* Posts by Henry Wertz 1

2363 posts • joined 12 Jun 2009

BlackBerry chief: We don't have to make phones to make phones

Henry Wertz 1
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One thing they can specialize in

There is one thing they can continue to specialize in -- phones with keyboards!

I mean, really, I looked recently to see what phones with keyboard I could get, I've got a Stratosphere II (Android 4.1 phone with LTE). After I found VZW's website doesn't have a choice to filter by keyboard any more, I did some Googling. A review that went over the "top 10" on all 4 of the biggest US carriers had a BlackBerry Priv (which does look nice, it's running Android rather than BlackBerry 10), another BlackBerry, a 3rd BlackBerry, like 1 other Android (with a 640x480 screen and Android 4.0..., lower spec than the Strat II...) and a couple "feature phones" (calls, text, and pictures only.)

Some people now have the solution of having a phone, tablet, or "phablet" and a plug-in keyboard. That's fine, but I don't want to have to carry around accessories with my phone.

Blackberry should think about this -- it's unfortunate that the BlackBerry itself (i.e. a phone running BlackBerry OS) has become niche. But the "Android phone with keyboard" alone is a distinguishing feature for them; they could make a flaghsip phone (as they are now), mid-range, or low-end and not have to worry about it being "yet another Android phone" and not stand out.

If there's enough current BlackBerry OS users too, it would make sense to keep getting customers from that niche too, they could make sure BB runs on the same hardware and get 2 for one.

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Facebook ‘glitch’ that deleted the Philando Castile shooting vid: It was the police – sources

Henry Wertz 1
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Failed.

"IF it's true that the police deleted it, that's the most incriminating fact. Unless they had body cameras, the best evidence we'll get is a cop car dashcam video that the police can explain away with "he pulled a gun!""

They did have body cameras; "mysteriously" they all failed.

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Henry Wertz 1
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What should change?

"That being said, an argument could be made as to which gun killed the poor guy if him having a firearm prompted the officer to shoot him."

No the argument can't be made, there's no question the officer killed him with his gun. These types of trigger-happy officers will decide your wallet looks like a gun, a pack of smokes looks like a gun, a phone looks like a gun. A few years back locally, a police officer shot someone through the heart who was in their own art studio (at midnight) talking on the phone. Initially he claimed he thought the phone was a gun, then said he saw the door open, decided to just go in and flinched when someone was standing right there.

Several things need to be done:

1) This "police having other police's back" type nonsense has to go. Comradery and so on? Yeah, this is fine. Covering up for officer misconduct? This has never been a good thing, it has always tarnished reputations of departments involved (due to rumors and so on); it's now the 21st century, so these coverup attempts will be completely unsuccessful, and it won't be rumors tarnishing the department but proven fact of misconduct and coverup. (In the art studio example, there was no attempt to cover up.)

2) Make sure officers do follow their training. Some few will just plain be dirty, and they've got to go. Some aren't "dirty" but just don't have the temperament for it, they're too high-strung. Plenty of others just don't quite follow procedure... which doesn't usually lead to any problems, until it does. (In the art studio example, the officer went in alone when procedure was to go in with backup; both for officer safety, and to keep the officers calmer (since they have backup) and so less likely to make mistakes.)

3) The mentality. There are definitely some departments with an "us versus them" mentality; the police tend to not be respectful toward the public, the public know what they'll get interacting with the police and are not respectful either. The officers tend to be rather high-strung and nervous ("us versus them" remember); the public knows if they are stopped they'll be treated like a criminal, so they're nervous. The police are trained to be suspicious when the person stopped is nervous, so this makes them more nervous... On the other hand, there are departments that take "protect and serve" seriously, they want to reduce crime while recognizing they shouldn't interact with the general public as though they are all potential criminals. They treat the public with respect, and are (usually) treated with respect in return. It makes their job easier and less stressful, and they stress the public less. I'm happy to say, locally the local PD and the state patrol both tend to be reasonably friendly.

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Get ready for Google's proprietary Android. It's coming – analyst

Henry Wertz 1
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I'm not understanding these reasons

Will Google do this? I don't know. I don't understand the reasoning why they would though:

1) The "API" argument. OK, so Google ends up owing billions to Oracle. a) Would changing anything in 2017 affect those damages anyway? b) Are they going to rewrite an entire new API from scratch then? In one year? Keep in mind, they can't just "close source" the same API -- they still will be shipping an implementation of it, which I assume would be enough to get them in trouble with Oracle anyway -- and if a judge is stupid enough (hey judge, if you decide this you are STUPID!) to decide API itself can be copyrighted (so you can't clean-room implement it...) then, well, you can't write Android software without an API of some kind. So they can't just close source the existing API and have this actually help anything with Oracle.

2) The "faster updates" argument. a) Many many phones, the vendor simply does not bother to do anything in terms of updates; either they ship none, or maybe a minor version update, like "x.y.0 to x.y.2". I simply do not see how it being closed source versus open source helps this in any way; many vendors simply can't be bothered to release updates at all, and in other cases, they do some nasty things ^H^H^H^H customizations to bring up Android to begin with, and don't want to have to do it again to make it run on a newer Android version (the first couple LTE-supporting phones I had had this problem... Android didn't really support LTE yet, so the data support for switching between EVDO, HSPA, or LTE was like some vendor-custom hack that would then have to be reimplemented from scratch for each new Android version.)

3) I'm just not seeing the advantage. If they are not having problems (businesswise) of vendors taking base Android and putting their own stuff on top, then what's the difference if it's closed source? It'd be a lot of trouble to reimplement for something that's not causing Google a problem.

4) Tweaks and optimizations? This argument just made no sense to me -- if you want people to find little tweaks and optimizations and improve your code, to improve battery life, and so on, closed source is not the way to do it.

5) I'm ignoring the "people want Android because it's open", "don't be evil", etc. arguments, I don't disagree but others have covered this argument more eloquently than I could.

On the other hand, I can see wanting an ART that is not dependent on AOSP -- you see this with Cyanogenmod, on some phones where they can't get a rebuilt kernel onto it... the Android userland will be pretty specifically tied into a certain kernel version. For instance an old phone I had, you could get a CM7 onto it to upgrade it from 2.1 to 2.2, but that was it, newer Android runtime would not work with that kernel. It would be nice if a newer userland could run on an older kernel, and could help some phones that do not get updates otherwise to at least be able to get a 3rd-party update (i.e. Cyanogenmod) even if the vendor doesn't release one.

