* Posts by bazza

1476 posts • joined 23 Apr 2008

Apple wants to buy Formula 1 car firm McLaren – report

bazza
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Re: Apple have lost their way...

A turbocharger for a ship or aircraft engine is designed to work at a single RPM, and is therefore useless on the road. It took Renault F1 to develop them into something that drove nicely without appalling lag and also worked across the rev range, no mean feat.

Slap a P38's turbo on a car and it just won't work well at all, except at a single speed. And indeed a car turbo on an aviation engine is also suboptimal (though that doesn't necessarily stop anyone doing that).

Also you're getting confused between a turbo charger and a super charger (something that Renault hasn't used anytime in the last 36 years). And to make you even more confused, the unit in a modern F1 engine is both combined.

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bazza
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Re: Apple have lost their way...

Actually, F1 has been the development ground for a lot of tech that has then flowed out to other applications. 3D printing originated in and was pioneered by F1, by Williams as far as I can recall. Williams also developed the only active suspension system that worked well, and have a cunning approach to kinetic energy recovery / reuse based on a toroidally geared flylwheel. Renault were heavily involved in taking the idea of a turbo charger (found on ships and piston engined aircraft) and altering it to be usable in automotive applications. Prior to them, a turbo was something that worked well at one engine RPM, but was pretty useless anywhere else. The current F1 engines, especially the Merc, have extremely sophisticated ways of saving energy, and if Merc in particular ever applied their long shaft turbo + electric super charger + hybrid + regen braking + intercooler-less engine architecture to road cars they'd be getting tremendous MPG and performance. The only reason they don't is because they currently don't have to to meet emissions regs, and it's expensive. McLaren, long time innovator in the use of carbon fibre in cars (race and road), have got so good at it that it's now a 4 man-hour job to make a CF chassis for one of their cars these days. It used to be 4000 hours. And they can do hollow CF in a single go, instead of having to glue it together afterwards like everyone else has to. Everyone wants to be able to do that in automotive, aerospace, and other applications where CF is a big deal. Gordon Murray, he of F1 / SLR fame, has developed a method of car manufacture that substantially reduces the cost of developing a new car model (design, passing crash test, production line tooling) without drastically increasing the manufacturing unit cost itself. Basically it involves tubular steel chassis but done properly, cleverly and quickly (not like TVR then). McLaren's Applied Technology division has worked with Glaxo, who now (for the same cost and plant) produce 6.7million extra tubes of toothpaste per year, and an extra £100million in value inside a single year.

F1 has long been a hotbed of engineering daring do, and there's a large number of very talented people involved in it (approx 100,000 in the UK). If you want a ready made team of ruthless, fast, clever engineers full of ideas that no one else has though of, a mature F1 team isn't a bad place to look.

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bazza
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Re: Only problem....

...and is able to blame losing races on "was holding the steering wheel wrong".

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bazza
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Re: Talk about the right company

Never mind which bit of the company they're talking about, Apple would be missing the whole point as to why the name is McLaren.

McLaren is named after Bruce Mclaren, and the current owners and top bods kept the name and continue to be involved in the group / team largely as an on-going homage to Bruce and their fondness for their friendship with him back in the day, before he was killed in a fatal crash in Goodwood.

The loss of a friend can set fixed limits on what people will contemplate. It's probable that Ron Dennis et al would see selling control of McLaren to someone like Apple as selling Bruce McLaren's soul to the devil with the highest bid. Now old Ron is certainly capable of ruthlessness, but I doubt he or the others would stoop to that.

Having said all that, McLaren have an engineering consultancy business, they've done some clever things, and it might be that that's what Apple are after. It's not associated particularly with the cars or the race team.

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bazza
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Re: That'll be MacLaren soon then...

Oh I dunno, it's never too early to get babes and infants hooked on iThings. Why not build them into the pushchair?

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bazza
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Re: Damn

"Vauxhall made good cars? When?"

Well, it's a bit of an import from Oz, but the Monaro was excellent for the purpose intended; lots of power, simplicity, very well priced. Considering what they set out to achieve, it was definitely "good".

Even the Astra got tonnes better, with Jeremy Clarkson having to honour a pledge to eat his own hair (a hair omelette, prepared and consumed on the spot on Top Gear) after Vauxhall followed up a car show concept with actual production.

The Insignia also failed to elicit a constant stream of loathing from the loud mouthed one.

So, good? That's subjective. But compared to where Vauxhall were in the 1990s to where their cars are now, they're definitely a contender in a lot of people's shopping lists. From a manufacturer's point of view, that makes them good.

Traditionally the problem lay with Opel, not Vauxhall. Vauxhall knew that given a decent chassis and a range of pokey engines they could shift warmed up hatchbacks easily and profitably. Opel got stuck in a mode of boring German stodgey conservativeness, leaving Vauxhall to try and sell cars that had all the appeal and handling of a day old soggy Weetabix. But that was a while ago now.

It's like in Germany there were two sorts of automotive engineer. The ones who believed in excitement, performance, power, etc. went to work for VW, Merc, Porsche, BMW, and Gumpert. The rest went to work for Opel...

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India court could stop Facebook’s WhatsApp mega-slurp

bazza
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Hmmm

So what we want is some sorta entrepreneur who is willing to splash a load of cash to set up a service a bit like WhatsApp used to be, run it, maybe charge a nominal fee, and then resist all temptation to sell out to some bunch like Facebook for $billions.

Anyone know anyone like that? Sort of a tricky thing to find, an utterly incorruptible well monied entrepreneur.

