* Posts by Pete 2

2389 posts • joined 10 Jun 2009

FORGOTTEN Bing responds to search index ECJ ruling: Hello? Remember us?

Pete 2
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Re: Bing Is Not Google

Crikey! 3 thumbs down. I'm impressed and slightly flattered that Bing managed to muster it's entire user base to support its position.

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Pete 2
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Bing Is Not Google

As far as being forgotten goes, maybe someone filed a request on behalf of the Bing executives for their whole search engine to be forgotten. They certainly got their wish.

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That stirring LOHAN motto: Anyone know a native Latin speaker?

Pete 2
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Verbiage

Just about the only feature of Latin I can remember is that almost always, the verb comes at the end of the sentence.

If the sentence, like Yoda-speak, becomes? Well: too bad, that is.

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Microsoft: You NEED bad passwords and should re-use them a lot

Pete 2
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Disposable passwords for disposable accounts

> The trio argue that password reuse on low risk websites is necessary in order for users to be able to remember unique and high entropy codes chosen for important sites

I've been doing this for years something over 30 years, if you take bulletin boards into account as well as internet accounts.

Take a normal website or forum. Maybe one that you post the occasional message, plea for help or stooopid comment about the current government. It requires a password in order to register. It contains none of your personal information since nobody ever uses their real names, gives a birth date of 01-01-66 (or whatever else is easiest to type) and Afghanistan (it's the first one on the list) as their "home" country. So on that basis, there's nothing there to compromise and nothing there that you value. Plus, if you have been using the internet for any length of time, you will have used a disposable email address to receive the one, single confirmation message that the site sends you.

So for the everyday websites, where registration is merely a chore, using the same password is both sensible and convenient.

It also separates those sites from the high-value, important accounts like El Reg your bank, PayPal or Amazon account. Here, where accurate information is necessary (you don't want all your Amazon purchases to end up in Afghanistan), it makes sense to use a more rigorous password regime. It also makes sense to use completely different email addresses, so that SPAM sent to your "ordinary" accounts can't be mistaken for administrative emails from someone who holds your real persona data,

So yes, stick with one password for the mundane stuff. Use it everywhere for decades. Even if it gets stolen, it won't unlock anything you value - provided you use different passwords and email accounts for them.

But also, have multiple email addresses. Preferably your own domain. Just as you separate high-value passwords from zero-values ones, do the same with emails and keep all the ones you don't care about on Spamgourmet or another disposable service. Not only does it make changing ISP so much easier if all your contacts aren't bound to their email system, but it also means there's no chance of "cross-polluting" your friends contacts with SPAM from a zero-value website that has sold your email address to a hacker.

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NASA: ALIENS and NEW EARTHS will be ours inside 20 years

Pete 2
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> We will always need to wear protective suits

Or "skin" as future us's might get to call it.

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Pete 2
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Promises, promises

> “I think in the next 20 years we will find out we are not alone in the universe,”

So is that the same "20 years" time period by which we'll have commercial nuclear fusion?

Or is it like the "two weeks" forecast for when we'll have that software ready. I.e. soon enough to keep the hope alive and keep the boss off our backs, but far enough away that by the time the forecast / deadline arrives, there will be a new and credible reason why it'll take just another couple of weeks

As for:

> "Just imagine the moment, when we find potential signatures of life," concurred Matt Mountain, a top space telescope boffin

I think what he means is "Just imagine all the new research grants we'll get to confirm or refute the existence of extraterrestrial life (depending on which religion / industrialist is paying for it). Just imagine all the publicity we'll be able to generate and all the talk shows we'll be invited onto. I might just have to change my name to Majikthise".

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Can it be true? That I hold here, in my mortal hand, a nugget of PUREST ... BLACK?

Pete 2
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Which pub?

> We raced down to the pub and had a lightbulb moment."

'cos I want a pint of this "Lightbulb"

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BitTorrent not to blame for movie revenues, says economist

Pete 2
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Cause or effect

> file sharing arrivals shortly before the theatrical opening have a modest positive effect on box office revenue

So the implication is that studios should be paying the filesharers for the benefit they confer?

I think this is one example of why people take the piss out of economists and their prognostications.

If you only look at the dates and numbers, without applying a small dose of common sense, you could arrive at this conclusion.

