* Posts by SImon Hobson

1324 posts • joined 9 Sep 2006

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New UK laws address driverless cars insurance and liability

SImon Hobson
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Re: Blue Windscreen of Death

> The manufacturer only releases updates for cars up to X years old so what do you do? Your car is effectively uninsurable and worthless.

Indeed, and there are other scenarios as well.

So apart from being able to effectively send all models of a certain age to the scrapheap, there's the "protection racket" issue - in effect, the owner will have no choice but to pay whatever the manufacturer charges for updates.If the manufacturer won't provide updates unless you pay an annual "service charge" then you have to pay that charge. Annual charge more than the value of the car - tough.

So the ever decreasing practical life of a car, mostly due to technology and the cost of what would once have been simple and cheap repairs, takes another step.

And it's retrospective as well - unless the manufacturers are forced to state future service costs for some arbitrary future lifetime, then there's no way to know in advance of purchase what the car is going to cost to keep "insurable". yes there's a certain amount of unknown in it now - but at least the cost of parts etc tends to be generally predictable.

And of course, it opens up further opportunities for gouging and lock-in. Want updates ? We'll only provide them through our franchised dealer network ! Want new brake pads ? Oh didn't you notice the mention on page seventy-eleven of the 6 point T&Cs that the pads have software in them to talk to the autonomous driving system, so you can only use our own pads at a 1000% markup compared to what the very same pads (from the same factory) without our name on would cost, and only available through our franchised dealers who are the only ones with the tools to re-code the car to the new pads !

Yup, I reckon these proposed rules herald a new era of vendor lock-in.

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Installing disks is basically LEGO, right? This admin failed LEGO

SImon Hobson
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Re: RAID cock-up

I'll raise you two more ...

We had (past tense) a customer who bought a Mac server from us (yes, that dates it a bit). Their "technical" guy wanted to plug something USB into it - and assumed that the USB connectors were behind those pop out panels on the front. He genuinely couldn't connect having popped out the three drives with the system failing ! Luckily, when I told the RAID controller to add the 2nd disk back in, things seemed to be intact and I left it to rebuild the first disk.

Then we had a customer with a support contract with a large manufacturer. The techie comes out to replace a failed drive, and being unsure which one was the failed one, proceeded to pull each drive in turn ...

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Why I had to sue the FCC – VoIP granddaddy Dan Berninger

SImon Hobson
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Re: less gummint regulation is nearly always a good thing

Downvoted for this :

You've misunderstood where the competition is. It's between ISPs, not between the packets handled by any one given ISP.

The problem is that for many people, there is (in practical terms) no competition between ISPs. AIUI, in the USA there are large areas where your choice is between a slow and expensive single DSL provider, and a single expensive cable provider. So if you want a decent speed, you have a choice of one supplier - the cable company.

So, if that cable company (for example) decides that a video streaming service (for example, Netflix) is too much of a competitor to the cable companies video services, and decides the artificially throttle IP packets from that streaming service - then the customer doesn't have the choice of changing ISP to get a better service. They are hostage to the ISP and whatever services it decides to permit or not throttle - decisions made primarily on "how much can we screw people for ?". So (for example) Netflix doesn't want to pay extra to have it's traffic not throttled, then anyone in that cable company's area gets a poorer service.

This is the big problem - where there's a lack of real competition, and the incumbent is in a position to artificially bu**er about with any traffic is sees as detrimental to it's own revenue streams. And that exactly describes mcuh of the US internet market as far as I can see.

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Reg tours submarine cable survey ship
'Geo Resolution'

SImon Hobson
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The rack mountings.

Just a heads up - there's nothing "novel" about the equipment mountings. Those "coiled wire rope" things are standard naval shock mountings. Example supplier here

I recall <cough> decades ago as a young apprentice seeing videos on what they do when a submarine (which is what we were building back then) is depth charged. All I'll say is that they take on shapes that you'd not imagine them capable of - and then (more or less) return to normal !

Of course, you have to make sure there's enough free length in the cables to allow that movement between vessel and equipment. If not, then the equipment survives but is no longer connected to anything which rather defeats the object.

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Meet LogicLocker: Boffin-built SCADA ransomware

SImon Hobson
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Re: Option: shut down the line.

Yeah, my first thought was "shut down the plant - would that be before or after the malware has wreaked havoc" ?

Think about it, if the PLC just randomly turns stuff on and off, then with most plants it's likely to cause damage, and with many it could cause serious environmental or safety issues. For example, I remember reading a few years ago about a lead processing factory that installed a maaasive UPS that could keep the whole plant running if the power failed - yes, multi-MW territory. It cost "a lot", but the alternative was the risk an uncontrolled shutdown that could cause lead dust to be released into the environment. That wasn't the subject of the article, the article was on how they then figured out that with careful management they could use some of the stored energy to peak lop their electricity load and so save a considerable amount on their electrical bill.

The problem is that in general it's not practical to build a system in such a way that the PLC can run amok and safety/supervisory systems will detect it and prevent damage from happening. You can easily spend many time the cost of the system on the safety measures, and for most plant that isn't justified.

