* Posts by Nick Kew

1974 posts • joined 16 Jan 2007

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

Nick Kew Silver badge

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

My spam filter logs that many misuse attempts in a year. But I haven't reported them to plod.

On the other hand, I have (in my capacity as an open source developer) occasionally been in receipt of misdirected complaints. The kind of scenario where luser installs Apache web server, sees Apache default page or error page, and sends a very angry and incoherent complaint to Apache about having hacked them. I daresay Plod gets more of that sort of nonsense than we do.

UK.gov watchdog didn't red flag any IT projects. And that alone should be a red flag to everyone

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Dodgy Conjunction?

BBC fat-cats vs Govt projects? Isn't that a bit far-fetched even for a tabloid journo?

Not going to try and comment on the substance of the article. Would need to see the terms of reference of the study done, and the definitions of the various colour-codes.

Mozilla hoping to open source voice samples for future AI devs

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Once upon a time ...

... I worked in speech recognition. And I seem to recollect working with open source data, too.

OK, noone called it open source. The term had yet to be coined: we had Free Software (and the GNU brand was familiar among Beards), but the term Open Source was still some way off.

The article seems light on detail of what Moz has actually announced, and how it differs from what's been around for a very long time. Guess I'll just have to look at Moz itself to see what's new.

China's 'future-proof' crypto: We talk to firm behind crazy quantum key distribution network

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All in public

... interesting contrast to Usual Suspects like NSA/GCHQ or their contractors.

I guess it saves foreign spies the trouble of following the work by clandestine means. Not to mention the potential for diplomatic incidents.

Now the interesting question (on which I hope El Reg will keep us informed) is how governments around the world will react. Including those who preach Freedom of Speech.

China's censorship cyber-missiles shoot down pics flying through WhatsApp, chat apps

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Can we have some of that?

Rejecting mail (at MTA level) with images attached makes life that bit more bearable. Recommended.

Cleaning junk from other communication channels is no bad thing either.

UK regulator set to ban ads depicting bumbling manchildren

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Re: Quite Right!

I'm sick of ads showing men as bumbling idiot that need a good women to sort them out!

I'm not. I don't encounter them. Aren't ads supposed to entertain?

I do get sick of the Chattering Classes' portrayal of men in relation to women. That all-pervasive stereotype of the human male just convinces me almost daily that I must be - in BBC terms - a woman. But the ASA has no power over the Radio 4 agenda.

At least when they do negative stereotypes of the old (Victor Meldrew) and the young (Vicky Pollard) it's given to us as comedy.

Another Brexit cliff edge: UK.gov warned over data flows to EU

Nick Kew Silver badge

@Charlie Clark

"Especially if the minister responsible only attends the meetings on a part time basis."

Sensible. Sir Humphrey will have to do the work anyway, and he doesn't want some idiot politician looking over his shoulder.

Security robot falls into pond after failing to spot stairs or water

Nick Kew Silver badge


My roomba once had an accident on the stairs.

At the top of the stairs was a round, rugged rug, that I use under the office chair to protect the room carpet from huge wheel marks. I'd moved the rug there so both the rug itself and the office floor would get cleaned. I'm pretty sure that's what tipped the roomba over: the slight descent from the rug to normal floor giving it marginal extra tilt and momentum towards the top stair.

I suspect what confused the robot was not the AI but the sensory input. It couldn't tell water from a solid surface until it reached tipping point.

Nick Kew Silver badge

Back story?

Can't help thinking ...

James Bond would've done something heroic and ingenious to drown the deadly security robot that was chasing him.

Nearly three-quarters of convicted TV Licence non-payers are women

Nick Kew Silver badge

OK, what's the argument?

El Reg seems exercised with statistics that say the majority of convictions are women.

Commentards seem exercised with entirely different questions around the validity of the licence[1]. If anyone posted an argument we haven't all already heard, I missed it (downvotes? Bring 'em on).

I say to El Reg, there's a much bigger imbalance - our prison population. If you're going to campaign about overrepresentation of women in one particular category of conviction, why aren't you campaigning about much bigger imbalances in more serious convictions? Isn't that grossly inconsistent?

