* Posts by Peter2

1569 posts • joined 12 Jun 2009

RIP 2019-2019: The first plant to grow on the Moon? Yeah, it's dead already, Chinese admit

Peter2 Silver badge

Re: Bad planning

So, use a Tesla again, and then use an Orion drive? Obviously a very early proof of concept wouldn't need the pusher plate or shielding just to see if it works. :/

Peter2 Silver badge

Re: Cotton, really?


But if you were going along the route of self sufficiency on survival needs then it would run:-








Clothing is last on that list. I'd have thought that the first priority would be getting enough plants growing to be able to use simultaneously as Co2 sinks and a food source. (with the added criteria of using as little water as possible, since presumably shipping water (or recovering moisture from the air) would be expensive.

Peter2 Silver badge

Re: Bad planning

I'm not sure that such a small number would really give a scientifically useful result. I mean, you have one control in there but he's widely suspected to be a fruitcake, and you know how long your grans inedible fruitcake lasts. I'm sure that would survive being frozen and baked without becoming less edible.

Clearly the control group needs to be of a reasonable size. So, the entire commons, plus any member of a political party sitting in the house of lords?

Diplomat warns that tech industry has become a pawn as politicos fight dirty

Peter2 Silver badge

Re: National Champions

. . .

History lesson: Thatcher inherited a economy where shipbuilding, aircraft manufacture, the railways, the post office (the GPO was also BT), coal mining, every utility, etc, etc etc had all been bought by the government and was in public ownership. It was also all loss making, and the country was literally bankrupt and had to go with the begging bowl to the International Monetary Fund in 1976.

They imposed conditions upon the loan, ie sort out the fact that the entire country was in public ownership and loss making. Labour tried to sort out the problems with these industries as hard as was politically possible. The unions responded with mass strikes and in the winter of discontent in 1978 the country had a 3 day working week and only had power for parts of the day.

The country was tired of the unions and the entire mess generally, and put Thatcher in with a strong mandate to sort the entire mess out in 1979. There was frankly fuck all anybody could do in this situation but the course that was picked; sell everything loss making off and let the industries sink or swim.

There are four sets of people that have a fair share of the blame here.

1) The people who bought companies/industries for UK PLC to start with (most of which were at least breakeven when they were bought, to be converted to loss making entities when owned by UK PLC)

2) The unions who prevented the loss making industries from being reformed to profitability, which enmasse actually bankrupted the country.

3) The people who privatized the entire sorry loss making lot.

4) The people running those businesses who then went bust.

If you think that only one of these groups was responsible; why is that? Have you been the victim of propaganda filled stories? Additional exercise for the reader; what are the people lying about it hoping to gain via those lies? Public support for buying up every industry again, by any chance?

This must be some kind of mistake. IT managers axed, CEO and others' wallets lightened in patient hack aftermath

Peter2 Silver badge

Re: Seems legit

Most British people (even in IT) wouldn't know what the N3 is either.

Simplistically*, it's the NHS National Network. The connections don't connect to the internet directly, but to the NHS national VPN. Thus, connections between two NHS sites are secured by the national level VPN, even if they aren't secured directly at the sites.

There is (obviously) a connection to the internet via N3, however it's secured against the internet being able to directly access things on the N3.

It's expensive because the NHS is the worlds 5th largest organisation by number of staff, beaten only by the US & Chinese armies, McDonalds and the Wallmart group. Out of those, only the US military has a secured physical network along the lines of the NHS and their network would crash and burn under the traffic loads on the NHS network.

*Please note the setup has been simplified for clarity to the point it's accuracy could be challenged by an pedant suffering from OCD.

Peter2 Silver badge

Re: Seems legit

I read that as in "why does an end user need full unfettered internet access"?

To which the answer is "they don't".

From there the question is how much restriction you do. Pretty much every firm in existence is running a small blacklist of sites end users shouldn't be accessing. (eg, porn sites etc) some other firms have a larger blacklist also containing sites that aren't work related but that people spend time on during working hours.

I don't think many firms identify specifically which websites employees need to do their jobs and block everything but those sites on the employers network though, if that was what you meant.

Army had 'naive' approach to Capita's £1.3bn recruiting IT contract, MPs told

Peter2 Silver badge

Re: Lieutenant General Tyrone Urch

This is not a historically quiet level of military deployments. This is a historically normal level.

Look at the years Labour was in power and the number of times they deployed the military. Now, go back through the British military history. Find another period (excluding world wars) when the military had been deployed as many times on different operations in such a small time period.

I'll save you the trouble if you like? Last time would have been over 200 years ago during the Napoleonic wars. The Napoleonic wars truthfully should be a world war given that it makes the much later first world war look like a minor border skirmish.

Peter2 Silver badge

Re: Lieutenant General Tyrone Urch

The real killer in this article that most people seem to be missing is that it reveals the entire reason recruitment was outsourced to Capita.

Lt Gen Urch added that the contract had released 900 soldiers back to the front line back when the UK was still heavily involved in Afghanistan

So, an overstretched and under-resourced army was committed by our glorious political leaders to fight a war with objectives beyond it's ability to achieve. To make up a growing shortfall of soldiers when it's numbers were being cut the army was forced to gut core activities such as recruitment to put an additional ~1% on the frontline by outsourcing a core function to Capita.

Forget Finding Nemo: This AI can identify a single zebrafish out of a 100-strong shoal

Peter2 Silver badge

Re: sometimes humans have to manually label the pictures

You wouldn't. It's called "finding nemo" because "Nemo" means "nobody" in Latin.

