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* Posts by Northumbrian

48 posts • joined 22 Nov 2009

Report: American tech firms charge Britons a thumping nationality tax

Northumbrian

Re: Tax????

I take your point and fully agree but I'm not sure I'd want to call the NHS a proper health care system. I suppose it is compared to the US though.

Well, soon you'll be able to see how it compares to US norms. Once TTIP (the transatlantic trade and investment partnership) is signed, without an NHS opt-out, large healthcare companies as well as outsourcing giants like Cerco, will be able to buy up the NHS and run their fiefdoms exactly like US hospitals, clinics etc. We will have no way of taking them back into public ownership and - quite probably - no way of avoiding the need for private healthcare insurance, along the lines of that provided by Unum etc.

Our government is quite happy to relinquish any control over healthcare costs and procedures in this country to multinationals and an international tribunal set up to protect said multinationals. So much for guarding our "sovereignty".

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UK government officially adopts Open Document Format

Northumbrian

Re: Yay!

this UK decision harmonises it with a long standing EU directive, and thus strengthens it.

Shh! or they'll change the policy without even waiting for a referendum.

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Northumbrian

Re: Yay!

Fantastic decision, one that I never thought they actually would take, given their "roll over and tickle my tummy" attitude with most technology companies.

Yup, clearly they kept IDS out of the loop on this one.

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Climate: 'An excuse for tax hikes', scientists 'don't know what they're talking about'

Northumbrian

The article says, "no other kind of scientist's opinion is much more valuable than a layman's, much though many marginal eggheads might disagree."

Not so. Go out and take a good sample of "laymen" - ask them to work out, without a calculator, what 80+10% is. How many will come up with the answer "90"? And then let them use the calculator and quite a few will come up with the answer "800" - or "8". And most will not be able to tell you what a percentage actually is. If you don't believe me, consult those who are desperate to get financial education into British schools, so that when the schoolchildren become adults a few more of them will understand what "Wonga's APR is over 1000%" really means.

Most people who have got through a science degree - or at any rate one with some amount of maths in it - will have an idea what percentages mean. They may also be able to tell the difference between a graph which shows you the seemingly huge rise and fall of your share values over the last month and the same data shown over 5 years where it looks minuscule. In other words they can, at least if they want to, make allowances for truncated scales.

Basic numeracy does not guarantee that the reader will apply other good critical skills or have requisite specialist knowledge, but it does mean that they will have the ability to look at an article with figures in it and try to make some sense of them. There are large numbers of our fellow citizens (at least in the UK and the US) who simply look at numbers as an irrelevance.

Ditto logic.

I am haunted by the picture of a woman in a documentary (which was not about smoking) who had, during her sixth pregnancy taken up smoking. Why had she done so, "Dunno," shrug, "Felt like it." "Don't you know that smoking is bad for the baby you're carrying?" She shrugged again, "Yeah, well, they say these things." She wasn't being defensive - she just didn't see the need to bother about what "they" said. Her other babies had been born healthy - this one miscarried. She didn't see any connection - it was just another one of the things that "they" said which had no impact on her.

I like to think that any professional scientist will have some idea of the difference between what might or might not be a fact and what you happen to feel this morning. I'm not making scientists out to be all paragons of logical appraisal - in their own field or out of it - but at least they have some conception of what a reasoning process actually is.

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You need a list of specific unknowns we may encounter? Huh?

Northumbrian
Megaphone

And then there's Big Government Projects

I had not previously seen Iain Duncan Smith a PHB, but it figures.

Seriously, though, does anyone with inside contacts in the DWP have the nerve to tell the story of the project management of Universal Credit?

The one that was going to be "all online" - all applications to be done by yourself on a computer, for a benefit with a high proportion of those with a learning disability, the dyslexic, the genuinely illiterate, the partially sighted, the ones with severely arthritic fingers, the clueless, the thick and the intellectually bone idle. All of whom, for different reasons, may find it hard to get work - especially properly paid work - and may need UC.

Then they point out that anyone with enough benefit / capital to afford a computer is getting too much money from the tax payer.

Then they reduce library funding so no one can have more than half an hour on library computers and has, anyway, to type in all their details (including bank accounts) into a system which they have to leave, but without any understanding of the phrase "log off."

Finally, you have a PHB who will lecture anyone who says the system doesn't work, won't work, couldn't work - even on an IT basis. And that's before you factor in real users. That, insists the PHB, is a form politically-motivated destructive lies. IT IS WORKING - IT IS WORKING WELL - IT WILL WORK BRILLIANTLY.

So here's something from one of those poems which management types despise:

And on the pedestal these words appear:

"My name is OZYMANDIAS, King of Kings.

Look on my works ye Mighty, and despair!"

Nothing beside remains. Round the decay

Of that Colossal Wreck, boundless and bare,

The lone and level sands stretch far away.

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Urinating teen polluted 57 Olympic-sized swimming pools - cops

Northumbrian

Re: Urine is sterile

And in all probability many of those animal corpses were of creatures that have bladders and so probably also contained some urine. Also faeces.

