* Posts by SImon Hobson

907 posts • joined 9 Sep 2006

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Net neutrality: How to spot an arts graduate in a tech debate

SImon Hobson
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Re: Just another attempt

> I have lived in a country where the telephone monopoly deliberately downgraded skype traffic so that you would have to use their higher-priced phone service.

That doesn't narrow down the list of countries much !

I have been procuring and using WAN/Internet connections for probably around 1/4 century. One thing I have observed is that whenever a new technology comes along, the incumbent (BT in this case) will do all in it's power to hang on to it's cash cows.

With ISDN they crippled certain functions to protect their leased lines cash cow. With ADSL they "held back" on deployment to protect their leased lines cash cow. When FTTC came along, they 'held back" enabling cabs in primarily business areas to protect their leased lines cash cow.

In some places they have announced "non availability" of (eg) FTTC to an area (typically, but not exclusively, rural villages) - only to have a change of heart when someone comes along and offers something else. In some of these cases, the "imminent" arrival of FTTC quite coincidentally fails to materialise once the alternative offering is off the table (typically because the competitor withdraws or goes bust when enough customers decide to "wait for the BT option") !

That is what monopoly or quasi monopoly business do if they are not controlled by regulators. It's why we have regulators.

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SImon Hobson
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Re: Poor analogy

> ... and then a Walmart buys the land next to the intersection ...

Another broken metaphor.

Every person with a drive is paying for access to the road networks - specifically a per-month fee based on the capacity they require. A big chunk of that fee goes to the organisation that's running the local roads, but another chunk of it goes to the people running the bigger roads your local road network connects to - by analogy, the former group is your ISP, the latter group are the tier1 and tier2 carriers they buy their connectivity from (fairly loose analogy, but it's good enough to debunk yours).

So there you all are paying your fairly modest monthly fees which allow you up to a certain number of movements per day - typically no-one other than a small group will get that many car movements unless they're having a party and lots of people come by car. Yes, a Walmart or ASDA or Tesco or ... can come and set up - but they'll find that if they try that stunt then they'll have few customers once they've used their daily allowance within 10 minutes of opening time.

So when they want to build their store they will do one of two things :

They'll either go and connect to one of those road networks where they can buy a high capacity connection, or they'll work with the local roads provider who (in return for a wodge of cash) will upgrade their network so as to support the extra traffic.

So your analogy is exactly what would happen if (say) a Netflix decided to start up and rather than paying for a decent connection just ordered a couple of domestic ADSL lines ! They don't do that, they shell out a lot to connect to the networks with the capacity to handle their traffic.

Where net neutrality comes in is that there you are with your driveway connected to the local roads, and rather than driving to Walmart ... you go online and order for delivery. The people who run your local network don't like Walmart because it competes with the store they run - so they setup checkpoints and deliberately pull in all the Walmart vans trying to deliver your shopping unless Walmart pays them extra (or you pay extra).

Don't forget, you have already paid for having access to the roads, Walmart have already paid for their access to the road system at their end, but someone in the middle wants extra just because it's Walmart on the side of the van.

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Swiss watch: Cuckoo-clock cops threaten Win 10 whup-ass can pop

SImon Hobson
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Re: Dearest Reg,

> Next they will want to ban the odometers from cars as the maker of the car will know how far you have drive the machine.

Not a good analogy.

A good analogy would be the car maker installing tech so he knows in fine detail when you started it, stopped it, changed gear, where you went and when, how fast you drove, what you listened to on the radio, and even what the occupants discussed.

Yes you can turn some of it off if you even know it's being done and can find all the settings - some of then apparently requireing the equivalent of getting the toolbox out and lifting the bonnet to change. And lets face it the Win10 installer does NOT actually tell you what it's doing. The default is the express install which is the only clearly visible button on the installer screen - the customise option is done is such a way as to make it very very very easy to miss. So most people will get the default settings.

And you, like me, might be one of the few who actually go and read what we're signing - but you have lead a very sheltered life if you don't know anyone in the vast majority who go "can't be reading all that, don't understand it anyway". It's not even there on screen to read - there's a link there (does it work before the OS is installed ?), which in turn takes you to a page with (IIRC) 11 different links to the various policies. Yes, each one is actually surprisingly easy to read, but I suggest you sit down and try reading them all through in one sitting - then have someone test you straight afterwards and see how much you can remember !

So for the vast majority of users, this data collection is not actually done with their consent. It's consent only as much as someone standing behind you in a noisy bar, while you are in conversation with friends, and whispering "my mate is punching everyone in the face as they leave, would you like to opt out of that ?" is you giving consent for that punching should you fail to hear and opt out.

Also, since some of the data collected is pretty well guaranteed to be "sensitive personal information", under UK law (enacting EU directives so it should apply in the whole of the EU) that can only be collected with express consent. I.e. the user must be given sensible information, and freely give their informed consent. Failing to opt out is not giving informed consent.

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BT commences trials of copper-to-the-home G.fast broadband tech

SImon Hobson
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Re: Stalking horse

> Shortly after, BT decided to run fibre to all the villages.

Anecdotally, that seems to be BT's main MO - priority is given to where there is a potential competitor to be squeezed out. This appears to have been the case for a few places in B4RN's patch - places that were "not on the list at all" suddenly appeared to gain priority status as the B4RN network came into view.

https://br0kent3l3ph0n3.wordpress.com/2014/05/07/dolphinholme-overcomes-fud-to-light-up-on-b4rns-1gbps-fibre/

If only the B4RN or B4YS network (or something like it) passed my house :-(

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Windows 10 market share growth slows to just ten per cent

SImon Hobson
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FAIL

> Apple also makes PCs, but restricts the components to run its own OS exclusively.

There is not enough fail icon to do that justice !

Not only do they not lock down the hardware to running their own OS, they actually provide tools to make it easy to run others. Look up "Boot Camp" - you'll find that tools are provided to make it easy to partition off part of your disk and install windows on it. One of the tools takes care of collecting all the drivers onto a disk (CD/DVD) needed by Windows when using a "stock" installer disk - so reboot with Windows installer disk, pop in drive disk at right moment, get working Windows "PC".

I also know people who have bought Apple laptops just to run Windows - because contrary to popular FUD, when compared like for like they aren't bad machines and aren't that expensive. Sure they are expensive compared to a low spec "cheap" laptop, but not when compared with a roughly equivalent machine from a "known brand".

