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* Posts by I ain't Spartacus

3563 posts • joined 18 Jun 2009

REVEALED: GCHQ's BEYOND TOP SECRET Middle Eastern INTERNET SPY BASE

I ain't Spartacus
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Re: TRAITORS

You should be more disgusted at the laziness of modern intelligence gathering, if the only way to find out what is going on it the work nowadays is to capture everything and hope you find something useful, then the spies have a lot to answer for!

Callam McMillan,

Reading other people's mail is a long and dishonourable tradition in government circles. And is often an excellent way of finding out what's going on. By-and-large it's also a great way to find things out that doesn't risk getting people killed. Whereas spying, in the 'James Bond' sense of wandering around where you're not supposed to be, is rather risky. In the case of the more common type, which is mostly legally resident 'diplomatic' staff recruiting locals for information - the risk varies by the regime you're spying on. But there are plenty or governments who execute traitors.

So to give some examples. Kim Philby betrayed pretty much all of Britain's Cold War intelligence networks in Eastern Europe. I remember reading that between 50 and 200 of those people were shot. I've seen rumours from multiple sources that the GRU burned Oleg Penkovsky alive, after he'd handed over intel on Soviet nuclear readiness during the Cuban Missile crisis. That could just be a myth to frighten others of course.

Despite all the attempts at spying though, I can't remember much in the way of political intelligence from either the Cold War or WWII. Admittedly the US may have been doing rather well at spying on microwave relays, so we may have done better in the late Cold War. But if you read a book like 'The Secret State' (by Peter Hennessey), it's both fascinating and terrifying how little the Western governments knew about Soviet politics and intentions.

You can find out lots from looking at stuff. What the military are up to, and what kit they have. What facilities have been built. But that only tells you what a state can do or is doing. Not what it will do, or intends. Hence we 'knew' Saddam had WMD, because we'd found loads of it in the 90s, and only destroyed some of it. But we had no political intel, to tell us he'd apparently decided it wasn't worth it and had got rid of it. Which was a costly mistake.

We also know that Iran has a nuclear program. But I've no idea what intel we have on why they've got it, and whether they intend to bargain it away, build it for safety, or even use it.

The great thing about reading internal government documents, is that you get to find out what the government are really thinking. And saying to each other. It's quite rare to find people at that level willing to spy. And even harder to get access to them. We spent the latter part of WWII reading lots of the German HQ-level traffic, and this gave a much more useful idea of what they were up to, than you can guess from looking at where troops are actually based.

Not that I'm defending reading ordinary peoples' mail. But spying on foriegn governments is what we have intelligence services for. And I'm perfectly happy for that to include allies like Angela Merkel. The German government's position on various global and European issues is vital to British national interests. And no nation with a foreign intelligence service itself has any right to complain too much when it gets spied on. Well the game is, you complain loudly for a bit, for appearances, and maybe get some concessions, then go back to business as usual.

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New development in 'stadium-sized' FLYING SAUCER orb invasion

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Happy

Re: Hope it all...

Lester,

Are you suffereing from 'rocket-envy'? Or even 'balloon-envy', given that you could launch something truly huge with one of those.

I've been trying my best to come up with a backronym for stratospheric hypersonic inflatable braking apparatus which relates to Bulgarian airbags in some way, but my brain has failed me. Such that I feel a complete tit...

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Spammer pops Kidspot tots 'n' cots chatterhub

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What the hell were they doing with birthday information? I can accept that people get hacked, but this is getting very silly now.

I received a happy birthday email yesterday from confused.com. I'd gone to them for an insurance quote last year, and of course they don't just show it to you. Oh no! They have to email it to you. Oh, I wonder why that could be? Anyway I'd totally forgotten that they'd asked for my date of birth. For absolutely no reason whatsoever, as it was a home insurance quote. Normally I give a fake d.o.b., so that I can remember the one that I've faked, so this one must have annoyed me, so that I picked randomly. Unsurprisingly my bank and credit card have the real one, but as few others as possible get that.

It's equally depressing when companies get hacked, and then fail to own up. I do wish the Information Commissioner would actually do their jobs, and start handing out proper punishment beatings.

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SCIENCE explains why you LOVE the smell of BACON

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Devil

Re: > everyone's favorite cured breakfast meat

Well, the Israelites had been very naughty boys… that's why God punished them with a continuing lack of bacon. And it is also proof that the English are God's chosen people.