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US.gov - including NASA et al - quits internet. Is the UN running it now?

Northumbrian
FAIL

Re: Get it right

I can't argue with you about who drafted the bills - I have no knowledge of that area. But I do have some idea of the difference between writing and reading. Even if the congresspersons have not *written* a bill, that does not mean that they can't *read* it before voting on it. Especially if they are sponsoring a bill - but I suppose that they mostly read the "executive summary" prepared by the organisation which actually drafted it and which glides over any problems or ambiguities in the actual wording.

I know elected officials these days are very busy with PR and internecine squabbles, but surely some of them have interns who could read the original document and flag up the bits the original drafters slipped in or over-looked?

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Australia's anti-smut internet filter blueprint lasts LESS THAN A DAY

Northumbrian
Facepalm

"This is from the same political party that wants to re-edit school curriculum"

I've only just seen this gem passed by the South Dakota House of Representatives in 2010 (though the language if not the sentiment was later amended by a - presumably - more educated or informed Senate):

.. the South Dakota Legislature urges that instruction in the public schools relating to global warming include the following: ...

(2) That there are a variety of climatological, meteorological, astrological [sic], thermological, cosmological, and ecological dynamics that can effect [sic] world weather phenomena and that the significance and interrelativity of these factors is largely speculative;

I understand that Tony Abbott is - let us say - not in favour of any sort of action on climate change and that he has been known as a Young Earth Creationist. Perhaps he'd be in favour of re-modelling the Ozzie school curriculum to reflect his point of view. Teach Genesis along side the geology text books and let the students make up their own minds about mountain building and rock formation.

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Northumbrian

Q: "Why the F*** is it SOOO G*dam*d hard for Parents to Parent there Children?

Keep the Computer in a place where you can monitor what your Kids are up to while on the Computer."

------------------------

A: It's possible, though surprisingly difficult, to monitor the computer use of your own children. Try, for example, watching the use a 5-year old is making of the computer whilst the 12-month old, who has just mastered crawling really quickly, is sampling the joys of "pulling himself up on the table where you've just put down the chillis in order to answer the door."

No, the real problem comes when they're old enough to go round to their friend's house without you being present all the time. Or even swapping information in the playground. At that point you're dependent not just on your own parenting skills and standards, but that of the parents of all the other children in the school. And it's not just the parents of the children to whom your children are talking / swapping pictures - it's the parents of the children that those children talk to.

Once they get to 10 years old, you have to start insisting on really strict, "who you may talk to" rules and sending them to religious academies where they'll get really unpleasant consequences for using naughty words or expressing unacceptable opinions. And THAT'S a cure worse than the disease.

Otherwise you have to opt for home schooling and social isolation and there are not that many parents - at least in the UK - who are prepared to go down that route.

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Oz's 2013 heatwave was man made

Northumbrian
WTF?

Re: @Andy The Hat

"Since the article in question is behind a paywall, it isn't science."

Or to re-phrase, "if it isn't paid for by advertising, I won't believe it."

I think you'll find that most of the world's leading academic journals are behind paywalls - as is the FT, the WSJ, the Times, the Telegraph and The Economist.

Even in the post-dead-tree era of publishing most journals find it necessary to get you to pay in order to meet their costs. Getting the synopsis gives you a start. After that you probably need access to a university library with a sub to the appropriate journal.

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Norkoshop: How Pyongyang well and truly forked Adobe

Northumbrian

Re: pathetic, addendum to previous post

"Our minders were young men, mostly educated in China, Russia, even Malta, and we never knew exactly which institutions commanded their loyalty.

Over evening drinks they would crack hilarious jokes.

One night, the conversation turned to America and the 1969 moon landing. Despite their differences, our highly intelligent guides became deadly serious, insisting that this historic event had never happened because North Korea would be the first country to send a man to the moon. "

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-16252540

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Northumbrian

Re: pathetic

Remember one thing posted re NK which I read some months ago. The bloke writing it had been on some mission to NK during one of the periods of thaw and had been in contact with a group of (I think) engineers or some such. They did have minders, but the atmosphere was genuinely friendly and they swapped stories.

The man said they seemed to take most things in their stride and he'd become very sceptical about the standard accounts of the NK mentality. Then he mentioned the US moon landings and the was total incredulity - everyone simply refused to believe it. If such a thing had happened (a) they would have been told about it and (b) it would have been done by NK. He was sure that these folks genuinely believed that NK was the most technologically advanced country in the world.

There was, from a similar period, a documentary made about a presumably fairly ordinary family living in the suburbs of Peonyang and certainly the children seemed to believe the entire package - including the bit about the American practice of kidnapping and killing innocent South Korean children. I can't remember if they also believed that the people of South Korea were starving under the American yoke.

And the stories about Kim Il Sung (these were in Kim Jong-Il days) made it clear that he was a God Emperor.

What did the man say, if you want to make a lie believable make it a Big Lie.

