* Posts by Cuddles

776 posts • joined 3 Nov 2011

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uBlock Origin ad-blocker knocked for blocking hack attack squawking

Cuddles
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Re: What's the point of CSP anyway?

"It's more like you installed a pipe from a service that promised to deliver manure, then got upset when your careful shoveling did not reveal sufficient horses mixed in, and decided to complain about the smell."

No, you've missed a rather important part, albeit one I didn't make clear in the analogy - I did not sign up to a service that promised to deliver manure, I signed up for a horse. The website insists on trying to dump manure into my house at the same time, and Adblock, Noscript and similar are attempts to block the manure while still being able to ride the horse. Since there is no contract requiring me to accept the manure and no legitimate reason for it to actually be there, they're left with complaining that blocking it degrades their ability to check the manure for purity. Which completely misses the point that I don't care how pure the manure their dumping in my house is, I don't want any of it.

In fact this is a particular good analogy since horses inevitably come with their own supply of manure, and people are generally perfectly willing to accept that small amount that is necessary for it to function normally. What we object to is the attempt to stick a sewage pipe into our homes at the same time with no justification other than that since we're OK with a small amount of unavoidable shit, we must also be fine accepting whatever amount their able to shovel in after it.

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Cuddles
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Re: What's the point of CSP anyway?

"CSP itself ensures that resources can only be delivered from the places that the website author intended."

Which is ultimately the root of the whole problem. We are forced to use addons like uBlock and Noscript precisely because the places the website author wants to allow to run scripts are not places I want to allow to run scripts. If my implementation of a whitelist interferes with theirs, that's entirely their own fault for forcing me to do it in the first place.

Essentially, what they want is the right to stick a sewage pipe though my wall to spew shit into my home. CSP is an attempt to detect if anyone else drills a hole into the pipe before it reaches my house and adds some of their own shit to it, by analysing the shit inside my house. uBlock simply blocks the pipe off and stops any of the shit coming in, so now they complain that their analysis tools no longer work and they can't tell who might be trying to dump shit on me; some of that shit might be illegitimate shit that I wouldn't want inside my house! Having successfully blocked off the flow of all shit, I unsurprisingly don't give a shit.

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Brit spooks 'kept oversight bodies in the dark' over data sharing

Cuddles
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Didn't tell the watchdog?

Surely the whole point of a watchdog is to check if what someone is telling everyone is actually true? What exactly is the point of a watchdog that just blindly believes everything they're told?

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The Google Home Mini: Great, right up until you want to smash it in fury

Cuddles
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The big problem

"And this is the big problem with digital assistants. They have ended up doing some things really well: playing music, telling you the weather, setting a timer."

In other words, they can do things that were already trivial, but completely fail to offer any new functionality or convenience. Yeah, I'd say that's quite a big problem.

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Google adds planets and moons to Maps, but puts bits in the wrong places

Cuddles
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"Astronomic telescopes traditionally have inverted images as you don't want to lose light/quality from having an extra lens just to flip the image to be "the right way round"."

This is why many telescopes are in the southern hemisphere - since everything is already upside-down the images come out the right way up.

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Pulitzer-winning website Politifact hacked to mine crypto-coins in browsers

Cuddles
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Re: alternative to micropayments?

"you know, if it was clearly announced, secure, and reasonably throttled, why not let mining happen to support a site you like?"

Because it won't actually support the site; income from web mining is tiny compared to adverts. And that's when it's all working as intended. Throw in constant price fluctuations so you have no idea what your income will actually be in a given month, and the very real possibility that the pretend-coin you've opted for will simply disappear overnight (Bitcoin is hardly stable, and that's by far the biggest and most reliable one around, other pretend-coins keep popping up and vanishing again in their hundreds so good luck guessing which will still be around a few years from now), and it's hardly a sensible looking business model.

And even if the one you pick does happen to be around in a few years, how will you mine it then? There's a reason no-one is using Coinhive for Bitcoin - you simply can't mine it using spare cycles in normal home PCs. Pretty much all pretend-coins have a similar mining difficulty curve, they just haven't been around long enough, and aren't popular enough, to have hit the same level. If browser mining ever became popular, it would very quickly make itself obsolete.

"beats paying $60/year or the like for Washington Post."

Does it? Have you actually calculated how much you'd pay in electricity costs to support a site this way? And importantly, have you calculated how much income you'd actually generate for them in doing so? It's far from trivial to turn a profit from coin mining. It's extremely likely that both you and the site you want to support would be better off if you just paid them some real money instead of going through a convoluted Rube Goldberg scheme to turn that money into virtual commodities via your electricity bill.

