* Posts by T. F. M. Reader

496 posts • joined 19 Dec 2012

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Canny Canadian PM schools snarky hack on quantum computing

T. F. M. Reader

Politics used to be a noble science

I do not follow Canadian politics or Trudeau, but this does not prevent me from making a few disinterested observations:

1. The offered explanation can only be judged impressive in comparison with Sen. Feinstein's grasp of number theory.

2. A political press event at a scientific establishment, and no one among the generally skeptical El Reg commentariat voices a suspicion the question could be a plant?

3. Successful politicians tend to know how to be charming, and how to engineer (sic!) situations to apply the charm.

I will see nothing wrong in the situation even if it proves to be a plant, but it's still not like he gave a coherent and informed speech on what D-Wave Systems' success could mean to the Canadian technology (preferably with a high level overview of the controversy about whether they have demonstrated any quantum features... no, that's me being snark...). That would both make him really stand out among the world's politicians and fall well within his remit as the Prime Minister.

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FBI v Apple spat latest: Bill Gates is really upset that you all thought he was on the Feds' side

T. F. M. Reader

Re: I don't quite get it...

No, Apple are not asked to write software that "breaks their own security". They are asked to write software that will exploit a weakness on a single device (an older model, newer models plug the hole) and will be useless for exploiting the same weakness of any other device, even if it gets into the wild.

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T. F. M. Reader

I don't quite get it...

Why doesn't the Government make whatever local government department in San Bernardino that owns the bloody phone make a request (and maybe also file an amicus brief or whatever lawyers call it with the court) to Apple to help them unlock their phone.

I may be naive, but it seems to me that Apple would lose the privacy argument if the legal owner of the phone asked them to unlock what, IIRC, the FBI locked - and the FBI would not object.

[I don't know who the other 12 phones belong to.]

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Intel shows budget Android phone powering big-screen Linux

T. F. M. Reader

Security model?

So what is the security model in this combo? Android's apps usually demand permission to do everything imaginable, including HW control, whether or not their primary function is related, and the security model is all or nothing: either agree or don't install, no granularity. Linux is a multiuser system with a relatively simple but robust and stable user/group/other model of permissions that is familiar, well understood, and works well in practice.

If the big idea behind the combo is having Android apps in the same system (including filesystem) as a desktop Linux, how will these two models co-exist? Will Android stuff run under a special euid? Will it be isolated from the rest of the system (Linux)? How?

If Intel "can go to production tomorrow" I assume they have the answers...

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Google goes over the top with RCS

T. F. M. Reader

"Google goes over the top with RCS"

Pheeww.... My first thought was Revision Control System... No, calm down: just messaging with NSA/FBI/LEO support... All is well...

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Coding is more important than Shakespeare, says VC living in self-contained universe

T. F. M. Reader

Apparently, Shakespeare is not essential for getting rich...

It might even hurt a VC professionally. E.g., I can understand that a VC would not regard "Neither a borrower not a lender be" a serious or useful advice.

And I have lost count of the occasions when I had to quote

We work by wit, and not by witchcraft,

And wit depends on dilatory time.

to various VCs and managers.

Admittedly, having read all of Shakespeare and being able to quote some stuff from memory did not make me rich. Not in a sense a typical VC could relate to, anyway.

[Aside: both quotes are by not the most attractive of Shakespeare's characters, but not the stupidest, either. A VC would probably point out that both were ultimately unsuccessful.]

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Reminder: iPhones commit suicide if you repair them on the cheap

T. F. M. Reader

Blow by blow analysis

@article: "Apple says that the policy is designed to keep users safe."

Why does it make no sense to me? Consider:

1. A member of the public (MOP) repairs his iPhone.

2. The iPhone works fine for quite a while after the repair. If there are any security issues because an unauthorized repair shop touched the device they are not noticed by the MOP. The firmware/OS does not tell him that there is unauthorized hardware in the device or anything of the kind. For all we know the MOP's personal information has been delivered to some volcano lair in Eastern Ukraine or wherever 3.5 seconds after the repair+boot, and the replaced fingerprint scanner recognizes the fingerprints of 11 well chosen henchmen with heavy accents.