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Era of the Pharaohs: Climate was HOTTER THAN NOW, without CO2

Northumbrian

"The government is stimulating a property boom at sea level: They do not expect to drown very soon."

Au contraire. If you want the economy to flourish make things with built-in obsolescence. Sea front properties which will be destroyed in 10 years by rising sea levels, means that in 10 years you'll need to build new sea-front properties which in turn ...

David Cameron is missing (yet another) trick for economy-growing measures.

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Seattle drinking den bans Google Glass geeks

Northumbrian

Re: REALLY?

"If I decide to take a photo in public, I expect to do so without the local filth attacking me"

Better be careful where you go then - look at the fate of the UK tourists who thought they were innocuously filming aircraft in Greece. The locals didn't agree.

And filming public buildings over here can get you in trouble is the authorities (police, building owners, local baristas etc) think you might be planning to blow it up.

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Northumbrian
Paris Hilton

Re: Hmmm..

You want privacy in public? Wear a burkha.

Paris Hilton, because she doesn't.

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Northumbrian
WTF?

Re: Hmmm..

So all those TV cameras filming in the street, or from a helicopter, should make sure that they have the permission of everyone present to do so? That should be fun in the midst of a riot - or an anti-government demonstration.

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Socket to 'em: It's the HomeGrid vs HomePlug powerline prizefight

Northumbrian
Angel

Re: Your iambic pentameter is off

We don't know what Shakespeare had to do to survive in the early years - jobbing extra was merely one. Maybe subbing was another ...

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US diplomat: If EU allows 'right to be forgotten' ... it might spark TRADE WAR

Northumbrian
Flame

Re: Isn't it ironic, don't you think?

Not cross because EU sovereignty being threatened. Cross because US claiming jurisdiction it doesn't have.

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Northumbrian
Flame

US Constitution

"It's not in the US Constitution" - and that matters, why?

Last I heard the US Constitution does not bind the citizens of the EU. Should someone tell the Yanks.

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Tablets aren't killing ereaders, it's clog-popping wrinklies - analyst

Northumbrian
Megaphone

Re: Do they honestly think younger people dont read?

Werther's have more problems than Amazon as their customers have a disproportionately high chance of getting diabetes with all its life-limiting possibilities.

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Gov unveils plans for 2013 launch of ANOTHER software framework

Northumbrian
FAIL

SNAFU

"squeezing IT suppliers with that aim"

i.e. forcing them to give an even more unrealistic estimate of a project's cost in order to get the job, which will then run even more over-budget.

What was it the old hippy said, "When will they ever learn?"

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Steely Neelie: EU is crippled by its clueless tech-ignorant workforce

Northumbrian
Boffin

At one end we have and EU-wide shortage of people suitable for ICT jobs and at the other people with good IT qualifications and experience unable to get a job.

Explanations - however good the trained IT staff are, they're going to be undercut by firms in India. I understand the DM (and the union) is blaming the RBS foul-up on outsourcing to India.

A firm belief that IT staff should be seen in the same bracket as electricians and plumbers - only not as essential. They should not be paid as professionals, nor given the pensions or status which might go to accountants.

My pet drum:

I think that - as far as the UK is concerned - the problem is both simpler and much worse.

Study in 2010 found, "Around a fifth of pupils leave school functionally illiterate and functionally innumerate ... [T]his means people have “very basic competence in maths, mainly limited to arithmetical computations and some ability to comprehend and use other forms of mathematical information.

Levels of functional innumeracy are higher still among older age groups."

When big companies bemoan the lack of ICT staff, what they really mean is they want people who can read a computer screen and can see that £.5.34 + 20%VAT = £64,080 must be wrong - even if that IS what it says on the computer screen.

Something like 20-25% of the UK workforce don't understand what a percentage sign means and are thrown by a decimal point. The don't count as IT-illiterate because they can use an X-Box and program a DVD-recorder using the EPG, but from a business point of view they are not just "functionally illiterate", but "useless".

So, the solutions applied might work, if the problem were the one everyone talks about. But since it isn't, they won't.

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Compulsory coding in schools: The new Nerd Tourism

Northumbrian
Megaphone

Re: @DJV

And requiring all political discourse to be conducted without the use of the word "They", would reveal or remove a great deal of muddled thinking. Precision is the enemy demagoguery.

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Indonesian ID card will deduct fines from bank accounts

Northumbrian
Big Brother

Re: What about HMG?

Sorry, it's too late. Our master IDS (no, that's Iain Duncan Smith, not the plural of ID) has already set all of this in motion. We will shortly (come 2014, I think) have a new structure for many of the main benefits paid out - including working tax credit, child tax credit, housing benefit, income support, income-based jobseeker’s allowance and income-related employment and support allowance. It's designed to work by integrating the tax and benefits system - so it involves getting the HMRC's computer system to work with a new one at the DWP.

Enter The Guardian (23 March 2011)

"Hundreds of computer technicians in India are being hired to help develop an IT system for the government's universal credit welfare programme, work potentially worth hundreds of millions of pounds, despite promises that large data projects would remain in the UK.