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Is Tesla telling us the truth over autopilot spat?

bazza
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Re: Autonomous Cars

One other thing. The engineer who tells his company that something wildly ambitious cannot be achieved is worth a lot of money. They may very well be saving them from spending a fortune for no net gain. Certainly their point of view should be represented to the shareholders before the board decides to overrule them.

I suppose companies like Google and Apple, and maybe Tesla and Uber, have got money to burn on experiments such as self driving cars, but it's still their investors money, not their own personal funding to do with as they wish.

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bazza
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Re: Autonomous Cars

@JeffyPoooh,

"I'm not sure that quite captures the gulf between today's pathetic attempts and what the actual solution will look like so many years from now.

What you've written is like stating that fusion power is still just a bit immature. Or flying cars aren't quite ready for prime time. Or peace in the Middle East isn't expected in the coming months."

Quite. And it's a gulf the size of which the stats published by California unequivocally illustrated, to Google's apparent irritation.

You have to feel for the dev team, to have the true scale of their task writ large for them to fully comprehend. Yet it was always a challenge the scale of which was easy to comprehend with scholarly study of things like airliner automation, automated train systems, the first Ariane 5, etc. All these things point to it being a really tough challenge, and only one of them is actually fully automated and carries people (and operates in an artificially simplified environment; a railway). Given that there hasn't been a fundamental break through in machine comprehension (the sort that is demonstrably infallible, not just slightly better than the last one in lab demos), any old fool could conclude that a fully dependable self driving car isn't a viable option at this time.

You'd have to be really young and cocky to think that you could do better than all those predecessors. Well, Google are a young cocky company with, apparently, a lot of young cocky engineers. If they want to learn the lessons of life the hard and expensive way, so be it, that's up to them and their investors (a fool and his money will soon be parted. Anyone got shares in Tesla, Uber, etc?). So long as they don't manage to con everyone else into believing it works and get such things mandated by law...

The rest of us who have been there before will puff contentedly on our pipes whilst sitting in our most comfortable armchair and tells tales of yore...

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bazza
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@Big D

"The ADAC (German motoring organisation similar to the AA in the UK or AAA in the USA) did a test last month of the assisted braking systems in BMW, Mercedes, Volvo, Kia, Subaru, VW/Audi and a couple of others."

Thatcham here in the UK put out a press release a few years back about their plans for how they'd test these sorts of systems. It was quite interesting.

I took a glance at it, one thing that stood out was that all their tests focused on determining that a car does actually stop when it should do in a variety of scenarios.

They were quite proud of their tests, but there was a glaring omission. How about proving that the car doesn't stop when it shouldn't?!

That's just as important. For example, you really, really, don't want your car getting spooked by flying leaves, rubbish, etc. when you're heading down a busy motorway. Yet none of Thatcham's tests were going to explore that important aspect of the behaviour of these systems. Nor was it clear that there'd be anyway for a driver to prove that this is what had happened, so when it does it'd be the driver that takes the blame. Great. Basically, it was a set up to ensure that the insurance industry's interests were looked after, but not the driving public's. Still, that's Thatcham's job I suppose.

I concluded that a dash cam would be an essential component of a driver's equipment to help act as independent corroboration of claims that such a car had taken inappropriate action all by itself.

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bazza
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Well put. But never mind Tesla and self driving cars in general, the OEMs have cocked it up already with simple things that have nothing to do with self driving.

The OEMs are rapidly discovering the costs of putting in even quite "simple" things like cellular modems and Internet connectivity into their cars. In the good ole' days they'd design a car, shove a bit of firmware here and there, sell it, forget about it (for the firmware will probably work trouble free for the lifetime of the car), move on to the next model design.

But now there's an Internet connection, suddenly they've become a software company with a permanently stood up dev team dealing with bug fixes, vulnerabilities, patches, updates, maintenance and compliance testing lasting years and years and years with a the burden of public expectation being far higher than that experienced by, e.g. Microsoft or Apple. The fact that they install their software in something that has an engine and four wheels is almost a passing consideration in comparison. And these devs aren't even working on new models, they're looking after the ones that already out there. Expensive!

And, as you point out, if they're ever caught out or get it wrong at any time over the next 20, 30, or 40 years then there may be hell to pay at worst, or severely pissed off customers at best. Fiat-Chrylser copped a half billion dollar fine for not addressing a trivial vulnerability in a software system that had limited real world utility for the customer/driver, and that didn't even kill anyone. Toyata, with their dodgy accelerator pedals a few years back, lost an absolute ton of market share and customer goodwill; imagine the reaction if a software fault / vulnerability was exploited to produce a similar effect.

At the Goodwood Festival of Speed once I saw a team trying to get a 10 year old F1 car running. They really struggled, and it was all software and control laptop antiquity. Ten years old, took them a few hours to work out how to get the damned thing running. What hope for Joe Public when their 10 year old Tesla/BMW/Audi doesn't work one morning?

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bazza
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Dangerous Trend

"Unfortunately, with a few notable exceptions, Tesla also seems to be receiving Silicon Valley-style unquestioning coverage."

And therein lies a considerable danger. Society, and by extension politicians, can easily be talked into a major change in the usage of an important piece of national infrastructure (the roads) by such unyieldingly favourable press coverage, simply because there's votes at stake.

The real problems may come if the robust yet permissive attitude pioneered by California becomes diluted by weak politicians caving into popular demand. However, "popular" is not the same as "correct". Richard Feynman's sage comment about public relations and the unfoolable reality of nature applies.

I applaud the robust attitude taken by the State of California - allow limited, supervised and controlled experiments with instrumentation and published results. Unfortunately for Google the results weren't flattering, and they clearly didn't like the results being published. Now we hear reports of discord within Google's team. That suggests to me that they've run out of ideas on how to improve their system, meaning they're going nowhere fast.

