* Posts by Doctor Syntax

16426 posts • joined 16 Jun 2014

A pause in global warming? What pause?There was no pause

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Re: Bah!

I don't have a problem with the idea of climate change. Of course climate changes. It's the sort of thing where change is the only constant.

I do have a problem with the current fad for taking short term noise & trying to imply that a long term trend can be distinguished in it. If there is a long term trend to global warming it'll only become clear in the long term. And at that point it will become possible to make reasoned attempts to explain it.

I also have a problem with treating models as holy writ. A model is a form of hypothesis and needs to be tested against reality. Given the long term nature of climate such testing could take some time.

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Re: What we really need

If we don't lack terminology what term do we use to describe variations of temperature, precipitation, atmospheric & oceanic behaviour over the short periods up to a couple of centuries? If you want to call that "climate" what term do you use to describe the longer term variations on the scale of thousands of years?

Actually, I think we do have a good term for the shorter variations: "noise".

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What we really need

What happens over a period of a few hours & days is weather. Over a few months its a season. We can discuss these sensibly. We can even look back over a year & decide that it was wet or dry, warm or cold. What we lack is a terminology to describe longer periods, up to, say a century or two; the kinds of interval that get averaged out to plot real climatic change.

Google: Our self-driving cars would be tip-top if you meatheads didn’t crash into them

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Re: Assumptions

"If all the cars on the road were automated in the same way"

But would they be? Some would be on v1.0, some on 1.1, some on 2.0, some on SP1, some on SP2, some wouldn't have had the update applied for some reason...

So why the hell didn't quantitative easing produce HUGE inflation?

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Re: Tons of inflation

"The size of Mars bars these days is an absolute joke."

And Wagon Wheels ought to have been renamed Castors.

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"Why do you expect to be rewarded for piling gold coins into a vault, and having a dragon sit atop it?"

He didn't complain about not being rewarded for piling gold coins into a vault and having a dragon sit atop it. He complained about banks paying poor interest and banks operate in a very different way. Most of the money they are lent by savers they lend out again to people who need it for some purpose. Generally the people who need it are prepared to pay for the benefit they receive from the loan. This makes everyone happy to varying degrees. The original lenders get a return on their savings. The banks make a return because they lend at a higher rate than they borrowed and the eventual borrowers hopefully get whatever benefit they were aiming for (if they didn't then they won't be happy).

And at present it's not working like that. Due to interest rates being kept lower than inflation the lenders are being ripped off.

The gold coins in the vault arrangement works very differently. The gold price fluctuates and you make your money by buying the gold coins when it's low and selling when it's high, a little detail nobody seemed to have explained to our former chancellor when he sold our gold at the bottom of the market.

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Re: Tons of inflation

"Housing prices were rising long before QE and have been for years - so you can't blame QE for this."

I think the causality runs the other way round:

1. Elimination of housing costs from inflation measures used to determine interest rates.

2. Off-shoring a lot of production of items in the inflation indexes leading to very low values for those indexes.

3. Maintained low interest rates in view of the low apparent inflation.

4. Low interest mortgages lead to bigger and bigger price rises for housing as all the cheap money goes there.

5. LOTS of financial shenanigans to tap off as much of that home loan business as possible including selling loans to people who can't possibly afford them.

6. BIG liquidity crisis as soon as the people who couldn't afford the loans start to default.

7. QE to fix the liquidity crisis.

8. Low interest rates due to QE fixing the liquidity crisis ultimately caused by too long a period of low interest rates in the first place.

If long continued overly low interest rates were the original problem it's difficult to see how continuing unduly low interest rates for a long time is going to solve it.

Doctor Syntax Silver badge

"Late this year, early next is the conventional wisdom here."

Yes it's been the conventional wisdom for several values of "this" & "next" now. It hasn't happened. Does this suggest that there might be a problem with the theory?

There's certainly a problem with the effect which is that although inflation might be low, when interest rates are lower savings lose their value. It's the unspoken intent, of course. For one thing it encourages people to spend instead of save and for another it's the loss of value of savings that makes the debt less burdensome in the future.

But people have savings for a reason: it's money they think they'll need in the future. So at some point in the future we discover that we haven't got the savings we need & there's damn all we can do about it. I think economists, instead of reading more & more papers & books about economics, should go and read TMMM, especially that bit about the tar pit. Because that description about pulling one paw out only to get another stuck more firmly seems to describe exactly what economic manipulation is doing: solving immediate problems at the expense of more problems which aren't immediately obvious.

Oh, shoppin’ HELL: I’m in the supermarket of the DAMNED

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This week both the machines & the checkout operators at B&Q were causing problems

Four items - I should have known that was one too many for the automated checkout. It refused to accept the last item was the right weight although it had accepted one previously.

