* Posts by Michael Strorm

199 posts • joined 11 Feb 2008

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French woman gets €800 a month for electromagnetic-field 'disability'

Michael Strorm

Re: There's a special place for people like that...

@Sir Runcible Spoon; Maybe I'm misunderstanding you, but why would you expect the "Faraday cage" in your house to affect that? If your wife was talking about "hearing" noise generated by the transformer (#), I'm assuming she was sensing high frequency *sound* waves, not electromagnetic ones, which are something completely different.

(#) I'm quite prepared to believe this as many people can pick up very high-pitched noises, generally when they're younger (and their hearing isn't *****d). I used to be able to tell when a CRT TV in the room was on from the faint and very high pitched noise they made. Similarly, extremely low frequency sounds can have an effect on people. Both are possible from electrical or mechanical equipment.

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Sex app Tinder in public meltdown – because a journo dared suggest it was, well, a sex app

Michael Strorm

Re: That's where I've been going wrong

I think the idea is you're meant to rub your bits against *someone else's* bits.

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Yahoo! parties! like! it's! 1999! with! retro! billboard! revival!

Michael Strorm

Re: Retro

They could easily have kept Geocities going.

Around the time they announced the closedown (about six years ago), I figured that the amount of storage space required to it could probably have been bought for a few hundred quid in 2009. Why? Because most of the sites were created around the turn of the millennium, when websites were much, *much* smaller (no YouTube), and free webspace like Geocities would likely have been in the low megabytes (which most people wouldn't have used all of).

If they'd put it in maintenance/archive mode (i.e. no updates, allowed existing users to remove their sites but nothing more) and slapped ads on the existing content- as they did anyway- it'd probably have easily outweighed the cost of the minimal staffing required.

My suspicions then were that Geocities was so financially negligible on the scale of things by then that it was being killed off for accounting reasons, or for political ones (i.e. some management stuffed shirt wanted to be seen doing something that looked more significant than it was).

IIRC something I read later on sort of confirmed this suspicion.

My ballpark guess regarding Geocities' storage requirements was also roughly correct; I came across something that confirmed it would have been several terabytes in size. Even in 2009 that was utterly, utterly negligible compared to what YouTube alone would have used.

Yeah, I realise that a lot of Geocities was teen fluff and very of its time, but there was still no good reason to kill it off. If they'd been worried about it making Yahoo look like a 90s has-been, they could have removed their name from it anyway. It's not like killing it helped Yahoo in that respect, since they've had that "90s has-been" air about them ever since Google stole their lunch not long after the dotcom bust anyway.

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Hacking Trump: Can we not label web vandalism as 'terrorism', please?

Michael Strorm

Re: A crime is a crime

@Hollerith 1; Or maybe she's a more subtle troll than she first appears and intentionally did that to provoke an annoyed response like yours...? :-)

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Happy birthday, Amiga: The 'other' home computer turns 30

Michael Strorm

"I recall the CD32 was a last-ditch quick-and-dirty attempt to get a product that would sell, and was a surprising success. It was just that C= were already pretty much dead, the banks were circling and they couldn't finance building enough of them"

Yes, I can confirm that this is the story I remember hearing as well- that the CD32 was an easy-to-develop cash cow (#) that was successful as far as it went, and that Commodore's failure was in spite of this. (##)

People seem to conflate the CDTV and CD32, but despite the ostensibly similar concept, the marketing and positioning were somewhat different. CDTV was a relatively expensive attempt at a multipurpose multimedia machine a la Philips CD-I (###) and I'm sure the marketing cost them a bit alone. It flopped- I'm guessing- because it was too expensive (£500, around £1000 in today's money) for something that had no compelling selling point. (e.g. The Hutchison encyclopedia offered little over the printed version beyond sparse audio clips, a few pics and basic searchability, and the games were often just shovelware of existing Amiga games with few CD enhancements).

The CD32 was a more obviously game-focused and lower-end (####) machine.

(#) Since it was essentially a stripped-down A1200 attached to a (presumably off-the-shelf mechanism) CD ROM, with only the Planar conversion chip being new.

