* Posts by bazza

1950 posts • joined 23 Apr 2008

BBC detector vans are back to spy on your home Wi-Fi – if you can believe it

bazza
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Re: Once upon a time detector vans existed

Personally speaking I think the inquisitorial system they have on the Continent is far better for handling complicated scientific and technical evidence. It allows all parties to a discussion to be consulted. Our adversarial system doesn't leave room for that.

The inquisitorial system is also far cheaper. All the arguments we have about the legal aid budget are caused entirely by the expense of having two arguing sides to a court case.

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bazza
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Re: Once upon a time detector vans existed

@Doctor Syntax,

As an ex-forensic scientist I've spent many hours in court being challenged*. The closest your statement resembles reality is that no counsel I encountered on either side displayed a knowledge of statistics.

Very few people (least of all me) do understand statistics, which is why the courts are so reluctant for them to be discussed in open court.

My statement about not being allowed to challenge "expert" opinion is based on several cases.

There was a murder case in Scotland where fingerprint evidence jailed a man, and there's wasn't much else. The fingerprint analysis that the dabs matched was presented as fact. However after the case the defence took a look at the analysis themselves, and realised that it was a load of old bollocks; it pointed to matches between mere smudges in the scene of crime dabs. That should have been that - retrial, acquittal, whatever, but it took a desperately long time to persuade the court system that there was anything wrong with the evidence. I think that resulted in a wholesale reorganisation of the fingerprint service in Scotland.

A friend's father-in-law is a senior paediatrician who was asked to act for the defence in a child abuse case. Apparently a junior doctor after many hours on shift had made a rash and almost certainly inaccurate allegation based on a late night examination of child brought into casualty. That kicked off the whole chain of events. However, despite many more senior doctors (not just said father-in-law) protesting that a mistake must have been made, because they weren't there at the time of the original examination they were not allowed to be heard in court, leaving the defence with nothing, no way even of saying that there was "reasonable doubt". AFAIK the prosecution succeeded, and was almost certainly a miscarriage of justice. It seems that in our courts, late night observations made by overworked and tired junior doctor carry more weight than the entire body of peer reviewed paediatric medicine. Not good, especially given the diabolical involvement of people like Roy Meadows.

The DNA contamination thing now is a scary problem I think. Going on the London Underground these days probably means that some of all our DNA ends up at every crime scene in London... It's reassuring to hear that they're aware of the risk of contamination, but it's still a there-but-for-the-grace-of-god-go-I thing.

Having been a juror and seen what goes on in a jury room, I can assure you that you should never put yourself in a position of having to trust in a jury to accurately determine guilt or innocence. Prejudice and illogical thinking can be rife... A colleague who was once a juror caused a rape trial to be stopped by privately reporting some of the goings on in the jury room to the clerk of the court. The judge on reading his note stopped the trial dead in its tracks, made no reference to the note and gave no reason. Judges are terrified that the reliability of the jury system should ever be objectively questioned, yet to those of us who have seen it it has the potential to be very dodgy indeed.

Your mention of having to be rescued by the defence was interesting, and speaks volumes about the problems about how science is handled by the courts. You, the expert, were powerless to intervene when what you'd said was being re-interpreted by the prosecution. Can't have been comfortable.

You say you left before DNA came into use. I don't suppose you're much of a fan of how forensic examinations are now commissioned. Forensics used to be a way by which suspects could be eliminated as well as identifying perpetrators. Now that it's directed by the cops themselves from the cheapest provider, one imagines now that they're now primarily looking for something to convict someone they already have in mind...

Signal != Person

It is, but not every network emanating from a house belongs to the householder. I made specific mention of BT WiFi, because literally everyone who has a BT hub is giving that out to all and sundry and you have no control over who connects to it. So a neighbour can use it to watch BBC, but it'll be your front door that the BBC will knock on. Personally speaking I wouldn't want to be relying on getting an opportunity to explain that a judge and jury.

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bazza
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Re: Hounded

You might want to read the BBC's charter and look up the legal definitions of things like "conditional access".

Except that access is already conditional - you have to have a license. There's nothing really fundamentally wrong with the idea of demonstrating license ownership when you connect online. If the BBC's charter somehow prevents them instituting such a check-on-connection, then I say the charter is a pile of old bollocks.

As far as I'm concerned this new trick of the BBC's is a terrible way of solving the problem. Its inevitable inaccuracy will result in inappropriate prosecutions and risks miscarriages of justice, which is the most appalling thing that can ever happen to someone. And if that ever happens, I can't see the BBC paying out appropriately for broken families, ruined lives, destroyed careers.

Given that a license check on connection would be completely accurate and very, very cheap to administer (plus getting all that lovely viewership data for free), that's got to be a much better way of solving the problem of making sure people pay up.

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bazza
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Re: Once upon a time detector vans existed

@Rich 11,

"The prosecution would be a civil case, so the test used would be 'on balance of probability' not 'beyond reasonable doubt'. In other words, greater than 50%."

