* Posts by Fazal Majid

170 posts • joined 16 May 2007

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Armouring up online: Duncan Campbell's chief techie talks crypto with El Reg

Fazal Majid

He is stunningly Naive

If he thinks the threat model for investigating high-level corporate malfeasance should not defend against state-level actors. All evidence shows the NSA has a sideline in economic espionage, whether from deliberate policy, horse-trading for reciprocal favors or simply personal corruption of NSA leaders is irrelevant. It is highly likely big establishment firms like BP or Unilever benefit from the same chumminess from GCHQ, and so on.

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No NAND's land: Flash will NOT take over the data centre

Fazal Majid

Last hurrah

You've got to wonder how much of this is driven by the transition from tape to disk. Certainly primary storage on laptops and enterprise first-tier is going all-flash, and mobile was always thus. The HDD iPod was discontinued. Hard drives seem to be increasingly relegated to cold storage.

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Which country has 2nd largest social welfare system in the world?

Fazal Majid

Re: Sorta

The primary factor is the American Medical Association's cartel deliberately restricting supply to keep prices high. The second is Big Pharma leveraging the corruption of Congress, e.g. Medicare is forbidden by law to negotiate volume discounts on pharmaceuticals. The third factor is a very high level of administrative expenses (which includes marketing costs), primarily driven by the arms race between insurance companies who systematically deny claims or "misplace" them, to the point medical practices need to hire full-time staff to deal with insurance companies. The cost of hospital procedures is incredibly variable. Another cause is gross corruption of some doctors who over prescribe tests in exchange for kickbacks.

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Fazal Majid

Re: But the elephant in the room...

Half of healthcare dollars in the US are spent by the federal government (Medicare and Medicaid, to a lesser extent the VA). The system is corrupt and grossly inefficient, eating up twice the proportion of GDP as in France, for no better outcomes That in itself accounts for nearly 5% of GDP that should be removed from welfare spending to compare the value of the assistance rendered. The other big factor is how higher education is significantly more expensive in the US, but that's more a concern of the middle class, not the poor.

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Part 3: Docker vs hypervisor in tech tussle SMACKDOWN

Fazal Majid

Joyent's Solaris-derived SmartOS shows how containers (a.k.a zones) can coexist with KVM-based VMs on the same kernel. All modern Linux distros have similar capabilities, if not quite as refined. The battle is about management tools - the company that controls the de-facto standard can make a lot of money, see how VMware gave away ESXi, the real revenue is in vCenter, and value-added features like HA and vMotion.

Both public cloud and hypervisor vendors will gain container capabilities. AWS and Microsoft have already made announcements, the others, including VMware, will follow. It seems to me new applications will be designed for, and run directly in containers, whereas heavyweight VMs will be reserved for migrated legacy workloads. Containers do require automation tools like Puppet/Chef/Ansible/Saltstack to be manageable, however, as does the Cloud. Another opportunity to sell to the enterprise.

The efficiency gains from containers are nothing to sneeze at, you can squeeze an order of magnitude or two more containers than VMs on the same hardware, not a mere 10%. For cloud providers, specially PaaS ones, this is compelling. Even for IaaS, thin provisioning is easier to achieve with containers. Linux based container solutions need to reach the levels of maturity of Solaris, specially as concerns security as the recent Docker vulnerability shows. Using a better file system like ZFS (as done by SmartOS or Flocker) is also a big boost, and can provide something close to vMotion in terms of ability to migrate workloads, if not yet online (shutdown required).

Some of the more important gains are in the realm of latency - SSDs give, and VMs take away. At my company, switching from AWS to a containerized private cloud (OpenIndiana) yielded significant improvements in cost (6x), latency (1/3), throughput (3x) and uptime (MTBF went up 30x).

I've already stated my belief VMware style hypervisors will be relegated to a niche of hosting legacy workloads. Nothing wrong with that, and it can be quite lucrative, as shown by IBM. Container vendors won't be able to extract the same profit margins, because they are built on open-source, so the legacy vendors may still end up gobbling up the new entrants. In other words, legacy workloads may represent a small fraction of future volume, but a large portion of value.

