* Posts by dajames

539 posts • joined 20 Mar 2011

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Putin's internet guru says 'nyet' to Windows, 'da' to desktop Linux

dajames
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Re: Or

Potemkinux has a nice UI but is rubbish underneath.

I think you're confusing it with Pokemonix!

But Prince Grigory Aleksandrovich Potemkin-Tavricheski was never a party member, so I don't see his distro finding much favour with the politburo!

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Fleet of 4.77MHz LCD laptops with 8088 CPUs still alive after 30 years

dajames
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Re: Just wait...

A TCP IP Stack can be implemented with way less that 512MB KB of RAM.

Indeed ... but we're talking about 512KB here ...

The typo is excusable, however ... nowadays PCs have multiple GB of RAM (though mostly not 512GB ... yet) and it's funny how the prefixes all blur together with time.

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AdBlock Plus, websites draft peace deal so ads can bypass blockade

dajames
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Re: Let's start by defining UNACCEPTABLE ads

7. "requires this plugin" to view the ad - UNACCEPTABLE

No, that's FINE.

I don't have - and won't install - the plugin, so the ad has blocked itself. What's not to like?

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Safe Harbor ripped and replaced with Privacy Shield in last-minute US-Europe deal

dajames
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Re: I can only see one way this EU + US buddy-buddy-shitstick will ever work...

...button down the hatches...

The usual phrase is "batten down the hatches" ... meaning that the entrances to the hold of a wooden sailing ship would be fastened and secured by placing wooden battens over the hatches and tying them down with rope to keep water out in rough seas.

... but "button down" seems strangely apposite, here.

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TalkTalk admits losing £60m and 101,000 customers after THAT hack

dajames
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You're joking, Shirley?

While BT is no where near perfect, it is the best average consumer Broadband your going to get in most places, this discludes specialist high speed consumer broadband.

That statement is somewhat at odds with the impression one might gain from actual consumer experience, available from the likes of thinkbroadband.com.

This comparison of five of the biggest players in the consumer broadband market shows that even BT's subsidiary Plusnet score more highly than btinternet on all counts.

Higher ratings still are available once one 'undiscludes' the ISPs that actually have a clue ...

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Chip company FTDI accused of bricking counterfeits again

dajames
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Back in October 2014, the company shipped a device driver that checked the authenticity of USB chips claiming to be FTDI. If it detected a non-original chip, the driver would stop the host operating system seeing the device by setting its USB product ID to 0.

That release led to criticism that the company was penalising people who didn't know they had an infringing product.

I kinda like that as a solution -- it's certainly better than interfering with the data stream -- but wouldn't it have been better if FTDI had registered a second USB vendor ID as "Fake FTDI", and set the USB device ID of any non-original chip to that code?

The device would continue to work, but any system tools like Device Manager on Windows or lsusb on Linux would display the fact that the hardware was non-original, and questions would be asked.

... then again, I wonder why the driver even installs if there is no genuine hardware for it to drive. FTDI could have saved themselves a world of trouble by simply not recognizing fake hardware.

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dajames
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And which of the unknown number of fake manufacturers and versions of their fake chips do you think Microsoft should also be testing?

We're not talking about testing the chips, we're talking about testing the drivers. The drivers contains special code that is only used when running on fake chips -- FTDI should have informed Microsoft of that fact and ensured that they had systems containing such fake chips with which to fully test the drivers.

How else can FTDI be sure that Microsoft can fully test the drivers ... or are they not concerned with quality control?

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Little warning: Deleting the wrong files may brick your Linux PC

dajames
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Re: This is like BIOS flashing by Unix commands

Why put the blame at the firmware designer ?

Because it should not be possible for a software operation to brick the hardware, as it appears to be in this case. The firmware should at the very least have some "revert to factory settings" option that restores all the UEFI variables to default settings so that the machine can boot.

[Nobody has yet said whether the hardware in question has a "CMOS reset" jumper, nor whether using this does indeed restore the UEFI settings. If it does the firmware designer is off the hook.]

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dajames
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... UEFI shows all the signs of having been specifically and deliberately engineered to stop the installation of Linux ...

No, UEFI was specifically and deliberately engineered to allow Itanium systems to benefit from the vast number of expansion cards being made for x86 systems. As Itanium is all but dead there is no longer any point in it.

