* Posts by MonkeyCee

1052 posts • joined 16 Apr 2013

UK security chief: How 'bout a tax for tech firms that are 'uncooperative' on terror content?

MonkeyCee Silver badge

Re: Tax Laws

"How many of the world's 5 largest economies are in the EU?"

2, Germany and UK. Unless the pound has had a terrible day, in which case still 2, Germany and France :)

Of the largest 10, 4 are. Germany, UK, France and Italy.

Microsoft Surface Book 2: Electric Boogaloo. Bigger, badder, better

MonkeyCee Silver badge

Re: Eh?

"I wouldn't wish Ikea furniture on my worst enemy, they're flimsy."


Ikea make a range of furniture. That most people decide to buy the cheapest, and are then amazed that it isn't as good as the stuff costing more has always bemused me.

I've got two office chairs from Ikea. One cost ~20 euros, and gets uncomfortable after about three hours of use. The other cost ~250 and I've yet to get a sore arse or back from it.

They are also the cheapest place around for getting a sealed surface for use as a countertop or desk.

Also when people bugger up one part of a MDF construction, they seem to toss it. As long as it hasn't been rained on, I'll grab the panels and knock up some more shelves.

MonkeyCee Silver badge

GFX fail

I am the only one who considers a GTX 1050 2Gb to be a pretty low end graphics card? I mean, for a corporate box email and word bpx, sure. But not even 4gb?

You can pick up a gaming laptop with a 1060 6gb for ~1500 or a 1070 8gb for ~1800. They have 256gb SSDs and 1Tb spinning rust, and one gen previous processors.

I'm curious about it's build quality too, since about 80% of the surfaces in my university crowd didn't survive past six months*. Macbooks, ultrabooks, gaming laptops and chromebooks seem to be what prospers.

Then again, I hate carrying around an expensive machine. I'll leave my 200 super basic laptop on the table in the library when I go to the crapper, and I'll let my 3 year old watch stuff on it without panicking when he pokes sticky fingers at it.

* as surfaces. Some are doing fine as desktop machines, but that sort of defeats the purpose

When neural nets do carols: 'Santa baby bore sweet Jesus Christ. Fa la la la la la, la la la la'

MonkeyCee Silver badge

Christmas isn't Christian

"Incidentally, doesn't this demonstrate that those churchmen who get upset about the santafication of Christmas have a very good point?"

Surely it's the other way around? Christians deciding to nick an existing holiday, then get pissy about people still liking the original.

IIRC Christmas wasn't celebrated for the first ~300 years of the church, there where extensive arguments over when Christ was born, and the original date chosen was the winter solstice based on that being Christ's conception. The whole "sun dies for three days and is reborn" is widely prevalent in winter solstice celebrations predating Christianity (and Judaism) by thousands of years.

For quite a while (~800AD) Epiphany, the 12th day*, was the major religious celebration. It was a secular event (coronation of on Emperor IIRC) on Christmas day that started it as being the focal point.

In fact, the majority of festivals that people actually bother celebrating are the same ones we celebrated way before any of this monotheistic ideologies came along. It was far easier to just claim the holiday as being part of the new thing rather than try and oppose the will of the people.

So stop this santification of santa :)

* There's also the whole Julian/Gregorian calander issue, which is why the coptics celebrate Christmas on 7th Jan, that being 25 Dec in Julian IIRC


MonkeyCee Silver badge

Fictional law firms

...that bear no resemblance to any real world ones, my favorite is Carter-Fuck, see Eyes passium.

Bigmouth ex-coppers who fed media MP pr0nz story face privacy probe

MonkeyCee Silver badge

Re: What confidentiality?

"I assume by "iffy", you mean child porn or other illegal stuff, otherwise any reasonable employer would issue a warning, not fire on the spot, unless the boss was Mussolini."

Depends on your legal locale. For countries with labor rights, this probably runs afoul of various laws. Not that this ever really stops employees pulling this, but if you want to lawyer up you'll probably get a job or a payout from it. If you're in a "at will" state, then that's kind of the point. Boss wants you gone, you're gone.

If you're using a secured machine for browsing porn, I'd fire you for being a dumbarse. Or force you to undergo security training, which is probably worse.

MonkeyCee Silver badge

Re: Typical...

That's 'cos Mince is halfway competent at his job as a politician, which is to say a lot of strong sounding language while doing nothing, and getting away with it.

He's full of good intentions, paving slab sized....

MonkeyCee Silver badge

Re: @ Naselus

Green's dismissal is because he got caught lying to the press about something that wasn't really important (in ministerial terms) and it was laughably easy to prove.

It could be considered a grave mistake by a minister saying ANYTHING to the press that is verifiable. You don't lie, you say a bunch of words that sound like something, but give full wriggle room if you get called on it.

So nothing illegal, just incompetence at a high level of the greasy pole.

He'll be on the back benches for a bit, then recycled. The only people who can fire him are his party selection committee. In theory the voters in his constituency could too, but unlikely in practice.

European court: Let's not kid ourselves, Uber. You're a transport firm, not a 'digital service'

MonkeyCee Silver badge

Re: So...

"Thankfully we'll soon be able to fall back on decisions by British courts, enforcing Brutish law"

That's what currently happens. The ECJ does not make decisions on the facts in a case.

It makes decisions on points of law.

In this case, whether Uber is just a technological platform for ridesharing, or that it is a transportation company. One of the key points is who sets the price (driver, rider or Uber) and since neither the rider or driver get any ability to change said price, it's a transport company.

Now that ruling has been made, the appropriate court (in Spain one presumes) can now make a ruling upon the facts in the case, including that Uber is a transport not tech company.

Each EU country legislates taxis and private hire vehicles differently, and Uber appears to be operating as a private hire company for most of them.

I'll also note that the ruling on Uber drivers being employees has some problems, in particular that Uber cannot require drivers to work (or not work) certain hours. So if there are ten drivers, and they all want to work 4pm to midnight, they can, despite it being more profitable to Uber if they did a shift system.

Never used them myself, and it's pretty clear to me (IANAL) that they are some form of transport providing company 'cos they set they bloody fares, and this is another delaying tactic from getting the actual ruling on whether they are operating taxis or private hire vehicles.

