* Posts by Chris Bidmead

35 posts • joined 19 Jun 2008

HP pitches 10in netbook at business

Chris Bidmead

They're Not Netbooks??

It's time we stopped calling them this. These things are not "netbooks", they're sub-notebooks. The wave of netbooks towards the end of the last decade entered the game as a quite different kind of device: not something you worked ON but something you worked THROUGH, a window out into the Cloud.

To do this efficiently they needed minimal local processing power and storage. Any operating system supporting a browser was sufficient, but it made sense to use a modular operation system that could be pared down to the minimum requirements. As netbooks were intended to be cheap the ideal operating system would be one that cost nothing in licence fees. Linux was the obvious choice on both counts. Netbooks ran Linux.

It's a matter of historical record that Microsoft, scared of the threat to its own operating system business, and therefore to the whole Windows ecology, mounted a two-pronged assault against netbooks.

Firstly, as the netbook manufacturers' businesses depended very largely on Windows, in which Microsoft has a market-controlling monopoly, Microsoft was able to pressurise them into switching netbooks over to a virtually free-of-charge version of Windows, Windows XP, at the time obsolescent on mainstream PC and notebook hardware.

Netbooks now looked and behaved like notebooks, although XP was noticeably less efficient than Linux on this hardware. This facilitated the second part of the two-pronged attack: a public mind-fuck that destroyed the original "netbook" concept and left punters seeing the product as just a cheap, much less useful, notebook. The campaign was so successful that it has now completely buried the real netbook as if it never existed.

Tablets, of course, are in a sense a re-run of this same race. The fact that tablets are touch-driven, and physically not just smaller but quite different from notebooks, makes it much harder for Microsoft to pull the same stunt again. This time around punters are not confused, and we see iOS (based on the Linux-like BSD Unix) and Android (based on Linux) thrashing Windows so thoroughly that Microsoft, rather than shaking the dust off a mothballed version of its operating system has had to knuckle down and create a vastly revised version that will work well with the new generation of hardware. This is what healthy market competition is meant to do.

As the tablet business hots up (it's barely started) let's for heaven's sake clear away the rubble of that Microsoft mind-fuck and rediscover the lesson of the netbook.

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Chris

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Viewsonic PLED W500 portable projector

Chris Bidmead

The 3.5mm jack is input only, and it's stereo.

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Chris

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Chris Bidmead

I can see readers are going to take a long time to forgive me for that "half a ton" slip.

Moving lightly on: yes, I spotted that there is at least one other manufacturer using the same LED engine, which probably originates from the Optoma factory. I haven't yet investigated whether the firmware's the same. Viewsonic tends to add its own touches to features like this. I noticed, for example (although there wasn't room to include this in the review) that the PLED-W500 guesses that you may just be using a blank wall as a screen and has a menu for adjusting the picture according to the colour the wall's painted.

I think the K330 figure you're looking at here is the street price, which we can expect to come down across the board. It's worth bearing in mind though that however and wherever you buy, the PLED-500 comes with a three year warranty from Viewsonic. eBuyer's offering a three-year warranty on the Acer equivalent, but that'll cost you a fairly hefty £60-ish on top of the selling price.

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Chris

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Chris Bidmead

Yes, sorry. Idiotic mistakes like this are supposed to be caught by the sub-editors. But they're all young and metric-trained and don't understand old money.

Of course I meant a monkey, and I apologies wholeheartedly to all of you who dashed out to the shops only to meet with disappointment.

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Chris

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Chris Bidmead

Yes, you're right, that's what it says in the specs. Alas I think this is a mistake. There's only one 3.5mm port on the projector, labelled "AV IN". I've tested it by plugging in headphones: this doesn't cut out the internal speaker or extract any audio.

So for watching movies played directly from a USB stick you'll have to make do with the built in mono speaker. Better to use an external player like the VMP74. You'll need this anyway for MKV movies, as the projector doesn't have a built-in MKV codec.

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Chris

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Chris Bidmead

Yes, I did miss the zoom and the lens shift features. I think these are pretty well essential on larger projectors. But the PLED-W500 is so small and light it's much easier to put it where it'll give you the screen position you want.

