* Posts by Tony W

140 posts • joined 14 Aug 2007

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Vodafone reports sliding revenues but customers don't hate them as much

Tony W

Maybe having a big price hike wasn't such a good idea

when their prices are already at the top end of the market.

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The internet may well be the root cause of today's problems… but not in the way you think

Tony W

Nuance

The Internet does allow very fragmented groups of people to get together and reinforce each other's views. But demagogues and dictators got elected before the internet. What they did have was the backing of forces with money and power, which will use the Internet just as they do other media. You don't need to invoke the Internet even to explain the Brexit vote, when there were years of misleading propaganda from several popular mainstream newspapers.

But advocating killing people because they belong to a particular group is not just part of ordinary discussion and debate, and I would be happy to see that stopped. Can that be done without losing the freedom of discussion that is essential If society is to develop? That debate is part of a long continuing conflict between freedom and stability that has gone on at least since the arrival of the printing press.

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

Tony W

Re: Operational Failover is incredibly complex

You've pointed out what might be the problem. I once worked for a (public) organisation in which no-one dared take responsibility for pulling the big switch in case the backup system didn't take over properly. With the almost inevitable result that when a real failure occured, the backup system didn't take over properly. At least in a planned test they could have had relevant people warned and a team standing by to get it working with the minium disruption.

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Bloke charged under UK terror law for refusing to cough up passwords

Tony W

So you can't bring any confidential info into UK

... so it appears, whether commercial, legal or personal. At least, you can't bring it through the border post. Luckily there seem to be ways to get the info into the country without actually taking it through immigration, otherwise a lot of business would stop. Why even bring a laptop, you can buy one when in the UK, wipe it and install OS of your choice. Or if you're really paranoid (or if they are really out to get you), build a PC from parts.

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WannaCrypt ransomware snatches NSA exploit, fscks over Telefónica, other orgs in Spain

Tony W

Antivirus?

I assume most or all of the infected PCs were running some form of anti-malware, at least MS Security Essentials. Do these things do anything useful?

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Android O-mg. Google won't kill screen hijack nasties on Android 6, 7 until the summer

Tony W

Permission system is not much use as anti-malware

If the user has installed an apparently useful app, then they will probably also give it permissions. So having to click to give a permission is probably no safeguard at all to the average user.

The fundamental problem is installing the malware, not giving it the permissions. Many legitimate apps need permissions that would be very dangerous if the app were malware (starting with virtually all of Google's own apps.) This permission would seem reasonable for any app that gives "important" notifications, so most people would just grant it.

Having said that, of course Google was still wrong to deliberately bypass their own permissions system, specifically in order to allow an app to behave very intrusively. And more wrong to withhold the remedy from most existing users.

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Homes raided in North West over data thefts from car body repair shops

Tony W

Re: You boys and girls actually answer your phone?

Yes.

"Withheld" was very recently my sister calling from a hospital staff phone because she couldn't get her mobile working and needed to be picked up. "International" could be my friend who lives in Damascus and whom, for obvious reasons, I tend to worry about. Etc. It doesn't take long to dispose of a cold call, it's usually obvious within 10 s. I prefer to answer than to risk getting it wrong.

I did get a huge spate of nuisance calls after my car had been in a body repair shop (damage done when no-one was in the car.) Insurance company told me the database only has registration number so would need an "official" body to get from there to my phone number. The most likely source of the leak was obvious but how can you prove anything? "I'm calling about your compensation..." "click...". Secret is not to get annoyed. There are worse things in life.

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Boffins break Samsung Galaxies with one SMS carrying WAP crap

Tony W

Re: Samsung S4 (March 2013) and S5 (April 2014)

I suppose it depends on whether the phone was customised (being polite) by a network and if so which one. My secondhand S5 doesn't seem to have any network specific stuff on it and it is still receiving updates (currently 6.01) and patches (currently Dec 2016.)

Makes me consider rooting the phone though.

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Fax machines' custom Linux allows dial-up hack

Tony W

Someone you know still uses them

I have read that the NHS is a huge user of fax machines.

