* Posts by Charlie Clark

3120 posts • joined 16 Apr 2007

Queen's Speech: Snoopers' Charter RETURNS amid 'modernisation' push

Charlie Clark
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Re: Well...

They hold a majority of 12, so if the rest of Parliament vote No, it isn't that far out to think 12 Tory MP's with a conscience could vote no as well.

That's the government majority but, as the Ulster unionists will generally vote with the government (there will be sweetener of course), and Sinn Fein MPs don't take their seats, the working majority is actually quite a bit more. At least when it comes to regressive measures.

Now, if they were to try and introduce any progressive legislation then that majority will look a lot thinner.

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Charlie Clark
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Re: Well...

It's also likely to contravene EU legislation (data protection, civil rights, single market, etc.) which may be why there's also going to be a referendum on that. "We're British! We've never had civil rights and don't intend to start having them now!"

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German watchdog rips off Facebook's thumbs after online fracas

Charlie Clark
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Re: Good, but not quite right

And this is considered informed consent?

No, all the cookie notices are legally worthless. But as enforcement is largely dependent upon the national ICO, most of which have been deliberately hobbled, the issue is somewhat moot. Things will probably change next year with the new EU data protection directive. Fines for breaches could be up to 10 % of turnover though unlikely for that kind of thing.

The BBC's cookie page is pretty reasonable except all optional cookies should be disabled by default.

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Charlie Clark
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Re: Twitter et al should be covered by this too

The search with Google is less of a problem because users actively seek it out and it's labelled as being from Google. The problem is with anything that automatically includes third party code in a page.

Google understood the problem earlier than most and, for example, explains how to embed YouTube videos in a page reasonably, ie. not tracking someone just because they load a page with a YouTube video.

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Charlie Clark
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According to the consumer watchdog, Facebook uses cookies to automatically track website visitors, whether or not they click the offending button, and whether or not they even have a Facebook account.

No, it's not according to the watchdog, it's exactly what's happening: the "like" button is a clever bit of social engineering to facilitate user tracking across websites.

Website owners should think twice about using these kind of things. Not only out of respect for users' privacy. These trackers aggregate data across websites which website owners don't have access to and are the basis for Facebook and co for selling adverts to the sites. With the data gathered they can, and do, happily talk to the competition about the kind of visitors that visit a site. By placing the button on the page you give these companies to hoover up data about your customers but they don't have to share this data with you.

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Windows and OS X are malware, claims Richard Stallman

Charlie Clark
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Re: Shut it you tedious old windbag

Because the GPL says it must be.

Fortunately, the law is not whatever the FSF says it is…

Encumbrance is a legal term, look it up. The provisos of the GPL count as encumbrance. Companies avoid it because they don't want to have to pay lawyers to check anything. Cases against TIVO et al indicate that this is the right approach: no GPL code in a product, no expensive court case.

The automatic assignment of copyright in the GPL is another bit of stupidity for fanbois. Why on earth would you want to assign your copyright to a litigious group like the FSF is beyond me. In most countries copyright is automatic and strongly protected.

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Charlie Clark
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Re: Shut it you tedious old windbag

"Free" in FOSS does not mean "zero money cost". It means "free of encumberances". Meaning, you *must* publish the source code when distributing binaries.

I fail to see how you can draw the conclusion that published source is unencumbered.

In any case, in legal terms, GPL software is considered as encumbered (there may be a claim on it) which is why many companies have strict policies about when and where it can be used.

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Charlie Clark
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Re: Shut it you tedious old windbag

And you would be very wrong. USL vs. BSDi had nothing to do with GPL or FOSS. Source code released under the BSD licenses is not FOSS, unlike GPL.

I never said it did have anything to do with the GPL but giving the distribution of open source software a legal footing.

Pushing for strict liability for software might have been an interesting tack, but, of course, the GPL makes a big show of abrogating responsibility.

Oh, really. And licenses other than GPL assume full responsibility? Have you ever read an Open Source license? I bet you haven't. Why don't you read the 3-clause BSD, which is the oldest one.

