* Posts by Dave Bell

2106 posts • joined 14 Sep 2007

Why millions of Brits' mobile phones were knackered on Thursday: An expired Ericsson software certificate

Dave Bell

But what was working?

I can confirm that SMS was failing, badly, over the O2 Network. I didn't sent many texts, but all were logged here as failed. One was delivered 20 times. Nothing critical for me, but annoying.

I didn't try voice. Was that they only thing working?

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Laptop search unravels scheme to fake death for insurance cash

Dave Bell

Re: "nice prosumer Canon camera."

Yes, but somehow the plot had to be good enough to get a death certificate in Moldavia. There was either human corpse, or a hefty bribe.

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Big data at sea: How the Royal Navy charts the world's oceans

Dave Bell

You've missed the mention of GPS problems affecting the underwater drones they have, meaning they can't get such precise data from a sub.

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Sensor failure led to Soyuz launch failure, says Roscosmos

Dave Bell

I am a little bit unsure about just what the first stage and second stage are on the Soyuz. The basic design goes all the way back to the first Sputnik launch, which five units all firing together at launch: the four boosters and the core. When the boosters have burnt all their fuel they detach, leaving the core still burning.

The pictures show one of the four boosters having a bad separation.

If one control module failed, out of four, it all makes a lot on sense, if what I am thinking of as booster separation is what is been called first stage to second stage.

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The D in Systemd stands for 'Dammmmit!' A nasty DHCPv6 packet can pwn a vulnerable Linux box

Dave Bell

Reporting weakness

OK, so I was able to check through the link you provided, which says "up to and including 239", but I had just installed a systemd update and when you said there was already a fix written, working it's way through the distro update systems, all I had to do was check my log.

Linux Mint makes it easy.

But why didn't you say something such as "reported to affect systemd versions up to and including 239" and then give the link to the CVE? That failure looks like rather careless journalism.

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Congrats from 123-Reg! You can now pay us an extra £6 or £12 a year for basically nothing

Dave Bell

I wonder who I should report this to as theft and criminal deception. Action Fraud don't inspire confidence, from the way they handle spam emails. Anyone else?

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Is this cuttlefish really all that cosmic? Ubuntu 18.10 arrives with extra spit, polish, 4.18 kernel

Dave Bell

One of the reasons I like Mint is that they are willing to experiment with the UI, but they are able to support a cluster of different shells and keep them available in parallel. They might not all be released on the same day, and I doubt that's a good idea anyway, but it is one of the things that makes it more than an Ubuntu clone.

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Dave Bell

Re: Go Gnome

I've seen this. A pop-up asks for a response, you type in text, hit return, and for some crazy reason the program responds as if you clicked on a different button that is hidden behind the pop-up. It's the sort of thing that makes you wonder if programmers are human, or some monster which will be revealed in the next episode of Doctor Who.

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Dave Bell
Linux

Re: "the system has a more modern and 'flatter' look"

The UI, on any operating system, is something people are reluctant to change. We still have, with slight differences elements that have been here since Windows on MS-DOS. Look at how minimise/maximise/close has and hasn't changed.

I have seen ideas for UI changes which might be improvements, but the struggle to overcome all those decades of habit made them more like failures.

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Russian rocket goes BOOM again – this time with a crew on it

Dave Bell

Re: You can't just be like "it's a lovely morning time to...

Some things Kerbal Space Program does very well, but it has simplifications that build up errors. You learn the basics of changing orbit and rendezvous, the stuff that Buzz Aldrin wrote the book on, but I'd still rather have him at the controls.

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What could be more embarrassing for a Russian spy: Their info splashed online – or that they drive a Lada?

Dave Bell

The Spy Game is changing

Some of this may be things that used to work, which fail badly with new methods being applied since the Cold War. Consider things such as biometric data on modern passports, which is hard to fake. And we have fingerprint sensors on some of our phones. Some Russian Spies, in the old days, managed to use more than one identity, and not every one can have been identified. We're reaching a point where the document isn't use-once, it's the human.

One thing we know is that here in the UK, we were very good at catching enemy agents and persuading them to work for us. And that depended on being very careful about revealing what we knew. It's possibly why some things were not reported to the politicians. So, through a lot of hard work, we identified two Russian agents. We stood a good chance of being able to spot them crossing a border, whatever documents they used, and that could have given away something else.