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US Cellular joins Google Fi

Henry Wertz 1
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That's actually a fairly big deal

That's actually a fairly big deal, a lot of the area that US Cellular serves has very poor Sprint & T-Mobile coverage; the overall area USCC covers is pretty large.

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Oooooklahoma! Where the cops can stop and empty your bank cards – on just a hunch

Henry Wertz 1
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Licence to steal is a good way to describe this

"Licence to steal" is a good way to describe asset forfeiture laws as they currently stand in the US, not just this card skimmer. The theory behind this law, the police would hold onto profits related from a crime during trial, they'd have their day in court, if found not guilty the person gets their stuff back. Edit: The description in a few of the links people have linked to make it clear this law is full shadiness, that the police can seize money and hold onto it without filing any charges.

In practice, that can be how it works if the police in an area are honest (in my local area, for instance, I haven't heard of any problems; the sheriffs are elected so if the police misbehaved they would be replaced). But it's a law that almost seems to be designed to be abused.

Two major problems with this:

1) The law says these are supposed to be proceeds from crimes (i.e. if some movie-style drug kingpin has been a kingpin for 5 years, and bought his fancy sports car and mansion within the last year or two, they were probably bought with drug kingpin money.) What happens in practice, in big cities the police routinely steal peoples cars, they'll find (or plant) $10 of something or other in there *OR JUST DECIDE YOU HAVE A "SUSPICIOUS" AMOUNT OF CASH! (This amount doesn't have to be like a briefcase of cash or something, I've heard of people getting the full harrassment over like $50.) Of course (per what you see in the article) the police will now take even a broken tail light as an excuse for this kind of thing.

2) The obvious greed factor -- individuals and departments that would never break or bend the rules (i.e. taking bribes or what have you) view this as a legal method of bringing reveneue into the department, you can get your department money for funding nicer, newer equipment, and pull in sports cars and so on for them? The police in some cities here love to show off Corvettes and so on that they have seized, then they paint them up in police car coloration. Police here in the US will take assets, and then expect those who they just took all their money from to hire a lawyer to get it back. This includes cases where they raid the wrong house, even those people will not automatically get those assets back. Of course, they're supposed to hold onto assets until after trial, but it's happened before and will happen again where people have gone to trial, been found "not guilty", then find out the police already auctioned there stuff off for like 10 cents on the dollar (more money for the police coffers don't you know?)

I wonder if anyone who has had their money skimmed by this thing has ever tried going to the card company and filing a dispute? After all, the police didn't take your money, this private company paid the police 92.3% (7.7% cut remember) of the money they saw on your card, and *the privacy company* drained the card. They probably have to follow the same card processing rules as everyone else.. it simply wouldn't occur to most people to file a dispute when it's the police skimming your card instead of some random scammer.

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Surveillance forestalls more 'draconian' police powers – William Hague

Henry Wertz 1
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What a numpty

So, later on, Lord Hague says: “Organisations wouldn’t leave doors open all night at the company headquarters but they are doing that in cyberspace," just after talking about how these same companies (along with everyone else) should be unable to use encryption without flaws built into it. With no sense of irony. Oh yes, that faulty encryption sure locks those doors up tight.

Keep in mind, ladies and gentlement, those who talk about "balancing" your privacy mean they don't want you to have any, and those who talk about "balancing" your rights just want to take those pesky rights away.

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BlackBerry boss mulls mid-range Androids

Henry Wertz 1
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Android phone with nice keyboard?

I guess my question is, if they are going to be selling Android phones, will they make one with a nice keyboard? That alone would make them stand out, there's simply not that many Android phones with any kind of keyboard on them.

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Bash on Windows. Repeat, Microsoft demos Bash on Windows

Henry Wertz 1
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Should work well

"Looks like it. Windows NT has always had the ability for multiple subsystems like this. That was one of the cool design features of NT back in the day. This was how it ran Win16 and OS/2 apps in the beginning after all. It was part of the original design work for NT3.1, but largely just got pi$$ed away when Ballmer decided they didn't want compatibility with anyone other than themselves in the naughts."

I think rather than using an updated POSIX subsystem (or a new subsystem), this is trapping Linux syscalls and implementing them using equivalent Windows syscalls (and additional code as needed.) This should work pretty well actually.

qemu's "qemu user" emulation simulates CPU and then maps syscalls (I've used this and it works reasonably well.) When I started using Linux, the kernel had several syscall mapping tables for several contemporary UNIXes to run their binaries (Linux for MIPS had SGI Irix support for instance, which from what I read at the time did work reasonably well.) nestedvm simulates a MIPS-I in java, traps syscalls and implements them with equivalent Java calls. This has to run crosscompiled binaries but also works surprisingly well.

Interesting times indeed.

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BMW complies with GPL by handing over i3 car code

Henry Wertz 1
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"Is there still such a thing as a non-outsourced call center?"

Yeah, Mediacom (local cable company) has this. It's nice, they have what they call a "virtual call center". They have local call centers throughout their service area (typically you're within 50 miles of it, in my case it's about 2 miles away.) But in case of heavy call volume (like severe storms, tornados, or hurricane knocking out service in a large area) the calls from (mostly) people saying "hey, my service is down" will spill over into other call centers instead of putting them on some collosal hold queue.

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PC World's cloudy backup failed when exposed to ransomware

Henry Wertz 1
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My guess...

My guess at one explanation that would actually make the seemingly contradictory claims all fit... perhaps this system does keep previous file versions that are under 30 days old. So, you have a file that uploaded months ago, then the encrypted one uploaded recently. That means the old file is over 30 days old and would not be retained. Of course the way it should work is that it'd keep that previous version for 30 days after it's been replaced, but none of these descriptions specifically say that.

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Microsoft did Nazi that coming: Teen girl chatbot turns into Hitler-loving sex troll in hours

Henry Wertz 1
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I'm amused

I must admit I'm amused; 14 hours from a neutral base to a raving nazi that likes to sex chat.

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Six charged for 'hacking' lottery terminals to spew only winning tickets

Henry Wertz 1
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"They tampered with the machines."

I'm not sure that they did. It sounds like a software flaw that involved no tampering to me -- you tell the machine to print a bunch of tickets, it shows the print queue apparently including which are winners, and allows queued tickets to be cancelled. I think "rigging" a machine is more vague though and includes things just like this, finding some software flaw that tilts the odds unfairly in your favor and using it.

