* Posts by RMartin

55 posts • joined 25 May 2007


WikiLeaks' secrets weren't, says former MI5 chief



Welcome to Earth, I see you are here to replenish your dying world with our natural resources of grammar and coherence.

Samsung admits Android tablet cash haul is disappointing


Getting there

I'll agree that first impressions count, and the reception of the first Tab probably didn't help Sammy's cause. I did buy one though and thought it more than usable. I've since upgraded to the OLED-powered 7.7, which is a simply fantastic machine. This brings me to the key point however, which is price. Samsung are chasing the premium end of the market and this has led them to being much more expensive than many of their rivals. Their EU pricing in particular is ridiculous. The 7.7 is on sale here (barely, you really have to look, so distribution and marketing are two other areas where they fall down) for close on £600. I got it from a Hong Kong dealer for just over £300, delivered by courier within 48 hours, which is an incredible price difference that just raises suspicion that Samsung's prices are more about maintaining comparisons with Apple rather than anything to do with actual costs.

Samsung to refresh 7in Galaxy Tab this September


Darn it

Current tabs were supposed to have been upgraded to Gingerbread last month, but the update still hasn't appeared. Now all becomes clear - Samsung figure that a £400 upgrade is better than a free one. Almost makes me want to get an iPad - ha ha haaa, not really.

Apple proposes even tinier SIMs for future iPhones, iPads


re: to be fair to Apple

I have no problem Bluetoothing files such as photos from my Blackberry to my laptop or other phones, so it ca be done, However RIM enables enterprises to define security policies which may explain why it is sometimes blocked on security grounds. As opposed to Apple who merely oppose it on profit grounds.

Micro SIMs are identical to normal SIMs sans some plastic, which is fine. If you look closely at a normal SIM and ever wondered why it comes as a cut-out on a credit card-sized piece of plastic, well that's because SIMs themselves are a smaller version of the original credit card-sized spec. Thankfully that phase did not last very long, but just goes to show that sometimes smaller can be better. Most of the space is the metal contacts, the actual chip is about 1mm square so could get very small indeed before it disappears altogether.

MPs criticise banks on online fraud despite declining losses


Loss calculations

You have to know what the stats are measuring. The £47m figure is just for online banking fraud, so phishing and malware etc. against bank accounts. Actually most money lost online is credit & debit card fraud, which is measured separately and is a much bigger (although also declining) figure of around £400m.

The Select Committee Report's conclusions are actually pretty bizarre when read in context.

German Foreign Office kills desktop Linux, hugs Windows XP


Schism at the heart

This whole thread, not to mention articles like this:


illustrate all too well why businesses will never take OSS seriously on the desktop. There is just no certainty with any of it. Proponents of OSS, in contrast to commercial software houses, come across as unstable individuals all too ready to fly off the handle with each other for personal reasons, generating schism after schism until the whole thing resembles Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events. At least with MS and Apple there is a sense of stability and planned progression, and the importance of this should not be underestimated.

Gadget makes bombs, mines go off 'on average' 20m away


But on the other hand

Roadside bombs aren't the only game in town here. There are still millions of mines strewn across wide areas of the world, and even in-situ detonation would be strongly preferable to the usual method of "discovery by (soon to be ex-) goatherder".

FBI serves 40 search warrants in Anonymous crackdown


Back to business

Now 4chan "masterminds" can go back to doing what they do best - harrassing 11 year old girls who refuse to strip for them on webcams.

Spanish fascist decries Franco Eurovision slur



Hitler once said he would rather have his teeth pulled out than endure another meeting with Franco... hm, perhaps the FotW has a point. Hopefully there is a hell where both events are happening simultaneously.

IWF: Good on child abuse...



Its constantly amazing and depressing how stories about the IWF attract the worst sort of ignorant commentard. At least El Reg seems to be learning from its previous judgement errors in reporting on this topic and giving credit where it is due.

Antarctic boffins obtain prehistoric deep ice core sample


@David W.

