* Posts by Milton

230 posts • joined 14 Jun 2016

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US Homeland Sec boss has snazzy new laptop bomb scanning tech – but admits he doesn't know what it's called

Milton
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... undetectable bomb could be made for laptops, a remote trigger could not

'intelligence community had told him that although an "undetectable bomb could be made for laptops, a remote trigger could not".'

Whichever idiot said that has an entire planetload of scientists, engineers, bomb-makers , chemists and electronic engineers laughing heartily.

There are so many miniaturisable, disguisable, effective and reliable ways for creating detonators that the statement must have been made by someone of exceptional stupidity and/or ignorance. You can fit a ultra-low-power timing circuit or a barometric sensor or even a tiny RF receiver into something no bigger than an electrolytic capacitor. A microscopic piece of thin wire, indistinguishable from the 75,000 other interconnects in a laptop, acts as the final detonator.

Let's be honest: the idea of putting the stuff in the hold was witheringly stupid and did nothing to make anyone safer. Indeed, packing extra Lithium-battery devices in there probably made everyone LESS safe.

This was the predictably hysterical, ill-considered, ill-informed over-reaction to a piece of dubious "intelligence",and it merely happened to coincide with causing unnecessary inconvenience for countries the US doesn't like and airlines which it thinks unfairly compete with its own.

Sometimes stupidity is just regular dumbness, but sometimes it's enhanced by the presence of politicians and their weasel brains.

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.. ..-. / -.-- --- ..- / -.-. .- -. / .-. . .- -.. / - .... .. ... then a US Navy fondleslab just put you out of a job

Milton
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Motorized shutters?

If you're gonna do this, why not opt for LEDs? Better still, a laser, to make the beam difficult to see off-angle, e.g. from a nearby periscope?

And if your adversary hacks into your tablet, what messages will really be sent?

I have this nasty scenario in mind, like BSG's miniseries - western ships entering combat against Chinese or Russians, and Windows for Warships goes BSOD ...

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Apache says 'no' to Facebook code libraries

Milton
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Let's not be too lazy

Notwithstanding I've always espoused the "don't reinvent the wheel" approach—generally, don't bother figuring out the code for a problem when you can do a search and find that a thousand people already did it before you—the truth is that competent coders can always find ways to do things. It may save you a few days now to simply use these or those few hundred lines from a library, but you *are* being paid for your brains and skill: sometimes it's best to do it fresh, stay away from the corporate greedmongers and their legal jackals, and get a good night's sleep.

And I personally find it a little crazy that a 1,000-line/15kB project can suddenly become a 75,000-line/3MB bloat-fest just because we wanted to include a few handy library functions.

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Let's harden Internet crypto so quantum computers can't crack it

Milton
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Re: @ Mark 65 Possible deadly flaw - compromised software

Can't speak for the US but in Blighty, Army training for officers makes the point that overestimating your enemy can be as dangerous as underestimating him. So despite my point about the revival of OTP, the truth is that you should adopt the cheapest and easiest encryption scheme commensurate with (a) the current importance, sensitivity, riskiness etc of the data, and (b) an eye to how long this actually matters. But—beware of your adversary's ability to draw inferences.

At its simplest, it's not just about today's security, it's about your strategic or tactical planning horizon. The proposed trajectory for your new ICBM test firing ceases to be a worthwhile secret 40 minutes after takeoff. The list of deep cover spies working at the highest levels of Russian politics should be secured for at least a century, to avoid future reprisals against their families. And so on. (Or in an extreme case, the plans for the F-35 should have really weak encryption, in the hope the Russians and Chinese will copy it and end up with planes as bad as ours.)

Of course, per "inferences" above, the "perfect intelligence" issue can catch you even if your adversary cannot decrypt your messages. If he can see senders and recipients, file sizes, times, station IDs etc, he may be able to make worthwhile inferences merely from traffic patterns ... does Airbase D always change its observed readiness level within 12 hours of a short message from Station B, and does this always occur after a longer message from A via C? It's a beautifully multi-faceted problem ....

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Milton
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Re: @ Mark 65 Possible deadly flaw - compromised software

Forgive me, but your example implies that the "file of random noise" is the key. In which case it is a one-time pad. If it is *truly* random, not PRNG, no further hashing or randomisation is necessary.

As with all OTP schemes, everything then distils to:

1. Is the OTP truly random?

2. How will you distribute the keys?

3. How can you do #2 and be 100% certain no illicit copies are made?

4. How do you prevent everyone using the OTPs from witlessly or accidentally encrypting two or more messages with the same OTP and thereby blowing a hole in your security?

OTP is being adopted rapidly by certain governments for critical data exchange (many lightly laden couriers with fingernail-size data chips ready to be swallowed), but the problem of ensuring that a key in transit isn't compromised remains a thorny one.

OTP may yet be the only inviolably secure system for the future, but not until someone figures out a foolproof way to detect whether an OTP data source has been copied (or ensure it destroys itself if copied).

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Another day, another mass domain hijacking

Milton
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Fundamentally ...

Fundamentally, is not the answer to this and a number of other recent (and indeed, not so recent) incursions, that the basic structure of the internet was not designed with real security in mind? That the idea of malicious interference was given little or no thought?

I don't blame the initial designers, because this was a long time ago and they didn't realise how big it was all to become. But I don't doubt that if we were to design the internet's protocols, structures and standards from scratch today, we'd come up with some very different and infinitely more robust solutions.

So what troubles me is that I don't seem to hear much about major redesign of (say) the processes around DNS, Perhaps this is brewing slowly on a back-burner somewhere, but then again, perhaps it should be front and centre?

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Guess who doesn't have to pay $1.3bn in back taxes? Of course it's fscking Google

Milton
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Still puzzled

Ok, so it's pretty much beyond dispute that companies like the laughably Don't Be Evil (Google, Amazon etc) will coin vast profits on sales in particular countries while adopting often ludicrously complex artificial corporate structures and purported loan schemes simply with the intent of avoiding paying tax.

It's also not exceptionally controversial to point out that many governments have themselves to blame for this by (a) playing stupid, greedy, political games with their taxation systems, and (b) allowing their nations' tax codes to become so fiendishly complex that sneaky lawyers can drive coach and horses through them.

