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* Posts by Tony W

82 posts • joined 14 Aug 2007

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Google+ GOING, GOING ... ? Newbie Gmailers no longer forced into mandatory ID slurp

Tony W

A +minus point

When Google+ was introduced, they removed the long-standing and useful ability to force inclusion of a search term by putting a + in front of it. Could we have that back please? Yes you can use quotes but in my experience they don't work 100%.

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Got your NUDE SELFIES in the cloud? Two-factor auth's your best bet for securing them

Tony W

Pet password hates

- companies that don't allow you to paste a password, and don't allow the entered password to be visible. So either you have to have a short one that's easy to remember and type accurately, or else you have to write it down.

- companies that ask you for a memorable word that THEY specify: Like "favourite piece of music" (mine changes weekly) or "mother's maiden name" (my grandparents didn't speak much English and my mother's name was wrong on her birth certificate, so I know two versions.) Etc etc.

- companies that reject passwords that don't comply with their rules, but they don't tell you what the rules are. Sometimes they don't even tell you that there ARE rules, you have to work out for yourself why your registration isn't accepted.

I have hundreds of passwords, so I use KeePass with a long pass-phrase, including a number that hopefully I won't forget until I'm too old to care. The KeePass data file is synchronised to my mobile via DropBox so I can also use their mobile app. I don't feel that my security is too bad. But I think it would be better if more companies allowed pass-phrases with spaces.

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

Tony W

In one word - transients

Economists should take lessons from electronic designers. Calculating steady state response is easy, but often it's the transients that will blow the fuse. Abolishing planning will make some people instant millionaires and push others into major debt (yes a house does have very real value when you downsize or move to a cheaper area.) Included in the latter will be a lot of old folks who have no way replace their lost asset.

So how do you get from here to there? Any hint of a possibility that the law might change will lead to instant upheaval and instability. That's not a political problem, it's a real economic effect - just one that most economists that I've read don't deal with.

Add to that, the idea that free market heaven would be established if planning were abolished is nonsense. A few big companies would carve up the whole thing between them, take control of the vital transport links and (as usual) those that shout loudest about the free market would be the ones working hardest to fix it in their own favour.

Of course when we had few controls, what happened was that people built to take advantage of the existing often state-established transport networks, and the state scrambled to keep up with water, sewage, schools, hospitals and so on. Not an ideal model, but hard to work out how to replace it without some ... planning.

And no, I don't support rent control in the least - I'm old enough to remember its dire effects in London.

1
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Pay to play: The hidden cost of software defined everything

Tony W

Very old news

I can only imagine that the author isn't familiar with modern hardware other than computers. Two old examples from my own field: digital hearing aids and high end sound level meters.

Usually I'm reasonably happy to choose the price/features point that suits me. But I was caught out when something I thought was a basic feature turned out to be an expensive extra. I argued that I'd told the sales engineer what I needed the equipment to do, and eventually haggled the vital "upgrade" at half price. It taught me a lesson.

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Scottish independence debate: STV player flops under weight of viewers

Tony W

Dog bites man

If a streaming service keeps working when it's subject to a sudden huge increase in demand, that's news. I would have been very surprised if the feed had kept working and no doubt so would the STV IT people. I'm not an expert in these matters, just going on experience.

Not surprised they wouldn't let the BBC stream it either. The relation between the BBC and Scotland is in itself a relevant matter in the debate.

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Japan's DOCOMO suggests wearable SIM cards

Tony W

Security?

With one device to access all the PCs, phones, tablets etc. on which you have accounts, you'd better look after it well. Unless it really is implanted. The way some crooks work, if is is implanted, probably not a good idea to have it too deep.

And how long before someone works out a way of cloning, it, as is done with radio car keys?

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Microsoft promises no snooping in new fine print for web services

Tony W

I hope "hard to bind a third party to a contract without their consent" is an understatement. I thought only the Government could do that.

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Israel develops wireless-malware-injection-by-smartmobe tool

Tony W

Re: Sowing confusion

yes, but ... If smoke and mirrors, who is it aimed at? The people who are trying to protect systems against Israeli attack would presumably know enough to realise that attacking a system without a radio receiver via a mobile phone isn't feasible. A system with a radio receiver might be vulnerable to attack via a mobile phone, but that wouldn't be astonishing, even though it might be "air-gapped" in the most literal sense.