Wrong - TV license evasion is a criminal offence, not a civil offence. You can go to jail for it. You may not get the opportunity to pay a fine, you're simply carted of to the clink for a few months without the option.

That's why there's so much riding on how well the courts handle future cases built on evidence collected in this new way. According to many scientists who have experienced involvement with the courts, it's a disturbing how they approach fact and 'maybe'.

It was recently reported that it's the leading cause for women being put in jail in the UK, which is a ridiculous situation for the country to be in. It costs an absolute fortune to keep someone in jail, and the BBC doesn't contribute to the cost of their incarceration.

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bazza
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Re: Once upon a time detector vans existed

Pedant Mode (Sorry)

The vans detected the leaked local oscillator (not the IF) from the first stage of the radio receivers that picked up the TV signal. Colour TVs had more receivers to pick up the colour signals, and so could be distinguished from black'n'white sets.

The local oscillators themselves can be quite powerful (as these things go), around about 1mW, so they're easily detected in the street having leaked back through cheap mixers and up the aerial cable. The same thing still applies today for Freeview digital sets.

Bait

I ran a B&W set for ages acting as detector van bait, and always ignored the nastygrams accusing me of probably having a colour set (which I didn't). Saw the van a couple of times. Being an RF engineer and having access to some reasonably powerful kit, I was tempted to give them a nasty blast of a high power signal, see how they like that up their spectrum analyser.

Signal != Person

One of the problems I think they'll have with this new technology is that they cannot identify the people using devices.

I'll explain with the following scenario. I have a TV license, I'm entitled to watch BBC anywhere in the UK, including when I use an public WiFi network such as BT WiFi. I go to a friend's house, who has a BT hub. I use the BT WiFi that their BT hub has switched on by default. That friend has not got a TV license, and I'm watching BBC at their place but not on their private WiFi that comes from the same BT Hub. However the BBC cannot tell the difference; they're not allowed to examine the network packet contents, encrypted or not.

Another problem - two adjoined houses have their living rooms next to each other. The WiFi routers are in the same corner of the rooms, separated by only a couple of feet and the partition wall. One of the houses has a TV license, the other one doesn't. I bet they can't DF the emissions to the accuracy required to tell which of those WiFi routers is in which house.

The Courts' Dismal Approach to Science and Technology

My fear is that the BBC will be too gung-ho with prosecutions, and the courts will take an unreasonably optimistic view of the reliability of the technology. The UK courts haven't exactly been that clever at sorting scientific fact from pseudo-fact, and there's too many holes in this technique for it to be relied upon as the sole evidence required to jail someone.

The Courts have been appallingly willing to accept scientific evidence with low probabilities of correctness as being evidential fact. If an 'expert' states in court that something is fact then the court accepts that, and no amount of dissenting scientific opinion will change their mind. As defence you're not even allowed to challenge the "expert" evidence in court or even discuss probabilities.

This caused a number of people to be jailed on DNA evidence alone, until someone irrefutably showed that the number of base pairs being accepted at the time as "good enough" wasn't. A man accused and jailed for rape commissioned his own more thorough DNA analysis using his own money. This showed that it was a close match but definitely not an exact match - definitely not him then. Quite a few cases got quietly squashed as a result.

Misguided and Easily Circumvented

Effectively they are doing a primitive traffic flow analysis attack on encrypted communications. Well, that's easy enough to defeat in software. As the article suggests changing the network MTU would be one thing. But it wouldn't be hard to develop an app, or even a website, generating network traffic that'll bugger up the analysis too.

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BlackBerry: Forget phones, Lawsuits In Motion is back – and it's firing off patent claims

bazza
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Re: @bazza - chicken or egg

What came first? Definitely law suits. BlackBerry practically were the only smartphone (as it seemed to be at the time) of their day, which meant a healthy market share (though weirdly still quite a small share - they were expensive business tools). Then BBM became very popular with youngsters on a budget - BBM was a way of texting that was cheaper than SMS if you sent a looooot of messages (as teenagers do). So far so good, some clever ideas executed pretty well making good money.

And then Apple come along and made a shiny, glitzy phone that mostly didn’t work very well as a phone and had unbelievably terrible battery life (back then a feature phone would easily last more than a week on a charge). Suddenly BlackBerry were nowhere (so was everyone else, eg Nokia). Android only just succeeded because it was given away, allowing non-Apple manufacturers to get a piece of the shiny-glitzy pie that Apple had unexpectedly baked.

BlackBerry the fools tried to make their own thing, but was way, way too late. Had they done BB10 a year or two before Apple did the iPhone, the iPhone would not have had anything like an easy ride. BB10 is actually pretty good from a design and usability point of view (which is why I use it, but then I'm a bit odd...), but was way too late and missed the boat. For example BlackBerry Balance (not just BES) is the dream answer to the BYOD problem (it's really great for both people and company, it's way ahead of all the other MDM solutions), but no one in the market cares. It's not all bad news: BB10 (i.e. QNX plus a graphic front end) is doing quite well in the automotive sector, probably precisely because it isn't iOS or Android. The traditional car manufacturers don't want to be dominated by Apple or Google.