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You may not have noticed, but 'superfast' broadband is available to 94% of Blighty

Cuddles
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Re: Great

"The problem with '100M' is that many websites do not go that fast... :/"

How fast a single website can is irrelevant. An average family household can easily have a TV streaming 1080p or 4K content, a couple of people messing around on their phones using wifi, and another person on a PC or console gaming, watching Youtube, or whatever. The fact that no single application needs a full 100 Mbps connection does not mean the house as a whole can't make use of it all.

On top of that, there are plenty of services that don't throttle at all. If you want to download a game from Steam, for example, you can do so just as fast as your connection can manage. With games routinely topping 50 GB these days, you're looking at the difference between a few minutes and half an hour or more, and that's assuming you're not in the above house with multiple other people sharing the bandwidth.

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Video games used to be an escape. Now not even they are safe from ads

Cuddles
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Re: 1980s called

"Is it Blade Runner or Total Recall or something else where they beam holo-ads right in your face as you walk around"

Sounds like Minority Report, where having them recognise you by your eyeballs is an important plot point. Blade Runner is the one which is famous for having every company that advertised in it (lots of neon billboards) subsequently go bust.

"be a designed game feature to set the atmosphere"

Exactly. There's nothing inherently wrong with advertising in games, any more than it's inherently wrong anywhere else. People generally dislike adverts because they insist on getting in the way of whatever you're trying to do. Interrupting a film every ten minutes to show five minutes of adverts is extremely annoying; having a person in a film walk past some billboards while drinking a coke much less so. Similarly, crouching behind a piece of cover in a game that happens to have some posters advertising real products is much better than having something pop up and tell me I have to watch an advert in order to continue playing. Product placement can be done badly, but it can also be done well; pop-ups and interruptions can never be done well.

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

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

"Which is why all sorts of surprising bits of Android won't work if you have background location services turned off."

Could you give an example of something that doesn't work? Because I've had Android phones pretty much since the start, and the only thing I've ever found that didn't work without location services is satnav, which is fair enough really. No doubt some third party apps play might play up if you try to restrict them, but I'm not aware of any part of Android or the basic Google apps that come with it that will even complain, let alone fail to work, if you turn off location services.

As for whether it's really possible to turn things off, there's a clear difference in battery life when you turn things like GPS and wifi on and off, so it's certainly doing something. Wifi, bluetooth and NFC should be easy to test since they broadcast, and I'm not aware of anyone having found them operating when they're not supposed to (and given the fuss places like aeroplanes make about electronics, it wouldn't really be worth the risk of getting caught). GPS, being passive, would obviously be harder to catch out.

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Russian spies used Kaspersky AV to hack NSA staffer, swipe exploit code – new claim

Cuddles
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Not much of a denial

"Kaspersky Lab has not been provided any evidence substantiating the company’s involvement"

"does not have inappropriate ties to any government"

"similar levels of access and privileges to the systems they protect as any other popular security vendor"

In other words, yes, they absolutely were involved. They don't even try to deny it - "you haven't shown us how you know we did it" does not even come close to denying having done it, while "similar levels of access as everyone else" and "no "inappropriate" ties" is simply pointing out that everyone else does exactly the same. It makes the news quite a bit that the US government demands lots of information from the likes of Google, Facebook and ISPs, but you'd have to be pretty special to believe that other governments aren't doing exactly the same, or that other companies with useful information aren't also targeted.

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Google touts Babel Fish-esque in-ear real-time translators. And the usual computer stuff

Cuddles
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Re: No audio jack

"If they can waterproof the USB-C, I see no reason they can't do it to a headphone jack."

It's nothing to do with waterproofing, despite El Reg constantly bringing it up. There are already a variety of devices around that manage to be waterproof despite having open 3.5mm sockets. If anything, it's much easier than the USB socket - the Xperia Z1 had a rubber seal for the USB, but the 3.5mm socket was just open (just a shame about the shit build quality that meant the glass panels peeled off the front and back; the sockets were the only parts that actually stayed waterproof).

Getting rid of headphone sockets is done for precisely one reason - cost. It's one less part that needs designing and buying, and takes up space that makes fitting the rest of the internals more difficult. The move is happening now because, presumably, it's finally reached the point where bluetooth speakers are popular enough anyway that the cost savings more than offset any lost sales.

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Boffins take biometric logins to heart, literally: Cardiac radar IDs users to unlock their PCs

Cuddles
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Transplants?

