* Posts by bazza

1926 posts • joined 23 Apr 2008

As ad boycott picks up pace, Google knows it doesn't have to worry

bazza
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Re: They've taken the 'no' out of 'do no evil'

@DougS,

Google are definitely heading towards scumbag status...

The terrorist funding laws beg to differ. If there was a case to be made, Google would be the ones getting prosecuted, not their advertising clients.

Google should be the ones being prosecuted, but this is the Internet. Google can avoid having a prosecutable legal presence in a country where they are vulnerable to prosecution, but still sell advertising in that country.

The UK government in particular and European governments in general have form in passing novel laws to bring about a desired outcome it matters related to terrorism. For example back in the late 80s early 90s it was illegal for the press and media to report bomb scares on the London underground. That put a stop to the IRA phoning in hoaxes. In the UK it is illegal to fail to report someone to the police if you know they are preparing a terrorist act. People have gone to jail for that.

Such a law would be unthinkable in the USA.

I think Google and Facebook don't realise their American thinking won't always translate to Europe well. After the events in Europe and London I think there is a strong appetite for legal frameworks that begin to sort out the problem of extremist online content.

A law setting out a system of blacklisted Web sites where it is illegal to place advertising is not a big intellectual leap for most European legislators. It would get strong support in parliaments everywhere. And companies like Google would absolutely have to do everything they can to stay off that list. If such a law were ever put in place there'd have to be thresholds of reasonableness, but those are only ever going to be ratcheted one way...

That would be in addition to making Google, Facebook directly responsible too. Germany is already heading down that line slightly with Fake News.

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bazza
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Re: Excellent

No, it won't. The money goes where the users are. The users are on YouTube.

You're forgetting the laws covering the funding of terrorism. Basically it is illegal to put money into a terrorist cause.

Now, whilst a big advertiser can probably argue that it's Google's job to prevent their fee being directed to some jihadist's pocket, Google aren't doing that. Indeed, Google have been criticised by Parliament and Government for not doing it.

That casts a serious degree of uncertainty as to whether or not an advertiser making a defence in court "it's Google's responsibility" against a charge of funding terrorism. OK, that may sound ridiculous today, but Parliament is clearly heading in a direction towards advertisers being held responsible. What they have expressed recently as a moral obligation could, at a stroke of a civil servant's keyboard and Her Majesty's pen, become law.

The whole episode shows just how stunningly naive or cynical Google, Twitter and Facebook are being concerning the unsuitability of their American practises to doing business elsewhere. They are used to lobbying being effective in the US. It's far less affective elsewhere, especially in Europe.

Criminal Responsibility

It's like they're saying "you can't make us responsible for our content". The UK and Europe are very close to saying, "Well, let's see about that". Making Google's, Twitter's and Facebook's advertising customers criminally responsible for where their money ends up would do it just fine.

Such a result would probably kill advertising funded services outside the US. We'd be heading back towards the old (and successful) Compuserve model. With a paid subscription there is a strong identity trail between a user and their account, strong enough for criminal responsibility to be assigned quickly and easily to the user.

Personally speaking I think that'd be a good idea. Every wage earner in the UK is currently spending approx £150 per year via the price of goods in the shops to pay for online advertising (it's about £7billion per year). I'd quite happily pay that to get subscription mapping and search services that are guaranteed to have no adverts whatsoever, with no data slurp.

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It's happening! It's happening! W3C erects DRM as web standard

bazza
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Re: Oh, please.

@MNGrrrl,

Sounds like you need to quit the USA, come to the UK, go down the pub, put your feet up in front of the fire, have a beer (a proper one, none of this larger nonsense) and chillax. We find this soothes almost all of the world's woes. Solving them becomes a problem for tomorrow, not this evening. Perhaps the day after that. Bringing ones chums is optional, though by definition everyone else in the pub is a mate.

Have enough beer and even the price of beer stops being a problem.

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bazza
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Re: Oh, please.

The music industry went almost universally DRM free after an initial stint using DRM technology, so I don't see why it's impossible for the same thing to happen with the movie/TV industry as well.

That's true, but the consequence is that a lot of artists are being paid almost nothing by the likes of Spotify. It used to be the case that even musicians with quite small followings could make a living selling LPs, but nowadays it's hopeless. Selling CDs whilst busking is probably the only way to get a decent return for recordings.

The money now is in the concerts; you cannot digitise and stream the 'experience'.

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bazza
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Re: If you can see it or hear it

Indeed. If this extension is supported on Linux, and the Linux is using open source video and audio drivers, these can always be modified to allow copying.

I'm not sure DRM is intended to piss off customers (though it is annoying that it curtails what used to be 'normal' activities, like lending a DVD to a mate), I think it's primarily intended to annoy pirates!

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New iPad revealed. Big price cut is main feature

bazza
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Re: Same Old Tricks?

Because that's what they've judged to be the market value, or rather what the market will bear.

I know all that. I was really questioning whether Apple's view as to what the market would bear is accurate. The article itself refers to a decline in iPad sales, and a big part of the reason why is price. If Apple want sales to improve markedly, charging $130 extra for a variant that really doesn't do that much more is sending a poor signal to punters. Who wants to buy it when they know they're being taken advantage of?

