* Posts by Dr Dan Holdsworth

310 posts • joined 16 May 2008

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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

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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.

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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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Microsoft Office 365 and Azure Active Directory go TITSUP*

Dr Dan Holdsworth

Buzzword Bingo

Cloud is a buzzword, simple as that. No real meaning, except what that shiny-suited salesman wants it to mean.

A cloud-hosted solution is a data centre full of servers on which the service is running. The only difference is that the cloud-hosting operator can probably do it a bit cheaper than you can, through economies of scale. The *other* difference is that you are not only relying on the cloud hosting machines to stay up, but also all the networking kit between you and them, plus other associated gubbins like DNS and the like.

When it all works, it is cheaper. When it doesn't, what ho, you got what you paid for.

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Dr Dan Holdsworth

Re: How can we learn from this?

Unless you can actually check each item on a CV for veracity, it is wise to assume it to be at best wildly inaccurate and a heavily manicured version of the truth, and at worst complete fiction. By way of example, a former colleague of mine describes the time when we worked together (as low-end dev-ops on a Remedy ARS system) as the time when he was the team leader of that entire section.

Which, to be brutally honest, was complete and utter balderdash, wild exaggeration and outright fabrication of what he was actually doing.

Employing a person on the basis of information that they provide which cannot be independently checked is utter folly.

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UK.gov: Here's £8.8m to plough into hydrogen-powered car tech

Dr Dan Holdsworth
Boffin

Re: ' Current industrial production of hydrogen gas'

The only good point about hydrogen is that it can be used directly in a hydrogen fuel cell. That's it; that is the sole good point.

The downsides to hydrogen are that it has very poor energy density so you need a great deal of it, it can only be stored at great pressure or at very low temperature, it diffuses through metals very readily and makes them brittle as it does so, it is explosive at a huge range of concentrations and burns with a flame that is invisible to humans (birds may be able to see it, it glows in the ultraviolet).

Hydrogen as a fuel is a political thing, not an engineering thing.

The sanest alternatives are methanol or ammonia, both synthesised using alternative power sources or using nuclear energy. Ammonia actually has numerous advantages over hydrogen; it is not very explosive, doesn't diffuse through things, can be contained in the same sorts of tanks that LPG is stored in, and smells absolutely horrible so leak detection is easy.

Ammonia can be burned in a conventional internal combustion engine, in a jet turbine or even (with the use of a catalyst to decompose it to nitrogen and hydrogen) in a fuel cell. If you absolutely must have a zero-carbon fuel and batteries/supercapacitors won't work, then ammonia is the best choice.

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Galileo, Galileo, Galileo, off you go: Snout of UK space forcibly removed from EU satellite trough

Dr Dan Holdsworth

Re: The Swiss are in it

The Brexit referendum is the end result of multiple great acts of stupidity from politicians on all sides.

The EU lot aren't blameless, in that they have viewed Britain as a milch cow to be exploited but largely ignored; the UK lot used the EU as a whipping boy to blame for unpleasant legislation that was necessary and would have been enacted whether the EU was there or not.

UKIP was always only ever a one-trick pony. The one trick UKIP had was to force a referendum; the way to get shut of UKIP permanently was to give it the referendum it wanted (much as the SNP were given their Scottish Independence referendum to shut them up). The trick to all of this wass to get the EU to give Cameron concessions that sounded big, to convince the electorate that he was looking out for them.

In all of this, the EU behaved illogically and frankly rather stupidly. When their second-biggest contributor comes to them asking for a favour to help put down some local anti-EU activists, then cooperation should be the order of the day so as to prevent this sort of foolishness breaking out all over the place. Instead of this, Cameron got the cold shoulder treatment and got no concessions at all; the EU put themselves in a position where it was easy to paint them as uncaring, arrogant foreign would-be overlords. There's a section of the population that is xenophobic, jingoist and really loves attacking foreign politicians.

