* Posts by Stuart Longland

1160 posts • joined 11 Jan 2008

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Ugly, incomplete, buggy: Windows 10 faces a sprint to the finish

Stuart Longland
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Wonder if Cortana (who came up with that one BTW?) will reply as cutely as Siri when asked "Hey Siri, talk dirty to me"

Dunno, but the name "Cortana" isn't a common one. Got mistaken for "Cortina" around here the other day. Now there's a blast from the automotive past.

What's wrong with checking if there is ActiveX etc... on the page and if so silently switching to the old rendering engine and adding that site to a list so it's rendered with the old engine straight away in the future. Also all local Intranet sites are rendered by default with the old engine.

No, can't see any malware problems with that approach…

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Stuart Longland
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Personally I love being able to multitask when the modal start-menu is on-screen in W7. Hang on, I can't. Maybe the other 95% of the screen could serve some purpose when looking for apps...

Like keeping a document in view so that you can continue referring to it as you look for other said app in the start menu?

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El Reg Redesign - leave your comment here.

Stuart Longland
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Re: @diodesign (was:jake)

"The hero pic works well HOW, exactly?"

A picture tells 1,000 words, etc.

No seriously, how can it? The picture's too damn small. I'm running 1280×800 here and it only takes up a quarter of it. Then there's all the waste of space text below it!

Tell you what, why don't the designers do away with the silly text below and make the image the full browser window?

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Stuart Longland
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Re: Bring back the Print button!

"This would be one workaround. I just had a look at the page source, and indeed, a screenreader would have fun trying to find the content of the page."

Does your screen reader software not pick up the 'skip to content' link near the top of every page? I might get Orca running and see if it does pick up the link.

My screen-reader doesn't need to as I use the one I was born with, built into my skull. Not quite 20:20 vision, but good enough.

That said, I can understand the need for them and feel for those who have to put up the crap artsy web-designers foist onto them.

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Stuart Longland
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Re: FFS JUST PUT IT BACK!!!

At least they didn't take their inspiration from Windows 8… now that is a site that's been made utterly useless by a makeover.

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Stuart Longland
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Re: Yeah. About that...

Fair go, they need to pay their bills somehow.

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Stuart Longland
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Re: Bring back the Print button!

One fix is to rearrange the order of the page elements in the raw file. Currently it seems as though everything at the top and/or right of the screen is rendered before the meat of the article although I do sympathise if you sre stuck with a CMS that forces you do things the way the CMS authors want it done rather than the way you, the users would like to do it.

This would be one workaround. I just had a look at the page source, and indeed, a screenreader would have fun trying to find the content of the page.

http://www.qsl.net/vk4ba/ is the last site I had any real task designing ground-up, where I employ this exact technique.

You'll note the navigation is at the bottom of the page (DOM-wise) with links in the header. Aside from the logo, which has a blank ALT tag (so hopefully it isn't read out, since its function is more decorative), there's very little that isn't page content related at the start.

I don't have a screenreader to test that site with, but visually impaired users was one potential audience I was thinking of. It looked okay in Lynx. I haven't done anything with that site for some time now, as other members of the club maintain it.

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Why, hello there, Foxy... BYE GOOGLE! Mozilla's browser is a video star

Stuart Longland
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Re: I find FF fast enough, and much faster than manually doing things in IE in Chrome.

Thunderbird, I notice likes its RAM.

Yesterday I came in having left my machine running over a long weekend, and the machine was crawling. Thunderbird was eating about 4GB RAM all on its own. Hit ^Q and let Thunderbird shut down, significant RAM got freed, then I re-started Thunderbird and all ran sweetly after that.

Extensions are a common cause of slowness, in my case I have:

- Enigmail

- Lightning

- SoGO connector

and not much else that I can recall.

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I don't think you're ready for this Jelly: Google pulls support for Android WebView

Stuart Longland
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Re: WTF @Stuart

In the interests of science, I have asked ZTE

And the reply, after much backwards and forwards, was basically along the lines of: No, we forget devices even exist once released. They use the excuse that this model was developed in early 2013 (after Android 4.2.1), and apparently it's cheaper to back-port every fix than to just port their changes to a newer OS.