"you can't steal it from a person, or otherwise kill them, and still use the God-given blood pump to authenticate the victim"

I'm seeing potential for a Face/Off sequel here.

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Cops shut 28k sites flogging knock-off footie kits and other tat

Cuddles
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Re: One use card numbers

"Catchas"

This is an awesome typo. "In order to prove you are human, please place your cat on the keyboard now". Best of all, it could actually work - the best a bot can manage is pseudorandom output, while a cat is one of the few truly random things known to science.

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iPhone 8: Apple has CPU cycles to burn

Cuddles
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I have a better idea

"it has been able to shrink the capacity and size of its battery pack"

Instead of doing that, why don't they, you know, not do it? No actually gives a shit about phone benchmarks; even bargain-basement Android phones are plenty fast enough to screw around on Facebook and Youtube, and being able to render a web page a couple of milliseconds faster is simply not relevant to anyone. For that matter, having a phone 0.1 mm thinner is not something anyone has ever cared about either; going from giant bricks to something that comfortably fits in your pocket was a big step, going from something that comfortably fits in your pocket to something that looks exactly the same size if you don't have a micrometer handy really isn't a step at all.

What people actually want out of a phone is something that doesn't need charging every five seconds. You would struggle to find a single consumer who wouldn't happily accept a phone a whopping 1 mm thicker and a few grams heavier if it meant they only needed to charge it every two or three days rather than having to constantly worry if it will last until they've finished work. Even people like me who can generally already manage two or three days of light use with most phones would be happier if that was five or six days instead.

It's not improvements in semiconductor design that have allowed them to shrink the battery, it's a complete absence of common sense.

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Hotter than the Sun: JET – Earth’s biggest fusion reactor, in Culham

Cuddles
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Re: Snake Oil

"That ignores the amount of progress made in the last 20 years."

Indeed. With apologies to Asimov - 40 years ago people thought they were 20 years from fusion, and they were wrong; 20 years ago people thought they were 20 years away from fusion, and they were also wrong. But if you think they were both as wrong as each other, you're wronger than both of them put together.

We've made a huge amount of progress in understanding fusion (as well as the engineering, materials science and various other required disciplines) over the last 60 or so years. At every step along the way, at least some of the people involved have been over-optimistic about how close we were to actually having commercial fusion power. But the fact that they were wrong about the exact timescale doesn't mean that none of that progress happened. A prediction that it will happen 20 years from now is obviously much more accurate than the same prediction made 40 years ago, because we've used that time to solve all kinds of problems that no-one had even realised existed. There may well be more unforeseen problems that means it will again take longer than expected, but that can't change the fact that we're closer than we ever were before.

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Don't panic, but.. ALIEN galaxies are slamming Earth with ultra-high-energy cosmic rays

Cuddles
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Re: one, two, many

It's about the energy of an adult badger travelling at 0.000000063 % of the maximum velocity of a sheep in a vacuum. Or alternatively, the potential energy of a skateboarding rhinoceros suspended 0.0007 linguine above the ground.

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Cloudflare coughs up a few grand for prior-art torpedoes to sink troll

Cuddles
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"Make the USPO office liable for costs associated with failed Patent litigation"

Fining government departments doesn't work; it's all just the taxpayers' money anyway, and if you make a fine big enough for them to notice, all you've done is further reduced their ability to the job properly. This is why government bureaucracies so often have issues with efficiency - you can't punish them in any meaningful way because they're performing a necessary function using the country's own resources, so any punishment is the equivalent of punching yourself in the face.

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NASA, wait, wait lemme put my drink down... NASA, you need to be searching for vanadium

Cuddles
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"We've probably already fouled the place up with so much vanadium that we'll never know where it all came from."

Planets are somewhat bigger than you give them credit for. We've only tried to send a total of 48 spacecraft to Mars, and quite a few of those didn't make it or didn't land. And even assuming those that did reach the surface were all made entirely of high vanadium content steel, that would still only be a few kilograms of the stuff in total. Regardless of whether you assume that's concentrated in a few places or spread evenly across the planet, it will be utterly irrelevant compared to the entire surface of even a relatively small planet like Mars. Hell, that would still be the case even if you assume every probe was made entirely of pure vanadium.

Just look at Earth for an easy comparison. If we look very carefully we can see the signature of nuclear testing and airborne industrial pollution in many, although still far from all, places. What we do not see is a thin layer of iron spread around the planet due to all our cars and things wearing down and getting blown around by the wind. There are huge areas of the planet in which we can still see essentially pristine geological material entirely unaffected by human activity. In other words, even if Mars were home to a major industrialised society, it still wouldn't be so badly contaminated that we wouldn't be able to search for signs of past life. The fact that we've barely touched the place just makes it even more certain that anything we find was there already.

