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Letters Right, look lively: we have a lot of stuff to wade through this Friday, and some of it even has a serious IT-related angle. Like this, regarding Ofcom's media literacy audit:

Is anybody else just a little bit tired of the whole question of "Media Literacy"? Personally I can't imagine what use I could ever have for a 3G mobile phone, let alone a PDA. The people who write these surveys seem to have some utopian ideal where everybody's Granddad would go around armed with an IPod and a pocket computer, if they only knew how to use them.

As regards the younger generation, personally I would think that a basic grasp of how to write a business letter would be more useful than an intimate knowledge of a dozen useless thought-replacing "communication aids". Given some of the ridiculous MSoffice-oriented IT projects I've seen in schools nowadays, which seem to have no purpose except to make sure the kids know how to use the spellchecker, this apparently is not so.

And just when I thought devices like the Amstrad e-mailer (RIP) were finally bringing useful technology to the masses in a way that was completely free of techno-utopian geek speak...

Paul

More on who's armed with an iPod later...


Microsoft versus the EU. Our latest piece on the long-running Clash of Titans prompted the following thoughts. We don't think this'll be the last on the subject:

A generally interesting and well reasoned article, but fundamentally flawed by a serious error. You state that "Microsoft was instructed to open up its code ..." which is completely untrue and is an example of how Microsoft has been deliberately muddying the waters to try and make out that they are being hard done by.

Microsoft were instructed to provide details of the network protocols sufficient to allow third parties to develop interoperable products on either the server or client end. Nothing more, nothing less. It is Microsoft who, after having their original useless submission rejected, responded by providing their source code - arguably not that much more useful.

Why is it not neccessarily useful ? Well, if you are writing network software you only need to know how to "speak the language", not how someone else speaks it. With the current offering, someone has to sit down and work through the source code, working out what it does, and writing the specification that Microsoft should have written in the first place - only then can you engineer your own system(s) to work with it. Don't forget, people do not want to copy Microsofts software, they want to write their own.

The fact that Microsoft claims not to have any useable documentation for the protocols I find deeply worrying - here is software that is largely responsible for running much of the western world, and it's been written by people who ignore all the accepted rules on how to engineer for robustness and reliability and clearly don't know themselves how it all works !

Simon Hobson


Talking of long-running topics, lets have another on the subject of Mac OS vulns, as recently discussed here and in last week's letters:

I would just like to point out that Mac & other Linux based systems are just as vulnerable as a Windows machine.

What they are all vulnerable to is ME ATTACKING THEM WITH A CHAINSAW AFTER LISTENING TO THEIR UNBELIEVABLY BORING OWNERS WITTER ON ABOUT HOW WONDERFUL THEIR OS IS FOR HOURS AND HOURS!

Get a sodding life people! It's a bloody operating system, it's a tool, it's not your bloody girlfriend.

Ok, ....... for some of you it is your bloody girlfriend or at least a close substitute.

Bozo The PixieKiller

We're staying out of this one. Nicely put, though.


Now, China makes lots and lots of plastic Xmas trees. What's the environmental impact?

I'm no expert enviromentalist but surely the following are true: 1. Plastic Trees are made from hydrocarbons - a finite resource - at the end of their life they will probably end up in landfill. 2. Real Xmas trees are grown specially for the job - you won't get deforestation unless your forest only contains 6ft trees 3. Xmas tree growers manage sustained growing areas and continually replant after cropping. 4. I'm sure that young growing trees lock up more carbon in their growth than older trees who basically sit there not growing much! 5. At the end of their life if trees are burnt then the carbon in them is returned to the atmosphere. That's carbon neutral surely? 6. If they are placed in landfill then the carbon they have taken out of the atmosphere is locked up underground. A good thing!

There's other factors too - transportation etc - to take into consideration but I think I'll ignore them as they apply equally to (Fake) Plastic Trees and real ones.

It's a problem with enviromentalism that the obvious is often untrue, unhelpful or just plain ill thought!

As others have pointed out - If Pandas were farmed for meat we'd have solved the breeding problems long ago!

Regards

S Lewis


Britain is attempting to set up a gun database aka the National Firearms Licensing Management System. Naturally, it's all turned into a bit of a fiasco, as our Canadian friends could have predicted:

In Canada, your article on the British gun registry project is simply hillarious. Our own national effort has cost over 1 Billion dollars (1000 million), registers a patry 8 million guns, and responds to an insignificant number of transactions. What should have been implemented for a few thousand dollars on a high end PC has turned into a welfare program for an entire city. All the while, gun crime has been on the rise. Consider yourselves unbelievably fortunate.

