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* Posts by Michael Strorm

130 posts • joined 11 Feb 2008

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Come with me if you want a lid: Apple bags Terminator-esque LiquidMetal mobe patent

Michael Strorm

Terminator 2 does *not* prove that liquid metal is trustworthy...

Remember that the lines "hasta la vista, baby" and "come with me if you want to live" came from Arnold Schwarzenegger's (subverted) "traditional" T-800... *not* Robert Patrick's newfangled liquid metal T-1000.

Anyway, given how the T-1000 went around killing people in that film, the combination of "liquid metal" (*) and network-enabled consumer electronics suggests that HatfulOfHollow's dream is close to becoming a reality:-

http://bash.org/?4281

(*) Yeah, I know the stuff discussed in the article isn't actually like that. Sadly.

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Wolfenstein: The New Order ... BLAM-BLAM! That guard did Nazi that coming

Michael Strorm

@deadlockvictim

"NATO"

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Sony on the ropes after revising losses UP to $1.3 BEEELLION

Michael Strorm

Sony hobbled MiniDisc, threw away their technical and market lead

"Same with Mini-disc; saddles it with proprietary (if superior) format, refuses to support mp3 until it's, again, too late to salvage it."

If Mini-Disc (which came out in 1992) had supported what it had the *potential* to do- i.e. fully digital transfers at the per-track level- that probably would have become a common file format instead.

I say "tracks" and not "files" because at the time MiniDisc came out, far fewer people were computer literate and comfortable with computers, and most people didn't have computers powerful enough to play compressed audio files anyway. (*)

So marketing this as music "file" transfer wouldn't have caught on with Joe Public circa 1992... but the ability to copy and transfer individual "tracks" of music between MiniDisc devices without analogue degradation would have (especially if they could be transferred at much better than real-time listening speed) would. Such tracks would be ATRAC music "files" in all but name, and probably would have evolved into such once they were transferred off MiniDiscs and onto the Internet by pioneering geeks. There's no real reason why Sony couldn't have had MiniDisc support this file-like track-by-track transfer if it already had the basic digital technology in place on the device.

Well, no reason except that Sony got into the content business (films and music) from the late-80s onwards and had a conflict of interest, hobbling MiniDisc with digital copy restrictions (and that having to be done in real-time).

Even when MP3 came along, Sony dragged their heels, eventually releasing an ATRAC-based iPod-alike that required MP3 files to be (automatically) converted, as if they were in a position to force ATRAC over MP3, when they'd already left it five years too late (post-Napster) to beat MP3, which they could have pre-empted in the first place. (Possibly there was also some NIH-ism in their attempt to force ATRAC on their (not-)MP3 players).

As I've said on several occasions, Sony- one time leader of the portable audio market- totally squandered their position; it was theirs to lose, they had the technology to keep it, and they threw it away to a company that had no previous track record in mainstream audio, or anything much outside computers (i.e. Apple). And Sony's conflict of interest with their content division may well have been the main cause.

(*) Apparently when MP3 started gaining acceptance as a file-exchange format in the mid-90s, it used up most of a typical PC's CPU time just to play them.

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WTF happened to Pac-Man?

Michael Strorm

I haven't played "Pac Land" personally, but from what I've seen the mechanics and design look totally unrelated to the original Pac-Man game.

That apparently came out only a few years after the original, but whether or not it's a good game in its own right, it does appear to be an early example of creating "sequels" based solely around the "characters" rather than the gameplay mechanics of the original- the same thing that led to the modern, soulless Pac-Man-in-Name-Only game that the author decries.

In fact, apparently the graphics in its US release were based upon those in the Hanna Barbera Pac-Man cartoon. (Which I remember being a fan of as a kid- I think before I'd ever actually played the original Pac-Man game- but doesn't look that great to me now!). So *that* was a sort-of-spin-off of a cartoon as well!

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Opportunity selfie: Martian winds have given the spunky ol' rover a spring cleaning

Michael Strorm

Donkeys on Mars?!

All the donkeys died due to the totally unbreathable atmosphere and -65 degree centigrade temperatures.

Yep, Blackpool in winter is harsh on those poor donkeys...

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Audio fans, prepare yourself for the Second Coming ... of Blu-ray

Michael Strorm

@phrog

phr0g: "I bought some 24/96 music to do a test recently. I downsampled it to 16/44.1 and null tested the files [..] There was absolutely nothing audible in the difference file"

There have been allegations on more than one occasion that some music sold as 24/96 quality is simply regular CD-quality digital audio that's been upscaled.

This is one thread I came across when I did a quick Google search on the subject just now:-

http://www.hydrogenaudio.org/forums/index.php?showtopic=95343

At any rate, if the file(s) you have were examples of that, the experiment proves nothing except (possibly) that upscaled CD audio is little better than regular quality. And even that's assuming the test was experimentally sound.

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Michael Strorm

Not really- DVD Audio might have succeeded better if it had been supported by default by all existing DVD Video players. (*) Effectively, that *is* the case here.