Amazon are selling 4G USB dongles for less than £50. Wholesale price of the components is going to be, what, 10% of that, less if you're a big buyer like Apple?

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bazza
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Re: Same Old Tricks?

@anothercynic,

"bazza, primarily UK price differential = US price is tax excl vs UK price is VAT incl,"

Yes you're quite right. I wasn't intending to lay that particular point on Apple's doorsteps, other than they're another multinational which quite happily exploits the benefits of free trade and tax loopholes, whilst lobbying to prevent individual customers from benefiting from grey imports, etc. This distortion of the global market does no one any favours apart from the companies who can afford to wine/dine/lobby the politicians who make it the rules.

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bazza
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Same Old Tricks?

$130 price differential for installing a cellular modem chip? WTF?

Surely that's taking the piss. What am I missing here? Does that include airtime too? In which case it's arguably quite good value. Otherwise it seems they've swapped their habit of gouging the market over the price of flash for charging huge amounts for a $5 part.

It's also running contrary to what's going on in the cellular world. Data allowances are getting to be huge on even quite moderately priced contracts (I get 30GByte / month for £20). I can't remember the last time I bothered switching WiFi on on my mobile. And WiFi is slower than my cellular connection.

The WiFi ones are quite temptingly priced though, I could always tether it to my mobile, but I'm expecting the UK price to be higher :(

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Android O my god! It's finally here (for devs)

bazza
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Re: What do all these things do?

I seriously doubt that all of those services are there for the benefit of the user. 387 in Play Services alone? Given Android's role as a revenue generator for Google, there's going to be a lot of them there for the benefit of Google, not the user or the phone's battery life.

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Fix crap Internet of Things security, booms Internet daddy Cerf

bazza
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Re: I hope "the answer" isn't EVEN MORE gummint...

"I believe liability is all that's required. Make the producers responsible for the safety and security of their products just like we do with other industries.

I don't think that's realistic. There's nothing about IoT devices specifically that would warrant such liability being imposed on the manufactures whilst not imposing the same liability on Microsoft, Apple, Google, the Linux kernel development community, all publishers of Linux distros, etc. All software everywhere throughout time has come with zero guarantees of correctness, suitability, etc, including software on IoT devices.

I do not see there being any realistic solution to this problem. The manufacturers don't care because their sales are OK. The sales are OK because the customers don't care either. The customers don't care because when the hackers take over a device they normally take care to ensure that the customer rarely notices anything happening; once in control, some of them even apply patches to stop other hackers getting in. How thoughtful!

The problem may get solved if a truly big player (e.g. Apple, Google, etc) manages to get a decent ecosystem running that solves the problems of patching, updates, access control, etc. Trouble is that so far both Apple and Google have failed to enthuse the market with their offerings. They're probably charging silly money for access.

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'Sorry, I've forgotten my decryption password' is contempt of court, pal – US appeal judges

bazza
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Re: Actual case aside

This is just ridiculous. How could the judge have "found that Doe remembered the passwords needed to decrypt the hard drives but chose not to reveal them"? Obviously, he couldn't. He just assumed it, because of.... thought police?

There's also the sister's statement to consider. From the article:

Authorities in Delaware investigating the case already had a sense of the contents of the drives because, according to court documents, the defendant's sister had told police investigators "that Doe had shown her hundreds of images of child pornography on the encrypted external hard drives."

So unless she's making it up and the other evidence doesn't amount to damning, it seems reasonable to assume that Doe knows it's not in his best interests to unlock that drive. That's a motive. He's been ordered to unlock it, and has been sat in front of a computer to unlock it. That's an opportunity. And, as no one can read his thoughts, that's a means of ensuring it remains locked*. Sounds like the three elements of an offence...

* Until the NSA/FBI/CIA improve their capabilities. I'm just waiting for Trump to accuse GCHQ of being able to read encrypted US gov email. If he does that's "just got to be true", and perhaps they could help in this case, and someone in Cheltenham would need a pay rise.

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Linux, not Microsoft, the real winner of Windows Server on ARM

bazza
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HPC teams already use heterogenous hardware mixing x86 with GPUs because x86 hardly shines at parallel vector work.

Well, it depends on the workload. Xeon Phi is quite a big beast, and we'll suited to some workloads. As ever, it depends.

GPUs are problematic for some workloads. Their downfall is latency; they're (still) all about loading up some data, doing a lot of math very quickly, and then unloading the results. For some problems this is less than ideal. Machines like RIKEN's K is very impressive because they did so much to reduce data sharing latency in the machine, which gave it an unparalleled peak:mean performance ratio.

ARM chips already come with optional hardware acceleration packages, throw in FPGAs and GPUs and, at the right price*, the HPC crowd will be drooling.

Drooling, but facing a massive code rewrite!

If you look at some the biggest HPC installs it's obvious that purchase price is not that important.

That's mostly because the chips they use are the same (more or less) as gamers / server farms use.

It costs Intel around about $6billion to do a step in their design, and it's about the same for everyone else doing circuits that complex and fast (be it GPU, Ethernet switch, whatever). If Intel stops bothering, or if NVidia give up because we're playing games on phones instead of PCs or consoles, the HPC community would have to bear the cost themselves. The cost is enormous.

The only reason NVidia engaged with the HPC community in the first place was a reduction in PC sales.

