* Posts by SImon Hobson

790 posts • joined 9 Sep 2006

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'Granola-eating tree hugger' takes plunge, becomes IoT upstart

SImon Hobson

Re: Smart Radiator Valves

> Smart Radiator Valves ...are a solution for dumb boilers.

> ... I made sure it had the external temperature sensor ...

That's called weather compensation and is a solution for dumb systems. Yes, it's much better than a fixed temp, but far better still would be smart TRVs which signalled the requirements back and controlled the boiler.

Zoning only goes so far - eg it heats all the bedrooms, even if you only use the back one intermittently as an "office". Ditto downstairs - it won't leave an empty room unheated unless you manually shut down that radiator.

So my ideal system would be a smart TRV on every rad so I can program a typical profile* for each room, combine it with other sensors (if the window is open then it's probably too warm !) and possibly occupancy sensors. Then each smart TRV signals it's state back to a controller which regulates the flow temperature (using the weather comp input if the boiler isn't very smart, or better still a controlled mixing valve on the thermal store). So as the TRVs are closing, the flow temperature reduces to the point where the last TRV isn't fully closed.

* Note that "profile" may or may not include "off" for some rooms - just set back the temperature at night so the (eg) bedroom doesn't get too cold.

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You’ll be the coolest guy in IT if you ain't got your ID

SImon Hobson

Only last week I had a (very very) minor version of this.

Had to visit a client, who shares a small building with another business. The business downstairs "mans" reception, and it's one of those "front door is open, but that only gets you to reception and a locked door" arrangements - they also don't have someone sat at reception, they come through from another office when they hear the door chime.

Sorted the clients problem (BT failed to log the fact that they'd been paid, cia the payment facility on their own website, and cut off the internet without warning), put my laptop back in it's case and left. Through reception and ... oh dear, the front door is locked.

Can't go back, can't go out, and there's no bell to ring.

Fortunately, since it's only a small building (large house sized), they could hear me from upstairs, knocking on the inner door.

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Silence is golden: Charlie Chaplin's The Tramp is 100 today

SImon Hobson

Re: It seems that one or two people don't get it. "It" in this case being..........

> what one finds funny is very individual

Have an upvote for that.

Some very successful (as in they earn a good living from it) modern comedians leave me wondering what is supposed to be funny in their act. Doesn't make them "not funny", just not the sort of humour I like.

@ J.G.Harston

I agree.

I would suggest you keep an eye out for some of the programs/series Paul Merton does about the actors/comedians of that era.

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The VMware, Nutanix mud wrestle is hilarious, but which one is crying with fear on the inside?

SImon Hobson

Re: Hardware vs Software

> Software, well...how much power do you trust your software vendor with? So much that you're willing to bet your whole business on them without retaining any realistic bargaining position?

<SFX: Twilight zone theme>

Something I've been mentioning on and off for a couple of decades, as in (to the FD) "do you really want to write a load of blank cheques to Microsoft". Something I was mentioning to a colleague only this morning - how "cloud" is (in some ways) a full circle back to the 1960s where a powerful ${something} supports loads of "dumb" terminals - and how so many seem to be rushing to cloud without considering the risks (lock in, cloud evaporating, your account evaporating from cloud, ...). And how some vendors (Adobe for example) have moved to cloud/subscriptions so they can extort money for as long as you want to run your creative business - or someone else comes along and usurps them (don't see much sign of that, yet).

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NHS England has some sneaky plans for Care.data acceleration

SImon Hobson

Re: The price of failing to cooperate...

To which I'd reply :

"In that case, can I just check that I've got your details correct for the upcoming prosecution ?"

That might just get them to start discussing their responsibilities - which include that they cannot coerce you into allowing this. You have to give your freely given and informed consent - this isn't one of those "covered by the exceptions" situations.

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No password or PIN, but I have a fake ID. Sure, take the domain

SImon Hobson

Re: Not just Go-Daddy

> That sounds ok to me. The contact details the registrar already had on record were used to confirm the request was valid.

Really ! Just having the phone answered by someone claiming to be the right person is enough ? In this case it involved the receptionist - you know, those highly vetted and highly paid people who are experts in security. In many cases, when someone leaves, reception is told to forward all calls for the person to someone else in their office - the bigger the organisation, the easier is would be for the highly trained security expert on reception to not notice being given duff information.

Or it could well have just been the cleaner or security guard at a weekend - you know, when it's best to phone up with the "our systems our down, I'll be strung up Monday morning if I can't fix this" story.

On second thoughts, if just answering the right phone is enough, can I borrow your mobile to call your bank - I'd like to withdraw some money on your behalf :-)

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This isn't the one-stop EU data protection you're looking for

SImon Hobson

Re: They saw the light.?

> Maybe they finally recognized that the entire Internet would have to block European traffic if they did not allow personal data to be collected.

No, there would be no such requirement or limitation.

> After all it's the fuel that Internet websites run on and it's the price you pay to use things like Gmail or Google Search.

True, and they'd be able to carry on collecting and using that data.

What would, if proper laws got passed, happen is that companies would have to be open and honest about what they collect and how they use it. Just burying a one liner "we will collect personal data and use it to provide services from us and 3rd parties" somewhere in a "War and Peace" user agreement doesn't cut it. What they'd need to do is provide a clear, simple, statement of what they collect and what they'll use that data for.

Many people, for example, may well be happy if Google tell them "we'll collect everything we can from reading your mail, provide personalised advertising based on that data, but we won't pass that data on to anyone else" in return for providing the "free" Gmail service. But most of those people probably wouldn't be happy with a "we will collect any information we can, including personal information such as sexual preferences and medical issues, and sell that data to anyone who'll pay us for it" !

What many companies want to be able to do is the latter without having to admit to doing it - eg by taking the users failure to set an obscure setting in their browser as "permission" to collect any information possible and use it in any way.

