* Posts by Dave Bell

1779 posts • joined 14 Sep 2007

Microsoft fires legal salvo at phone 'tech support' scammers

Dave Bell
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This sounds a little bit different from the fake "We've detected a virus" calls, with websites and adverts involved. Here, the investigators called the fraudulent company. Is it really the same people?

Frankly, it's getting so that I can't tell the difference between the crooks and the genuine support lines. They're the same accents, the same sorts of phone-line distortions arising from highly limited bandwidth, and staff with the same "blame somebody else" attitude.

I get more help with my computer problems from my cat (who knows what to do with a mouse).

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EU VAT law could kill THOUSANDS of online businesses

Dave Bell
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Re: This is entirely UNreasonable

I agree about the relative ease of keeping VAT records for a UK-only business. If you are trading over the internet you should have a computer, and a computer program to automatically do the bookkeeping.

But trading across intra-EU borders was always a bit of a mess. Where is the computer software which complies with the new system? I never switched to a fully computerised system. I'll be honest, it can be a bit gnarly for somebody without some specific training, and my business wasn't making enough transactions to make full computerisation worthwhile.

The businesses being affected by this are being hit by a horrible increase in complexity, with a high transition cost in buying new software, training to use it, and testing it.

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Dave Bell
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What is being missed is that Luxembourg set a very low, but non-zero, rate for VAT on ebooks. A lot of EU countries have lower rates for such products, but Amazon is paying a rate of 3%, the lowest in the EU, and I don't recall them ever telling me what the rate is, they just tell us VAT is charged, which is one of those legally murky areas. Italy, next year, reduces their e-book rate from 22% to 2%, and we have always had a 0% rate on physical books in the UK.

It looks as though some guy called Juncker was involved in setting the rates in Luxembourg.

One of the awkward points is that two pieces of data confirming customer location need to be recorded. For physical goods, which have always been under some form of customer-location rule, there's both the record of payment and the address for physical delivery. But what's the equivalent for digital goods?

The more I hear about this (and I used to do VAT paperwork for a small business), the less competent HMRC and the government look in negotiating with the rest of the EU and explaining the changes. Surely six years is enough time for them to have done something?

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UK cops caught using 12 MILLION Brits' mugshots on pic database

Dave Bell
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Re: What's his beef?

Please, don't call Theresa May the She-Wolf of the SS.

She doesn't look sexy enough for a porn movie to make a profit.

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GOOGLE is COMING FOR YOUR CHILDREN

Dave Bell
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One factor is that US Federal Law gives children under the age of 13 a special status on the Internet. They cannot be given an account by an internet service without explicit parental permission.

This actually makes sense, and I think it goes some way towards explaining why Google might be doing this. It's not so much the content as making sure they can do the extra permission checks for the account. Child-safe game apps may still need that extra permission if they need a live internet connection to run.

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How HAPPY am I on a scale of 1 to 10? Where do I click PISSED OFF?

Dave Bell
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Re: Spot on, Mr Dabbs.

In my experience, what saves the London Underground is the presence of the ordinary people of London. Though I managed to avoid the rush hour. London is messed up by the ultra-rich seeking to preserve their precious bodily fluids, every night.

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The Grandmaster: Epic, heart-melting, oh and there's lots of kung fu

Dave Bell
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I miss some of the context for this, but I look at the story outline and think that, in some ways, it's not so different from some Hollywood movies recording the life of an American in the same troubled era. I can imagine elements of The Great Gatsby and Public Enemies in a Hollywood version, but I struggle to imagine Hollywood using such a strong female character.

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BLAST-OFF! BOAT FREE launch at last. Orion heads for SPAAAAACE

Dave Bell
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Re: Great news

Yes.

There's even a song about it.

Kantrowitz 1972 (HEL Crew's Song)

Plenty of sites claim to have recordings and videos, but it's not for nothing that it's known as the net of a million lies.

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Another lick of Lollipop: Google updates latest Android to 5.0.1

Dave Bell
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I am not going to hurry.

