* Posts by Dr Dan Holdsworth

372 posts • joined 16 May 2008

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Well that's just spliffing: UK Amazon merchants peddling Mary Jane

Dr Dan Holdsworth
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FAIL

I'd have been very tempted to buy some and have it sent to them in a gift-wrapped box, together with a stern note regarding not sampling the produce before combing the web...

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Wombats literally sh!t bricks – and now boffins reckon they know how

Dr Dan Holdsworth
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Boffin

Re: IgNobel prize incoming

You'd be amazed what has been researched over the years.

Many, many years ago a chap by the name of Pickett did sterling work in the field of insect sex pheromones and how these might be used to control insect populations (if a male is flapping around with antennae full of sex pheromone, he isn't going to find many ladies).

Somewhat later, I did the same only for potato cyst nematodes. For a mercifully short time (until the videotapes were recycled by my PhD supervisor for recording Eastenders, or Pobl Y Cwm or something), I was the proud owner of the world's most boring sex-related videos.

Sex-related because this was film of male nematodes responding to scent gradients of sex pheromone on agar plates. Boring, because a male nematode in a hurry with love on his mind (and since males don't eat as adults, they always have love on their minds) travels at a few millimetres per minute, and to see any real speed the videos had to be watched on fast forward.

The research, whilst worthy of an igNobel, never got the publicity it deserved through not being around in the days of Youtube, not that this prevented the famous TCP Sliding Window video becoming famous (this was also recorded around this time).

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Scumbag who phoned in a Call of Duty 'swatting' that ended in death pleads guilty to dozens of criminal charges

Dr Dan Holdsworth
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Black Helicopters

Re: Hostage situations...

One useful way around this trigger-happiness of US police would be to add in some more technology. Specifically, when responding to an incident involving a report of armed suspects, send in a robot of some description which doesn't look in the least little bit human, and which is not armed with anything in the slightest bit lethal.

This de-escalates the entire situation; if the suspect is innocent then they will comply with the cop talking through the robot's transceiver to put their hands into the handcuffs and kindly walk out and say hello to the SWAT squad.

If on the other hand they are armed and want to shoot something, then they can have a briefly entertaining time blowing hell out of police property that isn't alive and the shooting of which is no more than criminal damage, after which the human police will point guns at them and demand surrender.

This sort of thing ought to help reduce the carnage caused by police who think that they have no alternative save shooting.

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Samsung 'reveals' what looks like a tablet that folds into a phone, but otherwise we're quite literally left in the dark

Dr Dan Holdsworth
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Re: How they test matters

This sounds a lot like Apple and their extremely comprehensive handling tests done on the iPhone X, which because it was so super-secret all had to be done indoors in controlled conditions. Conditions which included making sure the hands of the test users were always dry, not-slippery and not likely to fail to get a grip on an all-glass extremely slippery and extremely impact-sensitive expensive shiny thing.

Which stole the crown of most expensive thing commonly dropped and broken from the likes of Samsung and Faberge et al.

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Chinese biz baron wants to shove his artificial moon where the sun doesn't shine – literally

Dr Dan Holdsworth
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Re: Suitably Qualified and Experienced Personnel...?

He would appear not to know what he is talking about.

If you look at moth trap collections on different nights of the lunar cycle, you will start to see a pattern (allowing for cloudy nights). Quite a lot of life forms are sensitive to moonlight; in fact I would say that the majority from insects to animals to a lot of plant life are sensitive.

Now, I'll grant you that a new constant moon isn't going to have all that much effect, especially not when compared to street lights in a city, but it is going to have some effect and not none at all.

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UK.gov to press ahead with online smut checks (but expects £10m in legals in year 1)

Dr Dan Holdsworth
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FAIL

Re: VPNs

Opera Mobile has or had a free VPN solution. Even if that has gone, plenty of new ones which can be used to surf porn (and which also serve up adverts in order to fund themselves) will spring up, along with a crop of malicious VPNs which infect your hardware with viruses.

The kids won't care, just so long as they can get their jollies.

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Dr Dan Holdsworth
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You're missing the entire point of the legislation. It isn't supposed to stop children finding porn at all; it is supposed to appease the neo-Puritan nitwits who think that anything pleasurable is bad and seek to control everyone else's lives, presumably to make them as miserable as their own existences.