This exercise was *supposed* to be about preventing one country deliberately setting it's privacy/data protection laws to "relaxed" so as to entice the likes of Farcebook and Gobble. That leads to "brass plate" headquartering in the way large corporations do in order to (legally it must be pointed out) reduce their tax bill.

It was also supposed to be about making it easier for a citizen in one country (eg the UK) dealing with a corporate based in another country (eg Ireland) when they have an "issue". That seems to have been hashed up so as to produce something worse than we currently have.

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Hated smart meters likely to be 'a costly failure' – MPs

SImon Hobson

Re: UK market specifics

> I'm not convinced by the "Primary goal of the project is to be able to cut people off who haven't paid their bill" is this really the primary goal?

Actually, that's the secondary goal. The primary goal is still cutting people off - but for a different reason.

Thanks to decades of "kicking the ball into the long grass for someone else to deal with" - ie leaving the difficult decisions till after the next election, and politicians pandering to the "nucular is bad, can't have any of it" brigade, and don't even get me started on the renewables farce, we are facing a situation over the next few years where it's "not certain" that we'll always have enough power to satisfy peak loads.

There are two ways to do this, and traditionally we've gone down the route of simply building enough dispatchable power stations to be able to meet all reasonable demands. There's always been a small element of load-side control, but primarily it's been about generating what people use. "Economy 7" and similar tariffs are part of that load side management - and were designed primarily to allow the base load to be kept up overnight and keep the "cheap"* nuclear stations running flat out and minimise the diurnal rundown of the other big thermal (ie coal) stations.

As the antis love to point out, nuclear power stations take a long time to build (here at least, the Chinese can do it on time and on budget). So there's little chance of the new build plants being online before the brown stuff hits the fan. We've something in the order of 8GW of wind capacity - which is to all intents useless when there's a lovely static high pressure system over the whole of northern Europe for a week or so, ie when demand is at it's highest because it's ****ing freezing !

Of course, if relations with Russia degrade much more, then we also have to factor the risk of them turning the gas tap off at an awkward moment - and thus shutting down another chunk of capacity.

SO what we're left with is smart metering who's primary function is to ration electricity. Perhaps it doesn't match the dictionary definition, but the end result is that when demand outstrips supply then the price will rocket. The rich will ignore it, the poor will sit and freeze - and wait till 2am to have their tea when they can afford to cook it. If that doesn't alter demand enough, then remote turn off is there specifically to cut off people and so reduce their consumption by force.

Think about the rolling power cuts of the 70s, but on a more granular scale.

All the other bollocks is just fancy dressing to try and pretend it's for our own good and something we should want. Oh yes, and lets not forget that these will store and transmit your usage - every half hour of every day, all going into a big database that we don't need to worry about because a) it's secure and b) it's not allowed to be used for anything but billing. Yeah, we all believe those promises don't we !

* In relative terms. Much of the "expense" is in dealing with the "it must be a lot lot lot lot lot safer than any other risk we accept every day" approach to risk.

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Grab your pitchforks: Ubuntu to switch to systemd on Monday

SImon Hobson

Re: read around...

> enough large distros have decided in favour of it

Err have they ?

AIUI Debian haven't decided in favour of it, more like determined that they don't have the resources to fight it ! Saying Debian have decided in favour of it is a bit like saying that Aron Ralston decided on having only one arm (cf 127 hours).

Debian have stated up front that they simply cannot reverse engineer out the dependencies of certain packages on systemd before the next major relase - but they plan to for the one after that. My worry is that once it's in there, more and more stuff will depend on it (because it's there) and the job of untangling the mess will just get harder and harder.

So far I've seen a lot of arguments both ways, still to see a reasonable argument as to what it fixes that actually needs fixing, and the more I get to know about it (and the devs behind it) the more I want my servers to remain free of it. I like my servers stable and reliable - and if they do fall over, fixable.

If I wanted Windows levels of bloat, complexity, opaqueness, etc then I'd run Windows. Hint, I don't run Windows.

If any of the packages I use gains a systemd dependency then it'll get a bug report - though I suspect I'd have to be really quick to get in first with that.

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Bite my shiny metal Ask: Java for OS X crapware storm brewing

SImon Hobson

Re: At least on a Windows PC...

> there's a checkbox in the Java control panel, Advanced page/miscellaneous: "Suppress sponsor offers when installing or updating Java"

There wasn't in mine - it only appeared after upgrading from .39 to .40

And it appears unchecked.

But at least the updater didn't prompt me for anything. I'm currently running a scan for it just to be safe.

I'm guessing that perhaps they slipped the checkbox in sometime without actually changing the revision level. So those with the checkbox already get prompted for the malware, while those still without it just get the option installed silently (ready for next time).

I'm sure there's scope for an enterprising person with the wherewithall to go to the Police and report a crime under the misuse of computers act. I think it would be a hard case to make that the user has "given permission" by the action of not noticing this new option appearing down at the end of a long list of settings that the average user couldn't be expected to understand (let alone be fiddling with). Thus installing such malware would be interfering with the computer without the user's consent.

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VMware sued, accused of ripping off Linux kernel source code

SImon Hobson

Re: Case..

> ... if you include GPL source code in your work then your entire codebase becomes subject to the GPL, which means you have to make the source code available.

Err no, that's one of the lies the anti-GPL brigade trot out.

You only need to provide the code to the part of your system that uses the GPL code.

Example, you have a big system but include a few utilities. One of those utilities (a separate executable binary) uses GPL code. Only the code to that utility must be made available on demand. The other utilities (which don't use or depend on the GPL code), and the bigger system (ditto) can still remain closed and secret.

Such distinctions are important. There are so many lies and misdirections used to discredit the GPL, we need to be accurate ourselves in defending it so as not to provide further ammunistion.

