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* Posts by James 100

505 posts • joined 26 Jun 2009

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Indie ISP to Netflix: Give it a rest about 'net neutrality' – and get your checkbook out

James 100
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Meet me halfway

The fair approach is some approximation to "meet me halfway" ... unfortunately, Brett's complaint is that halfway across the US is still a long way, so his ISP can't afford to pay its own half. (Netflix are already paying Level3 or Cogent to provide the link as far as each peering point, then expect the ISP to pay between the peering point and themselves - just like the BBC does in the UK, for that matter.)

With Comcast, the situation had been Netflix --- Level3 --- Comcast, with Netflix paying the first bit; because of the scale involved, it seems it ended up cheaper for Netflix to pay for a direct link cutting Level3 out of the picture. (A 10Gbit pipe from Netflix into Level3's backbone turns out to be quite similar to a 10Gbit pipe from Netflix into Comcast's backbone, after all.)

I don't have much sympathy for Brett's demands for Netflix to pay him. The job of an ISP is to transport traffic between its users and the appropriate peering point*s*; if you cheap out and use only a tiny local peering point, of course you will get lousy results. Peering versus transit is a tradeoff - arguably the core one to running an ISP: connect to a good major peering point like LINX, you can offload a lot of your traffic more cheaply than running it over your transit links. Or, at the two extremes, you can have no peering at all and use transit for everything (the micro-ISP approach, where you are really just reselling bandwidth from a bigger ISP) or you can peer everywhere with everyone and not pay transit fees to anyone (like Level3, Cogent and co do - the mega-ISP approach, where you are running your own vast global network).

Peer with them (yes, that costs *both* parties money: Netflix aren't getting their connection to that peering point for free any more than you are), pay a bigger ISP to do it for you (transit), or explain to your customers that you won't provide enough bandwidth. Just don't ask another ISP's customers to pay for the bandwidth you're selling to your own customers.

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Bring back error correction, say Danish 'net boffins

James 100
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Re: Oh noes, please don't do that

"But do we have to rely on the loss of TCP packets to tell us this at the end-to-end level? Couldn't a router send back to everyone who's swamping it a 'back-off' message from the router? I thought there was already provision for this, but it's rarely, if ever, used?"

There is - called ECN (Explicit Congestion Notification, RFC 3168). When supported, instead of dropping a packet, the router will set a flag in the packet which says "this packet would have been dropped because of congestion" - so TCP implementations supporting ECN know to slow down as if that packet had been lost, but without the need to re-send it.

IMO, there's enough low-level FEC implemented already, and ECN gives these benefits without the need to replace a fundamental building block.

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VMware builds product executables on 50 Mac Minis

James 100
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Re: On-site support is too pricey for VMWare?

Yes, you can buy pricey support contracts where someone guarantees to bring you the new drive ... or drive (or even walk, from some urban offices) to a shop selling replacement parts off the shelf in a fraction of the time, during working hours.

I could walk round to the shop and buy an IDE/SATA drive off the shelf in minutes. Not a penny paid in support contracts, and no courier service could come close to that time for any price. (OK, not at 3am - but then, being a university, we weren't working at 3am anyway, so that's academic: the shop was open all the hours we'd need it.)

Except for the priciest specialist server drives, I suspect you'd find what we did with our desktop fleet: even with drives failing *within* warranty, the cost and hassle of getting warranty replacements outweighed the cost of just buying a new drive ourselves. (We had a load of dodgy Maxtors; it's a few years ago now, but I seem to recall replacements meant shipping the drive over to Ireland at our own expense, then waiting for the replacement to ship - or buying a brand new one on the spot.)

It doesn't surprise me at all that VMWare have found this option works better for them for this kind of workload. I've heard of a few small offices doing something similar, relying on external disks for storage; ISTR one had two mirrored pairs of bootable drives, on two Mac Minis. One did "important" stuff, the other was non-critical - so disk failures were trivial (just buy and plug in a replacement), if the "important" machine died, they'd just swap both disks to the other and reboot. Simple and cost-effective, apparently.

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Nice computers don’t need to go to the toilet, says Barclays

James 100
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The lack of chatter is one reason I prefer self-service checkouts: no need to stand there waiting while the coffin-dodger in front recites their life story then starts haggling over how many goats they'll take in part exchange for a little basket of shopping, just scan, pay and go.

Plus, having accumulated a small bucket of assorted coins (when I get change, I pocket it; when washing trousers, I take the coins out - so they build up) there's almost no limit to how many Morrisons checkouts will accept. For a few weeks, I'd pop in, buy a salad or something and dump a pocketful of random shrapnel into the hopper, and it would quite happily clunk through counting it all. (When the store was quiet, of course, so I neither had to queue nor kept anyone waiting.)

It would be nice if self-scan got you a discount for saving them staff wages - but I'd almost pay extra just to avoid all the stupid questions - like having to beg for carrier bags, instead of having them hanging ready for you.

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Has Europe cut the UK adrift on data protection?

James 100
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Cameron's position

regadpellagru: Cameron was determined not to hold a referendum in the first place, until his hand was forced; even now, he is determined to accept whatever terms the EU may offer rather than support leaving. You should also bear in mind the exports in question are mostly in the opposite direction, *from* the other EU countries *to* the EU, so any barriers erected would actually be more to the UK's benefit than the other way round!

