* Posts by Steve Roper

933 posts • joined 13 Feb 2007

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Calls to ban hoodie-busting sonic weapon

Steve Roper
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Joke

@ "If the kids"

"There are evil devices slightly larger than a 9volt battery, they randomly beep or wail loudly every X minutes/hour and are impossible to locate in time, the battery lasts for years at this rate. They can be hidden anywhere even chucked into drop ceilings or light fittings."

Where can I buy these evil devices? What a c*nt act! I can think of a few places that would benefit from the surreptitious insertion of some of these things... like:

"Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Labor Party we BEEEEEEEEEP! Ahem, here present this Bill for Tranche Three of the Human Rights Reduction Act. We have consulBEEEEEEEEEP! What the devil is that noise? Hm, as I was saying, we have consulted two hundred electorates, and the response has shown BEEEEEEEEEP! WHERE IS THAT DAMN NOISE COMING FROM! Mr Speaker, this session cannot continue if Members will not turn off their BEEEEEEEEEEP! ...." >;D

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New Mexico bets future on promiscuous supercomputer

Steve Roper
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Boffin

Distributed computing with subsidies

With projects like seti@home and folding@home now time-tested and demonstrable supercomputing solutions, I would think the days of massive centralised supercomputers are numbered.

Now, the current limitation of distributed computing projects is that they only work if they capture the public imagination, such as the idea of helping to find alien civilisations. Such mundane tasks as city planning and infrastructure logistics aren't likely to induce millions of people to donate their CPU cycles to the cause - boring!

This problem, however, could be alleviated by offering to subsidise part of users' ISP bills in return for running the distributed computing software on their machines. Considering the millions of dollars spent on building and maintaining supercomputers, I'm certain that a cost/benefit analysis would indicate that a subsidy system would be a far cheaper way of effectively using distributed computing in a supercomputing application. If you set it up so that for every X work units processed we'll pay Y dollars toward your next internet bill, you'd find that a lot of people would join in the distributed system who otherwise would have no incentive to do so. Of course, you'd have to impose a limit on the number of clients you allow to join in any given project, based on the computational requirements of the project, the timeframe for completion, and the budget. You'd then have a central website where people could sign up for these subsidised projects on a first-in-first-served basis. This system then means the only cost is the subsidy and central server maintenance, instead of a massive energy-consuming beast of a data centre that costs millions a year to run and maintain.

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Hackers seed malware on Indian anti-virus site

Steve Roper
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Black Helicopters

And the obligatory conspiracy theory...

...is that this was the work of US-based antivirus companies like Trend or McAffee, who could have sabotaged the site in protest at these third-world countries stealing all the programming jobs and working for 5c per hour. Or simply to discredit a foreign rival. Or something.

Mine's the one with the tinfoil beanie, poncho, gauntlets, facemask, leggings and socks...

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English language succumbs to Symbiotic Ephemeralization

Steve Roper
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Alien

All it needs...

is random capitalisation of specific letters in random words, a few instances of "CyberAIntel" and "NEUKlearer" thrown in, and you could pass it off as a treatise written by amanfrommars!

Well I, for one, welcome our new gibberish-speaking overlords!

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Equifax asks customer to email debit card photocopies

Steve Roper
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Promoting dangerous security practices

This is the most unprofessional piece of tripe I've ever seen from a supposedly reputable online company. Emailing copies of sensitive financial documents? If my bank or financial adviser asked me to do this, not only would I be instantly moving to another bank, I'd be doing exactly what Thomas has done and thow them to the media wolves.

Banks and credit card companies make a big meal out of never, ever using email to communicate sensitive financial data. As a developer of eCommerce websites, I know firsthand the extent of security processes and standards involved in handling credit card transactions online. By asking a customer to submit such information in this form and manner, Equifax has committed a serious breach of the procedures established by the credit card companies. If Thomas' debit card is either a Visa or Mastercard, the response of either company will be to immediately suspend Equifax's licence to conduct transactions through their systems.

In an age when we are pulling out all stops to educate John Q Public about security awareness, this level of incompetence cannot go unpunished. Such idiocy reflects badly upon everyone in the eCommerce industry and undermines public confidence in the security of online transaction processing. A full audit of all Equifax systems and procedures is called for; at the very least the IT management responsible for implementing such an insecure system should heavily fined and sacked.

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Just because it’s SaaS doesn’t make it good

Steve Roper
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Stop

Milking the cash cow

Agreed with Justin above, which is why we'll have nothing to do with SaaS at our company. The other issue I have with this is the pay-per-use system. Why should we keep on paying and paying when we can just buy an application outright and have done with it? (e.g. we're still using Word/Excel 97 in our office, since it does everything we need). This whole SaaS thing is a scam by big companies to push the "rent instead of buy software" business model. Ha. Forget it.