Sure, we need pre-boot firmware that doesn't rely on the processor supporting legacy 16-bit x86 real mode and we need support for boot volumes bigger than 2.1TB* -- but we don't need UEFI for those things.

I'm not even sure that it's the case that UEFI was specifically or deliberately subverted by Microsoft when they got every OEM to ship their own (Microsoft's) keys for Secure Boot ... World+Dog would have preferred the UEFI consortium to take responsibility for issuing keys to OEMs and OS vendors, but they were too busy loading useless and unnecessary features into the spec so Microsoft took responsibility for keys onto their own shoulders. They've actually been pretty good, so far, when it comes to signing boot images for other OS vendors.

*or will do one day, the current tendency seems to be for SSD boot volumes well below 2.1TB together with much larger HDD storage volumes where necessary.

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Samsung trolls Google, adds adblockers to phones

dajames
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Adverts are not the essence of the problem ...

Well, not all of the problem.

I dislike advertising and I very seldom respond positively to any advert or to the products or services it attempts to promote, but if an advert can generate a little income for the provider of a site like El Reg or for the author of a phone app I use then I'm happy -- well, not happy, but content -- to tolerate it ...

... but only so long as it doesn't cause delays, cost me an unreasonable amount in bandwidth, annoy me (e.g.by flickering and flashing or by displaying video or making a noise), or expose me to malware.

If advertising wasn't such crap I'd mind it less.

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'Printer Ready'. Er… you actually want to print? What, right now?

dajames
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Re: adobe reader

I'm sure Windows software design is getting worse.

Oh, yes -- in leaps and bounds. Has been for some years.

Have you been asleep, or something?

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

dajames
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... an indication that pre-processors can be evil.

That's a little hard ... the preprocessor is just a tool, and has its uses. It's a bit of a blunt instrument and hardly suited for fine work, but it is not evil in itself.

You can do evil things with it ... but the skill of being a competent programmer is not just knowing how to use a programming language; it is also knowing how NOT to use it.

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dajames
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Re: Lower to uppercase

I appreciate that was probably very old code... but you do realise that changing case in ASCII is just a bitwise operation? You could probably speed up your old code ten-fold! :D

If you know the input character is alphabetic you can force the case with the appropriate AND or OR instruction, but if your input can be any ASCII character and don't want to alter non-alpha characters you need to check that the input is in the alpha range. Once you've done that it makes no difference whether you use ADD/SUB or OR/AND to toggle the case bit.

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Seagate’s triple whammy: Disk numbers, costs, and flash

dajames
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Re: There is money to be made.

Pretty much any modern laptop has an SSD whether discrete or soldered onto the motherboard. Most people simply don't want those big, slow, spinny things ...

I'm not particularly fussed whether the storage in my laptop is HD or SSD -- the difference in speed doesn't bother me, and they probably use about the same amount of power on average (though SSDs typically use a little more than HDs at idle) -- the spinny things are not unacceptably slow, to me, though I agree SSDs are faster.

However, I do require a large amount of storage -- I keep several VMs on my laptop, as well as digital photos in RAW format -- and SSDs are either too small or too expensive. They're getting cheaper, but they're not nearly cheap enough yet.

I do also value the ability to take out and replace or upgrade the 'disk', both so that I will still be able to access the data in the event that the rest of the laptop fails or is damaged, and so that I can install a new OS version on a clean drive and keep the old drive as a backup should everything go pear-shaped. It takes a lot less time to swap drives than to back up or restore a few hundred GB over the network. The modern fad for SSDs soldered to the motherboard really doesn't work for me.

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Oracle to kill off Java browser plugins with JDK 9

dajames
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Re: Pathetic, isn’t it … ?

The Javascript way seems to be to layer library upon library, downloaded from all over the net, with little concern for security (or licenses ...

...or efficiency, or speed of loading.

I have a feeling that Javascript will one day be seen to have been an even bigger security and usability problem than Java ever was. The design and implementation of the Java plugin environment in the browser has always been well short of ideal, but the language itself is far better than Javascript and given a well thought-out execution environment it could have been so much better than the ugly mess that we get with Javascript.

