* Posts by David Roberts

56 posts • joined 25 Jan 2007


R.I.P. LADEE: Probe smashes into lunar surface at 3,600mph

David Roberts

At least we now know that the dark side of the moon is covered in LADEE bits.


Mounties always get their man: Heartbleed 'hacker', 19, CUFFED

David Roberts

Acting in the public good?

Perhaps he should try the white hat defence?

I was sending a 64K heartbeat full of zeroes and only asking for 2 bytes back so I was minimising network traffic whilst sanitising your memory buffers for you.


O.K. - oops - rookie coding error........


Gimme a high S5: Samsung Galaxy S5 puts substance over style

David Roberts

New feature - thermometer?

On the subject of new features - the S3 is generally great outdoors for GPS, mapping etc. but although I can find out how high I am above sea level I can't tell what the ambient temperature is.

Granted that much of the time a thermometer would be recording the temperature inside your pocket, it would still be nice to have a digital thermometer built in.

Even nicer to have an IR thermometer for spot readings :-)

Oh, laser tape measure? Hmmm...possibly need a bigger handset :-(


Web data BLEEDOUT: Users to feel the pain as Heartbleed bug revealed

David Roberts

That is what you get for using Windows

Oh, wait..........

Well, someone had to say it :-)

I've just bought an old Cisco router to try and get away from the bulk Soho consumer routers because Virgin Media won't fix bugs in their supplied product.

Now I have to go back to school to learn how to configure the blasted thing.

Oh, and given that it runs IOS how come Apple haven't sued Cisco yet?

Mine's the one with the infinite pockets to hold all the CLI manuals.


Why won't you DIE? IBM's S/360 and its legacy at 50

David Roberts

Re: The first clones...

Beat me to it with the RCA reference.

In fact the first few System 4 systems were RCA Spectras because the System 4 production line wasn't up to speed.

First mainframe I ever saw when I started out as a Cobol programmer.

On the microcode emulation - I think you will find that it was DME (Direct Machine Environment iirc) not DMA.

Emulators for ICL 1900 and LEO 326 were also produced and allegedly the 1900 emulation had to be slugged because it was faster that VME/B on the 2900 series for a long time, which was seen as a disincentive to upgrade to the new systems (does this have a familiar ring?).

So these VMWare people were late to the game :-).

Oh, and can we have a Modified Godwin for anyone who mentions XP end of life when not directly relevant?


Experian subsidiary faces MEGA-PROBE for 'selling consumer data to fraudster'

David Roberts

Due Diligence?

I wonder who did the 'due diligence' prior to the purchase and where they are working now?

Not good to buy a company only to be told by the USSS that your brand new acquisition has been flogging data to an offshore person with criminal tendencies.

Difficult to beleive that this only came to light straight after the purchase of Court Ventures.


US to strengthen privacy rights for Euro bods' personal data transfers

David Roberts

Small Businesses???

"However, Munich-based technology law specialist Christian Knorst of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, said that an 'IT Airbus' in Europe could cause competition issues and that the best way to challenge more established US rivals in the market was to improve funding for small businesses to help them compete on privacy."

Given the Patriot Act et. al. surely the only way to keep the data out of the immediate grasp of the US is to host it on EU located servers run by EU firms with as little US involvement as possible (given that AFAIK any US owned firm can be made to hand over any non-US data to Da Guvmint by law).

Which will not be done by "small businesses" but would require companies the size of BT to build and run the data centres.

Implementing the router infrastructure to avoid any data tromboning through the US is kinda minor in comparison. Light up some dark fibre and go for it.

Oh, and

"Only a handful of countries, including Argentina, Canada and Switzerland, but not including the US, are deemed by the European Commission to provide adequate protection."

Strangely no mention of India and other major hosters of call centres for the UK financial and telecoms industry.

Anyway, relying on promises today and then giving the US all your data in no way protects you from a (nominal) change in government and in government policy.

Stable door is flapping, horse already long gone, EU government as a whole addicted to Facebook and especially Twitter. Data privacy??

Oh, and at some point the various EU policy makers will realise that any EU-centric infrastructure is going to cost far more than the ever competing cloud providers in the US.


They want me to install CCTV to see what YOU did in the TOILET

David Roberts

Re: Better use for CCTV at work


Surely this could be a chace to develope a camera which you could use via a Web page to see if the coffee machine or vending machine was empty before you set off on the long walk.

Then everyone could use it?

Yeah - you could call it a Web Cam, perhaps?

Mine is the one with the Web history book in the pockrt.


This changes everything: Microsoft slips WinXP holdouts $100 to buy new Windows 8 PCs

David Roberts

Lifetime free support?

