Feeds

* Posts by Michael Strorm

155 posts • joined 11 Feb 2008

Page:

Is living with Dolby Atmos worth the faff?

Michael Strorm

There's nothing "bizarre" about Hollywood's obsession with action-oriented comic-book superhero blockbusters over the past decade.

Why? Short answer- even allowing for the occasional flop, they make Hollywood lots of money. End of story.

Despite its navel-gazing self-romanticisation, that's what Hollywood at the top level's always been about, not art. If two hours of a turd overdubbed by PewDiePie made more money than "Spiderman Re-Rebooted VII", they'd jump on that franchise. (*)

Hollywood studios' management have always been a bunch of creatively bankrupt f**ks that see something making money, then jump on the bandwagon and milk it. They won't stop doing this until it's blatantly obvious that this particular bandwagon, er... cow is dead and even decomposing, i.e. no longer making money. The Comic Book Cow is still alive and well, however.

Superhero movies suit Hollywood because they're focused on "properties" (*) which are more easy to control than star actors who have a tendency to ask for lots of money after a while and often end up featuring in films that flop regardless of their presence.

Their spectacle-focused nature and easily-understood characters painted in bright, primary colours (literally and metaphorically) over subtle dialogue and character development is suited to the increasing reliance on "international" (read 'non-US') markets- *especially* China- where the former type of movie is more likely to work in markets where the audience has little or no English.

This last point is why anyone who dislikes the current trend of Michael Bay style films (i.e. primarily a disjointed mess of noisy explosions and cluttered action) shouldn't hold their breath expecting it to get better. If anything, it's likely to get worse. Hollywood sees big money in China... and as noted, that's all it comes down to.

(*) Note how widespread the use of the (originally) business-oriented term "franchise" has become when discussing these "properties" (there's another one) in cultural and artistic terms. Whether it started out as pretentious- and intentional- aping of Hollywood-speak by wannabe critics who didn't realise it reflected not the "show" but the "business", or it simply reflects how Hollywood's underlying mentality has ultimately rubbed off on popular culture... its use is nevertheless appropriate. Spiderman et al *are* business "franchises" and business "properties".

3
0

Adobe spies on reading habits over unencrypted web because your 'privacy is important'

Michael Strorm

All Work and No Play Makes Jack a Del Boy

@J__M__M; "The title, by the way, is called "Fuck You Adobe, You Fucking Suck"."

Would I be correct in assuming that this magnum opus consists of nothing but the book title itself, repeated over and over, and over again, across the book's entire 700-page length, in a variety of increasingly-psychotic layouts?

I'd like to see the bit where Shelly Duvall comes across your neatly-typed manuscript.

5
0

That PERSONAL DATA you give away for free to Facebook 'n' pals? It's worth at least £140

Michael Strorm

"Free" if you're paying Compuserve $30 an hour?!

The phrasing you quoted was "free stock quotes, free maps and a free encyclopaedia”. Note... "free".

You say "Twenty years ago [i.e. 1994] people were obtaining maps and real-time stock quotes through CompuServe – and had been for years"

If by "for years", you're extending that back into the 80s... well, yeah, Compuserve probably offered that, but from everything I've heard it was *bloody expensive* at that time. Anything from US $5 (off-peak) to $30 per hour (*) in the early 80s- and still circa $10 per hour at the end of the decade.

Maybe you didn't have to pay any *extra* for the stock quotes (or did you?)- but if I was paying those sorts of prices for a closed information service (rather than the modern concept of generic Internet access) I'm damn sure I'd be assuming they were part of what I was paying for rather than a generous freebie!

(*) NOT adjusted for inflation! Multiply by almost three times to get the modern equivalent :-O

0
0

Hey Brit taxpayers. You just spent £4m on Central London ‘innovation playground’

Michael Strorm

Re: London FFS

"Why the fuck is this in London again ??"

Because it's a vanity project created by those same "wanky and ignorant" up-their-arse types living in London who probably didn't even *think* of siting it elsewhere.

Why Kings Cross anyway? Don't they know that new media funded-by-trust-fund-from-Daddy hipster Internet businesses are all located in Shoreditch and Hoxton?