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Scottish government drafts Cat Welfare Code

Steve Roper
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Joke

Cats and buttered toast

Having conducted extensive studies of the cat/toast perpetual motion phenomenon in our very expensive taxpayer-funded laboratory, my team of boffins and I have determined that this method of generating motive power is impractical, for the following reason:

While it is true that a cat with a piece of buttered toast strapped to its back will theoretically spin in midair forever, there are laws of physics that prevent this effect from being put into practice; namely, that for the perpetual motion effect to occur, the mass of the toast must be EXACTLY equal to that of the cat. If the cat's mass is greater than that of the attached toast, the cat's greater mass will override the ground-attractor force of the toast, and the cat will hit the floor feet-first. Similarly, if the mass of toast is greater than that of the cat, the mass of the toast will override the righting force of the cat, and the toast will land buttered side down. This holds true even if the mass differential is one microgram.

Therefore, given that over time, the cat's mass will change (due to respiration, transpiration etc), and the toast's mass will change (due to crumbs falling off under friction from the air as it rotates, or interaction with the struggling cat), the system will bias one way or the other after less than a second even in optimal cases. Repeated tests have demonstrated that no more than one rotation can practicably be achieved before the cat respires or a crumb falls off the toast, thus negating the balance of mass.

Conclusion: While the theory of the cat/toast effect is sound, practical tests have proven that a cat/toast combination will rotate a maximum of only once before the system becomes unbalanced and the cat or toast falls to the ground. We therefore conclude that it is not possible, using present technology, to utilise this effect for any practical purpose.

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US spooks won't get UK census access

Steve Roper
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Joke

@ Jonathan McColl

Sorry mate, the UK is not the 51st state of the US - you guys are the 52nd state. We in Australia claim the status of 51st state because our government crawled up America's arse long before yours did! ;)

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US spooks see Sadville as potential terrorist paradise

Steve Roper
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Alert

Surveillance society

Anywhere the pigs can't monitor every single thing you do, say and share with others is a "terrorist hotbed". So it's obvious - they want Sadville to start keeping Googlesque logs of everything you do in the virtual world so they can spy on everyone. Soon we'll see laws requiring MMORPG providers to log all their users' actions and chat records for the spooks to peruse at leisure. SL, WoW, Everquest, Morrowind etc - all these will have to start logging everything the players do and say.

Kudos to the first gaming site that tells these control-freak bastards to fuck off and hosts their servers in a country like Antigua or Ukraine that doesn't toe the New World Order line.

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Cruise.co.uk stumps £560k to add 's' to domain

Steve Roper
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Coat

And yet another...

..."new site for online social networking, used to create a cruise community with user-generated content to meet the demands of this expanding sector".

Oh no...

<facepalm>

Not ANOTHER Crap 2.0 social-networking wannabe! I thought this garbage was supposed to be on its way out? Looks like they wasted half a million quid to set another Orkutfacemyspace lookalike that'll go nowhere fast; cruises indeed. Glad I'm not a shareholder with that company!

Mine's the one with the Hawaiian floral print and the sunnies and camera hanging off it.

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Brits can't distinguish history from the TV listings

Steve Roper
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@ I hate to say this

And your objectives in wanting to fuck up others' research projects would be...?

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Pentagon pundits demand sensible raygun research

Steve Roper
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Alien

And another expensive military fad dies

I remember in the seventies the big thing the Pentagon and KGB were into was PSI research - telepathy, telekinesis, astral travel - all the stuff that is now the province of the new-agers and tinfoil-hat crowd. Back then, the USSR was pouring mega-roubles into weaponising psionics research, so the Pentagon did the same thing just in case the Russkies came up with something dangerous. Of course, nothing ever did; psionics was never successfully demonstrated, let alone shown to be usable as a weapon, and once the accountants twigged that a lot of teacup-reading charlatans were making fortunes out of defence budgets the whole idea was bagged on both sides.

Just as the sci-fi engendered psionics research fizzled, so too will this sci-fi engendered debacle; a few ray-gun charlatans will be very rich, and our soldiers will be back to good old-fashioned gunpowder-propelled lead.

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Hollywood writers abandon Hollywood for web

Steve Roper
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Unhappy

Re: Unions

While you are slagging off the unions, who were founded by the workers to represent workers' interests in industry, please to bear in mind that without them, you would now be working 120 hours a week for a quid a week, in unsafe and dangerous working conditions, for employers who don't give a toss about your well-being or safety - only their profits. Unless, of course, you are a shareholding parasite yourself who would like to profit from imposing such conditions on the workers who provide your profits?

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Cigarette ash proves a drag for Nintendo's Wii

Steve Roper
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Every time you light a ciggy

the Anti-smoking lobby kills a kid. And blames it on cigarette smoke.

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Ryanair incurs wrath of Sarko the Terrible

Steve Roper
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Re: Constipated much?

"..what the yanks would call a fair use manner... Ethical advertising extends as far as not making a blatantly false claim."

So I take then it you'll have no objection to my stealing your Myspace photo (or that of your girlfriend/SO), and using it to promote our book-sales website? With a speech bubble coming out of your mouth saying "Buy all your books from here - they've got books nobody else has!"? No false claims there, since our site does in fact have exclusive books.

