* Posts by Kristian Walsh

1100 posts • joined 10 Apr 2007

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Women devs – want your pull requests accepted? Just don't tell anyone you're a girl

Kristian Walsh
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Re: Hmmmm...

And does it also apply to men who declare that they're men

Well, as an experiment, I just used the "man select" command on my terminal. I now feel I know slightly less about network programming than I did beforehand.

...I think you could be on to something, there ;)

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Kristian Walsh
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Re: Peer review

It'll be the "Bob" submissions, because I'm assuming that the project maintainer is male and of English-speaking origin. Change "Bob" to "Vlad", and Alice to "Kate" and you'll see the difference narrow slightly - it's not just gender bias at work.

This is a phenomenon that's already well researched in the area of recruitment. When it comes down to a close-call decision, men favour male candidates and women favour females. To be clear: it's also well proven that both men and women will choose an obviously superior candidate, regardless of that candidate's sex. It's only when it's a case of choosing between two average applicants that the gender bias comes into play, but it's also worth noting that most candidates for a position will be of average ability...

The generalised point is that people are more favourable to others they have more in common with (sex, race, nationality, sexual orientation, place of education, membership of sporting clubs, etc, etc...).

This is why many large organisations now insist that interview panels are gender-balanced and as diverse as possible within that. It's very, very hard for someone to be completely impartial, so having a diverse range of biases and prejudices on a panel is what keeps the system fair to everyone... or equally unfair to everyone.

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You've seen things people wouldn't believe – so tell us your programming horrors

Kristian Walsh
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Re: Apple's cut'n'paste blunder

Not that I think Apple is using Linux, but the programmer may have developed that habit in a previous job.

Odd.. My dim recollection of the old Apple C coding guidelines was that you were supposed to use braces after every conditional statement, regardless of how many statements it contained. Apple's Swift language copper-fastens this rule by requiring braces around conditional blocks, so the spirit of Codebert is still alive somewhere.

As a bonus example of "belt but no braces", I once tracked a bug to this seemingly-innocuous "line" of (not my) code:

if (state==-1) *result=2; return 0;

(stuff like this still isn't a good enough reason to attach semantics to whitespace, mind you...)

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Kristian Walsh
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An excerpt from the Rogue's gallery...

I used to teach programming so I've seen some absolute howlers, but nothing I'm going to repeat here: nobody starts out as an expert, and it's only the ones who've forgotten that that get a kick out of mocking the inexperienced.

On the other hand, all of the below are from people who had been paid to do the job of "programmer" for at least ten years prior...

I once slopped-out an application written by someone who used this ghastly PHP idiom everywhere:

if (sometest()) { ?›

html markup here that gets spat out for true ‹? } else { ‹?

html markup here for false ‹? print "$other thing to insert"; ?›

more shitty markup . care to guess when it'll be shown?

‹? } ?›

A different person, same place, gave out to me for using descriptive variable names, like "foreach (candidateDevice in deviceList)" rather than "foreach (d in dl)". Apparently, in the 21st century, he didn't like code where lines wouldn't fit in an 80x24 vi window.

I didn't know anyone still had VT102s...

Perhaps a symptom of the same tunnel-vision, that same co-worker used to declare a small set of application-global variables in every .c file he needed them in. When doing that caused linker errors, he used "static" on his "declarations" to make the errors go away. Then the code started to show bizarre inconsistencies in internal state. Messages would be received, but they'd only have effect in some parts of the code...

But enough about them. The rest of these are all from my own œuvre:

The Python app where I'd mistakenly typed "self.dchp_range_start = " in two different places, then wondered why the settings only took effect in some cases.

And, to show that static type checking isn't a panacea, here's a somewhat over-zealous gating check for IP4 addresses:

if (servers[i].find_first_not_of("0123456989.")!=npos) continue;

There's also the time I tried to save one whole byte in a money handling application by making a change counter eight bits wide. The first time someone needed to be refunded £25.60, I didn't feel so clever. (Actually, I wasn't there by then, but I certainly did hear about it...)

I also once got so sick of a linux video capture driver's inability to take a still that I resorted to successively grafitti-ing the video RAM to chase down where the camera image was being dumped, then when I needed a still, I sent a "picture hold" command to the video camera, and read out the video memory, parsed the YUV colourspace into RGB and wrote the file to disk. Okay, that was a pretty skanky process, but the code doing it wasn't.

Also, not actually a bug, but I'd feel sorry for the maintenance programmer of this little gem if they'd got it without the accompanying comment:

if ( x!=x ) { // (floating-point NaN: it never equals anything, itself included)

}

..

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Little warning: Deleting the wrong files may brick your Linux PC

Kristian Walsh
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Re: Sounds Really Clever?

It's nothing to do with systemd. Nothing. The driver isn't trapping the case where the user wipes the objects that the driver exposes through the /sys/ hierarchy. You don't even need rm -rf / for this; you can just cd into the appropriate directory and issue rm -rf *

This is a longstanding "problem" with the Unix permissions model. "Write" always implies "delete", but these are actually separate permissions, and other, non-Unix-derived OS treat them as such. Actually, Unix is the odd-one-out here, but its ubiquity makes people think that its behaviour is the norm.

For comparison, VMS had "Read, Write, Execute, Delete"; Windows NT unsurprisingly maps the VMS permissions to "Read, Modify[=Write], Execute, Full Access[ which allows Delete]" - on both these systems, being able to write means only that: you can open the object, and modify its contents, even truncate it, but you can't remove it from the filesystem. Even CP/M's limited model distinguished between deletion and writing: the two permissions settings possible on a file were write-access [RO=off] and deletion [System=off].

