* Posts by martinusher

550 posts • joined 24 Feb 2015

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America's top maker of cop body cameras says facial-recog AI isn't safe

martinusher
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Its the legal implications.

Making a body camera is a trivial exercise these days. Making a system that can collect evidence quality video and audio, manging it through a chain of custody, is a whole different game. These companies sell systems, its how they can justify selling the individual units for silly prices.

They're also aware of the legal implications of getting things wrong. No facial recognition system is going to be 100% perfect so it will make mistakes and those mistakes could cause legal blowback, including a liability issue for the manufacturer. Hence the need to be super-cautious. However, in real life these systems only need to work as well as, or preferably somewhat better than, human recognition to be useful because they're not going to be used instead of humans but as an assistant.

There's a lot more to this technology than just matching a face to a name. If you arrive at Los Angeles airport at the international terminal and you're a US passport holder you'll be processed automatically by a kiosk. Image processing is also being used to identify people who are acting oddly or looking stressed (or rather "more stressed than normal"). This stuff is intrusive, is potentially a civil liberties killer but then its really only ANPR for people and everyone in the UK's been living with ANPR and its consequences for years, haven't they?

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ZX Spectrum Vega+ blows a FUSE: It runs open-source emulator

martinusher
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Taught a generation to program.....

....badly.

We're still living with the fallout.

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Greybeard greebos do runner from care home to attend world's largest heavy metal fest Wacken

martinusher
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About this graybeard greebos thing

So what's unusual about a couple of old geezers wanting to go to a heavy metal festival? The genre started about 50 years ago with bands like Deep Purple. That puts many fans into their 70s.

What's particularly horrible about this story is the patronizing attitude of everyone involved. Apparently senior housing -- "the olds folks' home" -- isn't just convenient living for older people, its a sort of council run Death Row where the condemned wait out their days until its their time. There's no question of escape (and as for finding them 'dazed and confused at 3am' I'd be rather surprised or even a bit worried if they weren't -- that's the whole idea behind going to one of those gigs).

This attitude appears everywhere, especially with 'technology'. People in their 60s and 70s include people who pioneered a lot of modern technology but you'd never believe it to read the kind of crap you come across in the media. Even people in their 80s aren't that out of touch; they may be starting to slow down (you do.....just wait....), their formative years (and unfortunately their politics) may be the 1950s but many of them are not in the slightest bit stupid. Or senile.

Anyway, its a timely warning to older people to keep away from these charnel houses and beware of one's children "who know what's best for one".

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Arm reckons its 'any device, any data, any cloud' IoT tech has legs

martinusher
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Re: Nope

Its the 'vast infrastructure' thing that doesn't make any sense to me. I've been connecting 'things' together for most of my working life and I don't see what engineering advantage you'd get from putting everything on a giant network of peer nodes. I'd guess that this is primarily a Marketing driven technology, something that's driven more by the promise of income streams than the solution of everyday problems.

FWIW, I do a 'layered' approach where information in aggregated and refined as it flows towards more intelligent nodes. It evolved because of technical limitations, typically the outlying nodes are pretty dumb and one needs to conserve network bandwidth. I know this tends to contradict the model that says that processing, memory and bandwidth are infinite resources to be used at will but there's this little problem of scaling....

(As an exercise we might want to ponder about how we'd collect detailed network traffic information from widely scattered nodes on the Internet without that network traffic information dominating the traffic statistics.)

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Sitting pretty in IPv4 land? Look, you're gonna have to talk to IPv6 at some stage

martinusher
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IPX???

If you want to host IPX traffic over TCP/IP you just wrap it in a UDP packet.

Compatibility is really just an expression of will and attitude. Its true that IPv4 and IPv6 don't communicate directly but there is an IP version number field at the start of the IP header which identifies which one you're using. This enables the stack to route the traffic to the appropriate IP layer where it will get unwrapped and presented to the same -- note, the *same* -- upper layers.

Life is complex enough without Marketing types spreading thick layers of FUD around. The move to IPv6 has been slow because its clunky, especially if it incorporates source routing fields in the frames. For those of us working with smaller scale localized networks (that use -- Gasp! -- NAT) IPv4 works just fine and has the advantage that our local devices stay local, they can't be addressed by the greater Internet without the say so of the edge router. (....I'm old school, I like my networks, like by protocols, layered.....) So let's just use IPv6 where its appropriate.

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You want to know which is the best smartphone this season? Tbh, it's tricky to tell 'em apart

martinusher
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We have a problem.....

The recent interim report prepared by a Select Committee of the Digital, Media, Culture and Sport had a number of important pieces of information in it but none more the statistics that Facebook has about the same number of users as Christianity adherents, Twitter is trailing a bit with only the same number as Islam and that users check their phones about once every six and a half minutes on average. (Which, given the number of people that don't......heavy stuff....).

