* Posts by Chris Miller

3232 posts • joined 6 Apr 2007

Omg, that is, like, sooo 2007... Retromania set to grip this year's MWC

Chris Miller
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There's still a market for dumbphones

e.g. my better half. Some people are happy with a phone that simply works as a phone (and does SMS at a pinch), with a battery that lasts for a couple of weeks. I'm not sure there's scope for a premium dumbphone (which is what I presume Nokia's offering will be).

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'First ever' SHA-1 hash collision calculated. All it took were five clever brains... and 6,610 years of processor time

Chris Miller
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Re: PDF BACKGROUND

I think* that PDFs (and Word documents and almost any other document format except plain text) have a sufficient number of 'filler' characters that can be set to any value you like without significantly changing the document format. This gives scope for a clever algorithm to produce the necessary collisions.

*I haven't read the paper, but this is how it worked for MD5

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Chris Miller
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The point of a hash function is that even if you change just a single bit, it should give a completely different output. There are far more possible documents than there are hash function outputs, so collisions will always exist - but it should be computationally impossible to find them. This attack proves that it no longer is.

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Chris Miller
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Re: 9,223,372,036,854,775,808 sha1 calculations

You need to read up some of the discussions that took place when similar attacks were first identified for MD5 hashes. This is a serious problem - I could get you to digitally sign a contract; and if I can produce a similar document with the word 'not' inserted (say) and the same SHA-1 hash, you're in trouble. Similarly using SHA-1 to authenticate a valid web server and then make a slight change to the URL, but keep the hash the same ...

Right now it needs a massive amount of computing power to defeat SHA-1, but the NSA can probably do it already. And these attacks only ever get quicker - not just by Moore's Law, but because someone clever will read the paper and think of a way of doing it 10x faster.

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Apple to Europe: It's our job to design Ireland's tax system, not yours

Chris Miller
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@Peter

The cost of manufacturing an iPhone is less than 1% of the list price. Selling, general and administrative (SG&A) expenses are about 7%. Apple run a 40% gross profit margin, most of which is 'earned' in Cupertino.

http://www.cultofmac.com/455536/advertising-budget/

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/iphone-7-costs-apple-make-manufacture-a7329016.html

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Chris Miller
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Re: Fascinating

International business taxation, by treaty and general agreement, assumes that profits should be taxed where they are generated. For Apple, that's mostly Cupertino. The trouble is that California has some of the highest levels of corporate taxation in the world (close to 40%), but they only apply if and when those profits are repatriated.

So Apple (and many other US multinationals, Apple's just the biggest) are holding most of their foreign-generated profits offshore in the hope that business tax rates will be reduced. It looks like The Donald may do exactly that, in which case expect a HUGE (one-off) rush of profits back to the US and a HUGE flood of taxes into the US Treasury.

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2009 IBM: Teleworking will save the WORLD! 2017 IBM: Get back to the office or else

Chris Miller
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Re: You answered your own question

Quite likely, although it seems a very inefficient method of reducing headcount. But we see this all the time (particularly) in large organisations, where senior management lack the ability or trust in their subordinates to take a more rational approach. "We're reducing contract rates by 10% across the board" - which means all the good contractors will leave and all the dross will remain. "All departments will reduce headcount by 10%" - what, both those that contribute strongly to the bottom line and those that are a complete waste of space? It's the role of managers (from the most junior, to the most senior) to understand and identify the difference between the good and poor performers, between productive and unproductive work - but most can't, of course.

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Pulsating white dwarf described as a 'dynamo' found, no, not in the back pages, 380 LY away

Chris Miller
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A pendant writes

AR Sco is about the same size as Earth but has 200,000 times the mass. Every 3.6 hours it orbits a companion red dwarf star about a third the size of our sun

200,000 earth masses is 0.6 mass of the sun. It's unclear what "a third the size of the sun" means, but assuming it means 0.3 solar masses (and a red dwarf can't be much more than 0.5 solar masses) the red dwarf is in orbit around it.

