* Posts by Donald Becker

139 posts • joined 3 Dec 2007

Page:

Chip company FTDI accused of bricking counterfeits again

Donald Becker

Many to blame, including Microsoft.

Microsoft is the company that should be in the hot seat over this.

Microsoft is signing the drivers and pushing them out as an automatic update. Microsoft claims to test these driver (WHQL et al) and hold companies submitting them responsible for misdeeds.

When this happened before, Microsoft was quick to back out of the driver update. We didn't hear anything, but could at least believe that FTDI was "read the riot act" and told never to do this again. Or else.

Now that it has happened a second time, we'll see how serious Microsoft is about their reputation, and what the true standards are for hardware/driver certification.

2
2

How to build the next $1bn tech unicorn: Get into ransomware

Donald Becker

Just a note about 'unicorn' valuation: it's mostly for PR.

A VC that invests $10M for 1% of a company's stock makes it "worth" $1B. But that deal probably came with 10x warrants, a pay-back provision, right of first refusal, board seats, control of executive selection, and every other absurd provision the VC could think of.

We are just starting to hear the stories of employees that paid high taxes on their RSUs (granted stock) or exercised options, only to find the common stock worth far less when the company is acquired.

It might not be illegal, but it's white collar fraud. Simple extortion looks a little more honest now, doesn't it?

6
0

If you want a USB thumb drive wiped, try asking an arts student for help

Donald Becker

De-duplication and hidden block management could always bite you.

Attempting to physically destroy the device will just make people try harder to find what you are hiding.

An effective approach is to fill the drive with legal but embarrassing porn, and do a sloppy job of deleting it. The pseudo-random nature of video will avoid block de-duplication, very little of the previous contents will remain on the hidden blocks, and anyone forensically examining the drive will stop looking after they "find" the deleted porn.

Sometimes letting people "win" is the best way to succeed.

5
0

Qualcomm, Nvidia are driving us nuts – with silicon-brains-for-cars

Donald Becker

Re: Heavy on the power mind you

These modules are for development and bleeding edge systems. The tech that makes it into mass-market cars will be smaller and use less power, while the high-end cars move on to using the next round of exotic tech.

But really, you are worried about supply 250W and getting rid of the heat in a motor vehicle? That's 0.25KW. The vehicle this will be put into will have at least 1000x that power available, with much of that being sent off as heat.

I'm a little biased, but I do question the wisdom of integrating a cellular modem into a vital part of the car such as the dashboard. Many luxury cars on the road still have the useless remains of center-console phones. More recent middle-market cars have useless cell phone docks. The communication part should be a physically and logically separate module so that it's possible to do the equivalent of updating a 8 track player to a cassette player (errmmm, CD, uhmm, DVD uhmm Blueray head unit).

2
0

Aroused Lycra-clad cyclist prompts Manchester cop dragnet

Donald Becker

If this is an offense that needs to be investigated by the police, there are a lot of teenage boys that will be dealing with the coppers. You would need at least a half dozen officers per high school classroom, and a whole department at every event with cheerleaders.

27
0

DEAD MAN'S SOCKS and other delightful gifts from clients

Donald Becker

Re: The gift that keeps on giving...

Idiot -- you need real tinfoil. Aluminum foil is a government plot to eliminate the raw material for the only effective product that blocked mind-control rays.

If you would wear a proper tinfoil hat you would understand..

6
0

Philips backs down over firmware that adds DRM to light

Donald Becker

It's an oft-repeated story: they want the benefit of an open system, but then try to close the doors to trap the customers inside.

My guess is that part of the pressure was others in the industry pointing out that they were violating the standards agreements. Once you sign the agreement and put the logo on your products, you have made a commitment. Even if the standards body doesn't sue you, there are plenty of law firms that specialize in class action lawsuits.

0
0

Smut-seeding Prenda Law ringleader must sell home to pay $2.5m debt

Donald Becker

More info in the case. The Chapter 7 Trustee filed a motion to "determine the source of funds used to purchase, and renovate the property and to pay expenses, including the mortgage associated with

the property".

