenditure on cooling (insulation and triple-glazing sound like a hot-summer to me)?

- Potential damp / humidity problems? (Aerogel is hygroscopic)

- Initial cost (including specialist builders willing to die of lung cancer and tools you wouldn't normally need to use) vs recurring savings?

- Replacement / maintenance costs if that stuff starts to fail in any way (e.g. damp, temperature-triggered flexing, or harbouring bacteria - some aerogels shatter under sharp stress, etc.)?

- Time, effort, money involved in tracking down materials and delivering.

Like just about every "green" project I've ever seen, over the lifetime of the product you'll cause many times more damage to your wallet / environment than you would have if you'd just slapped a bog-standard insulation up or left it alone.

If you do something green and it ends up costing you more money in total than the non-green alternative, chances are it's not gonna do what you think (e.g. mercury etc. in CFL, or solar cells that take more than their operational lifespan to pay for themselves - let alone anything caused by their manufacture).

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A Linux server OS that's had 11 years to improve

Lee Dowling
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FAIL

eh?

Show me a big app that has to have hard-coded IP values and doesn't just pick up its things from interface bindings and/or binds to 0.0.0.0 and lets the firewall do it's job.

And, seriously, how often do you change IP's for this to be an issue? I'd much rather they didn't spend hours making the config files templatable in this fashion (and thus probably no longer user-editable in a meaningful way that preserve the templating) for the one or two line sed script (or Search / Replace if you MUST use a GUI) that would do this for me automatically and globally in the very rare occasion that a SERVER has to change IP. Change in external IP? That's what DHCP is for, that's what DHCP notifications are for, and that's why my internet-bound services bind to specific interfaces and/or 0.0.0.0 and then the firewall says who can access what.

And apart from that, there's not much else that I can envisage being at all useful in a templateable scenario, otherwise all those programs would share a common config file for that information, in the manner of resolv.conf or similar.

This distro is a make-a-server distro. It really clings to historically bad ideas (installing everything by default, wiping out partitions and not letting you specify, making things difficult to disable, relying on the community to produce otherwise vital additions). Any distro worth installing lets you modify those things even if they don't appear by default (that's what "Advanced Setup" and similar things are FOR). All this distro does is encourage people to make servers that they don't intend to play with or configure or lockdown and even lets them open them up to the Internet without a single thought. It's nothing that can't be achieved with ordinary installs (even of CentOS!) with much more flexibility and control.

If you can't work out how to change an IP address in a squid config, or have to do everything through web-based control then you need a decent Linux with Plesk or something. But this is just an abomination - hell, the kernel is so old that my home PC that's been untouched in another house for three years has a more years-more modern one (2.6.9 - that's 2004!). That machine still had an ISA port for one of it's Ethernet interfaces.

Use this for an Internet-facing server? I'd rather slit my own throat, thanks. A 5-year-old default full install of Slackware actually does a better job and that's saying something. This is just a monumentally bad idea and if I ever hear of someone deploying this crap near me, I'll be disowning those admins / networks involved. I wouldn't even like to THINK of even a home connection running this thing with any Internet-facing service. I'd panic if I heard that a small business was running this as even an internal server - it's a "click-and-build" config with very bad defaults and no concept of security just waiting to introduce disaster.

Please, for the love of God, stop deploying this crap and go use CentOS or something (anything) instead.

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Easynet blames network collapse on dodgy router update

Lee Dowling
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FAIL

An edge router

A single edge router took down an ISP. Nice redundancy / monitoring / replacement policies there. I thought the point of buying very expensive Cisco hardware was that this sort of thing wouldn't affect the connectivity as a whole, rather than having to have some Cisco guy read commands to you over the phone when things go wrong?

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US may disable all in-car mobile phones

Lee Dowling
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WTF?

You're an idiot.

Had to use a mobile to keep you awake while driving?! You're an idiot, and precisely the person that these sort of measures are aimed at.

Go be a pillock on some other country's roads. If you ever hit my car, I'll be restraining you until the police arrive, not just going through the usual insurance - that's grossly negligent and incredibly stupid and dangerous.

Pull the hell over, have a nap. Nobody needs to drive 900 miles in one hit and certainly not on a tight schedule unless they're insane.

(<-- Driver who just did 3500 miles through Europe but never once thought twice about stopping even for just a leg-stretch).

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UK.gov ignores 'net neutrality' campaigners

Lee Dowling
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Doubtful

That would almost certainly entail a change of service, which would necessitate a change of contract and if you refused to agree to the new contract (or weren't notified of it, etc.), you wouldn't be able to be charged just for that (i.e. they are trying to renegotiate a contract that you signed into one that you didn't and thus are obligated to allow you to continue as before or take advantage of early termination clauses in their contract because they are literally moving the goalposts on you, but they wouldn't be able to get you under the "you didn't complete the contract" pre-12-month fee clauses because of that). Worst that happens is you have to find another ISP and write a couple of threatening letters back if they send you some.

Don't accept that what they tell you is legally correct. If someone changes their service so that it is different to what you were promised and/or not suitable for your reasonable, stated intended use, then you can damn well get out of the contract just as easily as they can. It's hassle, yes, but then so is fighting a case that you weren't guilty of in the first place - doesn't mean you should just let it go and have them charge you for it.

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Scareware cold-callers target 1 in 4

Lee Dowling
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Heard about this one

Heard about this one from several of the staff at the school whose IT I manage (the phone call was for their home machines, not the school's). They often claim being from Microsoft and some people are genuinely caught out (but luckily JUST suspicious enough to ask me first) because they always hear about how MS has antivirus now and how they are trying to help people keep their computers clean etc. Alarm bells tend to ring when they ask for money but there are other, much more subtle ways to get money from people - like that mentioned here of just getting people to run a program ("I just need to run a diagnostic... could you just type in...").

One member of staff said that they offered to clear up the PC if he paid them £60. He told them that the computer wasn't worth that, even if he did think they were genuine. Again - it's the little old ladies, the confused, and the vulnerable who will be falling for this scam, not the average guy.

We *really* need a way to phone a number and say "the last call I received was an attempt to defraud me, or an unwanted call, etc.". Most of the time BT say that they don't keep records (funny how they would be able to tell who phoned me if I were a terrorist) and have to "intercept" the line only after lots and lots of shouting and then you have to hope they call back during the period that your phone line is completely useless to yourself. Had a bank sending me fax's every ten minutes once and couldn't get them to stop for HOURS because of that - turns out they were sending the bank statements via some internal fax service and it dials my phone number if you miss off a few digits - the bank were horrified, but it took BT ages to actually stop anything, start intercepting calls and then get in contact with the caller.

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How I built a zero energy cost, zero carbon home server

Lee Dowling
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Eh?

Although the energy-saving tech might look cool, your biggest no-brainer was replacing 600W of various unnecessary equipment with a laptop. The biggest advantage of that is, of course, battery backup but if you have 600W of equipment doing what a bog-standard laptop could do in the first place it means you weren't keeping a check on your servers anyway. You admit yourself that most of them sat idle which suggests that, at the point of purchase, these machines were unnecessary and probably quite expensive. If your previous equipment had been strung out, then sure - upgrading to a more powerful but more energy efficient machine makes sense but you could have *always* done this.

You don't have computers to sit idle unless they are there purely for redundancy purposes, at which point you HOPE they never do anything else but sit idle and you can't gain that redundancy any other way.

The rest of the article seems a bit pointless - 30W is more than low enough to come into the "electrical noise" or even "cable loss" category of any modern home (£3 a month-ish? £30 a year?) and every optimisation you made after that was actually costing MORE in terms of materials, production, configuration, shipping, etc. The K8055 is also overkill for a simple monitoring task though I have used them a lot myself.

And, at the end of the day, you could have done this in 2001 for the same saving. Mini-ITX VIA EPIA pull only a handful of watts (an in-car PC I built takes only 7W in full operation, including a K8055, internal drive and various USB gadgets) and does 600MHz (or 1Ghz) on x86 even on the older models - the model I use was actually one of the original boards that a school I work for was throwing out, originally specced as a Linux thin-client. They don't need fans, last forever, take standard PC hardware, are compact and pull about the same as the SheevaPlug - they also benefit from having LOTS of ports including good old fashioned RS232. Sure, the Sheeva's a nice gadget but it's nothing spectacular. Go look at the latest GumStix, for instance.

