* Posts by Suricou Raven

1538 posts • joined 20 Jun 2007

Web hacker 'Alfabeto Virtual' thrown in the clink for 3 months by US judge who wanted to 'send a message'

Suricou Raven

Re: Three months in jail?

Three months is just long enough to cost someone their job. Twelve months would likely cost them their house and family, and render them effectively unable to find employment. A troublesome hacker goes in, and an angry hacker with a grudge against the government, a new set of criminal connections and nothing left to lose comes out. Sometimes long prison terms can be counterproductive.

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

Suricou Raven

Re: Goodbye Youtube?

Standard political process: Pass a law which is ridiculously overbroad, and then trust in the CPS to decide when it should be ignored.

Only plebs use Office 2019 over Office 365, says Microsoft's weird new ad campaign

Suricou Raven


Eventually the web of internal politics is going to resolve the issue - someone higher up the chain will wonder why the company is producing two products that are in direct competition. Perhaps this anti-Office-2019 ad is part of the preparations to eventually abandon the office suite altogether, after first nudging those users onto Office 365.

Suricou Raven


Or they want off the upgrade treadmill. Microsoft's traditional model only worked if customers needed to routinely update to the latest version, and so pay for it - but is that still true? Look how many years it took them to drive customers off of XP, and Windows Seven is still in common usage. Office is the same: For a lot of customers, Office 2000 would still do everything they need, and Office 2013 is good enough for almost all.

In software, if you make a good-enough product, you deprive yourself of the chance to sell later versions. People won't pay to move away from what works without a very good reason.

Raspberry Pi Foundation says its final farewells to 40nm with release of Compute Module 3+

Suricou Raven

For the cost advantage of using a mass-produced connector, I would assume.

World's favourite open-source PDF interpreter needs patching (again)

Suricou Raven

Re: Hardly surprising.

PDF incorporates postscript, but PDF is not postscript.

PDF is, at core, a container format. It contains objects. Some of these objects are postscript documents (Or rather, a simplified subset of postscript) which define the drawing of pages. Other objects are resources that this postscript can call upon, such as fonts or images. There are also objects involved in various extensions such as edit protection, version management or metadata.

Prior to PDF, postscript was rather cumbersome to use: It depended upon your document renderer (be it software, or firmware in your printer) having all of the required fonts installed, and being able to render images. This sort of worked, but if might mean that your postscript printed slightly differently on different printers because they used different fonts. PDF was intended to solve this by taking that postscript and bundling it into a file with all the fonts required, and limiting which features could be used to ensure compatibility. It actually worked very well, which is why it became so popular. It also added navigation data and dependency rules that make it possible to view any page at random - you don't run into problems rendering page 78 because it refers back to a template from page 60 which incorporates a logo from page 112, another curse of postscript.

Inside of PDF though, it's a horror. A horror which people are shielded from by libraries: Programmers need only call upon libpdf to extract those resources as needed, and need not look into the abyss.

How bad is it? Consider this: PDF supports single-byte ASCII encoding, and two-byte UTF-16 encoding, for strings. These may be freely mixed within one string, using escape codes to switch between them. This weird method is used because PDF predates the introduction of UTF-8. It means that you cannot use any of the common string-handling functions when working on raw PDF objects.

Suricou Raven

Hardly surprising.

Look at the specifications for PDF. It's unholy. A tangled mass of extensions-to-extensions-to-extensions, built upon a foundation of encodings that are seen no-where else and technologies that have been obsolete since the 90s. The only place I've seen where single and double angle brackets are both used as delimiters, and can appear consecutively.

I can hear the light! Boffins beam audio into ears with freakin' lasers

Suricou Raven


I think someone lost a few zeros.

More nodding dogs green-light terrible UK.gov pr0n age verification plans

Suricou Raven

Re: Just like buying a magazine.

It's not law. It's policy. Legally, if a fifteen-year-old and their sixteen-year-old partner have sex, then it's an act of statutory rape and punishable by a very, very long time in prison. In practice, there is a longstanding Home Office policy regarding such situations: That prosecution should not be considered in the public interest.

So it's still illegal, it's just not enforced.

Heard the one where the boss calls in an Oracle consultant who couldn't fix the database?

Suricou Raven

Re: Need a little personal help here

I've heard a story in circulation regarding a stock exchange installing a email/web filtering system to keep out anything which might leave them exposed to legal troubles for harassment or a hostile work environment. The story goes that it was turned on, and five minutes later someone from the trading floor bursts through the door screaming "Turn it off, we were trading rape futures!'