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Can't upgrade, won't upgrade: Windows Mobile's user problem

Kristian Walsh
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Re: Hmmm...

Being on the insider list doesn't mean that the performance was good enough to get onto the release list.

520 is supposed to be on the "second wave" of W10 Mobile updates, but that doesn't mean it'll get the full Windows 10 Mobile release. Insider user reports I read weren't positive about the low-feature devices: the big problem with updating the 520 isn't the running requirements of the OS, but rather getting enough free storage space on the device to store the OTA updater.

On performance, W10 renders 8.1 app UI faster than 8.1 does, and unlike 8.1., the Windows 10 Store service recompiles the .Net CLI byte-code submitted by developers into native code for download onto the device. Both of these make apps run faster, and there are some API features introduced in 10 (particularly in allowing the use of static binding of control properties) which dramatically improve UI load times if you use them. On the other hand, the W10 OS is doing more in the background than 8.1 was, so overall it's a small performance hit.

Memory is the killer on these devices, though - I've a 530 that I used for developing my recent app, and running on such a low-memory device really taught me to aggressively optimise my heap size.

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Safari iOS crashing: Suggestions snafu KOs the Apple masses

Kristian Walsh
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@Bad Beaver, Re: Another mark on the list

10.6 is an interesting one to pin as the "last good OS X" (I tend to agree, btw), because this was the last OS X release headed by someone with long experience at the company.

Bertrand Serlet was a platforms manager who had come to Apple from NeXT, and he and Avie Tevenian were instrumental in getting OS X out the door in the first place. Tevenian left in 2006, and 10.6 was Serlet's last OSX release, as he left in 2009. His replacement at OS X, Craig Federighi, only rejoined the company in 2009. Not much time for a handover...

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Brit censors endure 10-hour Paint Drying movie epic

Kristian Walsh
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Precedent...

There's a story that Andrei Tarkovsky's 1971 film "Solaris" contains a seemingly interminable scene of a trip through city traffic in purely to bore the Soviet censor into turning it off and signing the approval.

(The scene in question was filmed on Tokyo's urban motorways, and the more plausible reason for it is that including so much of this Japanese footage in the final film was to justify the great expense incurred by Tarkovsky and company to travel to Japan to shoot it. Thanks to Soviet efficiency, they had missed the World Fair, which was to have provided the original "future cityscape" imagery for this part of the film.)

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Waving Microsoft's Windows 10 stick won't help Intel's Gen 6 core

Kristian Walsh
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Re: Bassackwards

""It wasn't my assertion,"

Maybe you should have put quotes around it then."

No, you misunderstood what I wrote. I am not the person who wrote the post containing that assertion. Thus, "it wasn't my assertion".

You're still confused about the difference between the price of media and the software licence. You do not own OS software - the producer simply grants you a licence to use it. (Linux people stop sniggering - you also don't "own" your software; if you did, you'd be able to resell it under whatever licence terms you wanted). In this case, the producer is Apple, and the terms of the licence are on that panel that you clicked through without reading. Here, have a look at it now: http://images.apple.com/legal/sla/docs/OSX1010.pdf

The licence states several times that you are only permitted to use it on "Apple branded hardware". If you run OS X on a non-Apple product, you are in violation of the licensing terms, and have no right to use the software. It doesn't matter that you've paid Apple money, you are still in breach of the terms of the licence, and if Apple ever found a way to make such an OS X system stop working, they would be entirely within their legal rights to deploy it.

You can buy it separately, it's no different to Windows or Linux.

Okay. Here are the two fundamental differences that you're missing:

1. You can buy Windows or Linux licences and use them on any hardware of your choice - if you get it to install on a system, the licence permits you to use it on that hardware. But: You cannot buy an OSX licence and use it on any hardware of your choice. Only installation onto Apple-branded hardware is permitted. OS X is legally tied to Apple hardware only.

2. You can buy or build a bare PC system, and then decide what OS you want to run on it. But: every single hardware model that Apple permits you to install OSX onto is already shipped from the factory with that software pre-installed, and so the cost of developing OSX is included in the device price. OS X is bundled, without choice, onto every device that is allowed to run it.

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Kristian Walsh
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Re: Bassackwards

It wasn't my assertion, but do you honestly think that OS X "costs" £14.99? That's a service fee for getting the physical media - Apple's licence terms make sure that you can only use that disc if you've already given them money for a computer. OS X is bundled with their hardware, you can't buy it separately the way you can Windows or a professionally-supported Linux distro.

Also, the OS X disc you mention is OS X 10.8, a release that's no longer officially supported by Apple (let's not get into Apple's "love 'em and leave 'em" attitude to OS X lifecycle management). You need to install that, then update to 10.9 and then -- if you're a masochist --- 10.10 and 10.11.