It does appear that that Hansmeier is claiming that Monyet and his wife were the source of the funds used to buy, maintain and renovate the condo, and that all proceeds should go to her and not into the estate.

I think that there is still a fair chance that Hansmeier will get away with most of the other money, but he has played too fast and loose with Monyet for this specific 'judgement proofing' scheme to work.

It does confirm why Hansmeier fought so hard to put the sales proceeds into an trust account with his attorney, rather than with the trustee. He would have immediately paid the money "due" to his wife and Monyet, and trustee would have to decide if it was worth spending years in court to pursue the fraud.

0
0
Donald Becker

A correction: the court didn't order the sale of the condo.

Hansmeier initiated the sale process without informing the court. He was attempting to sell the property, presumably with the proceeds immediately going to his wife and trusts and thus being unreachable by the bankruptcy cout. He has used trusts in the past to move money out of his companies, leaving them insolvent.

Even after the sale was caught by the trustee, Hansmeier was attempting to retain control of the money in a trust held by his lawyer. The trustee objected. The reason wasn't stated in the hearing, but it was clear to those involved. If Hansmeier controlled the money, he had already planned the scheme to drain that money from that account. One of his earlier trusts, Monyet, was used to drain money from his insolvent 'Alpha Law LLC'. Monyet has been paying the mortgage and for various "improvements". It's now clear why that was happening. It was so that a big chunk of the sale proceeds would go to that trust to "pay back" its "investment" in the property. They would attribute the increase in value to the "improvements", leaving only a token amount as a net gain after the bank mortgage and closing costs were paid.

Don't worry too much about Hansmeier being out on the street. He, along with Steele, have devoted years to dodgy schemes, shell companies, and making themselves judgement-proof. This was just one of his many hidey-holes for money. There are millions of dollars that haven't been traced.

0
0

Google says its quantum computer is 100 million times faster than PC

Donald Becker

A good way of thinking about this machine is trying to open a regular pin padlock.

The traditional approach is to sequentially try a key with every different depth of cut in every position.

The quantum computing approach is a "bump key", where you simultaneously sweep across all cut depths on all positions.

The sequential approach can take a very time. It's trivially parallelized, although you are just one-for-one trading hardware for time.

The quantum computing approach is almost instantaneous, but you are never certain if you have found a correct solution. You always have to test the result to see if it works, and even then repeat a few times to see if the result is the same. If you consistently come up with a bad result, you need to reformulate the problem to specifically exclude that result and try again -- much like a lock pin always getting suck on a nick.

2
0

A bubble? No way, we're in a bust, says rich VC living in alternate reality

Donald Becker

The story barely touched on one element of the current "valuations", that the investments are structured more like debt than equity.

Term sheets continue to evolve. A dozen years ago they were merely one-sided drafts that are sometimes negotiated to something more balanced. Now they are absurdly unbalanced in exchange for extreme valuations. A VC might be investing $10M for 1% of a company's authorized shared (a "$1B valuation"), but the term sheet includes a payback provision with high interest rates, strong limits on issuing those authorized shared (or simply control of the board's committee), warrants, anti-dilution provisions for their shares, and every other clause they could think of.

3
0

Volkswagen: 800,000 of our cars may have cheated in CO2 tests

Donald Becker

I eagerly await the detailed story.

CO2 is produced proportionally with hydrocarbon fuel consumed. It's the desired product of complete combustion. Un-burnt HC and monoxide (CO) are the primary other ways that the carbon goes out the exhaust, and those are tightly regulated with the goal being near zero emissions.

So if there is excess CO2, that implies that there is excess fuel consumption. Which should be obvious to any owner that is watching the numbers on the pump or credit card bill.

7
0

Fuming Google tears Symantec a new one over rogue SSL certs

Donald Becker

This isn't a minor screw-up. This undermines the very purpose of a Certificate Authority.

I'm astonished that Google is giving them another chance, and that this isn't headline news everywhere.

There should a zero-tolerance policy for certificate authorities. Generating unauthorized certificates is a major breech of trust, and generating hundreds of them for an important and privacy-critical service such as Google is beyond any justification.

