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* Posts by Donald Becker

102 posts • joined 3 Dec 2007

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Jeff Bezos reveals Amazon's brutal scale in annual letter

Donald Becker

They are the experts, but I have to wonder about the health of Amazon's main business of a few years ago.

They used to be the low-cost supplier of physical books, and had good prices on many consumer goods. Combined with free shipping over a low threshold and avoiding tax, they were a really good choice of price-aware consumers .

I seem to have figured this out just a little too late. Over the past two years much of the advantage has gone away.

I joined Amazon Prime just before they started charging tax and switching items to the new "Add On" category where free shipping doesn't apply. Items that are still available with Prime shipping have been marked up, often well over retail, to include shipping cost.

Subscribe & Save is another part of the Amazon shopping that is becoming annoying rather than helpful. It's pretty much rolling the dice with prices. In exchange for saving 5% (sometimes 15% or 20%), it means you agree to whatever price they pick on the day they ship. I've had prices more than double between shipments, with no notice. Things that still have an especially good price are frequently "out of stock" -- I just had my entire April shipment canceled because of this, But other times they don't hesitate to consider a smaller package as the same product.

Bottom line is that I see Amazon has an amazing, broad business. But the consumer-facing part is inconsistent and unpredictable. The result is that there is a lot less brand loyalty there than with most businesses, and that could result in a crisis with any misstep.

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Dell Wyse Cloud Connect: Pocket Android desktop

Donald Becker

I'm with the other posters here.

You can't just put a sticker on a MK808 device, double its price, and pretend that you have a game-changer. The hardware is almost there, but the software isn't.

It's curious that Dell thought that Android was the right base. It's the right base for a mobile device, where the single-running-app model is a simple, robust way to control power use. A corporate desktop front-end would be much better served by a Linux install.

My guess is that this is more of a low-budget trial balloon rather than a well-considered compute ecosystem.

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Apple to maintain phone profit lead through years of 'enormous transition' – report

Donald Becker

When the service contract costs $100/month with a two year lock-in, the difference between a $100 phone and a $600 phone looks pretty small. Especially with a U.S.-traditional $300 subsidy (where any excess value is retained by the phone company).

I don't see price as a significant Apple vulnerability for increasing customers in the U.S., although slipping share.

Where they are vulnerable is in retaining their "magic". They have to keep selling products that are arguably class-leading. They don't have to be actually the best, but they do need a credible claim to the position. Phones such as the Samsung Galaxy III threaten that position, as does a product such as the IPad-mini-low-res. Apple might get away with saying "it's too big" once, but not "it's too big, too fast and 4K video is overkill" every generation. Once the perception of "best" slips, they might as well be selling them Walmart. (ahhh...)

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Netflix speed index shows further decline in Verizon quality

Donald Becker

The problem isn't the raw performance if the wire, it's the delivered performance and throttling.

Verizon and Comcast talk about the Netflix and the like as being "heavy users" of their network. I would like to point out that's not really the case. *I'm* a heavy user of the network. I happen to be getting data from Netflix. I'm already paying for internet service. And paying quite a lot, compared to other countries and what I'm paying to Netflix.

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Donald Becker

The Verizon spokesperson makes this sound as if a specific user has a one-time problem.

The Baby Bells have a century of experience in making life difficult for any business perceived as a competitor, while denying or explaining away the problems when talking to regulators. Part of that script is describing every example as an isolated incident.

But Netflix has all of the data for all their subscribers, which spans multiple service providers... presumably it's not just statistically valid, it's quantitatively valid.

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Want to remotely control a car? $20 in parts, some oily fingers, and you're in command

Donald Becker

I'm seeing an Arduino Mini, bluetooth module, and SD card module with SD card. That's over $20 right there. The hand soldered boards are likely a MC2515 CAN controller and CAN transceiver.

You would have to work pretty hard to create havoc with this kit, and it would be very, very model specific.

Most cars have at least two CAN buses, and often more. If they are designed with version that might be sold in the U.S., they have one CAN bus for OBD2 diagnostics. Once they are using CAN for that, they like use a second CAN bus for the engine control (isolated to prevent malfunctions), one for ABS/steering/stability, and perhaps a another for body and instrument ECUs. Throw in a few slower buses for radio and climate control, lighting, etc. and their is quite a bit to talk to, and this kit is far from being able to handle it.

There are typically bridges between the buses in order to perform diagnostics from a single point. But again, it's very model specific. And usually quite slow. You won't be able to jam messages, nor flood reply with incorrect information. (Of course you wouldn't be able to do that with an Arduino hooked up to a MC2515 either.)