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Chris

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Sony BDP-S380 Blu-ray player with IPTV

Chris Bidmead

Cinavia?

Should we mention this? Does the BDP-S380 sport this, er, feature, now rolled out across Sony's PS3s?

And no DiVX, no XViD, no DLNA/UPnP, do I gather? I'm with ozthekeymaster on this one, though not "very disappointed". Just walking away.

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Chris

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Mac OS X 10.6.8 hails from Paleolithic era

Chris Bidmead

Worked fine for me, Bob

See title.

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Chris

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HP rocks Redmond with webOS PC play

Chris Bidmead

Nice analysis...

...except that the physics is wrong. Microsoft's "massive installed base" isn't "momentum". It's "inertia".

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Chris

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E-book reader demand boom near

Chris Bidmead

I'm with Marco 1 on this one

...except that I'm betting on the 7" Android form factor. Yes, e-ink is great for reading in bright sunlight. But a backlit screen is fine for most normal lighting conditions, and indispensible for reading in bed if you don't want to disturb your partner. The key requirement is being able to control the brightness precisely and easily, which in some Android eBook implimentations is as simple as running a finger up or down the left edge of the screen.

Yes, you'll need to charge your Android device daily rather than monthly, but I never seem to spend enough time away from civilisation these days for this to be worth worrying about.

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Sling Media Slingbox Pro-HD network TV tuner

Chris Bidmead

Owned by EchoStar

Incisive review. Slingboxes are set-top boxes, with all that implies: primarily designed around the aspirations of broadcasters and content providers, not the punter. The company is owned by set-top box manufacturer EchoStar -- check them out.

I smelt a rat back in 2006, when I discovered that Sling Media had begun encrypting the data the Slingbox streams across your network. Up to then a third party had been providing software that enabled Slingbox users to record the stream to a hard drive -- a function notably missing from the official Slingbox client software.

I argued the point with Brian Jaquet, at the time their head of PR worldwide. It was evident to me that the encryption had been introduced to shake off the third party recording feature -- probably so SlingMedia could sell its own recording solution. But his response astonished me.

The reason for no recording, and for defeating third party recording, Jaquet told me, was to preserve the rights of the content providers, and to ensure that only one client was able to watch a stream at any one time. I pointed out that the Slingbox was taking unencrypted input receivable by anybody with a digital TV tuner and funnelling it into a proprietary encrypted stream for single viewing, and that this was completely inappropriate for a Freeview broadcast. Jaquet was adamant that the content was sacrosanct and told me categorically that here in the UK a household would require a separate licence for each TV set it owned, a fee structure it would be illegal for Slingmedia to disrupt with its technology.

I pointed out that his premise was incorrect -- here in the UK a single TV licence covers an entire household, and in point of law the reception of a Slingbox stream on a remote Internet connected laptop would also be covered by that same licence as long as the laptop were not plugged into the mains at the time (bizarre, but true -- I'd recently researched this, although it may be different now). Jaquet insisted that I was wrong, and the conversation terminated shortly afterwards.

Slingbox? The name tells you what to do with it. :-)

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Chris

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Toshiba AC100 Android smartbook

Chris Bidmead

@ shades

> "Essentially, a netbook is a device you work through rather than on."

> What a complete and utter load of tosh!

Just seen this. Gosh, Shades, so Microsoft's strategy worked that well for you, did it?

When netbooks first arrived and I did my series on them here on Reg Hardware the philosophy indeed was that they should be devices you work through, out into the Cloud. Broadband was widely enough available to make this feasible, encouraging small, lightweight, low-power devices that didn't need Windows.

Microsoft saw the danger and went into action to head this off. It did so by virtually giving away Windows XP to the netbook manufacturers and subverting the idea of a netbook. If the strategy worked, you would end up thinking of the netbook as just the same thing as a notebook, except smaller and rather unsatisfactorily powered.

And now here you are, shades, shouting it from the rooftops. Microsoft's spin seems to have worked a treat with you.