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I ain't Spartacus
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FAIL

Re: Mmmm...

I'm suffering from feelings of terrible guilt and shame. I can hardly bring myself to say this, but this morning…. I had fresh bread, and bacon in the fridge. I'd had some nice wine last night, and I had a bit of time for a nice brunch. And yet… I chose… This is awful! I chose to have soup with my bread.

And then, this article appeared on the Register to show me the error of my ways. How could they know!?!? I feel dirty now. I've let my family down, I've let myself down, I've let El Reg down. Hopefully it's not too late to redeem myself, by having a bacon sandwich on Sunday morning.

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Apple: Scrubbing may not yet have cleansed iThings of BLOOD

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Re: Is this an iDagger I see before me?

Witch: "When shall we three meet again?"

Siri: [bing] "All of you have a free afternoon on Friday 13th of June. Would you like me to book an appointment?"

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SPB's mountaintop HQ menaced by WOLVES

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Re: This is a non-problem for the SPB

But what about the loss of pic-a-nic baskets Booboo?

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I ain't Spartacus
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Re: Farming vs local mammal species

Hey kids! Do you want to go to Disney World?

No! Disney World is mingin'!

...

There's millions of badgers, all under one roof!

It's called Badger Land, Badger Land, Badger Land!

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I ain't Spartacus
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Devil

Re: Wolves may be preferable to the hunt...

The wolf has made a re-appearance in France too, they've lifted its protected status as its a pain, and anyone that disagree's with that, I suggest you have them imported to your town and have them polish off the local pet cat/dog population,

I'm sorry, is that supposed to be a bad thing...

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I ain't Spartacus
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Re: Eh Hello?

Sod it, I just remembered the Spanish rules on remotely controlled flying vehicles.

Semtex451,

There's no need to go to space to get round this. The Special Projects Bureau have access to plenty of hydrogen helium. They could obviously go for a high-altitude surveillance balloon.

But they're nearly finished with their rocket plane anyway, so it's time for something different. I suggest a wolf-detecting airship. The bonus being that the Editor of this august journal is an airship buff, so there's bound to be plenty of funding on offer.

Now it's just time to get the acronyms sorted out.

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I ain't Spartacus
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Re: Eh Hello?

AWACS - Airbourne Wolf Alarm Communication System?

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SpaceX 'Dragon V2' ROCKET PODULE can hover-land on Earth - or MARS

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Re: "My heart would be a fireball...!"

MIke Flugennock,

I'm thinking of changing the upvote I gave you to a downvote. Since reading your excellent spot, I've been unable to stop the Fireball XL5 theme going through my head. Plus occasionally bursting into song. I'm going to be singing it all weekend! In my best 50s rock'n'roll voice.

I suppose I do wish I were a spaceman. Although I don't care so much about being the fastest guy alive. Just one of them will do fine. I'll make sure I keep some antacids around, in case my heart does become a fireball though.

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I ain't Spartacus
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Re: "My heart would be a fireball...!"

Everything's better with fins!

It's so long ago, that I'd forgotten what Fireball XL5 looked like. Even though I still remember all the words of the theme tune {Ahem! Best keep quiet about that. - Ed]. But it isn't just you.

Not only does the orbital module thingy have fins, but it also has that clever solar panel on the side. So you don't need the complication of moveable arms to deploy them, which sometimes fail - as well as carrying the weight on the capsule when it lands.

Now the next trick I'm hoping for, is for SpaceX to start re-using those as well. Little bolt together modules which form SpaceX's very own space station. Although it'll probably then turn out that he's been working on a vast orbital laser, and will launch his inevitale global domination attempt from his new space platform. But I can forgive him for that, if I get to go to space first.

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I ain't Spartacus
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"It lands like a proper 21st Century spacecraft should. Cue the music!"

[Thunderbirds theme starts]

Also geeky kudos points for the "carbon composite over-wrapped titanium spheres" that make up the fuel system. Were I a sci-fi script writer, I'd be busily stealing that sentence now. Also perhaps a product designer for over-priced mobile phones. "We laugh at Apple's mere liquid metal"...

Lovely, shiny spaceship.

Why isn't there a Nobel Prize for Space-loveliness?

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I ain't Spartacus
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Re: lander legs and fuel

The video didn't really talk about the landing legs, so I don't know.