Personally, I think you'd have been better off with a couple of mini-ITX's (lot cheaper and more standardised to replace in the long run, and you could even move down to nano-ITX etc. as they start to pack more in), or possibly just a decent laptop from the start. In the long run, the prices you spend on things would have been better diverted to basic hardware and more power generation - a couple of 60W panels would happily run a bog-standard mini-ITX board with a normal laptop hard drive for ages and no having to worry about tuning the system.

I think it's just a "boy's toy" project rather than something practical. If you want "zero energy", there are much better ways of doing it without having to buy new, state-of-the-art hardware and tweaking incessantly.

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USB fanboys teased with 16-port hub

Lee Dowling
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Funny

I'm sure I'd find a use for it if the school I work for hadn't managed to get dozens of £1.99 USB2 4-port hubs (with 5v power-brick) a few years ago.

We had a load of new netbooks that needed installing to our normal image but they didn't have floppy / CD / etc. obviously. The only options were USB sticks and / or PXE booting and it was actually quicker and easier to duplicate USB sticks en masse and then just boot them from them. Any faults / returns could just have a USB stick stuck into them again and I didn't need to worry about setting up even more options onto the existing PXE boot and somehow getting lots of fast Ethernet connections to one point (the number we had could easily kill a Gigabit backbone to the point where we have to do updates / upgrades in batches and that's just incremental data rather than a full image).

So we daisy-chained dozens of hubs and I already had a shed-load of USB sticks - a Linux script to format them, put the image on, make them bootable, etc. and then automatically detect replacements and do the same to them took seconds. I could churn them out faster than I could unbox the USB sticks from their retail packaging.

More seriously? The school also have several USB fax modems to automate several fax lines (using Hylafax), and several USB 3G dongles to automate SMS gateways (using Gammu-smsd), and several USB 3G dongles to provide backup if the dual-line 24MBps ADSL should go down. Not to mention that I have to plug in a USB-Serial adaptor to my laptop every time I want to play with the switches - a 16-port hub or more could easily be put to good use in a business situation. Hell, the 4-port hubs we got ended up in classrooms and there's only a couple that aren't already full of the staff's various USB devices.

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Google open sources Apache server speed mod

Lee Dowling
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FAIL

Duh

"I suppose the source code is there if you look very hard but certainly not on the downloads page."

Click link in article. Three tabs across from "Downloads" (which you presumably clicked first) is "Source", including a public, open svn repo that you can download the source from. Downloads generally means "user downloads" which means binaries. Source is ALWAYS somewhere slightly different and I don't think the bog-standard Google-code tab for "Source" is hard to find even if you've never been there before.

My google-code projects look identical, for example, and nobody's ever complained that they couldn't find the source.

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Microsoft tweaks Hotmail interface to read Gmail accounts

Lee Dowling
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And?

So all those people fled to GMail years ago when you could actually use any POP account you like and have it come up in the same interface?

Hotmail are 10+ years behind on everything and still don't get that all I want is to check my email. When it was plain HTML, I could do that and it was fast and it was the best. Now it's a hideous Javascript / CSS menagerie that my browser just refuses to cooperate with and sometimes I can't even CLICK on an email, that doesn't have any kind of intelligent spam filter, where the support goons are complete morons, where the login process now TIMES ME OUT and throws ungraciously me back to a login page (which I do NOT want it to memorise my password, thanks so much), etc.

I used to be a paying customer for Hotmail - it used to be brilliant. Now it's my spam-trap and messenger account, and to be honest it bugs me enough that I have to go to the damn thing to see what spam's accumulated in my inbox and clear it out every so often (always "Report Spam", always returns the next week with the same spam) or my IM program keeps telling me that I have emails waiting.

Hotmail's dead - it's roadkill on the "internet superhighway", we're just waiting for it to stop breathing. To be honest, GMail will die someday too but it looks to be a while off. If you gave me an option to stop the email account side of it entirely without stopping me being able to use the IM name I've used for a decade, then I'd switch it on tomorrow. Unfortunately, they're all "Live" accounts or whatever the new term for that junk is, and thus linked even if you never want to use them. I think Google accounts have the same problem but they aren't bleeding their customers away with botched upgrades all the time.

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Gentlemen, start your engines – with your phone!

Lee Dowling
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Thumb Up

Got it

Already have this. Just stuck a Mini-ITX box in my clapped out Ford Mondeo and did the same. It's amazing what you can do with a fanless VIA processor and a couple of cables and £10 gadgets.

Stick a £10 serial GPS in and you have a tracking system to see how fast the kids have been going (not that I have any that age yet). I used a bluetooth one and a cheap bluetooth dongle and hey presto! Instant car-wide bluetooth functionality.

Stick a £10 audio cable round the car and plug it into any modern radio that takes "aux" input and you have an entertainment device of unlimited capacity.

Stick a £10 3G dongle and you can live-track the GPS, or enable automatic vehicle tracking (if it gets nicked), or have it text you if it moves outside a certain area, or report in every know and again with websites.

Stick a £10 Wifi dongle on it and your passengers get the full Internet while you drive (I DO NOT use this thing myself while driving - I don't even have a satnav in eye-shot, because I'm so vehement about such things).

Stick a £10 OBD-II cable on it and you have automatic monitoring and recording of the engine, queriable remotely (which, along with GPS tracks, is basically a complete accident-black-box system). My car is too old to do everything OBD but I can still pull enough useful info to convince my (mechanic) father to check his own personal car for useful info with an OBD device (not just "engine fault" but everything from load percentage to road speed to engine temperatures to fuel gauges etc.).

Stick a £10 USB interface board on it (and some glue electronics / relays) and you can do anything from controlling the lights, activating the ignition, winding down the windows or anything else you feel like doing - lovely 12v-DC-only systems that just work.

And power? I can run it for 24 hours off something no bigger than a house alarm battery which can charge whenever you drive "for free", or you can set the PSU to time itself off however-many minutes after the ignition goes off and run it off your main battery. I think mine did 10W last I checked, which is about the same as an indicator bulb or interior light.

Wake on serial etc. mean a tiny timer circuit can be used to switch the thing back on again if the car alarm goes off, you activate it via remote phone, etc.

Wouldn't *TOUCH* a car with this stuff built-in though. They always go too mad and end up making it the ONLY way to open the car and such nonsense.

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Phone 7: Another Vista or another XP?

Lee Dowling
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Silly

Is it just me or all these smartphones just silly? I spent a long time on my personal computer making sure it couldn't connect to anything and everything whenever it felt like it, and any program that tries pops up all sorts of dire warnings to me. I spent a while isolating external IP networks from the device so that I could choose what it would do and when and how much data / bandwidth it would use at each point.

Now this phone automatically updates from Facebook every time you go into the contacts list? And presumably sucks weather / news / etc. updates all the time too. I'm not so worried about the data usage cost (hell, if you can afford these phones, you can afford a decent amount of traffic, but be careful before you take it abroad!) but just the sheer constant access required to keep them running.

I wonder how well this phone fares when it can pick up a GSM signal but not a GPRS/3G signal, seeing as it can "hang" while loading up your Facebook friend's new photos already.

Sorry, but I'm an old fuddy-duddy. Gimme a phone that doesn't go on the Internet unless I specifically say so, that doesn't leave you open to all sorts of potential hacks because the data from things like Facebook hasn't been sanitised properly but is executed by default on your phone every time you access the address book, etc. that can actually ring people and tell you who's rung without you having to guess or go on the damn Internet again.

I have absolutely no doubt that they are incredibly convenient. So is having a computer with no password on it, that's on an unfiltered Internet connection, when you just want to get online. Doesn't mean it's at all sensible, though.

And it's a *phone*. That's quite a privileged bit of hardware. You can do some real damage by taking over that device with something malicious, whether it's recording every conversation (ever used phone banking or given you card number to a company you trust over the phone?), sucking up your home address and your GPS location, silently sending millions of texts, deliberately purchasing lots of things from the app stores to get commission on them, or even just making prank calls to the emergency services via your phone.

You'll be safe for a few years, like most people were with Windows 95. And then you're going to spend your LIFE managing that damn device to stop it doing stupid and increasingly dangerous things that it was DESIGNED to do.

