* Posts by alain williams

1367 posts • joined 29 May 2007


Carphone Warehouse thwacked by UK Advertising watchdog for a Cyber Monday wobble

alain williams Silver badge

Premium rate calls

If you need to call that because of their screw up: you should add the cost of the premium call to any refund that you get. If they argue: add the cost of your time that they have wasted.

You can always find an alternative number at saynoto0870.com

Super Cali optimistic right-to-repair's negotious, even though Apple thought it was something quite atrocious

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Where else will this apply ?

John Deere tractors & motor cars to start with.

What about broken firmware on 'phones, IoT devices, etc - many of which do not receive updates for very long - if at all.

PuTTY in your hands: SSH client gets patched after RSA key exchange memory vuln spotted

alain williams Silver badge

Re: PuTTY's days are numbered

I seem to recall PuTTY has had a mixed history when it comes to security (e.g IIRC there was a period where they had a trojanised copy hosted on the official website for quite some time before it got noticed).

PuTTY on MS Windows has a much greater problem than a, now fixed, trojan copy of PuTTY.

The whole operating system is a trojan, it has an in built key logger. You are supposed to be able to turn key logging off, but you can't completely switch off telemetry, what gets sent is encrypted (from the machine owner) -- so how do you verify that key stroke stealing is really disabled ?

I will not use PuTTY on a Windows machine - I would just not feel safe.

College student with 'visions of writing super-cool scripts' almost wipes out faculty's entire system

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Kudos to the Head of Faculty ...

for helping to fix the problem *first* ... then think about bollocking the student.

I know too many managers who will rant, rave & place blame (not them) as the first thing that they do.

It's alive! Big Switch stitches together an open-source Network Operating System

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Will Huawei start shipping boxes with this ?

It would make it harder for the USA to claim that Huawei networking kit is riddled with Chinese Gov't spyware. Especially if Huawei makes it easy for the local network admin to install his own compiled copy of NOS.

Granted the claim could be made that the hardware is spooked, but that is harder.

Next question: will CISCO also support NOS - so we can be free of NSA 'additions' ?

Facebook blames 'server config change' for 14-hour outage. Someone run that through the universal liar translator

alain williams Silver badge

Re: The worst thing about this outage...

I wonder how many more productive hours were done at work, school, ... as a result.

Maybe this should happen more often!

Amazon may finally get its hands on .amazon after world's DNS overseer loses patience

alain williams Silver badge

These new TLDs were always a stupid idea

It is an ICANN money making scheme, completely unnecessary.

2 weeks till Brexit and Defra, at the very least, looks set to be caught with its IT pants down

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Effects of food import tax

good news for farmers, not so good for shoppers


* UK farmers will become richer and thus pay more taxes, so the rest of us will need to pay less tax to 'balance the books'.

* Import tax also means less tax needed.

So at first glance it is good for tax payers, but the benefit will be felt most by the richer who will gain most by any tax cuts (assuming that this happens). Alternatively UK government could spend the extra tax receipts on helping the less well off - cushion them from price hikes.

But: it is all too complicated, and exposed to political whimsy, for anyone to predict with any accuracy.

alain williams Silver badge

You beat me to it ...

people keep on asking me if I think that Brexit will be a good idea. I always say ''I don't know as I don't know what the UK relationship with the EU will be after Brexit.''

Remember: all the brouhaha is about the *exit deal*, getting on to three years post referendum and they have hardly talked about what the post Brexit relationship will be. So how can anybody pass opinion on something that, for now, is a vague wish list ?

Refusing to talk about the new relationship until after exit strikes me as stupidity in the extreme; or perhaps political game playing.

Small Brit firms beg for 'light touch' as only half are ready for digital tax reforms due next month

alain williams Silver badge

Error control in Making Tax Difficult ???

I took a look at the HMRC Mythbusters PDF.

The 5th section is titled ''MTD won’t reduce errors'' ... and the 6th section is exactly the same. This doesn't really give me much confidence that the rest of this is anything other than bollocks.

