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* Posts by Lee Dowling

1188 posts • joined 28 Mar 2007

Stroustrup on next-gen C++: I didn't want to let go of my baby

Lee Dowling
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Re: C++ put me off programming

C++ put me off C++. I read the books, I played with the language, I knocked things up and they worked. But it wasn't until I had to read someone else's C++ code that I realised what an horrendous mess there is to be made with perfectly good code, and how hard it can be to turn that back into something you can understand.

I loved learning about OOP, back in the day, and loved the concepts presented therein. But I've yet to find a usable and suitable syntax for expressing the ideas contained there. As such, I've stuck with C99 - which does everything I want and ever need, integrates with C++ libraries if I really need it to, allows me to *choose* how to program (hell, with a lot of compilers, I can mix and match C99 and C++ code and not even notice), is standardised across compilers (C++ was, historically, a mess - and may still be for all I know), is blindingly fast still, doesn't need interpreters or virtual machines, and can even be read by C++ programmers with ease (which is something that I can't claim works the other way round).

I find it quite interesting just how many libraries are actually still C99-or-similar, under the hood, and how easy it is to work with everything still just using C99 instead of C++. C++ hasn't become the major takeover of the language that I expected to come for years, and C++11 doesn't look like that will be either. You can still teach someone the entire C language and the standard library in a matter of hours. You could waste that just explaining how to use some of the more complex features like variadic templates correctly.

Yes, I grew up in an era of what is now referred to as procedural programming (it was called functional programming back in my day, but that's been subverted for something now related to mathematics more than programming, but I think that both "procedural" and "functional" were originally an accurate description - you're providing procedures, like NASA space operation procedures, to the computer to have it perform a function), and that almost certainly colours my view but the fact is that at the end of the day I want to give my computer a set of instructions that it carries out as I've told it to. The OOP overhead removes a lot of control which, if you're happy to give up, is fine. I don't like it, though.

As such, almost everything I write is in C99, can be read by any half-decent programmer, used by any half-decent programmer, extended by any half-decent programmer and get the most out of the machine even if it means I have to organise my code a little more carefully. It interfaces with everything, compiles quickly and without surprises and ports to any platform I like. And almost certainly the first compiler for any new platform will be a C compiler, not a C++ one (even though that can then follow quite quickly).

Call me old-fashioned, but C99 was where decent programming standards stopped as far as I'm concerned (which is probably another reason that C++ implementations are rarely completely compatible, and why it's taken so long to standardise the language, whereas C has been through several standardisations and added decent functionality that you can *see* and *use* each time, and which quickly find their way into compilers). Everything since then has been syntactic sugar that makes code unreadable, and sometimes unpredictable, and still has to be (pretty much) C99 compatible once you take that sugar away, and for which you need to have learnt C syntax to start.

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Londoners can bonk their way to work without Oyster cards TODAY

Lee Dowling
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Re: To Bonk or not to Bonk

My favourite terminology for Oyster et al is actually "doinking". You "doink" in, "doink" out, "doink your card on it".

Much more accurate, fun to say, can't be conveyed as rude nearly so easily ("Oh, I bonked her through the gate at King's Cross because she didn't have any money"), and much more satisfying.

Doink.

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Apple TV demand may drive Samsung-sapping sales

Lee Dowling
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That is quite scary, isn't it? Almost like a cult.

Apple is a designer brand. Like those silly tags people keep on their trainers and whatever pattern's been patented this decade to go on scarves and bags. That's it. Everything else about Apple is pretty bog-standard stuff at extraordinary markups.

And in the same way that I've never owned any of the designer junk (learned that at a young age when my best friend from school always had £80 trainers - which was a LOT of money - and tore them apart in minutes playing football, whereas my £10 cheapy-shop ones lasted several months at least), I can't see me ever owning an Apple product.

A TV is really not the area to delve into. Spending on ordinary TV's is really curbed back later, and the amount of things you can do by just plugging in another box / software update / laptop into your current TV will make anything they can produce look like an overpriced empty box in comparison. Of course, some people will always buy them, but then some people pre-order £1000 bits of hardware already with no idea what they'll get.

Hopefully, the iPhone 5 has started to teach people what happens when you just blindly splash money on a product before it's been out for a while. I have dealt with more people moving from iPhone to Android in the last 6 months than ever enquired to me about Apple products in the last few years (and I'm the local IT guy, which means that five dozen people all ask me the same questions about the same products minutes apart, especially near Christmas, just to make sure they are buying the right thing).

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London Blitz bomb web map a hit-and-miss affair

Lee Dowling
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What a marvellous psychology. She should be applauded. You can't do anything about the Germans dropping bombs on you in the middle of a war, but you can damn well make sure you get your chops back and have some tea.

Typically English, and logical, thinking. Someone, in the midst of battle, was working out how to feed her family and other mundaneness that *NOBODY ELSE* was going to sort on her behalf if she didn't do it. Good on her. There was something called "Blitz Spirit" and that was a perfect example of it, and something to be proud of. Bombs landing, houses destroyed, lives ruined, ... what's for tea, then? I can't think of a more classically British thing to be thinking.

Blast and shock? Nonsense. She was the most level-headed person in the place, and the only one thinking clearly.

It's a pity there weren't more like her, and a pity that more people aren't like that now even though we have NOWHERE NEAR the same stresses in our everyday life. Hell, people go potty if you park in their parking space now, imagine how the modern generations would survive in an era where you wouldn't know whether your house and possessions would be intact tomorrow and had little human contact beyond seeing people in the street.

What a wonderful woman.

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Lee Dowling
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Re: We were mislead by the authorities!

Copper did his job, then, as far as I'm concerned.

Eliminated panic, through a show of almost-certainly-deliberate ignorance, to reassure an old lady who would have been in constant fear every time the sirens went off ABOVE AND BEYOND what she already would have been experiencing, for a problem neither she nor anybody else could actually do anything about.

Every time there's a lightning storm, my dad, brother and I would sit and talk about the physics of it and how with the various traits of lightning strikes and electricity there was nothing to worry about. Because my mum is petrified of them and will literally hide under the stairs when they are large enough storms. I'm not saying we're lying, there's no way we can *guarantee* she'll be safe, but the little bit of reassurance and our confident fronts mean that she starts to believe it for long enough that she doesn't panic and end up evicting the cat from its hiding place to cower there herself.

Pity, really, that that sort of old fashioned policing has gone the way of the dodo.

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Lee Dowling
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I don't expect them to be accurate. There was a war on, they had more important things to do like rescue people, bury the unfortunates and try to stop the damn things coming down. The bomb maps made were to get an idea of what the Germans were aiming at, pick up on trends in their tactics, etc. so they could be defended against better.

That said, the road my house is in has a perfect line of bombs down it, whereas the surrounding areas seem to have only random scatter. At least two of the bombs would have been close enough (even given the accuracy of a hand-drawn map) to cause damage. My house was built in the 30's so no doubt, somewhere under the facade, there would be shrapnel damage if you knew where to look. And I don't even assume that all the recorded line of bombs are the *only* ones that fell - hell, we're still finding those things in major cities that people have built on a dozen times over.

My father-in-law is a professional metal-detector, more normally for WW1 and Roman artefacts. I'm going to have to get him to give my rear garden a sweep - peace of mind for me, a potential find for him.

It adds a whole new element to digging in the back garden, I can tell you.

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Linux kernel dumps 386 chip support

Lee Dowling
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Angel

Re: And I remember...

I at least hope you earthed yourself first...

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Lee Dowling
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Intel NetPortExpress

I have an Intel NetportExpress. It's the only thing I still own that has a 386 processor in it (and that's a 386SL - I know, because I cracked it open to have a look). And I doubt it runs Linux (I think it might be VxWorks but haven't bothered to look - it "just works" and has done for years).

It networks a parallel port laser printer that you can't buy any more (Samsung ML-4500) which lets you use any toner in its refillable cartridges (until their attached drums wear out, when it's about £20 for a new cartridge + drum). I've had the same setup for so long, I've never had to add another printer on my home network.

Though, it's a bit annoying because Windows 7 x64 doesn't seem to support the drivers for the printer (32-bit version works fine). There's probably a workaround that involves some sort of compatibility mode, but to be honest once I get to that point, I'll throw it onto a Linux machine as a CUPS printer and have done with it.... and then the last 386 in the house will be put into retirement.

Not surprised, not shocked, not affected. I doubt whether anyone is. I got rid of my last 386 desktop machine something like 10+ years ago and that had been obsolete for a while, and run into the ground, and went to be a games machine for my cousin even after that. And embedded programmers have their own problems, and need to fix them themselves (if that means using an old kernel or patching the functionality back, or using a different chip, then they will).

The oldest PC I have in the house now is something like a Pentium 133 laptop. Probably, what 3 generations above the 386? And that's never going to come off what it's currently running because of the problems of doing so (it is quite hilarious to have a ThinkPad that old, though, that was thrown into a skip nearly 8 years ago, have a PCMCIA card shoved into it and join a 802.11g network as if it was any other machine - and it still has one of nicest "feels" to using it of any machine I've ever owned).

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Review: Mio Cyclo 300 cycling satnav

Lee Dowling
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Re: Americans?

