* Posts by Neil Barnes

2935 posts • joined 18 Apr 2007

Try not to scream: Ads are coming to Amazon's Alexa – and VR goggles

Neil Barnes
Silver badge
Megaphone

OK, you can scream now. ®

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaagh!

2
0

Opposable thumbs make tablets more useful says Microsoft Research

Neil Barnes
Silver badge

Why?

Why would you want to increase the 'productive capability' of a device intended mostly as a sales channel, with the user as the target?

2
3

Amazing new boffinry breakthrough: Robots are eating our brains

Neil Barnes
Silver badge

Re: @ The Onymous Coward

Indeed.

There's something a bit ridiculous that we're working patterns that have survived basically unchanged from agricultural times; when you had to work all the hours of daylight every day (time off Sunday to go to church, so you could be lectured about your unimportance in the great scheme of things) just to make sure you had enough to eat in the cold dark days of winter.

Sometimes I wonder just how many (or how few) jobs are actually necessary - would we really, for example, be any worse off if some of the technical toys had never been invented?

13
1
Neil Barnes
Silver badge

Re: The workforce of the future?

Thanks, Mats - for some reason I had Daniel F Galouye in mind, but couldn't place it.

0
0
Neil Barnes
Silver badge

The workforce of the future?

Welcome to the post-scarcity society... it's being swept under the carpet but we're going to need to think about it.

Since I was a child in the sixties I've been promised (along with energy too cheap to meter and flying cars) so much leisure time that I won't know what to do with it. I'm still waiting, but it might just come along just after I retire, in time to stuff things up royally for granddaughter unless it's *very* carefully managed.

The export of jobs to cheap labour/zero contract gig economy is not a lasting solution because sooner or later there aren't any cheap labour pools left - and if you have a world-wide economy that relies on people buying stuff they don't need and throwing it away, you'd better make damn sure that people have money to buy things with.

For some reason I'm thinking of a science fiction short story in which robots are making widgets in one building, and in the next, robots are busily using them up and wearing them out...

20
1

We are 'heroes,' says police chief whose force frisked a photographer

Neil Barnes
Silver badge

Bollocks.

The police should know better than to ask the question - the police should know the law.

I am a photographer. I am not a professional photographer and neither am I a journalist, but nonetheless I have exactly the same rights as any other person in a public place. If the police are not trying to arrest me, or in hot pursuit, I don't even have to say hello to them - though politeness dictates I probably would.

But there is exactly *no* reason why I should *ever* be required not to be a dick to avoid a kicking. My avoidance of dickness is for my own self respect, not because the police would give me said kicking.

tl;dr: stand on your rights and make sure *your* public servants observe them

p.s. want to see my images, officer? Certainly, they're be ready when I develop them. And no, you may not withdraw the dark slide.

10
0
Neil Barnes
Silver badge

Re: About time the photographers struck back

I've never been bounced by the police while engaging in photography or filming, even as part of a news crew (though they have on occasion politely pointed out that my vantage point was perhaps more exposed than they considered safe from known-to-be-armed suspects).

I have however been bounced - quite properly, though for laughable reasons - by security guards. Most recently, from a large outdoor shopping area of some architectural interest, in which I was using a 4x5 camera on top of a seven foot tripod. Taking images with that equipment takes several minutes just to set up, and I had made half a dozen images from various locations within the site when the security chap came up, identified himself, and politely told me that the area was private property. As such, the owners had the right to forbid photography within it - so I moved. No issue - though he did not have an answer to the question of mobile phones and the cameras therein. Also no issue taking a very similar image from outside the boundary - unmarked, but only a couple of feet from where I was,

Nice to meet a fellow in a sometimes tricky job doing it well and also properly briefed on the rules. As the article states: it is permissible to photograph anyone or anything visible from public land, with very few exceptions - in particular, if a building or area is covered by the official secrets act it is clearly marked 'thou shalt not photograph'.

As others have pointed out - in this case, the police employee was strictly in the wrong. If she had concerns about the photographer's actions, she should have asked one of her police colleagues to deal; as it was she was throwing her weight about, and that's not acceptable.

He was certainly in the right and in spite of the senior officer's later comment there was neither need nor requirement for him either to explain his actions, give his name, or accompany the employee anywhere. He might be considered a bit of a dick for standing on his rights but I don't blame him - I would have done the same and for a simple reason: if you don't stand on your rights, somehow they mysteriously disappear.

I wonder how long the lady in question was bollocked for behind closed doors?

25
0

Linux homes for Ubuntu Unity orphans: Minty Cinnamon, GNOME or Ubuntu, mate?