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Oz consumer watchdog: 'up to' speeds shouldn't be in broadband ads

SImon Hobson
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Re: Only 15 years late...

I'm, assuming your FTTN is what we in the UK call FTTC - a VDSL2 service,

AIUI, this may well be down to interference between subscribers to the cabinet. The high frequency signals aren't perfectly contained by the low spec twisted pair cabling, so when several subscribers take the service, and their pairs are in the same (or adjacent) cable, then the signals interfere and the result is a reduction in the number of usable bins or bits/bin for certain bins. The result is that the first person on a cabinet gets a grest speed, but it starts dropping off a bit as other subscribers get connected and the signals start interfering.

Another factor may be backhaul dependent, but with gigabit fibre back to the exchange, you'd need something in the order of 20 users all pulling 50M before you saturated it. I don't know if larger cabinets have multiple backhaul channels (eg 2 or more 1G links aggregated) - but if not, then by the time you get up to cabinets serving hundreds of users, there's scope for local contention for the backhaul.

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Last Concorde completes last journey, at maybe Mach 0.02

SImon Hobson
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Unhappy

Re: Saw in Action Twice

It was one of those things I always wanted to do, but travelling half way down the country for that just wasn't on. I had resolved to driving down to Bristol to see this last flight land (and sleep in the car if I had to), but then I got stuck with a meeting at work I couldn't get out of.

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Japanese team unveils terahertz band 100 Gbps wireless tech

SImon Hobson
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Re: Rural Folk aren't this fcuking stupid.

Is there any topic you don't turn into a rant about G.Fast?

Did you actually read his comment ? Like starting from the first line about giving rural dwellers false hope, and then going on to speculate about how BT is likely to use any excuse to avoid what needs to happen. Yes it's a bit of a rant, but to be blunt - it's mostly right on target.

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We don't want to alarm you, but PostScript makes your printer an attack vector

SImon Hobson
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Re: @SImon Hobson

Why ? It's actually quite a nice language to work with and I enjoyed it.

Now, if anyone suggested I had to do anything with PCL then they might learn some new colourful vocabulary.

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SImon Hobson
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Well the article mentions 32 years as the age of PostScript - and guess what, I recall back in the 80s that there were known "issues". One was that you can set an access code for admin/config changes - but it's rarely done.

So if you send some PS to a printer that sets the access code - you're screwed !

But personally I like PostScript - it makes sense !

PCL is a mess - you can't take a "PCL" file made for one device and send it to any other PCL device and expect what comes out to be the same (or in some cases, even similar) - device resolution specific stuff comes to mind. You can with PS - with usually the biggest issue being missing fonts that come out as Courier.

I've hand crafted PS - including doing one of the things the article mentions, redefining the showpage operator to put a header on printed faxes with information like date/time/sender. Trivial in PS, "non trivial" with PCL.

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Human memory, or the lack of it, is the biggest security bug on the 'net

SImon Hobson
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Actually, lets blame the sites ...

Yes, those sites that insist on a password length longer than you normally use - so you have to remember a "non-standard" pattern.

Or those that impose a short maximum length - same problem.

Or those that insist on stupid combinations - so you have to remember that this site has a % (or whatever). Or those that impose restrictions the other way.

I have a system that allows me to use a different password for each site - by using something that's common to most things, combined with something that's different for each site. Yes, if someone got hold of a number of passwords then they'd be able to figure out the system - but if that happens that I've almost certainly got far worse problems. But there's no way that given a single password hacked from a single site you'd be able to log into any other site.

But, this system is blown apart by the above mentioned, well meaning, idiots who for various reasons stop me using something that my system deals with.

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King Battistelli tries again to break Euro Patent Office union

SImon Hobson
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Re: What I don't understand is

Ego trip would be my assessment.

Plus, the more power he has, the less trouble he'll have in future in deciding on his pay rises.

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Google's Chrome is about to get rather in-your-face about HTTPS

SImon Hobson
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Re: Browser Facism gone mad

I'm with you there - managing (for example) networking devices which as far as the manufacturer is concerned ceased to exist many years ago is a right PITA when various levels of software just won't let you. Java and the cretins responsible gets a special position in the hell I'd send some people to for not including a "yes I know", "yes I really know", "now FFS let me do my job" option to actually access these devices.

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'Maker' couple asphyxiated, probably by laser cutter fumes

SImon Hobson
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Re: This happened in Berkeley?

England has similar rules now for rented properties - (interlinked) smoke alarm on each floor, and a CO detector in any room containing a solid fuel burning appliance. IIRC, Scotland requires a CO detector in any room with a fuel burning appliance except cooking appliances.

The problem with mandating a CO detector in every property is ... where is it to be sited ? If there's no specific anticipated source of CO, then how do you know where to put it ? And if it's in the wrong place then it's pointless and worthless - in fact I'd say it's worse than worthless as it's likely to give a false sense of security. It would be quite possible for this couple to have been killed by CO from the cutter, while a CO detector in another room never got a sniff of the gas.

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I'LL BE BATT: Arnie Schwarzenegger snubs gas guzzlers for electric

SImon Hobson
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Hmm, isn't California one of those places where they have a shortage of lecky - as in, at peak times they have to order people to turn off the AC ?

