* Posts by Nick Kew

1974 posts • joined 16 Jan 2007

If Shadow Home Sec Diane Abbott can be reeled in by phishers, truly no one is safe

Nick Kew Silver badge

Re: I doubt she'll ever be Home Secretary, but...

I wouldn't be so sure. You don't run a city like London for two terms without being tolerably competent.

It's a job in which loonies get to shine. Hence both Boris and his predecessor - who also got two terms. Actually more, given his time as leader of the old GLC.

Dutch cops hope to cuff 'hundreds' of suspects after snatching server, snooping on 250,000+ encrypted chat texts

Nick Kew Silver badge

Sending a message

If Dutch police have cracked this supposedly-secure communication channel, announcing it will serve to kill the channel and drive its users to an alternative.

As if Bletchley Park had announced to the world that they'd cracked Enigma. Which might have materially affected the War.

Dutch police presumably realise this, so it must be intentional. Why? It's a pretty high-value resource to give up!

Which scientist should be on the new £50 note? El Reg weighs in – and you should vote, too

Nick Kew Silver badge

Re: John Logie Baird

But Gauss was a Kraut. So tellies in Blighty need de-Gaussing.

Nick Kew Silver badge

Re: Thomas Midgley Jr.

Hmm, on the subject of the planet, how about David J. C. MacKay? Recently dead, but wrote the book[1] on what is and isn't realistic with renewable energy.

[1] ISBN 978-0954452933

Nick Kew Silver badge

Re: Lise Meitner

Is the person who discovered the frequency of coincidences dead? Because if so, they'd be my candidate to go on the note.

Your candidate might be John Littlewood (1885-1977). See Littlewood's Law.

One of the mighty Trinity of ultra-pure mathematicians of around a century ago, with Hardy and Ramanujan.

Nick Kew Silver badge

Re: Crick

See all the comments about Rosalind Franklin on this thread. With a woman championed by the entire Establishment on the same ticket, a mere man like Crick is a non-starter. If DNA wins, Franklin will be the face of it.

Though I still think Hawking will win. He has an aura, and massive name recognition.

Nick Kew Silver badge

Re: 1+2+3+4+ to infinity = -1/12

Needs to be a Brit to qualify.

Ramanujan's mentor Hardy gets my vote. His work, proudly useless in his own time, now fundamental to modern cryptography. And his discovery of Ramanujan: interesting that an established great mathematician bothered to read the unsolicited work of an unknown Indian, as opposed to putting it straight in the spam!

I would also vote for Bertrand Russell, who might also qualify on grounds other than his science.

Nick Kew Silver badge

Re: Rosalind Franklin

Nonsense. Franklin comes up again and again: I hear a lot more of her than of Watson or Crick (the latter name comes up, but only in the context of the institute that bears it).

Nick Kew Silver badge

Re: Hmm. Obviously Isaac Newton

Wasn't Newton's genius in his balls?

DBA drifts into legend after inventive server convo leaves colleagues fearing for their lives

Nick Kew Silver badge

Delayed action alarm

As a developer, I've been known to alarm people in the future with a log event.

Example: do_something() returns a status which could be OK, ERROR1, or ERROR2. So we handle errors with something like:

switch(rv = do_something()) {

case OK: // all's well

case ERROR1: // handle it

case ERROR2: // handle it


log_error(rv, "Bug! This can't happen");


Sometime down the line, do_something() gets updated and returns ERROR3 for some new situation. Then comes the alarmed note in the bug report when someone excitable reads their log.

30 spies dead after Iran cracked CIA comms network with, er, Google search – new claim

Nick Kew Silver badge


How about a timeline correlating this to Stuxnet? That might give some indication of who was waging (and winning) war on whom at the time.

Nikola Tesla's greatest challenge: He could measure electricity but not stupidity

Nick Kew Silver badge

Re: Anti-intellectual?

Anti-intellectualism has a long history. Just look at the story of the Garden of Eden. Or going back further, Prometheus. In a more modern context one could point to Frankenstein as a famous example.

