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* Posts by Vance P. Frickey

30 posts • joined 13 Mar 2008

Microsoft loses grip on Christmas shoppers... despite XBox boost

Vance P. Frickey

Microsoft doesn't even know what it has to sell!

By inexorably refusing to support Windows XP this year, Microsoft will be handing a ton of business to Rick Shuttlesworth and other linux platform vendors. There's a massive installed base of computers that'll run XP (all of mine, for example) but not Windows 7 or 8 because Windows has become irretrievably bloated in its latest incarnations. This installed base includes an astonishing number of bank automated teller machines (ATMs). So Microsoft has only itself to blame for a very short-sighted decision to try and force its customers to buy both new hardware AND new software during the worst recession since 1957-1958, or perhaps the 1970s. The banks will certainly remember Microsoft leaving them high and dry, and while THEY can afford to retool, you can rest assured they'll reconsider trusting their business to Microsoft when Microsoft forced them to retool in the first place. So will many of us less well-heeled customers.

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It's time to suck the marrow from the NBN debate

Vance P. Frickey

TIme to leapfrog... and free up bandwidth from analog TV, other bandwidth hogs

Arthur C. Clarke (who gave us the math for geosynchronous satellites, thus has had time to think of that technology's implications) said in one of his nonfiction essays that developing nations actually have the splendid chance NOT to make the mistakes of more developed nations - like laying out millions of miles of copper and/or optical fiber for telecommunications - satellites are the natural mode of communication for places with more land than money.

If you're determined to drop a few billion dollars on a national broadband network for Australia, make every dollar count by saving the cost of physical transmission lines across the country. Instead, invest in a mix of satellite up and downloads between cities and townships, and/or line-of-sight microwave relays. LOS microwave worked just fine in my native state of Louisiana, where dry land is scarce and copper began becoming scarce as small communities wanted good quality phone service, and eventually corporate data connectivity to tie SCADA networks together, collecting production data on oil and gas wells, banking data and ultimately Internet connectivity.

Now that Hughes Telecom has point-to-point high-speed Internet satellite networking getting faster and faster, their corporate parent General Motors audaciously put satellite phone and data links on every model of their most modest automotive line, Chevrolet (the American equivalent of GM's Australian subsidiary Holden). Before this, GM had traditionally tested new and advanced technology on the higher-priced car lines, like Buick and Cadillac. Satellite data transmission is getting progressively cheaper - so why invest in all that copper and fiber optic for the NBN?

Of course, that's a rational question, and NBN is, like most political endeavors, likely to be controlled by a web of irrational motives. America sort of fell haphazardly into its web of high-speed phone and data network, shunning high speed fiber-optic lines until they became necessary to the cable TV and phone industries to provide progressively faster networks for distributing movies, hit television miniseries, and Internet games.

MMPORGs are driving a certain percentage of demand for high speed broadband, and I can't help thinking that as the demand for bandwidth to allow people to become their avatars increases, NBN will need to be just as fast as it can physically be. Moore's Law might be a quaint shadow of the mid 21st century's demand for bandwidth as more and more people begin inhabiting Second Life, World Of Warcraft, and other virtual worlds where players' experiences are limited only by their imagination. As economics contracts possibilities for people to have intriguing real-life fun, virtual worlds will increasingly be an escape from drab and nasty reality.

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NASA-backed fusion engine could cut Mars trip down to 30 days

Vance P. Frickey
Mushroom

Re: why not just use the electricty to accelerate a gas ?

Good question: the US Navy has the answer. They're developing a refinement of the Farnsworth-Hirsch Fusor - an electromagnetic grid/inertially-confined fusion reactor that can run on tritium, deuterium, or boron-11. The basic configuration theoretically can be four meters across and develop a gigawatt.

Following me yet? A four-meter gigawatt reactor with very compact fuel can use Lorentz electric rockets to expel a number of ionizable working fluids (lithium perhaps the most practical) at very, very high specific impulse.

Perhaps the specific impulse from using the gigawatt of electricity from the USN's compact fusion reactor to run one or more Lorentz engines is not as high as a thermonuclear detonation, but the scheme would be much, MUCH cheaper, less politically fraught (since the article is basically describing something that could be altered to be a fully-automatic, high rate of fire micro H-bomb cannon here on Earth or up in the satellite belt), and very scalable.

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Vance P. Frickey
Mushroom

The US Navy has a better idea...

