* Posts by Len

171 posts • joined 26 Jan 2009

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Carl Icahn: Will someone rid my portfolio of this rotten Apple?

Len
Holmes

Short and distort?

I can't help but think there is an element of 'Short and distort' at play here.

Sell AAPL, publicly announce this as soon as you're done and make sure many people follow. Once the price lowering effect has worn out buy the same position in AAPL back at lower cost and wait for it to rise again. It could be a quick way for someone like Icahn to make a quick couple of million dollars in a few weeks.

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GitLab offers Digital Ocean to soak up customers' CI burden

Len

Re: DataCentre != ex-USA

Agreed. Having a datacentre in the EU is all well and good but if the company is an American company your data is still not safe.

It has to be an EU company (without a foreign parent) to be on the safe side.

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Panama Papers hack: Unpatched WordPress, Drupal bugs to blame?

Len

Re: It is as I suggested

There are two things that I still find a bit suspicious.

1) That it’s said to have come from a mail server. That all files have been stolen were neatly structured in folders containing sorted emails, scans, contacts, databases etc. suggest to me the data was stolen from a file server, not a mail server.

2) How they got such an enormous amount of data out of the server without anyone noticing. With TBs of data you can’t just wait for the quiet hours of the night to fill the pipe. We’re talking months of continuous downloading.

Both points make an inside job (nicking a backup tape?) much more plausible.

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Brexit: Leaving the EU could trigger UK science patent law rejig

Len

Re: Divide and conquer

While I see your point on some of the things you raise, I don't see how Britain would suddenly become a beacon of democracy after leaving the EU.

Leaving the EU will not suddenly allow all Britons to elect the Head of State, the Cabinet, the House of Lords, the Civil Service or their mayor. It will not suddenly give Britain an independent electoral watch dog, secret elections or more representative and less corrupt MPs. It will still allow MPs to retain their seat when they join Government (instead of checking Government) and it will still mean a party can run the country on a "majority" of 30% of the popular vote.

In short, post-Brexit, any position with serious influence in the UK will likely still be appointed instead of elected so I don't see much change there.

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Len

Of course they are negotiated as a bloc, negotiating on behalf of a market of 500 million people is a lot stronger than on behalf of a market of 60 million people.

But that's not the point. Why would Britain suddenly improve trading with the Far East when it leaves the EU? Plenty of EU members outperform the UK when it comes to international trade (both with the Far East and with other parts of the world) so the current trade agreements are not the reason why Britain performs poorly.

Britain just needs to get better at producing goods or services that people in other countries want. Until it does that I don't expect Britain's current account deficit to significantly improve, with or without Brexit.*

* Of course, leaving the EU is projected to reduce the value of Sterling by about 15 - 20% but I'm not a firm believer in devaluing currency for the benefit of the medium or long term. The effects are only temporary and, worse still (look at how Greece got into its current mess, devaluing the Drachma instead of structurally improving the economy – until its eurozone membership put a stop to that trick), devaluation tends to kick the can of structural improvements down the road.

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Len

If our future trading is with the Far East why isn't it currently? There are several other EU countries which have considerably more trade with the Far East than the UK. There must be a reason that Britain doesn't trade that much with the Far East, the reason can't be EU membership as other EU members are demonstrating.

Britain currently has a current account deficit of 7%. Its highest in 244 years! (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2016/03/31/britain-courts-fate-on-brexit-with-worst-external-deficit-in-his/) This means that the UK imports considerably more than it exports. Unless this changes Britain's money will run out...

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Bloaty banking app? There's a good chance it was written in Britain

Len

Of course, that's how you create an IBAN. Unfortunately the UK (in its quest for complexity and inconvenience) kept using the old system alongside it. For instance, all countries using the euro had a hard stop on 1 Februay 2014 after which the IBAN system was the only system allowed. Apparently towards the end of this year Britain will have finally migrated to a full ISO 20022 system but I'm not holding my breath. If retails banks can screw it up, they will. After all, why make it easier for your customers?

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Len

Until two years ago I had to pay my monthly rent using cheques, my landlord refused any other sort of payment. That is, of course, because he was behind the times but the fact that banks even still offer it means it can take a terribly long time be replaced for some people. HMRC still uses cheques by default for VAT repayments. If you want to have it deposited automatically into your account you have fill in a form and go through a telephone interview!

