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Comment: Not only e-commerce sites (Score 1) 162

by andrewbaldwin (#46462543) Attached to: Top E-commerce Sites Fail To Protect Users From Stupid Passwords

I went into my bank recently and got the hard sell about switching to internet banking.

This is something I've resisted, but I was told it was "quite safe" and "millions of people do it".

They had a so-called free cash-back offer on the debit card. I looked at the sign-up process and was told by the counter staff it needed a password of 6-8 characters - case insensitive and letters/numbers only.

For some reason they were surprised when I informed them that this was incredibly weak password scheme and that I wanted nothing to do with it.

Needless to say, I'm still refusing to sign up for any internet based banking and automated money transfers.

Comment: Re:Really??? (Score 2) 266

by andrewbaldwin (#45905905) Attached to: UK Benefits System In Deeper Trouble?

"People should have to work....." many of them DO.

A large proportion (possibly the majority - I don't have the stats to hand -- of those claiming benefits are in work but in low paid jobs.

Someone on minimum wage (or just over) cannot afford to live in large parts of the country. I know of a head chef who works 60 - 70 hours a week yet has no prospect of affording to rent [let alone buy] a small flat where I live -- and that even without food, heating, lighting..... Before we get the "free market will fix this, go and live elsewhere" arguments, without people doing jobs such as cleaning, catering... society would collapse.

Effectively the benefits system is subsidising those employers who pay low wages. However this argument is drowned out in the "reckless, lazy wilfully unemployed" messages put out (especially by some newspapers who could give lessons in propaganda techniques).

Comment: Re:One answer (Score 1) 171

by andrewbaldwin (#45885781) Attached to: TorrentFreak Blocked By British ISP Sky's Porn Filter

The politicians would probably not care.

Voter apathy is at an all time high in the UK. This can be read in many ways ('they are all the same', 'a pox on both your houses', 'they only care about getting re-elected and their cronies - not about us'...) but the net result of a lack of political party output would probably be welcomed by all sides:

  1. for the people at large, it's a pause from hearing someone spouting forth about how they'll promise a wonderful future [right up until 24 hours after the results are declared when promises spontaneously evaporate]
  2. for the politicians, less kept on public accessible records the better - they can then bury history and past broken promises [as the Tories did in taking their past web history off-line recently] - al less well informed populace is easier to bamboozle and less likely to think critically
  3. for the news media [who are pushing for this -- those most vocal are also those who delight in publishing the very stuff they'd like to see banned] it's less competition for eyeballs

If this seems cynical - it probably is: there is precious little to choose between the parties nowadays. After the expenses scandal (thankfully we don't have quite the scale of campaign contribution corruption over here [yet]) politicians in general are not highly regarded by many and a period of quiet while some other group gets bad publicity would be welcomed by them -- is this the hidden agenda behind this? ;-)

Comment: Re:Awesome (Score 1) 295

by andrewbaldwin (#45876623) Attached to: CES: Laser Headlights Edge Closer To Real-World Highways

I know I'm never likely to do it but as a thought experiment...

Install a small photocell linked to a servo motor (via an Arduino/Raspberry Pi if you want to get into fine tuning).

Have the servo flip a mirror (nothing fancy, just plain glass -- could be coloured red for the rear facing one) which is sited by the windscreen and back window. Think of a SLR camera mechanism but larger.

Then when the antisocial idiot doesn't dip head lights (oncoming) or tailgates on full beam (behind) the mirror would flip up and give 'instant feedback' * allowing them to modify their behaviour.

The simpler implementation of a hinge on the dash/parcel shelf plus mirror plus piece of string to pull would be too obvious if stopped by police or your vehicle was examined after an accident.

* OK I know it's not truly instant, but close enough when considering human perception/reaction times

Comment: Re:sensationalism (Score 1) 212

by andrewbaldwin (#45330397) Attached to: Tesco To Use Face Detection Technology For In-Store Advertising

There is a huge gap between being identified as "Joe Klovance" and "middle aged white male"... yes ... right up until they tie in the date/time on the video with the swiping of your loyalty and/or credit card at the till. And glasses, masks... won't be much help there.

Besides which, isn't it a bit presumptious, not to say patronising, to think that all people of a given age/gender/ethnicity will like a specific set of products? If we were that predictable why bother with adverts in the first place? -- just give the checkout staff an upsell cheatsheet.

