* Posts by John Robson

2182 posts • joined 19 May 2008

Data watchdog fines Brit council £120k for identifying 943 owners of vacant property

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Ownership is, but the FOI request answer should have been a single number, not a list of properties and their owners.

Boffins pull off quantum leap in true random number generation

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Only need to do it once, right?


NUC, NUC! Who's there? Intel, warning you to kill a buggy keyboard app

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Re: VNC on Linux???

But with SSH you can fire up x11vnc trivially...

Why a merged Apple OS is one mash-up too far

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Re: re not such a big deal

“OTOH it's perfectly possible to have a choice of KDE/Gnome/Mate/XFCE/whatever at login time. Not, not install time or boot time, login. That's interchangeability.”

I used to use ion3 (tiling WM) as my main window manager, and fire up xnest to have xfce embedded in one of the tiles for the odd occasion when I needed it...

Don’t even need to wait for login (although programs were started in one or the other)

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Re: Nothing wrong with a merger OS

Those with experience with Linux will quite rightly point out that a different window manager can completely change how a device works.

You need a bit more intelligence to get the application to handle having two faces (if appropriate) but having One OS and two window managers doesn’t seem like an inherently bad idea.

Tesla crash investigation causes dip in 'leccycar firm's share price

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Re: Clickbait headlines... (elsewhere)

"Protecting a solid state storage drive isn't that hard..."

No, but losing the mobile data connection to it, and not being able to physically access it until discussions with the authorities have taken place, doesn't seem unreasonable...

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Clickbait headlines... (elsewhere)

By the sound of the witnesses it wasn't a fiery crash, but a crash which resulted in a fire - a fire slow enough that everyone left the vehicle.

Be interesting to know what the cause was, and is particularly interesting to know that that stretch of road is autopiloted 200 times a day...

Sysadmin wiped two servers, left the country to escape the shame

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Re: Don’t need human error for that

I've only come across it once - but of course the number of people who have heard me tell of it is probably quite large, and some of those may have repeated it to others....

I wonder how many instances there actually have been, and how many times we hear the same instance repeated...

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Don’t need human error for that

Place I had a summer job had a raid controller do this all on its own - failed drive was pulled, replaced... controller then mirrored the drive - the new drive that is, over the remaining good drive... oops

Java-aaaargh! Google faces $9bn copyright bill after Oracle scores 'fair use' court appeal win

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"But where, as here, the copying is verbatim, for an identical function and purpose, and there are no changes to the expressive content or message, a mere change in format (e.g., from desktop and laptop computers to smartphones and tablets) is insufficient as a matter of law to qualify as a transformative use," the appeals court's ruling stated today.

Does that mean that tacking 'on a mobile device' isn't transformative, innovative and new for patent?

No, Sierra Leone did not just run the world's first 'blockchain election'

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Does anything stop the information in the linked video applying?

Numberphile on You Tube

Because you still have to trust the code/machine which you probably can't verify...

Samsung’s DeX dock clicks the second time around

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“You don't need the official DeX dock; I've got a cheapy version which is just a dongle on a USB-C flying lead.”

That’s what I was imagining... the phone could still act as a trackpad, the USB-C can still push power in and pull connectivity out...

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Why does it need a dock at all?

I thought all this USB-C stuff (whether TB or USB3) was meant to do all this over a single cable (so you have a second 'blob' but not something the phone has to *fit* into...

Docks tend to not work well when you put your phone in a case of any sort.

I've wanted to do this for well over a decade now (I remember discussing a 'pocket computer'* concept with colleagues about 15 years ago).

* Ok, the world was still VGA and spinning rust, but the concept was, and is, sound.

Uber breaks self-driving car record: First robo-ride to kill a pedestrian

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"UK official stopping distance at 30mph is 23m, if a small child runs out into the road 1m in front of my car then it may be my responsibility to avoid them but the laws of physics disagree."

It was your responsibility to see them at the side of the road, or to see that you couldn't guarantee that there was no-one there, and adjust your speed accordingly.

Thus changing the 23m stopping distance into something much more reasonable, and starting at a speed which is far less likely to kill said small child if you still fail to avoid the collision.