Grab the items & go to one of only two manual tills in operation (since last time I was there they've replaced all the manual tills with new ones but still never seem to have more than one or two operators).

Despite the lengthening queues the operator, instead of checking stuff through & collecting money PDQ, is trying to get everyone to get one of the new loyalty (sic) cards. I complained. As I got to pay someone who was collecting cash from the tills (including the ones without operators!) got to mine. The operator put them off saying snarkily "this man's in a hurry". So I told her yes, I had to get away to go elsewhere to get the stuff they were out of stock of.

Two things that really annoyed me about this: way back my wife was in the initial staff of this store and at that time it was well staffed and well managed; and nearly as far back, I had a gig setting up the S/W for their allegedly super-duper distribution set-up - so how come they can't use it to keep stuff in stock?

Doctor Syntax Silver badge

Re: I just go to the tills

'Do you need help bagging?'

No, just with opening the bags which have been made out of material so thin that the van der Waals force is holding them firmly closed.

BOFH: Step into my office. Now take a deep breath

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In my first venture from the world of science into IT the shop was mostly VAX/VMS. The machine room was occupied by two operators sitting side by side watching two terminals. The terminals were displaying apparently identical streams of VMS messages. Both operators were called Simon. Looking back, that seems scary.

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Re: Looking back isn't that bad...

"Oh, the platters were 14 inches across as well."

Those were only the exchangeable disks. When the University's 1907 got a fixed disk it had a building all of its own. I always envisaged it as something Brunel might have built.

Ed Snowden should be pardoned, thunders Amnesty Int'l

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Re: What he did.

"stole information"


When will they ever learn? Stealing is permanently depriving someone of something. The NSA still have the information. If he deprived them of anything it was their veil of secrecy.

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Re: He's a traitor

"Lock the traitor up and throw away the key. Two wrongs don't make a right."

I take it that you're also arguing for all those responsible for the wrongs he exposed to be locked up as well. But maybe you accidentally clicked "submit" before your typed that bit.

Doctor Syntax Silver badge

"And who gets to decide which laws are unjust?"

AIUI it was a matter of him seeing just laws being broken.

If you saw a few guys drive some earth moving machinery up to a hole-in-the-wall ATM and use it to separate the ATM from the hole, dump the ATM in a truck which they then drove off at high speed would you a) report a possible theft of the ATM or b) decide you were some low-level guy who probably didn't have the big picture & do nothing?

UK NHS IT supplier CSC coughs up $190m fine, three execs in the dock

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Being banned from practising accountancy shouldn't be a problem. It doesn't look as if they need any more practice, they're pretty good at it already.

Spaniard sues eBay over right to sell the Sun

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Was she planning to post it or was it buyer collect?

New US bill aims to zap patent trolls with transparency demands

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"Another should be that the plaintiff should only be allowed to sue if the patent they possess is in active use by them or by a contracted designee (like a licensee)."

But if the inventor has a good patent and is trying but has not yet succeeded in finding a licensee then it's a free-for-all for anyone else to start exploiting the invention as neither of your conditions has been met.

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Re: Or...

"It's in their best interest to consider and award as many patents as possible."

Make them liable for the bad patents. That would change their interests.

Freeparking web hosting services go TITSUP after migration

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Re: Not surprised but there's a silver lining

"the chances of that happening are actually pretty small."

They're probably getting smaller now!

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Re: Not surprised but there's a silver lining

Even if the second domain migrates away the uncleared data is still there. In fact there might now be uncleared data from two domains. What happens if a user of some other domain hosted there tries to email either of these domains? Good housekeeping should have removed the data when the domain expired or was moved.

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Not surprised but there's a silver lining

I'd had enough & left them before they announced this migration. Frankly, I'm not surprised. But at least it's stopped them spamming me about renewing a domain they no longer manage.

One worrying aspect about their service turned up during my migration. I'd allowed as testing domain to lapse & set it up elsewhere. That was the first to be transferred to my new provider. Attempts to send email to it from the domain they still hosted were bounced by them and raising tickets had no effect. Emailing from anywhere else still worked. Clearly having once had the domain they seem disinclined to accept anybody else can host it. It seems to be of a piece with their spamming. The worrying aspect was that if this was SOP for them any current customer wouldn't be able to email any ex-customer. Possibly, just possibly, they'll have failed to migrate all this old baggage.

Fire, flood and vomit: Defeating the Great White Whale of Fail

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Whatever happened to DR services? Instead of having spare premises of your own you paid an annual contract to a company that had such premises to be used by their customers as required. The last few places I worked were warehousing & manufacturing so that sort of thing wasn't really feasible. But for offices it ought to be cheaper than having your own DR suite. Plus the service company should be experts in setting up the premises for a customer so that takes some of the load off the BC team.