Iain


You'd think the UK would learn a lesson from Canada's disasterous gun registry. Created for similar political reasons several years ago, an initial $20m budget turned into a multi-billion-dollar fiasco. Police forces say it has been completely useless in curbing gun crime, while wasting money that could have gone to improving law enforcement.

Arthur


Exactly which databases are the Police using which can't be interfaced to each other?

Every day I work with distributed systems which interface DB2, Oracle, SQL server and various wierd and wonderfull legacy systems, running on Mainframe, UNIX and Wintel OSes withoutput stages comprising of the likes of WebSphere, IIS, Lotus Notes etc. It all works and we didn't spend ten years (not) making it work.

Fraser


Sorry to be the purveyor of bad news, but Tony Blair wasn't Prime Minister ten years ago. The promise of a national gun register was either made by John Major, or by Tony Blair as Prime Minister less than nine years ago.

Of course, the continued delays do leave you wondering whether this government could ever get the ID card database running if they can't manage this. It's no excuse that there are multiple police forces involved as all the forces use shared systems all the time.

John


National GUN database???

What, no national KNIFE database? No national POISON database? Surely, they've got to have a national RANDOM ITEM FROM TOOLBOX database? (No, they have not, and don't call me Shirley.)

Idiots.

What you *really* need is a national PEOPLE WHO MIGHT COMMIT MURDER database. Oh, wait, they already have one of those. It's called the LIST OF EVERYBODY.

And, just like disarmament registries everywhere, the only people disarmed will be ... right ... the bleedin' LAW-ABIDING CITIZENS. Because the *bad guys* care bugger-all about lists and registries and databases or permission of any sort.

Idiots.

"Oh, Lord Phizlethwaite, did you know the country is just crawling with thieves?"

"Eau, ralleh? Fraffly distuhbing. Well, we simpleh MUST hev a database of HANDS sew we might keep trek of aul these lakeleh villians!"

Indeed.

Idiots.

Garry


Right - we promised you more about iPods, and here it is. The Pope's just got one, and Tony Blair can't use one. Crikey.

All the more embarrassing as I seem to remember a story about 6 months ago saying that George Bush has an iPod and uses it regularly.

So, 1-0 to Bush in the intellectual head of state championship. Who whould have thought it?

Cheers, Thorfinn


Oh dear,

Usually articles on the register have at least some semblance of a story hidden within them!

Mocking him because he says he cannot use an ipod seems a little pathetic doesn't it? After all, this sort of knowledge is hardly a prerequisite of being PM.

This article does more to show you up as being rather shallow than it does to belittle Blair.

I am certainly no supporter of Blair so I am more than happy for the press to point out his shortcomings, it should however be relevant!

Alex.

Oh, alright then - he dragged us into a war in Iraq, the National Health Centre is a mess and British weather is crap. All of these are New Labour's fault, as David "Touchy Feely" Cameron will doubtless explain at length.


If all the apple designes in all the world can't save 'Mr' Blairs techno phobia I dred to think about how much he really understands his ID card bills underpinning technoledgy.

as for god, this does explain alot, like how someone can be 'moraly' coragous and totaly ego centric at the same time and still get things so wrong.

Martin


"Mr. Speaker, would the Prime Minister, a self-admitted luddite when it comes to using popular technology, technology readily used by anyone with enough dexterity to manipulate a button, would the Prime Minister disqualify himself as a credible partner in the debate about the electronic identification scheme his government wants to sell to the British people as an invaluable tool to help citizens identify themselves and to ward of the threat of international terrorism? Can we, Mr. Speaker, entrust the management of tens of millions of highly sensitive personal records of the citizens of this country to someone who admits to an inability to dial a song on an MP3-player? Can the public be certain that the cost and security implications are fully understood by their leaders? Can the Prime Minister tell us, Mr. Speaker, whether he will consult the President of the United States about some helpful hints and tips on the use of iPod-type music players on the occasion of their next meeting or will the Prime Minister head to Regent Street for an introductory course?"

