* Posts by Nick Kew

1974 posts • joined 16 Jan 2007

UK Foreign Sec Bojo to tell Kremlin: Stop your cyber shenanigans... or else!

Nick Kew Silver badge

The Law of Outrage (gov.uk)

The more public outrage the UK government ("we") expresses at its geopolitical adversaries[1], the more you know "we" are doing whatever it is that outrages us. "We" are more outraged when "they" catch up with us than when "they" do something that's not in "our" repertoire.

[1] Including friends in the EU, as well as those like Russia to whom we're hostile at an official level.


Nick Kew Silver badge

Re: Classics

And WYSINQWYG - What You See Is Not Quite What You Get...when printing something that looks fine on screen.

For web deezyners (particularly around the late 1990s) who try to abuse HTML as a page design language. WYSINWOG - What you see is not what others get.

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

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Re: @ Naselus

Porn thumbnails are mysteriously absent from my own work computer -

You've never followed a link that turned out to go to a Daily Mail story, loading your browser cache with 20 or 30 pornographic thumbnails from that long row down the right hand side?

I usually avoid such links, but occasionally get caught (of course I never click on the thumbnails). For an MP, I'd expect his work to involve reading lots more newspaper stories than I ever read. Including those like the Wail that fill your cache with pornographic thumbnails.

Nick Kew Silver badge

@ Naselus

Normally I'm all for digging the dirt on a senior politician.

But in this case there's no whistleblowing argument. Green's lie came in response to the unwarranted police persecution. If they hadn't leaked, he'd have had nothing to deny.

I heard the cop interviewed on BBC radio, when he spoke of thousands of pornographic thumbnails. Well, you could have those in places like a browser cache or a mail folder (especially a spam folder, where they're inevitable) without ever having actually visited a porn site. Seems very suspicious that that should ever have become a story.

Comms-slurping public bodies in UK need crash course in copy 'n' paste

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I wonder if that's anything like what happened to me, when plod turned up on my doorstep looking for [dodgy geezer who lived here some years ago], and took a pull-the-other-one attitude to my protesting I'm not him?

The fact there were no fewer than five coppers on the doorstep suggests not just that they're over-resourced but that they were taking something seriously.

Nick Kew Silver badge


As for retyping IP addresses that should be like raw meat to a defence lawyer.

A specialist lawyer who knows there's something to look for, aided by a techie. And by a team of juniors to do the donkey work of laying their hands on the original data (things like, get a court order for an ISP to release relevant logs, having figured out what logs will be relevant). That'll be something like the price of a house.

'Please store the internet on this floppy disk'

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Re: Stolen Focus

That'll be when you find you typed your password into your favourite IRC channel.

Bonus points for a root password.

Firefox 57's been quietly delaying tracking scripts

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Re: I wouldn't know, I can't even install it.

You need to submit a bug report. With some more details, like what this screen reader is. And that's a report to the creator of the packaged install, who is not necessarily anyone on the Mozilla dev team.

The installer evidently knows (or thinks it knows) about your screen reader, but the person who packaged it probably doesn't. It could very well be nothing more than a failure to check some tickbox in creating the package. Or something completely outside the browser: a system update to your toolchain?

Cloud-building alien space rays altered Earth's climate – boffins

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Re: Another dodgy headline

Who says there's any such thing as a "correct" level?

But it's the low levels of geologically-recent times that support high-metabolic-rate (warm-blooded) life forms. You'll suffocate in a stuffy room while there's still plenty of oxygen. Just like you'd suffocate on this planet's distant history, before most of the carbon was captured from the air and laid down as fossils over millions of years before we evolved.

Nick Kew Silver badge

Another dodgy headline

Extraterrestrial events didn't alter Earth's climate. They *are* an element in Earth's climate. And, like water vapour making the difference between sunny and cloudy, dry and wet, they make transient differences.

The key issue in climate change is a cumulative long-term imbalance in CO2. There are much more powerful greenhouse gases (headed by water vapour - clouds make a much bigger difference than CO2, methane, sunspots, or even volcanic ash), but they're in a natural cycle whose ultimate sources and sinks are in balance over at least the medium term.

Your palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy – you forgot about Europe's GDPR already

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Re: Red herrings


The dilemma is surely whether to get more proactive than that. As in, tell the police "I have this data set; I have reason to suspect it may be being abused".

Nick Kew Silver badge

Red herrings

If you've emailed me[1] on a matter of business, I probably have your personal details on record. Though very likely only in a long-lost backup[2] of my mail folders when I corresponded with you. And of course I have no idea whether any of your details from twenty years ago are still valid, or even if you're still alive[3]!

Am I worried about GDPR in the context of this kind of electronic personal data in my mailbox? Nope.

