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* Posts by I ain't Spartacus

3198 posts • joined 18 Jun 2009

A real pot-boiler kicks off Reg man's quid-a-day nosh challenge

I ain't Spartacus
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Re: What's the point?

Steve Button,

It's a fund-raising and awareness thing. I think it's valuable just for thinking about it. If nothing else, it can put some of our problems into a bit of perspective. And there's a lot that money can do for malaria. It was a very under-funded area in terms of vaccine research up until recently, now much improved, but a couple of quid's worth of mozzie nets and some education can save lives on their own.

It's pretty hard to solve world poverty with cash. But you can have a lot of effect on healthcare, for example. Which as well as just being a good thing in itself (people not dying of curable stuff and not being ill) - also helps with poverty reduction. Healthy people earn more, boosting their economies, making everyone better off. And are less of a burden on their families, who have spare capacity to get some education or get better food/water etc.

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Re: Fry me a river

Lester,

For a change, can't you swap to scrambled eggs on toast later in the week? Toasted over your open fire, or done in the toaster, as laziness kicks in.

You could liven up your brekkie by doing different eggs each morning. Fried, scrambled, poached, boiled and french toast / eggy bread on day 5.

Here speaks a man who's very glad that our beloved government health advice is no longer to limit yourself to only 2 delicious eggs a week. Eggs are back to being good for you again. I'm still waiting for the official rehabilitation of the Jaffa Cake though.

Sorry I didn't join you, but I didn't have time to sort any of this out last week - and I'm off for a weekend of drunken licentiousness on Friday. Please give us a week or two more notice next year, and I'll have no excuse not to join the fun. I won't do a scary spreadsheet like Neil Barnes, but will try to be inventive.

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Devil

Re: The rotters at work

Neil Barnes,

I don't see the problem. As any good lawyer would tell you, you're within the rules. You're happily living on food you haven't paid for. The fact that it's cake that probably cost more than your entire weekly budget isn't your fault. After all, no-one quibbles about Lester and his free pork bone - this is just the same.

There, I've written your justification for you. Eat up your cake.

Unfortunately you've now failed the challenge. As although the cake is free, my legal opinion is worth at least £200. So you're over budget...

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NASA spots 'new' star just 7.2 light years away

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Happy

with a surface temperature of between -48 and -13°C

So even though it's an X-Factor contestant of an excuse for a star, and it's miles from anywhere - it's still warmer and sunnier than Skegness...

Smiley face, as the sun has got his brown hat on.

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Apple patents Wi-Fi access point location lookup

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Re: Height

That's not my experience, except the reinforced concrete bit of course.

Setting up networks in old houses with thick internal walls, the floors are your friends. WiFi signals do well through wooden floorboards and the spaces between them, then the plasterboard of the ceiling below. So the best place to put the router is often upstairs.

I guess this is more aimed at commercial buildings, which will be more likely to have signal-blocking concrete slabs. They're also more likely to be the places that record what floor their routers are on.

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Vladimir Putin says internet is a 'CIA project'

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Re: I See Most Of You Have Been Nicely

AltesSchlachtross,

Mr Putin could equally point out that the Maidan coup d'etat was financed by U.S. "NGOs" and the new+illegal president of Ukraine has been determined by a Ms Nuland from the U.S. state department.

He could indeed. It would be total bollocks though. It's pretty clear that there are lots of dissatisfied people in Ukraine ready to protest spontaneously. It's also pretty clear that big demos and building occupations have more political effect than anything else. Which is because Ukraine doesn't have a working political system, and is corruptly run by a small bunch of oligarchs. Even more so than Russia.

Also Ukraine's old regime collapsed. There was no coup, although there might have been about to be. They lost support from their own party in Parliament before that could happen, and buggered off. Parliament picked the new government and called elections. Which is as legal and democratic as was possible at the time.

The US interfered to some extent. Who knows how successfully. But did so legally. Diplomats are allowed to talk to parties forming new governments you see. That's called diplomacy!

