* Posts by alain williams

1329 posts • joined 29 May 2007


The Large Hadron Collider is small beer. Give us billions more for bigger kit, say boffins

alain williams Silver badge

It is not a lot of money

£20 billion over 30 years ... The EU's defence spending was €200 billion in 2016 (ie one year). So per year about 1/300 of what the EU spends on guns, bombs, etc.

I think that the benefit to humanity of a new LHC would be vastly more then what you get from 1/300 of defence spending.

*taps on glass* Hellooo, IRS? Anyone in? Anyone guarding taxpayers' data from crooks? Hellooo?

alain williams Silver badge

Re: There's a simple solution to this

I was one of those federal employees, especially one of the "critical" ones being forced to work without pay like the TSA or air traffic control, I'd try to organize all my co-workers into going on strike

A far better thing for them would be to get another job. When this brouhaha ends government would not have the staff to work properly.

Peak Apple: This time it's SERIOUS, Tim

alain williams Silver badge

So where is the new market ?

Saturation is where sales are, by & large, for replacements.

* Personal Computers: Apple was there at the start 40 years ago, that is at saturation

* Servers. Apple got out of that market

* Laptops (ie portable PCs), that is at saturation

* Portable music players, subsumed by smart 'phones

* Smart 'phones, that is at saturation

* Tablets (cross between laptop & smart 'phone), that is getting to saturation

* iTunes Store, still healthy

* Watches, still growing but not a must have

Apple is playing with TVs, cars, ... but there is nothing that is an obvious new cash cow.

Hubble 'scope camera breaks down amid US govt shutdown, forcing boffins to fix it for free

alain williams Silver badge

Re: How many Shuttles could have been kept operative..

Or a small fraction of the Military budget of the United States

Amazon exec tells UK peers: No, we don't want to be dominant. Also, we don't fancy being taxed on revenues

alain williams Silver badge

Tax allowance for costs is a grace

allowed by the tax man in recognition that goods sold are (usually) not free to the seller. It is part of the tax man being reasonable and not taking the piss.

However: Amazon (& others) are taking the piss by artificially exporting profits overseas to a low tax country.

Thus it seems to me that it would be reasonable for the Inland Revenue to remove the allowance grace for Amazon. It would be up to Amazon to prove to the Inland Revenue what are the real cost of the goods that it provides and then ask for the grace to be applied to that.

Some things should be specifically excluded, such as some Intellectual rights, use of company name, ... which are fantasies just to provide a fig leaf to syphon more cash overseas.

What's 23 times the size of Earth, uncomfortably warm – and has astroboffins excited?

alain williams Silver badge

"too hot for life at 150°C" ?

Life from Earth maybe, but it isn't that hot. Pyrolobus fumarii is OK up to 122 °C.

A limiting factor for water based life will be water's boiling point. But water boils at 150°C at about 5 times Earth's atmospheric pressure, so life at 150°C might not be that hard.

(Yes: boiling point is not the only factor, high stability cell walls, etc, will also be needed)

Despite vows to spend more with smaller firms, UK.gov sure does seem to love legacy lock-in

alain williams Silver badge

SMEs don't have as big ...

slush funds to entertain/bribe the decision makers as do the usual suspects.

Excuse me, sir. You can't store your things there. Those 7 gigabytes are reserved for Windows 10

alain williams Silver badge

More than adequate

I have a HP stream 11, I use it for when I am travelling, giving presentations, web browsing, word processing, ... There is nothing on it that I don't have on my main machine (or is soon copied there). Cheap: so I won't cry hard if I drop it under a bus.

Works nicely: plenty of 'disk' space, enough RAM, performs fast enough.

Maybe I should mention that I upgraded it from MS Windows 10 to Linux Mint.

Attention all British .eu owners: Buy dotcom domains and prepare to sue, says UK govt

alain williams Silver badge

So should nominet

stop anyone who is not in Blighty from owning a .uk domain ?

I suspect not.

So: what is the difference ?

NHS England claims it will be all-digital within the decade

alain williams Silver badge

Video chat with GP

What technology will they use for that ? Will it be secure, ie not like Skype that sends everything via MS servers (& thus to the NSA) ?

What platforms will they support: MS Windows PCs, Linux PC, Apple laptops, Android, iPhone, ... ? I doubt that they will do them all.