If politicians are simply too lazy, self-interested, short-sighted and plain stupid to fix those two issues—and of course, they are ALL of those things, nearly all of the time—I am still puzzled why they don't adopt a simpler but effective solution: levy taxes on sales within the country of purchase.

It wouldn't matter how much Amazon bleated about orders being fulfilled from Luxembourg or wherever, if an item is sold in the UK to a UK customer, a sales tax is payable. Basically the same principle as VAT. I don't see why the sale of advertising cannot be treated in the same way.

Not only is the system relatively simple, it might even help people to stop spending so much money on rubbish they don't need.

If Google and the rest don't like it, tough: they had their chance to behave like decent human beings and chose not to.

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Slower US F-35A purchases piles $27bn onto total fighter jet bill

Milton
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Re: Sea Gripen

"stealthy, Mach 2, large amount of stores etc"

FYI, the stealth is very much in question, especially when put up against the other two things you cite. F-35 (and especially the B version, because of crap blasted around by its ridiculous lift fan) will likely require lots of turn-around time to keep its stealthy qualities. Furthermore, the stealth disappears as soon as you DO load "large amount of stores" because in fact, the internal ordnance load of the F-35 is pitiful: it can only carry a decent load if the majority is loaded externally, where it immediately becomes unstealthy. The aircraft will never fly at Mach 2 because its top speed is at best M1.6, but even this would compromise its already dreadful combat radius, and (again) supersonic speeds will rapidly degrade its stealth. The stealthy fuselage coating is notoriously fickle.

Then again, possibly none of this matters, since Russian and Chinese technology is rapidly countering so-called stealth which, in any event, really only applies to specific types and frequencies of radar, and IR observability from distinct angles. There are so many ways to detect a "stealthy" plane that I couldn't list them all here.

The F-35B is a wretched combat aircraft, but given the wholly inadequate provision of escort ships for the QE class, this likely won't matter, since against a well-equipped, competent foe they'll have an in-theatre life expectancy of less than 24 hours. The Russians can launch an awful of vampires and torpedoes and only one needs to get through.

Whatever the political wank-blather about force projection and national security, the truth is these ships will have a negligible (compared with the US, without whom we will never act) role in GBP$10m missions aimed at blowing up the occasional raghead's pickup $300 pickup truck out in the desert ... provided aforementioned suspect is kind enough to drive near the coast, within the F-35B's hopeless combat range, of course.

Or perhaps they could be sent to the Med to watch the drowning of refugees fleeing from wars we and the Americans originally started but then got a bit bored with.

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Trump backs off idea for joint US/Russian 'impenetrable Cyber Security unit'

Milton
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About the tapes ...

Where's the video of Trump's meeting with Putin? I want to see the bit where Trump forgets himself and whines for a tidbit (something to take home and make a yooge great big noise about) and Putin points his finger briefly at the ceiling—the classic Russian gesture warning your interlocutor that They are always listening. In this case, Vlad The Emailer is reminding his pooch that he does have the tapes, and Little Donald shouldn't get too over-eager ....

Seriously, though, I keep seeing these well-intentioned and understandably exasperated articles asking why Trumpty Dumpty says or tweets this or that morsel of ill-informed, inconsistent or plain clueless drivel, their writers fruitlessly over-analysing his "strategy" or "purpose" ... when in fact it's all so easy: the man is dumb as a stump, knows nothing and is a pathological liar with the maturity of a ten-year-old. A spoilt, nasty, ten year old. That's it.

And as for complaining about him winning the election (well, by minus 2.5m votes), that's also pretty easy: no better demonstration of democracy in action could there be, as several million gullible idiots elected their own gullible idiot.*

(*With an honorable mention to the imbeciles in the Democratic Party who, with their appalling candidate Hillary, managed to hand the election to someone who wasn't qualified to be dog-catcher.)

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Former GCHQ boss backs end-to-end encryption

Milton
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No longer in post -> Can speak truthfully

I don't want to smear Hannigan as being particularly political, so I do have my tongue somewhat in cheek when I point out how curious it is that we seem to hear common-sense, unvarnished truthfulness only from *retired* admirals, generals, civil servants and government advisors. The ones still in the job act as if their families would be murdered in their beds if they simply spoke honestly.

I cut Hannigan some slack, though (as if he could care less) because he is a thoughtful fellow, smarter by far than any of the political weasels he had to deal with. Perhaps, like his predecessor—another exceptionally sharp chap, Iain Lobban—he'll take some of his hard-won and above all *reality-based* experience and knowledge into the world and make good use of it there. Getting the imbeciles in Westminster to understand the basics of encryption and why they simply cannot have their bloody stupid backdoors would be worthwhile ... as the man said: you just cannot uninvent things.

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Google blows $800k on bots to flood the UK with 30,000 'articles' a month

Milton
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Automated clickbait generator then?

And some marketurd has the barefaced mendacity to speak of this as "incisive" and creating democratic accountability. Astounding BS even by Don't Be Evil appalling standards.

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One thought equivalent to less than a single proton in mass

Milton
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What about decay?

A Guardian article about Ligo possibly being used to uncover evidence for string theory's extra dimensions had me wondering, this morning, about testability, and I realised that we *still* haven't observed proton decay - which would be really big deal in confirming some facts about a universe which, I am constrained to point out, has, despite immense scientific effort, not been getting any *less* weird since Einstein muttered about "spooky action at a distance". Personally I still have to deploy the mental "long spoon" when supping with dark matter ...

But, to topic, do thoughts have mass? Insofar as they embody electric charge, then they must do, just as a capacitor must become infinitesimally massier when charged. Does this mean that thinking new thoughts increases one's brain mass? Or, since our mass can, in any given reference frame, change only via our receiving or transmitting something, do mass-increasing thoughts work only when stimulated upon receipt of information from outside ourselves? Does a certain kind of thinking - e.g. complex analysis, creativity, learning - have more mass than other, less challenging 'thought' processes, like watching 'Love Island' or listening to politicians tell lies?

Is it possible that I am getting heavier when reading an electronics textbook, because I am processing and (I hope) storing complex new information? Whereas perhaps the audience at a Donald Trump speech gradually gets lighter, as the listeners know less and less?

"Wow, Doc, this is heavy ..."

