* Posts by Nick Kew

1974 posts • joined 16 Jan 2007

Forget trigonometry, 'cos Babylonians did it better 3,700 years ago – by counting in base 60!

Nick Kew Silver badge

So much for digital

If the relative lack of divisors of 10 is a shortcoming, why has the modern world moved so far towards pure binary (and powers of 2 in specific contexts)?

Identity fraud in the UK at 'epidemic' levels as cases rise 5% – report

Nick Kew Silver badge

@Lost all faith

Where does that come from? Your imagination, or some other source?

No such thing was mentioned in the interview I heard (on BBC R4's "Today"). Just that two people been banged up for using the language of the playground online.

Nick Kew Silver badge

Re: Hmmmm

The name-calling bit is not at all metaphorical. Labour's totalitarian-in-chief was on the radio yesterday, gloating that two people are in prison for calling her names online!

Want a medal? Microsoft 7.2% less bad at speech recognition than IBM

Nick Kew Silver badge

Re: It isn't just machines that have trouble

If I'm looking for the meeting where we discussed the outcome of "project athena", but its name was transcribed as "project tina"

Now that's the kind of error that's very common in human-produced notes.

Indeed, that applies to any name (other than one clearly expected in the context), because you don't have the reference point to correct what you heard slightly ambiguously. Cold-callers know this well, hence "This is Athena from [mumble]" obscures her affiliation without her failing to tell you it - and if you hear it as Tina that's an extra bonus.

Nick Kew Silver badge

Nothing new here

All the subjects mentioned here in comments - unclear speech, stumbles, hesitation, um, ah, accents, intoxication, sloppy figures of speech, cocktail party, are precisely what makes speech recognition hard.

And they were what made it hard when I worked in the field, back in the early 1990s. Commentards are identifying issues the researchers have been wrestling with for decades. Something has clearly improved since then, and I don't think it's *just* the march of hardware (Moore's law, etc), though certainly my project was eventually privileged to have use of a supercomputer with tens of megabytes of RAM.

Sadly, performance measures - the accuracy of speech recognition - is still based on some very suspect measures. The figures MS or IBM, or Apple or Google, report, will be very specific tasks that have limited value in measuring the real world. Accuracy measures are quite pernicious, in that they naturally favour a system that uses the same unit of classification as the test set.

So in my day, our system which worked with syllables as primary unit couldn't be meaningfully compared with the majority that used phonemes. And among the latter, different teams used different phoneme sets, thus setting themselves widely different tasks. A system that just classifies vowel-vs-consonant has a much easier task than one that classifies 80 different sounds, but you have to dig deeper into the results than this article to tell that the former's 90% might be less rather than more impressive than the latter's 80%.

I did try to push the information-theoretic measure of entropy as offering better cross-system comparisons, but they seem instead to have gone for defined tasks. Like, erm, testing diesel emissions. Or kids working to an exam. Or ...

UK.gov to treat online abuse as seriously as IRL hate crime

Nick Kew Silver badge
Big Brother

The King is a Fink

A cartoon tyrant naturally bangs up those who call him bad things.

His modern equivalent, Luciana Berger, has been on the radio today, proudly telling us that two people are in prison for using the language of the playground online about her. Specifically, the phrase "Jewish Bitch". Not a phrase I would use, but I could be sorely tempted to make an exception just for her. Though on reflection, it would seem unduly harsh towards both jews and bitches.

p.s. Anyone care to admit their age by recognising the reference in the title?

Daily Stormer booted off internet again, this time by Namecheap

Nick Kew Silver badge

Re: Stupid stupid stupid

I do wish people would stop calling these people "Nazis".

Upvote for that: the word has, like so many, become a generic term of abuse, and lost its meaning.

Having said that, news reports spoke of someone at those Virginia demos waving swastikas and the like: someone is actively inviting the comparison. Whether that was actual white supremecists or someone out to discredit legitimate demonstrators doesn't appear to have been questioned.