They allege the release on these devices "includes a fix for known security issues". With no formally released sources or change-log, and an ever widening gap between code branches we've only got their say-so on that. Pretty sure the WebView vulnerability won't be among those fixes.

IMO devices that are not supported by the manufacturer should be a fully open design so that the end user has at least a fighting chance, but that's just a pipe dream. Commerce says we should just buy new every 10 minutes and throw the old away.

If I had the resources, I'd do it myself, but unfortunately getting something that would be workable would be a significant challenge for a one-man band.

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Stuart Longland
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Re: WTF @Stuart

So you bought a product which is still under warranty and is now known to have a defect that was in place at the time of manufacture.

In the interests of science, I have asked ZTE:

http://www.longlandclan.yi.org/~stuartl/images_tmp/ZTE_Australia_Support_Feedback_-_2015-01-17_05.10.48.png

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Stuart Longland
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Re: WTF @Stuart

"ZTE won't assist me in updating the OS, and going it alone will void the warranty. I just have to put up with the older OS, I have no choice."

So you bought a product which is still under warranty and is now known to have a defect that was in place at the time of manufacture. That sounds like a reasonable complaint to take up with them under Sale of Goods and/or any other applicable consumer protection laws.

I bought a product, the one and only product on the market from what I can see, which has the closest match to the (hardware) feature set that I'm after in a device.

My choice is binary, either I buy it, or I do without, and I need a phone for work.

The difference is that a computer running Windows XP can theoretically be updated to run another OS. Possibly even Windows 10 beta if that's your preference.

A phone cannot be updated by the end user as easily. If an over-the-air update isn't available from the vendor, you're on your own.

Your argument works the other way round. If the PC can be upgraded to a newer version of Windows by the user, then there is no need for older versions to be supported for 13 years... On the other hand, if the Android handset cannot be upgraded then it means that it is reliant on those security patches from the manufacturer being delivered in a timely manner for the lifetime of the product (5 to 10 years).

Yes, I recognise this… and surprisingly I do understand Microsoft eventually dropping support for older OSes. You might be surprised to note that not much software runs easily on Red Hat Linux 8.0, which was latest and greatest when Windows XP came on the scene.

It'd help though if cowboy coders and sloppy design didn't combine to produce a whole raft of software packages that break when said sloppy design got cleaned up.

But I digress… Handset makers should either be prepared to keep up, or they should provide the materials to the end user to let them keep up (either themselves, or pay someone for it).

stuartl@portege ~ $ uname -a

Linux portege 3.11.2-portege-dirty #3 PREEMPT Sun Oct 6 13:47:57 EST 2013 i686 Pentium II (Deschutes) GenuineIntel GNU/Linux

^^ See, even old kit can run a recent OS. That's a PII 300MHz laptop with 160MB RAM and a 160GB HDD running Gentoo, acting as an APRS I-Gate. Does the job fine.

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Stuart Longland
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Re: WTF

No, no, no. This is totally, totally different to MS dropping support for XP, and a load of fandroids will be along to explain how any second, without a hint of irony....

The difference is that a computer running Windows XP can theoretically be updated to run another OS. Possibly even Windows 10 beta if that's your preference.

A phone cannot be updated by the end user as easily. If an over-the-air update isn't available from the vendor, you're on your own.

It figures Android 4.1 would make that list, I literally just replaced my Android 4.0 phone this week after some water got into the LCD and developed circular black spot about 25mm in diameter up the top-right corner. That phone was barely 2 years old.

The phone I bought to replace it, I bought due to its hardware features (apparently can tolerate being dunked 1m in water, and it offers the ability to connect external antennas) thinking that they might have updated the OS.

ZTE won't assist me in updating the OS, and going it alone will void the warranty. I just have to put up with the older OS, I have no choice.

Thankfully there's the F-Droid marketplace and Firefox on Android, so at least I can keep some software up-to-date when Google decide to stop supporting v4.1 altogether.

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Polish chap builds computer into a mouse

Stuart Longland
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Re: finally.

Wonderful, a laptop minus its screen…

Yes, personal computers did once look like that, because screens were the expensive bit, and so they just used your television set.