Workers in Bangalore and Mumbai are being hired by the outsourcing firms Accenture and IBM to help design and maintain a delivery system for universal credit, internal documents show. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) signed contracts with the two firms reported to be worth £525m each in December.

The disclosure appears to contradict assurances from the employment minister, Chris Grayling, who told parliament in November that he would not allow his department's major IT projects to go abroad."

Note: to design AND MAINTAIN the system which has the details of everyone who is claiming any income-related benefit. Since we are talking households here, and benefits involving children, the details of a substantial part of the UK population will be entered into the system. And the system will then talk to the taxation databases, which has everyone's bank details.

Presumably the DWP's other big databases - including that of everyone near or over pension age - will get linked in as well.

And all being maintained in India, where the handling of credit card data has been such a howling success.

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Northumbrian
Headmaster

Re: Usb

Okay, outbreak of political correctness no doubt, but I'm entering a pro forma objection to the word "retard". I'm probably feeling sensitive because we have a family member who is pregnant in her 40s, making the chance of a Downs baby non-negligible. And we have one already among the cousins. So the word "retard" is not one I'm easy with people using.

Secondly, it's over-optimistic in that it suggests that the "loss" of large amounts of data that way is most likely to be the result of stupidity. As others have said, cupidity or blackmail will achieve that faster and more efficiently.

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Child abuse suspect won't be forced to decrypt hard drive

Northumbrian
Headmaster

Innocent until ...

.. only if he really is a kiddy fiddler.

Suppose you wanted to get into someone's hard drive because you thought he was doing something that Disney - er - the DMCA doesn't allow, or even keeping files on the misdeeds of a presidential candidate. You accuse him of paedophilia, get the keys to his hard drive(s) and go fishing for what you can find.

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Britain's Harrier jump-jets reprieved to fly and fight again

Northumbrian
Holmes

The wrong trousers

Whose trousers? Well, the wrong trousers probably. It will be the private consultant who "liaised" with US forces, and the bankers who are arranging the finances. Plus a promotion and (eventually) a gong for whoever claims the credit in the MoD (or whatever it's called these days).

As for what *sort* of private consultant - well, I can't think of any names, off hand.

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Ofcom mulls smackdown for rogue religious TV channel

Northumbrian

Seriously

Given the current lag between "Hey, I think we might have a good idea" and "Here, the NHS wants you to take this pill," is something like 18 YEARS, I think they'd have time to change the law.

OTOH all sorts of things that you can only get on prescription are not currently advertised on TV (just heavily promoted to doctors)so it may be that HMG (in all its various guides since 1937) doesn't want patients deciding what drugs they want on the basis of TV advertising.

Can't remember the last time I saw an advertisement for Bob Martins either.

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Microsoft breaks own world record for IE nonsense

Northumbrian
Coat

Also not a MS shill

In fact a fan of firefox.

I've read almost all the comments on here, and I still think that the people shouting, "it's marketing-speak, folks," probably have the right of it.

I first saw the "native" and felt my brain do a quick flip - what, did this actually mean? Well, I think it didn't mean anything much as it was written.

What I suspect he meant was this new browser will be the best place to view sites using HTML5, because we built it with HTML5 in mind. The "native" thing was just sloppy phraseology when what he mean was that IE9 was optimised for HTML5, and that as a result you'll get better results on IE9 (preferably plus Windows 7) than you will using other browsers on other platforms, when looking at a site crafted with html5 in mind.

But he really REALLY meant was, "This latest version of IE is way cool dude," but didn't have the nerve to come out with it in front of a Windows crowd.

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Digital player maker 'incited consumers to break the law', says ASA

Northumbrian

what copyright-free music?

If you are listening to a recording of music by Beethoven, then someone is performing it and the performance is subject to copyright. (This why Desert Island Discs never turns up on iPlayer!)

If you are actually performing yourself, then you are presumed to have acquired a legal copy of the music - which someone has edited, laid on the page etc etc, and that edition is subject to copyright.

If you are listening to an ad which has music in the background then the advertiser/ director/ producer of the ad has paid a fee for the use of that music - possibly to the person who composed it (though s/he may have sold all their rights to a record company years ago) , possibly to the people who are performing it (though they're likely to be session musicians and get a one-off payment) and almost certainly to the firm of copyright lawyers who enforce it. Ditto for any music you hear on a TV programme.

If you make a permanent copy of any TV programme, then you are probably breaking copyright law, since you are only legally entitled to make video recordings for the purposes of "time-shifting" after which you are expected to wipe the programme.

Whether you are displeasing the advertisers when you copy an ad is much more difficult to know - probably not. They do, after all want you to see the ad as much as possible. If, however, the composer of the catchy tune is being paid every time it's shown live, then s/he will probably be cross that you're listening to their music without them getting any payment.

And copyright gets much more complicated than that! For example, someone wrote an unauthorised biography of Cole Porter, and was not allowed to mention even the title of any of his songs in the book - song copyright is very tight, but only lasts 50 years - let alone quote from any of the lyrics.