Nick Kew Silver badge

I can't wait for the mission creep to start

That's OK, you don't have to wait. It goes back a long way. You can find stories right here in El Reg going back to last decade (google "Virgin Killer" for one that springs to mind).

Nick Kew Silver badge

RIP Voltaire

I don't know what the daily stormer says, or used to say. I have no interest in them, other than in the context of their current persecution. They're not even the thin end of the wedge, because we're already a lot further down the slippery slope than merely suppressing genuine nutjobs.

That still doesn't mean they should be silenced. Still less that the decision should be thrust onto some poor bugger who never asked to be a judge or a politician. If he can be bullied or intimidated into suppressing them other than by a court order, that's the thin end of a very totalitarian wedge.

The thick end of that wedge was on the radio this morning. The odious Luciana Berger, from the extreme totalitarian wing of the Labour party (she who called for MPs to be protected from their own constituents by wrapping all contact in heavy red tape and airport security) was on the radio this morning, rejoicing that the UK police state locks people up for the crime of school-playground-style language online.

US DoD, Brit ISP BT reverse proxies can be abused to frisk internal systems – researcher

Nick Kew Silver badge

Um, the title says reverse proxy, but the substance of the article describes something different: a transparent proxy.

A reverse proxy is, from a Client PoV, an origin server, in that it *is* the hostname and IP address of the requested URL. It doesn't involve intercepting anything, because it's precisely where the traffic is routed. The proxy part is merely that it delegates the request to a backend server.

The reverse proxy is when you ring a company and get the receptionist to put you through to an extension. BT's proxy is a spooks' wiretap on the line.

Oracle caves, promises to crack open Java EE as v8 crawls ever closer

Nick Kew Silver badge

Re: Translation

ObPedant: the LibreOffice fork came about a year earlier than the OpenOffice donation. Had the donation come earlier, the reason for the fork wouldn't have existed.

FWIW I was one of the significant minority of Apache members who wasn't in favour of accepting OpenOffice in the circumstances. With Java there's more history (see for example http://www.apache.org/jcp/sunopenletter.html ), but there isn't an existing fork like LibreOffice.

Sorry, but those huge walls of terms and conditions you never read are legally binding

Nick Kew Silver badge
Thumb Up

Remember when T&Cs used to appear in a piddling little text box in an HTML Form? All those hundreds of lines in a 4-line window.

On occasion I actually deleted all of that, and substituted my own words. Something like "Illegible T&Cs deleted for clarity". Thus I was demonstrably not agreeing to something that I couldn't hope to read without jumping through hoops.

US cops point at cell towers and say: Give us every phone number that's touched that mast

Nick Kew Silver badge

Re: If you are a bad-un all you need to do is:

Actually, that would be a clue in and of itself.

Damn, yes. I must be a very dodgy criminal every time I switch the thing off for the theatre or a concert.

Australian money cops gain powers to regulate cryptocurrency

Nick Kew Silver badge

Re: Property is the best way to launder money in Australia

Damn, that's well-known in Blighty - particularly London. No surprise to hear it applies in Oz too.

Does the Oz government pour vast amounts of taxpayers' money into ever-more-elaborate schemes to push property prices higher, killing off market economics and making the people dependent? Ours has been doing that for a very long time.

Sneaky devs could abuse shared libraries to slurp smartphone data

Nick Kew Silver badge

Have I gone senile?

Um, libraries are code, and code is not data. What have libraries to do with application privileges?

Now if you'd talked of risk of a privileged daemon (or even kernel module) leaking to a supposedly-less-privileged app, that would make sense. And if you'd said android involves daemons managing various functions from user input to location tracking, so would that.

Did I just wake up to find daemons (or something similar) are now called libraries? Or what am I missing? Are we back to the days when hardware was mapped to ordinary memory? Damn, your other story is April 1st.

