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* Posts by Pete 2

2262 posts • joined 10 Jun 2009

'Disruptive innovation' is nonsense? Not ALWAYS, actually

Pete 2
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Too much law

The biggest barrier that disruptive technologies have to face today (it was different in the past: even up to 20 years ago), is litigation.

There are a lot - the vast majority - of companies that make stuff and profit from what is here, now, today. They value the ability to make this stuff so much that they've managed to persuade the legislature of the whole dam' world to grant them patent protection of every stoooopid little idea, component, design flourish, technological variant and process they could possibly push through - and the bar is set pretty low.

As a consequence, any new improvements on existing products that small companies are foolish enough to try and promote will get stomped into the ground by queues of lawyers focused on protecting the vested interests of their behemoth paymasters. Irrespective of what benefits these innovative ideas and products might bring.

That means it's getting harder and harder - and taking longer and longer - to "disrupt" an existing incumbent. The only areas open for innovation aren't to disrupt existing, originality-squashing, products but to branch out into new areas. Areas that have no stultifying pre-existing IP and where it will take the legal smother-pillow 20 years to catch up and kill off your novel ideas. But by then, you'll be the industry dinosaur: desperately fending off all these new, warm-blooded, innovators and trying to kill them off, in the same way others attempted to do-for you a generation ago.

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GCSE Computing teachers cry victory as board decides NOT to bin tech teens' work

Pete 2
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Re: Assessment methods

> All candidates outsourced to India for the actual exam

and marking performed by america's electronic voting machines?

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Pete 2
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Advanced level

... and surely if you can get someone else to provide the answers to your computing problems, you should be awarded a GCSE in IT management?

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British and European data cops probe Facebook user-manipulation scandal

Pete 2
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The internet is now ... closed for business

> to see if their emotions could be manipulated based on which posts they were served

Shudder.

So if these people find that explicitly manipulating the emotions of web users is illegal, that's pretty much the end of the whole thing.

Every advertisement intends to manipulate readers' emotions (greed, lust, fear, more greed, confusion, avarice, envy and some more greed). Every troll post tries to do something very similar (e.g. Apple products are overpriced and only bought by people who value style over substance) such as instill anger, laughter (at those who get angry), confusion or happiness - as Madame de Gaulle once mispronounced.

Get rid of all instances of this and we're back in the days of Gopher and newsgroups.

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Maplin Electronics sold for £85m to Rutland Partners

Pete 2
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Re: Vouchers

Yes, I remember that, too - not your girlfriend, the catalogue. Didn't it have a picture of Concorde on the front cover?

I also remember being able to send in an order on the Thursday in one of their post-paid first-class envelopes that were included in every order and getting the swag delivered on Saturday morning.

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Pete 2
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How the sale went down

The private equity people walked into the room - at which point all the Maplin staff execs scarpered out of sight. When they did reappear, they were unable to answer the most basic questions about the business, merely reading out what was written about it in the catalogue. They also refused, point blank, to make eye contact.

When the P/E execs made their offer to buy the outfit, they got the response "sorry, we don't have one in stock at the moment, but if you come back next week, we'll order one for you - but in the mean time, would you like a radio-controlled toy with lots of flashing lights".

Luckily, the P/E guys were too savvy to fall for the Maplin teams offer of buying an extended warranty with the company (no, you don't get your money back if the company turns out to be broken), but they did buy an extra set of batteries for a bargain £5 million.

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BBC: Bumpkins, hobbits need fairer coverage

Pete 2
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They do things differently out there

The problem with "rural affairs" coverage is that there's little or no scope to show these parts of the country as bastions of multi-cultural, liberal-arts, vegetarian individuals. And in that case, the BBC neither knows how to address them without the MC-LA types being horrified: both at the though that they don't have tube-trains "out there" and that their milk comes from cows - not Tesco (and that cutesy ickle bunny-wunnies are shot, skinned and eaten - by people) - and nor does it know how to present their concerns, interests and issues without their city-dwelling cousins ending up cowering in the corner, behind the sofa (so what does happen to all the "boy" calves, who are no use to a dairy farmer?).

Not to mention the ever present possibility that behind the back of an O/B presenter, we might be treated to the sight of some pigs "makin' bacon".

So, given that the BBC likes it's audiences to sit neatly in nice little compartments, that are easily catalogued with non-controversial and "balanced" mixes of people one can see why people who either choose to eschew cities, or have escaped from them, might not fit into their comfy view of their audience.

Though it would be amusing to see how a reporter deals with being on the wrong end of a shotgun barrel in a "get off my land" situation.

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Google: Glass goggles are a 'fairly lousy surveillance device'

Pete 2
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Worthless conditionals

> ... could breach Britain's Data Protection law

yes, and my house "may" be at risk ....

