Simon Sharwood

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GCHQ's SMURF ARMY can hack smartphones, says Snowden. Again.

Whistleblower Edward Snowden has given an interview to BBC investigative programme Panorama in which he's added further detail on an array of tools named after the Smurfs* that allow UK intelligence agencies to hack smartphones. Privacy International has already aired much of what Snowden explained to Panorama, namely that a …
Simon Sharwood, 06 Oct 2015
A beautiful new Cisco vuln report

Cisco reforms its security disclosure process

Cisco has reformed the way it discloses vulnerabilities in its products. The company's adopted a new and – it says – “enhanced and simplified” view of vulnerabilities in its products, cooked up its own Security Impact Rating (SIR) scores to let you know just how deep you're in it when a vuln appears, adopted the CVE system and …
Simon Sharwood, 06 Oct 2015
Linus Torvalds flips the bird

Linux kernel dev who asked Linus Torvalds to stop verbal abuse quits over verbal abuse

Sarah Sharp, the maintainer of USB 3.0 drivers in the Linux Kernel who in July 2013 urged Linux overlord Linus Torvalds to stop abusing fellow developers, has quit all Linux-related work. Sharp has revealed she quit her role on the kernel last year and backed out of Linux entirely due to the abusive commentary she asked Linus …
Simon Sharwood, 06 Oct 2015
Quantum logic gate

Quantum Pentium appears on the horizon

Australian boffins have overcome one of quantum computing's big problems by building a gate comprised of two qubits in silicon, using techniques very similar to those used to manufacture whatever device you're using to read this story. Building a quantum logic gate in silicon is a big deal because hitherto it's only been …
Simon Sharwood, 06 Oct 2015
Windows 10 floppy disk

If you wanted Windows 10, it looks like you've already installed it

Windows 10 looks to have won about seven per cent of the world's desktop operating system market. That's The Reg's back-of-the-spreadsheet calculation after running our eye over September’s data from Netmarketshare and StatCounter, the two services we regularly eyeball to see what's going down on the desktop. Here's the tale …
Simon Sharwood, 06 Oct 2015
Cisco TiVo PVR

Cisco Australia bumps prices by 12.83 per cent, for second time this year

Cisco Australia is raising its prices by 12.83 per cent, making this the second such rise for the year after a March price increase of 12 per cent. The Register has seen emails from local resellers advising users to buy Cisco kit sooner rather than later, or pay more as of November 9th. Cisco Australia's confirmed the price …
Simon Sharwood, 05 Oct 2015
Censored Stamp

Scary Trans-Pacific Partnership trade treaty signed off

The Trans-Pacific partnership, a 12-nation trade treaty negotiated in secret and thought to contain copyright nasties, is all but done. Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the USA and Vietnam have successfully concluded negotiations on the provisions of the secret …
Simon Sharwood, 05 Oct 2015
Monster virtual machine

VMware SMASH! Bad ESXi 6.0 bork-bug getting 'aggressive' fix

VMware has found, and is trying hard to fix, a nasty bug in ESXi 6.0. Issue 2124669, causes “ESXi 6.0 host network connectivity' to be “lost randomly.” Once the connectivity is lost, “ESXi enters into a non-responding state and becomes unmanageable until reboot.” Forget about re-connecting to networks until you reboot, but …
Simon Sharwood, 21 Sep 2015
Free range chicken and farmer photo via Shutterstock

It's alive! Farmer hides neglected, dust-clogged server between walls

On-Call Welcome again to On-Call, our regular look at the messes readers find themselves confronting when asked to go to help out their clients. This week, reader Matt brings us a tale from the time “I was working in a tiny system-integrator firm that has some big clients.” One of those clients was a substantial farm and food …
Simon Sharwood, 20 Sep 2015
Dunce's cap graffiti by cc 2.0 attribution