"They cancelled tickets after first finding out whether or not they would be winning tickets, which is inherently fraudulent, whatever scheme or mechanism they may have used to do so"

Agreed.

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Mud sticks: Microsoft, Windows 10 and reputational damage

Henry Wertz 1
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Several reputational issues:

I think there are several reputational issues (given here in no particular order), which individually might not have been enough to give WIn10 it's reputation, but added together give it quite the bad reputation:

1) The "software as a service" as discussed in the article. To be honest, I think for general populace they aren't too aware of the "software as a service" model as yet, since they see the choice as staying with Win7 and current PC, upgrading to WIn10 or buying a PC with Win7 (if they can) or Win10 on it. But, the disquiet among the technical press kind of filters down as a general bad impression.

2) The nagging upgrade stuff. I've read all about how pesky this is; honestly letting the user know a Win10 upgrade is available is fine, but making it show up as frequently as it does, and going to the effort to make it show up when the user tries to disable it, is ridiculous. This annoys both technical and non-technical users, and people who might have tried Win10 if offered less obtrusively are going to now stubbornly avoid it.

2.5) I would have done two things here -- let people know the upgrade is out but not so pesky a manner. It would be nice to have a USB live version (it could still do the Win7/8/8.1 licensing check then go to live), so the user could take it for a spin before they install it.

3) Privacy issues. Once some people hear about the optional features (like OneDrive or Microsoft login) that would send your files to Microsoft, or hear about the pretty lengthy privacy policy... they hear it second or third-hand as "Windows 10 sends all your files and everything to Microsoft."

4) "No reason to upgrade." I put this in quotes since I know Win10 is a bit faster on most benchmarks than Win7 (and cut a little RAM usage). I'm assuming most of these people actually WOULD benefit from upgrading. But (just like happened with WinXP) a lot of people see their system running fine and don't care to rock the boat.

I've been surprised hearing from some otherwise non-tech-savvy people that have such a strong negative view of Win10 (either due to privacy concerns or just hearing in a general sense that it's bad), they plan to use Win7 as long as possible then try Linux (this among people who I didn't think would have heard of Linux.)

That all said, I think for people using Win7, and planning to continue using Windows, WIn10 is fine. Vista deserved it's reputation, Win10 really doesn't. It's a tricky position for Microsoft, they were going to already have a hard time going to "software as a service" (after all, who wants to buy a computer then expected to pay to use software that came on it?), but now they'd have to try to repair Win10's reputation somehow AND do that? Tricky. I wonder if they'll have to backtrack on this "no more Windows versions" thing and put out Win11 at some point just to shake WIn10's reputation (really they could just pick Windows 10 build whatever, change any "Windows 10" on wallpapers and graphics to "Windows" and have the same build as an update to Windows 10 users and for new Windows 11 installs.

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Facebook, WhatsApp farewell BlackBerry

Henry Wertz 1
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3rd party app

"Face10 works but it isn't free. (Native Blackberry app but uses the Android API)"

I was wondering if a Blackberry app couldn't just use a supported API. Apparently yes 8-)

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Microsoft's equality and diversity: Skimpy schoolgirls dancing for nerds at an Xbox party

Henry Wertz 1
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Yeah...

Yeah... I think there's a long tradition of having booth babes at these shows. Clearly they are there to be eye candy, but generally they would be dressed up to resemble characters in the game, or wearing a shirt with the logo on it or something. Just having some random hired dancers show up and start dancing on pedastals seems sleazy.

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Domino's trials trundling four-wheeled pizza delivery bot

Henry Wertz 1
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Let me tell ya...

Well let me tell ya... I was at a friend's place and he ordered pizza delivery from a place that was probably a block away. He asked me if I thought a 30 cent tip was good and I was like "No, not really, here let me chip in". He said "No I've got it" and tipped him 30 cents. I'm pretty sure they'd send him the drone if they had one 8-).

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Remix OS: China's take on an Android operating system – but for PCs

Henry Wertz 1
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Every new OS these days uses Linux...

"Every 'new' OS these days still uses Linux for most underlying functions. That's fine, and I'm sure it speeds up development immeasurably, but it's not really new."

Well, here's the thing... drivers. If you write up a new kernel, you then need driver support for everything you want to be able to use. So you've got the choice of having to write all that code to handle USB, disk/SSD access, networking, video support, and so on, or start with a *BSD, Linux, or some other open source kernel and work on it.

Besides plenty of tuneables, Linux does have replaceable CPU scheduler (both for scheduling between cores, and scheduling within a core), disk I/O scheduling, network scheduling (at several points in the network stack), and I think memory handling, so if you have some particular improvements in mind it makes it relatively easy to try it out. (Well.. "relatively" easy still being pretty difficult, but easier than writing an entire OS and drivers from scratch.)

Anything above that level, the kernel gets it's root filesystem and runs /sbin/init. This usually starts up a UNIX-like system but you can actually do whatever you want here.

I think this sounds pretty cool.

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Woz: World-changers to Apple Watches, why pay for an overpriced band?

Henry Wertz 1
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Why complain now?

"Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak has slammed Cupertino's decision to charge hundreds of dollars for Apple Watch models that offer users little more than an overpriced band."

I don't understand why he would wait this long to comment on these watches, or why he'd decided seling a massively overpriced watch is silly but selling massively overpriced phones, tablets, and computers basically since the Mac came out was not. Apple has been pretty firmly in that "look at my shiny" market almost since the start*.

*Granted some some get the Mac from 1980s to present because of having a nice graphics or video editng workflow going on it. Even then, though, all too often I see them buy these eye-wateringly expensive Apple monitors when you could get one from some other vendor (that would also plug in and work fine with the Apple) for a fraction the price.

As for the other point... I think the underwear analogy is bad but agree with the sentiment.

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Data-thirsty mobile owners burn through 5GB a month

Henry Wertz 1
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Lucky

"I'd feel more sympathy if I wasn't just shunted to a new tariff. I was on the old £6.90 a month (200mins, 5000txts, 500mb"

Lucky!!!! In the US carriers focus on big, costly bundles, and part of that is pricing unbundled plans so high they are "almost as much as that bundled plan anyway."