Neil Barnes
Silver badge

Mint Cinnamon security defaults?

Scott, could you elaborate on this please? Perhaps in a different article?

3
0

First cardboard goggles, now this: Google's cardboard 'DIY AI' box powered by an RPi 3

Neil Barnes
Silver badge
Terminator

Well, indeed.

I want an AI that can look at the windows I have open and make sense of them, e.g.:

"hey, take that block of cells from the spreadsheet that define my state machine table and turn it into a C array, complete with all the squiggly bits in place and some sane comments, please."

Yes, I know I can code something to do that, but that's rather the point, isn't it: an AI to be more than a gimmick requires a lot of free context as well as the intelligence to know what to do with it. The task itself isn't difficult; understanding what the task is, is.

2
0

Gig economy tech giants are 'free riding' on the welfare state, say MPs

Neil Barnes
Silver badge

Re: Time for a turnover limit on IR35?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L2tWwHOXMhI

0
0
Neil Barnes
Silver badge

Finally someone's noticed?

It's been obvious for years that companies who insist that their 'employees' are free-agent contractors are doing it mostly to avoid the legal requirements of an actual employment contract with all the rights and requirements that this would encapsulate. Y'know, the little things that hardly matter like sick and holiday pay, job security, pensions and the like. Things like requiring these 'contractors' to pay consolidated damages when they can't provide their contracted service is surely only a courtesy detail...

But it has the wonderful advantage that it's not the company that's underpaying their 'employees'; it's their 'contractors' who aren't working hard enough, or who have failed to negotiate a suitable rate - and of course it's the 'contractors' who are blamed because they suddenly have to go cap in hand to the welfare state. It's not the company's fault, naturally...

That someone in full-time employment, no matter how it is disguised, requires state aid to live is unjust, inequitable, unfair, and a damned disgrace. The sooner this sort of employment is at least severely curtailed, the better.

55
2

'I feel violated': Engineer who pointed out traffic signals flaw fined for 'unlicensed engineering'

Neil Barnes
Silver badge

Career...

So, over forty years, I've:

- started as a trainee engineer with three years of on-the-job and formal training

- held the posts of engineer, senior engineer, and engineer-in-charge

- been a project manager

- and for the last few years I've been doing embedded hardware and software engineering

Yes, I've got graduate and post-graduate degrees (in maths and computing) - but none of those posts relied on them; most of my career was in broadcasting. And I was never a chartered engineer, though a number of previous bosses have offered to sponsor me.

When I started out, I couldn't even spell 'enginner' and now I are one. Except in Oregon, it seems.

4
0

Last year's ICO fines would be 79 times higher under GDPR

Neil Barnes
Silver badge

The problem is...

that a massive fine that potentially kills the business both puts a lot of people out of work, and removes a service that presumably a lot of people are using. It might not be the best service there is, but it's the one they've got.

What they should be doing is making the directors responsible and fining/jailing *them*.

5
1

Uber cloaked its spying and all it got from Apple was a slap on the wrist

Neil Barnes
Silver badge

Re: @Buzzwords Symbiotic relationship

>> So what would happen if Uber suddenly lost 30-40% of its customers?

At a quick guess, I'd assume they'd just lose 30-40% less than they're currently losing.

11
0

Linux 4.11 delayed for a week by NVMe glitches and 'oops fixes'

Neil Barnes
Silver badge

Good lord, man, testing software?

What's wrong with just throwing it out there and letting the punters find the bugs, like everyone else seems to?

11
0

Base specs leak for Windows 10 Cloud – Microsoft's wannabe ChromeOS assassin

Neil Barnes
Silver badge

I wonder if this hardware

will allow replacement of the OS? I'm not holding my breath...

3
0

Farewell Unity, you challenged desktop Linux. Oh well, here's Ubuntu 17.04

Neil Barnes
Silver badge

Re: Good riddance, but..

Quite. Gnome 2 had it right; Unity and Gnome 3 didn't (for me; your mileage may vary and that's why we like Linux!) which is why I moved to Mint. With all the effects turned off.

12
1

PACK YOUR BAGS! Boffins spot Earth-size planet most likeliest yet to harbor alien life

Neil Barnes
Silver badge
Flame

Re: Of course, any life found anywhere would be super-duper exciting anyway.

Call me a dumb Earth-chauvinist, but I am having a hard time envisioning what would thrive at that gravity, outside of very primitive lifeforms.

Anything floating in water? They shouldn't have an issue. Except possibly with fire - bit of a bugger when the smoke's too heavy to get out of the way of the flame you're trying to keep going on a pond...