MonkeyCee Silver badge

Re: So...

As I understand it, in the UK Uber is a Private Hire company whose drivers are self employed. I am perhaps missing what this changes (if anything) in the UK.

That you can dump the responsibility traditionally undertaken by an employer onto the employee by making them self employed is an issue far larger than Uber alone.

My simplistic understanding of the difference between a Private Hire licence and a taxi licence is that you have to book a private hire (be it by phone call or app), wheras a taxi can pick you up from the street without any pre-arrangement.

Unless I've missed something significant, how is Uber ever considered a taxi rather than private hire company in the UK?

Magic Leap blows our mind with its incredible technology... that still doesn't f**king exist

MonkeyCee Silver badge

Re: Or.....

Just to add to cb7s comment, exactly what is the minimum spec GPU for a MRD?

I rent out one of my mining workstations to a local company whenever they have a demo*. That's got a pair of 1080tis, which is clearly overkill, and they have a 1070 in their office for day to day use.

Neither of those would really count as "lower end" and even the next tier down (1060 or a 580) is still over 200 a piece. Even a 1050ti with 4Gb is about 150.

* architect firm, virtual tours using a holo lens

Windows Store nixed Google Chrome 'app' hours after it went live

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"just use it for games that won't run on Linux."

So you run Windows then. For the applications you want that aren't easily accessible on Linux. Yet to meet a game I can't run on Linux, but you often need a fully patched version on Windows, which often makes the whole exercise redundant.

Look, I'm happy to get into "one true Scotsman/OS/text editor" arguments over the appropriate beverage, but in practice purists are down right frustrating. Most ideologues are also happy to be quite contrary when it comes to things they like/want. Like vegan tree huggers that don't see a problem with taking ecstasy or coke, but will lecture you on the environmental perils of coffee drinking and chocolate consumption.

You use the tools appropriate for the job at hand. Depending on where you work, that may well mean that you use tools that other people have sourced which you wouldn't touch with a bargepole. I'd love to say to users "oh, you wrote a 400 page document in Word and now it's corrupted? Well, that'll learn ya, use LaTex next time, now off you fuck" but that's not very helpful.

"I stopped using Google search 2 years ago"

And replaced it with what? I'm serious here, I'll use anom methods of searching, but I find that most results are either from Google one way or another, or are just shit. For specific instances you don't need it, but then you're searching a specific database like PubMed. Which may be using Google products on it's back end, but you don't really know.

"I stopped using Hotmail 3 years ago"

I'd love to. In fact the only use I have for Hotmail is that it's part of my MS Live ID thingy, and that's required for me to be certified by MS. If I'm not certified and I bugger up something on a MS system, my indemnity insurance won't cover me, and that will cost me my savings, business and probably my house.

"Office long before that"

So no jobs in corporate then? Fair enough.

I could also refuse to work on any MS systems. Let me know how many "pure" linux installations are out there in the real world that are not part of a tech/research outfit. Most of my clients are from non-tech sectors, and if they are really lucky they will have the choice of two business applications, both of which have the user facing stuff run on Windows. Sometimes there's only one vendor, also Windows only.

I'm not a fan of MS business practices, and while I own Google stock, they are pretty shady too. But they are market leaders whose products are used by billions, so you you can't declare you're not going to use them and still find work in operations.

I <3 linux too, for almost any dedicated system, or for fiddling in the software equivalent of "no user serviceable parts".

As an example, I build GPU miners. They are about as solid in linux or windows, although you can crank a little more out of the cards in linux. However, the linux tools for bios editing (OSS) and overclocking are rubbish, so it would be impossible to work out a cards best performance in linux alone, and pretty hairy to flash those settings to BIOS for each test. But benchmark them in Windows then flash them in Windows and drop them into a linux box and they'll be just fine.

Use the right tools for the job.

How Google's black box Knowledge Graph can kill you

MonkeyCee Silver badge

Re: What's new?

"Of course everyone should act like a typical El Reg reader and trust nothing, ever."

"This issue is not new, formerly if it was printed in black and white it was fact,"

What I learnt in history (back when dinosaurs roamed the earth) was that *any* source of data was suspect. Even if the author has clear motivations and they don't appear to conflict with what data you seek, you need multiple sources for anything to be sure. Then you've got the issue that sometimes those multiple sources turn out to have a single root source, and that itself is unverifiable. Those who write the history books and all that.

Then there's the "publishing with intent" or just publishing. Nothing gets written and disseminated without a damn good reason. Thus you've not only got to worry about the literal content of a piece, but by what conclusions (or bias reinforcement) the article is attempting to provoke. In the days of yore it was referred to as reading between the lines, these days it's probably something more newspeak. Triggered, trolling, dog whistling etc.

So it's not just the "what" in a person's statement, but the "why did they bother to write this". What motivates a person, and perhaps what motivates someone to pay someone else to advance their views. In much the same way that two newspapers with opposing views can report the exact same event, using the same verifiable facts, and advance completely different narratives. Note that no lying or "fake news" is involved here, you just present (and avoid mentioning) certain facts, and your audience should reach their own conclusion. They will be then more attached to the conclusion, since it wasn't presented as one.

Then there's always the difference between what was said in a meeting versus the minutes of said meeting. One of those is a formal record, and may only bear a passing resemblance to what actually happened, but what may have been an extremely contentious discussion can be made to sound unanimous.

Funnily enough, no, IT admins who trash biz machines can't claim they had permission

MonkeyCee Silver badge

Re: I've, umm... done most of that stuff

It depends entirely on your intention, and what an impartial observer would think.

If you're really not sure, then you should really get some sort of arse covering paperwork signed off.

Thus if your job is entirely about security, then you probably don't need explicit permission for a pen test. If you're a general sys admin bod, then it's a good idea, but probably OK. If you're on the helldesk, then you definitely need explicit permission.

For a more "real world" example, if I went up to my neighbors house* and broke the door down, then dragged the inhabitants out onto the street, then either I would be arrested, or reprimanded for being idiotic/brave. Mainly depending on how much smoke was coming out of the house at the time and whether I'd called the fire brigade first.