In that respect, Apple is actually more open than Microsoft who effectively blackmailed hardware vendors into shipping default configs designed to not boot other OSs - c.f. UEFI Secure Boot.

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So really, in just 14 words you have shown your "20 years experience" seems not to have given you any clue about how little you know about the industry you claim to work in.

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Now, if by PC you are referring to the iPad/iPhone family - yes they are locked down and will only run IOS. Just like the Microsoft tablets will only run Windows, and in fact any tablet permitted to run Windows RT is required to have secure boot permanently enabled - i.e. there is no option to disable it if you want to run a different OS.

So is there any difference between Apple and Microsoft there ? Not really.

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Hyundai ix35 Fuel Cell: El Reg on the hydrogen highway

SImon Hobson
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I don't buy it ...

and not just a £50k car either !

Hydrogen is a terrible fuel. As pointed out, until we have a surplus of CO2 free energy (which in practice means a LOT more nuclear than we are even considering (let alone are actually seriously being planned) then manufacture of H2 is not clean.

But to then expend the energy needed to compress it (that take a lot of energy) is daft. And of course it needs a complete new distribution system that's incompatible with existing distribution systems.

And you can't park an H2 powered car up and expect the fuel to stay there - it'll empty it's tank in a week or two.

Assuming we got round the "clean supply of H2" issue - then it's actually fairly easy to convert it chemically to methanol - not by growing plants, but by adding atmospheric CO2 in a two or three stage process I don't recall the details of.

We already have an established distribution network for methanol - because it can use the same system we already use for petrol and diesel. Existing cars need very minor modifications (few £10s of pounds/car at most if designed in) to run on any mix of petrol, methanol and/or ethanol.

It would be no harder to distribute methanol than it is handling separate fuels like petrol (often still sold in 2 grades) and diesel.

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Conference Wi-Fi biz fined $750k for jamming personal hotspots

SImon Hobson
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Re: Just ignore them?

> Is there a valid reason why a wifi network would be sending out deauth frames?

Yes, there may be any number of reasons for asking a client to leave a network.

> Why does an access point accept deauth frames from some random device anyway?

Well technically it's not - it's accepting it from an authenticated client; or in the other direction, the client is accepting it from the AP. The problem is that the packet isn't encrypted or protected and so it's easy to spoof the MAC address(s) involved.

I think it comes down to the old "security wasn't the problem it is now back then" problem, plus the "it's not practical to make a change that would break every existing device". One more example of "if we knew then what we know now then ..."

More info :

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wi-Fi_deauthentication_attack

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SImon Hobson
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Re: OMFSM

Indeed. And for someone in that business to not have heard about the Marriott hotel incident ... well they can't be very good at keeping up with what's going on around them.

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Anti-botnet initiatives USELESS in sea of patch-hating pirates

SImon Hobson
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Re: Why not issue a kill command?

> I wonder why they can't ...

Well yes, they can - but they have to want to. It's not as simple as going along to (say) a few dozen ISPs and problem solved - there will be thousands if not millions of organisations involved.

For each IP address, you need to track down the administrative contact for that IP range. For some it's easy as whois will give you the details, for others it's "opaque". And then whoever is responsible has to actually take action, and that means actually taking the issue seriously.

Just intercepting the traffic and redirecting it is not on - and still has to be done at a level fairly close to the IP, specifically that organisation or their connectivity provider. But if our connectivity provider started with a redirection then we'd be "livid doesn't start to describe it" with them and legal action for losses would follow. So you have to have notified the end customer and given them a chance to sort out the mess before you disrupt their business - and that's a lot of hassle for which you'll get little thanks.

For most ISPs, the effort isn't worth it relative to the relatively small cost of the bandwidth consumed.

So if the ISP closest to the user isn't going to do it, then what ? Go to their upstream provider ? Same issues apply really, a lot of hassle for little benefit.

You could try co-ercing them by (for example) dropping their routes from the global routing table - but that can only really be done by any peers/providers they use. Again, a drastic measure with little business justification.

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Don't fight the cistern: Voda takes the plunge with plumbers’ parking app

SImon Hobson
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Re: "OBD-II port is mandatory on all cars sold since 1995"

My guess would be that it applied to all new models from that date, with an exemption for some period for models already on sale - that how a lot of regs like that tend to be.

As to why it needs OBD ...

Best guess would be for speed, steering information if available, and compass heading if available. GPS can be "somewhat tetchy" in some types of built up area, so the best systems augment the raw GPS location with other data to maintain more accurate positioning. The simplest of these additions is "distance travelled", and if you add turn/steering information and a good road map then you can apply logic like "well the GPS could put us on this road or that road, the vehicle has just turned right, there's no right turn off that road so we must be on this road" to increase quality/accuracy of positioning.

My standalone Garmin 7200 has an optional input for the speedo signal - specifically to keep tracking going during momentary loss of signal (in amongst tall buildings, under bridges, etc) - the alternative is to just assume that the vehicle is still travelling at the same speed until the signal comes back.

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Two weeks of Windows 10: Just how is Microsoft doing?

SImon Hobson
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Re: I am happy with it

> I hope by that you mean at least once a month

He doesn't have to - gone are the days of not rebooting as it now does that all by itself regardless of whether it's convenient or not.

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Exploding Power Bars: EE couldn't even get the CE safety mark right

SImon Hobson
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FAIL

> No testing required for the CE listing?

Indeed, it can legitimately be done with zero testing ! There is the "technical file" route where the manufacturer (or importer) basically created a justification for why the design will meet the regulations - "our calculations show that ...".

And as pointed out, even if the device is actually tested, it can be tested in such a manner as to ensure it passed (as in the case of the farcical PLT situation) of the first batch may be made to meet the standards but then components left out after that.

And Drs. Security highlights the biggest problem, that of enforcement. In theory there are penalties for false declarations, but in reality it's down to an overstretched Trading Standards (in the UK) to find dodgy equipment and have it taken off the market. In practice, unless someone like Drs. Security who knows about the problems and has the means of doing some basic tests finds a problem, then it goes un-noticed. A few may get caught by OfCom's interference unit - but again they (from what I've read) largely rely on radio amateurs and the like to detect and do some basic identification work first.

You average man on the street is highly unlikely to have a clue - and unless fairly lucky and/or clued up would not work out that a new gadget was the source of any interference.

So chances of getting caught - quite low.

Consequences if caught - also fairly low. In the first instance, little more than a stern "stop doing it" instruction.