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Microsoft and Facebook's transatlantic cable completed

Cuddles
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"My understanding is that Bytes are capitals and bits are lowercase, and that all the multiplications are capitalised"

Close. All prefixes greater than 1000 use a capital letter. Kilo, hecta and deca use lower case (the latter being the only SI prefix not to use a single letter), while all multiplications smaller than 1 use lower case (although obviously these aren't used much in conjunction with bits and bytes).

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You've been baffled by its smart thermostat. Now strap in for Nest's IoT doorbell, alarm gear

Cuddles
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"an impressive product"

In the same paragraph:

"you couldn't see someone's face if they were close to the door"

"it keeps not recognizing the same person"

"assuming the pricing isn't too nuts"

A doorbell with a camera that can't see the people pressing it, facial recognition that can't recognise faces, and whatever the price will certainly cost more than the fiver or so for a regular doorbell. I'm failing to see exactly what is impressive about this product.

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From the Dept of the Bleedin' Obvious... yes, drones hurt when they hit you in the head

Cuddles
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"It may seem obvious that heavier things cause more hurt, but unless these studies are done using independent and rigorous methods and published for peer review we end up with glaring pre-determined and farcical reports like the recent one made to order for the UK government, and excellent critique of which of here: Drone Collision Study"

Not only that, but just because a general conclusion seems obvious, that doesn't mean gaining more knowledge about the specifics isn't useful. If we'd just decided that driving into a wall at high speed hurts and given up there, cars would be a hell of a lot dangerous than they are now. But because we've spent an awful lot of time and effort determining exactly how much it hurts at exactly what speeds, and what the mechanisms for that hurt are, we've been able to come up with all kinds of clever ways to mitigate the risks, as well as knowing where restrictions are needed when the risk can't be suitably reduced.

For drones, sure, having a drone drop on your head probably hurts. But is there a size below which it's unlikely to do anything serious, or a speed above which it's especially dangerous? Might there be design features that can reduce damage done in case of a collision, or which can reduce the chance of particularly dangerous events happening? Just blindly saying that drones can hurt therefore ban them all makes no more sense than saying we should ban cars because humans can't survive travelling above a certain speed (originally claimed by some to be no more than 40-50 mph, and yes, simply travelling not even crashing at that speed). Without knowing the details of what the actual risks are and what might be able to be done about them, it's simply not possible to make any sensible decisions about how to regulate something. "There's obviously some risk, so ban everything" is not a sensible decision.

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Boffins discover tightest black hole binary system – and it's supermassive

Cuddles
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Re: Blak hole density

"... a black hole is super dense matter ...

Interestingly enough, super-massive black holes do not have to be particularly dense."

Indeed. The more accurate way of putting would be "A black hole is super dense matter surrounded by some interesting gravitational effects". The singularity at the centre is extremely dense, but the black hole itself is usually taken to mean everything up to the event horizon, most of which is pretty much empty. It's similar to atoms really - a nucleus is extremely dense, but atoms are mostly empty space and aren't particularly dense overall.

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Behold, says robo-mall-cop maker: Our crime-busting dune buggy packed with spy gear

Cuddles
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Is that a nuclear bomb in your pocket?

"the K1 is a weapon scanner and will eventually be capable of scanning for radiation."

Because obviously when making a hidden weapon scanner designed to make America the safest country in the world, checking people for radiation is the important thing to look out for.

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Compsci degrees aren't returning on investment for coders – research

Cuddles
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Still seems worth it

£3k extra a year on £50k debt means a little over 16 years to break even. The average person will work for something like 40 years, so it's simply not true that a compsci degree doesn't return on the investment. It may take longer to pay off than it used to, and some may not consider the up-front debt to be worth the eventual payoff, but that doesn't make it correct to claim the payoff doesn't exist at all.

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Samsung's Galaxy Note 8 is hot, but not much more than the S8+

Cuddles
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"In terms of "stock android" - the Moto G5 Plus is also worth considering although I believe there is a new one in the works. Decent camera, dual sim and the battery easily lasts into a second day for me and there isn't much in the way of bloatware on there."

This would be my recommendation too. Got one a month or so ago for about £200; stock Android with specs more than good enough for everything except benchmark pissing contests. It's not waterproof, has a fixed battery and doesn't have a great camera, but there really doesn't seem to be anything comparable even at twice the price, let alone at the same price.

