* Posts by bazza

1926 posts • joined 23 Apr 2008

Windows 7's grip on the enterprise desktop is loosening

bazza
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If they'd made Windows 10...

...more like Windows 7 (no slurping, no child-like flat graphics from the bad old days of limited colour pallet, no Metro at all anywhere), it's share would be far higher.

Win 10 is gaining share partly by ripping Win 7 from the grasping, clawing hands (through forced upgrades) of frustrated users who don't want to lose Win 7. Frustrated users are less likely to give MS money in the future than happy users. C'mon MS, what does it matter what license we buy? Stop cocking about and sell what people actually want, rather than forcibly give them something they don't want.

If MS say that Win 10 is on 270 million devices, that sounds a bit like the total PC sales count for the year Win X has been out. Does that mean that PC sales have really bombed, or have most people managed to resist the forced upgrade?

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FreeBSD 10.3 lands

bazza
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Re: Who uses FreeBSD in preference to Linux and why?

@massivelyserial,

That's one way to spin it. Another is that Sun intentionally released it under a sketchy assed licence to ensure GPL incompatibility.

Ah careful there, that's a touch of the old licensing-related moralistic rectitude showing through there.

Sun gave their code away under a license of their choosing, just the same as any other open source creator. Being the originator of something gives you the privilege of choosing. That's the way the world works.

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bazza
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Re: Who uses FreeBSD in preference to Linux and why?

A really quick look for market share shows nearly 2% of http servers running a BSD based OS. There is reason to hope that crackers will focus on the mass market.

Security through obscurity may get laughed at, but it's difficult to pull off a convincing laugh when oneself has been hacked and the weird guy with the what-in-the-hell-is-that OS is running quite happily totally unaffected.

In Ian M Bank's series of Culture novels the Mind-run spaceships are described as having written their own OSes specifically to ensure that they're all different to make the fleet as a whole unhackable. Seems like the world of technology is gradually catching up with that good idea!

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Tesla books over $8bn in overnight sales claims Elon Musk

bazza
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Re: Great looking but...

My country's National Grid hasn't got the capacity to generate or deliver enough electricity to run the nation's cars if they were all electric.

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Furious English villagers force council climbdown over Satan's stone booty

bazza
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Re: Technically the stone is an obstruction in the public highway

Indeed, I bet if they removed it they'd be putting in traffic calming speed bumps within the year.

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bazza
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I like my brick.

(obligatory Father Jack reference)

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Bash on Windows. Repeat, Microsoft demos Bash on Windows

bazza
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Re: It will have the same limitations

@AC,

"VMS can do lots of UNIXy things, and used to be able to do more. Things like fork() aren't so easy because of the process+memory model on VMS, but lots of stuff worked well enough back in the days when VMS Integrated POSIX was around. Sufficiently well for VMS to get X/Open branding as a UNIX compatible OS.

Then VMS Integrated POSIX was withdrawn. The tales about customers wanting vendor independence through open systems were just that - tales. What lots of customers really wanted was cheap to buy (and never mind the lifetime costs)."

Of course a big driver of all that was the US Department of Defence, the organisation to whom a lot is owed for their mandating of open standards for defence equipment. On the software front it was POSIX; you couldn't sell to the military unless it supported POSIX or was written for it. [On the hardware side it was things like VME, and equipment is still available even today]. That forced vendors to support these standards, and now we all simply take it for granted.

This has been genuinely useful. Code for, say, radar systems written around POSIX has been recompiled several times over the last few decades on newer hardware. Indeed some of the better equipment vendors have carried over the idea of API stability to their own specialised libraries, and this has done very well for them in the military equipment market.

That was an absolute, inviolate requirement for a while, until the DoD relaxed a lot. For example desktop PCs in offices were never likely to have to support running a ship's radar processing, so a POSIX runtime in Windows became non-essential for DoD desktop sales. [And then they did Windows for Warships, but that's another story...]. I'm surprised the POSIX runtime survived in Windows as long as it did...

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bazza
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Re: Microsoft (re-)Invents Mingw32 and Cygwin

No.

If anything, CYGWIN merely replicated the old Services for Unix.

This is a system call shim, not a runtime environment. I presume the loader has also changed so as to recognise ELF binaries. A system call shim is a much thinner layer than a whole runtime, and (depending on the number of system calls they've implemented) means that an entire Linux userland could be plonked on top of Windows and run unmodified, unrecompiled, etc.

System call shims aren't new. Solaris has had a Linux system call shim for a long time, and QNX also has one. Though in their cases it's much easier - the underlying OSes aren't so very different to Linux (e.g. they implement select() properly - Windows doesn't).

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bazza
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Re: How complete will it be ?

Arrrggghhh! What a horrible thought! How am I supposed to get that mind worm out of my brain now?

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bazza
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Right?

"So what they've basically done is resurrect Services for Unix and change it to Linux?"

Wrong. SFU was a Unix runtime. To use it you had to compile software specifically for it, and it was primarily focused on making unixy services (nfs, etc) available on Windows.