[1] I just ignore it. Never had a telly, don't miss what I never had, don't want a bloomin' telly.

UK.gov snaps on rubber gloves, prepares for mandatory porn checks

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Daily Mail

Will the Mail change its entire character by getting rid of all those pics, or go behind a paywall? That could reduce the risk of following links to it!

UK spookhaus GCHQ can crack end-to-end encryption, claims Australian A-G

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Re: Oh George

Have an upvote for the Joyce Grenfell reminder. Could he be the same George?

'Help! I'm stuck in this ATM,' writes poor bloke on a scribbled note

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A little imp

The late, lamented Sir PTerry told us all about the little imps that drive our technology.

Want to kill your IT security team? Put the top hacker in charge

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Wise words

This guy speaks wise words. Many of us could've told you the same. Knowing the theory is easy; putting it into practice is the hard bit. Kind-of like being an armchair prime minister, or armchair CEO. A lot of that only comes with experience, and careful avoidance of MBAs.

And the advice applies much more widely: situations I've encountered include supervising a student project (Uni or GSoC), and mentoring an open source project.

Nick Kew Silver badge

Re: Best advice

... because the one in the Suit must be the success, while being still at the sharp end of engineering at age 30 marks your career as a failure.

I think this has been a big driver for open source communities over the years. A refuge from the corporate world, where doing the work you love doesn't mark you out as a loser.

NAO: Customs union IT system may not be ready before Brexit

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Red Tape

This is an ingredient in the Red Tape that stifles the real economy.

When the IT falls down in a heap, which way will they go? Scrap the red tape, or double down on it and employ an army of Red Tape Clerks?

Micro Focus posts pre-HPE Software borg numbers

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Re: That looks like quite a healthy company.

Micro Focus has a long history of gobbling up former-big-name companies that have fallen into apparent irrelevance (like Borland and Novell), and making a profitable business of them. I believe they have a time machine where COBOL lives on and flourishes.

Nick Kew Silver badge
Thumb Down

Share price crashed on today's news. Market expected better.

No insights?

GitHub acknowledges autocrats with 'code owner' feature

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Re: Maintenance?

That's well-established in a lot of open source projects. When you want to step down from a role, you resign. The community nominates or elects someone else. Handover happens.

This is one area where opensource wins hands-down over a typical commercial model, where a person stepping in to a role may have a steep learning curve.

Nick Kew Silver badge


Methinks the point of code owners isn't so much to grant power as responsibility.

In the absence of an owner, bug reports and such things can languish unloved as noone takes responsibility. Especially the kind of report that takes time and effort to distinguish from luser error. Whereas if I specifically own a component, I'll step up to those issues. And - conversely - spend less of my time dithering over someone else's issues, unless I have a very clear interest.

Two-factor FAIL: Chap gets pwned after 'AT&T falls for hacker tricks'

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Old news

Here in Blighty, the BBC have reported several instances of exactly this hack over (from memory) at least two or three years. I think they also reported that one of our banks had stopped using SMS 2FA in response to documented cases of their users' phone numbers being hijacked.

If 2FA is to work, it needs to be cryptographically secured. End to end, not just in components where it's easy.

And to pre-empt the next hack, if a 2FA token is issued by the same Authority as the an https session where the transaction originated, we're staring at another single-point-of-failure.

Roland McGrath steps down as glibc maintainer after 30 years

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@ allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

It's actually quite usual in the Open Source world.

The thirty years is much more unusual. Few developers even had exposure to open source in the '80s: if he had not merely hardware but also connectivity as a teenager, it tells us there was something exceptional about his home and parents.

Behind the scenes of Slovaks' fight to liberate their .sk domain

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Good Nationalism, Bad Nationalism

Try registering a .ie domain if you can't demonstrate a connection to Ireland - not going to happen...

Looks like Good Nationalism to me. Assert a national identity without doing harm to anyone, or conjuring up an enemy to hate, resent, or look down on.

The contrast is Bad Nationalism: that which creates an "us and them" situation, and with it resentment and hatred. We could all point to instances where that has led to Bad Things - like mass slaughter of the innocent in extreme cases - and argue over whose fault they were.