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El Reg BuzzFelch: 10 Electrical Connectors You CAN'T LIVE WITHOUT!

Donald Becker

I vote for the article to be "The top 10 linkbait 'Top 10' stories you'll read this year"

I do think they missed the Edison base lamp connector, and the RJ series telephony connectors. The Edison base lamp (screw-in) is cheap and sturdy. It requires only low-tech stamped brass or tin-plate sheets, and has a huge contact and support area.

The RJ (e.g. 6p4c and the like) connectors require much higher tech manufacturing, but are cheap, small, light and have remarkably good electrical characteristics. They regularly survive decades exposed to the elements in phone use, and putting Gb Ethernet through a connector designed around audio frequencies is mind blowing. The competing communications connectors cost 20x to 100x as much.

As far as line power plugs, we would all design something different today. But put yourself in the place of early practitioners. You needed to design a connector that could be made in a few seconds with sheet metal and hand tooling. Flat contacts formed of folded-over sheet brass definitely wins over round pins. Rigid round pins require far more precision in all dimensions, take much longer to make, and often results in inferior contact area.

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Yahoo! Mail! users! change! your! passwords! NOW!

Donald Becker

I suspect that this was an extremely bad breach.

One that reveals Yahoo was passing plaintext passwords over to partners.

When I logged in today I got the "suspicious activity detected on your account" message, along with "UPDATE YOUR PASSWORD RIGHT NOW NOW NOW NOW".

I had already read a headline about the compromise and I had a unique username and password on Yahoo. Otherwise I would have read the accompanying words as meaning some other site had been compromised and hackers were using that login info to abuse my Yahoo account. That's extremely sleazy. There was no apology, not acknowledgement of a massive screw-up.

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Ten classic electronic calculators from the 1970s and 1980s

Donald Becker

I expected to see a Novus (National Semiconductor) calculator on the list. They were cheap and widely sold in the mid-1970s. The 650 was one of the earliest products with a resin-covered bare die directly mounted to the circuit board, but had only 6 digits and used RPN. The 850 had more digits (8?) and established the basic 4-banger feature set. A common 9V battery lasted long enough to not be a noticeable expense.

The HP-41C was like a bicycle hauling a camper. I had one with a motorized card reader and printer on which I constructed elaborate programs, such iterative refinement loops to figure out the operating point of op-amps. it somehow managed to feel professional and worth the expense even as the crappiest 6502 consumer toy beat it on all fronts.

The Sinclair scientific calculator deserves a mention only as a bad imitation of a calculator. Accurate to half a digit, and you never knew which half. Perhaps good as a trainer, but completely untrustworthy.

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US Department of Justice details Kim Dotcom evidence

Donald Becker

I'll tie this to something else in the news: the TPP treaty.

Under the rumored terms of TPP's "corporate sovereignty", what the U.S. Government has done is seizing a private business, ignoring precedent and internal laws in the process. How is it different than nationalizing oil fields? (Beside the minor detail that the nationalized oil fields were often on public land and being operated outside the contract parameters.)

This prosecution was started at the urging of just a few major US companies. By immediately shutting down MegaUpload, they got the full benefit without further action. If this case were brought under the TPP proposed provisions, the USGov risks paying out hundreds of millions, or even billions in damages. Paid by the taxpayers, not the companies.

If it's not already obvious, my viewpoint on the MegaUpload shutdown is that it damaged legitimate users that relied on their storage far more than it helped copyright holders. The movie studios didn't have to wait for the orderly progress of justice, they just did the corporate equivalent of swatting.

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Samsung swallows $340k fine for renting trolls to TRASH-TALK HTC phones

Donald Becker

I expect many companies do the same thing. But that's no reason to accept it.

If you accept "everybody litters" and do nothing, soon everyone does litter and we end up in a trash filled world.

Compounding this is the press release that says "We are disappointed that...". I initially read it as the usual "..[we got caught]" but it was actually "..that we'll have to pay a fine".

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Do not adjust your set: TV market slows, 'connected TV' grows

Donald Becker

I realize I'm part of the market problem.

I want a TV that's in $1+K range, which gets a 55"-60" screen. It's been on my list for a while.

In the meantime I've combined households, then moved into a house. A 37" LCD was given away to a friend that helped organize the move. The remaining 32" TV stayed in the box for months after the move to the house, in part to keep a 2 year old from requesting it.

Almost all TV watching is now done on laptops and a 7" tablet. It's an Android tablet, but that pretty much doesn't matter. It has a reasonable screen and codecs to handle Netflix, YouTube, etc.

I still want the big TV. I have the money. They aren't getting any cheaper. I just don't want it badly enough to actually do the research, buy one, and mount it on the wall.