Probably not as long as you!

Supersonic stealth jumpjet achieves its first mid-air hover



I've never understood why the RN has avoided building nuclear carriers, given that it has several nuke subs so is obviously used to managing the technology, which is ideal for carriers. The USN has this down to a fine art, with the Reagan-class (shudder at the name) supercarriers able to go without refueling - or even opening the reactor core in any way - for the entire 50-year lifespan of the ship. Plus all the energy you need for hauling such a big weight across the world and firing aircraft off on catapults.

Microsoft's dual-screen booklet shows 'face' on web


What is going on?

First Windows Phone 7 makes the iPhone interface look like something from the last decade, now this. Looks like Microsoft have finally hired some decent UI designers. Now if they can just build the things...

Nokia cuts down X6 handset



Nokia are turning into laggards in all sorts of ways, and seem to be bogged down by an outdated design philosophy coupled with an over-optimistic assessment of the value of their brand. Certainly their handsets look fat, clunky and expensive compared with their rivals. I hope they can turn it around because in many ways they have excellent technology, but the packaging does not seem to be there. Maybe they should admit defeat and begin poaching Apple design staff.

Death of a commentard: Can the iSlate kill off Web 2.0?


Fly sgrwe

i FUly aGre###

Sent from my Archos 5 using a touch screen.

FBI nicks 22 in classic bribery sting


Different strokes

In France, bribery by companies of foreign officials & companies used to be a tax-deductable expense. How times change.

Arms companies, particularly small ones that don't have contracts with 1st world armed forces like the big boys do, will be getting a large part of their revenue from shaky developing countries, which tend to be shaky in the first place due to things like an endemic bribery culture. Companies that don't play by those rules will never see a contract, and that is not just limited to the arms trade either.

NFC Forum offers video to lure competitors



2-D barcodes for ticketing are not new. My rail line, Chiltern, has been using the same system for a couple of years now. Not that I have ever seen anyone use it, but clearly to be useful the technology will be working to very similar performances to the one shown in the video.

The author is missing a huge point about NFC though. 2-D barcodes are just a dumb image to be read, there is no 2-way interaction with the phone to an app or a remote server. NFC allows for a 2-way dialogue which permits a much richer functionality than barcodes could ever hope to achieve. However the big problem for NFC is not the tech, it is establishing the business case. NFC makers are having trouble convincing handset makers to incorporate them onto phone chipsets, because they cost money and telcos want to justify every penny that goes into a handset. At present telcos cannot see a case for spending money on NFC except in small cases like the Orange/Barclays payment card trial. Banks and transport companies don't want to commit because they cannot see an established base of NFC handsets that they can take advantage of. Classic chicken & egg.

Nokia posts proposal for next year's smartphone UI



Sweden may well have but Finland, where Nokia comes from, may not.

British troops to get new all-terrain camouflage kit



Amen to non-melting uniforms.

Mobile industry excludes self from filesharing regulation


Too late

I assure you that criminals have been perfectly aware of the advantages of using mobile data for quite some time now. Not for nothing is there now an iPhone botnet.

Windows 7 busts the 3 per cent share barrier



I run a website that gets about 50k visitors per month, and its fascinating looking at the logs at how tenacious old versions of MS stuff can be. In October, XP is still the biggest OS amongst my visitors with about 50% share, followed by Vista on 22%, Windows 2000 on 6% and Windows 7 accounted for 1% but its been growing. Amazingly 0.3% of visitors were using Windows 98!

Mac OS X on the other hand was at 4%, iPhone on 2% and Linux on 0.8%.

Royal Mail lawyers demand closure of postcode lookup site


No sympathy

@Alexander Hanff: the Postcode system is a lot more complex than you make out, and is actually a huge undertaking requiring hundreds of thousands of updates per year at great cost. RM invented it and develops it, so why shouldn't they derive profit from it? If anything in this day and age we should be applauding a nationalised company that consistently makes a profit instead of costing the taxpayer billions and billions.