Devices like the Intel NUC and Zotac ZBox are small enough to bolt to the back of a monitor and not be noticed. We've had one of the latter units bolted to the back of a monitor in our office reception area for a few years now and you could plug any keyboard you liked into it.

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Stuart Longland
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Indeed, but those are clunky Windows CE based devices intended for industrial use. You could embed a quite decent CPU in the earcups of most headphones capable of doing the necessary voice processing to make a usable interface.

Unlike Google Glass, most people are used to seeing people wearing headphones and so they would likely be more socially acceptable.

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FORCE Apple to support BlackBerry hardware, demands John Chen

Stuart Longland
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Re: Erm, wrong

The one area where there might be a valid argument, though, is to require enough of the protocol to be public so that Blackberry (or someone else) could write their *own* iMessage compatible app.

This could be worthwhile: I don't care so much about whether an implementation of a system is open, but so long as I choose how I access it.

Me personally: I don't care enough about Netflicks to get worked up about not being able to access it. In fact, it was only until very recently that we could get Netflicks at all, thanks the the daft policies that forget the Internet is global.

There's some nice shows to watch? Great. So what? I'll just be a little patient and buy them on DVD later. Sure, it's quaint, but I've got a life to live rather than sitting around watching TV shows all day.

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Stuart Longland
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Re: Erm, wrong

It would set an interesting precedent though… no?

Customer: I'm having problems connecting to your Internet service

Helpdesk: What OS are you running?

Customer: Ubuntu Linux

Helpdesk: I'm sorry we don't support Linux

Customer: But net neutrality requires you to do so. Shall I call the FCC?

Unfortunately such a ruling would only have effect in the US, other countries would likely be unaffected.

Personally I don't see it happening. "Access to services" yes, but this is about ensuring there's the necessary bandwidth in links to support higher level applications: which can stream whatever they like over that link.

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Drinking to forget? OK. But first, eat a curry... QUICK!

Stuart Longland
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Re: So not a meal to have…

Good point: it's related to one particular ingredient curcumin. The question is, do the traditional Indian ones carry this ingredient in significant quantities or is it a Western addition?

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Stuart Longland
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So not a meal to have…

… whilst studying for an exam then. Perhaps that explains the sorry state of IT in India…?

(Not all of India I should point out, just the small minority that gets all the press for bad code.)

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Pull up the Windows 10 duvet and pretend Win8 and Vista were BAD DREAMS

Stuart Longland
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Ahh Windows Ten… holding on to face the music.

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Stuart Longland
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Re: Have you actually used PowerShell to automate GUI operations?

You know that to run Windows 3.1 you typed "Windows" from the dos prompt? Hardly hacked onto it later....

Actually, the command was "win". Rather ironic since I didn't get that winning feeling when the Program Manager appeared.

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spɹɐʍʞɔɐB writing is spammers' new mail filter avoidance trick

Stuart Longland
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Yes, because a spambot couldn't possibly harvest a name and email address from a compromised website you signed up to or a public mailing list archive that you might post emails to.

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Microsoft snubs Codeplex, moves big projects to GitHub

Stuart Longland
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Re: CodePlex never had much success

In other words it was typical I-have-my-kids-brainwashed-Ballmer-type thinking.

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Jammin', we know you hate jammin' too: Marriott U-turns on guest Wi-Fi ban

Stuart Longland
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They have a point IF and only IF…

… said hotspot is attempting to lure other visitors to connect to it. i.e.

- by appearing to be a Mariott WIFI network (thus possibly someone attempting a MITM attack)

- by appearing to be a rival WIFI business (the network must be for personal use)

OR, if the WIFI network is improperly secured, since OS makers these days seem to think it's acceptable to have devices automatically connect to any open WIFI network (regardless of whether the owner wants it to or if it's legal to do so — a feature I turn off in short order) and having unsecured networks may expose other guests' personal data or enable MITM-style attacks if this were to happen.

However, it really should be detected first, an alarm raised, then a human decides how to act. A person operating such a device maliciously can be asked to leave. A person operating such a device in a non-malicious manner poses minimal risk, no more than what WIFI networks in neighbouring properties would do.

