* Posts by Nick Kew

725 posts • joined 16 Jan 2007

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European Space Agency slaps CC licences on its pics and vids

Nick Kew
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A longstanding de-facto situation

When I worked at ESA (most of the '90s), there was a widespread attitude that image data should be free. But in an era when internet data trickled at a rate of byte by painful byte, a general-purpose website to dispense candy to everyone seemed inconceivable.

I first developed an ESA website for certain Earth Science data in '95 (complete with cool JAVA tool to select an area of interest from the map). It limited users to 10Mb, and we thought few users could hold a connection open for enough hours to download anything close to that much. Mostly you'd use the website to order a tape containing the data. And you had to register. But it wasn't vetoed: even back then, the principle of free data had been allowed by the powers-that-be.

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Google agrees to break pirates' domination over music searches

Nick Kew
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How many cases like this make it in to the statistics?

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US visitors must hand over Twitter, Facebook handles by law – newbie Rep starts ball rolling

Nick Kew
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Re: But

I don't have any social media accounts!

Neither do I.

I have something altogether more sinister, that probably marks me out as dodgy and undesirable. That is, an ethical problem with the Enclosure of the Commons represented by the likes of Facebook.

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'We need a new Geneva Convention to protect all citizens from snoops'

Nick Kew
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Any big company will contain diverse views. Microsoft today certainly contains both goodies and baddies. I'd give this speaker the benefit of the doubt, and be happy to see someone in his position taking a stand.

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WTF is up with the W3C, DRM and security bods threatened – we explain

Nick Kew
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Everyone ...

The Chattering Classes seem to be drawn to generalisations that purport to speak for all of us. I had a bit of a rant about it when someone said that everyone fileshares. Somewhat relevant to this discussion.

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Planned Espionage Act could jail journos and whistleblowers as spies

Nick Kew
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Black Helicopters

Prisoner Peston?

"sensitive information relating to the economy [should] be brought within the scope of the legislation... in so far as it relates to national security".

Hmmm. So Robert Peston would've had to watch his back when he told us all was not well in 2008? What about private citizens who might have spread dangerous gossip about queues outside Northern Rock?

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Nick Kew
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Re: MP's Expenses Scandal

We've already had Leveson to stamp on that kind of practice by the press.

(Under the guise, of course, of dealing with altogether-less-sympathetic uses of investigative techniques).

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Thought your data was safe outside America after the Microsoft ruling? Think again

Nick Kew
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Re: Is it a bird? is it a plane?

I think the new POTUS is a red herring here. It's not him but the preceding generation he's so rude about that brought Patriot and Snooper's Charter. Some things will get worse, but I don't think the particular issue of online privacy will be one of them.

One straw in the wind: he's already at war with the US courts. If you want to extend PATRIOT into something even more sinister, the last thing you want to do is alienate your henchmen tasked with enforcing it.

Unless you go the full totalitarian, and run a private security state separate from the law.

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Nick Kew
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Re: And while THE PATRIOT stands it always will.

Nothing wrong with the Google line here.

What would be very wrong would be to promise privacy and then do the opposite. Or to use weasel words to appear to promise privacy, but leave themselves nasty loopholes. Or perhaps just fudge and evade the issue.

In this instance, they maintained their user's privacy until a court order told them to do otherwise. Much like mumsnet in another recent story.

I wouldn't rely on privacy from any provider. Regardless of Good Intentions, they could be bullied by courts, penetrated by spooks, or infiltrated by rogue sysops.

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Google's Chrome is about to get rather in-your-face about HTTPS

Nick Kew
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Cult of useless HTTPS

HTTPS offers some security, but with dangerous points of failure (like CAs) that should be familiar at least to regular readers.

However, statements like this indicate a bandwagon onto which people are thoughtlessly jumping:

"Incidentally, The Register can be viewed over HTTPS, from our forums login to white papers to editorial articles – hats off to our tech team for that."

The cost of that, in terms of loss of cacheability, is akin to that of a stoppage on the trains driving millions of commuters into cars. Why is a site whose contents are public imposing that cost on the 'net?

