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* Posts by A J Stiles

2662 posts • joined 28 Apr 2006

Trips to Mars may be OFF: The SUN has changed in a way we've NEVER SEEN

A J Stiles
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Radiation Cooling Has Been Done Before

Radiation cooling has been done before; back in the days of valve electronics, electrodes used to get hot. Look at the anode of any power audio pentode or rectifier diode valve (and note that all the energy that goes through the output stage, which might contain two or more valves, must go through the power supply), and you will see extra metal for radiating away this heat. Some pentodes even have additional radiators on the grid2 support rods, because the second grid can carry a fair current.

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'Urika': Cray unveils new 1,500-core big data crunching monster

A J Stiles
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Re: They call this progress?

That always struck me as a bad advertisement -- the CRAY-1's resemblance to a bench seat implies that the computer is not so fast that you would not have time to sit down while it came up with the answers.

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Facebook, Apple: LADIES! Why not FREEZE your EGGS? It's on the company!

A J Stiles
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Next: Immortality

I fully expect that as soon as a viable immortality treatment is available, it will be offered as part of some tech company's private medical care package -- free, as long as you continue working for the company that is providing it.

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Radiohead(ache): BBC wants dead duck tech in sexy new mobes

A J Stiles
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Re: Follow the money

I'm not sure it is about the money here, so much as it is about keeping undesirables off the airwaves.

Any schoolchild can (and, back in the day, they used to) build a MW or LW receiver. Building a transmitter is a little harder, but still do-able. It gets more complex when you need to do FM, but it's still nowhere near beyond the bounds of practicability.

Digital broadcasting, on the other hand, requires access to proprietary technology. And while the receiving chips may be given away to encourage manufacturers to make (a\nd, therefore, consumers to buy) receivers, you can bet your arse that Fred in the Shed won't be allowed anywhere near the parts required to build a transmitter.

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Snapchat 'hack' pics mostly clothed user snaps, odd bits of legacy pr0n – report

A J Stiles
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Is anybody really surprised?

When you rely on proprietary technology to do something, then you surrender control over it.

When you are relying on proprietary technology to do something that is demonstrably mathematically impossible, then there is no way it's going to end well.

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OMG!! With nothing but MACHINE TOOLS, STEEL and PARTS you can make a GUN!!

A J Stiles
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Re: @ A J Stiles

O.K. Name some property that you consider worth more than your life.

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A J Stiles
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t might also be worth noting that, as gun-control advocates claim, it is rare for civilian US gun owners to use their weapons legally against criminals (for instance in "home defence" scenarios). However there are between 200 and 300 justifiable homicides of this kind every year, a number not so very much lower than the fatal shootings accounted for by law-enforcement types acting in the line of duty.
Taking a life in response to a property crime is never justifiable under any circumstances. Life is unconditionally worth more than property. Your property is worth less than the life of the burglar trying to steal it. Always.

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A moment of brilliance? UPnP for Internet of Stuff lightbulbs

A J Stiles
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Re: Making things simple

Many of the UK "withheld" cold callers now poll using a recorded message which cannot distinguish an answerphone from a real person. It relies on a human to press a digit to signify your interest in their spiel. That either connects you to their call centre - or tells you someone will ring you back.

The latter's callback is always a British accent - but still with "withheld". They then blithely argue that they are allowed to ignore OFCOM's proscriptions on recorded polling messages, withheld numbers, and TPS numbers. If you try to elicit their company name they ring off immediately.

Then you need to block withheld numbers. Either with a well-configured Asterisk -- use ZapATeller() to trigger their answering machine detection, and maybe play them some Kevin Bloody Wilson -- or by paying your telco for the privilege.

There is absolutely no excuse for anybody to call from a withheld number. Ever. If somebody knows my number, then I have a right to know theirs. It really is that simple.

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BBC Trust candidate defends licence fee, says evaders are CRIMINALS

A J Stiles
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Re: hah keep it !!

There are *no* advertisements on the BBC. That is kind of the point.

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A J Stiles
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Missed Opportunity

I fully support the TV licence system as the best way of keeping the BBC advertisement-free.