Huawei's 5G security scrutiny pain could be Cisco's gain – analysts

alain williams Silver badge

Re: Summary

"Cisco have the backdoors we must live with. Huawei, not so"

Fixed it for you

Fake 'U's! Phishing creeps use homebrew fonts as message ciphers to evade filters

alain williams Silver badge

Re: html in email...

Agreed. I read email for the message, too many people want it to look pretty - marketing people I am looking at you.

This makes me happy that I use the mutt email client: no fonts, no colours, no CSS.

HTML just makes the email much, much bigger (ie size in KB).

Detailed: How Russian government's Fancy Bear UEFI rootkit sneaks onto Windows PCs

alain williams Silver badge

Re: The real solution

But a jumper/switch would at 5p to the cost of a £500 machine ... vendors will be afraid that this not-needed-until-the-horses-have-bolted feature would result in too many customers choosing competitors' machines.

New Horizons probe reveals Ultima Thule is huge, spinning... chicken drumstick?

alain williams Silver badge

Chicken drumstick

At 4 billion miles away from the nearest UK school NASA should not be receiving complaints that it is adding to UK child obesity.

A few reasons why cops haven't immediately shot down London Gatwick airport drone menace

alain williams Silver badge

Re: They just need to make the penalty so outsized

I don't think that it is a dumbass & her mates, the software in modern a drone will stop it flying near an airport. So some expertise is needed to hack the software to change this.

One possibility is that this is a practice run sponsored by Al Quaeda or Putin for some future planned disruption (or maybe just as a bit of seasonal fun). If done for Putin part of the exercise would be to enable the drone operators to escape and some plausible deniability.

Ho ho ho! Washington DC sends Zuckerberg a sueball-shaped present

alain williams Silver badge

The trouble with convicting dishonest CEOs ...

is that shortly after people will wonder if they should also convict dishonest politicians. Thus politicians will ensure that no real penalty will be paid by Zuck & top brass in other companies. :-(

Who's watching you from an unmarked van while you shop in London? Cops with facial recog tech

alain williams Silver badge

Re: 650 willing crowd subjects

Add into that the faces of the top tier officers of all police forces in the UK -- that will ensure that full controls are put in place to prevent any abuse of the data collected, etc.

Home users due for a battering with Microsoft 365 subscription stick

alain williams Silver badge

Cheaper hardware ?

If they subsidise the hardware will there be anything (technical or legal) to prevent me replacing MS Windows with Linux ?

If not: please will they do the subscription thing!

Ticketmaster tells customer it's not at fault for site's Magecart malware pwnage

alain williams Silver badge

El Reg forgot to mention ...

that the Ticketmaster CEO claims that butter does not melt in his mouth.

Oz opposition folds, agrees to give Australians coal in their stockings this Christmas

alain williams Silver badge

Who appoints & pays the 'experts' ?

Ie those who make up the judge-and-expert panels.

Well, the government of course!

I fully expect that if the expert does not come to a conclusion that the government wants they s/he will not be appointed again. Everyone likes continuity of income, so what is the pressure to give the ''right'' opinion ?

Conflict of interest anyone ?

Some will, inconveniently, do the right thing, but they will be quickly purged from the system.

NHS supplier that holds 40 million UK patient records: AWS is our new cloud-based platform

alain williams Silver badge

USA Patriot act

Amazon is a USA company and thus subject to the Patriot Act, so once it is on their servers it would, if asked by the USA government, have to hand it over.

Er, we have 670 staff to feed now: UK's ICO fines 100 firms that failed to pay data protection fee

alain williams Silver badge

Re: Not paying the ICO is NOT the problem

Have you actually tried making a complaint to the ICO?

Yes: several times. Best simile: chocolate teapot

alain williams Silver badge

Not paying the ICO is NOT the problem

Yes: those that don't pay should be fined but the real problems are:

* web sites that pre-tick consent boxes to receive junk mail, etc

* shops/... that demand personal information that is not needed to complete the purchase, eg: a theatre recently refused to sell me tickets that I was buying in person unless I gave an address; shops that insist on an email address; ...

* organisations that share personal information when they should not

* web sites that send spam in spite of the 'want spam' check box being unticked

Little point in making a complaint about these to the ICO, they won't do anything.

