* Posts by Milton

426 posts • joined 14 Jun 2016

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Lloyds Banking Group to splash £3bn on tech

Milton
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BTW

(The press release shoud have said)

"BTW, none of the forthcoming deluge of outages, downtime, incorrect transactions, failed payments, missing salaries, lost logins, stolen credentials, identity thefts, lost business, emptied accounts, incorrectly addressed letters, compromised financial details, bankruptcies and suicides will have anything at all, whatsoever, to do with the fact that we are shedding good, experienced, well-paid staff who understand our systems and outsourcing everything not nailed down to whichever bunch of clowns was the lowest bidder and placing our secret, confidential, mission-critical data on some cloud, somewhere. Our executives will richly deserve the eyewatering 'cost savings' bonuses they will receive just before they skip off to commence planning their next disaster."

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IBM Java CTO: Devs shouldn't have to learn Docker, K8s, 30 other things to deploy an app

Milton
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Call me a Colonialist Curmudgeon

Call me an Auld (Colonialist) Curmudgeon, but I am also heartily sick of the bogglingly vast array of libraries and auxiliary tripe that infest modern systems, often doing little except pumping out logfiles no one will ever read, frequently providing just one ot two percent of the functionality of the core spec, inflating what could otherwise be cool, slim, well-written code by orders of magnitude of pointless and often quite shitty bloat.

Note to bright-eyed, bushy-tailed and undoubtedly intelligent young-, hip- and, who knows, perhaps on the dark side even gang-sters: constantly virtualising and wrapping and abstracting what went before and then slapping a shiny new label on it is not necessarily the route to error-free, elegant efficiency.

Some of us crankly old bastards cut our teeth on C, C++, and in my case too much Ada once upon a time, happen to think that much modern practice is the absolute antithesis of good coding (most of which is now found only in life-and-death systems like airliners), and never really cottoned to second-rate lingos like Java.

Even when it was still called Batavia.

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Windows slithers on to Arm, legless?

Milton
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Suez?

Suez gets mentioned a lot these days because it was the last occasion the British government did something breathtakingly, suicidally stupid and which resulted in national disaster. It's the only comparison available from the last hundred years that comes close to Brexit; which makes it a handy reference point.

But I am not convinced it needs to be trotted out for every cockup in every walk of life, especially when repeated by journos whose words give rise to the teensy suspicion that they have no idea what the Suez Crisis actually comprised—beyond that fact that it involved a waterway.

In short, you could swim in it: but that was not and never will be the point.

PS: Yes, Microsoft betrays, as it always has, obsessively impatient greed and short term thinking. Some things are most unlikely to change.

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US cable giant tries to wriggle out of 'crap ISP' legal battle now that net neutrality is dead

Milton
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Moral difference?

And the moral difference between that parasite of a Charter executive and the scumbag with a cosh in the alley?

Both are sick examples of the human species we could so easily do without.

One wears a suit.

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Australia joins the 'decrypt it or we'll legislate' club

Milton
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Stand up and speak

As the article repeats, well-known real security/crypto experts have thrown their hat in the ring already and asked the obvious question: who are the people telling gullible, stupid politicians and security service empire-builders that π can be legislated as 3.00? Because 'Good-Guys-Only Backdoors' in modern encryption are as mathematically bonkers as that. A solid proportion of Reg readers and other technologists also know this. And any purported GGOB, quite apart from breaking the security of the encryption, will leak. This always happens. Even NSA couldn't keep its own secrets.

So, who are they? Who are you, posing as knowledgeable or expert in encryption, telling fools a bunch magical BS that they want to hear? Why are you doing it? Are you actually just ignorant? Or dishonest? Telling lies to power because you think you'll get a bigger budget? A promotion to Chief Cretin?

There's a facililty on this site to post anonymously. If you want to hide behind anonymity so you can't be named and shamed, fine: post your Brilliant Wheeze here, anon. Explain how a GGOB can be made to work while protecting trillions of currently secure transactions in banking, medicine, commerce, government, military, personal and wherever else legitimate privacy needs exist. (Don't even think of bringing up security-thru-obscurity.)

Go on: explain how you can legislate π = 3.00.

For 10 bonus points, explain how you'll prevent the world's top million coders from implementing any of the dozens of available excellent encryption algorithms in whatever language they please in whatever app/lication they please on whatever devices they please distributed by whatever means they please to as many billions of people as they please: every single one of whom would then be able to encrypt anything they like, communicating with whomever they like, with nary a backdoor in sight.

For another 10 points (c'mon, you're on a roll), explain how, even if you could prevent the exchange of suspected encrypted data (e.g. by identifying and blocking selected randomised data streams), you will prevent the use of steganography in one, or two, or a mere 10 million of the 2,000,000,000 photos uploaded via the internet every single day. Two billion photos. At a modest 10k per photo that would be at least 20Tb. Noisy, dirty, resized, distorted, recoloured, filtered, animated, processed to a fare-thee-well. Even if only 1:10,000 photos contained a steg'd message, at an incredibly subtle 1;10,000 hidden data rate, that's still 200k of (let's say) terrorist atrocity planning you will never, ever even know where to look for much less decrypt.

So, I say again, c'mon, step up. We think you're either stupid, or a liar, or both. Prove it. Prove π = 3.00.

Two billion photos. Then there's several million videos, even more deliciously rich for steganography, and crummy animojis, millions of soundtracks, songs, snippets, voicemails ... are you starting to understand? At all? The genie has left the bottle. It ain't going back in, not for anyone.

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Teensy plastic shields are the big new thing in 2018's laptop crop

Milton
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A small mischievous bet

What about Chinese-made shutters incorporating a polarised plastic window: always looks dark, but can be set to an "undetectable transparent" mode with a signal from malware aboard the device?

My mischievous mind says you could set off a convincing-sounding meme about that and cause chaos...

Fetching coat.

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*Wakes up in Chrome's post-adblockalyptic landscape* Wow, hardly anything's changed!

Milton
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The (unprepossessing) naked emperor

No one in their right mind expected Google, of all companies, to take serious, meaningful actions against adverts. This is a company ("Don't Be Evil"—and stop guffawing) whose bread and butter is those selfsame adverts. It's also a company that's been getting increasingly twitchy about the fact that it is very hard to prove that its advertising system, even the supposedly tailored stuff, is anywhere near remotely as effective as Google saleslizards would have you believe.

Even with confirmed web sales it's hard to say definitively that an advert worked. If I finally buy Item-A by clicking through on the ad, what does that mean, if the only reason I saw the ad was because I'd frequently visited Website-A during the last couple of weeks while delaying the purchase? i.e. I'd been intending to buy anyway, and the ad made no difference beyond, just possibly, reminding me to do it today instead of tomorrow.

Almost every other scenario is even more debatable. Don't forget, we're in an era now where Google would like to track your spending and purchases offline so that it can make grandiose and extremely dubious claims that you bought Item-B in Woolworths this morning solely because you might not have ignored an advert shown on your browser for two seconds the previous week.