Public health announcement: smackheads and candles don't mix well.

*technically a sleepout, so an insulated shed

Up to 'ONE BEEELLION' vid-stream gawpers toil in crypto-coin mines

MonkeyCee Silver badge

Re: Monero

Well, that'll be difficult.

When the media realise that reprinting their 2012 articles about Bitcoin bubbles make them look like eejits, and meaningful discussion about how currency (and thus crypto) works is avoided at all costs*, the next stop is to discuss the "next big thing" which of course causes speculators to pile in to that. Hence Monero going up ~200% in a month, since it's the biggest coin using the cryptonight algo that hasn't been hacked, and it has an easily identifiable "better than BTC" aspect, namely being anonymous.

Since the editorial position of most news outlets is "crypto = scam or criminal" then Monero neatly fits in the second category. So it will usually be in any top 5 list, along with Etherium.

It's also got a daily trade volume ~250 million USD, so it's not really under the radar :)

* the short version is that a currency has value because we all collectively agree that it does, and there is no other reason why. This is upsetting to many people, once you get onto how money is created it's usually pitchforks and torches time

** as in someones gone to jail for securities fraud, rather than the more useful "looks like a scam, smells like a scam" stuff that you can find on reddit et al

MonkeyCee Silver badge

Re: Sponsored by power companies?

"Note: this may have changed recently with the surge in prices of coins, but for a long time it cost more in power than you got in coins for all but the most specialised hardware. "

For the last 5 years that's not been the case. Even if you mine and flog them right off the bat, missing all these 1000% returns, it's still been profitable to mine on a graphics card, in a high 'leccy cost country.

For something like Litecoin, which is now pretty much only profitable when mined by the latest generation of ASICs, there was a period wher the first gen ASICs where being built, pre-sold, and then eventually delivered. I was using R9 270 cards to mine then, which had a ROI of between nine and twelve months. They are still marginally profitable ($3 income profit from $2 of power over 24 hours), and have made $4 from $1 for about another year when they where mining Etherium. I could even flog them for about 50 euro now, and they cost me 150 new. On average (according to my sad git spreadsheet) they made me a euro a day net profit over the course of three years. Power here is 0.21 euro a kwh.

So even for a now ASIC only coin, non-specialized hardware is profitable a certain points in it's life. For any coin that is designed to make ASICs prohibitively expensive relative to a CPU or GPU (Monero) or is still waiting on ASIC miners to be delivered you can still make bank.

For current graphics cards, Nvidia 10xx series are pretty much the best bang for buck, albeit not being that cheap. A tuned 1060 is 280-330, and should do 3-4 euro in income for about 4.5 kwh, the others are multiples (1070 x1.5, 1080ti x2.25).

"Which is why we can't have nice things (like graphics cards) for Xmas."

According to the GPU manufacturers, 3-4% of their sales are to miners versus gamers, down from 6%*. This is broadly backed up by what the pool mining rates have been. So either other factors where to blame for supply shortages (that also affected all other IT kit), or the suppliers used the crunch to bump prices. Or an increase of 3% in sales somehow clears all the 200-400 euro cards.

Now nVidia cards are back to their pre-crunch prices, and AMD have re-jigged their range to make 8Gb models more pricey, which implies that it was the cost/availability of GDDR5 memory that was more of an influence than anything else.

The manufacturers also manage to ignore what miners want when they designed their "mining card". Generally faster/better RAM is the biggest kicker, along with a backplate for cooling and cost. Didn't get either of any of these things, cost was the same, but you only got 30 days rather than 2 year warranty. You are much better off buying a gaming series card, which has a decent resale value, as well as better RAM, cooling and better chance of winning the silicon lottery.

*nVidia reckons $1.5 Bn in slaes to gamers, 50 mil to miners, down from 75 mil.

Checkmate: DeepMind's AlphaZero AI clobbered rival chess app on non-level playing, er, board

MonkeyCee Silver badge

Re: Flawed, Perhaps, but Valuable Still

"That took 72 hours, rather than 4, to teach itself to play chess "

That 4 hours is meaningless.

It took 4 hours on 64 TPU2s and 5000 TPU1s. The quoted researcher reckons that's about 2 years per TPU (didn't specify gen 1 or 2), so being conservative AlphaZero took the equivalent of 128 YEARS (over a million hours) to get to the level it's at. Or if the TPU1s count, over ten thousand years.

Reminder: Vast majority of serfs toiling away as Mechanical Turks for megabucks Amazon earn less than min wage

MonkeyCee Silver badge

Prison labour

"We got rid of the workhouses generations ago. We don't want them back."

We still use prisoners as labour. For about 30-40 cents an hour, which they can only spend through the "company store" where an apple or pack of ramon costs a buck, and an out-of-date ex-army ration mars bar costs $5.

Most of our clothes are made by people working for about the same, albeit in poorer countries.

Majority of our fish is also caught by people working 12 hour shifts on indentured labour contracts on dangerous ships. A bunch of said fish ends up as pet food, stock feed and fertilizer.

Compared to that, conditions in tech factories in China are actually quite good, although well below what many people would consider humane.

So while we may have gotten rid of workhouses, it's mainly been outsourced.

Barclays bank bod in the cooler for aiding Dridex money launderers

MonkeyCee Silver badge


Golly, and I thought that you needed a crypto currency to launder money.

Turns out fiat is still the best for crooks :)

Digital Entrepreneur Awards help UK tech cop an eyeful of... WTF?

MonkeyCee Silver badge

Re: Next year ....

"Account deleted."

And yet you still need to post AC.

"proof that the feminist movement is alive and well"

Thank goodness for that.

It's pretty bloody clear to me that it still has a way to go. Since every step forward seems to result in a push back from those groups "losing" their privileged position, and lots of grumbling about how it was better in the good old days.

I presume you're also one of those types who make rape jokes in the office, get shitty when it's pointed out that rape isn't funny, and complain to HR* that I'm making your workplace "threatening".

MonkeyCee Silver badge

Re: Feminazis are as real as chauvinists

"Well, it is totally appropriate for describing females who loudly annouce that man, as a gender, is totally unnecessary and should be killed. As a gender."