What about abuses of the system by people trying to attack a business (like a bogus DMCA takedown notice)? Not really, though it could be annoying.

So how about snake-oil merchants, assisted by scare stories in the press? Hmmm.

[1] obviously excluding spam.

[2] isn't that how backups always work?

[3] evidently this second person must be a rhetorical device.

SCOLD WAR: Kaspersky drags Uncle Sam into court to battle AV ban

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Re: Interesting legal theory

You missed the point. It's not the US government's choice of software that's at issue, it's the FUD in the manner of how they treated Kaspersky. What they say, not what they do.

NSA made AV vendors an offer they couldn't refuse. Kaspersky refused.

Nick Kew Silver badge

sew ...

Aha. Must be a stitch-up!

Nick Kew Silver badge

Re: Well, that was obvious.

Well, erm ...

US-only wouldn't have done the job. It wouldn't have seeded serious FUD, it wouldn't have led to actions outside the US like Barclays.

It may be that Kaspersky was the only AV vendor who declined to cooperate with the NSA by incorporating their backdoor to snoop, when the spooks made them an offer it was hard to refuse.

Or if there was another, their turn is yet to come, under some different pretext. I expect it would've looked too suspicious to lump more than one vendor together in the same FUD action.

Facebook helping devs keep up with TLS certificates

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Thanks but ...

The problem with CAs is that they're a single point of failure. This may expedite detection of failure, but doesn't change that fundamental weakness. And if everyone relied on a FB service it could itself start to look like another single point of failure, albeit not in quite the same sense!

None of which detracts from a somewhat-useful service that looks better than nothing from where we are today. Credit where credit's due.

Fridge killed my baby? Mag-field radiation from household stuff 'boosts miscarriage risk'

Nick Kew Silver badge

Correlation vs Causation

That headline suggests a causative link. The opening paragraph and the article suggest the opposite: a correlation that hasn't taken account of other differences - like what background and lifestyle factors might correlate with different levels of exposure.

This opens the possibility that the study is like the Washington DC study that essentially kicked off advocacy for bicycle helmets when it found they were correlated with an (from memory) 89% fewer head injuries. Not publicised by the helmet advocates was a similar reduction also in leg injuries in the same study. Or the fact that the two samples were black kids in the ghetto vs white kids in a quiet suburb.

PHWOAR, those noughty inks: '0.1%' named Stat of The Year

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Re: I have been saying it for decades

Dartmoor is my local stomping ground. Though not as bad as much of the country (for example, unlike many more-intensively-used areas it has capacity to absorb rain and not routinely flood), it's still massively overcrowded, as you'll find if you try to escape from human activity and pollution up here.

I was briefly back in Sweden last year. That's overcrowded too[1] (this was the south, not the near-arctic north), but it was immensely refreshing to walk in the woods and swim in the lake with a much lower level of the pressures of human activity that are ever-present in themenational park areas like Dartmoor.

[1] Recommended reading on the subject: Vilhelm Moberg's Utvandrarna (The Emigrants).

Nick Kew Silver badge

Re: 0.1% or 100%?

The areas you mention are where there are substantially mixed 1km squares. But they're far from natural, and managed for grazing.

.. Not to mention more industrial uses. Here (Dartmoor) there are a number of old railways serving mines and quarry works, and the most recent mine to open was as recent as 2014. While further north is the playground for the toy soldiers.

Nick Kew Silver badge

0.1% or 100%?

I see commentards already questioning the dodgy definitions.

Other datasets say otherwise. I worked with some such in the 1990s, from sources such as UN scientific programmes and the USGS global land use. These were at 1km spatial resolution, and showed 100% of England was not nature. The best was "mixed", with a mixture of natural and artificial landscapes. Even in Scotland, the area showing as genuine nature was similar to the urban area of (greater) Edinburgh.

From unreliable memory, figures cited as built up usually fall in the 10-15% ballpark. Though the larger areas of intensive agricultural land (notably anywhere using chemicals - including to a lesser extent commercial "organic" farms) are more of an ecological desert, which is why the oasis of hedgerows has become so important.

(the link is one I googled, not one I worked on)

'Suspicious' BGP event routed big traffic sites through Russia

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Cockup or conspiracy?

Move along. Nothing to see.

Though if it were a conspiracy, the followup question has to be, what was it a cover for? What happened while the likes of El Reg were distracted by gawping at traffic through Russia?

Engineer named Jason told to re-write the calendar

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Re: July and August must Go!

Quisquid Latine dictum sit, turbat legitur.

(Please correct my grammar - this pleb went to a big Comprehensive and never learned latin. Nor indeed English grammar).