For the warehouse business & for previous jobs we had DR contracts for IT which entitled us to annual tests. The first test, & maybe the second, can teach a lot about how your backups are organised (i.e. if the system backup tapes had been organised better we could have started the database recovery much sooner).

Bin bods Brabantia breached, customer passwords trashed

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Compared to that US agency which only knew they'd been hacked sometime before April to detect this within 24 hours looks almost good. But it still shouldn't have happened.

HMRC ditches Microsoft for Google, sends data offshore

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Following the link in the article I came on this statement: "Careful legal and security assessments were conducted to establish whether the services were suitable for use at the official security classification in government."

So who would pass them as suitable for security classifications. Read further and all is revealed: "We are operating a “yes-first” approach to open internet tools. This follows guidance from GDS on using these tools to help Civil Servants to be more productive. Web access is open to most services, and blocked where there is an established threat rather than by default. On devices (laptops, phones, tablets) we provide a basic checking service before making apps available for users to install. This makes sure that the applications are trusted, compliant and have an appropriate level of security for use at OFFICIAL.

Applications our users are actively using include Evernote, Trello, Workflowy, Twitter, Eventbrite and many more."

GDS. That explains it all.

Kaspersky says air-gap industrial systems: why not baby monitors, too?

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Re: It is not for the user to do

True, but if you secured it in the first place you wouldn't be able to see what the idiots are doing.

The USB Lego, bluetooth coffee cups and connected cats of Computex 2015

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Re: Hmm...

Real Cat often referred to as the-thing-that-keeps-crapping-all-over-my-garden-instead-of-its-owners'.

Hackers steal files on 4 million US govt workers

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They don't seem to know when the breach happened, just that it was before April so the monitoring may be a lot too late. Also, if this agency was responsible for recruiting then they may well have lost data on unsuccessful applicants, not just current & former employees; that doesn't seem to be being addressed at all.

Couple sues estate agent who sold them her mum's snake-infested house

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Re: I'm sensing...

No, but the Ozzies will be along to point out that they have wildlife that'll kill you just by looking at you.

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Re: Inspections dont work in the UK

I had 3 valuations done, mostly for insurance, when we inherited this house from my mother. One of them commented on an Artex ceiling, clearly not having seen the lines running across it every 2' or realised that they were the joins between the textured wall-paper. He also commented on the polystyrene tiles in the porch; clearly he hadn't come across the high quality mineral fibre tiles before. (No, mineral != asbestos. I know where the asbestos is, it's in the soffits sealed by plenty layers of paint & I'm not going to disturb it.)

One of them gave conspicuously lower valuations then the others. I'm sure they'd have been delighted to have put it on the market for me. I think it would have been sold very quickly & reappeared at a higher price but with half the garden separated off as a building plot. But back in those days estate agents occupied the place in public esteem now held by bankers.

Elon Musk's $4.9bn taxpayer windfall revealed

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Re: Comparing with a 'competitive' project

"assuming they are charged by electricity from a renewable source"

Aye, there's the rub!

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Re: how capitalism is supposed to work??@ PghMike

"You must be new round here."

That's what I thought. Remarkably, he isn't.

Second-hand IT alliance forms to combat 'bully' vendors

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If there isn't a second hand market for your particular brand your product will depreciate more quickly. Eventually your customers' bean-counters will notice and try to steer purchasing to buy kit that holds its value.

Mass break-in: researchers catch 22 more routers for the SOHOpeless list

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So far, so good

So far ISP-provided router hasn't appeared on any of these lists. But is that just because nobody's looked at it. However it doesn't seem to have any external ports open as far as I can see.

SourceForge sorry for adware, promises only opt-in in future

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Given that Gimp is GNU I wonder if they provided the source for the addons.

Holy SSH-it! Microsoft promises secure logins for Windows PowerShell

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Re: troll troll troll

@ Dennis Mathews

Have you ever wondered what the Xenix documentation was based on? Or Xenix itself? You do realise, don't you, that the Linux userland is GNU? And have you ever wondered what the U in GNU stands for?

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Re: troll troll troll

"Contrast this to MacOS X which puts them under /Volumes, or Linux where the modern convention is /media."

And meanwhile /mnt just sits there, unused.

GCHQ gros fromage stays schtum on Snowden and snooping

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"the balance between security and privacy is a matter for debate in parliament"

That sounds like a recipe for ending up with neither.

My life under Estonia's digital government

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Re: the previous posts

"All of this is possible, what it takes is political vision and the will to follow it through. Having a proper understanding of delivering public IT systems and being able to properly run procurement and contracts would help as well. Sadly successive UK governments seem to be unable to do any of these things."

