* Posts by bazza

1027 posts • joined 23 Apr 2008

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Driverless cars deal DEATH to Detroit, says Barclays

bazza
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Misses the piint

This completely misses the key selling point of a car. People buy cars to have as their own, that's the whole point.

Everyone knows that there are plenty of people out there who'd have no respect for a shared facility. Who would want a shared driverless car if it turns up full of pewk, half eaten hamburgers, cigarette smoke, bogies, etc?

Having your own car is a guaranteed (unless they crash into you) way of insulating oneself from the careless and thoughtless behaviour of others, even if they are family. No one wants to lose that, automated or not.

Oh, and this rather presupposes that anyone can get a fully automated unsupervised vehicle driving on the road. I doubt that they'll ever manage that. Legally at the moment you have to be behind the wheel, sober and qualified and paying attention. Hardly seems worth it to me!

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Airbus warns of software bug in A400M transport planes

bazza
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Re: Under "wraps"? Seems odd....

Under the inquisitorial system of justice that they have in most of Europe it is up to the court to discover the facts. It is quite proper for the judge to keep the evidence confidential until the court is satisfied that it knows what the facts actually are. That means looking at all avenues of inquiry exhaustively prior to reaching an official conclusion.

You have to recognise that whatever the inquiry finds it is going to have a serious judicial impact on some individuals, if in fact there is anyone to blame. You cannot have half complete theories being espoused by the court because that would unfairly affect those who in the fullness of time would be shown to have no involvement.

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KA-BOOM! Russian rocket EXPLODES over Siberia minutes after lift-off

bazza
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Re: Tomorrow, tomorrow...

" One does wonder if Skylon is being developed by one old boy in his garden shed, who's funding it from his pension."

Well, perhaps you and maybe Elon Musk might count £60million from the UK gov to be "garden shed" levels of effort. But at the stage of proving the principals fo the propulsion system and design work, that sounds like a good level of funding.

Once the propulsion system is well understood the actual design and building of the whole aircraft should be a fairly low risk. It's not like there's any particular mystery about how to make a vehicle operate in space, and guidance and control systems for that kind of thing simply build on the many successful developments done previously all round the world over the past 6 decades.

Too Good to Pass Over?

Really the only question is will anyone stump up the money? There in lies an interesting question with a heavy dose of politics.

First, the Europeans backing Ariane have gone for an Ariane 6. They might not be too keen on funding a competing launcher that might show up their initial choice of Ariane 6 as having been a waste of money.

Second, the Americans sometimes suffer from bouts of "not invented here" syndrome, though they did buy up and get interested in Russian engines.

Third, the current wave of space-enthusiast private investors have all plumped for rockets, and even they might find it too difficult to toss all that away and buy into Skylon.

Fourth, the Russians simply haven't got the money.

Fifth, the Chinese like to be able to say that they did it all by themselves.

Sixth, British investors are often not ambitious enough for something like this.

Seventh, investors / backers / competitors all over are probably at this moment asking themselves whether they can afford to buy into the project.

Whatever. Given that it looks pretty certain that the propulsion system would work it is arguably simply a case of when, not if, it gets built. If it does get built and it works, whoever owns it will own the launcher market. The rocket guys would be instantly out of date, uncompetitve and doomed.

The first investor that asks themselves whether they can afford to not buy into it, that's the investor who might clean up.

It's not even as if the project could be bought, canned buried. UK gov has a stake in it, so the IPR is not wholly purchasable. And besides, ideas are difficult to bury forever. Once thought of, forever known.

(I have no connection whatsoever to REL, Skylon, etc).

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bazza
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Re: Just a reminder...

No they're not

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bazza
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Skylon has had backing from a variety of agencies, including the ESA and UK government.

It looks like the basic idea does work, and that the precooler (the most important part) is indeed a practical technology.

There's some really neat ideas in Skylon. For example the heated helium coolant from the precooler is used to drive the turbine pump that pressurises the hydrogen fuel. The cold fuel in turn is used to condense the coolant for re-use back in the cooler. They have turned the heat that normally limits high speed jet aircraft performance into a useful energy source.

And the whole precooler idea means they can run on atmospheric oxygen for more of the flight profile, which in turn brings about big savings. It really is a masterful collection of engineering ideas that complement each other to minimise the energy needed to get to orbit.

Skylon works in principal and if built would likely end up dominating the space launch industry. If someone really went for it, they would certainly become way cooler than Musk and his boring old rockets.

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Don't look now: Fujitsu ships new mobe with EYEBALL-scanning security

bazza
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Re: Standard biometric flaw

There were articles floating around here on El Reg a few years ago reporting exactly that. Iris scanners of the day could be fooled by taking a photo of someone with a modest camera, printing out their iris with a hole cut for the pupil and presenting that in place of the actual person.

Though to be fair this is meant to be for unlocking a mobile, not for safeguarding a nuclear bomb...

