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Comment Re:Going after the wrong people (Score 1) 268

I'm not interested in getting into an argument over this, but you're still missing my point. Professionals who procure components or purchase equipment like this are more than capable of knowing how to get what they need and to ensure that it is genuine. They are also not the ones who are going to be hurt by this. It's the consumers who genuinely know no better. To them, Amazon is a reputable supplier, and yet both you and I know that Amazon sells counterfeit items. I've purchased items which were sold by Amazon in the UK, not by marketplace sellers, which were clearly counterfeit. Amazon does not have the technical capability to determine what is genuine and what isn't.

It is probably also worth pointing out that even very large, reputable manufacturers have experienced counterfeit components in their supply chain. Even Cisco has been affected by this, and customers including the US DoD were involved. They have significant resources available to identifying this kind of problem, yet still ended up with large numbers of counterfeit products installed. So who's fault was that? You're trying to suggest that by doing homework you can absolve yourself of this issue - I'm saying it's simply not possible. No supply chain is truly guaranteed these days. Once you accept that fact, you start to realise just how much of a problem this is to manufacturers and consumers globally, and you also start to realise that the end user is the least powerful person in the chain to actually deal with this problem.

Comment Re:Going after the wrong people (Score 1) 268

You're somewhat missing the point. With my circuit board design hat on, I can definitely choose my supply chain carefully to avoid counterfeit devices. However, my point wasn't about this use case. It was about people who purchase finished products as an end user, for instance the ubiquitous USB - RS232 adapter. Now you can order these from reputable suppliers, but there really is no guarantee that you're getting what you think you are. Ever tried to find out what chipset is used when purchasing from Amazon? Now try to find out whether it's genuine. You can't. And this is the real problem - end users will purchase these devices in good faith. To them, the genuine devices are indistinguishable from the counterfeit ones - they both have USB cables, both have a DB9 connector. Good luck insisting on paperwork from Amazon, by the way!

FTDI should invest their efforts in helping retailers such as Amazon identify counterfeit products from sale, rather than penalising consumers who bought what they thought was the right item.

For the record, I abandoned Windows as a credible computing platform over a decade ago. But I care about this because it is the wrong way to solve the problem. It causes huge problems for people least able to control what they're actually buying. And that's no way to treat customers, whether they're direct customers or end users.

Comment Going after the wrong people (Score 4, Insightful) 268

Why can't FTDI realise that this kind of behaviour is only going to hurt innocent end users, rather than the people responsible for peddling counterfeit devices? I've bought hundreds of these devices in the past from reputable suppliers, and in precisely zero cases can I determine whether the chipset is genuine or not before purchase. If I can't tell what I'm buying, then why am I being punished when I've bought in good faith? Why can't FTDI instead use existing mechanisms and laws to find the people responsible?

Of course Linux drivers for these devices work every time, counterfeit or not. Perhaps a different approach might be for someone to take the Linux code and create a decent open-source Windows driver to replace the buggy (i.e. injecting unwanted serial data) FTDI code?

Comment Prove component authenticity? (Score 1) 572

Counterfeit components are much more of an issue than you might imagine. Counterfeit and reclaimed components are very common in the component supply chain, and there's almost no way for a manufacturer to determine whether they've bought a dud or the genuine article. Most electronics companies contract out circuit board manufacture and component procurement - unless you're making a huge number of boards, it simply isn't economical to run this kind of operation in-house. At the end of the day it comes down to trust and supplier vetting - but you can only really vet the first link in what can be a very long supply chain. All it takes is for one supplier in the chain to be slightly dishonest, and you end up with a counterfeit device on your board.

Now - there are companies who will specify forged parts - but equally there are companies who specify the genuine article, and don't get it. How would they ever know? FTDI's approach is (was?) to stop the end-user's device from functioning. This device could have been supplied by a legitimate supplier (and not a dodgy eBay import) - yet this company was (until now) completely unaware until faulty units start piling up on their doorstep. Let's also remember that not all electronics companies are the size of Cisco - and a product recall to replace what they believed to be a genuine part could prove so expensive as to put someone out of business.

Realistically, it's an almost impossible problem to solve - semiconductor manufacturers deal in massive quantities through distributors - and the smaller the quantity that you require, the more distributors are involved in the sale. Some may advocate buying direct - but realistically, no semiconductor manufacturer is equipped to do this at present. Manufacturers need to find ways to prove that their components are authentic, rather than telling end users that they have bought a fake.

Have a look at this blog - a small supplier of a very nice series of logic analysers who were hit with exactly this kind of problem. They procured components in good faith, yet had to carry the costs of their supplier's dishonesty. Not what a small business needs when they're just getting going.