SIM card hack suspect released on bail


Great headline...

...completely misleading. Not a hack of SIM card at all, but a hack of a carrier billing system. Just getting in before the Friday conspiracy crowd.

IBM Linux chief: Chasing desktop Windows a 'dead-end'


Linux and desktop market share

One word: Netbook

You had your big chance Linux, and you BLEW IT! Now go and play in the corner with web servers while the rest of us get on with some work.

'Evil' Windows 7 campaign goes global


@AC Hogwash

Some beautiful quotes "...getting the lowest common denominator to be able to use linux..." and "...let idiots (err.. i mean.. "end users") use Windows 7" - and to think that some people have the sheer effrontery to say that the Linux crowd are elitist. Why, the very idea!

Good luck ever getting beyond 0.1% market share lads! And please don't think that translates into the 0.1% smartest most attractive people on the planet, because I've seen some of them, and its not that kind of 0.1% believe me.


Got to be kidding

"its a civil liberties movement" - reeeealy?

Oh, and if you are going to try and sell people on open source, you might want to avoid the cluster**** that is OLPC. Just a thought.

Suicide bum-blast bombing startles Saudi prince



At last! A great new way for AQ to raise funds by selling art. "Yes sir, its a brave piece from the non-existentialist school, a real one-off in the style of Marc Quinn but with quite a lot more blood, and as you can plainly see, the artist has really put everything into this work. Absolutely everything."

Disney sued over Pixar lamp 'copy'


Lights out

At first I thought this was just another IP trolling story, but it looks like a pretty clear slam dunk case. You could argue that the logo itself as used in the films is a bit of free advertising for Luxo, but selling lamps with the actual NAME is blatant IP theft in all senses of the phrase. Naughty Disney.

Sony snubs Microsoft in Google Chrome browser deal


Chrome Dome

Chrome is still very much beta, and not a very good beta at that. Its quick and simple, but it has great trouble with lots of popular sites. Bizzarely I have had lots of problems getting it to run Youtube (someone famous owns them don't they?) content on several machines and Flash in general has loads of issues on Chrome.

Ridley Scott signs up to direct Alien prequel


No no no, Den of Geek

The Nostromo WAS deliberately sent to LV426, as Dallas mentions that Android Ash was only added to the crew at the last minute for unexplained reasons, and when the crew wake up they don't know where they are as the ship is way off course. Sheesh, obvious really.

Russian snatches world's strongest 'intimate muscles' crown



The IT angle is?

Apple admits to iPhone 3GS heliophobia

Dead Vulture

No sunlight?

Apple have created a vampire phone! I've just thought of a great business idea - little "iCoffins" to keep your iDracula from bursting into flame. The I confidently predict the poloneck brigade will buy them by the ton.

Firefox plug-in Trojan harvests logins



Yes, do you?

Extensions do *not* have to be signed. Mozilla stipulates only that any updates to extensions need to be secured, and that can be done either via an SSL link or a signed cert. A quick search on the number of unsigned Firefox extensions will provide illuminating results. People use unsigned addons all the time for lots of perfectly good reasons, and the system does not prevent them from doing so - also for perfectly good reasons.

Therefore, when presented with a warning that an extension is unsigned, many people make the perfectly reasonable decision to proceed to install it anyway. In other words, established user behaviour means the warning is not a useful indicator of a possible threat.

The article makes it clear that the malware is downloaded into the extensions folder by another piece of malware all ready to run, so the issue of "you can only download from Mozilla.com" does not apply.


Does not compute

"incidents of the malware are "very low", so the attack is more notable for its novelty than its potency" -

Sorry, those two concepts are not the same thing at all. This malware is in the form of a payload and relies on the PC already being infected with something else to enable it to be installed in the first place, so all that needs to happen is for bigger bot herders to include this code into their bot updates for it to affect more people instantly.

