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* Posts by Pete 2

2283 posts • joined 10 Jun 2009

Batten down the hatches, Ubuntu 14.04 LTS due in TWO DAYS

Pete 2
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Long term support - provided you don't change anything.

> Mint LTS. Install it, get everything working then look forward to several years of stability.

Unfortunately it doesn't work like that (is there a smiley missing?)

LTS releases are fine, provided you want a system that's frozen in time - or will only have whatever applications the LTS team deign to (back)port to that particular software base.

However if you want a new application, or even a more modern version of an old application: maybe one with a must-have feature or bug-fix, then LTS is no help. You often find that these, desirable, updates are only available from the application provider or from their specialised suppository (!). And that *that* new release requires the latest version of a whole slew of non-LTS libraries and maybe other dependencies. So you end up veering off the "true path" of an LTS release and having to add all sorts of other new stuff. And all that other new stuff can very easily break the old stuff in the LTS release.

So in theory it's a nice idea, for the suits. But in practice I've never had an LTS release that was much use after 12-18 months.

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LOHAN's Punch and Judy show: The big fat round-up

Pete 2
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What's in a name

If you're going to call the "space port" Baconur, then surely the rocket launch vehicle should be renamed Blue Streaky. Or would that be a bit too rash - errr.

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Feast your PUNY eyes on highest resolution phone display EVER

Pete 2
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Pixel wars

People will buy this simply because the numbers are bigger than on competing phones.

They do it with phone camera resolutions (and PnS cameras, too) - bigger is better - even though no phone has a lens that makes multi-megapixel cameras worthwhile (nor do they have screens that are capable of displayng such images).

However none of that matters in the uncritical, see-want-have, mine's more expensive bigger than yours, specification and useless feature-driven world of mobile phone marketing.

If a manufacturer wanted to really revolutionise the world of tablet and mobile phone screens, they'd make non-reflective ones. Ones that could actually be read on anything approaching a sunny day.

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Did a date calculation bug just cost hard-up Co-op Bank £110m?

Pete 2
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The immediate and the important.

> A programming blunder ... were sent out late – specifically, 368 days after the previous annual statements

Surely you mean a TESTING blunder: that the code (or more likely: the integrated environment in which it was run) was not put through a sufficiently realistic set of test scenarios. Or if it was, then nobody looked at the results.

A more interesting possibility is that the code was tested AND the bug was found. But t'management thinking was: "it won't affect us for a year ... there's plenty of time to sort it out later". But somehow that never happened.

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Audio fans, prepare yourself for the Second Coming ... of Blu-ray

Pete 2
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Re: Cuing the obligatory audiophile discussion regarding sample rates...

> Thing is, signal phase accuracy is very important in producing a realistic stereo sound-field

And let's not forget that at a frequency of 10kHz, the audio wavelength is about an inch and a half. So even slight head movements will affect the phase relationship. Therefore to get optimum listening pleasure, it's vitally important to staple your ears to the back of the chair.

Real audiophiles recommend you use nothing less than gold-plated, oxygen-free staples and a hardwood chair - preferably 1,000 year-old, organically grown, english oak: to remove any possibility of unwanted reverberations.

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Pete 2
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A good whine

So Blu-ray players can provide ultra-high quality sounds (and pictures that aren't too bad, either).

Big deal.

We know from everyday life that apart from a very few, who live in complete silence / solitude, that decent sound quality and reproductive apparatus (!) will never get used to its full potential - or anything close too that. When was the last time that any city-dweller had a moment of perfect quiet? With no sirens, passing trucks, passing aircraft, pissing toilets a'flushing, fridges humming, other occupants talking, playing computer games and people in the flat above with their trendy (and utterly selfish) bare wooden floors, or even the death-watch beetles chomping through your joists?

Having the ultimate in signal to noise ratio emanating forth from your speakers is pointless, if the ambient SNR is lower.

It's like video. We are constantly told to buy bigger screened TVs, ultra 4K resolution - yet so many people watch most of their video content on a tiny little phone or tablet and listen to highly compressed audio through Poundland's ear-buds. As for Youtube: how can something soooo lo-res be so popular? If the claims for HD (and other) TVs are valid?

So yes, have your FLAC formatted music if you live in an anechoic chamber, or your 4K TVs if you have a perfectly darkened room. But for most people, these things are wasted on us. Just like most of us couldn't tell the difference between Dom Perignon and Lidl's cheapest.

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Misco Shared Services Centre drone brands customer 'insane'

Pete 2
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Not your average customer

> ordered ... in November and received confirmation it was on backorder and due to ship on 3 March.

So the guy was prepared to wait 3 or 4 months for something he could have bought off Amazon, from stock (well: in stock today - maybe not then) and presumably from any number of other companies.

