323 posts • joined 19 Dec 2012
Prior art candidates - in fiction and in real life
Fiction: Certainly either the late Desmond Llewelyn or MI6 or maybe Eon Productions have a reasonable claim to prior art because of that ill-fated - but remotely controlled from a cell phone - BMW Series 7 in Tomorrow Never Dies? Wheels or screws - there is little conceptual difference. The villain in Speed 2 only used laptops to control a luxury cruise liner, not cell phones, right? Disqualified, then.
Reality: Jim Clark's Hyperion was completely controlled by a network of SGI servers, and the interface was LCD touch screens. The touch screens were not called "tablets" at the time - so? The network was wired, I assume, but is it reasonable to insert the word "wireless" into something completely obvious and claim to have invented something?
Joking aside, whatever "innovation" Apple may claim here I can't see how this can conceivably be qualified as an invention. And you need to invent something for a patent, don't you? Oh... Sorry...
A single group of 87 schoolchildren and 9 adults from the same organization on the same plane? Were there any special insurance arrangements? Just wondering...
The preferred method of getting an iWatch without standing in line?
So the new tech czar is a former veep of innovative total surveillance, notably including video, and the deputy used to be a public policy big wig at the biggest factory of meaningless soundbites? Emphatically not someone who can run a datacenter and/or a scalable web/database server farm for, I dunno, health care? It all seems fitting, if ominous.
A story told by a (former) scientist at a (former) chemical research facility in the (former) USSR: auditors were asking about an abnormally high rate of consumption of ethanol at the facility - this was in Soviet Russia, alcohol was the universal currency, but they were still making a stink about it. Wait, maybe that's why they were making a stink?
The records showed that vast quantities of ethanol were used regularly "to clean the optical axis of the radiometer". OK, said the auditors, would you please show us the radiometer and its optical axis that requires so much cleaning material - it must be huge? - Oh right, would you come with us please? After a trip through a basement maze, in front of a huge lead door with a big, bright, shiny, and glowing in the dark radiation hazard sign on it: "Oh, you do have clearance to inspect this secret facility, don't you? We will need a copy for our records, please, otherwise no one is allowed inside." No auditor has ever returned with such clearance.
Repeated many times over the glory years, or so I was told.
What am I missing?
So how will the three people in different countries learn about a secret warrant served? Even if all three are the designated recipients of such warrants in their respective countries, arguably the one who learns about a warrant and leaks it, even if only by inaction, may be liable under the law. And they won't even learn of any secret warrant in a fourth country without someone breaking the law - and risking severe punishment - there.
A flaw in his argument
It is natural that Zimmerman focuses on encryption as the main means to ensure privacy. However, encrypting one's communications is a means against eavesdropping, but not against surveillance. Surveillance is about gathering metadata - who is talking to whom - and not (so much) learning the contents of the conversations.
Since calls need to be connected, emails need to be delivered, packets need to be routed, IP addresses need to be assigned to physical locations, and even mobile phones need to talk to towers, metadata can be gathered, stored, and analysed, if deemed necessary. This is surveillance, and encryption will not help against it.
PIN lengths here are variable... 4 digits is pathetic.
So what do you do when you travel outside of the enlightened Canada and are presented with a prompt for a 4 digit PIN? Will the first 4 digits work?
And what if 4 digits are not enough? I saw that at a petrol station in Italy once. Around midnight it was dark and empty, so it was self-service or nothing. I stuck my card into the slot at a pump and was prompted for the PIN. I punched my 4 digits in only to notice that there were 5 positions, and the device did not allow me to proceed with just 4. I turned to my Italian friend who was with me in the car and asked, "This is weird. Do your credit cards have 5 digit PINs?" She looked at me and said, "I wouldn't know. I have never had a credit card in my life."
Re: US Tech Companies
@Trevor_Pott: "I sometimes go a little far in having fun or asserting my independence. But I'm not a threat to anyone."
Hmm... Trevor, can you spot a contradiction in what you wrote?