It was, in effect, absolutely ideal UKIP propaganda material, which they exploited to the full and when "Project Fear" chimed in too strongly, too bluntly and far too late, the idea that the EU were arrogant vermin, the government a bunch of twits and UKIP the party of the common man came to the fore.

Brexit is happening because two lots of politicians who should've known better made a mess of things, and a few grubby populists didn't.

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UK smut overlord declares age checks should protect users' privates

Dr Dan Holdsworth
Facepalm

So basically all a horny teen needs is a smartphone and the acronym VPN. Off he goes to the Google Play store, downloads the first few things that have VPN in the title, tries them and finds out that yes, all the smut is accessible once more.

No brains or technical skill or money needed at all.

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BOFH: Give me a lever long enough and a fool, I mean a fulcrum and ....

Dr Dan Holdsworth

Re: Nearly similar situation...

Sometimes the legal profession really do excel in terms of stupid expressions. A very good example would be a judge who, when summing up a case where two young men were convicted of outraging public decency, told them to "Get a grip and pull themselves together", which was pretty much what they'd just been found guilty of doing, albeit in public.

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Dr Dan Holdsworth

Re: I like the new boss

I suspect that the new boss may soon be removed and replaced with a simple software implementation of his former role:

http://www.fatsquirrel.org/veghead/software/bollocks/

This implements /dev/bollocks, the first kernel module to wear a suit (even if only metaphorically).

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El Reg deep dive: Everything you need to know about UK.gov's pr0n block

Dr Dan Holdsworth

Re: @Dave Bell - Here we go again...

Operation Ore was even more insidious in that the operators of that porn site, which offered various images of various fetishes of a legal but strictly niche interest, were criminals. They reasoned that if they deducted extra money from their customers' credit cards to buy illegal porn, the customers thus defrauded wouldn't complain, and since that site was the only place they could find their particular kink, nor would they go away; they would simply put up with the fraud.

So, whilst the site records showed that a long list of customers had purchased child porn, quite a number of these customers hadn't themselves made that purchase, nor had they looked at or even known that they had bought the illegal porn. The police, by contrast, worked on the principle that the criminals operating the site were honest and kept honest records of everything, and so used the purchase records as evidence to accuse people of viewing illegal porn.

Several suicides resulted from these wrongful accusations.

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Batteries are so heavy, said user. If I take it out, will this thing work?

Dr Dan Holdsworth

Re: Land Rover MK2

Twin tanks were often fitted to diesel-fuelled farm landrovers, so that the police/Customs had one tank full of white diesel to dip and check that yes, it was legal road diesel. The vehicle actually was usually run off the other tank, the one with agricultural red diesel in it...

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BOFH: Turn your server rack hotspot to a server rack notspot

Dr Dan Holdsworth
Boffin

Re: Stair Oil

Fifteen minutes duration sounds like a solution of a plastic in isopropyl alcohol, very likely liberated from surplus stores of tape head cleaner. I think I detect a certain amount of experimentation in the correct type of plastic solute to use to achieve the correct amount of slipperiness; after all practice does make perfect in these circumstances.

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Rogue IT admin goes off the rails, shuts down Canadian train switches

Dr Dan Holdsworth
Stop

HR 101

Honestly, you'd think it would be written into HR and Management manuals by now: if you have an employee who is showing signs of being likely to become an ex-employee, then when you fire him you lock his accounts first, then you inform him that he is being terminated and that his remaining tenure with the company is gardening leave, to be spent off-site.

Otherwise, try to conduct all such business with the maximum of politeness and dignity, so as to preserve your company's reputation and minimise hurt and annoyance to the soon-to-be-ex employee. Pay a little more than statutory minimum redundancy payments, extend health cover for a month or so, basically be nice to the bloke you're firing and with luck he'll be nice back to you.

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Boffins upload worm's brain into a computer, teach it tricks

Dr Dan Holdsworth

Re: Good start.

No, the dissection is actually finer than that.