He then goes "Mr Angry" on them (OK, that might be reasonable, if they'd sent him a power cord instead of some sort of headset) and starts quoting the ins-and-outs of british law to a hungarian customer services person.

Given the disparity between the two sides' stories, there does appear to be more than we're being told here. But this won't put me off buying from Misco - though I'd never wait that long for a backorder.

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You'd better get out before the sync 'n' share bubble POPS

Pete 2
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Free to fail

> Have you ever tried to build a business case which competes with free?

Yes, thank you.

As the next line alludes, you invoke the fear of uncertainty, the downside of the lack of indemnity (yes, it's free: but who can you sue if it all goes wrong?), and the small matter that the exec who signs off isn't spending his/hers/its own money - so "free" isn't that big a deal and can make them look amateurish if they are proposing a merely "domestic" quality product.

In the past, you could also invoke the lack of standards, ISO-ness, SLAs and all the other foundations upon which an IT empire could be (shakily) built.

However, as of now one can look at the financials of the suppliers:

> Those valuations are going to plummet

and the impending shake-out in the industry as some major players disappear up their own internet connections. Who'd be the one to recommend a free/cheap/low-cost supplier that could easily be out of business in a year, or less?

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It may be ILLEGAL to run Heartbleed health checks – IT lawyer

Pete 2
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Trusting trust

> I don't necessarily trust them to come clean

Yet you trust the results of some website's online scanner - that checks a third party's website and tells you it's clean (or not)?

The basic problem is that you can never tell what someone else's scanner will actually do. If it does find a vulnerability, will it truthfully notify you, or will it say "yup, that's fine" and as soon as you log in, run the hack and snarf your login details - or add that site to a list of known vulnerable sites and then sell it on?

The only people who have a genuine interest in securing a site is the site owners. So provided they can supply the requisite credentials to demonstrate they are "clean", there should be no reason to run your own tests. Especially when you cannot be sure the tests are valid, or legitimate.

as Alan Parsons once wrote:

If we call for the proof and then question the answers, only the doubt will grow

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Mad Raspberry Pi boffins ripped out its BRAINS and SHRANK them for your pleasure

Pete 2
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Re: A bit like the SimmStick

Yes it does. Or (my favourite from that era): the TINI. That was a SIMM format with everything on board - except USB (it wasn't around then) and video. It had I/O serial, ethernet, n/v memory and RAM and a 100MHz 8 bit processor. And you wrote code for it in Java.

Whaddayamean you've never heard of it? It *should* have been a success, but it wasn't. Just like this proof of concept won't be. The reason: it wasn't picked up and integrated into "stuff". And neither will this version of the Pi. There simply isn't the need for it in industrial systems.

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Pete 2
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An old dog

... see it's latest trick.

I really can't see the point of this. The Pi's processor is slow, limited and obsolete - why would people want to use it in new designs? Why would anyone expend time and effort in redesigning such a board when they could have done the world a favour: tossed it and come up with a modern design, using contemporary components and with an up-to-date specification?

Now I know that people get attached to their first car, their first computer and old valve radios. But the only reason I can think of for people to still have some lovin' for the Pi is because they haven't raised their heads up and seen what 2014 has brought in terms of new designs with so much more usability. if they did, they'd never go back.

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The Great Hash Bakeoff: Infosec bods cook up next-gen crypto

Pete 2
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Having a cracking time

> attempting to break them over the next 12 months ... attacking all submissions in every way possible

One would hope (but not expect) that these attempts would extend into the world of social engineering and coercion - just as they would in the real world.

Password security has technical integrity as only one part of the whole regime.

The ideal password security system would contain features that would be unknowable to, or unusable by, people to whom the security credentials did not belong

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Rumour: Next Apple iThing to feature 65-inch screen. Four-limb multitouch, anyone?

Pete 2
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watching them watching you

> iWindow, to block out all the nastiness of the real world and replace it with shiny happy vistas

Hmmm, and then have little webcams in them so your windows can watch you.

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Technology is murdering customer service - legally

Pete 2
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The support that never was

> the slow but steady death of customer service

In truth, we've never had good customer service. Sure, some owner-run shops may have "the guy" who knows the in's and out's of all the limited range of stuff they sell. But that is the closest you'll ever get - and you're paying high-street premiums for their over-the-counter stuff you buy. Not exactly 21st century, chasing the cheapest price no matter what, do everything online, way of making purchases.

The biggest problem is that so much of our "stuff" is too complex, too cheap to have been designed and tested properly and too mass-produced to have spare parts available, or for every single item to work perfectly (even the first time).