So it's not following the fish. Says so right there in the title. ;)

Huawei sales director nicked in Poland on suspicion of 'spying'

Peter2 Silver badge



"newsflash: polish citizen arrested in China, following the recent arrest of a Canadian citizen following well publicised arrests of Chinese citizens"

"newsflash: expat workers leaving China as quickly as contractually possible. One worker commented to imaginary news "i'm not doing 20 years in prison just because somebody got arrested on the other side of the planet, I can get the same pay in other countries!"

"newsflash: China hit by massive skills crisis as foreign workers flee China"

"newsflash: China economic growth drops sharply, amid skills crisis."

"newsflash: Chinese government launches a study to consider factors that may be driving foreign workers to leave China, promising to discover and resolve factors driving away workers. Asked if this represents a change of policy towards prosecuting random foreign workers in China when their governments upset the Chinese government the spokesman said "no comment" but off the record senior sources say that they recognise that "it was a serious mistake made by a junior staff member without adequate supervision"

SpaceX sends Iridium-8 into space while Musk flaunts his retro rocket

Peter2 Silver badge

To be fair, have you ever worked in or otherwise heard of any organisation of ~six thousand employees without a few hundred people who could fairly be described as "dead wood" where the more competent and productive staff end up having to spend time fixing the work done by the incompetent?

Amazon exec tells UK peers: No, we don't want to be dominant. Also, we don't fancy being taxed on revenues

Peter2 Silver badge

Re: Tax allowance for costs is a grace

Personally, I think that the entire tax system needs a radical revamp. However, absent of that happening the companies abusing the existing system need to be hammered sufficiently hard to recoup the lost revenue and discourage other companies from playing the same games.

Lest we forget, that lost tax money is contributing towards an financial crisis in public sector finances.

Peter2 Silver badge

Re: Tax allowance for costs is a grace

Not to mention the chaps other argument:-

we invested £9.3bn in the UK in the last eight years and obviously that has an impact on profitability in the short term."

In other words, we made 9.3 billion profit in the last eight years, but spent that 9.3 billion on buying other companies that actually pay tax which results in that cost as being counted as an investment. We've converted the tax bill to investments in buying other companies that were paying tax too and repurposed that expenditure towards tax evasion too. Everybody wins, our management get bonuses, the tax lawyers make a lot and we give the workers and extra pea at Christmas so we don't look too scrooge like.

So everybody wins, except the tax payer who loses about £1.2 billion short a year. And they are only having to borrow £1.9 billion a year to keep the hospitals etc open. After all, it's not like we're the only company doing this, lots of companies are at it so it'd be unfair to single us out!

That revenue tax can't arrive soon enough as far as i'm concerned.

Senator Wyden goes ballistic after US telcos caught selling people's location data yet again

Peter2 Silver badge

Yes. Law enforcement isin't paying them for it and wants it for FREE. The warrant forces the provider to provide the information without payment.

No doubt a sufficiently large cash payment would result in the same information being handed over. I'd suggest crowdsourcing a few million and buying the information of people in your government and start publishing what they do and where they go, laws will be passed to deal with the problem very, very quickly.

Happy new year, readers. Yes, we have threaded comments, an image-lite mode, and more...

Peter2 Silver badge

Re: Width

Possibly. But how many can it take?

Peter2 Silver badge

Re: Width

I suspect that your just getting in at the beginning.

Peter2 Silver badge

Re: Width

nope, replying to the thread (sensibly) keeps the replies at the same level.

Peter2 Silver badge

Re: Width

We'll have to keep posting comments to find out.

Peter2 Silver badge

Re: Width

Just to see what happens in this brave new world if you reply to the second down comment. Will it end up in the logical place?

Um, I'm not that Gary, American man tells Ryanair after being sent other Gary's flight itinerary

Peter2 Silver badge

Re: It'll never happen...

I'm obviously being left out, what with having my own domain and all.

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

Peter2 Silver badge

Re: How about a high power laser burst ?

Small problem with that, I doubt we have 20,000 police in the entire country never mind in the London area.

Where on earth do you get your figures from?


Police officers 123,142

Police staff 61,063

Police Community Support Officers 10,213

Designated Officers 4,255

Special Constables 13,503

= 151113 police, excluding the 61,063 police (office) staff.

That's a mite more than 20k in the entire country.

Just for comparison, the British Army strength (including the Infantry, Royal Armored Corps, Royal Electrical & Mechanical Engineers, Royal Artillery, Army Air Corps etc) is 81,500 regulars and in theory 27,000 in the army reserve, a goodly known number of which only exist on paper due to the well covered problems as a result of handing over recruitment to Capita.

Microsoft flings untested Windows 10 updates to users! (Oh no it doesn't!)

Peter2 Silver badge

Re: An opening is here

Firstly, there is only one method of generating electricity and that is turning a turbine. The substantial majority of our existing generation is done by creating steam to drive that turbine, by pushing water over something very hot, be that a nuclear reaction or a furnace burning gas, coal or trees (the latter is bizarrely the reliable "green" contribution to the grid)

Some further generation is provided by wind pushing a turbine around. This has never, ever produced 50% of the boilerplate figures for what is supposed to have been generated, and as such is a waste of time and money that requires conventional power sources to do the majority of the power generation.

The sensible thing to do IMO would have been to stick water turbines on every fast flowing stream in the country in addition to rebuilding every heritage watermill with a turbine. That would at least have had the effect of producing consistently useful amounts of electricity as long as the water keeps flowing.

