* Posts by bazza

1354 posts • joined 23 Apr 2008

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Looking good, Gnome: Digesting the Delhi in our belly

bazza
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Re: Dead Parrot

Almost the same here - I finally got pissed off when the calculator no longer had a memory function.

They decided that a calculator doesn't need a memory function? I'm astonished.

Whatever next? Perhaps they'll decide that no one needs to be able to copy/paste in a text editor, or use the letter Z anywhere.

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bazza
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Batch Renames?

From the article:

"Even more exciting, there's a plan in the works to add a batch renaming feature to Nautilus in GNOME 3.22. That's right, not an improved existing feature but an actual new feature. Grab your coats."

Those of us old enough to remember Xtree Gold and who are now probably using the excellent clone of it for modern Windows OSes Ztree Bold" look at Nautilus (and Windows Explorer and Finder and a whole load of others) with disdain. Batch renaming a new feature? My arse - we could do that all the way back in 1985, in DOS with XTree.

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PM resigns as Britain votes to leave EU

bazza
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@Fink-Nottle,

Been meaning to ask, how are the newts? I trust they're basking contentedly!

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US Senate strikes down open-access FBI hacking warrant by just one honest vote

bazza
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Re: So ...

Go the other way... they could still save a bundle by buying their data from Google. Maybe a merger?

The name could be Goofbigle.

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Fujitsu picks 64-bit ARM for Japan's monster 1,000-PFLOPS super

bazza
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Re: This is why AMD and NVidia are making ARM chips

Intel are a bit stuck with x86.

Itanium should have been successful, but some bunch of upstarts made an alternative product that appealed strongly to Intel's lazy customers who didn't want to go through a painful cycle of recompiling / testing their software. That was AMD with AMD64, which Intel ended up copying (oh the irony). And if Intel try again to renounce x86/64, AMD will still be there, and will probably be able to do an incrementally improved x64 design, and will again pinch a load of custom.

So Intel won't be able to ditch x86/64 until that architecture has been stretched to its absolute limit and cannot be improved upon any further by anyone.

The thing is that the ARM core, at only 48,000-ish (ignoring the caches, etc) transistors isn't actually very performant. It's simply a very efficient way of marshalling the operation of a bunch of specialised coprocessors (targeted at media coding / decoding, GPU, network I/O, etc) that do the actual heavy compute whilst the core still has enough general purpose compute to make an OS run well. I don't for one moment imagine that Fujitsu are contemplating using ARM cores for the actual compute effort, they'll be slapping some monster maths core down on the same piece of silicon.

BTW MS are in better shape to adapt than a lot of people give them credit for. They, just like Linux, can shift the entire Windows stack from Intel to, say, ARM; Windows has a hardware abstraction layer and can relatively easily be ported. That have in the past shown off Windows 7 running Office on and ARM board, which involved little more than a fresh HAL followed by recompiling everything.

Personally I think that their mobile ambitions were an unnecessary (and as it turns out unsuccessful) distraction from what should be their real task - building up an Windows/ARM server/desktop stack. The biggest barrier to that is the fragmented nature of the ARM market, making it hard to push out universal binaries. MS have previously been involved in defining hardware architectures (anyone remember PC'97, PC2000, etc?). With MS themselves having an ARM Foundry license they could have done the same thing in the ARM server world, removed the fragmentation and made themselves immune to the changes going on in the hardware world.

Had they done that it would have done us all a favour. Even Linux would have benefited from this - ARM fragmentation has made it hard for the Linux guys to support all ARMs too.

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Dad of student slain in Paris terror massacre sues Google, Twitter, Facebook for their 'material support' of ISIS

bazza
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Re: What a wanker

You're calling the recently bereaved father of a daughter most horribly murdered a wanker? You should go and look in the mirror and be ashamed at what you see.

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Non-US encryption is 'theoretical,' claims CIA chief in backdoor debate

bazza
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Re: Their Own President Doesn't Use US Encryption!

Sadly if seems he's now on a Samsung...

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Safari 10 dumps Flash, Java, Silverlight, QuickTime in the trash

bazza
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Satirical Observation

Web standards are terrific. Look at how un-fragmented they are, a boon to all mankind!

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Microsoft releases open source bug-bomb in the rambling house of C

bazza
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Re: ASN.1 and PADS

(I wonder how many of the security holes found in SSH over the years could actually have been found by an automated tool if you could have described the protocol to it.)

Well I guess in the perfect world, all holes would be found by such a tool :)

One barrier to improving the current situation is that there's loads of competing standards (gpb, thrift, asn1, xml, etc etc etc etc), all with their own qualities and purpose. None of them fit all needs.

It would be kinda nice if someone did one properly! In principle I like ASN.1 because at least it does do bounds and value checking, which is more than most of the others.

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bazza
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Re: ASN.1 and PADS

I don't really see a big difference between a bunch of automatically generated code shovelling bits and bytes around and a bunch of hand written code doing the same thing as prescribed by some RFCs.