3. A long time later an OS update bricks the iPhone.

How is item #3 a security feature exactly?

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Israeli drones and jet signals slurped by UK and US SIGINT teams

T. F. M. Reader

Where are those sensor suites and all their support equipment fabbed exactly ?

Probably in Israel, like your laptop's CPU.

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What do we do about a problem like Uber? Tom Slee speaks his brains

T. F. M. Reader

Re: Profit?

Judging by the link in the end of the article (which gives a blurb only before you hit a registration wall) apparently attempts - so far not very successful - to expand into China and India cost an awful lot.

Bribes? Dunno...

And all those servers and Big Data and analyzing how often an average customer visits hookers every month and how hot a typical French "driver-partner" is on a scale from 3 to 7 must have operating costs attached... To say nothing about office parties.

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Swivel on this: German boffins build nanoscale screwing engine for sluggish sperm

T. F. M. Reader

And the result will be...

... cyborgs?

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T'was the night before Christmas, and an industrial control system needed an upgrade

T. F. M. Reader

"hurl tin of alphabet soup at wall"

Larry Wall?

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Brazil gets a WTF WhatsApp moment

T. F. M. Reader

Re: What did the court orginally ask for?

It seems to me that in this case encryption is irrelevant.

WhatsApp encrypt messages only to make it difficult to eavesdrop in real time. If they do not keep the keys they presumably do not keep the messages past delivery since it would be a pointless waste of storage. Thus, a court request/order for past messages would be answered with a simple "we don't keep messages on our servers after they are delivered". The answer would be the same with or without encryption.

I also assume that if one changes one's phone there is no way to retrieve past WhatsApp messages from the servers, since there is no way to resurrect the keys. Can anyone confirm or deny? If there is such a way then I'll assume that the company could have complied with the court order...

I wonder if WhatsApp keep the metadata (who messaged whom when) and if metadata were requested.

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GCHQ creates Github repo, offers graph database code

T. F. M. Reader

"Feel free to insert your conspiracy theory"

Fine, here it goes...

"Built on maven"... Found impossible to maintain... Released as spin data to confuse the enemy?

[Disclosure: looked at maven once, a few years ago... Still shuddering uncontrollably...]

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'Dear Daddy...' Max Zuckerberg’s Letter back to her Father

T. F. M. Reader

Dear Mark, here is how you can really make your daughter's world better than ours...

Just shut down the company!

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T. F. M. Reader

Re: Perhaps, just perhaps...

@skeptical i: Many cultures still hold a "many children = much status" belief.

I doubt it is much about status or the other explanations you mention, although there may be some truth in each of them. Most of all I think it is an alternative to insurance and welfare. Western societies have this notion of paying taxes / life insurance / national insurance / medical insurance /etc. with the understanding that one will get support when one is unemployed, ill, old, injured, incapacitated, etc. Societies that do not have such a system create large families instead: some children will die young, some will turn out no good, some may become criminals and get thrown into jail, but there will still a couple or more who will work the fields, get a job at a factory or abroad and send money back home, and in general will support their parents when they grow old or fall ill.

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Yahoo! Mail! is! still! a! thing!, tries! blocking! Adblock! users!

T. F. M. Reader

Down the AOL way?

Ha-ha! I have an empty Yahoo! mail account I sometimes use to register on websites, mostly those that block Mailinator and such. I just logged in out of curiosity (I use AB+, but I am not in the US). In 2015 a grand total of two email arrived in my Inbox, but before I could see that I had to close a popup that offered me to integrate Yahoo!, Outlook, and ... AOL? Is that still a thing?

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California cops pull over Google car for driving too SLOWLY

T. F. M. Reader
FAIL

I lived in California back in the day, long enough to need to pass a driving test, both theory and practical exam. The "driving too slowly is just as dangerous as driving too fast and is just as big a crime against humanity" mantra is instilled into you so hard that you won't be able to free your brain from it by any surgical means. Until this day whenever I see a car (in a different part of the world) moving slower than the posted speed limit I can't help thinking, "in CA the Highway Patrol would have your ass by now, buddy."