...they're developing a electromagnetically-confined fusion reactor in San Diego, CA that can use tritium, deuterium, or boron-11 as fuel. The energy comes out in two ways - heat from the fusion reaction (heating a working fluid as fission reactors do) and electrical current from the metal grids as stray electrons and alpha particles from the boron-11 + proton reaction are captured there. It's essentially a further development of the Farnsworth-Hirsch fusor.

While the USN wants a small (a 1 gW reactor could be as narrow as 4 meters across) nuclear reactor that would produce lots of power from more manageable and less expensive fuel than 90% uranium-235 (the current naval reactor fuel) for its fleet of new, electrically-propelled, railgun-armed destroyers, NASA and the US Department of Energy have been working with Russian-developed technology for rocket engines that have very high specific impulse without actually using thermonuclear detonations: Lorentz electrodynamic rocket engines.

The combination of the US Navy's Polywell fusion reactor driving a set of Lorentz electrodynamic rocket engines would be quite a lot cheaper than the thermonuclear detonation-propelled model. The fewer bucks it costs to play Buck Rogers, the more likely we'll get to do it.

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The ten SEXIEST computers of ALL TIME

Vance P. Frickey
Boffin

Re: rectangular

http://tinyurl.com/cxmxoe7 - this is the American version of the Sinclair Spectrum, the Timex/Sinclair 2068.

I owned one and am sorry I sold it. It was beautiful inside and out. Among its strong points: a cartridge connector to allow instant loading of software from ROM cartridges. Unfortunately, it came out just before Timex Computer Corporation folded, so that no ROMs were forthcoming for us Sinclair fanatics in the United States.

But look at that case!

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Vance P. Frickey

Re: Of all of those

that's because your taste is obviously in your mouth.

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Vance P. Frickey
Happy

ZX-81 / T/S1000 is still the sexiest PC on Earth

My Timex/Sinclair 1000 (the American clone of the ZX-81) was my very first computer. It's still my favorite. Part of that was the way cool black shell, part was the way cheap entrance price ($100 originally, and toward the end of Timex's venture into fine computing hardware, you could get them new for $20 in discount stores) and part was the Sinclair BASIC operating system, which had error trapping just as good as Hewlett-Packard's desktop being sold at the same time. The "A"s I got in FORTRAN are largely due to being able to work out the program logic on my ZX-81 at home, then got to college and type out a working program in FORTRAN on cards the first time. Best $100 I ever spent.

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GE shows off tank-tough tech

Vance P. Frickey
Mushroom

Yo, Author - you've just revealed yourself NOT a nerd

...because the first thing an aspiring young nerd does (UK, US, Canada, whatever) is find out for him(her)self is run the numbers after his or her teacher says -40 C = - 40 F.

((-40/5) * 9) + 32 = -40 has to be the most commonly worked-out equation in the English-speaking world.

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Reg Readers love their gadgets

Vance P. Frickey

Look, can I just write an essay?

I've got two smartphones, both by htc, one runs Windows Phone, the other Android. Both are locked into Sprint, which means until I can come out of medical retirement with a gig that'll pay me to buy a Sprint data plan here, they're dormant and I use a Sanyo flip smart phone which uses Boost Mobile's proprietary system and fulfills all my needs as a grandpaw. My son Eric gave 'em all to me.

I don't anticipate getting a tablet, because 99 percent of my comms time is spent divided between two Dell laptops, a Latitude E6500 and a XPS340, both decent boxes for their time. I also own several other, older Dell lappies.

As far as "what do I do on them," don't know what's sadder, Second Life or the Reg. :-)

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The Oric-1 is 30

Vance P. Frickey

and you can make toasted cheese sammies on the case...

The "original" Microtan seems to have twice as many RAM chips as the Speccy boards I've seen.

http://www.nvg.ntnu.no/sinclair/images/speci1pcb-s.jpg is a pic of an issue 1, original Sinclair Spectrum.

I can only imagine the energy savings to anyone running one of THOSE in winter....

I owned the larger-cased but still-a-Speccy Timex/Sinclair 2068, which was one hell of a box for the time, had Turtle graphics, a ROM cartridge slot, and everything but a floppy drive control port...

http://www.worldofspectrum.org/timex/tc2068si.jpg

which might have been enough to help Timex Computer Company do some sales damage to its nearest competitor HERE, the Commodore. But Timex bailed before they could find out and went back to having automated BP cuffs, alarm clocks and other, more salable kitsch made for them in Korea.