You won't need to fire the engines all the way down though. The atmosphere will be slowing the spacecraft down as it thickens, while the capsule plummets towards the ground. It then fires up the engines for a test run. If the computer or drivers don't like the looks of this, it turns them back off again, and deploys parachutes. I presume it'll normally come down by the coast, so it can do an emergency water landing by parachute if required, and only manoeuvre over land once it's proved the engines are working.

If everything's fine, then it turns the engines on for a bit more slow-downeyness. Given that it's the opposite of an aerodynamic shape, terminal velocity in the lower atmosphere isn't going to be very fast, So I'd imagine it will slow itself down from stupid speeds, and then idle the jets for a bit while falling, before doing the final braking at very low level.

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The hoarder's dilemma: 'Why can't I throw anything away?'

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Re: A Cautionary Tale

You killed its twin. You were punished.

Who says there ain't no justice...

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I ain't Spartacus
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Re: Get well soon

Surely he should be undergoing the patented beer and bacon diet at the el'reg own private clinic

I thought that unwell was journalist euphemism for him having spent the last week doing just that...

Although I suppose there's no harm trying a bit of the hair of the pig that bit you, the morning after. Talking of which, I've got some nice rolls and bacon at home. That's tomorrow's brekkie to look forward to.

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I ain't Spartacus
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Re: Cables

Don't do it!!!

I moved house under 2 years ago. I can remember dumping my parallel printer cables, because I remember reading a piece or a comment on El Reg about 2 weeks later, about someone looking for some.

I'm trying to clear the box room now, where all the crap got/gets dumped. I came to this huge box, that I could barely lift, and assumed it must be full of books that didn't make the shelves. But no, it was totally full of cables. And had a twin, which had cables, plus the odd 8 speed internal CD player, unused joystick and my copy of Elite for DOS, that I didn't have the heart to throw away when all the other crap went. Like my copies of Windows 3.1 and DOS 5 on floppy, plus manuals for same.

I looked through it, and was there a SCART lead that my Mum needed? Nope. That'll only come out of hiding when I'm looking for an HDMI cable in a few weeks/months time, and can't find one of those... So I've boxed it all up, paid a removal company to take it away and store it for a couple of months, had them deliver it once I'd bought somewhere, humped it into the box-room, fallen over it a few times, and still not used any of the stuff inside it! Though I've probably chucked some stuff away, and shoved the cables into it, 'just in case'...

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I ain't Spartacus
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Re: Platters as mug mats

I never used floppies as coasters. It was always AOL CDs. Of which I had many. Multitude upon multitude of the bloody things! Why are astronomers wasting their time looking for dark matter, when we know that 10% of the mass of the universe is made up of unused AOL discs?

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Facebook wants MORE EXPLICIT SHARING

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Devil

But the 153rd cornflake of the morning is the best one. AND PEOPLE NEED TO KNOW THIS!1!!!1!!111!!

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Sacre BLEURGH: Google thinks London's Victoria station is on the PARIS Metro

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Re: M for

In Brussels (could it be a Brussels Metro M sign?) there's no discipline. It's a good job it's not as crowded as London during rush hour. Nobody is organised about where they stand on escalators, and no-one gets out of the way of the train doors to let people get off. At one point I stood there in the middle of the door, with arms folded waiting for someone to twig that they weren't getting on until they let the passengers get out of the way first. I ended up barging a few people, relatively gently. The worst temptation was on frequent rainy days, when I had a nice big umbrella with a pointy end - and a terrible urge to make rude-commuter-kebabs...

I've spent quite a bit of time with my American neice and her Mum in London. Being from a small town, they both expect to chat with everyone they meet. And some people's reactions are very amusing - as they get sucked into cheerful chattiness, despite their best efforts to maintain the steely 1000-yard-stare of Tube indifference.

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Still using e-mail? Marketers say you're part of DARK SOCIAL

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Re: For added irony, on the story's page

btw, how do you encrypt a pigeon?

In a blender.

It's a one-way algorithm. You then store the resulting hash in a salted smoothie.

I shall be abandoning coffee for choco-pigeon shakes forwthwith.

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I ain't Spartacus
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Re: "Dark" , "Off the grid" , "Underbelly"

So what you're saying is that Dark Energy is all the emails and texts sent between all the beings in the universe about what interesting articles they've seen in the latest editorial of the Galactic Digest. Or possibly Sidereal Record Straightener.

Whereas Dark Matter is what happens when they send it by post.

It's junk mail that holds the universe together.

