* Posts by Primus Secundus Tertius

690 posts • joined 31 Oct 2010

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Daft draft anti-car-hack law could put innocent drivers away for life

Primus Secundus Tertius
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Popular Revolt

It is all very well for us experts (some real, some self-proclaimed) here to criticise outsiders efforts to regulate, but there are real and general problems which concern everybody, not just us. If we do not listen to public concerns, our work will eventually be overthrown.

The world has changed immensely since I was born about seventy years ago. In particular, many problems are world-wide and cannot be solved by a single nation. What is a minimum standard of decency in one country is an outrageous imposition in another, yet the Internet brings it to us all (unless you are behind a Great Firewall).

What has not changed is the difficulty of getting politicians, democratic or otherwise, to listen to good advice. If you can't beat them, join them!

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The web is DOOM'd: Average page now as big as id's DOS classic

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@Ken H

I save, for personal use, the occasional worthwhile web wisdom (aka www) and then edit it to clean text.

The average el Reg piece is 2K to 3K bytes, but up to 10K for extended articles. Other publications are 5K to 15K bytes.

So most of our bandwidth goes on pictures and video, which add little to the occasional well written piece; and mostly to adverts which add nothing.

I resent the way adverts dominate the byte count, with their feeble excuse that they are paying the bills.

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Universal Credit at high risk of cyber-attack, fraud from the outset

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Re: One question : are those "responsible" still in place ?

The Civil Service are, as an almost forgotten election slogan once put it, "Failing the nation". They should therefore be taken into public ownership, er, or something.

It would indeed be a punishment for the mandarins if they were lectured and ordered to do better by the ordinary people they so despise, for our ignorance of "higher considerations" i.e. departmental policy.

In other news today, the deputy chief of the Home Office was ordered out of a parliamentary committee hearing for failing to give proper answers. That is an example of mandarinate arrogance.

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Google, Facebook's CAPTCHAs vanquished by security researchers

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Re: Can you solve this Captcha?

It looks like a press release edited by an arts graduate who can manipulate words but not grasp their meaning.

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Britain is sending a huge nuclear waste shipment to America. Why?

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Re: How is this waste?

Well said, sir!

U-235 has a half life of 700 million years, and U-238 of 4500 my. They are not the problem; it is fission products that are.

I believe, though I would like to see someone else do it first, that one can safely walk past a freshly manufactured fuel rod. But a rod just withdrawn from a reactor is spitting wild rates of radiation from isotopes with a half life of just a few minutes, and would probably kill you. So those rods are left in a deep pool of water for a year, until there are two main fission products left: caesium-137 and strontium-90. These have half lives of about 30 years.

A half life of 30 years makes them emit, weight for weight, over 50 times more radiation than the classical radium (half life ca 1700 years). They could, however, be useful for peaceful applications of radiation. This may be why the story mentions hospital uses. Or, as commented above, they can be turned into glass and buried.

I have read that much of the earth's internal heat comes from the decay of potassium-40 in the earth's crust, with a half life of many billions of years. So I calculated the internal temperature of a football-sized sphere of sodium strontium silicate (glass). It would be red hot at the centre. So burying glass needs some thought and design.

But the story is unconvincing, a cloud of ackamarackus to hide some real objective, which may even be as mundane as money.

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We bet your firm doesn't stick to half of these 10 top IT admin tips

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The Security Chief

At one place I worked, you could easily spot the chief security officer. Everywhere he went people asked to see his pass.

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Bloaty banking app? There's a good chance it was written in Britain

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Re: Cheques

I am the Treasurer of my local town twinning committee. We use cheques for two main reasons: we do not have the business status to collect direct debits for subscriptions; and we require two signatures for payments. That latter is a protection for us committee officers as well as for the money.

Our German counterparts, however, use giro transfers to receive payments for the events they organise. I have not yet asked them about payments: do they need multiple authorisation, and if so, how is that arranged?

One problem we have: for every event we organise, some cheques arrive payable to the organiser personally rather than to the twinning association. Fortunately our bank is sympathetic to these things.

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Re: A few notes ....

My experience of looking at outsourced code was to conclude that the coders never had a chance to query what the specification really meant. It may have been due to the price of phone calls from some countries, and also a reluctance by the outsourced bosses to admit to problems.