We're kinda at the same point now with Apple and Android. Both well established in the market, but there's now a sense of stagnation brewing. iPhone sales are going down, and really what has been happening in the past few years is refinement of the idea of a smartphone. The improvements are now too trivial to reliably persuade people to upgrade in bulk. Nothing fundamentally new is coming out of Apple or Google. Android manufacturers rely on not putting out software updates to force people to upgrade.

Apple in particular will also deploy the lawyers if they see fit to do so as a mean of maintaining revenue, and has already done so over stupid things like rounded corners (far more trivial than the patents BlackBerry are waving at Avaya). Google don't have to sue quite as much - they get money from people using phones, not from phone sales. Google don't give a damn if people stop buying phones.

Apple in particular know they're stagnated, and both Apple and Google are keenly aware that someone could do to them what they did to BlackBerry and Nokia if they don't invent the next great thing themselves. Consequently they'll jump on almost any idea going. Hence the absurd iWatch and the whole wearable rumpus, and the Internet of Things. Both have to put effort into these things just in case one of them works. So far no success, meaning they're not having the right ideas. iWatch is a dead duck, Google have cocked up Nest, no one is really using smart wearables, Both are pushing into self driving cars, though this is probably going to be too big for even them. No one is likely to make a car truly self driving, we will always have to be sober and paying attention; so not fundamentally useful at all, really, no compelling reason to buy one. Google weren't too happy that the State of California published their trials data, showing that human intervention was needed about once every 1500 miles.

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bazza
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Re: They can't be a true patent troll until they quit making products

Well, a true patent troll has never made anything, and exploits the crazy patent laws they have in the USA to repeatedly modify an application until it closely resembles something that someone else is making.

BlackBerry clearly aren't in that category.

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bazza
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Re: bazza - try getting your facts right

Whatever.

So it's alright if I come and pinch all your best ideas then?

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bazza
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Re: Hmmm ...

It's easy to state where BlackBerry went wrong. They rested on their laurels in the first half of the 2000s, and forgot that other people can innovate too.

And BlackBerry aren't out of business, there's a range of keyboarded phones from them available, see the Priv (android), Passport and Classic (bb10).

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bazza
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Re: The sign of a dying company

Er, Apple sue other companies too, and no one's saying that that indicates the imminent demise of Apple, Inc. If anything BlackBerry have been far more patient with other companies concerning real technologies than Apple were over rounded corners, which arguably has cost them real revenue which they could now sorely do with collecting.

SCO's claim was related to copyright, not patents.

Regardless of what one thinks of the patent system and its use by companies, we have to acknowledge that BlackBerry really did invent an awful lot of stuff that is very good. Given their status as being a long established manufacturer, it would be churlish for anyone to say that they are acting like a patent troll (and I gladly acknowledge that you're not suggesting they are). I mean, if BlackBerry can't defend their IPR in court, who the hell can?!

I am a bit puzzled as to why someone hasn't snapped up BlackBerry. They have a lot of very good technologies, and these add up to nifty little things that are great in handsets. Apple could acquire BlackBerry with the loose change in its back pocket, and would instantly acquire one of the more sophisticated patent portfolios available and a range of technologies that Apple simply don't have at the moment.

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US military's fake chips battle

bazza
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Re: I see where this is going.

Never mind the military, there's plenty of electronics that we all rely on. How many fake components in the airliner you last flew on, or in your car, or in medical equipment, etc.

It's not just small components either - I've seen fake FPGAs that worked well enough to pass a cursory examination...

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BlackBerry DTEK 50: How badly do you want a secure Android?

bazza
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Re: MicroSD slot

I know, though I was just wondering why anyone would be a little disappointed with 16GB of internal storage when a huge amount of one's own choosing can be slotted in very cheaply with no real performance or security penalty.

We all moan about the cost of an extra 32GB in, for example, an iPhone. So a phone that lets you achieve the same capacity at a much cheaper price ought to be satisfying, not disappointing!

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bazza
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Re: Fingerprint Snesor ? WTF!!!!

@Andrew Commons,

And they can be photographed from a distance - I think CCC did that to a German government minister at a press conference not so long ago.

That did indeed happen, though with the cooperation of the minister concerned (they didn't steal the phone or do anything illegal). It was a highly effective demonstration, and should have been enough to put everyone off biometrics for good for that sort of use case.

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bazza
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Re: I see no actual progress on security here

"Then it has the usual incredible statements like that it's somehow magically able to securely encrypt your data with just your short PIN."

Well, it doesn't use your PIN as the encryption key. Knowledge of the PIN simply demonstrates rights to the actual encryption key (which is much longer, and safely stashed away). Repeated failure to correctly enter the PIN is a big hint to the phone to forget the encryption key.

The trick is making it hard to circumvent the PIN and reliably destroying the data's encryption key should more than, say, 10 attempts fail. The trick is to build security in from the hardware upwards, and Blackberry are pretty good at getting the hardware, boot loader and firmware design right. Blackberry are of course at the mercy of the correctness of things they didn't design (the baseband, CPU, etc), but then so is everyone else.

