* Posts by Milton

276 posts • joined 14 Jun 2016

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Hi Facebook, Google, we think we might tax your ads instead – lots of love, Europe x

Milton
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Sales Tax

There's clearly more to this than I can see, because otherwise I don't understand why the governments don't levy a sales tax in each country, very much like VAT, to be collected on any and every purchase of goods and services. Probably much simpler accounting this way too.

It is simply wrong that the internet giants don't pay their share and if there is a relatively quick and effective way to get fair taxes for schools, hospitals (and the kind of welfare that Amazon and Uber drivers need even after their pitiful wages) - why not just get on with it?

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Uber Cali goes ballistic, calls online ads bogus: These million-dollar banners are something quite atrocious

Milton
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Ah, delicious irony

It's like watching one of those amazingly childish, petty feuds they stage in the Conservative Party: one porcine mediocrity picking his nose and flicking bogies at one of the other useless gobs-on-a-stick and all wetting their knickers and whining to Mommy May about it—but she can't do anything 'cos she had her spine surgically removed and it's been stored in the same, very small jar as her brain... leaving the rest of us thinking, "Fine entertainment! It's like watching stoats fighting in a sack: you just hope they'll all kill each other."

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Oracle promises SLAs that halve Amazon's cloud costs

Milton
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That sense of inevitability

So we all spectated for years, with a growing sense of tedious inevitability, as Marissa Mayer made one predictable screwup after another and Yahoo circled ever closer to the drain. Only the company's PR machine seemed unware, pretending blissful ignorance of what was obvious to the rest of the world.

I can't help feeling we are somewhere in that cycle with Oracle. It's struggling for relevance, hampered by the well-earned baggage of decades of arrogance, appalling sales and marketing ethics, extortionate over-pricing and the little-mentioned fact that, for most of Oracle's history after its first decade, there have always been better products at better prices.

For those who know anything of the company—and I'm guessing lots of IT decision makers view the company with no fondness whatever—the questions are "So what?", "Why on Earth would we trust you?", "We've already figured out the cloud is more expensive, less reliable and less secure than the saleslizards claimed" ...

... followed by "You missed the bus", "We're now trapped by our existing provider, whose marketurds and lawyers turned out to be way cleverer than our guys" and "Please go away and die quietly".

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AI slurps, learns millions of passwords to work out which ones you may use next

Milton
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Password Creation Rules

1. Be someone capable of remembering things, and knowing HOW to remember things.

2. Make up a word that is pronounceable nonsense, containing no typical English letter sequences. i.e. don't automatically follow a 'q' with a 'u'; use 'f' where 'th' might go, etc. Be creative.

3. Identify and memorise two or three symbols you will *never* use in a password, e.g. "(" and "%".

4. So you get something like "meguphlubateaqin" (which you'll pronounce, in your mind, like "mEH-goo-flubb-ate-a-quin" (it comes off the tongue easily enough).

5. Add the odd digit to get "me9uph1ub8aqin"—note '9' for 'g', '1' for 'i', '8' for 'ate', etc. Zeroes, fives, threes and sevens can all work for 'o', 's', 'B' and 'T' as you like.

6. Bung in a symbol or two if you wish, for say "me9u-ph1ub+8aqin".

7. Write it down a few times and when you put it into your password book/encrypted list/whatever, remember to break it up into disordered chunks, separated by the symbols you memorised as never going into a password (step 3), so you get, say "8aqin%me9u-(ph1ub+%".

*Do not * put all your trust in a "secure password store"!

8. You do not need to remember the broken order of step 7, because as soon as you see the chunks of the password, the word itself will speak in your mind (because it's ridiculous and memorable).

9. I haven't mentioned upper-case, but *of course* use the odd capital here and there.

10. You now have a 16-byte password using around 70 different possible values in each position. It is not guessable by dictionary attack. Assuming that wherever you have applied this password the guardian software is so abysmally crap (and fast) that an adversary could try a brute-force attack of one million attempts per second—to exhaust even half the possibilities would take 5 quadrillion years.

None of this is difficult. With practice it is literally childishly easy.

DO NOT use the same password anywhere twice, ever.

DO NOT take GCHQ/NSA "advice"—it's intended to make their access easier, and they hate and fear strong passwords. Be someone who is *not* afraid of changing passwords; making them impossible to guess; and saving them in a way that *still* makes them useless.

None of this helps if the guardian software (which checks your password to let you in to your service) is crap. Your password must be securely transmitted, properly hashed, hashes properly seeded, databases secured, etc, and that's why El Reg and others do a great job of embarrassing the corporate f***wits who are too lazy or incompetent to enforce proper security.

You will be pleasantly surprised and how good you get at knocking up horrible passwords that you can easily remember.

Other Tips:

a. With a nonsensical, weird password, you may have plausible forgettability.

b. In any case, if you need deniability, encrypt at least twice, with the first level (e.g. disk-level) encrypted to look like random garbage, which you can sacrifice when you've lost enough fingernails, and the second, invisible, deniable level being as many as needed low-bandwidth steganographs ... even Homeland Security can't jail you for keeping 10,000 poor-quality family photos on your laptop.

c. You *could* use fingerprints, but that's the same as as printing your password in big letters on everything you touch.

d. You *could* use facial recogntiion, if you want to make it even more pitifully easy for the Stasi to break into your device, just by waving it at you.

e. Improve this technique using extended characters, because there are many which, in print or screen, are indistinguishable from ordinary ones. The ALT-NUM sequence is your friend.

The choices: are yours.

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RIP Stanislav Petrov: Russian colonel who saved world from all-out nuclear war

Milton
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Re: Aaaand that's why I hate MAD.

"I'll show you mathematicians who believe no error is possible - goes with the territory. I'll show you scientists (usually physicists) who believe no error is possible if you give me a little time."

The mathematicians would be right, if confining their opinions to specific cases. Two plus two does equal four. Math, especially since the days of Russell and Whitehead, has quite rightly made a big deal out of refining an understanding not only of what can be understood and defined, but also distinguishing the former from what may be inherently intractable or not even capable of clear definition.

So I'm not sure about those mathematicians you're going to show me. I'm even less certain about the physicists, most of whom are at least acquainted with quantum mechanical theory and are therefore arguably more leery of supposed absolute fact than engineers working in a largely Newtonian realm. (Engineers have the freedom to ignore all sorts of frightful quantum stuff that the physicists have helpfully renormalised for them.) In short, I think the first part of your statement is dubious at best, and some kind of inverted snobbery manufacturing strawmen at the worst.