I'm always baffled by this continental perception of Cameron as if he were some sort of extreme Eurosceptic, when in reality he is still firmly on the Europhile side of British public opinon, having fought hard to prevent a referendum earlier this parliament (tearing his own party apart with a 'three line whip' to block it) and now being determined to fight on the EU's side if there is one next parliament.

If you're worried about Cameron, I'd love to see your reaction if we ever get a Eurosceptic government!

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Trying to sell your house? It'd better have KILLER mobile coverage

James 100
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Femtocells - only half the answer

I managed to extract a femtocell from Three last week, free - bizarrely, they refuse to sell them and apparently also refuse to activate second hand ones bought on eBay. However, you can't set them as "open" - what I really want is that any Three handset can transfer calls and texts over it (but not data).

(Better still, if they'd agree "roaming" so we could still a single £100 femtocell in the office for everyone to use, whether they're on Three, Vodafone, O2... I can imagine a lot of pubs/restaurants being happy to do that too, the same way they do with Wifi.)

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Has your IT budget expanded or contracted in the summer heat?

James 100
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Well, FTTC just reached the area our office is in ... and we switched to TalkTalk ADSL because it's cheaper. For an office of 5, relying on VoIP for two of our three outside lines. My desktop there is now one of those old AMD three core things (Phenom?) and an analogue LCD monitor at least ten years old. Shoestring doesn't really cover it ... though at least I'm only in there half a day each week now!

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Microsoft says 'weird things' can happen during Windows Server 2003 migrations

James 100
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Skipping versions?

Going straight from 2003 to 20012R2 is a four-version jump. I've actually been quite impressed how well Microsoft support the upgrade path between versions (there are a few YouTube videos where someone takes a virtual machine, installs DOS and Windows 1, then upgrades through every version up to Windows 7 or whatever was current at the time) - but trying to jump directly, missing out 2008, 2008R2 and 2012 in between sounds risky.

TheVogon: Multiple DCs is rather an unlikely scenario when you only have a single server - indeed, as I recall it was *prohibited* on the small business SKUs originally!

Then again, I had a small company with a 2003-based Small Business Server - which was 32-bit only; the next version, thanks to including Exchange, was 64-bit only, so no direct upgrade path was available. (Conclusion: since we need to migrate to a new platform anyway, and don't have the budget for a new server, let's make that new platform Google Apps. Probably not the upgrade MS wanted us to go for...)

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14 antivirus apps found to have security problems

James 100
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Bad AV

They do have a bad track record. I seem to recall one of the first bits of OS X malware actually targeted one of the first AV engines itself, rather than the platform it was supposed to protect.

Back on Windows, I was developing a system utility a few years ago. On the low level, you can either open files by filename (the usual way), or by file number - except doing the latter would cause a BSOD every time once the file was closed again, which I eventually tracked to a bug in the on-access scanner component of the AV product I was using. I didn't investigate much further at the time, but as I recall it was allocating a buffer *when files were opened by name*, then freeing that buffer when files were closed - whether that buffer had been allocated in the first place or not. There was probably something exploitable in there if I'd looked hard enough.

Then there was the time McAfee decided that Windows itself was malware and needed to be deleted, which made for a "fun" departmental cleanup day...

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WTF is ... Virtual Customer Premises Equipment?

James 100
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Routing in "the cloud"

In this case, "the cloud" is going to have to be "the ISP edge router", which is a bigger stretch of that phrase than I've seen before. Moving DNS, DHCP and VoIP services to remote servers, I can certainly understand - probably half of us have already done that ourselves, with the likes of OpenDNS, hosted Asterisk services etc.

Performing NAT on all the traffic at the ISP level rather than the customer router seems silly at first glance, but once you forget the "cloud" nonsense, it makes a bit more sense in the era of "carrier grade" NAT. Instead of us all NATting our own /24 onto a single IP address, then the ISP NATting that a second time, the ISP could subdivide 10/8 into a /24 for each of 65k customers and have a single level of NAT, avoiding all the usual "double NAT" problems. (Or they could enter the 21st century and finally roll out IPv6...)

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NEW, SINISTER web tracking tech fingerprints your computer by making it draw

James 100
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Re: On porn?

I think there are quite a few adult Twitter accounts out there (I've seen a few) which might post that sort of stuff. Definitely not something I'd want popping up on anything you have family connected to you on, though...

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Verizon points more fingers at Netflix: It's YOUR pals slowing data

James 100
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All agreed what the problem is...

Really, Netflix and Verizon are in complete agreement that the bottleneck is the bit shown in red - the question is, which of them is preventing that link being upgraded to handle more traffic?

Somewhere behind the scenes, there will have been a communication between Verizon and Netflix's transit provider (Level3?) along these lines: "Hey, this gigabit link between this port of ours and that port of yours is getting busy, can we (plug in a second gigabit|replace it with a ten-gigabit one?" (Probably with higher bandwidths and/or more links than that, but the idea is the same.)

It seems Verizon said something like "we'll charge you $x for upgrading that link", and whatever $x was, the other party thought was too much. Verizon are trying to justify that by saying "ah, but there's 3 times as much traffic coming to us as going out, so we won't do it for free like we would if the traffic were 50-50".