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bazza
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This is huge. SBSA is the real threat to Intel.

It is huge.

It's also something Microsoft could have defined back in 2008 when they first acquired their own ARM foundry license. Had they done that (they even demonstrated Win 7 + Office on ARM) then instead of doing their level best to Utterly Ruin Windows by trying to be cool and down with the mobile kids by pushing Metro, Windows 8, etc (something that they continue to do to this day, plus they've added snooping into 10), we'd now be used to ARM servers and desktops, MS would still be top of the mountain, and we'd probably be happier with Windows too. Instead were seriously wondering about not bothering with anything MS at all.

Cock up.

This is definitely bad news for Intel, and by extension all current users of X86. That includes the supercomputer guys. Anyone who actually needs all that compute offered by Intel's biggest chips will be finding their lives becoming expensive. ARM is fine for what it's intended for, but a fire-breathing high performance general purpose CPU suitable for weather forecasts it is not.

Interestingly Fujitsu /RIKEN are contemplating ARM plus their own specialist extensions to make their next super computer. Expensive.

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Git sprints carefully towards SHA-1 deprecation

bazza
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Re: @Deltics

@Paul J Turner,

You end up with less bits (which you can pack to a fixed size) but there is only one possibility for the source file.

If you fix the output size, that's no longer ZIP or 7z or any other compression. The only way you could fix the output size is to pad the output up to a given size, and then fail with an error if the input were too large for the compression output to fit within that given size.

An interesting feature of a perfect compression is that the output bit stream is (if one did not know that it was a compressor's output) perfectly random.

You can even verify that by unpacking and comparing, which makes it a bit useless

I wouldn't say that was useless at all, at least not from the point of view of certainty. If you have a zipped up file, and someone else is claiming to have the same file, being able to do a bit comparison on the two uncompressed files is a mathematically certain test of equality in a way that is stronger than any hash test.

What makes it useless is that it's an inefficient use of storage and bandwidth, and instead we use a hash function to allow us to be almost certain of equality.

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bazza
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@Streaky,

Google's demonstration of a SHA1 collision was two valid PDFs which hashed to the same value. That's a lot harder to achieve than just two arbitrary, unintelligible byte streams that hash the same, but it has been achieved now.

It is a mathematical certainty that you could have two pieces of source code that compile and have the same hash, but it's still tremendously hard to do that.

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Europe will fine Twitter, Facebook, Google etc unless they rip up T&Cs

bazza
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Re: Long overdue

@John Brown,

As I understand it, that's not what is being asked of them. Germany in particular is asking that Facebook implement a proper complaints procedure which requires Facebook et al to actually act on said complaints in a reasonable time. Germany has posited 24 hours as reasonable.

Yes, that's certainly the case. But this, the criticism coming from the UK parliament, and various other things that are going on are all driving the situation towards a point where social media websites are liable for the content on their site. And if it goes that far (and I think it eventually will) then the sites cannot operate as they do today.

I'm sure Facebook et al will have a whole raft of "technical" reasons why it can't be done in 24 hours, but will probably claim they can do it 7 days. At which point Germany and/or the EU will demand 4 days and they'll probably all walk away happy, both sides feeling they gave a little and took a little from the other.

Perhaps that's what will happen, but the time thing is going to be critical. An item of Fake News running round FB, Twatter, etc for 4 whole days just before a general election could do tremendous harm. Especially if it is replaced by a similar item from a different account.

Anything that allows stuff like hate posts, fake news, etc. to persist for any period of time is simply going to result in further calls to stop it getting posted in the first place. And they currently have no way whatsoever of doing that other than 100% screening. The only option is deterrence, but there's no deterrence at all at the moment, especially for those posting something as "harmless" as fake news who can so easily hide behind a screen of effective anonymity granted to them by the site's unwillingness to demand true legal identity prior to granting an account.

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bazza
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Re: Good luck

Well, they've already fined Google quite a lot of money. There was, or is, a bunch of Google shareholders suing Google over the loses associated with that. There's also a criminal investigation into Google's tax affairs in France. And there's a separate inquiry information Google's gouging of the Android market through their control of Android due to the terms under which other manufacturers get Play Services. And that's looking like another few billion down the plug hole.

So there's no fear of chasing these American companies with their distasteful and exploitative terms and conditions.

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bazza
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Re: Long overdue

Long overdue indeed, and definitely heading the right way.

The problem for the companies is that that have no real way of policing the content on their sites. For all this talk of AI, filtering, etc. they cannot be effective at policing content unless there is a human involved in the process.

That means that for every single thing that goes up on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, a human needs to look at it if the company is to be certain that the content is OK. For a Tweet, or picture, that's just a glance. For a video, well how long is the video?

In short, it's unrealistic for these sites to do 100% screening by humans.

Even if they focused on new accounts for an initial period before deciding that the poster was behaving, that just sets up a minor challenge for someone intent on getting dodgy stuff up on the site. Post a few pictures of bunnies, flowers, etc, wait for Facebook to lose interest, then start posting whatever you wish.

User Identity

The only way to really improve is to be able to truly identify site users, so that transgressors can be effectively barred. At the moment anyone who's account gets closed simply opens a new one and carries on posting. User anonymity (so far as the site operators are concerned. I'm not talking about one's public user name) is what allows users to get away with it.