Seems like any assertion of independence by anyone - a person, a company, or a country - is now treated as a threat.
Obligatory Donald Knuth quote?
"Beware of bugs in the above code; I have only proved it correct, not tried it."
It really sounds to me like Netflix have a very popular product and a model for delivering it to the customers. One may argue advantages, disadvantages, "fairness", "wastefulness" (caching/no caching/whatever), or other features and qualities of this model, but let's assume for the sake of this discussion that the model suits Netflix's current business needs. That is really all that matters.
The ISP's customers want that product. Delivering it to the customers costs the ISP extra compared to the rest of the content it carries. IMHO, the ISP has two choices: say, "we don't carry it" and hope not too many will care, or pay the price and pass it on to their customers one way or the other. It is not fundamentally different from a local (brick) store whose clientèle wants products from (say) an overseas manufacturer. It would also fight an uphill battle with (e.g.) major chains that have the infrastructure and relationships and economy of scale in place.
[The direct comparison with the brick-and-mortar world tells me the situation has little to do with "net neutrality".]
It is perfectly legitimate to complain about the situation, of course. Complaining, however, will not be a viable third choice *unless* a lot of people will forego Netflix "because it is unfair to small ISPs" and thus force Netflix into revising the distribution model, rather than switch to a different ISP that has the goods.
Not only Blacks and Latinos are under-represented
Twitter is a US company, right?
According to the same 2010 US census cited in the article, 72.4% of the US population is white. So only the top leadership of Twitter has roughly the average proportion of whites, while in all the lower layers whites are horribly under-represented. Probably indicating a discriminatory practice.
a list of *smaller* phones
My current phone is 4in, and it is way too big for a phone, IMHO. Are there phones on the market that are less than 4in, say in the general 3.5in area, but with a decent screen resolution?
Priorities: GSM, call quality and reliability, battery life, texts, contacts + calendar + call reminder, occasional web and email, alarm clock. No need at all for any kind of apps (well, a calculator and a trivial memo app would be useful, but not essential), social networks, games, camera, music, bells or whistles. The only reason to have a smartphone over a "feature phone" is screen resolution adequate for the aforementioned occasional web/email usage.
Dear Reg, pretty please? A review of a few of those? Are there any?
Re: Sued over Model E?
@MrDamage: There already has been a big issue in Europe about a complete zero. Do you know how the iconic Porsche 911 got its model number?
Re: Best practice
This industry is in such a great shape because everyone follows the best practices.
Internet-connected locks, each with its own IPv6 address?... What could possibly go wrong?
The 21st century version
of MAD (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mutual_assured_destruction). Maybe not such a bad idea - after all, the world is still here...
[Choosing the most appropriate icon from the list.]
I mostly noticed the part that says
"The system would sense a device's proximity to other devices, networks or locations, before deciding the level of security that is required."
For the last, I don't know, ~15 years my mobile phones stopped locking the screen when "sensing proximity" to the car's BT hands-free kit. In a sense, it is a location determination: I am in my car, so I don't want to punch in my password and I am reasonably safe. If I forget the phone in the car but the engine is switched off the screen will be locked - smart, eh?
[Aside: my current "smart" phone can't do it out of the box, but there is an "innovative" app for that.]
Will all that start infringing on Apple's IP once they are granted the patent?
Re: Epic Fail
@Adrian 4: "is it the case that MPs are more likely to be acting criminally than the average MOTP ?"
Here are some plausible hypotheses for your consideration:
1) we mostly/only elect crooks;
2) only crooks ever want to be elected, hence #1 above;
3) neither #1 or #2, but power corrupts;
4) #3 or not, investigating MPs is so much more juicy than investigating MOTP that we tend to catch them with a higher probability;
5) maybe not even #4, but a crooked MP is more likely to hit a front page than a crooked MOTP.