FWIW, it might be good if the audio discs were required to include a facility that allowed basic control of the discs through the player's own control panel without having the TV displayed turned on (I don't know if this is or isn't the case), even the facility was only supported by higher-end players designed with it in mind. There's something a bit naff about requiring the screen to be on to play music.

(*) And maybe also if it hadn't been in a battle with SACD... I say "maybe" as it's open to question whether the format battle actually was a pyrrhic, er.... stalemate, since it still isn't clear that either format would have succeeded without that factor.

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Blighty goes retro with 12-sided pound coin

Michael Strorm

Groundhog Century-and-Four-Tenths

No, because shortly after hitting MMXXXVIII, it'll roll back round to MCMI.

All our systems will crash, the financial system will collapse, nuclear weapons will get confused, spontaneously launch and kill us all and we'll have a newly-crowned Edward VII on the British throne (again).

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China's annual TV smear segment drags Nikon's name through the mud

Michael Strorm

Re: China and ethics??

"Probably the major country for product piracy"

@Mark85; It's not like pirates haven't had problems with black spots either- just ask Long John Silver.

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Loki, LC3 and Pandora: The great Sinclair might-have-beens

Michael Strorm

Sinclair Research still around, sort of...

"The year its brand and products were bought by Amstrad and it was shut down for good."

This is closer to the truth than many sources which simply claim Amstrad bought Sinclair Research (and which, to be fair, I had previously thought to be the case).

However, Sinclair Research still existed after 1986- albeit (according to Wikipedia) mainly as an R&D and holding company for the likes of Cambridge Computer, the brand under which the aforementioned Z88 was sold.

FWIW, it's still technically in existence today, though with Clive Sinclair as its only employee and (from what I can tell) operating sporadically whenever Sinclair has a new invention to release.

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Micro Men: The story of the syntax era

Michael Strorm

Re: Anti-Sinclair stitch-up?

Oh, I believe most of the events happened (allowing for the dramatic "compression" of events, which I can understand and accept provided it still broadly reflects the spirit of what actually happened). It was the difference in the very comic way Sinclair was portrayed versus the relatively straight portrayal of almost everyone else (especially Chris Curry) that I felt was unreasonable and gave the programme as a whole a somewhat inconsistent tone.

Still, if Sinclair saw the final product and didn't object to it, I guess he's entitled to his opinion if anyone is!

The only other minor quibble I had was- although the programme wasn't *meant* to be about the market as a whole, but the dynamic and conflict between Sinclair and Acorn/Curry- someone who didn't already know much about the early-80s computer market might be forgiven for thinking Sinclair and Acorn were the only major players. Still, that's a minor issue and it's open to question whether it was the programme-makers' responsibility.

I do appreciate the fact that they did got the major events and facts correct, which isn't something one would always expect(!)

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Michael Strorm

Anti-Sinclair stitch-up?

The major problem I had with it was the portrayal of Clive Sinclair.

The programme was (IIRC) essentially billed as a comedy-drama, but that wasn't evenly spread. Most of the "comedy" aspects related to Alexander Amstrong's portrayal of Sinclair. This bordered on an outright *comic* character portrayal- which would have been at home in an Armstrong and Miller sketch- whereas Chris Curry was portrayed in an essentially straight dramatic (and dignified) fashion. Which, of course, made "Sinclair" look even sillier, to a point bordering on character assassination.

Now, regardless of whether Sinclair was/is a d**k or not (and not everything I've heard about him has been flattering), I don't honestly believe that he was as comically foaming-at-the-mouth as that. I didn't expect him to be portrayed as a saint if he wasn't- the problem was that portraying him in a totally different manner to everyone else didn't give him a fair crack at the whip.

Maybe this was a deliberate decision, maybe it reflected Armstrong's lack of straight acting skill (and ludicrous bald wig). Regardless of the cause, it was still a major shortcoming- not just in terms of fairness, but in terms of jarring contrast of the programme's tone.

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You’re NOT fired: The story of Amstrad’s amazing CPC 464

Michael Strorm

Re: Found the CPC a bit of a mixed bag

"That was certainly behind the ludicrously petty way the joystick ports on the Amstrad-designed Spectrums was re-wired."

Yes- the port (an industry standard "Atari" DB9, but with the pins rewired) was trivially simple to convert to Atari-compatible- IIRC- via a dirt-cheap adaptor that simply re-re-wired the connections back to their original positions, allowing the use of almost any joystick on the market at that point.

Given that the Amstrad joysticks my friend got with his +2 were atrociously cheap and nasty, they can't seriously have expected this "ludicrously petty" roadblock to work.

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Michael Strorm

@Mr C Hill

"Between a million Spectrum +3's"

Were there really a million +3s sold? According to Wikipedia, there were 5 million Spectrums in total. I don't recall the +3 being that successful (being piggy-in-the-middle between the cheaper Spectrums and the Atari ST), nor that much software being released on disc for it.

