* Posts by Peter Prof Fox

194 posts • joined 20 Jan 2014


Who says HMRC hasn't got a sense of humour? Er, 65 million Brits

Peter Prof Fox

As useless a a hat full of busted arseholes

HMRC's IT. Over the years they think I've filed 3 times late. They won't take me to court to get their money though because they daren't put their systems under the slightest scrutiny. One year I got a £73 refund then a non-filing complaint. How could they give me a refund if they hadn't had the return? You tell me. Every year my tax return reiterates these things but they take no notice. So HMRC need to get their own house on order before moaning at other people.

Why is the printer spouting nonsense... and who on earth tried to wire this plug?

Peter Prof Fox

Matrix printer shenanigans

A railway research centre, somewhere in the Midlands, rang me up complaining that my program wouldn't print anything to their matrix printer. Sure enough, when the right commands were issued, nothing at all happened. Was the right cable properly connected both ends? This was strange. Luckily I was familiar with Epsons and asked what lights were on on the front. None. The user helpfully suggested he should try other commands in my program but by my dogged determination paid off when I asked him to check the power cable was properly seated in the back. Silence. "I've found the problem. Thanks for your help." I stopped him putting the phone down until after he'd admitted that there was no power cable.

Revealed: NHS England bosses meet with tech and pharmaceutical giants to discuss price list of millions of Brits' medical data

Peter Prof Fox

Worthless stake

What value is a stake in a company when all you can do with that stake is sell it? And then the NHS doesn't have a stake. Even profits get creamed-off before distribution by offshore tax-fraud, huge pay packets and convenient commercial shenanigans like odd buy-outs. (Except through the heart.)

(Fingers crossed the conners don't win today.)

One man's mistake, missing backups and complete reboot: The tale of Europe's Galileo satellites going dark

Peter Prof Fox

Boris will sort it out

Having had personal experience of this positional persiflage by not being able to find his ditch, Boris-UK will make its own navigational system. Written in Latin, calibrated in fathoms, with an origin of the London Garden Bridge it will be staffed by Etonians and be 'on-time' for fifteen years.

ZTE Nubia Z20: It's £499. It's a great phone. Buy it. Or don't. We don't care

Peter Prof Fox

What about Skypiness

Surely (I don't have a mobile with a touch screen and I don't do anything like Skype) it would be ideal for 'having a meeting' while on the 8:37 from Surbiton... OK - I admit it's a very bad idea.

Move along, nothing to see here: Auditors say £100k grant to Hacker House was 'appropriate'

Peter Prof Fox

And what did we get for that dosh?

A postcard from the USA or something worthwhile and value for money (Ha ha ha hahhh...)

Q. Who's triumphantly slamming barn door shut after horse bolted at warp 9? A. NordVPN

Peter Prof Fox

Was broken. Is dishonest

Right, so the object of a VPN is that middle P.

Like the insulation on electric wires that's what the P is.

Except the insulation wasn't insulating.

(Let's forget the how it happened: Let's look at what happened next.)

So when the cock-up that shouldn't have happened who did anything?

Nobody at Nord. Their dedicated sales team kept on pushing their product.

Now we have a PR offensive (Who guessed? Nord is the Richard Branson/Elon Musk of VPNs.)

Reputation? Register readers will eschew Nord but the great unwashed will carry on.

Running on Intel? If you want security, disable hyper-threading, says Linux kernel maintainer

Peter Prof Fox


If I'm in a high performance environment then I've already done boundary stuff or weeded out fringe activities. No screen-savers for me while I'm AI-ing the next national lottery numbers.

For the rest of us why not enable whizzo cache stuff only when CPU usage exceeds 85%? That way most of the time there is no point in poking around with fancy caches and long before Mr. Black Hat has winkled-out any cross-contaminated trivia I'll have detected or changed.

Switch about to get real: Openreach bod on the challenge of shuttering UK's copper phone lines

Peter Prof Fox

Will my traditional telephone still work?

Apparently not. I don't see any consumer heads-up for all your phones will need to be replaced. Neither is there any upgrade path such as VOIP-ready. Conspiracy of silence or just the usual failures?

I could throttle you right about now: US Navy to ditch touchscreens after kit blamed for collision

Peter Prof Fox

Pothole resistance

If you're twiddling a knob when you go over a pothole then it's no great issue. But if you're fingering a screen the bump (a) moves your finger (b) causes you to 'click/press'. Great. Wonderful. Now what's happened! Certainly not what you were expecting.

