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* Posts by Charles 9

3632 posts • joined 10 Jun 2009

NSA justifies hacking world's digital communications

Charles 9
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"They are there to enforce justice, not to prevent things before they become crimes."

Except for most people, the commission is too late. What comfort is arriving at a murder scene after the fact. They'd rather the murderer be caught before he kills. See the problem? More and more, the commission is too late, as the perp has probably gotten away or the victim is beyond repair.

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Charles 9
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They're basically saying, "If we don't, someone will use this and launch an attack that will DESTROY the United States." In other words, they're claiming an existential threat: the worst there is. Against such a threat, no holds are barred.

Thing is, that raises a "hard" question. Is it worth protecting freedom when that same freedom can also destroy you utterly? In other words, instead of "Live Free OR Die" it's actually, "Live Free AND Die"?

What if the human condition won't allow for a happy middle ground between totalitarianism and anarchy, at least on the grand scale, and society will inevitably gravitate towards one or the other whether we like it or not?

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US House Republicans: 'End net neutrality or no debt ceiling deal' – report

Charles 9
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Re: Way to miss the dick in your digestive tract

"You must be thinking about the $17 TRILLION* bailout given to Wall St. by... wait, who was controlling all three branches of the government in 2007?"

It was SPLIT in 2007. No one party controlled the entire government. Dems retook the House in the 2006 elections, giving them control of the ENTIRE Legislature (they'd been holding the Senate for a while and still do).

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Charles 9
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Re: Will Google change sides?

Conceivably, yes. They wouldn't be very popular, yes, but it's similar to those exit ramps that are only useable by ETC users--cash users are barred.

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500 MEELLION PCs still run Windows XP. How did we get here?

Charles 9
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Re: Why people don't move on

And what about those people that got XP-prebuilt computers and have no desire or money to step up the OS, meaning they're stuck with the OEM XP and the sticker on their machine? Plus the software they're using isn't Linux-, WINE-, or VM-friendly, meaning they're stuck with the machine, essentially.

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Charles 9
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Re: React

And you wonder why they're so far behind? Because clean-rooming an entire OS with all its quirks is, simply, A SLOG. Especially when under the legal onus of VERIFYING their clean-room procedures (a slip of which caused a complete code review at least once). Plus they're chasing a moving target in that Microsoft has released three new versions of Windows (which include significant revisions) in the meantime.

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Charles 9
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I think a lot of it depends on the speed of innovation in a particular market niche. For your VMS example, what other forms of hardware changed in the meantime, and how quickly did they emerge? Did VMS have to negotiate other, more fundamental hardware changes like a change of bus structure, a change of memory mapping or memory type, a transition of peripheral card or drive bus design, etc?

In the 13 years since Windows XP was first released, we've had:

- A transition from AGP to PCI Express, which in turn has had two improvements on top of it.

- GPU has evolved from a dedicated side processor to a more general-purpose processor that can be used advantageously for certain tasks, meaning heterogeneous computing: something relatively novel in the PC world.

- A transition from USB 1.0 to 3.0, with corresponding changes in the command structure to account for the new SuperSpeed bus.

- A move from 32-bit to 64-bit as well as the mainstream acceptance of multiple-core CPUs.

- A shift from Parallel to Serial ATA, and along with it a different address mode that isn't necessarily legacy-compatible.

- Solid-state drives became mainstream, ranging from bus-mounted to slot-mounted, and each with its own quirks concerning optimal performance and service life.

- The new Extensible Firmware Interface (EFI) to supplant the BIOS.

- Hard drives so big they basically REQUIRE said EFI to function properly (you can bodge it, yes, but your mileage may vary).

- At least two jumps in major motherboard architecture (brought about due to competing CPU manufacturers), which also signalled the shift of memory controller from motherboard to CPU.

- Memory tech has kept moving on, from DDR to DDR2 to DDR3 on the mainstream RAM font with even more exotic solutions appearing in the enterprise.

I probably missed a few things here, but the main point here is that a lot's been going on in the meantime, and given the breadth of those changes, it can be tricky to be able to handle ALL of them relatively smoothly (because you never know when one of these will change a low-level function).