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Mozilla remembers 2013. Y'know, back when it still gobbled at the Google money-trough

Fazal Majid

Lots of fat to cut from their budget

Mozilla suffers from a sort of Parkinson's law - make-work expands to fill all available budgets. They have many utterly useless projects like Open Badges (http://openbadges.org/) that could be axed completely with no effect whatsoever on their mission (if anything, getting rid of the distractions should improve the focus on what matters, the browser and the mobile OS).

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'How a censorious and moralistic blogger ruined my evening'

Fazal Majid

Damning Facts

IIRC John Lettice is the Editor of The Register, and his words carry weight.

Emil Michael mentioned specific budget and manpower, in the context of a sleazy PR event, and his previous job was at Klout, the epitome of social-media douchebaggery. This was not an off-the-cuff remark, but a trial balloon for something that has already undergone a feasibility study. His incredibly vague job title (VP of Business? Really?) suggests skulduggery is his real job description and all the flak Uber has been receiving is if anything understated.

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SCREW YOU, net neutrality hippies – AT&T halts gigabit fiber

Fazal Majid

Yeah, right

AT&T's fiber plans are vaporware, and have been for the last 20 years, despite getting a big chunk of the $200Bn that were supposed to support fiber rollouts.

http://www.pbs.org/cringely/pulpit/2007/pulpit_20070810_002683.html

Verizon did have the good grace to invest in its infrastructure (FiOS), although it has frozen further rollouts, but AT&T/SBC's corporate culture is to milk its rotting infrastructure for profits and never invest back into it.

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Through the Looking Glass: Vulture pecks at software-defined storage

Fazal Majid

A rose by any other name...

It's fairly straightforward. "Software-defined storage" is a meaningless phrase coined up by storage marketing shills in an attempt to capture the halo effect that currently surrounds "Software Defined Networking" (SDN), which is still going strong in the hype cycle, with its positive associations of cost savings by commoditization.

Storage, like networking, is one of the few areas of the IT industry that has managed to preserve its fat profit margins, but distributed storage architectures like Hadoop from the Web-scale world are putting an end to that, and the high-performance storage is going direct-attached SSD anyways, as the latency of a SAN or NAS array is unacceptably orders of magnitude higher.

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Snapper's decisions: Whatever happened to REAL photography?

Fazal Majid

Re: Many good points - however

A Mamiya 7 or a Fuji 670 are comparable in weight to a premium 35mm SLR.

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Cisco and friends chase WiFi's searing speeds with new cable standard

Fazal Majid

It's not as if WiFi ever gets remotely close to the maximum theoretical bit rate, even with 802.11ac, so saturating Gigabit Ethernet is still a distant pipe dream.

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Apple, Google take on Main Street in BONKING-FOR-CASH struggle

Fazal Majid

Apple could ban the CurrenC app in tit for tat, but they probably won't bother as it looks likely to be stillborn. The Wal-Mart demographic doesn't overlap Apple's too much, but CVS should definitely be concerned at losing market share to Walgreens.

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‘For the love of Pete, America, learn about decent chocolate’

Fazal Majid

US chocolate stereotypes are 20 years out of date

European expat here, been living in San Francisco for nearly 15 years. Comments about American chocolate are ignorant. Just because LA is a wasteland doesn't mean Hershey's is the only choice available. There are some world-class US-based chocolate makers like Amano (Salt Lake City) or Guittard (Bay Area) that can compete with the best Europe has to offer. The US artisanal chocolate scene is vibrant, as is the bean-to-bar movement. Remember, the US is a huge and wealthy country, and even if the average standard of chocolate is abysmal, a small fraction of connoisseurs can easily sustain quality suppliers.

US chocolate standards are stricter than Europe's, as only a product made with 100% cocoa butter can be labeled as chocolate, whereas in Europe, because of British lobbying "chocolate" can be legally adulterated with up to 5% margarine. Granted, Hershey's is lobbying to water standards down to European standards, but they haven't succeeded yet.

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Time to test your sarcasm detectors: It's the UN's global comms shakeup extravaganza!

