1633 posts • joined Wednesday 10th June 2009 11:28 GMT
Echoes of Digital?
Seems like the Digital (DEC) story all over again. Market-leading high-tech company loses its way, suffers infighting verging on civil war, gets infiltrated by the worst sort of top-level managers, is sold out to loser(s) / competitor(s) that chiefly want a customer base, and to kill off all the great technology that wasn't invented by them.
With Digital there was the added spice of Kenneth Lay (later of Enron infamy) on the board. I've always wondered whether there was an active conspiracy within the company's board, to destroy the company. We'll probably never know.
And now Nokia treads the same path to oblivion. What a shame.
I'll be hanging on to my fairly ancient Nokia candy-bar phone that I kept as a spare. Like certain DEC microcomputers, I expect it to last for a decent approximation of forever. It was all downhill from there.
TRue BoFH territory
"the inch of water from the burst water main that had already claimed their floor-mounted UPS units..."
I wonder, did the on-call bod have enough of a clue to make absolutely sure that the *uninterruptible* power supply had indeed managed to interrupt itself in this circumstance?
Splish. Splash. Kzeeert, as the ripples reach the UPS "on" button height and convince the thing to make one last heroic effort at uninterruptibility.
It's a bad idea for your systems to be anywhere that might get submerged in what might euphemistically be called water under the influence of nothing more than gravity.
There's a BOfH to be written in which a competitor's subterranean datacentre gets cross-connected with a six-foot main sewer, at the same time that all of the blast-proof security doors mysteriously slam shut. Or something like that.
Obvious explanations for city bee success
Less insecticide exposure, a more natural habitat.
Urban parks are not heavily sprayed with insecticides, unlike crop fields. I suspect that many gardens and parks are "green", not sprayed at all.
More natural? Yes, many parks have large areas of natural meadow and wooodland, and even the carefully managed flower borders are more natural than the multiple square-mile monocultures that farmers create. Cities are also full of man-made nooks and crannies that bees can nest in, though that's perhaps more relevant to bumble-bees than honeybees.
Also, honeybees have been bred by beekeepers for many millennia. I wonder how inbred and weakened the species might be by now? Do wild honeybees still exist? (apart from the African ones ... crossbreeding domesticated bees with those was not a great success for humans, though the bees might think differently).
The strength of EM radiation falls of as the square of the distance from the source. Therefore a mobile at 10cm is 100 times stronger than a mobile at 1m and 100 million times stronger than a mobile at 1km.
Cell towers operate continuously and at somewhat higher power than a single mobile, but for human phone users, even humans living adjacent to a cell-tower, it's the phone next to their head that's creating the greatest level of exposure. As for bees, the obvious study is of hives next to a mobile base-station tower, 50m distant, and 500m distant. I'd guess that the bees will be OK adjacent, but even if every cell-tower has a small radius of bee-confusion around it, that's unlikely to threaten the species.
The basis for my guess. If mobile EM radiation upset bees that much, there would be no bees at all in big city centres where cell density is close to saturation point. A visit to any park shows that's not the case.
Completely non-racist technical comment
The gene for red hair is more common amongst Celts than other peoples. It's recessive, masked if one also has the genes for black hair. It might have been unique to Celts, many millennia ago, but since then it's been spread around quite a bit.
Flame bait for racists: outbreeding is better for one's children than inbreeding.
"Short of a major CPU upgrade, an SSD is the best performance addition you can really go for"
That's comparing chalk and cheese. There are many workloads (those involving intensive access to many smallish files) where a faster CPU will buy you very little, and an SSD will result in a spectacular gain. Booting an operating system tends to be one of these.
Odd, that no-one is keen on "Look to Windward" or "Against a Dark Background".
"Look to Windward" has a relatively straightforward plot to film, and a Mind that mere humans can easily empathize with. Perhaps a bit gloomy, but some great movies are. I thought this might be the last Culture novel when I first read it - had the feel of an author closing the door on his creation.
"Against a Dark Background" isn't part of the Culture series, so carries less baggage. Again, could make a great film.
I really hate Skype
Skype is the ultimate security-by-obscurity product.
I don't know what it does inside, and I can't pin any blame on it except by correlation, but statistically in my experience, it's the PCs whose users have installed Skype that go down with malware infestations, and the ones that haven't that don't.
