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* Posts by Lee Dowling

1188 posts • joined 28 Mar 2007

Judge de-ASBOes yoof's low-slung kecks

Lee Dowling
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Mmm

But that's pretty much what the judge said, too. He *didn't* allow that part, only the part that would cause problems (him being about that area, so no worse than restraining orders that have existed for decades, except this is a sort of restraining order to protect a community rather than an individual).

ASBO's are quite possibly mis-used on occasion but anyone that gets an ASBO will also argue until they're blue in the face and used every court in the land to get it struck off. You can no more break the law than before - it's just that people *think* you can. When UK and EU law overlap, EU law takes precedence. It's when the courts start interpreting things differently that you have to *really* worry.

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Lee Dowling
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Red Dwarf

A man so stupid that he even objects to his own defence?

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Lee Dowling
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FAIL

Origins

I don't know how true it is, but I've been told that the origin was from the US prison system where things like belts are confiscated and "not being part of the crowd" was dangerous. Thus all youths eventually copied the behaviour, thinking it a social necessity.

I love to explain this to the kids I work with... why are you wearing your trousers like a pillock? Because you are emulating someone stupid enough to get caught and who can't be trusted not to hang himself in his cell if you give him a leather belt. It makes them think twice.

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Wayward 'zombiesat' poses risk to other satellites

Lee Dowling
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Why?

Why would it be at all profitable? It's costs *millions* to get up there, and sync in an orbit. Any two items touching each other is considered highly risky and difficult (shuttle docking, etc.).

It would take *months* of mission control to get the things in the right place and tons and tons and tons of fuel to do anything useful, even on your way to somewhere else. Not to mention the "traffic control" of navigating those points. Then you have to attach and retrieve and (somehow) recover objects that were never designed to be attached to, or returned to Earth (i.e. no heat-shields for re-entry etc.) or attempt in-orbit repair of something that is broken in an unknown way (and could quite possibly just be solar flare / small almost-light-speed particle damage etc.). They are probably all fuel-expired / dangerously out of control.

If they are military, it would almost certainly start a war. If they aren't they won't be holding anything "important" - probably just relay satellites that never actually do much else but process and transport a signal. Plus, they are still "owned" by the companies in charge (or their creditors if they went bankrupt) so it's quite literally theft if it's without their permission - salvage only really applies if the owners aren't known, no longer exist, or they voluntarily abandon them forever and give permission for salvage. They are all probably quite outdated compared to anything that could be launched with the "recovery mission" for the same price. You could probably put four or five equivalent satellites in orbit for the same price as recovering/fixing one.

Plus, the chances of being able to repair, diagnose and put back any of them into service is extraordinarily tiny, even if you brought them back to Earth.

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Forget the GPad - is Google building a server chip?

Lee Dowling
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FAIL

ARM Floating Point

Er.... yes... and support for it has been there for donkey's years. It's just that most ARM-jobs don't need it and so the cheaper ARM chips either don't do it or do it much more slowly. ARM was doing floating point back when 3DO and Acorn Archimedes still were knocking about. Any modern ARM chip can do floating point, if you buy the right version and/or you tolerate it being a little slower than you're used to.

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El Reg PARIS team fires up the GPS tracker

Lee Dowling
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FAIL

Eh?

Not so sure about a device that on its website says it aims itself at the Alzheimer's-and-other-vulnerable-patient-area should really be recording logs that say "+ALIVE+".... surely that's just tempting fate and/or upset to the person tracking them?

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'iPhone 4G' loser outed

Lee Dowling
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WTF?

Bad, bad, bad journalism.

Personally, I think this is disgusting. First, the guy hung onto the phone in order to return it to the owner - the owner didn't appear so the guy TAKES THE PHONE HOME? What the hell? What about handing it into the bar, or the cops?

Then he decides to "just switch it on" and play around with it - a bit dubious but I could understand it if they intended to find numbers for, e.g. "Mum" or "Dad" and return the phone. No, they piss about with the applications and load up some poor guys Facebook (presumably logging themselves in as him in the process). They then decide to publish those details on the Internet.

Then, when the phone is remotely disabled because it's presumed (and damn well has been) stolen, they go about dismantling the damn thing? At what point did journalism turn into theft, destruction of private property, etc.? (I was going to add "breaching personal privacy" to that list but that's apparently been a part of modern journalism for a while now).

Damn right they end up speaking to a lawyer... hope they learn their lesson by getting themselves sued. Handling stolen goods springs to mind for one. This is a disgusting bit of "journalism" and I'm disappointed that The Register sees it fits to just echo the story.

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Microsoft's Silverlight goes fourth tomorrow

Lee Dowling
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WTF?

Version 4?

Hell, either time moves fast or I just don't care. I think it's the latter. Four versions of this junk? Really? I run networks and have yet to install it on any of the machines I control. Once had a bit of software that demanded Silverlight, to draw a webpage with four links on it with a background image - we told the manufacturer that we'd buy when they got rid of the Silverlight requirement.

I never watched ITV Player until they scrapped it for some basic Flash either. I think that 60% saturation must be "trojan" installations by unsuspecting users who think they "have to" have it based on what pops up when they get their Windows Updates. That's probably why MS can't afford to move over their own sites to it either - they'd lose a large chunk of their customer base at a time when they are being made to push alternative browsers and web standards.

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Overzealous Orange cuts off customer, still bills

Lee Dowling
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FAIL

Three

Had a similar problem with 3 (Three) once. Ordered a contract that included a free phone (only a £20 a month thing). Never arrived, but the bills kept coming.

Phoned them up, told them the parcel had *never* arrived, they confirmed the phone had *never* been activated, never been used, but I insisted that they block the IMEI number, SIM card, etc. because it was technically lost/stolen (and the cheeky bastards said it was *MY* responsibility to chase up the parcel with the Post Office - not when I never received it and the Post Office tell me that only the sender can make a claim). Next month, another bill. Phoned, argued. Next month, another bill. Phoned, argued. They wouldn't stop the bills or they said they would and never did, so I just took matters into my own hands.

At that point, I just cancelled the Direct Debit, reported them to my bank with an official Direct Debit complaint (and the bank then swiftly cancelled all recurring payments and refunded all the previous payments immediately). Amazingly, a day later I had a phone call threatening me and charging me for cancelling the Direct Debit. Then the next week (seeing as they *couldn't* get any money out of my bank automatically any more, and I refused to pay anything for a phone I'd never received and couldn't use even if it turned up tomorrow) they phoned up and tried to "resolve" the matter (which meant that they forget all about the charges and might "let me" waive the various things they'd charged me for).

Mistakes are fair enough, but Three were utter pillocks about it all and couldn't see sense. I refused to take their calls after a while because I was tired of the accusations and going in circles, so I demanded they contact me only in writing. That way, I could have evidence of their incompetence should I decide to take it to court. Twenty minutes later the same person called me back three times in a row, and got hung up on each time.

They completely failed to fulfill any of their side of the contract (deliver a phone, provide a SIM card, provide telecoms service, supply me with new ones when the originals were lost / stolen / blocked, etc.), so I was happy to take it to court. "Your honour, they say I haven't paid for a phone that I haven't received, their own records say they've never seen come online, anywhere with any SIM, the phone/SIM wouldn't work on any UK network anyway, it's marked as stolen property, that they didn't obtain proof of postage and/or proof of receipt for, which *I* reported as missing the same day as their '28 days for delivery' note expired and which is in a box which contains the paper contract which I needed to sign in order to agree to this contract and authorise the payment by Direct Debit".