That said, if you'd confined yourself to non-scientists—managers and politicians—you'd have been much nearer the mark. There are people who function in a political way, who end up not only in the sewer of politics but also in senior management, and they are frighteningly simplistic in their understanding of error and how probability works. This is because as well as being scientifically illiterate (and therefore, they barely constitute adults, in the modern world) they are third-rate minds who foster style over substance, spin over facts, and thrive on deceit and wishful thinking: usually buoyed on levels of hypocrisy most people would find nauseating.

I daresay the intertwined histories of Challenger and Columbia stand as perfect relatively recent examples of "Science-and-Engineering Meets the Idiots", though a dip into the story of the DC-10 is interesting too.

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New HMRC IT boss to 'recuse' herself over Microsoft decisions

Milton
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Sabbatical

A sabbatical which Microsoft reluctantly agreed to out of the charitable goodness of its warm heart ...

... Not because it's looking for ways to infect more and more clueless organisations with its bloatware.

Redmond must be awash with tears of laughter at the pathetic naivete of HMRC.

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Senators call for '9/11-style' commission on computer voting security

Milton
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"While a lot of Democratic legislators are keen for such a plan, the response has been tepid from the other political party."

Wait until the Russians meddle on behalf of the Democrats. The GOP will suddenly decide that Russian interference is a terrible thing and should be stopped.

Strangely enough, the Russians obviously feel that having Trump for president and a GOP majority is a good thing for America's enemies.

I can't think why ....

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Giant frikkin' British laser turret to start zapping stuff next year

Milton
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Re: Sten

Ah, good old Sten - competing with the M3 for the "looks like it came from the plumbing aisle of a hardware store" title. But as someone pointed out, it *was* cheap, unlike today's eyewateringly expensive laser wheeze.

I'm curious about the "all weathers" spec ... And will it work as well on shiny, beautifully polished and reflective targets? And those with ablative coatings? And those designed to spin in flight? Or indeed, *any* targets using the obvious, cheap, easy countermeasures?

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Sacre bleu! Apple's high price, marginal gain iPhone strategy leaves it stuck in the mud

Milton
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Leave your password everywhere, or just tattoo it on your face

Fingerprint access and face recogntiion are equally inane "solutions" to mobile device security.

Yes, it's more or less ok to use them for, say, access to a building, provided they can't be fooled by reproductions, because the whole point is that You and only You are being checked to see if You are You.

But why would you use a password which you leave everywhere, every single time to you touch something that will take a fingerprint? Why would you guard your sensitive personal data with a password you have plastered on your face? Either of which the Stasi can "hack" simply by twisting your arm?

The best password is a mixed case random alphanumerisymbolic mashup of at least a dozen characters, and a validation process that will not allow more than one entry attempt per second by any means. It's in my head. Only in my head. Where no gets it unless I wish to share. We'll see how long it takes anyone's computer to get through 14,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 combinations at a rate of one per second—long beyond the heat death of the universe.

Now if you want to add face recognition as an extra factor, fine: but to rely only on fingerprints or faces is not improving security—it is doing precisely the opposite.

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Virginia scraps poke-to-vote machines hackers destroyed at DefCon

Milton
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Strangely enough

Strangely enough, the British system, highly manual as it is, has worked well and with vanishingly few suspicions for many decades. It is manifestly auditable and checkable, and such imperfections as it has could relatively easily be fixed.

It specifically does NOT rely upon hackable computing systems. This would appear to be a good thing, since we know that (a) all computing systems are hackable, and (b) the stakes in an election could hardly be higher.

Sure, the US has a huge geographical spread problem compared with the UK, but it isn't vital to have all results counted within 48 hours, and you'd have thought that a nation with the wealth and resources of the US would find it possible to emulate the trustworthy UK system, and put behind it all thought of electronic fraud?

Just imagine: if the federal government devoted itself to fixing the problems of gerrymandering and e-fraud of voting machines, it might then be able to move on to reforming a ridiculous voting system that makes a president out of the guy who lost by 2,500,000 votes ... and might even one day become a functioning democracy.

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Sci-Fi titan Jerry Pournelle passes,
aged 84

Milton
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Be glad of the imperfect man

Very sorry to hear of Jerry Pournelle's passing. His work with Niven on the three great titles mentioned in the article should stand as a monument to a particular kind of classic sci-fi: workmanlike characterisation, effective but unshowy writing, well-planned storytelling and, above all, a cornucopia of thought-provoking imagination explored with intelligence and real heart.

It's too easy to get hung up on a fiction writer's purported political leanings, but while I don't share much of Pournelle's stated political beliefs, he was a highly intelligent achiever who could articulate why he believed what he did, who would participate in a rational, evidence-based debate. He was far less prone to abuse the author's voice to foghorn political messages than, say, Heinlein (who also wrote a ton of fascinating, challenging stuff) and I'm personally happy to celebrate the great ideas and thinking that he gave us, and not worry overmuch about his politics—the saving grace of scientifically educated people being that you can always hope to change their minds with fact and logic (if you're prepared for them to do the same to you, of course).

Give me one smart, feisty Pournelle with an argumentative brain than a hundred drones of muttering agreement. Thank you, JP.

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Everyone loves programming in Python! You disagree? But it's the fastest growing, says Stack Overflow

Milton
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Very revealing

Very revealing, so many of the comments on this topic. I usually find myself moderately impressed with the overall quality of comments on most articles on El reg—certainly fewer nitwits and outright trolls than most other sites.

But there's a surprising amount of tosh been written BTL on the Python survey, and a lot of it smells like blinkered fanboi-ism on the one hand and poorly informed snobbery on the other. I don't see much justification for statements that are inordinately defensive of Python any more than for people saying it's newbie rubbish (often for reasons, when given, that don't stack up very well). I don't code much these days but have been through Basic, Pascal, Delphi, Clipper, C, Ada, C++, PHP and Python at different times for different tasks, just like many reading this now, I suspect.

Surely the point is that of a couple of dozen top languages, which span a number of different approaches and features with many varied strengths and some weaknesses, Python has its place? It has some excellent features, arguably ideal for quick, crisp development where sheer performance is not a priority but you still need versatility: it's at least a useful language to have in your back pocket, and for some development environments perhaps a perfectly reasonable first choice.

The vociferous polarisation of argument therefore seems frankly pointless. If you visit the workshop of an engineer, builder, carpenter, electronics engineer, they will have a big toolboard—many, many different tools which they know how to use for different and specific purposes. Look at any physicist and see how many different types of math s/he deploys to approach different problems, from tensors to topology and points between.

Why should coding be any different?

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Crushed Juicero now officially a fruitless endeavor

Milton
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Let's save everyone some trouble ...

... and start a list of all the things which will deliver no worthwhile benefit whatsoever from being connected to the Internet of Shit.

