* Posts by Chris Fox

95 posts • joined 23 Jun 2007

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China's Great Firewall to crack down on unofficial VPNs – state-approved net connections only

Chris Fox

Re: SSL

"Genuinely curious as to what is stopping someone renting a VPS with an SSL VPN on it that's hosted outside Middle Kingdom? How would it be any different than a visitor from abroad using their corporate Juniper SSL VPN or DirectAccess tunnel?"

One difference might be that someone living in China could find they start facing problems when attempting to pay for or use a "banned" service provided from outside China. In practice the authorities only need to hint that using external "unauthorised" VPNs could get you into serious trouble for it to deter those who might otherwise be politically active. And this is probably one of the main goals.

8
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UK Home Secretary signs off on Lauri Love's extradition to US

Chris Fox

Re: Extradition

"US citizens have been extradited to the UK."

But have any US citizens been extradited for crimes committed *while in the US*? The article quoted suggests not... I would also not rush to treat the Baker report, or the opinions and assertions of the Home Affairs Select Committee as "fact", e.g. regarding the controversial claim that "little or no distinction in practice between the 'probable cause' and 'reasonable suspicion' tests", which many consider to be one of the fundamental sources of asymmetry. It seems to be standard operating practice for such reports and committee hearings to endorse the status quo, covering over issues of legitimate concern with a thick layer of white-wash enriched with a dash of sophistry.

In this particular case there are further asymmetries; the available penalties are radically different, and the US Love would appear to face not one but three separate trials in three different jurisdictions, in a prosecution and "defence" culture that bullies individuals to plea bargain. There is a precedent for vulnerable individuals committing suicide in such circumstances, even when they are not also facing the additional problem of being stuck in the prisons, and legal systems of a foreign country.

This just looks like an extension of the rendition programme, given that the case could have been taken up by the CPS, rather than the police handing everything over to US law enforcement, seemingly to enable harsh treatment that would be considered unacceptable in the UK. This is not justice.

2
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'Trust it': Results of Signal's first formal crypto analysis are in

Chris Fox

What about Conversations?

I won't use Signal due to its reliance on Google Play Services, which is disabled on my phone. The Convesations app seems a better choice for many reasons: it also has double-ratchet encryption with a published spec (OMEMO), as well as OTR and stream management, and complies with open standards, works on self-hosted infrastructure, and does not need Google Play service, while still having very low power requirements. The main thing that prevents Conversations being close to an ideal chat application is that many of the larger providers of XMPP-based services (e.g. Facebook) refuse to support XMPP peering, but then lack of meaningful peering is a problem faced by all chat applications except email and SMS.

3
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Red Hat eye from the Ubuntu guy: Fedora – how you doin'?

Chris Fox

Better fit-and-finish vs vendor hijacking

"It's getting better as a distro, too, benefitting from the improving fit-and-finish of Linux and its manifold supporting components: desktops, applications and their less-obvious underpinnings."

Hm, improved "fit-and-finish"? That's one way of describing the beast that is SystemD, and the dysfunctional way in which Redhat has in effect "captured" key components, such as glib, gtk etc., so that what are supposed to be general purpose, standardised libraries are permitted to have odd, inconsistent, out-of-spec behaviour if it helps or is required by Gnome and SystemD, while happily breaking things for others, and failing to fix reported bugs if they arise outside Redhat's stack. It all seems so depressingly familiar...

3
1

The exploding Note 7 is no surprise – leaked Samsung doc highlights toxic internal culture

Chris Fox
Coat

Re: #nothingtodowithnote7

"clearly corners were skipped to beat the iphone7 to launch."

We already know corners were rounded to beat the iphone, at least according to one judgement.

What a sad world this is were a company can be fined hundreds of millions of dollars for the perceived abuse of daring to infringe spurious patent and design claims, yet can get away with murder when it comes to its treatment of human beings...

35
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Ofcom finds 'reasonable grounds' that KCOM failed to maintain 999 services

Chris Fox

Re: 999 - not in Hull in the 1950s

Not just not in Hull, and not just the 1950s. This was true of a number of places more recently than that. Despite the number officially being "999", on some exchanges your call would be put through to emergency services on the second "9" if there was no ambiguity. This could catch you out. Many UK regions still supported non-area code trunk prefixes into the late 80s: you could hop exchanges using prefixes, many of which started with a "9". You could concatenate exchange prefixes to jump between town and rural exchanges, e.g. 993, where the first 9 set up a link to the local urban centre, then 93 took you to some other smaller town. (This was how it was supposed to work, although ... allegedly... you could abuse it by routing a long-distance call manually over long chains of local exchange links, and avoid paying the then much higher long-distance rates.) But if you used a payphone connected directly to the main urban exchange and forgot to drop the initial 9, then you could find yourself surprised as emergency services picked up the call the instant you finished dialling the second 9. No doubt this all came to an end with the rise of fixed-area codes, and the fall of the Strowger switch, that culminated in Phone Day in 1995.

2
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Complaints against cops down 93% thanks to bodycams – study

Chris Fox

Re: Studying police officers improves their behaviour

"It shows that IF PEOPLE THINK you have a camera, they will behave better."

The "study" does not tell us what people were thinking -- I won't call it an experiment, as it was clearly not even double-blind -- but we do know it involved geographically distinct forces. We also know that apparent placebo effects (and increasingly, nocebo effects) are usually interpreted as bringing into question the experimental hypothesis.

