* Posts by Nick Kew

1974 posts • joined 16 Jan 2007

Linus Torvalds targeted by honeytraps, claims Eric S. Raymond

Nick Kew Silver badge

I'm torn ...

... torn between two opposing reactions ...

1. Stop feeding the BBC/Guardian line "see, they just belittle us and make the world a hostile place".

2. The world needs a loony to come out with things like this, so that we don't look like the loony fringe ourselves if we ever do gently question the most militant of man-eaters.

So here's a better reaction:

3. Why is the meeja (El Reg) giving column inches to this? ESR is just a Celebrity, not a real opensource leader like Linus.

Hmmm, on second thoughts, that's no better. I'll get me coat.

GCHQ's CESG team's crypto proposal isn't dumb, it's malicious... and I didn't notice

Nick Kew Silver badge

Naïve optimism there

Having said that, motivation casts its shadow: why on Earth would someone conceive of such stupidity and devote time and thousands of words to propose that it should be a standard?

Don't laugh. Have you ever heard of RDF, the Semantic Web, and the W3C?

First you specify the concept of URI as globally-unique identifier, and try vainly to make a meaningless distinction between URI and URL. Then you start using URLs (sorry, URIs) prefaced with http://some-domain/ . But now you've got something recognisable: your URI maps naturally to a web address, or even a web page. So you can dereference it, and talk about web URLs in RDF terms.

You call it the Semantic Web, and make grand claims for it. You can start talking about the web page dereferenced by the URL. Except, you're in cloud-cuckoo-land. All that you say in RDF is predicated on the properties of the URI as a globally-unique invariant. But you're using the language to talk about something that may change at any time (e.g. El Reg front page), or according to metadata in the HTTP headers (e.g. what I get if I try to post this when not logged on). Result: gibberish.

Think it couldn't happen? Think someone would notice before it went public and got widely promoted? Just look at the history of W3C Annotea, which does everything I just described. And when I was on the working group for EARL, it was a lot of work and some Heath-Robinson constructs with time and metadata to allow us to avoid the same howler.

UK's super-cyber-snoop shopping list: Internet data, bulk spying, covert equipment tapping

Nick Kew Silver badge
Big Brother

Re: Cautiously optimistic

king_tut: I'm slowly working through it

You got a lot of downvotes for refusing to pre-judge the bill. Evidently a bunch of commentards would like to insist on a set of prejudices.

China's glorious five year plan will see 'online environment cleaned up'

Nick Kew Silver badge

We could do with that ...

If pollution levels in our homes feed into a GIS, we could have a map showing serious pollution, and perhaps catch some of those nasty fads like the wood-burning fires that are our generation's big carcinogens.

We can't all live by taking in each others' washing

Nick Kew Silver badge

Re: It's not fair!

Neil, of course I was speaking only of a micro-economy, which seemed somehow relevant. In the real world we have specialisation of labour, and so long as I'm not destitute I can buy all these fruits for no more effort than having to traipse round the shops and carry them home. All the hard work is done by people with specialist skills and equipment.

Actually that's a kind-of measurable effect. There are still blackberries around, but it's been a few weeks since I picked any: they're a pale shadow of peak season. Yet when I was genuinely destitute in 2003 I was still gathering them - the last dregs of the season - into late November.

p.s. I don't cook (or eat) jams and jellies, but I've made a delicious chutney from some of those blackberries. Where's the El Reg icon for nomnomnom?

Nick Kew Silver badge

It's not fair!

I give my friend blackberries I've picked, and take his apples. So we both have some of each delicious fruit. So far, so good (and true in real life).

But gathering the blackberries is hard work, and leaves my hands pretty-well shredded. Blackberries are relatively small, so picking them takes time, and of course those brambles, and the nettles that usually accompany them, fight back. Whereas apples have no thorns nor stings, and are so big that you have a decent bagful for a couple of minutes work.

My friend, being richer than I am, has an apple tree in his garden, and so gets to do the plum job (sorry about that - neither of us has enough plums to trade). That's capital.

Nick Kew Silver badge

Re: The last one?