The Moto G5S and G5S+ have supposedly already been released, but seem to be very difficult to actually find anywhere. The trouble is that they've upped the size, so the G5S is now the same size as the G5+ but with terrible specs, while the G5S+ is significantly bigger at 5.5". If you want a massive phone it's probably not bad if you can actually find one, but the original G5+ is much more my cup of tea.

As for updates, they'll probably get at least one based on how the previous phones in the series were treated, but they're certainly not going to be regular. LineageOS should be available soon though, which will keep it getting updates long after any manufacturer would have abandoned them.

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Some positive news: LG, Hitachi, NEC charged $65m in li-ion battery price fixing shocker

Cuddles
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Re: 65 Meeelions...

"It wouldn't even be worth filling out the form with every laptop and phone you bought in the 00s..."

Given that the case has nothing to do with phones, you're definitely correct there.

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Criticize Google, get fired: Spotlight spins on ad giant's use of soft money

Cuddles
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Nothing new

People love to focus on Google for this sort of behaviour, but there really isn't anything new or unusual going on here. How exactly do people think groups like the NRA, oil industry, pharmaceutical industry, tobacco, cars, Boeing, the cable and mobile monopolies, and so on ad infinitum, gain and keep their influence? And that's just a few of the more obvious ones in the USA, which, despite how ridiculous it may sound, is actually one of the less corrupt countries around. That doesn't make it any better when Google join the game, but they're very much the new kids on the block when it comes to this kind of buying influence.

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Nest cracks out cheaper spin of its thermostat

Cuddles
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Seems rather American

I had to look up what "HVAC" actually meant. Here in the UK we generally just have "H", and I don't see many people saving hundreds of pounds on their heating bills just by adjusting the timing slightly. I can see there potentially being a benefit for people that rely on some kind of heat-control system throughout the whole year though. And given how ridiculously bad the interface on pretty much every central heating thermostat I've seen is, it would be quite an achievement if Nest didn't manage to make theirs better purely be accident.

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Patchy PCI compliance putting consumer credit card data at risk

Cuddles
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But does it actually help?

"By failing to comply with the PCI Data Security Standard (DSS), organisations are putting consumers at increased risk of payment fraud, Verizon warns."

It would be interesting to see the proportions of those who do and don't comply that actually suffer data breaches. Given the example in the article, I'd be surprised if there was a significant difference:

"In one recorded example, a hotel was found to be storing almost a decade’s worth of receipts containing full, unmasked card numbers next to its laundry room."

This appears to be referring to paper receipts, of the kind that can't be stolen from a networked computer and would take far too long to sort through to make stealing them worthwhile even if someone actually managed to break in and find them. Storing them for so long in an insecure manner may not be the best idea, but how does this compare to, to throw out a random example, Verizon putting 6 million customer records on an unsecured cloud server? https://www.theverge.com/2017/7/12/15962520/verizon-nice-systems-data-breach-exposes-millions-customer-records

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Living in space basically shoves a warp drive into your blood stream

Cuddles
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Re: Prevention is better than cure.

"This may require some refinement (to say the least). The human bodies are not very keen on very strong magnetic fields. Ditto for a lot of equipment. There is also the issue of powering the superconducting coils."

That's not so much of a problem, shaping magnetic fields is pretty trivial, so it would be easy to design a system that had the external field required while keeping the field inside close to zero.

As for powering superconductors, firstly they're talking about fields of around 1 T to block the solar wind, which could be done with permanent magnets and no power required at all. But more importantly, the thing about superconductors is that they don't actually need a lot of power to run. Zero, in fact, by definition. Superconducting magnets on Earth require a lot of power because it's hard work to keep them cold; in space that's fairly trivial, and there are plenty of satellites and probes already using cryogenic cooling with no need for nuclear power to be involved.

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Cuddles
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Re: Prevention is better than cure.

"Shielding doesn't just have to be metal, we can look into the ablative, reflecting and absorbing properties of other materials like plastics or minerals."

We've already looked into such things plenty. Indeed, simple concrete is very popular for radiation shielding in places where you can just stick a big wall up and not have to worry about things like size and weight. The problem is that radiation doesn't particularly care what the material used is, it's all down to how many atoms there are in the way and how big those atoms are, ie., how likely a given particle is to actually hit something. A less dense material with smaller nuclei needs a much greater volume to give the same shielding, and the overall mass will be pretty much equivalent*.