Even forums has nothing more than low-value passwords to protect: if someone impersonates me here, they haven't got anything like access to anything potentially valuable like my money or private communications.

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Devonians try to drive Dartmoor whisky plan onto rocks

Nick Kew
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Pint

Re: Whisky Galore

There is actually quite a bit of modern housing in Princetown. A couple of new estates went up in about 2005-ish. Before that, there's some probably-1950s stuff, and then the older buildings where you're most likely to find something half-decent. House prices are also what you'd expect on a fairly ugly estate, not at all like more desirable Dartmoor villages.

However, any time you're in the area, the Dartmoor Brewery's Jail Ale is an excellent pint. If they can produce a chaser to match, this local won't say no.

ObLocalFact. The prison has (or recently had) a writer-in-residence. Well, not physically in residence, but an official post: I guess she was there literarily rather than literally. I found out when I learned that my new neighbour downstairs (where I lived until recently) was that writer.

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Firefox bares teeth, attacks sites that collect personal data

Nick Kew
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Re: Good job...

And on that subject ... might I ask the wider audience whether (in general) there is any reason to keep the http version of a site (any site) going alongside an https version?

Just in case that's not meant to be ironic ...

Yes of course, HTTP is much more efficient and imposes vastly less load on the 'net than HTTPS. You might ignore the minor matter of processing overhead at each end of a secure connection, but you can't ignore the damage it does to cacheability. Think of it like moving a million people out of commuter trains each morning, and each into their individual cars.

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Operator of DDoS protection service named as Mirai author

Nick Kew
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Aren't you still a tinfoil hatter if you question the Party Line? Especially when that points to a Big Bad Bogeyman like Vlad the Imputer.

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On last day as president, Obama's CIO shrouds future .gov websites in secret code

Nick Kew
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Big Brother

"Sorry, alt.right readers,"

That's not me, but it reads like a challenge to turn the story into a conspiracy theory. So here goes. Not actually one I find plausible, but could be tweaked ...

When .gov websites enforce their own rules and only work with browsers that have an NSA backdoor, it'll help weed out privacy.

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Linux is part of the IoT security problem, dev tells Linux conference

Nick Kew
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Re: No, the enemy is the idiot who wrote the specs

Problems often arise in the name of security itself. See a well-known tickbox risk, fix it by creating more complexity and a bigger - but unknown - risk. Security tickbox ticked.

Reg readers will not be unfamiliar with entirely-predictable consequences. I'm reminded of http://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/08/24/everything_over_http/ (from when I had an Apache column in a branch of this publication).

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BT installs phone 'spam filter', says it'll strain out mass cold-callers

Nick Kew
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1572

They can add a number simply by dialling 1572 after receiving the call

OK, something the victim can do to register with them, as opposed to some third-party. This is progress.

What we really need is a version of that that applies some kind of penalty on any caller who collects more than a handful of 1572s. Say, £1 per spam call, collected by BT/phoneco as in normal billing and going to Good Causes (in the manner of a Lottery).

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Nick Kew
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Trollface

Re: A Typical Scam Call I Get

If I have the time and inclination, I'll just sit and talk nonsense to them for ages, wasting their time, preventing them making any money...

Yes, my accident left me with damaged bowel function ... excuse me, urgent call to make, back in three minutes ...

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Maps and alarm clocks best thing about mobes, say normies

Nick Kew
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Re: There is another use...

Yep, it's the fashionable modern "keep off" signal. But you don't actually need a smartphone for that. ;)

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You have the right to be informed: Write to UK.gov, save El Reg

Nick Kew
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Goodbye, free press

OK, others have made the obvious point: where the heck have you been all this time?

Anyway, you piqued my curiosity, so I looked up when I blogged predicting this. Turns out it was July 2010 when News of the World closed and they were about to launch Leveson. "Con-men and fraudsters everywhere will stand to benefit if investigators better resourced than the police have their hands tied." Villains and Scapegoats.

Goodbye, free press. It wasn't entirely nice knowing you, but I fear your replacement will be a whole lot worse.