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BILLION YEAR SECRETS of baking hellworld Mercury UNLOCKED by NASA probe crash

bazza
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Pint

Yet another stunning achievement...

...from the clever chaps who build these things.

They regularly seem to be able to make these probes last far longer than envisaged. That's real value for money, especially when everywhere we send one of these things turns out to be far more interesting than anyone ever envisaged.

Example: Places in the solar system that do or might support life: when I was born, 1 (earth), today 3+ (Europa, Encheladus, maybe Ganymede...)

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Tesla's battery put in the shade by current and cheaper kit

bazza
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Crazy

Using expensive, fiddly, light weight lithium batteries in an application like this where weight just isn't an issue is nuts. It's the kind of thing you sell if you can get away with it, or if you have got too many lithium cells not being used in your original market.

Using cheap, simple, any size you like, well understood, easily serviced, easily charged and recyclable lead acids makes much more sense.

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Apple in rinky-dink ink stink wristjob admission: Watch IS affected by TATTOOS

bazza
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Re: To quote R. Reagan, "There you go again."

"Guys, guys, guys: at least get your interminable Apple-bashing synchronized, m'kay?"

I think you're missing the point...

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'Android on Windows': Microsoft tightens noose around neck, climbs on chair

bazza
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Re: Did you try it?

True multi-tasking? Large memory model? Object-centric UI paradigm? App persistence across reboots? Did you ever *use* OS/2 2.0 and Windows 3.0 on the same machine?

Yes, I most certainly did use it, coded for it, embedded it (which it was quite good for), used it as my desktop too, for the very same reasons you've stated.

You have to recall though that at the time no one generally knew or cared about the difference between MS's cooperative multitasking and IBM's true multitasking. They did care about the price; OS/2 was expensive. And whilst it had a 512MB virtual memory model, larger than Windows 3.0, Microsoft chose 2GB for 32bit Windows. That meant OS/2 was forever stuck emulating Windows 3.0, and couldn't accommodate any of the 32 bit Windows apps that were beginning to emerge. It very quickly stopped being "a better Windows than Windows". And with no killer application to offer (Lotus Improv was as close as they got) its irrelevance was assured. Technology-wise it was a mixture of good and bad; multitasking was good, UI was good (though if you look at it these days it feels terrible; no anti aliasing!), thunking for 16 bit code that seems to make up large chunks of the OS was bad, as was the lack of driver support, and it never quite shook off the consequences of being engineered for the 286 in its early days.

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bazza
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Re: OS/2 & Windows

Apparently so, or at least close enough to be bendable.

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bazza
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Re: its time for Google to lay the smack down...

Slight problem there. Apart from Google Play Services and Google's own proprietary blobs, most of Android is open source. It's not currently within Google's gift to smack down anyone.

Whereas iOS is entirely closed source. Much harder to pull off the same trick. It would be possible to reimplement the iOS APIs using publically available documentation but then you'd have to persuade all the app developers to recompile their code and risk the Wrath of Cook.

Is the iOS app developer's API documentation public? I dunno, but I wouldn't be surprised if access to iOS API documentation came with strings attached...

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bazza
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Re: That depends on how do you define obscure app

"The gap to QNX is much smaller than to Windows by the way. The graphics APIs there are very different."

That gap is certainly a yawning chasm for Microsoft. At least both QNX and Android / Linux are basically POSIX, so there's going to be a lot of similarities at the system call level.

I've tried a couple of Android 3D games on BlackBerry, seem to work quite well. I'm not really into games, so I haven't bothered taking it any further than that initial level of sating curiousity.

I'm not sure that in BlackBerry's case it's as strong a suicide pill as all that. They have a very strong business offering, and the Androidness is a nice (and fairly successful) thing on top. And actually there's a lot of good native apps for BlackBerry these days too. Whereas Microsoft have f**cked up the business side of WinPhone, so there's even less reason to have one than a BlackBerry.

On the other hand, if either of them could emulate Google Play Services (a large undertaking one imagines) they'd have the complete Android ecosystem in a Google-free environment. There's quite a lot of people who'd find that attractive all on its own...

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bazza
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It'll be interesting to see just how "dead" BlackBerry become. Comparing Android on BlackBerry to Windows on OS/2 is worthwhile, but there are some critical differences.

1) IBM basically didn't bother improving OS/2 in any significant way after 2.0. There were major architecural problems with it that they didn't do anything to resolve, and they didn't seek to improve the user experience in any way. It would have died anyway. Crucially, IBM as a whole didn't believe in OS/2; real IBMers did servers and mainframes and big database applications. Meanwhile BlackBerry are actively improving BB10 / QNX, and because it's central to their entire business offering (BES12+BB10+everything else) it gets a lot of attention from the whole company.