When it comes to operating systems, your screwed. The only reason windows is still alive is the creative incompatibilities crafted in windows applications when you try and run them on something that's not windows. Linux is technically speaking a perfectly viable OS. It's widely used for servers, and has successfully exterminated the windows smartphone. The Mac is based on BSD, which is a development from Unix so presumably this is blocked from being suggested to you as you want something binary compatible, leaving only ReactOS which does work quite nicely on an Alpha basis. Even the developers say that it's not ready for deployment.

So about the only chance you have is somebody doing something like Mark Shuttleworth did with Ubuntu with ReactOS tomorrow, and releasing a supported version of ReactOS (binary compatible with Server 2003) in about 2025.

German cybersecurity chief: Anyone have any evidence of Huawei naughtiness?

Peter2 Silver badge

Re: What's the problem?

Even if you accept that a kill switch exists, in practice the chance of it being used is minimal. Think about it, if a kill switch did exist then what would happen if they used it?

That would be the immediate end of ever selling any valuable bit of infrastructure from a Chinese company and everybody would be busy ripping out any and every bit of their equipment going.

Ergo, if a kill switch did exist then it's use would be about as improbable as a nuclear weapon. Both are very powerful, but are in practice impossible to use without horrible retaliation. Hence (in my view) a kill switch would be pretty pointless.

What would you want to do? Well, with a switch you'd probably want the ability to mirror port output and kick the output from the mirror to China, and with a mobile base station probably pretty similar, except with telephone calls. And self destruct that ability if it looks like you've been rumbled, leaving no sign that it existed. You wouldn't want a kill switch.

'Bomb threat' scammers linked to earlier sextortion campaign

Peter2 Silver badge

Re: I think that is the real reason

Overstock now takes them, in addition to the wide collection of drug dealers etc that were previously the main users.

The internet is going to hell and its creators want your help fixing it

Peter2 Silver badge

Re: It's fascinating to see how people are so much behind the times

How computers work is not the issue. It's how they can be used. And how they are being used is to spread information, which is more or less how they are designed.

The problem is that critical thinking is still not taught at any level and people are also not taught how to recognise people exploiting logical fallacies to spread total nonsense, or question why things are being presented in the way that they are.

For fax sake: NHS to be banned from buying archaic copy-flingers

Peter2 Silver badge

And out of the lot, find one that accepts a scanned copy of their mortgage documentation.

I'll wait. Of course, I know that they are all members of UK Finance, formerly the Council of Mortgage Lenders and have almost exactly the same rules drawn from the lenders handbook.

Peter2 Silver badge

There was a time when fax was accepted and email not, but when I moved house last year, I signed a lease agreement electronically, no problems.

Yep. You signed the lease electronically. But what about the mortgage offer? They sent that to you in the post for a physical signature and refused digital copies, didn't they?

Mortgage companies still refuse scans, and require faxes to be used for certain things.

Peter2 Silver badge

Yes, that's the case in the UK. There is established case law to say that a faxed acceptance is binding from the moment it's sent and faxed copies of documents (as in facsimile copies) actually have specific legal status. email should be the same, but isn't unless accompanied with a digital signature that meets specific criteria, which can still then be challenged in court so companies still require physical signatures on documents which are then faxed. Don't ask me why scanning a copy and emailing it doesn't have the same status as a fax, blame the bloody politicians who are incapable of writing coherent laws, and the courts for literally interpreting the laws as written.

I have three bloody fax machines that I can't get shot of because other entities we communicate with still use them. IMO: attacking fax machines for having the temerity for existing is pointless. Attack the legal basis for them existing by writing a short law.

"documents scanned via a scanner and emailed as an attachment [in TIFF/JPG/PDF format] are recognized as being exact copies of the original, and are hereby considered as facsimile copies in addition to documents sent by a fax machine."

The fax machine would then be living on borrowed time until completely replaced in workflows.

Doom at 25: The FPS that wowed players, gummed up servers, and enraged admins

Peter2 Silver badge

Doom? Half the computers couldn't play it, and needed those newfangled network cards and a decent network.

Scorched Earth was where all the action was at. 10 players on the same computer negating the network problems, all aiming their tanks and then tossing badly aimed ordnance around only to miss as the wind altered slightly, and then giving up and blowing away the land under the opposing tank, hitting the ground above with napalm or earth, or just tossing the dangerously unpredictable funky bombs into the general area.

When upgrading with heavy shields and parachutes I have vague recollections of ending up with games where there was literally no earth left after a few minutes with everybody sitting on the ground on the same level. Which was dangerous as it was then a bit hard to miss...

It's official. Microsoft pushes Google over the Edge, shifts browser to Chromium engine

Peter2 Silver badge

Re: And who got fired for taking all the wrong decisions?

Pretty much. Though the real reason windows still runs the desktop is that the industry specific software is written for it, although that's less of an issue these days with web apps.

Peter2 Silver badge

Re: And who got fired for taking all the wrong decisions?

Systems admins will care as they will need to learn how to administer a registry-less system.

I'm a sysadmin.

I can't remember the last time I actually edited the registry on a machine. I think it was under server 2003, so probably not overly recently.

And I still don't care if I support windows or *nix boxes, as long as I get paid for doing it and the programs required actually run on that OS.

UK spies: You know how we said bulk device hacking would be used sparingly? Well, things have 'evolved'...

Peter2 Silver badge

You'd hope the Begium teclos have upped their game significantly already. The Belgium government might not be of any interest to anybody in the world, but the same does not apply to the EU parliament and EU commission.

If we are/were the only people spying on them then that is probably because GCHQ secured the systems behind their own hack to lock other attackers out.