But I'm pretty sure I'll be buying a Tegra 4 tablet next month, so that I don't keep losing to the 2 year old for tablet time.

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Apple slams brakes on orders of (not so cheap) plasticky iPhone 5C

Donald Becker

People are still missing the bigger picture

Apple doesn't need a budget phone, unless it's actually much cheaper.

In the US, buying the flagship iPhone will cost you about $3K over the life of the contract. Buying the cheap version will cost $2.9K. Producing a real budget model drops that cost down to perhaps $2.5K.

People aren't quite that rational. Up-front cost weighs more heavily than long-term obligations. But over time they are much more rational than marketing people seem to believe.

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Leaping SpaceX GRASSHOPPER ROCKET jumps 2,500ft, lands safely

Donald Becker

I'm still trying to figure out if that was 1950s fake or 1960s fake.

I'm leaning towards 1950s with colorization... the tacky flickering flame effect was used before the public knew what real rockets looked like.

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Oracle sued over $33,000 bill for SaaS: STRIPPERS as a SERVICE

Donald Becker

Re: Take a look at a rip-off bar menu

This happened a year ago, and in the interim a lawsuit has been filed that revealed more details.

The reason it's coming up now is a fresh attempt to embarrass Oracle during OOW in an attempt to force an out-of-court settlement.

We don't know what the true story is, but the lawsuit response points out that the $16K and $17K nights each had about a dozen different receipts, each with a different signature. The guy went back the second night because he had no clue that $16K had been charged the first time.

If the bill had been $1K or $2K, I would just believe the guy was trying to dodge a strip club bill. But of course that small amount would have just quietly been paid, even if fraudulent. When you end up with a $17K bill in one night, and the bills overlap in time with different signatures, it's easy to believe the guy's credit card was passed around the club before being returned to him.

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The REAL winner of Microsoft's Nokia buy: GOOGLE

Donald Becker

IDC has a history of being enthusiastic about whoever is paying them. Look at their Itanium predictions.

This report says two things:

Microsoft paid for the report

They really hope that Android loses market share.

Perhaps it also says the following:

IDC people actually believe both iOS and Android will continue to dominate the market.

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10,000 app devs SLEEP together in four-day code-chat-drink tech orgy camp

Donald Becker

Re: tent spacing

Yes, every decent festival has some rain. Even Burning Man occasionally gets some ("playa platform shoes") between the dust storms.

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'Database failure ate my data' – Salesforce customer

Donald Becker

You certainly don't mean an "uptime of *30* years"

I'm pretty certain there isn't a system with an uptime of 30 years. That would be a system built in the early '80s which hasn't had a power outage.

You might mean a predicted MTTF of 30 years. But as we say, that calculates predicted failures when most failures are unpredictable.

Any system intended to be reliable will have a service schedule that precludes long uptimes. It's amusing to run a machine that has been up for several years. I've done it with Linux systems in the mid- to late-1990s. But when you really care about reliability you regularly shut down the machines to clean the dust out, replace the clock battery, check the UPS batteries, look for corrosion and popped caps, etc.

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Google loses Latitude in Maps app shake-up

Donald Becker

Re: @ joekhul

I *am* so arrogant as to believe I am immune to psychological suggestion or manipulation.

I regularly try test this out, usually finding that I'm wrong.

One good example was long ago, back when there was paper mail. Surveys were common, (Way back, before web tracers, before cookies, when dial-up modems were used.) I would ignore them. Then I got one with a crisp new dollar bill enclosed. Out of a sense of obligation, I filled it out. It took more than a dozen before I figured out that I had been expertly manipulated. I wouldn't have worked 20 minutes for $1, or given a marketing person that information for 100x that much. But they found a way how to make people feel obligated. And I feel for it. Repeatedly. And felt guilty for a while after I stopped.

I managed, just barely, to avoid falling for similar feelings of obligation when charities started sending free return address labels and free Christmas cards.

What about the 'Social Networking' epidemic, where every new company would try to boost their user count by secretly sending email in your name to everyone in your address book? 'Authorized' by a clause on page 51 of their terms and conditions. I fell for the 'personal' invitation from someone I trusted, and was saved only because I don't use the same password everywhere. Over the new few weeks I found that thousands of my friends and almost-friends were not so careful.

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The future of cinema and TV: It’s game over for the hi-res hype

Donald Becker

Re: It's not what you see that counts

Make certain that it's transparent unicorn intestine, so that you get a magnified view of the stranded wire within. Of course it has to be a prime number of strands, to avoid generating harmonics that muddy the width and height of field.

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'Leccy car biz baron Elon Musk: Thanks for the $500m, taxpayers...