3
0

Trio nailed in US for smuggling $30m of microchips into Russia

Donald Becker

This would have been a federal criminal case. Which would have been competing for courtroom time with copyright cases (federal), and patent cases (also federal). There isn't a separate court for criminal cases.

I haven't been able to find the name of the judge in this case, only the prosecutors (who have put out multiple press releases). It's the EDNY in Brooklyn, if anyone wants to check the dockets or PACER.

1
0

Sony finds some loose change, flings most of it at lawyers ... the rest at staff hit by 'North Korea'

Donald Becker

47,000 employees, and they'll pay out up to $2M total. That's about $40 per person. The employees won't even see that, since every claim will be carefully examined, and the cost of the examination will go against the payout cap.

The only assured pay-out is the lawyer fees

2
0

Man goes to collect stolen-car court docs found in stolen car in stolen car

Donald Becker

I don't see that he was especially stupid.

He did park a block away.

That's far enough that no one in the police station would observe him arriving, and he could spot someone following when he left.

0
0

Top VW exec blames car pollution cheatware scandal on 'a couple of software engineers'

Donald Becker

I can readily believe that it was the actions of a few rogue employees. I've seen it happen.

But if VW hasn't identified who those employees are this far along, they are incompetent or lying. This is a major incident that may cost billions of dollars. VW should have people working 16 hour days to figure out how this happened and how to mitigate the damage.

3
43

Aircon biz fined $1.3m after boss set up attack websites slamming critical punters

Donald Becker

Really, how hard is it to just write fake positive reviews, instead of attacking the negative ones?

It can't be very difficult, as evidenced by the high proportion of obviously fake reviews on Yelp.

My real question is how many of the reviews on Yelp are carefully written fakes. Surely not all of the people writing fake reviews are incompetent. You can even cheat on the fake -- take a credible positive review from another city and tweak it for your own business.

2
0

Hold that upgrade: Critical bug in .NET 4.6 'breaks applications'

Donald Becker

This flaw was in the JIT compiler, correct?

That's disturbing. You could write your bug-free application, build it with stable and well-tested compilers/libraries, and run it through a complete test and validation suite before release. Only to have it fail spectacularly in the field.

Sweet.

2
0

'Use 1 capital' password prompts make them too predictable – study

Donald Becker

This is clearly a company trying to make a name for itself, without addressing the real problem.

Most security failings are not because of weak passwords. Once you move beyond dictionary attacks, your password is secure enough.

The real vulnerability is everything else surrounding the password. As we have found out, major sites have stored unencrypted user passwords in spreadsheets, truncated passwords to only the first few characters, had trivially weak encryption, used no salt, and used a fixed salt value.

In between you and the site with questionable security are people watching you type, keyloggers, fake login prompts, compromised DNS servers, rogue WiFi hotspots, spoofed sites, cross-site scripting, man-in-the-middle attacks, compromised identity managers, and too many more vulnerabilities to list.

You are far more likely to be exposed by having your password revealed by something you can't control, and then having it added to a dictionary for later attacks, than a clever system guessing passwords using rules.

9
0

LA schools want multi-million Apple refund after kids hack iPads

Donald Becker

Purchase kickbacks and related corruption is the real story here.

They knew from the pilot program that the devices and system had major security flaws. A flimsy promise that all would be fixed was accepted because to do otherwise would block the extremely lucrative deal.

The only thing that the school district can do now is ask for a few percent back from the disaster.

1
0

Facebook sued: Data center designs 'nicked' for Open Compute

Donald Becker

Modular and containerized data centers have been around, mostly unsuccessfully, for a long time. Most of them have similar ideas. There is relatively little innovation in the ideas, but the lack of success means that the same ideas have been "invented" many times.

My guess is that these guys gave a presentation on their 'trade secrets', which duplicated the approach others were already taking.

When some of the same ideas popped up in the standardized environment that was eventually proposed, this failing company saw a chance to make money on a lawsuit.