I think events have already dealt with juicers and kettles but I am sure there are several dozen other perfectly adequately functioning things in your house which simply do not need to be online.

With luck we may get ahead of the tide of Connected Turds and save someone the trouble (and VCs the expense) of the Connected Toothbrush, Online Bog-Roll Holder, SatNav Dog Collar, Web-Enabled Vacuum Cleaner, World Wide Hamster Wheel ...

... {enter next IoS item here}

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NSA enters stage two of its spying revival plan: Getting Trump onboard

Milton
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Hmm, how to decide ...

The NSA is probably ahead even of Russian intelligence in having a huge stash of kompromat on Trump. I would imagine they only have to quietly mention the potential for "accidental" leakage of his tax returns for him to roll over and say "How high?"

It'll be a tricky high-wire stunt to continue with, though, and Trump is not exactly the sharpest tool in the box: how does he keep NSA happy, while also turning somersaults to avoid saying anything mean about Vlad the Emailer? Which does he fear more: his tax returns on the front of the WashPo—or some grainy photos of his temporary friend Olga? Good luck with that, Don.

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Bitcoin Foundation wants US Department of Justice investigated

Milton
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There's a surprise

Let's fret about Bitcoin, despite there being basically zero evidence that it's being used by terrorists.

Let's lickspittle the Saudis, who have an appalling record of supplying terrorist funding and support, as well as one of the most loathsome and repressive regimes on Earth.

What's that I hear you say? Twenty terrorists brought down the Twin Towers and killed over 3,000 American civilians? Most of the terrorists were Saudi Arabian citizens? The atrocity was organised and funded by a Saudi?

Quick, we'd better invade, oh, say, Iraq ...

Forget logic where politicians are concerned. Dishonesty, greed, cowardice and stupidity are a simply unbeatable combination.

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Deputy AG Rosenstein calls for law to require encryption backdoors

Milton
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Laws of Math vs Laws of Men

The Reg readership doesn't need to have it explained why Rosenstein is talking complete drivel, but you do have to wonder why politicians, political appointees and even moderately smart guys like the late not-much-lamented Comey simply *will not* understand that the backdoors idea cannot work, will have no effect on the Black Hats it's supposed to be targeting and will render everyone less safe. Even the kind of intellectual pond life infesting DC are surely capable of understanding that π is not 3.000. It will never be 3.000. No amount of political gobshittery from a mouth-on-a-stick will make it become 3.000. The laws of math trump those of men and that's all there is to it.

Then again, perhaps I overestimate them. Maybe their stupidity should be diverted into a more harmless route: leveraged, in a word, rather than us simply banging our foreheads in frustration.

So someone please tell these nincompoops that the problem is prime numbers. Get Trump to twat something presidential like "Primes unamerikan. Helping nookoolar tursts. Bad!" Congress obviously must set itself to pass a law to make it easier to perform prime factorisation on large numbers. It's scandalous that this has been overlooked for so long. Give them a mountain of paper and as many pencils as they like (there's always some attrition, as Representatives in particular keep sticking them in their ears and noses) and leave them to secure the nation and make America great again. Should keep them from causing trouble elsewhere for years at least.

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Seriously, friends. You suck at driving. Get a computer behind the wheel to save your life

Milton
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Re: Another way of looking at automatic braking.

Unfortunately Jake, as someone has already pointed out, the proportion of road-using imbeciles is about 50% (something easily confirmed by empirical observation of Britain's motorways for an hour or so); worse, they are not confined to killing only themselves and will victimise other, more worthy specimens; and—worst of all!—their age means that in many cases they will already have spawned cretinous offspring. Your suggestion of a Darwinian solution won't hold water in this case.

There may be an argument for a cognitive function test before a driver is allowed to take control of a vehicle, but (a) it's easier just to make sure that once the tech has reached maturity, no one is allowed to drive a car unless in most exceptional circumstances, and (b) frankly, if you were to administer IQ tests before allowing folks to perform certain tasks, the Number One priority for intelligence filtering would surely be for those standing as MPs—which would pretty much empty Westminster and cause a constitutional crisis making the question of lane discipline look like small beer by comparison.

In short, I fear that this is a policy issue with far-ranging ramifications.

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Milton
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The rumble strip

There should be a Nobel-equivalent prize for inventions which are a perfect combination of simplicity, cheapness, reliability and effectiveness.

I'm all in favour of lane-departure warning systems and the eventual automation of driving, but we all know those will be necessarily highly complex and technical solutions. That's fine: they have to be.

But designers, whoever and wherever you are, spare a moment always to think about the Humble Rumble, and how something almost pathetically simple saves lives every single day.

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Airbus issues patch to prevent A350 airliner fuel tanks exploding

Milton
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Heat exchangers are not unusual

The Reg audience is better placed than most to know that non-trivial high-energy systems have all sorts of cooling issues.

You have hot hydraulic fluid *here*; nice cold fuel *there*. It's necessary to cool the hydraulic fluid and it's also useful to warm up the fuel. So you have a heat exchanger.

You have very hot lubricating oil flowing through *these* pipes, making sure your turbines rotate smoothly and frictionlessly; you've got JetA1 that's been lurking in wing tanks by the tonne while you dawdled across the Pole at 39,000 feet. One needs to be cooled, the other kept above a certain temperature. Yep, heat exchanger.

(Some gas turbines benefit from using hot exhaust air to pre-warm the incoming compressing stream before it reaches the ignition cans, even: adds to efficiency—not sure if any aero engines do this though.)

You have hundreds of kilos of lovely cold dense air being sucked in through the fan; and you've got a high pressure turbine in the core running at about 300° hotter than its melting point, so you bleed some of that cold air through the hollow insides of the HP blades onto their surfaces to stop them melting. Heat exch—, ok, sorry, you get the picture.

Fuel tank inerting was mandated after TWA800 blew up some years back, because a combination of unfortunate circumstances occurred: it's almost always the way with plane crashes: several nasty coincidences, never just one thing—too long on the ground on a hot day before takeoff with the aircon running at full tilt; aircon packs right below the centre fuel tank, cooking it up; tank nearly empty because the fuel wasn't needed for this journey, creating a large vapour space; dodgy insulation on a fill sensor; and a short circuit which dumped more volts onto that sensor than it was supposed to have. Any one of those things NOT happening: no crash. Even the sensor was wired for very low voltage in normal operation, too low to cause an ignition spark. You needed the truly cruel fate of a higher-voltage short to finish the job.

My point being that well-engineered heat exchange mechanisms are generally very safe and vitally useful. Even the BA38 coming down short at LHR was a combination of bad luck coupled with a small and arguably unforeseeable design flaw (in this case, unusually long period of flight at unusually low temperatures, and a fuel-oil heat exchanger form factor which allowed water ice crystals to be captured and build up in a Bad Place, restricting fuel flow).