As for magnets, there's certainly potential for shielding from lower energy particles such as those in the solar wind, but as that article notes it's really not feasible for stopping higher energy particles. Higher energies mean stronger magnets are needed to make a significant difference to a particle's direction; there's a reason the LHC is 26 km long, and that's with some of the best magnets we're capable of making. Hence the final quote:

"Getting in a tin can with a rocket on your back and flying to Mars is never going to be a safe thing to do"

* Collision cross-section doesn't scale linearly with nucleus mass, so the total mass would likely be a bit smaller.

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Cuddles
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Re: Prevention is better than cure.

"If the ISS had... thicker shielding"

Oddly enough, thicker shielding doesn't necessarily help, and can actually make things much worse. High energy particles tend to pass through things without depositing much energy in them; you're generally better off not getting hit by them, but as long as there aren't too many they probably won't do too much damage. If you put a lump of metal in front of them, instead of a single particle with very high energy, you now get a big shower of lower energy particles, resulting in much more of the energy being dumped in a shorter distance. Unless you make the metal thick enough to actually absorb the whole particle shower, probably meaning at least a couple of metres depending on the exact metal and the composition of the radiation, you can end up harming the people inside much more than if they were effectively unshielded.

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So thoughtful. Uber says it won't track you after you leave their vehicles

Cuddles
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Re: Makes me laugh...

"I use Android on BlackBerry. No problem turning off individual rights in each application. I'd assumed this was standard in Android, but obviously not."

It is standard, and has been since Android 5 or 6. It's not a lot of help with background tracking though, since most of the apps involved have a good reason to want your location some of the time and won't work if you don't allow it - Uber need to know where you are in order to pick you up, the problem is that once you've allowed them that permission they can use it any time they like. Even making it more obvious when an app is doing this, as Apple are planning, doesn't really help, since there's still nothing you can do about it other than refusing to use the app in question, and it's clear most people aren't actually willing to do that.

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We're not the 'world leader' in electric cars, Nissan insists

Cuddles
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Worldwide?

"Nissan then quoted figures from... the UK"

Maybe I'm missing something, but quoting figures from a single country to defend your claim of being the best (or even just one of the best) in the whole world doesn't really seem like much of a defence.

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Is it possible to control Amazon Alexa, Google Now using inaudible commands? Absolutely

Cuddles
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"Naturally, this defence immediately becomes a denial-of-service vulnerability, and so it goes."

On the plus side, disabling voice-activated IoT nonsense may well be considered a feature, not a bug.

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Another dimension, new galaxy. Intergalactic planar-tary: Join us on our 3D NAND journey

Cuddles
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FAIL

Re: "back it up to a second HDD"

"Magnetic is not backup, it is storage.

Optical or tape is the only true backup medium."

I guess it's a good job tape isn't magnetic then.

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Scientists measure magnetic field around most distant galaxy yet

Cuddles
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Re: Obviously I am a bit thick here

"Accepting that magnetic fields rotate (polarise) light, how (not) on earth did they establish the base line to measure how much it had been polarised by?"

Polarisation isn't simply rotation. Any single photon* has a polarisation - the direction the electric and magnetic fields are oscillating in as it travels. But when we talk about polarisation in general that refers to how much the photons in a big group tend to line up with each other. Black body radiation such as that from stars (as well as most other ways of producing light such as fluorescence) produce photons with no preferred orientation, so overall the light is unpolarised. When that light passes through a magnetic field, it doesn't simply rotate them all by the same amount but rather the rotation depends on how aligned they were with the field to start with, resulting in the light overall gaining a preferred direction of polarisation. So it's not necessary to establish some kind of baseline since the baseline is no polarisation at all, and you can analyse the magnetic field it must have passed through by seeing if there is any polarisation at all.

* Or waves, polarisation works equally well in classical and quantum viewpoints.

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US Navy develops underwater wireless battery-charging tech

Cuddles
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Where's the advantage?

"But recharging batteries by either landing or docking with a surface ship to recharge “expose the warfighter and impose limitations on remote autonomous operations.”"

How exactly will recharging by docking with the underwater part of a surface ship help matters? This won't be broadcast power, but very short-range effectively contact-based charging same as the mobile charger used to inspire the idea. There are quite possibly benefits in being able to charge in the water without having to haul the thing out and break waterproof seals to plug it in (although wireless charging tends to be much slower so turnaround time probably wouldn't improve much), but it will still be subject to exactly the same exposure and limitations currently experienced when cuddling up to a ship or base station in order to charge.