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Naked intruder cracks one off in Florida rampage drama

Vance P. Frickey

Re: Americans use such self-explanetory language ... once you learn the vocabulary

And a few residents of a large island off the west coast of France are addicted to making lame generalizations about 330,000,000 people as though we all lived in Croydon...

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Computer nostalgia is 10 PRINT 'BOLLOCKS'

Vance P. Frickey
Happy

The Sinclair was better than waiting till I could afford a TRS-80 or an Apple...

And the Trash-80, which sold for $400 base, was also a cassette storage machine unless you could pony up the cash for a floppy drive and TRSDOS. And an Apple system would have set you back $600.

Since I was, at the time, a security guard with a family, we had better uses for that sort of money. So I got the local equivalent of a Sinclair ZX-81, a Timex-Sinclair 1000, which taught me how to program well enough that I passed FORTRAN programming in college with an "A" that year. And I learned how to state what I wanted clearly - because computers won't "do what i mean."

I transitioned to electronics technician shortly after getting my Sinclair, and was able to use the oscilloscope at work to align the head azimuth on my dara cassette recorder - after which the problems getting programs to load on my Sinclair went away..

So nostalgia is true in my case. I still own my Sinclair and both of the Sinclair TS1500s (basically a ZX81 with 16k internal RAM and a Speccy case and keyboard) which I got my sons, and a case with 30-odd titles of software, not a few of which I wrote.

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Cameron denies personal Trident missile firing iPad app

Vance P. Frickey
Thumb Down

Whatever this article is, it ain't journalism...

...the headline and lead-in imply that Cameron was asked about and denied that an iPad app was developed or under development to handle nuclear command and control. The reader has to read all the way to the end of the article to find out the question didn't touch on nuclear C3I at all.

I know that a lot of these articles are semi-humorous, and I appreciate the humor, most times. This goes past humor to flirt with propaganda and/or incompetence in journalism.

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Vance P. Frickey
WTF?

A 20,000 pound project for presenting policy via an iPad? Really?

Filtering all those information sources for significance is something that just about every stakeholder in government (any government) would like to do. It sounds like just determining who gets to do that would cost more than 20,000 pounds.

Here in the States, our upper-level politicians (the President, etc) have very limited-circulation (classified) "newspapers" like the "National Intelligence Daily," edited by people directly responsible to senior staff, in which hot topics are dealt with by undersecretaries or others with direct responsibility for specific governmental issues. There's some indication that the US Government is moving toward a "wiki" article approach in which articles impacting government policy issues are maintained online, contrarian opinions on issues can be presented and identified as such, and articles on any particular issue can be updated with a change log showing what previous copies of the document said.

However, as in WIkipedia itself, the potential for mis-editing a wiki either unintentionally or on purpose to change the text of a policy wiki (the reasons for doing this being obvious) is great unless moderation to changes is applied, which could itself be a source of institutional bias.

It seems very unlikely to me that a twenty-thousand pound IT project is likely to address all the issues I've raised or others unique to Her Majesty's Government. (I speak as someone who worked in IT in Great Britain briefly and knows what 20,000 pounds will buy in terms of IT consultant time).

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Apple slams hard-up Proview for conning the courts

Vance P. Frickey
Happy

Chinese courts, Chinese law, Chinese company...

...I wonder who's going to come out on top here.

<action: eats popcorn while watching multinational wanna-be monopoly face off against Chinese company on its home turf, a company which is owned by someone who presumably keeps his Communist party dues and/or graft payments paid up>

I wouldn't be very upset if Apple were taken to the cleaners by Proview and the Chinese courts. It would rub every other Western company's nose in the perils of trading with the Chinese - that you're moving from where law is more or less sacrosanct to where it's re-written by the judge to back those in (more) power, or the home team (in the case of Proview).

A trade war would bring manufacturing back where it belongs - in countries where it became uneconomic because of the competition from places with no labor, environmental or employee safety laws. We really need one, badly.

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Death Star SUCKS PLASMA FROM SUN in NASA riddle vid

Vance P. Frickey

Any race that can survive the near periphery of the Sun...

...probably doesn't need to siphon "fuel" from its surface. Sometimes a black circle is just a black circle (although " 'mouth' of a large 'tunnel' " is more plausible than any of the fanboy hypotheses advanced outside NASA).

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How Microsoft blew its own RIA invention

Vance P. Frickey

Microsoft, track its own products? It is to laugh.