I think there's a good case that Good Nationalism can present a safety valve against a buildup of Bad Nationalism. From the article, I'd guess these Slovakian folk contain the seeds of both, and could go either way. Put-downs from foreigners like El Reg might just tend to nurture the Bad form.

Sysadmin bloodied by icicle that overheated airport data centre

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Summer Ice

The story reminds me of my time in central Italy. Much of it spent in a portakabin, 'cos there were more people than regular office space for them.

For the most part, life in the portakabin was good. It was relaxed. I could sit in a comfy chair, and park my 'puter on a decent table with proper leg room under it, and even put the feet up. No PHB to moan about looking untidy. And for many months in comfortable temperatures of spring and autumn, we could keep the door wide open, and welcome local cats who were good company.

But the Roman summer is hot. And in the latter part, very humid: it progresses from a relatively dry heat in May/June to something unbearable in August. So we had to shut the door and turn the aircond on.

It would regularly ice up. At worst it's over 40 outside, and with the sun beating down mercilessly, the temperature inside would rise rapidly to the point where the wetware comprehensively fried. We started to structure the day to run it for a couple of hours, then turn it off and find things to take us over to the main building while the aircond recovered. Morning coffee, lunch, afternoon tea, and a bit of time spent with whatever cow-orker one could find an excuse to visit.

Having said that, I was sorry to leave the portakabin. As soon as I had an office in the main building, some office manager insisted on standardised desks and would hear no argument. These gave me no legroom and forced me into a posture my back couldn't cope with, so I had to quit the job. Sadly I hadn't heard the term "constructive dismissal" at the time.

Someone's phishing US nuke power stations. So far, no kaboom

Nick Kew Silver badge

Why isn't it stuxnet?

This time it would make perfect sense if it were the US's own security forces. Their job is to protect US security, and probing vulnerabilities of critical infrastructure is surely part of that job.

So, if it falls short of a stuxnet (OK, perhaps stuxnet-with-dummy-payload), does that mean they're not doing their job? Or just that attacks are being reported selectively?

Coincidentally, some of those same security forces are well-known for framing foreign powers.

Create a user called '0day', get bonus root privs – thanks, Systemd!

Nick Kew Silver badge

Re: the problem with clueless amateurs...


I'm perfectly qualified to throw rotten tomatoes

Why are your tomatoes rotten?

(general comment, no longer @jake)

Systemd seems to me to represent convergence of Linux (at least the mainstream) with Windows. And not in a good way (no comment on whether a good way exists).

[a clueless amateur for the purposes of the troll, and a software professional since 1983]

Bonkers call to boycott Raspberry Pi Foundation over 'gay agenda'

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Shame on El Reg

If it wasn't for scurrilous journos reporting them, how many of us would ever hear of this nonsense in the first place? We could go on happily Not Associating the raspberry pi with any kind of sexual or political Agenda.

Tick-tick... boom: Germany gives social media giants 24 hours to tear down hate speech

Nick Kew Silver badge

Re: Choices, choices

Who no longer has an outlet online?

The El Reg Commentard Community welcomes refugees from anti-free-speech laws elsewhere. Well, erm, I'd like to think it does: many of us rightly call for freedom of speech and take issue with threats to it.

On a serious note, we in Blighty may have some serious idiots in government (including the prime minister and home secretary). But others seem genuinely to understand Freedom of Speech. Consider this article by Boris, and (if I may be so bold) my reaction to it (note the date: I was over-optimistic about the then-nearly-new government in my comment).

Fancy fixing your own mobile devices? Just take the display off carefu...CRUNCH !£$%!

Nick Kew Silver badge

Scope of the study?

Anyone tried to open a kindle? Not a happy memory.

I guess those weren't included in the study?

Robots will enable a sustainable grey economy

Nick Kew Silver badge

Re: How can a car-based future be long term sustainable?

My nearest bus stop is a mile away. My nearest supermarket is 20 miles away. Even if there were regular buses (and not the two a day during the week that we have now) explain to me how I should do my weekly shopping without a car.

Are you able-bodied? Then get a bike.