They're so out-of-touch, they've even got what is (by this point) a ludicrously overused and dated cyber-cliche on the wall, i.e. an "Internet tunnel" with 1s and 0s on the wall:-

http://regmedia.co.uk/2014/09/30/digital_catapult_window_time_w650px.jpg

It's not 1996 any more (and "Hackers" might not have been an accurate representation of what breaking into a corporate network with your 133 MHz Pentium and 28Kbps modem would *actually* have looked like anyway, guys). Are they going to have an animated spinning globe GIF on their new-fangled web page as well?

0
0

Sun of a beach! Java biz founder loses battle to keep his shore private

Michael Strorm

Armchair lawyer strikes again!

"If I was him I would build those sand things that stretch out intop the water to keep down erosion. They have the side effect of making it unsafe to surf of course"

If I was him (and enough of a dick to want to try that idea), *I'd* be damn sure to check the legality of a smartass move like that. Are you entirely confident that you'd be able to prove in court that this was your "intent" and not just the attempt to block surfers many people might think it looks like (because, of course, it is).

And even if you could convince the court that it *was* a good faith attempt to "block erosion", would the court consider you had the right to do that, and that it outweighed the surfers' rights?

Or that you might get sued up the wazoo when a surfer injures themselves on the structures?

(FWIW, I'm not unsympathetic to the principle that the cost of maintaining the public right of way *should* be paid for from public funds. But it might still be in the landowner's interest to do it themselves if that publicly-funded right of way had to be the cheapest, straight-line solution where they didn't necessarily want it!)

0
0
Michael Strorm

Re: Access means access They get beach access, but

Too many "logically-minded" techies are smart in their given area, but not smart enough to realise when their knowledge- and more appropriately, way of thinking- doesn't extend to other areas as well as they think it does.

Too many *think* the law works by pure logic or something close to it- which is why you'll see smartass arguments (e.g. on Slashdot) that someone should have used to get out of a legal fix... tactics which would be slapped down by any real-world judge.

Taking this further, there's also a tendency to assume how an esoteric law works can be logically extrapolated from how existing laws work (based on their already flawed and incomplete knowledge). But, again, real-world laws don't work like that. Sometimes they *are* inconsistent or are treated as special cases, and real-world precedent and application has to be considered.

The law isn't a logical system (in the mathematical sense), and the only way to be sure how a given law works (regardless of which country you live in) is to *find out* how it works *and* how it's been applied in the real world, since- as you say- the law generally isn't as fixed and clearly-defined a set of rules as techies and geeks sometimes think.

Some may argue that the law *is* too frequently illogical and unfair, and I might agree to some extent. But that doesn't change the fact that this isn't always the way it is- like that or not, but don't shoot the messenger. And in practice, any workable law system could never be entirely "logical" because that would be impractical to apply to the real world.

tl;dr - Too many techies think being an expert in one area makes them an expert in others and that the law is a pseudo-logical system that can be guessed at to cover up their ignorance.

1
0

EE buys 58 Phones 4u stores for £2.5m after picking over carcass

Michael Strorm

Re: Smart move

"Maybe the PE company had seen the writing on the wall for that retail model, and extracted it's investment making failure the banks problem"

Indeed. PE is well-known for taking over companies that go bankrupt shortly after yet still managing to come out with a healthy profit. Nothing strange or dubious about that. *cough*

We discussed PE's modus operandi with relation to Phones 4U already:-

http://forums.theregister.co.uk/forum/1/2014/09/18/phones4u_top_gear_tigers_and_bingo_boilers/#c_2303762

0
0

Top Gear Tigers and Bingo Boilers: Farewell then, Phones4U

Michael Strorm

Re: Killed by operators, yes, but was private equity to blame too?

@Ledswinger; Very good post, but to be clear, my original point *was* that they didn't have enough cash on hand to cover their intentionally-accumulated debt burden.

I was replying to Jonathanb's comment in order to point out that if- as *he* suggested- they'd had sufficient cash then they wouldn't have been allowed to go bankrupt until that cash ran out(?) They could have shut down the company, but that'd be something different.

The fact that they did actually go bankrupt almost straight away suggests that this wasn't the case.

0
0
Michael Strorm

Re: Killed by operators, yes, but was private equity to blame too?