2) OS/2 didn't have any unique features at all compared to everything else, and had some real day-to-day disadvantages (e.g. driver support, and it was resource hungry). There were very few reasons to have OS/2 at all. In contrast, there's much functionality in BB10 that all the other mobile platforms just don't have (e.g. Hub). There's many reasons (admittedly quite a lot of them are work related) to have a BlackBerry, and Androidness is just an extra nice thing on top.

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bazza
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Re: Alternatively...

It doesn't work like that. As the article said, hosting some Android apps successfully means handling Linux system calls made by native libraries.

Intel has the same problem. Sure, there's Android for x86, but it's nigh on useless because all the Android apps that come with native libraries attached are supplying ARM native libraries, not x86 native libraries. For these to work on x86 Intel have to emulate the ARM instruction set! Not fast, not very energy efficient...

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bazza
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Bye bye battery...

...that's why!

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bazza
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OS/2 & Windows

"When the wrap-around OS/2 booted and found DOS and Windows were installed, it virtualised and hosted them. Sometimes the Windows apps ran even better inside their new host – but you could never be sure."

Windows 3 Recompile

When IBM licensed the Windows 3.0 / 3.1 source code, apparently the first thing they did was recompile it just to see if they'd got everything right. When they benchmarked it they were surprised to see that their compiled version ran a lot quicker than Microsoft's retail version.

The reason why? IBM had used the Watcom C compiler (which was pretty good), whereas MS had of course used their own C compiler (and it was pants in comparison)...

32bit Windows and OS/2

What really killed off Windows under OS/2 was that IBM couldn't accomodate 32bit Windows drivers and applications (which were just beginning to creep in at the time). OS/2 was architected around 512MB virtual memory per process, whereas Microsoft had gone for 2GB virtual memory per process. That made it impossible to emulate a Windows environment inside an OS/2 process.

I actually used OS/2 a lot back in the day, and I didn't move off it until Windows 2000 came along. Typical IBM - had a good idea, made it just good enough to be able to use as a tool to access IBM mainframes, otherwise they ignored it. When it was shiny new it was (for the time) fantastic, but they never bothered doing anything to it.

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PayPal adopts ARM servers, gets mightily dense

bazza
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Re: AMD likely to prevail

Maybe, but who knows. AMD don't have their own fabs anymore, so they have to queue up like any other designer. So they'd have to resort to cleverness to beat the rest of the ARM outfits, and there's a lot of clever people out there these days.

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Microsoft: It's TRUE, you'll get Android and iOS apps in WINDOWS

bazza
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It's ambitious...

...and will take a lot of effort to succeed.

BUT, if they manage it it could be interesting. One of the problems is that they'll have 3 API to maintain, not two (BlackBerry) or one (Google, Apple). That sounds line a lot of work... But once set up, why not?

Of course it does give them an opportunity to exploit Apple's bad habit of trashing its own API. Apple make another crazy and debilitating change to their API, MS say "your existing source code still works here, but the new API is here too".

Maybe MS can do a deal with BlackBerry. BlackBerry do Android, MS do iOS, they share the results, and Google and Apple look like die hard walled gardenists.

Interesting that they're not doing a binary shim like BlackBerry have done, they're simply making a recompile easy. That's less guaranteed; Intel can't persuade Android devs to recompile Android code for x86. With BlackBerry the devs don't even have to do that.

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US hospitals to treat medical device malware with AC power probes

bazza
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Re: " ineffective and misplaced regulatory oversight,"

"You may well be right. What would you prefer instead?"

I think we'd all prefer and benefit from effective and well focused regulatory oversight.

Part of the problem is that the regulators seem not to have a good feel for where the system boundary should be. In the case of medical devices it's clear that they don't consider the network to be part of the system, yet as any old IT bod knows the network most certainly does matter. We spend a lot of money in IT on network firewalls, network switches, virtualised networks, etc. It is never an afterthought that we throw together after we've put in a load of servers.

Fixed Configuration

With medical devices the regulations prevent you automatically apply OS updates, etc. The regulators approve a fixed hardware design with a fixed software payload; applying updates makes it a "different" device that has not been approved.

So if the 'fixed' nature of the software is so important, how come they're quite happy for these things to be connected to networks that evidently expose them to a grave and real risk of having their software altered by hackers remote installing malware? It's almost as is they're relying on a naive opinion that "no one would ever hack a hospital"... And as I implied in my comment above, if the network provides important functionality, how come the 'fixed' configuration philosophy doesn't extend to the network too?

Inconsistent Regulation

That is inconsistent, has been demonstrated to be ineffective and the regulations need to be updated. However connecting them up to the Internet has been allowed for so long that it is the de facto rule, and all hospital IT is now structured that way. Regulation that doesn't properly and rapidly account for changes in the world isn't worth having at all.

If they want to keep their "fixed configuration" philisophy then they're going to have to apply that to the network too. This realistically means a closed network not connected to the Internet where there are no USB ports or optical drives available on any machine on the network. I can't see that going down well...