Tesla's approach seems doomed to fail at this point (if self driving is what they're aiming at). Anyway, it's relatively pointless given that their major theme is "electric car". An electric car doesn't have to be self driving or auto piloted in anyway. Autopilot is a needless distraction from their real end goal.

So if we want to progress towards provably safer self driving cars without the mass public experiment, that's going to mean a significant changes to what a road is. The only level of system we can prove to be correct using today's technology is essentially nothing more complicated than a unmanned railway (such as the Docklands railway in London, though even that has a manned control centre). If we made the roads more like railways then we could prove in advance that it would be better than today's human driven cars.

However, that would mean no more motorbikes, cycles, pedestrians, road workers, deer, horses, other wildlife, pot holes, pedestrian crossings, snow, ice, fog, heavy rain, earthquakes, land slides, fallen trees, etc. on our highways.

Can't see that happening.

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Hackers hijack Tesla Model S from afar, while the cars are moving

bazza
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I'll say, but the obviousness of it say say lot able the car industry.

Marketing: "I know, we'll add a remote connection and Internet to the cars, that'll make them sell better!"

Engineering: "Er....."

Marketing: "Remote control, mobile apps, live streaming!!!"

Engineering: "Er this is going to be really hard..."

Marketing: "Don't care do it or be sacked with vigour"

Engineering: "(brown trouser) Er, Okay I guess"

The long term strategic consequences for a car manufacturer of putting any kind of long range radio data connection (eg 3G network, or WiFi) has been wildly underestimated by the auto industry.

For example, there's already 3G in some cars as part of an automatic emergency services alerting system for when the car crashes. Fine, but 3G won't be in use in 10 years time. Are they going to recall and upgrade all those cars to 4G? Or silently let the system fall into disuse? Both are expensive...

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bazza
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Poor old Elon

He's not having a good month, is he?

This should be a warning to all manufacturers putting remote connectivity into their cars. It's easy to do, generates enormous and never ending reputational risk.

The only sure way Tesla have right now to fix it is to do a firmware update that disables the remote connectivity. That totally ruins the car, but if this hack (particularly the application of the brakes) goes unfixed for any appreciable length of time they'll risk copping a massive fine, just like Fiat Chrysler did.

Hopefully they'll learn the exact vulnerability exploited here and be able to fix it properly in the very near future.

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iPhone 7's Qualcomm, Intel soap opera dumps a carrier lock-out on us

bazza
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CDMA/CDMA2000 were indeed always niche - only a few hundred million users vs a few billion GSM/UMTS users across the rest of the world. Back in the good old days of Nokia their best phones would always be GSM/UMTS, and maybe they'd do a CDMA version eventually. Market forces at work.

I'm sure its the reason why Apple earlier iPhones were GSM, simply because they couldn't afford (at that time; different now of course) to do a CDMA version for a comparatively small market. It was the right decision by a long way.

GSM did indeed win because of the availability of the standards. More than that, they were totally complete. They tell you absolutely everything you need to know to build handsets, base stations, NOCs, connection to the rest of the world. It was all there.

In contrast, even if you'd paid for the CDMA standards, actually you'd only bought part of the story, and you still had to go back to Qualcomm to get the rest of it. The standards (especially those for CDMA One back in the day when that was brand new) were woefully incomplete. I think that they're much more complete nowadays, but it's too late. It was tool late all the way back in 1993.

Voice over 4G has been a complete cockup. Most networks in the UK are falling back to 3G when you make voice call. Missing circuit switched voice out of 4G was a massive mistake, and is going to make it unnecessarily hard to ditch legacy 2G and 3G networks.

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bazza
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Re: CDMA

Dual SIM phones tend to be found, and are most useful, in countries with poorly integrated mobile networks with patchy coverage. If you can't phone a friend because they're on a different network, you carry a phone for that network too. Dual SIM simply means not having to carry too many phones.

AFAIK they never used to sit on both network simultaneously (which would require two of every radio), but simply allow you to swap between them on demand. Perhaps that's changed nowadays - a second radio chip is probably a trivial thing to integrate these days.

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bazza
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Re: CDMA isn't dying

The carriers should be keen to ditch CDMA/CDMA2000/UMTS as quickly as possible. The cell breathing characteristic inherent in any system using a CDMA-style signal has made network deployment planning a nightmare, and is the main reason behind poor coverage and poor network performance. This was especially a problem in Europe, where the carriers who'd previously rolled out 2G (which is piss easy in comparison) failed to understand just how hard it is to get a 3G network nicely planned to meet demand.

Things were different in Japan. They were amongst the first to roll out 3G (UMTS), and the cell density they put down overcame the inherent difficulties of 3G network planning. This was, I'm sure, a hang over from their previous indigenous network standard that had a far higher cell density than Western standards. I suspect they simply re-used their existing sites for 3G. Anyway, the NTT-Docomo 3G network is a masterful piece of network deployment, and really showed what you could do if you really went for it. The consequence:- it was (and still is) extremely expensive. It's very cool though to be on a Bullet train, going through a tunnel at 186mph, getting 20Mbit/s on a 3G downlink whilst watching the signal strength bars bounce up and down as you go past the micro-cells that line the tunnel.

For 4G the standards engineers finally remembered that network planning matters, and builds on aspects of GSM to relieve the problem. It should be far easier to roll out, and should result in 4G coverage being far better than 3G ever attained. No doubt they'll screw it up again with 5G.

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Google GPS grab felt like a feature, was actually a bug

bazza
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Re: Netguard is your friend

Shhh! Google will banish it as an inappropriate application if they get to hear of this...