Not that I'm a massive MS fan but everyone seems to be asuming that a one off payment years back entitles you to lifetime free support.

How does that work, then?

Where does the money come from to maintain XP?

Run XP at risk for free.

To work with all that unsupported hardware and software you bought back in the day.

Just accept that if something goes wrong you have to fix it or pay someone.

Your choice your risk.

I assume that MS discounted a serious paid support option because of the ease of one person buying updates then redistributing them.

Or more likely corporate religion issues.

Then again if MS offered a $£€10 a year "relicensing" fee for each copy of XP for continuing support on your existing hardware would you pay to keep XP?

It would fit the business model of selling a new version every few years to keep revenue flowing.

10 coins a year isn't a major hit.

When the hardware dies you move on.

If you want a free operating system with long term support then go to Linux or similar and join the "Freetards" (I include myself in there).

Just don't keep whingeing about not getting free support for life for a commercial product.


MtGox finds 200,000 Bitcoin in old wallets

David Roberts

Turn them upside down and shake them

Then see what else falls out of their pockets.

[Looked for suitable Biblical lost+found quotes but gave up.]

Oh, how about:

Luke 11:9

"King James Bible

And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you."


5 Eyes in the Sky: The TRUTH about Flight MH370 and SPOOKSATS

David Roberts


Having been told that I was barking up the wrong tree (or words to that effect) in previous MH370 comments when I suggested that someone should have found signs by now using the much vaunted spy satellite technology, all I can say now is:

(1) Nyah!

(2) Hope that they have really found the wreckage if the plane has gone down. At least the relatives will get some kind of closure.

Beer just because it is Friday.


BLUE BIRD DOWN: Turkey wipes out Twitter 'scourge'

David Roberts

Preparing to join the Eu?

This should bolster their case no end.


Tech giants KNEW about PRISM, web snooping, claims top NSA lawyer

David Roberts


Am I the only one wondering what Snowden is finding to do to occupy his time, all alone with a load of source data and a copy of Powerpoint?

Unless all the data is in escrow from day 1 he could presumably keep on rolling out slideware for years.


MH370 airliner MYSTERY: The El Reg Pub/Dinner-party Guide

David Roberts

Re: Spy satellite? ATC hand over

"'I'm pretty sure that the Vietnamese ATC was well aware that they would be receiving a standard airline flight from Malaysia at that time. It was a scheduled flight and I'm sure the timetable would have been agreed months in advance. They would surely know about all flight plans routed through their airspace."

Just to confirm, are all ATCs en route notified of the actual take off time of the flight?

Flights rarely leave exactly on time.

Also, long haul flights are very dependant on wind strength and direction for the flight time, so it must be very difficult to predict exactly where a plane SHOULD be at any time during the flight based purely on a routine flight plan filed months before. Especially if the pilot has a hot date waiting and is 'pedal to the metal'.

"There are lots of reasons why the Vietnamese would not have immediately escalated a warning. But the most obvious is that they were busy and had no time to go making extra work for themselves..."

So they have more important things to do that control air traffic?

It doesn't seem to require a vast amount of high tech kit to perform a simple hand off of flights between ATC areas - as I said phone lines are generally available.

So 20/20 hindsight but a simple protocol would have quickly identified that something was amiss.

I assume that after this incident work will be done to improve this.

David Roberts

Re: Spy satellite?

"Re positive control, if you can figure out how to actively monitor the airspace more than ~200NM from land so they can do that then I suggest you patent it before going public. Once you're out of radar cover it's procedural reporting of the airliners position by the crew. "

I was thinking more of Malasian ATC phoning their opposite numbers in the next airspace over and saying "We just relinquished control of flight XYZ at location+date+time. According to the flight plan they should contact you in X minutes time."

With swift escalation if the flight does not register by whatever means with the next ATC.

As far as I can tell by the reports/comments I have seen so far it just waved goodbye to Malaysian ATC and nobody got at all worked up when it didn't register with another ATC in a few minutes time.

David Roberts
Black Helicopters

Spy satellite?

Given that we have been told (fact and spy fiction) for decades that orbiting hardware is capable of counting the pubic hairs on a field mouse in pitch dark, can we not assume that the entire surface of the globe has been scanned several times now in fine detail looking for traces of the plane?

So either someone knows where it is or it has been hidden with exceptional care.

However as I have as yet seen no mention that "satellite surveillance has so far failed to reveal any trace" I must suspect that there are reasons not to mention where it is (or isn't).