I find it hilarious that MS can't design an OS that can allow background apps free access yet still reign them in if the user / phone requires it to stop them overwhelming the device, and instead has to resort to whitelisting apps. I thought they were supposed to have an *operating system* as one of their products?

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Lee Dowling
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Ick

There is nothing worse than someone blindly advertising for their employer.

I have a friends who works for Rackspace. I swear if I hear the word "fanatical" again, I will go "fanatical" on them.

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BT promises biggest ever rural broadband project

Lee Dowling
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Well....

You may scoff, but my ex comes from Cornwall and when I was down there a few years ago (and we're not talking long - maybe 3-4 years), one of my ex's friends stopped us in the street because she had to tell us the exciting news that she was finally getting electricity. I assumed it was a joke, but it really wasn't.

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Copper prices push cable thefts to new high

Lee Dowling
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Signalling

Not being funny but if it's for signalling, why do you need copper at all?

Power distribution, yes, but for signalling and low-voltage stuff surely you don't need that huge amount of power? And the power distribution is mainly coming from the tracks themselves surely? (A signal that isn't powered from the track would seem a bit of a waste of infrastructure - if the track power is down, the signals on that section are useless and should go into "fail" mode anyway, which is presumably battery-backed so other trains behind have to stop?)

What sort of signals are you operating that can't be powered from the track (and therefore only need a tiny bit of copper to get power, as opposed to km's of the stuff), can't be self-powered and/or can't get their actual "signal" from something that's not copper (fibre would have to be specially hardened, radio is probably licensed and unreliable, but hell, they were using the track itself to send some data signals last I heard).

I can never believe the sheer amount of cabling on the side of the average rail line and don't understand why it's necessary to have the equivalent of several dozen thick cables following the entire length of a single track, and why it's all "visible". The major roads don't have that much a problem and they have to take electricity and signalling down the same distances. What makes the railways so unique that they are being targeted for something they can't replace with anything else?

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Microsoft splatters Hotmail with even more updates

Lee Dowling
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Opinion

One pet hate of mine is companies that roll out new, untested services, telling us how exciting and wonderful they are, and completely remove any chance of the old one surviving. Before it even happens, they *KNOW* they will never roll back to the old. This it's not a test, it's an enforced change.

For an enforced change, the replacement has to be equivalent or better than the original, which means lots and lots and lots of voluntary user testing FIRST. A couple of engineers going "Yeah, works pretty much the same, I think" is not adequate for a service with millions of users.

Then, when you see what the changes actually ARE you wonder why they bothered. I mean, even now the changes are:

"Track packages referenced in your email from Hotmail" - UPS / FedEx integration. Useless to me as I'm not in the US. Plus it doesn't work for the over several dozen couriers. Plus it doesn't actually do anything useful, because you're relying on a FedEx / UPS link being in the email, which is going to be - shock, horror - one or two clicks away from a package tracking page for that parcel.

"Chat with Facebook friends in Hotmail" - isn't that what Facebook is for? Why do I need to sellotape all my sites together? Can't I just have Facebook open in one tab and Hotmail in another and not have to worry about typing my email into a Facebook chat? Plus, this is actually a MESSENGER feature, not a Hotmail one. I have a Facebook account, I use it for IM, I have a Hotmail account (basically a spam-trap), I use my Messenger account for IM. Pidgin already integrates both so I don't need this feature and if I did want to use a HTTP site to view IM's, I'd use the one that's provided by the IM provider - i.e. Facebook.

"Share photos more easily with expanded coverage and new features" - - i.e. larger attachment sizes and larger total email sizes. Useful feature. But still people don't send huge files by email unless it's necessary because the RECIPIENT / TRANSIT is the problem, not the sender. Sod receiving a 10Gb email from a Hotmail user - most mailservers will just say "No thanks."

"Earlier this summer we helped people save time by viewing Hulu and YouTube videos within any email containing a link to content on those sites."

See FedEx tracking points - because if the link is in the email, why do I need Hotmail to automatically open it for me? Can't I just click it and go to Youtube?

"Organize and find important email with Subfolders" - Holy cow! Alert the press! Subfolders!

Hotmail was a killer app once. The first, true, serious webmail site that worked. It lost that moniker years ago with it's constant "redesigns", unnecessary integrations, blocking Outlook integration with a Plus account (which I had for several years), crappy HTML/Javascript that never works properly in Opera (always the first browser to break on Hotmail), and still it can't spot simple spam.

Want to get customers back? Provide a clean, small HTML inteface (ala GMail Simple Mode), provide nice basic features and not crowd my browser space with unnecessary crap while I'm trying to read my email, and stop redesigning the damn thing every ten minutes and not providing a "Classic View" option.

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No one needs Blu-ray, says Microsoft exec

Lee Dowling
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What?

Ten years ago, a connection that could stream iPlayer reliably didn't really exist in the home market. Ten years in the future is a big prediction. Australia are planning to have 100Mb fibre by then, and the EU are pitching towards universal 30MBps within a few years (my home is already capable of 50Mbps even if I wasn't a techie). If either of those is even half-true, then they'll be a market for such streaming.

But, also, that's not what he meant. He messed up on the word "streaming" when he really means "downloading from a remote server to play from local storage". To the average user, there's little difference.

But then, I own neither console, no Blu-Ray and don't really care. Gimme unrestricted 30Mbps and I'll be happy. And the more consumer devices that expect and demand such things, the quicker download caps and "fair use" will disappear. Yay!

1
0

Thieves jam key-fob lock signals in mystery car thefts

Lee Dowling
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Clever

Clever - you can't really work around that in technology because you have to assume that a jammed channel is not your "lock" signal (otherwise you end up with the opposite problem that these people can lock you in your car / out of your car).

However, almost every car I've ever seen with remote central locking will make a sound or flash the lights when it's "armed". Quite often they require two or three clicks of the button to make them do so just because of other noise and interference (some old Fords even use IR remote locks). If you're walking off without hearing the beeps / seeing the flash then the chances are that you're leaving your car unlocked unknowingly anyway, just because of ordinary interference / range problems. Wait for the beep. If it doesn't go, then walk up to the car and use your key to do it. (Or say "Whoops" if you've bought a car that can ONLY be unlocked remotely). Problem solved.

Which begs the question - what the hell was wrong with putting a key in a hole? Even an electronic key is infinitely more reliable than some wireless tech that can almost certainly be sniffed and replicated if you're clever enough anyway, and you don't save any time by being able to unlock the doors from a few feet away.

The next step? Giving your car a SIM card (hell, some cars have built-in 3G/Wifi now, or a GPS tracker that talks over GSM) and being able to unlock it via text.

1
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School worker jailed for abuse images

Lee Dowling
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Well

Pilot jailed for flying while drunk when off-duty.

Care home worker jailed for beating his mother at home.

This guy was working in very close proximity to children (I, too, am an IT guy in schools - contact is obviously not allowed but you are still defined as being in a position of trust and you still have access to children - the chances are that he had *unsupervised* access to children many times during the working day - where unsupervised means that nobody adult was in sight), in a child-exclusive "protected" environment, after undergoing specific, extended criminal records checks to ensure that people with histories don't even come *close* to getting that sort of access to that number of (potentially vulnerable) children.

If you work in a school, and ever do anything illegal related to children, you will not have a job in that industry again. The specific position may not matter, but the workplace / industry does. However, it's better PR for the school if he was announced as an IT Technician rather than, say, a special needs support worker or a classroom teacher who have yet-more unsupervised access to children, or even if the school did not announce what his position was. "School worker jailed for abuse" prompts all sorts of parental riots at the school in question, announcing that they are "only the caretaker" or "only the IT guy" takes a lot of the heat from the school and calms a lot of the fears of parents (but obviously not all). Read any of these stories and you'll find that the school are quick to provide comments about how distant his contact was, how little they were in school, how new they are to the school, etc. so it appears as a temporary mistake that would have been found out anyway, rather than a long-term risk.

3
2

ACPO defuses impending photo row with police forces

Lee Dowling
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Happy slapping

As someone who works in schools and has, in the past, been required to analyse a pupil's confiscated phone for video footage of happy slapping (with a supervising police officer looking over my shoulder because they required a quick ID), I can tell you that it's a growing problem.