But you're conflating two different things. Arguing for equal rights, which means acknowledging that perhaps as a gender men have it slightly better, does not equal agreement with killing off people. I believe in income redistribution (via market capitalism) since making the poorest better off generally results in life being better for everyone, including the mega wealthy. That doesn't mean I agree with killing off the mega wealthy, or forcibly taking their stuff.

"That's misandry to the maximum and as far as I know, no man has ever wanted to kill every female, no matter they hated them."

Well, there's a few more cases of chaps murdering women "because they deserve it" than the other way around. Often a case of a particular class/group of women (sex workers) rather than all of them, but still.

If you're going to use "militant feminist" magazines as your basis for arguing that feminists = femanazis, then I suggest* you have a trawl around some of the less delightful corners of the MRA and incel movements. Those are the chaps suggesting that women *should* be raped, want to be, invite it, and generally deserve to get murdered if they don't accept they are subordinate. Reddit kicked r/incel out because there where active debates on how to rape someone and get away with it.

In much the same way the right wing nutters will get all foamy mouthed (triggered?) about how violent and evil the left are, and then go out and kill people. Not threaten to, not make hypothetical "all menz must die!" articles, but go out and gun down elected political representatives (Jo Cox, Gabrielle Giffords), kids at camp (Breivik), people in church or just run them over with their car.

As a parting thought, if you know your views are so shameful that you need to post AC, maybe reconsider posting. Stand up for what you believe in, even if that means that some people might dislike you for the opinions you hold.

*well, maybe not, it's pretty sick shit

Argy-bargy Argies barge into Starbucks Wi-Fi with alt-coin discharges

MonkeyCee Silver badge

Re: You expect this from crooks, aided by lazy corporates.

"Run when user loads are small, and nobody will even notice."

If you aren't paying for cooling, then it might pass under the radar.

However, I'm pretty sure the "running private stuff on the network" is covered under misuse of company property since the days of SETI.

MonkeyCee Silver badge

Re: You expect this from crooks, aided by lazy corporates.

"30 low-mid range PCs could easily run 150-300H/s each on the CPU alone. The ones with GPUs could run anywhere between 500 to 1000H/s."

The CPUs maybe, if they're i7 or Ryzens. Maybe an i5, none of which I'd consider mid-low range. Old xeons are about the cheapest bang to buck ratio, 150 H/s for an E52xx, 200H/s for an X55xx, running a thread per core. To get 500+ on a GPU you'll need a rx 570 or a 1060.

That's using a tuned miner run locally, not bothered benchmarking coinhive, but I'd suspect it was a tad slower.

If it's in a heated space, then it may even end up saving money, since they are remarkable efficient little heaters. If you've got a shop full of those, along with free reign to run what you like on them, then I'd expect you'd already be running some sort of mining operation.

I've suggested it to my local PC builder, but he's averse to doing anything with new (or customer returned) kit, as he then can't legally sell it "as new". While he always has a decent selection of GPUs, none of them get taken out of a box unless it's to install in a clients box. Since he's the one running a successful bricks and mortar computer retail business, I suspect he's making the right call.

"Monero has far lower requirements than the likes of Bitcoin and Litecoin, and it uses a different algorithm that doesn't run any better on ASICs than on desktop PCs."

Eh, that's not quite true. You can build an ASIC for it, but that ASIC would end up being more expensive than the equivalent CPU. Hence why no-one has bothered. You'd be better off picking up a retired HPC cluster or equivalent bulk 9-10th gen blade servers at 30-40 quid a pop.

There's at least one data centre around these parts that uses spare cycles for mining, which pays their 'leccy bill. Not worth the return on capital, but beats them sitting idle :)

MonkeyCee Silver badge

Re: Why?

If you're running it on your own hardware, then you're probably better off with one of the designed for purpose miners, rather than one designed to run through a browser.

xmr-stak is the one I find that behaves the best, you can recompile it from source if you don't want to cough up the dev fee, and it's (as far as miners go) pretty simple to set up.

UK lacks engineering and tech skills to make government's industrial strategy work – report

MonkeyCee Silver badge

Re: that sounds reasonable

"If your politicians are trained in Politics and Economics isn't that a good thing?"

Except that you don't need to do all three for a PPE, about 90% of them do first year economics and then just do the PP part.

Since first year (and much of second year) economics involves unquestioning acceptance of the current macro economic theory, and a small exploration of the micro economic theory from which the conclusions are drawn, it's almost worse than having no grounding at all.

I've studied econometrics, which is the part which builds and analyses economic models, and the most important truth is that the model is not the system. So applying theory to the real world will always be incorrect (in some degree) and the assumptions that drive the model may well be incorrect in the specific case.

The professors actually quite liked the econometric students, since we had to have actually passed high school mathematics. Thus we could cope with such fancy concepts as differentiation, so we didn't just have to assume every relationship was linear*. We also did weird and wonderful things like read the studies which where used to justify certain "truths" we where taught in class and where supposed to accept unconditionally. Oh, and we where expected to be able to critique any model, mainly by proving it's assumption weren't valid. Bear in mind things like "supply and demand" only work if the article in question has fast and low cost transactions, is portable and ideally divisible. Thus housing and jobs are generally not subject to "normal" supply and demand models, as you can't directly swap say a pair of four bed two bath houses, and claim they are identical. Well, you can, but the one in central London versus the one in Grimsby have slightly different valuations.

I'll give you a few examples, and I expect you can see why certain members of the ruling classes come out with this crap.

Case 1: Paying people more doesn't make them work harder. Thus don't pay them more.

A number of studies have found that for about 25% of people, the amount they get paid for their work does not affect either the quality or their satisfaction with their job. This is used to justify not paying people more, because that "won't affect their quality". To anyone with an ounce of common sense, this is clearly bollocks. Firstly, 75% of people *do* feel it would improve by being paid more. I pointed this out, and was bluntly told "we're focusing on the top performers who can be motivated by non-material means". Secondly, almost all the other benefits (free food, healthcare, childcare, work-life balance, remote working etc) where achievable by spending money, albeit indirectly. So you're not increasing wages, but you are increasing money spent per employee, which from the business perspective is the same thing.