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Ban internet anonymity – says US Homeland Security official

dajames
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Re: Digital Fingerprints... here's one for you

You want to see my digital fingerprints? I can only let you see one.... (or two if your european)...

That's a nice attempt at a gesture in the right direction...

... but they can't actually see the prints when you hold your hand like that!

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Cops hate encryption but the NSA loves it when you use PGP

dajames
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Re: The more, the merrier?

If every man and his gran were using [encryption] to do pretty much everything, that would be a headache for the spooks, no?

If it were just a matter of seeing who was using encryption and using that fact to identify targets for closer surveillance then you'd be right.

There's more to it, though. The metadata in messages to and from anyone who is already a suspect can identify that person's correspondents, for example, and often knowing who is communicating with whom is as important as being able to read what they say. The fact that encryption is available makes these people less cautious about using easy-to-monitor public networks (aka the internet) as their message carrier.

This sort of thing has been done for ages ... I heard a guy from the UK Police High-Tech Crime Unit give a very interesting talk some years back. He was addressing a roomful of IT Security professionals, and explaining why it didn't matter that what we were doing for a living might be abused by the Wrong Sort of People. Just as well, as everyone in that room was probably making a living out of encryption technology in one way or another!

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'Unikernels will send us back to the DOS era' – DTrace guru Bryan Cantrill speaks out

dajames
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Skeptical?

As El Reg is a .co.uk site I would have expected the spelling "sceptical". That's how we do things over here.

My dictionary, however, tells me that the root of the word is the Ancient Greek "Skeptikos" ("σκεπτικός"), meaning "one who observes", so the use of the letter 'k' has some history as a transliteration of the Greek letter Kappa.

Were it applied to both Kappas in the word I could buy that argument, but then we should have the spelling: "skeptikal".

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Google's SHA-1 snuff plan is catching up with Microsoft, Mozilla

dajames
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... we get to scramble around certificate providers trying to find who will give us the longest SHA-1

A SHA1 hash is 160 bits. Always.

What are you trying to say here? A certificate with a SHA1 hash and the longest RSA key modulus?

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Oracle blurts Google's Android secrets in court: You made $22bn using Java, punk

dajames
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Headmaster

Re: Fortunately, the info is very hard to find.

Sadly, it's not a misuse anymore. http://theweek.com/articles/466957/how-wrong-definition-literally-sneaked-into-dictionary

Methinks you (and the author of that article) do not understand the rôle played by dictionaries. A dictionary is descriptive -- it describes the language as it is used, possibly with some comment on whether that usage is considered correct or appropriate, but often not. The fact of a word being listed in a dictionary with a particular meaning means that some speakers of the language do use that word with that meaning -- not that they are correct in doing so.

Even so, the article you cite does note that some of the dictionaries the author consulted did give usage guidance, and that one of the Oxford dictionaries noted that the word is sometimes deliberately misused for effect (which doubtless leads to its being listed with the incorrect meaning in lesser works, and propagates the error).

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Eight budget-friendly 1TB SSD data packers for real people

dajames
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Re: Good sign of how far SSDs have come

At the moment the sweet spot for spinning rust (in $/TB terms) is 3TB. For the same price you can get a 250GB SSD. Or to put it slightly differently, you can get a 2TB SSD for the price of ten 2TB HDDs.

Indeed.

I recently bought a few 1TB 2.5" HDDs. In researching which model to go for I compared the specs of the various HDDs and SSDs available and discovered -- somewhat to my surprise -- that the power consumption at idle of a typical 1TB SSD is higher that that of some of the better HDDs. Not by much, but that (and the cost, of course) nudged me in the direction of HDDs rather than SSDs for battery-powered uses.

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Five technologies you shouldn't bother looking out for in 2016

dajames
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FaceWatch

Hmm ... I can't quite work out whether that's "Dabbsy of Borg" or "Mean Machine Dabbsy" ... but if it's the latter I think the dial has slipped.

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dajames
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Re: Lazy journalism methinks

... you used the word "methinks", which immediately devalues anything you might say ...

You might like to know that in a recent survey (that I've just made up on the spur of the moment) "methinks" was voted the 87th most popular word in the category "words that should get out more". I think it's important that we should show our support for these disadvantaged items of vocabulary and help to get them back on their feet and on the road toward full rehabilitation.