0
0

Mobile 4G spectrum investors actually spent $12.4m on walkie-talkie frequencies – US SEC

Donald Becker

Knowing the technology wouldn't help you avoid this scan. Just the opposite -- you would know that this was adjacent to valuable in-use bands, that other countries use this band for cellular and data services, and that most existing domestic equipment would merely need a firmware update to use it.

I'm guessing that the pitchmen knew exactly what they were selling. They likely had plenty of documentation that showed how much adjacent radio spectrum had been sold for, and how profitable it had been for those cellular carriers that had purchased it. If questioned, they were probably prepared to give an oral pitch that they had inside information that this band would soon opened to similar use. They would completely avoid describing the regulatory history and existing users.

1
0

Sony tells hacked gamer to pay for crooks' abuse of PlayStation account

Donald Becker

"Security is our responsibility, not Sony's."

I'm guessing you mean this facetiously.

Clearly Sony has been notably irresponsible when it comes to their own security. Expecting users to take financial responsibly for something that could well have been yet another security breach is just what forgiving users should be doing, right?

0
0

Nvidia flops out teraflop X1 for self-aware cars

Donald Becker

Re: Great , even more technology for its own sake

> That's what you want. I want a car that can get me home from the pub, safely and legally.

Ahh, you aren't the guy I'm worried about.

I'm worried about the guy at the pub next to you that has less concern about safety and legality. I want him to have a self-driving car.

I do cringe a bit when I read stories such as this that say 'TeraFLOP' in the headline. I think about scientific computing, where 64 bit floating point is the standard. And this chip is far from a 'teraflop' by that metric.

But *in the context of this presentation*, it really is a teraflop. The presentation was mostly about what applications can use a chip like this. Those applications can (and do) effectively use FP16. How many bits per pixel does it take to recognize a speed limit sign? About a single bit, with a really big dynamic range. (Half joking here, but only half.)

Working in FP16 is a major advantage for a mobile chip. It's not so much that FP64 floating point units are larger or take more power. They do use a little more power and space, but only a little. The major issue is moving the data around, especially writing it to memory, take a lot of power and bandwidth -- far too much for a passive heatsink chip with only one or two memory devices.

2
0

Sony to media: stop publishing our stolen stuff or we'll get nasty

Donald Becker

Notice who the letter was signed by?

When you don't have a legal teeth for your bite, you need to get the dog with the loudest bark. And hope the recipients don't notice that the bark is an unsupportable threat.

Or that they see you spent a whole bunch of money on the biggest bark and wouldn't hesitate to break you with legal fees, even when they know it's a bogus case.

0
0

Google Contributor: Ad-block killer – or proof NO ONE will pay for news?

Donald Becker

I learned my lesson long ago. I don't mind paying for content, but it never works out.

Paying for the content doesn't get rid of ads for very long. It just makes you more valuable to advertisers, and ends up provides two revenue streams. Just look at cable TV and satellite radio for obvious examples.

It will be only a few months before subscribers start seeing just as many non-Google ads, 'sponsored stories', and a news-like headline on thinly disguised advertisements.

6
1

FTDI yanks chip-bricking driver from Windows Update, vows to fight on

Donald Becker

Re: Tired of fake sh1t

"I don't know why it's so difficult to fake these chips. It's a basic USB1.1 interface at one side and a bog-standard serial at the other. This isn't cutting-edge stuff - its 90s-tech. Even a knockoff manufacturer should be able to make one that works."

It's not difficult to make a work-alike chip. FTDI checked for a buglet in their own design to distinguish their own chips from work-alike chips.

This demonstrates that the work-alike chips are actually independent implementations, not die or gate-by-gate copies.

7
0
Donald Becker

The claim that there is "no damage" is wildly incorrect.

Erasing the PID and VID makes the device non-functional. In most cases it is not economically reasonable to repair the damage. So it's effectively destroying the attached device.

FTDI might feel that they have some IP beef with work-alike chips. There is a legal process for testing that theory and pursuing a remedy. I expect that they would lose in court, since these chips aren't distributing a copyrighted driver (they are working with the stock FTDI driver), are very unlikely to use a copied mask set (it's easier to design from scratch) and probably don't infringe a valid patent. FTDI probably made the same assessment, since we don't see a series of infringement suits.