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China enacts 'real name policy' for internet addresses

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No laughing matter

I have read that there are very few personal names used by the Chinese. How, then, does one distinguish Messrs Ho, Ho, and Ho?

Social security numbers, I suppose; or whatever the Chinese call them.We live in a world of sophists, economists, and calculators, wrote Edmund Burke long ago.

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Mud sticks: Microsoft, Windows 10 and reputational damage

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Re: Exhibitionists vs. Mormons

@TheOtherhobbes

"makes Twitter look like a Mensa pub quiz".

Well written, sir! Have an upvote.

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Crap IT means stats crew don't really know how UK economy's doing

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Cloudy statistics

Can't they just put all their data into some marvellous cloud? Then all they need for each important staff member is a PC running MS Access. Bring Your Own would save costs, the Treasury might suggest.

Except, of course, they have to get data into the cloud. I suspect that is where the problems are.

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A typo stopped hackers siphoning nearly $1bn out of Bangladesh

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Re: Bah

N'Draghi??

No, this is not US non-recognition of foreigners. It seems to be hinting at the Naples version of the mafia, the Ndrangheta.

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GCHQ: Crypto's great, we're your mate, don't be like that and hate

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Re: ...just like the police

No, they were not respected by the plebs (e.g. my grandparents, on one side at least). It is a middle class delusion to say the police were respected - and they lost that respect after everyone bcame a motorist.

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Primus Secundus Tertius
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Re: Wedges with thin ends

No, sir, not Owen's.

I guess my old place is not the only one now restricted to the rich.

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Primus Secundus Tertius
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Wedges with thin ends

Once upon atime, the activities of GCHQ and the other security services were limited to thwarting the efforts of states and other groups that were hostile or unsympathetic to us as a country. But since the "end of the Cold War" and the advent of the glorious "peace dividend", their activites have been extended to counter ordinary "serious crime". That's what happens when we are ruled by bean counters.

We are told they work against "organised crime", i.e. gangsters, and against child molesters. If they say so, perhaps; but meanwhile don't recycle too many goody-goody recyclables into the plain old black bag, and be careful what address you choose to get your child into a good school (*).

I would like to see the remit of the security services firmly reset to its old position of thwarting the Queen's enemies.

(*)When my old grammar school was made comprehensive, it was relocated to the most expensive suburb of that city, where my parents could never have afforded to live.

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AMD to fix slippery hypervisor-busting bug in its CPU microcode

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Re: I'd have assumed that their test code suite would catch something like that...

In the 1980s I was taught how to develop microcode for a processor built by Norsk Data. It was hard. There were different objects within the CPU addressed by different fields within a very long instruction word. These objects had to be kept working together consistently, and with regard to their timing needs.

It makes me wonder if things have evolved since then; whether perhaps one can do a software emulation of microcode; and whether such an emulation could be more rigorously tested.

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NSA boss reveals top 3 security nightmares that keep him awake at night

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Re: Simplified list

People say they want secure, bug-free systems; but will they pay for them? Hell, no!

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Windows 10 claimed another point of desktop share in February

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Presenting results

Why did the article give a clear table for the US Gov results but not for Netmarket and Statcount?

And what was the actual XP number for Netmarket?

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Your anger is our energy, says Microsoft as it fixes Surface

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Re: "Your anger is our energy"

It is a pity Microsoft do not have the same positive attitude to us users who demand a Windows 7+, not that 8/10 spyware rubbish.

They could even call it Windows 24/7, since it will probably take them until v24 to get things the way we want them as opposed to what MSFT marketing want.

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Winning Underhand C Contest code silently tricks nuke inspectors

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Look at the real code

I had to sort out various problems by looking at the output of the C preprocessor, to see the real code after the macros were deciphered.

However, the raw output contained an excessive amount of spaces and blank lines, and had to be edited and pretty-printed.

As others above have noted, code inspection must include some degree of machine verification. Like, does it actually compile, without warnings?

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BT blames 'faulty router' for mega outage. Did they try turning it off and on again?

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Re: Redundancy?

Virgin Internet struggle to hit two-nines reliability, let alone five-nines.