Other countries have pensioners that may need some extra help switching too. And yet some have managed to abolish cheques more than a decade ago.

Of course, there are countries that are far worse. The business of a friend of mine signed a software contract with a US local government and this government could only pay by sending them a cheque for over two million dollars!

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Len

I can't help but think these apps are just a reflection of the back office technology they have to talk to. Despite Britain being renowned for it's financial services, which rank among the most advanced in the world, it's junior member the retail banking sector is definitely not part of that advanced world.

If you see how long it took Britain to introduce Chip and PIN, that it's 2016 and the UK still has (and uses!) checks, that Britain is still hooked on the outdated and inflexible Sort Code+Account system instead of the IBAN system that dozens of other countries have already moved to, that transferring money to a neighbouring country still requires jumping through all sort of hoops and eye-watering fees as if it needs to be telegraphed to Rhodesia in the 1950's, you can see that Britain's retail banking could do with keeping up with the 20th century. Perhaps if they speed up they could even enter the 21st century.

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Apple's fruitless rootless security broken by code that fits in a tweet

Len

Re: Not clear

Look up the difference between market share and installed base. Market share says nothing about the amount of devices out there, only about a potential direction in the market.

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Whatever happened to ... Nest?

Len

Re: Software will eat everything... sometimes

Until recently the Nest didn't even support OpenTherm, meaning you could only really use it effectively for those old types of boilers/heaters and not modern energy efficient ones everyone has bought in recent years. Without OpenTherm the thermostat can't do any modulation and so it's reduced to a very expensive on/off switch.

Furthermore, considering it's high price and the relative small (or non existent savings on a modern device) savings it would take years to make you money back compared to a basic 20 quid thermostat. It's a gimmick, nothing more...

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LG builds a DAB+ digital radio radio into a smartmobe

Len

Re: DAB+, you say? What a pity ...

The first DAB+ stations in the UK were launched a few weeks ago when the new Digital 2 multiplex came on air.

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Len

Re: Battery life ?

The older DAB radios used to be power hungry, that's right. However, DAB power consumption hasn't been a problem for some years now and many of the modern chipsets use less power in DAB/DAB+ mode than in FM mode.

Don't forget, in order to get a bit of a decent FM signal in a moving radio/phone/car with often a minimal aerial and plenty of electronic interference, you have to process the hell out of the FM signal with a Digital Signal Processor to polish it up into something half decent before it can be sent to the amp. That is not cheap from a processing point of view.

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'Leave' or 'Stay' in the referendum? UK has to implement GDPR either way

Len

Re: The Tracer Bullet Effect

Re: your final thought. England could always leave the EU. Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales would overwhelmingly to stay in. If England votes Leave while others vote Remain two things could happen. The remaining nations hold their own referendum to leave the UK or England can decide to leave the UK. Which scenario will depend out the overall UK outcome to see who is the dissatisfied party.

Obviously, neither is very likely to happen as the UK will vote to remain in the EU and England won't have the balls to leave on its own.

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Len

Re: LEAVE EU would actually STAY in the EEA

Norway is the only Scandinavian country not in the EU. The others are EU members.

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Khronos releases Vulkan 1.0 open graphics specification

Len

Vulkan successor to OpenGL?

If I read between the lines it looks as if Vulkan could be a successor to OpenGL (i.e. Vulkan being rebranded as OpenGL 5.0 at some point) because it would allow much of the cruft that has gathered in OpenGL do stay behind in OpenGL 4.0.

Obviously they wouldn't openly acknowledge that at this stage so they don't alienate developers but I don't see why this couldn't happen in about two years. Especially if Vulkan proves to be a success.

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Europe: Go on. Ask us to probe the £130m 'sweetheart' deal HMRC made with Google

Len
Go

The point is that the EU only "messes" with this on request of UK citizens/parliament. Considering multiple people in the UK have requested this the EU can review this case.

Frankly I am glad there is some additional point to turn to if Westminster turns out to be too corrupt not necessarily working for the good of the country.