And real-life scientists through the ages - most famously Galileo - have also suffered persecution for daring to contradict the Establishment in their time.

Perhaps what's more remarkable in post-war Blighty (as in Stalin's Soviet Union) is that "elite" has become a dirty word - among the very elites who govern and otherwise influence us. Though only when it suits them: somehow we didn't hear them sneering at the festival of the ultra-elite known as the Olympics the way they do about intellectual or artistic excellence.

Nick Kew Silver badge

Re: Noted scientists

Why does there have to be *any* person on a banknote?

I expect Hawking will get it, and he is indeed a deserving candidate. Not to mention preferable to those candidates whose merits - though worthy - are secondary to matters of identity politics.

I shall make myself a lonely outlier by suggesting G H Hardy. His Mathematician's Apology was a seminal influence in my life[1], both for the way it shows the beauty of maths, and for its setting in the lost world of the academic elite it portrays. Deeply unfashionable of course, and his championing of Ramanujan probably just makes it worse, as that was purely on merit.

[1] It was one of main things that influenced me to study (pure) maths at Cambridge.

Clunk, bang, rattle: Is that a ghost inside your machine?

Nick Kew Silver badge

Re: A real ghost story - Not mine

www.mumsnet.com dreaming about a man made of balls with a gladius (Roman slang for penis) .....

The ghost of Biggus Dickus?

Nick Kew Silver badge

Re: Scary ?

The year is 2150, you are Bernard Cribbins and I claim my £5!

The £5 coin was phased out last century, as the value of a single sheet of A4 hit £100.

If you have inner peace, it's probably 'cos your broadband works: Zen Internet least whinged-about Brit ISP – survey

Nick Kew Silver badge

Upvote for the home truth, but is it also in their T&Cs that they be impossible to contact when things fail, and even their high street shop will send you packing?

Nick Kew Silver badge

Re: PN, donkeys!

I had that problem with Plusnet, but stuck with them because others in my experience were much worse.

Only left plusnet when another house move took me where broadband-over-copper-or-openreach wasn't available. Signed up with Virgin in my folly, for a long nightmare. But now on EE 4G which, like plusnet, is mostly-OK.

Nick Kew Silver badge

Re: Virgin Media.

Because openretch supplied BB is even worse....


Compare and contrast When BT died on me vs When Virgin first died on me.

Whereas the BT line remained fine thereafter until my house move four years later, Virgin always had a lot of problems. And their customer support is inspired by Kafka's castle.

Budget 2018: Landlords could be forced to grant access for full-fibre connections

Nick Kew Silver badge

Red Herring?

Something doesn't add up here.

I've had connections installed everywhere I've rented since my return to Blighty twenty years ago. Going from ISDN to ADSL to cable, and finally to 4G when it turns out a lot better than Virgin's crap. That's three homes and one office, all of them rented. One of them was newly converted, so I had to get a new BT line before I could get ADSL over it.

In each case, I as tenant arranged access. No need to trouble any of the landlords with it. Which is as it should be. Unless the service is included in my tenancy, it's up to me to deal with a provider. And it's pretty clear that the law as it stands permits me to do so, without having to trouble my landlord. Just as I can switch energy supplier. Or install a water meter - in my present home I let the landlord know as a matter of courtesy, but no more than that.

Just what tenants are these, and why are their landlords relevant in the first place? Is this something to do with communal facilities rather than households? Or a complete red herring?

Manchester man fined £1,440 after neighbours couldn't open windows for stench of dog toffee

Nick Kew Silver badge

Am I the only commentard with exposure to the UK rentals market?

If not, why do I see no anecdote of being shown round a property full of dog mess, while the lettings agent claims he can't smell anything (and after the office has assured you "no, not shabby at all")?

Sure, our rentals market has improved a lot, and that sort of place is thankfully no longer the norm. But there are enough of them around that I'd expect most fellow Brits to have encountered them from time to time.

