* Posts by Charlie Clark

3284 posts • joined 16 Apr 2007

Marriott: The TRUTH about personal Wi-Fi hotel jam bid

Charlie Clark
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There really is such a things as "the norm", and these days mobile phones and mobile wifi really do qualify.

Not really. In all these things there is the principle of caveat emptor. You should always find out how much things will cost before you use them. That said, if that information isn't available, then you should hound the shit out of them.

I remember my first business trip to the US in 2001 where the staff of the Marriott Courtyard in Redbank couldn't tell me how to get an internet connection (dial-in was all that was available back then), nor how much an international call would cost. So, I ended up using a null-modem cable with my mobile phone and dialling in via Germany (worked surprisingly well). Needless to say I complained strongly to Marriott and, to their credit, they refunded the charges incurred.

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Charlie Clark
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I hope not, at least for those hotels with international customers. There isn't a snowball's chance in hell that I'll use my European provider's data plan when I'm in the US, at $DEITY only knows how many €€ per GB.

To be clear: I'm not in any form condoning the rip-off charging for mobile data. But I think it's worth looking at what the hotels are trying (and generally failing) to do and why they probably want to get out of the business.

When I'm in America I normally pick up a SIM for data (fucking expensive when compared to Europe). I've nearly always had more bandwidth with it than wifi in any of the major chains (a couple of hundred kbit/s if you're very lucky and repeated firewall signups). It really is quite a challenge to set up a reliable wifi environment in a large hotel, which is why is usually isn't available (no matter what they charge). Smaller hotels with one or two access points just don't have the same problems.

With the US mobile market finally maturing I'm sure data SIMs will start getting cheaper and, who knows, they might even introduce wholesale data which will make it easier for non-US providers to buy bandwidth at reasonable prices. In the meantime I may just pick up a T-Mobile SIM that will give me cheap data in the states.

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Charlie Clark
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I do believe that there is a genuine issue around the kind of unsecured wifi networks that are preferred by hotels and conferences: they are incredibly easy to spoof as clients only care about the SSID. Wifi is such a shitty (but cheap) protocol that it doesn't come with any kind of strategy to avoid this. If security really is the issue then fixing those issues should have priority. There are now wifi networks that can use the telcos' networks to do SIM-based authorisation, and/or customers could "bonk" their mobile phones to get network keys but notebooks would present more of a problem.

I do believe that the hotels are slowly thinking of getting out of providing internet for guests: it's a lot of gear to buy and look after and it's increasingly difficult to compete with what people can get from their mobile provider notionally for a fraction of the cost. But then I never fail to be surprised at the extras that American hotel chains routinely charge a fortune for (in much of Europe free wifi is now pretty much ubiquitous in hotels). I suspect the solution will be to cooperate with the mobile networks to setup pico cells in the hotel for improved coverage (and reduced load on the public cells).

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Whew, US cellcos... Better find a new revenue stream, QUICK

Charlie Clark
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Re: Reason for M&A have nothing to do with cost savings

You see, this is the endgame for capitalism. Sooner or later, you end up with a winner.

You seem to be ignoring the lessons of > 10 years 3G in Europe and the expansion of mobile in the third world. Companies can do it at a profit but not as monolithic providers of everything.

What will happen is what's happened everywhere else: telco's will pool resources where possible and outsource whatever they consider not to be core business.

The shareprice has been driven as much by money printing as anything else but debt is still ridiculously cheap so there are no real problems.

Of course, pressure on the the regulator to smother the competition through a merger or a takeover can't be ruled out. I take this article as part of the lobbying process of the new Congress along those lines. Golden parachute for the FCC being packed as I write, no doubt.

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Charlie Clark
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You can't defy gravity forever…

I just topped up my PAYG with the annual minimum of € 15… and the provider is going to give me € 5 on top. However, now that it no longer costs me anything to receive calls in the EU I will be retiring on of my UK SIMS and using my German one there: it is now cheaper to use a foreign SIM for calls in most EU countries. The other one may go to if I can get a reasonable rate for data, once that becomes fully unbundled. So, my current provider may end up the winner for my miserly spend.

Makes you wonder why the Yanks thought the same would never happen to them.

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Want to have your server pwned? Easy: Run PHP

Charlie Clark
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Re: And the alternative is ?

I like Python because the code almost always remains readable. Lots of web frameworks to choose from. YMMV.

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Charlie Clark
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Re: Not just my opinion

I was thinking of particularly of Ruby on Rails

That's one particular framework, which is reasonable for a particular domain and shit for everything else. The ActiveRecord pattern is one of the many examples of poor designs from lazy or stupid programmers, though that isn't helped by SQL syntax: a "wire" interface for set algebra would be a much better way for client code to talk to servers.