Oddly enough though, invading and annexing parts of your neighbours is different. It's illegal. Given that Russia had signed a treaty 20 years ago promising it would respect the territorial integrity of Ukraine in exchange for their nuclear disarmament - that makes it even worse.

I've seen plenty of defences of Putin. And they're all bollocks. There is no possible excuse for the invasion of Crimea. None whatsoever. There was no attempt at honest diplomacy beforehand, and so far none afterwards. To compound the sin, the Russian government is now deliberatly destabilising a friendly (well it was friendly anyway) neighbouring country to the extent of either starting a civil war or creating conditions to allow a second invasion to annex even more of it.

The seizure of Crimea sort of made some kind of sense. It gained a strategic port, removed some of Ukraine's negotiating leverage, re-intergrated a population with a majority that may regard itself as Russian. The referendum was rigged, but that doesn't mean that an honest one wouldn't have gone the same way - I seem to recall seeing that Crimea voted to stay with Ukraine in the 90s by 55 - 45%. So pretty close.

Putin could have called it quits, dealt diplomatically and smugly sat back having suffered minimal sanctions for a job-well-done. Of course he's have made an enemy of Ukraine by invading it, and removing a good chunk of the voters that make pro-Russian governments possible. But he's gone on to start a civil conflict that could escalate badly. And will now struggle to back down without serious damage - whereas he's backed the West into a corner where they'll have to impose more meaningful sanctions now. Also NATO will have to seriously consider a much stronger posture in Eastern Europe. And there might be a humanitarian crisis in a next-door country with a porous border, hence millions of refugees. These are all things that Russian policy has sought to avoid.

Which leads one to wonder. Is he the tactical genius he was made out to be? Or is 13 years in power going to his head? Or has he decided that Russia's best interests are served by some kind of return to 19th Century Nationalist conflict - or even 1930s style? It's all very odd.

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Re: @Spartacus

There are precisely zero good guys in any if this. Nobody is any better or worse than the next idiot that gets the job. There's zero honesty in any of this.

Don Jefe,

And yet you call someone out for college level thinking, and accuse me of naivety...

Sorry, that kind of faux-worldy more-cynical-than-thou bullshit doesn't wash. And shouldn't be deployed in any serious political argument. It's demonstrably not true.

To some extent all politicians are the same. They have to engage with compromise, power and competing interests in order to get anything done. That's life. There are rarely any black-and-white easy decisions, where you can 'do the right thing' with no downsides.

I therefore make a point of questioning all the information I see, and the all the politicians I hear from. Even the ones I agree with. I also try, not always successfully, to change my opinions as the facts change, or it turns out I was wrong about what was really happening.

But not all politicans are the same. That's just a lazy, stupid point to make. You try to vote for the better ones. As an electorate we have to do that, or we encourage the most venal, lying fucks to keep at it. If you don't reward the better ones for doing unpopular things, or telling unpopular truths, then they'll all be forced to tell lies and be populists. And it will be our fault, just as much as theirs.

It's like blaming the banks for the recent crash. We, as a society, took on lots of credit we couldn't really afford to pay for. We voted for higher spending, but lower taxes - until our governments were running huge bubble-stoking deficits. Our politicians failed to see that regulation wasn't really working, and failed to act on the obvious imbalances in the global economy that had China racking up $4-5 tr trillion worth of foreign reserves in order to force down their own peoples' wages and their currency to outcompete everyone on manufacturing. And the bankers and financial industry were stupid, greedy and rubbish at their jobs too. The whole finance culture is fundamentally screwed-up and needs fixing. But it ain't all their fault. The answers are always more complicated than mere polemic allows. And we, as voters, need to look at what we can do to sort stuff out, as well as complaining - and making our politicians aware of what we expect from them. If we just call them all evil, and ignore them, then we're ignoring our responsibilities - and amazingly enough ignoring problems doesn't tend to solve them.

As for politicians all being liars, that's also not true. It used to be that lying was a serious political crime in UK politics. That could end careers. Not telling the whole truth is a different thing. It's obviously not honest, but there's a big difference. Both morally and practically.