Don't give me wishy-washy possibilities: anything might do anything. Tell me what will or does happen - or stop wasting people's time.

The point of a government watchdog is not to wring its hands and say "well ... it might (or might not)" Hell, I could train a frog to jump onto "might" or "might not" lily leaves and it would have the same value as a statement of the legal position. If these guys don't know what's going on then we have to ask: what's the point of them? If it will need some case law to decide, then surely these people should keep their gobs shut until such clarity has been obtained.

File under: publicly financed waste of space.

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It's a Doddle: Amazon inks train station parcel deal with Network Rail

Pete 2
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New spin on old idea

I'm told that the victorians used to go to the railway station to buy their newspapers. Quite reasonable when you consider that they (as well the mail) were delivered by train.

Considering that so few working people are at home during the only time that couriers seem able to organise deliveries, if this threatens to take away a significant portion of their business and makes them buck up their ideas, it can only be a good thing.

Though it does give rise for a whole new set of excuses as to why your package has been delayed. How long until Amazon has to start apologizing for leaves on the line?

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Google spaffs $50 MILLION on 'get girls coding' campaign

Pete 2
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Setting up a bigger problem

> Simply put, code is a tool that lets you write your story with technology.

That sound you can hear is my head ... thump ... thump ... thump ... banging against my desk.

That might be putting "coding" simply, but it's so far from reality that it doesn't even count as being wrong.

Simply put, coding is writing instructions. Not what you want a machine to do, but what you're telling it to do - whether that's right or wrong. (Hint: mostly wrong). It requires very precise language and a very clear analysis of what you want to achieve.

To present it as some sort of nice, warm, fuzzy "story" will only attract people who will later feel both alienated by the reality and that they have been misled by the campaign. We, those of us who have done "coding" (really: the smallest part of the job) should set the story right. The only way to succeed as a "coder" is to have a firm technical grasp of what the end result should look like and to be very aware that, unlike other creative pursuits (and coding is a creative act), your tools have zero tolerance for interpretation and doubt. Hence a basic requirement is an eye for detail, not broad brush-strokes and arm waving.

Garbage in, Garbage out.

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DON’T add me to your social network, I have NO IDEA who you are

Pete 2
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Few are called - fewer are called back

> I am not normally so dismissive

It sounds to me like you are the height of diligence.

My usual (read: only) strategy with all of these requests is to delete them out of hand - with no further thought, or guilt. The only exceptions being if I have met the individual, in person recently. And that there is a picture or hint of a cat, baby or obvious product anywhere in the material they sent me regarding the invitation.

So long as I actually know the person I will consider adding, friending or whatever other -ing is in vogue.

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Is storage a security issue? Or is security a storage issue?

Pete 2
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Security and users don't mix

There is no "storage vs security" issue.

If you have a design AND implementation that is intrinsically secure (hint: nobody does, the best there is are systems that will slow hackers down to a speed that matches the slow and ponderous decision making processes with an organisation ... sometimes), then adding more terabytes won't change that.

Obviously you mustn't do anything idiotic, like have storage you can log in to, or control remotely, or physically remove. But a secure system can have 1GB of mass storage (though that's not very "mass") or 100 PB.

However, more storage is generally a portent of bigger problems: users.

Users hate security and will go to great lengths to subvert, avoid, negate and deny it. It slows them down. It makes them jump through hoops. It makes them type in stuff and remember stuff. In a JFDI world, it's an annoyance - and we'd all be better off without it (so I'm told). Thatt's not an unreasonable attitude, when your users are under-staffed, over-stressed and pressured to "do more with less". Given the lack of loyalty that companies show their users, why should the users show any back? Perhaps by caring about security and working diligently to implement it - after all, it's not their data.

So if you want a secure system, first you have to secure the people who access your data. That starts by treating them with respect, instilling a feeling of ownership in them and rewarding them (monetarily or environmentally) for NOT making mistakes, taking shortcuts, and by giving them a system with security that is neither onerous nor intrusive. If you can do that, you will have the skills necessary to design systems that are secure by default - no matter how much storage they require. Better: you'll have users (and maybe even admins) who respect the need for that security. What you can never do is add security, like a new coat of paint, after the fact.

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Today's get-rich-quick scheme: Build your own bank

Pete 2
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A better mousetrap

> someone coming in with a completely blank sheet, able to write a clean and efficient system from the ground up,

All very fine, in theory. However a lot of the baggage that banking systems have are the fixes, workarounds, tweaks and efficiency hacks that had to be added to the original clean sheet bank system in order to get it to work securely, according to all the regulations, without stiffing customers' 0.0001 pennies from rounding and able to "talk" to all the other banking systems: which don't quite work in practice the way their paper specifications say they should.