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bazza
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"Probably wouldn't do much good, since TomTom provide the basic mapping data for Apple devices already."

Aha, now that I didn't know. I thought they'd gone to Open Street map, and erroneously assumed that'd gone no further. I wonder, did they buy data from TomTom after moving to Open Street Map? There was a time when iPhones didn't know where whole towns in Australia were.

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bazza
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Hmm, except that it sounds like if location services is turned on then Play Services would log your position and pass it back to Google.

Google need to know where people are to i) do location aware adverts ii) make the traffic overlay on Google Maps work. A pernicious Catch 22 for Android users; if they all turn off location services then traffic data on Google maps is not going to be useful.

Once upon a time such perniciousness would be cause for government intervention and a forced company break up.

Other companies do it differently. BlackBerry teamed up with TomTom, who get their traffic data from a variety of sources. They've a deal with Vodafone to get aggregated location data derived from base station tracking of mobiles, some TomToms have a 3g modem in them so can report home, and I think they also use companies like Traffic Master. Just as acquisitive? Maybe, but then TomToms don't show ads to you whilst your driving or once you've got there. Anyway, TomTom's traffic data seems to be much more dynamic than Googles.

I'm slightly puzzled why Apple haven't bought TomTom. Apple's own mapping is slightly rubbish, TomTom have a lot of map data, an excellent and complete service and, these days, a pretty good range of hardware. Their maps aren't quite global (not Japan for example), but that could be fixed with some cash that Apple could throw in for the purpose.

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Tesla to stop killing drivers: Software update beamed to leccy cars

bazza
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Re: Mansfield bars

@ma1010

Of course it likely won't happen here because...corporations...Congress, etc. You know.

Er, I thought it was to do with rail road crossings in the USA. The lorries are much longer than European ones, crossings are very often hump back, and there's millions of them like that.

Mandating Mansfield bars now would result in lots of lorries getting stuck on crossings, which leads to a lot of nasty accidents, especially if there's a collision with an oil train. Mandating them at all will cost a vast fortune in crossing redesign across the whole country. And in Canada, Mexico too.

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bazza
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"Tesla's answer to the height issue is to use its network of cars to build up a database of road signs, bridges and other similar objects using radar to build up a blueprint. The car can then compare that blueprint with the real world as a car travels along the road. If it sees something out of the ordinary, it is far more likely to be a possible obstruction.

"If several cars drive safely past a given radar object, whether Autopilot is turned on or off, then that object is added to the geocoded whitelist," the company notes."

Yeah, good luck with that. With every piece of metal littering the road showing up they'll be going down the road at a snail's pace. Radar data processing is a fiendishly difficult job, and clutter processing especially so. They'll be logging every dropped nail, cats eye, soda can on the road.

Will it see a slab-sided lorry angled across the road as being an obstacle spanning the whole road? Or will it see it as two sets of clutter at either end of the lorry with nothing in between? The F117a is an extremely good example of how flat surfaces don't reflect radio waves back to a monostatic radar if angled just so. The straight metal side of a container lorry (the bit you'll drive into) would have a similar property, but the wheel sets at either end won't.

Crowd Sourced?

As no two Teslas will go down the same road following exactly the same path, they're all going to see the clutter environment differently, and very often that'll be completely differently. That's going to play merry hell with building a meaningful clutter map for every part of every road. The necessary in built pessimism could make the system pretty annoying in real world conditions.

Why not lidar?

Well, its very expensive (in both equipment and processing costs). But at least you get a good 3D map of the environment. In contrast the type of radar Tesla are using is almost certainly not an imaging radar (such as SAR, scanned phased array, etc). At best it'll be getting a set of returns the range to which will be measured quite well, but the angle to which will be pretty vague. In other words, it won't really know whether something is by the side of the road or right in front of the car. It's a poor man's way of attempting 3D scene reconstruction.

Doppler

Doppler processing (if they're doing that) will allow them to tell vehicles from stationary objects. However even that's full of problems. The spokes on a car wheel at the bottom of the wheel are 'stationary' in terms of speed along the road and therefore have the same Doppler shift as something stationary. So they'll look like a set of non-moving objects that magically appear and disappear all the time. That'll make their processing even harder, especially if the spoke return comes and goes (like when the car in front goes round a corner).

All For Nothing?

To me this all sounds a bit, well, desperate. I don't see how this combination of sensors can ever be used to produce a reliable system that can be trusted, with or without a bunch of crowd sourced data and any amount of processing. Sure, it's probably better than nothing, but it's not "perfect".

And thus we return to the fundamental problem; Tesla are selling a car with a fancy cruise control and being honest in saying what it does and how it should be used, but they've given it the name Autopilot. And most people are reading the word "Autopilot" and then not paying any attention to the system's stated limitations.

This new firmware will also have its limitations, and I think Tesla's tightening up how the car monitors the driver's attentiveness is absolutely necessary. But if that means that people may as well not use it, what's the point of having it in the car in the first place? If it goes badly wrong then it's bad publicity for Tesla. It adds nothing to the car's supposed main appeal (battery powered, stonking acceleration, lots of other tech built in).

And with Apple (a company with $200billion in the bank) dropping their self driving car project I think that's a sign that serious companies are beginning to go off the idea of a self driving car. It seems like

* at best it'll be extremely expensive to develop,

* will likely never be allowed to be fully autonomous, not whilst there's bikes, deer, workmen, dogs, children, motorcycles, pedestrians, etc. on the road too

* will be a very difficult sell to all sections of the general public (who, in owning mobile phones that suffer endless software problems, would be wondering why a self driving car from the same company would be any better, and will be disappointed to be told that it won't drive them home from the pub)

* doesn't generate any more useful data on a person that you can't already collect merely by selling them a cheap Android of iOS mobile phone.