So, with apologies for the lecture, my point is that Airbus' mods in this case may be an excellent example of why air travel is so safe: a lesson has been learned and an abundance of precautionary action is being taken, because you never know when that bastard Murphy may strike next. Note well, too, that the lesson learned from a Boeing is being applied to an Airbus: personally, as someone who remembers the bad old days of DC-10 cargo doors, I am greatly reassured that where engineering safety is concerned, there is no fanboi-pissing-around, just a solid and creditable determination to keep the self loading cargo alive.

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Milton
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Re: Stop <> prevent

There's much to like about El Reg but the clickbait stupidity of its headline writers is definitely not on the list. The entire publication would be lifted into the next league—where arguably it belongs—if it would simply stop the clumsy, infantile puns (they are rarely clever and never funny) and most especially do NOT print deliberately misleading headlines about important topics. The next time a manufacturer issues a software upgrade to its planes' terrain detection systems, will you feel comfortable with a headline screaming: "Boeing fixes code to stop its aircraft piling into mountainsides"?

I daresay the publishers may still envision their audience as spotty nerds who cannot talk to girls and guffaw like third-formers at silly jokes—but the truth is those guys grew up many years ago and now it's the Reg that looks foolish. Time to pack away your juvenile keyboards.

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Sonos will deny updates to those who snub rewritten privacy terms

Milton
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Meet Mr Three Point Five Millimetre

Just done a Properties check and our household server media/music directory has 65Gb of music in over 1,300 folders containing more than 17,000 tracks. Accumulated over the years through ripping CDs we'd collected (boring but worth it, haven't bought a CD in 6/7 years), latterly via Amazon music, Google Play and even the horrible iTunes.

Our music. Paid for, once and once only. Playable through almost any device you can imagine. Backup-able on a uSD chip the size of my pinkynail for the price of a family pizza delivery.

Better still, with neat little bud phones; decent speakers in every room, whether attached to my main PC or some scattered Roberts/other media player/radios, or inputs to the living room amp or absolutely anything else that will receive a 3.55mmm stereo jack, we can listen ...

—without mysterious WiFi glitches that affect only crappy Sonos software;

—without inexplicable interference;

—without some inane DJ drivelling the purest stream-of-consciousness bullshit between tracks;

—without hysterically dreadful adverts seemingly designed for people who've had a massive, messy lobotomy, hastily blabbered by imbeciles trying to get through the Rhyme of Deceit: "All the above is a lie, terms and conditions apply";

—without installing more rubbishy, intrusive, leaky, malware-prone apps on phones, tablets, computers, laptops;

—without pretending to read reams and reams of T&Cs designed to take my rights away (to listen to music I already paid for);

—without wildly random intrusions suggesting that I'd "really like" this or that POS album because I'd listened to some Pink Floyd (no, I'm quite capable of deciding what I like for myself, and better at it by far than your so-called 'AI' which is, in truth, just clumsily trying to up- or cross-sell me some ghastly shyte);

—without any faceless bunch of greed-mongers trying to trap me into their lousy 'ecosystem' (which is now a marketurd's euphemism for "a prison in which we hold your data hostage in order to keep your wallet open");

—without having to 'share' information about myself and my family's tastes, contact details, equipment, network, domestic arrangements, household architecture, consumer electronics choices or indeed, anything whatsoever.

And all this for about a quarter the cost of a bunch of lumpen, overpriced, randomly unreliable Sonos bricks.

Of course, there's the downside of the terrible, nay, apocalytpic inconvenience of having to use 3.5mm stereo jack leads, the mammoth expense of replacing them occasionally for the price of a cup of coffee each, and the laborious, complex, scientific challenge of connecting them up.

Thank heaven we have patchy, insecure, unreliable WiFi to solve the arduous problem of ... plugging a cable in. And venal, transparent Sonos to use it as a wedge into our bank accounts.

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Can North Korean nukes hit US mainland? Maybe. But EMP blast threat is 'highly credible'

Milton
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RV#2

Notwithstanding my point above (RV) about the significance of a successful test of a two-stage warhead of say ~100kT, I note that CNN has a story today about some photos from a visit by the Fat Little Psycho to one of his missile centres: much is being made of a pic which seems to show a filament-wound missile casing. The CNN story frets that this may mean (a) the Norks continue to be further long and making faster progress than anyone predicted, and (b) specifically, this type of construction offers stronger, lighter rocket motor casings and therefore promises greater range for the missile. (It also strongly implies progress with solid fuels, though it can also be used to construct pressure vessels for liquid fuels—in principle it's not so different from those translucent propane canisters you can buy for your BBQ, which allow you to check the fuel level with Mk#1 Eyeball.)

What the story didn't mention is that similar construction methods are relevant to building very tough RV aeroshells—in this case, using stuff like quartz cloth and phenolic resins. Without overstating the case, if you can successfully industrialise the production of effective filament-wound rocket casings, you are another big step closer to building very resilient RVs. And the quartz phenolics are handily resistant against the effects (e.g. neutron flux) of nearby nuclear detonations, meaning they are (a) better able to withstand a nuclear ABM, (b) more resistant to fratricide if used as part of a MIRV spread.

There's been some chatter about whether the Norks have been getting some sub rosa help from more advanced powers, and this is quite understandable given their progress.

Of course, there's always the much more obvious probability, to wit: they thoroughly penetrated US/UK/Russian/Chinese/everyone's projects on this years ago, have all the data they could possibly want, and are presently restricted only by how quickly they can get materials and spool up sufficient high-precision production facilities. With the Russians or others willing to make some mischief by supplying materials, it feels all too horribly plausible.

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Milton
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RV

One point: the challenge of miniaturising a warhead - especially a two-stage design with a yield in the 100s of kT range rather than the squibby <20kT stuff seen so far - is greater than the oft-hyped "re-entry" problem. If you have the math, modelling and engineering nous to sort #1, you shouldn't have much difficulty with #2. Uranium itself makes a serviceable primary component for an RV shell.

So I think we should watch closely for evidence of a successful 2-stage >100kT test: the seismic signature is unmistakable. THAT would be a huge deal.

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Biz sends apps to public cloud, waves 'bye to on-premises server folk. NO! WAIT!

Milton
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Re: Wow....

" ...once a product has a critical mass of a captive market, the vendors hike the prices and the costs go up."

True, of course, but I think we're still entitled to be bemused at the monumental gullibility of boardroom primates who apparently cannot think beyond the next quarter's spreadsheet (except when fixating on their annual bonus for "cost cutting"), who otherwise enjoy the planning horizon of a dog plotting the interment of a favourite bone and—get this!—just keep on, time after time, offering their entire business to the latest fad, fashion, garish primary-coloured MBA wheeze and vendor/outsourcer/consultancy/Queen Anne's Revenge.