So yes, it is annoying when you have to call an anonymous call-centre. While I'm not trying to defend them, they do have their own problems: such as the utter, mind-boggling, ignorance of most of their callers. People who neither know what they have bought, are aware of its limitations nor sometimes even realise it needs batteries for it to work (confession time: I was, once, firmly convinced that the TV had gone "phut" until another person, who shall remain nameless, confessed to having removed the batteries from the remote control as the ones in her torch had gone flat). It's these sorts of problems, which must account for the majority of a call centre's enquiries that their systems are meant to deal with - not the geek who calls up to know how to change the dynamic dns settings on their router.

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Why won't you DIE? IBM's S/360 and its legacy at 50

Pete 2
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Come and look at this!

As a senior IT bod said to me one time, when I was doing some work for a mobile phone outfit.

"it's an IBM engineer getting his hands dirty".

And so it was: a hardware guy, with his sleeves rolled up and blood grime on his hands, replacing a failed board in an IBM mainframe.

The reason it was so noteworthy, even in the early 90's was because it was such a rare occurrence. It was probably one of the major selling points of IBM computers (the other one, with just as much traction, is the ability to do a fork-lift upgrade in a weekend and know it will work.) that they didn't blow a gasket if you looked at them wrong.

The reliability and compatibility across ranges is why people choose this kit. It may be arcane, old-fashioned, expensive and untrendy - but it keeps on running.

The other major legacy of OS/360 was, of course, The Mythical Man Month who's readership is stil the most reliable way of telling the professional IT managers from the wannabees who only have buzzwords as a knowledge base.

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Amazon stuffs games into Fire TV box: Soz, rivals... WE don't need to make cash on hardware

Pete 2
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Pump the Primes

Judging by the specs and what the advertisement promotes, this box appears to be the "front end" for Amazon Prime users.

Although it can play android / phone style games, it's not going to supplant a hard-core gamer's platform and most people will have whatever other games they like on their phone or tablets anyway. Most of its other features and attributes appear to be aimed at content consumers: specifically the content that Prime users can get for free - if you leave aside the small matter of paying £80 a year for "free" content.

(And given that Amazon Prime costs $79 in USAland and £79 over here, what's the betting that the hardware will exhibit an equally usurious price-translation, too?)

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USA opposes 'Schengen cloud' Eurocentric routing plan

Pete 2
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Data is like oil

A lot of (western) countries dislike being reliant on countries that they consider less stable, or not idealogically aligned with their views, as their only source of oil and gas. What Snowden's security leaks have done is to make a lot of (western) countries think about their data security in the same way they think about their energy security. And for the same reasons.

What we learned from the story of the Natwest Three is that one party in the UK can strike a deal with another party in the UK, that is legal in the UK. However if the emails which make up that deal touch american soil, then american laws are applied and - since the UK government is about as useful at looking after its citizens interests as a Rottweiler is at guarding your sausages - you're banged up : Jim. Unless you can personally afford to foot the bill to defend yourself against the might (and drawn out proceedings) of the US legal system.

Sp apart from not wishing a foreign power to know everything you ever committed to email, phone conversations, downloads or Dropbox, there is the not insignificant matter of legal hegemony, which is just as wide-reaching and just as insidious.

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Where the HELL is my ROBOT BUTLER?

Pete 2
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Re: It's already here (and has been for years)

> I understand Trevor to be talking about generalised robotic help

Yes, I got that, too. However we'll never get there.

The reason is simply that as soon as we get a new level of automation, we'll fill all our excess free time, not with sleeping - as that needs no robotic help at all, but with other trivia. Then we'll complain that it is taking up all our leisure time - and wouldn't it be great if we could automate it away .... and so on

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Pete 2
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It's already here (and has been for years)

> something that automates away some tedious bit so that I can sleep more

Pop the bread in the toaster - go off and do something else.

Drop your laundry in the washer then go to the shops

While you're there, buy a prepacked sandwich for lunch - and a readymeal for later

On the way home, pop the motor through the car wash in a couple of minutes

Have to talk to someone in Dusseldorf, Raleigh or Wellington? Surprise! you can just pick up the phone,

We have so many time and labour saving devices - and have had for so long - that they are fully incorporated into our lives. To the extent where they are invisible and just taken as normal. However, we don't have a single robotic slave that does all of the tedious chores we are too lazy, or don't have time for (which amounts to the same thing: prioirities). No. Our "robotic butlers" are distributed through the home and our daily lives and show up in the form of gadgets and as the service industries which are such a large part of our lives - and a massive (if low paid) part of the workforce.

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Newsnight goes sour on Tech City miracle

Pete 2
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One good thing

That must have been the first media discussion of british IT entrepreneurship for a long, long time where nobody mentioned the Raspberry Pi. Maybe there is some hope after all.