But how can these sites identify users? Being 'free' means no real identity check.

Their only option is to become not free, to require paid subscription. If there is a financial arrangement with users, then there is a strong link to the user's identity too. Users wanting to post dodgy material are going to think twice about it, or wind up in jail.

That'll put a dent in their business model.

A subscription fee. Very Compuserve. Very AOL.

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Friday security roundup: Secret Service laptop bungle, hackers win prizes, websites leak

bazza
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Re: Permission

Well, the thing apparently has full disk encryption, so it's hardly likely to matter one way or the other.

Backing up a soft control (the no classified content policy) with a hard, reliable control (full disk encryption, if done properly) is perfectly reasonable. So long as the laptop was powered down at the time and not just sleeping, there's almost nothing to worry about.

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Google borks Nexus 6 with screwy over-the-air Android 7.0 downgrade

bazza
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Re: Move along nothing to see

Anyone who sideloads an OS onto their phone should be familiar with the risk of potential data loss especially when they okay the downgrade.

Hang on a mo, that's a pretty far stretch. Unlike a lot of other software companies, Google seemingly cannot make an installer that does version compatibility checks. I mean, not even Microsoft have pushed out an update that downgrades one's OS to a previous version by mistake. Which is a shame, there's a lot of people who'd like to go back to Win7...

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Google borks its Drive Windows app – after pushing out unfinished buggy version to public

bazza
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Re: Not just MS

Seemingly not.

Doesn't look like the Chocolate Factory have their A team working on this thing. Which is a bit odd.

If they wanted to be taken seriously as a provider of stuff for business, to have one major component of their offering (Google Drive) effectively useless on one of the major OSes for businesses (Windows) means the whole thing is not worth it.

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Today's WWW is built on pillars of sand: Buggy, exploitable JavaScript libs are everywhere

bazza
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Re: C

So long as it's running server side, why not!?!

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bazza
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Re: "Google may be OK with this but ultimately it's a big risk for them"

@LDS,

These security issue may prompt the two companies to "suggest" they become the library repositories, to "improve" and "warrant" their quality - albeit some antitrust body could object (an EU one, I guess...)

It depends on how they do it. If they do it for free, make it fully available, for the public good, in the manner of a beneficial dictator, then I think the anti-trust bodies would have no interest whatsoever. If they make it so that only Chrome does it and then only for code from Google, then I think the objections would come thick, fast and expensive.

If Google or Facebook made a case along these lines, I doubt that they'll be able to bring enough of the community with them. The world hasn't been able to fully expunge Flash. There's going to be too much stuff that's important to lots of people that doesn't fit in with a potential Google/Facebook vision of how things should be. We're in this mess partly because there has been poor standards, not much adherence to those standards anyway, and the whole thing is effectively nothing more than one global hack-fest of software putrefaction which somehow has come to be seen as hot, cool and modern. There's a lot of momentum to overcome. Conforming is not in every web-developer's mindset.

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bazza
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Re: "Google may be OK with this but ultimately it's a big risk for them"

@Tom38,

Right, but we aren't talking about reality at the moment, someone posited the thought experiment "If JS was to disappear, companies like Google would be up shit creek and they don't seem to acknowledge those risks".

It's more philosophical than that.

It's a bad thought experiment because either there is an equivalent language to replace it, in which case a Dart-to-new lang compiler would remove the risk, or that there are no more browser apps possible, in which case Google write a Dart-to-C compiler and deliver native apps.

The point is that "new lang" would also eventually succumb. The problem is that all interpreters / run-times, browsers, OSes and CPUs are mathematically certain to be flawed in one way or other. We as a species simply cannot generate provably flawless code or hardware, so it's not really an option. For example, until a couple of weeks ago everyone assumed that ASLR was a strong defence, but it got thoroughly trashed by a Dutch research group who showed that it could be unwound. In Javascript. In a Web browser. That's a major calamity.

Besides, we like fast-moving, new, dynamic stuff. To be provably secure means slow-moving, mature, never changing stuff. Shiny-shiny wins every time.

There's also the point that the introduction of "new lang" would simply expose a whole load of new-out-the-box flaws that will inevitably plague a new pile of code. Just like Javascript did initially.

The only sure solution to the problem of dynamic web pages is to forget about client side execution in the browser altogether, and replace it with a Turing incomplete remote display protocol for code running server-side. A bit like HTML used to be. A bit like X server protocol, and (AFAIK) RDP, VNC, etc. We're not very good at implementing such protocols problem free either (buffer overruns, etc), but it's a much easier challenge.

If we don't go down that route then we're condemning ourselves to having to re-write the whole Internet every time our latest Web browser client side execution environment becomes too dangerous to use. Based on our experience in trying to expunge Flash from the world, it'd be very hard to replace Javascript.

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bazza
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Google is perfectly OK with this. Any attempt to tackle this issue would go through more standardization of web development, and that would tie Google hands too.

Google may be OK with this but ultimately it's a big risk for them. No Javascript = big increase in costs for Google. If you take Javascript away, what of Google's empire is left? Android? Web based Google Docs, Maps, Search, Gmail, etc are toast. That's a massive part of their business. Google absolutely need Javascript to be safe and secure.