I can only assume that no one at Google who is involved in the project has ever had to pass the DMV test. Otherwise there would be no talk of limiting the speed to 25mph "to look friendly and approachable".

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Linus Torvalds fires off angry 'compiler-masturbation' rant

T. F. M. Reader

It is quite instructive ...

... to read the thread in LKML (just go to the link to Linus's post and follow from there). The person who submitted the code immediately responded (no need for detective work), the network subsystem maintainer (Dave Miller) followed, the commit was reverted, a patch without the offending compiler wrapper was re-submitted.

It is obvious that despite the (characteristically) colorful language the criticism was understood by everyone involved to be professional and not personal, the reaction was professional as well, and the entire situation was handled intelligently and efficiently.

I suspect Linus knows very well that the somewhat impersonal nature of email provides for additional tolerance of colorful vocabulary, and the strong language is probably both a personal trait and a tool. When he makes a technical point he does it forcefully, and this makes him more effective in the absence of personal interaction.

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Wait a minute, Doc! Are you telling me that you built a self-driving car ... out of a DeLorean!?

T. F. M. Reader

Essential facts missing from the report...

Does it have a flux capacitor or not?

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'Traditional' forms of thuggery decline in UK, cybercrime on the rise

T. F. M. Reader

The REAL reason for decline in traditional crime

"from 19 million incidents a year in 1995 to under 7 million a year today"

So ONS sorta-kinda attributes this to traditional crims going digital, eh? I think it's a safe bet that at least some politicians - and media - will claim this to be a wild success of ubiquitous CCTV and will demand even more surveillance to protect the public even better.

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SYNful Knock is no Stuxnet, says researcher

T. F. M. Reader

Re: Nation state resources...

I was alluding to Stuxnet which SYNful Knock obviously isn't (see the article's title).

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T. F. M. Reader

Nation state resources...

...are not needed to write malware. They are needed to get a few SCADA systems and at least a decent simulator of a nuclear site those systems are supposed to control, to test your malware before you commit your sneakernet to installing it.

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'We jokingly call Apple the Tesla graveyard. Cook gets our sloppy rejects. LOL'

T. F. M. Reader

Re: Response we'd like to see from Tim Cook, but won't...

@ecarlseen: "every dime of profit"

Eh, did you mean revenue? I don't really know about the other two companies - they are private and information is not easy to obtain - but Tesla is most definitely not profitable. I would be very much surprised if either SpaceX or SolarCity turned out to be profitable, actually. This, of course, only strengthens your comment about tax handouts.

SpaceX seems to be at least two orders of magnitude more efficient than NASA

Is that "efficient" in terms of what they deliver at what price? If you are not profitable then you certainly can seem more efficient. Besides, it is not clear to me what is meant by "NASA's efficiency" - the US space program has always been driven by private enterprise, it's not like NASA build rockets themselves (they do make landers and rovers). So, SpaceX should probably be compared to ULA (Lockheed + Boeing) who make Delta and Atlas rockets. Again, this does not necessarily invalidate your statement (e.g., ULA certainly feel cost pressure from SpaceX, albeit not by 2 orders of magnitude), but it could benefit from some clarification.

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White House 'deeply disappointed' by Europe outlawing Silicon Valley

T. F. M. Reader

Re: Serious question

@AC: "Never wondered why most of the websites where they have to ask permission have two tickboxes, one for the privacy terms and one for the T&Cs? Well, that is what "explicit" means, you are not allowed to hide such approval in the usual 6 point grey-on-white clauses at the end of another agreement..."

a) I must be using a different Internet from you. b) I looked it up (gotta justify my Reg handle): the EC Privacy Directive talks about "unambiguous" rather than "explicit" consent.

Go through the motions of creating a new Google account (that's the way to provide Google with your "personal information"). I just did. There is a single checkbox that you tick to agree to both Terms and Privacy Policy. If you check it, you have unambiguously (and explicitly - not just "by using our services") agreed to them. It is up to you to actually read them. Google explicitly express their hope that you read them carefully, but I seriously doubt many punters do.