"No Amstrad PC compatible used 3 inch disks."

I think the OP was- understandably- getting confused with the PCW, which despite its name wasn't an "(IBM) PC-compatible" but Amstrad's Z80-based word processing system.

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Michael Strorm

@AC and @Mr C Hill

@AC; "His PCs bombed because he was naive about testing things. Which destroyed his reputation when a hard disk they fitted wasn't compatible with his PCs."

Yes, the Seagate drives fiasco irretrievably damaged Amstrad's reputation in the PC market, but FWIW (a) Amstrad sued Seagate and won, which suggests it wasn't just a testing and compatibility issue and (b) Amstrad had already enjoyed massive success with their original mid-80s PC-1512 and its successors by that point. (Sugar claimed that they had been the European PC market leaders at one point).

In the UK, those were the first PC-compatibles truly affordable enough to be targeted at the home market and- despite later criticism of their nonstandard aspects- arguably established the PC as a mass-market format over here.

@Mr C Hill; "And just how much did the Amiga cost at that time? It was north of 700 quid wasn't it IF you could get hold of one."

Worse than that- the original 1985 Amiga 1000 was US $1300 (sans monitor or HDD) when it launched, so probably translated to a lot *more* than £700 once UK VAT and usual UK market padding factored in. (This is probably why the rather more generic but also much more affordable Atari ST was more popular in the early days). The ubiquitous Amiga 500 didn't arrive until 1987, and even that was £500 at launch without a monitor.

This mirrors the situation with the Amiga's spiritual predecessor, the Atari 800 (custom-chip heavy with many of the same design team). That was brilliant and state-of-the-art at the time of its late-70s launch, but it was also bloody expensive.

At any rate, the Amiga was an amazing machine by the standards of the mid-80s, but pricewise wasn't even in the same ballpark as the CPC-464 and friends at the time.

Unfortunately, Sugar also kept the cost of the CPC-464 system down by having it manufactured in the Far East instead of the UK where many computers were made until the mid-80s. He also later transferred Spectrum manufacturing to Taiwan (IIRC) and then China. To be fair, other UK and US manufacturers also started doing this in the mid-80s as well.

Amstrad was never about state-of-the-art, but to be fair, they built some solid computers at an affordable price using off-the-shelf design.

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MAC TO THE FUTURE: 30 years of hindsight and smart-arsery

Michael Strorm

Re: Nobody remembers Bill Gates saved Apple

Not speaking as an Apple fan- because believe me, I certainly am not- but Gates' "saving" of Apple wasn't for purely altruistic reasons. Rather, it was for a more self-serving and pragmatic one- it suited Microsoft to have Apple around as a not-too-strong "competitor" they could point to when accusations of them being a monopoly came up.

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Globe grabbin,’ sphere slammin’, orb-tossin’, pill poppin’... Speedball

Michael Strorm

No, that's *not* how Amiga gradients were generated

DaneB: "...amazing gradient textures - on sprites and backgrounds"

Vociferous: "Good artists, good programmers, lots of dithering and the blurring effect of CRT screens [..] various tricks were used to make the ECS chipsets 32 colors seem a lot more."

Sorry, but as far as the "amazing gradient textures" go, this is wrong.

While the tricks you describe *were* used on the Amiga to get the most out of 32-colour palettes in general use, the aforementioned background gradients were achieved by having the graphics co-processor update one or more of the colour registers (i.e. changing the palette itself) every few lines while the picture was being displayed.

Here's an example of that technique applied to a 1-bit (i.e. ostensibly single colour) background:-

http://amiga.lychesis.net/artist/FranckSauer/Agony_Level1_Horizon.html

AFAIK the Atari ST could do something similar as well, but it only had 512 colours (except the later STe model) so the gradients couldn't be as smooth.

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Sony on the ropes after Moody's downgrade to junk

Michael Strorm

Re: How the Mighty Have Fallen

"Just over 18 months later the TV screen went kack. 6 or so months after that the surround sound went kack."

I bet your daughter wasn't pleased that Samsung "kacked" all over her bedroom, then. :-O

"On the other hand, I know a number of Sony Trinitrons (and some monitors) still going strong."

Yeah, my 1993 Sony Trinitron portable is over 20 years old, has been in regular use for almost all that time (still gets used daily), and has *never* needed to be repaired. Apart from some (very minor at worst) colour fringing only visible on text, it looks pretty much as good as the day I bought it.

I paid quite a bit more for that set (£200) than the cheaper models I was looking at that day, but in retrospect it was worth every damn penny.

Sadly, what I've heard about Sony since the early-noughties seems to have reflected a significant decline in quality. Even from personal experience, my Dad, for example, had two Sony Walkmans fail when still relatively new (*), and the HDD Sony Camcorder he bought a few years back had its screen go because of bad ribbon cable design, despite being rately used, which turned out to be a common fault. On top of that, I was never impressed with the picture quality even when it *was* working.

