* Posts by Neil Barnes

2420 posts • joined 18 Apr 2007

Hurrah! Uber does work (in the broadest sense of the word) after all

Neil Barnes
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Re: Potential topic for Worstal...

The problem is that medallion holders are able to lease out their medallions...

And that's it, exactly. If you can't resell your medallion, it has *no* value except to certify *you*. It should be inexpensive to obtain (over and above any necessary training). It should be carried by the driver, not a parent company, and should provide only approval of the driver, not the company for which he may work. A similar but perhaps simpler system may be required for the vehicle itself, to cope with vehicle sharing - but there is absolutely no reason for, and no benefit to the taxi user from, the million dollar medallion.

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Neil Barnes
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Re: Potential topic for Worstal...

It's a logical extension of the medieval guild system, wherein one had to be a member of the guild to perform the actions covered by that guild.

If you're a medieval robber-baron guild master, that is...

But at least in the case of the guilds, they *did* try and maintain a standard, such that one knew that a guild member (a) was a guild member and (b) would work to the standards/ethics of the guild - on pain of, well, pain if one represented oneself otherwise.

These days, that membership is generally replaced by either a trade body - e.g. the BMA, the BCA, or the IEEE or similar - or by a standards test administered by a local council, e.g. most taxi licensing in the UK.

To be honest, I couldn't care two hoots whether a taxi function is carried out by a Uber-employed driver, a licensed minicab, or a Hackney Carriage - provided that in *any* case when I use a taxi, said taxi and driver are guaranteed by *someone* to be mechanically safe, insured, competent, and without a relevant criminal conviction.

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Italy: Human rights are so old hat. The future's in internet rights

Neil Barnes
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This would be so wonderful

if only there were such a thing as a manifest right.

All rights are illusory, temporary, and only applicable in as far as relevant local authorities choose to grant them. Even the much-lauded Human Rights, in its various incarnations, is useful only as a stick to beat authorities with when the authority has an appeal mode which allows it (and indeed is widely used to trump local legislation).

Why this internet 'right' should be any different is hard to see. Better to say, perhaps, that it is an internet 'opportunity'?

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Today's smart home devices are too dumb to succeed

Neil Barnes
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Stop

Re: Simples

If I care about the colour temperature of a lamp I buy a lamp in that desired colour. The switch on the wall (or sometimes the light fitting) turns it on, and if necessary at some later time, off. A dimmer is an optional, but for me unused, option.

I for one am utterly pissed off peeved by the current philosophy that lamps are used for nothing more than decorative elements; 'accents' instead of things designed to let me see what the hell I'm doing. IOT lightbulbs pander to this onanistic dream of interior decorator and architects.

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Post-pub nosh neckfiller: Southern biscuits and gravy

Neil Barnes
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WTF?

Now if you look in our 'quid a day' survival guide

- and I *know* you have a copy, Lester, you reviewed it! - you'll find a perfectly good recipe for *sweet* scones. Just get some butter and jam in the middle of them, and away with this cat vomit nonsense!

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Jeep breach: Scared? You should be, it could be you next

Neil Barnes
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Holmes

Re: Brakes

At least in the UK, and I would suspect (but can't confirm) in the States, there are two systems which *must* have a mechanical connection that works in all circumstances: the brakes and the steering.

That usually comes out as a direct shaft all the way from the steering wheel to the steering rack, and a hydraulic circuit from the pedal's master cylinder directly to the brake callipers - in fact, two independent circuits are mandated.

Steering is easy, although most people are surprised about just how much muscular effort is required to turn the wheel at low speeds with no power assistance in most front-engined cars, but I have a certain distaste for the idea of, for example, self-parking systems: that implies a servo system that's significantly more powerful and could have nasty consequences if the electronics decided to do something you didn't expect - they're a step away from a basic feedback-controlled system.