Revealed: The naughty tricks used by web ads to bypass blockers

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Re: paywalls...

Not necessarily.

One of my regular sites pushes ads, but also offers a "turn ads off" option. The latter is, you make a small payment towards their running costs. That seems to me a fair model.

Nick Kew Silver badge


Nice typo. Or was it?

Nick Kew Silver badge

Re: Gotta be honest here...

You sound like you're doing the kind of thing I tried, quite a few years back. I was hopelessly naive about making a business of it, and made no money[1]. It was advertising that kind-of saved me: text links to improve someone's google rank (my own pages had ranks up to 9 at the time due to really good contents).

I was never happy about that, and stopped as soon as I found an alternative: contract work for a client who paid. The downside is that the really useful services I once offered languish unloved and unmaintained, though still gets used.

[1] At my worst point in 2002 and 2003 I was down to one meal a day, at a cost of £2/week in today's money. And down to walking everywhere when I couldn't afford to replace broken parts on my bike.

Nick Kew Silver badge

Re: Paying for content

"Like" buttons in certain places are already powered mostly by 'bots.

I expect the vast majority of Reg commentards could script something. As could spammers who don't comment here but would soon take over if that upvote button involved real money.

Nick Kew Silver badge

Exactly. Target the crap 'cos it's crap, not 'cos it's an ad. There are technologies that'll serve ads to me without inducing any desire to block them, by the simple and effective trick of being inoffensive.

Nick Kew Silver badge

Re: Good old days

Well.. if they ask me to unblock and it's a site I want to visit for a specific reason, I do. And then reset the blocker.

Better solutions that seem to work with most of the current generation of crapware:

(1) (getting less effective but still often works) Reload a page, and abort loading after the text has arrived but before other stuff.

(2) (usually does the job) Just paste the URL into lynx in a terminal.

Hell desk to user: 'I know you're wrong. I wrote the software. And the protocol it runs on'

Nick Kew Silver badge

Re: Possible or easy?

In the days of Gopher, any documentation might have been elusive. You couldn't just google it. Paper docs had invariably gone walkies any time I needed them, while Unix manpages (before man -k or apropos) relied on knowing the exact and often non-obvious command you were trying to find ...

Did the gopher client in question offer anything so accessible as "gopher -?" or "gopher --help"? And did that then tell you anything? I don't recollect the early web browsers that supported gopher telling you anything: they were point-and-click.

Can GCHQ order techies to work as govt snoops? Experts fear: 'Yes'

Nick Kew Silver badge
Black Helicopters

Supply chains

A lot of things go in to telecoms equipment. Software, both open and closed source. Ditto chips.

Does this mean that a developer could be served a warrant by GCHQ to cooperate in smuggling an exploitable vulnerability into a general-purpose software project? Most obviously a crypto project such as OpenSSL, but it could be applicable much more widely. The warrant might then constrain the developer's behaviour: for example, to post GCHQ's responses rather than his own when a relevant commit is questioned.

Assange offers job to sacked Google diversity manifestbro

Nick Kew Silver badge

Re: A job in the Ecuadorian embassy?

Maybe he's looking for a decoy. Someone leaves embassy disguised as Assange whilst Assagne leaves by back door disguised as....well, disguised.

Been done. See for instance Dickens: "It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known."

NotBeingPetya: UK critical infrastructure firms face huge fines for lax security

Nick Kew Silver badge

Security by cookery

I expect this'll lead to a whole lot more checklists.

And software tools to help ensure compliance.

And then blind adherence to what the tools tell you. Despite the best efforts of tool vendors to tell you that their warnings don't mean "this is wrong" but rather "this is flagged up for human attention".

Hmmm. Like ... dear me, was it really 2008 I noted this little anecdote?

Britons ambivalent about driverless car tech, survey finds

Nick Kew Silver badge

Re: Kidnapping-as-a-service

I'm sure that service been around since at least the era of James Bond.

