2232 posts • joined 10 Jun 2009
Re: Once you've had 27 inches you never go back...
More like an extra £300! The question in my mind is whether I'd prefer one 2560x1440, or two 1920x1080 plus ~£120 still in my pocket. (There's also the miser's option, one new 1920x1080 for £150 and keep the old monitor as a secondary display).
These monitors have been affordable for a couple of years now ... serious screen-users probably have a pair of them by now. State-of-the-art is 2560x1600, but they don't come cheap! (Personally I really wish you could still get affordable 1920x1200, the extra vertical pixels make a lot of difference ... but I understand why PC monitors have converged on HDTV format. They probably sell ten HDTVs for every high-res monitor. )
After-sales service critical for me
My choice is greatly influenced by past experience of various manufacturer's after-sales service. I'm prejudiced towards Iiyama and Philips. With Iiyama, warranty service has been completely hassle-free on the rare occasions it's been needed ... and I've never yet had a Philips monitor fail in warranty, and very rarely even many years after.
YMMV? Any other good recs or war stories about warranty service?
Re: They already have right to walk...
Do you mean to say that there are people who will sign a contract without obtaining a copy of what they have signed? ALWAYS get such, and always keep it for the duration of the contract. If it's a web-based sign-up, download the T&Cs that apply and print them, or e-mail them to yourself (the latter probably better because it creates a time-stamp maintained by a third party that they'd find it hard to argue about).
Unfair contract terms are not enforcible
For far too long companies love to put clauses into their contracts which pretty much mean 'we can do anything we want to to, and if we amend you're contract, however detrimental it might be to you, you shall have no rights to complain or get out of the contract'.
Google "unfair contract terms".
Then tell your service provider that you consider whatever terms of the contract that they are using to increase your charges to be unfair (in the legal sense). Offer to continue to pay at the original rate. Tell them to take you to court if they won't accept that.
An RPI-linked increase is probably fair (if mentioned in the contract you signed). An increase caused by a new government regulation might be fair, if they can justify that the increase is merely passing on increased costs imposed on them. I very much doubt that anything else would hold up in court. Most people are too easily intimidated!
Re: Yuck, 2 year contracts
It's also damn near impossible to get a personal loan for less than £1000 that can be paid off over 12 months or more. 12 month loans for £500 are available but at interest rates that make them impractical for phone purchases.
Provided you are credit-worthy there are many credit cards you can apply for that have 0% interest on purchases for 13 months or longer. Tesco was offering 16 months last time I looked. Just don't forget to set up a standing order to make the minimum repayment each month, and a savings account to acquire enough cash to clear the debt when the interest-free period ends.
Re: Cure for cancer?
What's an unpleasant but passing experience for most of us, is not so for the infirm or the elderly whom this bug can kill. Incidentally one of the vulnerable groups is people being treated for cancer. Chemotherapy weakens one's immune system. (It also often damages one's mucous membranes, which may create an infection pathway). So a way to protect against this bug might well reduce mortality amongst people fighting a treatable cancer.
Re: Don't read whilst eating
My thought also. Nothing much one can do to avoid infection, so stop worrying. If it's going to happen it's going to happen. From experience of both I'd prefer the vomiting bug to real flu. At least one recovers quickly!
Re: Ah the good old days gone by...
The first sealed head/disk assembly I saw was 80Mb (and roughly the size of a washing machine). Before that disk platters could be lifted out of disk drives. I've still got the disk, extracted from the plastic cassette, that stored just over one Megabyte. It became obsolete about the time I started working with computers.
Any, er, retreat, on 1Mb disks? (I mean disks, not 180kb floppies! )
Re: Yeh North Korea - you stupid stupid.. place..
I think some people here don't know just HOW bad a place NK is.
It's not just a country that has adopted the hereditary principle for absolute dictator. It's also one that has adopted the same for "enemy of the state". When someone gets sent to an extermination camp ("re-education" camp), his family goes with him, kids and all. Once there, if they are lucky they are just worked to death. If they are unlucky, they are used for germ warfare research.
Or maybe not. Tumbling uncontrollably presents considerabe difficulties to re-entry without burning up. (I really hope so).