Microsoft has grown so large and unwieldy that the last thing it could be accused of is focusing on what it's doing. And so with .NET Framework. I recently had to search out a legacy version of .NET Framework just to get one of Dell's customer assistance utilities to work. The newer version of .NET Framework which had already been installed on the laptop I was using at the time wouldn't work with the Dell utility.

Lack of backward compatibility in Microsoft system ware is not news - but this is ridiculous. Vista has forced me to learn to navigate a series of compatibility mode switches in "Properties" to get applications to work that I have no intention of discarding, just because Gates has decreed that we must all throw out our software and hardware in order to use his latest OS.

My newest laptop, a Dell Inspiron E1705, is so advanced that it won't boot up (past the familiar Blue Screen of Death) now. When it ran, it ran Vista decently, but for a reason known only to God (Dell and Microsoft tech support sure don't know it), it won't boot from the Vista Installation DVD to repair whatever's wrong with the computer's hard drive.

We thought at first it was a problem with Vista, because the Stop Error Message shown on the Blue Screen on my laptop is typical of a common Vista cock-up. However, not even telling the BIOS to ignore the hard drive solves the problem. Of course, the problem occurred a couple of months after my warranty expired, so it's unlikely that repairing the laptop will be cost-effective compared to replacing it entirely.

But Dell, Microsoft, and too much of the computer industry in general have outgrown the need to focus on their customers' need to have computers that work reliably more than a year or two after purchase (in fairness, this isn't a Mac/PC issue - the more recent generations of Macs aren't even as reliable as Vista machines, now that Vista SP1 is out).

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Shoot to win - with the PS3 handgun

Vance P. Frickey
Boffin

It's legal as long as it's not READILY mistakable for a gun

That law covers any toy or replica which can be READILY mistaken for a gun. As a former police officer myself, I can't see shooting someone for pointing a video game controller with a pistol grip at me.

Of course, a creative US attorney can wring miracles out of the US Code, so I wouldn't be surprised to read about these things being held up at Customs for being "officially" out of compliance with Federal law.

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Jobs bars 3G Jesus Phone sales at Canuck Apple Stores

Vance P. Frickey

@Anonymous Coward re: "veneers"

Most North Americans don't have to have their teeth capped/"veneered" (here on the left side of the Pond, "veneer" is something that goes on plywood) - fluoridated drinking water and daily sessions with toothpaste and a toothbrush are good enough, thanks very much.

And as far as eating fifty cheeseburgers and being overweight, I've noticed that the new version of "Doctor Who" has a "cougar" as a female companion - a British one. BBC must be paying attention to their audience demographics.

(ethnographer's note: "Cougar" = "older woman with a butt you could balance a teacup and saucer on while she's standing up")

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PC World pips Asus to UK Atom sub-laptop premier

Vance P. Frickey

280 pounds ain't bad for an Atom laptop...

That works out to about US$560, which is below Asus's price for the Atom version of their Eee laptop (they need to work on that name, BTW - it brings to mind images of housewives standing on kitchen chairs when a mouse shows up). The Atom-packing Eee runs a bit more than US$600.

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Sony promises 27in OLED screen

Vance P. Frickey
Boffin

Cutting edge=Bleeding edge

You can go through thrift shops in rich neighborhoods and see what happens to overpriced, underengineered stuff from the big manufacturers. Eventually it gets replaced with stuff that works and doesn't cost nearly as much (or nearly as much per diagonal inch in the case of televisions).

I'd wait a little while before buying an OLED display, if only because I DO remember how wonky the first large plasma and LCD displays were. Curve balls resembled snowy meteors, color registration wasn't all it could have been... I'd invest in more proven, highly developed technology, with better image quality. But that's just me.

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US protests to WTO over EU 'IT' tariffs

Vance P. Frickey

What a load of dingo's kidneys....

"But the EU says the contested products can be taxed because they include technologies and features developed after the accord was signed. It claims changes in technology make some products "objectively different" and fall outside the original product categories covered by the ITA. Extensions to the agreement should not be automatic, but based on periodic review."

In other words, "we in the EU just feel like violating the agreement and our lawyers have ginned up this fancy rationale for doing so."

As far as I'm concerned, this whole WTA business is a load of crap designed to make money for those who have too much of it already.

Back to tariffs all the way around, I say. That way every nation can manufacture its own televisions, shoes, cameras, copiers and computers and what-all and employment at home increases. And Rick Shuttlesworth can have what he's wanted all along, a monopoly on operating systems within the EU.