How long would it take to get from a brand new, clean system to one that is able to operate in the same environment as all the mature (albeit rat's-nest coded) systems we have today.

And on another note: how would you persuade customers to deposit all their "hard earned" with you. Customers need to have confidence in their banks and all the annoying little glitches that would be found during (say) the first few years of operation wouldn't add to the customers' feeling that their cash was safe. And when you add to that the sinking feeling that a customer would get when receiving their introductory letter:

Dear Mr. Worstall,

Thank you for opening a current account with us.

Your account number is 00000001.

Please tell all your friends about us

Doesn't really work, does it?

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Virgin Media boss AND ex-Murdoch man: BSkyB broadband is 'lousy'

Pete 2
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Sieze the opportunity

> "We're not perfect but we have got a lot better than we [ Virgin Media ] were,"

Not too surprising, since they have do so much scope for improvement.

Personally the only complaint I have about Sky broadband is the godawful help desk. However, once you can get past or short circuit that, their actual techies have been both helpful and reliable.

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Supermodel Lily Cole: 'I got a little bit upset by that Register article'

Pete 2
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Units?

> Success can only be measured in time

Now that's impossible! (dot com)

I wonder how much success she's had with this venture our money? Would it be a couple of months, or a millisecond?

Although investing her own money is a bit of a win-win since any losses just reduce the amount of tax she (or more likely: some company that her accountant has magicked into existence as a container for this venture) has to pay, whereas any profit would go directly back to her.

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Want to tell the world how IT really works? Tell us first

Pete 2
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Swings and roundabouts

It's an old cartoon, older than the internet, but still sums up the world of IT just as well as when I first saw this 30 <ahem> years ago.

http://www.businessballs.com/treeswing.htm

Apropos the question the governor or the governed

The answer is: both. IT has a parasitic relationship with "the business". Neither side can exist without the other, which is probably why both sides hold each other in such disdain.

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Google: Why should we pay tax when we make 'intangibles'?

Pete 2
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> So if I buy a widget from my supplier for £10 and sell it for £30 I book £20 profit and get taxed on that.

Good heavens! No. You don't even need schemes with other colluding companies.

Your accountant factors in the cost of sale: your time at whatever hourly rate you have arbitrarily chosen. The amount of time taken to sell-on the widget: again, at whatever number of hours you arbitrarily decide. Plus the cost of advertising, marketing, essential office services and "reputation" and of course the cost of your accountant. When all that is taken into account you'll probably (if your accountant is any good at all) have made a loss and will have no tax to pay.

For most well run companies, the amount of profit (or loss) they report is a choice they make. Even shopkeepers in your local high street do the same thing. Making too much money? Simple: buy extra stock to use up that cash, thus reducing your taxable "profit" for the year.

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Pete 2
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If I can't see it, it doesn't exist???

> the benefits it brings to the local economy are intangible

And the attributes that taxes pay for are equally intangible. You know, all those airy-fairy "things" that we all enjoy, that without a tax-paying population we wouldn't have. All the stuff that governments use our money to buy (duck houses notwithstanding) for us.

Things like: security, stability and laws. Whaddaya mean? you thought the police and the teachers and suchlike were all paid for by the mythical "they". The same people so often cited in phrases such as "they really should do something about ... " Or that there was some infinitely deep pot of money that paid for all the "free" services we have. All the education, health, welfare - you could even put BBC TV (oh yeah, and radio) into that category.

These features of our society might be intangible. They might be so subtle or ubiquitous that we forget they exist or just assume they'll always be there - a bit like The Internet, without which Google and its ilk would never exist, However, it's exactly those properties that make one (developed) country or another more or less attractive to multinationals and mega-corporations - which presumably, is why Google has chosen to have a presence in Australia,

You'd hope that a provider of internet services would have a bit more of a clue about where her business comes from and what it's based on.

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So, what exactly defines a 'boffin'? Speak your brains...

Pete 2
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Re: The socks have it

> the Pyke scale should be logarithmic

Tricky one, for two reasons.

First of all, is the scale additive or multiplicative? If one has a box in the lab shed marked "lasers: misc." that puts you somewhere on the scale. Likewise if you just happen to own a mass spectrometer (or have a penchant for high altitude balloons), you would also be on there, somewhere. However if you have both does that make you a boffin by the sum of those devices "boffinism" or does it imply a greater area of boffinism, hence multiplying (or adding the log()'s) of the individual contributions.

Secondly, how would a logarithmic scale denote a person with zero boffinism? log(0) is not a defined value and there are no log()'s of negative values and log(<fraction>) comes out to be < 0.0.

In the spirit of making things as complicated as necessary a logarithmic scale would need to be calculated something like:

($value == 0 ? 0 : sign($value) * log(abs($value+1))/log(2))

Where the log(2) is a normalisation, so that a 1 Pyke boffin gets assigned a value of 1.0 - we wouldn't want them to be too Pyke-y, would we?