Don't forget Neville Mott
I've always thiought that the real father of the Field-Effect transistor was Neville Mott (much later Nobel laureate Professor Sir Neville Mott), who sorted out all the theory back in the 1930s. It's a shame that no-one at that time thought to try to make a solid-state valve based on that theory. I think it would have been within the technology of the day.
Instead technology went a very long way up what turned out to be a blind alley, using current flows through bipolar junction transistors to represent bits, rather than packets of stationary charge on the gates of field-effect transistors. Although it's not impossible that this too will come to be seen as a blind alley once Moore's law has finally hit the limits. The long-term future may be spintronic (ie, the bits stored as the spin states of electrons).
In defense of FORTRAN
Firstly, one has to specify which FORTRAN. 77? 95? 2008? The language has evolved a great deal, possibly even more so than C++
Secondly, people who attack it fail to realize that even FORTRAN-77 had two huge advantages over its competitors.
One was for the scientist/programmer. The compiler could/can autogenerate code to check array subscripts at runtime. Given the declaration REAL A(100,200) then any reference A(I,J) is invalid if I<1 or I>100 or J<1 or J>200. With the compiler generating subscript checks, many bugs immediately crashed the program, rather than randomly corrupting random data elsewhere. C compilers couldn't do this.
Note also that (say) I=101 and J=1, or I=2000 and J=-1, are detected as programming errors even though in both cases the result of blind address arithmetic will be within A
And when the program was debugged and ready for use in anger, you recompiled with checks off and other optimisations on. Which meant that number-crunching code in FORTRAN could be faster than in C, the second huge advantage.
In particular, a FORTRAN compiler is permitted to assume that in a subroutine
SUBROUTINE FRED( A, B, M, N)
REAL A(M,N), B(M,N)
there is no memory overlap between the arrays A and B, which allows for many optimisations of statements like
A(I-1,J-1) = A(I-1,J-1) + B(I,J)
IN C-style languages A and B are pointers to chunks of memory, and the no-overlap assumption can't be used in nearly so many contexts.
Since F77, FORTRAN has advanced so that now many operations on arrays can (and should) be expressed as a single statement with no sequencing specified by the programmer. The compiler is free to perform whatever sequencing and parallelisation it thinks will work best. Your FORTRAN 2008 code is hardware architecture-independant. Your compiler generates a realisation that best exploits whatever it's running on, be that a pair of Intel Xeons with four cores apiece and a single RAM address space, a top-of-the-range or a cluster of a few such beasts, or tens or hundreds of them, that you wish to use in parallel.
Automatic parallelisation is a big and hot topic and probably still in its infancy. Recent FORTRAN languages have at least freed the compiler from arbitrary constraints accidentally imposed by a programmer who previously had to specify an arbitrary sequence and who couldn't indicate that he really didn't care about the ordering of this or these loops.
That said, I'd stil choose to write the outer parts of my programs in Python (using NumPy, SciPy, and suchlike) and call from there to number-crunching codes written by experts.
Re: The best language hasn't been written yet
There will never be a best language. Languages are tools, and we use the right tool for the job. Or sometimes, the wrong one, for lack of a choice, or out of familiarity and/or prejudice. "If the only tool to hand is a hammer, all problems look like a nail".
Procedural, Object-orientated, and Introspective
There's a lot of obfuscation out there about what is a very simple concept.
Procedural: F(a, b);
The advantage of the latter is that you cannot apply an inappropriate F to argument a, because only the methods of the object a are available in this context. It also reduces the number of pointers or object handles one has to keep track of. Of course, it doesn't prevent all bugs. You can still do (say) a.clockwise(b) when you meant a.anticlockwise(b) or a.clockwise(c)
Introspective: in a language like Python you might return to the procedural form, but check at runtime about the exact type of argumernts a and b, and do sensible things if they're not as expected.
Re: Useful or abuseful?
In my experience the preprocessor in C and C++ is inadequate for cases where one's program code is best generated by another program. Use a stand-alone macro-processor, or write your own code-generator in (say) Python. Then just build it into your makefile. But do try to make sure that it emits debug-able code!
Re: Scientific and Engineering Computing
A few people code in Python - and quite a lot of these people use it for intensive tasks, which makes me quite worried for the laptops they then try and run it on
If they know what they are doing, they are using NumPy and SciPy and suchlike. That means that you do the high-level stuff in a high-level language (Python), but delegate the number-crunching (inner loops, BLAS) to library code written in whatever low-level language the library author chose to use. Actually, there are multiple choices: the same library interfaces compiled with different optimisations (say for Athlon, or Intel Xeon, or rewritten using CUDA for offloading onto an NVidia GPGPU).