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Charles 9
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Re: What about fitness-for-purpose?

But technology still marches on. Specifications can change, like they can for cars (When was the last time you could buy leaded petrol?). Software can still become obsolete (and faster than cars because of the speed of the industry--lifecycles in a few years).

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Charles 9
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Re: Doomed to repeat...

Quite frankly, target platforms are ALWAYS a moving target. They keep changing, and there's no way to predict where it'll go next. Perhaps in a few years web apps will no longer be trustworthy because of hacking/BIg Brother issues, forcing a return to local apps. Only thing is, will you need to code for Android now because powerful Android devices are now working as desktop replacement (just a scenario)? Technology moves so quickly compared to human thinking that it's hard to plan for it; it's like trying to catch a fly in midair (you never know which direction it'll go next).

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Boffins demo new holo storage using graphene oxide

Charles 9
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Re: Yes, but...

"I can't think of too many practical technologies that weren't theoretical technologies first.

So, 'Good show,' say I, and have a pint."

The trouble is that you show theoretical tech that, nine times out of ten, never makes it out of the lab. This isn't the first time we've seen data-crystal tech in the lab, but in the 20+ years, how far has it gotten? Why can't we use data crystals NOW?

I don't mind all this theoretical tech. Just don't GRANDSTAND it. Save it for when your drive appears in a Best Buy or something.

Until then, I'll have that pint another time.

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Valve uncloaks prototype Steam Machine console specs

Charles 9
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Re: They seem to be doing everything right, apart from...

That's the thing. AMD's Linux support isn't as robust as nVidia's. The fglrx driver series isn't as well-developed, and support for GPGPU and GPU-assisted rendering is a little behind the times (ex. XvBA, AMD's answer to nVidia's VDAPU for GPU-assisted video rendering, falls flat on my rig, and GL rendering is buggy as all getup). Plus, at present, TF2 doesn't run as smoothly as it did on my Windows install, so not everything's there, it seems.

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Charles 9
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Not so big a snag.

Note that ALL the CPUs are Intel-brand Core i-series and ALL the GPUs are nVidia-brand. within a generation of each other, and all using the same driver set. The spread is among those two brands, and they're all essentially compatible with each other. Some are just beefier than their brethren, which means if it runs on one of the boxes just fine, it'll run on ALL of them (some not as well, but at least it's not going to break). So in this case, Valve is looking for a reference spec they can say, "build to this and we can vouch for your experience".

Valve is essentially doing that I'd been thinking about for some time: opening up a gaming console by essentially setting a reference design and letting other companies use that as a basis for their own Steam Machines. I'm pretty sure they won't get the designation without some compatibility testing, but Valve is getting into the console market without having to tie themselves too tightly to hardware, and since we're talking the mature PC market (a market SO mature that BOTH Microsoft AND Sony essentially chose it for their new consoles--consider THAT), problems will probably be few and far between these days.

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Charles 9
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Re: I wouldn't mind one

HDMI has been a standard feature of video cards for a while now. They even now come with basic sound chips to make the HDMI output basically feature-complete.

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Snowden's email provider gave crypto keys to FBI – on paper printouts

Charles 9
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Tell that to that one Congress during the Kennedy Administration (I think) that got a whole lotta Fifths. The thing is, if what you are compelled to disclose could result in the revelation of culpatory evidence, you are at risk of self-incrimination. I'm sure a lawyer could make a case on those grounds and drag the proceedings for months if not years.

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Charles 9
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Re: "Just short of a criminal act"

"That was a complete bullshit thing to even say. Our legal system doesn't work that way. Something is a crime or it isn't. It isn't part of the judges or prosecutors job to prove something was almost a crime."

But the thing is, you can't ban something RETROACTIVELY. It's forbidden in Article I, Section 9 (along with Bills of Attainder and a few other things). They can only punish for present or future activities. But since Lavabit's turned off, there's no more present or future activity, and they can't force him to turn it back on because that would mean retroactively banning turning it off.