Again you miss the point: the FSF could have done a lot for consumers by pushing for strict liability in software. Instead it focussed on political side-shows.

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Charlie Clark
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Re: So what did YOU do then ?

But for tools like g++, gdb, &c, GPL is fine, and the GPL license for tools like these really don't hurt things.

I beg to differ: the change in some of the GNU tools to GPL3 is what has driven a lot of developers away from them. Most notably FreeBSD which has gone about removing them from the tool chain but look also at the CLANG and LLVM licences. Quite weird if you think open source is about encouraging code reuse and peer review.

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Charlie Clark
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Re: Shut it you tedious old windbag

If it wasn't for Stallman the IT world would be a much poorer, more restrictive place than it is. Imagine what the internet would be like if it hadn't been for GNU and the GPL. Maybe the bastard son of Compuserve and AOL?

I doubt that very much. Legally, AT&T versus the University of California was far more important in establishing a legal basis for distributing open source software than any case based around the GPL. The GPL is mainly politics. Pushing for strict liability for software might have been an interesting tack, but, of course, the GPL makes a big show of abrogating responsibility.

Also, Stallman would do his cause a lot better if he was able to listen to alternative opinions.

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Charlie Clark
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Re: So what did YOU do then ?

I write and use open source software. FOSS gives me hives.

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Boffins silently track train commuters without tripping Android checks

Charlie Clark
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Given how easy it is to get people to agree to giving away location information, and the current settings in Android are either give an app everything it wants or you can't install it, I don't think this has much general applicability. Add to that the fact that the accelerometer won't tell you very much about direction: it can tell whether someone is walking or running but not in which direction.

And this is in China where I'm pretty certain the state has access to all mobile phone data and the mobile phone operators routinely collect all the data they can.

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Charlie Clark
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Re: Research purposes

Not really as you have to get the software installed onto the relevant peoples phones. Much easier to use Wifi and Bluetooth snooping from people who leave these radios on, which is most. And this is indeed the method used to measure footfall in shopping centres.

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Celebrating 20 years of juicy Java. Just don’t mention Android

Charlie Clark
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Re: Facts

It was established server side because it is incredibly reliable and cross platform.

That might be the case now, it wasn't then. Remember Sun was shipping its own hardware. Java was only as good as the JVM on the target machine. It took a lot of work to get all those JVMs working both well and fast. The cross-platform experience on mobile was much worse because the JVMs were much worse. As there was no money in it for Sun or IBM they didn't really have much of an incentive to work around the quirks of mobile OSes and chipsets. The initial attraction of Java was much more than it didn't get the same kind of memory errors that were only too common in C++. The excellent standard libraries and standardised deployment also appealed both to the enterprise and academia and JDBC still stands out for working with databases.

I've never got on with Eclipse but I won't discount its popularity in some areas, though I note that you again highlight use by enterprises. The IDEA J stuff is much nicer but look at the resource use compared to something running more native. Hasn't Google switched to IDEA from Eclipse for just that reason?

Sure QT requires compile and test steps for every architecture but modern hardware have made those far less of an issue than in the past. Companies are, however, driven by the productivity of their programmers, not by compile times.

I'm not really knocking Java but I do think it has peaked as a programming language.

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Charlie Clark
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Re: JavaScript???

To be fair to the article it linked to the source of the ranking.

"most popular programming language" is one of the many willy-waving contests on the interwebs. There's still a fuck of a lot of FORTRAN and COBOL and others out there that almost certainly doesn't get picked up on.

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Charlie Clark
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Re: Facts

Cross platform in Java works really well.

Which is why all our desktop apps are written in Java… Oh wait, they're not. The LibreOffice lot are even busy ripping Java out – not that I'm personally convinced that this is such a good move.

On the server-side Java got established in the corporate space and will remain for the duration But it wasn't because it was multi-platform, it's because it was what IBM, Sun, et al. were able to convince the suits to buy.