This is a system call shim, something completely different and is aimed at allowing userland applications to run unmodified.

Linux system call shims have been done before. Solaris and QNX both have one.

Now what I want to know is do Linux process limits still apply? In Linux you can typically open 1024 file descriptors in a process. I understood that the equivalent limit in Windows was rather less.

And how have they emulated select() and epoll(). The way cygwin had to do it was very poor - a polling thread per file descriptor. This was because the Win32 API they had available just doesn't do a select() properly, and that's because fundamentally the OS and it's device drivers cannot do it. So how have MS changed that?

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Microsoft's Brad Smith on encryption: Let the politicians decide

bazza
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It could be that if the US legislators get it wrong it may be impossible for some sorts of American tech companies to do global business. Companies like Google, Apple, Facebook, MS, Amazon.

For Google and Facebook and maybe MS they have the option of leaving the US altogether. MS are even conveniently by the Canadian border... But Amazon and Apple rely on physical premises, meaning they can't completely 'leave'.

The first iPhone was GSM, mostly because that met the global market whilst CDMA/CDMA2000 didn't. So at least one of these companies has form in ignoring the US market.

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Apple's fruitless rootless security broken by code that fits in a tweet

bazza
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Re: Not clear

@AC,

"Hang on a second - are you genuinely stating here that Apple does not protect consumers? As far as I can tell, they still offer the safest platform out there right now for people who are NOT experts or deep digging technologists. A bug has been found in SIP, fine, that needs fixing. But a Unix + SIP is still a level up from a Unix *without* SIP, unless you want to hold Apple to a different standard as the rest."

Er, I think that the point really is that whilst SIP in theory has some benefit in looking after a non-technical user, in practice making that protection bullet proof is very difficult and, consequently, the advertised protection is illusory. It may be effective in stopping a user accidentally cocking things up even if they try quite hard, but that's a different use case to stopping malicious code causing havoc.

As I understand it, as the article points, out it took years for the Unix crowd to get it right, and all they were doing was trying to lock down the single binary that would elevate your privileges to root if you knew the password. All it had to do was one thing, and it took ages to get that right. Finding the bugs was like looking for a needle in a sewing box.

What Apple have apparently done is to imbue whole swathes of the OS's binaries with super-root powers, and unless they're all completely locked down too then they represent a hole in SIP's defences. That's not impossible, but just the shear amount of effort involved in ensuring that they're all bug free makes it unlikely that they've got it completely right. Finding all the bugs is going to be like looking for a needle in a hay stack, and Apple have gone and installed a whole load of haystacks.

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bazza
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Re: Not clear

@diodesign,

"Holy shit, some of you haven't read the article or understood it."

Oh come on, splutter splutter splutter (that's the cuppa tea gone south), how long have you been writing for El Reg?!?!? "Commentards on public forum fail to comprehend article shocker"?

Besides, it's theregister.co.uk, which means there's going to be a high background level of ironic humour, some of it possibly found in your own post :-)

Really we're just all playing nicely, nodding wisely, and gratefully absorbing the sage wisdom of this esteemed organ's journalistic output (sorry - getting all Private Eye there), and putting off the moment when we really do have to go and do the washing up. We are all really most very grateful :-)

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Love our open API? Talk to our lawyers, says If This Then That

bazza
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Re: Seriously?

Well if they can't raise cash somehow from their service then they may very well fuck off and die. Then they won't be there anymore, and we all lose something then.

Free to use isn't the same as cost free, and without funding who's going to pay their bills? This isn't necessarily a good way of monetising their business, but I can't see a paid for service working commercially for IFTTT either.

The way things are going our data will have been scrapped for advertising hints by so many outfits on its way to us there'll be little point in it being private. Might as well send it en clair and let commercial advertisers tap our home Internet connection... Would that really be any different to how we use and pay for Google, IFTTT, Facebook, etc, etc?

Amazon, Netflix, etc are different - there's a good reason to give them actual money. Thus they could offer Google-like or IFTTT-like services as a fringe benefit without any of the nasty intrusion. That sounds pretty appealing to me.

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US govt says it has cracked killer's iPhone, legs it from Apple fight

bazza
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Re: Why is it not a good outcome for Apple?

@Doug S

"Had they appealed up to the Supreme Court and lost, they (and many other US tech companies) would be in a bind. If they won, they would be in no better position than they are today."

Depends on one's point of view. The possibility that the FBI will make a similar request in the future is quite high (and getting higher, if Apple's security really does go up), and the matter is currently unresolved. Nobody wants that prospect lurking in the background forever, it'd be better for everyone if it were settled one way or the other.

As things stand the next time this case comes up it might be impossible for Apple to resist; the FBI may have far stronger reasons next time than they did this time. And then the precedent would be set not in Apple's favour.

If Apple were ever to take a chance to settle the matter in the way they wanted, this was the best opportunity. Everyone seemed to think the FBI had a weak hand. But they now cannot do that, even if they wanted to; the case is shelved.

