* Posts by Nick Kew

1157 posts • joined 16 Jan 2007

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World's cyber attacks hit us much harder in past year – major infosec chief survey

Nick Kew
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Re: Back of a fag packet

Of course. My point is, they should have given us a better idea of what that actual sample was. Without that[1], the figure is meaningless.

[1] You might argue it's meaningless either way, but that's a different argument.

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Nick Kew
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Back of a fag packet

A quick google finds a not-too-outdated estimate that there are 5.2 million businesses in the UK. If we take the article at face value, that would suggest losses of 5.2m * 500k, or 2.6 billion. That being, good British billions, not those US imposters: in US numbers it's 2600 billion. Which is something round about our entire GDP.

Hmmm. Something pretty fundamental is missing - like telling us what they're actually talking about.

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New Google bias lawsuit claims company fired chap who opposed discrimination

Nick Kew
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Noone should be dismissed just for having views. One hopes there's more to justify it both these cases than has been revealed in these columns.

In the Damore case, quite a lot is known, including what he actually wrote. In this case, less is known, leaving open (on simple Bayesian principles) a higher likelihood that his dismissal was indeed merited.

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This job Win-blows! Microsoft made me pull '75-hour weeks' in a shopping mall kiosk

Nick Kew
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@ Pen-y-gors

I gently explained the idea that a definition of professional is 'paid to do something' and that the opposite is 'amateur' - does something for fun without pay.

Good for you.

You evidently didn't graduate into a big recession. That's one life-circumstance that's out of our individual control. Studies have shown that the self-confidence (or otherwise) that comes from graduating into a good or a difficult jobs market stays with most of us throughout working life. The term "lost generation" is sometimes applied to cohorts who graduated at the wrong time, while your lot thrive.

Kudos if you're the rare exception, but it seems most unlikely.

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Nick Kew
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Re: To be honest...

Never mind Microsoft. What employer ever behaved substantially differently?

I was brought up with the idea that doing as many hours as it takes (unpaid) was precisely what distinguishes a professional job from a unionised blue-collar one.

Though a change in that culture would perhaps be no bad thing. If she can contribute to that then good on her!

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Careful with the 'virtual hugs' says new FreeBSD Code of Conduct

Nick Kew
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Re: What is a 'hug' ?

Meanwhile in the physical world. If I'm out walking, I'll expect to meet random people and domestic animals.

With my own species I can exchange a friendly greeting. Not all of them, but many are fine with it, and some even like to extend it to a good natter.

With our canine friends, I can exchange something more physical: a pat on the back, a tickle behind the ears, even a hug. Again, not all of them, but friendly individuals will bound up to me and introduce themselves. Obviously no power games, no question of sexual politics, just a physical expression of being friendly.

And I sometimes think, what kind of a world is it where such casual friendship can only come from a different species!

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A print button? Mmkay. Let's explore WHY you need me to add that

Nick Kew
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Devil

Re: No user story

There was a very good reason for you to read it. You've posted (to date, at least) the most insightful comment on the article.

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Nick Kew
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@ Prst. V.Jeltz

So the programmer is now responsible for ...

... for pointing out when a request appears to make no sense.

When some PHB asks you for a print button in a webpage, do you

(a) add a "print" button because you know no better

(b) add a button labelled "print", and surreptitiously check PHB's browser settings for what will work for him?

(c) point out that print is a browser function, and that to do it from a web page is at best re-inventing a wheel, and at worst a security hole (when someone compromises their own security so it'll "work" for them).

OK, the webpage is one scenario among many. In another case, the arguments might be different, and a sensible outcome might include the button. But I suspect that's not the kind of scenario where your programmer is pushing back against a request.

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Developer recovered deleted data with his face – his Poker face

Nick Kew
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Pint

Re: If you can't dazzle them with brilliance ...

You are Wally AICMFP.

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UK.gov calls on the Big Man – GOD – to boost rural broadband

Nick Kew
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Re: Good stuff but a sticking plaster fix ...

Hang on - I'm a rural business, and bandwidth means I can Skype (or Zoom, or hangout, or whateerthehellcustomerwants) in to meetings

Yep. That's what 2Mb/s ADSL broadband did for me when it arrived in 2004. Made all the difference to my ability to work.

Having twenty times faster than that now is nice, but makes very little difference. Except when it fails.

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Nick Kew
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Re: Good stuff but a sticking plaster fix ...

