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* Posts by RDW

17 posts • joined 20 Mar 2009

A black box for your SUITCASE: Now your lost luggage can phone home – quite literally

RDW

Re: No real market

The only problem I see with this is that the black box will cost slightly more than the usual contents of my checked luggage...

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Surface 2 and iPad Air: Prepare to meet YOUR DOOM under a 'Landfill Android' AVALANCHE

RDW

No matter how many times you use the phrase 'Landfill Android', it's never going to catch on.

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Space truck Cygnus left idling outside ISS after data format snafu borks docking

RDW

>In that case the ISS is still trying to locate a driver for the new device in the port.

Yes, cygwin1.dll is almost certainly missing.

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Web ad giant (Google) pops Adwords into Maps for iOS and Android

RDW

Re: Ads? Solution: Don't Update.

>The latest update was a pretty major one though with a totally new system and interface.

There are major changes, but most of them downgrades. 'My maps' are gone, offline caching has been crippled, local search and navigation are degraded, the large text and measurement options are gone, and (at least in the UK) the colour scheme has changed for the worse (e.g. B-roads are no longer a different colour to unclassified roads):

https://www.facebook.com/googlemapsukcolours

The road colouring problem affects the old and new desktop versions of Google Maps too, but the old Android version (6.x) still works as before. Any 'improvements' to the Android app seem to be trivial (slightly prettier appearance, etc.), or designed to please the advertisers. I've switched off automatic updates to keep the old version, which is still fully functional (though Latitude is about to be killed off). Maps 7.x is by far the worst 'update' I've seen for any Google app.

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How Microsoft shattered Gnome's unity with Windows 95

RDW
FAIL

Microsoft faked the moon landings!

Did Gnome, KDE, Xfce and everyone else originally copy Windows 95? Yes, of course they did. This is blindingly obvious and hardly worth writing an article about. Do we need to invent a silly conspiracy theory to explain the current 'fragmentation' of the Linux desktop? Not so much. Like most conspiracy theories, this one falls apart on close (or even cursory) examination:

- What did Microsoft claim when they made their dubious statment about 235 patents? From a random CNN article:

http://money.cnn.com/magazines/fortune/fortune_archive/2007/05/28/100033867/

"But he does break down the total number allegedly violated - 235 - into categories. He says that the Linux kernel - the deepest layer of the free operating system, which interacts most directly with the computer hardware - violates 42 Microsoft patents. The Linux graphical user interfaces - essentially, the way design elements like menus and toolbars are set up - run afoul of another 65, he claims. The Open Office suite of programs, which is analogous to Microsoft Office, infringes 45 more. E-mail programs infringe 15, while other assorted FOSS programs allegedly transgress 68. "

So even if you throw away all Windows-style GUI elements completely, if MS is to be believed (hah!) that still leaves 170 patents they can supposedly sue your favourite Linux distribution over (and MS would presumably claim that even Unity infringes some of their 65 GUI patents, so you're probably still dealing with a couple of hundred). Redesigning the GUI doesn't make you substantially less 'liable' (if you actually buy into the MS FUD).

- If a Linux distribution switches to a new primary desktop, does that actually mean it's no longer 'infringing' the supposed GUI patents? Not really. 'Classic' modes that look suspiciously like Windows 95 are still available as lawyer bait, as are alternative 'traditional' desktops like Xfce in the distro's repository. The legal threat, if there is one, is no less than before. Incidentally, Redhat, which never signed a patent deal with MS, chose Gnome 2 as the default RHEL 6 desktop in 2010, 3 years after MS's posturing about the patents, and is still using it today, which ought to tell you something about exactly how seriously RH took the threats.

- Is there a more plausible explanation for the recent proliferation of DEs? Yes. Gnome developers got bored with the Win95 style GUI, thought they could do better, and were arrogant enough to ignore the wishes of a large proportion of their users by (partially) ditching the old interface. Canonical got upset by this, and re-purposed a netbook GUI as their primary desktop in a bid to differentiate Ubuntu from everyone else and make an interface that was equally irritating on a wide range of devices. All the other projects mentioned (MATE, Cinnamon, etc.) are simply attempts to restore sanity by returning to the Win95/Gnome 2 'metaphor' by one means or another. If Gnome had not deprecated the traditional GUI, nobody would have bothered forking or emulating Gnome 2. There's nothing about Unity and Gnome 3 that can't be explained by hubris, obsessing over tablets, and more or less misguided attempts to re-invent the wheel. MS itself has recently caught the same disease, but there seems little risk of anyone copying Windows 8. When someone (like Gnome!) pulls a stunt like this in the FLOSS world, the natural instinct is to fork or write something new, which is exactly what we've seen with MATE and the various attempts to tame Gnome 3 with alternate shells or addons. Projects then proliferate until natural selection kills the less viable alternatives off.

Software patents and threats of legal action have a lot to answer for, but fragmentation of Linux desktops? Yeah, maybe it was a 'controlled demolition', as the 911 conspiracy nuts say.

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Is this the first ever web page? If not, CERN would like to know

RDW

Re: First Website Ever?

"wonder how long it took before porn made it to the web"

If you count usenet URLs, it was only 5 clicks away right at the beginning:

First website->What's out there->by Type->Network News->alt->alt.sex.pictures

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Logitech launches MEGA-PRICEY 15-in-1 remote

RDW

Sony

I struggled with an old One4All remote that had the same sort of problem that Scott mentions - needed to use learning mode, but not enough memory. Then I discovered an equally cheap Sony learning remote with enough capacity to deal with anything I threw at it. Mine is the old RM-VL600T model, and it looks like the RM-VLZ620T is a more recent equivalent. No screen, just buttons, but the batteries last a year or two, and they can be had for under £30 (make sure you get the 'T' version for full UK compatibility).

