* Posts by Coofer Cat

32 posts • joined 26 Apr 2011

Video: Dyson unveils ROBOTIC TANK that hoovers while you're out

Coofer Cat

10 years later...

I remember Dyson saying the were coming out with a robotic vacuum cleaner over 10 years ago. It was going to be called the DC06 (I even found a link from 2004 here: http://www.gizmag.com/go/1282/). Thankfully, they've pulled it down from the £1000 proposed price tag. I expect this'll be rather good (although probably noisy).

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Smart metering will disrupt weather forecasts, warns Met Office

Coofer Cat
Meh

Turn stuff off during peak times? Shouldn't that stuff be a bit more efficient then?

So I'm wondering... if my washing machine is going to turn off randomly, then maybe I'll stick it on a UPS. The UPS can soak up short "off times" and leave my washing unaffected.

Then I start wondering... how long will it be before Hotpoint start putting UPSes into their products? I mean, they could switch out a bit of concrete for batteries, and then sell it as "the most reliable" or "most grid friendly" or whatever.

Then I start wondering how long it'll be before I put my whole house on a UPS and then not worry about the smart grid cutting me on and off. I might need a generator for extended outages, I guess. Hmm... how could I get an efficient generator...? Maybe I could use another electricity supplier to provide me with a redundant backup supply?

This whole plan sounds great, but it'll all be worked around by people because ultimately people want an easy life and don't want their stuff turning on and off without their say-so.

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Samsung's new Galaxy S 4: iPhone assassin or Android also-ran?

Coofer Cat
Meh

Samsung Suck at Software

I have an S2, and I love it - it's around the same sort of ball-park as an iPhone 5, as I imagine the S3 is too.

However, 90% of what makes my phone good is Android, and actually stuff written by Google or apps developers. The remaining 10% of not-uninstallable shite is all the Samsung stuff. Even worse is the absolute abomination they want you to install on your PC.

The S4 will doubtless be good hardware - that's something Samsung have generally been good at for years and years. However, if they end up "customising" Android to "enhance" the user experience, then it'll be a god-awful crock of steamies. I'd rather they teamed up with Google to get the features they want into Android, but then of course, that means HTC and everyone else will have them too.

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Gov: How can renewable power peddlers take on UK's Big 6?

Coofer Cat
Thumb Up

Level Playing Field

I'd say a level playing field would be nice. My information is a bit old, but wasn't it the case that the grid *had* to buy all nuclear power before it could buy other types?

Until recently, if you generated some power at home, you could sell it back to the grid for a pittance, yet get charged the full retail value for it if you used it off the grid. It wasn't worth generating small amounts because it would never pay any money at all. Even now, unless you're on the government solar programme, it's nigh on impossible to "do a good thing" and sell your excess energy.

I don't have all the answers, but in my world, I'd like to see domestic generators basically get to wind their meters backwards. If they're paying £10 a unit, then they earn £10 a unit for putting power back into the grid.

Once you stop being domestic and start being a real generator, then it's got to be worth your while. The likes of nuclear and even coal and gas power stations were built with government money and their debts are government backed and so they have low operating costs. There's no way an independent can compete with that unless it's subsidised in some way. Either there has to be a "we'll guarantee to buy X from you" sort of arrangement (like there is/was for nuclear), or else there's got to be "we'll pay the difference" sort of monetary subsidy for smaller producers.

It's no wonder there's only one electricity company in the UK that only buys non-green power if it's run out of green stuff. It's also the only company that only invests in green power with it's profits. Sure, you can buy "green" from Eon, Npower, etc, but what you're actually getting maybe 1% green and 99% coal, with no provision for more in the future. Perhaps forcing the big 6 to actually have green tariffs rather than scams would be a way to level the field?

What I do know with certainty is that all the regulation and deregulation in the industry has had, and will continue to have unseen effects that will be negative for the most part. Change is good because it will at least give a different set of people a crack at the whip.

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BA staff to google for snaps, dirt on biz-class passengers

Coofer Cat
Stop

Backfire?

For me, this sort of thing would backfire, at least to some degree. Then again, most business class travellers are on corporate tickets, so they don't really get a choice of the airline at time of purchase.

If I've been on a flight with the same hosties as this one, then I'd live for them to recognise me. This happened to me once on Virgin, but only because I did two flights in 24 hours and it was the same crew both ways. However, for a complete stranger to recognise me would be a bit creepy. Most business travellers aren't famous by any stretch of the imagination, so there's no non-creepy way that anyone would know who you are, unless they'd met you previously, or unless you were being escorted by a staff member and were on a list of VIPs or something (which again, business class passengers are not).