In an experiment where the control shows the same result, that generally suggests any observed change in behaviour cannot be attributed to the controlled variable. Indeed this is the reason for having controls. But in this case it is being reported (with the active encouragement of those involved in the research) as showing that the effect is so powerful that it spreads. If this were an experiment on homeopathic treatment, then this type of sloppy post hoc analysis offered by the researchers would be equivalent to arguing that homeopathic treatment is so powerful it actually cures people in the control group --- perhaps it does, but that would be a very controversial analysis!

There are other aspects of the publicity behind this publication that are concerning, including the conflation of "the number of reports of attacks" with "the number of attacks" (which are *very* different things), and the glossing over of the apparent increase in force used by the police in the camera wearing group, with no analysis of whether this was justified. If this increase in force did not occur in the control group, then that would be the key finding, not the reduction in complaints across experimental and control groups.

As with many things, the impact of body cameras is not at all straightforward.

For another perspective: http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/future_tense/2014/09/ferguson_body_cams_myths_about_police_body_worn_recorders.html

4
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Non-doms pay 10 times more in income tax than average taxpayer group

Chris Fox

There was no referendum on PR

"Sadly the UK voted against the transferable vote"

"Of all the possible PR voting systems, we got that single version offered to us in the full knowledge that it would not be chosen because everyone knew it was not the one that was wanted."

Indeed, the 2011 referendum was on the Alternative Vote (AV), which is not a proportional voting system. It seems bizarre that the referendum was about switching to a voting system that the Jenkins Commission had explicitly rejected, on the grounds that it could be even less proportional than FPTP.

The Commission actually recommended the rather different AV+ additional member system, which is more proportional than FPTP while preserving constituencies. Of course we never got to vote on that far more sensible compromise. The "choice" we ended up being offered was then to keep the flawed status quo, or replace it with something potentially worse (... sounds strangely familiar...).

2
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Chris Fox

What price credibility?

Let me guess, Pinsent Masons is worried it will lose some of its regular non-dom clients, and shamelessly pushes its own agenda by producing a press-release disguised as a (syndicated) news article under the Out-Law brand, with one-sided quotations from its own staff, and not even a half-hearted attempt at balanced analysis. (E.g. how about comparing pennies-in-the-pound, and the break even point for tax income, comparing number of non-dom oligarchs vs oligarchs paying regular tax rates?) It would be difficult to find a better way of undermining the credibility of Out-Law articles. I wonder whether/why The Register was obliged to take this piece.

I guess this is "normal" behaviour for Pinsent Masons: even its WIkipedia entry looks like a self-penned puff piece.

20
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Delete Google Maps? Go ahead, says Google, we'll still track you

Chris Fox

Google Play Services (GPS), the Trojan app

Isn't this the every growing closed "app" into which Google is embedding ever larger chunks of Android functionality, rather like a (closed) SystemD for Android? No doubt at some point it will grow to the point where it *is* effectively Android, at which point Google could dispense with the Linux kernel. (Last time I checked, manufacturers are required to include the app to as a condition of using the Android name.)

Ostensibly this use of the app was to allow patching of devices that were not receiving core Android updates. In practice numerous applications that refuse to run if GPS (the app) is not running, including many official apps such as Google's Gmail and Calendar apps, even though it is not clear why they should break (GMail actually displays emails etc. before popping up a dialogue insisting that the GPS app be re-enabled), or why they cannot fall back onto "open" Android APIs.

It's interesting that Google Maps runs fine without GPS (the app), even though it ostensibly provides supplementary high resolution location services. Looking at the services provided, it seems that GPS (the app) can provide location information even if GPS (the service) is disabled, using WiFi location data. Perhaps the name of the app is no coincidence if both it and Google Maps are phoning home with tracking information.

There are many alternative apps that don't rely on GPS (the app) such as K9, Etar, etc. (and you can use Osmand instead of Maps, and an app to update AGPS data, such as SatStat) but it is rather annoying, and troubling, that many do, including Signal (ironically in the interests of "security", and for push messaging, even though ChatSecure seems to function just fine without it, including deferred delivery for intermittent connections).

[You can run a phone without Google Play Services (for now), but fun may follow if you try to disable to the Google Search App: that breaks the default home screen, leaving you with what appears to be an unbootable brick, until you phone yourself, and re-enable the search app while answering the call (not the most obvious or easy-to-find solution), and then find a launcher that allows Google Search to be disabled.]

4
1

Brit spies and chums slurped 750k+ bits of info on you last year

Chris Fox

Re: 750,000 messages?

... and most people communicate with more than one other person. If a person of interest makes contact with a couple of dozen people using a targeted mechanism (i.e. "one item of data"), then "750k bits of information" could easily see the majority of the UK population under some form of "targeted" surveillance. And if US practice is anything to go by, the scope of some of these "pieces" of information no doubt include the communications of associates with others, perhaps several hops away.

It seems clear that the terminology and mode of counting is a smoke screen: the headline figure makes it seem that all the data collected is just 750k bits (96k bytes). Perhaps, for example, the proceeds of crime legislation could adopt a similar method of accounting, so the powers-that-be need only request one thing: everything that you, your family and all their relatives and friends own.

