* Posts by John Savard

1805 posts • joined 18 Sep 2007

UK Prime Minister calls on internet big beasts to 'auto-takedown' terror pages within 2 HOURS

John Savard
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Re: Why not fuck off and sort out Brexit instead

"This is effectively what China has done"

Well, yes, with one minor twist: China is a totalitarian dictatorship, so they use it to prevent people from debating the policies of their government, or even from practicing their religious faith in an authentic manner as opposed to within artificial imitation churches controlled by the government.

Of course, the United Kingdom once forced its Roman Catholics to worship at churches operated by the Church of England instead, on the theory that this was "good enough", and so perhaps the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association may seem less unnatural and offensive in Britain than it does to countries with a strong tradition of religious liberty.

It still hasn't returned all the church buildings and other properties seized by Henry VIII to their rightful owner, the Roman Catholic Church, which is still in business with its headquarters in Vatican City.

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John Savard
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Re: Why not fuck off and sort out Brexit instead

Arabic is a foreign language to those people in the UK who we could actually trust to think that terrorism is a bad thing which should be stopped. I mean, plenty of Muslims hate the terrorists just as much as everyone else, but if we could read people's minds, we wouldn't have a terrorism problem, would we?

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John Savard
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Understandable but Problematic

If a page looks to a computer program like it might be a terrorist page, it could be automatically taken down, and then flagged for review by a human being. If it wasn't really a terrorist page, then it could be unblocked. What could be wrong with that?

Well, for one thing, this could be a trick for terrorists to use to get their pages whitelisted. Wait for the false positive, then after being unblocked, put the real terrorist page in.

For another, it might be that affected companies, like Google or Facebook or Blogspot, might have plenty of humans who read English, but hardly any who can read Arabic, so that a suspected Arabic-language page might languish for ages.

Still, given the amounts of damage terrorists do, it does make sense to ask Internet companies to make an effort to prevent terrorists from recruiting with inadvertent help from them. A legal mandate, though, will lead to compliance efforts, not necessarily productive efforts.

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CCleaner targeted top tech companies in attempt to lift IP

John Savard
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I'm sorry, but this recommendation is simply not acceptable.

With the update to CCleaner, software should be included that totally removes all malware that could have been introduced by the infected versions in a transparent manner that does not risk losing data, or require the user to re-install any programs on the system. It should be possible to clean the affected systems in a 100% safe manner that also imposes no inconvenience or effort.

Of course, admittedly, that may not be technically possible. Eventually, when the regime in China falls, if indeed the people behind this crime are there, they should face a severe penalty so that no one ever again will think to tamper with computers belonging to innocent other people.

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Bill Gates says he'd do CTRL-ALT-DEL with one key if given the chance to go back through time

John Savard
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Bad Idea

I think that Ctrl-Alt-Del is just right; rebooting your PC is not something that you want to do by accident from your keyboard. Some desktop PCs did have a reset button on the front panel, in addition to the power button; that is the place for a single-key restart.

However, he is still partly right. The function of ctrl-C in some operating systems, performed by ctrl-Pause on a PC, which is still labelled "break", to interrupt the running program... is under-used.

Basically, ctrl-Break, as it's usually called, should be the way to tell the operating system to terminate a running program. It could instead do things like bring up the Task Manager in Windows.

Of course, currently, Windows traps Ctrl-Alt-Del, so that unlike with DOS, it doesn't restart the computer, it just gives you a secure way to reach a known place in the operating system. Thus, in Windows NT, it was used to bring up the password entry screen - and there's still an option for turning that back on in Windows 7.

If that had been its function from the beginning, then making it a single-key function would indeed make sense. But Windows NT didn't exist in 1981. So if the PC platform were designed with some hindsight, the best that could have been done would be to allow users to switch the interrupt from Ctrl-Alt-Del to, say, the Pause key - to match what was appropriate for the operating system they were using.