Australia's Digital Technologies curriculum finally signed off

Last Friday, Australia signed off on the nation's Digital Technologies curriculum, the first effort to teach computational thinking from infants' school to late High School. But the signoff is hollow because the content of the curriculum is hidden and a further review of technology education has been announced. The rubber …
Simon Sharwood, 19 Sep 2015

'Intrusion' at makes for red faces at Red Hat

Red Hat software has revealed “an intrusion on the sites of both the Ceph community project ( and Inktank (” that resulted in signed code being accessed. The company says and, both hosted “outside of Red Hat infrastructure”, were accessed by someone Red Hat doesn't …
Simon Sharwood, 18 Sep 2015
Diagram showing micro:bit spec

BBC Micro:bit delayed by power supply SNAFU

The BBC has admitted that the Micro:bit, the computer it plans to give to up to one million children, is not going to arrive on time due to quality problems. The Micro:bit was announced in March as a "get kids coding" initiative. Delivery was anticipated to occur in September, so that every 11 or 12 year-old in the UK could be …
Simon Sharwood, 18 Sep 2015
PC cooled by Irn-Bru

Scotsman cools PC with IRN-BRU, dubs it the 'Aye Mac'

An enterprising Scot has built a PC cooled by Irn-Bru*, and called it the “Aye Mac”. John Lawson, who runs an Edinburgh computer repair service called PC Doctor, decided to create the machine as a promotion and/or homage to Scotland's other famous drink. Sadly Irn-Bru's not the actual coolant – a liquid with the same colour …
Simon Sharwood, 18 Sep 2015
Parliament House Canberra by Flickr user OzMark17 used under CC Share and Share alike licence

Australia's biggest IT project failure/blowout may have started today

Remember the date – September 18th 2015 – as on that day Australia's Federal government commenced procurement for the nation's Welfare Payment Infrastructure Transformation (WPIT). The project will see Australia replace systems founded on flat-file databases installed in the early 1980s and known to have been limping along …
Simon Sharwood, 18 Sep 2015
Lenticular Cloud

Cloud casts deep shadows over disk backup market

Abacus-wielder IDC has run its eye over the “purpose-built backup appliance” (PBBA) market and proved, if it were necessary to do so again, that by golly things are changing quickly in the storage caper. EMC dominates the market for such PBBAs, taking in US$469.9m in 2015's second quarter to claim 60.1 per cent of the market …
Simon Sharwood, 18 Sep 2015
Coconut face by cc 2.0 attribution

Microsoft has developed its own Linux. Repeat. Microsoft has developed its own Linux

Sitting down? Nothing in your mouth? Microsoft has developed its own Linux distribution. And Azure runs it to do networking. Redmond's revealed that it's built something called Azure Cloud Switch (ACS), describing it as “a cross-platform modular operating system for data center networking built on Linux” and “our foray into …
Simon Sharwood, 18 Sep 2015

We are the Knights who code Ni!

A Venn diagram describing the overlapping populations of Monty Python admirers and software developers would probably show a very large intersection between the two groups. But that's not the only reason software development and motor boat enthusiast Göran Krampe has announced a new programming language called “Ni”. The …
Simon Sharwood, 18 Sep 2015
VMware nutella

Another week, another vSphere update

VMware's updated vSphere again, this time with a refresh for version 5.5. Virtzilla last week announced the first update to vSphere 6.0 and expects that release will be the catalyst for users of vSphere 5.5 to upgrade. But as CEO Pat Gelsinger told us at VMworld 2015, vSphere's so good that VMware customers aren't in a hurry …
Simon Sharwood, 18 Sep 2015
Bitcoin punch cards

Bitcoin is an official commodity, says US gummint

The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) has declared that Bitcoin, and indeed all virtual currencies, are officially commodities. The ruling arose after the CFTC ordered two outfits, Coinflip, Inc. d/b/a Derivabit (Coinflip), to stop their Bitcoin-trading activities. The FCTC says the companies offered “commodity …
Simon Sharwood, 17 Sep 2015

