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* Posts by Andrew J. Winks

15 posts • joined 27 Apr 2007

Here lies /^v.+b$/i

Andrew J. Winks
Meh

Rexx

/**/ say 'Goodbye to Verity'

exit life

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Vulture 1 sprouts wings and a tail

Andrew J. Winks

Base of the wing...

Boeing found with the Dreamliner that they had to strengthen the wing spars near the point of insertion.

I fear that you may need to do the same - by strengthening the box where the spars come together, the weakest point becomes the spar in the wing, near where it joins the fuselage.

You might need to double up the spars near the fuselage and terminate the additional, short spars at slightly different places, to make the bending mode of the wing less abrupt.

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Physicists fire up strontium atomic clock

Andrew J. Winks

Let's have a useful precision

If you want to "sell" us a clock that is out by a second in 200m years, then we expect it to last at least that long. Why not, for instance, claim 5 nanoseconds imprecision per year?

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Nokia cranks up twisty-turny phone design

Andrew J. Winks
Unhappy

Be very a-frayed

It is nice to see that they have numbered all the positions of the wires that will break through constant flexing.

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Ballmer: All open source dev should happen on Windows

Andrew J. Winks

Iconography

It seems to me that we have a marvellous opportunity for an El Reg survey: a vote for our favourite comment icons.

Reader suggestions for new icons could also be solicited. Steve Atty's suggestion could go on to the list right away.

I'd be quite happy for us to lose the peculiar one of Bill Gates under the hair-drier. It's hard to imagine it being used anyway, what with there being no irony icon as yet. (And there's the limit of one per comment.)

Perhaps even the traditional use of "Yahoo marks" could be reduced to the use of a custom icon.

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Australia declares war on net porn

Andrew J. Winks

How apt

"Beskerming" means "protection" in some Germanic languages.

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Court finds Qualcomm guilty of standards abuse

Andrew J. Winks

Nobody likes sneaks, but...

Qualcomm come out of this looking increasingly evil, but, as they have gleefully pointed out, there was no finding that any infringement of the "written rules of the standard setting body" had taken place.

H.264 has over 20 IP rights claimants, there is no unitary licence in place and royalty arrangements are 'complicated'. Furthermore, the actual ITU/IEC/ISO joint standards document contains a strong IP rights disclaimer that is effectively a warning. In light of this, those drafting the standard, or wishing to enter the market, ought to have performed their own extensive patent searches.

This is by no means the first time that IP has been smuggled into a standard, nor will it be the last. But it seems without precedent to suppress patent rights because technical elements from patents may have been injected into a standard.

It's a satisfying idea, but it is clearly a decision that will need to be made in a higher court.

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Andrew J. Winks

What about CDMA patents?

Though what they did was sneaky, Qualcomm did not do anything illegal in promoting standards based on their IP. It is similar to Microsoft's current attempts to have their competitor to ODF adopted as a standard - a reasonable person can anticipate the next move.

If the court ruling is accepted as a precedent then having IP adopted as an industry standard essentially releases it to the public domain.

Since Qualcomm holds key patents essential to the CDMA mobile standard (which they "invented"), this ruling could fatally undermine their position in the ongoing battle between themselves and Nokia. One can therefore anticipate that it will be appealed all the way up to the Supreme Court if necessary.

There could be some really interesting amicus curiae briefs filed!

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Waste computer edict finally hits UK

Andrew J. Winks

"Obsolete" means the same in Africa

Martin Gregorie illustrated the case for Linux very neatly.

But the actual intention of mentioning the hardware minima was that the stuff already being sent to Africa frequently does not meet even the documented minimum hardware requirements for the operating system concerned. The PCs that will be dragged from the attic as a result of sudden WEE-directive-inspired generosity promise to be even older and thus worse.

A major international computer recycling organisation that supplies PCs to Africa currently offers Windows XP as a £5.00 optional extra. 90% of their PCs are shipped with a mere 128MB RAM, which is half of even the Microsoft recommendation!

The same charity only raised their minimum hard drive specification to 10GB in mid-March of this year, which gives one a notion of the obsolescence of much of the kit being donated to/dumped upon Africa.

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Andrew J. Winks

Keep your rubbishy PCs

Dear World

Please keep your rubbishy old PCs.

Lots of Love

Africa

Here's the fault in the system - people in Africa want to do the same things with their PCs as the rest of the world. That means that if it is no good in Europe, it is likely no good for Africa.