Just because the studio's value blips upwards when successful films start to get downloaded is really just an indication that whatever is driving the price, also drives the download activity. Presumably both effects are driven by the pre-release "buzz" generated for the film: both from reviewers and the trailers. All this tells us is that the filesharers have access to pretty much all the new releases, whenever they please - and choose to put them on torrents when the film looks like being a success.

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LOHAN seeks stirring motto for spaceplane mission patch

Pete 2
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Sound advice for a scary mission

> a stirring motto à la "Audentes fortuna adiuvat".

Well, since it's got to be in Latin, just so's it sounds impressive (all Latin stuff sounds impressive until you translate it), then I would humbly submit

Semper ubi sub ubi

as any fule kno

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El Reg nips down IKEA's 'I've Got A Screw Loose Street'

Pete 2
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Better than FYRKANTIG Close

> IKEA asked its Facebook fans to vote on a name for the new road

Presumably a close second was: How the hell do I get out of here? Avenue

which narrowly beat: Dam' I forgot the handles Way

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UK's emergency data slurp: IT giants panicked over 'legal uncertainty'

Pete 2
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A Friday afternoon upgrade

> rush an emergency ... Bill through Parliament just seven days before MPs break for summer recess

Every support person's nightmare:

It's 10 to 5, Friday afternoon. You've filled in your timesheet and your expenses. You've closed the trouble-ticket system and then ... the phone rings.

"Hello, this is Fred from <your biggest customer> Inc. I wonder if you can help me. I've been trying to get this upgrade to work all week as we have to go live on Monday morning. I know I've left it a bit late but could you help me as I really need it working by Monday?"

As so it goes with legislation: if you're going to enact new laws, then give yourself time to work out all the bugs in it before you bugger off on holiday until October. And if this "emergency patch" is needed because your last attempt was found to be unlawful, all the more reason to make sure someone is there to fix your cock-up if this version suffers the same shortcomings.

But do they learn? Do they hell!

And regarding the five-o'clock call? The answer is the usual: "Sure, why don't you email me all the details, logs and config files and I'll see what I can do <click>" followed by the sound of running in the corridors.

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Today's Facebook fury: Coppertone-like baby pic ban baffles US mom

Pete 2
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Asymmetric laws and asymmetric justice

> As an example of this, it is an offence in France to insult a public official

Having something illegal in one part of the world and legal in another is just one, small, part of the issue. The other is enforcement.

Without enforcement, laws mean nothing - as anyone who's accidentally stuck an upside-down stamp on a letter¹ will be relieved to know. Likewise, if a resident of one sovereign nation commits an offence in another country, if makes little difference unless the "victim" country presses for extradition and the "home" country grants it. Sadly for us, the UK seems to regard shipping individuals off to be tried in other places, sometimes on the flimsiest of pretexts and with scant evidence of a case to answer, to be a means of saving money by outsourcing law enforcement, rather than a duty of protecting it's own citizens' rights.

So, apart from the question of "is it legal", there should be a bigger question of "will anyone care enough to do anything about it?"

Further, we are all told that ignorance of the law is no defence. However, it would appear that we are now all personally responsible for knowing all the laws in every country (and in every language, too) else we could find that an innocent typo means something completely blasphemous (to take an example) in some place we've never heard of - and we're about to become the new "friend" of an inmate in a jail on a distant continent.

It does seem to me that this state of affairs is neither practical nor just. Law-abiding people who innocently transgress some foreign diktat via their internet activity should not become criminals, simply because some faraway place objects something they have published. Conversely, there are some behaviours that are quite legal elsewhere, that we - or others - would find objectionable.

What is the answer? Well, short of every country burying their differences and coming up with a common legal framework, judiciary and scale of punishments, I can see none. With the possible exception of making the whole enforcement issue moot by ensuring that your internet activity cannot be traced back to you - though that in itself is probably illegal somewhere.

[1] The 10 stupidest laws - though #6 might even be worth getting pregnant for.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1568475/Ten-stupidest-laws-are-named.html

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The Windows 8 dilemma: Win 8 or wait for 9?

Pete 2
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Re: Time for some truly revolutionary GUIs?

> Pretend that the hard problem has been solved

> There's a subtle but significant difference ...

I agree. However, the key is to not think of this as any one form of input supplanting all others.

