Reg readers suffer technology separation anxiety

And vigilante envy

Letters No prizes for guessing the topic of the week for the readers of El Reg. Yes, the still-mysterious alleged terror plot that closed Heathrow, grounded hundreds of passengers, and caused Telegraph journalists to renounce plane travel for ever and always.

Let's start with the restrictions on what you can take onto the planes. Although your shiny bits of technology will now be allowed back on, the suggestion that you might have had to part with your toys clearly rankled. Also, you though it was rather stupid overkill:

re: no gadgets on planes. Looks like it's Boom Time for these guys -

I can see packing my case in the future being something akin to putting together a set of those Russian "matryoshka" dolls. Put your i-pod into it's own case, laptop into it's own case, mobile phone into it's own case, then those cases into your main case. Then the fun starts - check in your cases then get called to security to go and unpack each case in turn to prove it is not a cunningly disguised thermo-nuke.

By this point I reckon I'd be going spare.

I commute from the Isle of Lewis to Edinburgh to work every week. By checking-in online and taking only cabin baggage (my laptop, ipod, mobile phone, favourite pants) in a backpack, which I purchased using the overhead bins of a Saab 340 as the size guage, I can leave my desk in Edinburgh at the back of three on a Friday, get to Edinburgh airport in ten minutes, cruise through security without going near a check-in desk, fly to Stornoway and be home with my feet under the table by 7pm.

I know guys who take nearly as long just to commute across London. It's pretty convenient, I have always thought. Not any more, though. I'll either have to check it all into the hold (extra 30-45 mins of queing) or leave it behind.

I wonder what they'd do if I turned up without any bags at all, just a smartphone or PDA with my music and essential files on it. - Put that in your hold luggage, sir. - I don't have any hold luggage! - Please accompany this officer to the anal probing booth, sir...

It is unmitigated pish. What kind of terrorist is going to bring down flight BA8957 to Inverness and Stornoway? Who would care if they did? Hardly a stirring victory, likely to be the catalyst for the establishment of an Islamic Caliphate across the Middle East...

Cheers, Mark

Laptops banned on planes may become an longterm oppotunity for network PCs such as the rumored Google PC. With ground to plane wireless, airplanes could be fitted all in flight access to your server based desktop. Just a thought. -Colin

If you thought, what the hell, I can get a loaner laptop in the office when I get there and work with that. Forget it. You still have to check in your secure id fob is stuck in your check-in bags and unless you put it in a standard suitcase, you get sent from "BA's fast baggage drop" to the outsize bag check-in for some extra practice in queueing. Oh well, maybe the company will let you have a secure_id fob for each office you visit. You can leave it in a drawer till your next visit, after all you never told anyone you pin number and nobody could work that out so its perfectly secure.


Regarding Barclays giving out card readers with one-time password generators: UBS in Switzerland currently gives out card-readers of sorts combined with chip-cards. When you log on, they give you a token which you type in to the reader, which gives you the one-time password. Of course the card is protected by a password.


Some of you were particularly amused by the new security arrangements:

I read with amusement some of the security procedures being practiced by airport security staff (apparently under the direction of bright sparks at the Home Office and TSA):

1. As news leaks (pardon the pun) that some kind of 'binary liquid explosive' was involved, airport staff can be found pouring all of the confiscated drinks together into a big bin. Either they know there's nothing to be found (in which case can we please end the charade), or they presumably don't understand what a binary explosive is. Hope they aren't putting the electronic key fobs in there too.

2. Liquid medical prescriptions are still allowed on board if the name on the bottle matches the name on the passport. Again, excellent security that relies on the fact that terrorists smart enough to come up with a way to combine several (presumably hard to obtain) liquids with an iPod to create an in-flight bomb are simultaneously too stupid to work out how to fake a prescription label using a colour printer (and god forbid that any of them work at any one of the thousands of chemists around the country where such labels are dispensed legitimately -- under air-tight security, natch -- in the first place).

3. Even books are being confiscated from passengers travelling from the UK to the US. Presumably because the dastardly terrorist couldn't possibly accomplish the same thing (which is what exactly? Start a small-ish fire in the bathroom?) using pages from their passport or some tampered-with foreign currency.