No. But the contract might have specified the applicable jurisdiction (Washington in this case) in advance. Many contacts do. This is in general to the company's advantage, since in case of a dispute the employee, who normally has limited resources, will have to arrange for legal representation (and maybe appear in court) in a far away and often foreign land with unfamiliar laws.
... utterly insignificant ...
... little blue-green planet whose ape-descended life forms are so amazingly primitive that they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea.
I really, really could not resist... I'll get my towel now, thank you.
Those lusers will believe anything...
"Inbuilt stupidity limiter" in Excel? Who would ever believe THAT?!?!?
I have never heard of that particular dark corner of the Internet.
Now I find myself wondering if one could find a link to Yentl over there...
@Sander van der Wal: This is about galaxy clusters, as in "clusters of galaxies". What you mean is star clusters. The term "supercluster of galaxies" is very recent and refers to "clusters of cluster of galaxies" - this is not what the Bulbul et al. paper studies.
I wonder if there is a lawyertard lurking here to provide an explanation.
My layman's understanding is that illegally obtained evidence is inadmissible in court only in some jurisdictions. I am not sure whether it is a purely American notion, but I suspect that it might be, popular TV shows making it seem more widely applicable than it actually is. I am not sure whether it is, in fact, the norm in British courts (luckily I have not had sufficient experience). I think the prevailing notion on this side of the pond may rather be that evidence is evidence and if it was obtained illegally it's a separate matter from guilt or innocence that it proves. I may be horribly wrong and I will gladly be educated on the subject.
This layman's conviction that warrantless untargeted surveillance is evil and must be made illegal in any country that pretends to care about individual rights and freedoms does not conflict with the feeling (disclaimer: I am not familiar with the case) that the chap deserves a very long time in jail. But then, I am not American. If I were, I might think longer about what the implications are for the foundations of my country's legal system.
@Nick Ryan: I am with you. The only question is how your suggested enhancements will benefit from Internet connectivity. If someone leaves a fridge door open, how will an email or text to your cell phone in the middle of a working day facilitate closing it? And wouldn't it be better if the fridge just beeped if the door was not closed properly (after a certain short timeout maybe?) - before the guilty party leaves the house?
And as for midnight fridge raids, do you mean when you are on vacation with your other half and your teenage kids are home alone? Which of them are you going to call and scold at 3AM when your phone wakes you up in a hotel bed? Oh, I forgot: the fridge will take a picture of whoever opens the door at night and post it on Facebook, right? In a nightgown. Hopefully.
Re: There is very little doubt
<<That this "Internet of Things" is a totally unnecessary solution in search of an as-yet-non-existing problem - at least as far as the consumers are concerned.>>
It s not about the consumers' problems. The manufacturers will be thrilled to get together and agree to push only Internet-enabled household appliances emphasizing that, though they are a bit more expensive, your home and health insurance will be cheaper if you have full-on IoT. The insurance companies will monitor your consumption of everything at all times, and at some point down the road you will find that you are not covered because your family of four bought, put into the fridge, and took out (and thus presumably ate) 5% more processed read meat than the national average per person. Your car insurance will also go up because your fridge and your shelves figured out how many alcohol units you consumed every night (they'll know how many people were present at dinner, too), and whether or not your car was driven afterwards.
The possibilities are endless, but consumers are not the ones to enjoy them.
Re: Like Linux....
@ckm5: "you do realize the MSFT was one of the largest contributors to the Linux kernel at one point?"
You do realize the above statement, as worded, is basically a headline? Do re-read the article. At that point (2011) MSFT were the 17th largest *corporate* (i.e., not overall) contributor to the kernel, and that was right after their Hyper-V drivers, that had previously violated GPL, were accepted. About 7KLOC out of the total of about 15MLOC at the time.
MSFT do contribute to the kernel. Not enough to be counted as a top dog though.
Re: Named by whom?
@Malc: And what was the 'name' of the proto-Earth before the collision that went on to form the Earth and Moon?
Do you mean in Greek Mythology or in science? Might be the same, actually...