I would contend that a "hand written" protocol may be fast but only because of it not doing value and bounds checking.

Having used a good commercial ASN.1 implementation with good support and looked at its generated parser code it can be pretty lean, especially considering that it also deals with all the problems of streaming connections too.

The operative word there is 'commercial'. People generally don't want to pay for good tools, and when they use an incomplete or buggy toolset (perhaps and open source one) ASN.1 in general gets a bad name.

I don't know about PADS - I keep meaning to try it - but it's probably worth a go.

I don't sell ASN.1 tools either!

Google Protocol Buffer

To be honest, if Google added streaming support and bounds / value checking to protocol buffers, that'd be a good candidate for wiping out ASN.1 completely. Every time Google update GPB it looks more and more like ASN.1...

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bazza
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ASN.1 and PADS

For network services written in C there's always been the risk of a buffer overrun and other problems when reading protocol data from a network connection. It's entirely avoidable, but avoiding it requires people to thoroughly review their work, etc. For various reasons that is never as exhaustive as it should be.

However there's things out there that, if used, help, I'm thinking of ASN.1, a serialisation standard that does bounds and value checking for you, in ordinary C (or whatever language you choose actually).

Its brilliant, with one caveat - when the tools are implemented properly...

Using that to define and implement a public interface is far better than how most network service protocols are specified. ASN.1 as a protocol specification and implementation tool makes the RFCs behind a lot of the Internet's protocols look like the work of school children.

It's madness to define a binary protocol in English (which is what most RFCs do) and expect implementers to read it and get it right in their coding. It takes a long time and is inevitably error prone.

But it's too late, the protocols exist and cannot be changed.

PADS

But there is one option. It's the PADS project, at http://www.padsproj.org. This allows you to specify any arbitrary binary data stream in a schema (just like ASN.1 does) and automatically generated C code to interpret and generate it (again, just like ASN.1).

Automatic generation = less review effort required. That's the benefit.

Thus you could specify, for example, the SSH protocol as a PADS schema and then automatically generate the protocol driver for SSH.

PADS would probably need a bunch of work done on it to make this complete (like adding streaming support and bounds and value checking if it hasn't already got it). But if done we could then ditch a lot of RFCs and replace them with formal schemas instead.

I'm not connected to the project, it just looks neat and would allow for protocol formalities to be automatic, not hand implemented

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Linux devs open up universal Ubuntu Snap packages to other distros

bazza
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Re: Interesting?

Surely you can't have missed the news about MS implementing a Linux system call subsystem for Windows 10 and bolting Ubuntu bash and apt on top?

Still work in progress, but looking pretty good...

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Google doesn’t care who makes Android phones. Or who it pisses off

bazza
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Re: Linux for Phones

@OldCoder, I'm talking about the PC design guides, which are more recent than the BIOS wars. See Wikipedia.

As far as I know every PC nowadays is basically a PC2001 on steroids...

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bazza
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Linux for Phones

To get the proper Linux for phones the hardware architecture and bootloader needs to be open.

This is what we have on PCs. Like them or loathe them, MS set a very useful PC hardware and architecture standard. Conform to that standard and you got a sticker for your PC saying that it'd run Windows. Linux benefits (even now with the optional Secure Boot) because there is a stable common hardware spec (albeit one with a wide range of possible peripherals and devices), so it's easier to make a One-Linux-Fits-All distribution.

MS tried the same thing with phones. Conform to their hardware standard, Windows Mobile will run. AFAIK it's not an open standard like a PC, so it's not reusable in the same way the PC standard is.

I think the best thing MS could do is to open up their phone standard. Dunno if it'll help, but they've nothing to lose by doing so. Google are heading towards a proprietary hardware standard, MS's open on might be more appealing for manufacturers.

That'll put the focus on Google's proprietary services being anticompetitive...

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Bin Apple's $500m patent judgment, US DoJ tells Supreme Court

bazza
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Re: Wow

Well, with most of Apple's money being held abroad, most of their manufacturing being done in China, most of their customers being non-US, and not really paying much tax in the US, just how 'American' is Apple anyway?

If an 'American' company wants the full protection given by Uncle Sam that comes with being head-quartered there, then playing nicely (pay tax, create jobs, be a decent corporate citizen) would make it easy. But if you go to excessive lengths to not pay tax and make it generally harder for law enforcement then you're clearly of less economic value and it's unsurprising that Uncle Sam may have less enthusiasm for your corporate well-being.

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Why does an Android keyboard need to see your camera and log files – and why does it phone home to China?

bazza
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Re: F-Droid only if you can

@King Jack,

@ bazza Please can we stop using that stupid argument

Ooo, touchy! Been stung by some Android malware recently?

As you blatantly ignored my innocent call for debate on my question, I'll kick it off.

So what's worse? An app whose permissions are blatantly and clearly more acquisitive than necessary?

