1102 posts • joined Friday 19th October 2007 15:54 GMT
Quick! Send some to Australia.
What would happen if you could choose what OS to install on your phone?
In 2015, analysts (who are always right and never report their employer's preferred predictions) think it will be 49% Android, 19.5% Microsoft, 19% Apple, 12.5% other. Microsoft won't even be second rate for another three years. Why are HTC rushing to jump down the toilet when Nokia are currently stuck in the U-bend?
Patents worse than useless in that situation
5 years + lots of money to get your patent granted. Two years to get a hearing in court to get an injunction against a copycat. All that time the hypothetical copycat is earning cash to defend himself while you are throwing it at patent lawyers and earning nothing at all.
In the real world, innovators create products that give them an income. When they can show that income, they can sell the company to a venture capitalist (venture capital equals buying a cash cow). At about the same time, a copycat will see an opportunity. Armed with that capital, the innovator can create a second generation product and release it to market at about the same time as the copycat is ready with a first generation product. This can work for a few generations. After five or six years, the patent trolls will be armed with the debris from bankrupt innovators who gave their money to patent lawyers.
Check your history
The term "patent troll" is nearly two decades old, so I would not call it recent.
Patents are what established companies do instead of innovation. They let other people do the research, development and take the risk of setting up for mass production. When someone starts to see return on their investment, they rent their patents to a litigation specialist to sue the inventor back into poverty. (Suing directly is a bad idea. They would would be hit with a counter suit, forced to settle and cross license. The patents are almost certainly invalid. Going through a shell insulates the troll from the legal costs of failure.)
From the point of view of a government, patents are a zero sum deal. Any taxes they earn from patent trolls are taxes they lose from technology companies. From the point of view of consumers, patent lawyers put up the cost of products without contributing anything.
If you are thinking about entering the patent business yourself, the minimum cost for defending a patent used to be £100,000. These days you would need to bully tens times that out of ignorant manufacturers before you have a big enough war chest to attack someone with a clue. PS - buying patents is expensive. Please convince your employer to buy them until he goes bankrupt then pick up the patents in a fire sale. Please to do not ask the government to waste taxpayers' money on patents.
The only thing that is recent about patent trolls is that now many consumers are sufficiently aware of the damage they do that they are lobbying their governments in big enough numbers to matter. Perhaps this will result in another round of taxpayer funded adverts telling us how wonderful patents are.
The other thing to look out for:
No Linux driver: waste of space.
Closed source Linux driver: When the manufacturer wants me to buy a new printer, all he has to do is stop maintainting the driver. Assume the printer will be dead in two years.
Open source Linux driver: The manufacturer has to work harder to make me buy a new printer.
Perhaps other people would have given more to charity is they had not spent all their money renting Bill's software, or paying huge taxes so politicians can buy Bill's software.
I think whoever writes the software (or pays someone else to write software) gets to choose the license. I support Bill's right to rent out his third rate software at exorbitant rates. Google are Apple are welcome to spy on their customers who do not bother to read the terms and conditions that come with the products and services.
The other half of the glass
Diageo's sales jumped by 20 per cent. Did their competitors jump by -20 per cent? How much of that 20% was bought by children with their pocket money?
If people are concerned about underage drinking, why not organise a school trip to visit some homeless drunks? How about an art class on face painting all those who do not object the morning after a binge? Instead of trying to ban everything, cann't we see some positive suggestions?
The plan is to use the atmosphere as propellant and beamed power to heat it. This is much a much more effective way to get from the Earth's surface to low Earth orbit than building a huge propellant tank and using enormous amounts of propellant to lift the propellant.
1MW of beamed power puts 1kg of spacecraft into low Earth orbit. Here are some spaceship masses:
4547kg: Apollo Lunar ascent stage. (Takes you from the surface to the moon to lunar orbit).
14696kg: Apollo Lunar descent + ascent stages. (Take you from lunar orbit to the lunar surface and back again).
5560kg: Apollo command module. Holds three astronauts during their trip to lunar orbit and back. Has a heat shield and parachutes for re-entry into Earth atmosphere and a splash landing (Do not try this at home unless you have a large navy to rescue you afterwards).