However... Once upon a time I flew BA First. I'd have loved for them to say "Is this your first time in First?", but they didn't because my BA Executive Club profile doesn't have that information - and it probably should. Of course, if I start flying first every couple of weeks, then definitely don't ask me any such thing because it gets tedious very quickly.

Also, it would be great for the hosties to know that I really love having a bottle of water (that's actually got water in it) throughout my flight. It's not much to ask when you're on a thousands-of-pounds ticket, but trying to convince the hosties to get me a fresh bottle if the happen to see the old one empty, without having them "over service" is something of an art form.

The sorts of tricks they're talking about here either should just be part of the Executive Club system (and so printed on the passenger manifest), or else they shouldn't be doing it because it's creepy. Of course, doing things that other airlines do would probably gain them more good will than all of this - you know, stuff like a lounge that isn't completely packed and maybe a car to take you home after you've been on your Business/First flight. A half-way decent airport and terminal (ie. not Terminal Deathrow 5) would be a bonus, but given it's their centrepiece I don't suppose they'll do anything about it. Trouble is, BA just don't "get it" so we can expect more tricks and less substance for some time.

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New gov.uk site hits beta, flashes SINGLE typeface to punters

Coofer Cat
Thumb Up

Credit Where it's Due

I have to say I'm quite impressed. This is "front doors", and it does exactly what it should. Sure it's got some rough edges (well noted above), but come on - Facebook and Google don't do better than this when they beta something as broad and complex this.

As a general rule, which has never been wrong before, the government can not do IT. Ever. I'm sure this is no exception as they probably paid too much for it, it probably won't have obvious functions in it, and it definitely won't integrate with local council websites. However, it's a step in the right direction.

As someone noted above, whilst the front doors might look simple, the government is far from simple inside. Hopefully this view of simplicity will inspire the zillions of departments and ministries to simply their worlds too. If they even do it by 1% it'll have been worth it.

Given the choice of this or same-old, same-old - I'll take this every time.

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ISPs torch UK.gov's smut-blocking master plan

Coofer Cat
FAIL

Right and proper on a mobile device?

You see, I don't think mobile devices should be "filtered by default" either. I'm an adult, I have a credit agreement and a contract, so by definition I must also be an adult. If I am one of a relatively tiny minority of people who choose to (a) give their kids a phone with a web browser and (b) buy them a contract for it, then I can also pay my mobile operator to "lock down" that connection. The rest of us shouldn't have to pay for the mobile operator to provide this for the numpties who can't parent their kids and think kids need the latest smartphones.

Frankly, we all already pay far more for mobile services than is "right and proper", and so anything that puts that cost up for the vast and overwhelming majority is wrong.

Oh, and by the way... who do you think "asked" the mobile operators to filter by default? Yeah, you got it... the same people now asking for landline ISPs to do the same thing.

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'Leap year' bug drives TomTom satnav users up the wall

Coofer Cat
FAIL

TomTom better be careful...

TomTom need to be careful - by co-incidence I did an update on the 31st (because they'd been telling me to do one by email a couple of times). I then found that my device could no longer search by postcode. After an approximated journey or two, I did some searching and found the fix - in so doing, finding that my device seems to think I'm either in the UK or in Vatican City, and that it had previously been able to locate postcodes in Luxemburg, but not the UK (or Vatican City, for that matter).

In short, whatever the hell just got onto my device, it sure ain't clean and tidy. If they don't start making this stuff work properly they'll go the same way as Nokia. My Android phone is nearly as good as a TomTom (albeit only when there's 3G signal). It's only a matter of time before Android (or IOS) beats them hands-down.

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Force Google to black out searches in new privacy law - MPs

Coofer Cat
FAIL

duckduckgo?

This just won't work, especially as lots of people are defecting from Google and going to duckduckgo, bing, yahoo, etc. Are the MPs really going to go and ferret out all of those companies (some of which have no UK office, or indeed business dealings)?

The likes of Google can be coerced somewhat by the UK government because Google conducts business in the UK, using it's UK company to do so. If that were no longer true (perhaps because we're actually talking about duckduckgo, or because Google decided operating in the UK wasn't worth it's time/money), then that leverage would pretty much fizzle out to nothing. That is, unless the UK used the much fabled "special relationship" to exert pressure on the US. Yeah, never gonna happen - how silly of me.

In short: use duckduckgo and you're all good. MPs be damned.

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Blighty's pay-by-bonk gang goes cap in hand to Euro watchdog

Coofer Cat

Chip & Pin?

Why bother? Why not just make chip & pin work properly? I mean, if you could C&P a payment in seconds, not several minutes as it is in most places, then all this wouldn't be necessary.