However, think they missed an opportunity to sort out the problem of TV licence evasion once and for all with the digital switchover.

Why wasn't it mandated that every digital TV receiver must have a smartcard reader, from Day One? Then the BBC channels could simply have been broadcast scrambled, requiring a viewing card to watch or record them. No payment, no pictures. Simple!

It would have altered the payment model from per-address to per-device; but I don't see a problem with a person who lives alone swapping their viewing card from one receiver to another as they move from room to room.

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It's time for PGP to die, says ... no, not the NSA – a US crypto prof

A J Stiles
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It's hard for a reason

Using PGP properly is hard -- for a reason.

If you get any of the practical implementation details wrong, you can end up with a product that looks secure but isn't. Nobody wants to be selling that product.

Private keys have to be kept secret. You can't afford for there to be any way to leak a private key. Public keys aren't secret, but have to be verifiable; otherwise, you can't be sure some public key you've downloaded really belongs to that person, and not someone else who has the real public key, their own keypair and access to messages in transit and so can decrypt the message and re-encrypt it against the real public key.

By forcing you to use your own back-channel for key verification, which you can be reasonably sure is beyond the reach of a bent keyserver operator, the implementers can avoid that issue.

Unfortunately, that by definition makes it hard to use, for want of the very integration that makes for ease of use. But anything you did to make it easier to use would end up potentially compromising the security of the system -- maybe not now, but maybe in future, in some combination of circumstances that did not occur to the implementer at the time.

There are two fundamental limitations that you run into. These aren't limitations of technology, that will be solved with the right invention; they are limitations of the universe, that cannot be overcome by any amount of ingenuity.

(1) When you have several channels *in series*, the overall trustworthiness is determined by the *least* trustworthy link in the chain. But when you have several channels *in parallel*, the overall trustworthiness is determined by the *most* trustworthy among them.

(2) Anybody can build a cryptosystem that *they* can't crack. That absolutely doesn't mean *nobody* can crack it. You need rigorous mathematical proof of uncrackability.

Crypto software unavoidably has to trust the user not to do anything stupid; but if it trusts no-one else, then it's as trustworthy as the user. Making it easy for the user to do stupid things (such as exposing keys to tampering via the clipboard of an untrusted GUI, where any rogue application could read a private key or substitute a public key) potentially renders it less trustworthy.

Anything that's worth doing is going to be hard, and unfortunately the corollary is also true.

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A J Stiles
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Re: Not saying PGP is perfect

The whole point is that you don't *have* to trust the key server, or any server in the e-mail chain.

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Vulture 2 spaceplane autopilot brain surgery a total success

A J Stiles
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Linux

Andrew Tridgell and Skype ?!

I hope this particular combination bears fruit.

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Microsoft compliance police to NHS: We want your money

A J Stiles
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Remember Ernie Ball

The NHS would do well to remember the tale of Ernie Ball and his "ten thousand abacuses" comment.

My suggestion is to do the following:

1. Have the NHS petition for the annulment of copyright in all Microsoft products they are currently using. If the USA can retroactively and in defiance of their own written constitution assert claims for copyright over works which have passed into the Public Domain, then Britain can retroactively place into the Public Domain copyrighted works which are the subject of ongoing lawsuits.

2. Use the time thus bought to begin a complete migration to Open Source software.

The NHS is a big enough organisation to have its own in-house IT department, which could then subcontract itself out to others during the slack periods which would inevitably follow such a move. This would create local jobs for local programmers, who would then contribute through local taxes directly into the local economy, Local employees tend to eat in local restaurants, drink in local pubs, buy goods in local stores and take their families to visit local tourist attractions -- and, by virtue of their gainfully-employed status, are not attracting the attention of local law enforcement.

Of course, it would be essential to take a holistic approach to such a task. A full ground-up systems analysis needs to be made, and procurement policies need to be written to ensure that equipment purchased in future must be sufficiently well documented to enable interoperation with an Open Source infrastructure -- which means first and foremost no obscure, proprietary file formats; all data must be stored in a way that allows any sufficiently-competent programmer to extract and manipulate it. At the same time, a full workflow study woukd enable the identification of shortcomings in the existing proprietary products and suggest improvements to be made in their eventual replacements.