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LOHAN team gears up for Punch and Judy show

Pete 2
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The lost moment

> The test rocket motor enclosure sits way below the box at the end of a long carbon fibre rod:

... and when it fires, there will be (hopefully) a nice big force imparted to the end of the rod. Given that the other end of the rod is attached to something else, what will start spinning?

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New IPCC report: 8 ways climate change will throw world INTO PERIL

Pete 2
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Re: It's the words: stupid.

> Therein lies the success of the propagandists denying AGW

Tagging anyone who asks questions about climate change is generally unhelpful. If there are any climate change skeptics about, any more - though I've never met one so I'd put them in the same category as "flat earther's" and evolution deniers, then I think the failure to convince them of otherwise must be laid at the feet of the people who write these reports. Generally once people are faced with unequivocal evidence and a consensus among the "clever bastards" they are easily convinced of a situation - take gravity as an example.

The basic issue is not one of if the climate is changing. The basic issue (now) is how to communicate to the average person what its consequences will be if no preventative measures are taken - and secondly: what they (we?) must be prepared to do.

So talking about intangibles and risks in general and non-specific ways won't sway many people. Especially if they are being asked to reduce their consumption of almost everything, pay more for the energy they use and have more taxes taken off them to pay for "green" initiatives. If you want the general population to do more than talk, demonstrate and separate their rubbish then there must be a consensus among the "scientists" regarding what tangible effects will come to pass - and how the general population (of the countries being told to change) will be. Writing a report that says one thing and then having pundits or competing scientists going to the media and saying something else (or even, as this report illustrates: not evening having a single unified definition of what climate change is) won't further the cause, or convince ordinary people to put their hand in their pockets and make material sacrifices.

Getting agreement within the climate change community of the specific effects, the timescale and required solutions is the first, and very necessary, step to winning people's hearts and minds. That has yet to happen.

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Pete 2
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It's the words: stupid.

Contents may settle

Your home might be at risk if payments are not made

We may forward your details to some selected marketing partners

The problem with the report (or at least the summary) is that it doesn't say anything definite. Yes, it claims there is a Very high risk of vulnerability to various things, and risk of loss of some others. But we hear that sort of stuff every day, so all these new risks, dangers and all the rest just merges into the clamour for our attention.

An attention which is almost fully taken up with trying to get past the next set of traffic lights. Trying to fart silently in the meeting and hoping no-one will notice. Wondering where the next credit-card payment will come from or why that if statement with 4 conditions always comes out as TRUE.

If these guys (or any of the other climate change bods) wants our attention - or even more: for someone, somewhere to actually DO something, they need much more than wishy-washy risks and dangers. They need numbers, dates, times and places. Who will die - specifically - their names please, when and what will the photos look like on the news reports. Who will have to pay. Which wars will break out and how much civil unrest will there be - and in which towns - and did they for for our party.

Without specifics, there is little for our leaders to lead us away from. People don't respond well to intangible, distant and unquantifed threats that may (or may not) happen at some indeterminate time in the future. More than that: they really don't feel the need to change their lives or shell out more cash to fix problems that they can't actually see - and for which the solutions cannot be agreed (do we need more of this, less of that -- or what?) amongst the scare-mongerers.

To get people to address the problems of climate change, there needs to be much more certainty, Reports must show clarity and be specific in their claims. Who, where, when, how-much. Without actual, actionable targets they will be producing a sixth, seventh, eighth report. All of which will say the same sorts of things, with ever more shrill language. All of which will get a little media attention and people saying "we really should start thinking about what we can do" - and then doing nothing since their attentions will be focused on the immediate problems of that day, as they always have been and always will be.

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Selfies are OVER: Welcome to the age of 'Sleeveface'

Pete 2
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Years ago

... on a website far away there was a presenter called Joanne. She had a piece of work called lpportraits which depicted (quite well, I thought) this exact same thing.

The year was 2011, the website was rocketboom and the link is here

http://www.rocketboom.com/lpportraits/

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Sticky Tahr-fy pudding: Ubuntu 14.04 slickest Linux desktop ever

Pete 2
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Re: A slice off the top

> press f11.

The problem with fullscreen mode is that then I lose access all the other open stuff on my (should have mentioned: Linux Mint) workspace - and changing workspaces then means coming out of FS mode. All because the application designers need to stop, take a step or two back from their immediate applications, and think.

Linux had a small window (groan) of opportunity to get ahead of the game when Windows8 was released escaped. A radical new design, based on users and usability might just have made a difference.

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Pete 2
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A slice off the top

> saved on vertical screen real estate

Sadly that's only a token gesture.

The real problem is the application windows - and the design of the applications themselves. While they still insist on the "old fashioned" format of titles, options and menus taking up space at the top of the app, having the desktop saving a few pixels won't make a whole lot of difference.

