* Posts by Steven Roper

1805 posts • joined 10 May 2011

Wi-Fi operators must notify device users of potential data processing

Steven Roper
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Re: Several of the mobile operators already do this!

Australia: May contain traces of nuts.

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Alleged Silk Road architect arrested in Thailand

Steven Roper
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Re: The headline is clearly wrong

I believe the usual Reg euphemism is "Alleged Silk Road architect gets his collar felt in Thailand"...

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NASA boffin wants FRIKKIN LASERS to propel lightsails

Steven Roper
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Re: Robustness required

The probe doesn't have to be carrying anything living for this to be a problem. An acceleration in excess of 15,000 G is going to turn pretty much any equipment on board plus the probe carting it, into an atomically thin sheet of graphene foil in very short order.

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UK carrier Three in network-wide ad-block shock

Steven Roper
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I've often heard it said that people always have two reasons for doing something: the good reason, and the real reason. So we have "protecting our customers' privacy from intrusive advertising." That's the good reason.

"And this is about fighting net neutrality in the advertising space, because most users don't like ads, and therefore there's nobody to defend the concept of neutrality."

Aaaaand... there's the real reason.

My first thought on reading this article was "this is an attempt to establish a precedent for undermining net neutrality." It's no secret that telcos hate net neutrality and have been fighting it for years, because it blocks them from milking some potentially massive revenue streams. So if they can implement a system whereby they can apply their anti-net-neut principles to something that everyone hates and thus gain popular support for it, they have a precedent they can use to violate net neutrality on multiple other fronts - and suddenly webmasters will be paying subs to ISPs to allow customers to view their sites.

I believe the threat to net neutrality this move poses far exceeds the threat posed by advertising. People can already block ads by installing ad blockers; they don't need their ISPs to do it for them. This needs to be opposed, and brought to the attention of the net-neutrality enforcement institutions.

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Even Google is abandoning Google+

Steven Roper
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Re: Hmm... seems about right

"I still miss iGoogle and the Google RSS reader."

The loss of iGoogle, which was the best and most useful service they'd provided, is the main reason why I've never let myself become reliant on Google's services again. Along with services like Buzz and Wave, they've developed too much of a track record of hooking people into their services and then pulling the plug. The demise of Google+ was only a matter of time.

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Facebook tells Viz to f**k right off

Steven Roper
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Re: How it should be done.

A brilliant concept. I would, however expand on it a little.

Some sites, most notably Reddit, have a practice called "shadowbanning." When a user is shadowbanned, they can still post, see all their own posts, and read and reply to others' posts - but nobody else can see their posts. So they continue posting away, blissfully unaware that they've been moderated out of existence and the rest of the community can no longer see their drivel.

My proposed expansion to your concept is a kind of "inverse shadowban." When some moralising SJW complains about a Facebook page, Facebook responds by replacing that page, only for that user, with a "This page has been unpublished due to offensive content" message - conveying the impression that the page has been censored for everyone else as well, when in fact it hasn't been. Thereafter, whenever said sanctimonious SJW hand-wringer returns to check that their word has been carried out, they see the "page unpublished" message and can brush their hands in self-righteous smugness, secure in the knowledge that their orthodox morality has prevailed over the world. Meanwhile you and I and everyone else get to see the page unimpeded.

In anticipation of the problem that their SJW friends who have not yet complained might see the uncensored page and spill the beans, this is where Facebook's profiling analytics comes in. SJWs operate in gangs; when one complains about something offensive, all their friends climb on the bandwagon to add their rants as well. This makes their behaviour easily predictable by even a base-level AI. So when an SJW complains about a page, the AI maps all of their friends who have posted in support of them before, and inverse-shadowbans the page for all of them - giving them the false impression that their social-justice vigilanteism has had the desired effect!

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Ransomware scum infect Tinseltown hospital, demand $3.6m

Steven Roper
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Re: And when they find them

Peter R. 1 is spot on.

Normally I am adamantly opposed to the death penalty. In many cases people do make mistakes and they shuld be able to learn from those mistakes, make restitution, and resume their place as part of the human race.

This, however, is not a mistake. It is a calculated, deliberate act of malice conducted purely for personal gain, without regard to the lives of other human beings, by sociopaths with no concern for anyone other than themselves. Were you to ask those ransomware vermin how they felt about the little girl who died of cancer so they could be rich, they'd shrug and say, "C'est la vie."