Donald Becker

Good point. Tesla is making money on selling pollution credits. They wouldn't have been profitable last quarter without that revenue.

Or, I should say, that government-forced money transfer that represents the worst in policymaking idiocy. And everyone that's looked at it admits that it's somewhere between deeply flawed and just plain stupid. Yet, because it doesn't cost the government directly, just forces private companies to shuffle money, there no motivation to fix it.

On the other hand, the Tesla loan was a justifiable investment in a technology the could be economically viable with reasonable assumptions about energy prices and expected advances. It's fair to disagree, but most people think it's reasonable.

Solyndra proves that the U.S. government can pick an obviously wrong technology even when they invest in the right concept. Even if you don't philosophically agree with this type of government investment, you shouldn't be so stuck in saying "it's always wrong" that you lose the ability to say "this is the wrong technology".

I think that Tesla has done an amazing job. I expected that they would be able to build a working power plant. I never expected that they would be able to design and manufacture a mass production vehicle without a decade of expensive experience.

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Judge hands copyright troll an epic smack-down

Donald Becker

From the deposition, AF Holdings paid $0 for the copyright they were suing over.

Now this was likely a bit of a lie. They transferred the copyright ownership to a trust in Nevis (an overseas tax and identity have), and transferring something of value would have raised tax issues.

But still, they actually stated in a deposition that it was a worthless copyright. The settlement letters wanted $3K right away, or more later, and stated that up to $150K plus legal fees would be cost in court. For a copyright that cost them nothing.

It's likely that the value of the movie was actually pretty low. Apparently it was a very low budget movie, and they have limited shelf life. Fans of the specific actors buy copies in the few weeks after release, and almost no copies are sold later. So after making a single pressing of a few thousand, the right to make additional copies has little commercial value.

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Flat mobe battery? Just light a fire

Donald Becker

Re: But you can already get..... at a stupid cost!

I was lucky enough to meet one of the Biolite stove developers at Design West / Embedded Systems Conference two weeks ago.

He happened to be the "booth babe" nearest the stove, a few UV purifiers and other interesting gear. I asked a question, and was pleasantly surprised at a knowledgeable reply. That led to a 30 minute conversation about the capabilities and design.

The stove has a microcontroller to manage the power, optimizing the peak power extraction from the thermal generator , and setting the priority of running the fan, recharging the single A123 cell, and charging a USB device.

Power extraction from the thermal generator is much like a solar cell. Draw too little current and you give up some of the output potential. Draw too much current and the voltage sags more than the extra current gains.

The key to a stove like this is running the fan. The fan cools one side of the thermal generator, then flows around the outside of the combustion chamber to keep it cool, then feeds the flame with now-quite-hot air.

Because it uses forced air, small stuff like twigs burn intensely and completely, whereas a open twig fire will flare up and die down, always burning inefficiently. The drawback is that this is a tiny stove, so you can never move up to bigger stuff. Unless you carry wood pellets with you, you need to constantly feed it more twigs. (That's probably it's biggest problem: it's too heavy to be a backpacking stove, and too attention-seeking to be a casual camping stove.)

The thermal generator does have very low efficiency, in part to keep it reasonably light. But efficiency isn't a huge problem, especially if you treat it as a stove first. There is plenty of source heat and the 'waste' heat still goes into cooking. Now if you are treating it as an electric power source... uhggh. It will use just as much fuel (and attention) as when cooking, and its priority is running the fan and recharging the internal battery before outputting external power.

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Suspected Chinese NASA spy smuggled smut not state secrets

Donald Becker
Facepalm

Porn is a poor fallback from spying

I notice that the "stolen laptop" side of the story isn't mentioned either.

It's likely that the laptop was purchased by the company for his use and got a NASA property tracking tag to make it easy to carry in daily. Otherwise he would need a form every time he took it out, stating who owned it and why it was being removed.

When he was terminated, the laptop was worth less than the cost to clean it, test it and reload software. If he had been fired, the company might want it back on principle. But since he was terminated because of political pressure, the company probably told him to just keep it.

Once the laptop was his, he had a few weeks with nothing to do and a high bandwidth connection. Even if it's not that difficult to bypass the Great Firewall, it's still easier and faster to gather your collection in U.S. Or perhaps it really a very modest collection, or just an incidental one. One where the FBI could quickly compare it to the original source material and start backing away from their blunder.

I'm surprised they didn't get him to plead guilty to an additional charge of jaywalking.

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How long will it take Facebook Home to hit 1bn downloads? 76 years

Donald Becker

There is an easy solution: weekly updates. That way you get to multiple-count your users, even if they never open the app.

