* Posts by bazza

2071 posts • joined 23 Apr 2008

Smart Meter rollout delayed again. Cost us £11bn, eh?

bazza
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Re: Smart meters have only ONE purpose

Round our way the installers are taking the opportunity to do a quick survey of your electrics, gas appliances.

1990's houses here, so of course they're finding "lots to be done", and their reports are designed to scare people into getting lots of unnecessary work done. Some people have fallen for it...

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WebAssembly: Finally something everyone agrees on – websites running C/C++ code

bazza
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Re: Safe?

@PNGuin,

"Why would you need C/C++ to make a website safe?"

Wrong way round. C/C++ (or indeed anything else that can be compiled down to a WASM) can be run in the browser safely, everywhere, probably. The emphasis is on the "dangerous" language being available to a programmer but being fully constrained by the sandboxed Javascript engine that actually runs the WASM.

"So all the 3rd party malvertising sites can run their malware more quickly in the browser? Yeah, progress at last. Sounds safe enough to me."

Quicker, yes. AFAIK the safety of a WASM is vested in the safety the Javascript engine's sandbox. The C/C++ can't do anything that the sandbox won't let Javascript do. So it's neutral, security wise.

"You'll have Norton running natively in the browser next. Oh well, at least that'll speed things up a bit."

There's already been proof of concept HTML5 viruses that reside solely in the web browser. Web browsers are simply yet another execution environment, and will / are going through the same phases of bug discovery and fixes as, say, an OS. The more features that get added to that execution environment the worse it'll get. The more such features are used, the less relevant the sandboxing becomes; the sandbox merely prevents web code from interacting with the host OS in certain ways, but that's less relevant if the place malware wants to run is actually in the web browser's own execution environment itself, inside the sandbox.

There's plenty of opportunity for the web browser to use different tricks to ensure one website cannot interact with another's data (e.g. encryption of persistent data, which is in fact what they do), and this will make it considerably harder for malware to succeed. However, if it gets out of hand then there may have to be things like Norton inside browsers. Eeek! On the irony scales, that'd be a full set of tens.

Like many others posting, I'm thinking "oh no here we go again". They're talking about supporting garbage collected languages like Java, C#, god knows what else. If this isn't history repeating then I don't know what that phrase is for. If the end result is indistinguishable from a Java browser plug-in done properly (i.e. properly sandboxed), why not just do a Java browser plug-in properly and miss out the nonsense JavaScript part?

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Google drops a zero-day on Microsoft: Web giant goes public with bug exploited by hackers

bazza
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Re: Did We Mention Chrome is Unaffected?

Disagree. Google patched it (side question - how does Google always seem to know more about Windows than Microsoft?). They let Adobe and Microsoft know we have a major issue. Adobe said "Shit, thanks for the heads up" and fixed it days before any public announcement. Microsoft sat on their hands and did nothing for 10 days, three days past the Google security standard for their Chrome devs, then released the info to their Chrome developers...

Get real. All Adobe and Google have done is block use of that system call in their sand boxes. They've not fixed anything, they're simply ensuring that it can't be exploited through Flash or Chrome.

Once you have a sandbox, that's a far easier job than actually fixing the bug in the OS itself. For comparison look how long it took Apple to fix their latest (stupid, self inflicted) OS kernel flaw - months. There's probably good reasons why MS cannot fix the bug quickly.

Personally speaking I don't see that Google or Adobe had any real choice. If the bug is being exploited then we have a real problem and they're in a strong position to mitigate against it, fast. But in doing so they're inevitably advertising the existence of the bug. So they may as well just come out with it and give the rest of us a heads up.

In the round it's probably better to mitigate for this flaw in browsers ASAP because that'd always be the primary exploitation route. Gives the rest of us a problem though.

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Uber drivers entitled to UK minimum wage, London tribunal rules

bazza
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As others have pointed out if things like VAT became applicable then it'll kill Uber' business model.

Here's a few other things they'd need to pay for. HR, recruitment, third party liability insurance, offices to house those things, staff background checks, car maintenance, car purchase, MoT checks, VAT and all the other taxes and minicab operator licensing to name but a few. And they'd then have to operate like a minicab service, not like the black cab picking up randomly in the street.

After all, if they employ the staff then they're an employer, and are therefore liable for the full business costs of employing them and running the business.

In short, I can't see Uber surviving this in the UK. I can't see their appeal succeeding, given the damning and unequivocal nature of the initial judgement. And with their costs rocketing skywards there's no profit to be made.

So whilst we're in the mood for overturning distasteful USAian business and employment practises that have been found to be riding rough-shod over our own customs and laws, how about someone finally getting round to challenging Apple about their refusal to honour the statutory 2 year warranty on consumer electronics?