There's such a thing as an 'adequate' phone; I bought one recently via Amazon that cost $130 or so that had a decent amount of memory and processing speed plus a usable screen (...and it works quite well as a phone). Its cheap enough to be not a great loss if it gets broken or stolen so its not worth paying insurance and it doesn't need finance.....

Obsessions with phones and social media are killing us (or at least turning us into sheep). (Again, read the report....its important.....). And, as anyone who's lived with an Echo or the Google equivalent will tell you, its also a pretty naff way to interact with a portable interface. (I'm also getting increasingly fed up with younger women who still think they can interact with their phones and drive --- had another one this morning, can't imagine what's so important on their feed that they just have to read their feed *right now*.)

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Prof claims Lyft did a hit-and-run on his ride-sharing tech patent

martinusher
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Re: Also Known as ....

>But with a mobile phone. And with GPS. Just like "with a computer".

A mobile phone is nothing special, its just a radio phone with vastly improved technology compared to the stuff available before about 2000. (Before about 2000 most phones were still analog, even cellphones.) As for GPS, it was available in the late 90s but it wasn't really practical for consumer navigation, it needed to be made a lot more sensitive, a lot more reliable, to use a lot less power and be integrated with a mapping platform.

A lot of these patents should never see the light of day because they're "obvious". The trick, as someone has already pointed out, is in a practical realization of the concept. Unfortunately around this time the USPTO changed its rules to allow anyone to patent practically anything -- you remember those dumb software patents? -- and this would have been one of those sorts.

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martinusher
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Also Known as ....

Dial-a-Ride, the mainstay of senior transport in surburban USA for decades. (The "dial" bit is the giveaway -- its that old so the comms might have been electromechanical....but its still comms....)

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Rights group launches legal challenge over London cops' use of facial recognition tech

martinusher
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You know deep in your heart that the problem is that this stuff might work....

Think of it as ANPR for humans....and you all know what ANPR can be used for...

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I predict a riot: Amazon UK chief foresees 'civil unrest' for no-deal Brexit

martinusher
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Re: eh?

>Why on earth should any of that happen?

I don't expect food and fuel to get scarce but they might get rather more expensive (which for many people is effectively the same thing).

The reason why this might happen is that the supply lines will get constricted as Customs get re-established but without the proper infrastructure to implement those Customs. The government could help out here by declaring the UK a free-trade (customs-free) zone but there would still be a bit of a bottleneck for goods leaving the country.

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Windows 10 IoT Core Services unleashed to public preview

martinusher
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0.30 doesn't sound much....

...until you remember its 'per device' and 'per month'.

The IoT enthusiasts just don't get it. Embedded devices have firmware to mechanize them and they expose external interfaces to monitor and control them. A well crafted -- and tested -- device should be "turn it on and leave it for the rest of its life". You do not want to suffer the performance and compatibility issues that plague user products like PCs. You may have to update the firmware if there is a weakness in an external interface but otherwise the unit needs to be left alone.

But then there's no money in making 'things', its all about 'subscriptions' -- the rentier mindset.

(Also, note that the reason why SCADA products are proving to be so unsafe is that manufacturers insisted on building them on Windows -- a triumph of Marketing over Engineering.)

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People hate hot-desking. Google thinks they’ll love hot-Chromebooking

martinusher
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What's so unusual about this?

A decade or two ago I found myself as an accidental Intel employee for a couple of years. (The company I was working for got bought and it took Intel a couple of years to close it down, hence 'accidental'.) During that time I had to go to Israel for a week to help with testing something. There were a few spare cubes and machines there; I go to one, login with my credentials and everything comes up as if I were back in California. There were a few subtle differences -- printing got sent to a local device and I couldn't directly access my local hard drive but otherwise the experience was seamless. Just as it should be.

I'm a developer so I'm not a great fan of working out the cloud -- too slow -- but Rule #1 is that you never leave critical files on your local machine. Anything could happen. So moving from machine to machine shouldn't be an issue, especially if you are cloud/server based.

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Trump wants to work with Russia on infosec. Security experts: lol no

martinusher
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Re: Tee hee. Trump is to Putin as --

>new Ribentrof/Molotov agreement,

Read some history, pal. You'll find that the Russians spent a lot of time and effort trying to build up an alliance against Nazi Germany but were thwarted at every turn. Their foreign minister resigned, was replaced by Molotov and the Germans, who were very hot to get it done to meet their September deadline, were hot to conclude that a non-aggression pact so they could invade the West without worrying about the Red Army sweeping in from the East. (They need not have worried anyway; as it turned out the Winter Wars between Russian and Finland exposed systemic weaknesses in the Red Army which the German planners were able to exploit.)

