* Posts by SImon Hobson

1428 posts • joined 9 Sep 2006

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UK.gov 'could easily' flog 6m driver records to private firms this year

SImon Hobson
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Re: Get your ounce of flesh first

If you feel you must pay these robber barons, use the costly delay method.

Well in reality, there's not much scope for not paying them. SWMBO got caught when a local supermarket installed Parking Eye and she didn't see the signs (mounted high up, out of eyeline, in a place where a driver's concentration is on not hitting other cars, people, or the landscape !) The notice they sent was comprehensive: dates & times, photos in and out, all the required statutory information, etc, etc. They'll have had all the techniques you mention over the years, so they've developed a legally bulletproof notice.

As as previously mentioned, it's been all the way up to the supreme court, and three judges (London based, probably with significantly higher living standards than the average) decided that £85 was not "unreasonable" - hence any of these scumbags can charge £85 for such a breach of contract and it's all legal.

The best way to avoid having to pay is to take it up with the business owner. In this case, I emailed them and made it quite clear that neither myself nor any of my family would be spending any more of our money with them ever again - and as a result, they'd be losing far more than the parking "fine".

What was most annoying is that they'd been in the cafe (which is actually quite good - normally) for over an hour due to slow service.

Very quickly I got a reply back saying that the charge had been cancelled.

Mind you, I have had some ideas for how to screw around with them - knowing the angle/viewpoint of the cameras ...

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Does UK high street banks' crappy crypto actually matter?

SImon Hobson
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Re: Attitude of banks

Moral of the story - the system cannot be wrong. Except it can and you have to prove it.

A good example is Chip and PIN which the banks will happily tell you is 100% secure, except that it's been proven to be "rather less than 100%" secure !

https://www.lightbluetouchpaper.org/?s=chip%2Band%2Bpin

NB - it's well worth subscribing to their RSS feed, They do some very interesting stuff !

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Ads watchdog tells Plusnet: There's no way unlimited business broadband costs £4.50

SImon Hobson
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Correct, Plusnet don't make you use their router - they are quite happy for you to use your own. Unlike some other providers who insist on you using their crippled and probably bug ridden carp, with remote config and updates hardcoded to on so they can change your settings whenever they like.

And in business, there are very often good technical reasons for not using the ISPs router - mainly to do with full access to firewalls, VPN support, etc, etc. At my last job, I'd say that more of our business customers used a router we provided than used an ISP provided one.

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EU court advised: Schrems is a consumer in Facebook case, but can't file class-action

SImon Hobson
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Re: Just give Facebook the Finger

Part of the problem is that you don't have to agree to anything at all for FarceBork to build a profile on you. Web pages with a FarceBork logo on them allow them to track your browsing, other uploading your information illegally*, people mentioning you in their posts, etc, etc all go towards building up a detailed profile of you and your activities.

And all without any consent whatsoever, and then exported outside of the EU without any legal protection.

So a big part of the case is about FarceBork basically sticking one digit up to EU data protection laws as a matter of basic operations.

* When they pester users to "just upload your contacts - it'll make things easier" without spelling out in big clear print and simple words that this is a criminal activity in the EU unless you get consent from every person who's details you upload.

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Activists launch legal challenge against NHS patient data-sharing deal

SImon Hobson
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When the entire population of a large continent, or at least all who are sick, illegally enter your country ...

You do realise that almost "the entire population" of our nearest continent are entitled to enter the UK legally ? Once further afield than that, then I suspect the numbers are actually not that high that it's worth the damage that this idea will do.

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SImon Hobson
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Re: Re downvote

So, some opinion seems to be that these people arer here illegally, so they shouldn't be able to use public services. Well there's a certain logic in that, but in real terms, is it such a big problem ? Put another way, do the savings by "catching" these people outweigh the negatives - like making us look like selfish b***ards, cauing people to not get treatment for infectious illnesses, etc, etc, ...

Try this analogy ...

You are in charge of a shop, and you know that there is a certain level of shoplifting (aka theft). The people taking your stock are not entitled to it, and you are entitled to stop them. So far, so good. There's one way to significantly reduce the problem - you simply search every person leaving the door and check that they've a receipt for everything they have. Do you really want to trample over the civil liberties and privacy of all your honest customers to do that ? Or would you accept that a shop doing that would suffer some fairly significant downsides to doing that ?

Personally, I'm on the side of thinking that it's worth the marginal increase in cost to avoid the downsides of screwing with things like patient confidentiality.

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Self-driving bus in crash just 2 hours after entering public service

SImon Hobson
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Every car I have even owned has been a manual ... and I can say with certainty that I can do a hill start without rolling backwards AT ALL.. ... You really need to consider swapping your car.

I was thinking that there's probably nothing wrong with the car that can't be solved by installing a competent driver.

But sadly, many drivers seem to believe a hill start requires some sort of black art worthy of being taught at Hogwarts.

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Openreach: Comms providers 'welcome' our full-fibre 'ambition'

SImon Hobson
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Re: Has anyone considered...

Given the requirement to have a telephone service that works during a power failure "completely" looks like a non - starter.

