* Posts by John Savard

1886 posts • joined 18 Sep 2007

Brit Attorney General: Nation state cyber attack is an act of war

John Savard
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Truth

Just because the bad actors generally have nuclear weapons, and even if not, military action, which so often involves loss of human lives, is not warranted, it certainly is true that if a foreign government engages in acts that are injurious to the lives or property of people of a free country - it deserves to face consequences, at least in theory.

Given that the Trump presidency may end up taking the United States off-line, the United Kingdom really should be considering expanding its nuclear capability so that it can keep Russia and China at bay all by itself, perhaps with some help from the French. So don't be too hard on your politicians if they seem to have unwarranted visions of glory. The free people of the world may be depending on you to rise to the occasion.

Just don't pin your hopes on discovering a source of Pinot Grand Fenwick.

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Blood spilled from another US high school shooting has yet to dry – and video games are already being blamed

John Savard
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Re: Business leaders

Fewer people are being killed in Japan, so the Japanese legislation is saving lives.

Clearly, though, there is room for further improvement in Japan, particularly as it would be harder to argue in Japan that stricter gun legislation would penalize mostly innocent gun owners!

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John Savard
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Aside from guns

Well, we do now have a cause, and it's not video games: it's sexism. Or, more specifically, the idea on the part of some men that they have a right that women should yield to them.

I think that if politicians could resist the tactics of the NRA, the American people would be willing to restrict semi-automatic weapons, but I'm not sure that they would be willing to severely restrict handguns. (Actually, I suspect most Americans would happily vote for a law that banned black people from owning handguns, but the Supreme Court wouldn't let that one fly for a second. Maybe a law that banned handgun ownership for anyone with a criminal record - presumably they already have one, but it just would need to be expanded a bit, or given more effective enforcement.)

And Canada didn't have a gun violence problem before 1968, when legislation was brought in to classify handguns as restricted weapons - and to require secure storage of firearms. So we didn't have a gun violence problem before any gun control legislation was brought in that would have been applicable to this particular event.

Some restrictions on gun ownership in the U.S. are long overdue, but it has other social problems that will give it a higher crime rate than, oh, say Sweden, even if that happens. They have, after all, serious problems of inequality in income, exacerbated by racial inequality. Those aren't being addressed either. And people who aren't being sufficiently well protected by the police are going to want to have guns of their own. So it isn't just one problem.

Maybe after most black people move into the middle class, then work on gun control will be effective.

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IP freely? What a wind-up! If only Trevor Baylis had patent protections inventors enjoy today

John Savard
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It's certainly true that using a wind-up spring to hold energy, and turning rotational energy into electricity with a generator, were well-known in the art.

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John Savard
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Edwin Armstrong

Of course, the most famous and egregious case of this almost has to be Edwin Armstrong's patent on the superheterodyne radio.

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US prison telco accused of selling your phone's location to the cops

John Savard
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It's quite true that the quoted statement:

“Securus requires documentation and reasonably relies on the professionalism and integrity of our law enforcement customers and their counsel. Securus is neither a judge nor a district attorney, and the responsibility of ensuring the legal adequacy of supporting documentation lies with our law enforcement customers and their counsel.”

sounds pretty strange.

As a company that has access to confidential data, they are responsible for the privacy of everyone using the mobile telephone system. So one would think they would be responsible if they released this data without taking adequate precautions against improper release.

However, the law as it stands in the U.S. may not place an absolute onus on them, and voluntary cooperation with the police, without requiring a court order, is certainly not criminalized for data that a firm holds itself.

Functioning as a back door to data about users of other telephone providers, though, is an invitation to abuse, especially when a firm is known for being less questioning of requests from law enforcement sources than others.

Hopefully, the firm at least keeps careful records of every such request that it receives, so that any improper requests can be tracked by the relevant authorities? That would seem to be a minimal step to take in order to ensure that the responsibility does lie with the requestor and not them.

But even if no one at Securus is jailed for violating privacy, a possible consequence, if they're not complying with standards expected by other telephone carriers for the handling of the data to which they have access as a telephone carrier themselves... could be being unplugged from the telephone network, and thus losing their business. I mean, I presume they had to sign something to become a telephone carrier.

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Make masses carry their mobes, suggests wig in not-at-all-creepy speech

John Savard
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More Pertinent

More significant to me is not that one person has mused about a possible intrusion on our privacy in the future, but how this calls attention to how much of our privacy we're voluntarily giving up now.

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

John Savard
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We've had Programmer's File Editor and then later Notepad++, so I don't think the lackhas been too terrible...

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Ozzie Ozzie Ozzie, oi oi oi! Tech zillionaire Ray's backdoor crypto for the Feds is Clipper chip v2

John Savard
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Re: Why would Apple (or anyone else) want to be in the loop?

That seems to be the biggest unsolvable problem regarding any key escrow scheme.

But I can see one thing that could be done, which would not solve it 100% in theory, but which might be claimed to be "good enough" by those politicians and others who feel a key escrow scheme is necessary.