The whole "secret" is to provide an interface than can utillise many forms of input, depending on what is suitable, optimum or even physically possible (given the range of physical limitations that people can have).

I also agree about emails - and also about forum posts. However ISTM there are many flame-wars that start or get out of control because purely textual content doesn't convey intonation, jocularity, seriousness or any other emotions. So it's left up to the reader to guess, ascribe or project the emotional content of written content - depending on the mood they are in - or what medication they are (or should be) taking. On the opposite side, I wonder how much "confusion" has occurred from people typing "not" when they mean "now" and vice-versa?

Other forms of interface could also empower automatic translation: thus enlarging the sphere of communications and (as Douglas Adams pointed out) vastly increasing the scope for confusion and misinterpretation to global proportions.

We also need to remember, that most of the working practices that we have now, are the result of the limitations of the tools we have available. A greater number of forms of interaction would also expand the form and content of the material we produce with it. I think that's why so many comments here are so scornful of voice as the only alternative: they have not considered that practices, content and form will evolve and adapt as more possible ways of interacting become available. Throat or ear microphones (which have been around for decades) and maybe sub-auditory sensing methods being the obvious response to all the nay-sayers.

What we need to do is look over the parapet and use our imaginations. Instead of saying "such-n-such will never work because ... (of limitations that only exist in the present, or in our minds) " and look for ways to improve things and THEN to look for ways to implement them. Rather than for people to always stick with what they are familiar with and rejecting all new possibilities, simply because they don't like change.

The one thing we know about IT is that change DOES happen - except in the world of UIs, where we still seem to be stuck with 19th century manual input formats and 1970's style GUIs and mice. And it seems to be the GUIs that account for all the criticism that W8 has attracted. You'd hope that soeone, somewhere would be trying to break away from all that.

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Pete 2
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Re: Time for some truly revolutionary GUIs?

> Voice control, are you mad? My office is already noisy enough.

did you forget to read this bit?

So the user can write, speak or draw their request ...

It's a case of horses for courses and market forces. Many here seem to think I'm advocating voice activated input as the only option. The point is to choose the appropriate solution for the situation: not to fixate on one, that would not be suitable for some environments.

However, at the risk of repeating myself, the main issue is to have the computing device fulfill our requests - not us having to tell it how to do things. It should work that out for itself: so we'd give it the problem to solve (what we want) and it would come up with the solution (how to do it).

And assuming we've learned nothing in the 20 years since Windows 3.1 and Bob and that the amount of computing power, interfaces and sensors: Kinect, Siri, etc. available to implement something like this today would not allow far better choices and options, is simply wrong.

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Pete 2
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Time for some truly revolutionary GUIs?

Mice, touch, start menus ... how traditional ... how old-fashioned .... how computer-centric.

And by computer centric, I mean just that: having the computer: be it a PC (a "proper" computer) a phone or a tablet, at the fore of the operations.

Instead, how about putting the person or the user in the spotlight? So instead of us having to press the buttons and direct the machine to perform what we want it to, shouldn't IT be asking US what WE want. So instead of having a menu or GUI that says: these are your options: pick one, the interface asks one simple question:

What do you want to do?

So the user can write, speak or draw their request: I want to write a letter, I want to watch a film, I want to continue reading my book, I want a command line, I want to search the internet, I want to know what this (holds summat up to the camera) thing is for ...

After that, it goes away and works out how to fulfill our requests. Obviously if it is unable to do so, it should respond in a calm, cool and not-quite-remote voice to the effect "I'm sorry Dave, I can't do that" Though I suppose we'd all have to change our names (or at least our accounts) to make this happen. A small price.

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Reg reader fires up Pi-powered anti-cat garden sprinkler system

Pete 2
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Prevention or cure

In my little cul-de-sac pretty much every other house has one or more cats. You can't really blame the owners, they are mostly "empty nest-ers" and have fallen into the trap of thinking that their cats are a way to be loved (how wrong they are: all the cats care about is being fed. They'll "love" whoever has the biggest tin of Kit-e-Cat).

Fortunately this is the moggy's downfall.

All it is necessary to do is patch up all the gaps in the fences and install a 6 foot garden gate on the only entrance. All the local felines are so fat and lazy that not a single one of them has the ability to scale any of the fences. One did manage to waddle along an overhanging branch and flop onto the lawn, but that path was soon closed off too.