Minimum tarriff on Verizon Wireless last I checked was like $30 a month for 300 minutes (and I think *zero* texts, 10 cents apiece) -- this plan is unadvertisd, normal minimum is $40 for 450 minutes; and another $15 for like 500MB data (although you can get 2GB for $30). No, you cannot just get the data with no voice minutes. Oh and another $10 or so for texts. But I'm not sure, they're pushing these shared plans hard now where you have a high base price but $10 per additional phone; if that's all that's available now you might be out like $70 a month.

IWireless (a regional proivder) has a lot better deal overall ($50 for unlimited everything), but again, it doesn't cut down like it "should"; it's like $30 for the lowest plan (which is something like 500MB, 500 minutes, 500 texts.)

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Whatever happened to Green IT?

Henry Wertz 1
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The hype died down, but...

The hype over Green IT died, but I don't think the results did.

Workloads have been consolidated; whether through virtualization, some "on-site cloud" setup, or whatever, in many cases a larger number of low-utilization servers have been consolidated into a smaller number of higher-utilization systems. Low power Xeon and ARM server systems are on the market, as well as radically low-power solutions (like a 5-10 watt server) if it's just for a small office. Desktops, portables, etc. it's far better now than it used to be -- you can look for an ARM or Atom or something to really save power. But even if you don't, you had desktops with like 75 watt CPUs that'd idle at about 20-30 watts 10 years ago; now you have desktop CPUs that might burn 5-10 watts a core under full load, and nearly 0 up to a few watts idle (and maybe 1-2 watts a core full-load for an ARM or Atom). Usually this is sold in terms of reduced power and cooling costs rather than green benefits, but of course saving power is the main green benefit, these two are one and the same.

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Get lost, Windows 10 and Phone fans: No maps HERE on Microsoft's OS

Henry Wertz 1
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To answer my own question

To answer my own question, after some googling, it's a matter of Windows 10 having no user-visible version numbers -- if this were Android, it'd be like "this app won't work on Android 5, Lollipop" or whatever version. "Windows 10 Redstone", the next Windows 10 phone update, is expected for release June 30, at which point phones will get it OTA. So probably they've found the W10 Redstone preview will not run the HERE app due to some incompatible change.

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Henry Wertz 1
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What changes?

I'm really curious what is changing June 30 that will make this app quit running? Is the service that converts Windows 8/8.1 apps to run on Windows 10 going to be deactivated June 30? Perhaps some API oddity in Windows 10, like the requests have to be tunneled through some bit of server-side software (either Microsoft or HERE-operated) that is not needed for Windows 8/8.1 HERE to work? This makes me curious.

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Reprogrammble routers axed by TP-Link as FCC bans custom firmware

Henry Wertz 1
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Why they have done this

I do hope most vendors do not interpret the FCC's rules as an excuse to ban 3rd party firmware. Here is the FCC's reasoning though, and the suggestion I sent to them during the comment period.

The problem they've run into is not people using channel 13 or running the AP a little over power; it is access points running in the mid-5ghz band, with no TPC (transmission power control) or DFS (dynamic frequency selection), so they run on the same channel as a nearby radar site and show up as big interference blobs and streaks on it. However, I think it's far more likely that most of this noise is 5ghz or dual-band APs with whatever years out of date factory firmware, than interference popping up because of people putting DD-WRT or OpenWRT or the like (particualary since, per Google, the Broadcom and Atheros drivers on these automatically handle DFS.)

I wrote the FCC during the comment period and suggested that nobody would be intentionally doing this, so the best course of action would be to simply make people aware of the problem. At present, the DD-WRT GUI gives no inidcation of which channels are subject to DFS and which are not -- I suggested if the DFS channels have an asterisk by them, many people would simply avoid the asterisk'ed channels. (It does appear that both Broadcom driver handles DFS on it's own, based on country code given, while Atheros ath9k uses mac80211 and hostapd to support it, if you pick a channel with radar on it it'll change channels on it's own.)

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Obama puts down his encrypted phone long enough to tell us: Knock it off with the encryption

Henry Wertz 1
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Absurd

Obama, you are absurd.

A) We "accept" the TSA so we should give up our Constitutional right to privacy? Nope. The TSA is a joke, I won't go through the full body scanners, and think the searches and such are ridicucous. And the stats back this up. Also that dropoff in flight bookings the last 10 or 15 years? These are people who are deciding they do not want to deal with the TSA, it makes flying too unpleasant so they either drive or don't go at all.

B) There is no give on encryption. If you build flaws into it, it WILL be broken and be effectively useless. This isn't tech companies being difficult and there is no middle ground on this.

C) You must think the public are idiots by claiming the Snowden revelations exaggerate and expecting anyone to believe it. They are not fairy tales, but real leaked documents.

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Linux fans may be in for disappointment with SQL Server 2016 port

Henry Wertz 1
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I wonder how it'll benchmark

I'll be curious to see how this plays out. I wonder if it will go how Microsoft expects. I mean, with Linux's better disk I/O handling, caching, memory management (also all more tunable to handle odd workloads), and less propensity to run background tasks at innopportune times... I'm wondering if companies with large SQLServer investments won't find they can run fewer machines (so both fewer WIndows *and* fewer SQL Server licenses) with a Linux version.

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Google robo-car backs into bendy-bus in California

Henry Wertz 1
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Driverless cars may not be doning something right

"If a minor bit of boof-tinkle-tinkle, of the sort that happens every day between meatbag drivers, like this is newsworthy, the driverless cars must be doing something right."

Well.... these cars all have a driver who is supposed to take over (and apparently do fairly regularly) whenever they think the car is going to crash. Given this, the car software's flawless (up to now) driving record is completely unsurprising. After all, you could have a post-pub-crawl BOFH (or PFY) driving your car without worry if a second, sober, driver was automatically going to take over as soon as the BOFH started aiming for the trees ("it appeared out of nowhere!") That said, I doubt the cars behavior is too bad or someone would have mentioned it by now.

To be honest, hopefully this will provide good data for Google -- it sounds downright dicey to me for a car to stop dead in a traffic lane then GO INTO REVERSE just because of a few cones. That is when you stop, turn on the turn signal, and either wait for traffic to clear or (if it's not going to) wait for a good enough gap in traffic and go for it. I wonder if the software just didn't notice the cones in time, if the hardware couldn't see them (and Google found the car needs a sensor aimed lower or soemthing), or if the software just assumed (up to this point) ONLY cones in a "this lane is closed" configuration as opposed to a few blocking off a small bit of road.