You don't need modern broadband speeds for exchanging red tape with government, no matter how extensive the forms farmers deal with. If farmers need it for business, it'll be their fancy precision equipment. Perhaps if things like the drone-mounted video camera and the smart combine harvester are exchanging data in real time via the cloud ...

I wrote some thoughts on rural broadband a while back. The priority should be ADSL-grade always-on connectivity; superfast is not an issue.

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UK.gov's Brexiteers warned not to push for divergence on data protection laws

Nick Kew
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That applies in all areas of regulation for anyone trading in both UK and EU. As soon as our regulations diverge from theirs, it's a doubling of Red Tape. Particularly onerous in areas where compliance costs millions - like getting new medicines approved.

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If this laptop is so portable, where's the keyboard, huh? HUH?

Nick Kew
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RSI

I had a crippling RSI some years back. Learned to use a mouse left-handed. And gave up some mouse-intensive ways of wasting time.

It took quite a while - many months of often-severe pain - but the RSI went away. Now I can use a mouse (or a laptop device) with either hand. And perhaps most importantly, I know the early signs of RSI, and can modify my computing behaviour any time it threatens.

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Say goodbye to a chunk of that sweet Aruba payout, hedgies – judge

Nick Kew
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I don't understand

If the price was $24.67 per share, presumably that was agreed between buyers and sellers. The latter by voting on a Special Resolution, or something of that nature.

How does a judge then set a price that is any different - either higher or lower - than that agreed?

Surely that can only happen if someone argues successfully that there was some kind of skulduggery in setting the original price. Presumably the hedgies had some such argument? But then the decision for the judge would be to accept or reject their case?

Did HP claim successfully they'd been hoodwinked? They do seem to have a bit of a track record, as in the bizarre story of when they borged Autonomy. Or is this a judge playing God and overriding the market?

[edit] Thanks to Jon 37 for what looks like a good summary explanation.

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Iran: We have defeated evil nuclear-sensing Western lizards!

Nick Kew
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Translation?

While it seems entirely likely that Iran has its share of nutters, is it not possible that translation issues might offer an alternative explanation in this instance?

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Look out, Wiki-geeks. Now Google trains AI to write Wikipedia articles

Nick Kew
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It was a dark and stormy clock

Opening line of a computer-generated story I encountered as a student in the early 1980s.

It was surreal, but then we'd been brought up on Monty Python, the previous generation had had the Goons. This Very Silly Story may not quite have been Gogol, but was in a tradition going right back to Aristophanes.

It scanned rather nicely, without the turgidity reported here. Which rather suggests that a more readable narrative style might be a solved problem, if it had been on these researchers' agenda.

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You won't believe this: Nokia soars back into phone-flinger top 3

Nick Kew
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Meego was Nokia's suicide note

Maemo might have been a contender. We'll never know. It was the hottest thing one year (2010, I think) at FOSDEM, only to be made abandonware a couple of months later as Nokia drifted to Meego.

From that FOSDEM, Maemo had a real developer community, and it looked like a possible challenger to the then-dominant Iphone. As soon as we were abandoned, Nokia lost itself that community and ceded whatever chance it might have had to Android.

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UK Home Sec Amber Rudd unveils extremism blocking tool

Nick Kew
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Headmaster

I guess we've entered the age where ...

Where have you been this past decade?

Of course I agree with the point you were making. It's your wording I take issue with.

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Military techie mangled minicomputer under nose of scary sergeant

Nick Kew
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Re: Shome mishtake surely?

Heh. I was going to ask about that.

My recollection of Prime comes from the mid 1980s. Though to be fair, even at the beginning of the '90s, a half a gig would have been a d*** big disc.

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Huawei claims national security is used as plausible excuse for 'protectionism'

Nick Kew
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From the department of the bleedin' obvious

El Reg commentards could have told you that, probably for round about as long as El Reg has existed.

Though it's got worse during that time due to geopolitical and geoeconomic events: in this case the rise of world-class Chinese giants like Huawei. If the rise of Japan half a century ago is anything to go by, this backdoor protectionism could be part of something uglier.

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Beware the looming Google Chrome HTTPS certificate apocalypse!

Nick Kew
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Single point of failure

So long as a CA is a single point of failure, trusting *any* of them might be considered a false sense of security.