Shall we have AI judging UK court cases? Top beak ponders the future

Peter2 Silver badge

Re: Henry VI, Part 2!

You make a point about the complexity of wills. But given that there are a series of laws, rules and precedents that dictate how inheritance will work by default, and what is permissible to achieve a client chosen outcome, then we don't need AI, we just need a moderately complex algorithm. Relying on the memory of a human to fully understand the complexity of inheritance law when writing wills is Victorian. A computer can resolve these problems that are (at heart) just very basic algebra far faster, far better. You need people who really understand the law to write the algorithm, but you don't need that "personal touch" that's used to justify often outrageous fees.

Oh, have an XKCD:- https://xkcd.com/1831/

My point is that I have written a highly complex algorithm and it fails to work adequately in all but the most basic usage cases as human affairs are simply to complex and individual to deal with this way. 80% of cases are exceptions to the rule, hence why I point out that it only works in practice for very simple cases where you have a relatively young couple.

Having actually done this with due respect I think my experience trumps your opinion that you could do a better job. If you think you can do better than me, then write your own and prove me wrong and we'll join the several thousand other firms paying you license fees to use it.

In a subsequent post you make the point that if you pay more and your lawyer knows the process, things can be done very efficiently.

Everything is done very efficiently. Your on about doing it quickly. Two different things.

If your willing to pay for expedited services to jump the que with search providers etc then information can be provided very quickly to progress things.

But why should ALL conveyancing not be done quickly and efficiently? Given that customers are already paying a hell of a lot for something barely above administration,

All conveyancing is done efficiently in a streamlined way via case management systems these days. If everybody paid more then conveyancing would be done faster. At the moment you can get it done faster by jumping the que to get yours done faster at the expense of other people. Pay more, and the search company can hire more people to do the job faster, to pick one example.

You've heard the old thing of "Price, speed, quality. Pick two."?

In this case quality of legal work is pre picked by the law firm, as skimping on this to earn an extra £25 means they lose £250,000. That leaves you with a choice of Quality & Price, in which case you get a cheap but slow service or Quality & Speed, in which case you get a fast service that's not cheap.

I have worked for a major law firm (on KM and business development), and in my view the sector is rankly inefficient, the major law firms pad their invoices something chronic, they charge full rate to recycle work they've done and been paid for before, and their commercial objectives are often diametrically opposed to that of their clients.

If the work is done on an hourly basis then yes, the firm would have an incentive to take as long doing the work as possible.

What would happen to those incentives you raise if the work was done on a fixed fee basis? Pretty much all work is done in the legal sector is done on a fixed fee basis these days, by the by.

Peter2 Silver badge

Re: Ideas

Lord Burnett then addressed the thorny question of AI in the courtroom, cautiously welcoming it while reminding his audience that "we are in the foothills, rather than the uplands" of its development.

"There is every reason to suppose that it will develop to be useful in giving indicative decisions and maybe help facilitate early settlement" in civil court cases, he said, continuing: "There are those who suggest that AI, buttressed with careful safeguards, could perform some, if not all judicial functions. I have my doubts but would not discourage debate."

Note he says "in civil court cases", almost all of which are absurdly simple cases. Ie; "I bought item A, the seller hasn't sent it to me and I want my money back.". You have a stack of proof from the person bringing the claim, the person on the receiving end doesn't even respond to the court letter. Simply, for this particular application you could say "no defense received by <virtual> court date, found guilty by default and the court orders that a full refund be given. If not done so by <date> then the person bringing this can apply to make the person bankrupt"

That, I would agree you could probably get a existing script driven "AI" to do today without any real risk of any miscarriage of justice, especially if recourse to a human is possible.

I think I can also agree with him that by extension that AI's stand no hope of ever dealing with criminal law cases.

Peter2 Silver badge

Re: Henry VI, Part 2!

Conveyancing is another area ripe for automation - all those crappy, expensive, painfully slow manual land searches
Land searches are slow, if you are doing the official searches because your a tightwad. If your willing to pay for it then you can get the searches and the search report within a matter of hours by phoning up the head of the search company and asking them to do a personal search on that property as a priority. You then agree a price, the client agrees to pay for it and they then do their best. The record is I think about 40 minutes from request to the search report being received via email.

Of course, that comes down to the client being willing to pay to have the search done privately, rather than waiting for the local government getting around to it when they feel like it.

and the turgid sale bureaucracy for housing is utterly unnecessary in this day and age. It could be done in minutes, and done more securely. But again, I see nobody trying to do this. Come on Zoopla, this is your sort of sh*t! Get it sorted!

Oh please. Zoopla and Rightmove have hardly accomplished anything. Try and figure out how to list a property on either yourself. Oh, you can't? That'll be because the Estate Agents know that if people could list directly on these sites then estate agents would immediately cease to exist and turned around to both sites and said that they'd start up their own competitors and not list any properties on rightmove/zoopla if they allowed direct listings. Hence, you need an estate agent to list properties on rightmove/zoopla despite the agent not doing anything more than walking around snapping a few photos with a camera and then uploading them with a description. Oh, and pricing. Which is a matter of looking around at what everything else is selling for in the area, and then charging around that with allowance for the condition of the property.

Now, Zoopla can't even deal with Estate Agent's protecting their ability to charge percentage points of the property value for taking and uploading photos. But you think they are doing to deal with actually legally complicated issues? Please.

