* Posts by Rob Fisher

51 posts • joined 10 Oct 2008

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Apple: You can't sue us for slowing down your iPhones because you, er, invited us into, uh, your home... we can explain

Rob Fisher

Re: Attitude

How are you making sure you are getting prompt security patches after 3 years?

Apple hardware priced so high that no one wants to buy it? It's 1983 all over again

Rob Fisher

Re: No, you don't wish you'd have bought it.

You just reminded me of the RISC PC I have in my loft. Will I play with it now I've remembered it? Or just leave it there for a few more years...

A few reasons why cops haven't immediately shot down London Gatwick airport drone menace

Rob Fisher

Re: No gumption

It looks like there are a lot of fields around Gatwick. I'm not saying it's not a consideration, but population density is not that high everywhere, and I doubt that the risk of damaging a building, a grounded plane, or getting some debris on the runway ought to be serious considerations as the article suggests.

Indeed the police are there with firearms, so they're probably having a go. And helicopters *are* flying, even though this article suggests that would be too dangerous.

It could just be that spotting it is hard, especially when it only shows up once every few hours and disappears quickly.

Rob Fisher

No gumption

A lot of these objections amount to a lack of gumption. Nothing is without risk. You have a problem. You go out and solve it, even if it involves a little risk. And you jolly well get on with it, instead of dithering about. Shooting it from a helicopter or flying a net into it (with a helicopter or another drone) seem somewhat plausible. Yes, it might land on something, but that bill will probably be cheaper than the bill already faced.

Tesla autopilot saves driver after he fell asleep at wheel on the freeway

Rob Fisher

Snark?

Is the constant snark helpful in these kinds of article? Seems to me the autopilot is quite impressive in a lot of situations. Have a look a some of the dashcam YouTube footage of it avoiding various collisions. Not perfect, but nothing is. What is the accident rate per mile driven compared to other cars?

I guess sarcasm is easier than finding stuff out.

Blockchain study finds 0.00% success rate and vendors don't call back when asked for evidence

Rob Fisher

Re: Blockchain solves real problems

It solves this problem if *anyone * can run a node and lots of people are motivated to do so. A lot of these so-called blockchains solutions miss this part and are just distributed databases with central control and a lot of bloat.

Rob Fisher

Re: Blockchain tutorials

Just Google up the origin Bitcoin white paper by Satoshi Nakamoto. You'll find it is a complete description of the system, dry and hype and jargon free.

It is easy to understand and once you do, it will be clear that the idea of "blockchain" separate from digital cash doesn't make all that much sense, because the database is only as distributed as people are motivated and able to run nodes.

UK should set its own tax on tech giants if international deal isn't reached – Chancellor

Rob Fisher

Re: What kind of conservatives want to tax everything?

"restore the necessary degree of taxes"

Ah, you youngsters! I remember when VAT was 15%!

Rob Fisher

Re: What kind of conservatives want to tax everything?

Why not? If a company does not employ your wife and does not send you free stuff, why would you want to buy groceries from them? It's division of labour: saves you having to spend all your time growing vegetables.

Rob Fisher

What kind of conservatives want to tax everything?

Seems a strange sort of conservative who wants to invent new taxes to punish successful businesses. Perhaps he thinks Corbyn supporters are suddenly going to vote for him now. I would like someone to vote for who is in favour of lower taxes and fewer regulations.

You can buy Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins' mansion for a cool $13m

Rob Fisher

"eight hours of Cisco’s quarterly profits"

Something seems wrong with this phrase...

Say what you will about self-driving cars – the security is looking 'OK'

Rob Fisher

Re: "Know where every tree, curb and stop sign is"

It doesn't all change at once, though.

Game over for Google: Fortnite snubs Play Store, keeps its 30%, sparks security fears

Rob Fisher

Re: No brainer

Prices aren't "justified", they're just what people are prepared to pay. Smaller apps are prepared to pay 30% because who would go outside Play Store for just anything? Epic know people will want their game no matter what, so they're prepared to pay much less.