Getting back to the article topic, though: the biggest problem for the PC business can be seen by comparing the Minimum System Requirements for Windows 10 with those for Windows 7, way back in 2009... I'll save you the search: They're identical. That's six and a half years and two-and-a-half OS releases later, and there's no need to buy new hardware at any of them. (I put that down to Microsoft becoming a Windows Hardware OEM itself, and having to directly experience the pain of getting Windows 10 to run acceptably on the kind of low-power CPUs it used in Surface)

As an OS X user, I can't say the same applies to Apple. Not by a long way. 10.6 and 10.9 might compare favourably, but you'd have had to stomach the horrendous 10.7 and 10.8 to get between them, and things have gone seriously downhill again after 10.9 - not just in performance, but in basic quality. I could put up with OS X being "sedate and unhurried" in its performance, but not when it combines that with the sort of flakiness I used to associate with Windows (and don't start me on what they did to "Save As..."). I've skipped 10.10 and 10.11, and don't hold out much hope of 10.12 being better.

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Recall: Bring out yer dead and over-heating Microsoft Surface Pro power cords

Kristian Walsh
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Re: SW company?

Remember that this is about power supplies. NO hardware manufacturer fully designs and builds their own power supplies. The manufacturer specifies a device connector and the required DC parameters, and the rest is sub-contracted.

The problem here sounds like it's in the strain-testing of the cables. There's an acceptance test for these things that flexes the cable repeatedly and then checks for breakage, but humans find all sorts of clever ways to damage cables, especially cables that get stuffed into luggage in a hurry.

And for all those claiming that this is somehow a sign that Microsoft is worse at hardware than the rest of the industry, you might do a search for Apple's power-supply recalls over the years...

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It's Wikipedia mythbuster time: 8 of the best on your 15th birthday

Kristian Walsh
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Re: There was always a near monopoly on encyclopedic knowledge

"As accurate" is an interesting way to describe findings for a study that found that while Brittannica and Wikipedia were equal on the (low) rate of major misunderstandings of the topic found, Wikipedia had significantly more factual errors per article, or to quote it:

averages out to 2.92 mistakes per article for Britannica and 3.86 for Wikipedia

So, "30% more errors" is the same thing as "as accurate". I'll remember that if I ever need a blood-test.

Thing is, Wikipedia's problem isn't in facts, it's how it weights those facts. Too many articles fail to show what's important about their subject, and what's just inane trivia (or vanity-linking to some postgrad's supervising professor's paper on the subject).

This lack of editorship pervades Wikipedia, and it's causing a slow decline in the usefulness of the site as more and more crap accretes to the articles with every passing year.

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Longing to bin Photoshop? Rock-solid GIMP a major leap forward

Kristian Walsh
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More than three colour channels?

Lack of support for four colour process or spot colour layers is what has kept gimp out of professional users' workflows, so it's remiss of this article to not mention that the imaging engine is no longer limited to RGB and RGBA, and now images can be any number of channels of integer or floating point data points.

... It's quite an impressive bit of work, and congratulations are due to all involved- this is the kind of thing open source development excels at.

Whether the UI exposes this is another matter. (UI design is, sadly, something that Open Source projects struggle with)

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Periodic table enjoys elemental engorgement

Kristian Walsh
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Re: Unobtainium...

It's precisely because nobody speaks Latin that it's used so much for naming. The idea is to have a language that everyone can agree does not favour any one country.

Look at Switzerland: it has four spoken languages, each with its own vocal lobby: even deciding what to put on the postage stamps was a contentious question. The solution was to use Latin, as it belonged to no group at all. So, the stamps say "Helvetia", and the car-stickers read "CH" ("Confœderatio Helvetica" - "[the] Swiss Confederation"), as does the ISO Country code and thus Switzerland's top-level domain name.

Latin's other advantage is that because there are no native speakers to object, its pronunciation has, over the centuries, been knocked into a form that's simple enough that speakers of pretty much any other language can master it.

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What did we learn today? Microsoft has patented the slider bar

Kristian Walsh
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Re: *Design* Patent

The equivalent in UK law to this is a "registered design": legal protection for the appearance of a product. Some people just see the words 'Patent' and 'Microsoft' and go nuts..

This is a look and feel suit, nothing to do with Software Patents at all... and further evidence that EFF has lost touch with reality.

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Review: Star Wars: The Force Awakens offers a new hope for the franchise

Kristian Walsh
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Re: I don't really care whether it's any good, personally

Odd that you think diagonal wipes are a 1970's styling cue. You're about 40 years out. Star Wars was a homage to the 1930's space serials like Flash Gordon... Lucas tried to get the chance to remake FG itself in the mid 1970s (that this was possible at all shows how little the studios valued scifi/space opera as a genre at this time).

I saw this one. It was a very entertaining two hours. The cast, director and writers made me care about the characters for the duration, and they knew when it was time to have the actors shut up and let their actions and the pictures talk instead (a rarity in modern cinema, especially in anything with a 'fandom').

If I have a complaint, it's the unmemorable score, but maybe it was more that there was a film going on as well: the 'prequel' films were such tosh, the music was all they had going for tihem (Episode 2 has some really good themes)

Yes, it's a hung on the frame of the 1977 film, but if someone thinks that that was some kind of revolutionary dramatic structure, they should pick up a book on myths and legends (any people's will do ... SW lifts from pretty much all of them).

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Windows 10 won't come to old WinPhones until some time in early 2016

Kristian Walsh
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Re: Just got a 950XL

If you bought your handset direct from Microsoft, make sure you've got the Lumia Offers app installed (go to http://aka.ms/lumiaoffersapp if it's missing). There could be a nice surprise in it for you...

My wife got the 950XL a couple of weeks ago, and it's mostly very impressive. The camera is the best imaging package ever put in a phone (I am including the 808 and 1020 here - their image quality might be objectively better and better for post-processing, but the 950 pair's whole package of sensor, stabilisation, intelligent HDR and colour-balanced flash produces the best images with the least amount of effort, so the newer phones just shade them).