To be fair, my Sony "tranny" radio lasted several years, did a good job, and was replaced with one of the same model when it did fail. However, I wouldn't use that good experience as the sole basis to spend £2000 on a Sony TV, or whatever.

(*) The third failed as well, but that's because it was dropped on the ground.

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Haribo gummy bears implicated in 'gastric exorcism'

Michael Strorm

Only requires *20* of the satanically-posessed bears, apparently

Who said that the, er... "effect" required eating the whole bag?

The top-listed review (by Christine E. Torok) on the Amazon page linked in the article (via "carnage") states "Not long after eating about *20* [my emphasis] of these all hell broke loose."

I doubt 20 would be considered "eating to excess" by many people.

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Ban-dodging Mac Pro to hit Blighty's shops as Apple bows to fan fears

Michael Strorm

Re: Ditched the floppy without supplying a practical replacement

@Kirk Northrop; "I agree that it could be considered jumping the gun somewhat, and that at the time it seemed a very silly move. But it's also fair to say that someone had to do it"

There was no point doing it until a workable alternative was in place (e.g. CD burner might have been practical two or three years later).

Yes, anyone could see that the floppy was out-of-date and needed replacing, but there were no alternatives at a comparable "base" price point at the time. The only thing that the iMac really encouraged was the adoption of USB.

I don't believe that the iMac forced the decline of the floppy; as I mentioned, everyone rushed out and bought external drives because there was no real, universally-accepted alternative. If the optical drive had been a burner, it might have been a different ketle of fish.

The floppy later declined partly because disc burners got very cheap, but mainly because USB flash memory pen drives did everything people used floppies for but without the ludicrously small capacity.

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You're fired: Lord Sugar offloads faded PC builder Viglen to XMA

Michael Strorm

Re: So that makes three computer businesses flushed...

@AC (9 Jan 23:16); "Sinclair was troubled, which is why he bought it."

Amstrad didn't buy Sinclair Research itself, just the "Sinclair" brand and the existing computer lines (including the Spectrum and QL, the latter of which was discontinued soon after the takeover anyway).

Sinclair Research continued to exist, though mainly as an R&D and holding company (e.g. for "Cambridge Computers", the brand Sinclair's late-80s Z88 portable was sold under) It's still technically in existence, though apparently Clive Sinclair himself is the only employee these days.

Given how famous the "Sinclair" brand was at the time, it's somewhat surprising that Amstrad didn't exploit it more. The only new product they used it on (other than updated versions of the Spectrum and peripherals) was a failed all-in-one home PC in an Atari 520ST / Amiga 500 style case:-

http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Sinclair_PC200

I only vaguely remember hearing about this at the time, but apparently it flopped because it was massively underspecced against the ST and Amiga (and most other PCs).

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Gran Turismo 6: Another glossy, gorgeous Mario Kart on steroids

Michael Strorm

Re: Sounds

"hey what wrong with the SID chip!!!"

Think it was a specific reference to the quality of *sampled* sound (which most sound chips on 8-bit home computers- SID included- were never designed for, and it's clever that they got it to work at all).

The technique apparently used was virtually the same as that I used on my Atari 800XL, and in both cases only gave 4-bit audio. I can tell you now that unfiltered 4-bit samples on my Atari were *very* coarse, grungey and noisy, even compared to 8-bit Amiga samples, and moreso compared to 16-bit CD audio!

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/b/bf/Pcm.svg/250px-Pcm.svg.png

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You gotta fight for your copyright ... Beastie Boys sue toymaker over TV ad

Michael Strorm

Re: Duracell vs Energiser

If Wikipedia is to be believed, Duracell lost the 'Bunny' case because they'd failed to renew their trademark.

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ASA slaps down BT over 'misleading' broadband claims

Michael Strorm

Chocolate Teapot

"The ASA is about as useless as an organisation can get. [..] If the government wants to cut 'whitehall waste' then the ASA is the best place to start."

The ASA is the advertising industry's self-regulatory organisation. On the plus side, this means that there's no "whitehall waste" going to fund it.

On the downside it also explains why it has absolutely no legislative power and is "about as useless as an organisation can get". In theory they can pass things on to the Office of Fair Trading or OFCOM. Whether this simply doesn't happen, or it does and the latter bodies do nothing, is unclear to me.

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Doctor Who Episode One: Through a glass. Darkly

Michael Strorm

tl;dr - ST:TNG's crappy analogue source makes digital compression harder

"ST:TNG suffers from a sort of active dithering effect on the backdrops that distracts the eye from the foreground"

The problem with ST:TNG is that- like many US dramas from the late 80s until the digital era- it was edited and mastered on NTSC video (*) Result is that the picture is disgustingly soft- not just by modern standards, but even to my eyes on a run-of-the-mill UK TV in the early-1990s. (**) Probably didn't matter to the US networks, as it was intended to be shown over the same low-grade NTSC system.

