* Posts by Nick Kew

1974 posts • joined 16 Jan 2007

MPs' Pretty Good Privacy 'ban' finally explained

Nick Kew Silver badge


OK, who installed their "incompatible" system, and who told them it was incompatible?

Would that be one of the Usual Suspects for taking an unending stream of taxpayer millions to deliver dysfunctional systems with high-wall vendor lock-in to the public sector? EDS, Accenture, ....???

As for being incompatible ... was that some support technician on minimum wage told them? Or some pointy-haired contract manager who knows less than the intern about compatibility?

IBM boffins unfurl mobile browser reading map

Nick Kew Silver badge

Reinventing a wheel

Sounds like they're reinventing the wheel of additional accessibility aids, which have in fact been standard since HTML 4 / XHTML 1 in 1997/8.

Those never worked, because they relied on web deezyners to be proactive, and more importantly because they were never supported in mass-market web authoring tools.

The difficult task facing these "boffins" is one boffins are not always successful at: namely persuading everyone else to adopt an idea.

[comment inspired by Chris Dickens above, suggesting reinventing a wheel I instantly recognised from my own work developing web accessibility tools ( http://valet.webthing.com/ ) and in two relevant W3C working groups].

UK taxpayers hit by wave of tax refund scam mail

Nick Kew Silver badge
Big Brother

The real HMRC

FWIW, I had a couple of those, directing me to hmrc.co.uk[1]. I thought that looks interesting, shouldn't the real HMRC have that one? Turns out it *is* the real HMRC, according to whois. Furthermore, they've included a full postal address for my nearest HMRC office!

You actually have to decode (or click) the base64-encoded attachment to get a real dodgy URL[2]!

[1] and no doubt another few thousand knocking at the spam filter.

[2] albeit on the rather dubious premise that the real HMRC is non-dodgy.

EU bodies to discuss IP barriers to innovation

Nick Kew Silver badge


"We need a common piracy policy, instead of each country licensing its own privateers to raid any innovator who unwittingly strays onto its turf without paying protection money".

Oh, and did someone say venture capital is fragmented? Venture capital is driven by tax breaks, as in why the **** else should I buy into a complete gamble when I can invest in the safety of Tesco or Vodafone. Update the tax laws to allow it, and venture capitalists will be willing and able to work cross-border.

Intel will sell more SoCs than mainstream CPUs, says CEO

Nick Kew Silver badge
Thumb Up

Intel smells the coffee?

A move to lower-power(-consumption) processors in the mass market is long overdue. I want an ARM-powered desktop, never mind laptop, netbook, and ARM's traditional market! But failing that, Atom is a fair second-best.

Evidently Intel is ahead of the manufacturers in anticipating the importance of lower-power in much of its market. If they're going to compete head-on with ARM, that sounds like good news for consumers!

Demon splurges details of 3,600 customers in billing email

Nick Kew Silver badge

Sounds like an improvement on ...

When I signed up for Demon and paid a year in advance ...

Never got billed for the following year ....

.... they instructed debt collectors instead!

Service was pretty erratic too, with extended outages (up to a day or more) depressingly common.

Why anyone still subscribes to them is a mystery.

IBM tries to patent teleconference sound effects

Nick Kew Silver badge

Meanwhile in the real world

Those of us who work from home and teleconference frequently know all about noises off. We'd be in trouble if someone were to patent the mute function, though.

ARM wrestles Intel for netbook crown

Nick Kew Silver badge

ARM is only half the story

... and I want my ARM-based laptop[1] to have that other update, an E-Ink screen.

[1] why limit the discussion to netbook?

Brown apologises for 'appalling' treatment of Turing

Nick Kew Silver badge

The Irony

An apology to the memory of Turing. Not to anyone else destroyed by the same persecution: say, Oscar Wilde, to take another distinguished example.

But that's neither here nor there. The real irony is that this should take place at the same time as the biggest "indecency" witch-hunt in history is taking place, all in the name of protecting the children. A small number of adults who pose any kind of threat, but a far greater number made to suffer, some of them seriously - as happened to Turing or Wilde.

