* Posts by Nigel Whitfield.

871 posts • joined 12 Jun 2009

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Acer Revo One RL85: A pint-sized PC for the snug

Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: Max RAM...

Detailed spec sheet says 8GB, I'm afraid. That said, the original spec for my old MacBook Pro said 4GB, and it'll actually cope with 6.

If I can find an SD card with something suitably esoteric and bootable on it, I'll give that a go for you.

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Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: What about the apple angle?

Well, if you take the 2.4GHz i5 Mac Mini, that's £569 with 1TB of disk; that's the closest to the 2.2GHz of the Acer I5. But if you configure on the Apple site for a 1TB Fusion Drive, which is probably the way to get the same compromise of system on SSD and other storage on HD that the Acer has, then that's another £160, taking it up to £729. OK, it's still got a faster chip, and a smaller case, but less storage.

If you pick the 1.4GHz Mac Mini as the base instead (£399), and then boost the memory to 8GB, and the hard drive from the 500GB to a 1TB Fusion drive, you come out at £679, for which you have a slightly slower chip, and less storage.

2TB of internal storage isn't, presently, an option for build to order on the Mac Mini.

Some people might prefer OS X and the look of the Mini. Other people might prefer the possibilities opened up by those two extra drive bays in the Acer.

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Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: Fugly

At the launch, there was talk of some black ones, and I'm sure I've seen photos on the Acer site at some stage too. However, all that appears to be on offer now is the white.

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Nigel Whitfield.
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I tried it both ways, not because it didn't occur to me to fix it on the TV, but because there may well be quite a lot of ordinary punters who will assume that it's something on the PC end. In my view, it's these little things that computers should be making easier these days - and if not with explicit controls, then at least with some information that will point users in the right direction.

There are other bits of kit I've set up that have a helpful part of the install wizard that will let you adjust the screen very easily. Given that the Start button is tucked right in the bottom left corner, if you have overscan turned on, it could be impossible for a punter to see it at all.

"Hi there. Welcome to your new PC. We see you've connected it to a TV or similar display. If you can see a button like this in the bottom left corner, just click OK to continue. If you can't, click the help button for tips on how adjust your display"

Not difficult, really, is it? Yes, perhaps I'm picky. But sometimes - see the stuff about user files below - I despair at how things that could help users, and surely aren't hard to do, are missed out, while we get plenty of other things thrown in, or changed around, for reasons that are at best unclear.

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Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: Moving "users" folder

What would be really nice - and surely not beyond the wit of Microsoft - is for a brand new PC, during initial setup, to say something like "Hey, you've got a massive empty disk drive. Would you like all your user data to be stored there automatically (this makes it easier to backup and recover your PC)?"

Yes, you can redirect the libraries. But long experience of other people's PCs has taught me two things:

a) an awful lot of 'ordinary' people don't do this, and then wonder why they've run out of space

b) I should be a lot more vague about what I do when people ask, so that I don't get invited to solve the problem in a)

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Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: Moving "users" folder

Indeed; it's a bit insane, isn't it? Of course, you can still point some of the 'special' folders like 'Photos' to another drive, without, as far as I can see, breaking the ability to update Windows.

But the underlying restriction is bonkers. Frankly, I find it mystifying that Windows still expects users to know which physical device or partition something is stored on, and it's particularly silly when, as with the i5 here, you have a relatively small system SSD.

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Nigel Whitfield.
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Horses for courses, really: the ECS liva is certainly cost effective if you're putting a free OS on it. Add a kosher copy of Windows though, and it's a lot closer to the price of the basic RL85 - though certainly the i5 model is a lot less favourably priced, in my view.

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Nigel Whitfield.
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Native resolution was indeed selected, but if you then want to adjust for overscan on your TV, you have to dig around in a control panel in a way that's a bit fiddly. It's simpler to just turn off overscan on the TV, but depending on the set, that may interfere with the display from other inputs.

So, it would be handy to have a simple option to control this, readily accessible within Windows.

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Austrian court rules online radio streaming is not broadcasting

Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: I understand the need to collect revenue

The usual argument for that is that, if it's collected with general tax (or even hypothecated from it), then there is more of a concern that a government may be able to unduly influence a supposedly independent national broadcaster, as they're the ones in control of the flow of money.