If you're too disabled to cycle but not too disabled to drive then you may perhaps be excused. Though you still have other options, like living somewhere better-suited to your needs, or using the supermarket's delivery service.

Nick Kew Silver badge

Not just the old

There are people of all ages who shouldn't be driving.

- Those with physical infirmities such as poor eyesight

- Those with social or mental problems such as fondness for booze

- Those of a nervous disposition who might get distracted by, for example, a wasp buzzing around their head

- The impatient

- The easily-distracted (especially in the presence of distractions such as friends or children).

- The absent-minded or dawdler

- The over-confident/complacent

Perhaps it would be simpler to summarise, and just say "normal people" as a first-order approximation.

Inmarsat flings latest Wi-Fi-on-airliners satellite into orbit

Nick Kew Silver badge

Re: 13 hour flight to Tokyo last week

So your airline needs to use another satellite to provide coverage over the relevant ocean. Today's news, for what it's worth, is that they've just launched another satellite.

Can't see myself being a user. Though I could envisage subscribing to satellite service from home if I find myself living somewhere without terrestrial broadband.

Murderous Uber driver 'attacked passenger and the app biz did nothing. Then he raped me'

Nick Kew Silver badge


... because regulation makes them safe?

Seems the reality is, noone knows, because noone collects statistics that would tell us.

e.g. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/taxi-drivers-uber-charged-violent-sexual-offences-london-a6988286.html (UK) or https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2015/03/are-taxis-safer-than-uber/386207/ (US).

All we know is that Uber has a reputation problem. I could propose two hypotheses, but offer no comment on which is closer to reality:

(a) The reputation problem is fully deserved.

(b) The reputation problem arises from an entire industry having a strong vested interest in stopping the rise of Uber.

Nick Kew Silver badge
Thumb Up

Re: Interesting.

Nice one! You don't have to take presstv at face value[1] to see how that so closely follows the pattern of Western propaganda against countries we don't like.

[1] Or even believe it at all. How should any of us here know, one way or t'other?

Nick Kew Silver badge

@Adam 52 - yep. I expect any public-facing business collects complaints against employees[1], and has no way (unless it be sheer volume) to distinguish the ones with substance from the malicious or frivolous. And would be on the wrong end of an industrial tribunal if it took action against an employee on that basis without at least supporting evidence from the powers of law enforcement.

[1] Or not-technically-employees acting in an employee-like role.

Google hit with record antitrust fine of €2.4bn by Europe

Nick Kew Silver badge

Google vs Spammers

Anyone remember Kelkoo? The annoying, utterly useless links that once used to feature rather a lot in Google search results? I used to have to add "-kelkoo" to searches. A pesky SEO spammer that was, for a time, very successful.

The World at One (BBC lunchtime news) just featured an interview with a Kelkoo spokesman about the Google judgement. He was there because of Kelkoo's prominent Wormtongue role in sweet-talking the commission. If there was any doubt about it, this dispels it: this was a victory for spammers over Google.

If Google were to give in to the likes of Kelkoo, Google would become useless as a search engine.

Tory-commissioned call centres 'might have bent data protection laws'

Nick Kew Silver badge

Re: Hmmm

"behalf of your insurer".

A variant on that is the call on behalf of a utility supplier. I don't recollect details, but one such surprised me by actually knowing who my supplier was.

Come to think of it, that was probably mobile phone, and they could reference the number back to the provider.

Queen's speech announces laws to protect personal data

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This looks like Good News

I note the phrase "Establish a commission to ..."

That's Humphrey-speak for kicking something into the long grass.

Oxford profs tell Twitter, Facebook to take action against political bots

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Hello? Ghost of Usenet here. Hello???

Nick Kew Silver badge

Re: Nope, the truth is not relative

Neither is a statement of fact. A statement of fact would include whether by weight or by number of atoms.

Did anyone claim a statement of fact? All he said is that they are true statements. In the right context (like in answer to a question that defines the terms), they might also be statements of fact.

It's a long time since I sat exams, but I'm still plagued by this kind of ambiguity if I take a survey or go to a pub quiz.