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VMworld schwag heist CCTV didn't work and casino wouldn't share it

John Savard
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Obvious

Report the theft to the police, and if the casino doesn't want to share CCTV footage with the police, they will presumably have a problem.

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Five ways Apple can fix the iPhone, but won't

John Savard
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Must-have Features

Um, if you want to have must-have features, shouldn't you be buying a smartphone of a type where you actually have a choice between multiple suppliers competing for your dollar? So if you want a headphone jack and a removable battery, there will be someone out there who offers them?

The Macintosh may have some advantages over Windows, and the iPhone may have some advantages over Android. But from my perspective, even if their customers have different priorities, and are thus satisfied with Apple, it looks as though Apple has a death wish. So I've basically given up on even considering their products.

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Oracle staff report big layoffs across Solaris, SPARC teams

John Savard
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Is it about SPARC

While Solaris is available for the x86 platform, its main importance is as the primary choice for SPARC users.

And while SPARC offed RAS features at a cost significantly below that of IBM mainframes or the Itanium, now you can get RAS on x86 Xeons from Intel. Probably on Opteron too, and if so, now that Epyc is competitive, that's a far more appealing alternative than a relatively little-used system that didn't give one a choice to switch to another database, should one feel like it.

Oracle bought Sun, I believe, to get SPARC, and compete with IBM on all fronts. Maybe it's now realizing that was a bad idea, and it's going back to its core database business. Would anyone be interested in buying Sun from Oracle?

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Memo to Microsoft: Keeping your promises is probably a good idea

John Savard
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Victim

If the NYPD got the phones for free, that just means they're not the victim of Microsoft failing to meet its promises. Presumably, there are other organizations and people that bought such phones.

At least this lets the billionaire who decided to go with the free phones off the hook.

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Oh, ambassador! You literally are spoiling us: Super-stealthy spyware hits Euro embassy PCs

John Savard
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For Sensitive Stuff

It's time for places like embassies not to use computers with Microsoft Windows. Everyone else uses it, so there are plenty of viruses. Instead, each country should under great secrecy design its own hardened secure variant of BSD to put on its machines.

Of course security by obscurity isn't real security, but it's better than nothing, and nothing seems to be what you will usually get.

I mean, it's not as if computers for issuing passports or sending encrypted messages home have to be able to run all the latest games.

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IT worker used access privs to steal £1m from Scottish city council

John Savard
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Re: Seizing his pension?

Yes, you can't charge people with handling stolen goods if it's money that was stolen. That's to ensure that people are willing to accept money when it's tendered in order to purchase something, so that money will "work" as money. I remember seeing a mention of the specific age-old law at the start of a book on economics.

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John Savard
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Sources

If he spent his money on legal gamblling, doesn't that yield profits for the government and for charities? Some of the money the government got from that should be used to fully refund every cent of the money that was stolen and is now not recoverable.

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Daily Stormer booted off internet again, this time by Namecheap

John Savard
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Oh, dear

While he raises a valid issue, that next time he might come under pressure to refuse service to a site that shouldn't be banned, by raising the issue that "public opinion is not always right" in connection with denying service to The Daily Stormer, I fear that there will be people who will cite that statement as "proof" he sympathizes with Nazis.

So he may not have entirely dodged the bullet of a hate campaign against his company.

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President Trump to his council of industry CEO buddies: You're fired!

John Savard
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Oh, dear

I do not disagree with the premise that Antifa and even Black Lives Matter are also groups that are less than perfect in their respect for the law and the rights of others.

But when someone peacefully protesting against racism is murdered, to claim that "both sides" are somehow to blame for what happened does seem objectionable.

It looks like the political battle that is going on is this:

One side believes that it's as inappropriate to have statues of Confederate generals still standing in this day and age in the South as it would be to have statues of German generals during World War II standing in Germany. Both fought to defend systems that caused immense suffering to members of a particular ethnic group which those systems disdained.