That's not a creature I am prepared to share this planet with. I don't just say that out of outrage. Anyone who seeks to sacrifice others' lives purely to increase their personal wealth is a threat not only to those whose lives they destroy, but to all of us. You cannot appeal to someone who behaves like this. Doing so only gives them a further sense of empowerment at your suffering.

Killing them publicly sends a message to like-minded sociopaths that their own precious skins are at stake if they are willing to sacrifice ours. It sends the message that we are as prepared to kill to defend ourselves as they are to kill for wealth. And by making the deaths public, we rip away the shroud of secrecy that surrounds the death penalty and robs it of its impact, and confront these sociopaths head-on with the stark reality of the consequences of their choices.

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Steven Roper
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And when they find them

I hope they do it in a country that permits public executions, because that's what these maggots deserve. If a case could ever be made for extraordinary rendition, this is a prime example.

Then we start doing it every time we catch one of these sociopathic fuckwads. Anyone with the kind of mentality to do this has nothing of value to contribute to civilisation. They are parasitic vermin, and they should be exterminated, like vermin.

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This is what it looks like when your website is hit by nasty ransomware

Steven Roper
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Re: Backups?

"This stuff looks for and spreads to backups before it announces itself."

Which is exactly why at my company we don't back up from our web server.

We have an in-house development system that is airgapped from the internet. When we deploy a website, we burn a DVD (No USB drives are permitted on our development machines) from the dev system and upload that to our web host. If there are any changes to be made, a new disc is burned and uploaded to the web host. The only thing that comes back from the web host is the contents of the databases and that goes onto DVD as backup each day. This copy is then checked against an offline MySQL server to ensure the data has not been secretly encrypted. If it has been, then we know our web host has been infected and can take remedial action.

Should any of our sites become infected with malware, we simply reimage the web server and restore from the last DVD from our dev system.

It's clumsy and old-fashioned, and wouldn't work for a massive multinational site spanning multiple data centres, but for our small-scale ecommerce and SME sites it works like a charm.

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iPhones clock-blocked and crocked by setting date to Jan 1, 1970

Steven Roper
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Re: " date format between US mm/dd/yy and the rest of us should die in a fire"

I also use YYYYMMDD ordering for dates, since matches numerical with chronological file sorting. I avoid DDMMYYYY or MMDDYYYY like the plague simply because for the first 12 days in any month it becomes impossible to distinguish between US and normal date formats. I've had some really nasty errors crop up because some American customer provided 7/1/2007 as a payment date and my system parsed it as 7th of January instead of the 1st of July as intended (1st July is the first day of the financial year in Australia.)

To the point where, when I design ecommerce websites, all dates on orders, invoices, transactions etc, are displayed in YYYY-MM-DD hh:mm:ss format by default; the customer can change the date format if they wish (since the board insisted on providng the ability), but I've buried the date-format control so deeply in the CMS and made it such an utter bitch to do so, that most people simply give up trying and accept the sensible format. So my crusade to make the world adopt the logical year-first convention is coming on apace!

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US Congress locks and loads three anti-encryption bullets

Steven Roper
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Re: Elephant in the room

"So, all in all, what is the point of this?"

Mining the public for scapegoats.

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Steven Roper
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Re: Three Bills?

"The McCaul Bill might be the best. Tie this stuff up in a committee for eternity with no decision ever being reached."

Love it! That kind of thinking is exactly why I vote for independents and minority parties for both Senate and Lower House here in Australia and encourage others to do the same... not because I support what the independents or minority parties stand for, but because collectively they form an obstructive power block against the major parties whenever either tries to push through more draconian legislation.

If the government is effectively hamstrung by faction fighting, power squabbles and ineffective committees then maybe they'll leave the rest of us alone. This is why no Prime Minister has lasted a full term in office since Howard. I still remember with a shudder the shit that got passed in this country when that bastard had control of both Upper and Lower Houses. If I learned anything from the Howard years, it's that an impotent, hamstrung Government endlessly fighting a hostile Senate is the best way to preserve our freedoms and civil liberties!