Oh, and isn't it about time ATCs performed a positive handoff (I am passing control of flight ABC to you - do you confirm?) instead of just saying "Byebye" and assuming the next controller in line will automatically pick the plane up?

I had assumed that long haul flights were carefully planned and monitored - I am now wondering how lucky family and friends have been to turn up when and where expected.



David Roberts

No default privileged user?

Not been around that long, then?

'root' was always the default sysadmin user on Unix installs and other users were created later if you really had to share your toy.

However sysadmins were trusted to manage systems and they didn't have these new fangled Internet connections - fancy systems had UUCP over dial up, of course.

Hardware costs put Unix systems far beyond the reach of most home users (mumble Xenix mumble).

Of course, with free Linux downloads measures had to be taken to protect naive users from themselves.


MtGox allows users to see a picture of their money, but not have it

David Roberts

Re: Interesting times ahead

Lender's balance?

Another thing not absolutely clear to me in this whole sorry saga.

People keep talking about Bitcoin exchanges as if they were banks.

I thought an exchange was a public wallet where you could trade Bitcoins inluding converting them to cash.

Do the exchanges lend out Bitcoins in return for interest, invest them and otherwise use them to increase their capital holding?

Do they pay interest to depositors?

Is, in fact, lending involved?

Or is the exchange just supposed to be a "swap shop" to facilitate the use of Bitcoins to directly purchase goods or currency?

In which case you would expect the displayed balance to directly equate to stored Bitcoins.

In fact, if you depoit (store?) a Bitcoin in an exchange do you not store a unique chain electronically?

I am sinking deeper into the mire here!

I thought the scam was using a bug where a single unique chain was used several times to generate modified chains where it should have been only able to generate one.

Which can't be true otherwise there would be a number of counterfeit bit chains in circulation, the total number of Bitcoins in circulation would be higher than expected, but the depositors would still have the original unique chains which they deposited.

So in hopefully simple terms Is it like a box full of dollar bills - you throw in you bill with a unique serial number but get back whichever bill first comes to hand?

And the scam involves someone getting a bill, saying "didn't get that" and being given another? A bit like a faulty ATM dishing out more notes than requested?

Again I don't see traditional banking analogies holding true because there are never as many dollar bills as there are dollars but I thought each Bitcoin was unique so there was a one to one mapping between Bitcoins and the total Bitcoin world wide holding.

Perhaps a non-banking terminology is needed to clarify?


They ACCUSED him of inventing Bitcoin. Now, Nakamoto hires lawyer to CLEAR his name

David Roberts

10 Years?

If he hasn't been able to get an IT job for 10 years then his financial loss can't be that great.


Blimey! ANOTHER Bitcoin bleed brouhaha

David Roberts

Re: Whereas if it was a bank doing these transactions

Not many banks these days lose a significant percentage of their total holdings in one robbery.

Can you imagine someone getting away with 50% of HSBCs total holdings? (..ummm...didn't something like that happen to a bank or two a while back...money just 'vanished' and turned out not to have been real...?)

Anyway one of the problems IMHO is that most of these exchanges were set up on a shoe string when a Bitcoin was worth only a few dollars and the whole capital structure was relatively small.

Suddenly the 'value' has soared to ridiculous heights and tiny outfits with no real funding apart from their own Bitcoin holdings are suddenly holding 'millions' in Beta software repositories with no investment in electronic or physical security.

Surely a much more tempting target than trying to scam a few 100 $/£/whatever by drive by infections and encryption.

Reminds me of the Wild West when small banks held all their deposits in the vault on site and a single robbery could wipe a bank out.

Darwin is at work - grab some popcorn and sit back and watch the natural selection.

Linux because such obviously poor software must be running under Windows.

[Where is the icon for a penguin getting his coat?]


Retiring greybeards force firms to retrain Java, .NET bods as mainframe sysadmins

David Roberts

Mainframe Sysadmins?

Is it just me?

I though mainframe *programmers* wrote in COBOL.

[Which used to be at least partly self documenting because of the 'simple everyday words' syntax.]

Sysadmins often have to know more arcane stuff - although it is {mumble} decades since I was system support for ICL mainframes.

Just out of interest I Googled 'IBM Sysadmin' and found

"The IBM DB2 System Administrator job role skill set specializes in problem determination and problem source identification of DB2 Databases and Instances, issues on Unix, Linux and Windows operating system. Skills and Responsibilities include: Technical knowledge of DB2 Engine commands and their applications on system level , Unix, Linux, and Windows Operating System commands, functions and capabilities; ability of addressing technical aspects of DB2 engine issues. Experience in iSeries/DB2 developer/DBA, iSeries operating system and architecture knowledge, Command Language Programming (CLP) on the iSeries, Implementer (iSeries change control tool), DB2 and SQL."

