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* Posts by Rob Fisher

22 posts • joined 10 Oct 2008

Linux backdoor squirts code into SSH to keep its badness buried

Rob Fisher

Re: A million eyes look at the source

It's not so much that having the source code solves all problems. It's that hiding the source code solves no problems and creates new ones.

If no-one can see the source code then it is very easy to make programs do things other than their advertised purpose. If anyone can see the source code, then you can try putting malware in your program, but you might get caught, so you are less likely to try. You might think that no-one will look at the code, but you can't be sure.

I think you're right that most code is not looked at, or not looked at in the right places by the right people. But exploits *are* found and fixed in widely used open source programs, so at least we can see something is working.

There are no certainties, only tradeoffs. A malware writer trades effort needed to make malware against expected value of information stolen. An end user trades effort spent attempting to prevent or detect malware against value of the information that needs protecting. Open source definitely increases the effort a malware writer needs to make to hide their work. Whether it reduces the effort you need to spend on prevention and detection probably depends on what you are doing.

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Don't tell the D-G! BBC-funded study says Beeb is 'too right wing'

Rob Fisher

Wrong question

It's not left vs right, it's top vs bottom. Too often the only viewpoints presented are the government and the people saying the government isn't doing enough.

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Hundreds of UK CSC staff face chop, told to train Indian replacements

Rob Fisher

Re: Isn't this illegal?

@keithpeter "I have no idea where we are going to get jobs that pay reasonable rates for the next few generations either"

We differentiate. There are still things that are better done locally, or that local people are better skilled at. Not every kind of job suits outsourcing.

Also consider that places exporting their surplus supply of engineering talent will quicky get rich and start demanding that talent for themselves. Ultimately the more skilled people there are the more work gets done; skilled people do not go un-used, long term, given sensible economic policies.

"cutting wages or employment protection does not strike me as a good road to go down" -- such things might be unpleasant, but fighting the laws of economics (mathematics? nature?) won't work. Silly polices (e.g. you must employ only local people) will just make things worse.

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Rob Fisher

Re: @Rob Fisher

I am just a programmer. I am under no illusion that my employer owes me a job. Nobody owes me anything. If I want goods and services, I have to exchange my services for them with those who voluntarily choose to make the exchange. I'd rather keep threats of violence (or fines, or imprisonment or whatever) out of it.

If CSC is being irrational, well, they should be free to dispose of their property as they see fit. I only said that it is rational to hire someone to do the same thing for less money. Maybe CSC is not getting the same thing; only they can judge whether it is worth it.

"money is the only criteria": not in life, generally. But when you are a company, largely, yes. Because someone else might undercut you. If you can run a company to do the same job and pay your employees double the going rate and promise never to fire them, then this would be very noble and I would hope you succeed. But this is not something that can be enforced from above.

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Rob Fisher

Re: Isn't this illegal? Immoral?

"To fire someone because you found someone else, who would do the job cheaper, IS ILLEGAL, (as well as immoral)."

It may well be illegal.

I think that forcing someone (as you say the law does) to pay a high price for something they can get for less elsewhere is immoral. Breaking agreements made voluntarily is certainly immoral. But making agreements to employ someone on the condition that you can then stop employing them after a mutually agreed notice period is not immoral.

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Rob Fisher
Meh

Re: Isn't this illegal?

I don't know if it is illegal. A more interesting question is: should it be?

Firing a person and then hiring someone else who is willing to do the same job for less is just rational. Making that illegal is the opposite of freedom of association; makes it riskier to hire anyone; and is using the violence of law to correct voluntary interactions (agreeing to be hired on the basis that you may one day be fired if someone undercuts you) that you don't like (but maybe the people entering the voluntary interactions do like).

Someone said this company should be shamed. For acting rationally?

Instead of all the moralising (even business minister Matthew Hancock is at it), perhaps it would be better to reduce the cost of hiring people in the UK. Think employment law, regulations, tax and even unions.

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Ubuntu boss: I want to make a Linux hybrid mobe SO GIVE ME $32m

Rob Fisher
Thumb Up

Re: Crowd sourcing...

Companies are just groups of individuals.

I like the trend. This way we can get niche products, as long as we are prepared to put our money where are mouths are.

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Rob Fisher
Happy

Not a bad gamble

I paid. I expect it to appear about the time I expect to be buying a new smartphone anyway. This does look like a nice device, and different enough from the current way of thinking to be interesting. And it is completely open, so I can run whatever software I like on it. And the money is not a bad deal for a high end smartphone at UK prices.

Yes, I pay now and get it later. But interest rates are less than inflation so no point keeping my money in the bank. If I change my mind later, I can probably get most of my money back selling it on eBay.

So this is quite a rational gamble.

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Lancashire man JAILED over April Jones Facebook posts

Rob Fisher

Re: Barking up the wrong tree

It's no good quoting law at us. We know the law is stupid; that's the whole point of this article.

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Rob Fisher
WTF?

What freedom of speech means

As reported, the man was arrested and then jailed for speech which caused offence. Freedom of speech as long as it doesn't cause offence isn't much use to anyone.