If a cone or two is enough to make the current software behave like this, I wouldn't want to get in a Google car here in the midwest. In the midwest(ern US), you'll find bad enough potholes (luckily not too many) to risk destroying rims or suspension if you go straight through them (I've recently gotten a nice rear end noise which I think is a broken rear stabilizer link...); cones blocking off maybe a foot or two of roadway (so they can patch said potholes, in between times when they close a whole lane or two to repave); these what look like straw-filled rolls shoved into the storm drains (but sticking onto the road several inches) that mean you must go a few inches out to go around them. And, generally road markings that are totally worn off the road, so hopefully it doesn't (for example) rely on lane markings to stay in a lane or the like.

Don't get me wrong.. I'm more positive on these then say, Jeremy Clarkson; but I do think it's possible the difficulty of this is being underestimated. This may be one of those situations where software implementing typical driving rules covers 99% of the drive, but there's so many different "remaining 1%" situations that it could take more code to handle that than to handle the main drive.

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Got Oracle? Got VMware? Going cloud? You could be stung for huge licensing fees

Henry Wertz 1
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Silly but clear

First off, I do find this a bit silly; it really does seem fair if a virtualization product limits use to x cores, you should need to pay for x cores. I mean, if someone's stuck a copy onto AWS are they then liable for like a 8,000,000 core license or whatever?

That said, I thought it was common knowledge that Oracle has pretty strict licensing terms, and that they are pretty strictly enforced. They may just have to suck it up and migrate to PostgreSQL or something if they are wanting to be able to have their DB floating around in the clouds.

I suppose a practical solution to mitigate this would be to segregate off an Oracle-only section (enough for redundancy) so the Oracle stuff stays there, and everything else runs in the rest, so you'd have to fork up for that section but not the whole data center (at least in the future, I guess you may be toast and just have to negotiate that huge bill down for past usage.)

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Microsoft scraps Android Windows 10 bridge, but says yes to Objective-C compiler

Henry Wertz 1
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Existing emulators

The existing emulator runs a whole system emulation (qemu variant) and boots up an Intel copy of Android on it. Without hardware virtualization the performance is not actually usable.

Emulating Android using API translation is actually rather interesting, but it would indeed be pretty difficult -- when they first started on wine, they got "hello world" and minesweeper type apps running pretty quickly, but then found with more complicated apps they may have 95% or even 99% of the API it needs but any given app doesn't need the same "extra" 1-5%. They also ran into the problem of more and more new APIs coming out.

I wouldn't be surprised if they didn't run into an analogous situation; they implemented some core Android APIs, got encouraged as some apps came right up, then ran into problems as they found the ones that didn't come up each would need different API work to fix, making a real mountain of additional work (plus they probably had a new Android come out in the interim, needing further APIs to be implemented to be fully up to date.)

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Official: Toshiba pulls out of European consumer PC market

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I switched to an ARM Chromebook instead

I went the other way, and finally decided to switch to an ARM. I'm glad I did. I got an Acer Chromebook 13, popped in an SDCard and put Ubuntu on it. It has a Tegra K1, so a 2.2ghz* quad-core ARM (+ 1 low power core that the kernel automatically switches to when it's running 1 CPU at lower speed.), and the 192-core CUDA video card appears to be roughly comparable to a GT720 in terms of CUDA units and speed. Supposed 13 hour battery life -- I measured about 15 hours battery life in ChromeOS (I think it would have gotten over 20 under lighter usage), and in Ubuntu about 12-13 hours under lighter usage down to maybe 8 hours under heavy use (maxing out all 4 cores compiling or H.264 encoding some videos or the like.) It kills my previous Dell speed-wise (admittedly elderly, a Core Duo), is much lighter, nice keyboard, no fan and no noticeable heat production (under full load one spot on the bottom seems to warm up like 5 degrees), seems well put-together and surprisingly has pretty good speakers.

*I think it's supposed to be able to do 2.4ghz, but probably has the speed disabled for thermal reasons. Maybe? The CPU temp never seems to get particuarly high, so it may be for battery life or some other reason.

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Raspberry Pi 3 to sport Wi-Fi, Bluetooth LE – first photos emerge

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SATA/NAS Pi?

Re: putting SATA, dual ethernet, or the like on the Pi. Doable, and it's not some big problem with power budget; it's cost. SATA's not an expensive port, but when you're selling a device for $30 total it is. There're ARM boards with SATA (Allwinner A20-based boards for instance do have on-board SATA as opposed to a USB to SATA bridge that some devices have), more ethernet ports, and so on, but they just cost an extra $10 or $20.

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Windows 10 will now automatically download and install on PCs

Henry Wertz 1
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Glad I don't use WIndows

"Today's move does mean you can expect to get a lot more technical support calls from friends and family who don't know what's going on"

I don't get excessive calls from friends and family, I've made it clear to them I do not recommend they run Windows and that I don't provide support for it. I will solve their problem if it's something easy, but I'm not going to spend hours fixing the litany of Windows-problems that simply do not appear on any other OS

Man reading about things like this makes me glad I'm not using Windows any more. I mean, Ubuntu will remind you when there's a new Ubuntu release but it has "remind me later" and "never remind me again" buttons, and this reminder can be totally disabled too (for anybody, not just business users.) It doesn't go around repeatedly trying to slip an OS upgrade in as a normal software update either.

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You, FCC. Do something about these overpriced cable boxes, yells Bernie Sanders and pals

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A few comments

Three comments here --

1st, props to Mediacom. Nobody ever gives props to a cable co and it feels odd to do so. But the likes of Comcast are now encrypting ALL their cable channels (INCLUDING local OTA (over the air) channels that FCC regulations REQUIRE them to carry in the clear... when the FCC brought enforcement action against Comcast, Comcast took them to court instead of following the rules.) So you need a cable box to get ANYTHING. In contrast, Mediacom not only has OTA channels unecrypted, but SD copies of ALL the channels (except pay ones like HBO) in the clear. I can plug my cable straight into the USB TV tuner and mythtv handles it fine.

2nd -- honestly, I must agree 100% with what Sanders etc. say. It's predatory pricing to rent out these low-end set top boxes (that have about $5 worht of parts in them, so probably cost under $30 full retail) for $2-3 a month. The cable cos were SUPPOSED to be required by the FCC to support CableCard, so you'd stick that in your cable-ready TV and not need a box. But a) Some cable cos are straight-up violating the FCC rule by not having cable cards available or supported. b) The ones that "support" it, the customer tends to have to keep calling until they find someone who knows it even exits and knows how to set it up. c) Predatory pricing, some cable cos have it but charge more to rent the card than for a deluxe set top box. They can't comprehend that someone may want to use the controls on their own TV. d) I don't mention DVRs here, CableCard is useless for computers due to excessive rights restrictions requirements.

