* Posts by RW

1101 posts • joined 23 Apr 2007

Home Office unveils tagtastic immigrant control plans


@ Colin Millar

Edward Tufte wrote a screed on the cognitive effects of Powerpoint that is worth seeking out. Google

"edward tufte" powerpoint

for lots of luscious links.

I've not myself read Tufte's remarks on Powerpoint, but other books of his were my constant companions before retirement. You might summarize his main thesis as "presenting information graphically is extremely difficult and far too often failed attempts are long on bling and very, very short on provoking serious thinking." I imagine that statement applies to his remarks on Powerpoint as well.

The matter is considerably more serious than the usual flicking of bits of chicken shit at NuLab. There are hosts of decision makers in all spheres of life who have become so used to such canned presentations that they no longer have, if they ever did, the ability to follow an argument of any complexity; or to balance conflicting pluses and minuses of a proposed course of action; or to understand issues relating to "unexpected side effects."

Missing Webroot founder found dead

Paris Hilton

@ Wayland Sothcott

It can take months to come off SSRI's. I have a friend who's decided to go off bupropion (Wellbutrin), and per his doctor's advice it will take him 4 or 5 months to taper off. Very, very slowly and gradually, with regular assessment of depressive symptoms.

As for feeling like a zombie, a well-known side effect of many anti-depressants, in some cases at least it's because after about 6 weeks you should switch to a very low maintenance dose. But few doctors know this, so their patients end up overmedicated -- and feeling like zombies in consequence.

Criminal record checks could hit over 14 million people


Allegations, anyone?

"Allo, Ossifer Plod-snoop? I 'ave this neighbor, name of Gordon Brown, who I think is a kiddy diddler. And I'm sure he runs a kiddy porn ring with a gal named Jacqui Smith. Better put this in the criminal records, you never know what such people might do if given the opportunity."

It might be esp. amusing to send in allegations of assorted misconduct for every Labour MP and watch the resultant sideshow.

Too bad the system isn't something like having an intelligence check before being allowed to stand for office!

How did NuLab end up with so many idiots in positions of authority?

Has ISO already rejected anti-OOXML appeals?


@ J re "Web blogs"

"a law that forces the manufacturers of software to release the source code of a product when obsolescence comes..."

Won't work unless you're not allowed to sell software without first depositing a copy of the source code with The Powers That Be. Otherwise, software companies. will just plead "my dog ate the source code."

More seriously, what happens if a company simply goes under? Unless there's a copy of the source on file already, you can bet your sweet bippy that the bankruptcy trustees will not be the least inclined to hand over a copy. No teeth in that provision you suggest, see?

Yet another issue: source code embodies trade secrets and just because version 1 of some program is no longer supported, you can't assume that the source for it doesn't contain trade secrets still in use in later versions.

Software obsolescence is a serious problem but the proposed solution won't work.

Upgrade drags Stealth Bomber IT systems into the 90s


@ Jacqui

JOVIAL = Jules' Own Version of the International Algorithmic Language

Actually devised for miitary/defense/realtime systems, iirc. Very few implementations. Then-Burroughs (now Unisys) had started writing a JOViAL compiler for their B6700 system, but it stalled at a drawer or two full of punch cards. You know, those 2' or so long drawers we used to keep our punched cards in between bouts of chasing pterodactyls down the street to have for lunch.

Saw this torso once at Burroughs HQ in Detroit.

Ah, the memories.

US retailers start pushing $20 Ubuntu


Constructive criticism

I use Win98 on two of my boxes, one for old Win3.1 software that's never been superseded, one for more recent Win32 software. Ubuntu (Feisty) runs on a third box.

All three machines are underpowered by any reasonable standard.

I use Ubuntu for most stuff these days, but I wouldn't say it's ready for prime time. Here's some reasons:

1. Far too often, problem resolution demands use of the command line or editing a config file. People, if you are going to flog a system with a GUI, for God's sake make sure it's *all* guified.

2. Very slow application load times in comparison with Win98. Open Office is a swine. ABIWord is much more nimble but less functional.

3. Important programs for interacting with Windows, viz. Samba and Wine, are a pain in the ass to use. [This is much the same bitch as #1.]

4. While I fuckin' love having a fully Unicode system, why on earth are there 39 Arabic fonts installed? And why do some of the "standard" Linux fonts have funny gaps of a character here, a character there in non-Latin scripts?

5. Applications are inconsistent in the details of their GUIs. Some use Windows style menu activation (depress alt and release), others what I presume is Unix style (depress alt and old down). Some dropdown lists reposition themselves as you key in the object of your desires, others don't. (Character map script selection is an example of the latter.)

6. Bug reporting and discussion is a nightmare of endless forums, repetitious reports of problems, vaguely described solutions only comprehensible by engaging the Geek lobes of one's brain, etc. I dislike MS, but I have to admit that life is easier when all reports of the same problem end up as one entry in their Knowledge Base.

OTOH, relative freedom from security issues and more or less consistent implementation of open standards (esp. ODF) remove certain headaches tha plague Windows. Also, support for older hardware is better in at least some cases.

Report fingers prints as ID scheme's point of failure


Jacqui weak?

