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* Posts by Nick Kew

404 posts • joined 16 Jan 2007

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Who's that sniffing around BlackBerry? Oh, is it YOU again, Lenovo?

Nick Kew

I want a blackberry!

... because Nokia's phones with proper keyboard have gone from wonderful (the E71) to a bug-ridden pile of s**t (the E6-00). And blackberries are a fair second-best in terms of a comfortable fit in the pocket and the hand without it feeling like moving around in plate-armour!

Will Lenovo make a decent product combining portability, usability, battery life, and a proper keyboard? If so, bring it on!

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UNIX greybeards threaten Debian fork over systemd plan

Nick Kew

Slackware?

I've got Debian on this box, and aspects of it are indeed (surprisingly) painful.

I may revert to Slackware next time. See if that's still honest.

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Happiness economics is bollocks. Oh, UK.gov just adopted it? Er ...

Nick Kew

It can be done

Many years back I lived for a time in Sheffield. Not one of our wealthier cities by conventional measures, but they're doing something right and - if it hasn't changed beyond recognition - I'd much rather return there than other big cities I've lived in like Bristol, let alone London!

Furthermore, I can point to a completely hard-nosed economic measure of happiness there. When I came to take out household contents insurance, I found the heart-of-student-land premium to be the same as for a small Somerset village where I had lived immediately before. Intrigued by this I investigated further: just one Sheffield postcode (S4 - Attercliffe/Brightside) had a slightly-elevated premium, and even that was many levels below the cheapest postcode in London or Liverpool, and at the cheap end compared even to the more rural postcodes of other big cities such as Manchester, Leeds, or Bristol.

You don't get more hard-nosed than the insurance industry. I *think* the major reason for Sheffield's success was the amount of open green space, and that this wasn't just ugly urban parkland (the Hampstead Heath phenomenon) but felt like a real spur of the Peak District on one's doorstep.

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Lies, damn pies and obesity statistics: We're NOT a nation of fatties

Nick Kew

Re: lies , damn lies, and who are all the pies?

Why does exercise incur a cost? Noone charges me for a swim in our local rivers or the sea. Cycling isn't free, but it's cheaper than other ways of getting from A to B.

The main barrier to exercise is highly-polluted and car-infested roads making it thoroughly unpleasant to go anywhere!

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Nick Kew

It's not just moving goals. Different measures can tell very different stories, and we're all different.

When I had a health check a few years back, they[1] found me obese measured by BMI. But they also measured my body fat at 17%, bang in the middle of healthy range, or in what Wikipedia calls "fitness". Make of that what you will!

[1] Nuffield health. The check was a perk of my then-job.

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Marriott fined $600k for deliberate JAMMING of guests' Wi-Fi hotspots

Nick Kew

Re: Buy a 3G/4G dongle.

Got a 4G hybrid device: provides a choice of wifi or USB connection. Great for travel within the UK, including time spent on the train.

But worldwide roaming charges? No thanks! Just never book accommodation without free wifi. At least, unless travelling on business and spending all day somewhere with it!

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Want to see the back of fossil fuels? Calm down, hippies. CAPITALISM has an answer

Nick Kew

Is your money where your mouth is?

OK, Worstall, how much have YOU, as an avowed capitalist, invested in clean energy, energy efficiency, fuel cells&storage, and related areas that advance the cause of a future in which our kids can enjoy a developed-world lifestyle in a less-polluted world?

I agree with your thesis in principle: it's just a shame politicians are so two-faced about it (in the current government we have Osborne and Pickles prominently supporting much more pollution). Capitalists work best when we put our money where our mouths are, which is why in the past year and a bit I'm pleased to have added Blighty's biggest and best energy source to my portfolio, with investments in two tidal power projects to add to those in lesser (for our geography) sources like solar.

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Bad boy builds beastly Bash bug botnet, boxen battered

Nick Kew

Not just CGI

People running Apache: if you think you may be at risk, watch Planet Apache for a solution built into the server!

I'd take issue with the assertion that CGI+bash is likely to be the most usual vector. Applications (CGI or otherwise) that invoke bash through system() or equivalent may very well be more widespread.