That said, putting the c&p device into my phone and letting me 'beam' the outcome of the authentication to someone else sounds like a good idea. Prepaying to make an account is a non-starter though, as is needing an 'app' for every goddam company in the world.

I'm unconvinced at the moment, so won't be an early adopter, and quite possibly will only do it when literally everyone is doing it and the guy down the corner shop doesn't like cash anymore. We'll see...

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Apple: We never said Siri would actually work in the UK

Coofer Cat
FAIL

Never mind the complicated stuff ;-)

"remind me to buy milk after work" - I haven't seen this actually do what it does on the Ad. Things like "tell my wife I'm going to make it" don't work either. Anyone with an iphone managed to do the things they do on the ad? The ASA should be all over this - a reasonable person would expect you can do the exact same things as shown on an ad. Never mind getting all advanced asking "where am I?" and the like!

All that said, I've got an Android, and things aren't all peachy there either, but the main difference there is that we don't have a smart advert telling us that those things work when they don't.

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Demand for safety kitemark on software stepped up

Coofer Cat
FAIL

Oh goodness...

If government services are to be "convenient and secure by design", then absolutely every single one of them needs reworking. Have you tried doing your tax return? Can you even remember your username, let alone the password you can't change? It's absolutely guaranteeing you *have* to write down your Unique Tax Reference, your username, password and maybe the email address you used to register, otherwise you'll never manage to actually do next year's tax return.

I for one, can't wait to see what the "convenient and secure by design" initiative comes up with!

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Obama refuses to respond to MPAA bribery claim petition

Coofer Cat
FAIL

Expectations

Obama is doing what governments tend to - that is fail to meet expectations. The thing here is that the people that signed the petition expected this would prompt some sort of action. They might have been happy if some half-arsed thing had been done in place of their full demands, but to turn around and do *nothing* is exactly why these things start in the first place.

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New Trojan routes your bank's calls to CROOKS

Coofer Cat
Headmaster

How?

I'd like to see a bit more detail about how these fraudsters are diverting phone calls. I could imagine that they quietly update the phone number on your online banking service, or that they could (in theory) hack about with Android and do something sneaky when your bank calls you, but I can't see how they could otherwise be diverting you calls, if you're a BT/talktalk/Sky customer. Anyone care to explain?

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Why I'd pay Apple more to give iPad factory workers a break

Coofer Cat
Megaphone

Sticks to Apple because...

This is all being stuck to Apple because... they're making more money than oil companies at the moment. To quote others "with great power, comes great responsibility". The 99% are all looking at Apple's billions and asking why they can shell out a couple of extra dollars per unit on the Chinese workers that make their products.

In an ideal world we'd all pay attention to these things all of the time. Truthfully, if you have no idea if your product is even going to sell, you probably don't want to spend months of your life making sure your entire supply chain is ethical - you just buy parts and services from other (hopefully) legit companies. Once you're making money though, you have a moral obligation to be a bit more diligent.

Of course, we're dealing with Corporate America here, so morals and ethics aren't big on the list. We'll see if Apple end up doing any more than the absolute bare minimum.

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Dim-but-rich buyers targeted with million pound laptop

Coofer Cat
Thumb Up

Wish List

Just added this to my wishlist on Amazon ;-)

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When a DNS outage isn't an outrage

Coofer Cat

Thin Margins

I used to work for one of the "tech giants" (not mentioned here, but you know them). They used to work on tiny margins - each of their (aggregated) millions of users generated something like $10 a year in revenue, so it only takes one phone call and that user starts costing the company money. Hence, they try to dissuade users from phoning them. My point is that just because they own and run thousands upon thousands of servers doesn't mean they're making so much money they can offer the personal touch to every one of their millions of users.

The likes of EasyDNS probably don't make a load off each domain they sell/operate either, but as a customer who pays them directly, they have a clearer relationship and responsibilities to you. If they have to charge you $11 instead of $10 to run a domain, then you're probably happy to pay the increase, knowing they're going to answer the phone to you.

That said, post mortems are a significant weakness in IT generally, and the "tech giants" are no exception. In their defence, because they do run thousands of machines for millions of users, it's not always obvious what the exact problem was, or indeed what internal policies to change to mitigate the problem until days, or even weeks later. Still, one is left wondering if "better late than never" might be of benefit.

As a micro-anecdote, yesterday at my current employer we had a dev box fail, knocking out a load of users. This is just one, straight forward, self-contained machine with a handful of users that are across the office from us admins. Even now, we can't give a clear post mortem of what went wrong, and not for want of trying - we have genuinely spent some time looking into it. Sometimes even simplicity isn't a basis for being able to provide decent post mortems. Sometimes sh1t just happens.