AC @ 11:29 GMT: "Jacqui can't back down, to do so would appear weak"

Funny how those types don't realize that their adamant refusal to admit they're wrong about *anything* utterly destroys their credibility. I suppose their thought process is something like "we possess the perfect ideology, hence our ideologically informed decisions cannot be wrong,. to admit they are means our ideology is flawed, and that is impossible." Hence they are never wrong.

Most El Reg types have probably seen this on one or another online forum of some sort: nothing establishes your credibility like saying "I was wrong". The ego-defensive types who hang on to obviously mistaken points of view or information just become laughing stocks -- just like NuLab and the idiots in it.

From where I sit, it looks like Jacqui, Gordon, and all the rest are way in over their heads, haven't a clue how to govern Britain, so they're constantly falling back on cheap shots and trivialities like the ID scheme, Gordon's laughable "don't throw away food" advice. I sometimes wonder if their briefing notes are clippings from the Mail and the Sun.

Thieves take out Cable & Wireless centre

This post has been deleted by a moderator

EU accidentally orders ISPs to become copyright police

Paris Hilton

The thing that puzzles me

is why on earth governments are so hot on the idea of stopping illegal music sharing.

First of all, the music & movie industries are NOT major industries. If they withered away overnight, relatively few people would be out of work.

Second, when the RIAA and the other liars start yapping about how much money they're losing, there's the implicit assumption that if illegal downloading weren't possible, the punters would pay list price for all the same stuff. This is not true.

Third, with special reference to the FBI: terrorism is a real threat, yet the FBI feels that it has the resources to have a special unit devoted to IP-crime. Can we say "misplaced priorities"?

NebuAd makes meal of opt-out cookie

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Re: Legal Advice

When some scumbag outfit starts gabbling about "legal advice', just remember who paid for it. As the old adage has it, "He who pays the piper names the tune."

This is especially the case when "legal advice" is spewed forth as part of a propaganda campaign.

Malware infects Merriam-Webster


@ AC re "fanboy"

AC: "Isn't "fanboy" just a slightly more insulting way of saying "fan"? It doesn't really embrace a new concept in any way."

By no means is the lexicon in one-to-one correspondence with "concepts." In this case, while the two words cover pretty much the same conceptual territory, "fanboy" carries a pejorative, derogatory connotation that mere "fan" lacks. Or to put it another way, it's the "slightly more insulting" element that entitles "fanboy" to its place in the dictionary.

"Fanboy" is an example of a language expressing very delicate shades of meaning. They all do it of course, and adding words to the lexicon is by no means the only mechanism, though it's a favorite approach in English and is one of the reasons English has such a large vocabulary.

MS issues eleventh hour Snapshot bug workaround

IT Angle

"serious ActiveX flaw"

I had to smile when I read that subheading.

ActiveX doesn't have any serious flaws. The whole damned thing has been a serious flaw, from inception onwards.

One of the O'Reilly books on HTML published shortly after the debut of ActiveX included an explicit warning "don't use ActiveX, it's a security hazard." It's not like the security issues associated with ActiveX weren't understood until recently.

I cannot comprehend Microsoft's obstinate refusal to admit that they made a HUGE design error with ActiveX. The handwriting was on the wall right at the start, but no, they've forged ahead with their mistaken software tech ever since.

I love to play at MS-watching (sort of like Peking-watching in the days of Mao), but in this case I can't imagine what kind of pathological corporate structure leads to the retention of a system that has repeatedly been demonstrated to be a, if not *the*, major source of security holes.

Do the marketing wonks have too much say? Is it a pet project of Ballmer's? Is ActiveX a product for which no one person is responsible? Does anyone know?

Research: Wind power pricier, emits more CO2 than thought

Jobs Halo

It's a systems problem

Some power sources are very variable (wind), demand is very variable on an entirely different schedule, other sources prefer no variation at all (nuclear), and some sources vary output fairly well (turbines). What's missing is a high-capacity, efficient, highly responsive energy storage method that will buffer these variations in input and output. Pumped storage is one kick at the cat, hydrogen generation another, car batteries yet another, but none of them appear to be up to snuff.

Can someone tell us what the total electricity consumption of Britain is during a 10-day winter calm? That gives us an order of magnitude estimate of the required capacity of any proposed energy storage system.

I have a funny idea that the answer far exceeds the exemplars' capacity.

@Simon Neill: "Hydrogen atoms are pesky buggers"

You forget that stable hydrogen is in the form of diatomic molecules, H2, not atoms. I presume your misstatement is just a brain fart and not a symptom of stupidity or lack of education.

Ballmer because hydrogen atoms have a series of characteristic spectral emission lines known as the Balmer series. That's an electron orbiting his head like in a hydrogen atom.

The Moderatrix will see you now

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Simple questions deserving simple answers

1. Why do so many el Reg regulars confuse "moderatrix" with "dominatrix"?

2. What size gloves do you wear?

3. Do you have synthetic nitrile rubber gloves on hand, or should I bring my own? I am allergic to natural latex.

Microsoft touts trustworthy browsing with IE8


"Security features"

I'd much rather have a browser that is inherently secure than one with "security features" bolted on as afterthoughts.