Said neoPuritans generally don't have much of a grasp of technology, so a gormlessly stupid law that is easily circumvented is all that is necessary to convince them that Something Has Been Done.

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Take my advice: The only safe ID is a fake ID

Dr Dan Holdsworth
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Re: It's only a matter of time...

I know a chap who used to use the names of his cats as pseudonyms for email lists. One day, a telemarketer phoned up and was most insistent in wanting to talk to "Tiddles", even after it was explained that Tiddles had not signed up to this new email list for a couple of good reasons.

Firstly, Tiddles was a cat, and secondly Tiddles had died a decade earlier hence was unavailable for comment. Such is the intelligence of telemarketers that these snippets of essential information took quite a while to penetrate.

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Punkt: A minimalist Android for the paranoid

Dr Dan Holdsworth
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Re: Justified

In other words, it feels like $300 of profit margin and if you hold it to your ear, you can just about hear the Punkt management laughing all the way to the bank.

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Python lovers, here's a library that will help you master AI as a newbie

Dr Dan Holdsworth
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Boffin

Re: Yet another opportunity

My PhD supervisor used to derisively refer to what he termed "Statistical Stamp-collecting". This was 20 years ago, and even then it was possible to start off with a decent-sized biological database of a few thousand data points per treatment, and run an ANOVA analysis comparing each sample to every other sample, and do so whilst one nipped down the pub for an only-slightly extended lunch break.

Actually working out what the results actually meant, that was the tricky bit, as was deciding whether or not the experiments were well enough designed to support the inferences you could statistically "prove".

These days, of course, we have the famous meta-analysis. Not got the time or budget to do work yourself? Need a few more papers published to go for that professorship? Easy, munge together several other groups' work without a thought to the rigor of each experimental method, fire it all at something statistical (Like Kruskal-Wallis so not bright spark can point out that the data aren't parametric) and hey ho, a-correlating we shall go.

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New Zealand border cops warn travelers that without handing over electronic passwords 'You shall not pass!'

Dr Dan Holdsworth
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Re: I'm getting to the point now

Why bother carrying data at all?

Strong encryption exists, so you just keep the data in an encrypted enclosure somewhere on the net, and open a VPN to it whenever you want access.

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Dr Dan Holdsworth
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Re: Have fun!

I wonder if Customs would like a copy of my personal virus collection, helpfully packaged in various ways including self-extracting zipfiles...

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Dr Dan Holdsworth
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Devil

Re: Have fun!

Look, just take the path of least resistance here. The people who are doing the searching are not geniuses, they are just poor slobs doing a frankly rather miserable job on not so very much more than minimum wage. The monkeys have their country's law on their side, and they have instructions to use the law to do what they have been told to do.

Butting heads with morons is not smart. Butting heads with morons who can pretty much do anything they fancy to ruin your day is extremely non-smart, especially seeing as said monkeys are doing a boring job for not much money and will welcome any entertainment. You do not want to be entertainment for a border force monkey; you want to embody grey tedium so that your merest presence induces somnolence and indifference.

So, the monkey is expecting everyone to have a phone. Easy, get a Chinese brick of a phone with a SIM which will roam anywhere, and an address book with only the telephone numbers you need in it. Put a storage card in if you like, but make sure it has some tedious and not very good photos on it, plus some generic music. Keep a printed sheet of the exact same phone numbers in your pocket, for if the phone breaks. If the monkeys want to scan it, then the monkeys can scan it and more power to them.

You don't win against border agents by confronting them. You win by out-thinking them, and the way to do that is to just capitulate and let them steal something worthless and unincriminating.

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UK ruling party's conference app editable by world+dog, blabs members' digits

Dr Dan Holdsworth
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The solution of the true BOFH in this situation would be to keep track of which devices attempted to edit the data, and once each device has tried to save the changes, to present JUST that device with the edited data and keep the data unedited for everyone else.

This permits the would-be hacker to think that they have made an unauthorised edit, go onto Twitter and crow about it, and end up looking like a complete twerp when nobody else can see their edit. Since most of these script kiddies are doing this as a form of social display, contriving to let them make themselves look like idiots in public is a fairly sweet revenge.

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Brit startup plans fusion-powered missions to the stars

Dr Dan Holdsworth
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Re: Mission energy requirements....