Actually that problem was solved many years ago. BT ran trails in a couple of villages where they completely removed copper and went all fibre. As far as telephony went, users really didn't notice anything other than a slightly larger NTE that needed a mains supply - but it had it's own battery to run a POTS phone for a day or two in the absence of power. The technology for making telephony all digital to the user premises has been around for a long time (c.f. ISDN-2) and effectively it's moving the digital-analogue conversion from a rack of cards in the exchange to a small NTE in the user premises.

It was claimed at the time (by BT) that an all-fibre network would be more reliable and cheaper to maintain. I wonder how long it took them to bury that fact when it didn't suit their needs !

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Mozilla devs discuss ditching Dutch CA, because cryptowars

SImon Hobson
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Re: Advancing our civilization into less a democratic state...

The will of 37% of the electorate should be ...

So you are arguing instead that the 34.7% who voted to remain should have a larger say ? Ie, the classic argument by the losing side that the 27.8% who didn't vote would all actually have voted for the losing side. Put another way, sore losers are usually quick to abuse any stats they can to try and "prove" that they have been wronged.

It's more valid to suggest that those who didn't vote didn't care enough to express an opinion, or were simply happy to go with the majority result. Thus, up to 65.3% of the electorate wanted to leave - but not all of them got out and voted.

But since no-one can accurately know the opinions of all those who didn't express it, we have the tried and tested method of looking at the opinions of those who did - the highest turnout for an election/referendum in living history IIRC. Of those that did vote, a very clear majority wanted to leave.

If you have any complaint, and believe that the result should have been different with those missing votes - then your complaint should be against those who didn't get out and vote the way you wanted.

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Knock, knock? Oh, no one there? No problem, Amazon will let itself in via your IoT smart lock

SImon Hobson
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Re: But if they steal anything are they not going to be on camera?

... they are going to be on camera (as that is part of the Amazon Key system)

Lets see, video stored on Amazon's systems, video allegedly shows Amazon employee (or contractor) up to no good, customer claim is going to cost Amazon money. Hmm, so absolutely no incentive for the video to be found to have failed at just the right moment so there's no evidence to backup the claim !

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Boss visited the night shift and found a car in the data centre

SImon Hobson
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... required a regular oil refill. That was messy

I'll see your oil fill, and raise you ... a (IIRC) Ricoh duplicator that had a fault which meant that it couldn't automatically unload it's masters.

For those who have never seen such a device, it looks just like a photocopier - in theory, walk up, put your original on top, press the copy button, out comes a copy. But, this uses a sort of thin paper with plastic coating to make a master which then does the copy with ink - real ink, in paste form. Once the master is made, you can then rattle off hundreds or thousands of copies very cheaply compared to a photocopier. The one we had would do 130 copies/minute which was way way faster than any of the photocopiers we had as well - but fun when the output tray wasn't quite set up right :-)

With this machine, it was supposed to be able to remove the inky master from the drum and deposit it in a waste hopper when you made a new one. But as mentioned, this machine had a fault, so if you didn't manually remove the master first (a clean operation, as part of it never got inked) it would simply shred it and wrap bits of horrible inky paper/plastic round the mechanism.

No matter how many times I explained this to certain people, they would never accept it - and somehow it was my fault, and my responsibility to clean it out. Oh no, those dainty (well some of them were at least) ladies couldn't possibly get their hands dirty doing such a messy job.

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SImon Hobson
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Our server room was great for drying wet coats. Swing out a cable management arm from one of the servers as a coat hook, dry in no time thanks to the steady stream of warm air.

No that's not the reason I no longer work there !

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MH 370 search to resume as Malaysia makes deal with US oceanographic company

SImon Hobson
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Re: Landing spot?

IIRC the official term is "landing on water".

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GE goes with Apple: Not the Transformation you were looking for, Satya?

SImon Hobson
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Re: "OSX for PC"...

Apple officially tried that a number of years ago, and it very nearly killed them

Indeed. What they hoped the other manufacturers would do is compete in the gaps Apple didn't cover - providing a fuller range of hardware. What actually happened was the two of them basically started a race to the bottom to produce "beige boxes" cheaper and with no new features - significantly cheapening the brand.

At work we were buying these other brands - because they made the bean counters happy. Bluntly, the hardware just wasn't as good or reliable as Apple's was at the time.

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SImon Hobson
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PLC programming software; ... Siemens ...

Hmm, I distinctly recall programming their Logo when it was new - from my Mac. That must be 15-20 years ago now. For stuff that really is Windoze only, I run parallels.

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Survey: Tech workers are terrified they will be sacked for being too old

SImon Hobson
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Re: Apollo

Blimey, I'd almost forgotten about my short time using those - and the fun you could have with crp and things like screen melt and push :D My first experience of a Unix(like) OS, and virtually transparent networking as a core part of the OS.

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Supreme Court to rule on whether US has right to data stored overseas

SImon Hobson
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The US employee wouldn't be breaking any US law if they complied but might be breaking US law if they refused.

And here is the nub.

In the Google case, Google employees in the USA did have access as they controlled the servers and the data was moved purely for Google's convenience.

This case is very different. Microsoft have thought this through in advance, and setup a system which (it is claimed*) means that employees of Microsoft USA do not have access to the servers run by a legally separate company in Ireland. So the situation wasn't so much MS saying "we won't provide the data", it's more a case of "we cannot provide this data".

