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Comment: Re:Moats are still a good idea (Score 4, Insightful) 175


I can think of a few modern large buildings in the UK with linked duck ponds with ducks, water lillies, fountains etc. in landscaped grounds. They look attractive and it's only when you stop and really look you realise their main functionis a moden day moat.

Indeed apart from protection, the visual amenity is worthwhile (relatively low cost to provide a place to feast your eyes at lunchtime) and they also offer the potential for a heat sink for cooling.

Just make sure you keep a view on expenses though (see parliamentary expenses scandal a few years back - Douglas Hogg claiming moat cleaning on his family's ancestral home or Peter Viggers claiming for a duck house)

Comment: Re:Government should be a coordinator, not the ham (Score 1) 67

by andrewbaldwin (#49250099) Attached to: Obama Administration Wants More Legal Power To Disrupt Botnets

Oh great!

This would open the door to even more unsolicited calls from "Microsoft Windows" telling you that you have a problem and offering to supply a fix. Just a minor change to the script 'virus' now becomes 'botnet' and away they go again

This scam is gradually dying off (in the UK at least -- I almost mis the opportunity to prolong the conversation and annoy the scammers) but I can well foresee it wakening up gain if ISPs were charged with telling their customers that they have a problem.

It's a nice idea in principle but there are so many potential issues with it (botnet activity on a NAT'd IP condemning multiple users, IP address changing and need to keep up with who is blocked and how/whether to carry the block on next connection ....).

Comment: Re:RTFA (Score 1) 282

You don't understand our voting system.

Basically we haven't had a ruling government that's had a majority vote for years (not in my lifetime at least). MPs [are supposed to] represent constituencies which are drawn up to be roughly equal in population. What happens is that each party, when in power, 'corrects for population shifts' and re-draws boundaries to concentrate supporters into a few areas and spread the opposition over multiple areas.

This is why 'minority' parties can get a sizeable chunk of the vote but few (if any) seats in parliament - their support is diluted across wide areas.

The net effect is that the outcome is largely governed by a few marginal constiuencies (wher the balance is closer) who have a disproportionate effect on the outcome. A majority of just 1 vote in these places will (under first past the post system) make a huge difference; where I live, they gould put up a gorilla for election and it would win if it had the right coloured rosette!!

This benefits the two main parties who thus have no interest in electoral reform or proportional representation.

Couple this with the fact that you have to vote for a person 9effectively a party) rather than an issue, and that all the parties are converging so there's little to differentiate them, it's no wonder voter apathy has kicked in and turnouts are low.

So, no, please don't blame all of us for the actions of a few.

Comment: Re:How common is burglary in Britain? (Score 1) 282

Crime rates are falling here too.

I'm not making any accusations or implications here but consider:

  1. There's an election coming up. Both main and most of the other partie know that being 'tough on crime' sells well to the public
  2. The two sources are both right wing biased publications.
    I hesitate to call the Daily Mail a newspaper - that would be dignifying it. It has the aim of at least one story to make people scared and/or angry every day. It wouldn't hesitate in calling anyone who disagreed with this a 'lefty do-gooder' (which is amusing given the political stance of many Americans here who are objecting to the scheme :-) )
  3. There's been a reduction in police budgets - this may be a warning shot to all parties when it comes to manifestos etc

Even if this went ahead, it would be up to the individual to fit, maintain, monitor and use the camera, so (exhibitionists apart) I doubt people would be undressing or having sex in front of a camera they have installed themselves.

What would be interesting is just how this would work in practice with the multiplicity of standards, formats... for data recording.
And that's not considering legal aspects (what are the rules on data used for evidence? on data protection? consent for recording? tamper proofing? ....)

Given the inertia of the Great British Public, I don't see this happening soon But don't let that stop a new trope forming about how we're the most observed group on the planet :-) after all if the "analysis" of looking at one street, counting the cameras and then extrapolating everywhere has caught on and become a meme, why not this?

Comment: Re:Two things (Score 1) 247

by andrewbaldwin (#49189625) Attached to: Facebook Rant Lands US Man In UAE Jail

Actions taken in one country should abide by the laws of that country, not any other country - even if it affects the other country.

So..... If you are in country A fire a rifle across a border and kill someone in country B then according to your approach country B should not be able to try you for murder (either by extradition or in absentia)?

I agree that this case seems extreme - though I'm not sure of the wisdom of the person's actions - but to extrapolate from a specific case to a universal principle seems dangerous to me

Slightly off topic

Similarly, when I am in the US, I should abide by the US laws, not any other countries.