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It's finally happened: Bloke builds BOFH-style goofing-off cattle prod

Pete 2
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Vapourwear

When you look for more info on this, there's nothing.

There are some websites that show two different 3D images of what it might (or might not) look like. There seems to be a press release which forms the source for all the media "buzz" - and that's your lot.

Apart from the obvious question: why wouldn't users simply take it off? It's difficult to see how you'd program this gizmo about what constitutes "punishable" activity. And where the battery is supposed to go. If this is merely meant to modify the behaviour of computer users - and assumes that wearers only have access to a single computer, but no tablet, or smartphone then it would be much simpler to either have the 'pooter switch itself off when the aberrant behaviour is detected, or to build the user-shocker into a mouse and electrify the buttons.

Plus: every stick needs a carrot.

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Euro banks warned off Bitcoin as Canada regulates it

Pete 2
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Trust what?

> So why should we trust the least trustworthy among us any more than the new kid on the block?

But you seem to be forgetting the golden rule: whoever has the gold makes the rules.

Governments only exist to raise revenue -- and then spend it¹. Therefore it's easy to see that they, above all others, have a vested (literally) interest in supporting the value of the currency they, and therefore by association: we, use for those transactions.

You may be suspicious of them, but where money is concerned they are extremely motivated to retain the confidence of the international markets and thus the value of the currency. So if nothing else can, that at least will keep them on the financial straight and narrow.

[1] There's also a small matter of creating laws. But that's largely irrelevant to this conversation - and anyway, we pretty much have all the laws we need. We just need to implement them better.

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Pete 2
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A matter of scale

The basic problem that I have with BTC, and the reason I won't touch it (yet?) is its sheer volatility.

While it *may* be possible (leaving aside the desirability of doing so) to buy a lot of life's basics with BTC it is a small currency: there are only about 13 million of the suckers in existence and there'll never be more than 20-odd million. Even at their current value, Bill Gates could buy all of them and barely notice, if he so chose.

They are also subject to scare stories as one major government, or exchange, or hacking group -- or whoever makes statements for or against the security, status, value or validity of the stuff. You can't base your long-term wealth on an asset who's value can drop like a rock from one year to the next.

So while it's a nice toy for people to demonstrate to the world (or their friends) how hip, trendy and down wiv' da kidz (although it's only mothers of teenagers who would say something like that) they are, it's not something I'd be willing to bet my house, my salary and my pension on. So until BTC acquires both the status and scale -- measured to the nearest TRILLION € or £, I'll stick with something that I hope will see me into my dotage.

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Booze in SPAAAACE! Brit rocket boffin preps bold stratobeer mission

Pete 2
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A dream come true

It's raining beer (and 'Pride, too!)

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Journal that published Facebook emoto-furtle study: Proper boffins get CONSENT

Pete 2
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Informed consent?

In psychological research how is informed consent even possible?

Leaving aside the basic problem that research is meant to discover new effects, psychology is a wholly imprecise science subject and the average person's understanding of it is pretty much zero. As a consequence a researcher is not qualified to either list all the possible effects (on the test subject), nor to quantify the risks of taking part - or any possible benefits, either. Nor is a lab-specimen, sorry: test subject in a position to assess whether the value they get from the experiment is worth whatever might, or might not, happen to them: either as a result or just naturally, from life.

Without that basic level of information, any consent is worth no more than "we'd like to do something to you. It probably won't (physically) hurt, but apart from that we can't make any promises". Which is probably little different from the level of personal protection that FB commits to in the Ts & Cs that nobody ever bothers to read, before they accept.

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Is there too much sex and violence on TV?

Pete 2
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What the eye don't see

> the "strongest material" broadcast well after the kids are tucked up in bed.

... and watching avidly on the tellies in their room.

Seriously, the watershed does nothing to "protect" children (most of whom have the most open-minded, flexible and resilient attitudes until they get "educated"). At best, it allows their over-protective parents to kid themselves into thinking they are being "good" parents. Mainly to brag about it with other "good" parents at the school gates - in a python-esque we were so poor ,,, sketch way, except now it's about intolerance. It's certainly not for the long-term benefits of their charges, themselves.

