* Posts by Tom Womack

105 posts • joined 7 Jun 2008

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A journey down the UK's '3D Tongue' into its mini industrial revolution

Tom Womack

Renishaw is not privately-owned: FTSE listed (ticker RSW), a member of the FTSE250, no sign of an unusually major shareholding by directors. Not a bad company, one of the super-exporters whose stock has soared since Brexit

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Singapore Airlines 777 catches fire after engine alarm

Tom Womack

Re: "five have been lost"

One's MH370, to which your comment regrettably applies, and the last one is Asiana Airlines 214, which was landed so incompetently at San Francisco that three people died and the plane was destroyed by fire.

I hadn't realised that BA38 (the short-landing at Heathrow caused by ice in the heat-exchanger) had written off the aircraft.

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Parliament is building a new website – and it doesn't want GDS anywhere near it

Tom Womack

Re: MP's should educate themselves about the web first!

That's exactly what they did; they looked at theyworkforyou.com and then asked the people who designed that to tell them what they needed to do for the Parliament Web site. Seems a pretty decent approach to me.

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NVMe over Ethernet is the future. And that's how we roll – Tegile

Tom Womack

Re: Question too

Ethernet can be over copper or over fibre; it's just a way of wrapping up frames.

"NVMe over Ethernet" I suspect just means that there are 16 bits reserved for queue-number and 16 for position-in-queue in whatever secondary wrapping they're using

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Digital ad biz is fraudulent by design, complain big brands

Tom Womack

Re: what's in a word

That's hardly recent, and it may well be an aspect of culture clash - it's an important plot point, breaking down the relationship between backwoods American boy and outback Australian girl, in _Beyond the Black Stump_ in 1956.

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Science Museum maths gallery to offer the perfect pint

Tom Womack

The first transatlantic flight was in a Curtiss seaplane, and stopped at the Azores

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Brexit? Cutting the old-school ties would do more for Brit tech world

Tom Womack

Re: I don't much care...

We're not building enough houses. The reason for this is the ridiculous post-war imposition of the Green Belt. Abolish planning permission for a couple of decades and we will replace the housing problem with some easier problems to do with public-transport provision and building primary schools.

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Tom Womack

Why would you bother looking for work in Poland? This is the era of capital; take the money from selling a two-bedroom house in Zone 2, buy an apartment block in Krakow with half of it, stick the other half in UK-based investment funds, and you get to live the rentier dream. Settle down with a nice Polish girl somewhere where you can actually live off the interest.

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HP Inc-eption: Our new 3D printers print themselves, says CEO

Tom Womack

Re: "Fifty per cent of the bill of materials of our 3D printers are printed by our 3D printers"

And that's the case for an awful lot of situations. There are an enormous number of objects for which the total size of the market is smaller than the minimum lot size for the most efficient manufacturing processes.

Being able to move away from using standard parts which aren't quite the right size but are produced efficiently in huge volume by some commoditised supplier, to using parts which are exactly what you need and are produced efficiently-enough in the volume you need is super.

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India launches hypersonic space shuttle precursor

Tom Womack

Because there are still an awful lot of poor people in India, and paying people directly to minister to them works better than trying to convince the Indian government to change its fund-allocation priority.

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Amazon's AWS cash machine embiggens, breezes past $2bn-a-quarter mark

Tom Womack

Re: Profits

I'm guessing around $2.5 billion, since the article indicates that they reported $0.6G on the $2.6G quarter.

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Trouble at t'spinning rust mill: Disk drive production is about to head south

Tom Womack

Re: The analysis that SSD may save them is probably wrong.

But when it comes to 'price for the smallest thing big enough to do the job', SSD is already winning; the smallest SSD you can get is big enough, and is cheaper than the smallest HDD you can get.

There were a couple of years when I had compute nodes with the OS on 8GB USB2 sticks; I don't recommend this, they do wear out and reinstalling the OS even on a compute node is never as painless as you hope (CUDA drivers :().