What sort of Muppet do they employ ?

IR35 contractor tax reforms crawl closer to UK private sector with second consultation

alain williams Silver badge

Companies will take the easy & safe choices

Safe to them that is. Independent contractors will be deemed employed to avoid a tiny risk that they might get a fine. This is what happened 25 years ago when someone was not properly schedule D registered (ie self employed), the company who they had worked for had to stump up a tax bill. So companies/agencies/... then insisted that everyone work through a Ltd company. Something similar will happen now.

Doing a proper assessment takes time, so they will not bother as the time spent does not really benefit them.

I have a friend who does locum work for the NHS. She has classified by her current hospital as falling under IR35 & so employed (other hospitals classify the exact same position as outside of IR35); but does not get the benefits of employment such as holiday pay, sick benefit. She can now no longer claim hotel or travel expenses. The hospital pays the same, she has a large wage cut.

Yes: some were taking the piss, but many are not. We do need temporary workers for jobs that last a few months, often at a non-commutable distance from where the contractor has a home.

If the government wants more tax: go after the likes of Google, Facebook & Vodafone.

UK banking was struck by one IT fail every day for most of 2018

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Can't spend too much getting IT right ...

as there won't be enough dosh left for the top brass bonus pot.

UK tech has a month left to bare gender pay gaps, but less than a fifth of firms have ponied up

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Like for like figures please

The all-employee median pay gap has little meaning since it takes no account of different life choices made by different people: job harder/easier, travel lots/stay-at-home, education degree/A-level, number of years experience, ...

Compare like for like and the pay gap almost disappears. However politicians do not like meaningful numbers since they tend to destroy their emotion based words.

The government comparison web site does not permit such meaningful comparison.

Boffins put the FUN into fungus by rigging yeast to squirt out the active ingredients in cannabis

alain williams Silver badge

Re: What else do we use yeasts for ? ...

It occurs to me that such bread, when left to rise, would get really high.

alain williams Silver badge

What else do we use yeasts for ? ...

making beer. Pubs selling ales made with that yeast would be on to a winner.

Also for making bread - now that shows that the scientists were using their loaf!

Insane homeowners association tries to fine resident for dick-shaped outline car left in snow

alain williams Silver badge

Tom Lehrer says it best

In his song Smut:

For filth (I'm glad to say) is in

The mind of the beholder

When correctly viewed

Everything is lewd

In a galaxy far, far away, aliens may have eight-letter DNA – like the kind NASA-backed boffins just crafted

alain williams Silver badge

8 letters not needed - here anyway

The 3 base pairs can code 64 different combinations. However only 20 different amino acids are used, plus a STOP code, there is plenty of space for more. Most amino acids seem to be specified by the first 2 base pairs of the triplets; but not quite as simple as that.

The trouble is that once established it is very hard to change the assignment of amino acids to combinations - nature will not be able to change to free up a combination to use for something else.

alain williams Silver badge

So this is what was meant by

All your base are belong to us

It all hinges on this: Huawei goes after Samsung with its own foldable hybrid Mate X

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How long before it breaks ?

Unless you have a big wrap around cover - one of these is going to spend a lot of time in the repair shop.

If it survives being carried around, how many times can you open/close it before the screen at the hinge wears out ?

This will sell well to the idiots with more money than sense and want to show their latest bling to impressionable friends.

'We don't want a camera in everyone's living room' says bloke selling cameras in living rooms. Zuckerberg, you moron

alain williams Silver badge

Re: "Remove the few rich guys and Farcebook will lose most of its income"

You have missed the point: Facebook will be able to tell the seller ''we know that the user is rich, you can show them the more expensive tat.''

alain williams Silver badge

Re: Pull the other one

He, and Facebook, only care about maximizing profit at all costs

If he were to allow richer people to opt out of data collection/sharing then he would be removing the very people that other advertisers pay Farcebook lots of $$ for - the ones who are likely to buy stuff via the Internet. The ones left will be those who generate little dosh and who are of little interest other advertisers.