When a browser vendor takes it upon itself to trust some authorities over others, I wonder if that might lay it wide open to being held responsible for its users' losses when someone pulls a successful heist with a CA that it does trust? The argument being, by excluding Symantec, you're setting yourself up as an authority on the subject.

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UK PM Theresa May orders review of online abuse laws in suffrage centenary speech

Nick Kew
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May will argue that such abuse is disproportionately targeted at political candidates who are female, black, minority ethnic or LGBT, which damages equal representation in politics.

Might it be fairer to say that abuse disproportionately targets candidates who make a big thing of being [identity group] and make a huge sense of Entitlement of it, and are impervious to argument? And above all, implicitly attack the other?

This is not a speech we ever heard from, say, Barack Obama or Angela Merkel. Nor Margaret Thatcher, though she herself was the focus of such massive abuse, not least from those who felt cheated out of a grievance by her achievements.

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Women beat men to jobs due to guys' bad social skills. Whoa – you mad, fellas? Maybe these eggheads have a point...

Nick Kew
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Women are better at ..

This has [...] increased opportunities for women [...] because they are better [...]

Would an article even be allowed to go to press if you reverse that? Substitute men for women, or worse for better, in a context like a market for good jobs?

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‘I crashed a rack full of servers with my butt’

Nick Kew
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Re: #metoo with a big arse

Apparently I wasn't the only one

Now we're into the territory of everyday life. Like when the meeting room is overcrowded and someone trips a switch just by squeezing in. Those light switches at around shoulder height by the door (elbow height or bum height work too), and sometimes switches that operate something more entertaining.

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Nick Kew
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Re: College students...

Good diagnosis, bad solution. Yes, cabling should be kept clear of the meatware's legroom. Real-life computer desks get that horribly wrong by restricting the legroom: sadly I hadn't heard of "constructive dismissal" when I was forced out of office-based working by desks that forced me into postures that were incompatible with my back. The right solution is to keep the legroom but provide alternative safe spaces for cabling!

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Nick Kew
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FAIL

Yep. Sounds all in order. Elementary commonsense: you don't leave an important switch where someone might accidentally hit it, regardless of their girth, clumsiness. Or indeed if they're wearing big loose clothes that swish. And in a server room, you *also* give good care to your cables. Hence some of those neat little inventions like recessed switches. Didn't you learn the principle when you were little and your parents told you not to put your glass right at the edge of the table?

Once again, the protagonist seems to be innocent. When are we going to get someone owning up to a proper f***up?

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Ignore that FBI. We're the real FBI, says the FBI that's totally the FBI

Nick Kew
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Re: Hello, FBI.

Do they serve a good Yorkshire Pudding?

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Nick Kew
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Re: Arrests?

Why?

Can't find it now, but I seem to recollect a recent Reg story about a recent 419 arrest in the US being a 60-year-old (white, IIRC) American who had been posing as a Nigerian with millions to launder. 'merkins are very good at adopting ideas from around the world.

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Nick Kew
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Bottom line

From the final paragraph of the article, "So far the FBI says no one appears to have been financially hurt by the scam ..."

'nuff said.

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Morrisons launches bizarre Yorkshire Pudding pizza thing

Nick Kew
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Re: Seriously...ideal topping additions

@John Brown - next time, call them crêpes. Maybe that'll make them more acceptable to your wife?

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Nick Kew
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Re: Point of Order

Quite right, it's shoddy journalism. By a journo who's clearly never been exposed to lunch at a proper Yorkshire pub. There's nothing oversized about that: it's actually a halfway house between a real Yorkshire pud and the miniatures that masquerade as such in the south.

The parallel to pizza is perhaps telling. The "pizza" as most of us know it bears little resemblance to the Neapolitan original; it's more American than Italian. Now Morrisons are perhaps taking their local dish the same way (bearing in mind Morrisons' Yorkshire heritage).

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Kremlin social media trolls aren't actually that influential, study finds

Nick Kew
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Re: Oh no

Nope. They've been trolled for a generation, by a whole bunch of foreign-led trolls (amongst whom the biggest name is Rupert Murdoch) pedalling EU myths. And perhaps more to the point, the bizarre notion that Sir Humphrey is more democratic than his EU equivalent.

Neither Russian nor any other online trolls have been at it long enough to hack the public mind en masse.

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NASA finds satellite, realises it has lost the software and kit that talk to it

Nick Kew
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Joke

Lost the key

OK, a slightly different scenario, but what about the case of a satellite where the problem is that they lost the key to authenticate with it?

