* Posts by SImon Hobson

1517 posts • joined 9 Sep 2006

Openreach consults on shift of 16 MEEELLION phone lines to VoIP by 2025

SImon Hobson
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Re: So, can somebody clarify for me?

AIUI what they have done so far when doing "fibre only" connections is to terminate the fibre into an NTE (there needs to be something) which DOES include a terminal adpater to allow an analogue (POTS) phone to "just plug in". So customer gets to keep their existing phone (and internal wiring), all that is different (for the telephony) is that the master socket is bigger and needs a power supply (so an issue if there isn't a mains socket nearby as there often isn't).

The NTE also has a socket into which the router is connected (router, NOT modem+router) and the router just needs to talk IP over ethernet or PPP over ethernet depending on how the service is presented (I've not read anything saying much about that side).

At work, I've worked with a few services which were just presented as plain routable IP over an ethernet connection - the provider's NTE handling all the fibre-something conversions together with any protocol conversions that might be needed - so from the end user's PoV you just talk IP over an ethernet link. Makes it a doddle doing your own routing/firewalling/etc - especially in our own office where we had a whole /24 to play with :-)

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SImon Hobson
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Re: No thanks

i.e. All at once, so you wouldn't be able to make an emergency call?

See https://www.raeng.org.uk/publications/reports/living-without-electricity

Large part of a city without power for "some time". POTS still worked thanks to the copper connection and exchange batteries. If your end users are reliant on an NTE battery with a life of just one hour then such a failure would lose you EVERYTHING at the same time. Note that the emergency might not occur within that first hour - your proverbial elderly relative may fall during the night following the power cut (perhaps trying to get around the house in the dark).

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SImon Hobson
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Re: Problems

neither lifts nor mobile phones can be relied upon in the case of a non trivial power cut

Absolutely. However the same might apply to fu;l fibre products as well - see below ...

Fortunately, the chances of significant losses of supply are reducing as fast as market forces are encouraging the UK supply industry to invest ...

Quite the reverse ! Market pressures - specifically for lower costs - are actively reducing the level of redundancy in the network. Instead there are moves towards things like interruptible supply contracts (ie pay large industrial users to shut down) instead of putting in/maintaining redundant capacity to cater for (eg) a circuit fault.

I recommend a read of this : https://www.raeng.org.uk/publications/reports/living-without-electricity

The subject of what happens to mobile networks is covered - they stop working ! In practical terms, the cost cannot be justified of equipping all base stations with anything more than a token battery backup, nor is it physically or financially practical to have standby generators available to roll out to them all.

What is clear from the report is that it was lucky that the outage was relatively local - had there been a widespread problem then the generators brought in by the DNO (ENWL) could well have been needed elsewhere.

Now back to the telecoms network itself. IF the connection goes all the way back to the exchange with no active equipment then it should keep going as BT exchanges normally have some very large batteries to keep everything running. But if there are any active devices in the link (like there are the green cabinets in FTTC connections) then it's questionable whether these would hold up for any sensible time (or at all) given the ongoing cost of maintaining batteries at every node. AIUI the NTEs used to date in all-fibre connections have a backup battery to maintain POTS service for a short time (hours) in the event of mains failure. I could well see these becoming a maintenance problem - will they ever get changed ?

That's the key benefit of the current copper based POTS lines - very reliable and completely independent of mains power (including powering basic end user terminal) for quite some time.

Nothing insurmountable, but it WILL add costs (eg periodic battery replacements) to various applications.

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UK.gov expects auto auto software updates won't involve users

SImon Hobson
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Re: OTA Obsolesence

Not only that, but as mentioned above there is the EoL issue - how long does the manufacturer provide updates for. Not hard to see cars hitting EoL for software updates and the options being to scrap them or pay ever increasing contract prices for ongoing support. Think MS and Windoze XP extended support.

Add in the way that (for example) John Deere in the USA has used their DMCA laws to prevent third parties from repairing tractors and you can see the scope for shenanigans.

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Social networks have already violated the spirit of GDPR

SImon Hobson
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Facebook is an advertising platform so you expect new orgainisations like El Reg NOT to use it?

And THAT is the biggest part of the problem. FarceBork have become so ubiquitous that there's an element of "screwed if you do and screwed if you don't" about using it. For many people these days, "the internet" == ("facebook" OR "google") - if it isn't on farcebork or the first page of google's results then it doesn't exist.

So because "everyone is one farcebook", most people are pressured into being on farcebork or they'll miss out. There's a reason that they buy things like WhatsApp which allow people to communicate without using farcebork - by buying it, they bring it into their data mining business and so it doesn't matter which people use, farcebork still get your networking information.

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Admin needed server fast, skipped factory config … then bricked it

SImon Hobson
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I'd never seen a component physically blown off the motherboard before!

You'd never lived then lad !

My boss from a few jobs ago had worked at a local outfit that made specialist sonar equipment. One unit he described was a stack of circular boards that fitted into a cylindrical casing - with one board being the power supplies. As is normal, they'd done all they could to protect the unit from "accidents" ...

They got one returned as "not working", and when moved there was a rattling from inside.

Opening up the unit revealed the power supply board had zero components on it - many were rattling around the case sans-leads, some had just "vanished". Went back to the customer and asked "you didn't accidentally connect it to the 1000V supply did you ?" In that industry, they use many voltages and frequencies with the obvious scope for getting it wrong.

The customer was adamant that they hadn't, until said manufacturer suggested it would have to get legal and they'd be suing the manufacturer of the transorbs that had exploded - at which point they admitted their mistake.

For those that don't know, transorbs are a surge protection device that behaves a bit like back to back zener diodes - more or less open circuit up to some voltage, then they break down and become conductive thus allowing momentary over-voltages to be shunted away from the delicate electronics following down the line. But they have a limited power dissipation limit - so basically momentary spikes, not a full time over-voltage. When connected to 1000V instead of 400V - they literally exploded and the shock wave sheared all the component leads off flush with the board.