Add to that, instead of a relatively small number of importers and wholesalers, we now have every Tom, Richard, and Harry importing stuff direct from the far east - either buying wholesale and selling it on, or buying individual items for themselves from online sellers. Only Customs have any ability to intercept this trade - and they don't have the resources either for anything but large shipments and/or things they've been tipped off about.

As for PLTs, well it's fairly clear that the authorities didn't want to upset BT who were one of the worst offenders for handing them out to their "Vision" TV customers.

Absolutely clearly no way on earth they can possibly not cause interference by design - yet the authorities have put an extraordinary amount of effort into working out reasons for it to not be their problem !

www.ban-plt.org.uk/

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Typewriters suck. Yet we're infinitely richer for those irritating machines

SImon Hobson
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Re: Ah, spirit copiers.

Roneo and spirit copiers https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spirit_duplicator (aka the Banda machine) were different things.

As a young lad, I recall my parents getting an electric spirit copier - just the same but it had a motor to do the hard work. Still needed the spirit tank filling, then the little lever pumping to wet the pad or roller, then leave it to soak, and then start up. The first few copies were feint until enough spirit had transferred to soften the ink on the master.

Where I used to work they had a Roneo type machine. They did several catalogues a year, and since this was pre-Euro, in quite a few currencies. The UK catalogue was priced, the rest came with a separate price list - done on the Roneo.

This one was an automatic model - looked like a copier, and *in theory* did all it's one master handling. Set the mode to "make master", it would scan the original (just like a copier) and then spit out one copy. Assuming that was OK, you then went into print mode, dialled in the quantity and set it off - at up to 130 copies/minute.

It had several issues - most of which relate to Tim W's argument about the benefits of advances.

The first and most obvious is that handling paper at 130 sheets a minute is not a trivial task. This was not a "set and forget" operation - someone had to supervise it so they could hit the stop button when (not if) the paper stopped piling up in the out tray. Once a single sheet failed to land properly, the whole thing just went into "fill the room" mode.

The second is the process doesn't make collated copies like modern digital copiers. You had to do a stack of page 1s, turn that stack over and do page 2 onto the page, then repeat with pages 3 & 4, and eventually end up with (say) 10 piles of paper. The whole sales dept would then collate these by hand - and it took all week to do several thousand copies of various lists.

The third issue was a matter of "something didn't work properly". I said that *in theory* it handled it's own masters. That meant unwrapping the old sticky inky one off the drum, making a new one, and wrapping the new one on the drum. It could make the new one OK, but if you didn't manually remove the old one (which was easy and clean as long as you just held the non-inky end) then it just ended up in a horrible sticky inky mess of shredded and jammed master - and no amount of "but I specifically told you to ..." would stop it being *my* fault and *my* problem to deal with.

Then the machine broke down, and this was in the early days of digital copiers. We got a shiny new digital copier, which also happened to be the printer nearest my desk - nice printer, A4, A3, duplex, folding, stapling, punching, and above all, collating. At first they'd use it as a copier, but I did a little bit of database work so they could select the catalogue & currency, hit print, set the right options and it would just spit out as many copies as they wanted - it just needed feeding with paper, staples, and from time to time, toner.

It cost more - each price list probably cost around 50p-£1p vs 10p - but it saved hundred of man-hours a year while also producing a better quality. It was also quicker because, while the copier was at first sight half the speed of the old machine - it did all the collating and stapling so the first copy was ready to use as soon as it came out without having to wait for it all to be printed and then collated.

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TXT message leaves Corvette wrecked

SImon Hobson
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Re: The other way around?

Well you could simply make a "man in the middle" box that all the canbus messages have to go through, and edit them while doing so.

So receive road speed status from the vehicle canbus, apply a formula to the speed, and transmit the edited speed message to the add-on unit. You'd probably want something formula that starts off more or less accurate (multiplier of 1) and gradually reduces the multiplier as speed rises. Of course, that in itself could trigger other issues - what if you've apparently driven for an hour at "50" miles per hour, but the GPS says you've travelled 70 miles ?

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Perhaps middle-aged blokes SHOULDN'T try 34-hour-long road trips

SImon Hobson
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Joke

Re: A few things

> It shouldn't matter which lane merges across if people are merging correctly.

Yes, zip merging is good - but try getting British drivers to do that !

Thje other way of looking at it is that these slow vehicles are generally the biggest - so regardless of what's marked, they have "right of weight".

(for the hard of understanding, that's a pun on "right of way")

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Sun? In Blighty? Nah, just build that rooftop data centre, it’ll be fine

SImon Hobson
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Re: Frozen A/C, hot room

> A common mistake is to get the aircon spec for a server room wrong

Yes, but an "on/off" unit can cope with variable loads - it just doesn't run the compressor all the time. That is in fact how pretty well all systems worked until relatively recently when the power electronics to do variable load working because "cheap". Alternatively, if you correctly design the system, the compressor works full time sucking but can only suck down to a specific pressures, which sets a specific evaporator temperature. On part load, the compressor starts with it's cylinder partly evacuated - and the effective load on it reduces. In extreme, the vacuum at the inlet is such that at full compression it doesn't expel any gas - and the actual load on the motor is low.

A much much bigger problem is speccing the wrong sort of unit - typically one with too cold an evaporator. An AC unit intended for "comfort cooling" will expect a certain amount of the heat removed to be due to condensing water - and as long as there is enough of this heat then it doesn't freeze the condensate which then runs off the evaporator. If the air is "too dry", then it cools the air much cooler, the evaporator fins get very cold, and what moisture there is will freeze - blocking the airflow and allowing that part of the evaporator to get even colder and thus ensuring that the ice cannot melt.

So you need a unit designed for dry air - it'll have a larger evaporator so as to compensate for the higher evaporator temperature, and a different refrigerant cycle designed to work at a higher temperature so as not to freeze the condensate.

Well that's the over-simplified version at least !

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Petrol cars are dead in the water, says Tesla CTO waving numbers on the back of an envelope

SImon Hobson
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Re: Still a bit confused

> Every time a petrol car goes on the road, it's stuck polluting

Actually that's false as well - or at least it could be for "almost" no cost.

Just about every new vehicle for sale today could be flex fuel - it basically only needs minor tweaks to the engine management. The cost of doing that, amortised over the whole fleet of vehicles sold, it pretty well nothing - they spend waaaaaaay more on updates to the ICE stuff.