0
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Man dies after UK police Taser shooting

Chris Fox

Training shots

According to an investigative reports from around the time they were first approved for use by firearms officers in the UK, the Taser shots used on police and others in training are usually at a considerably lower voltage/power than in regular service use against civilians. (This might be because TASER International wants to reduce the risk of catastrophically bad publicity in the event that someone is killed by a Taser during training; the company pushes its products using the "non-lethal" claims, but has had a reputation for being ... less than straightforward when it comes to the question of safety and the risk of fatalities). Unpleasant as they no doubt are, low-power training shots may give a misleading impression as to how bad it really feels in active use.

1
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Bloke flogs $40 B&W printer on Craigslist, gets $12,000 legal bill

Chris Fox

Admitted admissions

"It isn't that he "admitted" anything - that is just bad reporting, something that has been repeated elsewhere in many articles about this case. It is more factually described as a default "Nolo Contendere" / "No Contest" plea."

It might be a little misleading to refer to this as bad reporting, given that the terms "admitted" and "admission" are used by the Indiana court itself in such cases. For example, in the court of appeals' judgement that threw out the case in question, "admitted" appears five times and "admission" fourteen times with regard to the interpretation of Costello's failure to respond, as in:

"When Costello learned that his failure to respond rendered the matters admitted under Rule 36(A), he hired an attorney and moved to withdraw the admissions under subsection (B) of the rule."

For once it is not simply sloppy reporting: the language of the court really is as bizarre as it seems.

4
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Home Office declares: Detained immigrants shall have internet

Chris Fox

Magical thinking

"It is the responsibility of the centre suppliers to ensure that detainees electronic communications are monitored, and that any privileged material (such as legal correspondence) is excluded from all monitoring."

How's that supposed to work? Suppliers are required to monitor communications, but if it turns out to be legally privileged they have to go back in time and unmonitor it? And as for the downloading and uploading of *any* files being prohibited; by what other magical means is Internet access supposed to work?

Perhaps this comes from the same Home Office brains that gave us such great ideas as secure encryption with backdoors, or that argue bulk collection, storage, indexing and querying of all communications meta data somehow does not count as "mass surveillance".

5
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The EU wants you to log into YouTube using your state-issued ID card

Chris Fox

No ID cards in the UK? Tried to get a job recently, or rent property?

It's a bit disengenious to maintain that we have no ID-cards in the UK. While No2ID and the like might have won the battle against UK ID cards as such, they lost the war. Essentially passports now play the role of "voluntary ID-cards" in all but name. Indeed it is becoming hard to argue that they are even voluntary.

If you want to work in the UK, or rent property, or open a bank account, as a UK citizen you will almost invariably be required to produce a valid UK passport. Other documents are not given the same status. Unless you happen to have your full, original, birth certificate, you will de facto find yourself having to fork out for a passport, and have your details and biometric photo lodged with the Passport Office, even if you have no intention of travelling.

Perhaps this was the real plan, and the scrapped scheme was just a decoy to distract attention away from the Passport Office, as it was effectively given a role that lies outside the remit of its Royal Perogative. It would also help to explain why the *ID-card* scheme was funded by an increase in the *passport* fee, and why the increased fees remained in place after the ID-card scheme was supposedly abandoned.

4
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Ubuntu 16.04 LTS arrives today complete with forbidden ZFS

Chris Fox

Re: Priorities?

"By all means the init system can *start* ntpd, but it shouldn't *be* ntpd."

Reading through various threads and bug reports about ntpd and systemd, it seems that some people experience various cyclic dependencies and race conditions, the very issues that systemd was supposed to fix. Some fixes for such dependency hell involve adding hardcoded delays, the very kind of hacks that systemd was supposed to avoid. It seems the only way that systemd can live up to its hype is by taking over everything, and ceasing to be the very thing it was meant to be, an init system. It's adoption by Debian and its derivatives seems premature to say the least. And the every increasing frivolous dependencies on systemd and its libraries is most unfortunate (if you switch a Debian installation to another init sytem, why on earth does installing CUPS or, even more bizarre, GIMP *require* you to reinstate systemd?)

For those who want a clean, elegant init system, with scripts that are usually just a few lines long, I recommend runit (as used in Voidlinux). In my experience it has faster start up and much lower memory and CPU load than systemd (which is helpful on a constrained system like an Rpi), and, unlike systemd, it is relatively easy to debug if things do go wrong. Unfortunately it can be hard to switch to runit on Debian and Ubuntu etc., given all the wierd systemd dependencies. So much for "preserving init choice".

2
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HTC 10: Is this the Droid you're looking for?

Chris Fox

Don't believe the (CD) hype (Re: HiRes)

"'The original sampling rate was effectively arbitrary anyway, being based on already available hardware capabilities rather than any reasoning.' Or on the limits of human hearing, and information theory"

The sample rate and method for CDs was chosen based on a number of factors, including availability and price of the technology, the recording density, the width of a standard car radio slot, and the desire to be able to have a squeeze recording of a particular piece of Beethoven on a single disc. Audio quality was a factor, but one that was subject to compromise. If they really had been interested in releasing recordings that equalled the known ability of human hearing, Philips should have followed the advice of its own experts on human hearing and recording technology, and gone with 24-bit linear encoding, or a logarithmic, rather than linear, 16-bit encoding to achieve the best perceived quality, exceeding high-quality vinyl playback. But the marketing people were in control, and decided that 24-bit encoding would have been expensive, and was at odds with their duration and size constraints, and logarithmic encoding would have taken more time to implement properly. Philips made many compromises in the CD format, and ultimate sound quality was one of them, despite the marketing hype from the very people that forced the compromise. Remember the first consumer CD players from Philips only had 14 bit linear DACs, and threw way the least significant bits, and yet were still marketed as having perfect sound quality.

