* Posts by Kristian Walsh

1391 posts • joined 10 Apr 2007

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First 'issue-free' build of Windows 10 October 2018 Update arrives

Kristian Walsh
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Re: No, I will not switch out the lights.

Another W10M hold-out here. I'm genuinely at a loss as to what to buy when it finally dies: friends' Android feels like a really shoddy OS compared to W10M and using iOS is basically like signing up for Scientology. A voice-phone with built-in 4G dongle and a small laptop looks the most likely thing.

But, about apps...

WP8.1 to WP10 actually is a recompile (with a bit of search/replace), unless you'd used Silverlight (WP7) to write the app, in which case it's a lot of search/replace.

The problem is that just doing a port of a WP8.1 app to Windows 10 doesn't allow you to use the big feature of UWP: a single executable that works (not just "runs") on desktop, tablet and mobile.

Mobile-phone apps are easy to design because the size of the display doesn't change dynamically. Desktop apps aren't because it does: grab that window-sizer, and see the UI designer flinch. Add in the different interface choices to accommodate both mouse and touch input, and it becomes a significant amount of work to make something that will work properly on different devices and isn't crap.

To get that working, you have to redesign your UI pretty much from scratch to make fewer assumptions about the screen aspect, resolution, viewing distance and the input methods used.

It's a lot of work, and Microsoft's lack of a mobile platform makes it not a lot of gain for that work. (Not many apps make sense on both XBox and PCs).

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Microsoft adds Windows module support to PowerShell Core while Amazon unleashes it on Lambda

Kristian Walsh
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@"Two reasons:" Re: How come they can't learn bash, perl ?

"2. Bash is too primitive for Windows admins" would be closer to the truth.

I've spent almost all of my career on non-Windows systems (MacOS, embedded Unix, Linux, etc) but I had to do process automation stuff in Windows in one job, and after that, I can say that PowerShell is, without doubt, the best shell programming system I've ever used for actually getting shit done quickly (and being able to understand it again six months later).

At least 20% of any Bash script seems to be spent parsing out the results of other commands using a witches' brew of sed, awk and grep, then squirting that into other commands either as arguments or input. This is lot of effort with near zero value-add, and it's famously error-prone too (and there's also the security implications of using commands like 'eval' on what is basically free-form text*).

PowerShell does away with pretty much all of that: when you put a PowerShell command into a pipe, the output isn't text, but rather structured data (imagine that it's JSON, even though it's not). You can select or format or re-package the data any way you want, and pass it on along the pipe. If, like me, you've spent any amount of time writing shell scripts, PowerShell is like stepping into the sunlight.

( * no, I woudn't either. But I've had to take it out of a lot of scripts written by people who did... )

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Python joins movement to dump 'offensive' master, slave terms

Kristian Walsh
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Re: from __future__ import snowflake

I feel compelled to point out that, like pretty much all of the "sanitised" proposals, those terms also do not describe a Master/Slave relationship in the meaning it has in computing... unless you really expect the Pimp to directly attend to the carnal needs of clients, and then replay them later, blow for blow (as it were) on the unfortunate Ho.

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Kristian Walsh
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Re: re: removing the colour black and using the hex code for it?

"Actually, the RGB triplet is inherently prejudiced: it codes black using the lowest value possible, while white is coded as the highest possible - a blatant example of the white-centered hegemony (that allowed someone of my limited thinking skills to acquire an the expensive college education I'm now wasting on such trivialities)

Of course, as befits an activist of my calibre, my indignation on this issue isn't sufficiently-well informed to have looked at, say, the CMYK colourspace" < / sarc>

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Boffins bash Google Translate for sexism

Kristian Walsh
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Re: The reverse problem exists, too

If you're translating from French (or German, Italian or Spanish), do yourself a favour and use DeepL... If DeepL doesn't have your language, use Bing Translator in preference to Google. Google is a really dumb pattern matching engine, whereas those two use more sophisticated linguistic analysis (DeepL is in a class above Bing, though)

Google Translate was cool a decade ago, but is a very poor tool by today's standards. Sadly, its ubiquity makes people think it's in some way representative of modern machine translation.. an error this paper's authors have helped to perpetuate.

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Microsoft takes a pruning axe to Skype's forest of features

Kristian Walsh
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Re: Dear MS

It's worth noting that Peter Skillman was only appointed to take over Skype design duties a mere five months ago (according to his LinkedIn bio). I'm a big admirer of his previous work both at Palm (webOS) and Nokia (N9 Harmattan, Asha Fastlane), so I'm hoping that he can do something to simplify the way Skype works, which is the problem it still has, rather than simply simplifying the way it looks, which is how Microsoft got into this mess.

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Microsoft takes another whack at killing off Windows Phone 8.x

Kristian Walsh
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Strawman.

VS2015 is the last version to support Windows Phone 8.1 - the community edition is still free. You can use it to build personal apps. They run just fine once installed.

What you cannot do is distribute those apps to users who are not developers, because the platform is dead.

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The Death of the Gods: Not scared of tech yet? You haven't been paying attention

Kristian Walsh
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Re: --->Götterdämmerung.

Sorry for pedantry, but "Götterdämmerung" is not the death of the gods, but rather their twilight. The difference is important, because the words "twilight" and "Dämmerung" mean both the dim light after sunset and the dim light before sunrise. That double-meaning produces what is an unusually subtle title for Wagner.