We've seen recently that Javascript can be used to unwind the ASLR of the Web browser, meaning that Javascript exploits could be made reliable. This study now shows that the anarchy of the Web can have real consequences. It's early days in the death of Javascript, but these papers highlight that Javascript is potentially hazardous, and no on eis doing anything from improve it.

If that's not on Google's business risk register, then they're not doing their investors any favours.

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bazza
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I don't think there's anything that we can do. But a big outfit like Google could show some leadership and do something and impose it. Very Microsoft. Very evil. Very necessary?

Google had better get on with it. Their entire empire is built on Javascript, and it's not too far from being deemed to be a massive security hazard. If that actually happens, and the world at large goes off Javascript like they have gone off Java, Flash, activeX, etc, then Google are in deep trouble. "Please run Javascript on our search page, please, otherwise those ads are going to be far less effective! And we'll do a native gmail client soon, honest.".

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bazza
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No, the people fundamentally at fault are those who have done so much to push the POS that Javascript is as a standard that all should embrace and rely on, and then abjectly refuse to police it, weed out the dross, etc.

That's basically the major browser developers, outfits like Google, Mozilla, etc. They claim to have made a runtime environment that's universal and safe, yet it's turning out to be as hazardous as any other client side execution Web technology. "Use Javascript, it's safer than Flash/Java/ActiveX/etc". Yeah, right.

Automatically running arbitrary code downloaded from God knows where without so much as a first glance, never mind a second glance, is always a bad idea. Anyone trying to convince you otherwise is almost certainly selling snake oil.

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MAC randomization: A massive failure that leaves iPhones, Android mobes open to tracking

bazza
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Re: @bazza

@Brewster's Angle Grinder,

That study is pretty ancient now. Nexus 1?!?!

I fear your estimate of 170mW is pessimistic. You have calculated the continuous operation power consumption. Something like "location services" need not log position continuously - it'd serve no purpose.

Looking at the datasheet for the Venus638FLPx-D, it has a fast start of 1 second, and a 10uA sleep mode. Logging position every 5 seconds (which sounds location services friendly) would take 1/5th of 98mW (the power during acquisition), or a mean of 19mW. For continuous tracking (such as would be used in a Sat Nav), it's still only 72mW.

This matches the Canmore GT-730FL that I have, and that quite happily logs GPS once every 5 seconds all day long. It's a pretty small thing, with a pretty small battery.

For a Google Pixel XL with a 3450mAHr battery, it'd take 7.3 days to run down the battery logging once every 5 seconds, and 1.9 days of continuous tracking, ignoring everything else running in the handset. Hungry that GPS chip is not. And that's before considering how else the phone might be learning position by means other than running a GPS receiver. Listening into WiFi networks, which is all location services does with regard to WiFi skyhooking, takes far less power than transmitting on WiFi.

The power is certainly being used up by something other than running a GPS chip.

Location services is only of any use to Google if positional data is uploaded promptly. It's no good calculating where the traffic jams are a few hours after they've developed for display on Google Maps. So it's in Google's interests to upload that data ASAP, which requires an Android mobile's modem to be running quite regularly, taking a chunk of power with it. Things are of course a lot better if the phone is camped on a WiFi network. But still, that 0.5W 3G or 0.1W WiFi needed to convey location data back to Google is where the power goes.

However, if Location Services were simply a way for a phone to know where it is and not a means for Google to get data on where you are, that 0.5W or 0.1W wouldn't be used anything like as much, because the phone wouldn't be constantly phoning home to Google.

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bazza
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Re: off

WiFi doesn't eat my battery too much, but GPS has always caned power regardless of which Android handset I have.

It's not the GPS receiver itself that zonks the battery. It's the 3G/4G modem in the handset that's in constant use reporting your position back to Google, who use it for various purposes such as generating the traffic overlay on Google Maps.

Don't believe me? You can buy a tiny little GPS logger for £40 that'll log GPS every 5 seconds all day long, all off a tiny battery.

Now, if this is doable in such a tiny device, how come a phone has problems effectively doing the same thing? Answer: because it's not just the GPS receiver that's involved in Location Services.

If I leave location services switched on on my BlackBerry Z30, it has no appreciable impact on battery life. BlackBerry aren't interested in knowing where you are in the same way Google are, so it's not uploading that via 3G/4G all day long.

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What went up, Musk come down again: SpaceX to blast sat into orbit with used rocket

bazza
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@MachDiamond,

Dunno why that attracted a down vote, all looked pretty reasonable to me. Must be some Musk groupies hanging around...

Replacement cost can, depending on circumstances, vary a little. If it's the first of a series of identical satellites then it's not necessarily a linear increase in cost to build one more. It can cost more if it means bumping another customer from the production line! Or if the line's order book is looking thin a deal can no doubt be arranged. They are saving on the payload design costs, which is a pretty large part of the cost sometime. The time delay can be pretty bad; some of the major rad hard electronic components are quite often hand made, not the kind of thing kept in stock just in case.

Similarly if the satellite is replacing an older one already in service then the loss of business can be small; the flight ops guys looking after the old one in orbit just start looking at the fuel gauges nervously. There's strategies they can employ; for a geo they can let the elevation position start drifting, saves a bit of position keeping fuel. It's only when they haven't the fuel to maintain azimuth do they start getting moaned at by the ITU and other operators and have to use what's remains to boost it to a parking orbit and switch it off. I think Eutelsat came close to having to do this with one of their birds after they failed twice to replace it.