Literary work is usually in copyright for the lifetime of the author plus 70 years. One of the first world war poets is still in copyright, even though the man has been dead more than 70 years, because his literary estate brought out a new edition of his poems with some previously unpublished material in it - this extended the copyright of everything in the book for another (I think) 50 years.

What actually goes on may bear very little resemblance to the legal position, but none the less copyright lawyers do not starve.

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Northumbrian

In the UK, but ..

a recent article in a computer magazine told you how to carry out this sort of ripping - if you live in Germany, where format-shifting has been made legal.

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Northumbrian
Welcome

I hope it works

These copyright laws do need a complete re-write, but if they get one we will find that it favours Rupert Murdoch and Disney, since the American Music and Motion Picture Associations' lobbies are very well-funded and very powerful. We aren't quite as pigheaded as the Germans about avoiding US political pressure.

Though I do get one piece of satisfaction from the current state of affairs. Every time I hear someone saying, "Those who have nothing to hide, have nothing to fear," I think to myself - I bet you've got some illegally recorded music, video or TV programmes in your house, and just never knew that it was illegal to keep those old VHS tapes of say, "Archer's Goon" (hat tip to the memory of Diana Wynne Jones who died a few days ago) - even though you can't buy a legal copy. They probably think that ignorance of the law is a defence too.

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Northumbrian
IT Angle

A Copyright story which has nothing to do with IT

An academic in a Physics Dept did some research, which he published in a some reasonably reputable academic journal. Next academic year he included his articles in his teaching material. His university received a bill for ££££s in copyright fees, because the standard contract makes all academic articles the property of the journal - whether or not they have paid for them.

If you get clearance to use copyrighted material in teaching the text must be photocopied using the entire original pages, not be cut and pasted and not stapled together. You may not give it out at the beginning of term either - it must be distributed in dribs and drabs throughout the course.

This presumably encourages the students to buy more academic books.

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NASA's Glory climate-data sat crashes into Pacific on launch

Northumbrian
FAIL

Why did no one think of it?

I'm a little surprised that no one thought to make any observations about the weather before there were satellites. You'd have thought that making systematic notes about temperatures, rainfall, crop yields, pressure would have occurred to someone before the 1950s.

All those long voyages around the world in sailing ships, and no one recorded any data. What a lot of missed opportunities.

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ISPs under pressure to control online porn

Northumbrian
Megaphone

Hear, hear

As I said in another post - talk to them about porn when they're old enough to have seen it, but young enough not to mind when you talk about it.

The technical question you asked:

"Who would be responsible for the system, and how would they enforce it in multi-occupant properties? You know - family homes, with multiple age ranges?"

has a simple and deadly answer. The people putting forward a filtering system mostly know that it will fail. They have then established [a] that we "need" and "will accept" a "filtering system" (i.e. internet censorship) and [b] that the existing system doesn't work.

So the only solution is to have a national firewall which will keep out all of this "filth" as well as "undesirable material" of other kinds - like instructions for making bombs, or sites advocating a jihad or a global caliphate or telling you how to commit suicide. (All of them "filters" which have been actively promoted in this country).

After that - well, fill in your own pet "filters". Welcome the Great Firewall of Britain - joining that of North Korea, China, Australia and doubtless many others.

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Northumbrian
WTF?

Why discourage porn?

Said this elsewhere: the damage done by porn is not that it destroys the innocence of young minds - the playground will do that. It's not that it will sexualise them too early - the TV will do that, along with the development of hormones at an increasingly young age.

The real damage done by porn is that it will mess up their (eventual) sex lives, and give them a wholly unrealistic ideas about their own bodies now, that of others of the same sex and any/all of the opposite sex. Thinking you should act like a porn star, and have a body that will give the same results will make them unhappier than they need to be.

You can still horrify and amaze a porn-savvy generation by showing them pictures of the genitalia of ordinary men and women. Tell them about how a real woman experiences sex and they will be astonished and depressed. (both sexes)

But banning it is NOT the answer. Explaining the difference between fantasy and real life is.

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Northumbrian
Welcome

Before the internet

We were, I suppose, lucky. The internet as we know it was non-existent when I had to worry about my children. There were things to worry about, though - sex, drugs and heavy metal for starters.

One problem is that we keep talking about "children" as if they are all alike, but there are huge differences between seven-year old children and fourteen year old children.

When they're seven, you can ban computers in the bedroom, and control mobile phone access and screen their friends. Come fourteen and they head out of the house, "Where are you going?" "OUT". And you have to decide whether you are prepared to make an issue of it. I didn't, but I was prepared to make an issue out of what time they came in - and spent 2 years of my life on a permanent war footing. And discovered that they had more stamina than I had, and more relish for the fight.

On the other hand I never had many worries about alcohol - I knew they would get drunk from time to time, and doubtless regret some of what happened as a result. But I had let them sample wine/beer at mealtimes since they were quite young and they largely despised those of their peers who went crazy the minute they could get into a bar.

