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* Posts by James 100

540 posts • joined 26 Jun 2009

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BBC Trust candidate defends licence fee, says evaders are CRIMINALS

James 100
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"German TV mostly consists of dumb people shouting at you,"

Well, yes. It's German. What did you expect?

(Mostly tongue-in-cheek, being part German myself - though it does sound very much like most family reunions on that side of the family...)

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2016: Robo-butlers, flying cars, and Google's internet Terminators hunting SHA-1 SSL certs

James 100
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Re: Like nuclear power...

In a mirror universe where Bill Gates has a beard and figured out how to write working search engines, Bing has 90% of the search engine market - and to get in the first five pages for any search term, you must be hosted on IIS.

I like the idea of HTTPS rather than HTTP, and better crypto whenever possible, but is the strength of encryption or hash size really valid as an indicator of page quality? When I'm searching for, say, a user manual for that old VoIP adapter I just bought on eBay, is the fact one site uses a fancy new SSL certificate actually relevant to my search?

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Who us, SHARE infrastructure? Networks reject gov proposal

James 100
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Re: Infrastructure as a public service

An odd definition of "public" company there, though it is technically what the P in "BT Group plc" (Openreach's parent company) stands for. Not to mention, relations are often quite acrimonious between BT and the rival telcos which have to buy Openreach's services to compete with them - there's an awful lot of regulation from Ofcom involved, and frequent disputes and complaints about unfair treatment.

While the networks may have "rejected" the idea, they're already half way to implemented it, between O2 and Vodafone's "Cornerstone" and EE-Three's closer integration in MBNL: we're basically down to two sets of base stations already, from the five we had a few years before. Merge MBNL and Cornerstone, you've arrived at that single network destination anyway!

Not to mention we already *have* a roaming option for those who really want it (my ISP, Andrews & Arnold, offers SIMs which can roam across every UK network except Three).

So, in summary, the government "wants" companies to offer a service which they already provide to those who want it - and nobody's explained this to them yet?

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APNIC receives recovered /12 from IANA

James 100
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One /12...

That would be one-sixteenth of a /8, the size of block each RIR was routinely handed until recently (some big ISPs, companies and even individual universities already holding more than one of those). Good illustration just how tight the shortage is getting ...

... so ISPs will finally be activating IPv6 and understanding that IPv4 is closed for new business, right? Right? Some already do of course - but just an ominous silence from Virgin, Zen and others. (Vague mumblings about it from BT, and some tickets relating to enabling support for it within their own network, but nothing promising publicly.)

Anything to do with the convenient "flaw" that CGNAT happens to kneecap servers and P2P traffic?

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Epiphany hits Raspberry Pi founders, users

James 100
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Re: @werdsmith

I was helping teach a 1st year embedded/robotics course last semester - some of the students were doing the development work on a Pi, plus monitor and keyboard. Desktop, file system, text editor - and they were running a little HTTP server to serve up the images from the camera they'd attached.

Could you do that over a serial port? No chance. Could they have put something together to stream the pictures and commands over a serial link? Yes - but it would actually have been much more work for them to do that, rather than talking HTTP over Wifi from Python. End result, instead of having built a little web page where they could move the camera around the floor, they'd have spent all their time fiddling with serial transport, packing and unpacking images and commands! A tiny little Linux system made a lot more sense.

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Apple reportedly inks deal with American Express for its iPhone payments system

James 100
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"Sooo many places don't take American Express due to their insanely high handling fees."

It's slightly more expensive than MC/Visa, but plenty of places do actually accept it: all the supermarkets, petrol stations, BT, railway stations - generally, it's only small businesses that don't. The higher fees do buy great customer service, a good deal for customers (which is why I use it whenever I can: my card gives up to 1.25% of spending back as a straight account credit; my Amazon MasterCard gives me 1% of spending back as Amazon credit, making it my second choice). They also do more to promote their client businesses: I often get promotional credits for making particular purchases, like one-day offers of £5 on local restaurants, posting Tripadvisor reviews, signing up for services like Spotify... I've never had that with any of my MC/Visa cards.

Most absurdly, in a local Indian buffet (which DOES actually take Amex, and was even featured in Amex's small business promotion last year) the waiter told me "we don't take MasterCard, because that's the same as Amex".