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Bill Gates unveils interactive wallpaper

Vance P. Frickey

Ray Bradbury predicted it first....

in "Fahrenheit 451," Bradbury predicted that at least one room in each house in his dystopic future would have all four walls set up as floor-to-ceiling TV screens. The only thing he missed out on was the Wii batons.

Oddly enough, Bradbury also in that very same breath predicted how people would come to prefer their virtual worlds to the living, breathing, flesh and blood company of their spouses, children, parents, neighbors. Remind anyone of Facebook, etc, ad nauseam?

C.S. Lewis, in his novel "That Hideous Strength," also had Merlinus Ambrosius predict what MIT's Media Lab's Nicholas Negroponte called "teledildonics":

"On this side, the womb is barren and the marriages cold. There dwell an accursed people, full of pride and lust. There when a young man takes a maiden in marriage, they do not lie together, but each lies with a cunningly fashioned image of the other, made to move and to be warm by devilish arts, for real flesh will not please them, they are so dainty (delicati) in their dreams of lust."

Sounds like a couple jacking/jilling off over web cams, perhaps with the assistance of servo-controlled Sybians and similar gear.

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Gordon Brown claims a Brit invented the iPod

Vance P. Frickey

Ve inwented it FIRST! - PM Chekov

Is anyone else reminded of the wonderful habit the Russians had (maybe they still do - who cares?) of claiming priority on every invention by the hand of Man? Aleksandr Lodygin invented the incandescent light bulb, baseball was swiped from Russian peasants' lapta... (or is Gordie going to claim that it's really just rounders with fancy equipment?).

Is New Labour going back to her Red roots? All this time we thought it was henna....

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HP pulls memory Missing Link from bottle of beer

Vance P. Frickey
Thumb Up

For once - a relatively nontoxic semiconductor!

This new technology - and I'll be daring and say "When" it comes to market - will be unique in more than just its physical theory - it will (or SHOULD) also involve a relatively nontoxic chemistry (compared to the organic tin and silicon compounds required at present for semiconductors) in its fabrication.

Titanium dioxide is commonly used as a pigment in paints. It's not completely innocuous but hopefully it won't be anywhere near as toxic as the chemicals involved in fabricating current technology memory chips. (action: fingers crossed tightly).

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All because the lady loves... er... memory cards

Vance P. Frickey

Analog AND digital imaging....

Of course, the logical extension of this school of thought is a compact with a tiny, tiny camera and a mirror-sized LCD screen - the idea being that milady could have a corrected view of her makeup instead of the virtual, reversed image given by an actual mirror... and it plays SD chips back, too.

The economic lines will cross when it becomes less expensive to knock off a high-resolution LCD screen that size, wired up to a single-chip camera/image processor built into the screen itself than it is to make an actual mirror. We'll see them made in rolls to be trimmed and pasted into thin plastic frames.

Eventually, the words "digital is cheaper than analog" will be a truism, too obvious even to speak aloud.

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Ban using mobiles while crossing street, says US legislator

Vance P. Frickey
Thumb Down

It's just jaywalking.

No need to penalize mobile/cellphone use as an aggravating factor - if someone's jaywalking, they're already violating the law.

This is proof that there is no difference between the Republican and Democratic parties on important issues such as individual freedom.

Both parties are firmly committed to the nanny state, because the government has more power when it is the final arbiter on all aspects of the citizen's life - and politicians are first, last and always power-addicted cretins regardless of their political affiliation. They are the civic equivalent of the mother-in-law.

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Creative climbs down over home brew Vista drivers

Vance P. Frickey

Now if we could only get him writing Handspring Visor drivers.... :-(

DanielK could pave an entirely new path to fame by writing drivers to make Handspring Visors work with Vista... (I guess I'll just have to break down and write my own).

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Vatican updates list of mortal sins

Vance P. Frickey

Is Brother Gregor burning in Hell?

Mendelian breeding just became a mortal sin. Instead of jumping on the opportunity to claim priority for the Church in the matter of genetic manipulation by honoring the work of Gregor Mendel, this mindless functionary has instead drawn the shades of darkness over genetic engineering work for the faithful of his Church, which I thankfully left long, long ago (for another Church which the current Pope has declared defective).

I wish that someone in the Church would discover the mortal nature of spiritual arrogance.and condemn that, instead; then admonish its senior priests accordingly. I'm already nostalgic for John Paul II, the Pope who wasn't quite so much in love with the sound of his own voice.

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