* Posts by Dr Dan Holdsworth

355 posts • joined 16 May 2008

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Oz government rushes its anti-crypto legislation into parliament

Dr Dan Holdsworth

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

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

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

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

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

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
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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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
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
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
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

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
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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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
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

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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'Moore's Revenge' is upon us and will make the world weird

Dr Dan Holdsworth

Re: Mob-mentality

Mobs are only difficult to deal with because we care somewhat about the individuals that constitute them. When a mob is a plague of vermin or of useful devices gone bad, then we shan't actually care all that much about the individual constituent members of the mob other than to rescue something useful from the chaos.

At this point, several solutions suggest themselves. Firstly, stop the chaos replicating and spreading. Secondly, contain it as much as possible. Thirdly, either rely on clean-up systems already present, or introduce them. Fourthly, build some sort of predatory system which actively hunts and destroys rogue devices (defined as devices which do not have the current friendly key).

Basically, we're ecosystem-building, with a hint of immunology built in.

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'Autopilot' Tesla crashed into our parked patrol car, say SoCal cops

Dr Dan Holdsworth
Boffin

Re: Hmm

It may come as something of a shock to many here, but Google have done extensive research (to add to the already extensive research done on aircraft pilots) and have concluded that when humans are involved with operating complex heavy machinery, there are really only two varieties of automation that are useful.

Firstly, there is the technology that is being steadily fitted to all cars now, which is stuff which improves how a human controls a car. This is stuff like blind spot warnings, braking assistance systems, anti-collision radar and various lane-keeping aids, together with ABS braking, improved suspension and so on. All of this requires the human to do the driving, and the tech just tries to help the human out whenever it can.

Secondly, there is fully autonomous driving. This is where the car and its systems are doing all the driving work, and the human merely has a big red button to hit in times of panicked emergency, together with some sort of very low-speed movement control for parking the vehicle somewhere that the autonomous systems cannot.

Tesla seem to be trying to extend the assistance technology into the driverless technology niche. The problem here is that humans are really bad at not driving but remaining alert; not just slightly bad but truly, dangerously terrible at this to the extent that this system is actually more dangerous than a person driving an onmodified, unaided car by themselves. Until Tesla realise or admit that their systems don't sit in either of the sweet spots for this sort of technology, they are going to carry on having problems.

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Buggy software could lock a Jeep's cruise control

Dr Dan Holdsworth

Re: Oh Lord

The fun comes when people start with a mostly-working system and try to improve it. I am currently in negotiations with Nissan over just such a set of "improvements" on the new Qashqai. The previous model had an emergency braking system, which was just about sensitive enough to turn a moderate crash into a less serious one. The major downside was that the slightest bit of snow or organic dirt on the sensor caused it to stop working.

The new, facelifted Qashqai models have a slightly different radar system. The positioning has changed; it is higher up on the front of the car, behind the logo. Unfortunately the unit is now a lot more sensitive and is also, at least on my one, buggy. Drive for around an hour and the unit throws a system fault and either stops working, or claims to be obscured (then throws a fault). When it isn't throwing a wobbly, it is complaining about parked cars, radar-reflecting bits of road and all manner of other stuff; the poxy horrible thing is much too sensitive to be useful and instead manages to be an irritation and a plague.

I am in the process of getting the radar unit replaced now; a new unit is being sourced from Amsterdam for a UK car, which suggests a continent-wide radar manufacturing fault that Nissan would very much like to keep quiet about.

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Police block roads to stop tech support chap 'robbing a bank'

Dr Dan Holdsworth

A chap i heard of in South Africa got so fed up with the locals raiding his property that he bought some Lionberger dogs, which bear an uncanny resemblance to adult male African lions. To improve the illusion, he kept them in an outdoor area that was readily visible from the road, together with garden furniture intended for small children.

This gave the impression of some seriously large lions in his back garden. The thefts stopped almost overnight after this; the locals had had enough run-ins with lions to fear them.

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Dr Dan Holdsworth
Big Brother

Re: Totally non-IT, but...

A long while ago, the army in Northern Ireland knew they had some bomb-makers in their general vicinity, but not where. To locate them they did something entirely counter-intuitive: they set up a laundry service.