In other words, what's the business plan?

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'Oi! El Reg! Stop pretending Microsoft has a BSOD monopoly!'

bazza
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Re: Linux BSOD on Aircraft?

Penguins can fly, you just need a trebuchet to get them started...

Best to aim at an open body of water though unless you want issues with the landing...

So you're saying that a trebuchet-launched penguin is going to make a splash one way or other?

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bazza
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Re: Linux BSOD on Aircraft?

Oh, but they can. Under water.

Then that'd be a submarine...

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bazza
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Linux BSOD on Aircraft?

Not surprising I suppose, penguins can't fly...

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Airbag bug forces GM to recall 4.3m vehicles – but eh, how about those self-driving cars, huh?

bazza
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Re: "already been blamed for one fatal crash and three others involving serious injuries"

@AC,

"No they were not, air bags should not go off if you do not have a seat belt on, they will cause greater injury, as in death, if you don't have a seat belt on. They are to reduce neck and head injury caused when wearing a seat belt."

Er, it depends on where you are.

Across Europe and vast swathes of the civilised world it's normal (and a legal requirement) to wear a seat belt. The thing that actually saves your life is the explosive charge in the seatbelt pre-tensioner that goes off as the shunt starts. This hauls you back rigidly into your seat, and allows the crumple zones of the car to absorb your kinetic energy as the passenger cell (and the now firmly restrained passengers) decelerates. The airbag (which is actually quite small) simply goes off to prevent you face being mushed by the steering wheel or dashboard and to take some of the energy out of the head, reducing the whiplash caused by the body recoiling back into the seat (where the headrest takes out the remainder).

Without the belt and pre-tensioner you're simply a 40+mph missile moving forward through the passenger cell, not being slowed down by the crumple zones at all, injuring or killing everyone else you hit along the way.

In the USA, where weirdly there's states where you don't have to wear a seat belt, the airbag takes on the primary job of decelerating the passengers. Consequently they have to be much bigger, needing to fill the space between the entirety of the passenger's body and the dashboard / steering wheel. They go off as the shunt starts, aiming to cushion the blow as the passenger's unrestrained body hurtles inexorably towards the dashboard and steering wheel. Clearly this is an inferior solution, is of no help whatsoever in a side-swipe, and actually leads to people not sat normally in their seat (leaning forward, for example) being killed by the airbags going off in quite minor shunts. An airbag is quite capable of decapitating someone. Nasty.

Why Is it Law To Wear A Seat Belt

This is because an unrestrained body inside a car involved in a high speed shunt can be lethal to other passengers in a car. For example, if you're a passenger in the back seat not wearing a seat belt, you will likely kill the driver in the front if the car is in a fast enough shunt. It's also not inconceivable that an unbelted passenger in one car kills people in the other in a head on collision as they fly through two windscreens. I turf out passengers who refuse to wear their belt; I don't want their stupidity to kill me if some other idiot decides to drive into my car at high speed.

The extra cost of your lengthier rehabilitation courtesy of the NHS subsequent to your more severe injuries in the less likely circumstances of you surviving such a crash is a secondary consideration.

This is also related to the reason why air passengers are told to put things away during landing and take off and put their seatbelts on. Things like laptops, phones, books, etc. all become 150mph+ missiles hurtling through the cabin if the plane crashes. Your ability to get out of a burning aircraft is greatly enhanced if you've not been knocked unconscious by some other idiots laptop. Same reason why they're not keen for people to be standing up during taxiing (might be doing 40mph+), or on take-off / climb or landing / approach; passengers have no warning of how the aircraft will manoeuvre / collide next, and unseated / unbelted they're 80+kg of fuckwit selfish lard just waiting to become a deadly flying object within the cabin. You only have to look at the carnage caused by high altitude turbulence where unbelted passengers cause a lot of injuries to others as well as themselves.

In all transport an unbelted passenger is a prime example of an ignorant and selfish human being. It's notable that the only forms of transport where belts are not generally compulsory is ones that are slow (city buses, trams), or not normally exposed to rapid decelerations (trains, ships, submarines). Of course when a bus or train or ship does have a high speed crash the carnage is immense. For example a sailor unfortunately died of head injuries and 98 were injured when USS San Francisco collided head on with a sea mount at 30+mph.

Trains operate at high speed but in highly constrained environments (the rails), and generally the only thing that is a threat to them is another train, wheel failure or derailment. But even then modern designs are quite remarkable. The seating is designed to help keep passengers more or less in place should a train derail. They're also pretty good nowadays at not coming apart in crashes, saving a lot of life. However, you're still probably better off in a backwards facing seat in the middle of a carriage in the middle of the train.

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bazza
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Re: "already been blamed for one fatal crash and three others involving serious injuries"

I think they are referring to the crash being unexpectedly fatal. It's very easy to die in even quite moderate shunts without an air bag (and seat belts).

I can see it taking a couple of years, easy. Unless the dev team is in place, equipped with their original build chain, dev environment and laboratory, it'll take ages simply to get to the point of being able to do anything. And then they have to try and recreate the crash conditions, possibly involving crashing actual cars fully equipped with a substantial diagnostics suite, in the hope of seeing the software failure in action (bearing in mind that it presumably hadn't failed in whatever tests they were doing back when the software was originally developed).

Ford had airbags going off spontaneously years ago, happened to a friend. That's pretty dangerous, fortunately they kept control and made it to the side of the motorway. Ford UK's responses were un-reassuring...

