* Posts by Steve Graham

305 posts • joined 21 May 2007

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A fine vintage: Wine has run Microsoft Solitaire on Linux for 25 years

Steve Graham

Re: Virtualisation made it irrelevant

In reality, chasing APIs, especially private ones, is a mug's game.

Especially feckin' ENORMOUS ones with thousands of functions.

4
1

The butterfly defect: MacBook keys wrecked by single grain of sand

Steve Graham

Form before function.

Some years ago, fed up with crap keyboards (I really want a VT100) I bought an Apple USB one, under the impression that the higher price meant that I would get a better product.

I some ways I did. It was pretty solid and well made. The key symbols were moulded in, and wouldn't rub off. And of course, it looked sleek and beautiful.

It did have one flaw though. The keys felt like you were operating a 1980s pocket calculator. Wobbly and short travel. I couldn't actually type on it.

There was an additional aspect which tells you all you need to know about Apple. It came with a (free!) USB extension lead. However, the keyboard USB plug and extension socket had a non-standard slot and key arrangement, so that you could not use the USB extension for anything else.

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How a tax form kludge gifted the world 25 joyous years of PDF

Steve Graham

Flow

"Now with people primarily reading on screens, (over 50% of eBooks on phones) and no standard screen size or resolution, like Letter and A4 on paper, layout needs to be "Responsive" and work with user selected rescaling (sharp vs poor eyesight)."

Most of the HTML I see these days shows every sign of the "web designer" fighting to stop users' browsers from applying their own formatting to fit the device & screen.

37
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Devuan ships second stable cut of its systemd-free Linux

Steve Graham

How long has systemd got?

systemd is so architecturally wrong, and so complex and badly-designed, that I expect it to collapse under its own weight eventually. Not dramatically. Maintenance and support will slow until it becomes deprecated in most Linux systems.

(If you think systemd is an init system, you don't understand the issues.)

26
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Steve Graham

Migration

I changed my repo sources to Devuan from Debian when it looked as though systemd was going to become the default. So when I first install a new version of anything, I get the Devuan one. It's worked perfectly.

6
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OnePlus 6 smartphone flash override demoed

Steve Graham

Is that a vulnerability? I'd pay extra for it.

40
1

The future of radio may well be digital, but it won't survive on DAB

Steve Graham

Psion Wavefinder

I bought the Psion in about 2004, when it was a failed product and was being flogged off cheap. The software supplied was rubbish, but there was a (free? shareware?) suite which was better: it could even save the MP2 streams as files. I still have recordings of John Peel and R3 from back then.

That was when I lived in an area with coverage. I moved house last year, from a remote, rural location to a small, seaside commuter town. Now, if I turn on a DAB radio, all I get is a burbling sound. I have to use a DVB decoder to listen to BBC R3 & R6.

(Actually, we don't even get full Freeview here. Almost every house has a satellite dish.)

8
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US Congress finally emits all 3,000 Russian 'troll' Facebook ads. Let's take a look at some

Steve Graham
Joke

Wait

We're supposed to trust an article about Russian conspiracy written by someone called Andrei Orlowski?

3
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Every major OS maker misread Intel's docs. Now their kernels can be hijacked or crashed

Steve Graham

Re: Be careful about version numbers.

The kernel source uses the x.y.z format. So referring to that format is unambiguous, whereas distro-makers might be doing their own thing.

I compile my own kernels anyway. Distro kernels need to cover diverse hardware, while mine are specific to the machine they run on.

3
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Who will fix our Internal Banking Mess? TSB hires IBM amid online banking woes

Steve Graham
IT Angle

I was once manager of a team which was migrating more than 25 million customers to a new infrastructure overnight. I was so confident that we had covered all contingencies, including total roll-back, that I went home and went to bed.

It went perfectly.

It wasn't easy, and it wasn't cheap, but failure is always avoidable.

34
2

Chrome 66: Get into the bin, auto-playing vids and Symantec certs!

Steve Graham

Spectre?

I don't understand how handling different web pages in separate processes mitigates Spectre. Isn't the whole point of Spectre that a malicious process can infer the content of memory which it doesn't own?

4
0

Google accidentally reveals new swipe-happy Android UI

Steve Graham

Re: Really, is it that hard?

You don't know the half of it. In the last few days I've resurrected an old phone, HTC One X, so that I can give it away or use it as a spare. I was somewhat overzealous at my first attempt at wiping it, in that I erased the operating system.

Fortunately, when it was my main phone, I'd installed a 3rd-party "recovery", TWRP. To do that, I'd had to apply to HTC for a code to unlock the bootloader. Why was the bootloader locked? Security? I don't know.

A usual manufacturer's Android has no root access and the system partition is mounted read-only. To replace a library, say, you'd need a special procedure more complicated than "sudo apt install libxyz". And there isn't one.

I actually installed the last available Cyanogenmod for it, an unofficial CM12, or Android 5 build. Potentially, I could now re-mount partitions read-write and update individual system files, although I'd probably break it.

4
0

Magic Leap ships headsets at last, but you'll need a safe

Steve Graham

Re: Actually, it seems they ARE onto something...

"just as ardent in your atheistic perspective"

The old canard that belief and disbelief are equivalent.