Tolkien was often asked about Wagner's operas in his lifetime, and despite his famous answer that "Both rings were round, and there the resemblance ceases", the idea of the ring itself being the instrument of power, and of it corrupting the soul of its wearer are both points that are hard to find evidence for in the mythology until after Wagner's operas. Maybe this reluctance to acknowledge the influence could be because, by the time LoTR was published, the use of Wagner's work by the Nazis would have been fresh in the memory of potential readers.

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EU wants one phone plug to rule them all. But we've got a better idea.

Kristian Walsh
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Re: EU Standard plug

That happens when you let Germans design a plug

SCART = "Syndicat des Constructeurs d'Appareils Radiorécepteurs et Téléviseurs", so I think you might be pissing on the wrong bank of the Rhine, there.

For a standard developed in 1970, it proved to be extremely far-sighted: particularly in standardising a method for direct RGB input to TVs, something which only became useful in the late 1980s for home computers, and really only hit the broader consumer market in the late 1990s when Digital TV and DVD became popular.

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Talk about left Field: Apple lures back Tesla engineering guru

Kristian Walsh
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Re: Tesla has plenty of problems...

Short-selling is not dubious, it's not bad, it's not "evil". I'd expect a whole lot better from technical people than just spouting someone else's ideologies without investigating the reasons why the phenomenon exists.

Consider a stock market as a control system for pricing (Economists, forgive the errors and simplifications). The "proper" price of a stock is what people think it's worth (not the intrinsic value of the company, and certainly not what the company owner thinks its worth) . That "proper" price is the set-point of your control system. What's listed on the exchange is the output of the system (the offer-price). The error signal is the difference between the "proper" price and the offer price. The feedback mechanism is the difference between purchase prices (accepted bid-prices) and the offer-price.

Now, if you've done any control systems theory, you'll see there's a problem with that outline: it has unequal resistance. Sellers rarely accept bids below the current listed value, so you can only buy at the price offered, or wait until it falls naturally. However, if you want to buy at higher than the offer price (i.e., inject positive feedback into the system) you can do so immediately. This resistance to negative movement, if unchecked, produces a market where stocks become overvalued, and then collapse catastrophically once the offer-price drifts so far away from the "true" value that buyers stop buying.

In a phase of price growth, short-selling is a stronger downward adjuster of stock prices than merely not buying. As an example, an investor holds 100 shares of Stock T, but believes that it's over-valued, but also wishes to retain, or later increase, their shareholding in T (i.e., they have confidence in the company, but concerns that its stock price is ballooning). Simply selling the stock that they believe to be overpriced at market value actually injects positive feedback into the system - someone buys it, and the price finds a new, higher, perceived floor. Selling the stock at below market value doesn't have effect as long as other sellers keep selling at the highest price they can get (the rational behaviour).

The answer to this problem is to short-sell. Sell half the stock, but sign a contract to buy it back again at whatever market price is a month from now. If the price isn't lower by then, you've lost. If it is, you gain. Either way, you, as the investor, have provided a strong feedback signal to the market that the current price of the stock is above its "proper" value, and done so in a way that doesn't force you into irrational behaviour (selling at lower than the best price available)

For companies, like Tesla, that are sold on the promises of the company itself, short-selling is the only safe corrective mechanism available to stop the price creating a bubble. Earnings reports won't depress prices the way they do with established companies, because Tesla is sold on the basis that it's not going to make money for a long time. Without short-selling, the only corrective measure is a cessation of buying, which causes a dramatic price crash, just as an overrunning control signal eventually hits a safety limit and shuts down the process under control.

If someone is childish enough to think that a company's stock price is a measure of personal approval for, and judgement of, its CEO, then that person is certainly going to be upset with short-sellers.

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Funnily enough, no, infosec bods aren't mad keen on W. Virginia's vote-by-phone-app plan

Kristian Walsh
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Re: Could I vote?

The story says "Government Issued ID", but neglects to mention that this definition includes a Drivers License ("S"-spelling because that's the name of the document, don't bug me)

Anyone who's spent time in the USA will know how often people are asked to show this document, and it's commonplace for background-check services to request (and receive) scans of it. So, there's the first hurdle down: I've got someone's ID photo. Now If I project that image onto a balloon, and let the app's phone camera grab it, can I vote for them? I bet I can. Hell, why don't I just run the app under a rooted phone with debug enabled, and simply bypass or fake the validation step. Expensive, yes, but a State Governorship is worth more than a few million dollars, if campaign budgets are any judge.

The way around this nonsense is simple: Vote in person, make a mark in a box printed on a sheet of paper using a pencil. By all means use computers to assist in the counting of those ballots (and in the first-past-the-post electoral system used across the USA, it is trivial to count ballots optically), but the initial input needs to be handmade.

All mechanical and digital systems for recording votes are vulnerable to undetectable ballot-stuffing. X-in-a-box systems can at least be subjected to graphological analysis if there's suspicion, but a hole in a card, or a row in a database has no trait that can reveal that it was created in bulk by a single person.

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It's a phone with a peel, but you'll have to wait a bit more for retro Nokia

Kristian Walsh
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Yes.. that was my thought: if someone really managed to get Symbian running on any post-2011 chipset, their talents are seriously wasted at a fake phone-maker.

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Basic bigot bait: Build big black broad bots – non-white, female 'droids get all the abuse

Kristian Walsh
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Re: And that's probably why...

First bite... Haul him in!

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Facebook deletes 17 accounts, dusts off hands, beams: We've saved the 2018 elections

Kristian Walsh
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Seventeen "Patient Zero"s (was: Re: Hey!!)