No mention of JCL or COBOL.

Perhaps the DB2 malarkey doesn't run on mainframes?

Then again

"Must know COBOL, JCL, CICS , Db2. Experience in Unix, MF Cobol (execution of COBOL programs in UNIX environment) is preferable."

So exhuming crusty old COBOL programmers with a smattering of CICS and JCL may not be the full requirement (unfortunately, should I ever get bored of retirement).

Still, no explicit mention of .NET and C#.

Anyway, nearly time for my warm drink and nap.

Beer, because that is what being retired is all about :-)


Ill communication delays NHS England's GP data grab for six months

David Roberts

Which third parties?

It would help a lot if the government gave some clearer indication of which 3rd parties would be allowed to see the data.

I volunteer to work with a UK charity and we do get to see some data from GP surgeries - collected with full agreement not stealth slurped - and the data controller is HSCIC.

In my experience HSCIC has been a tough data controller very aware that data has to be anonymised before passing out of its direct control.

So if, for instance, the aim was to provide a cancer research charity with data on how effectively recommendations were being followed at the GP level for the treatment, support and referral of newly diagnosed and long term cancer patients then there would probably be general support for a data extraction exercise.

This could be used, for example, to identify 'postcode lotteries' and build a coherent campaign.

Pick your own chronic disease and charity - you can usually see major benefits for patients in the medium to long term when interested campaigning bodies get carefully anonymised data from GPs, A&E, specialist clinics etc.

Pick your own bad example - much quoted is the Insurance Company which wants data which can be reverse engineered to identify individuals and then asses them for long term risk - and you can easily see that there is no way that this data should ever be released.

So an open and honest government would publish a list of all recipients of the data alongside a charter to HSCIC which ensures that the data is always anonymised before being released to outside parties.

The list would be rigorously maintained and audited.

This would go at least some way towards building confidence in the safety of releasing your personal data.

Of course, you would also have to trust current and future governments not to change the rules.

Best to have the data held by a trusted third party not directly under government control, but not under commercial control either - possibly a charity.

However, once the data is out there and aggregated it cannot be recalled which does require an enormous amount of trust from the UK population.


Top Brit docs wade into GP data grab row, demand 'urgent' NHS England talks

David Roberts

Presumably if you are away (gap year) or moved areas or abroad and haven't told your old surgery then your records will be slurped?

I do hope that records at the old surgery when you have moved to a new surgery will be marked as such and not extracted


Tales from an expert witness: Lasers, guns and singing Santas

David Roberts

Re: My 2p reverse gear synchro

A tip from the time when there wasn't synchromesh on 1st gear in most cars:

Assuming second gear is opposite 1st, with clutch disengaged pull the gear lever half way back into second, then push forward into first.

This seemed to work when the car was still rolling - allegedly the synchromesh on 2nd gets everything synchronised up for first gear.

Back in the day, older cars tended to have worn synchromesh on all gears anyway so it did encourage you to learn to double de-clutch.

Don't think this trick works for reverse, though, but I could be wrong.


Google and Samsung bare teeth in battle for LANDFILL ANDROID™

David Roberts

Why Android?

The latest generation of tablets and phones have enough hardware resources to run 'PC' operating systems.

Linux is the obvious alternative (yes, I know Android shares a lot of origins with Linux) to provide proper multi-window multi-tasking and provide fully functional programs (not Apps) to those users who would quite like things like Thunderbird as a mail client.

What about Microsoft porting Windows 8.1 (or perhaps XP) to ARM systems? Goes completely against their ethos but I suspect that if Mr&Mrs Average were offered a choice of tablets running a well known and familiar OS at a less than stellar price then they might be quite receptive.

The fly in the ointment, as usual, is the App store - but Google has been messing with this recently as well, like removing AdBlock Plus and other ad blockers so it can monetise Android even more.

Everyone hates Microsoft because they have a reputation for locking down the platform and screwing the customer. Apple have been accused of similar. Is Google now going down the same route and trying to become 'most hated'?

In the same way that Linux had a boost from people fed up with Microsoft, it might get another boost from people fed up with Google.

Here's hoping!


Crypto protocols mostly crocked says euro infosec think-tank ENISA

David Roberts

And the number of people affected is..?

Email encryption, disc encryption - been around for decades.

I don't know anyone who uses it in a domestic situation.

I couldn't point to any commercial organisation which uses it.

Given that a significant (enormous?) number of people publish all their personal details and goings on for general consumption on social media, not may people seem to have any interest in massively secure encryption of any information ,

Corporations in general don't seem to want to digitally sign or encrypt internal email or external email.

