* Posts by Charlie Clark

2869 posts • joined 16 Apr 2007

IBM insider: How I caught my wife while bug-hunting on OS/2

Charlie Clark
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Re: Looking forward to part 2

I agree, great article. OS/2 was/is fantastic - I think UPS handheld terminals are still running it as are numerous other embedded systems and ran in banks and airports for years - which was let down by the less than stellar performance of the PS/2 MCA systems (better than than ISA but in a "malaria is better than typhoid" way). Well, MCA was a major improvement over ISA but didn't bring enough performance and bandwidth to seem worthwhile. So we all got to suffer the abominations of EISA and, shudder, VESA, before MCA's heir PCI was able to triumph. But that was ten lost years. Had MCA succeeded IBM would subsequently have dropped the Neanderthal x86 chips… but they were too busy chasing the hardware monopoly.

A key OS/2 innovation was hardware virtualisation so not only could DOS applications run in complete isolation from each other they also got more memory allocated than they could standalone. Oh, and resources like printers and serial ports could be shared effortlessly across machines. OS/2 also came with a damn good scripting language REXX in which one of the first http servers wasn't written, if memory serves me correctly.

However, there were also downsides: while you couldn't kill the OS, the GUI called somewhat pompously "Presentation Manager" was single-threaded up until v3 service pack 17 (IIRC) which did mean that individual misbehaving apps could ruin everyone's fun. Still crashes came with detailed, numbered errors and stack dumps which I presume trained engineers understood. By far better than NT's BSOD.

Back to Microsoft - I think the article makes a good job of suggesting that the technical wizardry of which IBM was justly proud was, in the 1980s and 1990s matched by a bureaucracy destined to stifle innovation at every turn. The same happened to Apple a few years later.

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Firefox and Opera squish big buffer overflow bugs

Charlie Clark
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Re: Opera and OWA

@Pierre you really haven't a clue - if the site was properly written it would "degrade gracefully" either by UA detection, which takes a lot less than 5 seconds, or by client-side feature detection (in action since HTML >= 3.2). Neither, however, would explain Microsoft singling out a specific browser. And neither has to do with "pushing towards more fragmentation"; done properly then detection provides the best possible experience for all browsers.

Applications like OWA are why the specs need to develop. I'm not sure that I'm in favour of turning browsers into runtimes but I'm also not going to play Canute.

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Charlie Clark
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Re: Opera and OWA

And this is Opera's fault because…? Not that it doesn't have issues but website problems in Opera are generally caused by servers sniffing for UAs as opposed to feature detection* and only letting their "friends" into the garden. This is sloppy coding and unfortunately unsurprisingly on the rise again.

* check out the support for feature detection with CSS in Opera. Even if you don't use Opera as your standard browser this feature will make site development easier and Opera offers a head start. To me, that's all good.

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Russians: Decision on diva Sarah Brightman's space trip in early 2013

Charlie Clark
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I do hope…

…that HAL is running mission control on this one.

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Kobo Glo illuminated e-reader review

Charlie Clark
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Got lots of PDFs? Get a Sony

Sony readers come with a special version of Acrobat which is really good at reflowing PDFs to fit the viewport of the device. Head and shoulders above the competition and yet, depending, on the layout of the PDF still often unsatisfying in comparison with a dedicated e-book.

AFAIK the Kobo is one of the few readers that swings both ways and lets you reader both epub and mobi files at the same time. Would have been good to see that covered in the review,

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OMG! Aaaah! Apple TV! Yes! No ... Probably! Sometime!

Charlie Clark
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Re: XBMC not as scalable

I guess you've never heard of DNLA then. Works on my telly, phone, tablet, notebook, etc.

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Charlie Clark
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Load of crap

What kind of network really needs to worry about this? If it hooks into the TV infrastructure then it can be a very asymmetric service. Not that is really a problem. Currently trialling Maxdome here and HD films check for a max of a 6 Mb/s connection with an SD card used for buffering so will work with less. The "app" itself has a few problems but connectivity isn't a problem - my provider will happily provide me with up to 100 Mb/s.