You don't think that's a fair way to count users? You must not know the standards of this industry.

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Tax man to take a bite of tech employees' free meals?

Donald Becker

I used to think that all employer provided snacks and meals were tax-dodging perks.

Then I saw an excellent example of how meals can be "for the employers convenience".

I got to see the production village of a Formula One race. They flew in a cafeteria. On a 747. Including chefs and gourmet food (although the those didn't fly on the cargo jets). Hugely expensive. It probably cost them $100 per meal. Perhaps even $500.

The alternative was having the crew go out and buy their own meals locally. But the area surrounding a F1 race is a full time traffic jam that would result in a 6 hour lunch and a 8 hour dinner, just when you needed them to be working 16 hour days.

It suddenly made sense why sometimes meals are not a "perk", and why taxing on the meal cost would sometimes be absurd.

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Got a BlackBerry? It may be telling your friends when you watch pr0n

Donald Becker

It's as if a million voices cried out in terror and then the updates went silent...

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Copyright troll Prenda refuses to explain legal strategy

Donald Becker

Most of the people from Prenda Law had already testified, by submitting sworn statements as evidence. One of the lawyers was deposed for a whole day

The substance of most of those statements have proven to be deliberate misleading or outright false.

This is invoking the fifth after having initially testified, not declining to make a statement.

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Nvidia's skirt-chasing chips ogle babes, eyeball Twitter and YouTube

Donald Becker
Boffin

Re: Nothing to do with chips.

Calling it "pure software" is misunderstanding the point.

It's only fast and energy efficient enough to use because the software is written to run on the GPU.

While part of the value is the details of how the image is classified, the point of the demo -- and the reason for showcasing it at GTC -- is that by structuring it to take advantage of the GPU, it's now computationally feasible. You can do the image classification and matching before the skirt goes out of style or your phone runs out of battery.

This is much like High Dynamic Range photography. The basic idea is simple. Take a picture, analyze it for brightness levels, use that info to take one or two additional pictures to fill in bright or dark areas. But behind the simple idea is a huge amount of computation. Making it worse is that because the first stage is so hard, the second picture won't line up with the first. So now you have to do image registration, which is even more work. But you still end up with crap, because any motion or changes in the scene causes disturbing artifacts.

By being very clever with the GPU on the Tegra, including configuring the hardware to put GPU compute into the camera image pipeline, NVIDIA can now do HDR in real time. Not only can HDR now be used for video (jaw-dropping amazing!), by being fast it avoids almost all of the disturbing artifacts from the slow approach.

Sometimes speed and efficiency makes all the difference.

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Nvidia welds together ARM-Kepler ceepie-geepie system for the impatient

Donald Becker
Go

The older system was CARMA, for CUDA on ARM Architecture.

The announced development systems are internally named Kayla, and the CARMA name is being dropped.

The two announcements are both "Kayla" devkits. The first is similar to the original CARMA, which had a MXM 3.0 GPU and Q7 processor module on a carrier board powered by a single DC power rail. Now, with the GPU updated to a Kepler class GPU, it's named the 'CUDA on ARM MXM devkit'.

The second system is a new mini-ITX carrier board that supports a Q7 processor module and has a PCIe slot. It uses a ATX power supply, and can run much more power hungry GPUs. Although strictly speaking it's "Kayla" when uses the same new GPU as the MXM module version.

The original devkit was developed around a existing Quadro 1000m MXM module with a GF108 Fermi class GPU. The GPU has 3 SMs, or 96 CUDA cores. The Q1000m has 2GB local memory. Only a portion of that can be mapped into the ARM's address space at one time.

The new devkit uses a Kepler class GPU with 2 SMX units ("SM35") for a total of 384 CUDA cores. Right now it's configured with 1GB of GDDR5 memory.

For both, the CPU module remains based on the Tegra 3. Neither newly announced Tegra 4 products (Tegra 4 and Tegra 4i) have PCIe interfaces. That's why this is a "close development model" rather than exactly the same as Logan.

BTW, the CPU module has 2GB of low power DDR2, and the GPU has 2GB of local memory. While the total is 4GB, only about 3GB is directly addressable. 2GB is pretty much the maximum main memory configuration of ARMv7, due to some sparse utilization of the memory map. Plus you have about 1GB of address space into which you can map PCI devices.

The A15 has a PAE feature to add a few address bits, but it's new, not really used and doesn't help most ARM use cases. The real fix for the cramped address space is ARMv8.

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eBay: Our paid Google advertising was a total waste of money

Donald Becker

I'm with one of the previous posters: Why is ebay making a story out of this? There is likely some underlying reason.

Perhaps they will be introducing a competing advertising service.