Did the Estonian govt do this in house or farm it out? Farming it out here would involve the usual suspects whilst doing it in house would bring on panic attacks due to having to recruit people who know what they're doing.

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Re: how well does it scale up?

"Erase and start from scratch?"

Isn't that what's happening - badly?

Nosy Brit cops demand access to comms data EVERY TWO MINUTES

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Re: something isn't right...

I think the previous A/C post has dealt with the numbers to a large extent.

As to your point about there being plenty of criminals about; until someone comes to police notice they can operate undetected for a long time. Perhaps that should be some reassurance to us that surveillance isn't all-seeing, or at least all-understanding. But that doesn't justify lack of due process.

Doctor Syntax Silver badge

Re: Have you really checked the numbers?


I gather from your explanation that you have experience at the sharp end and you may well be correct that this is not excessive.

However my view, and I'm sure many here share it, is that as things stand there is no due process in place that corresponds to a search warrant. In fact, it's worse; with a search warrant, unless the premises are unoccupied, the suspect parties will be aware of the action and could even challenge the warrant, is only in retrospect. Although some queries will be made in respect of a seized phone in many (?most) the subject will be unaware.

I think two things are needed to ensure that this is done right.

The first is that authorisation be taken out of the hands of a senior officer or minister - I cannot be persuaded that this is due process. It should be done by a disinterested party such as a magistrate or judge on the basis of reasonable suspicion.

Secondly there should be an oversight authority to review the results. Each investigation should, after a suitable interval, report the proportion of the requests which resulted in significant information. Investigations yielding an unexpectedly high proportion of negative results should be required to explanation by the investigation team. The authority should be responsible for publishing an annual report summarising this and providing more detailed feedback to the individuals who authorised the original requests - in part this would be to discourage regulatory capture.

A proper review process would require much more detailed information from the Police. For instance in the report referenced in the article only one force, Humberside IIRC, provided a breakdown of the types of crime suspected. One category was traffic offences. I'm guessing these would be suspected texting whilst driving or the like. If requests are made on the basis of reasonable suspicion, say a report that someone was seen doing this, one would expect a high proportion of the requests would produce evidence to support the suspicion - but not 100%. Sometimes the suspicion would be reasonable but mistaken and the result of the request would be to clear the suspect. Clearing an innocent person is as important a result as providing evidence of guilt in a criminal investigation. If, however, a force were to produce a lot of negatives in such a category the oversight authority would have to look at the possibility that the traffic officers were conducting fishing trips whilst the same level of negatives in a serious crime investigation might not be out of the way and investigation of seized, suspected stolen, mobiles would have yet a different expected level of negatives.

Doctor Syntax Silver badge

Re: Have you really checked the numbers?

"Suddenly 700k requests in 3 years starts to sound not so many...this is not casting a net far and wide, but does 3,000 active investigations per year sound that unreasonable in a country of 60 million people?"

It's not clear whether the 700k are requests, including repeats, for single phones as you assume. Looking at the PDF the table for rejections has a footnote against Cheshire Constabulary that the units reported are batches which may contain up to 40 phones. If this is the basis of some of the other reports but not documented as such then the effective number of requests could be much higher.

Doctor Syntax Silver badge

Re: Help me out here

Happy to help. Two words: "due process". It's the difference between living in a liberal democracy and living in a police state. We're just about to celebrate the 800th anniversary of its being part of English law. It seems that the way chosen to celebrate that is to remove it.

Re ignorant & clueless. I spent many years dealing with terrorism in N Ireland in the 70s & 80s. What are your qualifications in this?

Windows 10 upgrade ADWARE forces its way on to Windows 7 and 8.1

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Re: I'm confused

1997? That's far from being "back in the day". It's you who's not old enough.

Chlorine gas horror leak at Apple data center puts five in hospital

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...yes, that's green.

Mine's the one with assorted halogens in the pocket.

Bank: Without software mojo, Android OEMs are doomed to 'implode'

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User experience

"User experience" is usually marketing's term to describe their latest degraded user interface. In the case of consumer kit it usually means adding bloatware or worse. So why is this bloke talking about Samsung neglecting it as if that's a bad thing?

Phished IT bod opens door to 40,000 finance folks' personal details

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"The body is advising members to get in touch if they receive anything suspicious"

"We have a very experienced member of our IT staff to handle these queries."

Bundestag hack origin still a mystery as DE.gov techies pull out their hair

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Sauce for the goose.

It's FREE WINDOWS 10 time: 29 July is D-Day, yells Microsoft

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You can download the Insider test version now to try. So far it still hasn't been able to find my printer.

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