Damn. There was me hoping he'd tackle the topical matter of the Chairman's state visit. How it does or doesn't make sense for China to lead big investments in the UK, when we're supposed to be the world's financial capital and good at raising private capital (er, no pun intended).

That way I as commentard could've bemoaned Osborne providing financial support to a mature industry (nuclear power - which I support and would be prepared to invest in if they were raising capital from investors) yet dragging its feet so horribly over supporting the fledgling industry that is this country's best potential: namely, clean and reliable tidal power.

Internet daddy Vint Cerf blasts FCC's plan to ban Wi-Fi router code mods

Nick Kew Silver badge

Software vs Firmware

The article says firmware. You talk about software.

I can see many good reasons to customise one's software. Firmware seems less clear: I'm prepared to accept there could be good reasons to hack it, but I don't see them in my life.

Dry those eyes, ad blockers are unlikely to kill the internet

Nick Kew Silver badge

Re: People who use adblockers...


I'd be happy to see ads. I just object strongly to things that move on my screen without my asking for it.

Sadly that applies just as much to a scrolling news ticker as to a tasteless animation advertising games or sex. So adblock is only a partial solution.

Oh, and to ad-flinging sites like El Reg. If you got rid of the animations, I'd be happy to unblock your adverts. Indeed, not merely happy but keen, as your articles occasionally feature media I might choose to see! Now, bear in mind, that's coming from a geek: I expect I might be core target audience for some of your (currently blocked) advertisers.

OH GROSS! The real problem with GDP

Nick Kew Silver badge

Re: Goodhart !

Thanks for that. It's a phenomenon I regularly comment on (sometimes here on Worstal's articles), but I never knew it had a name. Have an upvote!

Nick Kew Silver badge

Re: GDP corrupts

Only changes in asset prices that feed into those are part of GDP.

Yes, changes in asset prices. So whenever a transaction occurs, the capital gain feeds GDP. Which would be just fine and non-corrupting if capital gains reflected the actual value of an asset - so for a house that might reflect a new roof or installation of modern plumbing and wiring, but not just value-free rises.

On a related note, how do we account for stockmarket gains/losses on companies listed in London but whose actual business is predominantly not in the UK?

Nick Kew Silver badge

GDP corrupts

It seems to me that a key characteristic of Osbrownomics is an unhealthy focus on GDP as a "good news" story to tell the electorate.

You touched on the problems with this in your final paragraph about higher pay for bureaucrats enriching us all. But surely where this corrupts all the more is in asset prices. Each time a government succeeds in pushing house prices higher, GDP rises and they claim economic success. Yet we're not richer overall: we've just transferred wealth from the productive to the rich. Rising dot-com stocks or tulip bulb prices would likewise feed through to GDP Feelgood, but house prices are the most effective of all because it's harder to opt out of housing so everyone is involved, like it or not.

I suspect a key reason for the UK productivity gap is the amount of our GDP that actually represents a zero-sum game where no value is actually produced.

How long does it take an NHS doctor to turn on a computer?

Nick Kew Silver badge

Re: In the old days...

How old days?

In my first professional job in 1983, we sometimes had to 'phone the sysadmins, nearly 200 miles away. In fact, we had to 'phone them to arrange it if we wanted more than 2Kb (yes, kilobytes) of mainframe RAM to run a task.

What is money? A rabid free marketeer puts his foot in lots of notes

Nick Kew Silver badge

Re: So, what's the next step?

Sorry, mate. If you want to survive into that kind of bunker, you want serious money.

Your personal bodyguards won't come cheap in the intermediate ("somalia") phase, when society has broken down but dollars or gold are still the widely-accepted currency.

Nick Kew Silver badge


Methinks we're straying off the topic, but the big debts that matter are claims.

The big one for all of us is our claim to a state pension one day (or even many years, if you're lucky). That alone is worth quarter of a million in today's market. Arguably much more, if you treat the state's promise as better security (and therefore worth more) than an equivalent promise from a private-sector provider like the Equitable.

You have other entitlements, which will depend more on your circumstances. Which ones involve a chunk of someone's debt can be left as an exercise.