It's a VERY productive way to go.
The principle was much the same back in the 1970s when a sensible scientist called a NAG library routine whenevr he could. Do as litle coding as possible in (back then) FORTRAN, leave the details of how to get the most out of the hardware and how to tame the numerical methods to the experts. All that's really happened is that a much more powerful and expressive language (Python) has displaced FORTRAN, C and C++ as far as stringing together calls to library code is concerned.
Incidentally the overhead of doing inner loops and all in Python is a factor of ten at worst. In cases where the prospect of getting ten times as much computing done isn't attractive because human thought, not CPU-hours, is the rate-determining factor, then why care about efficiency?
I think the right way to view it isn't signal theory. It's that there is tension in the spring. When the top is released, it accelerates downwards at a greater acceleration than G, because it is also being pulled down by the tension in the spring.
For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. At the bottom of the spring, the tension is pulling upwards, oposing gravity. And of course, the Earth itself moves towards the Slinky, by some unimaginably minuscule amount.
Re: Speaking of springs ...
It turns into heat. The atoms in a stretched spring are alightly further apart than they would be in an unstretched spring, and therefore there is slightly more energy in the inter-atomic bonds that are destroyed one by one by the acid.
A better puzzle is this one
You have a battery connected through a timer switch to an electromagnet. This is supported on a disk which is at rest but free to rotate on very good bearings.
The timer clicks, the magnetic field decays, the electromagnet kicks, and the disk starts rotating. Where did the angular momentum come from?
It's from the Feynman lectures (of course).
Re: I never could make my slinky work
I wonder how many miles long that Slinky would be, if they hadn't chopped it into lots of toy-sized pieces as it came out of the Slinky-making machine?
Troll? OK, probably not.
A 33-bit processor would be very silly. It would mean that it had an Integer operations unit that could do 32-bit integer arithmetic and 33-bit pointer arithmetic. But fetching packed 5-byte fields would slow down the memory system compared to fetching aligned 8-byte fields. So the 33-bit integer operations would need to load and store 64-bit fields and fill the top 31 bits with zeros.
And then next year when the manufacturer wants to make a 16Gb version? All your 33-bit code would have to be recompiled and revalidated for 34-bit operation!
The only reason for 32-bit CPUs was that the cost of four extra RAM bytes per pointer was significant back in the days when we were migrating away from 16-bit CPUs. Today, the cost is not significant and 64 bits is the natural size for a pointer, that will be big enough for a LOOOONG time to come. (Hint: calculate the number of protons in the whole Earth. We won't need 128-bit addressing until we're well on the way to converting the whole solar system into computronium. )
Some people confuse the number of bits operated on by the integer processor with the size of a physical RAM address. That can be any number of bits. Virtual to physical mapping goes from a 64-bit number to an N-bit number. Most of the possible 64-bit virtual addresses cause access violations. That's also good: it makes it more likely that randomly corrupted or miscalculated pointers in a program get noticed and debugged! Cue remisiscences about the uses of 0xDEADBEEF or 0xDEADBABE or more boringly, IEEE Floating-point NaNs with the low-order bits set to the address they are stored in.
Re: "Anything X86 failed to do in the first case it can do in later cases"
Intel still has the advantage of better process technologies than anyone else.
The interesting thing to watch will be whether Intel's process tech is sufficient to overcome all the historical baggage that an x86_64 chip has to carry around. The "green dream" would be ARM CPUs fabbed by Intel. It may come to that one day.
Also there's a large, though gradually diminishing, pool of software that isn't yet available to run on anything except the x86 architecture. That may be a lot more significant to business customers than it is to consumers.
plug into the BGA1286 socket - boggle
Someone doesn't know what BGA is.
It stands for Ball Grid Array. The balls in qustion are small solder spheres, by means of which the CPU is permanently melted onto its motherboard as per current Atom designs. In other words, the CPU in a Centeron server is not upgradeable (other than by replacing the entire motherboard). Since almost everything apart from the connectors and the RAM is on the chip, that's probably no great loss.