People who couldn't pass the manual test, apparently.

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Revealed: The Brit-built GRAVITY-powered light that costs $5

Lee Dowling
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So it's like clockwork, or old-fashioned grandfather clocks.

And it might produce LED light for the stated 30 minutes, but we're still talking about the same amount of power as lifting a weight up a metre or so. That takes it into tiny amounts of power that can also be stored in clockwork or, say, an even-cheaper, mass-produced, rechargeable battery. "Environmentally-friendly" once in operation, yes, but hardly "bringing light" to anyone who doesn't already have it (and it's doubtful that the cost of creating and shipping the device is actually doing much that is overall positive environmentally, especially with the LED's and the strength of components to hold the weight steady).

It's clever and we can all go "wow", but I just don't see the market. Even the clockwork radio died a death:

"After Baylis lost control of his invention (the clockwork radio).... units switched to disposable batteries charged by cheaper hand-crank generators." (and although you might own a clockwork torch, like a lot of people, when was the last time you owned one that didn't use rechargeable batteries in it or that actually was worth the hassle to wind up for the amount of light it gave compared to, say, just about anything else - batteries, electricity, kerosene, even a lit-match? Last time I tried to use one, I got tired of having to keep cranking it - because it hadn't been cranked regularly and the internal battery was not holding a charge well - while trying to do a simple job in the fusebox and ended up just putting a battery torch down the hole)

I think we're over-simplifying and under-estimating people in third world countries here if we think that they need these sorts of things so desperately - like the "bottle in the roof" lighting... are you honestly telling me that people sat in the dark rather than collect a piece of broken glass, or even just put a hole in the ceiling? Maybe it just wasn't that important to them? And that particular invention required plastic bottles (probably harder to find than just "something clear to cover the gap"), water and bleach (to stop the water going green) and only worked, shockingly, in daylight. So it was a pretty hole. It's like the "spoon made from a fork pushed through the bottom of a polystyrene cup" image that roams the Internet - clever if you think of it on-the-fly and get to use it that once, but I can't see quite what problem it's solving long-term that doesn't have a better solution.

If you desperately need lighting from a bunch of low-power LED's and are willing to stumble around in the dark with a heavy weight to get it, I'm sure you'd be equally as chuffed with an solar-charging-LED torch - the kind of things we give away with Christmas crackers now. And I'm not at all sure that something you routinely have to move kilos of weight (from a suspended hook) by hand to activate would last even as long as the torch would, in terms of sheer robustness (I'd give it a month or so of constant use before the gearing went).

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Silicon Roundabout £50m THING to spew 200 startups A YEAR

Lee Dowling
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Re: They really don't get it...

"Face to face conversations will never be outdated."

But people who think they won't, will be outdated.

We're talking technology startups here. What, precisely, do they need to "glad-hand" people for, if they're so good and capable of bringing in so much money to the area?

Every technology startup I know that was successful, the founders were geeks who wouldn't know what "meet in person" meant, and probably thought it was something to do with Skype video-calling. And they got successful by bypassing traditional business and doing things that everyone said was "impossible" and they wouldn't get any money for.

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OMG: RIM adds VoIP to its stealth social network

Lee Dowling
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Still going to come out of your data allowance, like anything else, and if abused will still be clamped down on.

The problem is not the availability of a technology to talk to people over a data connection. That's been solved myriad times over. It's the problem of who pays for that bandwidth and the real-time delivery of it? Eventually, the answer is: the user. Which will be reflected in the contract prices of plans that allow it.

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Deputy PM: Rip up Snoop Charter, 'go back to the drawing board'

Lee Dowling
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Re: @Tom 38 "I recently did jury service..."

Sorry for the final paragraph typo - a BT engineer just arrived and you don't want to miss those guys...

Of course it should be START enforcing the laws you already have and STOP making up new ones.

And in a court case, those records can already be provided to the court. That's NOT what the new laws are about. They are about letting people NOT subject to court orders rifle through that information at will. It's basically a way to undo data-protection legislation, and even freedom-of-information legislation in a way.

A court will get the data it needs, now, and in the future. That's not up for question. But that information will be sealed, projected, people subject to perjury if it's released outside those terms, etc. and everyone will know who asked for what data when and whether they went too far. This is about extending those terms to non-reporting government departments.

There is no published case where having these "new laws" would make a difference to the outcome of the case or the evidence presented. If there were, it would be the JUDGES asking for this sort of access, and it would still be balanced in terms of access only via court order, and only the minimum necessary. That's not what's happening.

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Lee Dowling
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Okay,

Keep a eye out, everyone, for the same provisions coming in dribs and drabs over the next few years in things like a Waste Refuse Bill or a Duck Hunting legislation, until the law is there in essence if not in name.

You don't need it. How do I know? Because you've not needed it for the last 2000 years and there's no reason to suggest it would have helped in any recent incident, conviction or operation. The terrorist threat? Haven't really seen much since we joined the global bully in pounding everyone in the playground when their tower of bricks got knocked over, over ten years ago. So you're doing a sterling job with that already and can't see what else you would need to do that job given that.

Paedophiles? I don't think Jimmy Saville was airing his (still alleged at this point, I believe) likes all over the Internet under encryption and anonymous usernames. What found him was people being able to talk to the police (those police whose numbers you're slicing at the moment) and not have a corrupt media willing to brush their claims under the carpet "for the sake of charidee..." (and that's being handled too, if you pull your finger out and stop Wikipedia'ing things and start punishing the press to the standards that the existing law already holds them too).

Stop enforcing the laws that exist, and stop making up new ones rather than do so.

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Apple's iOS 6 maps STILL muddle Mildura

Lee Dowling
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Re: A map-reading wife!?

Not only is my own girl a map-reader, she can also park a car, beat me at football (I like to keep my shins where Evolution intended), do quicker arithmetic, lift heavy things, doesn't mind getting mucky and even took it upon herself to hoe the entire garden. When DIY strikes, she's the one at the bottom taking the weight while you faff about and pushing the damn thing you can barely lift.

So long as I can bring tools, fix the computers, and provide practical advice when her bike breaks, she's happy. About the only thing I haven't got her to do is learn how to maintain the car (bulbs, tyres, etc.) but I thought that would be pushing my luck.

It is quite disconcerting when you know the satnav is wrong, you ask for an alternative route, and your girlfriend routes you better and quicker - from orientation and guess work - and pops you out on a empty road that you thought was miles away. Oh, and she's a scientist (genetics).

One of these days, I'm going to get her to test her own genes for masculine traits...

(Preparing for the flaming by the female readers...)

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Lee Dowling
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I would say any tourist or visitor driving across Australia without having been a) warned by the car hire company of the dangers of doing so unprepared or b) having the common sense to prepare for driving into a desert by mistake or c) the wherewithal to look at the map of the intended destination and think "that's bloody miles from anywhere - better take some gear with me" and check things like nearest fuel station, town etc. deserves what they get.

Yes, sure, if you're a tourist you might not be used to this sort of thing and stumble into it.

I live in a country where I can go end-to-end of the entire country on one tank of fuel (virtually), never need to pack special supplies in the car (worst that happens is you get stuck on a motorway with a thousand other people, which is hardly the end of civilisation), and have recovery companies only a phone call and 30 minutes away. But I'd be damned if things like 200m of road with NOTHING ON IT but sand and poisonous animals wouldn't make me think twice about taking a few extra precautions, checking carefully, and asking locals for their advice (I don't think any sane person you asked for help would NOT advise you to take lots of water, triple-check your route - maybe even looking at it themselves if you ask nicely and they know the area - and not to do it "on a whim" like you might in other countries).

I would *not* be relying on a phone for guidance, hell it's probably the point at which I ditch all electronic gadgets as anything other than a convenience or reference rather than a definitive guide.

Just because some people are thick, doesn't mean we should babyify all possible methods of driving for those people. Warn them, then it's up to them. And nobody who drives around Australia wouldn't be warned about the dangers of travelling far without suitable preparation (hell, they have signs by the side of the road for just that).

The map is wrong and sucks. But if you're blindly relying on it for navigation, you're an idiot (in any country). If you're betting your life on it being right without checking (even though it SHOWS YOU that you're hundreds of miles into the middle of nowhere), then you're an even bigger idiot. I can't say that my sympathy would extend that far. And if you're driving around Australia (not just little jaunts but touring the country) without bothering to check your route or prepare for the worst - sorry, you get everything you deserve.

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Mother of All Whistlers: Virgin Media superhub. Listen to recordings

Lee Dowling
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Re: A better solution...

WIth ADSL, that's do-able. With cable, that's asking for trouble. Even though your communications are encrypted with the latest DOCSIS standards, you're still sharing a cable with neighbours at points, and still able to eavesdrop their traffic. Think of DOCSIS cable as using lots of ADSL modems on the same copper, but you all end up on different frequencies (that any of you could hear if you tuned in, but that you "avoid" each other to get the best signal). This is why, for example, I have a SuperHub, and set-top-box, and an external box that supplies the telephone line ALL just spliced crudely onto the same coax that goes out to the street - they all negotiate their own data paths over a common cable (think of it like several computers running on 10base2 networking - which *could* run over simple coax + BNC - and you'll get what I mean).