Comment Re:A complete waste of time and money (Score 1) 311

Incorrect. A small, but vocal minority of people are demanding blocks because they are simply incapable of understanding the wider issue, as you have repeatedly demonstrated. This isn't about blocking pornography at all - this is about politicians pandering to the demands of the easily-swayed voters, i.e. those who generally read the tabloid press. Your assertion that 'those who actively try to get around the filter meaning pornographers should be arrested and jailed' is simply laughable. This proposal isn't about arresting pornographers (definition: those who publish pornography), but trying to put a mechanism in place to censor the Internet. Anyone with any technical knowledge of how the Internet works (which you clearly don't have) would understand that it simply won't work for all of the reasons that I and others have outlined in previous posts.

You also seem to think that those who try to get around the blocks should be jailed - what will this accomplish, exactly? I have run my own DNS for decades, and my company does the same. Do we do this to get around blocks? Absolutely not - we do this because we need to resolve the names of both internal and external machines. Are we trying to get around the blocks? Absolutely not. Are we getting around the blocks? Categorically yes. Under your 'plan', this would be an offence, yet we are merely using one of the many Internet technologies as it is supposed to be used.

And where are the parents in all of this? The sensible parents understand that they need to educate their children in safe Internet use. It really isn't hard - a well brought up child will have no problem in using the Internet within the rules laid down by their parents. Parents have a duty to bring their children up to give them the best start in life, and to ensure that they do so in a safe, loving and caring environment. That environment is the responsibility of the parents, and the parents alone. It is not the responsibility of the government to mandate how they should do it. Perhaps some parents should try engaging with their children once in a while, rather than shouting at them from in front of the television. You'd be surprised what this would accomplish - it might even go some way to reduce youth crime and teenage pregnancies too. Take some responsibility for your children.

By the way, one of the best ways to get people to start doing something is to tell them that it is illegal. Children and adults alike are fascinated by the things that they are not allowed to see - it's simple human nature. There's a strong argument for saying that access should be completely unrestricted - let them see what they want to see - and you'll find that they quickly move on to other things. How many of us can remember trying to see an age-restricted movie at school? How many of us stayed out later than we should? It didn't do anyone any lasting damage, yet some people seem to want to try to block everything. When I was at school, the Anarchist's Cookbook used to circulate on floppy disk - and at that time it was perfectly legal to own a copy. Did any of my schoolfriends turn into terrorists? Absolutely not. They read it, tried out a few things, and moved on. Nowadays we seem to think it acceptable to put people in prison for reading it, and to expel children for conducting science experiments. What a wonderful world we live in.

Oh, and as a UK citizen, I am registered to vote, and have never missed an election. The problem in our democratic system is that there really aren't any viable parties to vote for - they are all offering weak policies to pander to people like you. Ever stop to think why so few people vote in our elections? Perhaps it's because the majority of the population are fed up with the current political offering, and feel that whichever way they vote, they won't be listened to. This government (and previous governments) have repeatedly failed to listen to their electorate - we've seen over a million people march united against the UK going to war in Iraq, yet we went anyway. We've seen significant protests about corporate taxation, MPs expenses etc., yet nothing of substance has been done. Just how exactly is a voter supposed to make a difference in this country? We no longer live in a democracy - we are at the beginning of a new and frightening style of government where the population at large is constantly monitored, privacy does not exist and punishments are severe for people who dare to question those in authority. Neighbourhood spies and vigilante groups? Yep, they're already here. We are living in the beginnings of a Nazi-like state, and history repeatedly tells us that this is not a good idea.

Comment Re:A complete waste of time and money (Score 1) 311

That's absolutely not what I'm saying. Whatever your views on pornography, Cameron's ideas will not solve the problem as it simply isn't possible to adapt filtering technology to block 'undesirable' content. Filtering will initially be a DNS blocklist - which will be circumvented by people using an alternate DNS service, or simply sharing the IP addresses in a text file. You can't block by IP address because in a lot of cases, many websites are hosted by the same IP address - a.k.a. virtual hosting. You can't block all of the other hosts because of one bad site.

So, let's suppose for a minute that it was possible to do some kind of deep packet inspection to block access to these sites. Again, people will simply adapt around the filter - using HTTPS or some other kind of encrypted protocol. It's a game of cat and mouse, and the odds are heavily stacked in favour of those who want to view this material. Simply put: short of blocking access to everything and allowing access to a list of 'government approved' hosts, Cameron's proposal is doomed to failure. This point of view is not because I want to view this stuff - but because I understand how the Internet works. It is very clear that Cameron has refused to listen to even one knowledgeable person on this issue.