Fazal Majid

Re: If the ITU ran the Internet

Nope, we'd be running CLNP over X.25 over ISDN. Or more likely, nothing, since no one would have been able to afford it, assuming any vendor would have been able to implement the spec in the first place. Remember, ATM is actually the forward-looking protocol among that set. In my misspent youth when I worked for France Telecom circa 1996, their R&D Dept. was very proud to have produced an IP-free web browser that used ATM instead of TCP, Because clearly TCP/IP was the main hindrance to adoption of the web...

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Greedy datagrabs, crap security will KILL the Internet of Thingies

Fazal Majid

It's always the public key crypto used for key exchange that is the bottleneck

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Fazal Majid

Re: Industry has had IoT for quite a while

Yes, and those SCADA systems are notoriously insecure despite their high prices and the fact they control critical infrastructure and are managed by professionals . Even air gapping is insufficient, cf. stuxnet. What hope does cheap semi-disposable consumer equipment run by people without a clue have?

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No one wants iOS 8 because it's for NERDS - dev

Fazal Majid

Minor improvements

Apple hyping this release as the biggest ever is ridiculous, as the user-visible improvements are minor. There are 2 I was eagerly awaiting, however: Duckduckgo as default search engine, and reporting which apps are battery hogs.

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Adobe axes R&D lab in China, insiders blame mandarins and pirates

Fazal Majid

Re: Watch this space

Technically, it's mercantilism, not chauvinism (although the two are closely related).

Every major economy did it: the UK against the Netherlands in the 17th century, the US against Britain in the 19th (this was one of the drivers for the Civil War, the North wanted mercantilist policies, whereas the commodities-driven export economy of the South was against), Germany in the 19th as well, Japan after WWII. It's only after mercantilism has succeeded that the countries who used it successfully to wrest economic leadership suddenly turn into ardent free-marketers urging emerging powers not do do the same.

That said, China is close to the shifting point - Huawei's R&D budget and yearly patents are among the highest in its industry, for example, and they have other world-leading companies like Haier.

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Google Apple grapple brings crypto cop block to Android

Fazal Majid

"Google-powered devices will be equally attractive to those who value their privacy."

Google is the #1 threat to privacy, even ahead of the NSA. No one who values their privacy uses their services. The single greatest feature in iOS 8 is DuckDuckGo as a search engine option.

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Bonking with Apple has POUNDED mobe operators' wallets

Fazal Majid

Re: Apple NFC

NFC is for Apple Pay only.

Apple wants you to use Bluetooth Low Energy (BT 4.0 Smart) for all the use cases you describe. You can pair your phone with your AppleTV that way, for instance. They probably put in NFC under duress as that was the only way to interoperate with payment terminals already out there, which support NFC but not BLE.

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Fazal Majid

Re: Well there you go

Their market share of attractive (i.e. spendthrift) demographics is huge, however, and that's what matters most for merchants.

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Payment security bods: Nice pay-by-bonk (hint: NO ONE uses it) on iPhone 6, Apple

Fazal Majid

Re: Help me out here...

The issue is cellcos, banks and handset manufacturers were all angling for the pie. If they couldn't succeed, they would make sure the others failed. Net result: stalemate. Verizon disabled NFC and the Secure Element in the phones they sell, for instance (they want the SE to reside in the SIM card where they can control it, not in the phone where the handset manufacturer is).

Apple clearly has cut a deal with the banks where they agreed not to take a cut or collect data, so they have a better chance of getting adoption on the merchant terminals because banks won't actively sabotage their efforts the way they did with Google, Samsung or Verizon.

On the flip side, this system is built on a foundation of quicksand, the terminally insecure credit card number. It's not clear how it will handle the 2015 transition to EMV.

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Stick a 4K in them: Super high-res TVs are DONE

Fazal Majid

Yay for 4K

I just bought a 50-inch Samsung HU8550 for $1800 (after $700 instant rebate) to replace the ancient 42-inch analog 720p plasma set that came with my new house (burn-in and crazy pixels galore). This unit is certified Netflix 4K compatible, but I fully expect the primary 4K content will be from projecting photos. A 4K TV has 8 megapixels and is ideal for that purpose. The price is about double what an equivalent 1080p unit costs today, and most likely the price will fall down to the current level within a year or two, at which point no one will buy a 1080p model, just like no one buys SD or 720p today.