I think that'd be a pretty open-and-shut case. That's probably why they gave me my money back and I've never heard from them since.

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Thousands wrongly labelled by CRB checks

Lee Dowling
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FAIL

Actually

Erm... the Register of Electors is *NOT* compulsory. From a BBC Election FAQ that I read this morning (and backed up by several .gov.uk sites): "No, people cannot be forced to vote, nor is registration itself compulsory." And if you don't vote, why would you bother to register?

Plus a CRB check is *NOT* an identity check - that's done by the passports etc. and other details that you provide. The CRB is literally just a database lookup of the person you specify - it's just a form asking for passport number (may be optional, I can't remember, I certainly needed one every time my employers sent off for an updated eCRB), address, previous address, etc. and from that it issues a certificate of the criminal history of the person specified, which actually says on it that it's *NOT* a confirmation of identity at all. It's just a lookup.

If you don't believe the person is who they say they are, don't accept a CRB from them, or make them bring in a passport etc. too. This may have been what my previous employers (all schools) were doing when they demanded mine.

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A user's timetable to the Digital Economy Act

Lee Dowling
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Flame

Encryption

I just posted a comment on here that was "too long", so I thought I'd share my thoughts with people: http://ledow.blogspot.com/2010/04/copyright-and-uks-digital-bills-to.html ... basically, I hope the Digital Bills die a death, despite the fact that I pump thousands of pounds into the music/TV/movie industries every year whether by design or accident.

Please, please get real. Come into the land of the sane. It's nice there, honestly. Stop pissing all the money I'm giving you away on trying to criminalise my quite reasonable actions to watch YOUR content that I enjoy. It's a nonsense, and the sooner you force me to make a decision between ignoring those laws and not consuming your content the better - Neither option is good for the industry and artists.

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Microsoft confirms IE9 will shun Windows XP

Lee Dowling
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WTF?

Stop the hyperbole.

"I have been using Windows 7 since the beta stages."

So just over a year then? In my business, that means we can't possibly know enough about it to risk deploying it. Not to mention retraining budgets, etc. I could also comment on how your first thought is the beautiful UI, not the advanced features, but I won't. Windows 7 actually has some nice features - shame they've been bundled with a shedload of stuff that we *don't* want (that's my main criteria for an OS... how much does it have that I *don't* want).

"Little things like the Breadcrumb Bar in Windows Explorer works like a charm and saves many clicks."

*cough* Try *any* file explorer in Linux for about the last 5 years. The wiki article on breadcrumb nagivation even uses Nautilus as an example, and Vista had something very, very similar. That's not a reason to upgrade an OS.

"I have my whole hard drive indexed and using Windows 7's search I can find any file on my computer within a fraction of a second."

*cough* slocate *cough*. Except that doesn't interfere with the usage of my computer at all and I can do *insane* narrowing down, plus it works properly with multi-user security setups. And that utility (or it's equivalents) has been around since... god knows when. Probably 1994, if not earlier, as part of GNU findutils. Feel the joy over MS scrapping their old, crappy search method (equivalent to "find" on Linux) and reimplementing one that other OS's have been using for over a decade and a half?

"Then there is the great security. With Windows 7 and MSE I have never had any trouble with malwares."

Good for you. It's hardly foolproof though... hell, the frontpage of the Register listed nearly a dozen ways to break Windows when I looked at it last (though you would have to read through the articles to find most of them, because they get lumped into single articles). I don't claim any other OS is any "better", but the new "security" is nothing to write home about on Windows either.

"XP is fugly, insecure and unusable."

I agree with you on that sentence up until that last point. And that's precisely the problem... I can't even bring myself to use Windows 7 because I can feel the lost productivity with every click.

"I guess the Linux fanboys prefer XP because they are afraid of Windows 7 being a thousand times better than any Linux distro."

Or they're just laughing at what you base your OS decisions on, i.e. UI elements that have been present for *years*, and work much better on other OS's, functions for which superior versions have existed for over a decade, etc. Or functions which could be (and were) added to an average Linux distro in the time it took for Windows 7 beta's to be finalised. Or which do precisely zip compared to just different, simpler, less "showy" ways of doing stuff.

Stop the hyperbole. Nobody really cares if you're happy with Windows 7, especially if you're reasoning is so unresearched.

And nobody "serious" is going to be using IE of *any* version for a long, long, long time - a DirectX dependency for IE9 is just the most ridiculous thing I've heard of in ages.

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ID cards have three databases, says minister

Lee Dowling
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Alert

If you don't vote you can't complain when things don't go your way.

"If you don't vote you can't complain when things don't go your way."

What about when *none* of the options go my way?

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Symbian sees (Silver) light at the end of the tunnel

Lee Dowling
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FAIL

Me too

Recently turned down a very "tempting" offer from one of the educational software suppliers we use to "upgrade" to their new version (called "old program name and let's slap dot-net on the end for no particular reason").

It requires Silverlight to do the basic equivalent of VNC into one of their machines running an upgraded version of their old software (which we're not allowed to "own" any more by having it on the local PC, only rent it from them).

Didn't like to break it to them that not only would that crap (Silverlight / Windows-only technology / requiring a constant bandwidth-heavy online connection to work) not come near my network, but we were in the middle of a 50%-of-all-clients Linux upgrade. It didn't do anything that I wanted it to and would have required even more crap on the clients (Java, Flash, and .NET framework are more than enough to do anything they might sensibly need to do) which for the most part would have meant upgrading the PC's to get decent performance too.

They were quite baffled why I didn't want it even on the Windows machines.

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Northerners give up ID cards for Lent figures suggest

Lee Dowling
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Well...

"Also, the applications are open to anyone who registers interest on the IPS website, because I didnt live in any of the trial sites, but still got invited to apply."

Suggestion of desperation for willing candidates?

"Before you jump on the abuse bandwagon, why did I get one? I travel very regularly throughout the EU, and a Passport doesn't fit easily in my pocket."

Helluva good reason to hand over all that information. I'd hate to see your Facebook account. But seriously, no-one cares about the ID-card aspect, it's the bit BEHIND that that's important. Why do we need the ID card when the passport already works? The government is seriously spending millions of pounds so that you don't need to buy a bigger pocket? Pull the other one.

"What Biometrics were taken? A photo, signature and fingerprints. But thats the same information that was on my passport."

Not on mine. The fingerprint thing is quite recent. Mine has a photo and a signature only. No doubt at some point I will have to give fingerprints but by then the government will have had another 5-6 years of sorting out their databases.

"Oh no, my fingerprints! Now if I murder someone, I will be caught! Maybe I shouldnt murder anyone then."

Nope, even fingerprints aren't that big a deal. Who cares, really, but if they aren't necessary (and they are a piss-poor way of identifying random people, even in courts of law that's recognised - they can only act as a probabilistic indication when you already have someone in mind... read up on simple statistics and biology - the chances of you "matching" someone's fingerprints somewhere else in the world are actually quite high, the chances of it actually being you aren't certain).

"What about the interview? What interview? I handed over some cash, stuck my fingers on a scanner and had my photo taken. Same as was done last time I applied for a passport."

Rigorous identity measures being checked there then. Well worth the millions of pounds and all that hassle. Obviously *no-one* can get a fake ID card, just like no-one can get a fake passport. Again, it's just a worthless exercise in pissing about. Which should make you question it *MORE* because it doesn't do what it says, but costs a lot of money, and they are keen for you to use it so what *IS* it going to be used for. (P.S. read up on your legal obligations regarding the information stored about you now - you have a requirement to keep them up to date for ever and ever, something your passport doesn't require).