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Qualcomm agrees to acquire semiconductor biz NXP for $47bn

bazza
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Re: Automotive

Qualcomm may want to close down some of NXP's product lines, but they'll struggle to do that completely. NXP have Freescale, and hence chips like the PowerPC 8641D, etc. These have been widely used in many really quite important military systems in the US, and Uncle Sam won't take kindly to the supply being cut off. Some parts have found a use in the F35 program, and there's no way on earth anyone will consider doing a silicon swap anytime soon.

That happened to Apple when they bought PA Semi all those years ago. Apple bought the company for the staff, not the product line, and promptly announced discontinuation. The US gov told Apple that they had to keep PA Semi's PowerPC SOC chip going, because it had already been incorporated into some fairly significant military systems. To cap it off, the staff (there were a lot of ex-DEC silicon engineers involved who had started up PA Semi in the first place) didn't like being Apple drones and quit, setting themselves up as yet another startup called Agnilux which then got bought by Google.

At the time that SOC was unmatched by anything else on the market, and it would have been impossible to migrate the designs on to alternate silicon. By the standards of the day it was phenomenal - dual core, 2 GHz, 64 bit, dual Eth NICs, fast memory interface, well suited to real time applications, lots of GFLOPS, all in less than 13 Watts.

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Self-driving cars doomed to be bullied by pedestrians

bazza
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Re: Wait a minute...

The point is that no one will want a self driving car in town, nor ones that have autonomous anti-collision self braking systems that won't let the car run over a pedestrian. If every vehicle has these things then pedestrians can safely walk out in front of any vehicle and not get run over.

And the problem is that pedestrians will do that, and the car driver won't get anywhere at all. Result - driving a car in town becomes a very slow way to travel.

Then there's kids. They'll be jumping out in front of cars just for the laughs. It will be really annoying for car driver's, but if these systems are mandated by governments that's what will happen.

That would also lead to some unfortunate accidents. During the transition from driven to self driving / self stopping cars there will come a point where kids are used to most cars being automatic. And that means they're at some point going to prank an older car that doesn't have the automation and will get run over...

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Let's praise Surface, not bury it

bazza
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Re: They fluffed it ages ago

And it would have put MS at the forefront of ARM servers too. Instead it looks dead certain that they'd miss that too if ARM servers take off in a big way. Linux is already there of course.

To be moderately fair on MS, when they started all this ARMs were pretty feeble compared to x86 and to where they are today. MS's mistake was to think that ARM would always be too small for a full desktop. Oh how wrong they were.

There's also OpenPower that's looking very promising. They should be thinking about that too in my opinion. Superfat binaries anyone?!?!

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Not call, Intel – not call: Chipzilla modems in iPhone 7s fall short

bazza
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Re: There's only two reasons Apple is doing this

Well, the leverage isn't going to work if the Intel chips are rubbish. Qualcomm may put their prices up!

Intel are not going to support CDMA (actually you mean CDMA2000. CDMA was the original 2G digital cellular standard in the US that lost out globally to GSM). Or, they'd be mad to do so. It's a yesteryear standard, it's only 3ishG, and it's not used anywhere other than the USA these days. So at best it's a limited market and a declining one at that. It's hard to justify the investment.

The poor sensitivity may be a firmware inadequacy, but it's far more likely to be a poor quality RF front end. To make a modem all Intel have to do is implement the DSP as outlined in the standard and bolt on on a front end. There's not much room to tamper with the DSP, so the inadequacy is more likely to be in low-spec analogue components in the RF front end.

It does raise the question as to whether Apple ever bothered to do any qualification testing on their prototypes. This kind of under performance would stick out like a sore thumb in even the most trivial of bench tests, and you'd like to think that they’d reject it if it. Seems like they've just stuck down the Intel part, done a quick functional test and shipped it. Sloppy. Or just arrogant-don't-care.

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App proves Rowhammer can be exploited to root Android phones – and there's little Google can do to fully kill it

bazza
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Re: ECC is not a defense

@DougS,

However, LPDDR4 supports an optional capability called target row refresh (TRR) that effectively eliminates the ability to exploit rowhammer. So no need to add ECC, just use LPDDR4 which newer phones have been doing anyway and make sure it supports TRR.

Interesting. Earlier I speculated that the memory industry hadn't done much to mitigate against rowhammer. Seems I wasn't entirely correct.

This 'optional' feature, I wonder if it's an optional part of the LPDDR4 specification, or a compulsory part of the specification that CPUs can optionally exploit if they want to? Either way, 'optional' sounds like someone somewhere wants to make a fast buck and who cares what the consequences for customers end up being. Booo.

Not for the first time I find myself wishing that the tech industry would take a leaf out of other industries' books. For example Rolls Royce, Pratt & Witney and General Electric are deadly serious competitors, yet they will (and have) drop everything to help out a competitor if they run into a serious safety issue. Reason? Everyone benefits from safer engines, and means a bigger market for everyone. The aviation industry is consequently very safe.

