98 posts • joined Monday 4th February 2008 14:59 GMT
Who's in charge?
I've been involved in a number of these government-driven projects in my career, and the problem is usually a few wannabee system designers on the government side who produce unrealistic specifications and want the contractors to comply with them. The contractors are happy to do so if their price is met, even when they know that the government spec is unrealistic. Example: the UK side of the North Atlantic air traffic control system that fell over on its first day of operation because there were too many aircraft. The contractor pointed to the capacity spec they were given and the fact that it was exceeded, making them technically blameless. How could a huge development and implementation team not know how many aircraft to expect? They did of course, but the government side set the spec many years earlier, failing to allow for growth, and the contractor saw their job as delivering to that spec.
Different style today
I learned to program in the olden days too (I hate to tell you how old!), and I like to delude myself that I can still bash out a decent program in any modern language faster than the development team of "kids" I have working for me these days. :)
The biggest change I've seen over the years is that developers today are totally dependent on interactive debugging to hack out a program by trial and error. They code and test incrementally until it does what it has to and doesn't crash any more, then they call it done and submit it for product integration. Of course their code then proceeds to fall over every time it's presented with a new variation in user input or sequence of events that they didn't test. I see this effect everywhere in the software that we all use every day, which I'm sure is being developed by the same method.
My vote for most inept profession goes to the TSA screeners
My company now allocates 10% equipment loss/breakage per trip due to inept (and sometimes larcenous) inspection and repacking by TSA baggage screeners. The sad thing is that they keep wasting everyone's time and money checking and re-checking the same bags, same equipment, same travelers that they should already know are reliable. Just how long is this going to go on before U.S. taxpayers smarten up and start allocating their security dollars more wisely?
What the spooks are actually after
I think we're missing the point on what information the spooks are actually after. The favourite tool of police and military intelligence agencies around the world is i2 Analyst Notebook (look it up). It's designed to track associations between people, events, and other things, and to show them in a nice graphical presentation. To some extent the tool drives the intelligence gathering. What it wants is the associations: the contact lists, the meta-data of who contacted who, who was at a common place/event etc.. They don't care so much about the why - they can make up that part for themselves.
Lacks IT skills? Too hot?
What idiotic comments by Beer. Few countries have the plentiful IT skills that Brazil has, and does he not realize that the country extends into the temperate south where it snows in the winter?
Re: Doesn't Matter
I agree completely with that policy by Brazil. It's the only was to establish international respect. When Canada began requiring pre-arranged visas for visitors from Brazil, Brazil was quick to require the same for visiting Canadians. When Canada raised the price of a visa, so did Brazil. I am able to avoid the cost by using my British passport to enter Brazil, but that means I'm embarrassed whenever I arrive there shortly after some new outrage perpetrated by the British government against Brazil, such as killing an innocent Brazilian on the tube platform because he was wearing a backpack and jacket, or illegally detaining a Brazilian journalist.
Early hardware issues
Good article, and it's time some more thought was put into future video standards.
Historically there were some hardware issues behind those early decisions on interlacing and the power-line-frequency frame rate in addition to the ones mentioned. The key point about interlacing is that it reduces the bandwidth required by half, which was a significant factor in designing the early TV electronics and creating the broadcast channels. It was still a factor in the more recent switch to digital channels.
As for the decision to use the powerline frequency, it's true that one reason was to prevent visible strobing, but the other was that it was just easy and cheap to use the powerline frequency as a reference because it's so reliable and tightly controlled. Accurate crystal oscillators weren't always so cheap as they are today.
Thanks for the history
There were a few bits in there that I didn't know.
I still think RSX11M was the best of the many operating systems I've developed software for in my life. The latest versions of Windows and Linux could learn a few lessons.
I used VAX/VMS as well, but the added layers of complexity made it less elegant an fun than RSX. Still, it was a viable alternative technology in the operating system world that's in danger of turning into a monoculture. I still remember the day that the DEC sales team came in to pitch their new corporate-mandated Unix message. Having spent years telling everyone that VMS left Unix in the dust, they seemed lost and confused. DEC never recovered from that.