Technically speaking, you could just hand over the money to the buyer, and then register it at the Land Registry. Some people have been doing this since some TV "expert" suggested doing it. The problem with this is that generally speaking, most buyers get quite upset when they come to sell a property and then discover that somebody else doesn't want to buy it because of the legacy of the flooding in the area, or the possibility that it might collapse down an old mine shaft running under the property, or discover that the property has been built where an awful lot of chemicals were dumped post war, which upon somebody taking a soil sample is starting to leak nasty things into the environment. And um, yeah that's your legal liability to fix up because it's on your property. As is it when the local church has their roof damaged, and then decides to bill the houses that were built on church land for the parishioners in the 14th century.

Very strangely, mortgage lenders don't want to lend people money to buy liabilities like this, leaving the person owning the property having to pay to fix the problems before they can sell it. Do you have any idea how much it costs to fix any of those problems, such as filling in a mine shaft? Not cheap.

And have you ever wondered why conveyancing is the most frequent (and most expensive) insurance claims for law firms? Nope, guess not. Suffice to say that if a law firm misses things like my examples then their insurance tends to foot the bill. Making sure that none of these issues exist, and if they did they are dealt with by absurdly long running insurance policies is all part of the job. Making sure that the person buying the house (and the law firm!) is not liable for those sort of things takes up the majority of the conveyancing process.

The parts of conveyancing that can be automated have long since been automated, simply because when your doing conveyancing for a fixed fee then you automate everything that can be automated. Now consider something a moment.

Estage agent: 1% of £165,000 = £1,650. 30 minutes taking photos and posting them. 4x 15 minute appointments before one agrees to buy the property. That's about an hour and a half worked. Hell, let's call it 2 hours work. That's still £825 per hour for an unskilled job that requires no qualifications beyond a bit of customer service experience.

So: the law firm charges ~£600 for their work in conveyancing. That's 8-10 hours usually. £600/8=£75 per hour to to £600/10=£60 per hour worked. And that's costs, not profit. Paying wages, rent and keeping the lights on does cost something.

If you'd like the job done faster then it's quite possible: pay your Solicitor enough to employ more staff on the job, which lets them get it done faster. I think our firms record is doing a block of flats in about 3 hours, but that relied on somebody being willing to pay a partners rates for doing nothing else for the morning along with sufficiently expedited searches etc.

Another legal job for AI: Search all stature law, and highlight all conflicts of law for resolution, and re-write the lot in the nearest possible to clear everyday English.

Law is written in clear, everyday English already. Even the bits written in medieval latin have been translated to perfectly comprehensible English and are freely available to view online. Ok, let's pick something that everybody here ought to be reasonably familiar with, the computer misuse act.


Read it. How it is unclear? Which bits in particular do you find unduly difficult? I'm going to guess none of it, because it's perfectly comprehensible to anybody who can understand "IF" statement.

1) IF you have done A, B & C THEN you are guilty of this offense. GOTO 3; sentencing. A: This is the penalty if convicted in a magistrates court in England and wales, B, in if convicted in a magistrates court in Scotland, and C anywhere in the UK at the Crown Court with a jury trial.

How could you possibly write that to be any simpler?

And even if it was difficult to understand, allowing an AI to write our laws is not something that should be even remotely desirable because the law is written by humans for humans, accepting the human judgement will be used, and humans still hate it. Without exercising human judgement which an AI is inherently incapable of then AI conceived and executed laws would be an utter disaster.

Peter2 Silver badge

Re: Henry VI, Part 2!

> Some in the legal world fear the real reason for the project has more to do with cutting costs

And that alone would be an excellent reason. Anything that stops legal firms charging the rates of their senior lawyers (£200/hour recently in the UK, for a straightforward probate) and then having all the work done by an office junior, would be welcome.

I'm the IT manager for a law firm, and that is a straw man argument. It is not currently possible to do that as redress can be gained through the very, very widely used part 47 procedure.


If you trouble yourself to look, you'll find many, many complaints from Solicitors pointing out that the court is deciding that they won't get paid for charging for an office junior (at office junior rates) doing particular bits of work such as sorting and indexing 800 page court bundles. Now, if they won't allow that as chargeable then how do you think you can get £200 per hour for work that's not being done?

The substantial majority of cases are dealt with by fixed fee agreements. You might find somebody particularly rich who has somebody on retainer who they then pay a couple of hundred an hour, but I don't think you'll find many people doing that.

If we can get web-present AIs to handle all the basic stuff that makes up the majority of a lawyer's workload that would be fantastic. If that could interface directly to another AI handling the bulk of litigation, that would be even better.

Um, that was done about two decades ago with case management systems? The main time drain these days in law is that about a third of people in the population are utterly incapable of reading comprehension no matter how simple you make things and then want to speak to a human. Humans, especially highly trained humans are a very expensive cost. You want to pay for that? Fine. But do you really think I want my expensively trained solicitors talking to people on the phone instead of actually doing the legal work, especially when most of the work is done at a fixed fee?!

The only problem then would be how to get the system to work in such a way that those AIs would take 6 months to finish a simple job, when it only actually took a few seconds of compute time?

Ha. If you think you can deal with any legal problems with just CPU time then i've got news for you. If we could have done so, don't you think we would have done?

If we can get web-present AIs to handle all the basic stuff that makes up the majority of a lawyer's workload that would be fantastic.

There's already transactional legal work (like will writing) that is nothing more than a dumb algorithm in computing terms, with little evidence that anybody has successfully displaced meatsack will-writers with machines. Although the deregulation of will writing in 2011 could allow for automation, what actually happened was an increase in people using a qualified solicitor to write their wills rather than will writing services, so it seems Joe Public still seeks the comfort of an expensive legal professional.

