* Posts by Pete 2

2387 posts • joined 10 Jun 2009

PM Cameron leaps aboard Internet of Thingies

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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Review of UK data protection: Should fines go OVER HALF A MIL?

Pete 2
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Who pays vs. who is responsible?

Fines (especially at this level, for multinationals) are as the article says "a drop in the ocean". However no matter what level fines are set at, they still only get paid by the organisation as a whole - or more likely: by the shareholders or tax-payers who ultimately suffer the loss. They don't punish the individual who was responsible for security and who made (or failed to make) the decision that led to losing data that other people had entrusted to the company. Since it's individuals who get the rewards, it's reasonable that they should be held to account for their failures.

If you really want to focus the attention of the people in charge, jail time is required.

The spotlight should start at the top of the organisation, and only move down to lower-ranking named individuals if or when it can be shown that the person in question could not have influenced, made, or reversed choices that led to an insecure IT operation.

There is already an offence called Misconduct in Public Office which can carry a heavy sentence. Maybe all that's needed is to extend this and (like with pretty all existing laws) simply start to use it, rather than create even more new laws.

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Psssst. Don't tell the Bride, but BBC Three is about to be jilted

Pete 2
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Re: Not Necessarily Bad

> As has been pointed out elsewhere, even if BBC3 goes online only

And how will the BBC justify having a channel (SD/HD? never watched it, can't say) and a primo slot in the EPG lying used during TV prime time?

That sounds even more wasteful than broadcasting crap on BBC3 - even if it does save them a little money.

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Hey doc, what's the PC's prognosis? A. Long-term growth below zero

Pete 2
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First derivative

The number of newly shipped PCs tells up nothing about the size of the installed base. All it says is that it is not growing as fast as previously - it could still be growing, or it could be shrinking but this data cannot tell us which. And since there are no figures for the number of units that get junked, or just switched off and left in a corner there is no easy way to know that number (it can be inferred, but that's just another word for "guessed").

So all we have is something akin to a measure of airspeed. On its own it tells us nothing about how far we've traveled - and without knowing the speed of the air we're in: head, tail or cross wind we can't even say if we're going backwards or not.

File under: insufficient data, Captain.

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Windows XP market share GROWS AGAIN, outstrips Win 8.1 surge

Pete 2
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The secret is in the name

Since everyone loves XP, why don't MS do the obvious and rename Windows 8 as XP2?

"On yes, unknowledgable customer - it IS Windows XP, only better!"

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Crack Euro banker team to probe whether virtual currencies should be regulated

Pete 2
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Proceeds of crime?

> risk of money-laundering activity through the trading of virtual currencies may arise

So what we really need is a (covertly) government backed virtual currency that is somehow made attractive to crims. Have them deposit all their ill-gotten gains in the virtual currency and then do a "MtGox" (how long until to gox becomes a word?) on it.

The result is that you've grabbed their loot and, assuming they are dim enough, you could set up a relief fund that they can apply to, for refunds. When they do - you can grab them, too.

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Anti-snoop Blackphone hits shelves in June: NOW we'll see how much you value privacy

Pete 2
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The long necked chicken

... is the first to get the chop.

So it is with crowds. If you stand out, you attract attention. So having a "black" phone that is supposedly secure against all the thing the designers found were easy to do (but that completely misses those that are difficult, or that the designers lacked the knowledge/ability/imagination to consider) will be the phone that attracts attention.

Sure, if your security really is good enough to withstand the inevitable extra scrutiny, then that's OK. Except you'll never know - since the security organisations won't be considerate enough to let you know when they've hacked, cracked or whacked all the little defenses your $3-digit device put up against their multi-billion $$$$ counter-counter-measure tools.

As the article says a challenge any secure phone has is still traffic analysis. However, that's more than a challenge - it's a gaping hole as wide as the Grand Canyon. That's why (when they were used) government "intelligence" radio stations would broadcast 24 hours a day, whether there was any threat or situation or not. As they knew well, that merely the act of increasing the amount of radio "chatter" was all the other guys needed to know that you'd rumbled them. So the only way these phones could add to the security of the user would be to keep a connection to "the other guy" 24*7¹. Somehow I don't think that people value their security enough that they'd be prepared for that much of a bill every month.

