* Posts by Flak

32 posts • joined 11 Jan 2013

We don't want to be Latch key-less kids: NYC tenants sue landlords for bunging IoT 'smart' lock on their front door


Unintended consequences of 'progress'

The human element (i.e. the most important one) was clearly not considered here.

Carphone Warehouse fined £29m for mis-selling mobile insurance to punters who didn't need it


Now re-pay the premiums for all people who have been scammed

A fine is 'fine', but in order to fully feel the pain and stop these kinds of things happening, the people who have actually been harmed through this process should be refunded.

Like PPI, but automatically, without the claims management companies getting involved in the next feeding frenzy.

No guns or lockpicks needed to nick modern cars if they're fitted with hackable 'smart' alarms


(The Internet of) Things can only get better...

Much to learn:

1) Don't ever throw the 'unhackable' gauntlet down to a global tech audience.

2) See point 1...

Elementary, Watson!

5G is 'ready' once you redefine 'ready'... and then redefine 'reality'


5G factories, 5G remote surgery, autonomous cars and real time gaming

Thank you for that reality check.

As I walked through the halls at MWC last week I could not help but think that the economic case for carrier deployment of 5G (in terms of higher speed mobile connectivity) is simply not there. One display boasted of multi-gigabit connectivity to your handset. For what please?

Now over time I am sure this will happen and some real clever augmented reality stuff and immersive technology may tickle the bandwidth capabilities of 5G, but building a case for it with the use cases I saw will be difficult due to the significant increase in base station locations that are required.

5G factories - use indoor wifi or wired connections

5G remote surgery - quoting a former colleague: 'bon chance with that'

autonomous cars - should do edge processing and have their own awareness of surroundings rather than relying on external feeds (i.e. kind of like humans) and are still some time away from mass adoption

real time gaming - let that happen in fibre connected homes


Smart home owner? Don't make your crib easy pickings for the smart home pwner


Technology capability vs human capability

The real challenge here is that technical capability of devices is increasing at an incredible pace, while for all but the most savvy users default settings and blind trust seem to prevail.

In some cases the technology implementation may be completely wrong and insecure, regardless of the implementation.

In other cases it will be configuration.

Most ordinary users will not be able to recognise the first and properly mitigate the second.

Three-quarters of crucial border IT systems at risk of failure? Bah, it's not like Brexit is *looks at watch* err... next month


Next month? (checks watch again) - this month!!!


UK transport's 'ludicrous' robocar code may 'put lives at risk'


What could possibly go wrong???

See above...

European Commission orders mass recall of creepy, leaky child-tracking smartwatch


Same test results, different conclusion?

"...they have appealed to the authorities in charge with the demand that this test conclusion would be reversed."

So let me get this into my head:

Reported facts:

- the mobile application accompanying the watch has unencrypted communications with its backend server

- the server enables unauthenticated access to data

A malicious user can therefore:

- send commands to any watch

- can make any watch call another number of his choosing

- can communicate with the child wearing the device

- locate the child through GPS

But all that is OK because:

- This RAPEX announcement [is based] on a test in Iceland. --> not sure why a test in Iceland should be invalid - maybe because it is cold there?

- We think this test was excessive – not reasonable, material or fair – or, based on a misunderstanding or the wrong product (a previous version of the product, which is not in the market anymore) --> which of these excuses will work - none of them, certainly not for those who have already bought the flawed products.

- We, also, think, that the Test Conclusion of the Bundesnetzagentur is sufficient and rules --> just because one agency has apparently not found any holes in the product it does not follow that there are none - the reported facts clearly show that whatever tests were carried out were clearly not adequate to find the fundamental flaws.

It simply does not compute.

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



Not the water in the air, just don't move if you want to hear.

It will be interesting to see if there will be a real world use case at some point, or whether this will stay in the lab.

Love reading articles like this - technology applied in really creative ways - just because you can!

Amazon exec tells UK peers: No, we don't want to be dominant. Also, we don't fancy being taxed on revenues


Markets & Taxes

Market: In economic terms, Amazon operates in an oligopoly.

-> Cloud Services: AWS + Azure + Google Cloud Services

-> On-line retail: Amazon, ebay, and then some regional players

Typical market forces and behaviours in an oligopoly can be observed, with both markets now so mature that new entrants may find it difficult to achieve scale.

Taxation: It should not be possible for companies to siphon off profits generated in one country (e.g. UK) and crystallise them in tax havens. Countries or economic blocs (such as the EU - no Brexit comments please) need to close loopholes there without stifling the economy. This is an eternal cat & mouse game. If Amazon's worldwide tax averaged 30% a proportionate share should be paid in the UK - not the pittance that has been paid. But that must be based on law - not trying to shame an organisation into paying more than they are legally obliged to pay.

Shocker: UK smart meter rollout is crap, late and £500m over budget


Not so smart!

'Smart meters' are only glorified automated meter readers and don't achieve energy savings, as this would require the smart meter to do more than report on energy usage and actually control devices. A case for the Advertising Standards Authority.