I always wonder what it's about when I see technical terms that are actually meaningless in the context. In this case "FM frequencies". Does this mean the frequencies that are used for FM domestic radio transmissions (around 100 MHz), which would need a large aerial to radiate with useful efficiency? Seems unlikely but if not, what? This phrase is really just words devoid of any useful information.

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'CAPTAIN CYBORG': The wild-eyed prof behind 'machines have become human' claims

Tony W

Not Turing's finest hour

Turing was a very clever man but he hadn't grasped the open-ended nature of human conversation, with its almost infinite number of possible variations, so he underestimated the time before his test would be passed, and the amount of hardware needed to do it.

I predict that the Turing test won't be genuinely and convincingly passed for very many years. And that's just as well. I can't see a lot of legitimate uses for a computer that can successfully fake a human life history and experience, but I can see some nefarious ones.

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Android is a BURNING 'hellstew' of malware, cackles Apple's Cook

Tony W

Latest version, not always greatest version

My wife updated her rather old iPhone while we were on holiday. It gave constant trouble, and she was cursing until she could get to reliable WiFi to roll it back. Mr Google says she's not the only one.

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BBC hacks – tweet the crap out of the news, cries tech-dazzled Trust

Tony W

How to make news popular?

You're asking for news that's still basically about politics, just a bit different. But the other news outlets that aim to be popular don't do that. They go for celebrities, sport, bashing whatever group is out of favour and dissimilar from their audience, and inaccurate sensational stories about health and the weather. That seems to work pretty well. There doesn't seem to be much evidence that any sort of hard news can be very popular.

I don't think hard news has ever been popular with young people, apart from a few politics geeks. They're usually preoccupied with sorting out their own lives. That's just one of the reasons why they shouldn't be allowed to vote.

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Not your father's spam: Trojan slingers attach badness to attachment WITHIN attachment

Tony W

Don't expect software to save you

Security software is sold with the false promise that it will virtually guarantee safety. People need to learn that it won't, and to be very paranoid, because they really are out to get us.

It would help to ban zip files as email attachments, they are almost only used by spammers (and people who mistakenly put incompressible files in them.) Apart from that, people need to learn to look both ways before opening an email as they do (well, should) when crossing the road. I've nearly been caught a few times but have learned to ask myself a couple of simple questions:

"Why would xxx (HMRC or whoever) make me open an attachment to find what it's about, rather than put more information in the body of the email?"

"Could I check the information on their web site instead?"

There's no hope for those who think they might have won a lottery that they haven't entered, but it is possible to train reasonably smart people to be a lot more cautious, and it pays dividends in reduced calls to sort out infected systems.

2
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Good news: 'password' is no longer the #1 sesame opener, now it's '123456'

Tony W

Why does anyone expect people to remember?

Even a casual internet user would likely need passwords for PC logon, ISP, email. router admin, Wi-Fi, bank, building society, Amazon, eBay, gas and electricity on-line accounts, Facebook and Twitter, as well as non-internet PINs for credit and debit cards. It's just not reasonable to expect human beings to remember all these. Most people I know have their pssswords written down, or have simply forgotten the less frequently used ones.

The only practical answer is to use a password utility such as provided with some AV programs, or a stand-alone utility such as Keepass. For me it's an essential piece of software.

I avoid creating passwords wherever possible but even so I have 392 passwords ... of which probably 1/4 are defunct and I will never need about 3/4 of the rest (only I'm not quite sure which 3/4.) Some of these belong to relatives in case they ask me to sort out problems with their email etc.

But they're easily managed with Keepass, and available on my desktop PC, laptop and phone, by sharing the encrypted password file on DropBox.

I only have to remember the master phrase, and I use that often enough to remember easily. Should I change it regularly though? Surely it it's secure I don't need to, and if it isn't, by the time I change it, it would probably too late.

3
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More brutal PC numbers from Dell as revenues stay flat, profits sink

Tony W

Re: Not Dell

Thanks, I've found it.

Yes, Scan look good and have very good custom options. Unfortunately they don't advertise a compact desktop, nothing between full-width tower and micro system. But I'll have a word with them anyway.

(Nowadays on a retail site, I expect to be able to click on an appropriate heading, not to have to scroll all around looking for something suitable. And their Home Office PCs section has a missing anchor so the link doesn't work. Apart from that ...)