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I ain't Spartacus
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Re: They missed one or two things....

Ken Hagan,

I'm not worried by that. So long as it's only the phone companies that run the data collection. They're mostly run by finance gibbons, and so wouldn't be capable of doing it 'properly'. Of course, when Google build it into Android, they will do so competently. At which point I'll need a tin-foil phone-cosy, to go with my tin-foil hat (also coincidentally shaped like a tea-cosy).

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I ain't Spartacus
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Happy

Re: encrypted mail ?

Hmmm avarice? After Royal Mail briefly became consignia, we all knew that silly names were in. We have an Aviva, amongst other ridiculous company names.

I'm rather taken by Avaris. I shall be registering the company today. Now to work out our business model? A hedge fund perhaps? Marketing? Perhaps a technology company that hoovers up everybody else's expensively generated online content, then attaches adverts to it. Nah, that'd never work...

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Re: For added irony, on the story's page

It's still trackable if you email it. Or text it on a smartphone.

From now on, if I come across an interesting link, I'm sending it to my friends by telegram...

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Sony Xperia Z2: What we REALLY thought of this Android fondleslab

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My current toaster is okay, but it lacks a 'reheat' button

Dave 126,

Afterburners on a toaster? You're a bit of a demanding customer aren't you?

Also, I suspect it would lead to even more problems with burnt toast.

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Carry On YouView Regardless, BBC Trust tells the BBC

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Re: YouView. Meh.

My Mum signed up with TalkTalk (against my advice - and has sadly since had to deal with their customer services gibbons), and got a YouView box. I stayed over a couple of months ago, and I did notice the box was very slow. Although to be fair, it was probably slightly better than the Virgin box my brother had last year, which was really, really slow.

YouView is OK. Not as good as I was expecting, after all the good things I'd heard about it. Scary that this is what they came up with after removing a whole bunch of features and bloat - apparently at the insistence of Alan Sugar. Who supposedly knocked a few heads together, after all the various competing vendors tried to stuff the kitchen sink into the box.

Then again, Sky have just made their Sky+ box worse. Had an update to mine last month, that now means the dedicated TV guide button no longer takes you to the TV guide. No, instead it takes you to a nice page where you can see the full panoply of services which Sky would love to sell you. I guess that in the end, sales always takes usability to the ditch out back and shoots it...

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Tech that we want (but they never seem to give us)

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Devil

Re: Proper design

Product designers' DNA to be recorded, and linked to all their products. With a design equivalent of an activist regulator.

Thus the architect who designed my flat with rooms that are ever so slightly just the wrong shape to work, even though there's plenty of space overall, if only the corridor wasn't so huge.

Thus with a camera and report I can justify to the global design committee why this designer is an idiot. Then they willl punish him in some appropriate manner. From enforced re-training, being struck off, up to being shot, for being a waste of atoms.

So the architect/engineering team who specified an expensive solar hot water system on a student hall of residence in order to get brownie points for being green. But then only connected the hot water to one tap - because they are total and utter arseholes. Should be publicly executed, as a warning to numbskulls. This was the perfect application for solar-thermal, as students don't use their hot water all at once, and most don't get up early, so the sun can actually do its job.

On the other hand, people who put inadequate solar installations on unsuitable British houses, just to get tax-breaks, would only receive a lesser punishment. As it's understandable - just a horrible waste. So they would be force-fed recycled turkey twizzlers, to teach them that not all green schemes are a sensible idea. Only re-cycled toilet paper would be available for their extremely frequent, and urgent, use.

The person who designed my teasmade (what a way to wake up!) with a seemingly 1,000,000W bulb behind the clock, so that I have to put 2 books in front of it to sleep, would also be punished. In their case, I think locking them in a room with Kylie records played at 150 db for say a week, should allow them to see the error of their ways.

Those designers who choose to etch serial numbers and socket descriptions onto inaccessible areas of their electronic equipment in black on a black background, to be blindfolded for a few weeks, and then forcibly re-trained in usability.

The designer of the SCART socket to have their thumbs chopped off.

Punishment for the people who design kettles, usually the expensive "pretty" ones, such that it's impossible to pour them without the handle being vertically above the spout! My Mum keeps buying these for some reason. Have these people never heard of steam? Or the idea that heat rises? Has no-one done any product testing at all?