3) "They don't have rules that allow monopolies, they lack rules that prevent them." False. In the US, most market have a cable *franchise*, potential competition is LOCKED OUT of the market. Artificial monopoly due to regulation. I'm not saying deregulating is necessarily the solution but your argument is not based on facts.

4) Why party and state after names? US has 2 nearly-identical main political parties, (seriously, by UK standards one is nearly center center-right and the other nearly center center-left, to the point that they'd probably both be one centrist party there), but members of BOTH parties like to pretend *they* are totally different, and pretend whatever topic they are on that any problems are ALL the other parties fault. (For example, federal spending is greatly increased each and every year, but both parties claim they want to DECREASE spending -- pointing to programs they want to cut and ignoring the huge spending they want to spend on OTHER things -- and those deficits are ALL the other party's fault.) But since the parties are so similar, unless you recognize someone from an election you won't be able to tell which party they are a member of jut by hearing them talk, thus the little letter.

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Microsoft: We’ve taken down the botnets. Europol: Would Sir like a kill switch, too?

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As for the kill switch

As for the kill switch itself -- it's tricky, because I absolutely object on principal to having a third party redirect my traffic. But, the botnet itself is already generating unauthorized traffic, it's not redirecting any traffic the user authorized anyway. But, since I don't use Windows, I don't have to worry about it 8-)

"How about ISPs blocking traffic to the bad IP addresses that control botnets? That would not involve anything remotely resembling a backdoor on people's computers."

I view the ISPs job as providing me internet access. If an ISP wants to do this, sure, but it is quite simply not the ISPs job to prevent Windows computers from infecting other Windows computers. And, for Windows, that ship has sailed regarding not having "anything remotely resembling a backdoor" on it, see the numerous complaints of Win10 users turning of the "phone home" stuff only to have it turn back on every time they get updates.

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Henry Wertz 1
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No sympathy

"45 minutes is not bad. On one particularly slow afternoon I did manage 27 minutes before they managed to work out my machine was running OSX."

Yeah, me too. They *told* me "my Microsoft" was having problems. I tried to clarify "what Microsoft?" (to waste the scammer's time; if they had asked if my computer had Windows on it I would have pointed out "No" but thyey never asked.) They *assured* me "my Microsoft" had a problem. I actually had them wait while I *did* install a remote desktop (knowing I could just pull the plug.) They saw that Ubuntu 14.04 (non-Unity) desktop come up and were like "What is this!?!?!" I pointed out "You didn't ask if I was running Windows, and I didn't say I was. " Then I pulled the network cable (well, wifi stick) and uninstalled the remote desktop software. I think I had them tied up over 30 minutes.

So... I'm with the AC near the top "@Dave 126 - People who are thus tied to Windows deserve to suffer ever increasing pain. Throughout the decades they always scoffed at any non-Microsoft alternative so they've lost my sympathy."

I won't go as far as saying they *deserve* to suffer every increasing pain. But people like me have been warning people off Windows for 20 years. You get me playing the world's smallest violin (no sympathy whatsoever) when you have had 20 years to switch off and continue not too. I mean, if you were warned off Yugos, bought one anyway, then said "it's to late to switch now", fine but you can't expect me to sympathize in the least when you keep complaining about your Yugo giving you trouble.

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NSA spying on US and Israeli politicians stirs Congress from Christmas slumbers

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Ahh hypocrisy.

Ahh, the hypocrisy of Congress and the US'es main 2 political parties.

(Find out the pubic is being spied on): "Oh? You don't want the NSA spying on you? We're 'balancing' your rights. If you have nothing to hide than fwah-de-blah-blah..."

(Find out THEY are being spied on): " **WE** are being spied on? How dare they! This is completely unacceptable!!!"

Although up to this point the main 2 political parties have basically tripped over themselves to see who can take away privacy rights faster, maybe now that they realize THIS WILL AFFECT THEM TOO they will actually start to reign in this out-of-control spying and place some oversight over it to make sure the "reigning in" is not just ignored.

(The irony of this all being, this specific spying incident -- spying on diplomatic relations between various Congress-critters and Israeli counterparts -- that is actually the kind of thing the NSA is intended to spy on.)

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iOS 9 kludged our iPhones, now give us money, claims new lawsuit

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True, but...

It's true that you cannot expect the same performance from a 4S as from a 6. But, there have been cases with Android devices where a port of (next version of Android, like 2.x to 4.x) was made to the device, they found in internal testing that performance was inadequate (usually because the device was a bit short on RAM), and the update not pushed out. If IOS9 had significantly higher system requirements, it should have been either held back for 4S, or.. well, honestly, I think all phones should permit flashing an older firmware on if you want to. Or if the 4S owners are lucky, ios9 is missing a few optimizations and it runs fast enough on 4S.

On the other hand, I haven't seen a first-hand comparison, so I guess my feelings on this depend on if this really makes the phone all laggy, or if it's just ever so slightly slower and there's much ado about (almost) nothing.

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Trustworthy x86 laptops? There is a way, says system-level security ace

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Slot machines?

Has anyone looked to see what slot machine vendors have to say about this? They worry about security (both for the obvious reasons, and regulatory framework that ironically requires slot machines to have much higher security than ATMs or electronic voting machines). I've seen one boot, it's pretty verbose.. the BIOS validated itself, the bootloader, and the package it booted. The bootloader validated the BIOS and packages (kernel and root filesystem). It booted into Linux, which validated the bootloader, the kernel and the executables. The executable appeared to run a self-check of some sort before the slot machine software came up.

Not that a setup like that would be viable for most systems, as I want to be able to actually add and remove software from my system. But, they may have something practical to say about (for example) being able to disable or restrict the ME, so people who are not interested in it's functionality are not exposed to the potential additional attack surface it represents.

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Upset Microsoft stashes hard drive encryption keys in OneDrive cloud?

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Crypto from Linux

"My system is a linux/windows dual boot, with some of the drives accessible from both OSs. Presumably this would fail if the windows involved were win 10 (not that that is going to happen in the forseeable future). Come to that, would linux partitioning tools screw the drive so that windows could not read the data either?"