However, I think that argument has less merit now than it used to, certainly in the UK, since the principle seems to have been established that government can make policy, and then effectively direct the BBC to fund it (eg rural broadband, welsh broadcasting, world service, free licences for the elderly).

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Windows 10 on Mobile under the scope: Flaws, confusion, and going nowhere fast

Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: Enough.

For a moment there, I thought this was all an elaborate analogy for the Labour leadership contest

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Dead device walking: Apple iPod Touch 6th generation

Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: Tempting for devs?

Yes, true, I could use the emulator, if I were using XCode, but as mentioned, I'm experimenting with B4i, which uses a real device for debugging.

One reason for that is that I'm still using a 2008 pre-unibody Macbook Pro, as it does everything I need to do, day to day (principally, writing words, and counting them so that I can send an invoice to El Reg).

Of course, upgrading to the latest OS X (and hence XCode - the current version won't run on Snow Leopard) is free, but also likely to set off a horrible cascade of other upgrades. If, for example, I find I can no longer run my perfectly adequate Dreamweaver CS4, or Office 2008, that's a pile of monthly subs I have to fork out for.

I'm putting that off for as long as I can, and using the hosted build part of B4i to generate the iOS packages for me.

Obviously, this isn't a typical situation, and you're right that many people may be able to test most stuff with the emulator, certainly for casual apps. But I think even when you can, a lot of people will prefer having a real device in their hand.

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Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: Tempting for devs?

I do, though there are ways round that....

I've been doing some tests with B4i, which is a dialect of Basic that runs under Windows, and can create an app for iOS. If you have a Mac, you can use that to do the final build with XCode, but there's also a hosted build service you can use instead (which I do, as my Mac is still on Snow Leopard).

You can then use a service like MacInCloud to do the final upload to the Apple Store.

You can find out more about it (and the Android equivalent) at B4x.com.

Doubtless some purists would be horrified at this approach, but it does work; I've knocked up a couple of fairly reasonable apps using B4A, because at my time of life, I'm buggered if I'm going to start dicking around with Java. Or Objective C.

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Nigel Whitfield.
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Tempting for devs?

I have users of a site I run asking for an iOS app. I already created an Android one, which was simple enough, as that's what I use for my own phone.

One of the things holding back doing an iOS one is not having a suitable device, and not wanting to spend hundreds of pounds on a phone that will just sit on my desk and never be used to make calls.

I do have an older iPod Touch, but it wont go past iOS 6. So, this is a fairly attractive option. Ok, I can't use it to test apps that rely on some of the missing features, but for the basics, it should be sufficient.

And I wonder if, in part, that's one reason why Apple is continuing to make the iPod Touch - as an affordable device for developers.

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Roll up, roll up, for the Meta35: The hybrid snapper's data dumpster

Nigel Whitfield.
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Some people like playing with chemicals and processing their own film.

Some people don't want to replace a perfectly working old camera with a digital one.

Some people like the different look of different films, and prefer that to digital tweaking.

Some people enjoy deferred gratification, instead of instant.

Some people feel they take better photos when they're restricted to taking fewer.

Some people, eh?

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Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: I wonder

Well, some types of colour film are certainly harder to come by - Kodak don't do any slide film any more, for example - but there's still a good selection of colour print film.

And there's even - if all goes according to plan - a new slide film launching soon. The Ferrania kickstarter raised enough cash last year to get up and running, and though there have been some delays in setting up the factory, most people still seem fairly hopeful they'll be producing new stock later this year.

For black and white, again a few companies have fallen by the wayside, but there's nevertheless a good range of films to try out, with differing characteristics and price ranges. For example, the ones in the gallery linked to this article were shot on Adox CHS25, which has a similar effect to a more modern film with a filter, if you look at the picture of the flowers outside the Royal Exchange; €5 a roll for that. A ten pack of the Agfa APX100 works out at just under £3 a roll.