44776kg: Apollo service module + command module + descent stage + ascent stage. Takes you from Earth orbit to the moon and back to the Earth (well, the sea anyway).
10809kg: Altair ascent module.
45864kg: Altair descent + ascent modules.
8500kg: Orion crew module (Holds 7 astronauts).
66864kg: Orion service module + crew module + Altair
Going to Earth orbit and back would require a 5 to 10 GW laser depending on whether you choose Apollo or Orion kit (Dragon is about 10000kg, Soyuz is about 7250kg). Going to the Moon in a single launch would require a 50 to 70 GW laser. If you can bolt the modules together in orbit, you could cut that back to 10 to 20 GW depending on how good you are at construction in orbit.
A Falcon 9 lifts 10450 to 26610 kg into low Earth orbit, so a 10 to 25 GW laser could do the same sort of things ie resupply the ISS or launch a commercial satelite with a rocket big enough to put it in geostationary orbit.
If you combine beamed power with VASIMR, you can substantially reduce the mass of the service module (20000 to 25000 kg) or low earth orbit to geostationary orbit transfer rocket.
One password to bring them all and in the darkness gpg them
Here is the program I use to generate new passwords:
strings < /dev/urandom | less
Passwords live in an encrypted password file next to their corresponding user names and security question false answers. If you cannot type, cut & paste to annoy the key loggers.
What happens with an intangible touch screen?
Back in the days of DOS: "Keyboard not found. Press any key to continue."
Then came Windows: "Mouse not detected. Click here to change."
Now that Microsoft is looking at tablets do we have "Touch screen not detected, tap here to continue."
If Microsoft had a product, who would make an effort to sell it?
For desktop PC's, Microsoft makes third rate software, but they control the distribution channel. Who in the mobile phone business wants that sort of relationship with Microsoft?
Well done Boundary Commssion: 9/10
The maps are here (found on the first page of sear engine results):
I found the right pdf on my second attempt (I live very close to a boundary).
pdfimages (from poppler-utils) extracted the underlying map without any problems.
pdftotext pulled out most of the text, near enough, but there is not that much text.
The boundaries are a little more tricky. For a single pdf, I would put the full rendered image and the underlying map in separate layers of the gimp and trace boundaries into paths by hand. If I had to deal with all 500, podofo looks promising.
Most government reseased datasets are a pain to find and decode. It looks like the Boundary Commission made no effort to hide, obfuscate or encrypt this data at all. I am sure heads will roll, but if the people responsible somehow survive the inevitable pogrom: SVG format boundaries would be nice.
Here there be dinosaurs
Sealed Partially Evacuated Arctic Rocket Rated Ignition Test Tube
Another argument for ARM
"This part will only be available for micro servers and will not be available for desktop systems."
If I buy a chip, the manufacturer does not tell me what I can and can't do with it.
A 256Mbit x 9 chip for $1.60
GB: Giga Byte
Gb: Giga bit
These are spelled wrong so often in consumer marketing materials that it is worth checking elsewhere. (Could be worse: ISP's keep offering me up to 20 millibits per second.) Check you favourate online suppliers for current prices. DRAM is cheap today, but I am sure the price will rise when I actually want some more.
I think people expected they could handle WebOS being abandonned
Ordinary people can unlock a phone. It does not require 70 years experience in the computing industry to reflash a BT home hub. I expect plenty of people thought WebOS could go the some way the moment it caused some minor inconvenience. There were some major problems with the hardware, but it was worth £100. If someone wants to add value to a tablet:
1) Pixel Qi display so the product can be used outdoors on a sunny day. Please gag the twit who thinks a glossy display is anything but a complete waste of money.
2) USB, ethernet and SDHC - all very cheap and sometimes handy.
3) Standardise the size and shape of the battery and PCB so I can replace them as needed like on a desktop.
4) Keyboard - sometimes it is nice to have the display stand up by itself and I need something to protect the display when it gets thrown in my backpack.
5) Keep the price down or the product will be too expensive to take out of the house and I will use a Raspberry Pi at home instead.
6) Pile them high and sell them cheap. I do not need a saleman trying to convince me I need Microsoft Office and an antivirus.