Another side - which includes a lot of Americans who aren't members of any neo-Nazi or white supremacist organizations - believes that the appropriate course of action after the end of the Civil War was the one that was largely taken in fact - one of reconciliation and not triumphalism. One that extended respect to the defeated South.

This is why, even in this day and age, removing statues of Confederate generals wherever they may still stand is not a completely non-controversial no-brainer in the United States.

And so Donald Trump's comments, clumsy as they were, are seen by some as resulting from a legitimate and appropriate goal: not to allow the government to be manipulated by the death of Heather Heyer into upsetting a balance that helped the nation heal the wounds of the Civil War, into denying the defeated South its self-respect.

My personal position on this is that such a position would make perfect sense, if black Americans did not exist (perhaps they could have all moved to Liberia?), but because they do exist, it doesn't, and there's nothing wrong with "manipulating" the government into doing what should have been done more than a hundred years ago. But blindness is not the same thing as hate.

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Cloudflare: We dumped Daily Stormer not because they're Nazis but because they said we love Nazis

John Savard
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Not as Unreasonable as It May Seem

However much I may detest stuff like the Daily Stormer, I think Cloudflare came close to striking the right balance here. DDoS attacks are criminal acts, and advocating ideas that others may find offensive is legal - at least in the United States.

However, the point of view outlined in the article's headline has a great deal of validity too. Spreading hatred isn't something anyone should want to facilitate. But when you start to draw that kind of line, there is always the temptation to do so a bit more strictly, until only those whose speech is bland and inoffensive can find protection against DDoS attacks. Is that what we want?

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WannaCry vanquisher Marcus Hutchins pleads not guilty to flogging banking trojan Kronos

John Savard
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Mystery

What still puzzles me is what evidence they have against him. Since he is only known as someone who helped protect people against malware, normally one wouldn't think him likely to be involved with creating it. Perhaps there has been an attempt by virus writers to plant evidence against him that deceived U.S. authorities; until we know what evidence there was, it certainly appears that they moved hastily to arrest someone likely to be completely innocent.

But we don't know, it is still only an appearance.

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Mid-flight jumbo font smartphone text shock sparks kid abuse arrests

John Savard
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Re: Do You Know The Way To San Jose?

Of course, in Germany, that would be "The Coffee is Hot in San Jose", and if you don't believe me, ask Siw Malmkvist.

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John Savard
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Giant Letters

This story sounds like a story about the world's dumbest criminals. If someone is abusing children, one would expect they would take the greatest of care not to let anyone else find out about it, because nearly everyone considers such a thing a very reprehensible crime.

And, of course, even if the men arrested turn out to be innocent, the teacher who alerted the authorities is still a hero; it isn't her fault that she doesn't know everything, her actions were reasonable ones based on what she saw. It's the responsibility of the justice system, not her, to determine correctly what really happened and not to convict the innocent.

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John Savard
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Re: Freedom of speech dies a little each day

Well, the story said that the police had two young children in protective custody, so I would guess they have all the proof they need by now.

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Tech billionaire Khosla loses battle over public beach again – and still grants no access

John Savard
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Re: Boo Freakin' Hoo

The problem is that there is no access to the beach "around" his land. There should have been a right-of-way on his land, or more specifically, there was a historic right-of-way, but the state failed to inform him of the existence of that right-of-way in the documents he received when he purchased the land. And so the normal way in which this kind of matter is resolved is that he is monetarily compensated for the inadvertent fraud the state's bureau of land titles committed against him - and the right of way is opened.

A right of way doesn't disappear simply because the land's previous owners forgot to tell the current owner about it.

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Good Lord: Former UK spy boss backs crypto

John Savard
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Good News, But

While encryption is one element of protecting computer systems and their data from hackers, it is only a small element of the problem. As long as operating systems and their applications are rife with exploits, this threat will not be a very compelling reason for governments to forego encryption backdoors.

Obviously, therefore, the government will need to task the GCHQ with writing a secure version of BSD which will replace Windows on the nation's computers! And hopefully without an encryption backdoor...