Nevertheless, a 6 watt chip that plugs into any i3 socket ,which doesn't need active cooling, would be welcomed by myself. (Yes, I do know if you spend £100+ on a box, you can find exotic cases that are in effect hundred-watt heatsinks, containing multiple heat-pipes to remove heat from a full-power desktop CPU)
Re: the customer is always wrong
Well, I want one of these for my always-on home server. (Which at present is an older Atom system that uses more watts for less performance).
With completely passive cooling and a solid-state disk drive, so zero noise. (current is passive cooled but not SSD)
And I get ECC RAM, so no data-corruption caused by faulty RAM
And I get to run VMware, so on the rare occasions I want Windows, I can have it without rebooting.
Unfortunately Intel's web-site doesn't yet reveal any S12x0 motherboard that I can buy, lt alone whether there's a mini-ITX one.
Funny - I thought malaria pre-dated artificial lighting. I always thought that those pesky mozzies fount their way around by sense of smell. The moment you turn the light on, that annoying meeeeeeeee noise stops, and you can't find the bloody insect to swat. Maybe that's only Italian hotel mozzies, though. Or maybe you are confusing mozzies with moths?
That aside, wouldn't people be happier with more usable hours in their day? Eight hours sleep is plenty, but the sun is down for twelve-ish hours (near the equator). Which is why they use fires or candles for light, which is wasteful, hazardous, and smoke inhalation is a long-term killer.
I imagine it's a simplicity / cost thing. A spring and associated winding mechanism costs more? Likewise, I imagine, a dynamo-charged battery as in any number of wind-up torches in a shop near you.
For long-term reliability, I would have thought a solar cell and battery better (ie directly stored sunlight) No moving parts to fail. But I guess poor folks can't afford the extra capital outlay even if it did come with a 25-year guarantee.
Re: Install Linux and let 'em come
Microsoft resorted to various dubious if not outright corrupt practices, in order to get its own Office file formats accepted as an international standard (OpenXML) alongside the Openoffice ones. Otherwise, Openoffice users would have been able to kick back by saying that our odt files are ISO standard, and your [xls, doc, ppt]x ones are not!
Re: What a waste of time
In practise almost no one else is going to take the lid off the SAMBA source code
A very large number of things one can do with Samba don't involve taking the lid off. They just involve reading the documentation and attaching code to hooks that Samba provides, and Windows server does not. Start with the pre- and post-exec hooks on any Samba share.
It's also the nature of open source that if there is a need to attach code to some new action taken by Samba, then someone somwhere will open the hood far enough to create a hook. Also that if there's no good reason to oppose the creation of that hook (security?) then that mod will migrate into the main Samba tree quite soon thereafter.
It's the difference between a product that wants to be used and useful, and a product that wants to force you to buy more secret closed sauce (or snake-oil) at every opportunity.
Re: C'mon own up
I think the right question is "Who the fuck still wants to own and run the latest Linux kernel on a 386". For which I cannot offer any good answer.
The obvious answer to the question as posed, is anyone who has a large investment in a piece of hardware that's still useful and which would be very expensive to replace, which is controlled by an embedded 386 PC that runs linux. I don't have to look after any lab equipment that runs Linux. I do know of two pieces of lab equipment that still run Windows 3.1, and a couple more locked to Windows NT4. When I can no longer fix the computer, the bill for a modern replacement will be five, maybe six, figures.
Mini-Ethernet? Hadn't heard of it before, but looking at the pictures it's clear that it would have been very hard to fit in a standard RJ45 connector.
Anyone know if it's a standard (like mini-USB)? If so the cables will become widely available at low-ish prices and interchangeable between manufacturers. Maybe we'll even start seeing mini-Ethernet connectors on tablets, where a full RJ45 would be quite impossible.
A sheet of paper printed at 300dpi is about 2400 pixels across and 3300 deep. If you degrade your printing to 150dpi (1200 x 1650) you most assuredly notice the jaggies on slanting linse and glyphs!
300dpi is old hat. Many of today's laser printers are 1200dpi, although I'm not convinced I can tell the difference between a 1200dpi laser and a 600dpi laser. 600dpi looks crisper than 300dpi although that diffrence is more subjective than objective.