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Broadband routers: SOHOpeless and vendors don't care

SImon Hobson

Re: @ Mephistro Why, oh why...

> In order to hold a manufacturer liable you have to show that they intentionally created a substandard product.

Err, no you don't.

You merely need to show that it was substandard, AND that they either knew or should reasonably have known that it was substandard.

I'm sure that a creative lawyer could argue that by providing an insecure router (a defect unpatched after one year, let alone 7 should be enough evidence) the manufacturer is guilty of "aiding an offender" or "conspiracy to commit a crime" by providing the tools used by the criminals that exploit them.

A good test case "pour discouragement les autres" would shake things up a bit. Lets just say, I'm not holding my breath on that happening.

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East Timor was officially removed from the internet yesterday

SImon Hobson

> Apologies if I am being over simplistic about this but wouldn't the appropriate path have been to mirror all .tp over to .tl then after a period drop .tp? Running the two in parallel with different domains is just asking for trouble.

Yes, you are being simplistic !

I believe the plan is to open up the new registry, then get all the existing domains to move across. I assume (would hope) that all existing names would be reserved in the new registry - it would be a bit of a bummer to find your name taken when you come to move.

But that is just the easy bit. The really easy bit.

As the article points out, there is a lot of work involved. Just sit down and work out how many places you have given your email address to. Make out a list - and I'll pretty much guarantee that unless you either a) kept a list from the beginning, or b) have an eidetic memory, then you'll miss loads and loads and loads of places.

So a couple of years down the line, you come to log into something and can't recall your password. No problem - click the "forgotten password" link and put your email address in. FAIL. Because you forgot about it, you can no longer log in, AND you can't recover your password because your old email has stopped working.

That's just one example. I can think of a few services that I'm registered with and might not access more than once a year (or even less). In fact, only this week I accessed a system for work (software licence portal for a bit of software a customer uses) that we probably didn't log into for nearly 4 years - and no-one knew the password as the person (no longer working for us) who created the account didn't record it anywhere we know of.

If that service turns out to be for something critical then you could have problems - just think of all that manual work (alluded to in the article) for site operators changing domain for users !

And of course, think of all those services where your email is your account - I know a few where it's hard or impossible to change (bad design, but sh!t happens).

And then there's all those "forgotten systems" which keep churning away in the background and rely on email addresses embedded in config files and scripts. That little utility that "does something | mail -s "Here's your info" user@domain.tp - they all need finding, changing, and testing. Each one is not a problem - but when there's a lot of them, in systems people have forgotten they have, then it adds up.

For us, if a customer came along and said they were moving domains on their email, then depending on teh system it might not be too much work - but it would be manual work *moving* their existing accounts to the new domain and adding redirects from the old domain.

That's just email. Now lets look at other services.

For *every* web site the server config needs updating. It needs to know what to do when it gets a request for the new hostname. If it's a secure site, then it needs a new certificate - which now needs to be a multi-host certificate (== more costly) as it needs to be valid for both domains.

The fact that you're posting here suggests you're probably reasonably technically literate. For the rest of the population, multiply the problems 10 fold or 100 fold !

So yes, it *IS* a big deal. No it's *NOT* as simple as just mirroring the domains over.

You can't just add the new TLD. If you do that, then people will try to access stuff on it that isn't working or simply gives confusing results == confusion. So you need a phased approach so each domain owner can get the new stuff set up and *then* get the new domain created.

PS - don't get me started on the hassles of getting all the old email autocomplete entries purged !

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Debian on track to prove binaries' origins

SImon Hobson

Re: What a complete joke

> So this work 'proves' that the source they built with was the source code they include in their source packages

Yes - that's it's sole function.

> but it doesn't prove the code in their own source packages matches up with the original source code released by the application developers

No, because you can do that yourself - just by diffing the sources.

The whole point is that you can inspect the source yourself, and if you are bothered, you can compare the upstream and Debian versions. That's relatively easy as the sources are there - there's nothing you can't inspect.

What you haven't been able to show, until now, is that the source Debian tell you a package is built from, and which you may have compared to the upstream source, is what was actually used to build the binary.

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The Revenue achieved RECORD numbers of e-tax returns ... by NOT shifting to GOV.UK

SImon Hobson
WTF?

Re: Gov UK +1

I can see why you'd post as an AC !

I too can see the idea behind it, and that was good. Unfortunately it's the only good thing I've seen out of it.

Good visual design is good, but it's useless if the underlying functionality is missing. Yes, some of the other Gov sites are/were crap - but at least they did work. Most of what I've had to use gov.uk for has been a big "WTF ?" as the underlying functionality has been missing.

Yes it's nice to have good form along with good function. But if I have to choose between form or function - then I'd take function any day. Seems like they took function, and tossed it away.

And thumbs up for HMRC keeping control of their own stuff, I really really hate to think what doing a tax return would be like in telly tubby land.

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Hello Barbie: Hang on, this Wi-Fi doll records your child's voice?

SImon Hobson

What about friends ?

While the parent who buys it (or at least, one hopes is required to configure it if bought by someone else) gets to see the "privacy" agreement - what about parents of the child's friends ?

I can foresee some "interesting" cases coming to light when other parents find out that others have been exposing their children in this way.

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Lenovo shipped lappies with man-in-the-middle ad/mal/bloatware

SImon Hobson

Re: Microsoft hardware

> When you buy a "windows" laptop you get a licence key on the bottom, usually under the battery. This is so you can download a vanilla copy of the OS from MS and install it, getting rid of the crapware that came with the laptop.

No, the purpose of that sticker is to show that you have a genuine OS installed.

It used to be, dunno about now because I don't follow in that much detail, that the licence was only valid for the image pre-installed by the manufacturers (or re-installed from recovery disks). It specifically did not allow for re-installation with another 'version' of Windows.