Instead FTDI has gone vigilante, destroying competitors parts. (This isn't something done by accident, overwriting the basic configuration is intentionally complex.) This certainly opens them to civil liability, probably criminal liability and drags Microsoft right in there with them.

I'm hoping that Microsoft comes out with a strong statement and matching sanctions. They've made a big deal of WHQL certification, extensive testing and driver signing. This was either a failure of their process, or a demonstration that driver qualification nothing but business leverage.

16
9

Need a US visa, passport? Prepare for misery: Database crash strands thousands

Donald Becker

This is what "five nines" of reliability looks like.

The next time a salesman tries to tell you only the big established players can serve the needs of "enterprise" customers, remember this. Note that the claimed total downtime per century is likely to happen in the first year. And then again in the second year. And so on.

With the downtime so far, this is "two nines" reliability at best.

0
2

Amazon Reveals One Weird Trick: A Loss On Almost $20bn In Sales

Donald Becker

I don't know how Amazon continue to lose money on their, uhmm, "traditional" business.

A few years ago there were great deals to be had: auto parts and hardware at wholesale, food at supermarket prices, and Prime was free half the time.

Now prices are up to retail plus shipping cost, Prime is rarely free, and Prime doesn't get free shipping on the most popular items. 'Add on' items require a $25 base purchase and 'Prime Pantry' items have a $7 shipping fee.

One feature that was added was Netflix-like free movies. I actually keep Prime just to watch the occasional movie, but even there the selection is modest and about half of movies I had on my watch list have been dropped from the free Prime selection. It's a fair value for the price, but my use definitely isn't costing them much.

3
0

What's that burning tire smell? It's Microsoft screeching away from the No-IP car crash

Donald Becker

In defense of the judge, they often only know what they are told.

They don't do independent research.

It appears that Microsoft attorneys made a claim that NoIP was part of the criminal activity, thus an 'ex parte' ruling was appropriate. They likely also made a claim that they would take responsibility for DNS responses for innocent third parties, thus no damage would occur should their claim turn out to be incorrect.

The judge looks at the claims of one of the world's largest companies, no doubt with the most prestigious lawyers that money can buy, and takes the claims at face value.

0
0

Tell us about your first time ... on the internet

Donald Becker

1983

My first time on The Internet was in 1983. At MIT, on mitvax (later mitvax.mit.edu).

Back then you could know every machine on the internet by looking at the hosts file, which was updated and distributed daily.

There were many isolated islands, such as Compuserve and Bitnet, along with BBS machines that occasionally exchanged mail. But these weren't really The Internet.

0
0

Greenpeace rejoices after getting huge renewable powerplant cancelled

Donald Becker

Blah! A whole bunch of misleading numbers for carbon/methane release.

It has become one of my pet peeves.

Rotting plants release exactly the amount of carbon that they sucked in while they were growing. The only way to prevent this is to bury them underground, where time and heat will turn them into solid carbon.

Concrete is also carbon neutral, with a caveat. Portland cement is made by cooking limestone, thus driving off the carbon. Concrete takes an initial set with just water, but over time it gets harder and stronger by further reacting with atmospheric carbon dioxide. It takes many years, but eventually the same amount of carbon dioxide is bound up as was initially release. (The caveat is the very high heat used for producing Portland cement probably came from a carbon-based fuel.)

I view this as a tradeoff between a remote place that few people will ever see will have its beauty changed (probably not 'destroyed'), in exchange for millions having affordable power and less pollution.

3
0

Systems meltdown plunges US immigration courts into pen-and-paper stone age

Donald Becker

It's been a while since I was directly involved in government insanity, but I remember it well.

We, along with many other sections of the government, had a requirement to support 8(A) companies -- small, disadvantaged businesses. I believe that it was 5% of our budget needed to be spent with them. The challenge was that the bulk of our budget was bespoke/pass-through, meaning that essentially everything we actually bought was set aside for 8A bidders. So rather than just ordering non-critical office supplies, we also bought Really Important things through the sleaziest and most expensive of the approved suppliers.