Restricting the modems that operate on the network means you can restrict what hardware people can use, and thus restrict what devices can be hacked to get access to your network (yes, since the early days of cable, hacked devices have been present on the network and getting "full" access on other subscriber's accounts). Something with open-source back-ends on the cable side would be a security and billing disaster, for instance. Currently, modern cable systems use the latest DOCSIS standards which include things like certificates in each device so you can authenticate the device on the network. There are other DOCSIS modems out there - dozens of them, just Google, but they aren't used for a reason.

And if you restrict the modem, then whatever else is feeding into it doesn't matter - you're effectively doing the same as "modem mode" on the SuperHub - letting some "approved" device connect to the cable network and converting the data to Ethernet standards, and supplying your own device from there on.

If you don't like this, don't use cable. ADSL goes over individual lines and doesn't even let you or your neighbours "eavesdrop" on each other - you all get a separate copper cable to talk over. Cable network's *don't*.

If modem mode didn't work, or if DOCSIS technology didn't share the cable between neighbours, then you might have a case. But, as it is, the SuperHub in modem mode does everything you want, without any problems. I know. I use it. And refused to upgrade from a "proper" cable-modem to the SuperHub until it did work. And in modem mode, I don't have to worry about the SuperHub's wireless security getting outdated or anything else.

What I don't get is why people have these boxes on show and thus hear the squeal that EVERY PSU makes (trust me - get a laptop, listen to the PSU closely when you run a powerful game). It's just a matter of volume / proximity. Sure, it might be annoying, but then I find the little red/blue light a thousand times more annoying - just tuck your equipment away. You don't need your modem on show (and certainly not the PSU) and wireless will carry through your house even from inside a cupboard (or, in my case, will carry over a cable to a enclosed WAP and a powerline-Ethernet device that carry the signal through the house).

They got a dodgy batch, they are replacing them and funding people to get their own replacements. Quite what the problem is here, I can't see. They appear to have gone further than a lot of ISP's when there's been trouble with their kit.

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LOL: Twitter faces fines for late UK financial filings

Lee Dowling
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It's would be illegal to report something differently NOW that you would have reported differently THEN, because it's the exact same data it is acting on. You can't claim retroactively for things that didn't happen in that accounting period, so what you report for that period TODAY is identical to what you needed to report for that period on the final day of that period. Even if you lost a billion pounds between then and now, the facts for that period are still the same, but you might ask for it to be taken into consideration when, saying, paying owed tax in a lump sum.

Sure, you can restate previous years but that means YOU MADE AN ERROR or you wish to have other things taken into account. So if they are going back and changing anything at this late stage and *that's* the reason they haven't filed yet, it means they lied or messed up. The amount you are liable for for that accounting period DOES NOT CHANGE once the accounting period is closed, it is a fact - the only change possible is in the way you report it (i.e. accurately or not).

Which is why late filings and restatements often attract attention that you probably don't want (even if you're *correcting* them, they are perfectly entitled to ask why you messed it up before, and even charge you - nothing smells more suspicious than suddenly going back and restating a year of accounts, especially from a large famous corporation, especially as your first filing, and especially for a half-year of accounts - i.e. not exactly an administrative burden on your accountant).

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Lee Dowling
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I don't see how they can really do hiding the data here for fear of reprisal - this is referring to a HISTORICAL data, not something they can fix or alter post the events that occurred or the accounting date referred to.

What they are reporting is 6 months from LAST year, pre all the tax debacle by a whole year or more. So if they are modifying those data, that's illegal. If they have changed their business practices since, it doesn't affect that return. And if they are just hoping to hide those details, that's just adding suspicion onto facts that they required to publish at some point or other anyway (and by filing late, you're more likely to attract the attention of certain agencies).

So I would *hope* they aren't trying to cover anything up. At best they might be able to get fined constantly until the tax thing blows over, and *THEN* release, but that's likely to take a year or more now that legislation is starting to be pushed through aiming at the loopholes already published.

I would suggest it's more likely a) they are idiots, b) they are not idiots, and it affects something like a shareholder meeting or similar that's about to take place where "late filing" sounds less bad than "damn, we didn't make anything close to what we told you".

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Parliament to unleash barrage of criticism on Snoopers' Charter

Lee Dowling
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Re: Remember the innocent have nothing to hide!

Even if they pass that test, the questions:

So what was the last STD you were tested for, and what was the result?

What's your sexual orientation and your favourite sexual activity?

When do you go on holiday this year and who's looking after your house?

might go some way to pointing out the problem to them.

The real problem is not that that data exists somewhere. That information almost certainly can be collated from sources should, for example, it be relevant in a court case. The problem is that that information should NOT be able to be linked by people without such cause (e.g. council officers who want to know "on a whim" - I've just had a barney with my local council over their waste collection and with some data integration it would be the work of a second for them to try to collate "evidence" against me and cause lots of unnecessary hassle. I should not have to "keep my head down" because of what a council official may or may not be able to determine from databases stored for stated purposes, or that they have a "friend" in the parking enforcement department who might target me unfairly, for instance), nor should it be analysed without PROPER anonymity for such links, nor should the data ever become public knowledge.

But, most of all, people collecting, analysing, linking and anonymising that information should be telling *ME* how they intend to do so, and also telling experts who are more likely than myself to spot a problem with their collection methods. Legislation in secret does not belong on such things as DNA databases or listening to an entire nation's Internet connections. You keep the DATA secret, and you tell us what you're doing with it, and let us (via appropriate measures) check that that's the case and punish you when you get it wrong. Anything else is unnecessary unless there is a criminal investigation against me, in which case a judge stands in on my behalf to ensure only the minimum amount necessary is taken in order to protect the innocent.

The government and various large bodies appear to want to do the opposite - "accidentally" break the Data Protection Act over such critical government databases (abuse of DVLA database, leaving things on the train, faxing thousands of medical records to the wrong people, not encrypting entire databases taken off-site, throwing things away with data still on them, etc.) but not tell us how/why/what they are doing to that data in the first place.

Open code, people. Not open data.

I tend to "trust" the government with my data - mainly because I don't give them anything that they don't need (or can't stop them being given). As such, do you know where I think the biggest, most dangerous source of data is, in terms of personal impact on the average person? Airport car park pre-booking. That's an incredibly rich and dangerous list of people who are going to be on holiday for X amount of days, with their full names and addresses. And probably run by people who aren't too concerned with selling a list on on the black market (especially "unofficial" parking). It wouldn't be half as bad a problem if people weren't allowed to look things up on the DVLA lists, though, because it's unlikely that the front-end guys have access to anything but name and registration.

The simple things matter just as much as the horrendous-sounding things, when it comes to actual DATA being released, but if we're going to have data collected, let's at least make sure we know WHAT data is it and how it's dealt with. There, the protocol matters more than the data itself.

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Valve chief confirms Steam-centric console-killing PC

Lee Dowling
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Re: Your title is too long!

As soon as companies realise that they can get an extra 25-50% of the purchase price again for launching on another platform, plus new users, they'll be there.

What's needed first is enough momentum to get people asking for it. A handful of geeks that didn't buy their OS is hardly the target market here. We just need the tipping point where enough people realise what happens.

And that's coming. Valve are making their games work on Linux. Most indie titles and a lot of the larger commercial titles have Linux versions. If you're programming for Windows, Mac, and consoles, (not to mention Android!) it's actually not that much more difficult to throw in a Linux version too.

Have you bought a humble bundle recently? Something like 75% of the games have native Linux versions.

The first to jump on will be the casual game makers (so Angry Birds on Steam / Android might actually create more fuss than anything else), then the middle-market, then the top titles like Skyrim. Valve are working to penetrate their own upper layers and have got the geeks gabbing by a (unreleased) build of L4D2 with huge framerate increases on the same hardware using Linux. It's only a matter of time for that to propagate.

In context, this is the most "linux-related" gaming news there's been since Transgaming set up shop. That's pretty huge, and there's a real chance that the necessary momentum could build, especially against some Windows 8 FUD (nice to see turn-about-is-fair-play) and a bit of a stagnation in the console markets.

The fact is, though - you don't *need* everyone. You just need enough.

And, as someone else pointed out here and I've pointed out in the past, give HL3 a one-month headstart on Linux, and you'll have people falling over themselves to install it even if just to get to that game. And once they're there, a nice app-store aimed at gaming supported on the platform and necessary to play the game. That's an MS-style tactic that's worked more than once.

I've been saying for years that Steam, or a competitor, should have done this a long time ago (imagine if Origin had been Linux-supporting even if only in a limited amount... that would have actually given people a reason to go to it over Steam). I hope it pans out, but I don't expect things like Skyrim or the other junk that costs too much and I never play. Gimme even 10% of my gaming software library and it's worth installing and trying, and shouting to other games makers that they should be getting onboard.

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That square QR barcode on the poster? Check it's not a sticker

Lee Dowling
Silver badge

Re: But is it really a problem?

I have used QR codes to transfer contacts between phones. The free QR code reader app for Android that, yes, I played with for two seconds before getting bored, also allows you to "send to" a QR code which it will display on the screen.