Ie, just because you have a licence for (say) XP, that does not give you the right to install XP - other than the OEM version that came with the machine. Quite HTF the average user is supposed to know that the licence for "XP" isn't for "XP" but for "a specific but unspecified version of XP" when there's no hint whatsoever on the sticker is another matter !

But when has "user friendly" ever been part of Microsoft's licensing schemes.

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Vodafone didn't have a £6bn tax bill. Sort yourselves out, Lefties

SImon Hobson

Re: Yes, but

> but the issue there is: was there ever a legitimate reason to create that structure in the first place?

Obviously yes - basic economics, if you have an opportunity to decrease your costs and/or expenses then doing so will increase profits. The law allows it, so it's legal. We may not like it, but that's not the company's fault - it's the fault of the legislators that made a law that allows it.

As an analogy, some businesses don't register for VAT when they could do. If the bulk of their sales is labour, and the bulk of their customers are not VAT registered - then it may be better to not register for VAT (if their turnover is low enough), take the hit on not being able to reclaim the VAT on materials purchases, but be able to not add VAT to their labour rates. End result is the business makes more money, the customer pays lower prices, but the VAT man gets less money. Would it be morally wrong for the one man and a van jobbing builder to do that ?

Similarly, there are pensions and ISAs - both are tax-efficient ways of saving money, especially if you (legally) use salary sacrifice to allow your employer to put money in your pension and reduce tax paid. So yes, I take advantage of several legal tax avoidance schemes - does that make me immoral ? PS - I'm a basic rate taxpayer, even if I doubled my income I'd still be a basic rate taxpayer - so hopefully people will agree that "as the little guy" I'm entitled to do what I can to (legally) minimise my tax. Does avoidance only become immoral above a certain income/richness level ?

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SImon Hobson

Re: Tim, get real.

> What they are actually doing is looking for a loophole in the law to do something which has now been specifically outlawed - this is not following the law it is avoiding it.

Simple fact.

If there is a "loophole" that allows it, then the law allows it<period> Arguably, a loophole is no such thing - it's a feature of the law as written. It may not have been intended (a lot of the results of modern legislation has that problem), but that's what's written.

So yes, these companies did follow the law AFAICT. Don't like the results - get the law changed.

And for anyone smugly arguing that tax avoidance is morally wrong ... Do you have a pension ? Do you have anything like an ISA ? If the answer to either of these is yes, then you are benefitting from a tax avoidance scheme. So stop whining about legal use of avoidance.

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Inside GOV.UK: 'CHAOS' and 'NIGHTMARE' as trendy Cabinet Office wrecked govt websites

SImon Hobson

Couldn't agree more

It seems to me that pretty well all of the new site is designed to look pretty while doing nothing.

For different reasons I've been looking for information on different parts of the site. "Painful" just does not describe how crap it is to use.

As to the comment about email vs forms etc. One part I accessed has, at the bottom of their contact page, an email address to contact them. So I emailed all the key information needed to start off a process - and got an email back to say "phone us". What is the ****ing point of giving an email address that "doesn't work" ? "Doesn't work" meaning that using it won't actually get you anywhere and you'll still have to give all the information to someone over the phone.

Mind you, the old DVLA site also had issues. Pages and pages of stuff about what you needed for this and that - but without links to the actual legislation, not even mention of what act covers that snippet of life. Thus making it "quite hard" to track down the actual legislation which is often subtly different from the DVLA interpretation of it.

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It's not easy being Green. But WHY insist we knit our own ties?

SImon Hobson

Re: Yeah well...

> As it happens though I have significantly less than unlimited money to spend, and as such I'm absolutely, definitely NOT POORER for doing my own minor plumbing repair when needed instead of calling an expensive-as-hell specialist I can ill afford to pay for unless I absolutely have to.

Sounds like you are in the same boat as me !

But I don't think what you are saying contradicts what Tim wrote. I too do plumbing - partly because good plumbers cost a lot, partly because there are few I'd let anywhere near any of my plumbing, and partly because I enjoy doing it to a point.

That is fine for you and me - we both know how to do plumbing things. Possibly because (in my case) I learned by watching dad, and eventually tackling some myself. I've also had to buy few tools because Dad bought or made* most of the tools needed.

But we are unusual in that respect. The vast majority don't have the tools or skills - so the "cost" to them of doing it themselves would be the time taken to learn how to do it, and the real cost of buying the tools.

Another aspect of Tim's standpoint is an article I read some years ago - the basic premise was "no-one knows how to make a pencil". Sounds ridiculous at first glance, everyone knows how to make a pencil don't they ? But do they really ? Can they fell a tree and work the wood, mine the materials for the "lead" and actually make it (I assume grind, blend, extrude, and 'cook'), make the glue for the wood, make the paint, make the rubber, and make the little metal bit that holds the rubber ? So no, I doubt if there is anyone alive who genuinely knows how to make a pencil - lots of specialists who know how to do various stages, but no one person who can do everything.

* There's another of those anomalies.Dad made a lot of tools (or as mum calls it, making things to make things) - because he enjoyed doing it. In economics terms it made little sense - unless you include (as I think Tim does) "personal enjoyment" as a value.

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Net neutrality: Growing flames of criticism lick FCC chief's secret plans

SImon Hobson

Re: Maybe I'm cynical.

I wouldn't call that cynical - it's fairly well known that providers will generally only compete if they have competition.

Looking at how things have gone over here in the UK, there's a community project not too far from me - sadly not actually near me :-( - which set out to roll out "community installed" fibre to a load of rural villages and small towns. Yup, gigabit fibre for a modest monthly fee which can be even smaller if you've contributed to the build and/or upkeep.

