* Posts by T. F. M. Reader

806 posts • joined 19 Dec 2012


Das reboot: That's the only thing to do when the screenshot, er, freezes

T. F. M. Reader

Re: Funny that

@big_D: "Switching the language"

These days you don't even need to switch anything. I found out that Google present the initial Account/GMail login screens in the language they guessed from (I suspect) your IP. Now, assume you see everything in an unfamiliar language and an unfamiliar alphabet. That's everything, including an unobtrusive link or button you need to use to switch languages...

Mind your language: Microsoft set to swing the axe on 27 languages in iOS Outlook

T. F. M. Reader

Quite possibly ...

... it is not about neglecting the number of people using Urdu or other languages with a large user base. Maybe MSFT made an assessment of how widely used iPhones (and Outlook on iPhones) are in the lands where those languages are spoken and weighed the potential losses stemming from pissing off some section of the market against savings on Product[*]/Development/QA work.

It would be interesting to know the corresponding statistics if anyone can dig them up, and also whether the same languages remain available for Outlook on Android.

[*] I suspect the Development and QA parts are intuitively clear to the commentariat, but in my experience people don't tend to give much thought to, say, the real estate on menus/labels/tooltips/etc. and what exactly will be usable/intuitive in every supported language until one actually encounters the problem in a multilingual setting. "Why is this input field so far right?" - "Because the French/Russian/Welsh/whatever label next to it is longer than the English one that you see right now" kind of thing.

Attorney General: We didn't need Apple to crack terrorist's iPhones – tho we still want iGiant to do it in future

T. F. M. Reader

Re: Apple told The Register - ????

This must be "the new normal" everyone is talking about these days...

You can't have it both ways: Anti-coronavirus masks may thwart our creepy face-recog cameras, London cops admit

T. F. M. Reader

A small, informal suggestion

Should El Reg change the Anonymous Coward icon?

Stop tracking me, Google: Austrian citizen files GDPR legal complaint over Android Advertising ID

T. F. M. Reader
Big Brother

Re: From my own investigations.....

@Pascal Monett: "No ads on Brave."

Hmm... I went to Google Play on my Android phone and found Brave. The first thing I saw was "Contains ads". Are you saying it's Google's FUD?

I'll probably believe a Reg commentard sooner than the Chocolate Factory...

Total Eclipse to depart: Open-source software foundation is hopping the pond to Europe

T. F. M. Reader

Re: A long time coming

Actually, I believe the MM/DD/YYYY date format stems from the pre-computinghistoric practice related to manual filing of business documents (invoices, receipts, orders, etc.) in filing cabinet drawers labeled by month, Inside a "January" drawer they were sorted by date, and last year's were moved to a storage room or wherever, so all you really dealt with was MM/DD.

Carrying it to the computer world is pure insanity, of course. ;-)

Personally, I tend to use YYYYMMDD more often than anything else, because it is so damn easy to sort.

Australia's contact-tracing app regulation avoids 'woolly' principles in comparable cyber-laws, say lawyers

T. F. M. Reader

Re: "Here I Go, Again On My Own..." - DLR

@AC: "There is no location data"

There is no location data stored within the application. However, I suppose the app is useless if one's high precision location data service is turned off. So, if you download the app and want to use it you must enable "location services" or whatever it is called, at all times. And then your location information will be available to the world and his sister regardless of any privacy mechanisms the app may have. There you go.

I assume the set of people who don't keep GPS permanently on is significant. I am not cynical enough to think that the app was created to shrink that set, but I don't see a big red warning along the lines of "if you use the app your privacy will be significantly impaired as your location will be traceable by independent means" being mandated, either.

Why should the UK pensions watchdog be able to spy on your internet activities? Same reason as the Environment Agency and many more

T. F. M. Reader

Pensions Regulator ...

... sounds much less ironic in the context than National Authority for Counter Eavesdropping.

Or is it just me?

So how do the coronavirus smartphone tracking apps actually work and should you download one to help?

T. F. M. Reader

@Cuddles: agreed. I only switch Bluetooth and GPS on when I am in my car, GPS only if I really need navigation to a place I am not familiar with and don't rely on just reading street signs. Of course, when I am in my car I am isolated from the rest of the world and thus pretty safe, epidemiologically.