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Charles 9
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Re: "Just short of a criminal act"

They can't. The reason it was "just short" was because he closed it before they could actually perform a realtime subpoena. As it stood, he altered the situation so that any request they demanded would be considered retroactive, which is explicitly forbidden in Article I, Section 9.

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Charles 9
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Re: Outrageous

Oh? What if his OWN account was in the bunch and turning over the keys would mean potential self-incrimination, which is explicitly forbidden by the Fifth Amendment? Then he can argue he has to obey a higher authority (as the Constitution is the highest law in the US).

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Charles 9
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Except the US has that base covered, too. Most other western-friendly countries have cooperation agreements if not outright mutual defence treaties with the US, meaning if the US makes a decent case, they'll do the work for them. The only other nations left then are those hostile to the west like Russia and China. Problem is, they have their OWN agendas and are just as bad. IOW, you're gonna bend over no matter where you go.

Furthermore, at least the US didn't threaten to jail him for not disclosing the key: just fined him. The UK has a law in the books that demands a minimum two years for the same offence. In fact, I'm surprised he didn't put HIS OWN account into the same mix and then plea the fifth, saying disclosing the private key would compromise his own account, potentially resulting in self-incrimination.

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US spy court says internet firms can't report surveillance requests

Charles 9
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Re: Install a Kill Switch?

ISTR the second amendment prevents the government from seizing legally-owned firearms, yet that happened quite a bit in Louisiana post-Katrina. At least one incident made the news. The justification? Martial law.

I would think a similar 'threat to national' security that uses a different part of the Constitution might be used to override the Fifth Amendment on the grounds that, without it, the US is doomed, rendering the Fifth moot anyway.

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Charles 9
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Re: Would the Supreme Court hear the case

"I believe they already did. An appeal was filed by EFF on the first or second week of the Snowden scandal and the court promptly declined to hear it."

So what if another firm makes the same appeal, and another and another. There's such a thing as persistence. Eventually the SCOTUS will decide hearing it and answering the constitutional question is preferable to having to refuse to hear appeal after appeal (once the question is answered, any further appeals to the same--now answered--question can be ignored).

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Charles 9
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Re: Now wait just one fscking minute here...

There's more than one court in the US. Courts of Appeal and the SCOTUS come to mind.

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Feds smash internet drug bazaar Silk Road, say they'll KEELHAUL 'Dread Pirate Roberts'

Charles 9
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Re: OK, but where was it hosted ??

1. Know enough about the trail and you can find an .onion site. El Reg covered this previously.

2. If the host country is friendly to the US, chances are they'll be willing to cooperate.

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Charles 9
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Re: Doesn't need TOR-cracking abilities

Also seems to indicate the host is not in a country hostile to the west.

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Charles 9
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Re: dread pirate roberts

Could be tricky. Mt. Gox is based in Japan.

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Wireless charging snakes' wedding of tangled alliances gets WORSE

Charles 9
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But why bother?

Okay, so some of the less-effieicnt devices may draw a bit while plugged in, but most devices on standby literally sip the power when not in active use. I think El Reg once did an article about it and found the power draw they did on standby amounted to pennies a day, at worst a few bucks a year. Meanwhile, cutting the power in and and out hard like you would with a strip increases the risk of introducing a shock to the system which can damage the sensitive electronics.

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Dixons preps home 3D printer for plastic-piping punters

Charles 9
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Re: 52 quid for a block of plastic?

The problem is that you can't just use any ground-up thermoplastic. There are so many different kinds of plastic that quality can't be assured with recycling. For example, you can't just grind up polyurethane and expect to be able to use it again (it's a thermoset plastic; once set it STAYS set). Plus, what happens when different kinds of plastic mix?

For that matter, just what kind of plastic is being used in this machine? PVC? PE? PP?

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Atomic clocks come to your wrist

Charles 9
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Re: Expensive toy, at best.

Hey, if they can pack this thing down to a chip that fits on a watch, what's stopping someone using the same chip design as a time source on a server. It may be overkill for most businesses who can just turn to the NTP time pools, but perhaps this can diversify the time source pool, make it more reliable. And any firms that need highly-accurate time could consider such a device if they don't have a similar source already. If the watch only costs $12,000, then something else using the same chip would probably stay safely within five figures and be something worth considering for a firm that routinely handles seven figures or more.