"What if it get's stolen? What if my passport gets stolen? A UK passport is probably worth far more on the black market and contains all the same information."

Correct. So again, why not just keep passports (already existing, already working, just as good, no extra expenditure)?

"What countries can I use it in? All EU/EEA countries, plus a couple of others."

Like a passport, then... but not as good.

"How rigourous is the checking? Seems to be fairly robust. The IPS called me 3 times to confirm various details, inclucing the fact that there is someone in my street with the same name as me (no relation), and also that I had missed a previous address on my application."

Oh wow. Rigour defined. They checked a local phone directory. Remind me to hire these guys next time you have the same name as a terrorist.

"So, I have one, and I am happy with it. If my wallet gets nicked, they will get my ID card instead of my driving licence (which actually has my home address on it, which the ID card doesn't)."

No, but the ID card is valid as a passport in EU countries, can open bank accounts without further ID, etc. - they only have to get someone looking vaguely like you and they can steal your card and play merry hell. And how do you prove it *wasn't* you? It's like a passport. Only easy to steal because you are obviously intending to carry it in your wallet.

Basically, it's a worthless bit of expensive plastic that does nothing *new* and works just like an existing passport (in fact, you basically have to *have* a passport, or be eligible to have one after a similar application process, to be able to get an ID card) but has fabulous new restrictions on YOU, while also acting as something quite potentially dangerous. Oh, yes, and you had to hand over cash for this.

Hope your pocket space was worth all that hassle. Because that's the *only* other difference between this and a passport, which you already have.

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UK.gov tweaks open source policy small print

Lee Dowling
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Schools

Most primary schools in London nowadays use bog-standard business ADSL lines - even the private schools, and some of the secondaries. Anything else is usually the external services provided by the supplier (which in London includes things like the LGfL - the London Grid For Learning - which supply filtering, websites, video hosting, video conferencing, virtual learning environments, even free copies of Sophos antivirus for every machine and server in the school. Similar large cities have similar "grids").

So, be careful what you think you're "bidding" against - a lot of it is actually service, nothing to do with the connection. Even on the expensive packages, in a primary school anything but ADSL or cable broadband is unusual, though I wouldn't put it past at least one school to be using leased lines / SDSL without realising the cost was unnecessary.

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IE Windows vuln coughs up local files

Lee Dowling
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Erm...

Using Windows Whatever or IE Whatever in Whatever mode doesn't seem to be a big problem - the first line of the story says "If you use *any* version of Internet Explorer" and doesn't mention XP or Vista or 7 specifically. And the only links are to *similar* vulnerabilities discovered in the past, not to the actual exploit, which hasn't been released yet.

But please do go on believing that running any particular version of anything is "secure". Fact is, IE 8 is just as vulnerable as IE 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 - it's just that many people haven't *seen* the holes yet, not that they don't exist. And the same for Windows 7. Always just look at any security mailing list about six months after any OS is released (no point before that, because people don't like to reveal holes before people even *have* the OS to exploit) and the OS will appear there just the same as any other. Maybe a little less frequently, maybe a little more, but it'll be there.

What matters in my opinion is the response to the holes - and MS only ever seems to "be investigating" them and rarely offers a timely patch. Most MS exploits tend to be released to the public because the security researchers got bored of waiting for a patch or even comment from MS. That's not reassuring to me.

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Physicists assemble world's smallest snowman

Lee Dowling
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FAIL

Thank God I don't live in your humourless world.

Thank God I don't live in your humourless world, where people can't play for ten minutes to create a bit of festive cheer.

And thank God you're not a "Scientist", you can barely capitalise, punctuate or spell properly. That really carries weight when discussing proper use of academic funds...

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(Back) into The Valley

Lee Dowling
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Those were the days

Love the code... the "goto a random line depending on the value of this variable" statements are fabulous, kinda like a BASIC pointer... genius. Laugh all you want, things like that got the job done and built a gaming industry, and did so in only 16Kb and without enough processing power to even *justify* use of loops and procedures.

There's nothing quite like typing in a BASIC listing. And that's coming from someone who still owns the complete set of INPUT, which was a BASIC-listing (and assembler) magazine published in weekly parts that covered Dragon/Tandy, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64 and a host of other machines, all with the same code for the same programs.

Ah, the joys of early programming. If only there'd been a bit easier way to get those listings into the computer, some sort of barcode or something - much preferable to typing in thousands of lines of statements and then just getting errors that you couldn't track down.

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Microsoft enlists faceless girl band as face of Windows 7

Lee Dowling
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Thumb Down

Bah

Not to mention the CONSTANT mention of Windows 7 on Capital FM and their "Jingle Bell Ball". Yes, we get it, they are sponsoring it and you are required to shoe-horn it into every mention of the damn gig, but for Pete's sake... I bet they don't even have it *installed* in the Capital building, and if they do it's only for show / because it's subsidised.

The harder you push a product onto your customers, the further back they are pushed.

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Freeview HD - your questions answered

Lee Dowling
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Stop

Phew!

Yet another upgrade nightmare avoided by applying the things I do as part of my IT job to real life.

- If it ain't broke, don't fix it. (That keeps me off HD entirely until I see a need for it)

- If you *need* to upgrade, let all the other poor sods do it first to clear out the problems (That's sorted out all those expensive "new STB / Tuner / TV every six months" problems for me)

- Never buy *anything* before SP2 / second revision / second generation hardware (That's meant that I've entirely skipped Freeview and am waiting for the standards to settle on something that'll stick around for more than a couple of years).

Although, ultimately, what solved this problem for me was just getting rid of all the TV's and using BBC iPlayer / 4od (not ITV player until they drop the silly Silverlight requirement) and DVD content (not touching Blu-Ray - it hasn't yet met all the requirements above, and it looks like it'll just cause me trouble), also the 2nd/3rd rules saved me from all the Blu-Ray/HD-DVD debacle too!.

Seriously, what is this obsession with upgrading immediately? I just don't get it. Think old-style-NASA-hardware... once the tech has dug in for many years, *then* it's good to use, otherwise you just end up with buggy shite (can't tell you how often my dad's Freeview box crashes).

So far, just in terms of everyday technology, that philosophy has saved me from fighting with HD-DVD, Windows Vista (and before that Windows ME), Freeview, Daikatana, most semi-3G mobile technology, WEP encryption, all manner of countless things that were consigned to the dustbin of history. And you know what? I haven't suffered at all for the temporary lack of those things.

Excuse me while I go watch DVD's (with already-CSS-cracked players) on my laptop (XP, so no problems with RPC1 region-free DVD drives) perfectly every time...

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MS store staff in spontaneous electric boogie

Lee Dowling
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FAIL

No! Please! My eyes!

And please: what utter tosh. Spontaneous my backside.

And no serious blogger would use those phrases. Just because someone makes a "bold move to capture market share" (isn't that the POINT of having a company?) doesn't mean you ditch orders and convert. In fact, such "conversion" makes your opinion EVEN LESS important in my opinion - anyone who can be swayed by dancing pillocks in a store within an hour obviously hasn't sat down and considered all the angles, the same as anyone who signs a contract on the doorstep. Mac order cancelled or not, you're a fool to order something that you could be talked out of wanting within a short trip to a store you didn't know about.

"Its easy to see that Microsoft primarily is a software company committed to changing the world through technical innovation" is one quote from his blog. I think that says it all. The only shame is that he's going to get hits on his blog for this.