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Pete 2
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The socks have it

It would be very easy to label a boffin with physical characteristics: Einstein's hair, Patrick Moore's dress sense (not that I'm suggesting Sir PM ever wore a dress), Brains from Thunderbirds glasses. However, that would be shallow.

No. A true boffin would be a person who was wonderfully at home with all sorts of abstract notions. Who has a brain the size of a planet and is able to explain simple facts and phenomena in such complex and technical terms that no-one without and equally sized brain would have a clue what he/she/it was taking about. If they have to lapse into differential equations, tensor algebra or Schwartzian Transforms to "explain" - then so much the better.

A true boffin would also be totally mystified by the inability of us ordinary folk to follow their descriptions and train of thought.

One other thing that a boffin would always do, would be to require strict, technical, definitions and (of course) units of measurement to quantify whatever it is they are referring to - including their own boffinry. I would like to offer the Pyke as a unit of boffinry. 1 Pyke would adequately describe Dr. Magnus, himself. With perhaps a milli-Pyke being the level you attain by wearing mis-matched socks (and 2 mPyke for only wearing one sock). There could, of course, be negative values: attributed to individuals who not only didn't meet the requirements of boffinry, but who actually eschewed them. Being organised, pretty or understandable would count against and that's why there are so few boffins on TV any more.

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We're ALL Winston Smith now - and our common enemy is the Big Brother State

Pete 2
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Honesty is the best policy

One of the inter-generational differences (whether it's the metaphorical cart the or horse in this argument I don't have the insight to say) is attitudes towards honesty: telling the truth - whatever "truth" turns out to be.

One of the many throwaway lines in the BBC sitcom Just Good Friends (other than the innoculation classic: "didn't you feel a prick?" "Well, Penn, I was a bit embarassed") was Penny's admonishing Vince for telling lies and getting the reply "That's because I'm a liar" and after that the whole topic was dropped and the story moved on. Vince tells lies: it's no big deal.

These days, it seems, that "being a liar" doesn't mean telling people that it's "black" when really it's "blue". But that lying now means not volunteering every single piece of relevant, or otherwise, information at the earliest opportunity - what used to be called "blabbing". Worse than that: being caught lying (telling actual black is blue untruths) is portrayed as being such a heinous crime that the very thought of it is, well, unthinkable. So much for "ooops, you got me" and brushing it aside.

In such an environment, where information is offered freely to or even: forced on a person, how can the generation brought up thinking that way act any differently? They have it drummed into them that giving information is mandatory. That withholding it is "sinful". That you must tell the truth all the time, to everyone, no matter what the consequences for anyone involved.

So when a big, bad, internet giant says "tell us everything", they blab. Age, height, weight, most intimate thoughts, address, list of 50 closest friends, political leanings, shoe size, suspicions about classmates, inside leg measurement, which musician they'd most like to have sex with, hair colour, medical history, favourite programmes and fantasies about their teachers. Hell, even PV-ing is less intrusive.

Whether this is considered "being honest", or is simple naivety, or some sort of catharsis we'll never know. The good thing is that all this data gets lost in the mix along with the billions of other personal records. Fortunately for all these data-givers, so little of it is either interesting or relevant.

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Texan parks quadcopter atop Dallas Cowboys stadium

Pete 2
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A quadcopter by any other name

Flying a quadcopter in Texas?? Isn't that known colloquially as a "target"

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GAME ON: Top 10 tellies for a World Cup kicking

Pete 2
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Re: Expensive & pointless

> Have you tested that hypothesis

Have a read of Ars Technica's article from the beginning of 2014 that blows holes through the myths of the benefits of curved screens.

http://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2014/01/whats-the-deal-with-curved-tvs/

They give a very detailed analysis of what most people instinctively know,

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Pete 2
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Reality bites

OK, here comes the paring knife.

Let's forget about 4k. As the BBC says "They [ the 3 matches they will stream ] will only be made available to a limited number of TVs at BBC sites". So a 4k telly is bugger all use. That knocks out #1, #5, #8 (doubly so for being curved) and #10.

Curved screens are a classic "because we can" that have no practical use - unless you're a billy no-mates and watch everything by yourself in a completely darkened room. Just make sure you don't trip over your cat (of which, no doubt, you have many) when you stagger out to recycle all the tins of strong lager that are now pressurising your bladder.

And for the rest: oooh. a huge screen - over-compenasting, much?

Oh yeah, a projector, too? I suppose that works if you want to spend the whole match time trying to get the picture "right", while not projecting it onto that vase in the corner of the room and avoiding both the door (makes the action go away when someone opens it) and the curtains.