[1] Though I do know a few particularly talkative types who are already pushing the limits of their vocal chords and phone's batteries in that direction.

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Fanbois sent into FITS of RAGE by fake Steve Jobs statue competition

Pete 2
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Havin' a larva

> an Apple mole told ...

Is that some sort of maggot?

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But... you work in IT... Why aren't we RICH?

Pete 2
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> Typing a Spong! message will be called "Spinging".

and getting finance will be sponging?

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Pete 2
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It's the reviews, not the tech, that matters

> After all, the industry is choc-a-bloc with shit technology ...

Yes. shit technology - and even shittier apps - that gets glowing reviews from journalists who only ever read the publicity material, have neither the will, ability nor time to actually - you know - use it and will give a product a 3-star (out of 5) rating for merely delivering a cardboard box. If there's a product inside you'll get 4 stars and if the little blue (annoying bright blue BTW) light comes on when ON is pressed, the full ***** rating is yours. As for comparing products' meaningless, irrelevant and utterly unsupportable or unmeasurable parameters, speeds, capacities and qualities - don't get me started.

Have a product that appears to perform the first few, most basic, functions and you're pretty much guaranteed to make the Editor's choice and if the device looks sleek and shiny as all "futuristic" technology should, get ready to appear on the front cover (or landing page) for the next month.

Reviewers almost never have a critical word to say about products - for fear that tomorrow's mailbag won't contain any more swag. One suspects that the 95% of the world that is in technical terms: crud, never makes it to the review section at all - so we are never warned about those products, but probably see them getting a "glowing" 3-star review in a different publication, along with a sycophantic description of all the features and techy-specs listed on the side of the (still unopened) box.

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UK man Lauri Love accused of hacking US Federal Reserve

Pete 2
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To be accused is to be guilty

"Guilty pleas last year [2011] resolved 97% of all federal cases that the Justice Department prosecuted to a conclusion"

Given the extreme lengths of sentences that can be handed down to individuals who force a court into the inconvenience of giving them a fair trial, many people opt to "cop a plea" (and in the process, perjure themselves by swearing they were guilty when they weren't) and get off with a lesser sentence. In many plea bargains, one of the conditions included is that the individual waives any possibilty that they can appeal whatever sentence the beak hands down.

Add to which, it can take years¹ for a person to even come to trial in the USA - during which time they are either in jail or have to raise enormous amounts of bail (and then abide by whatever restrictions are associated with it) and keep paying your lawyers to defend you. None of which is conducive to earning a living or supporting yourself, waiting for your "day in court" to arrive.

No wonder so many people "vehemently oppose" (and with bugger all support from the UK government, looking after its citizens' rights to a fair trial) leaving this country. Once you're in the clutches of the US judicial system, you're as good as slammed up.

[1] 988 days on average in NY. ref: http://www.thenewyorkworld.com/2012/02/27/the-daily-q-how-long-criminal-cas/

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French silver foxes use Fujitsu's Grandroid mobes... to send each other selfies

Pete 2
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The other grey market

The most amazing aspect is that it's taking tech companies so long to realise that the over X's (where X is generally a number 20-30 years older than yer avrige pundit) are a very, very profitable market segment. Most of them have no mortgages to consume the majority of their income (admittedly: a fixed income / pension), no cash-sucking live-at-home children under their feet and manage to keep the clubbing/bingeing/adventure holidays and recreational drugs at a modest level.

So why are there so few techy toys for us them? The biggest block seems to be the complete lack of understanding that trendy 20-something designers have for anyone with a grey hair followed swiftly by the skepticism and questioning that "oldies" have for electronic devices (along the lines of: "yes dear, but what does it actually DO for all that money?") and hand-in-hand with developers' inability to produce software and user interfaces that, simply, works - no fussing, no configuration, clear help & guidance, sensible defaults and no diagnoses.

Though if UK techies do "discover" this market, will June Whitfield have enough working hours in her day to appear in all the advertisements?