And they want to get people to use sh*tloads more of it to run the cars ...

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Windows 10 networking bug derails Microsoft's own IPv6 rollout

SImon Hobson
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Re: "but Android doesn't support that"

@ AC

I applaud Google for not compromising the platform platform​ at the expense of many for the benefit for the few.

So you applaud Google for not supporting a protocol that's designed specifically to allow a network admin to decide how their network is used and by whom ? There's a lot, lot more to DHCP than just supplying the address of a DNS resolver !

@TheVogon

Because it doesn't need to and there is no requirement to as near zero removable devices are formatted in those file systems?

Actually, there is plenty of need for plenty of people. The reason very few removable devices are formatted in "useful" filesystems is simply because MS have deliberately not supported other file systems - as in don't support anything Not Invented Here - as is their normal mode of operation.

So we get removable devices formatted as ExFAT even though FAT is ... staying polite ... "a poor choice" for a large proportion of usage. Because, no manufacturer is going to ship something that's going to cause a significant proportion of purchasers to return it as "not working" - even when it's costing them money (through MS's shakedown racket) to do so.

Look at what they did with things like TCP/IP (amongst network protocols) and internet browsers - every step of the way they did their best to maintain proprietary standards until eventually (in these cases) they found that they didn't in fact have enough clout to get their own way.

TL;DR version - Microsoft will not support anything unless it either benefits them to do so, or they are forced to do so. They certainly do not do things because they think it will benefit their customers !

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SImon Hobson
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Re: "but Android doesn't support that"

Where does Android come into play?

I agree - there I was expecting an article which, according to the headlines, is about problems in Windows - to find that actually it's a problem about Android not supporting one of the core protocols. Ie, ANDROID IS BROKEN !

Oh yes, and then something about some windows service not being IPv6 capable, almost a minor thing that.

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Oh, the things Vim could teach Silicon Valley's code slingers

SImon Hobson
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Re: Default != popular

Isn't vim only popular because it's installed by default?

No for me ! Some Linux distros install other things, such as nano and make them the default. It's irritating each time I come across one of these and then have to dredge out of the dusty cobwebs of my memory the incantation to fix it back to using vim by default.

But historically, you may have had a point - if fixing many unix or unix-alike systems when booted from a floppy pair, vi was the only text editor you could reasonably assume would be available to you. Ah those days of making a new boot/root disk pair whenever we upgraded the old SCO box at my last place - and spending ages deciding what to leave out of the root disk to make enough room for cpio so we'd be able to restore the backup tapes.

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Nuclear power station sensors are literally shouting their readings at each other

SImon Hobson
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Re: Encrypted Morse code transmitted via sound

... but if anyone is using these on mission critical and/or safety loops then they are nuts

If you read the article, they talk about machine monitoring in the turbine hall - nothing nuclear or safety related there, just a bunch of steam turbine generator sets. Most likely, it's also only "condition monitoring" - ie monitoring noise and vibration so as to be able to alert to signs of impending (for example) bearing trouble before it actually fails and causes a breakdown (and potentially more trouble in the process).

So in fact, you could drop the "nuclear" bit of click bait headline - but then it wouldn't be so "interesting".

As an aside, anti-nukular people like to slag off how bad things are because some of our old power stations have spent some time shut down over recent years due to cracks in pipework. What they fail to mention is that these are just steam pipes, just like you'd find in a coal or closed cycle gas fired power station - so again, nothing to do with nuclear other than the steam generator in the next building along is nuclear powered rather than coal or gas.

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Auto emissions 'cheatware' scandal sparks war of words between Italy, Germany

SImon Hobson
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But did they actually break any rules ?

As AC says right at the top - these vehicles passed the legally mandated tests<period>. Unless the law very very clearly states that "X, Y, and Z are not allowed" then that's that. No, I don't know what the actual regulations are, perhaps someone knows where to dig that up and translate it into real world English !

If the cars then emit much more in real life than they did in the tests, well then the test parameters don't represent real life well enough. It was always fairly predictable - impose emissions limits that are hard (impossible ?) to meet, use a testing regime with a well known subset of real driving conditions, manufacturers are going to design the cars to pass those tests. I'm sure that if a real user were to drive the car in a manner that matched the test, then they'd get the low emissions the test requires.

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Juniper warns: Borked upgrade opens root on firewalls

SImon Hobson
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Oh well, more billable time for some !

Given how long Juniper stuff takes to (re)boot, anyone affected is going to be able to add at least 1/4 hour to their out of hours timesheet :-)

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Hackers could turn your smart meter into a bomb and blow your family to smithereens – new claim

SImon Hobson
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Re: Explode is not interesting

Is there any particular reason screwing with (already networked) substations wouldn't achieve the same effect?

Better in fact, you can switch more load at once.

But, which are you most likely to compromise ?

On the one hand, a network with a small number of nodes, under active monitoring, where if you do manage to compromise the network, it is relatively easy for the operator to upgrade.

On the other hand, a network with around 50 million nodes (if the idiots get their way), where obtaining a sample meter is trivially easy without raising any suspicion, and which is connected via a public network.