Against that, the default apps shipped with Windows 10 for Phones are still unfinished in places; updates are arriving quickly enough (the "People" one lost most of its cosmetic bugs yesterday), but I can't help thinking that the development schedule is still ongoing for this release, and what's on the 950 and 950XL is a beta.

However, all the negatives are software issues, and the various fixes are coming quickly. One of the big changes with Windows 10 is that mobile operators don't have to certify "firmware" updates like they had to on 8.1, so now once a phone ships with 10, it will get updated automatically as soon as the software is released (just like Apple's iOS device updates aren't gated by operator certification).

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Google chap bakes Amiga emulator into Chrome

Kristian Walsh
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Re: Ahh, Amiga

Pre-emptive multitasking can work just fine without memory protection. Provided every other application and process doesn't vomit over your memory. Sadly, this was never true in my year-long experience of owning an Amiga. I traded it back in against an Atari 520STE: not as clever, no multitasking, and the games were nowhere near as good, but at least it didn't crash unless I made it crash (ah, the joys of 68k assembly!)

This isn't really Amiga's fault though - there was simply no hardware to deal with the inevitable instability that comes from multitasking. I seem to remember that the 68000's companion MMU was a bit of an afterthought, so nobody used it, and in any case the 68000 itself had no way to properly recover from a bus error, so even with protection, a process reading from an out-of-address-space location could still hose your system. (68010 allowed the system to restart after memory fails)

Ah, the old days...

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Mobile developer report shows growing back-end challenge, weak Windows support

Kristian Walsh
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Bear in mind that this is a survey of users of Appcelerator's toolkit. This immediately self-selects the respondents based on how well Appcelerator supports the various platforms: after all, you wouldn't choose a tool that's sub-optimal for Android if Android was your primary development target.

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All eyes on the jailbroken as iOS, Mac OS X threat level ratchets up

Kristian Walsh
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Re: This oculd be due to the popularity of windows...

Perhaps you meant "VMS and BSD", but that does undermine your argument a little. There hasn't been any DOS in Microsoft's OS products since Windows XP came out, whenever that was (I was still Mac-only in those days). The NT kernel was modelled on VMS.

I use both OSes daily. There really is no difference in privilege escalation between OSX and Windows. Processes simply cannot get above their station anymore on either OS, and must ask the user for the permissions they seek.

The vast majority of malware doesn't "crack" a system, it fools the user into handing over the keys. This is why tainted installers are so useful as a vector - users are less concerned that an application installer asks for temporary admin privilege. (MacOSX is the same as Windows here).

In my experience of cleaning up after this stuff (and a brief period working for an anti-malware company), a lot of users will accept any kind of unexpected privilege escalation if they think they're getting something for free.

Windows is still a more lucrative target than OS X, simply because Windows PCs are more likely to be in business-critical functions in small businesses. A cryptlocker in an small accountancy practice, two days before the filing deadline is way more likely to yield a payout for the malware writer.

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National Crime Agency: Your kid could be a nasty interwebs hacker

Kristian Walsh
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Re: So on the one hand....

The checklist/questionnaire reads like the nonsense it is if you substitute "photography", "dressmaking", "playing guitar", "jewellery making", "singing", "bicycle or car mechanics", "drawing", "baking", "carpentry", "pottery", or basically any other hobby that a teenager might have that could yield them some occasional extra cash.

The general rule is simpler: if your kid is coming into a lot of money, and they can't adequately explain where it's coming from, you need to consider the possibility that they're engaged in some form of illegal activity.

At a time when the UK gov. is desperately trying to get children into "Coding", it's funny to see another government agency trying to scare parents into dissuading them from doing just that.

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Donald Trump wants Bill Gates to 'close the Internet', Jeff Bezos to pay tax

Kristian Walsh
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Re: pull the wool off his supporter's eyes

That would be fun for the family returning from Haj etc.

Hajj? Nah... I'd like to see him go onto a transport plane full of U.S. Marines returning from a tour in the Middle East and try to tell them that some of the guys they've been fighting beside for the last six months aren't going to be allowed off the plane...

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IETF's older white men urged to tone it down

Kristian Walsh
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Re: Yeah, right.

"Why we have the internet today" is down to the work done in the 1970s and 1980s, which the authors of this RFC state was a time when IETF was more representative and inclusive than it is today.

Technical organisations should hire the most technically able people. There appears to be a problem in IETF that no applicant with two X chromosomes is considered to have technical ability, regardless of their accomplishments. This is failed logic.

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Sketch dev pulls out of Mac App Store, cites slow reviews, tech limitations

Kristian Walsh
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Re: "App Review continues to take at least a week"

Apple could easily rate-limit developer submissions to prevent such abuses. Spending a week to review a minor code change to an established application is ridiculous.

However, the bigger problem is upgrade pricing, I'd imagine. This is the big flaw in the "app" model from a developer's side of the deal: once a customer buys your app, they must get every new feature for free. Those features, unfortunately, do not cost nothing to implement.

As an example: if an iPhone user bought a utility app like PCalc (Hi James!) back in 2008, they still have it now, for free, on their shiny new Apple Watch and iPhone 6s. Seven years of a developer's time means the current one is far more useful than the original, but the user has had all of that for free.