Shocker: UK smart meter rollout is crap, late and £500m over budget

alain williams Silver badge

Re: Home security problem

I ring your doorbell.

Bang, I instantly know if you're at home or not*.

But if you want to ring doorbells:

* you need to walk around the streets, guess where lights are 'just left on', press & wait. Takes time

* you might be noticed going from house to house

Have someone sell you a list of candidate on-holidays is much safer & faster.

Yes: there are other ways of guessing that I am away, but it does not mean that we should not add another one.

alain williams Silver badge

Home security problem

this they never talk about.

If my lekky usage is uploaded somewhere every 15 minutes then it will be easy for someone to make a guess if I am at home or not. All it takes is a cash strapped sysadmin to write a query that looks for homes where usage dropped sharply 2-3 days ago, pass the addresses on to his mate Burglar Bill as candidates for people away on holiday.

Wake me up when these things have a householder option to delay the sending of usage by a fortnight.

Oh, I wish it could be Black Friday every day-aayyy, when the wallets start jingling but it's still a week till we're paiii-iid

alain williams Silver badge

Black Friday ?

I shall simply ignore it. I have enough tat & don't really need any more.

Merry Christmas, you filthy directors: ICO granted powers to fine bosses for spam calls

alain williams Silver badge


It would have been better if the ICO also was given the powers to fill some cupboards with porridge for these directors to eat for a few months.

Can you trust an AI data trust not to slurp your data?

alain williams Silver badge

The wrong question ...

Some medical AI having/not-having some medical data of mine is not the really important question; the real one is where else does that AI pass that data, probably without my agreement and out of scope of what the NHS trust thought it was agreeing to.

I don't want to find: myself getting spam for hypertension pills; or my mortgage rate going up; or being denied a job; or ... We all know that private data will end up in all sorts of places not envisaged, there will be flimsy excuses invented to give a veneer of justification - but the real reason will be some organisation's profit at my expense.

Microsoft confirms: We fixed Azure by turning it off and on again. PS: Office 362 is still borked

alain williams Silver badge

Please remind me ...

why cloud was supposed to be better than on-premises ?

How much local sysadmin time is really saved, factor in lost productivity and what is the nett cost difference ?

Washington Post offers invalid cookie consent under EU rules – ICO

alain williams Silver badge

Other solution

run an automatic cookie cleaner that wipes everything when you leave the Washington Post web site. That is the sort of thing that I do. If a site like WP makes it too onerous - I just go elsewhere, it is rare that they have anything unique.

Don't cross the Application Streams! Actually, maybe you can now in RHEL 8 beta

alain williams Silver badge

I have been waiting for a while ...

so it looks as if I shall be upgrading CentOS 6 machines some time next Summer.

Google swallows up DeepMind Health and abolishes 'independent board'

alain williams Silver badge

Sanitary pads ...

so how many NHS patients have have had their info used by google in spaffing them with ads for medical kit, etc ?

Bruce Schneier: You want real IoT security? Have Uncle Sam start putting boots to asses

alain williams Silver badge

ThIrd party support by law

at the moment if my washing machine breaks & the manufacturer won't repair then I can call in an independent outfit to replace the broken bits, made by some third party supplier.

If IoT software breaks (or a vulnerability becomes known) then I can only go to the manufacturer. Unfortunately they loose interest very quickly and announce 'end of product lifetime'. Once they do that then the software must become open source. There is a potential business in patching such software.

Unfortunately the general public will be reluctant to pay even £2/year as software support contract for the washing machine - they will want to know why & then bitch if they get hit.

It'll be interesting t see how this goes.

We (may) now know the real reason for that IBM takeover. A distraction for Red Hat to axe KDE

alain williams Silver badge

I notice: tcp_wrappers deprecated

probably because it does not play well with systemd.

Regarding desktops: I just hope that when I need to upgrade by CentOS 6 desktop to CentOS 8, that Mate will be available. I hate Gnome-3.

UK and EU crawling towards post-Brexit data exchange deal – reports

alain williams Silver badge

USA & Safe Harbour ?

If he EU approves Safe Harbour why would they object to what the UK does - as the UK is compliant with current EU regs ?

Unless they are afraid that we will adopt USA style rules once Brexit has happened.