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MH370 researchers refine their prediction of the place nobody looked

Milton
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Go find it

With AF447 as a relatively recent and relevant example, we can be fairly sure that the FDR and CVR will be intact and that their data should be recoverable. While it's true that reading them may not confirm the cause of the loss, it will certainly help to rule out a great many theories. No, the electronic record cannot read the pilots' minds and there remains the possibility that this was an elaborate suicide, but contrary to some internet nonsense, it is not the only possibility: it's extremely unusual for a modern western-operated airliner to crash for any one single reason or isolated fault, there usually being a set of converging and unlikely coincidences coming together for disaster to strike, and we absolutely need to find out everything we can.

The reasons are not only air safety (though, imagine the brouhaha and finger pointing if another 777 mysteriously goes down tomorrow) but also to remove the oxygen from idiot conspiracy theories. The internet abounds with resentful semi-literate halfwits and their damnfool conspiracy drivel, and along with "fake news" it obscures and clouds adult discussion. It's not the best or first reason to find the wreck, but it's still a good one: let's silence the imbeciles who are still claiming that MH370 is parked in a hangar in Siberia following Vlad's plot to distract everyone from his Evil Ukraine Plan ... or whatever.

There's solid, credible reason to revise the search area, and for the cost of a single POS F-35 it could now be completed - for compassion, for closure, for safety and for the sanity of the net. So please, let's just go find it.

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How to avoid getting hoodwinked by a DevOps hustler

Milton
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What's DevOps?

Who cares? Why waste valuable brainpower trying to discern scarce pearls of wisdom from a slurry of marketing drivel designed to open the wallets of clueless executives? If you're any good at IT, you already know what Good Looks Like, you know that you don't need to spout the latest fatuous buzzwords in order to deliver results, and you *also* know that your organisation, and specifically its management, are the principal obstacles to making a good job of anything that's practical, cost-effective and has long-term usefulness.

By the time you've distilled a few pearls from the latest over-hyped jargon—and then sat there grinding your teeth thinking "That's IT?! All those words and slides for a few principles that all the useful folks have known forever anyway, stuff so obvious we don't even talk about it?"—you'll realise that "DevOps" is sooo yesterday, and the marketurds have coined a new catchphrase to disguise another old wheeze dressed up in the tawdry verbiage of the Latest Brilliant New Fad.

I daresay I'm not the only old curmudgeon who remembers seeing his first computer back when such a thing had its own air-conditioned, sizeable room in a university, and a remote connection involved a modem the size of a breezeblock with an actual socket to receive a telephone handset, curly cord and all. So I won't be the only one who produces a deep sigh and eye-roll when some incredibly earnest young professional (or worse, a sales-lizard) expounds the virtues of Innovatively Innovated New Innovation, replete with acronyms, backronyms and even crapronyms, giddily aslosh with the Kool-Aid of freshly-printed marketing nonsense, somehow remaining stubbornly unaware that what's needed today is exactly what was needed 50 years ago: practical, knowledgeable, experienced people who perceive and understand technology as tools to get stuff done—and know how to use them to do it.

Put by way of example—and getting personal now—introducing DevOps to your airline's IT will not wreak a magical transformation within an under-resourced, badly-run technology department full of demoralised employees in a company whose perpetually terrible management has spent 30 years treating IT as a deeply begrudged cost sink instead of the leading, competitive enabler it manifestly should be. Your mortal problems extend so far beyond gluing three-letter words together that it isn't even funny.

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Five-eyes nations want comms providers to bust crypto for them

Milton
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Re: Breaking News: Water is wet

"Does anyone want to place bets on how long it is until someone writes an app that not only encrypts a message, but then uses old-school style cyphers to hide the messages inside innocuous looking plain-text internet posts?"

I assume a touch of facetiousness, because you surely know this happens all the time. A seemingly innocuous blog post about the price of strawberries in Tesco can just as easily be the activation command for a dastardly plot.

But even such elementary codes are unnecessary if your eyewateringly expensive national security apparatus, which collects a million hours of phone intercepts every week in highly accented, idiomatic, convoluted Arabic dialects, employs only 77 people as translators.

There are many examples of vast budgets being deployed on magical technical projects which actually gum up the works, when what's needed is plain old-fashioned humint, shoe leather and for want of a better word: traditional police work

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Tanks for the memories: Building a post-Microsoft Office cloud suite

Milton
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Missing the point completely

Neither the article nor comments address the stark and simple fact that since 8,000 BC sensible, reasonably intelligent people have communicated with each other to achieve, as teams, great things. They did this without the colourful "collaboration" software foamed upon by marketurds.

Neither Office nor Google, no matter how much fancy bollocks and interactive menus are sprayed around, will transform an unproductive idiot into a valuable team member: he'll always just be the boss.

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Hot news! Combustible Galaxy Note 7 to return as 'Galaxy Note FE'

Milton
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Facile Emanations

El Reg articles are usually informative enough for the readership to overlook, or at least tolerate, the juvenile obsession with laboured puns and cringeworthy, silly headlines -- but an *entire piece* built around the letters "FE", containing no useful information or analysis *whatsoever*?

Guys ... it's a little pathetic. It's not as if you need to fill column inches: 'twere better to have published *nothing*.

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Ex-NASA bod on Gwyneth Paltrow site's 'healing' stickers: 'Wow. What a load of BS'

Milton
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The weirdest, saddest thing of all

The weirdest, saddest thing of all is that actually it's far more interesting and infinitely more rewarding to actually go and get a science education and learn how things really are: how endlessly fascinating and remarkable the world really is, when you peel back the layers to see how it all works. Reality is much more thrilling than the childish, simplistic and really rather pathetic faux "knowledge" or "wisdom" that these clowns immerse themselves in. Evolution gave them enquiring and curious brains—which they promptly waste on spiritualistic drivel that should embarrass an educated ten-year-old.

It's a wasteland of misguidedness that they share with conspiracy lunatics. Learning about climate science, for example, is surely much more satisfying and ultimately rewarding than setting a bonfire of calories in your one and only brain, trying to twist madly dissonant logic and convince yourself that 10,000 climate scientists are part of a huge, secret plot?

Superstitionists and conspiracists frequently irritate me, but my better nature pities the poor bastards.

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Australian govt promises to push Five Eyes nations to break encryption

Milton
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Ahmed the Terrifying Terrorist

Ahmed has a neat little program he knocked up using freely available algorithms, created originally by the best encryption experts on the planet—downloaded off the net: it took ten minutes. He's smart and careful and encrypts the shortest possible messages using a decent scheme like (say) Blowfish with a 448-byte key.

