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NSA is 'great at some sophisticated tasks but oddly bad at the simplest'

Plus: 'No difference between our democracy and the prison camps in Russia or China'

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Quotw It's all going down in Redmond! Last week, chief exec Steve Ballmer announces his retirement, this week, the one-time king company of computing announced it's going to slurp down the tattered remnants of Nokia's mobile business.

Yes, in a bizarrely timed acquisition, Microsoft has decided to take them newfangled speaky-boxes seriously and "redefine the boundaries of mobility". Or in the corporate-speak of Ballmer and Nokia head Stephen Elop:

With the commitment and resources of Microsoft to take Nokia’s devices and services forward, we can now realise the full potential of the Windows ecosystem, providing the most compelling experiences for people at home, at work and everywhere in between.

We will continue to build the mobile phones you’ve come to love, while investing in the future – new phones and services that combine the best of Microsoft and the best of Nokia.

Meanwhile, Redmond has enraged users by randomly retiring three of its "pinnacle" certificates, meant to represent the tippy-top of Microsoft qualification glory.

The Microsoft Certified Master (MCM) was no less than the “deepest level of product expertise”, the Microsoft Certified Solutions Master (MCSM) used to be “The pinnacle of professional distinction” and the Microsoft Certified Architect (MCA) was able to “distinguish your expertise as one of the highest-achieving professionals in IT". But all that is no more and people are not happy about it.

Nicholas Cain, a database administrator who blogs as SirSQL, said:

Taking this away really pains everyone who has worked so hard to get it. Those who have given up many hours, and for some many thousands of dollars.

And Hungarian IT pro Janos Berke, who is only part-way into MCM studies, ranted (emphases are his own):

Anyway, it is not fair what Microsoft is doing with these certs: I have had to fly to London for making knowledge exam and 2-3 weeks ago they announced that this exam is available in my country. Now they are announcing the end! WTF??? I spent too much money on that. It would be great from Microsoft if they offer very high discount for MCM exams and a much bigger for those who try to retake! I need to reconsider all future exams, I may spend this money to something else.

While Jeff Guillet, an MCM-completer who has been "saddened in more ways than I can say", simply said:

I have invested countless hours and untold effort into Microsoft certifications for my career.

Over in the Purple Palace, Yahoo! has been fending off legions of users miffed over the "NEO" changes to the firm's Groups service. A revamp of the format has wrought confusion and ire in the Yahoo! massive, who demanded that the company put things back the way they were right now please. One tweeted to the company's customer care:

@YahooCare return my yahoogroup to original format. NEO is a disaster!! Thousands of moderator complaints online. FIX IT NOW!

But no such luck. Apparently, an overhaul like this cannot be undone, according to Yahoo!:

@get2thegulch It is not possible to return to the old format.

Which has not gone done well:

@YahooCare well you better figure out a way to return to old format, because I can't manage, access or moderate my 1500+ members.

In the latest NSA-related news, images of Edward Snowden as a super-sleuthing cyber ninja may have been exaggerated. Some folks have maintained that Snowden's daring and finesse are what let him get away with thousands of files of sensitive information, like this former US security official:

Every day, they are learning how brilliant [Snowden] was.

Others, like former US security official Jason Healey, are not so sure that he needed anything more than the title of system administrator to navigate nimbly around the spook agency's systems:

The [Defense Department] and especially NSA are known for awesome cyber security, but this seems somewhat misplaced. They are great at some sophisticated tasks but oddly bad at many of the simplest.

And finally, the "world's worst director", Uwe Boll, is planning a Snowden and Julian Assange-inspired movie that he hopes can be funded through Kickstarter. The German director, most famous for making terrible films out of video games like BloodRayne and Far Cry, wants to use the whistleblowers' stories to inspire a sequel to his critically panned and pointlessly offensive 2007 film Postal. Here's the pitch:

We take the biggest scandals of our democracy, like the happenings about Julien [sic] Assange and Edward Snowdon [sic] and show that there is no difference between our democracy and the prison camps in Russia or China. We show that through this massive monitoring our communication data is not safe anymore! We want to make a movie which is totally uncensored, pointed against everything and everybody, against every political party and every religion. There will be no survivors.

Reg readers will no doubt await the results of his efforts with bated breath. ®

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