* Posts by JBowler

25 posts • joined 27 Sep 2009

Upset Microsoft stashes hard drive encryption keys in OneDrive cloud?

JBowler

You've convinced me!

Ok, on a new machine with a TPM Windows Home will make your files unreadable without Microsoft's help. I thought every manufacturer did that? Nothing new there, except maybe MS did it right.

So, if you want your files secure against your own government then you have to encrypt them, unless, of course, you are in the UK when, in fact, you aren't permitted to do that (i.e. if you do it then you will be sent to prison until you stop being antisocial).

But in the US it's still easy, isn't it? You just encrypt the files. Your mysterious third party sponsor provides you with an encryption device and software to undo this when you need to access the files, and when you need to decrypt your emails to find out what your orders are, but that all just works.

It's just a lot more difficult for the govmint; first you get the court order to have MS disclose your recovery key, then you discover that, you T-word you, you encrypted your data before having MS encrypt it again. So that's a delay of at least 30 minutes until the US govmint is in the same position as the UK govmint but without the option of sending you to prison for ever.

Meanwhile I only want to know with regard to my Quicken file, but wait, that's already encrypted! Ok, not very well, gubfr thlf jbhyqa'g xabj rapelcgvba vs vg uvg gurz jvgu n qnzc purdhrobbx, but, I realize, it doesn't matter: you have to be the US govmint, you have to actually want to decrypt my Quicken file and you have to have the resources to do it (it's not quite as easy as the comment.)

Gee. That would probably be the IRS, and they might then be motivated to explain how to fill in a US tax return. That would be worth the money.

John Bowler

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US watchdog lobs balls of red tape at spy-in-the-sky drones

JBowler

Written by a lawyer not a computer programmer

I read it this morning (west cost time), piece of ****. As a computer programmer I would never let a piece of software go with an unresolved reference (well, ld would stop me):

* First-person view camera cannot satisfy "see-and-avoid" requirement but can be used as long as requirement is satisfied in other ways.

Yeah, yeah, US Telegraph English, but I can forgive that. The problem is that the scare-quoted phrase not only is not defined, but the five letter sequence "avoid" only occurs once in the document. Obviously some person with a level stick for brown stuff inserted this at the last moment and equally obviously no one actually proof read the document.

FAA, get some computer people and fire all the lawyer people. Oops, you are all lawyers, set to be presidents yet.

Bottom line you cannot analyze this as a logical, consistent, document. All it actually says is "you will be a pilot we currently approve or you will pass a test which maybe, sometime in the distant future, we will get round to organizing at great expense, to you."

Now I am actually a fully conformant regulated hobbyist drone; I have my card to prove it. Sorry, drone operator, too much beer. But I can't, apparently, fly my hobbyist drone above my own property to look at my own trees because I am also a commercial grower of trees.

So I'll sign up for the test, for which I will probably have to drive 1000 miles (can't fly anywhere from where I live), I'm already vetted by the TSA and would I like to be 16 again [not: much more fun being 55].

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Supreme Court okays troll toll increase

JBowler

Read between the lines

As is said in comments on comments below, Roberts is asking Congress to step up to the plate.

The fact that this won't happen is nothing whatsoever to do with bias in SCOTUS: read; unaminmous!

It's been said before, but here in the US we have the best government money can buy.

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Walmart sues Visa for being too lax with protecting chip cards

JBowler

Re: Zip code for non-US cards

Take your *debit* card. Find a US bank ATM that will accept it (ask your bank for locations first), withdraw the max (typically $300; the US bank rips per transaction not per amount so favours low transactions). Do this every day you are in the US. Pay cash. Cash is always welcome, up to $9,999.99 and in $20 bills and no more.

That's what we do, for far less valid reasons.

BTW I have to thank my mother and father (both UK) for this approach, so I can only assume that it was part of the standard advice given by whoever to older travelers from the UK. Finding the right bank can be a PITA but they both managed it, even in that benighted capital of dubious technology Seattle.

One day we will have security for everyday people but we will probably no longer be the USA.