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SImon Hobson
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Mushroom

Re: Lightning icon required =========>

until I noticed that one valve was entirely glowing red

Ah that reminds me of a tale told to me by a friend in the broadcast industry ...

A colleague was sent to service/repair a large transmitter - and as described, the fault meant that one of the valves was glowing red hot. Except that these weren't tiddly little ones like in tellys, these were 'kin big things driving a 1/2MW transmitter ... Said colleague was round the other side of a rack doing some measuring or something when he heard a "big bang" almost instantly followed by the clatter of circuit breakers tripping.

When he looked round the end of the rack he saw his apprentice crouched motionless in front of a pile of glass powder and still holding the can of freezer spray in his hand. Didn't find out if clean underwear was required. Icon suggests what had happened to the hot glass envelope of the valve when hit with the freezer spray.

Apprentice learned the way you don't forget - don't try cooling valves with freezer spray.

I can't repeat some of his other tales - at least not in polite company !

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Supreme Court punts on Microsoft email seizure decision after Cloud Act passes US Congress

SImon Hobson
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Re: GDPR

Where does it say that?

It doesn't explicitly say that - but the inconvenient fact is that under US law it is IMPOSSIBLE for a US based business to (truthfully) provide the assurances required. Given what we now know about how the US authorities can, and do, tell businesses to "hand over this data, and BTW you cannot tell anyone" with what appears to be no effective oversight/control - it's just no possible for those businesses to provide realistic assurances about where the data may end up or what it may be used for.

The fact that MS suddenly (as it seems) said "OK then, here's this data you wanted off our servers in Ireland" to the DoJ should be a big hint. They previously claimed that they could not physically access it - so were they lying about that ?

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SImon Hobson
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Re: GDPR

AIUI, it effectively becomes illegal to use non-EU providers come 25th May.

At a previous place, I asked several times of the MD whether he discussed this issue with customers he was pushing over to Office 365. He just shrugged it off with "no problem, you can choose where the data is located". Given that MS has just handed over personal data held on a server in Ireland - thus proving that they DO have access to it - this becomes something of an issue.

But even if MS did have the legal separation that they have claimed to have, with the US company physically unable to access data on Irish servers, access to them by customers involves elements under the control of the US parent.

But until Privacy ShieldFigleaf gets struck down (which it will eventually), then companies will cite the protections in that to get away with it.

It's going to get very interesting - as in the Chinese curse.

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Facebook previews GDPR privacy tools and, yep, it's the same old BS

SImon Hobson
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Re: Optional

Surely this is against some sort of data protection law?

Under current law, it's questionable at best.

From 25th May it will be expressly illegal - but that won't stop them doing it.

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SImon Hobson
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I cannot understand is why successful big international companies want to do it

MONEY

What else is there to know ? These businesses are in business for the function of making money. They may have started out with good intent - Google started out with the aim of making stuff easy to find, Facebook started with the idea of networking people, etc, etc. But just like Google has dropped any pretence at "don't be evil" and now operates in a "how can we make most money, regardless of ethics" mode, FarceBorg has similarly gone down the route of "lets make lots of money" with the networking feature just being a way of getting people to give them the personal information they need to be able to sell it for that money.

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SImon Hobson
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Re: Fines on the way for facebook

I gave you a downvote because, yes, that is what SHOULD happen. But look how long Max Schrems had been going at them and how useless the Irish data protection people have been so far.

FarceBorg know that it'll take ages before the authorities decide that they can't keep their eyes closed any longer, and then ages again while they drag it out through the courts.

So I agree, large fines should be in their future - but I can't see it being as soon as we all think would be justified.

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Facebook admits it does track non-users, for their own good

SImon Hobson
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Re: RE: As a never-signed up non member....

It will take a damn sight longer to remove stuff from Facebook if you don't have an account, than if you do.

Well you very well illustrate a big part of the problem - many of the tools to "manage" your privacy require you to open an account with $provider, which requires you to accept their T&Cs. So in order to have $provider stop invading your privacy, you have to (taking typical T&C terms) give them permission to invade your privacy.

It will be interesting to see how this pans out when GDPR comes in. Given the story in ElReg about Ireland watering down privacy protections, I expect the first cases will be just tossed out, then there'll be an appeal to whichever EU body is responsible for complaince and the Irish government will be told in no uncertain terms that their law is illegal. There may be several rounds of this before Irish law correctly implements GDPR - and once that's in place then Farcebork are going to get well and truly reamed.

But like the OP, I know for a fact that Farcebork have personal information about me - thanks to "friends" and relatives who can't see what the fuss is about. At the moment I'm waiting for Max Schrems case to reach the point where (inevitably) Privacy SheildFigleaf gets struck down and then we can all start laying into them.

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'I crashed AOL for 19 hours and messed up global email for a week'

SImon Hobson
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Re: With hindsight

I had a thought about this ...

They could have fiddled with the DNS to get a poor mans load balancer. Set the mx to (say) a.domain.tld with (say) a ttl of 3 hours. After (say) half an hour, change the mx to b.domain.tld, also with a tld of 3 hours. After another half hour, change to c.domain.tld. And so on. You could script the DNS updates to automate it.

Then each resolver would cache just one of a.domain.tld, b.domain.tld, etc and so (using the numbers originally given would try and contact only one of 5 different MXs. Different resolvers would cache different records depending on the timing of when they last fetched the records. That was definitely doable back then.

If they had geographically distributed servers then they could also have done some conditional DNS stuff to present different MXs to different area - can be done with BIND using views, but I don't know whether that feature was available then.

