* Posts by Steve Graham

276 posts • joined 21 May 2007

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Leaky-by-design location services show outsourced security won't ever work

Steve Graham

Re: FB strips data so photos effectivlely C M. Zuckerberg for the next 70 years. Accident?

Android continues to work fine if you delete Play Store, Play Services, Google Services etc. If you don't, yes, they'll definitely be trying to collect location info.

5
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Commodore 64 makes a half-sized comeback

Steve Graham

Re: Australian keyboard

The first keyboards I used were American-layout ones from DEC. This formed strong brain connections so that I now always configure the layout US style, no matter what the symbols on the key caps say.

In fact, I have a DEC LK250 keyboard sitting in the corner. (From their "PC-compatible" box.) I have a large-DIN to small-DIN adapter, and an AT-to-USB converter, but it doesn't work reliably. I think it might be a power issue. Maybe a powered USB hub would help.

1
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Patch alert! Easy-to-exploit flaw in Linux kernel rated 'high risk'

Steve Graham

And, indeed, fixed in kernels more recent than two years. The issue applies to distros which have an older base kernel (for continuity/stability reasons, presumably).

1
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Sci-Fi titan Jerry Pournelle passes,
aged 84

Steve Graham

When I was a teenager, I basically only read SF, including loads by Niven and Pournelle. So I acknowledge that he wrote some stuff that entertained and engaged me.

But I had some interchanges with him on BIX, Byte magazine's pre-internet bulletin board, and I found his political opinions to be utterly repugnant. Not to mince words, he was a Nazi asshole.

5
13

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

Steve Graham

8-char password

Limits on password size often means that the programmer has reserved a fixed space to store it. Unencrypted.

1
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Mazda and Toyota join forces on Linux-based connected car platform

Steve Graham

Re: carburettors

Carburettors suck.

2
1

The Next Big Thing in Wi-Fi? Multiple access points in every home

Steve Graham

Re: I'll only need 2 or 3 WAPs??

I usually only see my own as well, although one Saturday morning a wireless printer appeared. My nearest neighbours are about 400m away.

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It took DEF CON hackers minutes to pwn these US voting machines

Steve Graham

Re: Now watch the companies chaff clouds

I was putting petrol in my car the other day, and the petrol pump crashed and stopped pumping. "Error 0", it said.

As I drove to the next town and next petrol station, I couldn't help wondering exactly how much computing power you really need in a petrol pump.

16
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Amazing new algorithm makes fusion power slightly less incredibly inefficient

Steve Graham
Mushroom

optimism

"The amount of energy required to fire up and operate today's fusion systems would vastly outweigh whatever useful energy you can get out of them."

Not actually correct. As far back as 1997, 16MW was extracted from JET for 23MW input. Obviously, still a net loss, but not "vastly".

1
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Firefox doesn't need to be No 1 – and that's OK, 'cos it's falling off a cliff

Steve Graham

Re: IMO It is an engineering fault for their failure...

It became more and more obvious that the Firefox developers weren't listening to users. For example, I changed to Vivaldi when Firefox stopped playing audio. The developer had unnecessarily changed the interface, and when it was suggested in bug reports that this was a poor decision (but easily reversible), his response was obstinate and unhelpful.

But I disagree that this kind of approach has been the main reason for loss of users. I think it's the relentless promotion of Chrome by Google.

14
1

The Italian Jobs: Bloke thrown in the cooler for touting Apple knockoffs

Steve Graham
Joke

You thought you were buying a cheap iPhone and got smething that wasn't an iPhone. It's almost like a public service.

12
2

Linus Torvalds may have damned systemd with faint praise

Steve Graham

no systemd here

My home systems were Debian. I didn't do a clean install of Devuan, I just changed repositories, so that upgrades wouldn't include systemd dependencies. It's been completely painless.

I use GTK-based applications, mostly, and they all work fine.