Wind power key to UK's desperate renewable energy bid

IT Angle

Bleedin' Obviouser

Funny thing I've noticed amidst all the yap yap yap moan groan grumble bitch complain about climate change, environmental degradation, and other modern eco-ills: no one ever points the finger at the real cause: over population.

Indeed, when I read of the rise in yob-crime, loss of civility, and the institution of a police state in England, the thought that invariably comes to mind is rats in an overcrowded cage fighting ferociously with one another for survival.

Sooner or later, some new disease will arise that in the course of a few weeks or months will kill off 99+ percent of the earth's human population, thereby spelling the end of civilization. If you don't believe me, find a good graph of the (estimated) global population going back, say, 1000 years and look at the ever-accelerating population spike that started around 1850. Any animal species that proliferates so much so quickly ends up getting whacked by Ma Nature with a devastating plague of some sort.

Need a specific prediction? How about a hybrid of Ebola, Marburg virus, and hanta virus that is contagious via contact with unbroken skin as well as coughing and sneezing, and survives dry conditions on handrails and doorknobs for weeks on end?

What is the IT connection of this comment? There is no IT connection to this comment unless someone smarter than me can figure one out.

ICANN approves customized top-level domains

Dead Vulture

Unicode domain names

The stinger is that some scripts have characters visually indistinguishable from characters in other scripts.


Cyrillic ІЈАВЕЗКМНОРСТУҮХ are lookalikes of ASCII characters, but are NOT the same.

[If your browser isn't Unicode aware or you don't have a Cyrillic font installed, that won't make sense. Note also that these are drawn from the Unicode "Cyrillic" range, and not all of these are necessarily used in one langauge.]

Thus you can have a Cyrillic TLD *.СОМ that is wholly distinct from the existing *.COM. Can we say phishing on a grand scale? There, I knew you could do it! You can always depend on the El Reg readership!

I'm none too certain how to handle this kind of thing. Perhaps browsers will have to be told what script/language/Unicode block [*] to display, and convert everything else to some kind of canonical representation in ASCII digits? I sure wouldn't want to be the dude who's tearing his hair out over this!

* Footnote: scripts, languages, and Unicode blocks are not synonymous. You might think that any given language is written in one script, but no. Serbo-Croation is written in both Latin and Cyrillic characters; Abkhazian has Arabic, Cyrillic, and Georgian representations. It's enough to drive a man to drink.

Charter suspends NebuAd data-pimping experiment


Do Phorm & Nebuad violate copyright?

Seems to me that when a server sends a page to a browser, somebody, somewhere has copyright in that page.

If, as I understand it, Phorm & their buddies intend to supplant supplied ads with ones of their choosing, or tack on additional ads, that's an unauthorized alteration of the webpage -- and for commercial purposes. A clear violation of the copyright since the practice can't be justified as fair use.

Anybody know a good, vicious, piranha-like IP lawyer? Or perhaps Google might have a thing or two to say about the hijacking of their web pages.

I smile at the thought of someone entangling these jerks in endless legal nonsense on this account.

BT and Siemens slammed over prisoner call rates


@ AC: "Prison is supposed to be difficult."

You! There! Don't be so fucking vindictive! Just remember the old proverb "there but for the grace of God go I" and try to show some compassion and charity.

[And that applies to the rest of you bloody minded jerks, too.]

It really isn't clear to me or to anyone else who's spent at least five minutes mulling over the subject just what the point of imprisonment is. For a small fraction of the prisoners, getting them out of society so they can't rape murder and pillage again is a reasonable goal, but an awful lot of people go to jail for offenses they are most unlikely to commit a second time.

Is jail intended to *punish*? And if so, why? Parents and teachers are hardly allowed to punish precious snowflakes these days, why should the state be allowed to punish malefactors? Especially when you can get thrown in the pokey for looking cross-eyed at a copper! Notice, btw, that corporate criminals generally get sent to country-club prisons: hardly a punishment!

Is it intended to *reform*? There may be handwaving in that direction, but at best reform is given lip service -- and probably won't be effective anyway. And what about deliberate civil disobedience? You gonna reform Mr. Gandhi not to do "bad things" he did with full knowledge and intent? Not very bloody likely.


I think Gilbert and Sullivan had it right: make the punishment fit the crime.

Merchants call credit card industry's bluff on compliance


@ Rainforestguppy

65 elements in a sample is not unreasonable . . . if (and that's a BIG if) they are chosen randomly.

You would have to take the entire population under study, assign each one an ID number (sequential integers just fine), and use a good nota bene!) random number generator to crank out 65 numbers in the range 1-N to select your sample.

What's missing in the report, and makes Rainforestguppy's cynicism more reasonable, is any discussion of how precisely the 88% figure is determined by the sample. This is elementary statistics, but its absence from the report makes me wonder if a statistical ignoramus did the study.

[Footnote: the precision is almost entirely dependent on the sample size. See any elementary statistics text for the formulas.]

I used to "do statistics" for a living some of the time, and the more I learned the more cautious I became; it's a very easy field to make mistakes in. So easy, in fact, that if you are running a survey and want useful results, you are best off springing the money to have a knowledgeable firm or consultant do the work. Otherwise, your results have a very good chance of being meaningless.