Jorge


Lester,

I'm an American and confused that while you have "English" as your native language, you write as someone in grade seven (taking into account the translation of American to English)

For example, you say "cos that's what he said when". Is this proper grammar in the UK?

"God's Rottweiler"? I'm not Catholic, in fact very Protestant, and I wouldn't speak of the Pope in such a matter.

I'd be delighted if you responded.

Danny

Well, here's your response - "cos that's what he said when" is right proper English grammar, and no messing. Regarding "God's Rottweiler", that one's been knocking about for while. It's more a reference to Benny's theological zeal, rather than a suggestion that he tears out the throats of small children.


I hope the pope also owns the CDs for all those classical works - although the composers of most classical works are deceased, the copyrights usually reside with the performing orchestra... Wouldn't want the RIAA to go after the Vatican now, would we?

Edwin


It is worth contrasting Tony's "I will be judged by God" attitude and iPod inability, with The Pope, who has both God's authority in judgement and a new Nano.

Neil


You ought to have made the connection by now, President Blair doesn't know how to use a Nano so God has asked the Pope to figure out how it works so that God can tell our Tone.

Thus is the world saved.

Dave


Small point, Lester, but Tony is Anglican, whereas Cherie is the Catholic in the marriage.

But I still wouldn't trust either of them with the country...

Stuart - Roman Catholic, and fiercely Proud of it!

Ah yes, mea culpa. That's Latin, btw...


The Pope has an iPod, the Catholic News Service reports. Unfortunately, they don't report whether there was a one-off interface created for His Popeliness to reflect the offical language of the Vatical; Latin.

So, from my three years of in-depth Classical studies at high school (thanks Mr Chambers), may I suggest the root menu should read:

Canti Picturae Addenda Ordinatonis Miracula Canti Adhuc Tibicinium

Of course, certain liberties were taken in the composition of this menu, as the ancient Romans inconsiderately failed to provide a word for "photograph" or "shuffle". So, "Miracula Canti" means "surprise songs" or possibly (and appropriately) "miraculous songs".

Now, must get back to work.

Dan


And now, dear readers, our traditional round-up of the frothy and frivolous, starting with an observation on this story. Forget the content, just read the intro:

Get it right, Andrew, please. "Infamy, infamy! They've all got it infamy!". Your version doesn't have the rhythm.

As I'm sure you know, it was a joke written by Muir and Norden for "Take it from here", a BBC radio programme of the 1950s. It was lent to the Carry On team, who wrote (yes!) to ask to borrow it, so that Kenneth Williams could declaim it as Juliius Caesar in Carry on Cleo.

Honestly, young people today. All they do is Google and then they don't read the results.

You can publish this if you like: I am in line for pedant of the year. Oh, and keep up the _good_ work.

You have been duly added to the Pedant of the Year 2006 nominations list. Well done.


MS NZ in sex ad shocker. A Yank writes:

"this is the only advertising campaign ever to give Linux programmers the vaguest hope that they might one day have sex with a real woman"

I gotta love this! I can remember when the Register was religiousely (almost monotonously) pro-Linsux. All the time, the same parrot-line would come out, about security and reliability ... until my buddy, at work, used to be flaming you guys almost three times a week - calling you commies, and stuff!

Now, you seem to be courting flames from the Linsux n00bs with all these offthecuff remarks, all the time.

I just hope this isn't some manifestation of that other* great flaw in the limey character: by which, I mean your almost pathalogical hatred of success :). I'm hoping that what we're seeing, here, is the result of you all having had your heads inside the 'special' hairdriers -- like the rest of us -- to have your 'attitudes' readjusted, so as you have come to realise which side your bread is buttered on (i.e. the status quo, in otherwords -- what's wrong with it, tell me that?)

I just hope that this isn't some weird English manifestation of a belief that Linsux is about to get popular, and that you're not about to go ping-ponging across the floor, to the opposition, again, like some kinda Winston Churchill on amphetamines:).

Anyway, keep the Register like this - it's more fun this way! More anti Linsux stuff! (In fact, I'd have thrown in some sort of remark about Linus Poorvalds's kids and the possible involvement of the milkman!)

* apart from the bad teeth and the erectile problems, I mean ;)


Google is planning orbital mind control. That's the least of it:

You failed to notice the bubble that reads "Dyson Sphere". Just so you know, a Dyson sphere is an artificial habitat built by constructing a huge structures at a radius of 1 AU around a solar body (or sun if you prefer shorter words). The idea is that you get a truly enormous amount of living space with plentiful energy, hence (presumably) the link to the bubble that reads "Cheap clean energy". There are various variations on this theme.