(##) It was apparently never sold in the United States due to legal issues, though.

(###) The Philips CD-I ultimately flopped as well; it's my opinion that it only survived longer than the CDTV because Philips had much more money to spend on marketing and keeping it alive in the face of public indifference.

(####) Though it was higher specced- the CDTV was essentially based around an A500-level Amiga, whereas the CD32 was A1200-spec (which the CDTV probably should have been in the first place; the Amiga might have survived better if the A1200 had come out 18 months earlier).

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Michael Strorm

Escom blew the Amiga's last plausible chance at survival

@tin2; Regarding the reintroduction of the A1200 by Escom.

The A1200 came out in late 1992 and while a worthwhile improvement was essentially a "catch up" to the PC that was starting to overtake it by then. (#) By mid-1994, it had fallen behind again, the Amiga was no longer dominant... and then Commodore went bankrupt.

Aftter more than a year during which technology moved on and the stranded Amiga atrophied further, Escom relaunched the three-year-old-spec A1200 for £100 *more* than it had cost before the bankruptcy.

They claimed the price increase was needed to cover the costs of getting it back to market- but whether or not it was done in good faith or just milking the remaining faithful, that was the point it became obvious to even me that the Amiga had lost its last chance.

In hindsight, it was probably already doomed when C= went under, but that was where it became obvious to me at the time.

(#) I bought my Amiga at the end of 1991, when it was still "the" machine for playground exchange of games. By early 1993- just over a year later- it was noticeable that the focus was shifting to PC games. In hindsight, I wish I'd gone for a secondhand Amiga a year prior instead of buying the new- but second-best- Atari ST I could afford then (which I ended up selling to part-fund the Amiga anyway), and had got another full year of the Amiga at its peak.

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べーコンはどこですか? demands post-pub nosh fan

Michael Strorm

私は日本語が話せませんが、私は翻訳、オンライン使用することができます。また、ベーコン。

"To avoid confusion with the milliJub (or mJub), shouldn't we be referring to µJubs?"

If you weren't such a bunch of pinko commie socialist French pro-decimalites, you'd know that- like the inch- The Glorious Imperial Jub is *never* split by factors of 10 (*). The accepted form is the 1/17 of a jub, also known as a "speck". The speck is in turn made up of pi/sqrt(-14) unequally-sized "liquid groats".

The Americans also use these units, but *their* versions are slightly different. This is purely for the sake of ensuring that some $3.4 bn space probe crashes into Grimsby because there was confusion over which versions were being used.

(*) You can try, but it'll explode and destroy itself rather than betray the spirits of John Bull and the fourteenth-century German farmers he nicked the units off in the first place (before they realised they didn't want them back and decimal was actually quite a sensible idea anyway).

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ZOMBIE Commodore PET lurches out of its 1970s grave – as a FONDLESLAB

Michael Strorm

Oric Atmos tablets now shipping

@Shadow Systems; The great news is that it can do *anything* a generic Android tablet can, including running actual Pet emulation software (which unfortunately they didn't include with the C64 and Amiga emulators).

Of course, this tablet has one big benefit over other Android devices, and that's a label saying "Commodore Pet" on the back. Which makes it a Real Commodore Pet, and not just the generic midrange Android tablet indistinguishable from countless others and with no relation to the original Pet it would be otherwise!

P.S. If anyone wants a genuine (honest, guv) Oric Atmos tablet, send your generic Android one to me and I'll tippex "Oric Atmos" on the back for you. Black ones only, if it's a beige tablet I'll have to scribble "Oric 1" on with a marker instead.

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Cheaper-than-Oracle Rimini defiant as Oracle drags 'em back to court

Michael Strorm

Re: Another reason not to use Oracle products

"Oracle are trying to get to the stage where anyone buying anything will have to go to them for everything and pay whatever Oricle feel like charging at the time."

Is this a surprise? Oracle's modus operandi has been "lock 'em in and gouge them for every penny they're worth" for as long as I can remember.

FWIW, I used to like Oracle when they did all that nice teletext stuff- I guess Larry Ellison got hard-edged and nasty after he lost the franchise to the Daily Mail. (No, not really).

