* Posts by Rolf Howarth

391 posts • joined 13 Jun 2007

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UK's non-emergency police and NHS Vodafone systems go titsup NATIONWIDE

Rolf Howarth

The good thing about memorable numbers is we can change them every few years to keep people on their toes. And remember, nobody cares about reliable, what we all want is cheap.

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Coughing for 4G, getting 2G... Networks' penny-pinching SECRETS REVEALED

Rolf Howarth
Unhappy

Mobile communication is a joke

I don't care about penny pinching, if the mobile operators could just provide ANY kind of service it would be a start. People are encouraged to waste huge amounts of bandwidth by promoting pointless things like streaming video while most of the time I can't even send a sodding 40 byte text message reliably!

I wish some of the networks would progressively throttle the bandwidth so that the first 10MB a day say are at full speed and after that it progressively drops back the more you use. (Actually, you might make the throttle calculation period shorter like 30 minutes, but you get the idea). If any of the networks could GUARANTEE a certain basic level of service by throttling excessive bandwidth usage I'd switch to them like a shot.

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'Cops and public bodies BUNGLE snooping powers by spying on 3,000 law-abiding Brits'

Rolf Howarth

Re: RE: Rolf Howarth @ Red Bren

"Suppose the police use RIPA powers in an investigation of a charity that is suspected of secretly using donations to fund terror groups abroad, only to find they are actually just criminals conning their donators and embezzling the money instead - do you suggest the police just ignore the second crime? That would seem patently stupid."

It depends how many rights they are infringing in the process. If they have evidence funds are being misused and they suspect it might for terrorism but is for criminal purposes instead then surely they can investigate that with their normal criminal investigation powers. But let's say they invoke extraordinary powers (say a hypothetical right to read all the private emails of anyone who's ever had any dealings with the charity) because they claim a threat to life "might" be imminent, and in the process discover that someone totally unrelated to the investigation was guilty of lying about who took some speeding points, then no, that shouldn't be admissible. In fact, even making enquiries or tipping a colleague in the local traffic division off about that unrelated offence should be sufficient to ensure an acquittal in any trial.

There has to be a VERY strong deterrent against fishing expeditions and using strong emergency anti-terror legislation for anything other than the very strict purposes for which it was intended.

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Rolf Howarth

Re: @ Red Bren

The police can already look up anyone they want in the Police National Computer, but I'm sure they are well aware that doing something like looking up the new partner of their ex so they can snoop on them is an extremely bad idea and very likely to end them up in jail. I'm sure that everytime they do a search they will need to enter what investigation it is required for and there will be no end of internal audits to prevent misuse of the system.

One could easily do the same for investigations under anti-terror legislation. Restrict acess to officers working in counter-terrorism, insist they enter precisely what they suspect and are looking for when logging that request, all of which probably happens already, but they key difference I'm proposing is to pass a law that any information so obtained using extraordinary powers can ONLY be used for the purpose stated. And all access requests using these powers would be audited under the auspices of the independent reviewer of terror legislation, the ICO, or the relevant parliamentary committee (probably all three) to prevent use beyond their intended purpose.

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Rolf Howarth

@ Red Bren

Aren't you saying the same thing as me?

Using extraordinary powers that were originally granted for one purpose (fighting terrorism) for something else (eg. seizing assets of Iceland) just because it's easy and convenient to do so is totally unacceptable. And no, no senior people (whether police, civil servants, or politicians) were punished for that abuse of these powers. I'm saying they *should* be punished.

And if the police are tempted to go on fishing expeditions looking for evidence against someone they happen not to like, any evidence so found should be inadmissible in court unless they can demonstrate they had solid grounds to suspect an offence had been committed before their intrusion. In the USA they have the Fourth Amendment and concept that illegal "fruit of the poisonous tree" evidence is inadmissible, but we have no such restriction here. As a result there's nothing to stop such fishing expeditions.

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Rolf Howarth

I don't have a problem with giving the police extraordinary powers to infringe people's privacy to tackle what they see as genuine terrorist threats. If lives are genuinely at stake then obviously that comes first.