EU Commission plots to end rip-off Britain online


@ Charles re Absolute Truth

Logical consequence: advertising would not contain any subjective description like beautiful, sexy, stylish, tasty, delicious, easy to assemble, and so on.

One might argue that if this were the case, then suggestive images would also fall under the ban. Example: gentlemen's underclothing, the packages of which feature ripped, hairless bods that spend way too much time in the gym, with the subliminal subtext "if you wear these, you'll look like this too."

Which is not an objective conclusion.

Given that marketers are nothing but a bunch of professional, pathological liars, anything that puts a stick in their spokes is fine by me.

PS: I forgot to include amongst the characteristics of gentlemen's underclothing packages the crotch padding and/or hidden straps and thongs that exaggerate and accentuate the reproductive tackle. That too would go.

Ha ha. Take that, vile marketers!

Snoop bill opponents post Swedish spy IDs on net


@ Andy Bright

"what am I missing here?"

Locks up criminals under conditions that are known to drive them mad.

In Texas, solitary confinement with 24 hour a day lights on and no human contact, leading to babbling and smearing of feces.

Guess which state Bush is from?

"Home of the free". Yeah, sure, tell me another one.

Flirty texting could land Scots in jail for 10 years


Re: I do not understand...

"Why are the British so sexually repressed as to treat anything remotely connected to sex as a Cardinal Sin?"

Andrea Dworkin: "All intercourse is rape."

When asked about gay porn, she came up with some cockamamie, twisted anti-logic that claimed it objectified sex and therefore was bad too. Or something along those lines.

Poor Andrea. Toward the end of her life, she claimed to have been drugged in Paris (no jokes please!) and subsequently date-raped. The news articles included a picture of this snaggle-toothed, wild-haired old woman that no one in their right mind would waste good rohypnol or ghb on. Must've been desperate for some more publicity.

Truth is that she and other so-called radical feminists are/were simply man haters who hate(d) that idea that anyone, anywhere was having a good time doing the dirty with a happy partner. One has to wonder what led to this sorry state.

Poor Andrea!

Do you know how much of your porn is extreme?


What's going on

First, a law that flies in the face of basic legal principles, namely, people must be able to tell if what they are doing is, or is not, legal. A vague, ambiguous law like the one under discussion violates this principle.

IANAL but a valid defense might be "well, I read the law, looked at my porn, and concluded I was within the law by any reasonable standard. If I'm wrong, it's because the law is seriously unclear."

Or perhaps a learned judge will issue a precedent-setting decision that the law is so vague as to be unenforceable, ergo a dead letter.

Second, the motivation is the usual NuLabour fuzzy-brained version of political correctness, where nothing can ever offend anyone: vide the lady who was told to take her pottery pig collection out of her front window "because it might offend moslems wandering by."

Don't these fools realize that the essence of a free society is that you, me, her, him, our Divine Moderatrix, and even Jacqui Smith are guaranteed to be offended, often and with gusto?

Once again, all I can do is shake my head. How did these people ever get voted in?

Penguins don't care about porn...

1,076 developers, 15 years, one open-source Wine


Life support for old apps

IMHO, Wine's real benefit is that it allows you to run ancient Win3.1 apps that Microsoft hasn't supported since Win98. Some of these apps are actually best of breed, as later versions sucked like a Hoover on steroids, have caught bad cases of featuritis and bloat.


Lotus 1-2-3 Release 5 (still the best spreadsheet!)


I'll be interested to see if Wine 1.0 has fixed the bugs I found in it when running Pegasus 3.12.

If Wine can actually run these programs hiccup-free, then at long last I see a migration path that doesn't involve any MS software at all.

London hospital loses 20,000 unencrypted patient files


Not breathtaking; just plain ol' lame

"We could not anticipate a determined thief who was prepared to force open a filing cabinet and locked drawers," said Chief Executive David Astley

No, you twit on wheels, you certainly *could* have but you didn 't. Have you never heard of "worst case scenario planning"?

Betcha he's another NuLabour appointee who's seriously underqualified, seriously overpaid, gets big bonuses for doing 75% of what he's supposed to do, politically correct, and as an appointee of NL untouchable, for to fire him would be to admit a mistake was made and NL *never* makes mistakes, do they?

After all, if they admit a small mistake such as appointing this dude, then by implication such grand schemes as the ID card system might also be mistakes, no?

Sheesh! Where do these people come from?

[Answer: business schools.]

Microsoft chases satnav market

Jobs Halo

@ Svein Skogen & Cavehomme

SS: "Given Microsofts track record..."

CH: "Stand back World, Microsoft is innovating again! ,,,Where there is money, there is microsoft playing games, way behind any sense of innovation as known by other human beings"

Do the higher ups at Microsoft realize that their company has an unenviable reputation for (a) being late to the party when an innovation surfaces and (b) missing the point and getting their own version terribly, terribly wrong?

If I were in an automobile and found out it was being driven using an MS GPS system, I'd jump out the window while I was still able to.

Perhaps Ballmer et cie think they are above such mundane things as "reputation", but somehow I just can't believe that when a company has become a laughing stock, there won't be knockback effects on its business. At the moment they're still able to fool clueless executives, much like IBM used to, but there are innumerable knowledgeable IT workers who, if asked, will say "anything but Microsoft, anything!"

