* Posts by Milton

773 posts • joined 14 Jun 2016


Q&A: Crypto-guru Bruce Schneier on teaching tech to lawmakers, plus privacy failures – and a call to techies to act

Milton Silver badge

The implicit message

What appears implicit in Mr Schneier's argument is that—

1. Politicians are clueless and largely unwilling to make decisions on an ethical basis

2. The employees of large enterprises are far more likely to make or support ethical decisions than their management and executives.

Both of these things are obviously true, as history has demonstrated for basically ever and as can be seen proven again today with a cursory glance at the Conservative and Republican idiocracies in the UK and US respectively, imbecile triumph-of-the-juvenile phenomena like Brexit and Trump, and the disgusting behaviour of Facebook, Volkswagen, Google and most of Big Pharma to name but a few.

So not a surprise but a source for despair, that we start yet another discussion on how to govern our own species with the unchallenged, almost unremarked assumption that its most powerful and wealthy groups, and its leadership, are comprised of so many greedy, shameless, hypocritical, dishonest—and in the particular case of the politicians, stupid and ignorant—well, for want of a better word, scum.

The eternal tragedy of humanity and why, very possibly, it is doomed.

"Those who crave power should never be allowed to wield it."

Facebook blames 'server config change' for 14-hour outage. Someone run that through the universal liar translator

Milton Silver badge

The Facebook Experiment, aka 'Project DF'

The Facebook Experiment is one of those ultra top secrets that hides in plain sight. It actually began years ago, with Zuckerberg's notable observation that Facebook users were "dumb fucks". Since then the hidden-yet-obvious programme, internally known to a select few as 'Project DF', has continued as a kind of psychological experiment-cum-profit-making enterprise.

Its purpose: to see just how much contempt and disrespect for its users and civilised society in general the company can demonstrate while the DFs continue to drool fecklessly over use the platform.

Those in the know once had a cruise-ship-style sweepstake going as to how badly the company could behave before being punished, but since even the High Range was long since exhausted, the money has been returned to bettors. It transpires that DFs are also heavily represented among US and UK politicians, giving the company free rein for ever more atrocious behaviour.

Notable because Zuckerberg was, on that occasion, being truthful.

Buyer's Remorse followed the purchase of a failed, widely reviled UK politician, and the company has been able to shut its slush lobbying fund. The decision was made at a meeting where the CFO's point that "We only need to bribe the intelligent ones" was greeted with awed silence.

Following 'stellar' flat sales growth, operating profit dip, Oracle says it has 1,000 Autonomous Database customers

Milton Silver badge

Hidden beef

"... what are they hiding?"

Fair question, since no one with a scrap of intelligence would trust Oracle or its minions. I suspect the answer is another question: Why would any rational customer, having evaluated all cloud options available to them, and considering all parameters of cost, functionality and security, choose to buy Oracle? Seriously—for what possible reason would you actually choose Oracle?

For a very long time now, it has seemed to me that "new" Oracle business comes mostly from existing victi- customers, who simply cannot escape. Oracle has added a plethora of variously half-decent or crummy systems to its core offerings, usually poorly integrated and clunkily Frankensteined together, to the point where the one thing it was doing well 25 years ago (its RDBMS) is obscured behind a barnacly encrustation of pie charts and marketing nonsense that only a third-rate MBA could love. It's not so much an ecosystem as a swamp—where the only dry areas are dotted with punji pits. I defy any rational business not already parasitised by Oracle to choose to go there. And let's face it, if the unappetising, inflexible mess of its offerings were not sufficient deterrent, its corporate attitude of arrogance and entitlement, coupled with traditionally unsavoury marketing, sales and pricing practice would surely send you fleeing?

My guess is that it takes a lot of smoke and mirrors to obscure the fact that Oracle survives, for now, by squeezing existing customers and sucking them into more pasted-on crap; that a forensic examination would show how very, very little genuinely new business, in the shape of actual new clients, is coming through the door.

Of course, it is fortunate for companies like Oracle and its saleslizards that a veritable multitude of third-rate MBAs are constantly spaffed out of colleges like wasps on a hot summer morning—eager, and entirely clueless.

Overhyped 5G is being 'rushed', Britain's top comms boffin reckons

Milton Silver badge

Marketing BS >>> Technological Reality

As we've noted with one US provider (AT&T) already using outright lies to pretend it is providing 5G connectivity to gullible consumers, the marketing bullshit for this is going to stay far, far ahead of the technical realities.

Let's not forget that 5G requires a vast number of (relatively small) antennae to work, because these have to be close to the device (no more than hundreds of metres distant) in order to connect, so the chances of ever using 5G outside a city or some kind of serious population density will remain essentially zero. The atmospheric attenuation of mm-wave signal is bad enough, but the signals are not going to be able to get through the walls of buildings, so even with a multitude of aerials and beamforming, you're highly likely to find larger buildings, or those blocked by others, remaining as eternal black spots. Users will find that the precise location and even orientation of their device—even the position of thier own bodies—makes wild differences to bandwidth availability.

The fact that it will only be practical in cities (already mostly wired) leads many to suggest automotive applications as the key use case, but if you actually need low-latency high-bandwidth connectivity while driving—which is more an article of faith than a proven fact—how will you cope if the signal drops out for a few seconds every time you pass a big building, a construction site, a warehouse, a train, or even as you take the time to pass a large truck?

It's amusing to note that some practical 5G deployments would install antennae with greater density than was needed for the failed early-90s Rabbit mobile phone system, widely mocked for requiring a base station on every block.

5G has every appearance of technology being invented and deployed because it can be, not because there is a strong need for what it can do. How many people really need gaming-level bandwidth while out and about: especially given it will crash every time the train passes anything that blocks what is, after all, close to being a line-of-sight signal?

If 5G instead promised simply to extend mobile reach, which would be a huge deal in the USA, finally bringing adequate if unspectacular connectivity to vast rural areas, it would make a lot more sense. But of course, in the boondocks is where it is supremely useless.

In sum and IMHO, I am more interested in ideas to broaden connectivity, for example using satellite constellations, than simply making it a bit faster for folks who are actually already quite well served.

AT&T's lies notwithstanding, they might actually be ahead of the game: true and useful 5G is going to remain as bullshit fodder for marketurds, and for a long time yet.

UK joins growing list of territories to ban Boeing 737 Max flights as firm says patch incoming

Milton Silver badge

Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence

I understand that Boeing and the FAA, eyeing the potential economic and reputational fallout from a grounding, are staking a position on the lack of immediate evidence that Ethiopian 302 went down for the same reason as Lion 610, and further that the loss of Lion 610 might well have been avoided if the pilots had turned off the anti-stall setting that may, given bad data by a defective AoA sensor, have been at the root of the problem.

A Boeing executive might well honestly say:

"A. Lion 610 wouldn't have crashed if the pilots had been more aware of how to correct the situation (which they should have been, from reports of prior incidents, for that very aircraft, which were sucessfully resolved); B. we simply don't know yet what caused Ethiopian 302 to crash; and C. even if it was the same scenario, we must again point out that pilots had no excuse not to know how to rectify the problem."

I think you really cannot blame an executive for that line of reasoning.


But, a Boeing engineer might have some rather different thoughts, like:

"Yeah, both sets of pilots should have known what to do in the case of the anti-stall system being erroneously activated. Both sets of pilots already had a body of prior events and reports to work from. Lion 610's pilots should have known about what had already occurred on previous flights with their very own airframe. Ethiopian 302's pilots cannot conceivably have been unaware of Lion 610. So what if there is more to this than we're assuming? What if, while we're obsessing about bad AoA data setting off our (nice, shiny, new) anti-stall software, there is another, much more subtle, much less easily fixed problem which occurs very infrequently, perhaps with almost random intermittency? Doesn't this, in fact, stink like a catch of week-old haddock left in the noonday sun?"

My guess is that executives will make the basically bad decision to keep the plane flying, not out of greed or even stupidity, but because they follow their own logic. Which, to a non-engineer brain, makes sense.