Take one C. elegans worm, fix it and embed it in suitable sectioning material. Then use a microtome to cut it into very, very thin salami slices and image each of these under a microscope. Finally, using a computer running much the same software as is used on CT scanners, reconstruct the animal's nervous system in 3D.

Repeat on a few different worms and there you have the nervous system of the brain (actually a nerve ring around the pharynx) of a nematode. Sit back and enjoy.

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Yorkshire cops have begun using on-the-spot fingerprint scanners

Dr Dan Holdsworth

Re: Not on IDENT1

To be honest, storing a fingerprint recorded by a mobile device is a bit of a waste of time; the thing is most unlikely to give a good enough image to be useful.

The mobile unit is much more likely to image the fingerprint, create a map of where ridges begin and end, transform this into a long alphanumeric then compare this against similarly-derived alphanumerics stored on a Home Office database. It will also have the facility to report back "Fingerprint too worn to be of use", which is likely to happen quite often where low-paid immigrants are being used as cheap labour on building sites; handling rough stone or brick all day long wears off fingerprints.

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Dr Dan Holdsworth

Re: Non binary DNA

Assuming XX == female and XY == male is correct over 99% of the time. Naturally-occurring faults in the genetics of gender generally don't breed true, hence are heavily selected against by evolution (unless a different form of kin selection is at play; see also Social Darwinism).

That we now have a few edge cases merely means that an exception needs to be put into the software; something on the lines of "This person falls into the *other* category".

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Secret weekend office bonk came within inch of killing sysadmin

Dr Dan Holdsworth

Re: Basement computer room

A very famous computer department in Manchester used to have a rooftop garden above their main machine room, complete with a pond. No prizes for guessing what used to happen on a regular basis; the pond leaked.

The only highlight of this was that every year for a couple of decades, one lone duck would build a nest in that rooftop garden, the fledging chicks getting a free ride out into more suitable habitat when the time came; photo-opportunities with the Computer Science duck were a great honour.

These days, the machine room is a big office. The pond is a skylight.

It still leaks.

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Dr Dan Holdsworth

Re: WTF?

Ahhh beancounters, where would we be without a bunch of cost-obsessed maniacs to get in the way?

Probably in the place of a certain northern English university that I'd better not name (not that I work there, but still).

This university had a sports complex with a flat roof. Not the smartest option ever designed for use in England, and like every flat roof ever, this one developed a leak. The University Estates people were called, and failed to fix the leak to nobody's surprise since University Estates tend to have the collective IQ of yeast.

So, the job was put out to tender, and the Powers That Be unfortunately included the beancounters in the decision. The problem was that there were only a couple of contractors locally big enough and reliable enough to do the job, and they were well aware of this and tended to cartel-like pricing. A third group also tendered, at a much lower cost; let us call them "Del-boy Trotter & co". The beancounters saw only the cost, and insisted on this bunch being hired to do the job.

Thus it was a week or two later that what looked like the contents of several scrap yards, plus exhibits from the Museum of Dodgy Roofers turned up. Shortly after Security tried to turn them away fearing a gypsy invasion, it was determined that these were the new roofers. Quite quickly, they got to work and started messing about with boiling tar, roofing felt and endless cups of tea, and a fortnight or so later pronounced the job done and asked for payment. In cash.

This was refused until after a couple of good rainstorms showed that yes, the leaks were gone, so Del-boy and hist motley crew were paid and duly disappeared, never to return.

Several thunderstorms later the leak re-appeared. The loft space of the sports complex was investigated, and it was found that the large plastic bin placed under the largest leak by the roofers was now full of water and overflowing.

One of the usual suspects for roofing was duly engaged, after it was discovered to nobody's surprise save for the beancounters' that Del-boy & co had vanished.

To this day the beancounters of this university have their every decision questioned with the words "But remember the sports hall!"

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Peers approve Brit film board as pr0n overlords despite concerns

Dr Dan Holdsworth
FAIL

This is sounding unpleasantly like a re-run of Government versus Encryption

Remember all the calls for encryption products to have a back door in them for the use of police? Remember how our Government are completely sure that this is a good thing, completely sure that nobody will abuse the back door and utterly certain that nobody will do horrible and illegal things like install non-backdoored software?