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GCHQ’s Xmas puzzle proves uncrackable

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Re: QR code?

I did get as far as the QR code. Then on my PC I used a QR reader program I found via Google, which does seem to read other QR codes. But it would not recognise the GCHQ one.

I was given an Android tablet as a Xmas prezzie, but have not worked out how to read QR codes with it, using just the standard apps it came with. I can photograph them, but not decipher them.

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Most of the world still dependent on cash

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Re: There's a good and a bad side to this

"They" aboolished sterling bank notes of more then £5 during World War 2, to stifle the black market.

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@Onymous

You delude yourseld. It is us, the plebs, who would suffer negative interest rates while the money rolls in for the banksters.

More seriously, the paper, at least as summarised in El Reg, does not mention the issue of trust. Also, it seems to be written in long words for little people.

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You've seen things people wouldn't believe – so tell us your programming horrors

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Pointers

I can't remember any specific examples, but I did notice that very few programmers ever got lists and pointers right.

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'No safe level' booze guidelines? Nonsense, thunder stats profs

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Re: What's the point of living?

@Scrubber

Also:

Driving your own car is dangerous

Being driven by Google is dangerous

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Blighty's Parliament prescribed tablets to cope with future votes

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Re: What happened to austerity?

@John Brown

"Anyone not there for there debate is likely not competent to vote."

I strongly disgree. Most issues in politics are decided along party lines; most MPs are elected with the support of their party; in return they are expected to follow the party whip. Exceptions can be made where an MP has especially strong feelings or knowledge of a particular matter.

Few MPs are really interested in the whole range of issues that parliament deals with. So they generally support their party on "other issues", and expect their colleagues to repay that support when the issue is important to them. Those party mechanisms generally reflect the mood of the voters.

MPs are expected to answer constituents' letters (assisted by office staff) and where necessary to find the information for those answers, by asking ministers or researching other sources. There is more to being an MP than being gasbag lobby fodder. They are also expected to have a life outside parliament so they are better qualified to vote on matters before them.

So they bring outside knowledge to their vote, not just the proceedings of the debate. It would be entirely wrong to limit the vote to those in the debating chamber.

In return, the voters pass their own judgement every four or five years.

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@2460

The EU parliament is much better organised. The voting divisions are held at a preset time. So MEPs can turn up a quarter hour before, find out the party line from their whips, and then proceed to do their democratic duty.

Saves listening to all those absurd foreigners.

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It's 2016 and idiots still use '123456' as their password

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Short is best

In my young day, the favourite password was 'fred'. Why? Look at the keyboard, see where the characters are.

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Eighteen year old server trumped by functional 486 fleet!

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Re: Does my Amiga 1200 count?

I, too, have an FX-451 which I use almost daily. E.g. to check out the 49.7 days mentioned above.

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Aircraft now so automated pilots have forgotten how to fly

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Re: Pilots?

"The Dog and Pilot" would be a fine pub name.

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Learn you Func Prog on five minute quick!

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@Roo

Come to think of it, a floating point number is a pretty abstract object compared with mere binary digits.

They used to be defined in software, you know.

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Future Snowden hunt starts with audit of NSA spooks' privileges

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Re: Shurley some mishtake

There can be advantages in copying a non-ISO file to a CD or DVD. E.g. denying that it contains anything if you are caught.

Beos and Nextstep used non-ISO cds for at least part of their product.

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Nvidia GPUs give smut viewed incognito a second coming

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Used to happen with disks

I remember demonstrating to a government research place in the 1980s that on their VAX computer one could grab a few megabytes of disk space and dump out the contents. A lucky dip, really. I could see it was interesting stuff; but the government people were appalled.

It still is a problem with disks, of course. All the arguments above about whose fault it is apply equally. But little has been done. Yes, there is SATA secure erase if you really want to clean up a disk. But countless second hand machines are full of titbits, in every sense of the word.

Equally, it seems nothing will be done about graphics memory.

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The Register's entirely serious New Year's resolutions for 2016

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Praise the Commentards

Dear El Reg,

You must be doing something right, to attract the serious and informative comments on so many of your reports. Perhaaps you should regard it as a challenge to make your reports outshine the high standard of the comments (this one excluded0.