Whereas engineer brains are preprogrammed with laws like Murphy's, and that one about Unintended Consequences, and in particular the one that correlates systems complexity with not only increased numbers of points of failure, but to the ever-increasing difficulty of finding, replicating, diagnosing and fixing the rare and subtle ones. (Look how long it took to finally figure out the phenomenally rare combination of factors involved the B737 rudder hardover failures that brought down UA 585, USAir 427, and nearly killed Eastwind 517. This was an entirely mechanical problem in a single power control unit, occasioned when a specific sequence of flight events brought very hot hydraulic fluid into a very cold servo system. Nowhere near as complex as a million lines of code, but from the first deadly accident to a final finding by NTSB was eight years. (The fact that this too was B737 is purely coincidental.))

It's difficult enough to prove that 1,000 lines of code are error-free, let alone the millions that can make up aircraft OS and flight systems programs. (And let's not overlook the fact that this airframe has some significant changes from the NG series that preceded it. The positioning of the engines—further forward and higher, to accommodate larger fan diameters—has made big differences to CG and trim; the winglets are new; and even changing the nose gear system alters an aircraft's inflight CG and trim needs. Fuel figures suggest the 737MAX flies beautifully trimmed ... but all these things are changes which do affect the way software performs and makes decisions.)

On balance, I suspect experienced engineers would be a leetle bit more inclined to ground the 737MAX fleet, right now, than their bosses in the e-suite.

While this CEO may be stiff, his customers are rather stuffed: Quadriga wallets finally cracked open – nothing inside

Milton Silver badge

What a tangled web

El Reg treads the lines carefully—

Since Cotten's reported death, at the age of 30 while traveling in India ... ... According to a death certificate, Cotten died while traveling through Jaipur ...

—but is obviously noticing a stench resembling that of half a ton of dead fish rotting in the Jaipur sun.

I'm reminded of Rabbie Burns: "Ah what a tangled web we weave / when we seek to deceive"

We can't all be D.B.Cooper, and he at least had the sense to 'spend' some of his ill-gotten gains by chucking them in a ravine to stir the possibility that he hadn't survived his parachute drop. If perchance this is a larcenous enterprise, it might have been better not to make that 3 December transaction, which may prove a fatal undoing ....

Google finally touts $150 pint-sized Linux dev board with Edge TPU AI math copro brains

Milton Silver badge

Duplex deposits

More and more places require a deposit for bookings, because so many are made and then folks don't turn up. The habit of booking multiple 'options' and ditching them at short notice is parasitic and noxious, and this was always going to happen.

So will restaurateurs trust Duplex? Especially if they know it's a Google product? How will it negotiate deposits? Will a deposit paid by duplex be honoured? Refunded? Disavowed? Many English speakers seem to have difficulty with foreign accented-English (even when spoken, as is sometimes the case, by people with a better vocabulary and grammar than their English interlocutors)—especxially Indian, for some reasons—so will Duplex do any better, when negotiating a slightly later booking with the Taj Mahal for Friday evening?

And when we've got past those problems, how long before malware, spyware and all the other "dark fuckery of the human heart" kicks in? When the TM says they'll keep the three deposits committed to by Duplex because it's not their fault if your rogue/contaminated/abused system made bookings in your name? Or blocks you for nuisance bookings that you keep not turning up to? Or insists that you're not getting the seven o'clock table you thought you'd booked, because Rashinder and Duplex agreed to eleven o'clock instead? Or you get irritated calls from 17 different places asking what the hell is going on, because someone pranked your infected system and made a shedload of random bookings for you? Whenl your Significant Other queries a romantic dinner for two that she wasn't invited to, will you earnestly explain that Google must have gone rogue and made the booking for you? Duplex as alibi?

The failure and chaos modes are numerous. No one thought email would be a harbinger of so much wasted time and chaos 30 years ago, but look where we got to. And email is actually useful, unlike a system designed for people too paralytically lazy to pick up a phone or visit a website. If normal use doesn't create major problems, you may be certain that once the vandals and Black Hats get involved, you're in for a wild ride. And that doesn't even address the idiocy of giving the laughably named Don't Be Evil with yet another invasion-of-privacy vector ...

Nod to Stephen King

ReactOS 0.4.11 makes great strides towards running Windows apps without the Windows

Milton Silver badge


I've muttered bad-temperedly here before about finally ditching Windows when W7 support dries up, since it has been, IMHO, the best OS from MS. The later spyware versions will have no place on any personal system that i use (sadly, I may yet have to keep a laptop, infected with W10 rescued from the kill shelter, for working with clients). But, as I've also said before, I like some software that regettably is not ported/portable to *ix. I will cross-train to Gimp if I must, but Paint.net is just so damn nice to use! I am utterly familiar with the W7 UI, which is excellent for multi-large-monitor non-touch desktop use. Heck, behind a solid firewall and AV, it just works, year after dependable year.

The short version is: like many others, I'd actually pay money for a desktop OS that would run Windows applications without spying on me or trying to lead me into the punji-trap of subscriptions. Give me an OS equivalent in performance and functionality to W7Ultimate—with no upgrades, ever—just doing what it says on the tin, solid properly-tested security updates maybe monthly as necessary, and I'd pay a solid wedge for it and a few quid a year for the security fixes. (Oh, and It will need to support VMs. Various Linuxes hang around these parts, too.)

And since this is almost certainly a pipe dream, I guess that in a year or so, I'll be typing from a Linux desktop, and Gimping ....

FBI boss: Never mind Russia and social media, China ransacks US biz for blueprints, secrets at 'surprisingly' huge scale

Milton Silver badge

Russia shouts; China whispers

Russia makes a lot of noise because it is actually quite weak. Its economy is in bad shape, not least because it's a kleptocracy crippled by the wholesale theft of assets by KGB thugs and their fellow criminals after the fall of the wall, and also because it spends proportionately far too much on weaponry, plus it is badly affected by western sanctions imposed for serious criminality. (For one thing, nerve agent attacks on foreign soil are far beyond acceptable behaviour.) Plus little Vlad The Emailer, riding the tiger, knows that when he falls or is pushed off he won't survive a day, is therefore desperate to maintain his position, which he thinks he can do by childish shirtless stunts and lots of chest-beating. Russia shouts because it is just not that powerful.

China, on the other hand, quietly builds upon its enormous economic strength. Although Xi has made some bad mistakes in accelerating his military adventurism, on the whole China continues to whisper and do diplomacy while becoming stronger every day. NSA and GCHQ and the other Five Eyes operators have been so busy spying on my browsing habits—are you bored to death yet?—that they have, in their largely pointless attempts at active espionage, scandalously neglected the 'counter-' part of their mission. While Five Eyes were eavesdropping on the cellphones of allied leaders, Russia conspired with the мокрые дела Candidate to secure the US Presidency, China stole the entire F-35 dataset from Lockheed and little Vlad, fresh from invading the Crimea, got a head start in buggering up Europe (with, admittedly, ample help from the British Conservatives' circus of Useful Idiots).

It worries me to agree with that loathsome ambulatory compost heap, Steve Bannon, about anything: but he is almost certainly correct that unless China changes its ways, which includes the seemingly impossible feat of regime change and a move to democracy, sooner or later it will have to be cut down to size.

Russia, ultimately, cannot win because its economy is a kleptocracy and a ruinously badly managed mess besides. China, ultimately, cannot lose because its economy is colossal and growing. Unless we actually want its murderous, repressive regime to enslave the world in a new Dark Ages, China must be stopped. If regime change through trade pressure doesn't work—and there's no sign of it, especially under this hopelessly incompetent White House—the answer will ultimately be military.

The consequences of war with China in the next five years are horrifying. The consequences of waiting ten or 20 years are much, much worse. And the consequences of doing nothing at all are the extinction of human freedom: everywhere.

Milton Silver badge


"There may well be a way to combine strong encryption and lawful intercepts he said, if people are willing to put their heads together."

In the late Victorian era an assumption began to be widely credited and shared, that future leaders would be drawn from among scientists. After all, they are the smartest people, they're trained to establish evidence-based facts, to apply logic and rationality in understanding cause and effect, and are demonstrably the best problem-solvers our species can offer. Plus, they tend to be, if not apolitical, at least aware that cold hard objective fact trumps wishful thinking and political bullshit every single time. You can vote to make π = 3.000 as many time as you like and π won't change for you.