It was oft-repeated, and nearly as often true, that these were "wife-owned businesses". A few were actually fronted by a person with the trifecta of privilege: a native Alaskan woman military veteran. Of course the front person was only nominally in charge of the business. They were really run by someone that understood the rules and how to profit from them -- usually a GSA retiree.

Because their expertise was understanding rules, not running an otherwise competitive business, they would often screw things up (from our perspective). That usually came in the form of delays. If we needed a specific part that only came from a single vendor, they would still have it make a warehouse stop. Not actually to their warehouse. It just needed to stop along the way so that it appeared the company was doing something -- that they were something other than a sham.

0
0
Donald Becker

Re: What are we going to do when the super-solar flare arrives?

A super solar flare frying all electrical systems? Been watching too much science fiction?

The earth is extremely well protected against many kinds of radiation, including solar flares. The only way for a solar flare to do damage is to capture the energy with a big antenna array. Stringing wires up on poles spanning long distances will do nicely. But it's not like everything connected to those wires will instantly explode. The rise times are far slower than a lightening strike, and most equipment survives a nearby strike.

Sure, the power grid will have a hard time staying connected. And radio communication will be somewhat disrupted. But most things will be unaffected.

3
0

CEO Tim Cook sweeps Apple's inconvenient truths under a solar panel

Donald Becker

A bit of an objection here: the reduction in laptop sleep mode power is almost entirely due to Intel's chip work, combined with Energy Star and European requirement that forced the design of more efficient power supplies. Very little of that should be credited to Apple.

Intel recent efforts to make more efficient parts has been driven in large part by the ARM ecosystem. Previously they only had to be better than AMD.. not especially challenging.

There has been a major change in the computing landscape in the past few years. There was no clear transition so the transition was easy to miss. We've switched from a focus on raw speed and capability, to a focus on power efficiency. Part of what has hidden the change is that there is considerable overlap. Once a chip is limited by thermal and electric power, the way to make it faster is to make it more efficient. So it might look like just another round of speed improvement, using different techniques. But it's actually been a major change of focus.

But back on point: almost none of that was due to Apple.

4
0

Jeff Bezos reveals Amazon's brutal scale in annual letter

Donald Becker

They are the experts, but I have to wonder about the health of Amazon's main business of a few years ago.

They used to be the low-cost supplier of physical books, and had good prices on many consumer goods. Combined with free shipping over a low threshold and avoiding tax, they were a really good choice of price-aware consumers .

I seem to have figured this out just a little too late. Over the past two years much of the advantage has gone away.

I joined Amazon Prime just before they started charging tax and switching items to the new "Add On" category where free shipping doesn't apply. Items that are still available with Prime shipping have been marked up, often well over retail, to include shipping cost.

Subscribe & Save is another part of the Amazon shopping that is becoming annoying rather than helpful. It's pretty much rolling the dice with prices. In exchange for saving 5% (sometimes 15% or 20%), it means you agree to whatever price they pick on the day they ship. I've had prices more than double between shipments, with no notice. Things that still have an especially good price are frequently "out of stock" -- I just had my entire April shipment canceled because of this, But other times they don't hesitate to consider a smaller package as the same product.

Bottom line is that I see Amazon has an amazing, broad business. But the consumer-facing part is inconsistent and unpredictable. The result is that there is a lot less brand loyalty there than with most businesses, and that could result in a crisis with any misstep.

2
0

Dell Wyse Cloud Connect: Pocket Android desktop

Donald Becker

I'm with the other posters here.

You can't just put a sticker on a MK808 device, double its price, and pretend that you have a game-changer. The hardware is almost there, but the software isn't.

It's curious that Dell thought that Android was the right base. It's the right base for a mobile device, where the single-running-app model is a simple, robust way to control power use. A corporate desktop front-end would be much better served by a Linux install.

My guess is that this is more of a low-budget trial balloon rather than a well-considered compute ecosystem.