One good thing MS are going to do ...
... is support ARM for Windows 8. Which will create a market for PC-format ARM boards with all the canonical PC interfaces. Which will mean that at last, low-power always-on LInux boxes won't be tied to obscure overpriced hardware, or graphics-deprived hardware like Pogo/Guru plugs.
As for tablets - no keyboard, fundamental flaw. I'd rather have a notebook-format device. At present there isn't even any cost saving for not having a keyboard.
USB current limit and extra power
I can confirm that USB ports shut down and generate a software warning if something tries to take too much current. On my PC, anyway.
If you need more than the USB current limit but less than twice as much, you can do what the vendors of some USB disk drives do. Supply a special USB cable with two host connectors, one for power + data and the second for extra power.
In the case of something containing a battery it should always be possible to charge off USB when the device is off, even if it would overload the USB with the device on. If you were really smart you'd have two batteries, with the device running off one while the other charges, with a controller switching the batteries around every few minutes. That way even if the power going out was in excess of the power going in, at least USB wouldn't overload, and you'd extend the runtime, though not to infinity.
"Or, for that matter, Intel could license the ARM architecture and start buiding its own ARM variants in its own fabs, using its 22nm Tri-Gate process"
I'd have thought, more like a dead cert, than unlikely.
If Intel has the best process technology for low-power devices, ARM without question has a better CPU architecture for low-power devices like Smartphones. Put them together and what do you get? The best possible Smartphone CPU, that can either double battery runtime, or allow for a large cut in the weight of the phone without any loss of runtime.
If Intel suffers from the "not invented here" syndrome, Smartphone manufacturers will have to choose between i86 architecture running on the best Silicon, or ARM running on less good silicon. It won't be so long before TSMC or some other chip foundry catches up with Intel enough to put ARM back at the front of the pack. Best for Intel if it's Intel that makes the best mobile device chips.
Kiddie-porn. MALE kiddie-porn.
Whether true or not, the more folks believe it, the better.
It's a mistranslation
A more learned punchline would be Allah telling bin Laden that "houris" was a mis-translation between Syriac and Arabic, and then giving him his 72 sultanas (sweet dried grapes)
Oddly, sultana / sultanah is almost the same mistake in English!
"Tape's cost/GB stored blows disk away". Oh no it doesn't!
Prices just Googled: LTO5 cartridges about £50 (1.6Tb). 1Tb SATA disks about £33. Cost/Tbyte about the same. And then there's the cost of a very expensive tape drive to factor in. Disk just needs a hot-swap enclosure and a few caddies, or a raw-drive docking station.
Of course it's comparing different sorts of fruit. Tape wins for offline off-site storage, because a tape cassette is mechanically rather more robust than a SATA disk. On the other hand, Rsync or similar algorithms across a network to a remote disk mirror is far more accessible for things like recovering accidentally deleted or corrupted files, or doing post-mortems after TS hits TF.
I know someone who'd have wanted to buy one of those
Ever tried to buy a Ukrainian keyboard in the UK?
He carefully painted the tops of all the letter keys black. Then he equally carefully relabelled them in Ukrainian.
Someone should sell a blank keyboard with stick-on labelling for every known keyboard variant in the world. Also Klingon and Elvish.
Not an IT company?
More a disinformation technology company?
I've heard it said that one head actuator seeking inside an HDA would create so much vibration as to prevent any other heads from being stable enough to read or write. If you couldn't do seek and read/write concurrently, there wouldn't be very much point in multiple heads.
Reportedly, this can even be a problem between disk drives in a badly-designed multi-drive cage: if all drives are engaged in seek-intensive activity, the vibration mechanically coupled between them can degrade each other's performance. Or so the manufacturers of heavy-guage server towers with rubber drive suspension bushes claim. OTOH it might work on the same basis that wearing a paper bag over your head in the UK keeps the elephants away.
You do have quite a few namesakes out there. Care to post your address as well? I'll guess not.
I do post under a unique registered name, which any computer-savvy person might hack through to my true name. I don't volunteer my surname directly because I have few if any namesakes out in the real world.
Proof is hard to come by, but there are a lot of former colonies to study.
