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* Posts by Michael H.F. Wilkinson

2490 posts • joined 24 Apr 2007

Using encryption? That means the US spooks have you on file

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: scare tactic

If you can get your hands on a good one-time pad (least significant pits of camera noise will do) you have a provably safe encryption, because the (truly random) key is as long as the message. Quantum computing does not help one jot. Trying all keys gives you (apart from a load of rubbish) all possible plain-text messages of the given length, and all possible zip/rar/tgz/bz2/... files of the same length, exploding the possible space of intelligible solutions further. Somewhere in that humongous space of solutions is the right one, but you have no way of telling which one is correct.

The only problem is transmitting the key over a secure channel. That is not that difficult: store these random bits steganographically on a DVD or Blu-Ray disc containing footage of the kids playing, and take them personally to the intended person when visiting them on holidays.

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Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Steganography?

Any image (large) might contain some subtly hidden message (just replace the least significant bits of the image with bits from a compressed, encrypted file). Even this crude method can be very hard to detect, as a compressed file is already close to noise in its bit patterns (high entropy signal). Any high entropy signal can be considered suspect for that reason (photon-noise-limited astronomical images spring to mind)

The NSA are of course aware of steganography, and could use this to suggest any media file is suspect. The only problem they then face is tracking all such data.

Me, paranoid?

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SACK MORE BRITS, Symantec UK told by US supremos - sources

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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I still bear scars on my very soul from the pain of having to remove Symantec's crudware from my machine. I think nuking the disk from space did it

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Apple: If you find us guilty in ebook price-fix trial, EVERYONE suffers

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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You cannot punish us, or everybody will suffer was a message the bankers used successfully.

Did not do much for their popularity, did it?

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Top Norks bone up on Hitler

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: "practical applications be drawn from it"

Not necessarily, I am afraid.

The part where Hitler loses is not in Mein Kampf, that part is found in books on history, but I doubt any self-respecting loony dictator would allow mere historical facts to get in the way of a megalomaniacal plan. It is more likely he will be thinking (word used without prejudice) along the lines of "If only good old Adolf had waited till he had the bomb, like I have done".

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Google staffing boss: Our old hiring procedures were 'worthless'

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Joke

Re: World's cleverest company states the obvious

Evidently, they did not read C. Northcote Parkinson's chapter "The Short List" in Parkinson's Law. It tells you exactly how to weed out unsuitable candidates, and he presents an algorithm which gets you just one applicant (the right one) obviating the need for an interview.

I find it odd they did not find that paper, as it must have been scanned by them, and a quick google got me this.

At Google, unlike the X-Files, the truth is in there.

In both cases, it is a matter of finding things

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What should replace Linpack for ranking supercomputers?

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Boffin

An overhaul/replacement of LinPack is long overdue

Even the conjugate gradient benchmark, while very useful, does not say it all. Conjugate gradient problems are present in many optimization methods, but not in combinatorial optimization. Maybe an additional benchmark is needed for that. Some image and signal processing problems are not easily cast into an optimization framework at all, for these we would love to have a better benchmark.

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El Reg rocket squad poised to select Ultimate Cuppa teabag

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Twinings "Prince of Wales"

If I have to use tea bags I go for this one, because the Keemun black tea it contains does not turn bitter when you forget to remove it from the mug.

I tend not to use milk, ever since my student days, when the question "how many lumps" could accurately be used for the amount of milk, from time to time.

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I, for one, welcome our GIANT TITANIUM INSECT OVERLORDS

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Pint

@Theodore

Cheers, mate!

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Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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I do wonder what Steve Irwin would have said

<Aussie accent>

"Look at the size of these little buggers!

Isn't it AMAZIN' !"!

</Aussie accent>

Or Les Hiddins, the bush tucker man:

<Aussie accent>

"These bugs mighn't look very appetizin', but they're full of minerals, particularly titanium"

</Aussie accent>

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Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Joke

Re: Do they do latex yet.

I cannot yet print my LaTeX in 3D, but perhaps somebody is writing some useful class files, style files and drivers

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Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Joke

Re: Splat!

Tungsten boots? Do you have an infestation of Feegles?

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Nuke plants to rely on PDP-11 code UNTIL 2050!