Police can only act on evidence and "he hit me" isn't evidence, even when that occurs in a secure area. The school in question had DOZENS of CCTV cameras, dozens of staff, thousands of pupils, two teachers in the classroom and still "nothing" was seen of quite a serious incident. A phone confiscation was the only way to get those images and instantly the culprit was identified. There may be problems with the way the evidence was gathered (via a phone confiscation) but the alternative was to let someone who was clearly fingered for the offence get away because "nobody" had seen him slap a kid in the face (right on the temple / ear) so hard that he flew off his chair while the class laughed and the teacher was looking the other way.

In the end, the child in question was interviewed by the police (damn right, too) and when it came to the "I didn't do it" part and they told him they had a phone from one of his friends, it was an instant outright confession, apology, sanctions etc. The parents involved did not take criminal action but -hell - that policeman as far as I was concerned did what he could to protect the kids in that school. Without that phone confiscation, he could have done nothing but give them a ticking off.

I agree that confiscating any phone that's pointed at a police officer is doing them no good at all, and that once you're in public you can take a photo of whatever the hell you like so long as it's not harassment. But at some point you have to gather evidence, because that's all that the police can actually act on when something serious does happen. So long as they have to go through a lengthy paperwork process to seize that property, recording, logging and preserving evidence as they go, providing a receipt or other official confiscation notice, and that the vast proportion of confiscations do actually lead to evidence rather than just the police harassing photographers, I think it's fine.

You have to think of it the same way as CCTV. If you have a home CCTV camera and the police notice that it may have recorded a crime, they are quite within their rights to seize your recordings (and maybe even equipment) so long as they do it properly and officially. But you don't want to see your police force confiscating every camera that's outside a police station "just because". As with everything, it's about having a good reason, they don't even need to prove to have found evidence in every device they confiscate - that would be stupid. And if the courts start noticing tons of photographers complaining about lots of confiscations where nothing happen but the seizure, then they will start to clamp down on such things.

13
1

Microsoft Windows glider crashes

Lee Dowling
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FAIL

Well

I know the RedBull thing is only a joke but... watch the last few seconds of that video - the "wing" wasn't even attached properly from what I can make out - it falls off as soon as they move onto the slope.

Typical Microsoft quality... ;-) Although the Linux one would probably end up with 37 different implementations of wings, all glued together, and to move it would require several thousands of volunteers to make sure that the wheels (all different shapes and sizes, of course) all turned at the same time.

0
0

People have NO BLOODY IDEA about saving energy

Lee Dowling
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Your Mistake

2 - changing your WASHER settings is more energy-saving than line-DRYING. I.e. not heating that water up to ridiculous temperatures only to pour it away and, quite literally, rinse and repeat is actually WORSE than a brief spin in the tumble where most of the work is done by hot-air (not hot-water).

8
7

Air steward resigns via emergency chute

Lee Dowling
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Guessing

Escape chute might have explosives to blow the door away, expand the chute etc. (a little like airbags), he could have got someone with the chute itself, or could have tangled the chute in other machinery and caused damage/fire/tipping of the airplane, could have disturbed refuelling lines of the plane, could have caused a static spark if the plane hadn't properly grounded itself, etc. He abandoned his post as a safety officer for the passengers, provided passengers with an unauthorised escape route which may have got some of them onto the airfield itself, may have left the cabin effectively "unmanned" because of the necessary legal ratios of passengers to stewards, etc.

That's just a handful, some of which are not unreasonable at all.

3
0

Ton-up speed merchant blames dyslexia

Lee Dowling
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Almost...

To quote Tom Good : "Tick - VG."

Right up until the barrister's "and morally obliged" part. Everything else, I was with you.

0
1

UK ICT classes killing kids' interest in tech

Lee Dowling
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FAIL

Because of the rubbish they teach

I work in schools, I'm a school IT manager and I've been in a different school every year since I left uni, on average. Common amongst them all is that none of them know how to teach IT. This stretches from primary (4-5 +) up to college-age (18) - SAT's, GCSE's, A-levels.

IT apparently includes:

-Formatting text in Word.

- Playing with LEGO MIndstorms and 2-3 line programs using them.

- Programming in LOGO (nothing wrong with that, but we're talking about Prep School 10-year-olds, maybe a handful of hours a year in ONE year, or state-school 15-year olds doing the same).

- Going on Google Images and copy/pasting anything you like the look of into your document/slideshow.

- Knocking up a two-paragraph web-page in HTML (and using possibly the ugliest, improperly tagged, out-of-date, standards-incompliant HTML you've ever seen in your life).

- never ever once touching a REAL programming language (even BASIC would qualify - most use some proprietary "graphical" languages that's just a flow-chart in a GUI).

- never ever once being able to correctly label parts of a machine (base unit = hard drive is scarily common amongst educational posters, teachers, etc.)

- never ever once learning how a damn computer works ("It's all done with 1's and 0's... okay, next subject... batch processing...")

- teaches outdated junk like bank's "batch processing" overnight - give three reasons why. DULL, DULL, DULL, and the kids are led to believe that it's "advanced".

Modern curricula are basically what-the-secretary-thought-her-daughter-must-know. It's a list of things like "describe the function of anti-virus software", "describe which program would be more suited to writing a book".

By A-level, kids SHOULD be doing TCP/IP or some variant, binary arithmetic, coding in C/Java at least, building Arduino's and other embedded projects. I know I was when I was their age and that was with no formal education, and my degree is actually in Mathematics first. Instead, at age 18 they're still doing things like explaining dragging-dropping and telling people what WIMP stands for.

Educational IT courses are a complete, utter, 100% waste of time. I've yet to see a single IT teacher who I would confidently trust to update Flash on their laptop without breaking something. I've not met ANYONE teaching it that I would trust to open their computer and insert a PCI card, or to write a 2-line shell script. Hell, anything command-line scares the bejeezus out of the teachers I know.

Point, click, copy what I did, next subject. We're going to breed a generation of people dependent on machines who have NO idea how they work.

8
1

Solar plasma aurora storm to hit Earth tomorrow today!

Lee Dowling
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Bonus points

Bonus points for spotting the Blackadder reference in SteveK's post.

1
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Lee Dowling
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Quick

Quick! Everybody to the Isle of Wight. Actually... I'm not sure what's worse - being rendered blind and then eaten by sentient plants, or having to live on the Isle of Wight for the rest of your life....

1
0

Carnivorous plague mice 'wiping out towns' in US Midwest

Lee Dowling
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Epizootics

Epizootics - my new favourite word for the day.

3
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Wikileaks publishes encrypted 'insurance' file

Lee Dowling
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Pfft

I'd be ultra-surprised if any military *bothered* to try to decrypt it, even if they believed it to be damning. If it's damning, they KNOW what it is, know who COULD have it and know who's likely to be the source. They wouldn't need to "verify" it at all.

And wasting billions of CPU cycles just to say "Oh, yes, those are the classified files" (to yourself) is a bit pointless - if you suspect they are, you have to ASSUME they are, and work from that assumption. Note that this doesn't mean confirming they are authentic in a public forum under any circumstances - any military that did that is too stupid to manage its own PR team - confirmation or denial is as good as authenticating and thus "approving" the collection, content of, and dissemination of all that data publicly. Oh, and if they are, then they are now "compromised" so it pretty much doesn't matter if one person or a million saw them - thus you only have to worry about the consequences and methods of leak rather than the actual particular leak itself.

If you know for sure they are not your files, well, it would be easy to call them on it, make them give you the key for verification purposes (there's no point paying a hostage-taker when you're not sure he *HAS* any hostages) and a 0.001 second decryption of the first few bytes with the key they give you to see if they do have something you didn't know they had. Or you could just ignore it and let them make a fool of themselves.

The best thing for ANY military intelligence organisation to do is absolutely nothing until it becomes a militarily-important operation - and then you've nothing to lose by just blowing everyone away whether they're in a foreign country or not. If they are genuinely going to compromise your military, blowing them away is the best option no matter what kill-switches, colleagues, etc. they claim to have. If it's that big a problem, blow them away too. It's a military leak, not a kindergarten rumour.

I don't think the US public would hate you at the moment if you were to say that he was threatening to release some much-more-sensitive information that would compromise military installations, special forces, "our boys' lives" and so you took him out. Even if it's against some law or constitution, there are countries willing to do your dirty work for you (isn't the UK special forces arm basically used for assassination of people that the US doesn't like because they have a law about doing that and we don't?).