Or Google's lengthy EULA which grants them far more rights, yet goes unread by and largely unexplained to end users?

Google are fundamentally no more or less trustworthy than any other US company. Arguably they're less trustworthy than a European company who operate in a much stronger data protection legal environment. Google operate in a data protection legal vacuum by comparison.

But they're just another company, and one who are on a mission to get more of your private data so as to screw more advertising revenue from that market. So far they have managed to be far more successful at it than most others so far.

Granting them special access to ones private data is fine if that's what one wants. But having done that it's inconsistent to then whinge about an app that quite openly and clearly (by means of its permissions) tries to do the same thing but on a more limited basis. Especially as it can be avoided entirely, simply by not installing it.

Sure, an app such as this keyboard seems particularly slimy (but then so is Google's EULA), and it is kinda crazy to install it. But millions of installers seem not too worried about the permissions that were put before their very eyes.

Difficult Challenge For Google

It might be that this kind of thing gets installed because people don't care, which in turn may be because they don't put anything they really care about on their phones.

Yet Google wants them to trust their entire lives to their mobile (so they can extract advertising cues from it). However if people are deliberately withholding data from them that's going to limit how much Google can grow their business.

And then there'll always be those people who find the whole Google-sees-everything nature of Android utterly repulsive. And given Apple's success, you have to conclude that there's a monied majority (majority as in Apple have made more money than Google) who'd rather not join Google's club. And then you get the BB10 users such as myself...

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bazza
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Re: F-Droid only if you can

Just for sake of debate, is this actually any worse than what Google themselves snaffle? Probably not.

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Microsoft has created its own FreeBSD image. Repeat. Microsoft has created its own FreeBSD image

bazza
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Re: Not sure if I should be happy

I'm fairly sure we can rely on the FreeBSD community to vet MS's contributions. And it sounds like MS are playing nicely anyway (for now at any rate). Amazing!

I wonder if any of that will filter through to OS X?

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Get ready for Google's proprietary Android. It's coming – analyst

bazza
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Re: They already have

They may continue to use AOSP, but it would take a phenomenal investment by someone to keep it anything like up to date. If Google remove themselves from the community there'd be an almighty development vacuum to be filled.

And I can't see the like of Samsung, etc stumping up the man hours. They don't have swathes of highly talented OS developers sitting around just in case. It's a vacuum that might not get filled.

Curve Ball

If a bunch of manufactures suddenly find themselves needing an OS, they could do worse than BB10. There's some good aspects:

1) it'll play with cars nicely. QNX is beginning to rule that market, and there'd be a lot in common between a BB10 phone and a QNX car

2) technically, under the hood, BB10 is very good

3) BlackBerry are almost certainly willing to license on favourable terms, and indeed are very purchasable.

4) whilst it isn't quite so flush with services as Google, there's a lot already there

5) it's Android runtime provides an app bridge

6) it doesn't data slurp

If all the likes of Samsung, HTC, Sony, Huawei, etc all decided to standardise on BB10, that'd save BlackBerry and there'd be an instant market for apps. That would make it viable for developers to write for it.

Though what I suspect will happen is that Samsung will try to do their own thing, fail, whilst everyone else whither and dies rather quicker.

Like him or loathe him, Jobs was right about one thing; software matters. The android crowd may find themselves with any software pretty quickly unless they take matters into their own hands.

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Digital ad biz is fraudulent by design, complain big brands

bazza
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An additional shabby side of the business is the publishers, and their ability to artificially expand the advertising market.

Ever Growing Vista

Physical advertising space (bill boards, magazines, etc) is limited. There's only so many places to print an advert.

These days, all Google (or whoever) have to do is invent some other "feature" for their websites, and it simply becomes another place in which advertisers have to place adverts for fear of "not being seen". Of course, getting your business advertised on a map, in search results, etc. all costs money, and a new digital advertising vista requires extra money.

And who pays for advertising? The consumer always pays for it. An advertiser's budget is drawn from the company revenues, which come from the goods sold in the shops/online/etc, bought by you an me.

How Much Does It Cost Me?

The UK digital advertising market is about £8billion a year. It's easy to calculate what share of that you're paying every year, regardless of what tech you own, use or see. Let me see, £8 billion, approx 40 million workers in the UK, = £200 per year.

Overall advertising has gone up £5billion in the last 10 years, and is about £425 per year for every worker.

Is it Really Worth it?

Given that the sole aim of a company like Google is to increase that number even more, how long before people start noticing? You spend a few hundred quid on a phone, and it then costs you (indirectly) another £200 a year. So if Google managed to increase that to £500/year, or £1000/year, would that be OK?

Is all this tech worth one, two month's mortgage payments? How long before digital advertising accounts for a significant proportion of a family's annual budget?

We're all spending a lot on adverts that we generally don't want to see, annoys us a lot when we see them, and costs us whether or not we use anything funded through ads.