Germany loosens liability laws to promote WiFi hotspots

Germany has signalled it will ease laws that make it hard for local organisations to operate public WiFi hotspots. Current laws in the Bundesrepublik make hotspot operators liable for their users' activities. Fearing they'll be held accountable for copyright infringement or other offences, Germany's cafes, hotels, airport, …
Simon Sharwood, 17 Sep 2015

Obama's IT reforms saved about one per cent of spending

In 2010 the US federal government decided it needed a data centre consolidation initiative and a “25-point implementation plan to reform federal information technology management ((PDF) to save dough and improve efficiency, but a new Government Accountability Office (GAO) audit suggests neither outcome has been achieved. The …
Simon Sharwood, 17 Sep 2015

AWS cuts cloud storage price to UNDER a cent per gig a month

Amazon Web Services (AWS) has lowered prices again, this time dropping the fee for its archival Glacier storage below a cent per gigabyte per month to $0.007 per gig per month. The price cut is only applicable in some of AWS' regions, for now, but at that price, and with Glacier's deliberately slow restore times, who cares …
Simon Sharwood, 17 Sep 2015

Google ponders purified Pakistani YouTube

Pakistan's Standing Committee on Information Technology and Communications has recommended that the nation end its ban on YouTube. Pakistan was unhappy with YouTube for years, on grounds that it made it possible to view content considered blasphemous. Once the controversial film “Innocence of Muslims” made it to Google's …
Simon Sharwood, 17 Sep 2015
firing range - target in cross hairs

Banks team to paint shared target on Target

Financial institutions pursuing retailer Target have had a significant win after the US District Court said they can run a class action against the company. Target infamously managed to leak 40 million credit card numbers in 2013 and has been paying for its mistake ever since, spending up big on laywers and handing over US$ …
Simon Sharwood, 17 Sep 2015
The glyph for the Georgian Lari

Facebook gains power to Like any word ever written

Facebook as signed up as a full member of the Unicode Consortium, the body that universal character encoding standard for written characters and text. Why should we care? Because Facebook is just the eleventh full member of the organisation and now has voting rights alongside the likes of Google, Apple, Oracle, SAP, Microsoft …
Simon Sharwood, 16 Sep 2015
Beatrobot's Pico-Cassette

Game CARTRIDGES make a comeback ... for smartmobes

A Japanese company named Beatrobo has revealed plans to revive games cartridges, for use in smartphones. Beatrobo already makes a device that plugs in to a phone's audio port and sends a sound to the phone to authenticate you as someone able to access content stored in the cloud. The company's now planning to use the audio …
Simon Sharwood, 16 Sep 2015
The moon Enceladus is comparible in size to the UK

WARM, WOBBLING MOON believed to hide MOIST CRADLE of life

The wobblings of the warm and perhaps welcoming Enceladus, moon of Saturn, are said by top boffins to offer a surefire clue that wetness able to sustain life is to be found within. It seems that top boffins at Cornell uni have finally become willing to go firm on the matter following lengthy observations of the moon's motion, …
Simon Sharwood, 16 Sep 2015

CODING PEEP SHOW offers chance to hire devs as they program

Software development streaming outfit has just done something rather interesting to the profession of software development by turning it into a just-in-time resource. bills itself as an "educational livestreaming platform where people code products live." The site's founded on the …
Simon Sharwood, 15 Sep 2015
German Aerospace Center depiction of Philae on Comet 67/P

ESA tries UPLOADING PATCH to Philae lander to fix radios

The Philae lander may well be alive and mostly well upon Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, but the European Space Agency (ESA) is trying to patch its radio transmitters to overcome communications problems. That's the gist, as your correspondent sees it, of a lengthy “behind the scenes” post from ESA boffins explaining their …
Simon Sharwood, 15 Sep 2015

Don't bother buying computers for schools, says OECD report

A new report published today by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) says that “even countries which have invested heavily in information and communication technologies for education” cannot point to improved reading, mathematics or science among students. Teaching basic literacy and numeracy, the …
Simon Sharwood, 15 Sep 2015
Curiosity selfie as it drills for water