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Come on kids, let's go play in the abandoned nuclear power station

Len
Facepalm

Sorry to be pedantic. We're getting the French to build the reactor (if it even still goes ahead, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-35415187 ). The Chinese are only there to partly fund it. The UK doesn't have the money to subsidise plant construction as building nuclear power plants has become prohibitively expensive.

Furthermore, the only way to get the French and Chinese to pay for construction is if we promise to pay them more than double the current market rate per kWh ( http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-22772441 ). The UK taxpayer is going to subsidise running a loss-making power plant for a couple of decades.

By the way, I wholeheartedly agree with your point about the desire to build stuff. While in Germany it is a criminal offence to call yourself an engineer without the required five-year degree from a proper university, in the UK some bloke who did a one-day training to hookup broadband modems comes to my house calling himself an engineer. The UK has become a country where people aspire to become journalists writing thinly-veiled personal opinions disguised as 'news' instead of building bridges spanning 2500 metres across an estuary.

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Snowden bag-carrier Miranda's detention was lawful – UK appeal court

Len

Which means that David Miranda should now go over their heads and take it up with the ECHR.

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Engineer's bosses gave him printout of his Yahoo IMs. Euro court says it's OK

Len
Big Brother

Separate work from private life!

I have had a great many colleagues who had absolutely no issues running their entire private life via work email. Funny cat video to share? Who broke up with whom? A heavy night on the tiles last night? Hate your manager? They had absolutely no issue using work email for personal matters. And if they moved company they just told everyone they had changed email address and presumably it went on...

I have never understood it. Work email is just that, work email. I have absolutely no issue with an employer reading my work email, they pay for it after all and provide it so I can work. They can expect it to be used for work. I'll use my personal email for my private life.

That said, I wonder how relevant a case such as this still is. I bet most people currently use a mobile phone for private comms, not their work desktop.

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EU lawmaker committees call for single EU telco regulator

Len
Go

Interesting idea.

It's an interesting idea, and not very surprising that it's mooted (again).

We are slowly but surely moving to a single EU telecoms market. We've had price ceilings for internal calls for years. Fortunately there is, finally, also some serious traction with regards to the abolishing of roaming charges (the concept of roaming is in conflict with a single market). Through expansion and acquisitions we've seen pan-European telco giants such as Vodafone, T-Mobile and Telefónica emerge.

With a lot of push (not a least from the British government who feels Britain could strongly benefit from it) now towards developing a single European services market these telecoms developments will only be stimulated further.

In that light, having one instead of 28 telco regulators makes perfect sense.

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Alu Alu! Nokia gobbles French rival Alcatel-Lucent in €15.6bn deal

Len

Re: Finns gonna pay the fat redundancy cheques again

True. Britain has one of the lowest labour productivity stats of the developed world, certainly a lot lower than France. Just 'being visible' at work does not equal productivity. I know plenty of people who spend the last two hours at work on Facebook just because they can't be seen to be the first one to leave.

I'm not sure if I'd want a 35 hour work week, but then, I'm a workaholic. If the French can get more done in 35 hours than the Brits in 45 more power to them!

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UK will pay EU £180m in fines due to botched CAP IT system – NAO

Len

Re: Fraud incentive?

@dogged Don’t get me wrong, I’m am most certainly not saying most or all farmers are fraudsters.

All I know is that every year many EU member states (including Britain) fail to get their books signed off by EU auditors because the national agencies tasked with distributing EU subsidies can’t provide adequate proof the money was spent as it should be. Upon subsequent audits they uncover a mixture of incompetence, administrative mess and fraud (mainly overstating land and cattle size I believe). This new system was supposed to clean up this mess and reduce fraud in one go.

This being Britain it’s probably 80% attributable to incompetence/mess and only 20% to fraud.

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Len
Holmes

Fraud incentive?

[Tinfoil hat]

I wonder if some people had an incentive to have this project fail.

There are suspicions of quite significant fraud with EU subsidies by British farmers and the more accurate the measurement, the harder it becomes to defraud.