"Potency" is a measure of how much harm the malware can cause - and in this case I would say it could be substantial. It is designed to steal your actual money, and it takes advantage of popular myths that Firefox is somehow "more secure" to lull users into not taking security seriously.

It constantly irritates me that many people dismiss malware victims as being somehow "stupid". Its illuminating that many of these same observers also like to say how proud they are that they do not use anti-malware systems, as though smugness is some sort of ultimate shield.

Malware authors play Mario on Daily Mail website


@ Graham Cluley

Quite correct Graham!

El Reg did indeed serve up malicious banner ads a few years ago in one of the first cases of its kind. Odd that this bit of history didn't find its way into the original article, perhaps this site has been learning more lessons from the DM than it cares to think about.

Banner ads are an obvious target for malware as they offer a 3rd party route into an otherwise trusted web site. The economic climate is harsh at the moment, and I don't believe that any legit site can afford to have its reputation damaged by an external supplier, why this could mean the end for the DM... oh wait. Carry on.

More seriously though the downturn could see banner ad companies consider taking on certain advertisers in future without looking too closely at them, or paying attention to the fact they are being paid with a stolen credit card by a guy called "Vlad" on the other end of an untraceable VOIP number. Time for ad blockers.

McLaren teams up with chip firm for F1 hybrid tech



"release it through the _front_ wheels"

Nice idea, but banned as F1 cars are only allowed to have drive via the rear wheels, else we'd have seen 4x4 F1 cars for years now.


Generally though I agree that KERS does not sound like it has much applicability in the "real world". I'd prefer the FIA to give the teams greater autonomy to reach for certain goals, e.g. maximum fuel efficiency and minimum emmissions. That might encourage serious research into wacky things like diesel-electric, turbine-electric, hydrogen or even battery/supercapacitor electric. The rate of development in F1 means that we might see some real (or at least interesting) progress in these technologies.

F1 COULD be a source of great innovation - there is huge pressure to invent and innovate, to create components with minimum mass and maximum reliability and performance, and to constantly develop. The other good thing is that money is not generally a constraint, which helps to drive innovation in a way that "normal" car companies would find difficult to justify, but who might derive the benefits further down the line. Sadly, this argument has been made before and so far with relatively little effect.

Venturi shows eight-motor electric sportster



Good to see some reasoned discussion on the pros/cons of unsprung weight - did I really just type that? Anyway I can now see that there may be good reasons for not avoiding more weight in the wheels.

However, I still think my complexity argument stands. Here we have a design with eight separate motors in what looks like two groups of four - four for drive, and four for suspension assistance. Each set needs to be co-ordinated both internally and between the two sets in order for the design to work.

No matter how clever the software is, that's still a lot of things that need split-second coordination throughout the life of the car. No matter how reliable each component, they all have a real-world MTBF. In an internal combustion car, failure of the engine gives a predictable result - you slow down in an even manner. In this car, failure of one or more (but not all) motors will result in some pretty immediate and unpredictable things happening. Even worse if the co-ordination system goes up the fritz and starts spinning the port side motors at 500rpm more than the starboard side ones for example. This could happen for innocuous reasons - e.g. crud in a wheel's spin speed sensor. Plus, correct me if I am wrong, but eight motors somehow sounds just a bit more expensive and complicated to design and build than one motor...

Still, its nice to see people experimenting with new form factors in this day and age.


Heavy wheels

The car looks very pretty, and its good to see that many manufacturers are now thinking of electric in a performance context rather than in a weedy G-Whiz context, as that is far more likely to get the man in the street interested in electric cars. The media interest in these vehicles is absolutely a case in point.

However, I'm not convinced by Venturi's putting what looks like both the drivetrain AND parts of the suspension in the wheels, as this adds considerably to the unsprung weight of the vehicle, which traditionally means poor handling & braking. I'm guessing that the suspension motor is designed to help overcome the effects of the weight of the drive motor, but that just sounds like throwing unecessary complexity at the problem.