I suspect that, as other posters have suggested, that the only way to handle this is education. But you have to do it early enough. They learn a lot very young these days, so you might as well take advantage of that knowledge.

If they know what porn is before they really want to access it, then you can talk to them about it before [a] they find it too excruciatingly embarrassing to talk to their parents about sex and [b] they want to make a point of conflict, because fighting their parents is what teenagers do.

[Pundit mode]The worst damage that porn does is not that it makes innocent children think about sex, when they would otherwise be pure in heart and body, or even that it gives them the wrong signals about acceptable bounds of behaviour in real life. The latter will usually correct itself . It's that they can end up with totally unrealistic ideas and ideals about their own bodies and the opposite sex, and sexual performance and that can cripple them for life. Most porn is about as realistic as World of Warcraft. You can't just teach them (or try to teach them) not to use the stuff - it's a learning ground for many young people. You can teach them to distinguish it from real life.[/Pundit mode]

But they will fight you, and try to outwit you about something - that's part of growing up for most teenagers.

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Baby Boomers committing suicide at unprecedented rates

Northumbrian

Substance abuse?

Several of the posters have mentioned "substance abuse" and I think one of the most common side effects is supposed to be mental health disorders.

This could account for the growing numbers of those killing themselves as a result of mental health problems.

I think perhaps that the numbers with mental health problems from more traditional causes (bad genes, bad luck) would not have changed very much over the decades, so they would not account for the increase.

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Northumbrian
Headmaster

A change in the label?

One obvious aspect has not been mentioned in this article (though I haven't read the original) - it's a question of labelling.

Fifty years ago (or thereabouts) suicide was illegal in this country, and thirty years ago there was still a tremendous social stigma. I remember seeing a programme on the rise in teenage suicides, where one person made the point that it was often hugely distressing to the family to see "suicide" on a death certificate - especially that of a child. So doctors put down "accidental death", as a kindness.

However, the stigma is gradually receding, and families are less likely to need (or be allowed) to pretend that the death of their child was an accident, and so "suicide" was being written down more often on the death certificate. End result is that people who go and count the number of death certificates with "suicide" on them notice a marked increase.

If you're careless or biased in your reporting, you may not mention that the records may reflect a different trend to the one you report.

I don't know about these researchers, but the possibility that doctors might be writing "suicide" more often in the US as well seems worth considering.

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Northumbrian
Flame

An outbreak of rationality?

The Boomers are the first generation to watch their parents succumbing to dementia in large numbers - 1in 4? something like that. Now, if you think that a similar fate is coming your way, then you might well decide that you'll skip it.

Dementia can be just distressing - I watched a family member just get weaker and more confused, but she remained herself. Another older one spent two years trying to spoon food into the mouths of invisible children, and fretting because they hadn't been bathed. Frightening. At that point you may feel that God has already taken the person away, and left the body behind.

So maybe they just took a look at the way the party was going and decided it was time to go home.

I'm rather dubious about this, "rejecting the gift of life," bit when it came to suicide. I'm old enough to remember when tea came out of teapots, and often there will still tea leaves in your cup. No hostess would expect you to drink the last drop of tea with the dregs in it - you left the last bit in the cup, because it wasn't fit to drink. I understand port drinkers did the same.

So why would God demand that you should eat every bit of meat - even the gristle, or all of the apple without discarding the core?

Maybe the suicidal have just decided that they will kill themselves whilst still can - if you wait until you're really ill then you can't kill yourself and no one is allowed to help you. No, our current law in the UK has a simple message - if you think you might want out, then do it whilst you're fit and healthy.

Of course, the "Boomers" might simply realise that everyone aged 30-45 now wants their parents dead as soon as possible to get hold of the money before its wasted on someone else's enjoyment or health care. Some of them love their kids enough to oblige.

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Google slaps malware warning on Radio 3 website

Northumbrian

"Why would a radio station need a website anyway?"

"Why would a radio station need a website anyway?"

Presumably this is obvious, but this is Radio 3 in the UK.

[1] It plays all sorts of stuff in long chunks to schedule. This means that people like to be able to look up what going to be played, or when a discussion programme is due.

[2] When it has a snippets programme, people often use the website to check the playlist . I set my mother's browser up to have the R3 playlist on the bookmark toolbar, and she used to impress her friends (she's in her 70s) by being able to fire up the computer, press a button and tell them exactly which Bruckner symphony they were listening to. (With Bruckner you need to be told - they all sound the same.)

[3] It's the website through which you can get to the Radio 3 iPlayer, to catch up on the late night prom you missed, (which was actually why I got a call from my mother saying - what's all this warning about).

[4] There are also things like extra programme notes for the concerts, the complete schedule for the Proms links to other resources.

Does that answer your question?

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Samsung R780 17.3in laptop

Northumbrian
Megaphone

Barbeque Rating

Please can we have temperature ratings for all laptops - i.e. how safe are our laps with these atop? I've just lost most of the advantage of my current cooling "pad" (its cooling fans have packed in - the extra passive ventilation remains) and will have once again to go on the hunt for a replacement.