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Tony W

Not Dell

Looking at Scan shows exactly what I a problem I have choosing something other than Dell. I can't find any "standard" desktop PCs there at all - only mini and all-in-one. In fact their main menu does not present "PC" as a category of things they sell. No doubt that reflects the market pretty well but unfortunately it's what I want.

HP seems a a great deal more expensive, and I am not impressed by 2 GB RAM with integrated graphics and 250 GB HD these days. Still don't think me ungrateful, all (polite) suggestions are very welcome.

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Tony W

OK not Dell, then what?

Custom built is not a practical option for the vast majority who don't enjoy messing about with PC parts. Fine if it works. If it doesn't you can waste months trying to find the problem. Been there. If you have a stock of spare parts you can swap to isolate a problem, that's fine. I haven't.

So where should my wife buy a small form factor desktop PC for her business, without paying for a screen she doesn't need? Dell might be behind in updating BIOS but are the very few alternatives any better? I can't recommend a laptop with inferior performance, no expandability, and a screen that's too small for the job.

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UK plods cuff another bloke in Twitter violence threat probe

Tony W

Not new

About 25 years ago there was a fashion for phoning random numbers, then if there was an anwering machine, leaving a death threat. I know it was a fashion because the police told me when it happened to me. I didn't take it seriously because it was clear that the caller didn't really know anything about me, but that sort of experience is still nasty.

Everybody likes a bit of power but some people have very little. Like some kids who knock on doors and run away, because kids have almost no power except the power to annoy. Thanks to the Internet, losers who have no other way to make anybody take any notice of them can easily harass specific people. Of course people who threaten violence should be caught and stopped if possible, but it should probably be recognised that they'll never be stopped completely, any more than you can stop kids knocking on doors and running away.

It might help to recognise that no real rape or bombing has ever followed this sort of threat (AFAIK anyway) and is never likely to.

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Beijing fanboi in coma after iPhone 4 shock treatment

Tony W

The leccy

A badly designed and faulty charger could put mains voltage on the USB cable, which could easily carry that voltage and enough current to give a dangerous shock without breaking down. But I don't know if the metal body of a phone would be electrically connected to the charging circuit. Or maybe it could be isolated by a component that would break down under mains voltage. Either way a phone with exposed metalwork would be dangerous. Yet another reason to put your phone in a non-conductive case?

In the most likely scenario, the person grasping the phone would have to be earthed to receive a dangerous shock. For example by also touching anything metal that was earthed, like a water tap or kitchen appliance or by standing on damp ground. There are a lot of possibilities. Touching the phone with one hand and earhing the other would be the most dangerous as the current would pass through the chest and affect the heart.

On a phone with no easily touched metal parts such a fault might not even be noticed, as it might still get charged.

Quite possibly it would need a combination of two faults to give a dangerous shock. With so many people using phones, a statistically rare combination of faults could easily happen in a few cases.

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UK gov's smart meter dream unplugged: A 'colossal waste of cash'

Tony W

Has this been tried on real people?

An elderly relative of mine was sent a remote electricity consumption monitor by her electricity company, and I installed it for her. She tried hard but couldn't understand the complex and hard to read display, and in the end put it in the bin. As her house is heated by electricity and has been insulated so far as possible, the only way she can save a significant amount of energy is to freeze so the whole thing was pointless anyway.

As far as I can see, people who are worried about saving energy already do it. What more information might do is stop them worrying unnecessarily about devices on standby and chargers, once they realise how little money these things are costing them.

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Finally, someone's fixed THAT Android hole. Was it your mobe network? No

Tony W

Who do you believe?

Bluebox scanner says my Galaxy S2 is patched, but I find this very unlikely.

0
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Report: Android malware up 614% as smartphone scams go industrial

Tony W

Disposable devices

I think Google expects you to throw away any old devices that can't be upgraded to the latest version of the OS. Even if your phone/tab can be updated you could wait a year for this to happen as I have just done with Galaxy S2. In Android there seems to be no such thing as patches for security or bug fix. But then you get what you pay for.

I have a love-hate relationship with Android. It's great when it works and I can do all sorts of things, some that I couldn't do with an iPhone - but the more clever things I do the more likely it is that something will go wrong and make the phone unusable. And I don't mean rooting, just running apps from the Play Store.