Selene's parents were Theia and her brother Hyperion. Their parents were Gaia (rings a bell?) and Uranus. So whether you stick to mythology or go all "scientific" (and adopt the view that Selene was born out of a chance encounter between Theia and... hmm... Gaia) it gets incestuous really fast. Nothing particularly unusual for Greek Mythology, mind you.
The scientific version will have less trouble with biological impossibility of Gaia and Theia producing offspring (consider Selene adopted by her grandmother) than with genealogy of Selene's brother Helios. Thus full reconciliation between science and mythology will require a bit more ingenuity.
*Pulling tongue out of cheek*
Re: El Reg's gloves come off
@moiety: The writers seem more pissed-off than usual too
Seems to be one guest writer for whom it is business as usual, actually:
Or is he on staff now?
May I just point out that the reference to "J'accuse" hardly fits the context? ;-)
More useful to look at those who do *not* buy
The cameras can provide information on the demographics of potential customers who do *not* buy anything, especially those who actually throw a glance but then just walk by. Much more useful than looking at the paying customers.
Might even be considered a valid market research application. Unless actual footage or snapshots are stored, and/or facial recognition is involved. Neither is really needed for the described application, but what are the chances?...
"once you count in driving to the store"
So going to the cinema is a crime against the planet, too?
@article: "NICE's Recording eXpress voice recording product <...> targets police and law enforcement agencies."
Huh? Isn't it a call centre recording product? You know, "some calls may be recorded to improve customer service"? Plus for compliance to all sorts of non-security-related regulations?
Not very useful stats?
So they have more men than women and are heavy on Asians at the expense of Hispanics/Latinos. Hardly surprising for a geeky American tech company. The proportion of whites does not seem to be too out of line for US.
I suspect the statistics of who actually work there are not very telling or useful for guiding the company's hiring policies. What about the demographics of applicants who get hired or rejected after personal interviews (as opposed to screening techniques that are designed to be gender- and ethnically blind and anonymous)? What about the statistics of non-anonymous CVs that are binned by HR - are females or Hispanics more likely to get rejected early? Is the ethnic mix wildly different from the relevant university departments? If they develop some measures along such lines and find out there is a bias they they can start thinking there may be a problem to address.
Re: Tree ring plus measured?
I must have slipped in my vigilance - not sure what denialist offensive you have in mind. Have not heard anything about tree rings for years.
I recall reading the first and then the second paper on tree rings as a proxy for historic temperature measurements. I am too lazy to check, and my memory may be faulty after all these years, but if it isn't the first sample consisted of 3 stumps, and the second - of 21 or so. Both samples were from basically the same place. I decided to discount all the conclusions that could be drawn from either sample (or both - it well may be that the samples were similar enough that the Simpson paradox would not manifest itself) regarding the temperature history for the planet as a whole at that point.
The cycle of change spins ever faster... Really?
Gliding over the dubious validity of overall comparisons between VMware, Hadoop, and NOSQL, let's take the statements in the article at face value.
So, VMware didn't have a serious effect on the industry for a decade? [I'd beg to differ, but I'll accept the statement for commentarding purposes]. But Hadoop "started to cause change" after 7 years (2005 to 2012, according to the article), and NOSQL "already having an effect" also after 7 years (2007 to, presumably, 2014)?
This does not show any significant acceleration. On the contrary, the timescales look very similar to me: 7 years - with "started" and "already" qualifiers - against 10 (or, arguably, quite a bit less)? Meh...
NB: The above does not, by itself, invalidate other main points of the article. But this particular argument does not hold water, IMHO.
 VMware had a very significant impact several years before 2008. From personal recollections, not only was it widely used for workstation virtualization by 2000-2001 (x86 *servers* were not as dominant then as they are now, btw), but starting from about 2004-2006 VMware was a really major platform for server and networking companies on the supply side, and (at least) big banks on the demand side (see also below). EMC bought it for $625M in 2004 - its impact had to be pretty obvious at the time (that's just 5 years after the first product release).