The key is to buy a set with HDMI 2.0, HDCP 2.2 and HEVC/H.265, which only became available in 2014. To qualify for the UHDTV 4K label, TVs also need 10-bit color, which is not yet widespread.

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Say goodbye to the noughties: Yesterday’s hi-fi biz is BUSTED, bro

Fazal Majid

Re: "If you want to listen to great-sounding music"

You can buy musician's earplugs like Etymotics to reduce sound levels without altering the frequency response.

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Snowden leaks latest: NSA, FBI g-men spied on Muslim-American chiefs

Fazal Majid

Ghafoor has known about this for a while, and has been at the forefront of exposing warrantless surveillance, hence the retaliation. Here is his lawyer six years ago recounting the Kafkaesque process of suing the government for it:

http://www.salon.com/2008/07/09/alharamain_lawsuit/

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Amazon Prime Music opens – but where's the streaming music?

Fazal Majid

I just tried it

It's like the Netflix of music. Exceedingly limited collection, even for music older than 6 months.

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Fazal Majid

Re: So let me get this straight...

If they have 34% of the market, 34% of $30M is $10M, not $6M or $5M.

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Amazon turns screws on French publisher: Don't feel sorry for Hachette, it's just 'negotiation'

Fazal Majid

Re: whingers

Amazon has 80% market share in eBooks in the US, and higher internationally. Apple is hardly the monopolist in books (the only industry they are one is music downloads).

What Amazon is asking publishers to do is subsidize the predatory pricing it will engage in, to kill off competitors like Barnes & Noble, and thus make the publishers even more dependent on Amazon's monopsony. Kind of how the Chinese government charges the families of executed people for the price of the bullets...

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Beijing to Washington: Ratted-out routers not welcome here

Fazal Majid

Re: bully boy, more like pushover...

"Shows how much you know, there has never been a recent trade agreement that has worked out for the US."

Whether those trade agreements work for the US as a whole is debatable, but they certainly work very well as designed for those in power. Just like how the Iraq war was an unmitigated disaster that will cost anything from $2 Trillion to $4Tn when all the costs are tallied, but helped make Dick Cheney and his cronies billions in war profiteering. The net total is highly negative for the US as a whole, but it's all upside for those who made the decision.

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Nod Labs forges one (Bluetooth) ring to rule them all

Fazal Majid

Dilbert foresaw this

relevant comic strip here.

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Voice-babble-over-Wi-Fi lands in Europe – take that, mobe masties

Fazal Majid

How is this new?

People have been using Skype and other VoIP tools for over a decade and a half from WiFi hotspots. Skype will even let you log on to Boingo and pay for the access using Skype credits.

As for KPN, yes, it is one of the worst telcos in Europe, with rotting infrastructure and a disdain for customers seldom seen West of the former Iron Curtain.

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Apple stabs Heartbleed bug in AirPort Extreme, Time Capsule gear

Fazal Majid

That's because those devices are based on Linux, not Darwin

And thus probably using OpenSSL as its SSL/TLS stack (the main alternatives being GnuTLS, which has security issues of its own, or PolarSSL).

One of the little secrets Apple would rather keep to itself...

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IBM rides nightmarish hardware landscape on OpenPOWER Consortium raft

Fazal Majid

Re: arm -> low power. POWER -> ?

Better single-thread performance is a valid answer. I'm sure there are algorithms even Google's PhD's haven't been able to parallelize yet, and need the fastest cores it can get. CPU power consumption is only a small part of server power utilization, and I find it hard to believe POWER can match the throughput per dollar of x64, but then again neither will x64 match server ARM64 when it starts shipping in volume in a couple of years' time.

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Fazal Majid

It has to do with the economics of processor R&D and fab investment. Intel (and AMD) server processor R&D rides on the coat-tails of the much larger desktop/laptop processor market with its huge economies of scale. Niche processors like POWER have much smaller shipments to amortize the R&D on, or build a use-case for hugely expensive leading-edge fabs. There is thus a chicken-and-egg effect that prevents them from reaching the price/performance point of Intel processors.