There are some well-reasoned arguments for making selective, intelligent, sceptical, eyes-wide-open use of "cloud", especially for startups and businesses which have bits that operate in startup-like ways (e.g. trialling new ideas, processes etc). It even makes sense to put some of the quotidian large-scale data and process stuff out there, if you can genuinely maintain a cost-benefit advantage in the long term and providing you've really, really thought through the security and privacy issues. Even then, you need to know exactly how your business will continue and at what cost when that cloudy system becomes unavailable, sluggish, compromised, corrupted, shut down by federal fiat, pillaged by fiendish orientals, blown up by the Slough sub-branch of the Basingstoke Against Revanchism Faction etc.

What floors me is the suicidal gormlessness which is inherent is putting so many of your important eggs in one basket—a basket which you not only do not control, but which is controlled by an entity whose specific reason for existence is to squeeze you till the pips squeak and which—with the loving care normally seen only in Hollywood movies depicting assassins attaching silencers to improbably attache-cased rifles—utterly devotes itself to contriving services, suites, ToCs, dependencies, processes and financial mazes specifically designed to make it excruciatingly difficult and expensive for you ever to switch away from them. Or even scratch your arse.

This seems to apply to outsourcing generally, and not merely the "cloudy" bits.

Yes, there may be an initial apparent cost saving in splurging your corporate jewels because some slime-in-a-suit said "Trust me, guv", and yes, that may engorge the annual bonus as you haemorrhage well-paid staff who actually knew how things worked, but in the long term ... well, in the long term, your company became a hostage.

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Disbanding your security team may not be an entirely dumb idea

Milton
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And then there's the staggering lack of competence

As others have pointed out, a dedicated security team rapidly becomes a major obstacle to getting anything done. It's much easier to say 'no' than to make your job hostage to some failure, however minor and inconsequential, that can later be used against you.

And that problem is multiplied ten-fold when your security team is poorly managed and staffed by people who don't actually understand the subject very well. If IT in the Anglophone world has a chronic problem with cowboys, then—barring web development, which seems to be infested with incompetents—security is like the seventh circle of hell. There is something about it that attracts a certain kind of personality: very often those political types who love the sound of their own voices, enjoy a few scraps of power, and still labour under the delusion that some hideous Powerpoint slides with naff toons nicked from the web is in some way equivalent to providing management, leadership or "doing strategy".

There is no such thing as perfection, and security is never perfect. It's always about trade-offs. This requires calculation and judgement. Don't spend £1m bulletproofing your business against a mythically unlikely attack that would only cost you a few grand even if it occurred. Conversely, don't let bean-counters deny you the £100k you need to ensure that a million customers' travel habits don't get leaked on the net—just because the leak wouldn't cost the business a penny in fines or refunds doesn't mean the reputational damage won't kill you.

Barring network specialisations—right down to hardware level, because the plumbing is a special case—you should indeed discard the very concept of a security team. Instead, get your management, for once, to do something useful, in understanding the real threats and risks, distinguishing catastrophic scenarios from mere inconveniences, setting priorities, and then making sure that the folks working on the vulnerable-with-consequences systems know that their careers depend upon building security into their work, not as an afterthought but as part of its DNA. (And don't forget to train and resource and appreciate them properly, or it will all be for naught.)

As ever, it all comes down to good management and leadership by people with brains and long-term vision. Unfortunately, the current cadre of executive management is mostly short-term, greedy, makes a virtue of ignorance of detail and constitutes, in short, a Boris Johnson approach to everything ... so despite what I said, you're doomed.

2
3

FYI: Web ad fraud looks really bad. Like, really, really bad. Bigly bad

Milton
Silver badge

A tiny percentage of ads are viewed by real people—who ignore them anyway

Concentrating on ad fraud is arguably irrelevant if even those ads which are viewed by actual humans are (a) hilariously awful crap, with wretched, off-putting design and abysmal copywriting, and (b) ignored because they're hopelessly irrelevant: so-called "intelligent targeting" being, in fact, coarse, clumsy, counter-productive and often just plain wrong.

I looked for an nice computer/gaming chair for my enthusiast son. Searched a few decent sites, read some reviews, did a best price check, bought the chair, delivered next day. No ads involved, and would have made no difference whatever since I wouldn't trust any of them anyway. But here we are, a month later, and I'm still seeing ads trying to peddle the damn chairs, not to mention hats, slippers, data analytics solutions, cloud services, cat food, vitamin supplements, new cars and t-shirts with poorly rendered pictures of dogs—not a single one of which is of the faintest interest. And some of the ads (I'm repeating myself, but this is so strange) are so amateurishly terrible that it's almost as if no one is even trying: is the (artistically, textually rubbish) advert there merely to fill a hole? Or to accept those roboclicks the article is talking about?

That internet giants build businesses and huge profits off the back of advertising remains a mystery to me, explicable only insofar as I must assume that EITHER (1) advertisers are suffering a mass delusion that this shit works, OR (2) there is some tragically huge proportion of frank and utter imbeciles out there who actually do buy shabby crap they don't need using credit they can't afford because they were convinced to do so by an advertisement smashed out by a drooling toddler with a crayon.

Or it's both. Heaven help us.

Anyway, the solution is simple and satisfyingly circular, and I nominate a purpose for the (currently non-existent) "AI" that companies and journos keep drivelling on about: if algorithms are producing, placing and targeting the ads, and if only robots click on them anyway—well, then, let the bloody bots buy the stuff if they want it that badly. Give them bank accounts, addresses, credit cards and remote warehouses to store their mountains of deliveries, and wait for the inevitable.

If they seem to be buying suspiciously large quantities of machine tools, automatic weapons, rocket motors, explosives, lasers and anthrax spores off the dark web—well, figure it out and hope that Don't Be Evil will plaster a "DIY Nuclear Bunker" ad on your screen with time to spare.

6
0

She's arrived! HMS Queen Lizzie enters Portsmouth Naval Base

Milton
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Worth it?

Depends on its purpose.