Having said that, I suppose that I am "different"... And so are you... ;-)

Reg fashion special: Top designer says 'video chat accessories' are in for spring!

T. F. M. Reader

Re: What would we do without fashion?

@joeW: Come back, Telephone Sanitisers - all is forgiven.

They are back!!! So says the BBC.

Pandemic impact: Two-thirds of polled Reg readers say it's business as usual in the IT dept, one in ten panicking

T. F. M. Reader

A completely non-scientific poll of my own

I suspect many IT departments could not budget/source/configure a large number of corporate laptops for employees who have never worked remotely before, at short notice. Is anyone concerned about letting the newly remote workforce connect to VPN from their personal computers at home? I mean, who knows who really 0wns those?

Self-driving truck boss: 'Supervised machine learning doesn’t live up to the hype. It isn’t C-3PO, it’s sophisticated pattern matching'

T. F. M. Reader

Basic stuff before AI

While the Commentariat discusses AI vs pattern matching as applied to autonomous vehicles, I am struck by something else in the article that looks much more basic to me. The stuff in Waymo's Open Dataset Challenge: frankly, and possibly naively, I'd expect those problems to be solved "beyond reasonable doubt" before any talk of autonomous driving can be taken seriously.

Netflix starts 30-day video data diet at EU's request to ensure network availability during coronavirus crisis

T. F. M. Reader

Increasin social distance ...

... between pixels?

Microsoft's Bill Gates defrag is finally virtually complete: Billionaire quits board to double down on philanthropy

T. F. M. Reader

What happened to my El Reg?

No puns on Gates finally applying himself to rid the world of viruses?

How does Monzo keep 1,600 microservices spinning? Go, clean code, and a strong team

T. F. M. Reader

Re: Optimise for readability

"...our engineering principles" ?


“<...> [P]rogrammers have spent far too much time worrying about efficiency in the wrong places and at the wrong times; premature optimization is the root of all evil (or at least most of it) in programming.”

- Donald Knuth, TAOCP [circa 1968]

If you're wondering how Brit cops' live suspect-hunting facial-recog is going, it's cruising at 88% false positives

T. F. M. Reader

Re: By all means be against facial recognition but please stop getting the maths wrong.

@bencurthoys: your hypothetical numbers are absolutely correct. Full marks - and I used to teach data analysis and statistical methods.

Your conclusion that the numbers make your hypothetical detector a "useful tool" is quite wrong though, at least within a free society (which is almost the whole point here).

One thing that your conclusion does not take into account is the principle of presumption of innocence. You propose actually stopping, detaining, and verifying 10,000 absolutely innocent people on suspicion of them being terrorists. What is that going to do to their lives? This is simply not an acceptable price to pay to catch a few terrorists (who, statistically, don't do much damage, by the way - that's another facet of "numbers don't always care weight").

Another thing your conclusion misses is alarm fatigue. The signal to noise ratio in your hypothetical setup is very low. The efficacy of (human) police who will be doing verification will be very low, and the ultimate ROI of the system will be very low as well. In addition, the verifying police who will check 99 people only to find false positives will be quite likely to make a mistake in case number 100. The fact that rather than checking 1M people you need to check only 10K flagged by the terrorist detector is not relevant in the context. Yes, this might be an improvement on stopping a million people in the streets and checking each and every one of them. I'd discount this argument (and I consider myself fortunate to live in a society that allows me to do so...).

A reasonable alternative approach is doing actual police and intelligence work and not involving 10K innocents in the first place. That should require a significantly smaller army of investigators, too.

After 16 years of hype, graphene finally delivers on its promise – with a cosmetic face mask

T. F. M. Reader

Re: has not said quite how its cosmetic face masks will benefit from graphene

@GruntyMcPugh: No need for a modem. iPAQs were damn useful around 2001. Laptops were bloody expensive, so business trips - any trips, really - involved an iPAQ and a Nokia phone. Turn the IR on both to face each other, the phone serves as a modem, the iPAQ receives and sends email. It was quite affordable back then, too - the telcos hadn't figured out how to fleece the traveling populations yet.

A foldable keyboard made it almost a laptop.

And IIRC at least some iPAQs had cameras which made them very handy to take pictures of whiteboards in business meetings.