You'll still find black and white film from Adox, Agfa, Foma, Fuji, Ilford, Kentmere, Kodak and Rollei (though Kentmere is made by Harman/Ilford, and most Rollei branded film made for them by someone else)..

You can almost always find C41 film - at the moment, it's often 24 exposure Agfa Vista 200 - in Poundland, or if you want something better, Kodak Portra is a little under £6 a reel, while their budget Colour Plus is about £2.50.

Slides are still pricey, but Agfa's CT Precisa - which I have had pretty good results with - can be bought in the UK from about £6.70, or in Europe for €7. For Fujichrome Velvia (which I personally love), you're looking at £10 a roll, if you shop around.

Colour film manufacture is now more or less just Agfa, Fuji and Kodak (with a suspicion that some of the Agfa film is actually made by Fuji). Ferrania will hopefully be online later this year.

There was a period a couple of years back where it seemed like almost every month the BJP would have a story about another film line being cancelled, but things do seem a bit calmer these days, and I'd say there's a good enough range that you'll find something to suit your taste and pocket.

I listed a few suppliers in the article linked from this review. Also worth a look at macodirect.de as they can often be cheaper, even allowing for shipping.

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Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: A very strange product

It's not necessarily that you do want the details for every shot, but you very likely do want it for the ones that are great. Of course, you could carry a notebook with you, like I used to. But if the camera can do it for you, why not?

LF is certainly more expensive, but if you're shooting on something like Velvia, and paying for someone to process it for you as well, a frame of 35mm can soon mount up. If having the data helps you take better photos in future, or recreate the look you want, I can't see that as a bad thing.

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

Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: I can't help thinking that,

ADE is indeed a massive heap of unpleasant smelly stuff - and in particular on the Mac, where (unless they've updated it lately) you couldn't actually authorise a reader. So, I had to boot up Windows to authorise my old Sony.

Once that's done, Mac users then get lumbered with ADE when a new book is downloaded, as it opens the ACSM file and grabs the epub from wherever, before delving into Calibre to find the file and them send it over to the device via USB.

Small wonder, with all that dicking around, that many less technical people say "sod it" to the theoretical ability to buy books from anywhere, and choose a reader that has a store built in. At least, with the Kobo, you can enter your ADE credentials on the device, which solves that horrible nightmare.

I wish someone would do a sort of 'white label' ebook store specifically so that independent bookshops could sell things that way. And perhaps offer the value-added services of a) allowing people to pay cash for ebooks and b) copying them onto old Mrs Higgins' reader for her.

As others will be keen to point out, you can in theory convert books and get them on to either of these devices using Calibre. If you simply want to buy from any store and get a broadly compatible book, then in the real world you're presently talking about EPUB (with ADE if it has DRM), which means the least fuss solution is the Kobo reader, or any other that supports those two natively.

My collection presently has books bought from Waterstones, Kobo, Sony, WH Smiths, Amazon and probably a few other places. So in practise, the world while certainly not sane, is perhaps not as completely lunatic as you might imagine

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Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: my killer app

No, neither of them has a white on black option.

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Nigel Whitfield.
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Thanks for posting that; what an annoying decision.

Of course, likely it wouldn't have made any difference in the UK. Before this ruling, it was possible for eBooks to be sold at the lower rate (5% in the UK), but the UK declined to exercise that option.

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Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: Kobo keeps you free

Some Kobo titles are without DRM, but I think the main thought behind the point is that you can buy books from a range of stores and read them on the Kobo without any messing around.

Technically, you can do the same with Kindle, as long as you are prepared to install a tool like Calibre, and format shift (and potentially) de-DRM. That's easy enough for most Reg readers, I should imagine, but other people may find it trickier.

If someone has a collection of things they bought previously, from say Waterstones, in Adobe Digital Editions, they that can simply authorise the Kobo for that collection and copy files over by drag and drop.

For the non technical, I would say that the Kobo likely has a slight edge in that regard. But on the other hand, how many of those non technical people would have been dicking about with ADE in the first place? They'd probably have bought a Kindle anyway.

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

Nigel Whitfield.
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Or, for BEA ...

The West London Air Terminal, now Sainsburys on Cromwell Road.

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Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: Well, okay...