Come to think of it, yes I can think of much earlier instances too.

Nick Kew Silver badge

I don't believe I'll be able to afford it. At least, not enough to choose to spend such a vast amount on one toy. Same applies to an old-fashioned human-driven car, though I realise I'm in a minority there.

But to be able to summon one with an app seems truly liberating. Great halfway-house between working to regular public transport routes&timetables and the hassle and expense of a taxi (with pot-luck driver). While we can't yet foresee all the details, I expect that's what most people look forward to.

Nick Kew Silver badge

Re: Sunday (autonomous) driving

getting later and later for whatever it was you had to get to, flashing your lights, leaving the indicator on all the time, and fuming.

It's not me guv: last time I drove anything was in 2005, when I hired a white van to move house.

But if you behave like that behind me when I'm out on my bike, I'll certainly be tempted to make a special effort to slow down and NOT let you past. Quite the opposite to how I'll treat the vast majority of road users who behave in a civilised manner.

Google's macho memo man fired, say reports

Nick Kew Silver badge

Back story?

Can El Reg use its journalistic nouse to see if there's a back story to this?

For example, if an engineer were about to get fired for very good reasons, releasing this document just before it could be a brilliant distraction. Turn a crook into a free speech martyr in the eyes of the world. Or make a bid for a career change: join the professional Chattering Classes!

BTW, may I refer readers to my comment above ("Re: The issue appears to be...") for where I'm coming from? Trouble with a debate like this is that there are some on all sides who will jump to conclusions.

Nick Kew Silver badge

Re: I now wouldn't take the risk of hiring a diverse team

Sadly, I now wouldn't take the risk of hiring a diverse team - because of the real risk of hiring someone who's professionally outraged and would simply sue me and my company into oblivion.

Methinks that makes you part of the problem. You appear to be showing prejudice over where a disruptive SJW might come from.

Big nonprofit org I'm involved with has this issue internally. Vast male majority. The 'diversity' subject comes up about once a year, usually raised by someone well-meaning. Any potential debate is shouted down very loudly by one individual who absolutely won't tolerate dissent and must have the last word. He's male. I think he's also white, though I couldn't say for certain.

A couple of years ago the subject was raised by a (black) lady, who proposed to conduct some actual study that might have thrown some light on the vexed question of whether there was a real issue and whether there was something we could/should do better. She was recently elected, so could perhaps be forgiven for not quite anticipating the hornets' nest she raised. But of course, as soon as people started to discuss the subject, SJW shouts down anything that doesn't fit his prejudices.

Original proposer retreats from the debate, so whatever she now does is denied the benefit of community input, as well as the peer review that might potentially take it from a considered opinion piece to serious scholarship.

Nick Kew Silver badge

Re: The issue appears to be...

To have fired him simply proves his point. It demonstrates a monoculture in which a diversity of views cannot be tolerated.

Had they instead welcomed his contribution to the debate, they would conversely have demonstrated the very tolerance whose existence he questioned.

To be fair on Google, they are under a lot of pressure from a Politically Correct establishment to demonstrate conformity. A classic scapegoat can be exceedingly useful.

Send mixed messages: Mozilla wants you to try its encrypted file sharing

Nick Kew Silver badge


While this may be a reasonably secure arrangement, it's far from perfect. AWS might be able to recover a deleted file or be forced to retain them, given sufficient motivation, and the key might be recoverable from log files or the messaging service used to send it.

What's that based on? What leads you to suppose Moz, AWS, or any intermediary ever had sight of the private key?

I'm not saying you're wrong: I haven't studied the source code or even the docs (have you?), so I don't know (and I'd be wary of using anything more automated than commandline PGP to encrypt something really sensitive). But I'd be very disappointed in the Moz team[1] if they were to open that kind of backdoor.

[1] At least, until we have reports of infiltration of the team by agents of governments such as UK or Oz.