Not just any laundry service, mind, this one was somewhat cheaper than any other local ones, and did exemplary work. Shirts were washed and pressed to military parade standards, as well they might given that it was serving soldiers doing the work. There was only one catch to all of this, one which most of the customers cared not a hoot about: all clothing got run past a very sensitive explosives residue detector before going through the laundry.

Pretty soon the Cheapest and Best Laundry in Belfast had served its purpose and the army had a much better idea of where the bomb factories were. So the laundry quietly closed its doors, to the great dismay of quite a lot of Irishmen who had been enjoying an exemplary standard of sartorial elegance.

The bomb-makers were less impressed, but still very neatly turned out when finally rounded up.

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HMRC opens consultation to crack down on off-payroll working in private sector

Dr Dan Holdsworth

Re: Epic fail, surely ?

Government tax policy has always aimed to maximise complexity and minimise simplicity. A good example here would be alcoholic drinks. Taxing booze is surely a fairly simple thing to do; you'd not think that a government could complicate that.

A simple booze tax would be a set amount per ml of ethanol in anything intended for human consumption. Simple, easy and effective in raising money.

Not like the fifteen different rates of tax for different and finely-shaded sorts of alcoholic drink which exist at present, then?

Tobacco is another silly one. Cut tobacco for smoking attracts a tax, whole uncut leaf tobacco doesn't, and HMRC are seemingly uninterested in collecting the tax even if directly asked if they'd like to be sent the money.

This gargantuan complexity persists throughout the tax code. Simplifying the tax code drastically would be a very good thing, especially as once simplified HMRC might understand it.

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Dr Dan Holdsworth

Re: Risk vs Reward

I rather think that HMRC are suffering from a lack of vision here. Their objective is to maximise tax revenue. I would suggest that engineering an environment where economic growth is fostered rather than hindered would work better in the long term than hounding people over what amounts to minor amounts of money.

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UK's Rural Payments Agency is 'failing on multiple levels' – report

Dr Dan Holdsworth

Re: Adjusting maps

DEFRA land surveyors are generally reckoned to be the Diane Abbott's of the land measurement trade; they can measure the sizes of fields which have not changed their boundaries since the Enclosure Act which formed them, and come up with slightly differing sizes year on year. That they are crap at other aspects of IT is therefore no surprise whatsoever to farmers.

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Navy names new attack sub HMS Agincourt

Dr Dan Holdsworth

Naming ships after military accoutrements seems a good one, since sooner or later HMS Baldrick will be launched. Preferably by Sir Tony Robinson...

20
1

Yes, people see straight through male displays of bling (they're only after a fling)

Dr Dan Holdsworth

To be honest, the best way to approach this argument is anatomically. If you look at Great Apes as a group, then starting at one extreme are gorillas. They live in groups of mostly females and sub-adults, plus one adult male who has exclusive mating rights to all his females. Male gorillas thus have no sperm competition at all, and have evolved wedding tackle to suit this "no pressure" situation. A gorilla has an erect penis of about 3cm long, and proportionately tiny testes.

At the other end of the scale are chimpanzees, which have enormous testes and mate competitively. Most males in a group have a chance when a female is in oestrus; the higher up the dominance scale a male is, the more mating he gets to do. Chimps thus have huge levels of sperm competition, and have proportionately huge testes to support this competition.

Humans are different again. We have the largest genitalia of all Great Apes, though testicle size suggests not so much sperm competition. Something else may well be going on, especially as the fertile period in humans is fairly covert (which is the exception for apes; females normally only mate when fertile). The best recent guesstimates for non-paternity rates in humans (where the biological father and official father of a child differ) is reckoned to be around 1%, no more, so a lot of the phrases beloved of Social Darwinists such as "shopping around for genes" are wild exaggerations at best.

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UK age-checking smut overlord won't be able to handle the pressure – critics

Dr Dan Holdsworth

Re: Insecure by design

Much is being spoken of how age verification is supposed to work securely. How about coding up an age verification system which is really, really easy to spoof and which doesn't actually keep any records. I think such a system would look like this:

"Notice: Lying about your age is very naughty and you shouldn't do it.