Legal professionals (where you might expect that encryption and signing of any electronic communication might be desirable) seem quite happy to accept bog standard emails and documents.

Who actually needs/wants this strong encryption?

Apart from the security services and armed forces (who are the ones everyone is worrying about reading secure emails?

So who does this really affect, apart from people who REALLY want to hide their actions from the authorities and have the time to spend setting up all the infrastructure? Who probably use private keys securely exchanged by physical means.


NHS preps spammy mailshots advertising 'BIGGEST medical data grab in HISTORY'

David Roberts

Re: It;s very sad ....

It is very sad.

I happen to be involved with a charity which goes to great lengths to collect audit information from GP surgeries and clinics to evaluate the effectiveness of care and publish the results to enable people to see what level of care their region receives compared with the rest of the country.

This data is also useful for medical research, and it is a nightmare trying to ensure that data can go to worthy UK researchers but not be flogged off to pharma companies in the rest of the world (mainly USA) for commercial gain.

UK medical records are (despite all the shortcomings of the NHS) far more reliable and comprehensive than those in most other countries because we have a <deep breath> National Health Service - which most countries don't. So we have a national data set for over 50 million people. Priceless.

Would you trust any government with this, when a short term funding crisis comes along and Big Pharma starts to use the carrot and the stick?

No - me neither.


Hackers just POURING through unpatched Internet Explorer zero-day hole

David Roberts

Re: Roll back to Vista - you know it makes sense!


Got more market share than Linux, still.

Mine's the one with the target on the back.

David Roberts

Roll back to Vista - you know it makes sense!

" The exploit we analyzed worked only on Windows XP or Windows 7 running Internet Explorer 8 or 9. "

(1) A subtle plot to get users on to W8 or IE10 on W7?

(2) A big "Yay!!" for Vista - the secure version of the MS range :-)




Hunt's 'paperless', data-pimping NHS plan gets another £240m

David Roberts

Who foots the bill?

Loads of words about "You should contact your GP practice".

How many people are reading these words?

Probably not the majority of active patients, as these will include a significant number of over 60s who are not Internet savvy.

Circulation of national newspapers is no longer very high.

Unless the Govmint runs a full saturation national TV and radio advertisement campaign to inform people that they have to make a choice and contact their surgery to opt out then most people will not even know that this is going on and that they have a choice.

The GPs aren't going to pay out £K to mailshot everyone.

They have enough financial problems already.


Possessed baby monitor shouts obscenities at Texas tot

David Roberts

Brit or European?

Well, why be so narrow minded?

Apart from the 'mid-Atlantic' accent you get from East Coast US with UK business connections, what about the rest of the world?

I recall checking into an hotel on the East Coast US and being told "Hey - there's some of your guys in the bar."

Turns out they were Australian.

So could have been an antipodean intruder.

Or almost anyone not born and raised in Texas.


PHWOAR! Huh! What is it good for? Absolutely nothing, Prime Minister

David Roberts

Political whitewash?

I've lost the will to read after the first of at least 6 pages of comments, so apologies if this has already been said.

Anyway, as we all know a porn filter is a nightmare to set up and manage and relatively easy to circumvent.

Keyword blocking will just lead to keyword creep and an ever extending list of words with multiple meanings to block.

So realistically the ISPs don't really want to have to maintain an ever changing but (partially) effective filter.

The government wants to off load the responsibility for hard stuff then claim a success.

In practical terms, most Internet users will be forced to opt out of the filters because they prevent so many legitimate searches.

So the pressure is off the ISPs.

"Not my problem mate they opted out."

The government is also absolved of all responsibility.

"We tried to save you from yourself but you chose to be bad."

In fact, the more stupidly restrictive the filters the better for the ISPs and the government..

They can both point to having done their best and shift the blame to the public.

I am assuming that many will have to opt out of the filter and hope that enough people will opt out that it is seen as a rejection of police state censorship rather than being an admission that you are a pervert.


Sammy had Sweet Fanny Adams to do with Swiss Fanny madam's blast

David Roberts

Is it just me?

Or does any news story with the victim called "Fanny Schlatter" where her ....ummm... fanny has been.....ummm...schlattered lose a certain amount of gravitas?

Sympathy to anyone who has had their nether regions roasted by technology, but it took me a while to decide that the news report was serious.

If she had been called Joan Schmidt then the question would not have arisen in my no doubt over trained mind.


Boeing batteries back under spotlight as 787 burns at Heathrow

David Roberts

Two for the price of one?