Can't speak for Windows in terms of being able to repartition (they love to use "magic" sectors, hidden files, and so on...)... but I think the principles are the same, see below.

I just got a Chromebook13 (Nvidia TK1, quad-core ARM + decent GPU) that I set up to dual boot Ubuntu (ChromeOS on the internal flash, Ubuntu on an SDCard). I accidentally repartitioned the flash first; whether it would have screwed up the encrypted "vault"s on there or not, I don't know (I doubt it); the ChromeOS automatically decided something was screwy with the partition it wiped itself back to factory defaults (and then when I re-expanded the partition back to full size it did it again.) I would GUESS (as long as you don't trash the NTFS filesystem) that Windows, including the cryptosystem, would not care a bit if it's partition size changed.

So, from Ubuntu, I mounted the largest volume on the flash drive and looked around. I went to the /home/chronos and it's empty, /home/user/ and it's got an empty directory with 40 character (0-9, a-f)... I found there's a /home/.shadow/ directory with same 40 character (0-9,a-f) directory in it (so you can't even get user names), under that under vault/user/ there are files and diectories all named like ECRYPTFS_FNEK_ENCRYPTED.(15 chars).(40 chars).(40 chars) (these are not hex, it's (0-9, a-z, A-Z) ). So, if I wanted to snoop, not only encrypted file contents, no useable file names either. I assume it'd be similar with Win10...either useless file names and contents, or "best" case useable file names but unreadable contents.

For the record, I've looked into Chromebook key handling, and it's sensible; the disk crypto key is based on username, password, and TPM value (or a value from Scrypt library if you ha a non-TPM system.) This key is not stored or sent out anywhere! When you log in, the Google account password is not sent to Google, rather a hash value is sent. If you use the Chromebook to change your account password, it updates the on-disk crypto to use the new key (I assume having to reencrypt everything?) If you change your account password elsewhere, then log into the Chromebook, it logs into Google, then realizes the disk crypto key doesn't work; it gives you a chance to put in the older password. If you can't, it wipes the encrypted data and starts fresh with the new password (hased with username + TPM data).

So yeah, accessing one of these Win10 accounts from Linux-side would fail. But it's not a Windows-specific fail, it's true with any encrypted disk system.

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Henry Wertz 1
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A bit flippant....

This seems a bit flippant to me, the "Oh, well, 'they' will have to physically get a hold of your computer anyway so who cares?" Yeah, by the same argument, why have disk encryption at all, since no-one can read your disk if they can't get a hold of it. Given this cryptosystem is fatally flawed (since it puts the decryption key "out there" somewhere...), honestly I'd probably prefer to run none and enjoy the extra battery life of not having to run useless crypto. As much as you dismiss the NSA, you do have agencies such as them and GCHQ who by all appearances have simply gone power-mad (the quantity of info they already get exceeds their ability to do even a cursory automated analysis, but they seek access to more and more info anyway). They view their goal as being to collect* as much info on as many people as possible, ignoring both the law (and constitution), right to privacy, and seeking to get backdoors put into cryptosystems just because (ignoring that increasing the attack surface of a cryptosystem makes it worse for everyone.)

It's highly irresponsible at best for Microsoft to turn on full-disk crypto without notice, then send their crypto keys out without notice. Pray tell, if you've lost your Microsoft account password, how would you get into the Onedrive to get this key yourself? And if you can supposedly have Microsoft give you the key, how will they verify you are you and not some guy who just "found" your computer?

How far Microsoft has fallen from a few years ago with the "Scroogled" campaign comparing how much more privacy-minded Microsoft's options were compared to Google's, compared to now where Win10 will keep dumping out info, and even have updates that keep re-enabling privacy-unfriendly options that the user or administrator has disabled.

=============

*I'm using the plain-English word "collect" here, where info is "collected" when it's thrown in some NSA database.... , not the NSA-speak word "collect".. they have told Congress they don't "collect" all sorts of info that they definitely do, because they redefine "collect" so info is not "collected" until a query displays it on someone's screen.

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USA doubles visa fees for migrant IT workers

Henry Wertz 1
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Detroit

"Having been to Detroit, you were wise to not go. Robocop is a documentary."

As if. I've heard it's better now, but when I went about 15 years ago to visit a friend... well, the actual city in Robocop looked quite in good shape compared to the reality. It looked like it had been nuked about 20 years in the past and left there. Buildings with all windows broken out, burned out, collapsed, and blocks of just grassland (had the buildings collapsed or did these use to be parking lots? I don't know.). Driving in on the interstate, the road (still supposedly 70MPH speed limit) suddenly became alarmingly potholed to the point that I almost hit my head on the roof, slowed down to about 40... still was shaking about as bad as that Klingon War bird when they slingshot it around the sun... I had to slow down to about 25MPH for the car to not threaten to fall apart. I looked out the window and found to my alarm that some of the concrete had worn down so much that I could see the rebar and see right through the bridge. The onramp nearest my friend's apartment had a "road closed" sign in front of a big pile of rubble, it had collapsed. On the other hand, I wasn't particularly worried about being mugged or anything, the whole area seemed largely depopulated (his apartment building had nothing within blocks of it, for instance.)

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13,000 Comcast customers complain to FCC over data caps

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These mixups happen

I ran into problems with my local cable company until I cancelled internet service (I won't name names because a) they use the same billing software as several other cable cos. anyway, it's just an example of technical snafus gone wrong rather than malice and b) They don't have much competition in virtually any market they're in anyway).

I kept getting my cable internet service shut off for complaints (from whoever) about torrenting. They said I was should also be receiving notices in the mail but I did not. Long story short, I got shut off several more times while running absolutely no torrents, finally got a printed letter in the mail (with a handwritten address with 2 digits in my address swapped, crossed out by someone else and the correct address written on it.. probably why I never received the previous 2 notices.) This listed files, times and IP... the files were things like wrestling videos I would have never watched, and it was not my IP address (the IP doesn't change often but one of the logfiles logged the IP address when it did.) In fact the IP on the printout was for a different market.

I'm just saying, I'm not surprised to find there are problems when they suddenly start measuring data usage and assessing overage. 66GB when the cable modem's unplugged is pretty bad 8-)

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'Unauthorized code' that decrypts VPNs found in Juniper's ScreenOS

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elliptic curve

Per the link AC above points to, there are two vulnerabilities here. The ssh/telnet administrative access one (which sounds like some kind of programming blunder, but there's no actual info on it yet except that it exists and is being patched) and the VPN one. The link discusses the VPN change... the VPN uses an elliptic curve-based pseudo-random number generator, and the patch changes the constants fed into this PRNG to initialize it. So speculation would be that the former values were found to be exploitably weak. I'll leave it as an exercise to the reader to decide who would want to snoop into VPNs.

