* Posts by John Savard

1994 posts • joined 18 Sep 2007

'Occult' text from Buffy The Vampire Slayer ep actually just story about new bus lane in Dublin

John Savard Silver badge


When it comes to real-world Latin alphabet languages, if you're not going with Latin itself, Irish Gaelic is a reasonable choice. Other options include Albanian, Turkish, Basque, and Maltese. But if one really wants a spooky-looking text without going to the effort of inventing a language and its script, nothing can beat Georgian.

Techie in need of a doorstop picks up 'chunk of metal' – only to find out it's rather pricey

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Asteroid Mining

Let us hope that someday, thanks to asteroid mining and perhaps self-replicating robots, the day will come when we can all use bars of platinum... as paperweights. Rubber wedges are probably still a more optimal material to use as doorstops.

Bloke thrown in the cooler for eight years after 3D-printing gun to dodge weapon ban

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Re: @Thom H.@ Bush Rat ...But Background Checks Don't Work!

Yes, that's true. And from the viewpoint of criminals, having law-abiding honest citizens armed, instead of having to wait for police to show up, is not necessarily a good thing.

But gun laws do reduce things like officers getting shot when responding to domestic violence calls.

And a bit better enforcement of existing gun laws could well have prevented the recent shooting of five workers by a convicted felon, who illegally obtained a gun, and went on a rampage because he knew he was about to be fired.

Gun laws don't deal, though, with use of guns by real criminals, like drug traffickers. So we need a different kind of law for them. How about penalties for involvement in organized crime that make one's head spin, sufficient finally to be an effective deterrent? Plus more sensible regulation of things like wiretaps that protect the privacy of law-abiding citizens, but still allow the police to make it virtually impossible to run an organized crime racket of any kind.

Of course, you can't do it all with sticks instead of carrots. Make sure the economy is working, so almost everyone who is reasonably willing to work can get a decent job at a good living wage. (There will be a few unfortunates unable to obtain a marketable skill, who will need other kinds of assistance, of course.) That is not the case now.

Q. What's a good thing to put outside a building of spies? A: A banner saying 'here we are!'

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Re: That Huawei logo

Oh, well, in that case Huawei already knows where to find them, and the banner is scarcely doing any harm. Except to grant the People's Republic of China plausible deniability when several hundred of GCHQ's finest minds are taken out by a car bomb or something...

John Savard Silver badge


And here I thought this was a building housing Huawei's UK operations.

But even though the GCHQ has intelligence-gathering activities as part of its mandate, evaluating the trustworthiness of products sold in the UK is not "spying" in any sense of the term, it's a perfectly normal and legitimate law-enforcement and consumer-protection activity of government, even if the required expertise had to come from a "spooky" source.

One could still be concerned about the safety of the people working in the building, as they are still targets even if they're not currently engaged in spying, so this is primarily a quibble about wording.

Intel SGX 'safe' room easily trashed by white-hat hacking marauders: Enclave malware demo'd

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Advice That's Hard to Follow

Not running code from untrusted sources. Sounds like good advice.

But when I install a program on Windows, I don't get notified, when that program is a DVD player, say, that the program needs to use the SGX feature, so would I please give it permission to do so.

So how do I install programs that I trust to use the computer conventionally, but which have no need to access this feature?

Holy planetesimal formation, Batman! Ultima Thule's no snowman – it's a friggin' pancake

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I don't know. This model of the shape of Ultima Thule looks to me as if the model may have been formed from an inadequate compensation for artifacts due to the way in which images were scanned interacting with the motion of the New Horizons spacecraft as it passed it.

I'm a crime-fighter, says FamilyTreeDNA boss after being caught giving folks' DNA data to FBI

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Re: Proof of ownership?

I'm not sure that this is an issue here. If the FBI submits the DNA of an unidentified body, so as to identify it and contact relatives, it's acting legitimately on behalf of the interests of that person. If it submits DNA from a crime scene, the criminal has forefeited any right to privacy by his act.

The issue is that the people in the database are having their privacy violated, by having their DNA matched under circumstances different from what they expected - by long-lost relatives looking for them. And so the fact that the FBI is getting the same information as a regular customer is relevant even if not decisive.