I can't help comparing Vietnam with Zimbabwe. Vietnam was first colonised, then carpet-bombed by a super-power. Despite this (and a subsequent detour into communism) it's become a halfway decent country to live in. At least by comparison with Zimbabwe, which escaped the carpet-bombing. Then there's South Africa, which shares a very similar history with Zimbabwe, up until its first democratic election. Or Liberia, which never was a colony, and turned itself into hell anyway (or rather, a few of its people did so, with the rest powerless).
Looks to me like the influence of the former colonial power fades pretty quickly, compared to the influence of the politicians or megalomaniacs running the show afterwards.
Seek time worse?
That depends on your usage pattern. If you are reading huge sequential files stored without significant fragmentation, then the 3-platter drive may have to do a one-cylinder seek 5/3 times as often as the five-platter one. A one-cylinder (minimum) seek is much faster than a random seek. It could also be optimised, if the start of each cylinder is rotated with respect to the previous one by an amount of rotation with a latency just slightly bigger than the one-cylinder seek time.
If your typical file is smaller than one three-platter cylinder, both drives will be pretty much identical.
While thinking about performance, isn't this technology crying out for use in a small-platter drive spinning at 15000 rpm or faster? With twice the competition's areal density, they could make an ultra-fast drive twice as capacious. The last gasp of the sub-Terabyte hard disk, before SSDs take over?
I'm sure most of them could be filmed, even filmed well, if one counts Anime as film.
Also judging by Smeagol in the film of LoTR, special effects these days is quite capable of realising any sort of alien life-form. It's our extreme familiarity with human beings that makes computer-generated people look slightly wrong. Give it another decade or two ....
A Fire upon the deep
True, far too much to make into one movie. Would work as a series (but how to afford the special effects in something made for TV?) Anime?
Sad, because it has something I haven't found elsewhere in literature (except possibly, Lord of the Rings). A sense of what it's like to be caught up in vast events ot only utterly beyond one's control but beyone one's comprehension, armed with little more than hope that one might be able to do something rather than nothing.
(Also the really cool idea that interstellar FTL bandwidth might be measured in mere bits per second, making the galactic net look a lot like the internet of the early 90s! )
"A Canticle for Liebowicz" could make a great movie, but would almost certainly be made into a truly dreadful travesty of the book. It's chances would be somewhat better if it were made into a 2-hour drama or 3-episode series by an independent TV company or by the BBC (please? ). Unlike most, it could manage with a very small special effects budget. Spend the money on good actors instead.
Why probable travesty? Because most directors would not put their prejudices aside and let the characters speak for themselves. In a book the author can let you know where he stands without warping his characters. In a film, that can't be done.
BTW, it could also make an excellent stage play, unlike just about any of the others. Even better chance of getting it right in that format?
Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons are mostly bad
True, a benzene ring with a substitution isn't carcinogenic in the same way as benzene. However, most of the polycyclics are evil carcinogens, with the notable exception of Naphthalene (C10H8, two rings), otherwise known as mothballs.
Hurdle depends on the physics
It won't be nearly such a big hurdle if energy costs keep rising, and the amount of processing you can do on an ARM system per watt-hour remains many times the same for an i86_64 system.
Of course, adoption of ARM has to be made reasonably practical. ARM boards have to become available as commodity products at a comparable price to an Intel one (say £60 for ARM CPU + motherboard competitive with Atom CPU + board of similar performance). They have to have standard interfaces (SATA, USB, ATX PSU connector, etc). And they have to run mainstream O/Ses. Windows 8 is going there. Linux already is there, but we'll need RHEL for ARM and a more standardised ARM board ecosystem before it takes off.
Stupid taxation rules
It's stupid (utterly, completely pig-headedly stupid) to tax a fuel by volume, or to compare distance-per-volume. Diesel is a denser fuel. One liter contains more carbon (hence more CO2 when burned) and more energy (hence better mpg for cars of similar weight and power).
Fuel should be taxed as energy, so the tax per volume on diesel *should* be considerably higher than on petrol per unit volume. Not equal, definitely not less! This would allow motorists to select the best vehicle for their needs, on a taxation system that doesn't discriminate.