This is more of the same.

This is politicians trying to change reality by averring that such a thing is so, when in fact it is not. Age verification absolutely has to identify the person who is having their age verified, otherwise it is useless. Therefore age verification will identify who looks at what, and said details will be stored on a government computer somewhere, and later lost on a train by some gormless civil servant.

Anyone with any sense will therefore give this age verification system the bargepole treatment, and obtain a VPN from an off-shore supplier. There are lots of different VPN suppliers to choose from, quite a few of which keep no records of what traverses their systems whatsoever.

Somewhere, therefore, an MI5 man is crying into his beer as formerly passable sources of Internet metadata go opaque. Even the fact that someone was using an off-shore VPN was (and probably still is) a useful indicator of either paranoia or nefarious deeds (barring business use, of course).

Alter the pr0n laws so that a VPN becomes a necessary adjunct of anyone who fancies a spot of executive relief, and all of a sudden VPN traffic becomes so common that it isn't a marker of dodgy deeds any more. Hey presto, that's another easy source of intelligence ruined by the politicians.

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Dr Dan Holdsworth

Re: Should I laugh or cry?

Look, the anonymised solution already exists.

I want to look at pr0n, I go fire up the VPN and the Great W***ing Overlords are none the wiser.

Job done. *ahem*.

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Are you taking the peacock? United Airlines deny flight to 'emotional support' bird

Dr Dan Holdsworth

Re: Poor choice

I would second this.

I heard a tale of a peacock sold by one farmer to another neighbouring farm. Periodically the peacock would decide to "go home", and would set off across the fields.

It would be found, stuck in the same too-narrow gap in the same hedge every single time. It never learned not to enter tight holes in hedges, and it never remembered that that particular hedge was the problem.

Truly, peacocks are incredibly thick birds!

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Here we go again... UK Prime Minister urges nerds to come up with magic crypto backdoors

Dr Dan Holdsworth

Criminals are generally not all that smart, and suicidal terrorists are especially not-smart. However, most of the suicidal religious lot have worked out that the secure way to communicate is by meeting up face to face.

Once an attack is in progress, comms don't really need to be secure; if you assume that the security services aren't on the ball enough to know who all the participants are (a good bet if your little jihadi plot has gotten to live state), then you can also assume that they aren't going to understand the comms chatter quickly enough to make any difference.

That was the assumption the French terrorists made: they used completely unencrypted SMS to start and coordinate their attacks, and over that short time scale it worked.

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Destroying the city to save the robocar

Dr Dan Holdsworth

Re: A strange idea

A better idea is to try some sort of separation of fast cars and humans (like we do now with motorways) and in suburbia where humans and cars do encounter each other, switch on a lot of safety features on cars.

The next trick is to ban cars as much as possible from city centres, and provide instead very good car parking facilities around the city centres. A useful step in this direction would be to mandate that all traffic-related fines including parking fines must be paid to central government and not to local councils to prevent them from seeing car parking fines as a cash cow (this then forces them to see car parks as the cash cow instead).

Inside a city, use either slow autonomous electric vehicles or variations on bicycles, including hire bikes with electric assist. For in-city deliveries, use autonomous and slow robot vehicles, but human-controlled ones outside cities.

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Brit transport pundit Christian Wolmar on why the driverless car is on a 'road to nowhere'

Dr Dan Holdsworth

Re: They will never work in an urban environment.

The only place a system that gets upset by people being in its way would work is on a motorway, and that is also the one road network that would greatly benefit in terms of congestion reduction from lots of automation of vehicles. Apart from that, about all you can do is improve vehicle safety and try to iron out some of the more moronic driver behaviours in software.