One assumes that the idea of donating PCs to Africa instead of dumping them is well-intentioned. But since no research into African needs or conditions appears to have taken place, one must conclude that it is ill-informed.

The most popular alternative to Windows is Linux. Even that is starting to need some hefty hardware now that it is growing up. Ubuntu, for instance, now recommend at least 256MB RAM and 4GB HD space for desktop use. That is more memory but less disk space than Microsoft originally recommended for Windows XP.

So whichever route one takes, the chances are that unless you are disposing of a year-old computer, it is not going to be of much use to anyone else. After all, if it was still worth anything you would be able to sell it. But you can’t.

Even keeping a free system up to date may be impossible for the majority of Africans – by way of example, for an installation of Windows XP SP2 and Office 2003 the downloads currently needed to bring the PC up to date total some 200MB. By observation that can take 17 hours over a dial-up line. The telephony costs of that alone are higher than the average monthly wage in many African lands.

Very recently a school in Nigeria received 300 donated computers for their pupils. Just one small technical detail that nobody checked: the school has no electricity.

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Nokia lobs another legal grenade at Qualcomm

Andrew J. Winks

Oops

Too wide.

Can't ever be too narrow, can they?

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Andrew J. Winks

Motorola buy small infringing chips

The ban affects the Razr 2 (due in July) which is assembled in Asia and therefore counts as a US import.

Though Motorola's tame Freescale Semiconductor makes its own chip it is too narrow for thin 3G phones, so they have to buy in. Last year Motorola agreed to use Qualcomm chips in their UTMS phones.

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Home Office discusses thief-proof phones

Andrew J. Winks

How changed does an IMEI need to be?

Martin Blunden is correct in stating that IMEIs stored in write-once memory cannot be updated, other than by replacing the chip.

That is being circumvented.

The latest wheeze is to rewrite the accessible copies of the IMEI and then to flash the phone software so it merely ignores the last, unchanged copy of the IMEI on the write-once device. The new IMEI is supplied by the phone whenever it is challenged.

If one is to believe the claims of the flashing-software vendors, there is scarcely a phone that cannot be nobbled.

The readily availability of such software indicates the extent to which there is an illegal demand, since there is no legitimate reason for changing a phone serial number.

It is still done just by attaching the mobile to a PC.

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Andrew J. Winks

Make "deactivated" the norm. Oh, wait...

Thieves usually switch off cell phones immediately, thus rendering any signal-to-disable technology utterly useless.

It is alluring to think that phones may be thief-proofed by designing them so that they are deactivated by default. Only those that are authenticated and authorised would receive a regular network signal to enable them.

Perfect isn't it?

The only drawback of this system is that we have it already, and it clearly does not work!

GSM telephony authenticates the hardware via the serial number of the phone (IMEI), which has been made "hard" to change. The subscriber is authenticated via the chip-and-pin of the SIM card (IMSI).

There is little economic incentive for criminals to crack GSM SIM cards. (For CDMA phones where there is no removable subscriber card the situation is different and phone id. cloning is a popular criminal activity.)

The weakness of IMEI protection is that the phone makers have tended to secure other settings using the same technology. (Things like network locking and the nobbling of features.) In a number of countries it is legal for a third party to change these for the legitimate owner of a handset. Since the same technology secures the IMEI, once the protection can be circumvented for legal reasons, the IMEI is accessible too. Worse yet, not all countries have made it illegal to change serial numbers.

In practice the IMEI can readily be changed in seconds by criminals with little technical knowledge, using a PC with the right connector for the phone and suitable software that can be obtained via the Internet. The reprogrammed phone is back on the street with its new serial number in minutes, often before the original serial number has been blacklisted.

How would the proposals change any of this?

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Blue Sky squeezes GPS onto a SIM

Andrew J. Winks

No metal chassis

The last mobile phone with a metal chassis was dropped from high altitude to destroy a gun emplacement during the second Gulf war.

Modern phones simply do not usually have a metal chassis, the absence of which contributes to their light weight.

If you remove the battery from your phone you will typically discover that it has four electrical connectors, not the two that one would expect. The extra two are used for battery management.

From this we can conclude that mobile phone batteries contain WIRES, which if one is terribly smart and does not upset the circuitry, can be used as an antenna. This is similar to the technique for using headphone connecting leads as an aerial in small radios.

Risto Savolainen is doubtless biting his tongue, at least gently.

That's my guess.

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