Unfortunately for the human race, scientists recoil with disgust from politics, especially from the early 21st-century strains of politician which have evolved like particularly noxious spirochaetes: there is nothing to like, admire or emulate in creatures which now embody the worst of human vices—people who appear almost to revel in their cowaridce, hypocrisy, mendacity and wilful ignorance. Just look at the bloviating liars and spineless lice busy destroying Britain, or the US GOP, unable to bend over backwards far enough in its invertebrate deceit to protect the worst human being ever to soil the White House. So low has western politics sunk—and no, I haven't much good to report about the state of the "left" either, which also seems largely bought and paid for by corporate money.

So the Christopher Wray, and his wish to "... combine strong encryption and lawful intercepts ... if people are willing to put their heads together"—because despite all the soothing words, he shows that he simply does not get it. And presumably, lacking a math degree, he never will. The politicians who appointed him are not scientists, do not even resemble scientists—indeed, in many respects are the complete opposite of objective seekers-after-truth—so they are neither willing nor capable of comprehension of this issue. We are "led" by ignorant fools, who, even when they employ less ignorant and less foolish people, control their budgets, goals, procedures and to large extent, public statements.

So Mr Wray ultimately comes back to spouting dumb, impossible stuff. He has to say he wants π to be 3.000, but no matter how many "people are willing to put their heads together", it'll continue obstinately and forever to remain an objective unchanged fact.

Even if every public cryptosystem were crippled with a backdoor which miraculously remained a secret, the real villains will simply use an uncrippled one. The options are almost limitless, and the use of advanced steganography in a world where 2,000,000,000 data-heavy images are shared every day, makes reading or even finding competently-encrypted messages an utterly futile effort.

If you want to spy on the innocent, or the lame-arsed, trivial, incompetent small fry, you may find some meagre success for the trillions of dollars you spend. But the real Black Hats' conversations will remain forever secure. π still won't be 3.000.

Alphabet snoop: If you're OK with Google-spawned Chronicle, hold on, hold on, dipping into your intranet traffic, wait, wait

Milton Silver badge

Spiffing Wheeze

So, large parts of the world are awash with bad actors stealing data, from nation states downloading terabyte data sets for Lockheed's F-35, through Fancy Bear lice working for ex-KGB scumbags, all the way to the FOAB in Bumphuk, New Jersey.

The remainder of the planet is fighting a batle against corporate executives at Facebook and Google—morally indistinguishable from Vlad The Emailer's rind of scuzz—who have by this point become nothing better than serial liars and thieves of personal data.

Against this background of law-of-the-jungle theft and lies—condoned and perpetuated by the inaction of politicians long since bought and paid for by the internet giants' lobbyists—a business whose continued existence may well depend upon the confidentiality of its IP and operating data, is going to send all of its comms data to the worst offender of all, as a security measure?

It's just more evidence, as if were it needed, for the theory that air pollution is destroying humanity's IQ levels; or that the aliens shone a Stupidity Ray through planet Earth sometime in the late 1990s and have been watching and giggling ever since.

A story worthy of April 1st.


FOAB: "Fatty On a Bed"—the Orange Cretin's fantasy of a hacker, "Fat guy sitting on a bed somewhere" ... if FOAB was gagging down his third Big Mac while watching Fox&F***tards, I think he got the idea from the Presidential Mirror.

SPOILER alert, literally: Intel CPUs afflicted with simple data-spewing spec-exec vulnerability

Milton Silver badge

Well I never ...

I bought my last CPU purely on bang-per-buck criteria, needing then (4/5 yrs ago), for a client, to model parallel molecular simulations which we would later scale to Big Server installations (eventually discovering—to the great surprise of no one now—that the CPU was better used to orchestrate the heavy lifting done in GPUs) but that machine remains on my desktop with its water-cooled beast of an AMD chip, still rocketing along. I'm aware that AMD architecture is not immune from all Spectre-type attacks, but it seems to be less vulnerable overall: a pleasant little extra, I guess, from a CPU which has provided bulletproof high performance for so long now (fingers crossed). Cannot claim any clever foresight, though.

When 2FA means sweet FA privacy: Facebook admits it slurps mobe numbers for more than just profile security

Milton Silver badge

Proposing the New Interactive Model

Internet ads have a feature that previous types didn't.

Paper, radio and TV ads all required you to remember something, to be latently influenced. The effect was either subtle—subconscious reinforcement of brand awareness, more readily noticing 'Acme Inc' next time you saw the name—or direct, making you want to go and buy the great new product which the ad was selling. But you were rarely in a position to act immediately; to show an instant response.

The net is different, since you can click the link and buy the product—or: you can demonstrate your response by some other method.

So I propose that from now on, internet advertising is regulated to ensure that as well as being able to click on the 'Buy Now' or 'See More' link, there is also one labelled 'FOAD'. The law will require that the ad displays the number of FOAD clicks when it is shown, but, more importantly, the company in question is charged 1p/1¢ in extra taxation for each occurrence. The money raised will go directly into a national special educational fund, to be spent exclusively on improvements to schools, learning materials, teachers' and lecturers' salaries.

We'd need to solve the problem of robots, of course, but that aside you now have an excellent and effective way of making sure that internet advertising has to seriously improve.

Do you know why TV ads during Superbowl are of vastly better quality than the witless drivel vomited out by commercial radio? Because the former is expensive, of course. Radio ads are cheap as chips, which is why they are simply awful. Internet ads are even cheaper, which is why they occupy the very bottom of the quality sewer.

So now we are using the interactivity of the internet to ensure that bad ads are punished, that advertising generally becomes more expensive so you'll start to see better ones, and money incidentally generated by bad ones goes towards a critically important cause: education. Crappy advertisers go out of business. You see better ads.

All you have to do is press the 'Fsck Off And Die' button ...


Radio: Embarrassingly poor fake-Scandi accent drones on for 30 seconds about yet another dreary car, telling you how little it will cost; followed by a hasty babble with the usual rhyme "Terms and conditions apply, all the above was a lie" as someone else explains the real cost is twice as much. Does this transparently deceitful garbage work on anyone?

Customer: We fancy changing a 25-year-old installation. C'mon, it's just one extra valve... Only wafer thin...

Milton Silver badge


"Quicker, cheaper, delivering in increments that may well have imperfections, and only if it's a small project of carefully scoped goals using your very best, experienced people given prompt access to resources and users ..."

... but the beancounters and clueless MBAs who infest the industry like guinea worms only hear the first two words.

It's not your imagination: Ticket scalper bots are flooding the internet according this 'ere study

Milton Silver badge

Too easy to fix

Enforcing strong CAPTCHA and allowing only modern browsers solves the major part of the problem. The vendors could easily and cheaply do this. If they're not doing it, it's because they don't want to. If they don't want to, it's because they're greedy bastards who don't care who gets hurt.

So, fsck 'em. Regulation will require all sellers of vulnerable items to implement a certain antibot standard and that's it.

We insist that medicines, for example, must have a package insert listing ingredients, side effects, interactions etc, for public health and safety. Why imagine that internet based goods and services should be given immunity?

Once again that phrase comes to mind: "The retarded intellectual metabolism of government".

Correction: Last month, we called Zuckerberg a moron. We apologize. In fact, he and Facebook are a fscking disgrace

Milton Silver badge

Dumb fscks?

One of the few times Zuckerberg has been honest was when he said he considered Facebook users to be "dumb fscks" (using Regspeak here). He might have added that Facebook's leadership are "avaricious, amoral, lying csnts".

Another way to look at Amazon's counterfeit-busting Project Zero: Making merchants cough up protection money

Milton Silver badge

Lack of accountability and sanction

It would be onerous and expensive for outfits like ebay and Amazon to have to take responsibility and suffer fines for selling counterfeit goods. Their prices would have to rise. Or profits would fall.

It would be expensive for Amazon to have to pay their warehouse and delivery folks a decent wage. Their prices would have to rise. Or profits would fall.

It would be a burden for Amazon to have to pay proper taxes in the countries they sell from, through, and to. Their prices would have to rise. Or profits would fall.