John Bowler

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JBowler

Re: Zip code for non-US cards

Yep. So here's a real story; my story. I live in a part of the US (SW Oregon) that one local musician's bumper sticker (a US custom) stated is "where Deliverance meets the Grateful Dead". So I don't buy gas in the Valley, I buy it in Grants Pass (seriously).

And I used to buy it in a gas station heading home.

One day I checked in and was, yeah, asked for the Zip code. 97531. Duly Bank of America charged the expected 18 gallons; I drive a Subaru . On the same day at the same time they charged me for another 24 gallons. Well, the Dude had a problem the first time he ran my card, I gave it to him again (you are permitted to call me a doofuss at this point; next time it happened at a different gas station in GP I gave everyone a really hard time, double checked transactions on my mobile and had the lead guy on the gas station give me a piece of paper - more so he remembered than any other reason).

So, originally, I disputed that 24 gallons. No luck; BofA told me I was there (yep, I think I said that) and that therefore the charge was valid.

Lesson; I will never go to that gas station again. My wife still insists on using the BofA card but I think I've managed to cut it to next-to-nothing per year.

Not very helpful, but if you visit the US ask your credit card company for a TEMPORARY CREDIT CARD for the purposes of the visit. It's pretty easy to provide these; Visa already do it for online transactions in the US.

John Bowler

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JBowler

Only debit cards!

The US does not issue chip'n'PIN *credit* cards, only *debit* cards. So...

When a US debit card is run *without* the PIN it is billed as a credit card (for the store) and lots of steel-rice-bowl types (as my Chinese wife would refer to them) get humongous amounts of cut out of this. And the store gets Ripped.

For years issuers of US *debit* cards have encouraged their recipients (often with money) to run them as *credit* cards. This is Walmart's response; it has nothing to do with security and it doesn't change a single thing about US credit cards (which don't have a PIN, full stop, end.)

John Bowler

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Woz says 'Jobs started Apple for money' – then says it must pay 50% tax like he does

JBowler

He lives in California (Los Gatos) so he is a CA tax resident; top tax rate 55.8%

The math for a CA resident who is a millionaire is:

Federal tax: 39.6% (Obama repealed W's gratuities)

Medicate: 2.9%

Social Security (Pension): 0% (it stops at $118,000 income)

California: 13.3% (CA introduced an excessively-rich tax and a millionaire tax!)

Santa Clara (County): 0% (I don't think they've started levying an income tax, they didn't when I lived there, just a sales tax).

Los Gatos: 0% (I think).

TOTAL: 55.8%

Simple, eh? Note that employees only "pay" 1.45% medicare, but their employer's pay the other 1.45%; self employed people pay both halves. I don't know if CA cities and counties can levy income taxes, normally in the US they only levy purchase (sales) and wealth (property) taxes, but some cities levy income taxes.

There are marginal effects that raise and lower the rate (particularly the limitation on Schedule A deductions) but by the time you hit millionaire status they've all worked themselves out. (After all, the highest ever US tax rate was over 100% in the 1990s, but only very poor people ever suffered from that misfortune.)

Most rich USians assume that state taxes are deductible on Schedule A, reducing the effective rate of the federal tax (by a factor of (1-state)), but the Schedule A limitation kills that for millionaires, so the number in the end should reduce to simple addition.

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Windows 10 with Ubuntu now in public preview

JBowler

Is this really the POSIX subsystem brought back from the dead?

If it really is a subsystem, in the sense of the POSIX subsystem that was killed off at the end of the last millennium, it certainly isn't Linux (no kernel; Linux is the kernel) and it certainly doesn't map the Linux system interface to Windows; it would be implementing it in the NT Kernel, just as Windows is implemented by the NT kernel.

It's easy to test (using NTFS of course):

$ echo "test" >foo

$ ln foo bar

$ echo "more test" >>foo

$ rm foo

$ cat bar

If the last command outputs "test\nmore test\n" then it is the good old POSIX subsystem. Oh, BTW, I was able to crash MS Office back in the late 90s by doing this:

$ ln test1.doc test2.doc

Then try to open test2.doc from Word. Word, or maybe Windows, had some deep, deep issues with hard links; they simply cannot be created from Windows but are fully supported by NTFS.