Market Intervention

With a lot of that advertising revenue flowing out of the country to the US (well, Ireland where it's resting in an account, name of Criley), is there any macro-economic benefit from advertising at all? I don't know. But if a government decides that it's an economic menace they will have to step in and change the rules of the game. Unless the mobile network operators and ISP get really good at ad-blocking first.

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Model's horrific rape case may limit crucial online free speech law

bazza
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This could be an interesting problem for companies like Uber and AirBNB. They both rely on having only the vaguest of information concerning their drivers, passengers, landlords and guests to be profitable.

If this case wins (and it should), Uber and AirBNB are not going to be able to fend off claims from robbed passengers, owners of trashed homes and attacked paying guests.

Currently they rely heavily on being able to say that they'd been deceived by someone giving a fake ID or misrepresenting themselves. Well that wouldn't work anymore. They'd need to have a better idea of who their users really are.

In fact, just like a taxi driver and hotel proprietor have to prove their identity to the local licensing authority. Just like the local authority would do a basic background check, would inspect the premises, vehicle, etc. Saying that they cannot be expected to do that from their far-off distant office is no excuse.

That sounds a lot more expensive.

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You've got a patch, you've got a patch ... almost every Android device has a patch

bazza
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Re: Where are those monthly updates?

I'd read somewhere that BlackBerry were keeping up - ish - with the updates on the Priv.

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Belgian brewery lays 3.2km beer pipeline

bazza
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Re: Have the Simpsons done that?

The Brewery Tap pub in Abingdon, UK was reputed to have a direct connection to the (now sadly closed) Morlands Brewery right next door.

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bazza
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It makes for the strangest of pipes. You put 10,000 litres in, and only 1,000 come out the other end...

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Cavium arms ARM bodies for fresh data centre compute charge

bazza
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Re: I want a big ass desktop chip

There's a massive difference between this and, say, a big Xeon.

The Xeon is all about compute grunt, and has accelerators for crypto, math, etc. They are monster chips by any definition of the phrase.

This ARM is mostly about I/O, aimed entirely at server applications that are all about taking data from storage and shoving it down an Ethernet connection (possibly applying SSL on the way).

As always one picks the best chip for one's application. As a desktop chip this ARM might be relatively disappointing if one is heavily into, say, games.

Microsoft need to sharpen up here. They need Windows Server to be running on this sort of processor sooner rather than later. They had an opportunity 8 years ago to take the lead on ARM servers, but flunked it by messing around with mobile instead. For outfits that decide they want to use this processor, MS have nothing. So they won't become MS customers.

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Easy remote exploit drops for unpatchable power plant controller

bazza
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Re: Sigh, When Will They Learn

So speaks the true software engineer. :)

So speaks a hardware/software/system/RF engineer...

The fact is that hardly any software companies try to be effective in the sense of producing robust and secure products, let alone achieving that at launch - the ability to patch defects cheaply has led to a culture of testing features, chucking it out of the door, and fixing defects later, options not really available if you make cars or rockets.

Well it's about the only way we have to countering vulnerabilities undetected at launch, and no one has ever done a totally correct software system with a version number 1.0.

As for cars rockets, etc. hell yeah they do/did put out cars with faults, and how many rockets have SpaceX and everyone else blown up before they managed to get one to fly? Airliners are pretty good these days, but they're never accepted as "perfect" fresh out of the factory door (787, A380, etc).

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bazza
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Sigh, When Will They Learn

As soon as a manufacturer gives something an IP address, they effectively have to cease being a hardware manufacturer and become a fully formed, active and pin-sharp software company that just happens to make stuff.

Or else things like this happen.

Of course making that transition is expensive, which is why many don't, and which is why software companies might end up ruling the world. It's probably easier to learn how to make a car, rocket, heating system, etc. than to learn how to be effective an effective software company.

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Surface Book nightmare: Microsoft won't fix 'Sleep of Death' bug

bazza
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Re: since 2005...

Apple have awesome Bluetooth support? You must be joking! They support only a small subset of Bluetooth profiles, and whilst they may have done a good job with those you can forget about the others.

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The Schmidt's hit by the fan: Alphabet investor sues Google bigwigs over EU antitrust ruckus

bazza
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Re: That's silly

Re advertising market: UK online advertising is £7 billion per year, Google getting a big 50% slice of that. Approx 30 million wage earners, it's about £120 per wage earner per year. It comes out of their pockets because the things wage earners buy are advertised, which is paid for from the price paid in the shops.

Fundamental rule of advertising: the consumer pays for it one way or other, even if they never saw the ad. Ad funded is not the same as free.

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bazza
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Re: That's silly

This suit is certainly related to the anti trust investigation in the European Commission.

However it might well become the first of several such suits should the French criminal investigation stick and result in hefty fines. That's why the 7 billion may grow. Criminal fines could be substantially larger, and Google shareholders correspondingly more likely to launch additional suits to this one. As Uber found out the French aren't very tolerant of big companies play fast and loose with too-sharp business practices.