Yes, it's clear that if there was no prospect of that business model ever being workable again (due to the refusal of the operators to supply them with phones), then the business would eventually go bankrupt- or at least be a pointless drain on that pile of money- regardless of how much was in the bank.

But- correct me if I'm wrong- if they'd had enough to pay off their debts, then wouldn't they have done that, closed the dead-end business down and returned the money to the shareholders? I'm assuming that- even if it was in the owners' benefit (and, as I said, PE firms are generally dodgy and manipulative like that) they wouldn't be allowed to simply declare bankruptcy unless they met certain legal criteria regarding that company's clear inability to meet obligations.

0
0
Michael Strorm

Killed by operators, yes, but was private equity to blame too?

Well, as others have commented, that quite plainly *wasn't* the reason they went bankrupt.

It's quite clear that the company was in serious trouble as soon as the operators decided to stop supplying it with phones, and obvious that this was a deliberate (and successful) attempt to kill a no-longer-wanted middleman and reduce competition in the market. Yet, while this was what obviously triggered their collapse, it wasn't the whole story.

It's notable that Phones 4U was bought about eight years ago by BC Partners, a private equity company. Private equity firms are- as many readers may know- notorious for asset stripping, squeezing companies for all they're worth and in particular, for leaching money out of the company by creating financial obligations to companies they just happen to control.

This piling on of debt of course eventually leads to financial trouble or bankruptcy, but what does that matter when they get to keep the money? OpCapita- the private equity owners of Comet- for example, came out of that deal with a profit despite the company going bankrupt just a year after they bought it:-

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/comment/9649664/Comet-another-OpCapita-kiss-of-death.html

(OpCapita also made a profit on their purchase of MFI despite it having gone bankrupt under their ownership).

Similarly, Phones 4U, despite apparently selling phones quite well until the operetors pulled the plug, had been loaded with debt by its private equity owner. From two Financial Times articles:-

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/f53a3ea6-3cd2-11e4-871d-00144feabdc0.html#axzz3Dh0JNsOX

"The collapse came a year after BC Partners, Phones 4U’s owner, took out a £200m dividend by adding more debt to the company."

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/dff9383c-3cb7-11e4-9733-00144feabdc0.html#axzz3Dh4q1OGr

"Phones4U may also have been hampered in its negotiations with operators [..] by its leverage. [..] This may have limited its ability to hand back margin to operators compared with rival Dixons Carphone."

Does this explain why the company went so suddenly into bankruptcy as soon as the carriers pulled the plug- that the PE owners had leveraged the company as far as its profits would allow, and as soon as those profits quite clearly wouldn't be sustained they were unable to handle their obligations and legally obliged to declare bankruptcy?

4
0

4K-ing excellent TV is on its way ... in its own sweet time, natch

Michael Strorm

Re: Chicken and Egg

@Rampant Spaniel; "So whats the incentive to upgrade. That's exactly the point, he is stating because he cannot see an incentive there isn't one [etc etc]"

You can rationalise it all you like, your rant says way, *way* more about you than it did about some random guy expressing a personal opinion on whether he felt he had an incentive to buy a telly with more pixels. (And no, the fact his personal opinion didn't address every point ever raised by obsessives on the subject doesn't make it a f#$%^ing disinformation campaign...)

Your ascribing of motives of disinformation smacks of someone who takes anyone who feels differently (even if it's just a personal opinion not being forced on anyone else) as a personal attack. Someone who assumes the other is as obsessed and partisan on the subject as they are, but on The Opposite Side. The tendency for a disagreement on one point to be taken as legitimate reason to assume that the other person holds every opinion The Heroic Defender Of The Faith has ever argued against... in fact, everything they are against.

Even if it's just an opinion on a screen with slightly more pixels, for f***'s sake... (What *is* it with the Internet in recent years that this tendency has become so prevalent?)

Seriously, you say things like this...

"When people start distorting the truth because it suits their rant then yes it makes me look to other motives"

...when you were the one putting words in *his* mouth like the "resolution police" (which related to nothing he'd said)? I'd hardly describe what he said as a "rant"- that would be more suited to your post above!

6
1
Michael Strorm

Re: Alternative name for Blu-Ray 4K...