My take is that eBay has been paying for blanket coverage on search results, regardless if they could offer anything of benefit. Until a few months ago you could search for "broken leg" and be offered "get a broken leg on eBay".

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Ancient revellers came to party... and build Stonehenge - boffins

Donald Becker

An early version of Burning Man?

The 'giant party' theory resonates with me.

Many camps at Burning Man put months of effort into art pieces that will be burnt or dismantled at the end. A handful of people are practically full time burners, working only enough at a paying job to fund what they need for their Burning Man art exhibit.

The result is an amazing experience that entices people to return year after year and build ever-larger art works. (Or, for others, to have another go at a week long live-in clothing optional rave.)

That same drive must have existed back then: who can resist a giant annual party with a pseudo-religious justification?

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Samsung grabs Sharp shard, brings pain to Apple supply chain

Donald Becker

To make it clear, Samsung provided desperately needed money to Sharp.

One of the things they got in return was relatively small number of shares, something that Sharp had to report. There are almost certainly other terms and benefits to Samsung that don't need to be immediately reported.

This is far different than buying 3% of the company's shares on a stock exchange. That would have gotten Samsung almost no control or goodwill, nor would it have eased Sharp's tight finances.

As far as Apple just going out and building a display factory rather than investing in Sharp... yes, it would be cheaper. If they started now, they might have a working production line by 2015, and make industry leading displays by 2016 or 2017. If they didn't care about the cost, they might be able do it a year faster. In the meantime they still require displays, and every potential new supplier can see their future.

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RSA roundup: Big trouble in not-so little China

Donald Becker
Thumb Up

Booth babes

I was about to report that I didn't agree with the booth babes comment, then I recalled having stopped, actually stopped, trying not to stare at a black leather thing that couldn't quite qualify as a mini-skirt.

But overall there were relatively few booth staff people that looked as if they were out of place for a tech show. I enjoy an occasional booth babe, and they serve as a quick indication of the company's technical depth.

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Chinese Army: US hacks us so much, I'm amazed you can read this

Donald Becker

24*6*500 attacks a month!

Someone must be taking Sunday off to get that nice round number.

Here's an experiment. Go to an old-fashioned ISP and get a single static IP address. Put a packer sniffer/wireshark/whatever on it. You'll get a constant stream of port probes. Very likely in the range of hundreds per minute.

Are they attacking you? Yes. Is someone targeting you? No. It's just the constant noise of botnets and like trying to expand.

Now put up a website. You'll get a smaller number of attackers, trying a broad range of attacks. Again it might feel targeted, but it's all just automated.

Now if you are a high profile target, there are undoubtedly some targeted attacks as part of that barrage. But 144K per month is way too high of an estimate.

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Elon Musk: 'Fudged' NYT article cost Tesla $100m

Donald Becker

"In any case, the guy was driving legally"

If you look at the speed logs provided by Tesla, there were numerous excursions over 80MPH. The only period at a continuous speed was a bit over 60MPH, not 54MPH (or 45MPH) as claimed in the story.

The reporter claimed in the second story that the speed difference must have been because of the winter tire package with 19" wheels instead of 21". But the tire diameter was exactly the same between the two.

The reporter claimed that he charged for 58 minutes, while the logs show about 47 minutes. The story claimed 25% longer charging than actually occurred -- that's a major difference.

Those are very specific numbers in the story. Writers use specific numbers to convey careful, accurate reporting. In this story they were either made up, or deliberately false. This was clearly not a fair story.

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HYPERSONIC METEOR smashes into Russia, injuring hundreds

Donald Becker
Black Helicopters

There was a question about why this always seems to happen in Russia.

It's because of its proximity to polar aperture.

Grab a globe -- the kind that spins. Look for the part They don't want you do see. Yes. Right there. Under the pivot point, hidden by the brass disk. (If you have an inflatable globe, it's where the air fill hole is.) The north one is the Polar Aperture, where the flying saucers land and come from when they visit the hollow sphere that is earth. Every century or so there is a bad landing and Russia gets hit.

Of course The Sexiest Man Alive, Kim Jong Un, will claim this is one of his. But you now know the truth.

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Tesla's Elon Musk v The New York Times, Round 2

Donald Becker

Re: They're both full of $#!T

Broder used very specific numbers in his story, "58 minutes" when it was actually 47 minutes, "54 MPH" when it actually was 60MPH, etc.

All of the incorrect numbers were to the detriment of Tesla. That makes them unlikely to be innocent mistakes.

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Microsoft! Bing! must! make! Yahoo! more! money! moans! Mayer!