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Thorium and inefficient solar power? That's good enough for me

Charles 9
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Re: StratoSolar

"There is an abundant solar resource 20km straight up in the low stratosphere that triples the solar resource available. This holds the promise of reducing PV electricity cost by a factor of three very quickly, while still benefiting from the long term PV cost reduction. This offers a solution for affordable electricity now rather than waiting and hoping for the next twenty or more years. An acceleration in volume from increased adoption of cheap PV electricity reduces its cost and gets to cheap synthetic fuels."

Except for two things. First, how do you get the PV array that high up and KEEP it up there? 20kn is still well within Earth's gravity well. At least in space, you can park in geostationary orbit or at a Lagrange Point and not expect it to drift away and/or fall. About the only way you could achieve this with positive energy return is to build a space elevator first.

Second, and this one applies to the space solution as well, how do you get the energy back down? A 20-km-long umbilical would be impractical (see the space elevator problem), which means it would have to be transmitted wirelessly, probably by laser, but then there are plenty of horror stories about solar-powered lasers being hacked or going awry and causing havoc. Plus you have to account for some of the energy being diverted into and absorbed by the atmosphere, which could have long-term issues of its own.

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Charles 9
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These systems typically use cathodic protection: either galvanic or impressed-current (the larger the ship, the more likely it's the latter). Thing is, cathodic protection relies on the consumption and eventual replenishment of a metal anode like zinc. Since ships are regularly dry-docked, replacing their anodes is easy enough. An impressed-current system allows for the anode to be placed elsewhere where it can maintained more easily, but it adds a power requirement. At least oil rigs tend to be manned while in use. The same can't always be said of windmills.

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Charles 9
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Well, it's a consideration. Would probably depend on the turbine's current generation. If it's DC, it wouldn't be difficult to tap some of it to apply an impressed current. Thing is, you'll still need a metal anode for the process. It would all depend on the conditions whether or not a galvanic or impressed-current system would be practical.

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Charles 9
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Re: Flywheels anyone?

Interesting thought. How low have they gotten their coefficient of friction at this point, and how do they address the isue of air viscocity?

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Charles 9
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Re: Thorium reactors and A-bombs.

From a breeder reactor, yes, but from the byproduct of a Thorium fuel cycle? Not likely because the byproduct is usually laced with very-hard-to-separate and very-dangerous Uranium-232.

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Charles 9
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Re: Transmission is key

IOW, you're not teleporting an electrion; you're making an electron on the other end move by moving the one on your end. Think of it like a variant of the tin-can telephone.

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Charles 9
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Re: What about the Waste-Annihilating Molten Salt Reactor?

Hate to rain on the parade, but I believe that design (a variant on the MSR) makes a lot of assumptions about the fuels it can handle. Because there are plenty of contaminants natually produced in nuclear fuel cycles that can affect future reactions (it's part of the reason they're left as waste rather than reprocessed into new fuel).

MIT may be full of eggheads, but I don't recall the design being vetted by the oldest heads in the nuclear industry as of yet. Some of them, IIRC, posted similar criticisms.

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Charles 9
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Re: Thorium reactors and A-bombs.

That's not what I heard. The Thorium fuel cycle normally does produce U-233, yes, but it's usually contaminated with U-232, which is not only extremely dangerous (it's worse than the 233, which is more dangerous than plutonium) but also extremely hard to separate from the U-233 because they're so close in atomic weight (U-235 is 3 away from U-238 and is still a pain to separate, U-232 is only 1 away from U-233).