To emphasize the dubiousness of the article's comparison, VMware got a real boost after Intel and AMD built virtualization support into x86 (starting from 2006). This helped VMware win over paravirtualization (e.g., Xen, which is still kicking - think AWS and Citrix - but no longer has the performance advantages of the olden days).
Neither Hadoop nor NOSQL needed this kind of CPU redesign to take off. And still their industry penetration timescale is no faster. I would also argue VMware's impact is a lot wider - Hadoop and NOSQL are very significant niches, but niches nonetheless in comparison. Arguably (yes, one can argue both ways, so don't start), big banks alone were such a niche for VMware before 2008, comparable in scale to big data today.
A more direct comparison to VMware may be provided by KVM, which is already widely used in the Cloud even though its first *stable* release was just over 18 month ago. However, even KVM: a) was ready enough for Red Hat to buy Qumranet back in 2008 (and leveraged the pre-existing QEMU); b) didn't need to wait for CPU support, either, which helped; c) never had to fight for the basic virtualization business case as the pioneers - VMware and Xen - had won that battle several years earlier.
Re: Scale independence
@Dr Paul Taylor: I am a little surprised not to have seen the word "logarithm" in the article.
It is actually there if you look closely. ;-) [Hint: in the description of where Frank Benford started from.]
Understatement of the year?
Who had more beer last night: me, The Reg, or the Wayback Machine? Their announcement says FOUR HUNDRED BEEELLION pages. or at least that's what I saw. Twice.
What Java APIs?
Does this mean that IBM and others who have their own JVMs (presumably implementing the same APIs) are Oracle's next targets? I may misunderstand what APIs are the issue here. Enlightenment will be app...
Can't imagine a usable Windows system without it. Or without X that comes with it. Or without the multitude of familiar tools (bash being the first). Compared to the usual Linux/UNIX environment it has its quirks, but those can be forgiven.
A tunnel between Mainland China and Taiwan? Didn't Napoleon consider digging a tunnel under the Channel to invade Britain?
Back to the long haul plans: besides the purely engineering fascination with a project of this scale I am curious about business aspects:
1) IMHO, for passengers such a trip (London to Beijing or whatever) would be attractive only if it is made significantly cheaper than flights. Even a high speed train will be slower than flying long distances, and I expect the arrival/departure and the associated procedures, including security, to be essentially the same.
2) For cargo it will make sense only if there is enough demand for 2-4 day delivery of massive quantities of stuff, so that planes are not feasible and ships (or slow trains) are too slow. A side question: is it feasible to transport standard cargo containers on 350km/h trains?
Any pointers to a business analysis of question above will be followed with interest.
So these new guidelines are relevant to "police investigations". I presume "national security investigations" are another matter entirely.
Were mice involved?
Could not find an answer to the question on the project page.
The page was useful though: it clearly uses 3D volume (in Mpc^3), it is not clear to me where El Reg's number of "light-years squared" comes from. Another dubious piece of arithmetic concerns 3 months on 8K cores (El Reg says"processors", but I checked on the project page - 8192 cores) being equivalent to 2000 years on a "standard PC". That would imply that a standard PC has a single core - it was right at some redshift, but not at the time of writing.
Now, where did I put my towel?
Re: NAT has to go, no..
@itzman: "DNS contains in addition to destination address, a public key."
Unfortunately, you do a DNS query and you do not really know whose public key you got with the address...
Cool, we have unlimted power now! Wait...
I've read the paper. Frankly, it looks like it was written by students who attended exactly 1.5 lectures on plasma physics. And it does not contain any information that would *not* be included in the first 1.5 lectures in plasma physics in any university course.
If they only offered any feasible way to actually contain a hot plasma shield around a spacecraft - no, "you just need a sufficiently strong magnetic field" is not good enough as magnetic field does not contain plasma in all directions, that's what you normally learn in the second half of the second lecture in plasma physics - we would have controlled thermonuclear power by now. The problem of magnetic containment is what has been hindering the fusion efforts for the last few dozen years. The Earth's ionosphere that they quote as an example is held in place by gravity, not by magnetic field...