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Whois is dead as Europe hands DNS overlord ICANN its arse

SImon Hobson
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The big problem that many seem to have overloooked is that the EU cannot get at ICANN directly as ICANN doesn't (AFAIK) have an EU presence. However, all the registrars with an EU presence must abide by GDPR - and that means it would be illegal for a registrar to pass any personal data to ICANN unless ICANN abides by the rules of GDPR.

BUT, ICANN is a US based outfit and must abide by US law - which is incompatible with GDPR. That's going to be interesting once Privacy Shield Figleaf is officially declared incompatible.

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SImon Hobson
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Re: Unstable operation coming soon...

"you can't tie provision of a service to a waiver on data that GDPR covers"

Citation needed!

Try the ICO guide to GDPR.

Basically, if you are saying that you won't provide the service without the person giving consent then that consent is't "freely given" - so don't bother.

However, that doesn't automatically stop you collecting and processing data because you can collect and process information that is REQUIRED for the performance of a contract. In the case of domain registrations and whois, the registrar is entitled to collect certain information for performance of it's contract. BUT, making that publicly available via whois is not required for the performance of the contract and so must only be done with consent and the person must be able to withhold that consent without affecting the ability to have domains registered.

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Small UK firms laying fibre put BT's Openreach to shame – report

SImon Hobson
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Facepalm

Re: FTTP

Although why the house builders would want to charge for access is beyond me

Because they can ? I suspect that for many house builders, it's just another way of squeezing a few more quid out of someone. As you say, it ought to be a selling point to have decent connectivity available - but as you say, demand is so strong that they can throw up any sort of cheap s**t and know that it will sell.

Mum was looking at a new build a while ago, I commented on the lack of any phone and data cables internally to get the response "it's all wireless these days". As to lack of ducting for BT to put the phone lines in, "they wanted too much money" - so instead they get washing lines on a new build where it would have been trivial to put some ducting in while they were doing the rest of the services.

But then, they'd packed them in so tight that there wasn't room in the houses for "proper" staircases - they had those stupid (and difficult, even for me without hip/knee problems) with a "circular staircase" section instead of a flat half landing. And they weren't even built well - evan after being bodged with bits of 3x2 underneath, they had treads that dropped 1/4" when stood on. Icon says what I'd like to do to the groups responsible for allowing such rubbish to be built.

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Want to terrify a city with an emergency broadcast? All you need is a laptop and $30

SImon Hobson
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Mushroom

Though what you were supposed to do it the alarm went off is anyone's guess

I believe the standard advice is : go the smallest room in the house, sit down, put your head between you knees, ... and kiss your a**e goodbye. Icon representative of one occasion when this manoeuvre might be appropriate.

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Nope, you're still a transport biz, top EU court tells Uber

SImon Hobson
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I always wonder what is the story with insurance if you and your car are an Uber "product"?

UK situation, other places may vary.

Since you are carrying people for money, then you need insurance that covers that - your normal policy absolutely does not cover it. There have been suggestions that Uber is not very diligent in checking that drivers do have the right insurance - and if so then they are complicit in putting paying passengers in uninsured (and therefore illegal) vehicles.

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Sorry spooks: Princeton boffins reckon they can hide DNS queries

SImon Hobson
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My ADSL would then be doing random lookups for everybody on the planet, as well as for me ...

Riiiggghhhtt. I've run resolvers before, and one thing I can recommend you don't have is an open resolver on your ADSL line ! We had to lock ours down to just IP ranges used by our clients - otherwise I will guarantee that it isn't long before you start getting used for DDoS attacks* and other dodgy practices.

The other issue is that in so many jurisdictions, plod tends to take the line that it happened on your connection so it must be you doing lookups for (eg) kiddy porn sites. In fact, some jurisdictions expressly make it your responsibility for whatever is done on your connection. Yeah, you might be able to prove your innocence ... eventually. But in the meantime, you'll have been branded a kiddy fiddler in all the local papers, had to manage without any of your IT stuff because the plods took it for examination (you'll get it back, maybe a year or two later - and it might even still work if you're lucky), locals will assume there's no smoke without fire, depending on what you do you could lose your job, the stress could cause your family to break up, and so on.

And when you do eventually prove that it wasn't you and you are totally clean, the papers will report on it in tiny print on the gazzilionth page that no-one reads - so no-one will know that you've been shown to be clean and you'll have this whiff of being a dodgy type following you around for evermore.

* Because DNS defaults to UDP first, there's no verification of client IP address - it can be spoofed. So the b'stard doing the DDoS attack searches for a query that returns a large response that still fits within one reply packet (if it's too big then the resolver tells the client to switch to TCP). So the attacker sends you requests for "foo.bar.com ANY" having found that foo.bar.com actually resolves to 20 cnames. Thus one small query resolves to a lot of data, the small packet is amplified, and the larger result is sent to the target of the attack. That way, a relatively small number of compromised machines can generate a lot of small packets which result in much bigger packets being sent to the target - way more data than the small number of compromised machines could manage on their own.

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UK.gov: We're not regulating driverless vehicles until others do

SImon Hobson
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But throw the match into a half empty container of petrol and watch the flame front propagate a lot faster????

Provided the container has restricted ventilation, then the match will just go out - mixture too rich to burn. When a filling station closes, it is NOT allowed to empty the storage tanks, they must leave some fuel in to ensure the mixture stays rich. Then they have to pay eye watering amounts for a specialist contractor to clean the tanks and either remove them or fill them with concrete - I had a conversation with someone not long ago, and they told me that the difference between two quotes (not the quotes, just the different between them) was over £30k !

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SImon Hobson
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But a large tank of LIQUID, normally underground, and which does not explode easily is a different matter to a gas that has to be stored in a VERY high pressure vessel (through which it will leak). Perhaps you've never seen a demonstration of just how slow the flame propagation is with a large petrol fire - like you see in the films, pour some petrol out, throw in the match, and you can watch the flame front progressing along the layer of liquid.