[Apart from the mathematically very dubious decision to allow the EC225 Super Puma helicopter to continue flying with a suspect gearbox so long as it was thoroughly inspected after every flight. I say dubious, because whatever calculation was performed to arrive at 1 flight per inspection cannot reasonably have had zero error bars... It took another fatal crash to get it grounded]

In contrast, too often in the tech sector one company's security fails are seen as another's marketing opportunity.

TRR is optional? Great, thanks guys, thanks for not helping out. Whatever caused that to happen should be been resolved in the standard long before it was published, even if that meant company A giving company B money and assistance to bring that about.

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bazza
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Re: ASLR

I think there was a recent report about defeating ASLR by looking at the addresses in the branch address cache and matching those with the known structure of the OS, thus figuring out the current OS layout in memory.

On Intel Haswell CPUs, not on ARMs.

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bazza
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Re: ASLR

@Dinsdale247,

"Conversely, it doesn't help that this is The Linux Kernel Maintainer's attitude towards kernel level security:"

Whoa, hang on a moment. I'm not a fan of Linus, but he's got a point. If you go and misuse the Linux kernel (as a very large number of people do) that's your problem, not his. It's not his job to decide whether Linux is appropriate for your Web server, router, nuclear power station, etc. Linux is free of cost, you have no contract with him.

If you want something 100% secure, whatever that means, look elsewhere. And good luck.

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bazza
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Re: Doesn't work on my Nexus 6P

I did wonder about trying it on my BlackBerry Z30, see if the Linux system call shim present in BB10 is good enough to run it, and have it succeed.

Then I decided that a pint was a far more interesting prospect...

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bazza
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Re: In the long run ...

"Parity should be for everyone, not just farmers IMO. :)"

G

R

O

A

N.

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bazza
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Re: In the long run ...

There's no need for ECC. Just making memory chips with better operating margins would do it. Trouble is it's be slower, more power hungry, or both. We're only in this situation because memory designers have been shrinking design margins over the years in the quest to be a bit quicker, a bit more economic.

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bazza
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There's no need to imagine it. Paper written, app published. It's real. Eeek.

The interesting thing will be to see if any of the memory manufacturers care. The warning signs have been there now for 2 years, not a lot has been done to prevent it I suspect.

We'll all care if someone manages to construct a piece of mega-malware that makes the attackers a ton of cash at our expense (a dialler, or who knows what sort of attacks are possible against Google Pay).

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Ageing GSM crypto cracked on commodity graphics rig

bazza
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2G FruiG

Now that's an old fashioned ice cream flavour.

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DNS devastation: Top websites whacked offline as Dyn dies again

bazza
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@Streaky,

"The internet was designed very insecurely"

Security wasn't a consideration at all in those days.

Fundamentally everything we have security-wise is a bodge. Ultimately no matter what security mechanism one contrives, it always boils down to the following. Machines are hopeless at identifying people.

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Tesla's big news today:
sudo killall -9 Autopilot

bazza
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Re: "...purchasing a vehicle with non-working features?"

@JeffyPoooh,

"Seeing as how it needs to be planned, documented and developed to some process resembling DO-178B or C, DAL perhaps A or B,"

Quite.

The automotive industry has for years been "avoiding" this issue. They use the MISRA rule set for C programming as a means to justify claims that their software is "safe". The problem is that i) MISRA is more like smoke and magic than hard proof of correctness ii) MISRA tool chains that I've used are perfectly capable of compiling correct source code to junk object code that doesn't implement the source code (it was optimisation bugs), iii) there's no guarantee that their C libraries are themselves MISRA compliant. In fact one I've used most definitely was not MISRA compliant in its C library's source code, and the C library was buggy. Yet it had a tick box labelled 'MISRA', was and still is widely and highly regarded throughout the community.

Of course non of that has mattered, because in all cars actual safety has been provided by everything ultimately being mechanical or hydraulic, with software not taking a primary role in car control.

But with things like self-driving? Yep, the applicable standards have indeed got to be things like DO-178B, etc.

"so maybe ten lines of code a day per qualified coder drone, typically. So 250GB of tight code, at 500 bytes per Coder Drone day, it should be ready for beta release just in time to get tangled up in the Y10K problem."

Neat way of providing investment guidance!

An industry rule of thumb I picked up some time ago was more like 1 single line of code per coder per day across an entire software project of this type. After the design and specification is done the PMs would estimate the size of a project and do their cost estimation that way. And that was on systems that had to be correct but were still human supervised. I dread to think how slow a true safety critical piece of software such as a self driving car would be.

Of course the self driving guys know this. So they're spinning up arguments in favour of rapidly developed code being approved as safe from usage statistics to grandfather their systems into autonomous use. Kinda like "it's not gone wrong yet in our trials, so therefore it must be OK for all eternity". Accepting code in this way would be unprecedented in the history of safety critical systems and transportation. There'd also be the potential for a systemic and hitherto unidentified fault causing mass carnage and the world's most expensive law suit.