Apart from the 3:1 peak-time traffic ratio, though, the diagram adds nothing to the debate: we all knew it was the transit link between Verizon and Netflix's upstream provider that was the bottleneck, and that one or other end of that link was refusing to upgrade - we just don't know the details of why yet.

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'Apple is TERRIFIED of women’s bodies and women’s pleasure' – fresh tech sex storm

James 100
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Re: Feminists are angry...

"To Mr Cook - may you not see a clit ever again."

Well, since he's not into women, that seems unlikely to bother him in the slightest... He wasn't just at the *gay* pride parade to show support for *other* people being gay!

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10Gbps over crumbling COPPER: Boffins cram bits down telco wire

James 100
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Re: not round here

A long run of copper between you and the exchange is actually perfectly normal - indeed, better than some people are stuck with: back before privatisation the GPO was using aluminium for a while.

The key thing, though, is that the copper will go from you to a very close DP (distribution point: in blocks of flats and similar, a little grey box on the wall somewhere), then almost always from that to a PCP (Primary Connection Point, usually a green cabinet on the pavement) and on back to the exchange. BT's "Infinity" connects a piece of fibre at that PCP level, which is much closer to people than the exchange.

Until FTTC, *every* line was copper 'all the way to the exchange', unless you were unlucky enough to have 70s cheapskate aluminium instead! (Or, in a few unlucky cases, you shared that piece of copper with someone else thanks to DACS, a 'pair gain' system.)

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BT slapped down by BSkyB over O2 broadband 'switch off' porkies

James 100
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Performance did drop after Sky usurped and sabotaged the Be/O2 network - a great shame. The static IP address didn't stay the same, or even stick to the one Sky notified me of beforehand! More irritatingly, they've so far failed to hand over VAT receipts (as required by law), though they seem to be willing to comply eventually.

Off to TalkTalk Business later this month (not my choice!) - no idea how that'll go yet. At least I'm only there half a day each week...

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BlackBerry knocks Google's KNOX LOCK PICK for Android

James 100
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Re: Knox sucks, BB is worse

I've used all three, for a mix of personal use and supporting business use. I knew the writing was on the wall when I saw staff being offered "BB on expenses, or buy your own iPhone" - and they were paying the full handset cost themselves rather than use a BB. Later, we got official support for other platforms; I remember the e-mail service manager (a die-hard BB fan IIRC) giving the rest of the computing people an internal presentation on the new architecture, which amounted to "BB email goes through the BES on the left; other devices go through the box on the right. They do the same job, but the one on the left costs us more."

Personally, I hated the keyboard and UI on the BB; clicking up and down through menus felt very much like being thrust back into DOS when a Windows 9x machine went wonky (and this, for an ex-Solaris admin who prefers LaTeX to Word!) There are things that grate on me in Android and iOS too, of course, but I'd take either of them in a heartbeat over a BB.

I haven't seen Knox yet, though (I'm tempted by a Galaxy S5 next, at least on paper): I've heard a few horror stories about it bombarding the user with false alarms, but I hope there's a way to deal with that!

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Sorry, chaps! We didn't mean to steamroller legit No-IP users – Microsoft

James 100
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Alarming

I'm all in favour of taking down spammers and botnets - but when Microsoft can use that as a pretext for seizing a third party's domain name, just because another third party happens to be their customer?! Something's very, very wrong there.

Time someone put a botnet C&C on Azure, to see Microsoft's whole cloud taken offline for a few days on the same basis. After all, they don't get special treatment compared to other service providers ... right?

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Remember the turbo button on PCs? New AWS instance has one for CPU burst

James 100
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Not new

Amazon has had a burstable CPU offering for years now, with their smallest VM size offering. I had one for a while - it was great for some sporadically-used web applications, but as soon as I ran anything intensive for more than a few seconds the performance tanked. (IIRC you could burst up to two cores, but only average about 15% of a core - so after a minute, you were throttled quite brutally.)

Since most systems don't have a consistent load profile, it makes a lot of sense for a lot of users in theory. The new T2 options sound good: from the blog post description, it's much less abrupt throttling than t1.micro, which should make it much more flexible. (On t1.micro, batch jobs running slowly was fine, but a big surge in web usage could also hit the limit; on a t2.micro, it would just eat up some CPU credits instead.)

Looks good, I might give this a try myself soon.

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Microsoft, Google et al form club to push 25/50 Gbps Ethernet

James 100
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25 and 50?

Odd speed points to aim at - I'd have liked to see a cheaper 10G option, then you could have a quad-10G link to give a more cost-effective 40G option as well. That would fit in better with the current speed points (10/40/100) - though I suppose something like "same cost as 10G, but 2.5x faster" isn't a bad offering either.

From what I've read about some of the 100G Ethernet ports, they can be four 25G links bonded together internally: does that make it easier for this group to repurpose existing 25G components into something more cost-effective than 10G ones?

It's a shame Ethernet doesn't seem to be following its old pattern. I remember 10M hubs, with switches being pricey server-room kit; the move to 100M, then to 1G, with each of them becoming affordable enough to wipe out the previous speed point after a few years, so motherboards could come with a 1G port (or two) as standard for a trivial price. Why is 10G still so expensive, a decade after we could buy a gigabit switch for small change?