To get to the point, it's horrible, soft video like this that seems to disagree with digital compression the most. I find this surprising, as I'd have thought that the softness would translate to less high frequency information, making it more compressible, but no. It appears that you get the crappiness of the original analogue video *plus* the double whammy of the digital compression barfing on it. Maybe it's because the tapes were noisy. (***)

-

(*) Albeit with most of the footage originally shot on film- presumably to retain that "filmic" look rather than the clinical feel of analogue video-sourced material. Earlier dramas of this calibre were- AFAIK- shot *and* edited on film, which means that they can be transferred to DVD in much higher quality via the film masters, but newer ones like ST:TNG would require entirely re-editing (and redoing some video-sourced effects).

(**) I appreciate that some quality may have been lost in the NTSC -> PAL transfer of the time, but I've seen enough since to suggest that most of the poor quality was inherent in the original NTSC masters.

(***) As far as digital compression is concerned, noise in general is just high frequency detail- lots of it. Ironically, it wastes lots of bandwidth on this noisy "detail", leaving less for everything else and resulting in blocking. So, as mentioned, you get the double whammy of lots of noise from the original *and* the ill-effects of the digital bandwidth wasted on preserving that noise to the detriment of everything else.

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The CURSE of WHO: WHY has there never been a decent videogame with the Doctor?

Michael Strorm

Add your Dr Who and Dalek knockoffs here

Two 8-bit games I once owned featuring somewhat familiar-looking characters. Probably not coincidentally, both are British:-

--

Escape from Doomworld (Atari 800):-

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EHbDtnwWw8s&t=0m21s

--

The Lone Raider (Atari 800):-

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_jNm8nMhTus&t=1m36s

--

Dr Who Adventure (Atari 800):-

http://www.atarimania.com/game-atari-400-800-xl-xe-dr-who-adventure_16975.html

(I never played this one myself (only came across it just now while doing a quick search), but I like how even though it's a magazine type-in listing and obviously of that standard- i.e. not great- someone gave it 9/10!)

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Facebook fans fuel FAGGOT FURY firestorm

Michael Strorm

Muphry's Law strikes again!

"You have 3 minutes to fix the typo"

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muphry%27s_law

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Digital radio may replace FM altogether - even though nobody wants it

Michael Strorm

They'd be better shifting to DAB+

DAB is already old tech anyway. As DAB hasn't taken off as they wanted, this means there's not *that* big an established base of DAB radios- actually a blessing in disguise (*) if those in power have the guts to risk offending a few early adopters and (worse) being seen to be changing their minds. Why? DAB+, that's why.

Since AFAIK a lot of countries are adopting the newer- and more advanced- DAB+ instead, economies of scale will probably result in most new "DAB" radios sold here actually being DAB+ models anyway (i.e. backward compatible) if this isn't the case already.

Thus, they may as well shift to DAB+ as the standard (requiring new sets to support it), but retaining standard DAB transmissions in the short term for existing sets. By the time they switch over, many of the early DAB-only sets will have been replaced by newer models that are DAB+ compatible anyway, and we avoid getting stuck with DAB's early-90s tech.

Unfortunately, I suspect that a number of jobsworth bureaucrats, officials and politicians- having already publicly committed to ye olde DAB and sung its praises as the "latest" tech- won't want to risk looking bad (or upsetting a few disproportionately vocal punters) and will put the kibosh on DAB+ solely to avoid losing face.

(*) Just like the original Freeview (i.e. Standard Definition DVB-T technology) being a success is the opposite- the government spent years persuading everyone to move to SD Freeview, and by the time the switchover formally took place, people were wanting HD, so we had Freeview HD. Except that existing Freeview boxes can't accept the newer HD DVB-T2 transmissions, so the already cramped spectrum is wasted by having to broadcast both SD and HD versions of the same content. OTOH, Ireland went digital later, so all boxes sold for use with *their* "Saorview" service were HD-compatible anyway, no separate SD transmission needed.

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Microsoft covers Brit who penetrated Windows 8.1 with GOLD

Michael Strorm

Re: LET IT DIE

"My best & still favourite is a old Amiga 2000, souped up, that is imperverious to the bugs that roam"

Er, seriously? No-one's writing exploits for the Amiga 2000 because only about 3 people are likely to be trying to browse the web on one!

Seriously, they were bloody outstanding and powerful machines when they were new (far superior to the contemporary PCs in both hardware and OS terms), but that was the mid to late 80s. The original 68000 based Amigas would already have been underpowered for browsing even almost 20 years ago when the two-pages-of-text-and-a-GIF-or-JPEG-if-you're-lucky web started becoming prominent. I doubt they'd even load anything more than the most basic modern pages.

I'm sure that people are still running Amiga 2000s, but not for serious web browsing! You might be able to target the 27 or so diehard Amiga fanatics running the allegedly "modern" models like the "Amiga One", but those are nothing like the Amiga 2000 or the classic Amigas in general.

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Michael Strorm

Just one question about that headline... What's "GOLD" actually got to do with it?!

Is it because he wants...

GOLD! (Gold!)