But if it's a brand new service then yes, the loss of business can be crippling expensive. That's what so upset SpaceX's launch customer last autumn.

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Euro nations push for vote to axe Europe's patent office president

bazza
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One also wonders what's in it for this Kongstad chap. He seems to be going out of his way to block action. Is he best buddies with Battistelli? What reason can he have to help Battistelli?

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Euro Patent Office puts itself on Interpol's level, demands access to staff phones and laptops

bazza
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How can you be expected not to violate a patent if the patent is secret? Do you get to examine secret patents, to check if your development work may violate them, if you're cleared to work on defence projects?

Easy, you apply for the patent yourself and you'll be told that you've merely stumbled down the same avenue as someone else, now would you mind having a chat to these nice fellows about national security, the Official Secrets Act, etc, tea and biscuits provided.

Of course, the system relies on said inventor bothering to apply for the patent in the first place. If they simply just start flogging kit without bothering the patent office or the office that controls arms exports, then the nice chaps who talk about national security will pay the inventor a rather more urgent visit, probably late one night, definitely no tea-and-biscuits this time, followed by a possible prosecution concerning illegal arms / dual-use-items exports without a license.

Basically there's a whole load of laws governing what you can (fertiliser) and cannot (chemical weapons precursors) sell, and one cannot plead ignorance of those laws.

Of course, even governments don't necessarily patent everything they invent (can't trust those chaps in the patent office with everything). Rivest, Shamir and Adleman invented a public key encryption system, only to learn much later that Clifford Cocks at GCHQ had beaten them to it 4 years earlier, but GCHQ hadn't bothered doing anything with it.

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bazza
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Re: Benoit - The new Italian Dictator

The European Patent Organisation is set up in a way not dissimilar to the EU itself. It exists as a result of a treaty entered into by various separate sovereign nations, many (but not all) who have also signed up to the various treaties that underpin the EU.

And, like the EU and the European Commission, this makes the EPO effectively un-governable. Whilst it is in theory accountable to its member nations, it would take all of them to agree on a course of action if it's direction were to be forcibly changed, like sacking the head of the office.

The discussion surrounding BREXIT is fascinating. On the one hand there's a bunch of EU types promising a hard time for Britain, no trade deal, big divorce settlement, etc. On the either hand there's the German government who seemingly don't agree (they sell a lot of cars here), Sweden and Poland talking openly about having to do a deal with the UK, etc.

One way or other it's going to define who in Europe really pulls the strings; sovereign nations or the European Union / Commission? The treaties say that the nations have devolved many powers to the EU, including the power to arrange trade deals, but it's the member nations who have to decide on whether their (collective?) best interests are still being served by the EU. BREXIT is perhaps the first issue big enough to force all the member nations to truly, seriously consider that question. Here in the UK we're kinda dependent on them doing so.

Alas, the situation in the European Patent Office is so low down the list of priorities for the member nations of the EPO that it is unlikely it will be sorted out. This situation will continue to fester until the situation resolves itself "naturally", or until the Office has become so dysfunctional that politicians in the member nations are being badgered about problems with patents by companies in their own country.

Like many international treaties of this sort, there's very often little thought put into them to define what should happen when things go wrong, how indeed performance of the arrangements should be measured so as to know whether things are going wrong or not, etc. The treaties behind the Eurozone are classics of the genre, with nothing in them to define what happens when a member nation goes bust. Hence the improvised support for Greece, and soon Italy. Such ommissions in the Eurozone treaties were part of the reason why the British government ultimately deciding to not join in.

This always happens because when all the negotiators are sat in that one room talking about setting up the treaty, it's impolite to ask the awkward questions about "problems arising" which might be taken as an insult by others in the room. Appalling really.

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Passport and binary tree code, please: CompSci quizzes at US border just business as usual

bazza
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Surely the best language would be uncommented Whitespace? It would certainly take less time to write if down...

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Frustrated by reboot-happy Windows 10? Creators Update hopes to take away the pain

bazza
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Re: Fake Linux

I dunno, what's a real Linux, really?

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bazza
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I'm confused.

I was told one of the supposed benefits of win 10 was that updates meant less rebooting. Seems not to be the case. Glad I stayed on 7...

MS are being pretty disingenuous I think. The article quotes some MS flunky who seems to be trying to describe the upcoming change as somehow overturning centuries of accepted practice, instead of addressing a terrible cock up introduced last autumn. Which is bollocks; MS screwed it up and is now trying to find a way forward that still results in updated being installed behind the user's back. If they actually addressed the core issue, that updates need a reboot, then none of this world be a problem.

When of when will they learn to listen again to their users instead of their marketing 'experts', advertising executives and UI theoreticians?

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Skype-on-Linux graduates from Alpha to Beta status

bazza
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Re: What is the benefit putting a cloud in the middle?

Microsoft's Skype team on Wednesday announced the confusingly-named Skype for Linux beta 5.0 here, and yes, “we have been focused on building a new experience that is in line with Skype’s ongoing transition from peer-to-peer to a modern cloud architecture”.