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The Rise, Fall and Return of TomTom

bazza
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Re: TomTom just gets driving more than Google or Apple

Yep, I agree, TomTom get it. I've long since concluded that they're the best at making a useful SatNav.

Currently I've a Go500 which I pair with my mobile so that it gets Internet access, traffic data, access the MyDrive cloud. It's fabulous. I can sit in the comfort of my home, plan a route, and have that ready to go when I switch on the SatNav. The driving experience is then excellent. The traffic data updates pretty fast, and the diversions are worth it. It knows about average speed camera zones, and shows you your average speed through the zone automatically. It's got maps for all of Europe so it works everywhere with very little roaming data. It even switches between mph/miles to kph/km when you get to the continent - handy.

I honestly don't know why car manufacturers don't simply build in TomTom rather than go their own way. They're all rubbish in comparison. Car showroom salesmen don't really appreciate it when, having proudly shown off their inferior integrated satnav, I respond with an underwhelmed "Meh". There is some hope though; most car manufacturers are plumping for QNX for their incar systems. QNX is owned by BlackBerry. Maps on BB10 are provided by.... TomTom! So there is some possibility that TomTom could become the de facto maps installation on cars, by a round about route.

My only bugbear with TomTom is that they don't cover Japan at all, not in any way. That's a shame. When I go there and end up having to use a Japanese SatNav, it's a horrifying experience. It's like there were 20 people in the software dev team, all of whom had to come up with something to be displayed on the screen. And so they did (in Japanese too, though I can't hold that against them). Result - there's too much info, not enough actual map, and it's practically impossible to use it. Solution - Japanese SIM, Google maps on the phone, and try (and often fail) to get around the place with Google's satnav software.

In Japan they do have a unique problem with place names. Some places have obscure names, the Kanji for which is non-obvious. So you can have a situation where someone can say the name of a place (perhaps they're told it over the phone), but have no way of typing that into a SatNav because they don't know the right Kanji character for it. Plus their elevated motorways often have roads underneath, and SatNavs get confused as to which one you're on. Messy!

At least in Roman alphabet languages you can have a pretty good stab at spelling it, and a simple text search works well enough to fill in the gap.

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Come in HTTP, your time is up: Google Chrome to shame leaky non-HTTPS sites from January

bazza
Silver badge

Really?

So why does a news website (BBC, The Register's articles, etc) have to go to https? It's not like there's anything to hide, except for those users in countries where accessing such websites is the problem (in which case https won't help).

And last time I looked the Certificate Authority system didn't seem to be a good guarantee that a website was in fact what it claimed to be.

12
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Tesla driver dies after Model S hits tree

bazza
Silver badge

Re: standard operating procedures

@Smartypants,

"I think the procedure is to say a mass."

da, da, d da da, da da d da, d d d da da d da da d da da d da...

You owe me a new keyboard!

1
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Google emits three sets of Android patches to fend off evil texts, files

bazza
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Re: WTF

Sigh, yes indeed. And with Android's particularly crummy update ecosystem it guarantees that there's a vast fleet of susceptible mobiles out there for years to come. With such a large proportion of mobiles in, say, the UK being out of date Androids, just simple war-texting (i.e. sending SMSs to random mobile phone numbers) is likely to get a lot of hits economically.

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bazza
Silver badge

Seems that the patches are already being rolled out to BlackBerry Priv and DTEK50 mobiles (provided they're factory unlocked): Crackberry article

Quick work! Not sure when BlackBerry are moving up to Nougat, but they're certainly quick off the mark with updates.

1
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SpaceX blast kills Zuck's sat

bazza
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This one went further: Top Gear Reliant Orbiter

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bazza
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"However, I think when a satellite is manufactured they usually make two, so there will be a backup ready to fly. Unfortunately."

Depends. A large geosat will cost something near $1billion. You don't build a spare one of those just in case. For such vehicles the launch cost is a comparatively small part of the overall programme costs.

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Making us pay tax will DESTROY EUROPE, roars Apple's Tim Cook

bazza
Silver badge

Re: I don't get it.

@Bob Dole (tm),

"Then this is something the EU needs to take up with Ireland directly."

That's exactly what the EU has just done. The "attack" on Apple is indirect.

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bazza
Silver badge

@katrinab,

I'm not sure why your post has attracted downvotes, it seems to be a clear and dispassionate explanation of how the system works.

Personally speaking I think those companies who argue that such practises are "legal" are missing the point. "Legal" (a very objective statement about what's allowed) is not the same as "popular" or "moral" (both very subjective things). The point they're missing is that "unpopular" or "amoral" practise can easily result in new laws that can outlaw such practises. That's democracy, and in these times of shortages it's easy for an ambitious politician to stoke up the populist fires over such issues. That then runs the risk that compliance with future laws might be more expensive in the long run than compliance with what has merely been a "moral" obligation today.

Of course this judgement from the EU doesn't yet represent a change in law and probably isn't going to result in action against Ireland if they choose to ignore it. But it must surely count as a warning sign that the time remaining for such practises is short, and that "normalising" tax affairs now might in the long run be the cheapest option.

And, crudely speaking, €13billion / 4000 staff = €3.25million each. If Ireland lost Apple's business in their country by imposing the tax rate suggested by the EU then they'd have plenty of money to spend on those now out-of-work former Apple employees.

Of course there's far more than just an advantageous tax situation to attract business to Ireland. English speaking, well educated work force, pretty well run country, part of Europe, fantastic weather - there's a lot to recommend the place. Ok, I may have made up the bit about the weather... So extra tax or not I can't see any particular reason why Apple would want to move their European business elsewhere.