I agree, this sounds like an investment scam on much the same lines as the Moller Skycar or whatever it was Steorn were wibbling about.

The first step towards doing anything interplanetary is improving on rockets for getting stuff into orbit. The techno-beanstalk technology is about the only thing that will work here, and it is just about within our current technology. What you do is use normal rockets to get a hub station up to geostationary orbit, then you start lowering a line of super-strong cable down towards the ground, using some sort of counter-weight to stop it dragging the station down.

When you have a line from ground to geostationary orbit, probably terminating at an artificial island in the Pacific, you start reinforcing this until you can send loads of a few tonnes from ground to geostationary orbit. At this point your costs of getting stuff from ground to orbit drop by a couple of orders of magnitude, and the safety of doing so increases tremendously. At this point, space tourism becomes possible (you have to be thinking of the money-making aspects of all of this), lunar colonisation becomes much easier, and once you have a moon base a mission to Mars becomes a going proposition as well.

The whole problem here is that space, even low earth orbit, is hostile to humans. We need complex life support to live up there and even then, solar storms emit huge amounts of radiation. Humans off the surface of the earth need somewhere to hide, and a few tens of metres of lunar regolith are one good place to be. The moon is a good jumping-off place for interplanetary missions because there's almost no atmosphere and much lower gravity; you can build complicated stuff on the surface there which can get to lunar orbit quite easily, and thence to interplanetary space, but on the moon is a much more forgiving place for humans than is free fall.

Once you have your beanstalk, lunar base etc then you can start looking to get to Mars. At this point I'm not really seeing a reason for not using the Orion drive; it works, it is simple and away from Earth radioactive contamination is going to get pushed away on the solar wind.

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DEF CON hackers' dossier on US voting machine security is just as grim as feared

Dr Dan Holdsworth
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WTF?

Re: Graveyard voting

Yes, democracy was famously so popular in places like Chicago that the occupants of quite large cemeteries would lurch down to the voting booths to cast their votes, sometimes several times!

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HMRC contractor scores IR35 payout after yet another taxman blunder

Dr Dan Holdsworth
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FAIL

The UK Tax Code is hideously over-complicated

In most countries including the UK, civil courts are mostly there for when someone's got something wrong. That HMRC are being forced to go to court so many times regarding tax matters merely shows that the tax code they are trying to apply is too complicated to be useful.

Simplifying the UK tax code would seem now to be a priority. I would think that after Brexit, the Civil Service will rapidly start to realise that without a continual drip-feed of new regulations from the EU to apply, they shall have to start thinking for themselves and at this point will realise that simplifying their own jobs is a priority.

If they do not do so, and they won't for a while, there will continue to be a steady series of these sorts of cases.

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Oz government rushes its anti-crypto legislation into parliament

Dr Dan Holdsworth
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Re: Interesting take on the legislation

This already happened once. Australia decided to get tough on internet gambling, so the various firms supplying this need to Australians simply off-shored their servers to south-east Asia, frequently with only very minimal downtime, and carried on as before.

Australia lost the hosting profits and the taxes that the gambling site operators paid, but did not otherwise impede business in the slightest.

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Dr Dan Holdsworth
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Re: They know not what they do

I rather think that the intelligence agencies were hoping to be gifted with a slightly better way of planting sniffers onto internet backbones and into ISPs, and therefore asked for moon-onna-stick in the belief that the politicians would water down any proposal to more or less what was wanted.

Unfortunately nobody ever thought that the politicians were stupid enough to try to defy the laws of physics and mathematics, and demand back doors in encryption.

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Who's hacking into UK unis? Spies, research-nickers... or rival gamers living in res hall?

Dr Dan Holdsworth
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Re: These aren't DDoS attacks

Solutions exist to prevent torrenting; tricks such as having a device on the Halls network which listens for torrent connections, then sends a spoofed hangup packet to each end of every torrent it thinks it sees. Evil, and very effective.

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Dr Dan Holdsworth
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Re: Do they need to hack a UNI anymore?

Sometimes the attacks are subtle, elegant and amusingly pointless.

At a university that we shall call the University of Elbonia some years ago, some Computer Science undergrads obtained images of the fingerprints of the head of department by means devious and sly. They encoded these images into a buffer overflow attack in Postscript, conducted against the Computer Science printers, and managed on Friday night to reprogram these printers so that somewhere on every sheet of printing was a copy of one of the Head of Department's fingerprints, printed in very pale greyscale.