But who needs facts when a lifetime of propaganda teaches you everything you need to know.

(It also might be a good idea to quickly look up what the Crimea is and how it relates to the rest of Russia.)

(BTW -- I'm don't work for the Kremlin. I'm American and I doubt they could afford me.)

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Russia's national vulnerability database is a bit like the Soviet Union – sparse and slow

martinusher
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They probably use the American one

These databases are used by everyone so I'd guess that the Russians primary reference is the American database with the Russian one being more of an Appendix.

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What's in a name? For Cambridge Analytica, about a quid apparently

martinusher
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It was a disposable name, anyway

I thought that the whole idea of these companies is that they were like a shell to a mollusk -- once the shell was compromised the creature inside just slunk off and grew a new one. The trick is to find suitable names for the shells, names that don't convey any information and so are easily forgettable.

Now, the real question is what's inside that shell -- mollusk or Dalek?

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Y'know... Publishing tech specs may be fair use, says appeals court

martinusher
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Re: Ok, put it another way...

>Who will ensure these standards are kept current if no one will pay for them?

That's what you've got a "government" for. The purpose of the government is to lay down standards and enforce them. What's supposed to happen is that legislators decide the framework for laws ("we need standards to prevent ships from blowing up harbors") and the appropriate civil service department then organizes the standards, often coordinating with industry groups. Governments use international relations to negotiate treaties which can include determining international standards or reciprocal recognition of standards.

I know its fashionable these days to slag off 'government' and, especially if there's money to be made, to privatize its functions but the reality is that everyone needs it. Just take an everyday example of using and airliner to go from England to, say, the USA. Before ICAO organized all the international treaties and standards every international flight had to be licensed by the appropriate governments. There was no standards for aircraft design and testing, pilot training, flying practice, airport design -- nothing. Getting this organized took a lot of work. Since it does work everyone now takes it for granted ("so what do we need government for? Its just a waste of money...." Sounds familiar?)

What's likely to happen is that the price of legislation is going to be limited to the actual costs of publishing it.

BTW -- I resent the appellation "Freetards". Nothing is free, not even lunch.

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Up in arms! Arm kills off its anti-RISC-V smear site after own staff revolt

martinusher
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Re: It bears repeating: Building a CPU that runs C fast considered harmful.

Back in the 70s one of the goals of processor designs would be to build instruction sets that would translate directly from high level language constructs. If you want to see what an advanced 1970s machine architecture looks like then try the ICL 2900 series processors. The problem with these architectures was that the real world mix of instructions tended to be mostly loads and stores with a handful of more specialized instructions so architectures were trending towards the RISC pattern anyway.

As for 'C' being a low level language -- it is. Its what used to be known as a Systems Programming Language, a glorified assembler. Its intended use is to write system components and languages and should never have been used for applications. It ended up as a general purpose language because of the way that mass computing evolved in the 1980. (....and yes, since you're asking, people do have to write assembler type stuff, you need it to start and run the processor(s) and other hardware subsystems.)

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When Google's robots give your business the death sentence – who you gonna call?

martinusher
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Yet another example of social entropy.

We live in an age of technological marvels -- everything is super sophisticated, ultra-capable, feature rich &tc, &tc,

Too bad that in our rush to get better, faster, cheaper and more of everything we seem to have lost sight of 'works'. Like the death of a thousand cuts you can't really cite one single instance of things falling apart but if you look at the big picture -- VoIP phones that are appallingly unreliable compared to the old-fashioned wired phones, cellphones that don't work everywhere, applications that hog inordinate amounts of memory and processor resources and are often reliant on low latency local storage or network responses to work effectively -- the list is endless. This cloud debacle is just another example; it replaces local storage -- a single point of failure -- with a system with numerous points of failure....and there's nobody around to fix it or even monitor it for problems.

It wouldn't hurt to pull back a bit, tell Marketing to take a holiday (or hike) and just focus on getting things to work 100%. Users don't need the latest and greatest, a raft load of new features which are guaranteed to improve productivity (and will probably never use), first and foremost they need the stuff to work. Predictably, reliably, through both natural and man made disasters.

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Microsoft CEO wades into ICE outcry: Cool it, we only do legacy mail

martinusher
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Re: Avoidance

>So you saying there isn't an occasion where these parents don't have a choice...

The fundamental issue is whether you're entering the US at a port of entry or just walking over the border. Walking over the border is against the law.