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Facebook unveils SECRET logo furtle – in a TWEET

Michael Strorm

Re: ??

A Google image search on "Facebook new logo" comes up with the logo on its own, sans towel (and distortion), so I don't think it's meant to be a part of it.

There's absolutely no point to this. Many people won't notice the difference- if, as was commented elsewhere, they even see it in full (and not just the usual "f").

Really, it looks like someone tried to replicate the existing Facebook logo, but couldn't get their hands on the correct typeface (or didn't notice and/or didn't care) and used a more generic and less interesting one instead.

At least the old typeface had a distinct look and style without being overly in-your-face about it. The new one is just boring.

The conspiracist in me suspects that some of these boring redesigns have more to do with getting attention from the press, but do Facebook really need that?

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Microsoft in Blighty reveals its 78 THOUSAND POUND Surface 3 slabloid

Michael Strorm

Two! Nine A! The number of the beast!

Yes, that price *is* probably wrong- given that this is MS we're talking about, shouldn't it be £666,666?

Yeah, people might think they were copying Apple in that respect (*) but that doesn't seem to have bothered them in the past. :-)

(*) No, really

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Cambridge boffins: STOP the rush to 5G. We just don't need it

Michael Strorm

2G? 2G?!!

I can't even get a bloody 1G signal where I am! No way am I wasting my time upgrading to 2G if I can't even get a 1G signal on my Motorola.

I regret getting rid of that radio phone in my car now.

http://img4.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20140526184103/cjaymarch/images/8/8a/80s-brick-cell-phone.jpg

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What is this river nonsense? Give .amazon to Bezos, says US Congress

Michael Strorm

Re: If we need .$river domains,...

"...we should require registrants to provide an office address of a house boat."

You know, when issues like this case arise, or when one remembers that a couple of months ago ICANN was complaining about the owner of .sucks' "predatory" reselling of domains under the TLD that ICANN knowingly created and sold off in the first place(!)...

...one might suspect that the humungus clusterf**k that is the pointless expansion of the TLD system was an utterly cynical and wilfully shortsighted move on ICANN's part done purely as a cash grab to force countless defensive registrations. But that can't be true, can it?

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Police robot duo storm Colorado house, end four-day siege

Michael Strorm

"But they did shot him - In the leg!"

I thought they'd sorted out that problem with the ED-209...?

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Doom, Mario, Pac-Man level up to video gaming's Hall of Fame

Michael Strorm

Hardly surprising given that it's a US (and US-industry-centric) museum and none of those games were big over there. (*)

FWIW, Attack of the Mutant Camels was a nice idea and technically well executed for the time (the Atari 800 version anyway), but essentially it was a derivative of the Atari 2600 "Empire Strikes Back" game. Your mileage may vary, but while it was good in some respects, I found the "keep shooting the leading camel's backside while avoiding those irritating missiles" gameplay a bit repetitive for my taste.

Regardless, even without the US bias of the museum, it wasn't in the same league of world-conquering importance as (e.g.) Doom or Super Mario Bros. As I said elsewhere, they even left out Space Invaders, so you can't be surprised that every moderately important game didn't get in!

(*) In fact, the name "Attack of the Mutant Games" was instead used on a totally unrelated Llamasoft game- one of the Gridrunners, apparently- in the US.

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Michael Strorm

@stephajn; I assume that "America-centric" means games that had a significant impact on gaming culture within the US.

Honestly, Dungeon Master was relatively popular in its day and no doubt a notable step in the development of the roleplaying genre, but I don't get the impression it even comes close to the all-encompassing levels of popularity, cultural penetration and importance of the games mentioned here.

FFS they even left out Space Invaders (*) so, no, they weren't likely to let Dungeon Master in!

(*) FWIW, I'm not going to claim that Space Invaders is a great game nowadays. Even growing up in the 80s (but- crucially- not old enough to have played Invaders when it came out) it seemed a bit staid and boring to me. Now I can see the problem is that it was eclipsed even by its immediate successors- most notably Galaxian, which was obviously influenced by Invaders' formula, but introduced more variety, fluidity and excitement. Still, Space Invaders was undeniably important, original and influential at the time and for that reason I'm surprised it was left out.