To summarise. You already have a perfectly good TV. You probably have several. Just sit down, make yourself comfortable: six-packs on one side, crisps on the other, remote somewhere safe and the phones off the hook.

Enjoy.

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Ukrainian teen created in lab passes Turing Test – famous nutty prof

Pete 2
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Intelligence on the internet?

The ability to imitate a 13 y/o boy is a good goal - if you're a 12 y/o boy.

However, I feel that if Alan Turing was alive today, and looked at the traffic on the world's most popular social media sites, he would (quite naturally) assume that they were test-beds for AI's and that there was still a long, long way to go before any of them appeared even faintly human.

If this result tells us anything, it's that a test devised right at the dawn of the IT era, before there was any experience of AI to draw on, is too limited to be useful. Just as we don't believe that aircraft imitate birds (even though they both fly), we shouldn't consider this anything like a computer imitating a person.

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Euro judges: Copyright has NOT changed, you WON'T get sued for browsing the web

Pete 2
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Re: OMG Mirrors!

> If a newspaper is copied in the forest and there's nobody there to read it, does ....er ......

does a bear use it for toilet paper?

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Pete 2
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Is this what the EU is for?

to provide technical support to the bewigged-ones and prevent they from hitting the STOP button on the internet whenever they get a panic attack from all this newfangled tech-knowledgery that has suddenly appeared all around them.

If so, maybe it IS earning the billions we chuck at it every year </ohcraphowdiditgetthisbad>

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Freeview's rumoured '£100m YouView killer' is real – and it's yet another digital TV thing

Pete 2
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The Magic Roundabout

> manufacturers to launch a new range of connected Freeview HD televisions and boxes which consumers will be able to buy in store

Gottit! A gizmo to make TV watchers buy yet another gadget. Given the failure of 3D (which never actually was 3D, just a trick of perspective) and curved screens - surely the dumbest idea so far this century (really: tellies that only show an undistorted picture if you happen to be the one person sitting in the sweet spot AND which gathers all the reflections from everywhere in the room and beams them directly into your eyes?). Given those failures brilliant marketing strategies, the TV industry desperately needs to get us all buying more crap.

What better than telling us that the smart TVs we've bought over the past 5 years are all now obsolete,as they won't have the software to receive this new service (and after the first and probably only software upgrade, won't be able to receive it in the future - after someone, somewhere changes something and we all have to whip out our wallets again).

The only question that the once bitten, twice shy consumers should be asking is "what guarantees are there that this platform, with it's multiple content providers, won't implode under the weight of it's own infighting in a few years time and we all have to shell out again, just to get back to watching all the TV that wasn't good enough to watch live when it was first broadcast?"

Personally, I give it up until just before the 2018 world cup. What a coincidence that would be?

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Queen's Speech: Computer Misuse Act to be amended, tougher sentences planned

Pete 2
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Pro or con?

> sentences for attacks on computer systems fully reflect the damage they cause

How about requiring some of the responsibility for insecure and badly designed systems to fall on the heads of the people who design or (mis)manage them? One of the properties of being a "professional" person is taking responsibility for the quality of your work (on the basis that it is specialised and therefore beyond the grasp of "ordinary folk" to understand or critique) and that you have a duty of care towards those who place their trust in your services.

Maybe if people who's designs were so flawed - or who cut out every failsafe, oversight, procedural check or protection mechanism for reasons of cost or stupidity - that they amounted to criminal negligence were held to account there would be at least a start to getting some half-decent, secure software. What we have at the moment is like blaming the woodworms when your house falls down.

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Former Microsoftie becomes US ambassador, opts to swear in on KINDLE

Pete 2
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Re: Was the UK tax paid?

> The oath was made at the American embassy in London

The embassy will be considered U.S. soil and therefore not part of the E.U. or the U.K. (except for when it suits the embassy staff: such as to watch UK TV (which, according to the broadcast copyrights may only be watched in the UK), using "our" air and water, etc.

And as for taxes: given that the U.S. along with Russia and a few others, mostly equatorial-belt dictatorships, refuses to pay UK taxes and levies such as the congestion charge¹, traffic violations and parking tickets, I don't think there's much hope they'd do the honourable thing here, either.

[1] ref: http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-23266149

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Pete 2
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Up the river

> She took an oath of office on Monday ... placing one hand on a Kindle Touch

One would hope the object at the centre of the swearing in has some idealogical meaning for the swear-ee. That it reflects their core beliefs and/or values and that this is what they are linking to the oath they profess,

In that case, it's not just the symbolism of what's on open display, as bibles and other holy books are closed for the oath, so what's displayed is unimportant - save for identifying the object for what it is. But the symbolic quality of the object resides in all the other texts, ideas and values contained within.With the Kindle, one would assume that contains Amazon's terms and conditions for use (among other things).