Remove the few rich guys and Farcebook will lose most of its income - no one will pay to know about the poor guys.

The record shows I took the blows, and did it... Huawei: IT titan will start tackling GCHQ security gripes from June

alain williams Silver badge

And what about the rest of them ...

the other soft/hard ware vendors that have security problems, some mandated by government, eg:

* Microsoft telemetry that sends who-knows-what back to the USA

* Cisco kit with backdoors installed by the NSA

* Spyware from the CIA mandated by the Patriot Act

* Spyware from GCHQ under the Investigatory Powers bill

* Australia: The Assistance and Access Bill 2018

and more

You're on a Huawei to Hell, US Sec State Pompeo warns allies: Buy Beijing's boxes, no more intelligence for you

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Buy Huawei

and be safer from our own governments!

Welcome to the sunlit uplands of HTTP/2, where a naughty request can send Microsoft's IIS into a spin

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It's a bug ...

as long as it is fixed in a shortish time, don't make too much of a fuss.

Well Holby damned! We've caught a virus: Brit medical soap operas team up for 'cyber' episode

alain williams Silver badge

Re: Alternatively...

A Holby City -- Dr Who cross over -- that could be interesting!

Bad news for WannaCry slayer Marcus Hutchins: Judge rules being young, hungover, and in a strange land doesn't obviate evidence

alain williams Silver badge

18 months he has been held ...

Guilty or not - it is a long time to wait. For those prosecuting him it is just another case in their boring job. For him it is 18 months where is life is on hold.

Why do these people take so long ?

One click and you're out: UK makes it an offence to view terrorist propaganda even once

alain williams Silver badge

I think that viewing terrorist propaganda is good

Unless you have looked at it you cannot start to make a judgement that their views are wrong and come up with cogent arguments of the same.

I can see the point about trying to stop impressionable minds from being led astray and do things to harm people. But I doubt that this will really stop that and may drive it underground. Far better to engage the impressionable in discussion.

Who decides what is 'terrorist' as opposed to just bad taste or a result of stupidity ? Is saying that the Prime Minister has gone mad and should be forcibly removed from No 10 expressing terrorist sentiment ?

Is this the start of the UK sliding down to Tiananmen Square like restrictions ?

The UK's Cairncross Review calls for Google, Facebook to be regulated – and life support for journalism

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Objective, in depth, no favours journalism is suffering

When I were a lad I bought the Times almost every day, as did many who I knew (OK some might have bought the Grauniad, Torygraph or Currant Bun [The Sun for you 'mericans]). Now I rarely do so, I can get news & opinion free on-line without getting out of my chair. I do give the Guardian £50/year as thanks for not pay-walling their site (I'm looking at you Murdoch).

The result is that most news sites have to have a lot of click-bait to get page views to report high eyeball counts to advertisers. Click-bait is also cheap to generate. So quality suffers.

Facebook, Google, etc, are pure click-bait, the more outrageous the content the more eyes, so fact drowns under fantasy & fabrication. It is so easy for nonsense or malice to form opinions, there is little cost to someone writing this stuff to get many people to believe it; years ago spreading of ideas was expensive.

I have changed my mind: I used to think that the media should survive on their merits; but we risk losing losing the Fourth Estate who should hold the powerful accountable and be the pin to burst wacky ideas. So some tax on big Internet to fund solid journalism would be a good investment.

The question is: who benefits ? Those with my view on life or those who hold your view ?

Uncle Sam to its friends around the world: You can buy technology the easy way, or the Huawei

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Re: Open Source

Patents are not a problem as anything with a patent as all the IP should have been disclosed as part of the patenting process.

You do have a point about copyright of other people's code that they might be using, in theory it could be given under a license that restricts its use to Huawei products, in practice people will use it however they wish.

Why should Huawei have to give away their privately paid for code?