BTW I'm not convinced the baseband shares memory with the application processor, or at least I hope Qualcomm haven't done that, that would be ridiculous.

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bazza
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@Andrew Orlowski,

"That's just as well, because BlackBerry is selling it on security not on the proposition of saving a few quid. The 3GB is generous, the 16GB of storage isn't, particularly."

It has a micro SD card slot. It supports 2TB cards. Plus Blackberry are pretty good at encrypting things, so there's no real security consequence to using it. Plus modern SD cards can be good for close to 100MByte per second, beating old fashioned HDD.

You've fallen for the other vendors "lets screw punters with expensive built in flash without the choice" model options. Whereas Blackberry are allowing you to get however much storage you want at a much lower price than, say, Apple will sell it.

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bazza
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Re: Those updates BB promise....

@Gotno iShit Wantno iShit,

"If not this could be the phone that breaks me of insisting on replaceable battery and an SD slot."

It has an SD card slot, it supports 2TB cards.

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HPE promises users Itanium server refresh next year. In Dutch!

bazza
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HPUX and Itanium, the perfect illustration of how to spend a lot of money buying other companies and then cocking it up.

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New US spy satellite in orbit

bazza
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Nah, aliens have a sense of humour. They'd just jumble up all the satellite orbits, leaving us scratching our heads as to what'd gone wrong the Newtonian / Einsteinian mechanics all of a sudden. And they'd pose for the ultimate out-of-this-world selfies in front of the spy satellites and telescopes, just to show off.

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Tesla's splitting with sensor supplier

bazza
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Re: Getting Distracted

@JeffyPoooh

It's the refueling TIME. It's the remaining lack of locations to recharge. It's the advice to not use the full range of the cells.

Agreed, that's the real killer. Given that the recharging time is long the single charge range matters.

If they made the range really good (1000 miles), that would suit even me, even if it took all night to recharge.

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bazza
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Re: Missing the point

Whilst that may come into being, it misses out one of the key aspects of cars. They're personal spaces, with our stuff in them. We like our personal spaces.

As soon as they're shared they're only as nice as the worst person to have ridden in it since it was clean. That's one of the reasons why people bought cars - to get off the buses and trains and smelly taxi cabs.

It's also a model that may work in a city but doesn't work in the country side.

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bazza
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Re: Getting Distracted

That's a subjective point of view. For many people it's objectively a worse car. Making it so that it is objectively a better car for everyone should be their primary focus.

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bazza
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Re: Getting Distracted

@petur,

Why should one exclude the other?

I think all the extra's come from the fact that it can be done on the platform.

The point is that all the extras can be done on a car powered by any means, petrol, diesel, electric, hybrid. There's nothing about the automation and gadgetry that Tesla have that requires the car to be moved electrically, as Google, BMW, Volvo, etc have demonstrated with their petrol powered demonstrators.

Tesla's key selling point should be that it's electric. I think in practise that's diluted by the addition all the extras. Arguably the automation is a business risk (they might get sued big time if it goes really wrong), and reduces the effort they can put into making it a better electric car (ie more range).

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bazza
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Getting Distracted

“There’s nothing unexpected here from our standpoint … We’re committed to autonomy.

I think Tesla and everyone else is getting distracted by autonomous driving.

What, one wonders, is it that people think they're really buying when they buy a Tesla? Are they buying an electric car with moderately good usability characteristics which goes like stink (that just happens to have fancy cruise control)? Or are they buying a car with a ton of gadgets, a prototype autonomous mode, and a swish app (that just happens to be electric)?

For me, having been in a friend's Tesla, all that gadgetry, connectivity, remote data logging by Tesla, autonomous mode, is seriously off-putting. The entire car has been designed around having that enormous display in the centre console.

To me that demonstrates that Tesla are getting their priorities wrong. It shouldn't be all about what's shown on that screen, what data is collected and logged, what autonomy and gadgetry is made possible with all that on board compute power and all those sensors.

Instead it should be about making a car that goes well and is usable, despite being electric. Goes well? Check. Usable? Well that's still a big 'it depends'. And with drivers of upcoming models not being given the same level of access to Tesla charging points enjoyed by existing drivers, we have to conclude that usability is going to get worse.

My friend is certainly mixed up by it. He likes the gadgets, the app, the data, the autonomous mode and the especially the performance, hates the range anxiety, and in my opinion probably wouldn't have bought the car if it were gadget free. His enjoyment of the performance in it is limited by the fact that the range limitations means he can't go off somewhere to enjoy it. Instead he's limited to the commute, and gets stuck in the traffic just like the rest of us.

In that sense Tesla have got their priorities right - they're making sales that wouldn't have happened otherwise. But they're still not making a profit.

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Cortana expelled from Windows 10's new school editions

bazza
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Re: What about the rest of the telemetry?

Hell, if they remove the telemetry too they'd be making into an "operating system", instead of a data collection tool. Wouldn't that be a novelty!!!