As an example, take the system I'm typing this on. A 23 inch screen that sports a paltry 11¼" in the vertical direction.Of which Firefox gobbles 1¾" - leaving 9¼ - or 235mm for those of us in the modern era - (after the bottom margin is accounted for) of usable, content-filled space. - That's nearly 20% of my precious screen height taken up with stuff which is only there because FF was designed when 4:3 CRTs where all there was.

Now I appreciate that LCD screens only (cheaply) come in sizes and form-factors that are meant for video replay - and that I could, possibly, turn the monitor through 90°, or get a second one. However, the principle still applies: that application design has not kept up with screen layouts and could do with a thorough overhaul to get it into the 21st century.

Oh, and BTW. Trusty Tahr is an anagram of Ruthy Tarts (or Tarty Ruths, but I don't think any Ruths would be too impressed), which is much easier to say.

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LOHAN preps Vulture 2 for hot vinyl wrap

Pete 2
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cheapskates!

> it made perfect sense to bring the aircraft over

And here was me hoping it would be flown over on the back of a Jumbo Jet

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MPs blast HMRC for using anti-terrorism laws against whistleblower

Pete 2
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Re: Margaret Hodge "shocked to her bone"

Yes, it makes you think that finally someone's put a TASER to good use.

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Pete 2
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Lawmakers and the law

> ... laws put in place to combat terrorism to investigate an employee

The most worrying aspect is that someone who plays a key role in creating laws, is so clueless about how they get used.

Hodgey-poos seems to think that once a law is enacted, there is some sort of magical process that makes lawyers read it and think "yes, this is obviously only to be applied in certain, restricted situations - it's not a general-purpose law that could be applied universally".

The basic point is that law is like badly written computer code that isn't tested before it's released. It's vague, imprecise, subject to interpretation by those (judges) who execute it and doesn't have any IF THEN ELSE protections to govern when and how it is invoked. Think SQL: it describes the desired outcome not the process of getting there.

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IBM Boffins KNOW WHERE YOU LIVE, thanks to Twitter

Pete 2
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Persons, places and things

So if you tweeted:

It's great to see Paris again or

Just got back to Devon, or even

Philly is a sight for sore eyes

Would you infer a location, the name of a partner or even just being reunited with your pet dog?

Given the old adage that There are lots of girls in Watford called Chelsea but no girls in Chelsea called Watford, this sort of "magicking data out of nothing" is a very haphazard affair.

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What does people-centric IT mean, anyway?

Pete 2
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Do this if you want to destroy IT

> "You have to let the user work in the way that they want." ... while unifying their environment

How does that work - exactly?

You can work the way you want to, as long as you use a "unified" environment. That sounds to me a lot like You can have any colour you want, so long as it's black.

Personally I have always considered standards to be a good thing (so long as they are sensible ones). So we have standard sizes for paper, at standard length*width ratios (in almost every country, except for a few "outliers") - so that you don't need to buy "HP" sized paper to fit in their, and only their, printers. We have standards for petrol, so that a Ford car will run on any brand - and we have standards for I.T. so that someone can fill your job while you're off sick, or in the slim chance you get promoted (hint: never make yourself indispensable: people that a company can't do without can't be promoted) or find a better job.

So to have every worker doing things their own way is the shortcut to chaos. Even if they do decide to document it, then "doing it their own way" doesn't even mean the documentation has to be in your national language - or Klingon.

Apart from the basic mistakes in the thinking, this piece of inspiration from Microsoft just sounds like a collection of marketing phrases and management b/s mixed together in an attempt to convince people who should know better, that following this path will get them a better, happier and more efficient IT implementation - and workers who feel enabled and valued (and since it's always and only ever about money - willing to work for less, too). Right up, that is, until the time when you get someone else's "done their own way" work to pick up and support.

It'll all end in tears,

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Oculus Rift? Tchah, try 'Oculus Thrift' ... You bet your vrAse we tested these bargain VR specs

Pete 2
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Might want to re-think the name

Maybe I'm just having a Paris in the the spring moment, but I keep reading the product name as v-arse.

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Eight hour cleansing to get all the 'faggots' and 'bitches' OUT of Github

Pete 2
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Re: Equal or !=

> It's not PC gone mad. It's PC gone mentally challenged. Thanks

Actually I was hoping for a variant on EFAULT¹ (bad address) when you get a pointer wrong - or in this case the PC (Program Counter) as a play on words acronyms. Looks like I didn't set the gag up well enough.

[1] man errno

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Pete 2
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Equal or !=

> there is no place for ... any other kind of exclusive attitudes

So provided one's comments are equally offensive or abusive to all people, you're fine?

Hmmm.