Which congressmen did most to create the internet?
Falsely attributed to Al Gore: "I invented the Internet." Al Gore's exact words: "During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet."
During the 70's Al Gore promoted high speed telecommunications. Also, the Supercomputer Network Study Act of 1986 and the High Performance Computing and Communication Act of 1991.
If you want to poke fun at Al Gore for something he did not say, first name a congressman who did more to create the internet and list his achievements.
Plenty of V3 about
Free software developers have sued manufacturers for failing to comply with the GPL. Do a quick web search for busybox and you will find plenty. Most GPL violations are settled out of court. A typical sequence is a developer writes to a manufacturer explaining what they are not doing, but should be. After some time for thought the manufacturer apologises, takes steps not to repeat their mistake and the developer re-instates the license.
GPL version 2 has weak areas: Tivozsation is when a manufacturer releases modified source code, but that code is useless because the boot loader will only load software signed by the manufacturer. Googlization is when a company makes GPL software available as a service but does not distribute it - and so is not required to distribute source code according to GPL version 2.
If googlization bothers you, take a look at the Affero General Public License. Tivoization is countered by GPL V3. GPL V3 also has better compatibility with other open licenses and is also more explicit about trying to defeat the GPL via limited agreements not to sue over patents (like the Novell/Microsoft deal). The cost of these benefits is that GPL V3 is considerably bigger and more complicated.
There are plenty of new projects that use GPL V3. There are plenty of older projects that have always been licensed as "GPL V2 or any later version" which are easy to move to "GPL V3 or later" if the developers so choose.
He who writes the code gets to choose the license. For some strange reason developers are choosing GPL (whatever version) no matter how much Microsoft and Florian Müller rant about it.
Publicity could not by worse ... for Apple
What this legal spat tells me is that Apple are sure they cannot compete on performance/price.
No risk of triggering an epileptic fit
Flashing at 2-55Hz is naughty. 800Mhz is safe.
The fisrt step when configuring a browser ...
Others know different
Dixie's rebirthday (unfrozen german shepherd): http://www.alcor.org/cryonics/cryonics8601.txt
Effects of antifreeze proteins on red blood cell survival during cryopreservation: http://jeb.biologists.org/content/199/9/2071.full.pdf
(These links are from 1986 and 1996 respectively and could be cobwebs. Dixie only went to 4°C, and not for very long. It looks like you need lower temperatures to preserve people for a longer time, but the required cryoprotectants are toxic. I was surprised not to find more modern links.)
Broken by design
The whole idea of public key cryptography is that you create your own public/private key pair yourself and distribute the public key. The private key should never leave your computer. If the key pair is created on someone else's computer, then someone else can use 'your' private key.
Hard disk don't clog up (for a few years) ...
... because they are sealed units made in a clean room. This fan will not clog up because - erm err (wave hands a bit) some really clever reason. The close tolerance between the heat sink and fan narrows the boundary layer around the heat sink at the cost of extra air resistance. There will still be a boundary layer around the fan. If they still shift more heat per watt running the fan then cool.
Cutting the budget is pointless
The head bean counters will cut the pay of the lowest paid staff or fire some of them. Then they will give themselves a bonus for saving money. What you do is tell the three head bean counters to vote on which of them gets fired. If it is a tie, fire all three. Otherwise, with the most obstructive bean counter out the way, the other two can work together to save money. If they don't, fire both of them next year.
After a while, checking is easy:
The magic command is:
gpg --verify downloaded.tar.bz2.sign
If downloaded.tar.bz2 does not match the signature, gpg will scream. If the signature matches, but was not made by a key you have previously marked as trusted, gpg will scream.
Newbies will start with an empty list of trusted signatures. A simple way to get started is to download everything, then wait a month or two for reports of bad signatures to hit the news. If there is no news then you can have some confidence that you downloaded trustworthy public keys.
Enemy pilots: please attack one at a time so my laser has time to cool
"phase change heatsink technology" means that parts of the heatsink will melt or boil. A far more practical approach would be to aim a couple of watts at an enemy pilot. Normally, blinding enemy pilots is considered naughty, but if the defence contract gets big enough I am sure such niceties will be forgotten.