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Despite IANA storm, ICANN shows just why it shouldn't be allowed to take over internet's critical functions

Tony W

Self-serving organisation

Pretty much tautology.

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FBI Clinton email dossier

Tony W

Rules are for other people

I see this belief in action on the roads every day, and I've no doubt it's common at the top of all organisations including governments. Those at the top probably got there by ignoring some rules anyway. Clinton will rightly never be allowed to forget this, but any further penalty is probably disproportionate.

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Classic Shell, Audacity downloads infected with retro MBR nuke nasty

Tony W

Would this be detected on check?

As others have pointed out, quite a lot of legitimate sw produces unknown publisher warning. I scan all exe and zip downloads before running though. I also use Scotty that detects changes to startup programs. Am I just getting a false sense of security by doing this?

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Android's latest patches once again remind us: It's Nexus or bust if you want decent security

Tony W

Same here, my S5 updated today to Marshmallow (which Samsung have previously said the phone wouldn't cope with - it seems to work fine though) and updated security patch to 1 July. 2016. On past form I won't hold my breath for more security updates though.

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Botnet-powered ballot stuffing suspected in 2nd referendum petition

Tony W

Is there a technical issue here?

There are plenty of places to argue about the referendum and its result. I've done my share but I'm not going to do it here. I'd just like to know how petition signatures are checked for validity. Are names and postcodes checked against the electoral register?

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E-books the same as printed ones, says top Euro court egghead

Tony W

Several things

Amazon can apparently withdraw an ebook that you thought you'd bought so the technology doesn't seem to be much of a problem.

But what I find odd is that most books I want to read aren't available as ebooks. When CDs arrived, record companies soon put their back catalogues on the new medium, so we now have a wonderful choice of recorded music. Publishers have huge back catalogues of books that they own the rights of, and are recent enough to be stored in digital form. But they'll only sell an expensive paper copy. I'd buy a lot more books if they were cheaper ebooks. And not only because of cost, I don't want to take heavy books on holiday.

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Boffins decipher manual for 2,000-year-old Ancient Greek computer

Tony W

Re: Oh yes they did!

Is this a troll? It sure ain't English.

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Germans set to make schnitzel out of controversial Wi-Fi law

Tony W

Re: The Law of Unintended Consequences

This happened in UK drugs panic of late 1960S. Drug offences in premises were responsibility of named owner (e.g. tenant) even if absent.

Absolute offences are bound to lead to injustice, although in this case I don't think they were any prosecutions as it was such obvious nonsense.

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At last: Ordnance Survey's map wizardry goes live

Tony W

What will it do to the other companies selling digital OS maps?

The OS own version will always be up to date. But if you buy digital OS maps from, say, Anquet, you get only the current version - even if it's about to be superseded. (Sometimes companies might allow you to update within a few weeks of purchase but they won't promise to do it.)

The resellers have maps that you download so they can be 100% offline, but at current prices that's not enough to save them. Unless they can agree with the OS to move to a competitive subscription model, they're surely doomed. And why would the OS compete with itself by doing that?

By the way, people writing about motorways and dual carriageways miss the point. There are plenty of road maps, but the OS maps come into their own when you get out of the car.

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Sorry slacktivists: The Man is shredding your robo responses

Tony W

Hardly one click

The future of the BBC is probably of interest to a lot of UK residents, but from the questions, this consultation seemed to be aimed mainly at media professionals. I don't think any of the many questions had one-click options, they all required properly thought out text answers that addressed the issues. I, and friends and family that I alerted to the consultation, spent at least half an hour each thinking about our responses - which we did completely independently. We're not pleased that our homework has been binned.

If 38 Degrees allowed multiple responses, they are at fault - but not the only ones, because as far as I remember, their page merely redirected users to the government one. And the fact that such a high proportion of answers came via one source really shows how badly the consultation was written and publicised. Maybe the government was hoping to sneak it through largely unnoticed. If so, then 38 Degrees has at least made this a bit less likely.