( how about an addition to <errno.h> EOFFENCE - PC gone mad ? )

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Blighty goes retro with 12-sided pound coin

Pete 2
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A question of balance

> the 20p and 50p had an odd number of sides

Yes, but you can't have fun and games seeing how many you can stack, on edge.

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MH370 airliner MYSTERY: The El Reg Pub/Dinner-party Guide

Pete 2
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Re: From the horse's mouth...

> ...an old friend of mine is a fairly senior manager at a well regarded airline. He says no one has a clue what happened and that lines up well with Mr Page's last paragraph.

And that's where the effort should be focused.

If I was the chinese authorities, I'd charter another plane of the same type and fly it over the same route. Then replicate the actions we *know* happened, gather the same information from the same radars and satellites (assuming the malaysian authorities will comply - if not, that tells you something, by itself) and see what possibilities turn out to be impossibilities and who's telling porkies.

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Pete 2
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Re: Here's more sensible analysis...

I was just about to post the exact same link (as published by a commentard from The Independent, this morning).

Sadly, I have to say that the simplest explanation is the most likely: fire & crash.

The worrying thing is that so many people are so ready to believe intricate conspiracy theories about terrorism and/or crime. Though I guess this is the news media's version of nature abhorring a (information) vacuum. Gotta instill some fear to sell the papers.

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WTF is … the multiverse?

Pete 2
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Multiverse? So 1990's, THIS universe is someone's simulation

So the theory goes:

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/16/opinion/sunday/is-the-universe-a-simulation.html?_r=0

For the TL:DR types: The universe is sooooo big that it inevitably contains beings with far more technological ability then we have. However, even at our level we build mathematical models and computer simulations. Therefore it's reasonable to expect that so do these super-beings. And since simulations are much easier to make than "reality" is, there are probably far more simulated universes than real ones.

One question that they might like to answer simulate would be: what would other universes look like? And one way to find out, would be to run some models. Hello!!!! here's one and we're in it.

Of course, this theory fades into infinity, as those super-beings are almost certainly inside someone else's simulation .. and so on.

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Toshiba baby OCZ flings open coat, bares PCIe flasher to world

Pete 2
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Virtual bits?

> pricing and availability information

Without that there's nothing.

Once the device is on the shelves and has some independent user reviews: then we can talk.

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Proper boffins make your company succeed, even if you're not very technical

Pete 2
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Getting the right people starts at the top

> dispel the popular idea that innovation means growth.

indeed. Innovation can mean producing a lot of new products that are crap, too narrowly focused, too expensive to get into production, not as good as the chinese version at half the price (or: better than the chinese version, but far too expensive and not on sale to 1.3Bn chinese) or not what anybody wants. In that case innovation can simply be the fast track to closure.

The greatest asset a company can have (at least a company who's size is such that a couple of turkeys in a row means death or takeover - if anyone would want to take it over) is someone who knows what is both possible and desirable. Techies are phenomenally bad at knowing what's possible and even worse at knowing what the average customer can be persuaded to buy.

However, that doesn't mean they have no place in a HIFs. They just have to controlled properly, partnered with the correct production, marketing and design people and receive clear direction from the company about the sort of product areas they should be addressing. Sadly, british firms are terrible at doing any of those things, let alone all of them at once. Even if the techies et. al. come through, and make their company a fortune, loyalty is usually seen as a one-way street, so they're just as likely to get the axe when the company fails in a future venture - possibly with a "Cheerio and thanks for all the fish", but still out on their arses.

So, there is no magic STEM fairy that a government can simply drop into smallish companies and turn them into successes - especially trying that with freshly graduated STEMs. Instead, the motivation has to come from the top: C-level types (all of them, not just the CIO) have to be willing to have confidence both in their own ability to recruite the correct set of original thinkers (technical and all the rest) and also in their own ability to plot a way forward, for these thinkers to come up with the right solutions to the correct problems. Once the people at the top do their jobs properly (instead of heaping expediency on top of compromise, without looking ahead further than the next quarter's figures/bonuses), then the right people will become apparent. But they won't appear fresh out of college with a bow around their necks.

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Amazon wants me to WEAR NAPPIES?! But I'm a 40-something MAN

Pete 2
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What they think they know

> Amazon, Google and all the others have been assiduously tracking, carefully storing and relentlessly re-using information about us.... for years

And still they make a total balls-up of analysing it. So imagine what a mess a government run tracking scheme would be. Without even the incentive for getting it right, of making a profit?

Yet this is what we get. With all the surveillance, meta-data, guilt by association and treating all their citizens like criminals: even before they start correlating the data they get from our everyday activities.