This was left in place over the weekend, then reversed using the same vulnerability on Sunday night. The CS staff were later quietly informed of the vulnerability and how to patch it.

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Sysadmin misses out on paycheck after student test runs amok

Dr Dan Holdsworth
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Re: Naming Scheme

A certain now-defunct ISP I could name used genera of owls for DNS machines, genera of spiders for web systems and different archaic container names for file servers. However, a university I know of, in the search for short, snappy hostnames had a web server named Virus.

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A flash of inspiration sees techie get dirty to fix hospital's woes

Dr Dan Holdsworth
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Re: Upsetting non-techies can be hard

I am reminded of the time a lawyers' office decided to try and speed up their secretarial work, by getting the lawyers to do some of the text processing themselves. Given that they had an office full of luddites and two-finger typists, this was a non-starter until someone had the inspired idea of using speech-to-text software. Most people had their own private offices so noise wasn't an issue.

After initial training of the software, everything seemed fine. The senior secretaries found the system effective, but some preferred typing. The lawyers were more of a mixed bag. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't and no amount of training changed this. Until a pattern slowly started to emerge...

Failures to recognise speech were much rarer in the mornings and late afternoons, and commonest right after lunch. Eventually the fault was discovered to be that whilst humans can understand almost any other accent best out of three, machine speech recognition software really struggles with "Lawyer after lunchtime drinkies".

Short of training the system on lawyers both sober and tipsy and thus having to admit that lawyers drank physiologically effective amounts of alcohol over lunch, there was very little that could be done, and eventually the matter was dropped in favour of trying to teach lawyers to type.

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Russian volcanoes fingered for Earth's largest mass extinction

Dr Dan Holdsworth
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Boffin

The Siberian super-volcano didn't just spew out lava and this hellbrew of halogens; it also chucked out an enormous amount of sulphur dioxide, and more importantly the entire volcano complex erupted through Carboniferous coal measures. If this new research is correct, then the vulcanism couldn't really have been much more destructive, because not only was there a super-volcano polluting the atmosphere with ash, dust and sulphuric acid particles (causing a volcanic winter of epic proportions), but the volcano was also spewing ozone-destroying chlorine gas AND on top of all of that had chucked out enough CO2 into the atmosphere to make the oceans slightly fizzy.

Most of the oxygen in the atmosphere is generated by algae living at the ocean surface. Most ocean-living life breeds via a planktonic stage right after hatching, which tends to live where the food is, right at the ocean surface. Pretty much all of the trilobite species bred that way, and the combination of CO2-poisoned oceans and UV light finished their entire phylum off.

The Deccan traps coincided with the dinosaur-killer asteroid, so it is hard to see which had the greater effect on life on earth. Those events did cause a world-wide wildfire and dust-induced ice age, and there was some effect from the asteroid hitting sulphate minerals and releasing sulphate into the atmosphere, but the KT-boundary didn't see this huge CO2 release, and the oceans were much less heavily affected. The KT-boundary event was also much shorter, only a few tens of thousands of years if that, rather than a million years of volcanic eruption.

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UK getting ready to go it alone on Galileo

Dr Dan Holdsworth
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Re: All a bit unnecessary?

I rather suspect that the moment a war against an opponent who is even slightly clued up about positioning systems goes hot, that opponent will start doing their very best to both jam the signals. A slightly smarter opponent would also, in addition to signal-jamming, start launching false-flag terrorist attacks against major players like the USA and Russia, to encourage them to think of Galileo as a national security risk.

I am however surprised that the EU is not more mercenary in its approach. The UK cannot get automatic access as a member state, but pay-for access given a set of conditions such as partial upholding of EU military goals and not attacking EU allies could surely be arranged. Indeed, using Galileo as a bargaining chip to keep the UK and its really rather potent military on the EU's side ought to be a goal of the EU.

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'Oh sh..' – the moment an infosec bod realized he was tracking a cop car's movements by its leaky cellular gateway

Dr Dan Holdsworth
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Re: Oops

Actually it has been known for quite a long time that in the UK at least, the police radios were operating on a set of frequencies that nothing else was permitted to use. Now, certain TV receivers can be repurposed as software defined radios, and whilst these cannot decode police radio transmissions, they can determine the strength of these transmissions and use the strength to determine the distance of the transmitter.