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TalkTalk plays 'no legal obligation' card on encryption – fails to think of the children (read: its customers)

Tony W

"Appropriate" has legal force

As technology is constantly changing, it is right that the law should not require a specific technical process. After all, just requiring encryption wouldn't be much use, that could mean ROT13. If the measures they took didn't work, but measures taken by other companies in the same industry would have worked, it would be easy to argue that what they did wasn't appropriate.

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Webcam spyware voyeur sentenced to community service

Tony W

Re: "Popularity"

I have just bought a stupid TV. It was almost incredibly cheap.

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Hate noisy jets above you? What if they were charging your phone?

Tony W

Air

An intensity of 120 dB is equivalent to one watt per square metre. 130 dB would be 10 W/m^2. There would be inefficiency in converting this sound to a continuous air flow (assuming this works at all - it's not clear from the diagram). The air would then have to be collected and sent to a windmill, with further losses, and the windmill would probably have low efficiency in such a low power air flow. Then as Mark85 pointed out, planes don't take off continuously, and even if they did, they wouldn't pass the "generator" continuously. So, if you're lucky, maybe a few watts from a big array. There is no way that this device will give a useful output, let alone repay the energy and cost that it would take to make it.

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Epson: Cheap printers, expensive ink? Let's turn that upside down

Tony W

Maintenance?

I'd like to buy a printer that can be maintained. Like, cleaning the pickup roller and replacing it when worn out without disassembling the printer down to almost the last nut and bolt. I was disillusioned with HP when I found that on my "professional" A3 printer, the waste ink tank was full but couldn't be emptied and cleaned without breaking plastic parts. This is environmentally criminal as well as pissing off the customer.

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Boffins' audacious plan to blow up aircraft foiled by bomb-proof bag

Tony W

And braces

Maybe the aircraft's own lithium batteries could be put inside one of these bags?

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Contactless card fraud? Easy. All you need is an off-the-shelf scanner

Tony W

Re: Where are they shopping

And which bank is it that doesn't insist on the data that I've taken a lot of trouble to store securely? I'd like to avoid it.

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You can secretly snoop on someone if they butt-dial you – US judges

Tony W

Too much auto?

I wonder how many of these calls are from people who rely on the auto power-off function? I find it hard to imagine how you could dial by accident if the phone is off and you have any sort of lock set.

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Hacking Team had RATted on Android: Trend Micro

Tony W

Thanks Vodafone!

I changed from the default browser as soon as I received my phone, because Vodafone had populated its bookmarks with a whole page of their own choices that could not be deleted. Security by annoyance?

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Mathematician: sunspot could mean mini ice age from 2030

Tony W

Re: Old news

Exactly. Fitting a curve in the past is not guarantee of future.

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Samsung to launch a Snapdragon 808-based clamshell smartphone

Tony W

Is it only me

who would like someone to explain why the Chinese like keypads when they don't use an alphabet?

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Welkom in Nederland: Laid-back, chilled, and MONITORING everything

Tony W

Re: Not really surprised

if a nail sticks up ... - funny, that is also quoted as a Japanese saying. I wouldn't be surprised to find that it's said in a lot of places where they have hammers and nails.

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Google yanks fake Android battery monitor

Tony W

Will no-one think of the ads?

Fixed permissions are needed so devs can make money from ads which is fair enough. But the only permission they need for this is Internet access, so there doesn't seem to be a good reason why other permissions shouldn't be controlled by the user.

Apart from that, surely no app in the stupidly named play store should be able to make itself ununinstallable?

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UK TV is getting worse as younglings shun the BBC et al, says Ofcom

Tony W

the cost of making TV has fallen by less than the rate of inflation

My head hurt when I read this. I think you mean "risen".

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French Uber bosses talk to Le Plod over 'illicit activity' allegations

Tony W

Many times zero equals

And the result of a web petition or poll is worth what it usually is. Amazing that anyone takes any notice of them.