Diesels have a small thermodynamic efficiency advantage because of the higher compression ratio. This is more significant for big engines (HGVs) than for small ones (cars). Therefore for the best use of our crude oil imports, the majority of cars should use petrol. We can't do all-diesel: an oil refinery creates both petrol and diesel and has limited ability to adjust the proportions.
BTW I drive a diesel. The distorted tax system made that make sense. In a sane world I'd have chosen petrol (quieter engine, less pollution, with sane tax a lower running cost, after the expensive fully-synth oil and shorter service intervals that a diesel needs is allowed for).
Also BTW - there's a trade in refined petroleum products across the Atlantic, driven by this same tax anomaly. USA car drivers hate diesels (low winter temperatures may have something to do with it). So we ship surplus petrol to the USA, and they ship their surplus diesel back.
They will have to in future
If the law is changed so that explicit consent by both sender and recipient is required, that removes Phorm from a grey zone and puts it well and truly on the illegal side of the line.
Note also that either sender or recipient (depending on where you view it from) is not necessarily a customer of the ISP doing the interception. Note further that it may very well be a big company with deep pockets, and very unhappy that its customers communications are being made available to its competitors, even if only in the form of targeted advertisements.
(I'm aware that many readers including myself regarded Phorm's past activities as already on the wrong side of that line, but they're moving the line much further in our direction! )
Goodbye Phorm, at least from the UK. And good riddance.
Can't believe that Greg Bear's "Blood Music" wasn't on the list.
The one line synopsis: "A movie in which the world gets destroyed. Twice. With a happy ending."
The special effects would have to be very special. It might be even better as Anime.
No Charles Stross
Can't believe there's nothing by Charles Stross on the list either. The "Laundry" series is the stuff of cult movies. Start with "The Atrocity Archives".
Cult versus religion
A religion tells you what it believes. If it's a proselytising religion it'll do this ad nauseam even if you don't really want to listen.
A cult doesn't. It elther refuses to tell you its real agenda until it has hooked you with "lesser truths" and brainwashed you, or it maintains an inner circle of "true believers" with a secret agenda, and lies both to its outer circle and to the world, using the outer circle variously as camouflage, "useful idiots", and a source of recruits to the inner circle.
The Germans have recent experience of a cult within a popular movement. It was called national socialism, and the inner cult later became the SS. Come to think of it, East German communism was quite similar, albeit less genocidal. It was Stalin who coined the phrase "useful idiots".
Anyhow, I'm not surprised that the German state is now allergic to cults.
open-source code tens to be reliable, because with lots of eyeballs, there's nowhere for the bugs to hide.
Open-data government ought to be less corrupt and less inefficient, because with lots of eyeballs, there's nowhere for the buggers to hide.
In practice takes practice
I'm sure that they must have said the same about cars once. Would (did!) need significant overhaul in a well-equipped garage between road trips.
But if it works at all, then one can work on making it more reliable.
All drives are prototypes!
Every drive you buy today is a prototype, in that it has not been tested for as long as you hope it will last. They do accelerated ageing tests (run them hot, or alternately too hot and too cold, shake them, power them up and down every ten minutes ...), but that cannot fully substitute for the passage of several real years. By the time you and the manufacturer know it's reliable, it's also obsolete.
I had a batch of PCs with same-batch Samsung Spinpoint drives. After three of those drives turned into bricks at power-up, with no prior warning signs from SMART, I replaced the other four pre-emptively. I don't hold this against Samsung, because I have experienced or heard of bad-batch problems with every other make of hard drives. However, it was my first brush with sudden-brick failure. All my previous failures in the SMART era either gave advance warning through SMART, or were recoverable using ddrescue.
That's the end of RAID-5 then
RAID-5 data security assumes that if one drive fails it has no implications for the others. But if you construct a RAID-5 array out of identical drives (usually from the same production batch!) the fact that one drive has died makes is far more likely that the other N-1 are about to, because you may be looking at the first of a batch of common-mode failures.
And you have a RAID reconstruct operation ahead, which may put a rather greater load on the survivors.
If you bought four drives from four different manufacturers, common-mode failures were rendered far less likely. But now there will be only two manufacturers.
So time to drop RAID-5? Use RAID-1 / RAID-10 (mirroring) with 2-drive sets, one WD and one Seagate, or RAID-6 with all extremities crossed.