"The fact that the FBI got at the data doesn't really hurt them. Basically from the public point of view, the FBI had a LOT of trouble getting at the data so the phone is more than secure enough for their needs, since most of us wouldn't have the level of resources directed at breaking into our phones that the FBI was putting forth for this one."

Well there's an odd thing. If as you suggest people are happy with the idea that FBI can get into their phones so long as there's some kind of barrier, why wouldn't they be happy with Apple being that barrier to access? They already are for iCloud accounts. It feels like a contradiction. Has Apple actually gone and asked any of their customers if they'd be OK with Apple being a gatekeeper like the one they already are?

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bazza
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Re: Do as we ask...

This is not really a good outcome from Apple's point of view.

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Intel tock blocked for good: Tick-tock now an oom-pah-pah waltz

bazza
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Re: Beginning of the end for Intel?

Hello Ken Hagan,

"Intel's original floating point model hasn't seen light of day for about a decade, having been superseded by SSE2. Both integer and floating point arithmetic models have been evolving since the mid-90s with MMX and various other TLAs. A modern desktop chip also devotes more than half its area to an integrated streaming processor that owes nothing to x86."

It's OK now, but the evolution of SSE has been a bit rubbish. It took them absolutely ages to include some fairly fundamental instructions like a fused multiply-add.

MMX / SSE was for a long time an ever changing thing and was consequently very hard to develop for. About the only way to use it was to use Intel's IPP/MKL libraries, where Intel had put in the effort to account for the different versions of SSE that your application would encounter in the field. And this costs money. To not use it meant taking on the huge job of writing versions of your software for SSE2, SSE3, SSE4, SSE4.2, etc. Unsurprisingly, very few did.

In comparison, Altivec (the equivalent to SSE on PowerPC and POWER processors) was right first time. Motorola put the right instructions into it and didn't keep changing it. So people actually wrote software to use it. For example, in the overlap between PowerPC and Intel Macs, Photoshop was far quicker on PowerPC because Adobe had actually exploited Altivec pretty well.

<u>Itanium</u>

Itanium was slightly popular in the high performance computing world because it always had a fused multiply-add in it. I saw the addition of FMA to X64's SSE as being the signal that Intel had truly given up on Itanium; there was absolutely nothing left to recommend Itanic over x64.

"To be fair, everyone else's chips are the same. x86 lost the ISA wars against the RISC chips, but Intel responded with the ISA-less Pentium Pro and ISA hasn't mattered since then."

Almost, but importantly, not quite everyone. ARMs are ARMs, there's no microcode (at least not in the same sense as x86's). You get 48,000 transistors running the ARM op codes, and there's no real instruction translation.

It's important because of the transistor count - only 48,000. An equivalent x86 core needs several million to get the same performance (translation, pipelines, etc. etc), so it's not surprising that ARM wins on power consumption.

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bazza
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Re: @Golcd Conversely though

@a non e-mouse,

"Intel are being squeezed. At one end, ARM is doing (very) low power for good enough performance. At the high end, GPUs are doing the heavy parallel number crunching. What's left for Intel? They're now looking to integrate FPGAs onto the CPU die. How many people will need that?"

You've forgotten Xeon Phi. This is a true monster of a chip. The next one is a true CPU, not a coprocessor. And it's got about the same grunt as Nvidia's best GPU.

Being a CPU it has a lot of advantages over Nvidia's GPU - you don't have to load data over a PCIe bus. That will mean it's peak performance is easier to sustain, so in real world applications it will probably be faster than a GPU.

And being just a bunch of X86 (well, more importantly, SSE. The x86 bit is largely irrelevant) cores it is a little easier to exploit.

It's not quite as elegant as the great, late and lamented Cell processor, but it'll do.

"Microsoft saw this coming. They spent loads on a smart phone OS, a billion advertising it, over a billion propping up Nokia and more buying out the burned out shell. All because Microsoft knew that being dominant on the desktop will be the equivalent of being the dominant supplier of abacuses next decade."

I don't think MS have seen the future at all. They nearly did, and 7 year's ago had an opportunity to start defining an ARM server architecture. They did mobile instead, and now Qualcomm, AMD, etc are leading the way in ARM servers with Windows Server utterly unprepared to exploit them. No wonder they're porting stuff to Linux, because that's faster than getting Windows Server running on ARM and getting all their server applications moved too.

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Apple mulled gobbling its Brit GPU designers – but didn't like the taste

bazza
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Re: allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

Buying PA Semi didn't work out as intended though. The acquired staff didn't like being Apple drones, left, set up another start up called Agnilux, got bought by Google. For all I know they then probably retired in comfort having twice been given enormous sums of cash by major outfits for their company, and now reminisce about the good old days of DEC Alpha.

Sounds like another example of a big tech company driving too hard a bargain with a smaller company who basically had no choice but to go along with a stingy deal. GPU designer to Apple; that ought to be a recipe for commercial success. Bit like sapphire glass screens?

If Apple want the staff they'd best buy quickly - the good ones will be walking out the door v smartish if they think their employer is in trouble.