Of course nothing substantive has happened at all as yet, but for a company like Google to be the focus of so much legal investigation doesn't exactly instill confidence in their strategy.

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bazza
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Re: That's silly

Hmm, presumably down voters don't mind paying extra on their taxes because too many companies are successfully not paying tax anywhere. And presumably they don't mind paying extra for the goods and services they buy simply because Google are a monopoly big enough to skew the advertising market.

Google take about £150 each year out of the pockets of every wage earner in the UK through their take of the advertising market. Ad funded doesn't come cheap.

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bazza
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Re: That's silly

No it's not silly. It's $7billion, which is way too much to lose no matter how many other billions in profit there are. Losses are considered on an absolute scale, not a relative scale. And to shareholders, who are generally pension schemes one way or other (including yours), $7billion is a lot.

And this might be just the beginning. As well as the antitrust investigation in the commission, the French police have raided their Paris office and there is a live investigation into tax evasion and money laundering going on. If that sticks then it's criminal offences and correspondingly higher fines.

So that 7 billion has the potential to grow a lot. And that's before every other country in Europe with a Google office rushes to prosecute too to get their fines paid before somewhere else fines Google into oblivion first. In Europe the findings of the French legal system sets a precedent across the whole of Europe, not just France.

Google argue that they do what they do to fulfil their prime directive, to maximise shareholder value. But there's no point doing that to excess in the short term at the expense of long term shareholder value. Google's board look like they will be asked to explain exactly how honestly they considered the question "is this a good idea". If they find themselves in court answering that question then they personally will need to have an answer better than "everyone else does it".

Speaking of everyone else, it'll be interesting to see what Apple, Amazon, Starbucks, etc. all do if Google are successfully prosecuted by the French. They've got similar (though more discrete, non-customer facing) arrangements which might suddenly start looking like a huge liability...

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German boffins smash records with 37km wireless spurt at 6Gbps

bazza
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It's not required. At 70GHz with parabolic antennas about 30cm across (as seems to be the case) their beams will be extremely narrow, provided the antenna shape is accurate. It looks like they've machined them from solid billet, so I expect they're "perfect". Practically all of that 1W will be heading towards the receive antenna, provided both are pointed exactly at each other.

Your "crummy" (pardon the phrase) Nighthawk has got three rubbish whip antennas, and can do about as much beam forming as I can when I fart; it mostly goes absolutely everywhere.

So your nearly-omnidirectional 1W dissipates to undetectability over a much shorter range than their highly focused 1W.

The WiFi distance records are all set using parabolic antennas. In fact you can buy specialised WiFi antenna for creating longer outdoor links that have much better directionality than your average router, such as this.

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bazza
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Re: 24Mbit/s to 250 separate internet connections

@goldcd,

"Yes, but you are ignoring contention here.

It's a pisser when you hit it, but broadly we aren't needing to all use our max capacity at once.

Plus, when you can throw up a 6Gbps connection in the air, you don't have to think any more about "*a* link to my village"."

Indeed, 6Gbps is 6Gbps. Never look a bandwidth gift-horse in the mouth!

"IMHO meshing and caching are going to be the next leap - we're all consuming huge amounts of data, but once you've cached the top 1000 items on youtube, top 500 on netflix and all the rest.."

Mesh is really, really hard. It's OK in static deployments where a network can learn the disposition of its nodes and adapt accordingly, possibly aided by adding extra nodes here and there where the mesh is thin. But its difficult to get serious bandwidth out of it. Mesh-on-the-move has always been nigh on impossible for all but trivial bandwidths.

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Apple hires crypto-wizard Jon Callas to beef up security

bazza
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Re: Employee Canary?

>quattroprorocked

Just noticed your username. Quattro Pro was fabulous!

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Airbus to build plane that's even uglier than the A380

bazza
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Re: A340?

Perhaps they simply don't need all that weight lifting capacity.

The A340 was simply an A330 with two extra engines and a longer fuselage. The A330 originally had exactly the same wing as the A340 (maybe still does), complete with hard points for the pylons for the A340's extra engines.

This proved very useful when it came to turning the A330 into an in flight refuelling tanker for air forces. There was already somewhere to bolt the in-flight refuelling hose reels (for the non-boom variant). That made the conversion incredibly cheap and low risk.

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bazza
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Re: A380 ugly?

@Lars,

"Is the noise not more about the number of engines, type and generation than the plane."

I'll try and beat Simon to it!

On take off noise is all about engines.

On landing it's also significantly about the sound the air makes through the speed brakes, flaps, etc. as the aircraft tries to slow down. It'd still be bloody noisy even if the engines were off.

A lot of work has gone into quietening down airframes in landing configuration (flaps down, slats out, gear out) to help this, as well as making quiet engines.