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It's official: 'tweet' an English word – not just in the avian sense

Tony W

The OED is a useful tool,

not a standard reference. For example it still gives db as the only abbreviation for decibel (presumably based on the original 1929 quotation), although in scientific use only dB has been correct for at least 40 years.

When the OED chooses to add an entry or meaning, it shows that a group of experienced people think the word or meaning is going to be around for a while. Some people might think that's interesting, others couldn't care less. But if the OED is going to continue, it has to make these judgements, and if they can get a bit of publicity out of it, good luck to them. I'm very glad the OED continues to exist and for me having it at my fingertips is a major benefit of having a smartphone. I don't complain that it's not definitive, because I know that would be impossible.

1
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Google to punish sloppy mobile webmasters

Tony W

Why do mobile viewers want different content?

The Guardian, Telegraph and Independent newspaper sites particularly annoy me because they don't show comments on the mobile view. Why do they want comments from people who are sitting at desks, but not from those on trains?

At least the Telegraph has a link to see the "full site" that works properly, and the Independent honours the user agent. The Guardian is a pain in the neck because it has different URLs for desktop and mobile, and seems determined to redirect me to the one I don't want.

Part of the problem is that some organisations don't want you to use the browser at all on your mobile, but are pushing annoying and intrusive apps that do stuff in the background all the time. They don't want the mobile browser experience to be too good.

1
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Google builds crowdsourcing into new Maps code stack

Tony W

Fix what's wrong

Minor roads are invisible anyway on many systems as they are light grey on white. People have been complaining for years about this.

And who owns all these photos they're using?

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Jailed Romanian hacker repents, invents ATM security scheme

Tony W

Over complex

Why rotate? Sideways insertion is the vital point.

1
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Windows 8 has put the world's PC market to sleep - IDC

Tony W

Absolutely true for me

My wife needs a new desktop PC and Windows 8 has stopped me getting one in the last few months. I've set up a W8 laptop for my sister and that was enough for me to say never again. I hated it and she doesn't like using it.

It would have been a lot nicer with a touchscreen but that was outside her budget. And I don't feel like telling my wife that she needs to spend an extra £200 on a touchscreen just to suit the OS.

Yes there are Windows 7 machines available but the choice is limited and I can't find an all-in-one desktop PC with performance to suit her at a reasonable price.

In the end we'll probably go for a Mac despite the cost and inconvenience of changing OS. But I'm putting it off as long as possible.

6
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Bad news: PC slump worse than feared. Good news: It's Friday

Tony W

Go our way or go away

I knew Win8 isn't for me when I found the mail client won't do POP3. Yes you can install the legacy Essentials with its outdated desktop UI, after all POP3 is completely dead and we all have cloud based email, except a few privacy freaks and proper people who have MS Office with Outlook. Well my sister was suckered into buying a Win8 laptop without touchscreen, she can't afford MS Office and has a POP3 account. I found setting up her new machine a deeply frustrating experience, compared to her last one which ran Win ME (yes she is an early adopter) & was a piece of cake.

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Victory on mobile belongs to Google in 2013

Tony W

Better for what?

I use an Android phone myself but I bought my wife an iPhone because I thought as a non-geek she would find it easier. I think this was probably correct, but over the last 2 years she has seen the things my phone can do that hers can't, and decided her next phone will be an Android.

However my phone crashes (or apps develop obscure faults) about once every week or so and it needs to be be rebooted, while this hardly ever happens to her phone. I don't think this is because I'm working my phone harder, because she lets our grandchildren play games on hers, while I won't have any games (or children) on mine. Personally I find this annoyance worth the extra flexibility but I can well understand that others don't.

0
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Outlook 2013 spurns your old Word and Excel documents

Tony W

Which is obsolete?

Obsolete means no longer in active use. Most of the WP documents I receive are .doc and so are most of the ones on the web. (Nearly all these would be better as pdf but that's another matter.)

As for Outlook ... when the 2010 version imported my Outlook Express emails, without warning it stripped out all the From addresses, so when I later wanted to contact someone who had sent me an email I couldn't because I hadn't separately saved the sender as a contact. You know, like when you file paper letters you cut off the letterhead.