0
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China's Great Firewall inventor forced to use VPN live on stage to dodge his own creation

Chris Fox

Paranoia

Panama is just a state of heightened tax avoidance

11
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BT dismisses MPs' calls to snap off Openreach as 'wrong-headed'

Chris Fox

Re: Privatisation

@veti

I believe this relates to the contracts for providing new local loop services in urban areas, which were offered to US cable companies to install coaxial (badly in many areas, requiring lots of remedial work to pavements etc.). This strange decision by Thatcher forced BT to abandon its cheaper and faster fibreoptic service, which was all ready to roll, and would have given us FTTH/P 25 years ago. The argument to go with an additional copper rather than fibre optic local loop was justified on the grounds of "competition". In retrospect it seems a strange competition when the winners were offering a poorer technology at a higher price, especially given that there are other mechanisms for allowing competition over local loop services. Compare and contrast with what other countries were doing at the time with their national telecoms companies.

http://www.techradar.com/news/world-of-tech/how-the-uk-lost-the-broadband-race-in-1990-1224784

Instead it looks like we will end up stuck with some Frankenstein's monster of power hungry technology that will spew ever increasing amounts of hash over the radio spectrum for many years to come (unnotched VDSL, and G.Fast, I'm looking at you).

5
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GCHQ's SMURF ARMY can hack smartphones, says Snowden. Again.

Chris Fox

A weak programme, with poor journalistic standards

This was a very weak programme, with sub-tabloid quality journalism.

The Snowden involvement just seemed like bait to get people to watch a programme that was largely an uncritical platform for the usual pro-surveillance propaganda. Perhaps they were so pleased at securing an interview they forgot their journalistic principles.

There were numerous highly contentious comments made, particularly by Mark Giuliano (FBI Deputy Director), that were essentially unchallenged, e.g. encryption is fundamentally bad, and should only be available in a broken form; and that social media platforms should in effect be spying for the government. David Anderson did offer some dissent to the latter but offered the pearl that government agencies needed to collect all data even when the targets are known, which seemed to undermine his position on judicial warrants, something the programme failed to pick up on.

The BBC's narrow obsession with “balance” means it does not appreciate that merely including Eric King (PI) for “balance” is not the same as good journalism. At no point did the programme attempt even to suggest, let alone explore, the possibility that there might be legitimate uses for secure encryption. And it did not properly consider the question of balancing the interests of law-enforcement against a reasonable expectation of privacy, including from government agencies, for those who were not the subject of an investigation.

The fact that otherwise competent main-stream journalists fail to understand or convey some of these important issues — even in a programme that referred explicitly to surveillance proposals currently being considered by the UK government — means they are failing to inform, and failing to hold the government to account. Such failings allow democracy and the rights of the individual to be undermined.

Going by this programme, investigative journalism is dead at the BBC.

13
0

Ofcom: Ahem, about that 28GHz spectrum. Let's talk fees

Chris Fox

Re: Can someone explain

And presumably nobody is using any of the HF or VHF bands, given how Ofcom is happy to allow power line network adaptors to transmit hash over all these bands without any form of licence.

1
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Vanished global warming may not return – UK Met Office

Chris Fox

Absence of significance is not absence

Scientists have a habit of saying things like "there was no significant rise in the given period". Unfortunately Lewis, and the Daily Mail etc. interpret this as "no rise in the given period". What it actually means is "there was a rise, but there is greater than 0.05 probability that this was due to random variation or measurement error over the (relatively brief) given period." For a journalist to misrepresent this suggests either incompetence, or dishonesty.

In the case of climate, mean temperatures are rising, and they are statistically significant increases over suitably long periods. If you measure the water depth on an incoming tide sufficiently frequently you will find numerous intervals where there is no statistically significant increase in the water level (and indeed periods over which the water level drops). Only a fool would belief this means the tide is not coming in, and only a quack scientist or click-bait journalist would argue that this disproves the existence of tides.

19
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Vodafone: Dammit Britain, your emergency services need 4G!

Chris Fox

Bandwidth, just one small detail

Great, swap 99% coverage of the UK landmass for the ability to stream HD cat videos in parts of central London, provided nobody else is sucking up the bandwidth, and your not inside a building. What could possibly go wrong? It's not like anybody would expect to have to rely on this for nationwide emergency comms is it? Oh...

3
0

Exploding Power Bars: EE couldn't even get the CE safety mark right

Chris Fox

CE marking is a broken idea

“Similar issues can be found with power line communication (PLC) adapters, plasma tvs etc.”

The example of CE-marked PLC illustrates how broken the whole self-certification system is in the EU. Many (all?) PLC devices break rules on radio interference when used on standard domestic wiring, but all is supposedly well as the devices carry CE markings. This is despite the reality that self-certification that justifies the CE marking involved testing samples using “standards” that were never approved (because they were too lax), or measurements in an environment that did not replicate domestic wiring, or using interference thresholds intended for industrial, non-domestic use. It then seems that manufacturers are effectively allowed to “grandfather” the supposed CE compliance.

