* Posts by Lee D

482 posts • joined 14 Feb 2013

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El Reg Redesign - leave your comment here.

Lee D
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Re: Another bug?

At least we have replies now, and seemingly by the designers?

The problem is one of natural scanning.

I could zip down the old webpage, and my eyes would pick out anything there in seconds. I'd often open 5-10 articles within a quick scan and then read those at my leisure.

Now, it just doesn't do that any more. It's not just "the change", my eyes don't work on this site like they used to and still do on other sites.

The fact that the colours are all the same blends it into one mass. There's nothing to highlight headlines but slightly larger text. And the first page of text used to be nothing more than the most read (or most interesting, or whatever) headlines with a thumbnail. Now it's a huge damn image. I get literally three article headlines on the first page without scrolling now. It used to be 12, plus the featured. I'm running on 1920 x 1080, by the way. It's hard to imagine that it's a huge percentile running higher res displays than that. But 2/3rds of my screen are plain white while I do that, and I can't see a thing.

I don't use the top-bar at all. It's worthless. I click to read an article, direct to the content. I have literally JUST seen what people mean by the dropdown, because I would never use it. Inside the articles, yeah, fairly similar, but it's now wall-of-text-like because of the colouration (? I'm not sure).

The top-bar was always there. Now it's moved and changed. For what purpose?

The featured articles were always there. Now they're four times as large and as wide as the screen. For what purpose?

The logo was always there. Now it's jumped down under an advert (presumably the driver for this design).

There's gaps between all these layers, that weren't there before, so it's shoving content further off the page for no reason.

The surrounding was grey before, now it's white, which is a complaint many have.

There's nothing stopping the black headlines being blue like before, the background being grey like before, the gaps disappearing, the featured articles going back how they were etc. But then you are basically on the old design again.

Hence I don't see quite what you've gained except vitriol.

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Lee D
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Re: Another bug?

What about the glaring design bugs?

Hell, there could be an article from you somewhere about this and I wouldn't even know... so hideous to try to parse the frontpage.

Guys, tell us something, or are you just hoping the furore will disappear if you do nothing for long enough?

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Lee D
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700 Posts later

700 Posts later... where are we Reg?

Are you going to fix it, revert it, or blindly stomp onwards with it?

It kinda matters to me - I need to know whether to remove it from my "start page" of bookmarks....

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Lee D
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"This is going well … just letting you know that we are listening to your feedback on the redesign."

Er... unless you have some kind of profanity filter that changes all the comments I've seen into positive things about bunnies... no, you're not.

"And also reminding you that this design is the first major change to the site in six years."

Six years is NOT a long time. Not at all. And you can lose half your readership in minutes. The reason you don't do major redesigns is that, online, it's like a brand makeover. You only do it if you have something you wish to hide, and people will never like it.

"However, 90 per cent of the work in this redesign comprises changes under the hood that allow us to test and roll out iterations very quickly."

Then why not start with the new system that allows changes, but with a replica of the old design? Then roll out changes one at a time. Like, you know, upgrades, testing, smooth transitions, etc.

"We have introduced a half-second delay before the mouseover triggers the drop down navbar."

You fixed a bug.

"Readers have reported two bugs"

You fixed more bugs.

What you haven't fixed is the DESIGN. And given that it's the design people are moaning about, maybe fix that too? Or is this a "we spent money on a new design, so sod you if you don't like it" kind of deal? Like Slashdot's overhaul? That went down well.

"On the loss of the print icon - rarely used, not coming back - and bemoaned by a couple of readers. We still support this feature and you are welcome to get hacking."

I read: We don't care that you used to use it, we don't care that it would be the work of moments to get it going again, you can do it your damn self if you want it.

Nice way to treat readers.

Honestly? I will have more respect for The Reg is they backtracked and then brought things in piecemeal than did this "Here, shove that down your throat and tell us how good we are".

And, guys? SSL or IPv6, I'd have applauded. And it would have required ZERO DESIGN SKILLS.

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Lee D
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Sigh.

Stop. Please.

Take that money away from your web designers. Go back to the "old" way.

Give the money to your server people instead.

Have them buy an SSL certificate, and spend a day making the site IPv6-capable.

You know, like a tech site.

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Plusnet could face DATA BREACH probe over SPAM HELL gripes

Lee D
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Re: Don't use <companyname>@yourdomain...

I'm sure they will.

When I notice even the first one, I'll start adding random numbers to the end, or some kind of mental-arithmetic-compatible checksum on the end (number of vowels in the company name prefix?).

That's not a problem. And if it really comes to it, there's software that will create SHA hash-named accounts for you and let you trace to within 1 in 2^160 uncertainty that the email was given out by the company you gave it to.

But, to be honest, I highly doubt no-one tried to spam "e-frag" until the month after I signed up for a gameserver from them, or pizzagogo just 2 weeks after I ordered my first pizza online and yet NOT ONE OTHER company name was guessed at my domains (plural).

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Lee D
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I get about four or five of these incidents a month.

I use unique addresses for EVERYTHING. I'm very careful to always press the buttons to NOT send me third-party email etc.

Yet four or five times a month, some email of mine that I've entrusted to a company will get spammed. It's not some evil conspiracy of PlusNet, but it only takes a single rogue employee with access to the database. Those kinds of things sell very well, you know.

Just this month:

cheapflights@

macromedia@

pizzagogo@

e-frag@

securityfocus@ (likely a Usenet scrape)

bitcoin-24@

huntersscan@

PlusNet don't have my business any more, since the BT takeover, but I'm sure I wouldn't be surprised to see their name in there either.

Once had a guy from a company spam me to rm@ (I work in schools, RM are a major supplier for some places). When I dug into it, he was a former employee that had left the company to start his own selling IT furniture to schools... someone obviously decided to just walk off with the RM company database to start their own company with those contacts.

I complained, nothing much was done. Nothing much CAN be done. Once your address is out there, it's out there.

If you want to control it, buy the cheapest domain from the cheapest registrar, set up email forwarding (literally one click usually) and then start using companyname@yourdomain.com for everything. When one gets spammed, block anything sent To: that address in whatever account you forwarded it to.

Hell, I even write in the SMTP reject message why:

Recipient address rejected: Account has been spammed by the company given that email. All emails blocked.

Don't have just one email. Have an infinite number of throwaway ones.

