* Posts by John Savard

1856 posts • joined 18 Sep 2007

We sent a vulture to IBM's new developer conference to find an answer to the burning question: Why Big Blue?

John Savard
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They've Got Stuff

They've got some technologies that might be valuable.

Their mainframes, while priced high, and aimed at legacy customers, are far more secure than Windows servers, and, in fact, I think that z/OS has an advantage over Linux and even BSD in this department. But if they made that tech available at competitive prices - would it sell enough to pay for its development? Or would it just throw away money by cannibalizing their existing customer base?

So I can understand why they're paralyzed... but the world does need genuinely secure servers, and IBM is uniquely positioned to meet that need.

But if they try to meet that need with what they have, and it fails, they could lose a big revenue stream for no return. I wish I knew what to recommend to them.

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Due to Oracle being Oracle, Eclipse holds poll to rename Java EE (No, it won't be Java McJava Face)

John Savard
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Follow Fedora

Since the open source version of Red Hat Linux is called Fedora... presumably they should be looking for another name for coffee. So perhaps they should call it "Joe".

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Apple whispers farewell to macOS Server

John Savard
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Sad

I am not particularly fond of Apple or their products, but I still found this to be very dismaying news.

It will make it even harder for any business to consider putting Macintosh computers on the desks of its employees, since using a Macintosh as the local server to a fleet of Macintoshes only makes sense; same training, same standard of security.

However, for any other server task, the cost of Apple hardware would place them out of consideration anyways.

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Beat Wall St estimates, share price falls 5%. Who else but... AMD?

John Savard
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Future

Indeed; AMD's share prices had already increased in the past, due to Ryzen being a much more attractive product than Bulldozer. Now, Intel is selling more powerful chips that are competitive with Ryzen. So it makes sense to expect that AMD's current high levels of sales, already reflected in their current share price, will dip somewhat in the future rather than increasing even more.

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In America, tech support conmen get a mild slap. In Blighty, scammers get the book thrown at them

John Savard
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Inadequate

They should first be required to provide full restitution to all their victims. Nothing about this was noted among what happened in either country. If they are unable to do that, their jail terms should be longer ones. Clearly, the penalty is inadequate unless the result is that no one ever tries that sort of thing ever again; anything less is not actually working as a deterrent.

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Death notice: Moore’s Law. 19 April 1965 – 2 January 2018

John Savard
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Greatly Exaggerated

Ever since Dennard Scaling died, it's been made clear that what doubles every so often due to Moore's Law isn't performance, but just the number of transistors on a die.

As they're building 10nm, 7nm, 5nm, and even 3nm fabs even now, Moore's Law, as currently defined, still has some life left to go. Even with EUV working, of course, the finite size of atoms does mean it can only go so far. (Yield improvements, of course, could continue Moore's Law even once we're stuck at 3nm by increasing the size of a die, until we have chips that fill a whole wafer.)

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

John Savard
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Almost Legitimate Use

I've always wanted to put the face of Larry Hagman on that of Roger Perry in "Tomorrow is Yesterday"...

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Scumbag who tweeted vulnerable adults' details is hauled into court

John Savard
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Amazed

I would have thought that for something like this,he would be spending at least a year behind bars! If not five or so. Not that even five years is an adequate deterrent, but I suppose the jails are overcrowded...

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Upset Equation Editor was killed off? Now you can tell Microsoft to go forth and multiply: App back from the dead

John Savard
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A Possible Excuse

Since it was derived from software by the firm Data Sciences, it could be that Microsoft wasn't legally entitled to retain a copy of the source code. That would be an understandable explanation; just losing it would be incomprehensible for such a large corporation.

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Hey Europe, your apathetic IT spending is ruining it for everyone

John Savard
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No Hope

Of course, after Brexit, for the Continent to become less apathetic in its IT spending will not help the British economy...

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PowerShell comes to MacOS and Linux. Oh and Windows too

John Savard
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Ash nazg durbatulûk

I'm surprised not to have yet seen a comment including the words "One Shell to rule them all", but I think it's perfectly sensible of Microsoft to introduce a tool that lets administrators of hordes of Windows machines also tell some Macs and Linux boxes in the same network what to do without learning too much about these strange other computers.

It even helps to prevent migration!

This in no way means that PowerShell has to be inherently superior to, oh, say, REXX, for example. Even if it does have scripting capabilities bash doesn't.