Considering subsidies are tied to numbers such as land size, land type, cattle type, cattle size, litres/kilos of product produced etc. having numbers that are scattered across different records, hard to verify or ambiguous makes checks much harder. Having it all automated can make certain fraud flags a lot easier. “How can someone with only X hectares of land and Y amount of cows produce Z litres of milk?” That sort of stuff…

[/Tinfoil hat]

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Yesterday: Openreach boss quits. Today: BT network goes TITSUP

Len

Re: Back up and running.

Seriously, people should stop voluntarily sending ALL their DNS traffic to Google. All the sites you visit, all the mail servers you check, all the sync services you use, all the FTP connections you make etc. all sent to Google.

Just use a OpenNIC Project server near you: https://www.opennicproject.org

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Former parking ticket bloke turns out to be cybersecurity genius

Len
Pirate

Re: not really surprising that options/bad education has limited peoples potentials

Agreed. HR, lawyers and cleaners are best involved at the end when there is a mess to clean up. If you involve them too early nothing ever gets done or only done poorly.

An HR person will only hire safe (but often mediocre) bets, a lawyer will advise against pursuing most things because doing nothing caries the lowest risk, a cleaner will advise against cooking a delicious meal because not cooking at all will keep the kitchen clean.

Just involve them when the work is done and the mess is made, that's what they're good at.

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Apple’s TV platform just became a little more secure (well, the apps at least)

Len
Holmes

Re: How long before "Smart TV" revert to just TVs?

Not long. I believe this whole Smart TV fad will take a massive turn within the next year or two. TVs will become dumber, just screens really, and all the intelligence will come from little boxes like ChromeCast, Apple TV, Roku etc.

This means you can keep your expensive screen for many years while replacing the intelligence by just upgrading that cheap box you hide behind the TV. Those little boxes can be much more flexible, more user friendly and more easily upgradeable than a TV can ever be.

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TalkTalk attackers stole 'incomplete' customer bank data, ISP confirms

Len
Holmes

Re: How stupid

The only reason I can see for storing their customers' bank account data but without the full bank account number is for the purpose of support. It might be that the hackers actually got access to a TalkTalk helpdesk system. As you say, the helpdesk often only has access to the last four digits for ID purposes.

The billing systems (which would contain the full details) are likely not compromised.

That would suggest that the hackers probably have contact details and the last four digits but indeed not enough to commit fraudulent transactions on those accounts. Judging from a few cases of people who are missing money that I heard on the radio it seems that the hackers took the details and started calling the victims. They received a phone call informing them about the hack, probably from the hackers identifying as TalkTalk. If you have contact details and the last four digits it should be relatively easy to convince people to hand over any missing details.

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Want to self-certify for Safe Harbor? Never mind EU, YES WE CAN

Len

Re: Who cares?

Fair point. Not a problem in our case but to be on the safe side you shouldn't use American businesses to store your data. Nice message the US government is sending out, "don't buy American".

It's no wonder Silicon Valley is up in arms on this topic.

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Len

Who cares?

Who cares what the ill-informed opinion of some US department is? Either you stop breaking the law or you cease trading.

We just made sure to choose a hoster which guarantees us they don't store our data outside of the EU. Job done. Don't tell me billion dollar can companies such as Facebook are technically not able to operate within the law. Operating within the law is part of doing business. Of course, any business can, at times, sail close to the wind. However, having a business model reliant on knowingly breaking the law is not called a business, it's called a criminal organisation.

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'Safe Harbor': People in Europe 'can get quite litigious about this'

Len
Go

Re: Let's have some European competition

Hear hear!

It’s time we get some of our pride back. With over 500 million EU citizens the EU home market is considerably bigger than the US home market and nowadays has a fairly homogenous legislation making the rise of European internet giants a real possibility.

Of course, the challenge remains that we have so many languages but that could be turned into an advantage. American companies are notoriously bad at internationalisation and localisation (why does Facebook insist on telling me the temperature at an event in the UK in Fahrenheit!? Why does Tweetdeck insist on only allowing to schedule tweets using the moronic 12 h clock!? Why does Wordpress default to the broken date notation of 5-13-2015!?). We should be able to turn this American weakness into an advantage for rapid growth.

I actually appreciate the actions of companies such as large hoster OVH that publicly state that "OVH datacentres are situated outside Patriot Act jurisdiction area" (https://www.ovh.co.uk/aboutus/technologies/datacenters.xml). My company too has added to its privacy statement that all our data is hosted inside the EU. More companies should be doing (and saying) similar things.