I've pre-emptively removed udev as well, in case it is absorbed by systemd. I know it's a flagrant breach of the Unix philosophy of "do one thing and do it well", but I use mdev, one of the many faces of busybox, to handle hotplug events.

8
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Steve Graham

Re: It's a phase young programmers go through

Upvote for mentioning ConsoleKit, installed by default in most distros. And what does it do? "Keeps track of 'seats'." apparently. I think by that they mean physical keyboard, mouse and screen positions.

It's my guess that the average number of 'seats' across all installed Linux systems is a bit less than one. Desktops and laptops have one; lights-out servers have zero.

7
2

Nationwide banking suffers its own Black Wednesday

Steve Graham

I used the web version yesterday morning, and it worked but was noticeably slow.

1
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Ubuntu 'weaponised' to cure NHS of its addiction to Microsoft Windows

Steve Graham

Re: It will take 1-2 more WannaCries

There's no particular reason why Linux is more secure than Windows.

No, that's factually incorrect. The architecture of Windows is inherently less secure than that of Unix-like systems, and it has become more unravelled with every new release. Add to that the huge Win API with much poorly-understood but powerful functionality.

20
6

MP3 'died' and nobody noticed: Key patents expire on golden oldie tech

Steve Graham

barriers to linux?

I've been ripping CDs on Linux to both OGG and MP3 for 23 years.

(My current phone will play either, plus FLAC.)

1
0

Behold, auto-completing Android bug reports – because you're not very thorough

Steve Graham

Data slurp

Google will love this one.

1
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UK General Election 2017: How EU law will hit British politicians' Facebook fight

Steve Graham
Big Brother

All your data belong to us

If you're interested in 'big data' being used in elections, you'll want to read the Guardian article: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/may/07/the-great-british-brexit-robbery-hijacked-democracy

Actually, it's more a case of 'big money'.

5
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systemd-free Devuan Linux hits RC2

Steve Graham

So what window manager is recommended for use with Devuan?

I don't know what's recommended, but I use Openbox.

I don't have a "desktop environment" because I've never been able to work out what useful extra functionality they provide.

5
0
Steve Graham

why have all the major distos except Slackware and Gentoo adopted it?

Dependency.

The way systemd is designed means that a developer who wants his software to work well on a systemd box has to work much harder to make it also work well (or at all) without systemd.

The obvious result is that most developers don't bother, so there's a rolling increase in the amount of software that needs systemd.

17
0

TVs are now tablet computers without a touchscreen

Steve Graham

Not so smart

My television set is an old 'Bush' model (cheap). A few years ago, it started to crash occasionally, possibly because of something in the BBC data (if I delete all BBC channels, it hardly ever crashes).

What happens is that the picture disappears, to be replaced with the message "Service is not running." A hint to its software architecture I suppose. I discovered that if you switched to USB media mode and back, everything would be normal. So the set knows how to restart its decoder service. It just doesn't bother to.

There's an option in the menus to upgrade the firmware -- even to look for an upgrade in the broadcast stream -- but none has ever been available, of course.

Yes, I use it with an external satellite/terrestrial decoder.

1
0

SPY-tunes scandal: Bloke sues Bose after headphones app squeals on his playlist

Steve Graham

I bought a cheap (£15) webcam that turned out not to be a webcam as such. It only works with a special Android app. The app asks for the following permissions:

Device & app history

retrieve running apps

read sensitive log data

Contacts

read your contacts

Location

approximate location (network-based)

Phone

read phone status and identity

Photos/Media/Files

access USB storage filesystem

read the contents of your USB storage

modify or delete the contents of your USB storage

Storage

read the contents of your USB storage

modify or delete the contents of your USB storage

Camera

take pictures and videos

Microphone

record audio

Wi-Fi connection information

view Wi-Fi connections

Device ID & call information

read phone status and identity

Other

Access download manager.

download files without notification

close other apps

view network connections

read battery statistics

pair with Bluetooth devices

send sticky broadcast

change system display settings

change network connectivity

allow Wi-Fi Multicast reception

connect and disconnect from Wi-Fi

disable your screen lock

control flashlight

full network access

close other apps

change your audio settings

run at startup

control vibration

prevent device from sleeping

modify system settings

10
0

Why Firefox? Because not everybody is a web designer, silly

Steve Graham

Re: I recently ditched Firefox.