Ahmed can coordinate his latest atrocity with at most a few dozen messages, none of which exceed a few hundred characters. For each message, once it's encrypted, he snaps a photo of his current favourite goat (Habibi, today), and buggers around with sampling and resolution and compression until the image is a bit rubbish and Habibi's formerly enticing hindquarters are a soggy mess of artefacts and pixelation. He uses a simple steganographic program to introduce the encrypted bytes into the image, which as we have noted, is so messy that it will be a complete bastard for a cryptanalyst to figure out whether it's even *got* a payload or not. Ahmed does all this on a device that is never connected to anything. Not even Bluetooth headphones. And yes, of course, all the steps just discussed could be sequenced into one nifty little program though, note well, Ahmed does not store the long and complex key phrases on this device.

Once Habibi is pregnant with the latest Atrocity #101 Plan, the image is SD'd or similar to Ahmed's latest burner phone, and he sends it as a social message to the Evil Cohort. The chip goes onto the campfire.

Tomorrow, Ahmed will have another idea, and will be eyeing up a new cloven-footed friend for his Cryptic Gallery.

Even if the Five Idiots' politicians decided to concrete over the whole of Utah to support NSA silicon, there isn't the faintest chance in hell that short steganograms in sloppy pictures exchanged among anonymous cellphones will stand out from the daily total of 1,700,000,000 pictures uploaded, exchanged, sideloaded, published, forwarded, Liked, downloaded, Hated, reloaded, retwatted etc etc and etc (that's about 600 billion per year, and increasing).

And let's not even get started about all the other ways there are for encrypting, hiding and exchanging information—ways which cannot even be identified as encryption in the first place. (You could hide Britannica in a low-bitrate copy of Sam Smith's strangulated squealing and no one would suspect a thing.)

As is so often said by those who actually understand this shit, backdoors cannot and will not work. They will make everyone less safe. Reading the inconsequential mail and trifling sins of seven billion people is not just pointless, it sucks resources from where they are really needed: infiltrating Ahmed's Terrifying Tent City (Camp Terrible, Northern Waziristan), which you *will* need to do because the Bad Guys will be the ones successfully using the encryption you were stupid enough to think you could ban.

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Virgin Media router security flap follows weak password expose

Milton
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Don't be too harsh ...

... on the folks who use the ISP-supplied router. It's good that El Reg readership includes people who are not necessarily techies, but who still have curiosity enough to be here.

And if you think the Virgin Routers are crummy, Sky is even worse. We have both connections to this house (can't afford to be offline) and I use a Draytek router for load balance and redundancy, and while the Virgin hub did at least allow me to set it to Modem-Only mode, the POS that Sky provided won't even let you do that. Bypassing Sky's rubbish was tedious, to say the least.

(But yes, for those who are wondering: the router supplied by your ISP will work, but it will be cheap, nasty, crippled and probably horribly vulnerable.)

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Despite high-profile hires, Apple's TV plans are doomed

Milton
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"There's more premium original content than consumers can even watch."

"there's more premium original content than consumers can even watch"—ok, so it's not just me: I was beginning to wonder if I was the only one noticing the sheer volume of programming and wondering how anybody could find time to watch even a tenth of it.

While I remain bemused by folks discussing all the things they've watched—do they have Hermione's time-winder gadget, so they can consume five days' telly in a single weekend? where do people get the *time*??—my more immediate question is, when does saturation and fatigue set in?

If it's always been the case, broadly speaking, that only 3% of TV was worth watching, then the sheer volume of stuff being produced does explain why there's also a lot of good programming out there. You can and should ignore the "reality" mind-rotting garbage, soap operas, quiz shows, cheap-as-shyte "documentaries" and the rest, but you still end up with more good things than there are hours in the day. If there's too much even of the good stuff for anyone to watch, how can it be profitable to make more of it? This is a genuine question: I'm curious to understand how so much telly gets made, and watched, and still pays for itself.

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SpaceX nails two launches and barge landings in one weekend

Milton
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Even old curmudgeons are happy!

Pleased to see some entirely good news based on intelligent, effective science and engineering. NASA ought to be hiding its face in shame considering (a) the serial failures of the ill-conceived, monstrously expensive Shuttle, and (b) how quickly SpaceX has got a working, vastly cheaper reusable system into operation. This is impressive stuff.

I hope they are thinking far enough ahead to be considering future SSTO opportunities. Reaction Engines have been plodding away solidly for years developing tech for this one piece at a time (Sabre engines mostly, I think) and I'd love to see SpaceX-type money and energy put into a venture of that kind. Arguably, it's a bigger priority than Mars, though we do need to get our eggs out of this fragile basket of Earth asap.

Kudos to SpaceX for serious work. It makes Virgin "Galactic's" marketing stunts in the desert look plain childish by comparison. (Vomit-comet lobs to nowhere and "I'm A Big Astronaut, Daddy!" badges for fatheads with more money than sense: heaven help our species).

Whatever happens, old as I am, I'd like to be alive to see the first heavy-metal asteroid inserted into lunar orbit, or parked at a Lagrange point, and for mining to start. It'll feel like humanity is finally arriving, after a faltering start.

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Tech giants flash Russia their code blueprints in exchange for access

Milton
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Mm, nice choices

1. Russian-"vetted" versions of Western software will have spyware, backdoors and security weaknesses identified and cleaned out.

2. Russian-reengineered versions of Western software will creep back to the West, riddled with Russian spyware, backdoors and sabots.

3. If software is selling in Russia, that becomes a sign it cannot be trusted in the West.

4. So we return to status ante: the only software anyone can trust is open-source stuff you can inspect and compile yourself.

5. The infotech equivalent of the condom!

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Canadian sniper makes kill shot at distance of 3.5 KILOMETRES

Milton
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Hmm, much debate ...

I think we have to take the kill as verified, given the clear statement that a second OP saw the whole thing. They won't have *easily* been fooled by a hit from shorter range (if indeed there were any friendlies closer to the target).