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Meltdown, Spectre: The password theft bugs at the heart of Intel CPUs

John Savard
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Re: Sigh... thanks, Reg (oh, and Intel)!

Well, the Register blowing the lid off it didn't change the situation: the bug still had to be fixed, and the fixes will still cause up to a 30% performance hit.

If exploits come before the bugs are fixed, and the Register's exposure helped that to happen, I can see your objection - but I don't think that the Register engaged in irresponsible disclosure; instead, as they claim, they simply made it harder for the companies involved to put their spin on it with managed disclosure.

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John Savard
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Meltdown, at least, wouldn't, since it requires the ability to read kernel code as data. Branching to it, instead, to probe it would be more difficult and unpredictable.

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John Savard
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Re: The solution here is obvious

Unfortunately, some system crackers are in uncooperative foreign countries.

Otherwise, as this solution allocates costs fairly, it would have been adopted long ago.

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John Savard
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Bad Advice

I think it's quite sensible of CERT to change its advice. Even if Spectre can't be addressed properly without replacing your CPU... it takes time to design a new CPU. So what would one replace it with?

It's either turn off your computer and wait a year or two... or hop into a TARDIS to buy its replacement.

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Woo-yay, Meltdown CPU fixes are here. Now, Spectre flaws will haunt tech industry for years

John Savard
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Re: Stock price

Switching to AMD only fixes Meltdown, not Spectre. One needs to buy next year's CPU which will take these problems into account.

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John Savard
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Not Available in Stores

It's a good thing that CERT changed its advice.

Even if it is true that the only way to protect against Spectre is to get a new CPU... the replacement CPUs which are not vulnerable to it haven't been designed yet. So one can hardly go out and buy one.

So it isn't buy a new CPU, it's turn your computer off and wait a year or two. Unless you have a time machine.

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John Savard
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What?

I had thought that Spectre was sufficiently similar to Meltdown that while it couldn't be fixed properly without redesigning processors, it could still be fixed - with a serious performance penalty - by operating system changes, because putting the kernel in a separate address space would fix both of them.

Clearly I will have to carefully re-read the news stories about it.

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We translated Intel's crap attempt to spin its way out of CPU security bug PR nightmare

John Savard
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My initial reaction was, is this article really necessary? Of course they're going to put a spin on things. But while your first translation was a little harsh, I felt, the others were merely brutally honest.

Security flaws are hard to anticipate, and processors are designed for performance first and foremost.

Now, if there were a way to turn off the security fix for software trusted not to be trying to exploit anything, performance hits might be reduced...

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Missed opportunity bingo: IBM's wasted years and the $92bn cash splurge

John Savard
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Puzzled

Given that IBM is doing pioneering stuff in 5 nm integrated circuits, it's hard for me to think that the company has failed to invest in its future. The specific acquisitions recommended could have easily failed as succeeded.

Back when the Macintosh used the PowerPC chip, if antitrust issues would not have prevented it, IBM should seriously have thought of buying Apple. We might have a better Macintosh today if that happened. But then, there would likely never have been an iPhone.

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Astroboffins say our Solar System could have – wait, stop, what... the US govt found UFOs?

John Savard
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I know that the government tried to research UFOs back in the 50s or 60s, but after a while it gave up on the whole thing as nonsense. Project Blue Book, it was called. And then there was the Condon Report.

That they were studying them again in 2012 does look like news, but not because there might be something to those flying saucers. No, it's a right proper scandal about government money going out the wrong way, and hopefully it will be investigated.

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Yes, your old iPhone is slowing down: iOS hits brakes on CPUs as batteries wear out

John Savard
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Economy

The real question is: why aren't the batteries replaceable? Oh, and for that matter, why don't these phones accept Micro SD cards to expand their memory?

They should be trying to make a product which can be sold at the lowest possible price, to benefit the maximum number of consumers. Making something just for the rich in order to make the most profit from each unit sold... is a strategy that doesn't even yield bigger profits for the company.

Still, I may be too hard on them. New technologies are developed and introduced first for early adopters before other manufacturers make them more widely available at lower prices. So companies like Apple have a legitimate place and are benefiting everyone, even if not everyone could be a customer of theirs.

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Murdoch's Fox empire is set to become a literal Mickey Mouse outfit

John Savard
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Pity

Perhaps if Disney had kept (or, rather, were keeping) Fox News, it might have changed its editorial policy to make it a bastion of objectivity that would enhance the company's reputation - like the New York Times or the BBC.