In short: Google is desperately trying to persuade ad-spenders that advertising works, with very little hard evidence ... while the rest of us are pointing out that ads are shyte, irrelevant, obsolete, annoying, repetitive, misleading, pointless, ugly, and that, pace adblockers, we now sometimes simply avoid websites with intrusive ads and have in any case developed: firstly, supremely efficient hand to eye coordination and reflexes which can brush an ad aside in less than half a second; and secondly, have grown protocols in our meatware that filter out the content of adverts before we're even aware that they are present. Otherwise desirable websites with excessive noisy ads are the first to be entered into the "No sound ever permitted" list—yet another example of how dreadful advertising has shot itself clean through the head, never mind foot.

I understand that Google's tinkering with Chrome—so weak and fearful that it's barely noticeable—is a tentative attempt to change the balance of ad quality, so that if we see less garbage we might pay more attention to what's left.

But even I were not personally convinced that that horse is long gone, no longer even a dot on the horizon, and that Google's fiddling with the stable door is absurdly too late, I do not see how this feeble approach will change the fact that—

* We now automatically, reflexively ignore most adverts

* When we do notice them, they are: irrelevant, meaningless, boring/irritating, related to something we already bought ages ago, or (frequently) so poorly executed, so utterly lacking in innovation, humour, beauty, informativeness, imagination or the slightest attempt at creativity that they are literally a complete waste of space.

I'm minded of the difference betwen TV ads now and those of 40/50 years ago. Once upon a time, TV had millions of eyeballs and so few hours of airtime that ad space was excruciatingly expensive. (It was also possible to measure sales against advertising slots, so that companies would have confidence that today's uptick in sales of Omo powder was indeed related to the £250k campaign on ITV last week.)

Now, five decades later, there are hundreds of channels, most devoted to dross, with the cheapest, shabbiest imaginable content. Many TV ad slots are vastly cheaper than would have been the case four decades ago. There are also so many advertising routes, not to mention the effects of social media, that it is on the whole much harder to ascribe a given TV campaign to increases in sales.

The result? Most TV advertising is now appallingly rotten. Leave the screen on so that the dog has some shoddy reality-animal-rescue series to watch while I'm out (not kidding) and be horrified at the miserable quality of advertising for squalid ambulance-chasing lawyer firms. It's atrocious.

Internet advertising is likewise spread everywhere, likewise cheap, and likewise almost entirely trash. (And don't get me started on radio, that pit of execrable standards lower than which none are conceivable, which is presumably where all Luvvies Dropped On Their Heads As Babies end up.)

All in all, Google may want to improve ads, and may pretend to care about customers, but they're wasting their time: there's simply too much shyte. And unfortunately for them, they hitched their star to a wagon of it.

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Chrome adblockalypse will 'accelerate Google-Facebook duopoly'

Milton
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Nobrain

Is there a solitary human with an IQ greater than 85 on the face of this planet that would click on anything bearing the Outbrain monicker?

Put another way: who are the mouthbreathers who make it worthwhile for Outbrain/Nobrain to function?

Which remotely literate humans click on any of the cretinous trash shat in steaming piles onto websites by Outbrain?

And ... why??

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Ubuntu wants to slurp PCs' vital statistics – even location – with new desktop installs

Milton
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Actually read the article?

I find Reg comments generally better than other news sites, but I'm surprised today, to see so many by people who seem to be frothing while having read only the headline: the article describes what data would be collected, explains it is anonymised and even points out that Location is based on whatever the user selected at install time.

Yes, it should be opt-in not -out, but apart from that: why all the fuss?

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That terrifying 'unfixable' Microsoft Skype security flaw: THE TRUTH

Milton
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Universally Irritating

I have to use Skype with some relatives in the Far East who insist upon it, but if course it's been an insecure horrible POS since even before MS got their grubby mitts on it. The "upgrade" last year, which further ruined the UI (taking a leaf from the Mozilla playbook?) made me go to the trouble of downloading and reinstalling an older version, and switching off auto updates on Android.

Notwithstanding that Skype is crappy anyway, what's going on with the constant obsession with "improving" UIs that were working perfectly well, familiar to the user, behaving in a predictable fashion - replacing them with new and fashionably nasty ones?

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Six things I learned from using the iPad Pro for Real Work™

Milton
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It's not so hard

1. If you have lite "work" and enjoy posing with your shiny look-how-much-I-paid-for-it toy, buy Apple: use an iOS tablet. Pose by the pool.

2. If you have real work but are otherwise a bit clueless, use Windows on a proper computer.

3. If you have real, and important work, use a Linux system set up by a beard who knows what he's doing.

4. Questions?

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Crypto-gurus: Which idiots told the FBI that Feds-only backdoors in encryption are possible?

Milton
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2 + 2 = 5

I suspect that even conspicuously ignorant politicians like Theresa May would hesitate before saying in public: "The government needs two plus two to equal five and will legislate accordingly". Even she—hell, even outright morons like IDS, Leadsom and that staggering intellectual turnip Owen Paterson—would surely not be dumb enough to say such a thing.

Yet of course it is because they do not understand math or technology that jackasses keep saying fundamentally the same thing: "We want a backdoor only we can use" ... no matter how often the experts patiently say "It is mathematically impossible".

Don't worry about Donald Trump: he smirks distractedly whenever he hears the word "pair" and wouldn't finish the sentence.

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Magic Leap's staggering VR goggle technology just got even better!

Milton
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Are they *all* drinking the same Kool-Aid?

Apologies if someone's already brought this up, don't have time to scan every comment ...

... but isn't Neal Stephenson one of Magic Leap's supporters? 'Chief Futurist' or some such?

I ask because he is an exceedingly intelligent guy (not quite as brilliant as he thinks, perhaps, but still very smart) and judging by his writing he is (a) realistic about the BS spouted by marketurds and their less-evolved sub-phylum, politicians, and (b) devoid of patience for the sort of corporate shytespeak uttered by execubeciles, of which Rony Abovitz would appear to be one: for what other species utters drivelling crud like this—?

"We're trying to understand what is going on there: what's the physics? What the neuro-technology? What's the neuro-anatomy happening? How do we gently slipstream into that and not disrupt things? We want to talk to your neuro-cortex in a biologically friendly way."

It's difficult to balance what I know of Stephenson, from his largely superb and clever opus of writing, with the impression of smoke'n'mirrors and corporate bullcrap created by the article.

In short: if El Reg is broadly correct that Magic Leap is vapourware-cum-propaganda bollocks, what is a guy like Stephenson still doing on the letterhead?

And if ML does have a real and compelling story to tell, there is surely no better person than him to step up and say "Hang on, you're being unfair, here's the lowdown ...", given that the CEO apparently can't open his mouth without projectile vomiting buzzword-infested semi-grammatical tripe.

Execubecile :: Portmanteau of "executive" and "imbecile" referring to a type of (alleged) human which reflexively emits streams of meaningless corporate buzzword jargon in the belief that this is equivalent to "working", "thinking" or "communicating". The jargon is confected nonsense intended to emulate the specialist language and terminology used by real professionals (like doctors, scientists, engineers et al), in the hope that it will bestow an aura of precise, intelligent professionalism and intellectualism upon what is in fact a banal commercial endeavour whereby largely mediocre people try to sell goods or services of dubious usefulness.