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Gamma's not a goner! UK ISP sorts out major outage

James 100
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Re: Not Gamma

Another ISP had downtime this week - their primary BT link failed, then instead of fixing it BT somehow cut the backup link by mistake. On the backbone, they use multiple bonded 10G links (up to 32 of them?) so a lot of those links will be serving multiple ISPs at once, including their own retail arm.

I wonder if someone at BT deleted the wrong thing? Redundant hardware only takes you so far - even with the most resilient system there is, tell the system "route all traffic for address range X to the bitbucket" and everyone at X is stuffed. Like the Royal Bank of Scotland fiasco, when their very reliable and secure mainframe was mistakenly told "delete all transactions" - so it reliably and securely deleted all transactions, leaving a reliable and secure disaster while they figured out how to reverse it.

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Chipzilla gives birth to a TINY comms chip

James 100
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Re: Looks big to me

I suppose there could be noise issues between the chips - take a look inside a phone, you'll see a few chips tend to have little metal cages over them, presumably for that reason. Otherwise, I'd have expected a bit more integration too - maybe one small module handling all the RF stuff, then a bigger one doing everything digital, with a shield between the two.

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EE plonks 4G in UK Prime Minister's backyard

James 100
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"The PM has famously said that he tales his BlackBerry with him wherever he goes, so you do have to feel a little sorry for him. You’ll also note that he stops short of saying which network he is on."

He probably doesn't know... (Though I know the MD of AAISP sent him a free multi-network roaming SIM to try recently, so if he uses that he'll be on whichever of O2, EE and Vodafone covers the area he's in at the time.)

Pretty sad he thinks one of the four networks offering 4G rather than 3G is enough to make that place (and the other 292!) "one of the best" anything, though - particularly with such poor fixed broadband service. Of course, we know he's got a full-blown leased line at home, so it's academic to him!

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Samsung Gear S: Quick, LAUNCH IT – before Apple straps on iWatch

James 100
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From the "3G call" and "Bluetooth call", I'm guessing it can be used to make phone calls using a Bluetooth headset. Combine that with the ability to read email, I might actually find this a useful alternative to carrying a smartphone everywhere ... I could carry a tablet instead, for example.

A two day battery life for a wrist-mounted smartphone doesn't seem so bad: just charge it each night, like most of us do with regular smartphones now.

I'll keep an eye on this, anyway: it could well be good for most of the things I use my phone for now, with a tablet better suited for the rest anyway. Yes, writing an email on it would be silly - but really, so's trying to write one on a phone, IMO, the keyboard really isn't big enough in either case.

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Office space outfit Regus suffers 'UK-wide' network outage

James 100
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Re: Backup is not necessarily desirable...

I'd have thought dropping back to FTTC (as little as £20 for a "business" service on top of a BT line) would be feasible - cheap, and probably worth it for the difference between "we're totally offline! OMGWTFBBQ!" and "God it's really slow today". Then again, if the primary link has 3-nines (i.e. under 9 hours a year down), I suppose it's hard to justify spending anything to eliminate those last few hours offline...

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Finally, a practical use for 3D printing: Helping surgeons rehearse

James 100
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Useful stuff

My old university department 3D printed some skull portions for surgical training 2-3 years ago. For training purposes, of course, the precision is much less demanding. I remember a colleague talking about this being used surgically, though: if you need a titanium plate to cover a skull injury, there used to be multiple steps of trial and error *while in the operating theatre* to get the plate properly fitted! You'd get the patient anaesthetised, open up the skin, test the plate's position, mark where it doesn't quite fit, go and hammer it a bit, then try again - horrendously expensive, since you're tying up theatre, an anaesthetist and surgeon as well as the supporting nurses etc, but also more risky: the longer you're kept under, the bigger a problem it is. Now, they can make, test and adjust the plate beforehand on a high-precision plastic model: much less work to do once in theatre, so the patient's back in recovery and the next patient is being operated on much sooner.

It's been a while, so the numbers are a bit hazy, but I seem to remember that a thousand quid per skull was something they'd jump at - the theatre and staff time saved dwarf the cost of this process. Of course, with better software and printers presumably they'll be able to do it much more cheaply in future.