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Fanbois designing Windows 10 – where's it going to end?

Michael Strorm

Re: A novel idea?

I still love the irony- or cheek!- of how in Windows XP, when you choose to turn the animated search-help characters off, rather than doing this straight away, they actually illustrate this by showing the user another animation(!) showing the dog (or whatever) running off and disappearing over the brow of the hill.

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Sex disease surge in US state partly blamed on hook-up apps

Michael Strorm

Stock photo libraries- First with *the* most cutting-edge tech!

I like the thumbnail El Reg chose to illustrate the front page headline box:-

https://regmedia.co.uk/2013/02/28/mobile_girl.jpg?x=198&y=131&crop=1

Since that phone looks suspiciously like a Nokia 3310 (*), I doubt she's going to be accessing many hook-up apps on it ;-)

Then again, sincere apologies for the mockery if I'm mistaken and that's actually a 3330 (**) she's using to access the WAP version of Tinder on. (^_^)

(*) CSI-style magic enlargement:- http://www.randomswill.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/121886_90761.jpg

(**) Though I doubt that- IIRC the 3330 had a dark-blue coloured screen-surround...

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Why are all the visual special effects studios going bust?

Michael Strorm

no its becky

No, it's "it's". (^_^)

(Or was that meant to be the joke and I just heard something go "whooosh"....?)

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Apple threw its TV out the window after years of research: report

Michael Strorm

Re: What a tool

"He's just another greedy parasite who doesn't care long term"

If people like Icahn had their way in the first place, Apple would never have become the company it is today; it would almost certainly have been asset stripped during its 90s doldrums era and exist today as little more than a brand bought up by some unrelated company.

Not that I particularly like to defend Apple or Jobs- I'm not a fan of a lot of what they did- but they were undeniably hugely successful, and that appears to have been by *not* pandering to the mentality of investors like Icahn, having a clear vision of where they were going and being willing to take decisions for the long term. (*)

Icahn is the antithesis of everything Apple did to become successful, and if they start letting him dictate the products and direction of the company- something Jobs would never have tolerated- we'll know Apple's "glory days" are truly over.

(*) Example; the iPod was at its commercial peak around the time the iPhone launched. Apple must have known that the iPhone would ultimately lead to the hugely-profitable iPod's decline, yet they went ahead with it anyway. Who can argue in hindsight that it wasn't the right decision? At some point- albeit later rather than sooner- someone else probably would have come up with a smartphone or similar device, so Apple ate their own lunch rather than having someone else do it and moved into a new market.

Yet ask yourself how many other companies would have had the guts to do that in the face of their shareholders and vested interests within the company itself, even if it was in their long term interests? Very few, I suspect.

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Oxford chaps solve problem in 1982 Sinclair Spectrum manual

Michael Strorm

Seems strange if anything that the Amstrad machines had all that in their manuals, as they were effectively marketing them as games machines by that point and I'd assume the more serious hobbyists had moved on.

As the first machine to be really capable of producing passable reproductions of early-80s arcade games, with its high resolution graphics, colour and "sound" facilities, the Spectrum's established software base was more significant than that of the ZX81.

This is probably why it survived longer than the circa three years that the ZX81 was sold; even if the machine was starting to become dated by 1985/86 (*), the vast range of games kept it going. But it's notable that this was around the time the Spectrum magazines started becoming more games-focused; I assume that the hobbyists and higher-end users had moved on to more advanced machines, leaving the Spectrum mainly to younger users attracted to its cheap and massive range of software.

This is an excellent example of the "network effect"; the Spectrum was the first ersatz-arcade-quality machine available at that price point, so games were written for it, so more people bought it, so more games were written for the format, which made people even more likely to buy it. It's also almost certainly why almost all the numerous would-be-rivals (**) never took off. If compatibility and the software base had never been an issue, machines like the Oric 1 would probably have sold lots more.

(*) Yes, I know the 128K was released around this time. But while that had a number of nice frills, including a better sound chip (albeit one that failed rival the Oric 1 already had three years previously), the core machine (processor and graphics capability) was still basically unchanged.