But, and here's a big but, any abuse of those powers beyond the limited scope of what parliament granted them for should be severely punished, and any evidence so obtained should be completely inadmissable in other cases. By all means let the police intercept and read any email or other communication they feel they need to, as long as they're absolutely confident they can legitimately justify having done so after the fact, otherwise all hell will let be loose.

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It's official: EU chiefs WILL probe Apple's Irish tax deal

Rolf Howarth

Re: Meh

The Apple-Irish deal isn't about avoiding paying UK or other European taxes (which they do pay - ever heard of VAT?) but about avoiding, or rather delaying, US corporate taxes, currently the highest in the developed world and with punitive terms on companies bringing revenue into the US.

Virtually all US multinationals (not just Apple) are doing everything they can to avoid repatriating their non-US revenue until the US sorts out it tax system, which they keep talking about doing but still haven't managed to get round to. Apple just happened to have registered their non-US business in Ireland rather than somewhere like the Bahamas.

The question is whether Ireland offered Apple special terms that weren't available to other multinationals, which would constitute illegal state aid, not whether it's a bad thing that Apple pay taxes in Europe rather than the USA.

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Too slow with that iPhone refresh, Apple: Android is GOBBLING up US mobile market

Rolf Howarth

Market share or profit share?

You're perpetuating the old myth that Apple care about market share. They have absolutely no interest in a race to the bottom where everyone goes for market share above all else at the expense of user experience and quality on the one hand, and the manufacturer's profitabilty on the other.

Apple are more than happy making a premium quality product that users actually want and are willing to pay for. As a result Apple are the only ones making any profit in the business. RIM, Sony, Motorola, HTC, Nokia, Samsung... which of the other manufacturers, even the ones who aren't in the process of going bust or been bought out and are supposedly "winning" because they have the market share, are making any money at all on smartphones?

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Russia-based hackers prime suspects in JPMorgan mega-breach

Rolf Howarth

"I find it odd that someone who was actually able to break into a bank is not using it for making immediate profit."

What does "breaking into a bank's system" actually mean? Getting on to their Intranet so you can read their HR policies and company wide phone directory, and maybe the personal emails and project documents of the one or two individuals whose account you've hacked, or being able to transfer arbitrary sums of money from one account to another? Believe it or not, even people who work within a bank and have full access to their internal systems aren't able to do that!

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Malaysia Airlines mystery: Click here for the TRUTH

Rolf Howarth

Re: Phone signals

The largest GSM cell radius is 22 miles and the plane is flying at less than 6 miles up. Obviously base stations are designed to transmit horizontally rather than up into the sky but I think a phone at that altitude would certainly make intermittent contact. Remember we're not talking about whether you can make a reliable phone call, just whether the phone communicates with a base station long enough to register, and for the base station to check with the phone's home network whether it's allowed to roam.

I thought that remote areas in developing countries often have pretty good cellphone coverage, because that's a much cheaper way to provide telephone service over a large area than having to lay lots of cable.

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Rolf Howarth

Phone signals

On any passenger flight there must always be a handful of passengers who have left their cellphone in a jacket pocket and forgotten to turn it off. These would automatically search for a roaming network to connect to, so if the plane flew over land at any point (eg. Vietnam or Indonesia) that should have been logged, even if no-one on board tried to make a phone call.

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Six things a text editor must do - or it's a one-way trip to the trash

Rolf Howarth

Re: There is only one thing a text editor needs

Sorry, DECWriter not ASR33, but same principle applies.

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Rolf Howarth

Re: There is only one thing a text editor needs

You don't know how true your statement about vi running everywhere. I was won over by vi when I absentmindedly tried launching it to edit something when logged on via an ASR-33 teletype..... and IT STILL WORKED !!

Ok, so it had switched to ex mode and was printing out one line at a time, but all the commands and shortcuts worked as normal and it was completely usable. Quite brilliant I thought (especially as I'd never used ex prior to that, or probably since either).

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Apple refreshes MacBook Pro range

Rolf Howarth

Get the old one

Luckily they still have the old version available, so I shall be getting one of those before they finally disappear. 1680x1050 yes, but retina display? My eyesight is no longer good enough to tell the difference. I do want the option of HDD though (even 768GB SSD isn't really enough, and the price is prohibitive), plus I still use CDs and DVDs, FireWire, and Ethernet, all of which you need an extra adapter for on the new one.