Alternatively, in some cases the plate itself could be directly 3D-printed, not just used to fit a conventionally-made plate - done twice last year with plastic skull replacements: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/03/26/3d-printed-skull-transplant-utrecht-_n_5036665.html

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BT customers face broadband and landline price hikes

James 100
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Re: "refuse to install government censorship on their lines"

"AAISP use BT and Talktalk wholesale, so the existing taps on the BT and Talktalk DSL networks are sufficient."

Not for censorship purposes, anyway: yes, in theory BT and TalkTalk Wholesale could *monitor* the traffic between A&A and their customers, logging the whole PPPoE traffic stream - but the traffic definitely does not go through any of the filtering nonsense they inflict on their retail victims. Without some form of DPI, they don't even see what IP addresses each end is using (or indeed what protocol: you can use IPv6 inside the PPPoE stream; if you really want, you can even go pure IPv6 and let A&A translate that back to IPv4 on their end, though I've never tried that route).

RevK - the MD of A&A - has also noted in the past that they have the option of encrypting that PPPoE traffic, if TT or BT were to start tampering with or snooping on that traffic. Tampering (censorship) would very quickly be detected; they could theoretically be snooping on the backbone traffic, but why bother when they have put so much effort into snooping and filtering at the far end instead?

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Brit Sci-Fi author Alastair Reynolds says MS Word 'drives me to distraction'

James 100
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Not WYSIWYG

Whatever you use for a novel, it really won't be WYSIWYG or even close to it!

Leaving aside the fact a novel now will be ending up in multiple different formats anyway (hardback, paperback, maybe a large print edition, each with different type and paper sizes and different margins - then we get into the different e-book options, where it's the user who selects the typeface and size), the author just doesn't control the formatting anyway.

I've occasionally seen journalists at work, filing newspaper stories electronically. Definitely not Word - and not formatted, either, some sort of plain text editor.

On a pro level, trying to display (and edit) formatting while you work on text is just a nuisance: a waste of computer resources and a distraction to the user. It's why the high-end pro stuff like InDesign have features like "story editor" where you can edit just the text, without formatting in the way; it's why I like that and LaTeX.

Word? Save it for the school essays thanks, leave real work for real software.

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Trundle, trundle, FLEEEP: iPhone 6 production grinds to halt

James 100
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Thinner, battery life

I'd certainly be more attracted by a thicker iPhone with double the battery life - I suppose to some extent that demand is met by the "battery case" products, though, which add a second battery and some thickness to the handset. You can always *add* battery and thickness externally, but there's no way any add-on could make it thinner or lighter, so I suppose the ultra-thin route makes a bit more sense.

I hope Samsung's achievement of IP67 for the S5 starts a trend. I have a LifeProof iPhone case at the moment, which is great for the most part but does seem to interfere with the touchscreen sometimes (phantom touches at the screen edge, in particular). A simple padded case for extra drop protection - so nothing to interfere with the screen - sounds like the ideal setup for me right now. (That and dual SIM support, which the S5 "Duos" has natively.)

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Beware of Greeks bearing spammy small omicrons, says Google

James 100
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Re: Use .co.uk to reduce your phishing risk :)

"Barclays and Santander appear to use a .co.uk domain which seems sensible since nominet doesn't support internationalised domain names."

You mean their *official* site is on co.uk - that doesn't stop people falling for phishing from imposters resembling bàrclays.com, barclaycàrd.com etc!

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Govt control? Hah! It's IMPOSSIBLE to have a successful command economy

James 100
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Mobile phone reality

Two ironies strike me there. First, we've effectively consolidated from 5 networks to 2 already, with T-Mobile and Orange forming EE, then EE combining operations with Three to form MBNL and O2 and Vodafone pooled masts under Cornerstone. (Which is one flaw in Cameron's new-found love of roaming: if you're miles from the nearest O2 mast, you'll be exactly the same distance from the nearest Vodafone mast too, so roaming to them would be futile. There might be an EE/Three mast - but a dual-SIM phone and a Three PAYG SIM will get you access to that right now, without any roaming hassles.)

Secondly, it was the government which benefited enormously from the competition, particularly for 3G licences, pocketing many billions from it! Would they have managed to extract that much profit from their own state mobile company, or would it all have been wasted in militant unions and inefficient operations?

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Intel disables hot new TSX tech in early Broadwells and Haswells

James 100
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Re: BIOS update ?