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BYOD: How to keep your data safe on their mobile devices

Lee D
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Re: Wonderfull snakeoil

And if it's encrypted, all you've done is removed the encryption key from RAM and made it absolutely inaccessible.

Have you not noticed that all iPhones and Android machines now support encryption of the base device, the SD card, etc. as a one-click option?

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Lee D
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Re: Wonderfull snakeoil

There has never, in human history, been a case of someone being able to read overwritten sectors on a magnetic hard drive. There was a prize for such a few years back - an unclaimed million dollars which, by your reckoning, any one of these data recovery companies could have picked up by doing what they do every day.

Similarly, for flash etc. chips, the same is true. "Magnetic" or "electronic" history does not exist.

Therefore, if you overwrite every sector, or encrypt every sector and overwrite the key, the device's data is gone forever. What the passphrase is to that key is another matter but, again, overwrite the sector that holds the key and it's gone forever.

So, please, stop spreading misinformation. The ability to remote-wipe is critical to the Data Protection Act and myriad other pieces of legislation that require such controls. And you can have high-confidence that, suitably encrypted, any device is impenetrable and - if it ever comes online - remote wipe will pretty much guarantee removal of access to the data on it.

(Data recovery firms work by mechanically replacing parts of the hard drive to get it working again, in a sterile environment. It's a costly and expensive process but it can't work miracles. After that, all they do is repeated reads - usually through specialist write-blocking devices so they don't interfere with data for legal reasons in court cases - until they have as much of the data back as they can get. Then they reconstruct what they can and put it back into the formats you expect. They are nowhere near miracle workers and will often charge you full price and then say, sorry, this is all we could get back. I know of a school that paid £10k to restore their RAID set after they found out their IT guy wasn't backing up and the server failed - it cost that much to read off the data from old, bad-sectored hard drives that had been working fine but merely crashed mid-write. Even with a degraded RAID set to work from, they got back only 80% of their data, the rest was corrupt. Data recovery is about data reconstruction, not miracle-methods to get back data that's been overwritten - and a lot of it can rely on the fact that "deletion" is not "overwriting", in just about every major operating system).

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Microsoft BEATS Apple, Google ... to accepting limited Bitcoin payments

Lee D
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Re: Bitcoin is better than currency in that you don't have to be physically in the same place

It might well be approaching fifteen years in a row that I've done the vast majority of my Christmas shopping online, and 8 or so where it was basically done it exclusively online with only impulse buys at physical stores to soak in the Christmas atmosphere.

Can't say that Bitcoin would have helped much in that respect, but quite right - being in the same CONTINENT as your seller is quite old-fashioned nowadays.

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1&1 goes titsup, blames lengthy outage on DDoS attack

Lee D
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Re: yes...

If you think that's all 1&1 do you might want to look at their website.

Last time I dealt with them, I was pricing up a "hexi-deca-core" dedicated server at something ludicrous like £1000 a month, but that was a few years ago.

Granted, they aren't the best out there, but if you can't get into the domain management interface to manage things that may be relevant to a £12k per annum server, it's a bit more serious than grandpa not being able to get on his family photos site.

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97% of UK gets 'basic' 2Mbps broadband. 'Typical households' need 10Mbps – Ofcom

Lee D
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Re: very misleading headline.

Not really.

If that 97% were getting 24mbps, it would soon bring up the average much quicker than you suggest.

Given that basic offerings now are ADSL2+ at 24mbps, or VDSL at anything up to 80Mbps, with Virgin cable going into ridiculous speeds, and even 4G networks giving me 25Mbps+ in both directions, I wouldn't be surprised at all.

Don't forget, they are using the theoretical maximum for the most part - just because I don't want to pay a small fortune for 120Mbps cable, that means nothing to the statistics. Technically I'm counted as that speed because it's available to me, not because I'm actually using it.

So you have an awful lot of the population on 24Mbps at least, even if they are cheap packages and dodgy phone lines. It's only the 3% out in the sticks where the ISP's cannot even guarantee basic ADSL that bring the numbers down.

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Lee D
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Re: Typical households need 10Mbps

Renew your tax disc if you work and your local post office is closed at 5:00:00.000001 pm.

Submit your tax return using the much easier online system.

Do your legally-required kids homework that's heavily online-based nowadays as school more to virtual learning environments.

Do online banking to pay your bills.

Comparison shop among suppliers of basic utilities.

Research legal issues, benefit entitlement, etc. online.

Apply for jobs (good luck doing this offline nowadays,with anything but manual-labour jobs).

Research, and vote, political candidates online.

There's a TON of things that need half-decent Internet access, and 56K modems aren't any good for people any more. If you have a household of average proportions, and even if you decide to do without all the above (somehow), it's making your life harder than necessary, killing trees, increasing costs and making everything take longer than the digital alternative would.

Hell, my doctor's surgery sends prescriptions electronically now.

The digital world is coming, and much like electricity was new once, it will soon become (if it hasn't already) a utility service. And that means a service obligation of a pittance of megabits (my phone can do three times 10mbps on a £10 a month basic package) to ensure that people can do them without being conned into oblivion by their ISP.

At one time, landlines weren't available to all, water wasn't available to all, gas wasn't available to all, sewage wasn't available to all, electricity wasn't available to all, postal services weren't available to all, etc. When we realised the benefits - not just for the householder but overall as a populous - they were mandated and regulated to ensure continuous service.

The government probably saves SO MUCH MONEY by offering online services for things like tax returns that it's happy to FORCE ISP's to provide a basic service so that they can move everyone over to it.

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Zombie POODLE wanders in, cocks leg on TLS

Lee D
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There seems to be a need for a central page somewhere that says, quite simply:

What protocols are safe.

How to configure popular software to use those protocols.

And it updates, say, once every year or in the event of a major incident.

Many of the IT people I know aren't aware of these issues, or of the way to avoid them on their networks, and with the ever-changing climate it's important to not carry old knowledge forward.

I have a browser that let's me checkbox individual SSL/TLS protocols, and I read a fair few tech websites, so I'm fairly confident I'm safe but it would be nice - when setting up a new network - to just have one well-known website to go to that tells me, no, I shouldn't be using WPA or TLS 1.2 or whatever.

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Ten Linux freeware apps to feed your penguin

Lee D
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Re: freeware?

It's not "one or the other" no matter how GNU might want to paint it, it's a hierarchy.