Some of those could be running under a standard server. For example, SSI "<!--#exec cmd ...", or a filter running under apache's mod_ext_filter. The latter is recommended as a security measure in at least one well-reputed security book, albeit not actually running bash!

Also worth noting, Linux is particularly vulnerable. Most scripts use #!/bin/sh, which is normally old Bourne shell. Linux doesn't have Bourne shell, but uses an emulator for #!/bin/sh, and that emulator is usually bash.

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Vodafone to buy 140 Phones 4u stores from stricken retailer

Nick Kew

What was the point of phones4u?

Our high streets have been saturated with mobile phone shops for a long time. You'd've thought there should've been a shakeout at least a decade ago.

As for phones4u .... was it not a case of neither fish nor fowl? If it's neither a network's own outlet nor an independent vendor for all the networks, then what niche does it occupy? I'd've thought that as soon as it lost one major network, it would lose its value to the others.

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Monitors monitor's monitoring finds touch screens have 0.4% market share

Nick Kew

Re: Replacement cycle....

I bought a new monitor just a couple of months ago. Not to replace anything, but because I got a treadmill desk, and wanted a big monitor for it without changing the monitor at the old sit-down desk.

It never even occurred to me to consider a touchscreen beast.

On the other hand, when I bought my ultrabook, the touchscreens were so common I had to make a conscious effort to avoid them. I expect that's where the market really is.

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GCHQ protesters stick it to British spooks ... by drinking urine

Nick Kew
Big Brother

Re: Another 'could be' law?

Sorry to ... erm ... piss on your protest, but for the police to say "could be" may be entirely reasonable.

Technically even if they were shooting GCHQ employees with guns rather than cameras, police could only say it "could be" against the law. It would be for police to prosecute, but the decision would be one for a court.

It would be ironic if it were indeed deemed illegal because it violated someone's right to privacy!

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Britain's housing crisis: What are we going to do about it?

Nick Kew
FAIL

There is no market

Housing in the UK is not a market by any normal definition. But that's nothing new: every government initiative since 1945 (and probably before) has done damage in one way or another.

There's just too much public money in it. Housing benefits push rents upwards, which in turn raises yields for landlords, which in turn pushes "market" prices up. Whereupon politicians see it's unaffordable and throw yet more money in, both directly and by proxy such as loose lending, not to mention a succession of initiatives in the name of "low cost" or "affordable" housing. Wave upon wave of ill-conceived and poorly-built houses since 1945 that just serve to put massive pressure on any half-decent stock. And finally, paying builders incentives to build more (like today's "help to buy") just serves to push the price of land up another notch.

As for rent controls, they do tend to be counterproductive, though data is short on what is actually to blame. The 1977 rent act may have been the biggest disaster of all, but it did a lot more than just impose rent controls to kill the market off.

Anyway, rent controls would be quite superfluous if we didn't do so much to push rents upwards!

In summary, the housing market is a mechanism for transferring wealth from the productive (taxpayers - bearing in mind hard-earned income is the only thing we really tax seriously) to the rich (property owners).

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ONE EMAIL costs mining company $300 MEEELION

Nick Kew

Someone just assassinated the Prime Minister!

Oh no. Don't tell me someone believed that?

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Analyst: Chinese buyers shunning IBM, EMC, Oracle and Cisco

Nick Kew

China has the skills base - in spades

China is far from short of highly-skilled developers. The language barrier means we interact with them less than with American, European or other English-speaking communities, but they're there and developing some great stuff.

And as for Snowden, he's done no more than to confirm longstanding suspicions. Example: suspicions of an NSA backdoor in Windows goes back to the last century! Stuxnet demonstrates that vulnerabilities of some kind can indeed be exploited in a real-life act of war. China is right to be wary of what equipment they use anywhere genuinely sensitive, and we should be too.

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Average chump in 'bank' phone scam is STUNG for £10,000 - study

Nick Kew
Facepalm

Highest in Europe?

Could this be the natural consequence of an expectation that the bank will always compensate you for your stupidity? Take a gamble ... heads I win, tails the bank loses.

Whether they will actually compensate you is immaterial (and looks like a grey area). It's the expectation that counts.

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Wake up, grandad: All the techies use social media

Nick Kew

Move along, nothing to see ...