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UK.gov 'pay as you go' IT services cloud to float in March

Coofer Cat

Not one-size fits all

If the government can stop running hundreds of Exchange servers and instead centralise those into the "cloud", then that's great news for us tax payers. There's a nice bit of cost saving which oughtn't be too much of a strain for the departments involved.

What I wonder about really is the multi-million pound projects to put government workers paylips on the intranet, or do all your employee HR functions online, or *shudder* put all of the public's medial records on to some electronically accessible solution. These are all 'custom' applications, which have thousands of hours of consultancy and development behind them. This is also where I suspect the lions share of wasted expense comes from. I can't see this G-Cloud really helping there.

All said and done though, getting anything centralised and cut the duplication of effort has got to be a good thing.

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Most EU states sign away internet rights, ratify ACTA treaty

Coofer Cat
Megaphone

Now is the time to talk to your MEP

Visit Write to Them: http://www.writetothem.com/ and email your MEP asking them which way they intend to vote, when asked to ratify ACTA. Briefly/gently suggest you're not in favour because you're concerned it criminalises the wrong people (no need to rant at this point!).

Await a response from your MEP. Write to Them will ask you if they have responded two weeks after you contact them - if they haven't responded yet, repeat the first step.

If your MEP says they support ACTA, point them at any number of internet resources that intelligently argue that it's a bad thing, and most importantly, tell then that in the next MEP vote, you'll be making a deliberate effort to ensure that you don't vote for them or anyone in their party, and that you'll do your best to influence your friends and family to do the same thing.

I'm not deluded enough to think this will make any difference on it's own, but after the 10th letter along these lines, even the most shabby MEP may start to think about this being a vote-loser, which could see the end of their time on the gravy-train known as the EU parliament. Since this whole effort will take you about 10 minutes, it's got to be worth a try.

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Starship Voyager dumped into skip

Coofer Cat
Holmes

Craftsman?

You've got to admire his craftsmanship, and since it took 10 years - his dedication too. It's a shame his business doing this sort of thing didn't work out, and it's a shame he did all this in a flat that's not his. It's also a shame he can't get a decent job so he can buy the flat off his Mrs.

All said and done, I can't imagine wanting to live in a place like that, but I admire the guy for doing something bold, imaginative and impressive. As someone above said, I hope he can sell it for parts rather than just dump[ it in a skip.

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Windows 8 hardware rules 'derail user-friendly Linux'

Coofer Cat
FAIL

Fails at stated purpose (except on Arm)

As it stands, this completely fails to meet it's stated purpose. A properly secured OS can't be rooted unless you have physical access to the hardware. Since you need to physically on the hardware to install new keys, you gain absolutely nothing from this. Unless of course you have a poorly secured OS ;-)

As for Arm systems, this approach actually does perform as advertised, although as noted, at the expense of Linux and any other OS.

I suspect bodies such as the EU and others will hamper the attempt to completely lock Linux out. We may well end up with a situation where machines come with secure boot to Windows only, or have insecure boot (ie. the feature disabled, rather than changeable keys). Either way, all of this would be unnecessary if Microsoft could make a half way decently secured OS.

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Patients to access NHS records via web by 2015

Coofer Cat
Facepalm

Don't really want it

It's not so much that we want our details on-line or even computerised. It's that we want our records updated when we see the doc (not two weeks later, when he's forgotten the details), and if we want to see our records, we want to see all of our records, not some crappy summary written by a tired doc who's been coerced into doing it because no one else can be arsed.

It oughtn't be too hard for me to pop down the doc's surgery, or the hospital in which I got treated and get a photocopy of everything in my file at that physical location. For whatever reason though, it's as good as impossible to actually do. I'm not so bothered about getting it online - on paper would be plenty!

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Ministry of Justice dreams of £1bn mega IT framework

Coofer Cat

9 months

I once worked with someone how said "you can't have a project here that lasts longer than 9 months". The idea was that it forced projects to be quick - otherwise they got out of date before they were delivered and cost too much,etc etc.

Could We The People mandate something similar for governments? That would stop them spending a billion quid on a pile of crap, and force them to do reasonable sized increments instead.

Either way, this will go the same was as the poll tax, passports, ID cards, the NHS computer system and countless others. Governments can't do IT (well, they can't do procurement at all, but it's most obvious in IT).

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Facebook shoves your face into creepy 'sponsored stories' in 2012

Coofer Cat

Shrewd

These sorts of things are going to happen more and more. Facebook's hit the top, and is on the way down as it fights one battle after another, with or without lawsuits. It's no longer a social media service, it's a litigator.