Even Intel is feeling the pinch, as shown by Krzanich's recent moves to open Intel fabs to third-party designed chips. AMD couldn't keep up, despite having invented x64, and had to spin off its own fabs.. Even Intel and HP couldn't make Itanium succeed in the marketplace, despite access to Intel's fab prowess and HP's server market share, it's hard to see how a hollow shell of a company like IBM could achieve that. Google might, but just how strong is its commitment to the platform? Enough to fund ongoing R&D into the platform? Seems doubtful - their hardware investments this far have concentrated on cutting margins and middlemen, e.g. building their own switches from Broadcom parts.

ARM has even higher volumes than Intel, if not fat juicy margins to fund R&D from, and is thus the more likely disruptor, something Intel is keenly aware of, as ARM's strategy is essentially the same one Intel used with great success to kill off RISC architectures.

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Firefox biz Mozilla makes Beard new interim chief executive

Fazal Majid

Another step in the wrong direction, stagnation and irrelevance

Mozilla is rich due to the advertising fees Google pays it for being the default search engine in Firefox. Paradoxically, this comfortable situation means they are not experiencing a sense of urgency commensurate with their slow Yahoo-like slide towards irrelevance as mobile (Webkit/Blink-based) browsing is usurping the desktop.

The search referral wealth is also funding a lot of useless claptrap like Open Badges that are a distraction from the radical changes Mozilla needs to make if it is to survive. The organization will need strong technical leadership to make this happen, and it isn't going to come from wishy-washy liberal arts or marketing types like Beard or Mitchell Baker. Losing Eich is a terrible blow, however unpalatable his opinions may have been, and replacing an engineering-background CEO with a marketer makes it less likely that a replacement will accept the job.

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ICANN boss: 'Russia and China will NOT take over interwebs'

Fazal Majid

ICANN is mostly a failure

They failed to wrest control of the dot-com zone back from Verisign, and have mostly tacked on additional fees on domain name registrations. Indirectly that means the Department of a Commerce has failed in its oversight. The organization is opaque and unaccountable (google "Karl Auerbach ICANN). There are a few bright spots like DNSSEC and IDN, but they are few and far between.

Putin, Erdogan, Iran or the Chinese Communist Party don't need control over ICANN to enforce Net censorship. The only question is about fighting for the gravy train.

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Google wearables: A solution looking for a rich nerd

Fazal Majid

Re: Notifications

That use case makes sense, but getting more notifications is the last thing you should want. Without getting all Zen or Walden-esque about it, interruptions break your flow and hinder your ability to get things done. Frittering your attention onto what your phone or smartwatch thinks is important means you are ceding the control of your most important resource to someone else, e.g. advertising companies and their business need to turn us into Pavlovian dogs awaiting their next hit of notification so we can be exposed to more ads.

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Fazal Majid

Rich nerds wear expensive Swiss mechanical watches

It's one of the few articles of jewelry a man can wear without appearing tasteless, along with cufflinks.

Most of these are automatic and don't need recharging or rewinding.

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Europe approves common charger standard for mobe-makers

Fazal Majid

Micro-USB is too flimsy

The Micro-USB connector was designed by Nokia and is the flimsiest piece of garbage imaginable, being much less robust in practice than the Mini-USB connector it replaced. Interestingly, the USB-IF is now working on a Lightning-inspired replacement (in terms of mechanical design, not necessarily the dynamic pin assignment or DRM).

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'Amazon has destroyed the unicorn factory' ... How clouds are making sysadmins extinct

Fazal Majid

Re: as one of those unicorns

We ran on AWS for about a year, with terrible performance and availability, and switched as soon as we could hire a top-flight sysadmin. The tipping point for where it makes more sense to build than rent is about $20K/month in cloud fees.

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Hey doc, what's the PC's prognosis? A. Long-term growth below zero

Fazal Majid

Other factors at play

In addition to the factors listed in the article, it also has to do with:

1) Moore's law running out of steam in terms of single-thread performance and the fact most software is still not optimized for multicore. Why upgrade when you will hardly get any performance benefits? Swapping out a SSD for a hard drive is the only upgrade that makes sense for most, and it doesn't require replacing the whole PC.

2) Versions of Windows since XP have been more reliable thanks to the NT underpinnings, and thus suffer less from the bit-rot older Windows experienced. They take longer to get unusable, and thus one of the main spurs to replacing the PC has gone.