Nick Kew Silver badge

Easy fix

Switch the app's language settings to something where there's no JASON in the month names. For example, Italian would switch the J to an L.

Or perhaps switch the font to some dingbats, in honour of the Client.

IETF protects privacy and helps net neutrality with DNS over HTTPS

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@the d-rat (non e-mouse)

What's wrong with ...

Now tell us how you propose to scale that to serve a few billion devices.

Nick Kew Silver badge

DNS scales ...

Everything about DNS is designed to scale to billions of connected devices.

HTTP is intrinsically more heavyweight, and would need some careful design work to have a hope of scaling like that (HTTP "edge" devices do some of that - including their own DNS resolution in at least some cases).

And HTTPS is completely off the scale, not so much in the crypto work where one might invoke Moore's Law, but because it precludes regular HTTP cacheing. That's a whole nother kettle of ballgames (damn, my metaphors are getting as confused as the idea), and when someone implements a cacheing DNS-over-HTTPS agent that'll make a juicy target for blackhats attacking regular HTTPS.

Sure, there could be uses for this. But to replace regular DNS? What could possibly go wrong with so many new layers of overhead and complexity?

Nick Kew Silver badge

Re: This proves it...

Golly, is it really ten years since I wrote this?

How fast is a piece of string? Boffin shoots ADSL signal down twine

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Re: ASDL On a shoestring?

Don't trip over your data on the way out.

(D*** you for getting there first, when I searched the page for "shoestring").

Millions of moaners vindicated: Man flu is 'a thing', says researcher, and big TVs are cure

Nick Kew Silver badge

Re: Britishese to Americanese

I'd previously interpreted "man flu" to mean "claiming illness for a day off when actually hungover."

Seems a fair interpretation of the spirit of the phrase.

The phrase "man flu" is all about abusing power to belittle a group of people that can't fight back (at least, not without bringing down the wrath of the Establishment on its head).

When did you last hear a comparably derogatory phrase about women? Most likely, it was some feminist piece demolishing a strawman of misogyny. Or maybe something from Trump, whose election was surely a backlash against the mindset that gave us "man flu".

Nick Kew Silver badge

Re: Doctor's advice...

Agreed. A decent self-medication for a range of minor ailments. Until you get the proper stinker and can't get it up at all.

I think the underlying mechanism is nothing more exciting than that you're getting a bit of exercise and raising the circulation. But when you're under the weather, a decent exercise you can do in bed is not to be sneezed at.

US authorities issue strongly worded warnings about crypto-investments

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Re: Investment you say?

Real fiat money isn't an investment. It's a relatively predictable store of value - but inflation still gives a penalty in holding it.


Sadly the price indexes used to publish official inflation figures no longer bear any relation to reality. Real inflation is now in asset prices. The house price bubble that sucked the real economy dry in the first years of this century (while consumer prices reflected not our economy but rather the rise of Chinese exports), and the pension price inflation caused by money-printing in the zombie economy.

Nick Kew Silver badge

@ Pen-y-gors - of course it's a bubble, and could burst. But some bubbles can outlive us all. Most obvoiusly, gold, whose financial value has far exceeded any intrinsic value for millennia.

@ratfox - social experiment. Hmmm, well it's not without precedent (as has been pointed out). But a new concept with zero intrinsic value? This is most interestingly a commentary on fiat currency. Viewed like that, it's an intrinsically better store of value than something the Emperor[1] can just print more of whenever it's expedient.

[1] A reference, if you like, to the sub-plot in Goethe's Faust where Mephistopheles invents Fiat currency just when the Emperor is desperate, causing a devastating bubble.

Nick Kew Silver badge

Re: Hidden meaning

Um, the media are reporting widely its use in criminal transactions such as ransoms, and money laundering. Doesn't look very hidden to me!

Oregon will let engineer refer to himself as an 'engineer'

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Re: let me guess

The whole "doctor" thing is way overblown, mostly by overblown people. [...] but no one I know of refers to themselves as "doctor"

Methinks you miss the point. People don't call themselves Doctor (unless perhaps in a CV situation), but it's really useful for addressing a stranger in formal or semi-formal correspondence. Works equally for both sexes where there's any uncertainty, and is unlikely to offend even if it's not technically correct.

Nick Kew Silver badge

Re: let me guess

Come to think of it ...

Yes, a student graduating through our department could qualify automatically for BCS membership and with it Chartered Engineer status after a qualifying period (possibly four years) in relevant employment. Yet we who educated those students had no such automatic path. Ho, hum.

Nick Kew Silver badge

Re: let me guess

To be a software engineer you need to have graduated from a 4yr accredited engineering program.

I expect that's an oversimplification?