Sysadmin held a rack of servers off the ground for 15 mins, crashed ISP when he put them down

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You assemble the new rack around the servers...

Cyborg fined for riding train without valid ticket

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Missed opportunity...

Surely the second charge was waved...

I’ll get my coat...

Stephen Hawking dies, aged 76

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Re: That's a bummer of a way to start a Wednesday

14/3 - Hawking wasn’t American.

No idea what his opinion on Tau was though...

EU lawmakers seek coordinated hand-wringing over AI ethics

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What’s wrong...

With the three laws...

Sounds like a better starting point than the 30,000 page draft...

Good news: Apple designs a notebook keyboard that doesn't suck

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Search for magC

Looks a pretty decent, and very compact, solution

Copper feel, fibre it ain't: Ads regulator could face court for playing hard and fast with definitions

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Re: Fibre vs Copper

No - fibre to the router is fundamentally different from fibre to some way down the road, then VADSL to the router.

From the router you can run 10G over copper if you need to - it’s an ethernet decision. From the cabinet it’s a fudge.

Boring. The phone business has lost the plot and Google is making it worse

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Re: Let's face it..

Unfolded the phone doesn’t have to be constant depth. You could have one corner with all the gubbins, and a thin screen folded/rolled out from it.

A packet of strong mints with a simple screen on the device, and a slide out screen that unrolls as needed?

Full shift to electric vans would melt Royal Mail's London hub, MPs told

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Re: Electric milk float comeback

They even used to deliver stuff to lots of houses on a street... wonder why they never managed to combine operations with Royal Mail?

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When did...

“We can’t do it all at once so we’ll do nothing” become a sane argument?

Wearables are now a two-horse race and Google lost very badly

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I stopped wearing a watch years ago (my phone was a more accurate and useful device) so I need something pretty useful to make me want anything on my wrist.

I had a pebble for a while, I liked the ease of glancing at notifications, but that also made them more intrusive (even when driving it was tempting to just twist the wrist a bit).

I have to look at them and consider them a solution without a problem for most cases (kind of neat HR monitor, but really???)

Oi, drag this creaking, 217-year-old UK census into the data-driven age

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Of course it needs to know your political leanings, how else can it draw new constituency boundaries?

Six things I learned from using the iPad Pro for Real Work™

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"If you want to do "proper" work, you need Windows (I hate to say it), proper Windows"

Funny - that's one thing I avoid whenever I need to do actual work. Some people might want it, but I suggest that's familiarity rather than need.

Unix works just fine... At the moment I'm sat with a BSD derived box at my fingertips. Makes a rather good tool, and is my 'work' machine.

I also have some experience of using the iPad as a productivity tool - for a while we went 'computerless' at home, and my wife wrote a book on her iPad2, with an apple bluetooth keyboard. The iPad has now basically stopped being useful (used occasionally for things), but I still use that keyboard when I work whilst travelling, since a keyboard and iPad mini actually make a great little work device - fits far better on a train/plane table than a laptop ever does.

One of very few things I struggle to do on the iPad is to remotely control a PC UI... And frankly I'm not surprised... I do wish they'd allow a pointing device (heck even if it's an app on a companion iDevice).

(Amusingly computerless is autoscrewuped to computerises)

Talk about a hot mic: Dodgy Pixel mobe audio lands Google in court

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Re: Every 30 months?

> But it fits in with the usual "people keep their mobes for two years" statistic. :)

Do kids phones without SIMs count? ;)

The point I was making that we now upgrade more frequently, used to be 4-5 years, because the ‘second lifes’ of our devices now have value to us.

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Re: Every 30 months?

No - I'd suggest that it is made up two general groups.

- Those who are in the 24 month upgrade cycle

- Those who wait after their contract ends before deciding what to do.

And even then it ignores the second hand market entirely...

I plan to upgrade my phone this year, whether I need to or not, because it will then pass down to my daughter. The phone she currently has is:

a) old enough that many useful apps (such as libby - which gives library access to both e- and audio- books) don't work.

b) starting to have the screen fail (glitching up on the RHS at various times)

But given that it is now 6-7 years old I think that's not unreasonable. It's had one replacement screen in that time.