What is going on?

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Civil rights group Liberty walks out on British cops' database consultation

Dave Bell

Well, they would say that, wouldn't they.

I can see why the project exists. The existing system is horribly old. And transferring the old data to a new system is certainly an opportunity to deal with some of the retention problems. Though I have to wonder if there was ever the information in the database to identify the records that should be deleted.

But, really, does anyone expect either side in this argument to be saying anything different to what they are doing?

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Heart-stopping predictions from AI doctors could save lives

Dave Bell

Yes, it can. It can be a symptom of several different heart problems. One of the reasons why the NHS really wants you to call them from breathing diiffculty.

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Dave Bell

Re: Correlation does not imply causation

The difference is pretty small, and I am not sure that, in the last few years, GP Home Visits are so good an indicator. My brother is currently in hospital after the GP surgery sent an Ambulance, and that felt like one of a range of options they had, from "come to see us" upwards. And can there be a difference between the almost routine and the urgent cases? (I'm thinking of the elderly with limited mobility.)

Did your report over-simplify?

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It's a net neutrality whodunnit: Boffins devise way to detect who's throttling transit

Dave Bell

Why do I feel smarter than a journalist this morning?

This whole story is riddled with misconceptions, and where it isn't, it;s all rather obvious anyway. It's essentially automating traceroute and ping and saying that when the RTT and packet loss jumps, the problem is between the last good node and the first bad one.

I was doing that over dial-up internet through Demon in the last century.

This isn't rocket science. And Kerbal Space Program feels more realistic than this article.

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Brit Railcard buyers face lengthy, unexplained delays. Sound familiar?

Dave Bell

Everything is getting worse.

The actual trains aren't working all that well either. And the numerous websites telling you about delays don't seem to be working at all. I was watching arrivals at my local station, and the system doesn't seem to know whether a train is late until it leaves the previous station.

Which is odd because the signalling system has to know where the trains are, and has to know which train is which or a train will go down the wrong line.

Buses, you don't even get that sort of detail. Monday, the bus which eventually turned up had a sheet of paper with the service number taped up in the windscreen. And, for one dreadful moment in the middle of nowhere it seemed as though the gearbox had failed.

We still have a local bus company which isn't Stagecoach, and their bus was making odd noises too.

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Google risks mega-fine in EU over location 'stalking'

Dave Bell

That is one of the critical distinctions.

Recent experience of GDPR-rated consents and settings suggests that internet companies are each allowing hundreds of advertising companies to see my data, and I see nothing to distinguish Google on this. Nobody seems to anonymise the data.

It's not like old-time advertising on TV, when viewing figures were obtained by recording a sample audience, and you had some idea of what sort of audience watched a particular programme, but nothing specific. It seemed to work. The commercial TV companies made good profits. And, if you're old enough, a phrase such as "Ridley Scott's Hovis ad" still conjures up an image.

The stuff bad enough to remember was for the local companies, the static card with the voice-over for one of the local department stores that vanished into BHS or House of Fraser. Or perhaps, in the cinema, the Pearl & Dean advert for the restaurant so good that the chef ate there himself. And we seem to be getting that level of advertising over the internet, without even getting as good a localisation as Pearl & Dean gave you. The restaurant where the chef ate was at least in the same town as the cinema.

Google doesn't seem able to manage that, at times they can't even get the right country.

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Hi-de-Hack! Redcoats red-faced as Butlin's holiday camp admits data breach hit 34,000

Dave Bell

Butlins has changed since the Hi-Di-Hi era, much smaller than it was and includes hotels on the sites. But just what happened? I'd distinguish between phishing and malware. 34,000 sets of booking details sounds way too big to be the result of a phishing attack pretending to be the local council. A fake email from a local council could be a vector for malware, but how plausible was the email? The scale looks like one site, so it hangs together, but I wonder how robust the system is.

Local councils could plausibly mail out regular information, such as event lists, which somebody might almost automatically open, but why would such stuff get close to the bookings database? Maybe something was sent to customers, but what?

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ZX Spectrum Vega+ blows a FUSE: It runs open-source emulator

Dave Bell

Re: but that's the same as everyone elses review!

