* Posts by Tom Wood

446 posts • joined 14 May 2008

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'Hans free' mobe gag crowned Fringe's funniest

Tom Wood
Facepalm

Re: The one from a few years ago was much better

Was that "2011 winner Nick Helm" by any chance?

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Wikiland turns to Shapps and says ‘those emails you wanted, we deleted them, sorry’

Tom Wood

Do you mean Data Protection Act?

The FoI act only applies to public bodies, doesn't it?

A Subject Access Request is a thing where you can get data held on you by a company or organisation under the terms of the Data Protection Act.

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Amazon UK conditions 'exhausting', claims union

Tom Wood

A lot of a warehouse isn't storage

It might be a mistake, but a lot of the floor area in a warehouse isn't "storage capacity" - it's taken up with aisles, conveyors, shelf supports, packing benches, etc.

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Labour Party website DDoS'd by ruly democratic mob

Tom Wood

Re: I'd like to know..

Germany, France, Spain, the Netherlands, Italy... all have state owned railways. Hell, their state owned railway companies even own a good chunk of our supposedly private railway companies. What is it about these countries that means they can run successful state-owned railway companies but we can't?

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Tom Wood

Re: I'd like to know..

Well the railways is fairly easy. The state still owns most of the infrastructure and rents it out to the privatised operators. You just let their contracts expire and don't renew them, or if you want to get more creative find ways to terminate them early. (As the franchises start falling back into state hands, the state then gets to keep the profit from them, which can be reinvested or used to buy up the remaining contracts).

And, of course he could borrow more. Brown didn't "borrow and spend every pound there was to have", as evidenced by the fact that Osborne has borrowed more than Brown did: http://blogs.spectator.co.uk/coffeehouse/2013/11/the-tories-have-piled-on-more-debt-than-labour/

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Tom Wood

Re: It's £3.88 a month

That's for a full membership. You can pay a minimum of £3 to become a "supporter" which means you get a vote in the leadership contest but none of the other perks of membership.

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Safe as houses: CCTV for the masses

Tom Wood

Re: Netatmo's Welcome costs €199, which is presently about £140.

You just need to get a decent credit card that doesn't charge such fees. http://www.moneysavingexpert.com/credit-cards/travel-credit-cards

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That's not an Ofcom email about your radio licence – it's a TROJAN

Tom Wood

Re: I got one at work

Indeed, I run my own mail server and use suffix addressing (sometimes called "plus addressing" as that is what is supported by gmail) for this purpose. In gmail you can use myname+anything@gmail.com and it will be delivered to myname@gmail.com. Use a different "anything" for each account and if it leaks you know who has been passing your address, and can block that variant (or just block it if they don't honour unsubscribe, etc).

Since the plus character is commonly used for this purpose it's actually not that good as a spammer could strip it out and still reach your inbox. If you have your own server you can specify an alternative character to use, I use a dash/minus sign, but you could use a dot, underscore etc. Someone could still guess and remove it and hit your inbox, but in practice I've found that doesn't happen, and if it did I could just dump the inbox and create a new one, and redirect all the existing aliases to it.

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Tom Wood

Re: Probably these work the same as bank scams

Indeed, looking at my mailserver logs, I received two attempted mails this morning to an address that is no longer used, allegedly from spectrum.licencing@ofcom.org.uk:

Aug 5 08:52:58 mail postfix/smtpd[8095]: NOQUEUE: reject: RCPT from unknown[14.161.18.210]: 550 5.1.6 <xxx@xxx.co.uk>: Recipient address rejected: Address no longer in use; from=<Spectrum.licensing@ofcom.org.uk> to=<xxx@xxx.co.uk> proto=ESMTP helo=<static.vdc.vn>

Aug 5 09:06:21 mail postfix/smtpd[8127]: NOQUEUE: reject: RCPT from unknown[202.131.235.74]: 550 5.1.6 <xxx@xxx.co.uk>: Recipient address rejected: Address no longer in use; from=<Spectrum.licensing@ofcom.org.uk> to=<xxx@xxx.co.uk> proto=ESMTP helo=<[202.131.235.74]>

I have never used this address (or any address for that matter) for anything to do with Ofcom.

So there is no data leak, this is just general non-targeted spamming.