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Blackbird shot down, patent nuked by judge in Cloudflare legal battle

Milton
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Patent System

Blackbird and its ilk are cynical pond-scum moneygrubbers, agreed, and it's encouraging that Cloudflare is going after these lice.

But the underlying problem is surely the patent system, which seems to have floundered hopelessly in the software era. I am not an expert or lawyer: but I do get the impression that the distinction between "copyrightable" and "patentable" has not been adequately and precisely analysed and implemented in law; and that what is considered patentable is simply way too broad. There are just too many patents out there for things which are not inventions, not particularly clever, imaginative, innovative or unique and which, even if they do represent something concrete enough to argue for patentability, are preceded by so many relevant, prior solutions that real originality is highly debatable. (Was the addition of a diode here a stroke of improbable, insightful genius? Or a mundane next step which at best improves, but certainly does not invent, a concept?)

The granting of so many unearned, invalid patents strongly suggests that the patent examiners are not doing their jobs very well. I take it as given that examiners are recruited from a reservoir of extremely knowledgeable subject-matter experts, given vast investigative resourcers and access to researchers and fact-checkers, and that any decision is automatically reviewed. This would seem to me a cast-iron case for government to invest heavily and intelligently, since a well-functioning and trusted patent system is surely one of the critical requirements of an economy which channels money to innovators and producers—instead of having it siphoned off by avarcious ambulance-chasers.

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IBM declares it's the 'backbone of the world's economy'

Milton
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Offshoring, outsourcing—whose head is high, and why?

Given that IBM's reputation is good only by comparison with Oracle (which seems a lot like claiming I am honest—compared to Donald Trump), and given that offshoring and outsourcing leads to a relentless decline in standards and the proliferation of embarassing, expensive project failures (we've all seen this so often by now that it's just boringly predictable) will it be IBM's saleslizards holding their heads up high? Or will the elevated skulls be those of Asian and Eastern European providers, staring dully from spikes outside IBM Towers, as sacrifical offerings or excuses for poor performance?

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Microsoft working to scale Blockchain for grand distributed ID scheme

Milton
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The trust issue

The trust issue ... looms as soon as you consider allowing Microsoft or any of the tech giants to get their greedy, dishonest and so frequently careless hands on your data. No company is to be trusted that would barefacedly try to trick its customers into installing unwanted software (the notorious Close-means-Yes on W10 installs) or deliberately invade and rape your WiFi (Google's Streetview data theft, lied about for so long by the laughably subtitled "Don't Be Evil"). Only a fool would trust these corporations. At all. Ever. There are words for people who lie and cheat in order to get your money and I can't think of any reason why we'd treat internet businesses differently. (Or VW; or Big Pharma; or tobacco; ... etc)

That all being said, exploitation of blockchain tech might be MS's way of acknowledging this. If I understand the proposal correctly, even MS themselves would not be able to exploit or compromise key data because the true security would lie in the distributed nature of blockchain and its purported incorruptibility—though of course the Devil-in-the-Detail is those last two words, because even blockchain might conceivably be misused by a sufficiently powerful, resourceful and canny adversary: one with an awful lot of global computing power, for example.

Blockchain is acknowledged to have disadvantages, one of which is sheer cumbersomeness, which also then leads to performance problems. (Given the astronomically high transaction rates of modern finance, it's never been a great surprise to me that blockchain struggles with currency and is instead finding its perfect use case in contractual stuff). MS thinks, or at least says it can address this, and make the tech more agile, but there are good mathematical reasons to suspect that excessive minimisation of the chain will soon lead to vulnerability, so one has to wonder whether MS will introduce "compromises" for "performance" reasons, and if so whether those compromises will miraculously weaken the distributed security of the tech while handing too much responsibility back to MS. Microsoft do not have magic wands. They have some great engineers, and even honest employees, but those folks are employed by a board that has to satisfy greedy shareholders, and this company does have a dreadful history of deceit.

Which is a lengthy way of asking if this path will lead to an "improved, performant" (subtly crippled) blockchain implementation which lures users into thinking this means they can trust MS when, under the covers, the company preserves the ability to snoop?

Put yet another way: why would I trust MS not to be conniving to steal data, yet again, when it still refuses to remove the staggering mass of spyware in W10?

Bonus Question: Is W10 adoption held back more by concerns about spying, or because of its horrible interface? Discuss

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What if I told you that flash drives could do their own processing?

Milton
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Well, that's one thing explained ...

Well, that's one thing explained ...

I may be little wiser about compute-storage-fusion, but I think I may at last know why Mars is a desolate, sterile, howling wasteland—if the pronouncements of its sole remaining emissary are anything to go by.

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Bzzzt! If you're in one of these four British cities, that was a drone

Milton
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Bang on

Excellent succinct comment from Charlie Clark. There are things drones are currently good for; some things they may possibly become good for; and a bunch of other fantastical whezes that will stop in their tracks when the practical day to day realities set in. Excluding the military, we've already seen exploration of the former category, with some good results: photography, surveying, film-making, search and rescue, large vehicle inspection, remote-region delivery of small urgent/high-value items—it'll become a longer list as time goes on.

Where drones will crash and burn (almost literally) is the inane concept of mass deliveries in dense urban environments. For brevity:

1. Unnecessary. Densely populated areas have the least need for separate door to door drone deliveries.

2. Hazard rich environment. Buildings, wires, poles, helicopters, unpredictable wind currents and gusts, cranes, hailstorm, other drones, window cleaners, lightning, masts, aerials, steeples ...

3. Probability of failure. To be viable, drone delivery requires low costs. This is incompatible with airliner levels of safety and reliability. If used in large numbers (the only way they'd make sense in such an environment) their accident rate will be high: engine failure, guidance failure, comms failure, CPU failure, sensor failure, camera failure, GPS failure, general nav failure, fuel exhaustion, software lockup, bug, EM interference ...

4. Target rich environment. Pedestrians, cars, schoolchildren, roofs, hospitals, level crossings, road junctions, skylights, giant glass sided office buildings, flyovers, playgrounds, prisons, dogs, cops, railroad tracks, transformers, gas stations, zoos, tramlines, ambulances, power lines, pensioners, satellite dishes, invalids, trains, other drones, ...

5. Outbreak of hostilities. Property holders and general purpose malcontents bearing shotguns, netflingers, goo-drones, falcons, slings, catapults, jetwash hoses, lasers, radio-hacking devices, EMP bursters, or, for low tech vandals already occupying high buildings, literally anything that can be lobbed out of a window or off a parapet into a drone's props (including self-destroying evidence such as a handful of icecubes) ...

6. Inefficiency of completion. Recipient not home, unable to sign, allegations of damage (inc by elements), theft of drone, failure to provide specified landing zone, exhausted drone won't go home, drop-box incorrectly configured leading to disputed delivery, neighbour couldn't receive item, disputes whether s/he received it ...