The terms very clearly allow Google to use the information they collect, including your "personal information" (the terms for "personal information" are more restrictive than, say, for your IP address and search queries), in all sorts of interesting ways worldwide[*]. This means (IANAL) that even today these terms go way beyond the Safe Harbour agreement that, as far as I understand, covers data sharing between the EU and the US. [Google is on the Safe Harbour List, in case anyone wonders.]

The way I(ANAL) interpret it no Safe Harbour is necessary since Google's privacy policy seem to comply with the EU Data Protection Directive (specitically, Article 26(1)(a) that deals with "unambiguous consent") as far as the users' personal information is concerned. Quite a few formulas in the privacy policy correspond quite directly to the Directive. Finding examples is left as an exercise for the reader.

So what's about to change as far as Google are concerned if the Safe Harbor Framework is torn up?

Things may get more difficult for (smaller and less scary?) companies with lazier lawyers and product managers than Google. I suspect they'll just have to reword their privacy policy in more specific terms and maybe implement a few opt-ins and opt-outs which should not be terribly difficult.

[*] To quote: "Google processes personal information on our servers in many countries around the world. We may process your personal information on a server located outside the country where you live. " You have unambiguously agreed to that when you created an account.

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T. F. M. Reader

Serious question

IANAL. I must admit I have but a very vague idea what kinds of "personal data" the EU protects and how. It stands to reason that there is some sort of "without explicit permission" clause. Otherwise all sorts of simple things that we all take for granted may suddenly become illegal. If countries A and B mandate that their citizens' "personal data" must be stored within their respective borders where can emails - arguably full of personal data and metadata - between citizens of these two countries be stored? And so on.

I may be naive but I doubt even EU bureaucrats can by a stroke of legal pen prevent Europe's citizens from willingly dealing with American businesses. Today, I mean - in another 20 years we'll see.

And if there is an "explicit permission" provision then an awful lot of endangered good-paying American jobs can be saved by simply updating the TOS with paragraph 11.4(g) that says, "you give us explicit permission ..." if it is not already there.

So what really is the threat to Facebook? Can El Reg maybe commission a lucid explanation from Tim, Lewis, Andrew, or a pet international lawyer?

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Lawyers win big in LinkedIn's $13m email spam lawsuit (you might get $10, maybe more)

T. F. M. Reader

Lawyers hit an easy target

1. I don't know anyone who has knowingly given LinkedIn permission to go over his/her contacts - that would be necessary to prompt the user to send an invite.

2. I definitely received invitations and reminders to email addresses that could not possibly be in the contact lists of the people who invited me. And I asked them to check - they weren't.

3. Whenever I talked to people who had sent me the invites they said they had been firmly under the impression that I was a LinkedIn user (had joined shortly before, whatever). No one realized that LinkedIn prompted them to invite me to join the network, not just connect on it. My friends know I am not on social networks, and they would not pester me with invitations. But if the impression was that I joined LinkedIn of my own volition, that's another matter.

Conclusions:

A. LinkedIn do not explicitly ask for a user's permission to sift through their contact lists.

B. They use more sophisticated and sinister methods of metadata analysis to connect people than just going through the users' contact lists.

C. They do not tell users that they will be inviting others to join LinkedIn as opposed to join them on LinkedIn, which is misleading.

Now, will anyone tell the lawyers they can sue again?

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The Steve Jobs of supercomputers: We remember Seymour Cray

T. F. M. Reader

Nitpicking

Before Roadrunner there was Blue Gene. I am really surprised it is not mentioned, all the more so that even the current Top500 list has 3 Crays and 4 Blue Gene/Qs in the top 10, and that's a hell of an achievement for both Cray and IBM.

And Roadrunner was based on Cell processors (i.e., PowerPC cores), not AMD as the article claims.

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Mars water discovery is a liberal-muslim plot, cry moist conspiracy theorists

T. F. M. Reader

Re: Mars is Red!