I remember thinking, "Wouldn't it be nice if this thing could also make calls...."

The self-disconnecting switch: Ghost in the machine or just a desire to save some cash?

T. F. M. Reader

Re: How much?

@Evil Auditor: "And that was the only finding he had."

You underestimate the deviousness of beancounters. Any beancounter worth his salt will take $2.40 from petty cash before an audit on purpose. It is very important to let the evil auditor find something trivial and obvious so that he leaves with a feeling of a job well done.

GitLab can proclaim diversity all it likes, but it seems to have a real problem keeping women on staff or in management

T. F. M. Reader

Revenue earners

@AC: "What about actual technical, revenue earners?"

I guess you are not a CFO, CEO, VC investor, or board member. To all those revenue is earned by Sales. "Actual technical" people are cost centers. You'll understand when you grow up.

Artful prankster creates Google Maps traffic jams by walking a cartful of old phones around Berlin

T. F. M. Reader

Google says its latest chatbot is the most human-like ever – trained on our species' best works: 341GB of social media

T. F. M. Reader

Executive summary

Google chatbot designers are outstanding in their field.

Star wreck: There's a 1 in 20 chance a NASA telescope and US military satellite will smash into each other today

T. F. M. Reader

Pittsburgh, Philadelphia?

Is there a small chance that it is different from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania?

From Soviet to science fiction icon, the weird life of Isaac Asimov 100 years on

T. F. M. Reader

Not just Sci-Fi

Asimov will be forever remembered for his contributions to Science Fiction, of course. However, his creations are not limited to that genre alone. Besides popular science I would like to give an honourable mention to "Asimov's Guide to the Bible" and "Asimov's Guide to Shakespeare", among others. I enjoyed both immensely when I discovered them.

'Supporting Internet Explorer is hell': Web developers identify top needs – new survey

T. F. M. Reader

Re: "If you allow web applications to be more like native apps"

What happens now when the hackers walk into the control room?

The old 3G defence paradigm (3G = Gates, Guys, Guns) works not badly at all, and Stuxnet-type penetration is a tall order even for the most sophisticated nation-state attackers. The new 5G (do-everything-from-browser-using-public-IPv6-address) approach has not been proven totally reliable yet, and that's my late entry to the Underestimation of 2019 contest.

HPE goes on the warpath, attacks AWS over vendor lock-in

T. F. M. Reader

Re: What lunch?

But that fibre line into your building also provides you with your cloud service.

I think the point is that in this setup their cloud service to their premises is not mission-critical. Their customers' cloud service is, but that would not be affected if that fibre were severed, right? What would be affected is their DevOps ability to manage said cloud, and that could be temporarily remedied by said DevOps working on laptops somewhere else, at home or at a local coffee shop, off the data path, until the now-non-mission-critical fibre is mended.

Hate speech row: Fine or jail anyone who calls people boffins, geeks or eggheads, psychology nerd demands

T. F. M. Reader

I feel a sudden urge...

... to use the term "trick cyclist" in the most pejorative way possible.

Advertisers want exemption from web privacy rules that, you know, enforce privacy

T. F. M. Reader

Lawmakers meet technology

OK, assuming this law passes in California, I want a couple of technological solutions to enforce it:

1. A browser extension or plugin that will send a request to delete all my data whenever I leave a site or close a tab. I have such a plugin that deletes cookies, so it must be possible. Wait, does an appropriate standard exist for data deletion requests and is it mandatory under the law? Ah... So the only way to delete the data will be through s link under 137 clicks? Or registered mail only?

2. A proxy in CA that will make all my browsing appear as if I resided in that enlightened state that has that brilliant law on its books. That could even be an excellent business opportunity to someone in, say, Mountain View, by the way. They could even make it free and monetize by collecting huge amounts of data on their out-of-state customers and selling them to advertisers (and to every bidder, not just the highest one), all without falling afoul of the law. The GDPR-mandated consent may be buried in paragraph 405k of the TOS, per SOP, no sweat. Such a business would be able to corner the market if advertisers wouldn't be able to do the same thing directly. Wait, is that the real reason for this law, and may that be the real "intermediary" the advertising associations are in arms against? For fear of being fleeced, not fear of consumers not buying enough advertised goods?

Cynical, moi?