Inside "Software" is "Freeware". Inside that is closed-source freeware and open-source freeware. Using one term that encompasses more than you intend is fine, it would be the other way round that's dangerous (e.g. saying they were "open" tools but they were really just freeware).

And the definition of freeware as such far predates anything GNU might have come up with. They just don't like the term "open source freeware" - which is EXACTLY what they make.

It's an overlap in a Venn diagram between free/commercial and open/closed source. Demanding that people are ultra-specific about it is one way to really put people off. It's freeware. It just happens to be open-source too. There is plenty of open-source non-freeware and vice versa to distinguish.

Nobody elected FSF/GNU the authority on what every category of software should be referred to as, and thank God for that...

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Outage STILL hitting Virgin Media Business broadband customers

Lee D
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Re: Time to fix.

I agree that things break and it's better to prepare for and expect that than cry because of something out of your control not working.

My phone just activated itself on 4G and actually beats a lot of broadband offerings in the local area (certainly ADSL2+) - in a pinch, I'd happily run a business off that no matter how unofficial it was. I have, in fact, done exactly that in a school with 500 users that was cut off by their ISP for "using more than an ordinary residential house" - on business broadband that the ISP had installed on-premises themselves! While the bursar yelled at them and stoked up the lawyers, we ran the school for a couple of weeks on 3G sticks, and nobody really noticed. (Needless to say, the contract was terminated despite their protests and we went with an alternative supplier entirely).

That said, like the other article about bricking a NAS device, don't update firmware without a reason. Windows Updates, you can roll-back or re-image. Device drivers you can uninstall and reinstall. Software you can restore to a previous incarnation most of the time. But firmware is all-or-nothing. Don't do it without good reason, and certainly don't do it automatically on critical hardware the second it comes out. If I were Virgin, I'd have watchdogs on the firmware that auto-rolled-back if they didn't come up on the new firmware within five minutes. The cost of just a handful of incidents like this justifies the extra development cost, and it's a pretty ordinary thing to do (most routers, most servers, etc. already do this for firmware/BIOS).

And you do have backups for your business-critical connection, don't you? Like a cheap / free ADSL line on another line? Or 3G/4G? Or even just sharing the neighbouring businesses wireless temporarily? No? Shame. My interest level plummets in that case.

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Microsoft hikes support charges by NINETY TWO PER CENT

Lee D
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Re: It isn't extortion, just check your EULA

If you believe that the EULA is the be-all-and-end-all of Microsoft's (or your!) contractual obligations to a consumer, I'm afraid you're very wrong.

That said, this falls under the same category as things like cars. I don't expect Ford to rush out and fix my tyre unless I'm in a specific support contract with them. Sure, if there's an inherent failure in the model that they knew about and need to fix to comply with "product fit for use" rules, then they will do that. But otherwise, you're on your own matey and getting Ford to cut you a new set of keys will cost you.

That said, I've been working in IT for 15 years and I've not once called Microsoft (except possibly on their free lines to clarify licensing, which was a complete waste of time). Used the knowledgebase, etc. yes but again - without a specific support contact - you're pretty much on your own. This is why people have in-house support teams, or mechanics - because you pay them instead and expect them to know how to resolve the problem. If you don't have that, you are of course reliant on the original manufacturer and that gets expensive fast.

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Lee D
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In that time, I could have run out, bought a server (certainly cheaper than a day of engineer time + $499) and replaced the Exchange server (probably including data transfer, but certainly a significant number of functions and mailboxes).

I hope whatever the issue was it was really critical and blocking and permanently hindered a restore from backup on other hardware from resolving it (in which case, I'd be reviewing quite why I was using Exchange or quite what my backups were supposed to be doing in the first place).

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Vendors coalesce around 'MGBase-T' 2.5/5 Gbps Ethernet

Lee D
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10Gb is at £100 per card / port. 100BaseT was in the same position, as was Gigabit.

However, who's going to invest similar amounts (which it won't be, as the kit will be harder to push and in lower volumes, and new untested products) in 5Gb when 10Gb is already there?

It's a dead middle ground, and the cost of a few extra Cat6 runs alongside Cat5 runs down 10+ years ago is minimal compared to the upheaval of any method anyway.

The problem is that it will only buy you a couple of years, at 10Gb at best, on old cable, if you're lucky. Chances are that the tolerances will mean that although it's possible with Cat5e, everything has to be new and perfect.

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Lee D
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Sorry, but by the time they work this out, 10Gb kit will be cheap enough.

At the moment, it's easier - and infinitely cheaper - to LACP a handful of copper or fibre (who the hell runs single fibres or single cables?) and when that's no longer sufficient, a 5Gb Ethernet will only be a small stop-gap at best.

To be honest, they should have come up with something 10 years ago. In the meantime, even ancient Gigabit routers and switches that I have in front of me support LACP. Sure it means an extra cable run, but most places put that in by default, so 2Gbps is a given at the very least. And if you're going any distance, it's 8-core fibre, so that's 4Gbps before you even start.

I bet the cost of configuration plus another cable run, or another couple of GBICs (not that they're called that any more) will be a significantly better investment than any amount of hanging around to replace all your kit with 2.5/5Gbs kit. If you're going to do that, you might as well just wait until 10Gbps is affordable.

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UK national mobile roaming: A stupid idea that'll never work

Lee D
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Generally, you privatise when you want to save Government money and push the cost to the consumer via companies.

You nationalise when you want to cost Government money in order to provide an standardised service to the consumer. If you want to, genuinely want to, sort out the networks then nationalising the infrastructure would work. But it would cost tax, and you'd still need private industry to handle the rest of the process.

Much like the government-sponsored rollout of telephone lines, or electricity cables, or gas pipes, or water and sewage, used to cost lots of money but everyone got roughly the same service. And once privatised, you can expect to spend more and get less on new installs (hence we're still putting in basic bare copper on new houses) because it's purely a profit motive to supply service.

Every time you privatise an industry, you're just selling consumers to a private company who will bicker and fight every time they need to co-operate.

Every time you nationalise an industry, it's going to cost you a ton of tax to do so and you'll end up with a basic service.

Personally, I think almost everything should be nationalised again because there's nothing a government can't supply at the same price as these companies are doing so, and put the profits back into education, development, etc. rather than shareholder pockets. But the trend over the last 50 years is to privatise even schools, so I can't see it happening.