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Nasty firmware update butchers Samsung smart TVs so bad, they have to be repaired

Cuddles
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Re: Samsung computer monitors don't have this problem

"Do they come in five foot versions? Curved screen? Multiple HDMI inputs?"

Well yes, obviously. For the most part those kinds of things come to monitors before they arrive in TVs, especially when it comes to choice of inputs. You might struggle to find a monitor much more than 50", since you're generally expected to sit closer and not need the really crazy sizes (they do exist, but tend to be billed as conferencing monitors and be somewhat lacking in features), but for the most part a TV is just a monitor with lower refresh rate and less input options.

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Cuddles
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Re: Bricked TVs

"I could say "this is the last Samsung I will buy" but they're all like that. Big screen, shit contents - an inseparable combination for modern TVs."

And yet I've recently managed to buy a perfectly functional modern dumb TV. "Smart" TVs (scare quotes definitely needed) are a bit more common, but it's not at all difficult to find a perfectly good dumb screen with a few inputs for the upgradeable smart devices of your choice (or just an aerial socket if that's the way you roll). They're available from all the major manufacturers, and there will generally be at least a couple of examples high in the results if you just do a general search for "TV" on Amazon.

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Forget trigonometry, 'cos Babylonians did it better 3,700 years ago – by counting in base 60!

Cuddles
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Nothing to do with fingers

People have come up with all kinds of clever ways of counting in various different bases using their fingers and/or other body parts, but there's no evidence that any base system was developed because of the ability to do so. Indeed, the fact that it's possible to count in so many different bases rather suggests no such preference even makes much sense. The best explanation for why different bases have been preferred at different times is exactly the same as why different languages, alphabets, and so on have also been used at different times - coincidence and habit. A language or numerical system or whatever evolves naturally, and then people keep using it because it's what they're used to, until it evolves into something else or gets pushed out by a new system for a variety of different reasons.

As for the article itself, the tablet is interesting but the comparison to trigonometry makes no sense at all. The whole point of trigonometric functions is that they are the ratios of the sides of triangles (OK, it gets a bit more complicated, but that's how they were first developed). In fact, the Babylonian method is clearly more primitive since they only address special cases, much like the Egyptians and others who also knew a bit about triangles long before Pythagoras*. The big deal with trigonometry is that you're no longer stuck with a few special cases and laborious tables, but can instead use general functions to handle any case you like.

* Pythagoras himself quite possibly knowing nothing about triangles at all, with no evidence linking him with mathematics at all until over five centuries after he died.

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'Driverless' lorry platoons will soon be on a motorway near you

Cuddles
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"Great!, And how do they get to and from the "major roads" I wonder?"

They'll be driven there by the drivers that all the lorrys will have. The convoy part only means the back lorries will copy the front one's (which is entirely manual) acceleration and braking, the steering will be done by a human who will still have full manual control when needed. The eventual plan might involve more automation, but these first tests are basically just adaptive cruise control with feed-forward instead of just feedback.

As for the complaints that they could just use a train, the problem with trains, and Australian-style road trains, is that they're limited in where they can go and everything always has to end up at a central terminal before being loaded onto other vehicles for local distribution. The advantage of convoying regular lorries is that they can get similar fuel savings while on major trunk roads, but split away to different destinations as and when required.

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Uncle Sam outlines evidence against British security whiz Hutchins

Cuddles
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"an interrogation that basically ignored his fundamental rights"

The trouble with fundamental rights in the USA is that if you're not from the USA, you don't have them. There are a few parts of the constitution that have been successfully argued to apply to everyone in the country (hence places like Guantanamo, which aren't in the country), but most of the protections only apply to US citizens. So while such treatment may breach what you think his rights should be or the rights an American would have in the same situation, it's entirely possible that it was all entirely legal and will easily hold up in court. It's not a sloppy investigation, they just know exactly what they're able to get away with while obeying the letter of the law.

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Kill animals and destroy property before hurting humans, Germany tells future self-driving cars

Cuddles
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"Great! Now what about amounts? Does 2 adults trump a child?"

Not sure why you bring up things like the Queen, given that's already covered by the "not discriminating against anyone" part - if it's a choice between hitting the Queen or hitting a single other human, the car isn't allowed to choose based on the fact that one of them is the Queen. But as you note, there are an awful lot of situations that aren't a simple 1 vs. 1 choice, and automated cars will inevitably be required to discriminate between who they kill based on some criteria. Blindly legislating that they're not allowed to make a choice over who to save can't prevent situations arising that will require exactly that.