But, while I don't like the Ruby syntax, there's no denying that quite a lot of thought has gone into the language.

In one sense it's very difficult to do the web nicely thanks to the stateless http protocol and fuck-ups like HTML forms (look and smell like MIME elements but you can't nest them). But having a universal protocol and no runtime lock-in also has its advantages.

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Charlie Clark
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Re: Not just my opinion

@asdf

That's a bit of a leading question – I guess only Javascript is another webbie language – every other language tends to come from another domain.

I'm not arguing as to what you can and cannot do with the language but very specifically about the rather obvious lack of design of the language itself. Like Javascript, PHP was thrown together to scratch a particular. They have both succeeded in spite of this shortcoming.

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Charlie Clark
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Not just my opinion

It's a fucking awful language.

Still lots of people like it and write good (well reasonable), secure (well not too fucked) code in it.

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Charlie Clark
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Re: Seriously, he actually believed the advertised PHP version on the server?

I doubt any serious admin is accurately showing the actual version they are running,

Oh, holy fuck! If you start messing around with version numbers for that kind of shit you really will have problems.

Distros may choose to backport security fixes to older versions (though there are plenty of cases where that isn't really possible) in which case they may manage their own patches but otherwise the version number is the only way to know if you're secure or not. The hackers don't bother checking version numbers, they just use brute force vulnerability/feature detection as anyone who's ever read an error log will know.

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SpaceX six days from historic rocket landing attempt

Charlie Clark
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Re: What a team!

What is really impressive is that SpaceX was founded with only $100M

hm, I just found that behind the back of the sofa…

As impressive as the work of the company has been (comparisons with the competitors such as Orbital Sciences are welcome) when it comes to money there is the small matter of a large NASA contract. This doesn't mean that I want to detract in any way from the quality of the team and the innovative work they've done. I wish them every success.

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Internet Explorer 12 to shed legacy cruft in bid to BEAT Chrome

Charlie Clark
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Re: Corporate ActiveX anyone

I'd guess all companies with > 10000 employees are in this boat. The big problem for Microsoft is that not even Enterprise mode solves all the problems. This is hindering the adoption of Windows 8 tablets for mobile workers.

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Google rams Landfill Android into Indian Ocean folks' faces

Charlie Clark
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Re: Landfill Android?

It's The Reg's attempt at a clever bit of clickbait. It was slightly relevant a couple of years ago for phones that generally had insufficient hardware for the OS, now it's just jarringly patronising.

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IsoHunt releases roll-your-own Pirate Bay

Charlie Clark
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Re: torrent

That would be a peer-to-peer network of which there are already several. They have the advantage of being robust and the disadvantage of being slower due to that robustness.

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FURY erupts on streets of Brussels over greedy USA's data-slurping appetite

Charlie Clark
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Re: TISA - Could be already implemented

The current standards are pretty weak and are observed largely in the breach. Things will change in 2016 when the new directive is due to come into effect. Then there'll be squeals as to whether US companies' can appeal to arbitration if onerous EU law affects their profits.

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The Shock of the New: The Register redesign update 4

Charlie Clark
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Re: Still no Print link?

Actually, there is a need for the print link.

Agreed but the stylesheets for printing can still be improved to strip the sidebar and the navigation.

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Microsoft kills its Euro pane in the a**: The 'would you prefer Chrome?' window

Charlie Clark
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Re: choice . . .

I never quite understood the issue.

Well, I guess that's why you don't work for any competition authority: Microsoft was using its dominance on the desktop to develop a proprietary version of the internet that was based on its own browser. It was using this proprietary internet to promote its own services.

The browser choice screen was just a small part of the settlement which has also set a precedent for other vendors in all areas such as Google and search.

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Microsoft drops early Chrissie pressie on Mac Office fanbois

Charlie Clark
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Re: Sorry, too little, too late

We're very happy for you. I, too, don't need MS Office for Mac. Lots of people don't need it but actually like it. There are, apparently, real fans of Outlook around.

I do have Office 2011 for development purposes. I think it's actually a lot nicer than the Windows version.

I'm pretty sceptical about the move to subscription-only software but the market will decide.

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Profit-shy Instagram adds 5 new filters for hipster-photo types

Charlie Clark
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Re: New keyboard needed

I wouldn't know: I always kept my eyes shut!

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If 4G isn’t working, why stick to the same approach for 5G?