A future government in search of a soundbite will have so much more to apologise for. Even if we set aside altogether more serious issues like war and pollution.

IBM claims patents promote open-source love

Nick Kew Silver badge

IBM still employs dinosaurs

An organisation the size of IBM is bound to include both good and bad. The lawyer who wrote the above evidently knows the theory but not the practice of patents in our time, and is spouting the former in blissful ignorance of the latter.

Amazon and Apple stunting UK e-book market

Nick Kew Silver badge

Freedom vs brand-lust

There's an issue of freedom here. Do you want a reader that'll display a range of document formats like PDF and even plain honest text, or one that ties everything in to DRM and Amazon's famously Orwellian control?

I bought the BeBook, precisely because it's designed for free people. It works, it saves a lot of space (compared to paper books), and is hugely convenient to carry around. No sexy label, but I can live with that.

Microsoft can still sell Word

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What a shame!

No, not an anti-MS rant here.

Just that the shock of this order being allowed to stand could've done wonders for that broken patent system.

Still, I suppose that's the difference between a US vendor (MS) and a non-US one (RIM) when faced with piracy in the world's biggest market.

Arms biz: Your taxes mainly go on our fat salaries! Ha ha!

Nick Kew Silver badge

Trade fair

The point of the arms industry is that they're our most successful export (we're #2 to the USA in supplying the world's nastiest regime, and have more than three times the exports of either of our nearest competitors - Russia and France). And taken as a proportion of the total economy, we're ahead of even the US.

That's why we've (UK/US) started so many wars since the end of the Cold War. They're trade fairs, promoting exports.

Linux guru: interface innovation is the challenge

Nick Kew Silver badge

@Rich 2

What you describe is exactly what I hate whenever I have to work on Windows or Mac. Regarding the latter I was very, very disappointed, given the good things I've heard about it.

Fortunately, X11-based systems are a whole lot more configurable. And have been since before Linus ever started hacking a kernel. Much more usable! In fact some of the windows/Mac-like crap wasn't even default until a few years ago, and presumably came as the KDE and Gnome developers decided they had to look-and-feel familiar to Windows users.

Recommended reading: http://steve-yegge.blogspot.com/2008/04/settling-osx-focus-follows-mouse-debate.html

Nokia brandishes superfluous Booklet

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@Bill Cumming

+1. I want an ARM device; as of now the N810 seems the best option.

Since Nokia has missed this opportunity, I shall be entirely unsurprised if Apple is first-to-market with something groundbreaking with ARM and e-ink screen. Which, alas, probably means less openness and more lock-in than we'd get from Nokia.

Nokia 'actively looking' at own netbook

Nick Kew Silver badge

Yes please!

The Nokia N810 already looks a lot more attractive than most netbooks (the Eee-clone family), with a screen that's just fractionally smaller, but one third of the weight, and hugely more portable. If they just repackage that too look more like what the punters expect of a netbook (i.e. a lot more clunky), they're already there.

I hope they'll stick with the ARM processor and solid-state storage, and thus dispense with the need for a big heavy battery or cooling. Add an e-ink screen (which seems, alas, further away) and you have a dream machine!

As for OS, why stop at maemo if going up the scale? Ubuntu would make a great consumer-oriented device.

Apple second only to Nokia in Euro smartphone biz

Nick Kew Silver badge

What is a smartphone?

OK, blackberry and apple are top-end (especially in a crumble, served with cream).

But Nokia covers a whole spectrum, from nice devices like my current E71, down to dumb phones like its 3000-series predecessor (surely no longer available, even if I could remember a model number). Statistics like these would seem to imply someone has drawn a precise line between smartphones and simple-phones. How do they do that?

Mozilla tries to shunt Firefox 3.0 users over to 3.5

Nick Kew Silver badge


I went to look for 3.5 yesterday.

It's available for windows, mac and linux, but there's nothing for the rest of us.

