Original URL: https://www.theregister.co.uk/2006/09/26/letters_2609/

Stuff ID cards in Faraday cages

An alternative take on the week so far...

By Lucy Sherriff

Posted in Bootnotes, 26th September 2006 15:39 GMT

Letters In the postbag this fine Tuesday, we discovered a multitude of mail on the subject of cutting the cost of the ID card scheme. You had much to say about minister Liam Byrne's suggestion that using existing government databases might help trim the budget a little:

I wonder how much experience Liam Byrne's consultancy work gave him in reconciling records from wholly different database systems. For example, I work in Local Government and we are undergoing a lengthy project to reconcile our disparate property records into one database. This means figuring out that the house referred to as "The White House, Main Street" on the planning system is the same place as "1 Main Street" on the council tax system. And that it's the same place as "The White Cottage, 1 Main Street" on the electoral registration system. This is by no means a simple task, but at least you can go out to Main Street and have a look around. The buildings are pretty fixed after all.

But how do you establish that "J. Smith" on one database, is the same person as "Mr Smith" on another database, and the same person as "James Smith" on a third system, but not the same as "Jim Smith" on a fourth system, etc, etc. It sounds to me like a bloody nightmare. regards,


Presumably these "other government databases" would be the same ones that are full of errors which the fresh new ID register is intended to avoid.

Still, it's nice to see that even Home Office ministers lack confidence in the proposals.


Surely if they use existing databases then all the errors, fakes and other nasties that are in there will be set in stone. Time to go develop a few spare identities just in case, methinks! How about a competition to see who can get the most 'official' ID cards based on existing information when the new database is compiled?


>One Salford councillor told him he was prepared to go to jail rather than have a card.

Yeah, me too. Maybe we'll have adjacent cells. If I'm really lucky they might stick me next to Tony Benn. I don't think this current crop of authoritarian fear-mongers with their not-so-well-hidden total-surveillance project quite understand how many people are prepared to turn round and tell them where they can stick their ID cards. The problem will only get worse once the sleeping masses start to realise that any public official in a bad mood can on a whim demand "Ihre papieren, bitte!".


Unfortunately the government seem to have missed the point with their ID cards could cost less statement.

They could cost even less (around 0p per person) if they scrap the idea and stop intruding into all the freedoms from intrusive government that our ancestors fought and died to protect.


The Daily Mail enchanted us all with its plan to encage teenagers. It says just to stop them cheating during exams, but we reckon 24/7 wouldn't hurt...

Am I the only one to spot that a simpler solution would be for pupils to have to use exam supplied pens and pencils thus negating the need for them to take anything into the exam school (set texts excluded). Then you could just buy a cheap metal detector wand and swipe all the criminal masterminds and artful dodgers at the door. There are some additional practical considerations like lockers for every child’s things, but it’s got to be cheaper than a faraday cage.

Commercial aircraft don’t see the need to fit faraday cages around the passenger cabins, and mobile phones on airplanes supposedly present LETHAL DANGERS!


Ah, the Van der Graaf generator. We had a teacher, affectionately known as Psycho, who had a novel use for the old Van der Graaf - as a punishment device. Say there were five ne'er-do-wells who had to be taught a sound lesson. He would line up four polystyrene blocks next to the generator.

Four of the louts would stand on these blocks, holding hands, and the one closest to the generator would put his hand on the brass dome while Psycho cranked it up. The fifth wayward pupil would then be instructed to touch the kid on the end block, thus discharging the generator and sending a shock through the hands of all five yobos. Those were the days, eh? Who needs an Asbo when you've got a Van der Graaf generator handy...



In your article about putting farraday cages around school examination rooms, you wrote:

"Oh yeah, and to pay for the 100-foot-high brass Van Der Graaf generator that the physics department successfully lobbied for in the 1950s"

Well, the solution is obvious. Forget the expensive farraday cage. Just bring the Van Der Graaf generator into the exam room, fire it up and look on in awe as the students take their exams with their hair standing up on end and all their communications devices exploding.

Serves them right for cheating.

- Gavan

The US has helpfully sent a bunch of former silicon valley CEOs over to the Lebanon. Because what you really need, when your house has been used as a Hezbollah shelter and bombed by the Israelis, is better business process management:

I'm all for Americans getting involved in the reconstruction of Lebanon, but I wonder just how warm a reception they'll be getting out there, considering that during the conflict, as I understand it, the Lebanese government weren't particularly keen to even give the Americans port access to evacuate their citizens, hence all that exciting footage of dashing American military people carrying people off in helicopters ...


However, we do know that Chambers is the model of Southern charm and gentility, so once he starts passing round the mint juleps, we're sure the region's warring parties will soon all be getting along like a house on fire.