Anyway, this shows there is a limit to the number of pixels that could benefit a laptop user, but we haven't yet got close to it with screens and monitors.
Re: @AC 13:00
Carbon-capture is extremely feasible. The plant you need to accomplish it is called, er, a plant. Every year the atmospheric CO2 concentration cycles by about 15ppm (average concentration is now 380ppm). This is because the mass of deciduous vegetation in the Northern hemisphere is greater than that in the Southern hemisphere. This tells you that if we could prevent all decay of fallen leaves, we would probably remove all CO2 from the atmosphere in less than 20 years! (Not, of course, a good idea to go this far).
So: genetically engineer or breed a common crop plant to grow more root than it needs, and to surround parts of its roots with something that will protect the root from decay for a long time after the plant dies (ie, is harvested). Interestingly, Wheat naturally does this to some extent. Its roots excrete tiny silica nodules, and the root inside the nodule does not decay for millennia. Some varieties of wheat do it much more than others. To start with, grow only those varieties. Selective breeding may well further increase the effect 10, even 100-fold. (Think of how we've shrunk a wolf into a Yorkshire terrier). GM might do a lot better still.
Or we could coppice lots of forest, and instead of burning the biomass for power, process it into a form of cellulose that's highly resistant to microbial attack and dump it into a deep ocean trench (from where nature will subduct it into the Earth's core). Such a form (nanocrystalline cellulose) does exist, and in fact has a lot of promise as a replacement for oil-based plastics.
Surely that all depends on how likely it is to be dropped?
If it's a piece of test equipment that is used on building sites, the ability to survive being dropped onto hard concrete or into a muddy puddle verges on essential. For a camera to be used by a war reporter, even more so. If it's a 24inch office monitor or printer, it doesn't matter at all. OTOH surviving a cup of coffee being spilled onto it, or surviving a sheet of jammed paper being wrenched out backwards by an 800lb gorilla called "sir", are useful attributes for a printer. I've watched speechless as that sheet of paper come out along with a handful of small broken plastic pieces.
My list of unexpectedly tough kit has Fluke DVMs and IBM ThinkPads near the top, and Sony VAIOs near the bottom. An HP LasetJet 4 is tough and longlasting, but does not survive a flight of concrete stairs at the hands of a "professional" removals company.
And the most memorable "failed" drop test of all was an 80Mb (yes MB) disk drive the size of a washing machine back in the 1980s. The engineer unpacked it, took one look at it, and told us he needed to call the insurers. I asked what was wrong - it looked fine. "Well", he said, squinting, "it's an inch wider at the top than at the bottom". Indeed, it was. "And it rattles when you wobble it. And [grin]... it's got a hole the shape of a fork lift truck prong in the side, right through all the controller boards".
Re: I thought...
You don't need WMD if you've colonised the moon. You just need a mass-driver and a pile of big rocks. The first space war may be fought with (updated) stone-age technology and stone-age military strategy, and will inevitably be won by the moon because it's the really high ground.
Heinlein "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" set this scenario in 2076. 64 years to go. Still just about possible.
Re: @ Michael Luke
Isn't that HAD lots of oil? There's not a lot left, and the Scots may take those dregs with them when they vote for independance ... and shortly afterwards, get invaded by the USA?
Back in the real world, it's actually the USA that again has lots of oil, thanks to fraccing technology and abundant supplies of oil shale.
Is that question rhetorical?
While wrestling with this afternoon's wireless WOMBAT (above), I also took the opportunity to see whether Windows 8 was usable without touching the screen and without loading a Start-menu replacement.
The conclusion I came to was no. "8" out of the box is completely unusable if all you have is a keyboard and a mouse. And a 24 inch touch screen at the far side of a desk would be an RSI-inducing ergonomic nightmare, even if anyone is stupid enough to make one.
PS For some reason I keep getting Windows * when I thought I'd typed 8. Maybe the Register-approved designation should be "splat", in a geek version of Cockney? splat = asterisk = shift-8 with a nod to Intercal, the only language to make BASIC look cool.
Re: fix Windows 8 by making the Metro interface optional
ALL my headaches?
I spent an hour today trying, and failing, to connect a Windows 8 laptop to our "corporate" secured wireless network. Many of the control panel screens are exactly the same under the hood as Windows 7, but where has "Manage Wireless Networks" gone in "Network and sharing centre" when you need it? Indeed, why have they changed control panel yet again to hide or remove previously existing functionality ... for the second or third time since XP?