Any bandwidth hungry device will come a notice informing the user that they'd better pay to have sufficient bandwidth or they won't be cool; revenue share of course. Worked wonders for mobile. Actually provisioning the bandwidth shouldn't be a problem for any half-way decent provider who has fibre all the way to the DSLASM / splitter.

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Thought you'd escaped Twitter? Think again as Twits get email button

Charlie Clark
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Barely concealed personal information grab

NFT

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Power to the people - if you can find a spare socket

Charlie Clark
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Praising British trains?

You can tell that Mr Dabbs doesn't travel very much. My god but British Intercities are poky little things with less leg room than a Ryanair Alicante special! Even in first class getting in and out of a seat is best left to contortionists! Treat yourself to a ride on a proper train (ICE 3rd generation say Frankfurt - Amsterdam). Power sockets below the armrests on every chair, intelligent reclining seats to minimise disruption to those behind you, compartments with optimised data connections for those who need them, and quiet compartment for those who don't and prices that don't go sky high just because you want to travel during rush hour.

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Charlie Clark
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Re: That's what building codes are for

It's the same in Europe - sockets no more than 2m apart. But then Britain is famous for observing the law in the breach… difficult to beat us Brits for cheapskating.

Bout time someone mandated high-power usb power point on all sockets.

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Chinese baby war-boffins bust 3Tflops, snatch student LINPACK crown

Charlie Clark
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Moore's law

The question is slightly disingenuous because of the power limit. If that has been constant at 26 amps throughout the history then you need significant changes in architecture for boosts. Might be better to plot FLOPs/Watt over time for a better comparison. If the cap has been in place all the time and the improvements have been gained by the move to GPUs then Intel should start to worry.

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Forklift fondleslab 'fellas flee with vast haul of iPad Minis at JFK

Charlie Clark
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Joke

Extreme measures

Seems like Apple is going to extreme lengths to be able to boost the number of I-pad Minis shipped…

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Wireless boffins boost Wi-Fi hotspot performance 700%

Charlie Clark
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Clarification required

The article seems to make a distinction between hotspots and access points. I'm not that familiar with WiFi topology but I've always considered the two to be the same though usage seems to imply that hotspots are public access points for a particular network over a large area such as a city and access points generally relating to more or less closed networks such as hotels and conferences.

This sounds like network management optimisation which is unlikely to have much effect with just one device. I'm also not convinced that if everyone is downloading you can increase the yield. This approach sounds like load balancing across access points. Surely, before any effort is made in that direction, you need to make sure that the access points are set up to consider both the effects of the environment, user density and interference from each other? Not really up on much of this so would appreciate an explanation.

Has there been any work done on Bluetooth 3 networks which use Bluetooth as a d-channel to manage clients while data is carried on WiFi?

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Internet Explorer becomes Korean election issue

Charlie Clark
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Re: Why they did it

So, don't use IE would seem to be a better solution.

The same export restrictions also applied to the other browser of the time: Netscape and there was no workaround for it at the time. So, the decision at the time was either use ActiveX and have encryption or don't use ActiveX and have no encryption.

There has since been plenty of time to start moving towards using 128-bit https encryption in the browser but changes like this have very high inertia: you have to maintain both systems while you migrate customers. And, once developers have got used to a monoculture they are even more resistant to change which, let's face it, is not required by the job in hand and is going to incur considerable costs. Of course, it is exactly to avoid this kind of lock in that people advocate open standards for.

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Charlie Clark
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Stop

Why they did it

At the tail end of the 1990s, the Korean government decided in its wisdom to develop a home-grown 128-bit SSL encryption standard to increase security around e-commerce.

They didn't choose to do this out of vanity. US export restrictions prevented versions of IE with 128-bit encryption from being distributed to Korea, 64-bit was known to be compromised and ActiveX was a reasonable solution to a big problem then.

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El Reg mulls commentard icon portfolio shake-up

Charlie Clark
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For patent issues

A square with rounded corners.

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Microsoft offers Internet Explorer 10 preview for Windows 7

Charlie Clark
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'Tis true

Corporates are still moving to Windows 7 and while this means that users are moving from IE 8 to IE 9 they are moving to Chrome faster. Stats from a fairly typical corporate site look a bit like

IE 9 18 %

IE 8 16 %

Chrome 30 %

FF 28 %

Safari 8 % (mainly IOS devices)

In comparison, a year ago IE 8 was around 30 % and Chrome around 10 %

It's worth going back to the

first IE 9 preview release which promised a release early, release often schedule which the first IE 10 preview seemed to continue including availability for Windows 7. I seem to remember fairly firm release dates being mentioned but I may be mistaken.