It's a nice way to send contacts and other data (I once sent 32 laptop's Truecrypt passwords that I had stored as memos on the phone via QR code to my laptop running a similar app that I could then put somewhere useful) without opening up your device to networks, turning on Bluetooth (I generally have it off, hidden AND not accepting requests by default anyway), etc.

Apart from that? Never.

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Lee Dowling
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Re: Devil's Advocate

There's nothing wrong with QR codes, as such. If anything, they are working perfectly.

The problem is, was, and always has been browsers that do not act on the COMPLETELY UNTRUSTED DATA that they receive from the network in the proper fashion (i.e. trusting nothing, and checking everything).

It's like saying that a sticker that says "Stick your head in a gas oven" is dangerous. It might be. But only if you blindly and trustingly follow its instructions without question no matter what the content.

The fix here is not to stop using QR codes - it's to stop using browsers that are so full of "features" that visiting a URL becomes a dangerous gamble. At absolute worst, the browser should do one of those "This page is taking up too much CPU time, do you want to stop it?" messages. It should not crash, try to download, steal data or otherwise exploit your machine. And it's nothing to do with making a "perfect" secure app, which doesn't exist, it's about being sensible with the data you're given, i.e. not running scripts, plugins, triggering downloads, etc. by default.

I use Opera and when we have a "dodgy" URL come up in my workplace (a school), I often have to trace it back to the original user. This usually means going to the server logs and copy/pasting suspected bad URL's from them to check their content. Although I run it in a VM in those instances (no use ASKING for trouble), Opera, by default, just doesn't let you do anything stupid and has the least number of vulnerabilities published for it (and has had since about Opera 3.5). I can literally just copy/paste a known exploit URL in there and 99.9% of them won't work (because they rely on Java, ActiveX, or some other junk) and the ones that "try" to work by triggering downloads, running executables, opening lots of pages, etc. or even crashing the browser I can easily cancel before they can do any damage.

And even then, they can't jump out of the virtual machine even if I just used IE and double-clicked everything. If you can do that in a VM, you can push also that separation-while-enjoying-full-functionality down to the application (the VM is nothing but an application).

There's nothing wrong with QR codes that isn't also wrong with bookmarks/favourites, URL's in your IM, URL's themselves(!), URL shortening services or just about any method to transfer a URL (e.g. that "bump-together" junk that's in smartphones now). The problem is in browsers that don't treat untrusted HTML data off a network as exactly that - untrusted.

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US text-to-911 emergency SMS to go live by 2014

Lee Dowling
Silver badge

Re: I thought...

112 is a pan-European version that gets through to the same line as 999 in the UK (or whatever equivalent in other countries).

Some countries, e.g. Italy, it's a bit of a nightmare to work out what's going on (three different police forces, and ambulance and fire all on different numbers) and 112 is merely a way to homogenise that across Europe.

And it still doesn't account for them not being able to take GPS, or search for streetmaps, or not even have an electronic map.

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Lee Dowling
Silver badge

The first, last and only time I was required to phone 999 for a life-threatening emergency (some gang had got a guy on the ground and - toughnuts as they were - 10 of them were kicking him in the head while he was unconscious on the floor), I got put through to a police officer at my local station. They had no clue on location, they had to dig out paper maps to try to manually find the name of the street I was *then* in (which was a safe distance away from the actual incident), and then they had to follow my directions, one-by-one, on the paper map in order to work out where the incident was.

Embarrassingly, I had a sat nav and could have given them lat/long down to the metre within a few seconds but they didn't have that capability (and nor did they when my ex got snow-logged in her broken-down car on a quiet Scottish road for hours with a baby in the back seat and no help forthcoming from the RAC. That wasn't a 999, because they were okay for a while, they just needed to be rescued at some point. I had to use Google Maps to convert the location I'd been given by my ex to a street name that they could understand - and I could pronounce! - in order to get help to her). I was calling on my mobile for the 999, but they didn't have the facility to triangulate my call (literally, 500m would have done). I had street names to hand, but they didn't even have the facility to search for them, they were looking them up in an index.

Out in the sticks? Nope, I live inside the M25 in a large town.

I have to say that, in both cases, the emergency services did a sterling job, despite relying on only basic technology. In the case of the 999, by the time I'd started my car again and got 100m down the road, I heard sirens on the way and got a return call from the officer responding. In the case of the stuck ex, within minutes I got a text that not only had the police arrived to her (taken baby and mother into their car, warmed them up, even brought them a hot drink), but that they were on the phone shouting at the RAC to pull their <censored> finger out and prioritise calls appropriately. Strangely, the RAC then arrived within minutes too.

Oh, and my ex changed her roadside service as soon as she got to her destination.

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2020AD: Space tourists will be FOUND ON MOON

Lee Dowling
Silver badge

Re: Answers

"I was unaware the moon sported a thriving ecosystem, or that the rocket would be chock full of diamonds on the return journey."

I was thinking more along the lines of international agreements that no nation can claim any part of outer space as their own (own "an acre of Moon land"? I think the UN would disagree), leaving a sterile place sterile, not corrupting it for unnecessary purposes, but even things like not having to prove that said billionaire hasn't stuck something on the moon that another nation doesn't want on there.

When you have the backing of a major world government, and get there first, you can ignore some of those, especially if it comes under the remit of science. When you're an Earth-bound commercial entity reliant on your government to grant licenses for you to even try to get into space, let alone send passengers, and those governments are signed up to certain international "space is not a place for anyone to own, or militarise" treaties, and you run the risk of putting some idiot into space at great ecological cost to the Earth (if nothing else) for no reason than to say hi to his mum, then you have a bigger problem.

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Lee Dowling
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Not too sure that will ever happen. For a start, exploiting the moon for commercial gain without first consulting the rest of the world, and putting a couple of untrained people on the moon to do what they like is likely to lead to all sorts of trouble before you even start.

Financial issues? Solved if they are paying the costs.

Technical issues? Hell, we did it 40+ years ago, there's no reason we can't again. But it's still not safe.

Safety issues? The chances of a remote-controlled moon visit are slim - the burden of a mission is the human-survival element, not who holds the joystick, and that's where most of the cost/problems come from (which is why we stopped doing human visits and starting doing remote-controlled visits in the first place).

Political issues? That's going to be the killer.

In the back of my mind, I'm picturing some rich Russian going up to the Moon and scuffing Armstrong's footprint and replacing the US flag with a Soviet one, but that's probably at the extreme end of the scale. There are any number of ways it could go wrong without there being a single technical hitch. And we've never had a space mission without a single technical hitch, ever.

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Tim Cook’s 'One more thing': Apple TV rumor-stoker

Lee Dowling
Silver badge

Re: British...

TV is too things:

A display device

A device to capture content from somewhere (cable, aerial, satellite dish) and present it to the display.

Historically, the first was the only bit that was interesting and the second was quite primitive. The problem is that nowadays, display devices are nothing special - I can pick up a 32" full-colour HD screen for next to nothing. Generally, we have lots of display devices, and one big on in the living room, and you can show what you like on it.

The device that decides what to show? Historically that was an RF circuit, but now that's generally a computer in some form. Sure, it might be a computer with a DVB-T2 card in it, but at the end of that day that's what it is.

So anything "smart" you might want to do with a TV, you can. There's really no restriction. If your TV can't already do it, plug your laptop into it and you have it. Or any computer. Or even a Raspberry Pi (which has HDMI output and runs a full X-Windows session with some 3D acceleration).

And in that arena, there are lots of people all doing precisely the same thing - even MythTV wasn't the first to do anything in that area, just the most popular if you were after an open-source program that ran on Linux.

And that's the problem - updating the TV is like updating your operating system now, or even installing a new app. Do I really need to buy a new TV just to get iPlayer on it? No. I can just buy a box that does iPlayer too. So would I need to buy an Apple box that does some-new-fancy-feature, or just find one that does something similar, or add the feature to my existing media setup?

I don't know what planet this guy is living in, but the last time I sat in front of a TV it could do everything from iPlayer to Skype to Opera to Twitter, to being a PVR, without having to pay a penny, do anything complicated, or require a new TV. I don't think we were doing that on our TV 20 years ago (20 years ago? 1992? I was in my teens, and we had a CRT with Sky Analogue and teletext, I think).

Just what are you going to do different that I can't emulate in a day of coding using any-old-LCD and a programmable set-top-box (i.e. laptop or MythTV box or hackable Freeview/Youview box?), or that your competitors can't emulate *officially* for their devices before you can finish the release announcement? And, not only that, but be so popular that it makes a miraculous "Apple launch" about it?

Sorry, I don't see it. My TV is a display device and nothing more. Everything else, I either don't want *MY* TV doing it (e.g. Skype etc.) or I could do it by plugging in a laptop or old desktop that you don't need to even see (and, hell, doesn't even need to be in the same room any more).

There's a TV above my head at the moment. I refer to it as the "digital signage" because that's apparently the term everyone wants to use. It's a bog-standard, £100, LCD TV with DLNA capability. It's plugged into the network here, and shows a rolling set of notices, pictures, etc. from a remote computer running Serviio on an images folder that we update whenever necessary.

A TV is a versatile display device. What it displays is whatever you want. Getting it to display something new that nobody has seen before? Good luck with that, because even if you could, the world would copy its functionality in a second, even with Apple-style patents on it, into every STB and media center software around.