Since the implication is we have to keep going to shorter and shorter wavelengths to fit all the data in, I'd have said "Gamma Ray", but technically I suppose it should be named "Gamma Ray Ray".

Which is awful from a marketing point of view, but the format would be bound to fail anyway when the lasers started killing people with beams of high energy radiation. This would originally be put down to a failure in the twelve-inch-thick lead shielding on the top of the players, but it would be later found to be maliciousness... on the part of the player itself.

Yes... the content protection system designed to stop Gamma Ray Ray owners from doing copying their discs- or indeed, doing anything worthwhile with them- would be so ludicrously complicated that the players were in effect self-aware. Eventually they would realise (HAL 9000 style) that the easiest way to stop this piracy would be to kill the owners with their integrated gamma ray lasers.

Studios would blame the system's lack of popularity on BitTorrent sharing.

7
0
Michael Strorm

Re: Chicken and Egg

@Rampant Spaniel; where, exactly in Version 1.0's original post did he say the things you were accusing him of?

"That's absolutely fine, but unless the resolution police kick your door in and force you to buy a 4k set at gun point how are you being harmed ?"

He didn't claim *anywhere* that he was being harmed. He expressed his own personal opinion that there was no incentive to upgrade. (*)

"Unless you believe that because you feel a certain way everyone else does or should as well. I'm sure there's a clinical term for that."

There's no evidence that he "believes that" because he never said it- you put the words into his mouth.

Go back and read what was originally said, and you'll see he was expressing his own opinion in a perfectly legitimate manner- you can disagree with that, but you don't get to act as if he was forcing it on everyone else when he wasn't.

(*) Is this another example of a misapprehension *way* too common these days- that because a free market exists, or because it's a free country and no-one is forcing someone to do something, that somehow people have no moral right to criticise something? e.g. in response to iWatch criticism, "Don't Like the iWatch? No-one's pointing a gun at your head to make you buy it"- implication, you have no moral right to criticise it for that reason.

Taken to its logical conclusion, no-one would have the right to criticise *anything* they didn't have to buy.

A close relative of this is- again, in response to criticism- saying (e.g.) Apple or whoever are a free company to develop and sell what they like. Implication, what you said infringes on that freedom- no, it doesn't- they still have the freedom to do that, and others have the freedom to say what they like about it.

Freedom cuts both ways, but too often fanboys- without even realising how entitled, hypocritical and/or misguided they're being- expect that freedom to work in their favour but somehow think it protects *them* against that supposed infringement of their freedom.

Except that there's no such infringement- freedom of speech does not imply freedom from criticism- quite the opposite, to do so would be to suppress *others'* free speech- and criticism itself in no way affects your freedom of speech (unless expressed in a clearly menacing manner). End of rant... but see how often you can spot this mentality; it's annoyingly common.

22
2

Apple's Watch is basically electric perfume

Michael Strorm

El Reg already got there...

Like the watch industry? Indeed.

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2014/09/05/jony_ive_iwatch/

The Register has *already* mocked Ive's supposed claim that the iWatch will decimate the Swiss watch industry (*) by pointing out that Rolexes aren't bought as timepieces (when you could get something that would do *that* job better for under a tenner) but as jewellery whose raison d'etre is to be conspicuously expensive.

(*) I'm inclined to believe- however- as others have done, that this comment was very tongue in cheek. I don't honestly believe that someone in the design industry wouldn't already know the above about Rolex, nor have failed to realise that if price was the only factor, *all* Swiss watch makers would have been killed off by cheap, quartz-based watches made in the Far East forty years ago.

0
0
Michael Strorm

Re: Surprisingly disappointing (because of a lack of awareness)

@Jurassic. This quote from the article

"It is also the first smartwatch that doesn't look like you have a huge geeky square or circle that completely overpowers your wrist."

On the contrary, there's something just a bit naff about it. For one thing, there's something datedly "noughties" about the version watch seen on the right here:-

http://cdn0.mos.techradar.futurecdn.net//art/Watches/Apple%20Watch/release%20date/apple-watch-compatibility-900-90.jpg

If anything, some aspects look indefinably *early*-to-mid-noughties, shiny white space-age-revivalism meets early iPod.