They say that if you have done nothing wrong, then you have nothing to hide. The problem, as this example illustrates, isn't that the bad things you (may) have done will come to light - it's the incorrect conclusions and false-positives that get drawn from poorly analysed data collections. Even from the world's best commercial operators.

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Brawling neighbours challenge 'quiet' cul-de-sac myth

Pete 2
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Tip toe through the cat crap

> news writers find it extremely difficult to write the term without adding the epithetic "quiet"

They're quiet because they have no through traffic.

None, that is, apart from the poxy cats - hordes of lazy, over-fed moggies, which most of the residents (except yours truly) seem to have. All of which appear to be bred specifically to deposit their "output" only on the lawns and paths of non-cat owners and the nearby pavements. Some sort of feline revenge?

As for being dangerous places? Dam' right. Do you *know* how slippery that stuff is?

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Netflix needling you? BBC pimps up iPlayer ahead of BBC3 move

Pete 2
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Surfers paradise

> 42% of visitors are now coming without a particular programme in mind.

So viewers are treating iplayer as a "goto" channel. They (we?) aren't interested in catching-up on any particular programme but just want something to watch. Rather than turn on their TV, if they have one nearby, they are surfing iplayer in the same way that others surf TV channels or youtube.

In this situation iplayer is no longer there to support broadcast TV, but is a product in its own right. One can assume that the 42% of iplayer surfers will increase over time - if for no other reason than this new iplayer interface makes that form of viewing easier - and therefore iplayer will become competitive with ordinary TV as a source of entertainment.

The question that begs is when and how will it be monetised?

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How to shop wisely for the IT department of the future

Pete 2
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Fear, Ignorance, Laziness, Greed

My experience of consulting in large organisations is one of mixed emotions.

On the one hand, it appears that navigating the purchasing process is long and arduous (and occasionally: random). It takes a lot of meetings, proposals, cost-benefit analyses, persuasion and horse-trading to get your project or upgrade financed. A side effect of this is that those who are experienced (i.e. have gone through the whole mess once before) will minimise the amount of stress they are subjected to.

There are many strategies for this. In no particular order:

Overstating the benefits. Since nobody can measure things that haven't happened, and everyone expects some degree of exaggeration, project benefits will always be higher on paper than in real-life. The only people who really, truly believe (or at least: repeat) them are politicians and the P.R. people. However, if you want your project to be approved, you have to be ready to make some outlandish (but not too extreme) claims for the benefits it will provide.

Padding the proposal Everyone expects to get less than they ask for. Hence they include some sacrificial lambs in the shopping list of stuff, so that when they are told they have to cut 20% off the costs, there are some items that can be axed. The trick seems to be to not make the paring-back process look too easy, or the bean-counters will ask for more. The problem is, that sometimes these (obviously padded) costs don't get challenged.

The twofer You have a BIG project that is critical for the business. You also have a few pet projects that you'd like to get done, too. The trick seems to be to merge them all into one, indistinguishable pile of interdependencies, so nobody can question why you need a 10TBmedia server for the LAN upgrade project. That way you only have to go through the pain and suffering of getting one single approval, rather than many. Most bean counters' eyes glaze over when you try to explain to them the technical stuff - frequently they'll sign-off on your requests just to get you to stop talking.

The bigger, the better It's a curious fact of business life that the more you ask for, the less resistance you meet. Say that your project will cost £100k and all sorts of people will stick their noses in: questioning your costs, asking if it's really necessary, can it be put off to next year (i.e.: cancelled)? But ask for £30 Mil and they'll all assume that you're serious and the organisation will be doomed to failure, or a takeover, or become uncompetitive, if your project gets the can.

As a consequence most middle-layer managers will submit proposals for a small number of mega-projects, rather than for what they need in reality: which is a dozen or two projects every year split between new work, upgrades, revamps and the occasional bit of blue-sky funding that might pay-off in 5 years time. The problem is that the people who's job it is to vet these submissions are unable to tell which ones are vital and which are pie-in-the-sky.

On the other hand, the mixed emotions I feel is that I am often in a position where I see these vanity/over-complicated pieces of work getting approved (real-life quote from an earlier boss: "it doesn't matter, it's only an extra 60k") when I know they are mostly unnecessary - but then again, they do pay for my consultancy time.

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Foxtel's new football-watching shirt THROBS after every tackle

Pete 2
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Having a splashing time

> Fox Footy also advises that the shirt should not be washed

But one would hope, nay: require, that the shirt was beer-proof - otherwise I would expect its service-life to be measured in minutes ... or until the player's teams' first score.

'corse, if Fox or BT Sport was ever to try the same sort of shirt over here, it would need a function whereby it called an ambulance, so the wearer could be stretchered off in agony sympathy, any time one of the opposition gave him a gentle shove.