In all the movie plot threats, yes, the security services might try desperately to decrypt these files. More likely or not, they hardly know they exist until you try to publish something that's actually damaging to the military in a non-PR way (Does a military really care about PR? They kill people for a living!) - like operationally-important details - and then they just kill you. It's like the XKCD cartoon - do you spend years trying to decrypt ultimate mathematics, or do you just hit the bloke over the head until he gives you the password and/or takes the password with him to the grave?

Hell, the US tortured foreign people, in foreign countries, totally against all its own laws and even allowed filming, photographs and non-classified, bog-standard, low-ranking Army personnel to do it. Do you really think they'd care a jot about just taking someone they consider an *actual* military threat (not a PR threat), torturing him using the same Special Forces personnel that could be put in danger by his actions, and then doing everything under the sun to him until he dies / tells what he knows?

0
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Facebook tops half-billion users, wants your innermost thoughts

Lee Dowling
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Facebook

It's a communications medium. Don't like it, don't use it. But equally, don't whinge about other people using it just because you don't like it.

My mum and dad can grasp Facebook and we use it for family-photo-sharing and gossip. I have my cousins, my brother, my ex, all on my lists and we use it to keep in touch when things aren't worth a specific phone call, or to share baby-photos, etc. It's not ideal in all senses but it works and we can keep in touch with people thousands of miles away.

I have to re-iterate a post here... if your Facebook account sucks, it's because your "friends" on there are dull, uninteresting, illiterate, etc. I think that says as much about you than it does your friends. If ALL you get are pointless status updates and nothing else, then why the hell would you add that person or keep them on your list? At best, just hide their posts. Remember - you CHOSE to be updated on everything that person posts. It can happen that someone is more dull / pedantic than you knew but that's what the "ignore/hide" functions are for - they get them off your screen without offending that person.

I don't expect my friends to be interested in 99% of what I write on there. But when my Mondeo recently hit a very nice man in a Jaguar, I posted the photo of the damage on Facebook so that my dad could see it (he can't handle MMS, bless him, and it was the easiest way). I then got notes of concern from several friends. I don't expect Joe-Bloggs-that-I-knew-at-school to care but if he wants to comment, or offer me a spare vehicle, or knows of a breaker's yard, etc. then he can.

Like everything else, it's a communications medium. FriendsReunited fulfilled some of its purposes a while ago but died when they started charging more and more for less and less, and Facebook does it in a more modern fashion (the photo-tagging thing alone is worth it!). You still have to filter what you take from it, and it does offer a lot of customisability about exactly what you see, but it's no worse than an IRC channel with your tech-savvy friends on, or a shared message board on the fridge.

If you don't understand it, it's because you've not actually tried it and/or you're not using it properly. Sign up, log in, add your *FRIENDS* and family, filter as appropriate. It's really quite useful.

0
0

Mobile broadband: not up to the job?

Lee Dowling
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Linux

One of the dongles I had to install USB Mode Switch for! I was disgusted! I actually had to have a udev rule to kick it from being a "I'll pretend to be a driver CD" to "I'm a modem!" operation. God, Linux driver compatibility these days is just terrible! :-)

The rest was just wvdial running PPP (dialling *99# as normal), and iptables / iproute magickery, with scripts on a cron schedule.

Basic setup with a single dongle took two minutes and a handful of commands (wvdial, changing default route), the advanced config took a few hours to knock up in between other things. I've seen devices advertised for £100's that do something similar with a single dongle and an ADSL connection. Ours cost the price of a PAYG dongle (£12 or something, I think they cost us), a bit of Top-Up credit and nothing else. Oh, a £1.25 USB2 hub. I kid you not.

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Lee Dowling
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"in London"

We're talking about hovering on the very edge of M25 here. In Central London, yeah, nothing surprising (though I hear the building reflections, business with similar setups, and even Wifi around there is a nightmare).

When can say that Barking, Dagenham, Redbridge, Romford, Theydon Bois etc. are all "in London" too, it sounds a bit more of an achievement. No doubt those places have better 3G reception than some hill in Scotland but it's not the London you're thinking of most probably, and the proof of the pudding and the point of the article is that even WITH all those millions of people using 3G in a small area, it still just works. The technology is fine. The politics of the mobile operators is what makes 3G suck elsewhere.

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Lee Dowling
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Well

This is only a single anecdote but:

I run the IT for a small school in London. I have two very IT-knowledgeable people directly above me - the head and the bursar. Our ADSL provider recently took it upon themselves to chop our business connections, without warning, because "We were using more than an average ADSL home connection". Negotiations were completely fruitless, with the bursar starting out by literally saying the words "How much do we have to pay you to put it back on?" and ending with threatening to take the children out to the playground, and photograph them pointing at a load of laptops, netbooks, etc. showing a 404 page and sending it to the local press.

The ISP were complete idiots, no doubt, and lost a very reliable and well-paying customer for the sake of a few Gb (they also lost all our ordinary phone business because of their stupidity - that's only a dozen lines but it was one hell of a bill each month for the lot). They didn't understand the concept that 450 kids+staff use more bandwidth than a little grandma, and they knew we were a school from day 1 - they did the installation!

We asked for our options and were told that the *only* thing we could do was get another line installed to share the bandwidth across (which we would have to setup!) and that would take two-three weeks to install - in the middle of the exam period for students. In the meantime we would be completely without Internet access because we were limited to only 128Kbps which barely lets us collect email school-wide, let alone do anything practical. They refused to "re-activate" it, or increase our bandwidth allowance no matter what package we signed up to.

If we had to install another line, it might as well be with a more tolerant ISP who understands what "business line" means, so we severed the connection and instructed another ISP to initiate a dual-ADSL installation immediately. That left us with 2-3 weeks in which to cover ourselves for Internet access (when England were still in the World Cup, too, I might add!).

I posited an emergency measure - 3G dongles. I had one of my own that I always carried on me and I had in the past plugged it into our systems as a test device. I knew they worked well enough if we were careful, and I demonstrated it to the head.

Immediately, the bursar whipped down to Argos and bought a shed-load of T-Mobile 3G dongles with 2Gb allowance / month on each (and then they limit you, not charge you). We topped them all up with some cash, plugged them all into our Linux firewall/router, I wrote some scripts to automate things a little (e.g. switch between dongles that had already used up their monthly allowance etc.) and hey-presto - several 2-3Mb connections school-wide that I could load-balance and switch between in order to balance demand, speed, bandwidth usage, top-up-credit, etc. As far as anyone else on the network was concerned things just started working again, Internet-wise.

It cost us about one-tenth of what our up-to-8Mb ADSL package was costing us, it gave us similar speeds, much better upload, greater reliability, and seamless Internet access across the school without having to buy any extra hardware except the dongles (which we've since redeployed to staff for school trips, home VPN access, etc.). It worked perfectly for 2 weeks, then our up-to-24Mbps ADSL came online and we only kept a couple of them plugged into the router for emergencies.

Now consider that this was done by plugging in a handful of cheap 3G consumer dongles into the various USB ports available on a Linux PC that acts as a router/firewall, with some of them basically sandwiched in between two others because of the proximity of the ports. Consider that the room this was in is some way inside the school and had tons of copper running through it (including network cabinets, the phone system, servers, etc). Consider that it was in the middle of a school, filled with staff using mobile phones, in the middle of a London town, surrounded by houses and main roads and just a few hundred yards from the main shopping road.

The dongles didn't even sniff at it - they just got 3G connections each (not maximum theoretical, obviously, but each good enough to use it happily without noticing slow-downs), and worked flawlessly all day and night. We scripted overnight shutdowns for them in order to reduce bandwidth but each morning they came back online like a champ, and ran an entire school sometimes on just one or two when we were initially testing. It felt slow with only one, but nobody complained - they had "usable" Internet that was a damn-sight faster than our limited ADSL. Windows updates, anti-virus updates, web browsing, Java games, Facebook uploads, clipart browsing in Office as an entire class - you name it, it occurred during that time and worked perfectly. I was downloading a new copy of OpenOffice at the time, too.