And yes, if it was the first shot, that's an absolute phenomenon and I expect the sniper himself to accept he had some amazing luck—but let's be clear, even with an exquisitely built, selected and polished 50 cal round in a supremely well-engineered rifle with pristinely accurate optics and the range lasered to the centimetre, it would still take only a brief thermal out of some intervening wadi, anywhere 'twixt muzzle and target, to make a miss that wouldn't even ruffle the bugger's hair. My guess is that having got the range and windage as perfect as possible, our sniper friend expended at least a handful of rounds before floating one onto our bad boy. I don't detract from his skill in the slightest—hitting a double decker bus at that distance is impressive with anything smaller than a 20mm autocannon—but the intervening variables of air and even gravity are profoundly perturbative at those distances, even with a chunky 50 cal slug. (I'm not familiar with the "Tac-50" but I guess it's fundamentally similar to the Barrett).

By the bye, I'd be very interested to know if that shot is even possible with a smaller round, like the 7.62 we used to have in our slurs. I'm guessing even a bench-viced AI loading 7.62 wouldn't hit a man-sized target at 3.5 klicks out of fifty rounds: ballistic coefficient simply too small?

PS: This is a strange thought, but I just found myself wondering: what perimeter do the Secret Service enforce for the presidential protection detail, when he's exposed outside? Will it increase now?

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Software dev bombshell: Programmers who use spaces earn MORE than those who use tabs

Milton
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WGAFF??

People actually care about this? Enough to argue about it?? Who knew?!

Surely 99% of professional coders use an IDE, which doesn't care and takes care of trivia anyway, and modern compilers and/or tokenisers and/or interpreters, which don't care, writing code for systems which wouldn't care if they even knew, to be used by customers who really couldn't give a flying fart?

I use tabs cos my IDE makes it utter simplicity and my ancient wrists have better things to do than repeatedly bash the space bar. (No jokes please.)

It isn't even April 1st.

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Samsung releases 49-inch desktop monitor with 32:9 aspect ratio

Milton
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#Fail

"Samsung rates it at 49 inches. But the aspect ratio is where it gets weird: most monitors these days are 16:9 to deliver HD images at 1080 x 720. The CHG90 is 32:9 and 3840 x 1080."

This really caught my attention, until encountering the disappointment of the resolution. I'm writing this on a 3840x2160 UHD Sammy, and ultra-wide aspect ratio or not, I cannot imagine switching to a system with half the pixels I have now.

Fifteen years ago when I was doing lots of project management, I had three Eizo SVGA monitors side by side, an absolute boon considering the way Gantt charts can get so wide. I'm too old to lust after shiny kit as a rule, but I'd love to get my hands on something twice the width of my current Sammy, for say 7680x2160: doubling up or tripling displays is fine, but, bezels, y'know ...

Personally, it's hard to see how 32:9 and 49" is particularly useful with such weedy resolution? Use cases, anyone?

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Look who's joined the anti-encryption posse: Germany, come on down

Milton
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And of course, it just won't work

Lacking time to peruse all comments so I'm no doubt repeating what others have already pointed out: the very people you want to surveil will encrypt their data before slipping it on to the phone that's being used to transmit it. Given you're a technical audience I needn't even bother specifying the many ways this could be done because it's obvious, simple and effective.

Just one off the cuff: The outstanding resolution of phone cameras and displays suggests one immediate and easy route. One device, unconnected to any network of any kind, encrypts your message and displays it as an image. Your connected phone takes a picture of the other's screen. Steganography to obfuscate is an option, of course, and I'd guess you could easily use this method for messages of a few hundred characters at least.

The stubborn ignorance and stupidity of politicians never fails to exceed plausibility.

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Uncle Sam bungs rich tech giants quarter of a billion bucks for exascale super R&D

Milton
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"Publicly known"

I wonder if there's anything in the rumour that Uncle Sam is funding this because the fastest not-so-public computer, which might be spending its days at Ft Meade, has seen its once overwhelming superiority eaten away during the last 5-7 years?

If there doubts now emerging about the future practicality and effectiveness of quantum computing for cryptanalysis (which is also speculative), it makes sense to widen the resource net if you want to preserve your supercomputer advantage.

It would be interesting to know more, especially w.r.t features for crunching astronomically large numbers ....

1
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Yahoo! cleanup! will! cost! Verizon! half! a! billion! bucks!

Milton
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Mayer for Prez

Assuming there's anything left to clusterf**k after Dumpty Trumpty is dragged off to his new, well-padded quarters, Mayer could finish the job of running poor old USA on to the rocks. Never waste talent!

2
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Sorry to burst your bubble, but Microsoft's 'Ms Pac-Man beating AI' is more Automatic Idiot

Milton
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No such thing as AI yet

LeeD has it absolutely right. None of the programs touted by marketurds as "AI" is really anything of the kind. Like "cloud", it's a term trowelled onto anything corporations want to sell or make headlines with. Though I confess it is appropriate to see a term as vague as "cloud" used to describe a truly vague concept that has been morphing like a drunk amoeba since mainframe days.

Not only is "AI" a nonsense given the nature of the coding—which could cover any combination of neural network simulation, reward-seeking, machine learning ad nauseam, but never, ever gets close even to the versatility of intelligence of a shrew—the fact that these much-hyped machines can succeed only at single extremely clearly-defined, rules-based tasks shows how hollow the claims of "intelligence" are. None of the so-called "AI" systems could even begin a Turing Test, but then again, none of them can emulate even the smarts of a tiny mammal, and given that the roots of the word "intelligent", and any attempt to measure or compare it are completely founded in our understanding of how humans and animals can perform—why are we even using the word?

I'll believe you have a true AI when I can converse with it using real speech, the written word and a variety of images, discuss in real-time topics ranging from science to ethics to literature to butterflies to math to philosophy to marriage to religion—and come away after a couple of hours convinced that you lied to me, and that behind the screen was a well-adjusted, educated, experienced human being.

Until then, while I appreciate and am impressed by some immensely clever programming and powerful silicon, talk of AI is pure marketing BS.

14
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Connectivity's value is almost erased by the costs it can impose

Milton
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Internet = ( IsSecure ) ? Valuable : Useless

The article is one of probably thousands by now which all evaluate to the same quite simple truth: if non-trivial use of the internet is to be better than useless, it absolutely HAS to be SECURE. No one seriously believes that online banking will cease to be a thing—especially with banks closing branches all over the place—nor does any literate human being imagine it can be done without excellent security.

The lesson extends seamlessly to shopping, medical records, access to government services and everything that is "non-trivial".