50 ways to leave your lover, but four to sniff browser history

alain williams Silver badge

Re: run NoScript

NoScript only works if the naughty script is served from a domain you don't care about. It might be trickier if the naughty script is hosted on a domain you actually need to whitelist because else the site you're visiting doesn't work (online stores come to mind).

If it is from the online store, or similar, then the domain owner is a big target that could be prosecuted under the computer misuse act. A few costly & high profile actions could stop a lot, but not all, of this.

The D in Systemd stands for 'Dammmmit!' A nasty DHCPv6 packet can pwn a vulnerable Linux box

alain williams Silver badge

Old is good

in many respects when it comes to software because, over time, the bugs will have been found and squashed. Systemd brings in a lot of new code which will, naturally, have lots of bugs that will take time to find & remove. This is why we get problems like this DHCP one.

Much as I like the venerable init: it did need replacing. Systemd is one way to go, more flexible, etc, etc. Something event driven is a good approach.

One of the main problems with systemd is that it has become too big, slurped up lots of functionality which has removed choice, increased fragility. They should have concentrated on adding ways of talking to existing daemons, eg dhcpd, through an API/something. This would have reused old code (good) and allowed other implementations to use the API - this letting people choose what they wanted to run.

But no: Poettering seems to want to build a Cathedral rather than a Bazzar.

He appears to want to make it his way or no way. This is bad, one reason that *nix is good is because different solutions to a problem have been able to be chosen, one removed and another slotted in. This encourages competition and the 'best of breed' comes out on top. Poettering is endangering that process.

Also: he refusal to accept patches to let it work on non-Linux Unix is just plain nasty.

Zip it! 3 more reasons to be glad you didn't jump on Windows 10 1809

alain williams Silver badge

Ship it with bugs

has long been a Microsoft philosophy. It served it well in the early days as it meant that it got a product to market before the competition. The bugs could be fixed in a later release. Competitors who, later, shipped something with fewer bugs didn't get the sales as the Microsoft offering was seen as 'the standard'.

Others have also done this sort of thing. In some ways: better something with holes than nothing at all.

But today Microsoft should not need to do this, it is not scrabbling for market share in the same way. They have the time and resources to do proper QA regression testing - but don't seem to want to.

You like HTTPS. We like HTTPS. Except when a quirk of TLS can smash someone's web privacy

alain williams Silver badge

Is there a Firefox setting for this ?

I tried looking in about:config and searched for TLS, but nothing seems relevant.

A 10 minute timeout seems more than generous, the real value is in saving lots of TLS packet round trips when many connections are made in rendering one page (lots of images, etc). One extra round trip every few minutes will likely not be noticed.

The need for this will be reduced with HTTP2 since one HTTP2 TCP connection can be used to download several files at the same time by in different streams (AKA multiplex).

Apple to dump Intel CPUs from Macs for Arm – yup, the rumor that just won't die is back

alain williams Silver badge

What else can a move to ARM bring ?

Most of the comments here look at the problems of getting existing programs to work on a new architecture, be that via recompile or emulation or something.

An Apple designed CPU could bring a whole range of new instructions, maybe doing some of the things that are today offloaded to GPUs. This might help with more AI (whatever that means) and other needs where new silicon could give great advantage. Apple will not share its designs and will probably patent what its new silicon does to stop others following suite.

alain williams Silver badge

Re: Worth the RISC

I believe in 10 years, architecture (ie. x86, PowerPC, ARM) will be more of a preffered brand

Having spent the last 35 years working with Unix/Linux - that has always been my view. A new architecture is just a 'make' away for decently written programs.

20+ years ago the common use of different architectures was much greater than today.

Love Microsoft Teams? Love Linux? Then you won't love this

alain williams Silver badge

If they published the protocols ...

then someone would probably implement an open source client. But Microsoft will not do this because they do not want the competition. Someone might also implement an open source server - which would be even worse as far as they are concerned. Look at their other stuff - how they make compatibility hard.

HP dangles subscription hardware at power users

alain williams Silver badge

Does not take long to buy the hardware ...

at $156/month. This is like the current trend with cars - where you lease (with a very small mileage allowance) and end up with nothing after 3 years - having almost paid the cost of buying it.

Every business these days seems to be trying to tie customers in to a monthly payment. I assume that it is for the benefit of the business not the benefit of the customer - although marketing will try to convince you of that.

I suppose that they don't sell to engineers or devs because they are sufficiently mathematically able to work out that it will be a bum deal.