"And when you've sorted medial equipment, avionics regulation is in need of a serious reconnection with reality."

Again the situation there is that the regulators have failed to set a clear system boundary within which their rules apply. They've incorrectly set the system boundary as being the whole aircraft, and regulated within that.

However Boeing and Airbus have both implemented a single aircraft-wide network that carries or is exposed to passenger devices. The FAA/EASA let that happen seemingly without once considering the possible consequences of connecting passenger devices. Connecting them makes them part of the system. Passenger devices cannot be regulated. Thus the system now comprises an approved subsystem (the aircraft) and many unapproved subsystems (the passengers' mobiles, etc). With wildcard devices being part of the system all that regulatory oversight now counts for nothing, for it is no longer the same system that the regulators approved.

Of course they have done testing of the separation of passenger and flight control network data, and they have probably been successful in achieving adequate separation. However, no one can be totally sure of that. In contrast a single successful hack would prove that adequate separation had not been achieved.

Penny Pinching, Pound Foolish

The reasons Boeing and Airbus have for doing that is to economise in off-aircraft communications channels. The flight control avionics, the airline's own systems and the in-flight entertainment need to provide off-aircraft communications for various reasons, and sharing a single sat comm terminal makes it "cheap".

Except it's not cheap. First it creates the situation we have now where no one is quite sure whether or not anyone with a mobile can hack and down an aircraft. That's going to be expensive to put right.

Setting that aside, sharing a sat comm terminal is an incredibly short sighted thing to do. Bandwidth upgrades are clearly going to be a major requirement of airlines competing to provide a better service to paying passengers. That means hardware upgrades.

Upgrading a Shared Sat Comm?

With a shared sat comm terminal that means getting a whole new and improved unit designed, tested, approved by the regulators as still allowing the aircraft to fly safely, and installed. That's an expensive process, largely because of the approvals that have to be gained first. That process has to consider (amongst other things) whether or not it still correctly separates passenger and avionics network data. That will have to be checked differently every time they add new features. Effectively they would be redesigning the approval tests every time the design changes, adding more time and cost.

As any IT bod knows, a system that's exensive and slow to upgrade isn't going to be very profitable.

Upgrading a Separate Sat Comm?

Now imagine if the IFE were a completely separate network (with a data diode connection from the flight control avionics to get data for the moving map display), and had it's own sat comm terminal. That could be upgraded at will with minimal regulatory oversight because it is never going to be critical to safety of flight (at least not once basic EMC and airworthiness approvals are in place). Meanwhile the sat comm terminal for the flight control avionics just sits there, never upgraded because it won't ever need it.

That would be a lot cheaper and quicker to do; across the whole life of the aircraft the airlines would be able to offer a premium service that's always the best, with upgrades being easy to role out. And an added benefit is that it avoids the whole mess we have now.

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bazza
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Really?

“We are thinking about those machines that are really hard to patch, really hard to upgrade, and really hard to get inside."

If they are so hard to get inside, how come they're running malware?!?! The problem is that they're too easy to get inside...

Like others on this forum I think it's ridiculous that such devices are connected to an Internet facing network in the first place. No doubt somewhere in the small print for these devices there's words suggesting the lack of wisdom in doing so.

Regulators

And actually, where are the regulators in all this? If a device like this is merely one component of a medical network, then why does the regulatory obligation seemingly stop at the Ethernet port? Shouldn't the entire network have to be developed to the same standards as the devices? After all the whole point of the Ethernet port is to provide functionality beyond the device, and presumably that functionality is seen as important otherwise no one would bother wiring it up. And if it is important then the network design and maintenance is as important as the device's design and maintenance.

Sounds like ineffective and misplaced regulatory oversight, and it's allowed a bad situation to develop that is going to be very expensive and difficult to rectify.

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NINETY PER CENT of Java black hats migrate to footling Flash

bazza
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Well that took a long time...

So the war against bad plug-ins might actually be being won? Well that's taken only 20 years to make plug in version checking commonplace and effective...

It shows the power of having software version checking and automatic update mechanisms. It's the only effective way to keep connected software and operating systems secure for at least some of the time.

With desktops and laptops of all types we are now in a position where the OSes, the browsers and the plug-ins are either updated or blocked automatically (just flash on Windows 7 left?). That's good.

IOT

It should be a lesson for eveyone else doing software driven Internet connected devices. I mean the IoT crowd. They just don't seem to realise what they're getting themselves into. Without a similar constant stream of updates and vigilance their products will become infested with malware, and their reputation will be wrecked. It's not far off that already.

Worse still a lot of things that are becoming Internet connected will require very long term support e.g. fridges; people will not be expecting to have to buy a new fridge after just a couple of years simply because the software in their old one is no longer supported. That's not how we buy fridges. Same with thermostats, aircon, etc. Cars might turn out to be slightly better, though given BMWs poor start perhaps they too won't ever be good enough.