Charlie Clark
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Marketing, marketing, marketing

LTE had one aim: improve data performance by moving to an IP-based stack. Speed improvements were largely achieved using 3G technology.

5G has started as a marketing term: we've got WCDMA and TCDMA and multibeam. So far, no one has come up with a new way to squeeze more data bandwidth (there's a reason for the name) into constant physical bandwidth in the same time and with the same power at the same distance. I think I've got all the constraints but I'm not a radio engineer so please correct me if I'm wrong.

The LTE business model is no better than the 3G one: free WiFi acts as a break on price expectations and open the door for OTT. If the networks hadn't wanted to charge $$$ for video or international calls but had just made it available, OTT would never have stood a chance. The US was able to charge a premium for LTE because the market is dysfunctional but Verizon's noises are a sign of a long-overdue correction.

There is money to be made from mobile networks, not least by concentrating on the basics: providing reliable voice calls anywhere.

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Ofcom mulls selling UK govt's IPv4 cache amid IPv6 rollout flak

Charlie Clark
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Trying to avoid IPv6 is very much a head-in-the sand moment. It's coming (not least because we will need those addresses) and the best thing to do is learn how to handle it as soon as possible and start making suggestions on how it should be improved.

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Charlie Clark
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Re: As the pool of available IPv4 addresses runs dry.....

I think that if CGNAT wasn't so widespread in Asia we probably would already have run out of addresses even if they could be easily transferred from one region to another (they can't).

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Charlie Clark
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Beyond the router it hardly matters as long as the router or ISP has 6to4 solution. Most smart TVs are Linux-based so IPv6 isn't a problem; all the ones running Android (an increasing number) definitely do support IPv6.

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Charlie Clark
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Re: Does anyone actually use IPv6

Yep, in use here.

Use within companies is another aspect entirely: as long as they have enough private IPv4 addresses and the 10 blocks are pretty generous, there is little incentive but the more sensors and devices they have the urge to switch internal networks to IPv6 will grow. Another drive will be once they start routing more traffic in VPNs on public networks.

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Charlie Clark
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Re: Selling IPs?

Ownership is fuzzy, viz. the sale of Lucent's to Microsoft and others. Some of the original blocks were, it seems, entirely allocated to individual entities including companies.

But it's dangerous precedent to set for the state to try and sell them and, thus, effectively legitimate the trade. The consequences of open trade in ip addresses (in real time, why not) could be disastrous: it would be akin to reallocate road names and numbers in real time!

In any case while the 30 million might seem like a lot, they could be gone in a trice with IoT in any government department.

And, should it ever come to selling the damn things, their value well decline even further as it becomes cheaper to adopt IPv6 with 4to6. In the meantime the UK's tech sector is losing out by not gaining experience with IPv6, especially in the area of security. Maybe they're waiting for GCHQ to signal that they know how to snoop IPv6 traffic?

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Amazon workers in Germany stage CHRISTMAS STRIKE

Charlie Clark
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Re: logistics? @ratfox

Late and Sunday opening depends on where you live. The supermarkets near me are open till 22:00 or midnight and we also have the kiosks or petrol stations who exploited loopholes in existing legislation to supply after closing. Late opening is largely a function of the ability to employ people part-time in underfinanced mini-jobs: the missing contributions to health and unemployment insurance, and pensions will have to be made up by the taxpayer in the future. I try and avoid going to the shops after 20:00 as there is almost always time during the day. It was different when I first came to Germany where the idea was very much that only housewives did the shopping.

The city-state of Berlin has let the ban on Sunday trading fall entirely.

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Charlie Clark
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Re: Frequently-revolting staff stomp off for three days

See my other post: the state is hardly involved in this at all, which makes a nice change. In fact, if the state had bothered to do its work properly (namely apply the Entsendegesetz to sectors with wages blatantly below regional averages) there wouldn't even be the need for a national minimum wage because the deals between unions and employers would apply.

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Charlie Clark
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Re: Frequently-revolting staff stomp off for three days

Mail-order companies are traditionally treated as retail in Germany.

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Charlie Clark
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Due to the Briefmonopol laws.

No, not least because the monopoly on delivering letters fell several years ago.

In Germany there is something called Tarifautonomie which means that unions and employers are responsible for negotiating wages and politics is kept out. Unions and employers collectively decide what branches there are and terms and conditions are negotiated for entire branches on a state-by-state basis. Agreements usually contain opt-out clauses for individual companies as long as their works council's agree. The system has worked very well for years because it is efficient: individual companies do not have to devote resources to negotiating conditions and strike days are kept to a minimum. As a result German companies can afford to pay workers more than in other countries due to the increased productivity, as in the case from approx. 2000-2012, agree on pay increases below inflation to regain competitivity.