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Tom Wood

Probably these work the same as bank scams

They send them to millions of addresses. Some people who have a genuine reason to have contact with Ofcom (or Barclays, HSBC, etc) see the email and think it must be targeted directly at them.

Admittedly radio hams are towards the more niche end of the spectrum, which reduces the number of targets for the spammer, but also probably increases the likelihood that those in the target audience do fall for the scam.

Mostly these things are sent by botnets and will be caught by the usual anti-spam DNS blacklists.

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Buffoon in 999 call: 'Cat ate my bacon and I want to press charges'

Tom Wood

Re: Too polite

Maybe not. I like this explanation from here: http://www.theguardian.com/notesandqueries/query/0,5753,-18852,00.html

"Why are there no pork or other pigmeat cat food varieties? "

"I've always understood the reason to be that the pigmeat industry has a long-established method of disposing of its waste products. They call the result "sausages" - or, if you're lucky, "economy sausages". "

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Blighty's BONKERS BANKING BONKING BONANZA: Apple Pay arrives

Tom Wood

"associated security/privacy benefits that brings about"

But Apple gets to know everything about your shopping habits...

Contactless cards work well and seem to be accepted in most places these days... even if I had an iPhone I can't see what the advantage to the customer is over using a contactless card. (Yes the retailers may like the lower charges, but do you really think they will pass them on?). If you really find it too much trouble to carry a card around (in reality most people will have a physical wallet with them anyway) then just out your card in your phone case, glue your card to your phone, or get one of those low-tech Barclaycard stickers.

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This whopping 16-bit computer processor is being built by hand, transistor by transistor

Tom Wood

I must be the only software guy here

because I think it's a ridiculous project :-)

Just because you can, doesn't mean you should. This is the opposite of progress - deliberately doing thousands of small repetitive tasks that a machine can do much better (for almost every definition of better - smaller, faster, cheaper, more reliably, using less resources)...

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Vodafone hikes prices to 37.5p/min – and lets angry customers flee

Tom Wood

EE are charging more - 44p

http://ee.co.uk/help/add-ons-benefits-and-plans/price-plans-and-costs/ee-price-plans/changes-to-numbers-starting-08-09-and-118#what

But, NHS England says doctor's surgeries shouldn't use 084 numbers. Many banks and customer service lines are changing to use 0345 or 0370 instead of the 08 versions (03 numbers come out of inclusive minutes).

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Milking cow shot dead by police 'while trying to escape'

Tom Wood

Re: A cow is actually quite dangerous

Indeed. NZ has about 10 million cattle (beef + dairy) and 38 million sheep, but just 4.5 million people.

Though I'm not sure if you should calculate injury rates per animal or per farmer...

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Radio 4 and Dr K on programming languages: Full of Java Kool-Aid

Tom Wood

Re: It would have been better

Indeed, and that's how a good Computer Science degree course works. The actual language doesn't matter nearly as much as the concepts behind it.

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Bonking with Apple is no fun 'cos it's too hard to pay, say punters

Tom Wood

Re: What study?

Aldi now take contactless credit and debit cards.

I've found using contactless cards (with the exception of an American Express card which doesn't seem to work everywhere) really easy and thankfully more places are taking them now. The only annoyance is the few badly-trained cashiers in some shops who insist on having you "insert your card" before they will activate the card terminal meaning by then it's too late to bonk.

Considering how easy a contactless credit card payment is, I can't see why I'd want to use a phone to do the same thing. The card payments are quick, easy and just work. No batteries required.

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Popular crypto app uses single-byte XOR and nowt else, hacker says

Tom Wood

Re: Turning the company's soiled reputation around 360 degrees!

He meant XOR the plaintext input with the key, twice, which gives you back the plaintext (x) no matter what the key (y) is:

((x XOR y) XOR y) = x XOR (y XOR y) = x XOR 0 = x

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Tom Wood

Re: Unclear

Read the linked analysis. The mask used is not random. By some means it converts the password into a single 8-bit "key" (barely deserves to be called a key), and XORs each of the first 128 bytes with that key, a byte at a time. (Basically ECB mode (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Block_cipher_mode_of_operation#Electronic_Codebook_.28ECB.29) which would be crap even with a proper big, random key).

The rest of the file is left in the clear.