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Your CIO is now a venture capitalist and you work at their startup

Pete 2
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The wrong people in the wrong place

> a willingness to engage in small, experimental, IT projects rather than the larger endeavours

I have only worked in one startup - and that hit the wall after 6 years.

However, comparing the attitudes there with those in larger, established companies I can't see the concept of "internal VC-ing" working very well.

For a start, the factors that attract workers to large companies: stability, lack or slow change, lots of structure guidelines processes and procedures and a nice easy 9-5 are not the features you get in startups. You also find that a lot of the large-company workers are willing to trade a lower salary and prospects for all the factors listed above - plus a pension.

In startups you want exactly the opposite sort of individual: self-starters, working 5 - 9 (a.m. to p.m), a JFDI attitude to problem-solving, and no two days being the same. People who thrive in that sort of environment will not usually be found working for MegaCorp. (They'll in the industrial unit down the road).

And finally you have the shareholders. People who invest in large, stable companies want large stable returns - not a 90% failure rate. So it might be trendy for CIOs to embrace failure and be able to excuse it with one, occasional, win. However, would they last long enough in the position to deliver that one win in ten? And if they were "VC" material, they'd probably use the large company as a training ground - financing all their costly mistakes and then when the success does come along, be off like a shot "to spend more time with their money" and open a startup of their own.

If large companies want innovation and want it quickly, they usually simply buy the relevant VC-funded startup and assimilate their technology. Much less risk, appears on the books as "growth" and can you can see what you're getting into before you open your wallet.

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MtGox boss vows to keep going despite $429 MILLION Bitcoin 'theft'

Pete 2
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Consider themselves lucky

> $429 MILLION Bitcoin 'theft'

... that BTC value has dropped from its kilobuck+ highs. Otherwise the losses would have been much bigger. Errrrm, hang on .... does it work like that?

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HP: We're so down wid da kidz! Look at... er, Smithers, what DO yoof look at these days?

Pete 2
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Hitting the bottle

> What do you think about when you hear the name HP?

Sauce!

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Dropbox erects sueball shield with new T&C and privacy legalese

Pete 2
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Divide and conquer

When Standard Oil was crushing everything and everyone who stood in its way, it was originally thought of as "good" for the consumer. S.O. lowered prices for users and made LOADSAMONEY for its investors.

The commercial terms it drew up for anyone it dealt with tended to be by diktat (take it or leave it - BTW, if you leave it, forget about doing business with anyone else) and rather one-sided in setting out who got the benefits.

It was only when things got so extreme that the US government stepped in and broke the outfit into smaller pieces.

We can see parallels with the Ts & Cs that a lot of the larger internet players are forcing on their customers. A lot of them are so big that, in practice, there is little in the way of alternative suppliers. They are also so big that their legal beagles can effectively call the shots unless and until a complaint gets appealed to state level (by which time the complainant has probably run out of money, anyway).

I suppose in a capitalist state (the Internet, not just the US), this sort of behaviour is inevitable. After all, there are no laws in virtual-land and business is very one-sided. It's just so sad that after S.O. and it's many copy-cats (e.g. IBM, Microsoft) that such situations are still permitted to develop. Even though we can all see, in hindsight, that they are bad ideas™.

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Climate change will 'CAUSE huge increase in MURDER, ROBBERY and RAPE'

Pete 2
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Re: Time to get the calculator out

> What happened to "burgled"?

or the less contentious "robbed"?

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Pete 2
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Time to get the calculator out

> Between 2010 and 2099, [ a period of 90 years ] climate change will cause an additional ...1.3 million burglaries

And we are told¹ there are 2.2 million burglaries in the USA every year. So climate change will account for an extra 1,300,000 / 90 = 14,400 more per year or a rise of about 0.6%.

First thing: pardon me if I don't get too concerned about this

Second thing: this guy quotes his "results" to 2 significant figures: 1.3million, 22,000 etc. That alone tells me he is quantifying far beyond the accuracy that crime forecasting OR climatology is good for. Whether that is down to cluelessness, an economist's traditional sense of humour, or that he thinks it adds credibility - I couldn't say. But none of those possibilities are true (except maybe the "in joke" about the significant digits).