Trust is important. If you outright deny something, then it ought to be possible to believe you. Because the consequences of lying ought to be fatal to your career, to encourage others. And also becuase it then makes deal making much more likely.

One of the problems Putin has created is to destroy diplomatic trust by continually lying. And seemingly being pleased with his cleverness for doing it. Because at some point, deals have to be done. Starting a war you have no way to end is stupid.

Putin's actions are morally and materially different to the recent actions of the US and UK. Particularly the wholesale slaughter and kidnapping in Chechnenya. Most of this not a result of a post-invasion civil war, or foreign insurgents joining in to make things worse. This a direct result of the Russian army levelling the capital city, with no care for civillian casualties, and the total lack of discipline among the Russian troops, who were making money on the side by kidnapping thousands of locals for ransom - as well as general rape and pillage.

I rate Tony Blair and Gordon Brown as unusual in British politics, in their willingness to outright lie, where evasion of the truth or silence would have served them just as well. And the electorate rewarded them with 3 terms in office, and then chose to distrust all politicians, rather than trying to look at who lied and who didn't. Which is understandable, but a real danger to the health of our politics.

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I ain't Spartacus
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Re: Macumba

we are every bit as bad, but at least they are a tad more honest about it.

Actually that's precisely my point. We're not just as bad. The West ain't perfect. Not even close. But we have often acted altruistically as well as self-interesdly, sometimes at serious cost of blood and treasure.

As for the honest bit - that's an even more important point. Putin has been anything but. He's broken a serious treaty committment, and even lied about an invasion he launched. Plus breaking an agreement he made only days ago to de-escalate. That's almost as serious as the invasion. By poisoning the diplomatic well he makes it very hard to make peace afterwards. Which everyone really needs to do.

Also, despite much whining about how no-one ever takes poor Russia's interests into account, and it's not fair - he's doing precisely that. While the EU and US are doing everything they can to avoid even diplomatic conflict, he's ratcheting up the tension continuously. Which is just stupid. We have the power to collapse his economy. He has the power to damage ours - it's not clear quite how seriously. Obviously we also have the power to nuke each other.

He's giving Ukraine's government no space to compromise. Yet he's going to have to make some kind of peace with what's left of Ukraine afterwards. If nothing else most of Russia's gas exports to Europe go through it.

By the way, my post didn't justify the invasion of Iraq. Despite all the downvotes. What I pointed out was that even the worst thing the US and UK have been accused of in recent years isn't as bad as annexing Crimea. Something had to be done about Iraq. Invasion might not have been it, but there weren't any good options to choose from. Life is complicated, and can't just be divided into bad/good. You have to look at motives, methods and available options. Also, in the case of Iraq, diplomacy was tried for about a year before the invasion. In the case of Crimea - diplomacy was not attempted. If you don't find this deeply worrying, you're a fool.

Oh and by the way, the invasion of Iraq wasn't against international law. The justification was thin - but there was one. International law is fundamentally broken, in that there's no unbiased court in which to hold the case, and get a definitive ruling. Hence it will only ever work imperfectly. But Iraq was in breach of several of the ceasefire terms from the war in 91 - as well as in breach of a deliberately ambiguously worded Security Council motion - which was designed to threaten military action without quite using the legally correct language. Russia, France and China should have vetoed that one, in order to be clear that they wouldn't allow force to be used. But didn't. Messy, but there you are. There is no possible legal justification for the Russian invasion of Crimea. Or Georgia, come to think of it (but that one's more complicated).

The illegal one in the pack is Kosovo. That was a wholly illegal war, by international rules. It was also wholly justifiable. It's had unfortunate diplomatic consequences, and cost us money and diplomatic capital for no real gain. Other than it was the right thing to do.

As for your list of countries we haven't intervened in - are you complaining about it? You're complaining the invasion of Iraq was bad, but you want more?

Plus what we have done is attempted to use diplomacy, in order to get a more peaceful resolution. With at least some success, in some cases. Again we used diplomacy before force to achieve our aims. Do you notice the difference?