While US fires criminal charges at Huawei, UK tells legislators not to worry, everything's fine

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Given that China is a dictatorship, without a free press, without a civil society - in fact, it is totalitarian, since the only churches allowed to operate are ones run by the government, and any other kind of organization is also under direct government control - being spied on by American and other equipment may be likely, but it's not more likely. China is even more to be distrusted - by an order of magnitude.

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Barn Doors and Horses

"so far there is notably little in the way of hard proof that Chinese network equipment contains actual backdoors or other features intended for espionage or theft of trade secrets."

While this is certainly true, it doesn't seem to be a good guide to action. Instead, it pretty much guarantees that the barn door will only be locked after the horse is gone. Instead, what is needed is hard proof that any network equipment used does not contain backdoors. Including equipment made in China, but with the name of an American company on the box - and, for that matter, any equipment manufactured by any company in any country.

Apple: You can't sue us for slowing down your iPhones because you, er, invited us into, uh, your home... we can explain

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The Correct Consumer Response

Not only should any sane smartphone user refuse to buy any iPhone, they should also refuse to buy any smartphone with Android that doesn't have removable and replaceable batteries.

Unfortunately, while low-end smartphones still have replaceable batteries, the high-end ones, that cost more, which people would really like to keep for a few years before replacing, almost all have soldered-in batteries these days. So consumers don't have a choice.

One company has a phone with a battery of the non-replaceable type, but allows consumers to buy a battery replacement kit so they can be their own service technician. Nice try, but that is not the solution I had in mind.

Six Flags fingerprinted my son without consent, says mom. Y'know, this biometric case has teeth, say state supremes...

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Very Strange

I would have thought that the commercial health of the State of Illinois would not be particularly imperilled by companies knowing that, if you want to use fingerprints on a season pass to an amusement park, then you will have to get a parent's or guardian's consent before selling such a pass to a minor. It's not hard to follow the law, and that's what laws are there for. To be obeyed.

That companies ought to be able to plea "Oh, gee, we forgot" in order for a state to be business-friendly is, on the face of it, a preposterous claim that should receive the ridicule it deserves.

Unfortunately, whatever Illinois does, it looks like instead most other states are taking the complaints of some corporations about this very seriously indeed.

Oracle robbed just about anyone who wasn't a pasty white male of $400m, says Uncle Sam

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While such hiring practices are obviously a temptation to the entire industry, I would have thought most companies pay a bit more attention to potential legal consequences.

Of course, outsourcing as much software development as possible to India, on the other hand, is perfectly legal. That's an area where free-market decision making would still rule. But if one wishes to do elements of software development in-house, for better control and security, one does have to pay the price of doing it legally.

Core blimey... When is an AMD CPU core not a CPU core? It's now up to a jury of 12 to decide

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Another Factor

Although the floating-point unit was shared between two Bulldozer cores, it was a vector floating-point unit.

Both cores could be simultaneously doing something with a single floating-point number just fine, each one using half of the shared core. It was only when they were using the specialized vector instructions for full-width vectors (the earlier half-width vector instructions would also not conflict) that a conflict would arise.

And, of course, historically, most computers that had hardware floating-point just had instructions that worked on one number at a time. Even MMX only allowed vectors of integers when it first came out, not vectors of floating-point numbers.

Brit hacker hired by Liberian telco to nobble rival now behind bars

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Re: Others to Be Found

I did a search. Apparently one rogue employee at Cellcom had hired him. During the time when this was happening, Cellcom got bought out by a reputable European company, Orange.

Whether this rogue employee faced any consequences yet, though, I haven't found out.

But the rival telecom that was the intended victim has launched a civil suit against Cellcom - and this suit was launched in UK courts, not Liberian ones.

John Savard Silver badge

Others to Be Found

Have the Liberian authorities brought those in Cellcom who decided to hire him for this purpose to justice?

That's the first question that was on my mind as I read this article.

Hubble 'scope camera breaks down amid US govt shutdown, forcing boffins to fix it for free

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But your article isn't neutral and objective!

Yes, the government shutdown is hampering efforts to get the Wide Field Camera operational again.

But whether that shutdown is the fault of Donald Trump being obstinate, or the House Democrats being obstinate depends on whether the border wall with Mexico is a good idea or not. That is a controversial political question, so taking sides on it surely has no place in a site devoted to technical news.