If it is about awareness, then watching an 'old money' electricity meter spin at top speed when you put the kettle or electric shower on provides some straightforward education.

Seriously, all the potential positives of smart meters (I can think of only one for the consumer - not having estimated bills anymore) are quickly offset by the very real negatives that are now a reality - spiralling costs (borne by the consumer), device failures and incompatibilities (barrier to switching if you want the smart meter continue being 'smart' in the very limited meaning it currently has), spiralling costs (did I mention that already?)...

EE, Virgin Media hit with £13.3m fine: Squeezing users for fees for early contract termination not OK


It wasn't a cease order, but a downgrade - with a new contract!

A couple of months ago I helped a relative escape VirginMedia's claws by calling up their helpline to advise them that the landline would be ceased and the number ported, as well as TV and Internet services terminated.

My relative received an email several days later, welcoming her to VirginMedia on her new - landline only - contract, with a new minimum term and charges.

It took several calls to their unhelpful helpline to finally get written confirmation and acceptance that a new contract never was entered into and that the 'new' landline didn't have a number (as it was ported).


Solid state of fear: Euro boffins bust open SSD, Bitlocker encryption (it's really, really dumb)



Reminded me of this classic image:


Intel hits target: 27% of staffers are female? Apparently that's 'full representation'


Equal opportunity, encouragement and non-discrimination, not quotas please...

The fact that - today - there are still more men than women working in tech and more women than men working in, say, primary schools is something that will take a generation or two to work through. Why?Because career opportunities, interests and qualifications are generally a direct result of (high) school education, tertiary education and vocational training, as well as guidance from parents and education staff.

Having children who have gone / are going through high school in the UK right now, I can see good encouragement at school for female pupils to choose STEM subjects and consider further/higher education in the same area - something that was rare even just 20 years ago. This will help address the proportion of potential female candidates for STEM roles over time.

Targets for a higher proportion of female staff in roles that are still disproportionately occupied by men (and vice versa) are good, if they drive behaviours through the 'supply chain' of education, training and recruitment. Having recruited in the technology space many times over the last 20 years, the simple fact today is still that I see a much greater number of male candidates applying for positions than female candidates. I am sure this is not an isolated experience. That is what makes quotas difficult and I can understand Intel's thinking that they have 'arrived' at achieving gender balance - looking a their staff demographics as a proportional sub-set of the general population, rather than a 50% quota.

The same goes for any other disproportionate under or over-representation of staff based on ethnic background or any other attribute one may choose to examine. Checking a large (needs to be statistically relevant) organisation's staff population against certain criteria may help identify and counteract personal or organisational bias, which is to be commended.

In Windows 10 Update land, nobody can hear you scream


What is new about this update?

New bugs!

The grand-plus iPhone is the new normal – this is no place for paupers


Time to switch platforms

Having had Apple phones since the advent of the iPhone 3, I switched to Android a couple of months ago due to a series of unfortunate events where my iPhone 6 screen broke and I had it replaced at a non-Apple shop, followed by the battery dying and Apple refusing to do the swap unless I accepted the risk of needing a screen replacement, too, for an extra £127 (I think) over the battery replacement price.

While taking some time to get used to an Android device, I have made a decision not to buy Apple products anymore as they have simply priced themselves out of the market (certainly the market segment I see myself in) - and I haven't looked back!

It looks like tech-savvy drivers will have to lead connected car data purge


Finally a good industry use of DVLA data?

While the outlined use of data may be too late (DVLA is informed after the sale), this would be an infinitely better use of DVLA data than selling it on to the private parking extortionists...

Benchmark smartphone drama: We wouldn't call it cheating, says Huawei, but look, everyone's at it


Moral relativism

If everyone does it, it is not wrong anymore!

Trainer regrets giving straight answer to staffer's odd question



A classic:


UK.gov flings £95m at public sector superfast broadband rollouts


Bring on proper infrastructure competition

This kind of stimulus is needed to encourage infrastructure competition and is evaluated on the total committed investment and value achieved by the infrastructure provider. Serving public sector sites itself is self-serving, but the sites connected and the resulting new spine routes bring cost effective fibre infrastructure closer to businesses and residents.

Only as a consequence of this kind of investment and announcements by the likes of CityFibre (alone and with Vodafone), Gigaclear and Hyperoptic have other providers such as TalkTalk, Virginmedia and ultimately Openreach announced their own new or expanded fibre to the premises services.

To me, the challenge for public sector bodies 'bidding' for LFFN projects is that of getting the procurement right in terms of specifying their needs and objectives correctly (i.e. not every depot or office needs fibre connectivity, but every large office and school does; a public sector body does not need unlit fibre, but Ethernet, MPLS and/or Internet connectivity), as well as getting commitments by their infrastructure partner to serve the community where infrastructure is deployed.

Fibre investment is strategic in nature and needs to be treated and evaluated as such. As a consequence, the money spent should generate significant long term direct and second order benefits. I am convinced that it will in most cases and am happy that my tax contribution helps advance the UK's fibre infrastructure.