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True believers mind-meld FreeBSD with Ubuntu to burn systemd

bazza
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Re: Debian GNU/kFreeBSD

@keithpeter,

"Quote from Wikipedia stub article at

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Debian_GNU/kFreeBSD

"Debian GNU/kFreeBSD was discontinued as an officially supported platform as of Debian 8.0."

I wish the project luck, but I wonder how wide the uptake will be. Most BSD* people prefer to use their own tool chain rather than the GNU one. Also watch out for launchd!"

Oh no! There's even more combinations of stuff out there than I thought possible!!!!!

Isn't variety wonderful? Though it is occasionally a pain in the arse... Anyway, lets see if I can think of some weird ones: Gnome on top of a Windows kernel? The way MS are heading perhaps that's where they'll go, but would that actually be an improvement? Cinnamon on top of OS-X? OS/2 Shell on top of Free BSD?

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bazza
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And ZFS too. It solves two major developmental problems that are holding up Linux's progress.

Some see SystemD as being important, but really it's just tinkering at the edges. Who cares how neatly system startup is managed when the network stack and file systems you end up with don't cut the mustard any more.

If this gets any traction it could be a big threat to Linux's current popularity, and the Linux kernel guys might not be able to react quickly enough in response. Everyone wants better network stacks, better file systems, etc because ultimately they save money. Some of the reasons why Linux is "stuck" is GPL2. This development could underline how problematic that can be.

There's also bound to be the weird prospect of someone complaining about GPL code being contaminated by or linked to none GPL licensed FreeBSD code.

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Apple engineers rebel, refuse to work on iOS amid FBI iPhone battle

bazza
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Re: The end of Apple

@Dave 126,

"The Chinese (corporations and government) are more interested in corporate and strategic espionage."

Sure. And if you worked for a corporation or did business with a corporation, don't you think they'd be interested in you?

"So they would be interested in what was on the HDD of a US aerospace engineer, but not too bothered about Mrs Trellis's (of North Wyoming) holiday snaps."

And without taking a sneaky peak first, how do you think they'd tell the difference? Look them up on LinkedIn?

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bazza
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Re: The end of Apple

@AC,

"In addition, it appears your view of judges and the legal system is, umm, in need of development - just to give you a small hint, the "burden" argument DOES translate into monetary aspects."

You're totally missing the point. It may indeed translate into lost profit for Apple, but on no account should anyone, least of all Apple, presume that a Judge will consider that to be the most important issue being considered. So far they haven't, or else this order would not be getting argued about. Judges balance issues, that's their job, and so far they've decided that money loses.

Apple's approach to dealing with it is quite fraught with danger. By saying (more loudly this time) that money does matter they're arguing that law-n-order matters less. That's not going to sit particularly well with a Judge.

I'm not saying this is a good situation - it's terrible. No one, not Apple, FBI, etc. is doing the US population any favours at the moment.

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bazza
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Re: The end of Apple

@AC,

"That is a meaningless statement. What Apple has done is what countless companies, engineers, cryptographers and others have been doing for longer than we have the Internet: protecting information. "

No it's not, it's a completely meaningful statement. Go and ask Facebook what they're doing now to make amends for having been caught allegedly hosting a load of child pornography in private groups by the BBC, apparently for quite a long time. Do you think their response would be a public "We're doing nothing about it", or are they "Improving our systems to ensure this never happens again"?

These companies cannot afford to become silos and conduits for illegal, unsavory and dangerous content. Let that happen too much and executives risk going to jail. Now that they're getting so much better at "protecting information" only they can police that information. Ask yourself the following. Of all the data held by Apple, Facebook or whoever, what is the socially acceptable percentage for child pornography? The correct answer is 0%.

The FBI/NSA's snooping of old may or may not have been legal, but it did have the effect of doing the data policing on behalf of the companies.

"As far as I know, harming many people at once is a terrorist modus operandi so I want to know why the f*ck the FBI is now supporting terrorists."

I'm not convinced your train of thought that leads you to that conclusion is sound.

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bazza
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Re: The end of Apple

@Captina DaFt,

A. For most people in the US, China has little to no interest in spying on them 24/7. Unlike the US Government."

Are you kidding? The Chinese government would love to be able to tap into any US phone any time they wanted. Why else do you think there is so much concern over allowing Huawei to supply core network switches in the American market?

They do that inside China already (where they have complete control of everything), I can't imagine they'd pass up the opportunity else where.

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bazza
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Re: The end of Apple

@Doctor Syntax,

"No it wouldn't. The greater part of the burden would be the loss of reputation, a point the OP made & which you've ignored."

Well, to pay attention to that aspect of the OP's point, it will still be difficult for Apple to sustain such an argument. They would be arguing, to a Judge no less, that assisting a criminal investigation will do significant damage to their commercial outlook.

I can't think of a less likely person to win over with such an argument as a Judge. They very much are Law and Order personified and Apple's argument would be close to a personal insult against the Judge. That's asking for a rapid finding in favour of the FBI and a strong rebuke from the Judge.