At best, MS USA can instruct MS in Ireland to send the data over - but that will get a fat rasperry in response because MS in Ireland will obey the local law.

Where it would get interesting is that if the DoJ win this case, a court could issue warrants for all the MS Ireland employees who have refused to hand over the data - effectively preventing them from ever travelling to the USA, or to any country "friendly" to the USA, on penalty of arrest and imprisonment.

* I have certain doubts that this is the case given that AIUI some of the authentication stuff can or is routed via US based servers (and certainly could be as it uses a domain name controlled from the US). Given that authentication can be routed via the US, it's hard to ignore the possibility of that being subverted to allow access.

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Rattled toymaker VTech's data breach case exiting legal pram

SImon Hobson
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Re: As far as VTech is concerned it's all your fault.

Would a shop take it back after you've opened it, found the instruction book, gone online to register and only then find that you can't or won't agree to the T&Cs? I suspect not ...

They might try to refuse to take it back, but after losing in the Small Claims Court (more technically, Fast Track Service of the County Court) they would !

If using the device to it's full potential means accepting contract terms which we NOT made clear before purchase then you have the right to not accept those changed contract terms and void the contract. Basic contract law - unless the initial contract allows for unilateral redefinition of the contract (which would be struck down under the Unfair terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations) then the contract can only be varied with the consent of all parties. Having to sign up with an online service and accept T&Cs that weren't on the outside of the package you bought would be a change in the terms of the contract you entered with the retailer and thus you are not required to accept them.

It's just the same with shrink wrapped software. Unless the EULA is clearly visible before you open it, the retailer cannot refuse to accept a return because you don't accept the terms of the agreement.

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You may not have noticed, but 'superfast' broadband is available to 94% of Blighty

SImon Hobson
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Re: I assume Thinkbroadband are using the "can pay extra for fibre" definition of ("has access to"?

The truth is that people who want the fastest possible connection are in the minority.

In the same way that people wanting to pay for the fastest possible car are also in the minority ! After all, for many people, some small, low powered car that would struggle to hit 90 is more than adequate to go to the shops in town where the highest speed limit between home and shop sis 30 or perhaps 40 mph.

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Ghost in Musk's machines: Software bugs' autonomous joy ride

SImon Hobson
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Re: Airbus and autonomous cars

Air France flight 447 crashed into the sea because the pilots failed to "fly" the aircraft.

Not exactly.

They DID fly the aircraft, but due to a variety of factors flew it incorrectly. Somewhat oversimplifying ...

One pilot was a bit confused about the situation (IIRC the pitot tubes were iced over and they lost airspeed information) and held his stick back to "pull the nose up" and arrest what he thought was a dive. The other pilot identified that they were in fact in a stall and pushed his stick forward. Because the sticks aren't linked, he was unaware that his colleague still had the stick fully back - and because of this, he was unable to lower the nose and recover from the stall after which they could have levelled out and continued flying.

From memory, the design of the side control sticks (think in terms of having a control stick where the electric window switches are in most cars) and the fact that there is no cross linking (there's no mechanical feedback in either stick for what the other pilot is doing) came in for particular note in the accident report. In more traditional control designs, the primary controls are mechanically linked which means that both pilots have direct feedback of what the other pilot is doing.

Where they failed to fly the aircraft is in that loss of airspeed information shouldn't be a big deal - just set the engine power and attitude found from the charts in the manual and it'll fly level, that is part of basic flight training. What happened here was that the complexity of the systems isolated them from the basics, and that together with lack of practice at hand flying meant that they didn't grasp what was happening ... soon enough to fix it.

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SImon Hobson
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Aircraft avionics are an order of magnitude less complex? Even fly by wire stuff that's aerodynamically unstable like most stealth aircraft?

Yeah, I'd go with that. Even your inherently unstable airframe is fairly predictable and can be modelled in advance. Even full flight management where the pilot can line up on the runway, press the button, and do nothing but keep an eye on things till the nosewheel is bumping along the centreline lights at the destination is relatively simple.

This is all because in aviation there is inherent separation - as you crise along the airway, there won't be an artic pulling out of the sideroad and across in front of you. Air traffic control, and as a backup, TCAS, should take care of that. The business of making a car drive along a computed path at a given speed is almost trivial - the complexity is in determining what that path and speed should be in the presence of random other road users (doing random things) and furniture.

Just the process of seeing and correctly identifying another user (say a cyclist) is probably more complex than the entire system on a typical aviation system.

If you still maintain that autonomous driving software is an order of magnitude more complex, that's MORE reason not use to typical shitty 'write quickly, release quickly, fix bugs in the field' programming strategies, not less.

Now that I can agree with.

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SImon Hobson
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Re: Modularisation sounds a damned good idea

... and this is apparently the real cause of the Fukashima disaster, where multiple heavily redundant and different method, fail-safe SCADA controlled systems, suspiciously failed ...

Nothing suspicious about a system failing when a) doused with salt water which is inconveniently quite conductive, and b) deprived of power because the emergency generators have been submerged in salt water (which is as bad for the engines as it is for the electrics).

Even a system not doused in salt water will fail when it's local battery power expires, which won't be long if you are trying to run anything like pumps - those things that are quite important for moving coolant around in designs of that era.