The problem might be a typing mistake, or it might be something really tricky, but I can't find out how to get it to display what I'd typed in the previous few screens, let alone what defaults it has assumed. I also can't find out how to delete a wireless configuration so that I can try again from scratch. It won't let me try the same again ... says I already have a network called xxxxxxx and dumps me into a black connect-to-xxxxxxxx *-style panel on the RHS that has no options (like, say, right-click properties), and which I already know will fail to connect, for the Nth time. I'll doubtless be wrestling with this WOMBAT again.
Still hating 8 every time it crosses my desk.
Re: It's simple
You think they relate to the average enterprise environment much better?
If they had half a clue, they'd have replaced Windows XP by something which an average employee would think was still Windows XP. Same UI, all the same apps still working, all the same old protocols still working. Even though there would be a shiny new kernel under the hood, lots of shiny new protocols and maybe even a shiny new desktop UI available for use just as soon or as late as the customer decided that they wanted the new features
Doing it this way would even have made more money for them. we'd have paid for the upgrade licenses, rather than hanging on to XP until the bitter end. I'd have been overjoyed if upgrading to my fictional "Windows XP7" was something that I could do a few desktops at a time, overnight, with the users mostly not even noticing that they'd been upgraded.
But no, Microsoft thinks if it says tear it all up and start again (Vista), and again(7), and again(8), everyone will be overjoyed to do just that. F**k them.
Re: Too little, no credibility, too expensive
There's something hilarious about a company which ever thought of BASIC as a systems implementation language. Even though it did make very many M$ for its founders.
thick as a brontosaurus omlette.
Re: Wrong tense.
where the band is playing...but the Titanic sinking...and HTC and Nokia were first class ticket holders
So where is Nokia's lifeboat? HTC first class, Nokia at best second class in that analogy.
Completely agree with the original poster, by the way.
It's also probable that the more heads you try to stack on one actuator, the greater the problems you have taming all the vibrational modes of the assembly.
Smart way to go, especially in the long run
The nanostore design appears to place energy efficiency above data retrieval rates
Also massively distributed processing.
I can think of something else that works this way, that's been honed by hundreds of million years of evolution. I'm sure you can too ;-)
Yes, Wintermute was good.
If you're into books, I've always thought the best SF computer (as opposed to fully-fledged superhuman AI) was in Greg Bear's "Queen of Angels" and "Slant". JILL is female, not at all malevolent, and (in the first book) convincingly not-quite-self-aware.
The first book also contains a very scary monster. To say more would be a spoiler.
... the Cylons?
At least that one had an interesting premise. (Was it chosen to minimize the effects budget needed? )
Re: Mistake Not...
Course you could film a culture novel. "Inversions" wouldn't even cost you much in special effects. "The Player of Games" would cost a lot more, but surely no harder than "Lord of the Rings"?
Making "Excession" interesting on screen would be a challenge.
Re: Dark Star?
Of course it's a computer. Just an embedded one. One capable of talking philosophy and suffering existential doubt. Superb.
Kipling knew better
We never pay any-one Dane-geld, // No matter how trifling the cost; // For the end of that game is oppression and shame, // And the nation that pays it is lost!
For nation read company, for Dane read troll (didn't trolls come from Denmark anyway? )
the whole poem is worth reading http://www.poetryloverspage.com/poets/kipling/dane_geld.html
Re: No! Bad! BAD REG!
Not very long at all, to swim half-way across. After that all bets are off. Just maybe, ...
There was a young lady named Bright // Who could travel much faster than light. // She took off one day, // In a relative way, // And returned on the previous night.
Re: Result of galaxy collision?
Maybe something like that. You have to kill a lot of angular momentum so that most of the galaxies' matter can fall into the centre. Maybe two contra-rotating galaxies with nearly equal but opposite angular momentum approaching each other very slowly (relatively speaking) down a common axis of rotation, leading to a merged one with almost no angular momentum?
I imagine that the astronomers are busy running lots of simulations, trying to work out how it happened, or whether it's physically impossible (under current accepted physics) rather than merely unlikely. The biggest anything is almost always unlikely. and there are a LOT of observable galaxies.
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