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Aereo presses pause on 'tiny antenna' TV-streaming service

James 100
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At first glance, it does seem bizarre - free-to-air channels actually pay money to broadcast their signals to people - but then they try to charge third parties extra for doing that for free? The law seems against them though: if US cable companies have to pay a fee to do this, there's really no reason Aereo shouldn't. ('Lots of tiny virtualised aerials carrying the same signal down the same pipe' versus 'single shared aerial' is something I'd expect any judge to chuck out as hair-splitting, as it seems SCOTUS did here.) The fact they were actually converting and processing the signals, not just relaying them, can't have helped their case either.

It's a shame: I'd rather like to see a service like that flourish - but right now, the law doesn't allow it without paying extra.

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Panasonic's seven-inch Windows slab has tough exterior, confused mind

James 100
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The Toughbook hardened laptops seem a great product for that engineer task - I have a feeling that's what the last Openreach guy used to download the excuse of the day from the hive mind. Like you say, just the thing for lugging down manholes, balancing while you re-patch the street cabinet etc.

Personally, I rather like the IP67 feature on the Galaxy S5 (in fact, I bought a waterproof 'Lifeproof' case for my current iPhone). I remember getting worried last December, caught in a heavy Scottish downpour (heavy enough that even under my raincoat my clothes were soaked through) - the phone got a lot wetter than I would like, not to mention the fact I wanted to be able to use it at several points but was too worried about getting it even wetter.

A nice hard-wearing water-resistant tablet would be nice ... but a small Windows one? No thanks. Now, an IP67+ Nexus 7/10?

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Canada to Google: You can't have your borderless cake and eat it too

James 100
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Retaliation time

Since the judge is attempting to censor my search results here in the UK, where he has as much authority as I have over matters in Canada, I hereby order that the court order be shredded and expunged from the Internet globally.

It's a dangerous precedent indeed: I hope the judge gets slapped down hard with a map explaining that his authority extends no further than Canada's borders and that what appears on, say, Google.co.uk for users in the UK is precisely none of his court's business whatsoever.

(I'm alarmed enough at the idea of gagging third parties to obstruct the business of someone claimed to be infringing IP, though I know that's long been the case with DMCA; if the court is unable or unwilling to enforce its ruling on the actual infringer, perhaps that's because the case is in the wrong court in the first place? Go after the infringer, wherever that may be, don't go gagging other people instead because real work is too inconvenient.)

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Microsoft to let customers know where Office 365 is going

James 100
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Confusing mess

It's a pain - having recently been asked about buying some Office seats, I started digging into the options.

One company was selling "3 license packs" of Office 2013. That would do fine, two of those will cover this small business! Except it seems that's actually a single-user 3-PC pack, dishonestly labelled by the seller.

So, we need to buy separate licenses. (There are genuine multi-license packs, but those are for bigger companies it seems.) Pro? Business? Muggle? With or without cherry on top? A dozen different permutations from different companies at different prices - why, when the "product" is essentially a password from Microsoft giving us permission to use their software?

MS would actually be doing us all a huge favour if they simply deleted the whole "reseller" concept for retail software. Stick it all online, guarantee (like some hotels do) the official store has the best prices (easy to do: charge all customers the same per seat, whether reselling or not). It may be different for "corporate" purchases with hand-holding, but when the entire "value added" consists of stuffing a DVD in a Jiffy bag, there is something wrong.

We ended up with two seats of Office 365 (direct from MS) and two copies of Office Home+Business (from somewhere on Amazon), IIRC.

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Ofcom to BT Openreach: From now on, you'd better kill 70% of gremlins within 2 days

James 100
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A few years ago now, my office line was cut off by mistake. (I'd asked for a tariff change, moving from one BT Business package to another, a few days later the line went dead. BT Faults said 'but you requested ... oh. Whoops. That shouldn't have happened. You'll have to order a new phoneline now.')

After weeks of messing around - apparently, reactivating the line somehow required an engineer visit, they thought, and the engineer got sent to the wrong address the first time - I dug around and got hold of someone sufficiently clued-up and connected that he just phoned through an urgent re-patch to the exchange building (fortunately, it's also the local Openreach office, so easy for him to get someone) and the line was live again in minutes.

Then I had a fault on my home FTTC line - which took SIX Openreach visits before another bit of BT eventually tracked it to a faulty backbone linecard. That whole finger-pointing mess was getting ridiculous: at one point, I had a BT Wholesale manager phoning the Openreach guy, then setting up a three-way conference call, just to figure out how to get the paperwork done!

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USB charger is prime suspect in death of Australian woman

James 100
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"OK the headphones were plugged into the laptop, and the laptop was plugged into... what?"

AFAICS it said she was wearing headphones and holding a laptop, but not that the headphones were plugged into the laptop: if they'd been plugged into her phone/MP3 player at the time, that would explain it all. The laptop would probably act as a convenient earth at her lap - current flowing between lap and ears would be a pretty bad arrangement medically.

Having said that, fake/dodgy chargers are not a USB only problem: I've seen some very nasty cheap laptop power supplies which could easily zap someone into an early grave if they're unlucky - and of course they're designed to deliver much more power than USB ones, which probably makes it even riskier for the user when things go wrong.

I've had some minor shocks when using two laptops at once - one Apple, one Dell, both plugged in to bona fide OEM chargers. Same result when touching a phone charging from the Apple USB ports, so I suspect it's just earthing current coming from the Dell - not nice, whatever the case.