From the sound of it, it's just a BIOS change to switch this feature off at boot time - just like you can switch some other CPU features off through the BIOS. A microcode update which got the feature working properly would be better, of course, but sounds as if Intel can't or won't fix it this way. My guess is that for a feature this performance-critical, the implementation (and hence the flaw) is right in the silicon, too low for microcode to patch.

There was a similar "workaround" for the original FDIV bug as I recall: a little DOS utility which switched the floating point unit of early Pentiums off. In those days, "everyone" was still booting through DOS, and there were enough 486SXs out there that most software could never depend on having floating point hardware, so that was almost workable - except, having coughed up $$$$ for a high-end chip, you were then left with lousy performance on anything maths-heavy!

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Yahoo! will! deploy! end-to-end! email! crypto! by! 2015!

James 100
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Meanwhile, struggling with advanced security concepts ...

... such as "logging on".

Each time I logged in to their god-awful abomination of an IM platform, I was told "some features" (such as...?!) had been "temporarily disabled", and I should log in to the website to fix that. That didn't help, of course. Eventually, I tried creating an app-specific password for IM ... which was rejected each time, but after trying it, I was able to log in with the main account password without getting the stupid warning message.

A shame seeing what once seemed like a nice modern company with useful services being run into the ground.

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Wait, an actual QR code use case? TGI Friday's builds techno-restaurant

James 100
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I like the idea of paying this way (and their provision of power+USB) - and yes, electronic ordering would be a very welcome addition.

Last time I was in a Harvester restaurant, the waitress entered the order on some form of smartphone (looked like an iPod Touch from what I could see, maybe an Android device though). Clever: she could see all the options at a touch (no more coming back later when the kitchen asks which dressing you wanted, or whatever) and no time wasted carrying a paper order back to the kitchen: she could go straight on to clearing another table or taking another order instead. Of course, better still if I could have entered the order myself.

Yes, it does reduce the workload, hence potentially cutting the number of staff employed. That's not a bad think for everyone: how do you think those staff get paid?!

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Americans to be guinea pigs in vast chip-and-PIN security experiment

James 100
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A friend has a local restaurant with a chip&PIN machine which prompts you for a tip first. He's told me an alarmingly large number of people accidentally enter the PIN as a four-digit tip ("Did you really mean to give me a £27.45 tip on that £20 meal, or would your PIN happen to be 2745...?")

The ease of extracting and verifying the PIN is alarming, though: I would hope banks get wise to that and either disable those remote PIN-checkers, or start using different PINs for actual card transactions and those remote banking operations. Yes, criminals could then use actual card terminals to try a transaction - but of course that leaves a much stronger paper trail (they'd need an online terminal to process that transaction, giving the police something to hunt down).

I liked the idea of chip&PIN, replacing signatures which really don't give any security at all, but there are indeed plenty of flaws in the current approach.

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Simian selfie stupidity: Macaque snap sparks Wikipedia copyright row

James 100
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"I'm fairly sure that the EXIF information coded into the photo by the camera would have included at least his name and probably copyright information. That, and the fact that he published the photo online and the world knew all about it would have been a fairly strong indicator that it was his."

If you borrow my camera and take a picture with it, the EXIF data will say the photo belongs to me. The EXIF data will be wrong, because the camera does not know who is operating it or understand copyright law. Ownership of the camera is wholly irrelevant: even if I happen to use a stolen camera, the copyright in any photo I take belongs to me. The legal question here is quite simply: who "took" this photo, the hairy primate who pressed the button, or the (presumably less hairy) primate who adjusted the settings beforehand? The answer to that is difficult. Had the subject of the photo been human, the court would rule robustly that copyright belonged to them (or, if employed, to their employer).

(I have a barrister friend who specialises in copyright and patent law, I wonder what her take is, and how much it would cost?)

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BBC man Linwood 'was unfairly sacked' over £100 MILLION DMI omnifail

James 100
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Re: Never mind the "talent", what do their HR people get paid?

Wow. I'd been wondering how firing the guy in charge of blowing 9 figures up the wall could possibly fail ... presumably BBC HR wondered the same thing, but managed to find a way.

As I opened the article, the headline made me ask "if blowing the price of a small hospital with nothing to show for it isn't enough to get fired, what the ... is?!" - but then, that's what people were wondering after the 'Baby P' firing was ruled unfair too.