Because it might get them a lot more sales. Anyway: many organisations give away code Open Source and do very well.

alain williams Silver badge

Open Source

Huawei should point two fingers at the govt of the USA by open sourcing its firmware and then ask the USA to point to the Chinese gov't bugs.

Huawei should document how to compile & install the firmware - then challenge Cisco, etc, to do the same.

Huawei makes its money by selling hardware so this should not be a huge problem. Yes: some of its competitors may find interesting things to copy; the NSA will produce its own firmware that creates a NSA back door; others might even improve/debug the firmware - making it better.

The USA gov't will then have to invent some other excuse for protectionism.

Are there Chinese gov't back-doors ? Quite possibly. But if the bugged Huawei gear is not being sold any bugs are pointless, so they might as well support clean firmware and get the economic benefit.

In fact all security sensitive software should be Open Source, let's start with mobile 'phones and desktop operating systems.

HMRC: We 'rigorously tested' IR35 tax-check tool... but have almost nothing to show for it

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It seems government is as bad as corporations

when in comes to trying to screw over the public.

In other news: Home office & Windrush; ...

German competition watchdog tells Facebook to stop combining user data without consent

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Non facebook users

Where are they left ? They have not signed up thus they have not agreed anything with facebook, so clause 1002.b (written in point size 6) cannot be deemed acceptance of anything.

The implications of this will be much wider than facebook: any web site, commercial or otherwise, must have restrictions imposed on it as to what it can do with casual visitors. I am OK with them counting how many people looked at garden spades (anonymously), but should they be allowed to keep the IP address (or other info) and later correlate it with that visitor looking at lawn mowers ?

Under EU law (I think) they should not - look at the cookie directive; unless you agree they cannot set one (in theory).

I suspect that we will see that the agreement pop-up/... to cookies will now contain much more.

The cookie has been run around, tracking these days can be done by ways other than cookies - these methods should also be regulated, using language that covers intent rather than enumerating specific technologies (with would then be run around).

Not cool, man: Dixons spanked over discount on luxury 'smart' fridge with wildly fluctuating price

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You would have thought ...

that the price of a fridge would be frozen!

Microsoft decides Internet Explorer 10 has had its fun: Termination set for January 2020

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Re: Browsers

I test my web sites using lynx, partly because that is how someone using a text to speech program (ie eyesight problems) will 'see' it.

It is sometimes the best way of viewing a web site that have been over CSSed.

Mozilla security policy cracks down on creepy web trackers, holds supercookies over fire

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Tracking will still happen

I have fixed IP addresses (IPv4 & IPv6) at home, I live alone - that makes me easy to track from the server, no javascript needed. Even if others lived here it would narrow it down to a few people.

What is needed is legislation to stop the various sites from sharing tracking information. This might happen in Europe, but I doubt that it will in the USA (no comment on a post brexit UK).

Big Red's big pay gap: $13,000 gulf between male and female Oracle staffers – reports

alain williams Silver badge

$13,000 gulf

Taking global averages is not illuminating

Women made 3.8% less in base salaries on average than men in the same job categories, 13.2% less in bonuses, and 33.1% less in stock value, it alleges.

To me it appears that there might be a 3.8% disadvantage to women. Bonuses tend to be paid as a result of performance thus, for whatever reason, men appear to be more productive; I assume that something similar is at work for stock value.

But: without looking at all individual cases it is hard to be sure.

Oracle exec: Open-source vendors locking down licences proves 'they were never really open'

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Translation: Oracle is hurting

"wouldn't it be nice if we did not have Open Source competitors."

Three quarters of US Facebook users unaware their online behavior gets tracked

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It is not so much that facebook knows stuff ...

about people (most will say 'so what, why should I care ?') but what happens to that knowledge; this is a bit more nebulous and not so easy to understand.

One lady (single, mid 20s, well paid job) I met a year ago liked it that when she went somewhere the web site knew the sort of things that she liked to buy. It made on-line shopping better for her. She could not care less about privacy or that prices displayed might be 'tailored' for her.

But this is exactly what others (including me) do not like.

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

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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).


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