Why politicians keep raising the question of supposed "good guys' backdoors" in encryption systems therefore remains a mystery. I know they're mostly tech-illiterate and fairly stupid anyway, not to mention as dishonest as the day is long, but surely even a politician must realise at some point that s/he is flogging a long since expired horse?

Good strong crypto keeps everybody safer. And yes, it allows tiny minority of black hats privacy too. Weakening it makes *everybody* much less safe (and probably, taken to its logical conclusion, makes much internet use unworkable) except the black hats, who will be the first to switch to systems which ... don't have backdoors.

Sighs in despair.

14
2

Raspberry Pi sours thanks to mining malware

Milton
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On a more serious note: schools

I understand the Pi is widely used, and for obvious reasons, in schools. I hope school It departments are paying attention today, because that is one environment where I *suspect* rules may be a bit lax: getting kids to change default passwords and remember new, strong ones sounds a little like cat-herding.

Once a single Pi is infected, there is the troubling prospect of transmission of malware over internal networks, which schools already under siege from idiot politicians really do not need right now.

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Milton
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"daily mail reading celebrity spotting unwashed"

Anon said—"If you have a Pi this already puts you ahead of the daily mail reading celebrity spotting unwashed therefore you would instinctively change the password on first use as you did on that shiny router you bought. You would also have to enable ssh which again puts you above the general poo flicking human."

I wonder why he got so many downvotes? Yes, it's a rather dismissive, insulting opinion of Daily Mail readers, but in what respect is it actually, um, wrong?

Or was it the reference to the Axis of Stupid Liars: "poo flicking human" that upset readers? (I assume it's a reference to Boris Johnson and Donald Trump, correct?)

Well, I suppose it doesn't matter if Daily Mail readers have IQs in single digits or occasionally even two, the important things in our world are, as ever: Strong Crypto+Strong Passwords!!

9
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We're not saying we're living in a simulation but someone's simulated the universe in a computer

Milton
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Re: Are we a simulation?

TechnicalBen said: "Define simulation. Is our observation to the correct level of dimensions? Or the correct arrangement of them? Probably. Though there may be more cavett's [sic] than we first assumed. For example, see time dilation and relativity and a few other things such as Quantum effects. None of these break our previous understandings, just bend them slightly and explain some unique observations. So I doubt we are 'simulated'"

Not so fast, there. The Makers who created this sim would reasonably have expected, or observed the progress of, enquiry and science in the simulated world (i.e. us). The effectiveness of the sim would depend upon there being no "giveaways", that is to say, uncovered inconsistencies which revealed that our universe was fake. So they would have had to build coherent foundations to withstand our scientific enquiry. Hence our "knowledge" of quantum physics and the universe etc: a simulation so good that it produced "people" like Newton and Einstein absolutely required that the Makers provide those convincing foundations.

It's reasonable to suppose that the Makers may have based the sim on the physics of their own real universe, even—though perhaps they experimented with many different sets of starting conditions and programmatic implementations of hypothetical physical laws *different* from their own, to see what would work. (We might be the first successful sim to produce sentient life in a long-lived "universe" out of a trillion trillion. That solves anthropocentrism for you.)

Then again, perhaps the increasingly bizarre revealed behaviour of the quantum world and various cosmological kludges (wavicles; entanglement; spooky action at a distance; cosmological constant; dark matter; dark energy; etc) are ever-hastier fixes plugged in by the Makers to try and stay ahead of our scientific enquiry as it edges closer to the awful truth. In which case, modern theoretical physics and cosmology is really a hunt for the smoking gun.

But I don't think the apparent existence of fundamental physics proves we are not in a sim: it proves only, at best, that if we're in a sim, it is one designed for simulants with brains bigger than dogs'.

4
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Human-free robo-cars on Washington streets after governor said the software is 'foolproof'

Milton
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Re: The biggest cause of road accidents

True. And given the sheer stupidity of half the drivers on the road, coupled with fatigue, lack of skill, alcohol, drugs and poor vehicle maintenance, it's not hard to imagine a world in which self-driving cars easily exceed the safety record of those driven by humans.

But then there is the question, how much risk, and how many accidents, will we still be prepared to tolerate? Achieving fewer traffic deaths than we have now is desirable but not necessarily impressive. There must be some vastly lower accident rate that we should aspire to and work towards and which future passengers will consider acceptable—just as they understand that today, getting into a western-built plane belonging to a major western airline means they'll be safer aboard than they are at home in the tub.

So we have to work towards something that is outstandingly reliable and safe. What it will never, ever be, of course, is "foolproof": a word bandied only by fools themselves.

My suspicion is that the bigger challenge in all of this is yet to come, and it won't be lidar, radar, GPS, or any of the increasingly quotidian bits of building a good automotive robot—those problems are all solvable.

No, the biggie, lumbering across the horizon to complicate everything horribly, is security. It won't be difficult to make a self-driving car that drives safer than a human. Butu it will be extremely difficult to make one which is as resistant to hacking and sequestration as a human.

0
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Golden handshakes of almost half a million at Wikimedia Foundation

Milton
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An unpleasant surprise

I've donated my £10 to WMF a few times, when they put up the "donations needed" banner, because I use Wikipedia a lot and have also deployed Mediawiki software a few times, with considerable success. So I feel grateful for the whole thing.

But it will be a long time before I donate again, if this is the situation: unpaid volunteers do the work, six figure bonuses for others. That just won't do. Forget it.

8
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No hypersonic railguns on our ships this year, says US Navy

Milton
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Good for anyone but the defense contractor

"A weapon that destroys itself after a few shots, or even a few dozen shots, isn't much good for anyone but the defense contractor!"

But it's the defence contractors who schmooze politicians, hiring expensive lobbyists, making huge "campaign contributions", funding "fact finding" junkets, helping to provide pre-written pieces of legislation, spreading the work over as many regions as possible so that every political reptile can claim to be bringing money and jobs to its constituency and, most importantly, making quiet promises about lovely well-paid seats on the board for the future, a few days a month of no work to bring in six or seven figures a year after the aforementioned reptile is ejected by the voters. (The most egregious current example is undoubtedly the F-35 disaster, for the US excels at this level of corruption and dysfunction, but Blighty isn't far behind: the QE carrier procurement has been an unadulterated fiasco too.)

So although we may say that this or that patently absurd acquisition is good for no one except the contractor, that has, in point of fact, become the key thing: because once you've allowed the money to buy the politicians (hardly a challenge these days), the decisions *will* be about what's good for the contractor, not the country.