GCHQ asks tech firms to pretty please make IoT devices secure

alain williams Silver badge

GCHQ need a big stick

This is one area where I wish the government will give GCHQ some strong powers to compel vendors to do as it says: make these things secure (but without any nice five eyes back-doors). The article contains phrases like ''GCHQ hopes'', which we all know means that vendors will do as little as possible, preferably nothing.

The onus needs to be on UK manufacturers AND those who import foreign (== mainly Chinese) kit into this country.

There also needs to be an onus to support these things for their *use* lifetime, not a lifetime defined as until-the-next-model-is-released. The entire code-base needs to be held in escrow and released Open Source once manufacturer updates cease to come. For some thing I can see a 'use lifetime' of 30 years or more (eg IoT light switches).

This needs the backing of strong laws (that are actively enforced == big fines) otherwise it just will not happen. The cost of not doing this will be millions of tiny breaches.

In Windows 10 Update land, nobody can hear you scream

alain williams Silver badge

Yes I understand Microsoft's problem ...

in that their Windows is installed on many different sorts of hardware. This makes it hard to test all the combinations - which means a lot of work. But if they have sold, we are told, some 700 million of them then they must have the resources to properly test.

Contrast this to Linux: which runs on a wider selection of hardware than does MS Windows - you rarely hear of such breakage after an update. Even with manufacturers that only support MS Windows, once a device work it tends to stay working.

So: which is the 'hobbyist' operating system I wonder ?

The march of Amazon Business has resellers quaking in their booties

alain williams Silver badge

Should there be a legal maximum size of company ?

For companies in more than one market sector. Such that when it exceeds that size the new sectors must be sold off.

I agree that a mega Amazon might be able to negotiate/sell-at a lower price than anyone else, but where is the benefit to society if you can only buy xxx from one source ? OK: this is more complicated than I suggest, but stopping companies from getting too big must be good.

I would much rather live in a pond with many minnows than one inhabited by a few sharks.

Microsoft Windows 10 October update giving HP users BSOD

alain williams Silver badge

Barton Gellman defended auto-updates, arguing they do more good than harm

you try telling that to someone who's laptop no longer works. So: will it be HP or Microsoft that pays for the repair & a bit to compensate for the inconvenience ? What do you mean 'neither' ?

If you haven't already patched your MikroTik router for vulns, then if you could go do that, that would be greeeeaat

alain williams Silver badge

Re: Would anyone...

I have. I bought it in 2012 as it was, at that time, the only sensibly priced router that would give me IPv6. I have not had any problems with it, a few small bugs but nothing really bad. It is highly configurable but not for a novice user -- eg you need to have an idea of how Linux IpTables works.

However: usual story, I can't get any updates, they were available for a couple of years and then ... zilch, nada. As with most hardware vendors they rapidly lose interest, expect you to buy a new box.

A new one would cost me some £40-£70ish, but then you add in:

* time to work out what new model I need

* time to configure the thing (IPv4 & IPv6 filtering, forwarding, etc)

I have another firewall on my main (Linux) desktop - so potential damage would largely be stealing bandwidth.

World's largest CCTV maker leaves at least 9 million cameras open to public viewing

alain williams Silver badge

XM is an OEM company

The only way to fix this is to make the UK reseller liable for any problems that might be caused by bad OEM security. The result would be that UK resellers would only deal with OEMs that provided products with good security. So the likes of Xiongmai would either go out of business or smarten up their act.

Currently UK resellers can just shrug their shoulders to these problems.

Yes: this would result in a small price hike, but we all understand that quality costs.

Don't make us pay compensation for employee data breach, Morrisons begs UK court

alain williams Silver badge

Quis auditdiet ipsos Auditores?

I guess you could argue that nobody has any business running a ToR client on a PC in a supermarket, so blocking 9001/tcp outbound would have stopped that for the 2 minutes

We are told that the data was uploaded via ToR but do not know if that is how the data was taken off the Morrison's servers. It could have been walked out of the building on a memory stick and uploaded via ToR at home or in a cyber-cafe.

Since he was an auditor he could have asked for access to the backup system/media/... to check that it was being done properly or that it could be restored or ... or ... One of many reasons to get his hands on a copy - then swipe a copy in one of many innocuous ways.

"Who audits the Auditors ?"


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