* Posts by John Savard

1354 posts • joined 18 Sep 2007

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First HSBC, now the ENTIRE PUBLIC SECTOR dodges tax

John Savard
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Budgets

Seeing the headline, I wondered how on Earth the government not paying sales tax to the government could cost the government, or even the taxpayer, any money. But reading the article cleared this up - individual government departments, claiming tax refunds not allowed by the rules, were enabling themselves to spend more of your tax dollars than they were really given in their budgets.

I wonder how you could have made a non-confusing headline for this type of story. Civil servants use tax fraud to inflate their budgets?

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Qualcomm, ARM: We thought we had such HOT MODELS...

John Savard
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What I Took From the Article

There's a foundry in Red China capable of making 28 nm chips? Oh noes, we're all DOOMED!

But I'm surprised that ARM isn't in more trouble already. Never mind Intel using the x86 chip as an Android alternative. Since most Android programs use bytecode rather than native code, other chips more similar to ARM, and thus presumably more suitable to smartphone chips, could be used. Thus, why isn't MIPS entering this market?

Or, more to the point, some RISC chip vendors are licensing their architectures on generous terms, because they would really like to see them more widely adopted. So why not SPARC smartphones, or PowerPC smartphones?

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DARPA's 'Cortical Modem' will plug straight into your BRAIN

John Savard
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What It Would Be Most Good For

I'm quite surprised the article did not give prominence to the most obvious benefit to this technology; it would be able to bring sight to the blind.

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In praise of China’s CROONING censors: Company songs NOW!

John Savard
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British History

If one is going to mention "Ever Onward, IBM" and the like, what about Farey Aviation and the Black Dyke Band?

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ATTENTION SETI scientists! It's TOO LATE: ALIENS will ATTACK in 2049

John Savard
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Re: Death by Alien Cockup ...

Robert Zubrin has used this as an argument against being overly concerned about back contamination from Mars. However, he overlooked one point. Of course we don't have to worry about Martian malaria contaminating the Earth. Martian mold or Martian mildew, however, could see us just as a big pile of sugars with no relevant immune defenses - and turn Earth's biota into green goo in a matter of weeks.

Plus, on Earth, mold and mildew are relatively complicated organisms - symbiotic clusters of eukaryotic cells, I think. So they're not the ones that would have already made it to Earth on meteorites, putting paid to another one of his arguments.

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UN negotiations menaced by THOUSANDS of TOPLESS LADIES with MAYONNAISE

John Savard
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The Clear Agenda

It's clear that the fellow from Belarus was expressing a concern for the conference providing an opportunity for FEMEN to express its message, as opposed to concern for modesty or for the delegates' dry cleaning bills.

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'Giving geo-engineering to this US govt is like giving a CHILD a LOADED GUN'

John Savard
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Survival First

While it's true we should be converting to nuclear energy - a way to reduce our carbon footprint without making huge sacrifices in our energy use - even that isn't happening soon enough.

Giving a loaded gun to a child, if that's what the child needs to survive, is not always a bad thing; it may be the least bad alternative left.

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Skin colour's irrelevant. Just hire competent folk on their merits, FFS

John Savard
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Re: Three considerations

In the United States, at one time all it took was one sixty-fourth part of black ancestry to be classified as officially black.

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John Savard
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Not Enough

Just hiring on skills and merit instead of color sounds like it should be enough. But practical experience in the United States shows that it is not. Black people are somewhat less likely than white people to have the right pieces of paper when they are capable of doing a job. Furthermore, they're quite a bit less likely to have the right training to make them qualified for a job even when they have the same level of innate talent and ability for the job as a white person.

Is affirmative action really the right tool, though? Should employers, rather than the government, be expected to make up for prior discrimination black people have suffered in educational opportunities? That is a legitimate question, but even so, in any case the question is still more complicated than presented here.

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You MUST supply dying customers even if they're in administration, thunders UK.gov

John Savard
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Theft by Government

The instant a firm's solvency is called into question, it is entirely reasonable for it to be expected henceforth to pay in advance for any and all goods and services it receives from outside suppliers. For that matter, we need laws to protect the employees of firms that run into difficulty: their wages should be immediately paid into escrow as they are earned.