If you are a criminal about to do something naughty, such a McGuffin is a very useful piece of kit, since it warns you if there is a police officer (or rather, a police radio unit presumably closely associated with a police officer) in the immediate vicinity. If this is the case, then the prospective scofflaw can alternatively choose not to break the law whilst in the presence of police officers.

The devices are marketed in the UK via the usual shady channels, and are described as a way of knowing if emergency vehicles are in the vicinity so that the user can get out of their way. The use of the things is described as "Being in a grey area", which approximates to "If a police officer catches some twerp with one, search the suspicious probable felon and his car immediately and obtain warrants to search his home forthwith".

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What happens to your online accounts when you die?

Dr Dan Holdsworth
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Re: Get a Power of Attorney

Having had to work through things like this when my father died, and with the prospect of having to do so on my mother's demise, I can honestly say that this sort of wuckfittery is standard and normal. When someone dies, a legal process is set in motion which is constrained to follow a certain course, the steps therein being responses to age-old con tricks played to gain control of living persons' money.

So, you have to go through a series of steps to obtain a death certificate; when you do so I would strongly advise obtaining a dozen or so legal copies as this is cheaper at the time of issue rather than later. Most financial institutions will do precisely zero unless and until they get sight of a certified death certificate; this is legally mandated. Once they have a death certificate, some behave efficiently, some require prodding and some flap around like wet hens and have to be prompted every step of the way.

Once all this has gone through and you have obtained final accountings of all the deceased's assets and debts and have paid them all, then you can make a list of everything they owned and stick it on a probate form. It is the making of the list that is the difficult bit; gathering all the info is the time-consuming part of it. Actually filling the form out is dead easy, especially as the instructions and guidance are pretty much idiot-proof. Unless everything is horribly complicated or you have the IQ of an aubergine, you don't need a solicitor to hand-hold you through filling out a form.

Obtaining probate then gives you a certificate of probate. Once again, obtain a number of certified copies of this since no company will move unless they have had one of these certificates in their hands; they are legally required to act this way. They are not legally required to act like incompetent idiots who have never even heard of the concept of customers dying; this is merely part of the (dis)service that many offer.

One useful trick I found for applying boot to buttock in such cases is the Letter of Instruction, which is a letter with that wording as a title, signed by all executors, declaring who you are, what has happened, what certified proof you have and what you want to happen. Generally this gets things moving nicely.

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Boffins get fish drunk to prove what any bouncer already knows

Dr Dan Holdsworth
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Re: so they drink like a fish?

I'll have you know that a friend of mine decided, many years ago, to find out just what a drunken duck looked like. This was on the campus of York university, an area of land reclaimed from bog. It consists of artfully landscaped fields and ponds, with the zen-like landscaping effect being largely ruined by 60s architecture and undergraduate students. Many turn to alcohol to numb the anti-aesthetic effects of this mixture.

So, one afternoon Phil decided to experiment on the local ducks, using a supply of cheap vodka and some extremely ancient bread crusts to absorb the alcohol. The local ducks, being made of sterner stuff than most avians, took to alcoholic breadcrust with great gusto, and soon filled up on it.

The effects were interesting. A drunken duck has trouble balancing, but is so low to the ground that falls don't hurt. It also has difficulties with walking in straight lines, but can swim perfectly happily, albeit in looping circles rather than straight lines. The flight characteristics of drunken ducks were not tested, mostly because Phil was laughing too much to even attempt to get this duck into the air.

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Dr Dan Holdsworth
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Re: Hey!

I'm afraid that experiment has been done, repeatedly, in Glasgow. Buckfast Tonic Wine is a pretty good substitute for any of the aforementioned mixtures; it contains sugar, ethanol and caffeine in stupid proportions, premixed.

Not for nothing is "Buckie" locally known as "Wreck the hoose juice".

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Dropbox plans to drop encrypted Linux filesystems in November

Dr Dan Holdsworth
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Re: Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

This sounds entirely like a company which wants to reduce the amount of testing it does each time an update is brought out. Unfortunately for them, anyone who is using an encrypted Linux partition on a laptop is going to get hit by this, and will have to find an alternative supplier.