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Uber, Taskrabbit, other Silicon Valley darlings urge Europe not to screw their business

Steven Roper
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One of the commonest warnings issued by Australian government travel-advisory site Smart Traveller to Australians travelling overseas is to ensure you only use legal authorised taxis because of the risk of fraud and robbery. The usual official warning is something like this:

Tourists have been robbed and assaulted when using unregistered taxis. Use of a prepaid taxi ticket on arrival at the airport or taxis from registered taxi ranks may reduce the risk of robbery. Official taxis are generally required to have their photographic licence displayed.

Countries in which criminals use fake taxis to kidnap and rob tourists would be at serious risk from services like Uber. Certainly such criminals would take advantage of Uber's system without question. Anyone who travels to a foreign country and uses non-official taxi services is seriously asking to get robbed.

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Microsoft quits giving us the silent treatment on Windows 10 updates

Steven Roper
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Re: Mint

I think it''s more to do with Cinnamon than Mint. Cinnamon provides a very easy-to-navigate UI that shares much of its layout genetics with Windows 7 (and visually it also bears a passing resemblance to OSX), so it's easy to migrate to from either platform.

A friend of mine who is a Gentoo fan has successfully got Cinnamon running on top of Gentoo, since he had the same issues with automatic updates on Mint that you've described here. For my part, I've had no problems updating my Mint install, so maybe there was a particular revision that bollixed things up?

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Steven Roper
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Re: trust

Forever.

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Steven Roper
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Re: Winning back trust

My distrust is irrevocably immovable for the fact they disrespected my HOSTS file even once.

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Amazon launches Lumberyard beta, a free gaming engine, but there is a catch

Steven Roper
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I'd rather use the Unreal Engine

It's got amazing graphics and physics ability, almost on a par with what I can get out of full-blown Cinema 4D renders - and in real time. Plus, they don't lock you in to using any particular vendor or service, it's completely free to download and use, you retain copyright in your work, and all they ask in return is that if your game makes any money then they'd like a piece of the pie - which in my view is a completely fair and honest deal.

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Japanese boffins fire up 100Gbps wireless broadband connection

Steven Roper
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That'll drop to tens of centimetres the moment there's any fog or rain... even humidity will affect it at those frequencies!

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We're going to use your toothbrush to snoop on you, says US spy boss

Steven Roper
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Re: The marketing target has definitely changed

"Powerline comms should be pretty easy to block - they get screwed over by certain power boards."

That's most likely how the buggers will do it, because they know the "luddites" will try to prevent the phone-home by denying access to their WiFi, and they really, really want to get into our homes. So I'd expect to see things like power boards, surge arrestors and even UPSes soon being "fixed" to remedy any blocking of mains networking.

I might sit down and scratch up a circuit that can suppress mains network signals, just to be sure. I can imagine something based on a couple of triacs and a nice fat cap should do the trick!

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Steven Roper
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Re: The marketing target has definitely changed

I know that anecdotes aren't a good statistical indicator of the public mood, so I do bear in mind that the "I can't wait for it to come out" bit only arises because the technology becomes the topic of conversation, and doesn't reflect the person's overriding mindset. On that issue, I agree that the public are mostly indifferent to it because they are primarily concerned with the day-to-day matters in their lives.

But when it eventually does come time to buy a new TV, fridge, washing machine or whatever, I suspect most people will choose a "smart" model over a traditional model because of the sales pitch and the extra features it offers. So while they might not rush out to get the Next New Thing, they'll willingly embrace it as soon as they're in the market for a new one.

Like you, I'm also in the process of moving over to Linux (this post is typed on a nice new box running Mint Cinnamon exclusively and all my internet interaction is now done through this machine) so I too will be wearing my Luddite (or should that be Rebel) badge with pride!

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Steven Roper
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The marketing target has definitely changed

Every time El Reg publishes an article on the IoT, almost every comment to it is a statement of refusal to embrace the new technology. That this site is populated by a demographic ranging from tech geeks to IT industry professionals, who are traditionally the early adopters of new technologies, clearly indicates that the IoT isn't being marketed at this usual demographic.

Gadgets and tech toys used to be the province of geeks, and new-technology marketing campaigns used to be targeted at us because our adoption or rejection of it would make or break a new technology, but no longer; John and Jane public has picked up the ball and is now running with it with no knowledge or concern whatsoever about the implications for their privacy.

Quite a few non-tech-people I know, when I tell them about this, tell me they can't wait for it to come out because it's so convenient. And when I tell them about the privacy implications, they just shrug and say, "So what? Google and Facebook already track everything I do already, and they haven't done anything, so what have I got to hide? Why are you being so paranoid? What makes you think the corporations or the government are really interested in you and your little life?"