The real remaining challenge is then funding. European investors are typically much more risk averse when it comes to throwing cash at the umpteenth ‘Facebook+household chores+menstrual cycle+currency markets social sharing mash-up service’ than American investors are.

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IPv6 is great, says Facebook. For us. And for you a bit, too

Len

Re: 20-30% of sites available via ipv6

It's true, the UK is woefully behind most other countries in Europe when it comes to IPv6 use. We'd be lucky to make it into the European top 30 some day. For now we're trailing behind countries that have only recently got stable electricity networks and indoor plumbing...

https://www.google.com/intl/en/ipv6/statistics.html#tab=per-country-ipv6-adoption&tab=per-country-ipv6-adoption

Another comparison? Have a look at basic hosting accounts. In many EU countries even very basic (three quid a month) hosting accounts give you an IPv6 block as standard. In the UK even major hosters will tell you they have no idea when they'll implement it. It means that I have now consolidated all my hosting that used to reside at seven hosters at just two that do understand IPv6. Mythic Beasts for the more techie stuff and OVH for the more mainstream heavy load stuff. Good riddance.

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Len

Re: Nat as a security measure

The default use of IPv6 on most operating systems uses RFC4941 Privacy Extensions so your device will not have a uniquely identifiable global IPv6 address.

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Len

That's not correct. Facebook only has IPv6 servers, they removed IPv4 from all servers some time ago. Internally they only use IPv6 (both on servers and on desktops) because they ran out of RFC1918 addresses!

This is quite a good presentation about their network structure: http://www.internetsociety.org/deploy360/blog/2014/03/facebooks-extremely-impressive-internal-use-of-ipv6/

They translate IPv6-only to Dual Stack (IPv6+IPv4) at the network edge for legacy IPv4 users.

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Len

What you're looking for is not IPv6 NAT, that would be pointless and would actually limit your full use of the internet. What you're looking for is Privacy Extensions (https://tools.ietf.org/html/rfc4941). That is done on the OS level and most big operating systems support that. Many have it on by default.

Essentially it means that your OS will change it's internal IP address every so often (every 24 hours?) so any outside observer can't track to see if it's the same machine or a different one. As an end user you don't notice this at all, just like you don't notice DHCP addressing, it just works.

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Len

Re: To NAT or not to NAT

Even the most basic firewall will provide much better security than NAT ever will. Just because it has an unintended side effect of breaking your internet connection doesn't mean that NAT can be relied on for security. If you depend on NAT instead of a firewall for your security you should expect be wide open to the internet.

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'Major' outage at Plusnet borks Brits' browsing, irate folk finger DNS

Len
Black Helicopters

Re: heh

Wait, so you voluntarily share all your DNS data with Google?

Every website you visit

Every mailprovider you POP/IMAP

Every messaging server you use

Every update server your installed software contacts regularly

Essentially anything that involves domain names gets shared with Google

Why not have a look at the OpenNIC Project? http://wiki.opennicproject.org/Tier2 You can choose which country the server resides in (No DNS providers outside the EU for me), whether they log any data etc.

Just select a dozen that you trust, run them through NameBench and pick the fastest ones…

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At LAST: RC4 gets the stake through the heart

Len
Happy

Re: Good luck, with some devices embedded management servers...

That's why the article says:

"Mozilla that its defaults will be no-RC4 in version 44 expected in January (but users will still be able to explicitly set a preference if they need it and know what they're doing)."

The most important thing is that webserver administrators all over the world are being forced to update their security because otherwise their visitors will not be able to visit their site in Q2 2016. If individual power users have some pressing need to still use RC4 they can re-enable it.

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Web Summit looks at new homes ... this time with sun and decent Wi-Fi

Len

Lisbon!

While Amsterdam would probably not be a bad choice (easy to get to from just about anywhere thanks to Schiphol Airport, plenty of big conference venues and things to do around the conference) I'd prefer Lisbon simply because of the climate.

The upside is also that it gives some flexibility planning-wise. You could easily do it as early as the end of February or as late as October and still have nice weather. Quite useful in an already crowded conference calendar.

