* Posts by Nick Kew

1028 posts • joined 16 Jan 2007

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Stick to the script, kiddies: Some dos and don'ts for the workplace

Nick Kew
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Re: Really useful article.

You merely suspect? Haven't you been following the whole systemd debate?

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Mythical broadband speeds to plummet in crackdown on ISP ads

Nick Kew
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Red herring

What exactly is not clear about "up to" in an advert?

Today's news is basically that silly agitators have won on an matter of trivia. So none of the Chattering Classes are looking at poor reliability and service levels. Let alone the Great Firewall (aka IWF).

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More than half of GitHub is duplicate code, researchers find

Nick Kew
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@Hollerithevo Re: Duplication

Oh dear. I don't think much of your musical taste. Among symphonists contemporary with Brahms I'd put Dvorak or Tchaikovsky head, shoulders and torso above the sub-Beethoven-wannabe.

That aside, if you look at any music, there's a lot of repetition. Sometimes identical, other times modified. Whole styles and genres are defined by how repetition works. One of the main things that distinguishes music worth listening to from a pop single is that it's not merely repetition, but development of ideas. From antiphonal echo, to the major classical forms like sonata and rondo, to the leitmotif and its many imitators, to name but a few forms spanning the centuries.

Take the familiar repetition away and you have Stockhausen. Or let the repetition overwhelm development for longer than a pop single and you have muzak.

Which is kind-of like github. Clone something, you have duplication. Fork and go your own way, or feed back to your upstream via pull requests, and you have different modes of development. Is not a bugfix branch just what you say of the genome: an essential component of corrections?

I guess an in-depth study of analogies to other complex systems might look more like a PhD thesis than an El Reg post. Maybe a good halfway house could be a paper examining some aspect in depth, which El Reg could then report and commentards could debate in an ingenious self-reference reminiscent of Escher.

Mine's a pint, please. I'll need it to take this any further.

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Nick Kew
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Duplication

Now remind us.

How much of the human brain is redundant?

How much of the human genome is duplication?

or even

How much of a great artwork is duplication?

It seems to go with the territory of being large and complex.

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Nick Kew
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The mote in thine eye

but along the way, they turned up a “staggering rate of file-level duplication” that made them change direction.

So their own work was driven by what they discovered after they'd started. That makes it statistically worthless.

Was the slightly-ironic sub-headline El Reg, or from the research? If the latter, I hope the tongue was firmly in the cheek.

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Prosecute driverless car devs for software snafus, say Brit cyclists

Nick Kew
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The Netherlands have a simple rule - any RTA involving a cyclist, it's the non-cyclists fault.

Citation needed, 'cos that sounds like a misrepresentation in more than one way.

First, it's not fault, it's a presumption of responsibility. That's not the same as fault. Persons in charge of dangerous machines have a responsibility to use them safely.

Second, it's not cyclists vs the rest, it's associated entirely with being in charge of a deadly weapon. Just as if you're in charge of a gun that accidentally goes off and does something bad - even if the person who got shot should never have been there.

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Q: Why are you running in the office? A: This is my password for El Reg

Nick Kew
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Coat

Admit defeet

There should be a rule - a lighthearted Godwin - about when a discussion gets turned into a punfest.

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Now Oracle stiffs its own sales reps to pocket their overtime, allegedly

Nick Kew
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Re: Overtime falsification in the timesheet. How quaint. And how familiar.

Yep. Get folks into the habit early. In my case, my first job after graduating made it abundantly clear that working whatever hours it takes for no extra pay was all part of being a professional person, as opposed to a unionised blue-collar worker. So that's the norm.

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How can airlines stop hackers pwning planes over the air? And don't say 'regular patches'

Nick Kew
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When you land in serious weather and can't see a thing ...

You want connectivity between the plane's telemetry and the airport. Not to mention weather information that tells you what you're descending into as you go down.

How do you do that with an airgap?

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Red Hat opens its ARMs to Enterprise Linux... er, wait, perhaps it's the other way round

Nick Kew
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Re: What is really needed...

ISTR having been looking for something like that for about 20 years.

Real prize would be to get it in a laptop. Proper laptop, not some horrible keyboard-less device.

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WikiLeaks drama alert: CIA forged digital certs imitating Kaspersky Lab

Nick Kew
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WTF?

Thank you for asking the critical question. Has the CIA infiltrated trust lists such as those of browsers, and/or "real" CAs?

The followup to your question is, why did El Reg not address it?

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User asked help desk to debug a Post-it Note that survived a reboot

Nick Kew
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No you didn't ...

The story wasn't about someone getting confused. It was about failing to figure it out, and escalating to a helpdesk.