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Checkmate: DeepMind's AlphaZero AI clobbered rival chess app on non-level playing, er, board

John Savard
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Flawed, Perhaps, but Valuable Still

Comments on the initial AlphaZero announcement fairly quickly took note of the large floating-point power used by AlphaZero, and the fact that Stockfish's hash tables were restricted to 1 GB.

But that chess experts noted that AlphaZero's play included consideration of very subtle positional factors - something Stockfish does not excel at, but this is known to be a strength of the commercial chess engine Komodo - is also a fact.

It may well be that if one tried using equal hardware power to play chess by techniques similar to those used by AlphaZero, the result wouldn't be much better than had been achieved by the Giraffe chess engine. That took 72 hours, rather than 4, to teach itself to play chess - and it only got to International Master level, significantly inferior to that of Stockfish.

The thing is, though, it is still very significant to prove that something can be done at all, even if not necessarily in an efficient manner. Something can be a significant scientific advance in AI without being the most cost-effective way to make a strong chess engine.

It may well be that AlphaZero's feat, by demonstrating the validity of the neural network and Monte Carlo search approaches, will allow technology from Giraffe to be incorporated into programs like Stockfish to make them better.

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America's drone owner database is baaaack! Just in time for Xmas

John Savard
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Metric

Over 0.55 pounds, rather than over 1/2 a pound? Since a kilogram is about 2.2 pounds, could it be that the limit is 250 grams, perchance?

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Bring me your poor, your huddled masses, yearning to see behavioural advertising

John Savard
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Re: The spy in your pocket

It's true that while the headline made me think this was about something ad-supported, reading the article just showed that this was a light version of Android designed to work on more affordable smartphones. Yes, that's not particularly nefarious.

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Ex-cop who 'kept private copies of data' fingers Cabinet Office minister in pr0nz at work claims

John Savard
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Confused

If someone has evidence of a crime, it is his duty to preserve that evidence until someone is available to take proper action based on that evidence. If the superiors of a police officer want to destroy evidence, they're the criminals - not the officer who heroically defies them in order that someday justice can be done.

So I think it's incredible the article is calling for prosecution of the hero under the Data Protection Act.

Misuse of a computer the taxpayers paid for is a crime, pure and simple.

At least, that would be the public attitude in the United States, even if people in Britain may see things differently.

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Russia threatens to set up its 'own internet' with China, India and pals – let's take a closer look

John Savard
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Re: Kieren's credentials

I am quite baffled by this post. Surely everyone knows of mainland China's human-rights record, and its brutal repression of Tibet and Uighuristan. And of Russia's aggression, first against Georgia, and then against the Ukraine for having the effrontery to overthrow a tyrant who was a buddy of Putin. And surely everyone knows too about the fact that the United States has free elections and a free press, that work very well in dealing with that country's imperfections, making it a democracy.

What the Russian government should do is hand the United States its unconditional surrender. That would be the quickest step to world peace they could take.

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Google Chrome vows to carpet bomb meddling Windows antivirus tools

John Savard
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Confusing

If my web browser stops my antivirus program from protecting me from malicious web sites or infected web sites... I think I will use another web browser. This may not really be what is happening here, but I think that many computer users will understand it that way - and Chrome's market share as a browser would be expected to plummet.

Not that a lot of people read tech news, and Chrome is very popular. But they seem to be taking an awful chance here, as web sites that get hacked and inject viruses are such a major problem these days.

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'Break up Google and Facebook if you ever want innovation again'

John Savard
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Intel and Microsoft

Clearly I must be dated. I see the dominance of Intel and Microsoft as having an obvious effect on competition and innovation. But Google? Free Android, and a better search engine than AltaVista. What's not to like? And Facebook? What does that have to do with innovation? Who needs it?

Of course, ten years from now, I expect we'll all have to find some other search engine, because Google will collapse by not managing to monetize these wonderful free services it's giving out enough to pay for them - thus the investors gambling their money will finally tire of it. Probably I'm all wrong, and haven't been paying enough attention.

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Pro tip: You can log into macOS High Sierra as root with no password

John Savard
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Bug?

"If you have configured a root password, the above blank password trick will not work."

So if root doesn't have a password, you can log on to root without a password. Isn't that how it's supposed to work?

That doesn't mean there isn't a bug, though - the bug is instead in the procedure for installing the operating system on the computer, which apparently fails to notify the user that having a password on root is recommended.