[1] ref: prweb.com "every 14.4 seconds, a home in the U.S. has been burglarized"

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Dixons Retail and Carphone Warehouse mull merger

Pete 2
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Time for a name change

If they do merge, hopefully the product of their combined marketing talent will be able to come up with a better name.

When was the last time anyone bought a Car phone?

and, more to the point, I've never been able to get a Chicken Madras in Curry's, either.

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Yes! New company smartphones! ... But I don't WANT one

Pete 2
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Smart, but useless

> from the standpoint of a business owner and end-user ... use for hours every day.

How is that possible?

I have a Samsung smart-something or other and it's screen is far too small to use for anything but the most trivial tasks. Certainly nothing of the complexity or intensity that would qualify as "work". Typing on it is a nightmare - keys are far too small and at best you can do one-fingered "pecking" with continual interruptions for SHIFT and SYM functions. Plus, the amount of information you can display on the screen at a readable font-size is miniscule. And in daylight, is zero due to its shiny unreadability.

I can understand how a user might spend hours every day using one, but personally I'd prefer a system with a big screen and normal sized (and featured) keyboard/mouse that gives me the productivity to achieve the same amount in a few minutes.

I would suggest that instead of "stove-piping" and looking at (smart)phones as a single item, and making a selection purely on the basis of their cost/features/lifetime/sexiness, you take a step back and see how to improve the working environment of your employees, as a complete integrated approach. And where a phone - smart or otherwise, would fit into that strategy.

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Retiring greybeards force firms to retrain Java, .NET bods as mainframe sysadmins

Pete 2
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Re: Spaces significant??

> in Fortran the only place spaces are significant is in strings

Tenses.

That may well be the case now, but I made a point of saying 1960s FORTRAN. In the case of F4 (from personal memory) the first 6 columns were reserved for label numbers and if column 1 contained a "C" that line was deemed a comment.

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Pete 2
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> how to make COBOL and attractive option for recent graduates

Rename it to object.Cobol and start writing games in it.

We already have a trendy language (Python) that is following the 1960's FORTRAN mistake convention of making whitespace significant. Sexing up COBOL shouldn't be too difficult,

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Pete 2
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in a free market there's no such thing as a skills shortage

> CIOs are growing concerned about the looming skills shortage in their mainframe rooms

Merely an unwillingness to pay the salaries that supply and demand indicates as the going rate.

Having said that, there does come a time when the cost of employing specialists becomes greater than the cost of "de-specialising" and replacing the niche kit with more generic solutions that the new generation of cheap, trained and plentiful staff have the knowledge to support.

Knowing when that time is and planning for the eventuality is one of the basic jobs of senior IT management. However, when the CIOs and their direct reports keep their heads in the sand, spend all their time focused on the immediate and not the strategic, this is the inevitable consequence. That's just the cost of being out of touch with market trends.

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Toshiba Encore: The Windows 8.1 tablet that might catch on

Pete 2
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A word of advice to tablet makers

Screen size and price.

When Joe Public goes tabby shopping, those are the only two factors he/she/it cares about.

Screen size and price. That's all.

Android? Windows? It matters not.

Microsoft? Google? matters even less.

Technical stuff? it's just noise.

It's a given that any tablet will play vids, music, stream TV, have a camera or two, play any of the top games, access FB Twitter and all that malarky - oh: and browse stuff. Users won't even check those and if the tablet can't do it - back to the shop it goes.

Screen size and price.

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South Korea green lights Stuxnet-like code weapons to nark NORKS

Pete 2
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Praying for the day

> Stuxnet-like code weapons to nark NORKS

... when a trinket worn by NK's anti-drug police causes inflammation below their chins. Leading to the headline:

Nick nack narks NORK'S narcs' necks

we can only hope.

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Boffins: You'll see, TWITTERNET! We'll get the TRUTH out of you...

Pete 2
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A rule of thumb

> But it’s currently not possible to automatically analyse, in real time, whether a piece of information is true or false

Broadly speaking, it's a pretty good guess that if a piece of "information" appears on a social networking site, it's probably bollocks false.