Zuckerburg is actually very shrewd. We all thought he was bonkers turning down deals that would have seen him personally gaining billions. However, if he IPOs the company as rumoured next year, he'll make way more than that. He also gets the "kudos" of being able to say "it grew and grew while I was running it, and it fell into a steaming pile of turd once public shareholders got their hands on it". Clever indeed...

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TalkTalk, 3UK scratched off Ofcom's Xmas card list

Coofer Cat

TalkTalk Billing

I was an old Freedom2Surf customer, who got bought by Tiscali and then TalkTalk. I tried TalkTalk's "business class" service, but it was awful - slow speeds, terrible phone service, and hopeless support. I've been super-happy with Plusnet ever since (because weirdly BE said they couldn't take on customers who didn't have a BT landline!?).

Even several months later, TalkTalk keep sending me invoices for £0.00. They really are hopeless.

As for 3 - I've found them to be pretty good. You can't activate global roaming while you're abroad though, which is annoying. But other than that, they've been pretty good (nothing like O2 who I found to be hopeless, and unilaterally blocked half the internet "to protect the children", even though those children can't legally have contracts).

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Tempt tech talent without Googlesque mega perks

Coofer Cat

Sysadmins?

Hard getting people who know how to deploy Hadoop? They're not likely to be the people that write code in various open source projects - they're going to be sysadmins/DBA types. How's open source going to help you find them?

That said, not forcing people to move to the cultural vacuum of silicon valley is no bad thing. Companies might learn a thing or two about localisation that way too ;-)

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Patent tax break takes effect in April 2013

Coofer Cat

Naughty but Nice

This sounds great on the face of it, but it means that corporations will have a greater vested interest in their patents, so we can expect lots of lobbying to extend patent terms, and to broaden their scope. If anything, patents need reining in and reducing in length/scope to fuel innovation, but that'll always be at odds with corporate interests.

Suffice to say, the little guy won't be able to benefit from this nearly as much as the big players. In that sense, this will be a failure. It'll probably generate a whole industry of lawyers (like the patent system in the US has), which is job creation of a sort. However, as all failed empires will tell you, bureaucracy always kills you in the end, so one is left wondering if we want to create a super-race of lawyer/bureaucrats?

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Have everything. Own nothing. Learn the difference

Coofer Cat

"And what’s ReDigi got out of all of this?"

They're going to get decisions made on whether bytes are property or rented. They may be picking a fight, but when it's over, we'll all know who's who and what our rights are.

In that sense, they may not get much out of it, but the rest of us will.

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Music biz presses BT to block The Pirate Bay

Coofer Cat

Don't be shy!

Comeon BPI, don't be shy - give us the full list of sites you want to block. Once you've done that, every man+dog will do the same, and our journey to the Dark Side will be complete.

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Union enraged by secret driverless Tube plan

Coofer Cat

Overpaid, underskilled

Tube drivers aren't all that well skilled, yet get paid disproportionately well. Take for example the Waterloo and City line - surely the simplest there can be. Trains leave waterloo, the driver has a crazed look in his eye as he 'floors' it to try and get the wheels to bounce off the track. Because he's gone too fast, he then has to stop just outside the station to wait for the platform to become available.

Surely, if these drivers were so oh-my-god-they're-great-we-can't-live-without-them, they'd be able to figure out that going 5mph *slower* would actually get them there faster?

As for Bob Crow, 145K/year is all you need to know.

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London public transport tap-cash plans will be 'entirely safe'

Coofer Cat
Alert

TFL lies - they do pass on your personal data *without a warrant*

Verma said: "TfL never sells personal data, we don't share or sell personal data unless required by law."

Lies! I FoIA'd TFL a few years ago and asked about this. All the police have to do is ask for travel details and they get them - no warrant required (back then, they'd been asked something like 246 times, and only once had they refused). Last time I checked, just because a policeman asks you for something doesn't make his request "required by law".

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Floating website, hidden 'get' bills

Coofer Cat
Thumb Down

Rate Limiting

Wow - shock horror - "The Cloud" doesn't do everything.

It's pretty obvious that to defend against excessive billing, you need to defend against excessive resource usage. Relying on Amazon (or anyone else) to do this for you will almost always do exactly what you don't want.

Have you ever visited a small website, only to see a message saying "This user has exceeded their bandwidth allocation" (or similar)? Doesn't happen too much these days, but that's basically the billing department "helping" their customer avoid excessive bills. If you want something better than that, then code it (or buy it) yourself.

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