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Chris

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Belkin Play Max dual-band wireless router

Chris Bidmead

Missing Net Mask

On second thoughts, if I SAY 192.168.2.0 and 192.168.169.0 are separate subnets, you KNOW the netmask has got to be 255.255.255.0. Including the netmask would be tautological. So it's not shorthand at all.

(That's been worrying me all week. :-) )

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Chris

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Chris Bidmead

Missing Net Mask

Correct, AC. I was using what I hope is a generally well understood shorthand. The net mask is of course 255.255.255.0.

(Gosh, the relief at being able to clear that up...)

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Chris

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Viewsonic VMP74 1080p media player

Chris Bidmead

New Firmware, Better Score

Since this review hit the Web Viewsonic has sent me a couple of firmware updates, in the light of which I'd be inclined to up the score to, say, 80 per cent. I put this tentatively, because the firmware is still beta and not public, and it looks as if the changes it implements won't be publicly available until next month, or perhaps later.

The latest firmware revision removes my objection to the Web browser -- pages are no longer messed up and the navigation is smoother and definitely useable. And the BBC iPlayer now works, so for those with reasonable Internet bandwidth (>=2Mbps) it offers a very decent catch-up TV experience in the living room. I don't have any way of measuring the resolution, but it's probably not 720p, but subjectively it does seem to be a better picture than I get when visting the iPlayer on a PC.

By the way, the BBC iPlayer seems to be the element that's holding up Viewsonic's distribution of this firmware -- I understand they can't go public with it until the BBC signs it off.

The bad news is that the Samba problem isn't, as I suggested, a function of my password protection. It's been confirmed that a firmware bug is preventing Samba sharing on some network configurations, although I'm told that Viewsonic's boffins are working flat out to fix it. When the Samba issue is fixed I'd be happy to shift this rating up another 5 per cent.

Quxy (above) raises the spectre of the HiSense MP801H, and indeed it's the low street price of the currently available HiSense MP800H that has prevented me giving the VMP74 a higher score. But as far as I understand it, the MP801H isn't destined for Europe, and its RRP is unknown at the moment.

I haven't kicked the MP800H around myself, but it certainly seems worth a look, especially at less than half the price of the VMP75 (although that's comparing street price with RRP, of course). If you don't want the YouTube and other Internet functions, and you don't need the advanced audio features like DTS downmix and full Dolby Digital (no space to go into this in the review, but worth following up if you're a HiFi buff) the HiSense seems like a nice cheap option at fifty odd quid.

Danny 14 mentions wireless. I believe the VMP74 wll take a USB wireless dongle, although I haven't tested this.

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Chris

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Guy Kewney, pioneer, guru, friend - RIP

Chris Bidmead

Bye, Guy. You got there first. Again.

I've a nasty feeling I never made the most of you. Seems only yesterday we were talking on Skype. Currently off-line, it says. I'm leaving you on my call list just in case you want to surprise me. Which would be typical, you super-smart, sneaky bastard.

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Chris

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Steve Wozniak, your time is up

Chris Bidmead

Woz and the Segway

A year or so back I quizzed Woz for PC Plus about this obsession he has with the Segway. The exchange went something like this:

Woz: Not just polo. It's practical. I use it for getting about. Typically I'll lift the Segway into the trunk of my car, park a mile or so out of town and then Segway in to do my shopping.

Me: So you can carry bags, stuff like that?

Woz: Can, do and in fact must. Since I hurt my back.

Me: What, that plane crash back in the '80s?

Woz: Oh, that. That was nothing. No, this was a new thing, and real bad. Serious back problem.

Me: Shit. How did you do that?

Woz: Musta been lifting the Segway into the trunk.

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Chris

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How to run Mac OS X on a generic PC

Chris Bidmead

@Pablo256

This new Tom's Hardware piece is an important read for anyone interested in EFiX. If ASEM is a scam (and to my mind that has yet to be proved), I must admit to having been fooled every bit as much as Tom's Hardware was when they published their original piece on EFiX (although the copy I submitted to The Register did actually include links to dissenting Web sites which were edited out for reasons of space). And as the Tom's Hardware article says, EFiX originally delivered what it promised, and -- for me at least -- is still doing so.

Two questions arise out of this. 1) Is ASEM ripping off the open source community? 2) What happens next.