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Google warns Glass wearers: Quit being 'CREEPY GLASSHOLES'

Pete 2
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A small window

By offering these "suggestions", Google is obviously aware of the image these devices have - and the poor reaction that ordinary (or normal; you choose) people have to being confronted by them.

So I would expect Google will go down one of two routes: either quietly kill the device and learn not to be so socially clumsy, or develop the Mk 2 that will be a lot more ... discrete. The basic problem will still be the same: that people who realise they are being spied on will be annoyed, but a more concealed device will make it harder to know when this is.

It could simply be that us "normals" will stop worrying when a Mk2 Glass is in our presence, as it won't be at all obvious - or it could be that our outrage at being covertly monitored turns against the supplier, rather than the individual performing the unsociable act.

Either way, if this device is to be stopped, now would appear to be the time to apply pressure: while the supplier is still sensitive to public reaction.

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Birds Eye releases 'mashtags' social spud snacks

Pete 2
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Today's menu

Should go well with some P-code and #deadbeef. Maybe followed by tea (or java) and cake (Raspberry Pi was too obvious)

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Tired of arguing with suits? Get ready to argue with engineers!

Pete 2
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If it ain't broken ...

> the suppliers of heavy equipment sell sealed-box products that are sold as just working.

And if only more IT kit was like that.

The most reliable kit in most datacentres is that insignificant little box in the corner that runs a dedicated application on top of NT, or Solaris 6. Nobody knows how it works, they just know that the supplier "deals with it" and won't allow anyone else to log in, upgrade the hardware, touch any of its cables or sometimes even reboot it. It has been there since Y2k (or beyond) and just works.

The secret to these boxes is that they are dedicated: they do one thing only, have zero flexibility and no scope for alterations or customsation. But when they are properly designed, from a sensible specification that was implemented by capable people and neither over-sold nor prematurely released (before testing AND bug fixing had been completed) then they are world-beaters. No Patch Tuesdays for them!

However, we IT people aren't used to systems that are stable. We assume that everything arrives broken and that it's 3-5 year lifespan will be spent working around its shortcomings and trying (often: failing) getting it to meet the specification that was originally written on the brochure that the CIO saw, read and bought. The best we can hope for is that these "heavy equipment" manufacturers place as much store in the reputation of their software products as they do in their hardware, and also that they are steadfast in their demands that unqualified IT people don't go anywhere near it.

The difficulty is that to get rock-steady systems, you will never be talking about being at the leading-edge. Instead of implementing the latest and greatest stuff that comes out of a 6 month-old startup (soon to be a 7 month-old foldup or sell-out), the secret will be to not even look at tech that isn't a few years old, has got some thousands (or for the IoT: millions) of units delivered and working and to never, ever make any changes to the thing's external networking environment once it's been installed.

If that means we're going to have to start getting things right at the first attempt and then not changing them, so be it. it can be done - just ask the makers of all those little boxes in the corner.

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Reports pump fuel into iCar gossip: Apple in 'talks' with Tesla

Pete 2
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Recharge

I don't know about an iCar, but I do like the idea of coupling a phone to a Tesla's 85kWHr battery and having a device that you only need to charge once a year (or, come to that: run your house for a week). Though you might need a shopping trolley to haul it around in - just so long as it doesn't catch fire.

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Google slurps sound-powered security upstart SlickLogin

Pete 2
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Typo?

shouldn't that read: The tech is said to simplify be "overly complicated and annoying"

Given that it requires a PC with speakers and the sound enabled (surely the very first thing users in offices do is rip out the speakers and/or disable all sounds). Plus a smartphone with it's microphone available to hear this (and presumably everything else that is within hearing distance - a built in bug? how marvelous) and without the sound being muffled by, say, a trouser/jacket pocket or handbag and the environment being sufficiently noise-free.

I would expect that this technology is neither disability-friendly, universally applicable nor 100% reliable. So all systems where is is used will have to have passwords as a fallback (sorreeeee, I can't log in until my phone has recharged ... ooops, I can't use this app as I'm on the phone, whoops: I appear to have left my phone at home/in the car/on the bus). Added to which is the faff of having to dig out your phone every time you want to log in. So it will hardly ever be a person's first choice of authentication and will therefore very quickly be sidelined and then ignored.