IE 10 does seem to have got a lot of things right but it's also trailing from the word go. HTML 5 coverage is below the previous generation of the other browsers, and nice as the JS optimisations and hardware acceleration might be, users are more likely to notice and appreciate support for SPDY as companies move to adopt it for their servers now that more and more browsers support it.

In any case it doesn' t really matter. For Microsoft IE 10 is too little too late. For them to stop the possibly irreversible slide in the corporate space they need to release IE 10 for Windows 7 as soon as possible. Corporates are overwhelmingly skipping Windows 8 so the next version change won't be before 2014 by when IE could easily have been overtaken by Chrome, Firefox and IOS.

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Metro's mother to replace defenestrated Windows boss Sinofsky

Charlie Clark
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Re: Ribotro

I'm in total agreement with you about Ribbon - I have to use MS Office with Ribbon for a customer and even after more than a year I am not comfortable with it and I have used MS Word on and off for over 20 years - Word 2 which mixed toolbars and menus was the best I've worked with.

I think Metro has some great ideas which if used sparingly would be part of a great UI but basing everything around it? The tiles are great for pairing back and summarising information. This would be great in a notification centre but plastering the screen with them is counterproductive.

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Apple granted patent for ebook page-turning

Charlie Clark
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Don't know about Silverlight but I think this kind of animation has been around for a while in things like CD-ROMs, remember them?

It's certainly been in use on http://www.20thingsilearned.com/ since long before the patent was applied for so one slap for the submitters and one slap for the USPTO for approval of something for which prior art was a few mouse clicks away.

Apple should be fined % of turnover for this kind of abuse of the patent system.

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Brits swallow Google Nexus 4 supply 'in 30 minutes'

Charlie Clark
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Re: It's called competition

Indeed, though as Samsung is supplying the presumably higher margin Nexus 10 they are unlikely to worry too much. Anyway Samsung has announced the Galaxy Premier as a slightly cut-down version of the SIII.

@ Mr Cox - as desirable as "sold out" notices are for PR, most companies like to be able to keep on selling. Engineering shortages is against the law. The most likely thing is that Google still doesn't really know much about selling physical products: shipping, warehousing, etc. an may well have been genuinely caught out by the demand which does imply what many have been saying for a while: good Android devices are considered to be as good as I-Phones.

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Samsung turns screws on Apple, hikes A6 processor price 20%

Charlie Clark
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Re: I wonder..

Chinese companies will pick this up in the next few years

1) Fabs are getting more and more expensive to build and they were never cheap in the first place. The next generation of equipment is already being cofinanced by the exising fabs.

2) In a few years the Chinese will be going "who's Apple?"

The last couple of 5 year plans have been about developing technologies for the domestic the market and using the economies of scale to subsequently dominate the market worldwide. Admittedly, this didn't work too well with the homegrown version of UMTS but hardware is something they are more suited to.

Unless we get 3d printing really under control the whole idea of getting stuff built cheaply in China and sold in the US or Europe at a huge profit is going to become untenable.

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BBC in secret trial to see if you care about thing you plainly don't

Charlie Clark
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Re: They should clearly axe the obsolete standard

The sheer amount of wastage that would be caused by abandoning FM

What wastage would that be?

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Charlie Clark
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Re: RDS

Never understood why Radio 5 isn't also broadcast on FM

I seem to recall that at the time it was decided that the BBC would not be given any more nationwide FM frequencies so that national commercial radio would have a chance to develop outside.

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Charlie Clark
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Re: Then there is Radio 5

I think power of receivers is the only argument against the change.

The switch from analogue to digital TV has gone smoothly and, if my mum is anything to go by, people are generally happy with the result (time-shifting has become easier). The same would be true for radio. Of course, people would complain but then they always do.

AM does propagate further and require less power to receive than FM or DAB. Partly because of that there is more money in FM because it allows for a better carve up of the audience (radio is often very local) but there are limits on the number of stations that can run nationwide for the few stations that don't have identikit programming.

Anyway, FM propagation has its own problems: reception of the German version of Radio 4 varies from dreadful to shitty in my flat; it's not on LW and MW receivers are almost non-existent do DAB really is the only choice. I never listen to any of the other stations but then I never watch any of the hundreds of TV channels that are available either (more of the same old shit just at different times and in different languages).

As a society we have embraced digital broadcasting. DAB, or at least DAB+, is a good solution for radio. I suspect that, er, reception would improve if say mobile phones started supporting it instead of / as well as FM so that we could listen to it on speakerphone without having to plug a headset in.

The alternative, of course, given the popularity of radio of DVB-T might simply to extend that.

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Twitter survives election after Ruby-to-Java move

Charlie Clark
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Pity

I think it was better when there was a built-in bullshit brake!

As for the speed not sure that Java is so relevant. A Java foundation in theory provides a scalable environment because so much money has been spent by Sun, IBM and others on the JVM but no one has ever really claimed Java to be fast and memory efficient (in comparison say with C). Moving to a more functional paradigm probably brings better IO performance with lots and lots of asynchronous clients.

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'iPhone 5 is so easily scratched we just can't get them out the door'

Charlie Clark
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Re: Design goals 101...

You, sir, are a cad! Steam trains is definitely off-limits!

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GPU-powered Chrome lets you watch YouTube longer

Charlie Clark
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Power consumption

It's not necessarily true that GPUs use less power than CPUs but it is generally true that any instructions carried out directly by hardware will use less power because they use fewer cycles. Hardware acceleration does, of course, depend on support in the hardware which for videos means support for the various codecs. Would be interesting to know what's supported just h264 or also webm.

In other news: Opera 12.10 was released.

http://my.opera.com/desktopteam/blog/2012/11/05/12-10-final-released

Support for SPDY and FlexBox are my favourites.

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Mobile operators have another go at killing IM and Skype

Charlie Clark
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Security matters

to me at least. Not that I generally have a lot to say or anything that would be a problem for eavesdroppers but I do believe that people should have the most secure communications possible on any particular channel. E-mail is the glaring exception, of course.

Reviews of Wickr (http://mywickr.com) or Silent Circle (http://silentcircle.com) on El Reg would be nice.

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Apple iPad Mini 8in tablet review

Charlie Clark
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Re: Sheltered Life

I'm actually a mobile developer, and as such I have 4 iphones, a couple of ipods, ipads 2, …And yes, since getting the mini I find that's the first thing I reach for, and the thing I carry around with me

Two things: this puts you very much in the same camp as Mr Dabbs who openly admits his long-standing preference for Apple products; it is a more than tacit admission that Jobs was wrong to have launched the I-Pad only as a 10" device. The relative and steadily increasing popularity of the 7" devices such as the Kindle Fire really have forced Apple's hand here. Though, as usual, they have responded with excellent hardware. I'd tend to agree that for doing much other than just consuming 8" is preferable to 7" but then Samsung was there first with the Samsung Galaxy 7.7 which has GPS and now LTE.

As with other products Apple is probably going to sell a lot of these devices to existing owners who have so far not admitted that the I-Pad is actually a little too big and too heavy to be really mobile. And it will no doubt encourage a few non-owners to buy the "original" over the cheaper competition. However, as with the phones on a like-for-like basis the I-Pad mini really does have little to offer over the well-made droids who are only likely to become both cheaper and better and offer even more content and services on a par with Apple.

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Yahoo! will! ignore! 'Do! Not! Track!' from! IE10!

Charlie Clark
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Isn't this what Microsoft wanted?

What does seem increasingly plain, however, is that Microsoft's stance on DNT has backfired.

DNT is such a braindead approach - it depends entirely on advertisers choosing to play along - and Microsoft is effectively exposing this.

The only effective approach to tracking is that which drove the EU's law on cookies: opt-in only after consumers have been told about the matter and effective sanctions on breaches. Note that the law specifically applies to tracking cookies, session cookies, etc. are generally above suspicion. Personally, I think the law has largely achieved that what it set out to do: shine a light on the extensive abuse of privacy by online advertisers and others.