One of the sentences says:

By using the Kindle, any Reading Application or the Service, you agree to be bound by the terms of this Agreement.

And with this swearing in, the Kindle has definitely been "used", if not for the intended purpose: but used is used. Has she just sold her (diplomatic) soul to Amazon?

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REVEALED: GCHQ's BEYOND TOP SECRET Middle Eastern INTERNET SPY BASE

Pete 2
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Britain's got secrets

> classified 3 levels above Top Secret

Looks like the good old Top Secret isn't quite so "top" any more.

A case of inflation or just using the "onion" strategy of having layer upon layer?

It does make you wonder, though. At what level are things really kept secret, so that only those who need to know, actually *are* the only ones who do know. And what is it that they seriously don't want us (or The Guardian) to know about.

We should be told!

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Google to plonk tentacles on 'unwired' world with $1bn launch of 180-satellite fleet

Pete 2
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Re: The poor is where the money is

> Not much per person but there are so many of them

It's not just poor people, but poor people in remote areas. Even in third world countries, a large proportion of the population are city dwellers.

So if their countries' infrastructure is so bad that there aren't even any phone lines (or internet cables) that can reach these cut-off individuals - will the roads be in any better shape? How are the goods they buy from all the tantalising advertisements going to be delivered?

Please let the advertising be for stuff that will actually help improve lives: not just for games add-ons and pr0n.

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The fresh Mint of dwell there: This is a story all about how 17 is here for a while

Pete 2
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Going off the rails

> All versions of Mint until 2016 will use exactly the same base as this version

Which means that everything will work fine ... until you change something. Just like with all Linux distros.

It also presumes that everything you could ever want is available through one of the "approved" repositories. And that the software version available there is fully up to date with both bug fixes and features.

If only that were true.

While most people who's daily usage is limited to surfing, playing videos, knocking out the occasional document and possibly spreading some sheet - then everything will be fine. But what happens once you stray off the path? If you "need" an application (say a wizzy new webcam app) that isn't on the list of blessed software - or only has a version several major releases behind. What then. You find a repository, add that to the list, download your new application and all it's dependencies.

And there's the problem ... You're no longer on an LTS release. Your dependencies could include many newer library versions, updates of other, dependent, programs and possibly even security fixes that your LTS doesn't recognise or support. if you dare to buy new hardware during the 2 years of LTS-ness, there' every likelyhood that you'll have to look above and beyond the official suppositories to get the support, drivers and libraries you need to get your new toy to play.

2 years is a long time in the Linux world, and things change quickly. What are the chances you'll want a change, too?

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DIY IoT computer smaller than a square inch

Pete 2
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Linux on the postage stamp

> The 25 x 25mm embedded system

Electric motors revolutionarised (groan!) the world. They're in most powered appliances these days - but they're "invisible": just one of the components that we don't give a second thought to.

This little thingy, and its future generations could do the same.

While there are embedded microcontrollers that are just as ubiquitous as electric motors, they tend to be single operation, uncommunicative, non-networked, un(re)programmable devices that are indistinguishable from all the other chips, and are there simply to replace a handful of logic chips and keep costs lower.

However, these devices will be exposed to the outside world. They have networking capabilities and therefore can be accessed by anyone with a Wifi transceiver connected to a keyboard (whether you want them to connect, or not). Not only is that their strongest feature, it's also their biggest drawback. Apart from the hacking vulnerabilities, a dependency on a network link that can disappear, be reconfigured or suffer RFI is just another thing to go wrong. So while these could turn the IoT into reality (once the Mk 2 gets its power consumption down) I really hope that whoever is making these devices, or embedding them in their products, is gearing up to provide an extremely highly staffed help-desk.

Maybe that's where the real money is to be made?

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The hoarder's dilemma: 'Why can't I throw anything away?'

Pete 2
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What goes around ...

> This column is a repeat publication

We know that TV "stops" (well, stops broadcasting anything worthwhile) during the summer ... and for the month or two over christmas ... and at weekends and various random times throughout the year when the american broadcasters go for a lie down and screen sports instead of entertainment - and we have to stop too, in case we accidentally see something good first.

So in the spirit of repeats, let's have a few commentards repeat some tardy comments.

Here's a possibly prescient offering from October 2007: (filed under Olympic ticketing system crashes under demand)

and in 4 years time ....

... what's the betting we'll see this exact same story again, only with a different country in the frame?

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Automating repetitive tasks: If it moves, script it

Pete 2
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Speed kills

> automation can also weed out errors that may creep in

Automation can also apply the same cocked-up commands to all your databases in the blink of an eye. At least with manual operations, you know something's wrong after you've destroyed the first production instance. It's then possible (maybe even desirable?) to stop and investigate before breaking all the others.

