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* Posts by James 100

574 posts • joined 26 Jun 2009

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Virgin Media CUTS OFF weekend 'net surfers after embarrassing smut-filtering snafu

James 100
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Re: I'm not with stupid

The difference is, Openreach don't even see inside your packets - just like in the dialup era, there's just a data flow between you and your ISP's access routers. Openreach don't even have the *ability* to filter your traffic on that level, let alone a system that could do that accidentally!

It's a shame. If they put their minds to it, Virgin could offer a decent service - instead, they waste money importing a censorship system from China (paid for by all their customers, opted out or not), spam customers to arm-twist them into using it to placate Nanny Perry - then force it on everyone by mistake anyway.

(I'd been a customer of theirs - and before the merger, Telewest too; there was a time when they actually had an edge. Now, they just claim silly peak throughput their choked-up backbone can never deliver, even when it isn't falling over entirely.)

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Apple fanbois are 'MENTALLY UNSTABLE' but you still have to 'SERVICE' them

James 100
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Short termism?

"we are sprinting a marathon right now"

So ... they'll put on an impressive burst early on, then run out and be overtaken by everyone else by the halfway mark? Probably not what she had in mind - though come to think of it, probably all too accurate for the tale of the iPhone and its Android competitors...

Rather than being "serviced", though, how about replacing all those faulty MacBook Pro batteries and chargers? (My first Magsafe cable caught fire back before I had an Apple Store within travelling distance; later, they fobbed me off with a dead Magsafe plug with the "stuck pin" problem as being "damage" and therefore somehow excluded. Their cables seem to have a particularly shoddy build quality, made all the more ironic with their crusade to stamp out alternatives.)

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UK superfast broadband? Not in my backyard – MP

James 100
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Re: He cited a computer programmer who had reported that it took three days to download a program

To be fair, he also notes places with performance below 2 Mbps (i.e. 900 Mbyte/hr) - on which a 50 Gbyte download (enormous, but I seem to recall that's the size of one of the recent game releases on Steam?) would indeed take well over two days running flat out. I've downloaded a few things lately (Adobe Creative Cloud, Windows 10 beta, OS X Yosemite) each of which were well into multiple Gb - meaning they'd each max those poor sods' connections out for many hours instead of the minutes it took for me.

To be fair, I'm actually quite impressed with BT's FTTC rollout overall. Of course I'd like universal FTTP, but FTTC's a good stepping stone (it puts a fibre node within a few hundred metres of everywhere with FTTC, giving much better service than ADSL without the cost and long wait of individual fibre pulls). Apparently BT are willing to do FTTP on new developments, but builders aren't cooperating much so far since they don't get paid for it directly; maybe that'll change once they see enough demand from house buyers.

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'National roaming' law: Stubborn UK operators to be FORCED to share

James 100
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Re: EU roaming rates cap

Too late: several already offer UK roaming SIMs which can switch between networks for better coverage; my current ISP, Andrews & Arnold, offers them now. (2p/min when you're on O2, 10p/min if you roam to one of the other networks.) I think a few other companies do as well, though can't remember names off-hand.

For that matter, Three had an arrangement to use T-Mobile and Orange to fill gaps in their coverage, although they've cut back on that after expanding their own network; now that EE and Three have combined their networks as MBNL, that probably isn't needed anyway.

With EE and Three merging their networks as MBNL, while Vodafone and O2 pool theirs under a project name of "Cornerstone", will this really offer significant benefits anyway? A dual-SIM handset would give you access to both sets of base stations anyway!

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Yahoo! Timestamps! Now! Block! Facebook! Email! Snoops!

James 100
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Hotmail...

Years ago, I set up a new Hotmail account using my initials for a username. It turned out the previous user of that address had been using it on ... lesbian dating sites. The mail tailed off after a while though.

I still have a Yahoo account, but never use it for anything except contacting the two friends who use Yahoo Messenger for IM purposes. The email client causes me enough headaches just from my mother's insistence on using it ("How do I forward attachments?" etc, when they randomly shuffle UI components and break functionality every other week...)

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Google’s dot-com forget-me-not bomb: EU court still aiming at giant

James 100
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Re: I still don't understand this

That's the insanity of it: having admitted that the information in question is correct and legitimate, so it would be wrong to demand that it be removed, they concoct the absurd compromise that somehow, censoring true and accurate search results pointing to that information instead is a better outcome.

If there were a legitimate case for removing the information from the Internet, that would be another matter entirely: the page gets removed, Google's index then automatically deletes that entry shortly afterwards, end of problem. It's the judicial absurdity of "the information's legitimate, so it can stay online, but we'll force third parties to make it slightly more difficult to find" that bugs me: demanding that Google and others return less accurate search results to suit their whim.