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systemd row ends with Debian getting forked

Lee D
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Re: Init freedom

The containerisation is provided by kernel facilities, not systemd.

The security is provided by kernel facilities, not systemd. Systemd is merely utilising the kernel services.

I'm not sure I *want* anything replacing SELinux so quickly, so without question, so without review, so completely and so controversially. This is precisely the problem - to do X, we have to replace your security model. WOOP WOOP!

And the boot time argument? Anywhere needing 99.99% uptime is not worried about a 4 minute reboot. I guarantee you they have a bank of redundant machines instead and each one does the full server check on bootup that can take minutes in the UEFI/BIOS anyway. That's not an argument. And if it is, it's not one that stands up to scrutiny for why you need to replace the entire system security model.

Facts are important here. But saying "it does X" does not justify doing any amount of Y or Z you like in order to do so.

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Lee D
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Re: Off to a bad start

As with all things computer-wise, what annoys me is not the features that people want, it's the features people don't want.

Fast bootup is nice. Does that REQUIRE, absolutely REQUIRE binary logs? Can we get an option to have it not do binary logs so we can see how much slower it is? Isn't that nice to the users to have, say, a settings file somewhere where they can override the default to put plain-text logs if that is WHAT THEY WANT?

What, inherently, about systemd demands binary logs must be a prerequisite?

And then you start extending down to the other features, with similar problems. And, at the bottom of it, okay say we do want INI file initialisations like that. Why can't we do that with SysVInit style scripts? What, precisely, demands that we have to use systemd's "all or nothing" approach? What parts of systemd would people want to use if there was just a scripted version of the same thing? And then if we compare that against systemd in terms of speed, etc. how much better is it?

I'm all for progress. But not at the expense of arguments and usability. And, worst of all, when it might be perfectly feasible to do this stuff using "the old way" too, just as well.

The arguments I see for systemd focus on the "new features", and seem to imply we have to suffer everything it does for those features. Why? That's the bit I don't see explained. Binary logs? Why? Why not text? Performance, you say? Okay, put in normal logs and let's see what the difference is. And how does that tie in with the syslogd shops where everything log-wise is centralised?

I've yet to see answers like this, and I refuse to do an all-or-nothing upgrade for features that I look at and think "Okay, but to me personally, they are a bit meh."

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Customers RAGE after Webfusion goes TITSUP

Lee D
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WebFusion are part of Host Europe Group.

- Host Europe was a cheap junky webhost I last used years ago.

- 123-Reg was a cheap junky registrar I last used years ago (after they called my customers and told them it was my fault their website was down, when in fact they'd cocked up).

- WebFusion, apart from full-pages ads in PC Pro back about 10 years ago, I only remember them as flashy, overpriced ads for quite basic web services.

Heart Internet, domainFACTORY, Domainmonster, RedCoruna, Domainbox and Brand Fortress? Never heard of them.

Something tells me they are far from being a "Premium" host and more like "a name you have heard if you read the trade magazines because of the huge glossy adverts".

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Google Chrome on Windows 'completely unusable', gripe users

Lee D
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Have it deployed as the default (and only) web browser for an entire school - from 3 year olds to the admin staff via the teaching staff and gap-year / PGCE students.

We deploy on ordinary business hardware, nothing special, with 4Gb on Windows 8.

The only problems I have are:

Sometimes the javascript engine (I presume) keeps running instead of dying. You have to kill all Chrome processes and the "EventEd" thing in task manager before it will let you run Chrome as that user again. The kids reboot. The staff have permission to use task manager and know to kill it.

Weird error messages that are too easy to confuse between "The Internet is down" and "This website doesn't work". I get a lot of calls and have to keep saying "Does a Google search work? Yes? Then it's the website.".

I've disabled installation of extensions with Group Policy, so that's not an issue. All our banking and payroll that says it needs IE? Turns out it's lying (though I am monitoring the NPAPI situation carefully). Integrates with the staff Google accounts nicely. Loads quickly. Browses everything we want to browse, etc. Picks up auto-proxy settings first time (more than I can say for most programs, don't even get me started on iPads and Macs...).

So, sort out that EventID thing that stops me spawning new (visible) Chrome instances when there are old (invisible) ones, and smarten up the grey-screen error messages a bit and I'll have nothing to complain about.

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Pity the poor Windows developer: The tools for desktop development are in disarray

Lee D
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SDL 2.

Problem solved.

Loading a PNG is a one line command (install the SDL_image module!). Blitting it with hardware acceleration is a couple of lines one-off window setup and one blit command. You're a couple of lines away from a complete, usable OpenGL context for everything it does.

It'll run on any Windows. It'll run on Mac OS. It'll run on Linux. It'll run on a multitude of third-party systems including obscure handheld consoles and homebrew for big-name video game machines. It'll take the burden of audio, music, controllers, etc. off your hands.

You can program against it in just about any language imaginable. I do my stuff in C99 still. And you can see it used in Steam games, emulator projects (DOSBox, etc.), iPad apps, you name it.

Best of all, you don't have to be tied to any one development platform either.

(Currently writing a game using C99 and SDL, via Eclipse IDE, targetting and having full development environments on Linux, Windows and MacOS).

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Lee D
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"tends to be better"?

Not at all sure about that assertion, and I have tried to get both Eclipse and XCode environments up and running on MacOS. In the end, it's easier to just use the Mac as nothing more than a cross-compiler and then apply appropriate OS X glue in XCode to make it work. I wouldn't like to develop on a Mac for a living.

And, actually, upgrading to Yosemite can easily break things development-wise. Have a look on Google - quite a few XCode setups break on upgrade. I don't hold that against Apple necessarily - it's like expecting your Windows 7 build environment to move to Windows 8 seamlessly - a reasonable expectation until you start dealing with real-life commercial operating systems.

Honestly, try and get something as simple as a small SDL-based app compiling on Windows, Linux and Mac. Mac will cost you more from the start, and cause more hassles. Strangely, even bringing across existing Eclipse configurations to all three platforms can be fraught with trouble.

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DNA survives fiery heat of re-entry on test rocket

Lee D
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Re: Not surprising

It does seems quite obvious that DNA must be hardy stuff.