Hmm, I'm starting to think about writing my manifesto and standing at the next general election now. How would the European Court react to the government office for corporal punishment driving nails into the eyeballs of any graphic designer who chooses to use mid-brown writing on a light brown background?

You've heard of sharia law, well this is shoddy-a law. And the shoddier your design, the harsher will be your punishment! Obviously we'd have to use the SAS to capture foreign designers, so as to make this a truly global system.

Any votes in this?

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NOT APPY: Black cab drivers enraged by Hailo as taxi tech wars rage on

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Re: Did this crowd ......

or were they brandishing buggy whips?

No. The whips are on service pack 1. They work perfectly now...

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Hello Moto... It's the Nokia Lumia 630

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Andrew,

I'm sure that the Lumia 710 (old WP7) didn't have auto display brightness. The 800 had OLED, so it didn't matter, but the 710 was crap outside without setting brightness to full.

If it did, it wasn't changing things enough, becasue I remember setting mine to full brightness after 2 days. You couldn't put a link to the brightness setting on the main screen like Android, and I couldn't see the menu to do it manually once outside otherwise. Wasn't great for battery life, and was too bright of my reading glasses indoors. But it was £120, and at the time there wasn't an Android to touch it for under £250.

As for your comment on muting the phone, don't you still just tap the bar at the top of the screen with the battery and signal indicators, then tap on the volume to mute it? And I thought 8.1 was supposed to allow you to pin any setting to the homescreen?

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I ain't Spartacus
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Re: Question

No. Zune went over a year ago, with Win Pho 8.

I had the Zune software for my WP7 Lumia 710. And it was buggy, slow, ugly, really confusing, didn't look anything like a standard Windoes Vista / 7 app - and generally made iTunes look like the best piece of software in the world. I hope someone at MS danced on its grave.

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Look, pal, it’s YOUR password so it’s YOUR fault that it's gone AWOL

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Re: It's 2014 and websites still can't generate login certificates...

Dan 55,

Certificates are too difficult to handle. I can't see the banks wanting to have to support ordinary users installing them manually.

Also I can remember how much hassle it was to get Android to talk to our company proxy, in order to get emails. And the banks are increasingly moving their customers onto mobile devices.

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I ain't Spartacus
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One of the companies in my industry have 3 Mr Tickles. They were founded by a Mr Tickle, and two of his sons have since joined the business.

There was a Mr Himmler in the accounts department of my last company. I was always surprised he hadn't changed it, given he was in the Hamburg office.

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I ain't Spartacus
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Re: You Couldn't Make it Up

It is also nice to get birthday wishes every month.,

I've picked one new birthday, so I can actually remember my fake d.o.b. Rather than just picking randomly as I did before.

Except for restaurant mailing list sign-ups. Those have to be carefully picked, so you get nice vouchers, spread around when they're useful. So a couple of them are near my actual birthday. Though sadly the last one to regularly remember my birthday have closed down their branch here. So no more birthday tapas for me.

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Unhappy

Re: Password huh...

I'd like ANYONE to tell me why you'd ever store customers personal info in an unencrypted form like eBay did (and a lot of others probably do).

Oh I can do that. It's cheaper.

Just like it's amazing the number of companies where helpdesk/tech support can see your password on their screen when you phone up. Because basic security is just too much effort.

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Re: Password huh...

That's a bit like BT's pisspoor excuse for a security announcement about the hack of btinternet.com.

We have a very old company email addy on there, that's still used. When it's not drowning in spam from other btinternet addresses. They forced a password reset. Didn't email us to say they were doing it, just invalidated the password on their pop server, and waited for us to guess.

Nothing on the service status on bt.com either. That service is always up, they only occasionally post a problem when it covers one exchange and after it's solved.

Great. I reset the password. But remember something I'd seen on El Reg. It was of course the bloody password reset database that had been hacked.

Surprise! Surprise! We had to reset the password the next day. Again no error message, or warning email / letter. This time I changed the security details.

At least this vindicates my policy of always lying on security questions! This email was set up ten years before I joined the company.

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Re: Website policy stupidity

Verified by VISA is truly craptastic.

Although, to be fair to it, there is one mildly useful security feature. It shows me a password, that supposedly only VISA know. So I know that the vendor have connected to VISA's servers. However, given the piss-poorety of the design of that, I'm sure that's probably printed in large flashing letters on top of their building, along with my credit card number and d.o.b. whenever I use the 'serivce'.