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Steve Roper
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Putting words in people's mouths

This is seriously wrong. If the two people in the photograph (President of France + fiancee or whoever) did not give permission for this ad, then this is effectively libel. The worst part is the thought bubble issuing from Carla Bruni - portraying her as specifically promoting this product. If this sort of thing is allowed, what's to stop a breakfast cereal company from plastering Angelina Jolie's face all over their product packets, for example? Add to this the fact that if the individual concerned actually does anything legal about it, all it does is draw free publicity to the advert - a fact that these companies egregiously exploit.

What should happen to companies that do this is that all their assets are seized, *including all private assets of the marketing people responsible for the ad*, and the company shut down, no matter how big it is. That's a big stick, but it is warranted by the blatant disregard for a person's right not to be globally associated with a product, which they may never have used, which they might not want to recommend, and which ruins their chances to be recognised for themselves, instead of everyone thinking "Oh that's the guy/girl from the such-and-such ad" every time they see him/her. Such opportunistic exploitation needs to be stopped now by the strongest measures.

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Gov. war gamers hack servers to stay ahead

Steve Roper
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Now the truth is starting to come out

The postulated enemy here is the "anti-globalisation" crowd, along with "people on no-fly lists"... it's not "terrorists" or "paedophiles" any more. Anti-globalisation: that's anyone who doesn't agree with the idea of corporations taking over the planet, and anyone who believes in national sovereignty rather than a US-led "one world order". Hmmm. People on no-fly lists: not necessarily terrorists either, just someone who happens to be on a no-fly list for whatever reason (such as being an anti-globalist).

Finally, we're coming to the endgame. The powers-that-be are starting to openly admit that "we the people" are the real enemies of the state. Before long, laws will start to be enacted openly and directly to reduce freedom on their own strength, without any need for the "terrorist" excuse. Which means that these laws can be be aimed at destroying civil liberties directly, rather than by roundabout methods.

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Hamster-in-rain emergency prompts 999 call

Steve Roper
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Dual-number system works in Australia

Here in South Australia, we have a dual-number system backed up with a massive public information campaign ("Think first, then dial" etc). Our emergency number (000) is for life-threatening emergencies, for all other calls for police attendance you dial 11 4444. My experience with this system is that if you dial 000 and report an emergency (e.g. a car accident) the police are on the scene usually in less than 5 minutes. The 11 4444 number, on the other hand, generally brings a cop on the scene around 45 minutes to an hour later. It seems to have worked, since the police last year reported a significant reduction in frivolous 000 calls. The important thing with a dual-number system is that the alternative number needs to be widely publicised with a clear and simple system for the public to decide which number to call - in our case, its "if a life is in danger ring 000, otherwise ring 11 4444". In tandem with such a campaign, the dual number system does work.

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Device routes audio across powerline LANs

Steve Roper
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Artoo, that's a power socket, not a data terminal!

As others have posted, the idea of plugging my sensitive data ports into the mains just makes me cringe. A single short-circuit could fry every piece of electronic equipment in your house... ouch!

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MySpace wins UK domain name that pre-dated its service

Steve Roper
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Money

can buy anything. Anything at all. Justice? What's that? The ability to buy anything you want? This just shows how the corporations own your arse.

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FCC unveils NudeTube

Steve Roper
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@ Iamfanboy

First of all, in 1984, Julia did not edit the print articles by hand - if you've read the book, remember that "she worked on the big kaleidoscopes on which the plots of novels were 'roughed in'". Given that the word "computer" didn't exist when Orwell wrote the book, this "kaleidoscope" was probably the closest he could come to imagining such technology. That he envisaged literature being produced by machines was sufficient to illustrate his point.

I agree that the EXACT turn of events described in 1984 isn't the same thing as what is happening today. However, the key point of the story was not to prophesy the future, but to warn against the motives that would lead to such a future. This key is expressed in the line "I understand how, I don't understand why." The HOW is not important; the WHY is. The pursuit of wealth prevalent in today's society is the pursuit of power. What good is money, except that it buys you power over others? Power is the end, not the means. Money is the means.

These same motives as described in 1984 are just as relevant to today's society. It's just more subtle than Orwell envisaged, which is not surprising considering the advances in psychology and technology since it was written. Yet there are constants. It is not our "democratic" governments that run our lives, it is UNELECTED corporations. Governments bow to corporations, not to their electors. You can vote Labor/Liberal/Republican/Democrat but all of these parties are the same - controlled by big business. No other party can ever come to power, so the idea of voting for your leaders is a farcical sop to appease the masses. So while George Bush = Big Brother and Osama bin Laden = Emmanuel Goldstein, neither of these figureheads wield any real power - that power is wielded by the corporations and their owners = the Inner Party.