In sum, if mass drone delivery is attempted in a dense urban environment, quite apart from the very debatable cost-effectiveness/efficiency question, it's only a matter of time until people die, either directly from being hit on the head by a falling hardback of 50 Shades of Shyte, or indirectly because the truck driver's windscreen had just imploded/ambulance couldn't get there/the power was out/{enter scenario here}. The shitstorm of publicity will kill it in its infancy.

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I see you're writing a résumé?!.. LinkedIn parked in MS Word

Milton
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My best agent

The best thing that ever happened to me in the world of work was when I found I was getting called because of a recommendation. I make no claims to brilliance or perfection or awesome qualifications but I've always committed myself to the job and, yeah, maybe pulled the occasional rabbit out of the hat once in a while.

When I reached the point that work came by word of mouth, and I no longer had to even think about greedy agencies and trowelling Maybelline onto a CV ... life got better.

The less my life involves LinkedIn or anything else to do with f****** Micro$oft, the happier I am.

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Dori-no! PepsiCo boss says biz is planning to sell lady crisps

Milton
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The Era Of Stupid

What a good thing we don't have to live through a time of mindlessly superficial stupidity and vacuously imbecilic marketing ... oh.

There's a line in Sherlock where Mycroft admits that being brilliant means that he feels as if he's living amongst goldfish.

I imagine Reg readers in particular must feel actual, physical pain listening to marketurds, politicians and corporate management-speak. We may not all be "brilliant" but we are suffering agonies through the Era Of Stupid. Not least because the internet has given goldfish a voice.

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You're the IT worker in charge of securing the cloud for your company. Welcome to Hell

Milton
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It's just progress

It's just progress. As soon as security professionals have managed to get a grip on one type of vulnerability, like say, USB, it has been necessary to introduce some brand new means of making stuff insecure all over again. "Cloud" is, I admit, a bit transparently OTT—imagine selling it by saying "Only some of your data on individual desktops was at risk before, or on chips people lose on trains: but now we can take all your vital data and put it somewhere public for truly industrial-scale insecurity!"

But, hey, convince some greedy boardroom idiots that they can score a bonus because of "cost savings", and they will fall for anything. By the time the "cloud" or outsourcing or latest buzzword-bolox-initiative has crashed, burned and consumed twice as much as it was supposedly going to save, those same idiots will be in a new job, f**king up a new company.

The beauty of "cloud" of course, is that it greatly reduces the workload of those poor, hard-pressed guys who write exploits and malware. Whereas they might have had to work at tailoring and socially engineering each individual bit of industrial espionage for every business they were trying to rape, "cloud" provides a much nicer one-stop-shop so that vast amounts of data can be stolen or corrupted at a fell swoop.

As any self-respecting parasite would say: "Long live the monoculture".

PS: And in other news for paranoids ;-) ... No doubt the enterprising folks whose business is to steal on an industrial scale are working hard just in case the "cloud" providers (and their chip manufacturers) actually secure things better. Even as we speak, a new generation of submarine drones is sniffing around on the planet's seabeds, ready to clamp their lamprey interfaces on to barnacle-encrusted cables, thereafter to sop up petabaytes of data every second. (And with some scissors handy too—just in case this or that nation-state/bidder fancies cutting off the continental internet for a month or two.)

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Spectre shenanigans, Nork hackers upgrade, bad WD drives and more

Milton
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Observations

Not original thoughts, I am sure, but ...

1. Email users—even senior, supposedly well-educated, qualified people with heavy responsibilities and big jobs—still absolutely refuse to understand that email is horrifically insecure, that you should trust nothing to email that you wouldn't be happy to see on a billboard; but that there are relatively cheap, simple to set up and easy to use mechanisms to (a) encrypt your messages and (b) sign them digitally so that others cannot implement masquerades. I was dealing with a law firm last month and even they thought it was ok to use email for legal documents. It is unbelievable. What is wrong with these people?

2. It will be supremely ironic if the appalling security flaws in chips (no, Intel they are not features, you lying b*****ds), which have to be "corrected" with patches which put a serious dent in CPU throughput, lead to a rennaissance of competent performance-conscious programming. If we see more articles about this or that OS/kernel/application having been tweaked, modified, rewritten, optmised, whatever, to provide a (say) 15% speed-up to mitigate the effects of Spectre/Meltdown patch, the question will be: if it was that easy to make this stuff work faster—if it was that fat, stodgy, inefficient and badly written in the first place—why on earth didn't you sort this out sooner? How much other lazy, sluggish garbage is running on our machines, picking its nose over a 618Mb library-for-the-lazy, when it could have been written for one-tenth the disk space and five times the speed?

I have a feeling we all know that a vast amount of modern code is third-rate shit which gets away with being obese dross because it depends upon using tiny fractions of enormous, bloated libraries and runs on very fast silicon with forgiving OSs. If there's an upside to Intel and others' monumental screwup with chip design, it may be that we'll see a return to professional coders writing really good stuff.

Well ... I can hope.

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Long haul flights on a one-aisle plane? Airbus thinks you’re up for it

Milton
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How bad does it have to get?

How bad does it have to get before people simply decide not to fly? Even the A380 - arguably the least unpleasant aircraft in which to fly Economy long haul - is getting an extra seat across in some variants, and will become as nasty as other planes.

Presumably at some point travellers look at more than headline ticket price, and begin to shun the worst airlines ... But the race to the bottom has been in full swing for 20 years with no end in sight. Even Virgin, which used to be a nice exception, is now degenerating into budget standards and no longer worth booking specially for a long haul flight.

I for one am glad I no longer need to fly much. And the appalling quality of modern airlines is becoming a good incentive to holiday in Britain and Europe.

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Google code reckons it's smarter than airlines, AI funding, and lots more

Milton
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Forget delays, what about go-/no-shows?

El Reg is right to be sceptical about flight delays, especially since airlines still sometimes lie, and fabricate delays for some "tech" reason when in fact the plane is insufficiently booked up, to avoid a loss-making journey.

What would be gold dust for airlines, though, would be accurate prediction of no-shows and go-shows (the latter being last minute bookings) and therefore likely load factors. This would improve revenue management enormously and reduce the overbooking risk.

PS: Learning data feeds should include local transport links. If they're stupid enough to put an extra runway at LHR, load factors will decrease massively and erratically every time there's a major accident on the M25.

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Morrisons launches bizarre Yorkshire Pudding pizza thing

Milton
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Prezza!

Since an unpleasant gingerish facade reveals a repulsive confusion of messy half baked ingredients strongly resembling its traditional predecessor, the pavement pizza, may I suggest it is named in honour of Donald Trump, and called a Prezza?

If so it should be served with a suggestive spiral of thick chocolate sauce, nicely crimped off at the top.

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A tiny Ohio village turned itself into a $3m speed-cam trap. Now it has to pay back the fines

Milton
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The root of all evil ...

The root of all evil ... ... isn't money, per se. It's greed. Greed for money, and for power.