Are you over 18 years old Y/N?"

Then a simple redirect page based on outcome.

Such a system as this will tick all the necessary boxes: it is secure, there is no chance of a data leak, and it isn't actually much less accurate than any other age verification system; there are presumably numerous ways of scamming other age verification systems (and of course there are plenty of free VPNs out there) so the advantages of this system outweigh any minor disadvantages.

21
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Reg man straps on Facebook's new VR goggles, feels sullied by the experience

Dr Dan Holdsworth

Corporate tool?

Take a decent-ish VR headset and mock up a fairly simple VR scenario. Then, instead of buying your techie or coder multiple screens and wondering where to put them, just buy them this VR set-up which models multiple windows floating in space (or whatever) around them, easily moved with some form of simple haptic interface, all set at an easy focus distance.

There you have a next-generation coding environment, and one which allows some interaction with other team members, wherever they may be.

If you want to schedule a team meeting, do so in a virtual space of some form. Your team members then don't have to physically turn up, and can mostly work from home.

1
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'Your computer has a virus' cold call con artists on the rise – Microsoft

Dr Dan Holdsworth

Re: Hold Music

Robotic speech synthesiser, the worst-sounding one you can find, reading out the poetry of William Topaz McGonnegall. Think Vogon poetry without the humour; the man was truly awful, though regarded as free entertainment in his day.

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Dr Dan Holdsworth
Facepalm

Re: Re "putting the phone down is almost always the right thing to do."

Most if not all of these twerps are operating over a Voice over IP line, so cannot press tone buttons even if they wanted to. So, more or less the same tool has been created several times to torture and waste the time of these idiots.

It starts off fairly simple: "To ring this phone, press 1, if nobody answers you talk to the answerphone. To talk direct to the answerphone, press 2, otherwise please hold and Lenny will be with you shortly".

"Lenny" is what might be termed an Artificial Stupidity program. When the call begins, it plays its greeting, sometimes several times until the moron answers. Then it merely waits for the moron to stop talking for about 1.5 seconds, and plays one of a dozen or so sound clips at random. This is all it does; greets then plays random responses when the moron stops talking.

Strangely enough, this is generally enough to keep a scamming moron happy and engaged for quite a long time. Lenny's exploits may be heard on the Lenny Youtube channel:

https://youtu.be/vWrkDOt_IfM

2
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Tech bribes: What's the WORST one you've ever been offered?

Dr Dan Holdsworth

Re: Most misdirected bribe?

For a couple of years, my job title was "Infrastructure Coordinator (UNIX)", and was visible to the open internet. This then meant that quite a few of the dimmer salesdroids would phone me up on the assumption that I was the bloke in charge of the infrastructure of a major university.

Sad to say, I never bothered leading these gimps on, not least because to do would involve cutting a particularly unpleasant manager of my acquaintance in on the deal.

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OK, this time it's for real: The last available IPv4 address block has gone

Dr Dan Holdsworth

Re: Time to claw some back

"Anti-Internet" people can be described by another, much easier word: idiots.

8
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Size does matter, chaps: Oversized todgers an evolutionary handicap

Dr Dan Holdsworth
Coat

Re: Cock size

Yes, the phrase "hung like a gorilla" is a complement in most countries, except for Central Africa and amongst zoo keepers, who all know that the fully erect member of an adult male gorilla is a whopping three centimetres in length.

In other words, a male gorilla has the bare minimum of wedding tackle needed to get female gorillas pregnant. Gorillas also have, relative to their size and relative to other primates, absolutely tiny testicles.

This leads us on to the human anatomy. We are physically much smaller than gorillas, but of all apes have far and away the largest penises. This is clearly adaptive, or we would not be so hugely endowed. Genitals change and evolve very quickly indeed according to selective pressures, so it may be reasonable to assume that H. sapiens is unusual not only amongst apes, but also amongst hominids as a group.

Humans are the only remaining hominid, but are known to have regularly hybridised with other near-human species. Perhaps then this is the answer as to how we have survived and other species have fallen by the wayside: human males are simply unusually well-endowed as hominids go and thus out-compete the males of other species for females...

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