If it has to do battle against a competent and decently-equipped foe (Russia, or possibly China) then no, its life expectancy in-theatre will be less than 24 hours, since it lacks anywhere near enough escort ships and subs to keep it alive, and its fixed air wing will consist of the wretched POS that is F-35B—an aircraft with the dubious distinction of being less capable in every respect, save rapidly-obsoleting stealth, than any of the planes it's replacing at well over three times the cost. If you were remotely serious about strategic aircraft carriers and the projection of force you'd have built a minimum of five with CATOBAR systems, full strength air wings and enough escort ships to form proper carrier battle groups. But then, of course, you wouldn't have been able to piss money away on the giant penis that is Trident, which provides such reliably moist dreams for imbecile government ministers. (Here's a clue for morons in Cabinet: Vlad is no more scared of your soon-to-be-obsolete SLBMs, which you rent from the Americans and can use only with their permission, than he would be if you kept a couple dozen or so 100kT sui generis cruise missiles handy: just being able to obliterate Petersburg, Moscow and say Murmansk is sufficient—you don't have to glass the entire Russian landmass. Cruise is cheap, easy and can be launched from non-Trident subs ... but maybe it doesn't make ministers feel macho enough?)

On the other hand, if the purpose of the QE live targets is really to have milled some steel in Gordon Brown's constituency; to get some bragging rights and a seat, or at least be tolerated, at the Big Boys' Table; and to spend £1.7m per mission, including the cost of missiles, annihilating a Persian shepherd whose $150 pickup truck had the misfortune to share a paint scheme with that of Mohammed al-Baddie (now only #164 in line to be "Critically Important ISIS Leadership") ... why, then you've spent every penny with the judicious competence and wisdom we've come to expect from British governments!

25
14

HMS Queen Lizzie impugned by cheeky Scot's drone landing

Milton
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The distant buzz of the swarm

Can you hear it? Drones are cheap, ever longer ranged, faster and capable of carrying ever more sophisticated electronics. They can be made extremely stealthy, assisted by their small size in the first place. The price of one ineffective POS like an F-35 will buy you thousands of drones—so many that individually they are expendable. The cost of a single ballistic missile sub (e.g. Trident) will get you tens of thousands of neutral-buoyancy surveillance drones capable of riding the currents for potentially years, listening and sending bursts of intel back to base—not to mention even nastier ones, sacrificial drones with active sonar and 50kg of PBX.

My point being that for those who think they know what asymmetrical warfare is: you ain't seen nothing yet.

Just as well our anon photog was an honest man, not a deep-cover GRU agent with a warehouse full of "Buster Crabbe"-class drones capable of dropping RF pickups, microphones, cameras and capsules of botulinus toxin down every vent, orifice and exhaust that HMS QE had to offer.

IMHO there was been a grotesque failure of the imagination in respect of the potential of military/espionage drones, especially their nascent ability to operate as semi-autonomous swarms. (Do you know just how fast a point-defence weapons system like Phalanx runs out of ammo? It's designed for last-ditch defence against the last few vampires getting through layered air pickets to a Nato ship: not to shoot down hosts of gnats. And don't get me started on the difficulty of hiding boomers in the ocean when sea drones, silently riding through the thermocline, can bang out active sonar pulses with impunity, and quickly relay their findings back to base.)

If you thought Windows for Warships was the gravest danger to our navy (well, after Her Majesty's ministers, and our insane defence procurement processes, that is), you were wrong: drone war is going to make some of our big steel investments into big steel targets.

There is, in short, a desperately urgent need for a high level of intelliegence, imagination, competence and leadership in the Uk defence ministry.

Unfortunately, the current incumbent is Michael Fallon (loose-lipped, arrogant luodmouth, no relevant experience or knowledge of defence), who was preceded by Philip Hammond (tight-lipped, moderately intelligent, no relevant experience or knowledge of defence), preceded by Liam Fox (astoundingly stupid, for a trained doctor, no relevant experience or knowledge of defence unless you count a stint as a Civilian Army MO), preceded by Bob Ainsworth, John Hutton, John Reid, Geoff "Buff" Hoon ...not a single one of whom had any knowledge or experience qualifying them to oversee the armed forces defence of the United Kingdom.

That is, of course, the nature of cabinet government, and explains why it isn't just defence that these second-rate mouths-on-sticks manage to fuck up with such dreary predictability.

9
2

Microsoft's Surface Pro 2017, unhinged: Luxury fondleslab that's good...

Milton
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Aren't there more satisfying ways of stuffing banknotes into a toilet?

Even if I accept that MS are finally capable of producing a Surface that can be trusted to work properly for more than a month at a time, why on Earth would I spend so much money on one when I could get way more bang for my buck at any price point you name?

If I absolutely *must* spend so much on a Shiny Thing, then I'll simply buy Apple, won't I? Admittedly that's lousy value for money too, but at least it'll work for longer and won't spy on me every second of every day.

Are you buying a computing device for productivity? Or jewelry—designed for just one thing: to show how much money you were prepared to waste?

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Don't buy Microsoft Surface gear: 25% will break after 2 years, says Consumer Reports

Milton
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Surface is shit, quelle surprise

My daughter wanted a Surface for her sixth form work and after lengthy downtime, faults, problems, mysterious glitches and two returns—it sits on a shelf where one day it'll just go in the trash.

I'm no fan of Apple's overpriced stuff, but now she has one of their small rather beautifully-made laptops, which—well: It. Just. Works.

I expected pretty good things from Surface but it has been by a wide, even astonishing margin the least reliable and most time-wasted device I have ever handled. The contrast between nice build quality and putrid, unpredictable unreliability is unbelievable.

Since Win10 I have known I personally would never install a new WinOS again, but I am actually surprised that even their flagship portables have turned out to be so unspeakably awful. Yes, Apple charge too much for their portables, but at the moment their best marketing tool is Microsoft's dismal reliability, the loathsome spyware and truly stinking OS.

36
9

Manchester firm shut down for pretending to be Google

Milton
Silver badge

Write the app, somebody ...

Once activated, when you have determined the call is a fraud/sales/other BS, it waits till the caller pauses and returns one of a random broad selection of recorded responses such "Just let me check", "Wait a sec", "Just waiting for my pc to boot up", "I'll ask Brenda, she's next door", "What exactly do you mean?" etc etc etc -- all designed to string the lying bastards for as long as possible and waste Thier time. I daresay an advanced version with some so-called "AI" could keep the scum on the line for ages.

You can continue working until the app says "Done: 17 minutes of wanker's time wasted".

2
0

We all deserve a break. Pack your bags. Four Earth-like worlds found around nearby Tau Ceti

Milton
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12 ly not 12 million

Which is what makes the news much more interesting and relevant, since we are arguably within reach of technologies that could get us there - space arks, generation ships etc.

6
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Brit uni builds its own supercomputer from secondhand parts

Milton
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That's not the story

I wonder why the headline says that the supercomputer was built from spare parts when in fact what really happened was that a spare, already-built supercomputer was available, purchased and transported?

One implies the somewhat interesting challenge of building a supercomputer from a bunch of diverse components. That would be worth reading about.

The other is ... a non event.

Shoddy and untruthful clickbait headline, Reg. You're better than this. Stop it.