Personally speaking I find the industry's statistical argument for what a "safe" self driving car would be somewhat distasteful and implausible. Saying that it's as safe as the "average driver" is nuts; it'd mean that many passengers would statistically speaking be worse off. Terrific. The trouble is the people who will decide what's allowed or made compulsory aren't used to thinking 'personal'; they look at nationwide or insurance statistics, and see profit in reduced costs.

Fortunately the State of California has published Google's test results, and they don't make for encouraging reading from Google or any other self driver's point of view. Google's data, if squinted at only slightly, implied an accident every 1500-ish miles had their cars been fully autonomous and unsupervised. Not a very good statistic in favour of approving full autonomy.

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bazza
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Re: Seems prudent

Hmmm, judging by some of the opprobrium flying round Tesla forums related to Autopilot's imminent curtailment, it would seem that it (rather than electric, ridiculous acceleration, and Tesla) is the key reason why many owners have bought them.

It would be kinda cool if it does work out; who wouldn't want a car to drive them home from the pub. But,

"All Tesla Cars Being Produced Now Have Full Self-Driving Hardware."

would be false advertising (if used as such). They cannot demonstrate that this is true. It may be something that they can get away with in the US, but in (for example) the UK and a lot of Europe there'd surely be ASA and Trading Standards complaints about such a claim.

If I were an investor in Tesla I'd be worried about this. It's so unlikely that they will ever deliver a self driving car. They're hyping up the idea now, but it is very likely to result in future disappointment amongst hitherto loyal customers who need to be persuaded to by a new replacement. They're also increasing their production costs today with zero guarantee that it'll ever be worthwhile.

But by then there's likely to be other competitors in the market (e.g. BMW, Merc, VW, the Japanese manufacturers, etc), and they will be supremely competitive, and they know how to build a higher quality interior.

They also have the industrial capacity to build an electric car for every market segment, something Tesla are understandably avoiding doing. But that is also dangerous - Toyota have for decades shown that the real money to be made is from well priced, boring, reliable, comfortable and very well made boxes; no-one earns much money from making only rocket ships. You have to go mass market at some point.

Tesla have only a short while to cement their position as the manufacturer of the longest range electric car with the fastest charging time. If they ever fall behind on that then they're toast. Hyping self driving today is a costly distraction from that goal, especially if (as seems likely) everyone else gives up on the idea and public perception of self-driving becomes forever tarnished.

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Apple's car is driving nowhere

bazza
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Re: Geckos?

@tiggity,

"What sort of gecko is "a severe threat to the occupants of a car."? Are they carrying grenade launchers?"

Round these parts they do. They're deadly accurate, and those amazing grippy feet mean you have to keep yours eyes peeled in case they're firing from the roof of a tunnel or something. Drive carefully out there...

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bazza
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@Charles 9,

"No, because unlike a train, a car can go between two arbitrary points without need of switches or other restricting mechanisms. As long as there's road between A and B, you can almost always reach it."

Hmmm, and there's me wondering what all that tarmac and concrete is for. Oh, you've pointed out that "two arbitrary points" need to be connected by a road for a car to work. Not so very different to a train then.

Automated trains work because a railway is a very artificial and sterile environment. There's nothing in that environment that isn't controlled by the system. And where mother nature can intrude (e.g. a fox on the line) there's little prospect of passengers being hurt, or even delayed... In short, the only thing an automated train has to worry about is another automated train. That's a comparatively easy problem to deal with.

And even the the train may well be driver-less, but that's a long way from saying that it isn't monitored by people. There's a control room. There's a lot of data and video feedback of train position. There's people watching that, or at least poised to glance at a set of screens should an alarm go off.

In comparison a road is far from a car-only environment. Even in America there's things like foxes, moose, potholes, floods, snow, ice, fog, road works, fallen trees, fallen bridges, turnips, rocks and geckos which are all a severe threat to the occupants of a car. And I haven't even started on the other road users; kids, postmen, other drivers, cyclists, protesters, motorcyclists, policemen, estate agents, road menders, binmen, politicians, drunks, grannies, flashers; they have a right to not be run over by anything.

Now, if you excluded all of those (and more) from being able to access the roads then maybe, just maybe, we could have a provably reliable self driving car that isn't just more train track. Though in effect it would be a train without the steel rails.

"That's why many people insist on a personal car: the ability to take it anywhere, anytime whenever the need arises. Unless you can do that, practically door-to-door, trains will never replace cars.

So you've never been stuck in a traffic jam? They're big queues of cars going nowhere, and they mean that your car cannot take you anywhere at all at the time you want no matter how urgent it is. Sometimes they last for days.

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Radio glitch as Schiaparelli lander probe splits from ExoMars mothership

bazza
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Radios Again?

They had problems with the radios on Huygens too. First they designed them wrong, they forgot to account for the Doppler shift between Huygens and its mother ship. Then, having adjusted trajectories to minimise that Doppler shift they forgot to turn one of the radios on. Almost a complete disaster.