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Joke

Re: Ah those were the days..

DIBOL, short for DIABOLIC ?

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Boffins build headless robo-kitties

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: Obstacles

Much as I like cats, you really do not want a robot to be cat-like. Consider the difference with dogs when you throw a stick. The dog runs after it and collects it. The cat looks at you as if to say: "Hey, you threw it, you go get it." I consider this a clear indication of the more advanced intelligence of cats, as compared to dogs.

A simple rule of thumb is:

A dog has a master

A cat has house-mates

A Siamese cat has grooming staff

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New material enables 1,000-meter super-skyscrapers

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Joke

Re: Any rope is the problem

Enter the Heisenberg/Schrödinger elevator. It tunnels to the correct destination, and allows an arbitrary (but uncertain) number of elevators per shaft. Add defocused temporal perception and they will be there before you know you want them.

The only downside is their tendency to sulk in basements.

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SCO vs. IBM battle resumes over ownership of Unix

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Happy

Re: Hurrumph

And there I was thinking that producing better, more competitive products was what capitalism was about!

Deary me, how naive of me.

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Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: SCO ... do us all a favour . . .

Is their legal team run by Mr Slant?

Alternatively, SCO might really be a vampire outfit. Somebody spilled blood in the wrong place.

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Google launches broadband balloons, radio astronomy frets

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Coat

Project Loony?

Sorry, too obvious, really

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Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Boffin

Re: Hang on

SKA does not really work with steerable dishes, it uses synthetic aperture based on many small antennae. By combining the signals from many sources with the right delays, you can form a vast number of beam shapes with a vast number of different side-lobes. This in principle allows you to let a telescope be blind in the direction of fixed radio sources. If you know terrestrial sources are a problem, you can in theory create a null-sensitivity for things on the horizon, or (more easily) in the specific direction of a particular source.

Source above the antennae which drift around and are difficult to predict are a pain, and a cause of many ruined pieces of data.

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When to say those three little words: 'I am quitting'

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: Caveat Emptor

Well measured response. but I would like to add one more tiem:

8. Beware of injelititis: managers who have a combination of a large degree of incompetence and a similarly large degree of jealousy, a combination known as injelitance. Injelitant people in managerial roles cause a disease called injelitis. These people actually prefer to have a third-rate team, because they know deep down in their hearts they themselves are second-rate at best. Do not think you can single-handedly change the course of such a department (key words to watch: "Yes, mr. X is brilliant, but mr. Y is more sound"). Abandon such departments at warp speed.

See: C. Northcote Parkinson: Parkinson's Law, or the Pursuit of Progress.

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Who's to be the next Dr Who? Sherlock beats Maurice - says you

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Happy

Robbie Coltrane

Or Billy Conolly would get my vote

and of course the inimitable Tom Baker.

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How NSA spooks spaffed my DAD'S DATA ALL OVER THE WEB

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: aggravated copyright violation

But probably, like bankers, they are considered too important to jail by the DoJ!

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Pre-election phishing spike blasts Iranian Gmail accounts

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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And of course Iran can now gleefully point a finger (rightly or wrongly) at the US if the US makes a fuss of these activities on human rights grounds.

People in glass houses

Sad world indeed

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Scientists investigate 'dark lightning' threat to aircraft passengers

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Joke

Enter Otto von Chriek:

Finally!!!! Ve vill haf proof of ze existence off ze DARK LIGHT!!!! Efen in ze roundworld!

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Ex-Palm CEO Rubinstein wishes HP sale never happened

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: HP BC

Perhaps, but I doubt she would be significantly worse than many currently in the senate.

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New Android plan: Gurn at your phone to unlock it

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Joke

Re: And again: Biometry is not suitable for Authorization

You can have multiple faces if you are a master of disguise, just like inspector Clouseau

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Headbangers have a gas, gas, gas in mosh pits

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Boffin

No, just thermodynamics

The classic random walk is exemplified by a person (typically male) who is so drunk that at each step he cannot remember which direction the last one was going.

By saturating the senses with loud noise, combined with the usual quantities of alcohol involved, I would expect that those involved in mosh pits have a similar level of randomness in their motion, especially when adding collisions with other "particles."

