* Posts by Doctor Syntax

16449 posts • joined 16 Jun 2014

Warren 'Mr Moneybags' Buffett offloads huge chunk of IBM investment

Doctor Syntax Silver badge

"Going against his own received wisdom of not buying stakes in companies he doesn't understand"


Disregarding that, presumably the crux is that the only judgement he - or anyone else - can wield is that they think they understand a company. The evidence in this instance is that he may have thought he understood it but didn't. This seems to have been an exception for him.

An exercise for the reader: what would markets look like if everyone really did understand all the companies all the time?

Doctor Syntax Silver badge

Re: Can't live without Coke?

"However, I do accept that there are a lot of people who can't live without it as well as their Big Mac and Fries (not been into any of their outlets since 1995)."

For some durations of "live".

Parity: The bug that put $169m of Ethereum on ice? Yeah, it was on the todo list for months

Doctor Syntax Silver badge

"Parity said that it deeply regrets making the coding error that led to the wallet freeze and the loss of the millions of dollars they contain."

I'm sure those who've lost the millions of dollars are happy to hear that Parity deeply regrets it.

Fear not, driverless car devs, UK.gov won't force you to write Trolley Problem solutions

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Re: Easy I suppose

"I would just slam on and hope not to hit either."

And, on the principle that you shouldn't brake hard and steer at the same time, you don't get the choice of where to hit.

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Facial/Number plate/badge recognition

If in doubt the BMW or Audi gets it. Special software may be needed if these are both available.

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"Surely if you put the computer in control then you were driving?"

What about a totally autonomous vehicle for hire? There is never any scope for the vehicle not being in any other state, the passengers would not be the owner. There may not even be an occupant if the vehicle is between hires.

Amazon Key door-entry flaw: No easy fix to stop rogue couriers burgling your place unseen

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"the technology's security remains unresolved – and may require a hardware fix."


Yes, I took Putin's roubles to undermine Western democracy. This is my story

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Re: I don't get it?

Google the word "satire"


Pawnbroker pwnd: Cash Converters says hacker slurped customer data

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Re: Limited value?

"there's limited value in getting details for people who are known to be pawning their worldly goods"

There's value if it was someone allegedly wealthy trying to keep afloat. Or surreptitiously raising capital for some purpose.

Doctor Syntax Silver badge

Re: Missing info in a rather confusing way.

"The article states it was the "decommissioned" website that was decommissioned back in September. So if it was decommissioned before the breech, why wasn't the data removed? Or was it breeched before it was decommissioned?"

It might turn on what's meant by "remove". If the database is simply dropped the data's still sitting there on disk. The next DC/Cloud customer who acquires that partition takes a look and finds it. Not a problem if the disk was encrypted but if it wasn't...

I've seen this on leased kit - the previous user's data was sitting there. I've also spent time ensuring that borrowed kit got scribbled on before returning it.

Inside Internet Archive: 10PB+ of storage in a church... oh, and a little fight to preserve truth

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Re: Archive vs right to be forgotten

"A data protection filter during a person's lifetime would surely be a good thing, but it would require massive administrative overhead"

The best filter is the one that lies on the proximal side of the user's fingers and requires no overhead, just a head.

Does UK high street banks' crappy crypto actually matter?

Doctor Syntax Silver badge

"Lack of HSTS is laziness, but not really a threat today," he said.

And he doesn't think such laziness is itself a threat?

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"you can always phone, visit a branch or use an ATM."

That visiting thing - it seems to be getting trickier these days.

'It's back to the drawing board...' Innocent axions found not guilty of dark matter crimes

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"At some point during the genesis of the universe, there would have been equal amounts of matter and antimatter, and they should have annihilated one another."

We live on a planet that clearly consists of matter. I don't think anybody has suggested that odd bits of the solar system that come crashing into us are antimatter either so it looks as if the rest of the solar system is matter and probably the rest of the galaxy as well. But if one looks at other galaxies is there any way of determining that they're all matter other than assuming uniformity? Is there any basis for knowing that half the galaxies we see aren't entirely anti-matter?

Doctor Syntax Silver badge

Re: Modified Newtonian Dynamics

"There are wide variety of independent observations which all lead to the same conclusion that there is some matter we can't see."