It's OK gramps. Speaking as a fellow-veteran, I remember we were re-inventing the wheel back in the 1980s and 90s, too. Though there was IMO more excuse for it in an era when you couldn't just google it before re-inventing.

Though I do deplore the Enclosure of the Commons. Particularly when the new is inferior to the old, which I guess is the scenario that really provokes generational grumpiness.

Some of my relatively-recent thoughts on King Canute at http://bahumbug.wordpress.com/2011/02/14/moglen-vs-history/

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Microsoft: NSA security fallout 'getting worse' ... 'not blowing over'

Nick Kew

Re: Really?

Exactly. MS has been predominantly a cash cow for a long time. Cash cows decline over time, and that can upset those who had overlooked their bovine attributes. No wonder they look for scapegoats.

Which is not to say it's total ****. One element in a mix.

Downbeat story about Oracle today too. In the same boat?

On the other hand, contrast today's Reg story about another US tech company: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2014/06/19/red_hat_q1_2015_earnings/

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Microsoft poised to take Web server crown from Apache

Nick Kew

Deja vu again

Dammit, I recollect writing about this before. Aha, here[1] it is, from February 2007. That'll be around the era when I was also writing a column in El Reg.

I think the points made there still stand. If anything's changed it'll be that nginx users might've started to join apache users in following security checklists that tell them to lie about themselves. The most popular Apache security recipes still suggest (as an example) that the server identify itself as IIS.

[1] http://bahumbug.wordpress.com/2007/02/09/numbers-games/

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UK govt 'tearing up road laws' for Google's self-driving cars: THE TRUTH

Nick Kew

No chance

That kind of sandbox would deprive lawyers of a slice of gravy-train. It's got to be kept flexible, so m'learned friends can find in favour of the Right Sort of Chap according to the circumstances of each case.

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Is the answer to life, the universe and everything hidden in Adams' newly uncovered archive?

Nick Kew
Headmaster

Correction!

Please get your basic history right! The original Hitchhikers guide was certainly earlier than 1979. Wikipedia says 1978, which is at least credible. Has to be beginning of '78, as it was in winter that we first heard of the Vogons.

Oh, and Nick Webb's official biography of Adams is well worth a read!

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Job for IT generalist ...

Nick Kew
Pint

Re: Depends on the country

Agree.

From a not-entirely-dissimilar perspective, I've seen UK industry has no use for techies older than a twentysomething grad. If you don't want to don a Suit and/or relegate your IT work to a hobby, look elsewhere. Either abroad (US being the obvious #1 market), or self-employed/contractor if you've got the salesmanship and negotiating skills to make that work for you.

I telecommute across the atlantic. Pay is still modest, but I get to live somewhere I can afford on it.

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El Reg posse prepares for quid-a-day nosh challenge

Nick Kew

Re: I still need to investigate how I can get some protein on the cheap.

The cheapest source of protein is probably milk,

Far from it. Pulses are a whole lot cheaper: a 90p bag of lentils will expand to sufficient protein for a week.

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EU: Let's cost financial traders $400m a day, because EVIL BANKERS. Right?

Nick Kew

Re: Article sounds like a rant

Your pension fund will definitely lose from a decrease in high frequency trading.

Wrong.

Yes, it improves liquidity, so on a simple buy-then-sell your pension fund may do better. But assuming your pension fund is investing rather than speculating, that's lost in the noise (indeed, 0.5% stamp duty will hurt an order of magnitude more than loss of HFT).

Meanwhile, the money that's not being siphoned off in unproductive trading can instead accrue to shareholders such as pension funds over the years they hold a share.

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Is tech the preserve of the young able-bodied? Let's talk over a fine dinner and claret

Nick Kew
FAIL

Where was this clown in the 1990s?

... when the web deezyners first started going out of their way to make things difficult, and really screwed everything up in "dot com" frenzy?

And what has he got against Google and Tesco, both of whom were among the few to buck the idiot-deezyner trend of the early days, and offer functional and accessible websites? In Google's case, that's exactly what distinguished them from a bunch of long-forgotten wannabes and also-rans.