Once upon a time I was on the staff of a Comp Sci department of a UK (Russell Group) University. So I was surrounded by people who were providing such courses to students. Yet hardly any of us had Comp Sci degrees ourselves (my own degree was Maths), so presumably we would not have qualified under your rules.

Seems to me the underlying story is, his initial approach was one of being an arse (albeit a smart one), and was met by a p***-off reaction. A reaction that was perfectly reasonable in principle (the flaws he found being irrelevant to the subject of his wife's ticket), but horribly botched in its execution.

UK border at risk of exposure post Brexit, warn MPs

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Re: Why are they worried?

North Korea got there first with the isolation, and with not subjecting itself to international oversight.

Not everyone in the UK cabinet wants a NK solution. Only some of them.

Security industry needs to be less trusting to get more secure

Nick Kew Silver badge

Where has she been living?

In a world where we all trust each other's intentions to be benign? Surely no security person has lived there since at least the Internet Worm of 1989?

Or perhaps I'm missing something in reading this article as a statement of the should-be-obvious?

Get ready for laptop-tab-smartphone threesomes from Microsoft, Lenovo, HP, Asus, Qualcomm

Nick Kew Silver badge

Install Linux and I'll have one! Sounds ample for me, and the battery life and connectivity are on the way to what I've been waiting for so long ...

On a point of history, I seem to recollect x86 emulation on ARM was available as far back as when I had an Acorn Archimedes in the late 1980s. Thirty years of it!

Investigatory Powers Act: You're not being paranoid. UK.gov really is watching you

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Re: sort of confused ?

To google, I am a datum. They don't care about my identity. They have the power to direct information and advertising towards me, which I can take or leave according to my usage and privacy settings.

The government also collects data: that's not new (the idea of a census goes back to antiquity). What's controversial is when it's tied to my identity. The (agents of) government do have the power to lock me up, to deprive me of my worldly goods, to ban me doing things. And I can't opt out.

Occam's razor suggests that failing to see the difference looks like being deliberately obtuse.

Dentist-turned bug-biter given a taste of freedom

Nick Kew Silver badge


Sorry, I think I'm missing something.

Are you saying that this is effectively two coincident stories about the same man? That is to say, one of disclosing a vulnerability and another of his harassing some innocent third-party?

Or is the cyberstalking charge purely a manifestation of a traditional Shoot the Messenger reaction?

Damian Green: Not only my workstation – mystery pr0n all over Parliamentary PCs

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Re: Did he do it or not?

Aha, someone else noticed the mention of thumbnails.

How many pornographic thumbnails appear in your cache when you click a single link that happens to take you to a Daily Mail story? Maybe thirty-ish in that column down the right hand side. An MP would have legitimate reason to read a lot of newspaper stories and other such contents.

Nationwide UK web bank and app take unscheduled nap

Nick Kew Silver badge

Works for me

Logged in just fine to check I have sufficient funds to cover the direct debit paying off my creditcard this week. Evidently not a prolonged outage.

Hypothetical: if I'd been in urgent need of cash and had had to resort to the desperate measure of using the creditcard in an ATM, would I have been able to get them to refund the cash-onna-creditcard charges?

High Court judge finds Morrisons supermarket liable for 2014 data leak

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Actually company drivers are one area where employer liability should be very firmly enforced. Otherwise you have a race to the bottom where companies put impossible-to-meet pressures on employees who drive on business, who then take risks to try and meet expectations.

User dialled his PC into a permanent state of 'Brown Alert'

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My sympathy here is with the operator who turned the brightness down to spare his eyes. The story as told may have been glossing over very good medical reasons for adjusting a working environment - especially if it was back in the days of flickering VDUs. And strain on the eyes could have seriously affected his brain, to the point of failing to notice the wrong keyboard - even if calling helpdesk might possibly be stretching the point.

Indeed, it was trouble with petty office managers[1] that drove me out of an office environment and into working from home.

[1] OK, that wasn't monitor settings, it was things like standardised desks forcing me into a posture that my back couldn't cope with.

Don't shame idiots about their idiotically weak passwords

Nick Kew Silver badge

Can you make a good anecdote of that? Perhaps you should submit it as a story for the Friday "On Call" column?

Nick Kew Silver badge

Psychology? Maths? Technology? Education? Defence in depth?

Why, here's an idea. Let's improve all of them. Each of us can contribute in our own fields of expertise, while bearing in mind the bigger picture.

Now, here's a question for the commentariat. Is it helpful when journalists present these themes as an either/or and in opposition to each other?

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

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Re: Really useful article.

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

Mythical broadband speeds to plummet in crackdown on ISP ads

Nick Kew Silver badge

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).

More than half of GitHub is duplicate code, researchers find

Nick Kew Silver badge

@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.

Nick Kew Silver badge


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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