To truly stay anonymous online, make sure your writing is as dull as the dullest conference call you can imagine

Nick Kew Silver badge

Re: "he shall ever ever know it"

However - I'm not in the mood to match that to other posts.

Zigackly. That's for serious investigators in pursuit of a high-value prize. Or else for software tools. But not casual commentards in the virtual pub.

I'm not the AC in question either. But if anyone here is playing, I did post an earlier comment as AC, also for reasons of making a point. The pint is for the commentard who identifies it.

Nick Kew Silver badge

Re: Writing style seems unlikely to personally identify you

Certain spelling mistakes, certain repeated phrases, added to timestamps and known websites would really really narrow it down.

On the contrary, that's a well-known and easy-to-implement distraction. Used it myself in the past when having fun on Usenet (dynamic IP and an open usenet server helped).

WannaCry kill-switch hero Marcus Hutchins collared by FBI on way home from DEF CON

Nick Kew Silver badge

Re: Cockwombles

Bet Trump increases their funding

This is not a Trump-ism. Sklyarov got arrested in similar circumstances[1] as far back as 2001. El Reg wrote about him quite a few times.

[1] "Similar" assumes Hutchins didn't actually unleash evil malware on the world.

The Telegraph has killed Prince Philip

Nick Kew Silver badge

Re: it would never have happened in my day!

Tim, I remember the Torygraph online. I was living&working in Italy at the time, and suddenly I had access to a newspaper from home. I think the Grauniad appeared around the same time, but was less usable, or perhaps carried a lot less material, 'cos it was the Torygraph that shone.

Then in about 1996 they changed it all to some dysfunctional table-driven layout. On the connections we had back then (the information dirt-track) it meant nothing would render until a whole page loaded, which was several minutes. RIP the Torygraph as a usable website: the Grauniad now did a better (or less bad) job.

Browser trust test: Would you let Chrome block ads? Or Firefox share and encrypt files?

Nick Kew Silver badge

Re: El Reg

Has El Reg at long last banished ads that move, like for example animated gifs?

You should tell us if&when that happens: I'd feel honour-bound to stop blocking them.

Think you could deliver a Register lecture? Tell us why

Nick Kew Silver badge

Re: What's the fee?

And would it cover expenses for travel to Vulture Academy? Train fare alone being into three figures nowadays. You'd'a thunk a techie rag could conduct lectures online!

Valley VC sues blogger after sex pest claims, discovers writer is a male tech biz rival

Nick Kew Silver badge

Ummm ...

Thought experiment. El Reg publishes a story about an unnamed sex pest whose description happens to match yours or mine.

Do we instantly identify with the subject? Do we assume people we know will identify us in the story? Not commentards (I've no idea what you look like in person), but someone who both reads the e-rag and knows us.

And then, what lengths do we go to to draw the world's attention to the story and our alleged role in it? Not just ignore it and move on. Nor (being a regular commentard) join the commentariat from the peanut gallery. But wade right in with the Power of Denial.

"It wasn't me, guv."

"Good Lord! Yes, you do rather match the description. Fancy that.""

... and then go to extraordinary lengths to draw the world's attention to the story and yourself. Homing in on one specific attribute of the post: the IP address - as opposed to, say, the commentard's user details.

And that's positing the story in a widely-read publication in English. Not a blog in Japanese: surely already a specialist niche in a Silicon Valley readership!

One might almost suppose he had discovered how easy it is to spoof an IP address. How many Commentards have never framed your mate over some trivial prank? How many of us have never been victim of a joe-job?

iRobot just banked a fat profit. And it knows how to make more: Sharing maps of your homes

Nick Kew Silver badge

Dodgy story

My roomba is not equipped with wifi. Nor bluetooth, or any other communications other than the physical controls on it. Neither does it have half the other attributes described in the article.