I know I'll be using it a lot more in 2016 ...

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Waving Microsoft's Windows 10 stick won't help Intel's Gen 6 core

dajames
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The chip just executes instructions. Security comes from the software you run on the chip.

Well, yes, but Intel are changing the game a little in the Skylake CPUs with their SGX feature.

See, for example: this virusbtn.com article

SGX really does offer the possibility of more rigorously enforced security (and, incidentally, DRM), but also of AV-resistant malware. I'm not sure I'll be welcoming it to any motherboards around here!

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dajames
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Re: Let me get this straight...?

So for those of us in the vast majority who run Android or IOS devices this 'feature' won't be available?

Far from it: For IOS and Android that facility is available now from a number of third-party vendors -- $SEARCH_ENGINE_OF_CHOICE will find them for you -- there's nothing new or innovative in locking a PC when a physical token is removed, be it a smartcard or a dongle or a bluetooth device.

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Gov must hire 'thousands' of techies to rescue failing projects

dajames
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Rumour speaks of arcane code which can drive a man mad, just by trying to read it.

Usually only in the works of Charles Stross ...

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PDF redaction is hard, NSW Medical Council finds out - the hard way

dajames
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Re: Can't use a computer

Shit, in his position, I would have at least tried. The worst is, he can go onto my computer when, e.g., I go to the toilet (I do not always lock the screen, my bad), the password is in my password manager, if he is lucky, the browser session is still open ... but no :-(

... but, on the other hand, if he reads El Reg he'll now have an idea of where to start ...

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Microsoft herds biz users to Windows 10 by denying support for Win 7 and 8 on new CPUs

dajames
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Re: Shock Horror new CPUs won't support 7 year old OS

I really don't see what the problem is. Do you really expect Microsoft to support future hardware that will be manufactured 7 or more years after the initial release of Windows 7.

Not if they can get away with it, no.

That's not the issue here, though. The issue is that Microsoft have persuaded the hardware vendors also to drop support for older versions of Windows -- which may be convenient for Microsoft but is not in the best interests of the user community or, I'd argue, of the hardware vendors themselves.

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2015 was the Year of the Linux Phone ... Nah, we're messing with you

dajames
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Ubuntu also fell well short of its stated goal to have 200 million users by the end of the year.

[snip]

Alas, the stats currently on Canonical's website currently claim a mere 40 million users.

Taking the figures on distrowatch as a rough guide, there may be something like three times as many users of Linux Mint -- which is based on Ubuntu -- as there are users of Ubuntu qua Ubuntu, so that's another 120 million using an Ubuntu-derived system, bringing the total to 160 million.

Then there's lubuntu, Ubuntu maté, etc., are they included in the 40 million?

Taken all together, Ubuntu's usage is not as far short of 200 million as the article suggests.

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Boffins baffled by record-smashing supernova that shouldn't exist

dajames
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Re: exponents....

Shirley you mean Eccentrica ? Can't remember now.

Perhaps Eccentrica is Exotica's better-known sesqui-mamalian sister?

... but, yes, it was Eccentrica in HHG.

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Debug code cracked case in hunt for mystery Silverlight zero day

dajames
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... zero-day vulnerability in Silverlight that could have placed millions of users at risk ...

... zero-day vulnerability in Silverlight that placed both users at risk ...

FTFY!

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Cloud Security Alliance says infosec wonks would pay $1m ransoms

dajames
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Boffin

I have seen both m and M used so I had a quick look online.

Because the internet is so authoritative a source, right.

'm' and 'M' are SI prefixes for "milli" (one thousandth) and "Mega" (one million), and there is absolutely no confusion on that point. If the 'm' here were being used as an SI prefix, though, I'd expect it immediately to precede the unit ('$') rather than to be separated from it by the value, so there is room for uncertainty.

Had the piece said "m$1" rather than "$1m" I would be quite certain that one milli-dollar was what was meant (if not what was intended).

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dajames
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Why is it even legal?

I should have thought that one of the first things that should be done to discourage this sort of extortion was to make it illegal to pay the ransom ... maybe it already is (IANAL) in which case that gem should be made more widely known.