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BOFH: Password HELL. For you, mate, not for me

Chris Miller
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"we have people using their surname with an incrementing two digit number – kept on a bit of paper under their keyboards in case they forget their name."

Yes, I've dealt with managers like that.

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Parliamentary Trump-off? Pro-Donald petition passes 100k signatures

Chris Miller
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Re: "he is the leader of a free world"

The USA has a GDP 4 times larger than the next largest 'free' nation (whatever your definition of 'free', I expect that China wouldn't fall within it). In terms of military muscle, the gap is far wider, probably more like 10x. Trump is the head of state of the USA. So if anyone is the "leader of the free world", that would be him.

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God save the Queen... from Donald Trump. So say 1 million Britons

Chris Miller
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Signing Internet petitions is the 21st century equivalent of shouting at the telly. And about as effective.

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To Hull with the crap town naysayers: UK Culture City's got some amazing... telecoms

Chris Miller
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Kcom's customers are largely living in a single urban area. That makes it a lot easier (though still far from trivial) to provide FTTP.

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Boeing's 747 to fly off the production line for the foreseeable future

Chris Miller
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Re: even if its role has changed to a cargo-hauler.

I entirely agree. Some carriers (historically) put economy class seats upstairs in the days of 3 classes of travel - I think (from memory) Cathay when they introduced the 'Big Top' 747-300 - arguing that boarding and (crucially) disembarking was speedier from downstairs.

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We're not quitting the UK: Microsoft quashes Brexit fake news

Chris Miller
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Microsoft's 'secret' tax 'deal'

A pity Tim Worstall (late of this parish) isn't here to point out to you the error of your ways. Here's his Forbes article on the subject.

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Irish townsfolk besieged by confused smut channel callers

Chris Miller
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Didn't Michael Portillo visit Westport on last week's Great British Irish Railway Journeys - coincidence?

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Why Theresa May’s hard Brexit might be softer than you think

Chris Miller
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Re: 2 years?

£350 million is, of course, quite wrong. The correct number for our EU membership fee was £373 million a week (in 2014, according to the OBR). That's a gross figure, we get a rebate, and some relatively small further fraction comes back in the form of EU spending in the UK. But we have almost no control over how this will increase in future or what the EU chooses to spend it on.

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Chris Miller
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Re: 2 years?

Mark Carney (no Brexiteer, he) doesn't seem to agree with you regarding the City. Given that more people work in financial services in London than live in the whole of Frankfurt, exactly where do you think they're all going?

The CEO of Lloyds of London was on R4 this lunchtime. talking about their contingency plans as they're now assuming 'passporting' will be lost (they're one of the few large City operations for which it's significant, although even then only 5% of their business comes from continental Europe). They appear to involve two beancounters and a brass plate in Dublin (or possibly Riga).

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Chris Miller
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Re: So it's the Turkish customs union for the UK then

And today's winner of the spit the dummy contest is ... Dan 55!

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AI shoves all in: DeepStack, Libratus poker bots battle Texas Hold 'em pros heads up

Chris Miller
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Re: The use of games to train and test AI is prolific

The rules of Poker really aren't that difficult - working out the odds of drawing to an inside straight does not require advanced mathematics. As I understand it, the skill of pro players lies in their ability to 'read' the others at the table, but this would obviously be difficult facing a computer screen.

So, if the AI is equipped with a video camera and makes deductions such as "Tex rubs his ear when he's bluffing", I'm impressed. Otherwise, not so much.

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Mr Angry pays taxman with five wheelbarrows worth of loose change

Chris Miller
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But he could have been fobbing them off with blanks (although there isn't much point, as blanks would probably cost >1¢ to make). All banks have big machines that can count coins (and reject counterfeits) at high speed.