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Switzerland says Uber's an employer, sends social security bill

Nick Kew
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WTF?

EPARSE

In one paragraph, the Suva is both

(a) a public liability insurer, and

(b) responsibility for statutory worker's health care and accident compensation coverage.

Not an exact analogy, but that sounds rather like confusing IR35 with Legal&General. Or something.

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Russia to convicted criminal hackers: 'Work with us or jail?'

Nick Kew
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Re: so far not reported

Not merely is it nothing new, we have a regular phrase Poacher turned gamekeeper. And a long tradition of applying it in this very field.

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Sexbots could ‘over-exert’ their human lovers, academic warns

Nick Kew
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Megaphone

What's new?

Wilt was published in the mid-1970s.

... and look at the trouble "Judy" caused him, 40 years ago ...

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Beeb flings millions more £s at Capita for telly tax collection

Nick Kew
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Re: Junk Mail..

I got those after moving in here. About monthly, in a pattern alternating between "we are about to open an investigation" and "we have opened an investigation".

Now they finally seem to have given up: nothing for ... hmm ... maybe six months or so. Guess they must've closed their investigation. Or something.

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It's round and wobbles, but madam, it's a mouse pad, not a floppy disk

Nick Kew
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Re: Stiffies...

How was your Namibian's sense of humour?

When I've lived and worked abroad, I find being a foreigner gives me splendid licence to commit linguistic faux pas that will have the natives in stitches.

It's not always deliberate, but it's much more likely than you'd think.

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Open source Roundcube webmail can be attacked ... by sending it an e-mail

Nick Kew
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Re: Eee, when I warra kid

20-year-old COBOL? Didn't realise COBOL was still written 20 years ago!

Guess you must've been digging up a memory from 20 years ago, of COBOL that was 20 years old at the time.

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Nick Kew
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Mushroom

Twenty years ago when Perl was the dominant language for apps like this, the message drummed insistently into everyone hacking it was ALWAYS use the -T taint-checking option. Which protects you from precisely this kind of bug.

Then came PHP, and security was history ...

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Soon only Ticketmaster will rip you off: Concert scalper bots face US ban

Nick Kew
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With no touts, when you phone up you will get the tickets that they are no longer getting.

With no touts, the official promoters would have to build their profits into the official price. Or find some alternative way to reduce the amount seen by the taxman, and perhaps resented by the fans if faceless 'touts' aren't taking the blame.

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European Council agrees to remove geoblocking

Nick Kew
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Re: and what about VAT?

It's a while since I've charged VAT to someone in another EU country, but ISTR charging at my own country's rate. Are you saying that's changed?

My recollection is also that reclaiming VAT on cross-border transactions was something of a nightmare. Anyone know if it still is?

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UK's new Snoopers' Charter just passed an encryption backdoor law by the backdoor

Nick Kew
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Alert

Please sir. Point of order!

We have - and always have had - forms to fill for the US government whenever we release software with cryptographic capabilities. Just a box to check, alongside things like internal processes and intellectual property audit with any software release. I don't know about operating it for customers: that's not my field.

I wonder if this will look any different in practice? Maybe El Reg could commission your tame lawyers to give us an expert analysis?

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UK.gov was warned of smart meter debacle by Cabinet Office in 2012

Nick Kew
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Alert

Principle vs Practice

Our smart meters do have the appearance of a badly botched scheme about them. I'd want to escalate some questions above the level of the salesman before I'd accept one. The vulnerabilities (real or otherwise - I expect there's an element of both), the incompatibilities (strewth!), the bottom-line price comparison to France and Italy (insofar as that's like-for-like), and of course the failure to persuade the public.

On the other hand, I'm perfectly comfortable with the underlying principle of demand management. We've had a lower-tech version called Economy 7 for decades, and even though I'm not on it, I find it convenient to run the dishwasher overnight when energy is (or would be) cheapest.

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Inside Android's source code... // TODO – Finish file encryption later

Nick Kew
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Coat

On fire?

Hmmm, so when Samsung Galaxy 7 phones catch fire, is it in fact Google's pants, rather than those batteries that originally got the blame?