(Don't take any of the below as an apology for Facebook. They're not doing nearly enough, and they know that tackling this problem reduces their revenues, so they let it slide like the amoral pricks they are)

I don't use Facebook anymore (for reasons below) - I'm before the three million who dumped it after the Cambridge Analytica story, but the reasons were similar: as time went on, more and more of the feed was being filled with garbage political and marketing posts, blindly forwarded by a handful of people whom I was actually friends with, so didn't want to block.

But, if your spend any amount of time on Facebook, and you'll see that it most of the shite you see is in the form of forwarded articles, and when you dig into it, you notice that the person who forwarded it to you didn't get it from the original publishing account, but from someone they knew.

Seventeen accounts. If 100,000 people followed those original malicious accounts (it's not clear if the followers figure was aggregate, or per account), then that's 100,000 channels for the information to reach a like-minded idiot. It's not fair to say 100,000 like-minded idiots, because a common technique is to set up a page for a popular, broadly-supported social issue, gather followers that way, and then silently change the page name and content to fit the real agenda.

Those like-minded idiots then spam the hundred or so people who know them (the average size of a Facebook "friends" list is 100 - seach "Dunbar's Number" for a good theory of why this is so). Within that hundred, there'll be at least one more who'll inflict the same post on his or her friend-list either by commenting on it, liking it, or re-posting it. And so it goes on, until millions have at least seen the message. But the real reason why Facebook is the political activist's wet dream is that when you see the story they post, it's not labelled as "{Political pressure group} says:", but rather as "{Person you know} read this" - which many, many people blindly take as "{Person you know} believes:" Add to that Facebook's habit of auto-inserting stories from an account, simply because some friend of yours has read other stories from that account, or commented on them (even if that comment is "you are the scum of the earth"), and it's easy to see why it's the vehicle of choice for disinformation campaigns.

(It could be worse: Facebook-owned WhatsApp doesn't even label forwards as "Forwarded by", a practice that has caused a spate of murders in India, where WhatsApp is used as a de-facto social media platform, because a series of urban myths warning about child-abductors, when forwarded around rural villages, ended up being interpreted as "I saw two strangers here this morning in a green car, who were trying to steal young boys" rather than the correct "I was sent this story about two strangers somewhere ...")

What's second striking about these posts is that they come from a very small number of sources - few people have the spare time and inclination to write this kind of garbage. There are far more than seventeen, absolutely, but I'd say it's far less than a thousand.

So, seventeen isn't nearly enough, but it's a lot more than it looks like.

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On Android, US antitrust can go where nervous EU fears to tread

Kristian Walsh
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Google's competitors include Facebook, but you seem to have left out a major competitor: Apple.

Apple may not be operating on the same commercial model as Google, but every customer Apple draws into the iOS ecosystem is a pair of eyeballs that will spend less time providing Google with profiling information on Android.

This competition for audience is similar to how the BBC and ITV compete in the UK television market despite BBC not carrying advertising*

You can have a monopoly even with if it looks like there's competition: taking the TV analogy, ITV used to have a monopoly on all television advertising in the UK, despite having a non-monopoly 40-60% of the television audience. That was a bad situation for advertisers, and for viewers, and it was changed as a result.

Google has a monopoly on app distribution for Android and it uses it to make device manufacturers use Google's other services, even where better products exist. Apple has a similar monopoly on iOS, but Apple skirts the anti-trust issue because it doesn't sell iOS to other manufacturers. (For what it's worth, I think Apple engages in anti-trust activity too, in a different way, but we're talking particularly about Google and Android).

The central issue with Android is that it's not a negotiable product. Lets' imagine that TomTom or Garmin wants to make a phone. They are navigation specialists, so would prefer to keep their navigation application as the default navigation service: that is the competitive advantage they're offering (but of course customers would still free to chose Google maps or another product if they want to). This reasonable proposition is not permitted by Google, because in order to use any of the Google applications, you must use all of them, and they must be defaults, and this condition cannot be negotiated. You cannot give Google more money for an Android license to gain the flexibility - Google uses the Play App-store to bully you into ceding every other aspect of the platform to them too.

That's called "Bundling". It was the core complaint in United States versus Microsoft, and it's still illegal today.

( * yes, many independent programmes commissioned by the BBC contain shadily-financed soft product placements that they really shouldn't, and yes, the BBC sells tie-in merchandise for its programming, but the point still stands because ITV output has those same options, plus direct advertising to viewers)

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Microsoft still longs to be a 'lifestyle' brand, but the cupboard looks bare

Kristian Walsh
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Re: Huh!

The pricing has to be right, which it is for Office, and isn't for Adobe Creative Suite (for example). I looked at the price to rent Adobe Illustrator, and decided to replace it with a €70 copy of Affinity Designer instead. (Seriously - you owe it to yourself to check this out).

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Official: The shape of the smartphone is changing forever

Kristian Walsh
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@Piro

... the film production industry does this, but film production had so many different source and intermediary aspect ratios that normalising them was the only way for people to stay sane. And as the final cinema presentation will always a fixed height, with variable width, it makes sense to normalise everything in terms of height being "1 unit" (it certainly makes it easier for a projectionist to work out how wide the curtains have to open to accommodate a 1.85:1 presentation)

But like it or not, when it comes to TV, and consumer electronics in general, the "-to-9" ratios are ingrained in the public's perception thanks to the billions spent in the late 1990s and early 2000s to launch 16:9 "widescreen" televisions and content.