Things have improved a lot since then. Which is just as well for those of us who are by now old farts with sharply-declining physical abilities. That didn't happen because someone whinged over a dinner, it happened because people did something positive. Oh, and because there was a shakeout when most of the worst offenders "dot com" crashed. And because the law gave us accessibility and took action against offenders - even someone as big as IBM and the Sydney Olympics weren't immune. And because pressure groups have been pointing out the importance of accessibility, and bringing it to the attention of decision-makers.

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Fancy joining Reg hack on quid-a-day challenge?

Nick Kew

Re: I don't get what all of the fuss is about £1 per day

Per day? Well, if you're working full-time away from home then that's not a big budget.

On the other hand, if you're working from home, or not working, £1/day is plenty for not merely a basic survival diet, but a tasty and varied one. My baseline is what I lived on when in genuine poverty in 2002/3: a diet you could get for under £2 per week at today's prices. One meal per day of pulses (85p for a bag that'll give a week's protein), plus value-line pasta to bulk it out. Any more is a bit of luxury: an onion, a mushroom, a chilli, a tomato ... whatever is going cheap. Plus what you can pick wild: in this season there's wild garlic and nettles.

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Did Russians frame Ukrainian hacktivists for alleged leak of 7 million credit, debit cards?

Nick Kew
Holmes

Evidence points to ...

Ukrainians? Perhaps, but too easy. Where's the intrigue in that?

Russian-speaking Ukrainians? Ditto.

Russian-speaking Ukrainians who support their twice-elected president and would prefer Moscow-rule to Kiev-rebels-backed-by-***-knows-who rule? Ummm ... ditto.

Actual Russians? Well, er, ditto once again. Why would they leave such an obvious trail?

The true expert agents provocateurs are here in the West, and have demonstrated readiness to joe-job anyone who opposes them. Even when they get caught they retain almost-plausible deniability (the "Gay Girl in Damascus" was a lone maverick, he had nothing to do with us, Guv).

Hmmm ... Where's Snowden?

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ICO decides against probe of Santander email spam scammers

Nick Kew

There's usually more than one explanation.

I too have an address unique to Santander, and it's NOT attracting crap (unlike, for instance, my address for amazon or for nectar, both of which got deleted after a week or two - the latter due to Sainsburys spamming it).

My suspicion would be that some folks might have failed to tick the "don't spam me" box when signing up for online service. Santander's website is painful, but not too painful to put up with for 3% on £20k ready cash in today's market.

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This record-smashing robot solves a Rubik's Cube in 3.253 seconds

Nick Kew

Sloppy timeline

Forty years?

When I first encountered the "magic cube" in 1979[1] the construction was so primitive you'd often take more than 3.whatever seconds just to un-jam it and make a single move. It neither acquired the "Rubik" name nor appeared in the shops until 1980.

Is there a Bah Humbug icon for old farts?

[1] I remember the occasion well. It was a two week summer pre-course for those of us who had just left school and were about to go up to Cambridge. John Conway, the brilliant mathematician and showman, teased us with it in an extremely entertaining lecture.

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Voracious alien flatworm hits French in the escargots

Nick Kew

Non-EU immigrants

They come over here, they take our chefs' jobs .... it's a disgrace! Has anyone told the Daily Mail?

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Roll up, roll up for the Commentards' Ball

Nick Kew

Re: Well done El Reg

You can send mine over IRC: the Virtual Bar.

Some of us use the 'net to liberate us from the shackles of geography (not to mention London, with its slumlords and packed commutes). If you can't have a pint over irc or email I'll have to assume you have yet to catch up with the 1990s.

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Putin to battle Snowden for Nobel Peace Prize

Nick Kew

How do you nominate someone?

It's a shame Brian Haw died: he'd've been a worthy recipient.

OK, among the living, can I nominate Mark Thomas, for all his fantastic work ridiculing despots, tyrants, and the advance of our own police state?

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Saving private spying: IETF Draft reveals crypto-busting proxy proposal

Nick Kew

Re: It's already happening you just don't know it.

Up to a point, Lord Copper.

All your saying is that people can, and sometimes do, put a server cert in a gateway (reverse proxy). That often makes perfect sense, to take some of the load off an origin that might be concerned with something higher-level, like your shopping basket or portfolio. Indeed, it's the same picture as a HTTPS server using an unencrypted connection to an SQL backend: there the server is itself MiTM. From there, it's arguably a small step to outsource the proxy function to a third-party who specialises in implementing it securely and efficiently.