Apparently, many of the villages were on BT's "won't ever get FTTC" list - hence the community project. Amazingly, once the project announced where they were going, then many of the villages suddenly became commercially viable for BT to install FTTC !

BT has a long history of doing nothing until it risks losing business to competition - then it'll wake up and do all it can to kill that competition.

I strongly suspect we'd still be paying a premium for "up to" 8Mbps ADSL (vs 512k or 2M ADSL) if third parties hadn't come along and started offering ADSL2+ ("up to" 24Mbps) using their own kit in exchanges - and the regulator had to step in to force BT to allow that.

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Not-spot-busting for the home: Eero thinks tiny mesh router's a winner

SImon Hobson

Re: Hasn't this been done (better) before?

> Also, why would people not use the homeplug wifi extenders?

Because they are the radio equivalent of putting your heavy metal concert grade hifi on volume 11 so you can listen to it at the end of the garden - works for you, pity if anyone else doesn't share your tastes. By design, these units squirt lots of radio energy into cabling that (not by design, but by being designed for something else - ie power carrying) are not radio cables. So you turn your home wiring into a big antenna sending out loads of radio interference across huge swathes of the spectrum.

Over here in the UK, it's largely radio amateurs leading the fightback - and the "we want the money, sod everyone else" industry tends to label it as a bunch of beardies with a niche hobby.

But it's not just the amateur radio bands it affects : FM radio, check; TV, check; ADSL, check (via cross coupling into the phone lines), and the list goes on.

The vendors of this c**p know it causes interference, they know it's actually illegal and thanks to the laws of physics cannot be made legal - but for some reason our own regulators seem to be spending a lot of effort justifying it as "not our department". The manufacturers/importers have actually gone so far as to try and get the law changed (ie to relax the rules on "not c***ing all over the spectrum") so as to make them legal.

The manufacturers/importers get it though interference testing by fitting filters between the unit and the socket - thus preventing the radio signals from reaching any mains wiring. Pity they don't have to demonstrate compliance while actually working !

http://www.ban-plt.org.uk - you'll find it enlightening

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Living with a Renault Twizy: Pah! Bring out the HOVERCRAFT

SImon Hobson

Isn't that £7 1/2k only the start ?

When I first heard about it, IIRC I looked it up and that price is "batteries not included". You can't buy the batteries, so that's an extra monthly cost for battery rental.

Or am I remembering the wrong car, or did they change that ?

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Care.data refuseniks will be DENIED CANCER SCREENING invites

SImon Hobson

Re: How about ...

> Sacking the twat that signed off on the concept of making patients' care dependent on them signing away their privacy?

Upvoted for that.

Now, how about we all go and complain to the UK and EU data protection bods. Having a system where withholding consent means being denied something unrelated then consent is not "freely given" - it's extorted.

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Switch it off and on again: How peers failed to sneak Snoopers' Charter into terror bill

SImon Hobson

You can read it for yourself

The Hansard transcript can be read here :

http://www.theyworkforyou.com/lords/?id=2015-01-26a.12.6#g33.0

You will see that the first few speeches in favour are all from "institution men" - pen who have in one way or another been (or still are) connected with the services that supposedly want these extra powers.

But if you read down, you'll see that several peers spoke eloquently about why the amendment was a bad idea - between them they've pointed out that the bill this attempts to resurrect was killed after damning criticism, that it's an abuse of process to try and squeeze it in this way, that it would severely undermine what little respect people have for the law enforcement/security services, and that in fact the "poster child" events cited as to why the new rules are needed are actually already catered for by existing legislation.

Lord Strasburger really kicks off the opposition, and then others line up to support him. Baroness Lane-Fox of Soho and Baroness Warsi make particularly compelling speeches - the latter making a point about the impact of profiling and how the effects can alienate the very people we need support from.

And Baroness Ludford makes a point that GCHQ seems to do what they like regardless of what the law allows !

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ICANN CEO criticizes domain 'hoggers'

SImon Hobson

The truth often hurts

Well if the complaints were as vociferous as stated, then it suggests he hit a raw nerve. He's (almost) quite right - there is no shortage of domains, only a shortage caused by speculators hording them to create scarcity.

Where I think he is wrong though is in his statement that if you can't get "dot-x" you can go to "dot-y". It doesn't really work like that in a world where people expect you to be on a "dot-com". So if mynewbusinessname.com is taken, it's no good getting mynewbusinessname.anythingelse because customers won't find you. Instead, when a customer types in mynewbusinessname that you;ve spent lots of money promoting - they'll instinctively add .com - or their browser will automatically try it - and find themselves on a link-spam page (or worse).

In reality, you now need to find somethingnooneelsehasthoughtof.com and now register a multiple of additional tld variations for no reason other than to stop some spammer squatting on the other variations and trying to monetise your name. In other words, all these new tld constitute a shakedown where businesses have to register extra domain names merely to protect their name.

9
0

Landlines: The tech that just won't die

SImon Hobson

Re: Dry DSL

Indeed, and that has been the case for some time - eg http://www.gradwell.com/blog/tag/metallic-path-facility/ dates back 3 1/2 years. IN fact, Gradwell's services provide a higher specification (typically a higher transfer allowance) for MPF lines than they do for SMPF lines. OK, so these are business grade services at business prices, but the principle applies to any ISP - if they run an unbundled service than they can provide ADSL without a phone service.

Of course, FTTC is a different kettle of fish altogether. There is no technical reason that couldn't be done without even having copper back to the exchange since the copper line only needs to go back to the FTTC cabinet.

1
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Then there were 3: Another UK mobile network borged ...

SImon Hobson

Did Gordon Brown do the maths ?

Err, is something missing ?

One page 1, Three is shown as having 30MHz in the 1800 band, and O2 as having 12. When (admittedly a long time ago now) I went to school, 30+12 = 42, but on page 2 it seems to have added up to ... just 12.