1
0

Apple to maintain phone profit lead through years of 'enormous transition' – report

Donald Becker

When the service contract costs $100/month with a two year lock-in, the difference between a $100 phone and a $600 phone looks pretty small. Especially with a U.S.-traditional $300 subsidy (where any excess value is retained by the phone company).

I don't see price as a significant Apple vulnerability for increasing customers in the U.S., although slipping share.

Where they are vulnerable is in retaining their "magic". They have to keep selling products that are arguably class-leading. They don't have to be actually the best, but they do need a credible claim to the position. Phones such as the Samsung Galaxy III threaten that position, as does a product such as the IPad-mini-low-res. Apple might get away with saying "it's too big" once, but not "it's too big, too fast and 4K video is overkill" every generation. Once the perception of "best" slips, they might as well be selling them Walmart. (ahhh...)

5
0

Netflix speed index shows further decline in Verizon quality

Donald Becker

The problem isn't the raw performance if the wire, it's the delivered performance and throttling.

Verizon and Comcast talk about the Netflix and the like as being "heavy users" of their network. I would like to point out that's not really the case. *I'm* a heavy user of the network. I happen to be getting data from Netflix. I'm already paying for internet service. And paying quite a lot, compared to other countries and what I'm paying to Netflix.

3
0
Donald Becker

The Verizon spokesperson makes this sound as if a specific user has a one-time problem.

The Baby Bells have a century of experience in making life difficult for any business perceived as a competitor, while denying or explaining away the problems when talking to regulators. Part of that script is describing every example as an isolated incident.

But Netflix has all of the data for all their subscribers, which spans multiple service providers... presumably it's not just statistically valid, it's quantitatively valid.

4
0

Want to remotely control a car? $20 in parts, some oily fingers, and you're in command

Donald Becker

I'm seeing an Arduino Mini, bluetooth module, and SD card module with SD card. That's over $20 right there. The hand soldered boards are likely a MC2515 CAN controller and CAN transceiver.

You would have to work pretty hard to create havoc with this kit, and it would be very, very model specific.

Most cars have at least two CAN buses, and often more. If they are designed with version that might be sold in the U.S., they have one CAN bus for OBD2 diagnostics. Once they are using CAN for that, they like use a second CAN bus for the engine control (isolated to prevent malfunctions), one for ABS/steering/stability, and perhaps a another for body and instrument ECUs. Throw in a few slower buses for radio and climate control, lighting, etc. and their is quite a bit to talk to, and this kit is far from being able to handle it.

There are typically bridges between the buses in order to perform diagnostics from a single point. But again, it's very model specific. And usually quite slow. You won't be able to jam messages, nor flood reply with incorrect information. (Of course you wouldn't be able to do that with an Arduino hooked up to a MC2515 either.)

3
2

El Reg BuzzFelch: 10 Electrical Connectors You CAN'T LIVE WITHOUT!

Donald Becker

I vote for the article to be "The top 10 linkbait 'Top 10' stories you'll read this year"

I do think they missed the Edison base lamp connector, and the RJ series telephony connectors. The Edison base lamp (screw-in) is cheap and sturdy. It requires only low-tech stamped brass or tin-plate sheets, and has a huge contact and support area.

The RJ (e.g. 6p4c and the like) connectors require much higher tech manufacturing, but are cheap, small, light and have remarkably good electrical characteristics. They regularly survive decades exposed to the elements in phone use, and putting Gb Ethernet through a connector designed around audio frequencies is mind blowing. The competing communications connectors cost 20x to 100x as much.

As far as line power plugs, we would all design something different today. But put yourself in the place of early practitioners. You needed to design a connector that could be made in a few seconds with sheet metal and hand tooling. Flat contacts formed of folded-over sheet brass definitely wins over round pins. Rigid round pins require far more precision in all dimensions, take much longer to make, and often results in inferior contact area.

0
0

Yahoo! Mail! users! change! your! passwords! NOW!

Donald Becker

I suspect that this was an extremely bad breach.

One that reveals Yahoo was passing plaintext passwords over to partners.