One of the design features of the Westinghouse AP1000 design is the passive cooling which means you can flip the big OFF switch and walk away for a day or two while it cools down passively. After a day or two, the operator intervention required is to refill the emergency cooling water tank sat on top of the reactor. So had the Fukashima tsunami hit one of those, it's quite likely that the reactor would have been able to cool down without any containment breach - probably written off by internal damage, but nothing newsworthy to see.

IMO the Fukashima incident shows the safety margins built into even 40+ year old designs. Considering that all the cooling and power systems were effectively destroyed by a tidal wave of electrically conductive water, they didn't fare too badly.

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Legacy clearout? Not all at once, surely. Keeping tech up to snuff in an SMB

SImon Hobson
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The problem with outsourced email ...

... is that you get what the email provider wants you to get. Unfortunately, it seems to be almost universal for email providers to provide a system that's defective by design - in that it's designed to not reliably deliver your mail !

Why do I say that ? Well in a previous job I spent some effort getting "pre acceptance" scanning set up so that I could take an "accept it and deliver it or reject it outright" approach. Pretty well the whole world of large providers takes the approach of "accept stuff and then decide whether to deliver it". Obviously, they can't bounce stuff they don't deliver because that makes you part fo the spam problem - so you hit the "email disappears into the bit bucket" problem.

I know that right now, my previous employer is busy moving everyone off that server onto Office 365 - because "that's all they do". As already pointed out, you need to be careful taking advice from people with an interest in what you spend with who - there's a tendency to push what they make the most on, or are most familiar with, not always what's most appropriate for you !

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The award for worst ISP goes to... it starts with Talk and ends with Talk

SImon Hobson
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Re: I had BT Business Fibre...

Well that's interesting - and not a document that was findable when I was dealing with this. I can assure you that they were 110% adamant that you had to use their router - though I was at one point passed through to a techie who was able to provide the DSL login details. All they allowed was to put another router behind theirs and route some public IPs through to it.

Though TBH, we more or less gave up nagging them to fix it a few months ago as we'd already taken the decision to use another provider, and this was only being left "active" as they'd promised not to discontinue another service (leased line on a legacy network they were getting rid of) until it was up and running. Once we'd migrated everything off the other service the plan was to tell them where to stick it.

Dreadful to deal with, and not even a way to get through to business support - we had to phone residential support and get transferred.

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SImon Hobson
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Re: common factor

Yes, OpenRetch are a common factor here. BUT ISPs have a menu of options to choose from - most notably they can ay different amounts for the connection depending on the SLA. Basically, you can have a cheaper connection if you are prepared to wait more days for repairs - so guess why the cheaper ISPs have worse stats on repairs.

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SImon Hobson
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Re: I had BT Business Fibre...

... a colleague mentioned Vodafone business fibre ... I made the switch

Where I used to work the boss decided to get one of their lines ... last year. As of a few weeks ago they still hadn't made it work ! It was a really simple problem - BT OpenReach misrouted the line as the office building is fed from two different cabinets. All Vodamoan had to do was to correctly cancel the FTTC and re-order it, they were supposed to have done that in January, and NINE MONTHS later they still couldn't fix it.

We got another line from another ISP. BTOR did the same misrouting, and even with that and another problem, it was up and running in a couple of weeks.

Plus, Vodamoan insist on you using their absolutely crap router - it's in the contract terms. The router really is crap and seems to be aimed at the dimmest of consumer users - it certainly isn't of any use to many businesses. And they won't set reverse DNS on a single IP (or the static PPPoE link IP) - you have to pay extra for multiple fixed IPs if you need to set reverse DNS (eg to run a mail server).

Based on my experience - don't consider Vodamoan as a business provider, or better than StalkStalk.

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Brit broke anti-terror law by refusing to cough up passwords to cops

SImon Hobson
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Re: Defeating Draconian laws

Arrange for the password to be held by a third party ...

But how do you prove that you do not have/know the password yourself ? That's the problem, the only defence is that you don't have it, and that's something that is not provable - the prosecution don't have to prove that you do have it.

So yes, the absurdity of the law goes as far as you being found guilty because you can't prove that you don't know something which you don't know.

Hence, when this absurdity of a law came out, there were suggestions about emailing (or otherwise getting it onto their computer) an encrypted file to someone (any politician who voted for it would be a good start) and then tipping off the police that they had something to hide.

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London Mayor backs talks with Uber after head honcho's apology

SImon Hobson
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Perhaps the complaint is that Uber aren't too fussed about the drivers and only ask them to self-certify that they've got a private hire licence ?

Wasn't one of the longstanding complaints that while PH drivers need a PH licence and appropriate insurance, many hadn't bothered and Uber didn't appear to care ?

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Google sued by Gab over Play Store booting

SImon Hobson
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Re: Is Marc SERIOUS?

Trusted? Please tell me Marc, Just how may apps has Google pulled this year ...

We know that, but to the average punter, they are told by Google that "Play Store is the only safe place, use any other store and you are inviting the four horsemen onto your phone" - so the average punter will not consider any other source.

Actually that needs a correction, because the average punter doesn't even know that other sources are possible - if it isn't in Google's store then it doesn't exist. Only well above average punters actually realise there are alternative sources.

