* Posts by Doctor Syntax

16426 posts • joined 16 Jun 2014

I've got a brand new combine harvester and I'll give you the API key

Doctor Syntax Silver badge

Re: Whats the point of an autonomous tractor?

"The issues are whether the right crops are being produced."

I agree with you but a lot of other things have to be right to make this possible. The local population needs to be able to buy the local staples at a price that gives the grower a living and the country needs the export earnings. IOW it needs to be about making money as well as feeding people.

Cutting Hewlett-Packard Labs down to size

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"less on blue-sky developments and more on things that have a foreseeable ROI."

The phrase you were looking for is "short term". Bye-bye HP. Once you were great.

UK.gov tells freelance techies to slap 20 per cent on fees as IR35 tax hike looms

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1. Decide that their own contract that they force is bad from an IR3 perspective

2. Watch the contractor hike the prices by 25% or so

3. Watch their own profits go up due to the increased contractor rate.

One would like to see alternatives such as:

1. Offer genuine IR-proof contracts.

2. Take business from the now 25% more expensive bad contract companies.

3. Watch their profits go up due to the increased volume of business.

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"HMRC and the Tribunals disagreed"

I always thought that the PCG didn't push hard enough. The case law was based mostly on people trying to get recognition as employees so it related to contracts of service.

Considering the balance of probabilities should have covered the probability of a contract for services by actually looking at such contracts in the real world by bringing in expert opinion from that world.

As an example, at one time the IR having on their website a contract template for provision of services to themselves. It included provision of a named key man clause. If they themselves didn't consider the inclusion of a named key man to be a problem in provision of services to themselves then a good part of the case law becomes irrelevant.

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If compliance falls on agencies would it be too much to hope that the agencies start issuing genuine freelance contracts?

Wine 2.0 lands: It's not Soylent for booze but more Windows apps on Linux and Mac OS

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Re: All is Strange in MS Land

"does anyone know have practical experience / know how Wine stacks up with applications written for older Windows (stuff that works on 95, 98, Win2k) ?"

It varies. There's a compatibility database at https://appdb.winehq.org/

On the face of it the compatibility varies from release to release of both Wine and application. I suspect the real reason is that it varies, at least in part, with who reported a particular combination of Wine, application and hardware. The latter mattered - and maybe still does - because for a long time they refused to believe that a graphic system could legitimately report itself as 24-bit (Intel in millions of non-gaming laptops) and overrode that to 32 bit in the interests of performance and reported such to the application.

As a Wine user, with an application that would then send a 32-bit splash screen, I took advantage that it was open source. I undid that stupidity and didn't bother upgrading. Eventually I got a later version of the application that didn't break it and just accepted the distro's (Debian LTS) version of Wine.

However, there was one application that wouldn't even install in Wine and whose devs showed no interest in fixing it. It did eventually install and start but wouldn't run properly. I just ran it, when I needed to, in W2K in a VM - no connection to the net, no updates to break things and they were pretty well of the same age.

Trump's FBI boss, Attorney General picks reckon your encryption's getting backdoored

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"60-70 year old guys having a drunken bar conversation about it. They're totally clueless but highly opinionated and think they can solve everything."

Yup, these youngsters in their 60s think they know everything.

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Re: Fools

"A few years ago India blocked access to Github for a few days over the site hosting encryption code"

And they'd be wise to reflect on why it only lasted a few days.

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Re: Because.....

"Maybe they should just publish their bank account details and be done with it."

And their tax returns.

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"now I just weep for the future of technology."

Don't. There are enough countries out there whose technology industries have just been given a boost. What are the advantages of remaining a US corporation?

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"The finest minds in cryptography have repeatedly pointed out the impossibility of building a backdoor for law enforcement into secure encryption"

It makes no difference how fine their minds are. It's politicians' minds on the receiving end.

Dropbox: Oops, yeah, we didn't actually delete all your files – this bug kept them in the cloud

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Re: Why 60 days?

"Why does it take 60 days to delete a file when things are all OK?"

Probably to protect users from themselves. Remember that "deletion" on many desktop systems - not just Windows - is "move to wastepaper basket", not "rm $FILE". That's fair enough but it should also have the equivalent of "empty wastepaper basket NOW".

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Re: Why

"what matter does the metadata mean in relation to a file that no longer exists?"