Android 5.0 was such a mess on my Nexus 7 (2012 model) that I am in zero rush for the upgrade. I have already used Cyanogen on some cheap hardware, and I shall wait to see what emerges from there. The way Google seem to do things with this Android 5 product suggests that we shouldn't trust them.

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

Dave Bell
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Never Mind the Bullocks (This will go on for heifer and heifer...)

It seems plausible to me that the landscape models used for planning site locations and generating the coverage maps are being used by people who don't expect trees to grow.

And, while the frequencies are different now, I can remember when there did seem to be significant differences between late July and early September as the landscape changed from a thick brush-like surface of ripening wheat and barley to short, rather dry, stubble. Could I have used the combine harvester to have created a waveguide across the top 30-acre?

Meanwhile, all the broadband special offers I've been getting will end before the currently-annouced FTTC. start date in these parts. They don't seem to be doing much about IPv6 either. Engineering, I think, is too low a priority.

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E-cigarettes fingered as source of NASTY VIRUS

Dave Bell
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Re: Use a "USB Condom".

I have a battery "power-pack" I picked up at Lidl in the summer. Built-in solar cell, as will as a mini-USB input for charging, What is maybe relevant for this is that the output is a standard 2-contact power connection with an adaptor to standard micro-USB. It could still send a virus to a computer that was charging it, but anything you use it to charge would be safe.

It is possible to make your own "safe" lead, but I am not so confident with a soldering iron these days. The no-data leads are sometimes labelled as "fast charge".

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Amazon DROPS next day delivery amid Cyber Monday MADNESS

Dave Bell
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This looks more like the usual delivery sluggishness for the time of year—post early for Christmas and all that—than anything to do with Black Friday.

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Star Wars: Episode VII trailer lands. You call that a lightsaber? THIS is a lightsaber

Dave Bell
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Re: Lego?

The Lego version is the future of movie special effects.

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Eat FATTY FOODS to stay THIN. They might even help your heart

Dave Bell
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Learn the one weird trick for losing weight!

Eat less.

There are, incidentally, a lot of ways of making food more interesting which don't depend on sugars and fats.

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Intel offers ingenious piece of 10TB 3D NAND chippery

Dave Bell
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About the only thing available now which can handle these huge amounts of storage is the USB stick. It needs a very specific extension to the SD card interface to get past 32GB. An external SSD could use something such as Ethernet to connect, and I have a small box-thing which can connect an SD card via wifi or Ethernet.

I can remember USB expansion cards which used a PCI slot, had the usual row of sockets accessible from the back of the computer, and had a single purely internal USB socket. It may have been meant for one of those connector boxes that occuply the space used by a floppy drive, though these now use a different internal physical connector. not compatible with an unadorned USB stick,

If I had a couple of 64GB USB sticks in a RAID configuration, already possible, that aren't dangling in open air, that might be interesting. Move that approach to the TB scale. But I have seen similar multi-card RAID using SDHC, and I wonder if they can get the reliability.

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Post-pub nosh neckfiller: Masala omelette

Dave Bell
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It's an error to think that a high Scoville number is a reliable signifier of a good curry.

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Dave Bell
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Re: ruined at the last moment by adding coriander leaves

The genetic factor was reported in Nature a couple of years ago. It's also known as Cilantro.

The article also reports a suggested fix from Harold McGee.

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Jacking up firearms fees will cost SMEs £3.5 MILLION. Thanks, Plod

Dave Bell
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There seems to be a pattern here that goes far wider than just firearms. Whether it's the Police or the security services, whether it's somebody with a legally accounted-for gun and a mental defect, or a potential terrorist with a Facebook account who has already come to the attention of the authorities, the tip-offs and questions get ignored. Whether it happens in Dunblane or Woolwich, the internal failures are fixed by blaming the outsiders.

In my time I have seen Police officers being damn stupid around guns. The safety essentials are so incredibly simple that one can argue that every Police officer should be taught them. It's not an exotic skill not to point a gun at somebody, and not to put your finger on the trigger.

And it is rather depressing when an air pistol can be included in an official photograph of "firearms" surrendered in an amnesty, or when, amongst a mix of assorted guns and knives found in the possession of a terrorist, the pictures show a wood chisel or an ordinary hatchet.