Finally, should we wait for the s*x channels to produce similarly "equipped" garments, too?

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PM Cameron leaps aboard Internet of Thingies

Pete 2
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Re: Write once, copy many

> here I sit in a building with hundreds of software engineers, in a company with thousands

So I'll take a wild stab in the dark and venture you don't work for Whatsapp. Market value (if you can really believe that) of $19Bn and 50 employees.

The point I was hoping to get across with that rather trite example is that successful, new, IT outfits have heee-oooge valuations (if not actual, you know: value) but it doesn't take many employees to produce it. Compare that to a "proper" company, like Ford, that makes stuff. They have a value of about three times Whatsapp's¹, but employ over 200,000 people - and if you include its third-party suppliers tere's many more. If a politician wants to create jobs in his/her/its country, then massively over-valued IT companies aren't the way to do it

[1] http://www.marketwatch.com/investing/stock/f

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Pete 2
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Re: A fridge that can order you beer ...

> if it ordered beer by itself,

and what if it nagged you once it had ordered your "limit" of 21 units, weekly. Or worse: refused to order any more, for your own good?

How about one that "knew" there was an under 18¹ y/o in the house and wouldn't open the fridge door until after they had left.

The thing about the IoT is to make sure that it knows who's in charge.

[1] other arbitrary age limits are available. Just don't buy a grey-import IoT device or you might go thirsty for no good reason.

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Pete 2
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Write once, copy many

The problem that Cameron has missed is that software and IT doesn't create many jobs. You have a small (comparatively) team or company that writes an app, or some industrial firmware. That is then published & sold, downloaded millions or billions of times and used everywhere. You still only have quite a small company doing the work - it's just that the company is earning a great deal of money from its success, fame and fortune.

But it's not creating any more jobs.

There is possibly some intangible benefits that accrue to the users: greater efficiency, faster operations, lower costs. But these don't flow back tot he original company that created the software and the benefits confer no competitive advantage on this country as a whole. Even worse, if the company that created this successful app feel they are being too highly taxed, it's very, very easy for it to move to a lower tax (and probably less rainy) country and be just as successful there.

Now consider the manufacturing companies that The Big C is proposing the UK IT "industry" partners. Every widget they make has a human element to it. Sure, the production lines are automated, but they still need people to maintain them, perform some manual operations (even if that number is minimal), pack the physical products, ship and transport them and physically sell them. So each widget produced has some need for workers - the more widgets made, the more workers employed, hence a greater gain for the country where the stuff is made. And if the same country has the skills and industrial base to make the equipment that makes the widgets, you have a double success story.

So while having an IT industry might be trendy, it doesn't do much to directly reduce unemployment and greater success doesn't necessarily lead to more job.. Neither is it particularly permanent in terms of staying and investing in any given country if taxation becomes unfavourably high. So it seems to me, that in this IoT partnership, the Germans have got the tasty end of the candyfloss, and the UK is stuck with the stick.

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Google facing $5 BEEELLION antitrust fine in India

Pete 2
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That's the way to do it!

If you're going to use fines as punishment (leaving aside the "who ultimately pays" issues, this is a good strategy for foreign companies) then fine them BIG TIME. The americans fined BP over £10 Bn for the gulf oil spill and that is the level that seems necessary to be taken seriously - as well as being a nice little earner for the folks back home.

If foreign companies are so willing to take the pi mickey about paying taxes in the UK, then I see nothing wrong with using punitive financial measures against them. It sure beats extracting taxes from citizens.

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Women! You too can be 'cool' and 'fun' if you work in tech!

Pete 2
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The kiss of death

Having an EU bureaucrat extolling the virtues of something is surely the simplest way to turn most people off it.

Let's face it, most people are NOT COOL - just watch them dance if you need proof. Most people don't even try to kid themselves they are cool and the ones who do usually end up worse off than if they'd done nothing to "improve" in that area. So why should "cool" be considered an attractive or aspirational property?

The basic issue is that thinking has been demonised. Most of the publications (both printed and web) place far more importance on appearance than content and most newspapers tabloids never have a good adjective to say about anyone who demonstrates an IQ over 100. TV follows the same path: with the most popular programmes and channels being the least intellectually stimulating.

What we (in IT) need is the sort of publicity that sport has got. Even if most people are still couch potatoes and only ever exercise their channel-changing finger, they do still talk about and show an interest in physical activities. If you want to motivate people, a sporty role model is often the way forward. The question is: how do you get abstract, intangible ideas to become sexy? How do you make theoretical analysis interesting? How is it possible to persuade "the man in the street" to talk about philosophy, mathematics or op-codes when he's in the pub?

Maybe those are the issues Neelie Kroes could work on, once he's solved the gender inequalities of IT

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