It would cost Amazon more if they were to pay a fair royalty to owners of copyrighted stuff sold on their site. There prices would have to rise. Or profits would fall.

Perhaps Amazon doesn't in any way deserve to take advantage of the sloppiness of a badly regulated inernet?

Perhaps Amazon should have to compete on a more level playing field with other retailers, including B&M?

Perhaps it would not be a bad thing if employees were paid decently, so that they didn't have to rely upon social welfare, which itself would benefit from extra taxes, and other retailers had a fairer chance to compete, and authors and songwriters and singers too were properly rewarded for thier work without their earnings being parasitised?

Perhaps the truth is that governments are the villains here, for having utterly, often corruptly failed to properly regulate and sanction internet giants, from Amazon to Facebook to Google?

The problems of social media and predatory Amazons and eBays are all solvable: you just need to elect people to do it. (Hint: not the solid majority of lazy, dumb, greedy crap currently infesting Westminster while f**king up every single thing they touch ...)

I say, that sucks! Crooks are harnessing hoovers to clean out parking meters in Chelsea

Milton Silver badge

"funding further criminality"

'We also now know from local police that this is funding further criminality in London, from drugs and trafficking to possibly violent crime," Pascall added.'

And many of us remember the frothing propaganda about video piracy, telling us that copying a tape supported terrorists and international criminals and intercontinental drugs gangs and child traffickers and black market arms dealers (and, who knows, even to the worst of the worst, the Catholic Church?) ... it's funny how no one ever said, "Yeah, some pikies are knocking out tapes in Wolverhampton and buying new caravans".

These hysterical warnings of all the hellish evils being funded by pound coins sucked from council meters are sooo yesterday, not to mention silly, unnecessary and counterproductive, because when you begin this kind of hype, people don't even trust you when you do speak facts.

Brave claims its mobe browser batt use bests whatever you're using. Why? Hint: It begins with A then D then V...

Milton Silver badge

Never looked back: yet

Got fed up with Firefox on Android (appallingly slow) and switched to Brave about six months ago. It is so much better I've never even considered switching again.

But as someone else said, the last para about Brave plotting its own ad model is very discouraging.

How difficult would it be for Brave simply to offer its browser app for 99p a year, with annual upgrades and interim security fixes as what you get for the money? Heck, I'd probably pay up to £5 a year for a good, fast, ad-free mobile browser. (And yes, I'd pay for Vivaldi on my desktop, too, if it ditched ads as well as Brave does. Again, it makes Firefox look like a dinosaur, especially since last year's nasty 'upgrade' to the Firefox UI.)

But do NOT start manuring my eyeballs with ads again. They are utter shit. They don't work. They're not good or amusing to look at or listen to. They just waste my time, my reading space and my battery.

Be honest, and charge for the software, or please, just get lost.

Foldables herald the beginning of the end of the smartphone fetish

Milton Silver badge

No, not really

1. No one is being asked to 'crowdfund' development. The first cars, gramophones, transistor radios, VCRs all cost a bleedin fortune and there weren't many who could afford them. But they sold, and became numerous, and economies of production scale and competition kicked in, and one day everybody had one. That the first foldyfones cost a lot is not remotely new or surprising, and it's not part of any new business model, and it doesn't need daft references to crowdfunding thrown in. There's nothing new about this approach: indeed, it's the only one available.

2. Fancy gadgets will continue to be 'fetishised' because they always have been. Again, look at the examples above. There was a time when you boasted about having a cassette recorder. (For some reason I still have my Sony TC-55, c.1976, then billed as the world's smallest cassette recorder. Weird.) Modern phones are no different from previous and future human practice, they are just more visibly ubiquitous. People will soon be considering, as they always have, according to their credit rating, whether to buy the cheaper, plainer version, the mainstream workhorse or the fancy, glossy, super-expensive status symbol. They did it with cars and TVs and will do it with foldyfones in due course.

The phone industry has languished in a severe lack of innovation ever since every lemming on Earth deicded to copy Apple's all-screen candybar. It is good to some true innovation return. But the innovation is in the form factor and engineering, not in anything else. The business model, pricing and marketing will all follow a time-honoured route established since the Model T. Hyping about the end of 'fetishisation', or imagining that a new design presages some game-changing business model completely misses the point. Perhaps the author of the article is very, very young?

Secret mic in Nest gear wasn't supposed to be a secret, says Google, we just forgot to tell anyone

Milton Silver badge


Google kept the mic secret because they knew perfectly well that the first questions would be (a) why is that in there? and (b) how do I ensure it is switched off, in hardware?—and I'm guessing that there is no way to switch off it in hardware, so you'll just have to trust Google (cue: hysterical laughter).

Given "Don't Be Evil's" long history of lying, at least as far back as the StreetView espionage campaign, it's fair to assume they are lying again now.

I'd be interested to see if any purchasers will now sue and demand a refund, especially if there is no easy way to ensure the mic is off or removed?

It's one thing for me to heap scorn upon fools who deliberately introduce mic- and camera-equipped devices into their homes (especially if they're naïve enough to believe manufacturers, whose entire raison d'être is spying on people, claiming foolproof privacy and anonymity guarantees) but it seems appalling, even by Google's squalid "ethics", to fit microphones to equipment secretly. (Yes, secretly: if they wanted to claim it wasn't done with deliberate malign intent, they'd have had to notify purchasers in the first place. All else is just more lies and excuses.)

Milton Silver badge

"... talks to Google's servers over the internet ..."

"The £99 Nest home alarm talks to Google's servers over the internet, offering home monitoring and alert functions."

We might also note that there is no reason whatsoever for any of these devices to "talk to Google's servers". It is perfectly possible to have a properly firewalled connection outbound from your home router and (if necessary) a dynamic DNS setup that allows you to connect directly to a web server hosted on the device itself. It is trivially easy to put up a few web pages displaying controls and stats for one of these devices: even a £10 RPiZ can do it with room and power to spare (I use one to control my otherwise temperamental combi boiler, which was surprised to find itself adapted as an Internet Thing).

Just as there is no reason for your immensely powerful phone to connect to backend servers to perform speech recognition, so it is that the connection of your Nest to Google is entirely for Google's benefit and very definitely not yours.

This is a company which makes obscene money by spying on you, and then selling you. Your life is sold and makes hundreds of dollars for Google (and Facebook and the rest of the sleazy greedmongers), and in return you get ... a few cents' worth of searches from the former, and pictures of other people's crummy dinners from the other.

When Zuckerberg described Facebook users as "dumb fucks" he was neatly summing up the massed herds of bovine internet addicts who would, it seems, buy alligator puppies—if they were shiny, or let you lie about what a great tropical vacation you had ....

Veterans of East Germany's Stasi must be crying with laughter, watching fat western idiots pay money to put cameras and microophones into their own homes, even after being shown that those devices report back to the least trustworthy, most deceitful companies on the planet. "Dumb fucks" indeed.

Decoding the President, because someone has to: Did Trump just blow up concerted US effort to ban Chinese 5G kit?

Milton Silver badge

Re: Let's see

'Let's see

1) a company based in China that would be financially ruined if any government "influence" was found.

2) a company based in the USA with more security exploits than I can be bothered to count.

Which would you ban from "sensitive networks"?'

I do get the point, but it's irrelevant. Sure, the western democracies are infected by psychotically greedy companies of basically disgusting ethics like Facebook and Google, and there are plenty of others whose software actually gets worse and less secure as time goes on (Microsoft Windows), not even to count decaying dinosaurs like IBM and Oracle whose grotesquely overpriced and inefficient software is simply bad to have around ...

... but the fact that we have so stupidly surrounded ourselves with this shit is neither argument nor excuse for allowing a hostile foreign power to infect our critical systems and place us at a further disadvantage. China is objectively a bad government of bad people motivated to do bad things. It is growing in power and only a hopeless naif would imagine that it will not try to extend its malign influence to us if allowed to.

It simply cannot be allowed. The fact that Facebook and Google are self-inflicted diseases does not change that in the slightest.