To the Mariott management, sure, DO have rogue access point detection enabled, so that it can flag a warning. Set up equipment so you can triangulate the position of said rogue AP. (There's a business opportunity for someone who can come up with some sensible kit that can do it reliably and inexpensively.) Then a human can decide if the threat is worth acting on.

DO NOT just assume it's a threat and jam it, that will get the likes of the FCC/Ofcom/ACMA/… upset as it will your customers. That is why you got fined. That is why you will be fined again if it continues.

No I'm not an employee or customer of the Mariott, not likely to. Even less likely too in light of these revelations. In fact I'd probably want to avoid staying at any hotel within RF range of a Mariott for these reasons too.

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Windows 7 MARKED for DEATH by Microsoft as of NOW

Stuart Longland
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Re: WTF?

Banks lol - was at a cashpoint the other week -- the one next to me then crashed and rebooted something called OS2 Warp?

Consider yourself lucky. The upgrade path for those ATMs over here has been Windows NT. Yes, I didn't say XP or Vista or 7. I said "Windows NT". I fear those ATMs...

At least both OS/2 and Windows NT (<= 4.0) based ATMs are immune to almost all* attacks via USB.

(* the BIOS might recognise USB HID and do PS/2 keyboard/mouse emulation.)

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Grand Theft Auto 1997: 'Sick, deluded and beneath contempt'

Stuart Longland
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For a bit of fun…

Piss the cops off enough so they start to chase you, then go walk onto an overpass.

They'll try to "arrest" you from the road. Naturally this will not work, and they'll keep hovering beneath you. Eventually one of their gung-ho colleagues will race past in his car and splatter them: instant points.

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Would you buy a domain from Google? Industry weighs in on web giant's move

Stuart Longland
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Re: Google is DNS for most people

I can't say I know Vint Cerf's phone number either but I'm still in the habit of typing full URLs… back in 1996 there wasn't any real alternative.

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It's 2015 and ATMs don't know when a daughterboard is breaking them

Stuart Longland
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Re: indeed WTF

My understanding is that the USB port is used by a technician to do maintenance/diagnostics on the ATM. Disabling the port may turn all ATM repairs into "swap unit and return to base for repair".

That actually may not be such a silly idea for stand-alone units. Wheel a new machine in, swap the cash drawer over, wheel the old machine out. The downside to this is it'll add to the cost of maintenance.

It's still a problem for in-wall mounted units however. Really these are machines that should not have wide-open USB ports: at the very least they should only be enabled when in maintenance mode, and even then, restricted in what kinds of device can be connected.

The fact that they are so wide open, and the fact they often run ancient consumer OSes (once upon a time, OS/2, today Windows NT 5.0/5.1) tells me they're not serious about tackling the security problem.

Thankfully, my bank account is old enough to have a reasonably secure and old-fashioned alternative: a passbook. I'll just use that until such time as circumstance forces me to change.

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Stuart Longland
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Re: First rule

If you're in the branch, why not just walk up to the human behind the counter and have a chat while you withdraw some cash?

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BAN email footers – they WASTE my INK, wails Ctrl+P MP

Stuart Longland
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Re: HEAR HEAR!!!

If you send it directly to their MX from your outgoing server, you are handing it off directly to their nominated server, which will be run by people who owe a duty of confidentiality to the recipient, whether as an employee or as a contractor like MessageLabs. There will be no arbitrary SMTP servers in between, only the ones the recipient has arranged for.

I only just saw this, so here comes the late reply.

Depending on your infrastructure, you may or may not be in a position to send directly to their MX. Many ISPs intercept or block direct SMTP traffic as a means of mitigating spam and malware (amongst other things), forcing their users to route SMTP traffic through their server.

I'll let you join the dots from here.

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Stuart Longland
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Re: HEAR HEAR!!!

"By law"? What law?

I'd think full name, position, a contact phone number and a website URL is sufficient. That will easily fit into 4 lines.

By the Business Names Act, 1985. Unfortunately the law doesn't care what you think is sufficient.

So you're basing this on a law that predates email? This is not the post.