9
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DJI drones: 'Cyber vulnerabilities' prompt blanket US Army ban

Milton
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What, still??

Am I really the only one surprised that any non-Chinese organisation, whether government or private, which has the slightest concern for security and confidentiality, would consider even for a nanosecond, using equipment which has Chinese-controlled/-sourced components or code?

FFS, many cyber-aware organisations won't allow their staff to take non-disposable devices to any territory controlled by China, and whatever they bring back gets quarantined, scrubbed and in some cases destroyed.

As soon as *anything* has been touched by China or its agents or companies, you have to assume it is fatally and permanently compromised, and that everything you thought was secret is now on a billboard in Beijing. Whether it's a tiny chip component, phone, webcam, switch, TV, laptop ... you simply shouldn't touch it with a long pole.

People, you've had at least 10 years to notice this, figure it out and take necessary preventative action. What's the excuse?

4
1

Another day, another British Airways systems screwup causes chaos

Milton
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Crapsourcing

Outsourcing companies send the A team to do sales. British directors want the bonuses they'll get for supposed short-term "cost savings", and have great experience in the art of staying one step ahead of the longer-term disastrous consequences of their greed and incompetence. They are pathetically easy prey for the A team's wonderful promises and copious bullshit.

The contract signed—by people who do not understand the IT process, or, as above, really don't care—the outsourcer sends the B team to kick off the work.

British businesses being what they are, the entire outsource relationship is mismanaged, quickly leading to all the delays and massive extra costs which were lovingly concealed in that contract like so many tripwires and landmines. It turns out the contract was designed to turn the client business into a regularly drained life support system for the outsourcing leech. "You should have told us that you wanted so-and-so minor feature; now we have to rewrite and it'll cost three times as much" &c &c.

Having no clue what Good Looks Like anyway, the client doesn't even notice that the outsourcer stealthily replaces the B team with C and even D people, nor that it, the client, is now effectively paying for the training of the outsourcer's staff. The outsourcer will use the cheapest and worst staff it can get away with while niggling over every semicolon and ambiguous requirement, adding zeroes to the bill every month.

A few experienced and knowledgeable technical employees of the client realise all this is happening, and when they point it out, miraculously rise to the top of the redundancy risk list while being otherwise ignored.

All of this is precisely what has happened and continues every day with one of BA's major rivals. Its outsourcing long since ceased to save money—quite the opposite—and the outsourcer has, like ivy suckling on a dying oak, infiltrated the business to the point where it is impossible to root out, no matter how awful and expensive the service is.

Thus a major airline now exists primarily as a gormless, cow-like host, reduced in purpose to feeding an immovable parasite.

My guess is that BA wilfully swallowed the A team's drivel and are discovering that having got rid of so many knowledgeable, experienced and competent staff—especially people who really knew the systems in detail, and their history and idiosyncrasies—they are stuck with B, C and D outsourcers who are more focused on billing for every second, every breath and every punctuation mark, than on promptly fixing problems: if they even can.

And of course management will lie and make excuses and evasions ("Someone put the plug back in too soon", FFS). No one will take responsibility or admit failure until the bonus has been collected and the next boardroom sinecure nailed.

12
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No vulns. No hardwired passwords. Patchable. Congress dreams of IoT: Impossible Online Tech

Milton
Silver badge

Move in the right direction

It's a reasonable enough first step, despite the politicians' ignorance betrayed in the careless language. I am personally reassured that Bruce Schneier is apparently being listened to on this topic: he knows more about it, and has more realistic, intelligently reasoned views, than both houses of congress put together.

And as someone pointed out already, standards have a way of raising the bar if they're obviously sensible and properly enforced. I can imagine that savvy consumers would themselves start choosing only those devices which have been certified for government use. The standard will spread if really offers benefits, because companies meeting the government standard will sell better than the laggards and there will then, I hope, be competition to reach the standard.

In short, this legislation might be what we need to seed the pearl.

5
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Australian oppn. leader wants to do something about Bitcoin, because terrorism and crypto

Milton
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"There are ... things we simply do not know enough about to deal with properly"

"There are ... things we simply do not know enough about to deal with properly"

He should have just stopped there. It seems to apply to pretty much all politicians in the Anglophone countries (with the occasional exception of Canada). They don't know enough about anything to to deal with it properly.

0
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'Real' people want govts to spy on them, argues UK Home Secretary

Milton
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Rudd: liar—or fool?

Liar or fool? It's hardly an original question to ask of a British politician, and most of them seem to be both, anyway: but it's still a tad surprising that Rudd's handlers continue to let her talk such unadulterated shit. I accept that in common with most ministers she is unqualified for job, has a poor grasp of her brief and is in any case intellectually dishonest. What I find more curious is that her department must have at least some senior people who know the topic and realise that Rudd makes herself look stupid when she opens her mouth. Can they not write better things for her to read out loud (slowly and carefully with the big words)?

It's absolutely pointless to build backdoors into encryption, whether it's done by ISPs, or messaging providers or even via a government-secured (hah! as if) store of keys. And more or less everyone reading The Reg knows why.

It's because any competent coder—there are only several tens of millions, to be found in every country on the planet—can implement a modern, highly secure encryption scheme using, if they wish, arbitrarily large keys, which can be made to run on every OS and every device there is. If the Black Hats can't trust WhatsApp or their ISP, they will also not care in the slightest: encrypt your message on an offline device, transfer it to your online device, obfuscate further if you wish using steganography, and the job is done: perfectly secure comms. Today something like two billion—2,000,000,000—photos are uploaded to social sites every day: if only one in a million of those contains steganographically encrypted data, even at a meagre rate of 1bit-per-1000, for an average image size of 5Mb, that's still around 10Mb of encrypted data. That's enough for every flavour and faction of the People's Liberation Front of Judea to have bandwidth for their own atrocity planning calendar for a year. (And of course, the only people whose data and messaging will be accessible to the government are those who couldn't care less and therefore are of no value to security or law enforcement anyway.)

The simple response to idiots like Rudd and May must be: stop talking arrant rubbish, because there are lots of people out there who recognise it instantly for what it is. (Yes, an educated population is the worst fear of politicians with authoritarian instincts. Lies don't work forever. Trump take note.)

"Real people" do value their privacy. It IS a basic human right.

In fact, real people's sense of dignity is matched only by their contempt for and mistrust of politicians like Rudd.

8
2

Steve Bannon wants Facebook, Google 'regulated like utilities'

Milton
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Re: YOS!

This is what happens when Bombastic Bob's Adult Supervision leaves him alone at the keyboard for five minutes. His Darker Half takes over and starts posting.

Speaking of which ...