I wouldn't like it to be MY database that got encrypted, but knowing I couldn't legally pay the ransom might encourage me to take a bit more care of it in the first place.

Telling a survey like this one that you'd be happy to pay must just encourage the scumbags.

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Learn you Func Prog on five minute quick!

dajames
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Well, obviously ...

Real programmers, (like me), write real procedural code. End of. And it's better than the OO tat that's written by people fresh out of uni with a piece of paper saying they can program.

Yes, but that's not because procedural code is better than OO code, that's because the people fresh out of "uni" (we used to call it university in my day but that was before the cuts) are wet behind the ears and full of themselves and terrified of their student loans ... whereas you are a 1980s_coder with (presumably) 30-ish years of experience and probably have a clue.

OO code is really just like procedural code, except that the procedures belong to objects that can parcel up some state that's shared between procedures ... you don't even have to do everything the OO way, but can mix it with procedural code and get the best of both worlds (unless you're writing in something like Java, which is so anally obsessive about being an OO language that it doesn't let you do anything else).

Wise programmers considers all the tools in their toolboxes before choosing one over another. Almost every tool is the best one for something (even perl and javascript, I'm told).

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Hacks rebel after bosses secretly install motion sensors under desks

dajames
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Headmaster

Re: Moral police

I would have loved it if the wife replied,

"I work there; we we're having lunch together."

I'd love it even more if she knew the difference between "were" and "we're".

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UK energy minister rejects 'waste of money' smart meters claim

dajames
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Re: Purpose

The purpose is to introduce the rolling power cuts - like we had in the 70s - when the demand exceeds the supply.

Seems unlikely -- they managed rolling power cuts in the 1970s without smart meters, I can't see why you'd think that they would need smart meters to do it today.

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Star Wars BB-8 toy in firmware update risk, say UK security bods

dajames
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Re: Bluetooth pin?

Good luck figuring it out from the flashing lights.

In the case of a Bt controlled toy, the use for a PIN would be to control which Bt devices could control the toy. The PIN wouldn't need to be a dynamic value, or to be entered at the toy itself. A fixed PIN per device, set at the factory and printed on a label in the box, would be sufficient.

Would that be more security than is appropriate? I suppose it depends how worried you are that someone else might decide that yours was just the droid he'd been looking for.

Getting the device to flash the PIN out on its lights could be handy in case the printed label got lost. Nice idea.

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dajames
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Re: This is a waste of time

What's the worst a hacker's firmware in a BB8 could do, annoy the cat by following it around everywhere making barking noises?

It can't even do that ... the BB8 toy has no sensors with which to detect the cat, and no audio out with which to bark (sounds can be made by the controlling smartphone app, but not by the BB8 itself).

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SanDisk hopes to lure in enterprise clients with a little TLC (SSD)

dajames
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Re: 128GB minimum?

I can't think why you'd need 128GB of drive space on your laptop, or even desktop.

VMs take up a lot of space. I've demonstrated some networked software I'd written for a client, all running on two Windows 7 workstations talking to a Windows 2008 server in three separate VMs on my (Linux) laptop. One of those VMs (the dev VM, with Visual Studio and related tools installed as well as the full source tree for the project) was over 100GB by itself.

Don't assume that one size fits all.

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Happy new year, VW: Uncle Sam sues over engine cheatware

dajames
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Re: It all depends on the outcome

Someone in VW has been very stupid, but punishing everyone associated with VW, be they worker or owner will serve no one.

Indeed. As a remedy for stupidity education has more to recommend it than punishment.

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Dutch govt says no to backdoors, slides $540k into OpenSSL without breaking eye contact

dajames
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Headmaster

Re: It needs to be compulsary encryption

Make encryption compulsary ...

Yes ... and start by learning to spell "compulsory"!

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Thinking of buying a Surface? Try a modular OLED Thinkpad first

dajames
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Re: nice highlighting of sales speak dross in the review

... thanks to "a new kind of magnesium" ...

classic sales blurb, subverting basic chemistry

Very much so ... according to the link given in the article the X1 Carbon (the model the article claims is made from this miraculous material) is actually made from "satellite-grade carbon fiber" (sic) ... which is a very new kind of magnesium indeed!