From today, it's OK in the US to thwart DRM to repair your stuff – if you keep the tools a secret

Nick Kew Silver badge

Cars? Trucks?


Being allowed to fix ones own 'puter or 'phone should be a no-brainer for those with the ability (with or without the help of manuals, tips, etc found on the 'net). And for being free to share information on the subject.

But cars and trucks are potentially lethal weapons. Get that wrong and you could kill someone, including but not limited to yourself. Surely if there was ever a case for the law to say Thou Shalt Not (or at least for regulating the qualification to fix things), it's there? With, as quid pro quo, a regulator with real teeth monitoring the behaviour of the industry.

Sorry friends, I'm afraid I just can't quite afford the Bitcoin to stop that vid from leaking everywhere

Nick Kew Silver badge

Things 'puters get up to

One of these this morning.

Only it wasn't sent to me, but to a mailinglist I subscribe to. Which reminds me, I think most of these I've seen have come through lists. Dear <listname> ...

On the premise that these are addressed to an individual, that must be the list server itself rather than list members. Though the mind boggles either way.

Nick Kew Silver badge

Re: and yet invariably

First one I saw was on paper back in the 1990s. Sent to the owner of a bar in Rome, at which I was a regular (one evening a week). He asked me about it 'cos it was in English, and he thought a native English speaker might have more clue than he did. Neither of us had a clue, beyond the good Italian and international word "mafia".

Nick Kew Silver badge

Re: Think they mixed me up with someone else

Your secret's out. :D

Are we still allowed to make the distinction? Isn't that hate speech against someone whose appearance belies their self-identity?

Nick Kew Silver badge

Re: Racist?

Down sir! BAD columnist. Fishing for compliments! You know answers posted here will be overwhelmingly either supportive or humorous - and even the latter collect downvotes (c.f. Frank Ly).

OK, on a more serious note, this would look racist if and only if it became a recurring stereotype of your unappealing eastern correspondent. Which would also be tedious. As far as I can tell, the only regular stereotype in your column is its author (and possibly his missus), and that's what we're here to read.

Having said that, I'd've left out lampooning the language. There's enough in those emails to make an article without it!

As for your editor? El Reg seems to have acquired some SJW police - possibly emanating from San Francisco. Your editor may be quaking in fear of them.

Nick Kew Silver badge

@Doctor Syntax

Re: historic Dilbert. How the **** do you dig those up seemingly to order? Do you just have a few favourites bookmarked and in memory? A lot of time on your hands to search? Or something fiendishly clever?

Damn, I'm setting myself up for a put-down here. Go on ... I can take it ... story of my life ...

Nick Kew Silver badge

Re: I've seen a definite uptick in these

Don't try claiming that it's a unique gmail feature.

It was a feature back in the days when email addresses cost money, some people wanted more than one address, and neither security nor spam were issues.

It was a minor feature of my mail-by-web software from 1997. Back when webmail and other web-based office facilities like docs and calendars looked like a cool new thing people would find useful.

Belgium: Oi, Brits, explain why Belgacom hack IPs pointed at you and your GCHQ

Nick Kew Silver badge

Perhaps they were playing the name 10 famous Belgians game at GCHQ - and it got out of hand...

Would Hercule Poirot be the man to solve this?

The best way to screw the competition? Do what they can't, in a fraction of the time

Nick Kew Silver badge


Did Antonio get recognition for that? I'd've thought he made himself too valuable to promote to a Suit, and thus (by definition) too junior to reward in any significant way.

Perhaps he was working for a foreign company?

Or was this incident an aberration, and he was useless the rest of the time? Hmm, doesn't seem very likely ...

Should a robo-car run over a kid or a grandad? Healthy or ill person? Let's get millions of folks to decide for AI...

Nick Kew Silver badge

Re: Who's gonna buy it?

In Sweden you can drive for an hour without seeing another motorist -

As I expect you can in Montana, or Wyoming, or the Dakotas, or Iowa, parts of Texas or California .....