What if, instead of one "master key" which, if stolen, would allow hackers to read encryption with the same facility as law enforcement (but without needing warrants)... there were five of them?

So that when a police department gets a warrant to decrypt a cracked phone, they have to send the encrypted escrow key on a trip to five different government agencies to get back the key they need to read it? I can see it being believed that hackers wouldn't be able to simultaneously crack the security of, say, the Department of Justice, the CIA, the FBI, the NSA, and NIST, to get all five master keys. And without even one of those keys, the encryption would remain unbreakable.

That, of course, requires a commitment to erase all the other master keys when one of them is compromised, and give up the ability to read all the old phones, though, and that's probably the part that won't happen.

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Revenge pornography ban tramples free speech, law tossed out – where else but Texas!

John Savard
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Interesting Precedent

I suppose next all the laws against unauthorized disclosure of classified information, unauthorized disclosure of trade secrets, and copyright infringement, by the same logic, will be thrown out as being in violation of the First Amendment.

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Brains behind seL4 secure microkernel begin RISC-V chip port

John Savard
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Great News!

I'm gad this is becoming available for RISC-V, and also glad it's al,most here for x86, which will be more immediately useful for many.

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Guess who's still most moaned about UK ISP... Rhymes with BorkBork

John Savard
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Huh?

Talk doesn't rhyme with Bork. At least not where I come from.

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Cray snuggles up with AMD: Clustered super CS500 lets in Epyc chip

John Savard
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So Plebian

When will Cray be again offering systems with real supercomputer architecture?

Such as with the new NEC SX Aurora Tsubasa cards...

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France building encrypted messaging app for politicians

John Savard
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Why?

They have this encrypted parliamentary network and E-mail, so why do they need a messaging app?

I would think it's obvious. Why do the rest of us use messaging apps if we can use VPNs and E-mail? So they want to have encryption for another form of communication that the politicians want to use because it's convenient.

In the United States, the NSA had made a secure smartphone, but it was so awkward, hard to use, and out of date that they couldn't get Obama to use it. Why can't France have similar problems, even if they have their own agency with experts in cryptology?

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A developer always pays their technical debts – oh, every penny... but never a groat more

John Savard
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Old Words

IIRC, a groat is 4d, or 1 2/3 new pence.

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The true victims of Brexit are poor RuneScape players

John Savard
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Probably not, but when they let people mine runite ore with only 60 Mining instead of 85 Mining, your rune armour will drop in value terribly - what with the upcoming Mining and Smithing rework.

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John Savard
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Re: "Jagex did not say exactly how Brexit will up its costs"

Well, unfortunately there was no space on the ballot for "try to leave, but if you can't get a deal to stay in the Common Market on acceptable terms, then stay".

I mean, really: a deal should be negotiated, and then whether the economic terms are so onerous that leaving the European Union isn't worth it should be decided by another referendum. Voters shouldn't be forced to buy a pig in a poke.

Since the main concern is with control over immigration, and France has a similar problem - if Britain and France worked together, they would have had enough clout to negotiate a better deal. Or simply roll the EU back to the Common Market, which was as much European unity as most people wanted.

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John Savard
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Wondering

I was wondering why there was a second price increase since I began playing. I had not thought of the unforeseen event of Brexit as being the cause.

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2001: A Space Odyssey has haunted pop culture with anxiety about rogue AIs for half a century

John Savard
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Re: Star Trek was a revolutionary interpretation of space that rejected the sci-fi conventions

Actually, several Star Trek episodes covered ground originally covered by classic science fiction stories.

In one case which I consider infamous, an episode was a rework of Hermann Wouk's The Lomokome Papers without acknowledgement.

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John Savard
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Blame

Surely if you want to blame someone for groundless anxiety concerning artificial intelligence, Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke are not the right targets. Instead, you need to go further back... to Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley.

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Intel outside: Apple 'prepping' non-Chipzilla Macs by 2020 (stop us if you're having deja vu)

John Savard
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Re: More likely is the end of macOS

Apparently, if the A9 is powerful enough for a midrange desktop, they could make a Chromebook running iOS. But they don't need to kill the Macintosh in order to do that. Even if there might be a slow shift of emphasis away from it to this new option.

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John Savard
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Re: The only fly in the ointment...

That could be an upside, though. If Mac users can't run games in Windows under Boot Camp, that might encourage more developers to port their games to the Mac. Also, Linux runs on lots of chips besides x86, and ARM is one of them, so Linux won't be lost as an option.

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John Savard
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Why?

I get emotional, because the ordinary Mac user is likely to have to buy new copies of some software at great expense.

More importantly, though, since you can't buy the Apple processors used in iPhones and iPads to put in your own products, these new processors, if Apple can have them made, won't further the ARM ecosystem that much.

And since their volumes are limited by the Mac market, it will be hard to justify development costs.

If they thought it was hard getting a choice of PowerPC chips to work well in laptops... this could be the prelude to the demise of Apple. Or at least of the Macintosh.