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Japan promised Ultra HD TV broadcasts two years early

Rolf Howarth

Re: So what?

I saw UltraHD in action a few years ago and it does look quite stunning on a huge screen when you can see the faces in the crowd at a football match or whatever, but will it work at home? Unless you're going to sit with your nose 6 inches away from the TV set you'd need a floor to ceiling screen and it still might not be big enough!

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Ready for ANOTHER patent war? Apple 'invents' wireless charging

Rolf Howarth

Successive refinement...

As the article points out, someone else already has a patent on the basic idea of wireless charging. In order to be able to do anything in that area without paying exhorbitant licensing fees Apple therefore has to try to refine and improve on what the other patents say and patent that improvement, however minor a detail it might address. They can then use their patent when negotiating cross-licensing deals with the other patent holders. Effectively it just gives them a bargaining chip to sit at the Consortium for Wireless Power table, it doesn't mean they're planning a patent war.

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Texan schoolgirl expelled for refusing to wear RFID tag

Rolf Howarth

RFID?

Good for her, but why do they need RFIDs? All they need to do is install a bit of equipment to track the mobile phones that all the kids at school have these days, and they'll be able to track them outside school as well :-)

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Cook's 'values' memo shows Apple has lost its soul

Rolf Howarth

Evil?

"Anyone who views Apple as anything but another evil company needs their head examined."

Certainly, it's another company, with shareholders and the objective of making a profit, but so are ALL companies.

The companies that are evil are those patent trolls that never invent or make anything of their own but just buy up obscure patents and then make a living by blackmailing companies who can't afford to defend an expensive lawsuit, whether or not there's any merit in the claims.

Apple isn't remotely like that. First, they clearly do invent their own stuff, and manufacturer it, so are using patents in the way they're intended. They're the victm of infinitely more patent claims from people who see a big fat cash cow, and just see dollar signs lighting up in front of their eyes, than they are the aggressor.

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Court confirms $675,000 fine for sharing 30 songs

Rolf Howarth

Just think how many CDs he could have bought for $675,000!

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Apple now most valuable company OF ALL TIME

Rolf Howarth
Coat

Re: Typical journo rubbish

What you say about P/E ratio makes no sense. That the P/E ratio is low is good isn't it? It means that the value of the stock is based on actual performance, not an inflated hyped up value that has no bearing to reality (compare with Facebook with a P/E of 111, even after its embarassing price drop).

Put it another way, if Apple were as hyped as Facebook, their share price could go up another 7x or 8x what it is now, even without any increase in revenue. Or put it another way still, most investors are rubbish at judging the true value of stocks.

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Fujifilm X-Pro1 16Mp compact system camera review

Rolf Howarth

Interesting. I have the X100 and it's the best camera I've ever owned. Glad to hear they fixed the too-easy-to-nudge exposure compensation dial but it's a shame the camera is a little bigger and is all black now, looks too much like other cameras out there.

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Trekkie pays £45,000 for rusty shuttle

Rolf Howarth

$70000 is a lot today but think what it will be worth in 200 years time when we're landing on foreign planets in something that looks very similar and it's stuck in a museum back on Earth as being the original protoype...

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Barclays online banking falls over in outage riddle

Rolf Howarth

Re: Sigh...

>Bank stops possibly fraudulent transaction: Bank is in the wrong

>Bank allows possibly fraudulent transaction: Bank is in the wrong.

Disagree completely. If they reject a payment, it's you the customer who is emabarrassed or inconvenienced. If they pass a fraudulent transaction, it's the bank's problem, not mine.

My bank makes thousands each year out of me and my company but I swear the next time they reject a £20 card payment at the station that means I missed my train home I will close all my accounts with them (or insist they pay me a £150 "administration fee" for the inconvenience every time they incorrectly refuse a payment).

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Official: Apple, IBM are world's most valuable brands

Rolf Howarth

Brand not product

Remember they're talking about the value of the BRAND, not the quality or price of the product or the company. In other words, to what extent will people base their next purchase decision on the name of the label rather than on the product itself.