Keeping software up to date for that length of time is very expensive, and a lot of the manufacturers just aren't set up to maintain old software.

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Google TUGS Nexus 7-INCHER from its online store

bazza
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Re: Already gone

Actually no. It was an Asus device in development that they bought naming rights for and sold dirt cheap.

What, and Asus didn't give them a full hardware specification? Did they somehow forget to reveal every technical detail to Google? Hmmmmm?

No. In any relevant sense this is a device Google own.

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bazza
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Re: Already gone

"Lollipop did indeed make a nexus 7 run like a dog. The update 5.1 has made things a bit better (really a better description is 'not as bloody awful'). I wish that they had left it alone..."

This a poor execution by Google. It is their own device, and they cannot make their own operating system run properly on it. Now I do not know whether Google ever claimed that Nexus 7 would be supported by Lollipop. If they did, then they have properly bollocksed it. If they did not (and the 7 is an oldish device now), then why is it seemingly available for download for the 7? Given that they've only just pulled it from sale one has to conclude that Google's official position was that it was a 'current' device; but not one they were able to support properly.

I used to think that were I ever to by an Android device it would have to be either a Samsung or a Nexus so as to stand a reasonable chance of getting a steady stream of updates. Now it seems that Nexus is not reliably updated either.

All that makes you wonder how mature Google's software dev team actually is. Failing to account for (i.e. either say it won't be supported, or support it) one of your models that are for sale when you're updating the OS is, well, an amateurish mistake. When done properly you plan your updates, you know your devices, you work out in advance what is going to work and what won't. It feels like Google haven't done that. It feels like Google have rather hacked Lollipop together without thinking too much about it. It makes one wonder what else they've screwed up.

For comparison both Microsoft and the Linux world have a pretty good history for not cocking up support for existing hardware, and that's in an arena where there is an unbelievable variety of hardware. Even Apple and BlackBerry aren't too bad at it in their closed ecosystems.

If Google cannot manage to get it right in their closed Nexus ecosystem then they've clearly got a lot to learn.

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FBI alert: Get these motherf'king hackers off this motherf'king plane

bazza
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@JeffyPooh,

If you have an LED on one side, and a phototransistor on the other, with an air gap in between, then that in itself guarantees the 'diode' unidirectionality. Unless you think that phototransistors can emit light to be detected by the LED. So what's the fibre got to do with it?

Oh, the fibre doesn't of itself provide any one way-ness, it is as you say the lack of a light emitter at the other end that gives that.

Data diodes use a single fibre optic because that way you can get a high data rate too, and simply looking to see which end is emitting light is a convincing and unarguable test of the data diode-ness. There's also the point that you can easily implement it using standard-ish kit (eg fibre ethernet cards, or sFPDP) which is a lot cheaper than building your own through air high speed data link.

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bazza
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I'm not certain if this is the case on the 737-800 (Roberts' plane). But in the case of the 787, Boeing asked the FAA on a ruling regarding just this configuration. Here it is.

That was an interesting read.

Some of the exchanges between Airbus and the FAA are probably due to the fact that it is hard to be unambiguous in English, and easy to be unambiguous in French (so linguistic scientists say...). Same for Russian and German. It shows up in their engineering; it's easy to convey meaning correctly, whereas it isn't easy in English. Incidentally that's why we have (in the UK at least) lawyer-speak, a special variety of English that is unambiguous but hard for non-lawyers to understand...

Also Airbus's comment about the FAA's requirement referring to a solution is fair. Requirements should never, ever do that!

I can see why they'd want to share the satcomm terminal between the two/three different types of system. But in this day and age it would make sense to have two separate terminals for safety and for upgradeability.

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bazza
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But then you would need a separate GPS receiver to feed the moving map display on the seat back.

No, all you would need is a data diode between the flight control network and the IFE system. These are fairly standard items, and generally rely on a single core of fibre optic to get a guaranteed one way flow of data (it's physically impossible to send any bytes, data or instructions back the other way). With one of those in place you can send any data you like to the IFE system, and there's no way anyone can do anything to harm the flight control system.

There may indeed be one of these in place and the whole fuss is based on ignorance on the part of the FBI, the traveller, the hacker, etc. If that were the case it would be easy to dispel by publishing that part of the design.

The fact that they've apparently not done so suggests that there isn't a data diode, and that there is rather more electronic connectivity than is desirable, and the safety depends on some protocols, firewalls, etc. Proving that they're correct is a near impossible task. Proving them to be inadequate is easier but "undesirable"...

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bazza
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We (the general public) don't know for sure.

If there were an air gap between the two systems, or a physical data diode (single fibre optic core, guaranteed one way) then it is easy to be very sure indeed. The fact that there seems to be some doubt is not encouraging...

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bazza
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May or May Not...