Apple will throw forensics cops off the iPhone Lightning port every hour

Rob Fisher

Re: Don't worry about the DJ's...

Not everyone is serious. At one point I was looking at a controller that controlled the Djay app, because it works with Spotify. There is a whole class of such cobtrollers. Audio comes from the iPad and the controller talks to the iPad via USB. Not sure how this affects it.

Oddly enough, when a Tesla accelerates at a barrier, someone dies: Autopilot report lands

Rob Fisher

Room for improvement

There are no hard and fast rules of thumb that apply. Simply measure accidents of various severity per miles driven. Ensure that these numbers improve with each software release, and that in any case it is better than human drivers in similar environments.

If this can be done then automation is a benefit. If not then it isn't.

Debates about capabilities of hardware and software, user interface design and marketing are all secondary to that.

British egg producers saddened by Google salad emoji update

Rob Fisher

Re: Not good enough

That bowl had better not be made of wood. Or plastic. Or rock.

Rob Fisher

Emoji not scalable

Emoji is just not scalable. It's take until now to get a hippo emoji and there are still thousands of missing animals. Every new emoji takes hundreds of person-hours of proposal writing, committee meetings, graphic design and software updates. I wanted a sprout emoji the other day, when might that appear? And I haven't even got started on minerals...

It would make a lot more sense to abandon pre-set unicode-indexed graphics and agree on a way to embed small SVG pictures into text, or some other text representation of graphics so that the sender could send any emoji without the receiver having to prepare for it in advance.

Great Scott! Bitcoin to consume half a per cent of the world's electricity by end of year

Rob Fisher

Re: Great Scott

"That's a lot of power that could be put to better use"

Could it really, though? Bitcoin mining is only profitable where electricity is cheapest. I.e where there is a surplus that probably wouldn't be used for anything else.

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

Rob Fisher

Re: Nice to hear an un-hypgasm-filled account

"I don't care"... "VR gives me nothing"... "same graphics quality we had twenty years ago"

It's true it's a bit over-hyped and early days. But for certain games VR is a game-changer. Having played Elite Dangerous in VR there is no turning back for me (and with a good card the graphics are dialed down one notch at most).

I hope it can stick around despite a lack of mass-market appeal for long enough to get there.

Government demands for people's personal info from Microsoft reach all-time low

Rob Fisher

Zero knowledge the only way

"it rejected just 2.4 per cent of requests made in January to June and 3.4 per cent in July to December."

Big whoop. Looks like using zero knowledge services is the only way to get any hope of privacy*. Though I wonder if it is possible to offer such services without eventually falling foul of some law.

* If your threat model includes a determined state you're probably not going to hide for long, one way or another. Would be useful to know how naughty you have to be before governments make requests about you to Microsoft.

Scotland: Get tae f**k on 10Mbps Broadband USO

Rob Fisher

Government intervention is toxic

Government should just butt out entirely. If there is a demand for faster Internet then there's a profit to be made. If you live in the sticks then the cables will have to be longer and it will cost more. You can't expect other people to pay that cost, any more than they can expect to get a share of the bigger house you can afford because it's in the sticks.

So it's bad economics and it makes people resentful to boot. As soon as government subsidises something everyone starts arguing over the fairness of the subsidy. It's unbecoming.

Too many bricks in the wall? Lego slashes inventory

Rob Fisher

Grumpy old men

They still sell 2x4 bricks and boxes of basic bricks. Expensive? They last forever at least.

I suppose Lego could have stuck to just that, but they'd have 200 employees and one factory.

We quite enjoy the tie-in sets, the TV series and the computer games (and the theme parks and even the hotel). What we have now is a lot of choice. Too diverse a product range might be a problem for Lego but it's hard to see how it's a problem for its customers.

"Too many custom parts" isn't quite true either. Having bought sets from many themes there are hardly any brick-types that aren't seen used in different ways across multiple sets. There are a lot of different pieces, though, and this does make it harder to build creatively with bits from disassembled themed sets. The solution is to buy boxes of basic bricks.