Upvote anyway, for the chuckle.

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Nick Kew
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Dilbert?

If this isn't a 1990s PHB joke, it jolly well should be!

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Where hackers haven't directly influenced polls, they've undermined our faith in democracy

Nick Kew
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Re: Why must democracy be digitised?

You trust a system that makes no attempt whatsoever to verify that people walking into a polling station are who they say they are?

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Nick Kew
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Re: The biggest UK hackers of the lot then?

You forgot convicted (in the US) fraudster Conrad Black, who was hacking the public mind for much of the same time as Murdoch. Colonials getting revenge on Blighty for having colonised their countries?

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Dumb autonomous cars can save more lives than brilliant ones

Nick Kew
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Backlash

Trouble is, if autonomous cars are only, say, 99% safer than human drivers, what happens when a case is reported where one is responsible for killing someone?

There are lots of precedents for damaging backlashes. In the field of transport, just look at the completely different standards applied to rail deaths compared to road deaths. If the cost-per-death of the Hatfield disaster were applied to motorists, a year's insurance premium would cost more than a new car, and it seems statistically likely that the rail disruption that followed it caused more deaths (by driving people onto the roads) than the crash itself.

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You know what's coming next: FBI is upset it can't get into Texas church gunman's smartphone

Nick Kew
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@John Smith 19

Is that related to Catch 22?

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Transparent algorithms? Here's why that's a bad idea, Google tells MPs

Nick Kew
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Google is in an unusual position

Google's core algorithms that power search are affected by an unusual problem: they're under constant attack by spammers, for whom reverse-engineering those algorithms would be a Holy Grail. Every victory for those spammers is a defeat not only for google, but for all of us who use google for search.

Furthermore, google is a huge target for those spammers. A deep-pocketed "SEO" shop might justify a million-a-month R&D effort for the merest demonstrable advantage.

In those circumstances, it makes sense for Google to be less-than open about the detail of its algorithms, and to be constantly varying them.

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Seldom used 'i' mangled by baffling autocorrect bug in Apple's iOS 11

Nick Kew
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Coat

There's no I in

... apple products.

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Nick Kew
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Confusion

Sorry for the downvote. The arrow was pointing upwards on my screen.

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Look out, Pepe: Martha Lane Fox has a plan

Nick Kew
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Childcatcher

Re: Accessibility

If the badge denotes that the website is accessible to all users it should be in Braille, or at the very least embossed.

Erm, jokes aren't always obvious in text. Trouble with yours is, it's scarily close to some of the misguided things idiots do for real in the pursuit of an illusion of accessibility.

Putting on my expert hat[1] I should point out that accessibility comes straight from well-written HTML, and it takes a lot less effort to get right than many sites put in to subverting it. From memory, Lane-Fox's own lastminute was one of those that put vast effort into b*****ing it up.

[1] Some years ago I served as Invited Expert with the W3C on accessibility.

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Official: Perl the most hated programming language, say devs

Nick Kew
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Re: Learning languages from a book

Sometime in the 1980s I first needed to learn C. I picked up the C book, K&R.

After reading the whole thing, it told me little of any value. Most memorably, I came out puzzled: surely C does dynamic memory allocation? Yet I had to ask "what's the C equivalent of Pascal's new"? Yes, it's true, there is not a single mention of malloc in the whole of K&R[1]!

In fact, the most informative learning resource I could find was a Microsoft VC++ manual. Despite the fact that I wasn't even working on an MS operating system, let alone with their compiler. It just happened to be something I could find.

Towards the end of the '80s, I read Stroustrup on C++ and found him a lot more informative. Though when I wanted to get to grips with STL in the 1990s, I found again a great gap in available documentation.

Perl was so much easier, with all the docs built in. Never looked at a Perl book, though.

[1] I understand that may have changed in later editions of K&R.

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Only good guys would use an automated GPU-powered password-cracker ... right?

Nick Kew
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Alien

Re: Way out of my league to understand this, but..

A tool like this is more about lowering the bar to a job than about enabling it in the first place. The determined blackhat can do the same already. The competent network administrator might be able to too, if only he had time free from all those more urgent demands!

A tool simplifying the latter's job sounds like a Good Thing to me. And as I read it, this one's got builtin hurdles against casual misuse, so it doesn't lower the bar too much to a script kiddie.

To withhold it would smell of that old favourite, security by obscurity.

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Nick Kew
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Re: Yeah but...

... and trawl social media for names and dates associated with lovers, pets, family, favourite things, etc.

Add a nice big database of leaked data and it could cover a lot of phishing grounds.