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Your top five dreadful people the Google manifesto has pulled out of the woodwork

John Savard
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Averages

Google certainly doesn't pick random women off the street to interview for jobs. The reason the average is relevant is whether or not parity - representation of women to the same extent as they are present in the population in general - is likely to be achievable.

Of course, it still may be achievable if a large proportion of potentially qualified people are not employed in the field, either by Google, or by any other organization seeking a representative workforce.

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Core-blimey! Intel's Core i9 18-core monster – the numbers

John Savard
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Price Premium

Paying a higher price for a CPU to get the highest possible performance - particularly when the cost of the rest of the system reduces the percentage extra one is paying for higher performance - is not irrational. Which is part of why Intel can get away with its current pricing.

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Google diversity memo: Web giant repudiates staffer's screed for 'incorrect assumptions about gender'

John Savard
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Re: Article by a former "Google Distinguished Engineer"

While I have sympathy for the memo writer, this significantly opposed response also has valid points.

However, it links to this article, which I think is very wrong. If tolerance were a peace treaty and not a moral precept, there would be nothing wrong with exploiting and discriminating against those who were so powerless they could not fight back.

That kind of negates the whole point of tolerance.

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John Savard
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Unwise

It was unwise for him to identify himself as a Google employee, and, indeed, to identify himself, on his comments.

Political correctness is a real problem. But since inequality is also a real problem, a certain amount of "reverse discrimination" is a legitimate response to that problem. It isn't as if we have all that many less blunt instruments available.

At one point, in response to a story about black engineers being underrepresented at Intel, I noted that it isn't surprising that black people don't have the right educational qualifications in the same proportion as whites: and that it's harder for a firm in the consumer sector to achieve balance when the qualified black candidates are being snapped up by defense contractors, who absolutely have to achieve racial balance to sell to the government.

Women face certain disadvantages too: not all women, but the stereotypes wouldn't get started if they didn't correspond to the situations of a large number of women. So the fact that there are exceptional women who are fully qualified for STEM jobs won't mean there will be enough of them for every company to achieve full equal representation for them.

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This surf-and-turf robot swims using ribbon-like fins. And it's floated for US Navy approval

John Savard
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Re: I wonder how it compares...

I was wondering if instead of using fancy technology to achieve undulating fins, simply rotating Archimedian screws couldn't achieve the same thing more simply. So it's been done.

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Linux kernel hardeners Grsecurity sue open source's Bruce Perens

John Savard
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Interesting

Obviously the next version of the GPL will have to be rewritten so that Linus Torvalds or perhaps even Richard Stallman could, at the stroke of a pen, take away Grsecurity's right to use, modify, or redistribute Linux in return for having the temerity to file such a lawsuit.

Of course, as long as the controversial clause in Grsecurity's agreement has not been tested in court, such a lawsuit is possible. Since the penalty for redistributing Grsecurity's code is simply termination of a relationship with Grsecurity, it could indeed be argued that they can get away with what they're doing, even if it's contrary to the spirit of the GPL. It might not contradict the letter of the GPL.

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Cancel your summer trip to nearby Proxima b. No chance of life, room service, say boffins

John Savard
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Changes

Well, on the frontiers of science, it's understandable that what was considered to be the most likely case will keep changing

When Proxima Centauri b was first discovered, we were told that because Proxima Centauri was a flare star, it was unlikely for it to have an atmosphere, although some hope remained.

But shortly afterwards, GJ 1132b, a planet around Gliese 1132, also a red dwarf star, was found to actually have an atmosphere. This was apparently a positive sign for Proxima Centauri, as it showed that red dwarf stars don't necessarily strip away the atmospheres of their planets. Of course, it might not have been similar enough to Proxima Centauri b for that to be relevant.

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Red Hat acquires Permabit to put the squeeze on RHEL

John Savard
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Beer

If ZFS is free as in beer, couldn't we all just switch to BSD instead?