As to the "eternal war", another poster has answered that adequately, so I need not reinforce that issue here. Even in 1984 Orwell acknowledged that it didn't matter whether the enemy was Eurasia or Eastasia, all that mattered was that war should be continuous and consume production without improving living conditions - and it is, and it does.

Finally, I've also read Heinlein's Revolution in 2100 (which includes the short story If This Goes On), and yes, it too is a frighteningly plausible depiction of a future US theocracy that is also very relevant. Yet this work too echoes many of the same principles as 1984 - massive surveillance, unlimited police powers, absence of habeus corpus and proven guilt, suppression of sex for political ends, etc. One comes to understand these things by reading these books, if unable to ever prevent them from occurring. I simply use 1984 because it is much more widely read and known than Heinlein, and so more people can understand what I am saying.

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Steve Roper
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American Junior Anti-Sex League

Here's another facet of Orwell's magnum opus operating in modern society - the outlawing and demonisation of sex. Of course, we know - as the good man explained in The Book - that the motive of this is that sexual privation can be transformed into war fervour and hero-worship. The difference of course is that 1984 was as subtle as a sledgehammer about how the Party subverted sex. Our modern Inner Party members are more clever: feminism, sexual harassment, "date rape", and sexual censorship are their tools for perverting the sex drive into nationalism. And while we, the proles can see through this trick, as in 1984 we will never rebel or do anything about it. Consciousness and rebellion are not, as Orwell thought, interlinked.

... Come on, El Reg, I've asked for a 1984 icon several times now! Where is it? ;)

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California deploys dope-vending machines

Steve Roper
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Go

South Australia has the right idea

Where I live, marijuana is "decriminalised", which mean that if the police catch you in possession of it, they issue a $75 fine and that's it - same sort of fine as a speeding ticket. No conviction is recorded. Of course, if you're caught SELLING it, or possessing it in commercial quantities, that's a different story - up to 25 years.

However, it's use is so common here (last survey showed 39% of Adelaide's population are stoners) that the police rarely even bother. Go up to one of the hills lookouts above Adelaide and you'll see 20 cars all filled with smoke and the occasional glowing bowl and lighter flashes. The cops will rock up, look around to make sure nobody's vandalising anything etc, and then drive off without booking anyone! I've been in a car that was being searched for "hard" drugs (which ARE very illegal here), the cop clearly saw a bag of dope and a pipe on the floor, and never said a word or did a thing about it!

A few surveys have shown that nobody wants legalisation here, however. As one poster has noted above, legalisation means boxes covered with horrible medical warnings and propaganda, poor-quality piss-weak dope, runaway taxation - AND, as has been shown with this California machine - you'd likely need to register, give fingerprints and be photographed buying it as well. Add to this that the local dope dealers have a lucrative non-taxable business, and you can see why neither dealers or users would be willing to change the status quo.

Nor is the government. A couple of years ago the state government tried to recriminalise marijuana. The local media themselves shot the gov to pieces, saying "So you're going to instantly turn MORE THAN A THIRD of the population into criminals are you?" The gov backed down, quick smart. Strength in numbers, people.

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Driller Killer unleashed on UK public

Steve Roper
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Male feminists

"We live in a country where half of all males think forced sex is justified under some circumstances..."

This illustrates perfectly the feminist lie: that feminism = female. They promulgate this lie so that they can brand any man who opposes feminism as a "misogynist". But female is a biological state of existence. Feminism is a socio-political movement. They are not the same thing.

During the many years I have campaigned against the double-standards and hypocrisy of feminism I have observed this phenomenon. Most FEMALE feminists, barring a few loudmouthed lesbian man-haters, focus mainly on women's rights. But every MALE feminist I've ever locked horns with has focused on how evil men are, and been driven by misandry. Julian Brazier is one of these; a male feminist, whose only concern is sucking up to the feminist vote; a traitor to his sex and to his race, who would sell the rights of other men down the river for his own aggrandisement. People like him are why the gender war has escalated beyond reason.

So immediately anything else he says about movies, violence, men or whatever, has zero credibility since his attitude towards half of the world's population shows his bigotry and hypocrisy up for what it really is.

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Commuter jetpacks offered: $100k, August delivery

Steve Roper
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Re: "Bob's your uncle"

The term "Bob's your uncle" is Brit and Aussie slang for "...QED", or "...and that's all there is to it", or "...and off you go, it's done." So that sentence really means, "Allow your fried lackey to quickly cut two test flights together, and that's all there is to it."

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Just how cute are cats? W3C can help

Steve Roper
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Stop

Bring on the code bloat...

The downside to removing presentational markup from HTML and transferring it to CSS is code bloat. While I understand the logic of using only CSS for presentation and HTML for semantics, some markup is still useful for quick emphasis. Take the following example:

<p>Cats <i>are</i> cute animals.</p>

<p>Cats <span class="italic">are</span> cute animals.</p>

In a large block of text, where many items are emphasised (as in a list or a diatribe), this clutters the source with extra code, making the source harder to read.