<Citation needed>

If you can reduce will writing to a dumb algorithm, then please be my guest. I've been trying for a decade in hope of making actually writing the will profitable, and i've failed comprehensively because besides of 30 year olds who have just bought their first property, have no kids and both want simple mirror wills that say basically "If I die then everything goes to my partner, and if they've died then to my parents, and if they've died then to charity" then wills are fiendishly complicated masses of legally complicated ANDIF statements that not only have to state what people want to do, but also have to work around case law that would prevent their expressed wishes from being thwarted in court.

For instance, the grandparents who haven't s been blocked from seeing their great grandchildren by their grandchilren have decided that since the grandkids are effectively disowning them they would rather leave the money to somebody else than their grandkids. Grandkids challenge the money not being left to them in court, to which point the case law gets a bit more complicated. And i'd count that as a simple, predictable will.

You wouldn't know because you'll never see any large selection of wills, but take it from me you can automate about 20% of wills. The remaining 80% are so byzantine that an AI would probably decide that it's easier to do a skynet than deal with it.

And by the by, we do wills at a fixed fee. We do them (IIRC) for a fixed fee of £110 for a single will. We don't make a profit on this. The reason for this is that it's a loss leader. We offer to store the will for the client in secure storage, and a few of those will then turn out to be probate cases that some of the grandkids do decide to challenge in court and then we make a few quid from the litigation.

Companies that can do wills but cannot do the litigation or other services had to charge a lot, lot more for getting a will than we have ever charged precisely because they had to earn their living doing nothing else. For us, it's a loss leader and we aren't trying much to make money from it.

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

Peter2 Silver badge

Re: Snark?

Seems to me the autopilot is quite impressive in a lot of situations.

It gets a lot of snark because it's an automated lane control supercruise that's calling itself an autopilot, despite the demonstrated incapability of detect a stationary object in the road, like a large red vehicle with blue flashing lights and a siren.

In other words, it's a bit of software that is truthfully is not quite ready for an alpha test that is widely deployed to people who don't understand the shortcomings and endanger the lives of other people. If it only killed it's own drivers then we probably wouldn't mind so much since the choice would be on the person driving it, however many of us object to being killed by somebody elses bad software decisions, with a liability on the software company of saying "sorry" in the most insincere way possible.

What is the accident rate per mile driven compared to other cars?

Quite poor apparently.


Facebook spooked after MPs seize documents for privacy breach probe

Peter2 Silver badge

Re: Sovereign Power applied.

I'm not sure that that's true. (Usual 'not a lawyer' statements apply here.) False imprisonment isn't a strict liability offence. As well as actus rea you would need to show mens rea; in this case, that the person imprisoning knew that it was false. Otherwise you would be locking up people who imprisoned those who were found guilty but whose convictions were later overturned, or those that were arrested but later released without charge.

Nope. If somebody was imprisoned but found not guilty then they'd still have been imprisoned by the authority of a court under the lawful judgement of their peers.

The police have powers of arrest, however these are limited to 48 hours without them placing a charge, and holding somebody without charge for up to 24 hours (or a max of 96 hours in case of murder, or 14 days in case of terrorism) pending investigation is legal under the police and criminal evidence act/terrorism act.

If a court rules that you are being held in false imprisonment then firstly, your set free. The fact that you were set free from false imprisonment then proves that you were held in false imprisonment, which lets you lay criminal charges against the people holding you in false imprisonment using the previous case as established precedent for being held in false imprisonment.

The only way for the person so charged with false imprisonment to provide a defense would be to prove they had the legal right to imprison somebody, which requires reference to a statue written by parliament, approved by the lords and signed into executive power by the sovereign. Which, notably they wouldn't have and therefore they would be unable to provide any defense. Thus, they'd be found guilty more or less immediately as there is no possible argument to make that they were acting lawfully.

Very interesting. How does that square with internment in N.Ireland during the troubles?

(I love tangents)

Google knoweth all. Apparently it was allowed under the "Civil Authorities (Special Powers) Act (Northern Ireland) 1922". Habeus Corpus is only a tool to produce somebody before a Judge and demand of their jailer their lawful authority to hold the person. When they have no authority then this is useful, when they do have lawful authority then it's not useful.

Peter2 Silver badge

Re: Sovereign Power applied.

Concur, except it's not civil servants, it's not UK laws, and it's not the UK government. It's parliament which constitutionally is above all of those things and ad hoc can create any powers it wishes, whether appropriate or inappropriate. One of the benefits (along with the detriments) derived from not having a post-civil war written constitution.

The UK Constitution is written, and it was also post civil war, though of course it was post the English civil war and the Glorious Revolution that followed it, not post the American civil war.

I think you meant that the UK constitution is "uncodified" as in there aren't any documents saying "this is an important constitutional document that you can't alter", other than the important constitutional documents that do in fact say that, and provide "interesting" remedies such as absolving citizens of their allegiance.

I suppose that technically Parliament could write a law saying that they have the right to do something incredibly objectionable, however they have to get the House of Lords to sign it off first. They then have to get the Monarch to sign it off.

It's a bit more balanced than you might think, the UK's constitutional arrangements are the end product of the better part of a thousand years worth of evolution without somebody deciding that the particular point they have reached is the pinnacle of possible development and trying to freeze the whole thing as it is. No doubt the UK's constitution will continue to evolve such in such a manner as is required for ongoing operation.