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China crams spyware on phones in Muslim-majority province

John Savard
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Re: Spyware and Intelligence Gathering.....

How about a symbolic economic sanction, where we ban all imports of smartphones and feature phones, all mobile phones, from China? This would mean that they would be manufactured in Malaysia and/or Indonesia instead, giving the economies of those countries a lift.

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John Savard
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Obvious Comment

Fasting during Ramadan is one of the Five Pillars of Islam. This, therefore, is a violation of that portion of the Eternal Law of God as embodied in the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America among other places in the laws of other civilized and democratic nations.

It's a pity China has nuclear weapons, as it is clearly overdue for regime change.

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I've got a verbal govt contract for Hyperloop, claims His Muskiness

John Savard
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Re: Please complete this sentence Elon:

...the paper it's written on.

Groucho Marx

I was wondering if someone would remember it, and I see it's in the first post!

EDIT: It turns out my memory is wrong. The quote is attributed to Samuel Goldwyn, but in fact, he said of a trustworthy colleague that "His verbal contract is worth more than the paper it's written on", which later got garbled into the incorrect quote.

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China's censorship cyber-missiles shoot down pics flying through WhatsApp, chat apps

John Savard
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The simple solution is to ban all countries with human rights issues, political prisoners, political press censorship, and so on, from the Internet and from international trade. Cut them off from access to modern technology.

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Hey, remember that monkey selfie copyright drama a few years ago? Get this – It's just hit the US appeals courts

John Savard
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Obvious

It should, of course, be an open and shut case; only the human photographer can hold the copyright. A monkey pressing the shutter release button, for legal purposes, should be precisely equivalent to the shutter release having been triggered by a gust of wind or a falling leaf.

And, indeed, the principle that animals are part of nature, while humans are accountable for their actions, and have rights, and are part of the social and political sphere, is well-established in our laws as well as our culture and our religious faiths.

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An AI can replace what a world leader said in his video-taped speech. This will end well. Not

John Savard
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Blame Disney

After all, creating a younger Carrie Fisher by means of CGI - and a living Peter Cushing - is likely to have inspired these researchers to recognize that the technology to do this kind of thing was now available!

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Web inventor Sir Tim sizes up handcuffs for his creation – and world has 2 weeks to appeal

John Savard
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A Thought

It's so much easier to copy a digital file than a physical book that I can't see how we can get to a world without DRM.

Sure, Hollywood could change its business model. There is a lot of amateur content available on the Internet the creators of which saw no need to paywall. But a lot of people seem to prefer the stuff that was produced with a big budget and hyped with an expensive advertising campaign, many of them enough to pay for it.

The ethical response should be clear. In the case of computer software, instead of more pirated copies of Microsoft BASIC... we have Linux.

Look at the fan-made videos based on Star Trek. If people can do that, going the whole nine yards, and making up stories about one's own characters... isn't that much harder. We've already got lots of webcomics online.

The movie and recording industries exist, and while they may be unreasonable in many ways, their belief that they need DRM to survive is not unreasonable. I don't think that one can win a fight to tell them they can't have it. But maybe it's time for a movement to harness the creative energy that's already out there in amateur and fan-made work into a movement similar to the open-source software movement that gives people the option of ignoring Hollywood, the same way that Linux lets them ignore Microsoft.

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Behind the scenes of Slovaks' fight to liberate their .sk domain

John Savard
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Remember Tuvalu

I think it's entirely understandable that the people of Slovakia don't want to see the .sk domain ending up like the .tv domain - owned by a private company that sells domains within it at high prices to people who want to make web sites related to television or providing streaming video. They want to be sure that they can, at reasonable prices, register their own sites ending in "sk" just like people in Britain can do so with sites ending in "uk" or people in Canada can do so with sites ending in "ca".