Some of the silliness can come from taking public reports seriously—it wasn't far from here that Police firearms officers were called out to a Royal Artillery aid defence battery on exercise, because somebody saw a lurking mad with a gun—but there's a lot that seems to be directed at making the public more scared, exaggerating the threat. There have been newspaper and television reports on the illegal trade, the smuggled guns that criminals can buy and even rent, but there has been far more effort made to get rid of legal firearms.

In the end, it's all about finding an easy fix. Whether it make any difference is irrelevant.

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Britain's MPs ask Twitter, Facebook to keep Ts&Cs simple

Dave Bell
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Re: new T&Cs...

Those licencing terms are partly due to the way the internet works, and existing IP law was never written with the internet in mind. Everything we post over the internet is copied. Changing a piece of text from ASCII to Unicode is a modification of the original. So is using a different font to display it.

I am not holding my breath wating for the politicians to some up with some legal structure that reflects the practical needs of the the internet. Just getting this message in front of your eyes could involve 5 or 6 legally distinct entities copying and modifying my copyrighted material.

At least this T&C text tries to limit the blanket rights grab to what is necessary for the service to work. It doesn't do that good a job, but it tries.

At the end of the day, there are few lawyers who know how the technology works, and the chances are that none of them worked on those T&Cs. I do know a couple of specialised barristers who work on this sort of technical issue, and while in the English legal system a barrister isn't limited to court work, it's questionable whether in-house corporate legal teams are as competent as they pretend to their employers.

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It's BLOCK FRIDAY: Britain in GREED-crazed bargain bonanza mob frenzy riot MELTDOWN

Dave Bell
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The local Tesco, a relatively ordinary branch and not one of the 24-hour shops, had a small table on which were stacked "HD-ready" TVs with a 19-inch screen and a DVD player. Nobody seemed to be buying them.

Black Friday seems to depend on people who don't depend on public transport, which is entirely shut down around here overnight. Neither the staff not the customers can get to the stores without a car of their own. From my experience, this might be different in the bigger cities. There are night buses in London, but what other choices are there? I think the DLR and Underground could be closed.

So the whole idea seems to depend on their being people with more money than sense. And are there really going to be people able to do useful work after storming the Black Friday sales?

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That sub-$100 Android slab you got on Black Friday? RIDDLED with holes, say infosec bods

Dave Bell
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Re: On a separate rant

Never use version x.0 of anything, isn't that the rule?

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Japan pauses asteroid BOMBING raid – still no word from Bruce Willis?

Dave Bell
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Re: Thought the Japs were in a shitload of debt!

I think they built it from Hollywood funding for the movie.

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Musicians sue UK.gov over 'zero pay' copyright fix

Dave Bell
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Re: Compensation has already been paid

The way PRS licences work suggests the weaknesses of any compensation system. I know people who have recorded music, done the PRS paperwork, have had the recording played in public under a PRS Licence, and got not a penny of payment.

If we ever get the internet of things working, it might be possible to automatically track the details of what gets played where, and pay the musicians, and at a not-excessive admin cost.

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Hi-torque tank engines: EXTREME car hacking with The Register

Dave Bell
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Re: Excellent article

If you'd mentioned that at the start of the month, it would have made an appearance for NaNoWriMo, for much the same reason as Simon Templar drove a Hirondelle.

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Boffins find Jackie Chan's SUPERCOP is good for something

Dave Bell
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Re: Does the RIAA know about this?

While it isn't quite simple, the movie-like object might need to plausibly resemble a movie, something more than a high-definition camera watching traffic on a busy road (I'm thinking of the effect of cutting from one scene to another). So taking a "real" movie might be easiest. I'm thinking that any contract might include a few clauses on how the solar cell components are mounted so as it is difficult to extract the data, maybe something as simple as no hole in the middle, or putting the pattern off-centre.

Frankly, if the Blu-Ray is on sale, you don't need to do anything heroic with the solar cell to duplicate the data. And there are any number of cheap movies where the producers might leap at the chance of a guaranteed fee that can cover the costs of preparing the data for disk manufacture.