Changing cloud storage suppliers is a lot of faff and trouble, so even if they do reverse this idiotic decision, a lot of people will avoid them for a very long time just from inertia.

Has anyone any suggestions as to a less pig-headed cloud storage supplier?

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Stress, bad workplace cultures are still driving security folk to drink

Dr Dan Holdsworth
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Re: Curiously American

Where I work, a major UK university, if you do not take all your holiday entitlement you can expect a meeting without coffee with HR. Partly this is bureaucracy, and partly this is a mental health thing: work stresses people, and getting away from work de-stresses them.

Hence, the edict from on high is that You Shall Take All Your Holiday Leave, or else.

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Amazon meets the incredible SHRINKING UK taxman

Dr Dan Holdsworth
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Re: Just say No to Amazon

There is no stipulation in English law or indeed ANY law anywhere that any person, body, company or whatever should seek to maximise its tax bill. There is however a stipulation that a company should strive to maximise the profits for its owners whilst staying within the law.

Thus if the law permits a company to avoid tax by paying its employees with shares, then the company is more or less obliged to do that.

Ms Hodge is being extremely silly by effectively bemoaning a company acting entirely within the law. If she doesn't like it, she ought to see about changing the law which permits this trick.

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Get drinking! Abstinence just as bad for you as getting bladdered

Dr Dan Holdsworth
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Re: General health

The "Sick quitter" hypothesis has been debunked; teetotallers who quit drinking but are damaged due to alcoholism have been removed from most studies.

The correlation between moderate alcohol consumption and increased longevity still stands; sick quitters are not relevant.

Resveratrol seems to have a life-extending effect, but it is a very weak one. More research needs doing on how it achieves this effect, to find something with a greater level of activity.

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Now that's a dodgy Giza: Eggheads claim Great Pyramid can focus electromagnetic waves

Dr Dan Holdsworth
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Boffin

Re: Mystery?

Actually about the only mystery remaining about the pyramids is how the top bit was made.

For the lower two thirds, a ramp will suffice. For the top bit, an internal ramp is needed. The rest of the pyramid is actually mostly rubble infill, as evidenced by the quarries from which the building stone was sourced nearby. We know the volume of the pyramids. We know more or less how much stone was taken from the quarries, and we know what the usable stone to waste ratio was for Egyptian mining techniques.

There was not enough volume of stone taken from the quarries for the pyramids to be all dressed stone, therefore a goodly proportion must be rubble with the only dressed stone being the sides and the internal passages. This then ought also to revise how we think of a pyramid: it isn't a building so much as a very tidy pile of stone with tunnels built through it.

This then explains the recently detected voids: these are caused by the settling of the internal rubble packing of the pyramid over time.

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Dr Dan Holdsworth
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Boffin

Re: Correlation, causation, and all that

In a similar vein to this, did you know that at a micro scale, steel can behave somewhat like nitinol "memory metal"?

That is how all these cranky "Pyramids can re-sharpen razor blades work"; a used razor blade loses sharpness by the edge of the blade being deformed. Leave it alone somewhere for a period of days, and the metal will partly recoil back to its original shape, thus giving the illusion of a blunt blade becoming sharp once again.

This phenomenon was known of, and recognised at least by some people during World War I, where soldiers were at least sometimes issued with seven safety razor blades at once, one for each day of the week. Use each blade in sequence, then replace it with the next day's blade and each spare blade then has a week for this reforming process to take place.

Of course, this doesn't work indefinitely. Razor blades do have their edges deformed to the point of uselessness eventually, so this trick only somewhat extends the life of a razor blade, and with the advent of much cheaper disposable razor blades, this interesting snippet of knowledge was lost only to be rediscovered by ignorant new-age pyramidiots decades later.

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Think tank calls for post-Brexit national ID cards: The kids have phones so what's the difference?

Dr Dan Holdsworth
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Black Helicopters

Done correctly, not a stupid idea

All an ID card should be is a way to prove who you are. It should not be compulsory to carry one, nor to produce it if asked by the police, it should really just be a convenience for yourself and for the government.

Consider all the fuss you have not in proving who you are to, say, a bank or a retailer. You generally need several unrelated items of paperwork, and/or some officially accepted ID like a driving licence, gun licence, pilot's licence or passport. All of these are serving the purpose of an ID card whilst lacking some functions and being awkward to carry.