Gold plated? How vulgar - like a dictator's toilet. I have a better idea:

On that train all graphite and glitter

Undersea by rail

Ninety minutes from New York to Paris

What a beautiful world this will be

(Video contains clips of astonishingly bonkers french Aérotrain)

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Post-pub nosh neckfiller: Uitsmijter

Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: Happy days.

I've had many an all night bender in Amsterdam

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Nigel Whitfield.
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I think it's only fair to point out that the Dutch do have a couple of other splendid contributions to cuisine, some of which I have myself sampled after staggering out of Amsterdam hostelries at some ungodly hour.

First, the combination of chips and satay sauce, which I've not found anywhere else, is actually far less icky than it sounds (subject, of course, to the quality of the satay sauce).

Second, the Kaassoufflé from FEBO. For those unfamiliar with both, though the shape is different, the taste is remarkably similar to a Findus Crispy Pancake with cheese. FEBO is a place that has automats - just pop your coins in the slot, pull down the little glass door, and take your Kaaassoufflé.

Surely, one has to admire a society that has reached such a pinnacle of civilisation that you can, in effect, obtain a hot Findus Crispy Pancake from a vending machine in the middle of the night.

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Humongous headsets and virtual insanity

Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: Porn is still a way off

"memory to store all the bits you aren't currently looking at"

Hurrh hurrr. Beavis, he said bits!

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Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: By Default

I mean that they may have it fairly easily accessible thanks to owning a smartphone and the creation of systems like vrAse and - particularly - Cardboard.

Manufacturers touted huge numbers of 3D sets, but many of those probably consumed little 3D programming; for some companies, almost all but their cheapest sets were capable of 3D, so lots of people looking for a new set got 3D whether or not they wanted it or used it. It was, to an extent, an 'extra' with your smart TV or plasma display, or big screen.

VR headsets may not be quite as ubiquitous as that, but I'm suspect some of the same people who talked up the penetration of 3D may do the same with VR, based largely on the widespread availability of phones that can be used to provide the display.

In particular, using Cardboard, you could sell VR entertainment - physical media, download voucher - in a cardboard box that gives anyone with a phone the ability to enjoy the media. The extra cost to the consumer of the VR experience could be effectively zero (or just a few quid; but make it zero, absorb the cost of the cardboard, because you'll only have to do it once, and hope they'll be back for more downloads).

But, of course, all that depends on compelling content for casual (ie non gaming, non training) users. And I'm not totally convinced this type of VR will work for that, for the reasons I gave in the article.

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Nigel Whitfield.
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You could certainly do something like that in theory, but to do it convincingly in real time might well need a lot of extra processing, if you want something that doesn't look jarringly out of place, I would imagine.

I don't think it's an insurmountable problem, by any means. Solving it will, I believe, make VR much more popular.

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Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: AR vs. VR

I think you're probably right. AR is a whole separate thing to look at, which I plan to do another time.

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Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: Glasses?

It is possible to use them with glasses - I did at the NHM, though it wasn't brilliant, partly I guess because my current spectacles have fairly large frames.

They do recommend you use them without, and there's a focus control on the Samsung headset. However, in my case my right eye is a lot weaker than my left, so I'd not have been able to find a suitable setting.

I suppose, if these things take off, we'll have opticians selling people prescription VR headsets.

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Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: Best group VR experience?

Yep; prohibitively expensive for the home, certainly. That's why I think that, other than the sort of applications I mentioned in the article, when it comes to immersive experiences at home it's going to be something else.

For example, larger screens, or some sort of 3D projection - possibly not 360 degrees, which would be hard to fit into most homes, but say a projector could cover 180 degrees or more, and up on to the ceiling as well, coupled with a modern sound system, you would have something that would allow very immersive storytelling, without isolating the people in the room from each other.

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Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: Proprioception

I'll spare you the details, but sometimes, one may be wanting to work with accessories. You could, I suppose, arrange them all neatly beside you on the bed before you get started, but even so...

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Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: Alistair !!

Definitely me. Perhaps you're just slightly bewildered by it being a Friday? Happens to the best of us.

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Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: Neck Fatigue?