Yes, I didn't want to clutter up my post with detail. As well as my general-purpose machine, I have a Linux-based home studio, with Ardour and using Jack for the plumbing, ALSA for driving the hardware.

(Although most people would probably be surprised at how much plumbing you can do, purely with ALSA. It's just that the .asoundrc syntax is odd, and it's not well-documented.)

8
0
Steve Graham

I recently ditched Firefox.

Firefox 52 on Linux broke audio by dropping support for the standard Linux sound subsystem, ALSA.

Instead, Firefox now requires PulseAudio. Pulse was originally intended to be a replacement for ALSA, but development stalled, and now it's just a routing layer that requires an actual sound infrastructure underneath it, usually ALSA.

Some people have got this "architecture" working perfectly adequately. Others complain of latency and glitches, or simply no sound. I don't see the point in even trying, since the existing structure works perfectly well.

It's the latest stupid decision by Firefox developers, and it was enough. I migrated to the Chromium-based Vivaldi browser.

15
29

Ubuntu UNITY is GNOME-MORE: 'One Linux' dream of phone, slab, desktop UI axed

Steve Graham

Re: Mir -> Wayland then?

I've always been dubious about Wayland's architecture. It all seems much too tightly-coupled and Linux-specific. And it was designed NOT to work over a network?

Then there's the scenario that Wayland depends on evdev, which depends on udev, which is developed as part of systemd, which wants to eat my operating system.

Xorg still supports basic keyboard and mouse drivers, so I'm currently able to set up systems which are free from udev.

2
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TRAPPIST-1's planets are quiet. Quiet as the grave, in fact

Steve Graham

It's life, Jim, but not as we know it.

Look, nobody knows what the necessary conditions for life are. We have one example on one planet, and the planet is astonishingly suited to the life upon it.

Well, of course it is! That's evolution.

I know you can make all kinds of arguments about thermodynamics or genetic information storage or whatever, but until we get at least one more data point it's just speculation.

7
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Microsoft loves Linux so much, its OneDrive web app runs like a dog on Windows OS rivals

Steve Graham

Re: Great news

"Even better, it is now only a matter of time before someone writes a browser extension that checks whether the domain you've just connected to is owned by Microsoft and changes the user-agent string to pretend that the client OS is Windows."

I installed exactly this kind of extension yesterday in Vivaldi, my new choice of browser (Mozilla broke sound output in Linux). But not to fix a Microsoft site. It's Google Maps which doesn't work in Vivaldi, unless you pretend to be using Chrome on Windows.

And the Chrome-style extension that allows you to spoof the user agent on a site-by-site basis... written by a company called Google Inc.

Here's a great idea: why don't web developers make sites that comply with web standards instead of coding to browser quirks?

35
0

Dormant Linux kernel vulnerability finally slayed

Steve Graham

Who needs an HDLC serial driver?

This is one reason why I compile a specific kernel for each machine I use: much less code, reducing the probability of bugs.

Distro kernels take the opposite approach, including code for everything they've ever heard of, in case some user needs it.

Maybe it would be better to have a choice of kernels in your distro, from "average PC" to "kitchen sink included".

4
0

The Psion returns! Meet Gemini, the 21st century pocket computer

Steve Graham

Re: predantry

I don't call it "GNU/Linux" because only 10% of the software on a typical Linux box originated with GNU. You might as well call it "LibreOffice/Linux" or "Mozilla/Linux".

(10% is an "estimate", i.e. I guessed. It might be a bit more.)