And now they've got radio problems cropping up again. Wonder if it's the same guys?

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Google: We look forward to running non-Intel processors in our cloud

bazza
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@Nate Amsden

IBM doesn't have dividend shareholders?

Oh do have some imagination. Google could make them themselves, either using a contract fab like TSMC or just build their own fab. They've got the money.

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bazza
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Google might be tempted to stick with POWER. It's open so they can if they wish tailor it anyway they want. They can know for certain what they're actually doing (Intel's blob is questionable at best from a security point of view). And, if they wanted, they could probably make them themselves, cut out Intel and their dividend-demanding shareholders altogether.

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New Brit Hubble analysis finds 2,000 billion galaxies, 10x previous count

bazza
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Re: So...

I'll hazard a guess! It depends on the distribution or this new mass. It sounds like it's beyond the previously observed universe. If it's a concentrated shell of mass then it may be enough to explain the accelerating expansion of the universe. What we're seeing is simply the bits we can see being drawn to a lot of mass that's already out there.

It'll also push the age of the universe back some what further.

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Euro politicians are hyping the terror threat to steal your privacy

bazza
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Well then, make it an electoral issue.

And if that doesn't work, then you're stuck with it. The US constitution means that most of the time no one can force something to happen, meaning it's easy for anyone to prevent something. And for some organisations (big corporate), nothing happening is a victory!

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Mercedes answers autonomous car moral dilemma: Yeah, we'll just run over pedestrians

bazza
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Re: Hard decision but Mercedes are probably right

@Doctor Syntax,

For instance I've been about to overtake a couple of cyclists when one of them, for no obvious reason and with no prior indication, turned square across the road right in front of me, fortunately with just sufficient clearance for me to do an emergency stop and blow my horn (I hope his pants were festering by the time he got home). Had he done this a second later he'd have been a gonner.

Well yes, but that's a different scenario; your cyclist was in control of their actions. The imprudent kid, slipping pensioner, rolling pram, pushed crime victim is not.

Things vary by country. In the Netherlands all car/bike collisions are, by law itself, deemed to be the car's fault no matter what.

There are no doubt a lot of badly behaved cyclists; I regularly drive in Cambridge... The organised "cycle events" are pretty disgraceful sometimes too. Badly behaved inattentive cyclist? That is indeed what the horn is for, "warning other road users of your presence".

When I ride a bike I'm careful to follow the highway code, just as when I'm driving too. There's plenty of knobheads in cars, lorries and buses too.

The Dutch, in passing a one sided law, seem to have managed to get more people to behave better more of the time. And putting in a load of bike tracks helps too.

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bazza
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Re: Hard decision but Mercedes are probably right

Hmm, have you read anything like the Highway Code, driving fitness requirements, etc?

#1: Pedestrian recognition isn't perfect

As a driver you are expected to be fit enough (eyesight, sober) and driving at a speed appropriate to the conditions to ensure that you are guaranteed to be able to recognise pedestrians, cyclists, any road hazards, etc.

Why should a self driving car be somehow exempt from that just because the technology is hard?

If it is to be allowed on the roads and be fully autonomous and is less perfect than humans are required to be, then the manufacturer should take the responsibility. After all, if a human driver under performs and is blamed for an accident / injuries / death, they are held responsible. The machine and its maker cannot be given a let-off.

And if the technology is systematically less able than a human driver is required to be, then it shouldn't be allowed at all. We might as well start saying it's OK to be drunk behind the wheel.

#2: Take personal responsibility

Er, except that as a driver you are required to anticipate road hazards. Not every pedestrian is responsible for their actions. Ever seen a young kid run out into the road? Ever seen an elderly person fall off a slippery pavement? Ever seen someone pushed into the road by a mugger? Ever seen a pram roll away from a distracted mother? No? Well lucky for you. These things happen, and it's not their fault.

Your attitude is wrong, you should get it fixed. You're saying that the young kid, pensioner, crime victim or baby deserve to be run over.

#3: It's a hard decision.

No it's not - the pedestrian has no protection. The car occupant is surrounded by crush zones and air bags. I say the car should take a chance and trust its own structural integrity.

Not that it's ever going to come to that. If a self driving car is coded to drive in a manner that would allow such a situation to develop (i.e. too fast) then the car maker is as guilty of causing death by reckless driving as a human driver would be.

Now if the law is written appropriately (the car manufacture is liable for its behaviour and any accidents it causes), then the manufacturer would be held responsible for the accident / injuries / death caused by the car's inappropriate speed. So they're going to have to code their cars to drive like grannies in town.

If the law says otherwise, then I won't be getting in a self driving car. Trust my personal liberty to the behaviour of some software written by some guys who get no come-back if it goes wrong? No thanks.

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bazza
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Not sure this approach of protecting the occupants of the vehicle is so unusual.