Liquid water is just the first step!!! NASA are presenting Mars as GREEN!!! To pander to both liberals and Muslims!!!

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FATTIES have most SUCCESS with opposite SEX! Have some pies and SCORE

T. F. M. Reader

Has anyone checked...

...whether being trim and healthy is positively correlated with being truthful about past sexual experiences?

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MACAQUE ATTACK: Monkey plunders Florida resident's box, gobbles contents

T. F. M. Reader

"Tampering with mail being a felony offence in the US."

Re the monkey in the headline image: with rights come responsibilities, so if a monkey can have IP rights to a selfie then a monkey should do time for tampering with mail.

In a cage, yes... Oh...

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Now you can be tracked online by your email addy. Thanks, Google!

T. F. M. Reader

Now, El Reg, do come clear...

Was the three part series of "build your own mail server" articles a clever warm-up for this?

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Controversial: The future is data integrity, not confidentiality

T. F. M. Reader

He is enough of a politician...

...to choose his blood type as an example. He might not care about people knowing that, but he (or someone else) might care about, say, information of chronic illnesses he might have, and that information might well be in the very same database.

So, thank you for integrity, but I will insist on confidentiality as well.

And while the principle that you should know who has looked at your data sounds very nice indeed, I am sure there are exceptions even in Estonia. What about bona fide crime investigations, for instance? That would be a case for allowing certain officials to look at a suspect's data without alerting him. Court approval, you say? By all means, but we have already seen how that can be subverted under certain circumstances ("national security" by one definition or another) in ostensibly free and democratic countries.

It is refreshing indeed to see a technically literate head of state. However, he does seem like a start-up founder in an elevator. Before there is a successful, stable, useful, supported product he must realize that there is a place for people who gather, analyse, and formalise product requirements, too. The result may be not quite similar to his first dream.

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More email misery and pillory for Hillary as FBI starts quizzery

T. F. M. Reader

Re: Email

@AC: "Can Donald use a computer?"

He has an Apprentice to do that.

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These US Presidential contestants can't even secure their websites – what hope for America?

T. F. M. Reader

Can the results be construed...

...as indicators of which of the candidates are capable of hiring decent help and competent advisors? Surely a necessary qualification to running a government? And arguably much more important than being personally well versed in the minutiae of every single issue.

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Apple VICTORY: Old Samsung phones not sold any more can't be sold any more

T. F. M. Reader

Re: I missed that one!

"So hyperlinks and click to call?"

No, those are the results, not the algorithm. The algorithm is... let me waddle through the legalese... not quite clear... anyway, I assume it is just a regular expression or two, quite obvious to those of us who are "skilled in the art", but not to the USPTO.

The mind boggles.

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Chipzilla has its knockers … and now they’re cool in this venting sports bra

T. F. M. Reader

Intel Inside?

Won't that mean constant overheating? Won't those vents just stay wide open all the time?

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Tech turned on its head: 'Dislike' button in Facebook, pay Snapchat $1 to defuse self-destructing sexy selfies

T. F. M. Reader

"I wish to dislike facebook.com"

What's stopping you? Just map it to 127.0.0.1 in /etc/hosts - done.

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BAN the ROBOT WHORES, says robot whore expert: 'These AREN'T BARBIES'

T. F. M. Reader

Citation needed

I looked at the reference list of the good Dr.'s "Research-Position Paper" and there is a glaring omission: "Satisfaction Guaranteed" by Dr. Isaac Asimov. I strongly suspect it may take the research - and position - to entirely new directions. The good Dr. may also expand the scope of her research after studying Dr. Asimov's "Evidence", too.

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Burn ALL the COAL, OIL – NO danger of SEA LEVEL rise this century from Antarctic ice melt

T. F. M. Reader

@AC: "If you read the actual academic article..."

I have. I admit I just read it and I did not go into the details of the Parallel Ice Sheet Model or the GENIE Earth system model (I once looked into that to the extent of the open literature, but I assume there have been significant advances since). So I can't review the methodology, which I would do if I were doing a peer review. I will offer some observations to those who cannot be bothered.