On that basis, I'd say that the suit has merit IF they can show that they weren't in violation of any T&Cs.

Analogies to "it's my party ..." etc are not really valid. It's more like one company owning just about every venue in a city/state/country and arbitrarily refusing bookings from an act that competes with one of it's regulars. Even that analogy is a bit weak.

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HSBC biz banking crypto: The case of the vanishing green padlock and... what domain are we on again?

SImon Hobson
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Re: To be fair to HSBC.

Try reading CAREFULLY.

Would have HAD (past tense) a Chinese passport at some point, when becoming a naturalised UK citizen the person would only have a UK passport.

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Smart meters: 'Dog's breakfast' that'll only save you 'a tenner' – report

SImon Hobson
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Re: Benefits - *cough* 1972 *cough*

But this Brexit vote was carried by a minority of the population who wanted to leave.

But en even smaller minority voted to remain.

For those that didn't vote, then the only sensible interpretation is that those people wanted to go with the majority - if they didn't want that interpretation then they should have voted. Put another way, less than 35% (roughly 1/3) of the voting population voted to remain - vs the roughy 2/3 who either voted to leave or "voted" (by abstaining) to go with the majority.

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SImon Hobson
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Re: Really, that Much?

Suppliers aren't allowed to simply 'switch you off'

Except when they run out of generation capacity and need to lose some load. Or when they make a mistake.

But that is only the "plan B" for when "plan A" doesn't work. Plan A is simple :

Because successive governments have kicked the problem down the road, it's "quite likely" that we'll run into problems where supply doesn't meet demand - and renewables just won't fill the gap. The solution to this is rationing by price. When you get home on that cold dark (solar PV does work at night), when there's a couple of weeks of widespread high pressure across Northern Europe (windmills don't work when there's no wind) and want to cook your tea - you'll find the display flashing red to tell you that the price of lecky is up tenfold (or more).

So most people who aren't rolling in excess cash will either eat something cold or wait till early hours of the morning to have tea !

THAT is the primary function of these devices - (price) rationing.

And it's the one feature that they never talk about in public.

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Ice-cold Kaspersky shows the industry how to handle patent trolls

SImon Hobson
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Re: What are lawmakers doing?

Patent trolling exists for long, and there's still no law to block the scam

OK smarty pants - write a definition of a patent troll ! it must be clear and unambiguous, able to stand up in court, and most importantly it must NOT prevent any legitimate patent holder from defending their rights.

Before you start, have a look at this Wikipedia article and see if you can see the parallels.

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British broadband is confusing and speeds are crap, says survey

SImon Hobson
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Imagine if the electricity board were allowed to supply you with "up to 240 volts" when in reality only supplying a degraded supply at 120V

Or how about, imagine if the electricity company were supplying you with an "up to 60/80/100A" service ? Well that's exactly what they do - your house (depending on the age, location, and local infrastructure) will have a 60A, 80A, or 100A fuse in the mains supply - ie the fuse that you can't get to, sealed inside the box on the end of the supplier's cable.

Can you use all 60/80/100A ? Well, sort of - as long as your neighbours don't also try it ! The supply industry works on an averaged demand of only 2kW (that's about 8A) per household - if every house decided to try and use it all at the same time then it would blow the fuses (possibly as small as 300A) at your local substation !

In our office building I happen to know that most of the offices have a 63A fuse protecting the submain from the meter room to the office. Down in the meter room, there are rows of meters (one per office), fed from a distribution box containing the suppliers fuses. There are 10 units fed from each phase in the box, and a 315A fuse upstream. So 10 units, if they all pulled 63A would be trying to pull 630A through a 315A fuse.

In general this isn't a problem - diversity of loads means that people don't all try and use all the supply capacity at the same time. There is massive variation in demand, and some correlation (eg most offices use power during 9-5 and little outside of that), but overall there is nothing like the capacity needed to be able to supply everyone with what they thing they are buying.

Elsewhere, there are some countries where your electricity supply has a much lower rated current - and you pay according to that limit which may be as low as 5A in some places, enforced by a circuit breaker provided by the lecky company. Mismanage your loads (eg forget that the washing machine is on when you try and boil the kettle) and the lights go out.

The internet is the same. There is massive diversity of demand (bandwidth usage), and no ISP could afford to buy enough bandwidth for the theoretical possibility of satisfying every user trying to use their "full amount" at the same time. The main difference is that (historically, it's changing these days) the electrical distribution system was designed by competent engineers, with a view to providing a reliable network. The internet is largely run under the control of beancounters with money the primary motive - ie not looking at "what bandwidth is needed to provide a decent service most of the time" but "how cheap can we go before the complaints get too bad".

Clearly different ISPs have a different view on what's acceptable.

meanwhile, in the UK lecky business, there's a lot of push now to cut costs - and that includes a significant shift from having spare distribution capacity to having disconnectable customers. ie if there's a major fault, instead of being able to route around it, they pick up the phone and tell some commercial customers to cut their demand - a facility for which the customer gets a discount on their bills, and a further discount when/if it's actually used.