The alert – privately circulated today by the FBI's InfraGard program – claims hackers may or may not be able to take over a plane's navigational system via the in-flight entertainment (IFE) system or public Wi-Fi network.

The only reason for there being any doubt in the matter is if there is some sort of electronic connection between the IFE and the flight control systems, and it relies on firewalls, protocols, etc. (and not air gaps) to prevent a hack taking place.

The only reason that connection exists is because the manufacturers wanted to do that (and were allowed to by the regulators [FAA, CAA, etc]), because it was cheaper. Penny pinching.

If the regulators had said no, they must be air-gapped, there would be absolutely no doubt at all. A hack would clearly be impossible via a seat IFE port.

Instead we have a situation where no one can really say for sure whether there is a problem or not. The people charged with keeping us safe are always going to 'er' on the side of caution. Meanwhile the people who can answer the question aren't going to be allowed to do so. That's because the law enforcement guys know damned well that if the answer is yes, a hack is feasible, that knowledge will leak out. And if that happens then chaos will ensue.

Law enforcement types might try and find the answer themselves, but they'd need a huge amount of extra resources. And they might just discover that the dreaded answer is 'yes', the knowledge that no one wants to have. And the worst is that they might never be totally sure of a 'no' answer.

This is a totally predictable outcome stemming from a poor design choice made by manufacturers seeking to save a few dollars / euros, and it's going to cost us millions. Already has in fact. Some aged retired avionics engineer somewhere (not me) is sat at home right now feeling somewhat vindicated and smug, and contemplating phoning his old boss to say, "told you so, you prick".

Pound foolish idiots.

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Cash register maker used same password – 166816 – non-stop since 1990

bazza
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FAIL

(untitled)

The icon ---> isn't big enough...

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Hi, Fi: Google JOWL-SLAPS mobile bigguns with $20/mo wireless service

bazza
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Re: Wow!

The Americans sure pay for their data: I use anything from 10 to 30GB per month for £15 in the UK

Yep, recently had a conversation with an American along similar lines. He couldn't believe it, properly gobsmacked! I told him that that's what you get when you win a revolutionary war of independence, that they only have themselves to blame for their weak and feeble government...

What they need over there is a good dose of UK / european style (and very nearly communistical) market regulation!

Mind you, if you think $10/GB is a lot, you should see what they pay in Japan. And if you go there leave roaming data on, be prepared for an apocalyptically sphincter tightening bill. £2000 in two weeks is not unusual for a busy business trip. If you ever go there be sure to rent a SIM at the airport with a decent data allowance, or better still pre-arrange one (£150 / week unlimited data is achievable).

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ARM wrestles analysts' guesses to floor after slurping IP Kool-Aid

bazza
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Re: No mention of "contra revenue" here then?

The website revealed it to be the big I...

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bazza
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Re: No mention of "contra revenue" here then?

Is it the Big I, or the little A?

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bazza
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Re: Crazy

I don't think any of the major players will ever be able to buy ARM. The competition regulators all over the world would have a hard time saying why it would be ok for, say, Apple to buy ARM at the expense of everyone else.

That kinda suits everyone. ARM don't make mobiles and so don't threaten their customers' business. ARM benefit from a large licensing market, and their customers benefit from a large pool of engineers who know ARM's designs inside out. Their customers know that they don't have to make a preemptive and costly acquisition of ARM because non of their competitors can acquire it.

So by being indispensable ARM are effectively invulnerable to a take over. I have no doubt that if, say, Samsung came along and offered a large wodge of cash for the company the ARM shareholders would be tempted but wouldn't be allowed to sell to them. However they are earning their money the old fashioned way: dividends. There's a few companies out there that could learn from that...

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Windows 10 MURDERED your Lumia? Microsoft says it may have a fix

bazza
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This is *NOT* how you do interfaces

"To avoid future problems, Microsoft has published a new version of the Recovery Tool that sends data in 128KB blocks, rather than 2MB blocks as before. The data rate has also been lowered from 8MB per second to 5MB per second."

If you've got a slow thing being fed by a fast thing, you're gonna need flow control. Invented, oh I dunno, some decades ago? You don't go messing around with guessing data flow rates.

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America was founded on a dislike of taxes, so how did it get the IRS?

bazza
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Re: a country that was founded on a dislike of taxes

Tell that to residents of Washington DC. (Still?) no votes for them...

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Android finally shows up for work, app in hand

bazza
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"Or make dual sim phones widely available instead of keeping them restricted to either crappy phones or emerging markets."

Actually that doesn't work so well. Dual SIM phones generally cannot use both at once, you have to switch between them and use one at a time. There's only one set of radio hardware in the phone. It doesn't work well because if you're switched to one SIM people cannot call you on the other SIM's number until you change over.

If there were two sets of radio hardware then it would be like having two separate phones, twice the power consumption, etc. Feasible, but not very good either.