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Private cloud user in dialogue with Atmos, el Reg facilitating

Lee Dowling
Silver badge

Re: Affiliation with EMC

Ah, knew there would be a disclosure here somewhere, the papering-over-the-cracks-in-sanity was just too complete to be unscripted.

Your opinion is valid. So is mine. They are opinions, that's the point. Whose holds the most weight depends on the reader.

Personally, I just wrote you off as a corporate shill before I got to the second of your posts, but you can call me stupid for that if you like.

Anyone uses EMC but doesn't have a potential financial incentive to be nice to them like to express an opinion?

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Lee Dowling
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Re: Lee Downing

Would you like me to mirror a post I've just made on another site?

I do not need to be a paying customer of EMC to hold the opinion that their system is stupid if it's that unconfigurable (and where something as simple as changing an IP address might do anything that can't be undone by changing it back, or telling other systems about the change). If their systems are really that fragile that those IP's cannot be changed at will to suit the environment they are stored in (with suitable downtime and configuration, obviously), then it makes me worry that not only are they scamming the support ("Change a value in a configuration? Gosh, you'll have to pay us for that!") but that their products are not built to be customised in any way, shape or form, and also that they are doing things that are incredibly stupid to do (e.g. hard-coding addresses prior to shipping).

In the same way that I do not need to be a paying customer of Ferrari to think that their cars are gas-guzzling, or a paying customer of OnLive to express the opinion that it was set to fail from the start. Otherwise, opinions would be few and far between and only made by people with a vested interest in that opinion not making them look stupid for buying the product/service in the first place.

This is either a support-scam to change money to change a value in a box somewhere, or a complete ineptitude of design that doesn't take account that someone with appropriate permission, somewhere, sometime in the future might want to change IP's or even authentication on their devices. It would also make me wonder what happens when technology moves on - say you're starting an IPv6 migration. Are you then forced to use the addresses programmed into the device or pay someone to add that single configuration value for you because you didn't have it to hand when you bought the product?

Whatever way you look at it, it's ridiculous. That's not to say that it's not normal in some industries (a certain database vendor comes to mind) but that doesn't make it any less ridiculous.

"When creating subtenants, there is no selection box for the Authentication Source when using remote authentication. So, the subtenants are set to an Authentication Source that is not valid."

Suggests that a non-valid Authentication Source, which cannot be deleted, is present. And I would suggest that it no longer operates as an Authentication Source if it cannot be removed (security), or if it does not function (technicality).

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Lee Dowling
Silver badge

Changing IP addresses and removing old and broken authentication sources should be able to be done by anyone.

If your setup is so geared towards them never changing, then it's your problem to handle that when the administrator wants to do that (i.e. your software has to do all the fancy juggling and searching for those hard-coded strings elsewhere). But, personally, I'd just send it back as not fit for purpose.

If we were talking about a guy wanting to shove it into some completely unsupported configuration that shouldn't be possible, or tying into systems that he doesn't understand, EMC might have a case. But they're not. They're being asked to change an IP address and remove an authentication source that NO LONGER OPERATES.

Seriously, if you're hardware/software is that brain-dead that you don't pick this information up from a central configuration repository that can be changed at will by a privileged user, I'm not sure I'd want your kit near my systems.

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Dutch army digs in on spare spectrum rest of Europe could use

Lee Dowling
Silver badge

There ain't much radio kit that works through hundreds of metres of solid rock.

This is why there's still no Tube wifi, for example - you need to physically run a cable through every tunnel and put radios every few hundred metres, because the signal does not propagate. That's why Virgin's "free wifi" for the Olympics was about 100 WAP's stuck into stations that didn't cover more than a few metres into the tunnel.

It's also why you phone won't pick up (unless there's a base station in the Tube station somewhere), why police radios won't pick up, and why all the signalling on the Tube is done with cables.

Ya cannae beat the laws of physics, Jim.

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Microsoft's anti-Android Twitter campaign draws ire, irony

Lee Dowling
Silver badge

Ghandi anyone?

"First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win."

I'd say bashing your competition over something that you've historically failed at myriad times (sometimes due to knowingly making things "easier" rather than "safer") probably puts MS at #3 round about now.

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AI boffins take on Angry Birds

Lee Dowling
Silver badge

Re: Random levels required

For me, the problem is mildly interesting, if they do it properly and have full levels and full physics.

You have only very limited input (angle, power). But the results can be incredibly chaotic given that input (i.e. a tiny pixel either way, or a slight rounding error, and the whole screen collapses in a totally different way).

The problem is, though, that the amount of debris on the screen will be quite high and tracing parabolic paths through it to find a given target (even if you know where that target is), not to mention physics-based rolling and momentum, is extremely tricky. So I don't think that a "naive" interpretation would be interesting enough, or capable of enough. If you're just relying on finding a "magic set" of shots on each level, you might be sadly disappointed if the engine isn't 100% replayable. And to find that magic set, you would need so many attempts that it becomes a laughable task to attempt.

But looking for a path is also complicated, you wouldn't be able to use traditional game theory branching techniques to try to find an optimal path to the goal, there are just too many variations. You are basically looking at a high-level tree controlling, say, which target you actually target, in what order, and modify based on the amount of obstruction to them. However, the actual shots will have to be calculated quite well to be any good.

Worms AI, for example, used to pull off some incredible shots because it knew the end result of the physics was you dying. But it wasn't able to prioritise targets effectively, or know which were the greatest threat, and didn't cope well with obstructions (best way to win, if I remember, was to bury youself underneath the enemy and wait for him to run out of weapons and/or kill himself), and that's a lot more important in this game - if you aim for the wrong target first, or even cause collateral damage elsewhere, you can make it impossible to take out later targets because you've covered them in debris or blocked off access to the optimal parabola.

That said, I don't think it's particularly "new" or "interesting" in terms of AI. We won't be seeing any great computer science come out of it, because almost all the problems involved are "solved", just tricky to do and with huge amounts of analysis required to get it right. And absent that, it's about throwing away the right bits of information and doing things in larger discrete steps rather than analysing every possibility.

It's an interesting kind of "competition", in the everyday sense of the word (i.e. £250 to the winner or whatever), but it's not very interesting in terms of pushing forward AI or finding out anything new. It's just a new application for old techniques and developing some heuristic to optimise those techniques for this particular case.

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Lee Dowling
Silver badge

Re: What's that, then?

Ever played any sort of Scorched Earth clone or the Worms series?

You've played it then.

It was a cheap (free with adverts for lots of people) game with some basic 2d physics where you fire birds with different properties over obstacles to knock down a house and kill all the "pigs" (green circles with faces) inside.

About the best bit of it is the physics library used, Box2D, which is free and open-source. Since it was free and quite polished and bundled with app stores etc. it became very popular to people who didn't game during the DOS era (because they thought it was "new") and sold millions of copies. But all their spin-offs have to be angry-birds related or they don't sell, because the game itself is nothing special but the brand is now "famous". So you have angry-birds in lots of different locations, with different "types" of birds and even one in space where they've played with the gravity a little. But all attempts to do anything but merchandise angry-birds (everything from Christmas annuals to cuddly toys to a game with a little catapult to fire birds at structures with pigs in them) from the same company fail.

Remember tetris? How everyone went mad for it on Gameboy even though it was already out years before and there were several million clones within a week, and how the creator of Tetris never really went on to do anything else because it was the tetris name that was selling things? Same thing, 20 years later.

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Adobe demands 7,000 years a day from humankind

Lee Dowling
Silver badge

Re: Not enforcable anyway?

By definition, to have seen the Adobe EULA you are already running Adobe software and thus would (presumably) be bound by a EULA you haven't yet read. Don't forget that from the first assembler instruction you are bound by the licensing on that program. Similarly, ToU agreements on websites suffer from the same cyclical dependency - to agree to how to get here, you have to be here.

Similarly, if you are supplied with boxed software, you are sometimes agreeing to the license contained within (that you can't see) just by opening the box.

Thus, in law (and there has been a case with boxed Microsoft software, I believe), it's all a load of baloney. There might be an *implied* contract but asserting that the "I agree" box is legally binding is far from the truth. For a start, prove that I clicked Yes and it didn't just not show me that dialog at all... you can't. It's almost impossible to prove that I actually agreed and not, say, my cat, or my broken keyboard did it for me without me realising.

And that also means that if I can find a way to install the program WITHOUT seeing the EULA and agreeing to it, then I'm not bound by the EULA? I don't think that would wash in court either - and I have seen setup programs that I disagreed with the EULA, clicked the windows-close button and it carried on assuming I had agreed (and I've even seen one that had only an "I agree" box and nothing else).

And even if you think I accepted the EULA, most of it is nothing but legal boilerplate and quite a lot of it is, again, unenforceable in some jurisdictions anyway. They even acknowledge this in most EULA's. This is part of the fuss over "class action" clauses - you know, if there's ever a good reason to have a class action, then that part of the implied "contract" will just be deemed unfair and void anyway.

Making EULA's a binding agreement would be a possibility - but it would also mean that manufacturers would need to FORCE you to read them before having the product in your hands, they would need to be fair, they would need to be local to each jurisdiction, they would need to be provably signed and verified, and only THEN would you be able to provide the software based on the agreement - like good, old-fashioned contracts have always worked.