These innocent victims, who are at arm's-length from troubled companies, who don't have the opportunity to review their books and keep an eye on their total operations, ought not to be consigned to the limbo of being "unsecured creditors" who may get nothing. Banks do have the opportunity to monitor the fiscal health of the firms to which they supply credit; of course, though, since their collateral is what is backing part of the money supply, in much the same way as gold bullion in the vaults of central banks, so I admit that a balance has to be struck.

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Ex-NSA lawyer warns Google, Apple: IMPENETRABLE RIM ruined BlackBerry

John Savard
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Some Truth

Actually, there is some truth to the claim, incredible though it may sound.

The BlackBerry phones owed part of their security to communicating with BlackBerry's own servers. And the downfall of the company started when corporate users perceived BlackBerry phones as unreliable when it was victimized by a major DDoS attack.

The problem with their comeback was that individual cell phone users want a major apps platform like Android or the iPhone for their money - and, again, their maverick software is an element in their enhanced security.

So, while the encryption itself was a plus, not a minus, features of their phones that made it possible did contribute to their problems. Note, of course, that Apple and Google have no such problems, though, however much they upgrade their security.

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John Savard
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Primary Cause Not Mentioned

I thought the primary cause of BlackBerry's failure was that many of its key business customers deserted it after its service experienced an outage of several days in October of 2011.

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Swedish National Font marches to the sound of whalesong

John Savard
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Worried

I'm just glad that Sweden avoided sparking a conflict with Switzerland by declaring Helvetica the Swedish National Font!

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Nothing is True and Everything is Possible, Dead Girl Walking and Chasing the Scream

John Savard
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The Root Cause

If addiction is a disease of loneliness, then the cure is presumably worse than the disease.

Now that women have equal rights, they can take paying jobs and support themselves; not like ancient times, where every woman had to be married so her parents wouldn't have to be the ones to feed her.

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UK official LOSES Mark Duggan shooting discs IN THE POST

John Savard
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Puzzled

Looking up the case, I found that Mark Duggan was in possession of an unauthorized firearm, and that he was believed to be a member of an organized crime gang. Given that, why would his death be politically sensitive, or, indeed, a concern to anyone except perhaps his immediate relatives? Isn't the whole country at war with drug dealers and the like?

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Wham, bam... premium rate scam: Grindr users hit with fun-killing charges

John Savard
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Obviously, the charges should be billed to the dishonest party who posted the improper advertisement.

If law enforcement in, say, Belarus, or somewhere like that is not fully cooperative in this, the answer is simply to deny the country involved access to the Internet and, indeed, to long-distance telephone service. It's high time for the treaties that let 900 number dialer virus writers get away with their crimes to be reviewed.

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Panicked teen hanged himself after receiving ransomware scam email

John Savard
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New Laws are Needed

Under current law, I don't think the people responsible for this ransomware, if they were ever brought to justice, could be charged with murder. That should be changed. People who drive others to suicide through harassment and similar actions should pay the just price for what they have done.

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Why so tax-shy, big tech firms? – Bank of England governor

John Savard
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Companies are responsible to their stockholders; governments are responsible to the society as a whole. So asking for a "sense of responsibility" from corporations is a waste of air. But it may well be difficult to draft appropriate legislation that won't prevent foreign companies, operating in the UK, from taking their profits home without an extra burden of taxation - which is basically the point of investing in the UK, isn't it?

Of course, perhaps the onus should be on the home nation to forego taxation on profits which have already been taxed where they were earned... but that's a radical idea.

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SECRETS of the LOST SCROLLS unlocked by key to HEALTHY BOOBS

John Savard
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Well, there are so many lost books of antiquity the absence of which is lamented, I hope that they will find one or more of those among these scrolls.

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Preserve the concinnity of English, caterwauls American university

John Savard
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Too obscure

Language is a tool of communication; words that have to be looked up in the dictionary - if it even has them - will not perform that function. I've certainly heard of the world "perambulate", but not "obambulate"; I've heard "flapdoodle" and "caterwaul", but not "concinnity". So it's too late for some of those words; they would have had to have been revived while they were still being used to some limited extent.

Around the time of Shakespeare, there was a whole slew of words called "inkhorn" words that were coined which quickly died out; I don't think they're worth reviving.