As far as 1) is concerned, I think we'll soon know. Smart people are working on this. I suspect that 2) is going to be a matter of wait and see. If ASEM fails commercially, which seems not improbable in the light of the adverse press it's getting, EFiX users may find themselves left high and dry -- whether this is a scam or not.

The best case scenario would be for ASEM to turn the code over to the open source community so they can incorporate this (back?) into Chameleon. Failing that, the community might in any case be able to crack the code. But whatever happens, it seems to me that Chameleon is coming on at such a pace that EFiX might soon become irrelevant anyway.

By coincidence my copy of Snow Leopard, kindly sent to me from Apple UK, arrived while I was writing this. Should I install this on my EFiX machine? Or just stick it on my MacBook Pro and wait a bit until the ASEM dust has settled?

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Chris

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Chris Bidmead

@Blackdir

Asere's autopsy on the original EFiX device is particularly interesting, as is the fact that there is an alternative EFiX community outside the official one run by ASEM. ASEM users and potential ASEM customers should at least be aware of its existence. AC here is not alone among purchasers of the original EFiX device who have successfully migrated to the open source Chameleon, and the Efixusers forum gives full details about how to do this.

Another omission from my main piece was a list of all those in the industry who shared some of the excitement I felt about the possibilities that EFiX was opening up, and helped me make this project a reality. John Hung, Gigabyte's MD for the UK and Ireland, had a spare previous season's GA-EP45-DS3R motherboard that he was happy to let me have. Intel's press officer, Alistair Kemp, shipped me a quad core early sample Pentium Q9450 he had knocking around loose in the office. Nvidia, though the intermediary of their PR person, Jennifer Andersson, stepped up to the plate with a 8800GTX graphic card, and Crucial fielded a couple of their 4GB Ballistix RAM modules. Miodrag Relic, Cooler Master's UK marketing manager, considered the spec of the parts I'd accumulated so far and decided I needed one of their server tower-sized Cosmos 1000 chassis to put it all in. And he threw in a Real Power M850 power supply to go with it. I'm also very grateful to YoyoTech, the computer builders' paradise around the corner from London's Tottenham Court Road, who came to the rescue me with a SATA Superwritemaster DVD drive when I discovered that my old PATA drive wouldn't work with EFiX. And to Kensington, who cracked my final problem by providing a USB keyboard and mouse.

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Dan Brown is most unwanted author says Oxfam

Chris Bidmead

In Defence of Dan

To state the obvious, best-selling authors are going to appear more often than others in charity shops. They just have so many more books in circulation.

To correct the less obvious, the Vatican doesn't actually promote the Bible. You're mixing those guys up with the Prods. There was a bit of a row about all this in 1521.

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Chris

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Getting Started with Avisynth

Chris Bidmead

Wow, that's quite a roasting.

Oddly enough, there's not a lot in those previous postings I'd vehemently disagree with. But let me have a crack at fighting back.

Haku underlines the huge value of all those filters Avisynth offers, and of course that's a key feature. Obviously I didn't want to get into 3:2 pulldown and colourspace conversion on a first date; what I did want to do was give beginners a taste for Avisynth while offering them something simple and practical to do with it. And yes, of course, the more processing you demand of Avisynth, the more processing power (or patience) you'll need. But you can certainly get started with Avisynth on very entry-level kit.

"LIfe's too short", and "please shoot me" certainly chime with me. If you like watching TV adverts, or you don't mind interrupting the movie to fast wind through them, then that's the way to go. Likewise if you're happy with the selection of DVDs at your local Blockbusters, knock yourself out. But TV does have a way of digging up old film noir and foreign movies to provide a selection that certainly outshines what's available on my High Street.

Similarly, if you already have the compute power and experience to work with FCP, then this approach to Avisynth won't hold a lot of interest for you. Or perhaps it might. Avisynth and AvsP does simple stuff extraordinarily well and efficiently, once you get the feel of it, and after several years of working with software like Pinnacle Studio and FCP I just find I keep coming back to Avisynth.