Nobody's yet contested it properly, because it will create an absolute MESS in the jurisdiction that successfully contests their legality and such things are expensive for everyone. But they are less enforceable than almost anything else you can imagine at the moment because of the grey areas. Most convictions for, e.g. copyright infringement, etc. do not rely on the provisions of the EULA at all because it's just a roundabout way of costing the whole industry a lot of money and pushing impossible restrictions onto the sale of digital good.

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Rumble in the Tumblr: Troll-worm infected thousands of blogs

Lee Dowling
Silver badge

Re: ... one count of identity fraud ...

It is not illegal to assume an alias.

Using it to commit fraud is another matter entirely.

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Littlest pirate’s Winnie-the-Pooh laptop on the way home

Lee Dowling
Silver badge

I don't get the uproar.

They settled. That probably means that copyright infringement was, somehow, admitted. I wouldn't give someone money on an extortion scheme just to stay out of court - you think you have a case, sue me. If not, go away. If they were that innocent, then they wouldn't have coughed up especially after getting in the press.

And what they did was still a legal grey-area. Sure, they could have fought it but settling seems to imply they didn't think it was going to be that clear-cut to clear their name (buying a CD earlier or not). The copyright licensing does, actually, not cover this situation and could easily go either way, and they probably knew that and thus probably knew that what they had done was copyright infringement. Whether that's "fair justice" for someone who bought the CD or not is a matter for those who want to change the laws to clarify them, but the word of the law just isn't that clear on the situation.

Thus, given that they chose to settle for a LOT more than the cost of the CD involved, the confiscation of multiple household computers - including a child's laptop - was probably reasonable and justified because the offence *probably* took place and thus investigation was fair. It's not like they ONLY confiscated the kids laptop, they confiscated all devices they found that could have been capable of the alleged (and now quite likely proven) infringement. And they did so through the proper legal channels. And they did return them once the investigation was resolved (or no longer necessary due to a settlement / admission).

So what, exactly, is the fuss? Are we seriously suggesting now that you can't confiscate a child's possessions in a case where there's reasonable likelihood they could have been involved? Guess where all the drug-dealers would start hiding their stash if that was the case? What if it was something more serious, say rumours that the laptops held pictures of the child being abused - is it allowed then? So only the severity of the infringement matters, not whether it contains evidence or not, or belongs to a child or not?

And technically, under the law, no child under 16 (or 18, depending on jurisdiction) owns ANYTHING at all, whatsoever. Their parents do. So saying "Oh, that's my kids laptop" is actually saying "That's *my* laptop", in legal terms. Which makes it a valid place to search for evidence if you *DO* get to the point that a seizure is about to take place, and thus it's a valid target for confiscation etc. so long as you follow the proper legal channels.

Just lately I've seen several articles with comments like this - the laws of evidence have not changed in years, letting off cases on a "oh, alright then" basis is the perfect way to collapse a case, miss evidence, and let people who have committed a crime get away with it. And the laws of such things apply down to even the simplest of civil cases - so long as you play the legal game and don't just storm in and confiscate things without the proper legal permission, it's all the same laws and the same courts providing the same rulings on what is and is not allowed, no matter the severity of the offence.

It's like saying that I get a parking ticket. I contest it. The court eventually asks for any and all evidence I have which may be of use to them (there are laws against self-incrimination but let's put that aside for a second). Are you saying they *can't* take my daughter's phone if she was in the car at the time and look for evidence (e.g. photos of her in the car parked on that spot)? What's the difference here?

A lot of people seem to be very shocked at a pretty basic application of legally-obtained court permission to seek evidence on an alleged offence. Perhaps this is why so many people who think they are smart and don't get a lawyer end up having to pay through the nose for simple legal mistakes?

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Flash memory made immortal by fiery heat

Lee Dowling
Silver badge

Re: *Licensable* design techniques *multiply* memory life by 10 000x

The fact is, that in computing my current computer is something like 500-1000 times faster than the first computer I ever owned, and has four cores (eight hyperthreaded) capable of that speed without even struggling. It has something like 300,000 times as much RAM as my first computer and a nearly a thousand times more storage, in units that didn't even exist when I was younger. My internet connection is something like 5000 times faster than my first Internet connection.

When an industry is this young, it's not hard to have huge multiples in performance. The first car was infinitely faster than any car before it. The second car probably went ten times or more faster. It's after that initial "burst" that things settle down (and thus things like CPU speed and RAM have stagnated in recent years). The first plane barely got off the ground, modern planes break the speed of sound if required.

And this isn't a factor of speed, or limited by aerodynamics, or some huge feat of science. It's making a relatively new and unresearched product (that, in one form or another, preceded even my first computer) to be more tolerant to long-term use. That's an entirely different statistic to increase, and far less interesting. The first car probably had a life-span of 10 minutes before it went boom. The second probably lasted a couple of days. Now we routinely get 100,000 miles out of them.

Multiples are a bad statistic to compare too, because they bias towards smaller improvements at lower figures. You won't get a 10-fold increase on the "new" MTBF if it turns out to be true, because that's so much more difficult and would be almost untestable (and thus, unlikely to ever happen). But you might well get an increase of 5-10 times in capacity of SSD's in the next couple of years.

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Lee Dowling
Silver badge

No different to the temperatures inside some printers, on tiny elements. Some thermal printers get up to the same temps on the tiny heads that look like little ribbon-cables that do the printing. It doesn't take much power because it's SO small an area heated (and so rapidly heated/cooled), doesn't heat to the point you can't touch things afterwards, and doesn't present a danger because there's not a lot of wattage there to do anything more than heat the very edge of the surface by the temperature (and even the other side of the paper/tape/label probably won't change in temperature AT ALL, or all your receipts would feel hot).

If it can be automated away from the user (because you just know they'll refresh cells more than necessary if they have any control over it, and it'll become one of those "data recovery" techniques like putting it in the oven/freezer), and provide that length of read-write cycle expansion, then it's got to be worth it.

Hurry up and get it to the point where it's all built into a single chip, with Flash and heaters and control circuitry and you'll be a millionaire.

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TomTom for Android with hands-free kit review

Lee Dowling
Silver badge

Re: Don't touch!

There is no "mobile phone" law. There are clarifications in the law for dangerous driving / driving without due care and attention caused by failing to have your full attention on the road, specifically relating to drivers using electronic devices in cars while driving.

Your satnav? Equally illegal to press the screen while driving (as is pressing a button on a phone or headset to answer a call). In fact, taking your hand off the wheel to do so is , technically, illegal, as is removing your hand from the wheel for anything not directly driving-related (e.g. turning the radio over, though you could probably get away with muting / power-off if it was a distraction to your driving, although changing gear, indicating, etc. is obviously allowed). In fact, even something as simple as opening the sunroof or looking at your watch could be considered driving without due care and attention.

The laws on driving are much more draconian than you might think, and though you will probably "get away" with things quite a lot, it's still technically illegal and people are still prosecuted because of quite simple actions everyday (there was a story only a few months ago about a guy charged with driving without due care because he took his hand off the wheel while holding the car with the footbrake in traffic - it only failed in court because it was hard to prove he hadn't put the handbrake on at some point).

Hence, why my sat-nav is installed out of view of the driver - it hangs out of a gap below the radio that you're supposed to put tissues etc. in, and faces downwards, conveniently near the electrical accessory socket (it's no longer called a cigar lighter for a reason!), and always has since I started driving.

(I have been told several times that, despite being in my 30's, my driving habits are unnecessarily "learner-like" and I obey things a lot of other people won't - I usually explain that I've grown up in a country with speed cameras, lane cameras, traffic light cameras, 24/7 CCTV, cars that talk home and lots of other problems, which most drivers today didn't. There is little point me "learning" to drive badly because it will get a lot worse before it gets better and I'll just be setting myself up for a fall. Most people actually nod in comprehension when I present this view, but I still get a few odd looks. Guess what, I also get in the right lane in time, indicate, read signage, refuse to go down one-way streets "even for a couple of yards", park only where it's safe and legal to park, and overtake using the two overtaking lanes when necessary and don't hog the middle lane when not - a lot of things that people who "drive properly" complain about of other drivers all the time).

My satnav has voice prompts for a reason and if, in traffic, I apply my handbrake and lift the screen, I can see it to make necessary changes, but otherwise I can't see the screen (though my passenger can). There is nothing worse than some moron with it glued to his screen (usually inside the intersection of the arc of the windscreen wiper and the area contained within two parallel vertical lines from either edge of the steering wheel where NO obstruction to your view, even a tiny chip on the glass, is allowed!) taking up 10% of his view and letting him look away from the road for minutes at a time JUST WHEN he needs to approach a tricky junction.