Always believe there are holes

He had the power to know

That they are vulnerable

Always believin', he wants...

GOLD! (Gold!)

- Copywrong 1893 Spandex Bollocks

The Kray Twins are currently appearing in "Run for your Wife" at Her Majesty's Theatre. Other 80s new romantic turned white boy soul bands are available.

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Billionaire dumps Apple stock because Steve Jobs was 'really awful' guy

Michael Strorm

Did Not Read The Article Properly.

As soon as I reached the end of the article, I *knew* straight away there would be a load of comments from people who didn't read it through properly and missed the point being made.

I was right.

From the article:- "In fact, if Jobs were still around – he died two years ago last Saturday – Robertson would forgive his faults and stay invested in the iDevice maker. "I think if he were still there, I'd still be in it," Robertson said of his investment in Apple. "I think he's one of the great geniuses of the world." "

In short, the reason (he claims) he's selling his stake isn't because Jobs was a dick, per se, it's because he thinks "it was unlikely that a man as really awful as I think that Steve Jobs was could possibly create a great company for the long term."

You might agree or disagree with that, but it's not the hypocritical moralistic reasoning that the article skimmers assumed it was.

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DRAMA at 75,000 FEET: Our Playmonaut's TERROR PLUNGE from EDGE of SPACE

Michael Strorm

Rover?!

Looks like this was meant to be Rover's big comeback...

http://regmedia.co.uk/2013/09/17/lohan_launch.jpg

Sad to say he was clearly too old to make it all the way up. Poor thing hasn't been the same since Patrick McGoohan died... if it had still been 1967, he'd have chased you menacingly all the way along that beach then squashed you, just like the old days.

Er, seriously... impressive stuff, though, look forward to the video!

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New iPhones: C certainly DOESN'T stand for 'Cheap'

Michael Strorm

Re: Affordability my arse

"The iPhone 5C, he said, is "highly recyclable," featuring arsenic-free glass,..."

That's nothing. My Android phone's screen is entirely free of Plutonium 238!

And the back panel contains entirely no Murdertanium 666, a substance that leaches out of plastics and stabs random people in your house in the face at night.

Now, to be fair, Murdertanium 666 doesn't actually exist... but that's how I can be sure that my phone contains none of this highly dangerous and alarming substance. Still, it's a good selling point to Daily Mail readers.

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Canadian family gives up modern tech to live like it's 1986

Michael Strorm

Re: Most of us didn't use CDs until the 90s either...

(Additional note relating to my comment on cassette sales figures above; bear in mind that the US used 8-track carts in the 70s, which died and were replaced by cassettes in the 80s. This didn't apply in the UK, where we never really took 8-track to our hearts, and had already been using cassettes for longer. So the sales figures might be slightly different. Still doesn't affect what I said in relation to CDs, though).

"Who ever bought pre-recorded cassettes?"

I did, when I was a kid.

"Everyone I know listened to tapes made from LPs, which cost the same amount anyway (apart from the extra cost of half a blank C-90). And you still had the LP to make yourself another copy when, not if, the tape got eaten."

I looked after my tapes and over 15 years can count on one hand the number of times the tape came out of the machine. And none of them actually destroyed the tape- worst case was that my TDK D60 of "Queen Greatest Hits" sounded a bit crinkled at the very start.

(I *did* actually do that with the first- and almost last- LP I bought (after I got a Midi system), but my parents bought a CD system a month after that, so I bought CDs *and* copied to tape instead, eventually intending to have my own CD player.)

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Michael Strorm

Most of us didn't use CDs until the 90s either...

"Mullet people did not discovered the CD before the 90's..."

*Most* people didn't start using CDs until around the 90s, full stop. CD was still a relatively expensive high-end format in 1986. Harvey Yuppie and Phil Audiophile probably owned one (along with a copy of the aforementioned "Brothers in Arms") but Joe Public typically didn't.

It would be another couple of years or so before they started to become truly mass-market. This is probably signified by the fact that the first full (*) release of a Now That's What I Call Music album was Now 10 in late 1987.

It wasn't until 1992 or so that CD sales finally started overtaking the then-dominant prerecorded cassette format. (**)

It's interesting to consider then, that while the technology was available in 1986, it would probably be "cheating" to use it if you wanted to represent the life of a typical family then. Just like how (e.g.) people see 80s phones and think "OMG, those were the bricks we were using in the 80s" when in fact only a few yuppies and well-paid professionals were.

(*) Now 4, 8 and 9 were apparently released in cut-down single disc format.

(**) Interestingly many people- myself included- thought of CDs as having replaced LPs as the "main" format. Yet it turns out (***) that prerecorded cassettes had already overtaken the LP by 1983, and the latter was already in steep decline- long *before* CD sales had become significant. In short, the cassette probably killed off the LP as much as the CD did. This was apparently bolstered by the industry actively trying to kill off the LP format. So while some may note that CD sales overtook the LP by 1988, that would be misleading in terms of establishing the point of market dominance for CDs.

