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Comment: Re:Legal expectation of objective privacy (Score 1) 133

Of course there can be no reasonable expectation that if you step outside your home then someone walking past won't see you, any more than they have a reasonable expectation that you would not see them.

However, technology lets us do a lot more than we naturally can, sometimes in very asymmetric ways, and potentially with very different implications. Saying we can't/shouldn't consider how much we want to regulate behaviour using those technologies is a bit like saying someone could climb up a ladder and peer through a small gap in the curtains at your daughter's bedroom window but we shouldn't do anything about it in law and your kid has no reasonable expectation of privacy when she gets changed at night. I think most reasonable people would disagree with that premise and think a law saying peeping Toms are unwelcome was appropriate.

So this is a chicken and egg situation. As a matter of fact, the law today may not provide for as much privacy protection as people like me would like it to, but saying that the law shouldn't provide those protections because today it doesn't so you have no reasonable expectation of protection is a circular argument.

Comment: Re:Put away the tinfoil hat and turn your radio of (Score 1) 133

Worrying about this does seem a bit silly, given that it's trivially avoided by turning off WiFi and that by flying you're already participating in one of the most surveilled activities anywhere on the planet. I mean, this is a field where for some reason a lot of people just accept behaviour like strip searches (of the virtual and/or physical variety) and/or pat downs that would get the patter classified as a sex offender under normal conditions and/or pretty much arbitrary confiscation and examination of any property they're carrying with them, not to mention all the pre-travel details you have to provide for checking against who-knows-what databases.

However, the argument that when you're out in public you don't deserve any privacy needs to die. The law in most places may not have kept up with technology and its implications, but this argument is about as sensible as "if you have nothing to hide then you have nothing to fear".

Arguing that the historical privacy situation (if you're out in public, someone you walk past can see you) is like today's privacy situation (you're monitored by numerous cameras and sensors, using unknown automated recognition technologies, connected to unknown databases for future reference by unknown parties for unknown purposes) is a bit like arguing that the historical situation with carrying weapons (if the other guy has a sword in a dodgy area, letting you carry one yourself as well is reasonable) is like today's (where if you replace "sword" with "dirty bomb" then the results are on a rather different scale when someone abuses the system).

Comment: Re:Not inherently unreasonable (Score 1) 137

It's like software patent. Just add "with a computer" at the end and you get a new patent.

No, you don't. This has never been the case in most places. Even under the questionable patent system in the US, the recent trend has been away from allowing patents for that kind of "invention".

Comment: Re:Here we go again (Score 4, Insightful) 137

Nobody has an issue with jailing people for life if they've intruded upon a secure network with the intent to cause damage or inconvenience

Um... Sorry, but I for one have a big problem with that.

Leaving aside legitimate questions about the role of incarceration and its effectiveness as a deterrent and/or for rehabilitation of offenders, a life sentence is the kind of thing you hand down for premeditated murder, deliberately taking the life of another human being.

It is absurd to suggest that the same sanction should apply to someone who merely hacks some corporation's network and messes with the office printer in an irritating but otherwise harmless protest against some corporate policy. Such a law would imply that physically harmless hacking of some corporate or government entity is many times worse than rape, killing someone accidentally through dangerous driving, defrauding an individual of their life savings, and numerous other very personal and very damaging crimes.

Comment: Re:Not inherently unreasonable (Score 2) 137

If you attack an industrial system at a utility and make a bunch of people sick or die, even if it was "unintentional" you should get life.

If you attack an industrial system and people get sick or die as a result then there are already plenty of laws to punish you, up to and including the likes of manslaughter and murder. There is nothing special about doing so via computer and no additional laws are required, nor is any "zero tolerance" style life sentence just because computers were involved a useful addition to the statute books.

Even if you're an aspie with boundless curiosity, there has to be a consequence for breaking into sensitive systems and inflicting real, measurable harm to the public.

And there would be -- if, in the judgement of a competent court, there was in fact real, measurable harm caused to the public. But this proposal as reported seems to be full of words like "deemed to cause" (by whom?) or "significant risk of" (measured how?).

Comment: Re:Boycott ASDA (Score 1) 151

Asda, Morrison, Tesco and Sainsbury are all pretty similar in terms of quality and price, whatever people try and pretend.

We have mostly Tesco and Sainsbury's around here, and my experience has been quite different. They are aiming for similar markets, but their quality for own-brand goods, the kind of name-brand goods they sell, and their prices all fluctuate significantly over time. Right now, Tesco is clearly winning on all three counts for most of what we buy for my household. As little as 2-3 years ago, it was the other way around.

Comment: Re:UK article, US units (Score 1) 151

Milk is typically sold in litres in supermarkets, usually 500ml or 1 or 2 litre bottles.

Not really. You might see the litre-based equivalent volume printed somewhere on the label, but every supermarket I know sells milk in 1/2/4/6 pint bottles, including at least one store for most of the big name chains.

Source: I just looked in my fridge. :-)

Comment: Re:not until (Score 1) 151

At the moment, I believe that Sterling is in a safer position than the Euro as the Euro has problems with some of the countries having financial difficulties (e.g. Greece).

Yes, one of the most important things about choosing a currency is who else uses it.

In purely economic terms -- that is, ignoring politics and other factors -- it might make sense for the UK to share a currency with, say, Germany or the USA. These are all first world countries with well developed and reasonably stable economies.

However, it makes little sense for the UK to share a currency with somewhere that has very different economic conditions. In this case, what happens in the nation with the weaker economy will inevitably and adversely affect what happens in the nation with the stronger economy.