Curiosity Rover's OS has backdoor bug

Canadian security researcher Yannick Formaggio has detailed a significant flaw in VxWorks, the real-time operating system (RTOS) made by Intel subsidiary Wind River. Speaking at the 44CON event made famous last week, Formaggio detailed how an integer overflow mess allows remote code execution in the operating system. Formaggio …
Simon Sharwood, 14 Sep 2015
Gloved hand reaches into victim's pocket to steal mobile phone

Storage device reported stolen from insurer RSA's data centre

The insurance company formerly known as Royal & Sun Alliance but now going by the confusing-for-Reg readers “RSA” says “a data storage device has been reported as stolen from one of our data centres.” The firm's sparse customer notice and press statement say the device contained names and addresses, bank account and sort code …
Simon Sharwood, 14 Sep 2015
OS/2 Warp

World finally ready for USB-bootable OS/2

eComStation, the Dutch-owned company that offers a PC operating system based on IBM's OS/2, has floated the idea of a USB-bootable version of the OS. The firm keeps the OS/2 torch burning by offering a PC OS that lets users run OS/2 apps. The outfit claims the likes of Boeing, Whirlpool Corporation and VMware use its software …
Simon Sharwood, 14 Sep 2015
Canon's 250 megapixel CMOS sensor

Look! Up in the sky! It's letters on a plane read with a 250MP camera

Canon says it's developed a 250-megapixel CMOS sensor that shoots at 19,580 x 12,600 pixels and captures so much information it “was able to capture images enabling the distinguishing of lettering on the side of an airplane flying at a distance of approximately 18 km from the shooting location.” That trick was pulled off by …
Simon Sharwood, 14 Sep 2015

USA, China find common cyber-enemy within

Chinese president Xi Jinping visits Washington later this month and ahead of the leader's trip the USA and China have come to some sort of a “consensus on cyber security”. Last week in the USA, Chinese cabinet member Meng Jianzhu met with US secretary of state John Kerry, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Jeh …
Simon Sharwood, 14 Sep 2015
Paul Winchell and dummy

NEW BAN sees Australia HIDE value of networking kit imports

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has quietly stopped revealing the value of communications and networking products imported to Australia. The nation's new such requests appear in August's Confidential Commodities List, released last week, adds an entry for “Machines for the reception, conversion and transmission or …
Simon Sharwood, 13 Sep 2015

Pro tip: Servers belong in dry server rooms, not wet cloakrooms

On-Call Welcome again to On-Call, our regular look at the things your fellow readers find when they're asked to go out and fix things. This week we hear about the time that “Stuart” was handed an unusual assignment: his boss asked him to visit his employer's solicitor. “They felt they had been ripped off by their IT contractor,” …
Simon Sharwood, 13 Sep 2015

Galileo, Galileo, Galileo good to go!

Not one but two of the European Space Agency's Galileo satellite navigation craft were successfully launched in the small hours of Europe's Friday morning. The two new satellites, Galileo-9 and Galileo-10, aka “Alba” and “Oriana” will be joined in orbit later in 2015 by another pair. One of those birds is ready to fly, the …
Simon Sharwood, 11 Sep 2015
New Horizons' step farther out


Top space brains have confessed that a new batch of Pluto images downloaded from the New Horizons probe have left them stumped. Let's go straight to the snaps to see what it is exactly that has got the boffins so baffled. The pic below has been described as a “synthetic perspective view of Pluto, [that] shows what you would …
Simon Sharwood, 11 Sep 2015
iPad styluses