My girlfriend is still coveting her "I play with DNA" mug, in her profession. She assures me that DNA also has some phenomenally wonderful "error correction" within it so that even if it does get a little damaged, it would hardly matter. Obviously occasionally this backfires in the same way as any error correcting algorithm and, given the wrong combination of errors, could churn out junk and mutations, but overall it's pretty self-managing and in the billions of DNA copies made every day, pretty much all of them work just fine.

And, in the end, although we think of DNA as a organic thing, it's really just a chain of four basic chemicals. Thus our perception of DNA as some fragile, living entity is far from the truth. We use DNA to build computers, biological machines, etc. It's sturdy stuff. And the commenting about SmartWater and contamination - being the IT guy living with the geneticist woman, this has also come up. The chemicals and procedures used to ensure contamination isn't carried over can be quite horrendous precisely because of this. And it makes me wonder quite how hard it would be to get away with murder if the forensics team do turn up.

And we know that in bones and bodies buried for hundreds of years, it survives on a biologically-active plane. In the relative sterility of space's vacuum, I can't see how at least the basic building blocks wouldn't be able to travel between systems quite easily. Not undamaged, most likely, but that would hardly matter as the "seed" for further life. A few million years soon sorts that out.

DNA is hardy stuff indeed.

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Google turns on shiny new .google top-level domain – but WHY?

Lee D
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I still don't get it. Imagine "iphone.apple"? Yes. And? So what? It's the Internet equivalent of a personalised numberplate and quite apt, in these circumstances, to be for a company that puts vanity and image over practicality and engineering.

"Gmail completely overhauled the webmail market by offering huge amounts of storage for free. Its Android mobile operating created an entire new arm of the phone market. Its Google Maps wiped out the GPS navigation device market almost overnight. Google News has massively reordered how people find the latest information online. Google Calendar forced a huge shift in the calendaring market."

Not one of which required anything more than a .com of it's own, but actually even a gmail.google.com exists and works just fine and ties in with your brand and COSTS NOTHING.

I don't see why I should be cheering brand-name TLD's (and Ferrari is an especially spurious one as there are millions of people with the surname Ferrari, it's like the Italian equivalent of registering .smith - and my poor grasp of Latin tells me it might actually be THE equivalent of Smith in the farrier sense) - companies are throwing the money I give them away on vanity domains that do nothing and attract no-one.

And, I mean... it's google,for God's sake. It's become a verb. You find all these horribly-domained places by Googling them! Certainly Google doesn't need one of their own!

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BT said to have pulled patent-infringing boxes from DSL network

Lee D
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They are under no obligation to pay. And you've already cost them a bucket load of money. And there will be similar techniques that avoid your patent - there's never only one way to do things.

What did you expect? I know a lot of companies will just roll-over and pay, but when you're causing people hassle by saying they are using YOUR tech (unknowingly, most of the time) and must pay you - well there are two options. One of them involves rewarding you for the lawsuit. One of them involve having nothing to do with you ever again.

I know which one I'd choose. I'm just surprised that, in this instance, BT happen to agree with me.

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Amazon’s CHRISTMAS QUEUEING bonanza!

Lee D
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The best thing ever about my new job (apart from it being quite fabulous in many other way).

There are office staff there nearly 24/7 who'll sign for parcels on my behalf and bring them to my office.

Best damn concept ever, my previous place wouldn't allow it en-masse but this place has staff living on site so they can't really refuse. I've had all my Christmas shopping delivered there.

Queuing at the Post Office is about the bottom of my choices for how to get hold of a parcel addressed to me. I've had enough of it, the incompetence, the timing ("we only deliver during working hours, and our offices are open for collection for about 30 minutes after that"), the queuing, the parking, you name it. There's a reason that Amazon designed their own collection service and hire people to drive around delivering parcels at night.

I'd rather spend a couple of quid extra and get a courier who will deliver the parcel to my neighbours rather than just put things through my door, and who will try to deliver in the evenings and weekends rather than 9 - 5 Mon-Fri.

Whatever happened to the "deliver parcels to the local Tube station" idea?

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'Snoopers' Charter IS DEAD', Lib Dems claim as party waves through IP address-matching

Lee D
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Methinks we're going to see a lot of attacks from 192.88.99.1 (the standardised IP 6to4 address).

When this website can't even be bothered to put in an AAAA, what chances do the ISP's have of possessing forensic tools able to trace it back?

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HALF A BILLION TERRORISTS: WhatsApp encrypts ALL its worldwide jabber

Lee D
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Re: Government...

WPA2 is pretty unbreakable. It's basically AES.

The problem comes from airport lounges. You've joined the network, right? Did you have to enter a WPA2 passphrase into the wireless settings to do so? No. You went onto an open network, then typed some code or a credit card into a splashscreen / signup, then browsed over that same open network. There might, or might not, be some encryption of your data, but to get there you have to join an open network.

That's the classic problem with encryption - key distribution. To join that wireless network, you really need to give out a passphrase that everyone knows or some form of certificate, and then hope they isolate you from all the other uses of that same credentail (which is almost impossible to tell). And typing in a passphrase takes time and is too complicated for most users, and credential setup is hard to enforce on random clients on a public network if you want people to use you. That passphrase/certificate may or may not offer a shortcut into the encryption used to talk to individual clients, but it's certainly not the best solution.

Ironically, a pub that puts the passphrase to their free Wifi on the beermats could easily be more secure than the airport that allows you to "just join" some free Wifi provider.

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Lee D
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Re: Power consumption

Encryption is not free, by a long shot. The biggest reason not to push everyone to SSL is certainly the CPU use of the encryption (or specialist devices to offload it to) in the large datacenters. So it's not zero-concern.

However, on a modern smartphone, with specialist instruction sets, built-in encryption anyway, accessing SSL websites and sync sites all the time, and it not mattering that it might take a second or two in the background at the lowest priority to send the message? Yeah, not worth worrying about.

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Lee D
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The new name for SMS texts when your carrier thinks it's reasonable to charge you 20p per text to a foreign country, for example.

I know a lot of Italians who live in London - they all have Whatsapp on their phones so they don't have to worry about roaming, pay a small fortune for texts, or have to carry two phones.

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YOU are the threat: True confessions of real-life sysadmins

Lee D
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I've generally found that, given the amount of trust in IT people, they are in the higher tier of people who actually can be trusted with such data and control. I work in schools and, technically, I have more access to more information, with more "potential" for mischief than anyone else - even the head, governors or bursar combined.