Sad, not happy.
Unfortunately, no successor to the shuttle exists, and the USA is not working on one.
The purpose of (say) old railway engines or cars in museums is to record how we got to the current technologically superior state of the art. (Network rail notwithstanding!)
The only way to view a shuttle is as an unsurpassed past achievement now reduced to a tourist attraction. The mark of a country, or a civilisation, in decline?
It should not be difficult to design an air-conditioning system so that the "waste" heat is pumped to somewhere useful. For example, into the building's central heating/ hot water system, so that in winter the boiler has to burn less fuel, and in summer the hot water is "free". (You might still have to dump some unwanted heat on the outside). Better still, in summer, run a ground-source renewable heating system backwards - heat up a chunk of earth or rock with the "waste" heat, and then pump that stored heat back inside when winter arrives.
Of course this is easier still if you design the server centre together with an appropriate quantity of nearby residential accomodation as your "heatsink", rather than as a standalone unit in the middle of a commercial centre.
It's called joined-up thinking, and there's far too little of it going on.
I hate it already and haven't used it yet.
What is it with GUI designers, that they can't do non-intrusive incremental improvements, and instead get this urge to rip up everything that we've learned to use, and start again?
I hated Windows 7 GUI, not because there was anything particularly bad with it, but because it got in the way of working in the way that had become second nature with Windows XP.
Now Gnome is going to do the same thing to me on Linux.
If these people designed cars, they'd have got rid of the pedals and steering wheel, and given us a joystick. If the car didn't already exist, that wouldn't be such a bad idea. But it does, and changing the user interface would be a very bad idea. It would kill people, which is why it'll never happen.
A GUI change is unlikely to kill anyone, but it's just as gratuitously annoying. A couple of hours of my life down the pan while I learn to use it, and probably another couple of hours and lots of silly mistakes made because I'm thinking about the bloody new GUI instead of the actual work. Multiply by however many million users you have and divide by a human lifetime. That's how much human life potential you have flushed down the toilet, in order to have your ego trip.
Yes, I hate all GUI designers.
Seems plausible. The PAYE deadlines are long gone. The last week of the last tax year ended on Friday, for weekly reporting by employers. The last month ended on Thursday. There's nothing I'm aware of which has a deadline for filing on 5th April - it's more a date when one has to finalize one's financial actions, for reporting on 2010-11 tax returns due in months to come.
If the upgrading causes someone a delay reporting on the first week of 2011-12, there are probably few knock-on consequences, and no problems with nodding through a deadline extension.
Thinking about this, it's also a good justification for an April 5 end of tax year compared to December 31. If this is the quietest time, it's also normal working days rather than bank holidays. Cheaper for getting the upgrades done! But because of Easter, "First Tuesday in March" (say) would be even more sensible.
Flawed software design?
What's so hard to design software so it can handle multiple input devices and methods, and/or switch mode if a mouse and/or keyboard is available rather than just a touch-screen? With a bit of luck convertible touch-screen netbook-replacements will catch on, and software that doesn't work appropriately will die in favour of software that does.
Nothing wrong with this hardware design (though it's a bit pricey).
I'm sure there's space in the marketplace for a purely passive non-dock (i.e. a stand) with a wireless keyboard and mouse. However, that's rather less convenient if you do want to use a keyboard while you're on the move, as opposed to just at one or two locations (say office and home) in which case you'd buy two keyboards and mice and carry just the tablet around.
You think you're kidding?
Some "fun" research.
1. Find out how many multi-megatonne meteorite events occur per century.
2. Extrapolate the events' energy spectrum and the fatal blast radii.
3. Work out the probability of your point on the Earth's surface being within the devastated area (which last century was always somewhere remote and almost uninhabited ... as is most of the Earth's surface). Do you feel lucky?
4. Work out the probability of your life being ended by meteorite.
It's higher than most would guess, even if you exclude the extinction-level events that happen every 100 Myears or so.
(The extinction-level bit: ~10^10 deaths every ~10^8 years, = 100 deaths/year and a completely pointless calculation. The calculation for city-busters is less so).
absurd and dangerous?
Actually I'm glad that "The Reg" decided to stir things up a bit, because the dangers of the fossil-fuelled and even renewable energy sources are usually completely ignored.