Even if a Judge were to think about it twice, they would set the (dubious) projections of Apple's commercial losses in the US against the minimal impact this will have on their Global reputation. Assisting the Police With Their Enquiries is a social expectation in most other democratic countries. Apple's reputation would be damaged if they didn't comply with a similar request in the UK for instance. And the Judge would find that, globally speaking, Apple's business would hardly notice.

And even if the Judge did acknowledge that maybe Apple would lose a few sales in the USA they would likely conclude their Order would also apply equally to Apple's rivals (Android, etc). Relative to the market Apple would suffer no impairment whatsoever.

The FBI have been pretty clever with this one, even if they are making fools of themselves with MS.

This is all part of what happens when a company finds that locking out Law Enforcement agencies means that they're taking on the role themselves. Policing of content has to happen for the protection of innocents, and if the cops aren't allowed to do it, the company probably will have to.

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How to make the trains run on time? Satellites. That's how

bazza
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Re: Fail-Safe

The question is whether such tracking engenders fail-safe operation of the railways.

So long as it's done right, yes. Generally speaking you need everything to fail safe when the radio craps out, and not depend on radio to propagate the fail safe network-wide.

So if an emergency stop signal for a train is delivered by radio, that won't work. The signal may not arrive.

However if the train stops automatically if the radio craps out, that's better, so long as the signalling separation gives everything else time to realise there's a problem before one train hits another.

My biggest worry over things like this is that it's putting a lot of eggs in one basket. Lose the satellite and you're left with minimal train network capacity for years.

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FAA's 'drone smash risk to aircraft' is plane crazy

bazza
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Re: "Get real"

If you are so colossally retarded that you think the emergency services and commercial aviation fit into the category of 'leisure aircraft' then someone should take away your internet access for our protection.

If you can't understand that 'leisure aircraft' was a swipe at an unthinking idiot (you?) who thought that the only aircraft that should be in the sky is airliners at 39000ft, I suggest you seek lessons in sarcasm to save us from your poor comprehension.

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bazza
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Re: There should be MORE drones

"There should be more drones, and less leisure aircraft. Drones should replace most leisure aircraft.

There should be zero reason for flying a manned flight to take aerial photography."

Yeah, sure, because all 'leisure' aircraft are used solely for aerial photography and for looking at stuff for no good reason. I can't imagine why they'd paint "Air Ambulance", or "RN" or "RAF" or "Police" or "Small Local Turboprop Airline" or "ILS Beacon Calibration" or "Island Hopper" or "Post Office" or "Gliding Club" or "Pilot Training" or "Development Aircraft" on the side if all they're doing is taking photos for the fun of it.

Get real.

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bazza
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"Thing is that there does not need to be any new laws for "drones" which is simply another word jumping onto the hype train. Many countries already have laws governing hobby aircraft and where/when/how they can operate."

'Need' is a relative word. What's actually happened in the UK is that they added to the existing laws to account for the technical differences between ordinary RC model aircraft and drones. Basically, like RC model aircraft, drones were banned from being operated near people or built up areas.

What's new though is that you can apply for and get a license to operate one in town. This is actually quite permissive. Anyone can buy and fly one as per existing RC regulations, but a suitably trained, equipped and licensed person can also operate one in town or near people under their licensed conditions (and there's a whole bunch of rules as to when, how, where, how close, etc). That is, drones can be flown in more places than previously, but only by people who are on the list of licensees and who have something to lose (their license, fines, liberty, etc) if they break the rules, and not to the detriment of people living underneath them.

That is actually a good thing. The rules are clear, everyone wins, drones can be used in a good way, whilst transgressors get into trouble.

Compare that to the US where, AFAIK (corrections welcome), no one really knows what the rules are, and it's being decided retrospectively in a string of court cases which are merely seeking to apply existing law rather than change the law to suit the current circumstances.

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Here's what an Intel Broadwell Xeon with a built-in FPGA looks like

bazza
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Hmm, developing for FPGAs is pretty hard, and especially so if programming and starting the FPGA part means a power cycle of the whole computer. Any word on whether they've made that easy?

And unless every Intel chip from now on comes with one of these then it is going to remain very niche indeed. No mass market hardware sales, no mass market dev effort. And I can't see some killer application suddenly materialising out of thin air...

One thing I don't understand is, why? Everyone else from ARM to Oracle are busily doing specialised accelerated for functions relevant to the target market. An FPGA is the ultimate do anything DIY accelerator but they normally don't clock that fast; they're not as good as dedicated silicon. So unless Intel has improved the clock rate then it'll be not as good at doing the same things that everyone else is laying out gates for.

Nice experiment though, not so far from the FPGAs-in-an-AMD-socket that were doing the rounds a few years ago.

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Microsoft's done a terrible job with its Windows 10 nagware

bazza
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Re: What users want ...

Ranting isn't going to fix anything. What you can do is make purchase searches on Amazon (already common) and information searches on Wakipedia (probably the first useful link in search results anyway). If you take the users from Google/Bing, then the advertising revenue will wander off and Microsoft will have to rethink where their money will come from.

Ranting does help, it makes me feel better about it...