Oh, wait, Macintosh computers come with the operating system preinstalled, don't they? But isn't there still some sort of personalization program you go through when you use the computer the first time? That's what should be fixed; being allowed to not have a root password may be a feature that is too risky to leave in, but it isn't really a bug in itself.

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Linus Torvalds on security: 'Do no harm, don't break users'

John Savard
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Facepalm

What?

If a security hole can be fixed without removing features from the operating system, that would be nice.

And if the security hole consists of a vulnerability in a feature, which can be removed while retaining the feature, then it should be done that way.

But sometime it is that the feature was ill-conceived, and the vulnerability is inherent to the feature. In that case, the answer is to eliminate the feature, and do without it. As Linus' comments indicate that he does not seem to realize that this case can and does exist, it is worrisome.

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Open-source defenders turn on each other in 'bizarre' trademark fight sparked by GPL fall out

John Savard
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Standing

The GPL, unlike the MIT license, protects against people adding a small thing to an open-source program that might become necessary to use it - thus taking it out of being usable in its open-source form. So the GPL is a good thing.

However, to sue someone for violating the GPL, one has to have "standing"; that is, some basis on which to claim that one is the injured party. While potential users of software covered by the GPL could indeed have standing, a much stronger basis for legal action would be if one was either the authority responsible for the GPL - Richard Stallman and his organization - or the author of the GPL software in question.

A random law firm, even if acting in the public interest, but not actually representing someone specific who is affected directly by a GPL violation... would seem to lack standing. So this issue suggests itself based on the events described in this news item.

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The Independent 'live streamed' space vid recorded in 2015

John Savard
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Famous Quote

This sort of thing has happened before, and it has always been due to human error.

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Car tax evasion has soared since paper discs scrapped

John Savard
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One Measure

Tax doesn't carry over when ownership changes? If the tax system were changed to be less unfair, perhaps the law would be respected more. The tax on vehicles should be pro-rated to cover precisely the period during which someone owns a vehicle, rather than having two people both pay a full year's tax on the same vehicle.

EDIT: I see I misunderstood the system. People aren't charged twice - except up front. They can apply for the eventual return of the overpayment.

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Boffins on alert: Brace yourselves for huge gravitational wave coming within a decade

John Savard
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The Universe Is Doomed!

What other conclusion can I draw from the statement that it is virtually certain that we will detect an event, within the next ten years, that may take longer than the age of the Universe to actually happen?

Well, perhaps not; perhaps the approach of two supermassive black holes prior to their indefinitely-delayed collision will still be detectable by the means outlined, anomalies in the observed timings of pulsars. Still, this again illustrates the pitfalls of science reporting in the popular press.

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US trade watchdog puts down the phone to Qualcomm, reaches for probe, sticks it in Apple

John Savard
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Childish?

Qualcomm wants royalties based on the cost of the whole phone, not just on the cost of the chips in it that use their patented technology. I can quite understand why Apple - a seller of premium-priced phones - is digging in its heels and finding that unreasonable.

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Card shark Intel bets with discrete graphics chips, shuffles AMD's GPU boss into the deck

John Savard
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Re: Well then...

Why wouldn't they get the gaming segment? The multi-chip module recently announced offers graphics capabilities only slightly behind discrete graphics - unlike the new mobile Ryzens, which are much better than Intel's ordinary integrated graphics, but which are still significantly more limited than discrete.

So Intel, with what it has announced, would become the only company offering a chip that allows a good gaming laptop to be as thin and light as one with limited graphics - instead of having extra bulk to accommodate a discrete video card.

Given current trends in what laptops are offering, it certainly seems as though it is at least believed that there is a huge demand for thin and light, at least from those who can afford to pay for it. That presumably includes at least some of the gamers who use laptops instead of desktops. Only the likely premium pricing will stand in the way of Intel getting a lock on the games market, it would seem to me.

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John Savard
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Theft of trade secrets

How is Intel managing to get away with this hire?

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AMD, Intel hate Nvidia so much they're building a laptop chip to spite it

John Savard
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Not long for this world?

I would have thought that a Xeon Phi would be vastly simpler to program than a GPU from either NVIDIA or AMD/ATI if what one wants to do isn't graphics, but general number crunching. Although GPUs are less stereotyped in the kinds of calculations they can perform than they once were, they're still quite limited.

The advantage of the GPU is that despite being harder to program - and maybe not even being helpful at all, depending on your problem - it offers, for the same price, an awful lot more floating-point operations per second.