Now if it turns out that someone left a Samsung Galaxy S3 up in the tail, you could have two scare stories for the price of one.


LEO, the British computer that roared

David Roberts

Just wandering past, but nobody has mentioned yet that the Post Office (sorry, was that BT?) ran their entire Telephone Billing system on the Leo 326.

I was present when they turned the last Leo 326 off (complete with pyrotechnics from the ICL engineers).

Another bit of trivia - the OS was ported to DME on the ICL 2960/66 because of threatened industrial action blocking the implementation of New Billing on ICL 2980/88 under VME/B so that come the revolution the original billing system could run on - on hardware several generations younger than the Leo systems.

Hah - unions - you young feller me lads don't remember them, do yer?

Well let me tell you, it was in the winter of '78 (or was it '79) and snowflakes the size of house were blowing across the moors......


Cultivated dope-smoking Welshman barred from own shed

David Roberts
Thumb Up

Custom built £800 shed?

Does this mean he assembled it himself?

GIYF and says that a decent quality 8 * 12 shed costs around £800 - 'budget' sheds around £500.

So just an average shed, then, although 'custom built' suggest something special.

Then again, budget shed, insulation, heater, overhead lights for 24 hour growing, blackout curtains, power from the house ......

Sounds quite cheap, all things considered :-)


Curse you, old person, for inventing computers!

David Roberts

"When I was young we had to compute entire navigation table with nought more than pencil and

paper and a hand-cranked mechanical computing apparatus!"


I'd forgotten all about the navigation computers we used in RAF Corps at school!

Worked mechanically with the blunt end of a pencil.

Happy days!

[Well, no they weren't, but still...]


USB 3.0 speed to DOUBLE in 2013

David Roberts


Seems to sell TVs.


US, UK probe HP claims of accounting mischief at Autonomy

David Roberts
Black Helicopters

Please remember that HP now is not HP at all (not the original greatly caring and outstanding company that it was many years ago) but a mishmash of all the other companies that have been sucked into the corporate soup and stirred around into an unidetifiable sludge.

However great a company, dilution will kill the original ethos.

Equally, a software company is mainly the ethos and the current staff - their ability to perform in their chosen environment.

There are many excellent Dilbert cartoons covering the fate of innovative smaller companies subsumed by mega companies.

All the reasons that the original company was a success are almost immediately destroyed by the bland culture of the subsumer.

So a company with a realistic stellar valuation can have most of that value destroyed almost immediately merely by being taken over by the wrong kind of company.

Which in turn leads to the new owner trying vainly to understand where all the value has gone and then deciding it must have been the victim of a hoax because nothing else fits in with current corporate thinking.

This may be the truth in this particular case - but once lawyers are involved then truth generally takes a serious battering down a dark alley.

Oh, and yes I did work for a while for a company that was Borged by HP.

The only good thing was the redundancy :-)


Swedish teens GO BERSERK in Instagram sex pic slut riot

David Roberts
Paris Hilton

Irresistable force?

A post asking for pictures of sluts, aimed at teens?

Surely only a matter of time before the entire local population appeared tagged as sluts.

Including grannys, pets, farm animals and the occasional piece of architecture.

Could anyone swear that they could resist such overwhelming temptation?

Or really consider that the postings were in any way serious?

Once the posts started accumulating, there would be the irresistable temptaton to post something more outrageous than the last one.

So why all the fuss about one poster, but no hunt for the person who originated the whole thing?

Sounds like a bunch of bored kids looking for an excuse to trash stuff.

[Memories of the riots in the UK.]

Oh, my humble contribution top left ;-)


HP cuts 27,000 workers

David Roberts

Re: Here we go again...

I helped reduce the workforce in 2009 :-)

Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but haven't HP bought up a few companies since then, screwed them over, and are now left with the people from a once good company who aren't generating the revenue projected at the time of acquisition?

So I don't think HP 'empoyed' loads more people - they spent money buying in yet more companies and this is just them chucking out the people who haven't jumped ship.

Sympathy to anyone from EDS (as was) caught in the all too familiar mangle.


Review: Raspberry Pi

David Roberts

Why oh why? Think about the children!

Amongst all the guff (interesting and otherwise) I haven't seen anything that states WHY schoolkids need to learn to program.

O.K. - you grew up with a BBC Micro and it never did you any harm - well, look, you're posting on here aren't you.

But kids today need to learn to use consumer electronic devices which have already been programmed - so learning Office Automation suites and web browsers will equip them to function in their long term employment.

As more and more resources are available mainly or only online it is vital that all school kids know how to browse the web, fill in forms, write emails.

General literacy would be a great help.