Brakes, on the other hand... an ABS system works by interrupting the pressure lines feeding the brake cylinders. An active traction system both interrupts and applies brake pressure independently of direct driver input. This is something with which I am not happy and I would much prefer to avoid driving a car so equipped - I've worked in electronics for far too long to expect things to work as designed forever.

The problem is that both systems are, for different reasons and for different people, necessary. The steering assistance is required for financial reasons: front wheel drive cars are cheaper to build but make the front of the car heavy; many people would find driving, and particularly low speed manoeuvring difficult without it (though I prefer a much heavier control feel than is generally available these days). Auto parking? Why? What happened to learned skills?

And the same really applies to skid/slip control systems: they're now on pretty much everything... and yet, a competent driver will never find himself in a position where either is required... so they're excess weight and excess cost and excess complexity, and encourage poor driving skills - because the brakes are like, magic, aren't they?

And yet... these critical systems are designed so they can be updated (good design) without a direct electrical connection (stupid beyond measure) even though there is a mandated electrical connection directly to them.

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2015 Fiat 500 fashionista, complete with facelift

Neil Barnes
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"We couldn't drive on the (Lingotto) roof"

Don't worry about it. I've done it, and it's nothing exciting except for the location (if you see what I mean).

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New Horizons: We've got a pretty pic of Pluto. Now let's get our SCIENCE on

Neil Barnes
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Pint

Beer

That's all. Except for the large helping of kudos on the side.

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Blighty's BONKERS BANKING BONKING BONANZA: Apple Pay arrives

Neil Barnes
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Stop

Gone are the days of searching for your wallet

If I'm searching for my wallet, I already have bigger problems than angsting over pay-by-bonk.

Idiots.

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What do you MEAN, 'Click on the thing which looks like a Mondrian?'

Neil Barnes
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Flame

Re: Explain anything

A gem from some years ago: a misconfiguration at my ISP sent everybody's DNS requests to my allocated IP address. My poor little Linux box damn near ripped the bearings out of its disc drive...

Called tech support: "Have you tried turning it off and on again?" followed by the traditional "Can you go to the device manager?" (No, it's a Linux box, and I've just told you the problem is at your end. Can we have second level support now please?)

Still took them a week to fix.

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Robot SHOOTS into the air with hot gas from its soft round behind

Neil Barnes
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Dozens of landings?

I'd hope for somewhat more than that...

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China wants to build a 200km-long undersea tunnel to America

Neil Barnes
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Re: Well, okay...

A Transatlantic Tunnel, Hurrah!

Oh, wait...

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DOUGHNUT (donut?) and whale FOUND ON PLUTO

Neil Barnes
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Re: NASA: Doughnut FOUND ON PLUTO – along with a WHALE

"Oh no, not again..."

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Five lightweight Linux desktop worlds for extreme open-sourcers

Neil Barnes
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Re: I'm with you

2 gigs of RAM - looked at a chromebook recently? Loads of us out here using chromebooks with 2 or 4 gigs of ram and very little storage - but with a Linux installed one way or another rather than using the ChromeOS directly.

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Wendi the horny dino named after Canadian fossil hunter. Charming!

Neil Barnes
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bone-furtling

Just wanted to see that again :)

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Bloodthirsty Microsoft prepares for imminent 'major' job cuts

Neil Barnes
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Paris Hilton

Is this because

we've all been so rude about W10?

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Robo-taxis, what are they good for? Er, the environment and traffic

Neil Barnes
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"Maintain the sanity of the passengers"

Easy... just paint the windows black.

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We tried using Windows 10 for real work and ... oh, the horror

Neil Barnes
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Hierarchical start menu...

is it so difficult?

Or is this just the next stage in the gradual merging of application and data?

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Canuck chump cuffed over helium balloon flying chair stunt

Neil Barnes
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The point about controlled air space is just that: it's controlled. You don't go in it without permission from ATC.