Nobody in China wants Apple's eye-wateringly priced iPhones, sighs CEO Tim Cook

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I vaguely remembered a news item about some high-priced foreign product which was selling well in China to the very rich as a status symbol, but then the government put it out that buying this product was unpatriotic, and sales tanked because nobody wanted to be seen with it.

I don't, however, remember what the product in question was. Apparently it must not have been Apple, since that's not being cited here.

EDIT: Ah. I remembered another detail, which let me look it up. Turns out the company in question was Dolce & Gabbana, and it wasn't just the Chinese government, they had somewhat put their own foot in it as well.

Dutch boyband hopes to reverse Brexit through the power of music

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But there is so much else.

The Beatles.


The English language.

The law of universal gravitation.

The steam engine (since Scotland is part of Britain too).

Even Doctor Who, which is watched by some people outside of Britain.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

The Rolling Stones.

Petula Clark.

I think that several of these top Benny Hill!

John Savard Silver badge

Well, yes.

Breaking Up Is Hard to Do.


Abscheidnehmen ist so schwer.

Moi je pense encore à toi.

Lyckliga att ha varan.

Nálada je výborná.

Qué triste es el primer adiós.

John Savard Silver badge

The Right Kind of Exit

Many people in France are dubious about the European Union, for the same reason as Britain: policies that require them to accept too many refugees, leading to social problems or the potential for social problems.

Thus, instead of Britain using an exit process that fairly obviously would lead to the situation we now have, because Britain didn't have enough bargaining power to get a good deal, if Britain and France had united to exit the EU together, this could have led to what would have made every nation equal: a return to the days of a European Common Market without a European Union.

German cybersecurity chief: Anyone have any evidence of Huawei naughtiness?

John Savard Silver badge

Evidence? You want evidence?

There is no serious evidence that Huawei presents a threat?

Huawei is physically located in the People's Republic of China. This country doesn't have an independent free press, free elections, and so on and so forth. Thus, being physically located in the People's Republic of China at the present time is evidence of a threat the same way being physically located in Germany during the 1933-1945 period is evidence of a threat. In both cases, the Government may do pretty much anything it likes, and demand anything it wants, from individuals on its territory.

It's too late to close the barn door after the horse has left. One must eleminate all potential threats of a compromise to vital networks and systems. Of course, cell phones and communications equipment from Chinese-branded companies are not the only threat.

Instead, anything (of a computerized nature) manufactured in mainland China, or containing any components from mainland China, is suspect. Which means every brand of cell phone, just about every consumer desktop or laptop that I've heard of. So from now on, we need to get our computer kit manufactured in places like Malaysia and Indonesia if we want relatively low costs. South Korea or Taiwan would be the next tier. Who knows, they might actually start making things in Japan or the United States again.

On the first day of Christmas, MIPS sent to me: An open-source-ish alternative to RISC-V

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Chinese Designs

Some homegrown Chinese chips used the MIPS instruction set without a license, and thus couldn't be excported until a company with a license started handling them. This change might be useful there. Next would be the Alpha...

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

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Re: No sympathy whatsoever.

That sort of thing costs extra. And there's no good reason why computer systems shouldn't just work, forever, perfectly. Like the Sun keeps shining each morning. After all, the underlying physical circuitry doing the computations is highly reliable. All that's required is that the software be written correctly, once, the first time.

Now, hard drives have moving parts, though, so one does have to allow for them failing. Trouble is that vendors have failed to offer an inexpensive, easy, and convenient method of backup. This is why desktop computers don't routinely come with tape drives for which the tapes have a capacity even close to a terabyte so you could do a complete backup to a handful of them.

John Savard Silver badge


Well, this shows that making the operation of software dependent on certificates that can expire is a bad idea, as it creates an additional point of failure.

I suppose, though, that these software certificates are needed for some security purpose, as there is an opportunity to introduce unauthorized software to the systems in question.

It's official. Microsoft pushes Google over the Edge, shifts browser to Chromium engine

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Does this mean that Chromium is on a BSD license instead of a GNU license? Or is Microsoft paying money to Alphabet to get a commercial license?

Peak tech! Bacon vending machine signals apex of human invention

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Learned Something New

I thought you guys in the UK had to import your bacon from Denmark! I remember buying some Danish bacon that was available in Canada, and found it just as good or maybe even slightly better than our own product, so if UK bacon is as good as that, it probably stacks up to American bacon as well.