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'Something may come through' dimensional 'doors' at LHC

Lee Dowling
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Alert

Well

To the naysayers, I say:

There's an entire universe out there. The human race occupies approximately nothing of it. Seriously, so small as to be completely, entirely insignificant. And in terms of mass/energy, we really are using *nothing*.

Even if we could harness the power of the entire planet, or even solar system, and focus it onto warping space and doing other tricks, we aren't going to destroy the world accidentally. There might be a big bang at the LHC in the conventional sense (smoke, flames, loud noise) but we're not going to be kick-starting the second Big Bang from the Starbug's engines.

If we could, we'd be witnessing Big Bangs and self-created black hole all over the cosmos and they would be our primary indicator of "intelligent life". And if we could do that, we'd still be an insignificant speck compared to the civilisations that manage to survive *their* "LHC era" and move on to the next "theoretically-safe" experiment. But if we don't at least try, we might as well have stayed in caves eating cold veggies because we had no tools to hunt or cook with.

It's actually a factor in things like the Drake equations if you do it properly - scientists take account of the fact that any intelligent civilisation might well do something daft and blow itself to pieces. Personally, I think the sword or bullet would prove to be a much more devastating invention to help that along without the need for advanced scientific research on it.

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Microsoft in Bing jingle kiddie vid outrage

Lee Dowling
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Unhappy

Eurk

Eurk, this is exactly why I hate the commercialisation of schools in the UK (aka Academies). Every kid is wearing an Office or Bing t-shirt - that suggests it's been pre-planned in concert with MS to some degree, rather then a spontaneous student idea - what sort of kickback did the school get for doing that?

The kids won't care (Office will be dead by the time they get into the workplace proper, or at least an ageing relic of some older computing paradigm - like saying "BBC Micro" to me now), but that's quite horrible to witness the branding of any company plastered over a school like that. Kids already do that to themselves enough by wanting to paint pictures of their Nike's or do every dance lesson to a top-10 single.

Once worked in a school/Academy that was sponsored by about ten companies - overnight the website had more ads and links and sponsor "news" than anything to do with the school itself (one company even sponsored a chicken coop, complete with chickens, inside the school grounds).

Damn, I argued against setting Google as the default start page in Firefox, but this is just crass.

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State attorney nabbed in car with stripper, Viagra and sex toys

Lee Dowling
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WTF?

And?

I don't see why this is a problem.

Two adults decided to be in a car together, in a cemetery, during one of their lunch hours.

Assuming they had sex: Two consenting adults had sex, in a cemetery, during one of their lunch hours.

What the hell kind of business is it of anyone's unless there are charges pending for: prostitution, solicitation, trespass, public indecency, rape, etc.?

Two people, having sex, is not against the law (whether they are each married or not). No other laws appear to have been broken because no charges have been filed. Thus, what the hell is this doing being reported at all?

And why are details like the contents of the car, true or not, being reported?

And why does it cost anyone their job?

Sue the hell out of the employers - you're two consenting adults choosing to have sex in the middle of a lunch break in a private location away from your place of employment. How is that even worth mentioning, let alone a sackable offence?

At worst, it's one of those "bringing disrepute" things, but I would think that sharing of data (illegally?) with random members of your family (whether they work at a particular institution or not) and/or publishing those details in the national press is somehow the driver behind such disrepute rather than someone having (possibly, allegedly) sex during their lunch hour.

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One cellphone for every ten lags in UK prisons

Lee Dowling
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FAIL

Missing the point

Totally missing the point. Cellphone blockers? WTH?

Stop the damn devices getting into the prison in the first place and you'll never have to worry about such technological solutions. It also stops, as a by-product, drugs, weapons and other similar-sized objects just sailing into a supposedly secure environment.

If you can't search the visitors, isolate them (whatever happened to a glass screen?) or search the prisoners afterwards. Buy scanners (Heathrow just tested some nice ones!) and scan people. Start finding and throwing out the corrupt guards which are probably the biggest problem.

And put a damn net on the prison's courtyards and have people actually watch what goes on in them.

Seriously, are our prisons so damn shoddy that you can pass enough wrapped packages over the wall completely undetected to equip 1 in 10 prisoners with a modern, fragile electronic device that you only LATER discover?

Solve the problem at its source: prisoners getting access to outside objects in the first place. Phones are bad but hell, what's stopping someone throwing a TASER over? And how many people have ever been arrested for *throwing* the damn things over the walls in the first place?

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Fanbois howl over data-munching Snow Leopard bug

Lee Dowling
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FAIL

@Charles Manning

"Who does a backup?" People who have lost their work in the past and / or people who have a brain.

100Gb is nothing - we're not talking enterprise-grade backups here, that goes without saying that an enterprise should know better than to have 100Gb of un-archived data, we're talking home users.

- Go to Maplin.

- Buy 1TB removable drive for about £70 (or 250Gb for about £30 last time I looked).

- Copy your entire 100Gb data over about once a week, deleting old copies every couple of months.

Doesn't take much, because you do it while the computer is idle and most people barely notice the copy taking place in the background. Don't need secured backups, encrypted backups, multiple backups, grandfather-father-son, or any other stuff. I do that for networks, but home users don't need to go that far to give themselves *some* protection (as opposed to none at all). Use the old version of imaging software that are thrown onto the cover CD's of any computer magazine about three or four times a year, or just do a copy/paste of the documents folders.

My rule as an IT Manager is : if your data doesn't exist in two places *minimum* (not counting extra "copies" I do for you, like backing up the network shares), then it doesn't exist. I don't particularly care if it's a USB key or a floppy or a hard drive or an email account... if you don't have at least two copies, why should I even try to recover it for you? Users quickly pick up on this (usually when they lose 100Gb for the sake of a £20 external drive and one hour a month of "backing up") and do it and within a week, it's second nature.

When users say "Yeah, but I bet you don't do that on the network.", I 'misuse' the terms a little but say that the bare minimum before we even allowed users onto the system was:

Three hard drives, each with a copy (actually RAID5, but it takes too long to explain).

One daily backup (cycled through seven tapes).

One weekly backup.

One termly backup (I work in schools).

One off-site termly backup.

One external "fast" backup to a hard drive enclosure (cycled between two enclosures).

PER SERVER. With Shadow Copies, etc. to catch accidentally deleted files.

And that's the usual system in place for a *primary* school, for God's sake.

So they can't take twenty seconds to connect a large, cheap, external hard drive / USB key, copy/paste their documents folders and do that once a week or even once a month so they don't lose *everything*? There's no excuse.

Until it happens to you, you won't care. Then you'll realise how little effort / money it costs to back up. Workplaces throw away 20/40Gb laptop drives, the enclosures for them cost £1 and can fit into a jacket pocket or laptop case pocket easily. It takes seconds to initiate the copy and then you can work as normal. And when your harddrive dies, and you're staring at a blank screen, you'll have the nerves of "I hope my backup works okay, I'll go copy it onto John's computer to make sure" rather than "Oh, sh**, all my files are GONE!".

Remember: AT LEAST TWO PLACES or it doesn't exist.

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Nokia netbook to land on 22 October

Lee Dowling
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FAIL

@Georgees

Why would it be a bad thing? People not upgrading every two seconds, trying to get the best out of perfectly functioning "old" machines (Old? My personal PC's are hovering about 5-6 years old and I'm an IT Manager - 2 years isn't "old", it's "tested"), realising that Windows *doesn't* slow down if properly managed, that the super-duper 14GHz, 27-core processors with 64Gb RAM aren't used when all you do is load up Word or Firefox, lower power consumption, longer battery life, ....