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I ain't Spartacus
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Re: Macumba

Don Jefe,

The US, UK and friends didn't annex Kosovo, Iraq, Afghanistan, Sierra Leone, Libya, Bosnia etc.

They also didn't create the problems there in the first place, in order to give them an excuse to invade. There were already huge problems. In the case of Bosnia, Kosovo and Sierra Leone they weren't even acting out of raw national interest, they were intervening on humanitarian grounds. Were all motives pure and lilly-white? I doubt it. This is diplomacy and international politics we're talking about.

But any comparison to Russia's nakedly aggressive and foolish actions in Ukraine is utterly ridiculous.

Even in the case of Iraq, which was the most fucked-up and least easy to justify of the recent conflicts we've got involved in, something had to be done. Iraq was a proven aggressive state, in a very sensitive area, with lots of lovely oil. Plus chemical weapons and a desire to use them. And a desire to massacre his own population. Which we'd decided not to ignore, and so we had promised protection to the Kurds and Marsh Arabs (after letting lots of them get killed first). Sanctions were breaking down, in large part due to Russia (and France), but also the neighboring countries not wanting to enforce them. Whether Sadam had much in the way of working, deployable, chemical weapons was unknown, but no-one seriously doubted that there were still some stockpiles left, and most of the scientists were still around to rebuild the program extremely quickly.

The US and friends didn't then simply invade. They spent a year saying what they'd do. Agreed to send in relatively neutral inspectors, so Sadam could cooperate if he wanted to avoid war. He didn't. So he didn't. Then they fucked up the rebuilding. But they didn't level the place and then just bugger off. They attempted to rebuild, get the oil industry going to fund the economy and set up a working government. In the middle of the civil war that was probably inevitable in Iraq after Sadam fell. The minority from the Sunni centre of the country still wanted to run the place - and everyone else had good reason to hate them for it.

What didn't happen was a sneaky overnight invasion, with no attempt at negotiation - with no legitimate reason to do so. If you can't see the difference in that, and the danger in that, I suggest you read some history of international relations.

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Re: Doesn't matter who "invented" it

Oh, I thought he meant Tim Henman...

[Thinks: Berners-Lee sits at his beautiful black NEXT box, he's a bit stuck as to how this particular bit of code goes together, when suddenly from the radio he hears several posh voices shouting in anguish, "Come on Tim!"]

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Re: I always thought he was a bit crazy

Voland's right hand,

I have no doubt that Putin is not in control of what's happening in Eastern Ukraine. No-one is.

But there's pretty good evidence that Russia was more than just a little involved. Firstly I've heard reports on the BBC World Service - where guys occupying the police stations seemed to be clearly all (or mostly) local. They knew each other and seemed to know the local area. But some of them admitted that the guys who'd done the actual storming had been unknown to them, and carrying uniforms without insignia and better weapons. Normally this wouldn't be enough to make me believe a conspiracy theory. Except that it's exactly the same MO as worked in Crimea. Something Putin said he wouldn't do the day before he did it, denied at the time, and then smugly talked about giving the special forces guys medals for 2 weeks later.

Secondly Russia has been noisily carrying out military excercises on the Ukrainian border. This is either the prelude to an invasion, or it's just posturing to totally fuck up the new Ukrainian government. It's now looking more like the prelude to a full-scale invasion, because of the special forces guys already sent in. But it still might be just an attempt to destabilise Ukraine, and create a low-level civil war. Who can tell? However it's also a clear signal to the pro-Russia extremists that they can try and attract Russia to come in, and is a deliberately destabilising gesture.

Thirdly, even after signing a deal with the Ukraine government and Western governments to de-escalate, the Russian government has kept up the rhetoric, and started new military excercises in Rostov. And not called for the protesters to stand-down.

Oh and fourthly, disparate, grass-roots rebel movements don't storm 50-odd buildings virtually simultaneously one morning, with zero reported casualties.