This isn't encryption, it's about as good as those invisible ink pens you can buy from the Early Learning Centre.

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First HSBC, now the ENTIRE PUBLIC SECTOR dodges tax

Tom Wood

Re: "while no one would go to prison for false VAT claims"

It's hardly the same. Whether VAT is or isn't paid by a government department isn't costing the taxpayer anything.

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UK chip champ ARM flexes muscle: Shows strong profit and sales

Tom Wood

Re: Good or Bad?

It's worth noting that ARM don't make the chips themselves; they design cores and license the designs. The likes of Qualcomm, Samsung and TI include the ARM core as part of their SOC designs and produce the actual chips.

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UK air traffic mega cockup: BOTH server channels failed - report

Tom Wood

So the cause

was a hard-coded limit on the number of "things" in the system. But instead of being hard-coded in one place it was hard-coded to different values in two places. Recent changes meant the lower of the two limits was exceeded for the first time ever, and the higher limit wasn't.

Sounds like a fairly basic software test should have caught this issue. If your requirement is "the system shall support up to X things connected" then a decent test would check what happens if the system is tested with X-1, X and X+1 things to make sure the limit had been programmed correctly (and with the correct use of <, <=, == etc).

But, you know, it had worked OK since the 90's, so why would anyone need to test it?

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Tom Wood

Re: Passenger count

Many will be cargo flights, or light aircraft.

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'Tech' City hasn't got proper broadband and it's like BT doesn't CARE

Tom Wood

Business class...

We're a SME (about 60 staff) based in Yorkshire. We recently moved buildings into our own office and had our own fibre installed (100 Mbit symmetric). No doubt this cost a fair chunk of money, but if you want a business class service you can get one if you pay for it.

This might not be affordable for smaller businesses but if decent connectivity is important to you then I'm sure you'd make sure it was available (e.g. in a shared office facility) before signing a lease?

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BT coughs £12.5 billion for EE as fourplay frolics pay off

Tom Wood

What will happen to EE TV?

I'm getting to like my EE TV box... from what I can tell it's a lot nicer to use and more fully-featured than BT's TV offering.

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Google gets my data, I get search and email and that. Help help, I'm being REPRESSED!

Tom Wood

But... Google is a monopoly

If you want to search the internet, you have to use Google (more or less).

If you want to use Google, you have to hand them some amount of personal data.

That's the problem. It's like you are effectively the only apple supplier in the market (OK, there are a few other tiny suppliers, but their apples are very small and not very tasty and they have limited varieties) and you insist that if I want to get some apples, I'm not only going to have to hand over my pears but also information about how many pears I grow, what variety of pears, the secret recipe for my pear crumble and so on.

If the market were functioning correctly there would be multiple apple suppliers. One might exchange 3 apples for 2 pears plus all that data, and another might exchange 2 apples for 2 pears plus no data, and I'd have a meaningful choice.

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EE data network goes TITSUP* after mystery firewall problem

Tom Wood

Re: Whole country?

I was listening to the live BBC radio stream over 4G EE on my commute between Leeds and Shipley between 9:00 and 9:30 this morning with no problems.

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MI5 boss: We NEED to break securo-tech, get 'assistance' from data-slurp firms

Tom Wood
Meh

Re: oh no

I'd love it if my login screen looked like that. Especially if it made that "computery" noise while I typed my password.

As it is I have to put up with the default Ubuntu thing, ho hum.

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Users shun UK.gov flagship digital service

Tom Wood

Yes the HMRC site is painfully out of date. Once you have completed your tax return you can download it as a PDF, the site tells you how long it will take to download on both a 28k modem and a 56k modem.

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Stuck on a coding problem – should you Bing it?

Tom Wood

It looks like you're writing a program...

Would you like help?

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NHS refused to pull 'unfit for purpose' Care.data leaflet

Tom Wood

Re: Same old arrogance

Indeed, here's some anonymised data, there is no way you could possibly work out who these people are:

Male, age 40-49, lives in SW1A area, occupation: prime minister

Female, age 80-89, lives in SW1A area, occupation: head of state

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FREE EBOOKS: Apple falls into line with EU refund laws

Tom Wood

Re: Assumptions

You have obviously never worked behind the refund desk in a bricks and mortar store.