(**) I have a load of my Dad's old "Your Computer" magazines from circa 1982-84, and there were an unbelievable number of (incompatible) 8-bit home computers released during that era. Almost all sunk without trace, regardless of how they compared to the Spectrum- it got there first. Those that succeeded on the UK market typically filled a slightly different niche to the Spectrum (e.g. Commodore 64).

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Popular crypto app uses single-byte XOR and nowt else, hacker says

Michael Strorm

Just the old double-ROT13 joke in Clark Kent glasses, folks...

@Tom Wood; Yep, that's exactly what was meant. Basically just a slight variation of the well-worn joke "so incompetent they don't get why using ROT13 encryption twice [or applying a XOR twice using the same key] doesn't make it twice as strong!!!!!111".

Given I did mention applying the XOR encryption key twice for "double strength" (ahem), I'm not sure what Clive Galway thought I was suggesting...?

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Michael Strorm

Turning the company's soiled reputation around 360 degrees!

Going by this company's apparent "expertise" in encryption, I'm expecting them to address the issue by releasing a new "double strength" version that applies the XOR encryption key *twice*.

I'd buy that for a dolla... oh, hang on, no I wouldn't.

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NetApp veep: 'We've shifted 750,000 all-flash arrays'. Er, really?

Michael Strorm

Heeeeeeeeeere's Reggie!

The crop of his face on the front page was already a bit strange. The first proper image was pretty close-up and having a zoomed-in duplicate further down is plain weird.

If you're going to do this, at least go the whole hog and have a third, fourth and possibly fifth zoomed repetition until we're staring so deeply into his pupils that we can see his soul.

Either that, or give your picture picture editor some time off to chill out before his overworked, frazzled brain starts replacing every image with "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"

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SanDisk launches 200GB microSD card

Michael Strorm

Re: What's that in RPs?

Yes, as others have commented, it's circa 12 million ZX81 rampacks (*)

If we conservatively assume a RAM pack is 6.5 x 5 x 2 cm in size, then:-

A stack of 142 (long) x 185 (high) x 462 (deep) RAM packs will be

142 x 0.065 = 9.23 metres long

185 x 0.050 = 9.25 metres high

462 x 0.020 = 9.24 metres long

So we're talking a cube over 9 metres high of rampacks to match that thumbnail-sized MicroSD card.

(*) 12,207,301 assuming that's 200 ad-man's gigabytes (**) (i.e. 200,000,000,000 bytes) versus 16 x 1024 = 16,384 bytes.

(**) To anyone thinking of saying "wah, wah, SI units were always standard and 1024 is wrong", bear in mind I've taken the Paul Calf "dissertation" route and trained a dog to attack anyone who says "gibibyte". (^_^)

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Telly behemoths: Does size matter?

Michael Strorm

Diagonal size comparisons don't work for old 4:3 sets versus 16:9 widescreens...

Was it a widescreen 24" LCD?

The diagonal measurement is only an accurate size comparison so long as the TVs are the same shape. So it worked when all TVs were 4:3 (or if you're only comparing 16:9 widescreens).

But a 16:9 widescreen television with a given diagonal (e.g. 24") has a significantly smaller area than a 4:3 with the same measurement, somewhere around 12 percent difference AFAIK. So you'd need a widescreen with a diagonal over 27" just to get the same area as your old 24" telly.

And that's before we consider what makes a TV look big, e.g. for a fixed screen area, a widescreen TV will be wider but less tall than a 4:3 of the same area.

Of course, modern TVs in general *are* much bigger in general than 4:3 CRTs anyway, but this is just to say that the difference isn't *quite* as big as the diagonal measurements suggest.

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(Re)touching on a quarter-century of Adobe Photoshop

Michael Strorm

Re: Adobe, masters of the trend

For a second I was going to say that Flash had been popular for a *long* time until its recent decline (*). Then I realised you really did mean sites that did literally *everything* within a single Flash blob- title, menus, content. All Flash, no HTML I'd almost forgotten those...