There are outliers with employers refusing to play by the rules using several techniques: cherry-picking or even setting up a compliant union with which to negotiate; sub-contracting to foreign companies who are exempt from the rules unless the federal government says otherwise (building work is not exempt, abattoirs are); or deciding that they belong to a different branch. Non-German companies often adopt confrontational positions until they understand how much easier and more profitable it is if they follow the rules.

We've also got a couple of smaller unions pulling an ASLEF: bringing a whole company to a halt even though they only represent a small section of employees. The German equivalent of ASLEF the GDL seems to be copying their militant tactics with Klaus Weselski every bit as militant as Bob Crow or Arthur Scargill. The pilots are doing the same. The end result, I fear, maybe a weakening or all employees' rights as well as bringing forward fully automated trains and planes.

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El Reg's mighty rocket spaceplane Vulture 2 arrives in US of A

Charlie Clark
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Pint

Fantastic!

Carefully crafted American micro-brewery pints all round. Except to the FAA until they pull their fingers out and authorise this historic mission.

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Watch out, Samsung! 3 of top 5 smartphone makers are now Chinese

Charlie Clark
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Bragging rights

Significantly, however, Xiaomi's entry into the list means that three of the top five smartphone makers are now Chinese firms.

Seeing as Apple's phones are made under contract in China by Foxconn that would make four out of the top five are Chinese.

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Pirate Bay towed to oldpiratebay.org

Charlie Clark
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Re: NO.

But you sure as hell won't get Guardians of the Galaxy if everyone can just take their non-DRMed copy and share it with the whole planet.

Is that a promise? ;-)

DRM is expensive to develop and enforce and, as many examples have shown, pretty easy to break; most notably in large markets like Russia and China where it's largely unenforceable anyway. Result is that we have to pay not just for content but for lawyers and developers. I suspect DRM will be kept around as a fig leaf for another couple of years (it's already largely disappeared from music).

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Charlie Clark
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The real problem remains tho: Region locking. Remove that and you'll see your sales go up.

It's more than just region locking – it's the attempt to maximise profits by selling licences to different countries at different prices. I have a copy of Wag The Dog that forces me to watch it with German subtitles if I watch it in English! This is anti-competitive and precisely the kind of limitation that the internet is designed to work around. Long-term it's bound to fail but companies chasing quarterly profits and don't care about the long-term.

It will be interesting to see if the EU does follow up on threats to break down national borders for content. It'll be a hard fight if they do but it's such a glaring breach of the rules over the trade of products and services within the single market.

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BT to gobble EE for £12.5bn – BTEE phone home

Charlie Clark
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Re: Too big?

What's anti-competitive about it?

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Charlie Clark
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Same situation as in many countries. LLU is the important thing.

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Sony to media: stop publishing our stolen stuff or we'll get nasty

Charlie Clark
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Black Helicopters

Re: Journalistic Truth

Coicidentally watched the excellent Hacks again at the weekend. Fantastic and given it's blatant piss-take of Murdoch and co. I was surprised it ever got broadcast. Can't find it on 4oD at the moment, is that merely a coincidence?

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Google vows: Earth will VANISH in 2015

Charlie Clark
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Re: Pot and kettle...

Your anit-Google rants are all well and good but so often off the mark.

In the case of Google Earth the API is far less important than the data that is made freely available, which as far as I can tell, will continue to be the case.

Any developer who makes their livelihood dependent upon a company continuing to provide a free service deserves to go bust. The whole point of the free APIs and data is to see what services are possible and popular and, thus, suitable for either for charging or running ads. Google is publicly traded company with a duty to its shareholders to make money. Shock, horror, I know. I don't remember Microsoft ever providing the same amount of services.

As the article points out this particular API now looks pretty outdated and I suspect, though I don't know, that its use is limited. We'll have to see whether a replacement (WebGL, Canvas, PPAPI or whatever) is forthcoming. Some of the of the other APIs to have been retired have been granted both extensions and replacements: Google Charts was due to be phased out this year and has been superseded by Google Visualisation.

None of this means that I particularly like Google (I don't use Chrome and run Cyanogenmod) but I do have a more than grudging admiration for the company's engagement in open source. We'll have to see how much of that remains if the various tax loopholes are ever closed or the EU is able to enforce rigorous data protection and privacy standards from 2016 (when the new law is due to take effect).