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Apple's iPhone 7 to come loaded with depth-sensing camera, supply chain spies claim

Tony W

Re: It's not all about the pixels...

100% right. MY Galaxy S5 has a 16 megapixel camera. So in bright sunlight the pictures are superb, as many have noted. But otherwise exposure times are pushed to the maximum, so camera shake smears fine detail over many pixels, making the high pixel count quite useless. It's taken a while but smart people have learned to ignore the pixel count and look at the pictures. In bright sunshine I often reach for the phone in preference to my quite good camera, otherwise I put the phone in my pocket and forget it as a picture taking device.

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Hi-res audio folk to introduce new rules and weed out impure noises

Tony W

Religion

Getting higher quality sound than the common herd is a sort of religion with some people. You will no more convince them that their chosen route to heaven isn't valid than you will convince religious fundamentalists of the same thing.

Maybe that's because music can have a direct line to the emotions, but, like sex, the effects aren't under conscious control. So people need a way to get in the right frame of mind. Concentrating on the finer points of sound quality forces you to pay attention to the actual sounds, and avoids distracting thoughts. And a feeling of inner satisfaction at being able to hear subtleties that escape most people probably helps as well.

The exact means doesn't matter so long as it achieves the desired result. In the mid 1950s a friend of my father's explained to me how listening to Chopin on his acoustic gramophone was a far superior experience to the new LPs. Perhaps it was the slower wow of the newer medium that bothered him. But I think it's more likely that, having invested money and emotion in a superior wind-up gramophone, music on an ordinary LP record player just didn't turn him on.

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Indian music streaming service Ganaa hacked, site yanked offline

Tony W

Gaana

apparently.

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Self-STOPPING cars are A Good Thing, say motor safety bods

Tony W

Recognise the limits of people

If you're driving, the law requires you to pay continuous attention to the road and traffic. But it's been well known for many years that human beings are incapable of closely monitoring, e.g. a radar screen, for long periods, without occasional distraction that will cause them to miss something they should have noticed. How many drivers can put their hands up and say they have never noticed something later than they should have done? Sensible people drive in such a way as to make allowance for occasional distractions, but even this doesn't totally deal with the problem. So self driving cars are the best way to deal with a vehicle's interaction with other moving traffic.

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Back to the Future: the internet of things as imagined in 1985

Tony W

Real problem, sensible solution.

Leaving stoves on is a real problem. And as with many other problems that IoT is invoked to solve, that's probably the wrong answer. How about a motion sensor? Or even a rethink of stoves? You can't set a microwave oven to run with no time limit so why shouldn't stoves be the same?

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Lies, damn lies and election polls: Why GE2015 pundits fluffed the numbers so badly

Tony W

Re: 3% margin of error

The Survation apology is very revealing - it shows that polling is far from being the scientific process that they like to pretend. Anyone who trusts Survation after this is clearly not interested in the truth, unless they can regain some credibility by promising to publish whatever they find without fear or favour.

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SHOCK! Robot cars do CRASH. Because other cars have human drivers

Tony W

Evidence

The vehicles will presumably be well instrumented, so there should be video evidence all round plus records of speed, braking and so so on. It should be a lot easier to find the cause of an accident when an automated vehicles is involved, than it is usually.

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Macroviruses are BACK and are the future of malware, says Microsoft

Tony W

Re: People are still greedy and stupid?

Most dodgy documents I see are not appealing to greed, they are invoices and payment confirmations. The problem is lack of the appropriate degree of suspicion. People need to learn to be far more paranoid on-line than they would be in ordinary life.

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E-voting and the UK election: Pick a lizard, any lizard

Tony W

Re: Turnout

Why should more voters make FPTP a better system? That would only happen if those who at present can't be bothered to vote, tend to favour one party. Should a party be in power only because many of their voters have been paid to turn up at the polling station?

But If the current non-voters don't tend to favour a particular party, adding them in would just add more noise and make close results even more random.

Anyway the only people who really care about low turnout are politicians, because they think it makes government look less legitimate.