If they did that I'd be queuing up to get hold of the academic version. I think we all would be.

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Tesla's Model S autonomous mode may have saved a life

bazza
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Re: PR stunt

@James Brown (no body),

So, the pedestrians are not walking to the conditions then?

No they're not walking to the conditions: Green Cross Code. Nor are cyclists: Cycling Proficiency Test. Still the owner of the shiny new Tesla is highly motivated to not crash into other road users, careless or not.

A lot of people (mostly townies) seem to get stuck on hazards being caused only by those pedestrians, cyclists, horse riders, farmers and drivers who are not following the rules. And of course to some extent they're right (though I've not once seen badly behaved horse rider).

However for drivers there's plenty of hazards not subject to the rules of the road to worry about. Trust me, wild life is far more prone to running out in front of you than any pedestrian. You don't want to hit a pheasant, fox or a badger, it'll cause a lot of damage. And you really, really don't want to hit a deer; one of those coming at your windscreen will really ruin your day, especially if it ends up inside. You especially don't want to hit a fallen tree - it's an easy way to be killed.

So even if every pedestrian and cyclist was the very model of the perfect road user, you'd still have to drive taking account of the unpredictable pheasants, foxes, badgers, deer and trees that will ruin your day anyway.

Wild Life and Self-Driving Cars

This is probably going to be a major problem for true self driving cars that require no passenger oversight. A deer jumping out in front of a speeding self driving car is a major health hazard to the car's occupants. The car manufacturer will have to take account of that in the software that will decide how quickly the car will drive itself down a country road. And a car is no more capable of seeing through hedges and undergrowth than a human driver.

So a self driving car almost certainly would drive itself far more slowly down that road than any human driver ever choose to. Reason: it'd be hard for a company like Tesla or Google to defend choosing a road speed of 60mph down a country lane if that has led to passengers being killed by a deer. No passenger oversight means the manufacturer is liable. They won't take the risk, whereas actual human drivers routinely do.

But if a self driving car ends up driving itself timidly down that road, it's going to be a very frustrating experience for the passengers. It's bad enough getting stuck behind the slowest car in the world when you're driving home from work, etc. Think how frustrating it'll be if the car has a mind of its own and refuses to put its foot down despite there being an empty road in front of it, just in case there is a deer lurking in the shadows.

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bazza
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Re: @Bazza: PR stunt

@Jay,

Ooi here (rural, middle of Devon), it is not unusual for dick head cyclists (dressed in black, no lights on) to ride down the middle of their lane, on a not terribly wide B road, so should my wife and I always drive at 20mph just in case one of these idiots is just in front of us around a blind bend?

It's up to you. If your willing to drive round a blind bend at 60mph and run into whatever happens to be there, you'll be hoping it's something soft and not a tractor. That'd be a bad day, mostly for you. All the crumple zones in the world won't help you if it's got its bale forks on the front.

Tip: us cyclists aren't soft at 60mph, and we're at a handy windscreen height and come with sharp bits of metal attached. Want one squashing the airbag back into your face as they come through the windscreen of your low slung Tesla/whatever? Drive carefully.

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bazza
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Re: PR stunt

I think the point is that this saved a life by acting when the human failed to do so.

Then by definition the driver was driving too fast for the conditions. I don't know about the US, but in the UK that's an offence and could be costly. Admitting as such in public would be asking for the police to start a prosecution, backed up by the very data that Tesla are collecting and publicising.

Data collection may be great for Tesla and data nerds, but it can also be used against drivers put up in front of a Judge on a charge.

Teslas are virtually silent when moving. A friend who has one has had to get used to pedestrians and cyclists not hearing him. Everyone is so used to hearing cars and lorries that a lot of people don't look before they walk. Pedestrians don't hear bicycles either, and they get hit by bicycle all the time... Perhaps in this case the pedestrian simply didn't hear the Tesla coming.

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Fear not, humanity – Saint Elon has finished part two of his world-saving 'master plan'

bazza
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Re: Tesla's answer to Uber

He maybe won't get that greedy, but it'll never happen anyway.

Whilst sharing one's car Uber style whilst one is at work, etc. sounds cool, there's a lot of problems. The owner of the car would be legally liable for its condition. There's no getting round that. If it crashes because some autopilot sensor hasn't been cleaned, the owner carries the can (not Tesla, not the passenger). In fact, any incident would probably descend into a dispute between Tesla and the owner, dirty sensors or not...

And the other issue is personal space; a car is a personal space. We all leave things lying around, sunglasses, maybe a bit of money, the camera in the glove box that we forgot to take out after the weekend, etc. What's to stop any of that getting pinched by passengers whilst the car is off on its own touting for custom?

It's a pipe dream. We're no where near having a fully autonomous and completely reliable self driving car. Musk is in dreamland if he thinks his engineers can actually deliver such a system any time soon. We can't make airliners that can fly themselves (arguably all we've achieved is to have raised a generation of pilots who can't fly either), UAVs crash all the time, etc. The only thing we do have is autonomous trains, which succeed solely because they run on rails and there's nothing to get in the way.