Prediction: just as IBM was blindsided by the advent of the PC, Microsoft will be blindsided by some unexpected development coming out of left field. It won't be Linux, and it won't be Apple, but one of these days somebody, somewhere is going to introduce a product that will make the entire current generation of desktop computers obsolete overnight.

Further prediction: if MS broke itself up, disentangled applications from their OS and forced the apps to make their way in the world on their own merit, rather than piggybacking on the OS, Windows would be immensely improved, the apps would be immensely improved, and guess what? MS would make even more money than it does today. But Ballmer & his buddies are so addicted to their present bundling-based business model, I don't see this happening.

NHS chief explains NPfIT delays

IT Angle

Customization? Or not?

Since all NHS trusts are presumably in the same line of "business", one would expect that a single IT system would fit them all. There are only so many ways to record the fact that Mrs. Jones was given a shot of vitamin B12 because she is a strict vegan with a chronic deficiency of the stuff.

Any MBA would certainly agree.

But as someone who worked in the front lines of an IT effort that amalgamated something like 100 different offices' systems, I am acutely aware that getting rid of variation in methods is easier said than done unless management is ready able and willing to lop off heads of recalcitrant managers at the drop of a hat. There's more to uniformity than doing a requirements analysis; cries for special handling must be resisted!!!

Yet... yet... yet... I have a haunting suspicion that the one-size-fits-all approach is false and naive and that different trusts have fundamentally different approaches to doing the job. That there is no one *best* method, that each method has advantages and disadvantages. That circumstances differ in fundamental ways.


Somewhere in this pointless comment, the risks of a monoculture need to be pointed out.

Stunned commuter finds more secret papers on train


@ P. J. Isserlis; plus bonus comment, "What happened to ministerial responsibility?"

"Why are any working documents taken out of the office?"

The situation is very similar to Walmart and other US corporations that demand unpaid overtime from their employees. I can easily imagine that in Whitehall, the scramble up the ladder of success requires brown nosing in this form; those who do their job strictly at their desks between 9 am and 5 pm on weekdays only are labeled "not team players."

Bonus comment: why hasn't Jacqui Smith resigned? Isn't the buck supposed to stop on ministers' desks? If that twittette can take credit for Whitehall's successes (are there any?), why isn't she taking responsibility for Whitehall's cockups?

Answer: because NuLabour, being a completely ideological organization (or disorganization), considers that since their hearts are pure, the ends justifies the means. IOW, out with all the long-established customs of British government, out with the unwritten constitution, and out with civil liberties: the ideology must prevail no matter what the price. A thoroughly Bolshevik attitude, but we already knew that's how they think.

UK's first caller ID-spoofing service shuttered after five days


"legal advice the firm said it had taken prior to launch"

Such legal advice isn't worth the paper it's printed on. Lawyers are like Japanese garden designers: they give you what they think you want, not what you really need.

Businesses like Spookcall know this. Citing "prior legal advice" is just a smokescreen. The fact that they sought it at all says that they knew they were on shaky legal ground, and just wanted someone to hold their dear little hands and say there, there, 't's all okay, you go right ahead with your dirty business.

Biggles battles Yanks for right to sport tash

Paris Hilton

The real reason

The USAF rule about moustaches is just another skirmish in the war against deviancy, including, but not limited to, hippies, dope smokers, bearded hippies, Godless liberals, non-believers, etc.

A significant fraction of the US population tries its very best to resist time's relentless thrusting of them into the future. Thus, you see aged, retired engineers still sporting an 1960-vintage buzzcut as a way of saying "I repudiate the future."

Another example comprises the young Texas matrons who run around wearing pastel headbands and Big Hair, for all the world as though fashion had stopped in its tracks in 1970.

I think the underlying cause is a bad case of future shock, as described lo those many years ago by Alvin Toffler.

Paris, because there's a gal who happily embraces the future -- and everyone in it.

Kremlin pushes Cyrillic alphabet net


Variant scripts

""We should do everything possible to get domain names assigned in Cyrillic characters in the future. This is a serious matter."

Ah, but *which* Cyrillic characters? Virtually every language written in Cyrillic has at least a character or two not used in Russian. And there are a lot of languages written in Cyrillic: not just the usual culprits, the Slavic languages of eastern Europe, but a host of languages across the far reaches of the former Soviet Union.

I've read that Abkhaz (the language of the breakaway province of the Republic of Georgia) uses the most variants of any of these.

"Currently all domains are in Latin script."

Precisely the same comment can be made vis a via Latin script. *Which* Latin script? I betcha a jelly donut that you can't have a domain name that includes the barred letter H used in Maltese, the L-slash of Polish, or vowels accented with the Hungarian umlaut.

It seems to me that if internationalization of the domain name system is worth doing, it's worth doing right, allowing any printable character in the Unicode repertoire to be used. Printable, because Unicode includes a fair number of unprintable control characters.

Intertube users in Ceylon, for example, should be able to have domain names in Sinhalese script.

Reference: the usual, Peter Daniel's "The World's Writing Systems"

ASA slaps down Vodafone 'unlimited' data claims


@ Mat Stace

"Is there a legal definition of the word unlimited in UK law?"