IIRC that peaked circa the early-to-mid noughties(?) I remember applying for jobs at that time and being annoyed at how companies- including banks- were creating self-indulgent style-over-substance websites that were obviously meant to impress, but a PITA to use in practice, e.g. non-browser-standard user interfaces, breaking the browser's own back button, etc.

Flash remained for more appropriate uses, but- as you say- that specific trend thankfully died off.

(*) Probably from the late 90s until the past few years when the rise of the Flashless iPhone and HTML5 put the writing on the wall. But you can't deny it had a long run- in essence it became what Java Applets were supposed to have done (but failed to do because they were too bloated for late 90s computers)- embedded rich content *within* websites.

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Michael Strorm

Re: Utterly Moronic

I suspect that was due to their lawyers trying to defend their trademark from becoming genericised:-

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Generic_trademark#Avoiding_genericization

I don't honestly think they expected people to adhere to those guidelines, but pointing it out like that (I'm guessing- IANAL) may have benefited them legally, since they could claim that they'd constantly made clear Photoshop was a trademark and they'd discouraged its use in a colloquial sense...?

Or maybe by throwing ten tons of mud at the wall like that, they knew enough of it would stick at least (i.e. people- or at least those in the media- would remember it was a trademark and not use it as a generic term).

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Michael Strorm

Worth remembering that photo-quality "Photoshopping" was around before Photoshop was even released. (*) Queen's album "The Miracle" came out in May 1989 and was apparently done on a Quantel Paintbox:-

http://img12.nnm.me/6/4/e/c/7/c4917affb3474d4b22ab2b52c0a.jpg (**)

Did the actual release versions of Photoshop run on anything less than the (then-expensive) true colour Macintosh II? I can't even begin to imagine using Photoshop on a monochrome Mac with two-level dithering, even if it rendered the output file in full greyscale or colour.

(*) I don't know at what point Quantel's hardware became capable of true colour print-resolution photo manipulation (as opposed to TV resolution), but it was obviously there by this point. If the album hit the shops in May, the hardware used for that picture must certainly have been around for longer than the two months since Photoshop 0.87 (Barneyscan XP)- the first commercial version- came out. And I'd be surprised if Photoshop 0.87 was capable of what we'd consider "Photoshopping" nowadays, whereas (ironically) Quantel's hardware was.

(**) This sort of photo manipulation is ten-a-penny nowadays, but it was technically impressive at the time.

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ATTENTION SETI scientists! It's TOO LATE: ALIENS will ATTACK in 2049

Michael Strorm

2008: MySpace Odyssey

Mr Bebo: "I've just sent a message inviting the inhabitants of Gisele 581 to invade earth... best publicity ever!"

Astronomer: "Do you realise what a risk that is?"

Mr Bebo: "That's a risk I'm willing to take... I for one welcome our sexy, sexy supermodel overlords. Shagged to death by hordes of six-foot tall blonde female aliens- what a way to go!"

Astronomer: "WTF...." (Pause) "...wait, you do realise the planet's called Gliese 581, not Gisele?"

Mr Bebo: "Oh, f***.... They're going to be green blobs that eat our brains, aren't they?"

Astronomer: "They might be blue."

Mr Bebo: "Damn... still, best publicity ever. Pretty sure it'll be worth it in six or seven years time when we've kicked MySpace's ass to become the dominant social network and that newfangled Facebook thing has sunk back into whatever obscurity it came from."

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Drinking games: Tapper 1983, this Bud's for you...

Michael Strorm

Re: blast from the past

I'll always have some nostalgia for Tapper, as it was one of the earliest "proper" arcade-style games I remember playing- on a friend's BBC B, at a time when my Dad only had a ZX81.

The BBC B conversion had a "Mountain Dew" sign (*) instead of "Budweiser" on the bonus level. (**)

In fact, they apparently made a family-friendly alcohol-free arcade version called "Root Beer Tapper", which is the one I have on "Midway Arcade Treasures", though the aforementioned "Mountain Dew" BBC B conversion was still just called "Tapper". Probably because no-one in the UK had heard of root beer back then anyway.