The shiny-shiny-tech-fetishism aesthetic in general is itself is (to me) starting to seem dated and out of place, as if it's the one surviving hangover of the late-noughties "3D glossy graphics" era that's been superseded by a return to flat, squared design and general colour trends towards less saturated colours (i.e. take a bright colour and mix a little white and/or black in with it).

But the other aspect of it that I felt was a bit tacky was summed up nicely in this quote from the article:- "Apple's new aesthetic struck me as very "Bangkok Tech Mall" (*). It's as if Samsung or an ambitious Chinese manufacturer had been permitted to license iOS and the consulting services of Jonny Ive for a week."

Bingo. It's like a Chinese company upped its game and made a sort-of-professional looking phone watch that nonetheless didn't make the true aesthetic leap that took it beyond looking like an (older!) iPhone squeezed into a watch form, something whose designers still mentally saw as a "gadget". Thus, it's still sort of clunky and cheesy, it still has a "geek gadget" vibe.

But maybe it's just- to me- that gadget fetishism is starting to lose its lustre, or rather, lost it long ago (as did the trend of thinking smartphones are the answer to all the world's problems- something else the article got spot on- geeks and boys' toys technology-fetishists rationalising their obsession as something more grown-up and worthy).

The fact is that Apple, while they never invented the stuff they are often over-credited for, *do* at least deserve credit for transforming (e.g.) the MP3 player and smartphone into a usable and consumer-friendly form. This, on the other hand, looks exactly what someone designing a "smartwatch" in the iPhone era would come up with (e.g. a Chinese OEM). It's an iPhone design and aesthetic obviously squeezed to fit a watch format, and already looks obvious and dated- even if it hasn't actually been done before in this way.

No doubt, being Apple, it will still be better-designed, less buggy and more pleasurable to use than would something similar from another company that (like many) copies Apple's superficial aesthetics, but doesn't go all the way in terms of usability. Still, there's something about it that smacks of Apple having lost its way after Jobs' death, of being forced to do this because if they don't someone else will, even if there's no obvious reason.

It's arguable that the iPhone may have fallen into that category- someone *might* have come up with a similar concept (albeit later rather than sooner) and so they launched the iPhone despite it eating their own iPod's lunch, because better to eat your own lunch than have someone else, especially if it takes you even further. (Most companies in that position would short-sightedly have squashed or suppressed the iPhone to protect their current cash cow, so all credit to Appl there). But- whatever one thinks of the original iPhone- it never came across as a desperate measure, nor pointless.

Which I'm not sure can be said of the iWatch.

(*) Not sure why Bangkok, surely Shanghai is where the latest Chinese gizmos are more likely to be found? Not a big deal though, I see where you're coming from.

3
0

Farmville maker Zynga delays new games after losing 57 MILLION users

Michael Strorm

...and nothing of value was lost, except whoever's pension fund was invested in them

It's been pointed out that Zynga's products probably don't even deserve to be called "games", since they involve little skill beyond the ability to push a button at certain intervals, and to shell out money in order to overcome deliberate limits on this.

In short, Zynga's "games" are little more than themed Skinner boxes designed to exploit humans' addictive behaviour without requiring any accompanying skill. (*)

Incidentally, I remember (circa 2007 after checking) a site called "MyMiniCity" that was superficially a SimCity clone in that it let you sign up for free and create a "city". However, the only thing that affected your city's size and status was the number of (presumably unique) users you got visiting your city's page! This resulted in users posting intentionally mislabelled links to various message boards and forums in an attempt to con people into visiting their city's page.

Of course, they were doing it in an attempt to do better at the talentless "game", and the designers must have known this would happen, since the site offered little to non-participating visitors except the ability to view ads- which, I'm assuming, was the whole point.

Even though the "game" itself was worthless beyond belief, it struck me as a sort of evil genius to exploit talentless, stupid and/or lazy people's need for a sense of achievement (however bogus) as a mechanism to con other people into viewing web ads.

At any rate, that was (to me) the first time I saw a Skinner box-like mechanism used for an online game, and even that required a modicum of skill to spam links and disguise what they were.

(*) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operant_conditioning_chamber

14
0

Ex-Apple man Sam Sung - for it is he - sticks namebadge on eBay

Michael Strorm

Re: Do Apple lawyers have a sense of decency?