Bring in ID cards which merely state name, gender at time of issuing of ID card, residence address (also address fo tax purposes) and a photo of the person, plus a unique identifier key.

That's all an ID card needs, and that is all it should have.

If you issue ID cards that are simply cards that identify who you are, then there isn't a civil liberties issue. All you're doing is making stuff convenient for people.

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Nissan 'fesses up to fudging emissions data

Dr Dan Holdsworth
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Renault and Nissan are in an alliance now; this clearly shows on new Nissan cars as minor things tend to go wrong from new.

Avoid the pair of 'em.

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Leatherbound analogue password manager: For the hipster who doesn't mind losing everything

Dr Dan Holdsworth
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Pirate

What a wonderful idea!

A notebook like this is a very, very good idea indeed, as long as it doesn't contain anything save decoy usernames and passwords for honeypot machines. You could even acquire several different notebooks, leave them in different places and note which honeypot accounts get hit, and when, then cross-reference this with where various visitors and dodgy members of staff have been seen lurking lately.

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Open plan offices flop – you talk less, IM more, if forced to flee a cubicle

Dr Dan Holdsworth
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Re: Is it just me?

The whole idea is driven by the thought that if you cram more people into a given space, you save money on the space that they occupy. Every single other supposed "advantage" of this set-up is actually just hand-waving to make up for several major downsides.

Firstly, most people absolutely loath big open-plan offices, for many reasons. Some will leave jobs to avoid them.

Secondly, the disturbance factor reduces the work output, dropping productivity by about a third.

Thirdly, sick leave taken increases markedly the more people share a space. Research on cold virus transmission (done by the University of Maryland) shows that most cold virus transmission is aerosol based, and thus it is proximity to infectious people that counts.

Fourthly, communication inside teams decreases markedly, as this research shows.

The bottom line is that the money saved by cramming people into a space like battery hens is lost several times over by the many factors that lose productivity, however these facts are lost on the PHBs who normally decide on implementing these shite-hole workplaces.

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Sysadmin cracked military PC’s security by reading the manual

Dr Dan Holdsworth
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Re: Only cracking I have done is

Old-style D-locks had a type of circular lock that was very vulnerable to being picked using a circle of plastic like, say, the cap of a Bic ballpoint pen. I'm not giving any trade secrets away here, since this quick pick system has been around for decades.

Masterlock however is something of a concern. They have an unenviable reputation as the absolute easiest-to-pick padlock makers in the world, barring some of the cheap and useless Chinese brands. Masterlock use no security pins, and even go so far as to include a vulnerability in some padlocks that leads to them being easily bypassed.

Their latest outing into the world of security done wrong is a Bluetooth padlock with the key hardcoded into the device MAC address...

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Security guard cost bank millions by hitting emergency Off button

Dr Dan Holdsworth
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Re: most emergency buttons provide [..] no information on what, exactly, they are supposed to stop

I am reminded of an entry in the famous Evil Overlord Checklist:

If your evil lair absolutely has to have an emergency destruct button, then there should be a very large, obvious red button marked "EMERGENCY DESTRUCT". This will be linked to the trigger of a shotgun pointed at where anyone pressing the button would have to stand. The actual destruct system should be a complex series of controls hidden in the sewage processing plant systems.

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What a flap: SIM swiped from slain stork's GPS tracker used to rack up $2,700 phone bill

Dr Dan Holdsworth
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Re: Just wait until we all have an embedded SIM card....

A certain sci-fi author took this a stage further. When the protagonist found himself hard up for funds, he did what any criminal of that era would do and bought a finger. Specifically the finger of someone whose sudden departure from society would not be missed, said digit being attached to a mini life support device to enable it to carry on simulating being part of its late owner.

All our criminal then had to do was use said finger to extract cash from the late donor's bank account until either it ran out or the donor's lack of life was noticed and the account stopped.

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Potato, potato. Toma6to, I'm going to kill you... How a typo can turn an AI translator against us

Dr Dan Holdsworth
Silver badge

Time to do things the easier way

The problem with going from one human language to another is that the tenses, idioms and meanings are all slightly different between human languages. One less well known way to cope with this is to translate every input language into an interlingua called Lojban which is syntactically unambiguous. Naturally, a fairly short idiom in, say, English tends to translate to a fairly long sequence of Lojban, but this is necessary to preserve the syntax.