As for being offended by programmes content. Isn't that the sole reason so many people watch? To pretend to be shocked by the sorts of language, undress (and activities) you'd see every day if you walked through a town on the way to the beach.

You get the sneaking feeling that some people lead such dull and disconnected lives, that they don't feel alive unless there's been something "stimulating" on the box, for them to get worked up and subsequently complain about.

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Oh SNAP! Old-school '80s Unix hack to smack OSX, iOS, Red Hat?

Pete 2
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Re: Security scan?

> Edited to add: Just read filik's suggestion of using the likes of:

> rm ./*

All fine and dandy, until one day when you get a sticky "dot" key and accidentally transform it into

rm /*

- even worse with the -rf option -

(don't try this at home, kids)

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Pete 2
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dot and slash

[ disclaimer: I'm not gonna try this on the production system in front of me ]

ISTM this is merely sloppy use of wildcard expansion. I have always assumed that these are easily prevented by changing the "*" argument (and root users who put that in scripts should be shot - slowly) to "./*" or $EXPLICIT_PATH/ ... which changes what is expanded by the shell from being arguments starting with a dash, into pathnames, all starting with ./<something>

P.S. If you really *were* trying to write a trapdoor into a system, surely you'd use "invisible" files with names containing backspaces or octal \000 characters?

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'Disruptive innovation' is nonsense? Not ALWAYS, actually

Pete 2
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Re: Sorry, Bell Labs...

> In what way? [ was the development of the transistor disruptive ]

Before transistors: all electronics was bulky, fragile (even metal-enveloped valves), consumed a lot of power, gave off a lot of heat, required high voltages, was expensive to build and assemble.

After transistors: electronics became miniaturised, portable, low power, low voltage, highly reliable, extremely densely packed (which allowed much higher operating frequencies). It also drove all the other miniaturising processes (such as MEMS sensors) and nano-technology that we are _starting_ to exploit, now.

These changes moved "electronics" from being one or two large brown boxes in a household and nowhere to be seen in an office, factory or shop to being everywhere and facilitating every single thing we do, being involved in the manufacture of every single thing we touch and becoming ubiquitous in the daily lives of almost every person on the planet. Even the 2Bn people who have no mains electricity rely on mobile phones to improve their lives.

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Pete 2
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Re: Sorry, Bell Labs...

> Interestingly, although these are innovative, they are not disruptive.

I would suggest that the transistor was the single most disruptive technology of the 20th century. Above nuclear power/weapons, antibiotics, air travel or even fiat money

The degree to which it opened up new possibilities and changed our way of thinking was unsurpassed.

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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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We need to talk about SPEAKERS: Sorry, 'audiophiles', only IT will break the sound barrier

Pete 2
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Improving your reproduction

All very lovely, scientific-sounding and possibly even correct.

However, it all falls by the wayside when faced with the modern fashion of compressing the dynamic range of the music source material to increase its "loudness" to make it stand out from the crowd (or now: blend is and not get left behind) when broadcast or streamed to the user.

So given that fundamental quality limitation, not to mention all the background noise in out lives, the quest for "perfection" whether in loudspeakers, amplifiers or dragging a piece of crystal across some plastic is largely futile.

As it is, for most audiophiles that I have met, the goal is not perfect audio quality. The real goal is to impress their other audiophile friends with the size and cost of their stack.

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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
Silver badge

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.

6
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Is storage a security issue? Or is security a storage issue?

Pete 2
Silver badge

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.

2
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Today's get-rich-quick scheme: Build your own bank

Pete 2
Silver badge

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?

0
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Virgin Media boss AND ex-Murdoch man: BSkyB broadband is 'lousy'

Pete 2
Silver badge

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.

6
2

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

Pete 2
Silver badge

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.

10
1

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

Pete 2
Silver badge

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.

1
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Google: Why should we pay tax when we make 'intangibles'?

Pete 2
Silver badge

> 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
Silver badge

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.

10
1

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

Pete 2
Silver badge

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
Silver badge

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.

14
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We're ALL Winston Smith now - and our common enemy is the Big Brother State

Pete 2
Silver badge

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.

3
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Texan parks quadcopter atop Dallas Cowboys stadium

Pete 2
Silver badge

A quadcopter by any other name

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

13
1

GAME ON: Top 10 tellies for a World Cup kicking

Pete 2
Silver badge

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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