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Tom Womack

Re: That's now

I think the author of this story hit the lede: that analysts who presumably know what they're doing have reckoned that there won't be an explosion in data-storage demand from the cloud companies, that they'll keep buying discs at the rate they have been rather than continuing to grow demand at 20% a year.

"Big Data Won't Be That Big" seems a perfectly registerian headline ...

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Tom Womack

Re: I'm puzzled

People don't record much video, because taking photos that look sort of about the same category of as good as professional photos isn't terribly hard, but doing that with video is really quite challenging.

The restriction on numbers of photos taken, even with good DSLRs, stopped being SD-card capacity a couple of years back - I'm a pretty enthusiastic photographer, took three 32G SD cards on a three-week trip to South-East Asia and only used half of one. People realize that they don't bother checking through the nineteen shots of a badly-posed monkey that they took by holding the button down, and move to pressing the button once.

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Apple pulled 2,204lbs of gold out of old tech gear

Tom Womack

Re: Love 'em or hate 'em...

If you sell aspirational stuff that lasts, then your customers are delighted that they can sell their iPhone 4S on for a hundred pounds when they buy a 6S+, and the person who gets an iPhone 4S and otherwise would have had some lowest-end Android monstrosity is also delighted. If you're lucky then the second-hand customer will get richer and start buying new.

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OnePlus X: Dinky little Android smartie with one or two minuses

Tom Womack

"It's a far cry from the richer CyanogenMod that burnished the OnePlus One – but OnePlus has had to rebuild from scratch." confuses me: could the article author explain *why* OnePlus had to rebuild from scratch?

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Toshiba rolls out PC-busting monster: 1 terabyte TLC flash SSD

Tom Womack

Re: Why SATA?

And at least one Cupertino-based vendor has; if you want gigabyte per second filesystem access, a Macbook Pro is the way to go.

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Coding is more important than Shakespeare, says VC living in self-contained universe

Tom Womack

Re: Excellent article

His vision is highly-trained people. But there is a lot of time in the evenings in which you can read whatever you like, utterly independent of the training you have in how to drill teeth, remove spleens, diagnose common diseases of the kitten, weld two-inch-thick copper plate, cut three pieces of wood so that they fit together into a beautiful corner, write C++, read Danish, design an injection-mould ejector which actually ejects the pieces, locate a sewer pipe two metres underground, convince a CIO that your product meets their needs, or whatever makes you money.

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Tom Womack

Re: My own creativity is expressed not through writing plays

That's the point of reading books. Which you can do happily whatever else you do with your life, and which you will find yourself with a great deal more comfort to do if you have a well-paid career in computing.

Doing a liberal arts degree is expressing a very unusual opinion as to the best way to spend the price of a decent BMW; the difference between reading the books in order to write two essays a week on them, and reading the books because it's the evening and that's what you do in the evening, is not worth that much.

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That's cute, Germany – China shows the world how fusion is done

Tom Womack

Re: $14 Billion buys you and awful lot of oil

At the current unusually low prices, it buys you five hundred million barrels of oil, which is a little more than the amount China has so far burned in 2016.

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UK govt right to outsource everything 15 years ago – civil service boss

Tom Womack

Do they think we're daft?

Yes, really high-end tech skills have a substantial market value.

But this means that, if you train people up in-house, they will notice that they now have a substantial market value and they will leave. Until someone developing a billion-item million-transaction-per-second system for HMRC gets paid the same as someone developing such a thing for Tesco, there will be a flow of people from HMRC to Tesco.

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Terrible infections, bad practices, unclean kit – welcome to hospital IT

Tom Womack

Yes; you need to devote a modern computer to being a filter between the scanner and the world. Scanners are staggeringly expensive and modern computers very cheap, so this isn't a terrible problem, but IT organisations seem very resistant to models which treat the symptom when they think that merely by wasting vast amounts of development effort they can treat the cause.