Besides, people will soon go off the idea of sharing their own car with someone else whilst they're not in it once a drunk has puked up in the back. Self cleaning car? I don't think so.

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If managing PCs is still hard, good luck patching 100,000 internet things

bazza
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Re: Oh for Goodness Sake

Absolutely.

I've tinkered with a few things. Nest thermostat is semi-useful. It's nice to get the house warmed up after a few weeks away by switching it back on whilst I'm still in the airport. The Yale burglar alarm is OK up to a point - clunky software but it works, but fundamentally does nothing more than an SMS capable alarm. The Belkin WeMo things suffer from unreliability (the Android app for it is particularly vile and unreliable) but coupled with IFTTT can be made to switch things off when you leave the house. Won't switch them back on though despite my best efforts with IFTTT rules. IOT lights are really annoying; a light switch is far quicker. And if the light switch is off, naturally you can't turn them back on with your mobile. Kettles? Fridges? Cookers? Can't see the point.

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Guilt by ASN: Compiler's bad memory bug could sting mobes, cell towers

bazza
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Re: wow

Hmm, I'm not sure that selection of Objective System's tools would count as going with the lowest bidder. Choosing one of the crummy toolsets for ASN.1 would be that.

Looking at the advisory reveals that the bug affects their C/C++ toolset. That'll be the one in mobile phones, etc. I've used that one quite extensively too, though not with my current employer, but generally found the experience to be good. I hope former chums are keeping their eyes peeled...

And whilst the advisory explores the behaviour of the code on Windows, that runtime compiles up from a common source code base for every platform. So the bug will likely be present on anything that uses C/C++. That area of the runtime is also very ancient now, so I expect it's affects far more than this single version of the code.

The one good thing is that that toolset has been very stable for a long time, In theory fixing affected products is simply a case of upgrading and recompiling. I'm not anticipating any remedial coding work being required by developers who have used it.

ASN.1 remains one of the most useful old technologies out there. It leaves Google Protocol Buffers standing (in fact GPB are slowly adopting most of the useful features found in ASN.1). The only other serialisation technologies that are roughly comparable are XSD (XML schemas) and JSON schemas. Why? These three are the only ones where it is possible to define size and value constraints on message fields.

If used, size and value constraints allow one to automatically defend oneself against buffer overruns, etc. Ironic, isn't it?

(ps. I don't work and haven't worked for Objective Systems).

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Brit chip biz ARM legs it to Softbank for $32bn

bazza
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"Not really - the shareholders have to decide in the end and could easily be open to a bigger offer. It's the board's job to get the best value for the owners."

I know I know. But Intel would have to react extremely quickly indeed, and make an immediate and unbelievably good offer. Big enough to encourage shareholders to run the gauntlet of a Competition Commission inquiry instead of walking away right now with an extra unexpected $10billion in their pockets.

Especially with a new PM just in post who has expressed a distaste for ownership of firms going abroad. There's no obvious anti-competitive concern with Softbank's acquisition, but there sure as hell would be if Intel tried to buy ARM. Softbank's offer looks like a dead-cert $10billion profit for shareholders. An Intel offer would be a risky-as-hell profit, and no one is likely to turn down Softbank's already very generous offer and risk losing out altogether.

Intel would have to offer something substantially above $32billion in cash, and that'd be a huge and risky proposition for Intel right now.

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bazza
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Re: Apple will never own ARM (again)

It's already fairly normal in big deals to have terms to cover situations like that. IPR matters to both sides in a licensing deal, and it's not unusual for IPR to be held in escrow in case the IPR owner vanishes off the face of the earth, etc.

The fact that ARM's board are recommending this deal to their shareholders suggests that whatever the licensing terms are, IPR transfer to licensees on takeover isn't in there. That would have made ARM very unattractive for a takeover, and it would have emerged during the due-diligence that's no doubt been going on in the recent past.

Oh, and I think Apple (and Qualcomm, Microsoft, Marvell and Texas Instruments) all have a "Foundry" license, which does allow them to make changes to the ARM architecture. It's the reason why Apple can put a separate security processor deep into the heart of their chips.

Of all of these, Microsoft are the ones that I think have wasted that investment. With the ability to tinker with the architecture at a very deep level one can define a complete ecosystem (boot, peripherals, buses, etc). Now whilst Microsoft have done that for mobiles they haven't done it for servers which is where the real money is likely to come from for them, and if they don't hurry up then Qualcomm and a bunch of others will leave them standing.

p.s. @DougS, not sure why anyone's downvoting you on that, it all certainly matters a great deal to Apple.

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bazza
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So if IoT and the ARM server market do take off, ARM could do very well out of that. It might simply be a case of Softbank seeing vast future profits ahead for ARM and fancy a piece of the action.