I didn't notice any problems with the 15 minute presentation at the NHM; without having one here to weight, I'd guess you're looking at at least the weight of the phone again. And perhaps some of that is behind the suggestions on the US safety page that you take a break every 30 minutes or so.

I'll see if I can find out the weight of the unit with the glasses in. Obviously the Cardboard will probably be the lightest; the weight of the Oculus Rift seems to be "TBA but lighter than 380g" which doesn't sound too much but is about a third of a bag of sugar strapped to your heard.

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Nigel Whitfield.
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Perhaps; but that may be better in AR rather than VR. Try doing certain things to yourself when you've got a blindfold or hood on, and see how much easier it is when you can see what you're doing.

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

Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: Could be a paradigm shift

One of the things I liked very much about my old Sony 505 was those physical page turn buttons - and in particular the fact that there were two sets. The round control bottom left, and the two buttons half way down the right side.

So, however I was holding it, there were buttons conveniently to hand. And, personally, I much prefer having both directions available in the one place to the way some of the Kindles have had one button on each side in the past.

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Nigel Whitfield.
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The three pigment system that e-Ink has would possibly suffice for annotation; it's presently mostly used for shelf labelling, but I suppose there's no reason you could use it for note taking.

Spectra uses 'microcups' which is the technology E-Ink got when they bought Sipix and although both black and red pigments are negatively charged, the red ones have a much larger charge. So, a small amount of power will waft the black particles to the surface, but apply a larger one and the red ones are pulled past them.

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Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: Can't wait for the review

I will certainly add the to my notes for when I'm writing it up, which will be sometime this week. Just as soon as I've got rid of my massive hangover.

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Nigel Whitfield.
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My guess would be that, while technically these things aren't that hard to make at whatever size you want - in fact some of them can be made using relatively small modifications to existing LCD production lines - it's largely a question of volume.

Most people are going to be using the screens to read novels, and it's easy to ramp up production to the point where the payback time is quite short. The big screens are always going to be a niche, and so as well as the cost of the screen itself, the tooling costs and all those other elements of bringing the product to market are going to have to be written off over a much smaller number of units.

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Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: Why colour?

Comic books as well, and perhaps titles aimed at children. Magazines, too, could benefit as well.

If the technology were fast and responsive enough, it would also mean you'd have devices that could potentially have much longer battery life, too.

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Nigel Whitfield.
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That - and the Kindle Fire HD - is essentially just a tablet, with an LCD screen, and custom firmware.

And you're right - for many people that is sufficient. You can use an app to tweak the colours from the screen at night, and if you don't read in bright daylight, they're fine. Plus the screen is responsive enough that if you do something like flashing with Cynanogen, you have reasonable performance.

Given all that, and their own various restrictions, it's hard to see how colour e-paper could break into the market and shift enough units that it would be able to be compete on price.

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Wake up, sheeple! If you ask Siri about 9/11 it will rat you out to the police!

Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: And I was told (way back in the fifties)

@ Eponymous Cowherd

The numbers of 9s you needed, of course, depended on whether you were on a main exchange or a satellite. Remember, small towns and villages were often reached from a parent exchange by dialling a short code of two or three digits.

Eg, Long Sutton, where I was at school, was reached by dialing the code for Basingstoke, followed by 81; from home in Winchester, that was 94 81, followed by the three digit number. To dial to Basingstoke from Long Sutton you dialled 9. Then you'd dial the local number or code (Long Sutton to Winchester was 9 92, if memory serves).

So in most towns with satellite exchanges, short codes were 91-98, and 99 would get you emergency services, so that from the villages, 9 99 would do the same trick.

I suppose there would be plenty of accidental calls when people who lived in the satellite areas were in the big city, and accidentally stuck the extra 9 on when using a payphone, forgetting they weren't at home any more.

0 for the STD prefix came in long after 999.

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Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: And I was told (way back in the fifties)

@ Ivan Headache

The modification to payphones ensured calls had appropriate priority. As mentioned in the BBC link that I posted, there had been an incident where people were unable to get to the switchboard because it was busy, and so couldn't report a fire.

By creating a specific number, it ensured that really urgent calls (as opposed to just a request to make a long distance connection, for example) would get immediate attention.