I gather the risk of firebox explosion if ignition isn't even and immediate makes lighting large coal boilers kind of hair raising ...

Ha ha, that reminds me of an amusing tale. Many years ago when I was an apprentice in a local outfit, we still had a small coal fired power station just up the road. It was common for each years group of instrument tech apprentices to be taken there to get a look at instrumentation and control on real plant. Now, the fireboxes of said plants have big flaps which will flap open (and let the pressue out safely) should such an ignition problem happen, and the apprentices were walking across a gantry not far from them when they were doing a light up ... at which point I suspect most of you are ahead of me already.

I think it's not hard to imagine just how much black dust there is in and around a coal fired plant, especially when you are grinding it up and blowing it into a fluidised bed. Apparently that group of apprentices arrived back at the training centre wearing nothing but CEGB boiler suits having been sent to the showers to clean up.

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SImon Hobson
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Re: Explode is not interesting

By "grid" you mean "tiny tiny section of the grid hanging off your local pole-mounted transformer"

No, I think he does mean the NATIONAL grid - and yes it's quite feasible to cause some serious disruption to it.

... the UK grid (and other developed countries' grids) are segmented to prevent cascading failures knocking down large chunks of the network simultaneously.

Actually, the UK grid is a single network - the North American grid is segmented by a few DC links, partly for stability reasons (it's a lot harder controlling a single grid of that size than one the size of the UK), and partly because for some long distance lines it's more efficient (less losses) to use DC.

We did have a national outage in the UK back in the 40s IIRC (or could have been later than that, can't find any references online). I recall my late father telling me about it, and how they found that there was a flaw in just about every power station design - an assumption that they would always have grid power during startup !

Each power station was designed on the assumption of there being grid power available for running all the machinery etc needed to run the power station. When the whole grid went dark, they found a catch 22 situation of not having the power to start up the power stations to generate power. I assume there was some carefully managed switching done to get some bits of the grid live and so allow the main stations to be started up. After that, they had a program of retrofitting gas turbine generators at most power stations to give them a black start capability - and they also came in useful for fast reacting peak lopping (ie coping with the peak when people go and switch the kettles on during the ad breaks on telly.) But I digress ...

As an AC has mentioned, we've had relatively recent experience with loss of significant generating capacity - have a read of this report.

The flip side is, what happens if someone can hack the control system and cause a massive disconnection of loads - perhaps at a peak time like the 6-7pm teatime slot on a cold winters evening, or thinking a bit more, it might be more effective if you can do it when they are already at a point of having to dial back the big plant at times of low demand. There's scope for some modelling there methinks ...

Answer, if you can drop a few GW off the grid, both voltage and frequency are going to go up VERY fast. That's probably going to cause some generating capacity to trip automatically* - that alone is going to cause some chaos. Then, when some of the big generators have tripped - turn all the loads back on. You've not got something similar to the 2008 incident above - but with some generating capacity tripped out and probably taking some time to get back into operational state. Rince and repeat a few times, I think you'll find it has "quite an impact" on the National Grid - and yes, I do think there is potential for significant blackouts (though probably not a complete national one.

* Hint - what do you think happens in a nuclear power station if it's running at full load, and it's generators trip out on over-voltage/frequency ? Well that's one hell of a kettle, and there's going to be an emergency shutdown on the nuclear side - there's no safety risk as there should still be power for all the safety and cooling systems to continue working as normal while it cools down. I strongly suspect that if the grid calls up 10 minutes later and asks for full output, they won't get an "OK, be on in the next few seconds" answer. They can probably get a significant output going quite quickly - but it takes time to ramp up the thermal output of the reactor so full power will take a while.

Similarly, in a coal plant, they'll shut down the coal feed immediately - putting the fires out. I don't know if they have any minimum time before they can attempt a relight - anyone have any inside knowledge on that ?

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3... 2...1... and 123-Reg hit by DDoSers. Again

SImon Hobson
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Re: I'm with 123reg

Does that mean that they just take the hit of giving you free service for the balance of your reg period in expectation of renewals and to make the market fluid

That's about it. The actual cost (in between renewals) of being the registrar for a domain are exceedingly low - a big chunk of what you pay goes towards the administration of the actual registration/renewal process and fees paid to the registry.

There's a bit of swings and roundabouts too - some transfers in will give you domains you didn't get paid for initially, while transfers out will leave you not being registrar for a domain you did get paid for.

And of course, most of the names already mentioned will be hoping that you are transferring the domain to them to make it easier to use their DNS/mail/web hosting/whatever services for which you'll have to pay them.

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Meet the Internet of big, lethal Things

SImon Hobson
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Re: In terms of farmers -- Drive a tractor??

As possibly one of the few people who post on El Reg who have driven a farm tractor

I suspect it's not quite as small a club as you might think.

But you are basically correct, except that (at least round here) the mechanics will come to you anyway - any that doesn't, won't get much business ! It's certainly the case that the makes of tractor used is heavily influenced by the reputation of the local dealers selling and supporting them. It's also true that if one manufacturer started doing like JD does and lock out independent mechanics, then they'd find their new machinery sales dropping once the effect on second hand values starts to bite.