Then my wife and I will be in sync - with one upgrade per year, alternating which kid gets an update as well. Scheduled phone life - 4 years, publicly visible 'upgrade cycle' 2 years...

New strife for Strava: Location privacy feature can be made transparent

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Re: Sorry but....

That would be a sensible option.

Particularly for disparate groups - the mapping is of no interest to people who live more than 100 miles from me, but the basic data is.

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Re: It's not the first time it's been said

I have several 'circles' covering the area I want to 'hide'

So they overlap and between them provide coverage to the extent that you know which area of town I live in, but no more. Of course you also know when I go past, so it would be pretty easy to track me down...

‘I crashed a rack full of servers with my butt’

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Re: Was filling the truck with diesel ...

> The latch to allow the nozzle to dispense gas without needing a human is bloody useful at -27C (Especially if driving a truck that takes approximately 120 litres).

So you're not dressing appropriately for the conditions?

Some issues which are resolved:

- Can't drive off with the hose still in.

- Remaining grounded so you can't ignite the vapour with a static discharge (and then pull the nozzle out in a panic and spray (now ignited) fuel over the forecourt...)

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Re: Was filling the truck with diesel ...

> Ahhh, @John Robson, but that's why those civilised countries have a higher incidence of fuel theft and have to resort to ANPR camera usage to prevent that.

I prefer pay at pump myself (at which point pre-auth is sufficiently easy to make sense - particularly since the 'refund' doesn't then need the card a second time) - but fuel theft is no different to theft in other shops (except that ANPR makes it really easy to ID the culprit).

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Re: Was filling the truck with diesel ...

And that's why in civilised countries we don't let the pumps operate without a person holding the valve open.

Oh, and we dispense fuel then go and pay - rather than guessing how much fuel might or might not be needed. Multiple trips in to 'pay' for fuel is a crazy way of doing things...

NASA's zombie IMAGE satellite is powered up and working quite nicely

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Re: Funding?

I doubt ground stations would need to be *rebuilt* they just need to tune in to the correct frequency and position...

Knock, knock. Who’s there? Another Amazon Key door-lock hack

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Re: Still looking for an electronic lock...

>> I think you answered your own requirement there - a garage door opener, something that has been around for a long time and does the job it's designed for. Of course, those are still seriously lacking in security, but it does what you need in a way that doesn't require an IoT device.

There is of course the slight issue that I'm replacing the door due to failure of said device - and the way in which I installed it wasn't particularly conducive to replacement (Oops)...

I am indeed looking for something that I can control via an RPi - as I said, no IoT connectivity wanted/needed. But I could of course access it over my own VPN.

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Re: Still looking for an electronic lock...

No, I'd have a phone with a key taped to it.

In this case however it's for a garage door...

I'd like to be able to open it on approach, particularly in the event of rain.

When the remote opener on the door used to work it was rather nice to ride straight in without having to get off the bike, open the house, go in and trigger the door opener before coming back out again.

About to replace the door with something slightly less automatic, but I'd still like to be able to get the door to open for me, particularly when the weather is inclement.

John Robson Silver badge

Still looking for an electronic lock...

I would like to have a lock that I can *open* from my phone.

Doesn't need anything IoT about it - it can all be locally handled... I just need a lock that is locked when power is off, but that I can cause to open by application of power.

Since most similar locks do the opposite (fail open on power failure for fire escape reasons)...

Bring the people 'beautiful' electric car charging points, calls former transport minister

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Like all the beautiful petrol stations?

Yeah - make them nice to look at, but make them first...

Dodgy parking firms to be denied access to Brit driver database

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Re: Petty Speeding

>> This is why one of the non-negotiable features of cars I get is a speed limiter. It's a function of the cruise control.

>Adaptive Cruise Control, mate. Best advancement in car technology since the wheel itself.

and at the point when it becomes available in my price range it will be taken up - but the speed limiter is already available in my price bracket. And since I expect to be using this car for another 8 years or so... Maybe I'll not have to drive the next one ;)

I'd at least like to be able to have a car drive itself down the motorway, which seems eminently reasonable to me...