1. I do not see Lewis making any misrepresentations. He takes just one aspect of the results, and not the main one from the authors' PoV, but his understanding of that aspect is correct. Lewis, the authors of the paper, and IPCC (I mentioned that in an earlier and shorter post) all agree - imagine that! Kudos to Lewis for digging into "supplementary data" - the main paper does not deal with such small scales - a mere century is not worth much attention, after all.

2. The larger scale (think millennia) Fig 3 provides an interesting reference number: "Between 2010 and 2014, there has been an increase in cumulative emissions of about 40 GtC." [GtC stands for Gigatonne of Carbon - TFMR]. That's about 8GtC/yr during these last 5 years (NB: there isn't much history of anthropogenic carbon emissions). The authors then run a range of models that go up to 80GtC/yr at peak. The burn rate is not uniform, but they assume that within 500 years we will have nothing to burn, anyway (this is me being Lewis-y, apart from the 500 years figure that comes from the paper). To their credit the post-2010 cumulative emissions cover a wide range - they don't just focus on the worst-case scenario.

3. They make assumptions that the effect will last tens of thousands of years. I can't say without further reading how well-justified the assumption is. The justification is based on another assumption that if you pump a lot of CO2 into the atmosphere the mitigating effect of the oceans will be weaker than what is observed. I seriously doubt we know enough of the relevant properties of our oceans to state this as a fact. I suspect it is a result of some other (uncertain) model, but I cannot state that as a fact. I also don't know whether the models take into account, e.g., that the resulting carbon will block sunlight sufficiently to reduce warming (don't be surprised, such things are often omitted).

4. In any case, they have a very short observation period to get any input for their models, or to estimate parameters. They extrapolate their results to many millennia though. Under their assumptions and models, if you keep pumping 8GtC/yr on average for 500 years (that's 4000GtC cumulative emissions in their parametrisation), the Antarctic will lose a significant proportion of ice, and the sea level will be rising at a rate of ~2m/century for the 1st millennium from now, and slower after that (this is from the same Fig 3 mentioned above). Given that fossil fuels have been in use for a lot less than 500 years and there is no reason to assume they will remain our main source of energy for that long, I am not terribly worried.

5. This extrapolation does not make the paper completely useless academically, far from that. It should not, however, support any "We are DOOMED, I tell you!!!" screams or used to justify any spending of taxpayers' money beyond research grants that are a drop in the ocean (pardon the pun) anyway.

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T. F. M. Reader

Re: Eh?

The caption (not written by Lewis - this will teach him to provide enough context...) reads: "Fig. S2: Sea-level change within the next century. Given is the ice volume change from Antarctica in meters sea-level equivalent within the 21st century." [boldface mine - TFMR]

Actually, the caption goes on to say, "The values are consistent with the IPCC-AR5 projections for the Antarctic Ice Sheet which range from -6 to 14 cm within the 21 century." Thus, according to the paper, IPCC, and Lewis Page the sea may rise a bit or actually recede a bit by the end of the century. Hmmm...

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Drum roll, please .... Results are in for the collective noun for security vulns

T. F. M. Reader

Re: we're offering all seven of those that did well in the poll ...

@ElRegUser007: "What's the collective noun for collective nouns?"

A homology or autology? I have a mild stylistic preference to the first one.

See Grelling-Nelson paradox for the inspiration.

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What time is it Oxford Dictionaries? How about almost ‘beer o’clock’

T. F. M. Reader

Mx.?

This was the most surprising inclusion for me. My first thought was that it stood for "Minx". Then I looked it up...

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New low for humanity: ONE BEELLION lost souls log on to Facebook in one day

T. F. M. Reader

New low indeed...

Everybody logged to Facebook to see who of their buddies found what in Ashley Madison dumps?

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Security for those who know they can't win the security war

T. F. M. Reader

Missed a statistics lesson?

Lesson well and truly learned: most laptops that are stolen are by opportunistic thieves.