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Latest NORKS Linux and Android distros leak

John Savard
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Of Course

Of course they had to clone Angry Birds! They wouldn't want it tempting North Koreans into getting bootleg software from outside the country and acquiring subversive ideas along with it! Actually, I'm surprised they didn't clone Flappy Bird as well.

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US kills EU watchdog's probe into EU cops sharing EU citizens' data

John Savard
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Re: Good Poodle!

In the case of the Ukraine, that country was invaded as punishment for its people overthrowing a dictator. News stories of his killing of demonstrators and of his private zoo are on the public record. So what's this about the U.S. trying to lead Europe in a wrong direction on that issue?

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Saudi Arabia to flog man 1,000 times for insulting religion on Facebook

John Savard
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Barbaric

This makes an amusing counterpart to a news story I read just the other day in Canada.

A Carleton University professor criticized Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper for referring to the Charlie Hebdo attacks as "barbaric", because that word might tend to reinforce negative stereotypes of Islam, and to stigmatize other cultures.

This shows that there is apparently something wrong with the culture in that part of the world, unless the flogging is entirely the government's idea without popular support.

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Get your special 'sound-optimising' storage here, hipsters

John Savard
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One Foot in Reality

One can improve sound quality by shipping bits to a DAC at strictly regular time intervals. Slight variations in the time in which a DAC is given new data can indeed affect the output signal, even if no bits are changed. This is why certain external USB DACs, which have internal buffer storage, can improve sound quality over the sound card in a computer which simply takes the bits it is given when it is told to, which may vary while the computer is doing other things like running the operating system.

Maybe this is what they were talking about, in a garbled way.

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Ladies and trolls: Should we make cyberbullying a crime? – Ireland

John Savard
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Canadian Perspective

In Canada, there was a high-profile case of a young girl, raped by four young boys who have not yet been charged, who eventually committed suicide after a video of the attack was posted online, accusing her of being guilty of unchastity. As eventually some of those who posted the video online were charged with a child pornography offence, for a time it was unlawful to utter her name, although it had previously been used in stories about the incident.

Given this, there is strong sentiment in Canada for having all the tools possible to deal harshly with this sort of thing before another tragedy happens.

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No cellphones in cells, you slag! UK.gov moots prison mobe zap law

John Savard
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Solution

I know that in the U.S. there was a case where a criminal behind bars used a cell phone to arrange the murder of a witness against him. I think that they should move the prisons to locations without any cell towers in range.

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Microsoft has made excellent software, you pack of fibbers

John Savard
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Hey, Windows 3.1 ran in 2 megs, while you needed 4 megs to run Yggdrasil Linux, and 16 megs to run fvwm at decent speed in it. Of course, Windows NT needed more memory than Windows 3.1 for much the same reason (multiuser, privilege protecting apps from each other), but if you wanted a GUI on the desktop, Microsoft let you have it with less resources. (But then a Mac pulled it off in 128 K... and it worked even better in 512 K.)

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Why has the Russian economy plunged SO SUDDENLY into the toilet?

John Savard
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Re: @Mage

Banks creating money to make loans indeed isn't counterfeiting. It's only check-kiting... and this created money is backed by the collateral on the loan, if not by the gold in Fort Knox. So the system just allows the supply of money to grow to a level commensurate with the real wealth of the nation, rather than allowing a lack of gold-backed money to prevent people from working and producing.

However, the system is still fragile. Things like a collapse of real estate values can cause collateral for a lot of those loans to stop having enough value to actually back the created money corresponding to it. So, while the banking system is indeed not a scam, as people from Social Credit and so on might have you believe, it's not as rock-solid as the gold standard either.

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GCHQ: We can't track crims any more thanks to Snowden

John Savard
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Unfortunate, but

In the United States, for the NSA to spend time hunting criminals - even ones operating outside the U.S. - would be highly controversial. Its job is to support national security and spy on foreign governments that are hostile to free nations - and terrorists by extension. So, aside from the issue of Snowden, the fact that these statements presuppose that the GCHQ chasing criminals is an entirely legitimate part of its mission is... interesting.

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Blind justice: Google lawsuit silences elected state prosecutor

John Savard
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Selling narcotics or fake drugs over the Internet is a serious matter. Many Internet users would like Google to be above the law - in the sense that they would like to have a search engine that tells them what is out there, whether governments like it or not. But this isn't achievable.

