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Comment Why such anti-UN sentiment (Score 3, Interesting) 266

I am always surprised at now negative Americans (specifically those from the United Stated) are about the UN. Remember the UN has been in charge of international telephony standards for years (the ITU is a UN agency), and on the whole international telephony has worked OK.

If you aren't American, and even if you are a friend of America, American control over key parts of the Internet is a concern. An important utility is controlled by a foreign power. How would US citizens feel if their water or electricity supply was under the control of the British government? We are a democracy and have been good friends of the US for a long time, but I bet US cititizens would be agitating for those utilities to be under US control.

Comment The safety issue is with the whole system (Score 1) 684

There are far wider safey and security issues as this paper from Ross Anderson at Camridge University shows: For me, the wider safety issue is the potential of a cyber attack using the remote off capability. From Anderson's paper:

  • "The presence of a remote off switch in all electricity meters can lead to strategic vulnerability: a capable adversary could switch off the lights using a cyber attack rather than having to physically bomb power stations or transformers."

When combined with the lack of a remote "on" switch, the potential for disruption is devastating. From the same paper (looking at the UK situation):

  • "Recovery from such an attack would be painful. As a matter of national survival, the government would probably authorise any electrician or other competent person to short-circuit dead meters. Utility contractors might need to spend a year or more visiting every house to rekey or replace them. Even this would involve a massive recruitment campaign; current utility and contractor staff are not reckoned to be sufficient to replace all meters with smart meters by 2022. What arrangements might be made to resolve billing disputes in the meantime is anyone’s guess."

Tin hats are the least of my worries!

Comment Re:Guilty until you pay up (Score 2) 150

But the BBC did note how sluggishly the bureacracy was dealing with this aspect of the DEA. Anyone would think the civil service could see a disaster in the morning (contrary to the popular image, some of the guys at the top are really quite clever). It's taken them two years to do this first consultation and the BBC suggested it won't come in until 2015 (curiously just around the time of the next general election). I am tempted to suggest that the £20 fee has been inserted to ensure public outrage in the run up to a general election, thus ensuring this law will collapse. Surely civil servants wouldn't be so devious in undermining the will of Parliament. Oh yes they would minister!

Comment but good civil service reaction (Score 1) 34

The one positive out of this, is the reaction of the Cabinet Office deputy CIO, Liam Maxwell. When he heard about the problem, he confronted Hopkirk, then having heard his account fired him for not declaring his conflict of interest, binned the responses he had facilitated, and extended the consultation. It seems we have one civil servant who is determined that this consultation will be held fairly. So all our UK readers now have another 5 weeks to get their responses in: The UK Open Source Consortium ( has additional information.

Comment There are more open source processors out there (Score 1) 54

Congratulations to the Milkymist team - it's a great example of what you can do with open source hardware. As well as the LM32 used by Milkymist, there are other open source processors out there, for example picoJava, OpenSPARC, LEON and the OpenRISC 1200. Most of these are finished projects, subsequently open sourced - kudos to the developers for freeing their designs. The OpenRISC 1200, hosted on, is different, in that it has an active community continuing to develop the processor and its tool chain.

Comment Re:Civil war? (Score 1) 275

You can become a Chartered Engineer through the BCS (I did 20 years ago). That's a qualification worth having, although these days it costs a lot more than £80/year. A lot of the argument is about the BCS moving to be an IT society, and losing interest in those members who are engineers.

FORTUNE'S FUN FACTS TO KNOW AND TELL: A guinea pig is not from Guinea but a rodent from South America.