A Dyson sphere is somewhat more ambitious than orbital mind control. Who do these people think they are?!?!

Alastair Growcott


What about the "robots" and the "robotic repair of broken computers" - the answer is painfully obvious, google has been infiltrated and taken over by the lizard army. The new lizard masters had all the invasion maps helpfully provided for them by their unwitting techno-utopian victims at google - google earth was their downfall.

The fact that the lizard army is now in command explains how such unutterable pap as google video managed to get through quality control... hmmm now was Froogle pre, or post takeover....

Chris


Hmmm. On the diagram, the "orbital mind control" seems to be aimed mostly at taking "control of ICANN", which could be a good idea.

What is more worrisome is their plan to set up a "'Google Football League", and make us all live in a "Dyson sphere" maybe under the menace of an "orbital weapons platform". But this will happen only when they obtain "100% accurate weather forecasts", so we wait with baited breath.

Bert


And finally, there's always one, isn't there?

As someone who lives in New Zealand, I for one welcome our new Google overlords. http://www.interface-7.net/20060309/

Pete


We had a lovely Mancunian 419 email this week. A clarification is in order:

As a resident in Manchester - placed within easy walking distance [read: between the areas] of Moss-side, Hulme, Longsight and Rusholme I find your perception of Manchester as a "war-ravaged" area "where armed gangs battle for control of the local resources" quite perplexing.

Although we do have students battling for entry to the lower priced drinks establishments - sometimes in various states of fancy dress (a hideous yet strangely funny sight); and indeed a large police force ensuring those vicious old ladies receive their speeding tickets the moment they crawl a fraction over the limit. However to call such as place as "war-ravaged" from such events would seem excessive.

Like all cities we have streets which have not yet received their gold-paving upgrades; but surely this is only a matter of time before it is rectified. Maybe your perceptions stem from all the building works currently going on in Manchester - which has caused a large influx of Geordies and Scousers. Thankfully they have not brought their problems with them – i.e. we don't have a Birkenhead equivalent - unless you class some of the student accommodation.

Regardless, perhaps you're confused with one of those less civilized places in the country? Birmingham or Bradford perhaps?

Regards,

Alex (Manchester University Student)


I was interst in gettin my ands on the 50 million quid that fred has so I look on the infranet tpo see if that first unione bank place in near enuf to wark to seein as me cars broke and dang me if the fsa gos ansays its a hooky bank on there blacklist

im no mug an i aint going in no hooky bank for 50 million.

i did here that theres this place in tunbrige where you can drive in and get 50 million quids tho. that mite be safer.

DT

Er, right.


Well, this guy certainly constructs sentences and spells as well as any 14 year old pushed through the education system within the UK, The biggest giveaway must be his comprehensive understanding of the going rate to assist in claiming for money left by him, at a bank. I'm sure if he included the bank manager in this email, He would be more than happy to release the money for a cool 20 million, And I am tempted to ask where my closest (First Union National Bank UK) high street branch is.

Perhaps in the interests of journalism, you could reply with this and any other questions interested parties supply you.

Cavan O'Regan


...and some dumbazz netizen will fall for this shit !

Randy

Quite possibly so, but not the following gentleman, we're sure. Winding up this week's mailburst is a protest regarding our 419 coverage in general:

Dear Sir

I am an avid reader of The Register and of Nigerian decent, I visit your website on a regular basis but feel I might have to complaint to Press Standards Agency very soon about the bias in your articles. I appreciate very much that you always have bad apples amongst the good and this applies to all nationalities and that nigerians probably perfom a greater share of the advance money fraud in this country but to always claim without any proof that every advance money fraud has to be from a Nigerian is ludicrous. Reading the email in your article there is absolutely nothing to indicate that the sender is Nigerian and unfortunately people from other west african countires who perpetrate this sort of fraud sometimes claim to be Nigerian as well. The Register has a habit of doing this and I have read numerous articles on your website with the same slant, I find it very offensive and am very minded to lodge a complaint so that you will have to publish a withdrawal and apology. I hope you will take this email into consideration in your future articles.

Regards A very disgruntled reader Anthony Salako

That's yer lot for now. Have a happy and prosperous weekend. ®

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