It'll be interesting to see what happens next. If Apple start making noises about pulling out of Ireland, the Irish may simply decide that they no longer have anything to lose and change their tax laws. OK, that might not ensnare Apple's fleeing billions but it'd certainly trap Google, Microsoft, etc.

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Europe to order Apple to cough up 'one beeellion Euros in back taxes'

bazza
Silver badge

Re: Jealousy

Irked indeed, but there's not a lot that Uncle Sam can do about it unless Apple actually repatriates the cash to the US where it will attract an unappealing 40% tax rate. Same with Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Starbucks, and all the other large US owned multinationals that don't want to pay US tax rates on their profits.

With Apple if they repatriated the lot to the US, Uncle Sam would be in line for a most welcome $80billion (or thereabouts). I've no idea how much would be raised if Google repatriated all their profits, or Amazon. Anyway, it's a significant pile of cash, a not inconsiderable number of $100s for each man, woman and child in the US.

Other companies are going to have to start wondering what might happen now that the EU seems to have got their teeth into a theme. Vodafone famously did a deal with UK tax authorities which, arguably, would also count as illegal state aid.

We do have to be careful that this doesn't get out of hand; countries around the world compete on tax rates, and the UK has done very well by being slightly more competitive than the rest of Europe. If the EU suddenly starts overturning favourable tax deals between large multinationals and the UK government then that'd significantly reduce the competitiveness of the UK, and also Europe as a whole.

Not that the EU seems to have a problem with reducing the competitiveness of the European economy. In fact in seems hell bent on making it as uncompetitive as possible. The US too will have to realise that its corporate tax rates are deeply uncompetitive and that cannot be sustained in the long run. The problem for the US is that if the corporate tax rate is reduced, personal taxation will have to be increased to make up for that, and there's many a wealthy political donor well placed to ensure that no politician will ever get elected with that kind of thought at heart.

3
4

Windows Update borks PowerShell – Microsoft won't fix it for a week

bazza
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Re: MS Board Meeting

Haven't they reached their kneecaps by now?

Possibly, but that would require them to stick to a steady and consistent plan with no major deviations along the way.

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bazza
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Re: MS Board Meeting

@MrNed,

"Ready...

...Aim...

...FIRE!

Ow! That was my foot....

...again."

Fixed it for you. The hole is already too big from previous such incidents for the bullet to touch the sides nowadays...

5
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Breaker, breaker: LTE is coming to America's CB radio frequencies

bazza
Silver badge

@Charles 9,

"Nope. At least HERE there's a pushback from the aviation industry and aviation regulators"

Exactly. My point is that the very fact that the aviation industry and regulators are having to push back at all is just plain ridiculous.

One feels that at least in some countries political lobbying, public opinion and telco financial clout has more sway with politicians than does common sense and the local regulatory bodies. For example, in a country where the GPS industry managed to steal a whole adjacent comms band simply by producing rubbish equipment and selling it to everyone without the local regulator noticing or being able to do anything about it afterwards, can one have any faith in the politicians and regulators stopping intrusions into bands that are far more important?

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bazza
Silver badge

3.5GHz? Doesn't sound like its going to propagate well through the walls of buildings...

The best spectrum for mobile comms is around about 900MHz. It leads to sensible antenna sizes in the mobile, it propagates well through buildings, it's high enough in frequency that reasonable bandwidths are possible, an so on. Australia did exceptionally well to put their 3G services there instead of 2G, which is what a lot of Europe is stuck with in that band.

And the higher up the frequency table you go, the worse it performs. 3.5 GHz might be appealing because it's available, but to make a large network with widespread coverage and good performance indoors and out sounds expensive.

Currently throughout the world there is a jolly nice bit of spectrum from 960MHz to 1215MHz allocated to radio navigation aids for aviation. I wonder how long it is before governments come under unbearable pressure from wealthy powerful telcos to give that up ("blah blah everything is GPS these days blah blah").

1
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Oracle reveals Java Applet API deprecation plan

bazza
Silver badge

The way things are going we're going to be left with nothing but Javascript etc. to do stuff in a browser. Good thing from a security point of view, probably.

But for goodness sake, Javascript is just, well, horrible! Surely we as a species can come up with something better than that?!?!?!

Our descendants may look back in wonderment at how rambling and strange our code looks. They may even have a public holiday to commemorate the day the last page of Javascript was deleted.

21
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Boffins design security chip to spot hidden hardware trojans in processors

bazza
Silver badge

For the fabless chip company they always have the option of decapping a chip and comparing what they see to the mask designs they'd originally sent off to the fab.

It's a lot of work and needs some specialised kit, but it's a certain way of being sure. Anything like this that gets you a similar result but more automatically sounds like a good thing.

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Corbyn lied, Virgin Trains lied, Harambe died

bazza
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Re: Bah

"...cockwombles ..."

You owe me a new keyboard!

3
1

'Neural network' spotted deep inside Samsung's Galaxy S7 silicon brain

bazza
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Re: Most Surprised

@Dusk,

"Decode/microcode: Decode doesn't mean what you think it is; it's an essential part of any CPU design, RISC or CISC, as decode controls things like "what functional unit does this op go to?" and "what operands does this op use?" Microcode was mentioned nowhere. I suspect you're confusing use of micro-ops - ie, internal basic operations in a long fixed-length format - with microcode, ie lookup of certain complex operations in a microcode ROM at decode time. "

Ha! Yes, you're quite right of course. I've read the article in haste. Ta!

Though I'd like to note that I wasn't dissing the value of out-of-order execution, pipelines, etc.