Whilst the measures you suggest may make MS sit up and pay attention, I'm not sure that they'd help in the long run. Sure, it would leave MS rethinking where their money comes from. But by then there may be no way back for them if they keep failing like this. That would leave no choice but to join the Borg, or something. MS and their shareholders should learn sooner rather than later that 'boring' is probably the best way of guaranteeing a future, and that rash "me too" experiments to grow an already vast business even further in ways that annoy the existing customers is asking for trouble.

With the ISPs beginning to wade in and get into the Ad blocking business, advertising funded IT may suddenly become impossible (commercially if not technically, or very messy). Getting a business onto a paid for and ad free footing now (you know, like they used to be) is probably going to be the smart thing to do right now. Amazon have that (Amazon Prime), Google don't, MS could, Apple sell hardware. Anyone left depending on frames downloaded from ad brokers Web sites for their revenue could find their business being held to ransom by the ISPs.

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bazza
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The Terrible...

...thing they've done is to not recognise what their users wanted, namely Windows 7 with modest technical improvements. I actually paid for Windows 7 retail licenses, and would do the same for something similar.

Instead they've got off on the idea that we'd want to put our data in their cloud, be profiled in our usage and turned into lumps of meat for sale in the advertising market to the highest bidder, admire the toy land look of the remaining vestiges of Metro, buy apps from their store, etc, etc, all just to make the OS 'free'.

Bollocks.

The sooner they realise that the old way worked and the new way doesn't, the better for them and their bottom line. The PC market is dead-ish because of Windows 8/8.1, and 10 is demonstrably not the thing to revive it. 14% share and it's free? If anyone wanted it, craved it it'd be closer to 90%.

I'm seeing friends and colleagues drifting of to Mac who were previously the most ardent Windows users. I may go Linux, and if they ever do Office / Outlook for Linux then I'm outahere. (Open Office is just not very good).

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Feds tell court: Apple 'deliberately raised technological barriers' to thwart iPhone warrant

bazza
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Re: FBI doesn't need the code

Your concern is misplaced.

Every iPhone has a unique serial number. It is trivial for Apple to produce a version of the firmware that does what the FBI wants on one specific phone, and have no effect on all others. And because the firmware is signed the FBI cannot successfully edit it.

Apple are scaremongering about the wider impact of this, but that's a risky strategy. If Apple do what has been asked for them they remain in complete control and no phone gets accessed without their say so. Individual warrants would be accommodated and everyone else is happy with privacy intact, guaranteed by Apple. However their chosen strategy of refusing this is risking a far wider ultimate consequence; being ordered by the Supreme Court to hand over the whole dev environment, source code and signing keys. Then Apple would not be in control at all.

If the supremes do make such an order then presumably everyone would welcome the decision? Isn't that what the Supreme Court for, handing down decisions that everyone accepts?

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bazza
Silver badge

Re: There Is No Freedom In China

Hmmmm, and what do you suppose it is that makes America the land of the free and home of the brave? What is it that guarantees that?

9
4

Big-screen Skype gets small farewell note

bazza
Silver badge

Ahead of the Curve

I bought my dumb Samsung TV just before "Smart" came as standard. Seems like there's now no reason to buy a new one at all.

My proactive skinflintedness has paid dividends - I've missed out an entire upgrade cycle and ended up in the same place as everyone else.

Abandoning a Platform?

Even if not many people used Skype on TVs, it was more or less MS's only presence on TVs. Now they'll not be there at all. That's a lack of ambition if ever I saw it.

13
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Microsoft has made SQL Server for Linux. Repeat, Microsoft has made SQL Server 2016 for Linux

bazza
Silver badge

Re: Nice to see.

@thames,

"Sybase and Microsoft later parted ways, but Microsoft bought a source code license, and the rights to market the product on Windows, while Sybase retained the rights to all other markets. Sybase changed the name of Sybase SQL Server to better differentiate it from what Microsoft was selling (MS also licensed the rights to use the SQL Server name).

That raises the fascinating possibility that MS doesn't have a license to sell it on anything other than Windows. I wonder if the current MS management have forgotten its origins and is operating under a false assumption? I know I was.

3
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bazza
Silver badge

Re: Nice to see.

@Stuart Longland,

"and might produce very different results to taking an application written for Windows and re-writing parts to make it compile and run on Linux."

Of course one of the problems they'd have to contend with if they rewrote it for Linux is that they'd then have two code bases to support, maintain, upgrade. Perhaps they can get away with making the important bits of code portable. Who knows. MS haven't exactly done that well keeping Windows and Mac Office in sync and up to date. I guess that's a very different problem though - Office has a lot of GUI stuff going on.

What Else?

If MS get a taste for this kind of thing, it could start making the desktop interesting. Office for Linux? Outlook for Linux? I'm not sure anyone should inflict Visio on to poor unsuspecting Linux users...

Where might it end?! That could start being dangerous for the existence of desktop Windows. And that in turn could be a real nuisance. A Windows desktop being controlled by a set of group policies dished out from a domain controller is a very useful enterprise tool. Doing the same thing on Linux is a whole lot harder (though there are solutions out there like PowerBroker or whatever it's called now, but they're not going to penetrate through to the innards of things like a web browser). Of course, this is all wild and deeply premature speculation.