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What did we learn today? Microsoft has patented the slider bar

dajames
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Re: It's a "Registered Design"

However, I don't see how they can possibly have a case when their own documentation specifically recommends using the same style as MS Office.

It's been years since I read Microsoft's licensing terms for the ribbon ... but I do recall that there was some wording in there to prevent the ribbon style being used in any software that directly competed with MS Office (which is what Corel have done).

... though why anyone should want to do so is beyond me!

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Security industry too busy improving security to do security right

dajames
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Typo ...

"migration from Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) to Transport Layer Security (SSL)"

I was going to make much the same comment ... but (almost) everyone in the world who isn't a security practitioner seems to think that "SSL" (sometimes spelt "SSL/TLS") is a cover-all term meaning "encryption is involved", rather than the name of a specific protocol.

... and really the call should be to move away from TLS v1.0 and v1.1 onto the more secure TLS v1.2 (but don't hold your breath).

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Drunk? Need a slash? Avoid walls in Hackney

dajames
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Re: Or

Sure, but did you miss the ideological tory slash and burn on council services?

Surely "slash and burn" is what you get with an electrified wall?

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After Death Star II blew: Dissecting the tech of Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens

dajames
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Re: Slow today

This piece has been here for over five hours, and no-one has asked whether the star destroyers still run XP??

Well, obviously, "a long time ago in a galaxy far far away" they didn't have access to XP, or indeed any Microsoft software ... lucky buggers!

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dajames
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Headmaster

Re: "standardise hard and change infrequently"

Both are correct, but Brits tend to favour the -ise endings and Americans -ize.

Where the '-ize' ending is used to verb a noun or adjective -- as is the case with "standardize" -- that ending comes from Greek, where it would be spelt with a Zeta. The usual transliteration of Zeta into English is 'z' not 's'.

The '-ize' spelling is preferred by the Oxford English Dictionary and was by the pre-Murdoch Times newspaper, as well as in American usage.

There are, however, some words ending in '-ise' that have different etymology ("advertise", "devise", "incise", etc.), and there is no excuse for spelling these with a 'z' (on either side of the pond).

In the UK the '-ise' spelling has become so common that (almost) nobody will criticize it, and if we use that spelling for everything we don't run the risk of an accidental, egregious, "advertize". In the US the '-ize' spelling seems to be accepted even where there is no etymological justification for it.

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Rebels defeat the Empire (again) by giving BB-8 an API

dajames
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An API is OK, but ...

... you need hardware for it to drive.

The Sphero toy is certainly cute, but as the article points out almost everything that's 'smart' about it is in the smartphone app that controls it. The droid itself is just a Bluetooth-controlled ball with a magnetic hat -- it doesn't even make noises (it has flashing light or two, that's all). The promotional literature talks about projecting a hologram, but apparently all that 'feature' does is show the droid projecting an image on the screen of the smartphone.

I'm sure it's fun to play with, but it's a lot less interesting than I thought it might be at first glance ... no proximity sensor to stop it running into things, no camera to relay images back to the phone, no on-droid sound, no microphone to let it eavesdrop on any unsuspecting carbon-based lifeforms it may meet on its travels ...

There is another BB-8 toy on the market, made by Hasbro. Theirs is about half the price of the Sphero, about twice the size, but is just your basic remote-controlled toy with a dedicated infra-red controller. It does make authentic droid sounds that actually come from the droid, though, and doesn't require a high-end smartphone to control it, so is probably a better buy for the younger market.

I'm sorely tempted to make my own, and stick a Samsung Beam phone (with data projector, for the all-important "Help me, Obi-Wan" hologram) in the head to control it. It'd cost rather more, though, even if I could get a damaged phone (I wouldn't need the screen) at a bargain price.

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FAA introduces unworkable drone registration rules in time for Christmas

dajames
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Lots of $5s.

... but it surely costs more than $5 to collect each of those $5?

I don't see a clear profit motive here (unless the cost of collection is borne by a different department?)

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Sophos grabs ATP-thwarter tech firm SurfRight for $32m

dajames
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Smarter than average ...

... back in the days where everyone had a Symbian handset rather than a smartphone...

Symbian handsets are smartphones, and back in the day they seemed to pretty good ones.

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