They made a mess of the deletion date so they don't know when they should actually clear it?

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"at no time did any third party have access to the exposed files."

...unless they ask us for them.

Top UK judges rule: Government can't pull the Article 50 trigger alone

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"Memo to all Leave scribblers:... you almost certainly will not get your own way in everything that you want."

If you did you'd end up wondering thy you wanted it. Or, more likely, you'd stridently insist you didn't.

Doctor Syntax Silver badge

Re: All this case result did was confirm...

"But it doesn't change the outcome unless suffcient Tory and Labour MPs defy the whip and block the Article 50 bill in a few days."

I doubt it they would. Insufficient Tories would - even if all the pro-EU ones did there are still the sceptics. And I don't think most Labour MPs would fancy their chances in the ensuing general election; maybe a few forward looking ones might consider that a defeat there would rid them of Corbyn but on the whole MPs don't go hastening an election where they seriously consider the possibility of losing their own seats. It's not as if they can all get jobs at Sellafield or the V&A.

A more likely outcome is that they'll demand more detail on what HMG intends to get out of negotiations; a pointless demand as, of course, what they're able to get will be unlikely to match their intent.

There's just an outside chance that such an extended debate might bring on a sufficient swing in public opinion to encourage some to think that they personally could survive an election were they to precipitate one but I doubt it's no more than an outsider.

The really interesting point comes in a couple of years' time when Parliament is approaching the vote on the outcome of the negotiations. The Supreme Court's decision here is predicated on the common acceptance that once invoked Article 50 is irreversible. But what happens if the outcome is sufficiently forbidding - and a substantial number of jobs have migrated overseas in anticipation - that Parliament actually votes against at that point?

Doctor Syntax Silver badge

"The court has merely said that parliament must be 'consulted', it does NOT say any vote in parliament can stop leaving."

No it has not. It has said the exact opposite. You can read the judgement in full at https://www.supremecourt.uk/cases/uksc-2016-0196.html but if you wish I can save you the effort. The relevant paragraph is number 24 on p 39 (of 97; after a long analysis of the constituational history, the relevant legislation and the legal arguments and followed by an analysis of the issues raised by the devolved governments and the minority dissenting opinions).

"Thus, the referendum of 2016 did not change the law in a way which would

allow ministers to withdraw the United Kingdom from the European Union without

legislation. But that in no way means that it is devoid of effect. It means that, unless

and until acted on by Parliament, its force is political rather than legal. It has already

shown itself to be of great political significance."

Consultation is not enough. There must be legislation. And it must be before the triggering of Article 50 as it is common ground of both parties that once invoked Article 50 cannot be stopped (para 60 on p9 if you want to check).

It beggars belief that the Leavers are so fixed in ignoring anything whatsoever which contradicts their view of the world. It does not augur well for the future when one considers that this is the quality of knowledge and thinking which has driven their votes.

Doctor Syntax Silver badge

Re: Worst of both worlds

"What then, does the PM keep forcing re-votes until she gets her way?"

I think a fail at this stage would be counted as a confidence vote which would mean a general election. Given that Labour are in no shape to fight one I doubt they'll rock the boat so it'll go through.

Oh, the things Vim could teach Silicon Valley's code slingers

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Re: Stability is for losers...*

"Elm sounds cool though, but how do I connect it to anything."

It's so long ago....IIRC we simply used it to read mail already deposited in the user's mailbox (~user/.mail ?, /usr/spool/mail/user ? can't remember). That could be either external mail coming in via ?sendmail (shudder) or generated internally through scripts piping to mail(1). There was a lot of the latter from the overnight batch. Outbound mail from it, IIRC, just worked but the whole set-up was configured before I came onboard and as it wasn't broken....

http://www.skrenta.com/rt/man/elm.1.html indicates that there is plenty documentation to help you.

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Re: Comparing a text editor to a web browser is a nonsense

"But I started to use an IDE thirty years ago and never looked back."

For a lot of development tasks I'd agree with you. But if you need to hack text data files there's no IDE, a good text editor is what you need and vi is a good text editor.

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Re: Of course releases are slow..

"This 'if' statement was written 20 years ago, the bits must be starting to flake apart by now"

It's all the iterations round loops. The bearings wear out.