Port the Runtime - it's Less Work!

I'm wondering more and more about MS and WINE. They're tinkering a lot with iOS and Android runtimes on Windows mobile. .NET core has been open sourced and Mono is practically official. WINE is a mostly complete thing in a similar vein. MS 'finishing' WINE is certainly more imaginable than it was 5 years ago.

If MS and other companies were to start getting used to the idea of ensuring application portability by porting the runtime environments and not the applications themselves, it's going to make things very confusing!

So What About ARM

If MS have re-written MS SQL Server for Linux, does it recompile for Linux on ARM? Now that could really be interesting!

3
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bazza
Silver badge

Re: Nice to see.

I guess we could gauge possible performance by seeing how well WINE or Mono works. They both replicate large chunks of the Windows runtime environment. Anyone got any benchmarks lurking anywhere?

In fact, MS could do worse than put some decent effort into WINE, that'd make all their software available on Linux...

2
1

AMD to fix slippery hypervisor-busting bug in its CPU microcode

bazza
Silver badge

Re: Learnt something new today

AFAIK no one has ever successfully tinkered with microcode. It's a security through obscurity thing on a very large scale.

Pity though. It'd be cool to be able to load up microcode onto an x86 and make it execute, say, PowerPC instructions!

4
1
bazza
Silver badge

Re: Learnt something new today

"And not only the CPU At Linux boot time, there may be several "firmware updates" of various stuff of the machine innards."

It's certainly quite astonishing to see just how many files are lurking in /lib/firmware. Makes one wonder if there's any such thing as a real piece of hardware these days. Seems like "hardware" is now firmware running on some sort of micro / cpu / etc. I guess the best I can hope for is that some of it is FPGA or CPLD images, but even that doesn't feel like a good old fashioned collection of dedicated transistors.

3
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bazza
Silver badge

Re: Learnt something new today

It gets loaded at boot time. CPUs have been like this for a veeeery long time.

The advantage is that bugs in the microcode (such as this) can be fixed. If the CPU didn't use microcode and suffered from this bug, the only fix would be a new CPU.

Disadvantages - microcode means having instruction translation units in one's CPU, which require a bunch of transistors, which take power to run them. ARMs don't use microcode, which is one of the many architectural features that help them beat x86 CPUs on power consumption.

17
1

How the FBI will lose its iPhone fight, thanks to 'West Coast Law'

bazza
Silver badge

Re: Hyperbole

@gnasher729.

"The problem is that while there is pretty good protection so that you can't install new software on your iPhone unless it is signed by Apple, there is no protection against somebody making a copy of that firmware. And since it is signed by Apple, it can be then installed on any computer."

Your concern is misplaced. Yes, the modded firmware might leak and find its way onto any compatible iPhone, where it will have absolutely no effect. The FBI have asked for a remedy for one specific phone, and indeed the court order specifically limits the effect of that remedy to that phone. From a technical standpoint Apple can very easily brew up a version of the firmware that will have no effect at all except on that specific phone; they all have unique serial numbers. Apple could even make it so the effect was time limited, giving the FBI a limited opportunity to make use of the remedy.

It would be impossible for anyone except Apple to modify the "special" firmware to make it work on another phone. The change would affect the cryptographic hash of the firmware and no iPhone would install it.

3
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bazza
Silver badge

Re: Hyperbole / bazza

@ allthecoolshortnamesweretaken,

"In a free country, ruled by a government of the people, by the people, for the people this shouldn't be an issue, surely?"

It depends on your point of view. The elected politicians, who are of the people, are people themselves, and serve the people, may decide to pass a law in furtherance of "better" law and order. If the government makes a decision and can get a political consensus it will, and indeed is required by its democratic mandate, to act on it. There'd not be a whole lot that anyone could do about it then, not even Apple.

There's always immense pressure on governments to do whatever is appropriate to preserve law and order. They fall down on the job, they will get kicked out. Mostly they try to prevent that outcome.

0
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bazza
Silver badge

Re: Hyperbole

@chris 17,

"How do you remove the knowledge learnt from engineers heads? The ability to do as the Fbi ask does not exist"

You can't, and it's already there. On reading the newspapers some coder somewhere in Apple's employ has already involuntarily thought it through. And for all intents and purposes it does exist, it simply hasn't been typed in yet.

Apple have their source code and their own signing keys. They can make any change they like and have any iPhone anywhere on the planet accept it. That's the whole purpose of signing keys. The source code changes are almost certainly trivial, something like:

if (PINRetries > 10) {

wipe_phone();

}

Becomes:

if ((serialnum != <Farook's phone serial number>) && (PINRetires > 10)) {

wipe_phone();

}

No matter what side of the debate one is on, we have to recognise that it can be done.

@Richard 12,

"And the other hundred or so requests currently pending? And the millions of requests this would unleash? And the fact that every other country in the world would immediately demand the same ability?"