Moreover, if people did put the sort of disclaimers on their letters that they insist on with their emails, the humble envelope would have gone the way of the dodo with all the reams of paper being jammed in there.

Some of these disclamers would take up as much as a third of a A4 sheet of paper. I think you'll find that what is included in many cases is simply not necessary.

Perhaps you'd like to point out the particular rule in that law that states that a legal disclaimer must be included?

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Stuart Longland
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Re: HEAR HEAR!!!

No.

Length: The footer must by law be included in most business emails, and the legally mandated information can easily exceed six lines.

"By law"? What law?

I'd think full name, position, a contact phone number and a website URL is sufficient. That will easily fit into 4 lines.

Confidentiality

If you send the message directly to the public MX, you have the same expectation of confidentiality as if you sent it first class to their mailroom. If you encrypt the connection using SMTP/TLS you have the same expectation of confidentiality as if you sent it to their mailroom in a locked container. Either way it is a pretty strong expectation of confidentiality. This is because confidentiality is a legal obligation not to misuse information, it is not primarily about technical measures but social and legal ones.

Then it's probably better to be explicit and up-front about it at the start of the email. Tell them in the first few lines that this email DOES in fact contain confidential and/or privileged material. i.e. have an email template especially to use on those occasions.

Not a "by the way this MIGHT (or might NOT) contain", be explicit. What's confidential, where is it, who may see it. A generic vague wordy blurb at the bottom serves no one.

Legalese

I agree that the legalese is often bullshit but that's for two reasons, neither of them being the ones you noted.

1) Confidential information often (usually?) remains confidential even if it is accidentally disclosed to someone who shouldn't have had it. That person will often also have a duty not to disclose the information e.g. under the data protection act if it is personal information, or on pain of contempt of court if it is to do with court proceedings, or under common law equity rules. In these cases the legalese is unnecessary. All they need to say is "This email may contain confidential or legally privileged information". Even that may be unnecessary depending on the circumstances.

Hmmm mmm, and yes, those public mail archiving packages do read and respect those legalese footers don't they?

http://comments.gmane.org/gmane.comp.java.sonar.general/39778

Oops. That's not an isolated example either.

2) If the legalese says "for the sole use of the addressee" then it is worse than useless because a) it is often not for the sole use of the addressee, and b) because if it is accidentally misaddressed it may not even be for the use of the addressee at all. All they need to say is "If you think you may have received this by accident please tell us so we can sort it".

However I am not a lawyer, and clearly there are lawyers who think long legalese disclaimers are necessary.

They do, because often they are paid to write them.

Once again, if it truly is for the addressee, then it should say so up the top before someone reads something that isn't meant for them.

I don't know about you, but I read my emails from the top down (for this reason I also place my replies either inline or below quoted text). I do not read from the email signature going up. This information needs to be made known before any significant disclosure takes place.

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Stuart Longland
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HEAR HEAR!!!

Especially when said legalese tells the world + sundry that the email may contain "confidential" information and was sent to a publicly-archived mailing list! It seems to be the corporate fashion these days, as is HTML in email.

I noticed recently my email signature started to show a long legalese blurb, and it was the first thing to go. I participate on far too many publicly archived mailing lists as part of my day-to-day job to have this hindrance to communication.

I'm also the office Luddite with plain-text emails.

A few reasons why legal disclaimers should not be placed in email signatures:

- They are too long to fit in an email signature, which should be approximately 4 lines long, 6 at an ABSOLUTE maximum

- The content often presumes facts about the email and its intended audience which mostly wind up not being the case or places restrictions which are not appropriate for the intended audience

- They appear AFTER the email content, so it's only when you get to the footer do you realise "Oops, I shouldn't have been reading that!"

Due to the last two points, I would suspect they have next to no legal value. Pretty sure for a legal document to stand, the person has to see it and agree to it first before it becomes binding.

Moreover, email is inherently plain-text unless you've taken steps to ensure privacy (e.g. using industry-standard tools like S/MIME or OpenPGP). Unless you do this, I think it unreasonable to assume any kind of confidentiality over email.