But don't these all add up to much the same thing - observations failing to confirm one theoretical prediction or another?

There also seem to be a variety of independent experiments that have failed to identify what it might be. At the very least there ought to be some consideration that the observations are falsifying the hypothesis or hypotheses on which the predictions are based. Or is it going to be a case of science advancing one obituary at a time?

Doctor Syntax Silver badge

Re: 27 per cent of the universe is dark matter

"If dark matter exists (i.e. if our current understanding of gravity is correct) there must be about four times as much of it as ordinary matter."

And given that dark and ordinary matter interact via gravity then surely gravity should cause them to clump together. I should weigh even more than I do given that some dark matter should have attached itself to me.

Prosecute driverless car devs for software snafus, say Brit cyclists

Doctor Syntax Silver badge

Accidents are not the norm. They are exceptions. Where is the evidence that an AV will be able to handle exceptions better than humans?

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Re: Humans are responsible - not the software

"The responsible human in the car is the person behind the wheel."

And what if the AV doesn't have a wheel? What if it's one of these driverless vomit conveyors taxis that are supposed to be the future?

Doctor Syntax Silver badge

Re: Which document did you read?

"No - the thrust is that you can't just ignore the criminal responsibility when you push insurance liability around."

Just this.

The cyclists have a good point here. This seems to have been dealt with purely as a civil matter which can be dealt with by compensation via insurance (and surely no insurance company would ever try to weasel out of their responsibilities). But where a human driver is involved there is also a criminal aspect and if there has been criminal negligence then there should be scope for prosecution.

However I think they're wrong in not putting the blame on the vehicle manufacturer alone. It's up to the vehicle manufacturer to ensure that the overall package is correct.

Consider, for example, that the vehicle manufacturer picks up some image processing library. It was actually written for an image classification system where a few false positives or negatives were acceptable and for this the library was good enough. Or it was written for a medical application where it was to be used for cytology images. Would it be right to prosecute the author of a library that has been used out of its intended context?

Consider the possibility that the S/W itself is fine but the manufacturer has seen fit to run it on H/W with less resources than the S/W was specified for, or shared the H/W with another package when that wasn't intended. Why should the author be responsible for that?

Doctor Syntax Silver badge

Re: While were at it....

I'm riding my lightweight road bike, which has a carbon fibre frame, along a city street and crash into you when you I cut across in front of me you>.


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Re: While were at it....

"all cyclists over 18 to be insured."

Why over 18? We're told that the younger and less experienced a driver is the more they're likely to have accidents. Surely the same applies to cyclists.

Doctor Syntax Silver badge

"The thing about driverless cars is that they will almost certainly carry the means to analyse an accident after it has happened, and at that point it should be *very* easy to attribute blame, whether it is the software developer, the owner of the vehicle doing something stupid, or a cyclist or pedestrian doing something reckless."

Given that we're frequently told that AI results in not even the developers being able to explain why a given decision was made this might not be at all certain, at least not without restricting the S/W to designs able to generate a continuous log of the reasons for each decision.

Doctor Syntax Silver badge

Re: Fair enough, but...

" It would be a bit harsh requiring your kid to need insurance to cycle around a residential estate with their mates."


Doctor Syntax Silver badge

Re: Fair enough, but...

"Be good if all motorists did that:"

There's a big difference in the form of committing a criminal offence between being legally required to do something but not doing and not doing it with there being no legal requirement.

Belgian court says Skype must provide interception facilities

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Re: Belgium is a tiny country

"Pretty easy for Microsoft, and anyone else caught in this net, to simply not offer Skype and any other services that Belgium wants to regulate."

...and explain to customers why. Then let the Belgian govt. field their public's response. If it's a big issue then it'll be a big issue for the govt. If it isn't MS can quietly reintroduce the service.

Doctor Syntax Silver badge

Re: Still better than ours want

"A targetted investigation requires a warrant or court order in the U.K."

One issue here is the issuing of a warrant by some agency other than a court. For instance if someone goes to Rudd for a warrant because someone's using hashtags she'll issue it without a second thought (in fact, without a first thought for obvious reasons).