John Bowler

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Don't – don't – install iOS 9.3 on your iPad 2: Upgrade bricks slabs

JBowler

Re: One of the dumb lucky ones

>That said, I've had some apps that normally never hang, do just that since the update.

That was happening after the previous update (9.2?) I haven't tried 9.3 yet and will wait, perhaps for ever, until doing so; I don't do the "give all my data to Apple" backup option.

John Bowler <jbowler@acm.org>

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How one developer just broke Node, Babel and thousands of projects in 11 lines of JavaScript

JBowler

Re: @timcroydon

>"I mean, come on, what's more open and free than "do what the f- you want"?

>Does that mean I'm free to copyright it?

It's a license to use something to which someone else has copyright. Copyright is the possession of the *author*.

Copyright can be assigned but the *license* doesn't assign the copyright (and it can't, logically; then it would be a copyright assignment, not a license.)

You can copyright any derivative, but if you ask a lawyer the lawyer will still want to speak to the author of the original work.

That's why when you go to work for someone else they ask you to sign away all your copyright rights. Oh, no, they don't actually *ask*, it just happens when they pay you (see the 'for hire stuff', and this is only in the US, which didn't adopt standard copyright laws until very late):

http://dearauthor.com/features/reclaiming-your-copyright-after-thirty-five-years/

John Bowler <jbowler@acm.org>

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Hands on with the BBC's Micro:Bit computer. You know, for kids

JBowler

Re: What's the point of these low powered devices?

>I'm really unsure why we're coming out with all these low powered devices

>in some kind of hope that it will teach kids fundamentals of computing or programming?

The devices exist already. They are widely used. Teaching the people who, with any luck, will be wiping our butts for us in a few years time to use them is surely a good idea?

It's nothing to do with "computing or programming", whatever that means. There has been a gradual shift since the end of the 1960's from hard-wired electronic control to software electronic control of devices we use. Along with this has come an incredible increase in the number of devices that use electronic control. I used to use a stick with petrochemical bristles stuck to it to clean my teeth, today I use a microprocessor that is significantly more powerful than those I programmed in the 1980's.

There was a moment around 1981 or 1982 that still sticks in my mind; a coworker who I shall call Hugo Tyson for the purposes of this posting came into my office where I was doing whatever we did in the 80's, probably looking at low-res bitmapped images, and observed that the future of the company we worked for was, "one in every washing machine".

I've spent the rest of my life looking at bitmapped images and, yes, there is one in every washing machine. Indeed, far beyond Hugo's expectations (maybe) there are actually more than 10 on every desktop; remember there is one in every micro-SD card and there are countless numbers in every desktop PC (not that anyone would be seen dead with one of those these days.)

So it's like the Physics A level (before they started trying to teach people to remember class A or B amplifier design); it's utterly pointless, yet, if you understand it you might understand (global warming/why your toothbrush stopped working) and that might help.

John Bowler <jbowler@acm.org>

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JBowler

People who don't understand what you are saying are not idiots; you are.

>"You might not be scared of cryptic syntax errors, but many 12-year-olds are. "

>and they will continue to be until they're exposed to it! if they're not exposed to it at an early age,

Exposure to stupidity surely just ensures that the intelligent child assumes all of us are stupid?

I have been doing this for 37 years and I know that all of the syntax errors are there because the person who wrote them could not be bothered to explain. I understand almost all of them and those I do not understand I can understand with little effort. I would never wish this pointless, idiotic, capability on any other human being.

And, as for the El Reg author:

> instant gratification

And you and I did not want the same? I remember those pictures of an older woman on the cover of ETI.

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JBowler

Re: The same memory as the BBC Micro Model A of 15 years ago...

>Ah, one possible solution is to use an SPI graphics chip, as the

>micro:bit features SPI on its edge connector (and I2C).

>That will have its own memory as well, negating the video

>memory issue (16KB isn't a lot, a B&W 320x200 display needs 8KB)...