And given that a great deal of terrorism seems to originate in some loaded combination of fear (of cultural domination by Western media), anger (at the 'corrupt values' demonstrated by Western media), and deprivation (including intellectual deprivation from a lack of educational opportunity), it seems somehow strange that the would-be terrorist is now forced to watch the kind of appalling drivel that passes for in-flight entertainment. And this when they could be reading some mind-expanding good books instead.

I predict a rise in in-flight capture of terrorist suspects driven to a suicidal rage by having to watch Love Actually. So perhaps it's a good thing that there are people with guns (who couldn't possibly be overpowered) on our US-bound planes these days.

Finally, I can't even begin to say how happy I am that my laptop will now be subject to the gentle ministrations of airport baggage handlers.


More specifically, you wondered about the wisdom of making a plane turn tail because a verbotten mobile phone made its presence known:

Am I the only one thinking that if the phone was going to blow the plane up, it's a bit late to be turning back after it's started ringing ? Or does it light a long, slow burning, fuse so that in the traditions of the best films, they can land and someone can cut the fuse with seconds to spare !


What about the shock gel they put around (some) laptop hard drives?

Good think there is no way of getting laptops to spontaniously combust. Perhaps Dell should limit each person to purchasing only 3, unless they want to sell them to a Texan.


So, laptops on planes are OK now. How many laptops have bluetooth? WiFi? Pretty much all of them, I guess.

So I'm thinking: bomb in the hold with a tiny bluetooth device attached to it (for instance one of the bluetooth RS232 adaptors you can get, which are the size of a DB9 plug). Bad guy has a laptop with bluetooth, and, well.

But they claim to be much better at screening checked baggage. Really, I wonder?

[I presume the only reason they aren't worried about checked bags with a timer is that it's hard to persuade people to sit on a plane waiting for it to blow up - they like to set off the bomb themselves.]


Still with mobiles, this time it seems they've been inspiring a spate of vigilante attacks on car tyres. Notes left at the scene accuse the drivers of using their mobile phones while whizzing around town:

Woohoo for vigilantes!

Not being able to drive leaves me with alot of walking to do, with Britains streets being as exciting to view as drying paint you can't but help notice people as they drive by - many of them still using their mobile - held up to there head - or even more daft using the built in "handsfree" - holding it about six inch from their head.

I've been in about five car accidents in my life (always as a passenger) and all due to lack of car and attention by the driver of the other vehicle - using a mobile whilst driving only adds to this - when will these people learn - you're driving upto a ton of metal at high velocity.

Handsfree kits are what - £10?

How much is a life worth?


In the immortal words of The Cardigans: 'Go baby go baby, yeah, we're right behind you.'


The chap could just be targeting X5s, or other chelsea tractors, for the slashings without investigation, tracking or even spotting them gassing on the phone - he's probably quite safe to assume that the drivers are dialing/texting on the phone, applying lipgloss, checking hair and occasionally driving.

He'd never see what they were doing behind the "privacy glass" either.

But it's probably a fair assumption.

Stereotypically yours,


They should recall all cellphones and replace them with cellphones that ONLY function when the vehicle is NOT in motion.

Otherwise all non-cellphone drivers should be given hand grenades to toss into cars when drivers talk and attempt to drive at the same time. Since these cellphone junkies are gonna kill themselves sooner or later, we might as well give an incentive to those with a clue to stop talking on the phone while trying to drive. The grenade should make the point clear.


The voice of moderation...

While I abhor any vigilante action, I can understand where this person is coming from. My daily commute is 30 miles each way on the A13 into London and I usually count between 4 and 10 people each way chatting away with their Life-Extension (mobile phone) plastered to their ears. Some actually even manage to stay in one lane whilst doing this which is impressive. One particular dork on Friday evening was doing 50 (in a 70 limit) in lane 3 with a huge queue of traffic behind him.

Personally I would like to see more people being pulled for this and see the penalty raised to a full on Careless Driving charge. The law is a waste of paper unless it is enforced!


"... make a note of an offender's registration, and then "somehow" tracks the vehicle to the owner's address ..."

Hmm, perhaps the first place they should look is the DVLAs sales of details -


Happy Birthday to you, Happy birthday to you! (We'll stop singing now, else we'll have to pay royalties on that) But it had to be done, because the IBM PC has turned 25:

`The IBM PC ran something called MS-DOS on a 4.7MHz processor made by an up and coming Silicon Valley firm called Intel.'