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Tom Womack

Re: This is does not compute

The powers-that-be appear to worry much more about the confidentiality of the data than about its availability.

Frankly I don't care if the consequence of any ambulance-operative in the country being able to discover instantly that I have blood type B is that every hacker in the world also knows my blood type.

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Folk shun UK.gov's 'expensive' subsidised satellite broadband

Tom Womack

Re: Cross-subsidy

And that's why I'm proposing putting the USO on Openreach. They're big enough to absorb the cost of the USO and efficient enough that they can keep charging the same price as Virgin while doing so; and having satellite broadband available as an option to satisfy the USO means the last 0.1% cost Openreach no more than the £1800 per year each to settle their satcom bill (obviously in reality less, since Openreach will have a bulk arrangement with the satcom provider - sadly I suspect the economics doesn't work out for Openreach buying and operating its own satellite)

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Tom Womack

What is the point of a subsidy which covers the cheap part of the installation and not the expensive part? Give Openreach a full-service obligation without differential pricing, so they have to absorb the price of the ground station and the satellite bandwidth for any place that they're not willing to run wire to, and look how suddenly they will become more willing to run wire.

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Eighteen year old server trumped by functional 486 fleet!

Tom Womack

Re: Power

Planned maintenance would be the problem there; guaranteed breakage, whilst most kit will just keep on keeping on without worrying about maintenance. The servers at a previous place of work went down mostly because of UPS preventative-maintenance or bugs in the device that attempted to determine whether the chiller cabinet chiller had stopped working.

The mains is much more reliable than your average UPS.

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Waving Microsoft's Windows 10 stick won't help Intel's Gen 6 core

Tom Womack

Is there anywhere still on a three-year refresh for desktop computers in general? It's just about worth doing for software developers, but for general call-centre users five years ought to be fine and I imagine people are heading towards seven. Laptops wear out more quickly and the good-enough moment for laptops was more recent.

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UK energy minister rejects 'waste of money' smart meters claim

Tom Womack

Re: Not smart enough

"Fuel poverty" means you have to spend more than 10% of your disposable income on energy to achieve an inhabitable house. It usually means 'insulation poverty'.

(IE it's plain old poverty, but specifically the kind caused by having to spend a lot on fuel just to keep warm; mostly affects poor pensioners who want to keep living in the same house they haven't been able to add insulation to since 1953, or poor single mothers of small children who have to keep the house warm for the baby)

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Qualcomm, Nvidia are driving us nuts – with silicon-brains-for-cars

Tom Womack

A "deep-learning operation" is half a 16-bit-FP multiply-add operation.

The core of neural-network implementations is multiplication of short wide matrices by tall skinny matrices, in low precision; "machine learning extensions" is sexier marketing-speak for "supports half-precision FP"

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The ball's in your court, Bezos: Falcon 9 lands after launching satellites

Tom Womack

Re: Return to Earth

Not especially tiny satellites (172kg, 100cm x 100cm x 50cm) - midway on an exponential scale between a Cubesat and something like Hubble.

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Homebrew crypto in Telegram hangout app full of holes, say security pros

Tom Womack
Facepalm

Re: Deja Vu ???

Is it really wise to point out in public the faults in the encryption technology being used by your adversaries while the war is still on? OK, with luck if they move away they will move away onto even worse home-brewed encryption, but it seems somehow better to leave them in the swamp they're happy with.

(can we have a Snowden icon?)

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Microsoft Band 2 wrist watchers in pay-first-ship-much-later rage

Tom Womack

" $2,495-$3,318.90 " seems renarkably high for a fitness band, and indeed remarkably high for an Apple Watch; it's listed at £199.99 from www.microsoftstore.com

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Huawei who? We probe the sleeping storage dragon's brains

Tom Womack

Remember this is China

Home of sock factories with sidelines in coal-mining and real estate trading; sticking to making electronic hardware is a reasonably tight focus by the standards of huge Chinese conglomerates.

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We can't all live by taking in each others' washing

Tom Womack

Re: Real Value is created when assets appreciate

There are two ways to convert an appreciating asset into money: you can sell it, or you can borrow against it. If you sell it the over-valuation problem passes on to the person who bought it; if you borrow against it the over-valuation problem passes on to the banking system. Since often the person who bought the over-valued asset did so with borrowed money, the problem ends up in the banking system.

So the end cost of feeling wealthy because you have over-valued assets is that you feel squeezed by the taxation process required to recapitalise the banking system - unless, of course, your Government decides that it should recapitalise the banks by cutting government services that people actually have difficulty living without, rather than by sticking up taxes.

It is remarkably politically unpopular to forbid buying over-valued assets with borrowed money, even by trivial changes like requiring the valuation of a property for a mortgage to be no more than the minimum amount that a comparable property has sold for over a period going back in time by the term of the mortgage.

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Sprint sprints away from no-throttle policy – punishes 'unlimited' network hoggers

Tom Womack

Re: Howls of Outrage!

Why do you think the marginal cost to provide a gigabyte of mobile data, in an environment with other customers, is as little as $1 ?

Charge one cent per megabyte, provide throttling at a customer-set level as a free customer service option, and they will line up and beg to be throttled the first time they get even a $250 monthly bandwidth bill.

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Only a CNUT would hold back the waves of the sharing economy

Tom Womack

'The nice old man’s family now want to sue you for compensation but you are uninsured. You had looked into the cost of insurance but it would have pushed up your costs, so didn’t bother. Instead, you simply declare personal bankruptcy and avoid paying the family a penny.'

Wouldn't declaring personal bankruptcy mean you paid the nice old man's family *all your money*, rather than 'not a penny'? You're declaring bankruptcy because you can't pay your creditor, namely the nice old man's family, and so the liquidator gets to give all your money to the creditor.

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Penny wise and pound foolish: Server hoarders are energy wasters

Tom Womack

I'm not sure it's true that 2012 boxes will need replacing as soon as 2017; 2012 is late enough that Intel had decent power-saving-on-idle implemented, and is after the death-of-Moore's-Law point which meant new processors were not significantly better than old processors except on vectorised HPC apps.

If you can consolidate down to one Xeon-D in a breadbox, it's probably worth doing that; but replacing one old computer with one new computer costs at least £600 and saves at most £100 of electricity a year.

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Apple iPhones, iPads BRICKED by iOS 9's 'slide-to-upgrade' bug

Tom Womack

Re: I had no problems

Which OS were you upgrading from? I have a two-out-of-two failure rate going from iOS 7 direct to 9.0

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Squawk, squawk: Today is Vulture Awareness Day

Tom Womack

Re: Diclofenac poisoning

Diclofenac use is hardly unusual in the prone-to-die elderly - it's the normal prescription for osteoarthritis - and is likely to be no less persistent in human corpses than in cattle.

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BEELION-dollar lasso snaps, NASA mapper blind in one eye

Tom Womack

Re: Why buy two at just 110%

The launch cost was about $140 million (NASA procured the last three Delta II launches for $412 million in 2012) http://www.spaceflightnow.com/news/n1207/16delta2/), so there's still a very substantial saving if the backup craft costs half as much as the original to build.

"Lasso snaps" is at best a misleading heading - as far as anyone knows the antenna is still spinning happily, the radar's not working because the transmitter burned out.

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Leak-shamed Intel finally bares nifty Skylake details to world+dog

Tom Womack

Re: Come back and see me...

They've had mainstream processors with eight cores and sixteen threads for three and a half years, and with DDR4 support for nearly a year now. They say 'Xeon' on the box and the motherboard's a bit more expensive.

"Please, Intel, sell me your fanciest chips for a price closer to that of your cheapest chips" is not a plea likely to achieve success.

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Intel left a fascinating security flaw in its chips for 16 years – here's how to exploit it

Tom Womack

Thanks for this interesting description of an interesting problem!

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Behold: Pluto's huge ICE MOUNTAINS ... and signs of cryovolcanoes?

Tom Womack

Uranus has weather from time to time

If you google-images 'Uranus Keck' there are some pictures of outbreaks of large white spots on the planet in August 2014; it was in a boring state when Voyager flew past it, but occasionally it wakes up.

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Giant FLYING SPACE ROCKS could KILL US ALL, warns Brian May

Tom Womack

Re: So.

If you've got thirty years to work with, gravity tractors (stick a heavy spacecraft with an ion drive hovering near the asteroid) will probably work, as would chroming one side of the asteroid; and you can measure if it's worked.

Five years is cutting it a bit close, but an object that would hit us in five years and that we haven't discovered already is probably small enough that it turns into an evacuation exercise. Which would be somewhat expensive, and would cause quite a lot of stress-related illness, but nothing an even fairly incompetent government couldn't handle.

Coping with a well-predicted medium-sized tsunami, which is the expected result from a hundred-metre impactor, is a harder but not an impossible coordination problem

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Chill, luvvies. The ‘unsustainable’ BBC Telly Tax stays – for now

Tom Womack

Re: Am I the only person...

The price is what it costs; if you want to collect it when people buy TVs, people buy a telly once a decade so it'd be £1500 on the price of every TV sold, which I don't think is practical.

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'It's not layoffs, it's operationalising our strategy'

Tom Womack

The issue isn't "shipping Xeons to China", it's shipping anything to the four supercomputer centres (NUDT in Changsha, and NSC-Changsha, NSC-Guangzhou and NSC-Tianjin) that have been declared to be using their machines to work on atom bombs. It's not a full ban, you have to apply for an export licence and there's no guarantee that the licence will be refused, but the particular licence for building Tianhe-2a was refused. IBM are no more permitted to ship them Power chips than Intel is to ship them Xeons.

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Spookception: US spied on Israel spying on US-Iran nuke talks

Tom Womack

Re: Pot...kettle...etc...

That's one of the main points of espionage.

If the Ruritanians have learned something that would be of great interest to the Potslavian opposition, and that would derail Potslavian plans in a way to the advantage of the Ruritanians were the opposition to learn it, of course they should inform the Potslavian opposition - you can't do this directly, but you might well be able toinform the Wallachian allies of the Potslavian opposition, who would cause the Potslavians to know the information through a reasonably deniable conduit.

That's exactly how diplomacy is supposed to work! Derailing the internal politics of other countries in ways that cause advantage to your own is what foreign offices are *for*.

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$10,000 Ethernet cable promises BONKERS MP3 audio experience

Tom Womack

So is there anything you could use these for?

Oxygen-free-copper cabling designed for the audiophool market turned out to be just what you needed to make practical proton precession magnetometers, and the process accidentally removed radioactive impurities so OFC shielding is used in a lot of sensitive particle physics work; there may still be some weird quantum-physics application in which extremely smooth silver cylinders are useful, though you'd feel a bit silly getting this cable and then dissolving the insulation to get to the silver.

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Earth-bound exoplanet hunter's eyes blink open

Tom Womack

Re: Question

This project cost £2.5 million.

Kepler answered 'how common are exoplanets'. This project will answer 'what are the easiest largish exoplanets to observe'. The TESS satellite, launching in summer 2017, which is much the same as this project but done from space at about a hundred times the cost, will produce a complete catalogue of exoplanets around bright stars, down to half the size of the ones found by this project.

The problem with Kepler is that it looked at such faint stars that it took inordinate effort to follow up the results; if you find planets around significantly brighter stars, you can do radial-velocity follow-up with moderate telescopes (which confirms that you've found a planet rather than a sunspot of unusual size, and tells you whether there are other planets in the system), there's the possibility of doing differential spectroscopy from space to find out what their atmospheres are made of, and if the stars are bright because they're close there's the possibility of directly imaging the planets with things like the Gemini Planet Imager.

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