With ARM under Japanese control, it does give Japan an interesting strategic position. ARM could equally have been purchased by a Chinese manufacturer, and that wouldn't necessarily have been good news for Japanese chip designers and phone manufacturers. There's a lot of regional politics out in that part of the world... Access to ARM core designs arguably is very important to Japan, and there's nothing like owning the company to guarantee that. We'll get to see how important if the Chinese government starts complaining about the deal, or if Chinese manufacturers start fiddling the license fee payments.

Oh, and Fujitsu's next supercomputer might be a tiny bit cheaper if Softbank cut them a deal on the license fee...

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bazza
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Re: Do I get a vote?

With an offer of 50% premium on the closing share price? I think the Institutionals will agree with the deal. It's a lot of money right now, vs a slow-ish but steady income for the long run.

Plus depending on how Softbank do it, they might simply acquire enough shares to completely control the company (90%?), and any hold-outs will then find themselves being issued a compulsory purchase order, possibly at far less advantageous rates.

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bazza
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Re: Uh oh.

Who knows. Japanese companies can be very conservative in their approach to innovation, etc. ARM haven't exactly been idle on the innovation front, but they've also been very careful to stick to what they know - CPU design and licensing, and could also be considered a conservative company.

It might turn out to be a reasonably good fit, especially as it's clearly not a merger between two CPU design outfits (Softbank have nothing else like ARM in their portfolio). It might be that Softbank will simply leave ARM to get on with it.

What would be a problem is if Softbank have borrowed heavily to buy ARM, and then saddle ARM with that debt. That would be a bad thing.

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bazza
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I'm not sure that Softbank are really a direct competitor to Intel, so I don't see exactly what the difference is at the moment.

Sure, if Intel had any designs of their own on acquiring ARM, those plans have just become a lot harder. By the time Intel's bods wake up in America, the deal will likely be done here in the UK, so they'll miss out.

Not that anyone would have let Intel buy ARM. Nor Apple, Samsung, etc. That would have been too obviously anti-competitive, and not even the blindest of Competition Commissions would have let that one go past.

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bazza
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Dunno what the plan is. The guy who runs Softbank is no fool - bought a $20 million stake in Alibaba, which is know worth $65 billion. Lucky?!

Softbank runs a mobile network and, because of how the Japanese mobile market works, is therefore a major vendor of phones. Those phones will be marginally cheaper for Softbank as they can refund themselves the license fee for the ARM core that'll be inside. But not £24 billion cheaper.

The IOT thing sounds more like it. The Japanese love their gadgets, and if IOT is ever going to really take off anywhere it will be their.

Then there's the ARM server market - if that explodes (like it's threatening to do) then ARM could become really big indeed.

6
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Dear Tesla, stop calling it autopilot – and drivers are not your guinea pigs

bazza
Silver badge

"We will continue to develop, validate, and release those enhancements as the technology grows. While we appreciate well-meaning advice from any individual or group, we make our decisions on the basis of real-world data, not speculation by media."

That's a brave statement considering that regulators are seemingly unimpressed by the performance of things like Autopilot. With statements like that it seems Tesla are wilfully ignoring the Human Factors aspects of such a thing.

What I don't get is why on earth Tesla are risking all with Autopilot. Their main thing is half-decent practical electric cars, yet they're willing to take a huge commercial risk on Autopilot, something that their main technology doesn't need or benefit from at all.

Google are nearly as bad, saved by the fact that they're not openly selling cars to the public. "Woohoo, self driving car" they say in demos, ads, papers, trials, and as much publicity as they can generate, yet in the small print they say "you have to be paying attention and will have to take control at short notice"... So not self driving at all then. Most people are believing and responding to the publicity, but have no idea about about actual constraints on the technology. If it wasn't for the strict rules imposed by the State of California (CA published the trials data) we'd not be told that actually it's pretty unreliable at the moment.

The only company doing it properly is Volvo, who at the outset of their development programme said Volvo is aiming for a system where Volvo have the liability, ie a true self driving car. Good for them.

14
1

Salesforce bins all Android phones bar Nexii and Galaxies

bazza
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Re: This is probably about the OS

@Mark Dempster,

"I don't think there ever was a PC standard set;"

There was the PC System Design Guides, see this Wikipedia Article. PC98 set out a lot of the standard hardware, things like ACPI, how PXE boot should work, how plug'n'play worked, etc. The tables of contents at OpenLibrary is quite revealing. That lot coupled with a few chipsets from the likes of Intel, AMD, NVIDIA, etc. made PC hardware what it is today (basically it's all PC2001, just evolved a bit), whilst still allowing a diversity of devices. Pretty useful stuff, actually.

What makes Apple's machines different is that they don't really follow everyone else's common understanding of what makes a PC a PC.

If you think that remembering MCA shows your age, forgetting PC-98 shows worrying signs of a different sort...

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bazza
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Re: This is probably about the OS

This is Android fragmentation coming home to roost.

It certainly is. I'm faintly surprised they decided to support such a wide range of Samsung's devices...

It's a pity that Google didn't set an Android hardware standard, in the same way that the PC architecture is standard and MS phones are standard. A hardware standard would have enabled a sane update system. That's worked well in PCs benefiting both Windows and Linux, and (albeit within a tiny, tiny portion of the wider market) reasonably well on Windows phones.