This, folks, is why the IoT is the Next Big Thing and why it is being pushed so hard. Most people seem to have given up the fight and have just accepted that everything they do is monitored. And our little geek demographic has been pushed aside in the big new data grab sales pitch to the masses. We've become irrelevant.

15 years ago we were the only ones who used the new technology. In 15 years' time we'll be the only ones still using the old technology.

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

Steven Roper
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Re: Firefox 44.0 upgrade kills adblocker and Google

Firefox doing this sort of shit is why I migrated to Pale Moon.

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Steven Roper
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Re: Illegal?

I don't like the idea of subscriptions. Subscriptions form a constant, ongoing drain on your finances that can easily go unheeded and accumulate to onerous amounts. Like those charity traps where your willingness to donate a few bob to a worthy cause gets roped into a monthly drain that is next to impossible to stop.

The problem is the evil "easy in, difficult out" tactic used by too many businesses and charities. You can sign up for a sub with two clicks and ten seconds of form fill-in, but cancelling it requires you to post by registered mail, notarised copies of your birth certificate, passport, drivers license, a CRB check, and a stat dec signed in the presence of three police officers and a magistrate to the effect that you want to cancel, to some address in Outer Mongolia which gets its mail by camel caravan once every six months. Meanwhile your sub continues to be deducted.

I've had this problem before, and my bad experiences with this vile shit make me very reluctant to make monthly payment commitments. In one case I ended up having to phone my bank and asking them to de-authorise and dishonour the payment from their end - which didn't do my credit rating any good, but there was no other way to stop the sub I'd foolishly authorised. This "easy in, difficult out" bullshit needs to be made illegal, right now.

What we need is an effective way to process once-off micropayments (say $5 or less) without loading them with transaction fees and surcharges, with a simple click-and-go authorisation process. That way, sites like El Reg could offer an option to have ads or click-to-pay 10c or something to read one article. Another way would be to have a rechargeable account, similar to a Metrocard (or Oyster as you call them in the UK) which can be debited 10c per article read or something. But it has to be manually recharged each time - I am not willing to authorise someone to repeatedly automatically take money from my bank account.

With this payment model, you only pay for what you use, and you don't end up being nickel-and-dimed into bankruptcy by a growing pile of "only a couple 'o quid a month, guv" subscriptions that are next to impossible to get rid of.

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Steven Roper
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Re: Hey Eyeo

I agree with most of what you say here, but there's one small logical problem: 1) and 7), 8), 9) are mutually exclusive. If the ad splaffers can't track you, how are they supposed to know what you'll never buy or already own?

I'd demand 1) as a base-level requirement myself, but that means that I can't complain if I start seeing ads for lipstick or baby food, neither of which I have any use for. In fact, seeing such ads would form some small assurance that I wasn't being tracked.

But aside from that, your 1) - 6) and 10) I'm right with you on.

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Steven Roper
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@1980s Coder

Given the extremity which you seem to consider as good security practice, I'm surprised you even use the internet at all!

After all is said and done, the only real defence against internet scum - assuming you are going to use the internet at all - is smarts. Ad blockers, NoScript, sandboxed browsers, AV software - none of it will protect you against your own ignorance and stupidity.

To resort to the well-used car analogy: one of the things I was told at an early age was, when driving, never do anything - accelerate, brake, steer, indicate, whatever - without knowing exactly why you're doing it. Or in other words, don't use the Force, Luke, use your head. Similarly, when using the internet, think about everything you do and why you're doing it. Why am I clicking this link? What am I after here? What am I going to this site for? Why is it so important I enable Javascript for this site? What will the site take from me in return for my use of it?

When you adopt this approach, then things like ad blockers, NoScript and sandboxes become tools you can use to decide what you are going to allow on your computer. They are merely a means to an end. But that end starts with you, and why you're using the net in the first place.

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Security? We haven't heard of it, says hacker magnet VTech

Steven Roper
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Childcatcher

Imagine how people would react if a toy maker included on its packaging a notice like this:

YOU ACKNOWLEDGE AND AGREE THAT THIS TOY HAS NOT BEEN SAFETY TESTED AND MAY CAUSE ELECTROCUTION DURING NORMAL USE.