0
0

Back to the future: Honda's new electric car can go an incredible 80 miles!

Neil Barnes
Silver badge
Mushroom

Re: Not all that silly

"Also, how much energy is used to make hydrogen?"

About a universe full.

6
0
Neil Barnes
Silver badge

Re: One of the factors I'd be interested in

Back of the envelope calculation: In the UK there are about twenty million cars, doing perhaps 12,000 miles a year (okay, it's a conservative envelope; I do three or four times that but never mind), It seems to take about thirty or so horsepower to cruise at 70mph; call it 20kW. Maybe 15kW as an average? And a finger in the air 30mph as an overall average?

So, 12,000 / 30 hours * 15kW * 20e6 = 120e12Wh - 120TWh. According to Wikipedia, the UK generates around 335TWh a year. Which implies that to move completely to electric cars, the UK would need to increase its generating capacity *and* all its distribution infrastructure by a minimum of 30% - and that doesn't even consider vehicles other than cars.

5
1

Troll it your way: Burger King ad tries to hijack Google Home gadgets

Neil Barnes
Silver badge

Re: I'm getting tired of people constantly playing the victim role...

Other other people leave their voice dictation on and get upset when other other other people actually say something to which the system responds. Of course it's those other other other people who are to blame, right?

I'm not sure the victim *is* to blame here. He is sold something which, to those who are unaware of the technical details, appears to be the electronic equivalent of the perfect human secretary/PA - knows everything about your which is relevant to the job, but maintains a discreet silence about it outside the office. Knows when your partner's birthday is, and will arrange flowers when you forget. Knows which set of books to show the revenue... knows how to spell the words you don't; remembers all the things you ought not to forget, but do.

But as the man said, sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. For most people, that's what it is. They're sold a spell which doesn't work quite as expected, made by some of the brightest and best magicians in the world, and I don't think it's unreasonable that they blame the wizard when it goes wrong. c.f. The Sorcerer's Apprentice...

11
0

BT's spam blocker IDs accident claims as top nuisance call

Neil Barnes
Silver badge

it could divert 1.6 billion nuisance calls a year.

"if all its customers signed up to BT Call Protect"

Surely it could do this without its customers having to sign up?

7
0

FCC kills plan to allow phone calls on planes – good idea or terrible?

Neil Barnes
Silver badge
Headmaster

There seem to be two main sorts of mobile phone users

- those who feel the details of their pointless business activities are so important that they should be shouted all over the public arena, and

- those who can't wait to tell our Sharon what our Kev said last night

People actually using the phone as a means to communicate *important meaning* are so rare as to be invisible. In general, using a phone in public is the audible equivalent of writing graffiti on the walls. With poor spelling and grammar.

6
0

Alabama man gets electrocuted after sleeping with iPhone

Neil Barnes
Silver badge
Alert

Re: everything's a lot better nowadays

Think of it as evolution in action.

The early years of electrical use in the home are a catalogue of interesting ways to die, often because the original installers had no idea that there would be any use beyond lighting.

11
0

Lochs, rifle stocks and two EPIC sea gates: Thomas Telford's Highland waterway

Neil Barnes
Silver badge
Headmaster

Indeed.

Please keep to the original measures, and to the original precision: e.g. 35lbs ~= 16kg.

2
0

Recruiters considered really harmful: Devs on GitHub hit with booby-trapped fake job emails

Neil Barnes
Silver badge
WTF?

Not so much 'why's it still possible' as 'why was it ever...'

I must be some sort of Luddite.

After playing with computers for, what, forty years now, I *still* am unable to fathom why anyone, ever, thought it was a good idea to build software that allows this kind of thing. A word processor is for tangling/mangling words, not for downloading random software.

Since Joe Public (and probably most Reg readers) lack the time, inclination, or ability to see what a macro is going to do once it's opened, they're going to click 'allow' anyway. It's not that Joe is stupid, it's that he doesn't expect what he gets: in his eyes, getting something like this from opening a document is on the same order of things as sticking bread in the toaster and getting a fried egg back. It's not something that should even be able to happen.

4
0

Strange Mirai botnet brew blamed for powerful application layer attack

Neil Barnes
Silver badge
WTF?

What is it with all these malware writers?

Not enough toilet doors to scribble on?

4
0

Microsoft wants screaming Windows fans, not just users

Neil Barnes
Silver badge

Re: Here's my feedback to Microsoft

Um, apparently not effective - MS is still here.

6
1

As of today, iThings are even harder for police to probe

Neil Barnes
Silver badge
Coat

Re: No Siri, I said 'googly'

"Yes sir, it's been encrypted. And the key seems to be based on some predicted future score at Headingly..."