Case 2: You can't have negative interest rates, as no-one would borrow money (Keynes). Otherwise know as the zero-interest-rate-problem

The textbook conceded that, in theory at least, one could have "effective" negative rates, where inflation was greator than the interest rate, since this had been going on in Japan for a decade or so, and for a few years (by then) in the EU and USA. While I was studying there where further actual examples of purely negative rates, and the professors pretty much brushed them aside. I suggested that left to the market alone, there should never be any, but that the interest rates where the only tool at the disposal of central banks, and increasing capital requirements (BASEL 2 and 3) where primarily political tools, and thus removed from normal market conditions, hence why they could exist. Plus you could actually observe them, which I thought was one of those prime conditions for "scientific theory", since you'r trying to explain an observable phenomenon, rather than claim the theory says it can't happen and ignore them. So while certain lecturers thought this quite a sensible explanation, we still had a short essay question on why the ZIRP exists.

Case 3: Prices are determined by natural rather than artificial scarcity.

Mainly the issue here is finding any good or commodity that this is actually true for. At the time, my lecturer got rather shitty with me for contradicting him on the subject of gold (mercury is scarcer, harder to mine, more dangerous and more useful, but is a fraction of the "price" of gold, paper gold is traded at 15,000 to 1 ratio with actual gold), diamonds (controlled by cartels, massive differences between buy/sell prices, price of industrial diamonds versus jewelry) and fine art (cartel control, donations used as a tax deduction). I agreed to shut the hell up, since the theory does have some application (bottled water in a crisis zone, global shortage of food staples), but finding actual working examples that aren't a result of constrained supply of essential are problematic. Also most examples that work involve rather uncomfortable elements, essentially that "people will do anything for a potato" when they're starving.

However, I did run into the same lecturer a few years later, and he had had the grace to actually test some of my claims. In particular, he got some of his wife's diamond jewelry appraised, and then asked for offers to buy it. All the dealers would only offer to sell it on commission, and either flat refused to buy it or would only give him 25% of the appraisal value. He's now writing a paper on monopoly abuse by De Beers, so at least it's possible to teach an old dog new tricks.

* quite a few models assume that a relationship is linear or close enough, as long as you don't move the equilibrium point around much

MonkeyCee Silver badge

Re: All the jobs were sent offshore to get it for cheap....

"Or move to Scotland. We don't have undergrad tuition fees here. And our academic record's not too shabby either."

Have the rules changed then? Because when I looked into it, if I was a) Scottish or b) a non-UK EU citizen I could get the free undergrad course, but being a UK EU citizen from south of the border I paid full whack.

MonkeyCee Silver badge

Re: All the jobs were sent offshore to get it for cheap....

Not sure you even have to learn German.

I'm studying in the Netherlands, in a tech subject, and it's taught in English. There are about a dozen partner universities, half of which are in the EU, and they all teach directly related (ie cross creditable) courses, also in English. The only one which requires a foreign language is the Canadian partner (you needs the funny sort of French they speak over there).

It seems to be the case that subjects that are a bit more "general" are available in English, which should cover pretty much all STEM areas. The one that I'm aware of that absolutely require the local language is law, which makes sense.

It's about 2 grand a year here for fees, capped at a 5% rise.

MonkeyCee Silver badge

Re: Seems to me..Parliament is dominated by the fruits of our "rounded and rewarding society".

"A stunning amount of them come from the Politics Philosophy Economics course."

Worse is that they only need to pick two of the three.

Most drop economics.

Then we get politicians who are amazingly good at getting selected, by backstabbing their competitors, then good at getting elected by tricking the electorate. But no idea what to do when running the country.

It's rather depressing that certain 80s comedies (Yes Minister, New Statesman) turned out to be documentaries. Even have the exact same themes such as universal surveillance, privatising the NHS etc

OK Google: A stranger with stash of pirated films is spamming my Google Team Drive

MonkeyCee Silver badge

Re: Google Drive Help Forum "top contributor"

"Do their products ever come out of Beta?"

Yes, when they discontinue them :)

Google learns to smile, because AI's bad at it

MonkeyCee Silver badge

Re: Meaning of Bias?

I'm pretty sure in this case the "bias" in this case (and most facial recognition software in the west) is that the training set contains mainly white faces. Thus it's trained to differentiate between whiteys, but since it's been trained on very few black/latino/asiatic faces, it poor at differentiating between them.

Quite a few manufacturers of said software will talk happily about how accurate it is on test data, but when given real world data, like photos other than straight on to camera, or people wearing more/less makeup, they can be more circumspect. When you can do tests (and they are strangely reluctant to do this) and it gives a 90% likelihood of *any* two black fellas being the same person, it can cause real problems.

"An insurance company will be "biased" against an 18 year old man from a poor estate with a turbo charged car, when he attempts to get car insurance - even if he is a safe driver."

Um, well, no. You may have missed it, but you cannot discriminate upon protected characteristics* even if they are statistically valid. So that it's a chap and 18 years old are *specifically* prohibited from being allowed in your consideration, and you should be required to prove your algo also doesn't discriminate on that basis. You can judge on car model/make/age, persons income, amount of driving experience, past accidents, past claims etc. It's been suggested that if you allow the insurance company to see your driving data (as collected by your car) then they can use that to judge how safe you actually are.

It's also impossible to describe anyone with less than 10,000 hours behind the wheel as safe, since there is simply not enough data to base that on. If said chap was a kiwi, had been driving since he was 15 (unless that's been changed), had passed a defensive driving course and his job requires a licence then perhaps.

* gender, race, religion, age, sexual orientation and membership of political organisations.

MonkeyCee Silver badge

Bad data makes a bad model

Argh! If your training data is biased, then you model will be biased.

If you have a heavily biased dataset, and a less biased one, you don't build your model from biased one and then use the less biased one to teach it to correct. You just use the less biased one....

What seems to happen is that the carefully devolved (and already sold and in use by the LEOs) simply doesn't work on the less biased data. Lots of hilarious examples abound, like matching gorillas to black people, and models that have such reliance on skin tone that being too white, black, orange or too much Instagram filter render the matching pointless.