Don't know about the UK, but Canadian law, which fairly closely resembles English law, would probably use an ordinary dictionary since the word is not part of a legislative enactment.

In the case of legislative enactments, there are several levels of reference for defining words used in them. Here in British Columbia, it's first any definitions in the relevant act; second, the provincial "Interpretation Act"; third, Black's Law Dictionary (at least, that's what the lawyers at work always resorted to); and fourth, an ordinary dictionary, usually the Shorter Oxford.

This does not preclude Advertising Standards from stipulating a definition, but if that definition conflicts with the ordinary meaning of the word, they'd probably be out in left field.

The great American president, Abraham Lincoln, once asked his cabinet "if a dog's tail is a leg, how many legs does a dog have?" They one and all responded (or so the story goes) "Five, of course." To which the great man replied "No, four. Calling a tail a leg doesn't make it a leg."

I leave it as a homework exercise to connect this (possibly apocryphal) anecdote to the subject at hand.

Fraudsters pool data to beat plastic fraud checks

Dead Vulture

Corporate short-sightedness

"there's more effort being put in by the crims to subvert the system, then there is by the banks / credit companies et al to secure electronic transactions."

This raises the interesting point that many large, important corporations are so fixated on profits or share price or something of the sort that they are no longer looking to the future and upgrading their infrastructure.

Not the banks of Europe, however, who seem to understand that if you are in banking, you can't sit there and twiddle your fingers trying to preserve a 35-year old IT system that needs total replacement.

BT, btw, along with many other ISPs, is guilty of the same fault: it's clear that the present infrastructure is inadequate: why aren't they actively working to run an optical fiber into all customers' premises? Instead they fuck around with that ludicrous Phorm nonsense and bandwidth capping.

Indeed, if the service providers won't take the initiative, maybe governments will have to step in, since the intertubes is ever more important and failure to upgrade infrastructure damages the national interest.

Hasn't South Korea run fiber everywhere already? Now there's a country that knows what to do.

Dead vulture because that's what a large number of corporate execs should look like!

MPs urge action as spooky caller ID-faking services hit UK


What it will come to...




"<bzzz> <click> This is Anonymous Coward. Please identify yourself. If you are not a telemarketer I will pick up the phone, if possible."

Some weeks ago I got tired of daily vishing calls from some scamster in Tacoma, Washington, so now use my answering machine as a screening device. Works like a hot damn. Highly recommended tactic. These calls are now much less frequent, though they still try every few days, I suppose in hope of catching me out.

If you try this technique, make sure your announcement does NOT start with the word "hello", as there is evidence that telemarketing scum use voice recognition techniques and "hello" triggers their spiel.

URL for info on Tacoma vishers:


EU mulls intervention over BT's secret Phorm trials


@ Alexander Hanff: Important!

"Could everyone please put pen to paper (not fingers to keyboard) and write Commissioner Vivian Reding..."

Absolutely correct. As a former bureaucrat, I am well aware that snail-mail letters provoke more response and carry more weight than emails. Someone can just press "delete" and plead "never saw it, must've been eaten by the network" but a paper document has to be logged in, date stamped, filed, and given a response.

Handwriting, if legible, is even better then machine printing.

Be sure to keep your letters very short and to the point. Ideally they should fit on one page of standard paper when printed out, with generous margins all round.

Historical note: The most shameful part of the UK Govt's failure to act on Phorm is that this is happening in the nation that established that even the monarch was not above the law. Shame! Shame! Shame! Shame on you, o worthless ICO! Shame on you, feckless Gordon Brown! Shame on you, clueless Jacqui Smith! And shame on the managers at BT!

Manchester's congestion charge: pay-to-leave


Typical NuBolshevik Mindset

Use the stick, comrades, and forget about carrots!

I wonder how much rapid transit infrastructure 3 billion whatsits would pay for? And let me ask while I'm at it, are those billions million-millions or thousand-millions?

It seems to me that discussion of proposed major IT projects in the UK public sector would be facilitated by a simple table that contains:

1. whether the project failed or succeeded. (Some will have succeeded by being significantly reduced in scope; these outcomes need to be noted, too.)

2. original estimated cost and actual cost;

3. original target date and actual date the system went live (if it ever did);

4. identity of principal contractor(s).

The table's usefulness would be enhanced by providing references so as to combat deliberately spread disinformation and obfuscatory tactics by the spin doctoring profession.

The Register is well-placed to compile such a table, with the great advantage of a well-informed readership ready, willing, and able to point out errors and omissions. Go to it, lads and lasses!

Heart because I love The Register, in a strange sort of way.

Cavalcade of privacy watchdogs bark for data pimping probe


Another corporate lie

"Charter takes the responsibility of protecting its customers' information seriously,"

Where do they find these lying weasels they call "spokesmen"?

The list of professional liars grows:

1. Politicians

2. Marketing types

3. "Spokesmen" and other PR types

Could lies like the one quoted be treated as false advertising and prosecuted?

Flame because I for one am very very tired of these fascist corporations thinking that increasing shareholder value is adequate justification for unethical, immoral, lying behavior.

Online payment standards fall on deaf websites

Jobs Horns

You're doing it wrong

Instead of emailing the company, El Reg or Martti Ylioja should have directly contacted the organization that imposes, and enforces, these rules.