If a computer is running slower than it did the day you bought it, there's something wrong. If your computer doesn't spend 75% of it's time switched on at 100% CPU and doesn't regularly drop vital I/O that you need to pass through it... it's just *fine* for the purpose.

And from my point of view - the more people using old computers the better - you learn what slows the computer down, you learn which OS/apps are the most efficiently programmed, you learn how to manage your PC and you learn that, actually, unless you're trying to run *insert latest 3D game here* that you don't even need GHz at all most of the time. Plus it provides more support costs, which are an ongoing cost, as opposed to "It's slowed down, I'll buy a new machine" syndrome which provides money only to parts manufacturers.

Damn, from that perspective lock everyone into their current hardware now - that's what I do myself.

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Sony pulls plug on cabled power

Lee Dowling
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Unwanted side-effects?

And what happens when you put your passport (with it's RFID coils) in the path of that? Does it induce a big enough current to be dangerous?

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DARPA seeks orbital wheely-bin plan

Lee Dowling
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FAIL

Great...

... until the Chinese say that the bit of space debris they just collected belongs to them and that touching it was an act of war against them.

... or until they have to catalogue *everything* and its origin to determine what *not* to touch.

... or until they dislodge something from orbit and it ends up flying through the ISS and killing everyone.

... or until the collector is utterly destroyed by the sheer speed of some of that stuff, or other space debris.

It's a ridiculously humongous task that's not going to be solved by some casually interest, or interstellar flypaper.

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Bus driver becomes Julius Andreas Gimli Arn MacGyver Chewbacka Highlander Elessar-Jankov

Lee Dowling
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Happy

And

Who wants to bet that any domain name, email address, username, or anything else he wants to register as a unique identifier will already be taken, even with a name like that?

And I pity him if he meets a police officer who demands his full name - a night in the cells for taking the mick?

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UK Parliament website hack exposes shoddy passwords

Lee Dowling
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FAIL

WHY?

Allowing this sort of database access from a website is a COMPLETE no-no. Ignore whether the passwords were encrypted or not, that's not an issue.

But a website that allows modification of SQL queries in the URL string... you might as well just turn the machine off for the good it'll do.

Seriously, what's hard about submitting the page query data to the server (NOT as an SQL query, but as form entries), having the server scripting language sanitise that information down to the invididual elements on the submitted form and building its *own* SQL query from pre-defined stanzas that it concatenates based on the form data. If you have a brain, you even make correlate the form data against the login/form accessed to ensure it has access BEFORE you build the SQL query. In this way, it's impossible for someone to turn SELECT ALL FROM... into DROP TABLE or anything else equally as dangerous, such as accessing private fields with passwords in them. The worst that'll happen is they might find some concatenation of the pre-defined stanzas that reveals a *little* more information than you wanted them to.

This is like having a DOS command prompt in every page of your website, and the commands typed in are tacked onto the URL and executed as-is by the server-side. It's *that* dangerous and, yes, *that* stupid.

http://www.theregister.co.uk/?deltree_C:\*.* <-- would you allow that to even be POSSIBLE, let alone likely to actually execute (even if running on a read-only filesystem)? No. So don't embed ANY form of direct SQL in GET/POST queries.

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CRB looks to ID cards to solve accuracy woes

Lee Dowling
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Try it.

I work in schools. I'm not a teacher, I work in the IT side on school sites. I don't earn that much. I have next-to-zero actual contact with the children but am required to undertake "Enhanced Disclosure" (so even cautions, suspicions etc. appear on the check).

Try requiring me to have an ID / fingerprint JUST to do that job and you'll lose me. Additionally, we have to check our suppliers who work on-site if the kids are in (e.g. people who run cables etc.) - you're now requiring that they need to give fingerprints etc. And annual renewals of that for all concerned.

There won't be 100% refusal, of course not, but this is likely to kick up a stink even from only an administrative point of view - what a ton of hassle to go through to put a few computers into a room.

And you know what? The next Ian Huntley will have been found to have ID cards, fingerprints perfect background checks, etc. You don't solve the problem that you say you do.

But seriously - if you want to do this, I'll just go and work in the City (which I've been avoiding for years) - I'd rather sell my soul to the corporate devil than give up certain rights to freedom, and I have absolute confidence that this is *nothing* to do with Child Protection and won't help at all. There are too many avenues and side-roads to cover that angle (I regularly stop parents who have inadvertantly wandered on-site while the kids are in and have got lost) and the checks we have can be pretty damn good if they are handled properly by the agencies that are supposed to check them (I know of a school that has caught several people applying for jobs who were in no way allowed to work with or near children).

Introduce it - lose a substantial proportion of your workforce (though probably not a majority) and spend another ten years wondering why no-one wants to teach still.

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HP excessive packaging world record put to the test

Lee Dowling
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Nothing

Okay, slightly embarassing but...

Since the credit crunch I do nightwork at a local very famous hardware store... totally mind-numbing work, especially for an IT-Manager-by-day. Basically we see the WORST of inefficient deliveries possible.

Generally, each day at least one large truck from EVERY company pulls up (e.g. wood company on Monday, lighting company on Tuesday) to every individual store in the country. They drop off pallets full of boxes of their products. The pallets are moved by forklift by person A into a warehouse. Person B checks it off without opening it and documents it. Sometimes person C is involved in getting it into the right place in the warehouse. During the day, person D checks the stock in the store and person E will determine what stock to put out overnight.

At night, person F will check the stock requests and, usually, person G will use a forklift to deliver pallet to the front of store once it's closed. Then persons H, I, J, K, L and M will randomly open pallets (lots of plastic and carboard) and hand-move the merchandise still in their containing boxes (so not even NEAR a product-box yet) onto ordinary store trolleys. They will then wheel said trolley (containing basically random mixes of stock by now) through the store and then unpack it from its boxes (usually multiple levels of packaging) to get to the bare product. Then they will put it on the shelf. If it doesn't fit on the shelf (about 25% of the time), they place the box on the floor.

Rinse and repeat until about 10-15 pallets (approximately 10-15 tons or more) are emptied in trolley-load batches. Towards the end of the night, persons H, I, J (or possibly K, L, M, depending who gets their stock done first) will go through the store and move (by hand) anything on the floor onto a high shelf out of customers reach. Meanwhile the others are probably moving the extraneous cardboard, plastic, etc. back out to the warehouse and generally shifting stock about.

Then, should stock spaces occur during the day, persons N, O, P will take said stock down (by hand), unpack and put it on the shelf. Very rarely are A-P ever seen by the public.

Now consider that stock can consist of lightbulbs or 40kg worktops, drills or 1.5 tons of tiles, a lightswitch or 200 pieces of timber. The product has a box. The product is boxed (sometimes singly, sometimes with others) by the manufacturer. That is then boxed (sometimes singly, sometimes with others) into larger batches. That is then packed onto pallets and wrapped in plastic. The pallets are then stacked and loaded on a lorry / several lorries. The inefficiency is just rife.

And, yes, we have had four-foot-cube boxes for, say, two lightbulbs, or a lampshade. It's not even unusual. We usually end up at the end of a four-hour night shift (maybe 10-15 pallets of stock) with about 3-4 cubic pallets of cardboard, 1-2 of plastic, and about 0.5 of plastic strapping. That's before you even get into what the product box itself contains (i.e. one lightbulb in a fancy packet).

Now consider the manual effort (and wages) of all those people doing silly tasks like literally hand-loading a trolley from a pallet and wheeling it ten feet, the emissions from the vehicles (forklifts, lorries, etc.), the weight of stuff delivered needlessly, it's just a complete waste.