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Germany dumps Verizon for Deutsche Telekom over NSA spying

James 100
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Re: Yeah right ....

Note the wording ... cannot COMPEL ... but can ask nicely and pay them to do it?

On an international level there's probably something like the Vodafone arrangement The Reg featured recently: Verizon, AT&T etc getting paid by the US to keep a tap in place on the backbone links. No German law or German company involved there anyway.

So, for traffic staying within Germany ... does it just happen to pass through a US military base/embassy/consulate/other? So, Verizon Germany isn't actually tapping anything itself ... just looking the other way while someone else does it in a back room somewhere. (It's even plausibly deniable: of course that big US base needs a 10G DWDM connection ... and of course you do that by routing the backbone DWDM ring through their comms room, via an ADM that splits out their 10G lambda - whoops, what's that? It happens to be splitting out all the other backbone traffic too? I wonder how that happened...)

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Brit giant Daisy stuffs face with treats, but she ain't piling on ££££££s

James 100
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I've been a customer of constituent bits of Daisy twice in the past: Nildram/Pipex, and MurphX the wholesale LLU ADSL operator (via Vivaciti). They were perfectly good at the time, but I'm not sure about the current state: @Mintyboy's tale of AUP disputes doesn't inspire confidence. Yet another "unlimited" which actually means the limit's secret until you hit it!

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Slippery Google greases up, aims to squirm out of EU privacy grasp

James 100
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Rather absurdly, the pages themselves are allowed to stay unmolested - it's just Google's index of pages which must - potentially - be mutilated to comply with Euro-demands.

I'm not a big fan of Google, but I can't find any room for sympathy with demands to change their index, whether for copyright reasons or "privacy rights": if there is an article on The Reg about Bill Gates molesting sheep, or there's a copy of Windows 8 at example.com/warez/win8.iso, why on earth should Google be compelled to keep quiet about that fact? Taking down the actual page/file, fine - but I object on principle to editing the index to pretend the content isn't there when it is.

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Virgin Media boss AND ex-Murdoch man: BSkyB broadband is 'lousy'

James 100
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Lousy broadband indeed

My office line is with Sky right now (since they bought Be and moved the line over) - it's junk. The line itself is fine, as the preceding years of good service from Be proved, but Sky are hopeless. Hence I have a piece of paper with the MAC for leaving them on it. Why on earth Sky went and bought a perfectly good ISP, just to wreck it and lose the customers, I don't know.

(I really didn't want to leave Be before the switchover, because FTTC became available just weeks later: moving to another ADSL ISP for the intervening weeks would have been a pain.)

That said, Virgin are hardly wonderful ISPs: no static IPs, still no IPv6, and they went along with Cameron/Perry's braindead filter nonsense much too eagerly.

I'll stick with a proper ISP thanks. A shame, a proper ISP using cable connections could actually offer a really good service!

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Google slings SSD persistent disks at huge 'n' hungry servers

James 100
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Re: 90 iops is high?

If it's 30 IOPS per gigabyte, that's something like a 1Tb 30,000 IOPS drive; a quick glance at an 'enterprise' SSD catalogue shows me things like Intel's S3500 and S3700 drives at 800 Gb and 75,000 IOPS, so RAID10 and a bit of overhead would fit pretty closely for that.

Yes, a single 7200rpm drive can match the request rate of a 3Gb slice of that SSD, but your 50 or 100 Gb chunk won't be a dedicated drive of your own: you'll be sharing that capacity with a dozen other virtual machines, so if they all hit the disk too you'd be lucky to get 5 IOPS average.

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Linode busts up Digital Ocean with price-matching speedy server

James 100
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Satisfied customer here

I've had a Linode with them since they came with 64 Mb of RAM as the starting point, and never had any complaints - over the course of a decade, that's pretty impressive. Great performance, reliability and pricing too. Not to mention IPv6 and a neat control panel.

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VMware: Amazon's cloud calculator a load of flatulant FUD

James 100
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Horses for courses

Of course there are some tasks where it's a real choice: bug tracking systems, version control etc - but I suspect for a lot of use cases one or the other has obvious failings. Sensitive internal data might not even be *allowed* out of the building; anything needing high bandwidth (video content, for example) would get painfully expensive on EC2, the extra latency could be a killer for anything interactive.

Conversely, there's licensing. If we needed occasional use of some big expensive package, the per-hour pricing could be a godsend. At my previous place, we had a big hefty Oracle setup for running the monthly payroll, complete with hefty licensing costs: just cranking up an Amazon RDS Oracle instance when needed could have saved a fortune on that workload. (When I left, it was still running in on-site VMWare nodes - which cost a fortune. Of course, any changes to that particular workload were to be approached with extreme caution, getting paid being rather important to us all...)

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Satellite 'net hype ignores realpolitik

James 100
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Re: Politcs

The downlink end seems quite easy, particularly if you can do satellite-satellite links - Iridium manages global coverage with, apparently, two pairs of stations, all in the US.

The tricky bit I suspect is getting approval for the actual user handsets/modems on the ground. The licenses companies like Three and Vodafone pay don't just cover the company's own base stations, but the use of handsets to connect to them - so, using and selling Google Satellite devices in North Korea would require permission from Kim Jong Il's gang. (Or some way to avoid the need for it: being in an embassy, perhaps, or a black-market deal.)