So yes. Russia is definitely involved. In several ways. Some of them even they don't deny. And they've since admitted what they did in Crimea. What their final intention is, that's another matter. I can't believe they'd gain enough from annexing Eastern Ukraine to be worth the costs of occupying it, dealing with the probably huge diplomatic fallout, possible resistance and the mess they'd make of the remnants of Ukraine. NATO would have to invite Ukraine in, which they really don't want to do, probably also Georgia - and those are 2 things the Russians definitely don't want. NATO would also probably have to permanently station troops in the Baltic States. Poland can easily hold out long enough to be re-inforced, they've got 5 armoured divisions.

Also I don't know what the passport position is, but Russia has in certain cases been very eager to hand out Russian passports to Russian minorities in the surrounding countries. After all, it was one of the reasons they gave/manufactured for the war with Georgia. I don't know how much of that has been going on in Ukraine, but there's quite a big chance that whatever happens in Ukraine, a mostly harmonious relationship between people who see themselves as Ukrainian and those who see themselves as Russian is breaking down. This could turn catastrophic, and lead to serious civil conflict. Does he really want a couple of million penniless refugees to deal with? The Russian government isn't made of money. And their economy is taking a serious beating form this crisis as is. Full EU sanctions would be crippling - and he'd suddenly be less popular - after the nationalistic fervour has died down - and people realise how much poorer they are. A gas boycott of the EU bankrupts Russia faster than it freezes Europe, and Qatar's LNG, American shale-gas, and the EU gas inter-connectors make this a pretty poor time to play that game anyway. They can't sell gas to China until they've built a new pipeline and LNG infrastructure is no quicker to create.

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Re: I always thought he was a bit crazy

He used to remind me of Bismarck. Strategically brillant, using nationalism, success and great deftness to maintain a sort of hybrid democracy/dictatorship. Mostly with restraint and subtlety, but with the odd bit of brutality showing through, to keep the more adventurous in check.

But now I'm not so sure. What he's doing in Ukraine, doesn't seem to make any sense. I don't see enough gain from turning Ukraine into even more of a basketcase than it already was, to make up for the downside of all the enemies he's making.

Angela Merkel, mostly an ally, said after a phone call with him last week that he seemed to be detached from reality. That's surprisingly un-diplomatic language…

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Microsoft: The MORE Surfaces it sells, the MORE money it loses

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Re: confused

I'd imagine it's because the financial reports often miss out the last ,000 (and definitely the .00 on the end) when they're dealing with big numbers. So Dr Evil's One Meellion Dollars would show up as a paltry $1,000...

So someone was probably typing in a bit of a hurry. Or C+P went wrong.

To be fair, their loss on the last quarter was proportionally less than the losses in the previous 2, even if it was on lower sales. But with the Christmas period on there, that's to be expected. They might even manage to break even on Surface next year, who knows?

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All men are part of a PURE GENETIC ELITE, says geno-science bloke

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Devil

Re: "Junk" DNA

Or it could just be cryptic and unreadble comments on the code...

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Shut up, Siri, I'm watching telly! iOS 7.1 code reveals new role for Apple's PA

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Re: iWatch?

Why would you want to shout at your watch?

How else will you tell your sarcastic english accented car to come and save you?

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Dell charges £5 to switch on power-saving for new PCs (it takes 5 clicks)

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Devil

Re: Dell

£20? That's not right. It's far too cheap!!

How am I going to get gold contacts and oxygen free cables for that paltry amount? I only use the finest quality cables, as recommended to me by the Comet salesman. And I bet he knows far more about computers than the commentards on here. After all, he's in a big shop with them all day...

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DeSENSORtised: Why the 'Internet of Things' will FAIL without IPv6

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Re: IoT

An 'attachment' you say? I believe I already have the requisite dongle.

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Re: Networking's answer to Windows Vista

Tannin,

If IPv6 is Windows Vista, then when do we get the excellent and popular IPv7?

Where we take all the advances in the architecture of Vista and make most of them now work properly? So that the users are willing to touch them with a 20 foot bargepole...

By the way, thanks for reminding me of Windows ME. Erk! Dad had that, fortunately the only computer I ever used/fixed with it installed on. He had Win 95 and ME - so I had to rebuild his OS a lot, and help him recover from many crashes. Sadly he never go Win98, which would have given me (and him) a much easier life.