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Sphere 3D: Our pop-out 2TB disk product? Of COURSE it's rugged

Stuart Longland
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Re: Very disappointed

Indeed, I was looking forward to having a ball with these…

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Buffer overflow reported in UEFI EDK1

Stuart Longland
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Re: Of course! @Stuart

Please explain how Secure Boot is destined to become more of a headache than the problem it tries to solve.

On paper, Secure Boot looks good. It has a number of flaws though.

Secure Boot requires that the boot loader be signed by a key known to the UEFI firmware before being permitted to boot. This therefore implies that the device must be pre-loaded with the public keys of known publishers before it ships to the customer.

Thankfully on x86, the requirement is that the user must be able to add their own keys. This is not a trivial process however and differs between UEFI implementations. So immediately, anyone who has a desire or need to run an OS other than one of the select few, has a few more hurdles to jump over.

Ever tried getting into the UEFI setup on a modern x86 machine? You need lightning quick reflexes, and an educated guess as to what button to hit! Been there, done that on a few machines.

Moreover, this assumes that the private key for the publisher you use does not get compromised. The moment that happens, sure, they can revoke that key but then:

- the old kit will still recognise and accept that compromised key, until such time their firmware gets updated (How often do people here update their boot firmware I wonder? How many devices will never have updates provided?)

- someone's legitimately paid-for OS suddenly stops working on newer hardware, that WILL get people upset.

Others have pointed out that there is a lot of code in the UEFI kernel. Matthew Garett claimed as much as 100MB of source code in TianoCore which is the reference UEFI implementation. If you've got the time, have a look at the whole video (I watched the presentation in person).

As a matter of interest:

RC=0 stuartl@vk4msl-mb /tmp $ tar -xJf /home/portage/distfiles/linux-3.14.tar.xz

RC=0 stuartl@vk4msl-mb /tmp $ cd linux-3.14/

RC=0 stuartl@vk4msl-mb /tmp/linux-3.14 $ find . -type f -a \! \( -name \*.h -o -name \*.c \) -delete

RC=0 stuartl@vk4msl-mb /tmp/linux-3.14 $ du -hs .

538M .

So just under one fifth of the entire Linux kernel. UEFI runs on i386, AMD64 and ARM to my knowledge. Linux runs on that and some, including obscure machines most have never heard of.

Two facts of life:

- people write code

- people make mistakes

Therefore, there will be lots of bugs in that UEFI code, including the stuff that implements Secure Boot. There is a lot of complexity to debug which will seem foreign to the old-hands used to the ye olde BIOS when things go wrong.

With the rush to get things to market, you can bet your bottom dollar that manufacturers won't be testing their code to ensure it's safe from malware (the intended target for Secure Boot), but you can guarantee the blackhats will! I therefore believe that while there were some noble ideas in Secure Boot, it in all probably will not achieve what it ultimately set out to achieve, and will instead cause grief with all the additional things that can go wrong.

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Stuart Longland
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Re: Of course!

"doesn't lead to any useful features."

Secure Boot and faster POST.

Precisely, no useful features. BIOS post even on a slow machine with a lot of RAM didn't take that long (servers are a different matter, but not frequently rebooted) and Secure Boot is destined to become more of a headache than the problem it tries to solve.

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About 4King time: Panasonic finally reveals voice-control Firefox OS TVs

Stuart Longland
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I can see this working well

How does the television you're yelling at the presenter and not at it?

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Want to have your server pwned? Easy: Run PHP

Stuart Longland
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Re: And the alternative is ?

I've seen unsanitised inputs in raw SQL in PHP, sure. I've also seem that in Java (bypassing Hibernate to do so, no less), and myriad other languages. Shitty coding is as shitty coding does.

I haven't seen it all I'll admit, but I've seen bad code in a few languages…

- C

- C++

- JavaScript

- Java

- PHP

- Python

- Perl

- BASIC

You can write bad code in any language. Writing good code requires discipline. Some people have it, some do not. Throwing abstraction layers isn't going to magically make you a better coder. Doing so might encourage some habits (some good, some bad) and design patterns which may help make your code a little more understandable, but they're no silver bullet.

Coding for the big bad Internet means you have to be mindful of what you don't want the server to do as much as what you do want it to do.