Re: As a scientist...as a one time industrial researcher
"If you are not going to produce a monograph on the subject..."
No, I am not going to. ;-) I absolutely do not disagree with any of your statements regarding smoking/cancer research. However, it takes you in a direction that is quite irrelevant to the point I tried to make. I made no claim whatsoever of trying to devise scientifically precise substitutes for the question, or of being an expert in this particular field any more than any reasonably educated person. The details of the state of the art in research are quite irrelevant. All I said that my scientific training and integrity[*] would compel me to choose the "low confidence" response to this question.
This makes the evident[**] premise that only an ignoramus would not be confident that "smoking causes cancer" completely false, IMHO, which was my whole point. (I do wonder if that one person who chose to answer "not at all confident" was the only scientist they asked.)
[*] A (somewhat, but not quite) similar example was given by Feynman in his "Cargo Cult Science" address - "Wesson oil does not soak through food." While Feynman used that example to emphasize the difference between advertising and science, my point is that here the pretence is that this is a scientific result regarding confidence or attitudes towards what is presented as scientific results (or, conversely, something completely unscientific, cf. the 'supreme being' question). The integrity standard has to be much higher (IMHO) than in ads. This questionnaire has a distinctly "cargo cult science" odour.
[**] It is as much evident as the expectation of the conventional understanding of "smoking causes cancer", which both you and I pointed out in our posts.
As a scientist...
...(and I am, with advanced degrees in some of the relevant fields, but you'll have to take my word for it) I must say that the questionnaire is scientifically illiterate in the extreme. None of the questions is formulated in any way that a scientist with understanding would give the "expected" answer to. I'd go over all of them if I had time or inclination, but I have neither.
Let me share my take on the 1st example: "Smoking causes cancer"? It's a headline, not a scientific statement. Smoking a cigarette a month, or even a week (that's both "regularly" and "fairly frequently", too) won't affect your health in any measurable way. Smoking 2 packs a day might. Even in that case, I, as a scientist, am not entirely sure that smoking that much "causes" cancer as opposed to "maybe weakens your body's defences so cancer is more likely to develop" or "is measurably correlated with incidence of lung and other types of cancers". I have never reviewed original studies to have any confidence that their results mean one or the other of the above statements regarding 2 packs a day habit. [I have, in the past, read several WHO reports on second-hand smoking and I know that the summaries say things that the bodies don't, and this does not improve my confidence in headlines.] My scientific integrity makes me insist that "smoking causes cancer" is a *scientifically* wrong statement. I realize that it relies on certain media and social conventions [akin to "assume 'smoking' == 'smoking an awful lot' && likely('causes' == 'observed together with')"] without saying so. In my (scientific) mind, such reliance completely defies the purpose of the questionnaire.
I can say similar things of just about every row in that table, but I'll spare you the (rest of the) noise.
I saw this reported elsewhere a few days ago and decided to see what spin El Reg [sic!] would put on the story. Not bad, overall, more details (I'd say, amusing, were it not for the context) than in mainstream British press. Much experience in Barrio Humedo, Lester?
However, it does seem that a 3 day calendar mistake by Co-op Bank is really not a big deal for your editors, at least under the influence of limonada: "until the Jews were expelled from Spain in the 14th century"- surely you mean the 15th century, eh? 1492, maybe?
Or were the good people of Castrillo Matajudíos really a century ahead of times?
Any idea what the mistake was?
Dates and calendars are, indeed, difficult, but how does one make a 3 day mistake? I am genuinely curious. The 365 day rule indicates that we are talking about calendar days, not business days vs. holidays, thus the problem is simpler. Anything related to leap years would cause a one day delay. Even pretending that there are 31 days in February is more likely to send the reports 3 days earlier, not 3 days later. The mind boggles...
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