We *did* ban any streaming of the world cup - we felt that was taking the piss slightly, so instead we streamed matches over the network from a DVB-T stick using VLC. Otherwise, 3G saved our arse. Our other alternatives were literally things like asking the neighbouring houses if we could tap into their wireless or run a cable into their house, or pointing a wifi antenna at a local OpenZone hotspot.

This was obviously only a static setup, but I think that's pretty much a worst-case scenario - a pack of 3G dongles all touching each other, all connecting at the same time, all from "unique" customers, all on the same base-station, all trying to get the maximum out of their connections simultaneously with real, varied traffic, within the borders of Greater London, near main roads, shops, houses, etc. It worked damn well, better than we ever expected, and I'd do it again in a trice if it was necessary.

Oh, the bursar complained because his office is in the next room and *his* own personal 3G dongle (which he used when uploading anything critical) occasionally went from 3G to HSDPA when we did this.

3G works. T-Mobile did a fantastic job, even if we were abusing their services a little. The mobile network worked better than I ever would have imagined. If anyone ever says that 3G is shit, or isn't capable of things like that, it can *only* be under-investment at the mobile carriers end. In our case, everything just worked. Best £20 I ever spent, buying my own 3G dongle.

8
0

Council wins motorbike charges case

Lee Dowling
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Oh

Oh, *THAT'S* what they're protesting about. Finally, I find out despite the fact that I've avoided Trafalgar for several Wednesdays on the trot (not by car - you have to be an idiot to drive into London, by Tube).

Having to pay for a parking space in Central London. Aw, the poor dears. They must really be struggling after having to pay the Congestion Char... oh, no, they're exempt. Ah, well, it must really be difficult to park a bike in... oh, there's thousands of bike spaces. Oh, but of course being able to work in London doesn't give them any sort of London weighting because of the extra difficulty of living in such an urban environ... No, hang on. Ah, then it must be because... erm...

In London, you park, you pay. It might be a new concept to bike-riders but you're already a LOT cheaper to run than a car (and let's not get into the environmental impact or I might have to mention noise pollution, accident rate, casualty seriousness and idiotic driving to counter the argument). London is notoriously over-crowded, vehicularly, and thus paying to park is a way to reduce unnecessary parking and enforce parking, which means that pillocks don't park in the road or leave their bikes across a car parking space. Residents, etc. are always entitled to concessions, discounts, etc.

Your bike still takes up space and still needs some money to look after that space - probably more than a car space if you include the fact that they can only take phone-payment and not little stickers on the windshield like existing systems, and the security devices that "the motorbikers" demanded, and extra enforcement for the extra spaces, etc.

Read the judgement - basically everything was thrown out and the council even reduced fees and bought more security devices to secure your bikes because bike-parking was SO popular even with the "old" higher charges - they didn't do that for cars. I wondered what all the fuss was about and assumed that, because I hadn't heard anything in particular, it would be something stupid and petty so that people could cause hassle and go have a beer in Trafalgar Square instead (Is that allowed? I have no idea, just hypothesising).

You wanna park, then you pay. You can argue about *how* much you pay (e.g. relative to the equivalent parking/protection for a car), you can argue about *how* you pay, you can argue about not having enough parking spaces, you can argue about heavy-handed enforcement in contravention to the motoring laws, you can argue about lots of things. But no, the court case was about wanting to not be required to pay for a service that every other motorist already has to pay for. You could even argue that all parking charges should be scrapped, I'd be right behind you. But they're just being childish and, subsequently, losing in court. Hopefully this will be the end of it that the average Londoner hears about, or if not, after the appeal.

Aw, diddums. I feel so sorry for those hard-done-by bikers.

6
7

NSA setting up secret 'Perfect Citizen' spy system

Lee Dowling
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WTF?

Ouch... my eyes.

Capital letters are for beginning of sentences, proper nouns, acronyms and similar. My eyes just hurt and I can't tell if you're trolling or just genuinely a paranoia evangelist.

0
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BT strike ballot halted over possible 'technical breaches'

Lee Dowling
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FAIL

Erm

The union membership list has nothing to do with their employer. If it did, that would be quite damaging anyway - the company DOES NOT want to know who's union and who's not, because then they can be seen as discriminatory. Sacked two union members in a row? "Oh, must be targeting us to get rid of us, because they know who we are!".

Additionally, union membership does *not* have to be paid through the employer's payroll. I can only speak for the unions in my industry (education, so large unions like the NUT etc.: never been a member, have no interest) but it's an entirely separate payment that actually varies on a number of factors. Employers don't want to be bothered with all that crap.

Thirdly, making sure your own membership records are complete and accurate is not a requirement for perfection, not is it necessary to involve anyone but yourself and your members. It's just a requirement that you *endeavour* to *ensure* they are as accurate as possible. Otherwise silly things like someone changing their address on the day of the ballot and "failing" to notify you would invalidate the ballot - a ludicrous and way-unreasonable situation.

If they signed up for your union, then you have their signature and details on a form they completed. That's a legal contract that you and they are obliged to abide by. Can't keep that up-to-date and accurate enough to send out a mailshot to their latest informed address, that's your problem. More likely, they cocked up on something like eligibility parameters.

Why you then have to bring ancient politics into it is beyond me (seriously - FOUR prime ministers ago - someone who started in office the day I was born), but it's the usual knee-jerk reaction of anything someone attacks a union, apparently.

Of course, you could also follow it up by "anyone that disagrees is stupid and/or ignorant" just to further proof how infallible your opinion is and discourage people from bothering to argue with you. Hint: If you have to insult random people who disagree with you, on the basis that they disagree with you, your argument isn't strong enough. If you have to do this before they can offer a reply (so you're judging people who disagree with you not on any other basis) then they won't normally bother to reply. Not because you've won but because they don't want to have to fight with you to pick out all the fine details.

Me? I have a quiet afternoon at work and hate people stating opinions and fact and daring people to disagree. However, comments are welcome. Disagree with me or not, I'm not that bothered, but if you want to *discuss* things, without stating horribly out-blown "facts" and attacks on people who retired decades ago, no problem.

5
1

Want Olympic tickets? Better get a VisaCard then

Lee Dowling
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WTF?

Stupid

You know what attracts me to a website? Lots of payment options. Hell, I can even pay for my shopping with PayPal on lots of sites now, even things like Maplin's, Dabs, the local pizza delivery and some smaller food stores. I can even buy PayPal / Amazon cards in WHSmith.

The point is that if you want me to pay for something, you don't want my payment method getting in either of our ways. If you say "Oh, not with that card", that's fine - I'll go elsewhere where they are happy to TAKE MY MONEY. If you want to make it exclusive to a particular card then, to be honest, I won't even bother to ask why.

It annoyed me when I had a Switch card (back when they were popular) and yet some places *DEMANDED* other cards, no matter how many times you explained to them that it costs no more to accept those cards. The especially annoying ones were the ones that would only take credit cards and not debit cards (So, you don't want money that I'm guaranteed to already have, you want money that may not ever exist?!).

Phasing out cheques, I can understand that, but this is the equivalent of saying "You can only pay by cheque if it's a HSBC cheque" or similar. Stupid restrictions on how I give you money that I want to give you = greatly reduced chance that I'll *bother* to give you the money. I understand that the Olympics is a unique event but that's even more reason not to profiteer, in the eyes of your customers. If my money isn't good enough for you... no problem... I'll spend it elsewhere instead. I've done that in shops and other places, so I'd be happy to spend my money on going to see something else instead. Somewhere where they take whatever payment method I give them.

In fact, in one case I wanted to buy something online - my Visa was declined for some strange "security" reason, however the Paypal payment that I did with the same place ten seconds later (funded direct from the same Visa credit card) was accepted and never queried. If they'd insisted I could only pay with Visa, chances are I would have just gone elsewhere for the same product. I have a Visa. I'm not playing on going to the Olympics anyway. But if those things were both the opposite of my situation, I'd change my plans. You really think I'm going to sign up to a credit card just to get into a venue? I wouldn't do that if my local nightclub demanded it, so why the hell would I do that just because it's the Olympics.

The anti-competitive thing goes without saying but this is just commonsense - if someone wants to give you the entry price in pennies, or by card-guaranteed cheque, or postal order, or banker's draft, or credit card, or debit card, or Paypal or whatever - so long as you think you can verify that payment method enough, why not? This is someone trying to give you MONEY.