Donald Becker

Yahoo messages boards might be semi-useful, if they weren't spam sewers

Go to any finance message board and you'll see that it is filled with newsletter offers and dozens of sock puppet follow-ups. Post something relevant and it's down-voted.

It has been that way for years, and they show no interest in fixing the problems. And this is one of their most valuable "properties"...

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More naysayers pour cold water on Dell LBO

Donald Becker

This is likely all just noise to increase the bid.

But I have to wonder if Dell, the man, understands the deal he is making.

Rather than a bunch of random shareholders, which he can basically ignore, he will be directly controlled by people coming by each week for the vig. That means selling off whichever body part is worth money, right now. Wall Street isn't known for having a long term perspective, but raising private money usually comes with terms that are less about sharing risk and reward, and more about them owning it all if anything goes slightly wrong.

0
0

Journo says Elon Musk apologized for Tesla battery fiasco

Donald Becker

Re: Yes but

I don't agree with "refill in five minutes or less".

If you can charge at home (admittedly ruling out many city and apartment dwellers), you just change your daily routine to plugging in when you get home for the evening. With overnight charging you start out each day with a full charge. That can be less hassle than going to a special store and taking five or ten minutes when the fuel tank runs low. After a while it seems like way less inconvenience than standing in the cold, risking dripping gas on your hands, clothes or shoes.

That doesn't address long trips, but for most drivers those are rare (a few times a year) and never unexpected.

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17

How to destroy a brand-new Samsung laptop: Boot Linux on it

Donald Becker

Those that are saying "it works with Windows, therefore It Works" are behind the times.

Microsoft used to have that attitude. But about a dozen years ago they very suddenly understood the flaw with that approach. Most of the things that "worked with Windows" and didn't work with Linux, actually didn't work.

They just happened to not crash immediately with Windows 95 and perhaps Windows 98.

Once Microsoft put a priority on an OS that didn't require a daily reboot, and tried to move to improved API (e.g. 32 bit, eliminate the need to rely on undocumented state in registers and variables) they found that almost every hardware issue that Linux faced also bit them when they tried to introduce an updated OS.

Almost certainly this Linux-triggered bug would have otherwise lay hidden, waiting to bite them with Windows++.

3
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HP launches security service for after the horse has bolted

Donald Becker
Coat

Oh, haven't we seen this before

I'm having a pre-deja-vu moment.

In three or four months we'll see this group/product/service severely hacked, with all sales and customer data taken.

4
0

AT&T 'violates net neutrality' by NOT charging twice for same data

Donald Becker
Meh

Many people don't seem to understand the operation of the nanocells.

A typical device is the one sold by Verizon. You purchase the box for $200 (although some people have gotten discounts) and install it on your internet connection. The box provides cell service for anyone in the area, supposedly prioritizing your phone calls (really reserving one call slot, out of eight or more).

That means your internet connection isn't just carrying your own calls and data, it's potentially carrying your neighbors calls and data as well. It's actually more likely than most people estimate, since if your cell coverage was poor, so is every else's in the neighborhood.

There is an easy solution, but it's one that is strong resisted by the cell companies: you should get credit for the calls carried on your cell site. You bought the nanocell, and paid for the data transport. They would compensate another carrier for calls carried. But that would cut into their profits, as they currently get the extra coverage at no cost. And perhaps even a modest profit for selling the nanocell for $200.

1
0

Swartz prosecutor: We only pushed for 'six months' in the cooler

Donald Becker
WTF?

"...his defense counsel would have been free to recommend a sentence of probation.Ultimately, any sentence imposed would have been up to the judge."

Judges rarely make a critical review of a plea bargain agreement. The defense isn't allowed to recommend a sentence of probation in court -- the judge only wants a final agreement. Those statements are trying to shift responsibility. The prosecutor's office has the sole ability

And, to address an earlier comment, a plea bargain all but precludes a later appeal.

I can see how this was a non-choice. Accepting a felony conviction would destroy his credibility and effectiveness -- essentially his life-long goals and "career". He didn't have enough money for a strong defense in a trial where he faced a 50 year maximum sentence (30 years was "typical", not maximum).

I've read that the room the laptop was found in wasn't regularly locked, and that a homeless man stored his possessions there. If that's the case, why was the prosecutor treating access as a felony-level offense?

4
0

30 years ago, at flip of a switch, the internet as we know it WAS BORN

Donald Becker

A bit of misunderstood info about Token Ring above.

IBM used to market Token Ring as more efficient and more reliable than Ethernet. Their marketing talking points included a claim that Ethernet had a maximum of 37% utilization of maximum capacity. This was convenient when they were flogging 4Mbps TR against 10Mbps Ethernet.