Yet you find that, aside from laziness or incompetence, actual malicious intent is incredibly, extremely rare; almost non-existent.

That said, in job interviews, I'm often asked in true cliche: What is my biggest weakness?

My answer is truthful... it is MY network. I might be running it for YOU and your business and your users, but it's MY network. That's a weakness, yes, as I get protective over my network, access to it, and what changes are made with it. But it's also what keeps "OUR" network running and safe.

If I implement a rule (as I have just done) banning USB sticks, then USB sticks are banned. I don't do such things lightly, or for no reason, or because I like to punish the users. I do it to save the school from legislative issues, or network compromise, or some other requirement that are more important than you needing to put in that £2 USB stick you got from some exhibition to transfer your stuff home because you're too lazy to email or work out how to use Google Drive or similar.

Your sysadmin is protective of your network. It *is* his baby is his eyes. That's a good thing, and a bad thing at the same time, depending on your sysadmin. But if your sysadmin is any good, then let them do that. Let it be their domain, quite literally. Complain when what your business needs isn't present, by all means, but accept that your quick-fix solution is not necessarily the solution the sysadmin needs you to have.

It's like leaving your house with a house-sitter and then complaining that they fixed the gutters, cleared the drains, set all the clocks to the right time, etc. Let it be their house for a while (if not in law, then at least in practice) if they are going to look after it more by it being so. The worst thing in the IT world is complacency because they're not allowed to fix things properly, so they lose interest in fixing things at all.

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Fasthosts goes titsup, blames DNS blunder

Lee D
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Stop using ISP DNS

Stop using ISP DNS.

It's that simple.

Just plug several dozen public DNS (google, opendns, etc.) into your computer, or your router, or your servers as upstream DNS's and forget about it. When one doesn't resolve, it'll bounce down to the next and you won't even notice.

Honestly, the days of being dependent on your ISP DNS are over. The only problems now are if the ISP intercepts all DNS (then you deploy DNSSEC to talk to the root servers directly).

But everybody, whether they own just the client, just the ADSL router, or a bank of servers, can just plug in dozens of other DNS's as they see fit and it will not hurt performance in any way. Order them properly and it'll even take your preference into account for you.

Hell, my first DNS is my own VPS - which has my host's DNS, Google, then the roots. My 2nd and 3rd are Google. The rest are random public freebies like OpenDNS. And at the bottom of the list are the ISP DNS. I plug these settings into my ADSL router which hands them out via DHCP, and also hands itself out as the primary (which also just has the list above in it) so all my client devices get them.

Whenever someone cries that Virgin DNS or whatever is down, I've never ever noticed a problem unless there is literally no connectivity to the net at all (at which point, I switch on 3G and carry on, because access to the DNS isn't dependant on using my ISP connection).

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You really need to do some tech support for Aunty Agnes

Lee D
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I'm not shocked by the article.

I am shocked that only 0.5% of non-domain computers with antivirus report an infection. That seems FAR TOO LOW. And considering that NO protection gets you only 2-2.5% infection rate, I'm still not at all sure that the performance hit of antivirus is worth it.

Interesting that they don't publish statistics on "domain" computers (even if they could only find domain computers WITH antivirus) - presumably those machines are much more well managed by the simple assertion of a handful of security settings rather than loading up everything with antivirus.

To be honest, all those stats show are that antivirus is pretty much a waste of money. Use a free one and forget everything else. The free ones won't expire because you haven't paid your Norton tax, and people are much more likely to have installed them in the first place.

I was remote-fixing a machine only yesterday where they couldn't download TeamViewer because of the spam they were getting in their browser whenever they went to a download site. I asked what they ran. Norton. And they were due for a renewal. So I uninstalled it and gave them Comodo Free, given that Norton had obviously not worked at all.

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DEATH fails to end mobile contract: Widow forced to take HUBBY's ASHES into shop

Lee D
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Re: Untrustworthy automatic billing

Agree on the Direct Debit thing. Just phone the bank and cut them off at source. When they call to complain, then you aren't money-down to fight them.

Had to do this with Three, who billed me for a contract phone (and contract) that never arrived. I only knew it hadn't arrived when I phoned up to ask where it was (28 days later). I asked them THERE AND THEN to block the IMEI / SIM. They asked me for the number. I called them idiots, in a roundabout way (how the hell do *I* know what phone you sent me?).

Weeks later they were still billing me. So I phoned my bank. They made it clear what I was doing but they cannot refuse to do it. I cancelled the DD. Minutes later I had a phone call from Three demanding "their" money back. The bank had cancelled AND REFUNDED all the DD payments. That got Three's attention. It didn't stop them trying to get the money though, however my offer to initiate their threatened lawsuit on their behalf finally made the lightbulbs in their head come on, I think. Eventually they sent me a letter where they had "decided to take no further action". Strange, because I'd decided exactly the opposite if they had continued to harass me.

But the banks and DD? Wow. Most co-operative my bank has EVER been.

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Virgin Media struck dumb by NATIONWIDE packet loss balls-up

Lee D
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As per your terms and conditions.

Do you get compensation every time your electricity blacks out for a few minutes?

Do you get compensation if your phone goes off for a while?

Do you get compensation if your milkman doesn't turn up one morning?

Do you even get compensation if your train is fives minutes late EVERY MORNING FOR A YEAR (and some days doesn't come at all)?

No.

Because you don't have it in your contract (express or implied) and it's not reasonable to provide. It's not just Virgin, most companies would go bankrupt overnight if you could automaticallly get out of them anything more than what your contract cost. If your Internet connection, or power connection, or transport MATTERS, you'll have a contract with a cast-iron guarantee written into it. And it will cost orders of magnitude more to compensate. And similarly, it will cost orders of magnitude more when you mess up and it's YOUR fault that it's off but they have to send out an engineer to prove it.

Have you SEEN the prices of leased lines? And invariably they still can't guarantee 100% service. You can still be off for X amount of hours per year and have NO comeback whatsoever. And the law generally holds that, unless specified otherwise, your maximum compensation would amount to the direct cost of the lack of service and not any cost of your reliance on it. So you'd get back, say 1/30th of your monthly cost for a day without it, at most, on a standard home package. What's that? A couple of quid? Everything above and beyond that is goodwill. And I'm betting Virgin have a few more customers than Xilo. So much so that they don't need to provide goodwill payments (but I have, in fact, had one when a pay-per-view movie on their cable service stopped mid-way, and they refunded and gave me a free movie). And I'm on Virgin and it's NEVER down long enough to even suggest faffing about. Last time I rang them it was because the local kids had pulled all the cables out of the their green box at the end of the road and cut off the Internet and TV. It was fixed within the hour.