Greed is the "hidden" vice—the one we sometimes smirk about; or excuse; or pretend not to see when it's us trying to grab ever more at the expense of the other fellow; or even twist to claim is somehow "good"—but in truth it is the lowest, most infantile, most cowardly, selfish, shallow and most damaging of human vices.

Wherever you see self-destructive pathology in the modern world—from petty imbeciles like Trump, through FTSE500 boardrooms, all the way down to prisons full of criminals; from right wing "thinking" to entire populations crushed by inequality and despair—the worst of human weaknesses, greed, is always right there.

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What a Hancock-up: MP's social network app is a privacy disaster

Milton
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Please, Boris ...

I want that fat idiot of a Foreign Secretary to produce his own app (I think Ego-Bloat Marketing Ltd specialise in politicians) just so I can have the long-dreamt-of satisfaction of clicking on the button that says "Delete Boris Johnson Y/N?"

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Are you taking the peacock? United Airlines deny flight to 'emotional support' bird

Milton
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My preferred emotional support animal

(I know I cannot be the first to say this)

My preferred emotional support animal, when getting on a plane, is a really experienced, well trained, well paid, securely employed and happy, sober pilot.

Having Percy the Piglet Pal in the carry-on just doesn't inspire the same level of confidence.

3
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F-35 flight tests are being delayed by onboard software snafus

Milton
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Re: Still, one day...

"There are quite a few flat-out falsities in the article that I wont [sic] even go into ..."

Funny, I'd have thought you'd be falling over yourself to list them, if they're "flat out falsities".

Some posters defending this project seem to be arguing with appeals to authority "trust me, I worked on this/that ..." and "You have no idea what's involved ..." rather than addressing the actual history of the F-35 development or the simply enormous litany of failings, failures, faults, cost overruns, magical accounting etc which are a matter of public record. It's true that previous planes have had teething problems, even the much-admired teen series like F-14, -15, -16, -18 and the celebrated A-10. But none endured such a hellish journey as F-35: not even close.

And it's notable that the planes I've mentioned were all designed, built and operated with a lesson in mind. That lesson was the F-111.

The F-111 was propagandised as the One Size Fits All combat plane, a multi-purpose multi-role flexible aircraft that could fulfil all necessary combat missions better than any previous dedicated aircraft, and would save oodles of money because of universal adoption and standardisation.

Does any of that sound familiar?

The F-111, of course, was an expensive disaster, setting the west's combat air power development back by at least a decade (yes, the UK's idiot, lying politicians got sucked into that disaster too).

Foolish and gullible as they had been, senior military and politicians resolved to act upon the lesson, realising that it is indeed far better to have three planes that each do a specific task brilliantly well, than one which does everything badly. The result was a series of unparalleled aircraft designs which have worked well for nigh on 50 years. For merely one example, ask any experienced infantry grunt which plane he'd prefer to have providing close air support when he's beset on all sides by hairy foes—it'll be A-10, not F-35: the latter is simply too limited, too fragile and too expensive.

I won't list again all the manifold warnings and failings of F-35 because, unlike the "flat out falsities" they are matter of record for anyone with a browser.

The Russians and Chinese are not cowering beneath their beds over the F-35 designs (the entirety of which they appear to have had on their computers for years now). They are delighted to see the US and UK pouring countless billions into an inferior aircraft, so expensive that there will never be nearly enough of them, so fragile that they will fly rarely, so dependent upon their vaunted "stealth" that Russian and Chinese engineers can almost cry with laughter as they dust off and improve suites of technology (multiband active/passive; IR; optical; acoustic; with multidomain integration), some of it actually quite old, which renders that stealth frequently useless¹. For them it is even more incredibly, hilariously welcome than watching the UK piss billions away on a Trident system it can't use, or float its Great Big Targerts ("supercarriers") without any aircraft. (Or escort ships. Or a modern operating system. Or—)

General and politicians forgot, or more likely were too arrogant, to heed the lessons learned by a previous generation and were, once again suckered by the lies of contractors and tempted by the prospect of congressional pork. And, just as with F-111, they have betrayed their nation's defence, again, and this time probably for much longer than 10 years..

¹ Useless, that is, when merely opening the weapons bay doors; or carrying a fuel tank; or a missile; or encountering a stone flake on the runway doesn't render the stealth already useless.

3
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I'll torpedo Tor weirdos, US AG storms: Feds have 'already infiltrated' darknet drug souks

Milton
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Starter for 10?

In identifying the sources of those billions of "legal" opioids, I can help the noble, diligent and honourable Mr Sessions out, so that he can start with well-known drug peddlers.

They seem to have gang monickers such as Purdue, Johnson&Johnson, Insys, Amgen, Mylan, Depomed. There many others, but this will hopefully get the ball rolling.

In the criminal investigator's spirit of Follow The Money, he may find it useful to figure out why every year hundreds of millions of dollars from these organisations find their way to politicians just like him via donations, junkets, campaign contributions and lobbying.

I'm always glad to be of help, especially to reeking hypocrites.

7
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FYI: That Hawaii missile alert was no UI blunder. Someone really thought the islands were toast

Milton
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We learned, what?

Not a bad article, though it may not really be answering any questions or even suggesting anything constructive and new: every professional designing software for life-critical use has known for-simply-ever that you expect, await and cater for the inevitable chain of screwups, misunderstandings, misapprehensions and carelessness that is the wont of busy and even clever people. The airline industry is probably the best modern example of how you learn from mistakes at the human-software interface. One thing that is clear from the article is that the system UI design was amateurishly and completely unfit for purpose.

But I do wonder whether the Reg's characteristically juvenile hyperbole helps:

" ... resulting in over a million people believing that they would shortly be hit by a nuke. ... The vast majority of Hawaiians are still unaware that it is a false alarm and are in panic mode."

Is any of that actually true, at all? Or would it be more accurate to say:

"The vast majoirty of Hawaiians were mildly perturbed to be told that the Norks were testing yet another missile, which, if the dummy warhead did make it across the Pacific, and if it didn't splash in the sea someplace—since no one really believes Fat Haircut Boy would be stupid enough to launch unprovoked nukes at US soil—might by accident, at the very worst, deposit half a tonne of warm tungsten fragments in a Cheesecake Factory car park."

So: did the breathless exaggeration make the story better?

2
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You can't ignore Spectre. Look, it's pressing its nose against your screen

Milton
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Reaping what you sow

The article is correct, and the fallout from this will continue to be enormous. I have litle confidence that some highly capable actors haven't already started very quietly raiding juicy targets. There are bad things happening now that we'll find out about in six, or 36 months' time, when we'll say "Duh, of course".

Technical issues aside, I do think there's a moral in here somewhere too. "Cloud" has been relentlessly overhyped as a solution for everything, and its operators have worked tirelessly to sucker customers in, playing up performance, playing down security worries, all the while trying to squeeze every last drop of cash from punters while cutting their own costs. The promise to ghastly beancounters slavering over their next bonus has been irresistible and companies have, often with dangerous haste and poor preparation, tried to offload costs, worries and skills to "Anything Cheaper".