As I recall, a ruling in German appeared to suggest all was in order, so no other national authority is willing to do anything about these dodgy practices. In the UK, complaints about illegal PLC interference are dealt with using a crazy ad hoc procedure that involves the BBC (rather than relevant regulator, Ofcom), allowing Ofcom to report it has received no complaints, justifying its refusal to act. Even the IEEE is complicit in setting up standards for this crap without considering the wider issues.

The issue of CE marking is one where there is a clear case for EU reform, but unfortunately its this kind of “trust the manufacturers” crap that is supported by those who claim to be concerned about the EU.

3
1

FCC boss Wheeler: Shove off, big dogs – let the small telcos play

Chris Fox

The FCC can “create more frequences”?

“The FCC chairman said that the upcoming wireless spectrum auction, designed to create more frequencies for use by wireless broadband networks, would receive additional rules on eligibility should the FCC commissioners pass his recommendations at the July 16 open meeting.”

The FCC must be more powerful than anyone imagined if they create more frequencies just by holding an auction... oh wait, you mean “sell off rights to more spectrum...”. Is Stephen Fry now working for The Reg by any chance?

2
1

Microsoft makes Skype beach body ready with web browser beta release

Chris Fox

Re: Microsoft supports Linux better than Google

“Skype for Linux is top-notch for closed proprietary software. In a bizzaro twist, Microsoft is starting to provide better applications for Linux than Google.”

Of course, the cross-platform support from Skype pre-dates Microsoft's involvement. And “Top-notch” is not how I would describe Microsoft's support of the Linux version: there is still no 64-bit version, and, worse, support for ALSA has been removed under Microsoft's watch. On a typical 64-bit Linux installation, Skype requires a shed-load of multi-architecture support and duplicate 32-bit libraries to be installed, and various hoops to jump through if you don't want to be forced to switch your sound server over to Pulseaudio and allow Mr Pöttering to enter through the back-door.

1
0

What an eyeful: Apple's cut price 27in iMac with Retina Display

Chris Fox

*fewer* pixels

If only Robert Baker had made one fewer proscription, up with this shibboleth we would not have to put.

0
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Relax, it's just Ubuntu 15.04. AARGH! IT'S FULL OF SYSTEMD!!!

Chris Fox

Re: systemd? Do not want. Try Voidlinux

I tried a number of systemd-free distributions on virtual machines and servers (including Gentoo, Funtoo, Slackware, Devuan alpha, Manjaro-openrc, Voidlinux). The smoothest so far has been Voidlinux, a rolling-release binary distribution, with XFCE 4.12 as the default desktop, which also works on a Pi2. Previously this distribution was an early adopter of SystemD, when it was just an init system. But it has switched to runit, which makes SystemD unit files look like a complicated tangled mess. Some things need a little bit of work, e.g. occasionally there may be bugs in some less commonly used packages, and you have to write your own init file if you use Openvpn, but with runit, that is just one line long...

If it really is about "fixing" init, then there are numerous excellent alternatives that aren't invading body-snatchers with half a millions of lines of undocumented and uncommented code, and no specification, maintained by a closed community for whom bug-fixing is seen as a pointless distraction that has to be sacrificed on the alter to the one true goal of never-ending function creep.

[Some Debian SystemD apologists keep saying SystemD is only a default in Debian Jessie, and other init systems can be used, but the debootstrap program has a trivial bug that means it fails to read the non-systemd options. The maintainer refuses to fix this obvious bug because "SystemD is the default". And then there are random programs and packages that are configured to pull in SystemD and related crap rather than treat them as optional dependencies (CUPS and XFCE spring to mind). Hopefully Devuan will fix this, at least for server-based installations, and Voidlinux makes a fine replacement for Wheezy on the desktop.]

3
0

High-speed powerline: Home connectivity without the cables

Chris Fox

Re: Noise!

Indeed, my heart sank seeing this puff piece for such HF and, increasingly, VHF noise generating crap which demonstrably fails QRM regs., with manufacturers abusing the self-certification process, and "regulators" who fail to act, and then mangle the reporting procedures so they can claim there are no complaints. The reg should know better.

19
2

America was founded on a dislike of taxes, so how did it get the IRS?

Chris Fox

IRS claims a global right to charge income tax on anyone

"Apparently the slightest association with the country can result in you being considered a tax payer even when you have moved back to your country?"

Indeed, no personal association at all is required: under rules that are supposed to stop global tax-avoidance schemes, IRS claims income tax on royalty payments made to you if routed through a US-registered part of an organisation, even if you are not registered with the IRS, have never visited the US, are not a US citizen, have had no dealings with the US-registered part of the organisation, have conducted all the relevant work outside the US, and pay all the income tax due in your own country.

You can avoid the IRS claiming this income tax... but only by first registering with the IRS... and that involves sending them your passport to them in the post for some unspecified period, assuming you even have one*... meanwhile the big players still avoid paying tax... It makes the injustice of that import duty on colonial tea seem like small beer...

* Anyone else noticed how No2ID won the battle against UK ID cards, yet lost the war, with biometric passports now being demanded for an ever increasing range of transactions with government, banks, and prospective employers, and with an ever decreasing choice of acceptable and viable alternatives? And now you need a biometric passport, with all the details logged in the US, just to avoid paying income tax to the IRS.