If you're really that reliant on your Internet, you need to get a proper contract guaranteeing it. But something tells me that you'll whine that you wouldn't be able to afford that and it's totally impractical unless your very life/business hangs on it working. And there's your answer.

Nothing in law entitles you to compensation beyond the "direct loss" of the service (i.e. what you paid for but didn't get) unless there's extreme amounts of negligence or they were aware that it would have a much larger impact on you and still agreed to provide that service.

Compensation is, in fact, extraordinarily rare in any contract unless your dealing with serious amounts of money. And rightly so. Take your money elsewhere, rather than provide the opportunity to use every company and organisation as a honey pot for the slightest mistake one of their employees might make.

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SLURP! Flick your TONGUE around our LOLLIPOP – Google

Lee D
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Re: We'll never get longer lasting batteries...

"But it must be a conspiracy!"

Please point out any battery technology that comes into the same order of magnitude as petroleum in terms of energy density. You won't find one. There are claims from labs (usually before they've done anything past micro-scale tests on a single tiny cell and extrapolated up), but zero actual products - prototype or real - at scalable / commercial sizes. Because, inevitably, they become unwieldy and impractical very quickly.

Batteries are getting better all the time. You can now run your car or motorbike entirely from a battery. Hardly anybody does, because the charging times are in the same order of magnitude as the discharge times in use. It simply takes that long to put that much power into something that you want to push that much power out over any length of time. It took several million years and billions of tons of rock compressing organic matter to make your petrol, that's the only reason we can take it "for free" and use it almost immediately.

I have a 85KW car engine in my 15-year-old car. Do you have any concept on how much damn power that actually is? You house probably has 240V x standard 100A consumer unit = 24KW at absolute max. My car supplies over three times as much power as my house can take without asking the electricity board to up the incoming line for me. Even if you extrapolate that down from the maximum, my car at 3000rpm is generating levels of power that my house couldn't handle. From petroleum, it'll do it for half a day straight.

What you're asking for is the impossible at the moment, not the result of some conspiracy theory. The guy that fixes the battery problem, plus the associated current-handling problems for a decent time of charging, is a billionaire overnight. Just the patent would be worth billions. There are no patents of this kind even filed, let alone being sat on. There's plenty of research. THOUSANDS of "this will be the next battery". Nothing that scales, no matter how reproducible or well published it is.

I have a 240V 32A "commando connector" (building site connector to you and me) on the side of my house. We use it to power a pottery kiln to 1600 degrees for 12 hours. When we do that, we have to be careful of what else we turn on in the house, because that's the single-biggest current draw we have and very unusual for an ordinary house.

It's not even close to what's required to charge an electric car in any short amount of time. Standard charging units recommended for electric cars are usually in the 80A range. My connector, connected to a top-of-the-range electric MOPED would take a couple of hours to give a full charge that will get me 100 miles at 25mph. Just. Batteries are just atrocious storage units - actually, they're not, only when compared to petroleum do they look puny in comparison.

The next tech is super-capacitors. They don't have the "hours to charge" problem, but instead have immense "current-draw" problems which would blow the *street* fuse if you did what you want to do (charge in 15 minutes). They also lose current still, are stupendously expensive to make, and that amount of power going into and out of a device generates all kinds of issues - not least arcing at terminals, conductor degradation, heating, and actual PHYSICAL STRESS. You can make any high-power device move, click, buzz and bang by flicking the switch, imagine what something an order of magnitude more powerful does.

The world is moving away from oil. The company that holds a patent on a battery technology capable of even a fraction the energy density of petroleum will own the industry overnight. Energy companies, oil companies included, will give their right arm to secure their future as it's looking increasingly bleak for them - everything from pollution to renewable grants to energy prices to wars in oil-producing countries is against them. The first to do so will abandon oil for energy (maybe for plastics, etc.) and push their battery technology into your face and gain billions in worldwide government grants that would make our global oil budget look like chicken feed.

It's not a conspiracy. It's just impossible to pack that much energy into that small a device without doing it on the molecular level. And that's expensive and energy-intensive and difficult to do.

3
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Pay-by-bonk chip lets hackers pop all your favourite phones

Lee D
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I disable anything that looks like radio, unless I'm using a radio device of that kind.

I don't disable 3G, but if you're not using Bluetooth, NFC, wireless etc. then why would you want them turned on anyway? For the same reason, I turn off Wifi on the ISP-supplied routers and use my own behind it.

I bought S4 minis for myself and my girlfriend. First thing I did - went through, turned all that stuff off (including S-Beam and DLNA and whatever else). Neither of us have missed it. We can turn on Bluetooth if we want to use a headset. We've had no cause to turn either of them on or off more than a couple of times each in the last six months. And NFC only got turned on because I was showing her how you can read info off NFC cards.

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ONE FIFTH of Win Server 2003 users to miss support cutoff date

Lee D
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Re: The last Windows Server Operating System

What's a tape?

Let me introduce you to the 2010's where we have things called NAS and cloud storage. They backup in a tenth of the time, store ten times as much, and you can put them everywhere - including home. You can run your damn servers OFF them if you buy iSCSI-capable ones (i.e. anything but the very cheapest).

And they're cheap enough to have several of them, dotted around, a small one to take off-site (or even leave off-site on the IT guy's home broadband for live-backups), and push to "the cloud" (i.e. a server in a hosting facility) automatically if you want.

Tape's a bit... well... old. The reason there's no built-in tape support is because the cheapest bunch of NAS, two in each location that you put any backup tape in, will do a better job for less cost and greater reliability. And restore times are ORDERS OF MAGNITUDE better. Tape is the last link in the backup chain nowadays. And only because people are attached to it.

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Lee D
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Re: The major problem with W2003

"Just works" - without virtualisation, proper DFS, if you still want your login scripts to be hand-written batch files for most things (drive maps and printers comes to mind), and dozens of other features.

The problem with "just works" is that you're not making the most of what you have. I moved 2003 servers to 2012R2. The difference was amazing. Just the configurability, for a start, but then being able to do proper VM's (stick your old 2003 in the VM's if you're worried!), have reliable failover (2008+ will do automatic DHCP failover quite nicely), etc. was an enormous boost to the places I put it in.