Personally I would reduce the number of voters by putting the age back to 21. Young people are just as intelligent and interested as older ones, and no doubt more so than some of the very old ones. But experience is considered necessary for all important jobs and voting is one of the most important things we do. It can decide peace or war, and nothing could be much more important than that.

Personally I was very interested and took it seriously when I first voted. But even at the grand old age of 22, I paid far more attention to political speeches and manifestos, and less attention to party records in government and opposition, than I would do now.

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Tony W

Secret ballot?

The secret ballot, once hard fought for, seems to have been forgotten. Now that anyone can get a postal vote the door is open to paid for votes and intimidation. Internet voting would make those even easier. In my view postal voting should be abolished except for those who can show it is essential for them to be able to vote at all.

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Looking for laxatives, miss? Shoppers stalked via smartphone Wi-Fi

Tony W

An app for that

There are Android apps that will turn WiFi off and on depending on what cell tower you're connected to, so you don't have to remember to turn it off when you leave home. I installed one to save battery and control attempts to connect to open networks. Takes a couple of seconds to override when I want to. Don't know about iPhone.

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The Internet of things is great until it blows up your house

Tony W

Wrong answer

First, the security solution already exists. I don't think I've ever seen a gas oven that didn't turn off the gas if it wasn't alight, and it would now be illegal to sell one.

Second, money would be better spent improving appliances' basic functions, but most people won't pay the extra. With most irons, the soleplate is unevenly heated and the temperature swing as the thermostat cuts in and out is too wide. Human minds are flexible enough to cope, but automation would probably play safe so the temperature would be lower and clothes wouldn't be well ironed. People would switch to manual and wonder why they'd paid for connectivity.

Anyway this is not the future I was expecting. Having a robot to set the controls of the iron so I can do the ironing seems a sadly limited ambition.

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Lighty and flighty: Six sizzling portable projectors

Tony W

Re: Noise, more than you wanted to know

The right way to specify equipment noise is sound power in dB relative to one picowatt, A-weighted.

The sound level (SPL) will depend on direction, distance, the room and its contents, and where you and the device are in the room, in relation to sound reflecting and absorbing surfaces. The vibration of your eardrums will depend on all these things plus which way you turn your head.

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Tony W

Re: Noise

The right way to specify noise is sound power in decibels A-weighted relative to one picowatt. The actual sound level will depend on the direction, the distance and the room.

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'Utterly unusable' MS Word dumped by SciFi author Charles Stross

Tony W

A plague

I use Word and also have to deal with LibreOffice documents. Both drive me to distraction on occasion but LibreOffice more often. At least Word doesn't insert page breaks and lots of new paragraphs within footnotes when saving to .doc (as needed for Amazon to convert to Kindle.) Word occasionally puts footnotes on the wrong page in a complex document - but then oddly enough, so does LibreOffice.

I am much in favour of creative writing being done in plain text but it's necessary to identify formats such as quoted blocks and subheadings so they can be preserved in subsequent formatting. Not always so easy, and in a long book I'd prefer to avoid doing it by hand.

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A truly SHOCKING tale of electrified PCs

Tony W

An odd one worth remembering

Power socket with live-neutral reversed. Everything plugged in works perfectly. Equipment with earth-neutral reversed. Works OK (apparently) when plugged into normal socket. Put the two together: stops working. Luckily - because the metal cased unit was touching another that was properly wired. Muggins called out at 2 am. By the time I arrived everyone else had gone home. I moved the unit to get to the mains plug (so then it wasn't touching the adjacent unit) and replaced the fuse.

A narrow escape I've never forgotten. I could so easily have had my hands across the mains, which since the substation was in the building would have been a good 250 volts.

Moral: don't ignore the possibility of two separate faults, not very dangerous individually, being lethally combined. In this case both errors were made by professionals who should have known a great deal better.

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SWINGBELLIES! Take heed AGAIN: Booze shortens your life

Tony W

Misleading conclusions

This study has been comprehensively debunked. See

understandinguncertainty.org/misleading-conclusions-alcohol-protection-study

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