1
0
Chris Fox

Re: Speaking of myths

Concerning the issue of tea, the officially sanctioned imported tea, as offloaded in an unconventional fashion at that party in Boston, was actually cheaper, after tax, than the existing untaxed "imports". That particular storm appear to be brewed up those who, at the time, would have been officially classified as "smugglers", seeking to protect their financial interests after being undercut by "legitimate" imports.

According to contemporary statements, the dispute initially appears to have been motivated by the desire of a few "traders" to maintain profits by gaining control of trade, and assuming the right to break treaties to grab land and resources. Taxation was just a side show. The latter of course became an important hook on which to hang various justifications and explanations, given that the general populace might actually have preferred cheaper British imports to the expensive black-market goods.

2
1

Bulk interception is NOT mass surveillance, says parliamentary committee

Chris Fox

More sophistry: small percentage of bearers...

"GCHQ’s systems operate on a very small percentage of the bearers that make up the internet."

Right, more misdirection and sophistry..., I'm guessing that this "very small percentage of bearers" also just happens to carry most of the UK traffic (e.g. just targetting LINX gives access to the bulk of the traffic for the users of over 500 ISPs). Why waste time with the numerous minnows that carry a tiny fraction of the traffic, when a handful of bigger fish give you access to almost everything in the UK?

(And even if every UK ISP were being targetted directly, this would still be a "small percentage of the bearers that make up the [global] internet".)

If the committee actually understands this, then they are being duplicitous, if they don't, then they are incompetent. Neither is acceptable.

12
0

VMware sued, accused of ripping off Linux kernel source code

Chris Fox

Re: Brilliant Photo!

Hmm, not sure I like the implication that Linux kernel developers are an invading alien army of screaming body-snatching mimics trying to take over the world... perhaps the image would be more appropriate for a piece about Systemd developers?

21
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Marconi: The West of England's very own Italian wireless pioneer

Chris Fox

Re: Marconi was a FRAUD and a PATENT THIEF

Indeed, the world of radio patents from 1890's onwards was as controversial as software patents today. Marconi was awarded a patent on his "black box", which turned out to contain the inventions of others. This was a major scandal at the time among those working on radio. And his patents on tuning were not novel; they just describe existing work of others. He was also supposed to be working for the GPO when he was making his refinements to radio, using public money and a team of GPO staff, but then refused to hand over the results of their work to the GPO, claiming it as his own. HIs first supposedly successful transatlantic transmission is also subject to serious doubt, and changes to make it work later (e.g. lowering the frequency) again appears to be based on the work of other. He ruthelesly expoited the Titanic disaster, claiming his radios had saved hundreds of lives (it is interesting that one of his associates at that time, Sarnoff -- who was embroilled in this story through some fiction about him somehow being involved as a telegraph operator -- was subsequently found to have misappropriated other inventions, including wideband FM, which ultimately lead to the sucide of the actual inventor).

Marconi is like Edison, Alexander Graham-Bell and other commercially successful "great inventors" who turned out not to have invented "their" inventions; he was very good at marketing, politicking, ruthlessly claiming the inventions of others, and gaming the patent system, and whose success seems to be based on lucky timing, combined with a complete absence of ethics or shame.

This is not to say we cannot acknowledge the achievements of Marconi and others for what they are; I just don't see why it is necessary to perpetuate these sanitised and fictionalised accounts, and continue to ignore or whitewash the more controversial aspects of their professional lifes. Doing so merely serves to belittle and ignore those who actually did the work on which the success of these "great inventors" was built.

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EU parliament bans Outlook app over cloudy security: report

Chris Fox

The application is a problem (given EU data protection obligations)

This should be seen in the context of compliance with EU data protection regulations and legislation. It is relatively easy to ensure internal email systems comply with EU data protection requriements, assuming secure protocols and good password policies are adopted, and servers are physically secure. And Microsoft has gone to great lengths to provide legal cover for EU-based organisations to allow them to outsource internal corporate email to Office365 (although there may be questions about how robust these assurances are). Either way, this app makes the whole thing moot by operating in a way that clearly in breach of data protection regulations; any EU-based organisation that allows staff to use this app for corporate email will almost certainly be in breach of data protection legislation.

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Sorry, Qualcomm, Apple – your patents don't scare us

Chris Fox

Not so safe after all

"At least many countries and regions have seen sense and declared that you cannot patent software, it is already covered by copyright."

Unfortunately things are not so simple as that. In many jurisdictions where "software as such" (i.e. the program text that you can copyright) is supposedly not patentable (as in, e.g., UK patent law and Article 52 of the EPC), it turns out that you *can* effectively patent software provided that you talk about (e.g.) the "technical effect" of executing the software.

In the UK and other European countries in which software is not supposed to be patentable there have been court rulings that uphold a bizarre interpretation of "software" and a "computer" where software ceases to be software when it is running, so is no longer excluded subject matter, and where, furthermore, a computer running a piece of software ceases to be a computer, but is instead a new technical artefact, which can be the subject matter of a patent.

As in the US, sophistry and reinterpretation often allow patents on software (and other abstract notions) in all but name, despite what at first appear to be clear and unambiguous prohibitions.