I am not saying this would not be an enormous task; far from it. But in the long term, it's got to be better for everyone if we keep money circulating in the local economy, instead of sending it abroad to enrich foreign billionaires.

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Maplin Electronics sold for £85m to Rutland Partners

A J Stiles
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Re: Vouchers

That would be CASHTEL -- Computer Assisted SHopping by TELephone.

You just needed a modem, a terminal emulator and a credit card. And somehow I got let loose with all three .....

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TrueCrypt considered HARMFUL – downloads, website meddled to warn: 'It's not secure'

A J Stiles
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Re: Hmm .....

Looks like patching from where I'm sitting .....

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A J Stiles
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Holmes

Hmm .....

I smell an attempt by a proprietary software vendor to discredit Open Source software.

Would they resort to this sort of tactics? Undoubtedly.

I'm keeping an ear out for what the OpenBSD folks have to say about this. They are one of the few development teams I trust, and they don't distribute crap; if something isn't fit for OpenBSD, then they either patch it or drop it.

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Help. Mailing blacklists...

A J Stiles
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Don't

Don't. E-mail is dying in the water anyway. Within five years, it will be unusable thanks to the spammers and the hackers. There will be private e-mail server appliances for communication within offices, but that's about all.

If you want to communicate with people, you need a mobile app. Someone will put out a cross-platform Open Source construction kit, sooner or later, that will enable the creation of mobile apps that basically retrieve data over http that you might once have e-mailed ;and display it, with good integration to the phone's applications such as mapping and phone calls, very easily (address object with direct integration to the phone's address book, latitude and longitude properties, and direct map access methods; telephone number object with validate and call methods); most of the bits are already there.

In future, instead of, say, e-mailing a spreadsheet of sales leads to your customers, you will publish something like a stack of vCards, each with addresses that can be called up on the map and phone numbers that can be dialled with a single touch; and the app to retrieve and make use of the data will be automatically generated, for whatever target architectures you select, along with the database schema and the customisation of scripts for the server. And if the phone app just happens to write a .CSV file to the SD card, so much the better .....

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Europe's shock Google privacy ruling: The end of history? Don't be daft

A J Stiles
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Re: Ken Hagan

Publishing details of a spent conviction would surely be contempt of court, though; even if the material were deemed not to be libellous because it were true?

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A J Stiles
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A fine line

There is a fundamental, irresolvable conflict between the right to know and the right to keep secrets.

Ideally, there would be circumstances in which a person should be obliged to make decisions as though they did not know some fact. So the offence would be committed not by, for example, looking up a spent conviction of a job applicant; but in using that knowledge to discriminate against them. In real life, it's impossible temporarily to forget something, and that knowledge might very easily influence someone's judgement.

This is exactly the sort of thing that it is proper for the courts to decide.

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Reg probe bombshell: How we HACKED mobile voicemail without a PIN

A J Stiles
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Re: haha

Yep! If you take out a SIM-only contract with "unlimited" text messages, stick your SIM into something loike an OpenVox G400E and start sending text messages, you will soon find out just how unlimited "unlimited" really means .....

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A J Stiles
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Re: Come on, it's not hard

When you have an ISDN30 (thirty B-channels and a D-channel), you get 30 numbers with it; but those numbers are not locked to individual B-channels. Anyone else who dials any one of those numbers will send a call up some available B-channel, and you can identify a call going down any one of those 30 B-channels as any one of those 30 numbers.

You change your CLI by means of D-channel messages (in Asterisk, the dialplan command is Set(CALLERID(num)=.....)), but BT will only let you identify as a number that actually belongs to you.

I have never actually worked with ISDN2 lines, but would imagine it is at least broadly similar.

An analogue line doesn't give you any access to the D-channel (and there is no in-band signalling anymore; it was the advent of ISDN that finally put an end to the Blue Box), so you can't change the CLI.