And finally - "Smart Meters" are primarily about bringing this to the domestic market. Think 1970s style rolling blackouts when there's not enough lecky, but done on a house by house basis rather than block by block.

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SImon Hobson
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Re: ADSL2+

More specifically, it's to do with the ruling that you can't advertise a speed above the level that a certain percentage of users can get - part of a past attempt to get a bit more honesty in internet connection marketing.

So yes, ADSL2+ is technically capable of 24Mbps - but only if you are almost in the exchange. Once you get out to real line lengths, the speed drops off. it just so happens that across the installed base, x% can get 17Mbps or faster, so 17Mbps is what's advertised. I can't remember what x is, but that's where the 17Mbps comes from - some will get better, IIRC we had a customer getting well over 20Mbps before they upgraded to FTTC.

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Sonos will deny updates to those who snub rewritten privacy terms

SImon Hobson
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Re: Note to self

... If they had any EU outlets they'd be on a fairly solid collision course with EU data protection laws ...

No you raise an interesting point. Sonos may not have a European presence (I haven't looked, don't own any of their kit) but it is imported and sold by companies with an EU presence. So how does that work when you buy it from an EU based wholesaler/retailer chain - but the US only manufacturer imposes terms in breach of EU regulations ? I know they changed the rules on product descriptions so that when you buy something, you can take account not only of what the retailers says it does, but also what the manufacturer has on their website - ie if the manufacturer's website says it can so $something but it doesn't, then that's sufficient to have a claim against the retailer.

I suspect that is someone were to bring a test case, (some combination of) the importers/wholesalers/retailers might be found liable. Perhaps in cases like this, the importer is liable for compliance - like they are for things like electrical safety etc - that would open up a whole can of worms if the importer is legally liable for compliance with EU data protection laws for a product they have no control over the software in it.

Now I suspect that if the importers suddenly turned round to Sonos and told them that they are dropping the brand for legal compliance reasons, then Sonos might change it's tune. Yup, certainly sounds like a test case is needed - not just for Sonos, but for stuff generally.

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Jocks' USO block shock: BT's 10Mbps proposals risk 'rural monopoly'

SImon Hobson
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Re: NI did it some time ago

... there were companies setting up wireless links to groups of houses

Meanwhile, over here the government in a dramatic show of joined up thinking (that's sarcasm BTW) more or less killed off the wireless internet (and alternative cable) industry by way of business rates. IIRC, basically, they decided that someone with a radio mast must pay business rates on what the tower could potentially make in revenue if fully utilised to the maximum the technology permits - while not similarly crippling BT OR for it's poles and ducts.

Around here, we had radio offerings (initially done under government financing) which in places meant several masts to repeat a signal to a small (or even, single) user. Turning round and charging business rates on the basis that the tower providing service to one user as though that tower was servicing hundreds of users is a sure fire way to kill off the service.

And the estate my work office is on has manholes labelled Norweb Telecom because they (I assume with grants) put in ducting when the former ironworks was redeveloped. Vodafone (the current owners via a chain of acquisitions, Norweb Telecom -> Yourcomms -> Thus -> Clueless & Witless -> Vodamoan) have decided to abandon all these ducts (and the ability to provide direct fibre services without involving BT OR) - officially because they are clearing out "legacy" products, but I can't help thinking that the rates on the ducts used to support a very small number of users just doesn't make it worthwhile.

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SImon Hobson
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Re: Get stuffed BT, give the £600M to B4RN...

Any UK telco can provide service anywhere it wants to, there are no restrictions. What limits them is their ability to actually make any money or even cover their costs.

What you've missed out is BT's (whether that's BT or BTOR I'm not sure) policy of not providing service to low return areas UNTIL that area has an offer from another provider. B4RN had that, and apparently a lot of other networks have had it too :

BT tells a village that they won't be getting FTTC, so another provider decides it's viable. Once that other provider announces it's plans, BT steps in and announces that "after a review" it is now viable to offer FTTC after all. This is clearly a well poisoning exercise designed to stop other providers getting the critical mass of subscribers - and anecdotally BT will go around signing up customers to ADSL (with a 24 month contract) and the "promise" of FTTC "very soon", thus tying customers to BT so they don't sign up with the alternative provider.

B4RN mention this on their website, IIRC it happened in a number of villages.

So it's understandable that another provider might want to know BT's plans before they commit a lot of money. If BT publicly state that they won't be providing FTTC (or any other fast service) to a location then there's a better chance of making a go of it than if BT state that they will be. Because of BTs size, they can do things that other providers can't - it's just plain economics that if you have a huge profitable base then you can afford to take more risks at the edges, while if most of your services are at the edges then you have to be a lot more careful.

BT has a history of making business decisions which are clearly and blatantly designed to protect it's most profitable services. Predatory tactics designed to damage competitors (especially the small ones with better offerings) are nothing new.

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Big question of the day: Is it time to lock down .localhost?

SImon Hobson
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Re: Is localhost even needed?

I can't think of a single use-case where we wouldn't be better off using the machines real name or IP

OK, for starters, how about where the machine doesn't have a properly configured name - and by properly configured, where all the right DNS stuff is in place etc. IME it is very common for this to be the case - in fact I'd go so far as to suggest that there are more devices where a name lookup will fail than there are were it won't (especially in home networks).