Also, until Microsoft come to the fold and actually make a version of Internet Suxplorer which is really W3C compliant, there's little point in updating anything, HTML or CSS. Anyone who's designed a site using floating divs + CSS instead of the now-deprecated tables will fully understand the hair-tearing frustration of making that site display correctly in IE as well as any other browser. And even if Microsoft were to release a W3C-compliant version tomorrow, the residuals of past versions will still haunt web developers for many years to come. We'll still be using tables and presentational markup in 5 years time, for all the numpties still using IE 5 and 6.

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Critics split over DDoS attacks on Scientology

Steve Roper
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Freedom of speech

While I understand and agree in principle with free speach meaning allowing even those you disagree with their say, society as a whole MUST impose limits. Perhaps the best known example of this is the statement "The right of free speech does not carry with it the right to shout 'Fire!' in a crowded theatre."

By Andreas Lund's argument, confidence tricksters and fraudsters would be protected in their false and misleading claims by the "right of free speech". A health-product vendor could falsely claim that some magic herb he sells cures cancer, and be protected in this claim by the "right of free speech". Obviously, for our society to function, we have to draw the line somewhere.

It has been demonstrated many times - Mr. Lund even admits it himself - that the CoS is a criminal and fraudulent organisation whose activities have destroyed lives and families. The legal system has proven powerless to destroy this organisation. Why the CoS hasn't been branded as a "terror group" or simply outlawed as a crime syndicate by now is beyond me.

Since the governments of the world are not doing anything about this obscene cult, it falls to We The People to take matters into our own hands. This is what Anonymous have done, and I fully concur with their actions. This isn't playing into the CoS's hands. It is doing something serious about ridding our society of an insidious and poisonous social disease.

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Israel electric car project aims to wipe out oil

Steve Roper
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Off oil? Not bloody likely

Oil isn't just used to make petrol/gas and car grease. It's also the primary product behind pretty much all plastics and polymers. So, given that Israel is going to ditch oil, what exactly do they intend making their plastics out of? I take it that's not Agassi's department either...

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IBM hits back against over-timers with pay cut

Steve Roper
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Corporate greed at its finest

So IBM makes $10.4bn in a year but twists, turns and weasels its way out of paying what probably amounts to a few million to the people who make their company work. While the fat rich bastards who do no work and own all the IP sock away billions for their yachts and mansions and private jets. *Cutting* wages in the face of inflation is nothing short of absolutely disgusting: get as much as you can while giving as little as possible. Ah, the wonders of capitalism, eh?

Well, as IT manager for our company, I will be making damn sure no IBM equipment or technology will be used in our server upgrades later this year. When will these idiots learn that the most effective method of management is to treat your staff honestly and fairly? If you let them benefit, even just a small amount, from your company's prosperity their morale goes sky high and productivity follows it through the roof. But the fat cats are so blinded by their own greed, and fear that Johnny Public might be able to afford a semi-decent lifestyle, that they can't even comprehend this simple fact.

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Japanese to launch paper plane from ISS

Steve Roper
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Go

Awesome!

I've wanted to know what would happen to a paper plane launched from orbit since I was a kid back in the 70s! I've always maintained that a paper plane would survive such a descent because it's surface area to mass ratio is too great for it to be able to sustain such high speeds. Since the atmosphere becomes progressively thinner with altitutude, the plane will have plenty of time to slow down long before it reaches the troposphere.

Most likely, it will be YEARS before the plane reaches the ground, and unless it is waterproof it probably won't survive that long anyway. Given that 70% of the Earth's surface is ocean, and vast areas of land are still only sparsely populated, the odds of anyone finding it when it does land are extremely slim. What they should do is attach one of those tiny radio tags scientists use to track bird migrations to it. Then the experiment could also provide useful information about air movements in the Earth's upper atmosphere, as well as allowing everyone to see where, and if, it does come down.

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Time Warner moots billing based on bandwidth usage

Steve Roper
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Aus users don't have it so bad

My own Australian ISP (Internode) has a sensible way of managing bandwidth usage. You choose a plan to suit your usage needs (caps at 10GB, 20GB, 40GB, 80GB per month etc), and pay a flat rate up to that cap. If in a given month you need more, you can buy "blocks" of 10GB at a fixed price, to be added to your next bill.

This is great for me as my usage varies greatly. Some months I'll go over 80GB as I rape the torrents catching up on TV shows etc, other times I'll barely crack 20GB because I'm on a programming/graphics/gaming kick. And Internode are happy to tell you that there's no such thing as "unlimited" internet access, and are completely up front about what limits they impose. From the description of the blatantly false advertising used by UK ISPs, it seems we actually have it pretty good down under. Yes, we pay more, but I'd rather pay more and know what I'm getting than have cheap rates and sneaky back-door restrictions such as seems to prevail in the UK.

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Online gamer murders rival clan member

Steve Roper
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Coat

No respawn in real life?

Well, according to the Buddhists, you do respawn IRL. You just lose your Spells, Special Abilities, any Items, treasure and XP you've collected, and return to Level 1 when you respawn!