In any case, hydrogen is a very very poor choice of energy transport for a mobile fuel use due to it's low power/weight ration (especially considering the weight of the pressure vessel needed) - there are much better. It's absolutely anything but green since most of it comes from steam cracking of hydrocarbons with copious CO2 generation !

And electric charging points aren't going to be very useful. They will either be very slow (and hence not very useful), or very expensive to install due to the supply upgrade that will typically be needed. And the government still hasn't said how it intends to keep the lights on as it is, without adding even more load to the grid.

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Sysadmin shut down the wrong server, and with it all European operations

SImon Hobson
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Facepalm

It can be the simplest of things ...

At a place I used to work at, I recall one of the helldesk guys telling a user on-site that they would need to hard power off a server that had become unresponsive. "Press and hold the power button on the bottom server in the rack" was the instruction, and shortly after everything stopped.

Said helldesk guy forgot to take into account that to moast users, a UPS looks like a server, and the bottom device in their rack was the UPS. Oops !

But seriously, I reckon there are 10 types of IT person: Those that have accidentally shut down or powered off something, and those that are lying when they claim that they haven't !

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2001 set the standard for the next 50 years of hard (and some soft) sci-fi

SImon Hobson
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Which were all pieces from classical composers

The story I'd heard on that was that they used the classical pieces while filming to "set the mood" and the intension was that there would be music written later. But then they decided that the classical pieces really works and kept them.

It's a film I've watched more than once - but I know I'd be wasting my time suggesting SWMBO try watching it, should wouldn't reach the end of the opening bit before dismissing it as "boring". IMO it's what a film should be - a telling of a story, with plot, effects appropriate to to that telling, etc. Too many films these days seem to be just an excuse to show off the ability of The CGI,

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Law's changed, now cough up: Uncle Sam serves Microsoft fresh warrant for Irish emails

SImon Hobson
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Pretty sure EDPR/GDPR will essentially make the use of a US based cloud provider illegal

It already is, it's just that Privacy Shield Figleaf hasn't yet been declared invalid/incompatible with European data protection laws. But when GDPR comes in, it will be "somewhat harder" to say that Privacy Figleaf + US Law complies.

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One solution to wreck privacy-hating websites: Flood them with bogus info using browser tools

SImon Hobson
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Re: Spam-fighting?

These days (everything forwards to gmail) ...

So you've gone with a deliberately unreliable mail system which BY DESIGN will automatically THROW AWAY SOME OF YOUR EMAIL with no notification either to you or to the person who sent it. Do you know how many emails you have NOT received that weren't spam ? In addition, they've enforced some systems (eg SMS) which were known to be broken before implementation, and were known to break a lot of legitimate email usage before implementation. But hey, this is Google, big enough to say "screw you" to the rest of the internet - we're changing stuff and you'll change to suit what we impose" to those who actually do run reliable mail servers.

My own mail server is set up to NEVER discard an email - it does NOT accept mail before it's done all the spam checks etc, and if the mail fails then it rejects it which means that any false positives result in the sender being notified. Once you have accepted an email (as Gmail, Microsoft/Hotmail, and all the other large providers do) then you have limited options - you can't notify the sender or you become part of the problem (backscatter), and notifying the recipient rather defeats the point of blocking spam - and your only option is to SILENTLY THROW AWAY any email that fails your checks whether it is spam or "ham".

Would you accept it if your postman went through your snail mail and threw away anything that looked like it is junk mail ?

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10Mbps for world+dog, hoots UK.gov, and here is how we're doing it

SImon Hobson
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Re: Average Internet Speeds By Country

Without looking things up, I suspect there's one or two good reasons for those differences.

AIUI, in South Korea they have a lot more people living in large blocks and not so many in spread out manner like we do. The cost of putting fibre into a tower block and serving (say) 50 households is barely more than the cost of putting it into one detached house. So that means there's a real advantage. And someone earlier mentioned that all the high rises already have Virmin Media - same principle, it's relatively cheap for Virmin to cable up a large block compared to a nicely spread out load of detached or semis.

And then some countries have the advantage of not having started with a well entrenched infrastructure. Several comments have already suggested variations on "rip out the copper, use the duct space for fibre" which realistically isn't going to happen on a widescale basis here. But where there's less existing infrastructure - meaning that whatever you do will involve installing more - then there's inhibition to putting in newer tech. SO if there's no existing infrastructure and you've got to dig all the roads up anyway, then might as well put fibre in; but if you've already a full network of copper, then makes sense to the beancounters to sweat that existing asset.

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SImon Hobson
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I call BS.. the council would have to approve the work by Anglia water before they could dig.. closed road or not there's a noticing period before an excavation can start.

Well no and yes.

Utilities have a statutory right to dig the road up - the authority responsible for the road CANNOT stop them.

If it is unscheduled repair work, then no notice is required - I assume there's some sort of notification requirement, but there's none of this "apply for a permit and wait six weeks".

Only in the case of scheduled works - ie improvements etc - does the utility have to apply for a permit. At a previous job we've had customers with delayed installs while the provider gets a permit to close a lane so they could put the required fibre ducting through the underground ducts.

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Cambridge Analytica 'privatised colonising operation', not a 'legitimate business', says whistleblower

SImon Hobson
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Re: All that lovely data mined from the ???dark??? depths of the connected world.

Which is exactly why I have no f***book account, no twitter account

Which doesn't stop them profiling you, it just means they have to get some of the data from elsewhere - including your "friends" and family. And of course it also means that you can't use any of the controls - yeah great, you can only have any control on your data if you agree to their T&Cs which allow them to do it.