Psst. Hey. Hey you. We have to whisper this in case the cool kidz hear, but... it's OK to pull your data back from the cloud

Peter Prof Fox

Craft bollocks!

So this 'Craft brewing' outfit is really a sham automated and optimised production line. "This includes programmable logic control and process automation for brewing—right down to opening and closing valves. " The only bugs in beer should be Lambic!

Neuroscientist used brainhack. It's super effective! Oh, and disturbingly easy

Peter Prof Fox

Gaydar and 'therapy'

Is only one use the people who need it most (ie politically powerful) will fund. But don't worry, it will be as effective and well-regulated, as police face recognition.

Y2K, Windows NT4 Server and Notes. It's a 1990s Who, Me? special

Peter Prof Fox

Naming machines

Stickers are a must, but naming is more subtle. As we're talking hardware which is the actual thing we're labelling we should be giving it a name like, say, a ship. Not the purpose like 'Foo server'. My system is interesting boy's names for computers and girl's names for peripherals. So for example when somebody a hundred miles away says the "invoice printer isn't working" you start by asking them for the printer name. That's a unique identifier assigned and controlled by you. Then it turns out it's a replacement printer for some hardwary reason and you're half way home. When dealing with servers frequently, you and colleagues get to know the quirks of 'Brock' and 'Samson'. Also there's a mental step you have to take before 'fixing a server' as you have to translate 'Constantine' into what he actually does.

He's coming home, he's coming... Hutchins' coming home: British Wannacry killer held in US on malware dev rap set free by judge

Peter Prof Fox

Not exactly Lord Copper

Two years wait for what the judge considers a worthless case.

Rise of the Machines hair-raiser: The day IBM's Dot Matrix turned

Peter Prof Fox

Health and safety gone senile

Now everyone wears name badges on lanyards. (Bow-tie wearing engineer opts-out of that! )

Fantastic Mr Fox? Not when he sh*ts on your lawn, kids' trampoline and your soul

Peter Prof Fox

Is it YOUR problem or a NEIGHBOURHOOD one?

I suspect the latter. From https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn23167-culling-urban-foxes-just-doesnt-work/ it appears foxes will repopulate suddenly 'vacant' territories within four days. Looking at the issue this way suggests some group activity which could include, just for example, mapping, educating humans about what foxes eat and not to feed them, getting a neighbourhood wolf, getting a wild-life expert to give a lecture on their life, likes and dislikes.

Perhaps your garden just happens to be a junction of three territories where foxes from various tribes face-off?

YouTube mystery ban on hacking videos has content creators puzzled

Peter Prof Fox

Lockpicking is fine then

Bosnia Bill and The Lockpicking Lawyer routinely demonstrate how crap merchandise is. For how much longer?

DeepNude's makers tried to deep-six their pervy AI app. Web creeps have other ideas: Cracked copies shared online as code decompiled

Peter Prof Fox

I'm impressed and worried

The speed of reaction of the sub-culture is impressive. Just a few days and a complicated set of tangled 'problems' has been 'solved'. Why is it I'm worried that this energy, intelligence and enterprise will be used for better poison gasses than better drugs? Making and spreading fake news will triumph in any war against detecting and quenching fake news. It would be rather nice though if a new strain of a virus could be nailed in weeks and the logistics of dealing with a natural disaster could be solved in hours.

Techie with outdated documentation gets his step count in searching for non-existent cabinet

Peter Prof Fox

"While you're here" should be encouraged

When people ask you a "While you're here" that means they trust you. (Or they are demanding, entitled, whiney and greedy, but I think most techs can spot those.) Step two is to find what is really wrong. Step three is to wave a magic wand or, and this is why it's worth encouraging, is either profit from the new requirement or get to the bottom of some fundamental system flaw that's been causing grief, repeated call-outs etc. because the right person never got to look at it.

Veteran vulture Andrew Orlowski is offski after 19 years at The Register

Peter Prof Fox


A knowledgeable journalist looks at news from the side. Reporters follow on behind. Opinionated fill-spaces whine like mosquitoes with no direction. Good luck.

UK is 'not a surveillance state' insists minister defending police face recog tech

Peter Prof Fox

Ankle-tag every policeman

And store the data for fifty years. Just in case.

Now Ponder Mistakes: NPM's heavy-handed management prompts JS code registry challenger

Peter Prof Fox

Bloatful architecture. Needs curation.