There are very strict safety standards that apply to all toys marketed at children. A toy company that sells a toy that presents danger of electrocution would find itself on the wrong end of the law in very short order. A toy company that openly states that its products may potentially expose children to attack or exploitation and washes its hands of any responsibility must be subject to the same laws.

Now as much as anyone here, I detest the "think of the children" excuse since it has been misused to endorse (or enforce) dubious political schemes so many times, but there are rare occasions when it does have merit. Dealing with egregiously greedy, corrupt and criminally negligent companies like this is one of those times.

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Celeb gossip site TMZ was pushing malware at innocent surfers

Steven Roper
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"Would that be the Gulag that Max had to face in Mad Max III, "Bust a deal, face the wheel"? Or just your everyday Russian gulag?"

There's a Mad Max III? I always understood that was a non-existent myth, like the equally non-existent Highlander II...

But no, I was thinking in terms of salt mines. For the rest of their stinking, worthless lives. At least then they'd be producing something useful and it wouldn't cost a bomb to keep them safely locked up as it would putting them in chokey!

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Steven Roper
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"Segura says CloudFlare is investigating the use of its network by malvertisers but says the ad networks have kept mum."

And these same ad networks have the fucking face to demand we trust them and bitch about people using ad blockers?

Every one of the executives and managers working for those ad companies belongs in the bloody gulag.

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Submarine cable cut lops Terabits off Australia's data bridge

Steven Roper
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Re: Send help

That's how we used to do it back in the Commodore 64 days... demo scene crews trading between here and Europe would snailmail floppies to each other via PO boxes!

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Reports: First death from meteorite impact recorded in India

Steven Roper
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Law of averages

Had to happen sooner or later. Naturally it happened in one of the most crowded areas on the planet. At least that bus driver will be immortalised in the history books...

Pity it didn't happen in Russia though, then we could have said, "In Soviet Russia, moon lands on you!"

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IoT lacking that je ne sais quoi? Try the IoTSP

Steven Roper
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No, it's even worse. More likely if you smash an IoT device, it and all its little buddies around your house will phone home advising every corporate and government snoop hooked up to it, that someone at your address is a potential domestic violence candidate and needs to be sent up for mandatory anger-management counselling. Cue a visit from half a dozen cops and a social worker.

I was considering using the Joke Alert icon but the way technology is going, there's a fair chance that IoT will eventually end up actually doing something like this!

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So. Are Europeans just a whining bunch of data protection hypocrites?

Steven Roper
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“This has left the realm of law and is now in the realm of politics.”

Those words, by themselves, amount to one of the scariest sentences I have ever read.

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Girls! Girls! Girls! Intel brags about diversity push, Silicon Valley tells itself it's doing great

Steven Roper
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Joke

Re: Mansplaining

"So would you care to enlighten us with your opinion?"

Hey, why are you encouraging him/her/xer/xim/it? What are you, some kind of masochist?!?

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Steven Roper
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Re: Mansplaining

I was tempted to downvote you 1) for being sanctimonious and condescending; 2) for resorting to the usual automatic buzzwordism ("mansplaining") and name-calling characteristic of your ilk; 3) for hiding behind an AC while you spout your bile.

I decided not to downvote you because you don't deserve the pleasure of thinking the Reg community is that predictable. I downvote people who I think deserve it. People like you deserve nothing.

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Steven Roper
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A snapshot of our people

Human Beings: 100%.

Anything else is irrelevant.

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College kids sue Google for 'spying' on them with Apps for Education

Steven Roper
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Normally I hate the lawsuit mentality

but in this case I seriously hope these people get their damages. With all the spying and monitoring fast becoming the default in the burgeoning Internet of Things, as well as the invasion of our computers and phones, I hope this is just the first squib popping in what will become a massive avalanche of privacy-violation lawsuits against every company doing this shit!

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Danish Sith Lord fined in Galactic Republic rumpus

Steven Roper
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Re: Damn you!

Doo, dee, doo, dee, doo-dee-doodelee, doodelee doo, doodeedoloo, doo.

Doo, dee, doo, dee, doo-dee-doodelee, doo-doo, doodee dee-doo doo doo.

Doo, dee, doo, dee, doo-dee-doodelee, doo doo, diddlee doo doo.

Doo, diddloo, diddloo, diddloo, didlee doo doo-dee doo!