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BT: Consumers and cost cutting save the day

James 100
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Re: Praising BT does feel wrong somehow but

Mine went a step further - after the sixth visit, the fault was finally tracked to a bad bit of BT backbone 60 miles away after escalating from Openreach to TSOps. I know there are very, very few ISPs who are willing or indeed able to chase and escalate faults that far, but AAISP just don't give up on faults, whatever it takes - even, in this case, escalating all the way to Adastral Park and arguing publicly with BT about fault thresholds and handling. (BT denied there was a fault, but did eventually fix it: rather inconsistent, but the right outcome in the end!)

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Netflix and other OTT giants use 'net neutrality' rules to clobber EU rivals

James 100
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Re: Great plays on at my local theatre at the moment

Exactly.

I pay my ISP for my bandwidth, including transit to/from LINX. Netflix pays for its own bandwidth to/from LINX too. They split the costs of LINX between themselves and all the other members. (Neither LINX nor my ISP has any ratio requirement for peering: LINX applies a surcharge if your ports exceed 80% of capacity, that's all.)

Of course, it doesn't help when ISPs offer "unlimited" connections with very high peak speeds but no way of delivering heavy usage at those prices - but letting them try to squeeze money out of the sites their customers visit is the wrong solution to that.

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ICO to fine UNBIDDEN MARKETEERS who cause 'ANXIETY'

James 100
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Statutory penalty/damages, or strike off the directors

I'd love to see a short-code we can dial after receiving nuisance calls, anonymous or otherwise (even "anonymous" calls are still known to the network, it's just hidden from ordinary users). Trivial for the telcos to identify the worst offenders for ICO, who could then hit them with 6 or 7 figure fines each time - and, more importantly, disconnect the company from the telephone network and Internet. Re-offend, the company should be dissolved with all assets forfeit.

Time to ban companies from using 141 or equivalent, too - that prefix should only be permitted on residential lines/accounts, not business. I'm not at all convinced of the merits of allowing individuals to make anonymous phonecalls, particularly at no extra charge - for commercial purposes, there's really no excuse at all.

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An 'embed' link isn't a new infringement, says EU Court of Justice

James 100
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Re: Confused

"Sites that specifically aim to publish torrent links to copyrighted material may be, depending on where you are."

This ruling would seem to change that, at least for the EU, though - since hosting a collection of links *isn't* infringing activity by this ruling (and the precedent they cited about linking), it should be a lot harder to justify going after them and demanding that third parties censor access to them.

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We chat to CloudFlare about its 'EVERYBODY GETS SSL' venture

James 100
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I like their advocacy of and support for IPv6 and SSL - I just wish they were less spam-friendly (as noted in two comments here already) and didn't insist on taking over your DNS hosting to provide their CDN service unless you upgrade to the $200/month plan.

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Wanna hop carriers with your iPad's Apple SIM? AVOID AT&T

James 100
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Roaming?

"the only UK carrier that has signed on to support them (so far) is EE, rendering the question of carrier lock-in moot."

Only if (a) the other 3 carriers don't join later, and (b) you never travel outside the UK enough to want to switch to a local provider!

That seemed to me to be the biggest selling point: use it in the UK on EE, go to the US for a few weeks and you just select an AT&T or Sprint plan to keep online: no more roaming fees, just pay the same price the locals do for that month.

My UK ISP already does SIMs which allow switching between O2, Vodafone and EE to get the best signal, though I haven't tried it yet - nice to see Apple taking this a step further, just a shame AT&T seem to have sabotaged it.

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Hey small biz: You know what you need? A tape library – Overland

James 100
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Yep - I took over support for a small business which had a backup system consisting of an external USB HDD with nightly full Windows NT Backup backups going back a week. That was it:7 big files. Of course, as soon as the server filled up beyond 1/7th of that drive's capacity, the backups stopped working...

(Almost no budget for new anything, so I switched it to a weekly full backup and nightly incrementals to keep it going, then backed it up over the Net to a server of my own just in case.)

Of course, a library of 60 tapes would be massive overkill as an upgrade from "one external USB drive", but there's definitely still a place for tape!

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US government fines Intel's Wind River over crypto exports

James 100
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Re: I cant believe it.

I demonstrated exactly that on a simulated CPU at a security conference earlier this year - a plain old Intel CPU with AES-NI ... and an FDIV instruction which just happened to leak the crypto keys when you divided a particular pair of numbers. It didn't even need closed source software to do the sneaking: a few lines of Javascript did the trick.