I admire your approach -- it's just a shame some well known US corporations don't think that way when they operate in other countries

Comment: Re:Mentally incompetent? (Score 1) 320

by andrewbaldwin (#49128605) Attached to: Use Astrology To Save Britain's Health System, Says MP

What may not be apparent to others is that the UK system of parliamentary 'seats' and first past the post ballots can lead to situations like this.

A party gets into power. They then get the boundaries commission to look at population densities and 'correct anomalies' so that each set has roughly the same number of voters [this is their job]. Of course what they actually do is to ring-fence areas where there is a great deal of support for them and spread areas with largely opposition support amongst many seats to dilute their effectiveness.

  This leads to the concept of "safe seats" (where you could safely bet on an outcome because people would vote for a monkey if it had the right coloured rosette). In reality UK politics is decided by a relatively small number of 'marginal seats' where the outcome is less predictable.

What this means in practice is that the majority party in parliament rarely (almost never) has a majority of the popular vote (typically only around 35%). They are 'first past the post' in more seats but fewer supporting voters overall. It also means party officials can reward people with safe seats for following directions.

Two take away points:

1) Don't judge the British on the basis of the politicians we've got -- we are not all so inept/clueless

2) Even by the standards of most MPs this guy is seriously out of step with reality. He is in a party that would like to dismantle the NHS and farm it out to their chums in private medicine so it's no surprise he's on a committee that could cause sabotage.

Comment: Re:"tit for tat", seriously? (Score 3, Informative) 178

by andrewbaldwin (#48378555) Attached to: Android 5.0 'Lollipop' vs. iOS 8: More Similar Than Ever

Originally tit for tat was a stylised way (ie slang) for saying "this for that". (Interestingly "titfer" became rhyming slang for a hat).

The word 'tat' is also used colloquially in the UK to describe something of poor quality (I believe it came from something falling to tatters). Something described as 'cheap tat' is usually near to wothless / meretricious rubbish.

How well this applies to mobile operating systems is left to the reader to decide :-)

Comment: Re:LOL. (Score 1) 127

by andrewbaldwin (#48111519) Attached to: London Unveils New Driverless Subway Trains

If you believe a London Underground train could get to 120mph, I've got a nice set of title deeds to the Houses of Parliament I can sell you at a very reasonable price :-)

This isn't a new thing - it's been done before...

I was working in Copenhagen about 8 years ago and the metro there was driverless; the London Docklands Light Railway (DLR) has been driverless for years.

Comment: Nationality Question (Score 1) 494

by andrewbaldwin (#47928181) Attached to: Scotland's Independence Vote Could Shake Up Industry

One thing that's been conspicuous by its absence in all discussions is nationality. Will the Scots get their own passports? and how will they be allocated? By residence - how to handle ex-pat Scots in England and English in Scotland? How to establish the foundations for applying for nationality? Rescinding of UK citizenship when becoming a Scot?

Then how will Scotland pay for and staff up embassies around the world? they surely wouldn't want to use the existing ones would they? after all they are escaping from us - to want to ride on our backs would be hypocritical in the extreme.

If they do split and things go well for them - that's great; if things go badly and the evil English aren't available, who are they going to take the blame?

As I said - there's been a deafening silence over this.

Comment: Re:Rife in the UK (Score 2) 210

by andrewbaldwin (#47889381) Attached to: Turning the Tables On "Phone Tech Support" Scammers

I've had a similar experience - many times.

First of I am not a lawyer - but I can read Wikipedia :-)

So when we get to "we've detected a problem with your computer" I ask "how?" and get a stream of babble about seeing data which looks like a virus.

Then I ask innocently -- "so you can look at my traffic?" "oh yes and you definitely have a virus - we can see from how your PC is behaving" "so you can look at my PC?" "Oh yes"

I always ask - "are you sure about this?" to allow them to dig themselves even deeper into a hole and then ask for their name/company name (claiming I misheard at the start).

At this point I inform them that either (a) they are probably committing offences under one or more of Computer Misuse Act 1990, Data Protection Act 1998 or Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 -- or (b) if they want to own up (and I do know that they are lying because I'm not running Windows and my firewall is pretty tight) that attempting to obtain money through false pretences is an offence under the Fraud Act 2006.

"Which one do you want to choose?"

They usually hang up at this point having spent around 15 minutes with me when they could have been hitting another victim -- though one did ring back and shout abuse.

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.

"Text processing has made it possible to right-justify any idea, even one which cannot be justified on any other grounds." -- J. Finnegan, USC.