When I logged in today I got the "suspicious activity detected on your account" message, along with "UPDATE YOUR PASSWORD RIGHT NOW NOW NOW NOW".

I had already read a headline about the compromise and I had a unique username and password on Yahoo. Otherwise I would have read the accompanying words as meaning some other site had been compromised and hackers were using that login info to abuse my Yahoo account. That's extremely sleazy. There was no apology, not acknowledgement of a massive screw-up.

1
0

Ten classic electronic calculators from the 1970s and 1980s

Donald Becker

I expected to see a Novus (National Semiconductor) calculator on the list. They were cheap and widely sold in the mid-1970s. The 650 was one of the earliest products with a resin-covered bare die directly mounted to the circuit board, but had only 6 digits and used RPN. The 850 had more digits (8?) and established the basic 4-banger feature set. A common 9V battery lasted long enough to not be a noticeable expense.

The HP-41C was like a bicycle hauling a camper. I had one with a motorized card reader and printer on which I constructed elaborate programs, such iterative refinement loops to figure out the operating point of op-amps. it somehow managed to feel professional and worth the expense even as the crappiest 6502 consumer toy beat it on all fronts.

The Sinclair scientific calculator deserves a mention only as a bad imitation of a calculator. Accurate to half a digit, and you never knew which half. Perhaps good as a trainer, but completely untrustworthy.

0
0

US Department of Justice details Kim Dotcom evidence

Donald Becker

I'll tie this to something else in the news: the TPP treaty.

Under the rumored terms of TPP's "corporate sovereignty", what the U.S. Government has done is seizing a private business, ignoring precedent and internal laws in the process. How is it different than nationalizing oil fields? (Beside the minor detail that the nationalized oil fields were often on public land and being operated outside the contract parameters.)

This prosecution was started at the urging of just a few major US companies. By immediately shutting down MegaUpload, they got the full benefit without further action. If this case were brought under the TPP proposed provisions, the USGov risks paying out hundreds of millions, or even billions in damages. Paid by the taxpayers, not the companies.

If it's not already obvious, my viewpoint on the MegaUpload shutdown is that it damaged legitimate users that relied on their storage far more than it helped copyright holders. The movie studios didn't have to wait for the orderly progress of justice, they just did the corporate equivalent of swatting.

0
0

Samsung swallows $340k fine for renting trolls to TRASH-TALK HTC phones

Donald Becker

I expect many companies do the same thing. But that's no reason to accept it.

If you accept "everybody litters" and do nothing, soon everyone does litter and we end up in a trash filled world.

Compounding this is the press release that says "We are disappointed that...". I initially read it as the usual "..[we got caught]" but it was actually "..that we'll have to pay a fine".

1
0

Do not adjust your set: TV market slows, 'connected TV' grows

Donald Becker

I realize I'm part of the market problem.

I want a TV that's in $1+K range, which gets a 55"-60" screen. It's been on my list for a while.

In the meantime I've combined households, then moved into a house. A 37" LCD was given away to a friend that helped organize the move. The remaining 32" TV stayed in the box for months after the move to the house, in part to keep a 2 year old from requesting it.

Almost all TV watching is now done on laptops and a 7" tablet. It's an Android tablet, but that pretty much doesn't matter. It has a reasonable screen and codecs to handle Netflix, YouTube, etc.

I still want the big TV. I have the money. They aren't getting any cheaper. I just don't want it badly enough to actually do the research, buy one, and mount it on the wall.

But I'm pretty sure I'll be buying a Tegra 4 tablet next month, so that I don't keep losing to the 2 year old for tablet time.

0
0

Apple slams brakes on orders of (not so cheap) plasticky iPhone 5C

Donald Becker

People are still missing the bigger picture

Apple doesn't need a budget phone, unless it's actually much cheaper.

In the US, buying the flagship iPhone will cost you about $3K over the life of the contract. Buying the cheap version will cost $2.9K. Producing a real budget model drops that cost down to perhaps $2.5K.

People aren't quite that rational. Up-front cost weighs more heavily than long-term obligations. But over time they are much more rational than marketing people seem to believe.

1
0

Page:

Forums

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2017