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Russia claims it repelled home-grown drone swarm in Syria

Dr Dan Holdsworth
Boffin

Re: RE: "the missile to fly upside down it would immediately crash"

Get just ahead of the V1 and move in towards it; the tip vortex of the aircraft wing will do all the damage you would want, without detonating the V1 immediately.

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Meltdown, Spectre bug patch slowdown gets real – and what you can do about it

Dr Dan Holdsworth

What about SPARC

Yes, I know SPARC is obsolescent, but plenty of big systems still run on Solaris/SPARC. Is this vulnerable too?

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UK.gov admits porn age checks could harm small ISPs and encourage risky online behaviour

Dr Dan Holdsworth

Re: In related news...

Given that bees and wasps are all haplodiploid, this means they can get up to some extremely kinky things indeed.

It also means that all male bees and wasps always have grandfathers, but never have fathers.

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Dr Dan Holdsworth

Re: Don't know if I'm alone on this, but I'm of the opinion

Take one moderately intelligent teen, with a smartphone. Let said teen Google "How to get to blocked sites", learn that a thing called a VPN is needed, then go looking on the Google apps installer on their phone.

There they will find the Opera free mobile VPN, and on installing it will find that porn sites become magically visible to them.

This knowledge will spread, rapidly. Teens are nothing if not extremely gossipy, and the knowing of how to get around stupid government restrictions will rapidly become common knowledge.

At which point one begs the question of why bother, if people are simply avoiding the inconvenient and frankly risable law?

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Meltdown, Spectre: The password theft bugs at the heart of Intel CPUs

Dr Dan Holdsworth
Happy

Re: Upgarde

I wonder if, in the light of all this mess, Oracle will consider resuming development of SPARC processors...?

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Astronomers find bizarre 'zombie supernova' that just won't die

Dr Dan Holdsworth

Could this be a black hole?

Black holes, when they are actively absorbing matter, emit quite a bit as jets from each pole due to magnetic forces. Might this not be a black hole jet that just so happens to be aimed directly at us at that time?

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Dumb autonomous cars can save more lives than brilliant ones

Dr Dan Holdsworth
Facepalm

Yes, ABS, traction control, frontal radar, lane-keeping and emergency brake assist all step in when the human has gotten into a bad spot and guess what, these systems all work and all save lives.

Semi-autonomous cars will not be designed by Daily Fail idiots, but by a combination of automotive engineers, actuaries and software designers, all of whom are ruled by intelligence, not by raw emotion. The changes will be slow and mostly not noticeable to the average driver, much as the huge leaps forward in car safety have not been noticed by the average driver, but they will be there.

What will happen is that the robotic systems will creep in and take over the bits of driving that humans find hard, and leave the easy stuff to us. Quite frankly we should be amazed that a bunch of apes that cannot run anywhere near 20 MPH can safely control vehicles travelling at ten times that speed.

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Dr Dan Holdsworth
Facepalm

Re: As I've said many times

The researchers here are not implying that semi-autonomous cars (which a lot of us are already driving, myself included) are 100% safe all the time, but instead that adding in protection against human drivers doing something bloody stupid does tend to reduce accidents and save lives.

If you take a broad view of this, then ABS braking is a primitive form of semi-autonomous car system; it removes the task of optimising the brakes from the driver. Emergency Stop assist systems do the same; drivers often don't jam the brakes on hard enough in an emergency. Frontal radar reduces the number of accidents where through inattention the driver hits a car in front.

Motorway Lane assist systems are another form of semi-autonomous car control system; they reduce the number of "dozy driver wandering about motorway" sort of accidents. This is the sort of thing the researchers were arguing for; not fully autonomous vehicles but systems which reduce the number of just plain stupid things a motorist can do through inattention or misapprehension.

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Pixel-style display woes on your shiny new X? Perfectly normal, says Apple

Dr Dan Holdsworth

Built-in obsolescence

One thing to note with the recent Samsung and Apple phones is that these devices are really, really fragile and are made of slippery shiny glass with minimal amounts of alloy. So, the people who are likely to see screen burn problems are also the people using these phones outdoors, without a case, in sunlight.

