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* Posts by Mark Olleson

25 posts • joined 25 Sep 2009

Self-erasing flash drives destroy court evidence

Mark Olleson
Stop

This misses the point

Issues of reliability of evidence aside, in many cases, the drive will have harvested deleted blocks well before the device is seized and a forensic examination can take place.

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Microsoft bricking lesson bodes badly for Elop's Brave New Nokia

Mark Olleson

How it's done

Having implemented firmware upgrade for an embedded device (it wasn't a phone, but the principle is the same), I can tell you precisely how you make this robust.

Not so much a recovery boot-loader, but a boot-loader that is capable of performing recovery when the usual boot image fails. It doesn't need to do much, and you should never need to upgrade it. In our case, the boot-loader was a small application statically linked to a heavily stripped-down kernel and device drivers. I think we got all of this in about 250KB, including full network stack.

The worst-case recovery scenario is that the flash filing system you are about to boot off is hosed, so the bootloader must be able to integrity check it make a judgement call to reformat and recover.

You either lock the flash sectors containing the image, or for maximum security, use a completely different storage device which is either one-time programmable, or which cannot be programmed in circuit. We used the first of these two option, and for good measure ensured that the boot sector was mapped into read-only pages in the kernel as well as using the processor's write inhibit for the flash-bus.

In case you wonder how the boot device is programmed in the first place, it's either via TJAG, or you use the services of a bulk programming service which tapes and reels the parts for assembly.

So, with this in mind, we can only assume a massive design cock-up, involving one or more of the following:

1) First stage bootloader not capable of recovery

2) First stage bootloader not write protected (and something accidentally overwrote it)

3) Failed Attempt to upgrade the first-stage bootloader

As with the previous poster, I suspect that the problem is the lack of recovery tool that is capable of being used by the customer. Writing one of these is not terribly hard.

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Jacqui Smith 'shocked' to discover we're drowning in sea of porn

Mark Olleson
FAIL

Big difference

There's a humungous difference between the kind wares on show at Erotica - intended for use by consenting adults for sexual role-play - and pornography - where concerns definitely exist about the exploitative relationship between the talent and the producers.

She really has just proved how unsuitable she was as a Home Secretary.

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Boffins demand: Cull bogus A-Levels, hire brainier teachers

Mark Olleson
Stop

this might not be the best incentive

This might not work out quite as you expect if it results in a large number of unsuitable candidates selecting science and engineering subjects simply because they are cheap.

I can well remember that drop out rate on MEng in Electronic Engineering I did at a Russell-group red-brick university in the mid 90's: We started with about 150 students in the first year, dropping to probably under half of this by the 3rd year. By the fourth year, there were 13 of us staying on for the MEng.

My university, no doubt like many others, was very conscious that too many of their students were coming from independent schools.

Whilst the usual way onto an Engineering course was Maths and Physics A-levels, and more often than not another science, they also offered places to candidates from vocational backgrounds - who often a very light on formal mathematics education.

Invariably, these students found 1st year Engineering Maths very hard (those of us who did A-Levels found the first semester a rehash of stuff we'd already done and found it a very easy ride). A huge number of those who failed the year did so because of this course. And without it, they were truly stuffed with all of the other modules as well, which relied heavily on it.

Unless we want to stuff the first years of our science and engineering degrees with students who are likely to fail, education before university is a really big deal.

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Mark Olleson

Still funded

Science and engineering subjects will still fully funded by the government when the new cap on tuition fees comes in. The big question is whether the universities pass this on to students. A lot of people suspect not - especially in institutions that consider themselves to offer a broad-base of humanities subjects as well as science and engineering.

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Patent attack launched on Google's open video codec

Mark Olleson
FAIL

Wow...

I think you might just have stumbled on the difference between a 'business' and a 'charity'.

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Bold as brass metal thieves disrupt rail, comms, electric

Mark Olleson
FAIL

Traction

Good luck using fibre-optic cables for traction power. Power cables are the ones really worth stealing, although they're probably so heavy that special handling equipment will be needed to pinch any length of it.

I suspect that lots of signalling cable is already fibre optic, but does the kind of low-life who steals signalling cable know the difference before they rip it out?

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UK police crime map website: Who's the victim here?

Mark Olleson
Stop

Seems quite reasonable

Buy government standards, this was a low-cost initiative, and unlike most other government IT projects, the costs of this one seem in the right order of magnitude.

There is a really no comparison between a proof-of-concept site developed in 7 hours with a productionized one. As anyone who's involved in large IT projects will tell you, development costs are only a small part of the overall budget.

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Mark Olleson
Stop

Backend

You're probably right that the government should have set up a backend to serve the data. However, this is likely to be responsible for a significant proportion of the running costs.

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Drive-by exploit slurps sensitive data from Android phones

Mark Olleson
FAIL

Milestone, millstone?

Title says it all.

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Coder Android love (nearly) matches iPhone lust

Mark Olleson
Stop

It's all about tool support

Google is quite some way behind when it comes to dev tools, with both Microsoft and Apple offering dramatically better offerings, with tight integration. Not having ownership of the entire suite of dev tools is a big problem for Google going forward.