Phones, games consoles, video players - kids don't need training on these; they are the trainers.

Assembler, C, C++, Python?


Why do they need to know this?

I grew up before PCs were invented, and landed in mainframe IT quite by accident when I needed a job after University and took a programming aptitude test. The rest is a rather murky history.

As an ITphile we had computers in the house when our kids grew up - and they played games on the Atari STE and then word processed and played games on the PCs running Win95 and NT4 Workstation.

Good marks in school, them days, if you did your work on a PC.

Copy and paste from various resources produced impressive projects as well.

Neither showed any particular desire to program nor was there any need for them to do this.

Although I can program (after a fashion) I haven't for a few years - I mean, why do I need to?

What problem is it solving for me?

Strangely, one child has sort of followed in my IT footsteps though the other certainly hasn't.

As far as I can tell neither has suffered from lack of opportunity to program at the medium to low level whilst at school.

I learned my programming as an adult, learning a number of different languages and technologies over the years, so you don't have to learn it at school.

You can learn programming at any age, when there is a need.

Reading, writing, managing money, health & hygiene, cooking - these are much more basic survival skills.

Woodwork, metalwork, electricity and plumbing, general DIY; these would not go amiss either.

O.K. - there is a need for people to produce applications for electronic devices but this is going to be market lead, and the vast majority of school children are not going to end up in this area. They are going to end up as users of electronic devices. What is the ratio of Android phone users to Android application developers?

I applaud anything which brings home the message that there are real bits of stuff inside the shiny cases and you can actually make them do stuff yourselves, not just use other peoples apps.

However I see this mainly as a platform for hardware experiments - where you can do something simple and see something interesting as a result,

Robots, control gear, spy cameras, hi-tech stuff you can make work yourself.

Printing "Hello world" on a screen (instead of typing it in your word processor) seems very lame. Far less interesting than posting something on Facebook, Twitter, whatever.

So I say again - why do they need to learn to program?

[Probably more productive to teach them Mandarin.]


Home Office 'technologically clueless' on web super-snoop law

David Roberts
Paris Hilton

Two stage strategy?

If they want to successfully monitor email then they need a two stage strategy.

Firstly they remove the 90% of emails which are SPAM, thus winning the hearts and minds of all thinking beings.

Then they have only the last 10% to peer at for bad people sending bad messages.

Unless, of course, civilization is doomed to extinction by the lack of Cialis.


Walking through MIME fields: Snubbing Steve Jobs to Star Trek tech

David Roberts
Paris Hilton

Nobody mentioned cost so far, nor Windoze....

It is a long time since I was involved in part of this, but I was involved :-)

To me, MIME was a commercial enabler, and a cross platform enabler.

In the '90s most offices (those not on VMS and dumb terminal systems) ran WIndows of some sort.

So they could easily exchange complex attachments because Windows understood what they were - due mainly to file name extensions.

So each business (or part business) had a network and some mail servers.

ccMail, MsMail, Novell, Lotus Notes (whatever happened to that?) and a few others.

Within the networks they could exchange documents fine - it was just sending outside the organisation was a problem.

The main problem was cost.

There were plenty of email gateways - but for each one you had to licence another email system and the licence fees were not cheap!

SMTP provided email interaction without licencing the protocol.

MIME enabled rich information about attachments to be included.

These two things freed email users from being tied into one supplier by large licence fees.

Microsoft Exchange Server killed off the prorietary email systems by the usual Microsoft tactic of finally getting it right about 10 years after several other firms had fought for market domination by being better than Microsoft in a chosen field (much like IE finally killing off Netscape, Novell withering once M$ networking finally got its act together).

M$ tends to lose all the early battles but win the war.

So really MIME was not necessary for medium to large corporates because they already had solutions in place.

It did however make inter-corporate working easier and cheaper.

The real impact was for non-corporate users and non-Windows users.

Having a standard which was not tied to major commercial email suppliers and not tied to Windows file extensions made email effectively supplier/vendor/OS independant.

Which is nice :-)

Finally, X.400 could do all the transporting of complex document types to and from all kinds of different devices in all kinds of different languages and character sets - essentially everything that MIME could do (possibly more).

However it was so analy complex and difficult to implement that PCs couldn't hack it in the early years - just not enough power.

SMTP was simple by comparison, although feature poor at the start, and could at a pinch be worked from a teletype connected directly to a port on the mail server.

Just my own take - back through the mists of time.


Why Amazon, eBay and Google are building bricks-and-mortar stores

David Roberts
Paris Hilton

Amazon franchise stores?

I think there could be a market in the UK for a store where you could have your purchases delivered, and even order using a PC in the store (O.K. Argos on steroids).