Sorting out the duality back in the network (like BlackBerry would seem to be planning on doing with that company acquisition) is the better way. Minimum hardware and power consumption in the mobile, all the clever stuck in the network. Hell, you could have all sorts of phone numbers!

Skype is quite good because it already does this kind of thing, for a fee. Skype In can give you a number anywhere in the world, and can give you multiple numbers too. Only thing it won't do as far as I can tell is let you make a phone call back out through those Skype In numbers.

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bazza
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Re: The Missing Piece

"What's the point of using your own personal smartphone for work if, when you make a call, you have to reveal your personal mobile number? What happens then - customers, suppliers, even recruiters then have your personal mobile number to harass you long after you've left the office. Maybe even after you've left the company....."

Perhaps this article BlackBerry buys service that lets you have two numbers on one smartphone will prove to be interesting reading.

Of course we're in danger of entering a world of madness here. 4G is IP, and voice calls on 4G have to be synthesized using VOIP technology. So we could be in a place where we look up a contact in an address book, dial their number, the call gets routed as a voice call to a 4G network, it gets turned into a VOIP stream, then gets presented as phone call again with the caller ID presented as a phone number which gets looked up in an address book to discover who it was that is calling.

So what's wrong with everyone just using Skype (or whatever) for everything which would then eradicate all the pointless intermediate transitions?! If it were possible to run two copies of Skype (or whatever), then that would solve the problem you describe without any additional cocking about with complicated bodges on existing telephony protocols!

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bazza
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BlackBerry Balance Clone...

...but probably not as good as BlackBerry's.

If Android for Work can present all your calendars (work and home) together in a single view, and all your emails (work and non-work) in one view, and allow copy/paste in one direction but not the other, then perhaps Google are beginning to get the right idea.

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Easy ... easy ... Aw CRAP! SpaceX rocket ALMOST lands on ocean hoverbase

bazza
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Re: Landing a rocket is retarded

@Grikath,

"To use your F1 analogy: Try racing when you have to chuck out and replace the engine every single lap. Things get expensive that way...."

SpaceX a long time ago were confident that they could get the manufacturing costs of their rocket down so that disposability was very affordable. They had some good ideas. For example the way their first (and current?) engine bells were designed was clever; ever so slightly heavier and slightly less performance than an 'ultimate' design, but very easy (= cheap) to make.

I don't know how that worked out, but the drive for re-usability is either because the 'cheap to build' approach didn't pan out or they're going for dropping the launch price even further. It's probably a bit of both.

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bazza
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Re: Video

To my untutored eye the descent velocity looks quite high all the way down to the barge. Even Neil Armstrong had time to hover and maneouvre a bit before actually touch down, and he'd gone all the way to the moon, not just a quick hop into the outer atmosphere!

Looks like the control system hadn't achieved stable control over the rocket's orientation either, it's weaving all over the place.

Getting closer though

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bazza
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Needs One of These

Helicopter grab grill on HMS St Albans. There's a hook that the ship's helo can push through this as it lands, instant grab. Stops the helo rolling all over the place.

These are so effective that when divers went down to the wreck of one of ships sunk in the Falklands war, they found that the Lynx that had gone down with it was still attached, hanging upside down (the ship had capsized), after all these years.

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Chrome version 42 will pour your Java coffee down the drain: Plugin blocked by default

bazza
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Genuinely interested; is it proving to be a write-once-run-everywhere experience?

Good luck!

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Need speed? Then PCIe it is – server power without the politics

bazza
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Re: PCIe? Yeurk!

@Trevor Potts,

"Don't be so sure that paying the patents isn't cheaper than inventing it all over again. If your assertions were correct, we wouldn't have companies reinventing interconnects over and over. Sorry mate, but which you are correct that proprietary interconnects are technologically and technically superior, that does not mean they'll win."

Yes, you are completely correct! The wheel keeps getting re-invented because someone somewhere thinks they can do it better / cheaper. Sometimes they're right, sometimes they're wrong. Personally I think that trying to create an inter-chassis interconnect around PCIe would take a long time and won't be as good as Tofu, which would be a technological pity. However that won't necessarily stop it turning into a commercial success.

When I read this article the first thoughts I had was, had they (whoever 'they' are) even heard of the K Computer / Tofu, and if so had they ever thought to even ask Fujitsu about doing a deal? Super computers are fairly obscure, so there's a high probability that the answer to the first question is no. However if someone somewhere really, really wanted to bring this sort of thing to market quickly then Tofu is there. In a sense it already is on the market; Fujitsu will sell you a mini K computer to have all to yourself :-) I want one but haven't got one :-(

Even Intel are considering going down the Tofu-esque route (i.e. putting the Interconnect on the CPU). El Reg covered this back in 2012. However it won't be high up Intel's list of things to do; the full benefit of such things can be realised only if significant changes to OSes and software are made. The OSes and software that everyone has today assumes an SMP environment. As that article says, SMP doesn't work well over a wide area. It doesn't sound like there's a lot of profit to be made, yet.