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bazza
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Re: The A380 isn't ugly

@TeeCee,

"Just as spectacular from the inside as well. I was upper deck, over the wing when I got on in Dubai and I recall looking out across an aluminium peninsular and thinking: "Bloody hell! Is that really one of our engines all the way over there?"."

In a way this is going to guarantee that the A380 will be a long term commercial success for Airbus. Airlines such as Emirates are operating them, making good money, and have built up a very loyal customer base on the back of the A380's pleasantness (and probably the A350 will too, which is reportedly just as quiet).

My reasoning is this. If you're Emirates, and you've worked out that a lot of your profit is coming from A380 operations, and your current fleet is getting too old, what you going to do? Boeing have nothing anywhere near big enough to replace it, and laying on extra flights of smaller aircraft is not going to be as cost effective (landing costs, staff costs, maintenance costs, etc). So it'd be another A380.

We'll know for sure if Airbus ever say that the production line is closing; that might spur a lot of last minute orders all of a sudden as airlines evaluate what the replacement for their A380s might otherwise be.

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bazza
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Re: Ugly, beautyful or purposeful.

"FFS, best looking plane ever is clearly the DH Mosquito. Are you all blind?"

Yes, thank you, that. Definitely the DH Mosquito.

Closely followed by Concorde, Spitfire, A12/SR71, EE Lightning. And inexplicably the Sunderland Flying Boat does things for me too.

Though nothing shows true mastery of air quite so explicitly as an F117. Making something that clearly shouldn't fly fly was really impressive, especially for the comparatively tiny amount of money they spent doing it.

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Inside Electric Mountain: Britain's biggest rechargeable battery

bazza
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Worrying signs

I went here many, many years ago, a very good tour, but at the time none of the turbines were running.

I went a couple of years ago, same very good tour, but now one of the turbines was actually running before our very eyes.

Curious, I asked why. It wasn't FA cup half time or anything, so why was it running?

The answer was quite worrying. We're so short of generating capacity that the grid will even buy Electric Mountain's very expensive electricity on a regular basis during normal daylight hours to add a little more to the grid. Of course they can't run all the turbines continuously (hence just one running), and the water still has to be pumped back up again at night.

But no longer is the place purely a way of meeting peek demand. It's meeting normal demand conditions too.

We're paying a huge price in this country (bills, economic output) in chasing such a large proportion of renewables. No one wants to build and run a trusty coal / gas / oil plant because it's hard to make money out of it given that the renewables get their electricity bought first (or worse, paid to not operate at all). No one is paying the coal / gas / oil guys enough money to be there for us on standby for that cold, damp, cloudy and windless day in the middle of winter.

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ZFS comes to Debian, thanks to licensing workaround

bazza
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Re: That's Why...

@Alan Brown,

"If you actually read the CDDL you can see how it was explicitly written to conflict with GPL.

Sun could have released it under BSD or GPL and chose not to, for political reasons."

Wrong way round. GPL was deliberately written to be incompatible with every other license.

Whatever reason Sun had in creating CDDL it was their choice, not yours, not mine, not anyone else's. They deliberately did not stop ZFS being combined with other works; it exists today quite happily embedded in FreeBSD.

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bazza
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@ Alan Brown,

"The problem with BSD style licensing is that people can (and do) take your BSD code, roll it into their proprietary system and if they fork anything it doesn't get contributed back to the pool, plus "open source" code under BSD licenses frequently gets buried under the hood of expensive proprietary systems without the sources being acknowledged."

That's not a problem. It's just your own misguided opinion. The people whose opinion does matter, in this case the people who have written code and licensed it using the BSD license, have decided they have no problem with other people doing as you describe. Everyone can go get the original source and do what they like with it within the terms of the license. You're entitled to do the same thing yourself.

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First successful Hyperloop test module hits 100mph in four seconds

bazza
Silver badge

Re: Snake Oil

@Greg D,

"They are all valid points, but dont you think a little negative in light of potential benefits? Not an attitude I quite agree with, basically saying don't build it, you'll fuck everything up that we already have and some already rich people will be less rich."

What positive benefits? 600 people an hour per tube at the very best (and even that is in doubt)? It's not significantly better than laying on 3 extra 737s between SF and LA, and they'd be massively cheaper. It's not better than laying on corporate jets for paying passengers, and they'd still be cheaper...

Th only thing it has going for it is that it'd be a wild ride and techno-geeky cool. But that's not a transport solution, that simply limits the customer base to people who like roller coasters served with their morning commuting latte.

As for it being a cock up, how many taxpayers would welcome their tax dollars being lost on such an obviously fanciful scheme. One also has to hope that pension funds aren't investing in it...

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bazza
Silver badge

Re: Freight is toughter than you think

Actually, a shipping container sized pod makes sense. Slot a container, into it and off you go. That container could be full of freight, or fitted with seats. Then the passenger loading (and all the associated people problems) is decoupled from the train.

It's unconvincing. You still have to get the containers ready and load them. You'd simply be pushing the problem back a bit.