I'll get me coat (and un-burned pants).

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Pound's plunge opens UK's tech SMBs to foreign buyouts - analyst

Nick Kew
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Stop

Where's the problem?

Our listed companies are owned by shareholders around the world. Mostly the big institutions, such as our insurance companies and pension funds.

The foreign-listed companies who buy them are likewise owned by shareholders around the world. Want a stake in ARM? You can still buy softbank shares: just ask your broker. Or more likely today, just log in to your platform.

I note your list omits Autonomy, the company bought by a hubristic Hewlett Packard (to lots of scepticism from Reg commentards), and more recently re-acquired by Micro Focus, a British company that also owns quite a few former US software companies. Though your list does feature quite a few companies that were bust when taken over (some of them repeatedly bust: most notably the car makers that have been bailed out countless times by taxpayers, going right back to British Leyland in the 1960s).

Oh, and I don't think you're even factually quite right. Was there ever a business called EE that was under different/british-labelled ownership?

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Debian putting everything on the /usr

Nick Kew
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@Ken Hagan Re: only thing I ask

Live CD? Really? Can't remember the last time I had a 'puter with a working CD (or DVD) drive. Oh, wait, maybe that tower next door has one: guess I should take a look.

Surely what matters is whether you can rescue from USB. Don't some machines have security features in BIOS that might get in the way of that?

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Reg man 0: Japanese electronic toilet 1

Nick Kew
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Re: Come on...

Damn, I was using google translate on menus last week to make sure I didn't inadvertently order something with meat in, while eating out in Seville.

The image of someone using it for his enthronement is not a good association.

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Software biz boss on harassment charges represents himself, says I want a jury

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What went wrong at Tesco Bank?

Nick Kew
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That quote is attributed to Sir Humphrey (well, maybe once removed). You need to interpret it in that context.

(And who knows what he may know that we don't?)

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Trump's plan: Tariffs on electronics, ban on skilled tech migrants, turn off the internet

Nick Kew
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Who needs a visa?

I've worked as employee for two Silicon Valley companies in my time, from right here in Devon. Not to mention the US companies I've done contract work for! Who needs a visa?

Let's see if he can do the world a favour. He's sent out a signal about not wanting to fight foreign wars: that could lead to relative peace in Syria within a few months!

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McDonald's sues Italian city for $20m after being burger-blocked

Nick Kew
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@JR Hartley Re: TTIP

Something's wrong. Changing it must be prevented at all costs. Because the anti-TTIP propaganda (which may or may not look anything like the reality of it) looks like this.

(This is happening without TTIP.)

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Teen in the dock on terror apologist charge for naming Wi-Fi network 'Daesh 21'

Nick Kew
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Coat

Hmmm .... just speculatin'

Should I name my wifi AlQaeda or somesuch? Can't see plod taking any notice.

On the other hand, call it Lolita2002 and one could be stuffed for life.

Maybe I'll call it UpTheTrump and see what anyone makes of that. Or on second thoughts, that has a rather short shelf life, regardless of the outcome of their election.

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Stiff upper lips and sun glasses: the Chancellor bets on Brexit feeling

Nick Kew
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Re: Reflecting on Britain's legacy of Alan Turing

The irony of that is, he'd be treated more harshly today (AIUI the chemical treatment was his choice, as an alternative to prison).

His conviction was for Gross Indecency, which is no longer an offence. But a forty-year-old caught having sexual relations with a youngster below the age of consent (21 at the time) is harshly penalised.

(Unlike a pair of mature homosexuals, even in Turing's time. Britten and Pears were tolerated as a couple, for example).

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Nick Kew
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Excuse the rant ...

Rome? Pah! Clearly Athens is the centre of the known world.

No, wait, Euclid was from Alexandria, Eratosthenes moved to Alexandria for a good job. Archimedes was from Syracuse, Zeno from Elea, both in what is now Italy. Dammit, the STEM community has been globalised for a long time! Athens was more the world centre of luvviedom. I'm sure there's a moral in there somewhere.