It's not at all clear to me from the article if their worries are justified, or if the controversy is due to a false campaign of hysteria aimed at an updated system of domain registration that is essentially the same as what we have now in Canada or the United Kingdom since the Internet became too big to be an academic preserve. The article takes the latter position, but I didn't see enough of the crucial facts in it to tell if its conclusions are valid.

Because of that, I'm left with the impression - which may be unfair and mistaken - that the article was put together in a rush to support a particular pro-free-enterprise ideological world view. If you want to win converts, if you want to be respected as a trustworthy source, you have to do a more thorough job of assembling and presenting your facts.

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Tremble in fear, America, as Daesh-bags scrawl cyber-graffiti on .gov webpages no one visits

John Savard
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Concern, if not panic, is warranted

You never know. Next time, they might modify the site so that it injects ransomware into people's computers.

Sites should be designed so that they can not be hacked. Period. Ever.

These sites were not so designed. That mistake should not be repeated.

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Microsoft admits to disabling third-party antivirus code if Win 10 doesn't like it

John Savard
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Re: '34 years of development - Windows 10 is the result'

It certainly is true that if any new operating system is going to supplant Windows, it would have to be a new standard. One that third-party software developers can write software for.

And Linux isn't a standard when there are so many different distros. Can a binary run under Linux?

There's Linux for the x86 and for the ARM. There's Gnome and KDE.

In fact, though, one can assume that x86 is the "standard", and, as well, currently most modern applications only need some features from either Gnome or KDE that aren't in the basic Linux operating system itself. So if those two desktop environments could be unified, a common standard that Linux distros could support could be achieved.

Possibly BSD rather than Linux should be the basis for a "new standard", since one thing it will really need is good security.

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

John Savard
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Re: Of course there's a right answer!

It is true that if you tried embedding a tab character in a program on punched cards, you would have to manually overpunch the 12-5-9 combination.

But an 029 card punch does have the equivalent of a tab key. You just have to wrap a special punched card around that little drum behind the door with a window in it, putting holes where you want the tab stops, and press... what was it called, the "field skip" key? Ah, just "skip". And you would use "mult pch" to get a 12-5-9.

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John Savard
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Illegal Characters

I don't know about the computers you use, but just try and put a card with a 12-5-9 punch in it in a FORTRAN IV deck, and see what happens!

I realize these newfangled C compilers running under that Unix operating system recognize the ASCII control character "tab" as a form of whitespace, but this has not always been the case historically.

Even at the present time, if one has code with embedded tab characters, one has to be sure that the text editor one uses with such code has been told to present a tab as the right number of spaces so that the code will look normal. Naturally, of course, that is not a problem if one only ever uses the Integrated Development Environment (IDE) that came with the compiler, or some third-party one specifically intended for such use.

Come to think of this, the pay disparity may be explained by this. Programmers fresh out of school, who use only the software that holds their hands while they program, are paid less than the crusty old veterans who adopt conservative practices that will allow them to get work done even if all they have is a command line or a card punch!

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EPYC leak! No, it's better than celeb noodz: AMD's forthcoming server CPU

John Savard
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Can AMD be bought?

If a purchase of AMD by another organization would not void the agreement under which AMD is allowed to use Intel patents, I would be inclined to suggest IBM. In fact, if IBM, AMD, and Apple were combined under a single ownership, the resulting firm might have a chance of holding its own against the Wintel duopoly.

AMD would make x86 server, laptop, and desktop chips. And offer the same technology in alternate SKUs with the PowerPC and z/Architecture instruction sets instead, as instruction decoding makes up a small part of a CPU. Presto, no longer the problem that forced Apple to move to the x86, and so the reborn Amigas could safely stay with the PowerPC.

Apple would have management that made sense, instead of emphasizing the "insane" part of "insanely great". However, the iOS part, as opposed to the Macintosh, should be left in a successful separate company, as the fit with IBM's core business would not be a good one.

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Uber sued after digging up medical records of woman raped by driver

John Savard
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Odd

Obtained medical records? Why isn't he being extradited to India for criminal prosecution there?