While I'm a great fan of automation (as previously discussed here), I do realise that it's a "force multiplier" rather than unconditionally good. It can help you do good or bad things much faster. However it's also prone to problems when someone changes something that knocks your automatoin off it's rails (maybe something as simple as changing a password - always hard to automate *and* keep secure) or "fixing" a misspelled table name.

However automation can free up ones time to allow for more goofing around on IT forums. Sometimes that even gets mistaken for work.

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Google: Grab our TOOL if you want your search query quashed

Pete 2
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Real or imaginary

> provide valid photo ID, such as a copy of their passport or driving licence

Strictly speaking, they are asking for an ID. Or something that looks like it's an ID. Or rather: a scan or photo of something that looks like an ID which may or may not have been doctored.

Whether the name or photo on the electronic copy of the (real or fake) document is actually the person (or their agent) who is asking for this take-down is not something that Google has any way of verifying. Unless they are planning to try mugshot matching against their collection of individuals in photos that someone may have correctly tagged.

One assumes that this is merely a deterrent, rather than any sort of checkable auditable "proof". And that if someone does decide to be a little bit naughty and asks for someone else's (maybe <shock!> not even an EU citizen's) URLs to be removed, then there's nothing really that can be done. Except for Google to email the falsely removed victim and ask "is this you?" Which then just starts the cycle of verfication and validation all over again. Without any absolute proof of anyone's actual identify ever being independently validated.

But it does give Google a nice little stash of supposedly government issued ID documents (gee, I hope they are kept safe!) submitted by people with something to "hide" and a pointer to what it is they want to keep quiet. It would be a real shame if that collection of IDs and hush-ups ever got out. Is this really privacy, or is it actually making things worse?

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For your next privacy panic, look no further than vending machines

Pete 2
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Re: More useful to look at those who do *not* buy

> figure out the average age of those likely to use it, to better target the inventory on offer.

Well, yes. The vendors already know what inventory is most popular (since those are the products they have to refill most often). So adding the camera tells them nothing new.

And that's where the privacy concerns come in.

The vending machine can (even without a camera, just using a proximity detector) tell when people are nearby and NOT buying its wares. With the facial recognition that the camera allows, it will correctly get the identities of some (possibly just a small number) of these "lurkers" and through social media can target them. Maybe like this:

"Hello, this is the vending machine by the bus-stop speaking. I noticed that you walk past every day but don't buy anything from me. So here's a voucher for 10% off, valid for the next week. And if you don't use that .... remember, we know where you live!"

or worse: "we noticed that lady you were with every day last week isn't your wife ... "

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Facebook wants MORE EXPLICIT SHARING

Pete 2
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Re: "hide all future posts from this source"

I guess that's what FB has come up against.

That so many people are hiding or unsubscribing that most of these feeds of trivia end up in /dev/null anyway (although the people posting this drivel: either explicitly or through the apps they use won't have a clue that nobody is reading any of it).

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Google's driverless car: It'll just block our roads. It's the WORST

Pete 2
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Re: I will be the one to say it

> will be under increasing pressure to drive according to actual traffic regulations, and not according to just how they feel like.

I'd rather like the Google Cars to have a "hunt in packs" subroutine. So where they do see someone driving like a complete 'hole, they cluster around the vehicle and force it to slow down, obey the rules and shepherd it towards the local nick. (afterthought: how long until the police request the live feeds from the GC's for evidential purposes?)

Failing that, then whenever the right combination of variously coloured GC's find themselves in close proximity, the white one spontaneously starts playing snooker with the rest of them.

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Pete 2
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Platooooooon - HALT!

> Google’s saying blind and disabled people who can’t drive will be able to call up and use a Google car. This means more vehicles on the road.

Personally I don't see this as a bad thing, if you translate it to mean that more individuals will be able to have some independence and mobility when before they would have none.

Although the 1 second delay at a green light will, almost certainly, lead to more Google cars getting a shunt (though only if they're first at the light) as people *always* move in anticipation of lights turning green - if by no other means of spotting the opposing light turning red. It doesn't necessarily mean more congestion as traffic lights are often as much about breaking up traffic flow which, counter-intuitivly reduces congestion.

One will also assume that a "platoon" of cars won't be permanently bound together and that they will have a protocol to "break ranks" and create smaller groups. One possible reason being if a non-autonomous car cuts into their middle. Though just how well they'll respond to other drivers "gaming them" (like speeding up when a Google car / platoon tries to overtake) and whether they'll solve the other perennial problem of not finding a parking space, are issues we'll have to wait to see what happens.

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100% driverless Wonka-wagon toy cars? Oh Google, you're having a laugh

Pete 2
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Re: Use case

[ Edit: 'pollies. The quote comes from Steve Button's contribution above. Replied to the wrong post ]

> I think it'll happen sooner than YOU think, but perhaps not as soon as Google would like.