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UK.gov: Here's £8.8m to plough into hydrogen-powered car tech

SImon Hobson
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Re: ' Current industrial production of hydrogen gas'

There are two more major issues

You missed out the third one - that 700bar tank will contain "not a lot" of energy in the fuel compared with liquid systems (petrol, diesel, x-thanol, LPG, ...

And the fourth one - that it's completely incompatible with any of the existing distribution and dispensing infrastructure which means a a huge investment before it becomes practical at all.

And the fifth one - that the vehicle won't be dual (or multi) fuel.

Really, this is yet another example of throwing our money at something for political reasons with a complete lack of any rational thought about what the end result is supposed to be. A better use for the hydrogen would be to convert it to methanol which is : liquid at normal temperatures and atmospheric pressures (just like petrol), compatible with existing storage distribution and dispensing infrastructure (just like petrol), can be used in only marginally modified existing vehicles, and so on.

Had "flex fuel" been mandated when electronic fuel injection became ubiquitous, then by now most vehicles would be flex fuel - with suitable seal materials and capable of adapting the fuelling to run on ANY mix of petrol, ethanol, or methanol.

So compatible with existing infrastructure and vehicles - great, can be introduced piecemeal without massive up front costs and upheavals. Not only that, but being easily transportable in bulk (ship or pipeline), it would be fairly easy to set up production where sunlight is plentiful (for making the hydrogen) and transporting the easily transportable liquid to where it's needed.

But where's the trough for snouts if they went for that ?

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Manchester Arena attack: National Mutual Aid Telephony system failed

SImon Hobson
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Facepalm

Re: Typical Vodafone

Whilst they'd have trouble fighting their way out of a paper bag

That's my experience with them as well.

When I started at my last place, they had an internet connection from an outfit called YourComms, which IIRC had originally started out as Norweb Telecoms. YourComms was borged into Thus - with the loss off some knowledge as usually happens in these borgings - but still a decent outfit.

Then Thus got borged by Clueless and Witless and service went distinctly downhill. Finally C&W got borged by Vodamoan and it got worse again.

One day as we sat in our office, the internet went down - and after initial checks that it wasn't our end, I was lucky to get through quickly to their support desk and log a fault. 10 minutes later our connection came back on, and we found that a major site we managed services to was still down, and stayed down. By now their support system was in meltdown. The cause ?

Well this supposedly top tier communications company had a networking centre in London, and there had been a very simple problem - a single circuit breaker had tripped. Unfortunately, this supplied one of the power supplies for the kit, and the other one had failed. This highly professional tier one outfit had no monitoring that told them a power supply had failed, it had no monitoring that told them power had been lost to the other power supply, the diesel generator didn't fire up because there was still mains to the building - but no problem, the batteries still worked. Of course, with nothing telling them about these problems, and nothing telling them about the reducing battery voltage, they did nothing until the batteries gave out and the brown stuff properly hit the proverbial fan.

No problem, just flick the switch back on, and let the routers etc boot up again. Yup, that was what brought back our connection - but there's more. A 'kin big router didn't boot up, spares were brought in (and Cisco engineers), and guess what .... they didn't have a working backup of the config ! It took them THIRTEEN HOURS to get our other services back on - losing a complete working day for the cllients, some of whom have staff paid more per hour than I earn in a week.

To their credit they did provide a report of what had gone wrong - and promised to "update their monitoring". But really, needing such an event to find out you have suck basic monitoring in place - sadly this seems to be the level of collective professionalism at Vodamoan (hence the icon). Not having proper config backups - second vote for the icon. Apologies to those people "at the coalface" who have been good within the constraints imposed by the imbeciles further up.

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SImon Hobson
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If you think about it, assuming you are (or somebody in your company is) good at hiring good people, how can outsourcing possibly be both cheaper and better ?

It depends. Unless you are very large then it is often very wasteful to do everything in-house - and given that I've had (cough years) of being part of that "provide the skills it's not worth the customer having in-house" I'm glad that this is the case :-)

So, for example, you are a small estate agent with (say) ten people spread across 3 sites. Do you :

a) employ someone with a remit to look after the IT (as part of their job) and give them the time to keep up to date with everything they need to know to fully support and keep up to date your systems.

b) outsource to someone like my previous employer who employs multiple people (so has different people who can be experts in different sub-fields) and who can spread the cost of keeping those people up to date across all their customers.

Same applies to payroll : Do you put the time and cost into keeping one person (and what if they are off sick ?) up to date with all the legislative changes, software updates, etc, etc - or do you outsource to a company that specialises in doing this and so can spread those costs across multiple clients, and has multiple people who can do the work and so remove the risk of having just one person able to do it.

How many times have you heard something along the lines of "only Fred knows how to do that" - and Fred is not available ? I know I've heard it many times in various forms. In one of my previous jobs, I was that "Fred" for a number of areas (in-house IT and some building services) and from a personal perspective it's not healthy as you can never really "switch off".

Even in big businesses where they do have the scale to justify employing teams, there's often a justification (other than just price) for outsourcing.

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New South Wales ponders post-mortem data protection laws

SImon Hobson
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Re: Keeping it in the family

Problem with that is you can only "leave stuff you own" in your will. One of the problems with digital assets is that (for example) stuff you "buy" on iTunes isn't bought - you merely get a licence to use it, and the T&Cs specifically exclude transferring that licence.

So when you die, stuff (for example) that you "bought" on iTunes cannot be left to anyone - the licence simply terminates and no-one gets it.

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Cambridge Analytica CEO suspended – and that's not even the worst news for them today

SImon Hobson
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Re: Tried explaining to my SO what was going on this week

I call bullshit. Firstly on the "they can tag you if you havent signed up"

Then think again.

Are you 100% certain that none of your "friends" has given them any information about you ? Absolutely none of them ? How about your work colleagues ? How about every person you've ever given contact details to - often a lot through work, especially if you have a customer facing role ?