Wow, what a lovely early Christmas present for Australians: A crypto-busting super-snoop law passes just in time

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I can only guess that the Labor Party leadership was simply terrified that a terrorist attack might happen in Australia over the Christmas holidays.

Since there is obviously a minority government, or what the opposition Labor Party liked wouldn't have mattered, perhaps when Parliament comes back into session they could just table a bill to repeal this whole mess if amendments aren't forthcoming.

Former headteacher fined £700 after dumping old pupil data on server at new school

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Why on Earth would he risk detection by placing data on the server of a school concerning students who are not at that school?

One would have expected him to do any processing on that data he felt he needed to do for "professional reasons" on his computer at home.

Intel eggheads put bits in a spin to try to revive Moore's law

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Followed the link in the article:

"MESO uses a multiferroic material that's both magnetic (like a common permanent magnet, the atoms are aligned) and ferromagnetic,"

isn't quite correct. The reason that a change in the electric field can change the magnetic dipole moment is because the material is both magnetic... and ferroelectric.

John Savard Silver badge

Other Good Consequences

Even if Moore's Law coming to an end doesn't lead to ingenious new architectural ideas, it will have the result that computers won't become obsolete every few years. This would make it easier to justify spending the money on getting a good one.

Or one possible result might be computers that could be upgraded incrementally by adding more CPUs. So you start with one 8-core CPU, then you put in another one, then you get two and add them, and you've got 32 cores to do your bidding.

IBM's Ginni Rometty snipes, er, someone for being irresponsible with data, haven't a clue who

John Savard Silver badge


Of course this was all in fun, but given what we often read here and on other tech sites, I think it could be fairly supposed that Facebook and perhaps even Google were among the companies she was thinking of. Although Google's record with personal data isn't all that bad.

Some posts here have noted that if people urgently try to get the government to Do Something about this, the cure may be worse than the disease. True, but if these companies don't clean up their act, how will that be avoided?

Of course, I've chosen not to use Facebook, even though I may be misunderstanding the media coverage, and perhaps its little slip-ups aren't of a sort that would affect me very much.

China doesn't need to nick western tech when Google is giving it away

John Savard Silver badge


Android is, to some extent, a modified version of Linux.

Google may have given away platform access to China, so that their own companies could make and export Android phones, instead of simply being a supplier to Apple for its iPhone.

But it didn't give away technology to China; China''s supercomputers aren't better able to design thermonuclear warheads for the Chinese military because of secrets learned from Android that you wouldn't find in Linux or BSD.

Maybe that statement uses an excessively narrow definition of "technology" (some code in Android actually does something, as opposed to defining an API, so there is the technology of just-in-time compilation which Android may exemplify particularly well), but I think that the article, as it stands, is not in a condition to convince many people of the point it is making.

Tech sector unites in attempt to avoid Oz's anti-crypto push, again

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Re: Insufficient Background

If Wikipedia is to be believed, the government is a coalition of three parties, with 74 seats; Labour, the opposition party, has 69... but there are also another 7 seats held by "cross-bench" parties; so the government is outnumbered 74 to 76, so as long as both Labour and the other parties that have not declared themselves as with or against the government all resolutely oppose this bill, it will not pass.

I'm not sure how likely that is; I can hardly see the Greens voting for it, but that's only one seat accounted for.

John Savard Silver badge

Insufficient Background

Not being an Australian myself, I'm not immersed in their politics. So I don't know the most basic fact to determine whether or not this bill is likely to be made into law: is Australia currently under a minority government or not?

Bloke fined £460 after his drone screwed up police chopper search for missing woman

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The story doesn't say whether the missing woman, despite this, was eventually found, and found alive. That makes a difference as to whether the charges reported here are appropriate, or he should have faced vastly more severe charges instead.

John McAfee is 'liable' for 2012 death of Belize neighbour, rules court

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Re: Extradiction unlikely

This is true, but the circumstances recounted by the article do indicate very strong grounds for suspicion that McAfee had an involvement in the death of his neighbor of such a nature as to warrant criminal charges. So why hadn't he been extradited back to Belize back then, to be charged with murder and held without bail until his trial?