Nick Kew Silver badge

Re: Whose fiat?

Um, they can print someone else's. Google for "Operation Bernhard". Or consider regular forgery.

As for world government, we have dollar hegemony distorting the modern world economy. But that's a whole nother argument.

Nick Kew Silver badge

Flawed Premise

Your very first premise is flawed. Money in the real world is a medium of exchange, but can only ever be a short-term store of value. In the medium to longer term, debasement means you can save more yet buy less.

I use "debasement" rather than "inflation" here, because the latter word has itself been corrupted by association with meaningless price indexes, and esoteric arguments over different but equally-meaningless indexes. In a world where the only Big Thing you expect to save up for is a house, the kind of massive debasement we saw in about 2000-2005 or 1983-89 (and apparently right now in London) simply robs you of those savings and hands them to people richer than you, while not even showing up in the price indexes.

Nick Kew Silver badge

The Devil's Work

In Goethe's Faust (published 1831), one sub-plot is about the emperor's troubles with the economy. Mephistopheles saves the day with promissary notes on future wealth. Result: big boom, leading to bigger bust when people realise there simply isn't the wealth to meet the promises.

For the classic example affecting us today - pension promises from 1945 to the Equitable bust in 2000.

Corbyn's "peoples QE" is another manifestation of that. But then, so was its predecessor PFI, especially when taken to vast excess by NuLab. If you're the government and can print yourself money for free, it's not long before you yield to temptation to upgrade the palace to marble and solid gold, and use real diamonds for the chandeliers. Regardless of good intentions, jobs administering such pots of money are naturally huge corruption-magnets.

Applies also when the private sector is given licence to print. Hence what's happened in the banks, and doubly so when underwritten by taxpayers.

FATTIES have most SUCCESS with opposite SEX! Have some pies and SCORE

Nick Kew Silver badge

Sir John in Love

How come noone has yet mentioned that great archetype of the huge fatty who gets plenty of ladies, Sir John Falstaff?

Nick Kew Silver badge


My BMI is over the threshold and into obese, and the paunch confirms it. So when the ladies admiringly note how much I'm not wearing ("aren't you freezing?") I just point to my healthy layer of natural, organic insulation.

What was more surprising was when they tested my body fat and found it firmly in the healthy range, or what wikipedia describes as "fitness". Seems the insulation layer really is healthy.

Dear do-gooders, you can't get rid of child labour just by banning it

Nick Kew Silver badge


When discussing provision for children, perhaps one should take the trouble to distinguish between actual children, and strapping teenagers classed as children under first-world laws and conventions. I understand the Indian law mentioned applies to kids below 14.

Do we still have child labour in Blighty? Or have we banned things like the paper-round and the weekend work at the market garden that my generation did to earn a bit of pocket-money? As you say, the real consideration is yes-to-school rather than no-to-work, and there are valid questions around how much of each are healthy and indeed mutually compatible.

As for dealing with poverty, the one thing that really matters is to bring birth rates down.

Crash Google Chrome with one tiny URL: We cram a probe in this bug

Nick Kew Silver badge

Re: Dear Coders - Rules You Learned in Kindergarten

I once worked for a company that believed in exhaustive formal unit testing.

I was the maverick who questioned the utility thereof. And I kept finding elementary bugs in that code. Furthermore, fixing them was often hard, as it would cause the unit tests to need fixing too, and that was more red tape than the code itself. A typical example would be an off-by-one index error that caused an incorrect numerical interpolation. Something that could matter a lot when the software controls satellite orbits.

The problem was the human factor. When the hard part of the job is not hacking it but getting it through the tests, that becomes the programmers' goal in life. They no longer see the wood for the trees (or bugs for the tests, if you prefer). And when the tests are more work than the code, they are also more complex, more error-prone.

Like red tape everywhere, the process had strangled itself. And when a two-minute fix requires several days work on the red tape, it drives programmers away, too.

As we all know, snark always comes before a fall. Mea culpa

Nick Kew Silver badge

Re: And then there are Aspies and Neurotypicals

Methinks the pompous git[1] may be doing exactly what Worstall just owned up to. Jumping to conclusions on the basis of less-than-complete information.