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ESA's spaceplane cleared for lift-off in February 2015

Dave Bell
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It's in some of the same territory as the NASA lifting body designs of a half-contury ago. Back then they mostly had tail fins, and were flown by humans without computer assistance. The point was that they didn't need wings for lift. And the first, the M2-F1 was towed behind one of those powerful American sports cars. The car needed engine tuning to get up to flying speed. Later tests had it towed into the air behind a C-47.

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Virgin Media struck dumb by NATIONWIDE packet loss balls-up

Dave Bell
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There are so many different companies involved in getting data from A to B, and weekends have sucked generally for a long time, with different people blaming somebody else for every problem.

And then you have to deal with the helplines. Some are much better than others.

There is probably a college course in Bangalore on not listening to customers.

I know how to use traceroute, and I know exactly who is carrying my data between A and B. Company B doesn't want to say just where their server is, but they put the info in the server domain name.

At the end of the day, I am still the paying customer, but that doesn't seem to make a difference. At the end of the day, my name is on a contract, but nobody cares.

My email probably arrives at GCHQ rather sooner that it arrives at the addressee's account.

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Mastercard and Visa to ERADICATE password authentication

Dave Bell
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Re: Stop with the mobile requirement already

Yeah, if they start depending on mobile phones, there;s a chunk of rural England (never mind the more remote parts of Scotland and Wales) which is locked out of buying over the Internet. Maybe depends on having a smartphone too,

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ZZZAP! Climate change means getting HIT BY LIGHTNING is likelier

Dave Bell
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Re: "the models predicted"

The phrasing certainly seemed to come out of bad Hollywood disaster movies. A lot of energy, yes, but saying the atmosphere will explode leaves me expecting the imminent arrival of a time-travelling extra-terrestrial and a London schoolteacher.

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Amazon buries the hatchet, not Hachette, in ebook price brouhaha

Dave Bell
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Hachette may be a French company, but it owns some major British and American publishers. It looks like the Hachette UK website is down for some sort of maintenance, so it's not easy to check just which imprints they own, but I found a reference to Hodder & Stoughton, and to Time Warner.

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Judge: Terror bomb victims CAN'T seize Iran's domain name as compensation

Dave Bell
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I think the key point in all this is that the TLD has no value if it isn't operating. Which means that the claimants would somehow have to keep it operating, and keep collecting fees. and pay the bills.

You can read this as a "Don't be silly." Where really is the money in grabbing control? And these people are claiming to be after money.

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Is your kid ADDICTED to web porn? Twitter? Hint: Don't blame the internet

Dave Bell
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Anyone remember the BBC Micro?

There was a time when computers were something the kids were taught about, but the teaching seemed to shift away from computers to using standard office software. That's still useful, but even ten years ago school leavers were taking "computer driving licence" courses because the schools seemed to have failed them.

And today's parents are a part of that generation, which seems to have been sacrificed at the altar of Microsoft.

Frankly, while there's some weird stuff out there on the internet, and there are some nasty people, currently declaring that they are only arguing about ethics in game journalism, I also don't see any involvement of the internet in such dramatic and frightening cases as the child sex abuse in Rotherham.

My own feeling is that a lot of the scare stories, the political fantasies of predators on the internet, might be better dealt with as part of teaching sex and relationships. Things such as good passwords, and avoiding click-bait, are as significant as condoms. It's a different sort of relationship, but the internet is not different from Eastenders: people are telling the unusual and dramatic stories.

And we probably have our own myths.

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Shuddit, Obama! Here in Blighty, we ISPs have net neutrality nailed

Dave Bell
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Re: You (should) get what you pay for

Back when I started with this broadband malarkey, about a decade ago, one of the things the ISPs told you was the "contention ratio". When there were few video services, it worked out pretty well. Even with a fairly slow collection, you could download a Linux distro overnight.

Times have changed. Connections can be a lot faster, on the same BT line, and they need to be. The ISPs never seem to mention the contention ratio, but with everyone wanting their video streams at the same time, the ISPs need to be able to move far more data. And the change was quite fast. Stuff that was working in 2012 was struggling in 2013.