Though the company in question are now stopping the "overstock" (where stock that is over-ordered is stored over the normal aisles) but only because they've killed people by tumbling stock onto their heads.

I estimate about a 0.1% efficiency in terms of energy used to the "optimal" mathematical solution for getting X tons of stuff from several manufacturers onto a store's shelves.

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Microsoft's about turn: Windows 7 tech testers will get free copy of OS

Lee Dowling
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Hmmm

So good, they have to give it away?

I understand that testers do a lot of work for you, but caving in like this seems ... desperate somehow. How many companies cave like that in similar situations? Very few. How many give their beta-testers anything at all? Even less.

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Builder blacklist boss hit with £5,000 fine

Lee Dowling
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FAIL

@Samo

Why on Earth would it ever be illegal to give a negative reference? Don't spout incorrect, over-sensitive, "mustn't do wrong", "politically correct" lies. It may well be illegal to give a FALSE reference, or a misleading one, or a malicious one, but even that's unlikely unless some sort of fraud is involved.

If someone does a sh** job, doesn't turn up, blows up the factory, you HAVE to give them a non-negative reference? Sorry, that's just so incorrect it's unbelievable. I think you've been in too many committee meetings that didn't want to rock the boat by using their brains.

*Married to someone who works in law.

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Microsoft backs 'Bing' with big ad push

Lee Dowling
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Bing

Totally off-topic, I know, but Bing is a silly name, as Chandler from Friends will no doubt agree. However, I have taken to calling my Oyster card a "Doinker" and religiously "doink" in and out each day, so maybe if it catches on, it'll work.

But at the end of the day, anything from MS isn't going to be overly popular with the tech crowd, who will just keep telling people to Google stuff. And, yes, Windows "Live" is such a horrible, horrible brand. I don't normally advocate "brand renewal" but in this case, everything I touch that wants to mention Windows Live turns me off.

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Telstra bins UK support staff

Lee Dowling
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Stupid

When you have entire banks that sell their wares on the basis that they DON'T outsource their call centres, just what advantage do you think you're going to get by outsourcing? The outsourcing fad has *died* because, with information leakage, Data Protection policies, customer complaints, mistakes in processing, etc. it's not actually worth the bother.

If I were a Telstra customer, I'd just terminate the contract immediately on hearing this. I don't run servers in this country to be able to speak to a foreigner if it ever goes wrong and starts costing me money.

It's very simple - even Microsoft use English/Irish call centres for their English/Irish customers. It's the only logical way to do things. Anything else means that you looked at a column of numbers and chose the smallest, not that you actually *thought* the decision through. I don't know of ANYBODY who DOESN'T complain when they think they have been put through to a call centre in another country.

You're making the mistakes that EVERYBODY complained about companies making 5-10 years ago. Most have since backtracked and the ones that haven't have suffered as a result. It doesn't matter *what* it is, if I have a need to call you for information or assistance (purchasing, support, etc.) then you need to speak my language clearly, you need to be able to understand a wide variety of accents, you need to be able to understand what I'm saying (different to being able to speak/hear the language) and be able to have enough grasp of the company/products to actually *do* quite complicated things.

The day I phone my bank and get put through to a call centre is the day I close my account (in writing, to their UK Head Office). And it's an absolute pain in the arse to change banks. Now, how do you think your customers feel about that cheapy website or crappy server they host with you?

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Microsoft rebrands WGA nagware for Windows 7

Lee Dowling
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And this helps us how?

As a business customer of Windows how, exactly, does this help me? I'm already required to keep copious records of whether my software is genuine or not. It is. I'm already required to keep close track of what gets installed where. I do. I'm already required to pay for every license I need (something which MS is *determined* to make impossible unless I buy into one of their annual payment volume licensing plans). I do.

If WGA/TWAT fails, I have to deal with the consequences, which soaks up my time and money. And I *know* that sitting on the Internet will be several million Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Indian businesses and millions of worldwide personal users who are using blanket keys to install Windows whenever/wherever they like.

Tell me, as a *paying* *customer* who is always fully licensed (as required and checked by not just the law and Microsoft but every single level of employee above me), how exactly do I benefit? Reduced costs from lowered prices? Nope. The opposite. Reduced piracy? Nope (in fact, the opposite because even home users don't care any more because genuine versions have bugged them too, so they just always use pirated keys and actually get Pro/Business instead of Home versions "for free" because of it). Extra added functionality? Nope. In fact, all I get is *nagged* for X% of installs when I have upgraded or changed a computer that had WGA installed.

It's a crock. The fact is that the LESS you trust your paying customers (and they are the ONLY ones that matter, because they are PAYING you to continue surviving), the less they trust you. And that's a downward spiral that has recently resulted in MS's first ever annual loss on its accounts (not to mention poor OS's and bad marketing all round for the past few years).

I had one program just lately that still demanded a key *floppy* disc in order to install or remove itself. So obviously, I complained first to see if there was an alternative. Not even for a *network* full of PC's... manual installation/uninstallation on every single one, using a USB floppy drive and a dodgy old 3.5". Fine. So the *first* thing on my mind, as a fully-paid-up customer, was how to defeat this "protection". I took images of the floppy at key intervals, determined the copy protection changes each time, then made a "generic" disk /setup program that would always install and bypass the crap copy protection. So what that company did, by being over-zealous with their copy protection on a crappy program for kids that I could write in less time than it takes to install, was to turn me into someone who cracks their program for a living. I might not be *distributing* that information to the general public, but I imagine that somewhere, someone would be.

And if another tech, in another school, asks me about the program, I have two things to say "Don't buy it" and/or "Here, this is how you get round their copy protection" (even if it's in the form of "Make an image before and after, and see if you spot anything in sector 86"). And that's from *paying* customers. When your own customers are telling each other how to defeat your own software, you have a problem bigger than just upgrading WGA or similar.

Copy protection. Losing customers for your business since the 1970's.

The most effective form of copy protection I ever saw was on the game Saboteur on the ZX Spectrum. On loading, the screen displayed a tiny little flashing warning on the main menu that said "If the word Durell is not printed on the tape of this cassette, it is an illegal copy.". You know the *FIRST* thing I did when I saw that? I ejected the tape and checked for the word, despite there being a shiny new game sitting in front of me ready to play. It didn't get in my way, it didn't hinder my use of the program, it didn't label me as a criminal, it effectively identified a way for a genuine customer to determine if they have unwittingly purchased a forgery and, most importantly, it prompted me to check in a very reasonable manner. It also had *exactly* the same impact on actual pirates as every single modern copy protection I've ever seen since. Every time I load that game up in an emulator, I smile at the message. Because I *do* still have the original tape, with the words Durell, and back in the 80's somebody made a more effective copy protection mechanism than has ever been managed since.

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Apple drives iPhone app developers to the brink

Lee Dowling
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T&C's people

So you're left waiting for payment on monies owed to you? Okay. So refer to your T&C's with the person you signed the contract with. There will be payment deadlines and cut-off points in there. You're running your business off the money, using the payments to pay vital bills (mortgages etc.), so you've ensured that the money will arrive in a timely manner, yes? You've got clauses in there to compensate for losses etc., yes?

Even if it's just a "monies will be paid on the last day of every month by BACS" or similar, you should *always* have a line like that before you start screaming and shouting. It's like screaming at Google Adwords because you have $99.99 in your account which they won't give you until you hit $100.00 (or whatever the limit is now). You've either:

- Agreed to a specific payment date, which you can use to determine if Apple have breached contract because of unreasonable actions inside their control.

or

- Not agreed to a specific payment date, and thus have no recourse except to wait it out or fight through the courts to argue over some vague definition like "reasonable".

