Original URL: https://www.theregister.co.uk/2005/12/23/letters/

US tracks Xbox chippers via cellphone

A mixed Yule mailbag

By Lester Haines

Posted in Bootnotes, 23rd December 2005 13:24 GMT

Letters Xmas is almost upon us and we take this opportunity to wish you, our beloved readers, all the best for what remains of 2005 and the whole of 2006. Three people who will, sadly, not be enjoying their Yule as much as they might like are the ne'er-do-wells recently charged will selling illegally-modified Xboxes:

Nice to know as an American citizen that I am protected from an illegal chips and hardware/software modifications! Did I forget Illegal immigration and potential terrorists as well? The priorities are scary. If you want something done right don’t let the government do it.

Kristian Eliassen

When will sensationalist titles like this end?

It's not the "chipping" that is getting these people in trouble. It is selling the box with 77 pirated games! Pirated games! I have seen too many headlines "guy goes to box for selling chipped console"... when in the small text it states that he loaded 80+ pirated games on it.

It's not the chip. It's the games. Got it?

-Andrew (I do not own any game consoles at all, FWIW - just annoyed by sensationalism)

Shoot the Plaintiffs and their legal team - end of problem. When you buy a product, it's all yours. You can do with it as you like. No nation has any law that says otherwise. People need to resist these stupid attempts at bullying. While you're about it, line up the DRM, DMCR, MPAA, RIAA, BSF and all the other jerks for the same firing squad.


More naughtiness now: France and Finland are cracking down on illegal filesharing:

I'm in favor of minimum 5 year prison sentences for Piracy and a $10,000 fine PER copy. That would be an effective deterrent to Piracy. I'm also in favor of stoning Bill Gates in a public forum and burning him at the stake for World wide consumer fraud for selling his defective Windoze O/S

Oliver Wendell Homes

It's even tougher that this (in France). They have added rather high fines and jail terms for breaking DRM systems. They say they will only be used against "professionals", but we have to take their word for it.

OTOH, it seems that even the government-side MPs believe the law in its current state goes much too far.

If you read French, Liberation (major daily here) has a quite good coverage of the issues: www.liberation.fr.

Bertrand Denoix

Lingering in France for a moment, we find that the government is in favour of a flat-fee P2P system:

It did strike me having read the piece on P2P in France that the position in relation to P2P in general not unlike that taken in the UK to 'illegal' drugs.

Posession of a bit of something resembling an OXO cube - so long as you can convince the Constable 'chatting' with you that its for personal use - is ok.

God help you if you're found in possesion of media files with intent to upload - 10 years locked up at Her Majesty's Pleasure listenin to Lift Muzak (or something equally awful - see below) on a prison issue i-Pod, and the prospect of only a dodgy Columbian dial-up connection when you get out

Class A - This year's movie release or anything in the Top 40

Class B - Last years chart music and classic movies

Class C - Anything by the Spice Girls or Hearsay

Just a thought

Merry Crimbo and thx for a great read in 2005!

Niall Armstrong

No, thank you...

Is Wikipedia, though, a great read? For that matter, is our Wiki-bashing legit journalism?

Hi People,

Just a quick note about The Reg's coverage of Wikipedia.

At first the articles were humourous and thought provoking. As more articles were published, it became clear that objective journalism was being set aside.

The articles have recently moved from biased but fair criticism into the realm of ugly vindictiveness.

I'm saddened that a publication that I have previously enjoyed and for which I have had so much respect has degenerated in this way. I am also surprised that the many obviously intelligent contributors to The Reg have allowed this to happen.

I can handle bias, if its funny - but the wikipedia articles are just getting too nasty.



That's enough Wiki for 2005, thanks very much. Here are your musings on the possibility that black helicopters packed to the gunwales with spooks might be tracking you using your cellphone:

Hi A small but important technical point: Although mobile phone companies COULD triangulate the position of a mobile, those in the UK for certain (and AFIK the rest of the world) they have not invested in the technology to do it.. They make use of the fact that cells are 'corner fed' an use the timing advance to calculate distance from the transmitter. The effect of this is that in dense rural areas they can only get a theoretical maximum resolution of 100 metres (in practice usually 250 metres. In remote areas the accuracy can be as bad as 14Km. For confirmation, check any of the mobile location sites on the net. Better resolution can only be obtained if software is run by the target device and self-reported. rgds

John Blundell

>>which passively receive certain data from geosynchronous satellites to enable the phone (but not the provider) to determine its precise locations - often within a matter of feet.

sorry to be nit-picky - GPS satellites are not geosynchronous (staying in rough position over one LAT/LON position) - they are LEOs (low earth orbit) constantly moving around Earth.

Bill Pinnell

You lost a little bit of creditability with me with the claim that: "Finally, some cell phones are also equipped with GPS capabilities, which passively receive certain data from geosynchronous satellites to enable the phone (but not the provider) to determine its precise locations - often within a matter of feet."

1) GPS (well technically Navstar in this case but since no cell phones use glonass that is being a little pedantic) does not use geosynchronous satellites. SBAS (Satellite Based Augmentation System) systems like WAAS are geosynchronous but I am not aware of any phones which use them, they don't give any significant advantage that you couldn't gain over the phone networks.