Milton Silver badge

100% nonsense as usual

Trump is simply talking his usual childish drivel, repeating half-baked, poorly understood points from whatever cable news he was watching most recently—or whichever of his lickspittles and lackeys last got his ear. His tendency to repeat Fox 'News' lies and daft propaganda after a session stuffing his carcase with burgers in front of the telly is by now very well known. The only thing that makes these statements interesting (to a psychiatrist?) is how he so often gets the wrong end of the stick, doesn't remember key facts or simply invents things, like a boastful child. He has credibility with his apologists only because (a) they're even dumber than he is, and/or (b) he's a racist, misogynist, regressive slug, and they'll forgive everything else if they can have that. Those two categories pretty much explain the support of his aptly named 'base' and GOP/Fox, respectively.

As I've argued before, given China's history of bad behaviour and the nature of its government, we have to go by capabilities rather intentions, and for that reason western democracies should by exceedingly cautious before using any Chinese soft or -hardware. It's just too easy to secrete mal- and spyware into almost any electronic component you can think of, and arguably even easier with software when you have anything from 10⁴ to 10⁶ or more lines of code. I am not convinced by "But they share their source code" because (a) it is possible to be extremely sneaky, even unto meddling with hashes, and (b) that still doesn't cover the hardware, and I defy anyone to prove that every fantastically complex multi-layer motherboard coming out of the 恶意的混蛋 plant is precisely identical to the 50,000 others and does not have a 1mm² 'extra' snuck into Layer4 under a fat electrolytic (or even inside said capacitor).

I agree with the grown-ups on this: nothing touched by the Chinese should be allowed anywhere near secure or confidential data systems or networks or national infrastructure. The possibiltiies for mischief are sky high. the temptation is unquestionably there. And their government's motives are demonstrably vile.

It will do the west no harm to skill up in these areas (perhaps even a long term benefit); there is no pressing urgency about 5G (it can barely penetrate a brick wall, FFS, and self-driving cars are in the slow lane, whatever the manufacturers claim); and anything that damages the Chinese economy, while it may cause us some pain, certainly saps the dollars they will otherwise use to build aircraft carriers and amphibious assault ships.

And if anyone is thinking about Osborne's witlessly stupid Hinkley-C nuclear plant (Tory chancellor partnering with a communist totalitarian regime and a foregin nationalised energy company, you couldn't invent more reekingly hypocritical shit), yes, I agree: if we're kicking Huawei out, having Chinese involvement in a strategic national nuclear infrastructure project is clearly batshit lunacy.

Oracle sued for $4.5m after ERP system delivery date 'moved from 2015 to 2016, then 2017, then... er, never'

Milton Silver badge


But surely, if Oracle were sued every time its sales and marketing lizards made untruthful claims for its products' performance and/or made a monumentally expensive and incompetent mess of a project, then it would by now be a mistrusted dinosaur of a company, with a terrible reputation, on a trajectory to slow death and irrelevance?

Visited the Grand Canyon since 2000? You'll have great photos – and maybe a teensy bit of unwanted radiation

Milton Silver badge

"What if terrorists ..."

Yes, a slightly credible dirty bomb would be a possibility. Imagine grinding the stuff down to a powder, packing it around some crude 5-lb ANFO bombs left up high on some city buildings and phoning in a threat about "twenty-pound uranium dirty bombs". The real peril would be low but once authorities' radiation counters started clicking all over NY, they'd have to act as if the thing was potentially deadly. Chaos.

Good job terrorists are (a) stupid and (b) unable to procure or manufacture nasty things. Let's keep it that way.

Germany tells America to verpissen off over Huawei 5G cyber-Sicherheitsbedenken

Milton Silver badge


I won't bore you all again by pointing out that from a security point of view you must weigh capabilities first, not merely intentions.

So my question is not "Can we prove Chinese-originated kit has backdoors?" but "Could China do this?"

Given the vile nature of that country's government and the risks it poses to western liberal democracy and human rights, we should sup with an immensely long spoon.

My second question then is "How confident can the likes of GCHQ be in their assessment?" We should assume Chinese coders are at least as sneaky as any others ... So, are we feeling lucky, punks?

Unearthed emails could be smoking gun in epic GDPR battle: Google, adtech giants 'know they break Euro privacy law'

Milton Silver badge

"Online advertising model"

Not for the hundredth time, I really wonder whether the "online advertising model" is not a very big, fat emperor with very few clothes. The organisations grasping for a money will of course tell any and every lie to try to persuade marketurds to advertise: but how much of this is money hurled against a wall like so much shit (which, of course, it is), hoping some will stick?

Maybe there are credulous children out there, believing the shabby advertising drivel, but does anyone else even notice this garbage any more?

I really wonder if even a cent of every $100 and dollars was worth spending.

Solder and Lego required: The Register builds glorious Project Alias gizmo to deafen Alexa

Milton Silver badge

Full marks for pointlessness

I like the fun of a somewhat superfluous gadget as much as anyone I guess, but you're right: I completely fail to see the point of paying for a spy device to install in your home (purchased, presumably, because you are actually too lazy even to walk a few paces and press a button) only to spend even more money hobbling it because you (quite rightly) don't trust the hardware, the software or the vendor.

Bonkers, much?

Dratted hipster UX designers stole my corporate app

Milton Silver badge

Easy to Learn vs Easy to Use

Something embarrassingly obvious that took me a while to grasp, when I was beginning my second life, in IT, decades ago.

I don't really need to remind folks here that this question goes to the heart of UI design, especially in the gulf between mass-market software and bespoke corporate stuff.

I'd suggest that while the design of interfaces for look and feel is important, we still often overlook the importance of providing alternatives in the form of shortcuts, key combos, gestures when appropriate - so that as users become adept and experienced, they can leave E2L behind for E2U.

Bloke thrown in the cooler for eight years after 3D-printing gun to dodge weapon ban

Milton Silver badge

Re: @ Bush Rat ...But Background Checks Don't Work!

7.62 x 39? Do you rate the possibility that there a lot of Russian weapons in Chicago?

Return of the audio format wars and other money-making scams

Milton Silver badge

Pornographic records

And no one seems to remember pornographic records.

You can't play them any more, of course, unless you have a pornogaph.

Granddaddy of the DIY repair generation John Haynes has loosened his last nut

Milton Silver badge

Never a word about the jam jar though

Having painstakingly reassembled the engine of my Honda CB250 after a crankshaft bearing ground itself to filings—and I mean pains-taking, for I had to drill out some sheared bolts using a reverse-thread extractor, learning as I went at the age of 17: yes, I am that old—I got it running, and managed another several thousand miles on the thing.

But the manual said not a word about the jam jar half full of bits left over at the end.

I will never know where those few nuts, springs and curiously-shaped parts were supposed to go, or the difference they should have made ....

If you want a vision of the future, imagine not a boot stamping on a face, but keystroke logging on govt contractors' PCs

Milton Silver badge

Another substitute for bad management

It's yet another astonishingly clumsy and intrusive way of failing to deal with the fundamental problem: bad management and rotten leadership. You never, ever get the best from people by effectively threatening them, spying on them and sanctioning them. At best you get grudging compliance to the lowest common denominator. If you want the best from your workers, you motivate them properly, make them feel valued, and reward them appropriately. This is not hard to understand ... but it goes against the mentality of bean-counters and politicians: the former able to value only what they can count; the latter always keen to hypocritically demand from others what they cannot deliver themselves.

I'd expect this idiot idea to result in something of an arms race, as disgruntled techies seek to fool and foil the spyware, and, of course, it will drive many contractors to sensible, well-managed employers who are capable of setting realistic goals and deadlines and then letting their contractors get on with the job untroubled by thoughts of noxious spying.

It boils down to a simple concept: do you want quantity, or quality? This nasty notion may get you the former; it will do nothing for the latter.

(As to the fact that the bills are being pushed by the software manufacturers ... well, there are few things that combine greed and stupidity more effectively than a politician.)

Object-recognition AI – the dumb program's idea of a smart program: How neural nets are really just looking at textures

Milton Silver badge

Wrong priorities

So a somewhat simplistic take on this is that the CNNs are lazily prioritising texture when they ought to be prioritising something else, and a sophomoric reaction would be to decide that basic shape should be prioritised instead - and given what's been said about different angles and viewpoints, the word 'topology' comes to mind. But hold! - topologically, a teacup is identical to a donut. So this isn't so straightforward. This is going to involve proportion as well as shape, and texture, and the researchers behind these schemes are going to have to think hard about how to get the systems to take the hint, presumably without it being made explicit. Interesting challenge.