So a simple change, and even if you only rolled it out with new models it would still be "standard" within a few years, could allow your internal combustion engine to run on any mix of hydrocarbon (petrol, gasoline), ethanol, or methanol. SO it can go on the road today burning mostly petrol, and then use ethanol and or methanol as these became more available.

And the technology exists to make methanol from atmospheric CO2 + water + energy. Note that the carbon element of it comes from atmospheric CO2 so although CO2 is emitted at point of use, it is recaptured by the production process.

For the energy, you either build a few nuclear power stations (including a few of the type that will burn all that nasty plutonium instead of having to pay a fortune to get rid of your fuel !), or you put in massive amounts of renewables (wind and solar voltaic). But the neat thing is, you can use the load from cracking water as a variable load for your intermittent supplies - quite frankly it's the only sensible way to run a lot of renewables.

And it gets better.

You site your production where the energy is - either very windy places where people don't mind the windmills, or very sunny places where people don't mind the solar farms. We already have the infrastructure to transport the resulting fuel - it will go in the very same tanks, pipes, pumps, dispensers as we already have.

So unlike hydrogen or lecky, it doesn't need massive (really massive) infrastructure investments before it's practical as a mass market because it can use the existing infrastructure.

Not only that, but as everyone knows - you can "recharge" that liquid fuel burning car in a couple of minutes from completely empty to completely full. If you run out, you can transfer some emergency supplies from a hand-held container (either one you've been carrying, or one the rescue guy is carrying).

While battery tech is improving the former - though as already pointed out the grid just cannot cope with that sort of load - it can't deal with the latter.

The main downside is that until there is enough nuclear and renewables, it doesn't really make sense burning fossil fuels to crack water to make hydrogen to make methanol. You might as well just burn the fossil fuel where it's used - in the engine - and leave the non-fossil fuels for other uses.

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Microsoft's Windows 10 Torrent-U-Like updates GULP DOWN your precious bandwidth

SImon Hobson
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Re: Torrent is as Torrent Does...

> ... the obvious thing is to somehow allow all your PCs to share updates on the LAN but prevent them being shared through the Gateway

I'm as ardent an MS basher as most, but in the "might as well know thine enemy" spirit I've already upgraded one of my VMs to Win 10.

There is an option to configure where you get your updates from - Microsoft, PC on your own network, PCs on the internet as a whole. Where you share to seems to follow this setting.

Boss asked me what I thought. After a short pause I replied that it didn't seem as bad as Windows 8 ! That's glowing praise isn't it :-)

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So what exactly sits behind Google’s Nearline storage service?

SImon Hobson
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Could well be using the HGST drives

Using either of the shingled drives needs filesystem support - while the Seagate drive will "work" without, it hits certain performance issues (like - stops doing anything for a while while it shuffles data) if you don't have an overlying file system that understands it.

Since Google have the brains to have their own filesystem anyway, there's just nothing at all to say they aren't using either of the shingled drives for this. Actually, for the way their storage works, the shingled drives are probably a good fit.

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SOHOpeless: Security stains on Honeywell's Tuxedo home automator

SImon Hobson
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Re: The problem isn't IoT by itself

@ Christian Berger

That's perhaps a bit hard - I'm sure there are a lot of honest and competent developers working on some of this stuff. I can't help thinking that the problem lies a bit further up the chain - ie the managers who set the priorities and allocate resources. I know that at one ${dayjob} they had a sh*t-hot security gut on the dev team - but he left because he couldn't get any buy-in from management to include security as part of the design rather than something he nailed on afterwards.

> Ohh and of course people will want to use the functionality from outside, but they don't know how to set up a VPN.

And of course, here in the UK, some of the biggest ISPs either won't let you have a fixed IP at all, or charge a stupid amount for one. No reason other than simple marketing - if you want a fixed IP, we want "business ISP" income from you. Yes it's easily worked around with dynamic DNS - but it's one more "cussedness factor".

Many routers include VPN support - but they tend to be the "less budget" ones. And of course, we all know that consumer routers are all well secured as well don't we (not) !

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Hurrah! Windfarms produce whopping ONE PER CENT of EU energy

SImon Hobson
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Re: Actual facts and figures

> There are very few period of zero (about 45 periods in 231k)

But there are periods of zero output. So that's lie number one from the "windies" well and truly debunked.

When you include "not quite zero, but for all the use it is, it might as well be" then the number is considerably more. And (without looking at the specific data mentioned), it's a fair bet that these periods of low or zero output tend to be clustered around periods of peak demand - like late December 2010 when demand was very high, but wind output was minimal.

Yes, it's actually very very easy to deal with - we "just" keep a load of fact-reacting OCGT plants available.

I think it would be an interesting intellectual exercise (one for Tim W ?) to work out ...

What rated output would a windfarm operator give if when connecting and selling their lecky they had to be able to provide that level of dispatchable supply at any time ?

Rules :

Whatever stated capacity they have must be available - other than due to pre-notified shutdowns etc.

The backup can be done either by having their own backup plant, or by contracting with another supplier to cover the difference - and of course, paying them whatever that other operator needs to make a profit.

Excess generation over the stated capacity doesn't get subsidies - but does get to compete in the settling mechanism.

Generation provided by a non-renewable backup doesn't get ROCs, just the market price.

Failure to provide a dispatched demand get "fines" - perhaps the STOR rate per missing unit ?

I reckon the stated wind capacity under this system would be a small fraction of what it is now. No operator could afford to give the max output as the costs of dealing with the shortfalls would be punitive - we all share that cost "invisibly" at present. Too low a figure would result in very little income. Somewhere in between will be a "sweet spot" which will vary between operators. My (sticks wet finger in air) guess would be that rated outputs would be something in the order of 10% to mid teens % of rating plate capacity. I;d be surprised to see much above 20% except perhaps for the very best sites and very best windmill designs.

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SImon Hobson
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> One unwanted by-product is dirty electricity. My UPS swings from 210v to 265v in minutes as the wind / sun comes out.

Yikes, that's far worse than we get here.

But you have hit on one of the many hidden subsidies renewables (or more technically, intermittent generation) gets. There is a lot of work going on into understanding and mitigating the effects of lots of embedded generation on the whole distribution network. Historically it was built to handle large scale producers and one-way power flows. When you suddenly inject large amounts of power into the consumer end, then the currents reduce (or reverse) the volt drops reduce (or reverse), and the consumer voltage goes up.