Of course, if all manufacturers were to do it then that's a bit "rock and hard place" when choosing new machinery makes.

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Did EU ruling invalidate the UK's bonkers Snoopers' Charter?

SImon Hobson
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The ECJ punts it back down to the national courts and says, in effect, "do it again"

Not exactly, at least as I read it.

As I read it, the Appeals Court were faced with a mater of interpretation regarding UK law and how it fits with EU regulations - and so referred the question up the the ECJ for their interpretation. The ECJ have now given their answer and passed that back down to the Appeals Court who now have to make a statement about the question they were originally asked.

Presumably, the Appeals court will make a ruling that more or less mirrors that of the ECJ - and that will leave the UK government with a law that's been declared unlawful. They can appeal up again, or revise the law, or they can face a situation where the courts get tied up with pretty well every criminal prosecution case getting tied up in arguments about the prosecution using evidence obtained by willfully illegal means.

I would hope that judges faces with the latter would be quite equivocal about not accepting it and making life very difficult.

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Europe trials air-traffic-control-over-IP-and-satellite

SImon Hobson
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Re: IoT (Internet of Travel)

Apart from the fact that such a system is likely to get a better consideration of security than the average IoTat doobrey, at present commands are send, in cleartext, over a public medium (VHF radio, HF over large areas of water). So the current system is hardly what you might call secure - no encryption, spoofing equipment readily available (or easy to build), and security basically comes down to the need for some physical presence on the part of the perpetrator and the ability of the authorities to use DF (direction finding) to quickly locate the transmitter (it has happened).

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SImon Hobson
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Re: @Bob Wheeler

an aircraft in controlled airspace is always flying IFR regardless of the weather or time of day

Point of order - not a correct and complete statement. VFR in some classes of airspace is permitted, though it is true that the airspace that this initiative applies to for now will be IFR only.

Also, being pedantic, being IFR doesn't mean not using eyeballs through the windscreen.

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Why don't people secure their IoT gadgets? 'It's not my problem'

SImon Hobson
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Is this what we can look forward to ?

http://www.geekculture.com/joyoftech/joyarchives/2340.html

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View from a Reg reader: My take on the Basic Income

SImon Hobson
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You're no longer going to be slaving 70 hours at a restaurant for £350 a week while the multimillionaire proprietor takes all your tips and the state makes up the difference. You're going to be slaving for 70 hours a week for £350 a week on top of the £500 or whatever the state is furnishing you with

Except it won't work like that.

You might get something more like (say) £250/wk from the state. But you won't still be getting £350/wk from your 70 hour job - the flipside of a state basic income is that taxes will kick in sooner and faster on anything you do earn. It only really works if the net result is that most people are more or less about the same financially. If lots of people are significantly batter off then it's not affordable, if lots of people are significantly worse off then it's politically not going to happen.

Lets say, just for the sake of easy numbers, that the basic income was set at £10k/year. For someone currently earning (say) £15k/yr to suddenly be on £25k/yr just wouldn't work - so their tax would need to go up. Just eliminating the personal allowance wouldn't do it as that would mean paying 20% on £25k (so taking home £20k) vs paying 20% on £4k (and thus taking home £14.2k before).

So the basic rate of income tax would have to go "quite a bit" to make the books balance - and then you have the "not really poor and not really well off" middle ground at a real disadvantage.

Lets say (and yes, ignoring other taxes like NI for the sake of illustration) you tried a cost-neutral approach. Everyone gets about £2k/year basic income, but the personal allowance is cut to just £1k. Someone earning (say) £15k would currently take home £14.2k (£800 of income tax, 20% of £4k). Afterwards they take home £12,200 from the job and get another 2K from the government - £2k of tax has been added by removing the personal allowance and given back by way of basic income.

But £2k is clearly nowhere near enough to live on, so it doesn't remove the problem.

Make the basic income more than £2,200 a year and you can't offset the cost be reducing the personal allowance. So then you have to start increasing the basic rate, that hits lots of people hard, and a change that's going to hit lots of "hardworking middle englanders" disproportionately is going to be very unpopular.

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It's round and wobbles, but madam, it's a mouse pad, not a floppy disk

SImon Hobson
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I have at least one DVD like that - PAL on one side, NTSC on the other. Trouble is, while it's printed on each side in the narrow bit between the data area and the hole, does the printing refer to "that side of the disk" or "the other side of the disk that the player reads".

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SImon Hobson
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... better than letting msword pick a random number for spacing ...

It doesn't if you know how to drive it - and turn off as much of the irritating "knows better than you what you want" auto-formatting as is possible.

or

You use something that's not to "processing text" as the menu at McDonalds is to gourmet cuisine.

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Military reservist bemoans frost-bitten baby-maker on Antarctic trek

SImon Hobson
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Coat

I recall reading some time ago that one of the modern explorers would ask applicants for an expedition team if they were "fully intact" or had been snipped. Apparently, circumcised men are more prone to frostbite in such conditions.

Puts a new spin in the old joke that you should be a complete dick to ... ... allright, I'll get my coat.