Er, except in some European countries the exact opposite is codified in law. For example, if a car and a bike collide in The Netherlands, by law it is automatically considered to be the car driver's fault no matter what the circumstances.

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Nicole forces NASA resupply into Sunday launch: Crew must wait for their packet soup

bazza
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Also known in some circles as Crash-Bang...

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Linus Torvalds says ARM just doesn't look like beating Intel

bazza
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Re: The only safe PC is a SPARC

@Chasil,

It appears that the best "open" CPU architecture is the decade-old SPARC T2 - the full Verilog source for the CPU is provided, and there is no "management engine."

Not so. The openpower bunch have done some interesting things, and you can buy an ATX motherboard with a POWER CPU that is completely open. That is the CPU design, board schematic, BIOS source code and much else besides is freely available. They use (I think) the words 'blobless computing', referring to the fact that the source code for every bit of software and firmware is available.

The best bit is that it offers competitive performance, and is a lowish price too.

Take a look at Raptor Engineering

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bazza
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Re: "It's about time governments got involved and forced the market open."

@Pascal Monett,

But . . . but . . the market auto-corrects itself !

Doesn't it ?

There's a lot of people who say as such without stopping to wonder why the SEC and other regulatory bodies exist. Where there's a dysfunctional market you need a government regulator to clean it up.

A lot of the problems in the US were caused by things like sub prime mortgages, a good example of how inattentive oversight by regulators allowed awful practises to flourish to the point of bringing down the whole economy.

There's no really meaningful competition left in the online world. Google, and that's about it. Why they've not been broken up Bell style is simply because the politicians have no idea that there's a monopoly.

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bazza
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Re: Linux has facilitated the cituation he is lamenting about

Yep, open source types shouldn't be surprised if not everyone keeps up!

To me it sounds a little bit like he's thanking Microsoft, albeit indirectly. Having to be compatible with DOS then Windows was what drove the PC clone ecosystem to standardise. MS even weighed in with that with the PC System Design Guides (PC'97, PC'98, etc). That is also what made it practicable for Linux to thrive too - it was easier to get Linux to the point where you didn’t have to compile it to use it.

In my opinion MS missed an opportunity about 9 years ago to do the same with ARMs. As an experiment they showed Windows 7 and Office running on an ARM board, printing to an Epson printer. But instead of defining an ARM based PC or server architecture, they went off and did Windows RT, tablets, etc. We all know how well that went.

They kinda did it with mobiles, defining a hardware spec that would give binary compatibility with Windows mobile. Trouble was it wasn't open; not many bothered to follow it. Now had it been open, that hardware spec would have been ideal for all sorts of interesting things. Just as you can run Linux, Solaris, Windows, FreeBSD, etc on a PC, an open mobile spec would allow the same diversity to exist on handsets.

Instead we have proprietary mobile hardware that no-one can keep Android up to date on, punters are continually exposed to security risks, and manufacturers can gouge the market simply by not supporting their current product line.

It's about time governments got involved and forced the market open.

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Google 'screwed over' its non-millennials – now they can all fight back

bazza
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As well as having some of us older types on the staff, the investors need to talk to them and listen to what they say.

A lot of what we see is happening because investors become convinced some mad scheme is plausible, and then it's merely a case of assembling the right team to get it done ASAP before anyone else. And because the older more experienced staff are sucking their teeth muttering about how hard this is going to be, they’re off message and 'a barrier to progress'. Bye bye.

And so the team is reduced in experience until there's only youngsters left who don't know any better; they're all yes men/boys (another of Si Valley's problems is a gender bias...), and they'll recruit only those who are also on-message.

Look at Google's self driving car project. According to CA's published test results it's way off being reality, and probably won't ever happen. It's unsurprising that there's reports of discord in the (exclusively young?) team - they've just been taught a lesson by mother nature and they have no idea what to do next. Yet anyone who's ever read or studied anything at all about safety critical systems, machine vision and cognition could tell you that a self-driver is going to be really, really hard, probably impossible, don't waste your money.

So if your an investor, if your engineering team doesn't have grey haired / no haired / grey bearded staff members, worry about whether you'll see a return. They've either decided to quit before its too late, or are being kept out of the project for being off-message. A single 'no it won't work' from an engineer who knows their stuff could save you billions, and they can't say that if they're not there. No amount of positivity from an exciting bunch of youngsters is going to fool mother nature.

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Is Apple's software getting worse or what?

bazza
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Re: What is going on?

Incidentally, one of the major problems with Web apps like most of Google's stuff is that the programmers are all powerful and can push their latest wet dream of how-things-should-be down users throats with no warning or choice.

OK, so maybe the tech savvy in a company that uses Google Apps can adapt quickly enough, but there's plenty of people out there who aren't tech savvy and are left floundering for quite a while every time Google goes and changes something. Not helpful at all.

And when Google fuck it up completely (Google Maps is a complete cock up; moving / cancelling way points is a nightmare, never used to be) you're left with a real problem.