Farewell, Android Pay. We hardly tapped you

Rob Fisher

Re: What could possibly...?

Out of interest, why are paranoid people using debit cards instead of credit cards? You're losing protection granted by section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act to get your money back if your stuff doesn't turn up.

Self-employed bear the brunt of Spring Budget with additional National Insurance contributions

Rob Fisher
Megaphone

Re: Here's a thought

I don't particularly agree with increasing taxes for certain groups. I want a smaller state in general: less tax and less spending. I suppose that makes me something of a right winger. But there is a way both you and me can get what we want:

Flat tax. You pay income (above some minimum tax-free amount) multiplied by some percentage. No schemes, no loopholes, no vote buying, no social engineering, simpler forms, cheaper administration, less human brain capacity wasted with trying to understand the intricacies of the tax code and probably less avoidance, evasion and lower headline rates and more revenue.

I wonder if a sufficiently large group of otherwise opposed people could join forces in campaigning for that.

Vegans furious as Bank of England admits ‘trace’ of animal fat in £5 notes

Rob Fisher

"carnivores kill their prey in much more cruel manners than humans do"

Not to mention the million human deaths from mosquito borne diseases each year that need to be fed into the outrageometer calibration procedure.

Teaching kids to code is self-defence, not a vocational skill

Rob Fisher

Re: Making "coding" a priority is a big mistake...

Learning coding also teaches logic and, to a point, how to think.

Don't worry about languages falling out of favour. Thinking about how to programming is a skill that transfers between them.

Rob Fisher

Re: Unrealistic and dangerous

This sounds like a good argument against over-reliance on the state. What if we consider the article as advice to parents instead of a call to teach coding in schools? Parents: help your kids learn to code and here's why. There are lots of books and resources for self-teaching coding, and computers are cheap.

Spreading arguments like the ones in this article might also inspire people to set up local groups or even large philanthropic organisations to help people learn to code.

I think limiting this to a call for the state to teach coding in schools (which we all know they will do badly) is thinking too small.

Rob Fisher

Doesn't teaching bits of Python in small groups at least garner interest and encourage further self-study?

Sound and battery: 20 portable Bluetooth speakers

Rob Fisher

stereo

You don't necessarily want the speakers to be miles apart for stereo. You want your head and the two speakers to form an icoceles triangle. So it depends how far away you're sitting. I can imagine sitting at a desk with one of the stereo sets here would be quite worthwhile.

Linux backdoor squirts code into SSH to keep its badness buried

Rob Fisher

Re: A million eyes look at the source

It's not so much that having the source code solves all problems. It's that hiding the source code solves no problems and creates new ones.

If no-one can see the source code then it is very easy to make programs do things other than their advertised purpose. If anyone can see the source code, then you can try putting malware in your program, but you might get caught, so you are less likely to try. You might think that no-one will look at the code, but you can't be sure.

I think you're right that most code is not looked at, or not looked at in the right places by the right people. But exploits *are* found and fixed in widely used open source programs, so at least we can see something is working.

There are no certainties, only tradeoffs. A malware writer trades effort needed to make malware against expected value of information stolen. An end user trades effort spent attempting to prevent or detect malware against value of the information that needs protecting. Open source definitely increases the effort a malware writer needs to make to hide their work. Whether it reduces the effort you need to spend on prevention and detection probably depends on what you are doing.

Don't tell the D-G! BBC-funded study says Beeb is 'too right wing'

Rob Fisher

Wrong question

It's not left vs right, it's top vs bottom. Too often the only viewpoints presented are the government and the people saying the government isn't doing enough.

Hundreds of UK CSC staff face chop, told to train Indian replacements

Rob Fisher

Re: Isn't this illegal?

@keithpeter "I have no idea where we are going to get jobs that pay reasonable rates for the next few generations either"

We differentiate. There are still things that are better done locally, or that local people are better skilled at. Not every kind of job suits outsourcing.

Also consider that places exporting their surplus supply of engineering talent will quicky get rich and start demanding that talent for themselves. Ultimately the more skilled people there are the more work gets done; skilled people do not go un-used, long term, given sensible economic policies.