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Bong Ventures LLC: We've been cyberhacked

Charlie Clark
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Re: Pandora's box

sticks fingers in ears and shouts "lalalala"

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Charlie Clark
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Pandora's box

The Transformation Lady - a biopic of Martha Lane Fox, Baroness Fox of Soho

Please God, may this never happen! I'll pay money not to have the film developed.

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The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies – Thin plot, great CGI effects

Charlie Clark
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Pretty meh on this myself. A trip to the flix with my mates over Christmas is something to look forward to but the Hobbit has not enthused me anything like as much as LOTR. It's a different story with a very different narration and turning it into a prequel for LOTR doesn't do it justice.

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QEMU, FFMPEG guru unleashes JPEG-slaying graphics compressor

Charlie Clark
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Re: Prety cool demo

Cheers for the link. Don't agree with the statement that BPG blows away WebP: they're pretty close at the moment with one being better in one situation and another better in the other. At the moment BPG is definitely better for people, which is what will matter to most.

It seems WebP is still based on On8 (the equivalent of H264 so the predecessor to H265). Anyone know if a move to On9 is planned?

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Charlie Clark
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Webp already does this (it's based on the OnVideo technology that Google bought and put into WebM) in much the same way (video compression has continue to develop while bitmap compression is stuck in the 1990s) but has the advantage of several years in the real world and browser support in Photoshop, Photoline, Chrome and Opera but strangely not Firefox although it supports the parent video format, and mod_pagespeed for http servers to optimise on the fly for browsers. Given their underlying similarities I wouldn't expect much difference between WebP and BPG in the quality/file size stakes.

The interesting thing will be how the MPEG-LA patent cartel deals with this and whether anyone picks it up for hardware acceleration. Personally, I think Google's approach on the technology with a rapid release schedule for encoders is the way to go on this but if Bellard can keep the licence liberal (the MPEG-LA might want to have a word about that) then it should be a win-win.

The Firefox library is nice enough but JPEG images always look worse than WebP at the same compression ratio.

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El Reg Redesign - leave your comment here.

Charlie Clark
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Print button?

Never fucking used one. That's what print stylesheets are for which you seem to have overlooked. :-(

Re. the general redesign: contrast is too stark. I've no problem with whitespace but the proportions aren't right.

HTML is better but still not making use of nice HTML5 sematics such as the nav tag. Embrace it, it will make things a lot easier.

Don't mind the fixed navigation, makes sense on long pages, but it's one of the first things to get lost in this black and white mix.

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Euro consumers have TOO MUCH choice – telco operators

Charlie Clark
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QotW

Consolidation can boost investment in next generation mobile infrastructure and delivery of mobile broadband to rural areas.

I think that originally read:

Consolidation can boost our margins executive share options while continuing not to deliver mobile broadband to rural areas.

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Charlie Clark
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Another one you mean? After the first one demonstrated price-fixing over roaming…

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Euro phone, broadband giants are the 1% – yes, single-digit growth. Wow

Charlie Clark
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Smells like

According to the study, the EU is lagging behind the US in terms of investment…

I think that tells us a lot. Given the parlous state of US telecoms (years of cosy monopoly depressed investment and innovation) that's hardly surprising even if it's also pretty misleading. The unbundling of the local loop in Europe spurred a heap load of investment and innovation that the US is yet to experience (and with the proposed merger of TWC and ComCast is even less likely to get).

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Spanish scraper scrapped: Google axes Google News

Charlie Clark
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Axel Springer

I won't read theie newspapers if you paid me. Competes with Murdoch et al. to misinform and titillate.

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The Great Unwatched: BBC hails glorious digital future for Three

Charlie Clark
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Re: Digital toss

"the explainers" is a new rubric they've put on the news website along with "the reporters". It's like something out of a school newspaper, just not as good.

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Charlie Clark
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Digital toss

The current series of The Newsroom has a thoughtful, head-on take on how making everything digital is akin to wanking into your tea. The BBC's news website, which used to be top of its game, has been dumbed down an astonishing degree. Okay, might be an idea for the Beeb to get out of online journalism (in which case there is an off-switch) but the news programming has gone much the same way: "reporters" and (this one makes me physically ill) "explainers".

Is "digital" going to be the polite euphemism for "shite"? It's got nothing to do with being middle class and everything to with mediocrity.

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Microsoft: Hey, don’t forget Visual Basic! Open source and new features coming

Charlie Clark
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As long as you're developing in something like VisualStudio where autocomplete can prevent most of your typos, case sensitivity shouldn't be a problem for the user but it makes a big difference for the compiler.

In general, any project team will likely have a coding style that handles case to make sure that code is compatible between team members. Case sensitivity is a bonus there.

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