Don't get too excited
In more detailed reports the researchers made it clear that this experimental result does not in any way change the fact that quantum entanglement can not be used to transmit information faster than the speed of light or backwards in time.
Couldn't happen to a more deserving target
Well, I don't want to condone DDoS as a tactic under any circumstances, but....
Spamhaus is famous for their high-handed and arrogant attitude in blocking whole IP address ranges for the most trivial of reasons. If this DDoS attack exposes how many cheapskate hosting services rely blindly on their spam-and-a-lot-of-other-legitmate-traffic filtering services, then it has actually done the internet a service.
Great, maybe we'll finally get a Netflix app for TouchPad
I've had a TouchPad with WebOS for about 18 months, and I quite like it. I use it mainly for simple purposes like portable web browsing, reading pdfs, checking email, checking my calendar, Skype video calls, listening to music on Pandora, occasionally watching video. For those purposes, it works fine. I also have an iPod Touch, and I find WebOS a bit more convenient to use than iOS. But honestly I don't think WebOS will make any difference at all as a TV operating system. It's advantages are all about touch operation and multi-tasking on a phone or tablet. Behind the GUI it's just another form of Linux, which is what all the TV operating systems are. I'm not sure what advantage LG would see in building their custom TV GUI on top of WebOS instead of Linux.
Bill C-30 is dead! Long live Bill C-55.
Don't worry about our Canadian police being hampered in their ability to monitor online activities now that C-30 is dead. Bill C-55 has been quietly introduced to give police the rights they wanted for warrantless online surveillance, as long as they believe it may be related to a serious crime, and they notify the subject afterward - eventually.
Probably U.S. only
Don't worry about it. It's unlikely to be available outside the U.S.
Sandisk touts their SSD business? Sure, let's just sweep that debacle with the flagship models that didn't support TRIM under the carpet. While manufacturers like Intel were apologizing to customers and offering to replace drives with defective controllers, Sandisk's management maintained a stony silence for months that alienated a large percentage of their customers waiting for their brand-new SSDs to be fixed. No wonder the business tanked!
Did they actually talk to any users?
E-readers have improved every year in recent memory. I've bought a new one every year for the last 4 years in a row, most recently for the new glow screen. When I look around on the train, there's far more people with e-readers than with tablets, because they all understand that it's hard to hold a heavy tablet and read on the train where the ambient light level is too high. Tablets are e-readers are different devices for different market. E-readers naturally have a more adult demographic because the first thing a kid wants is a nice colourful tablet like all their friends. Only later in life can they afford to by more specialized gadgets for different purposes.
" First they came for the communists,
and I didn't speak out because I was not a communist.
Then they came for the socialists,
and I didn't speak out because I was not a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak out because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for me,
and there was no one left to speak for me."
-Martin Niemöller (c.1946)
Kindles already widely available in Canada
I'm not sure why this is fresh news. Kindles have been sold in the ubiquitous Staples office supply store chain in Canada for a couple of years, and Amazon.com ships Kindles to Canada as well. Amazon.ca has been operating a Canadian e-book store for even longer. Perhaps they're just announcing that from now on Kindles will be ordered through and shipped from the .ca site instead of the .com site? (Amazon supports the Kindle whispernet cellular network option in Canada in case you were wondering.)
However, Kobo remains much more popular in Canada than Kindle because their e-readers are offered in many more stores at more competitive prices, and national bookseller Chapters.ca partners with Kobo to offer an e-book store with better selection and often better prices than Amazon.
My personal favourite is the Apple App Store
Almost every time I want to update an app on my iPod Touch, or download a new free app from some 3rd party, Apple pops up a box saying that their Terms & Conditions have changed, and I am required to read and confirm my understanding of a 43-page agreement (yes, 43 pages!) before I can proceed. No clue is offered as to what has changed. Of course I click "I Agree" and proceed with my download, assuming that one of my regular web news feeds will warn me if Apple has done anything too draconian.