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EU move to standardise phone chargers is bad news for Apple

Charles 9
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Besides, one big safety recommendation these days when connecting anything with a notable amount of power: connect the EARTH line first. USB and all the other modern plug designs follow that principle by making sure their shields (the normal use for shields is for earthing) touch first. You can't do that with the headphone-type plug. Part of the challenge you're looking it is to have a standard that follows the earth-first procedure, can carry both power and data, is relative easy to use and cheap to design, is thin so it can fit thinner phones, and put most of the wear-and-tear on the plug since it's easier to replace (thus why all the spring clips on a Micro USB setup are on the plug, not the socket like it was with Mini USB). Sure, Lightning ticks all the boxes, too, but it's not open, and it's not in Apple's interest to keep it open. Indeed, anyone with a proprietary design will be against openness since they'll seek lock-in. Allowing competition for a plug standard sounds fine until you have a dominant player with a the ability to push a standard only it can ever use.

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Charles 9
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Re: Micro USB

Perhaps not analogue A/V, but HDMI support came with the MHL (Mobile Hidef Link) standard. MHL 2.0 (seen in the Galaxy S4 and later devices) can do full 1080p. And HDMI supplies both video and audio.

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Charles 9
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Re: Have you seen the new micro USB 3.0 cable?

It's not so bad when you realize (like with its big brother), you can use a USB 2.0 cable on it no problem. You just don't get the top speed out of it, which may be fine for some people. The USB 3.0 spec is designed to be backward-compatible with the older cables specifically so older cables can still be used on them.

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Charles 9
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Re: MicroUSB poor standard

Well, MicroUSB was designed for two things: thinner phones (it's a thinner plug) and wear issues (most of the wear-and-tear falls to the plug, which is easier to replace than the socket).

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US regulators seek public input on plan to investigate patent trolls

Charles 9
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Re: Trolls used to be found *only* under bridges

"3) Patent officers who reject a patent get to keep a small %age of the forfeited deposit"

It'll never work. They'll just reject out of hand and become (like Congress) masters of contriving excuses. And due to human nature, you can't force the fairness into the system because humans are inherently corruptible. Yet you can't have anything-goes either or inventors will never develop for fear of copycatting (that's the main reason modern patents exist--to stop copycatting for a reasonable period).

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Charles 9
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Re: Fix the system

Techniques CAN be patented. After all, you could implement the technique on a chip or a mechanism, making it hardware instead of software and mooting the point. The problem is the LENGTH of the patent because the software industry moves so quickly that two decades is about ten software generations. Cut the length down to about 3 or 4 years (and adjust the lengths for each industry as well) and it becomes a lot fairer.

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Charles 9
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Re: Hunting trolls? You're doing it wrong!

"Set a system/procedures in place to actually check validity of a claim, not just let the courts clean up the mess later.*"

The reason for this is that Congress allocates such a measely budget for them. Investigating patents requires people and costs time and money. How will the USPTO handle this on a literal shoestring budget?

"Here's a unique step: Only the inventor can hold a patent! Patents should be non-transferable, period! You want to use it, pay him/her/it for the right to use it."

Sometimes, the inventor is not in a position to market an idea. Put it this way. Hoover didn't actually invent a vacuum cleaner, but he bought the patent of a gentleman not in a position to market the idea. Selling a patent should be allowed, but it should ONLY be for the purposes of actually implementing the patent.

"And the death blow? No software/process patents! If copyright can cover it, it shouldn't be patented."

The thing is, software TECHNIQUES that explain things IN BROAD cannot be covered by copyright because one can use an alternate language or method to get around copyright. Patents are the only way to cover ALL instances. THAT BEING SAID, what's needed is an adjustment on the period of patents based on their pertinent industry. A 20-year patent in a slow-moving industry like heavy machinery or medicine makes sense, but for the fast-moving world of computers, a term of about 3-4 years makes more sense (think two generations of development in an industry--long enough to get some skin out of it, but not long enough to really abuse it). Other industries may benefit from an adjustment to their patent lengths as well.

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Valve aiming to take the joy(sticks) out of gaming with Steam Controller

Charles 9
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Re: Wrong solution to the right problem

"Of course, because embedded Windows is the *obvious* choice for a fighter. MS lost the embedded market years ago, so put down the koolaid as it is starting to come out of your ears."