(***) In the US at least, based on these figures:- http://stopmusictheft.wdfiles.com/local--files/music-sales-analysis/100Index600.png

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Decks and plugs and rock and roll: Tascam CD-A750 cassette and CD combo

Michael Strorm

Ion R&D?

"Who is busy doing R&D on cassette recorders these days? If you’re thinking of Ion Audio, these products are aimed at format transfer convenience rather a serious effort for archivists"

To be fair, I suspect that most El Reg readers (and certainly those interested enough to be reading this article) know it's unlikely that Ion are doing anything that could be described as "R&D" beyond sticking a USB ADC or digitiser onto a low-end generic mechanism and bundling it with Audacity or whatever.

Nor that they generally have a lot going for them beyond convenience- even I (a non-audiophile) have heard enough that I'd go for something better if I still had anything left to digitise!

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Happy 50th birthday, Compact Cassette: How it struck a chord for millions

Michael Strorm

Re: Fascinating article

I agree that loading software from tape was horribly slow and frustrating and something I'll never be nostalgic for. (*)

But to be fair, the format was never designed for that. It was adopted in the mid-70s as a much more affordable alternative to disk drives and the like (which were *expensive* for home users at that time).

I wonder why the systems that required dedicated decks anyway (e.g. the Atari 8-bit and Commodore 8-bit formats) didn't run the tape at two or three times speed to allow improved frequency response. (**) It'd still have been compatible with standard commercial cassette duplication facilities. The Atari 8-bit had a "stereo" system that could play audio from one channel while data loaded from the other, but IMHO it would have been a good idea to allow both channels to be used for data (i.e. increased throughput).

(*) My Atari 800XL was *horribly* slow when it came to loading from cassette, probably because the original version- the Atari 400 and 800- came out in the era of much smaller memories (i.e. 8 or 16K) and it didn't matter as much for short programs. Excruciating when you were trying to load something that used 48K or 64K though. It was 100 times worse when you got the infamous "LOAD ERROR - Try Other Side".

(**) I appreciate that cassettes weren't designed to be run at high speeds, so there would have been limits. But apparently the late-80s "Pixelvision" camcorder- designed for kids, and based on standard Compact Cassettes- got away with running the cassette *8* times faster to get the necessary bandwidth!

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Acorn’s would-be ZX Spectrum killer, the Electron, is 30

Michael Strorm

Re: 32K- the BBC Micro's most annoying limitation

Interesting feedback, explains some things- thanks.

I do vaguely remember the sideways RAM thing; we used COMAL (*) for programming at school and IIRC had to load it from the networked hard drive into the sideways RAM.

I have to say that, for all this cleverness of design, having to limit the main RAM to 32K *maximum* as a consequence was still a major price to pay, essentially crippling the usability of the high-res modes.

The 64K "overshadowing" on the C64 was a limitation, I agree- my 64K Atari 800XL had the same problem. However, the space *was* usable for machine code games in both cases. Not ideal, but not quite a swizz either.

(*) COMAL was supposedly a hybrid of BASIC and Pascal. However, since BBC Basic already incorporated many of the "structured" features of Pascal, COMAL- on the BBC at least- ended up being not significantly different in practice anyway.

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Michael Strorm

32K- the BBC Micro's most annoying limitation

That 32KB RAM limit on the BBC B quickly became its achilles heel and pointlessly limiting on an otherwise powerful (and expensive) machine. If you tried exploiting its rather nice high-resolution modes you were left with sod all RAM. Even having 48K would have made a major difference.

I appreciate that RAM was still expensive when the BBC launched in 1981, but they must have known that it was falling fast (*) and made provisions to let existing users cheaply upgrade - at least- and replaced the Model B with a 48K version as soon as it became cost-effective to do so.

I realise that they eventually released a short-lived 64K Model B+, but that was *much* later (only shortly before the 128K BBC Master came out) so by that point the established base was of 32K machines and software had to be written around that.

The Electron lacking the memory-saving Teletext mode shouldn't have been an issue, since for the price it should have had 48K by that point. If you take away the rather nice OS and BASIC- and the marketing glow cast by its association with the high-end BBC Micro- the Electron looks a bit overpriced against its intended competition. (In fact, I came across a contemporary magazine that described the Electron as an underspecced machine giving the impression it was designed to milk the user on expansion units).

Despite this my understanding is that Acorn probably *would* still have sold a lot if it had launched in quantity in time for Christmas 1983. (**) However, I've heard it commented that the Electron's inherent limitations probably would have been an issue in the long run.

(*) Apparently Jack Tramiel delayed the release of the Commodore 64 until RAM prices had fallen enough to make its 64KB RAM affordable.

(**) i.e. before the non-availability of the Electron had led them to buy competitor's machines instead- which of course increased *their* user base and not Acorn's- instead of later on when most people had a computer and Electrons started being produced in large quantities just as the market was slumping

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Attention, addicts: LEGO meth lab pays homage to Breaking Bad

Michael Strorm

Re: instant fail

I've never seen the show, but they're using hydroFLUORIC acid?