But it does a b***** good job with my floors. Especially the bedroom carpet, which (being deeper than others in the house) was visibly cleaner after the roomba than it ever had been after cleaning with a conventional upright vacuum cleaner.

The article says $irobot-boss would like to sell such data. But it only invites you to suppose that a roomba collects any such data (Granny Weatherwax would say headology). Maybe some do, but I've not encountered them.

Kid found a way to travel for free in Budapest. He filed a bug report. And was promptly arrested

Nick Kew Silver badge

A time-honoured tradition

Shoot the messenger.

This young chap's now got himself a real-world education!

Cyber arm of UK spy agency left without PGP for four months

Nick Kew Silver badge


Is it uniquely Huawei whose kit they are using without source? Or might they also use other Usual Suspects like Apple, MS, Samsung, etc on the same basis?

The mind boggles about being "without PGP". I expect individuals continued to use it, just not in their auditable Processes.

systemd'oh! DNS lib underscore bug bites everyone's favorite init tool, blanks Netflix

Nick Kew Silver badge

Re: And this is why Linux will NEVER be a useable desktop OS

Can you imagine an actual user in the real world doing this? or even understanding what this is telling him to do?


Any Linux distro - even a techie one like gentoo - will default to requesting both an IP address and DNS resolver from the router you plug it into. Which will in turn get those things from your ISP or network administrator. It's called DHCP.

The only actual user to be affected will be the actual user who has, for his/her own reasons, explicitly overridden those defaults.

Nick Kew Silver badge

Re: Underscore? What is a hostname?

Back when I was a lad the hostname was the leftmost part of the fully qualified domian name.

Red herring. That is not the usage of "hostname" in any of the references from here.

And there's nothing "modern" about it: the 'modern' bit is the whole notion of a FQDN running from local on the left to TLD on the right. Until sometime in the '90s, that would only ever have been considered one among many formats.

Nick Kew Silver badge

Re: underscore illegal dns character

Metoo. Certainly used to be illegal when I learned about DNS, back in about the bronze age.

But we've had some changes since then. Like goldrush TLDs, and most relevantly DNS i18n. So when El Reg tells us they're legal, I can give them the benefit of the doubt.

Nick Kew Silver badge

Re: Alternate

Those google IPs are just incredibly useful. When your DNS is broken, you have a bootstrap problem.

Happened to me just on Saturday. I use auto-configure from home, but the (ISP-supplied) router was failing to resolve DNS when it came back up after a power cut. has the virtue of being memorable without having to go online to look it up first!

UK households hit by 1.8m computer misuse offences in a year

Nick Kew Silver badge

Re: "Incidents" or "reports of incidents"?

@Alister - thanks for the insight. That division of roles between you installing and $luser throwing a wobbly makes a lot of sense.

Someone should point Scott Adams at this: PHB could be a fine role model for your one-time client.

Burglary, robbery, kidnapping and a shoot-out over… a domain name?!

Nick Kew Silver badge

Re: Wow. Just wow.

It's an old Reg tradition. Every day is April 1st.

Haven't we all shot ourselves in the foot at one time or another? Just not quite literally.

Alphabay shutdown: Bad boys, bad boys, what you gonna do? Not use your Hotmail...

Nick Kew Silver badge
Big Brother


So now we know. The Master Criminal didn't use encryption, nor even basic security.

Someone remind me. What's that backdoor some politicians are so keen on supposed to reveal?

Damn. Couldn't resist. It's about as coherent as May/Rudd or aussie George on crypto backdoors.

Nick Kew Silver badge

Tricks of the mind

We can shake our heads at the story. But perhaps he had some kind of psychological disorder - maybe akin to some form of autism - that left him genuinely in a state of having some strengths but also those incredible blind spots? Or it's slightly like the kind of disjunction that can follow a stroke.

I'm not a medic, let alone a shrink. Any commentard who has the relevant expertise is cordially invited to tell me the above is gibberish. Preferably with reasons.

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