Universal basic income is a great idea, which is also why it won't happen

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Re: UBI is the future

"With UBI , you'd see the end of crummy employers treating their min wage workers as disposable scum, why, because they'd be able to go and find other low skilled work where the employers treat them as human beings."

There's nothing stopping those workers doing that now except the lack of sufficient better employers. I can't see why UBI should improve that situation.

Doctor Syntax Silver badge


"Then simply remove the tax free allowance, from earned wages, keep the current tiers of tax"

Self contradictory.

Doctor Syntax Silver badge

Re: Land Value Tax and Citizens Income combined

"ensure that those hoarding resources pay and those adding value through brains or labour get rewarded."

Into which category do those adding value through brains and labour whilst saving for their old age fall?

In case you feel inclined to try thinking through again remember that most "hoarding of resources", as you put it, happens through pension funds - and experience has shown it's still not enough.

Doctor Syntax Silver badge

"lead has been used for plumbing for centuries, certainly well into the last century, and apparently the lead content of the water it carries in pipes is not that great"

The explanation I heard was that in the past houses were not centrally heated and were occupied during the day with intermittent use of water so the water didn't sit in the pipes for long and didn't get warm there. That ensured that the concentration of lead was kept relatively low. A combination of central heating and wives going out to work reversed this so the lead levels could rise but about the same time lead piping started to be replaced by copper.

Doctor Syntax Silver badge

Re: A shorter term problem

"Amazons declared profits for this year were $200 million, though they announced a $13 billion purchase of another company."

That I found surprising as it involved borrowing money. AFAIK that has been contrary to Amazon's SOP; the reason for a low profit in relation to turnover has been that they've funded growth out of sales.

Doctor Syntax Silver badge

Re: UBI will come - soon

"But the vested interests fighting it will be as hard to overcome as Big Oil, Big Tobacco and Big Pharma."

Given your initial proposition - a completely automated factory with nobody with income to buy its products - why would they fight it? As you describe it it would be in their interests.

But what you didn't address is where does the money come from to pay the UBI so the toasters can be sold?

Doctor Syntax Silver badge

Re: fast forward.

"The tax bands and rates will change so that for instance someone like me in a normal job doesn't get any benefit for the UBI even though I still get it (heck might even lose a little bit in tax)."

If you rely on extra tax on high incomes or large corporations to make it work, take a look around you. If X hours effort expended on rearranging tax affairs brings in more money than if it were expended on earning then that's what will happen and your hoped for taxation to fund it will be elusive. Should you manage to lose the benefits bureaucracy - IMV unlikely - you'll probably just redeploy it trying to collect taxes.

You might be able to find a new tax base in terms of taxing the output of machines on the basis that these are going to take over employment. Employers will just respond by continuing to employ low paid workers (will there be any justification for a NMW/LW with UBI?) and lock in low productivity still further.

Doctor Syntax Silver badge

Re: fast forward.

Additionally, if you set the UBI at sufficient rate (basically the most all of the welfare budget) then you can get rid of most all pensions and benefits so you can then remove the biggest and most bureaucratic department of our government


I think you underestimate the ability of any bureaucracy to hang on undiminished. Even if you got rid of the entire pension and benefits system you'd probably find they'd need at least 10% more staff to handle UBI.

Doctor Syntax Silver badge

Re: fast forward.

"All of your hypotheticals apply equally to the current system."

Not equally. It's certainly possible to find families where nobody has worked for years and where education is ignored if not despised but they're a small minority and, however reluctantly, are supported by the rest. But what would happen if this were extended to the rest?

Doctor Syntax Silver badge

“A low UBI would leave in place means-tested benefits, but it could take a lot of households off various means-tested benefits and because the administrative cost of UBI would be very small the net effect would be a reduction in administrative costs,” [My emphasis]

Does he really believe that? As long as there were any means-tested benefits the entire administrative apparatus would still be in place. It's just the way things are done.

It's 2017 – and your Windows PC can be forced to run malware-stuffed Excel macros

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Re: "But how do you know"

"the library has removed parts of the API" - that means you need to release a new version of the library - you can't and never should do this in a bug fix/maintenance release.

Unfortunately a maintainer can do just that if they want - and have been known to do so.