The biggest drawback I can see is that these would be Google cars. We should therefore expect that every flat surface within would be bombarding the occupants with advertising for the whole trip.

Not only advertising, but targeted advertising. So every time the car passed a McD's (and there's no guarantee it would take the shortest route: the one that passed the most advertising sponsors would be better - better for them, that is) you would be invited to stop for a Happy Meal. Every time it passed a coffee shop, you'd be notified of a special offer. And if you'd made the near-fatal mistake of handing over a credit card that was attached to an email address that Google knew about, no doubt it would SPAM all your friends and family that you'd passed their house and not stopped to see them.

We might even find that a Black Mirror prediction came true: that inserting earplugs to get away from the cacophony of the advertisements actually increased the fare, as you were no longer abiding by the terms and conditions of the ride. I think I'd prefer to walk ... in the rain.

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Pete 2
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A managable speed

We are frequently told that the average speed of traffic in Central London (as an example - probably the worst example) is only 9 MPH [ source: TfL ]. Now obviously this conceals more than it reveals: there are still a few times of day when you can get 100 yds of clear road and really put your foot down (on the clutch, from 1st gear into second).

But it would seem that these driving conditions would be ideal for a Wonka-mobile. Apart from ferrying various forms of drunk around the city, it would be the ideal means of transporting packages and goods. The lack of a human driver should do wonders for pushing down the cost per hour of freight and you wouldn't have to give this thing a tip (unless you were trying to roll it over) or listen to endless chatter gleaned from that day's Daily Mirror. If it also removes the vastly oversized and frequently nearly empty red buses from London's overcrowded streets: where the cars parked on either side means that in suburban roads it is impossible for them to pass one another, then that would make a Wonka-mobile worth it, on it's own - and might even drive up average speeds to a mind-blowing 10 MPH.

Best of all, it might just put the shoe on the other foot and get Uber drivers complaining about the unfair competition.

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Rich bitch sorority girls actually more likely to put out than low-class 'sluts': Study

Pete 2
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Re: What?

> Really? They had to have a study to conclude this?

Good grief, no.

But if you can persuade someone with more grants to disburse than common sense, it sounds like a very agreeable way to get a further degree.

I look forward to some post-doc research. I would suggest: Beer, Lager, Spirits: a hangover comparison. and The world's best holiday resorts: a 3 year study.

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Pete 2
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The basic flaw in all psych / socio "studies"

ISTM that most "research" carried out on social subjects or the inner workings of the human mind all start with a notice being pinned on a board in an american university. It reads something like:

Test subjects needed. Cash paid

and therefore the whole corpus of research in these subjects comes from studies of 18-21 y/o individuals from one single country, involved in tertiary education, who fancy or need a few extra readies. (Though you'd have to wonder why the "posh girls" got involved.)

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A budget phablet, what a curious thing: Reg puts claws to the Lumia 1320

Pete 2
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Nice but dim

The photos are good, but the biggest problem I have with my phone is the total inability to see the preview screen when outdoors and therefore to frame the shot.

Sure, you can stand there with the phone in one hand and use the other as a sun-shield, hoping you can press the photo button with your thumb whilst neither shaking the camera nor dropping it. Better would be a low tech solution: simply for the camera makers to drill a hole right through the phone's case: front to back that a photographer could peer through, just like "old fashioned" viewfinders. However the ultimate, which I'm still waiting for, would be a screen that combined the non-reflectivity of a black hole with the eyeball-searing brilliance of british sunshine (yeah, I'm kidding) so that you could actually see the image you were about the commit to posterity before you took it - and if the screen then provided DSLR-like data regarding what the sensor was seeing, being able to see that would be nice, too.

So while we still have screens that are too dim and too shiny to see in daylight, I can't see the need to upgrade. However many megapixels a new camera (that makes phone calls, too) can boast about.

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Amazon turns screws on French publisher: Don't feel sorry for Hachette, it's just 'negotiation'

Pete 2
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Power corrupts

... and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Let's face it: in the markets they operate, Amazon reigns supreme. Not merely dominant but in total control of the who, what, where, when and how much. So for a company in that position to say

"a legitimate negotiating tactic"

when the victim of it's negotiating is so powerless brings to mind all the "tactics" used by Standard Oil to suppress competition and maximise profits, at the expense of everyone it dealt with, 100 years ago.

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Fat-fingered admin downs entire Joyent data center

Pete 2
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Re: Jheez, poor bastard. :\

> And the way to see who is a good sysadmin from a bad is if he admits that he screwed up or tries to blame someone else.

Maybe. But the mark of a truly excellent (ahem!) sysadmin is that he / she gets the problem fixed before anyone else notices.

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