The second statement is false; you don't need video memory, you just need the processing power (which is there) to generate the frame each time round the refresh cycle.

IRC Elite was vector graphics (greybeard to real-world translation; mostly black and the rest straight lines). It's a trivial problem to do the graphics for Elite given SPI, it's just more code than anyone cares to write.

John Bowler <jbowler@acm.org>

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India challenges US visa price hike at World Trade Organisation

JBowler

Eh? Surely it's the L1 cost that matters

I think El Reg has seriously not done it's research here. The Modi quote, if he really did say that (I didn't check), surely refers to the $4500 charge for an L1 application listed here:

https://www.uscis.gov/forms/h-and-l-filing-fees-form-i-129-petition-nonimmigrant-worker

So that's non-permanent residents working in the US where more than 50% of its US based workforce is composed of said residents.

Com'on El Reg! You don't do an *immigrant* (H) visa when you want to use your employees in the US; you aren't paying to have them jump ship, are you? Duh.

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This is why copy'n'paste should be banned from developers' IDEs

JBowler

Variable names should be self documenting

Is Pen Up? Is a question.

Pen Is Up. Is a statement.

Get A Life is one too.

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JBowler

See here

I think this is what you are referring to:

https://blogs.oracle.com/DaveEdstrom/entry/you_are_not_expected_to

I..e. it means what anyone who has been doing this long enough understands it to mean, "I don't have the faintest idea what is going on here, but it seems to work."

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UK.gov mulls three-point turn on three-point turn thanks to satnav. Weeeeeeee. THUD

JBowler

It is

Reversing out of a driveway is punished by death.

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Tesla's Elon Musk shows the world his D ... and it's a MONSTER

JBowler

Re: I dont get it.

Yes, but this is a US company and *in the US* the minimum modern day permitted residential electricity supply is 200A at 220V; notice that this is twice the Tesla required VA.

As we say in these benighted lands, "Go figure."

John Bowler

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Dungeons & Dragons relaunches with 'freemium' version 5.0

JBowler

Traveller

Ouch. Couldn't afford "Mercenary" then? Cost me GBP2.95, have it in my demented hand now. Great lesson in marketing - the game is unplayable. Back to T&T.

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Apple vows to add racially diverse EMOJIS after MILEY CYRUS TWITTER outrage

JBowler

Re: Argh, nooo...

And white people aren't this white: :-), and, despite rumours to the contrary, we aren't always lying down and sleeping either.

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Microsoft's EAT-your-OWN-YOUNG management system AXED

JBowler

10 years? MS was doing stack ranking when I joined in 1993

The managers always complained about the system; it was done by middle level managers (not line, two levels up in the hierarchy) and they were forced to rank everyone, "even if everyone performed exactly the same"; ho ho, aren't managers jolly chappies.

The MS fanout was 3-4, the hierarchy depth was about 7 (well, I was seven levels below BillG, I counted once), for those who can't do math there were a little over 20,000 employees at the time. Using 4 for the fanout there were 16,000 grunts, 4,000 line managers (I was one) and about 1000 middle managers.

From a hierarchy point of view the system worked, and probably still works, because the upper management can only handle a certain amount of information. Whether I or anyone who reported to me was particularly brilliant is particularly uninteresting; what matters is what my manager's reports as a group do. Or, more realistically, my manager's manager's manager, who is stack ranking him (or in a couple of cases only, her).

The downside to the system is that individual excellence or, for that matter, individual stupidity, has no route to the top or the bottom - you live or die along with the rest of the people ("team") you happen to end up with.

I believe Microsoft didn't care - it had a somewhat more enlightened attitude and realized that every one of us can do remarkably good, or remarkably bad, work given the right environment.

Alas somewhere along the time someone fell for someone else's marketing bullpuppy and maybe now believes in the model pursued by a certain other company which I once heard referred to as "prima donna programmer." (That reference comes from around 1994 from someone who never worked for Microsoft or the other company in question.)

John Bowler

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What sealed Nokia's fate?

JBowler

A smaller beaurocracy?