Plants under 2% efficient
Plants take CO2, water and sunlight to make sugar. Some of the fastest growing plants store 1.5% of energy they get from sunlight in sugar. The only good thing about plants is that they are much cheaper than the cheapest solar panels (which are about 15% efficient).
In real life, intensive farming requires chemical fertilisers. These fertilisers require a large amount of energy to produce. The energy used for creating and transporting fertiliser is greater than the energy stored by converting plants into biofuel. On top of that, energy is required to transport water to the crop and to transport the crop to the processing plant.
Trying to get energy from plants is a huge waste of valueable farmland. All the CO2 captured is released again when the biofuel is burned (or the food is eaten). On top of that, you need the energy from the coal power station to make the fertiliser and run the distribution chain.
If it was that easy to throw something down ...
... then it would be just as easy to throw something up.
The ISS is going around the Eath at about 7900 metres per second. If you stand on the outside of the ISS and fast bowl a cricket ball downwards, the ball will go about 40 metres per second downwards but it will keep going 7900 metres per second around the earth. The cricket ball will be in a slightly elliptical orbit that is very close to the ISS.
To make the cricket ball go down, you have to throw it out the back of the ISS hard enough to make a significant dent in that 7900 metres per second. The result will still be an elliptical orbit, but the lowest point will be in thick enough atmosphere to slow the ball still further.
Can we name and shame politicians for signing poor contracts?
If the government pays a contractor far more than the original budget then that represents a success for the contractor and should result in increased share prices. If the government feels hard done by on some contract then the answer is to throw future tenders from the annoying supplier in the bin.
The other side of this is the government needs to learn how to specify what they want, and only pay for chunks that are sufficiently well documented that they can be built elsewhere if the relationship turns sour.
The problem is that backups for wind make wind pointless
Wind is too changeable to make up a large proportion of the power supply.
The first counter argument from the wind lobby is that if it is calm somewhere then it is windy somewhere else. Unfortunately that is not very true. Most years have a calm spell lasting days that cover the whole of Europe.
The next counter argument is pumped storage. Storage facilities buy when the price is low and sell when the price is high. If you increase the quantity of storage, the price fluctuations fall and the incentive to build more disappears. The current facilities pay for themselves because most of their capacity is used every day. If you have enough storage for wind then all storage will spend almost all the time using hardly any of its capacity. As a result increasing capacity to match government wind targets would require even bigger stealth subsidies than the next generation of wind farms.
The next bogus figures from the wind lobby are "enough to power 34 homes". This means the installed capacity (power output on a windy day) would run some lightbulbs and fridges. Central heating and cooking from gas and transport from petrol.
Next you have to include the load factor. Wind turbines were built on the best sites first. Load factors used to be 30% (variations in wind speed result in the average output being 30% of the installed capacity). As the best sites filled up, 27% became a good load factor. Now we are down to 25% and still nowhere near the target installed capacity.
Installed capacity in mega watts and load factors used to be a good indicator of the value of windturbines. On windy days, wind farms on the scale of government targets would produce more power than demand, and more power than can reasonably be stored. That power cannot be used for anything useful so the turbines must be shut down. This shut down is not included in the load factor. Wind power is proportional to wind velocity cubed. This means that windy days contribute a large amount to the load factor even though they are not that common. If you included this, load factors would take a severe thrashing.
When the wind does not blow, the difference has to be generated elsewhere. The cheapest source is currently gas. If you want wind power, you need to add equal amount of gas standing idle most of the time and paying for itself only in the calm periods. The entire purpose of building expensive wind farms was to burn less gas.
When you go through the numbers properly nuclear is far cheaper than large windfarms. Waves do not contain much energy. Hydro is excellent if you have a suitable site. Geothermal is difficult in the UK because the earth's crust is thick here (can work if a natural fissure reduces the amount of drilling required). Tide and currents are interesting - it would be nice if some pilot schemes got some funding to see if they really are a good choice. Solar voltaic is only cost effective in sunny deserts. Solar thermal can reduce heating bills significantly (make sure they have the right amount if thermal insulation to match the local climate). Ground sourced and air sourced heat pumps massively reduce heating (and cooling) bills. Biofuel is even more daft than wind turbines.