And then you have the problem of changing addresses - if you bind to an address and it changes, then what ?

And security wise, if you only need intra-device access, binding to localhost rather than an interface address instantly gives you a layer of security.

But what I don't get is why hardcoding localhost in the hosts file is a problem with IPv6 ? A quick look on my older GNU/Linux systems shows that both IPv4 and IPv6 entries have been there for ages.

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Linux kernel hardeners Grsecurity sue open source's Bruce Perens

SImon Hobson
Silver badge

This isn't accurate, to say the least.

...

GPL doesn't cover any future related works nor does it oblige the authors of the previous versions to release any further ones to the public, their clients or to anyone else.

You are correct that the GPL says nothing about anyone having to distribute to any particular person - so yes, GRS can pick and choose who they deal with.

But they are freely admitting that "we are selling you this GPL2 code, you have the right to redistribute it, but if you exercise that right then we'll do something to you (in this case, withhold future versions)". That IS putting a constraint on you exercising your rights under the GPL2.

Just like "free elections" where you can vote for anyone, but don't expect to find more than a pile of ash where your home was if you vote for anyone but "the official candidate", are not free elections. Just like all those business owners were quite free to accept or reject an offer of insurance from the local mafia/whatever.

Now, is this case about defamation or about the GPL ? Well the case depends on whether BP was correct in his assessment. If he's correct then the case should fail, if he's wrong then he could lose. So before the judge can decide how to rule, he can't avoid determining if BP is correct. SO I suspect that this will see the argument tested properly in court.

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SImon Hobson
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Headmaster

If your opinion is wrong ...

Actually, under English law you can be in the wrong even if your statement is factually correct.

For example, a newspaper prints an article stating that Mr Yokel of Wurzel Street is in court charged with (something) - which may be perfectly correct. However, if that Mr Yokel lives at No 5, the other Mr Yokel living at no 23 has standing to sue the paper for defamation - because although the statement is 100% correct, it incorrectly leads readers to believe that Mr Yokel of no 23 has been charged with criminal offences when he hasn't. So by not making it clear that they are specifically referring to the Mr Yokel at no 5 they have left themselves open to action.

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Capita's smart meter monopoly is owed £42m by industry

SImon Hobson
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Mushroom

What, 22 postings (so far) and no mention of Capita and 4fold overspend. A lot of you must have decided it's pub-o-clock on Friday afternoon I guess.

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UK.gov to trial vouchers for 'gigabit-capable' connectivity with SMEs

SImon Hobson
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Facepalm

Re: 'gigabit-capable'...

Looking first at your FTTP on new builds... this has some merit but ...

Doesn't help with builders like the one I've been talking to recently - mum was thinking of buying one of his new housesshoeboxes. I looked around saw that if there were any more corners cut then they'd be round, and asked about phone lines since I could so no evidence of any ducting (nor any provision for other than a single socket behind the TV). "Oh no, they'll be overhead, it was going to cost too much to put ducting in" came the reply.

Icon summarises my feeling at the time.

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Google goes home to Cali to overturn Canada's worldwide search result ban

SImon Hobson
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Delisting on Google does nothing to change that

Actually yes it does. For a very large proportion of internet users, Google results == the internet.

So what this means is that a user searching Google for the counterfeit products, they won't get any results linking to the vendor's sites. That means, to all intents, for a user searching on Google, those sites do not exist - and hence the products aren't available. Presumably if they already know the domain name then that's not a problem, but without finding them first, how will they know that they exist AND what the URL is ?

They could switch to another search engine, but many people don't know how to do that. Also, I assume that if Bing is still linking, then they will be next - or perhaps they voluntarily delisted the sites in the name of not supporting piracy ?

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House fire, walk with me: Kodipocalypse now includes conflagration

SImon Hobson
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Mushroom

Re: Mine runs perfectly safely on a Raspberry Pi

I agree - it's scare tactics - but the threat itself is real, just not really related to Kodi players specifically. Certain online trading sites are awash with electrical stuff (lots of power supplies for laptops, LEDs etc for example) being sold by foreign sellers. Some of this won't have a CE mark, much will have a "fake" CE mark, some will be quite genuine and safe - unless you are an expert in the field, you won't know.

There's a reason some people say CE stands for "Chinese Export" or simply Caveat Emptor.

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Reg reader turns Geek's Guides to Britain into Geek's Map of Britain

SImon Hobson
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Re: A few suggestions from me

Sadly the Sellafield Visitor Centre is no more

I didn't realise it had gone, but I knew the whole "visit Sellafield, nuclear power is really quite friendly and nothing at all like those horror stories in the press" experience had been substantially watered down. At one time, you could (as a member of the public) go on a coach round the site, and at school (on a pre-arranged visit, presumably with some "soft" security screening) we got to walk across the pile cap on one of Calder Hall's reactors.

These days it's much higher fencing (complete with electricity and tamper detection) and "coppers" with sub machine guns. Security has even impacted steam train excursions as they used to use the turning facility at Sellafield to turn the engine round. As this involved the engine (with it's crew) entering the facility by a few yards, AIUI it got axed "because terrorism" - just think what two guys with a steam train restricted to a pair of steel rails could do !