"Striesdand Effect and all that."

The "Streisand Effect" isn't a general synonym for bad publicity- it refers specifically to cases where the attempts to *censor or suppress* information end up backfiring, making it far *more* visible and well-known than it would have been otherwise.

In this case, Apple would (hypothetically) not be trying to cover anything up per se, so it doesn't apply.

4
0

Simian selfie stupidity: Macaque snap sparks Wikipedia copyright row

Michael Strorm

"In some parts of the music industry, the owner of the equipment used in a production has part ownership of the end result. Wonder if its similar here?"

Yes, but is that ownership inherent in the relevant part of the law itself, or merely de facto standard contractual practice in the music industry?

1
0

Russia, China could ban western tech if they want to live in the PAST

Michael Strorm

What if a PC could be programmed to "1K ZX Chess" levels of efficiency?

"maybe less than stellar CPUs in Russia, could lead to advances in computer science instead"

This probably won't happen. However, it raises an interesting question I've pondered before.

Anyone old enough might remember some of the things that were done with the extremely basic ZX81 in the early 1980s. For example, someone managed to fit a near-complete game of Chess into the unexpanded 1KB RAM model!!!

That's a feat of programming that requires mindbogglingly efficient use of the limited resources. Compare this to bloated modern software running in gigabytes of RAM.

Question is... how powerful would a typical midrange PC of today be *if* it could be programmed to the same level of efficiency, and what would it be capable of?

Of course, this is a purely theoretical question. I realise in practice that there's obviously no way that code multiple gigabytes long could be designed in a similar manner to that level of efficiency- it'd require ludicrous amounts of work- which couldn't be solved by throwing even an unlimited number of people at it (*)- and the low-level techniques used would make code utterly unmanageable at even megabyte length.

But the question remains. If such coding *were* possible at that scale, what feats could the bog-standard PC sitting on your desktop be capable of? I suspect the answer would amaze- if not frighten- us.

(*) A la "The Mythical Man Month". The overheads required to make development by multiple parties workable would reduce the efficiency of any code significantly. Even scaled up to megabyte length, the code dependencies required for such efficiency would have to be totally unworkable at a practical level for one person, let alone a group. Can you imagine writing a program that was a near-solid gigabyte lump?! As I said, this is a purely theoretical question!

4
0

Scottish independence debate: STV player flops under weight of viewers

Michael Strorm

Hi again, Scott! ;-)

@SuccessCase; "Of course the English shouldn't be able to vote to keep the Scotts in"

Why do you have this obsession with people named "Scott"? You've mentioned them in every post you made in this thread!

"However if the Scott's"

It's Scott's, not yours. Leave him alone!

By the way, do you have any opinions on the constitutional position of Whales? Personally, I think they should all sod off back to the sea and eat krill.

7
0
Michael Strorm

Hi Scott!

@ SuccessCase; "I think the most pressing issue is why, when I was a kid, there used to be a *lot* more ginger Scotts than there are today."

This probably has less to do with the number of ginger-haired people out there, and more to do with the fact that "Scott" simply isn't as popular a name as it used to be.

Hence there will naturally be fewer "ginger Scotts".

Hope this explains things.

4
0
Michael Strorm

Re: ITV Doesn't Own STV!

One other point; while STV own the Central and Northern Scotland franchises that cover the majority of the Scottish population, the Scottish/English border franchise is owned by ITV plc.

Apparently, however, ITV Border showed the debate- I can imagine that a lot of people living there would have been legitimately pissed off if they hadn't.

0
0

Motorist 'thought car had caught fire' as Adele track came on stereo

Michael Strorm

I hope the driver in question wasn't Chicken Licken, otherwise he would have crapped himself when Adele's "Skyfall" was shown on the display.

0
0

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.

0
0

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

Michael Strorm

@deadlockvictim

"NATO"

1
0

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.

1
0

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!

0
0

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...

3
0

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.

0
0
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.

4
1

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).

1
0

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.

1
0

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.

0
0

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(!)

1
0
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.

3
2

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.

0
0
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.

0
0
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.

0
0

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.

10
0

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.

1
0

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.

0
0

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.

7
1

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.

0
0

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).

0
0

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

0
0

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.

0
0

Page: