* Posts by Nick Kew

775 posts • joined 16 Jan 2007

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Q. Why is Baidu sharing its secret self-driving sauce? A. To help China corner the market

Nick Kew
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Open Source Champions

Baidu has a pretty decent track record as Good Guys in open source software (inasmuch as one can generalise about any company that big). The language barrier reduces their visibility to Reg readers, but I've found them extremely helpful in reaching out across it when I had occasion to work with a project where they were lead developers. This looks like another application of that principle of openness.

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Oh snap! UK Prime Minister Theresa May calls June election

Nick Kew
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The lib dems are also going to make gains from pro-eu supporters with very short memories.

No need for short memories. Just a tradeoff: five years of socialist nonsense, vs a lifetime of isolationist nonsense and a PM making a blatant power-grab against Parliaments (plural, because it's not just Westminster: Scotland and NI also have views).

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Nick Kew
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May's speech

Anyone hear May's speech? She put up a bunch of strawmen about all those nasty people - like the house of Lords - trying to frustrate her, and how she needs to crush them. Some outright lies about those Bad People.

Last time I recollect a prime minister doing that was when Blair told us the French had promised to veto any possible UN resolution to invade Iraq (when all they had in fact promised to veto was any such motion while the weapons inspectors were at work and getting cooperation). Playing the anti-French card was the sure sign that invasion was imminent. This time, I guess it's a ****storm of blame forthcoming.

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Code-sharing leads to widespread bug sharing that black-hats can track

Nick Kew
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Re: Nearly 10 years?

The Perl community were drumming this into us more than 20 years ago: always "use taint" and untaint all inputs! (an instant fix to the appalling example in the article). Doesn't mean the majority of wannabes looking for magic DWIM take any notice - hence the rise of PHP.

And we had a name for zombie tutorials refusing to die for decades after they became invalidated: "Cargo Cult". For example, an ugly hack in the early days of Apache was to use "AddType" to configure it to run scripts such as CGI. That hack was deprecated with the introduction of "AddHandler" in Apache 1.1 more than 20 years ago, yet lived on as standard practice in the PHP world more than a decade later.

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Regulate This! Time to subject algorithms to our laws

Nick Kew
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MK_E, you were lucky. In my youth I was denied a mortgage, despite the repayments being lower than the rent on a ****hole room without luxuries like hot water in the communal bathroom.

I fled the country to escape that, and so missed my generation's chance to buy at a reasonable price in the 1990s. But at least today's rental market is much-improved.

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Nick Kew
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Re: confidence intervals

You only get confidence intervals from real data.

You only get real data after a system has been operating long enough to collect them.

Then there's the joker in the pack: someone's sure to mess with the "other things being equal" part of any study.

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Nick Kew
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Re: Treading on politicians' toes?

Is it the politicians? They're just doing what they've long done: bewailed the new that isn't under their control.

It's more the old-media (including to a great extent organs like El Reg which still use an oldfashioned Journalist/Editor model) crying about their own loss of the minds of their followers.

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Boss swore by 'For Dummies' book about an OS his org didn't run

Nick Kew
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FAIL

Under the carpet

From the story, the problem was clearly a dysfunctional working environment. I don't entirely blame "Jeffrey" for sticking around far too long (*** knows, been there myself), and still less for failing to fix it (at that age he wouldn't have the life experience to sort it, let alone the harder problem of being listened to). But ...

Getting one up on pointy-haired "Roger" is the cleaner who sweeps the dirt under the carpet.

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UK boffins steal smartmobe PINs with motion sensors

Nick Kew
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APIs not to blame

An API is just an official way to do something, with a (more-or-less) guarantee it won't fall to pieces next system update. Snarfing users' PINs without an API is a hack; using an API is just regular programming.

The APIs used in this case aren't the vulnerability, they just expose it and make it (too) easy. And, erm, make it difficult to fix without breaking a stability promise made to app developers in general.

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Eric S. Raymond says you probably fit one of eight tech archetypes

Nick Kew
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Clickbait

A rule of internet links: anything involving a number "of" is calculated clickbait.

"Ten ways to ..."

"Five things ..."

"Six great ..."

This story wraps it in "ESR says ...", but still seems to fall into that category.

As regards the archetypes, it's human nature to identify with such descriptions. If you are a Reg reader (and therefore at least somewhat techie), you should probably expect to identify pretty strongly with at least one archetype.

I don't. I can identify only slightly with any of them. I can identify more strongly with INTJ, or with several of Scott Adams's characters headed by Dilbert himself. Or indeed with numerous "ordinary person" characters in general (non-techie) culture.

I have to conclude, this clickbait lacks substance.

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Wisdom of crowds plus a splash of AI give Australia new national analytical map data

Nick Kew
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Echoes of Ordnance Survey here. With today's remote sensing and big data technologies to scale up from what worked on a small island to a vast and challenging land mass, and add more layers for good measure.

Will Google Maps - or any similarly-ambitious private/global project - seek to compete?

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Germany gives social networks 24 hours to delete criminal content

Nick Kew
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Re: Enforcement?

This sounds like a way to sidestep any need for the usual processes of enforcement, such as courts. Threaten the carriers harshly enough, and keep the definition of what's allowed/not allowed sufficiently vague, and you've created a regime of fear in which virtually no debate can be allowed.

DMCA is chilling and wide open to abuse, but this (as reported here) extends the regime from intellectual property to regular discussion, and leaves the problem for platforms all the more vague and ill-defined.

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Riddle of cannibal black hole pairs solved ... nearly: Astroboffins explain all to El Reg

Nick Kew
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Re: Cosmic palaeontologist?

almost infinite

Oh dear. Where to start?

How about "almost infinite is 0.00000000000000000000000000000% of infinite". That matters when it comes to probabilities.

Rare events and big spaces need quantifying to come up with meaningful conclusions.

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Londoners will be trialling driverless cars in pedestrianised area

Nick Kew
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Glad I'm not a pedestrian in London

Someone pre-trialled driving a car in a pedestrian area in Westminster just two weeks ago.

My first criterion for a place to be good to walk in is that it should be free of cars.

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Brazilians whacked: Crooks hijack bank's DNS to fleece victims

Nick Kew
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WTF?

Six months ago!

Um, how long does disclosure take?

This just highlights the uselessness of crypto with the single point of failure represented by today's browser trust lists and CAs.

Though something smells a bit suspicious about the lack of specificity here. Why break a story like this without naming the bank?

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'No deal better than bad deal' approach to Brexit 'unsubstantiated'

Nick Kew
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begs the question

"No deal is better than a bad deal" begs the question: Just how bad does a deal have to be, to make it worse than no deal?

The committee are suggesting we need to evaluate just how bad no deal is before we can hope to answer that question. Makes sense to me.

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Nick Kew
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Re: Unforseen consequences of Brexit, number 93

Spain has a particular and legitimate interest in their border with Gibraltar.

Just as Ireland has their border with NI. Or France with the Channel Tunnel.

We already know the terms of the NI border will need agreement from the Irish. We take it for granted that we deal with France over the tunnel. Yet some prize idiots go nuclear over Spain and Gibraltar!

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Governments could introduce 'made by humans' tags - legal report

Nick Kew
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April 1st lasts a long time ...

My first thought was the image of Charlie Chaplin in Modern Times. But we can do better than that ...

The Luddites had a problem with machines taking their jobs, but you knew that already.

They too were seemingly blind to the fact that their jobs also relied on machines. Then as now or in Chaplin's time, the advance of technology served to make society richer.

Oh, and that's especially the poor getting richer. They had so much more to gain, right up to the point where now almost everyone has not merely running water, but use of an indoor bathroom (which as recently as times in my childhood, I didn't).

Happy to say, my kitchen and household appliances today are worth at least a couple of servants. Yet somehow these robots haven't put anyone out of work, 'cos I couldn't have afforded the servants in the first place. Not even without encumbrances like minimum wage.

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Nick Kew
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mediocracy

I coined that more than a decade ago. Glad to see others using it.

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British biz Imagination Technologies admits Apple may dump its IP

Nick Kew
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Black Helicopters

Re: So dump them...let te price tumble and then....

Glad now I sold my IMG stock last year.

One to watch out for now: IMG could look attractive to a patent troll. Especially a US patent troll, with a US court or two in its pocket. If that happens it won't just be Apple feeling the fallout: indeed, it could almost be everyone-but-Apple, on the grounds that Apple has had more time to prepare than anyone else.

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Reg now behind invisible HTML5 Bitcoin paywall

Nick Kew
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Trollface

Bug Report

Sorry, I have to report a vulnerability in your script. Purely as proof-of-concept, I hacked it and took delivery of my first physical bitcoin.

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Blimey, did you know? It's World Backup Day. But... surely every day is world backup day?

Nick Kew
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Re: Even at home

Then, step-daughter is in college, has all her work on her MacBook Pro (2009 model).

Colleague was carrying macbook in his backpack one evening, when he fell into the harbour (this was Amsterdam). Painstakingly dried it and ridded it of as much salt as possible. And lo, it worked. Only thing to have died was the backlight to the screen.

Those macbooks are robust!

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Nick Kew
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Coat

Et resurrexit tertia die, secundum TFM.

Et expecto resurrectionem mortuorum.

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Nick Kew
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Trollface

Yep. Definitely, do it once a year, and make a big fuss of it.

After all, if you do it every day or week, you'll be re-using your backup tapes[1]. If it takes a while to spot the malware, it might have infected the backups, too, and you'll spend the next year working through them to find the most recent clean one.

[1] Or substitute your choice of more modern media.

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PC survived lightning strike thanks to a good kicking

Nick Kew
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Lightning.

My then-shiny-new top-of-the-range Pentium Pro 'puter got struck on New Year's Eve, December '96. Dead.

Had to wait for shops to re-open after the holiday season to find out how bad it was. Turned out it was fine with just a new power supply (phew). But parts of the motherboard were blackened, and a corner of it curled up, forever after.

That 'puter never actually died. It got re-purposed as a server, co-located on a server farm. It was then lost when the company hosting the server farm went titsup. RIP.

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Europe to push new laws to access encrypted apps data

Nick Kew
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Funny. You describe (modulo the Commission being a different word) the process that happens between our government and parliament, then say it's not a parliament.

Our parliament doesn't propose laws either. It just does what it's told by government. Or it misbehaves and makes it all the easier for Sir Humphrey to play them off against his minister.

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Nick Kew
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Daily Fail?

What it will do is try to pacify politicians screaming "something must be done!" to appease Daily Fail-style readers all over Europe.

No need for Daily Fail here: we have plenty enough nonsense right here on El Reg[1]. Like the headline here, which turns out to be a story that a senior civil servant will bring forward a selection of proposals.

To see the significance of that, think of everyone's favourite civil servant Sir Humphrey doing the same. Then perhaps consider how much harder it's likely to be to manipulate 27 governments and public opinion in public than one minister behind closed doors. She's kicking it into the long grass.

[1] Not the same as the Wail, but nonsense nevertheless.

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Bloke is paid to scour hashtags for threats, spots civil rights boss's tweets, gets fired, sues

Nick Kew
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PC self-combusts

Oh dear. Clash of political correctness agendas here.

Don't tell the BBC. They'll end up so far up their own a**e they come out the other end. And to think this could happen in Trump's US - albeit in a particularly liberal state.

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UK Home Sec: Give us a snoop-around for WhatApp encryption. Don't worry, we won't go into the cloud

Nick Kew
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Re: "he companies won't have made any serious efforts to oppose"

In this case, why should they oppose?

Because they respect their user's privacy. Because data protection says they can't just give it away.

I don't know if the spooks can just demand the data, but if they knocked on my door I'd expect them to come armed with an emergency court order (unless my lawyer reassured me otherwise - note that both the door and the lawyer are hypothetical, as I'm not in charge of that kind of data).

What I think it's unlikely anyone would do is to oppose an application for a court order!

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Nick Kew
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Upvote for the thinking, but I don't think constant monitoring is implied. The information more likely came from his phone network's and ISP's logs of his activity (which they'll have demanded and the companies won't have made any serious efforts to oppose), and anywhere that may have led.

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After London attack, UK gov lays into Facebook, Google for not killing extremist terror pages

Nick Kew
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@ John Smith 19

"Sad middle aged failure wants to make a name for himself"

Speaking as a fellow sad middle aged failure ...

There are a lot of us out there. There's even a name for Silly Gestures at our time of life: the "Mid-life crisis".

Fortunately most of us are not thugs with a history of violence. Nor do we have the psychosis described in the biblical "road to Damascus" story, and that probably led to this nutter's religious conversion.

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Nick Kew
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Thing is.. you don't need a manual to tell you how to use a car to kill people... you just drive at them.

Exactly. The weapon that kills more people than all others in Blighty. The weapon no government dare restrict, as they do even an innocent vegetable knife. The weapon not subject to security theatre like banning laptops on planes.

And above all, the weapon you can use without having to plan anything the police or spooks might seek to eavesdrop. Or procure anything that would bring you to their attention. Can we blame MI5 for failing to keep tabs on all drivers? Or even the subset of drivers with mental health problems as evidenced by a "road to Damascus" religious conversion?

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Nick Kew
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Re: Hmmm

Who exactly are the extremists?

They're whoever we're not happy with. History is full of mission creep. One of today's obvious examples is the sexual Agenda: anyone who questions LGBT rights (or whatever the current label is) is extremist and dangerous.

We used to be a lot better when we (mostly) believed in Free Speech. Then came Blair, the Great Enemy of Enlightenment values, and we saw censorship in the ascendant. For a couple of years after 2010 I was optimistic about a rolling back of the police state, but sadly I was wrong.

A term you can still google is "Virgin Killer", for the story of when the Great Firewall came to public attention as Wikipedia got censored in the UK.

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Inside OpenSSL's battle to change its license: Coders' rights, tech giants, patents and more

Nick Kew
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Re: Frankien-license

A perfect example of why developers shouldn't try to create their own.

Legacy issue. From a more innocent era.

Perhaps the world could do with some legal precedent on this. There are much lesser license issues getting in the way of sensible things people would like to do. Like, when the contributor of some trivial patch can no longer be contacted, uncertainty over the legalities can be a showstopper.

Real-life example: when we proposed relicensing an XSLT module for Apache to include in the core webserver distribution. All three developers of the XSLT module agreed, but there was someone else who had once contributed a patch and whose contact details had gone stale.

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Good news, everyone! Two pints a day keep heart problems at bay

Nick Kew
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Re: Chemically speaking

OK, so which has the more drastic side-effects? Booze or statins?

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Nick Kew
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Pint

Correlation vs Causation

Sorry, the study as quoted here and elsewhere I've encountered only addresses correlation. No suggestion that drinking is actually good for you (causation). It leaves open alternative hypotheses, like the teetotallers sampled including disproportionately many who where teetotal precisely because they were (already) too ill to drink.

Unless someone knows more than has been reported?

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Fake mobile base stations spreading malware in China

Nick Kew
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What could possibly go wrong?

Are you saying this wheeze installs software:

- without verifying a cryptographic signature?

- without warning the user (loudly) that the source is unknown/untrusted and that by contrast you'd expect a core app from your provider to be verified.

Hmmm. PGP dates back to 1991. You'd think a platform like Android might have caught up with that. Almost like the Glory Days of Windoze all over again.

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Google Maps' Street View can now lead you into a bubbling lava lake

Nick Kew
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Re: Not Etna?