And are you sure that you've never visited a web page with their tracking code in it ? And can you be certain that no site you've visited and which needs a login has passed/leaked any information to them ?

Just remember that Farcebork "encourage" (as in nag them and nag them) to upload their contacts and/or to give them the login to their email so it can be scanned for contacts. It's illegal to do it, but that doesn't stop Farcebork encouraging users to do it - or the idiots actually doing it.

I know I can't guarantee all those - so it's a dead cert that they have a profile on me, and from I've seen in the saga of the Max Schrems case, quite detailed.

Don't forget - Farcebork are used to US laws which are, being polite, very lax on user privacy. They've built their business on doing this. And they are very good at it.

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SImon Hobson
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Facepalm

Re: Tried explaining to my SO what was going on this week

And my other half just said "as long as we don't lose facebook". As said before, the vast majority of users can't see what the problem is even when it's explained to them.

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US Congress quietly slips cloud-spying powers into page 2,201 of spending mega-bill

SImon Hobson
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Pint

Re: Sad

Rumbling ?

Surely nothing but bats, cats, and dogs can hear it now, they'll be spinning so fast that the rumbling will have gone too high to be audible to humans !

Icon - an offering for what your founders tried to do.

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Oracle sued over claims of shoddy service, licensing designed to force adoption of its kit

SImon Hobson
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WTF?

Re: In this case, POS does not mean "Point of Sale"....

... shut down their ordering systems for a month so we couldn't order any upgrades! What sane company does that???

Indeed, but Juniper do that as well - every January their systems are down for up to several weeks for upgrades. Bit of an inconvenience when you haven't yet discovered this and need a licence key for one of their appliances.

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Addicts of Facebook and pals are easy prey for manipulative scumbags – thanks to tech giants' 'extraordinary reach'

SImon Hobson
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Re: Friends

If only !

Pray tell, just how do you persuade someone who is addicted that they should care ? Seriously, many of those people really cannot see any problem with it all even if you do explain it.

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Patch LOSE-day: Microsoft secures servers of the world. By disconnecting them

SImon Hobson
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Re: Oh dear

... at least use DHCP giving out reserved IP addresses based on MAC address

So every time one of your virtual server hosts gets rebooted, and the clients on it get a new IP address - since the default on some systems is to give clients a random MAC address. Oh what fun when the virtual server is a web server hosting hundreds of site, a significant number of which have their DNS hosted elsewhere.

As others have said, if you believe what you wrote then you clearly have had a very sheltered career !

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SImon Hobson
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Bigger question - why are you using static IPs on regular PC's?

Because sometimes you need them to be in a known location - not a known DNS address, but a known IP address. I cannot count the number of time I've had to "fix" a problem for a customer caused by PC changing address when it's hardcoded into something else - such as a door entry system or a copier/printer/scanner. Often these devices can only accept an IP(v4) address, and often the networks are not that well set up (I hate that) so DNS can't be used reliably anyway.

It seems that many people installing things like door entry systems and printers have this belief that PCs don't change address even when using DYNAMIC Host Configuration protocol. Among those that do realise what the D stands for, many seem to think that it's OK to get an address via DHCP and then statically configure that without doing anything on the DHCP server.

To be honest, even servers don't need a static IP

Really ? In a closed environment that may be the case, but once you consider the wider view then yes they most certainly DO need static IPs.

Take a web server for example. IF (and it's generally not the case) every site on it has the domain's DNS managed by the same people, then it would be possible to have the DNS updated every time it changes address - although the sites would go offline for a while between the IP change and DNS caches expiring). But also in the general case, DNS may be hosted elsewhere. And note that while www.example.co.uk could be a CNAME, example.co.uk (ie without the www) CANNOT be anything but an A record - I've had this discussion with supposedly professional website builders who've told their customers to have the DNS records both set to be CNAMEs.

Same applies to other services. For example, last year I had to change the IP address of a mail server at work - I was able to update it's canonical name in the DNS and almost all the customers didn't know anything had changed. But one was forwarding mail from another system which would only accept an IP address - and so their mail broke.

So a more accurate statement would be that in certain environments/setups, servers don't need static addresses.

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More power to UK, say 'leccy vehicle makers. Seriously, they need it

SImon Hobson
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Re: Its not just manufacturing that needs a solution

the latest fast chargers are 120kW

OK, and how many of them can you run off a typical site supply ? A 200A 3phase suply only gives 150kW - so that's only one charger leaving just 30kW for the rest of the site. So fine, at the moment you stand a half decent chance of getting to the ONE charger such a site could support - now count the number of cars typically in the car park of a motorway service station and you'll see that a single charger (or even 2 or 3, which would mean slower charging) would have a very long queue if EVs became more than a tiny fraction of cars on the roads.

So the answer to that is usually "just upgrade the supply" - made by people with no idea of the technicalities involved in that. At the very minimum, it means putting in larger supply cable(s) - which quite likely means a lot of digging. But then the local substation may not have the capacity - so that's a transformer upgrade. And the (typically in the UK) 11kV feed to the substation probably doesn't have the capacity - so that's more (typically digging) cable upgrades.

So charge at home/work - problem solved for most. Err what ? Until I moved last year, I was lucky if I got to park on teh same street, let alone actually outside the house - so no charging there. At work it's pot luck in the car park - so no luck there. That's the reality for the vast majority of drivers - can't charge at home or work.

Charging at the supermarket has all the same problems as discussed above - fine if there are hardly any EVs around, not fine once there are enough that you have to queue for the charger.

And that's before we discuss where the lecky comes from. In this country, when you plug in an EV the additional load on the grid is taken up by a fossil fuelled station. That is only going to get worse as nuclear station (what's left of them) shut down. And unless the wind is blowing at just the right speed, and the sun is out, then we wouldn't have enough generation capacity anyway if enough EVs are added.