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Demon Internet goes TITSUP: Outage borks ancient ISP

Chris Fox

Re: AFTER 13:45

There were actually updates at 12:23 and 13:10. The article itself is a bit misleading: it seems to suggest that the notice had been pushed back from 12:30 to 13:45, when in reality it was the "12:30" notice (actually posted at 12:23) that provided the information that there would be *another* update after 13.45. The 13:10 notice stating service had resumed also said there will be a further update at 16:00... so now I expect the reg article will be revised again to say that the update has now been pushed back to 16:00. Demon, with its gradually declining customer service, is already quite good at annoying users without the reg having to distort the facts.

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DoJ's extra-territorial data demands: now Ireland is baulking

Chris Fox

A US DoJ shaped hole in MS's Office365 EU plans?

MS have been successful in touting for corporate Office365 business in the UK and elsewhere in the EU by claiming that locating servers in Ireland ensures that confidential and privileged information will be stored in compliance with EU Data Protection rules. They have been waving letters from the ICO to this effect. Even so, some law firms have expressed concerns about client confidentiality, and claim that they have official advice (also from the ICO) that data on MS servers in Ireland cannot consider to be safe. For those that have bought the MS line on data protection, their internal emails now cross national borders on undersea cables. MS claims the data is safe in transit as it is encrypted, but we know this does not necessarily follow. Of course, those keen to outsource and close down local facilities may not be that keen to look beneath the thin veneer of assurances, but MS might be panicking that its USP could be unravelling.

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Doctors urged to adopt default opt-out approach to care.data scheme

Chris Fox

Topsy-Turvy interpretation of DPA

"However, the Data Protection Act would still require patients to be given a full explanation of the options open to them, and why the GP has chosen to opt them out."

This really is a looking-glass world. The most obvious interpretation of the DPA is one where sensitive personal data is in the control of the individual, and explicit informed consent has to be sought before that data is passed on. Normally default opt-in to sharing sensitive personal information is considered unlawful. It then seems odd then to say that if GPs try to follow the spirit of the law are they are obliged to give an explanation, and inform patients of their rights, while those that act in a way that is prima facie at odds with the spirit of the law are assumed not to have any such legal obligations.

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Adobe spies on readers: EVERY DRM page turn leaked to base over SSL

Chris Fox

Darktable: alternative to Lightroom

"The only things that I can't find an alternative of theirs is Lightroom and Elements."

Have you tried Darktable (www.darktable.org)? Not perfect, but not bad.

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Amazon offers Blighty's publishing industry 'assisted suicide'

Chris Fox

Re: Poor little publishers!!

And when the Net Book Agreement collapsed, 500 independent UK publishers went out of business, and cross-subsidy of specialists works ended, meaning there is now dearth of quality-controlled publishing outlets and marketing expertise for anything except high volume novels and text books. Books are not a simple uniform commodity, and price is not the only important factor in this particular market. Even the rather crude US anti-trust laws recognise these subtleties.

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Chris Fox

Publishers cannot easily unite against Amazon

Publishers are now reluctant even to be seen in the same room together following the rulings on price fixing. Acting in a way that maintains prices is lawful under US antitrust law if ultimately it can be shown to help maintain choice and competition in products and suppliers. But the US courts completely disregarded this important detail in its rulings on the publishing industry, and consider low prices as the only measure of a fair market. In this hostile legal context, publishers would be right to be cautious about even being thought to be thinking about the possibility of acting jointly against a retailer who pushes down prices, even though the letter of the law suggests such activity can be justified in some important jurisdictions.

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HELIUM-FILLED disks lift off: You can't keep these 6TB BEASTS down

Chris Fox

Re: less helium than a balloon

Helium is cheap because the US govt is dumping all its reserves at knock-down price that has not changed since 1996, despite a massive increase in demand. This distorts the market. Given it's limited supply, and limited rate of capture, some estimate that the true market value of a helium party balloon should be close to $100. Once the US has no more helium to dump, expect the price to rise and availability to decrease dramatically. This proflicate use of artificially cheap helium will end with exorbitant running costs for MRI scanners, and anything else that involves superconducting magnets and very low temperatures. So expect many more undiagnosed brain tumors and the like, all for the sake of "privatising" this rare asset, and venting it off into space for a few seconds of amusement.

5
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MS Word deserves DEATH says Brit SciFi author Charles Stross

Chris Fox

Re: @LDS (was: Yes, Word is the worst word processor....)

The fact that LaTeX3 intends to incorporate some features into the core, such as hyper-linking, does not mean those features are not already available through the extensive package library. Hyper-linking has been available in LaTeX for many years in both LaTeX 2.09 and LaTeX 2e (e.g. see the hyperref package). I recall first experimenting LaTeX hyper-linking around 20 years ago, before most people even knew what a hyper-link was. LaTeX3 is about reworking the core, and pulling some features from into the core that are currently implemented as packages. With LaTeX you can also do nice tricks like including live data and plots, or pushing data out to R and incorporating the results. But you have to know what you are doing (which might not be a bad thing).

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Foxconn must pay Microsoft for EVERY Android thing it makes

Chris Fox

Re: Not paying for patents

Indeed, patents have existed as long as there have been monarchs. The reference to the "Age of Enlightment" would be the 1624 Statute of Monopolies, which sought to constrain the (ab)use of "Letters Patent", crown-granted monopolies that were supposed to benefit the economy, but were actually just used by the crown as a way of raising funds without consulting that pesky Parliament, including granting "patents" on salt, starch, and other de facto pseudo-taxes (with the crown receiving payment for the patent, and the patent holder receiving payment from those "benefitting" from, or "infringing", that which was patented). What we may thing of as contemporary concerns about the uses and abuses of patents are actually older than patent legislation itself. It seems that an update to the Statute of Monopolies is long overdue.

