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* Posts by James 100

525 posts • joined 26 Jun 2009

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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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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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