Seems like someone lost 30Mhz down the back of the sofa.

2
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Seagate's spinning rust most likely to crash, claims backup biz

SImon Hobson

For something like a hard drive, a warranty is of little value unless it includes your data. It's not very useful to get a drive replaced under warranty - but still not have the data it held.

Or as a (printed) advert I recall many years ago put it ...

There was a picture of lighthouse, out at sea, with waves crashing all around it. The advert was for a particular brand of Tv that I don't recall. But the message was that the staff of the lighthouse would prefer a reliable TV rather than a good repair service !

My view of hard disks is the same : I'd rather have confidence that the data I store can be retrieved, rather than an assurance that I'll get a replacement blank drive when it breaks.

3
0

Windows 10, day ZERO ... Will Nadella be the HERO?

SImon Hobson

Hmm, one app across multiple devices - as "the one and only way". So they've learned absolutely nothing whatsoever from the Windows * debacle then ?

All it means is that you end up with something that's not as good as it could be on a tablet (because it's been compromised by needing to support "traditional desktops"), and is crap on "traditional desktops" because it's been crippled to be 'usable' on a tablet.

Perhaps if they'd learned from Windows 8, that for a desktop the UI needs to be different to that on a keyboardless and mouseless tablet - then they might make progress. All they seem to be doing is heading more and more down the road of "you know that old things about 'everyone being familiar with Windows ?' - well forget that because we've changed it all yet again so now you need to retraing all over yet again".

I do actually have a Windows 8 VM - well working in IT I thought I'd best know a little about the enemy. It's a big pile of turds that don't even have the semblance of having been polished. Also, my partner tell me that the only time she hears me swear is when I have to fix her pile of rubbish laptop with Windows 8 on it.

7
2

Come and Twiddle Tek Gear's one handed keyboard

SImon Hobson

Re: It's 1980

I had an AgendA - once you learned the chords it was quick and fairly easy to use. Certainly no harder than typing on a tiny keyboard (whether that be a 1980s one with plastic buttons or a modern touch screen). Not only did the AgendA work as a PDA (quite well actually), it could be used as a keyboard for a desktop via a serial cable.

1
0

Future imperfect: A UK broadband retrospective

SImon Hobson

Re: Good article

> especially regarding BTs unwillingness to embrace the connected era, doing everything negative that monopolies do, but somehow managing not to be called a monopoly.

Yup, I remember it well - the way ISDN2 was carefully knobbled so it couldn't be used to replace cash-cow leased lines. £6k/year for a 64k Kilostream, times 2 as we had two remote locations, ouch. Had D channel signalling been allowed (like it was in Germany) I reckon we could have made do with just ISDN2 as most fo the time the data rate was relatively low (handful of users banging away on keyboards of character terminals). These days we're (different employer) paying not a great deal more (well a lot less after allowing for inflation) for 100Mbps internet delivered by fibre.

0
0

Cryptowall's ransomware's tough layers peeled

SImon Hobson

Re: Anti VM my foot

In principle, if the share is not writable by the user who has it mounted, then it can't be modified. That's not to say that some clever bit of code might look for privilege elevation vulnerabilities to get around it.

Put another way, it's a good reason to not have "everyone can write anything" shares - limit write permissions to only those user/groups that need it (it can be done at a folder level, so you might only allow certain users to write to the marketing folder, while letting everyone read/access the brochures etc).

But that's just good security practice anyway.

2
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BAN email footers – they WASTE my INK, wails Ctrl+P MP

SImon Hobson

Re: netiquette

> If he wants to ban something, please ban the stupid reply on top that Outlook taught people to use which makes following a thread painful.

Not only that, but because such id^H^Hpeople never actually scroll down past what they're writing, they don't realise that the automated "add piles of sh*t that no-one ever reads" function is adding an extra copy on each reply. So it's not just the whole thread, it's

>>> many

>> many

> many

many copies of the automatically added crap. Page after page after page of it.

And because top-posting is so rubbish, people resort to "replies in red" type tricks to highlight where they are actually replying in-line on a point by point basis. And then there's the clients (yes, Microsh*t Oddlook) that don't even do quoting properly - so when you reply/forward you find that your original text, which came back as untrimmed text, now appears to be from the person who replied to you. Maybe some century Microsh*t will figure out how to make email work - but I'm not holding my breath.

I'm the "plain text and time rolls forward" holdout in our office - allows the hell out of some retards though most have just learned to accept it as if they complain they'll get a long lecture that leaves them wishing they'd not mentioned it.

5
0

Magic streaming beans? Sure, have my cow - music biz

SImon Hobson

CD won't die ?

I'm one of the ones keeping it alive - the ultimate two-fingers to proprietary lock-ins ! Open format*, resilient, can't be "revoked" by the vendor*, and at the end of the day I can sell it on* if I decide I don't want it any more.

Picked up 3 more (nice bit of Beethoven) off the "put you cash in the tin" shelf at church the other week.

* Bet the industry are kicking themselves for letting those slip into the CD specs - or rather, not nobbling them somehow.

5
0

Devuan rebels hope to deliver Debian fork in 2015

SImon Hobson

Re: Trevor...

> I interpreted his post as "it's unlikely Debian will make systemd an option in Stretch" - or, more broadly, that it's unlikely a future Debian release will be systemd-free. That doesn't mean a fork of Debian won't be; just Debian itself.

You interpreted correctly.

By the time Jessie+1 is being worked on, systemd will have woven it's tentacles deeper into ${stuff} and it will be even harder to extract it. If the Debian team are saying it's "too hard" now, well it's not hard to imagine what will happen later.

> The problem is all the other packages that have decided to depend on systemd

Indeed. But the answer to that is for us sysadmins to turn round to the developers/packagers and tell them in no uncertain terms that we want systemd-free versions. Only by package devs supporting the "Unix philosophy" (do one thing and do it well, use other tools rather than reinventing and including stuff in your own code) will we keep some sanity.