And while most of the film-industry ratios are down to the mechanical details of film cameras, the TV ratios that correspond to them are actually a simple geometric progression:

31:41 = 3:4 = 1.33... :1, approx. the cinematic "Academy" ratio (1.37:1)

32:42 = 16:9 = 1.77 :1 approx. cinematic widescreen (1.85:1)

33:43 = 64:27 = 2.37:1 approx. "scope" ratios (2.35~2.39:1)

64:27 TVs do exist, and were sold in the past by Philips and others, but were advertised as "21:9" to make it clearer that they were a "super-widescreen" set. The problem with these wasn't the display, but the fact that they had to scale up existing 1080p content, with resulting loss of sharpness. But with today's streaming services able to (theoretically) deliver a native, unscaled 2.37:1 4k feed to consumers, I'm expecting a small renaissance in this aspect ratio at the high-end of the market.

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It walks, it talks, it falls over a bit. Windows 10 is three years old

Kristian Walsh
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Re: Windows 7 holdouts

They're not "hard coded". The newer CPUs have features that the kernel in Windows 7 doesn't support. Take the example of the new low-latency clock-speed adjustment features of Intel's Kaby Lake and later CPUs: the CPU will throttle its speed semi-automatically, but the kernel needs a method of knowing that this is happening, and overriding it when it isn't appropriate. Without those hooks, the hardware can't be used optimally - you get worse battery life, or slow performance. Windows 10 has these hooks, Windows 7/8 do not.

There's also the question of drivers for the support-chips on the board. Once Windows 7 stopped being sold as a pre-install, motherboard manufacturers no longer needed to write chipset drivers for it, or test their BIOS with it.

So yes, you could shoehorn Windows 7 onto one of these boards, but it wouldn't perform properly, and some I/O mightn't work.

It's not a conspiracy, and there are board suppliers who have solutions for industrial and commercial users who need Windows 7. You can go to them, but it won't be cheap, and you will not get the very latest CPU and chipset if you insist on running a six-to-ten-year-old OS that cannot properly take advantage of it.

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Kristian Walsh
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Re: Windows Update on 10

But even if you're updating the kernel, you know what you don't have to do? Reboot after the update. The new kernel won't get used until you reboot, but you can update your system then continue to use it until you're good and ready to reboot it.

That's the case with Windows too. Until you reboot, you have not updated the system.

This is a "can vs. should" question. The NT kernel architecture is perfectly able to do a no-reboot update - like macOS's mach, it's actually pretty easy to swap services in and out (and unlike Linux modules, they can be compiled independently of the kernel version being installed into). However: can you be sure that all of the innumerable userspace applications that run on the installed base of Windows systems would recover gracefully if that call that "always works" returned an error? Sure, you can "kill the clients", but that's taking an kernel-first view of the system, when the people who paid for the system only care about the applications it's running.

If your goal is system stability, a reboot is better than trying to show off and do it live. That holds true no matter what OS you're using. The best way to get uptime is through redundancy and hot-failover, not by juggling bits of the kernel while your application is running on it.

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Kristian Walsh
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Re: Windows 10 is a dog

Your NAS is using an old version of samba, and is defaulting to CIFS/SMB1, which is highly insecure.

To mitigate it, Windows 10 disabled SMB1 support by default. You can turn it back on (I'm not going to tell you how, because you shouldn't, but it's not hard to find the instructions), but you're better off to log into the NAS and change the samba config so that it defaults to SMB2 or later.

I agree with you about Candy Crush, but it was easy to delete.

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Kristian Walsh
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Re: Windows Update on 10

Most Windows updates don't need a reboot either, but anything that changes drivers or kernel services needs to reboot. You can't update the Linux kernel without a reboot, and you can't update linux drivers without updating the kernel. You can't do a macOS update without a reboot either.

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Kristian Walsh
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Re: "time to step into the wonderful of world of Linux"

Give Microsoft and Apple two more years on their respective trajectories, and Windows 10 will be much better than MacOS. Apple had a pretty good, stable, if not particularly efficient, OS back at 10.9, but have been loading it down with bizarre UI mechanisms and endless iPhone integration features that forget that a computer screen is not as private as a phone screen (seeing a presenter's phone text messages pop up in the corner of the projector screen during their presentations is only funny the first few times it happens..).

I also wouldn't assume that macOS is sending less information, by the way. Quite a few macOS services send private data for remote processing; it's just that Mac users are less likely to notice it, given the smaller number of IT/network professionals in their customer base. There's a Mac app called "Little Snitch" that can be quite informative in discovering these, but to skip to the chase, here's a guide to turning off most of the offending services if you're worried about them: https://www.macstrategy.com/article.php?190 If you're unfortunate enough to own a Touch Bar laptop, you should pay attention to the "typing suggestions" setting in particular...

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Farewell then, Slack: The grown-ups have arrived

Kristian Walsh
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Re: I'd rather stick with Slack than trust Microsoft not to stuff it up

"relatively" reliable?

You know that, a couple of weeks ago, Slack went down across a huge chunk of the US for a whole day?

And it didn't make the tech news, because it was just another Slack outage.

As a company, Slack has shown over and over that it lacks the IT expertise to design and maintain a communications service.

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Your phone may be able to clean up snaps – but our AI is much better at touching up, say boffins

Kristian Walsh
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Re: How about the audio equivalent?

This system is a reconstructor for images. As it fills in pixels that have been obliterated in the input., you're never getting the original - all that you gain is the removal of signals that distract from what the original probably was.