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Dell forgot to renew PC data recovery domain, so a squatter bought it

Nick Kew
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Facepalm

Re: How do domain names expire?

It's happened to me.

Domain is on auto-renew. All is well for many years, you forget all about it. Then your once-competent-and-reliable provider stops its secondary DNS and domain registration service. Whoops!

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UK's NHS to pilot 'Airbnb'-style care service in homeowners' spare rooms

Nick Kew
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I can envisage a case in point.

I have a friend in her 80s, who had to go into hospital for something about a year ago. She lives alone, and normally needs no help. But when she had just been operated, they didn't want to let her out unless there was someone around just in case she needed it.

If I had a suitable spare room (and known about it at the time), I'd've been happy to offer it. If the NHS were paying, it could go a long way towards making it acceptable to a patient who doesn't want to be any trouble.

It's just one more step to do the same with strangers.

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Didn't install a safety-critical driverless car patch? Bye, insurance!

Nick Kew
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Re: other parts of the article:

Seems particularly ill-considered: how many drivers will want to hang around a petrol station while the chariot gets recharged? Fortunately in the real world, people are installing them more sensibly in car parks: for example, at retail outlets such as supermarkets, city centres and park-and-ride, leisure venues such as theatre/music/cinema, etc.

Eventually it'll be depots for summon-a-car fleets. Recharging along with cleaning and other maintenance.

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Nick Kew
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WTF?

Re: Safety Critical Patches

Selling unsafe goods is not allowed

Wow! What country is this, and when did they ban selling of cars?

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Boss visited the night shift and found a car in the data centre

Nick Kew
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@Baldrickk

If ever there was a time and a place for Windows bashing ...

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You're doing open source wrong, Microsoft tsk-tsk-tsks at Google: Chrome security fixes made public too early

Nick Kew
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This is a real issue ...

In order to make a release, we need to push out release candidates. Those, at the very least, will contain whatever security fixes are required. And if a release candidate differs from the relevant public code repo, eyebrows will be raised, and blackhats very interested.

Our preferred solution typically involves committing the fixes quietly, with commit messages that don't mention any security implication of what's being done. The fix, but not the issue, is then public for as long as it takes to release. The security issues are announced when the release candidate successfully becomes a release.

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EU: No encryption backdoors but, eh, let's help each other crack that crypto, oui? Ja?

Nick Kew
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This is government doing the Right Thing, and not getting in the way of industry and society. They're looking at the story of the FBI and the Iphone, and pooling expertise as and when such cases arise and the maker can't or won't help law-enforcement.

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Microsoft exec says ARM-powered Windows laptops have multi-day battery life

Nick Kew
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Meh

All my life

(or at least since I first acquired a laptop, in about 1993 or '94)

I've been waiting for this (kind of thing). Something I could stuff in the backpack for a weekend - or (much better) a week - away, up in the mountains.

I wonder if we can get a spec something like this wishlist? We have the processor and (I imagine) the solid-state storage, so an e-ink screen would complete the trio of hardware fundamentals.

It's coming. Just as I'm getting too old to take advantage, and struggle ever more to lug camping gear and a week's worth of food&stuff over the mountains and still enjoy it.

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Now German companies are beating the drum over poor patent quality

Nick Kew
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Holmes

Re: Changes

The prize for winning is more opportunities and a lower bar for European companies to act as privateers, raiding the rest of the world.

At least, that's the general idea, based on how US economic imperialism has worked for a long time. I'm not convinced it can work for Europe, as the dynamics of the legal systems are so different (clearly German lawyers aren't up for it). I wonder if there's a profitable arbitrage to be had in jurisdiction-shopping?

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Man prosecuted for posting a picture of his hobby on Facebook

Nick Kew
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Thumb Down

The whole Jock justice system ...

Not just the police, Jock "justice" in general has form. Look at how long they've kept Stephen Gough behind bars.

Which is not to say us Sassenachs have anything to be proud of, though the rottenness south of the border is strongest in our Heart of Institutional Corruption civil justice system. And of course its criminal justice manifestation in Innocent until Proven Broke.

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Nick Kew
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Alert

Traditional

Also, having laws that prosecute people because something is "grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing" is asking for trouble. It is very subjective and easily abused to prosecute basically anyone at any time.

That's traditional.

One generation ago: The Romans in Britain.

Two generations ago: Lady Chatterley.

etc.

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Software update turned my display and mouse upside-down, says user

Nick Kew
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Re: It just happened to me...

Herby, I really envy you living where you do, if you're not alerted to every power cut by a very characteristic chorus of alarms.