A possible sweet spot is a vector processor, like the upcoming Aurora from NEC. That has a limitation, in that it requires arrays rather than individual numbers to work on for full efficiency, but is otherwise as flexible as a regular CPU.

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Whois? No, Whowas: Incoming Euro privacy rules torpedo domain registration system

John Savard
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Problem?

I don't see where the problem is.

Either Europe can enact an amendment to their privacy laws that allows the whois system to continue as it is, or every web site in Europe can just tell people how to connect to it using its IP address, as ICANN would just stop accepting domain registrations from registrars that did not fulfill its requirements.

Presumably, it wouldn't take very long for the governments of Europe to realize they had no alternative... except, of course, to construct their own system of registering domain names, and so to access European web sites, one would have to go to a DNS server affiliated with that instead of ICANN.

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NSA bloke used backdoored MS Office key-gen, exposed secret exploits – Kaspersky

John Savard
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Deleting

Deleting NSA nation-state malware is appropriate, as the United States of America is a democracy. In the case of other countries, such as Russia or China, it would not be, as these countries (that is, their governments) are enemies of human freedom.

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Neglected Pure Connect speaker app silenced in iOS 11's war on 32-bit

John Savard
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Fault

While indeed I "can't fault Apple" for surprising developers with an unexpected change, I certainly can fault Apple for ever making this change at all, just as I can fault Intel and Microsoft for the fact that 16-bit Windows 3.1 programs don't work in 64-bit Windows, or I can fault Apple, Motorola, and IBM for the fact that 68000 and PowerPC Macintosh progrms don't run in today's Macintosh computers under the latest version of OS X.

As far as I'm concerned, computer makers should take upwards compatibility seriously, the same way that IBM does with its zSystem mainframes.

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Footie ballsup: Petition kicks off to fix 'geometrically impossible' street signs

John Savard
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Re: You know you have too much time on your hands when . . .

Clearly, it's appropriate that the sign should contain a stylized representation of a soccer ball, rather than a realistic drawing with curvature and shading to give an appearance of depth.

So a circular window into the flat tessellation of alternate-colored hexagons that is analogous to the surface of a spherical soccer ball is one simple way to achieve that.

Of course, usually curved lines would be used in a stylized representation of the pre-Eigil Nielsen style of soccer ball, just as they are in stylized representations of baseballs or basketballs.

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Hitting 3 nanometers to cost chipmaker TSMC at least US$20 billion

John Savard
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Desirable

Instead of TSMC trying to make concessions to the United States in order to be allowed to build a fab in the United States, I would think that a lot of countries would be willing to make concessions to them to get them to build a fab in their country. Including suitable countries with reliable electricity.

Or, at least, a lot of countries should be doing this if they had any sense. I can think of one that should be doing this right off the top of my head: Canada.

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Drunk canoeing no longer driving offence in Canada

John Savard
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Inconsistency

If someone canoeing while drunk does not pose enough of a danger to others while doing so to be stopped from canoeing, there is no sense in stopping him from driving if there is no evidence that he ever drives while impaired.

Either impaired canoeing is a danger, or it is harmless. It cannot be dangerous by association.

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Dot-Amazon spat latest: Brazil tells ICANN to go fsck itself, only 'govts control the internet'

John Savard
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Re: The whole thing's stupid

While the World Wide Web was invented by Tim Berners-Lee, it should be noted that services on the Internet such as FTP and E-mail, which pre-date the Web, also use the domain name system, which is what is really at issue here.

Of course, it's not really as if U.S. companies grabbed up all the good domain names back when they would have had to use them for Gopher sites, so I can't be sure if this point is quite as relevant as it seemed to me it might be.

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NASA, Roscosmos: We're building a lunar space station!

John Savard
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Re: NASA must hope Trump gets a second term...

Yes, in the 1920s there was a phenomenon which was originally referred to as the "Red Scare".

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John Savard
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We'll Meet Again

Your headline reminded me of a song, but I had to remember the lyric before I could usefully employ Google to find it.

Well, so there will be a lunar space station... some sunny day.

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Shock! Hackers for medieval caliphate are terrible coders

John Savard
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Logo

After discovering that, presumably to avoid concern over promoting terrorism, your article was illustrated with the Mandarin's logo from the Iron Man comic - or a movie based on it - I was inspired to search online for something it reminded me of: the dial depicting the divisional chiefs of Hydra.

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