Anyway, why Turing in particular? He's just one of many distinguished mathematicians, scientists and engineers in our history. His role in winning The War ... again, one of many, and who remembers R J Mitchell these days? Oh, right, Turing is beloved of the Chattering Classes for reasons that have nothing whatsoever to do with his work.

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Obey Google, web-masters, or it will say you can't be trusted

Nick Kew
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Re: The whole mechanism sucks

Yep. Every CA is a single point of failure.

So it's time to upgrade the Web to use distributed trust authorities. No single point of failure, the attacker has to compromise more than one independent trust authority to impersonate a site.

That's a central pillar of the M-Pin protocol (currently an IETF draft) and Milagro project (in incubation at Apache). Get on board and secure the web. And (by the way) secure the IoT!

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Microsoft's Cognitive Toolkit on GitHub in all its speech-recognising glory

Nick Kew
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Brewing for 20 years?

Computer speech recognition had been brewing for about 20 years when I worked (in academia) in the field. That was the early 1990s.

One of the conclusions of my work was the meaninglessness of percentage accuracy figures as a measure of performance. They're about as useful as measuring lengths in pieces of string. Information-theoretic measures (entropy) do an altogether better job.

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This speech recognition code is 'just as good' as a pro transcriber

Nick Kew
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Re: Dodgy numbers?

11.3% errors for a human transcriber is appalling!

You can see it in real life, where transcribed text is shown to the public. For example, look at the details at rightmove or zoopla, transcribed by some numpty at an estate agent. Some agents seem to specialise in entertainment value.

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British jobs for British people: UK tech rejects PM May’s nativist hiring agenda

Nick Kew
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Big Brother

Glad to be an old codger ...

... who had the opportunity, in my time, to work in other European countries without excessive red tape. Escaped destitution in Blighty twice in my time by moving abroad.

Shame about the next generation.

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BT will HATE us for this one weird 5G trick

Nick Kew
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Flame

Don't ghettoise cyclists.

Pavement cycle lanes have a long history of being ill-considered, poorly implemented, and rather worse than useless. Not to mention much more dangerous than the roads, according to accident statistics. Please don't wish more of them on us!

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A robot kitchen? Whatever. Are you stupid enough to fall for this?

Nick Kew
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£80k

In the crowdfunding pitch, someone asked about the cost and got a reply from campaign director Olga Nasalskaya:

"The kitchen system will retail at around £80k initially, falling over time to £40k and less through modification of the system"

The adjoining campaign is called "Jet Pack Aviation", and features a sci-fi pic of a flying ... damn, I so want to say pig.

Neither campaign tempts me, though I do occasionally take a flutter on crowdfunding.

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Nick Kew
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Re: £100 a week for a year with Tesco's delivery service comes in at about £26,000 cheaper

welllllllll, bear in mind...

Actually we do have as near to facts as we're ever likely to. The Ombudsman has reported on Tescos treatment of suppliers, and was on the Today programme just a few days ago reporting that the era of sharp practice is indeed behind them.

As for dairy farmers, that's deeply misleading media spin. Several supermarkets were fined for overpaying them in response to that campaign.

And in any case, Unilever is far too big to be bullied by Tescos.

I wonder if the fact that Tescos current CEO was recruited from Unilever has any bearing on it?

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'Please label things so I can tell the difference between a mouse and a microphone'

Nick Kew
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He then moved the mouse about some more, saw the cursor was doing the right thing, said "that fixed it" and left with a sense of achievement.

If I'd had an audience when I gingerly played with my first mouse, I might easily have done the same. As it was, it just took a couple of simple moves to figure out which way to hold it.

This thread is clearly the place to post the essential helpdesk video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j_p3TYXmJFk

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UK will build new nuclear bomb subs, says Defence Secretary

Nick Kew
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Black Helicopters

A ploy to retake Scotland?

This is a spectacularly expensive stunt just to wind Corbyn up. They must be more worried about him than anyone admits!

But what if it backfires and ends up making him look like a statesman? Aha, got it! This is aimed at Scotland. Antagonise them sufficiently and maybe enough of them will vote Corbyn to weaken the SNP!

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