However, while it's troubling that a corporation can bully elected governments, it's also troubling that a single state government can make law for the whole United States - and, sometimes, the whole world. Thus, while I basically support the article, there are other questions that make this more complicated.

Incidentally, for the United States to have a "51st richest state", it would have to have 51 states, which it doesn't. Alaska and Hawaii brought the total up to 50 from 48, and none have been added since then.

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Facebook slammed for blocking protest event page at Russia's request

John Savard
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The Question

Does Facebook do business in Russia? If they hae people there, they may have no choice.

If they don't, that would be different, then I would unequivocally condemn the cowardice.

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Sucker for punishment? Join Sony's security team

John Savard
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The First Step

Replace Microsoft Windows on your computers. And avoid Macintosh and Linux as well.

Write your own operating system, with no vulnerabilities!

If you can't license OS/2 as a starting point, or OpenVMS, then start from BSD.

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Bring back big gov, right? If only the economics, STUPID, could tell us more

John Savard
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Common Sense

If you haven't got accurate statistics, then you have to make do by applying common sense.

History has shown us that there's a war-boom-bust cycle. After World War I, there were the Roaring Twenties, followed by the Depression. Other wars were followed by similar phenomena. And after World War II, there were the boom years of the fifties and sixties, followed by the slump that started in the seventies.

Governments can print money, but they can't print gold, special drawing rights, or the currencies of other nations. So, if nations don't export enough to pay for cheap goods from China and oil from the Middle East, they either go into debt, or constrict their domestic economies so that people can't afford to buy as much from those places.

Because trade agreements prevent them from keeping their domestic economies stimulated and just raising tariffs.

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American bacon cured with AR-15 assault rifle

John Savard
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Re: American Bacon

I know I once tried what is called "back bacon", but that just tastes like ordinary pork or ham - perhaps less attractive than either of those. Whereas bacon made from thin slices of pork bellies has a wonderfully appealing flavor, providing the essence of meatiness without MSG.

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'Turn to nuclear power to save planetary ecology from renewable BLIGHT'

John Savard
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Solution Aversion

Because going to the renewable options greens like would make energy supplies more expensive and limited, people are reluctant to acknowledge that global warming is real. While the greens don't like nuclear power, ordinary people to whom jobs and living standards are major concerns would be less likely to have a problem.

I recently read an interesting article about how "solution aversion", making people less likely to accept a problem is real, is operating in the global warming debate. Nuclear power is the option that would make that largely go away.

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GCHQ boffins quantum-busted its OWN crypto primitive

John Savard
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Interesting

This article prompted me to do some searching. Apparently this cryptographic primitive belongs to the Goldreich-Goldwasser-Halevi family. Since it uses the Closest Vector Problem, and works by disguising an easy lattice as a hard one, it seems to me that it might have the same basic flaw that torpedoed the knapsac ciphers - the underlying problem is hard, but disguising an 'easy' knapsack as a 'hard' one was the key, the disguises weren't proven hard to see through.

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Australia to social media: self-censor or face AU$17,000 FINES

John Savard
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Reasonable

From the headline, I was worried that Australia was going to expect sites like Facebook to review everything every user posts, to ensure it isn't bullying, before it can appear. That would have been highly problematic. But the actual measures cited in the article - having policies against bullying, and a working complaints mechanism - seem to me a perfectly reasonable minimum that any responsible social networking site should have.

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Japanese monster manifests new PETAFLOP POWER

John Savard
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"to claim that it's currently word's the most power astronomical HPC facility" clearly should have been "to claim that it's currently the world's most powerful astronomical HPC facility"; how could this possibly have happened?

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Under the Iron Sea: YES, tech and science could SAVE the planet

John Savard
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Wait a Moment

I do remember reading a credible news article with what seemed to be good science that came to the conclusion that iron, unfortunately, wouldn't really do much good. I wish I could recall the cite, so I could point people to see it.

Ah: before the ban, according to Wikipedia, there were nine or so serious scientific studies. The current reason this is considered not worth trying is because it seems more likely to promote the blooming of harmful algae than to genuinely spur photosynthesis.

Oh: limestone is calcium carbonate, so, yes, it does remove carbon dioxide from the air when you make it.

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Regin: The super-spyware the security industry has been silent about

John Savard
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Not Certain

I note that one list of the countries where this malware was found also didn't include China, so that is another possibility. For that matter, with Sa'udi Arabia as a major target, maybe we should suspect Israel.