@ Destroy All Monsters,

"I don't understand this at all. VR and we are talking sub-microsecond realtime arrival times ... ON THE FSCKING CPU (yes, the CPU, not the graphgics pipeline)

Not going slightly overboard here? And I mean hanging on a 15 meter outrigger slightly overboard?"

Going overboard? Quite possibly.

Having spent many a year developing many hard real time systems I yearn for dependable execution times, something that seems to be going out of fashion fast. I hate having to deal with CPUs that don't run code in predictable times. To do large (e.g. 50+ CPUs) real time systems these days is a real pain in the arse - all that variation in latency starts to accumulate and we can't quite max out a collection of CPUs like we used to be able to. Intel chips are truly horrible in this regard, but there's not a lot out there to touch them when it comes to average performance so its hard not to use them.

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bazza
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Re: Most Surprised

@Destroy All Monsters,

"Whether CISC or RISC (a useless distinction nowadays, how about simply "ISC"),"

It kinda does matter these days. A consequence of Intel's CISC-RISC translation of x86 to microcode is that there's an awful lot of transistors needed to do that (and everything else that goes with it). Transistors need power, and this was one of the contributors to Intel's best effort at a mobile x86 processor falling short of ARMs on power consumption.

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bazza
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Re: Most Surprised

@AC,

This is an M1, i.e. from ARM's M (for Microcontroller) range.

It most decidedly is not a microcontroller. Since when did a microcontroller have cache, TLBs, an MMU, and all the other gubbins needed by an application CPU.

This M of Samsung's is nothing to do with ARM's use of M to denote a core intended for use in a microcontroller.

If predictable execution times matter to you,

They matter a lot if you're doing VR. Sloppy latency on scene calculations is a good way of inducing motion sickness. Given that everyone is getting into VR these days this might end up being of concern.

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bazza
Silver badge

Most Surprised

Hang on a minute, what's going on here?

Instruction decode? Branch prediction? It's as if someone has decided that ARM is a CISC instruction set all of a sudden and needs to be re-implemented. But ARM is already RISC (very RISCy in fact), and even the 64bit version needs only 48,000ish transistors to implement.

How can it be better to add all that rename, decode and microcode nonsense on top? That's surely going to be a good demonstration of the law of diminishing returns. Wouldn't it be better simply to use all those extra transistors as extra cache (which is always useful), or a whole extra core, instead?

3W at 2+ GHz and not quicker than a competing design at single core performance? Well I think that about answers it. I don't know what Apple have done, but I'd not heard that they (or anyone else) had gone down the same microcode route.

Neural nets for branch prediction? Well, why not I suppose, but from a pure CPU design point of view isn't it a kind of surrender? It's a bit like saying "we don't know how to do this properly" and deciding to build something that cannot be mathematically analysed instead and hoping it's better. That's fine if the result is good...

It does mean that this is useless for hard real-time applications. Branch execution time is now impossible to predict.

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9

Systemd adds filesystem mount tool

bazza
Silver badge

Re: I am stupid

"Not necessary. Lennart needs to stop fixing things that aren't broken, and really stop implying that everyone in the community he serves is a relic. He's starting to prove people right about calling him arrogant and single minded. In that Reddit thread, he sounds like he's always sounded toward Linux: every developer is stuck in the past. Which he then uses as an excuse to push for changes that really just let systemd take over that little bit more. "

Ah well, that's the problem in these days when so much has already been done. Pottering has a salary to earn, and he can earn it so long as he's fixing "problems". If he were to say something like "nope, nothing needed", then RedHat would be wondering what else to do with him.

Other software houses are similar. Look at MS - they have a team of people whose job it is to scientifically measure "Usability", and design things that are more "Usable". They did pretty well with Windows 7, but should have been sacked immediately afterwards. They weren't sacked, and we ended up with Windows 8, 8.1 and 10 as a result. The Office ribbon came out of the same bunch of people.

The hardest thing ever for a software developer is to admit that, in some respects, software can be "finished", or at least gets to a point where maintenance is needed, not revolution. Fortunately there are bunches out there who are much more cautious with their approach - FreeBSD, Solaris, etc. Even the Linux kernel devs are somewhat cautious - "don't break user land".

The same is true with senior management. Getting a new director in the company is a guarantee that there's going to be a lot of mucking about, regardless as to whether their predecessor had set things up properly or not. Arrrggghhhh! Weirdly this kind of behaviour has generated a whole sub-profession for those who go around cleaning up the mess caused by others who cannot resist making changes for change's sake.

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1

Oracle Java copyright war latest: Why Google's luck is about to run out

bazza
Silver badge

"If I remember from long ago & far away, Oracle were only prepared to license ME rather than the full desktop Java. Maybe that's why they didn't conclude a deal."

Hmmm, interesting. Since then Google don't seem to have been afraid of inventing languages, which would have solved that problem.

OpenJDK first came into being in 8th May 2007, more or less, and Android first hit the streets a few months later. I don't know when Google would have been speaking to Oracle, but Sun announced the open sourcing of HotSpot on the 25 October 2006, and it was released on the 13th November 2006. So it was certainly very clear the direction in which Java was headed, and it was always inevitable (the benefit of hindsight) that Android would have to join in as they are doing now. Switching to OpenJDK would have delayed Android a little bit, but would have saved an awful lot of grief now.

I remember back then there was also a lot of discussion about native vs managed runtimes. Apple went with native, and made that work very well indeed. BlackBerry with BB10 also went with native and, despite being late to the party, did eventually succeed in making the OS environment itself work well. Nowadays with languages like Rust from Mozilla available as well, one would have to conclude that there's no real debate, native can be as easy and as "safe" as a managed language like Java, and is probably the way to go on battery powered devices.

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