Very nearly right. That should be 4.77MHz, or 4.8MHz to 2 sig. figs. And wasn't it called PC-DOS back in the very early days? Hmm: <>. Yes, it was.

I recall having a play with one of the very early IBM PCs (probably in 1981 or '82), and thinking that the whole setup was very horrible to use, not to mention lacking in power and essential features when compared to much of the competition (although yes, okay, an early IBM PC could do more than a ZX81 and the early IBM PCs had *lovely* keyboards IMNSHO). Not much changes in 25 years, does it?

(I wasn't quite old enough to be buying beer then so I can't comment on the 60p/pint bit. Mind you, I wasn't old enough to be buying beer when I did start buying beer, but that's a separate issue.)


Think about this: If IBM had picked the Motorola (now Freescale) 68000 processor, which was a better processor, what would Intel be right now. Probably not much! The result if that decision and many that were done for the original PC are still with us (sadly!!) today!


Beer might have been 60p a pint - but try to get food in a Northamptonshire pub at the weekend and they started counting your tentacles.

Has everyone forgotten DisplayWrite 4? Good.

And for years, the only people who could connect two of the beasts either to each other or to anything else were Novell.

The 10MB hard drive that - try as you might - you couldn't fill up? And that was on the server - your desktop XT system only had a couple of floppies.

Unless you had the same beancounters I had, when it only had one.

Everyone's dream was to have their own AT - that was REAL status. Anyone could have an XT.


Good article, and a bit of nostalgia. But I have to ask, where did you get your price for the IBM PC ???

Was this the "base" model ? Do your sources tell you how this PC was configured ??

My IBM PC, with 2 double sided diskette drives (which I had to wait for), 32KB of RAM, a "Green Screen", AND an Epson MX80 printer went for $ 4,200.00. It came with a BASIC interpreter, almost half of which was in ROM.

Several months later, a "Personal Editor" was available for around $139.00 (or so). I eventually purchased "The UCSD Pascal System", so I could use it for school. [My M.S.C.S. I needed SOME kind of high-level language !!]

In being one of the first to buy this machine, I got to know the likes of Peter Norton, when he had his little "NewsLetter" out of Venice Beach, CA; and the machine paid for itself by netting me several jobs where I was one of the most knowledgable folks in the industry, and very valuable (for a time).

My PC was damned near useless, until I bought the UCSD system. I didn't get the jobs until I started dissecting the PC/XT (hard disk).

Thanks for the memories, but check your pricing.


And it wouldn't be letters without a straightforward complaint. Once again, it is our dabbling in politics that has given rise to your ire:

I've always thought the Reg was a respected UK based website dealing primarily with matters IT, and occassionally with items of humour or general interest that serve to brighten our day. Thomas C Greene, with his article "Yanks not impressed with UK terror emergency" seems to be using it for commentary on US domestic politics with a side helping of scorn for the UK authorities.

Irrespective of the content of his article, this is not the kind of output that I want to find on El Reg. The last thing I want to have to do is wade through political opinions posing as news items on your website. If I wanted to do that, I'd read the Grauniad, the New York Time, etc. I would also ask whether Mr Greene has ever heard of Richard Reid.


Matthew Barratt

p.s. Amusingly, & both appear to be unregistered. Surely an opportunity for a deliberately satirical cybersquat?

After you, Matthew...

And finally, after all that seriousness, we come to the daft acronym section, provoked (yes, provoked) by the Critical Interactions BEtween Species and their Implications for a PreCAUtionary FiSheries Management in a variable Environment - a Modelling Approach (BECAUSE):

I read that, and I thought `I bet it's an EU project, that one' - because EU-funded science projects have got to have a single acronym to identify the project, and it helps if everyone can pronounce the thing in a recognizable fashion. The acronyms tend to be silly, quite a lot of the time. I checked the link and yep:


EU framework programme. Yeah. Seen that before. No, no, I don't get involved, but my wife does.

Silly acronyms? Well, there was a project dealing with waste water sensors and whatnot for sewage treatment (my other half was involved) - that one got called AQUA-STEW.


A study is requried to examine the relationship between the length of an acronym and the cost of the project it represents. Of course unfinished projects may have an infinite cost to the public purse. My hypothesis is of course obvious.


Quite, Mike. See you all Friday.

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