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APPLE: SCREW YOU, BRITS, everyone else says Samsung copied us

Charlie Clark
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Contempt

If you go to court you are legallybound to accept the decision of the court, within the appeals process of course. So while you can express all kinds of emotions about the judgements ("we are shocked", etc.) you are not allowed to criticise the court's judgement because to do so is to hold the court in contempt. Apple's legal counsel should be shot.

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Facebook's stock rally may be shortlived: Small advertisers enraged

Charlie Clark
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Well done Facebook

… for finally figuring out a business model. Looks like a cross between Google's search words and Groupon. Now we just have to see how well it works or whether it just displaces businesses to equivalent platforms to shout out their ware, Twitter obviously the current favourite. As I don't use the service I don't really care but I do think it is important to see what kind of models actually work now that the hype is receding.

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Why is 4G so expensive? Answer: The Post-Voice Era is coming

Charlie Clark
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Re: In a few short years

The EU only regulates on matters affect the single market and intervenes very rarely in individual countries. So, they are unlikely to regulate here but roaming charges will almost certainly be capped.

However, the implication of steadily rising prices once people have moved to 4G and have no choice to go back sounds like an interesting reworking of the initial 3G contracts. The problem was that WiFi pushed down price expectations and are likely to act as a damper again. This is probably why EE is testing the water with £5 extra charge. Other networks will probably orient their charges around that though I would have though there will still be plenty of voice only tariffs for the majority of us who can't be bothered installing additional software just to make calls.

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Boeing recipe turns cooking oil into jet fuel

Charlie Clark
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Re: "converting the waste cooking oil into sustainable aviation fuel."

Vegetable oils are a perfectly good substitute for diesel and just need some minor adjustments to the engines. Presumably if you crack the oil correctly you could create the kind of fuel that jet engines need. But, as you say, ordinary fuel is cheaper before tax. If it wasn't there would be a huge displacement of food crops by fuel crops everywhere.

I think it would be possible to used cooking oil - cleaning it is less of a problem than knowing exactly what you've got - but burning it in local power plants is probably the best approach.

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New Mac mini: Business in the front, party at the back

Charlie Clark
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Re: Mini movers..

Yep, got one of those self-same Mac Minis here. Cheap and cheerful but also quiet, compact and useful.

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Charlie Clark
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Re: quad-core?

Converting video formats is actually something that graphics cards excel at as they support many of the codecs in hardware they also do parallelism much, much better than x86 CPUs.

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Windows RT OEMs unveil pricing for Surface wannabes

Charlie Clark
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I don't think you'll have to wait that long. By January at the latest these things will be being remaindered if demand does not pick up. Could even be as early as the last week before Christmas for companies desperate to generate revenue. And, if Amazon and Google release cheapish 10" tablets in time for the holidays then that really will put the cat among the pigeons.

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EC: Microsoft didn't honour browser-choice commitment

Charlie Clark
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Statistics, damn lies and statistics

For comparison the stats from Akamai (almost certainly a much larger base though notably US-biased)

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Charlie Clark
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Re: The EU is not perfect, but...

Indeed this is how to regulate effectively. There have been some eye-wateringly high fines over the last 12 months but only when you put them in the context of % of revenue can you see whether they are likely to act as deterrents. The Economist made a comparison a few months ago.

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Apple unsheathes MacBook 13-incher

Charlie Clark
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Re: Is Apple becoming Oracle?

- my money's with the Asian-manufacturers, specifically Samsung and Asus - its only a matter of time before Apple is brought down a peg or two

Yes, whoever is first to market with Android on a lightweight ARM notebook is likely to do some very brisk business.

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Charlie Clark
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Re: Is Apple becoming Oracle?

Drives are commodity anyway and probably best left to shops to install. I've a Seagate SSD/magnetic combo which I put in to my existing machine. It's pretty fast but I find that Mac OS parallel read/write performance is dreadful and best not to mention the 5 second waits that a call to my external, firewire backup drive imposes on everything including the UI. Have they got some of the single-threaded OS/2 Presentation Manager in there?

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Charlie Clark
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Is Apple becoming Oracle?