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A J Stiles
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Come on, it's not hard

On the BT landline network, you are definitely only allowed to use caller IDs that belong to you. I happen to know this because we once had two ISDN30s; and due to an administrative cock-up, they were ordered in two different names. So the presentation number ranges we had paid for were effectively locked to one or other of the line groups.

So our Asterisk was asking for what should have been a permitted ident; but if the call happened to get routed over the wrong line, then the ident got silently dropped, with the call coming through as anonymous.

This was, as you can imagine, a 'mare to troubleshoot. It only even became obvious when we started running afoul of anonymous call barring services even despite supposedly setting an ident on every outgoing call .....

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All men are part of a PURE GENETIC ELITE, says geno-science bloke

A J Stiles
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But .....

It's already possible to produce baby mice by using genetic material taken from a female mouse to fertilise a mouse egg. Humans aren't sufficiently different from mice for the same technique not to Just Work, if tried in humans -- the only thing standing in the way, is those pesky ethics boards.

So, we could still see an all-women society -- and I'm not even sure that would be such a bad thing.

(Before any insecure men downvote me, I am absolutely not suggesting that any of you need die of anything but old age to bring this about.)

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OnePlus One equals 'killer' new mobe running CyanogenMod

A J Stiles
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Re: Lack of SD + KitKat 4.4 == good idea...?

If someone whose primary business was getting rid of mice started a sideline renting out houses, it's a rather safe bet that those houses would not have cat flaps .....

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A J Stiles
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Re: Like, oh, 95% of the people on the planet

They don't have to do that unless they want to sell their phones in the USA. Mathematical operations aren't patentable in civilised countries.

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Boffins claim machines now beat humans at face-matching

A J Stiles
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Abstract Mathematics

I find this interesting, but for a different reason.

Face recognition is just a special case of shape recognition. And the abstract mathematics underlying shape recognition is the same as the abstract mathematics underlying decompilation -- "this vertex belongs to this shape" is isomorphic with "this instruction belongs to this loop".

It surely can't be long now before someone comes up with a program that, given a compiled binary, produces some Source Code that will compile to the same binary. That is going to be the game-changer .....

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'Maybe I'll go to Hell, but I think it's a good thing' says plastic Liberator gunsmith Cody Wilson

A J Stiles
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WTF?

Re: Pragmatic Actual Immanent 3-D Realities

5. In my house, anyone entering at 3am without my permission will exit in a body bag, I don't care how much mess will be left to be cleaned off the walls. I'm an anarchist, gunz don't scare me, they make me think harder and plan ahead.
Life is always worth more than property. Unconditionally and without exceptions. The lowliest human life is worth more than the most expensive piece of property.

And that means the life of a burglar breaking into your home is worth more than the property they are trying to steal.

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Snowden-inspired crypto-email service Lavaboom launches

A J Stiles
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Re: Their web page is already snooping...

So, all you need to do is run a less-than-truthful™ DNS server, which tells spare ribs about Google Analytics (and others who want to track your movements) and various advertisement servers. Certainly makes El Reg bearable.

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Eco-friendly fluid keeps SGI supercomputer cool and moist

A J Stiles
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Re: Useful with a gaming rig?

The trouble with deionised water, to paraphrase Terry Pratchett, is that it doesn't stay deionised for long. It soon picks up enough stray ions to become conductive.

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Greenpeace reveals WORLD'S FILTHIEST CLOUDS – and the cleanest may shock you

A J Stiles
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Re: @ A J Stiles (was: It's going to fix itself anyway)

Well, having felt the exhaust blast from a stack of stage amplifiers, I know you can run silicon a lot hotter than room temperature -- when you have big, hefty transistors switching a few thousand times a second. My gut feeling is that a processor, with tiny transistors witching billions of times a second, would be rather fussier about operating conditions. But I'm ready to be proved wrong.

As a northerner who thinks any temperature in double figures is shorts and T-shirt weather, I could do with a special protective suit for the office sometimes!

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A J Stiles
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It's going to fix itself anyway

The thing is, this is all going to fix itself anyway, with or without Greenpeace's efforts.

Fossil fuels are becoming more expensive, while renewables are becoming less expensive even as government subsidies are withdrawn. A crossover is pretty much inevitable, and more probably sooner than later.