I'm guessing it's the latter in most cases. Either way, the relationship between you and Apple is the same this month as any other month.

DON'T INTEND TO PAY YOUR MORTGAGE WITH MONEY THAT YOU DON'T HAVE YET, or which isn't guaranteed (this means not only the *funds* but the *timing*).

Pillocks. Yeah it's annoying, but would you let your employer off with having terms in their contracts that says they might well not pay you one month if things go wrong? If you *wouldn't* then why would you accept *absence* of the opposite clauses (i.e. that they would pay you on the 1st of each month or similar)?

And if Apple *do* state specific timings? Then you have to apply a court's definition of reasonable (I'm guessing a court of Apple's choice, seeing as it's their contract) to getting your money in a timely manner. You'll probably find that a month or two isn't unreasonable in a court's view but it'll cost ya to find out. Yep. Court action. That nasty messy stuff. You know, the thing that usually results when people agree to contracts without reading them through first and thinking about the consequences.

I've said it once but it requires re-iteration.... Pillocks.

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Web 0.2 archivists save Geocities from deletion

Lee Dowling
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Geocities

You can knock it, but back at one point the only way to get "free" website hosting was to be on Geocities. My brother and I started up our first websites on Geocities (actually, we shared one) and eventually it grew so popular that we had to pay Geocities to get rid of the annoying ads, we had our content stolen and mirrored and eventually had to move onto our own hosting (which gets more bandwidth taken up each year). That site now stands proudly at www.scoutingresources.org.uk and stresses the (very kind) host that it's on at regular intervals!

Geocities was a seed. Yeah, there was a lot of crap, but that statement can be applied to the Internet as a whole. What it did, though, was seed the ideas of HTML and putting content online to a whole host of people who couldn't afford hosting, or didn't know if hosting was for them. It greatly simplified things like forums, etc. and I'm not saying they were the first, but they had a good community and if you were just starting out, it allowed you to do *just* HTML without learning FTP, Unix permissions and a ton of other stuff. It was a fantastic intro and testbed.

I don't even know if our original website is still up, (it was mirrored and archive.org'd, though, that's for sure) but I would like to think that some of the stuff in my old bookmarks that happened to be on Geocities would stand a chance of surviving. It's a bit of Internet history, even if only for lessons learned, and one of the first real social networking sites (think about it - webrings, forums, "street names", it had everything needed to be a social networking site, not just a HTML host).

Even today, I'm porting code from a GBA port of a Spectrum game (http://www.geocities.com/quirky_2k1/) - all of which is hosted on Geocities and would be a great loss if it were to disappear.

Not everything useful has to come in a leather bound binder, with top quality paper. Similarly, not every website has to be on www.website-topic.com to be relevant or useful. Things like circuit diagrams, pinouts, obscure information on machine internals - I often run onto Geocities while hunting down this type of vital information and to lose it just because it was Geocities would be stupid.

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Windows 7 gets built in XP mode

Lee Dowling
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A big mistake?

Or, I could just run XP. Or virtualised XP on Linux. If this is true, it's *extremely* dumb of Microsoft at a time when they are hoping to sell more units of Vista/Windows 7 than they did of XP. It seems that Vista was a bit of a dead horse (although with MS even dead horses sell millions of units) and Windows 7, which is touted as being the horse's salvation, actually turns out to consist of giving you back the old horse you had eight years ago.

I assume that the virtualised version of XP will either have to have mainstream support (and thus provide yet-another-extension to XP's life, albeit in a roundabout way) or will have to be unsupported (in which case you are no better off than just virtualising XP yourself.). Have Microsoft finally given up the ghost and admitted that the apps that run on Windows XP can't be run safely/securely/reliably/compatibly on newer platforms without just running XP in secret? I think that WINE and ReactOS may prove them wrong in the long run.

This seems to be a death throe of Microsoft operating systems - they can't make people move off XP so they carry XP indefinitely in a virtual machine? Where's the incentive to write Windows 7 apps if most serious Windows 7 users get full, real, XP compatiblity for nothing? Where's the incentive to upgrade to Windows 7 for the business user if most of their software runs identically on XP and they are in fact just going to be running virtualised XP?

I would assume that Microsoft have cocked-up, I mean "extended", the version of XP included such that it doesn't integrate as nicely into the system as they claim and thus can't be used by people to get a freebie XP environment that integrates into a more modern kernel.

All dues to them - they are at least giving people what they want finally. A way to reliably run XP-compatible applications on a modern system and take full advantage. Unfortunately, it's a bit late and done in very much a backwards way. Emulation environments such as this are useful when your underlying "new" infrastructure is *so* advanced that backward compatibility is absolutely impossible. So you move over to an entirely new driver model with support for entirely new types of hardware and then run your legacy apps in an emulation until you can convince your programmers to move you across to a native app.

But really, at this stage, (and announcing this so late just *reeks* of desperation to win some sort of attention for Windows 7 features) it's all a bit too little, too late.

If I *wanted* XP, I would just get a Windows XP or above license and virtualise it myself. Windows 7 has been touted to cure all Vista ills, which it's obviously not going to do. I think this is just final confirmation that Microsoft:

- Don't know how or why Windows XP was so popular.

- Can't replicate or move forward with the Windows XP-era API's (and thus should really be making new and better ones above and beyond driver model changes).

- Don't have the knowledge to extend Windows XP with what they've learned about security, etc. in the last few years.

- Don't understand how customers think.

- Has pretty much abandoned all the code it's written in the last eight years because it doesn't really improve things for the customer that much.

Thanks Microsoft - confirmation of what we all knew all along. Windows XP was your best operating system and you have no idea how to actually improve it in your customer's eyes without a marketing trumpet to blow.

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Virgin Media switches to Gmail

Lee Dowling
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@Nic Evans

I couldn't agree more - why anyone uses ISP-provided email is beyond me. You can get domain names for as little as £1 a year or less, and even if you just use them for email forwarding it's worth it.

I picked up on this way before I started using email in earnest all those years ago and own several domains that redirect email to wherever I want. I even "host" addresses for relatives and friends that want them by redirecting mum@mydomain.com to my mother's email address (because she can never remember it and doesn't want the hassle of emailing EVERYONE she knows when she decides to change ISP).

If anyone ever considers changing email, just register a domain name first and give THAT address out to people (you can even have, like, junk_mail@mydomain.com etc. for competitions and so on). Then you'll NEVER have to change the email they have for you ever again - just move the forwarding or, if you're unhappy with the nameserver service, move the domain to a different host.

Case in point - I have been using Hotmail since before it was "fashionable" to use webmail. I even paid for their extended service at one point. Then they decided to break Opera several times with no possibility of a fix forthcoming. Logged into three domain name control panels, changed the forwarding to a GMail address. I didn't have to tell anyone I'd changed and, after 24 hours, everything arrives in GMail, there were no lost emails (but some still ended up in Hotmail for a little while) and my Hotmail account now sits empty. And when GMail do something to annoy me, I'll just do the same again to somewhere else, or to my own hosting or whatever.

My wife does this (sends through to our ISP's POP3), my brother (hundreds of redirections for various purposes to various people), random members of friends and family (they "borrow" email addresses at our domains, etc.) for years. I host websites on the domains, so the email is "free", but you can get forwarding for next-to-nothing these days.