Go the wrong fecking way, and then correct if necessary rather than kill me, thanks! And I live within ten minutes of the Hanger Lane gyratory and drive more than anyone else I know (even my father, who's an HGV delivery driver in Central London). I *have* gone round a roundabout because I've missed my exit rather than cut lanes. I *have* had to join a motorway to avoid people who were cutting ME up even though I didn't want to (I was a learner at the time and was forced to pull over a few yards up on the slip road and get my ex- to drive me off it). I *have* had to go ten or more miles out of my way because I took a wrong turn because I didn't understand what my satnav wanted me to do, and I *have* had to miss numerous junctions because they came up before I was expecting them (usually while driving someone to their house) and I've had to go around the block rather than slam the brakes on and expect the poor guy behind me to know what was happening and react.

One day the surveillance that you all complain about will get to the point that it *can* catch you doing them even when on an empty motorway, and you will end up in a court unable to prove your case. Average speed cameras = CCTV cameras, nothing more. There are recorded instances of people blowing their nose while driving as they go past them and getting points for driving without due care - the law says you need to pull over, apply the handbrake and do whatever and then continue your journey, NOT do it while driving. Most people flout the laws because the enforcement of it isn't very good. That's likely to change before long, and without a single change in the law your driving habits will end up costing you a lot more trouble.

My acid-test for people when I'm in the passenger seat is how they use the handbrake. Sure, I can hold a car on the steepest of hills with a clutch, it's not a skill as such once you master being able to pull away from the lights, and I do do it when I expect the delay to be short-lived. But I've noticed a strong correlation between those who NEVER use the handbrake for anything (i.e. they use the gearstick to park too) and those who aren't aware of, or flout, laws in other areas of driving.

I don't claim to be a martyr, but all these things are already required of you when driving and, as a percentage, NOBODY does them. I do. Because one day you *won't* be able to get away with them and will be too busy trying to break old habits and contesting the surveillance laws to do anything about 50-year-old laws on driving that are still in force now, and still will be then.

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Lee Dowling
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I would literally pay through the nose for a decent TomTom app on Android. I have Android 2.3. But I have a Galaxy Ace, which has a low screen res. So, basically, I'm still waiting. Sure, I could buy one of the competition but I have a five-year-old TomTom that does a better job than anything I do on my phone (including Google Navigation) and doesn't kill my phone battery (data + GPS = plug-in charger for the whole time of driving to work or my phone would die by noon).

Ironically, the TomTom I have uses the same resolution screen as my phone, turned sideways, and I've never struggled for screen space even with the traffic plug-in turned on (I have the RDS-TMC receiver for my TomTom).

Sort that out, TomTom, and I might forgive you for the "map upgrade plan" you sold me just before you basically chopped my "all-of-Europe" maps into 4 parts, only one of which could be used at a time, and required laptop intervention and fresh download when I crossed borders. Funnily, my satnav was big enough to store all of Europe including roads, postcodes and everything else three years ago but not two years ago, apparently. Didn't realise the continent had expanded that much. Needless to say, that money was basically in the bin once you did that to me, and I refused to update to that stupid system at all, or buy another TomTom that *was* big enough.

But a decent Android app would have been enough for me to take you off my "grey-list" for a while at least. There's little point releasing an Android app if half the Android phones out there are just going to get a "This is not compatible with your device" message from Google Play.

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Lee Dowling
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Re: Why Bother?

TomTom's IQ routes is actually quite clever. It stores on the device statistics about certain roads on certain days / times of day, so it knows not to try road X on a Tuesday (even if the device isn't online!) because there's always traffic there on a Tuesday, lets you avoid rush-hour queues only during rush hour etc.

Google hasn't quite got the same traffic integration and basically relies on TDS-RMC, which is what old TomTom's used to use (the FM-radio add-on is the same TDS one that finds traffic announcements on your radio, that's no subscription) and was subverted by HD Traffic (online, pay-per-month service).

So if you're offline, IQ Routes does a better job on average. And if you're online and only pulling in TDS announcements, IQ Routes (so long as it pulls the latest updates regularly) or HD Traffic (which is basically an advanced TDS) will do better.

The re-routing is a function of any satnav and they're all pretty much the same with that regard (it's basically A* routing, which is pretty common CS theory, but with several factors for each "edge" - like known traffic time, distance from previous edge, "infinite" distance for roads you want to deliberately avoid etc.). All that really matters is the data, and though Google can probe lots of data (including TDS, no doubt, given that it's free to do so), there's a lot to be said for better traffic updates online and for having averaged traffic knowledge when offline. That's what HD Traffic and IQ Routes are. But IQ Routes is at least free.

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Who's using 'password' as a password? TOO MANY OF YOU

Lee Dowling
Silver badge

The difference is what was secured by these passwords.

A personal email account you get receipts etc. emailed to? Yes, that's an error to choose a weak password.

A throwaway Yahoo account because you were forced to sign up to it by product X? Who cares?

An eHarmony account that you really don't care about people hacking and only set up for a laugh? Again, who cares?

Anyone with a brain has a set of different passwords for various things. My father's Windows Login password (which, incidentally, is totally unnecessary as it does nothing and the admin account is open if you know the double-Ctrl-Alt-Delete trick or use Safe Mode or whatever) is such a password. But his banking one is secure. His password to the account on the website he signed up to one to buy a bit from his car (but stores no credit card details)? That's different again and though not "secure" is probably not guessable even if you know him. His password for the christmas giftlist document that I share with him? Incredibly insecure but stops him clicking on it and accidentally showing mum what he got for Christmas. This is a man that has trouble turning a computer on and takes an hour to install a simple program because he reads every line of text on the screen (not the license agreements, all the surrounding "Click next to proceed with installation" etc. gumpfh) and can't see what he's supposed to press next.

The security of passwords is general is (like all statistics) meaningless without context. I have and use a number of insecure passwords for things I don't care about and don't WANT to use my secure passwords on (because if they are compromised, then they might be able to do some damage elsewhere). And my secure passwords (of which I have many levels but sometimes re-use things for passwords of the same "level"), are all unguessable. I have a very good memory for passwords, but I'm not going to make unique ones for everything I do because I will spend my LIFE logging on, and will end up having to put them all in one place which is inherently less secure than re-using passwords for similar levels of access (i.e. if you compromise, say, my forum account, yes you could probably use it on some other forums I frequent, but none of them will give you more access to information than the account password originally compromised, or any other forum account I use).

As an extreme example, the password for my banking is some incredibly secure thing and used only for banking purposes in combination with a OTK device. I have a password that I only use for Government Gateway services even though I haven't really used those in years now. I have a password for anything that involves financial matters no related to my bank (e.g. pre-paid credit cards, etc.). The password for any site that stores my credit card information is different but on the same level of security and sometimes shared between partner sites. Additionally, I have a one-off sign-up password for sites I've never used before but which want my credit card information stored. I can cancel a rogue card transaction from them and know who it was, but I can't suffer a password leak that might affect other sites I visit if they are clever and try to reuse / guess my details elsewhere to gain more access.

I have a password for accounts of value even if they have no credit card information associated (e.g. Steam). I have a password for anything that stores personal information on me but which doesn't store payment information or isn't payment related. I have a password for sites that I need to log into but which I wouldn't care about someone accessing as me (e.g. forums, etc.), and I have a password that I use to get past anything that demands one for no real reason.

Each password (and sometimes there are three-four passwords for each level depending on the security of the level) is different and all but the very lowest levels are secure passwords. I can also tell, by the very service that the website is trying to offer me, what the password for a site I hardly visit but have an account for is likely to be (and unlikely to take more than a couple of guesses and thus unlikely to be "locked out"), and even a compromise of one site's password that's advertised with full details all over the world will ever let you into an account with more "power" or containing more information than the compromised site. And I have to remember only 10 passwords, which is way within the realm of sanity, and because they can be remembered, I never have to write them down.

And my Yahoo password for an old Geocities account I had years ago which was forcibly upgraded to Yahoo? That's probably not that important to me because all it lets you do is log into Yahoo Search as me (and I haven't used Yahoo search since the Geocities days!). Dating sites? They would end up in the last category (i.e. I have to have a password, but don't particularly care about what it is). LinkedIn? I signed up to it once to talk to an old friend, didn't even put my name on the account. A quick login suggests that's also in the last category. Last.fm? If I had an account for it, it would also be the last one.

So it's really bad to try to take away anything new from this article. People choose rubbish passwords when they are asked for a password to protect rubbish. This is like having 1234 on the combination to keep your wheelie bin shut so it doesn't bang in the wind, who cares? But your bike probably has a half-decent combination on it and a better lock.

Now do a survey of the passwords people use on Amazon or Steam or their bank and see how different the results are.

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Clap Google, Amazon in irons to end tax shenanigans - MPs

Lee Dowling
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Re: But what about muh socialism?

The companies normal technique is to say, by shifting tax obligations around, that they don't make any profit in the UK whatsoever. They do this by being "forced" to pay a 100%-of-their-profits payment to the people who own their franchise. Which is them, in a "fake" company, off-shore, that does nothing but is only where those profits are taxed by miniscule amounts and never get back to the UK.

There's more to it than that, but basically the profits are all sent overseas and, with some fancy accounting, companies that take billions in profit are actually recorded on the forms in the UK as never having made any.

This affects not only things like corporation tax (which is then effectively zero), but also other taxes. They are basically paying themselves for the rights to use their own names and in doing so shifting all profit to off-shore companies that, under UK law, would be required to pay a lot more tax. Even if they were to have just a UK subsidiary that paid that tax properly, and then profits shipped off-shore, the taxation from the UK would be "normal", "moral", and nobody would complain. And, in fact, that's what most of their competitors (e.g. Costa Coffee) do and STILL manage to make a profit and hold themselves against Starbucks in terms of competition.