---> the white one, obviously.

6
0

CompSci boffins propose scheme to protect privacy in database searches

Neil Barnes
Silver badge

But is this not security through obscurity?

In the database example, the issue as I understood it resolves to basically grabbing huge chunks of the database and discarding the bits you're not interested in, swamping it/them with irrelevant queries.

Or on an internet search or map search, starting multiple random searches with your particular search buried in there somewhere (as has been proposed previously to upset the large search engines' prediction algorithms.

I don't suggest it doesn't work, but it does seem to need either a lot of databases, or a lot of local storage, or a lot of bandwidth - possibly all three.

9
0

UK Home Sec: Give us a snoop-around for WhatApp encryption. Don't worry, we won't go into the cloud

Neil Barnes
Silver badge

then they need to ban

don't forget hands, elbows, feet, knees... a knowledge of unarmed combat is *obviously* illegal. Oh, and teeth. you might bite someone to death.

There is absolutely *nothing* you can do against someone who is determined to kill and is prepared - willing - to kill himself while doing it.

It's a terrible irony that in order to hold a rational conversation with a member of a government, you first need to remove that member from the conversation.

7
0

Why do GUIs jump around like a demented terrier while starting up? Am I on my own?

Neil Barnes
Silver badge

Re: Pet hate

But on the plus side, if you disable scripts for google.co.uk, it not only loads a lot faster, but it doesn't do the silly 'I'm guessing you mean...' trick behind the scenes. Of course, maps doesn't work, but that's an easy fix...

2
0

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

Neil Barnes
Silver badge

Re: I guess that means it's time to add a time component to the encryption

There's a secondary issue: how do you tell the difference between an encrypted disc and one full of random numbers? Or one containing two encrypted partitions, one of which is completely innocent?

(Apropos of neuron-fade: this weekend I was completely unable to recall a user number (i.e. their reference for me) for my bank. I've used it every couple of days for perhaps twenty years... didn't come back until I stopped thinking about it.)

7
0

A router with a fear of heights? Yup. It's a thing

Neil Barnes
Silver badge

It should *increase* the flashover voltage - if anything, air at altitude tends to be drier (unless you're above the dewpoint). I suspect a cooling issue, unless they've really gone to town with the voltage creep distances.

And come to think of it, apart from the mains input, why would there be high voltages around?

17
0

Bloke cuffed after 'You deserve a seizure' GIF tweet gave epileptic a fit

Neil Barnes
Silver badge

Ignoring the deliberate assault aspects of the case

am I the only one who thought 'Snow Crash'?

7
0

San Francisco reveals latest #Resist effort – resisting sub-gigabit internet access

Neil Barnes
Silver badge

Aah, the myth of the more efficient and flexible private sector

A myth perpetuated wholly by those who have been careful not to observe that the private sector exists to make a profit for its shareholders.

One day someone will notice that public good projects such as this *could* be run with the same efficiencies of private enterprises, but without having to generate the profit and therefore more cheaply.

I know, I know, it's probably heresy to point this out... but the market economy is not there to reduce prices to the minimum; it's there to raise prices as high as the punter will stand.

2
0

Canonical preps security lifeboat, yells: Ubuntu 12.04 hold-outs, get in

Neil Barnes
Silver badge

Re: On the plus side

For a desktop Mint installation) and before that, Ubuntu, I've managed to keep a separate /home partition and re-install. So far, all the numbers have added up and by ticking the appropriate boxes during the install, a new install has done a clean job with the existing /home having all the right permissions.

1
0

Boffins Rickroll smartphone by tickling its accelerometer

Neil Barnes
Silver badge

Re: Hang on a mo...

Hmm, yes.

An admittedly brief look at the ADXL345 datasheet (one of the parts they tested) indicates that the bandwidth and rate can be slected basically anywhere between 0.05Hz and 1600Hz in steps (with data rates at twice those). The diagrams indicate a digital low pass filter *after* the ADC but nothing before it.

And before the ADC is where you need an anti-aliasing filter because once alias noise is in the system there is precisely nothing you can do about it... oops!

0
0
Neil Barnes
Silver badge

Hang on a mo...

just *why* is an analogue input from a mems sensor getting anywhere near an executable form?

Or are they just saying 'here is an input through which a command might be passed *provided* you've already got some sort of application already watching that sensor for a precise input'?

16
0

NASA finds India's missing lunar orbiter with Earth-bound radar

Neil Barnes
Silver badge

Re: Mascons

What about Tycho Crater? Any anomalous magnetic fields there?