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Forget anonymity, we can remember you wholesale with machine intel, hackers warned

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use a pretty printer

Indenting is only useful if it shows what the computer thinks, rather than what the programmer thinks.

Example: a bug in a Coral66 program, where the preceding 'comment' lacked a terminating semicolon. So the program statement got absorbed into the comment and was therefore absent from the binary.

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Newspaper kills 'what was fake' column as pointless in internet age

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Re: "fake news has taken on a much more unpleasant tone...

@Dave126

When Rome was a republic it was governed by two consuls. Sometimes one would handle Monday, Wednesday, Friday... Sunday could be left to the priests.

Newspapers whould be run in this way, the Guardiagraph one day refuting what the Teledian published the day before. Sunday could become a big day for El Reg.

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Re: Maybe...

@Herby

I have come to rely on El Reg and The Onion (America's finest news source). The O is unrivalled for its truthful depiction of human weaknesses, even if the circumstances have been changed to protect the facts.

Mind you, the Vice-President of the United States, whoever he may be, gets a terrible press.

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Windows for Warships? Not on our new aircraft carriers, says MoD

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Tor

The XP screen is a well-known disguise for the Tor browser system.

But what was the guy using Tor for?

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Brazil gets a WTF WhatsApp moment

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Re: What if?

Perhaps WhatsApp should have just handed over the encrypted data, saying that is all they had. At least then they would be showing some degree of compliance with the law.

Next step perhaps is arrest warrants for all senior WhatsApp personnel. That will show them!

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Vote now to name HPE's London boozer

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Tie Breaker

If the final decision from the A-list is too difficult, how about "The Temporary Sign". Yes, I did once see a place so named.

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Ceres' salty history hints at bright spot origin

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Different from Earth

When sea water evaporates on Earth, the first mineral to drop out is gypsum, CaSO4.2H2O

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MPs slam gov heads over 'childishness' on failed farmer IT project

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All departments at risk

As readers here know, every government department makes a hash of computer projects. Even the more technical departments do, once the Treasury has put its spoke in.

I remember a technical procurement (ca 30 years ago) where the techies wanted to buy a VAX, but the Treasury insisted on something else that was cheaper. A few months after it was installed, I heard that it had failed to meet the real, secret, requirements on day one, even though it had scraped through an evaluation on 'sanitised' data.

No doubt they will say that lessons have been learned. But no, no lessons will be learned until the head of the civil service is dismissed without a pension. Nothing less than that will make the civil service realise that it is wrong, wrong, wrong in its attitude to technical management.

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GCHQ Christmas Card asks YOU the questions

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Re: NSPCC

The Romans had the right idea. Paterfamilias would not tolerate indiscipline in the ranks.

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Re: Very cryptic

@Tom7

I picked up this story yesterday from a national newspaper, and downloaded the appropriate GCHQ page. I try again this morning to reload a clean copy, and the site stalls, as you report.

It is indeed a QR code, but it was getting late and I made a mistake somewhere in the late stages. Like sudoku puzzles, when you find you have messed it up, you have to go back a long way.

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HPE's private London drinking club: Name that boozer

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The Jolly Coda.

(A noteworthy end to a day's programming.)

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Most businesses collecting data they never use, survey finds

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also defence data

@Monsieur DePlume

I worked on at least two defence projects where we were the first to actually examine data that had accumulated for years, but there had never been money allocated to studying it. We were looking at ancient magnetic tapes in ancient formats, religiously collected because orders are orders. Sometimes the tapes had been transcribed to CDs.

The military people we dealt with were all strongly oriented to the here and now, and not interested in going over old data.

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Putin's Russia outlaws ECHR judgments after mass surveillance case

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Whose Russia?

"Putin's Russia" says the story headline. Is there any other Russia?

Russia used to be different, but now there is just the one Russia under Putin. Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Führer.

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Lenov-lol, a load of Tosh, and what the Dell? More bad holes found in PC makers' bloatware

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@AC

Not so easy when Lenovo have done something to the disk hardware so that the MSFT install DVD for Windows 7 does not recognise the disk.

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Microsoft Office 365, Azure portals offline for many users in Europe

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Re: Office 365.25

@Crazy...

He Caesar maiden through the glass

And contemplates her shapely anatomy.

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