I'm also supposed to be replacing this laptop, which is my main machine, and really want to know if there are powerful laptops out there which don't need you to cart around a large chunk of metal which keeps the machine just cool enough not to turn itself off, whilst wrecking the USB ports with the constant power drain.

Some of us have to use laptops on all sorts of impromptu surfaces (coffee tables, for example) and need not to burn them, or ourselves, even when doing quite demanding things with the machine.

So, standard question for all machines - will it roast chestnuts after 40 minutes in use?

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Rise in Latvian botnets prompts Spamhaus row

Northumbrian

Academics

I'm not any sort of expert on anti-spam measures, but I do know something about academics:

It all depends on which academics were involved. If the university department involved has just been through some radical cuts (and I believe the Baltic states have been very badly hit by the current financial crisis) it's quite possible that the only person who really understood how the thing worked had just been made redundant by those in charge, who really hadn't the slightest idea what the department was doing.

And/or the whole thing was passed on to the newest member of staff, who said they understood it, but didn't.

And/or running this department was a job for 20 working staff and there were only 3 of them - they ignored emails because they needed to sleep.

And/or there's a "who cares anyway?" culture in that department/university/country. "Oh, I never bother with abuse emails - they're more trouble than they're worth and usually just banging on about something we all have to put up with. Golf anyone?"

And/or there's at least one abusive spammer actually in the department/institution who's cleverer than the people who supposedly run the operation, and they just re-direct the email into the "junk" box. Crime pays a lot better than universities.

And/or no one in Latvia sees why this sort of thing merits that sort of response - they may regard spam busting as "Just these Health & Safety Nazis trying to ruin things for small countries in a difficult world."

There's probably a Latvian equivalent of the Daily Mail claiming on the front page that. "EU bureaucrats are trying to block Latvian free access to the Internet" (and yes, I know Spamhaus is not only non-EU, but not an official body of any kind." - and they may know, but why waste good propaganda?) and inside that some poor businessman is overwhelmed by spam and someone should do something about it. Meanwhile they have a centre spread about how Latvian taxpayers are supporting idle academics just to keep some unnecessary geek fiefdom going, and to impose a lot of fancy rules on "the rest of us."

I do not claim that any of these things is actually happening - I have no knowledge of the workings of this ISP in particular or of Latvia in general. But human nature, and the behaviour of human organisations - especially in times of stress - is rather easier to generalise about.

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Northumbrian
FAIL

Bound by due vigilance

Spamhaus has the right to shove addresses on its block list.

Spamhaus saw a plague carrier, issued a warning that they would slap on a quarantine notice, if no action was taken. The warning was ignored, so they slapped on the notice.

When the Latvians said, "this ISP is to big be treated that way," Spamhaus could, with reason, have replied, "and we're too important to be ignored." That is definitely arrogant, but probably accurate - as the Latvians have just discovered.

Moral: if someone can put you in quarantine, don't ignore emails from them, put them on a filter into an "Urgent" email folder. As an ISP that is, by its own account, that big and that important should have known.

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Blog service shut down by order of US law enforcement

Northumbrian
Black Helicopters

Not just blogetry

Article says,

"It's at least the second mysterious closure of an online service this month. On Wednesday, IPBFree.com was also taken offline, according to this post. Administrators have been “legally precluded from discussing the exact bits of what happened” except to say the outage is permanent and isn't the result of hacker attacks or any copyright violations by its users.

“The owner had no choice in the matter,” one IPBFree representative said on Twitter. “Legal reasons forced us to close. Death threats are rather over-the-top really.”"

Don't know about blogetry, but iPBFree have expressly denied DMCA violations. Elsewhere I read, "The new antipiracy taskforce denied it was an action of its own, same with the RIAA and the MPAA.." There is also a runour doing the rounds that this is part of a divorce wrangle. However, if the issue was a civil wrong, then it's unlikely that the entirety of iPBFree would have been taken down permanently.

I think we can assume that there really is a gag order on this, and that it has been imposed. That's either a government matter, or someone big enough to say, "if you talk about this we'll sue you personally for $$$$$$$." Big money or big government - not for the taking down (could have been a panicky admin/server owner etc), but for the gag.

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Labour MP experiences nasty video shock horror

Northumbrian
Welcome

Parental control

Question: What happens if you tell a normal 9-year old boy that he can't watch violent martial arts films? Answer: he goes round the houses of his mates until he finds one whose parents don't won't or can't control what they watch, and he watches it there.

And there is no way you can check on the "parental control" status of all your child's mates, and if you could he would quickly acquire some new mates.

I did ban martial arts movies after finding the kids trying out kick-boxing in the back garden, since I was worried about what they might do to each other's kidneys. I didn't expect that the ban would make them give up the movies, but I did think they might think rather harder before they called my attention to the matter. And the best way to do that, would be by NOT kicking in each other's abdominal organs. I hoped. They both reached adulthood with pretty much a full complement (one appendix went.) Did the fact that I kicked up a shindig about amateur imitations of martial arts have anything to do with it? Dunno.