0
0
SImon Hobson

Re: Trevor...

> I wonder what's everybody going to think/do when Debian Stretch (Jessie+1) comes out with systemd as an optional dependency.

Well, that is assuming that Stretch does come out with systemd as an option. If Jessie goes systemd then that gives systemd a fairly free run to get even more entrenched and it'll be even more work to get package maintainers to remove it. Given that Debian aren't tackling it now because "it's too hard" - can you be sure that they will tackle it later when it's even harder ?

And it will be harder.

If systemd "isn't there' then the choice is "do I support this distro" on the part of the package maintainer. Later, it'll be a case of "why should I be ar**d to change my package because this distro have changed their side". That's a somewhat different question !

I've been in IT for "some time". I've seen plenty of vapourware fail to condense into reality. At the moment, a future systemd free Debian is just vapourware.

0
1

Euro iTunes customers get 14 DAY refund option

SImon Hobson

Re: Apple might want to publicise this a bit more

But they have - it's there in grey and white in the Ts&Cs. Never mind if it's the online equivalent of being in a locked filing cabinet, in a disused lavatory, with a sign on the door saying "Beware of the Leopard". Also never mind if the Ts&Cs are so long and tediously legalese that no-one can stay awake long enough to read them.

1
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Mobe not-spots 'landmark deal'? We ain't thick, Javid

SImon Hobson

I agree, for any operator, there will be a financial penalty (payments made to the 'foreign' network) whenever one of their customers can't use the home network. Each operator will be free to decide where to draw the line between paying another operator or putting their own cell in.

Conversely, any operator with better coverage at a location will gain revenue from competitors.

And "technical problems" ? What technical problems ? Roaming is part of the spec, all the operators already support it (both ways - their own customers when abroad, foreigners when over here). "All" it will need is some management interfaces to handle the inter operator billing - which they already do with non-UK operators.

2
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UK air traffic bods deny they 'skimped' on IT investment after server mega-fail

SImon Hobson

Re: Bad Data Input/High System Utilisation.

> aviation likes semi-formatted telex-style messaging for some reason though

"some reason" is to do with the requirement for global accessibility ! There is also the issue of making things easily comprehensible.

So messages are text only - while it may be true that few places (if any) in the world now cannot get access to modern comms like "the internet", that certainly wasn't the case when the standards were laid down. Back then, Telex was the norm - which itself imposes some of the restrictions (see below - no lower case !)

And just like every other industry, you want the information to be easily and quickly understood - so a set of standard abbreviations which are compact and quick to read. Eg, from the weather reports/forecasts we get things like PROB30 instead of "there's a 30% probability" and loads of other things that make it quick and compact. For example, take a current (as I write) forecast :

TAF EGCC 231700Z 2318/2424 22014KT 9999 SCT020 TEMPO 2318/2322 24016G26KT TEMPO 2318/2402 4000 RADZ BKN012 BECMG 2323/2402 28012KT TEMPO 2323/2402 BKN009 PROB30 TEMPO 2412/2418 29015G25KT=

Longhand, the weather forecast at Manchester, produced at 5pm Zulu time (or British winter time if you prefer) on 23rd is : validity between 6pm on the 23rd and midnight on the 24th; wind will be from 220˚ at 14 knots, visibility over 10 kilometres, scattered cloud at 2000 feet. Temporarily between 6pm on the 23rd and 10pm on the 23rd expect wind from 240˚ at 16 knots and gusting to 26 knots. Temporarily between 6pm on the 23rd and 2am on the 24th, visibility will be 4000 metres with rain and drizzle, and broken cloud at 1200 feet. Between 11pm on 23rd and 2am on 24th wind will become 12 knots from 280˚. For periods between 11pm on 23rd and 2am on 24th could will be broken at 900 feet. And there's a 30% probability that between mid-day on 24th and 6pm on 24th the wind will be 15 knots from 290˚ with gusts to 25 knots. Ends.

So the "code" version is around 1/4 of the space of the longhand version - which matters when you have a pages with many reports on it. Also, because it's a standard code, it's much less open to interpretation (and particularly, misinterpretation) than freeform text. If you don't allow freeform text (ie restrict to a standard set of terms) then it makes little difference in terms of what you need to learn whether the code is verbose or terse (as long as the terse code isn't also "opaque") - but it makes a big difference to speed of transmission, the space it takes on paperwork (and screens), and so on - in the past (I know some will find this hard to believe, but there was a time before "ubiquitous" mobile internet !) I've used text-back services to get weather forecasts and the terse code is a lot easier to read on a small mobile screen. The above would overflow onto two texts, but most forecasts would fit within the 160 character limit of a single text.

To anyone for whom the above information matters, reading it takes seconds and leaves no room for misinterpretation.

Yes, things could probably change - but this means the whole of the world changing. Getting global agreement (via ICAO) for a change is a very very slooooooooooow process ! No country/region/group of countries can go it alone and change without the others doing so. Sticking with this example, the above forecast would have come from the UK Met Office - but is distributed internationally. The weather at Manchester is not just of interest to people in the north of England - but to operators/pilots of all flights flying into Manchester from anywhere in the world.

2
0

UK.gov pushes for SWIFT ACTION against nuisance calls, threatens £500k fines

SImon Hobson

> Postal services worldwide started refusing incoming nigerian mail in the late 1990s because investigations showed that more than 1/3 of the postage stamps on incoming mail were fakes and the amount of mail was frequently misdeclared - which meant they weren't being paid correctly for delivery.

Indeed, and that's where I'd start.