Yes, I scoffed at the above also. It was an almost political statement from MS, describing the cloud based architecture as 'Modern'. It's certainly modern, but that in no way means 'better', or 'more reliable', or 'more secure' or 'more private'. Rather the opposite.

In their defence there is some minor technical merit - for example you didn't want to end up as a super-node on the peer-to-peer network if you had a shortage of Internet bandwidth or cared about battery life.

To be honest though I think the original, Estonian design was a technical tour de force, and being able to sell it "twice" was commercial genius.

Having paid so much for it I think MS have to monetise it, which is why they're doing are making these changes. But I don't think it'll work. I use Skype, so do family members, but only briefly once a week to keep in touch. I don't know anyone who uses it in anything like a major way, not for business, not as a matter of course as a way to speak to speak to people. We all just use our mobiles and the vast number of free minutes that comes with the contract / PAYG. Apart from anything else that saves killing the battery life. Who, anywhere, regularly uses anything like Skype, Facetime, instead of making a phone call?

So Skype is never going to be a source of advertising revenue on the same scale as, for example, Google get from people using Google search or using an Android phone. It's always going to struggle to justify the high price MS paid for it.

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Google Chrome 56's crypto tweak 'borked thousands of computers' using Blue Coat security

bazza
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Re: "That these products broke is an indication of defects in their TLS implementations,"

Having slagged off Bluecoat, it would be a bit embarrassing for Google if it turns out that Google had got it wrong...

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BlackBerry's comeback: El Reg gets its claws on the QWERTY KEYone

bazza
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Re: New internet law needed...

@Eddy Ito,

Marvellous post. To add to it, it's also worth pointing out that Betamax remained a viable thing for those who wanted it long after VHS "won". They've only just stopped making the tapes.

The phone market is seems to be more about ensuring that there is no choice. What we need is open hardware standards, something that has given choice in the PC market. Android is just about viable as an open OS, despite Google's gouging of the market with their proprietary Play Services binary blob. If Google take Android proprietary (they're developing their own kernel it seems) then the phone market is doomed. Google, Apple, or go hang.

Google may be about to cock it up; they're already being probed in Europe for anticompetitive practices in their control of the Android market. They could cop a big fine from that and be forced to give Play Services away for free, without let or hindrance. But if they take Android proprietary and shut out everyone else, even the myopic competition authorities in the USA can't fail to spot the problem with that. Bell got broken up, IBM nearly so. It's getting closer to time to do this same with Google.

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bazza
Silver badge

Re: New internet law needed...

And there's probably a saying about people who name laws of commentary after themselves...

The rule about technical mediocrity winning has severe consequences for tech companies. There's hints that 4k TV won't sell because most of the market place cannot see the point of it. 3D is dead (though it's doubtful it was 'better'). HD TV sells well because that's all there is these days, but most of what people watch is SD upscaled, or terribly over compressed streamed video from the Internet.

Decent HiFi sound systems are a thing of the past too really, just a few small manufacturers hanging on in there. Who needs HiFi when what is being listened to is compressed, and anyway isn't the kind of noise where the lack of clarity is apparent.

But there is still at least the choice out there for the those who want it.

Why the Phone Market is Different

What seems to be different about the phone market is that there is zero acceptance at all for the niche manufacturer who wants to serve that part of the market which does care about something being better. Everyone is so fixated on being the next Apple or Samsung. No one seems to chase the part of the market where there's people who'd pay extra for something better. So we've ended up with Apple and Samsung which between them produce so much "Meh", and everyone else who try and produce very similar things but succeed in produce slightly crummier handsets (hence the phrase landfill Android). The only reason we don't use the phrase landfill iPhone is because they cost so much and are too thin to brim the refuse dump, but really the quality has been poor for some time now.

At least BlackBerry are trying to be something better than just another Android manufacturer. They're lightning fast with Android updates, something that no other non-Google Android manufacturer bothers with. They're often beating Google too. They're prepared to stick in a large battery. They're prepared to add software that is truly useful on top - Hub is by far the best mail / everything aggregater out there. A keyboard that's also a track pad and finger print reader is a great idea; so much better than stabbing away at a touchscreen trying to position a cursor.

All these things add up to something better at its core, not just something that has an expensive case.

If BlackBerry fail there'd be no choice left. And if rumours of Google's intention to make Android proprietary come true there would then be no choice at all.

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bazza
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Anything particularly wrong in thinking that a large battery is notable feature? Over in Apple land there's people who really, really want a fatter phone with longer battery life.

There's a lot to like here I reckon - long battery life, Nougat (anyone else apart from Google got Nougat running?), regular OS updates (name any other Android manufacturer who does that, apart from Google, though even they don't always beat BlackBerry on that front), good camera, Blackberry Hub, sensible control over app permissions.

For me the only off-putting thing is that it has a physical keyboard - I've long since gotten used to BlackBerry's excellent touch screen keyboard.

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bazza
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Re: The last chance saloon

It's not been helped by the lack of imagination in the market place. There's a lot of things that they've done that are technically excellent. Trouble is all the market can see is that Samsung, Google and Apple must be the best, and doesn't care a jot for anything else that has got good ideas.

A good example of how the status quo is so entrenched is that no-one these days even stops to wonder why it is that Android app permissions are not changeable by the handset owner. Well, apparently on BlackBerry's take of Android you can change the permissions, yet no-one really cares.