Just in case anyone thinks this is an advertorial, it is not. I am not affiliated with any of the named companies above, but have had very close dealings with a couple of them in the not too distant past and have sat on the side of the infrastructure provider (carrier) and private sector service provider (customer) for many years. Competition drives better services and lower prices. Proper infrastructure competition is long overdue.

Microsoft takes another whack at killing off Windows Phone 8.x



No tears shed!

1.5m Brits pay too much for mobile and crappy broadband – Ofcom


The Law of Averages

I'll be the smart*** here:

If you pay half, someone else 'only' needs to pay 50% more to maintain the average.

A bargain!

Typical cynical Brits: Broadband speeds up, satisfaction goes down


... and that is why we have regulators and countries care about competition.

Former monopoly providers can't just be bad anymore, but they only need to be less bad than the competition!

More Brits have access to 1Gbps speeds than those failing to muster 10Mbps – Ofcom report


Lies, damn lies and statistics!

Looks great in the microcosm of little Britain.

Compare those figures to pretty much any other country and they don't look good.

I would also like to know how many of those who CAN get 1Gbps actually DO take that service. At 1Gbps, across the broad population the 'have nots' are more relevant than the 'haves'.

Windrush immigration papers scandal is a big fat GDPR fail for UK.gov


History will be history!

These types of records are historical records as well as clearly having a vital purpose to validate someone's legitimacy to reside in the UK.

Genealogical research relies on (permanently) kept historical records. A balance needs to be struck between data protection and historical record keeping. For some records there should be a time embargo, but we have the means to keep those records and digitise them to make storage, search and retrieval much easier.

Brexit has shafted the UK's space sector, lord warns science minister


Not just the space sector....

... but everyone else, too.

I know that at the last count only 48.1% would have agreed with me - I suspect the number is now greater.

Defence of the Dark Fibre Arts: Ofcom delays plans to force BT to open its network


Re: No surprise here - just disappointment

Ubiquitous fibre is the nirvana.

The further down the OSI stack you move, the harder it is to virtualise or disaggregate.

At Layer 3 this already exists (the Internet), with 'over the top' services completely independent of the underlying infrastructure (net neutrality is a discussion for another day).

I suspect the ADVA solution you are referring to being Layer 2 Ethernet.

When you get to Layer 1, infrastructure competition is really the only thing that provides true choice.


No surprise here - just disappointment

Does it really surprise anyone that a watered down DFA product that is limited to 1Gbps has few takers when the product itself and its price is based on the 1Gbps EAD variants?

The whole reason a service provider wants dark fibre is so that they are NOT constrained in terms of bandwidth and can determine the speed of the circuit themselves through the choice of active equipment.

Openreach's argument in their appeal of the original (and much better) DFA determination that Ofcom had defined the market wrongly is perhaps technically right, but fundamentally flawed and should have been thrown out at the time.

Granted - the market for DFA in rural parts of the UK is commercially different from city centres, but so is the market for lit fibre services. And Ofcom, Openreach and the Service Provider community have all accepted that - despite those differences - EAD services at up to 1Gbps cost the same regardless of where they are delivered.

DFA was based on EAD 1G, i.e. the processes were to be broadly the same (without the active equipment), the pricing was based on it ('EAD 1G minus'), DFA was to be available wherever EAD 1G was available. The only difference is the potential to run greater transmission speeds at very little additional costs.

The courts - and the regulator - have missed an opportunity here - to accept for DFA the same market inequality as exists for EAD, using that acceptance as a precedent and force Openreach to provide the product that the whole service provider community has been waiting for for so long.

It looks like we will just need to wait a few years more...

BT hikes prices for third time in 18 months


Re: Ah well

Frying pan --> Fire ...

OpenStack says its work is largely done. Now your hard work can fill in the blanks


Make or buy? A simple question of economics

The question of whether to go AWS/Azure, VM or Openstack can be looked at in different ways, but the main question is economic - what makes most commercial sense for an organisation? From my experience that is driven by projected scale, time to market and available skillset within an organisation.

Starting from small/temporary to large/permanent, the order of preference/cost effectiveness will most likely move from AWS/Azure to VM to Openstack.

The challenge is to buy or build right to avoid platform changes later on.

Beware the GDPR 'no win, no fee ambulance chasers' – experts


Re: At least we know now

"What all the PPI firms will be doing next......."

... with the database of clients they have built up through the PPI feeding frenzy!

Perhaps they can conveniently augment that with green energy, double glazing and kitchen sales companies' databases.

Keep those auto-diallers dialling!

Is this possibly the worst broadband in the world?


There are alternatives

While I understand the pain expressed here, there is a real alternative available today with virtually no geographic limitation in the UK - the answer is satellite broadband.

It has come a long way over the years, but is now a reasonably priced service if higher speed broadband is a must.

While there are other limitations (latency and usage caps or charges), satellite broadband may offer a solution that completely circumvents fixed line and mobile operator infrastructure.

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