Nick Kew Silver badge

Your awareness of fake news has been raised.

I don't know how old you are, but think back from now to when you were first old enough to take an interest in news/politics/current affairs, and contemplate how many stories that may have influenced your life may have been at least misleading.

Like 30 years of Murdoch and others (like the convicted fraudster Conrad Black who used to own the Telegraph) consistently spinning against the EU.

Nick Kew Silver badge

Re: Nope, the truth is not relative

There are big Grey Areas.

Any campaigning politician will maintain levels of ambiguity and plausible deniability on many matters likely to be controversial. Sometimes rightly so, like when being pressed to answer a "Have you stopped beating your wife" question. Did you notice in the recent campaign, the Tory campaign centred on (things they said about) Corbyn? That appears to have backfired: it was just too blatant, but if Corbyn had risen to the bait and spent his time denying things that were (often-misleading spin) but not outright lies, he'd've been crushed by it.

Or consider the "Melanie Phillips translation": you take something said in a foreign language and translate it into something monstrous in English.

I could go on. But not here.

Nick Kew Silver badge

Re: Political Bots.

Yep. Can't have Ordinary People diluting Murdoch's power now, can we?

Hotheaded Brussels civil servants issued with cool warning: Leak

Nick Kew Silver badge

Re: That's not hot. This is hot.

Aussie here, ROFL. 29 degrees C isn't hot. 40 degrees C is hot.

40 is normal in Oz, innit? Very nice in dry heat (like outback NSW), more challenging in humidity further north (like Cairns).

My experience longer-term in a hotter climate[1] was that 40+ in the heat of the day was a lot easier to live with than upper-20s in the wee hours of the night. Largely 'cos of the relative humidity, which would top 100% overnight. And the June heat was a lot more pleasant than the August heat+humidity.

My experience back in Blighty - where we currently have high 20s with the sun beating down on my very large, south-facing bay window - is that 30 here is every bit as uncomfortable as 40 in a proper hot climate where it's normal and somehow feels right.

[1] Six years in Central Italy.

Worried about election hacking? There's a technology fix – Helios

Nick Kew Silver badge

The description of Helios sounds a lot like Apache STeVe. I recently ran an election using that[1]. Each voter was referenced by an anonymised hash, generated by the system and known by the voter but not by anyone else. If there had been any question of foul play, we could've enabled individual voters to view their votes as keyed by the hash.

I daresay there are other such systems around.

[1] That election was for a VP post within Apache - four good candidates but no controversy.

You'll soon be buying bulgur wheat salad* from Amazon, after it swallowed Whole Foods

Nick Kew Silver badge

Don't dismiss it. Makes a nice lunch.

The time to buy is when it's reduced for quick sale at your local supermarket.

Nick Kew Silver badge

Re: Have you ever or would you eat bulgur wheat?

Are you sure it was the bulgur in your soup? I've found it neutral on the stomach (I eat it occasionally, not often). Perhaps your soup contained some other active ingredient? Like my artichoke soup, which is delicious and particularly suitable for serving to a love rival ahead of his big date (or, more practically, eating when next day is at home and involves no social events).

Software dev bombshell: Programmers who use spaces earn MORE than those who use tabs

Nick Kew Silver badge

Re: Bad Surveys

Don't diss quiche.

Oh dear. I've nothing against quiche. It was a reference to "Real men don't eat quiche", which was once a bit of a cult, and spawned derivatives like things Real Programmers do/don't.

I guess cultural references are always at risk of being lost in a heterogenous community.

what, may I ask, is wrong with bacon, eggs, or pie

That's easy. The conditions in which pigs and chickens are kept.

Nick Kew Silver badge

Bad Surveys

ObCrustyOldGit: Real Programmers don't waste bytes on spaces or tabs. Fancy layouts are for quiche-eaters. Unless your entire language is quiche (FORTRAN or Python).

More seriously, an either/or question with no qualifiers? Don't most of us in reality just work with whatever convention happens to be in operation on a project? Even when we create an entirely new project, we'll do whatever seems right on the day, and maybe even allow the whims of a toolset-of-the-day to prevail in such unimportant matters!

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