That's why we need those crypto backdoors!

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FYI: Processor bugs are everywhere – just ask Intel and AMD

Nick Kew
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Re: @Nick Kew - satellite telemetry, tracking and control system

@DougS - sorry, that reference goes right over my head. Googling "hathaway pacific" doesn't enlighten me, and I'm not going to spend time on trying to tweak search terms.

OK, I guess from the joke icon it's some kind of cultural reference to something I haven't read/seen/heard, rather than an actual project meeting my description. Though not a particularly famous one, 'cos I'm sure googling, say, Sirius Cybernetics would've turned up something :D

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Nick Kew
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Re: Even the 6502

Wanna bet? Formal verification does not mean a design is bug free. Just that it matches the specified design intent.

My experience with formal verification[1] is that it leads to *more* bugs.

The reason: the verification process is itself complex and therefore error-prone, and the longwinded processes involved provoke humans into taking their eyes off the ball and possibly even cutting corners.

I recollect a very brief (between-client-projects) involvement with a former employer's formally verified satellite telemetry, tracking and control system. I made myself unpopular when I found an error which I tracked down to an off-by-one in the implementation of the formal tests. Whoever had produced the code in question had naturally concentrated on the hardest part of the job - getting it through the tests - and was evidently too distracted to apply the commonsense to see that the outputs were wrong.

[1] admittedly from sometime last century.

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Sysadmin crashed computer recording data from active space probe

Nick Kew
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Hmmm ...

Not convinced this column is going to work.

My reading of this story is that Fred is innocent: he had no reason to know that removing a printer would hurt anything, and noone would have thanked him for bugging them about every individual box he moved!

If this is the best facepalm you can come up with so early in the column, how are you going to persuade others to contribute more cringeworthy stories? Are you going to put people under hypnosis to try and dig up traumatic memories people have buried deeply for self-preservation?

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Google slaps mute button on stupid ads that nag you to buy stuff you just looked at

Nick Kew
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OK, I'm curious.

I block many but not all ads. Basically if an ad doesn't do anything annoying - like animate, or obscure page contents, or form part of an excessive lineup of clickbait - I'll accept it. Not click it, but not rush to block its source either.

Yet I don't recollect ever seeing the kind of ad described in the article. The worst I get from google are "shopping" results in some searches.

Who really gets these things? Are they going to be people capable of using a browser feature, unless perhaps with the help of their (grand)kids?

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Here we go again... UK Prime Minister urges nerds to come up with magic crypto backdoors

Nick Kew
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Coat

Re: Scam Of The Century

Tailors by imperial appointment?

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Nick Kew
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The technology exists, but time and time again, we hear that real-life terrorists used unencrypted communication. They weren't caught because nobody was looking. Criminals and terrorists are not law-abiding, but more to the point, most of them are not awfully bright.

If I were advising the security services, I'd be looking to put out messages calculated to encourage villains into using particular means of communication, where anything they might leak would be less needle-inna-haystack than the sum of all 'net traffic. One way to encourage that might be to have politicians and officials call for particular apps to be banned, thereby sending out the message that diabolical plots can be safely shared using precisely those apps. If any such app happened to have a backdoor, the calls to ban it (or force it to introduce a backdoor) would be loud and clear.

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Brit escorts: Without the internet to keep us safe, we'd be totally screwed

Nick Kew
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Re: Not so bad

"Over a third of those questioned got online threats in the last year, primary from people threatening to expose them to their community."

That kind of threat is usually called blackmail, and it's not necessarily a threat at all ("publish and be damned"). Not in the same league as Jack the Ripper.

Any idea how many prostitutes suffer from blackmail, compared to the numbers who make money from blackmailing their own clients? I guess that's not the kind of statistics anyone has readily to hand!

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RIP Ursula K Le Guin: The wizard of Earthsea

Nick Kew
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Re: A good read?!

Never quite understood the "feminist" claims. Unlike (say) the BBC, she doesn't belittle us men, apply gross and offensive generalisations to us, treat us as the Enemy. Her actual writings? The hermaphrodite people of Winter's King: well, wouldn't that be fantastic? The female great leader (prophet?) whose ideas (like a Christ or Marx figure) were the basis for society in The Dispossessed? Surely that only becomes feminist if you start from a position of denying that there could be such a female figure? The desolation of the Shing, too alien to breed??