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Giving poor kids computers, internet makes them stupider

Lee Dowling
Silver badge
FAIL

And?

Shock / horror factor? Zero.

Giving a kid a pencil does not increase their IQ.

Giving a kid a house does not increase their IQ.

Giving a kid a computer does not increase their IQ.

They are unrelated concepts. Admiteddly they might be third-degree-of-seperation factors that might influence the scholastic performance of a child but in general they are just a tool. If the child does not want to learn, is forced into the workplace, has parents that don't want them to learn, has been brought up with the attitude that "school is for losers, come and be a mechanic instead son", etc.etc.etc. then no amount of "toys" will fix that problem.

The primary, main, and almost sole problem with under-achieving kids is that they are not and never have been encouraged to learn by the people they look up to - the "cool" kids in school, their parents, extended families, the neighbourhood, etc. Throwing expensive trinkets at them (without greating limiting their general-purpose nature by forcing them to be "educational" computers, without with they will only be used to play games, go on the Internet and watch videos) is like giving a jobless person a Nintendo Wii. Yes, they *could* use it to go online and find a job, but the chances are they will just sell it / misuse it for other purposes.

Stop faffing about by putting tech into schools, colleges and homes and do what you were supposed to do - damn well teach something, to students who want to be taught.

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World Cup streaming to choke corporate networks, doomsayers predict

Lee Dowling
Silver badge
Go

School

My employers have asked me to look into this for them - they are a school and apparently one of the matches is shown at 3pm and they think teachers will be tempted to let kids watch it / watch it themselves online. The TV technology we have is old-hat, but the large-display data projectors in every classroom (and the large touchscreen display in the staffroom), coupled with an internet-connection and Internet-enabled-laptop for every staff member are certainly a temptation.

My employers are quite relaxed about the actual event happening (i.e. they aren't banning access to it, so long as it doesn't interfere with teaching) but they do want to make sure that the broadband doesn't fall over and interrupt other lessons. So I've been asked to look into things like VLC streaming of the match across the site and things like that.

In fact, VLC transcoding and simulcast seems to be the best option, really. There might be a slight lag but it means that the traffic is kept bouncing around the 1Gbps local links, not the pitiful outside connection. We think that even just three or more simultaneous streams would be enough to affect web / email access, and there's at least three members of staff who will be in seperate rooms who will want to watch it if they can. I have no interest in the footie, so I'm happy to worry about the streams, not the goals, if something isn't working properly.

We can even do DVB-T or DVB-S streaming with a bit of planning and not have to find a suitable re-streamable stream online. Though, I'm sure a bit of iPlayer / Sky Player hackery could be done if necessary. But if my school are seriously considering it, I don't see why other workplaces wouldn't be, unless they thought it was "inevitable" that their users would be streaming it, or that it would slow down, or that nobody gets any work done that afternoon anyway. Any ideas on helping me achieve this will be gratefully received.

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NetSecure SmartSwipe credit card reader

Lee Dowling
Silver badge
FAIL

Stupid idea

It's a stupid idea - if software on your computer has access to read your keyboard, there is *no* way you'll stop it doing anything else it likes - like screen-capturing at regular intervals, browsing through your authenticated cookie caches, or just sniffing all your traffic. Keyloggers mean game-over anyway and this provides no "security" at all.

Additionally, I'd be interested in what exactly it sends over the USB cable - it's almost certainly just a plaintext copy of your card numbers anyway, just not as a HID device (one presumes) so that keyloggers don't bother to sniff it. Ironically, the only use this will see will be for people to purchase it as a normal, cheap, card reader - possibly so they can copy and/or swipe cards illegally.

This is one of the most ridiculous inventions I've heard of.

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Drinking coffee offers no real benefit, say eggheads

Lee Dowling
Silver badge
Stop

Coffee

Am I the only one who doesn't actually like the stuff anyway? I mean... it's sharp, bitter and pungent. Anything coffee-flavoured is normally disgusting anyway (and always the last chocolate left in the bottom / the last Revel left in the bag) and coffee itself is just stronger-flavoured than that (seeing as most "coffee-flavour" is actually coffee, unlike other flavours).

And, yes, I am living with an Italian who insists on drinking a ridiculously tiny cup of highly-concentrated, coffee-smelling mud every morning (made in a little espresso kettle that steams water through tightly-packed coffee grounds - the "proper" ones are normally put on the hob, but she also has an electric one that looks identical).

And for some reason I'm always the odd-one-out in the IT department because everyone else seems to live on it. You know what? My coding doesn't need the distraction of strong-smelling, staining, spillable, drinks used purely to prop addicts back up to their "normal" state after 5-10 mins of "brewing" the damn stuff. I'm much happier with a Coke (diet, sugar-free, extra-sugar, I care not), Fanta, or just water - at least it *tastes* vaguely pleasant, not like I've licked the bottom of a lid of a very hot jar of marmite.

I've worked in IT departments where everyone else is dependent on the stuff and in those circumstances you consume a lot of it yourself (otherwise they JUST KEEP ASKING and that's more destructive to your computing than just having a cup of coffee put beside you and you ignoring it). At no point did I actually feel any desire to actually drink the stuff myself, worked there for about a year drinking several cups a day because people kept making them for me and I never once decided to make one for myself (I never even made myself one when it was my turn on the "coffee-making rota"). Stopped working there, still didn't see the need to have one. In fact, I don't think I've had one since and that was 3-4 years ago now.

It tastes horrible. Stop drinking that crap. At least drink something that *tastes* nice if it's going to be damaging / addictive to you. To quote Crocodile Dundee - "Well, you can live on it, but it tastes like sh**".

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BBC upgrades iPlayer to allow 'social propositions'

Lee Dowling
Silver badge
Thumb Down

iPlayer?

Haven't been there since get_iplayer was made to feel unwelcome and development stopped. Being able to "tag" things on Facebook isn't going to compensate for that.

7
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Tabnapping attack baits phishing trawl

Lee Dowling
Silver badge

Opera

Opera, presumably without any knowledge of this particular attack seeing as I'm not using a "snapshot" version, just the last regular update, does the best that you can expect - the title bar changes to "Gmail" (but then you can hardly regulate titlebar changes!) but the printed URL in the address bar and the favicon stay identical to the version which "loaded" originally.

Though it is more interesting than most of these techniques, again it only fools the unwary who have been and always will be at risk because they don't bother to check things properly. If people don't check for padlocks / green security bars / etc. then they are stuffed anyway. 99% of people *don't*. And if you just ignore security certificate warnings or click Yes, then you're stuffed too.

Follow the oldest rules of all: If you want to log in to GMail, type in www.gmail.com into your browser. Don't click a link. If something asks you to "login again", check it thoroughly, no matter if you "thought" you were logged in already. (Incidentally, the latest Opera stable plays merry hell with the Register logins and I'm constantly being asked to re-log-in).

About once every six months or so GMail asks me to log in again, and that freaks me out and I have to check why. And even the Google Adsense thing (which asks you to login but also has a "Click here if you're a Google Account user" link) arouses my suspicions immediately because I should damn well already be logged in so the sight of some login boxes makes me suspicious.

And those people who *don't* work like that should be using their browser's privacy features like autologin on sites because that way their details WON'T be automatically plugged in on anything but the sites they were intended for, and hence you will "spot" these problems quicker.

It's interesting, will likely catch a LOT of people out, but it's nothing that hasn't always been possible, and nothing you can really "fix" except by whacking people around the earhole.

0
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No refunds for ID card pioneers

Lee Dowling
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Thumb Up

Ha ha

Oh, how brilliant! First, why should they get a refund? They *WANTED* an ID card and were never given any guarantee that pubs, shops, banks, passport control etc. would be *required* to accept it forever. They paid out for it voluntarily. Nobody "made" them get an ID card, even if it seemed like that was imminent. They were fools at the time and were derided on this very website, in these comments pages.

To "refund" them would only cost every taxpayer more money for a scheme which attracted almost universal criticism and which only about 5000 people out of the population wanted... I can probably find groups on Facebook petitioning the government to sell the UK to China with more supporters than that. Nobody made them pay, they *wanted* to be alpha-testers for this stupid idea, in fact they had to pre-register in order to even be considered, so that's that. They paid their price, got their product - an ID card that was valid ID - and that's the end of it.