In other words, the people most likely to see problems are also the people most likely to accidentally drop their phones, shatter the glass and screen and get both replaced under warranty or insurance, thus rendering the screen burn issue moot.

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$10,000-a-dram whisky 'wasn't even a malt'

Dr Dan Holdsworth
WTF?

Re: Even the experts sound iffy

This sort of thing goes on everywhere, but racecourses seem to be a magnet for it.

Years ago, my father and I were working on York racecourse as bookies, on the cheap side where the big hospitality tents are. York as a course has peculiar betting patterns; the punters bet like mad, flat out for about twenty minutes before each race, then about five minutes before the off everything goes quiet, and you'd better have a balanced book by then or you're stuck standing something.

Anyway, we were standing, hoping to get a few quid more on a mid-ranker horse returned at 8-1 with us, 10-1 elsewhere. No great matter; punters rarely compare odds. Up comes some chap with a tenner, rather more than we wanted so we told him he'd get better odds else where, even pointed out the better odds. Nope, wanted 80 for 10 with us, so we took it and made a backbet with next door of 80 for 8.

Two quid profit and I still don't know why the guy was so insistent on betting with us, and not someone else. The horse lost anyway.

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Dr Dan Holdsworth
Boffin

Re: Carbon dating ?

Actually there are mechanisms for coping with toxic heavy metals in pretty much all organisms. In humans, metallothionine proteins are one of the main methods; these simply grab onto heavy metal ions and sequester them. Generally, a person's bones contain most of their sequestered lead, mercury, radium and so on, meaning that crematoria chimneys need fairly effective scrubbers to prevent the more volatile heavy metals like mercury from being re-emitted.

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Those IT gadget freebies you picked up this year? They make AWFUL Christmas presents

Dr Dan Holdsworth

We have an inexhaustible supply of small, worn and utterly crap USB sticks at work; the source is the various PC clusters provided for our students. USB sticks, invariably exceedingly crap ones, get left in these rooms continually.

We remove them from machines, and "recycle" them as needed.

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BOFH: Do I smell burning toes, I mean burning toast?

Dr Dan Holdsworth
Holmes

Re: !!!!!!

Reminds me of the several incidents that happened to a major UK University I could, but won't name.

First off, why you don't cheap out and put only VoIP phones in the datacentre control, when the networking kit isn't on secure power: power goes down, phones go down, management have no way to harangue the operators but the operators have their own mobile phones and can quite easily pass over terse instructions to the management.

Secondly, datacentres are air conditioned, and need aircon on all the time. So, when the power goes off, and the UPS generators kick in, that is not the time to wonder why everything in the datacentre is a bit less noisy than usual and seems also to be getting rapidly warmer. Cue very rapid machine shutdowns all round.

Thirdly, when you decide to turn the now rather obsolete datacentre into one absolutely gigantic office, it is unwise to assume that all the various odd machines that used to be in there will all migrate to the new, pay-for-space datacentres you've hired. No, they end up under various academics' desks, in comms closets and otherwise scattered around the place in silly places, and worst of all you don't know where they all are, so cannot apply blanket security policies without random roastings from, for example, the Professor of Cruel and Unusual Geography.

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Car trouble: Keyless and lockless is no match for brainless

Dr Dan Holdsworth

Re: You ended up with a Nissan Puke? Unlucky!

I'm not sure how Nissan managed it, but the Juke, despite being a smaller vehicle than the Qashqai, has worse real-world MPG figures.

As to the infernal beeping, odds are the machine thinks a door is open somewhere. Open and slam all of them, and that ought to do the trick.

One final thing: if you have a car with keyless entry, remember that you are the owner of a system that relies on "Security by Proximity". If a car criminal happens to turn up with a box of tricks which can amplify both the signal from the keys to the car, and from the car to the keys, then someone can fool the car into thinking the keys are right next to it, when in fact they are in your house several metres away.