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Nick Kew
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@pompous git

I don't mind you taking my name in vain, but it seems I may have given a misleading impression:

Like Nick Kew who comments elsewhere in this thread,

I didn't say I had difficulty, merely that I had to figure it out. I don't think it took more than a few seconds. I think we were both saying the same thing: it's not entirely obvious how to hold a mouse until you've tried. Not everyone has the mindset to figure such things out.

As it happens, twenty odd years on from that first exposure to a mouse, I did experience difficulty using one, due to an RSI. So I learned to use a mouse left-handed. That took a bit of effort at first: a little more than, say, switching between left-hand- and right-hand-traffic.

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Nick Kew
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Re: Every day's a school day

In all my time I've never heard this one before. Yay for Fridays.

It's perfectly natural. Maybe more so with some mice than others.

When I first took delivery of a mouse[1], I wondered why things moved the wrong way. Had I hooked it up wrong, or missed a setting? Oh, right, I'm supposed to hold it the other way round.

[1] From memory, 1987, with an Acorn Archimedes. None of the machines I used at work had yet acquired mice.

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Got a software development and deployment story?

Nick Kew
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WTF?

Who is speaking?

The article is labelled "Team Register", yet uses "we" to speak of the event. As in language such as

The call for paper closes on October 20, and shortly after that, our esteemed programme committee will dive into the proposals, looking for the meat, and discarding the marketing waffle.

I think we should be told. Whose is the authorial voice asserting ownership of the event? What is the relationship of The Register to this event?

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Australia launches critical infrastructure security reforms

Nick Kew
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Headmaster

George, don't do that.

Damn thats going to be a huge list.

Precedent: the Domesday Book. How does he see himself on the history syllabus?

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Spy vs spy vs hacker vs... who is THAT? Everyone's hacking each other

Nick Kew
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Re: That was a nice article! Good, heady IT stuff.

Kaspersky are techies, not Politicians (or journos). So they (a) know what they're talking about, and (b) don't have a politico's misinformation Agenda.

I wonder how much they have to lose by pointing fingers at the spooks? Would a Western-based outfit have been too fearful (of loss of business, if not actual arrest) to issue a similar report?

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Open your doors to white hats before black hats blow them off, US deputy AG urges big biz

Nick Kew
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Sounds useful

Top law official says welcome white hats.

That could be genuinely useful for some of those who find themselves charged with "hacking". Like "shoot the messenger" prosecutions against researchers who report a bug. Or cases like Randal Schwartz. Tell the court their overlord sees a distinction between hat colours, and argue that the prosecution has to show something bad, like malicious intent or actual damage.

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Vibrating walls shafted servers at a time the SUN couldn't shine

Nick Kew
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Facepalm

Re: VMS documentation

Who remembers the "Blue/Orange/Grey Wall" ?

I remember the gaps, where whatever manual I needed should have been ...

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EasyJet: We'll have electric airliners within the next decade

Nick Kew
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Pint

Re: Well....

...Or did you mean "pedaling"?

Piddling!

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Boeing slams $2m on the desk, bellows: Now where's my jetpack?

Nick Kew
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Go

Candidate

El Reg already reported on this enterprising chap.

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Alexa and her kind let the disabled or illiterate make the web work

Nick Kew
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Well fancy that

One of the Great Ideas driving the WWW was accessibility - liberating the disabled. From the talking web browser to the alternative input device for Granny Arthritic. Not to mention what it does for the housebound.

It's over thirty years since my days in the Cambridge Maths department, and even back then Stephen Hawking's life and work were conspicuously assisted by both humans and technology.

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Boffins take biometric logins to heart, literally: Cardiac radar IDs users to unlock their PCs

Nick Kew
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Holmes

Yep. All kinds of meds, from the performance-enhancing taken by anyone who goes in for high-level competitive sports[1] through to those taken by older folks thought to be at risk of a stroke or heart attack.

But there's also the plain ol' progression of the ticker through life. And personal events like getting fit, or vice versa. Useful bit of built-in obsolescence there ;) Some of us would insist on there being an override, like (say) the classic password on a post-it note.

[1] Of the kind that exercise the heart, so maybe not darts or snooker.

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Nick Kew
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Re: "If [..] a different person standing in front of the computer screen, the PC will not operate."

Two hearts? That'll make life interesting for the pregnant. But it doesn't look like an intractable problem to me.

Could become a feature. Switch to Boss mode and the screen changes from your play to your work as soon as someone else is nearby. Find out if your boss has a heart.

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CBS's Showtime caught mining crypto-coins in viewers' web browsers

Nick Kew
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Thumb Up

Re: Whoever gave them the idea?

Damn you for getting in first with that reference (have an upvote)!

I was going to ask if they were licensing the Reg code.

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