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Five Eyes nations stare menacingly at tech biz and its encryption

John Savard
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Phrased Correctly

Why, it is true that the privacy of a terrorist is of no importance when set against public safety.

Now, if they could find a way to take away the privacy of terrorists without taking it away from everyone else, there would be no problem.

Having police who can be trusted tapping phone lines does not seem to me like a terrible problem in itself. Generally speaking, in democratic nations, the police have had a good record of not using the ability to do insider trading, steal credit card numbers, engage in blackmail or voyeurism, and so on; they really have been just using bugs and taps to find real criminals.

The problem with encryption restrictions, though, is that to enforce them one limits what people can do with their own computers - and they make people more vulnerable to criminals doing eavesdropping. The thing to do is find other ways to address terrorism.

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Silicon Graphics' IRIX and Magic Desktop return as Linux desktop

John Savard
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Screenshot

The screenshot looks like plain old fvwm.

I wonder if it comes with a Fortran 90 compiler that's better in some way than the two open-source ones currently available.

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Afrinic shuts down IP address shutdown over internet shutdowns

John Savard
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Obvious Cause

Obviously, we wouldn't have this sort of problem if IP addresses in Africa were allocated somewhere quite beyond the reach of African governments, such as in the United States or Britain.

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Intel to Qualcomm and Microsoft: Nice x86 emulation you've got there, shame if it got sued into oblivion

John Savard
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Briar Patch

It is true that legacy x86 software is one of the things that makes Windows so attractive, compared to Linux or the Macintosh.

But Microsoft also wants to encourage people to sell applications through the Windows Store, and to write them in managed code for the new post-Windows 8 interface formerly known as Metro.

So if Intel manages to hobble x86 emulation on Windows for ARM (cases concerning z/Architecture emulation on the Itanium come to mind as a precedent) this may not be a total disaster for Microsoft.

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When can real-world laws invade augmented reality fantasies? A trial in Milwaukee will decide

John Savard
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My take

While the content of virtual reality games can and should enjoy First Amendment protection, wandering around a public place with your nose stuck in a smartphone or tablet, at the risk of bumping into people, constitutes action, not speech, and is properly subject to regulation.

That the kind of regulations proposed could indeed make VR gaming of the type seen in Pokemon Go impossible may indicate that they're unreasonably onerous, but that is an area where quite rightly the courts are loath to second-guess legislators.

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

John Savard
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Thoughtful

This is indeed a very thoughtful article about a serious problem. The Internet does help people isolate themselves from reality, by listening only to the views of the like-minded.

One could jest that obviously we need to get people watching TV instead. The television licence fee that Britain has obviously should be abolished to help that along.

As for government finances and personal finances: paper money is like a cheque; what corresponds to real money for a government is foreign exchange - or gold. Our current treaties for encouraging international trade make it hard for governments to prevent the nation from spending more than it earns except by contracting the economy and throwing people out of work.

If money good for buying imported articles had to be counted separately, you could stimulate the domestic economy no end, and keep everyone employed, without endangering the balance of payments. This system has even been tried successfully on occasion, although it does come with its own set of problems.

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Hotel guest goes broke after booking software gremlin makes her pay for strangers' rooms

John Savard
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Signatures

There is a simple way to prevent things like this from ever happening.

For the bank to take money out of her account, and give it to the hotel, it should have required that the transaction be authorized by her.

So when she uses her bank card to pay for her room for a day, a signature is uttered by her card for that specific transaction. And only she can make her bank card utter a signature, so there is absolutely nothing the software in the hotel can do to generate any additional transactions on her account.

Apparently, instead, the bank is actually trusting a merchant who can merely identify a card holder to take as much money as it likes from that card holder's account. That should be regarded as daft, even if most merchants do have large investments that they protect by being honest.

Of course, that would eliminate credit cards functioning as damage deposits and the like, but we got along well enough before there were credit cards.

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