As for freight, it's a joke. To move a container that way you'd be putting it on a truck, driving it to the loop station in the centre of SF and then you'd be waiting for a free slot. Either you pay a lot of money to get an early slot, or you wait a long time.

One wonders just how far down the road to LA the truck would now otherwise be, or how much cheaper air freight would have been.

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bazza
Silver badge

Re: Los Angeles to San Francisco route comes in at $6bn

@jphn37,

"There may be problems. That's what the startup are for: to iron out the problems with the tech. But what's with the massive negativity?"

The negativity comes from the fact that even a cursory examination of the engineering barriers to achieving an economically viable and beneficial high throughput passenger service leads one to realise it's a dead-duck of an idea.

Sure, something could be built, but as currently envisaged it won't carry many passengers, so it won't deliver a useful service, and therefore it won't pay. Imagine:

1: "Lets go to LA!"

2: "Sure! Plane, car, train or 'loop?"

1: "Not the 'loop, the queues are awful and you can never get on it"

2: "Well I don't wanna drive, and we haven't got air tickets booked"

1: "Let take the train then, it's only a couple of hours".

or

1: "Lets go to LA!"

2: "Sure! Plane, car, train or 'loop?"

1: "Not the 'loop, I know it's fast and there's no queues these days, but it's soooo expensive"

2: "Well I don't wanna drive, and we haven't got air tickets booked"

1: "Let take the train then, its only a couple of hours".

Result: no one ever goes by 'loop.

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bazza
Silver badge

Re: Snake Oil

@Suricou Raven,

"Half of the southeast UK is becoming a dormitory for London - the city provides a huge number of jobs, but very few people can actually afford to live there."

Yep, it's crazy. That'll happen anyway to some extent whether or not train lines get built. No population / government / state / civilisation anywhere in history has ever solved this problem. I fear that's just how we (i.e. this species) are built.

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bazza
Silver badge

@TheOtherHobbes,

"Apparently HS2 needs at least £20bn to run a fairly conventional choo choo train all the way from London to Birmingham - which is about a quarter of the distance of LA to SF."

Land isn't cheap in the UK, and the ground is not very suitable (too soft) for building a high speed railway so we may have to lay down concrete foundations for big chunks of it.

But it's still probably worth it. The land in Japan isn't very good either (mountains, mud planes, requiring a lot of tunnels and a lot of elevated concrete track), but it didn't stop them and the resulting benefit to Japan is incalculable.

One big difference in Japan; the rest of their transport network is up to the job of feeding passengers to the Shinkansen lines, airports, etc. The density of metropolitan railways in Japan is unbelievable, meaning hardly anyone needs to drive anywhere at all (at least not in the major towns). Even their buses are really good.

In contrast in the UK the buses are poor and it's only really London that has an widespread metropolitan railway network. The result is a lot of us will have to drive to the high speed train stations. No one wants to spend and hour or two on buses to get a 45 minute train to London. If we have to jump in our car to make the journey time sensible, why not just drive the whole way?

So I think that whilst HS2 is a good idea, there's a hell of a lot of work to do beyond that.

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bazza
Silver badge

Hyperloop will do us no favours!

@corestore,

"$6bn and that needs government money to fund it?

The biggest technology project of the 1960s was Project Apollo."

The feats of the 1960s were truly amazing and, I think, surprisingly cheap. Considering what they set out to do Apollo came in amazingly cheap I thought, and had incalculable knock on benefits.

I also like the story behind Lockheed's Skunk Works. The F117 was a truly revolutionary aircraft (not just for its stealthiness), yet they got 2 flying prototypes working for only Only Only ONLY $30million (1970's millions), and the cost:benefit ratio for the production version was very good indeed. Even the A12/SR71 was astonishingly cheap for what it did.

It goes to show what you can achieve with government funding and a band of trusted engineers.

Hyperloop Will Do Us No Favours

One of the truly awful things about Hyperloop is that it will do the community of engineers no good whatsoever. There's a bunch of loon engineers pushing a "cool idea" that will inevitably fall flat on its face and will cost investors all their money and deliver nothing. That puts the whole engineering community in a poor light. It makes it harder for us sensible engineers to be believed by investors, etc.

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bazza
Silver badge

Re: Snake Oil

Another aspect is stations.

If you have a public transportation system that purports to bring economic benefit to towns and cities that it connects, it inevitably brings economic disadvantage to the places it bypasses.

Governments don't like that. It causes them a lot of subsidiary problems.

Trains and motorways and airlines are good because they can easily be made to bring benefit to all. You build a station, or an exit or an airport, none of which costs much and don't negatively impact the ability to operate an express train, drive straight past or run a direct flight. Build a high speed train line between LA and SF, and everywhere in between where there's a station also benefits.

In fact train companies often make more money by buying up unused land next to a small town, building a train line and station to it, and then sell the land off for housing. The train company wins - they make a profit. The town wins - people now want to come and live there. The people moving there win - they've got somewhere to live at an affordable price that's within easy commuting of their place of work in the smokey city.