In other news, beta-testers for a new MMORPG that paid £60 to get on the testing list, before it was officially released, find out that the company has decided not to release the product in the end anyway. Same thing. You were wasting your money even *if* they were eventually made compulsory, and the warning signs that the whole thing would be scrapped were there in the media all the time... "the whole country", "every airport worker", "some immigrants", "oh, sod it, just a couple of volunteers from Manchester then..."

14
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DAB lobby launches radio scrappage scheme

Lee Dowling
Silver badge
FAIL

Waste of time

DAB is dead. Any successor is unlikely to arise, unless forced.

Give me a choice between DAB and no radio and it'll be no radio. I listen to radio in the car each morning - my radio is more than powerful enough to pick up stations except in the longest of tunnels, throughout London and it's borders. DAB can't. With analogue, I either get perfect reception, quiet reception, a tolerable little hiss and/or nothing at all depending on how long the tunnel I'm driving through is. DAB gives me reception or nothing.

I cannot look at the screen while I'm driving so any "extras" with DAB are pretty bloody pointless. You know what? I just want to turn the radio on, have it pick up the one channel I play immediately, and then turn it off when I'm finished. Analogue achieves that perfectly and I paid less than £50 for a SD / CD / MP3 / USB / Aux Input Radio that picks up MW and FM. With the two-foot whip aerial on my car, I can tune virtually anything in.

The only other place I ever use the radio is via the Internet - it's really not worth faffing about with trying to orient / tune an old-fashioned radio any more. On the net, I get instant perfect reception (barring my wireless dropping out, ironically), I can feed it through decent speakers and I don't have to worry about "extras" - if I want to know who's singing, I'm on the Internet and it takes seconds to look up extra information.

So DAB's purpose is to basically make me spend money in order to free up bandwidth in a frequency range that will *never* be clear (given that everybody is allowed to use those little local transmitters to put their iPod music on their car stereo, and things like RDS-TMC rely on it) and which I'll never see any benefit from. If I wanted DAB, I'd have it already. Even the people who have DAB equipment don't necessarily USE it for DAB purposes - the chances are it has dual-tuners because otherwise a huge proportion of the country wouldn't be able to use it anyway.

You can give them away on street corners and most people would only use them for normal radio for the next decade anyway. And then when you "switchover" to digital-only, you'll see listening figures drop even more than they have in recent years.

I honestly think it'd cheaper, easier and more reliable to actually stick a netbook in the car, with a 3G stick, and stream from the radio stations websites to my car radio. That's basically all that DAB is anyway, just on different frequencies, and if you roll your own, at least you can put in some decent buffering so that short spikes in connection won't disturb your listening.

4
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Vodafone shocks data users with roaming price rise

Lee Dowling
Silver badge
FAIL

Hint

A bucketload of £200 / year contracts to whichever European telco comes up with something decent on the data-roaming front. No way I'm ever going to use any service that still accounts in MB - hell, they never bothered with that amount of "traffic" back in the old 14.4k dial-up days, certainly no reason to now when all the cell tower has to do is join me to a local broadband connection - the same as it does for every local who has a 3G dongle.

When I can do 3Gb/month on a basic PAYG 3G dongle package for less than 50p a day with T-Mobile, there's no reason WHATSOEVER for any international telco to be charging more than that, anywhere. Get your act together and get thousands and thousands of contracts. Keep pissing about and I'll keep using free wireless that doesn't get you a penny. Simple.

0
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'Lost' iPhone 4G brouhaha: Jobs gets on the job

Lee Dowling
Silver badge
Happy

Must just be you

I've returned at least three personally. One in the car park behind my house, several left behind at a karate club, I returned a credit card that was left in a card reader in a store I worked in once (and nobody else saw it and it was only discovered after-hours - it went straight into the work safe when I found it and the bank notified next morning).

My wife's returned several more, including one with several thousand pounds in cash - turned out to belong to a penniless student who'd been loaned the money by her parents and was taking it to a debt collection agency to clear her debts in order to stop her possessions being repossessed. Cash was the only thing they'd accept, and if she didn't pay she'd have lost everything - as it was she was already owing her parents thousands - can you imagine what would happen if she hadn't had that handed back to her? You have *never* seen a more grateful person in your life. If you could sleep well at night knowing that you'd just taken that money, I don't think I'd want to know you.

Also, my wife used to be very clumsy before I met her and she lost her purse several times - every time it was returned with all the cash / cards intact. So we're not the only ones out there.

A theft is a theft. Technically picking up 10p from the street without handing it over to the cops and waiting for a 6-month "ownership claim" period is theft. However, if no-one claims it, it's legally yours after that time and the police will return it to you - no matter how much money it is.

Theft is the taking of property not belonging to you with an intention to permanently deprive. I think that applies here to someone that SOLD the device on to a tech website who then opened the thing up after they *made* the company that owned it disable it via a remote security protocol. Legally, you deprived them when you sold it (and that's handling stolen goods in itself, not to mention a list of other crimes), and the "fence" at Gizmodo then categorically destroyed the device. That's criminal damage, for a start, and intention to permanently deprive. Reading this story, you can tell just from the attitude and the things cited that both "handlers" were idiots and deserve to be arrested, if not charged.

Now, the 10p thing is different because it's almost untraceable but I'd let you off with interpreting the law loosely in that case... but a wallet will contain identification, obviously "belongs" to someone, who WILL be looking for it and who will almost certainly try to reclaim it from the police, local shop, security, whatever. You've gotta be a scumbag to do more than look inside it in the hopes of being able to contact the owner. Same with the phone. It belonged to someone - whether that's a company, individual (how do you know the original Apple guy didn't buy that phone on some special internal Apple sale with his hard-earned money, and thus was HIS property?), or whatever, it wasn't theirs to mess with. They crossed the line the second they thought about selling / buying it.

And I hope you never lose your wallet at a critical point in your life - and I only hope that because I'm actually a nice person - I think it would be all too easy to laugh at you if you did.

9
1

Garage worker prangs £200k Ferrari

Lee Dowling
Silver badge

Common sense

Whether or not the lad had permission to "test" the car (yeah, right, we know what you were really doing), if I were the owner of such a vehicle I would have stipulated that such "test" drives were not allowed anyway - everyone *knows* what will happen once a garage gets their hands on a nice car - they are, after all, car enthusiasts. How hard is it to say "If it needs to leave the shop for any reason, you need to call me first." - it could have been parked where it could be stolen, got into an accident, taken for a joyride, etc. I don't care about it for my £200 Mondeo, I would care about it for a £200K Ferrari. And yes, I don't think I've ever owned a car worth more than a new petrol cap for a Ferrari. There are reasons for that, but the primary reason is that your car is very easy for *other* people to break. Second would be petrol running costs. About 20 or 30th would be any sort of aesthetic consideration.

Additionally, I would have probably invested in a GPS tracking device for said car ( £100-ish for a basic model). Hell, I have something similar on my car and that's nearly 50% of the price I paid for it! Not only would it lower the ridiculously high insurance, it would allow recovery in the event of a theft (which you *CAN* get charged for by the police), and it would also let you keep an eye on said garage that they were doing what they promised (I would have mentioned the presence of such a device to them at the same time I told them not to "test" drive it). It would also, in this case, provide evidence for possible TWOC and/or speeding in this case, both of which would mean the garage would end up in court, bang-to-rights, paying not only the cost of the car but also out-of-pocket expenses and most probably any increase in insurance you accrue because of loss of no-claims, higher premiums etc.

Taking a car to a garage is a necessary process. Allowing them to "test-drive" it is not. You can do that for them, at no more risk than they can, and 99.999% of things can be checked without an actual test drive lasting more than parking it in the garage's attached car park. And in such a bloody expensive car, you should protect it. It's a high-value, sought-after, easily-moved machine worth more than my house - are you seriously telling me that you never *thought* of putting, say, a GPS tracker on it for less than the price of a new door handle for that car?

Hell, I don't let other people drive my car unless absolutely necessary, and yet the single most expensive component in it at any time is the GPS and then the fuel in the tank (£70 for over 500 miles at the moment, which is over 1/3rd the price I paid for the car). I treble the value of my car every time I put my laptop / Satnav / phone in it on my way home from work, but still I take precautions with who drives it, how they drive it, and keep an eye on them *when* they drive it.

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