Traditionally, the DNO operators have preferred to run the network at the highest voltage they can without hitting the upper limit - that reduces the currents, and hence their "I squared R" losses in cables and transformers. They can permanently lower voltages, but that increases losses.

AIUI from bits I've read and had from "inside knowledge", there is more tap-changing going on, and work on more automated monitoring and feedback to that process. Yes some of that would have been done anyway, but dropping a load of intermittent generation on the network has certainly added huge costs that [strong]are not included in the costs put forward by the renewables supporters[/strong]. The ROCs farmed by wind and solar installations are just the start of the costs - already mentioned are costs for re-engineering the distribution network, and all that standby generation (there's a farm in the NE somewhere with rows of diesel generators paid for by STOR payments), the increased costs of keeping marginal plants open (high per-unit costs, and payments to the operators to stop them closing down), the generally higher costs from those plants that are staying open without subsidy but which are having to ramp up and down far more to follow not just load changes but also (wind) supply changes, and the aforementioned increases losses if the DNO has to turn the tap-changers down a notch to avoid going over-voltage during periods of high embedded generation output.

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Canucks: Hey, Big Dog Telcos. Share that fiber with the little guys, eh?

SImon Hobson
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That's interesting, thanks.

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SImon Hobson
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Totally off topic, but this reader from the moderate climate of the UK is curious ...

Over here it's not uncommon for technicians to have to pump water out of the manholes before they can get to work on whatever is is they are doing. In very cold climates, I can't help thinking that the water might have set solid - not just in the manholes, but in the ducts.

Is this a problem ? How do they deal with it ? Do you have some faults/service provisions that can only be dealt with when the weather is warmer and the ice melts ?

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Acer Revo One RL85: A pint-sized PC for the snug

SImon Hobson
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Re: Moving "users" folder

> Windows 10 does a better job of this ...

Does it still use things like "C:" to identify drives ? How very 1980s !

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SImon Hobson
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> Why do we still have overscan?

Because when all this new fangled digital stuff was being thought about, there was a lot of backwards compatibility baggage to load aboard - and a load of <insert preferred derogatory term> didn't think ahead far enough.

The problem is that when the digital standards were first being created, CRT displays were still the norm - don't know if flat panel displays were around, but if they were, they were not the sort of thing many people would have. CRTs really need some overscan so you can have a nice clean edge - otherwise you get a fuzzy picture edge, and possibly various other things - ever seen the Teletext data "dots" creep in at the top of a badly adjusted TV ?

Because of overscan, part of the image isn't viewable - there are specs for how much to assume is lost. So program makers will avoid putting anything "important" near the edges of the image - if you look carefully at a non-overscanned display you'll be able to see this effect (titles, credits, captions, important action - all away from the image edge).

And because most content is made with the assumption of overscan, overscan persists as the default - and so the cycle goes around. IMO, now we have (in general) quite large displays, I don't think anything is lost by not chopping off the periphery - you still get all the detail and action, but a bit like Phillips Ambilight, you get that peripheral stuff adding to the immersiveness (assuming the content is good enough to draw you in that is !)

But I am really surprised that someone with Nigel's knowledge would even consider trying to get Windows to compensate for overscan when the **ONLY** correct way is to disable it on the display. Of course, if you like looking at a fuzzy picture that's deliberately mangled to be worse than the display can do, then I suppose it would be correct to get the computer to fuzz it and then let the display fuzz it a bit more.

Consider this ...

The default is for the display to overscan. So you take your nice crisp high-res image and send it to the display - lets say it's full HD at 1920 x 1080. The first thing the display does is to throw away about 1/3 of that image, then resample what's left. So instead of generating a 1080 line image and displaying it as a 1080 line image, what you actually see is something in the order of 700 to 800 lines which has been upsampled to 1080 lines - and similarly for the horizontal resolution.

For an "analogue" display like nicely rendered video, you won't notice - it's reckoned many people don't notice the difference between SD and HD channels on an HD set ! But for a computer desktop it's just flipping awful.

Yes it's completely flipping stupid these days - but we have "backwards compatibility" to deal with.

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Universal Pictures finds pirated Jurassic World on own localhost, fires off a DMCA takedown

SImon Hobson
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Re: A Scanner Darkly

No, they should be prosecuted for filing a false legal document that they've put their name to.

AIUI, one of the supposed "protections" in the DMCA is that the notice must be signed by a person who signs to say that it is a true statement. Since the statement is false, and could be seen to be false by anyone competent to be making claims about it's accuracy, then whoever put their name to is should be prosecuted.

If that person didn't actually sign it (as I suspect is the case) then whoever produced the document with a forged signature should be prosecuted.

No, I can't see that happening either !

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Jeep hackers broke DMCA, says EFF, and that's stupid

SImon Hobson
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Re: Cyber Pinto?

> I think they were more referring to the get rear ended / car may explode aspect of the pinto.

That was my assumption - the car model, not the engine.

The Pinto was famous, not so much for exploding if rear-ended, but for Ford deciding that it was cheaper to pay out the claims than to redesign the car. Supposedly there was an internal memo that got leaked with the numbers and the conclusion that it's "cheaper to let them burn".

I can't help thinking, along with the peson who said it, that we're going through the "cyber" version of this. The manufacturers almost certainly know that they have security issues - but since they can mostly deny them and get away with it, they've probably decided it's more cost effective to carry on regardless than it is to employ proper security people to work with the various projects.

Hence the comment about this potentially being the Cyber Pinto". So few people will be affected, and it'll be so hard for them (or their next of kin) to prove, that it'll be cheaper to leave the security problems as they are and pay out on the few cases they might be held responsible for.

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Security tool bod's hell: People think I wrote code for Hacking Team!

SImon Hobson
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Re: if they used GPL code in their products...

> The same goes for linking (dynamic or static) to a GPL library.

Wrong again, there sure is a lot of FUD around the GPL.

Statically linking a library into your binary blob does mean that your whole blob must be under the GPL is any of the libraries is. That's not the case where they are dynamically linked (especially since most libraries are under the LGPL which specifically covers this).

If you couldn't dynamically use a (L)GPL library without making your own code GPL then things would be incredibly restrictive - but they aren't.

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Disaster-gawping cam drones to be blasted out of the sky in California

SImon Hobson
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Re: We should, but for now it is simple

> You've clearly not been following how police powers and public order legislation has been used in the UK in recent years.

Indeed, and I was thinking this as I read through the earlier comments.