Of course, the bigger problem is that this isn't a question people agree on in the first place. It's all just variations of the Trolley Problem - a runaway train is heading towards 5 people on a track, if you pull a switch you can divert it to a different track with only 1 person standing on it; do you pull the switch or not? In this bare problem, most people will say you should pull the switch, but not all even agree on that. Throw some complications into the mix and things get, well, complicated. Basic complications such as changing the number of people or saying the lone person is your partner, the 5 are clones of Hitler, and so on, can be relatively easy to deal with if you agree on the base problem, and the latter two are the sorts of things that would be covered by the recommendations given here. But things like removing the lone person from the track and instead saying you have to personally murder them in order to reach the switch can make huge differences in how people view the problem, and that's exactly the sort of scenario that's most analogous to the issues autonomous cars will face.

Long story short, we're trying to decide how autonomous cars should behave without actually agreeing on how humans would or should behave in an identical scenario, and in the absence of a universally agreed objective morality, it's not going to be an easy issue to solve.

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Seriously, friends. You suck at driving. Get a computer behind the wheel to save your life

Cuddles
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"Better driver augmentation rather than driver automation makes sense"

What confuses me is why people insist on thinking there's a difference. It reminds me rather sadly of creationists who insist on distinguishing between micro-evolution and macro-evolution. Even creationists can't deny the many changes we can see actively happening in organisms on a human timescale, so they came up with the rather odd idea that small changes are incapable of adding up to big changes - even if we can see some changes as they happen, they can never amount to a whole new species.

Cars are really no different. Augmentation is simply a step along the way to full automation. If you keep automating more and more parts of the driving process, it's pretty much inevitable that you will eventually find the driver is no longer actually necessary, or is even actively detrimental. It's not easy to say how quickly it will happen, and personally I think most proponents of automatic cars are far too optimistic on that front, but it truly baffles me how people can see a constant stream of automation being added - ABS, cruise control, active cruise control and automatic braking, lane warnings, automatic lane steering, automatic parking, etc., etc. - and yet still insist that there must be some vital spark that can never be reproduced artificially.

Focusing on incrementally adding more augmentation until we can take the drivers away rather than trying to jump directly to full automation may well make sense, but saying we should go with augmentation instead of automation really doesn't.

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Reality strikes Dixons Carphone's profits after laughing off Brexit threat

Cuddles
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Re: Why?

"They've sold the phone, they've got commission from the network, why would it hit their profits when people go on holiday for a week or two?"

Presumably it's that commission that is the issue. Networks anticipate losing income, therefore retailers get offered lower commissions on sales. Given how easy it is to buy a phone through a network, or just from Amazon or often directly from the manufacturer, retailers like Dicphone have a seriously weak negotiating position; about all they can do is accept whatever a network says and pray they don't change it any further.

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AccuWeather: Our app slurped your phone's location via Wi-Fi but we like totally didn't use it

Cuddles
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Re: An argument for simpler engineering

"Anyone brave enough to poke around in Android's internals"

What do Android's internals have to do with this article about privacy issues with an iOS app?

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Verizon kicks out hot new Unlimited* plans

Cuddles
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Re: Not sure what your issue is...

"And, that affects us Americans how?"

You appeared surprised that people would consider $75 excessive for a heavily limited mobile service that restricts their ability to watch video to be expensive or unacceptable. The simple fact I pointed out is that that is, in fact, far more expensive and far more limited than the majority of the developed world expects. Your title says you're not sure what everyone's issue is; the issue is that you are being massively ripped off. You may not have a problem paying through the nose for such substandard service, but many people do. And bear in mind this is coming from someone in the UK, which is something of a laughingstock itself when it comes to both mobile and wired internet provision.

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Cuddles
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Re: Not sure what your issue is...

"720P isn't high enough for live video?

For $75 a month?

Seriously?"

Yes, seriously. That's more than double what I'd pay here in the UK for an actual unlimited contract with no throttling or caps of any kind. And for which the USA is one of the countries I can travel to while still enjoying the same lack of of limits (other than tethering being restricted abroad). My current plan costs less than a quarter of that, and while it does have a limit on total download, there is still no throttling or limit on what I can use that data for. Streaming 4K video might hit my monthly cap rather quickly, but it's no-one's business but my own if I choose to do that.

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Who needs 5G? Qualcomm, Ericsson and Verizon hit 1Gbps with LTE gear

Cuddles
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Finally

1 Gbps was the original standard for 4G, so it's nice to see we've finally got there. Only 8 years late, and in a manner that will never be seen outside the lab. Progress!

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