So I see web apps as being pretty dangerous; you're at the mercy of people you don't control and, based on current form, cannot trust. At least with native software running locally you can have some control over what your working environment looks like every day.

BTW, anyone else think that Google's search is pretty crummy these days?

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bazza
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Re: What is going on?

I think this has happened because something seemingly impossible happened, but nobody recognised it for what it was. And that something was as follows:

They had finished writing the software.

Now that's impossible, no program is ever finished there's always loads more that can added, etc. But with Windows 7, possibly Snow Leopard too, they were arguably complete. No changes needed, just maintenance and bug fixes, security improvements here and there.

This "impossible" event clearly caused major mental stress amongst these companies and their teams. Microsoft threw it all out with Windows 8, 8.1, and is still clearly ill given the state of Win 10. Apple has gone down the same sort of slippery slope and is showing no signs of responding to treatment. Even the Linuxers, especially RedHat and their backing of Gnome and systemd, are not immune. Gnome especially has got the bug badly, having ripped up the rule book and rewritten it badly on toilet paper using what I'm hoping is brown crayon but is probably shit.

Memo to all programming staff. When it's finished, stop fucking tinkering with it, and certainly don't throw it out and start again. Maintenance is boring but necessary. Sigh.

Windows 10 has a great kernel and a lot of excellent under-the-hood improvements. Imagine how ace it'd be with Windows 7's interface. Windows 8, 10 is what you get when you employ a lot of marketing and UI experts who have jobs to justify.

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OK Google, Alexa, why can't I choose my own safe, er, wake word?

bazza
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Re: Being able to unlock your house from outside... already done

Ooops!

Shouting it too, that's telling the whole neighbourhood! I hope he's got plenty of flour...

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Super Cali: Be realistic, 'autopilot' is bogus – even though the sound of it is something quite precocious

bazza
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Re: self driving in Europe != success

I'd like to point out that the Japanese, an engineering nation universally renowned for studying all the possibilities then picking the very best way of doing something, also drive on the left.

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SpaceX searches for its 'grassy knoll' of possible Falcon rocket sabotage

bazza
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Re: Eliminated the obvious

Long shots indeed.

Dangerous Thoughts

For anyone to even contemplate such an explanation is not good for an organisation's culture. If this rumour that an accusation was made is actually true, whoever came up with that line of investigation should be pushed out the door quickly before that kind of reasoning becomes the standard approach to problem solving.

As the article says, Occam's razor applies. This is a relatively young design, they have had failures before due to poor quality control, and it went bang just as they were loading it with 100s of tonnes of propellant and O2. If they don't know why it went bang then that means their telemetry isn't up to scratch, simple as, and must be improved.

If in making improvements to their telemetry they add shock wave sensors to detect any incoming rounds, that's fine, just don't ever say why.

If this accusation was actually made, even if privately, with little evidence it is highly risky. It'd never remain private, It’ll worry their investors who will be keen that the company as a whole behaves in a sober and professional manner (traits essential to success in the rocket business). The investors won't welcome the legal bill either should ULA choose to make something of it in the courts.

And worse of all it'll put off customers, who really won't want to be dealing with amateurs.

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No surprise: Microsoft seeks Windows Update boss with 'ability to reduce chaos, stress'

bazza
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@OldCoder,

"The problem is that the approach used by those distros requires proper partitioning so that the patches only address the bugs in the specific package."

Cough cough systemd cough cough. Guess which way Linux is heading...

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Wow, still using disk and PCIe storage? You look like a flash-on victim, darling – it isn't 2014

bazza
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Old idea, except Flash is far from ideal for this purpose. Old, because this is the ultimate use of something like memristor and has been discussed in that context before. Flash is non-ideal, you still have to do wear levelling, else it wears out.

Now if HP ever did finish off memristor, or if any of the other players in that new-memory-tech game got their act together, that would be ideal. Faster than DRAM, great, non-volatile, check, wear-free lifetime, perfect. It'd be just like a SIMM that doesn't forget, ever.

1
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Uber: Can't sue if you die

bazza
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Really?

At least here in the UK there are laws about unreasonable contracts. I can't see a judge upholding those terms and conditions. Of course, things are different in the US..

1
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Hubble spies on Europa shooting alien juice from its southern pole

bazza
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Re: How did Clarke know ?!

@MacroRodent,

True! Though I'm fairly sure there was scholarly speculation about Europa and water before Voyager went past.

That's bound to be true at some level - Man has been seeing water all over the place since time immemorial (e.g. Mars's "canals", etc).

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bazza
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Re: How did Clarke know ?!

The suspicion that water was there stems from the thermal modelling one can do of a planet or moon.

It is a known distance from Jupiter and likely subject to strong tidal forces (though not as strong as Io, which is closer), so it'll get heated up. It clearly has an icy outer layer due to its brightness (it'd be a lot darker if it was rocky). Ice + the right amount of heat = water. In comparison Io is too hot for the water to have hung around, and Ganymede is too cold for the same process to take place. All of this can be worked out from earth based observations, knowledge of how rocks behave under pressure, spectroscopy / Mk I eyeball to identify the surface material, etc.