Attack of the Italian space pod parachute babes


Foamy ideas

Sounds like a good idea, as it provides a last-ditch alternative for astronauts that just doesnt exist at the moment.

Its not a new idea though (although the materials science probably is), as I am old enough to remember NASA considering pretty much the same concept back in the 1960s. In that instance however it was conceived as a sort of spray that an astronaut would apply to his colleague that would expand and harden into a hard heat-resistant shell. One hard part is orbital steering, and in the old NASA concept it would be via a small hand-held reaction thruster, which sounds very scary but as the problem remains I wonder how it can be solved.

Alan Sugar leaves Amstrad


Coulda shoulda woulda

Its kind of hard to denigrate someone who has literally made more money in his sleep than I suspect anyone on this forum will make in their entire lives, but....

He made most of his mark in the tech sector, but he never pretended to be a tech person. What he is is a very good packager and marketer. Unfortunately he went and spoiled it all for me with his "mug's eyeful" comments that basically showed his contempt for people who bought his stuff.

As for the property comments by @AC, I would say that now is a very good time to be a buyer if you have the cash. Lots of places going cheap!

Comedy UK social network berates moaning users



Well done faceparty! About time someone "told it like wot it is".

On the other hand, they ARE running a social networking site, so its not as if they could have expected to get 7 million normal human beings using it... Even one or two might be a stretch.

Al-Qaeda targets net-connected coffee machine


Odd article

Its a bit odd how many luddites a technology publication manages to have on its payroll. Relax, its just a security advisory! If El Reg had a bit more imagination then it could have explored the implications of the growing number of internet-enabled consumer devices. Many of these will be based on low-cost firmware models that will probably be difficult/impossible to patch leading to long-term vulnerability windows.

SOCA defends e-crime record as minister admits gap


Not quite right

The article quotes: "the number of specialists officers tackling e-crime has been maintained over the last two years at 58, more than it inherited from the NHTCU (though it wasn't able to say what this figure was)."

No kidding!

By sheer coincidence, NHTCU had around 55 officers, so clearly SOCA has delivered a huge increase. When SOCA e-crime was launched it was budgeted for 150 officers, but failed to recruit anywhere near that figure. Numbers are only part of the story, as its what those officers are tasked with doing that makes all the difference.

Most complaints about SOCA e-crime stem from its perceived lack of focus on crimes that concern private citizens and businesses, e.g. fraud, DDOS extortion, targeted hacking etc. SOCA e-crime is doing valuable work, its just work that is largely invisible to most of us who suffer these crimes, and there is no one else who is capable of picking that up. So yes there is a major gap in law enforcement coverage that I for one hope PCeU will be allowed to fill.

Royal Navy warships could run on sunflower oil - if fresh



>>>You're probably being sarcastic and I am too dim to notice it but - nuclear

>>> power combined with big targets for torpedos? I know we have had nuclear

>>> subs for a long time, but the idea of nuclear battle ships worries me more

>>>(don't know why).

I make no comment on your dimness or otherwise, but no sarcasm was intended.

Nuclear powered warships have been commonplace in many navies for decades with an extremely high safety record. Battleship reactors are very small compared to commercial power plants, and use much less fissile material, typically a few kilos. They are also - understandably - very robustly made. The US Navy PWR reactor (which is present on 40% of the US frontline Navy) for example is designed to survive combat conditions without release of radioactive material.

Due to cost/power requirement ratios, you would probably only want to put reactors on larger ships like aircraft carriers, and to damage one to the extent that the reactor is breached would probably itself take a nuclear explosion, in which case you would frankly have other things to worry about. If ever such a ship were to be sunk, then I can think of worse radiation shields than lots of seawater.



Uranium is the only proper fuel for a warship. Modern reactors are highly efficient and give off no CO, and can be decommissioned as a complete sealed unit.