My own company sells software and has a EULA. It's 3 paragraphs long, and it basically spells out the terms of licencing in a few brief sentences, states that it's up to you to know what you're doing with the software, and disclaims any responsibility for failure to meet your needs or consequential damages. We do follow legal cases on the enforceability of EULAs, and in some cases judges have decided that if the EULA is too long and cryptic, it is not enforceable. In other cases they have stated that if only a link is given, and not the actual text of the EULA, it is not enforceable. But there is no consistency.
This is hardly the only area in which one must agree to ludicrously extensive legal terms and conditions without reading them. As a small company which bids on government contracts in several countries, we are frequently required to agree to bid and acquisition regulations which run to millions of pages in thousands of separate places, all cross-referencing each other, stating thing such as the minimum size of our bathrooms for disabled women of visible minority race. It all seemed like a good idea to somebody at some time. But today it's beyond impossible to be aware of even a fraction of it, even if you were limiting yourself to contracting in one country. All one can do is keep in touch with your business community and be aware of any issues which have been a problem for others.
Don't worry, it's all random anyway
According to author Daniel Kahneman (Nobel price in Economics) in his book Thinking Fast and Slow, perceived "performance" in the financial industry is all an illusion based on random factors. So don't worry about those reviews, it's just a roll of the dice anyway. :)
Re: Step One: Avira Admits it has a problem
Agree. It's easy to criticize Avira for not being ready for a change that's had a long preview cycle, especially when their software just crashes instead of warning of the incompatibility. But those who don't have the joy of managing software development projects may not appreciate that it's often slightly more difficult than waving one's magic wand. At least they straightforwardly acknowledged the problem, didn't make any excuses, and gave a time frame for fixing it. Would that all software companies did the same!
The Extreme SSD fiascao
Not to mention that SanDisk is the company that continued to sell their defective Extreme SSD product (broken TRIM support) to customers for the last several months while maintaining complete silence about the issue.
People won't pay for quality
Panasonic is my personal favourite electronics brand for quality and service, based on a lifetime of experience with a lot of gear. Unfortunately being the quality leader is perhaps not the best position to be in during a recession when people are looking for the latest features at the lowest prices.
Our city and surrounding region has a mandatory vehicle pollution testing program called AirCare. It's a costly program for motorists, and it has largely outlived its usefulness since the "testing" today consists of connecting to the OBD-II data port on the vehicle to make sure that the Check Engine indicator isn't on. At the time this program was originally launched, an alternative proposal was made to use roadside CO2 monitors which would detect polluting vehicles as they pass using an infrared laser beam, and then take a photo of their licence plate just like a speed radar. This latter proposal was much less costly and more effective at targeting polluting vehicles, but needless to say, the government adopted the universal testing program instead.
Same here. All the municipal libraries in the Canadian province of British Columbia got together to offer this on a province-wide basis several years ago, and our local city library has recently started offering their own independent collection. They both use the Overdrive system, based on Adobe DRM and the ePub format supported by all e-readers except the Amazon Kindle (which uses its own proprietary format).
An issue has come up from ebook publishers though. It may sound a little far-fetched to most people, but the publishers say that they will lose money on ebooks because they don't wear out like ordinary library books. They actually want the libraries to automatically discard and re-purchase ebooks after they have been loaned out 20 times, which they claim is the average lifespan of a paper library book!
Once again demonstrating that everything based on the C language is the worst mistake in the history of computer software.
Negative spin unfounded?
Wow, that's putting a negative spin on neutral data!
We just heard a few days ago that Android phones are selling very well, and are in fact outselling the iPhone. We already know the stats that the iPad far outsells all the Android tablets combined. So how would it be a surprise that most Android users have phones rather than tablets? Especially when the figures have a giant hole (ignoring Amazon's tablets).
So your alternative would be what? C++, riddled with incomprehensible code constructs and memory management defects? I think historians of the future civilization that arises from our ashes will point to the widespread adoption of C++ as one of the major factors that spelled our doom! :)
What a shock - U.S. firm with deep political pockets wins a patent judgement against a Korean company in U.S. court. Let's wait and see what the Korean court says.