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FAIL

That's a nice mobile phone scam you've got there

I've not heard of that mobile scam before. I wonder how they allow their tills to ship out phones on credit like that? It's just asking for trouble.

Reminds me of my temping days in the mobile industry.

I was working for an insurance company, doing mobilie insurance at £5-15 a month, for a chain of shops. Bronze, silver and gold. I'd bene there a mere week, when they sacked the person who processed credit card transactions. So I got that job. As a temp. With private access to the credit card terminal and about 10,000 files with people's card numbers and addresses on. Nothing I did was ever checked. Plus tens of thousands of other files with the direct debits and all the banking info.

After two weeks I noticed that they'd fucked up, and were only renewing the Direct debit after a year on Gold subscriptions. Even though the contracts were for at least 2 years. They rewarded me for this act of genius on my £6 an hour temp heaven by saying thanks, and sacking me 2 weeks later. I think at that time there payment processing team entirely staffed by temps was down from 6 to 2. So I dread to think what state it was in. We saw our manager about twice a day.

However, we were so well run that we had the trust of the banks. We were allowed to process Direct Debits without presenting any evidence to the bank. We maintained our signed copy of the Direct Debit mandate, the bank never checked them. And obviously we had nothing to check the signature against, even though it was often in a different coloured pen (for some reason). I used to get a call from the banks' call centres every couple of hours, with a customer querying a payment on their other line. Sometimes just because we weren't called the same as the mobile company, but mostly because the salesman had filled out the insurance agreement after the customer had left, to meet his bonus targets.

Then I got one of the funniest documents I've seen in my working career. Internal audit had audited one of the stores. And posted it to the separate company who ran their insurance, rather than their own head office. Top work there chaps! The shop hadn't counted their Pay&Go top up cards (back when they were scratch card things in cellophane). Or done a stock take of any kind. In over 2 years. Apparently the staff would take a handful of them whenever they went down the pub, and sell them cheap for beer money. Probably a few handsets as well.

There were several signed, but un-processed, customer direct debit mandates for contracts and insurance. Some from months ago. With all the good details on. Some were on the side by the till, in the actual shop, on open display. Others were in the kitchen and break room. Some had made it as far as the office. The kitchen hadn't been cleaned in ages. There was rotting food in the fridge and on the work surfaces.

The report conclusion: Above average. 75%!

After being dumped, at 4 o'clock on a Friday afternoon, thanks for helping the temp get a post for next week old chaps, I think I only did one more temp job before getting something permanent, and none since. So I have just over a month of experience in the mobile phone industry (from the late 90s), and it doesn't seem that much has changed.

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US skywatchers get Earth's first peek at new meteor shower

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Re: Vanitas vanitatum omnia vanitas

Sorry, non left. I used my last piece of fairy cake to annoy my wife.

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China to become world's No 1 economy. And we still can't see why

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Re: "It can't happen to me!"

Mike Smith,

True. But of course, everything goes in cycles. Sony roundly kicked the arse of many a Western company. To become consumer electronics top-banana. The cash rolled in, their designs were great, they lead in technology, reliability and quality. Now they appear to be a sad basket case. Though I'm sure a turn-around is possible.

Or to take another great example, the much praised German Mittelstand. That great cohort of globally competitive, family owned / family run, long-term financed engineering companies. They're still powering away, pushing the German economy to ever higher export surpluses. This being the way Britain used to do things, and the way we're urged to go back to.

But, will it continue? We work for one of the well known ones. 100 years of family owned engineering excellence. And they've become smug, arrogant and inflexible. Germany has no minimum wage, and since the Hartz IV labour reforms last decade, has quite a lot of people on incredibly low wages subsidised by government payments. Which is not a sustainable way to run a company. The families are several generations in now, and some are falling out (as British counterparts did 40 and 50 years ago), or just counting their money and employing external managers - so salaries are rising. Maybe they'll sort it out, or maybe they'll go through a cycle of things not being so great for a bit. Wealth inequality in Germany has been rising faster than most of Europe, their banking system is probably in a dodgier state than ours, and has similar political interference problems to the Spanish - and like China the Germans export too much, and are having to take payment in debt, from customers who can't all afford to pay. Look up Target 2 and the ECB - which is basically money printing to ease the critical imbalances in the Eurozone.

In summary, things change.

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Re: They aren't all like Huawei

Andrew,

No, but there are plenty of basket case state owned or state controlled companies. That are as much cash cows for the Communist Party bosses, as they are companies. However they get to borrow immense amounts of cash from local banks backed and controlled by local government. Which are also controlled by the Party.