Lovely website you got there. Would be a shame if we, er, someone were to sink it: Google warns EU link tax will magnify media monetary misery

Milton Silver badge

Slow learners

All of these ideas are tinkering at the periphery, which is why they won't work. The fundamental problem—the absolute core of abuse of power by the internet giants—is the "free" use model, which perpetuates only by monetising the users. Google and Facebook don't charge users, so the users are the product. The abuse of privacy follows inevitably.

It would be hard to explicitly compel companies to charge for "free" services, but it's easy to do implicitly: simply ban the storage, collection, analysis, synthesis, sale or transfer of personal information which is not strictly required for transactional, operational use. Fines for non-compliance will be existentially threatening. In a heartbeat, Google and Facebook have to revert to the "honest" model: charging for their services. I've listed the many benefits of this before and I'm not going to go through it all again—smart people can explore this idea and come to their own conclusions.

The inetrnet took a tragically awful wrong turn in permitting the "free use" to arise in the first place. Had we all had to pay for email and search and social messaging etc right from the start, the internet would be a hugely different place, and a much healthier one.

Pants-purveyor in plea for popularity: It's not just any pork push... it's an M&S 'love sausage'

Milton Silver badge

M&S and MS

Given that we have two top stories about Transparent Crassness In Marketing, from Microsoft's thuddingly stupid attempt to con people into using Office36x to Marks & Spencer's juvenile double entendre, can we at last agree that an eminently practical solution to pollution and scarce resources would be to humanely dispose of all advertising, marketing and sales persons on the planet? I know it seems extreme, but we'll save oxygen and food, reduce CO₂ emissions, provide valuable fertiliser for reforestation and raise the entire species' mean IQ by at least ten points.

You know it makes sense.

(Oh, all right, we could retrain a few of them, but there isn't that much demand for dog walkers.)

Where x gets continually smaller

Only plebs use Office 2019 over Office 365, says Microsoft's weird new ad campaign

Milton Silver badge

No thanks

So I could use an expensive office software package that is bursting with arcane functionality of which I routinely use about 3%, and which spies on me and steals my personal data.

Or I could pay even more for a less featured, slower, less reliable version of that same app, which still spies on me and steals my personal data.

Or I can just stick with Libre. Free. Always available. Working. Doesn't spy. Doesn't steal my data.

Oooh, difficult choice.

Perhaps MS could have warnings before its adverts, like "Ignore this unless you're a clueless corporate monkey"?

Huawei pens open letter to UK Parliament: Spying? Nope, we've done nothing wrong

Milton Silver badge

Capabilities and Intentions

It's possible that no one at any level in any Chinese-controlled company has the slightest intention of committing espionage ... but it doesn't matter.

What matters is that China's regime is authoritarian, undemocratic, repressive and murderous, imprisoning citizens by the million and killing them by the thousand. That this huge and increasingly wealthy nation is engaging in a massive military buildup and demonstrates clear territorial expansionism. That it has a long history of stealing technological IP or compelling companies to "share" it, ignoring other nations' patent and copyright entitlements, along with a vast espionage apparatus and a track record of penetrating rivals' computer systems. That in such a country there is no such thing as a free and separate judiciary and that any citizen or organisation can be compelled to do whatever the state orders—and remain silent about it.

The intent of Chinese organisations is irrelevant, because (a) the state's intent and control is absolutely clear and (b) the state has the capability itself, and through those people and organisations, to pursue its nefarious goals.

In any remotely sensitive context (national or corporate security, IP, business confidentiality etc) you have to be aware of capabilities first and intentions second, and in that case you simply cannot allow yourself to depend upon any Chinese-controlled entity. And "depend upon" in this context clearly means allowing data or communications of any kind to touch Chinese-controlled equipment, services or software.

The recent kerfuffle about supposed tiny spy-chips in motherboards may have been off the mark, but again, it didn't matter, because it is certainly possible for Chinese-controlled manufacturers to hide such devices in circuitry. If they had the opportunity to build spy-chips into equipment that might end up in, say western ballistic missile submarines, there is an argument that they would be foolish not to. And there are hundreds of such potential locations, ranging from government computers at the tax office to Lockheed (as if they had any secrets left) to Airbus to nuclear power stations to the national phone network.

The intentions of the Chinese government have been clear for many years. Its capabilities are now the only thing that concerns us.

So if you have a secret, or a process, that needs safeguarding—you do not use, at any point, anything that could be compromised by China.

Not cool, man: Dixons spanked over discount on luxury 'smart' fridge with wildly fluctuating price

Milton Silver badge

Gaming the system

The rules say that a 'discount' or 'sale price' can only be listed if the product in question was sold at the claimed higher price for a certain length of time previously, correct? I don't know the exact criteria, but I do recall it's not very long and doesn't even cover all of the given retailer's stores.

Just as the regulator says it's ok to lie ('unlimited bandwidth' which in fact is limited, often using weasel words about 'fair use') so they have left a loophole the size of the Chunnel here. No doubt many retailers' lobbyists became friendly with the right people.

And the solution isn't hard to figure out, is it? How about "The item has to have been available for sale at the pre-sale price for at least 30 continuous days of the last 40 days, in every store which stocks it, which may not be fewer than 75% of all stores open for business".

Once carefully worded, it means that sale price cannot be confected for something sold briefly at a higher price in a handful of stores. It also means that no 'sale' for a given item could last longer than 10 days. It would largely put a stop to absurd highly localised over-pricing desiged solely to make later, sensible prices seem like special offers. This would greatly inconvenience the supermarkets and other retailers and force them to compete more honestly, instead of gaming rules that were sloppy in the first place.

(I would also ban the misuse of the word 'free'. If a condition of any kind applies, an item is not 'free'. Two-for-one offers, yes; BOGOF, no. If a tin of beans is genuinely 'free' that means I can simply take one. This would also inconvenience sellers ... by making them tell the truth. Marketurds are paid liars, and our society does not benefit from their activities, 'skills' or even existence.)

By the bye, I agree that it's perpetually surprising that Dixons/Carphone are still in business. I visit their stores only when an elderly relative insists on seeing a white goods item before buying it. Can't think why I'd personally cross their threshold ever, otherwise.

As for the likes of Tesco, if they have to sell another bizjet in order to afford to do business honestly ... tough. The German discounters' fresh produce is consistently better, and they don't play constant silly buggers with largely fictional sale pricing.

Clever girl: SpaceX's Mars-bound Raptor engine looks like it works just fine

Milton Silver badge


Can't vouch for the footage myself but I note that elsewhere someone stated that the entire image had "greened"—i.e not just the exhaust flame but some shiny stuff elsewhere in the frame, unlit by the flame, had also changed hue. If that is correct, we're over-analysing things.

The design and engineering teams deserve some serious kudos, whatever: a test that ends with an intact engine is a good result. In these days of general pessimism about the state of the world (and the abject f**king w**kers that run things, not to be too rude) it is heartening to see so many really serious-minded and practical ventures in spaceflight. I'm a child of the late 50s, so of course I still believe that humanity's real future, and assurance of longevity as a species, is Out There. If I could see a Moon- or Marsbase in my lifetime, I'd consider myself very lucky.

(And if Richard Branson's dumb stunt in the desert doesn't kill him, he should consider himself very lucky ... Spaceflight, it ain't.)

El Reg talks to PornHub sister biz AgeID – and an indie pornographer – about age verification

Milton Silver badge

Join up today

And anyone who cannot or chooses not to pass an age check will be a welcome addition to a recently-exhumed porn publishing industry selling disks (or more likely μSD chips and successors) with a vast abundance of smut, much of it no doubt scraped from sites like PornHub, infinitely copyable and redistributable. And then there will be those who take to the dimmer recesses of the internet to visit non-compliant sites—an obvious side effect of this stupid law will be to make porn a "gateway drug" for the dark web: many of those who wouldn't otherwise have visited will nod do so, and some will stay for other ... dubious delights. Much as Prohibition fuelled crime, and the War on Drugs™ has sent untold billions into criminals' pockets, so yet another ill-considered, self-righteous ban will have counter-productive, socially damaging effects.