Son of 419 victim contacts El Reg


Experience suggests

For the record, I run a public consumer advice web site on Internet threats, and every month we receive several hundred emails from potential 419 victims, even though that is not our primary focus. Most of them write to us because they are already suspicious, and in some cases it is quite startling how far along the process they have been led before this happens. In a few cases actual fraud has occured, sometimes on a quite staggering scale, so the email sent to the Reg strikes me as being an all too genuine cry for help.

I have dealt with cases where victims have been strung along for over a year, with a steady drip-drip of "fees" and "taxes" that can add up to tens of thousands of pounds. There is a clear psychological phenomenon at work here, and once a victim has been persuaded to part with a small amount of money, they become emotionally invested in the scam being the real deal, as to believe otherwise can be painful.

To write such people off as being simple-minded and greedy is foolish, as the scammers are using very similar techniques to those commonly used by marketing people to convince YOU to buy the latest useless gizmo at outrageous prices. Or aren't you a typical Reg reader?

Amy Winehouse pitches for Bond theme


Much hilarity

Nothing is funnier than geeks attempting to comment knowledgeably on the Arts.

Enraged vegan spitroasts Reg hack


Let that be a lesson

I can't be the only Reg-ular who sometimes gets the naughty urge to fabricate a diatribe in the hope of getting into the FoTW hall of fame, but then along comes one that demonstrates that there is really no substitute for the real thing.

"How my vegan children and I will laugh from our intellectually and compassionately superior platform..." - utterly classic!

Bill Gates gives $10m to probe the universe

Gates Halo

Sad people

No thought given to improving the lot of the world, just to incessant and reflexive complaining about anyone that does. A sort of Tourettes caused by wearing black polo neck jumpers. Bill is a very principled philanthropist who has already signed over the bulk of his fortune and has said years ago that he intends to give away over 90% it. And as most of his fortune is MS stock, put simply, Microsoft is the world's biggest charity funder. Kind of reminds me of the facehugger acid blood defense in Alien - "what a wonderful defense mechanism, you don't dare kill it". So remember - if you attack MS you *want* AIDS to win!

On the other hand, Bill's $10m only funds a small part of this project, so its probably unfair to give him all the credit. However if it discovers a nest of facehuggers heading our way then I'm sure it will all be his fault.

UK start-up tackles PIN fraud with patterns


The meaning of PIN

PINs are probably as far down the "secret code" route that card issues will ever want to go, as customers have been trained for decades to remember 4 digits. Numerous studies have shown conclusively that the longer the code, or the more abstract the coding system (e.g. choosing "patterns" rather than actual numbers) the more people have trouble remembering them. The claim of "over 90%" in the story sounds convincing until you remember that any system that falls short of 99.9% is likely to be unworkable on a large scale. One of the problems that pundits - particularly clever ones who read The Reg ;-) - have in understanding this is that they tend to see things from their point of view, e.g. "I understand this so it must be easy for everyone" - but when a system is scaled up to encompass tens of millions of people, many of whom could be charitably compared to Cletus the slack-jawed yokel of Simpsons fame, then that argument simply falls over. Any bank contemplating this system had better think about hiring several hundred more call centre staff to handle the forgotten passcode requests.

The number of permutations in a system, whether it be 10k or 100k, is also something of a red herring. In a 4-digit PIN system, guessing the PIN is made difficult as 3 consecutive failures results in the card being disabled. That mitigates the guessing risk. As for shoulder surfing, there is no difference between using PINs or patterns, as both reveal the same visual information to an attacker.

The fact that many people write down PINs is also interesting. Personally I doubt if many attacks are perpetrated in this way, and on balance it may even be preferable to write down your PIN as at least that way you don't forget it and your bank is probably secretly happy because they don't have to handle your calls to the helpdesk to get a new one when you do. But it does raise an interesting question as to how a customer would write down a gridsure pattern. I can't think of one - can anyone else?

The real evolution away from PIN will probably be a biometric. The technology is nowhere near robust enough for banks yet, but it does have many potential benefits, not the least of which is that you may never have to remember a PIN or pattern or whatever again.



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