As I said, the work done on the JVM has made it a lot easier for other languages to be reliably cross-platform. Also: thank god for QT!

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Charlie Clark
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Re: Facts

I used to think the same, but then I worked at two companies that made massive use of Java in web clients. One was a wide range of tier-3 trading platforms distributed as Applets, the other a massive online game, also an Applet.

Applets, while no doubt important in some areas (I remember Brokat for banking and I think WebEx still uses it), were still very much niche on the web. There's no doubt applets were essentially the precursors to the rich client wheel we've recently reinvented in JS, but there was no money in them for Sun.

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Charlie Clark
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Facts

Java took off rapidly. It met an immediate need on the fast-growing World Wide Web

I've been doing web stuff pretty much since Java was around. It was only ever niche on the web. Back then computers didn't have the oomph to do much fancy graphics in a virtual machine so Java was essentially limited to cryptography.

The cross-platform stuff was then, and still largely is, marketing. Sun was a single platform hardware company. But it managed to successfully market Java as a better (because memory managed and thus safer) C++. Netscape PR aside, the real work was in getting Java onto CS degree courses meaning that graduates were trained in something that was being pushed at managers. Moore's law meant that memory was much less of a restriction than it had been: for enough money Sun or IBM could sell you hardware beyond your wildest dreams. This is why Sun did so well out of the dot-coms.

It never really went anywhere on the desktop. I can only think of a handful of applications written in Java that I've ever used. The Java ME stuff was also pretty limited, largely due to the hardware (phones didn't have much memory and write once, run everywhere never really worked).

Flash, developed by Macromedia succeeded by being a better development environment for non-programmers than Java. ActionScript may have been a shitty runtime but it did what it needed to well, or well enough to create sufficient demand for ubiquity. This is why many new languages target non-CS graduates so much: traction is perhaps more important than having the best runtime.

Java's legacy may well be the work that went into JIT compiling which has now become pretty universal. Develop in whatever language you like and the right JIT will compile it to near native speed.

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City of birth? Why password questions are a terrible idea

Charlie Clark
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Holmes

Security theatre

Effective security has been understood for a while: something you have and something you know. This is the underpinning of 2FA in systems like PGP (you have a private key which only you can decrypt with your passphrase). So why isn't it standard? HTML5 forms even contain a field for key generation. Given the complexity of many of the security theatre alternatives out there, the difficulty of using such a system can't really be an argument.

Could it be that companies don't really care about the security of the systems? There is certainly ample, albeit anecdotal, evidence to support this theory: banks have at times actively resisted improving the security of debit and credit cards. It is only now that the US is moving from easily scammed magnetic stripes to chips. One of my companies asks me to verify the first few characters of my password when I call them, which means that at least part of it is stored as plaintext!

At some point, of course, studies like Google's can be used to justify liability claims. This is when we tend to see movement. In general, companies like to have systems that can be judged secure enough so that they cannot be held liable for individual breaches. The backup question strategy would seem to fit in here: people routinely forget passwords, which is why they are so unsuitable in the first place. Google's study is valuable, I guess, because they have access to such huge study samples and can thus empirically verify some the ideas: people choose weak passwords because they are memorable; behaviour is eminently predictable.

Of course, if we do do things correctly then we risk falling foul of the law: restrict access to our private keys by encrypting our disks and we can now be prosecuted.

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Mobiles at school could be MAKING YOUR KID MORE DUMBER

Charlie Clark
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Old news

Research on how using a mobile phone impairs other cognitive functions has already been done. As has research on the demands placed on us by brief, mediated communication: like low cocoa chocolate it's sweet but unfulfilling thus requiring a more frequent fix.

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Twitter CRAWLS to Google ON ITS KNEES, starts blowing content

Charlie Clark
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Mushroom

Why do companies still waste time and money on Twitter.