Citrix reveals 'USB redirection to cloud' plans to vaporise desktop peripherals

Citrix is working on something it calls “ USB redirection to cloud” that will allow input devices on local devices to work on virtual desktops. Over the last year, everyone in the remote/virtual/as-a-service desktop business has been talking up their ability to virtualise the graphics-heavy apps that some users wield. It's …
Simon Sharwood, 11 Sep 2015

vSphere Update 1 dribbles out in multiple downloads

VMware's released the various bits of software that together add up to the first update to vSphere 6.0 that we foreshadowed last week. ESXi 6.0 Update 1 adds stretched clusters and authentication for stretched clusters. The vSphere APIs for I/O Filtering (VAIO) have also arrived and give vAdmins the chance to “create software …
Simon Sharwood, 11 Sep 2015
Office 365 as seen in the Edge browser

Microsoft names September 22nd as the date for Office party

Automatically-downloaded upgrades to Microsoft Office will enjoy security updates for just eight months under Microsoft's new Office update plan. Redmond's raised the flag ahead of Office sprinting off the starting line on the anointed date of Tuesday, September 22nd and also explained how Office updates are going to work from …
Simon Sharwood, 11 Sep 2015

Let's NUKE MARS to make it more like home says Elon Musk

Billionaire electric car, battery and rocketry tycoon Elon Musk has suggested that humanity should nuke mars before we try to move there. Musk appeared on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert on Wednesday and declared Mars “a fixer-upper of a planet.” To begin with, Musk said, human residents on the red planet would need to …
Simon Sharwood, 11 Sep 2015
NASA's design guide from 1976

NASA reveals secret 1970s SPACE PANTS

NASA has released its graphics manual from 1976. The manual (PDF) explains how the agency's logo, typeface and other visual identifiers are to be used. NASA's administrator of the time, Richard H, Truly, writes in his introduction that the manual is no mere document for style wonks but ““a new tool to enhance and symbolize …
Simon Sharwood, 10 Sep 2015
Drop bears: Australia's most deadly creature

Australia builds facial recognition as a service for plod, spookhaüses

Australia will establish a National Facial Biometric Matching Capability “to allow law enforcement and security agencies to match one photograph of an unknown person against many photographs contained in government records to help establish their identity.” Those words come from the nation's minister for justice and minister …
Simon Sharwood, 09 Sep 2015

Netflix to complete global rollout, add 120+ countries by end of 2016

Netflix has announced it “will expand into South Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan in early 2016 as it moves to complete its global rollout by the end of next year.” The last part of the sentence is perhaps the most significant as the company has previously merely hinted at its rollout plans, telling investors in a letter …
Simon Sharwood, 09 Sep 2015
Money for nothing by dire straits

I want my EPG, say Windows Media Center users left in dire straits

Users of Microsoft’s Media Center PCs report that their electronic program guides (EPGs) aren't downloading data, or are offering incorrect data, nobbling their ability to use their boxen as video recorders. In the Media Center feedback thread at users report receiving no data, data for the wrong location, images …
Simon Sharwood, 09 Sep 2015
Microsoft monopoly

Microsoft in SaaS-y cloud data security slurp

Microsoft has acquired cloud security outfit Adallom. Adallom was founded in 2012 and follows the “R&D in Israel, sales in Silicon Valley” template for a range of data security products for clouds. The company's wares bring data loss prevention and reporting to cloud storage services, offering users the chance to see just who' …
Simon Sharwood, 09 Sep 2015
Stick cricket app screenshot

Google drops app prices to 15 cents for Indian users

The next billion people online aren't going to be as profitable as the first. Google India has announced that the local version of its Play app store has reduced the lowest price developers can charge for their wares or in-app purchases to 10 rupees. The floor price used to be 50 rupees. The new rate is equivalent to just US$0 …
Simon Sharwood, 09 Sep 2015
Man with head in the cloud

Breaking up EMC is a dumb idea, says VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger

Interview “From the EMC board room,” says VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger, “you can see the carnage of the minicomputer industry.” “Wang, Digital, Data General. You can see their buildings from EMC's headquarters.” That view, Gelsinger told The Register, means “we know how this whole story played out.” And because he and the EMC board have …
Simon Sharwood, 08 Sep 2015