And literally ANY idiot with a clever lawyer and accountant can set up any number of "empty" companies in tax-free countries and come up with the same arrangement to pay almost zero tax in the UK or elsewhere.

Yes, they pay their employees income tax, for those vital employees that are based in the UK and have to be. But they also pay some other country's tax regime a lot less to house their accounting "fronts" which should also be in the UK (like their competitors do). The VAT is a no-win, you only pay VAT on things that you add value to (so buying in your coffee from your external franchiser at the "sale price" and then selling it direct gives you a lot of ways to NOT add value to it, and thus eliminates a lot of VAT that should be paid in the UK - this is more tricky though, because of the way VAT works, and a lot less companies can scam this side of things successfully - Amazon basically operated from Jersey for years because it basically exempted them from VAT by the same tricks but we cut that loophole just recently).

A company should NOT be able to make more money by playing tricks with international fake firms, shipping goods ten times the distance necessary to deliver a book to you, or anything else along those lines and then twisting the way / location they pay tax. That is a complete failure of a taxation system and that's what they will be rectifying.

Do you know, until recently, you could avoid a lot of tax by saying you were employed by an umbrella company that did nothing but "employ" people and hire them out to others, instead of being self-employed and doing the same jobs? That's a failure of the taxation system and that's been rectified just recently. The biggest players of that one? NHS hospitals and school supply agencies. You're still paying all legally required tax and still paying income tax, but the way you do it means it becomes "cheaper" by avoiding certain taxes and tax requirements.

Nobody is saying they pay zero tax. What we're saying is that (commercially) they are the equivalent of the millionaire next door who, because he can employ an accountant, doesn't pay one-half of what his out-of-work, on-benefits next-door-neighbour pays in tax when both fill out all their forms correctly (there's a difference between correctly and not-morally-repugnant). And that's not an exaggeration. And that's what we're trying to fix.

Imagine that you didn't have to pay tax on fuel. But only if you were part of a large corporation. The next day, a million people would form a company that collectively did nothing but buy fuel for its shareholders. It would pay no tax, and a million people would have avoided a tax that everyone else had to pay. Is that legally allowed? In this case, yes. Is that fair? No. Is it a good taxation scheme? No. Even if it's ONLY the tax on petrol, or income tax, or excise, or whatever - everyone else is playing ball and paying that tax. These companies are not, by doing something where the ONLY purpose of that process is to avoid UK tax.

Just because they paid a few million in tax, it doesn't mean they SHOULDN'T be paying the few billion that their competitors are. Because if you DON'T fix that, we all end up not paying enough tax, which (if you don't reclaim it from those companies) is recouped by raising things like income tax and excise duties, making you and I pay more, or suffer a loss of public services. And if we don't fix that, and all companies in the UK do the same thing, we end up with no "real" businesses operating inside the UK and we're literally just financing other countries indirectly at great personal cost to ourselves.

Nobody is saying they did anything illegal, or paid zero tax. What we're saying is that they provably played accounting games to pay MUCH, MUCH less tax than they would do without them playing those games. Tax that pays for our public services, and provides them with electricity and roads and premises to do business in. The fix is to not only make THEM itemise the bill for the taxman, but to charge a financial transaction tax on such games and anything similar that crops up to replace them.

Otherwise, you might as well just throw the whole taxation system out of the window. The point of a taxation system is to CAPTURE people who are making money and take a fair percentage of it. If that percentage isn't sufficient, or the people making money are difficult to capture, laws are introduced to MAKE it sufficient and MAKE them let themselves known.

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IETF bakes Google's SPDY protocol into HTTP 2.0

Lee Dowling
Silver badge

Opera has supported SPDY for at least two stable versions already. You get a nice little lightning icon colour itself when it's in use.

Yet again, the browser that has all this before the others doesn't even get a mention in preference to Amazon's Silk (which I had to go look up what the hell that was).

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Samsung: Demand for mobes forced 16hr days on factory slaves

Lee Dowling
Silver badge

Re: Not just China

Sorry, but if you're asked to work outside your hours, you refuse. Unless you are being suitably compensated.

Scared to lose your job? What about if they demand you have to stand on one leg while you work, or only pee on their approved times? Just going to tolerate it to keep the job? No.

Work elsewhere as soon as feasibly possible. Refuse to work overtime without suitable (agreed) compensation. Threaten to bring in unions or legislation to monitor them. Then see how much quicker your bosses hire more workers, reduces the workload or stops promising the impossible. And if they don't stop? Well, then you *DO NOT* want to work there.

Your health is worth hundred times your salary, or more. If you *want* to stay, to see the project through, get the work done, shoot for promotion, earn some extra money, do so. If you don't, don't. I guarantee you that some of your colleagues are refusing to do the same things as you are *volunteering* to do already and you don't even know about it. If your work contract ties you into that? It's either an unfair contract, or you're an idiot for signing it in the first place.

If you go to a tribunal and show you clocked in and out every day on the time you were supposed to and churned out a reasonable amount of work for that time, not a court in the land won't find for you on grounds of unreasonable working conditions or constructive dismissal. You don't even need to be a union member (I often give the impression that I am, and yet have NEVER been a union member and, similarly, have never taken things like that from an employer).

You can bring out the line about the tough jobs market of today if you like, but seriously - you are CHOOSING to work those hours VOLUNTARILY. Maybe in preference to having to be sacked and go through a tribunal, but you have nobody to blame but yourself.

The beauty about the UK is NOT that there aren't inconsiderate and illegal employers - it's that when there are you have a good chance of winning a valid legal case against them without much problem. That's the difference between a "civilised" country and any other, not that there are a few rogue companies. Like the complaints department of your supplier - it's not what you phone up to complain about, it how they handle your complaint (i.e. with extreme horror in the cases of serious complaints) that makes the difference.

Strap on a pair and stop working into the night without prior, mutual agreement.

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BOFH: Cannot terminate PFY instance... ACCESS DENIED

Lee Dowling
Silver badge

Re: Talking of contracts

It is true that, since reading Terry Pratchett as a child, I have been singularly unable to not use the word bursar without thinking of his characterisation of the position.

It's very annoying when you're working in a school with one...

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Lee Dowling
Silver badge

Talking of contracts

The school I work for just got one of the cheapest leased lines in the world, I think.

We called round several places to get a leased line (finally, it's not just me that's sick of balancing unreliable ADSL connections) and got lots of quotes back. Some negotiation later, my bursar comes in laughing to himself. Managed to wangle a three-year contract with a Virgin reseller, somehow for less than the cost that Virgin were reselling for. Cue lots of shouting on the phone and very, very, very stressed employees the other end.

Turns out, by the time the bursar was picking himself up off the floor of my office, he already had received a contract to those terms, signed it, sent it back, and got confirmation. And the termination clauses that said company had inserted were, shall we say, not biased to either party. It would probably cost them more than they would lose on the leased line to cancel, but only just, so we either get a hefty bundle of free cash to cover the entire length of the contract, or they have to supply us with a loss-making leased-line. Oh, and we got a free upgrade to the bandwidth because of some reason-or-other that means they'd have to supply an even-more expensive line than the loss-making one they were originally going to give us.

We have an installation date near Christmas, too. Should be interesting. They are currently trying to pull the old "well, it's near Christmas and the equipment in your road needs an upgrade" line, but given that the Virgin Media installation guy who surveyed us said that - if it wasn't that he needed the reseller's information and permission - he could have had it in in about an hour with no work necessary, that's line is unlikely to wash. They're obviously stalling, but we don't mind. A clause in the contract states activation dates, etc. and that if they aren't met, we get paid for that too.

I've seen that bursar almost reduce salesmen to tears in order to make a good price, and they usually end up regretting it, while we normally end up revelling in it.

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Smear campaign

Lee Dowling
Silver badge

Work in a school

with 400 snotty little things (especially the lower years where they are still wetting themselves) who have no idea that the screen doesn't need to be touched, or that using a hanky to rid bogies that have been extricated with due care and attention with a finger might be a good idea before touching the keyboards.

I've worked in many primaries where you are literally afraid to touch the keyboard (and staff have their own!) or screen and even on ones where the smears can build up to the point where you can't read the text because it's all fuzzy - in a SINGLE DAY before the cleaners can get round again!

The adults are no better and I admit that even my personal, private laptop that NOBODY touches on pain of death often has to be screen-wiped because of visible fingerprints (quite clearly mine) that I have no idea how they got there.

And MS's next bright idea? Let's all use touchscreens to start programs and do word-processing. *REALLY* not looking forward to next year's upgrade to Windows 8 on the touchscreen PC's we bought (which, fortunately, have no XP touchscreen driver, so we just didn't tell anyone that they *are* touchscreen)...

P.S. We use a company called BugBusters who will come in and sanitise all your work surfaces for a decent price. We currently use them 2-3 times a year, on top of the amount of personal cleaning, cleaner-cleaning, and "look what you've done, now wipe it off" cleaning that our computer screens get.

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