You can read that two ways. You could argue that means that there are a whole load of stupid fanbois who will buy whatever rubbish Apple produces at whatever price, just because it says Apple and they were fooled by the marketing. Alternatively, that there are a lot of extremely happy customers who were so satisfied with their previous product they're sure they'll buy Apple again next time. Either way, it's an enviable position to be in.

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Jury retires for weekend in deadlock in Oracle-v-Google verdict

Rolf Howarth

Re: Of course APIs are copyrightable

"neither the functionality of a computer program nor the programming language and the format of data files used in a computer program in order to exploit certain of its functions constitute a form of expression. Accordingly, they do not enjoy copyright protection."

How does that contradict what I said? I didn't say programming languages, file formats or the functionality of a computer program enjoy copyright protection. Of course they don't. I said that the class and method signatures of your program do. If you're a C++ programmer, your header files are just as much part of your copyrightable source code as any files you write.

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Rolf Howarth
Coat

Of course APIs are copyrightable

Of course APIs are copyrightable, just like any other non-trivial body of text is. If you break an application down into fine enough components and give all your classes and methods nice descriptive names, ie. self-documenting code, then the class and method signatures encapsulate your entire design and represent a sizeable chunk of your entire code base. How can that not be protected by copyright? Otherwise it would be like taking a novel, keeping the title and character names and chapter names and plot the same but rewriting all the paragraphs, then claiming it as your own original work.

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Sony optical disk archive

Rolf Howarth

Long term...

As several people above have commented, I think the key goal here is LONG TERM archive. The caddy system may be Sony-proprietary but the discs themselves are standard ISO Blu-ray images, so even if Sony as a company are long gone 50 years from now it should hopefully still be possible to find a drive that plays the individual discs, just as any computer today can still read audio CDs using a 30 year old standard. Or so the theory goes.

Perhaps in 50 years time we'll all be using quantum holographic cubes or something, and the only place to find a spinning platter (or tape!) of ANY kind will be in a museum, but until then I guess a system such as this has as good a chance as any of succeeding as a reasonably long term archive.

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Security biz scoffs at Apple's anti-Trojan Gatekeeper

Rolf Howarth
WTF?

Isn't the point that Apple should be praised for allowing non-App Store apps to be signed? The alternative to Gatekeeper is that App Store apps can be installed without a warning, and *all* other apps display a "warning, this application is from an untrusted source, are you sure you want to continue?" message. How is that better?

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Judges set timetable for McKinnon case resolution

Rolf Howarth
Megaphone

The question isn't whether it's possible to commit cross-border crimes but by whose standards you ought to be judged, your country of residence or the country where the offence was supposedly committted.

Let's say you post a humorous pornographic email to your mate who just happens to be working overseas in Saudi Arabia at the time, are you saying it's right for you to be extradited so you can be publicly flogged?

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Wi-Fi desk rodents break free from oppressive cabling

Rolf Howarth
Thumb Down

Why???

Why oh why do manufacturers keep insisting on ramming "improvements" down our throat whether we want them or not? It's getting increasingly difficult to find USB wired keyboards and mice these days, even though in most situations they are *vastly* superior.

Sure, there are some situations where you want a wireless mouse and keyboard (eg. for the Mac Mini connected to the TV in my lounge) but apart from the obvious battery problem a wired set up is just so much easier. If you have a lot of computers, both Macs and PCs, you really don't want to mess about with pairing and unpairing and dongles and installing drivers and all that crap. Just plug the damn thing in and it works.

Best of all you're very unlikely to lose a wired mouse! Just tug one end of the cable and you've got it, even if it's buried under a pile of papers or fallen off your desk (or liable to go "walking" of its own accord from a busy office or trade show floor).

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US spy drone hijacked with GPS spoof hack, report says

Rolf Howarth

Except it's, you know, a spy plane. The implication it was flying over Iran and therefore they'd have been quite entitled to do what they want to it, including shooting it down. Plus of course there's no way of knowing if this really was put out by the Iranians or is misinformation spread by the USA, as someone else has suggested.

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Java's 'Steve Jobs' moment in 2012?