2
1

Streetmap loses appeal against Google Maps dominance judgement

Steve Graham

On the ball?

It's so long since I've tried Streetmap, I don't have a bookmark. So I typed the likely URL, thinking "British company, but they're bound to have registered the .com domain."

And indeed they have. But it tries to use the cert for their .co.uk domain.

0
0

Coming to the big screen: Sci-fi epic Dune – no wait, wait, wait, this one might be good

Steve Graham

Re: Make something new

I think it might be something to do with the way Hollywood finances its movies. Basically, you have to tour many potential backers with your "idea" or "concept" and get enough of them to commit money.

You can guess that "Remember that great movie (or 60s TV series) you all loved? We're going to do a new version. BUT EVEN BETTER!" will score more than "There's this book you haven't read. But it's really, really great.".

4
0

Northumbria Uni fined £400K after boffin's bad math gives students a near-killer caffeine high

Steve Graham

I estimate that at the peak of my coffee habit I was ingesting 7 or 8 grammes of caffeine per day. Even now, I'll occasionally drink a mug from a 3-shot espresso maker, which probably has close to a gramme of caffeine. (300mg in an espresso shot seems about right.)

Never did me any harm. (Twitches.)

0
0

Samsung set a fire under battery-makers to make the Galaxy Note 7 flaming brilliant

Steve Graham

Cheapo devices do burn

...or at least, the cheap tablet I bought direct from China melted. It probably would have burned if I hadn't caught it in time.

(They exchanged the remains for a refurbished tablet, not a new one.)

2
0

Stanford boffins find 'correlation between caffeine consumption and longevity'

Steve Graham

confused

I'm only half-way through this morning's second cup, so that might be a factor, but I have a few problems with this article.

- "substances found within caffeine" dosn't make any sense. Caffeine is a specific chemical compound.

- "reduction in inflammation and caffeine is not causal" is a direct quote, yet the rest of the article seems to contradict it.

- "gene clusters known to be associated with ageing and inflammation" - low activity correlated with coffee drinking. This could mean that naturally long-lived people tend to drink coffee.

Anyway, I'm off to read the Stanford press release referenced here. It was also written by a mere journalist, but seems to have more information. The actual Nature Medicine article isn't freely available.

11
2

Oi, Mint 18.1! KEEP UP! Ubuntu LTS love breeds a laggard

Steve Graham

Re: This will be...

In my house, it has been every year since 2003.

5
0
Steve Graham

Re: Linux Noob question

The Atheros wireless drivers in the kernel seem to be written by Atheros (or "Qualcomm Atheros, Inc." in the 2016 files) so you may well have drivers available.

A frequent "gotcha" with wireless is that you need a firmware file. Sometimes you have to pick it out of the Windows driver install disk.

1
0

US Navy runs into snags with aircraft carrier's electric plane-slingshot

Steve Graham

Re: civil servants

There is a notion in the industry that there are two types of civil servants who deal with defence procurement. There are the incompetent ones who let suppliers get away with anything, er, through being incompetent.

And there are the competent ones who let suppliers get away with anything in the hope of landing well-paying jobs in the private sector.

33
3

Astroboffins glimpse sighting of ultra-rare circular galaxy

Steve Graham
Angel

Just to be clear, the photo is of the original Hoag's Object. (Just in case you were trying to make out the double ring.)

But what you can see is a second ring galaxy through the gap in the first one.

4
0

Programmer finds way to liberate ransomware'd Google Smart TVs

Steve Graham

...unable to write clear instructions...

Not only that, programmers and engineers design consumer technology which is perfectly simple for programmers and engineers to operate. Normal people (I do know some) are not a consideration.

1
1

Raspberry Pi Foundation releases operating system for PCs, Macs

Steve Graham

Re: And it appears to be 3D skeuomorphic!