[1] His description, not mine. And yes, I can certainly identify with the description.

GCHQ wants to set your passwords. In a good way

Nick Kew Silver badge

It's a balance of harms. Whatever good periodic change might do has to be set against the harm of people who struggle with it. Not to mention consequences such as the risks of Password Reset processes, or the extra opportunities to try social engineering on a helpdesk fed up with problems of password reset.

The sooner we can rid the world of passwords (as we know them today), the better.

End mass snooping and protect whistleblowers, MEPs yell at EU

Nick Kew Silver badge


Isn't it basically toothless precisely because any attempt to give teeth to the (democratically elected) parliament - as opposed to the political appointees and civil servants - gets scuppered? Not least by British politicians and press who have long been determined not to allow it democratic legitimacy.

‘Dumb pipe’ Twitter should sell up and quit, says tech banking chap

Nick Kew Silver badge

Re: Only to the idiot masses

It's Enclosure of the Commons. No more, no less.

(But it's a shame El Reg missed the Long View in the article itself).

Amazon, GoDaddy get sueball for hosting Ashley Madison data

Nick Kew Silver badge

Anonymous Plaintiffs?

Get outed doing something bad ...

... so do something worse under the cloak of anonymity.

What's that phrase? Once bitten? Fool me once? And when it's just the three a***holes, no need to host a database or even a data dump anywhere to out them.

Laminate this: Inside Argos' ongoing online (r)evolution

Nick Kew Silver badge

Ten years ago ...

Argos was far-and-away the best online retailer when I moved house back in 2005. A website that worked nicely, backed by a system that never screwed up over inventory and fast, efficient delivery. When you have to equip a place from scratch, you really notice who is or isn't any good at it, and one thing I won't forget is being without a fridge-freezer until I cancelled my order with AN Other who had messed up and placed one with Argos instead, whereupon it arrived first thing the following morning.

How could they improve on that? What a shame the market punished them for a perception of that tired old catalogue rather than rewarded them for getting things right, so now we get a whole bunch of superfluous gimmicks.

So Quantitative Easing in the eurozone is working, then?

Nick Kew Silver badge

Re: Blind spots...

Keynes must be spinning in his grave at some of what's been done in his name in recent years. Remember it was a dose of Keynesian (or should I say Ballsian) stimulus around 2004/5 (in the world's #1 Financial capital - so it spread far and wide) that transformed what could've been a regular recession into a couple of years of continued bubble followed by an almighty crash. Go back and look at Gordon Brown's rhetoric: the clue lies in the subtle addition of the phrase "over the economic cycle" to words about government borrowing.

China's stimulus looks more like legitimate keynesianism, but I'd be out of my depth trying to say anything meaningful about it.

Nick Kew Silver badge

Grinding axes ...

Someone spotted grinding axes in a Worstall article a couple of weeks back.

Now if Worstall occassionally grinds an axe, AEP runs a FTSE-100 business grinding axes for every woodcutter and dwarven warrior in fantasyland. I have only to see his name on an article (especially one on Europe), and I don't bother reading it because I already know what it says.

Daredevil Brit lifts off in 54-prop quinquaquadcopter

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Hmmm ...

" Sponsored: How to deal with Windows Server 2003 end of support ". So now we know.

Can I be the only one to think the Wright brothers may have had more direction?

So, was it really the Commies that caused the early 20th Century inequality collapse?

Nick Kew Silver badge

Re: Post-war 90/10 story

Post-war reconstruction is not at all the broken window fallacy. Noone is suggesting that the war damage was a good thing. The point is that, being so very much more than just broken windows, it had reduced us to a shadow of where we should have been.

If you're measuring economic growth from a starting point that's (for the sake of argument) half what it was just a few years earlier, then merely repairing the damage gives you 100% growth from that reduced startingpoint, which gives a major part of post-1945 growth. The broken window fallacy is only relevant if you measure from before the damage happened. And Balls's preposterous suggestion was that you can get something like that same growth from an undamaged startingpoint.