Ready for Glasto-net? Cheap, local low-power networks up for grabs in the UK

Suricou Raven

Re: Local Network for local people

It's not just the spectrum. You'd need to pay for a business connection that comes with permission to resell, plus you'd need to contract a legal firm to handle compliance issues and the inevitable discovery requests, takedown notices, police requests for information, etc. Some businesses really benefit from economy of scale, and internet service is one of them.

Suricou Raven

Here's an idea.

The 2.4GHz band is the most efficiently utilised, right?

Could it be extended a tiny bit? Just enough to give us 'channel 14,' the uppermost part of the band which is available for unlicensed use in some countries but not in the UK. Most wireless network gear is already physically capable of using it, it's just configured in crippled Brit-mode by default.

Oh Deer! Poacher sentenced to 12 months of regular Bambi screenings in the cooler

Suricou Raven

Re: This is silly.

Electing or appointing, they both have their own problems. Electing leads to debacles like this, where judges put on strange shows for the public, or who brag openly about how they will ignore precedent to pass the rulings the people want regardless of what the law says. Appointing leads to politicians pledging they will elect judges who will do exactly the same thing, advocating the party positions and using their power to rule the way their political sponsors want regardless of what the law says, and judges knowing that the only way to advance to the top ranks is to pick a side and show loyalty to it in their rulings.

Just look at the US supreme court mess: Everyone talks of a liberal judge or a conservative judge, because they know that a neutral judge just means one that both parties would reject - if such a rare creature can even be found at all.

Both options suck, but I can't think of any alternatives, so... pick your poison.

Suricou Raven

This is silly.

I sense a judge who wants to do something unusual and thus newsworthy to boost his public prominence. This sort of 'creative' sentencing may look great in the press, but it's also inviting an appeal. Forced viewing of Bambi may not be cruel, but it's certainly unusual, and that's quite dubious enough. Plus this 'personal touch' call the impartiality of the judge into question by suggesting they care too much about the nature of the crime rather than seeking to just apply the law free of their own bias.

Question: How fast is the Windows 10 October 2018 Update rolling out? Answer: Not very

Suricou Raven

Re: Whats with all the masochism

Yes, and what are you going to do about it? Convince your business full of users who are vaguely aware that 'the round icon is the internet' to use linux? People don't use Windows because they like it, they use it because it's awful but the alternatives are worse.

'Massage parlour' location looks like Amazon stealth-testing secret new wireless network

Suricou Raven

Re: FCC captured

There's a pecking order on spectrum allocations.

1. The military.

2. Civil government.

3. Industry with deep pockets who want exclusive spectrum to provide a commercial service.

4. Certain things established by international agreement back when spectrum was plentiful enough to give away for free: ISM and ham.

5. Scientific use.

Angry Googlers demand bosses pull the wings off 'Dragonfly' censored Chinese search engine

Suricou Raven

Something of a pointless refusal.

The objectors seem to think that without the mighty power of Google, China's censorship efforts will be impaired. Not true: China already has a very popular, fully censored domestic search engine, Baidu. It also runs advertising.

Short of some form of Grand Scheme involving decentralised self-organising networks of Android phones flooding China, Google's actions aren't going to affect China's censorship policy much either way. Either people in China will be using a censored Google, or a censored Baidu.

Censored Google is probably better. At least Google is likely to do the minimum censoring and tracking they are required by law in China, while domesticly-owned companies go beyond that.

LG: Fsck everything, we're doing 16 lenses in smartphones (probably)

Suricou Raven

Familiar optics.

That lens array looks a lot like the optics of a light field camera. Those are bulky though - has LG somehow managed to squeeze one down into a phone-friendly package? It'd be useful if they have, because they could dump all the focusing optics and do that purely in software, and do it better than hardware could too.

China doesn't need to nick western tech when Google is giving it away

Suricou Raven

So whose is it?

When a private company invests in making something of potential commercial value, who actually gets to control it? Is it the company? Or is it the country in which that company is based?

Open source has long celebrated publishing new technology for the benefit of all mankind. I don't think developers - or businesses out to make a profit - particularly care to get dragged into contests between rival countries.