Now it's not entirely fair to say that "Cloud" is distinct from "servers-in-a-datacentre" mostly because the former opens up yet another dangerous security compromise—but it's not completely wrong either. Beancounters: you believed the 'Good+Cheap+Quick' marketurds' spiel, didn't think hard enough about downsides (security and privacy risks that many folks much more knowledgeable than I have been going on about for years now) and so today ... well, to coin a phrase, the skeletons are coming home to roost.

Just as you can stipulate that, say, no one with serious security needs would consider SMS-based 2FA, I suggest you could also state that no one with data of real importance or value would keep it on a shared platform in the "cloud".

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FYI: There's now an AI app that generates convincing fake smut vids using celebs' faces

Milton
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Authentication stamps

Topic seems asleep but in case anyone's still chewing on this ... the whole "convincing video fakery" thing seems to me like a can of worms that's actually going to become a bloody great mountain of unpleasant wriggly things. I'm sure everyone who's read about this has been wondering what the implications will be not just for issues like celeb-, revenge- and child-porn but important questions of deniability—"Fake Moscow, fake girls, fake lemonade", says Trump's spokes-gruffalo, etc etc.

Which leads me to wonder about how we build a new generation of digital cameras and associated ware which implant authentication stamps, like watermarks, into images and video so that, from a legal point of view, it will be possible to distinguish original primary-source photos/footage from—well, from everything else. Without having thought much about it yet, I'm guessing this will require some serious crypto deployment. I'm even wondering whether some analogue of blockchain might have a role. How shall we contrive to guarantee that this digital image file is the untampered one showing precisely what a specific camera saw at a specific datetime? Worse: how shall we know that this camera wasn't itself looking at a screen showing faked footage, or that an optical MitM attack can be excluded?

Myriad challenges surrounding a highly technical issue which will have simply huge social, political and legal ramifications: personally, I foresee almost endless opportunities for a generation of postgrads. This one's gonna run and run. Looking forward to seeing ideas on this.

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Milton
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Genie, bottle

I won't add anything to this discussion by offering various Pros and Cons for this tech: anyone with a brain, five minutes and a bottle of beer could make a long list for both columns.

What I will point out is that this another one of those tech genies that cannot be put back in its bottle. As soon as the arsewipe British sewerpress gets into full self-righteous hypocrite mode (takes the Mail about 20 seconds) there wil be an ill-informed, hysterical shitstorm of moralising, virtue signalling and, who knows with this idiot government, foolish and poorly considered legislation.

It won't matter.

There's clearly going to be an arms race of sorts between the fakers of video (who will be doing it for every possible good, evil or simply sleazy reason) and those whose job will be to identify it.

Kiddie porn is always a worry, but let's be perfectly honest: you'd sooner those sickos kept their hands on the mouse than prowled the streets. They can't be cured, they can't all be caught, so if containing the vile buggers in their basements is the best we can do—at least with a faked "actor", no child is actiually being directly harmed. That won't be a popular view, but I suspect it's practical.

But that aside, what use will video evidence be? Won't the Orange Imbecile be ecstatic to plausibly say, of Vlad Putin's home movies, "Oh no, that's not me with those two highly productive Russian girls ...Fake video!"

It's a real can of worms, and the forensic aspects will be fascinating.

4
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Microsoft works weekends to kill Intel's shoddy Spectre patch

Milton
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Re: The WinTel Cartel...

" ...has compromised all PC security and the problem gets worse by the day. Both should be prosecuted for gross negligence and defective products"

Angry as so many of us are, I'm not convinced that prosecution is the appropriate action—but I'll probably change my mind if lawsuits, presumably major class actions, do not succeed, because Intel and others must be suitably punished with damages. In a case where the product is unarguably and seriously defective, and in a way which incurs major risk to customers down the line, the damages should hurt. Reputation aside, a massive financial hit is the only language big corporations actually understand.

Where the money goes is another question. It would be excruciatngly difficult to determine payouts to individuals unless they could show consequential harm, but perhaps most customers would be open to damages being paid into a fund, charity or body which has computing security as its mission? I am making a wild guess here that a few hundred million dollars could buy some serious thinking, analysis, planning, testing and standards-setting that would be good for the industry and its users. Who knows, it could fund some coding courses which return to quaint, old-fashioned skills like writing lean, efficient code that doesn't have to load 700Mb of libraries and require 16Gb of RAM plus multiple cores just to offer a welcome screen ...?

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Firefox to emit ‘occasional sponsored story’ in ads test

Milton
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Just: No.

IMHO Firefox is perhaps the least awful browser out there for desktop use (ok, yeah, it's plain nasty on Android) and I use it a lot with few complaints. No doubt a solid add-on will arrive soon so that I can benefit from the new Quantum renderer without having to suffer the stupid fad-driven UI redesign (can you really not just leave it alone, and concentrate on the nuts and bolts, Mozilla?) In the meantime, the 52.6ESR will do fine.

Which is my way of saying I'd happily just pay a few quid now and then for the use of something like Firefox that does what I need with reasonable efficiency, security and regard for my privacy. When Wikipedia holds its hand out, I sometimes make a contribution and can't see why Firefox should be any different. (Though disclosures about Wikipedia staff payouts a few months ago closed the wallet for a while, I admit.)

What I absolutely do not want to see, and will actively avoid, is a browser which starts to intrude content I have not asked for. Internet advertising is almost universally agreed to be unspeakable drivel—if ever "By idiots, for idiots" had meaning, it's surely in the garbage that manures our eyeballs as we surf—and I strongly suspect its reputation is irretrievably blown. Even Google seems to struggle ever harder to convince anyone that ads actually work.

So please do not ask me to step in the way of even more of the same ghastly shit.

Instead, remind me what a great service and product you are providing—by providing a great service and product, not with a bunch of transparent marketing-BS propaganda—and then ask me nicely for some money.

15
1

Virgin Media skulks in disused public toilets

Milton
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And now I know where to ask—

And now I know where to ask—this question:

I live in one of the so-called "new towns" and have observed something that may have been going on for a while (but having acquired a dog I'm doing more neighbourhood walking, so only really *noticing* now): the metal street cabinets, typcially hip-high boxes full of wire bundles, seem increasingly disused. By that I mean, busted open, no apparent attempt to fix them, with the innards looking much the worse for wear.

So the question is: is this part of a tech trend to not using such cabinets for telecoms/internet? Are they, as appears to me, becoming surplus to requirements? I feel sure someone here can slake my curiosity.

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Fancy coughing up for a £2,000 'nanodegree' in flying car design?

Milton
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And the job opportunities?

And the job opportunities?

If the "nano-degree" and its blurb were not sufficiently hilarious tosh, which aeronautical engineering company is going to hire the "nano grads"? No one who already has a decent engineering/science degree is going to go near this—why would they?—so who, precisely will take people dumb enough to widdle £2k like this? How will their insurance look? As hordes of flying cars take to the air (which isn't going to happen anyway) and periodically drop out of it and kill people (which is why it won't happen), who will be first to say "Oh yeah, our flight control software was written in Python by a blerk with an 11-plus and a nano-degree"?