This trick (and I rather think sophisticated criminals are building the boxes of tricks, then hiring them out to dimmer, bolder criminals) lets criminals get into a car and ransack it; it also lets them start it up and move it a few metres or so. Just far enough to get to the low-loader round the corner...

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EU: No encryption backdoors but, eh, let's help each other crack that crypto, oui? Ja?

Dr Dan Holdsworth
Boffin

Re: The utter fools

A better way to work is to remember that when you're hunting criminals, you are not hunting super-intelligent encryption-geniuses, but rather the less-able twerps of this world. As such, you simply have to accept that some of their communications won't be accessible to you, and there isn't a magical McGuffin that will let you get around this.

This is the same thinking process that police had to go through when DNA evidence was first introduced; all DNA actually shows is that at some point, the person whose DNA is present was in contact with whatever the DNA was detected on. Thus the old criminal trick of picking up cigarette ends outside dodgy pubs, then scattering one or two in prominent places when committing a burglary only works if you have stupid policemen around.

Another example is of some burglars who targeted country houses and operated as a gang. Their modus operandi was to meet up at a motorway service station near the target, turn off all mobile phones then go out to rob the target. Only afterwards did they re-enable their phones. This meant they didn't leave an electronic trail to their crimes, but did mean that they left a huge great signal that they were about to commit a crime (for they never met up, turned off phones then sloped off down the pub lawfully to add distraction to the pattern).

As I say, we're dealing with criminals, not masterminds. Criminals always make mistakes, and police have the manpower to catch these mistakes.

So, forget the phoney prize of being able to break encryption. If it is seen as possible, people will use other methods to get around this problem; unbreakable one-time pads for instance. Or, use encryption known not to have been back-doored.

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Why Uber isn't the poster child for capitalism you wanted

Dr Dan Holdsworth

Re: Black cabs vs minicabs vs Uber...

The only reason that Uber looks good as compared to black cabs is that it is being bankrolled by VCs, who would appear to think that it has a good chance of putting most of the local private hire operators out of business, and possibly hurting the black cab operators as well.

Having said that, a wake-up call for the black cab operators is long over-due, not only in London but also in much of the US. Over there, a licence to operate a taxi cab costs hundreds of thousands of dollars and the numbers are being kept low by the dead hand of union protectionism.

21
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Apple: Our stores are your 'town square' and a $1,000 iPhone is your 'future'

Dr Dan Holdsworth

Re: @ Voland's right hand

Why on earth they cannot follow Samsung's lead and make a smartphone that, whilst it doesn't have curvy screen edges and incredible look and feel DOES have corner protection, a large battery and a case that will withstand being dropped.

As it stands these days, you buy a phone, take it out of the packaging, admire this thing of beauty and wonderous design then spend twenty minutes making sure it is completely clean before stuffing it into the armoured case where it will have to spend the rest of its days merely to ensure that the expensive thing remains undamaged.

5
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Your boss asks you to run the 'cloud project': Ever-changing wish lists, packs of 'ideas'... and 1 deadline

Dr Dan Holdsworth

Re: Not exclusive to cloud

If ever you end up in this situation, don't exact a terrible revenge on your colleagues and management before you go. Resign quietly and politely and maintain a dignified and civil demeanour throughout. This avoids antagonising one's former colleagues and leaves them with an impression of professionalism that may be completely unwarranted, but which means they will be at worst neutrally disposed towards you should you encounter them again.

Content yourself with the adage that Hell is other people, and that this particular bunch of other people will in your absence have been inflicting pain upon each other to a far greater degree than anything you could ever devise. Their incompetence is your revenge, your sanity is your reward. If you really can't help yourself, warn them about the Easter Egg (the one you did not leave, being far too smart ever to leave one) and let them tear the place up looking for one.

10
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South London: Rats! The rodents have killed the internet

Dr Dan Holdsworth

Flavoured cabling

The answer here is surely to give the fibre a new taste and scent.