Report on the radio yesterday told us some camerawoman kept on filming through that. Might be worth a look to see if her footage has appeared somewhere online.

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More Brits' IDs stolen than ever before

Nick Kew
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Re: The report only talks about the bad side of things....

Are you suggesting straying on to Nigeria's turf?

Or is this about Embracing and Extending their basic concept?

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Naming computers endangers privacy, say 'Net standards boffins

Nick Kew
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Devil

Damned if you do, damned if you don't

Couple of months back, El Reg reported this story.

Seems you're damned for naming things imaginatively, damned for being boring. Whoops!

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Nick Kew
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Holmes

Who? What? Where?

I hope "Richard's Iphone" is really Fred's Ancient Nokia. That'll larn 'em.

All my named devices derive from a certain body of mythology, which of course leaks into public places through such obvious channels as email Message-IDs. Don't many of us use naming conventions that could be correlated to our interests, thus giving ourselves away to any spook taking sufficient interest?

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Lawyer defending arson suspect flees court with pants on fire

Nick Kew
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Limeys?

I thought "Limeys" was aussie slang. Would the 'merkin readers to whom you're ostensibly addressing it necessarily be familiar with the usage?

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Devs bashing out crappy code is making banks insecure – report

Nick Kew
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Closed Culture

In a culture of closed development, this is inevitable. What starts as a little bit of pressure (have you finished XYZ? Just about ...) then snowballs into botch and coverup. The original dev can do it in a few hours, except those few hours are needed for something else. The line manager becomes complicit after ticking the milestone, and then on up.

Sobering thought: the military is worse. And has the best culture of secrecy, so their cockups rarely leak.

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Aah, all is well in the world. So peaceful, so– wait, where's the 2FA on IoT apps? Oh my gawd

Nick Kew
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Lots of hassle. Little extra security.

"Sim swap fraud" has reached the point where a google search will turn up a whole load of stories of fraudsters beating 2FA. And that's not the techie press, it's the likes of the Torygraph, Grauniad, and BBC.

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Looks who's bailed out internet-satellite provider IntelSat? It's... Softbank?

Nick Kew
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Comms satellites struggling ...

Here in Blighty our big company in the satellite comms business, Inmarsat, has taken something of a hammering of late: share price down 30% over about a year. But the real woe was with smaller player Avanti, which only recently organised a bailout with bondholders accepting a debt-for-equity swap, and whose long-term shareholders have lost around 95%.

A whole sector under pressure. Cheap pickings for someone looking to splurge cash. That might indeed catch the eye of private equity somewhere, but it argues that AN Other satellite operator is less likely to be in a position to make a bid.

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US-Europe Privacy Shield not worth the paper it's printed on – civil liberties groups

Nick Kew
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Re: Uhm

The elected EU parliament is the only institution whose track record says they might be on our side re: protection of the citizen. Maybe just possibly with the UK gone, the balance of power at EU level might shift a little from the unelected civil servants towards the elected parliament.

The Westminster parliament has been firmly in the vanguard of Big Brother legislation under both (or indeed all three) parties, and it's clear Sir Humphrey is entirely with them on this.

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Congratulations IBM for 'inventing' out-of-office email. You win Stupid Patent of the Month

Nick Kew
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Re: Ancient news..

[...]

AUTHOR

vacation was developed by Eric Allman and the University of California,

Berkeley in 1983.

That's from http://manpages.ubuntu.com/manpages/precise/man1/vacation.1.html . I'm struggling to find a source more definitive than that: google seems unhelpful in unearthing any real history.

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Nick Kew
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Re: I'm fairly certain that I taught IBM's email team ...

It was sometime in the '80s I first encountered it, and it was old back then. In the 1990s we were bemoaning the arrival of a new generation of broken autoresponders from the likes of Microsoft, that turned autoresponses into spam by sending them willy-nilly to every mailinglist the outlook-luser was subscribed to.

Looks like IBM still has the traditional UNIX vacation program that Just Got Things Right.

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