If UK telcos were required to refuse calls from "dodgy" (mostly foreign) telcos then the problem would soon reduce considerably. If a telco find that it can't terminate calls made by it's subscribers then it faces two choices - either fix it's problems or see it's customers leave very quickly. Since the latter means certain death, and probably legal action by the shareholders against the board, they will most likely clean up their act.

But what is "dodgy" ? I guess a system like the big mail providers use - if enough customer flag your mail (call) as spam then the sender gets blacklisted. Needs some oversight to avoid gaming of the system, but it would quickly weed out the bad telcos that are permitting this sort of thing.

Another clue - if the data received is shown to be bad, then the telco needs to up it's game.

Going back a while as there were valid reasons for a telco to not have the required data (old systems etc). I find it hard to believe that any of those are still valid.

0
0

Caterham Seven 160 review: The Raspberry Pi of motoring

SImon Hobson

Re: Ohio Superboard II

Ditto, takes me back "a bit"

Great base for experimentation and modifications :-)

0
0

Pssst. Want to buy a timeshare in the clouds?

SImon Hobson

LMFTFY

>> Google is ... so it can feed you ads and sell you stuff.

Surely that should say "feed you ads and sell you."

Google are not selling stuff to you, they are selling you to their customers.

1
0

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

SImon Hobson

Re: Harvey's law

> They weren't interferring with the radio signal, they were doing it on the data layer.

It's making a transmission with the sole function to disrupt legal use of a facility. So while you might not technically be interfering with the user's transmitted radio signal, you are deliberately interfering with another user's use of the band. In the UK this would be illegal :

Wireless Telegraphy Act 2006, Section 68 http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2006/36/section/68

"A person commits an offence if he uses apparatus for the purpose of interfering with wireless telegraphy."

Good to see it slapped down. Now if only our UK bodies could stop spending all their effort on coming up with excuses not to deal with interference caused by Powerline adapters.

4
0

Microsoft vs the long arm of US law: Straight outta Dublin

SImon Hobson

Re: What about...

> What about...

> ...companies that have a subsidiary in the US, are they vulnerable to US government pressure?

Potentially yes.

I used to work for a company that was part owned by a US one. While not in any way under US jurisdiction we had to comply with some US tax law (Sarbanes-Oxley) - because otherwise our US parent couldn't. However all that meant was having certain controls in place to ensure that accounts were accurate after (IIRC) the Enron and Worldcom scandals.

But that was different - complying with the US law didn't require us to break UK law.

Had our parent been required to hand over our (for example) customer data then that would have been another matter. I've no idea what would have happened as neither us nor the parent would have had the financial clout to fight it.

0
0
SImon Hobson

Re: @ Robert Long 1

> A company is not a natural entity, it's just a bunch of people trying to avoid things - risk, responsibility, and so on.

That latter bit may well be true, but in law, a company is a "legal entity" in it's own right - in a lot of legal areas you can interchange "company" and "person". In this case, previous comments are correct - the legal entity which is holding the data is Microsoft Ireland - a separate entity to Microsoft US. Yes there is a relationship where (I assume) Microsoft (US) owns 100% of the shares in Microsoft (Ireland) - but they ARE separate legal entities.

Irrespective of what any US court thinks - it would be a criminal act for Microsoft (Ireland) to hand over (or allow to be taken remotely) any of the data. Given the profile, I cannot see the Irish regulators turning a blind eye - and if they did, the EU regulators would then start sticking their nose in.

Unless MS win their appeal, it's tough either way - they either get stuffed in the US, or they stuffed in the EU !

What would make things even more interesting would be if someone (especially the person who's data is being sought) with data held my Microsoft (Ireland) applied to a court for a specific injunction preventing the export of data. You now have two courts ordering complete opposites.

1
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Bono: Apple will sort out monetising music where the labels failed

SImon Hobson

Hmm, sounds like a big DRM sandwich - and I have to assume, also a closed proprietary format designed to keep existing users locked in and competitors locked out.

As to production/technical quality - well I have to agree. I'm no audiophile, my hearing isn't that great, but even I can spot something that's been heavily compressed to make it sound like it's turned up to 11.

As an aside, I once went to a gig at a small local venue. The music was turned up to 11 and the clipping distortion was just horrible. At one point I stepped outside for a breather - both from the noise and from the heat, and as it happened, from outside the volume was about right ! Someone else doing the same opened the conversation with "have you had your ears syringed lately ?" before quickly moving on to a recommendation for olive oil for softening up ear wax (it does work BTW). I have to admit that I've never heard such an opener before or since !

We then had a conversation on production/technical values, and having ascertained that I know how to solder plugs on and leave then still usable, expressed an interest in getting me involved in local events as there's a shortage of people who actually understand how the electronics stuff works. Really tempting but I was already overcommitted for my spare time.

4
0

Driving with an Apple Watch could land you with a £100 FINE

SImon Hobson

Re: Speedo?

> I've always wondered how come it take longer to glance at the speedo than it does to check the mirrors.

It doesn't take longer to "glance". It does take longer to check your accurate speed. It also depends on how good (or not) your eyesight is and how long it takes to adjust your focus - yes, I used to respond to that one with "WTF ?" but as the old elapsed time meter rolls round, I'm realising that it is a factor (especially if there is a significant difference in brightness between inside and outside, and some cars have crap instruments in this respect).

TL;DR version ?

I can hold "about" any speed with only occasional glances at the speedo. If I were in Brunstrom* Country with a stupid policy then I'd have to spend far too long looking at the speedo to be sure not to creep a smidgen over some arbitrary number.

* Thankfully that dangerous idiot was hoisted by his own petard.

3
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Italy's High Court orders HP to refund punter for putting Windows on PC

SImon Hobson

Re: what about UEFI?

> Don't get me started on the "Why won't my old scanner or printer work with Linux??"

Vs the "Why won't my (not very old) old scanner or printer work with Windows??"

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