That's just about manageable for an "indie" developer with low overheads, but if you're a larger company, with premises, staff, and customer support costs, you cannot operate on a model that prohibits you from recouping your product improvement investments.

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Meet ARM1, grandfather of today's mobe, tablet CPUs – watch it crunch code live in a browser

Kristian Walsh
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Re: Predicated Execution

I didn't downvote you, but tagged memory is still a Von Neumann architecture - the architectural principle is only that the program and data occupy the same addressing space.

Being able to overwrite program with data and vice-versa is not a required feature of a Von Neumann architecture; despite being a side effect of most implementations.

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Kristian Walsh
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MLA

I hope they had a good reason to add that to the instruction set.

Not the OP, but the Multiply-Add instruction is a fundamental building block of signal processing operations (it's how you mix two audio signals, or do alpha-blending of images), so it is a "RISC" instruction in that sense.

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Microsoft takes PUPs behind the shed with gun in hand

Kristian Walsh
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Re: So when did the P get dropped from PUP's

Those are marked as PUPs because they're the vectors used by phone-scammers. The sequence goes something like:

1 Call customer, tell them there's a problem

2 Guide them though to showing some arcane system log and tell them it's a list of viruses

3 Ask them to go online and install a remoting client.

4 Go in and install ransomware. Tell customer that problem "may come back", but things look okay now.

5 Wait a few days for ransomware to trigger, and collect the money.

The AV rules are to catch a problem at step 3. It does inconvenience legitimate users, though.

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Kristian Walsh
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The fresh smell of astroturf...

Seriously, what's this "Slurp" crap? Are these guys twelve fucking years old or something? Nobody has ever called Microsoft that until a couple of weeks ago and now, suddenly all the usual suspects are at it, pretending as if it's something that has already attained currency.

A cynic would suspect that the PR arm of a competitor has fired off a few emails to its stable of tamed bloggers...

As an adult, if I have a beef with a company, I make sure to use their actual name so that everyone knows who I'm talking about, and there can be no doubt about who I'm criticising. But "Slurp"? That could be anyone: Google, Amazon, Facebook or Birds fucking Custard.

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What the world needs now is Pi, sweet $5 Raspberry Pi Zero

Kristian Walsh
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Re: Best of all it don't run windows

"I have not seen anything to convince me that either Bill or his institute are working for anyone but their own benefit,"

I hope you just don't understand how a Trust functions, because the alternative is that the idea that a man you have never met is evil has become such an integral part of your personal belief system that no evidence will change your mind about it.

I'm sure the scheme benefits him greatly on a personal-wellbeing level, but not on a financial one. If I had more money than I could possibly spend, I'd feel good about using it this way too. Maybe you'd prefer the Jobs method of dealing with lucky windfalls, which could be summed up as "You lost. I won. Fuck you".

When I was younger, I thought Jobs was the cool one, and Gates the nasty one. The more I learned about both men, the more I realised I had those judgements the wrong way round.

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Rdio's collapse another nail in the coffin of the 'digital economy'

Kristian Walsh
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Re: "So much power has accrued to the distributors"

The "taping from the library" analogy doesn't wash, because the scale is completely different.

When I taped something I borrowed from a friend (as pretty much everyone did), I didn't immediately leave piles of copies of it in the street for anyone who wanted one to pick up. But that is what torrent distribution does. I don't even have to know someone to let them have a copy of my copied music: it's just "there", and it gets taken by anyone who happens by.

(Actually, I still buy all the music I own - as a self-employed software developer, I can't sit here and say that people shouldn't rip off my work while happily ripping off the work of other creators, so I put my money where my big fat mouth is. I enjoy listening to music, I don't see a problem paying for it.)

Now, much of the loss to piracy is overstated, because many people who acquire large amounts of pirated music never listen to it more than once, and so you get the "would have heard it on the radio anyway". Purchased music has always been bought for the purpose of repeated listening; it's not like a movie ticket, which is a once-off (and this is why the same excuse absolutely does not hold water for film piracy).

The fundamental issue with monetising recorded music streaming is that it requires customers to appreciate the value of recorded music. These days, with music used literally everywhere, the basic currency of "listening to a piece of music" is now so debased that people don't have a problem with stealing it. Downloads also look exactly like legitimate purchases, so there isn't even the stigma of you being that guy who's music collection is a huge stack of CD-Rs (or stacks of blank tapes for the even older).

Against this bleak background, I note that French download service Qobuz has just launched a 24-bit streaming offering that includes discounts on purchases of the high-bitrate files if you want to keep stuff. What's interesting is that they've pitched this at €200 a year - one annual payment, no monthly option. Maybe the idea is that you value things you've paid in one go for more than something that gets taken away in unnoticeable monthly payments.

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Apple's design 'drives up support costs, makes gadgets harder to use'

Kristian Walsh
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Re: This what I've been saying for years, now.

In the original article, Tog and Don actually praise Windows 8 for finding ways to solve the problems with gesture-driven interfaces.

I'd tend to agree with them (and Windows8 does at least follow your "a button should look like a button" dictate, even if the affordances for certain types of popup menu aren't obvious).

That said, I wholeheartedly agree with you about how the "stroke-to-reveal" (careful, now!) toolbars are done: that function is simply not discoverable, and it drags the rest of the UI down. Windows 8.1 made some subtle but useful changes to how toolbars work, but the "charms" menu and the app-switching menu are still arcane.

iOS is my go-to example when I try to explain to people that UI design is not the same as graphic design.