Old recordings to have quite a lot of data, but masked by very high levels of noise. If you consider that an old phonograph was basically a cutting needle coupled to a drum with very little processing between, there's quite a bit of information that could be pulled out of it.

"Improving" the listening is all that's needed for academic study of old recordings, and certainly for entertainment purposes - I've listened to a few early recordings, and it takes a while for your ears to adjust to the noise and missing high and low frequency information. pre-processing with an AI could help bring these to a wider audience.

For more serious work, just like the medical imaging examples, the post-AI version is used to get an overview, but where there's doubt, the original pre-processed file is still available for detailed study. This already happens in historical research: historians normally work from transcripts and translations of old documents, but in special cases they will need to examine the original book to resolve a query.

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Kristian Walsh
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Re: Huh

I though that too, but looking at the text examples, there's so much defacement, and the text is so small, that it's basically another kind of noise.

I'd still like to see the output when fed a watermarked image, but my gut feeling is that it would leave it largely intact.

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Kristian Walsh
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Re: Am I the only one...

It's not AI, it's a computer. Dammit.

It is AI, because it's a computer.

This uses a trained neural network. That's pretty much the classical Artificial Intelligence approach to problem solving. I can't think of any other correct term for this approach (it's not "data processing" - that would only describe the deployment stage, where the already-trained network is applied to the input, noisy, images). Call it Machine Learning if you prefer, but the academic field that does it has been called Artificial Intelligence since the dawn of computing.

It's not the fault of people working in that academic field that its name has been hijacked by a generation of self-appointed "futurists" and bullshitters (same thing?) to describe their tech-utopian wet dreams.

The other problem that besets AI is that as soon as an application of it is working and doing something useful, those same loudmouths stop including it in their definition of "AI", so the general public don't appreciate that AI systems are a. not something new, and b. not something rare: OCR, that X-Box Kinect camera, voice control of anything, high-definition ultrasound imaging are all excellent examples of Artificial Intelligence deployments.

"Intelligence" here doesn't mean that the things can think. It means they can extract relevant information from a wide range of inputs that containing that information.

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You're indestructible, always believe in 'cause you are Go! Microsoft reinvents netbook with US$399 ‘Surface Go’

Kristian Walsh
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Re: US$399 “Surface Go” has a ten-inch screen

Other way around, as Microsoft's product was first by a good few years.

You can actually get compatible pens for Surface from about $30 if you want to try one out, and can do without tilt recognition. Search "n-Trig pen" and pick according to your budget. Not as accurate as the $100 one from Microsoft, and no tilt or eraser (I really thought this was a gimmick, but it's actually a brilliant idea in use), but you can at least get something cheap if all you need is "a pen".

For an iPad, your options are basically give $100 to Apple or do without, but that shouldn't be a surprise anymore to Apple customers.

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Kristian Walsh
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Re: somehow $399 becomes €449, becomes £379

Official pricing starts at £379, for what it's worth: https://www.microsoft.com/en-gb/p/surface/8V9DP4LNKNSZ?activetab=pivot%3aoverviewtab

That's cheaper than the Euro pricing, which is confirmed at €449

I'm not so sure about "underpowered" either. It's never going to be a gaming rig or a dev workstation, but based on benchmarks, the Pentium Gold CPU used in this isn't as bad as the name "Pentium" would suggest. In compute benchmarks it almost matches the more expensive Core m3 used by both Microsoft and Apple at the entry level of more expensive laptop ranges (but m3 has lower TDP and bigger caches). I have the Surface 3, with Atom, and that is underpowered when it comes to some web-browsing (i.e., the kind where you have to download a quarter megabyte of JavaScript just to read a 2,000-word news article), but this model's CPU isn't as far down the rankings as that one's was at launch.

The direct competition for this is the Retina iPad at £319/£409 (32/128G), which isn't exactly a powerhouse either - the iPad Pro is a huge leap up in performance, but at £619 for the 10" model, it's also £240 more expensive than the Surface Go.

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Kristian Walsh
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Re: Obvious questions that will be asked

Exactly. Although it's not a matter of the hardware being "good" or "bad", but rather it using known components for which there's already a compatible, or nearly-compatible, Linux driver. The cheaper a PC is, the more likely it is to use tried-and-true parts, and so the more likely it is to have Linux support (this is why Chromebooks make such easy Linux conversions)

The only problem with running Linux on previous Surface (Intel) devices was that there wasn't Linux support for some of the hardware. Booting and installing Linux on every previous Intel-based Surface was the same as on any other PC: make the USB image, plug it in, reboot the system, let it boot off the stick.

Where the "dream" fell down was that the system would boot, but not all the features worked. Same as installing Linux on a Mac, really...

Personally, I don't see the point in paying Surface prices and then replacing the OS with one that can't use the all of the hardware's features. And as this is the PC market, there are many other makers who offer similar specced hardware, and some (like Dell) contribute to Linux driver support for that hardware too.

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Kristian Walsh
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Re: somehow $399 becomes €449

Except that €450 is £400 these days... pricing is finally catching up to the realities of the £/$ exchange rate. That rate has been around £1 = €1.10 = $1.30 or so since the Brexit vote two years ago, and recent events aren't instilling any additional confidence that businesses will need to buy lots of Pounds in future.

The Surface Type Cove covers are more like £50 worth of keyboard than £20 - they're pretty good. Better than the latest laptop keyboards from Apple (okay, most things are), and a galaxy better than the comparably expensive iPad "Smart" keyboard.