I'd love to see truly global Net coverage with decent, uncensored service - but I think that's still quite a way off. Iridium has global voice coverage, but truly lousy data service (1800 ms latency at about 2.8 kbps!) - easy to improve on that significantly, but even now, Iridium isn't truly global: it's barred in North Korea, northern Sri Lanka - and, for some strange reason, Poland.

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Virtual Africa is the logical target for IP address colonists

James 100
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Re: Regretable? Come on, isn't this just imperialism

The whole reason for all those IP addresses being spare in Africa and South America is a combination of (a) a more equitable distribution of address space than demand would justify, and (b) a lack of demand for such infrastructure in those places. Putting infrastructure there, where it isn't needed, instead of in places where it is actually needed, would be absurd. If you were right that IPv4 allocation was somehow biased *against* these places, why are they the ones left with so much more than they need when others are running out?!

I have rather less sympathy for MS here when they still haven't enabled IPv6 on Azure, though. Comcast - the biggest cable ISP on earth IIRC - has finally enabled it for their customers, a few of the more forward-looking hosting companies are even offering IPv6-only hosting now (at a slightly lower price than dual stack, since it avoids consuming scarce IPv4 space).

I don't think you can say IPv6 is "rejected" - it's just there's still a lot of foot-dragging and excuse-making. I know some of the dimmer ISPs are trying to push CGNAT now, but I expect and hope that won't get them very far: they will need to bite the bullet and join their brighter rivals in offering dual-stack services sooner or later.

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UK govt 'tearing up road laws' for Google's self-driving cars: THE TRUTH

James 100
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"Human operators aren't there to make the train go, they're their to make it stop and coordinate the activities of first responders in the event of an accident."

In a major accident, they're probably impersonating a large deposit of strawberry jam already. That's why they're all clearly labelled with Hazchem markings or similar. For example, petrol's '3YE' tells any firefighters responding that they must use foam or dry extinguisher, it's an explosive/violently combustible chemical, use breathing apparatus and evacuate the area. No need to interrogate squished meatbags.

(I remember being quite disturbed after a Virgin train derailed in the UK, then Richard Branson popped up on TV talking about how the driver "tried to steer the train to safety". If that's his level of railway knowledge, no wonder they lost the franchise...)

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Ofcom's campaign against termination rates continues

James 100
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Re: Solving telemarketers

We need two further steps. 1, prohibit use of CLID-suppression by non-residential lines (or better, have a per-use charge for it: probably 10p or so would be enough to stop abuse by telemarketers without impacting home users). 2. Enforce the existing requirement for networks to allow subscribers to block anonymous calls, and require it to be a non-charged option (better still, make it a free yes/no choice on new lines: "Would you like to accept anonymous incoming calls (Y/N)?" Enough people say 'no' to that, end of telemarketers.

I'd like to see a short code, like the 7726 you can forward SMS spam to: dial 17726 after a spam call and the caller gets flagged as a spammer by the telco, using the network-level identity (whether they block/hide/fake CLID or not). Anyone reported too often gets investigated and slapped with 6+ figure fines - or in the case of foreign operators, blocked from calling the UK.

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Telstra 'issue' hid ADSL availability from rival carriers

James 100
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It seems a bit far-fetched that fixing this "mistake" will somehow take another six months, too - were the Retail and Wholesale bits using different line test data, or different criteria? If it's a different database - just stop doing that and have everyone use the one Retail have. Criteria? Clearly the wholesale ones were wrong - so correct them: it should take six minutes, with a bit of testing, not six months! Indeed, why aren't the Retail bits supposed to order through exactly the same Wholesale systems as other ISPs?

I thought BT were bad - my FTTC install came with the wrong paperwork, because BT Wholesale had "accidentally" missed out a section, so Openreach had to re-book the appointment; later, a fault got me helpful suggestions from the Openreach tech like "you'd be better with BT for broadband"... All very much not supposed to happen, of course.

Personally, I think it might be better if both incumbents were barred from providing retail ISP services directly: make them wholesale-only, giving a genuinely level playing field. Is it actually necessary for them to have the option of selling directly to consumers, given the problems it's causing?

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Apple vows to squash iMessage SMS-KILLER

James 100
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Been there, done that

I had this for a while (switched from iThing to a Nexus for a while, then discovered half my incoming messages were getting delivered to my iPad instead). Quite irritating really.

Then I found MightyText on Android, which was very nice (get your SMSs relayed to their server for web access, send replies through the web site which your phone relays out again) - nice, but of course not available for iOS, so I lost that when moving back. (Until later this year, when I move to a mobile network which routes all the SMS traffic through my own server, which could be nice...)

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Apple haggles with ISPs for fast lanes to its own websites – industry guru

James 100
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Re: How long till bandwidth maximum?

For the most part, a faster pipe just means a download is a bigger and shorter spike.

I started out on dialup. 20-odd megabytes per hour on a good 56k line. Want a Linux ISO? That'll be a day and a half (once I finally had flat-rate dialup). Forget streaming anything: even basic-rate MP3 audio took three times as long to download as to play.

Then a half-megabit cable modem. That Linux ISO would be three hours, or I could have streamed music or even low-quality video if I'd wanted - or I could download a CD worth of MP3s in about 20 minutes, which actually made mp3.com useful for me.