I will submit the paper to Annals of Improbable Research for their Scientists now know corner.

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The Reg's best-looking reader reveals list of jobs for the beautiful

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Joke

Weren't www.beautifulpeople.com previously listed as www.narcissism.com ?

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Leaked Obama brief reveals US cyber defense, offense policy

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Having plans in place is not a problem

Running around like a headless chicken when the proverbial shit hits the fan is. So yes, it makes sense to have plans in case war breaks out.

Thus, I do not find it at all surprising that there are plans in place for both defensive and offensive action. What is a problem is their constant data gathering on everything. Adding more data to a pool indiscriminately is like wall-of-death fishing: you catch and kill all sorts of stuff you did not intend to. I also do not buy the argument that they have "advanced data-mining algorithms". Data mining is a fancy word for pattern recognition in big data. To stay in the parlance of mining, let data be the ore, and information be the metal you want to extract. As the percentage of metal in the ore becomes lower, it makes less and less sense to extract the ore from the ground in the first place, unless the metal is very very precious. Even then, it is possible to be sidetracked by things that look like the metal, but aren't. Fool's gold (iron pyrite) springs to mind.

Likewise, if you gather data about everybody, looking for a minute percentage of people that actually hate the US sufficiently to do it real harm, the chances are false positive rates will skyrocket. This is a very real danger. It is much better to gather information in a far more directed manner, instead of implicitly suspecting everybody of ill will (which in itself seems to be a self-fulfilling mode of action).

As I have said over and over again: adding hay does not make finding needles easier. In mining parlance, there may be gold in them there hills, but it is better to drive a well-chosen shaft than indiscriminately removing the whole range of hills from the face of the earth, and sifting through tons of worthless rubble.

Given that the earlier leaks were about the far more dangerous data snooping, a cynic (who? me?!), might think this leak is there to distract from the more dangerous issues.

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Enter the Dragon: The Chinese superputer set to win the Top500 crown

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Coat

Sky River

Are you sure it doesn't translate to Skynet?

Mine is the leather jacket

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Help! I’m trapped inside the Chamber of Hollers

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Somehow this reminds me of my parents in law, who (after a career teaching mentally less agile people, to put it mildly) were used to settle every argument by the application of equal parts of authoritarianism and volume (they still go at it hammer and tongs at each other, producing Pythonesque near infinite loops of "Yes it is! No it isn't!") .

They found out the hard way that this did not work on a scientist with a voice that some have compared to Brian Blessed in full spate (but only when I talk enthusiastically about anything or am just plain angry).

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Curiosity prepares for year-long road trip to Mount Sharp

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: Never

Maybe NASA needs to get in touch with the IAU from time to time.

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Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Facepalm

Re: Slow as Sharepoint

Eadon: Maybe clearer vision of the article topic would result if the head was removed from the place where the sun don't shine.

The duration of the trek has everything to do with not allowing a robot to cheerfully drive itself off a cliff. Besides, if the engineering quality of Curiosity is anywhere near as good as that of Spirit and Opportunity (remember their "three month" missions?), Curiosity has time on its side. It's no Scott against Amundsen race to the pole.

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Raspberry Pi DUMBS DOWN to target world+dog

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Joke

Re: Probably not good.

You are about to hear a long story, starting with

When I were a lad, we never had ......

Do you still want to continue?

[yes] [no]

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Jack Vance: Science fiction’s master of magic, mischief and sex

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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I only read the Planet of Adventure tetralogy, and quite liked it, but not so much that I dug out more, I must confess. Sad to hear of his passing but he has had a great innings on this planet, just shy of his century.

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A woman in IT is like a dog who speaks: Rare. A woman in IT security?

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Joke

Ridiculous

"Everybody knows dogs don't speak, hey Gaspode?"

"Yeah right, bark, bark"

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Germans purge selves of indigestible 63-letter word

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Happy

Re: Non-Dutch people speaking Dutch

Ik ben een Brit in Nederland en ik heb geen enkel probleem hiermee, maar ik ben er dan ook geboren.