Anyway, regarding the arcade original- the graphics are much higher resolution than most games of the time, aren't they? (Wikipedia says they're 480x512, which sounds about right). The detailing and cartoony feel must have been quite impressive back then.

(*) This was long before Mountain Dew's brief existence on the 90s UK market- for years I only knew it from that game (and didn't know what it was).

(**) Now that I think of it, I assume the masked character in the original Budweiser version wasn't called the "soda bandit" either.

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ZX81 BEATEN at last as dev claims smallest Chess code crown

Michael Strorm

Re: "remember how you had to get the RAM pack balanced just right?"

The DKTronics thing sounds like it makes sense. I heard somewhere that the ZX81 rampack was because Sinclair used the existing (ZX80?) mould/design that didn't fit the ZX81's case...?

At any rate, the RAM pack is one of the few aspects of the ZX81 that *was* simply poor design rather than an excusable attempt to keep costs down. Apparently one American magazine criticised Sinclair for not providing a proper keyboard, failing to realise that a full mechanical one back then probably would have come close to doubling the cost of the machine, and taken it out of the low-cost price niche where it made sense. (It would have been a moderately expensive black and white, low res, no sound machine no-one would have bought until those were added, at which point it would have been something more like a Vic 20 and been no cheaper).

Yeah, it was horribly limited and I'm not claiming that the flat keyboard was nice, but all that was necessary to make it into a machine affordable enough for UK buyers at the time. An Atari 800 would have knocked its socks off, but it could damn well afford to- apparently it cost circa £600 when it launched in the UK (which would have been near the time the ZX81 came out for £70 pre-assembled).

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Grand Theft Auto 1997: 'Sick, deluded and beneath contempt'

Michael Strorm

GTA Prequel - Before They Went Bad

I've never actually played them, but the overhead view of the early GTA games always reminded me of Synapse's "NYC: The Big Apple":-

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UBj1B9k_5vI

This was one of the games I played a lot (along with friends and brother) when I first got my Atari 800XL. It was never strictly a sandbox game, but we treated it as such- as with GTA, you could choose the order you played many of the main games and side-games in.

The lead character is a tourist in New York who has to see all the sights. There's this one car in the city that's much larger than all the rest, and- unlike normal cars- sends you to hospital if you crash into it (or get intentionally crashed *into* by it), costing you $200.

That big pink m**********r was the "patrol car", i.e. the cops. (*) Was it this bullying by the police that turned our protagonist from a sappy, law-abiding tourist into the psychotically amoral cop killer of the GTA series?

(*) The police were obviously too bothered chasing tourists to stop the shootout that was taking place at the bank every time you visited.

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The Great Unwatched: BBC hails glorious digital future for Three

Michael Strorm

Re: Digital toss

Talking of which, when did "digital" become a synonym for "online" (a la "glorious digital future") anyway?

BBC Three was *always* a digital (terrestrial) channel; it was never on analogue. Compact Discs' *whole bloody selling point* was that they were "Digital Audio" (it's in the ******* logo for f***'s sake!). It's not as if Joe Public had never heard the term "digital" back then... yet online services are distinguished from them by being "digital" (as if, by implication, they aren't).

Where are all these analogue CDs, DVDs and Blu-Rays they've been watching then?

I suspect that, for all today's tech "literacy", the majority of people don't have a clue what "digital" actually means, only that it's a term applied to shiny new computer-based electronics. CDs became analogue because they were no longer cutting edge, and old-school Teletext? Ha ha, look at the funny, blocky graphics, that was *never* digital. (*)

(*) I'd argue that the original Teletext was never given the credit it deserves as probably the first truly mass-market service directly aimed at the consumer when it launched in the mid-to-late 70s. Despite being digital itself, its piggybacking onto the analogue TV signal led- in a hugely ironic way given what I've just said- to it being referred to as "analogue Teletext" and contrasted with the newer "digital" (cough) "Teletext" on Freeview. Sure, it was hugely dated by the time it ceased transmission here, but it was still cutting edge in its day, and more importantly, a major landmark.

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Sink your teeth into OCZ's ARC 100 SSD sizzler with tasty home-grown chips

Michael Strorm

Re: Only 22TB?