As for 'parents' the US has similar rules to the UK's -- you have to put the children's welfare first which typically means that you don't detain parents. The practice has been to parole them into the country pending an immigration hearing, which like their counterparts in the UK they often don't turn up for, they just disappear. Its really just another strategy for bypassing the system. Its the same with asylum -- the UK's has been awash with asylum seekers who typically use this device to get into the country, fail their application (because asylum isn't granted "just because you want it") and just disappear. The recent efforts to make life difficult for such people -- the efforts that seemed to hit everyone else except the people they were supposed to be targeting (e.g. Windrush, long term EU residents &tc.) -- doesn't alter the fundamental principle. Its easy to get lost in both the UK and the US which is why they're such an attractive target for informal migrants (neither country has an ID card system).

Anyway, CBP like any other arm of the Federal government has administrative tasks to perform that need the use of a computer.

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Pwned with '4 lines of code': Researchers warn SCADA systems are still hopelessly insecure

martinusher
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Re: SCADA systems running windows

Its worse than you think because a lot of the versions of Windows have been tweaked to include real time extensions. They don't upgrade.

A lot of major control environments are based on Windows. There's a lot of resistance to change and Microsoft works with the manufacturers to keep them happy, if not particularly safe. There's no easy solution except to put the "Mother of All Firewalls" between those systems and the Internet (if they really must go onto the net -- it should only be a VPN, though). A 802,.1x enabled switch will also help by locking any unknown devices off a network (it was originally developed for wired networks although we know it as a useful security addition for wireless).

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What's all the C Plus Fuss? Bjarne Stroustrup warns of dangerous future plans for his C++

martinusher
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Been there.....done that.....

Back in time there was a family of languages called Algol. They're the grandparents of the block structured language, its where you'd first find curly braces and semicolons. A very popular version was the 1960 model, Algol 60, which worked but had a few imperfections. These were fixed for the version Algol 68. It was a superb language with just one slight snag -- it was effectively unimplementable on the machines available at that time. Various implementations were made but most were panned as impure, not worthy or whatever.

C++ is in danger of going down the same rabbit hole -- if it isn't lost already. Its worse for us because at least all Algol sprung on us was a "Revised Report...", a well thought out theoretical document. C++ started off as an incremental improvement to a systems programming language (one that should never have been used to write user applications in), it gained wide currency because it just happened to be a useful shorthand for writing GUI applications in, it got widely taught and so it just morphed and morphed like the terror from some naff 50s sci-fi movie. Common sense, please -- some of us have do deal with the fallout from people who know all about how to write object oriented programs (but wouldn't necessarily know an object if they tripped over one...). This language has caused me so much grief over the years that if I'm in a position to make the decision I'll ban it (embedded programming and poor quality C++ are a particularly noxious combination!).

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Trump's ZTE deal challenged by Senate

martinusher
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Counterproductive

America has been chucking its weight around by trying to control what technology goes where for many decades now. Every time I've come across this its resulted in a loss of business for an American company -- people grudgingly accede to the US government's extra-territorial demands but invariably try to find a way to avoid problems in the future by avoiding American products and technology where possible.

We're now very close to a significant inflection point. Globalization has not only spread manufacturing over the world but also development. There are now relatively few technological choke points where the US government can hold others to ransom, and those are typically not because of technology itself but because of a combination of intellectual property rights and international standards. Just as encryption technology became 'not American' post DES (due primarily to the attempted stranglehold the US attempted to impose on long keyword DES) other technologies are likely to follow suit, if they haven't done so already. The US will continue to be big and powerful but will gradually become a bit of a technological backwater....and there are signs that this is already happening.

Those legislators are fortunately old and so will get replaced soon. While there's no guarantee that we'll get more enlightened representatives in the future (on past form -- doubtful) there's at least a bit of a chance that they won't be so steeped in a 1950's 'merkan mindset that they might at least understand technology. (To give Trump his due on this one -- much as I hate to -- he probably recognizes that killing off ZTE is likely to incite a lot of global blowback -- and it probably won't even kill ZTE because somehow the company will just open up under another name.)(He's a bit of an expert with that sort of thing.)

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New York State is trying to ban 'deepfakes' and Hollywood isn't happy

martinusher
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Re: Fitting justice.

>Why not give the common person the same rights?

There's just too many of us. There's a statistical probability that any generic face will fit a particular person, alive or dead. Public figures like those you mention are relatively rare so they can get away with effectively copyrighting their personas.

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Russia appears to be 'live testing' cyber attacks – Former UK spy boss Robert Hannigan

martinusher
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Russia is obviously some kind of monolith....

Russia, like a lot of eastern Europe, contains a lot of over educated and under paid individuals, people who have access to computers and the Internet. As they say, "Idle hands make the Devil's workshop" - faced with opportunity to make money and a global environment of less than secure operating environments there's going to be a whole lot of hacking going on.