Ferret urine would be a nice new smell for cable that rats would really dislike, and incorporating ultra-bitter chemicals into the cable insulation is surely not beyond the wit of cable manufacturers?

13
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What sort of silicon brain do you need for artificial intelligence?

Dr Dan Holdsworth

Intelligence isn't actually what is needed

We don't really need artificial intelligence, not when humans are still fairly common and cheap to hire.

What we actually need is things that are about as intelligent as a cockroach. That means an ability to find a way around obstacles, enough memory to get bored with going in the same circles all the time, and an ability to recognise simple dangers such as pitfalls and walls, etc.

Do this and do it cheaply, and higher-level functions such as navigation can be dropped on top from conventional programs. This sort of thing is already sort-of happening with robot vacuum cleaners, but needs to get better to be truly useful.

4
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UK Parliament hack: Really, a brute-force attack? Really?

Dr Dan Holdsworth

Re: Not only missing 2FA

All of this comes down to a trade-off between how strong the system can be, versus how much whine you are prepared to tolerate from the users. Since the users in this case are MPs who are trusted with state secrets and are almost the highest authority in the land, I rather suspect that it is they and their great power which is the main cause of trouble.

From a sysadmin point of view, even just the simple TCP rate limit function provided by UFW is useful, in that it stops single IPs from banging away at a machine. Fail2Ban provides a much better level of protection, especially when the "findtime" is extended enough that somewhat more clever botnet attackers are detected and excluded. The problem with both is that a fat-fingered or dyslexic user will get passwords wrong, and will repeatedly get locked out until they demand that the security levels be decreased for them.

This is why 2FA is so important and so essential; use 2FA and only the dozy users who cannot follow instructions get left behind, and the cure for them is simple: get their secretary to handle all the technology for them a la Tony Blair.

0
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UK parliamentary email compromised after 'sustained and determined cyber attack'

Dr Dan Holdsworth
FAIL

Re: If you add all that 2FA or certificate stuff...

Done properly 2FA isn't difficult either for sysadmins or for users. Banks have successfully managed to get their customers to remember strong passwords and use 2FA dongles, and have managed it without much in the way of screams of agony from mentally-challenged lusers.

2FA for email is similarly not rocket science, and it is also not beyond the bounds of possibility to produce small, laminated instruction cards (laminated to prevent the poor dears writing their password on the card) which detail how to log in using the 2FA dongle. Tricks like this work wonders when you have thick users, or so I am told.

2FA plus Fail2Ban with suitably long time outs on the IP logger, together with intelligently-designed supplementary rule-sets such as a blanket ban on all Chinese, Russian and North Korean IP ranges and a strong and secure VPN for access from foreign climes which relies partly on ssh keys for authentication. Do that, and yes, any random script kiddie can have a pop at a dictionary attack, but no, said random script kiddie isn't going to actually get anywhere.

6
1

Canadian sniper makes kill shot at distance of 3.5 KILOMETRES

Dr Dan Holdsworth
Boffin

Suppose our putative Taliban is out on a battlefield, where people are actually shooting already. In this case, several factors both cultural and practical come into play.

Firstly, if our target is busy then he might not even notice bullet impacts around him.

Secondly, even if he does see impacts, he may just ascribe these to random battlefield stray rounds that aren't actually meant for him.

Thirdly, as he cannot see or hear a sniper (too far to hear the muzzle blast, and the rounds will be subsonic by the time they get to him) he may just think he's out of range and disregard the shooting as inaccurate fire that won't get him.

Fourthly, the man might actually be rather stupid, be that from lack of education, nutritional deficiencies early in life or even rampant inbreeding. Certainly anyone smart enough to realise the dangers of front lines isn't going to wander about willy-nilly in front of the enemy.

Finally, there is an attitude prevalent in that part of the world that predestination exists to a greater or lesser extent and that when Allah thinks it is time for you to go, you die; up to then no worries.

All of these plus the fact that he cannot actually see enemy forces might contribute to his apparent unconcern under fire.

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