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When 'Saving The Internet' means 'Saving Crony Capitalism'

SImon Hobson
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Re: Local loop unbundling would of course mean the equivalnet of Openreach being formed.

The interesting part being that most of the world isn't in "the big cities". It only works in the big cities, and not even in all of them, and in all of each big city.

My nearest "big city" is 100 miles away, and I don't think much of that is serviced by multiple fibre networks.

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SImon Hobson
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Re: You get what you pay for

I pay more to my internet provider than my neighbors so I can get data from the internet quicker than them. I like having that choice.

That's great - though I gather a lot of US people don't have that choice - but is NOT in any way related to "net neutrality".

If a company will be more successful by paying more to get their data to me quicker than their competition, then that's part of their business strategy and operating costs.

And therein lies the problem.

If you are someone the size of (say) Goobble, or Farcebork, or ... then when you come to negotiate with the likes of ComCrap (as someone above called them) you are in a strong position. ComCrap knows that it needs such companies - it knows very well that the bulk of it's customer just will not accept slow or no access to those service. In fact, if you are one of the few biggest outfits like these, then you probably won't be paying anything at all - you might even counter-threat ComCrap that you'll cut off their customers if they don't pay you !

But suppose you are some new startup, you've got a great idea, and you're sure it'll take off once people can use it. So you go online and start for the customers to start coming to you ... But before long you find that you are getting more "it's crappily slow" reports than you are getting satisfied users. After some investigation, you find that ComCrap have throttled your traffic - so you contact ComCrap to ask what's going on. At this point, you realise that ComCrap don't give a crap about you or their users - they tell you what you will pay them to unthrottle your traffic (a lot more than anyone else) and your negotiating power is to accept that or walk away. So there you are, trying to get a new service going, while being "asked" to pay massively more than what the big guys are paying - and all the time knowing that someone like Goobble will not think twice in setting up their own version of the service if they think it'll make them money.

Being a startup, you can't afford to pay the mob's (ComCrap and the like) "protection money" - so your service gets a reputation for being slow. When Goobble launches it's competing service, they get full speed (because they are already paying, but a fraction of what you were asked to pay) and so all your customers defect.

It may also be that your service competes with something ComCrap offers - and in that case, ComCrap is going to throttle your traffic deliberately to make it's own service "better" and make sure that users don't go to your competing service.

So the idea of net neutrality is to ensure that all providers get to use the tubes in a fair manner. What it doesn't do is say that anyone should get a "free ride". You will have to pay a service provider to get your bits into the tubes at your end - and the more traffic you send, the more you will find yourself paying. ComCrap's customers are already paying ComCrap to cary the bits they consume, you are paying your ISP for the bits your send - having ComCrap charge you is double dipping, charging two people for the same traffic !

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SImon Hobson
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Re: Local loop unbundling would of course mean the equivalnet of Openreach being formed.

Not necessarily.

AIUI New Zealand went for LLU some time ago - but they went "all in" and forced a complete split between the business of providing the connections to premises and the business of providing services over those connections. That's something that the latest changes (forcing OpenReach to be a legally separate entity from BT) still doesn't match.

Going only from what ElReg commentards write here, it sounds like that has resulted in their equivalent of our OpenRetch being free to innovate without being constrained as our OpenRetch is - it's clear that a lot of OpenRetch policies were designed to protect BT from too much competition.

Ultimately, providing that "last mile" is a natural monopoly. If you are building a housing estate - no-one would expect multiple companies to come in an built competing road networks, build multiple competing electricity distribution networks, multiple competing drainage networks, and so on. No, people expect one set of roads, one set of lecky supply, one set of drains, and so on.

It's been shown time and time again that, except for some limited circumstances, it just isn't practical and cost effective to built a competing last mile network. So you have to rely on one company to build one network, and allow all service providers to use that network on fair and equal terms. If that one company is tied to the incumbent service provider in opaque ways that allow that incumbent to direct how the company operates and innovates - that's when you see the sort of problems people complain about with OpenRetch.

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Linus Torvalds may have damned systemd with faint praise

SImon Hobson
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if Poettering got it so obviously wrong, how come all the combined experience and wisdom of the contributors and developers of just about every major distribution out there went along with him?

AIUI, with Debian there was a lot of "discussion", and eventually some committee decided to bring an end to the "discussions" by calling a vote. The vote was cleverly worded with more options than just "yes, go with systemd" and "no, don't go with systemd". In the end, by cleverly including other options, it was made to look like there was overwhelming support for systemd and so it came to pass that Debian put the nails in it's own coffin.

In reality, the votes FOR systemd were a minority - but by including votes for "I've had enough with the discussions" etc, the result was rigged.

Of course, there were also the outright lies that I suspect led to more people voting for it than would have been the case had there been any honesty. Lies like "it's only an init" and "you can still use sysv init" - the first being an outright lie as we've since seen how far and wide it's tentacles have gone, the second is a lie by omission because while you can still use sysv int, you can't get rid of systemd entirely.

But prior to this vote, the issue was "how much effort to put into de-systemdising Gnome 3" given that RH has been heavily infecting it and it was getting harder and harder to disinfect it. I think there were even suggestions at one point that "we'll allow it for Jessie, and by the next release we'll have figured out how to remove it" !

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