The standard technique used by all governments seems to be "find something everyone agrees is bad, pick a situation, legislate for that - but carefully word the legislation to cover a shed load more than it's claimed. In this case, who could possibly argue against letting the firefighters do their jobs ? So it's easy to push through the legislation as "it's clearly needed and no-one can argue against it".

But then what ? All it needs is for the officer in charge to declare <whatever it is> and he then gets free reign to abuse the legislation to attack perfectly reasonable and otherwise legal (for example) protest. Or there's examples like the sex offences laws (think of the childrun) used to convict someone for taking a pee in some bushes or the father who lightly slapped his teenage daughter (deservedly so by her own admission).

It does seem that there are already laws in place that would allow the emergency cervices to deal with these remote controlled devices. There is no need to use the event to pass what would otherwise be quite contentious laws.

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Dough! Dominos didn't register dominos.pizza – and now it's pizz'd off

SImon Hobson
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> risk becoming permanently associated with risk and cybersquatting

What's with the future tense ? That bridge was crossed a long time ago.

I wonder how long it will be before a business that's big enough and has the cash sues one of the registrars for running a protection racket. That fact that some of the new TLDs allow names to be blocked "on payment of a fee" does rather smack of a "nice brand you have there, shame if anything happened to it" racket.

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IT as a profit centre: Could we? Should we?

SImon Hobson
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> Bean counters sometimes appear to want caviar for fish-finger prices

Ah yes, there is nothing that can survive letting the bean counters loose on it.

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Are you a Tory-voting IT contractor? Congrats! Osborne is hiking your taxes

SImon Hobson
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Re: Add more complexity

> the new proposals are unnecessarily complex

You write that as though it's a fault !

I've come to the conclusion that TPTB do this deliberately - if the rules are complex enough, then it leaves wiggle room in the "interpretation" which they can work out later (in their favour). Of course, if your interpretation differs from what they later decide it should be (having seen how people are interpreting the rules to the tax payer's advantage) then you are on the hook for penalties as well as the "underpaid" tax. Trebles all round.

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Americans find fantastic new use for drones – interfering with firefighting

SImon Hobson
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> The problem they run into, is they are following FAA rules written assuming any flying vehicle is manned, so they must avoid damage to other vehicles at all costs.

While that may be true, the bigger problem they run into is that if they hit a drone, it could cause serious damage to the firefighter's aircraft. So they must avoid the area to avoid the risk to human life a collision could cause.

I'm inclined to agree with other comments - have a means of bringing them down, preferably intact so the owner/operator can be traced. It's going to have fingerprints, serial numbers, possibly WiFi access codes and/or the MAC address of whatever has been connected to it, and all manner of computer forensics on it. Then charge them with obstructing the firefighting operations.

Until there are a few well publicised prosecutions, people just won't see that there's any harm in flying them where they like.

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Apple and Samsung are plotting to KILL OFF the SIM CARD - report

SImon Hobson
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Re: What an embarrassment of knee-jerk reactions

> Can you seriously not envision a technical implementation of virtual SIM cards that gives you the same functionality that physical SIM cards give you today?

Yes, I can envision an implementation that does everything anyone could be bothered about. It just don't, for one second, believe that the manufactuers and carriers will do that. Apple alone is not exatly known for openness these days, and I can't believe it'll pass up an opportunity to further control what users can do with their devices.

> The Apple SIM gives you the flexibility to choose from a variety of short-term plans from select carriers in the U.S. and UK right on your iPad.

Note the "select" bit there. Not "any" carrier, but "select" carriers. Presumably the "select" actually means "ones who paid us enough to get on the list".

Yes I'm being cynical, but that's a result of observing how some vendors act these days.

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SImon Hobson
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FAIL

Re: Wow

> virtual SIM card system will presumably give you the same abilities as a physical SIM card system.

That's an assumption, and you know what assumption does don't you - it makes an "ass" out of "u" and "me".

However, you are correct that a soft-SIm COULD provide all the facilities a normal removable SIM card can do. That's "could", not necessarily "will".

Those of use with longer memories than a goldfish (7 seconds ?) can look back and see how most manufacturers - especially Apple - have been heading down a road of user lockin. Microsoft had a bit of a go in the 90s, but it took Apple to show them how to do it and only now is MS catching up.

So it's a fairly safe bet that to switch sim you'll need to connect your iThingy to your computer, run whatever Apple software it is by then (currently iTunes), and can then configure the device - but only using carriers that appear on the list of available carriers. SO this will be about who is prepared to give Apple enough dosh to appear in that list. It's no different to applications for your iWhatsit - if you are a developer then you play by Apple's rules, accept Apple's decisions without question, and pay over your Danegelt to Apple.

I really can't see Apple being more liberal with the SIM & carrier choice than they are with applications - all in the name of security of course !

And of course, the carriers win as well. They'll be able to control which devices the 'sim' can be used with - so if you've bought an expensive iThingy, the carrier will now be able to properly enforce you only using their more expensive iThinky tariffs with it.

And even if, if we take leave of our senses and ignore history for a bit, none of this restrictive practice does come about - there is still the issue of practicality.

I can pop the SIM out of my phone and pop it into another device - I used to do that a fair bit when I had a phone that didn't tether. And as above, I can take the SIM out and pop a different one in - I used to do that as well when I used to keep a PAYG one going for backup (patchy coverage round here).

Once you go soft SIM, then the carrier can prevent you moving the SIM to another device, or restrict how often you do it, or require that you be online to do it (tough if you are in-communicado until you've swapped your SIM !), or charge a fee each time (some carriers still charge to unlock a phone that's out of contract).

SO yes, the soft SIM could do everything a removable SIM card can do. But I really really really cannot see that happening. Apple alone has a good track record of doing lockin, it would really have to change it's spots to do something that didn't in some way restrict what users can do with devices it pretends to sell them.

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BT circles wagons round Openreach as Ofcom mulls forced split-up

SImon Hobson
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> My main concern is where the investment would come from for continued improvements.

Simple.

For "run of the mill" stuff, the expenditure comes out of retailed profits. The equation is fairly simple, it charges "customers" for use of it's infrastructure, it pays out it's running costs (rates, wages, taxes, etc), and what is left over is retained profit. Of course, it'll need to do improvements - add a cabinet here, add more cable there, upgrade some old kit, and so on. For most of these, it's just another operating expense.