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Information on smart meters? Yep. They're great. That works, right? – UK.gov

SImon Hobson
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Re: Energy supplier resonse

Which is bullshit, because I got told the same thing and they still sent me another email last month asking me to 'choose the best time' for my new meter to be fitted.

In which case, the correct response is a complaint that they are misusing your personal data and hence committing a breach of the data protection regulations. If you have explicitly told them not to use your data for that purpose, it becomes an offence if they carry on.

So there's another avenue to attack these things. Tell our suppliers we don't want one and not to ask again - then make a complaint when they ignore that request. Shouldn't take too many complaints for the ICO to spot a pattern and issue "guidance" to the industry.

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SImon Hobson
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Re: Dear Mrs May

remote switch off is only on Prepay smart meters like utilita

AIUI it's part of the spec for all meters to be switchable between pre-pay and contract, and for all meters to have the remote cutoff.

I would say that the ONLY benefit is that switching between pre-pay and contract is easily done 9and remote) - so in theory it should be less expensive when (say) you rent a flat and find that it has a pre-pay meter, to get that switched to contract (assuming you have a half-decent credit record). As it stands now, unless you plan to be there for a while, I imagine the cost of having the meter replaced will more than wipe out any potential savings.

The flip side is, of course, that it's going to be equally easy for the supplier to say "Oops, you're 30 seconds late with your payment, we're switching you to pre-pay" CLICK

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Ofcom fleshes out plans to open up BT's ducts and poles

SImon Hobson
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Re: How many times?

This is because they have Universal Service Obligation to provide telephone services, which due to current Ofcom regulations can not be replaced by fibre.

Care to quote the bit that says it must be over copper ? I doubt it specifies that, more likely it specifies the obligation of a basic telephony service - which contrary to popular belief can be provided over fibre, including provision for emergency calls during a power cut (search for Deddington).

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Citizens Advice slams 'unfair' broadband compensation scheme

SImon Hobson
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Re: Simple solution...

Downvote for the person without a clue. What would happen is that prices will rise enormously to cover these payments.

Yes you are right that making it more painful would improve matters - but it would not eliminate issues. Given that the payments for the remaining issues would be large, the profits needed to pay for those payments would need to be appropriately increased - and that means higher bills for everyone.

Of course, higher bills for everyone would leads to complains that people were being fleeced ...

The thing to remember is that, relatively speaking, we mostly get very cheap internet. You can of course have an internet service where there is a guaranteed fix time, with significant penalties for it being down. Lots of businesses (including my employer and many of our customers) have such services. Service Level Agreements can be as good as "four hours to fix a fault". Depending on where you are and how much speed you want, such a service may take a few months to install, cost you a 5 figure sum in excess construction charges, and then cost you hundreds or thousands a month.

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Plastic fiver: 28 years' work, saves acres of cotton... may have killed less than ONE cow*

SImon Hobson
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Re: Silly people

Shame I can't get kitten in the UK ...

Sure about that ?

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UK.gov was warned of smart meter debacle by Cabinet Office in 2012

SImon Hobson
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Re: Points from a briefing

Smart appliances are potentially sensible ...

Err, only in a world where everyone lives in a nice detached property.

How much noise and vibration does a washing machine on spin (or just the wash) cycle make ? How about a tumble drier with it's thrum, thrum, thrum ... ?

Now imagine, it's 2am, you are trying to sleep as you have to get up at 7 for work ... and the b'stard next door/on top of you (flats) has his smart appliances doing the washing. No, these are not a flippin good idea - they'll be a colossal public nuisance.

And that's before we get to the fire risk from running a tumble drier while you sleep - and Fire Service recommendations to not do it !

So the plan seems to be :

Ration electricity use by price - so the poor will cut back when they can't afford to use it.

If that fails - use the remote turnoff for finer grained blackouts than we had in the 70s.

And promote antisocial behaviour that will cause massive overload of council Environmental Health departments as people complain about the nuisance.

And, cause deaths - from use of appliances which catch fire while people are sleeping, or from neighbours taking matters into their own hands when the local EH officer doesn't have enough time to intervene.

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systemd free Linux distro Devuan releases second beta

SImon Hobson
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FAIL

He's a guy who writes code. He's a perfectly nice guy with a family ...

I can only judge by what I see. From his track record with code (PulseAudio has a similar reputation for 'quality" as does SystemD), and his appearances on video. For the latter, it is clear that he does not accept any criticism of his work, and treats anyone not prepared to sit around and eulogise about how great systemd is with complete and utter contempt.

He wrote some stuff he thinks is an improvement on what we had before and put it out there.

Not exactly. He's been a master of the politics and, thanks to the market position of his employer, has been able to "force"* it's adoption in key projects in a manner that makes it incredibly hard to not use it. In addition, he's as a matter of policy thrown out any thought of any backwards compatibility with existing interfaces - again this makes it a lot of work to rip it out of those systems it's infected.

And no-one with any sense of why Unix like systems have been so successful, and have such a reputation for reliability thinks that stuffing as much as SystemD does into PID 1 is a good idea. It means that even basic bugs, of which there are many, can bring the whole system down.