Oh? You should see what runs Taito's Type X line of arcade machines. They're all PC based and ALL run a form of Windows (Either XP Embedded or Embedded Standard 7, X3 can use the 64-bit version), and there's a pretty long list of games that use the architecture, including current games running on Type X, including the Street Fighter IV series and King of Fighters since 2012.

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Charles 9
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Re: Good. Very good.

Except we're not exactly talking joypads here. These are touchpads, actually, and while they CAN be geared to simulate joypads, they don't HAVE to. They can be more like the touchpads on laptops, which can act more like trackballs than joypads, and if set sensitive enough can allow very rapid motions with just a flick.

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Samsung Galaxy Note 3 region-locking saga CLEAR AS MUD

Charles 9
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I was thinking about that, too. Because the US doesn't support LTE Band III (it's a military frequency there), I'm curious to know the LTE frequency list of the European Note 3. It needs to support Bands IV or XVII to be useable in the US for the most part.

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IPCC: Yes, humans are definitely behind all this global warming we aren't having

Charles 9
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What I'd like to know is how they arrive at this level of confidence and how they can rule out (with a high degree of certainty) other, more natural factors.

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Google's boffins branded 'unacceptably ineffective' at tackling web piracy

Charles 9
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Re: An idea from an ignorant American

They tried that with the Pirate Bay. Guess what happened? People outside Britain started opening Pirate Bay proxies and mirrors, turning the whole business into a game of Whack-A-Mole. Knock one down, someone else raises another, and many of them could be in countries where the UK (or even the EU) can't exert influence to block. Then there's the idea of TOR'ing to the Pirate Bay, which means it's relayed a few times (usually to different countries), so the UK loses there, too.

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Charles 9
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"I'm not a lawyer (thank goodness), but bizarrely, my recollection is that consent for *photographs* is almost universally 18, regardless of the age of consent for sex. I think there are plenty of states in the US where the AOC is 16 (can't say it's ever come up for me... uh...) but that doesn't change CP laws. So you can have sex with her and it's hunky dory, but if you take a picture you're a monster. :P"

You assume the laws and customs are the same everywhere you go. Consider, until recently a girl could appear nude in Germany's Bravo Magazine as early as 14. Even now, it's still only 16 where other countries can insist on 18 or even 20. Which shows some countries take a looser stance on the subject (and it's not considered a big thing by the populace) as long as it's known the participants are willing. And last I checked, standards and customs in Asian countries can be even more varied.

So, like copyright, you have a problem of conflicting standards. And that doesn't address the issue that if copyright dodgers can change their names, use codewords, and so on to hide from Google, why can't the CP'ers do the same thing: turn the business into a game of Whack-A-Mole while hiding out in countries that won't extradite for CP?

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Bill Gates: Yes, Ctrl-Alt-Del salute was a MISTAKE

Charles 9
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Re: TURBO on a joypad?

They called it a Turbo-fire to distinguish the fact the Rapid fire only happened as long as you held down the button, in contrast to a true auto-fire which simply kept that button rapid-firing with no user input.

As for slo-mo, I believe this was intended as a way to help slow down fast-paced games making them easier to negotiate (more time to dodge bullets and so on). It was a bodge at best since Slow was basically Auto-fire rigged to the Start button (which since the Nintendo days was traditionally used to pause the game).

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Charles 9
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Re: Sun Server Keyboard...

For the Apple IIe onward, Ctrl+Reset performed a break to the system prompt. Adding the OpenApple (the hollow Apple logo left of the Spacebar) performed a reset.

The Commodore 64 and 128 had a Stop key. In BASIC, hitting this aborted execution; it mapped to ASCII 3 (Ctrl-C) so could be caught by any program (It was labeled Run/Stop because shifitng it ran the LOAD macro command for tape drives). On a harder note, holding it with the Restore key triggered a Panic sequence. It usually broke you out of whatever program you had, restored default colors and sent you back to BASIC. The 128 went the extra distance and added a hard reset button. To be on the safe side, though, it was located on the SIDE of the machine, next to the power switch.

I believe the Atari 400/800 computer line had a dedicated reset button, too, located among a cluster of four normally above the numbers on the keyboard.

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