Now as to whether trusting your expert third-party and all is any worse than trusting your own non-specialist staff, that's a question above my pay grade. In principle it could be better: your own sysadmin perhaps doesn't have the time and expertise to stay on top of every technical and security issue your specialist contractor deals with.

From an end-user PoV, the question is simply whether you trust the organisation behind the cert. And that's two questions: their intentions, and their competence.

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Entanet calls on equity firm Mobeus to back £14m MBO

Nick Kew

Your chance to own entanet with tax breaks ...

If anyone should happen to want a share in Entanet, Mobeus currently has an offer for subscription open, with some useful tax breaks including 30% up-front, followed by tax-free dividends. This deal looks fairly typical of what Mobeus does.

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fWHoaR! Trick-cyclists crack eternal mystery of WHAT WOMEN WANT in a man

Nick Kew

Symmetry

You only need to read the headline[1] to infer another manifestation of the age-old human preference for the perfectly round and symmetric. The ancient Greeks told us first.

[1] Or should that be headsphere?

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Hey, G20. Please knock it off with the whole tax loophole thing - we're good guys, really

Nick Kew

Re: an example....

The BBC programme included some misleading and heavy spin from that OU guy, which should have been challenged. Also some valid points, most notably the fact that corporation tax presents a perverse incentive to take on lots of debt, so companies tend to take on the most debt they can get away with.

This is one more reason - if avoidance by complex trans-national schemes isn't enough - why corporation tax is unfit for purpose and should be replaced.

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HP clinches six week extension on whether to join shareholders' suit against Autonomy

Nick Kew
Childcatcher

You mean ...

The SFO is tied up in this nonsense so it's not looking at anything that matters?

Even the Press is running pretty scared of investigating serious fraud since Leveson.

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Let Google's tentacles fondle your mobile's web downloads and Chrome will put the data on a diet

Nick Kew

Re: <cough>Copycats</cough>

Opera has had all of this since at least 2004, though not necessarily under the same label as today. Opera browsers would send a custom capabilities string that would determine the level of downsampling for visual elements like images, including not just resizing but even conversion to greyscale for monochrome devices. It would also "optimise" and compress HTML, and pipeline connections.

On the proxy it involved some sophisticated content filtering. Apache's mod_filter evolved out of that work: a module to configure the exact sequence of filters required by a particular client for particular contents.

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Snowden: 'I am still working for the NSA ... to improve it'

Nick Kew

Because we can

We spy because we need to? Or - like the surveillence states of yesteryear's most terrible regimes - because we can?

Snowden has accomplished more than one mission. For society, he's launched a serious debate. And for the powers of the state, he's sown/nurtured seeds of doubt about their online security, that may cause those with most to hide to deny themselves the power of modern communications.

And one more ... he's taken the media spotlight firmly away from a certain aussie now leading a non-life in limbo. A blessed relief there!

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DisARMed: Geeksphone's next high-end mobe to pack Intel x86 inside

Nick Kew
Thumb Up

Re: Not another smart phone?

Thanks for the rant - enjoyed reading someone else's well-considered requirements. I too am frustrated that the whole b***** industry spend all their time&effort competing to produce the wrong b***** identikit product for users whose requirement is no more than to follow fashion. Doubly so that they have in the past produced a product (the Nokia E71) that came so much closer to my ideal phone than anything available today[1].

You and I may be minority interests (clearly the Industry think so, or they wouldn't be ignoring us)! But what's the use of technological advance if it can't make us a more custom product? Other industries will customise and even individualise: I bet when you pay £100k for a machine to automate your bigger tasks, your vendors are falling over themselves to listen to your needs. Even among cheap consumer things I can buy components and assemble my own PC, for a cost comparable to an off-the-shelf model!

Anyone @ El Reg have the ear of the Industry? The Long Tail of users who DON'T just want an all-screen entertainment device in this market must be huge!

[1] Its nearest supposed successor, the E6, is a sick joke in so many ways it's not funny at all. If I'd had any idea it could be half that bad I'd've switched to a second-best from Blackberry when the E71 drowned.

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ARM server chip upstart Calxeda bites the dust in its quest for 64-bit glory

Nick Kew

Re: Didn't we just have a story 2 days ago...