It'll be a fire allright...cause the Muslim faith prohibits the drinking of alcohol.


Creative urination is not going down well in Sun's Belgian HQ. Shocker, eh?

"Guy Pees On Wall In Belgium"

So this is news how? Consider Belgium's #1 tourist attraction: the Mannequin Pis. With this brass shrine to whipping it out and spraying in public as part of the national identity of his employees, I would expect Mr. De Decker to be more inclined to just go with the flow...



I was a Sun employee in the mid-late 90’s. Back then, Scott [McNealy] used to have a web-based radio show (the name escapes me now), where he would share his wit and wisdom with employees.

One of his standard rants was that male employees weren’t flushing the toilets or urinals enough, made the whole site look/smell like a bus station, according to Scott. He also solicited input from the rank and file for his show.

One memorable entry was a guy with a guitar who sang a song called “Sun Spectrum”, which praised a new service program. Delightfully bad and tedious, we played it constantly just to annoy our co-workers.

Keep up the good work


Rapped knuckles for us at Vulture Towers for our coverage of an ATM scam in which nefarious ne'er do wells reprogrammed cash machines to confuse twenties for fives:

In your item about crooks reconfiguring ATM machines to issue $20 bills instead of $5 ones, you state: "We can only hope that the wave of publicity over the scam will prompt Tranax into action so that the scam is nipped in the bud. At the very least it ought to pull the copies of its manual offline."

No - that's not the problem, and nor is that the solution. Removing the manuals is just security through obscurity, and the information is out now anyway.

The minimum solution is for Transax not to ship ATMs with a default PIN in the first place, or if they do, to force operators to change them from the default. The same happens when you login for the first time to a properly-configured Windows domain, for example.

A stronger solution would be to design in some sort of two-factor authentication, and that could be as simple as a physical key turned in a lock in addition to the PIN. You could disable all on-screen configuration changes unless the note hopper is open, for instance.

Poor show guys - I would have hoped for a more informed comment from the Reg than that.


Fabulous news for networkey types. Cisco, like the Tories, has embraced environmentalism and gone green. A scribble-tree logo is surely only weeks away:

They could cut greenhouse emmissions even futher by changing the packaging of their equipment. I've just completed a 970-switch (20 of them Cat-6509's). We deployed 3880 SFP's.

3750 switch comes with; 1 power cable, 1 serial cable, 1 300 page useless manual (it's out of date) 5 other flyers and such, a CD (with all the info contained in the book on it) a serial cable and a link-cable. All wrapped in plastic, with the switch wedged in styrofoam.


Each SFP comes in a plastic clip-lock bag, with a 25 page multi-language installation manual - GRRRR!

After the 6 month installation, I have about 4.8 Tonnes of rubbish (!) - Most of it paper or cardboard, but about 600Kg's of it is non-recyclable plastics.

This is just ONE installation - That 600Kg's of plastic equals at least its own weight in Co2, let alone the Co2 in transporting it from Mexico to Australia and manufacturing the plastics, all for it to be thrown out protecting something that didn't need protecting in the first place!!!!!

I would love for them to go paper-only packaging - Make multipack switch boxes (containing ONE manual, CD and such) and eliminate the plastic wrapping for everything but the mounting brackets and screws....


Last week we featured a letter from a pedantic chap called Michael. Happily, in his rant, he made a small error. Many of you wrote in to crow in delight at his misstep. We tought, er thought, we'd let you do so in public:

Michael wrote:

"[Blah blah blah, 'reaver' not 'reever', 1615, OED, my reference is bigger than yours is *and* the ladies like it more, how could anyone possibly be so stupid, and then:] [...]not, I suspect, what Joss Weedon had in mind."

Er, sorry, Michael, but that's 'Whedon', and I didn't even need to check the OED to know it. Mote in thy neighbor's eye, beam in thine own, all that, eh?



It's always fun to see a spelling nazi write in with a correction, only to have to be correct himself. It's Joss *Whedon*, Michael. I myself had picked up on the Reever error, as probably had a bajillion other Browncoats, but left it, happy in the knowledge that there's at least one closet Browncoat at Vulture Central. They get everywhere ...

If Michael is going to be so picky about spelling, he should first make sure to polish the glass of the house in which he's living. It's Joss Whedon, not Weedon. Even more amusingly, his error was identical to the one he's berated, in that it's an extra and incorrect "e". .....what a maroon.


Education is not just good for your career prospects, it seems. Graduate women have a better time in bed than their less qualified sisters. You responded to this news with disarming honesty...

That's good news for my wife, she's finishing her OU this year...


I always knew my partner's lack of satisfaction in bed was down to her poor education. After all, it can't possibly be ME ...


And on that optimistic note, we will say farewell. Back on Friday with more, so keep writing. ®