"because even MS can't achieve true portability between versions of its own damn suite"

It's not that they can't, it just suits them not to. Incompatibility forces everyone to upgrade to the newest version.

15
0

BT and Plusnet most moaned about broadband providers. Again

Steve Graham

Re: Heaven 17

I was a Plusnet customer from 1994 until 2016. What finally made me choose another supplier wasn't so much the bad customer service I'd just experienced. It was all their adverts on television at that very time, with that smug git crowing about how good their customer service is.

6
0

Busted Windows 8, 10 update blamed for breaking Brits' DHCP

Steve Graham

My sister is a Plusnet & Win10 customer and had this problem about a month ago. Since we were both planning to visit our mother, my sister brought her laptop for me to "debug". But Mum's with TalkTalk on a Hauwei router and everything worked perfectly.

Of course, when she went home, Windows wouldn't connect again. She was told by Plusnet that they were trialling a software upgrade to her Technicolor TG582n and would "put her on the list". It's all been working since then.

(As it happens, I got the exact same model of router from my ISP, Phone Co-Op, but I have no Windows in here.)

3
1

Passengers ride free on SF Muni subway after ransomware infects network, demands $73k

Steve Graham

Master File Table

I read that Talos blog on protecting the MBR, and being ignorant about NTFS, I have a question: if some malware simply encrypts the Master File Table, couldn't you regularly snapshot it (and the MBR too, why not?) and be able to restore them?

0
0

Debian putting everything on the /usr

Steve Graham

Re: only thing I ask

None of my systems use an initramfs. Being standard PCs, you only need to compile in disk and filesystem drivers to get them to boot.

The initramfs concept was invented for non-optimal distro kernels which have to boot on the 1% of obscure hardware platforms*. I see this all the time in Linux, large amounts of bloat to cope with edge cases.

*I can see a need for it for encrypted drives.

0
0

Leaked paper suggests EM Drive tested by NASA actually works

Steve Graham

xkcd covers it, as usual

https://xkcd.com/1404/

0
1

Tesco Bank limits online transactions after fraud hits thousands

Steve Graham

Tesco's shopping accounts were notorious for NOT one-way encrypting passwords.

I don't know how the banking site works, but, given a breach in the shopping site, if a customer had unwisely used the same credentials, could an attacker gain access?

3
0

Boffins coax non-superconductive stuff into dropping the 'non'

Steve Graham

Re: Cause and effect

"Metallic" superconductivity, the originally-discovered version, has a good explanation in terms of cooper pairs of electrons turning the electrons in a metal into a superfluid which flows through the metal lattice without scattering. This was the sort of thing I was interested in during my physics career, several decades ago.

But it is true to say that nobody has come up with a convincing explanation of what is happening in high-temperature ceramic superconductors. It must be something to do with the nanostructure of the materials.

6
0

Chap turns busted laptop into phone keyboard, in Himalayan book-rescue mission

Steve Graham

Why didn't he start the laptop in console mode? He'd still have been working blind, but would miss out the step of opening a terminal window.

(I'd have installed telnetd to being with. You could then log in from the phone using existing username/password and wouldn't have to set up SSH blind. Sure, there's a window of vulnerability until you get the secure connection going, but maybe the risk is low up a Himalaya?)

1
0

Lessons from the Mini: Before revamping or rebooting anything, please read this

Steve Graham

While I do agree that some of the most recent MINI™ models do look like small SUVs -- I drive a small SUV and when a MINI™ drives past I think "Look at the size of that!" -- I think that Stephenson's own design was much too big as well. For me, part of the spirit of the original Mini was that it was tiny compared to contemporary cars.

And it's certainly possible to get a tiny car safety-certified today. BMW just chose not to.

24
0

Double KO! Capcom's Street Fighter V installs hidden rootkit on PCs

Steve Graham

Re: Anonymous coward

Incorrect.

(I take it you aren't a programmer? If you don't stick exactly to the language rules, stuff won't compile.)

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