(The harder question is "how do we guarantee the real CPU isn't doing this too?" - and it really is a hard question.)

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AWS pulls desktop-as-a-service from the PC

James 100
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Re: X Windows dumb client for the modern age

That is pretty much "dumb terminal/X terminal" updated for the intervening decades of progress, isn't it? I understand it, and I do like the idea - so yes, the encryption is new, the graphics are much fancier and you get USB support, but which of those isn't an obvious feature of "modern version of X terminal"?

The centralisation has big advantages, and disadvantages too. That big powerful central box is cheaper to administer and secure than lots of little machines, but expensive to buy. For bursty loads like typical office (or indeed developer) work I imagine it could be a great advantage: you get the full attention of a handful of Xeon cores to compile or load your code, with all the applications already cached in RAM.

(I still remember when the more clued-in geeks at work would fire up Netscape Navigator on the big shared Sun box over X, because it was faster than cranking it to life on the diskless 486 Win3.1 machines we used at the time ... ah, nostalgia!)

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Keep a beady eye on your business's cloud service shopping

James 100
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Shadow IT - symptom of poor internal IT

Having been on both sides now, I sympathise with both to some extent. I've seen Ethernet bodged in on the cheap by an electrician (coax in those days, and it didn't take kindly to getting stapled to the wall), departments balking at a tenner a month for their department's server to be included in the tape robot's nightly to-do list (then getting billed £500 for my time scraping the data off said server when it died suddenly with no backups) ... and I've been on the outside, seeing my department quoted thousands for a few hundred extra Gb of disk, thousands more for the use of an existing GbE port on an existing switch, a hundred a year to register a .uk domain.

TL;DR: In-house service provision should at least keep pace with what online services can offer the general public - and stop client departments ending up buying third-rate junk, too.

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Sky's tech bets pay off: Pay TV firm unveils blazing growth for Q1

James 100
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Wholesale?

"Just over 11.5 million of those are retail customers, and just over 4 million wholesale."

Presumably those are Virgin Media people buying their TV channels via cable? I was baffled by Sky buying up Be, only to kill off their wholesale offering entirely - it seems they just migrated the retail customers over to Sky's existing LLU network, then pulled the plug on the one they'd just bought: buying a whole company, only to throw away both their infrastructure and a whole class of customer. (Also messing Be's retail business customers around badly, refusing to provide VAT receipts, changing IP addresses...)

The "cord cutting" offering might be interesting: I can imagine light TV users like myself going online timeshift-only for the few programmes we actually watch - and no more TV Licence.

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'Utter killjoy Reg hacks have NEVER BEEN LAID', writes a fan

James 100
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Physics fails

Yes, the absurd physics anomalies involved grated on me when I watched - from the mysterious gain in mass before hatching, to the idea of the new hatchling immediately laying an egg the same size and mass it had been previously - but then, it is a series about a time travelling police phone box. If you can get past that every single episode, is the "moon-egg" really such a big barrier?

Lousy episode, though, and rather too close to "Waters of Mars" (which also violated the conservation of matter, with spontaneously created water in large quantities).

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Marriott fined $600k for deliberate JAMMING of guests' Wi-Fi hotspots

James 100
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A small step in the right direction

Now, can we please see the de-auth loophole closed so any old idiot can't disable wifi networks, and shut down all the firms selling these DoS tools?

My old university (in the UK) pulled the same stunt on anything within range; perhaps a few more six figure fines in the news will stop this being mistaken for acceptable.

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EU to accuse Ireland of giving Apple an overly peachy tax deal – report

James 100
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Re: Jurisdiction shopping

"It becomes a race to the bottom as undercutting what the "other guys" charge is worth it if you can get enough extra to make up what you lose from who you already have."

That doesn't sound like a bad thing, or any different from other areas of competition: if, say, O2 offer me a cheaper mobile tariff, I'll jump - or get Three to match it as a retentions deal. There's a limit to how low either telco will go since they don't want to take a bath on it, but the end result is that we reach a price where neither of us is getting ripped off. Not a race to "the bottom" - just a race to the best price for both sides.

Even as regular individuals it happens now to some extent, particularly on a local level with council tax levels - just as it should: we can each make our own choices about levels of tax and spending.

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Kenyan court case could sound death knell for mobile money

James 100
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"if banks stop telcos from doing mobile money"

That's the missing link in the logic: nothing here says anyone is trying to stop Safaricom's existing service, just that the banks want to get into the same game. Merely competing with them doesn't do that, unless perhaps the banks plan to run an unsustainably cheap banking service to wipe Safaricom's one out completely, then pull the plug and hope they don't come back - which would be a bit of a stretch.