They never learn
This is like watching a parade of knights setting off to slay the dragon, one after another, and never returning.
I have a Nokia N800, one of Nokia's early attempts at an internet tablet. It could have gone somewhere (and they did release a few subsequent models and a phone based on it), but they failed to support it and abandoned both the devices and the Maemo O/S.
I'm listening to music from my HP TouchPad as I type this (running Pandora with the very nice Apollo app). It's been one of my most-used devices over the last year. I'd never have bought it in the first place if not for the firesale price, but now that I've used it, I'd buy another one. And I've spent freely on apps for it.
Until one of these companies gets some management with the conviction to suck it up and make a true commitment to an uncertain market like Apple did, they are doomed to be gradually fading also-rans.
The answer depends on the question
The TSA is doing a good job... of what exactly? Apparently it's not preventing terrorist attacks, because the majority of people in the survey don't think they're very effective at that. More people should read Daniel Kahneman's excellent book "Thinking Fast and Slow", which tells us that people mentally substitute an easy question when asked a hard one and answer that instead. In this case I think people are answering the question of whether the TSA are doing the best job they can given their mandate. I would probably answer that question the same way. But I also think the TSA are ineffective at stopping terrorist attacks, and their operations come at a truly enormous cost in both money and inconvenience to travelers. The billions of dollars squandered on ineffective security in a vain attempt to prevent a handful of terrorist attacks could be spent saving millions of children from starvation, preventing wars, developing medical breakthroughs, promoting justice and human rights internationally etc.. Everything comes at a cost, and one must always compare the value you are getting when answering questions about whether it's the right thing to do.
Both views probably true
I'm sure that Chinese helicopter engine developers take any chance they can to look at innovations from other countries, and then they develop their own independent version based on many sources plus their own innovation because no developer would ever use another developer's software.
The U.S. military is ridiculously over-protective in classifying things as sensitive or secret when they are nothing of the sort., so it's difficult to take them seriously in cases like this. We sometimes deliver software developed for commercial purposes to them, they slap a comment header on it and it becomes "classified". Then we can't officially use it again until we discover it posted on Wikileaks.
Frightening chart if accurate
If accurate, the chart shows that we have been in an era of declining temperature due to long-term natural climate cycles, which we have now managed to brake and reverse with just the beginning of our man-made atmospheric changes. The implications are frightening if the natural climate cycle turns around and begins to reinforce our man-made efforts at warming.
WebOS hasn't quite faded
There's still an active development group supporting the million TouchPad users and hundreds of thousands of WebOS phones, and HP is still progressively releasing the components as open source. It may yet have legs.
Open your wallets
We just got these so-called Smart Meters installed in our Canadian province of British Columbia last year. The provincial power company BC Hydro put out some ridiculous publicity claiming that there would be no net cost in the long run because it would "help catch marijuana grow-ops" among other things (how? grow-ops bypass the meter). But subsequent investigations reveal that they hid costs of almost $1 billion, and now they want to raise our power rates by 50%! Somehow I fail to see the benefit to anyone except the company selling the meters and all the insiders they paid off.
Trend are to blame
Trend and all the other RBL services are known for their careless and high-handed blocking of innocent internet users. They make little attempt to cooperate with ISPs to avoid collateral damage to all their legitimate clients. Would you spray a crowd of innocent civilians with gunfire because a terrorist was running through the crowd? Without even bothering to yell "clear the path!"? That's the equivalent of what Trend are doing.
Deja vu all over again
This is a perennial story which makes the rounds every time the U.S. government is trying to pressure the Canadian government to adopt the secret ACTA treaty provisions. But it goes all the way back to the late 1800s, when the story of the time was that Canadians were illegally copying U.S. sheet music. We've just had to learn to tune out our neighbours to the south when they show this particular blind spot, complaining about everyone else while being oblivious to their own transgressions.