It also has a documented bug that sometimes turns all the bytes of an attached pdf to zero. Happened to me today. The mechanism is known but MS hasn't been interested in correcting it.

It also rolls up all your emails contacts and appointments into one gigantic file which can easily grow huge (mine is over 4 GB, I know some people have over 10 GB), so making simple archive and backup slow and awkward. If you want to keep the header information, that stops its own email archiving system from working and also stops you stripping out attachments, so there is no way to reduce the file size. Great program!

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The hoarder's dilemma, or 'Why can't I throw anything away?'

Tony W

MS says you need to keep it

I have archive files made with Microsoft's backup software on Windows 98. No program available for later versions if Windows (at any reasonable price anyway) will read these files. Microsoft's recommended solution is, believe it or not, to keep a PC running Windows 98.

0
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E-Cat pitching cold fusion to Australians

Tony W

Believing what you want to believe

"Proof that the green energy lot really are as stupid as they look." So, Just a geek, you believe without any evidence that "it has been a hit among green energy enthusiasts".

So! That's proof that - oh hang on, it's no proof of anything, it's just the internet.

5
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Facebook replaces non-Facebook mail addresses on Timeline

Tony W

Yet another email address

So they have given me an email address, without telling me. So I will never see the email that tells me I have won $100000000 on a lottery that I didn't enter. Such is life.

2
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France: All your books are belong to us

Tony W

Copyright is not a thing that people own

It is a right given by the state so I suppose it can equally well be taken away by the state.

Which is not to say that's a good idea. At a time when it is getting harder and harder for authors to make money (let alone a living, few have ever done that) it looks as if this could make it even more difficult.

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2012: The year when smartphones become smart?

Tony W

A dangerous thing?

A little intelligence might be more dangerous than a little knowledge.

1
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Malicious apps infiltrate Google's Android Market

Tony W

A high proportion of legitimate apps demand permissions that look very scary. If you're going to make use of the facilities of a smartphone, you have to allow apps that actually do something, and often that has the potential to cost money or compromise privacy. I do look carefully at permissions, and reviews, but often it's far from obvious why certain permissions are required. So far I haven't been stung, but after the first app that I download that picks my pocket, I will very seriously consider ditching my Android for an iPhone. And a lot of others will do likewise.

As for the people who think that being crooked is just legitimate business, they will squeal loud enough when they meet someone cleverer than they are who thinks the same thing.

1
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Boffin's bot spots red light jumpers before they kill

Tony W

Bayes

Sorry, 85% right is just not good enough. Unless there is a high proportion of jumpers in the traffic, most of the positives will be false.

2
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Lenovo ThinkCentre Edge 91z all-in-one PC

Tony W

DVDs don't rely on gravity

My telly has a vertical DVD slot and it works fine. So do a lot of PCS.

1
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Boffin quests for, finds 'earphone Holy Grail'

Tony W

Take care of the sense and the sounds will take care of themselves

It might sound better, and he might even have discovered something, but the claimed health and safety benefit doesn't make any sense. The stapedius reflex reduces the level before the sound reaches the nerves. So if it doesn't operate, more sound reaches the nerves and there is no safety benefit. And what is "discernability" if not a meaningless bit of feel-good ad-speak?

0
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SwiftKey offers alternative for Android typists

Tony W

This application has access to the following:

Your messages (read SMS or MMS)

Network communication (full Internet access)

Phone calls (read phone state and identity)

... Why, exactly? So many Android apps want to own your phone.

1
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Google sets Android on pirates

Tony W

Could cost

Some data roaming rates charge per day used and there is usually a 100 kb minimum charge per session. For visitors to the US for example, validation could soon cost more than a typical app price.

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Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 Mini Pro

Tony W

Could do better

The review together with the 80% rating show what a low standard is expected of smartphones. I suspect that an Apple phone with these bugs would get a lower rating. Still, fixing it is a simple matter of software ...

1
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Android apps: Shifty little bleeders

Tony W

You get what you (don't) pay for

The reason many apps ask permissions seems to be that they are "free", so they need to deliver ads. If you could disable permissions on individual apps, it would spoil the "free" app model. Many comments on Android Market complain that apps keep "updating" with no benefit to the user, presumably for commercial reasons.