Even though powered planes give way to gliders, and everybody gives way to balloons, I rather suspect that balloons anywhere but Class G except in emergency doesn't make ATC happy. Planning to abandon your aircraft in controlled space? This guy needs the book throwing at him, ideally for ballast.

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Apple Pay's Brit biz bashed by banks planning to Zapp it out

Neil Barnes
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Coat

Pay by bonk?

I don't have a use case.

If I'm paying, irrespective of the amount, I want an authorisation from me to do it.

The purported benefit of 'easier, faster' is a benefit only for those who don't care how much money is left in their account; shop shop shop wheeeeee!

No thanks.

Endit.

(The flameproof one, thanks).

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7/7 memories: I was on a helpdesk that day and one of my users died

Neil Barnes
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I was in Vienna airport

waiting for a plane to Kiev, having flown out of Heathrow an hour or two earlier.

The whole airport was full of stunned passengers just watching the news on TV monitors throughout the concourse. Couldn't get through to BBC colleagues for most of the day, eventually got contact later that evening.

An eerie repeat in some ways of watching the real time 9/11 images when I was in California nine years earlier.

I've been a lot closer to personal danger of that type throughout my career, but somehow never felt it in the same way.

<shudder>

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Behold the mighty Swiss SPACE JUNK NOSHER PODULE

Neil Barnes
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Alien

Didn't Hugo Drax

Have an orbital bitey thing that chomped up space shuttles?

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Planet killer: Ex-army officer's Welsh space-rock mission

Neil Barnes
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Alien

That's one to frighten the granddaughter with...

Thanks for the pointer, El Reg.

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Samsung, Oppo collared in smartphone bloatware probe

Neil Barnes
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It's not installing the bloatware that's the issue

It's not providing a simple and documented way of removing them, and in such a way that the basic functionality of the phone is not harmed.

After all, there's a possibility that one or two of them might have some benefit for the user, rather than for the maker.

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Kobo Glo HD vs Amazon Kindle Paperwhite: Which one's best?

Neil Barnes
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Re: Nook?

If it doesn't fit in the back pocket of a pair of jeans, the boss can see it when you disappear down the corridor to the little room with the porcelain chair to, er, consider a tricky software issue.

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Neil Barnes
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Re: Interesting use of the Kobo

Indeed; I purchased a fourth kobo (a mini, sadly no longer available) for that very purpose.

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Reg hack survives world's longest commercial flight

Neil Barnes
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Re: Luton's Luggage Handlers

Heh. Once arrived at CDG expecting my luggage - an 8' by 6' television reflective backdrop which twisted into a 3 foot circle a few inches thick - to appear on the conveyor.

And waited. And waited. And waited. And eventually got bored and started chasing it. Turns out the bozos had decided to open the package, the backdrop had immediately sprung out to its full size, and they couldn't get it back in the bag...

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This box beams cafes' Wi-Fi over 4kms so you can surf in obscurity

Neil Barnes
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Re: Self destruct?

Fly Fishing, by J R Hartley.

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Apple Music: First three months for free? We lasted less than 3 hours

Neil Barnes
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Re: New music?

Come, sir! One or two, surely (though I struggle to recall their names).

Though my father, a child of the twenties, maintains that there has been no good music since Glenn Miller died.

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Goodbye Vulcan: Blighty's nuclear bomber retires for the last time

Neil Barnes
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Black Helicopters

If you want to lose an afternoon... and then some...

http://www.pprune.org/aviation-history-nostalgia/111797-did-you-fly-vulcan-merged.html

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Neil Barnes
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Pint

Will be seeing it at Eastbourne in August

So here's a pint to the lads and lasses that kept her flying so long.

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Q: What's black and white and read all over? A: E-reader displays

Neil Barnes
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Headmaster

Re: Could be a paradigm shift

Somehow, though, a colour coffee-table ebook doesn't sound like the sort of thing one would leave lying around to impress the casual visitor.