I've just done a duplicate content check on my tiny (80Mb) node files, which already share as much as possible, and found 75% is duplicated. The 'normal' method of NPM-ing is to build a dependency library for each project! Not so great if I want a simple utility.

1 A registry should be a lot more intelligent than this.

2 Throw-in code and forget is a recipe for poor quality code. Oh yes somebody else comes along to fix the crap (out of frustration) that's good... But without curation eg retiring superseded and pointing to replacements and taking responsibility for doing so, it's going to be a free, handy soup-kitchen.

Baffling tale of Apple shops' 'non-facial' 'facial recognition', a stolen ID, and a $1bn lawsuit after a wrongful arrest

This post has been deleted by a moderator

Microsoft debuts Bosque – a new programming language with no loops, inspired by TypeScript

Peter Prof Fox

Wrong end of the telescope

So no object instances then. Sorry, but trying to simplify validation, a task that can be automated, forgets that we've got machines to do that. The difficult bit of coding needs to allow for complexity as the world we're working in is complex. There are of course so many things that can go wrong, which is why structured programming helps turn a soup of code into modules with, err, structure to contain our many egregious errors.

I'm just off to rebuild Notre Dame, using only Lego 'cos that system means I can't heap bricks up randomly and I'm sure having to work around the limitations of Lego will be a pain worth having. Or not.

Supreme Court of UK gives Morrisons the go-ahead for mega data leak liability appeal

Peter Prof Fox

It's the management's job...

to steal from employees by subverting the pension fund. Obviously an enterprising employee can't be given the same protection.

Three planets and two stars adds up to one research team made very happy by Kepler's unique discovery

Peter Prof Fox

Counting assumption

You can only see a transit if the plane of a planet's orbit intersects (approximately) with the axis of viewing from Earth. Surely when 'counting', if you get say three hits from star A that's a good count, but if you get none that's an absence of data. Somebody must have an idea (roughly) what proportion of stars have a suitably aligned planetary disc.

Hello, tech support? Yes, I've run out of desk... Yes, DESK... space

Peter Prof Fox

*BEER* shouldn't be 'cold cold'

You can have fizzy crap as cold or as warm as you like -- why would I care? It's your loss. But the Register shouldn't be perpetuating this myth beloved of corporations. (Budweiser advertise the fact they use rice as an ingredient.)

As Dr Ian Hornsey writes in his seminal Brewing "The ideal temperature for traditional ale is 12-14C." So stick to cellar temperature.

You don't (do you? Really?) have cheese straight from the fridge. Cider and beer are the same. The only reason white wines are served chilled is ignorance and an attempt to add piquancy to an everyday product!

If the Register wants to promote standards then remember standards of decency. (Not to be confused with the Whitehouse, the standard of indecency.) I'm ashamed I can't find a large enough fine china cup so I have to use a pottery pint mug for my tea But I still warm the pot first. I propose the Proppacuppa where for example chilled fizzy-crap rates 0.1.

Thought you were done patching this week? Not if you're using an Intel-powered PC or server

Peter Prof Fox

Updater is Windows only

First I've heard of this tar-pit but I thought worth a look. Win==fail.

This image-recognition neural net can be trained from 1.2 million pictures in the time it takes to make a cup o' tea

Peter Prof Fox

You can't make a cup of tea in 90 seconds

Boil the kettle: 2 mins.

Warm the pot: 30 sec min.

Brew: Absolute minimum 3 mins.

ACLU: Here's how FBI tried to force Facebook to wiretap its chat app. Judge: Oh no you don't

Peter Prof Fox

Here's the fundamental hypocracy

On the one hand the US gov claims it needs to protect the public, yet won't admit the public needs protection against the government.

When rampant snooping is going on without supervision, then how is that different to sneaky plotters (or ne're-do-wells by prejudicial suspicion) being naughty on-line. Both are bad. When governments say "trust-us" then WE KNOW they're up to no good. History speaks clearly. Abuse of power goes back millennia.

The bigger the outfit the bigger the lie and the bigger the evil.

You like JavaScript! You really like it! Scripting lingo tops dev survey of programming languages

Peter Prof Fox

Oh dear! Nothing is perfect

JS is what it is and if it really was as awful as 'they' say then why is it so popular?