I changed ISP. On the same telephone wires I got double the capacity. And we will eventually get fibre here, although on a rather vague timetable. I may pay extra for that, just to be sure of having enough bandwidth, because nobody talks about the contention.

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TalkTalk's 'unbeatable signal strength' and 'fastest Wi-Fi tech' FIBS silenced by ad watchdog

Dave Bell
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Re: Talk Talk is pretty much the only company

I was a TalkTalk customer for many years. I didn't use one of their ADSL boxes, and I cannot say I had wi-fi problems. Their support is crap, their advertising routinely claims the impossible (There are limits on the output power of all wifi gear), and, when I left them, their connection between the BT exchange and the rest of their network was so overloaded at peak times that my broadband connection was little better than dial-up.

I actually doubled the speed of my connection over the physical wiring which BT provides.

We should be getting FTTC soon here, maybe by March 2015. The TalkTalk fibre offer is incredible, and expires next week. BT Openreach vans are still in breeding mode, laying cables. Mobile data, yesterday as I travelled to a hospital appointment, was going down like a Messerschmidt over Kent.

I have given up on trusting broadband adverts.

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'Yes, yes... YES!' Philae lands on COMET 67P

Dave Bell
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Re: Up Goer Word Rock

Poul Anderson did it better

Soothly we live in mighty years!

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The last PC replacement cycle is about to start turning

Dave Bell
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Re: The laptop and desktop are dead.

I am not convinced that hardcore gaming has a future in the PC world. Or it's maybe just that we should start thinking of a Playstation or an XBox as being as much a PC as is an Apple Mac: all are essentially desktop box tools.

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DRAMA in SPACE: But Philae KEEPS TRYING to HARPOON COMET

Dave Bell
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Cemmentary Sources.

Point your browser at XKCD for live reporting from the Hugo-winning Randall Munro.

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Vodafone: For Pete's sake! Apple’s 'soft' SIM's JUST AN EE SIM

Dave Bell
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Feeding the Internet of Things

One of the big problems with talk of an internet of things is that mobile date coverage is still erratic in my parts of the country. I don;t know which network can provide the connection for a smart meter in this part of the world, and it can depend on which side of the house the meter is placed.

Even in rural towns, I see signs that mobile data coverage can be affected by the performance of the mobile hardware.

If this is about selling the GSMA answer, the networks are going to have to get their act together on coverage.

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Online tat bazaar eBay collapses in UK

Dave Bell
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Re: "We apologise for ANY inconvenience caused."

It's the same for the people working on telephone helplines. I have had a not-fun weekend dealing with that, and whether it's a telephone or live chat, I have sometimes wondered if they even bother with the question the customer asks. They are as bad as politicians. Has anyone on Question Time ever managed to answer the question asked or admitted they don't know?

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Dave Bell
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Re: El Reg hacks need to actually *look* at the modern fleabay

Today a phablet arrived here from a pro retailer, sold through eBay, and delivered from Amazon.

This is getting confusing. The ways ordinary folk can sell stuff are getting fewer and fewer. I know of five regular auctions locally which have stopped happening. The second-hand bookshops are vanishing too.

Some of the charity shops will take "good" stuff. But what makes something "good" is a rather high standard. If they don't want you, disposal costs money.

How much does an electrical safety certificate cost for an old washing machine? Or that computer?

We're still in a depression, and we don't seem to be allowed to sell anything. It's for our own good, right?

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FTC tells 'scan to email' patent troll: Every breath you take, every lie you make, I'll be fining you

Dave Bell
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Re: The old American badger game goes on.

You get some of the same carry-ons with CGI models, though the recent cases I have heard of have involved trademarks rather than copyright. One of the quirks of US law is that government documents are not copyrightable (I maybe over-simplify) and so are in the public domain. This doesn't stop tradenark law, and the current MARPAT camouflage includes the trademarked USMC emblem in the pattern.

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Brit cops nab six in Silk Road 2.0 drugs sting

Dave Bell
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A note on Geography

It should be obvious enough from a map, but New Waltham is effectively a suburb of Grimsby and Cleethorpes.