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Happy as Larry: Why Oracle won the Google Java Android case

John Savard
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Re: As usual Andrew hates Google

Here's the problem:

I could write a new operating system that is "better" than Windows in some technical sense.

But competition between operating systems isn't strictly based on the merits of the operating system itself. It's based on the choice of applications that can run on it.

So if an operating system - or a computer architecture - becomes very successful... you can't just swap out Microsoft Windows for OS X or Linux and still run all your old software. Nor can you just swap out an x86 chip for a PowerPC or a SPARC or a RISC-V chip and still run all your old software.

This is a barrier to true competition. An operating system isn't just a generic product that can be made by anyone cheaper or better. This leads to higher prices for consumers. So it is against their interests, even if it is not in any way against their "rights".

If the rules from the beginning made it clear that computer architectures and operating systems wouldn't be allowed to make themselves non-generic in this way, people would still have built computers and written operating systems, because computers are very useful devices. They would have priced them differently because there would be different options when it came to monetizing them.

And there are certain efforts that wouldn't have been invested in.

I'm not sure what the solution should be, but it is to the disadvantage of computer users that only one company makes an operating system 100% guaranteed to run all Windows programs, and only two companies make x86 processors. Changing that many not be fair to some investors, but it is in the interest of a large chunk of the public, and would spur genuinely constructive technical innovation.

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Elon Musk invents bus stop, waits for applause, internet LOLs

John Savard
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Originality

Clearly he did not just reinvent the bus stop. Bus stops don't involve large holes in the road that open up, to the detriment of illegally parked cars, and into which pedestrians might fall.

So his idea has other novel features besides increased dwell time.

However, the fact that his underground buses are not sharing the road with cars, and thus not taking up space on the roadways, is one feature that actually is a benefit, even if it seems hard to envisage how it could justify the capital cost of so much underground tunnelling. So one could eliminate the dis-advantages of his scheme by re-inventing the subway station.

Incidentally, in my home city of Edmonton, Alberta, we are adding rapid transit in the form of trains with tracks laid along existing roads, to be taken out of automotive service. This makes those roads more difficult for pedestrians to cross. But the high cost of tunnelling has forced grade separations to be kept to a minimum. This inspired me to come up with an invention to revolutionize public transportation.

Instead of digging a tunnel deep underground, just dig a wide ditch, and lay the tracks at the bottom of it. Then cover the top with metal grillwork of the sort which makes up the roadway surface of a bridge. That should be cheaper than a real tunnel. Of course, it needs storm sewers at the bottom so as not to get flooded when it rains.

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Whois? More like WHOWAS: Domain database on verge of collapse over EU privacy

John Savard
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Re: An open registry of who owns domains is important - SWAT?

But that was a tragic mistake that followed a long investigation by security forces, with a suspected terrorist living at the same address as the innocent Brazilian. It wasn't something that happened because of one hacker's phone call. So, while innocent people can die at the hands of law-enforcement authorities in Britain as well (note that these were military personnel, not London bobbies) there is a difference between the situation there and that in the United States.

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John Savard
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What's the Problem?

Why shut down the whois service? Just don't allow Europeans to register domain names, until Europe amends its laws so that ICANN can operate without fear in its usual manner. If Europeans can't meet the requirements for having a domain name, then they can't get one.

This won't deny Europeans access to the Internet, they could just set up their own alternative (and more anonymous) domain name system. People wanting to view European sites would just have to choose an alternative DNS.

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Google to 'forget me' man: Have you forgotten what you said earlier?

John Savard
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Re: RE : Let's burn all the newspaper archives...

The thing is, though, that Google is an extremely useful tool for finding all sorts of information that is in the mass of past news items, books, and so on and so forth. Making information hard to find, like it was in the old days, has an impact on people who would find that information useful.

And given the damage one dishonest or untrustworthy person in the wrong place can do - if he were to re-offend because someone hired him in ignorance due to this law... well, if the government wants to pass such a law, it should accept 100% strict liability when this happens. He steals $10 million - the government writes you a cheque, and then tries to recover the money from him. Otherwise, it shouldn't be passing such daft laws, putting risk on the shoulders of the public.

If it's a problem that criminals won't rehabilitate if it's hard for them to find jobs beyond ditch-digging if everyone knows their past... then change the laws so that you just shoot them instead of having to let them out of jail so you need to worry about that. Problem solved.

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Good news: Apple designs a notebook keyboard that doesn't suck

John Savard
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Not So Fast

I notice that the illustration of the actual key mechanism, as opposed to the debris barrier, is not of a normal scissors switch, as is often used in laptops and some Mac keyboards, but of a mechanism that doesn't seem to actually have the ability to move down when one presses the key.

No doubt that is only to avoid putting irrelevant detail in a patent on a specific item, which, incidentally, may be invalidated by a lot of prior art (such as the IBM beam spring keyboards on such things as their 3277 display station, which had quite elaborate barriers against debris) however.

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Martian microbes may just be resting – boffins

John Savard
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Re: "Just resting"

If you hadn't said it, I would have. That is what I thought of immediately...

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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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