All the switches? What about the display? It'd be a good exercise for your students to work out something like this. Some connectors would be on a Raspberry Pi board anyway, but there would be a lot of extra bits.

And the rule of thumb is still that you buy/make for £x and sell for £2x.

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Nah, it won't install: The return of the ad-blocker-blocker

Dave Bell

Nine out of ten idiots deliver free advertising.

There are a lot of TV channels now showing adverts, and that is pushing the old model to its limits. Perhaps it's why we are never likely to see the quality of Ridley Scott's Hovis adverts ever again. But in those far-off halcyon days the only thing the advertiser knew about his targets was that they were watching a particular TV programme.

Nowadays, as GDPR has revealed, they can't place an advert without knowing your inside-leg measurement.

One has to wonder if the computer has made people smarter, or just biased success in life towards sociopathic semi-literate jackasses.

As for the clothing, Levi Strauss have their label on a pair of jeans, and I reckon that's OK. The logo-laden shirt of your favourite football club is tolerable. Nike have that swirl element in their footwear design, and if that's "in your face" you have other problems and are likely to wake up in hospital. Though the French Connection UK branding seems like a funny-once joke.

But I doubt I would buy these expensive brands anyway. So there's no point in saying I'll boycott them.

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Azure running out of internets in UK South, starts rationing VMs

Dave Bell

Re: Selling it faster than they can build it?

Maybe they should sign up to Amazon Prime

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Submarine cables at risk from sea water, boffins warn. Wait, what?

Dave Bell

I suspect the key point in this is not the detail of the cables affected, but the timing. "You thought you there was no rush..."

And sometimes, "redundant" routing isn't. I remember, back in the Nineties, two US cable links, different operators, apparently totally independent, crossed a river on the same bridge, which fell down.

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East Midlands network-sniffer wails: Openreach, fix my outage-ridden line

Dave Bell

Some of us are lucky.

It's not a wonderful speed, but I have had a decent ADSL connection since the service first became available here, fifteen years ago. It's way below what politicians say should be the minimum, and the difference would matter for a family. And I don't watch very much streaming media anyway.

One of the internet services I use is notorious for problems with router/modem hardware, it is supposed to have a traffic pattern that somehow slows the connection. Whatever the cause, a hardware reboot after about a moth shows a speed increase. I reckon there are more than a few tall stories to explain problems as "not our fault". Something happens, but I doubt some of the supposed reasons.

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Leatherbound analogue password manager: For the hipster who doesn't mind losing everything

Dave Bell

What can you trust?

I would trust a notebook, kept in a secure place, as my back-up to any of the fancy, computerised, alternatives. It's not as convenient for daily use, but it can work as part of a system. Some of the risks for me are different from those of a busy office. Different risks mean different answers.

Recent experience makes me wary of password managers. They're software. Software goes wrong. What then?

When did you last test a back-up?

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A fine vintage: Wine has run Microsoft Solitaire on Linux for 25 years

Dave Bell

It isn't so simple.

I recall hearing of a US accounting software company, producing software to handle the annual US income tax returns, which actively supports Wine.

I know of other companies that make a point of treating Wine as another Windows version in testing and development.

And yet there is well-known software, with Linux versions available, which suffers from what seems to be woefully inadequate testing. Some of them depend on specialised *Nix software on their servers, yet struggle to maintain Linux-compatible software for their customers to use.

I see far more variation that your reporter does.

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Unbreakable smart lock devastated to discover screwdrivers exist

Dave Bell

Re: Yeah - but if I am a "common criminal" I'll definitely find another non-indiegogo to pawn

Our dog was a failed lurcher, and one of those rescue animals. She knew to lead visitors to where we were about the farmyard. It was one of those awkward incidents, a local with severe mental disability, who was going around trying locks.

He got a nasty suck.

It was enough.

Security has to match the need.

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Microsoft loves Linux so much its R Open install script rm'd /bin/sh

Dave Bell

I have seen some pretty awkward Linux installs, some on the lines of huge archive files that you have to manually open, put on the right place for your system, and link to the right executable for your desktop. No checks for dependencies, nothing.

It's not just Microsoft.

But then the program doesn't work, and you ask "support", and they ask if you have the same problem with the Windows version...

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Have to use SMB 1.0? Windows 10 April 2018 Update says NO

Dave Bell

My experience has been that the people selling such rubbish are severely clue-deficient, and take the labelling on trust, which as often as not never mentions SMB version support. SMB is SMB is SMB.