Whether this is sponsored by the Russian government is problematical. The Russian government does seem to be pragmatic as distinct from our own governments that appear to be driven by ideology so I wouldn't be surprised if they were aware of what was going on to a certain extent. I could even see them indulging in wholesale tool development like the NSA (except where is our Kaspersky? They were instrumental in uncovering a lot of the more obscure NSA exploits but somehow we don't have much information about similar exploits from Russia except in the form of over-generalized Cold War style rumblings from politicians).

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Microsoft will ‘lose developers for a generation’ if it stuffs up GitHub, says future CEO

martinusher
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Re: Trust of developers?

Bit of an oxymoron when talking about Microsoft, surely?

As an embedded developer I find that Microsoft provides nothing of relevance except a desktop platform that tends to be chronically unsuitable for serious development work but we get forced to use because corporate types deem it necessary. Their Office suite is ubiquitous but hardly essential. Their applications and their development environment work, more or less, but their low level (driver level) interfaces are poorly designed and tend to be erratic in operation (just running something simple like a serial port can be a bit of a challenge, USB is just off the chart ridiculous).

Still, I daresay it will go like SourceSafe. This started out life as an independent product and was bought by MSFT and integrated into their developer tools, bugs/flaws and all. Corporate liked it because it was ostensibly free; you as the user just needed to keep backups of the backup. Nothing ever got fixed or updated and eventually it just became irrelevant and they moved to their team whatever. I daresay Github will go the same route. Its not important because to many of us Microsoft is no longer relevant.

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Hmmm, we can already seize your stuff, so why can't we shoot down your drone, officials mull

martinusher
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Re: I call bollocks

There's probably a significant amount of drugs being smuggled into the US but I suspect the estimates are seriously overblown. My guess is based on what happened after marijuana became legal on the West Coast. There were rosy predictions of massive amounts of money to be made by producers and tax authorities but what actually happened was that there was a crisis of overproduction in Oregon. In California its been a bit of a non-event -- those that smoke it continue to smoke it, those that don't do not.

Life would be so much easier without ill-informed legislators.

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Britain's new F-35s arrive in UK as US.gov auditor sounds reliability warning klaxon

martinusher
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Re: What will happen during a war?

The spare parts inventory software has already had a meltdown so you don't really need a war to get into this situation.

I think they they're an updated version of the German Panzer problem from WW2. The Germans designed some incredibly fine tanks, difficult to destroy, powerfully armed and so on. Unfortunately they over-improved them, resulting in fighting vehicles that were expensive to produce and difficult to mass produce. (They also had other problems like forgetting to make the things narrow enough to fit on railway freight cars.) There were never enough of them but there were always a lot of T-34s and as they say, the T34 only needs to get lucky once while the Panzer needed to get lucky 100% of the time.

Since the US defense sector is now a major component of the economy I daresay their real reason for existing is a form of tribute from vassal states.

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Oddly enough, when a Tesla accelerates at a barrier, someone dies: Autopilot report lands

martinusher
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You would have thought a software engineer would have known better

The Tesla autopilot is good but its nowhere near true autonomous driving. I'd trust it to keep me in a lane, following traffic on the freeway, just like other adaptive cruse control systems. I would not trust it to make correct course and speed choices at freeway off ramps. For those of you unfamiliar with California motorway exits, they're characterized by erratic signage, abrupt changes in direction, inconsistent lanes and often poor surfaces. You often find signs on them, yellow diamonds with "Watch for stationary traffic", which is Californiaese for "Blind corner with traffic backed up at a ramp signal ahead, sorry about the (lack of) sight lines". Anyone who comes off at speed without paying serious attention to what's going on is asking for trouble.

I could understand some non-technical person not appreciating the capabilities of the autopilot but I'd expect someone 'in the trade' to know a bit better.

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Chinese tech giant ZTE is back in business – plus or minus $1.4bn and its entire board

martinusher
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Re: Don't forget

>but it seems that the Donald method has better results than his predecessors'

I wish. This is just provided an incentive for China to stop putting any US IP into their products. Obviously they can't do this overnight so they'll play along but ultimately we will be the losers.

A lot of US trade policy is based on the myth that the world cannot operate without us. This may have been true as recently as a decade or less ago but its one of those situations where 'the world' agrees to this situation because its to everyone's mutual benefit. Once we start throwing our weight around, especially at the behest of politicians who are operating with mindsets that are 50 years out of date, we've provided plenty of incentive for people to ignore us.

...and to those who think that we're big enough that everyone has to play our game just ponder this. I was born in the l40s, back when the UK had an Empire, an industrial base and a huge navy and marine fleet. We were a force to be reckoned with. Contrast that with the UK of today, the land of Boris and May, of barely functioning military equipment, a weak manufacturing base (yes, you make stuff but its typically manufacturing plant for overseas companies)....the mighty fell because of the same kind of hubris that is undermining the US. We -- the US -- are bigger so it takes longer to fall, but fall we will unless we learn to work with others.