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Re: Networking's answer to Windows Vista

Peter Mount,

How come VOIP doesn't work over NAT? I'm sure it increases the technical difficulty, but given that everybody uses NAT, and has done for years, this suggests a problem for VOIP to solve.

The alternative appears to be wishing for a better network, which breaks loads of other stuff.

I am merely a humble dabbler in, and user of IT. But IPv6 is going to cost my company time and money to implement. As well as me for my home stuff. The methods that keep the current system working appear to break less than the things the new system does - hence I'm sticking my head in the sand and hoping it'll all go away. Or the IPv6 people could maybe notice nobody's moved over and look at IPv6.1?

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Re: Bridging IPv4 to IPv6

Stuart Longland,

I don't propose anything. Designing international networking standards is well beyond my abilities. It's not my field.

However, I suspect it's not impossible. A workaround could have been sorted out. I presume what you do at the moment is have the local network do IPv4, and then have the network box handling all the NAT and IPv6 stuff for it.

IPv6 has been hanging around for a very, very long time. Perhaps it needs a re-design to reflect reality?

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Happy

Re: the lightbulb moment...

How many network technicians does it take to change a lightbulb?

192,168,001,001?

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I ain't Spartacus
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Devil

Re: IoT

I'll have you know that I've got great hopes for my line of internet-connected boxer shorts!

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I ain't Spartacus
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Re: Bridging IPv4 to IPv6

Why didn't they just directly assign all IPv4 numbers to an equivalent IPv6 one, with extra digits at the beginning of course? It's not like IPv6 is short of numbers to miss the waste a mere few billion.

The other thing I don't get about IPv6 is the allergy to NAT. Lots of addresses are good, obviously. Nice and future-proof. Some stuff wants to live online all the time - and who knows how much of this there'll be in future. But some kit never needs to talk to anything outside the building. And there are local networks for that. I'm no technical expert, and I know little enough about networking - but I sometimes get the feeling I've dropped into a religious dispute when I read about IPv6.

Oh,and what did they do with IPv5? I suggest creating IPv12, and getting it completed before IPv6...

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Look behind you, 'declining' sub-$5bn iPod. The iWatch has come... to EAT YOU

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Re: You can have my ipod when you get it from my cold dead fingers

The headphone socket on my now rather elderly 80GB iPod Classic is dying. I've also never liked their scrollwheel/clickwheel thingy. And I've got an iPod dock that I picked up cheap that doesn't connect to their new stuff.

I won't be replacing it with a watch. I have about 25GB of music now plus untold GB of podcasts. So 60-80GB is a minimum requirement (so I don't have to synch and move stuff around too often). Yes I have a data allowance on my phone, no I won't be streaming from the cloud. Just exactly how well does that work on underground trains anyway?

I don't know what I'm going to go for next. Maybe Neil Young's Pono player will work out? Or a phone that takes SD cards?

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I ain't Spartacus
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Re: Watch for music - headphones?

John Brown,

No. He's not a sick bastard for using radiation. Everyone loves radiation.

He's a sick bastard because he microwaves mice! Poor little things...

My friend had a snake, and he bought six-packs of frozen mice from the local pet shop. He was defrosting one, and forgot to press the right button. After 15 minutes on full power, the mouse exploded, with the tail stuck to one wall of the microwave. He had to buy his Mum a new one after that.

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I ain't Spartacus
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Spartacus' 1st Law of Apple Rumours:

If a rumour or analyst statement (like there's a difference!) states that Apple will be releasing a new product with 2 or more different sized models - it can be safely assumed to be untrue.

I'm pretty sure none of the rumours I've read have come out right. The ones that said the new iPhones / iPads would be like this, and then gave a range of new sizes - all turned out to be bollocks. I assume they're founded on Apple ordering parts for prototyping - or possibly just causing trouble. Or the rumour-mongers just making stuff up...

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So, just how do you say 'the mutt's nuts' in French?

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Re: But why are we translating it literally?

At least bees actually have knees. And dogs have bollocks. Cat's don't have pyjamas.