I am currently on my second MacBook having migrated from "Windows" hardware to an x86 MacBook and then up to a Pro when the time came for a new machine. The time for a new machine has come around again but I am not really interested in any of the new offerings and more than a little put off by the jump in pricing and will, therefore, be holding off on the purchase. As Apple is selling more of its notebooks than ever it must be doing something right but I do wonder how many other people feel that Apple is starting to gouge its customers. We don't mind paying a premium for an excellent combination of hardware and software but we do tend put a figure on that premium.

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Gates: Microsoft will merge Phone and Windows platforms

Charlie Clark
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Re: It is obvious

If you listen to what he says it almost entirely an admission that Apple got everything right. Touch is natural but then, suddenly, keyboards and mice.

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Charlie Clark
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Re: But only if...

Active Desktop was actually useful. It was great for things akin to what Windows 7 gadgets are

Some of the ideas behind it might have been okay - nabbed from OpenDoc/Taligent - but the implementation was, as was so much of Windows rushed, botched and buggy.

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Samsung Display: Apple hasn't kicked our LCDs out of its garden

Charlie Clark
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So is this a case of crying about being unable to sell last years technology for this years prices?

Well, it's still all speculation but that is probably the driving force. The higher res screens were suddenly the thing to have once Apple launched the "retina" devices and so whoever could make them could charge a premium. Since then other companies have developed similar techniques and the world has moved on. It's been hard to make money from LCD tellies for a while which is leading to consolidation in that market and it's only to be expected for similar pressures to appear in the market for smaller screens in the absence of additional differentiation (higher intensity, greater efficiency, better colours, lighter, thinner, etc.).

Any company that has invested heavily in capacity will still want to produce and sell as much as possible no matter how low the margins. Suppliers will no doubt be looking both to the putative Windows pad market as well as upscaling the high res screens into 4 and 8k tellies. All the while Samsung will continue to develop AMOLED where the market is still growing, there are fewer competitors and the technology is still maturing.

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Head of Facebook EMEA tentacle to become Tech City UK chief

Charlie Clark
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Re: £115K

For London it is very low which begs the question: did she walk [from Facebook] or was she pushed? Then again, isn't some deadline approaching for selling Facebook shares? and TCIO could be some kind of tax-efficient bouncy castle landing on her way back to Merka.

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TiVo: Cisco and pals could owe us BILLIONS over DVR patents

Charlie Clark
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Re: A bit of info ...

In the 90s it was pretty obvious that you needed a MPEG2 coprocessor to do the heavy lifting as CPUs of the time weren't up to the task.

I seem to remember Intel touting MMX as being important here but from memory another reason for external handling (including Intel's own performance chips) were the bandwidth/interrupt limitations of the x86 and ISA bus: other architectures such as the Amiga were already quite adept at video work because they didn't need to pass all the data to the peripherals via the CPU.

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Charlie Clark
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Re: Not that I normally have ANY truck with patent battles...

Be that as it may - where's the "technological innovation" that the article talks of? Doesn't TPB et al. provide even better features through their "distributed archives"?

I was digitising video in the early 1990s - who do I send the cheque to? Surely only a matter of time before retroactive patents are granted. I pity the poor buggers who invented things like the wheel, fire and didn't think about patenting them…

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Craig, Connery or ... Dalton? Vote now for the ultimate James Bond

Charlie Clark
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Re: Moore

I always found the Moore films to be the most enjoyable because they really didn't take themselves seriously and there was room in the films for the other characters (Sheriff Pepper). Was complementary to Connery's action hero in emphasising a suave approach to saving the world and I enjoyed watching them both: it added to the Bond myth.

By the end of 70s the films, like the music were going downhill so while we gained Jaws we also got Moonraker and Bond went into scriptless sequel mode. Pierce Brosnan was destined to be a great Bond in the style of the earlier ones but fashions had changed.

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Microsoft Surface: Designed to win, priced to fail

Charlie Clark
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Re: What's wrong with Pages, Numbers and Keynote?

The Office market wants a full fat Office and is prepared to pay for it that's why they give IOS works such short shrift. Softmaker Office for Android got a very good review but is still not good enough. Office for IOS/Android is potentially a huge market for MS if only they could get their head out of their arse. Be interesting to know how many units they've pencilled in to sell this quarter.

Good analysis of the Surface and the market it's facing.

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