"Modern NLEs require quad-core machines with GBs of RAM to do massively complex real-time colour correction, compositing, key-framed effects and multi-track audio mixing, not simply to display an NLE interface." Hello, Daniel. You're right, I was simplifying the Avisynth proposition. And foxyshadis reminds me that with help Avisynth works with Mac OSX. Yes, I did know that -- in fact I do all my Avisynth stuff these days inside a VMWare virtual machine under Leopard running, as it happens, on a quad-core processor with 8 GB of RAM. I sort of count that as "Windows", but foxyshadis' point is worth making and well taken.

Keep the comments coming, please. I'm only too conscious that in tone and content stuff like this Avisynth piece can't please everybody, and can always be better written. I probably respond best to courteous comments, but if that's too much of a stretch for you, hey, I wrote the UNIX column for dear departed PCW for almost a decade. I have a special umbrella for geek spit.

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Chris

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Lloyd-Webber calls for clampdown on ISPs

Chris Bidmead

All that sucking...

Conservative Lord Luke [said ]"To sit back and do nothing while online piracy sucks the profitability out of such a productive sector at any time would clearly be irresponsible..."

Where, oh where, was Lord Luke when the buggy-whip market needed him? And when that bastard Gutenberg sucked the profitability out of the hand-written manuscript market?

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Chris

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Prime Minister out-nonsensed by Conservative Wikifiddler

Chris Bidmead

@Greg Trocchia

The point to take away from the 1972 Nixon entry is that traditional encyclopaedias are written in a tone of timeless omniscience, and seem to insist on being read in a similar spirit. That tone demands "...established a quiet and dignified tone for his presidency", and won't brook, for example, "at the time of writing has established... " Your timeline explains how the error -- perpetuated in that edition now for more than 35 years -- comes about, but doesn't excuse it or fix it.

Readers who understand the Wikipedia (as Steven Jones above evidently does) escape this pitfall. Although errors of the same kind will occur there, they won't endure. And the nature of the Wikipedia emphasises the transience of any contemporary information (as often do too the cautionary notes attached to articles).

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Chris

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Chris Bidmead

Bottom Line

We all now know that Titian's age at death was somewhere around 90 years but is otherwise undetermined because of uncertainty about his birthdate. (It's a "known unknown", thank you D. Rumsfeld).

Gordon Brown now knows this too, and little Davie Cameron has discovered the price of being a smart-arse.

The world is one whit the wiser. The Wikipedia has done its job.

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Chris

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Chris Bidmead

Real Encyclopaedia

If you want real facts, go to a real encyclopaedia. Here's a sample:

"...In office Nixon celebrated family life, showed an avid interest in sports, established a quiet and dignified tone for his presidency."

The conclusion of the entry for "Richard Milhous Nixon", Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1972.

The Wikipedia's entry on the same subject. however, has some spurious nonsense about "likely impeachement" and "scandal". That's the sort of vandalism you can never avoid in a Wiki that everyone's allowed to edit.

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Chris

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Chris Bidmead

It's not "an encyclopaedia"

I guess if you start by assuming the Wikipedia is an encyclopaedia, all sorts of nonsensical reporting could follow. The clue is in the name. It's a Wiki.

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Chris

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Take a hammer to your hard drive, shrieks Which?

Chris Bidmead

Which? Advice is perfectly sensible

Hard drive technology has been marching apace, which means that by the time you come to replace yours it will probably be intrinsically worthless. No point selling it on eBay, then -- and the advice to dump it on the third world is arguably patronising and ungreen. If you can no longer find a use for it yourself -- get rid of it.

And before you do that you need to ensure the data on it is irrecoverable. Yes, I'm sure the channel would like to sell you some proprietary software to do this, and of course it will be "certified" by somebody or other. But the average end-user has no way of testing whether the software does what it says it does, and will just have to trust blindly the blurb that talks of "military-class data deletion" or whatever.

Forget it. Taking the usual precautions that would apply when using a hammer on anything at all, destroy the drive physically.

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Chris

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Chrome-fed Googasm bares tech pundit futility

Chris Bidmead

Doesn't mean it isn't happening.

"...it's hard to imagine a world where everything (and I mean everything) is done in a browser."