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You stupid BRICK! PCs running Avast AV can't handle Windows fixes

John Savard
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Maybe This Time

it is more Avast's fault than Microsoft's, but really, they should redesign Windows so that it can not brick, ever. You should always be able to get as far as a startup screen that lets you roll back the last update.

And it should also be possible, during those "do not turn off your computer" screens, to safely abort the update in progress.

And when Windows is shutting down, if it takes too long, there should be a way to change the display so you can see which program is having the problem. There is plenty of room for improvement in Windows' robustness.

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Glasgow boffins: We can now do it, Captain. We DO have the molecular storage power

John Savard
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Potential for Confusion

Not to be confused with polyoxymethylene, used for making guitar picks, and also known by the acronym POM.

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Renewable energy 'simply WON'T WORK': Top Google engineers

John Savard
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A Ray of Sunlight

I am so happy to read an article that tells us the truth about what we have to do to allow civilization to continue and avoid a serious disaster. This truth has been mentioned a few times before, but sadly there is still no constituency for it - one has the fossil fuels business as usual camp, and one has the green camp that is dead set against fission, between which we are headed for serious problems.

It used to be we could count on a certain level of intelligence from politicians, and necessary but unpalatable measures would have bipartisan support. Now, it seems the only thing that gets bipartisan support are excessive expansions of copyright.

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Blackpool hotel 'fines' couple £100 for crap TripAdvisor review

John Savard
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The credit company didn't receive a signed authorization from them to hand over the money to the hotel, so how could this possibly have happened? Clearly the system where retailers are trusted to only put actually purchased items on invoices to credit card companies is flawed - or, at least, the particular hotel in question should lose its ability to accept credit card payments in future.

Fine print in contracts is not sufficient authorization to charge a credit card - instead, charges to a credit card should be under the total control of the cardholder, just like taking cash out of one's wallet and handing it to the retailer.

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NOKIA - Not FINNished yet! BEHOLD the somewhat DULL MYSTERY DEVICE!

John Savard
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I don't understand why they're bothering to make an Android tablet using the Atom processor. ARM is the standard for Android that runs all Android apps.

People use x86 because they want access to the huge mass of Microsoft Windows applications, although it's also used for Linux because the Windows market has subsidized the price/performance of x86 chips and x86 lets you use more Linux binaries - people run Linux on the PCs they can most easily find and purchase.

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John Savard
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Re: BUY NOKIA SHARES NOW

Well, it would be if it had the goodness of the other Nokia products that inspired such comments. And if it used an ARM processor instead of going out on a dangerous limb with an Atom.

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If only 0.006% care about BLOOD-SOAKED METAL ... why are we spending all this cash?

John Savard
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Wrong Question

A lot of people do agree the government ought to have more money. More money from people richer than they are, to spend on making life easier for them, and people poorer than they are. So the fact that those people aren't giving their own money to the government in no way implies that they are not sincere in feeling that way.

There are even people willing to pay higher taxes, but not donate money to the government, because they're willing to get along with less in the way of toys, but not to give up their competitive advantage and relative position compared to others. After all, this money spent on buying fancy cars to impress girls is wasted, so if the other fellow couldn't afford a terribly expensive car either, the girls would just have to be impressed with less.

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Not even 60,000 of you want an ethically-sourced smartphone

John Savard
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I Object

The headline of this article is misleading, unfair, and insulting to smartphone buyers everywhere (or at least just in the EU)!

It should actually read:

Not even 60,000 of you want an ethically-sourced smartphone badly enough to actually pay for it.

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Greeks BEST in WORLD – at, er, breaking their mobile phones

John Savard
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Time Is an Illusion

I recognized there was a Hitchhiker's Guide reference there, but it took me a moment to recall the precise one. I was thinking of "Space is big" at first.

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Forget eyeballs and radar! Brits tackle GPS JAMMERS with WWII technology

John Savard
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These days, what with quartz wristwatches, they ought to be able to make at least a guess at their longitude, and at night even the passengers should be able to tell the latitude. No doubt old-fashioned navigation has been largely taken out of the curriculum for navigators due to the ubiquity of GPS, but I would think that some of the basics are still taught and practised. Never mind GPS jammers; what if these systems are shut down in the event of war?

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