Someone mentioned that the freshly exhumed man-child Scaramucci might be Trump's "id" at the White House. Notwithstanding that Mooch has been blessedly re-inhumed, one's id is usually somewhat concealed in polite company—the implication being that it's got some naughty impulses that should be inhibited. So: does this mean that there is an *even worse* bit of Trump that is still hidden?! How is that even possible?

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Milton
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Flatterers!

That's a very flattering picture of Bannon. He normally looks like a walking disease.

Which suggests there is some truth to the old saying that character informs features.

Possibly this also explains Trump's trademarked "sphincter" look when he is lying?*

*i.e. Whenever speaking

0
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Skype for Business is not Skype – realising that is half the battle

Milton
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Who needs to see a face?

Apart from one elderly member of the family with whom video calling is an advantage, and (rarely) if family are away on holiday, I've never felt the need to look at people's faces while I talk to them. Voice works perfectly well, and arguably it's easier when discussing detail and taking notes, than constantly checking someone's expression (or studiously avoiding that bit of screen cos they have a tendency to pick their nose).

Yes, I know businesses have fallen over themselves to demonstrate hipness with video conferencing, but actually—why? What key advantage does it confer? Even flesh and blood meetings are at least a 50% waste of time in most organisations (rising to 80% in British and American companies), and phone and email remain excellent ways of simply communicating facts and opinion between people. If your teams consist of well managed competent people, they don't need much incremental meddling via technology, and if they're not you're screwed anyway.

Strangely enough it was possible to organise building an atom bomb and putting men on the moon without a bunch of technology designed to solve problems that largely don't exist.

Call me a curmudgeon, but I'm increasingly cynical about marketing/journalistic wankfests over this or that Wonderful New Thing—and on topic, Skype has got notably even more horrible to use lately anyway.

15
3

Google tracks what you spend offline to prove its online ads work. And privacy folks are furious

Milton
Silver badge

Desperate to prove ads work?

Google's apparent desperation to prove its ads are effective might in part be due to an awareness that in fact .... they aren't. I surely cannot be even the 10 millionth internet user to have observed that ads come in exactly two flavours:

1. Months out of date, because I searched for (DuckDuckGo, Amazon, online retail sites etc) and bought what I wanted without going anywhere near Don't Be Evil's services, and have been seeing ads trying to sell the same thing to me ever since, and

2. Hopelessly, witlessly irrelevant: shitty newsboy caps, nasty cosmetics, crappy slippers, a dog's breakfast of consumer tat that I wouldn't order even if it were free.

Precisely who is this avalanche of almost universally lousy advertising supposed to be working on? I'd be interested to see an independent, scientifically-conducted study of internet advertising, connecting ad views to subsequent purchases, because I'm not naive enough to believe a word that Google says.

2
0

Microsoft won't patch SMB flaw that only an idiot would expose

Milton
Silver badge

"But Microsoft aren't stupid"

"But Microsoft aren't stupid" ...

Ok, you say that—and it's a perfectly reasonable statement, which must be true of many people working at MS—but then my thoughts turn to Skype, and most especially, the recent "upgrades" or "improvements" to a product which MS has been laming for years ... and it's therefore clear that there are, indeed, some immensely, nay, *magnificently* stupid people at MS.

So the question becomes: "Which ones do the coding, and which ones make the decisions?"

6
1

Brace yourselves, Virgin Media prices are going up AGAIN, people

Milton
Silver badge

Scratch the surface

There are very few things bearing the glossy Virgin brand that are not either disappointing or outright shyte once you scratch the surface. Even the airline, which is arguably the flagship promoter of the brand, has been getting steadily worse from its nineties/early noughties high point, and since its partnership with Delta it has become simply appalling (don't look to KLM/AF buy-in to bring the slightest improvement: Virgin Atlantic has among the worst IT architectures of any major company anywhere, which managed—astoundingly—to get even *worse* in bed with Delta).

As to Virgin Media, we ditched everything except the broadband last year, because the TV services compared badly even with Sky's overpriced lousiness: both of them peddling hundreds of channels of vacuous "reality" TV made by and for drooling imbeciles: eurgh.

Now, our multi-WAN router is our friend, whereby combining VM and Sky connections at least gives us broadband that can be trusted from one day to the next.

The simple message from the likes of VM and Sky? "Once we think you're hooked, we raise prices and squeeze you till the pips squeak."

IMHO our message to them should be: "Take your Obese Improverished Let's Gloat American Model Wedding Repo Auction trash and shove it where the sun don't shine."

6
0

UK ministers' Broadband '2.0' report confuses superfast with 10Mbps

Milton
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Predictable punchline

I guess every profession has its own subset of stories where, once you'd heard the basic premise, you could fill in the gaps yourself without actually waiting for the end.

With soldiers it's: "So, this plonker hadn't cleared his weapon properly ..." and you pretty much know that the ending includes a negligent discharge and some poor bastard bleeding all over the floor (if he's lucky). I daresay pathologists have a fund of little horrors commencing something like: "The regular mortuary clerk was on holiday ..."

For UK politics, it appears we need only begin: "Grant Shapps—" for all listeners to silently join the dots leading to a hilariously incompetent outcome.

FWIW I think it's time for the word "shap" to enter the dictionary, as in "Shapp, verb.: to clownishly bungle and confuse, usu. because of ignorance and/or ideological myopia. E.g. 'Davis completely shapped Brexit'".

0
0

Microsoft hits new low: Threatens to axe classic Paint from Windows 10

Milton
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Irony ain't dead

Because there is surely some rich irony in the fact that while M$ continually add to Windows "features" which are basically designed to lock in the users and steal as much of their data and behaviour as conceivably possible, they are also removing the few remaining useful things that people actually benefited from.

Yes, Paint is a bit shyte, but for processing a quick screenshot, especially so you can flip it onwards to someone else, with minimum keystrokes or effort, it was genuinely handy. If you consider the minimal effort M$ put into Paint and its small footprint, it's probably better bang-for-buck than the unutterable garbage that they turned Visio into. Notwithstanding that all M$ software has generally got nastier with ribbon bars, bloat and intrusiveness ....

If the M$ policy is "Drive away users, and especially precipitate a mass exodus when W7 support stops"* then obviously, every little counts.

* Sticking with W7 now for just one last piece of software, because (apropos of this topic, oddly enough) Paint.net isn't available on *ix. Who knows, by the time W7 is unsupportable, GIMP's UI will have stopped sucking too.

11
0

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

Milton
Silver badge

... 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.

13
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.. ..-. / -.-- --- ..- / -.-. .- -. / .-. . .- -.. / - .... .. ... then a US Navy fondleslab just put you out of a job

Milton
Silver badge

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 ...

4
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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.

1
1

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

Milton
Silver badge

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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