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German railways upgrade their comms tech from 2G to 4G

Len
Devil

I'll raise you with a bigger anorak.

Here is the source image: https://www.flickr.com/photos/joshtechfission/8867725658

Apparently it's a British Rail Class 55: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_Rail_Class_55

Top tip: Don't press that red button on the top left. It stops all trains in the vicinity. Useful if you've just crashed into a lorry on a level crossing and don't want a colleague coming from the other direction crash into it as well. Not recommended at other times.

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And on that bombshell: Top Gear's Clarkson to reappear on Amazon

Len
Happy

In other news...

Amazon have signed a contract for three more seasons of Last of the Summer Wine.

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Len
Mushroom

Panto!

Three seasons behind a paywall and they're ready for panto!

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Get root on an OS X 10.10 Mac: The exploit is so trivial it fits in a tweet

Len

Re: Congratulations on repeating exploits before they can be fixed

Of course Apple will fix this in the production version. It's just that the beta for El Capitan was just released yesterday while they probably need more rigorous testing before they want to push it out to production.

It's fine screwing up a beta version, not screwing up a production version...

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The French want to BAN .doc and .xls files from Le Gouvernement

Len

Re: What's up DOC?

The primary motive is not money, using non-proprietary open formats guarantees you can still read these documents decades from now. That might not be very important for most people and organisations, for governments it often is. They have archival and transparency requirements that many other orgs don't have.

As a side effect it also frees them from vendor lock in. Even if they may not decide to drop MS software right away they can do so at any moment in the future when something better or cheaper is a serious option. Their own files will not hold them hostage to one supplier any more. This will also require MS to stay competitive on features and cost. It allows for actual competition (which is also why MS is fighting this tooth and nail). They lost the fight in the a couple of countries (including the UK) and it will be interesting to see if they lose it in the France too.

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Len

Re: What's up DOC?

In all the most commonly used office suites setting ODF as the default save format is a one time setting. A setting that can easily be set by their administrator. Most people won't even notice the change as most people won't look at file extensions anyway.

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Len

Re: te-he

Be careful not to confuse switching to OpenDocument with leaving MS Office.

For most governments going down the open formats path it’s not the software license cost which is the issue, it’s the closed file formats. Especially when thinking about being able to read government documents a few decades from now and not being locked in to one vendor it makes sense to ditch proprietary/closed formats.

Because MS doesn’t want to lose lucrative government business they have responded by adding ODF support to MS Office (although not always 100% compliant) because in more and more countries it’s a requirement in the tender. That is the way it should be. If someone feels MS Office is the best tool for their job, so be it. As long as it doesn’t hamper innovation and competition. I am fine with people using MS Office in combination with ODF if that is what they want.

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Len

Re: If you can't beat them...

Just found this, apparently MS has started to take ODF 1.2 serious:

http://www.computerweekly.com/news/4500243446/Microsoft-adds-ODF-12-to-Office-365-to-adhere-to-government-demands

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Len

Re: If you can't beat them...

Oh, it can definitely use some compliance love. Hopefully ODF 1.2 becoming an ISO standard recently and more governments requiring it means MS will get their act together.

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Len

Re: At last!!

That was implemented, exactly one year ago today. https://www.gov.uk/government/news/open-document-formats-selected-to-meet-user-needs

I don't know how far they are with changing the default save format on government desktops though. I think the most important thing is that IT suppliers to government departments can't sell services, hardware and software any more that requires or produces not-approved file formats.

I expect decisions like these by various governments not to create a revolution (we would have seen that by now as the first government required ODF many years ago) but rather a slow trickle. IT suppliers can't ignore ODF any more and I expect we'll slowly see more and more product support ODF. If anything, it's a massive shot in the arm for developers implementing ODF, creating its frameworks etc.

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Len

Re: If you can't beat them...

Microsoft implemented OpenDocument since MS Office 2007 SP2. That means that practically any office desktop in the world can read and write OpenDocument files now. MS had to because many governments started to require ODF support years ago and they we're not keen on losing those sales.

But I assume you mean why they had to invent their own format instead of using the existing OpenDocument. I think I know why but it's a shame indeed...

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