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Blue sky basic income thinking is b****cks

Chris Miller
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It's a pity you don't still have Tim Worstall to point out the fundamental flaws in this argument far better than I can. But here goes:

There are only two possibilities:

1. We reach a world where all possible human desires can be fulfilled by machine without anyone needing to lift a finger. In which case we would have no need of money, which is basically a mechanism for rationing finite resources. (Fans of Iain M Banks may recognise this scenario.) Personally, I look forward to this Brave New World, but I'm not sure it will come about within the lifetime of anyone now living.

2. There remain unfulfilled human desires, in which case we need to pay others if we want them to work in order to bring them about. This is what usually happens in technological revolutions. Prior to the agricultural revolution, the great majority of humanity lived a hand to mouth existence on the land. Today (in developed countries) only about 1% work in agriculture, the remainder having been displaced by tractors, seed drills and combined harvesters. Yet we don't have huge mobs of unemployed roaming the countryside, do we? They found alternative employment, at first in the factories of the early industrial towns, but these jobs in turn are now being automated away to be replaced by others.

Basic Income is a perfectly sensible idea, BTW, just not for any of the reasons advanced in the article.

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Well, well. Auditors say UK govt procurement body hasn't saved your tax cash

Chris Miller
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Re: Where does all the money go

"I have no fucking idea."

The only correct statement in your diatribe.

FYI: The world's second largest aerospace manufacturer. The world's third largest pharmaceutical manufacturer. Tenth largest car manufacturer by volume (but since ahead of us in the table are China, India and S Korea, I suspect the results by value might be slightly better). I could go on ...

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Chris Miller
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Re: Economies of scale?

Long, long ago I was taking tea and biccies with the Head of BT Martlesham. He explained that he always sent his PA out to buy the biscuits from the local Tesco: "BT spends £4 million a year on biscuits, but it's cheaper to buy them from Tesco than through central purchasing."

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Chris Miller
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Re: Bit click-baity, eh?

I can claim to be the world's greatest lover. Independent testing of that claim has raised a few question marks, sadly.

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Chris Miller
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Re: Bit click-baity, eh?

If your only purpose in existing is to save money by centralising procurement, and you're unable to demonstrate that you've actually saved any money, I think we can safely say that we're in epic fail territory.

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Sights of the Realm: Mobile app DB hooks up with IBM Watson for image, text, face recog

Chris Miller
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Re: Cheers to the subs

Well, I was thinking that you'd need to be over 60 ...

But I've a couple of nephews in their 30s who are huge fans of Yes and King Crimson (I blame my brother).

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Chris Miller
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Cheers to the subs

for the Quadrophenia reference. Now, can you sneak in one to The Hollies before Xmas?

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Going underground: The Royal Mail's great London train squeeze

Chris Miller
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At least one each of the locos and wagons is stored at the Buckinghamshire Railway Centre in Quainton.

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US election pollsters weren't (very) wrong – statistically speaking

Chris Miller
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Re: Mandatory Voting

A popular vote system also has the property that 50.1% counts the same as 100%, unless you think Hillary should be President on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and Donald the rest of the week?

The Electoral College system exists because the individual states fiercely protect their own rights and small states fear their opinion would count for less in a popular vote system. For the same reason, each state gets two senators irrespective of population. It's up to each state how they select their Electoral College representatives and, in fact, two states have a (sort of) proportional system. The EU has somewhat similar provisions - small states like Luxembourg are significantly over-represented compared to their larger brethren.

Arguing that "Hillary won the popular vote" is irrelevant for at least two reasons: (1) campaigning for a popular vote election would have been completely different, far less time spent in 'swing states', much more time in California and Texas; and (2) voter turnout would have been different, there's far less incentive for a marginal Trump voter to turn out in California or a Clinton voter in Utah - where the opponent was always certain to win.

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Guessing valid credit card numbers in six seconds? Priceless

Chris Miller
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Re: Card not present?