So it's a combination of piss-poor documentation from the manufacturer, and low-paid sales staff.

For most of this century the well-informed salesman has been a dying breed, but at least I can download the manuals. But does that help?

Last week I was working on an old Dell workstation, it is good kit and I got a good deal. But the manual (and Dell support) are inadequate on how to fit anything in the front-of-case drive bays. Problem sorted, but it doesn't impress.

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Who had ICANN suing a German registrar over GDPR and Whois? Congrats, it's happening

Dave Bell

Re: An injunction to break the law?

I've seen several examples recently with a pattern of US lawyers with limited experience of a field of law collecting large fees for rather feeble cases. Most recently, it was a personal-injury specialist from Texas taking on a Federal Trademark case, and trying to dodge the whole Trademark Registration procedure with a court case. The laughter from IP lawyers was muted, but unmistakable. The style is very different.

Are ICANN that stupid? You would think they would at least have involved a competent German lawyer. Some of the labels and concepts are different, but this is part of the point of having Barristers in the UK. The boundaries have blurred, some solicitors can now do jobs that only used to be open to Barristers, but this does look like what you get if you ignore competent and relevant legal advice.

Though there might have been some time pressure. Things do, generally, look a bit too last-minute on GDPR, and not just because the UK government is running around like a headless chicken on anything to do with Europe. But how much of that is wilful American-led blindness?

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Dave Bell

Re: ICANN not understand how you wrote this article !!!???

I have my doubts about the BBC on a lot of things, these days, but I fear it is a growing awareness of the crapitude of news media, rather than any change at the BBC.

And when it is the frothing anti-EU loonies running the country, I find it hard to blame the BBC for being a bit circumspect.

(The other angle is that, on technical issues, it only takes one journalist to skew things; no names, but there are people writing for The Register who have an obvious political bias on some issues.)

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Dave Bell

Re: Should result in summary judgement...

That's well-established, not just GDPR. It's explicit in GDPR, and lawyers like "explicit", but if you didn't have something like that it would be a breach for somebody to put your name and address on a letter they post to you. I've had GDPR opt-in emails warning me that I won't get any notifications of dispatch if I don't opt-in. Which means they're saying they can't fulfil a contract. without an opt-in to everything.

How dodgy is that? A US service gave me a web page with default-on permissions for over 300 companies they share my data with. I tried to count them, as I clicked to "off", but lost track at over 270. As the Good Book says:

"Three shall be the number thou shalt count, and the number of the counting shall be three. Four shalt thou not count, neither count thou two, excepting that thou then proceed to three. Five is right out."

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FBI to World+Dog: Please, try turning it off and turning it back on

Dave Bell

Re: but

It depends on your set-up, particularly your ISP, but one side effect can be to change your IP address. I doubt it will hide whether or not you are in the EU, but I am not sure it's a good idea to be a fixed target.

I don't think the code in any router/modem is all that reliable, long-term. I don't think it's strictly a memory leak, but something accumulates on mine until performance slumps. And a reboot fixes it. We're talking several weeks of uptime, and there is a downside to frequent reboots, but my system reports over a week of uptime, yet the line has only been up for an hour. Something must have glitched at the ISP.

So I think you might be a little bit optimistic.

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US websites block netizens in Europe: Why are they ghosting EU? It's not you, it's GDPR

Dave Bell

Re: Wankers

There seem to be a lot of businesses lingering on directory sites. Several list the Scunthorpe HMV store which closed in 2013. So you search for a business, Google connects you to a directory site, and you are targeted by several adverts. It doesn't matter to any of them that they're handling false data.

When they're so obviously getting data wrong, I can't really expect them to stay within the law on personal data.

Oh, you used to hear about a "Chattels Auctioneers", and it looked like a defunct business, with part of the sign remaining. Problem is, "goods and chattels" is a term of art in the auctioneering trade, the sort of general auctioneering business associated with house clearance. I found an older picture showing the complete sign, with a business name and that phrase.

The GDPR isn't going to do anything to stop that sort of bad data.

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Domain name sellers rub ICANN's face in sticky mess of Europe's GDPR

Dave Bell

Re: In reality

I think I prefer the EU attitude to personal data to that exhibited by the USA.