With a little luck, they'd lower the boom toot sweet...maybe...or are all those rules just window dressing?

It's really reached the point where no mercy should be shown to sites that so obviously flout good practice, mercy including advanced warning that the jig is up.

"Vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord"

Snr. Ballmer because vengeance seems to be one of his specialties too.

World's first Blu-ray record pressing


Re: What was the first CD record produced?

The first digital recording made for commercial release was Jean Pierre Rampal playing Telemann's Twelve Fantasias for Flute Solo. Recorded at the Saitama Kaikan Hall in Tokyo on October 30, 1972.

Recording director was Toru Yuki, recording engineer Masao Hayashi.

It was released soon after being recorded on the CBS/Columbia low-price LP line "Odyssey". In 1987 Denon released it on CD, #1790.

I don't recall the exact specifications, but iirc it the sample size was 14 bits, not the 16 bits adopted for CDs a decade later. Also, the sampling rate was lower than the CD standard of 44.something kHz. It goes without saying that it was digitally transformed to the CD standard. The sound is just fine, thank you very much.

Somewhere I've seen a photo of Denon's experimental digital recorder: it filled a rack full of electronics; today the same function is probably on a single chip.

Optical boffins cut the cost of quantum cryptography



":Because of this quantum mechanics effect"

<discreet cough>

ITYM "quantum mechanical."

As for understanding quantum cryptography, unless you've taken some fairly serious physics courses, don't waste your time. I had to take a certain amount of QM when studying for a PhD in chemistry and frankly, it was mostly right over my head. IT is much, much simpler.

Microsoft urges Windows users to shun 'carpet bombing' Safari

IT Angle

Kettle, Pot, Black: yes

Sounds to me like both MS and Apple are guilty of a design philosophy that has tiresomely demonstrated, over and over, its capacity to fubar almost any machine. To wit, doing the user favors he didn't ask for. We might call this the "oh you poor dear, here, let me give you a hand" philosophy. An everyday example is the Boy Scout who forcibly drags an old lady across the street when all she was doing was checking out the shirtless dudes on the construction site there.

Specific admonishments:

Don't auto-download anything unless the browser is going to render it.

Don't execute anything without the user explicitly asking for execution.

Don't install software on the sly. [This one is mere sneakiness, not a bumptious attempt to make your machine "user friendly."]

Don't design your systems for the clueless. The clueless are cluelesser than you can possibly imagine, so the only viable strategy is to assume a reasonable level of intelligence. [See footnote]

Don't, ever, *guess* anything. When you guess, no matter how clever you are, you *will* guess wrong a considerable amount of the time.

Don't, ever, try to guess what the user meant when he input wrong data. If it's wrong, it's wrong, just beep and say "error", and if Joe & Josephine Drooler-Sixpack don't understand, well, tough. As regards the internet in particular, it wasn't designed for idiots, it's not idiot proof, and don't try to fake idiot-proofness.

I leave it as a class exercise to determine which company, Apple or MS, is more often guilty of this class of design error.

I remember the good old days of Windows 3.1, that (iirc) didn't do you any favors at all. Ubuntu Linux also seems to be free of this mistaken idea.

IT? icon because it's simply good manners to refrain from imposing unasked-for favors on others, not just an IT issue. They don't appreciate it, and doing so implies you think you know someone else's business (or how they want to lead their life) better than they do—an extremely patronizing attitude. Miss Manners (tm) will back me up on this.

Footnote: since half the population has an IQ 100 or below, by definition, where does that leave us?

Phorm opponents to picket BT shareholders


Are all protestors shareholders?

And if not, why not? What does one share of BT cost? If you have it, you are a shareholder and can then wear your cu*ts t-shirt inside the meeting, circulate among other, perhaps ignorant, shareholders spreading the news about management's lack of basic ethics, ask questions from the floor, and otherwise make a pest of yourself, quite legally.

The strategy is enhanced by wearing appropriate garb, whatever other shareholders wear.

To really have fun, hire a sympathetic lawyer to accompany you in case they try to give you a bum's rush and provide him with proxy documents so when they eject you into the street, he (she?) can continue the madness.

Penguins can dream, can't they?

Is our penguin icon a Linux penguin or is it a Berk Breathed Opus penguin in drag?

BOFH: Testing the obscenity filters


Me too!

Nearly pissed myself laughing. El Reg really shouldn't inflict this kind of humor on aging gentlemen with weak bladders. Fortunately, Sphincter Control was maintained, though with difficulty.

Deadly Oz snake bites tourist's todger

Paris Hilton

The IT angle

"If your hardware is infested with venomous Oz snakes, do not crouch on top of it to relieve yourself in an effort to induce BOFH-oid corrosion of the motherboards in undesired machines."

See? Now wasn't that easy?

Why is there no trouser snake icon? Guess Paris will have to do as having been near the things with some frequency, she's the closest we've got.

Want to buy Jacqui Smith's ID?


@ David Hicks

"When New Labour first came to power they removed some licensing restrictions, downgraded weed and seemed generally like they had freedom and good policy on their minds. What went wrong? When did Nanny take over?"