I may be a Luddite - hell, I *am* a Luddite - but to me these are different markets. The books in which *I* am interested contain text, not pictures; and text is an inherently linear monochrome flowed concept. There are some excellent books with non-linear text, and some excellent books containing almost no words, but an awful lot of pictures, and no end of technical books with large and detailed diagrams and other illustrations - but these are edge cases whose use is adequately covered by a robust, reliable, and mature technology: ink on paper, conveniently bound into a 'book'.

Let's not ruin the basic e-ink device by forcing uses other than these text reading functions on it.

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Hi-res audio folk to introduce new rules and weed out impure noises

Neil Barnes
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Re: "a brave person who said that HRA has no audible benefits"

You may misunderstand my context, 142... for a final output, surely, use all the bits you can (but be aware of the nastiness of compression-for-loudness).

When I say 18dB headroom, I would expect the nominal zero dB signal to be 18dB below 0dBFS - but I would expect that 18dB to be used by the signal.

In, say, a live studio environment you will find that live voice and music both have level extremes which are generally unrehearsed and, trust me, the last thing you want is digital clipping. In analogue systems the approach was to assume 12dB headroom since an analogue mixer is usually a bit kinder as the signal approaches clipping. However, even there, you are shoving a 775mV signal through amplifiers with at least +/-24 supplies.

In a music recording studio (as opposed to, say, a live concert) you would, I assume, have much greater control over individual levels. Nonetheless, you would generally want a sound mixer with at least 24 bit internal representation, even with a 16 bit input and output.

However, it's some years since I left the BBC so while I have a lot of experience with good studio technique, practice may well have changed since I left. And of course, music recording is a different kettle of fish from live studio work.

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Neil Barnes
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Headmaster

Re: @John Geek "Khz Khz Khz"

Sorry Jeffy! Must try harder... I've only been getting it right for forty years :)

8Khz <-- too fast on the shift key, I reckon.

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Neil Barnes
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Re: "a brave person who said that HRA has no audible benefits"

@142 - 12dB because that's about the minimum you can get away with; 18dB is safer.

@nijam - the S/N ratio gets worse as the signal amplitude decreases because the quantisation noise is constant; 11dB was the average used in the BBC (might have changed since I left).

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Neil Barnes
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@John Geek - what makes you think that any sampled signal is recorded with frequencies up to the Nyquist limit? That's why there are brick-wall filters on the input and a reconstruction filter on the output (and no, let's not go into the mess that a poorly designed filter can cause...)

Oversampling at very high rates has one obvious advantage: it makes the necessary pre- and post-sampling filters much easier to design and build.

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Neil Barnes
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Re: CD "Quality"

Don't forget that tape is also compressed, as well as carrying a high-frequency bias signal to avoid the worst of the non-linearity of the magnetic medium.

But your point is valid - if you want a good copy, you get as close to the original as you can.

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Neil Barnes
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Re: "a brave person who said that HRA has no audible benefits"

"you're a bat"

Um, not necessarily. A 24-bit system has a much lower noise floor (or alternatively, a higher headroom) and therefore a greater dynamic range than a 16 bit signal.

As a rule of thumb, allow 6dB/bit for overall dynamic range. Then subtract (at the recording stage) 12dB for headroom an 11dB for quantisation noise - so a 16 bit system, irrespective of bit rate, will have a practical signal to noise ratio of 73dB and a dynamic range of the same order. That's not significantly improved over a 1980s broadcast tape machine, as it happens...

The extra eight bits in the 24-bit system allow an equivalent 48dB improvement in noise or headroom - easily audible provided (a) that your recording front end is both sensitive enough and quiet enough to be effective on close-to-silent signals, and (b) your listening equipment and environment is equally quiet and isolated enough to be able to hear very quiet signals. This is unlikely to be the case outside a professional recording studio.

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Neil Barnes
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Re: for dogs only

It's basic theory and practice, yes... but in spite of this, the human ear can only hear those products which fall in the 20-20kHz (or thereabouts, depending on age) frequency band.