EFF warns of 'one-way mirror' of web surveillance by tech giants – led by Google

T. F. M. Reader

Cypher, the report author?

Is it a real name? Or is it an ironic pseudonym chosen to remind (some of) us of a graph query language the likes of which (Gremlins, etc.) are probably used behind that one-way mirror?

Irish eyes aren't smiling after govt blows €1m on mega-printer too big for parliament's doors

T. F. M. Reader


I used to work for a company that made HW, including big half-a-rack (21U) boxes that could be delivered as a pair in a full rack. Dimensions and weight - e.g., elevator ratings - were always checked. We always checked, for such deals. A vendor selling such a specialized and oversized piece of equipment should have checked, IMHO. They were stuck with storing the thing for some time at their expense.

But to the best of my recollection we never sold to a Parliament, who may make their own laws, of course...

There seems to be a conflict of interest whenever democratic lawmakers meet mathematics or laws of Nature...

Dead or alive, you're camming with me, says RoboPup: Bomb squad hires Boston Dynamics Spot to snoop on suspects, packages

T. F. M. Reader

Re: A new cyber-nightmare scenario

@batfink - a very good catch ==================>

No editors or proofreaders were hurt in developing this scenario.

T. F. M. Reader

A new cyber-nightmare scenario

A terrorist cyber-genius exploits a zero-day, installs a RAT, p0wns a bomb-squad's robo-dog API client, remotely makes the puppy load 14 kg of readily available explosives on its back and pick up some detonators lying around (it's a bomb squad, right?), trot to some sensitive location within 3 miles, and blow itself up at an exhibition, killing some visiting big wigs and all their security personnel. A heavily armed and highly sophisticated gang walk in through the blown-up wall, finish off the wounded, and steal $1.8B worth of rare historical jewellery on loan from a German museum.

A world-wide hunt for the mastermind ensues. Bond teams up with a beautiful cyber-sleuth from Unit 8200 (Gal Gadot seems to be the obvious casting choice) through Russia and its mafia, China and its military, Wasiristan and its suicide bombers, Zurich and its bankers, the Dolomites and the scenery, and Machu Picchu. The latter is connected to the Internet through a Google balloon whose technology holds vital clues to the original zero-day that dates to the times when Google owned the robo-dog manufacturer, demanded disabling Asimov's laws in robo-dogs, and simultaneously dropped the "Don't be evil" slogan. At the climax, the 8200 Bond girl just manages to disable a pride of robo-cougars about to pounce on 007 by exploiting the incompletely patched zero-day to launch a counter-virus that makes the robo-cats purr. Unfortunately the lady gets captured and taken away in a retro-futuristic bulletproof cyber-truck that looks like a cross between a DeLorean and an F-117. Bond is in pursuit in an Aston Martin SUV. The final standoff occurs in a secret volcano layer. Bond finishes off the mastermind by pricking him with the poisoned pin of the oldest and most beautiful piece of stolen jewellery, brought by the Crusaders from the Temple of Jerusalem - after the bad guy helpfully gives a lecture on the piece's provenance and the Israeli girl recalls the poison bit from an elementary school lesson. The heroic couple are discovered by an airborne SAS squad who discreetly turn the other way while the girl tries a 1000 year necklace (and nothing else) on.

Even commentards can dream, eh?

The one with a paperback and a movie option contract in the pocket, please...

Gospel according to HPE: And lo, on the 32,768th hour did thy SSD give up the ghost

T. F. M. Reader

Re: fucking incredible

I know of several cases where an unsigned long counter of milliseconds (not hours, which is weird in itself) overflowed after 7 weeks and a bit. I was involved in a manufacturer's investigation of mysterious switch resets myself. The most famous case, however, is that of someone who managed to run Windows for 50 days without rebooting for the first time in history in the 90ies. Well, he almost got to 50 days' uptime - the machine crashed on the 50th day because a 32-bit counter overflowed. The counter had been there for many years without anyone noticing.

T. F. M. Reader

Re: you never know when your SSD might be used in a time machine.

A short integer counting hours... Highly unusual in computer firmware, IMHO...

Why can't you be a nice little computer maker and just GET IN THE TRUNK, Xerox tells HP in hostile takeover alert

T. F. M. Reader

Re: HP insisting on due diligence?