3) Software ani-piracy measures like activation have made it more of a chore to migrate to the new PC.

4) PCs are not subsidized like smartphones in exchange for 2-year contract lock-in. That leaves less money for marketing and in-store placement.

5) Mobile Internet connectivity has improved (the AT&T LTE I get at home in San Francisco is much faster than the AT&T DSL I have to endure). This reduces the necessity of using a home computer. At the same time, most laptops ship without a wireless WAN adapter, and even when they include one, carriers won't offer plans as attractive as those available on smartphones and tablets, the assumption being laptop users will consume more bandwidth.

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Well done on the privacy lawsuit. Now NSA will keep your phone records INDEFINITELY

Fazal Majid

At some point they will run out of disk space and collection will stop.

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Free space optics gets shiny new snake-oil paint job

Fazal Majid

Latency arbitrage for high frequency trading is leading to a rebirth in microwave vs. fiber, notably between New York and Chicago. Microwave data mom is an exceedingly robust and mature technology, unlike free space optics, though.

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'No representation without taxation!' urges venerable tech VC

Fazal Majid

Perkins is merely describing how the US political system works in practice, if not in theory.

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UK picks Open Document Format for all government files

Fazal Majid

I think in-browser editing means use wiki or HTML CMS to host data in a form directly accessible from a browser instead of using a format that requires launching a separate app like OpenOffice or Word when a browser will do.

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Blame Silicon Valley for the NSA's data slurp... and what to do about it

Fazal Majid

Re: "Optional" sounds just right.

Your smug, narcissistic, self-righteous and self-indulgent generation has caused enough damage already. That's why it's Millennials like Snowden who have to clean house.

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Fazal Majid

Chaff is the solution

The Silicon Valley privacy monetization industry and the NSA/FBI surveillance-industrial complex may be equally dangerous to privacy, but conflating them is simplistic. They are culturally, generationally and geographically thousands of miles apart. If you look at who has been eagerly cooperating with the NSA (as opposed to complying under duress with National Security Letters), it is Telcos, who are centered primarily on the East Coast and Texas.

Curbing the NSA's unconstitutional abuses is going to be difficult, will take years and will require working through the political process - there is no other way, technological countermeasures alone can't make a difference against an opponent whose R&D budget probably eclipses the entire tech industry's.

The way to fight against the privacy-infringement industry is technological: better cookie-filtering software like disconnect.me, along with as-yet-to-be-written big data sabotage tools that poison the well for data brokers by pumping fake data into their user profiles, thus rendering them worthless. I can easily imagine browser plugins that click on random links in the background to obscure what you are really interested in. People tend to overestimate the power and robustness of statistical techniques, they are actually very vulnerable to noise and deliberate info-chaff. Legislative and administrative approaches like Do Not Track won't work because there is no practical way for the government to monitor compliance, just see how Do Not Call failed to curb the most egregious telemarketers.

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Mandatory HTTP 2.0 encryption proposal sparks hot debate

Fazal Majid

TLS needs to be fixed first

TLS/SSL needs to be fixed before making it mandatory, otherwise it's just more security theater.

The NSA can simply order a CA to issue them certificates suitable for man-in-the-middle attacks, or they can order a website operator to disclose their private key, as they did with Lavabit. Given that most TLS cipher suites do not provide perfect forward secrecy, this means they can easily retroactively decrypt your communications.

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Verizon to Intel Media: Hey chip-fryer. Guess who can help you with OTT TV?

Fazal Majid

The question is, what value does Intel really bring to the table? It sounds more like Brian Krzanich cleaning house and divesting himself of a money sink on one side, and Verizon on the other hand making an acqui-hire:

http://www.mondaynote.com/2013/11/04/intel-is-under-new-management-and-it-shows/

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Mavericks Mail's spam-spewing 'flaw' was scripted by red-faced user

Fazal Majid

I wouldn't be too hard on Fastmail. IMAP is a spectacularly poorly-specified protocol, and it doesn't help when some like GMail implement it in an even more spectacularly crackpot way. It was a fairly plausible assumption that changes in Mavericks Mail.app's IMAP implementation was causing problems.

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