And some of these changes are a complete and utter PITA for users. Take something as simple as interface names. At present, ethernet interfaces are called things like eth0, eth1, etc and can be easily renamed. For the infrequent occasions when I change a NIC in a server, it's easy to change ONE config file to rename it to the same function as the one it replaces. But some supposedly intelligent people believe that it's better to force a completely new naming scheme, and so if I do anything with my NICs, I would now have to find every instance of that name throughout dozens of config files and scripts (which may include external monitoring systems). Yeah, finding all those and changing them is just so much better than just changing one NIC-name mapping - well some retards clearly think it is.

* As in, his employer has made sure that key projects include it and depend heavily on it. So you either use it, or you put a lot of effort into taking it out.

And just don't get me started on how good the programmers must be when you see a bit of code where the comments complain about the work involved in making the "sync" call asynchronous.

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SImon Hobson
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... complaining about or defending a fucking init system of all things ...

If it was just an init system then there'd be no problem - it could thrive or die on it's merits. But it's NOT an init system - it's an everything but the kitchen sink system.

It's designed (despite the outright lies told by it's supporters) in such a way that you can't just use bits of it, or swap bits out, or disentagle stuff you don't want. It's done in such a way that stuff that needs to run on a systemd based system MUST do things the systemd way - and that's done in such a manner that you can't then use that stuff on a non-systemd system without recompiling it to remove the systemd crap.

Thus, with several large (desktop oriented) packages re-built to need systemd, it became harder and harder to not have any systemd in the system. And then once you've got any systemd in the system, not using it becomes harder.

Given that Linus has found the "quality" of rubbish they've submitted to the kernel so poor that he had to revoke submit rights for some of them should tell you a lot. The fact that they break stuff and declare it someone else's problem to fix should tell you something. In fact, breaking stuff that used to work just fine - and then declaring that it's broken because it's not "done the systemd way" - seems to be their MO.

And they seem to be proud of this, and seem to have declared that they won't be happy until they've reinvented everything "their way". personally, if I wanted to run something as opaque and "hard to use by design" as Windows, then I'd run Windows - but i don't, so I don't, and that's why I'll stay systemd free please.

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Ofcom to force a legal separation of Openreach

SImon Hobson
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Re: "and action is required now to deliver better outcomes for phone and broadband users"

There are plenty of functional/natural monopolies which work well for everyone concerned

Indeed.

if someone suggested that a third party come along and dig up all the street to install a separate and competing electricity supply, or water supply, or drainage, or gas supply, or ... there would be outcries of "why on earth do such a flippin stupid thing. It just doesn't make any sense.

And so it is with with telecoms cables - it just does not make sense to have multiple competing sets of cables - all that does is make everything more expensive.

But what it does need is for the operator of the functionally monopoly network to deal with all customers on a fair and open basis = something which few people, including OfCom judging by this announcement, believe happens at the moment. it's been obvious for as long as I've been involved (as techie for various of their customers) that BT and OpenReach do stuff ina way that maximises protection of BT's expensive services.

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SImon Hobson
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Re: Be careful what you wish for!

It's been pointed out that Ofcom requires 999 to work in the event of a power cut to the premises. ... How do we manage this with FTTP?

Bt have already (IIRC) run trials where they've converted entire villages to fibre-only. The fibre is terminated into an NTE which includes optical interface, bridge to data service (presented as an ethernet port IIRC), and an analogue terminal adapter - plus backup battery. Being an integrated unit, it should be reasonably easy to remotely detect battery state - though I don't doubt that getting end users to swap the battery will have "some issues".

If you just work on needing the service to make emergency calls, then the whole NTE could be powered down except for providing line voltage to the POTS port. If the user goes off-hook and dials an emergency umber then it can power up the required stuff to make the call.

Thing is, these are all "solved problems" where solutions have been worked out years ago.

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Geo-boffins say 'quake lifted bits of New Zealand by 8 metres, moved at 3km/second

SImon Hobson
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Re: Sandwich filler?

A few seconds warning. So what's the actionable message?

I'll add the most appropriate one that dates from the cold war days. Put your head between your knees ...

.

.

.

... and kiss your as..backside goodbye

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Melbourne man arrested for broadcasting fake messages to pilots

SImon Hobson
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Re: … no hacking is required … ?

The time, cost, effort and risk involved in changing to a different radio platform means it's unlikely to ever happen

Hammer, nail, impact !

There's enough fuss just getting users over to 8.33kHz radios here - to the point where there's even some public money being put up towards the costs for small aircraft. And that' a change where some aircraft (starting with those using the airways) can change without impacting their ability to talk with the older system (25kHz channels) - and so it's been phased in over many years. Given that for some aircraft, a fancy radio can be a significant part of the value of the aircraft, a mass change to something else just isn't going to happen.

And there are procedures to deal with these situations - and they don't require the Outer Marker to be talking to the aircraft .... (sits back and waits to see if anyone gets it)

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CompSci Prof raises ballot hacking fears over strange pro-Trump voting patterns

SImon Hobson
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Mushroom

Re: The good reason for investigating this issue...

... Texas alone had 50 separate ballot initiatives ...

WTF !

How on earth can they come up with a crap arrangement like that, the icon sums up what should happen to the idiots who let it happen.