Bah, Humbug.

XML flaws threaten 'enormous' array of apps

Nick Kew Silver badge


Let's see:

1. I'm responsible for a number of XML applications, most of them open source.

2. I'm responsible in some way or another to two of the developers mentioned in your article: namely Sun and Apache.

So I need to know what you're talking about, right? How does an advisory about Sun or Apache reach me through El Reg without having come on a security@ list?

OK, these are both big orgs, with lots of different XML applications. Must be none of those I work on or with are affected, right? But your article says "most" opensource XML apps (echos of Eggwina there), and the C libs are the worst affected. Yep, I use mostly C libs, and they're open source.

So I follow your link. Right, neither of the most popular C libs (libxml2 and expat) are listed as affected, unless using expat with python (tick, nope). Good, that's all-but-two of my apps in the clear, and one of the two is documented as long-since-abandoned-don't-use. What about the final app, which uses Xerces-C++?

The report you link to is still way too vague to be useful. And just to cap it, the two CVE links at the end both lead to Not Found errors from NIST.

Useless FUD? Or what?

UK space programme suffers serious setback

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eny fule kno

The moon is made of ... a different kind of cheese. They collected this cheese, only to throw it away when they discovered it was wrong.

Vodafone and T-Mobile: 1800MHz bad, 900MHz good

Nick Kew Silver badge

Love masts?

Why does each network have its own network of masts, as opposed to sharing this infrastructure?

This particular form of competition is a madness only just short of Ford, Honda and Nissan each having its own private network of roads, to take an analogy.

Boffin predicts pee-powered cars

Nick Kew Silver badge

Too expensive

So can we expect angry motorists to protest about beer taxes?

Recession will destroy 40,000 UK IT services jobs

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Recovering in 2010?

There's a nasty hill near here[1]. Cycling up, it eases a bit and you think the top is coming, before it plays a cruel trick and gets steeper again.

Could that be a bit like seeing a recovery in 2010?

[1] West Devon. The average Brit would have to travel some distance to find hills like ours.

Tiny-traffic DoS attack spotlights Apache flaw

Nick Kew Silver badge

Response from Apache

Please don't take my comment as an official response from Apache. It was merely intended as a reaction to your publication at 12:15 GMT having emailed an hour earlier.

I think it's unlikely to represent the whole story, and I've neither done enough testing to give an informed response, nor consulted with my colleagues on the subject. If and when I do, it's unlikely to be in a comment posted on someone else's article!

Nick Kew Silver badge


"Apache did not respond to our request for comment on the bug."

Did you give us time to respond? The date stamp on your email is just over an hour (72 minutes, to be precise) before that of this article.

This is not new, and a trawl through Apache mailinglists will find a few mentions of it over the years. For example, the Event MPM effectively nullifies this attack, and was first included in a production release of Apache in 2005.

Broadband tax of £6 per year to fund rural fibre rollout

Nick Kew Silver badge

@A J Stiles

I think you miss the point. There are very, very few people who can't use a computer, but many more for whom physical travel to a bricks-and-mortar shop presents difficulties. Net access is a huge enabler. A universal broadband promise makes a lot more sense than, for example, requiring wheelchair ramps in medieval churches!

Nick Kew Silver badge

superhighway vs country lanes

This is a drop in the ocean compared to the cost of providing roads to rural areas! And it's in the same category as the 'phone.

But my requirement isn't high-speed fiber. Just a *guarantee* of ADSL service levels, and most importantly unmetered access. OK with fiber I could run a server from home, but the fact I have to host it elsewhere isn't exactly major social exclusion.

Using the road analogy, country lanes are just fine!

Research: Airliners can be more eco-friendly than trains

Nick Kew Silver badge

@Research FAIL

It's not just where rail already exists. New projects (such as the channel tunnel was 20 years ago) rapidly repay the environmental cost of building relative to flight, because it transports lots of passengers. It's when a route is scarcely used - a destination in Alaska or Montana (or better still Greenland) rather than in California - that the cost of building a railway (or road) may exceed that of flying.