"cutting wages or employment protection does not strike me as a good road to go down" -- such things might be unpleasant, but fighting the laws of economics (mathematics? nature?) won't work. Silly polices (e.g. you must employ only local people) will just make things worse.

Rob Fisher

Re: @Rob Fisher

I am just a programmer. I am under no illusion that my employer owes me a job. Nobody owes me anything. If I want goods and services, I have to exchange my services for them with those who voluntarily choose to make the exchange. I'd rather keep threats of violence (or fines, or imprisonment or whatever) out of it.

If CSC is being irrational, well, they should be free to dispose of their property as they see fit. I only said that it is rational to hire someone to do the same thing for less money. Maybe CSC is not getting the same thing; only they can judge whether it is worth it.

"money is the only criteria": not in life, generally. But when you are a company, largely, yes. Because someone else might undercut you. If you can run a company to do the same job and pay your employees double the going rate and promise never to fire them, then this would be very noble and I would hope you succeed. But this is not something that can be enforced from above.

Rob Fisher

Re: Isn't this illegal? Immoral?

"To fire someone because you found someone else, who would do the job cheaper, IS ILLEGAL, (as well as immoral)."

It may well be illegal.

I think that forcing someone (as you say the law does) to pay a high price for something they can get for less elsewhere is immoral. Breaking agreements made voluntarily is certainly immoral. But making agreements to employ someone on the condition that you can then stop employing them after a mutually agreed notice period is not immoral.

Rob Fisher
Meh

Re: Isn't this illegal?

I don't know if it is illegal. A more interesting question is: should it be?

Firing a person and then hiring someone else who is willing to do the same job for less is just rational. Making that illegal is the opposite of freedom of association; makes it riskier to hire anyone; and is using the violence of law to correct voluntary interactions (agreeing to be hired on the basis that you may one day be fired if someone undercuts you) that you don't like (but maybe the people entering the voluntary interactions do like).

Someone said this company should be shamed. For acting rationally?

Instead of all the moralising (even business minister Matthew Hancock is at it), perhaps it would be better to reduce the cost of hiring people in the UK. Think employment law, regulations, tax and even unions.

Ubuntu boss: I want to make a Linux hybrid mobe SO GIVE ME $32m

Rob Fisher
Thumb Up

Re: Crowd sourcing...

Companies are just groups of individuals.

I like the trend. This way we can get niche products, as long as we are prepared to put our money where are mouths are.

Rob Fisher
Happy

Not a bad gamble

I paid. I expect it to appear about the time I expect to be buying a new smartphone anyway. This does look like a nice device, and different enough from the current way of thinking to be interesting. And it is completely open, so I can run whatever software I like on it. And the money is not a bad deal for a high end smartphone at UK prices.

Yes, I pay now and get it later. But interest rates are less than inflation so no point keeping my money in the bank. If I change my mind later, I can probably get most of my money back selling it on eBay.

So this is quite a rational gamble.

Lancashire man JAILED over April Jones Facebook posts

Rob Fisher

Re: Barking up the wrong tree

It's no good quoting law at us. We know the law is stupid; that's the whole point of this article.

Rob Fisher
WTF?

What freedom of speech means

As reported, the man was arrested and then jailed for speech which caused offence. Freedom of speech as long as it doesn't cause offence isn't much use to anyone.

Eric Schmidt: Ha ha, NO Google maps app for iPhone 5

Rob Fisher

Re: It is a popularity contest

" Economics just doesn't seem to take into account" -- economics absolutely does take this into account, the Austrian variety especially. It is rational to consume conspicuously if you think this will make you more sexually attractive.

The danger, if you are Apple, is that such things are subject to the whimsy of fashion.

Rob Fisher
Linux

Apple can block apps

" they might choose to avoid censoring an app that resolves the issues for free. At least, that is, until they get their own house in order."

The chances of this happening might be vanishingly small, but the possibility of it must have some marginal effect on app development. There is always a non-zero risk of spending resources developing an app only for Apple to say no.