(And while I could pick one up cheap when abroad, I'd gladly pay the extra money not to have a horrible US-layout keyboard)

I don't like how stuff is 15-20% more expensive in Europe, but it is more expensive to do business here. To sell in the US, you go to national chains like WallMart, BestBuy, etc and you're distributed across the entire 350-million market with only a few deals. Try that in Europe, where every country of 30-60 million has two or three big retailers that have little-or-no presence elsewhere, and you see the cost climb up.

While most standards have now been harmonised, so the same physical product can at least be sold across any EU country, you still need to advertise it in fifteen to twenty languages, and offer customer support in those too (and British English is a separate language for these purposes). We have stronger consumer law than the US does, and that costs too. Finally, add in structural costs like the higher payroll and health-insurance taxes paid by every worker in the chain, and it's not surprising stuff costs more here.

I'd like stuff to be cheaper, but I understand why it isn't, and some of those reasons are pretty good ones: saving €50 off a laptop on the odd time I'd buy one isn't worth being at risk of dying from treatable diseases if I were to lose my job, for instance...

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Kristian Walsh
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Re: somehow $399 becomes €499

The article you link to (danke!) has since been corrected to €449, which is more like the right price.

Current exchange-rates suggest $399 is €330, but you also have to add in the 19% German USt. to this, because US prices are always quoted without sales-taxes. With tax, we get €403.

The other €50, or about €40 pre-tax, is for localisation and marketing costs and the additional customer support that a product sold in the EU must offer. There's no way around this: it's simply more expensive to sell a product in a market with twenty different languages, three AC-socket types, and multiple, geographically-isolated retail chains than it is to sell it in the USA.

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Kristian Walsh
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Re: Obvious questions that will be asked

Provided MS has learned from the H/W issues that have afflicted several (or even all) other Surface models and made sure that this device does not suffer from then, it might be a good Linux platform.

This device's predecessor, Surface 3 (Atom), was a stable hardware platform. The higher-end models fell down by using cutting-edge components, which generally need brand-new drivers, which inevitably have bugs in them. This one, on the other hand, should be using lots of parts that are functionally identical to older components.

Like all previous Intel Surface models, I fully expect it will be unlocked: UEFI, yes, but UEFI is not a boot-locker (it's sad that this even needs saying...). Microsoft really doesn't care if you buy one and put Linux on it; you still gave them money in the process. But it's worth remembering that Microsoft also doesn't care if there are no Linux drivers for some of the hardware (webcam, touch-screen, Wifi, BluetoothLE, modem...)

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Kristian Walsh
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Re: They're clearly copying Apple.

This Surface "Go" isn't an iPad copy - it's a continuation of a form-factor that Microsoft themselves invented. Against the iPad, it wins on connectivity (there's an LTE model in the Surface Go range too), storage, and the ability to run an enormous catalogue of existing Win32 line-of-business applications; it loses by not having a large catalogue of touch-enabled software, and not being "instant-on".

I'd contend that Apple's days of being product inspiration are more behind it than ahead of it. What is the iPad Pro with its clip-on keyboard and pen(cil) if not a response to market acceptance of the 2-in-1 concept that Microsoft launched with Surface? And what about me-too efforts like Apple Music (Spotify), Watch (Fitbit, Android Wear), HomeKit (Nest) or Home Pods (Echo)? Actually, when was the last Apple product that couldn't be described as "a concept you can already get elsewhere, but with an Apple logo on it"? I think the answer to that question is "iPad", but that's nearly a decade ago now.

And despite what's commonly claimed, Microsoft is not copying Google's data collection strategy. It has basically the same user data-collection model as Apple, albeit the scale of Apple's data gathering from iOS dwarfs anything that Microsoft does.

And unlike iOS, Windows 10 also lets you see exactly what telemetry is being sent, and remove things you're unhappy with ("Settings > Privacy > Diagnostics and Feedback") - they were too late in introducing this, true, but it is there now. I've looked through what my Win10 system sends, and I'm happy that it's what it says it is: performance, load and fault data from drivers and applications.

Basically - If you tell Windows 10 to not share information about your activity, then it does not share information about your activity. It's that simple. I'd like the other major OSes and application vendors to follow suit: let users choose, and If they choose not to share, respect that choice.

In general, I really struggle to see a business need for a corporation to hold records of where I've been every day for the last two years (Tesla knows where all of its customers have driven to - am I the only person who finds this to be creepy?). Data mining is data mining - leaving it in a vault doesn't remove the temptation to sell it later. I used to work for Apple; after that, I used to develop software for Apple platforms; I have learned from both experiences that what Apple promises today can be gone on a whim.

And it's not like Apple has made a noble stand, here: remember when the company tried to get into online advertising with its iAds platform? Yes, they would rather you had forgotten about it, but that venture was impossible to realise without using the user data gathered from iOS users to build advertising profiles, which were used to sell advertising. iAds was finally shut down in December 2016, so up to that point, Apple was monetizing user data with third parties. Exactly what Google does, in other words.

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European Parliament balks at copyright law reform vote

Kristian Walsh
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Re: RE: Doc Syntax

Don't fall into the trap of thinking that every creative artist is a Coppola/McCartney or Pratchett. They are lucky exceptions, and it's as unrealistic to think of them as representative of artists as it would be to think of Steve Wozniak's career as representative of that of all programmers'. Most people who work in art do not make a steady living, and really struggle. Royalties are a lifeline to these people.

The killer for small artists is that, more than the successes, they rely on Internet distribution for compensation, but it's precisely the current model that allows mega-corporations like Google to monetize their work without paying the original creators.