So yes, EVs do work for some people, while the numbers are low. They work for people who have the luxury of their own off street parking they can get lecky to and who are on a substation with enough capacity (not too many neighbours with EVs). Or they'll work for people who have a public charging point nearby - and not too many EVs so they are in use when you want to use them. Or they'll work for the commute if your employer spends sh*tloads of money on multiple charging points (again, as long as there aren't more EVs than charging points).

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Europe is living in the past (by nearly six minutes) thanks to Serbia and Kosovo

SImon Hobson
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Re: For those who wonder...

Another advantage of using DC to transfer power is that you separate the line frequency controls on either end of the distribution.

Indeed, that is also a very important feature. AIUI over in North America they have the grid split into several sections connected only by DC links - thus avoiding having to try and run the whole continent as one huge frequency control zone. The bigger the area, the harder it is to control and keep stable.

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SImon Hobson
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Re: 240/230/220V

Your local substation may be supplying 240V (or 220V) today. If that substation develops a fault and the electricity company were to replace the transformer with new ones tomorrow, then, the new supply voltage will be 230V, as when they went to purchase it, the market only offered 230V (and not 240 or 220V) transformers

Wrong on several counts.

Firstly, these are not things that they mass produce and put on the shelf, they tend to be made to order and different areas have different specs anyway. In any case, the difference in winding between 230 and 240V is not major.

And after that, at the substations they have devices called tap changers, the transformers actually have multiple connections at one end of the winding so you can add or remove a few turns to alter the output voltage. On your local substation (11kV down to 240/415V in the UK) these are manual, on the larger substations (132kV to 33kV and 33kV to 11kV) they are remotely controlled - allowing the control centre to adjust the taps according to power flows.

One of the problems caused by the increasing amount of embedded generation (specifically solar on house roofs) is that the power flows can change significantly, raising the supply voltage at the consumers' terminals. In many cases they've had to change tap setting to reduce the voltage generally - but they don't like doing this because ...

It's in the interest of the DNO (Distribution Network Operator) to keep the system voltages as high as they can within the limits imposed on them. The higher the voltage, the lower the current for a given amount of power delivered - and hence the I^2R losses are lower. Eg, roughly speaking, if you drop the voltage by 5%, the current required goes up by 5%, and the resistive losses increase by about 10%. As well as increasing the losses as a proportion of the power delivered to customers (and hence charged for), cables are limited by current rather than power - so if the cables are already approaching the limit, then reducing voltage would mean also having to reduce the power delivered, which can only be done by moving some load to a different supply (typically expensive) or upgrading the cable (almost always expensive). So keeping the supply voltage as high as possible means they can put off potential upgrades as demand grows.

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SImon Hobson
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Re: For those who wonder...

Renewables tend to be able to come on line very, very quickly to meet surges in demand. Thermal systems take time to build up a head of steam.

I think the reference was to "mass" renewables like wind and solar. Pump storage is really a big battery, not a source of power in itself.

The issues with sources like wind and solar is that due to politicians swallowing the green lobby lies hook line and sinker (not to mention the big trough with plenty of snouts guzzling from it), renewables get first pick of the load - so they are all generally running at whatever they can produce at the time. I nearly wrote "flat out", but windmills almost never reach their flat out capability !

Because of this, there are no renewables sitting there waiting to be called upon to manage short term variations in demand.

Instead they have highly variable output, thus adding massively to the control needed to keep the system in balance - with other sources (typically open cycle gas turbine) having to ramp up/down or stop/start completely in order to compensate for the variation in supply from the renewables AS WELL AS changes in demand.

There are also generators (mostly diesel) sat around doing nothing but waiting to keep the lights on when a drop in supply (no wind on those nice crisp winter days, and no solar outside the few short hours of daylight) corresponds with a peak in supply (such as on those same crisp winter days ! Search for articles on diesel generator farms - the green lobby won't tell you about the cost of paying standby subsidies to them as an externalised cost of their so called "cheap" and "green" electricity.

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Rant launches Eric Raymond's next project: open-source the UPS

SImon Hobson
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Re: You gets what you pays for with UPS

but if you work out sensible requirements and look round a bit you'll find a UPS that meets all of ESR's criteria and does what you want it to do, though not at a rock-bottom price.

Yup. not rock bottom price, but when I was looking for a larger UPS (in the 8-12kW range) a few years back I found it hard to find anything without basic deficiencies. I drew up a list of requirements, and one vendor said "no problem" - except that when the unit arrived, no it didn't !

SNMP reporting lacked certain vital measurements, or reported them in such coarse units as to be worthless, or has such offsets/span errors as to need correcting (seriously, load power 2kW out !). One of our requirements was to restrict battery charging power to suit our limited supply capacity - no point surviving a power cut if you then blow the power supply when the battery charger kicks in ! One vendor said "no problem" but had no such ability, APC just said we needed to upgrade our supply (not practical) to DOUBLE what we actually needed.

The first system we got failed after a few years - the power conversion modules starting packing in until we didn't have enough to power the load. So we picked up a second user APC Symmetra LX and got a whole new level of idiocy. Yes there was more information from the SNMP - but still with errors, missing values, coarse resolution, etc. And of course, the non-repairable battery packs !

Yes, the packs use standard batteries (12V 7Ah), but the UPS will not tell you the status of the batteries other than "this pack has failed" - won't tell you the charging current or estimated capacity remaining (even though they are available internally to the unit) so you can pre-empt one being flagged as failed. But when one is flagged, the in-pack flash memory is updated to show that it's failed so even when you fit new cells it will never go back to "working". Eventually it's power converters all stopped as well.