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Ain't NAND grand? Samsung unveils next-gen SAS SSD

James 100
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Slower writes

Odd that sequential write performance has dropped so substantially, when everything else including random writes shows a small boost. I'd always thought of sequential writes as being the "easy" bit to do quickly, too - getting much harder when you get lots of small fragmented writes instead.

There seem to be some other oddities in the lineup, though. The SM1625 is listed as coming in sizes up to 800Gb - with much faster random writes but slower random reads than the smaller units of the same model. Slower sequential reads, too (700 instead of 900 Mb/sec) - but sequential writes at 450, right in between the 100Gb unit's 300 and the 200Gb one's 600.

I haven't seen a teardown yet of how many Flash modules, what size and what the channel arrangement is. If the SM1623 had six channels to the SM1625's five, that would explain the random read and write improvement, but why the drop in sequential write? Is it doing more intensive checksumming or readback validation to wring better life out of the smaller MLC cells?

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Hey guys. We've got 1.2 BILLION stolen accounts here. Send us your passwords, 'cos safety

James 100
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Correction ...

"Actually only 10,000 stolen passwords so far ... enter all of yours below, tell all your friends and we'll hit the 1.2bn mark in no time!"

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HTTP-Yes! Google boosts SSL-encrypted sites in search results

James 100
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More cowbell^WSSL

I'd like to see more ubiquitous use of SSL for regular websites, personally. For one thing, it gives cover to more sensitive use of SSL (instead of "this bit of traffic is SSL, so it must be the important stuff"); moreover, it defeats stupidity like Phorm and TalkTalk's recent URL snooping (where any time a user requests something over TalkTalk, TalkTalk fetch themselves a copy 30 seconds later - breaking stuff like WebSocket implementations, as well as being distinctly creepy).

Imagine an Internet where only the sender and receiver know the content of each message: anyone else can only see the size and endpoints. Isn't that worth a bit of CPU overhead at each end?

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Cor blimey: Virgin Media pipes 152Mb fibre to 100,000 East Londoners

James 100
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"Intriguingly a lot of properties that could have a cable service have preferred to stick with copper. One may well wonder why."

In fact everyone on that cable service is also stuck with copper, since that's what the coaxial cable in question is made of!

Having used both, I found FTTC much better in actual use than Virgin's DOCSIS. Both are copper as far as a green street cabinet, then fibre from that point on - but FTTC gives much more consistent throughput, particularly for upload.

Since someone asked earlier, I'm with aaisp.net (Andrews & Arnold), and extremely happy with them. I did have a fault - which we eventually traced to a bad backbone switch port within BT's core network. Finding and fixing that required SIX Openreach visits to do line tests, before BT Wholesale would escalate the matter to BT TSOps and on to Adhara (the backbone management team at Adastral Park). Any other ISP would have given up; A&A didn't bat an eyelid, just kept pushing harder and harder in different bits of BT until the fault was fixed. They don't cut corners, so they aren't cheap - but they will do whatever it takes to get issues fixed. Bandwidth options for Home::1 users are 100, 200 or 300 Gb per month (£10 difference between each), which will be fine for virtually anyone. (If you use over 300 Gb per month on the BT backbone, you'll be costing your ISP an absolute fortune.)

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Chinese 'linkfarms' propel Microsoft to web server crown

James 100
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"Hosting platform of choice for web-spammers!"

Not really an accolade anyone sane would brag about ...

I seem to recall MS were offering incentives to hosting companies to push IIS, too, which might help explain this: if running a link-farm allows you to exploit both Google (by generating spurious web traffic and thus ad hits) and Microsoft (getting you whatever their reward is for hosting X sites on their platform), I'm sure the unscrupulous would jump at the chance.

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Synology and the NAS-ty malware-flingers: What can be learned

James 100
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Re: "It's an expensive ask..." but necessary

"However I think they should separate their products into Home and Business products with more focus on the security, reliability etc on their Business products without all the default apps installed and a more technical set-up."

I disagree there - yes, a home/business split may make sense for other reasons, but why would you weaken the security on either? If anything, I suspect the home market may need better security, since it's less likely to have other defences in place like a VPN for remote access, centralised password storage and expiry...