I was around for the original green-card lawyers, and now I get spam emails begging me to let them send me spam. They have spent the years since the previous generation of EU law, implemented by the UK Parliament as the Data Protection Acts, finding new victims and new loopholes. And now they're going to have to do that all over again.

'Bliss it was in that dawn to be alive

But to be young was very heaven.'

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UK's Rural Payments Agency is 'failing on multiple levels' – report

Dave Bell

Re: Adjusting maps

Back when the system started, somebody in DEFRA specified a higher precision of area measurement than practical surveying allowed, and the Ordnance Survey figures assumed a flat landscape. Not even Norfolk is that flat. Just the ordinary variations in cultivation, year on year, could lead to bigger variations in the cultivated area.

This isn't rocket science. (DEFRA are the sort of people who want to use satellites in a retrograde geostationary orbit.)

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Dave Bell

The RPA and DEFRA are the latest version of a continuing pattern of failure to adequately handle the EU's direct payments to farmers. Most of Europe has some sort of central record of land ownership and occupation, often for tax purposes, and when the EU started payments for land rather than produce, they already had the basic records needed.

We had to start from scratch.

30 years ago...

It was a big change, you could have expected this sort of mess back then, but things should have improved.

Brexit will be a bigger change. How long will it take for us to sort out the changes from that?

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Your software hates you and your devices think you're stupid

Dave Bell

They hath not the eys of mortal men.

The program was first released in 2003, and had several choices of colour scheme; text, window backgrounds. and the like.

In 2010 v.2 came out. The colour scheme was brown on brown., no choices available, not even an option to switch from light mud on dark mud to dark mud on light mud. A huge effort has been made to increase the loading on the graphics hardware, but the interface colours persist.

Fortunately, there is an alternative that uses human-compatible colour schemes. It is also something of a memory hog.

Since 2010 there have been changes to the major version number. So everything is OK.

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Every major OS maker misread Intel's docs. Now their kernels can be hijacked or crashed

Dave Bell

Be careful about version numbers.

Readers should know this, but the Linux Kernel version numbers don't look right.

I checked the Ubuntu link, and the version numbers they use are different. I'm currently running Ubuntu kernel version 4.13.0-39-generic and the patch is in version 4.13.0-41-generic, which has just come up as an update. I don't know why they don't use a format such as 4.13.41 but they have lists, they have versions for different processors, and they all have that extra zero in the version string. So do other Linux suppliers.

The difference between you and the rest of the world looks so consistent that I am wondering just how reliable your reporting is.

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Windows Notepad fixed after 33 years: Now it finally handles Unix, Mac OS line endings

Dave Bell
Meh

This isn't just a Windows thing, it goes back through DOS, but the alternatives are older.

Back in the day, it might have been problematic to handle the different styles, code size was an issue and RAM could be very limited. Once we got Win95 it was time to fix this. Win98 looks to be the big missed chance.

33 years... It should have been fixed 30 years ago

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It's World (Terrible) Password (Advice) Day!

Dave Bell

Re: What about paper?

Having a paper notebook in a safe place is a good situation for using a written record.

But what's a safe place?

At one extreme is the sticky note on your office computer's monitor. That's the total insecurity that prompts "Don't write your password down" rules.

Stupid users, it seems, prompt stupid rules. I think, with my personal situation, I'd be more worried about the other end of the chain. The Twitter example resembles other cock-ups I know of, and it could be an instance of poor management of programmers. Specifications and documentation are critical weaknesses.

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Reg man straps on Facebook's new VR goggles, feels sullied by the experience

Dave Bell

Re: Tech firms are putting huge resources into VR/AR at the expense of everything else

That's essentially the level of VR tech in the Charles Stross novel "Halting State", more focused on overlays on the real world, though the bank robbery by a band of orcs with a dragon is wholly in VR. I enjoyed the book, and it's about the people, more than the technology.

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Dave Bell

Re: Joint jaunt into fantasy land

That sort of activity has been around a long time. It's different when all you have is text - one-handed typing is a problem - but two people interacting doesn't depend on VR.

The one-handed typing problem might be why they only give you one controller.

They had pairs of hand controllers working with the PS3, and the PS4 has a headset as well, hardly surprising since the Oculus Rift project started out in 2012. Oculus might do some things better but it's the apps it has which will matter more.