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Have to use SMB 1.0? Windows 10 April 2018 Update says NO

martinusher
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Age means nothing

SMB is a bit naff (and its actually well over 30 years old) but -- and this is a big BUT -- being an 'old' protocol doesn't necessarily make it a bad protocol.any more than being a 'modern' protocol makes something good. I've noticed a tendency for modern code and protocols to be both bulky and bandwidth hogs, attributes that open up all sorts of failure modes but in the general haze of inefficiency its just easy to point the finger at something else and claim that one's own work is perfect. Not true.

(Incidentally, 'pure' SMB is so old that it can't run on a routed network so its pretty difficult to abuse or hack. What most people see as SMB is a protocol running on UDP.)

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Internet engineers tear into United Nations' plan to move us all to IPv6

martinusher
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Re: Mapping plan

>IPv6 isn't a magic bullet, but it is designed to fix these routing issues that affect the core internet,...

I was under the impression that IP6 traffic was supposed to carry its routing information embedded in the packet headers. Is this correct? (I was never much of a fan of v6 because it assumed varying length packet headers which according to my upbringing is not a good idea, it makes routing messy.)

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You know that silly fear about Alexa recording everything and leaking it online? It just happened

martinusher
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You realize that you've got to enable this type of messaging?

I think we're definitely at the "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic" state (postulated by Arthur C Clarke). I work with software and communications, I've been doing so for decades, so I'm pretty much up to speed about how these devices work, their characteristics, imitations and so on. That doesn't mean that I'm totally gung-ho about them but at the same time I don't fear them -- they're just machines.

This is a site that caters for the technically literate. As workers in this field we should all have a basic understanding of the technologies and, equally as important, have regular contact with sales and marketing types who are typically the drivers when it comes to abusing a technology. Our job should be to educate the public, to get them to understand the what', whos and whys rather than going into Outer Limits mode.

(That said, I'm amazed at the number of people who are regular users of applications like Facebook, people who really should know better.)

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Hitler 'is dead' declares French prof who gazed at dictator's nashers

martinusher
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Somewhat irrelevant

Hitler would be about 120 years old so the odds are that he's now dead wherever he ended up.-- in a grave in Berlin, in South America or the Dark Side of the Moon, its of no importance.

What is important is that the forces that enabled Hitler are very much alive and well. They're unlikely to throw up another Hitler, especially in Germany, but that's because Hitler was just theater, a product of time and place, a convenient figurehead who could take the fall when and if that strain went south.

Individuals are expendable. Focus on the ideology, not the person.

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What's up with that ZX Spectrum reboot? Still no console

martinusher
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This is a trivial design...

It should be possible to fit the entire ZX Spectrum into an inexpensive FPGA -- there just isn't enough logic in a design that old to justify bothering with a full design. (Come to think of it, you could probably emulate the entire thing using a Raspberry Pi Zero, the only issues would be finding a suitably naff chiclet keyboard and a yogurt carton case to complete the illusion.) So the problem isn't technical, its the people involved thinking they've got hold of some ultimately hot IP that's going to set them up financially for life.

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Bowel down: Laxative brownies brought to colleague's leaving bash

martinusher
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Say nothing and you'll always be safe

It appears this person made two mistakes. One was telling someone that she was going to do this. The other was using an identifiable laxative when there are so many natural substances -- things you could innocently put in cakes and brownies -- that would do the same job.

Rule #1 when dealing with cops -- and the HR department -- is never admit to anything. Or even half admit something. Or even hint that what they're suggesting is true. They are not your friends; they might appear to be friendly because its a way of getting people to talk but they are never going to be on your side. The other suggested, obvious, rules are #2, don't put things in cakes you're making for others to eat and #3 if you do don't go blabbing on about it.

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Agile development exposed as techie superstition

martinusher
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I don't really get on with MarketingSpeak

The thing that's always grated about Agile technique is that it not only states the bleedin' obvious but tries to pretend that what its peddling is new and improved. Like all developers I need to work collaboratively to quickly produce working code that solves a problem or fulfills a need for a customer, its how we get paid. Regrettably, though, customers (at least the ones I work with) tend to also require maintainability which necessitates significant focus on tool chains, documentation and processes. The trick to successful work is finding a balance, knowing how to trade off actions even when they seem to conflict. Its a knack (and its why we get paid the big bucks). (You seriously don't think we get paid just to write code, do you?)