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Hey Cortana, how about you hide my app from the user?

Kristian Walsh
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Re: BS

" Ever tried pronouncing a regular expression?"

Er, the expression is not the input to the grep tool.

As for Linux not having an implementation, it's because this type of speech to text conversion is statistical - it requires a server with a lot of computing power, and a hell of a lot of training data (drawn from a diverse population of speakers) to get it working. Who, in the various Linux communities, would be willing to fund, or co-ordinate, this effort?

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Kristian Walsh
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Re: BS

So, how often do you use grep by typing its input into the console?

Command-line interfaces are closer to spoken word in their structure than a GUI is, and the idea of taking the meaning of one term and using it as the subject of another is fundamental to getting work done in any kind of text-driven shell. Why wouldn't this work for speech too?

Imagine I'm selling a flight reservation application, do you think I prefer my users to have to open it, enter their dates, hit search, or maybe it's better to accept the search parameters from a "standard input" (in this case, the speech-to-text engine) and work with it that way?

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Microsoft shelves 'suicidal' Android-on-Windows plan

Kristian Walsh
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Sensible choice, though...

Never saw the point of porting both Android and iOS code automatically. Do one, yes, or the other, but doing both was a bit redundant..

There aren't many apps on Android that aren't also available on iOS. Sure, there are some utilities that are only possible on Android, but let's not kid ourselves that this was about them: this was an effort to get the heavily marketed "must have" app-of-the-moment titles onto Windows Phone, and all of those are on iOS and Android.

The "Islandwood" project, for iOS porting, has a sounder engineering basis: head the incompatibility issues off at the source, rather than try to replicate the runtime. It needs developer input, but if it reduces the porting costs dramatically, it makes a Windows port easier to justify - especially as Windows 10 opens up a market of laptop/desktop users too. (Why Apple hasn't looked at this approach to get iOS apps ported onto its moribund OSX App Store, I don't know)

I'm surprised that this wasn't the approach taken with Android too - after all, C# and Java are syntactically very close to each other, and it should be possible to shim a lot of the Android APIs. Maybe the lure of "run anything, with no additional developer contribution" was too much to resist.

The source of this article notes that the iOS porting project was running with a tenth of the staff of the Android one, and was making better progress too.

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Microsoft is about to launch a UK store within a store

Kristian Walsh
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Re: Why bother?

In fairness, Valley Fair is pretty much on Apple's doorstep, and there are enough employees living around there to ensure that always been a vibrant Mac market in this part of the world, even when Apple was in the shitter. Plus, it's in a part of the world where hating Microsoft is almost an identity. (I always wonder how different this would have been if Microsoft had set up in Redwood, CA, not Redmond, WA).

On a side note, I've never understood how these malls manage to stay open with the extraordinarily low footfall they get. Obviously everyone orders ahead, and maybe I'm just used to busy centres in European cities, but I have memories of quite a few "Marie Celeste" visits to Valley Fair in my time, including at weekends when I'd expected it to be a lot busier. Maybe I was just avoiding the mad rushes.

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Untamed pledge() aims to improve OpenBSD security

Kristian Walsh
Silver badge

If your scripting language is so open-ended that you don't know what system calls it could possibly make in response to inputs, then you have chosen the wrong tool for a secure application development.

Even the most dynamic of languages can be made to work with this facility. If it can't, then there's a problem with the application design (e.g., creating an unholy REST engine that blindly allows execution of a command inside a local directory with the same name as the requested URL part...), not the language.

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Microsoft Windows Mobile 10: Uphill battle with 'work in progress'

Kristian Walsh
Silver badge

Re: Continuum

It's not really a "big screen phone". The Continuum screen runs a desktop shell that looks just like Windows10 desktop, and the applications open in multiple overlapping windows on it - basically, it's the "Desktop mode" from WindowsRT devices without the "full-screen, now windowed, now fullscreen" context changes from Windows 8.1.

As you say, it's limited to Universal apps, but accessing remote desktop sessions, SSH/Telnet, Office and Web will cover about 90% of what your average mobile worker needs to do and all of that can be easily accommodated by Universal apps.

Basically, the Continuum feature is designed for hot-deskers and field workers, not fixed-office IT admins or developers, and it makes sense for them.

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Linus Torvalds targeted by honeytraps, claims Eric S. Raymond

Kristian Walsh
Silver badge

Re: "Why don't you ask Tim Hunt?"

That's English students these days. Too busy learning Relativst theory to be bothered with basic grammatical constructs...

"Not only is {X} not true, but {contrary to X} is true" is a fairly common rhetorical device to refute whatever "X" is. Sad that anyone calling themselves a journalist can't recognise this pattern.

Even in literal translation, I cannot parse that Russian quote as anything except a refutation of sexist comments that may have arisen from elsewhere.

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Now VW air-pollution cheatware 'found in Audis and Porsches'

Kristian Walsh
Silver badge

Re: @Steve K: Parvenu.

In the case of Volkswagen Group cars, the "finance company" that ends up taking the hit from depreciation will be... Volkswagen Group Financial Services AG, the group's leasing organisation.

Comparison of VW's sales revenues and the leasing company's outstanding loan growth suggests that about 80~90% of buyers of the Group's products take their car on a lease from VW Group itself.

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Windows 10 growth stalls during October

Kristian Walsh
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Re: A pedant writes...

Learn something new every day. Thanks.

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Kristian Walsh
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Re: A pedant writes...