Electricity -- most of which ends up being turned into heat on-site -- is the greatest overhead cost for a data centre. As new data centres come online, they naturally will be equipped with the latest energy-saving measures such as solar panels, wind turbines, passive cooling systems and so forth (need the machinery really be cooled to human-friendly temperatures for the benefit of humans working on it, or could it run hotter with maintenance staff wearing special protective suits?), as well as ways to do something useful with the "waste" heat. (Some installations are already using that waste heat for growing plants.)

Also, somebody who is sociopathic enough to go out of their way to pay more for a product just because it pollutes the environment more than the nearest alternative, is sociopathic enough to use a less expensive, less polluting product and lie to their customers that they are using a more polluting product.

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I QUIT: Mozilla's anti-gay-marriage Brendan Eich leaps out of door

A J Stiles
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Because there are people out there who would seek to do you harm based on who you voted for.

If you feel comfortable advertising your political allegiances to the world, all well and good for you; but if not, then nobody is forcing you to.

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A J Stiles
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Re: This is a bad day for Mozilla and the web

Not clever enough to keep his odious opinions to himself.

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A J Stiles
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Good riddance!

And don't let the door whack you in the behind on your way out.

ProTip: If you must be a queer-basher, keep it to yourself. Or if you do go around showing off socially-unacceptable behaviour in public, then you shouldn't be surprised when you find yourself no longer socially accepted.

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Tamil Nadu's XP migration plan: Go Linux like a BOSS

A J Stiles
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Coat

Re: Sounds like a well executed plan

I first read that as "clowns with ties".

Actually, it still makes sense that way.

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BEHOLD the HOLY GRAIL of TECH: The REVERSIBLE USB plug

A J Stiles
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Re: Am I the only one ....

No it isn't*. Please learn the difference between a quantity and a rate.

(*) Unless it actually can deliver 20 A at 5 V. I'd still lay good money that it can't.

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Ubuntu N-ONE: 'Storage war' with Dropbox et al annihilates cloud service

A J Stiles
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It's called "cutting your losses".

It's a shame that it has to come to an end; but at least Canonical are going to do the decent thing and release the Source Code for the underlying software behind the service. This means someone else will be able to carry on providing a service which ought to be a direct drop-in replacement, perfectly compatible with existing Ubuntu One clients -- and someone else will be able to improve upon it.

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NSW to expand e-voting

A J Stiles
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Democracy is too important

Democracy is too important to automate.

The beauty of pencil, paper and ballot box is universal comprehensibility. Everyone can understand how the process works and what can go wrong. This means everyone is potentially an election scrutineer.

The more you complicate the paraphernalia used in an election, the fewer people to whom it is comprehensible. And if you use any proprietary technology at all (thereby elevating a corporation's "intellectual property" above the democratic process) then you have effectively blocked all scrutiny of the process. Furthermore, even if the specifications, blueprints, wiring diagrams and software listings for any voting machines are published, there is still no way in practice to verify that all the machines in use in an actual election correspond with the published data.

Everyone knows how pencil and paper work, how they can go wrong and how to minimise the probability of anything going wrong.. An election conducted using pencil and paper will never be stopped by a power or communications failure. And there is no way to tamper with a ballot paper once it has been placed in the box.

There is no such certainty with an electronic machine, which relies on making unverifiable copies at every stage. And adding a paper trail does not change this; it is always possible for the machine to record a vote for candidate A whilst issuing audit documents showing a vote for B.

Electronic voting does not solve any problems. It only creates new ones of its own. We always managed without it until now; and we neither need, nor want it.

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Vodafone brings African tech to Europe

A J Stiles
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Re: ......

No jobs for you in the North West? MOVE.
Yes, because anybody can just move house anytime, at a moment's notice and at no cost to themself.

What's the view like from up there?