I /fume/ at various issues and how slow it is to become properly OO, but Java has been 'proper OO' fro a couple of decades and has it's own issues just as aggravating as the unrelated Javascript. JS does a remarkable job in a maelstrom of Browser (and other) environments. IMHO a much bigger issue is how JS is allowed to consume cycles (BBC 'sounds', I'm looking at you for a simple listings page.) Still, I'd rather have Fred and Freda able to write simple web pages than blocked by cliffs of learning curves. This is about quality in web pages not any particular language.

Looming EU copyright rules – tackling Google news article scraping, installing upload filters – under fire from all sides

Peter Prof Fox


From what I understand here this proposal tries to set up methods and limits. I'd say that is useful but a better way would be to make it easier to enforce legislation that already exists. If you copy my book I can sue you for actual damages. But how will I be able to do that? Take-downs are not enough, by then the damage has been done. So I'd set a rate per 'view' (based on the same metric as used for advertising, I believe 5 seconds of watching a youtube video counts as a 'view') and let the Googles of this world collect royalties for me until they remove the content. This still leaves wholescale international theft untouched, but until trade organisations are really strong there's nothing much that a small (or large) content producer can do.

Man drives 6,000 miles to prove Uncle Sam's cellphone coverage maps are wrong – and, boy, did he manage it

Peter Prof Fox

I really like this idea

A day's worth of verifiable data on a simple fixed axis, a week's main-roading and an extrapolation to give an 'actual' map. This 'actual' map is presented as an 'actual' 'genuine' ,'measured', 'I swam that lake with the mobiles on my back' map. Then whatever arbitration would necessitate examining both the telcos and the alternative's data are not quite what they ought to be. So what, when faced with 2+2=5 and 3+3=6 the FCC will have to either admit to partiality or get better facts.

Detailed: How Russian government's Fancy Bear UEFI rootkit sneaks onto Windows PCs

Peter Prof Fox

Re: The real solution - amended

Is to have a physical switch (or key) that *enables* writes to all system code.

Fraudster convicted of online banking thefts using… whatever the hell this thing is

Peter Prof Fox

Tech or pretend-tech?

I'm guessing this perp used tech to boost his chutzpah rather than break tech. Oh... Yes.. Just a black-hat pen-tester who got caught and publicised.

NSW government finally released 'net vote system review, says everything's just fine

Peter Prof Fox

And the legally required back-door?

So the gaping hole in security called the Constitutionally Required Access Protocol? Is that 'theoretical'' or does being baked-in make it OK?

Check your repos... Crypto-coin-stealing code sneaks into fairly popular NPM lib (2m downloads per week)

Peter Prof Fox

Towards a better library/app model

A lot of software in these repos are developed by a single person. Somehow they're expected to be coder, tester, librarian, packager, instant tech support, long term support and safely guide noobs to use their thing in the right way for a suitable purpose.

I suggest a better way to develop software is to have teams. Even when the local theatre puts on a 'one man show' there are techies, and front of house and marketing involved. The trouble is we don't have recognisable templates for such outfits that everyday coders, tech authors, librarians, testers etc. can use to club together.

Brace yourself, Britain: Health minister shares 'vision' for NHS 'tech revolution'

Peter Prof Fox

I'm all for grassroots...

...But not IT driven by alpha-medicos. Systems experts can do a really wonderful job spotting the diligence bottlenecks, opportunities for auditing and so on, but that is dismissed by expert doctors trying to carve out a simplistic niche for themselves. I don't go to a programmer to have my gonads stretched so why do lead clinicians think they are fit to design IT systems.

Medical mistakes run at about 25 a day, that's just the fatal ones, and there's lots of information in the IT system to show where the hotspots are... except the model for clinical goverance in the NHS is not fit for purpose so using it is a non-starter. The model for 'management' in primary and secondary care is also crap, so good luck there.

Oracle? On my server? I must have been hacked! *Penny drops* Oh sh-

Peter Prof Fox

Mose code

Is 1s and 2s

Sun billionaire Khosla discovers life's a beach after US Supreme Court refuses to hear him out

Peter Prof Fox

Sauce for the goose...

I presume the State of California owns most of the roads. Perhaps they should ask him to explain why he thinks he has a right to pass over their property.

30-up: You know what? Those really weren't the days

Peter Prof Fox


No email, hard drive space, cramming everything onto floppies to be sent in the post to the customer with line-by-line instructions on how to unzip (zip having to be included on the disc of course). (2018 FTP and let recipient test when their bit of the world wakes up.)