Not entirely: if the merchant doesn't validate CVV, then they're liable for any fraudulent transactions, not the card issuer. For relatively low value sites, they may be prepared to take that risk, particularly as every extra security check loses you a (non-trivial) proportion of potential customers.

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Six car-makers team to build European 'leccy car charge bar network

Chris Miller
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Re: @Lotaresco

Good response, with which I agree. (I'm no eco-warrior, my PHEV is for subsidy harvesting, at which it's very effective :)

I was just pointing out that 10kWh of battery isn't comparable with a litre of petrol in terms of how far you can drive a car. My 2-ton SUV brick gets over 3km/kWh, so 20 miles on a 'litre equivalent', that's 90 mpg. In cost terms, 10kWh is about £1, so slightly cheaper than a litre of petrol.

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Chris Miller
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@WolfFan

Ecotricity have created a network of fast chargers in the UK - they're at almost all motorway services. Initially they were free to use - bargain! I signed up, and they made it clear that this was for an introductory period only. I only used them a couple of times because my travel patterns generally allow me to charge at home, but they were very popular.

Now they cost £6 for 30 minutes, which (for my car) makes them 3x as expensive as petrol. If you have a pure EV, such as a Nissan Leaf, and you're running low on juice, you have no choice but to pay up.

There are still free schemes in the UK. Some of them are across metropolitan areas and (presumably) subsidised by the local authority. Some of them require a substantial monthly free, but they could still be quite attractive if home charging isn't an option.

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Chris Miller
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@Lotaresco

That's true, but you can travel much further on '10 litres' of battery than 10 litres of petrol. An ICE is rarely better than 30% efficient and often (in start-stop traffic, for example) far less than that. Electric motors are closer to 90% efficient.

I'd like to see the testing that you refer to. If Tesla were truly exaggerating their battery capacity, I'd have thought they'd be in a lot of trouble (especially in the litigation-happy US). What is certainly true is that completely draining a Li battery is not a good idea, and electric cars have battery management systems to (try to) prevent that from happening. It's also true (as any laptop or phone owner will know) that batteries gradually lose their capacity after prolonged use. So if the report is saying that it's only possible to get 81-85kWh of useful power from a fully charged 100kWh battery, that wouldn't be too surprising.

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Chris Miller
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Re: Fast, how fast?

The biggest (at present) Teslas have 100kWh batteries, so that would suggest 15 minutes to get from zero to ~80% full, which is where these systems typically stop.

In comparison, the Nissan Leaf is 24-30kWh, but that doesn't offer anything like the range needed for a general purpose vehicle (as opposed to a commuter car).

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Chris Miller
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Re: Interesting supply questions

I'm sure I'm missing something, but if the charging process is 90% efficient (seems unlikely any real-world system will do much better than that), that means 35kW of waste heat that has to be disposed of somehow without raising internal temps too high. I'm sure this has been thought of, just keen to know how it's done.

This is why existing high-power charging systems stop at ~80%, beyond that point the internal resistance of the battery is high enough for heating to become a real problem. It's possible to continue at a lower power setting to get up to 100%, but the idea (for these superfast chargers) is to plug in for 15-30 minutes and then move on.

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Inventor of McDonald's iconic Big Mac dies

Chris Miller
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Prior art?

"he felt the menu needed a rival for local burger bars' two-storey offerings"

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Vegans furious as Bank of England admits ‘trace’ of animal fat in £5 notes

Chris Miller
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I don't think many cattle are raised purely to supply tallow - it's an unavoidable byproduct of the slaughtering process. If we're going to farm cattle, it make sense to use every part of the beast, in so far as this is possible.

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Geo-boffins say 'quake lifted bits of New Zealand by 8 metres, moved at 3km/second

Chris Miller
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Re: Sandwich filler?

I don't think the 3km/s is the rate at which the rocks move during the quake - it's the rate at which the movement of the rocks propagates along the fault line (apologies, probably not the right technical terms, but hopefully you get the idea). So the earthquake occurs now, a second later it's happening 3km away.