Rolf Howarth

I'm far too busy making a real living writing real apps in Java to have time to post on any discussion forums. I have very little interest in new language features that may appear at some time in the future given that Java already provides everything I need and more, and has done so for years. Why do people feel they have the incessant urge to fiddle with things that are already ideally suited to doing the job?

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Solar power boom 'unsustainable', says Gov

Rolf Howarth

I didn't mean the expected annual income. I can work that out myself from my latitude and the roof area and the angle of the roof. I meant the cost of the panels, the cost of installation, and the annual cost of maintenance (if any).

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Rolf Howarth

I'm 100% with the original poster on this. I tried searching the web and phoning quite a few suppliers to get an idea of the costs of installation and NONE of them wanted to give me that information. Instead, they all insisted they had to send someone round to do a survey (even though I had the exact dimensions and angle of the roof etc. to give them and just wanted a very rough ballpark price to decide whether it worth pursuing or not). The one guy I did let come round and do the survey wasn't an engineer or surveyor but a salesman, who came out with a VERY heavy sales pitch trying to get me to commit there and then on the spot.

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Jobs: 'I'll spend my dying breath destroying Android'

Rolf Howarth

Before

This is what the Android phone looked like before the first iPhone was released

http://daringfireball.net/misc/2011/08/white-android-prototype.jpg

Enough said :-)

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Trojan targets Mac's built-in security defences

Rolf Howarth

Trojan

It's a trojan, not a virus or a worm. In other words, you have to download an app from an dodgy web site and enter your admin password to authenticate when it tries to install itself... and then bad things might happen? I'm shaking in my boots with fear at the mere thought of how dangerous my world has suddenly become.

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Blow for McKinnon as extradition treaty ruled 'not biased'

Rolf Howarth

Actually they did ratify it, about five years ago, it just took them a year or two longer than the UK.

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Rolf Howarth

The point isn't whether he committed an offence or not, but by whose standards he ought to be judged. If somebody and hacks into a computer in the UK, stupid as it is, they might expect a suspended sentence (certainly at the time the offence was committed), not to be locked up for 25 years to life as a potential terrorist!

Think through the implications. Let's say you forward a funny pornographic chain email to your friend who happens to be working on an oil rig in the Gulf, should you be extradited to Saudi Arabia? You post on a blog about Tibet and get extradited to China?

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Ten... Freeview HD recorders

Rolf Howarth

EPG

I bought a Fox T2 earlier this year and had to return it because the programme guide was unusable. Just shows the first two or three letters followed by "..." for all the programme names!

Did the firmware date fix that and finally provide an EPG with a vertical time axis?

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Rolf Howarth
Alert

Programme guide

I don't care about features like Bluray or internet connectivity or subtitles or 5.1 sound.

The killer feature for me, which I'm still looking for to replace my now sadly defunct Topfield, is a decent programme guide. I bought a Humax Fox T2 but had to return it as being unusable because it ionly has the traditional "horizontal" program guide, where you end up with lots of helpful information like "Sp... T... In..." because there isn't room for the full program title. Utterly, utterly useless!

What you could do on the Topfield is switch to a single channel at a time "vertical" view, so each programme appeared on its own line with a vertical time axis, and you could scroll down to see the entire week's schedule for one channel, deciding what to record.

If any of these PVRs has a usable programme guide I'll buy it in an instant.

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News of Steve Jobs' death causes market jitters

Rolf Howarth

Where do Apple go next?

Apple will cope fine without SJ. Although he was was very heavily involved in the product development lifecycle, he didn't personally invent everything Apple did, you know. What he did do is surround himself with good people, motivate them, and know how to pick a winner. Those people are still there. Most importantly he taught them the value of design and not to accept compromises.

Apple is defined not so much by what it releases as what it doesn't release, namely crap. Sure they have some flops, like MobileMac, but for every product that's released there are dozens of internal prototypes that are developed, almost to completion, but then dropped because they're not good enough. What makes Apple different is having the courage of its convictions to maintain those standards, even in the face of all the pundits telling it what it has to do. (Remember everyone who said Apple just had to bring out a PDA? They ignored them and waited until they were ready, then came out with the iPhone and changed the world.)