From the Lojban interlingua, you then translate into the destination language, making as good an attempt at preserving the meaning and syntax as you can. This sounds a roundabout method, but it breaks the translation difficulty down into two easier halves; translate into Lojban, and translate from Lojban into the target language.

This sort of thing isn't a new concept. Science uses a hodge-podge of mostly Latin plus some Greek as a universally understood language.

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Galileo, here we go again. My my, the Brits are gonna miss EU

Dr Dan Holdsworth
Silver badge

Re: Fgs

What we get from the EU is actually slightly worse than this. The EU's lawmaking process is slightly corrupt in that anyone with deep enough pockets can covertly influence lawmakers there. This has already been done, to the extent that EU law favours large companies over smaller ones.

Since as anyone with the slightest knowledge of how an economy grows can tell you that most economic growth comes from small companies growing into slightly larger small companies, then any legal framework that disadvantages the small fry still further is going to have an inhibitory effect on economic growth.

This is already happening right across the EU, hence economic growth is stalling everywhere. When Britain leaves, the EU's central command will aim to make up the funding shortfall not by cutting their outgoings, but by levying a tax. This will stall growth still further. Put simply, the EU is showing every sign of descending into a long, slow and drawn-out death of its own making.

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National ID cards might not mean much when up against incompetence of the UK Home Office

Dr Dan Holdsworth
Silver badge

Re: Some things the government should know..

To be perfectly honest, a simple card that is government-accepted proof of who you are is not a bad idea at all. It only needs information like name, address, nationality(s) and date of birth, plus a photo and a unique code for the back-end database. There are a lot of times when that basic information is needed and where I at the moment use my driving licence in lieu of the simple ID card.

You do not need to make it mandatory to carry such a card, for the population will not like it. Nor should the card carry any more information than necessary. Religion must not be recorded, nor must ethnicity or any other aspects that a future fascist regime might use as a basis for discrimination. That was the mistake of the Labour-sponsored attempt to bring in ID cards; too much info was being asked.

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What can you do when the pup of programming becomes the black dog of burnout? Dude, leave

Dr Dan Holdsworth
Silver badge

Re: Burnout isn't unknown in IT

If an organisation is routinely calling on people to be heroes, then you really ought to see this as a danger sign. Work is what you do to get money in order to live; it isn't your life, and nobody will even remember you for more than an hour or two when you leave the company.

There aren't any prizes for being the bestest whatever in the company; all you get is more work. If the work looks like using you up, leave. It really isn't worth burning yourself out for work.

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Microsoft loves Linux so much its R Open install script rm'd /bin/sh

Dr Dan Holdsworth
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Re: Typical installer written in a large company

What annoys me here is the sheer pointlessness of the installer script. I have installed Microsoft R for one of our users and discovered to my joy and amazement that the tarball package contained a script plus actual, honest to goodness RPM and DEB packages. All the installer did was throw up a "Click to agree to license" thing then install the packages.

I agreed with the licence anyway, so simply ran a yum localinstall <package>.rpm on the system. Job done.

If Microsoft have done their job correctly and written a correct spec file for their RPMs, then upgrading ought to be just a matter of repeating the above actions and letting the system's inbuilt package manager do the heavy lifting of removing the old version and installing the new one; there is simply no reason to even think about an installer script if you do things the right way with the system-supported packages.

If you're not going to package things the way the system package manager expects, then why on earth not?

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Dixons Carphone 'fesses to mega-breach: Probes 'attempt to compromise' 5.9m payment cards

Dr Dan Holdsworth
Silver badge

Re: Useful fallbacks

root@warez.bofh.org.uk is always a good one. That particular domain registration thing was done several times in the past for comic effect, but warez.bofh.org.uk is the only one left that I know of.

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RoboCop-ter: Boffins build drone to pinpoint brutal thugs in crowds

Dr Dan Holdsworth
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FAIL

Re: Statistics

I wonder how effective it is on mime artists?

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Mailshot meltdown as Wessex Water gets sweary about a poor chap called Tom

Dr Dan Holdsworth
Silver badge

Re: Rostering is a poisoned challice, strong constitution and thick skin required

Thus you see why all experienced engineers take some time to think about any new problem. Being experienced, they are also extremely good at multi-tasking, which is why the thinking time takes place down the pub...

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