I don't know that this makes Tor unreliable, but since the original intent was to provide a data channel for spies, this does rather suggest there is something new being used by the spies.

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BAE points electromagnetic projectile at US Army

Dave Bell
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Re: Wrong platform?

I don't think the Lockheed project is going to be small enough for a tank.

But Mach 7 is about twice the muzzle velocity of the M242 25mm cannot on the Bradley. The big question is what sort of power it will need.

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Billionaire's pet DRAGON SPLASHES DOWN off Pacific Coast

Dave Bell
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Re: Am I the first one

The recommended soundtrack for all such manoeuvres is The Blue Danube

It's already been done.

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Caterham Seven 160 review: The Raspberry Pi of motoring

Dave Bell
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There were a lot of kit-cars with the general Lotus 7 look, and of varying quality. Haynes even sold a book on making your own. But the mechanical style of cars has changed. There's not so many cars now with rear-wheel drive to use as donor vehicles. Though Wikipedia provides an impressive list.

I am not sure that a Caterham is quite like the Raspberry Pi. It's maybe a bit more like the FUZE. But they are certainly in the same territory.

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Not a loyal follower of @BritishMonarchy? You missed The QUEEN*'s first Tweet

Dave Bell
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There'll never be another...

She has huge experience, and if somebody wanted an election for a democratic President, I would vote for her. Though I would feel guilty about lumbering an old lady with the job.

Sometimes, I don't think we realise how lucky we are, and the monarchies of northern Europe seem to work out pretty well. Britain is part of a group of political solutions that work out pretty well in the modern world. And the next couple of generations look pretty solid. It's the politicians we need to worry about. Some of them deserve the turbulent priest treatment, though it's probably a good thing that those days are over.

There's also only one Royal Air Force.

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RUMPY PUMPY: Bone says humans BONED Neanderthals 50,000 years B.C.

Dave Bell
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Some people have strange ideas...

One concept that comes up in studies of human ancestry is exogamy, and it's at the root of all sorts of stories about travelling salesmen and such. There's a tendency to see strangers as sexually desirable. And that feeds into a lot of rather ugly male thinking about protecting women and what men are "entitled" to do.

There are also assumptions that women are somehow asexual, and shocked discoveries that they aren't.

And the lack of mitochondrial DNA only proves that it hasn't been found yet, and suggests that maybe somebody didn't have any daughters live to breeding age.

We don't know enough. We can make guesses based on different human cultures, not just groups such as the Bushmen of the Kalahari—would their society be unchanged if we moved them to prehistoric Europe—but much of this can only be a guess. What would some far-future archaeologist make of a modern sex toy. "It's a ritual object"?

Well, if you want a suggestive analogy, there are one or two stories amongst Star Trek fans concerning well-muscled young men costumed as Next Generation Klingons. And how the way green body-paint can rub off reveals certain late-night activities. There are even very bawdy songs.

That's modern humans for you, and maybe modern contraception, but be careful about gender assumptions in who shags whom.

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Ubuntu 14.10 tries pulling a Steve Ballmer on cloudy offerings

Dave Bell
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Re: This proves one important thing...

I can imagine somebody saying, "I think I need new spectacles," which is a bit different. But Microsoft does seem to have been a bit of a foot-dragger on fonts and layouts as displays got bigger with more pixels. The timing feels about right, but why did Ballmer think he needed to go public?

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Dave Bell
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Re: Cloud

As a counter-example, consider the interactions between Google Drive, Linux, and, er, Android

There might, I suppose, be OS-level features which need to be "right" for a particular cloud service.

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The future health of the internet comes down to ONE simple question…

Dave Bell
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Re: ITU

I don't think there is an alternative to the ITU, perhaps with the UN and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights involved in the transition.

Incidentally, while there are many good legal reasons for Corporations to be treated as individuals, I reckon they should be treated as children, not adults. For ICANN, that re-casts the question as "Who are the parents?" If ICANN, or its successor, does something stupid, who can send it to bed with no supper? And what's the point of self-punishing children?

"Better drowned than duffers. If not duffers won't drown,"

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