The much less funny aspect is that LEOs are already using this technology, then lying about it. It's been termed "evidence laundering", using a new (and legally untested) technology to make a match, then claiming it was done with a traditional (and accepted) method. In this case, facial recognition is claimed to in fact been a trawl through mugshots.

I personally don't object to this being used as an investigative tool to try and identify an unknown suspect, but what worries me is that it's being used as the sole identifying evidence for convictions. An undercover LEO snaps a couple of cellphone pics, software says it's you, bish bash bosh 8 years for drug dealing.

Denied: Uber's request to skip to UK Supreme Court to appeal workers' rights

MonkeyCee Silver badge

Opt out

"In any case is there not more recent regulation, again descending from EU law, on the subject of maximum hours working regulations ?"

My experience in the UK was any job that I might even potentially have to work more than 20 hours a week asked me to "voluntarily" opt out of the working hours directive.

However I wasn't driving anything, so I'd hope there was some rules preventing people from being on the road for excessive hours.

MonkeyCee Silver badge

Re: Driverless Uber ?

"Which one you think is (potentially in case of Uber) more profitable ?"

The 20% of earnings, 0% of liabilities one. Massively more profitable since the marginal cost of adding another vehicle is negligible.

If Uber wanted to be a transport company, owning or hiring vehicles and employing drivers they would do so already.

They don't want that, since it's not "disruptive". Or in plain English, there already exists a large body of legislation covering transport companies, taxi dispatchers, private hire vehicles, background checks, minimum wage, paid breaks and leave et al, and those are all costs that Uber currently avoids.

In the same way, once/if driverless cars that are licenced to carry passengers are working and allowed on our road, Uber will still make more profit by taking 20% of the earnings of an asset owned and maintained by someone else.

In general, it's a great deal more profitable being a middleman than being either buyer of seller.

Hyperloop founder goes on immediate leave following sexual assault 'smear campaign'

MonkeyCee Silver badge

Re: Three different things

Have another read of the article. You are conflating two different people, neither of whom have been sacked.

Pishevar has been accused of sexual harassment, and has taken a leave of absence in order to focus on suing his accusers.

BamBrogan left the company, and sued them for breach of fiduciary duty and misuse of corporate resources.

The counter suit claimed BamBrogan was attempting to kick Pishevar out of the company, along with various other allegations.

The suit was settled out of court, so we can only infer things from it, such as BamBrogan being released from his non-compete.

Just to note, your points 2 and 3 are exactly the same. Both BamBrogan and Pishever have had unproven* allegations of sexual harassment leveled at them, but for some reason different rules should apply. Feel free to correct me if I've missed something here.

* Pishever has specific allegations against certain staff members backed by witnesses, BamBrogan seem to be of a more general nature, with only offensive statements rather than inappropriate touching being specifically detailed.

Ex-cop who 'kept private copies of data' fingers Cabinet Office minister in pr0nz at work claims

MonkeyCee Silver badge

Re: Amazed by some of the comments here.

"I’m amazed so many commentators are happy with what the ex coppers have said and their alarm bells / bullshit detectors aren’t ringing and whaling in piercing tones."

While it's quite worrying that the ex-coppers are willing to comment on such cases, it's getting re-hashed because Green is facing allegations of a sexual nature, and as part of his "defence" of this included the claim that a) it's all a setup by the filth and b) they never was any porn on his computer.

So the ex-copper speaking out to say "there totally was porn" does have some relevance, in that Green is either willing to lie about previous allegations at the same time as denying current accusations.

Unless I've missed something in the coverage, Green is not currently accused of anything illegal. So a lot of the legal huffing and puffing is meaningless, he's not going to court. But he is accused of not acting appropriately, and previous legal but inappropriate actions might well be relevant to this.

They may even go for the "Trump/Manafort defense" where Green won't be found in breach of ministerial conduct since he wasn't a minister at the time. But May brought him into cabinet knowing full well his dodgy past and didn't see it as a potential issue could reflect poorly on her.

Wizarding World of Harry Potter awaits Microsoft Office exam winners

MonkeyCee Silver badge

Re: Wizarding World of Harry Potter....

"I think Ms Rowling (officially the richest woman in the UK?)"

Hahahaha, no.

Even if you ignore the obvious candidate, who also happens to be our head of state, there are at least a dozen female billionaires in the UK. Probably two dozen by now.

MonkeyCee Silver badge

Re: Harry who?

"Quoting junior on the subject of HP (a few years after that): "What? Harry? There is no depth and no ideas in this. It is a toddler book". "

That's a tad harsh, but taking the source is a young'un it's pretty fair :)

The first three HP books are solid young adult fiction. Tightly written but immersive universe building, managing to do a spot of subtle discussion about class and privilege without going overboard, plus a number of the usual YA adult themes.

After the success of those, JK's publishers seem to have said "stop editing for brevity and story telling, go full Tolkien* please" and while there's still an OK story in there, it's so bloated to make it almost pointless. Can't really blame her for it either, although I think she'd have been better off writing half the length books and then releasing massive appendices with all the back guff in it.

Whatever your opinion of HP, I would hope most people would still prefer it to the other popular series at the time, Twilight. At least HP has a somewhat typical hero story, overcomes struggles, gathers allies, confronts their demons and eventually triumphs. His "super power" being part of his tragic backstory is pretty good for such things. The majority of the minor characters in HP are better realized than the protagonists in Twiglet. And so on.

As far as theme parks go in Orlando, when I was a wee lad (1995) Disneyworld wan't even in my top five things I liked in Florida. Waterparks with terrifying slides (and I've been to French waterparks) and themeparks with more focus on rides than cute pictures and queing. Roller coasters >> Mickey

* never go full Tolkien

Neural networks: Today, classifying flowers... tomorrow, Skynet maybe

MonkeyCee Silver badge

Standard AI issue

Obligatory xkcd.


And for good measure:


Look, I love me a neural network as much as the next lazy AI creator. I love them so much that I build them on GPUs, so you can hide quite how much buggering around you did to get to a sensible answering system.