Doctor Syntax Silver badge

"Vim's biggest rival, GNU Emacs,"

No. Vim's real rival is the original vi. Many years ago I took my first look at vim. I often used vi to quickly doctor files from the MS world for use in Unix systems by removing the trailing CRs from line ends. One day I found myself using vim & discovered it had been configured to hide the CRs. If it could be configured to do that maybe it could be configured to hide other stuff? I felt it wasn't trustworthy. Since then I've avoided vim if vi (or nvi) is available.

In the light of the what the article says it's worth recalling a flame comment I once read in favour of vim based on how rarely vi was updated.

Penguins force-fed root: Cruel security flaw found in systemd v228

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Re: The Inevitable

"or until certain vendors wearing rouge chapeaus pull their heads out of their asses and send systemd packing."

But don't the rouge chapeaux wearers also have the one commercially supported non-systemd Linux still available as an alternative? They must have overlooked that.

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Re: Systemd

"Everybody know EMACS is an awful email client ;-)"

Isn't it? I thought it was everything else.

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Re: Systemd

"Pine - Pine Is Not Email"

I thought that was "Pine Is Not Elm"

How Lexmark's patent fight to crush an ink reseller will affect us all

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Re: Welcome to america

"We Johnny Foreigners can still still stick 2 fingers up at the companies and refill to our hearts content."

Quite so. What's that "affect us all" doing in the title? Clickbait?

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Re: "film making was extremely competitive"

"so no need for more formats"

I keep thinking I must get myself a 120 camera. I still have the printing frame somewhere & the grandkids should be taught that there are more forms of photography than just digital.

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I wonder how this plays with contract law in the countries in which the cartridges were sold.

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Re: Simple idea. I buy it. It's mine. Not yours.

"I'm amazed HP haven't joined them in the law suit."

They're probably still smarting from the backlash of their previous attempt. Give them a year or two to let people forget & they'll be back.

Doctor Syntax Silver badge

Re: We're still printing?


SWMBO has just left for the patchwork class she runs. She has taken with her 6 copies of class notes comprising 6 sides of A4 each. In addition there are 6 copies of today's pattern on flimsy paper. What did you expect her to do? Write them out by hand and add watercolour to the illustration on the title page?

We're not quitting the UK: Microsoft quashes Brexit fake news

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"That bright future will not be possible if we cannot transfer data into UK data centres," said Larter.

However, Larter said the government had made the right noises

DRIPA is the right noises? I'd hate to think what "wrong" might mean for him.

More likely it's is a veiled hint: "Smarten up or we're out of here.".

I don't care what your eyeballs tell you. Alternative fact is, we've locked up your files

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"There has to be another element to this type of fraud, some way in which the attackers cause the mark to believe that something actually happened"

If this happened when the great Windows 10 mugging was in progress that might have been enough. Alternatively they have a real virus which renames everything with a .crypto suffix.

Doctor Syntax Silver badge

Re: If I had to make an educated guess...

"Either that or the IT department was crap"

Or in another country, assuming it existed at all.

'It will go wrong. There's no question of time... on safety or security side'

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Re: @various

"Arguably doesn't even need a trustworthy compiler, certainly doesn't need a complex untestable unprovable compiler."

Unless the H/W executes Forth directly (in which case you simply push the problem down a level) it needs an interpreter. What's the interpreter written in and how's it compiled if it's in a higher level language?

However, if the code inspection reveals a hard-coded root password you can stop right there and throw the whole lot out.

Doctor Syntax Silver badge

Re: @sealand: common mode errors

"it can help to have very independent people writing the code"

Management really hate very independent people.

UK.gov still drowning in legacy tech because no one's boarding Blighty's £700m data centre Ark

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"Unfortunately, at some point it will break."

Why? Do the bearings wear out because of all the iterations of loops? Do they start out with a finite stack of branches to take at branch points and finally run out? Or does some unskilled maintainer, who shouldn't have been let near break it by trying to fix what wasn't broken?

Doctor Syntax Silver badge

Re: Legacy stuff isn't the problem.

There are several separate issues here.

One is that the system is currently earning money. Where's the pay for all those dev[op]s working on shiny new systems coming from? Probably from that despised legacy system.

Then there's the age of the system and its state. There are a couple of assumptions being made. One is that it's old and the second is that, simply because it's old it's ill-maintained. Neither is necessarily true.