I agree - an update shouldn't break any program that didn't rely on an undocumented feature. A good start would be publishing the unit tests and the unit tests should have a condition attached: new tests can be added but old ones can't be removed.

Doctor Syntax Silver badge

Re: @Version 1.0

But many library programmers do exactly the same thing, which can easily in the end lead to cascading effects. Because if there's an issue with a library then all the software which compiled against it will also be affected.... what would happen if there were any bugs discovered in your average compiler? Even compilers use libraries these days, and libraries which by themselves rely on others."

It's called entropy.

Doctor Syntax Silver badge

"You may think we’ve educated users enough to stop them from opening unknown documents they didn’t expect,"

There speaks the voice of hope triumphing over experience.

Doctor Syntax Silver badge

"CVE-2017-11848, a flaw in IE that allows webpages to track users when they leave the website."

I thought they'd count that as a feature.

Ads watchdog tells Plusnet: There's no way unlimited business broadband costs £4.50

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Re: If the ad was aimed at business users...

I'd expect business pricing not to include VAT as for many businesses it will be offset against VAT charged on goods and services.

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"consumers" (I dislike that word, why are we never "customers" any more!)

Looking at the context it seems they're dividing customers into two classes, consumers, by which they appear to mean domestic, and business which is fair enough. But actually TFA says "users" rather than "customers" so you may have a point. However my experience is that "customer" is actually an over-used word, especially when the likes of HMRC start using it.

Doctor Syntax Silver badge

"It probably does, actually..."

Probably does what?

"...not including the BT line rental scam, mind you."

You think BT should provide you with a free line to connect your modem to?

Your attention has value, personal cryptocurrency will advertise it

Doctor Syntax Silver badge

Re: This has been tried before

"> Users are required to complete a KYC (know your customer) process in order to withdraw BAT from the local browser."

There's only one thing they'd need to know about me: that I react adversely to ads and the only value in serving them to me is negative. How would they propose to move on from there?

This is the central problem with online advertising. People find it annoying. That's why they use adblockers. The value of an ad that's not seen is greater than one that is because the value of the one that is is negative.

AFAICS this is just another attempt to pull the wool over the advertisers' eyes and pretend that there's real value in shoving crap in the viewers' faces. Because once the advertisers realise they're being played for suckers by the advertising industry it's game over.

Doctor Syntax Silver badge

Re: Forgive me if I'm being slow

"As far as I can tell this is identical to the cycle involving BAT in every respect, except you don't need to worry about swapping real money to pretend money and back again."

Isn't going to happen. There's no mechanism for either 1 or 2 and even if there were the cycle would be more like

1) Advertiser pays viewer

2) Viewer pockets it

Doctor Syntax Silver badge

Re: Another BATty idea

"Pricing adverts already happens."

Not by their objectionableness to the viewer.

"That's how they end up on your browser."

No they don't.

Your next laptop will feature 'CMF' technology

Doctor Syntax Silver badge

Re: Translation :

"It's worth investing a little bit in making something look and feel pleasant if you're going to be looking at it for that long."

If the cosmetics aren't somewhat anodyne the pleasantness of the look may depend on it being the latest model. Nothing dates faster than fashion. It's called planned obsolescence.

EU court advised: Schrems is a consumer in Facebook case, but can't file class-action

Doctor Syntax Silver badge

"Just as happened with the banks over their fees all the little cases will get adjourned until one test case makes it through."

Yup, but as is being made clear, Schrems will be that test case.

Another case I'd like to see is one where someone doesn't have an account but FB have made a shadow profile from others' postings. That should raise some issues under GDPR.

Crap London broadband gets the sewer treatment

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Re: There are disused and forgotten conduits and pipes out there

"Since then, I always ask people about what might have been forgotten, it can be very cost effective."

London had a hydraulic network for powering lifts etc but AFAIK that's already been used.

Donald Trump's tweets: Are they presidential statements or not?

Doctor Syntax Silver badge

I'd have thought that when you take on a post of sufficient prominence any statement you make in public has to be treated as being made in that official capacity unless it concerns matters outside the scope of that post as it must be assumed that it reflects the thinking that informs the decisions you will make in that capacity. Is there anything outside the scope of POTUS?

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