When I was studying my A-levels I worked in Argos and people will try and get away with returning anything - artificial Christmas trees or lights that have obviously been used the week after Christmas being a particularly good one.

People occasionally used to even bring back empty packaging full of bricks or rubbish or whatever in the hope that we wouldn't check that the product was inside the box...

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EU VAT law could kill THOUSANDS of online businesses

Tom Wood

No, the contract for an online order is normally formed when the goods are dispatched, not when they are delivered.

From Amazon's terms of sale (which I'm sure you read if you've ever shopped with them, right?):

Your order is an offer to Amazon to buy the product(s) in your order. When you place an order to purchase a product from Amazon, we will send you an e-mail confirming receipt of your order and containing the details of your order (the "Order Confirmation E-mail"). The Order Confirmation E-mail is acknowledgement that we have received your order, and does not confirm acceptance of your offer to buy the product(s) ordered. We only accept your offer, and conclude the contract of sale for a product ordered by you, when we dispatch the product to you and send e-mail confirmation to you that we've dispatched the product to you (the "Dispatch Confirmation E-mail").

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European Commish asks for rivals' moans about Booking.com

Tom Wood

Re: Am I alone

In the case of big chains like Marriott, especially in "business" locations like Preston (when was the last time you went on holiday to Preston?) the dynamic is different. They use different pricing to segment their target market.

They know that the many of the people booking direct with them are using corporate rates and corporate credit cards and by booking direct they can collect reward points. They're not paying the bill so don't have to worry about getting the absolute cheapest price.

Those who book the Marriott through Booking.com will be the few leisure travellers who are visiting friends nearby or something who are after a good rate. If the Marriott have rooms free, they can afford to cut their margins and pay the 15% and still sell to these people through channels like Booking.com. (Besides which, they will probably make money back selling breakfast and drinks and so on, on which Booking.com won't take a cut).

It's a different game with smaller independent hotels, who don't have corporate accounts and rely on leisure travellers for most of their business.

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Tom Wood

Re: Am I alone

The point though is that you (as customer) don't pay 15% to Booking.com for the "service", the hotel does, and the contract with Booking.com prevents the hotel from recouping that cost by charging more through Booking.com than they do direct.

Booking.com then do things like buy Google search ads with the hotel's name so that when you search for the hotel's name, the first thing you see is a Booking.com link promising the same rates as if you booked direct with the hotel, above the link to the hotel's own website in the search results.

So, the hotel loses direct bookings (which could otherwise have been cheaper for the customer), and Booking.com makes a comparative killing, for doing very little.

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TalkTalk customers demand opt-out fix for telco's DNS ad-jacking tactics

Tom Wood

Re: Focus on HTTP/Web breaks everything else

Yes - the TLD that should never resolve is .invalid

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Tom Wood

Re: Meh

This is known as DNS hijacking. While it's merely annoying for users using Web browsers, it's a real pain for developers of other Internet-connected software, Web browsers etc. They rely on the NXDOMAIN response to help ydiagnose Internet connection issues etc. I develop software for set top boxes and we had to change our internet fault diagnosis tools significantly to cope with DNS servers that mess around with the DNS results in ways such as this. Basically, any DNS server that does this is broken and not compliant with Internet standards.

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Four tuner frenzy: The all-you-can-EEat TV Freeview PVR

Tom Wood

Re: BT to buy EE

Well it's a better box (from a hardware perspective) than BT's YouView box. Presumably BT's software could be ported to it, or some hybrid of the two. Possibly this could become the hybrid box you hinted at above?

But, I hope the sale to BT doesn't go through. I've been a long-standing T-mobile (and now EE) mobile customer, and only moved to EE broadband when O2 sold their broadband business to Sky. There is a reason I haven't signed contracts with Sky or BT and I'd rather not be forced into it...

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Tom Wood

Re: Generous Space?

It's a 2.5 inch (laptop sized) hard disk, not a 3.5" one.

The £460 covers broadband and landline costs too...it's a pretty good deal.

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Tom Wood

Re: Doesn't work with any broadband

The replay feature is slightly better than described in the article.

It basically works by recording the entire multiplex for the PSB1 and PSB2 multiplexes. Any channel on that multiplex has a "start over" button, meaning if you tune in late you can restart the current programme from the beginning. From those multiplexes you can select up to six channels and it will keep those recordings for 24 hours (or so, it seems to be a little longer on our box), whereas the other channels on those two muxes will only be kept until the end of the current programme.