Apple achieved a similar trick with battery life. Back before the iPhone battery lives of 7 days were completely normal. Apple comes along with a phone that won't last a day, and sells millions of them based purely on the shininess of the product. And now that everyone considers it perfectly normal to have to charge up during the day, or at least once a day, there's now no longer a market justification for manufacturing phones that last longer than that.

Unfortunately this means that we'll end up with the lowest common denominator; Android phones that go without updates (Samsung and everybody else), Google phones that are feature poor and hideously expensive (the new Google phone is hugely overpriced for what you actually get), and expensive iPhones that are now just so annoyingly nothing other than fragile design vanity projects for Apple instead of being stylish yet workman-like devices that Apple laptops used to be [Apple's laptops are now pretty useless too].

The same happened with Betamax and VHS; Betamax was better, VHS won.

So, dead from the neck down? Perhaps they are, for believing that adding technical superiority is worth the bother any more. It's a draw to perhaps 1% of the market at best; you know, the 1% that once upon a time used to be the only people who'd by anything other than a feature phone in the old days.

The same effect causes the market for decent food to be depressed. What was the name of that Stallone film where the only restaurant in the whole world was a Tacobell, them having won the global franchise wars? We're heading that way...

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Alert! The dastardly Dutch are sailing a 90-ship fleet at Blighty

bazza
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Re: Surrender!

Whoa, hang on a minute. Being Dutch means a diet of Edam, Heineken and processed meat. That's too high a price to pay.

Man the battlements! Warm up the cannon! Prepare the comfy chairs!

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New UK laws address driverless cars insurance and liability

bazza
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Re: Driverless Upgrades

No, because if every car is self driving, and the accident rate drops to an official "zero", there'd never be any need for insurance in the first place. It would be legal madness to compel people to insure themselves against a third party liability when the law says it's the manufacturer at fault.

The new law is a little bit worrying - it says that the liability rests with the driver if they're using the car in self driving mode "inappropriately". Now, what the hell is that supposed to mean? Either it's a self driving car that can do the whole job all the time, or it's simply a car with an advanced cruise control that actually has to be watched like a hawk in case it craps out on the driver, leaving them with precious little time to wake from their slumbers to take control and avoid the terrible outcome for which they will be blamed. Rubbish.

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LOST IN SPAAAAAACE! SpaceX aborts Space Station podule berthing

bazza
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Re: Lacking Details

Ah interesting! But that is a strange design I think. Clearly the spacecraft itself was capable of determining the relative position of the ISS, didn't like what it saw and bailed. If so, why does anything have to be uplinked from the ground?

Worse still would be if that value was due to a typo; allowing human error to play a part in a safety critical operation sounds back to front. Normally (airliners, self driving cars, trains, nuclear reactors, etc) the human is there to supervise the machine, not the other way round.

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bazza
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Lacking Details

It would be interesting to know exactly what went wrong. There's nothing in the NASA release. A 'wrong' value in the software doesn't really say much.

Given that such guidance systems are essentially dealing with nothing but a bunch of velocities, it suggests that the capsule was moving at the wrong speed, or (due to a faulty sensor) at least thought it was. Not good. At least their supervisor processing spotted the problem and did the right thing.

It would be very interesting to know the flight history of their software. Was this version 'tried and tested' (they've sent Dragons to the ISS before), or has someone modified it recently?

Good luck on Thursday.

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Beeps, roots and leaves: Car-controlling Android apps create theft risk

bazza
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2001 Obligated Sketch

"Open the pod bay doors, Hal"

"Why certainly Dave, straight away, even though you sound only a little bit like Dave"

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In colossal shock, Uber alleged to be wretched hive of sexism, craven managerial ass-covering

bazza
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Re: Careful there...

The reason Uber can charge you €5 rather than €20 for the journey is because the ride is subsidised by all the VC money flowing into the company.

Exploiting their drivers with illegal (at least that's what it's looking like in the UK) working practices, and taking short cuts when it comes to complying with local laws and regulations is also something to do with it.

If Uber lose their appeal against the verdict of their last court appearance in the UK, the whole edifice will crumble. And it will make force much needed changes on to the gig economy. In short, either Uber will have to let the drivers set the price, or take the drivers on as staff and pay them a wage. Prices will have to rise, and then they'd be no better than ordinary minicabs.

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Jun-OH-NO! NASA's Jupiter probe in busted helium-valve drama

bazza
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Re: Well, crap....

Maybe, it sounds like it's the rate at which they get to do interesting science is reduced (once every 56 days), rather than a complete cessation. That's not so bad really, considering.

I agree, they most certainly have been very successful indeed. I think that the entire run of missions going back to the 1960s, 70s, including the European, Japanese, Russian and others, has overall been a stunning display of just what engineers and scientists can pull off when given the chance. The value for money, even including the failures and difficulties, has been very good indeed.

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Zuckerberg thinks he's cyber-Jesus – and publishes a 6,000-word world-saving manifesto

bazza
Silver badge

Re: So the solution

It's like he's invented a bio-weapon and has lost control of it and now it's been used by some foreign power to cause immense damage at home and everyone he meets is saying "How could you be so ****ing stupid?" and is now trying to figure out how it can "do good".

Fixed it for you!

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