Hell, last time I tried it was an absolute pain to get SCSI drivers for the 2003 machines we used, especially when you got into RAID. If nobody still sells the kit you use, it's a warning about what happens when your server dies and you need to get it running from backups.

2003 just works for only the most basic setups that make almost no changes over the years... tiny offices with a handful of people. Anything larger than that and you are truly setting yourself up for failure. When that thing dies, and you can't spin up a replacement without buying 2012 anyway (and virtualising the old one or running 2012 yourself), you'll find the problem.

To be honest, I can't stand Microsoft. I only hate Apple more. But 2012R2 is pretty damn good and has a core of features that mean upgrading a bank of servers running on a handful of actual physical systems becomes a breeze and the users don't even know you've done it. 2003 is the DOS of today. Sure, some places can still get on with it and do what they need to do. But the second you have to integrate, run external services, or do anything remotely interesting, you'll find that you'll be crying out for 2008 at the very least, and that only for a couple more years.

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Lee D
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Re: For some small companies it is.........

If you can't afford a grand on hardware / licensing, and say another grand for someone to install it for you, then you shouldn't really be hiring staff anyway.

One week of sick-days and you'll be dead in the water, unable to hire replacements or do anything else.

This is not about "mom-and-pop" shops. This is about someone who runs a business - and £2k should be a drop in the ocean compared to the ongoing backup costs, Internet connection costs, maintenance contracts, upgrades, software licences, etc. that you already have.

Sure, it's hassle. But it's far from the end of the world. I did a whole school single-handedly over the course of my normal job, from 2003 and XP to 2012 and Windows 8. The servers I just joined, moved services over gradually, removed the 2003 machines when they were no longer doing anything useful. The clients, however, I spent eight weeks upgrading.

In terms of businesses with the need for a server (more than 2 employees, at a rough estimate), £2k should be nothing and part of the ongoing costs of having IT. Hell, you can spend that on a photocopier.

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Crypto collision used to hijack Windows Update goes mainstream

Lee D
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Re: For corruption checking

CRC checks are not as infallible as you might think.

When I studied Coding Theory, it was explained that there are a number of errors which you need to be able to compensate for and how you do that depends on what you design it to compensate for.

As such, ISBN's (the final digit of which is a checksum, and X = 10) are actually designed to withstand the swapping of any two numbers within them as well as detecting single-digit errors. That's because you expect a human typing in the code to make a mistake.

Similar properties exist that you can design for that take account of other errors - until you get up to the standards of the Voyager spacecraft which can compensate for something like 999 errors in every 1000 bits, or something ridiculous.

CRC isn't *as* suitable for spotting recurring data corruption, bit-flipping, etc. MD5 may not have been designed with such things in mind but certainly fits the criteria due to the extreme unlikeliness of such errors resulting in the same MD5 hash. You *REALLY* have to play with an MD5 to get it to stay the same, and even changing all the bytes of the code may not be sufficient by accident.

CRC, though useful - as evidenced by its use in ZIP and thus PNG, DOCX, etc. file formats - is not necessarily the best use for data integrity checks. It was back when computing power was very limited and that's where its strength lies. It's very easy to make with basic boolean operations.

However, given modern power, I'd trust an MD5 much further than CRC. And neither should be used for security purposes.

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Lee D
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Hashes have many uses, some of which have no security impact at all.

Consider data integrity hashes on your own stored data. If a malicious agent could get access to your backups and their hashes, that's game over anyway. But if a hash differs on one of your backups to the others, you know there must be data corruption or loss somewhere.

It doesn't render MD5 useless, just insecure. There's a difference.

I put in the MD5 routines into the game OpenTTD, for instance (the code has long since changed, I believe). It checks that you have a copy of the original GRF (graphics data) files from the original game and whether you have the demo or full-version, and DOS or Windows palettes for them based on the hash. Unknown hashes flag up a warning. Someone who WANTS to feed in a fake GRF would be pointless.

But we found a lot of people who had corrupt copies of the original GRF's from their old backups that were generating support tickets that nobody could fathom. For most, it meant that they then knew they'd got dodgy backups and they just replaced it with the originals. For others, it meant they'd been modifying the GRF's and so generating tickets because of their own mistakes. Despite their arguments, when they are the only ones on the planet with the GRF files corresponding to the hashes they posted, you know immediately they are either using a corrupt or edited GRF rather than the supported original GRF's.

Obviously, if they wanted to fake a support ticket, they could just say that the program never warned them, in the same way someone could edit a kernel log to remove references to the taint flags. It's not "secure". But it is useful.

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Eye laser surgery campaigner burned by Facebook takedown

Lee D
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Re: Another solution

Certainly don't host your content on them.

Host it somewhere else under your control and link it in, then you never lose anything but exposure.

All the companies I know that do social networking post to one place that is sucked in via RSS to all their Facebook, Twitter, etc. and usually just links with shortlink to their "official" website.

That way you can be "removed" but not silenced.

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Lee D
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Re: Depends on perspective

I still have a rejected comment submission on my profile on here because it happened to diss a famous recruitment agency that was pushing sponsorship The Reg's way.

I was most miffed at that. I thought The Reg was better than to censor comments in such a fashion.

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We're doing great, say dot-London chiefs ... Unfortunately, few agree

Lee D
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Re: I just don't get these new TLD's

The days of someone owning the .com and wildly guessing that to be so are long gone. You google them, nowadays. I remember when novatech.com was actually a military supplier whereas novatech.co.uk was the company that sells computer stuff. After the third time you do that, you no longer assume and you Google or remember the domain.

Hell, people don't even know how to type in addresses any more, they just google them - I'm not joking. People will Google "GMail" and then click the link they know works.

Domains are dead. Certainly owning the .com for a brand is not guaranteed by a long shot. And the home idiots are googling what they want, rather than typing in the address anyway.

In that climate, there's absolutely no need whatsoever for a domain name besides vanity. Let's call these what they are - vanity domains. And bought by the same people that want to own B1TCH as a number plate.

I can't remember the last time I actually bothered to type in an address that wasn't written down exactly (e.g. in an advert), or well-known to me. Nobody takes a stab at .com addresses "just in case". That's a perfect way to end up on a scam site.

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