From where I sit in Canada, watching the decline and fall under NuLab of the once-great UK is like a cross between Monty Python and a slow-motion train wreck. Bear with a little cheap analysis, please. (There will be a pop quiz tomorrow.)

Historically, the English have been famously ungovernable. The ca 1640 revolution is merely one example (though perhaps the most famous) of their recalcitrance and disinclination to kiss the ass of Authority.

To answer your question in this context, I think New Labour simply didn't realize what they were getting into when they took office. They were rather stupid in the first place and had been suckered by various modern fads and buzzwords into thinking that government was easy, just a matter of passing laws against Bad Behavior. Example: the ASBO, which the yobs view as a mark of honor to receive.

Eventually they ran out of Grand Ideas (none of which had worked, anyway) and the only thing they could think of was more laws, against ever more trivial forms of Bad Behavior. Any minute you can expect a law against painting your front door pink as it may remind a Moslem passerby of a pig, for example.

They are not at all realistic. For example, the endless silly Health and Safety rules seem to be the products of a mind that worries about things that might happen (but in fact never have) in a hopeless pursuit of an entirely risk-free existence. To take the most recent such nonsense, just how many people have in fact been injured by mortarboards hurled into the air?

Government has far more serious issues than such trivialities, but the serious issues seem to be beyond the mental capacity of those in charge of the UK, so it's onward and upward with the war on trivial risks and other distractions for their simple minds.

I'll bet if you handed Gordon Brown a copy of Machiavelli, he'd hold the book upside down with a puzzled look on his face. Your Tony would have merely flashed a blinding smile at it and incinerated it.

I'll stop now lest our esteemed Moderatrix doze off reading my rant.

EU agency declares war on botnets

Paris Hilton

Only 6,000,000?

Given the number of PCs on the planet running Windows (the primary target for botification) and the high incidence of malware, 6 million sounds suspiciously low. Perhaps one of our intrepid El Reg reporters will gird his loins, look into this more closely, and tell us all what the real figures are?

Or is it that very little malware botifies its victims' PCs?

I'm faintly surprised that the EU didn't propose forbidding the sale or distribution of operating systems that are prone to botification, but I suppose as usual MS has taken preemptive action to prevent this.

Revenue admits another IT cock-up


@ Edward Amsden

I used to work in the property tax field, so have a passing familiarity with some of the theory of taxation. The most credible analysis I ran across was, roughly, "the sales tax (a tax on consumption); the income tax; and the property tax (a tax on wealth) taken individually are all highly inequitable taxes, but in combination the three yield a very equitable taxation system."

Also for your consideration, this (paraphrased) quote from a former Canajun minister of finance: "Sure, we could go to flat income tax; we already have only 3 tax brackets in Canada. But you still have to define "income", and that's where all the complications arise."

Merely offered as food for thought.

My own belief is that a lot of the difficulties with taxation systems arise from trying to use revenue measures as instruments of social change, behavior modification, etc. Eventually the tail begins to wag the dog, and revenue collection suffers, whence all sorts of illnesses of the body politic arise.

But to expect significant change is probably a daydream. There are too many people with vested interests in the existing hodge-podge, and redistribution of tax burden, even in a zero-sum manner, will create too many losers *and* winners to ever win approval of the electorate.

The best strategy is that of the ostrich: bury your head in the sand and resolutely ignore the news.

Government announces shortlist for ID card contracts


@ Maurice Shakeshaft

"The Civil Servants...... are the ones that want us to have ID Cards and a National Identity Database. ... Why they should want it I have no real idea"

It's just a manifestation of the "bureaucratic mindset", closely related to the "MBA mindset." These people deal in highly abstract representations of the people under their gaze, and in the process forget that it's suffering individuals that individually pay a price for their nonsense.

Just look at the way pensioners are mistreated: it's like the old commmie states:

"You there, you're no longer a productive member of society, so you are denied medical care, food, housing, and warmth. Too bad, you wicked parasitic wrinkly, you." This is shadowed by memos saying "if we delay treatment, a certain fraction will die, lowering costs."

The role of politicians is to tell the bureaucrats not to be silly, but your current govt. is a bunch of pol-tards who <insert favorite pejorative phrase indicating complete lack of intelligence, common sense, gumption, and *humanity*>. Hence the bureaucrats and police state enthusiasts have gained the upper hand.

Apologies, dear Moderatrix, for the rant.

Welcome to Las Vegas - Home of the technology superpower you've never heard of


Let the ten points of failure bloom!

My immediate reaction to reading about so much bandwidth and connectivity under one roof was that it automagically becomes a target for certain anti-social movements that have "back to the stone age" as their motto.

Ten such installations around the world just provides a few more sitting ducks for such über-destructive types.

Then a little voice says "it doesn't matter, though; it's all boastfulness, b.s, and vaporware..."

Ashlee Vance would be well advised to keep a detailed dossier on this outfit. There's a feel to the situation that suggests Switch will go bust sooner than you think, in the most spectacular of styles, and the cunning reporter who has all the facts at his (her) fingertips will have a leg up on the dozier ones who paid no attention and, worse, didn't publish in El Reg.


Extraterrestrial in honor of Roswell. [That's a little too obvious, I s'pose.]

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