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bazza
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Re: PCIe? Yeurk!

@AC,

Thanks for posting that, I'm going to eat some TOFU!

No worries. It's a cool architecture, you can even buy one if you want to!

Current interconnect technology is pretty much brain-dead, when you consider that there is no link between software architectures and the hardware they run on

It's not that bad. Intel and AMD have both done very well in making an old fashioned programming model (SMP) work well in a general sense by emulating it in NUMA architectures (That's what QPI and Hypertransport do). We've all got better performance without having to redevelop software or OSes. In that sense Intel and AMD have both done very well. However if you want all out performance then you have to do something different, e.g. Tofu.

Interconnects and their switches are becoming a bit of a problem. They're now costing $billions to develop, and the markets that can support that development cost are few. Ethernet will be the only medium / long range interconnect worth having in a few years. We're already seeing HDDs with Ethernet instead of SATA. Ethernet switches will get developed regardless, in which case would it ever be worth doing, say, a competitive PCIe switch chip? I think it highly likely that computer architectures will coalesce around Ethernet and DDRx eventually.

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bazza
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Re: PCIe? Yeurk!

@Trevor Potts,

Patents, standards, yes they all cost money. But they're nothing like as expensive as reinventing it all over again.

Hypertransport doesn't work outside the box because it was never designed to do so. Going a few centimetres across a motherboard is, from an electrical and protocol point of view, very different to going between chassis. PCIe is a bit better than Hypertransport, but it's slower and wasn't designed for inter chassis connections either.

As Justicesays points out in the post above you cannot ignore the speed of transmission over a longer distance. Taking account of it means changing the protocol and charging how you utilise it in an application. You are more or less forced into an openmpi style approach to application design. You cannot ever hope to have a single memory address space such as an SMP architecture gives you, it's performance would be terrible. Protocols like hypertransport, QPI and PCIe (which are all about SMP really) are not very appropriate.

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bazza
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PCIe? Yeurk!

This is already a solved problem. Take a look at the K computer's Tofu Interconnect (more detail here (pdf)).

Ok, it's a bit specialised, but it is a very high speed wide area CPU-CPU interconnect without any intervening nuisances like PCIe, etc. The benefit of that interconnect shows up in its Rmax/Rpeak ratio, which is not far off 1.0. That means that the interconnect works very well, there's not much latency in the system. A lot of the faster supercomputers have a much worse ratio.

On Tofu each CPU gets 100GByte/sec to other CPUs, which is very good (Xeon manages about 50GByte/sec to memory), and it's effectively a 4+ year old piece of technology.

Other supercomputer guys like Cray are also pretty good at this kind of thing.

PCIe by comparison is childs play. Rather than trying to bend and stretch PCIe they should go and have a good chat to the supercomputer folk, especially Fujitsu.

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bazza
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Re: Going to be slow regardless

@Justicesays,

"1 Gigahertz means 1 cpu cycle happens while light travels 30 cm.

Chips run at up over 5 Ghz, so 6cm.

If it turns out the data you needed was on a RAM chip 2 meters away, 66 cpu cycles (at least) will pass while you are waiting for it to turn up, regardless of what bus, technology or whatever you are using for an interconnect."

It's actually worse than that in practise. Light in a vacuum travels at 30cm / nanosecond, but down a fibre or through a wire light / electricity goes at about 20cm / nanosecond. That's a whole lot worse!

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Bonking with Apple is no fun 'cos it's too hard to pay, say punters

bazza
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Existing Standards

The whole NFC thing here in the West is crazy.

The Japanese have their own system, they've had it for a long time, and it works brilliantly. They've had it built into phones for ages, and it's completely normal to use a phone (even a budget phone) to pay on the subway, buy a coffee, newspaper, etc.

So why was it that the existing, functional and completely adequate standard in Japan was ignored by the West? Not Invented Here syndrome? Licensing fees? Hadn't been to Japan and didn't bother doing an IPR search for Japanese patents?

Patent Wars

Of course this raises the possibility of Japanese tech companies pursuing the NFC consortium for patent licensing. Bit like Mitsubishi having invented the Dyson AirBlade hand drier years before Dyson themselves got round to it... Mitsubishi obliged Dyson to withdraw their version.

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bazza
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Re: I'm puzzled by these attempts.

@Steve Davies 3,

"The difference between this and the other types of payment service is that the merchant does not see your card details. Thus they can't track your shopping habits!

For the likes of Tesco this is not good. I will very surprised if they sign up for apple Pay at launch."

For the likes of Tesco it is irrelevant. The law in the UK prevents retailers retaining credit / debit card details, so they cannot be used for tracking customers' shopping habits anyway. Pay by Bonk doesn't change that existing situation.

This is why they all have loyalty card schemes.

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