So I'm not sure that you can buy a "good" UPS. OK, my sample size is small, but even spending a fair bit of money doesn't seem to buy the right features or reliability.

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SImon Hobson
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Would it not be better to connect the UPS to the other side of the power supply?

At what voltage ? The 12V some of my equipment uses ? The 5V some of it uses ? The 7.5V one bit of kit uses ? The 24V some uses ? The 48V some uses ?

The theory is sound, IF all manufacturers made kit that would run off one standard DC voltage, AND all UPSs used that voltage of battery - but they don't and they don't (the two UPSs I have at home use 36V and 24V nominal batteries).

It's been an old debate about data centre power - AC or DC with arguments over which is better/more efficient. A lot of equipment runs off 48V nominal (actually 50-something V as it's float charged batteries) as used in the telecoms world - I suspect things might be changing, but traditionally a telephone exchange has a big battery room, some 'kin big busbars to distribute the power, and everything runs off 48V. But use (say) 48V rather than 240V and you (roughly) increase resistive losses in the cables by a factor of 25 - losses are proportional to current squared, and you're pulling 5 times the current. Ignoring losses, your cabling needs to be a lot bigger to handle the current.

But even if you distribute DC, there's still a power conversion down to the voltages used internally.

As an aside, while I was at university <cough> decades ago, I was in the computer club and got involved in running a stand at the freshers fair. We were told that we could use mains power (they even switched off the socket circuits) - but they did agree to us using batteries. I had a look inside my monitor and found it used 12V internally, so soldered a couple of wires in, and borrowed my car battery so we could have a working system (this was in the days when computer power supplies were also simple and the one we had could be made to run off 12V as well with a little fiddling). Not quite the sort of battery they probably had in mind ;-)

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Administrator PwC chops Maplin staff

SImon Hobson
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Re: PwC

"Quite why Rutland has created such a complex corporate structure for Maplin is not immediately apparent, but I suspect it may have something to do with tax, or rather avoiding it."

Could it be a shell game - move lots of money (or debt) around, and hope that no-one can keep track of where it's all gone until it's too late. I can't help thinking that the purchase might have been funded with borrowing by the parent, but somehow that parent has borrowed money through the bought business and repaid it's own loans. So when the bought company goes titsup*, the debt is loaded onto that, and it's other creditors that lose out while the parent is laughing all the way to the bank.

In this case, total inability to support usual peddling (of electronics stuff).

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Info Commissioner tears into Google's 'call us journalists' trial defence

SImon Hobson
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Moreover, there seems to be a bit of "this guy is obviously rich and did something bad, why should he be able to buy justice". The undertone being that he shouldn't be allowed this right.

So this comes under the "no rights for people we don't think deserve them" banner. But that's the slippery slope to no-one having rights - because once you go down the route of deciding who should and shouldn't have rights, you are well on the way to the sort of thing that happened in Germany in the 1930s and many other things.

THE LAW in this country says that his conviction is spent and he has the right (as does anyone else) to have the conviction disregarded in future (for most purposes) - this case is about whether Google is bypassing that right by prominently putting results pointing to his convictions as the first results in a search on his name.

As others have already said, that right also allows someone who made an indiscretion during their youth to get over it and then continue with a normal life. Should shoplifting as a teenager (or a myriad of other things that young people do in their immaturity) permanently bar you from future employment ? IMO quite reasonably we do not - after some time period, and doing whatever punishment the courts decide is reasonable, the issue can be put away and the person get on with a normal life.

But once you start suggesting that this should selectively apply to "people we approve of", or "people without lots of money", or any other categorisation - then off we go down the route of pastor Martin Niemöller's poem ...

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UK watchdog Ofcom tells broadband firms: '30 days to sort your speeds'

SImon Hobson
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May I kindly suggest that if 34.6Mbit/s is not fast enough for you then you need to get a life?

It's not really about the actual speed that someone gets - it's about that person knowing in advance what they will get, and being able to leave without penalty if they don't get it. At the moment, you know what the pricelist says the cost is for a (for example) "up to 80M FTTC" connection, and they'll tell you what they think you are likely to get - but if you can't get anything even near that then you still end up paying for the 18/24 month contract, or paying penalties to leave early.

A bit like buying "a tub" of something online - and them not telling you whether that's a 100g tub or a 1kg tub, just that it's "up to" 1kg.

This new rule is like the seller of the something having to tell you the minimum amount you'll get in the tub. So for example you might be told that you'll get no less than 600g - and if you do get less then you have the right to cancel. So no more telling you that "you're likely to get 600g" and then delivering a tub with just 50g in it - and you having no recourse.

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The DNS was designed for diversity, but site admins aren't buying

SImon Hobson
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Re: "a comparatively costless and therefore puzzlingly rare decision"

Relatively few providers support this

I'll add PortFast who can handle multiple permutations. At my last place, we used them for our slaves while running our own master for around 500 domains - with a script that automatically added/removed domains from their system to match ours.

You can also use a local database on their system - ie using a web interface to manually manage records.

And you can specify a list of IPs allowed to do AXFRs, allowing you to use other slaves.

Amusingly, a few months after I was made redundant, the manager who thought he knew more than he did just turned off the master - part of ripping out all the well managed network I'd left them with. He's one of those who just changes things and waits to see what he's broken. Oh how I chuckled to myself when I heard what he'd done - and how they were panicking and rushing to get all the domains manually added to Heart Internet's hosting (not my choice !). Politics being what they are, there's no way he'd ever consider asking me - if he had done so in advance, I'd have told him that Postfast have a neat trick - you can configure a slave zone and it'll fetch all the records from your master; then you can change it to use a local database with an option to retain all the records, thus turning them into the master. This only works if you do it before the zone times out and all the records get deleted.

Needless to say, the customer problems and outages were blamed on everything but this person breaking things !

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