Nick Kew Silver badge

Re: Destructive growth?

The arms trade is a big part of the UK economy. And others, but the UK is (proportionally speaking) #1 amongst big/developed nations[1]. So the end of the Cold War hit our economy harder than other Western economies. That's also why the UK and US have driven so many smaller wars (arms industry trade fairs) since 1989.

[1] The US has three times more arms exports, but I believe their total economy is more than three times ours. Noone else comes close: the next two (France and Russia) are a small fraction of ours.

Nick Kew Silver badge

Post-war 90/10 story

We in technology talk of 90/10 scenarios. The first 90% of a project takes 10% of the effort, and vice versa. Post-1945 was a 90% time: there was lots of low-hanging fruit, not least because we'd bombed each other halfway back to the middle ages. A big chunk of growth from there was just a matter of replacing the (infrastructure) growth of about two preceding centuries, with the addition of electricity. Also a fertile time for individual careers, as "dead mens shoes" opportunities helped with corporate (and other institutional) career ladders.

Does the fact you never mention that mean that we've put the Ballsian stimulus behind us? The one they put into practice in 2004/5 to ... um ... see us through an economic slowdown, and called for again when Osbourne pretended to give us austerity? I seem to recollect Balls in particular trying to suggest that more government spending could lead to growth by analogy to post-1945.

[edit to add] Oooh, first reply to a Worstall article. This calls for a pint!

Google robo-car suffers brain freeze after seeing hipster cyclist

Nick Kew Silver badge

Re: billium

So, my wear-on-the-road bicycle tax should be 1/8000th of the £180 vehicle tax my car is liable for. 2.25p

Doesn't that assume you do the same mileage with the two vehicles?

Nick Kew Silver badge

Re: So he would have preferred it just to run him down !

Who's complaining?

The original story seems to have been a good-natured encounter, where none of the human parties got stressed or upset. We're told the googlers found it amusing, and it no doubt adds incrementally to the experience that'll bring self-drive to the masses in due course.

It's only amongst the Reg commentards that anyone seems to be getting bothered, let alone expressing extreme prejudice and advocating psychopathic behaviour as at least two have done. I came here to post to tell the little strangely-analagous anecdote about what happened to me yesterday (above), when I got held up by an a car messing about but nothing bad happened, and noone lost their temper at anyone.

Nick Kew Silver badge

So, if I encounter you, the choice is to proceed across your path at the risk of being run down, or to be beaten up?

I find the number of upvotes for this violent thug disturbing.

Nick Kew Silver badge

Is it specified who (should have had) priority? Could it be that everyone concerned was in fact doing exactly the right thing?

Funnily enough, I had a long-hesitation situation while cycling into town just yesterday. Needed to turn right[1], but some car coming the other way slowed and stopped just in front of the junction. I wasn't about to turn right[1] across the path of a car whose driver was behaving unpredictably and had right of way. Had to resolve it with a "what are you doing?", whereupon the driver asked if I knew [some road name he was looking for]. So evidently he'd stopped to look at the name of the road I was turning into and he was blocking.

[1] This is in England. Readers in countries that drive on the right, please read this in a mirror.

Směrť Špionam! BAN Windows 10, it SPIES too much, exclaim Russians

Nick Kew Silver badge
Big Brother

So what's Snowden doing for a living?

Spotted doing consultancy for Bubnov and/or the Russian civil service?

The Ashley Madison files – are people really this stupid?

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@Hawkeye Pierce Re: Stupidity statistic alert

Careful with your number of legs, lest you get eaten by a sphinx.

Nick Kew Silver badge


Are you telling us all to anticipate a wave of spam concerning our ashley madison details?

(For the record I never had PPI either, nor an accident to claim for. Doesn't stop the spammers).

Hey, folks. Meet the economics 'genius' behind Jeremy Corbyn

Nick Kew Silver badge

Re: Where next?

I haven't checked on John Lewis.

But I happen to know that the Coop is owned very largely by the same international finance that owns our FTSE-listed companies. There's no regular equity, but there is a huge amount of bonds and PIBs. That is to say, capital raised and freely traded in the City.