John Robson Silver badge

Re: Petty Speeding

My car has a maximum limiter.

It is one function of the cruise control, max speed - throttle control, but won’t exceed set speed unless I floor it (the kick down detector will override the speed limiter)

It doesn’t need satnav, I have buttons on the wheel...

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Re: Petty Speeding

> Where there is an actual blackspot, the road needs to be fixed to remove the danger. Adding limits won't help. Adding cameras might slow people down, but they'll be looking at their speedos and not the road.

We could remove the danger from most roads pretty easily. The danger is basically entirely created by drivers of motor vehicles.

Seriously though - engineering the risk out of junctions does seem to be beyond the UK:


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Re: Petty Speeding

> Perhaps he means they're breaking their concentration?

He didn't...

> Which, to be fair, camera's (especially surprise ones) do tend to do, because some people start paying more attention to the speedo than the road.

This is why one of the non-negotiable features of cars I get is a speed limiter. It's a function of the cruise control.

I do tend to find that when I haven't set it, I am still cruising along a road at exactly the speed limit...

> Not that all camera's are bad, mind. There are a couple of places near me where the camera is very much needed because of poor (well, terrible) junction design and road layout. You'd hope, though, that sooner or later they'd spend some money to correct the layout....

Yes - changing the layout is preferable...

There is no real reason to be cross about any speed cameras, it's generally trivial to actually obey the law.

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Re: Petty Speeding

"Safety - I think not! Why's everyone breaking and changing lane. Oh a camera."

Very easy - just don't do nearly 60 in a 50mph limit.

Oh, and learn to spell... breaking is very different from braking.

Google slaps mute button on stupid ads that nag you to buy stuff you just looked at

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Re: Does Google really not get it?

"As for why people are paying for ads..."

I think the saying - 50% of my spend on advertising is wasted, I just can't tell which 50%

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

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Re: No is the answer and it remains that way

I might have to start sending line noise to my MP...

Biker nerfed by robo Chevy in San Francisco now lobs sueball at GM

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> Was this a corner case that a human driver would have handled better than the car?

Probably not - most humans would swerve 'back' across their lane if their overtake had to be aborted (assuming they didn't just plough into the minivan and spin through the m/cyclist).

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“My understanding is that "right of way" has to do more with who can proceed in a conflict, but loses value when a collision occurs.”


Right of way is who has the legal right pass over a specific place.

You are thinking of priority. If people stopped calling it a ‘right’ and called it priority then we might see a slightly more rational attitude on the roads...

Ah, who am I kidding - might is right, bigger vehicle always has priority in the eyes of its operator and anyone vulnerable is screwed by the lack of enforcement, prosecution and penalty :(

Elon Musk offered no salary, $55bn bonus to run Tesla for a decade

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> No, "stepping up .. in increments" is tautology.

Yes, but stepping from 60 by 50 doesn't get you to 650.

Stepping up in 50s does.

It's poorly worded, and occasionally the repetition is useful to clarify a point.

Aut-doh!-pilot: Driver jams 65mph Tesla Model S under fire truck, walks away from crash

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Re: 2018: "But it was on Autopilot!"

> In Aussie if you are riding a pushie and you are pissed can be charged with "being drunk while in charge of a carriage" but it won't affect your driver's licence.

I assume Pushie is an Oz term for pedal cycle...

And the same is true in the UK, although there is no fixed alcohol level, and there is no obligation to submit to a breath/blood test. The offence is demonstrated by you being 'unable to control your vehicle'. Of course with most bikes the offence is largely self limiting.

Smut site fingered as 'source' of a million US net neutrality comments

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Re: American democracy

@Dr Syntax.

It was deliberate...

The EC system is particularly broken because of the way the different colleges decide to handle their votes. Surely a proportional split would make much more sense than each section of the country rounding their votes up to provide 100% support, when a candidate likely only received 60%.

I'm not suggesting that anywhere else has a perfect system - but this peculiar artefact of the US system is particularly screwy.

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