No, I think you get a larger one.

I remember, back in 1993, when Nokia had the EO220 - the first smartphone - within the reach of its fingers a bigger beaurocracy; AT&T killed it. Meanwhile, another beaurocracy - the fruit company in question - was killing EO by promising something better tomorrow. (Hands up all those who still use a Newton, ha ha.)

Your whole article comes back to that age old geek question, "why does good software get killed by bad software?" Beaurocracy is irrelevant. Apple has marketing and Microsoft has a company structure that just fixes bugs, bugs, bugs until the stuff actually works. Good engineering with lukewarm marketing cannot defeat good marketing of bad engineering, and simple dumb persistence will win over either. That's why I still keep my Microsoft stock, well, that and 10 isn't a bad P/E today (take a look at ARM Ltd ;-)

John Bowler <jbowler@acm.org>

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Why Microsoft is Acorn and Symbian is the new CP/M

JBowler

Three in every washing machine

The analogy doesn't hold on any level:

Microsoft, 1980's: "one one every desktop"

Microsoft, 2004: "ok, done that, what next?" Oops.

Acorn, 1991 or 1992 (internal coffee machine conversation [Hugo]): "one in every washing machine"

ARM Ltd, around 2004: "ok, done that, what next?" "Three in every washing machine?" Ok, that'll work.

As numerous people have pointed out, Acorn morphed into ARM Ltd, possibly inspired by that bit in the Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy where the Marketing People end up on the First Ship. Microsoft hasn't morphed, it's stopped, ceased up.

Meanwhile, for every PC sold one copy of Windows goes with it, and one Intel CPU and, oops, several ARM CPUs and, oops, every flash card and every hard drive has another one...

So, the Microsoft Model of corporate success depends on continuing to develop new and more interesting ways of using the worlds second most complex OS, while Acorn's (now, devoid of the mis-marketing guys, ARM Ltd) depends on someone else finding new and interesting ways of using the worlds most complicated operating systems.

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JBowler

That's what Acorn and Microsoft did - right?

Acorn dissolved because, at least with the marketing strategy it had at the time, it had no future and yet it's market capitalization (shares * share price) was less than the value of the 50% stake it held in ARM Ltd. So it dissolved - Acorn shares became ARM Ltd shares, and Acorn's IP was transferred to Pace.

Likewise Microsoft hit an expansion brick wall - not caused by the total incompetence of its marketing department, as I personally think Acorn's problems were caused by, but because it couldn't expand beyond 100% of the market... so on 2 December 2004 (by my records) Microsoft issued a massive one time dividend to clear a substantial amount of its cash balance.

Unlike other high tech companies both ARM Ltd and Microsoft do currently pay dividends, albeit small ones - about 0.6% for ARM Ltd and about 2% for Microsoft. Unfortunately the analogies pretty much stop there - they are very different companies with very different limitations.

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Intel will sell more SoCs than mainstream CPUs, says CEO

JBowler

The main CPU is a distraction

Torben:

>Actually, desktop computers were ARM's original market.

Yes, ostensibly, but Acorn's marketing department had been previously fired by the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation. They (the marketing department) could only conceive of selling into education, and even higher education was an unattainable leap of the collective imagination (hence the fact the UN*X version only sold 200 copies.)

Someone who had been working on the UN*X version uttered a phrase I will never forget; "one in every washing machine."

I actually prefer the even more ironic, "two in every washing machine." The main CPU is an irrelevance - even if every netbook and smartphone in the world uses an Atom as the main CPU there will still be ARM processors, probably *many* ARM processors, in the machine.

The article suggests that Intel has realized this. Back before iAPX86 every microprocessor was an embedded controller - that's why microprocessors were developed (to replace manufacture-time programmed PLAs with software controlled logic). The 6502 was an embedded controller, the ARM was too. Intel has been driving headlong down a blind alley for 25+ very successful years, but it really *is* a blind alley. There is only so much money to be made controlling the main CPU, there is so much more money in all the other CPUs that the main CPU has to call on to do even something as simply as reading a piece of flash memory.

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