24
6

World celebrates, cyber-snoops cry as TLS 1.3 internet crypto approved

Steve Graham

Geography lesson

"London, England" eh? Oh, THAT London.

11
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Mozilla's opt-out Firefox DNS privacy test sparks, er, privacy outcry

Steve Graham

Re: Interesting

"Many people already ditch their ISP's DNS servers because they are unreliable."

It's more than 10 years ago now, but I was head of software development for a very large UK ISP, and our DNS was bombproof. Literally. You'd have needed many widely-separated bombs (OK, or power failures or faulty software roll-outs) to even have a detectable impact on performance.

3
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Office junior had one job: Tearing perforated bits off tractor-feed dot matrix printer paper

Steve Graham

Re: I remember when...

"We had several that tried to use up the old non-laser safe acetates and labels to save a couple of quid and knackered a £200 toner unit or a whole printer instead."

I once did that.

7
0

Good luck saying 'Sorry I'm late, I had to update my car's firmware'

Steve Graham

Let's get physical

How about making the upgrade come as a little ROM chip? The dealership can either send it out, or pop it into your device for you (I'm thinking cars, mainly) for a modest fee.

If you can get 64Gb or more in a micro-SD card for a few pounds, a tiny ROM in that kind of form factor could be very cheap.

0
1

Beware the looming Google Chrome HTTPS certificate apocalypse!

Steve Graham

Re: Well done Google....

"Most mom and pop shops will not have the money or expertise to install and maintain certs"

With the hosting company I use, it literally amounted to clicking a tick box.

24
2

Ghost in the DCL shell: OpenVMS, touted as ultra reliable, had a local root hole for 30 years

Steve Graham

Re: Source code

Written in assembler and Bliss, an elegant low-level language; and most files signed by the legendary Dave Cutler.

7
0

When you play this song backwards, you can hear Satan. Play it forwards, and it hijacks Siri, Alexa

Steve Graham

Well...

So, to summarise: they tuned audio to be recognized by a specific analysis engine, and then tested it by having that specific engine recognize it.

And this won't work on any existing products until they reverse-engineer their recognition. That could be difficult, since it's based on machine learning and is likely to be obscure.

5
1

HTML5 may as well stand for Hey, Track Me Longtime 5. Ads can use it to fingerprint netizens

Steve Graham

Re: Anyone test-driven Brave or Vivaldi browsers etc?

I switched to Vivaldi when Firefox broke sound on their Linux browser, and have been using it as my main browser since then with no problems.

I have Privacy Badger, Ublock Origin, Location Guard, Tampermonkey, a User Agent Spoofer and ScriptSafe (which attempts to foil the kind of fingerprinting described in the article, as well as blocking scripts).

1
0

Smartphones' security enhancements just make them more dangerous

Steve Graham

I've never trusted the Android ecosystem enough to put anything sensitive on my phone, nor use it for money-related purposes, so it's not much of an issue for me. I suppose Apple users have absolute confidence in the company's omnipotence.

6
1

WD My Cloud NAS devices have hard-wired backdoor

Steve Graham

Read the researcher's own article for full gory details. The whole suite is completely incompetent, and even without the hard-coded login is wide open to hacking.

It looks like the work of a very inexperienced programmer: they probably got the intern to write it.

11
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Apple iOS 11 security 'downgrade' decried as 'horror show'

Steve Graham

Note to subeditor

The original quote was "horror story", not "horror show". The latter phrase gained its familiarity because it's a piece of "nadsat" slang from A Clockwork Orange.

It's one of the Russian-derived terms in the slang. "Horror show" sounds like "khorosho", Russian for "good".

And Apple's decision does not seem to be good.

2
2
Steve Graham

Re: What The AF?

"What did I miss here?"

As I understood the article, the issue is that the Stasi can:

1. take your phone

2. demand the pass code

3. make their own password-reset backup containing all your secrets

4. give you back your phone and say "Have a nice trip, Sir."

3
1

Remember the 'budget' iPhone SE? Apple plans an update – reports

Steve Graham

Where are the small phones?

I had hoped that Android manufacturers would follow Apple like sheep and bring out phones that would fit in my pocket, but it hasn't really happened. Sony have done 'compact' versions, but that's about it.

1
0

Wait, did Oracle tip off world to Google's creepy always-on location tracking in Android?

Steve Graham

LocationUpdaterService

When my phone boots, there's a Google Play Store process running called "LocationUpdaterService". If I leave it running, it eats battery. However, if I kill it, it stays dead.

I normally have wifi turned off to save power, and mobile data turned off to save money, so it can't be sending data to Google UNLESS it saves it up for when I do actually use Play Store or whatever.

0
1

Amazon, Google inject Bluetooth vuln vaccines into Echo, Home AI pals

Steve Graham
Holmes

open source

Windows has an identical flaw to Android. I wonder who copied whom.

7
0

Sounds painful: Audio code bug lets users, apps get root on Linux

Steve Graham

Re: I smell dysangelism .....

Even PCs with sound cards don't need the ALSA sequencer module unless they're connected to a MIDI musical instrument.

(I have one such Linux box, driving a Roland synth.)

0
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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
0

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
0

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
0

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.

0
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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
0
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
0

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
0

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
0

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.

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