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A J Stiles
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It is quite funny listening to the politicos and church leaders going on about payday lenders and loan sharks. Those just the top of the iceberg - there is much bigger pile of "respectable" bloodsucking parasites who specialize in leeching from the destitute.
Indeed. I have a long-standing phobia about utility bills, so my electricity is paid for in advance through a key meter. The money is in my supplier's bank account, earning interest for them, before the juice comes down the wires to me. And yet they would give me a discount for paying in arrears by direct debit.

That is exactly backwards. In fact, now I come to think of it, it's borderline disability discrimination.

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Chinese patent app tries to own Wine on ARM

A J Stiles
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Pint

Re: A waste of money

it's when you try to enforce it and a judge tears it up that you realise you've paid for something completely worthless
Ah, if only that happened .... That would be a pay-per-view moment.

Or at least an excuse for a beer.

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OkCupid falls out of love with 'anti-gay' Firefox, tells people to see other browsers

A J Stiles
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So, what do you recommend then?

I want a web browser, obviously; and I want the same Source Code and Modification Rights as I've grown used to over the years. (So not Chrome, Opera or IE, unless they have had a policy U-turn recently).

What does everyone recommend?

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Sticky Tahr-fy pudding: Ubuntu 14.04 slickest Linux desktop ever

A J Stiles
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Re: Head to head

These are things you take into account at the time when you're migrating. What you probably need to do is take a step back and look at the bigger picture. And more importantly, concentrate on ends as opposed to means.

A spreadsheet with loads of macros in it is -- in all probability -- a horrendous bodge, never mind how many people are trying to do things that way.

Whatever is in the spreadsheet probably really belongs in a database; which naturally belongs on a centralised server in the office. And then you can replace all your convoluted macros with a few simple scripts in Perl, Python or your favourite language. Instead of e-mailing a huge spreadsheet around everyone and it quickly getting out of sync with reality, why not display it in a web browser, straight from the database server?

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A J Stiles
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Re: Ubuntu Includes Spyware

So, use something else then!

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A J Stiles
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Re: Head to head

You keep parrotting the argument that "you have to use the command line", which has all the hallmarks of superstition about it; as though somehow there was something wrong with that.

Seriously, what is so bad about the command line?

For me, the command line is simply a way of issuing a precise command straight to the computer, in a way that does not depend on the user's personal configuration options. In answering a question asked by a user, I can write "Open a terminal window and paste in the following:" and be confident that it will Just Work.

If I had to describe the process of clicking through various icons and menus, it probably would break if the user had altered their configuration from the default as shipped. It would also take a lot longer to describe the process.

Why do you think there is a difference between entering a quick textual command without making any pretence of understanding it, and making a long series of mouse clicks without making any pretence of understanding it?

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As WinXP death looms, Microsoft releases its operating system SOURCE CODE for free

A J Stiles
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Wordwise Plus

Wordwise Plus on the BBC. WordStar under MS-DOS. Both used a similar principle, with commands to control printing embedded right in the text. Wordwise on the BBC even used a 40-column editing mode with automatic reformatting for printing; true abstraction of presentation from content.

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It's 2014 and you can pwn a PC by opening a .RTF in Word, Outlook

A J Stiles
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Re: Testing or Polishing?

This is the fundamental problem with all software: it's released half finished!
Indeed. Half of all half-finished software is secure underneath but takes a conscious effort of will to learn how to use. The other half of all half-finished software is easy to use, even easier to use badly -- and thoroughly insecure underneath.

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Whitehall and Microsoft thrashing out 1-year NHS WinXP lifeline

A J Stiles
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One more year -- and then what?

Unless the NHS get a strategy in place to migrate to Open Source software, this is going to happen all over again when Windows 7 goes EOL, and again when whatever replaces Windows 7 goes EOL, and again when ..... Well, you get the picture.

The NHS is big enough to have its own in-house IT department; which could earn its keep by being subcontracted out to work for third parties, whenever things in the NHS are ticking along smoothly. And certainly big enough to insist on Source Code and Modification Rights as absolute, deal-breaking conditions of procurement.

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'Weev' attempts to overturn AT&T iPad 'hack' conviction

A J Stiles
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Re: If he had worked for NSA

That's the new way of doing security: Wait for some honest person to point out a gaping hole in your defences, then blame them for it.

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