If an inaudibly high frequency is heterodying with a lower frequency (whether the lower frequency is within the audible range or not) the only product which will be audible is the difference frequency - the sum will be even further out of the range of hearing.

And guess what - those products are all adequately represented within the basic 'CD quality' signal.

A suggestion: take your harmonics experiment, but set the sample rate as high as you can - 96 or 192ks/s, for example. Now compare a sine and a square wave at 440Hz, and, as you state, you will easily hear a difference since the square wave has a number of harmonics within the audible range.

Repeat the experiment at 4400Hz; you *should* still be able to hear the difference; there is still one harmonic in range, at 13200Hz. Now try it at 8Khz instead, and unless your hearing is exceptional, you will be unable to hear any difference - only the fundamental frequency is within your hearing range: the third harmonic is at 24kHz. And yet it's clearly present in the signal you're listening to.

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We forget NOTHING, the Beeb thunders at Europe

Neil Barnes
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Holmes

It's all right...

Googling 'list of delisted bbc pages' takes you straight to the hit, on the third link.

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SpaceX to blast Microsoft's HoloLens visors into SPAAAAACE

Neil Barnes
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Does hololens use positional information from the headset to change the viewpoint?

And if so, how does it get it? Inquiring minds want to know - I'm not at all sure how MEMS sensors will work in zero g (though an inertial system might work, if you can cope with the accumulated errors.)

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How to turn application spaghetti into tasty IT services

Neil Barnes
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It's nice to see

that someone considers my spaghetti tasty!

<cough> Food for a Tenner a Week <cough>

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This whopping 16-bit computer processor is being built by hand, transistor by transistor

Neil Barnes
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Re: Kudos and beer

End of life or what? Looks like LittleDiode's rip-off prices for the UK... thanks, guys. Time to replace the huge proms that emulate an ALU.

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Neil Barnes
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Re: Kudos and beer

Yah. But it only appears to be still available in the hot'n'hungry 'LS181 version. :(

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Neil Barnes
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Boffin

Kudos and beer

That's most impressive. I designed and built a sort-of hybrid 8080/6502 from discrete TTL, so just eight bits, and even that took four Eurocards (and several months of simulation beforehand).

Now if only one of the chip makers had got around to doing a 74HC ALU chip...

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What is this river nonsense? Give .amazon to Bezos, says US Congress

Neil Barnes
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Holmes

Re: Pedantic Grammar Nazi Compromise?

Well, obviously, if amazon.com is good, amazon.amazon is twice as good...

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Amazon enrages authors as it switches to 'pay-per-page' model

Neil Barnes
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Headmaster

Amazon have seen Apple's recent publicity

and decided to try the same with books.

Curiously, I don't stream books the same way I don't stream music: if I have an ebook it's either been scanned by me from a copy I own, or it's a public domain book from Gutenberg or similar, or it's a naughty scan of a book I own but have not personally scanned. Note that I have discussed this with published authors and they are quite happy for this approach, though they would of course prefer that free copies are not generally available (I don't publish the books I scan).

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Mum fails to nuke killer spider nest from orbit

Neil Barnes
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Boffin

The canonical discussion on the Brazillian Wandering Spider

is the Oatmeal's... http://theoatmeal.com/blog/jibbers_crabst

Watch the signing translator.

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Even Apple doesn’t mess with Taylor Swift

Neil Barnes
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Re: It appears you forgot the <sarcasm> <sarcasm/>

CDs locally ripped for me, every time. I don't even consider buying streamed music. That said, my life doesn't revolve around music; you could probably put my entire collection in a quarter terabyte.

Which is not to say that for others it may be something that works, but it's not for me.

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Police robot duo storm Colorado house, end four-day siege

Neil Barnes
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We had to destroy the house in order to save it.

More pepperoni, Sarge?

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