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bazza
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And there was me thinking that Android was the same everywhere.

How much is this like Oracle stopping support for HP's Itanium? There's currently a big law suit between those two companies.

So does Google's T&Cs for the Play Store fail to oblige app developers to support all Android within a set range of versions? If it doesn't then HTC, Sony, etc can justifiably complain to Google (who they have to pay to get access to Play Services, etc) that Google aren't doing anything to ensure a level playing field for all members of the Android community.

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Facebook deleted my post and made me confirm pics of my kids weren't sexually explicit

bazza
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Re: It's not your platform and you are not a customer

I think you're missing the point. Facebook is gradually discovering that it has responsibility (like real, corporate and ultimately financial responsibility) for what is published on its website.

However, unlike a newspaper it has very poor editorial control, and its automated attempts to regulate content are unlikely to be 100% successful. The financial health of the company depends on them successfully limiting content without appearing (from the point of view of ordinary folk) to do so, otherwise people will simply stop using it.

So the real question is, is Facebook a company worth owning shares in? Probably not in the long run. Same with Google, Twitter and the other freeloaders. Privacy regulators and competition authorities will one day catch up and make it effectively impossible to run such services anonymously for free through data mining.

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Huge double boxset of Android patches lands after Qualcomm disk encryption blown open

bazza
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Re: Everything is just

You may decide to become a luddite, but unfortunately unless the entire rest of the world (your bank, the shops, the power company, etc) follow then you'd be just as vulnerable. And you'd only know about the End of Civilisation As We Know It after it's happened. At least the rest of us would get a Tweet or something to warn us...

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Linux letting go: 32-bit builds on the way out

bazza
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Most Linux distros went 64 bit many years ago. MS Windows is so far behind in this area because of third party software.

Huh, what? MS have done a good job of making the choice between 32 and 64 bit largely irrelevant. There's so much software that doesn't need to be 64 bit, so why bother compiling it for 64 bit? Especially as MS have made it painless for end users to mix both on their 64 bit PC.

The only performance advantage with 64 bit software is that the SSE part of Intel processors give you more floating point registers in a 64 bit process than a 32 bit process running on the same chip gets. This is probably an artificial constraint Intel designed in to make their early 64 bit CPUs look a lot faster than their 32 bit ones, a marketing drive to make 32 bit generally look obsolete and undesirable. And judging by your post, that marketing worked.

11
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Uber opens up on Oz deactivation policies, just a little

bazza
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Re: Is that a death knell?

Could be. Plus there's the problem that it makes Uber look less and less like a ride broker and more like an employer and a regular taxi firm.

In which case it will become harder for them to avoid all the regulatory overhead associated with normal taxi companies, the thing that they've been desperate to avoid.

That's the problem with the 'sharing' economy. As people start trying to earn a living from it the business starts looking like an exploitative employer, not a friendly broker.

Uber used to be about sharing your drive to work. Is it still possible to use it that way, or do they now expect you to be a full time driver for them?

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InfiniBand-on-die MIA in Oracle's new 'Sonoma' Sparc S7 processor

bazza
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Re: Meh.

SPARC is clearly still viable as a business proposition; Oracle must still be making money out of the range if they're willing to develop new variants. So, no demise in sight yet.

Wrt to Intel vs ARM; the fatal blow in that fight was struck by ARM a long time ago. That blow was ARM's launch of their licensing model for a cheap and effective low power 32 bit CPU core, and carrying that over to 64 bit designs suitable for use in server applications.

I say fatal; it's not killed Intel yet, but it's going to kill them one day and there's nothing they can do about it. They can survive by building their own Arm CPUs, but then ARM would have won.

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1

Looking good, Gnome: Digesting the Delhi in our belly

bazza
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Re: Dead Parrot

Almost the same here - I finally got pissed off when the calculator no longer had a memory function.

They decided that a calculator doesn't need a memory function? I'm astonished.

Whatever next? Perhaps they'll decide that no one needs to be able to copy/paste in a text editor, or use the letter Z anywhere.

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bazza
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Batch Renames?

From the article:

"Even more exciting, there's a plan in the works to add a batch renaming feature to Nautilus in GNOME 3.22. That's right, not an improved existing feature but an actual new feature. Grab your coats."

Those of us old enough to remember Xtree Gold and who are now probably using the excellent clone of it for modern Windows OSes Ztree Bold" look at Nautilus (and Windows Explorer and Finder and a whole load of others) with disdain. Batch renaming a new feature? My arse - we could do that all the way back in 1985, in DOS with XTree.

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2

PM resigns as Britain votes to leave EU

bazza
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@Fink-Nottle,

Been meaning to ask, how are the newts? I trust they're basking contentedly!

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US Senate strikes down open-access FBI hacking warrant by just one honest vote

bazza
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Re: So ...

Go the other way... they could still save a bundle by buying their data from Google. Maybe a merger?

The name could be Goofbigle.

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