The aeroplane doesn't "stall"; its engine does.

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Kristian Walsh
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Nope. This is usage-weighted share, so Linux isn't in the running at all.

Here's StatCounter's September 2015 list for all platforms (desktop & mobile). Note also how small the mobile OSes shares are when set beside their desktop rivals (as most interaction with web-based services is via apps, not the browser)...

46.98 Windows 7

12.41 Windows 8.1

8.55 Windows XP

7.87 OS X, all releases

6.97 Windows 10

5.72 iOS, all releases

2.97 Windows 8.0

2.68 Android, all releases

1.77 Unknown OS

1.69 Windows Vista

1.58 Linux

0.37 Chrome OS

0.09 Windows 2003

0.09 Playstation

0.07 Windows 8.1 RT

0.07 Windows 98

0.04 Xbox

0.02 Win2000

0.01 Nintendo

0.01 BlackBerry OS

0.01 Windows CE

0.02 Other

(source http://gs.statcounter.com - choose your dataset, and click "download CSV")

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Temperature of Hell drops a few degrees – Microsoft emits SSH-for-Windows source code

Kristian Walsh
Silver badge

Re: Ugh!

UTF-16 is horrible and breaks all of the native C/C++ string handling and all legacy text applications. At least UTF-8 is usable, even if you have the unpleasantness of off characters in old editors and variable length strings for a fixed number of "characters" when outside of the ASCII Latin alphabet.

UTF-8 also breaks legacy text applications. The thing is, most of the time the text can pass through such systems unmolested, so that it looks like it's working. But only most of the time. Sooner or later, you'll hit a service that wants ISO-8859 or UTF-8, and you'll give it the other one, and you'll get garbled output, or mysterious runtime exceptions.

The idea of eight-bit text is so deeply ingrained into UNIX and its descendants that it can be hard to explain that this is is only one of several possible approaches to text processing, and the reason for it had more to do with what language the systems designers spoke, rather than any sound technical judgement (Had the Japanese invented the mainframe, we would have had 12-bit or 16-bit characters, because 8 bits are inadequate for the set of symbols they need to write their language). The other UNIX thinking trap is conflating the idea of a machine-readable "text file" with the idea of human-readable "text". It's the mental equivalent of "YY/MM/DD" date recoding, or 32-bit IP addresses; fine for the initial use scenario, but seriously limiting in the long term.

On your other criticisms: as pointed out above, C++ strings can have any size of character. I wrote and used a 16-bit Unicode string class for years in my code. It took me less than a morning to write it (it's just a specialisation of the existing basic_string<T> template).

On the second point, you're raising a non-issue. As a rule, a programmer never needs to know the number of "characters" in a string of natural-language (i.e., not command-line switches, configuration verbs, or other stuff that UNIX-like OSes send around) text, only the amount of storage it occupies... which is just as well, because you never can know this in most cases.

If you're wondering why not, then first you must define what a "character" is, and it's not the same as "byte", or even "Unicode code-point". If this input form has preserved my input correctly, the two sequences "éiginnte" and "éiginnte" will not be the same length (different code-sequences can produce the same output glyphs). And that's before we get to the questions of language - Dutch treats the pair i,j as a single letter in many cases: is the word "rijk" [four codepoints] four or three characters long; is it the same "length" as "rijk" [three codepoints]?. How about "sœur"?

Luckily, all you need to care about is how much space these code-points occupy (8,9,4,3,4 codepoints, in order). Any ideas that this number is easily related to the number of displayed glyphs, or the "length" of the text the reader sees, is a fallacy.

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Ireland moves to scrap 1 and 2 cent coins

Kristian Walsh
Silver badge

Re: Makes sense

The Irish mint recently produced a €10 commemorative celebrating Joseph McLaughlin, aka Josef Locke, the renowned operatic singer. The choice of denomination shows that they like a bad pun as much as the rest of us...

Coins like these are legal tender (you'd be nuts... they cost about €20 to buy), but are never circulated, so I think the five-franc's crown (heh) is safe.

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So just what is the third Great Invention of all time?

Kristian Walsh
Silver badge

Re: Moveable Type

You're overestimating the cost of papyrus, and assuming that because very little of it survives, it was a rare thing in its time. Pliny famously describes extensive mass-production of papyrus in Roman times, with different grades used for everything from wrapping of goods to production of fine scrolls. Being Pliny, however, he neglects to clarify clear details, and often contradicts his own account. But it's still safe to say that papyrus was widely used to carry written messages. The amount of grafitti in Rome suggested that a great portion of the populace could read and write, which meant extensive circulation of written materials to even the lowest-status in society.

The problem of Papyrus wasn't that it was rare, hard to make or expensive, but that it was fragile when dry, and susceptible to rotting when wet, which is why we have so little of it today.

Paper was a "better' substrate for writing, but it wasn't a new idea in itself. The Chinese used silk, bones, and thin wooden strips to write on before they discovered paper.

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Who gets Teslas made and throws Apple shade? It's… MUSK!