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Stuart Longland
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Re: PHP?

It's not like the rest of the commonly used stack - Linux, Apache and MySQL - have not had plenty of holes too. Hello BASH, SSL, NTP, etc., etc.

Ohh, and of course Windows servers never use NTP for time sync do they? What UDP port was time.windows.com listening on again?

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Want to shoot FIREBALLS from your wrists, SPIDER-MAN style?

Stuart Longland
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Re: Me Wantee - I promise to use it responsibly ...

I'm sure it'll guarantee you a seat somewhere, perhaps in police custody?

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Acer to unveil a 15.6-INCH Chromebook WHOPPER at CES

Stuart Longland
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Re: Price starts at $250

But that will be £250 in the UK, and it will be for the 1366 x 768 display with 2MB ram and 16GB storage.

A blast from the past then … the last laptop I used with 2MB RAM was an Olivetti 386. I'm surprised they got ChromeOS to run in that.

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Privacy-loving BOXING KANGAROO BIFFS DRONE out of the sky

Stuart Longland
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Re: Invade the Space of any Animal With Young

Don't mess with Skippy! Especially if she's raring young.

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YEAR of the PENGUIN: A Linux mobile in 2015?

Stuart Longland
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Re: Gateway drug

I burnt my safety net (kept no windows partition) to force myself to switch and had losts of fun getting DVDs to play on Suse 7.1 by compiling xine from scratch.

That seems to be a common theme… I liken it to packing one's bags and moving to a foreign land. You can go there for a holiday by booting up a LiveCD, but then you can't really make any permanent changes and you don't really get the full absorption effect that one gets by moving over there and staying put a few months.

These days I've got citizenship in the Linux land (have done for years), and only come back to Windows on occasional business trips or sometimes social trips. (e.g. this morning, I stumbled on my Half-Life disc, so I booted up Windows, installed it and had a quick game.) I still have a flat there, but it's a basic affair with most of my furniture being in the Linux residence.

In my high-school years I thought my money would be made from proprietary applications on Windows. Today, I make vastly more money coding Python on Linux.

Windows is almost irrelevant to my day-to-day working life. The appliances I help build can be managed from just about any OS with a reasonably capable web browser and/or SSH client. The only time I use Windows at work, is mainly to connect to some company's VPN gateway to manage some Linux box under a support contract.

If Microsoft were to disappear, I think I'd manage as there'd suddenly be a big rush on for people who knew something other than Windows.

The bonus about Linux is that it's close enough to many other systems such as *BSD, and bears similarities to MacOS X that the skills carry across quite well. However there is no OS quite like Windows, if that's all you know, then anything else will look foreign.

Making one's self solely dependent on a single-vendor proprietary ecosystem has always been dangerous. Many years ago it was mainframes, in the 90s it was Novell, soon it will be Microsoft, then probably Apple. No idea how long it will take, but don't be surprised if it happens tomorrow or next week, take the plunge now and you'll thank yourself later.

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Stuart Longland
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Gateway drug

Naturally that's a very subjective statement, but go download Ubuntu 8.04 (the gateway drug, if you will, for many of today's desktop Linux users) and install it alongside Mint 17.1. Suffice to say that these are great days to be a Linux user.

Now try putting Ubuntu 8.04 against my gateway drug, Red Hat 4.0. (NOT RHEL 4.0, the old one circa 1996.)

It has come a long way. Arguably further than Windows has.

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Pitch Black: New BlackBerry Classic is aimed at the old-school

Stuart Longland
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You could easily change that dollar sign in the settings to be any monetary symbol you liked.

And what country uses "." for its monetary symbol?

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Stuart Longland
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Re: Who stole my QWERTY

People wibble on about why one would need a physical keyboard when the onscreen keyboards are good enough and to an extent I would agree that for input they're not bad with something like Swype. The real charm of the physical keyboard though is in the speed with which you can flit around apps. Keyboard shortcuts to the browser, phone, email, calendar and sms applications make it a doddle to whiz around jumping from one to the other. Also you're not using up a whole heap of screen real estate with a virtual keyboard, making it much easier to take in information and input text into forms etc.