And if the Internet is blocked completely, what happens next? People find other methods to share material. So let's outlaw USB sticks, newspapers, postal services, paper, books, conversation... where do you draw the line? I'm absolutely not saying that nothing should be done, but I am saying that this is the wrong solution. In this day and age, education is the best and in my view the only way to deal with this effectively. Parents need to take responsibility and teach their children how to stay safe online, in the same way that they teach them not to talk to strangers in public, or to cross the road without being run over. People who want the government to step in and take over their parenting functions should have a long, hard think about whether this is really what they want. Government intervention in private, family life draws strong parallels with the values of Nazi Germany and other fascist states. History tells us that this is not a good idea.

Comment A complete waste of time and money (Score 5, Insightful) 311

Whilst I have no problem with Cameron's intention to prevent undesirable material from falling into the hands of younger users, I have major issues with the fact that he seems to be pushing ahead with this despite advice from people who actually know how the Internet works. Fundamentally, he doesn't seem to understand that the Internet is merely a network - it transfers packets of data from A to B, much the same as the postal service. It does not (and should not) care what is in those packets.

Ultimately any proposal to deploy blocking technology is doomed to fail - blocking certain DNS queries will simply lead people to use an alternative DNS server, or to share IP addresses of questionable sites. If ISPs start to filter HTTP, then people will move to a different protocol. Where does this end up? The Great Firewall of (not-so-great) Britain? Martial law? Ultimately his proposals will end in failure - the Internet community will develop new methods to access material much faster than the government can block them.

If people really understood the full implications of what is being proposed here, they wouldn't want it. Packets on a network should be afforded the same protection as mail in transit - i.e. it requires a court order to open them. This process is transparent and well-understood - it is not left to shadowy, non-elected, non-accountable organisations to decide what gets through and what is dropped. We do not need a censored Internet - it is used for so much more than browsing the web, and these other applications will suffer with this sledgehammer-to-crack-a-nut approach taken by Cameron.

Personally, I believe the best approach to managing access to this kind of material and staying safe online is through education - something which each and every parent should discuss with their child, in the same way that they teach them to cross the road.

Comment How is this even possible? (Score 1) 186

I still don't understand how this kind of breach of data security is even possible. The real question is why the records access system even allows data to be downloaded to a local hard drive for access - surely each PC should contain an operating system and whatever client application is necessary to access medical records. There should never be a need for a local copy to be made - remember these PCs are connected to the hospital's network. It simply shouldn't be possible to export records from the system unless they are suitably anonymised - and access to this export function should be restricted to those involved in research programmes. Fining the NHS trust for allowing the breach does nothing to solve the real problem - that the records storage and access system permits records to be downloaded in the first place. Get the IT requirements right at the design stage and most of these problems go away.

Submission + - Sinclair ZX Spectrum FAILS latest radio noise rules SHOCK (

wisewellies writes: Ben clearly has way too much spare time on his hands, but he decided to see just how well an antiquated ZX Spectrum would hold up to modern EMC requirements. His blog is a good read if you're looking for something to do while pretending to work!

From the blog: 'This year is the 30th anniversary of one of my favourite inventions of all time, the Sinclair ZX Spectrum. A few weeks ago, I finally bought one: a non-working one on eBay that I nursed back to health. Fortunately there was very little wrong with it. Unfortunately it’s a 16K model, and a fairly early one at that, which won’t run much software in its native state. This probably accounts for its unusually pristine condition.

We took half an hour in the chamber to perform an approximate series of EN55022 measurements, to check its radiated emissions against today’s standard. The question is, what have we learned as an industry since 1982? Does a 30-year-old computer, that embodies Sinclair’s mastery of cost-engineering and elegant design like nothing else, pass modern legislation that would render it saleable?'

Comment Depends what you're working on... (Score 4, Insightful) 208

There are a number of pieces of equipment which should be in any lab setup - e.g. oscilloscope, voltmeter/ammeter, decent bench power supply, soldering iron and proper illumination. What you need after that will depend much more on the kind of electronics that you want to work on - digital, analogue, RF etc. Each needs a different set of equipment. Personally, I work in the digital domain, and find a fast logic analyser invaluable for diagnosing difficult problems. I would also include a dedicated bench computer (or two), and large, deep benches with overhead shelves. You can't have too much space. Of course the most important piece of equipment is your brain - no piece of equipment is going to replace your ability to think through a problem.

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