But like all AI problems, if there are clear goal states and easily classifiable middle states, it's a "very easy" to solve problems. Hence why we'll keep finding AIs that can play at an advanced adult level in games (which are artificially constrained) but can't manage child like tasks.

An AI usually needs to have already seen something in order to classify it. So a child/AI knows what a fire engine is, because it's seen lots of pictures of them, seen one going past, had it explained to them what it is. If you then say "at the airport, fire engines are yellow" you can be pretty sure the kid will figure out without more explanation, but the AI classification may have decided that something bein red meant fire engine ore than any other input.

HP Inc – the no-drama one – is actually doing fine with PCs, printers

MonkeyCee Silver badge

Re: Ah, printers...

No offense intended, but why would anyone have a problem with ink cart prices? Either you *need* an inkjet for whatever application you're using it for (plotters, certain photo reproduction, correct colour matching etc) or you shouldn't be using an inkjet.

My general principle is that a B+W laser will do almost all the printing that anyone needs and to go to a professional printing shop for the other stuff. A laser can be left powered off until needed, and will work consistently well until the toner runs out. Replacement carts aren't cheap, but you can be fairly sure of how many pages you'll get out of it.

They also tend to consistently work OK off even the most basic of print drivers.

Most of the big box stores around these parts do seem to offer a dizzying array of (IMHO) overpriced inkjets, with a pair of laser printers (big and small). Whilst the lasers appear to come from different manufacturers, under the hood they are all HP. Which is good, since they're built to last ~10 years.

Bitcoin outfit 'Tether' reveals US$31m BitBuck BitHeist

MonkeyCee Silver badge

Re: Load of nonsense

"Somebody used the check book analogy above, which isn't then same thing as the cash itself - it is a means for transferring an account's cash. Declaring the 'check book' as worthless is not the same thing as declaring the cash in the account as worthless."

I'll try and explain it in a more detailed metaphor, using real world currency (notes and coins) instead of crypto. Note currency is the notes and coins, which are a subset of the total money supply, which inculdes all the paper accounts. It will obviously fall over because of the difference, but the principle is the same, the convenience and speed of the fork is what is different.

So the government of Nowhere issues notes than can be exchanged for a dollar, euro, sterling etc. They then sell them for a small fee on top of the notional value. They have sold 1000 of each, and have lets say 1001 of each under their mattress.

Now some fiend sneaks in to the printing press storage area, or central bank of Nowhere, and steals off with 500 of the dollar tokens.

Nowhere immediately issues an edict saying the following:

- we're not going to redeem any of the current issued dollar tokens

- we will exchange all your current dollar-tokens for new dollar tokens that you can redeem

- do not continue to accept old dollar tokens

- dollar tokens of this number, from this address, supplied by this person etc are stolen and will not be exchanged

The new fork is the re-issued currency. Hence both the heist/fraud and the rapid re-issue are possible in a way that real world currency would be problematic. The actual money was also never under threat, since the 1001 bucks where still under the mattress, at least until the exchange happened, then somewhere between 1 and many where left :)

MonkeyCee Silver badge

Re: As noted

Oh, you're not a fogey by any means. I get to explain crypto stuff to various interested parties (detectives, fraud investigators and financial advisers), so a lot of the similes I use tend to reflect that. Also tech covers a pretty massive area, so it's unreasonable for me to expect others to have detailed knowledge about something that I'm (apparently) well versed in.

There are, relatively speaking, a huge amount of stories about dodgy stuff going on with crypto as compared to the much more common dodgy stuff going on within the "normal" banking system. You can also get in real trouble if you point out security holes in say SWIFT, and if you go further and point out a theoretical exploit then you pretty much guarantee you will get sued. There where a slew of stories about SWIFT exploits about a year ago and then it went very quiet. Ask a journalist why they aren't reporting on the more recent exploits, and they will either not know, or give you a pained expression and ask you to talk to legal.

"In fact they all seem similar in that they get hacked"

Only in the same way that "all computers" get hacked, since there are stories about that all the time. Or that all companies fail to protect our personal data, since there are constant stories about them being hacked (and covering it up) every week.

As a tech type, I believe there is a significant difference between technology that has implicit flaws, technology that implemented poorly results in flaws, and technology that itself fine but flawed due to some external (meatsack) issue.

So very few "mainstream" crypto currancies have had their blockchain "hacked". If they do, they either hard fork it (effectively making the hack worthless), or fold it. I think Etherium was the last big name one to have that happen. There's also disagreements about changes to technology, which is the cause of the Bitcoin/Bitcoin Classic split. These are issues with the technology underpinning it all.

Some of the other "hacks" involve unauthorised access to wallets. These are almost always third party applications or sites, I can't recall any locally stored and encrypted wallets produced by the original dev team being broken in to. The multi-sig wallet created by Parity for Etherium being borked by what appears to be malicious actions is the most recent case here. Various "heists" also fall into this category.

Now exactly who should be responsible for fixing Parity's programming blunder is a valid question, perhaps caveat emporer, perhaps suing them in to the ground for loss of property, whatever. It's not actually any fault with the underlying blockchain or currency.

The final group are things that are IMHO scams or things that appear to be, that just use crypto as a way to cash out. Obviously ransomware is here, but ICOs* are clearly taking the piss. IPOs are (lightly) regulated to try to ensure that what is being sold to the general public (as compared to specialist investors, who can make their own judgement) has some basis in reality. ICOs sidestep even this, and appear about as reliable as an IndieGoGo campaign for a retro gaming console. Or even something as simple as changing an address on a website so that funds get sent to the wrong place.

"massive amounts of notional currency is stolen and moved to another notional currency for laundering..."

For better or worse, the dollar, euro and pound are the currencies most used for criminal activity. Even the illegal goods themselves function as a form of barter. So cocaine, weapons or slaves are probably more utilised as a notional currency than Bitcoin. As for laundering, crypto is actually pretty terrible (too many public transaction records, no warrant needed) compared to real estate, gambling, loans or really any cash heavy business.