The various flybys that have occurred since Clarke wrote 2001 (in the 1960s) have only reinforced that analysis, and now Hubble (the 'scope that keeps on giving, tremendous value for money in the end) has practically confirmed it. The folk using Hubble to look for these jets were no doubt inspired by the accidental and most fortuitous discovery of similar jets on Enceladus.

So, all that remains is for Elon Musk to send a rocket up there with a big, empty tank and bring back a few thousand gallons of what would be the most expensive, and probably the least drinkable, mineral water and sell it in exclusive shops.

Clarke was a pretty clever guy, credited with inventing (well, at least nailing it) the concept of a geostationary comms satellite.

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Sinclair fans rejoice: ZX Spectrum Vega+ to launch October 20

bazza
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Excellent!

The return of proper games...

How things progress. I note that it supports SD cards, for storage. The micro controller in an SD card that does all the Flash wear levelling will have more grunt than the original Spectrum, probably.

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Apple wants to buy Formula 1 car firm McLaren – report

bazza
Silver badge

Re: Apple have lost their way...

A turbocharger for a ship or aircraft engine is designed to work at a single RPM, and is therefore useless on the road. It took Renault F1 to develop them into something that drove nicely without appalling lag and also worked across the rev range, no mean feat.

Slap a P38's turbo on a car and it just won't work well at all, except at a single speed. And indeed a car turbo on an aviation engine is also suboptimal (though that doesn't necessarily stop anyone doing that).

Also you're getting confused between a turbo charger and a super charger (something that Renault hasn't used anytime in the last 36 years). And to make you even more confused, the unit in a modern F1 engine is both combined.

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bazza
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Re: Apple have lost their way...

Actually, F1 has been the development ground for a lot of tech that has then flowed out to other applications. 3D printing originated in and was pioneered by F1, by Williams as far as I can recall. Williams also developed the only active suspension system that worked well, and have a cunning approach to kinetic energy recovery / reuse based on a toroidally geared flylwheel. Renault were heavily involved in taking the idea of a turbo charger (found on ships and piston engined aircraft) and altering it to be usable in automotive applications. Prior to them, a turbo was something that worked well at one engine RPM, but was pretty useless anywhere else. The current F1 engines, especially the Merc, have extremely sophisticated ways of saving energy, and if Merc in particular ever applied their long shaft turbo + electric super charger + hybrid + regen braking + intercooler-less engine architecture to road cars they'd be getting tremendous MPG and performance. The only reason they don't is because they currently don't have to to meet emissions regs, and it's expensive. McLaren, long time innovator in the use of carbon fibre in cars (race and road), have got so good at it that it's now a 4 man-hour job to make a CF chassis for one of their cars these days. It used to be 4000 hours. And they can do hollow CF in a single go, instead of having to glue it together afterwards like everyone else has to. Everyone wants to be able to do that in automotive, aerospace, and other applications where CF is a big deal. Gordon Murray, he of F1 / SLR fame, has developed a method of car manufacture that substantially reduces the cost of developing a new car model (design, passing crash test, production line tooling) without drastically increasing the manufacturing unit cost itself. Basically it involves tubular steel chassis but done properly, cleverly and quickly (not like TVR then). McLaren's Applied Technology division has worked with Glaxo, who now (for the same cost and plant) produce 6.7million extra tubes of toothpaste per year, and an extra £100million in value inside a single year.

F1 has long been a hotbed of engineering daring do, and there's a large number of very talented people involved in it (approx 100,000 in the UK). If you want a ready made team of ruthless, fast, clever engineers full of ideas that no one else has though of, a mature F1 team isn't a bad place to look.

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bazza
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Re: Only problem....

...and is able to blame losing races on "was holding the steering wheel wrong".

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bazza
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Re: Talk about the right company

Never mind which bit of the company they're talking about, Apple would be missing the whole point as to why the name is McLaren.

McLaren is named after Bruce Mclaren, and the current owners and top bods kept the name and continue to be involved in the group / team largely as an on-going homage to Bruce and their fondness for their friendship with him back in the day, before he was killed in a fatal crash in Goodwood.

The loss of a friend can set fixed limits on what people will contemplate. It's probable that Ron Dennis et al would see selling control of McLaren to someone like Apple as selling Bruce McLaren's soul to the devil with the highest bid. Now old Ron is certainly capable of ruthlessness, but I doubt he or the others would stoop to that.

Having said all that, McLaren have an engineering consultancy business, they've done some clever things, and it might be that that's what Apple are after. It's not associated particularly with the cars or the race team.

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bazza
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Re: That'll be MacLaren soon then...

Oh I dunno, it's never too early to get babes and infants hooked on iThings. Why not build them into the pushchair?

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