Kristian Walsh
Silver badge

Re: He is sort-of-right

"the only real change we have had in the last 100years"

Do you seriously believe that? Here's a cursory review of "real changes" in automotive engineering since 1915... (at which point, the idea of an "all steel" bodyshell was still an exotic novelty)

Hydraulic braking (1922), Single +12v electrical system (1925), Power steering (1926), Independent front suspension (1931), Front-wheel-drive (1934), Electric indicator lamps (1935), Automatic transmission (1940), MacPherson Struts (the dominant suspension geometry in modern cars, 1945), Cruise control, synchromesh manual gearboxes (1952), Safety-cells, crumple-zones, the three point seatbelt, Electronic Fuel injection (all 1960s), Anti-lock braking systems, Airbags, Catalytic conversion of exhaust gases (1970s), CANbus, modular components, direct injection, Continuously-variable transmissions, anti-skid (1980s), Vehicle stability control, Throttle-by-wire, robotised manual transmissions, high-pressure diesel injection (all 1990s), Regenerative braking, hybrid petrol-electric drivetrains, fully electric steering, Infinitely Variable air intake control, dual-clutch mechanised gearboxes (2000s), Torque-vectoring, Lane-departure warnings, Adaptive cruise control (distance regulation), Automatic collision avoidance, geographically-aware engine and transmission management.

These are all major changes in how cars were built and operate, and are things that became standard practice after their introduction, rather than flashes in the pan, or simple mounting of an existing application into a car (hence, I didn't list in-car radios or Sat-Nav or shite like CarPlay) or improving comfort and convenience (so no air-con, openable windows, automatically locking doors).

On the manufacturing side, you've got Continuous Quality Feedback (1950s), Just-in-time inventory management, supplier partnership (1970s), Fully robotised assembly, Modular architectures (1980s), Flexible Manufacturing (1990s) - all of these techniques started in car production and have moved out to other manufacturing industries.

And it's in relation to manufacturing that Musk's comment is most relevant. Tesla's certainly no Toyota, but even they put Apple to shame on manufacturing efficiency: Apple's manufacturing relies on hand-assembly to an extent that's only possible when you're paying Chinese wage rates and selling at high prices to high-wage economies. Try move those iPhone factories to California, and you'd see a very different balance sheet at Apple.

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PC shipments slump in Q3, thanks to free Windows 10

Kristian Walsh
Silver badge

Device expected life has increased, thus replacement sales decrease

PC sales are falling because the market is nearly saturated (and has been for a very long time), and modern PCs are usable for longer. I'm developing software on a machine I built 6 years ago for a few hundred quid. When I replace the HD that Windows is on with an SSD, I'll get another year or two of productivity out of it (for heavy compilation, SSD is better than any increase of RAM or CPU cycles)

I'm typing this on a 2011 MacBook Air, which I can't see myself still owning in a year from now, but that's also an impressive five year working life.

The days when PC sales would cycle every three years are gone forever: if the demands of users aren't increasing beyond the hardware's ability, there's no need for new hardware. Only gamers are getting cramped these days.

The tablet market is seeing the same phenomenon too. Take Apple, as the tablet market leader. Its sales in tablets are slumping too, because once they got past the first couple of iPad revisions, an iPad's usable life is well into three or four years: these things aren't used for demanding tasks, so the pressure to upgrade just isn't there.

Frankly, if US phone companies didn't force customers to buy a new handset every two years, you'd see mobile sales relaxing too - a high-end phone from 2011 is still pretty capable of doing what most people want from a phone; it's only the pressure to "not waste an upgrade" that makes customers buy again. (In Finland, where there are no subsidies, I remember reading that the average user change cycle is about four years. In the USA, it's just a little over two - the normal length of a service contract)

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HP boss hopes MS Surface Book will jack up notebook prices

Kristian Walsh
Silver badge

Re: Personally, I hope it increases the number of laptops with a 3:2 screen ratio

3:2 is a good point between the extra height of 4:3 and the width (for side-bar windows) of 16:10 or even 16:9. 16:9 is a little too wide, though, especially as every modern computer UI slices horizontal strips off the top and/or bottom of your screen and the windows displayed on that screen.

But what I really, really liked about the choice of 3:2 for the Surface products is how close this is to the ISO A- and B-series paper ratios (which would be 2.828:2, expressed in the same terms as this display).

(A 3:4 screen ratio only accommodates documents laid out for 11x8.5" paper, and even then only in one orientation)

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TRANSISTOR-GATE-GATE: Apple admits some iPhone 6Ses crappier than others

Kristian Walsh
Silver badge
Boffin

Re: This has interesting implications beyond Apple

On a point of pedantry only, I'd add that energy is also wasted in the emission of electromagnetic radiation. All semiconductor junctions emit photons, and "transistor-variety" silicon emits in the infra-red, if my electronics course-notes haven't completely left my head...

You're still right though: excess heat is by far the biggest waste of energy in transistors.

[edit: I see i've been beaten to it.. note to self: refresh before posting ;) ]

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Kristian Walsh
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"Certain manufactured lab tests which run the processors with a continuous heavy workload until the battery depletes are not representative of real-world usage, since they spend an unrealistic amount of time at the highest CPU performance state.It's a misleading way to measure real-world battery life."

Well, if you'll forgive me, Apple (and Microsoft, and Samsung, and Motorola), so is quoting standby time calculated for a device with screen kept turned off in a lab with only one access network presented to the phone and no LTE or Wifi connection established.

Or quoting "video playback time", as if anyone detaches their phone from the power and then immediately watches hours of movies from the inbuilt storage. (Oh, didn't they mention that it's not online video playback?)

Basically, goose sauce is also a delicious accompaniment to gander.

As for this story, I actually side with the substance of Apple's response (but not its whiny tone): this is really not going to be a big deal for the average user. The only way it could be is if there's also a significant difference in heat between the parts.

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