I sometimes moan that UK defence procurement has been so dysfunctional since the 1950s that it might as well have been run from the Kremlin, but that's probably imputing too much competence to the KGB. It's more likely a combination of the blind greed of contractors and blundering incompetence by politicians. Neither would be cause for surprise, right?

2
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Class clowns literally classless: Harvard axes meme-flinging morons

Milton
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Draconian?

I haven't seen the material mentioned but don't doubt it's as offensive as stated. That said, surely the context matters? In this case, context being that the posters in question are kids, full of overconfidence, cheek, peer groupthink and heedless hormonal impulses, who maybe—just maybe—would have benefited from a good talking to and a severe warning, leaving them appropriately humbled, embarrassed ... and much wiser?

No matter how repugnant the memes in question may have been, you should surely have some regard for the foolishness of the young. It's not as if the offenders in this case were seasoned representatives of the people: we have a president who routinely broadcasts offensive drivel, and many members of his political party and administration publish shamelessly odious beliefs, and *they* are people who really should know better.

So for me the punishment seems a draconian, rather heartless over-reaction. I would guess the decision-makers in this case are motivated by the predictable vices of hypocrisy and ass-covering.

7
5

Apple gives world ... umm ... not much new actually

Milton
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Apple 4P

Apple's Piss Poor Price/Performance as always. Yes, I understand that some people are willing to pay lots of extra cash for the pretty, shiny bits, or because the thing bears an icon of half-chewed fruit, but will any of those purported "power users"—who are presumably tech-savvy, with some common sense—calculate just how much quality kit and processing horsepower they can get elsewhere, for that same eye-watering price? Or even, a lot less? (And it would be easily maintainable, upgradeable kit, at that.)

I have under the desk, right now, an 8-core 5GHz 32Gb beast driving a 4k monitor and two supplemental displays thru a 3Gb GPU, paid for by my then-employer three years ago at well under *half* of Apple's $5k. It is not pretty. It will never double as modern art. It isn't even particularly energy-efficient, its brain being AMD. It is a warm, drab, knobby, utilitarian lump of a workhorse.

But it consumes all before it, day after day, year after year, upgradeable at the twist of a thumbscrew, never faltering, one look at it being enough to have you ask ... why, why—pretty or not—*why* would you pay Apple prices?

5
2

The biggest British Airways IT meltdown WTF: 200 systems in the critical path?

Milton
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KISS Indeed

Apologies that I don't have time to read all comments, as I'm sure others will have made this point, better than I, already ... but it bears emphasis: notwithstanding the reference to "200" systems and the well-made points about criticality, this issue still boils down to a simple and appalling fact—that a power interruption (a power interruption, FFS!!) could be a single point of failure for the top-to-bottom minute-by-minute operations of a global billion-dollar business ... a business which, need I add, functions in one of the most safety-, security- and reliability-conscious regimes that exist on Earth.

I don't care if Mr Conveniently-Junior-Guy pulled and replaced the plug twenty times while widdling into a server cabinet and waving his EMP blaster around. This simply shouldn't be possible. It is a crushing indictment of business continuity and disaster recovery design and engineering.

That several senior executives haven't already been thrown into the ocean from 37,000 feet is unbelievable. Remember where the buck stops, and how they justify being BIG bucks? Whoever allowed this should return to running a kennel.

And one can only wonder what other atrocious penny-pinching corrosion awaits discovery.

3
0

Microsoft totters from time machine clutching Windows 10 Workstation

Milton
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Addition or subtraction?

The cynical thought lurking in my mind on reading this (other than, of course, "Win7 is the last Windows I'll ever use") is that it would be vastly easier for MS to produce one version of Windows OS, capable of dealing with *all* the hardware specs listed in the article, with users allowed to choose the GUI skin they prefer from among, say, "Win 7 which lets me do actual work" to "horrible phone-like nonsense getting in my way". Users would choose whether they used "advanced" or even server-like features, and in the meantime MS would be required to write, maintain and support just one single core of code.

Of course, that won't happen because just like car manufacturers before them, MS introduce as much superficial and often meaningless distinction as possible to different "versions" to try to squeeze every bit of the market for whatever juice it contains.

One also wonders whether, again like car manufacturers, lots of features are actually there in the basic versions but simply crippled.

Either way, for me it is moot. The spyware telemetry is an absolute no-no, and the Win8+ interfaces are materially worse than Win7. When support for 7 dries up, or possibly sooner, I'll be off to Linux. Been using it for server stuff for years and will regret the loss of only a single W7-only application, for which a satisfactory *ix substitute exists. I fail to see why I should let myself or my data become a cash-cow hostage to MS, especially when superior free alternatives exist.

Funny how history turns in such bizarre circles. When I was 20, the idea of buying an OS would have seemed faintly ridiculous. MS made it a Thing: and yet here we are 40 years later, when no one making a virgin, rational choice of hardware and OS would, in fact, pay money ... for a mediocre, conspicuously insecure one, that spies on you, lies to you and tries to trap you.

22
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Bixby bailout: Samsungers bailing on lame-duck assistant

Milton
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Unwanted

My personal list of features/software to be actively avoided:

1. Anything that has an open mic when I have not initiated it for a call or recording.

2. Anything which does so AND is connecting to the net, thereby passing much input straight out over the airwaves.

3. Anything which for entirely trumped up reasons bypasses the enormous processing power of a modern smartphone for voice recognition, claiming this can only be done in "cloud". (Voice recog was working years ago on comparatively feeble CPUs: vendors use "cloud" for lockin, not because it helps you.)

4. And beyond that: any and all of the lousy, superfluous bloatware and other clumsy attempts by manufacturers to take me and my data hostage.

Just sell me a dratted phone, will you, and stop confecting bundles of shiny shyte designed to try and hook me like some feeble-minded, gullible would-be addict?

4
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Amazon granted patent to put parachutes inside shipping labels

Milton
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Why?

Why would a well worn idea - dropping stuff by chute - get a patent from anyone?

Why would Amazon think this is any less dangerous than thousands of drones flying over populated areas?

11
1

CoreOS chief decries cloud lock-in

Milton
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Greeeed is goood

And corporates will do, and say, absolutely *anything* to try to trap customers. Every single one of them has some form of the monkey's fist arrangement, whereby once you have reached in to fondle the goodies, you can't get your hand out while keeping it.