Nick Kew Silver badge

Re: Where next?

Erm, John Lewis and the Coop look firmly capitalistic to me. The mere fact that their capital structure differs from Tesco (and you and I don't have the opportunity to invest in their equity) doesn't somehow distance them from the markets where Coop has indeed struggled of late.

Once upon a time when I was young^H^Hmiddle-aged and naive[1], I tried and failed to figure out how I could invest in those up-and-coming forces, Aldi and Lidl. Does my difficulty there somehow exclude them from capitalism too?

And how can you describe yourself as neo-liberal when in previous articles you've supported that negation of capitalism, bank bailouts?

[1] Not that that's changed so you'd notice.

Nick Kew Silver badge

Corbyn is barking, but ...

... but he has a few things in his favour:

* The status quo is also barking.

* A generation of under-fortysomethings has no memory of how bad things were in the days of real socialism, and has been fed a myth of some golden age.

Protest movements against the status quo have been gaining traction: look at the likes of LePen and Farage (or even Galloway). Corbyn is less unattractive than some of those, not least by virtue of the fact that he's seen (rightly or wrongly) to practice what he preaches. Could the likes of Corbyn and Trump be just the next phase of a historical protest?

Chinese, Russian, tech giants join global open source efforts

Nick Kew Silver badge

Re: It goes the other way, too.

I disagree that Chinese programmers have been absent so far. Yes, they're underrepresented in comparison to China's population, but I think that's not least because the English language is a barrier to most of them (other than ex-pats) fully participating in development communities. We (mostly) don't even see theirs: if we looked we'd see gobbledegook!

I've had some slight exposure to both Russian and Chinese open-source communities (where of course the language barrier works the other way) and found them extremely welcoming. Some musings on engaging with Russian and Chinese dev communities on my blog here.

Want Edward Snowden pardoned? You're in the minority, say pollsters

Nick Kew Silver badge

How to conduct a poll

Time to invoke the splendid Sir Humphrey, who explains how to ensure the result you want:


Typewriters suck. Yet we're infinitely richer for those irritating machines

Nick Kew Silver badge
IT Angle

Ice on the inside of the window?

... and buckets under the latest leak any time there was a bit of weather. And share a bath 'cos two or three bodies warm the water better than one ... But I don't think that's gone away: now as then the real poor are not the ones who get noticed by the bleeding hearts and champagne socialists, they're the ones who fall outside The System while not having wealth or sufficient income.

But before going too far in the direction of four yorkshiremen, haven't you missed the robots that really liberated us? All those dull household electricals from the fridge to the vacuum cleaner to, above all, the washing machine, that turned housework from a full-time job to a modest set of chores that fit around a full-time paying job.

(Oh, and my icy windows stayed fully open, 'cos there was a smoker in the house and it invaded under the bedroom door. The ice was very welcome by comparison. And I was in my mid-40s when I first had a place capable of being kept warmer than that in winter).

Random numbers aren't, says infosec boffin

Nick Kew Silver badge

Re: Brainstorming ....

Schrödinger's cat < /dev/random >> entropy?

You know that deal that Kelway bosses said DEFINITELY isn't happening?

Nick Kew Silver badge

Just for the record

At least one former VCT (private equity) backer of Kelway recently went into voluntary liquidation. That means they took the decision to sell all their assets and return money to shareholders. So a full sale is exactly what they wanted, and the timing fits.

Sun? In Blighty? Nah, just build that rooftop data centre, it’ll be fine

Nick Kew Silver badge

Re: Frozen A/C, hot room

Not a server-room, but a two-person overflow office ...

When I worked in Italy, the portakabin's aircond freezing up became a regular occurrence. Just about August - when the dry heat of early summer has become the humid heat of late summer - was worst. We learned a few workarounds, like switching it off and going for a coffee every couple of hours to give it a chance to recuperate.

It was still better than working in the main building, when the aircond would bring with it the filth of neighbouring smokers in their offices. And for much of the year - spring and autumn - we could keep the door open and welcome the cats in.

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