That model of local banks with political and social leaders on the boards providing long-term cash worked great for Germany, but horribly for Spain. And there's quite a lot of evidence that it's not been working for Germany for a while either, and that the Landesbanks bought into the madness last decade rather too much.

It's a mixed bag. The economic figures from China are almost certainly not reliable and there's uncertain rule of law. There are some amazing companies, some good companies and some basket cases. And if some of the stories are to be believed vast amounts of thefts from government coffers.

One of the things that's allowed China to do so well, is artificially holding down their exchange rate in order to subsidise their exports. This has had many unfortunate effects: Firstly it helped to create the global financial imbalances that caused the last enormous crash. Secondly it meant China didn't get paid, they got credit. Those $4 trillion in reserves - so if the West inflates away some of its government debt, we're basically taking that money back. Thridly it lead to Chinese workers not making as much profits from their own industrial success. That's meant the Chinese economy is too unbalanced and reliant on exports. The mirror image of what the US and UK are accused of. And both are true. Both are also un-sustainable. Thus China can't rebalance its economy to internal demand without hideous inflation. Thus fourthly it's been forced to keep the growth going by massive over-investment into capital. This has meant it's exporting deflation to Japan and the West, and again destabilising the economies of its own major trading partners. But it also means that capital is being hideously mis-allocated (and thus wasted). And builds up a huge wodge of un-payable internal debt. Chinese banks must hold 20% capital reserves, and even this may not be enough to cover hidden losses. And that's not to mention the capital that's gone intot he huge (un-regulated) shadow banking system.

Basically there's much to admire in what China has done. But also much to worry about. And I'd like to see a bit more realism about how good the UK economy actually is too. It has many weaknesses, but also many strengths. And it's childish to dismiss those strengths in pursuit of some self-loathing praise of every other economic model.

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Boffin fights fire with EXPLOSIVES instead of water

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Re: "eucalyptus trees"

Easy solution. Don't know why nobody else has thought of it. But seeing as it's for humanity (even Aussies count), I suppose I'll donate the idea for free.

40m high eucalyptus canopies are your problem. Hard to separate the fire from the oils for long enough. So what we need is another solution:

40m high, mutant, fireproof koalas. Genetic engineering to the rescue! Or just drop some nukes on a koala sanctuary, and wait for Koalazilla.

They simply eat the leaves. Problem solved. Although we may have to train them not to burp near the flame front.

Glad to be of service...

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Creepy Facebook urges users to pester friends about their SEX LIVES

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Re: Ha!

As you say, targeting of advertising is still really awful. I do have a FB profile, on an unused email address, with very little data, but linked to my real family and a few friends who're miles away and I no longer see much of.

With that info Facebook manage to serve me completely useless ads. It's mostly dodgy looking dating sites, even more dodgy looking chances to score 'free' iPads and diet stuff. There's barely a non-obvious-scam advert in the lot. Seeing that, if I were a legitimate advertiser, I'd run a mile from Facebook - as it's scam by association. Maybe they do better with the people who're filling them up with data. I'll have to look at the ads on some friends' accounts and see.

Google's targeted ads are no better. I suppose they don't care when they list ads on a search. As they're already getting paid. But many times you're searching for something specific - and yet some intermediary is paying for the top billing in order to place themselves between you and the thing you're actually searching for to get a commission. It's really hard to find a specific hotel you know now, as they get knocked further down the ranking by the crappy booking sites.

I think they took away the ads in gmail a while ago. But they were always crap when they had them. They seemed to pick a random word in the email, and stick something based on that.

Amazon deluged me with emails. It got so silly that I turned their email marketing off, when I once got 2 or 3 in a day. I'm happy to give companies I buy from a chance to send me one a week. I did click on the odd Amazon one, but mostly they seemed to advertise whatever the promotion was on their front page. They have virtually my whole CD buying history for 5 years, and about 70% of my book buying, plus the odd tech shiny - so it's amazing how rubbish they are.

Even Sainsbury's suck at it. I've got a Nectar card, and do most of my shopping there. Most of their emails are general offers, like 20% of homeware this weekend. Well that's OK. Not targetted though. When they do offer specific products, it's always staples like fruit juice and butter - which I already buy! And they know this, as they have my whole purchase history. So they also know that I sometimes like a cake. But not every shop. So why not offers on those - or even just reminders, so I think of them before I start to shop?