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Google on Gmail child abuse trawl: We're NOT looking for other crimes

James 100
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Slippery slope - we're already sliding down it

Of course, we've already seen Microsoft doing something very similar with a Hotmail account regarding a leak of trade secrets. We had Google irritating some malware researchers with over-zealous malware scanning of attachments (it's standard to exchange malware samples in encrypted ZIP files with a password of 'infected' - and Gmail started eating those). What will it be next ... terrorism? Copyright?

There's a Google Docs spreadsheet in my account with a few dozen MS product keys. (Legitimate ones, as it happens, issued through MSDN - but that isn't obvious from a look at the list.) Will Google be sending the police round to investigate my "piracy ring"?

For me, the idea of having my account searched automatically for illegal content is distasteful. Not because I have any, or because I'm opposed to hunting for it - which, in fact, has formed part of $DAYJOB lately, working with Police Scotland - but for exactly the same reason I object to the idea of random searches on the street: the police are only supposed to be allowed to search you with a good reason to suspect you, not on the off-chance of finding something.

"Google is legally required to report suspected child abuse, as are all other US companies (Yahoo and Outlook.com included)."

That's concerning - apart from anything else, if true that means Google and co are bound (in the US) by 4th amendment constraints, on the very sensible basis that if the police aren't allowed to search something, it would be far too great a loophole if they were allowed to ask or order someone else to do that search for them.

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Evidence during FOI disputes can be provided in SECRET

James 100
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Re: AC obviously

"If you're a company, you're not subject to FoI requests."

I seem to remember there's some exception to that - if you're providing a public service with public funding. (My company does some government contracting, and there's certainly stuff in the contracts about complying with FOI requests in there: we can't just bin them and say we're a private company so they don't apply.)

As a taxpayer, it makes sense: the idea is we're supposed to be able to find out what's being done with our money, whether it's being used inside a government department or subcontracted to someone else. I don't recall ever actually receiving any, but we've definitely been told it's possible.

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GCHQ names the Hogwarts for Hackers

James 100
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Not far off, I suspect ... I'm doing a PhD at one of the institutions which applied for that status for the MSc course (unsuccessfully it seems, since we're not on this list*), and one of the entrance requirements is a police background check before you can even begin studying it! (In an amusing irony, that requirement only applies to the MSc, not to PhDs.)

* - fingers crossed for the batch later this year, I suppose.

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UK.gov warned: Small biz bods 'blunted' by broadband bumbling

James 100
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Business priorities

Meanwhile, my small business office is on an exchange which just got FTTC at the end of May. The old service needed changing anyway - it had been Be, Sky took over and, apart from anything else, illegally refuse to provide VAT receipts for it now (having told me that with the takeover, staying with them would be OK!)

So, I find us a decent FTTC ISP to move to ... but no. TalkTalk ADSL is cheaper, so that's what the MD picks. *headdesk*

To be fair, it really is cheap, and the resulting 10 down 0.8 up is largely adequate even for two VoIP trunks - just a pale imitation of the service we would have had.

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Report: American tech firms charge Britons a thumping nationality tax

James 100
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I saved a few hundred on this laptop last month by buying from Italy (then gained a few hundred more, because they'd accidentally shipped me the Italian keyboard layout, then offered me a choice between swapping for the right layout or getting another 20% refunded!) - it certainly pays to shop around.

Some of the excuses for gouging are just silly though. Languages, when most companies just sell the US version in the UK anyway?! (Or indeed ship multilingual systems regardless: the US version of Office has the same set of English dialects as the UK one, both can spell-check either dialect.)

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Call off the firing squad: HP grants stay of execution to OpenVMS

James 100
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"VMS hasn't generally passed strings around as null terminated unsized chunks of data (though if you're using VMS C it's easy enough). VMS's own native application data format for that kind of thing is descriptor-based, ie a documented structure that describes the string (how much space is available, and how much of it is used, where it is, etc), and a *separate* item that holds the characters themselves."

Internally, the Windows NT kernel does much the same - there's a UNICODE_STRING structure, containing a pointer to a string, the length of the string and the size of buffer it's contained in. You can do interesting things there, including embedded NULLs inside filenames - giving a file which can't then be accessed or deleted using the regular Windows APIs, which use C-style null-terminated strings. Not entirely surprising, given where the original NT team came from...

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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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