If you want a sensible energy plan: Cut wind down to the best sites. Blow up the excess wind turbines so they cannot claim subsidies. Replace some of them with gas because that is a quick cheap way to meet demand (and you had to build them anyway to handle calm days). Use the money saved to install heat pumps and solar thermal to cut the demand. Start building some nukes so they will be ready when gas becomes expensive again. Look under the cushions on the sofa for loose change and use the money to double the funding for research into tidal generators. Stop arguing about climate change. It does not matter whether it is real or fiction. A diverse energy supply means we are not locked into price hikes from any one type supply.
The book is not about the weather
It is about the scale of energy demand and resources. If CO2 was not demonised, devout global warmists will scream "blasphemy" and stop reading. That would be a pity because somehow, they need to understand that windmills will not keep people warm in winter. Even with an enormous subsidy, windmills can only provide a limited proportion of the UK's power. The idea of the book is that people can calculate for themselves if an energy strategy is even physically possible. It would take a bigger book to calculate the costs.
The purpose of Microsoft malware ...
... is to clog up a PC so badly that people take it back to the shop to be cleaned up or buy a new one. Although I am a complete penguin, I like to give credit where it is due. Well done Apple.
Try some real numbers with pumped storage
The UK uses about 35GW. If we aim for 20% from wind, that is 7GW. Most years, Europe has about 5 consecutive days of calm when the windfarms use more energy than they generate. So that is 600TJ of energy not supplied by windfarms. Now lets start adding up storage facilities:
Over 500TJ more to find. If you use anything outside the UK, you have to increase the storage requirement to include the host country's demand. The four I have mentioned are used every day to deal with peaks and troughs in demand. Storage for windfarms has to pay for itself with only a couple of weeks work each year.
Why is it every time I see proposals for wind farms I find the numbers are nowhere near reality?
Hydrogen tank size
Wakipedia has the numbers for energy storage densities:
Liquid hydrogen: 10.1MJ/L
Compressed to 700 bar: 5.6MJ/L
Atmospheric pressure: 10.79kJ/L
http://www.withouthotair.com/ has the capacity of real pumped storage facilities like Dinorwig: 9.1GWh
To store the same energy as Dinorwig, you could fill a cube 14.8m wide with liquid hydrogen (Imagine 7 floor tower blocks built side by side into a cube). Compressed hydrogen would require an 18m cube. At one atmosphere, the cube would need to be 144.8m wide.
This is the energy as 2 tons of TNT. Lewis is the explosives expert. You will have to ask him what you can blow up with that much TNT.
Remember Dinorwig provides the extra capacity to boil kettles during the adverts. It does not power the country for 5 cold calm days in a row, or store the proposed surplus energy from windfarms on a windy day.
Can have it back
Gold dissolves in a mixture of nitric and hydrochloric acid to form chloroauric acid. If you heat chloroauric acid, it gives off hydrogen chloride and leaves behind auric chloride. React auric chloride with trisodium citrate to get back to metallic gold.
If you want do destroy gold properly, send it to LHC or RHIC.
Netbooks never had a market
Netbooks were created because low margin small cheap computers were eating the high margin laptop market. None of the established laptop makers and distributors want SCC's in Europe or the US.
Linux/Mac OS Market share
Linux is very rarely pre-installed in desktops and laptops, so its market share is almost 0.
Linux is very common on routers, satnavs, and data centres and super computers.
Pick your definition of market share to move your choice of OS into the lead.
If Intel say it often enough they might convince themselves
Apple do not have a virus problem
They have a Trojan problem. Perhaps they might get a virus problem later, but only after they fix the brain dead decision to give the first user account created continuous root access without explaining why that account should only be used for system administration.
I doubt that Chrome will have a virus problem for a long time, if ever. They will have a phishing problem that is best countered by educating users. Google is quite correct not to install malware by default and hope that some magic anti-virus program will fix everything after the damage has been done. If there was some criticism of Google's efforts to educate users about spotting a phish then that could make sense.
Anti-virus software should be required only for Windows until Microsoft and Windows application developers understand basic security techniques.
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