"assuming you discount any swap activity"

Is there a guideline for the total amount of HDD/SSD data likely to be written to the swap space (in typical use) over a given timespan, for a given amount of swap space and physical RAM?

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Sinclair is back with the Spectrum Vega ... just as rubbish as the ZX

Michael Strorm

MIDI keyboards costing thousands sounded great... Atari ST itself sounded *dire*!

ST owners are always rather keen to argue that their machine had better "sound" because its built-in MIDI ports allowed one to *control* a keyboard costing hundreds- if not thousands- of pounds that may have sounded better than the Amiga's *internal* sound chip!

Let's disregard that one could do the same with a dirt-cheap serial-to-MIDI adaptor on the Amiga (*) and point out how odd it is that they never compare like with like (i.e. the machines' own sound capabilities).

Okay, so I lied about it being odd- the reason is quite obvious! :-) The ST's internal sound chip- ironically- was utterly primitive by 16-bit standards. It was a barely-improved version of the square-wave AY-3-8910 more commonly found 8-bit machines such as the Oric 1, Amstrad CPC and 128K versions of the Spectrum... and sounded like it too. Sample playback was only possible with processor-intensive "bit bashing" which wasn't practical in games, or indeed most apps (**).

Nope, it couldn't even play the much-derided sample "tracker" modules while rubbing its stomach at the same time.

(*) Credit to Atari; it was a clever move by them to include a MIDI port. The ST's poor internal sound didn't matter in that case, and the fact that the Amiga was expensive in its early days (and didn't have MIDI as standard, even though it was a cheap add-on) meant the ST gained traction as the first computer both *affordable* and *powerful* enough for GUI-based sequencer use off the shelf. But that was as much right-place-right-time as anything inherently good about the ST.

(**) The improved Atari STE supposedly had improved 2-channel Stereo sample support, but apparently didn't do it well. (Jez San, writer of Starglider wrote at the time:- "Stereo sound has been extremely lousily implemented. Only a few fixed sample rates are possible. Maths-intensive software routines will have to be applied to sample data if other frequencies are wanted.") The already-established Amiga didn't have this major limitation. Atari botched any chance the STE of gaining support by selling it at extra cost instead of making it the new base model anyway.

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GiffGaff spanked for clumsy attempt at mum-and-dad-humping humour

Michael Strorm

Old meme is old...

@Justin Case; "When I tried to watch the ad on the article page I had to watch another ad before I could see the ad I wanted to see."

You can blame Xzibit for that- after "Pimp My Ride" was cancelled, he took a job in the online advertising industry to make ends meet.

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Space Commanders rebel as Elite:Dangerous kills offline mode

Michael Strorm

"I see the rage monkeys have appeared here as well"

Don't see much of that stereotypical adolescent-minded fanboy "rage" you imply. Just (at most) some justified anger, disappointment and well-reasoned criticism at the abandonment of a promised core feature of the game.

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TalkTalk's 'unbeatable signal strength' and 'fastest Wi-Fi tech' FIBS silenced by ad watchdog

Michael Strorm

ASA = Chocolate Teapot

Yeah, it's the usual laughable "[X] was told that the ad must not appear again in its current form" response, which always happens long after the campaign the ad related to was finished, and thus it wouldn't have been reappearing in that form regardless.

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Snapper's decisions: Whatever happened to REAL photography?

Michael Strorm

Re: Many good points - however

"The only people using medium format are [..] and a few slightly crazed landscape photographers."

Apparently, the *really* serious landscape photographers use large format (i.e. 4 x 5" negative(!) and larger) cameras that look like they came from the Victorian era, but supposedly deliver quality that knocks spots off any DSLR:-

http://www.kenrockwell.com/tech/4x5.htm

Surprisingly, it appears that the cameras themselves *aren't* eye-wateringly expensive; new ones are less than $2000, and secondhand ones start in the low-hundreds. Don't know how much the film is though (bet it's not cheap) and if such things even exist, I don't even want to imagine what a digital back with a full-4x5"-frame sensor would cost (i.e. these would definitely be film-only for mortals).

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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".

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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.

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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

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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?

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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!)

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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.

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