Mine's the orange tie-dyed caftan with the joss sticks in the pockets.

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BPI chief hits back at ISPA over villain of the year jibe

Steve Roper
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The beauty of this is

that he'll come here, read all your comments and genuinely believe you're all complimenting him! I'd love to meet this deluded sot; he'd be excellent stress relief. I could scream a stream of deafening invective in his face and he'd only smile and thank me for it!

Yes, can I take two of him please: one for the office and one for home?

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US boffins create GM 'supercarrot'

Steve Roper
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@ ROTV

Well I, for one, welcome our new supervegetable overlords!

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ISPs nominate UK record industry as top internet villain

Steve Roper
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Happy

More apologies to lolcatz...

"I can has lorsute?"

"I'm in ur internetz... humpin' ur MP3eez!"

"Geoff Taylor is watching you masturbate."

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US chief spook pushes electronic dragnet policy

Steve Roper
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@ Kurt Guntheroth

To expand a little upon Morely Dotes' excellent response to your comment, consider that "spook-baiting" is an increasingly popular activity, being carried out by people who can see clearly the despotism being quietly put upon our necks in the name of "democracy". It's not just "belligerant [sic] teenagers", it's people from all walks of life who are doing this. With millions around the world spamming BB with fake searches and emails, what are the thought police going to do? Block these people from getting government jobs? Now you think about that. What that means is that only kowtowing sycophants like yourself will be employed in these "critical" jobs. And many an iron-fisted ruler has fallen because he surrounded himself with fearful people who told him only what he wanted to hear, rather than the facts.

So enjoy your new lucrative government sinecure, sunshine. Just don't ever say the wrong thing, or be seen with the wrong people, or post comments on the wrong website, because "they" can take it all away... enjoy!

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Microsoft hit by two more EC probes

Steve Roper
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Boffin

@ AC - "Yawn"

Show you a fully compliant browser? OK:

Firefox, Seamonkey, Opera, Safari, Konqueror, Epiphany, Camino... I could go on. All of these are W3C compliant. Yes, some have a few minor quirks and some support newer versions of the W3C and CSS standards than others, but ALL, and I mean ALL of them will display a web page constructed using <div> and CSS 2.0 tags correctly, without any modifications to the HTML. Internet Explorer does not.

Because of Internet Explorer, we have to *still* use tables (and sometimes frames) to design our web pages, because if we use the much more dynamic and flexible <div>+CSS approach recommended by the W3C, the page breaks in IE. So we are forced to use slow-loading, outdated HTML simply because Microsoft think they own the Web.

If the client is willing to pay the extra development cost (we quote it as "support for non-compliant user agents") we can design a site that uses <div>+CSS 2.0 while sending old-style table-based HTML to IE. The upshot of this is a website that provides a much faster and more functional user experience to all but IE users, who just get the "same-old" clunkiness, which is all their browser permits. Surprisingly, after being shown what's possible for non-IE users, quite a few clients pony up the extra dollars for the better website!

I would have no problems with people using IE if only it was standards compliant. As a web developer, I don't give a toss what browser people use, as long as it's compliant. The only reason I push Firefox is because it's popular AND compliant. I'm just as happy to push Opera or Safari as viable alternatives, although I do like Firefox's add-on system and configurability. But IE is NOT compliant, and catering to it practically doubles our development costs and time.

So yes, Microsoft should be put against the wall on this. Just as an electrical-goods manufacturer would be if they sold appliances with non-standards compliant power plugs. Standards exist for a reason.

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Parents to get classroom spynet in 2010

Steve Roper
Silver badge

Re: This is still a democracy

No, because regardless of who you vote for the government will still erode freedom, invade your privacy, ID cards, NDNAD etc etc. Didn't you lot vote NuLab to get rid of Blair and his mob of Neocons? And what's the difference between then and now? That's right, none whatsoever.

That's why I just don't even bother voting. We're all going down the totalitarian road regardless of who we vote for. I don't have kids either, since I couldn't live with myself having forced them to live in what's coming.

And I STILL want to know where my 1984 icon is!

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Steve Roper
Silver badge
Black Helicopters

And the REAL reason for this initiative

...is social engineering on the part of UK gov to get children used to the idea of being under constant surveillance and to accept this as the norm. In just 20 years' time, there will be a whole generation of adults who simply take massive government intrusion into their lives as a matter of course. Remember kids: Oldthinkers unbellyfeel Ingsoc!

P.S. Hey El Reg, we need a George Orwell/1984 icon!

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Taser unleashes leopardskin C2 and MP3 holster

Steve Roper
Silver badge
Stop

There are times...

...when I'm actually thankful we (Australia) have a nanny-state government like yours in the UK that makes these damn things illegal. I wonder how many ex-husbands are being tasered when they legally visit their kids - since all the woman has to do is whine to the police about "he tried to assault me" and he's automatically guilty whether he did or not? Likewise, I wonder also how many women have been zapped by their own tasers after an attacker managed to rip it off her? Or been raped/mugged/robbed while rummaging in her handbag for the taser, or after she fired it and missed?