Alphabet gives bipedal robots the Schaft 'cos no one wants to buy its creepy machine maker

Suricou Raven

Re: After the Google acquisition, it completely clammed up

Pedantically, canonically, some Daleks can fly. It depends upon the model of chassis, which in turn depends upon when they are encountered. Early model Daleks could not fly, but they revised their design to fix that flaw once their technology advanced sufficiently.

A new Raspberry Pi takes a bow with all of the speed but less of the RAM

Suricou Raven

Re: This is good.

The original pis, the first generation ones, did use linear regulators. The current revisions uses switching regulators. This was made possible because the production volume grew large enough to have some custom silicon manufactured - a chip which combines all three of the needed regulators into one package, and brings the component count down to an affordable level. It's actually remarkably efficient, but it does make running off of 3.3V rather difficult.

The processor has hardware support for a lot of power management features, including powering down the video - or even powering down entire cores when not in use. Hardware support, but not software support. This capability has been requested many times, but the Pi foundation has concluded they lack the resources to support such advanced and hardware-specific capabilities which would need a lot of kernel modification work.

Suricou Raven

Re: This is good.

The Pi 3 has no less then three switching regulators on board - but they are all operated by a single controller. That's how they got the cost down.

The first pis did use a linear regulator, but recent revisions are all switching.

Suricou Raven

Depends on the work. The Pi has interfaces for I2C and SPI - which may mean nothing to people coming from the PC side, but electronics tinkers recognise those as 'I can plug fifty ADCs, DACs, TFT displays and IO expanders into there' ports. What the Pi lacks is really high-throughput IO, but I don't know if the processor would be up to handling the sheer processing demands of anything faster than USB2 anyway.

SATA would be nice, though. But it'd mean a custom processor. Pricy.

Suricou Raven

Re: This is good.

Us low-power/embedded people are annoyed at the 5V too - but in the other direction. We'd really like to be able to operate a Pi of of 3.3V, which it nearly can already - the processor is a 3.3V component, all the GPIO pins are 3.3V, including the UART. Unfortunately we can't, because the 1.8V for the memory is derived from the 5V rail via a buck converter just like the 3.3V.

If you could power a pi on 3.3V alone it would simplify running it off battery considerably and allow for the use of more efficient power supply circuitry. (li-ion -> 3.3V, rather than li-ion -> 5V -> 3.3V, which adds an extra conversion step where power is unavoidably wasted).

Incidentally, you don't have to power the Pi via micro-USB: The GPIO header includes pins for 5V supply input.

Suricou Raven

This is good.

The hub-and-ethernet chip is a real power-sucker. Getting rid of it should substantially reduce power demands. Looks like it sits somewhere between the 3B and the Zero.

Bright spark dev irons out light interference

Suricou Raven

It's called a choke.

Ferrite choke, used to block common-mode current. It doesn't stop all interference, only high-frequency common-mode interference. Fortunately in this case, that must have been the type of interference causing the problem.

It works the other way too - if a device is generating interference, a choke in the right place will greatly reduce the strength of that interference. Be nice to your local ham radio operators and just stick chokes everywhere, please.

Has science gone too far? Now boffins dream of shining gigantic laser pointer into space to get aliens' attention

Suricou Raven

Re: How would they know?


Any alien looking at that would go "That's a weird star, I should watch it." After a few hours recording the signal they should realise it's unmistakably intelligent in origin.

Suricou Raven

Re: This won't end well...

They've observed our world, they just classified it under "no intelligent life."

Pain in the brain! Kaspersky warns of hackable brain implants

Suricou Raven

Poking wires through skin is poor design - they are prone to damage and infection. Implant engineers use it when there's no other option, but the preference is for short-range wireless connection using something like coupled coils.

Pirate radio = drug dealing and municipal broadband is anti-competitive censorship

Suricou Raven

No, it's only ironic if intentionally so - deliberately saying the opposite of what one means to make a point. Perfectly valid rhetorical technique. You can't be unintentionally ironic. This is just plain old deceptive naming.

From today, it's OK in the US to thwart DRM to repair your stuff – if you keep the tools a secret

Suricou Raven

There is one exception to the certificate of occupancy I should mention: The Amish. They successfully argued that requiring their homes to meet basic livability and safety requirements would infringe upon their first amendment right to free exercise of religion, as their religious beliefs prohibit any dependence upon materials or services from outside the community. Like fire-retardant chemical treatment for timber, or connection to utility grids.