This is why, for example, the Germans took a hit they didn't deserve during the Euro problems of recent years. It's also why you'll see pigs flying past your window before you see the UK joining the Euro with the kind of variation we have across the EU today.

Comment: Re:Class action? How about criminal offence? (Score 1) 631

by Anonymous Brave Guy (#48207389) Attached to: FTDI Reportedly Bricking Devices Using Competitors' Chips.

Of course they are perfectly entitled to offer such a defence, and if they've got sufficient evidence to create reasonable doubt about their guilt then they should be acquitted by the court like anyone else.

Somehow I suspect that if this ever gets to a court, that will not be the case, however. If the reports of what's happening here are anything close to accurate, it seems that a significant amount of code has been written specifically to determine whether a component is a genuine FTDI one or someone else's, that the new driver is actively doing something that impairs the operation of only one of those types, and that anyone with the slightest experience programming in this context would readily know these things.

It would take an impressive lawyer to overcome those (presumed) facts, and it would probably be quite difficult to cover up the entire development process and related documentation to make this look like an accidental side effect if it was actually a deliberate decision.

Comment: Re:They are playing with fire (Score 2, Interesting) 631

by Anonymous Brave Guy (#48206267) Attached to: FTDI Reportedly Bricking Devices Using Competitors' Chips.

Their EULA could say that if you use their software with something other than a genuine FTDI component they may send a hit man round, but I doubt that would stand up too well in court either. If they think they're going to get away with deliberately breaking someone's gear because of some weasel words in the EULA, they need better lawyers. Or they needed better lawyers, I should say, because if the reporting of what's going on is accurate then by this point I suspect they're already in serious trouble even if they don't realise it yet.

Comment: Class action? How about criminal offence? (Score 1, Flamebait) 631

by Anonymous Brave Guy (#48205929) Attached to: FTDI Reportedly Bricking Devices Using Competitors' Chips.

Never mind your feeble class action lawsuit. Let their executives or other staff responsible travel to a country where unauthorized computer access causing this kind of damage is a criminal offence!

Then let them stand up in court and argue with a straight face that the user of a device that without the user's knowledge contained an alleged counterfeit component had authorised them to install software that was actively designed to impair the use of that device.

Comment: Re: I don't follow (Score 3, Insightful) 369

by Anonymous Brave Guy (#48180955) Attached to: Apple Doesn't Design For Yesterday

It's general knowledge in typography that Helvetica is the most legible typeface.

That is very much convention wisdom, yes.

It really isn't. Helvetica is actually a relatively awkward typeface to work with, particularly for body text. Its default tracking/kerning are tight for extended reading, its glyphs have quite inconsistent width fittings, and it has various problems with similar-looking glyphs that are easily mistaken for one another, which also makes it a less than ideal choice for user interfaces. Don't mistake popularity or endurance for quality.

Comment: HR idealism vs. the real world (Score 1) 148

by Anonymous Brave Guy (#48175495) Attached to: Cisco Exec: Turnover In Engineering No Problem

Lest somebody misunderstand, the very essence of an enterprise (any enterprise) is that it is a bundle of labour and capital whose essential structure and identity is independent of and more persistent than the labour it employs.

That's a horrible oversimplification, but let's take it as read for the purposes of this discussion.

It is for this reason that any contemporary HR policy is aimed at (and this is important) divorcing the work from specific individuals.
What this means is that all and any employees must (and this is essential) be plug-replaceable as a matter of policy.

Unfortunately, if you adopt that policy, you have immediately and severely restricted your ability both to hire and retain the most effective staff and to build the most productive teams.

It is obvious that HR would love for employees to be plug-replaceable in such a way, and it is obvious why. However, the reality is that in a creative industry, and particularly in one related to technology, no two employees offer exactly the same potential contributions. If as a matter of policy you won't hire or depend on anyone with unique contributions to offer, then almost by definition you're only going to have staff with typical combinations of widely available skills and no special experience or unique insights to draw upon.

However, given that the creative component of technology companies is often where much of their value comes from, a business that can't or won't hire the most creative people is always at risk of a competitor disrupting their business model with a new product, service, distribution model...

Moreover, technology can be a dramatic effectiveness multiplier. A single smart, creative person using the best technologies can sometimes outperform an entire team of mediocre people with average technologies. More importantly, in scalable fields like software and on-line services, a relatively small team of smart, creative people with complementary skill sets and the best technologies has the potential compete with a much larger organisation on raw effectiveness, before you even consider the overheads that the larger organisation must bear.

Finally, one of the major factors in maintaining productivity and developing existing technological assets and IP is keeping sufficient knowledge and expertise available within the development team. That can be done through good documentation, tools, processes and so on, but in reality this very rarely happens and word-of-mouth advice is a far more efficient and effective way to pass information around. Of course, if you treat everyone as replaceable you not only forego that most efficient mechanism but also incur the very substantial overheads of trying to use other documentation and tools to compensate. In short, high turnover is an efficiency killer in technical teams where shared knowledge is a vital asset.

If you think all of this is nonsense, you might consider that this is a discussion about Cisco, whose main business model is currently facing an existential threat from modern technologies like SDN. I'm guessing you're a business studies or MBA student, so you might like to consider the commercial relationships between Cisco and the likes of Amazon, Facebook and Google as a case study for what can happen. Cisco's recurring model of spinning out and later buying up side companies to do the R&D for innovative technologies would also make an interesting case study.

"Irrationality is the square root of all evil" -- Douglas Hofstadter