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Oracle plans German DCs to soothe NSA-ruffled nerves

James 100
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I think it probably brings a bit of legal safety to European companies, though, even if it is almost baseless.

If my UK company sticks customer data on a server in the US or Canada, we're potentially in a world of legal pain for doing that. If we put it on a server in Germany, and the hosting company there goes and exports it without our consent, that's probably *their* problem rather than ours.

(Besides, a US court order against Oracle to get access to our data really isn't something we need to guard against, either legally or practically: legally, we're supposed to keep it in compatible jurisdictions and take appropriate precautions, practically, half of it's a matter of public record anyway and the other half is just something we'd like to keep away from our bigger UK competitor.)

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Netflix bullish after six-country European INVASION

James 100
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Re: signed-up for free trial in France - still feel it is bad value for money

It does vary country by country, as they buy up rights - unfortunately, because those are regional, content in one country might well not be available to another. I imagine they will sort out the House of Cards oddity soon; in the mean time, remember your Netflix subscription works wherever your Internet connection is, showing the content for that country. I'm told the Canadian content is quite good these days, though haven't tried it myself...

The library is quite good, too. I've been catching up on some old 24 episodes, it meant my mother could easily watch a couple of Robin Williams films when he died - replacement for a Sky subscription? No, but it's a decent service for the price.

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'Google is NOT the gatekeeper to the web, as some claim'

James 100
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"clear indication that the internet NEEDS to be censored"

No, just clear indication this "Rantic" bunch need to be purged. I would love the irony if 4chan ended up owning them in court for pulling this mad false-flag stunt...

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iPAD-FONDLING fanboi sparks SECURITY ALERT at Sydney airport

James 100
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Security so good ...

... that you can bypass it *by mistake*?! I feel so much safer knowing how likely that is to stop the likes of Al Qaeda: surely they wouldn't be so devious as to try sneaking through the unguarded door? You'll be telling me they go through the green Customs channel without declaring their bomb!

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Internet Transit price falls slowing: Telegeography

James 100
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Meanwhile, BT...

So, for just over $1 per Mbps, you can get a port in London which covers the globe, probably with a service level guarantee about packet loss and latency. Or, for £50 per Mbps, your ISP can get connected to BT's exchanges, with no such guarantees.

I wonder if these prices levelling out might signify growing demand and investment coming back? There was a huge overbuild early in the .com bubble years, with everyone rushing to lay fibre - then the bubble burst and the backbone providers could buy up lots of fibre cheaply, pushing prices down for years afterwards. (You weren't paying to lay new fibre any more, just paying to light up a spare bit of the existing stuff.) I wonder if Telegeography or similar track that aspect: are the point to point links that make up transit networks getting tighter too?

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IT crisis looming: 'What if AWS goes pop, runs out of cash?'

James 100
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Crisis?

The "banking crisis" was fear of a collapse in clearing bank services: that our salary payments would fail to transfer, we'd be unable to pay our bills and mortgages or buy food. That really would have been a crisis: headlines of "Nobody paid, direct debits all bounce, starvation and looting in the streets".

An Amazon outage? We've had those before: my company had a pair of EC2 instances in Dublin knocked offline back when they had the mysterious cascade power failure. Yes, it meant some downtime; if it had lasted more than a few hours, I could have picked up a pair of VMs from some other hosting company and restored backups to it - meaning a day's downtime for DNS caching to update. No missed mortgage payments or starving kids: "Big service provider closes suddenly, everyone moves to rivals"?

It's very hard to imagine Amazon suddenly pulling the plug, too: more likely, either they'd hike prices to sustainable levels (if current levels really aren't), or announce a planned shutdown, giving us time to move. Yes, maybe the alternatives would cost more ... where's the scary headline there? "Hosting providers hike prices, web hosting to cost more next year"? Sorry, not scared.

Apart from anything else, in the estimates of AWS revenue, are they really factoring in Amazon's own heavy use of the infrastructure for the corporate web presence? (That use probably won't show up in "revenue" since it's internal.)

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EU operators PLEAD for MERCY, may get roaming rates cut ‘reprieve’

James 100
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"Surely for the bigger providers (i.e. vodafone) this should be a non-issue as they already have networks in most countries so they are only paying themselves..."

That would be one problem with this plan: it screws smaller operators who don't have a heft pan-European footprint.

Some comments point out the *cost* of a call now is trivial. In a way, that's right - the problem is, the *price* of that call - even for one telco charging another - is not.