Now for "big ticket" items (like a fast and nationwide rollout of FTTC) it goes out to the money markets with a business proposal along the lines of : "we need £X to fund this project, as a result of this project, we'll be able to take in £Y, and projected return on investment will be Z%. Who's up for a share of that ?"

If the figures stack up, investors (who may include the ISPs who'll get to sell the services) will put their hands in their pockets and the capital will be raised that way - by either selling bonds or more shares. Behind the scenes, that's what BT will have been doing for their multi-billion investments - except that instead of selling bonds, they've sold shares.

Where the figures don't stack up, they'll do exactly what BT did - and go to the government/councils/whoever and blackmail them. "If you want <spiffing new service> in these unprofitable areas, then you'll have to pay for it". Where someone will pay for, or at least adequately subsidise, it - then they'll install it.

Where I'd see the biggest benefit is the removal of the political restraints. Those of us with an involvement in telecoms for long enough will know that pretty well every new service BT has done has been in some way crippled in order to protect their existing cash-cows.

For example, ISDN2 never caught on in the UK because it was expensive and crippled. In some countries it flourished because it wasn't and wasn't. How and why was it crippled ?

Well in Germany, you could send low speed data via the D channel without dialling up a B channel. This meant that for WAN applications you could handle low speed data without racking up the call charges, and then fire up one or more B channels when the link got busy. Over here you couldn't, except in certain expensive and crippled ways designed to make sure few actually did it.

And why was it crippled like this ? Well of course you could never prove it, but had it been as full featured as Germany's ISDN2 then it would have slashed income from leased lines - BT's then cash cow. It was in BT's interest not to allow something that could harm that cash cow.

And I can't help thinking that BT's lethargy in rolling out ADSL initially was a further attempt to stave off the further butchery of it's cash cows. Why pay £6k/year (at a previous employer, we had two lines that cost £8k/year each to give us 64k to a couple of remote sites) for a Kilostream when for many applications a couple of ADSL circuits and VPN capable routers would do the job for a fraction of the price ?

I can believe the comments about NZ having a boom in services once the lines business was split from the services business. Over here we don't have dark fibre - much better to rent a lit fibre and screw the customer for speed related charges. You can't (other than very limited options) buy a circuit from A to B that doesn't go via the exchange. It's "very difficult" to rent duct space. And so the list goes on.

Split off BTOR and the political pressure to not allow various services has gone. Yes I'd expect BT to squeal - it would remove some very real and very significant advantages it has (specifically being able to tailor available products to suit it's own requirements) and force it to compete on a more level playing field.

Leaving aside some fairly light regulation ... Remember that **NOTHING** BTOR do at the moment is specifically to give "us" something better. **EVERYTHING** they do is designed to give BTOR (and therefore it's sole owner, BT) the best return possible.

Split BTOR away from the controlling influence of BT and I'd expect to very quickly start seeing some new and "interesting" products and services.

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Uber slapped with $7.3m fine for keeping quiet about driver accidents

SImon Hobson
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Re: More and more

> Just ask Big Blue, Ma Bell, or MS how fighting with the government turned out.

Actually, they'll probably tell you it's not that big a deal.

IBM dragged it out for (IIRC) about a decade and then got their choice of president elected who promptly returned the favour by getting all the investigations to go away.

Bell was broken up - but over the years the parts have re-combined.

MS - well they got the equivalent of telling a naughty kid to "don't do it again or ... I'll tell you not to do it again". Even in the EU where they actually lost, all they had to do was put up the "browser choice" screen for a while which was a farce since it was years since they'd seen off the competition. Probably the only painful part was having to document all their network protocols - anecdotally, going back "some years" MS's engineers used to talk to some of the Samba team at conferences and such in order to find out how the MS stuff worked !

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Microsoft to Windows 10 consumers: You'll get updates LIKE IT or NOT

SImon Hobson
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Re: THE SKY IS FALLING!

> While I agree that *those in the know* should be able to control updates, I think this is a positive move by MS for the vast majority of **consumer** level users - knowing that they will all have the latest updates ...

But this is not what the complaints are about. Automatic updates are already the default IIRC and the user has to take proactive steps to turn them off - and will then get forever nagged about it.

This is about not having the option to turn automatic upgrading off at all - and that just stinks for all the reasons given. It essentially means that no-one other then enterprise users is in control of their systems anymore as software "upgrades" will be controlled by a third party.

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SImon Hobson
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Re: no matter what MS force on us

> To force updates onto PC's is in my mind a breach of the Computer Misuse Act.

Unfortunately not, by accepting the agreement you have given permission for this.

You could go to court, argue that the term is unfair under the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contract Regulations, and if you get that OK'd by a judge then the term becomes unenforceable, and then it would be a breach of the Computer Misuse Act.

Only a few minutes ago we were talking about Win10 in the office - specifically about the "Nagware" installed under the false description of "enhancing computer performance or security" just the same as every other security update. Now I believe that could reasonably be considered an offence under the CMA on the grounds that users only agreed to install it because Microsoft misrepresented what it does - so any consent (whether implied (not turning off automatic updates) or explicit (installing updates manually)) is void since it was obtained by false representations.

Now - who's up for complaining to Old Bill ?

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Apple's chip'n'firmware security demands behind HomeKit delays

SImon Hobson
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As per some of the earlier comments - enforcing security=good.

But this is enforce security in Apple's way, in a way that requires Apple kit to work, won't interoperate with anything else, and will become obsolete when Apple decide it is obsolete - which you can absolutely guarantee from past experience will not be when the hardware is very old. That's a crapload of negatives - but as also said, it'll probably sell because ... well it's Apple isn't it.

So overall I reckon this is at least as bad for the market as it is good. Apple could have mandated security standards, supported the manufacturers in that, and still supported interoperable and open standards. But this is Apple, so they do what they do best - build in non-standards to lock out the rest of the market.

I, for one, won't be buying any of it.

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Apple snuggles closer to IPv6

SImon Hobson
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Re: IPv6 Leakage?

> It would seem that this implementation of IPv6 DNS will leak by design.

It will leak no more and no less by design then before. The leakage is not because the host OS is using IPv6, it's because the VPN endpoint isn't doing it's job properly.

Put another way, the IPv6 leakage is due to a crap VPN only dealing with IPv4 traffic. There is absolutely no excuse for this - any VPN worthy of the name should handle IPv6 traffic, or at the absolute least (configurably, but default to on) disable it while the IPv4 tunnel is up.