Suricou Raven

This is correct, but it's not a state law thing - it's a local law thing. To live in a house, or to sell or rent it as a living space, you need a certificate of occupancy (at least in the US, not sure how it works in the UK). Both state and county law determine the minimum requirements for livability - fire codes, electrical codes, etc. In many counties this includes that the building must be connected to the public utility networks (These are typically built-up counties, and may have an exception for buildings which are outside of the area served by these networks) for power, water, sewage and gas.

It's not that the government is trying to fight off-grid homes. It's just that off-grid homes are such an unusual thing that the law makes no accommodation for them. It's a real bother for people who want independent solar capability - both because they end up paying for a grid power connection they don't need,and because the local wiring codes often mandate that they use a grid-tie inverter with automatic shutdown for safety reasons - which means if the grid is disrupted for any reason, their solar power system shuts off as well, rather defeating the object of off-grid capability.

Suricou Raven

Re: DRM didn't protect anything, ever.

I think most here can agree that almost every movie to come out of hollywood is crap. But there's a strange thing to consider: They still make money. A lot of money. Opening-weekend records are broken on a regular basis, and for some movies that alone is enough to cover the entire production cost. Cinema attendance is actually recovering from the crater caused by the rise of home viewing. Disc sales are going strong, streaming is booming. Even the movies which critics agree to be utterly abysmal in every possible way are raking in the cash - like the Transformers franchise.

I really was hoping that piracy would kill hollywood, but it's just not happening.

Should a robo-car run over a kid or a grandad? Healthy or ill person? Let's get millions of folks to decide for AI...

Suricou Raven

The most hated people in society.

I notice that dogs came out more valued than criminals. This does not surprise me at all. Society needs someone to hate, someone who people can feel good about wanting to hurt, and criminals fit that bill. To the point where many react with disgust to the possibility of rehabilitation efforts - they'd rather see someone slowly tortured for decades at taxpayer expense than given the chance to reform.

Can 'blockchain' mobe Exodus stem movement of HTC's Jah people?

Suricou Raven


Decentralisation includes, but is not limited to, cryptocurrency. There are a lot of decentralisation technologies that are potentially quite a lot more useful to deploy, if they really want to. If they put in a torrent or IPFS client, for example, combined with LTE D2D or wireless peer-to-peer mode communication, and made a few tweaks to the app update mechanism, then nearby phones could share updates - saving the user the billable network traffic.

UK.gov to press ahead with online smut checks (but expects £10m in legals in year 1)

Suricou Raven

Re: Leisure Suit Larry

"If you wanna be my lover, you have to learn to ____?"

"Name a children's costumed entertainer with yellow spots and googly eyes."

"What do the letters 'LGPS' on a payslip stand for?"

Chinese biz baron wants to shove his artificial moon where the sun doesn't shine – literally

Suricou Raven

Re: Eight times brighter than the Moon?

I wonder how hard it would be to alter that albedo a little. Perhaps a few lunar-orbit mirrors focusing concentrated light to melt and reflow the surface?

UK Foreign Office offers Assange a doctor if he leaves Ecuador embassy

Suricou Raven

His paranoia is understandable. And justified.

He was involved in the release of highly sensitive information which reflected poorly on a superpower. A superpower which, in recent years, had shown itsself willing to resort to secret kidnappings and off-the-records prisons, and to detain people indefinitely without charge of trial. If I were in his place, I'd suspect the US was plotting to get hold of me too. He may well even be right.

Just because you are paranoid doesn't mean they aren't out to get you.

(Doesn't make him less of a general arse, though.)

UN's freedom of expression top dog slams European copyright plans

Suricou Raven


Going by hash doesn't. It's trivial to fool. Just change one character in some field of the metadata and you are through. You can solve this by using a perceptual hash, which looks for similarity, but that introduces a new problem of an impractically high false positive rate.

Let's say you have a ridiculously good filter with a false match rate of one in ten million. Unfortunately the copyright holders of the world have submitted more then ten million works for you to check, so just about everything now flags as infringing. This is the situation with youtube's content ID. Anyone who has uploaded more than a handful of videos can tell you the story of how something perfectly innocuous still set the filter off, and the pain of youtube's fully-automated appeals process.

Smart bulbs turn dumb: Lights out for Philips as Hue API goes dark

Suricou Raven

You used to be able to do brightness control with a phase-chopper circuit, commonly known as a 'dimmer switch.'

Then CFLs and LEDs came along. LEDs are dimmable too, but they require a completely different type of brightness control circuit that isn't compatible.