Not very bright? A bit ignorant? No good at anything really, but oodles of misplaced confidence? Lazy, but got a big mouth?

Become an MP! Join up today and reach your full potential for arrogance and incompetence. Hurry—there are lives, and entire nations, waiting to be ruined by gobby know-nothings ...

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

Milton Silver badge

What do you believe?

For those of you saying "I can't believe it can do—" this or that, your lack of knowledge of how it works does not in any way make it less effective. (Like superstitionists saying they "can't believe" evolution produced eyeballs, well, tough: evolution doesn't care, and your failure to understand it doesn't make it any less a fact.) This software is remarkably effective, will only get better and in competent hands has awesome (including awesomely nasty) potential.

And if you think the potential for kiddie porn or even simply pasting your ex's face onto some crappy sex footage is bad enough, there are arguably even worse consequences.

Right now the president of the US includes among his many arrested-development character flaws the fact that he is a pathological, infantile liar. We barely keep up with his constant lies by fact-checking, which frequently includes playing back previous lies, recorded on vieo, and the lies before that, and even older lies contradicting yet other lies. Trump blithely says "fake news", but those who actually do care about facts are at least able to go find the footage and confirm that, yes, as expected, the Orange Imbecile was lying again.

In the future, though, he—and his equally dishonest, lickspittle lackeys like Sanders—will be saying "faked footage". When Trump lies on video'd record that he personally saw Muslims in NY celebrating 9/11—an outright, deliberate, provable lie, repeated more than once—he will lie again, claiming he never said any such thing. "Faked footage", he and his little booger of parasites will say. His apologists, those Republican enablers and others complicit in his behaviour, including the aptly named base of ignorant racists, will lap it up. After all, if Leia's face could be faked, Trump's will be even easier: he doesn't look very realistic now. Heck, his team of liars may already be asking the Russians to CGI some footage of dark-skinned folks clapping in Queens.

Considering the effect down the ages of even bad, idiotically transparent propaganda, such as the kind of rubbish spewed by all sides but especially the Axis powers in WW2, with ludicrous stuff still lapped up by willing idiots. who knows what damage might be done by audio-visual lies which look convincing? Am I correct in thinking that some right-wing websites already publish video of Obama, over-dubbed with outrageous things he never said?

The post-truth era just got even more dangerous. People are already ignorant and gulible enough, without even more ways to mislead them.

The world desperately needs a trustable, independent fact-checking service—and it will need some superior software tools so that faked footage can be reliably identified and debunked. Another arms race has begun.

(If there may be a silver lining to all this, it could be that politicians will have to revert to the 19th-century way of selling themselves and their visions and policies: go out on the stump, make speeches, take questions, get down, dirty and personal with the public. It will act as a kind of natural selection, so that only those who have stamina, charisma, energy, appetite and the intelligence to think quickly on their feet will survive to office. I daresay the ones with honestly held convictions and no autocue might stand out. Like I said, silver lining.)

You got a smart speaker but you're worried about privacy. First off, why'd you buy one? Secondly, check out Project Alias

Milton Silver badge

Sunday morning thoughts

I suspect that wiser people are simply not installing internet-connected mics and cams (let's just call them "spy devices") in their homes. Invasion of privacy and abuse of personal data by the internet giants is bad enough, but the potential for hijacking of such devices by evil shitbags or governments—insofar as any distinction remains in 2019—is staggering. (How long do you think it will be before, say, China, requires a spy device to be installed in every home? Or the UK government, once it's finished forking up Brexit, arrogates the power to listen in to spy devices if you happen to have them, including the ability to activate them even when they're supposed to be off? All in the name of anti-terrorism, of course.) Are you naïve enough to think this will not happen?

At the same time, while I deplore the laziness inherent in many of these confected-problem use cases ("Alexa, wipe my arse please") I can absolutely see the advantages of having a voice-controlled assistant to make hands-free phone calls while cooking, retrieve information in parallel with some other task, check out MoT bookings at the local Kwik-Ripoff and so on. Possibly Stark's JARVIS has a lot to answer for in setting aspirations for this kind of robo-PA.

So my Sunday morning ramble brought me back full circle to the irony of "cloud": that we use immensely powerful computing devices, some of them in our pockets, to access vast data systems over the wire, when we don't need to. This isn't 1977 any more, when if you needed real computing power you connected to the university mainframe using a lamprey to glom a modem onto your twirly-corded telephone receiver so that you could green-screen a few lines of 8-bit code. Today the Android in your pocket makes that old mainframe in its air-conditioned basement look like a steam engine. We had serviceable speech recogntion systems on 486 CPUs 30 years ago. Now you can buy a 4,000,000,000,000 byte disk for the cost of a weekly grocery shop. We've moved from thinking 8 bits and 100MHz is fast to taking for granted the 64-bit 5GHz 8-core lump under my desk, which is rapidly becoming obsolete. I could keep the entire compressed English Wikipedia on the phone in my pocket. (I could keep the same thing in uncompressed form on any one of my NASs.)

My point being that maybe 97% of "cloud" use is driven by marketing not reason: a vast amount of what we choose to do on other (untrustworthy) people's silicon we could do just as well on our own. In a privacy and security context, it is both perfectly practical and arguably highly desirable to keep this stuff local.

A desktop-level box in a cupboard could easily do speech recognition for a domestic LAN and its devices, run some webcams, store a few terabytes of essential data (much of it probably cached from the net) and otherwise interact as and only when needed with the wider internet. There's no reason why your actual spoken words or gestures need ever be transmitted off the premises. Sure, if you ask your system to make a booking for two at the Parson's Pig then someone somewhere will know that you're planning to dine there next Tuesday evening: but that's a very long way from the potential risk of all of your domestic conversation being stored for all time for anyone to listen to. It might be nice to explore options for your next European motoring holiday without Google (or whoever) potentially being able to follow all of your fortnight's-worth of ideas and thoughts and choices and discussions with your wife while you honed your routes, budgets and accommodation.

It seems to me that a certain kind of more privacy- and security-aware customer might very well be prepared to spend a few hundred quid on a robo-PA that doesn't send every syllable back to base. You could maybe charge a premium for Paul Bettany's voice, even?

I guess I am waiting—perhaps in vain, admittedly—for a backlash against unnecessarily cloud-based functionality and surveillance. Am I the only one?

Post-Brexit plan for .EU tweaked: No dot-EU web domains for Europeans in UK, no appeals, etc

Milton Silver badge

Bomb out? Don't think so ...

Even if it takes us to the last week before Brexit—which Theresa, The World's Most Obstinate Sheep is quite capable of—I really cannot believe that MPs would be so suicidally stupid as to allow the UK to crash out. May has been running down the clock in her arrogant incompetence and stubbornness, essentially trying to coerce MPs to vote for her disastrous deal becuase No-Deal would be even worse, but it seems unlikely to succeed when there are better, common-sense options on the table, not the least fo which remains an A50 pause to allow time for a final, fair, properly informed "people's vote". I appreciate that Parliament is chock-full of deceitful mediocrities—this is so obvious now that it isn't even news any more—but even then, standing at the very edge of the precipice, they will step back. If not for the good of the nation (which the Tories seem to have long since forgotten about as they fight like rats in a sack), their careers—pathetic as MPs really are these days—will be at grave risk if we crash out. (And the Conservative party will be destroyed. History would not forgive them.)

As for the EU domains, I do think the bureaucrats are being pointlessly draconian about this. It would have made far more sense to allow, say, a year's grace period after Brexit (if it occurred) for transfer of sites, email etc, while barring new registrations from non-EU regions. It's not as if having a few thousand '.eu-non-EU' domains left on the books for a while is going to cause much of a problem. No one is smuggling assault rifles through Europe because they have a regionally debatable domain name, are they? I would have thought there were much bigger and more important fish to fry and yes: this is so petty that it demeans the decision-makers and makes them foolish.

Amazon's titchy robots hit the streets, Waymo starts a self-driving car factory...

Milton Silver badge

What's wrong with this picture?