Comment: Re:Ah, the scratch... (Score 1) 231

by andrewbaldwin (#44249351) Attached to: Data Storage That Could Outlast the Human Race

The points you raise are absolutely correct. When I first read about it [wish I could remember where], it was very much a Gedankenexperiment and was quoted in the form of a very long metal bar in deep space (so no oxidation, constant temperature...) with the sum of human knowledge in one scratch

Even so, as X becomes larger, the scratch gets closer and closer to the end, so that the loss or movement of individual atoms would significantly alter the value.

Actually measuring it, without introducing energy (and thus heat, and thus expansion and/or evaporation effects) is left as an exercise for the reader.

Knowing how to decode the bit string is yet another puzzle.

The transposition to rocks (and consequent introduction of further real-life error sources) was entirely my own fault ;-)

Comment: Re:Storing bits and ways to read them (Score 1) 231

by andrewbaldwin (#44248129) Attached to: Data Storage That Could Outlast the Human Race

I cannot recall where I read about this approach so apologies to the originator for not granting credit where it is due.

A long piece of rock (or other material) can be used to encode a huge amount of data with just one mark.

You need a long flat rock and the means of measuring length very accurately. **

First, encode data as a string of bits.
Then take that enormous binary string and treat it as a really big number X and put the mark to divide the length of the rock into the ratio 1:X

The accuracy limits will be governed by the size of the rock, thermal and other causes for expansion/contraction and deformation and (depending on how accurately you make the cut / how much compression you want to achieve) quantum effects on the fine grained positioning.

Multiple marks on the same rock provide extra "layers" of recording.

Just imagine - the whole of Slashdot's debates reduced to a single scratch ;-)

** Actually you need a means of defining what you mean by length first - take into account surface irregularities... [cf lengths of coastlines - thanks Mandelbrot!!]

Comment: Re:How about... (Score 1) 307

by andrewbaldwin (#43803055) Attached to: Terrorist Murder In London Could Revive Snooper's Charter

That only works if you have people who care about living. Some of these attacks are by those who seek to become 'martyrs'. Indeed reports stated that the attackers ran to the police armed response unit brandishing weapons alnd almost wanting to be shot.

I'm glad to live in a civilised society without guns and the risk of injuries from crossfire. At least here we don't have over 80 deaths per day from guns -- even scaling for relative population size the death toll is a high price to pay for "freedom" to carry devices with no use other than to inflict suffering and death.

Comment: Re:Anything that states it has to be free? (Score 5, Insightful) 351

The annoying entitled freeloaders are simply asking for what they are entitled to under local laws.

If Google (or anyone else) doesn't like it they're free to stop doing business in that locality; it is their choice to weigh up the benefits and costs of operating there but if they do choose to do so then they must abide by local laws.

Are you saying to take into account the costs is not a valid thought process?

I suspect that a company as big and successful as Google is well aware of the costs of doing business and, as they are continuing to operate there, have assessed them as being worth bearing.

In a nutshell, if you work in country X you must obey the laws there - no matter how big or self important you see yourself; the cultural imperialism of your home country's attitudes to laws and business are quite frankly irrelevant. If I set up a business in the US deliberately flouting the laws (e.g. selling Cuban cigars) I'd expect to get some trouble from the law, even if my main offices were located in a separate country.

Comment: Re:Dirk Gently! Yeah! (Score 1) 104

by andrewbaldwin (#43142993) Attached to: Google Doodle Celebrates Birthday of Douglas Adams

There was a version of Dirk Gently made for BBC quite recently - followed up by a series 'inspired by' the books. As stand alone items they were (in my view) pretty good and worth watching, but not at all faithful to the original text. The radio drama series (on BBC Radio 4) was much closer to the originals.

As for Stainless Steel Rat -- totally agree and way overdue !! (Bill the Galactic Hero would be good as well)

Comment: Re:University of Nix (Score 2) 246

I recall a story going round my employer in the early 90s that someone had turned up for an interview claiming all sorts of expertise and detailed knowledge of UN-Nine.

The HR interviewer was clearly intending to hire - fortunately the technical interview came afterwards.

It all sounded impressive until the penny dropped and it was clear they thought UNIX came after UNVIII