Data-nicking UK car repairman jailed six months instead of copping a fine

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Given the harm caused to customers here, it should not have been necessary to depend on a fortuitous circumstance that permitted charges under the Computer Misuse Act to impose jail time. So the Data Protection Act urgently needs to be amended to provide for prison terms and criminal conviction as well.

France: Let's make the internet safer. America, Russia, China: Let's go with 'no' on that

John Savard Silver badge


Your headline is so unfair! Russia and China are going with no on making the Internet safer. America is going with no on not making the Internet safer, but saying we did.

Windows XP? Pfff! Parts of the Royal Navy are running Win ME

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One Benefit

That's one way to protect your systems from Sasser and Blaster! And no doubt before this article was published, they enjoyed a great deal of "security by obscurity". But now that this vital national secret has been spilled by The Register, obviously they'll have to switch operating systems. OS/2, anyone?

Has science gone too far? Now boffins dream of shining gigantic laser pointer into space to get aliens' attention

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Re: Giant laser attached to a telescope blasting into space...

Do you mean me? I lived in Canada, and I watched it, at least when it aired on premium cable.

The PCIe bus is coming, and everybody's jumping... New York to San Francisco, an NVMe disco

John Savard Silver badge


I was wondering if anyone else would have guessed the source of that headline.

Tiny Twitter thumbnail tweaked to transport different file types

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Invalid Zip?

In Windows, renaming it to .zip at the end doesn't work - at least not for Windows itself. 7Zip, though, will process the zip file, with two warnings: the data is offset, and there is extra data after the end of it.

Yahoo! $50m! hack! damages! bill!, Russian trolls menaced by Uncle Sam inaction, computer voting-machine UI confusion, and more

John Savard Silver badge

Re: Russian front

It's not a fantasy that in Russia today opponents of Putin are subjected to various forms of repression, and it's not a fantasy that Russia committed armed aggression against Georgia and the Ukraine. That the United States, what with Trump as President, is not what it used to be is just another addition to our worries.

Memo to Microsoft: Windows 10 is broken, and the fixes can't wait

John Savard Silver badge

Re: Broken, yes... and not fixable.

To be fair, the design of CP/M was also ripped off - from the PDP-8 operating system OS/8. The fact that the Copy command was called PIP (Peripheral Interchange Program) is the smoking gun.

SQLite creator crucified after code of conduct warns devs to love God, and not kill, commit adultery, steal, curse...

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Not Open Contribution

If SQLite is written by a group of friends who are not seeking other developers to share their load, then indeed one can't complain that what has happened violates other people's rights. Also, the article did note that they're willing to make exceptions for people who feel uncomfortable with parts of the code of conduct.

None the less, I think it's entirely legitimate to react to this as a joke in extremely poor taste.

If one removes the rules in that list that are explicitly religious in nature, or which are appropriate to members of a monastic order, there would not be all that much left.

However, that being said, I would have no objection to a Benedictine monastery releasing open-source software. The shock is largely at unexpectedly finding something that one would have expected to be a secular institution adopting non-pluralistic values.

Does Google make hardware just so nobody buys it?

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Re: "V-Moda Forza Metallo"

It's not quite that bad. After all, Poul Anderson was able to write "Uncleftish Beholding".

Mozilla grants distrusted Symantec certs a stay of execution, claims many sites yet to make switch

John Savard Silver badge

Bad Decision

Obviously those sites will switch quicker once nobody can visit them.

However, I have noticed in Firefox that now sometimes when I visit a site with a bad certificate, I can't just click on a button and see the site anyways. If they hadn't changed that, there would be no issue, and they could distrust the certificates right away without causing a negative impact on users who are blocked from sites they need to access that are not infected, just out of date.

Oh no, Xi didn't! Chinese spymaster cuffed in Belgium, yoinked to US on aerospace snoop rap

John Savard Silver badge


Surely he was nabbed by Belgian police, not the FBI. An FBI agent in Belgium is also known as a "tourist". Although I suppose a visiting FBI agent working with the Belgian police could indeed be officially deputized by them.

UK space comes to an 'understanding' with Australia as Brexit looms

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Re: RE: Mooseman

Well, unfortunately, the way things are now, if Britain leaves the European Union, it will also be thrown out of the Common Market. British voters were promised that this wouldn't happen when they voted in the referendum. How is it democratic to deceive voters and then tell them they're stuck?

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