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What do you MEAN, 'Click on the thing which looks like a Mondrian?'

SImon Hobson
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Re: You Think You've Got It Bad?

> Try providing IT support by phone to my mother.

I'm struggling to type now - just the thought causes a nervous twitch.

My Mum's favourite is to throw into a conversation that "A message came up", what does it mean ? No she didn't make any note of what it said, no it's not still on the screen.

But otherwise, "I clicked something, a message came up" (where neither the "something" clicked, nor the message is either specified or can be remembered) is a fairly common description of the fault - which usually cannot be reproduced.

But +1 for remote control software. Being a Mac, I just use the built in Screen Sharing - which I can do remotely via an SSH tunnel to my server there.

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Uber to drivers: You make a ton of dosh for us – but that doesn't make you employees

SImon Hobson
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Re: Rather than Criticize...

> I have a friend who owns a car service; ... The drivers fill thier gaps in bookings with Uber rides.

OK, so you give an example of drivers who are licensed and insured. I find it, to be polite, "highly unlikely" that even a significant majority of drivers are legal.

It's also telling that only a quick look at their website shows several causes for concern by non-USA people. Their website isn't compliant with EU law (on several counts), even after setting a UK city as the location - and their help pages are clearly USA only.

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Brit teen who unleashed 'biggest ever distributed denial-of-service blast' walks free from court

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> Given the rest of your comment, it appears you don't know how a DNS amplification attack works.

Have an upvote for that.

And IIRC (could be wrong, might have been another reflection/amplification attack I'm thinking of), at the time BIND was only just getting rate-limiting as a feature - I think it was there but hadn't filtered through to all the distro-specific packages yet. If the package you are using doesn't have rate limiting, then that does make such attacks hard to mitigate.

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UH OH: Windows 10 will share your Wi-Fi key with your friends' friends

SImon Hobson
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Re: Slightly misleading

> only applies to PSK networks

AKA pretty well all home networks, and a very large proportion of small business networks

> the "friend of a friend" sharing appears to only happen if you manually give your friend the password instead of sharing it with them via Wi-Fi Sense.

Since I don't have a Windows machine, and if I have a Win10 VM it'll have this turned off, that's the only way I'll be giving people the password. Hence, I'll now have to check everyone's device (can't ask them, as per previous comments the vast majority of users will have no idea) to make sure this is turned off before letting them join.

Still, I was planning on setting up a 3 (at least) way network - one for me and trusted devices, another for any IoT stuff I let in the house, and a 3rd for visitors.

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VPNs are so insecure you might as well wear a KICK ME sign

SImon Hobson
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Re: Do the users of these services care?

I think the point is not that these services can be insecure - as you say, for many people the geo-location thing may be all that they are bothered about. But there will be people using them who are reading the vendors hype, thinking they are more secure than they actually are, and therefore exposing themselves to "danger"* - perhaps to "danger"* that they wouldn't accept if they knew the truth.

* Whether that danger is just a matter of remaining anonymous on a blog, through to cases where it could really involve personal physical risk.

I would hope that people where "danger" actually meant real physical danger would take more care, but as we all know, many people really have no idea about technology, and even less knowledge about how to assess the security of a VPN.

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SImon Hobson
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Re: @Sebby - Why did the IPv6 rollout have to be such a mess as to encourage these problems?

> Actually because real-life companies (banks as an example) have critical mission systems and other tens of thousands of host running just fine on their internal IPv4 networks

But the point is, they don't have to change their existing internal networks if they don't want to. They can continue using their existing IPv4 allocations, or use RFC1918 addresses.

But the pubic facing systems are a different matter - these are all relatively new (how many banks have old online banking portals ?) It's quite possible to upgrade the public facing portals while keeping IPv4 only on internal systems.

And while we know that many of the internal critical systems are old, IPv6 has been around for something like a couple of decades. It's because people have stuck their head in the sand (or up their backsides) for a couple of decades that we are in the current situation and still talking about methods (carrier grade NAT, where's the barf bucket ?) to try and keep IPv4 going - and often it's the same people putting effort into this that are still dragging their heels and trying to pretend that the rumbling noise they can feel through that shiny bit of metal they are standing on really isn't the IPv6 train coming down the line.

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French Uber bosses talk to Le Plod over 'illicit activity' allegations

SImon Hobson
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> Certainly in the UK, the normal driving license does not cover you to drive "for hire or reward"

Actually that's not correct. A normal Group B licence will cover you for driving a taxi (as long as it has 8 or fewer passenger seats as required for Group B vehicles).

> you have to get a PSV licence for that

AIUI there is no such thing. There is however a licence class (Group D) you need to drive a bus (Group D1 is a minibus with 16 or fewer passenger seats, Group D is a bus with more than 16 passenger seats).

Those of us who probably now qualify as grumpy old men will have got Group C1 (light goods up to 7.5t) and D1 (minibus), plus towing rights (+E) for those and Group B. New drivers don't get those groups and need additional tests for any of C1, D1, B+E, C1+E, D1+E - with IIRC some concessions along the lines of pass X+E and you can have Y+E as well, but I don't recall the details of that.

> I would guess that strictly speaking most Uber drivers in the UK are illegal as well

Yes, but not for licence issues - it'll be the "hire & reward" bit which they won't have insurance for. No standard domestic policy includes H&R without a significant extra premium - many don't even cover commuting without it being specifically asked for (as a "commercial use" extra).

They'll also probably fall foul of the requirements for running a H&R vehicle - which IIRC (I had a mate who did it for a living) included things like a 6 monthly MoT test which was less "pragmatic" over minor issues than most regular tests.

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Courtney Love in the crossfire! Paris turns ugly over Uber

SImon Hobson
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Re: So what will happen...

> Apparently many Uber drivers continue to operate, now illegally, and little or nothing is being done by the authorities to stop this activity.

That seems to be the key issue.

Uber can complain all it likes - but it should, like everyone else, obey the law as it stands now. OK, if they don't like the law then petition to get it changed, but the law is as it is and they should obey it.

What should be happening is the authorities clamping down, arresting and charging any drivers found flouting the law - and drag in Uber as facilitating that illegal activity (conspiracy to commit a crime, assisting an offender). Even leaving aside whether Uber itself is legal, I bet an awfully large proportion of it's drivers don't have the right insurance etc - so they can be had for that alone, and again Uber as an accessory unless they can show (which they won't be able to) that they've taken all reasonable measures to vet their contractors for legality.

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