* Initial Coin Offering, like an IPO but for crypto instead of cash

MonkeyCee Silver badge

Re: Tether is not Bitcoin

" most exchanges need a validated account before they will even let you trade Tether."

My understanding is that since Tether is tied directly to fiat, the rules for depositing and withdrawing it from exchanges are the same as for fiat. Which typically requires "proper" authentication, on the same lines as opening a bank account. If you push more than a certain volume through, you also have to do the various "know your customer" stuff for anti-money laundering.

MonkeyCee Silver badge

As noted

"how are they going to enforce that the owner of bitcoins will not be able to convert to fiat currency? "

Because no bitcoins have been stolen?

Since the Tether tokens that where stolen have now been flagged, it should be possible to stop them being used. Well, so long as exchanges comply, but they are highly likely to. Won't be able to stop them being sold directly, but I'd expect people to be cautious of buying Tether outside of exchanges until this is sorted.

Rather than it being like a theft of cash, it's more like a theft of a chequebook. The issuing bank has contacted the other banks to flag those cheques as being invalid. So it shouldn't be possible for anyone to convert the cheques to cash at a bank.

Of course, writing a crypto story without including bitcoin in the headline will only get a fraction of the hits, so even the reg can't/won't be bothered explaining the details. Or perhaps the assumption (quickly disproved by a squiz BTL) that tech types actually understand the difference between the assorted currencies.

Apple: Sure, we banned VPN iOS apps in China, but, um, er, art!

MonkeyCee Silver badge


"If Theresa May had her way I expect VPN's would be banned here too!"

Don't be silly, UKGov would never do anything dumb like that.

They'd ban all VPNs being used for "naughty" things, and allow them for "nice". You know, in the same way they do for encryption. Encryption for secure business transactions is OK, encryption for terrorist peado remoaners is bad.

Tesla launches electric truck it guarantees won't break for a million miles

MonkeyCee Silver badge

Re: Silent (but deadly) trucks on the roads?

My local electric bus does a "ding" sound like a tram, which seems to work well in a "less than horn" situation. It seems to do it on proximity by the cameras, as it regularly dings at cyclists coming past.

A number of youths around my town have also fitted their petrol cars with a warning devices, that makes a "unst unst unst" noise that is apparently a combination warning and mating call. I hope our trucking brethren can pick something equally appealing :)

MonkeyCee Silver badge

People will buy a Semi EV - won't be Tesla

I've had to write a number of rather dull papers on competition in trucking, and have had the pleasure of knowing a few people who drove and owned semis for a living.

About 40% of truck sales go to people running one or two vehicles. They buy from a particular supplier almost entirely based on service for their particular area. Most drove Scania if they where picking up the tab and when (with my economist hat on) I asked what would be a substitute, they all responded with some variant of "I'd do something else other than drive a truck".

Unless Tesla can offer something that can beat a Scania (or equivalent, eyeball your local truck park) for loyalty and service, they won't find many people willing to lease them. If they are suited to a hybrid or an EV, then they will wait until Scania brings it one out.

Tesla isn't the only one with the ear of governments. I would have also hope Musk was a good enough engineer to recognise a great piece of pre-existing art and re-use it. Trolley trucks for the future :)

US govt to use software to finger immigrants as potential crims? That's really dumb – boffins

MonkeyCee Silver badge

But the current system is already excellent

Reminds me of the old story.

A kindly grandmother is visiting the USA for the first time. She gets to immigration, who ask her "Are you planning to overthrow the government of the USA by force or by subversion?" she thinks for a moment and replies "I do not condone violence, so by subversion then"

MonkeyCee Silver badge


I do love the ideas that come out of government. In this case, please create a "pre-cog" machine that can accurately predict (for an individual) whether they are going to commit a crime* in the future.

And once we've built this amazingly powerful piece of technology, we'll only use it on..... the section of the population with the lowest criminal activity**. Not the politicians, not the judges, not the police, not the army, not the general population, just first generation immigrants, at the point of entry.

By the way, we already do have quite accurate predictions, based on populations rather than individuals. So if American weapons are supplied to oppressive regime A, a certain number of the people fighting A will add America to their list of countries to fuck with. However, pissing people off is considered an acceptable side effect of "redistributing the wealth" from brown people with mineral assets to white people with material assets.

* WTF is up with "crime and terrorism". Any act of terrorism is automatically a crime, albeit one with a political motive.

** 1st generation immigrants are much more law abiding than the general population. 2nd gen are about as law abiding as the general population.

Parity: The bug that put $169m of Ethereum on ice? Yeah, it was on the todo list for months

MonkeyCee Silver badge

Re: Nothing is lost

" Ethereum will hard forked the code."

So your suggestion for "fixing" a third party developers clusterfuck is to unwind ~5 months of transactions, hard fork the blockchain, and then unicorns?

How about instead Parity gets sued for incompetence and goes bust?

Those wallets aren't "frozen", like some bank account under sanctions. They appear to have had another user added to the required signatories, then that user has been deleted. Thus the required signatures can never be obtained.

Hey, cop! You need a warrant to stalk a phone with a Stingray – judge

MonkeyCee Silver badge

Re: What about me then?

IANAL. My layman's understanding of the major right/left pondian difference is that in the USA you have the concept of "fruit of the poisoned tree", in that all acts leading up to acquiring the evidence must also meet the same standards, otherwise the evidence is tossed out.

Hypothetically speaking if the police enter your property without the correct warrant (or other legal reason) and then discover your meth lab, then they won't be able to submit said meth lab into evidence, because there was not a legally correct route for them to have uncovered said evidence.

Hence why an identity parade is possibly being tossed out, because the cops couldn't have found the accused without having used a warrant required technique without the correct type of warrant.

In the UK you can have such evidence presented against you, unless the judge decides it's not kosher.

The expectations to privacy are also interpreted differently. IIRC the UK (and NZ) view is that your phone contacting a cell tower is a public communication, and therefore not a violation of your privacy if the filth know about it. What was actually communicated is private, but the location (and various other bits of meta data) isn't.

Obviously the US courts feel differently about this if a stingray is used, I'm curious if anyone knows their stance if a non-stingray method (cell tower triangulation etc) is used instead?

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