Hopefully Google bought the company as a public service and will now bury it to reduce the number of annoyances foisted on us in the name of technology.

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New password system lets planet Earth do the hard work

Pete 2
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I already have a geographically based password system

I know where my passwords are written down.

Seriously, most websites that ask for passwords don't need them - or only need trivial examples as what they "protect" is, to all intents and purposes, worthless. For these sites: the overwhelming majority of sites, keeping the same passwords for all of them and never changing it is perfectly reasonable. Provided websites continue to allow anonymity: i.e. anyone can set up an account using any old "nickname" that hasn't already been used, there isn't even any reputational damage if a bad person does hijack your account.

There are some sites: banks, any website that you make payments to/from, HMRC, places where you expose contact information to people you know (since you owe them a duty of care) where it is wise to keep passwords under wraps - and not use the same one that you would on snailracers.com snail fanciers forum. However, for those a solid password is at least as good as trying to remember a location (who would NOT choose the location of their house, or the bank branch in question?) and is easier to record, if you have a geographically based password system like mine.

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SCRAP the TELLY TAX? Ancient BBC Time Lords mull Beeb's future

Pete 2
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Re: Very interesting discussion

> the BBC has the greatest wildlife and science documentaries in the world by several light-years. ...

> I would be out on the street with Molotov cocktails if they attempted to take one penny away from these

Better get the firebombs ready then. Their latest financial statement (for 2012/2013) shows that BBC2 had it's funding cut by £6M (that's a lot of "one penny"'s) compared to the previous year and BBC4 suffered a £2½M cut. BBC1 on the other hand (not known for its documentaries: science, wildlife or otherwise) gained over £120 Mil. Even though the corporation as a whole received £50M less than the previous year.

It would appear that Strictly (that is a BBC show, isn't it?) is where the funding is going and "serious" programmes are being cut to pay for it.

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Pete 2
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Re: Unfair Tax? If it walks like a duck ..

> The BBC License Fee is not a tax. The clue's in the name.

It's a tax. Merely changing the name fools nobody (well, almost nobody - just ask the people who live near Windscale Sellafield). As for the wiki-gasm about the BBC's legal status? Well, nobody cares about that distinction, either.

As for why the tax is unfair, it's a shame you never managed to read past my second sentence or you would have seen the reason why that is.

So you don't have a TV - that's nice, if irrelevant. Some people choose to go without carbs, or meat, or clothes¹ too.. Does that mean they are "luxury" items? No of course it doesn't. So far as having a TV is concerned for a lot of the lowest paid workers, and those who don't/won't/can't work a TV is a necessity. If you have children there is nothing comparable to keep them occupied. The same can be said for adults, too, especially the housebound - if you can't afford other ways of occupying your "leisure" time, then a TV is vital. That's one reason why you find TVs in all parts of the world from Manhattan to Somalia. People are willing to forgo better food in order to have some source information and a way to add a little "sunshine" into their lives.

[1] The naked rambler.

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Pete 2
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Re: Unfair Tax?

The BBC tax is unfair (technically: regressive). The reason being that everyone pays the same amount, irrespective of their ability to pay. The modern trend with taxation is for the rich to pay more than the poor. Sure, there are some subsidies available with the BBC licence fee, such as a 50% reduction for the blind, but otherwise if you're on the minimum wage you pay the same licence fee as if you earn a million a year.

As far as hypothecation goes (tax paid to finance a specific thing), yes it is - and that level of transparency is good.

However, once the money gets given to the BBC, all transparency is lost. Who decides whether "our (TV) taxes" should be spent on a new costume drama, or adding stuff to their website, sending hundreds of staff on a foreign "jolly" to cover an event, or pissed against the wall on a digitisation plan that was totally mismanaged? The public pay billions every year for all these things, but the democratic process fails completely in giving us any say on where "our" money gets spent, or who gets to spend it.

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Pete 2
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Re: Just a News Operation

> leave the cooking shows and talent shows to the private sector.

Best idea in a long time.