Supposing I had a UK mobile network. I charge a flat 2p/min for calls. (As, in fact, my current provider does.) If you roam to France, Orange charge me 10p/min; go to some small island, maybe I get charged £1/min because there's only one operator there. Now the EU demands that all of those be the same price to customers - do I charge everyone £1/min so I'm not getting ripped off any time someone visits the island? 3p/min to everyone, so UK customers have to subsidise tourists and make that island's monopoly rich?

That's the problem with the "one price" proposal: there is no single fair price to customers, when the goods in question differ in wholesale price widely! If they were to regular wholesale roaming charges, then cap the retail roaming price based on that, it would be fairer all round. Yes, calls in Croatia would cost me more than they do at home - that's because the service in question actually costs more to provide! (Of course, Three have managed to iron out the difference, for *some* countries; hopefully that will continue and spread - but it certainly isn't universal, and perhaps never will be.)

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Jesus phone RAISED from DEAD. Watch iPhone 6 get BURNED, DROWNED, SMASHED

James 100
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I had a Nexus 4 with the self-destructing back (smashed to powder by a small drop, revealing the back was made of very very thin glass rather than plastic) and I've lost two handsets to liquid damage (one washing machine incident, one coffee spill that got into the wrong place), so I'm delighted to see things like the Galaxy S5 on the market with decent resilience and water resistance.

Living in Scotland, just going for a walk can mean a wet handset (walking a mile in heavy rain meant that even the shirt under my "waterproof" jacket was soaked through, leaving me seriously worried about the phone in my pocket until I got a carrier bag to wrap it in).

Of course, these days I make sure to put any new handset in a Lifeproof case - so, from their specs, I could safely go scuba diving with my phone never mind get caught in the rain.

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Apple iPhone 6: Looking good, slim. AW... your battery died

James 100
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So thin it's thick

I do wish they'd easy up on the anorexia: an extra millimetre of thickness would both remove the camera protrusion and enhance the battery life, at the cost of an extra few drops of LiIon gunk in the box. Will you find a single person who thinks the iPhone is too *thick*? I doubt it: just those like me who think it's a bit too thin.

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Mushy spam law's IDEAL for toothless watchdog: Spamhaus slams CAN-SPAM

James 100
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Re: Zero enforcement in the UK

There is at least a token effort at enforcement of nuisance call prohibitions now - a few big names got fined. Far too little, though - and of course they are still allowed to make anonymous calls, which is a large part of the problem. (Prohibit anonymous calls from non-residential lines, and the spam problem will be greatly reduced.)

I'm planning to set up Asterisk soon to route all anonymous calls straight to voicemail without ringing. That should solve the problem - but I really resent having to make that effort to deal with people who break the law to boost profits! My e-mail spam filtering is pretty effective - but again, why should we make that effort, when spammers are getting away with breaking the law? Start *jailing* directors of companies violating it, and terminating their companies' phone and Internet access, and we might see real progress.

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SanDisk Extreme Pro SSD – courting speed freaks and gamers

James 100
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Smaller, faster?

"the 240GB drive is a wee bit quicker at up to 520MB/s."

Isn't this odd for SSDs? I thought the larger ones tended to be faster, because they're spreading the load over more chips.

With decent backups, reliability isn't such an issue - I've had plenty of regular HDDs die on me over the years. The SSDs seem to be fine so far, but of course that's a much smaller and newer sample.

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Report: EE in talks to scoop up 60 Phones 4u stores from troubled High Street retailer

James 100
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Funny, that ...

they pull the plug on it, then happen to be standing ready to buy up the useful bits for themselves... How convenient.

My brother just got a good deal on a new handset with Vodafone through Carphone Warehouse, after shopping around, so they can still be useful - but with all the overhead involved, I'm surprised Vodafone couldn't offer a better deal directly online.

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Vodafone to buy 140 Phones 4u stores from stricken retailer

James 100
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I've always been surprised by the popularity of those shops, when surely an online operation can heavily undercut them (and indeed the online-only deals are often much better than in-store). OK, it's handy to go in for replacement SIMs, browsing handsets etc, but why do so many people still buy there?!

Some consolidation was inevitable, I think, so Phones4U disappearing isn't a surprise (why would Vodafone or EE sell through them when they could sell direct instead?) I wonder if Carphone Warehouse are looking nervously over their shoulders now, worrying about what their next network renewal talks are going to involve?

Of course, I recall the anomalous situation some years ago of having an O2 (just before they dropped the Cellnet name IIRC) mobile ... billed through Vodafone, because they'd bought the O2 reseller I was a customer of. That was a strange novelty at the time. Now they've merged their network operations under Cornerstone, might they start pooling more infrastructure?

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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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