So, you can read the comments and not use apps that look risky. Problem is, when you have eliminated the apps that are either risky or buggy or both, there are not all that many useful apps left. Hopefully this will improve as the market for Android apps increases. But we've some way to go.

2
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Windows 7 Backup gets users' backs up

Tony W

What is the use of a backup if you can't get it back

In the days of Windows 98 I foolishly used MS Backup for archiving material as well as for safety backup. When I changed to Windows ME (another mistake, but what I'm going to say apples to XP as well) I found that there was NO software available, at a remotely reasonable price, that would run on my MS PC and allow me to access my carefully stored and duplicated MS backups. Effiectively, they were trashed.

But Microsoft had the solution - their advice was to keep a "spare" PC in working order, running Windows 98. So convenient and economical.

Moral: if you might want future access to your backups, make sure they are in a standard file format, preferably one that works across different operating systems as well.

0
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HTC speaks out on Hero Android 2 update

Tony W

What's backing up?

If my HTC Desire is anything to go by, Android doesn't provide a way to back up all data and settings. And from what I can see, no third party app does a complete job.

This is a great way to support your customers. First make them worried in case they lose important data. Then give them an hour or two's work re-installing apps, re-entering settings, and sorting out the inevitable problems that come with a complete re-install, such as when the APN settings get screwed up.

This is one of many reasons that I've come to the conclusion that an Android phone is a great toy for those who enjoy beta testing.

1
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You think mobile voice is expensive?

Tony W

Keep the customer in the dark

Why don't mobiles show data usage, not just for roaming but for those without an "unlimited" contract?

Android apparently does not even make this information available to apps, so it is not simple to get an app that checks it reliably. Vodafone informally recommend NetCounter but on my HTC Desire it is very erratic and I don't trust it to look after my cash.

0
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Jobs: iPhone sales spank Android

Tony W

Plague on both

OK so they're both toys.

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Tony W

Work or play

I've had an HTC Desire for a month and it is a great toy, but it's a real struggle to use it for work. Synchronisation with Outlook is extremely unreliable (not just me, look at the forums). No matter, I'm told, I can ditch Outlook and use Google Calendar, which I can only update on my PC if I have a working net connection and which might not keep my information secret.

Apart from that, Android's personal information management (calendar and tasks) is poor out of the box. I can't put shortcuts to my colleague's work and mobile phone numbers on my home screen because they would both come up with the same name and picture, and they can't be individually changed. And often it won't switch off without taking the battery out.

Still, it runs Google Sky. That quite often tells me the sun is way above the horizon at midnght in London, but switching off the phone (taking the battery out if necessary) and switching on again usually brings it back to reasonable accuracy.

My 8 year old Palm M505 was boring but it synchronised reliably, it had precise text entry with the stylus, and I could read the screen in full sunlight. Compared to that, the Desire is infuriating. It does lots of wonderful things, but if only it did the basics really solidly!

1
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Pentax preps 26x superzoom

Tony W

Arithmetic fail

"... complete with 26x optical zoom .... In addition, the X90 boasts a 26-276mm 35mm-equivalent focal length range." Windows Calculator problems?

0
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Facebook busts ground on first custom data center

Tony W

Hope they disinfect it carefully

Evaporative cooling used to be common in the UK before legionnaires' disease started to be a problem.

0
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Eurocrat demands MP3 player volume limit mandate

Tony W

Predictable rubbish

Yes I mean the comments. A lot of the commenters have not read the article properly. And a lot of them are laying down the law about decibels and sound level while obviously not knowing much about the subject.

First, ordinary consumers cannot measure sound level, so they cannot properly protect themselves. Hands up all those who think that it is OK to sell a product that can permanently damage people without them being aware of it. Consumer law is not adequate to protect people in this case because damage will take a long time to become apparent and it would usually be impossible to prove what exposure had deafened someone. But, you should be able to turn it up if you choose - which at the moment seems to be the proposal.

Those determined to deafen themselves will always find a way to do it, and this is not about trying to stop them. So shut up, go ahead and risk your hearing. By the time the damage has become apparent there might be a way to repair it - and then again there might not.

Second, earphone sound levels are measured according to an international standard ISO11904-2. Distance does not come into it.

Third, the vast majority of earphones suitable for MP3 players etc. have fairly similar sensitivity so in most cases choosing an ultra-sensitive model would not make a great deal of difference.

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