The idea that a creator "can live off one or two single creations" ignores the many, many dead-ends and failures they had to hit before getting those. This isn't easy. If it was easy, everyone would do it.

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Kristian Walsh
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Re: European Parliament baulks at copyright reform vote

If I present this as a headline, short blurb and hitting that entry links out the the site with the article.

If your summary says "The Grimsby Standard's theatre review this week made note of a Press-o-matic Model 6A being seen in a production of Hamlet recently: Link Here ('Theatre: Is This A Pressed Shirt I See Before Me')" You are not liable to anything. The summary is your work, and you have copyright in it. There's no copyright in the link to the story at the source, so that's not a problem either. Headlines are titles, so they're not subject to the same restrictions on use as the body text.

But, if you instead use an automated scraper to lift the opening paragraphs of that linked story, and present lists of these as your "news" section, then you are doing nothing more than reproducing copyrighted text (the newspaper's), and yes, you've got to pay for that, because you didn't create anything. The aggregator code itself could be your copyright, but not the products of it.

The simple question when it comes to copyright is: did you make the thing? If you made it from scratch, it's yours automatically. But if you made the thing from an existing thing or things, then the question is: can the thing you made function as a sufficient replacement for having the original things you used to make it? If your new thing can't act as a substitute for its sources, you're protected by copyright again (under "fair use" and "parody" exemptions among others), but if it can, you're just reproducing existing works without permission.

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Kristian Walsh
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Re: RE: Doc Syntax

Except it doesn't affect the functioning of the Internet. This is an IT news site, I think we should at least use the right names for things when we talk about them: while this law may certain websites and services more expensive to operate for the large corporations that own them, the functioning of the Internet will be completely unaffected by it.

Much as I'd rather not have Donald fucking Trump able to dick around with the world's biggest economy, I still don't think that's good enough reason for me, as someone living far away, to have a vote in the US Presidential elections... and that's something that really does have an impact outside of the area where people vote for it. But despite what might have been true in the 1990s, the web is not a single, pan-national entity anymore - people outside of the EU really will not be affected by these changes (The same Google that can serve an ad bouquet that's tailored to a single individual, wouldn't be able to tell if they're in France or Brazil? Bullshit).

If we in the EU decide we don't like the rules, then we, and we alone, will vote to get them changed.

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We might be skimming the Surface, but it looks like Microsoft's readying a wallet-friendly device

Kristian Walsh
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Re: Smaller battery!

In fairness, it's not a cost saving; it's a space saving that allows cost savings elsewhere. Most of a modern laptop's volume is battery these days, so smaller battery = smaller device. That allows them to use a smaller, cheaper screen (usually the highest-cost component), keyboard, casework and everything else.

If the system uses ARM, they'll get back a little of the lost battery life too, but ARM isn't a miracle cure - it'll still be only five or six hours if they're going for a small form factor.

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Hoping for Microsoft's mythical Andromeda in your Xmas stocking? Don't hold your breath

Kristian Walsh
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Re: Microsoft Hardware

The keyboards for the Surface range are done by the same group that does Microsoft's standalone keyboards, and they're really very good. The Surface Book keyboard has a good claim to be the best on a current* laptop: that gap when closed allowed them to fit a keyboard with proper amount of key travel.

(* barring that special model they did last year, new ThinkPads really aren't old ThinkPads)

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Apple is Mac-ing on enterprise: Plans strategic B2B alliance with HPE

Kristian Walsh
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Re: Actually...

Macs will *boot* anything, but the driver support is poor.

Fine if you don't need stable WiFi, or a webcam that works, or synchronised audio and video, but honestly if you wanted a high end laptop to primarily run Linux on, Dell would have given you much, much better bang for the buck (8th generation Intel CPUs, for a start: Apple is still back in 2016 sometime). A need to run macOS is the only reason to pay Apple’s crazy prices.

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Kristian Walsh
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It wasn't a huge success, but then Apple didn't give it much time to gain any traction: XServe was actually competitively-priced product with some compelling technical advantages (there were very few comparable 1U servers back in 2002), and it had picked up orders in academic and scientific markets as a handy "Unix server in a rack" solution.

When the product was canned just two years after launch (!), Apple suggested that customers should put the much bigger G4/G5 desktops onto a rack-shelf as a replacement, which was mostly met with: "actually, if we're going to have to give up 12 U of rack space, we could just fill it with three times as many HP/Dell rackmount servers instead, thanks..."

Two things killed it. First, Steve Jobs turned Apple's focus towards consumer electronics: the iPod and iMac were the key products. Second, there was a technical problem: to get to the very low case profile, Apple had taken advantage of the Motorola G4 chips' super-low TDP - however, these were about to be replaced by the much hotter-running IBM POWER "G5" parts, which would never be made to run reliably in such a small enclosure.

Whatever the reasons, the market saw it as Apple saying "we'll jump ship as soon as it gets difficult" - an attitude pretty much killed Apple's chances of getting back into enterprise for a decade.

... and I completely agree with your first paragraph, both as someone who used to work at Apple, and someone who's spoken to previous Apple "partners". You get hundreds of pages of guidelines that basically all say "it's my way or the highway, buddy"

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The butterfly defect: MacBook keys wrecked by single grain of sand

Kristian Walsh
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Re: Apple are shit nowadays

I did have the exact figure regarding how much the weight and size change in iPhone 4 vs 5 saved air-freight costs from someone who worked at a fairly senior level in logistics at Apple, and like you, I found it surprising. (And yes, retail boxed)

At launch of new iPhones, Apple used to use something like 35% of all air freight capacity out if China. A staggering figure, but a company that needed ten million phones in shops in the first two weeks of sale would have to do this.