I think I shall stick to text.

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Windows USB-stick-of-death, router bugs resurrected, and more

Dave Bell

Re: Oh, that's one I recognise

It looks as though Microsoft are splitting hairs over fixing it, saying that because it needs "social engineering" it isn't a software security problem.

A flawed filesystem on a USB stick shouldn't cause a blue-screen-of-death, however it gets attached.

If Department A at MS say it isn't a problem they deal with, and say they have passed the report on to Department B, who do handle those problems, that's OK. Telling you to submit it to Department B might not be the best answer, but it isn't bad.

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Dave Bell

Re: Oh, that's one I recognise

One of the problems is that there a a few things that MS Word did which have become standard in places such as the publishing industry, and the alternatives struggle with them, It's mostly centred on change-tracking on a document in the editing process. You can produce a compatible file to submit to the publisher, but there's a lot that has to be done to that version, both the obvious area of spelling errors and more complicated fine-tuning of the flow and pacing and storytelling.

It's different enough a process from ordinary office work that it doesn't surprise me. It also means that some Word bugs in the area can now be regarded as features that have to be emulated.

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NASA's TESS mission in distress, Mars Express restart is a success

Dave Bell

Re: TESS GNC issue

That doesn't even work in Kerbal Space Program.

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Dave Bell

You're being a bit negative about the TESS launch.

spaceX spot a problem, three hours before launch. And they stop the process long before any loading of fuel or liquid oxygen. It's about the time the humans leave the area of the launch pad. How is this a bad thing? Why should the satellite be "nervous"?

Anyone can check the countdown sequence, find out these things. You don't have to watch launches for half a century to have a clue.

Meanwhile the engineers check the details, and decide whether or not you will go to space today. This is thing going right.

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Router ravaging, crippling code, and why not to p*ss off IT staff

Dave Bell

Re: Akamai report flawed.

The Akamai report mentions "Open WRT" with a note that they couldn't tell the version.

Well, it's open source software for any number of different boxen, so maybe the model number is pointless, but it looks a bit odd how they handled it.

On the version I have on my router, UPnP is not enabled by default. It's a bit reckless not to check the Firewall settings.

I suspect that finding whether UPnP is enabled is easier to check than some think, but many users will need some hand-holding while they do the check. And that can start getting expensive.

0
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Whois is dead as Europe hands DNS overlord ICANN its arse

Dave Bell

As mentioned above, there are various clues, even in just the domain name. And if the corporate entity chooses to be anonymised, you have to wonder why.

I started out in this lark via a Fidonet BBS with a usenet gateway, and we reckoned it would be trivial for a phone number anywhere in the UK to connect to a dial-up modem in Cheltenham. I remember one day when most of the sysops in the UK claimed to be running on a UPS because of a thunderstorm, all at the same time.

If you can't trust your sysop, who can you trust?

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Modern life is rubbish – so why not take a trip down memory lane with Windows File Manager?

Dave Bell

This is one of a small group of programs that set the common ground for so much software. Apple were earlier, of course, but so many people have used this that it would be folly to be too different. English has its Great Vowel Shift. For computers, this was part of a similar big change.

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El Reg deep dive: Everything you need to know about UK.gov's pr0n block

Dave Bell

Here we go again...

It's happened before.

1999 in the US, a company called Landslide, providing adult verification services, involving credit-card payments as authentication.

Trouble was, some of the site using the service were making child porn available, and there was a lot of credit card fraud mixed in.

The operators of the site ended up in jail, with one of those crazy multi-lifetime sentences.

The names of credit-card holders in the UK were passed to the UK Police, who appeared to assume that every credit-card use was genuine and was linked to accessing child porn.

I remember, in my early years on Demon, the struggles there were against the misconceptions of people in power, the tendency to assume everything on the internet was illegal and dangerous. It's hard to avoid wondering how much of this has the same roots, particularly people who have to deal with the genuine bad stuff: the dangerous idiots were, in those days, a part of the Metropolitan Police called "Clubs & Vice".

That outfit, and later the NSPCC with "Satanic Child Abuse", had a reaction I can understand, but they came across as gullible, suffering from some sort of institutional PTSD that had them starting at shadows.

I don't think their solutions are any better.

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