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Sure, encrypt your email – while your shiny IoT toothbrush spies on you

Steven Roper
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@ Charles 9

What man can make, man can break. There's always a way mate!

If connecting via WiFi is a problem, you can just build this sweet little WiFi jammer with about $20 worth of parts from Maplins or Jaycar. Bear in mind that if you want WiFi for some devices and not others, it's not a huge issue to reduce the output power of each jammer and tweak the size of the antenna to confine the jamming to the immediate proximity of the device (such as a smart TV) you don't want connecting.

As to dealing with Powerline networking, our good mate Elon Musk has unwittingly come up with a brilliant solution to that; just make sure your IoT devices are plugged into the battery-driven circuit instead of directly into the mains.

Even though the Tesla system is connected to the mains as backup, the DC-AC conversion process and capacitance of the battery should wipe out any signal being carried over the powerlines!

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Steven Roper
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Re: Orwell

"Worse was that suspected "thoughtcrime"... I don' t see that happening in Western countries."

You don't? Replace the word "thoughtcrime" with "political incorrectness" and "Ministry of Love" with "life ruination at the hands of rampaging social-media SJW lynch mobs" and try again.

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Steven Roper
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Big Brother

Orwell

must be either spinning in his grave like an ultracentrifuge or laughing his arse off.

If I could go back in time and tell him, "in the future it won't just be telescreens spying on you, every single home device from your toaster oven to your toothbrush, will be reporting on your every action, so write about that in your novel 1984," he'd have laughed at me and said, "Are you serious, sir? Putting nonsense like that in my book would make people think it was merely a comedic joke!"

Too bloody bad it isn't.

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Windows 10 will now automatically download and install on PCs

Steven Roper
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Re: All this has done

Yep, too late Microsoft.

I too have completely disabled Windows Update on all my boxen, because I knew this was coming. It's only a matter of time before it gets schlepped as a "Security" update as well so I thought I may as well stop it cold while I'm still ahead.

I'll now be relying on my net savvy, my armamentarium of UBlock, NoScript, BetterPrivacy, Ghostery and RemoveItPermanently, and my non-Microsoft AV to shield me from the terrors of the internet - until I've replaced everything with Mint, which is coming along apace.

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Hackers mirror 250GB of NASA files on the web

Steven Roper
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Re: Ye Olde YouTube Arms

Yep... Unfortunately I once made the mistake of searching for "science documentary" on Ye Olde YT and mate, did I pay for that mistake. Instead of the Saganesque insights featuring the likes of Michio Kaku and Amy Mainzer I was expecting, I got handed a massive pile of brain-cell-consuming woo. It's not an error I'll be repeating.

And even though I have my StumbleUpon preferences set predominantly to science and technology topics, a fair whack of said woo still manages to slip through. Mind you, the occasional dose is good for a laugh. But even the best comedy becomes tiresome when there's so bloody much of it!

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Steven Roper
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Joke

Re: Too much X-Files watching

But - but - you couldn't have been at the South Pole! There's no such thing as the South Pole, you were duped by the reptoids that are trying to hide that the Earth is flat! What you saw was the encircling wall of ice that surrounds our world and goes on forever.

No wait, that's not right, that's just another rumour circulated by the reptoids. You weren't at the South Pole because the actual South Pole is in midair over the massive polar hole that NASA have been airbrushing over in pictures of Earth for the last 60 years, that leads to the hollow world of Agharti and the lost civilisation of Atlantis.

Sorry for the rant, I'm off to huff some chemtrail fumes to correct my errant thinking!

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Steven Roper
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Re: Terminator seeds

I'm curious to know, why the downvotes?

This is a well-considered post that concisely examines both sides of a controversial issue without bias or prejudice. What's the problem, guys?

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Samsung trolls Google, adds adblockers to phones

Steven Roper
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Re: refusing to serve content to browsers with an active ad-blocker

Yep, absolutely. Just like it's only fair that any site that behaves like that, gets added to our company firewall blocklist so it never darkens our screens again.

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No, George Brandis, telcos still don't want you taking the console in their networks

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Dutch cops train anti-drone eagle squadron

Steven Roper
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Re: Instant amputation of Eagle's feet?

"In Kazakhstan they use golden eagles to hunt wolves."

Those same people are a small tribe of Kazakhs who have lived close to the land for generations. They treat the eagles as equals, allowing them to live in their homes and share their meals. They capture and train the eagles as chicks, and as part of the training they teach the eagles to hunt and survive in the wild. Then after 4-6 years they set the eagles free. These people live in a free symbiosis with the birds.