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The truth on the Navy carrier debacle? Industry got away with murder

Chris Fox

BAE 89% on budget --- after being paid for features that are not delivered

It might be the case that 89% of BAE's programmes are on budget, but this may be a meaningless statistic if in reality the tax payer is paying massively inflated prices for features (such as "adaptability") that are not actually being delivered.

To some, the "89% on-budget" claim is not very surprising in a context where contracts and sign-off conditions are being negotiated and approved by a body and/or individuals that seem to align themselves more with the interests of the contract holder than those actually paying the bill.

This the problem with high-level complicity in corruption and fraud; it's just too easy to manipulate the official statistics etc. so that outwardly everything seems sufficient fine to rebuff casual enquiries, and divert attention (AKA "doing an Obi Wan").

3
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Anonymous hacks MIT websites after Aaron Swartz's death

Chris Fox

Draconian punishments (Re: Correct me if I'm wrong...)

@Ian Johnston

Yes, some states do use draconian punishments. For starters, there is thing that some states have called "the death penalty", which is especially troubling given the notoriously high false-postive conviction rate, especially for poor blacks. There are also many individuals serving life in California for committing three minor offences (such as stealing toilet roll etc, for which charges might have been upgraded above what the evidence supports in order to fall into the scope of the "three-strikes" legislation).

And when it comes to illustrations of the injustice of plea bargaining, there are cases such as the one involving the environmental activist Daniel McGowan, where federal and state prosecutors obtained a seven year sentence and a $1.9M fine for arson. This would almost certainly have been life if he had not changed his plea to guilty for some charges. And even with the guilty plea, it could still have been 30 years if the prosecutors had been succesful in having it reclassifying it as an terrorist offence. Contrast this with his "co-conspirators" facing exactly the same charges for exactly the same offences; by agreeing to plead guilty to a shoppling list of offences, and agreeing to testify against others named by the prosecutors, they were effectively let off with no material punishment.

The extreme consequences of refusing to agree to full cooperative plea bargaining can seem to make a mockery of the notion of justice, and end up looking like a form of forced confession. In the Daniel McGowan case, arguments have been made that plea-bargaining was used as a tool to rout out political dissidents, and dissent, rather than achieving justice. (Which seems to be supported by findings that police maliciously tortured fellow activists.)

Arguably, similar things happen in the UK, even at the lowest level (e.g. contesting an erronous fixed penalty notice carries a high risk of ending up with punative fines, legal costs, and a criminal record, especially when many magistrates are perhaps a bit too ready to accept the word of a police officer). It is worrying that the UK government seems keen to extend the use of plea bargaining.

As for Aaron Schwarz, he had been told he would face six months even if he pleaded guilty to every single charge the prosecutors decided to add to the list. And he would still face a hefty legal bill that he could not afford. Put yourself in his position, would you be happy to go to prison for six months, and plead guilty to things you think you had not done, and be branded as a convicted criminal for the rest of your life, or would you fight, but risk the technical possibility of 35+ years in prison? And this for someone who suffered from depression.

3
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'Leccy-starved Reg hack: 'How I survive on 1.5kW'

Chris Fox

Mainland UK officially 230V not 240V, and earthing is an issue

For many years now, the official mainland UK domestic single phase supply has been rated as a nominal 230V (with various tolerances, +10%/-6%, +/-6%, or +/-10%) rather than 240V. This is the same as the nominal supply for big chunks of continental Europe, whose nominal rating was increased from 220V to 230V at around the same time (perhaps with widened tolerances). Some overseas territories are still on 240V and 220V supplies.

(In practice, the measured supply at the socket is still likely to be closer to 240V in the UK, and 220V in much of the rest of Europe. Older UK equipment may specify a nominal supply of 240V. Equipment to be attached to the UK supply has to tolerate more than 250V. These ratings plates may explain why many think the official UK supply voltage is either 240V or 250V. Three phase supply is now supposedly 400V, although most three-phase warning plates still seem to refer to 415V.)

The article mentions adding a new earth. Adding a local copper earth to a modern PME supply can introduce lots of "interesting" high-current failure modes in the event that the supply cable develops a fault. It is always worth taking advice from the supply company and/or a qualified electrician before adding new earths and bonding points to a mains supply. Some earthing techniques that used to be common practice until quite recently are potentially lethal with a modern supply.

1
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Marvell: Ignore the $1BN PATENT JUDGMENT... Check out this new cache kit

This post has been deleted by a moderator

Android users: More of them than fanbois, but they don't use the web

Chris Fox

Re: Browser agents

But dx's supposed counter-example also includes "AppleWebKit" and "Safari", (as does Dolphin Mini on Android). The article does not give the precise methodology, but it is easy to see how such user agent strings from Mozilla and Dolphin browsers could be misclassified as coming from Safari on an Apple device. And then there is the small issue of Opera Mini, classified separately in one of the graphs, despite the user agent string normally revealing the underlying operating system. More evidence of flaky regex in the OS classifiers?

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