Analyst forecasts Apple Kindle-killer for 2010

Nick Kew Silver badge

Get it right!

Current-generation netbooks show a sad lack of imagination: they're no more than an updated return to the laptops of 15 years ago, before the era of "desktop replacement". Smartphones and e-readers have given us much more that's interesting.

The logical update now is a reasonably-capable netbook-size device with a couple of major differences from the eee-clones: e-ink display, ARM processor, and solid-state storage. And with that, decent battery life on a much lighter-weight battery. Apple seems a plausible candidate to be first to market with such a thing.

As for gaming and videos, I don't give a **** if an e-ink screen isn't up to the task. It'll remind me of my first 15" colour laptop back in 1997: the display fell well short of the current macbook's!

Gut instinct no protection against net scams

Nick Kew Silver badge

Nothing ventured, nothing gained

No surprises there. Decision-makers are ... those who take decisions. That includes their fair share of bad decisions, like falling for scams.

Those of us who are too analytic and/or cynical to fall for the scams are not the ones who come across as decision-makers.

iPhone users to walk and read at same time

Nick Kew Silver badge

Will it work in the dark?

Having injured my foot on an unseen step down (pavement-to-pavement) while activating the GPS/maps on my Nokia at FOSDEM, I can see the value of this.

But that was in the dark of a February evening. Would the clever-iphone have helped?

Dell to launch Android netbooks

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@David Halko

How about Nokia as your visionary? Their (linux-based) N810 seems a nicer piece of kit than any conventional "netbook". Robust, easy to handle, and one third of the weight. I've absolutely no desire for anything between that and my macbook.

Jacqui's secret plan to 'Master the Internet'

Nick Kew Silver badge
Black Helicopters

Irrelevant, or what?

We have precedents on this (sort of thing), and we can confidently say IT WON'T WORK. That is to say, for values of WORKing that its masters intend.

To name but one precedent, the Stasi collected massive amounts of information on behalf of a similarly-paranoid government, but were unable to make effective use of it.

Meanwhile, for the spooks benefit, terrorists 9/11 bin-laden mossad CIA ... should do for one comment.

US lawmakers to de-silence electric cars

Nick Kew Silver badge

noise? what noise?

How is this noise - or any other such as the bell or horn - going to alert the deaf person?

Anyone in charge of a vehicle - from cyclist to juggernaut - has a duty of care to more vulnerable people, including all pedestrians. You don't generally know if a person is blind and/or deaf. Or might suffer some other condition such as a faint or an epileptic fit in front of you.

Terry Pratchett cuts ribbon on Treacle Mine Road

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Gates Horns

Coincidence, or ....

The ex-mayor is caller Winder! Well, that's a stronger Ankh-Morpork connection than a few street names! Either he's got a bloody good sense of humour or he's not read the books!

Someone should check whether these roads have the right cobblestones.

The good book: How to bet better online

Nick Kew Silver badge

One up, two down

Online betting is a mugs game. You have two chances to lose, but one to win.

Place your bet and lose - you lose.

Place your bet and win - you still bear the risk of counterparty default. And that's not idle theory: financial institutions are going bust at sufficient rate to make that a real risk. Who's to say the company you betted with won't be next?

World's 'smallest, lightest' laptop launches

Nick Kew Silver badge


Um, still looks heavier and much more unwieldy than the Nokia N810 tablet thingey (could you use it while standing up, for instance?). Any advantages to shrinking the laptop form so far out of its traditional size?

Sun downgraded to Goldman Sachs sell list

Nick Kew Silver badge


Interesting order here: GS recommends selling *after* a big fall and before [insert prediction here].

Sounds to me like as good a buy signal as one could wish for.

Junk science and booze tax - a study in spin

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yeah, right

That'll be why Scandinavian countries with hugely expensive booze have so much less^H^Hmore of an alcohol problem than, say, Italy?

Berlusconi plans to use G8 presidency to 'regulate the internet'

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Black Helicopters

Move along, nothing to see.