It is important to acknowledge that whether or not Apple do this for the FBI is irrelevant to the rest of the world. The rest of the world does not need to wait for Apple to satisfy the FBI's request. They can, within whatever the local legal framework permits, apply varying degrees of pressure on Apple and their business in that country. Unfortunately in some countries that pressure may be applied for reasons not generally compatible with a harmonious and peaceful democratic society.

As you implicitly acknowledging everyone now knows it can happen. It is public knowledge. It may (and almost certainly will in some counties) as you say result in millions of requests flooding in. If Apple really, really, didn't want to become the focus of that then it was in their best interests to keep every hint of the possibility as quiet as possible.

However the relationship between the FBI and Apple (and the whole tech industry) has clearly broken down to the extent that the FBI decided to go public. That was never going to be in Apple's interest, and who knows, it may have been wiser to have caved in whilst it was still a private matter. The FBI have clearly wrong-footed Apple in this dispute; Apple clearly did not anticipate it becoming a public matter.

Don't for one moment think that I consider the FBI, politicians or anyone else to be angels in all this. The FBI are acting crazily with FBI vs. MS and their Irish data centre. Politicians in the US and elsewhere have failed to lead and inspire a proper public debate about just how high tech industry should, for the benefit of society as a whole, interact with law enforcement. This whole thing may (and I sincerely hope not) result in a significant increase in successful terrorist plots, a decrease in successful criminal prosecutions, etc. This kind of thing is what happens when lazy politicians fail to properly consider changes in industry and society.

3
2
bazza
Silver badge

Re: Hyperbole

"But as part of the trial process that's what they'll have to do to anyway show that the procedure they used to get the data off it is reliable."

No, the FBI have asked that this all be done on Apple's premises.

The FBI have been careful to ask for nothing to leave Apple's premises. Apple cannot show why that is less safe than their own signing keys.

The phone itself need never leave Apple ever again, even if it turns out to contain useful information. Once unlocked the whole mobile forensics thing can happen in their office, with only the results of the examination being permitted off-site.

Something has gone seriously wrong in the relationship between Apple and law enforcement agencies in th US. There's certainly fault on both sides (e.g FBI vs MS - the FBI are being crazy there), but Apple has clearly done something to irk them sufficiently for the FBI to choose to go public with this.

It sounds dangerous to upset one's own government and law enforcement agencies when there clearly isn't a political majority likely to support one's point of view. If Uncle Sam wants to, Uncle Sam can pass a law making the FBI's request un-ignorable.

3
15
bazza
Silver badge

Re: Hyperbole

"They're going to say "if you want to do business here, you'll be unlocking phones for us or GTFO"

And they won't need wait until it's been done in the US. Everyone now knows it can be done, so it's going to be difficult for Apple to argue that it is impossible.

The article quoted:

If the FBI gets its way and forces companies to weaken encryption, all of us – our data, our networks, our infrastructure, our society – will be at risk."

But that's bollocks. The FBI aren't asking Apple to release firmware to them, they’re not asking for a universal solution, and all of this can be done on Apple's premises with none of it leaving the building. There's no reason why any of this will be less private than Apple's own signing keys. So if it is looked after to the same standard as Apple's own keys, why would it be riskier?

If one wants to assess risk, one should enquire as to how Apple safeguard their keys. They'd be far more dangerous if they ever got out.

5
26

Hardcoded god-mode code found in RSA 2016 badge-scanning app

bazza
Silver badge
FAIL

Whooopsie!

There's a lesson for us all, again...

Once again Douglas Adams is proved right. Always know where your towel is.

32
0

Bruce Schneier: We're sleepwalking towards digital disaster and are too dumb to stop

bazza
Silver badge

Re: @AC - It's gonna be difficult...

"Actually those retailers and importers are right, it's not their problem. They're doing business, they're not a charity to care for something that is non-profit related."

Er, it is their problem if they get caught doing it. The trouble is that the trade arrangements we have these days assume that manufacturers and traders are trustworthy, but there's very little going on to check up on them. With no real chance of being caught, the greedier types get away with it. A CE badge is meant to mean something but in practice it doesn't.

Looking at the debacle over hoverboards one wonders whether anyone anywhere cares about product standards compliance at all.

13
0

We survived a five-hour butt-numbing Congress hearing on FBI-Apple ... so you don't have to

bazza
Silver badge

Re: Trey

Yes I was thinking that too. It's an extreme analogy from Trey, but it is valid. Everyone is used to the idea of investigators looking in a murder's wallet, house, papers, bank accounts, phone bill, corpse, etc. Why should their phone be any different?

To extend Trey's analogy, Apple's argument amounts to saying that surgical tools used in autopsies should be band.

It's not like the FBI are asking for warrantless or universal access. With a warrant (which indicates one off necessity) they can already look in one's wallet, house, papers, bank accounts, phone bill, iCloud, etc, and everyone thinks that's ok. Oneself need not be dead, they simply have to show a reason to justify suspicion.

However, they aren't doing themselves any favours in stretching what a warrant should empower with FBI vs Microsoft.

Safes that can defeat a real expert armed with the right equipment are pretty rare and expensive.

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