This is actually surprisingly useful and gives a good selection of content ready to watch straight from the guide.

The downside is not being able to record (well, save the recording) for one of the replay shows. If the show is still running, you can select record and it will save the whole thing, but once it has run its course the recording will be lost after the 24 hour period.

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Tom Wood

Doesn't work with any broadband

I took my EE TV box into work to show to some colleagues (I work in the digital TV sector). At work, the EE box complained that it wasn't connected to my home broadband, and deactivated all the on-demand and networking features (live TV and recordings worked OK, but streaming to the mobile app did not). It also popped up some error message which hinted it would only work for a limited time without connection to EE's network.

(I worked around this for demonstration purposes by connecting it to a router at work which was connected by a layer 2 VPN to a raspberry pi at home, making it look to the box as if it was connected to my home broadband. )

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HORRIFIED Amazon retailers fear GOING BUST after 1p pricing cockup

Tom Wood

Re: Hang on

Technically the price on the shelf in Tesco is an "invitation to treat". By placing the items on the checkout belt you are making an offer to Tesco to purchase the items at the advertised price. Only once they process your transaction through the till are they accepting your offer and at that point a contract is formed.

Online, the website is the invitation to treat, your order is the offer and generally speaking the dispatch confirmation is the acceptance (point at which the contract is formed).

The problem here comes from taking humans out of the loop. In Tesco, if everything scanned through the till at 1p, the checkout assistant would probably figure out something was wrong and you wouldn't get as far as forming a contract. But if there is an automated system (self checkout maybe, or Amazon's automated dispatch system) performing the acceptance step and forming the contract, there is a risk that that system could go awry and lead to the company forming contracts that they would rather not have done.

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UK.gov STILL won't pop a cap on stolen mobile bills

Tom Wood

Re: Does one assume

Yes, exactly.

Of course the networks make a profit from all these charges, which explains why they are dragging their heels.

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Wanna buy a dot-word? If you want a .pizza the action, now's a chance

Tom Wood
FAIL

Re: Can't blame them...

See headline.

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Cloud Printing from a Chromebook: We try it out on 8 inkjet all-in-ones

Tom Wood

Re: A couple of things missing here, though...

Er... this isn't 1999?

A few JPEGs (colour or not!) aren't going to make much of a dent in your broadband allowance, assuming you even have a limit.

And as for network speed, all the models here will have networking that is "fast enough" for printing.

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Tom Wood

What's with the subheading?

We've got an Epson model (a year or two old and not tested here) and that will quite happily send scans to Google Drive accounts.

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Uber? Worth $40 BEEELLION? Hey, actually, hold on ...

Tom Wood

Re: Maintenance

A significant chunk of taxi business happens in the small hours of Friday and Saturday nights (and other nights especially at this time of year). How is a driverless car going to fare in such circumstances?

Will be fun when the first gang of drunken students manages to take a driverless car hostage and turn it upside down or something...

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What a pity: Rollout of hated UK smart meters delayed again

Tom Wood

Re: Pointless and dangerous fads

I think the theoretical savings come from not having to send someone round to read the meter.

Not that anyone ever reads ours since they always come during working hours. They leave a card asking us to read the meter and put the card up in the window for them to check the next day, then it shows up on the bill as an actual meter reading and presumably the meter reading guy gets paid as if he really did read it.

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Quantum computing is so powerful it takes two years to understand what happened

Tom Wood

Indeed, though that's not really the point though, is it.

Though I'm lost as to the part about being able to verify the work with a classical computer. The whole reason factorisation problems are useful for cryptography is that the factorisation is hard, but the opposite, multiplication, is easy. So it should be trivial to verify the work by multiplying the factors together with a classical computer (or, in the case of 11 and 13, in your head).

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UK national mobile roaming: A stupid idea that'll never work

Tom Wood

Re: Just popping over to Calais ...

Yes but the EU have capped roaming fees (at least for voice and SMS) at pretty reasonable rates. It might be worth it. The main disadvantage is that people won't be able to call you cheaply from their own mobiles if you're using a French/Irish/Dutch number.

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