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Olympic cock-up knocks East London off Internet

Lee Dowling
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@Dave Bell

I go past Stratford train station every day and see the drilling equipment that they use - you are talking a hundred-foot-high, several feet diameter vertical boring drill, not some idiot with a Black & Decker.

Which makes it WORSE in my opinion, because you can't exactly NOT know where you're putting that thing. It looks like they are drilling to fill foundation columns for an extension of the station, in that particular case, but there's a lot of works around Stratford at the moment for the Olympics. However, my prime candidate would be that particular one ... maybe I'll shout out from the station later today and see if they point the finger.

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LibDems want gov action on killer lorries of death

Lee Dowling
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Unhappy

Oh, for God's sake...

"The Government must act to make Sat Nav devices safer for large vehicles."

Okay. Watch. Ban any driver stupid enough to crash into ANYTHING while watching/believing their satnav over what's actually in the road in front of them. Want a law to do it with? Undue care and attention? Dangerous driving?

These people are highly-vetted, specialised drivers with a specialised license and tons of other restrictions on them. Being a pillock by driving into a bridge (a BRIDGE, ffs!) should be automatic to losing such a licence and, because only licensed HGV drivers can drive an HGV legally, problem is solved. No more sat-nav HGV crashs, less pillocks on the road, less repair bills, less insurance costs. Give them a bloody eye test - did you not see the bridge, the signs, etc.? No? Then how can you drive an HGV? You DID see them? But you hit the bridge anyway? How can you be allowed to drive an HGV?

Oh you could, I don't know, mollycoddle them as if it's not THEIR fault that their £40 TomTom that hasn't been updated in ten years doesn't take account of the fact that what's actually ON the road is what you'll hit, instead of what's on the virtual screen that you shouldn't be looking at anyway.

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Carbonite tells Promise: You're toast

Lee Dowling
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Stop

Hold on.

You're a backup firm that lost data? I've already lost interest. However, as an exercise, let's continue.

You lost data because a RAID failed? Okay. Where are the backups? You know... backups. That thing that you claim to sell. RAID is not a backup, nor it is even assurance of correct data.

You had automated systems that replaced drives without checking that the integrity of the data was correct? So how did you check that the RAID controllers weren't corrupting data in the first place, let alone that they weren't doing it on failover?

You *lost data* not because of the RAID controller, but because you're idiots and didn't have any sort of integrity checking or other backups. I hope you lose every customer you have.

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Brit D-cell torpedo in icepack-bottom probe

Lee Dowling
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Why?

Okay, I know that there are probably a thousand factors here, but why "ordinary alkaline"?

Yes, you can mass-produce them and get them cheaply (although the local One-Stop might not be sufficient for 5000 of the buggers), but why not a more space-efficient power source? Surely just one humungous lead-acid or other technology battery could provide a lot more power, be rechargeable and survive the temperatures/pressures? If not, then it might even have been worth looking at making sure the battery didn't *need* to survive those temperatures/pressures etc. by providing a small heater or enclosure. I'd like to know what the justification is for alkaline technology packed into a space-inefficient, difficult to combine cylindrical shape that doesn't provide much oomph anyway.

It seems that the problem must have already been solved elsewhere - space flight, or marine batteries, or some other well-known venue. It just seems incredibly odd to be putting a load of Energiser's into a sub that you want to run out more than once.

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National Express to 'ban' trainspotting

Lee Dowling
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Platform Tickets

My wife occasionally does a bit of mystery shopping. This has involved being paid to go to a Cafe on a station platform at Shenfield and other mainline stations to evaluate their service. This involved the purchase of a platform ticket each and every time. To put this in perspective, she's been doing such jobs regularly for the past five or six years.

It raises an eyebrow, because they are rarely sold, but they aren't "unavailable" or even that hard to get hold of. You just ask for one. They are also incredibly cheap (especially when the mystery shopper company pay your expenses), and I'm surprised that they haven't been abused yet (i.e. teenagers buy platform ticket if they see a guard at the entrance, hop onto train, get off at a non-guarded station).

So the claim about the platform tickets is completely false, I feel, and someone hasn't even done the simple homework of *asking* for one at a ticket office.

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NSA offering 'billions' for Skype eavesdrop solution

Lee Dowling
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Questions

Then the questions to really ask are:

If they ARE having trouble accessing Skype, as they and several other "super-secret" agencies that never talk about what they are doing claim, why are they advertising that fact? To draw subversive elements into Skype so that a year down the line they can go... well, actually, we could monitor it - thanks for the info?

If Skype is *really* that good (I doubt it, it's probably nothing more than a nice AES with some custom tweaks or other encryption layered over the top), how do they expect anybody to find a solution?

If the encryption *is* that damn good, then you have a copy of the encrypter/decrypter code inside every Skype executable. You might not be able to get people's private keys but the protocol is basically published inside every executable, which are available in a variety of platforms and languages. Ever heard of a disassembler, guys?

I suspect it's more the P2P element that flummoxes them because there is nowhere sensible that they can intercept random calls. The fact is that if they suspect anyone, they can easily target them specifically (keyboard-capture, screen-capture, virus infection, social engineering, etc.) and it's a lot easier than trying to monitor the whole world. But for some reason, governments always want complete control of such things - probably because that is the best way to subvert and hinder your citizens (ala China).

The problem they have is that Skype is pretty much a distributed system so they can't do their mass analysis and come up with "X is a terrorist" just by watching random traffic from everybody in the world (that is, of course, if they ever could).

It seems to me that this and the GCHQ affair are aimed at a political change, not an actual valid call for research. They want the power to monitor everyone for everything so they can pick up on the same trends that they used to be able to. If they say they "can't" do it, maybe the government will ban it, or enforce an alternative, or force backdoors, etc. With P2P, point-to-point encryption with well-known and tested algorithms, it is virtually impossible to break even a simple message and they have to go back to old-fashioned policing - work out who the terrorists are by watching known terrorists and following what they do.

Personally, if this is the case and they have no way to watch it - good. It provides a bit of anonymity and security to the network again. I don't see any reason that any modern protocol should NOT include encryption nowadays, it's so cheap to implement and can apparently stop even these "big guys" in their tracks even when they know the entire protocol and have access to public keys.

This is what happens when you try to control things that don't want to be controlled - they find a way around it. Each time you control something else, the ways around get smarter and more powerful. And before you know what's happening, the entire IPv4/IPv6 infrastructure is nothing more than a carrier for complete encryption for everything that everyone does online.

People already KNOW that wireless has to be encrypted and that secure website are required if they pay by credit card. Soon, the whole internet will be nothing but a huge P2P VPN. And then where will the overbearing legislation get you? You won't be able to stamp on Joe Bloggs because he has encryption technology you can't beat (ala the PGP etc. problems of the early days) and to use ANYTHING online (which is what every government is pushing towards), you'll have to be part of the same network that the government hates because it can't break it, censor it or monitor it.

The Internet has leapfrogged these sorts of organisations and "Big Brother" ideas and they can't handle it. Unfortunately, it was caused (at least in part) by their overbearing manner in the first place - chasing kiddies for downloading songs, etc. They can't break it? Good. Let 'em whinge. While we're at it, let's see how much more terrorism happens without them.

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Phorm: BT system 'most definitely' online by end of 2009

Lee Dowling
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@Alan

PlusNet, despite being owned by BT, have categorically stated that they want nothing to do with it and won't be rolling it out. Least, that was the situation when I looked into this just before Christmas. There were even quotes from PlusNet's CEO's along those lines.

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