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Kristian Walsh
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Except that "a limited number being a problem" is a meaningless phrase without stating what that limit is, beyond listing lots of MacBook models. The limit could well be "all units of this type that we ever built" and their statement would still be factually correct. No grade for critical analysis I'm afraid..

Previous Apple recall and extended warranty actions have usually been accompanied with a serial-number checker that tells the customer whether their product qualifies. Tellingly, there's no such detail in this one - it just lists basically every model that has featured this keyboard design (see for yourself: https://www.apple.com/support/keyboard-service-program-for-macbook-and-macbook-pro/ )

It's a flawed design, not a manufacturing issue. They effected a remedial solution with the "v2" keyboards, but can't do much more as they've painted themselves into a corner by the rest of the design requiring such shallow key travel for the device to close properly, so we won't see a better design until they redo the whole casework.

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Kristian Walsh
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Re: Apple are shit nowadays

Absolutely. "All I care about is that it looks incredible for the five minutes it takes the customer to decide they want to buy it." is what Steve Jobs used to say to answer any criticism of form over function (a colleague of mine in my Apple days had the dubious honour of working on a project that Jobs cared a lot about, and the quote came via him)

Everyone blaming Apple's obsession with "thinner, lighter" on Jonathan Ive is missing the point.

It's not aesthetics, it's logistics.

The downside of super-cheap Chinese manufacturing is that Apple has to air-freight a considerable amount of its production from its place of manufacture to the places where the customers are.

Once shipping costs become a considerable part of your cost of goods sold, you look into reducing mass and volume, because mass and volume are the two variables that contribute most to air freight costs.

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Kristian Walsh
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Re: "Der Reg" actually

The Register would most definitly be a male specimen, just as "the Standard".

Duden disagrees:

https://www.duden.de/rechtschreibung/Register

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Tesla tips ice on Apple, Google, Microsoft accounts of '$1m leaker'

Kristian Walsh
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Re: Whacked with a court order?

Yep. "Come back with a warrant" is the stock response for any organisation that holds personal data when they get a request like this. A competent legal team engaged in a genuine case would have quietly obtained a legal injunction to prevent permanent deletion of the records in question, and forward it to the relevant cloud providers. They could then apply for a warrant for disclosure of those documents at their leisure.

The fact that they're publicly broadcasting this to the world reveals Tesla's action for what it is: an attempt to put the frighteners on their former employee for revealing what was going on... and on anyone else still in the company who might have been thinking of doing the same.

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HTC U12+: You said we should wait and review the retail product. Hate to break it to you, but...

Kristian Walsh
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Re: 18x9 = 2x1?

Saying "18:9" makes it easy to see that it's slightly wider than the 16:9 ratio everyone is familiar with from TV sets. Express that as 2:1, and you need to do some division in your head to discover that 16:9 is 1.78:1 and therefore not as wide an aspect ratio as 2:1.

The commonly-seen ratios, in order of narrow to wide, are 4:3, 11:8, 3:2, 16:10, 16:9, 1.85:1, 2.39:1 - it's pretty hard to see a pattern there without actually reducing the ratios down to a common denominator. Nine has become that denominator consumer electronics, purely because 16:9 widescreen TV had such a massive marketing effort behind its adoption. (When Philips launched the first 2.37:1 TV set a few years back, they called it "21:9" even though that wasn't its actual ratio, but using "to 9" meant that people would realise it was wider than standard widescreen, at the expense of people who didn't read the spec-sheet complaining that it wasn't wide enough to display the 2.35:1 ratio that's used when mastering 2.39:1 films onto Blu-ray/DVD)

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Uber's London licence appeal off to flying start: No, you cannot do driver eye tests via video link

Kristian Walsh
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Re: Your creepy Fakir will be with you shortly.

Less regulation, of course.

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Kristian Walsh
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Re: Judge Uber on its record

In the spirit of using cutting edge tech to solve issues best handled by humans, Uber had previously been using an advanced quantum vetting process. As its drivers were simultaneously both dangerous and safe until an observation collapsed this duality and placed them into one or other category, it could be reasoned that, so long as the company never actually investigated anyone, they would never have any "definite" dangerous drivers. Simple.

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Kristian Walsh
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Re: Just make them

So you're banning people working self employed in the UK?

He's not. The important words were "pretend to be". Bogus self-employment is a big problem in the UK as well as other countries whose tax systems make a distinction between those who are employed (and thus have employment rights) and the self-employed (who don't).

The idea is simple: a company hires you on condition that you act as a self-employed individual and pretend to contract with them for work. They then proceed dictate your working terms to you as if you were their employee. The person doing the work loses, while the de-facto employer gains: no sick-pay, no guaranteed working hours, no social insurance contributions, no paid holidays.

Uber isn't the clearest case of this, but if you compare driving for Uber to driving with one of the traditional drivers' co-operatives that operate in the taxi business (in which drivers genuinely are self-employed), you'd notice that while Uber's drivers do share the costs of providing their service, they don't get a share of the profits in return (and the fact that Uber doesn't make a profit isn't the reason for this). Also, Uber dictates the work, which fails another test of self-employment: Sure, you can refuse jobs on Uber, or go offline for periods, but if you do so you'll notice a decline the quality and quality of jobs you're offered by the service. Not quite "do this or you're fired" (Uber is your employer), but it's not exactly "can you do this for me?" (Uber is your client) either.

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