For one thing there was an article on here a little while ago ( https://www.theregister.co.uk/2016/06/16/online_graze_in_reverse ) about one relatively new business deciding its whizzy web-based system no longer suits and has to be replaced. This isn't stuff conceived in COBOL on a 360 but it's still legacy.

It's also by no means certain that something that was first put together years ago hasn't been maintained properly in the interim. If it's running the main line of business there's every reason to make sure its fit for purpose. If it isn't then its maintainers haven't been doing their jobs right.

The problem with attitudes expressed here, and maybe with legacy systems if they're not well maintained is that new development is seen as important, challenging, rewarding and whatnot, able to adopt the latest buzz word methodologies of agile and devops. Maintenance is just maintenance and, if done right, involves serious thinking about how to graft new stuff in seamlessly and keep documentation up-to-date. Actually it can be more challenging and rewarding if done right but it's apt to be seen as somewhere where those least able to do it well get pushed out of the way. Which is exactly the wrong way to treat what's paying everyone's wages.

Doctor Syntax Silver badge


If you've got a difficult to manage installation what could add to your problems? Lifting it up and moving it elsewhere of course.

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Re: Legacy stuff isn't the problem.

"A well known company refers to anything that isn't their software as Legacy, can you guess who."

All of them.

Doctor Syntax Silver badge

Re: Legacy stuff isn't the problem.

"I think you'll find that under the current York Minster are the remains of 2 previous churches plus a roman building."

I think you make Jake's point. The only reason the earlier buildings are known is because the central crossing area was excavated to replace the foundations whilst leaving the building intact.

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Re: Legacy stuff isn't the problem.

"Yes, it's a church, not an abbey; nor is it a cathedral."

It was the church of an abbey. As were all the medieval cathedrals.

Biz claims it's reverse-engineered encrypted drone commands

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It sounds useful for keeping airport approaches drone free.

Boffins explain why it takes your Wi-Fi so long to connect

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Generalise much?

"The researchers collected their data from the WiFi Manager Android and iOS app."

So what they're telling us is they wrote a WiFi Manager app that doesn't work very well. Or am I reading it wrong?

Western Union coughs up $586m for turning a blind eye to fraudsters

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No real harm done

Nobody forced to pay back their bonuses or salaries, maybe they were even promoted. No jail time or anything really bad and the shareholders pay the fine.

Stallman's Free Software Foundation says we need a free phone OS

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Re: The problem with anything free and open...

"They care within their own tinnie tiny little communities - but they are the 1% and do not appeal to the other 99. Until they fix that literally nobody in the big wide world will even notice these projects exist."

OK, I get that you're running Windows. It's also clear that you're connecting that to the net. Now go and find the little box that sits between your nice Windows PC and the net. Does that also run Windows? No? What does it run, tucked away in there? It'd guess you're probably running a fair bit of free S/W of one sort or another without even giving it any thought.

Doctor Syntax Silver badge

Re: Before we get a proper free phone OS.

"As to running things on your phone, a decent notebook PC will do that better, cheaper with the OS of your choice."

It does tend to require very baggy pockets.

GDS chap: UK.gov is better off on public cloud than its own purpose-built network

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He said the government is "on a journey away from the PSN".

Is it too much to hope for that in a few years time he'll cringe when he remembers saying that?

Make America, wait, what again? US Army may need foreign weapons to keep up

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Fake news!

"German-made 60 Fuchs NBC reconnaissance vehicles, which it rebranded XM-93 Fox"

With a name like XM-93 Fox surely it must be an all-American vehicle. This is just more fake news put about by our enemies - rant - ramble - rant -

Government to sling extra £4.7bn at R&D in bid to Brexit-proof Britain

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Re: This

"Your ROI comes *after* the product is developed when it is marketed and sold."

This is the bit that HMG has traditionally failed to understand. They look in horror at what's been spent and abandon it just at the time they should be getting into production and reaping the rewards. Hence Mage's list of failures in an earlier comment.

Doctor Syntax Silver badge

"It will be underpinned by a new approach to government, ..."

Uh-oh... that usually means "we have no idea what we are doing currently".

I think it means "we're looking for it with both hands but so far haven't even been able to find our arse".

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