As someone pointed out above, a dam failure in China killed 170,000 people. That's comparable, probably worse than Chernobyl. It's not the only fatal dam failure, merely the worst. So much for safe hydro-power.
As for oil, how many will die of cancer as a result of the carcinogens spewed by Japan's burning oil refineries? More or less than arising from Fukushima? That's ignoring the omnipresent everyday poisoning: benzene in petrol, carcinogenic combustion products and particulates and SO2 and NOx from vehicle exhaust pipes. That's also ignoring the possibility of global ecological catastrophe arising from raising atmospheric CO2 levels (and of local ecological catastrophe from oil-well blow-outs). Society accepts these risks.
I believe that we do need nuclear power. Modern designs have passive emergency cooling, unlike Fukushima which has proved why passive cooling must be mandatory. The other lesson is not to under-estimate the worst that nature can do. I'd suggest any nuke plant on any ocean coastline should be built atop a bluff or cliff, or perhaps tunnelled a few hundred yards into a cliff behind tsunami-proof doors.
A big difference
There's a big difference between retrieving a properly sealed radioactive source, and trying to tame a huge radioactive mess of unknown proportions and composition.
You'd know what to do if one of your sources was dropped, and there's no realistic scenario in which you'd end up accidentally ingesting it. You're not going "off the map". Whereas for those brave Fukushima workers, treading on a submerged sharp object or getting trapped by shifting submerged debris could be fatal. (There have already been radiation burns inflicted by "hot" water on the *outside* of their protection suits, one doesn't want to think about a wound getting bathed in it).
Hmmm ... about as dangerous as dealing with sewage? If you mean dealing with sewage down a partially-collapsed sewer, that may be a fair-ish comparison. You've heard of antibiotic-resistant septicaemia, Weill's disease, cornered rats, and working under tons of crumbling masonry? Even so, I think I'd choose the sewer over Fukushima at present.
All this discussion is premature
Still think all this discussion is way premature. I doubt that the people on the ground at Fukushima know the degree to which containment has been breached, let alone anyone else. Let's have a sane discussion about it in about a year's time.
About the only sensible thing that can be said is that it's not as bad as Chernobyl, and now can't get that bad. But I don't think that we can rule out a very significant release of reactor fuel (plutonium and other fission byproducts) to the environment. It's not a "4" or "5", it's a "6".
Not true about solar
"Those exist because things like Solar and Wind require massive subsidies to break even. Look at the feed-in tariffs - 3 to 4 times what you're paying for your electricity, with a payback period of approx. 10 years at that massively subsidised rate. Without that subsidy Solar and Wind power dies on its arse."
Maybe true for solar in the UK at present, but certainly not globally. Solar PV is market-competitive today in Arizona. As the technology advances, it'll come to dominate in all places with high insolation and low cloud cover. In Europe, it'll start in Spain, or we'll put our solar power stations in the Sahara and build VHVDC transmission lines. (If the natives can ever attain political stability, that is! )
BTW nuclear electricity is also 3-4 times more expensive than burning coal, if you ignore or deny the cost of global warming caused by CO2 emissions. So, solar is competitive with nuclear even in the UK. However, before the world can approach 100% solar, there's also a big overnight energy storage problem to be solved.
The holy grail of Solar power is a high-efficiency panel material that can be produced in a continuous process, like paper or plastic sheet, rather than by laboriously slicing up ingots of crystalline semiconductor. At that point vast economies of scale kick in on the production and deployment fronts. Such panels do already exist, but so far require very scarce elements (notably Tellurium) so cannot scale up to square miles . Better ones in the labs.
Wind power probably is a dead end.
No easy answer??
"if these other designs are so safe, why aren't we using them already?"
We are using them already. (The old ones haven't yet been decommissioned, for economic reasons.)
"if you were sure of this old design, and you're sure of this new design, what's the difference in actual safety?"
"Passive cooling". That the new designs don't require electric pumps to be continuously powered, in order to avoid a melt-down. The old design assumed that a days-long power outage couldn't happen. The new ones don't make that faulty assumption.
Is this too hard for the man on the Clapham Omnibus? Probably not. The average journalist? Well, that IS a hard question!