Now we're into tens of megabits - I can stream video without it screwing up other stuff or vice versa. Most of the time, though, I'm limited by the far end or bottlenecks in between - even for Akamai downloads - and for the first time, that limit doesn't really matter to me. Do I really care whether that hefty software update takes 10 minutes or 5 to download? Not much - it takes longer than that to install anyway! Even on that 1.5 Tbyte download (restoring from online backup after my home server filesystem went wonky), I just leave it running for a while; it'll get done soon enough, and I can quite happily stream HD video while it's running.

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BRITS: Wanna know how late your train is? Now you can slurp straight from the source for free

James 100
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Re: What would be really nice

It doesn't *need* one - it's just demanded by the unions on most lines. (They whined quite loudly up here in Scotland a year or so ago at the modest proposal to have the driver press the door open/close button, pretending there were safety implications - job safety, of course, since the other excuse for employing "guards" is already rendered obsolete by the existence of ticket barriers on platforms.) Scrap them entirely, invest the savings in better/bigger trains!

I switched a month ago to commuting by bus on Fridays. It takes twice as long and costs about an extra pound each time, but I get a seat. The train invariably has 30+ passengers standing in each of the three carriage, making for a very uncomfortable standing journey every time - and of course reserving a seat is completely pointless, you'd never be able to reach a seat anyway! Book a bus ticket, you actually get a seat. Pretty much what train travel *should* be - and no "guard", either, yet somehow they manage to open and close the doors without anyone catching fire in the process.

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Rival BT sics ad watchdog on EE: ASA growls at 'most reliable broadband' claim

James 100
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"BT also berated EE for being a bit creative with metrics on latency, jitter and packet loss"

That, from the same BT whose managers stated to an ISP recently that packet loss is not considered a fault (and is something they neither monitor nor test for)?

http://www.ispreview.co.uk/index.php/2014/02/aaisp-bt-lock-horns-3-percent-fttc-broadband-packet-loss.html

(Of course, the fault in question was eventually tracked to a faulty 10GbE port on a BT backbone router and fixed ... though without ever admitting that the problem they had fixed qualified as a fault.)

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We'd switch mobile networks, but we can't be bothered – survey

James 100
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Best of all networks

It's possible to get a SIM which will roam across multiple UK networks - so if you go out of Three's coverage, your phone just jumps over to Vodafone or whatever. Andrews & Arnold are planning to offer that 'soon' (their current voice SIMs are O2-only, with data SIMs being Three-only) - I'm told there are a few niche providers offering it already, but haven't been able to find any more details or prices, let alone how to order one. (Up here in Scotland, I'm in a blackspot often enough for this to be irritating: one end of my office building has a good 4G signal on Three, the other end has no signal at all - and at home, I only get a reliable signal upstairs. I occasionally check which other networks have a signal around; there's usually an O2 one in most gaps, but then O2 have gaps where Three doesn't...)

I remember being a little surprised Apple didn't go the MVNO route when they launched the iPhone - considering how much more control they had over the whole system than anyone before, including using special iPhone-specific SIMs in some cases (for the different voicemail handling etc) and getting O2 to enable EDGE specially for them. Take over the whole billing arrangement as well as the handset management, nice easy roaming (just lump any visiting Apple customers from other countries in with domestic ones for better wholesale rates from the local Apple MNO partner) - why didn't they?

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BSkyB broadband growth chopped in HALF

James 100
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Residential-only, for business customers...

What baffled me was their determination to shift my "Be Pro" *office* line over to their *residential-use-only* Sky packages. I phoned, and was told "oh, just ignore that bit, we don't mind business use really". Thanks, that's reassuring... I'd asked previously what the Sky takeover meant for business customers, but never had a sane reply from anyone there.

The switchover did actually go smoothly (Be service dropped, I reset the router, everything came back up fine) - except it dropped again later that day, and got a different IP address. Not the static one Sky had assigned, not the static one we'd had from Be, but some other address entirely. In our case, it's not a huge issue (no servers there, it's really only static because that was included in the Be service), but irritating. No reverse-DNS control, either, which is also a pain.

We'll probably jump ship to IDnet in a few weeks, since FTTC reaches this exchange next month. (I was tempted by Zen, but still no IPv6, in 2014?!) A&A would be ideal, but Home::1 is the only tariff the company would go for, and of course isn't available for offices.

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Oracle vs Google redux: Appeals court says APIs CAN TOO be copyrighted

James 100
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Protecting interface monopolies = bad

The whole idea of granting monopolies over interfaces is alarming to me - not new, but still alarming, like one of the printer manufacturers trying to use the DMCA to stop rival ink vendors selling cartridges which would fit their printers.

IMO, if you build sockets you should NOT have the right to stop or extort others making plugs that fit those sockets, or rival sockets that take the same plug. With actual physical plugs and sockets there are exceptions for "functional" designs - which seems to be why Apple go adding proprietary authentication chips to their cables to make them harder to copy, rather than just throw lawyers at anyone making Lightning-compatible plugs.

High time the law was changed to fix that nonsense, the same way we have a protected right to use non-dealer mechanics to maintain or repair our cars. Require interface specifications to be published, for unrestricted use, in roughly the same way MS had to publish some of their protocol details (Activesync, SMB etc) after one of the court battles over their monopoly (though they did leave some strings attached, which shouldn't have been allowed IMO).