This isn't directly related to the news but I hate Twitter so much I thought I'd share it. I'm flying shortly with KLM, who've generally done a good job with their website, it must be said. As is now fashionable for airline companies you have to opt to pay to take luggage, though how anyone travelling for more than a couple of days expects to get away with just hand luggage is beyond me*. I get confirmation of my flight and my luggage allowance only to get another e-mail yesterday telling me I have no luggage. The website tells me I can in touch by Twitter or Facebook and even has dials estimating response times. I call and ask for confirmation: yes, you have paid for checked baggage and can ignore the e-mail. This annoys me and costs KLM money. If they spent more time fixing the communication between their systems and less on PR gimmicks like customer support via Twitter they'd provide better service and save money.

*I'm starting to avoid airlines that do this as it only seems to encourage people to try and carry everything, including the kitchen sink, as hand luggage, significantly slowing down boarding and not unusually involving bumps and scapes as people try cramming the stuff wherever they can.

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Google, Twitter search deal: Did micro-blabbing site gag racy tweets to satisfy ad giant?

Charlie Clark
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Re: It's official:

If only they would extinguish it… I fear, however, that they won't.

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PHOTON SPACE SAIL successfully Kickstarted into orbit

Charlie Clark
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Re: Efficiency

To change direction, one angles against the current.

Not without a current you don't, and you don't have one in space, only the gravity of any planets.

Ion drives are potentially self-sustaining feeding off any atoms they can harvest on their travels. A couple of kilos of xenon give them a nice kick-start. Hardly noticeable in comparison to any payload when getting into space.

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Charlie Clark
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Efficiency

Photons have very, very little momentum. Even with the currently relatively poor yields from photo-electric cells I can't see any advantage of a solar sail over an ion drive that harvests hydrogen from space. Anyway, give the lack of any current, how do they expect to steer the damn thing? And braking?

Still, if people want to put their money into this, then good luck to them.

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You've come a long way, Inkscape: Open-source Illustrator sneaks up

Charlie Clark
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Context

Graphics professionals working on Linux… are as rare as mermaids?

There are lots of good alternatives to the Adobe products that cost a little money. Anything that takes 4 years to fix 700 bugs is not being used by professionals.

I'm not a fan of Adobe and happily use alternative products (Photoline is pretty good) but the new pricing model actually makes it easier to pick up casual business. Some professionals will no doubt (rightly) complain about being fleeced by the new model but it does allow for faster release cycles. As soon as it costs more money to use the stuff than you get make from using it you should cancel the subscription.

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Robots.txt tells hackers the places you don't want them to look

Charlie Clark
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A good honeypot should do little or no work itself but give the potential miscreant something they think is useful but is actually worthless and log any relevant information. In days gone by redirecting to a tarpit might have been an idea but now script-kiddies have almost limitless resources so it doesn't make sense any more.

Don't think robots.txt is as good for this as some of the other files that are regularly looked for.

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Google sells .car, walks away from generic domain names

Charlie Clark
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I suspect that was very tongue-in-cheek. How about "we can get those with spare change and see if a market develops". Remember, it's always the first million that's hardest to get.

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Charlie Clark
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Re: I don't get it.

We can assume that Google has profited from the experience: financially by being able to find the market price (the initial auction was really only a beauty contest) for generics. But they presumably also gathered information about the kind of market there will be for these kind of domains and decided it wasn't worth committing resources to.

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Blocking pirate sites doesn't weaken pirates say Euroboffins

Charlie Clark
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The costs of piracy

It's long been established that digital piracy doesn't reduce direct sales. What it does tend to do is drive money away from possible alternatives: people download more US TV and films and watch less local stuff.

The increasing popularity of legal streaming services shows how much people value convenience.

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Verizon in SUDDEN $4.4bn AOL GOBBLE, aims to make fourplay more exciting

Charlie Clark
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Probably but presumably unrelated: your bill will go up because you're stuck in an uncompetitive market so they own you.

It's a cash-only transaction which suggests that Verizon has some profits it wants to offset against debt to reduce the tax burden.