The basic problem the independent channels have is the failure to attract an audience. Why is this? becaase every soddin' 20 minutes they interrupt the programmes and try to sell us anti-aging cream, no-win-no-fee lawyering and shampoo.

The idea

If ITV et. al. could run uninterrupted programmes of the same quality as the Beeb's they would attract far more viewers. But they can't, because all the TV tax money goes to one, single, dominant, broadcaster - which uses that dosh to show exactly the same sort of popular programmes that the independent channels rely on, could easily make and would earn them the income to make "quality" telly. if only the BBC weren't giving it all away for free and undermining their potential cash-cows.

Sure: for the viewers it's great (if you like that sort of thing). But it doesn't increase choice - not when all the channels are screening wall-to-wall soaps, celebs, chat, reality and quizzes: 'cos that's what the people want - innit.

The solution

If the trash "popular" programmes were left to the independents to make money from, the BBC could go back to its original charter: entertain, educate and inform. On the basis that you wouldn't need 9 channels of TV to do this (which spend over half their time screening repeats - just to fill the time), the bandwidth they have but don't use could be rented out to other broadcasters (or mobile phone, or some other revenue generator) and that cash used to finance the content they make. If we were also to retain a licence fee, it could then be used to remove or greatly reduce the need for adverts on the commercial channels - thus making them more attractive to viewers (provided they produced programmes people wanted to watch) and as an added bonus, the reduction in advertising "space" might even result in us buying less unneccesary crap and trying to sue the arse of someone everytime we slip over in the street.

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Your personal data is worth a measly eight bucks a month

Pete 2
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A hack waiting to happen

So what this really does is to monetise the data that hackers already go phishing for.

Now, instead of them selling lists of names, cards and personal data to some nefarious individual or group, for pennies, they'll approach this outfit instead - and get many times the moolah for the same information.

There's a scary thought that this is just a front for someone's government surveillance scheme - in an attempt to legalise their snooping "Look! they GAVE us the data and we're paying for it - it's not spying anymore (and it costs a dam' sight less, too).

There's an even more scary thought that by upping the rate paid for personal data, all this outfit is doing is increasing the demand for it - and therefore attracting more hackers to try and pry it off you.

"I'm sorry, Mr. Pete 2, but you're already selling us ALL your personal data. What do you mean, you didn't know that?"

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Object to #YearOfCode? You're a misogynist and a snob, says the BBC

Pete 2
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Re: We don't have anyone competent to do that

> writing laws is really a form of computation, so we should make it more like a software project.

The two other differences being that the CPU doesn't get to interpret the laws code it's told to execute - it just gets on and does what the code says: whether it's sensible or not - and that doesn't change subtly over time (yes: I do know about software rot). So at least there's the possibility of getting the result you intended - provided you code it properly - rather than what the CPU (or judiciary) thinks it should be.

The other difference is that there isn't an entire other CPU, with vastly more incentive, power and time that is dedicated to finding reasons why your code shouldn't be executed, or how it could be bent, warped and subverted to do its own bidding. Although one could argue that is exactly what the Intel architecture does.

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Pete 2
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You missed one

From RCJ's article

> There is a minority of older experienced programmers ...

So not only is this guy accusing people of snobbishness and misogyny, but there's a whiff of ageism in there, too.

However, since this guy works for the People''s Democratic Republic of the BBC, he knows that everything he writes will be scrutinised by the PC brigade - either within the organisation, or without - and duly held against him when his next contract renewal comes up. On on that basis you can't really blame him for being so right-on - his strings are being pulled in ways we could never imagine.

However, back on topic. Teaching people coding is like trying to teach speaking. It denies the existence of all the different languages out there and assumes that so long as you can make some noises, the job's done. In practice, it's barely started.

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IT'S ALIVE! China's Jade Rabbit rover RETURNS from the DEAD

Pete 2
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Standard Ts & Cs

> it's still troubled by that pesky "mechanical control abnormality"

I'm sure that if the chinese pay the postage, the suppliers will replace it for free.

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Scotland to test mobe signals slammer jammer

Pete 2
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Listen in

> prison staff to interfere with the wireless signal in their jails

Surely a better solution would be to either eavesdrop on the calls or to trace the numbers being called?