Taken literally, Agile development seems to be a bottom-up approach to design that follows the general rule of "Hose the code at the barn wall and see what sticks". I'm sure that's not what was intended by the Manifesto's author but that's how it seems to come out in practice.

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PGP and S/MIME decryptors can leak plaintext from emails, says infosec professor

martinusher
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If you use HTML in your mail messages then what do you expect?

Email that contains HTML might look pretty but it exposes you to all sorts of remote execution vulnerabilities. So anyone who values their computer uses plain text messaging. If there's something that just has to be displayed in a browser then the reference can be copied into a proper browser and examined -- on another machine if necessary.

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US Congress finally emits all 3,000 Russian 'troll' Facebook ads. Let's take a look at some

martinusher
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Re: The poor English reminds me of the 419 scam.

>Don't fix the candidates. Fix the system that filters out better ones.

There were at least 5 candidates for President on the ballot. Who got chosen to represent each party was a matter for that party. Each state party selected their candidate using either a Primary ballot or a caucas -- mostly a Primary election -- and the state's delegation went to national convention with a number of voting delegates based on the state's population.

Its not a perfect system but its better than many. Two obvious problems are money buying influence -- that's difficult to regulate -- and the obsolete Electoral College. We should also start using some kind of Proportional Representation for state, local and primary races because races can get crowded and so good candidates without serious financial backing get lost in the wash.

(Incidentally, you should get a look at the materials mailed to us by the state for the upcoming primary and the ballot cards. Its a major exercise poring through that lot; I'd guess nearly everyone doesn't bother. The ballot papers cover two large optical cards, A3 sized or larger that have selections on both sides. So this democracy thing isn't a matter of trying, it really needs tuning!)

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Microsoft programming chief to devs: Tell us where Windows hurt you

martinusher
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....and another thing

....all the 'serious' work that I do that's on a Windows desktop because of 'corporate IT policy' runs under Cygwin. That includes IDEs, build systems and compilers, FPGA generation and so on. The only native Windows application that gets run by (embedded) developers is Outlook.

There is MSFT applications development. It takes ages to get anything done and the result just keeps getting more and more bloated. (Its obviously 'feature rich' but I can't find any new ones.)

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martinusher
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Its pretty useless for a lot of jobs

Some years back I built some scripts in TCL to run tests on product firmware. This was a 'good thing', so much so that the company hired someone to do this full time. It was a Microsoft centric shop so the management set about doing this work properly, tasking this person to write (and re-write) this in C#. The result was useless because for the most part there was no library support for the interfaces that the product used -- the programmer was stuck with not writing code that was needed but writing code that he was able to write. (You just give our progress reports that omit this detail -- you can do a whole lot of productive work without producing anything.)

Fast forward a year or two and this fellow left. His replacement, someone that was hired apparently for their TCL expertise, was tasked to do all this work in another Microsoft friendly language, a version of Python ("Iron") that was played the .NET tune. A couple of years later things are puttering along but the person still isn't capable of doing the low level interfaces needed for in depth testing. (But they're productive....).

Playing to Microsoft's development environment is a disaster. Unless you're doing Office type stuff. I'm retired so I don't have to put up with this crap any more -- I'll do a bit of embedded, I'll use whatever platforms work, and I'll just let the whole MSFT bandwaggon roll off to wherever its going without me.

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Microsoft reckons devs would like an AI Clippy to help them write code

martinusher
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Kill! Kill!! Kill!!!!

One of the most irritating things you can have happen when programming is the editor helpfully adding braces and parentheses where it thinks you want them. Some of them even flag syntax errors as you type -- brilliant, except that typing generates syntax errors 'by definition', they'd rather slow down the process to a nice two finger speed and put little handy symbols up than just leave you alone to get your work done.

I have a theory that a lot of languages, especially scripting languages, came about because people couldn't type. They'd not only go to great lengths to avoid rewriting badly structured code (that first draft is always a bit iffy and sometimes you've just got to chuck it and redo from start) and they spend many hours devising languages that don't require semicolons (Python, I'm looking at you....). I can understand some of this when looked at from the PoV of really old editors -- I've only seen one person use 'vi' properly and it was a thing of wonder (the rest of us get by on a couple of commands and a cheat sheet) -- but modern text editors are straightforward, simple and robust. At least, they should be.

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Windows app makers told to think different – you're Microsoft 365 developers, now

martinusher
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Re: "Our mission is to make Windows the best dev box for you"

They screwed that one up as well. When Microsoft released Linux for Windows they didn't bother sorting out the filesystem so you couldn't transfer files between the Linux filesystems and Windows proper without risking corruption. You also got the Linux directory tree mixed in with Windows directories (or should I call them 'folders'?). To cap it all, you couldn't use scripts to start Windows applications. (Not just Bash -- TCL is important in my world.)