On Android there are quite a few reasons why you might want to go native - for instance if you're writing her performance games, or, as in my case, porting a substantial amount of code from elsewhere. The tools with NDK are very deeply unpleasant. So much so in fact, you'd do as much of your dev outside of the Android environment.

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Playboy on iPad will be 'uncensored', says Hefner

Mark Olleson
Stop

One big assumption...

.... that the app has already been submitted and approved by Apple.

Could Playboy be in for a humiliating public rejection?

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MySpace could be someone else's space soon

Mark Olleson
Stop

3 million sign ups...

.. but how long did they stay ad how many others gave up on the site entirely?

Anecdotally, Myspace is the social network where nothing happens.

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Microsoft to hire 4,000 in UK

Mark Olleson
Stop

A sign of Microsoft retail expansion

It seems unlikely that the that the apprenticeship scheme being toted here is going to appropriate for training staff in R&D (they'd surely offer sponsorships for university undergrads or postgrads for this), so does this signal an expansion in Microsoft's retail operation?

The fact that other employers in this scheme are predominantly retailers bears this out.

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English Defence League membership list stolen

Mark Olleson
Thumb Up

A perfect opportunity for the police...

To get a look at the membership list themselves.

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Beeb ordered to release TV licensing contract sweeteners

Mark Olleson
Stop

Most get caught for stupidity

The vast majority of convictions are as a result of the convictee admitting owning a TV when the 'inspector' calls - or letting him/her in.

What I'd like to know is where getting the evasion statistic from: I suspect they are assuming that everyone property is required to have a TV license and then comparing this to the number that actually do.

As somebody who does not need a TV license (by virtue of not owning one), I am fed up with harassing letters from TV licensing. When the inspector calls, he/she is given a response similar to that given by the defendant in the celebrated case of Arkel vs. Presdram.

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US politician: 'homosexual agenda' behind TSA groin grope

Mark Olleson

A prediction

This guy is almost certain to be the next right-wing politician to get caught soliciting sex in a rest-room or sexually harassing a young male intern.

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Dell takes aim at Apple with upmarket pledge

Mark Olleson
FAIL

All about the experience

Apple is all about the seamless, holistic end-to-end user-experience. There is the impression of quality throughout the experience from the buying experience, through packaging to aftersales service, all of which Apple jealously guards

Systems integration is important too. Apple does indeed test very thoroughly. The Dell approach is to ODM the hardware, bundle Windows and hope for the best. Hence the fiasco of the XPS range - of premium laptops - which shipped with buggy graphics drivers.

Whilst Dell continue to outsource core business functions including design and support they will fail.

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Mark Olleson
Stop

Stickers

Intel has also been successful of building its brand-presence in the PC market - hence the preponderance of Intel Inside stickers (not to mention nVidia, ATi et al.).

This actively sabotages the ability of PC manufacturers to promote the benefits of system as a whole rather than its component parts. Whilst Apple uses all of the same components, their specification plays almost no part in marketing. You bet that Apple still gets Intel marketing $$ without a sticker in sight.

If there's one thing that Dell could learn, it's to leave the stickers off.

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Robot goes berserk in Balkan lab: 6 boffins given dead arms

Mark Olleson
WTF?

Experiments to improve knowledge of robotics

This is was the kind of argument that Josef Mengele used when conducting experiments on concentration inmates.

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Rogue engineer supplied dodgy power to 1,500 homes

Mark Olleson
Stop

in the noise

Smart metering would definitely improve this situation - right now the grid operator never gets a snapshot of all of the meter readings taken at the same time to correlate with upstream meters.

This crime probably worked because the energy theft was distributed around fairly large area and the discrepancies were well below the value needed to set alarm bells ringing: You bet that there is significant administrative error in the energy supply business.

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Copper prices push cable thefts to new high

Mark Olleson
Stop

Probably won't wash...

....as railway signalling systems are designed to fail safe in such conditions. The probable result will be red signals for everyone.

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Apple posts Magic Trackpad drivers for Windows

Mark Olleson
Stop

Due to bluetooth?

This looks to be a Blue-tooth peripheral - and Bluetooth support is by no means universal in Windows PCs.

Apple would find themselves integrating with myriad shitty Bluetooth drivers and hardware (with associated bugs), not to mention having a difficult 'is this compatible?' issue to handle in store.

Supporting Bootcamp only, they don't have any of these variables.

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Most new 2009 EU powerplant was wind oops, gas

Mark Olleson
Stop

Reserve capacity will increase the price of electricity

The problem with this argument is that the non-renewable generating capacity is still required for times when renewables are not online.

This means that nearly the same installed capacity of fossil-fueled plants will be required, but will be utilized very inefficiently, yet the costs of capital tied up in these plants must be paid, as must any costs associated with keeping them on standby. This can only mean expensive electricity.

Nor is there a great deal of incentive for generators to invest in new (and more energy efficient) plant.

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EU to shout at media player makers over noise levels

Mark Olleson
FAIL

The devil is in the technical detail

Limiting the headphone output level in the device is all well and good.. except that there is a huge difference in efficiency and sensitivity of headphones.

Short of mandating that players are used with the supplied headphones, or standardizing the sensitivity of headphones, this is simply not going to work.

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