Exactly… dedicated physical keyboard means a few things:

- Screen isn't occupied by it, so more screen real-estate for the app.

- Tactile response, once your muscle memory stores the keypad layout, you don't even need to look at the keyboard to type and will be much faster at data entry.

1. The modern smart phone market seems to be wedded to a screen-size arms race, obsessed with making phones with screens bigger and shinier than everyone elses. Physcial keyboards reduce the possible screen size.

"The superior man understands what is right, the inferior man understands what will sell" — Confucious.

Make the keyboard slide-out, then you can have a nice big screen. For me, the screen size on my ZTE T81 is about right width wise, but if it were made shorter to make it 4:3 aspect ratio with the space beneath replaced by a tactile keypad, it'd be a much nicer device to use.

2. Physical keyboards cost money in materials and build costs. Android phone makers have VERY tight margins and probably can barely afford the extra costs, for likely less sales. (see above).

No one makes a phone with these features because it's perceived that no one would buy one. It's therefore considered a cost. Undoubtedly it will be more expensive to manufacture — but I'd buy one anyway. However, I can't: they don't exist.

The manufacturers won't listen, and so we're stuck artificially inflating the "popularity" of other phones which really aren't what we're looking for, but we buy them anyway because we simply have no choice.

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Stuart Longland
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Give me one of those… BUT

- with an e-ink screen (I care more about outdoor readability and longevity than colour or fast updates)

- ideally an open-source operating system (Android preferred; although maybe BlackBerry's Android emulation might be "good enough".)

- antenna jack (for areas of poor coverage, capacitive coupling doesn't count)

and maybe you've got a sale. It's nice to see a phone that recognises the utility of an actual tactile keypad over a capacitive imitation.

Sadly, if you want a decent keypad, Blackberry is one of the few, almost no one does an e-ink screen (Yotafone aside) and nearly every manufacturer assumes you spend all your time in good mobile coverage. (I live in Brisbane but do like to get out occasionally.)

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Norks: FBI's Sony Pictures' hacking allegations are 'groundless slander'

Stuart Longland
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Re: The Reviewers Said it was Crap

If I owned a theatre, I wouldn't willingly show that movie either, at least not during a peak season. The reviewers who have seen it said it was utter crap. Any excuse to dump a potential money loser like this must be like manna from heaven for theatre owners who can now try to line up something that will fill seats.

The initial reviews of "The Sound of Music" weren't that glowing either.

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Microsoft: Hey, don’t forget Visual Basic! Open source and new features coming

Stuart Longland
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Re: Open source VB6 programming

VB6 isn't a programming language: it's an embarrassment! I don't blame them for not open sourcing it.

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QEMU, FFMPEG guru unleashes JPEG-slaying graphics compressor

Stuart Longland
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Re: JPEG2000

JPEG2000 supports just about everything. It's f***ing nightmare of options - from memory there are about 16 different types of ColorSpace, although only about 8 in baseline. It's patented up the wazoo too.

Pretty much everything except

#include <stdio.h>

int main(void) { printf("Hello World\n"); return(0); }

is these days. We can't even be sure that this BPG hasn't got someone lurking in the shadows waiting for it to become popular before surprising us all with a few patent lawsuits. Even if they prove to be invalid: it's still expense defending.

Sadly if we spent all our time checking for prior art, we'd be doing more tiptoeing around existing patents and very little genuine innovating. Projects like BPG are exactly what the industry needs, true innovation.

The good news is that we can use this code today: there's a (albeit, slowish) decoder in JavaScript which allows backward compatibility in modern browsers. It took a long time to get rid of the HTML3 browsers that could only do GIF and JPEG… it'll be nice to use something other than PNG for high-fidelity graphics.

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Stuart Longland
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Re: It's probably not what the web needs urgently...

Well, I downloaded the picture "lena30.jpg" and according to irfanview, it's a regular old .jpg (no alpha channel), so maybe that page is just a visual guesstimation?

Yep, lena30.jpg IS a JPEG, for comparison purposes.

The BPG is here: lena_q23.bpg, and in my browser, it gets replaced by a data URL which is a Base64-encoded PNG.

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