Even so, that is not something that can't be handled by paper - just "a bit more difficult". One option that comes to mind is a larger paper divided into sections, and fist job at the counting station is to separate them (along the perforations) and feed the bits to the separate points.

Actually, the counting could still be done by OMR - the tech for that is well established. OK, once you introduce OMR then there's a tech angle to be compromised - but it's on a relatively small scale (ie at the counting station only) and cross checking is "just" a case of taking the stack of paper that a machine has counted and hand counting them (or running them through a "check" counter under the sole control of the auditors).

As long as there are some spot checks done on randomly chosen machines - there's always a readily visible opportunity for fraud to be detected. If youa re going to fiddle the results systematically, then you need to affect a lot of machines - so a good chance of getting caught by a random check. And statistical checks would highlight if a small number of machines were tampered with in a big way.

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SImon Hobson
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Re: The good reason for investigating this issue...

The main issue is the sheer number of choices a voter has to make

Well here in the UK when I've had multiple polls on the same day, it's been as simple as the different polls being on different papers (colour coded).

So on the (say) white paper - the choice is "tick one box for your choice of MP ..."

On the (say) yellow paper it's "tick one box for your choice of county councillor ..."

And so on.

being colour coded, it's easy for the invigilators to help if you struggle working out that the white paper goes in the box with the white label, the yellow paper goes in the box with the yellow paper, and so on.

it only gets complicated (for the count at least) when it's a transferable vote system and you have to put 1, 2, 3 ... in the boxes. Even then it's doable.

The key thing is that while it is labour intensive, it is hard to fiddle with - barring seriously corrupt places where (for example) boxes can arrive empty with fresh official seals on them. More importantly, it's open for pretty well anyone to watch and so the process can be seen to be correct.

That latter bit is important - that the process can be seen to be fair. The voting machines may have worked perfectly - but they cannot be seen to have done so and so there is always that suspicion that they might have been tampered with. The machines almost certainly weren't tampered with - but that can't be seen easily.

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Here's the thing: We've pressed pause on my startup

SImon Hobson
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Re: And on, and on, and on, it goes

All you need in a remotely-controllable TRV head is, ...

There's your problem, that's NOT what they are building.

Each head is self-sufficient and self contained - it determines for itself what the room occupancy is, learns for itself what the occupancy patterns are, and it controls the setpoint on it's own. That is, you buy on, pop batteries in it, pop it on the valve - and that's about it.

it's aimed at people who don't tend to read TheRegister - the sort of people who don't understand the controls that so many houses have. By not setting their controls (such as they even exist) well, they are wasting money on heating. Hardly any "non-geek" house has per-room controls beyond the basic TRV.

Using the wireless is optional. But you can link the valve heads to a boiler interface so the boiler can run just when a radiator is needed to heat it's room and turn off otherwise - IMO this would be the default installation mode.

So they aren't aiming at geeks with (in general, and on average) a reasonable disposable income - but at (for example) social housing (and private sector) tenants with little disposable income. They can't go modifying the system, so being able to fit these without modification, AND take them with them when they move on (without needing to pay someone to install/remove stuff and fix any damage) is an important selling point. And a key point of their target market is that many people (my elderly mother included) really don't "get" timers and programmers, let alone have any ability to drive them.

And AIUI their target price is to be significantly below the current cost for this sort of product.

Oh yes, and you can as a geek hook up a receiver to your computer and log loads of stats and stuff. But for the target market, you don't need to do anything complicated, or sign away your privacy, or ....

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Hey techbros, make an airplane mode but for driving for your apps – US traffic watchdog

SImon Hobson
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How about they tackle the ****ing ******* ***** ****s who design cars that are more like a mobile game console than a car. We have a couple of Citröen C4 Cactus obscenities as pool cars - so many functions are controlled from a touchscreen that it's not possible to do some simple things (like just adjust the temperature of the heating) without taking your eyes off the road to work out where on the zero-tactile user interface you have to jab to do it. First you have to tap the right icon to get to the heating page (if you're not already on it), and then you can tap in different parts of the screen to adjust the fan speed and temperature - there's zero chance of doing this by feel (and a quick glance) like you can in my own cars.

Serious safety issue designed by completely clueless ****ing ****s.

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Visa cries foul over Euro regulator's stronger authentication demands

SImon Hobson
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Re: Ridiculous

Also, and I know someone who's been through this, the bank will assume it was you until you prove otherwise. In this case, the person had his card skimmed at a local petrol station, and it was then used for a local spending spree. As the spending was mostly local, the bank just turned round and made him prove the transactions that weren't his.

Some of them were easy, he could prove he was working elsewhere for some of them - had to provide copies of his shift rotas etc. But for others it simply came down to his word against the bank.

Also, it's been proved beyond any doubt (search for the Light Blue Touchpaper blog) that the ship-n-pin system has serious flaws and is not as secure as the banks would have you believe. But, if the bank records show that your pin was used (even though one known flaw allows "PIN authenticated" transactions without the PIN) then they'll simply assume it was you or someone who you gave your PIN to - and short of taking them to court and calling expert witnesses you will not get you money back for that.

So take these "guarantees" with a big pinch of salt.

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