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Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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The Dutch have their own way of creating massive words:

Hottentottensoldatententententoonstellingspersonenautoparkeerterrein

is one construct, but their tendency to create words with an uncomfortable number of consecutive consonants really stands out:

angstschreeuw

with 8 was long held to be the champion, but

slechtstschrijvend

might top that with 9 (jury still out on whether this word is OK. Trust the Welsh to come up with place names that (appear) to consist only of consonants:

Cwmtwrch, Bwlch and Mwnt were all places I have passed on my meanderings in Wales.

In these cases the 'w' is pronounced more or less like an "oo" as in food

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Pen+tablet bandwagon finally rolling, Nvidia leaps aboard

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Deja vu all over again

Where's that Palm Tungsten T3

Different technology, maybe, but I loved using the stylus on that. My youngest son now thinks it is a cool toy (mainly for recording funny voices).

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Hitchhikers' Guide was WRONG, Earth is not in a galactic backwater

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Joke

We will remain a backwater

as long as cricket is being played on earth. I thought everybody knew that

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LOHAN team regroups for second pop at SPEARS

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Happy

HERETIC!!!!!!!

sorry, couldn't resist.

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Intel's plan for Haswell, Silvermont, Bay Trail: WORLD DOMINATION

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Coat

Everything?

Are they forgetting life and the universe?

Mine is the one with the cassette tapes of the radio plays in the pocket

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Quantum boffins send data ACROSS TIME AND SPACE

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Joke

Re: Did anyone else notice?

Mr Eisenberg, are you certain you want to name your son Hagai? You realize you are dooming him to a career of quantum physics?

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New EXPLICIT pics support notion of moist, welcoming past for Mars

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: you guys are just arguing...

A real scientist will go on arguing until he or she is satisfied by the proofs/arguments given (and even then could start arguing again as new data become available).

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Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Joke

Dead right. Imagine the excitement if the fluid turned out to be alcohol (how easy would it be to get volunteers for a trip to Mars then?).

Alternatively, it was octane, and some Martian equivalent of the Humvee became so popular that they used every last drop (hence the carbon-dioxide atmosphere).

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Sacred islet Rockall repels Brit adventurer's first assault

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Happy

@Parax Re: they are doing it all wrong!

There's a Dutch saying which translates to:

The best sailors are always on shore

I think this is most appropriate.

I am also reminded of Harry Enfield's perennial

You don't wanna do it like that!

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Google nuke thyself: Mountain View's H.264 righteous flame-out

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: Codec patents

The difference is actually made in patent law in most countries.

Most patent laws explicitly exclude patenting mathematical equations (though not necessarily their application). Because any algorithm can be expressed in lambda calculus, it could be (and has been) argued that algorithms should not be patentable. Their application (as e.g. as codec) could be under various laws.

So, as Mr. Slant would say: "This is an interesting case."

With degree of interest being defined as proportional to the amount of money it brings to lawyers.

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Fedora's Schrödinger's Cat Linux gives coders claws for thought

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Coat

I had a version of this, but it quantum-tunnelled away

Sorry, couldn't resist.

Mine is the one with "What is Life?" by Erwin Schrödinger in the pocket (very much worth the read!)

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BOFH: Go on, beancounter, type DROP TABLE asset;

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Thumb Up

Nice!!

The beancounter should have heeded the warning sign:

Danger! Dropping tables! Hard-hat and further protective clothing required.

or the more generic:

Here be dragons

when approaching the BOFH's den

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Curse you, old person, for inventing computers!

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
Silver badge
Joke

Old git 1: When I was a lad, we never had these newfangled integrated bleeding development environments!

Old git 2: Aye, we had emacs, and we were glad of it!

Old git 3: Emacs! we would have loved to have had emacs, we were stuck with vi, but we were happy!

Old git 4: We did not have editors at all, we had piles of punched cards! Hundreds of lines of FORTAN, one to

each card

Old git 1: Luxury! We had no programming languages at all! Everything was machine language

Old git 2: Machine language!? We would have died for machine language. We had to hand wire connections

in our computer to program it!

Old git 3: Right!

When I was young we had to compute entire navigation table with nought more than pencil and

paper and a hand-cranked mechanical computing apparatus!

Old git 4: And the problem with kids today is that if you tell them they don't believe a word you are saying!

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