[This can go a bit too far. In Japan, Nagoya and, to some extent, Kyoto and Osaka are becoming dormitory towns for Tokyo. Business is moving towards Tokyo, people are moving out. They're currently building a bonkers maglev between Tokyo and Nagoya, and eventually Osaka (Kyoto aren't happy at being missed out), which will exacerbate the change. Bonkers, because it's 70% tunnels and it will bankrupt the train companies leaving the tax payer to bail out the scheme.]

In comparison Hyperloop only works at all if it bypasses everywhere in between LA and SF (it's not exactly station friendly). At best it's only ever going be the plaything cool ride for fools easily parted from lots of cash who happen to live in SF or LA. It's never going to be a mass transportation system. So why would the government be motivated to put a single penny into it?

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bazza
Silver badge

Snake Oil

"Hyperloop may appear bonkers but Musk has a history of Getting Shit Done, and I'd be inclined to throw some R&D money in his direction, just in case."

Musk does not yet have a reputation for getting stuff done. He has a reputation for starting off a lot of stuff that might yet be really good, but it's still too early to tell if it's a commercial success. Both Tesla and SpaceX are losing a ton of cash at the moment (it's early days), and it's by no means clear yet that they can successfully turn a profit. Musk's Gigafactory for instance is extremely vulnerable to be rendered obsolete should someone else invent a battery more practicable than today's lithium-ions.

Hyperloop Passenger Throughput

Hyperloop is completely unrealistic. To be commercially successful public transportation needs high throughput. It doesn't matter how fast it is, if it can carry only a few hundred people an hour it's not going to pay for itself.

Last I heard Hyperloop would carry maybe 20 people per pod. With pods travelling individually (they can't have a set of them joined together like a train), you'd be leaving a gap of at least, say, 2 minutes between pods for safety, so that's 600 people an hour.

That's truly pitiful. A Shinkansen can carry about 1500 people, and there's one every 5 minutes between Tokyo and Osaka. That's 18,000 people an hour, 30 times more people. And they can run them more regularly than that if they have to.

Is Even that Rate Achievable?

To be honest I doubt that they could ever get Hyperloop working that regularly either. To launch it you have to get people into a pod (1 minute), strap them in (5 minutes), put the pod in an airlock (30 seconds?), pump down the airlock (5 minutes?). So that's a launch time per pod of about 12 minutes, meaning you'd need at least 6 launch stations to keep sending them once every 2 minutes. And then with the usual "hang on a mo I've got to kiss the girlfriend goodbye" type delays that schedule could be easily screwed.

If they had a bigger pod they'd simply increase the loading time (more people, more air, more room for screw ups).

And to make that schedule work at all you'd need airline style check in to make sure people are in the right place at the right time, or passengers would have to be queued up to ensure there's a ready supply of passengers to fill pods. Both are bad news for the passenger experience. What's the point of queuing for an hour in the hope of getting a pod, or checking in 1 hour beforehand for a 30 minute journey?

Trains don't have this problem. A train pulls into the station, the doors are open for 1 minute, and you're away. 1500 people have got on and are on their way. It doesn't matter that people haven't sat down yet or put their luggage away because trains don't accelerate at Hyperloop's unnecessarily high rate. If demand increases you simply run longer trains.

Emergency Braking

And getting back to that 2 minute gap; to be able to go from near Mach 1 to stationary in 2 minutes requires a deceleration of at least 0.25G, though probably more given the signalling block sizes, etc.

That's actually quite a lot; along the entire length of the tube a pod would have to be able to generate this much braking force for it to be deemed 'safe' to run a pod once every 2 minutes. Given that a pod has no wheels, or anything else like it, the only tractive force available is electromagnetic.

But the whole point of Hyperloop is that the pods in the cruise phase have very little drive (which makes it cheap), so it would also have very little braking power.

So where does that 0.25G braking come from? Does the tube also have to act as a braking surface for friction pads? Does that wear out? Can it be used again afterwards?

There's so many technical barriers to safe and regular operation I can't see it happening. Increasing the inter-pod time makes the throughput even worse. Installing the necessary braking system makes the tube much, much more expensive.

Just Build the Train

In comparison to Hyperloop, high speed rail between LA and SF works commercially. It's approx 350 miles, which is 1 hour 45 minutes in a standard bullet train without stops. In that time you'd also have WiFi, 4G, a snacks trolley, etc. so the "extra" travel time isn't a complete waste. It's a good proposition for passengers.

Putting any government money into the snake-oilesque hyperloop would be a waste and a travesty. The companies involved are putting forward the "hey isn't it cool" without doing the simple analyses that say whether it's commercially realistic.

I notice that Musk himself isn't actually devoting much of his own money to the project, in effect licensing out the concept to others to do all the hard work. If that isn't a worrying sign about its lack of commercial viability I don't know what is.

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