2) GPS on it's own can't give accuracies of a few feet, a stand alone GPS is lucky to get 2 meters accuracies. Wikipedia claims that it is more like 5 meters which is probably closer to what an average consumer unit will achieve. With some help from the cellphone network for correction information (or WAAS) an accuracy of 3-6 feet may just be possible from a cell phone but would be a waste of power, cost and space in a modern cell phone and would require far more attention to detail than most cell phone designers have the time to spend.


An awful lot of words to say nothing of value...

Electronic monitoring is not illegal and it should not be illegal. The Constitution does not guarantee that you won't be electronically monitored nor should it. The only folks who should be concerned about electronic monitoring are those who have something to hide and if you do you will be found out sooner than later. This nonsense about invasion of privacy is a common knee-jerk reaction to everything the government does to monitor or prevent crime. To hear some of the gullible people in the world, you'd think using electronics to prevent crime was a bad thing...


While we're chatting about surveillance and satellites, here are a few comments on the bloke finds himself on Google Earth shocker:

Does anyone know when the pictures were taken which are used for Google Earth?

I've looked for my house, my workplace and houses of friends to note that; one of my house must have been taken in the summer 2003 due to changes in the areas around it; the one from work has to be July 2003 since not only can I spot my bike on the picture but the surrounding features, car parks (which were removed in August that year), roads nearby were being modified at that time and the work can be seen; and the picture of my fiancé’s house must have been take at least 3.5 years ago since changes to the garden (i.e. light coloured gravel has since replaced the grass) date it.

If this is the case for all the pictures, can the bloke in Bristol be sure that it is him he’s seeing?

Regards Dave Ainscow

I find it had to believe that any of the UK is that up to date, looking at my house in Google Earth I might need to wait four years before I appear on it.

My house was completed in December 2001, yet the google earth image shows it still in a state of un-roof-iness. Infact most of the housing estate is not even started in the image.

Regards, Jason Baziliauskas

More to the point, how does he know when the pictures were taken?

Having spent many hours using google earth for research purposes (well, I do work in a centre of image processing excellence), the pictures are not from a single date, but seem to be a mix of differing ages from about 6-40 months ago - for example, the picture of outside my house in Glasgow has my neighbours car in the drive (arrived about 18 months ago, left about 2 months ago, and didn't move between times), while Morgan Academy in Dundee was gutted by fire in 2001, and re-opened in August 2004 - Google Earth has it with no roof, suggesting pics from around 2001/2.

Alan Gauton

Sorry to be a killjoy, but having looked at Bristol on Google Earth it is unlikely that it is them if they were there over the summer. Looking at most of the building work and architecture around Bristol on Google Earth, the pictures are from 2-3 years ago. For instance the work hasn't been started on the massive Canons Marsh Development in the images on Google which has been going on for 2-3 years. However I did manage to spot my Dad's car outside his house :P

Jack Rose

Clearly a hoax ... dead give-away to claim to that its a photo of a Bristol student house and only have one car parked outside :-)

David Shepherd

Lester, Shouldn't it read, "...when I *were* a lad..."? Not sure how to do flat vowels in text... Lee

On the subject of gin and tonic, I have but two words to say:

Bombay Sapphire.

I thank you.

Steve Kerrison

How do you like your science? Well, popular, but not that popular:

Your article "NASA Pluto mission looks good to go" was a good read until I cringed on this sentence: "New Horizons gets its juice from a single radioisotope thermoelectric generator and consumes less energy than than two 100-watt domestic lightbulbs."

The readers who, like me, purposefully decide to click on the story link and read your article are most likely aware of basic science. Chances are, we even know that a 100 W bulb consumes, well, 100 W. And it took me but a minute amount of brain power to figure out that two such bulbs consume 200 W. I note that you mercifully didn't choose to overtax our abilities by describing this power rating as "four 50-watt domestic lightbulbs". I'll go on a limb and assume that this was also the case for most other readers.

Which is why I feel you need to take a stand about your readers here. Are we intelligent people interested in science, technology and space, or are we barely keeping the mouse moving in spite of the drool sliming down from our idiot-toothed jaw?

If you give us some credit and pick the former, please drop the insulting baby talk attempts and write things like "200 watts". And by all means, refrain from ever using "cricket/football field" as a length measurement or the "Library of Congress" unit of data storage that plague US technobabble.

Thank you,

--Fred Mora

Duly noted, although we reserve the right to use the phrase "when they opened him up there was a tumour the size of a walnut/egg/grapefruit" (delete according to severity).

And finally - before we all head down the pub for some Xmas cheer - enjoy this response to our revelation that French geezer Philippe Starck is to design the Virgin Galactic spaceport:

Dear Mr. Haines,

Regarding your "vision" of our new glorious, "guaranteed to bring in billions" Spaceport:

The structure looks correct but if that is indeed a background photo of New Mexico, it must be nearer Gallup than Truth or Consequences, where the Spaceport is proposed to be built. There are no red sedimentary rocks of that type near T or C. T or C is in the Rio Grande Rift and although there are mountains there, they are not the ones shown in your picture. Gallup is almost 200 miles from there and geologically placed in the Colorado Plateau.

Geographically yours,

Susan Hunter
Albuquerque, NM

Here, for the record, is the offending artist's impression of how we believe the structure may look:

Our artist's impression of how we believe the Virgin spaceport might look

And click here to discover the inspiration behind Starck's astounding architectural statement. Happy Christmas. ®