Suricou Raven

The bulb has only one channel of communication in the event of network failure by which it could show an error code. Blink codes. It'll be the old BIOS-beep thing all over again.

One short, two long, one short, pause... Ok, that means... incorrect supply voltage? Oh, no, that's the reference book for the Amazon brand, this is a Phillips brand. Which means the code means... it's not on the chart! Or is this chart for the first revision? No, they changed the codes on bulbs after 2021, so... got it. One short, two long, one short, pause means "Unspecified error." Screw that, I'm getting an old-fashioned manual bulb.

Suricou Raven

Installation issues. Few potential customers are willing to work on their own house electrical system, and paying an electrician to come and install it is expensive and inconvenient - that would greatly reduce the appeal of the product. Changing a light bulb is something that anyone can do, and feel comfortable in their ability to do.

Russia to Apple: Kill Telegram crypto-chat – or the App Store gets it

Suricou Raven

I do not imagine Apple will take long.

Apple's purpose is commercial, not activist. They aren't going to throw away a market as large as Russia over this. They may drag their feet a while for the sake of PR - they don't want to be seen as rolling over for dictators too easily - but if it's a choice between blocking telegram or being unable to do business in Russia, it's no choice for them at all.

International Maritime Organisation turns salty gaze on regulating robotic shipping

Suricou Raven

Re: Tortuga bound

A pirate doesn't need to control the ship, just stop it long enough for their looting team to take the cargo and run before authorities get their own ship in the area. I can see many ways to do that:

- Stop your boat just in front of the ship so the collision avoidance kicks in.

- Locate the emergency stop button.

- Apply sledgehammer to anything important-looking in the engine room.

- Apply regular hammer to just the right place in the engine room.

The latter two methods may require use of an angle grinder or cutting torch to gain access to something sufficiently critical. Engine ideally, but failing that any anxiliary system relating to engine electrical power, navigation, cooling, lubrication, etc.

America's comms watchdog takes on the internet era's real criminals: Pirate pastors

Suricou Raven

Playing with fire.

Christian leaders in the US have a serious persecution complex, and a willingness to sue. To them, any government action against them is serious oppression and must be fought. I would not be at all surprised if one of the churches takes the FCC to court, arguing that their first amendment rights of speech and religion are being violated. They'd lose, but it could be one of those cases that drags on for years. Especially as they could just point to any non-Christian pirate station and argue 'the FCC went after me, not them, so they must be targeting me for my religious content.'

Do not underestmate the fearsome power of the Christian legal groups.

There was a case finished in California just last week - a few Christian bible study groups had been taking over the communal area at a retirement community four times a week to hold hundred-person-plus bible study and praise sessions. When their regular crowds made it impossible for anyone else to use the area, the homeowners association ordered them to desist. Christians sued, claiming that this order violated state non-discrimination law. Not only did the churches get the legal right to take over the communal area for their groups, they also won damages from the homeowner's association for infliction of emotional distress.

Blood spilled from another US high school shooting has yet to dry – and video games are already being blamed

Suricou Raven

Re: Early information

Look at it from the gun owner's perspective. Gun safes are great if you have a gun for sport or hunting, but a lot of people who buy guns value them a weapons for personal defence. A gun safe ruins that - if you anticipate having to fend off a home invasion, you won't have time for getting to the safe, fumbling with the lock in the dark, unpacking and carefully loading the ammunition. You want that gun ready and loaded in a place you can grab it, like a bedside drawer. Grab gun, flick safety, defend family.

Or, you know, you could just sneak out the back and call the police rather than declaring yourself judge, jury and executioner. But that doesn't satisfy people's craving for independence or their hero fantasy.

UK age-checking smut overlord won't be able to handle the pressure – critics

Suricou Raven

Re: OK, who's going to start the League of Digital Woodland Porn Fairies?

The new 'porn log' will be the secret facebook group that the popular kids share at school. Until the staff eventually overhear, anguish occurs, the group is closed down and a new one created.

Suricou Raven

Especially for those who work in sensitive professions - child care, education, certain fields of medicine, politics. If it gets out that such people have looked at porn, it's a probable firing. A certain firing if it's even remotely kinky.

Suricou Raven

Re: Progressive liberal politicians.

There are politicians both liberal and conservative who desire to ban pornography. Their policies are the same, though the reasoning behind them is very different.

Suricou Raven

Re: OK, who's going to start the League of Digital Woodland Porn Fairies?

The technology has already been built - it's called a Piratebox.

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