And before anyone suggests that thousands or even millions of flying cars will be as safe as modern airliners, reflect upon this—

* They will be operated more like taxis, with exceptionally high landing/takeoff cycles, which are always the most dangerous part of flying.

* Airliners are not the safest form of transport anyway, unless and only if measured by passenger mile. Per journey, buses are actually safer. Flying cars will be much more like buses for journey frequency and length.

* The idea that a flying taxi operator will employ people to the standards of airliner engineers, working to the same regulatory standards and achieving remotely similar safety levels is pie in the sky. Short of some miraculous new propulsion technology and extraordinary ATC advances, flying cars will remain niche, minority and will never be used in large numbers over cities—the only place they'd have been useful. (Cities are by nature full of people, aka victims of aerial debris. Imagine our attitude to plane crashes if, on the very rare occasions they occur, the plane always came down in a city.)

Some of the same points apply to drones, which is why I suspect that idea of hundreds operating over a city is equally daft.

10
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Here we go again... UK Prime Minister urges nerds to come up with magic crypto backdoors

Milton
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And that Genie ...

The ignorance and stupidity of politicians aside, I return to the Genie—who cannot be returned to the bottle. Even if every mainstream encryption app could be compromised somehow (and therefore would no longer be used by anyone, of course), you cannot un-make the mathematical knowledge and algorithmic techniques to execute seriously tough encryption. There is basically nothing to stop any competent programmer knocking up some code, in almost any language, to encrypt data on a device. It's pretty unlikely that even quantum computing will be decrypting today's best encryption if executed properly with sizeable keys (and since the "imminent apocalyptic terrorist attack" bullshit so beloved of imbeciles who watched too much 24 is the usual inane justification, even decrypting the data as quickly as a month later is of little use).

Add good stegnogaphy*¹ to the mix and it is just moronic to think that serious bad actors will be much hampered by prohibiting e2e encryption apps—even if you could.

So why do the security services keep misleading gullible politicians? For they must know (a) that they are lying about backdoors, yet (b) keep on lying anyway.

I can only assume that aside from the usual empire-building budget-tumescing nonsense beloved of such people, this is about sheer laziness. The hard slog of humint, infiltration, shoe-leather intel gathering, hearts-and-minds ops, training and employing enough translators, learning about other regions' cultures and habits, using diplomacy and softpower to get what you want—perhaps it's all too difficult, when you delude yourseelf into believing that the computer can do it all for you? I do wonder what degree of self-delusion goes on in places like Babylon on Thames ... and perhaps more so at places like Langley. Judging by the apparently rotten advice they give to the political nincompoops, perhaps they are neither as realistic nor as practical as we'd imagine.

*¹ Whatcha gonna do? Ban everyone from posting poor quality cat photos? Over 2,000,000,000 (yup, two billion) photos posted every day? Any idea how much hidden messaging you can stuff into even a fraction of that?

9
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Milton
Silver badge

Canute lives!

Politician: "I want it."

Adult: "It is physically, mathematically impossible."

Politician: "I want it!

Adult: "Quite literally, what you ask cannot be done."

Politician: "I WANT it!!"

Adult: "Look, there are maybe 10,000 real experts on this subject, and all of those not employed by government or security services—i.e. who can speak honestly—will say the same: it just cannot be done."

Politician: "I want it!! I WANT it!! I WANT IT IT!!!"

Adult: Here's my resignation letter. Have you ever *actually wondered* why the voters think you're a bunch of immature, dimwitted children?"

22
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Google slaps mute button on stupid ads that nag you to buy stuff you just looked at

Milton
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Does Google really not get it?

Even from comments here it's obvious I am far from being the only one who simply ignores adverts. I don't mean "Take a look, then ignore": I mean I barely even notice them. There are too many. They are too rubbish. They're cheap, shoddy, stupid. They are not relevant. Even when I do notice an ad, often as not it's something I already bought, or looked at and have already decided not to buy.

It's some kind of mindless stupidity that decides that if ads aren't working, you'll hurl more and more truly awful ones in front of people. Google and the imbeciles who pay it for ads are actively deterring and annoying the thing they dearly want: interested, engaged eyeballs. By this point many of us, forced to notice a particularly annoying advert, actually develop antipathy towards the seller, achieving precisely the opposite of what was intended.

It's wise for Google to be diversifying away from advertising, because even its most gullible customers must be figuring out that they are on a loser: if internet advertising is less and less effective every single day—why is anyone seriously paying money for it? Do they actually trust Google's and the agencies' repeatedly-debunked lies about clicks, visits, sales and the rest? With the entire ecosystem infested by robots, and businesses specifically devoted to ripping people off?

It's a grossly overused quote, I'm afraid, but perhaps it's used a lot because people are, in fact, so bloody greedy and stupid: "Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." (—sometimes attributed to Einstein)

16
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New Sky thinking: Media giant makes dish-swerving move on Netflix territory

Milton
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O, joy

O, joy ... another way to go through Sky's menu and realise, after scrolling through several hundred channels twice, that there isn't a single thing worth watching. The sheer avalanche of cretinous shit is dumbfounding. Who are they, those people who actually want to watch endless reruns of crappy, breathless narrations as some poor schmuck gets stopped bringing an illegal boglogorian fruit through Australian customs? Or Season-57-Episode-94 of My Cheating Fat Loser Model Bakeoff Confession Wedding? Or the 21,032th repeat of a 1950s movie that shouldn't have been made, let alone watched even once?

7
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Non-'fiscally neutral' defence review is go, minister tells MPs

Milton
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Re: Defence is a white elephant

Yes, it's a white elephant—if you don't mind your wives and daughters sucking Russian cock at gunpoint.

I apologise for the crudity, but there's little excuse for being so stupid as not to have read any history.

10
4

Muglia's monster Snowflake in quarter-of-a-billion-dollar funding blizzard

Milton
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Pros and Cons

DW has arguably a much better justification for "cloud" than most other things: it really can require tonnes of storage space and oodles of CPU power, and insofar as some "clouds" offer flexibility to firewall the throttles sometimes, and at others merely cruise, that does have benefits not so easily or cost-effectively replicated on-prem.

So for once I'm not entirely sceptical of "cloud" as use-case or value for money.

That said, for all the lovely Pros of power and flexibility, there 's the usual mammoth Con of security. DW feeds BI (business intelligence) systems helping companies figure out important stuff about products, customers, patterns, trends, clusters, an awful lot of which quickly goes beyond merely feeding traffic lights on some cubicle fauna's PowerPoint deck and becomes knowledge supporting competitive advantage. In short, DWs can hold crown jewels. There's actually not much point making the investment in them if they don't.

So whatever these guys are up to, are they seriously addressing the question of data security, privacy, confidentiality etc? Directors eager to "save money" (trans: get bonuses) do not think properly about security when hypnotised by the prospect of cash, but I suspect that this is an issue that's just going to get more and more airtime and generate increasing amounts of worry. Stuff like homomorphic encryption is nowhere near prime-time usefulness, "clouds" are simply not as secure as providers would have you believe, and you're gonna trust those guys to host data which, potentially, explains and enables your business's key competitive advantages?