They based this fraction on a flawed paper that modeled Ethernet as a CSMA network, ignoring the "/CD" part and modified pseudo-exponential backoff. IBM knew that this was bogus, and Ethernet users were seeing 98% utilization in real life, but it didn't stop IBM from loudly spreading FUD.

A second claim was that Ethernet was undependable and unreliable. It actually _relied_ on _collisions!_ to work, and the spec said that you could _throw away_ packets! Horrors! And you could never guarantee that a packet would be sent in a bounded period of time. But IBM failed to mention that it was just a difference in reliability and delay profiles. Losing a token in a TR network could be pretty common, and the result was massive disruption and delay. Even if you didn't lose the token, the "bounded latency" had such a high bound that it was mostly useless.

I'll tie this into the current discussion: there is a close analogy between Ethernet and TCP/IP. Both were cheap over-provisioned packet-switched network that only promised best-effort packet delivery. They supported high numbers of nodes, and had seemingly-simple access and flow control rules that turned out to be surprisingly stable when scaled up.

1
0
Donald Becker

OSI was a late-coming spoiler attempt

Don't put OSI into the same category as TCP/IP.

OSI and ATM were both primarily "spoiler" technologies. They were concocted and promoted by organizations that were far behind with TCP/IP/Ethernet. The goal was not to introduce a better designed network, but rather to press the reset button and have everyone start from scratch.

The OSI "layer" model remains only to classify protocols and describe products. That doesn't mean it ever helped design anything. We should remember the rest for what it was: an attempt to do evil by delaying progress.

ATM wasn't quite as bad. It was promoted by people that really did believe that the future was all about centralized control from central offices connecting you centralized computers for which you would be billed from a central billing service. You would dial up ("establish a circuit") an information service such as Compuserve, AOL or the Phone Company. That circuit would stay connected for the whole conversation ("session") giving you fixed bandwidth billed in 6 second periods.

We are very fortunate that neither became the wide-area networking standard.

(I was fortunate enough to be at MIT in 1983, and experience the extraordinary and a normal occurrence.)

0
0

Eric Schmidt heading on mystery mission to North Korea

Donald Becker
Mushroom

He just wants to meet "The sexiest man alive"

I hope they wear warm clothes, because it's time for the annual treaty. The one that provides a half million tons of fuel oil in exchange for a nuke treaty that will be broken in the spring. I'm pretty sure that the newspapers have a form story where they just update the year and fill in the details of saber rattling over the past few months.

1
1

North Korea's satellite a dud, say US astroboffins

Donald Becker

Putting a satellite into a stable orbit is not "a pretty hard thing to do" if you have a working rocket. Putting it into the exact orbit you want is challenging.

They pretty much said "watch this" then "nailed it". ("We _meant_ for that to happen.")

I doubt that the satellite is slowly trying to stabilize itself. Satellites that are expected to have long operational lives have flywheels (momentum/reaction wheels) to conserve maneuvering fuel. They attempt to use coils working against the earth's (weak) magnetic field if the wheels build up too much speed, falling back to conventional attitude jets. But all of this is complicated and difficult to get working, so short-lived satellites use only attitude jets. Even the smallest jets should be able to stabilize the satellite in minutes.

0
1

Police use 24/7 power grid recordings to spot doctored audio

Donald Becker
Big Brother

It's more useful to think of them using the phase change than the frequency.

The grid tries really hard to keep the frequency at 60.000Hz (or 50Hz, for the countries that are a little slower).

If the load increases, the phase lags. This indicates to the power plant that they need to throw another shovel full of coal onto the fire and let a little more steam into the turbine.

It sounds easy to record that phase difference and match the pattern, right?

Except that there isn't one power plant. The whole point of a grid is there are thousands connected together. So you have thousands of sources trying to push the phase a little faster. Each substation is seeing a different mix of the phase variations. All mixed together, with extra noise added by local loads being switched on and off.

I can see how you might be able to show a proof of concept that invalidates a recording (but not authenticates its veracity) made nearby, within the same substation service area.

The next challenge is the audio recording. Today that's largely digital. Analog audio is hard to do well on digital chips. There is quite a bit of non-linearity. Some of the distortion results in phase changes with sounds level. The audible effect is more pronounced at high frequencies, but it will overwhelm the minuscule phase difference of the power line hum. Even the sample clock of the D/A digital will have enough jitter, correlated with the processor workload and other power draws, to overwhelm any otherwise detectable hum phase pattern.

Perhaps that's why they are publicizing this now. It's a technique that sounded promising, they invested a lot of effort, only to have progress has render it completely useless. They might as well recover whatever value they can by dissuading people from trying to forge recordings.

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