Steve Jobs is gone, but the company he built that epitomises those values still exists, so there's nothing to suggest they won't carry on producing great products just as they have in the past.

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Chaos feared after Unix time-zone database is nuked

Rolf Howarth

The size or nature of the participants in the case should have no bearing on the outcome. Imagine it was the other way round and an individual had compiled some data through lots of hard work and then some organisation like Apple or Google came along and decided to appropriate it for their purposes, claiming it was for the public good. Everyone's sympathies would be with the original developer.

Really, we need a lot more details on the claim before we can pass any sort of judgment.

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Apple cofounder Steve Jobs is dead at 56

Rolf Howarth

His achievement was having a keen eye for design and aesthetics and being a perfectionist, and having the charisma and arrogance to get his way, and usually (not always) being proven right. He knew what consumers want and he gave it to them.

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Apple victorious: Courts deny hackintosher's final plea

Rolf Howarth

Only possible outcome

Effectively what Psystar were doing was buying an upgrade liicense for some software, removing the copy protection, and reselling it as the full product. When you buy a retail copy of Mac OS X it is by definition an upgrade license because it requires an existing Mac to run it on, and that's the only way to get hold of a "full" license.

More interesting would have been if Psystar purchased and gave away a Mac with their offering, rather than just including the retail upgrade discs. They could then have argued they were just letting you run software you already had rights to on different hardware, but they didn't do that.

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Ten... all-in-one inkjet printers

Rolf Howarth
Thumb Down

Ink jets are crap

If you genuinely do print loads of photos then maybe an inkjet is for you but for most home or small office use a laserprinter is far, far superior.

I switched to a Samsung all-in-one about 18 months and never looked back. I've only just replaced the original low capactity toners it came with with a rainbow toner pack that cost me £100, so on that basis it will keep me going another 5 years before i have to buy any more toner!! In the same time I'd probably have gone through the cycle of stripey prints, clean jets, stripey prints, buy complete new set of cartridges, ok for a month, then stripey prints, clean jets, stripey prints, buy complete new set of cartridges, still stripey, throw away printer and buy a new one, ok for a few more months, etc. After doing that a couple of times and realising that the overall real running costs are actually about 10x that of a laserprinter you're left with the conclusion that as a technology, ink jet is fundamentally crap and the sooner it's banished to oblivion the better.

The thing that really persuaded me though was how hard the manager at Staples tried to persuade me that an ink jet would be much better for my purposes. What does that tell you about where they make their money??

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Anti-gay bus baron rages at being stuffed in Google closet

Rolf Howarth
Alert

???!!!!

I can't believe the number of people who took RCH's post at face value and blindly downvoted it or rose to the bait. It's so obviously meant ironically, and at several levels, it's one of the best comments I've seen on the Register for a while, especially once you see how people responded to it. Sadly it seems RCH is right and most people are totally unable to think for themselves.

What do such a disparate group as Jews in Nazi Germany, people labelled as paedophiles, MPs filing their expenses, and Brian Souter all have in common? Hint: it has nothing to do what if anything they are guilty of. The interesting question is how uniformly the populace responds. It seems that most people like nothing better than to see a good lynch mob! Doesn't matter who the target is, just as long as there's someone one to vent one's anger and frustration at and you've got the crowd on your side.

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Facebook wannabe rioters cop large helpings of porridge

Rolf Howarth
Alert

Bingo!

DrXym hit the nail on the head "They incited serious crimes and AT LEAST ONE OF THEM turned up for the riot he was inciting."

In a nutshell, it's the tarring everybody with the same brush element of things that encapsulates my concern at our sentencing policy. If one of them posted a time and place and turned up in the expectation there would be violence, and the other posted something stupid for a laugh, then had seconds thought and took it down and didn't follow it through, why have they both got exactly the same sentence?

Or the guy who stole a bottle of water. If 5 minutes earlier he'd been throwing bricks through car windows and burglary is all they had photographic evidence of then fair enough, 6 months is the minimum he deserves. But if he was just a more or less innocent bystander, who happened to pass an open shop front after the rioters had left, reached in a grabbed a bottle of water, then it isn't obvious why he should be punished worse than a shoplifter just because other people that night happened to be rioting.

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