Then the curse of the mouse. Stealing my desk and forcing me to have another cable which probably meant a special adaptor to connect to the PC. (2018 Wireless trackball)

'Paper white' screens, all CRT cream of course, with fuzzy zones limiting tiny text. (2018 3 large solid state screens. Still deep dark blue background for coding as that's easier on the eyes at night.)

When's a backdoor not a backdoor? When the Oz government says it isn't

Peter Prof Fox

The copper from Woggablogga

It doesn't work like "I say old boy, decode this message for me, there's a good chap" In reality it's fishing TB.

So let's suppose the copper from Woggablogga claims you're a baddie 'cos 'he knows' you're an ansty sort. Obviously his warrant will be for everything including bank logins, chats to girlfriends, horse racing tips and social media references to what his wife gets up to with the boys from Cloudsville Creek. Really the latter.

Oh and for good measure, if your logins are hacked, even if the copper from Woggablogga told you and you had the money, you couldn't go to court to prove the government (ie some official in the council with the power to check on litter-dropping) were responsible.

Internet overseer ICANN loses a THIRD time in Whois GDPR legal war

Peter Prof Fox

Where's the crowd funded 'take them to the cleaners'?

I'd put up £50 for a share of the loot.

And repeat until bankrupt because this zombie obviously won't learn.


Door entry keypads -- top row bias

Peter Prof Fox

Door entry keypads -- top row bias

I've just been introduced to a number of places with door entry keypads. All the four digit codes start on the top row. (1xxx, 1xxx, 2xxx, 1xxx, 2xxx) This is old-people's homes so not ultra security. Is this common?

Would anyone like to supply a triplets of

[Total experience No, Top row start (incl 1), starts with 1]

and we'll see if there is a 'one from the top then...' bias.

Think tank calls for post-Brexit national ID cards: The kids have phones so what's the difference?

Peter Prof Fox

False trust

All somebody else had to do was produce your ID card.

Gov.UK to make its lovely HTML exportable as parlous PDFs

Peter Prof Fox

Stand alone, reliable documents

A PDF is self-contained.

An HTML document has css links and scripts (and trackers)

A PDF can be reliably printed and passed around. (A lot of people are not digitally agile)

An HTML document requires a computer/device, browser and the knowledge to use it. A hard copy to get signatures on is pot-luck.

A PDF can be reliably stored as reference. I have it. I can archive it and index it.

An HTML user manual (say) is moved, deleted, or updated to reflect model 2 features but not my model 1

What they should be doing is banning Word documents.

Imagine a patent on organizing computer files being used against online shopping sites. Oh, it's still happening

Peter Prof Fox

Dear Judge,

Once upon a time in the land of wibble-wobble, lived a princess who was offended by something the defendants said. So I demand lots of dosh. Lots. Lots and lots.

How a tax form kludge gifted the world 25 joyous years of PDF

Peter Prof Fox

Re: Format of choice for immediate offline reading, easy sharing or simple portability

ePub etc. is for fisher-price publishing.

Placement and styling is important.

Anybody who cares about communication should appreciate how design affects interpretation.

Lack of control over basic 'css-level' styling is a complete fail.

Developer’s code worked, but not in the right century

Peter Prof Fox

Because computer dates are numbers but real dates aren't

Not yet. Unknown. Since before we started counting. And so on.

When did you move into your house? Come on! Come on! YYYY-MM-DD all the bits! I can only remember it was summer 1989. So 1989 is a perfectly valid real world date which isn't 1st Jan 1989.

Then you need to do sorting and calculations. What is 31st January plus one month? Does 4th August come 'before' or 'after' August? (Neither it is 'in'.) Nobody is sure when Chaucer was born (Roughly 1343) so do we use 'unknown' or wing-it with 1343. J.K. Rowling was born 31 July 1965 so that's fine but what goes in the died field? 'Not yet' which is different from 'unknown'.

More at http://vulpeculox.net/day/

Da rude sand storm seizes the Opportunity, threatens to KO rover

Peter Prof Fox

A place in history

for the engineers who built Opportunity beside icons like I.K. Brunel in our pantheon of great engineers.

How the world has changed.

THEN a bunch of clever boffins could craft an explorer with failover and backup and flexibility (not to mention it actually worked on deployment!).

NOW there are 'business processes' involving scrutinising of engineering ideas by accountants and 'program managers' that suck up money yet (even when consultants opine in reports) fail to sparkle or fail completely.

Let us hope that the time will come when the spirit of opportunity will be once again cherished and understood by everyone.



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