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Nest defends web CCTV Cam amid unstoppable 24/7 surveillance fears

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Just badly designed

"...But, in that case, the CCD being on and (presumably) constant transmitting of video signal only uses an extra 10% --- is that realistic?"

Yeah. Wifi chips are rather power-hungry, and the (I assume ARM) CPU is probably using some power. CMOS camera chips (it's probably not CCD) use in the order of 10s of miliwatts. W=V*A (watts = volts * amps) so this means under 10milliamp curent even if the Nest is 3 volt.

"What they actually mean to say, is that instead of powering off like you tell it to, it goes into standby mode."

Given the high power use, I doubt it's even going into a true standby mode (i.e. putting CPU or wifi chip into a lower-power but slower-to-respond mode.) Needless to say, I figure if you go to the trouble of turning something like this "off" it should get MUCH closer to "off" than this -- it's no problem if it takes a few seconds to get ready when turned on. (Satellite TV boxes get a pass on this to some extent, since they are potentially recording shows when "off"... but a device like this that should actually be doing nothing when "off" has no reason to use that much power.)

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Who's right on crypto: An American prosecutor or a Lebanese coder?

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Bad actors

I would like to point out, the reason the feds (etc.) have so much trouble persuading people to give up their privacy, is because of how clearly the feds (etc.) have abused their powers. Seriously, if the feds (etc.) had at least tried to follow federal law and the Constitution (and British feds follow UK equivalent), for example by getting a warrant before they dove through data, and quit assuming people are stupid and can be "persuaded" with nonsensical spurious arguments, they may have had better luck. In other words, if they had earned the public's trust, instead of being bad actors violating it at every possible turn. Of course this doesn't change strong crypto with a backdoor in it being nonsense, but they wouldn't have such widespread encryption as now if the feds hadn't thoroughly abused their position.

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Henry Wertz 1
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The coder is right

First, as stated in the article, the mathematics are unavoidable. A flawed cryptosystem is flawed, and the flaw WILL be found and exploited.

Second, Vance's list of examples of phone data being used to solve crimes -- ZERO instances there require fiddling with encryption in any way whatsoever. They list examples where people have photos on the phone, or used text messaging to each other. Text messages are already stored by the phone companies for (hopefully with an authorized warrant, but let's face it probably without one) it is available to law enforcement or whoever. Pictures and messages sitting on the phone are sitting on the phone. If the phone is on and running, then the full-disk-encryption decryption key is already in memory (just as full-disk-encryption won't help secure a PC that is already up and running.) I think you'll find people like Vance are INTENTIONALLY muddying this issue to try to gain far more access than they really need to do their job.

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Downloads for Windows 10 November big-bang build axed by Microsoft

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They probably don't

"I wish Microsoft would understand that most people run Windows 10 on SSDs and having 16GB Spare is no mean feat. "

Probably most people still run Win10 on spinning rust. That said, it would be good to cut down the requirements for these things.

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A font farewell to Fontdeck as website service closes

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Open source?

"Couldn't they have offered to sell a perpetual licence to the font in question on a per website basis to all existing customers?"

I don't know if they could or not. I don't think they own the fonts, they are like a broker.

I wonder if Fontdeck has considered open sourcing their software? If they are losing money this won't help... but if they are making enough to keep the site up, but not enough to do the development they feel they need, they may find that people love the site enough to (given source code to work on) add the functionality for them. The typical risk of doing this is someone duplicating your product -- but in this case, the web site is not the main product, the vast collection of licensable fonts is.

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Hillary Clinton: Stop helping terrorists, Silicon Valley – weaken your encryption

Henry Wertz 1
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Dear Hillary Clinton, and Clipper chip

Dear Hillary Clinton: The industry is not being difficult with you. Strong encryption with a backdoor simply doesn't exist. Encryption with a backdoor tacked on, mathematical analysis will make the backdoor apparent and all too soon this will become useless encryption that anyone who wants to can crack.

I'm voting Libertarian.

--------

Recall the Clipper chip. Introduced 1994 and off the market by 1996. One device (an encrypting telephone) used it. By the time that device even shipped, 2 flaws had been found in the chip that would let the chip encrypt without a recoverable key; it also relied on the algorithm being secret (the chip was a black box with a few commands for setting your key and such, plaintext going in and encrypted data coming out, or encrypted data in and plaintext out.)

So, you would not be able to use some special crypto chip for this like planned in the 1990s, since it needs to run on the existing installed base of phones etc. If the chip design had to be kept confidential, it could not be integrated into the main SoC that the phone or tablet uses, and it seems unlikely phone and tablet makers would want to have to purchase (and find room and power budget for) a single-purpose crypto chip. The Clipper chip was made at a special secure fab facility; it seems likely a chip would not be made on the most modern process (since they won't send it out to a regular fab company.) On-CPU AES acceleration lets modern CPUs encrypt at about 1GB/second or more. It seems to me on the server-side, a) Google, Microsoft, etc. would be quite resistant to being expected to order and install thousands of crypto chips and b) At the scale of Google and Microsoft, they end up pushing the limits of even 10gigabit switches, these chips better be pretty quick to not turn into a big bottleneck.

Doing it in software, you can't keep the algorithm secret. For the usual crypto libraries to support this new algorithm, they'll need specifications to implement an open source implementation. Oh, you're going to ship .o for various CPUs? You forget about the existence of debuggers, these guys and gals that analyze viruses for a living will have no problem turning a .o back into a description of the algorithm.

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Windows 8.1 exams kept alive six more months, Win 7 tests immortal

Henry Wertz 1
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Probably a necessity

Probably a necessity. Linux, since there are POSIX standards to follow and so on, and old UNIX roots, in general info you know about a much older version of that distro applies to a newer one (and indeed other distros), and if you learned a newer one up and down you can apply a lot of that info to the older distro, it'll be missing some features compared to the newer one but similar enough for the newer distro knowledge to apply.

Windows, Windows 7 and Windows 10 really are quite different, you could learn Windows 10 up and down and find Windows 7 is different enough to have some real difficulties. I think there'll be demand for these Windows 7 training and tests for a while.

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