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Nigel Whitfield.
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@Phil O'Sophical

The operator was on 0 until around 1959, having first been introduced in London in 1928. 100 was introduced, along with other codes in the London Directory area in April of that year.

The 999 service was introduced in London in 1937, on 30th June.

So, at the time 999 was chosen, operator was on 0, and as pointed out by others, it was relatively easy to modify the call boxes of the day to allow a 9 to be dialled without payment as well.

The dates quoted are from this page. The BBC version has the date for 999 as the 1st of July, but also confirms the 0 for operator was in place at the time.

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Virtual reality below the prehistoric waves: David Attenborough's First Life

Nigel Whitfield.
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Yes, it is a shame. As far as I know there aren't any regional offshoots of the NHM, either (unlike, say, the Tate, or the Imperial War Museum).

It would be an excellent idea, for schools if nothing else, if there were some sort of official scheme where museums around the country could be equipped with this sort of technology and a range of VR presentations, so that schools nearby could book time to see an exhibition that would otherwise be prohibitive for them.

Full-on experiences like this would be great, but I'm sure it could be useful for other things - for example, a tour round the Tower of London, or Stonehenge as well. Of course there's an initial installation cost, and the creation of the material, but it could probably save a huge amount in terms of bussing kids around the country.

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Nigel Whitfield.
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So perhaps we could have a national VR centre somewhere around there where everyone can easily go and put on the headsets, and perhaps picnic at Rutland Water afterwards

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Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: Why no under 13?

As far as I can ascertain, it's a warning from Samsung as creators of the equipment, rather than the museum.

The US site has this health and safety info, which includes the note

"Prolonged use should be avoided, as this could negatively impact hand-eye coordination, balance, and multitasking ability."

Of course, how much of this is based solely on a desire not to be sued, rather than hard science is anyone's guess.

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Webmail password reset scam lays groundwork for serious aggro

Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: So why

@ David L Webb

Don't some services, like Facebook, try to be 'helpful' these days, and share some of that information when they sync address books? You can certainly look people up by phone number, and it's trivial to generate those.

I don't imagine it would be too hard to get a matched list of email addresses and mobile numbers if you were so minded.

Remember, it doesn't necessarily have to be a specific target individual. If all you want is *any* account that you can control, you can be pretty broad in your approach. You could, perhaps, run two searches against Facebook - one with a list of mobile numbers, and one with a list of email addresses. Spread out over a bot network, you can match facebook user names with both without triggering too many alerts. Then all you have to do is cross reference the user names from the two sets of results to give you a list of potential victims.

It wouldn't surprise me at all if the same can be done with other services. And there are likely plenty of other sources of information that, as experience has shown, can be all too leaky if the right staff member has the right amount of money waved at them.

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NatWest IT cock-up sees 600,000 transactions go 'missing'

Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: Fool me once, shame on you etc ...

For some people, if they do want a branch where they might be able to pay in cheques or money conveniently, they may not have a great choice, especially in small towns or rural areas.

And, some on low incomes may be further constrained by which banks are willing to open accounts for them.

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Gremlins in the first six months? It's the seller's problem – EU court

Nigel Whitfield.
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It does seem odd; looking at the Directive on certain aspects of the sale of consumer goods and associated guarantees, it clearly states

"Unless proved otherwise, any lack of conformity which becomes apparent within six months of delivery of the goods shall be presumed to have existed at the time of delivery unless this presumption is incompatible with the nature of the goods or the nature of the lack of conformity."

That's Directive 1999/44/EC for those who like to look this sort of thing up; full text downloadable here.

Interestingly, some of the text in that is - as far as my recollection goes - pretty much word for word the same as the UK's SOGA. Another of those examples where British best practice has influenced the rest of Europe, I would say.

Also, given that that time limit is pretty clearly stated in the directive (and if it had been superseded, why is the Consumer Rights page at europa.eu still pointing to it?), you have to wonder why someone fought this all the way to the ECJ.

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Submitting articles

Nigel Whitfield.
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Re: Submitting articles

There is information tucked away in the Contact FAQs

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