Coincidence, or ... ?

Did someone know something was in the wind, and that a bunch of techies with in-depth knowledge of ARM in the server were on the point of hitting the jobs market?

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Apple iWatch due in October 2014, to wirelessly charge from one metre away – report

Nick Kew

I can't wear a wristwatch because the extra tension on the wrist causes shoulder/neck pain[1]. First found myself always taking it off, then realised why I was doing that, thought about it, and got myself a pocket watch. By the time the second pocket watch died, the era of the 'phone was upon us, so I haven't had a watch since.

[1] http://bahumbug.wordpress.com/2010/02/04/pain/

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Nick Kew

When I were a lad ...

Back in the 1970s, I had a wristwatch that wound itself up using energy from the motion of my wrist. Altogether more convenient: I never had to think about it. IIRC it was my inheritance from my grandfather.

That was back in the days when watches were beautifully luminous. Before that fell victim to hysteria about radiation (and someone noticed that luminous watches emitted far higher levels than were permitted to the nuclear power industry, so only the atomic weapons folks could dispose of them).

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Google may drop Intel for own-recipe ARM: Bloomberg

Nick Kew

Re: I have said for..

Agreed. That's why I bought ARM shares back when they were less than £1. So far, so good.

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Nick Kew

MIPS? SPARC?

The story is that Google might develop its own server architecture, based on ARM. That doesn't mean buying anything off the shelf, it means licensing technology from ARM and doing a whole load of custom development on top of that.

Somewhere in that custom development they might very well want to adopt IP from other architectures such as MIPS, Sparc, PowerPC, or even x86. There's no either/or between the architectures, but the prospect of a base that's neither x86 nor ARM seems remote, and of those ARM is the one whose business model welcomes licensees doing their own custom development.

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SuperStride Me: Reg hack spends week working at 'treadmill desk'

Nick Kew

Oz or US?

Wow. Want!

But I followed your links, first to the model, then the "Lifespan" one. That's one aussie company and one US. Both are clear that the don't deliver outside their respective countries.

Since this is a .uk website, how about including a clue about availability here?

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Mass Effect: Ten lightweight laptops that won’t bust your back

Nick Kew

Re: Does Not Compute.

I recently acquired a close relation of that HP. Usability is so poor, I'm on the lookout for a replacement.

Like other commentards, I'm disappointed to see no mention of that crucial question of whether I can expect to run *X without pain.

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CEO of bloated outsourcing firm Capita quits after 26 years

Nick Kew

Re: Wow

Crapita have a serious presence in finance: they're share registrars for a lot of companies.

They are a total nightmare to deal with. So much that it's become a consideration in investment decisions. I'll try and avoid any company that uses Crapita except when using a nominee account (my SIPP or ISA) so the manager gets the pleasure of dealing with the registrars. They need to bring their IT systems up to 1980s standards!

Minor retaliation: as someone who's never had a TV[1], I'm ignoring the (crapita) TV licensing folks. Let them waste their time chasing me.

[1] Except when I had one in a furnished flat I rented. That was in Germany.

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Brit spymasters: Cheers, Snowden. Terrorists are overhauling their comms

Nick Kew

A cunning plan ....

So the whole Snowden thing is really a charade. Shake peoples belief in cryptographic security, and nudge those who have something to hide towards denying themselves the power of modern communications. Granny Weatherwax would be proud of the headology.

Well, maybe. I wouldn't care to say, one way or the other. But if "NSA can work around internet crypto" were true (beyond what they can get by traditional blackhat methods like social-engineering), then surely talking it up like this is the *last* thing either the spooks or the politicians would be doing.

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Microsoft, Facebook: We'll pay cash if you can poke a hole in the INTERNET

Nick Kew

Overzealous PR

Nice of them to go public before the projects affected have had time to deliberate on the potential issues arising (like, for example, finding ourselves at the receiving end of lots of bounty-motivated NOTABUG reports).

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How to spot a coders comment

Nick Kew

Re: If you were in the 60's

The 60s? Wasn't that when IBM thought total world demand would be half a dozen or so computers?

I was writing FORTRAN in the '80s. And I've seen people from a scientific background still write effectively FORTRAN when writing C++ or ADA.

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