"Although it can, apparently, navigate to its destination on its own it will be supervised by an Amazon employee during its trips to and from houses. Hopefully, a human presence will probably deter people from kicking the box on wheels or stealing its contents."

1. If it always needs a person with it, it's useless. You may as well have a seat for the person, carry more goods and call it, oh, I don't know ... a "delivery van"?

2. If unaccompanied—

a. Superb theft target. Medium-sized van with a Faraday-shielded load area and a stick-on Amazon logo, an hour of patrolling on city streets kidnapping deliverybots, back to base (garage also shielded) and you've scored a nice little earner. Unless of course it's restricted to low-value goods, in which case, whater was the point?

b. Fraud. Poorly paid Amazon despatcher lets his mate know when a £4.5k shipment of phones and gadgets is on its way, including a couple of nice ambush points ... the rest is obvious.

c. Drug deliveries. Already mentioned by others. Who can tell at-a-glance the difference between an Amazon delivery-bot and one carrying narcotics?

d. Terrorists. Also already mentioned? Either no one suspects the delivery-bot (before the first attack) or everyone hates and fears delivery-bots (after it), in which latter case they are removed from the streets because of hostility.

e. Accidents. They won't be perfect and they will sooner or later have collisions with people, pets, cyclists, scooters and cars. How soon before a bus swerves to avoid one and someone is killed? The fact that this could just as easily happen with a manned van doesn't matter: people will immediately bang on about the "unacceptable risks" of bots.

f. Surveillance, spying, voyeurism. It's not an Amazon bot that followed Gertrude down the street, taking photos of her legs—it just looked like one. It wasn't an Amazon bot that quartered the entire neighbourhood all morning hacking domestic WiFi. It wasn't an Amazon bot that collected photos of people going in and out of Babylon-on-Thames.

g. Where's my stuff? How long before GPS spoofing, jamming, signal blocking and a ton of other lovingly crafted malware jams, confuses, misleads these bots, and goods are mis-delivered, or just missing, etc?

Will a single bot deliver to a single address per mission? If not, how do you guarantee against pilfering? What happens when the battery runs out? Who collects bots which have died for any reason? What are my rights if the bot turned left into the canal carrying my new iPad? Will these things be contending for space on already crowded pavements, or cycle lanes, or roads and streets? Will one simply stop, forever, at a busy crossing? How soon will the urban craze of spoof-a-bot (using radio, lasers, ultrasonic bleepers, photographs and GPS futzing) continue before Amazon gives up? (User 'Spanish2019' will defend his title for "Most steps fallen by a decoyed Amazon bot", to widespread acclaim. His popularity will be exceeded by 'M.Hole66' bragging of his "Deepest manhole/roadworks containing a dead bot" record.) How many will return to base in Bumfuck, Rednecksville, riddled with bulletholes inflicted by drunken yahoos? If they use pedestrain crossings/ crosswalks, how many will simply be crushed by buses and truckers who don't give a damn? (Or even car drivers, who are already hostile to vehicles marked as auto-piloted?)

(And don't get me started on the really sophisticated attacks, where Black Hats get into the despatch and routing system one day, and a dozen of them in the same city strike in the same morning, scoring £100k of stuff. It's only 50 bots with £2k of goods each.)

In sum, this idea is ripe for mischief, theft and wastage in ways which human-monitored and -run stuff simply isn't.

Even if you use it only for low-value consignments (why bother, then?) the "mischief" category is going to be a huge problem all by itself.

Like the airborne drone delivery idea, it's an attractive concept for those who think "We can, so we should" and a prize waste of time for those who instead ask "What about the real world?"

Apple: Trust us, we've patented parts of Swift, and thus chunks of other programming languages, for your own good

Milton Silver badge

"features in Apple's Swift patents ... can be found in other programming languages"

More detail, please. Notwithstanding the sheer impractical wrongness of patenting software, by what extraordinary reasoning can features in a new-ish language be patented if they already exist elsewhere?

Even if USPTO's increasingly clueless examiners miss this, Apple itself would not have done: so, why?

Pentagon admits it's now probing conflicts of interest at AWS over $10bn JEDI cloud deal

Milton Silver badge


"That's the reason that all the main cloud providers have multiple regions and multiple availability zones, so that a failure in one area can be worked around. Nothing new here, multiple sites that are physically separate and logically linked has been the norm for a very long time even for on-prem data centres.

Going multi-cloud means that you can't take advantage of the specifics of any cloud vendor, but have to settle for the lowest common denominator functionality, which kind of defeats the purpose of having access to the vendors new sparkly technologies and the benefits it can bring."

But only half of the story, isn't it?

"the specifics of any cloud vendor" are frequently nothing more than incremental improvements—if they are even that—primarily intended to make it difficult and expensive for a client to move elsewhere. The idea that this or that cloud supplier has some super-secret-sauce which a client simply must have is just laughable. The services provided by the top three cloud vendors do not vary by performance, security, reliability or even cost sufficiently to make a telling difference. Choosing one is like selecting a mobile phone provider—cutting through all the contrived "advantages" and "USPs" and deliberately, arbitrarily complicated pricing mechanisms to discover that the latter are designed primarily to make it difficult for potential customers to perform a simple like-for-like cost:benefit analysis.

"sites that are physically separate and logically linked" sounds great but (a) any such advantage is replicated by having different providers, and (b) if the probelm, as is so often the case, is one of software, there's a fair chance it is affecting geographically diverse centres anyway.

The short answer is that if you lazily, short-sightedly, greedily allow your multi-million or -billion enteprise to become too dependent on any third party, whether outsourcer or cloud, they will contrive to entrap you and bleed you dry.

So, if you've got a scrap of sense: Don't.

Starship bloopers: In touching tribute to Tesla shares, Musk proto-craft tumbles – as Bezos' Blue Origin rocket lifts off

Milton Silver badge

What counts?

It's good that orbit is a focus, but a pity that Bezos is wasting effort on the childish "pretend astronaut" sideline. All the while his (and Branson's much more dangerous "Galactic" rubbish) are fiddling around trying to con rich idiots into thinking they'll be doing spaceflight, valuable energy and effort is being misdirected from the really important stuff. Plus, the aforementioned rich idiots are having plenty of time in which to rethink, as they become aware that their "space trip" (a) goes nowhere, and (b) stands a unhealthy chance of killing them. How many not-even-Howard-Wolowitzes can you tolerate, yapping about "when I went into space"? ("What did you see?" "Stars." "What did dyou do?" "Puked")

A true astronaut was quoted in a rival publication: Orbit is what counts.

Core blimey... When is an AMD CPU core not a CPU core? It's now up to a jury of 12 to decide

Milton Silver badge

It's the performance, stupid

Several BTL posters have already made the point: there is no watertight definition of what constitutes a separate CPU core, and certainly not one that wouldn't have had to be changed every 10 years or so in the last 40 years. Those of us who bought AMD CPUs some years ago (a FX-9590 is outputting these words right now) were, by virtue of their choice, somewhat tech-savvy and entirely capable of asking themselves about how and why AMD's architecture was the correct fit for their needs. For one thing, you'd have had to factor in water cooling, which tends to focus the mind wonderfully. (In my case, I was working on molecular modelling for a then-client and needed a zippy CPU with specific qualities for orchestrating a bunch of GPU routines; done a crypto project since then, for which it has also been useful: but others, I daresay, will have been looking at gaming and wotnot. Either way, my workstation still blasts along at 5GHz—and hasn't, fingers crossed, sprung a leak.)

So of course it comes down to performance. Did the 4/8 core CPU justify whatever benchmarks and marketing were advertised for it? Can we say that the putative bottlenecks genuinely, generally and significantly reduced the system's performance below what should have been expected from a more independent 8-core implementation?

My own experience makes me sceptical, as I have found the CPU rock solid and even today, eyewateringly fast for my needs, which still sometimes include heavy lifting. But I am not a gamer, and certainly there may be use cases I am unfamilar with where the differences being argued about will have a measurable effect. I don't think, though, that I'd want to be the plaintiff relying on an incremental performance angle in the absence of a universally agreed definition of what constitutes a core ... it's not like saying "This engine was marketed as V8 but I only got a straight four".


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