But not of course in the populated parts of Sweden, where driving has become *a lot* tamer since my mother and her generation treated it as something of a free-for-all.

Nick Kew Silver badge

Re: Who's gonna buy it?

NO ONE wants to be that loser.

So it's down to who gets the choice. Back to familiar territory now.

But that's not quite the whole story. Not everyone who can afford a Chelsea Tractor uses one to drive little Quentin and Aurora to the school gates. And taking risks turns out to be good for you: cyclists have longer life-expectancy than non-cyclists despite a few of them getting killed on the roads.

Nick Kew Silver badge

Re: Final solution many years from now

You mean like town planning from around 1960?

Now widely known as "planning blight". Discriminating against the elderly and disabled, who can't just vault those railings to cross the road and so are lumped with a tedious walk to the next official crossing. Repeat a few times and you might as well just say the whole town is out of bounds.

Nick Kew Silver badge

Re: Who's gonna buy it?

If the car has radar, it will favour people with metal implants / fillings?

Tinfoil hats?

Nick Kew Silver badge

@Naich (and others)

You're rationalising. Yes, a child (or younger adult) is much more likely to survive with no long-term harm than an older person. "Life begins at 40" is all about the stage of life where your body starts really noticeably to lose its capacity to recover from adversity.

But these kind of rationalisations are altogether excluded from a survey posing binary questions. At best, your rationalisations put you into a survey's "don't know". Or get lost in a middling number in an "on a scale of" answer.

If you saw a Google ad recently, know that it helped pay off one of its 'sex pest' execs $90m

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Yes, Americans, you can break anti-piracy DRM if you want to repair some of your kit – US govt

Nick Kew Silver badge


What's the legal status of the US Copyright Office?

AIUI, the US has governments (federal and state) that make law, and courts that enforce it. Where does the "Copyright Office" fit into that structure?

Presumably the power to make such a ruling must be delegated to it by the federal government? Does that override anything the state governments might say or do? Or is it an agency of both federal and state governments at once?

And what if the Courts think differently? Doesn't it still effectively boil down to who has the deepest pockets to fee(d) the lawyers and argue their way to their chosen outcome?

This two-year-old X.org give-me-root hole is so trivial to exploit, you can fit it in a single tweet

Nick Kew Silver badge

@Lee D

Your comments re: apache are wide of the mark. Yes apache starts as root if it wants to bind to ports 80 and/or 443 (http, https). But it's certainly not intended to be installed as setuid, and I should be surprised if anyone ships it as such. You - or more usually your systems init scripts - just start it as root.

Bottom line: if there's a commandline option that'll take advantage of root privileges to do something unintended, then you need root privileges to exploit it. So you might as well just do the unintended thing directly.

Oz opposition backs the 'regulatory hallucinogen' of anti-piracy laws

Nick Kew Silver badge

I thought better of the Aussies ...

No, not aussie politicians: that ship has not merely sailed, it's reached Botany Bay. But I'm shocked to hear they use that americanised spelling of Labour.

Excuse me, but have you heard the teachings of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Chr-AI-st?

Nick Kew Silver badge

Re: Accuracy

"... made burned offerings ..." vs "... burned incense ..."

Indeed, that sticks out.

But perhaps more telling is what hasn't been changed. Namely, archaisms that might be obscure to the modern reader: "the ark of ...", or "the great stone". Instead of making those clearer, they make the material change you picked up on, to cleanse it of something abhorrent to the modern reader.

And there's substituting a proper name for "The Lord" ...

Erm... what did you say again, dear reader?

Nick Kew Silver badge

Latin has been evolving a long time. Church latin is quite distinct from classical latin: if you're a choral singer you get to perform the same texts with different pronunciations. Then you can add more disreputable strains from Goliard[1] to Schoolboy.

[1] A mediæval dissident movement.

Morrisons supermarket: We're taking payroll leak liability fight to UK Supreme Court

Nick Kew Silver badge

Re: So let me get this straight...