It's actually consistent: they think the acquiring party doesn't need to do any.

Blood, snot and fear: Why the travelling lone tech reporter should always knock twice

T. F. M. Reader

Re: Interesting problem

@Pascal Monett: "How is it possible...?

I walked into an occupied room in an otherwise pretty decent hotel in an Eastern European country where I was visiting an outsourcing outfit doing some stuff for us. The original occupant was in bed watching TV - I escaped faster than I could notice which channel it was. While the horrified reception staff were recoding the key card for a different room I pondered the same question, "How is it possible?".

My first guess was that the DB was coded by the very same outsourcing company I was visiting. This was so eminently plausible that I stopped wondering there and then.

This news article about the full public release of OpenAI's 'dangerous' GPT-2 model was part written by GPT-2

T. F. M. Reader

Fit for the purpose

"as it keeps churning out text, it becomes incoherent"

Twitter-trained then, eh? Adequate for fake news generation, I suppose.

Remember the Uber self-driving car that killed a woman crossing the street? The AI had no clue about jaywalkers

T. F. M. Reader

Reasonable defaults

It seems to me - just from readin the article though - that without classification the AI engine assumes that the object is "static" and does not assign "goals" to it. Wouldn't it be prudent/conservative to assume instead that anything unidentified may move into the vehicle's path, and get prepared by slowing down, etc.? What would a human driver do if he/she catches something unrecognizable in the corner of the eye? Would it not be some instinctive equivalent of "Wait a second, what the hell is it?"

The mod firing squad: Stack Exchange embroiled in 'he said, she said, they said' row

T. F. M. Reader

Different point of view

Has it occurred to anyone that not using one's preferred gender may actually be in one's best interest? -->

So we're going back to the Moon: NASA triggers countdown by firing up spacecraft production

T. F. M. Reader

Re: Following in the footsteps of giants.

@sbt: if we stopped focusing on trying to fly delicate and precious meatbags off world

That is what scientists and engineers advocated the first time around as well. The savings would be massive if only we didn't have to keep the crew alive, they argued. What they did not realize as well as the politicians, however, that the costs would still be... well... astronomical, and that it would be much easier and faster to convince the public's representatives (and excite the public opinion, which is what said representatives sometimes pay attention to) to allocate a much larger budget to "put brave American boys on the Moon" rather than much smaller sums to "foster scientific exploration of the Solar System" or something equally boring for John Q. Public.

It was, first and foremost, a practical consideration of expediency by people who understood how strings had to be pulled. The overall result was scientific exploration and technological advances, anyway. Propaganda was not ignored, and distribution of pork to constituencies played a role. But as far as advancing science and technology goes it was not a stupid move at all.

Further IT prospective: marketing has its place.

If Syria pioneered grain processing by watermill in 350BC, the UK in 2019 can do better... right?

T. F. M. Reader

"automation in retail and banking had led to fewer jobs..."

... as well as worse customer service and higher profit margins.

Just an observation...

T. F. M. Reader

"automation in retail and banking had led to fewer jobs..."

... worse service for consumers and higher profit margins for the corporations.

Apple tells European Commission it's nutty for slapping €13bn tax bill on Irish subsidiary

T. F. M. Reader

Re: 'defies reality and common sense'

@Zolko: "They can't ask for 10% tax from one company and 0.005% from another."

Why not? They can apply different tax rates to people earning different salaries, having different number of children, etc. They should be able to apply different tax rates to different businesses, e.g., employing different number of people, operating in different industries (that may be regarded and strategically important/beneficial/etc. for the economy as a whole), and so on.

The above is a general statement, not related to conditions of Apple/Amazon/Google in Ireland specifically, implies legal transparency, and does not take into account conditions that may or may not be imposed by the EU (aid, etc.). The point is that there is in general no principle that would specify a linear tax rate for all people or all legal entities.

Apple's making some announcements! Quick, lay off 435 Uber workers

T. F. M. Reader

Re: 27000 employees?

Indeed, if the 435 RIFed employees were ~8% of product and engineering then there are less than 5500 people in those two groups. What do the other 21500+ do?

OK, Uber being Uber there may be 20K lawyers on staff... Got it.