Think hard. Think long.

PS: I always put "cloud" in quotes because it's a stupid name for what it does, beloved only of marketurds—though admittedly not quite such a flat-out lie as "AI".

2
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F-35 'incomparable' to Harrier jump jet, top test pilot tells El Reg

Milton
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The endless page ...

The endless page ...

... looks exceptionally stupid when I can see the same story three times without scrolling.

Yes, I have a UHD monitor.

No, El Reg did not need to go down this particularly witless, brainless, positively f******g stupid approach to displaying its content. Leave the sh*t for the crap sites, ok? You can do better.

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Milton
Silver badge

And the day after he's retired ...

And the day after he's retired ...

... he'll follow the time-worn tradition of ex-military when speaking on politically sensitive topics.

Suddenly he'll discover that he can speak the truth, without the varnish and gilding and eliding and constant painful awareness that his career depends upon saying whatever his senior officers, and the political imbeciles they report to, want him to say.

It feels good, as many a retired general/admiral/chief of defence staff et al has discovered ... though it be much, much too late to make any difference to the current disaster-in-progress.

7
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All aboard the Vomit Comet: Not the last train to Essex, but a modded 727 for weightless flight

Milton
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Nostalgia dreams

It gives me a strangely nostalgic feeling to see the venerable 727 being put to use like this. It always was one of my favourite planes, along with the Tristar (amazingly comfortable and advanced for its time, good memories of some smooth cruising over the US in the 80s) and the VC-10, which shared with the 727 an excess of thrust (for hot-and-high airports) that meant pilots could really light the tail and head for the moon when they felt like it. The crabs used VC-10s to ferry soldiers around sometimes, with seats (sensibly, as should be done in all airliners) facing aft, and I swear that sometimes the RAF pilots firewalled the throttles and yanked the nose up just so they could punish poor pongos as their livers were garrotted by seatbelts ...

I note that £4k is a lot less than the ransom demanded from wealthy adolescents for Branson's fatheaded "Virgin Galactic" deathtrap, which delivers basically the same thing: a few minutes' "weightlessness" which is actually ballistic free-fall—in Beardie's case at a very high altitude so that the aforementioned rich halfwits can get an "astronaut" merit badge despite not even getting into orbit .... or doing anything useful or even going anywhere, in fact.

8
3

Amount of pixels needed to make VR less crap may set your PC on fire

Milton
Silver badge

Touching a nerve

I feel some sympathy with the post about direct-to-brain interfacing. Having to jump through so many hoops to satisfy the annoyingly choosy Mk#1 Eyeball would just go away if we could plug into the Visual Data Bus (used to be called the Optic Nerve) and feed whatever the hell we like, properly formatted pix, to the brain. Right?

But no. The problem is, as I understand it (i.e. no expert) that the eye effectively does a lot of the filtering, call it pre-processing work, before it reveals to the brain whatever it thinks the latter should be allowed to worry about. I believe this includes "fixing" the image, by for example inferring that areas of colour are sharply bounded if lines are perceptible between them—even if, in reality, there is bleed between the colours. Also there is selective blindness: simply ignoring quite large and otherwise noticeable features because something more interesting is the focus of concentration. There's also the question of relative sizes, whereby the eye reports erroneously on dimensions because it is taking cues from other parts of a scene.

We've all seen these. The first is one reason early colour TV was able to use so little broadcast bandwidth: it relied upon the human eye putting in features that just weren't there, in the picture, ever. The second you'll have noted if you were ever fooled by the gorilla-behind-the-basketball-players vignette: your eye was following the frantic motion of the players and you never so much as noticed that a gorilla had walked across the court. The third is a favourite of trompe l'oeil and other illusions you can find all over the web. (And: how many of the decisions about the *distances* of objects are already made by the time the consciousness "sees" that heavily filtered, processed, image? Read up on why good 2D movies are already kinda 3D movies, for some answers.) My wild-assed guess is that the eye is making dozens if not hundreds of modifications to pre-process stuff for the consciousness, and we're just barely scratching the surface with current understanding.

The eye isn't doing this in isolation from the brain, but the brain isn't doing it in isolation from the eye, either: in fact, arguably, the eye is a highly specialised part of the brain. So, tempting as it may be, we can't simply decode the Visual Data Bus and then shovel our own bits onto it.

That said, there are some awesomely clever people working in the field of biological vision, and I don't doubt that we will eventually find a way to get images into the brain directly—though perhaps it were more accurate to say, "to get a detailed subjective impression of an optical environment accepted by the brain as valid".

My guess, FWIW, is that when this happens VR will *still* not be good enough to fool the brain, or convince anyone that they are looking at reality.

2
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Today in bullsh*t AI PR: Computers learn to read as well as humans (no)

Milton
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Mr Darcy's motivations

The claims are actually far more outrageously hyped than the article suggests.

True reading comprehension would offer you a few pages of Jane Austen, depicting some pivotal events, conversation and the author's inner monologue, and then ask questions.

This should include stuff like "How long does it take to get from Longbourn to Netherfield?" because a human will assess the text for an in-context answer (by means of transport of the historical era depicted). An AI is liable to be quite stupid enough to say "84 seconds" since that's how long it takes a Tesla at the legal speed limit to cover the distance.

Less tongue-in-cheek, a human will know how to answer questions like "What are the contrasting character aspects of Mr Collins and Mr Darcy? Whom do you think Elizabeth Bennet respects more, and why?" "Does she like Mr Darcy as soon as she meets him? If not, what is her opinion?" "How does the Georgiana character influence the story, particularly Elizabeth's feelings and opinions of others?"

You could make up a virtually endless list of questions, through which human readers will prove their humanity and intelligence by their answers—and which will leave so-called "AI" looking clownishly stupid.

My point being (and quite unoriginal, I admit) that the difference between "extracting facts from text" and "comprehending the world and people and feelings" is an almost unbridgeably vast gulf.

The AI hype—not only from marketurds who are paid to lie, but painfully earnest from technologists who completely fail to understand silicon's limitations—would be quite funny, if it weren't for the fact that so much of this torrent of drivel is taken seriously and reported on by media who, from their witless naivete, might as well be AIs themselves.

13
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Uncle Sam's treatment of Huawei is world-class hypocrisy – consumers will pay the price

Milton
Silver badge

Re: Facesaving indeed

"Huawei would give full access to its source code to GCHQ experts in a clean-room environment. It was examined, and pronounced clean. Completely pointless, since there is no assurance that this code is what actually goes into production devices."

Duh! Of course, none of the folks at GCHQ will have thought of that. It employs only some of the best mathematicians and software experts in the country, after all—every one of them too thick to even consider the possibility that actual production devices will need to be randomly sampled for checks to ensure that the digital fingerprints for the "clean code" can still be verified.

Thank heaven for the geniuse—, commentards at El Reg, to put those poor duffers straight!

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