All this stuff you can do with Cygwin, of course. But I daresay MSFT had never bothered looking at it, preferring to just flail away making rookie mistakes.

Linux on Windows is important, BTW, because outside the rah/rah of the applications 'experience' there's a whole slew of actual work related applications that are really Linux tools but have to run on Windows boxes because of corporate policies.

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Microsoft's latest Windows 10 update downs Chrome, Cortana

martinusher
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If it aint broke don't fix it

Windows 7 works and is relatively stable. Windows 10 has been problematical and its regular updates are a bit of a nuisance -- you never know what's going to stop working. The solution is straightforward.

It would also be helpful if Microsoft didn't try to tie all their components together in one huge, festering, heap. It creates too many unforeseen inter-dependencies.

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Pentagon in uproar: 'China's lasers' make US pilots shake in Djibouti

martinusher
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The problem with spreading "Peace and Freedom" (TM)

We have all these 'facilities' in far flung corners of the world, places where many of the locals would nt necessarily welcome us and where the local forces of law 'n order may not be as cooperative as (say) the ones in England would be. The result would be little acts of civil disobedience. We should be thankful that we're just dealing with lasers rather than IEDs.

The solution is straightforward. The Pentagon burns through a mere $700,000,000,000 of our cash annually. It should be possible to find a bit of loose change to buy some laser filtering eyewear. Probably from the Chinese.

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martinusher
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You'd havve thought.....

The Pentagon needs to realize that not everyone in the world views its activities as spreading "Peace and Freedom (TM)". Shining a laser pointer at an aircraft is an easy act of defiance, one that's not easy to provide an appropriate response to (a Hellfire would probably be overdoing it a bit). So unless you can get the cooperation of the local people and their government this sort of thing is going to be a fact of life.

....so you would have thought that the Pentagon could spend some of its $700 billion a year budget on providing appropriate eye protection for its aircrew.

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NASA dusts off FORTRAN manual, revives 20-year-old data on Ganymede

martinusher
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Re: @ST The problem probably wasn't the software...

>Yeah. There's that. Porting N number of old FORTRAN libaries from DEC FORTRAN to ... Intel X86_64 I guess? How long would that take?

I'd go the other route. A VAX isn't a very large machine by modern standards so it would be easier to just emulate it on a generic platform (apparently even a Raspberry Pi will do the job). Its much easier to verify the correct operation of an emulation than verify ports of system code.

Like many others I suspect the real reason for cranking the old machine into life would be that the data was stored on magnetic tape. I'd also guess that the data on the tape was structured by the software so just reading the tape wouldn't be much use without understanding how the program used that data.

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DIY device tinkerer iFixit weighs in on 15-month jail term for PC recycler

martinusher
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Re: They are all wrong

>Microsoft and dell did not try to prevent people from using the machines, or even reinstalling windows on them....

I'd take that with a pinch of salt until proved otherwise. I've got an HP laptop that's lacks a genuine copy of Windows not because it doesn't have one -- it comes with one -- but because a reinstall failed to register the copy of Windows. Microsoft is no help. As for 'getting people onto Windows 10' they are not interested in supporting hardware that's over about 4 years old. Overall, I'm led to the conclusion that they're not interested in recycling.

Fortunately the computer is normally used to run Linux. Faster to boot up, easier to work with....the only reason for keeping it dual boot is that I've paid for that copy of Windows (dammit!) so I'm getting my money's worth one way or another.

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martinusher
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Microsoft (re)invents FUD

>"This counterfeit software exposes people who purchase recycled PCs to malware and other forms of cybercrime"

I wonder if they'll patent it as well?

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Open Internet lovin' Comcast: Buy our TV service – or no faster broadband for you!

martinusher
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Re: Verizon, too?

I got the same 'offer' from Frontier (ex-Verizon in California). Eventually I had to give up my FiOS for Time Warner cable (....sorry. "Spectrum") to get a cheaper deal (Frontier were pulling close to $200 a month out of me so they screwed me while I didn't have any choice -- I was paying for dozens of TV channels that I never watched (half seemed to be in Spanish, anyway).

I really just want Internet. Everything else is redundant.

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Ahem! Uber, Lyft etc: California Supremes just shook your gig economy with contractor ruling

martinusher
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Re: Work Choices

The IRS has had rules about programmers contracting out their labor for decades now -- if you work for one employer they regard you as employed for tax purposes. This rule came about because for a period in the 80s and early 90s it was a lot more lucrative for both employer and employee for the programmer to be paid as a contractor but that extra loot came at the expense of the taxman.

I suspect the only reason why the IRS hasn't come for other 'contractors' is that they're not making enough money to be worth chasing down. (Says it all, really.)

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