The last thing these people need is an army of suits flocking to their little world to mob them for eagle-training techniques that will be abused and misused because the suits will take only the method they want as a means to their own ends, not the philosophy and mutual respect the Kazakhs have developed that goes with it.

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

Steven Roper
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Re: @cbars

"And then, there is just plain crap, without any reason."

There usually is a reason. The most common one being a pointy-haired boss breathing down your neck after a fruitless 48-hour no-sleep debugging crawl, and he's going on about the client has insisted on deployment first thing in the morning and why isn't the system running yet?

At which point you throw your hands in the hair, comment out the bit you think is causing the problem, bung in some hardcoded sludge ending in "return true;" and snap, "Fine. It works. Can I go home and get some sleep now?"

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OnePlus ends rationing. You can now buy its phones just like that!

Steven Roper
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The concept of you giving someone money and them giving you a product, and both of you going your own ways better off, is newsworthy because it rapidly seems to be becoming a thing of the past.

These days the Everything-as-a-Service paradigm seems to be "you give me money and we give you a product, but we get to spy on everything you do with it and dictate how you can and can't use it. Oh, and in addition to your fair payment you have to keep on paying us to use it as well, even though you paid for it already, and even though we have no further obligations to you."

Fuck that.

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Google DeepMind cyber-brain cracks tough AI challenge: Beating a top Go board-game player

Steven Roper
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Concerning AI

To me, "intelligence" (the existential state of being, not the method of gathering information) combines several concepts, some of which have been achieved with computers, and some which have not.

1. Sentience, which is the ability to differentiate between Self and Other. This establishes a self-internalised sense of identity, the existential concept of "I am," and its counterpoint, "The universe I am not." To the best of my knowledge, no AI has yet achieved this. Yet it is this ability that forms the crux of human identity, and will form the crux of "robot rights" and related issues for a long time to come.

2. Learning, which is a function of memory linked to a decision tree. A system, living or otherwise, undergoes interactions with its environment, which we call experiences, that have positive and negative impacts on its existence. From these experiences, it builds a decision tree that allows it to avoid the causes of negative effects and to seek out the causes of positive ones. AI has achieved this to some extent, albeit only in highly specialised arenas. However a generalised learning system that can process any kind of existential experience has yet to be achieved.

3. Abstraction, or conceptualisation, which is the ability to extrapolate consequences from actions without prior experience. This is the driving force of invention. A good example is the discovery of the principle of leverage; using a long stick pinioned over a fulcrum with a short distance to an object too heavy for one to move, allows one to move it. To us this may seem almost instinctive; but most other animals cannot figure it out. To date, no AI has even come close to demonstrating this component of intelligence.

4. Imagination, which is a function of abstraction. It is the ability to conceptualise that which is not, to spontaneously create, store and communicate experiences and information that one has not encountered existentially. To the best of my knowledge this facility is the province of humans alone; no animal has demonstrated a capacity for imagination. Likewise, no AI has come close to demonstrating this ability.

5. Communication, which is the ability to transfer concepts relating to sentience, learning and/or abstraction to other entities like oneself. Most animals have evolved this ability with respect to learning, but to my knowledge only humans, chimpanzees and dolphins have demonstrated the ability to transfer abstraction. Current AI has demonstrated notable ability in communicating learning, and in the case of AIs like Siri and Cortana can simulate the appearance of sentience, but they have not actually demonstrated it.

6. Recording, which is the ability to transfer information by enduringly altering the environment. In humans this is accomplished by drawing, painting, sculpture and writing. It is a groundbreaking achievement because unlike immediate (verbal/gestural etc) communication, it transcends death. Experience and existential knowledge can be passed to other entities even though the original source of that knowledge has ceased to exist. This is why we can re-experience the thoughts of Shakespeare, a man who has been dead and gone for more than half a dozen human lifetimes. AI, of course can do this via the medium of computer data storage.

So the question of whether or not we have truly achieved artificial intelligence comes down to a question of any or all. That is, if you hold intelligence to be any of the above traits, then we have achieved AI. But if you hold intelligence to be all of the above traits, then far from having achieved AI, we are likely a long way from doing so - perhaps not even in the lifetime of anyone now alive.

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