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Insight warns Google embracers of hidden costs in Apps for Biz

James 100
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Vendor lockin coming back to bite

He also seems to evade the point about his customers suffering from being shackled to Microsoft: "many customers' tech estates - as UK.gov is finding out - are "intertwined" with Microsoft" - this isn't a hidden cost of Google Apps, it's a hidden cost of having implemented Microsoft products in the past!

Interesting, though, that it seems to be only larger customers who struggle to cast off those expensive shackles - and not a good omen for MS.

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Technology is murdering customer service - legally

James 100
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Re: BT

I had a tough few weeks earlier this year with a broadband fault - it turned out there were two faulty router ports on BT's backbone, but getting to that point required SIX engineer visits to my home and a long conference call between managers from two rival BT divisions to argue over who was going to have to ask the third division to fix the problem for them.

A lot of this was because of automated fault-mishandling flowcharts: BT Wholesale automatically pass all faults over to Openreach to send an engineer out to work on the line - without investigating whether the problem is actually line-related rather than backhaul. Eventually, it got escalated to actual human beings (BT Wholesale's "High Level Escalations"), who knew enough to pass the fault over to BT TSOps (formerly BT Operate), who found and fixed the first router fault, then continue investigating until finding the second fault and passing that to the Ops team at Adastral Park.

The whole saga was a fine example of this article's subject, though: BT Wholesale tried to close the fault ticket without doing any investigation a total of NINE times (*all* new faults are auto-closed twice within minutes of reporting, on the off-chance the fault isn't a real one), then force-closed it once (so it had to be re-opened as a 'new' fault). Even then, there was a lot of luck involved (maintenance meant my traffic was re-routed to another backbone segment for a few hours, which made the problem disappear during the diversion) - which gave enough information for the ISP to get BT investigating the right bits of network at last.

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USA opposes 'Schengen cloud' Eurocentric routing plan

James 100
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"Why would Uncle NSA be so pissed about Euro data not crossing over to any place they can tap it?"

It seems "any place they can tap it" actually includes quite a lot of the EU anyway, between their UK base with GCHQ and various more covert efforts on mainland Europe.

Of course, *you* can put *your* mail server anywhere you like - but when you're communicating with a typical person with a Hotmail/Gmail/Yahoo address, *those* servers are in the US anyway (a quick trace route from the UK shows Hotmail mail going through routers in NYC and on to somewhere in California). Good luck getting the public to give up all their email addresses.

I have my own domain, so control everything about the inbound email routing. Where did I put it? New York, because I like the email service an Australian company - Fastmail, previously owned by Opera in Norway - offer. Yes, I could have bought hosting in Paris or Berlin, so a different set of acronyms got to snoop on it all, but I wouldn't see that as an improvement; given the choice, I'd worry less about the NSA than about their French or German counterparts anyway.

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Judge rules Baidu political censorship was an editorial right

James 100
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A truly moronic lawsuit to file - if the US government had ordered Baidu to filter out, say, articles about Snowden, that would indeed be wrong. The First Amendment restricts the government - not private or indeed foreign entities. If I wanted to build my own search engine which only indexes, say, websites hosted on Linux, or websites which contain the word "meh" in the title, I am free to do so - just as Baidu are free to publish an index of websites which are PRC-approved.

Why did this ever get as far as court?! Google, Bing and co have been filtering and tuning their search results for years now to cull spammers, give better results, comply with DMCA takedowns etc.

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BEHOLD the HOLY GRAIL of TECH: The REVERSIBLE USB plug

James 100
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Re: What about removal protection.

This.

I'm very pleased they're finally going palindromic - "about bloody time too" IMO - but some sort of locking mechanism would be very welcome. Maybe a small hole a padlock could go through? (Our open-access areas are all tied up with nasty kludges involving small padlocks around cables in hopes of stopping keyboards and mice going walkies; smaller plugs would make that impossible!)

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Where the HELL is my ROBOT BUTLER?

James 100
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Re: Enhance life?

In some ways, yes, things are more complex. My TV is more complex to operate than the TV I had 20 years ago - but that's because this one has a hundred times as many channels and DVR functionality built in. "Watch the news" involves a few extra button-presses - I have to switch on and dial in channel 501, or scroll through a menu - but recording the programme I'm watching right now involves one button and zero tapes, compared to all the fiddling involved in using a VCR - and pausing the programme I'm watching to answer the phone wasn't even possible in those days.

Yes, my mobile phone is far more complex than the only one I'd used 20 years ago - but that one had a shoulder strap (it weighed 4.2kg!) and could only make or receive phone calls, nothing more - not even SMS. My smartphone takes an extra button press or two to make a call - but other buttons access email, the web, music, camera - all things that old handset could never attempt.

I doubt we'll see a "robot" in the article's sense any time soon - more because it's not a good way to solve the problem than anything else. I don't need a six foot pseudo-person to operate my current vacuum cleaner: a tiny self-propelled vacuum like a Roomba will do that much more effectively.

For now at least, we have a very long way to go in improving individual pieces of equipment before we need a full-on human replacement. Self-driving cars, a content-aware fridge (probably RFID-based), a smarter washing machine (maybe RFID again, to identify the clothes inside and appropriate cycle) ... once the Roomba can pick up dirty clothes and get them washed, while the fridge can tell me the milk's off and ask if I'd like the car to go and get more, do we need robot arms and legs involved?

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