If you're really that concerned about your personal safety, ladies, take a women's self-defence course instead of relying on dangerous tech, which you are probably not effectively trained to use. Not only will you get fit and trim from self-defence training, you'll also have a weapon that's always handy and can't be snatched from you. Women, trained properly, CAN fight with devastating effectiveness, and it doesn't take that long to gain a level of competence that should enable you to see off most drunken/drugged-out louts that are likely to give you a problem.

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Academics slam Java

Steve Roper
Silver badge

Teaching novice programmers

Speaking as a one-time IT lecturer, I have to say that NO one language is suitable for teaching programming to beginners. All languages have their quirks and the last thing novice students need is to get bogged down in syntax before they've even had the chance to learn the basics.

Back when I was lecturing, I developed a curriculum module for entry-level students called "The Robot's Kitchen". The premise was simple: given a gridded map of a kitchen, with all the ingredients and equipment in specified locations and a recipe for chocolate cake, get a robot to make the cake. The robot can only understand simple commands, like MOVEFORWARD, TURNLEFT, TURNRIGHT, PICKUP etc. as well as IF/ELSE/ENDIF and DO/WHILE/UNTIL for repetitive task optimisation. In this way, I was able to impart the essential principles of programming - complex problem breakdown, function calls, conditional branching, looping and process flow - without the students having to learn the syntax of a specific language or writing a single line of code. Most of the students were amazed at how a half-page cake recipe turned into a twenty-page assignment, but as I explained to them, that's exactly what programming is all about - taking a complex problem and breaking it down into simple, single-action steps.

This paid dividends to the students in the second term, when I started teaching them actual programming, using Pascal to begin with, then C - NOT C++! Because I'd primed the students with programming methods in the Robot's Kitchen assignment, they had far fewer problems getting their heads around the principles of programming than students in other classes. While I don't want to sound like I'm blowing my own trumpet, I should point out that my class consistently had the highest pass rate in the faculty, and that by my second year, new students who had friends in my previous year's classes were asking specifically to be in my class at enrolment.

As to programmers not needing to know about machine micromanagement (memory allocation/deallocation, managing the stack and so on), I have to disagree. As a programmer, you are taking complete control of the machine, and if you don't understand how the machine works, you have no hope of controlling it. Even if you end up as a DBA or frontend developer, you should still know about memory management, stack size and clock cycles because you still need to optimise your code for security, speed and efficiency - and you can't do that if you don't know what makes a computer tick. All programmers, even 3GL programmers, should be able to think in binary and hexadecimal and know the powers of two at least to 65536. They should know about the limitations of stack size and the importance of memory management - the famous buffer overflow exploit is a prime example of what happens when programmers don't understand these basics. That's like needing to know your alphabet before you can read Shakespeare.

Finally, C is probably the best language to teach once your students have a good grounding - not at entry-level. Nearly all other 3GLs are based on C and use its syntax, so if you can program in C, you can easily learn any other language. I don't like C++ because it takes too many shortcuts and is too idiosyncratic. But C enforces good programming practice and forms a solid foundation for the student to build their programming career on.

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Microsoft takes a shine to Logitech?

Steve Roper
Silver badge
Gates Horns

Embrace, Extend, Extinguish

is now targeting the world's best keyboard and mouse maker. It had to happen, I suppose, since nothing good ever lasts in this world. I've had my Logitech wireless keyboard and mouse now for nearly two years; it's only now starting to wear out - and I've REALLY caned it (to the tune of 8-16 hours per day EVERY day!). That's by far the longest any input peripheral has ever lasted me, and I will be going out and buying a few more for spares before Logitech goes the way of its unfortunate predecessors.

Please, please let this be just a rumour. If not... RIP Logitech. You will be sorely missed.

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AT&T to crush copyrighted network packets

Steve Roper
Silver badge
Pirate

And how exactly

do they plan to deal with the surge in encrypted torrents? Are they going to throttle ALL encrypted traffic? All this will achieve will be to cause an even greater rise in the use of encryption to hide P2P traffic.

This has all the effectiveness of stomping on a tube of toothpaste!

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UK gov scraps '£1bn' prisoner tracking system

Steve Roper
Silver badge
Boffin

@ Andy S

"you'd be amazed how many people forget maintenance in their requirements..."

That's the fault of the systems analyst drawing up the CNA, not the client. It's the analyst's job to factor in ongoing maintenance requirements as an inherent part (and cost) of the project. If the client brushes off a major maintenance requirement (like manually keying 7 million data items monthly!), that should be a big red flag to any analyst that there WILL be serious problems down the line, and design the maintenance requirement into the project scope regardless of whether the client says they need it or not. The client's job is merely to inform the analyst of what all the data flows and processes are within their system. It's the analyst's job to design a NEW system to optimise and manage these data flows and processes. Otherwise why employ him, since the client already HAS a system in place, broken or not?