The right of parliament to lock somebody up for contempt of parliament is dubious, at best. Last time the commons used it was 1666 back when the commons and the lords were the final appeal courts so it was essentially a form of contempt of court under common law. Since then the commons decided that they couldn't be assed to deal with appeals and said they wouldn't do it, and the house of lords decided that wasn't quite fair, so they'd take appeals from anybody doing so in the form used by the House of Lords, and not just from Lords etc which is how the House of Lords came to be the final arbiter of laws. Up until the EU decisions that basically forced the Law lords to set up and transfer all of the remaining powers in the Lords to the UK Supreme Court.

As a result, nobody left in parliament (either the commons or the lords) actually have the legal authority to imprison somebody on their sayso. Any attempt to do so would be effectively be via the sovereigns "divine right" to do whatever they dammed well please, and imprisonment without trial was banned under section XXIX of the 1215 Magna Carta. Anybody causing somebody to be imprisoned without trial would find that:-

1) The person involved would submit a writ of Habeas Corpus to any court. (or somebody might do so on their behalf, Habeas Corpus allowing for the fact that the person being imprisoned may be held incommunicado) The person is then bought before a court and the jailor is required to supply their lawful authority to hold the prisoner. The jailor would have no such lawful authority, and so the court would have to order that the prisoner be set free.

2) At this point, having set the prisoner free this immediately proves the fact that the imprisonment they were in was unlawful, at which point the person who caused the imprisonment is by default guilty of false imprisonment, which is a felony under common law. This is a criminal offense under the Criminal Law Act 1967, which means that parliamentary privilege does not apply as it's only effective for civil cases and the MP's and any staff involved can (and would) have to stand trial for false imprisonment, and also probably malfeasance in office. As there would be no possible defense to either charge, it would be a brave MP that tried to pull that as a stunt, IMO. They'd end up in prison for an awful lot longer than the chap they imprisoned!

LG: Fsck everything, we're doing 16 lenses in smartphones (probably)

Peter2 Silver badge

Re: Small room, large AI.

The focal length basically prohibits that.

Short lens: crap magnification, but wide field of view.

Long lens: great magnification, but restricted field of view.

Smartphones inherently are flat(ish) and so will always have a short lens and therefore are always going to be worse at magnification than any camera. Smartphones are simply the new baseline for low end cameras for low end personal photography and are really only notable by their ubiquity meaning that they are often "in the right place".

Frankly though, when it comes to improving the quality of pictures from smartphones some rudimentary knowledge of photography basics would deliver a better result than many technical improvements would do...

Shocker: UK smart meter rollout is crap, late and £500m over budget

Peter2 Silver badge

Re: Nah.. They won't be getting a grilling..

I play around with hobby electronics and have made things like 100w LED torches, and combat usable LED lightsabers. You learn something about LED's along the way.

An LED lamp is a combination of these components:-

1) The LED chip aka the diode.

2) The heat sink

3) The power supply

The LED chip itself is rated to last ~50,000 hours in service. Left running for 24 hours a day 7 days a week, this should be 5.7 years per unit. Nobody leaves their lights on all day, and the bulbs don't last 6 years, let alone a multiple of this allowing for the fact that most people don't run their bulbs in daylight and so use them for far less than 50% of the time Wonder why?

An LED gets quite hot. As it gets hot, the resistance drops. As the resistance drops, the LED draws more current and gets hotter. This becomes a death spiral if uncorrected. This is corrected in two ways. Firstly, dump the heat. My 100w torches actually use a full CPU cooler, including the fan. Most commercially available bulbs do not have a decent heat sink, and are mounted by the end user in such a way as to preclude any airflow which drastically reduces the expected in service life.

Second is the power supply. You need a controller current power supply to prevent the LED from drawing more than the designed current and cooking itself. Some don't have anything at all here.

I'm not sure if this is a cock up or a conspiracy. Probably a bit of both, fixing of the light bulb market is not a new thing.

Also; with regards to your earlier post painting the walls or not doesn't do anything and an external factor is in play. Your next door neighbor probably benefits from a drug gang having the flat underneath fitted as a grow room for drugs and the heat is coming in through the floor. The paint on the walls is not the cause.

Fancy Bear hacker crew Putin dirty RATs in Word documents emailed to govt orgs – report

Peter2 Silver badge

Re: Here we go again

But the results are already in: The continued success of Word macro attacks shows this approach does not work in practice. For getting any security, macros need to be seriously restricted, or the feature removed entirely.

What it demonstrates is that in practice, people leave the settings on the default setting of "medium" or it's updated equivalent which warns the end user, but allows them to activate macros when they click one button.

Organizations then expend considerable time and money training people not to click the button. I would argue that this approach "does not work in practice", whereas forcing macros to "off" unless they are appropriately signed by an approved internal certificate demonstrably does in fact completely prevent this entire class of attack.

While personally I think this setting ought to be the default from installation, changing it to a setting I consider to be more appropriate at network level takes less than 5 minutes and then can't be changed by the end user.

Peter2 Silver badge

Re: Here we go again

15 years ago with office 2003, Microsoft implemented a macro security setting called "high", which disables all macros other than ones with a digital signature on a predefined list. This was IIRC later renamed to "Disable all macros, except digitally signed macros" in office 2007, 2010, 2013 & 2016

You can force this on or off via group policy via a set of (free) extensions available free of charge from Microsoft's website and it takes what, 5 minutes to download and configure?

Is there anybody out there who hasn't actually enabled this, and the other security settings? I kind of assume the answer is "yes" otherwise "advanced" hackers wouldn't be using this sort of attack, but seriously WTF guys?