That way the authorities could get a handle on any crimes that were being planned or committed via phone and maybe haul in the inmates' outside contacts, too?

It may be that the prison personnel don't even need to listen in (or trace the phone numbers) if they can credibly "sell" the story that they are doing that?

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It's a scientific FACT: Online comment trolls are SADISTS

Pete 2
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Re: Can you say "sample bias"?

I understand your position. As with most things in life, there is no "black or white" answer, but a range to responses all along the line. At the one end we might have gentle teasing (or humour that the recipient simply did not understand and misinterpreted). At the other we have out-and-out hate and loathing. Somewhere in the middle we have the sort of activity seen in some children who haven't been taught to behave: simple meanness.

Depending on the reaction of the people who see a post, they could classify it as trolling - or not. Jjust as some people are too easily offended by racial comments, bare skin, irreligious remarks or "bad" language, whereas others are more tolerant and easy-going and would let it pass.

So for the study to say Trolling == sadism fails in both its definition of what trolling actually is (no objective test) and in the graduation of behaviours and their underlying causes. Some trolling may be due to sadism, for sure. However the study, as reported, is a blunt instrument and without any means of quantifying or identifying cause or effect (or even false answers) has little to offer - except, as you say, in stating the self-evident.

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Pete 2
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Re: Can you say "sample bias"?

Indeed.

> The participants ... 5.6 per cent said that trolling was their favorite

I don't think the surveyors realised they had been trolled by those responses.

As it is, they had a mere 418 participants, of whom a trifling 5.6% or 23.4 individuals (point 4 - huh???). So they based their whole conclusion on the unverified responses of less than two dozen people in a highly specialised group in one particular country.

The online summary does not reveal if the test had other "telltales" embedded in their questionnaire for different traits. Without knowing that, it's impossible to say if the test was intended to look for this particular trait. That in itself is enough to cast doubt on the conclusions they drew. It would be interesting to know if they tested for different traits or conditions (e.g. drunkenness), whether they found any sorts of correlations with those, too.

File under: worthless.

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Boffin talks WATER on MARS: Granted, no 'smoking gun', but all clues flow there...

Pete 2
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Dark water?

> the strongest indication of possible liquid water on the planet, but it's proving difficult to come up with conclusive proof.

Isn't "dark" the usual, cosmological, prefix for tagging a phenomenon that the boffins think should exist, but can't quite find?

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EU network tech boss: Europe to take the lead on 5G (thanks, Huawei)

Pete 2
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Build a Better Botnet

> Kleiner predicts 100 billion objects being connected through 5G.

and

> the ultra-low-power devices hooked up to the "Internet of Things" would need 10Gb/s

So that the combined power of all these little devices can be focused on denial-of-service attacks at extremely high packet rates.

As no matter how advanced your technology, a swarm of locusts will always beat you.

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'No, I CAN'T write code myself,' admits woman in charge of teaching our kids to code

Pete 2
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Re: I hate to say it...

> Coders are the new factory workers

I have mixed feelings about this initiative.

On the one hand I welcome anything that adds to the technical content of the school curriculum (i.e. has a relevance to the modern, technical, world). On the other I can see this programme as a transparent ploy to grab some headlines without having any sort of measurable benefit.

As far as "factory workers" are concerned, I am not so sure. These children won't have any tangible skill at the end of this, but they will have gained a minuscule amount of familiarity with a small subset of buzzwords used today. While that knowledge will almost certainly be obsolete by the time they leave school, that amount of jargon will set them up nicely to fill management roles - but not to do anything meaningful or creative. If it also conveys the view that "coding" is a difficult process and that the real talent is the analytical process required before any "code" is written, then it might, just, have some worth.

But that's all we should expect or hope for from any educational scheme like this.

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Virtual insanity: Half a dozen startups throw six tricks in the mix

Pete 2
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Ready, steady, startup

Looking at these companies, with Veeam reporting "24 consecutive quarters .... " then it's been going at least 6 years. Pure Storage was started in 2009 - so it has 4+ years under its belt

Are these really "startups" or should they now be considered fully-fledged businesses?

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