In the '60s it was impossible to imagine a world where computers would be more ubiquitous than motor cars. In the '70's it was difficult to imagine a world where all those computers would be connected at virtually no cost. In the '80s who would have dreamt of smoke-free offices and pubs? In the '90s, who saw Google coming?

Hard to imagine a world changing this fast. But it is.

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Chris

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Otto Z. Stern possibly dead at 57

Chris Bidmead

Otto, but not Forgotto

El Reg's solitary voice of sanity and factual reporting now lost to us forever.

We shall remember.

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Chris

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Pandora prepares to join titsup.com club

Chris Bidmead

Pandora in the UK -- not a problem.

Just VPN via the US. Eg:

http://www.anchorfree.com/downloads/hotspot-shield/

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bidmead

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Apple DNS patch doesn't patch Mac clients

Chris Bidmead

Threat Level Magnified by the Lens of Ignorance

"It's not likely we'll find out why clients remain vulnerable to one of the most critical security bugs to come around in years. Apple representatives haven't answered a single one of our security-related queries in more than 18 months."

Well, hey.... it's probably smart not to answer questions from people not equipped to understand the answers. Avoids getting into a fight with a tar-baby.

Simply put, Mac clients don't run BIND by default. No reason they should. Yes, it's there (along with lots and lots of standard UNIX stuff) and it can be switched in. But only by command-line jockeys who, presumably, know what they're doing. You need to understand launchd and how to edit its associated plist. If you know all that, it's a fair guess you're up to speed with the BIND vulnerabilities, and know where to get a recent patched version, if you haven't already received the latest update from Apple.

I would downgrade this threat level from HYSTERICAL!!! to huh?.

Hope this helps.

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Chris

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Google unfurls less laughable Wikipedia

Chris Bidmead

Knowl is not Wikipedia

Amused to see the Wikipedia bashing continues unabated here in good ol' RegLand. Like a dog with a shoe, it just won't let go.

A cursory glance at Knowl is enough to discover that it's nothing like the Wikipedia. Knowl writers are encouraged to write in their own voice on topics of their own choosing that are not required to pass the notability test. The authority of a Knol resides in its individual author or authors, not in the community around the project.

But if el Reg hasn't been able, after all these years, to get the Wikipedia, it would be unfair to expect it to get Knowl within just a few days of its launch.

I do worry, in a small way, about el Reg. I seem to remember that after its own fashion it used to carry some weight of quirky, quizzical authority (where are you, Lettice?). Now just being pissed away in lazy supercillious opinionating.

Suggestion: el Reg might use its neurotic preoccupation with the authority of other Web voices as a mirror to examine its own standing. Has el Reg ever admitted to the need for a [citation needed] tag (the Wikipedia)? Or paused to reflect that "all good writing takes time" (Knowl)?

Take a deep breath, guys, regroup and focus on getting back to being a voice that readers can rely on, rather than perpetuating your own Wonderland mixture of fact, opinion and sheer fancy.

Hope this helps...

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Chris

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Researchers show up deniable file system crypto leaks

Chris Bidmead

The pointed finger writes...

The first line of Leyden's piece says this is a weakness in the encryption technology. It isn't. It's a shortcoming of apps and operating systems not designed with this kind of security in mind.

Pointed finger; wrong direction. Getting to be a bit of a Reg idiosyncrasy <http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/06/10/apple_safari_carpet_bombing_demo/>.

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Chris

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An iPhone with a keyboard?

Chris Bidmead

Stylus and text recognition

Apple screwed this up with the Newton, but Palm and Graffiti showed the way to do it. Alas the SE P910 seems to be the last phone that offers this and escapes from a mandatory hardwired keyboard.

Phone manufacturers seem to be scrabbling about trying to find out how to design these things -- and failing badly. Not much use asking users, as we don't have much of a clue either. Which is why there's so much really badly designed junk out there at the moment.

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Chris

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Big TV flips ad blockers the bird

Chris Bidmead

/dev/null is your friend here

I chime with AC above. There's no technical reason (apart from waste of bandwidth) why an ad blocker shouldn't, to the perfect satisfaction of the Web server, accept all the ads offered on a page and then send them to /dev/null on route to the browser surface.

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