11
0

If fast radio bursts really are revving up interstellar sailcraft, here's the maths

Neil Barnes
Silver badge

Re: Astrophysicists think

@Tom 7

Rip the sail off?

Nah... you start with a *little* laser while the sail is close, and as it gets further away and faster, you build more lasers. Though I'd suggest an asteroid belt might be a better place to build the laser, if you don't want to toast the planet...

(er, provided the planet has the off-switch: reason left as an exercise for the student.)

2
0

The future of storage is ATOMIC: IBM boffins stash 1 bit on 1 atom

Neil Barnes
Silver badge
Coat

<cough>graphene</cough>

5
0
Neil Barnes
Silver badge

Re: Still a long way off the "Nudged Quantum"*

Perhaps you mean 'ms fnd in a lbry' by Hal Draper?

Let's hear it for nudged quanta!

3
0

Google to Chrome-plate our shops with creepy mood-sensing AI signs

Neil Barnes
Silver badge
Unhappy

I do not look happy

-> therefore do not try and sell me anything.

1
0

CIA hacking dossier leak reignites debate over vulnerability disclosure

Neil Barnes
Silver badge

Here's the rub

I have absolutely no problem with state actors spying on me - *provided* that they have acquired enough evidence from other sources to suggest to a judge that I am a likely suspect for a crime sufficiently severe that such surveillance is justified.

I object most strenuously to the concept of 'even if we're not looking at you right now, we *could*, because you might be a villain in the future'.

And I object most strenuously of all to the idea that these bozos are exposing me to the much more serious and likely event of some passing miscreant finding one of their exploits which could have been patched had the makers known of it, and emptying my bank account/selling my house/or otherwise financially inconveniencing me.

For most people, that's where the risk is - and it's a real and present danger. I've had my identity faked three times in the last year or so (debit cards cloned and money removed from my accounts) and I'm one of sixty million - versus one or two 'terrist' plots per year that end up in court - and seem by all accounts to have been detected by the simple expedience of listening to people who have reported suspicious activity. The rummaging through the digital life occurs after the event to gather evidence.

9
0

Video intercom firm Doorbird wants $80 for device password resets

Neil Barnes
Silver badge

Re: Roll your own garage door remote

Time to learn how to code: 3 months for your average IoT purchaser

Oh, two months longer than the time for the average IoT developer, then?

6
0

Spies do spying, part 97: Shock horror as CIA turn phones, TVs, computers into surveillance bugs

Neil Barnes
Silver badge

Um, seems unlikely...

A moving coil speaker being used as a microphone only registers pressure waves, within its frequency response. To be sure it's can't tell the difference between high frequency acceleration that's both changing direction 180 degrees very rapidly and is also axial to the speaker coil, but that I would argue is a very rare situation. No use for integrating acceleration to give speed and integrating that to give position - apart from anything else, it lacks two necessary axes.

As a side issue, while a speaker *can* be used as a microphone, the usual setup in a digital audio system is microphone -> preamp -> ADC -> digits -> DAC -> amplifier -> speaker. The whole point of the microphone idea is that you need access to the speaker wires where the microphone goes in. Unless the whole of the audio interface industry for PCs (and generic systems: phones, TVs, IoT crap etc) has been designed with an undocumented link from the post-amp back to the preamp, it seems difficult to assume that this is a likely option.

Which is not to say that it's not impossible, but I suspect that it needs either global interference with the chipsets, or one-off specialist adaptation (e.g. four resistors or so adding, and some code changes).

1
1

BONG! Lasers crack Big Ben frequency riddle BONG! No idea what to do with this info BONG!

Neil Barnes
Silver badge

Re: No spectrum analyser?

I kinda wanted to downvote you just for the badness of the pun, Jake, but I restrained myself and vibrated the other way.

5
0

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

Neil Barnes
Silver badge

Serious question here...

Not pushing one OS or another, but what is the architectural difference between Windows and Linux that gives Windows the need to restart after any (or most) updates? Irrespective of the timing of an update, I have *never* seen a Linux OS require a restart for anything other than a kernel version upgrade - and even then, it installs it and keeps running on the old kernel until such times as I choose to restart the machine.

My normal preference is to keep a machine in standby if at all possible so when I come back to it it is as I left it; that's broken on a regular basis by a Windows restart-after-update strategy. And Windows' 'reset when Windows decides to' approach does not endear it to me.

12
1

Infosec white-coats: Robots are riddled with software security bugs

Neil Barnes
Silver badge

Re: Legal liability?

I think you'll find we'll be able to blame it all on Susan Calvin at U.S. Robots.

4
0

Forums

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2017