Q. If machine learning is so smart, how come AI models are such racist, sexist homophobes? A. Humans really suck

T. F. M. Reader

"He was a pimp" ...

... is a statement of fact about one particular individual, not about "all men" or "most men" or anything like that. As such, it cannot be biased.

Might there be a problem with the research methodology?

Speaking of which, I would be curious about two pieces of further research: 1) I assume the "classifier" (after it is fixed, cf. above) can be run on both the training set and the AI output. Is the latter more or less biased than the former? If there is any significant difference, are the machines more politically correct or more in your face than the human authors of the original material? 2) I assume the output of the AI can be passed through some relatively simple software that would correct for the biases (if you have a "classifier" that detects bias it should be possible to augment it with suggestions of what an "unbiased" equivalent would be). How similar would the outcome be to the "politically correct" speech that various busybodies try to impose on us humans?

Mozilla says Firefox won't defang ad blockers – unlike a certain ad-giant browser

T. F. M. Reader

Re: Ads

@Iglethal: There's a great quote attributed to John Wanamaker "Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't know which half."

So by blocking ads you help advertisers - you are not interested in seeing their ads in the first place, and ad blockers ensure that you will not click on ads that you don't see, and advertisers pay for clickthroughs, right? Advertisers don't want to pay for the ads shown to you - that would be money wasted.

So, advertisers should support ad blockers. It's those who host ads and ad brokers - the Googles and the Facebooks - who hate ad blockers because they reduce the probability they would get paid.

T. F. M. Reader

Re: ABP Evil?

@Jamesit ABP lets people pay to bypass ad blocking.

You can disable the bypass - it is a simple checkbox. Look for "Allow Acceptable Ads" in settings.

Enjoy the holiday weekend, America? Well-rested? Good. Supermicro server boards can be remotely hijacked

T. F. M. Reader

Let's sum it up

"BMCs ... allow admins to ... perform critical maintenance tasks, like updating the OS or firmware" +

"BMCs ... aren't typically designed with security in mind" +

"Sep 3, 2019" = ?

No, does not compute.

Divert the power to the shields. 'I'm givin' her all she's got, Captain!'

T. F. M. Reader


Years ago, while working for the Research division of a company with a big striped blue logo producing big heavy black servers (among other things) I encountered a data sheet or a spec of some sort pertaining to a server system. The document - whatever it was - stated that the system had to remain operational in quite a wide range of ambient temperatures. The upper limit was particularly interesting - quite a bit higher than one can encounter anywhere on Earth and definitely not survivable for any length of time. The Fahrenheit 90ies quoted in the article are nowhere close.

So I invested quite a bit of effort tracing the origins of the specification, out of sheer curiousity. It was completely unrelated to my work. Eventually, it was explained to me - as a sort of an oral tradition rather than properly documented rationale - that it all stemmed down from theoretical computations of what would happen in a locked unmanned data centre in an Indian jungle if cooling failed on a Friday afternoon and no one would be able to reach the place before Monday.

I still don't know whether I was sold an urban legend - I've never been in a data centre in Indian jungle.

Eight-hour comms lags and shock discoveries: 30 years after Voyager 2 visited gas giant Neptune

T. F. M. Reader

Proper requirement analysis

I keep telling younger colleagues (which means all of them, damn...), "Requirements will change, plan accordingly." They listen politely and then keep doing the minimum of what was asked for, and often less than that...

With Voyager, someone must have planned larger than necessary fuel tanks, while others took into consideration the extra bulk and weight (that likely mattered at launch, for manoeuvring in interplanetary space, for re-focusing cameras and whatever), and yet others filled those tanks with fuel that was ordered by procurement, etc.... And in the end it turned out handy when requirements did change...

And in my imagination when the question of visiting Uranus and Neptune came up the first time during a stand-up morning meeting no one in the agile team said, "But this was not in the original specification and there is no story for that!"

Those good old days when “spirits were brave, the stakes were high, men were real men, women were real women and small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri were real small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri.”

Here's a top tip: Don't trust the new person – block web domains less than a month old. They are bound to be dodgy

T. F. M. Reader

Out of methodological curiousity...

What are the statistics for domains that are between 3M and 1Y old? Between 1Y and 3Y old? Are the counts statistically different? Are they practically different (not the same thing)?

Inquiring minds want to know...



Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2020