Hang gliders are not subject to government regulation in Canada, so the operator was not required to meet any standards or conform to any regulations, and probably didn't have any insurance. While individuals who enjoy the sport are probably not keen to invite unwelcome government regulation, it would seem to be a serious oversight to allow the operation of a passenger-carrying business without some minimal regulation.
On the right track
I still browse in bookstores even though I read most books on my e-reader these days, so I think Barnes & Noble is on the right track with their efforts to integrate their bookstore chain with their e-readers. Yes, there are many practical difficulties as others pointed out in their comments, but at least B&N are trying. Unfortunately their real weakness is that they have no international presence or strategy outside the USA, unlike all of their competitors. They're a big fish in a medium-size pond.
You won't be laughing when these people are the ones left to save the human race after alien mind-hackers take over the rest of us via the internet and our mobile phones!
I think they're wrong
I have a 6" e-reader that I use 90% of the time for reading books these days, because it's small and light and I can easily carry it everywhere. I also have a 10" colour tablet that I use for reading magazines and illustrated books, because the larger screen is barely adequate for that job. I wouldn't use one device to do the job of the other. I think the 7" compromise colour tablets like the Kindle Fire are glorified video players, not suitable for either reading job, as the users are bound to discover.
Is that the new buzzword for slashing the team in half? Making them more "nimble"? I guess I'd get a little more nimble too if I were trying to avoid an axe that falls repeatedly, but I'm not sure it helps productivity. I have a fire-sale TouchPad. I like it and I've bought more apps for it than for my iPhone. I think HP didn't stick with it long enough, and they're compounding their mistakes.
I don't think the current generation of IT staff knows what stress is. The "me" generation thinks that putting in a full 8 hours is cruel and unusual punishment. Suck it up and do the job, or quit and go work for the government if you want a cushy ride and a nice pension.
The Americans of 100 years ago accepted the notion of conquering a new territory and making it a new state as their natural right. The Americans of 50 years ago were willing to put their efforts behind an impossible dream to go to the moon just to show it could be done. The Americans of 2012 laugh and roll their eyes. The bean counters are quick to point out that it's too expensive...
GoDaddy has no business using my money to advocate a political agenda I don't agree with. I'm moving my 7 domains.
Can't have that, can we?
Tsk, tsk! Personal moral failures in one of our technology leaders? We can't have that, no more than we could tolerate it in our political or religious leaders. Thank goodness that never happens. It would be petty to say that this is a case of the pot calling the kettle black.
So how many seconds?
So exactly how many seconds of buffering constitutes and illegal copy? According to the court, 30 seconds is too much. Odd decision, almost as if the judge were unaware that most internet video transmission systems buffer 30-60 seconds - or as if his convoluted logic was intended to find any excuse to ban a service that the broadcast networks don't like. But let's take it to a logical conclusion. There are many buffers in a video transmission system from source to eyeballs. How many seconds of buffering is too much? Is it 10? 5? 1? 0.1? I guess the engineers will have to take this question to the courts over and over until they find the answer. Sounds like a lot of employment for lawyers!
This is the same Microsoft whose core OS is based on Quick&Dirty OS from Seattle Computer Products and the Windows interface they licensed and then ripped off from Apple in the 1980s (who in turn copied it from Xerox)? You gotta love lawyers!
Driverless trains can work
The trains in Vancouver (Canada) are all driverless, and they have a good safety record. The trains, tracks, and stations are monitored by CCTV from a central control room, and they have automated safety systems that monitor the tracks and stop the trains in the event of a problem. Plenty of uniformed staff and transit police circulate throughout the system, and there's a good chance of seeing them on any given train or at any given platform.
That isn't evidence of anything except that lawyers are ignorant morons, which is already pretty well known.
- Xmas Round-up Ten top tech toys to interface with a techie’s Christmas stocking
- Google embiggens its fat vid pipe Chromecast with TEN new supported apps
- NSFW Oz couple get jiggy in pharmacy in 'banned' condom ad
- Exploits no more! Firefox 26 blocks all Java plugins by default
- Shivering boffins nail Earth's coldest spot