I doubt we (non-Italians) have much to fear from Berlusconi. Lots of bluster, but who the **** takes him seriously?

What's much more worrying is already happening. Regulation to "protect" us and/or the children. ISPs to spy on us. RIP act. That spam email had a picture of a child attached - you're nicked. And don't even think of letting your teenager research chemistry homework online, especially if you're of middle-eastern appearance.

Apricot Picobook Pro netbook

Nick Kew Silver badge

Hardware choices

Do you folks (hardware reviewers/pundits) regard devices like the Nokia N810 in the same class as these devices?

It's a great deal lighter (which to me seems like a huge advantage in the market for smaller-than-a-macbook devices), and I expect an important reason is that the ARM processor means it can get away with a much smaller battery. I'd love to see some comparative reviews of devices in this class, to see whether I'm losing anything that matters by choosing an ARM-based device, or whether it's a no-brainer.

NetApp ready to rumble in Sun IP case

Nick Kew Silver badge


Groklaw has a different take on this. She points to the blackberry case, where RIM were taken by IP pirates and forced to pay a huge ransom before the patents were invalidated.

Investment firm looks for Sun's true value

Nick Kew Silver badge

IBM precedent

Sun has historically relied too much on banking clients, who are currently spending rather less than of old.

Some of the newer areas of business are generating healthy profits. Perhaps not unlike where IBM was a few years back.

At today's prices ... gotta add Sun stock to the pension fund between now and end-of-year.

Intel badmouths Jesus Phone

Nick Kew Silver badge

Heh heh!

Intel is not a serious contender for the mobile phone: the power consumption gives you an unacceptable choice of useless battery life or great big heavy battery. So why the sour grapes? Is it that ARM are positioned to advance into what Intel regards as its turf? Maybe an ARM-powered Eee-sized Macbook or something?

Time to increase my holding in ARM shares!

Netbooks take ten per cent of Euro PC market

Nick Kew Silver badge

Running on battery

Any of them optimised for low power consumption? I'm thinking of things like ARM rather than Intel processor.

Sun, Novell, and Cray - Time to go private?

Nick Kew Silver badge

@David Haig

Can't imagine the competition authorities liking the idea of IBM+Sun much. Add topend hardware and opensource software, and it'd make a complete monopoly.

Apple ARMs up iPhone

Nick Kew Silver badge

@Mike Moyle

Like a Nokia 810, you mean?

Wonder if that's why ARM stock is up this week, when so much else is in the red?

/me feels smug, having bought at 90p just two months ago - on long-term expectations about a processor family with such low power consumption.

Freelancers might be taxed as employees after High Court ruling

Nick Kew Silver badge
Thumb Up

Good news for the genuine freelancer?

I can just hear the howls of protest from the same brigade who cried Wolf at IR35!

But having spent 10 years as a genuine one-man-band (never an "employee-equivalent" role, and at other times worked as a wage-slave employee, I have no sympathy. The tax benefits of self-employment are (rightly) intended to help people deal with uncertain and intermittent income.

When pseudo-employees abuse the system, it damages it for everyone else. Concrete evidence for that is the rise of taxation on small business even as bigger business got a reduction in their corporation tax: the government is targeting abusers and hitting the legitimate along with them.

Taiwanese firm to sue over armed raid at IFA

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Black Helicopters

So where's safe?

This appears to show serious insanity in Germany.

But an unpleasant incident at a trade show is put into perspective when you compare what happened to Dmitry Sklyarov! Or when you consider the pirates who successfully extorted a large fortune out of RIM with a blackmailing injunction against selling any blackberries in what was naturally their biggest market!

So where is safe to do business in the West? Norway has a somewhat confidence-inspiring track record, and the Netherlands still seems to understand the concept of Free Speech. Anywhere else?

Government told: Release secret Iraq documents

Nick Kew Silver badge

Competition: fill in the redacted bits

Will El Reg bring us this event? And perhaps an associated wiki?

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