The Japanese were working on a system using movement detectors in mobile phones to identify a quake happening at point A and broadcasting a warning a few seconds before it arrives (presumably 100 km or so away) at point B.

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Barnet Council: Outsourcing deal with Capita has 'performance issues'

Chris Miller
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I've said it before ...

both of which it is acknowledged had performance issues going back a number of years prior to contract commencement

If your management is not sufficiently competent to deliver a good service using staff whose interests (financial and career) are at least somewhat aligned with those of the organisation - what makes you think you will do any better using outsourced staff? Outsourcing is not a magic bullet that can instantly fix a crap IT operation.

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AI can now tell if you're a criminal or not

Chris Miller
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The return of phrenology?

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Facebook Fake News won it for Trump? That's a Zombie theory

Chris Miller
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Re: This.

The Guardian is just the Daily Mail with the dog whistle tuned to a different pitch.

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Chris Miller
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It isn't the completely fake news that's the problem - everyone (well, 99% of everyone to be on the safe side) can see through stories such as "World War 2 bomber found on moon". But there was a recent one that Trump had narrowly beaten Clinton on the popular vote, which was nonsense, but took a bit of digging to be revealed as such - and most people won't bother.

But I'm afraid the days of fact-checking by MSM journos have long gone, They just run stories from Twitter and Facebook like everyone else, driven by click maximisation (which, in many cases is how they're remunerated).

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'Post-truth' beats 'chatbot' to Word of the Year Crown

Chris Miller
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Re: feeling quite hygge

The Daily Mash on hygge.

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Google's neural network learns to translate languages it hasn't been trained on

Chris Miller
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Portuguese and Spanish are very closely related, to the point where native speakers of one can easily comprehend the other (though going into a shop in Lisbon and speaking Castilian won't necessarily get you a warm welcome). There are also 'half-way houses', such as Gallego and Portenhol.

This would have been a lot more impressive if the AI had learnt Basque or Finnish from scratch (let alone Khmer or Sioux ...)

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Virgin Galactic and Boom unveil Concorde 2.0 tester to restart supersonic travel

Chris Miller
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What killed Concorde was the development of the 747. First generation 747s needed a significant occupancy in First Class to be profitable, but all potential First Class passengers will opt for supersonic travel if available. So you couldn't run a mixed fleet of Concordes and 747s, and the market opted for the 747.

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Trumped? Nope. Ireland to retain corporate tax advantage over the US

Chris Miller
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For Apple it was almost 0.05%

But only as long as they don't bring their profits back to the US, which means there's a limit to what they can do with them (they can't pay dividends, for example). Apple (and many other US multinationals) are holding vast sums offshore (Apple alone has hundreds of billions of dollars). They aren't bringing them home because US 'Corporation Tax' is a swingeing (by most international comparisons) 35-40% (there's a small component that varies state by state). Bring that down to 15-20% and trillions of dollars will start winging their way home. There's a large part of that which would be a one-off effect (as those offshore profits have been amassed over many years), but a reduced CT rate should mean a continuing stream of profits returning to the US as the benefits of retaining them offshore diminish.

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What went wrong at Tesco Bank?

Chris Miller
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Re: VbV

asks for selected characters of your password, implying some form of plain text storage

No it doesn't - you could store a hash for each individual character; though this does mean that if someone steals the hashes, they won't need a very big rainbow table :). A strongly encrypted password can be quite secure, but it probably depends on a secret key, which will need to be kept 'secret'.

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Web security still outstandingly mediocre, experts report

Chris Miller
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Since the main cause of XSS is failure to validate/sanitise input, it's not too surprising that such sites would also have a tendency to more SQL injection vulnerabilities.

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Accessories to crime: Facial recog defeated by wacky paper glasses

Chris Miller
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"ways to trick the system inconspicuously"

Your definition of inconspicuous is clearly different from mine :)

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