Hmmm....could this save the local libraries?

This removes the major barrier to online shopping - being there to receive the delivery.

This is one area where the traditional Royal Mail scores heavily - there is usually a local delivery office where you can pick up packages if you are not in when they arrive.

However this is not really an Amazon thing unless they branch out and receive packages from all carriers from all online stores.

Is this just an indication that the online market is becoming saturated and the demand for revenue growth is forcing increasingly marginal and desperate 'strategies'?

Or is it, as suggested above, just a vanity move with a store in each major capital?


Dave R


World's first biz computer was British – and sold teacakes

David Roberts

Telephone bills?

Nobody has so far mentioned the LEO 326 which was used to produce telephone bills until replaced by the ICL 2900 range.

Still going strong in the late 1970s!

I think that these were the last operational LEO systems - unless someone knows better :-)


SSL authority stops issuing certificates following breach

David Roberts

Decent security costs far too much - up front.

In a previous life I worked for a major UK Telco on many things including OSI software and PKI (Public Key Infrastructure).

In both cases IMHO the standards were exhaustively thought out by paranoid boffins who lived in an abstract world but were very good at theorising obscure threats and potential problems.

With OSI the standards were more or less ignored in favour of the RFCs developed on the pricnciple that we are all good chaps so let's work together as easily as possible.

Loads of adopters because it was cheap and easy.

Followed by years of retrofitting the things that the OSI specifiers had thought out but which weren't cost effective to implement on day one.

Implemented, obviously, because security weaknesses had been exploited and financial damage had been suffered.

With PKI the software to build a CA was readily available and almost anyone could issue certificates.

The big and horrendously expensive challenge was to implement the infrastructure in a secure manner so that nobody could spoof credentials and no unauthorised person could create valid credentials.

All the cost and hard work was in the physical security including network separation and in complex process and procedure to validate all applicants for certificates.

So no surprise that corners have been cut all over the place - it just costs too much to implement and police.

Until it all starts costing so much money that the problems have to be fixed.

Anyone hear the sound of yet another stable door swinging in the breeze?

I am puzzled as to why the regular in depth scans on the CA systems with industry leading AV software to check for virus and other malware attacks didn't locate the threats until after someone noticed the network doing bad things.

Or is this another thing that was judged too time consuming and expensive?

One further rambling on PKI - if everyone who had an email account also had to have a certificate to go with it and only signed email from a current good CA was allowed through major mail hubs then SPAM could be cut down enormously.

Cost a bit to implement though, wouldn't it?

I wonder when this will cost in?


Ginormous sunspot spews solar guts towards Earth

David Roberts

At last an explanation..

...for the banking systems all crashing around the same time....


Natwest net and phone banking goes titsup

David Roberts
Black Helicopters

All in the timing?

A lot of stuff going on at the same time - BBC main page, HSBC, NatWest/HSBC.

Good for conspiracy theories.

My conspiracy theory is that all the banks are scheduling their upgrades to take place at the same time so if it all goes nipples to the sky no one bank stands out as incompetent.

On the other hand this may be a global conspiracy which will make the occupation of St. Pauls seem like a minor event.

Or not.


BT brings jobs back from India

David Roberts

Not just BT

I have had reason to use Virgin Broadband (aka NTL) technical support on a few occasions - few compared with the amount of time I have used the service.

When dealing with people with recognisable UK accents (I even understand those North of the border) I have had universally excellent service.

The one time I rang at the weekend and got someone who did not sound as if they spoke English as a first language it was like talking to a lump of unintelligent putty and totally unproductive.

I am not suggesting that our Asian bretheren are unitelligent; however they lack understanding of the UK life experience, technical infrastructure, speaking UK English as a first language etc. and so cannot hope to give us the same level of support as you will get from technically literate UK staff.

All this (understandably) gives overseas call centres a justifiably bad reputation.

This is not even confined to IT - my son recently had a bad experience trying to reserve a space for his push bike on a train.

When I talked to the train operator directly there was initial puzzlement then when I explained that he had been talking to a call centre the response was " Ah, he must have been talking to Network Rail. Talk to us next time and we can sort it out easily."

Hmmm....off shore call centres strike again, methinks. I have stopped the rant at this point as all sorts of things are wrong with the railway booking systems and I could go on for ages. Sigh.

Oh, and I was told a totally fabricated and scurrilous tale about an interview for a job at a BT call centre. The candidate passed with flying colours, and as a final test was asked to form a sentence using the words yellow, green and pink. He thought for a while, then said "The phone goes green green, I pink it up and say yellow this is BT, how can I help you".