If I understood the article correctly, that conclusion is based on a sample of 1, right?

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Glaring flaw in Apple car hype-gasm: The iGiant likes to make money

T. F. M. Reader

Who cares how profitable the auto industry is?

Build a "revolutionary" Kia, charge as if it were a Lamborghini, enjoy the gross margin... Offer financing at a particularly high interest rate to every barista who absolutely must have the newest model.

This is not a jibe at Apple. They are rather amazingly successful doing exactly that (minus financing?) in a very crowded industry that is supposed to be extremely competitive and where margins should be low. There is no reason why they shouldn't be able to pull the same trick again. Except the auto industry might not be as forgiving when Mr. Cook tells someone the brakes didn't work because he was pressing the pedal wrong. The attitudes towards patented rounded corners may turn out quite different, too. But those are different - and not necessarily compelling - arguments.

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What Ashley Madison did and did NOT delete if you paid $19 – and why it may cost it $5m+

T. F. M. Reader

Re: Greasy

Full delete means there are no records kept.

Is it really true, ever? Does anyone scrub backups?

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Net neutrality: How to spot an arts graduate in a tech debate

T. F. M. Reader

Re: Poor analogy

If you want to go down that road (sorry...), how about the fastest motorways being toll roads (same price for everyone, and no one is excluded, but you have to pay it on top of the taxes if you wish to use high bandwidth, low latency pipes)? And if you pay a moderate fee in advance your packets get a special flag in the headers so that they don't sit in buffers at ingress or egress points and are switched using separate high priority queues with lower latency? Will that still be considered neutral?

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US military says it will discipline Ashley Madison users

T. F. M. Reader

@AC : "Don't be silly."

Back to you. How many of those who used their military email addresses actually browsed to the site and emailed their "dates" from their service computers? While on duty? There will be logs, caches, cookies, backups, all sorts of records. Won't be difficult to prove in the majority of cases, if the military takes it seriously.

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BOFH: Why, I LOVE work courses. Please tell me more, o wise one!

T. F. M. Reader
Pint

"real reasons for plying administrative assistants with alcohol" - have a pint, Simon!

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ZUCK OFF: Facebook nixes internship after student embarrasses firm

T. F. M. Reader

Conflict of interest

I looks like FB are, not unexpectedly, in the wrong w.r.t. privacy and handling the "feature" both before and after exposure. The young man in question, however, should have realized that he was facing a conflict of interest (do they teach that at Harvard?). A responsible thing would be approach the (prospective?) employer, disclose the issue and the exploit, ask what the employer's position on public disclosure would be (the expected "don't even think about it" and the more reasonable "thank you, give us 30 days, we'll fix it and publish it, crediting you" would be among possible responses), and then decide whether to go public against FB's will or accept the internship offer, sign the confidentiality clauses, and keep mum. It would be clear then that the first choice, while, arguably, admirably ethical, would be incompatible with the expectation of employment. As far as I understand, the guy went ahead with public disclosure without even approaching his prospective employer. He may feel ethically in the right, but he should have realized he was closing any doors a FB for himself. Not a huge loss, if you ask me, but then don't make it an issue.

The guy clearly shows technical ability and some aspects of commitment to ethics. However, I probably would not hire him, either. I would expect from an employee who finds an issue with my company's product to work internally to resolve it (and to disclose the conflict of interest regarding the ethical responsibility). And if the issue is not resolved to his/her satisfaction, then don't expect to remain employed if you break a confidentiality clause, even for a good reason. If you get fired for it then you may think the employer acted unethically, but that's still a breach of contract. (Do you want to be employed at an unethical company, by the way?) I would not hire someone who is likely to publish stuff on a personal blog without going through internal channels first.

So, while I share everybody's sentiment about FB's attitude to privacy in general and in this case in particular I cannot fault them for withdrawing the internship offer.

NB: Whether or not the internship is paid or not, and whether or not one is employed or just offered employment, and whether or not a contract (and confidentiality clauses therein) has been signed or not is, IMHO, immaterial w.r.t. the conflict of interest question.

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