Mind you, I drew the line at religion.

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Election makes net snooping a pariah policy

Northumbrian
Big Brother

Who are "they" and what do they want and who cares?

Can I jump into this argument about "they". Normally I'm one of those who castigate the indiscriminate use of "they", to mean, "anybody who's not my mate and especially anyone who has any authority of any kind." This time, I think there may be a case for it. Firstly the article identified two lots of "them" in particular - specific branches of the police and the security services, and specifically the policy-makers in these groups.

People that senior reckon by and large that they are not run by the government, but vice versa. They are long-term career people, who appoint others like themselves to run crucial committees and handle "briefing" ministers. Like all other collections of people they have their rogues, their incompetents, their fanatics and also their dedicated public officials - the last named are probably the most dangerous, because they think they are right. Generally one lot of like-minded people hand over to another lot when they eventually take their (very generous) pensions.

If they did not share the common mindset - "there is no such thing as too much intelligence, it all helps us do our job, which is keeping people safe."

The job of protecting us from the watchers is the one we give to politicians, and they are not very good at that job, as they trust the watchers a lot more than they trust the electorate.

They are going to get their mass surveillance, because they want it badly enough to twist arms in the corridors of power, and they are very good at arm-twisting.

The cleverest bit of this whole thing is that the Internet, as well as being ubiquitous and being easy to use for data mining, is also just strange enough for what is being done seem as though it might be reasonable.

So, start a campaign against discrimination against e-mail users. Why should those of us who send our letters over the wires, and read our newspapers online (whilst the wretched Murdoch will let us) be treated worse than the rest of the population. I suggest therefore that:

1) every TV set/video recorder must have a recording chip which makes a note of what programs you watch, and sends it every day to your local police headquarters.

2) all letters must be taken to your nearest post office, and the addressee and the sender logged, and the contents photocopied. Remember terrorists can get around the e-mail ban by writing letters - this must be avoided.

3) anyone buying a newspaper or magazine must, at the till, have their ID logged together with the barcode on the magazine, so that the security forces know who is reading what. In fact you could extend this very easily - all you have to do is have a logging sensor which picks up the details of the item being purchased, and the ID of the purchaser, then all you have to do is to dock their bank account automatically, and send the details down the wires.

Remember the US security forces proposed in all seriousness to get the records of all purchases made with a credit or debit card, as well as of all books borrowed from libraries as part of their "total information" drive. It fell by the wayside (I think) because of cost and technical issues, but I don't think civil liberties issues came into it.

Tell everyone that every phone call they make is going to be recorded and the police will listen to everything, and then keep it on record. Then they are going to make it easy for casual labour at the police data centres to listen in, and sell anything you say to whoever wants to hear it.

Perhaps having the post office clerk sniggering at your love letters in front of you, nicking your Christmas gifts and chucking your snapshots in the bin might make this sort of intrusion real to people.

I fear not. And it won't even make everyone "safer" - ask the people who remember living in the DDR if they felt "safer" for the kind attentions of the Stasi.

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UK.gov hoovers up data on five-year-olds

Northumbrian
Big Brother

Thinking soberly

First reaction: shout aloud about snoopers, control-freaks, Big Brother etc. Second thought: this is much too serious for me to allow myself the luxury of more satire or righteous indignation.

So, firstly is this really New Labour at work? And, as a concomitant question, does that mean that the Tories (or the Lib Dems, bless their little cotton socks) would get rid of this pernicious stuff? My belief is that the climate created by New Labour - especially in their wholesale eradication of civil liberties - has made this sort of thing possible, even made it seem desirable. I do NOT think that they have actually done this. This particular horror is partly a result of the database technology.

There's a certain type of person who looks at a mass database (say, for example the DVLC) and says, "Could we use one of those to keep details of every child in the country?" On being assured that it could, this person says, "Names, addresses, dates of birth, legal guardians?" "Oh yes," says our DB expert, "Anything you want." "School records?" "No problem, just link in it through .."

But our control freak has already stopped listening, and has started to add in, "Health records, home environment, if the parents smoke, diet, possible mental health problems, behavioural disorders." He or she has a vision of all of this making huge numbers of charts showing the link between being smacked at home and performance in maths tests, or drinking cocktails of toxic additives and truanting. And, as any academic will tell you, your data may not tell you what you want to hear, it may not even tell you anything remotely useful, but someone, somewhere will find a use for that data.

A week ago I would have thought that I was indulging in alarmism or theatricality, but the details about that questionnaire are truly frightening - all of the things I mentioned are in that or in the other massive childsnoop database.

And now the police and the bureaucrats have been shown what they can do, and discovered that this government will not only let them do it, but encourage them, I do think that any government is going to stop them. I do not believe that any government is going to TRY to stop them. And I also think that the police will demand, and get, full access to this database "to protect the children", even when that "protection" means using all the databases to get any dirt they can on anyone for any reason. Your children's schools have joined the list of those who are duty-bound to spy on you.

And, yes, I do mean that seriously.

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