Whether it's Google lying about "confusing customers" when it removes the uSD slot from its phones or Apple gluing batteries in irremovably or MS turning out unnecessary "improvements" to Windows which just happen to require you to be spied on ... readers here could produce endless examples.

Just remember, corporates are not doing any of these things for your benefit any more than Facebook is run for your good: it's all about finding ways to trap you, hold your data hostage and then wring you dry.

If it weren't bad enough that 85% of everything done in "cloud" doesn't need to be there in the first place, worse still are the wiles and deceits and soft persuasions of the providers, always looking for a way to make you dependent. If you're looking for a comparable business model, drug pushing is a fair example.

14
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Much-hyped Ara Blackphone LeEco Essential handset introduced

Milton
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Nope

I agree with other posters: no headphone jack, no uSD slot, no replaceable battery - no buy.

8
0

New 'Beaver' web server has exactly ONE user outside China

Milton
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Why didn't the Chinese use their own?

"Wait a minute, the beaver is Canada's national animal. ... Why didn't the Chinese use their own?"

Well, you kind of backed the Politburo into a corner, there. Notwithstanding the cognitive dissonance of a greedy neocapitalist kleptocracy being run by a "communist" government, those lovely billions of dollars of trade sweated from factory slaves still don't entirely disguise the fact that this is as vicious and intolerant an authoritarian government as ever was. They couldn't use the national animal they are best known for, and "Murdered Dissident" really doesn't have much of a ring as the monicker for a web server.

Besides, no one would be sure if it originated in China or Russia.

0
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Virgin Galactic and Boom unveil Concorde 2.0 tester to restart supersonic travel

Milton
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Baby steps

I'd have been pleased, I guess, if one of the really big players demonstrated a commitment to large-scale supersonic travel: if Boeing or Airbus put a sizeable, brave investment into it—preferably Boeing, because they're an American company, meaning that US political objections to the overland commercial supersonic travel would miraculously evaporate—but I don't attach much credibility to any wheeze with Beardy involved. There's too much of the huckster brand-led mentality, all too unpleasantly on display with the "space travel" nonsense of Virgin "Galactic"—conning more-money-than-sense idiots into believing they're "astronauts" because they're in free-fall for a few minutes at some arbitrary altitude (not even going into orbit, in fact going absolutely nowhere at all).

That said, just as much Virgin "Galactic" is a joke, so this small-scale ambition will probably get nowhere, as the hard, non-negotiable, expensive engineering and commercial details meet the hand-waving marketing drivel of Virgin. Part of the problem is that it only takes 5-6 hours to cross the Atlantic anyway and there simply isn't much point in paying a small fortune cutting two hours off it (believe the "business class fare" if you like, it won't happen).

Far more compelling would be to more than halve the time taken on really long flights, even antipodean ones, where the difference between 17 hours and 4 hours is a real, highly desirable, worth-paying-for boon.

It would be nice of Branson stopped faffing around with egotistical branding gobshyte that will lead nowhere and supported something like Reaction Engines instead. There's a company with good science and credible engineering aiming to build not only an actual SSTO spaceship, capable of orbit and return, but also to exploit the same tech to achieve hypersonic passenger flights to the other side of the world. Brussels to Auckland in four hours, anyone?

But this is the age of superficial marketurds, political bollocks and spin, so of course the money goes to fat-headed gimmicks instead of hard-science-based enterprise.

0
0

BA's 'global IT system failure' was due to 'power surge'

Milton
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Hands up ... if you believe this for a second

Sorry, it won't wash. A single point of catastrophic failure, in 2017, for one of the world's biggest airlines, which relies upon a vast real-time IT system? A "power failure"?

Even BA cannot be that incompetent. Pull the other one.

6
0

DARPA orders spaceplane capable of 10 launches in 10 days

Milton
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Strategic contingency planning

Strategic contingency planning would appear to be at the heart of this. Only three things are plausibly likely to knock out several satellites at once—

1. A Solar event, like a Coronal Mass Ejection

2. Enemy action, either physical military assault or (conceivably) via cyber attack

3. An orbital accident which generates very large amounts of fast-moving debris, the cloud of which will shotgun many satellites

No 3 is unlikely to cause the kind of attrition that this project seems to be catering for. There is, to be sure, a worry that a major satellite collision/explosion or series thereof could worsen exponentially, filling orbits with vicious splinters, but, saving a rather foolish Chinese episode a few years back, space powers are mostly showing some good sense in avoiding this scenario. Space junk is a problem, but it's one which cheaper access to orbit might actually help to cure: there are various practical notions for gathering junk and de-orbiting it, including a "booger" approach which could stick a whole bunch of crap together and then drop it on Mar-a-Lag—sorry, the Pacific.

No 1 is inevitable, it's only a question of when—100 years or tomorrow. A really powerful CME aimed squarely at Earth will cause mayhem. But the worst of its effects might not even be in orbit. Lots of satellites, especially military, are well-hardened against radiation, and anything that knocks out US satellites is at least as likely to fry Russian or Chinese ones. The worst effects of a big CME could be dreadful right here on Earth's surface, if for example a substantial proportion of power grid transformers are killed: we should be very concerned about sweeping long-term power cuts, not to mention the almost unimaginable effects of large swathes of electronics being baked. No country is remotely well-prepared for a big solar storm.

As for No 2, I'd submit DARPA are showing due common sense. Anti-satellite weapons, either satellites themselves or launched from the ground, are a well-maturing technology, and it would seem very likely that a major conflict will see nations trying to blind their enemies' eyes and ears. WW2 made manifest the critical importance of knowledge—of your enemy's movements, resources, plans, communications—and the US, despite some dire mistakes with NSA, knows full well that against any serious adversary, information is as important as fighter jets, missiles or boots on the ground.

Whether kludging together a surge-to-orbit capability in this particular way is the best choice or not, I wouldn't like to say: but they're quite right to plan a contingency to have *something* ready.

3
0

You'll get a kick out of this: Qualcomm patents the 'Internet of Shoes'

Milton
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And when hacked ...

In the UK, there will be a Tory bill to allow security services or police to take control of your Internet of Feet. Those suspected of dreaming about thinking of considering possibly doing something that might one day be illegal will be compelled, by a series of electric shocks to the feet, to walk to the nearest police station and surrender for a mind scan.

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