40:1 price to profit is pretty steep but, seeing as cash is returning less than nothing, a carefully engineered purchase could work financially whatever else happens. And if it does fail then it's always possible to squeeze more out of those captive customers.

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Amazon creating 500 ‘fulfilling’ jobs in the UK

Charlie Clark
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Re: So...

Surely it is about time they had robo-pickers and packers?

People are probably cheaper and more flexible for their needs, though I don't think warehousing costs are that high for them anyway. The real money goes on delivering individual packages to individual houses.

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Google's 'stale pale males' to be replaced by crack black chick pack

Charlie Clark
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Re: Racism

I assumed there would be quotas limiting Asians and Jews because they are over represented in the techie workplace

Just such quotas are certainly starting to affect Asians trying to get into university in parts of America.

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Charlie Clark
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Positive discrimination is discrimination surely

And thus illegal in the EU. But the sanctions for discrimination are also arguably far higher. But not so in America where quotas still apply at some universities and schools see http://www.economist.com/blogs/democracyinamerica/2014/11/affirmative-action with increasingly perverse consequences. In California and New York it is now people of Asian background who are suffering. They don't seem to have the knack of developing their own trailer park culture.

"Diversity" is a typical topic for American liberals to adopt as a cause. It's a lot easier to take these things up than try and come up with meaningful social and economic policies. And I say that as a liberal myself.

In America, as in the UK, reducing tuition fees is the best way to improve diversity in education but there will almost always be a bias towards the middle class (valuing education is one of the defining traits of the middle class).

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Running Google PageSpeed Service? Come August 3rd your site is knackered

Charlie Clark
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Unclear article

PageSpeed is actually two things: a web speed performance analysis tool and an add-on for an http server that applies some of the lessons learned from the analysis.

The analysis tool is built-in into things like Firebug and WPT and isn't going away. mod_pagespeed and the equivalent for other http servers (including IIS) are also not going away and many CDNs make use of them in their service.

So all that's happening is that Google is getting out of the business of providing free optimisation. This makes sense both for Google (lots learned in the process but expensive to maintain) and also for users (much better to install the add-on on their own servers or use a professional third-party).

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Pi based kid-nerdifier Kano buried under freak cash avalanche

Charlie Clark
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Re: so...

I'm sure they must know what they are doing, but why buy their kit, when you can buy the bits separately, and download the software for free?

The same question could be applied to almost anything you buy nowadays. Some products, notably perfume, but also coffee, are almost all packaging. And consumers love it.

Providing everything you need at once, including a keyboard and printed manuals reduces the number of decisions to be taken (which case?, which power supply, etc?) and the hurdles involved. Also, for the educational market both sales and after-sales support are likely to be important. Buy enough of them and have them customised: how about the physics department deciding to have the oscilloscope version? or the biology one with the microscope controller?

The Pi isn't the cheapest bit of ARM-hardware out there but it's a known commodity with an expanding software and hardware ecosystem.

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Microsoft discontinues Media Center with Windows 10

Charlie Clark
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Re: Dedicated boxes aside

Whilst that's a fun hobby a FireTV will do pretty much everything the average person needs and work straight out of the box.

Does it support local (DNLA) media? Think not. But there are similar devices out there that are not tied to the services of a single company and are optimised for the purpose (the RasPi spec was low when it was released and most of the Chinese sticks are already beefier than the RasPi 2).

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House of Cards UI central to Mozilla's plans for Firefox on tellies

Charlie Clark
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Dashboard confusion

The use of this metaphor in UI always confuses me as it does here. I take the first picture to be the dashboard: it shows me everything I can control. And yet, it itself has an item called "dashboard". WTF?

I'm not convinced about the growth of apps on tellies beyond content on demand / catchup.

Impossible to critique a UI from a couple of screens so I'll reserve judgement until I can give it a try out. Good integration with the remote has to be a priority. The Kodi/XBMC people seem to have done this pretty well, at least on the devices I've used it with.