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Eric Schmidt: Ha ha, NO Google maps app for iPhone 5

Rob Fisher

Re: It is a popularity contest

" Economics just doesn't seem to take into account" -- economics absolutely does take this into account, the Austrian variety especially. It is rational to consume conspicuously if you think this will make you more sexually attractive.

The danger, if you are Apple, is that such things are subject to the whimsy of fashion.

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Rob Fisher
Linux

Apple can block apps

" they might choose to avoid censoring an app that resolves the issues for free. At least, that is, until they get their own house in order."

The chances of this happening might be vanishingly small, but the possibility of it must have some marginal effect on app development. There is always a non-zero risk of spending resources developing an app only for Apple to say no.

This is not a problem penguins have.

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Sources suggest new FTC antitrust focus on Google+

Rob Fisher

Not the role of government

It is not the role of government to meddle in private voluntary interactions. Google is a web site. Don't like it? Make your own web site. No need to get violent about it.

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ECJ gender ruling 'could throw insurance into turmoil'

Rob Fisher
FAIL

Fixed

""On the contrary, it concerns cases in which different insurance risks can at most be associated statistically with gender," she said, completely failing to understand that this is exactly how insurance works.

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Masked passwords must go

Rob Fisher
Joke

Masked passwords on IRC

Look, IRC automatically masks passwords!

http://bash.org/?244321

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Government hints at gaming tax breaks

Rob Fisher
Alert

Social engineering or posturing?

If a tax break can help the computer games industry it can help all industries. How about reducing tax rates across the board? Have the government not heard of the Laffer curve or are they pretending it doesn't exist because they have more to gain from a complicated tax system?

Think about it: a flat, low tax rate would probably generate just as much revenue and you'd save the cost of armies of civil servants and armies of tax accountants.

Alternatively, tax every industry differently and come up with all kinds of schemes and initiatives and you get to a) play at social engineering* by messing with incentives and price signals; b) make a political career out of pandering to special interest groups by giving them tax breaks; c) win friends and influence people by to doing the same and d) get lots of jobs for your friends by having entire government departments to manage everything.

* see also: Law of unintended consequences.

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Obesity witchhunt is a 'moral panic' - sense out of Texas

Rob Fisher
Thumb Up

Nice one, Reg

Nice to see this sentiment somewhere on the Reg. Devil's Kitchen has been telling doctors to "shut up and patch me up" for ages. You can also find this kind of sense being talked about less rhetorically and more scientifically on the excellent Junkfood Science blog. It's about time we stopped listening to the health fascists and realised that people are individuals and have different priorities from each other.

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New Scientist goes innumerate in 'save the planet' special

Rob Fisher

Still not understanding?

The point is that economic growth does not *require* increased use of resources. In the example of oil, what's likely to happen is that if it starts to become scarce it will get more expensive and other ways of making energy will become cost effective. But that doesn't mean growth has to end, as the NS was asserting. Growth can continue to come from better technology.

It's possible to ignore GDP and just consider how wealthy people are. I imagine "equalising the quality of life of everyone (on the planet)" by using solar powered nano-assemblers that grow houses and food directly from atoms in the rock. Such a development would represent vast growth in wealth and not need more physical resources at all.

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Sony to save planet with PS3 firmware overhaul

Rob Fisher

Cure cancer or save the planet?

So the question is, what will save more lives? Leaving it turned on and folding proteins, or turning it off to save the planet?

@Dan: Nothing wrong with an electric heater. I never have to use my central heating in the winter as all my gadgets keep the flat warm. (Although gas heating is possibly marginally more efficient, what with power line transmission losses and so on.)

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US telco: 'Public broadband is illegal'

Rob Fisher

@Col

My reference to stealing was regarding the tax that would have to pay off the bonds. If you're right and they are paid off solely from the profits from the resulting network then the situation is somewhat different. It sounds more like the government is *becoming* a telco.

I'm still not very happy, though. How can a government telco fairly compete with a private telco when it has the power to set whatever regulatory hoops it wants for its competition to jump through? If people complain about big companies having too much influence over governments they should complain even more loudly when the big company *is* the government.

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Rob Fisher
Thumb Up

@Hollerith

"majority rule is considered fair" until the sheep are in the minority and the wolves are voting on what to have for dinner. A crime is a crime whether or not the majority voted for it. And it's not "using whatever means possible to get your way" to suggest that people might prefer to *voluntarily* pay for services they want from those voluntarily offering to provide it.

The best thing a small town can do to improve network infrastructure is offer tax breaks to any company in that business and get planning regulations out of the way. But that doesn't create many jobs for politicians.

I find it odd that Reg readers are so critical of government IT schemes like ID databases but now want the same people to be building our network infrastructure.

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Rob Fisher
Stop

Maybe they have a point

No intention of using tax dollars? How will they redeem the bonds?

So it's still tax. And it's still stealing from the people who voted no. And government projects always cost more than private ones anyway.

You might ask why the telco doesn't build a fibre network if so many people want one. But there will be obstacles: planning regulations and the risk that some government scheme will build an alternative and undercut them spring to mind. And a telco's profits get taxed, so their financial risk from developing infrastructure is higher, thanks to the same government that seems oh so generous in this story.

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