This is not a problem penguins have.

Sources suggest new FTC antitrust focus on Google+

Rob Fisher

Not the role of government

It is not the role of government to meddle in private voluntary interactions. Google is a web site. Don't like it? Make your own web site. No need to get violent about it.

ECJ gender ruling 'could throw insurance into turmoil'

Rob Fisher
FAIL

Fixed

""On the contrary, it concerns cases in which different insurance risks can at most be associated statistically with gender," she said, completely failing to understand that this is exactly how insurance works.

Masked passwords must go

Rob Fisher
Joke

Masked passwords on IRC

Look, IRC automatically masks passwords!

http://bash.org/?244321

Government hints at gaming tax breaks

Rob Fisher
Alert

Social engineering or posturing?

If a tax break can help the computer games industry it can help all industries. How about reducing tax rates across the board? Have the government not heard of the Laffer curve or are they pretending it doesn't exist because they have more to gain from a complicated tax system?

Think about it: a flat, low tax rate would probably generate just as much revenue and you'd save the cost of armies of civil servants and armies of tax accountants.

Alternatively, tax every industry differently and come up with all kinds of schemes and initiatives and you get to a) play at social engineering* by messing with incentives and price signals; b) make a political career out of pandering to special interest groups by giving them tax breaks; c) win friends and influence people by to doing the same and d) get lots of jobs for your friends by having entire government departments to manage everything.

* see also: Law of unintended consequences.

Obesity witchhunt is a 'moral panic' - sense out of Texas

Rob Fisher
Thumb Up

Nice one, Reg

Nice to see this sentiment somewhere on the Reg. Devil's Kitchen has been telling doctors to "shut up and patch me up" for ages. You can also find this kind of sense being talked about less rhetorically and more scientifically on the excellent Junkfood Science blog. It's about time we stopped listening to the health fascists and realised that people are individuals and have different priorities from each other.

New Scientist goes innumerate in 'save the planet' special

Rob Fisher

Still not understanding?

The point is that economic growth does not *require* increased use of resources. In the example of oil, what's likely to happen is that if it starts to become scarce it will get more expensive and other ways of making energy will become cost effective. But that doesn't mean growth has to end, as the NS was asserting. Growth can continue to come from better technology.

It's possible to ignore GDP and just consider how wealthy people are. I imagine "equalising the quality of life of everyone (on the planet)" by using solar powered nano-assemblers that grow houses and food directly from atoms in the rock. Such a development would represent vast growth in wealth and not need more physical resources at all.

Sony to save planet with PS3 firmware overhaul

Rob Fisher

Cure cancer or save the planet?

So the question is, what will save more lives? Leaving it turned on and folding proteins, or turning it off to save the planet?

@Dan: Nothing wrong with an electric heater. I never have to use my central heating in the winter as all my gadgets keep the flat warm. (Although gas heating is possibly marginally more efficient, what with power line transmission losses and so on.)

US telco: 'Public broadband is illegal'

Rob Fisher

@Col

My reference to stealing was regarding the tax that would have to pay off the bonds. If you're right and they are paid off solely from the profits from the resulting network then the situation is somewhat different. It sounds more like the government is *becoming* a telco.

I'm still not very happy, though. How can a government telco fairly compete with a private telco when it has the power to set whatever regulatory hoops it wants for its competition to jump through? If people complain about big companies having too much influence over governments they should complain even more loudly when the big company *is* the government.

Rob Fisher
Thumb Up

@Hollerith

"majority rule is considered fair" until the sheep are in the minority and the wolves are voting on what to have for dinner. A crime is a crime whether or not the majority voted for it. And it's not "using whatever means possible to get your way" to suggest that people might prefer to *voluntarily* pay for services they want from those voluntarily offering to provide it.

The best thing a small town can do to improve network infrastructure is offer tax breaks to any company in that business and get planning regulations out of the way. But that doesn't create many jobs for politicians.

I find it odd that Reg readers are so critical of government IT schemes like ID databases but now want the same people to be building our network infrastructure.

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