Facebook's CEO on his latest almighty Zuck-up: OK, we did try to smear critics, but I was too out-of-the-loop to know

Peter2 Silver badge

Re: Disliking Soros != Anti-Semitism

Helping people is conventionally done via founding charities. Bill Gates is somebody who pretty much everybody can agree is helping people by fighting disease etc, and his political involvement is limited to his core activities, such as last time he was on stage pushing toilets suitable for the conditions in africa to improve sanitation etc.

Mr Soros on the other hand has alongside such activities invested very, very significant sums (reportedly in the billions) into making political changes. He deserves at least the same level of scrutiny as Mr Murdoch does when he attempts to meddle in public affairs.

Want to hack a hole-in-the-wall cash machine for free dosh? It's as easy as Windows XP

Peter2 Silver badge

Re: all of the attacks mentioned require access to the hardware

none with the explosives have been used around here yet.

Blowing up an ATM with explosives is dangerous, wakes everybody within miles and attracts attention, which leads to photographs etc, plus produces such a huge outcry that the police are obliged to exhaustively investigate any lead going. Explosives are also very tightly regulated and thus highly traceable.

Ramming a digger into the ATM and driving off with it, sticking the ATM in a makeshift farraday cage (one assumes they have a tracking device) while you blowtorch it open is relatively easy in that all you need is a digger and it also doesn't attract much attention from the public, or from the police.

Between you, me and that dodgy-looking USB: A little bit of paranoia never hurt anyone

Peter2 Silver badge

Re: A paranoid mount option ?

What is needed is a paranoid mount option for USB devices - the OS would report to the user what the device says it is but would not execute any code on the device.

Already exists.

Disable autorun and put a Software Restriction Policy GPO in to not execute any executable code outside of authorized locations (eg, %program files%, %servershare%) unless you are an admin.

Hence, local users can't execute files that haven't been put in an authorized location, and can't put them in an authorized location themselves. This provides quite a lot of protection; since %temp% is blocked as a authorised location and outlook puts files there when it runs then while the users can open documents sent to them (.doc(x), .xls(x), .pdf) then executable content (.exe, .vbs, .etc) will not run. They literally then can't run trojans attached to emails if they try. They can't run executables from USB sticks either.

Then lock down office from downloading content from the internet that's not in the document and block unsigned macros from running and... how can users damage their computers? They can't. This is all available for zero cost with group policy out of the box.

Windows XP? Pfff! Parts of the Royal Navy are running Win ME

Peter2 Silver badge

Re: Few comments

"new hardware for ME / 95 / 98 / Win 7 etc will become increasingly hard to find"

You do realise that the flagship of the Royal Navy is a First Rate Line of Battleship, which was laid down in 1759 and predates the formation of the United States of America?

By comparison, keeping a bit of ten year old equipment in service is not exactly an insurmountable problem. The RN & MOD is not precisely short of warehouse room for spares.

My hoard of obsolete hardware might be useful… one day

Peter2 Silver badge

Re: I've still got a pile of 2x10 terminators, T-pieces and connectors.

I'm not even going to start listing what i'm holding, but suffice to say that when doing a site visit for an unrelated reason the CEO of a national grade supplier (very, very old contact) wryly mentioned he'd been asked to sell spares for my type of system by another company at "blank cheque" level money who had needed to do an emergency fix for an out of support system. This company had found that the international supply chain now contains zero of these parts, and were phoning around other former maintainers hoping somebody was keeping some spares.

I am assured that I literally hold the only known comprehensive set of spare parts (x2 of everything) anywhere in the world for this system as a result of deciding that spare parts availability might be a future issue years ago, doing a back of the envelope calculation on the cost of complete replacement versus the cost of buying up every spare going cheaply on eBay and persuading managlement that it would be worth committing a bit of cash to buying up a modest stock of spares to keep us ticking over until we decide to replace the system.

He also said that the numbers of trained people left in the industry who can work on these systems are at the "count them on your fingers" level and suggested that I might be the most practiced person left maintaining one of these systems. Bless.

Forgive the AC and not mentioning what the system is. Now I know what the parts are worth i'm concerned that my spares store could be a major target for burglary. I will say though that I love the BMA crowd. The "don't hold spares" cos "just in time" attitude has made my spares worth a fortune now.

It really would be worth having a site that does keep track of what odd spares we have around since one persons rubbish really is anothers gold when that part breaks on a production system that really should have been replaced a lifetime ago.

If Shadow Home Sec Diane Abbott can be reeled in by phishers, truly no one is safe

Peter2 Silver badge

Re: I doubt she'll ever be Home Secretary, but...

That speech is here. Watch it, and then come back. https://t.co/qNMvtilMa1

So, we know that if gifted with a really good speechwriter that somebody trained in public speaking can look very competent when reading off of a script? Great, let's make the press secretary PM on that basis.

Oh, wait. Different set of skills required.

Her demonstrated ability to think for and articulate for herself has been amply demonstrated, and she stands as a lasting monument to the Peter Principle. She's simply been promoted a level beyond her level of competence and reached her point of incompetence.

If she drops down a level then she could regain and no doubt retain a reputation for being competent, useful and respected. As it is, the general public are observing somebody operating far beyond their point of competence and she will remain an object of mockery and derision until she returns to a job she is competent at. Frankly, I think keeping her in the position she is in is outright cruel.

Facebook quietly admits role in Myanmar killing fields – but fret not, it will do better next time

Peter2 Silver badge

Re: Needed: prosocial data diode for amplifier

They have, yes.

It is also noteworthy that most of the current sites reward short ill thought out rants over longer and more considered posts.

This is particular to these sites: it did not used to happen on forums predating facebook. Of course, this also ignores that people have declining social skills due to reliance on electronic communication and are starting to use websites at a much younger age than was once the case.

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