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Hundreds of US fighter aces reassigned as drone pilots

Steve Roper
Silver badge
Boffin

Taking out GPS sats...

...isn't all that hard or costly if you have the mere facility to get a rocket into LEO. In fact I think Sir A. C. Clarke actually came up with this technique a couple of decades ago, and it still stands: Launch an LEO-capable rocket with a payload of ordinary sand or gravel, and have it scatter this along the path of the GPS sats in a retrograde orbit. At orbital velocities, sand and gravel will shred the sats instantly, one after the other, as they cross the target area. Cheap, simple, effective, and the materials are readily available.

That leaves RF transmission to control the planes - and a wideband jammer can soon take care of that. Methinks the US is heading for a rude awakening pretty soon if it thinks it can rely on this tech to win its wars.

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Excuse me sir: there's a rootkit in your master boot record

Steve Roper
Silver badge
Pirate

The wheel has come full circle

So now we're back to the old boot-sector viruses that plagued the DOS and Amiga machines of the 80s and nineties. Back then, PC motherboards (486/Pentium/Cyrix types) DID have an AV built into the BIOS; you disabled it to install Windows (or OS/2 - remember that one?) and then re-enabled it when you were done. Then nothing could change the MBR. Why oh why did the MB makers stop adding this feature? Dumb.

The next step for the malware authors will of course be to flash the BIOS. Remember the old Chernobyl/CIH that flashed your BIOS with garbage thus rendering the motherboard unusable - unless you had a spare compatible BIOS chip lying around? Of course, the new version won't trash the motherboard, it'll just place a stealthy backdoor for the scammers to secretly insert more complex trojans without Windows (or Mac/Linux for that matter) knowing anything about it.

Maybe if we started extraordinarily rendering and publicly executing these bastards who are destroying humanity's greatest achievement, we might start getting somewhere. I, for one, would gladly go to the public hanging of a malware scammer (as long as he was PROVEN guilty) and throw rotten eggs with the greatest pleasure.

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Oz drafts 'batter an orphaned roo' guidelines

Steve Roper
Silver badge
Go

@ LaeMi Qian

I share your views on the need for something to hit humanity hard. Me, I'm holding out for Apophis in 2039 - hopefully this rather large chunk of interplanetary rock will give the Earth a decent rabbit punch and do a proper job. I'd be okay checking out under a new Ice Age if it meant knocking off at least 75% of the human population.

Hopefully the survivors would retain enough knowledge of the "Golden Age" to learn from our mistakes: i.e. to ban the use of money and "property" to make money, so that money only corresponds to actual work done and nothing else. At least that way they could set up a government that wouldn't be subject to the dictates of Big Business. But somehow I doubt it. Humans are innately lazy, greedy and selfish and whatever system we set up, someone will find a way to profit from the labour of others while contributing nothing themselves.

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Sony BMG to drop Custer stance on DRM

Steve Roper
Silver badge
Pirate

Before everyone gets too excited...

...about finally winning the DRM revolution, let us not forget that this minor retreat covers music ONLY. You can bet that DRM, and the snake-oil salesmen who sell it, is alive and kicking on DVDs, software and games, and will be for a long time to come.

Also, does anyone seriously believe that these companies have just dropped DRM and thrown their valuable music to the wolves just because of the rantings of a mass of two-bit bloggers? Come on.

What they've done, more likely, is just made the DRM more subtle. Instead of copy-locking, there'll be digital fingerprinting and watermarking, which will work like this: You download a tune from your nice'n'legal paid service. This tune is secretly watermarked with your name and address (required to sign up and pay). You give a copy to your friend, secure in the belief that there's no DRM in it. Your friend, in turn, generously shares it with the world via Pirate Bay. An RIAA shill downloads the tune, reads off your name and address from the watermark, and... Music Sucker, meet Jammie Thomas.

Don't delude yourselves. The only reason these companies are abandoning traditional DRM is because they've found a more insidious alternative. Watch this space for a million-fold increase in the rate of infringement prosecutions over the next twelve months.

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Spam King Ralsky indicted over stock spam scam

Steve Roper
Silver badge
Go

And what's the bet that...

...once the dust has settled, the court cases are done, and the judges and lawyers appropriately paid, that these scum will walk away with only say $2m in fines and fees? While they have made probably $20 million in scam money. Maybe they'll do a couple of years just to make it look good. Next stop, a nice mansion in Bermuda or the Bahamas and it's yachts and banana daiquiris for the rest of their worthless lives.

Cybercrime pays, obviously, if you actually make enough to buy your justice. I'll have to have a look at doing some of this shit myself...

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Chinese shun sex for a good, old-fashioned bank

Steve Roper
Silver badge
Coat

And in other news...

...The forces of Eastasia have won a glorious victory over the Oceanian enemy! I am authorised to say that this action brings the war with Oceania within measurable distance of its end! There have been almost a million prisoners! It has been an utter rout!

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