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From Manchester to Microsoft – missing mum :-(

Charlie Clark
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Re: Weekend

There's a great waterfront and vibrant counter-culture and student scene. I saw Billy Bragg while I was over. But one thing the Pacific Northwest has over Britain and it's the scenery: rain forest, mountains, seaside, etc. That said, it's close enough to some pretty nasty tectonic boundaries, which helps explain the scenery, so a lot could get wiped out at pretty much any time.

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Good luck displacing Windows 7, Microsoft, it's still growing

Charlie Clark
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FAIL

Same old flawed analysis

Simply by failing to corroborate the results with El Reg's own is a failing. Then there is the failure to take into consideration the fall in the share of web traffic on desktop devices. Then there is no analysis of how representative the services are. Certainly neither are used on sites that I visit. An analysis of the data from httparchive.org would helpful here.

Just some starting points.

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This is Spartan? No, it's Microsoft Edge, Son of Internet Explorer

Charlie Clark
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Re: Edge?

The answer is far more prosaic.

Edge is a setting you can put in your HTML to tell Internet Explorer to use standards mode as opposed to compatibility with a particular version such as IE8 or IE9

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The Apple Watch: THROBBING STRAP-ON with a knurled knob

Charlie Clark
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Re: The box epitomises why I don't Apple

But give it 6 months and it will be -

Look at me!!!

Oh you've got one too!!

If that's the case we'll be going: bugger! I wish I'd bought Apple shares! ;-)

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Quid-A-Day Nosh Posse taunted with sausage sarnie snap

Charlie Clark
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Re: Good deal on the mackerel

Who said anything about porridge? What's wrong with a nice bowl of gruel?

You should lower the budget even more so you'll have to do without such luxuries! ;-)

Where's the Oliver Twist icon when you need it? Or is there possibly now an emoji one?

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Charlie Clark
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Good deal on the mackerel

Lester, get rid of the bread and go with a better calorie/price ratio like oats. Standard white bread is probably one of the worst things to have on the list.

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'Use 1 capital' password prompts make them too predictable – study

Charlie Clark
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There's a reason for that: they'll be able to blame you when your account is inevitably hacked. Solution: use HBCI only.

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Charlie Clark
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Re: Use a high-entropy password generator

And exactly how memorable are high entropy passwords?

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Charlie Clark
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Re: What's the real issue?

The ones that really annoy me are those who won't let you use a password you have used previously.

Add a cycler, but yeah some restrictions are simply stupid.

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Charlie Clark
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What's the real issue?

A key part of the problem is with the websites themselves…

The key part of the problem is passwords themselves as they're so difficult to remember.

mnemonic + capitalisation + substitution + user/service salt will produce a strong password that you should in theory be able to remember but only if you're systematic about it and this always adds to the risk.

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Belgian minister set to legalise Uber

Charlie Clark
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Why the snide?

Taxi service regulation is left to member states to work out, not the usual Brussels bureaucrats.

Most regulation is national and managed by national bureaucrats. Brussels only becomes involved in questions of the single market. Hard to see that for taxis to be honest.

Uber is a fairly parasitic business that essentially relies on arbitrage between regulated and unregulated parts of the market. ie. insurance, minimum wage, quality of driving, criminal record, etc. That's not to say that some taxi markets aren't victims of restrictive practices: the synthetic distinction between taxis and private hire in the UK springs to mind.

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Hi, Fi: Google JOWL-SLAPS mobile bigguns with $20/mo wireless service

Charlie Clark
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This won't happen because it would mean either Google foots the data bill (YouTube videos) with carriers dictating the price; or Google would have to build its own network.

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Australia mulls dumping the .com from .com.au – so you can bake URLs like chocolate.gate.au

Charlie Clark
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Flawed logic

The reason for the proposed change is because of suspected competition from things like .shit? Simple economics suggest it won't work, except for forcing existing .com.au users to buy an additional domain.

I've always like the two-tier, taxonomic approach as it removes ambiguity. National domain registries should essentially be administering a common resource, charging only administrative costs only. This lowers overall costs and increases trust. Oh, well.

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