Someone enlighten me?

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Nick Kew
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Re: probably best known for the thoughtful 1972 "anarcho-utopian" tale The Dispossessed

Earthsea is IMO rather a lesser work. Decent stories, but not going to stimulate the mind like other more thought-provoking works mentioned here. I read it as inspired by the Tolkien fantasy-world, but without the depth of history and culture of middle-earth.

The major works, headed probably by The Dispossessed, are very much worth reading (not to mention citing here on El Reg as recently as two weeks ago). But I'd like to put in a word for the Wind's Twelve Quarters, a pair of collections of (early) short stories. Her thought experiments suit the short story form very nicely, and some of them grew to become novels - like Winter's King becoming the Left Hand of Darkness. Many ideas in there seem prescient of things that have happened since.

p.s. "Anarcho-utopian"? Yes, she explores some of what seems like her own political/societal dreams, and blows holes in them. It it's utopian, it's a utopia gone wrong, as it inevitably must when faced with human nature. But perhaps it's the word Utopia that's misused: More's original Utopia was a totalitarian society.

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UK Army chief: Russia could totally pwn us with cable-cutting and hax0rs

Nick Kew
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Re: Senior service

having enough warships & submarines to track Russian vessels

If you want to track Russian (or any other) ships, you just use the very ample capacity provided by satellites.

Warships serve a different purpose. Unless you have a regular export market, anything bigger than police/coastguard is basically ceremonial.

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President Trump turns out the lights on solar panel imports into US

Nick Kew
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WTO Rules?

China may be a convenient scapegoat, but this affects manufacturers around the world who might seek to sell to the USA[1]. Including ours here in Blighty - and yes, we have at least one pure-play manufacturer of polysilicon wafers for the solar industry big enough to be FTSE-listed.

Is this what international trade under WTO rules looks like?

[1] Unless the article is misreporting.

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Former Cisco CEO John Chambers says insects are the new lobsters

Nick Kew
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Re: Lobsters...

Love prawns. And would eat insects.

I'm one of those "weird veggies". Actually I'm not a veggie, it's just a convenient label that avoids people expecting me to eat the flesh (or indeed eggs) of animals that have spent their entire short lives in conditions that would make Auschwitz look like the Ritz. Hence, no problem with food taken from the open seas, or crustacea.

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National Audit Office report blasts UK.gov's 'muddled' STEM strategy

Nick Kew
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Re: Too many cooks spoil the broth

That's true amongst a lot of the commentariat. And I expect also in great swathes of the polyversities.

I wouldn't say it was true of my maths education, nor of my later spell in a comp sci department. The only focus on jobs in the latter concerned what I myself (and one or two peers) might do after the end of a fixed-term contract. And the way most of us in research jobs would spend the first year getting up to speed with a project, the last year looking for the next job, with not much time between those for genuinely productive work.

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Frenchman comes eye to eye with horror toilet python

Nick Kew
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Yeah, but he wasn't. He made a hasty retreat from his intended widdle.

Rather the opposite to this poor sod.

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UK.gov denies data processing framework is 'sinister' – but admits ICO has concerns

Nick Kew
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Up to a point, Lord Copper.

But wasn't it a Minister speaking? His civil servants (whose job it really is) may have explained it ambiguously, or even misleadingly, to him.

Think Sir Humphrey. He misleads Hacker into giving unwittingly wrong answers in parliament a few times. And in the matter of Big Brother surveillance (series 1, episode 4), it's Humphrey pushing the state's power-grab while the minister fights to protect the rights of his citizens.

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Microsoft wants to patent mind control

Nick Kew
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Re: Didn't Atari do this during the 80s?

It featured in SF a whole lot earlier than that.

MS's patent will be for something more specific than described in the article. And of course unreadable to anyone who isn't a patent lawyer, like for example the patent's author.

From within MS, Eric Brechner once wrote:

When using existing libraries, services, tools, and methods from outside Microsoft, we must be respectful of licenses, copyrights, and patents. Generally, you want to carefully research licenses and copyrights (your contact in Legal and Corporate Affairs can help), and never search, view, or speculate about patents. I was confused by this guidance till I wrote and reviewed one of my own patents. The legal claims section—the only section that counts—was indecipherable by anyone but a patent attorney. Ignorance is bliss and strongly recommended when it comes to patents.

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