I'd have thought HCl was a much safer bet for their *own* sakes- HF is not only more dangerous in the way that it burns, but it's also very poisonous. You don't want to spill HCl on yourself, but you really, really, *really* don't want to spill HF on yourself.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydrofluoric_acid#Health_and_safety

(Disclaimer: I Am Not A Chemist)

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Microsoft cuts number of countries that will have Xbox One by Christmas

Michael Strorm

Re: Pumping the price, are they?

"Well, I know a few eBay resellers that are going to have a very merry Christmas with this."

You mean like all the PS3 scalpers attempted to do when it launched, thinking they were going to make lots of money, and ending up with piles of unsold (and very expensive) PS3s?

What a pity ;-)

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Queensland bans IBM from future work

Michael Strorm

Re: What happened to you, Big Blue?

According to this article, IBM was quite blinkered in this way even in the late 80s, around the time OS/2 was gearing up to be stabbed in the back by MS:-

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2012/11/26/os2_final_fail/?page=1

From page 2:- "The emphasis on cost saving over producing a superior product was scary to watch. Another mantra was “every dollar saved on the cost of a PC is worth millions”, quite literally on posters all over the building."

IIRC, according to Robert X. Cringely's "Accidental Empires", even in the old (pre-90s) days, IBM was a management-centric company, with everyone- or at least a significant proportion of employees- wanting to get in. This resulted in many unwieldy layers of management and many managers, which was part of the cause of their near death experience.

Anyway, what happened to IBM? IIRC after almost going bankrupt in the aforementioned 90s, they reinvented themselves as a far more services-and-consultancy-oriented company that seems to be quite good at extracting far more money than they're worth from their victims^w customers.

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Wikipedians say no to Jimmy's 'buggy' WYSIWYG editor

Michael Strorm

Re: They'll get used to it

I'm in favour of the Visual Editor in principle; the principle being that people shouldn't be reliant on geek-biased tech skills to edit things in an advanced manner.

The problem I anticipated was that WP uses a *lot* of templates and markup, and often in ways that might not occur to the writers of a visual editor. These will never all be usable via the GUI (*), so the next best thing is to hide them in a way that won't be broken by the visual editor. Unfortunately, this is one of those things that sounds easier than it would be, and I was willing to bet that things would get inadvertantly messed up via the (or rather "a") GUI editor.

Lo and behold, when I tested it out, I managed to "accidentally" delete an anchor within a subsection heading (**). The anchor wasn't shown, but it was still there invisibly, and deleted with an extra click of the delete button. The unwary newbie certainly couldn't be blamed as he/she wouldn't even have seen the markup they'd accidentally deleted. That doesn't solve the problem, though.

(*) Realistically, there's a lot of things that are never going to be doable through the visual editor, purely because there are way too many templates in use, and it'd take way more work to create a true GUI representation of each one than it was worth (way more time than the original template would take). One *could* have a popup for every unhandled template that showed the list of fields to be populated, but that's not really a true graphical representation, just the old text-centric way with GUI textboxes.

(**) Used so that if the subsection heading changes, any links to that subsection don't break

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You're doing WHAT with friends? Zynga sues Bang With Friends maker

Michael Strorm

So the Skinner box maker that's notorious for ripping off other companies' games- to the point of near carbon-copying- is getting pissy about its *own* supposed intellectual property?

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For pity's sake: DON'T MOVE to the COUNTRY if you want to live

Michael Strorm

Cows are large and scary

Article: "Being killed on purpose is more likely in town"

Really?

Do you go to the country? It isn't very far. There's people there who'll hurt you 'cos of who you are.

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Burger-rage horse dumps on McDonald's: Rider saddled with fat fine

Michael Strorm

Re: caused obvious distress and upset to customers trying to eat

Shagbag: "A colon is still "100% beef" as long as it comes from a cow.".

Pink slime (i.e. low-quality connective tissue that's been highly processed and antibacterially treated) isn't legal for human consumption (*)- let alone allowed to be called "beef" (**)- within the EU. That includes the UK, where this incident took place.

(For that reason the US disclaimers are also irrelevant. Aside from the fact that policies often vary in different markets and wouldn't necessarily apply to the EU, they would never have been able to (legally) use pink slime here in the first place).

(*) Whereas in the US they're allowed to include up to 15% pink slime and still call it "ground beef" (their name for "minced beef").

(**) Before American law was changed to make it explicitly legal, one microbiologist in the US Department of Agriculture had apparently stated that "I do not consider the stuff to be ground beef, and I consider allowing it in ground beef to be a form of fraudulent labeling" and that that such connective tissue is not even "meat".

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Fedora's Schrödinger's Cat Linux gives coders claws for thought

Michael Strorm
Coat

Then they should call it "Wave Function" because it's so unreliable it collapses when you just look at it. (*)

(*) Note; I haven't actually used Fedora 19- but I wanted to make that joke anyway. :-)

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