Quick lesson in life: that's the primary purpose of the judicial system. More expensive than hiring a gang of thugs or an assassin, but does a more thorough job and leaves you in a stronger position if you feed it sufficient gold.

C.f. patents, for an application area likely to be more familiar around here.

Nick Kew Silver badge

Quis custodiet ipsos bootstrap?

It wasn't his job to export the data for himself to take away. It's up to Morrisons to have sufficient controls in place to prevent that.

Morrisons then has to employ (or contract) someone to devise and implement such controls.

As I said, though, this is non-trivial and there is an implicit trust placed in IT personnel. The implication is generally that a skilled admin will never be able to work in that field again if he wilfully and maliciously abuses that trust, so the risk is considered small.

It would be ageist to refuse to hire a skilled admin close to retirement. Sexist to refuse one who might leave the workplace to become a full-time mother. And clairvoyant to know your sysadmin has an entirely new career lined up.

Nick Kew Silver badge


Isn't there a potentially-troubling precedent here? One that looks a bit like a BoFH column, in which Simon Gets His Way by blackmail - threatening The Boss with a leak like this?

Nick Kew Silver badge

So when a Morrisons employee crashes their car, the victims (or their family) will know where to turn for compensation? Even if the employee was under no pressure of work, no need to hurry?

Nick Kew Silver badge

Re: I expect to be flamed

The corporation is responsible for the corporate culture and environment in which things happen. I would hope that would be considered relevant to the level of corporate blame and/or responsibility when bad things happen.

That's why employees have to go through all that tedious box-ticking training, on subjects ranging from Elfin Safety to Diversity Awareness. So when Dodgy Joe gets accused - rightly or wrongly - of harassing Dodgy Jo, the company has at least not been negligent in failing to educate him.

Bottom line that I expect Morrisons are trying to argue is that this was so far from acceptable within their corporate culture as to be totally distanced from them. That would be very different to an "everyone does it" culture that seems to have affected banking.

'The inmates have taken over the asylum': DNS godfather blasts DNS over HTTPS adoption

Nick Kew Silver badge

Re: Where do the keys come from?

They look the same to me.

Not the same. DOH is a nice big extra overhead: help avoid any prospect of the world's IT infrastructure ever being ample to meet our needs.

Nick Kew Silver badge

Re: '000s of UDP & TCP ports

And lo, it hath come to pass.

SQLite creator crucified after code of conduct warns devs to love God, and not kill, commit adultery, steal, curse...

Nick Kew Silver badge

Re: Does it even define what it means by "God"?

Yeah, but calling God by the wrong name is the worst crime of all.

Hence Elijah's slaughter of all the followers of Baal. Somehow the bible translators failed to translate the word Baal, so it looks like a proper name. And thus the genocide becomes a work of The Lord, who is somehow not merely a translation of The Lord.

Nick Kew Silver badge

Re: I have a code of conduct

I think one or two commentards may be missing the point. It is my code of conduct, not one I try to impose on others.

Speaking as someone who immediately upvoted your code of conduct and also enjoyed the first response lightheartedly contradicting you, I don't think you have too much to worry about.

But it's true, subtlety and irony can be lost here. I've had two posts saying the same thing on the same thread in a Reg group, one attracted lots of downvotes, the other lots of upvotes. Commentards[1] are fickle, and you play with their expectations at your peril.

[1] And moderators, which is worse - though a lot rarer here.

Nick Kew Silver badge

Code of conduct in any online[1] community in our time:

- Nice idea. Or seems so.

- Nightmare in reality as it gets weaponised to enforce an Agenda, usually totalitarian.

Looks just like rather a lot of religious teachings.

I'm tempted to say Good On Him for calling out the nonsense, if it was indeed a reaction to (against) a modern form of repression.

BTW, we have a contrasting case of Larry Wall here. Some bits of God-bothering around Perl, but not so in-your-face as to be offensive or feel exclusive to a non-christian like me.

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