My conclusion is that this is just too hard. It would need an individual person to look at what I buy - and then extrapolate what I might like at the moment. And that's obviously ludicrously impractical. Maybe some magic with AI will solve the problem, but so far the application of lots of computer doesn't seem to be helping.

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Are you senior enough to sit around a table with The Register?

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Go to the back of the queue. My medal's bigger than yours! And if there's any free drinking and feasting to do, then I plan to be first in line.

Admittedly I run the IT for a 5 employee company, and we outsource it on grounds of my incomptence. But that's no reason not to dwell on the pearls of wisdom that fall from my lips, along with the spilled lager and bacon-crumbs.

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JJ Abrams and Star Wars: I've got a bad feeling about this

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Re: Kahhhnnnttt Cut It

I liked his first Star Trek too. I thought it was lots of fun, had lots of shiny special effects and lots of good gags. Admittedly it also had many flaws, but they were far outweighed by the good bits.

I thought his second one was weak. Although probably better than 90% of the original Star Trek films. So I guess I should take a back seat in the discussion. I didn't think the original Star Trek or the Next Generation of spin-offs was all that good to start with.

I've not seen much of his other stuff. I liked the first 'Almost Human', but haven't got round to watching any other episodes yet. So no idea if it deserved to get cancelled.

The temptation is to go and see stuff in hope. After the Phantom Morass, I now feel slightly guilty for paying to see the other two. As it just encourages crap-sequel-itis. As Mark Kermode says, if you pay to go and see this rubbish, then it's your fault it gets made.

But then it's hard to know if it'll be crap at all. I actually quite enjoyed the second prequel at the cinema. It was way too long, and had some horrifically crap dialogue, but there were two huge set-piece fights that made it fun to watch once. Whereas Phantom Menace and the 3rd one were rubbish. Equally Jackson's Lord of the Rings films were way too long, baggy and pleased with their special effects stuff. Also the dialogue they wrote themselves was far worse than the Tolkein original, when they bothered to re-use it. And yet I chose to watch The Hobbit. The first one was OK, but the second one was truly crap. And now I'm left having seen two thirds, wanting to complete the set, but not wanting to give the bastards the money, after they made me sit through so many hours of crap. Bollocks did that need to be a trilogy of 3 hour films!

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Re: Amongst the worst...

What could be worse? Hmm... That gives me an idea for the plot:

Sick of being marginalised, ignored and despised - but equally disgusted with democracy and the Jedi, for failing to save the Republic - he turns to the Dark Side. In training during the period of the Rebellion, when Vader and the Emperor were in power, he missed most of the defeat. But he emerges now, to revitalise the Sith, and provie a counterbalance to the new government, who have become arrogant and corrupt - as so many revolutions do. Who is this?

Cower in fear before: Darth Jar-Jar!

Possibly with his new army of Ewok storm troopers, for extra comedy value.

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BEAM ME UP SCOTTY: Boffins to turn PURE LIGHT into MATTER

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Re: Cart before the horse?

If pie in the sky science is so damned good, then how come there isn't currently a pie in the sky? I'm hungry!

Make it a steak and ale please...

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Space Station in CRISIS: Furious Russia threatens to BAN US from ISS

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WTF?

Re: NUH! LAND!

Destroy all Monsters,

That's funny. I thought it was Putin who was smirking and awarding medals to his special forces troops who'd just conquered and annexed Crimea. Or did I imagine that?

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Re: 2020

Loss of trust in the Russian government.

Whose trust? Their citizens apparently love the bare-chesting

The citizens of Russia don't trust their government. That might not mean they can get rid of it, but it does mean they like to keep their money in other countries. Which cripples the Russian economy. It's one of the reasons they keep needing foreign investment to exploit their mineral reserves. And the more of these international joint ventures that get stolen, or the more scary it looks to operate there, the less investment will happen. And the weaker the economy. In the end, be it military, diplomatic, strategic or political affairs - it's the economy stoopid.

According to the Russian Central bank, $60 billion of foreign capital fled the Russian economy in the first 3 months of this year. According to the ECB that's now up to $220 billion (as of last week! No economy can survive that.

Putin became popular because he sorted the economy out. He may be staying popular because he's making Russia look strong. But if the economy collapses, he''ll lose popular support, and have no money for military adventurism.

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