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Enormo-display Apple iPhone prototype surfaces

RDW

Re: Could've filed for patents...

"Could've filed for patents.... on rectangles with chamfered corners and square corners judging by the Ars gallery."

Judging by this one:

http://cdn.arstechnica.net/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/iphone_huffpo.jpg

Battlestar Galactica had prior art!

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Crucial question after asteroid near-miss: How big was rock in Olympic pools?

RDW

Never mind the rock that didn't hit us. What I want to know is the size of the debris field of the Russian impact, relative to an Area the Size of Wales.

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School caretaker harassed after Islamists hack EDL

RDW
Flame

Sinister organisation

Well, you might think the threat from these guys is overstated, but they've been using some pretty aggressive tactics lately:

http://www.digitalspy.co.uk/forums/showthread.php?t=922330

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Most smartphoners don't give a flip about apps

RDW
FAIL

Really?

'Most smartphoners don't give a flip about apps'

You might get that impression if you just glance at the original article, and don't realise that it covers all kinds of phones, not just smartphones. Or you might give tha impression if you want to spin it a particular way. But if you read the survey report it says the exact opposite:

'For smartphone users, it would be reasonable to expect that the app stores would be more important in the purchase decision than preloaded applications. And, indeed, about 80 percent of the smartphone users said that the applications in the app store were a purchase factor. However, more than two thirds said the pre-installed apps also contributed to the purchase decision.'

So smartphone users like apps, downloaded or pre-installed.

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Apple picks death not compliance for open source iPhone game

RDW
Thumb Up

Fair enough

'...why did they even bother submitting it, if they expected it to fail?'

'They' (the FSF) did not submit it. GNU GO was released over 20 years ago and runs on all common operating systems (most of which do not impose the sort of peculiar restrictions that Apple deems necessary for the iPhone). GNU GO is not only GPL software but also an official part of the GNU system (meaning that the FSF holds the copyright):

http://www.gnu.org/software/gnugo/gnugo.html

The iPhone port was written around the GNU Go engine by a third party, Robota Sotfwarehouse, and was released in 2008:

http://forum.robota.nl/2008/01/08/iphone-igo-13-first-official-release/

Robota is of course entitled to take the FSF's GPL'd code and write its own apps, but not to distribute such works in direct contravention of the GPL (except with the explicit permission of the FSF, who could choose to dual license but obviously won't). Robota and Apple should have read the (very well known!) licence of the code they were re-distributing. The terms of the GPL are very clear in this situation, and there's no reason why Apple should be exempt just because the iPhone is cool and shiny.

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T-Orange merger approved

RDW
Unhappy

Oh great

T-mobile currently charges me 20 quid (total) for 6 months of pre-paid net access on PAYG. On Orange, that only buys me 4 weeks online. Anyone want to bet on the chances of the T-mobile tariff surviving the merger?

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BBC to cull radio stations, halve websites in painful biz review

RDW
Flame

Radio 3 and Radio 6

'Scrap Radio 3 - there's a viable commercial alternative broadcasting on FM and digital in the form of Classic FM.'

Classic FM, which plays Themes from Well Known Adverts on heavy rotation and the Popular Classical equivalents of Boy Bands, has much the same relationship to Radio 3 as Radio 1 does to 6music. 3 & 6 broadcast intelligent programming for an (unfortunately limited) audience of actual music lovers and give exposure to less commercial artists, while 1 and CFM (generally) provide aural wallpaper for the masses. No surprise that 6 has struggled to survive while excluded from the 'media platform' that most people actually use - perhaps if they actually succeed in shoving DAB down all our throats by pulling the plug on FM, channels like 6 will stand a better chance of survival. No surprise either that the current gutless BBC adminstration is Assuming the Position in readiness for Cameron and Murdoch's loving attentions after May 6th, while the BBC Trust, fatally compromised by its conflicting remits to serve the audience and pander to the commercial competition, will doubtless rubber stamp the proposals (or add further cuts of their own).

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Apple iPhone tops 2009 smartphone sales

RDW

Cheap Android phones

'I read today that a < €150 pre-pay android smartphone will be available in europe later this year.'

Already happened last year, when the T-mobile Pulse on PAYG went for under 100 GBP for a while (about £150 right now). T-mobile will also sell you 6 months of data access for 20 quid (total) and will unlock the phone for a reasonable fee after 3 months. Android isn't perfect, of course (and neither is T-mobile's coverage!) but when this sort of deal is offered you can get a really capable smartphone (with enough left over for a decent micro SD card) for less than the price of an iPod Touch (let alone the iPhone, which only seems cheap if you look at the contract models and forget about the price of the contract). Hopefully we'll be seeing a lot more phones in this price range before long.

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Blu-ray Disc added to UK shopping basket

RDW

MP3 vs MP4

'MP4/Video players... absolute rubbish... common spends? My arse.'

Doesn't 'mp4 player' now include every iPod with a screen?

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Apple proves: It pays to be late

RDW
Happy

Hmm...

"--well thats not true is it ?! it was covered in the news, queues of people outside most apple, o2 and carphone warehouse stores..."

Yes, Oceania has always been at war with Eurasia!

'that story about NASA's pen and the Russian's pencil is an urban myth....a pencil wasn't allowed in case the lead broke off and got stuck in an air duct or something...'

They actually carried on using pencils (and felt tips) alongside the Fisher pens:

http://www.thespacereview.com/archive/613d.pdf

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