And I pity the person who tried to get one to wear them... Although I suppose the phrase could be re-purposed, to give an expression of success through suffering.

So you could say something like, your new super-firework is the cat's pyjamas. However I can see that you've suffered similar facial and hand injuries to the man who dressed the cat.

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Re: But why are we translating it literally?

In that vein, I've used an extension of the dog's bollocks since (I think) I heard it on 'I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue'. Which is the badger's nadgers. It sound's pleasing, rather like the mutt's nuts.

I'm assuming that the reason the dog's bollocks are considered so good, is because the dog seems to think they are. Given how much time they spend licking them.

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95 floors in 43 SECONDS: Hitachi's new ultra-high-speed lift

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Happy

Re: Modern elevators are strange and complex entities

Share and enjoy!

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Tooled-up Ryobi girl takes nine-inch grinder to Asus beach babe

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Re: Getting as bad as motorcycle and car shows

Get up in the morning, slaving for bread, sir,

so that every mouth can be fed.

Poor me, cellulite. Aah.

[with apologies to Desmond Dekker and the Aces]

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Whaddaya mean, NO REFUND? But I paid in Bitcoins! Oh I see...

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Re: Bitcoin - the new Second Life

d3rrial,

Thanks for that explanation. I knew there was a way to prioritise, so you could get high-value trades confirmed more quickly - so people couldn't run off with your stuff before the transaction was confirmed. I just hadn't got round to reading about how.

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I ain't Spartacus
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Re: Pissed again?

Now you're just being silly. The article isn't supposed to be a serious piece - and yet you're choosing to make childish points about, "the drunkards recollection of what he thinks someone else might have answered" - even though this has been pointed out to you. Perhaps you made a mistake originally, and came to a piece thinking it was serious? Or perhaps you're just desperate to defend Bitcoin?

As for the argument about refunds, it's perfectly valid. BItcoin has many problems. And one of the biggest is transaction costs and exchange rate risk. Bitcoin transactions may be 'free', in the sense that nobody pays as money is printed to pay the transaction processors, but getting money into and out of BTC definitely does cost. And while almost nobody is paid in Bitcoins, the only realistic way to get them is to buy them, thus introducing currency risk into the equation. Risk in a currency that fluctuates wildly. Therefore in any transaction there's a serious risk that someone will lose 10% of their stake just for holding the Bitcoin for an hour too long.

The Bitcoin price collapsed by 20% in a day last week - so transactions over long than a few minutes can become particularly tricky. This is much less of a problem when buying something volatile like gold, because gold is the thing you're buying. Whereas Bitcoin is supposed to be the medium of exchange. One of the main characteristics of a good medium of exchange is stability. Bitcoin doesn't manage this, and therefore isn't a good medium of exchange. Which is one of the reasons it's still a niche hobby, played with on the internet. And therefore a good reason that it's not suitable for deployment in consumer-facing retail, which is bound by quite onerous consumer protection legislation.

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Re: Pissed again?

Paul Smith,

Whooooosh!

Congratulations, for doubly missing the point. Firstly, Dabbs articles are not meant to be taken too seriously. They're usually humorous rants. Although he does tend to pick deserving targets.

Secondly, the bit on refunds is entirely justified. In the real world, people don't deal entirely with bitcoins. Neither retailers, nor consumers. Therefore one party in the transaction has to bear the currency risk - I.e. Changing into and out of bitcoins. Why would the retailer wish to accept this risk? This presents a further problem when it comes to refunds, because of the massive volatility of bitcoin prices.

Finally, the worst part, is that the speaker's answer to this difficult problem was to ignore it! Rather than deal with a difficult area, his answer was simply to ignore the law.

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Re: Bitcoin - the new Second Life

Jonathan 29,

Bitcoin-like currencies do not need a 3rd party, do not need central servers, employees, HR, customer service reps or anything else that inflates the cost of the transaction. It is pure peer to peer and you absolutely can maintain an entire global transaction payment system on very low end hardware.

Your post makes no sense. Bitcoin transactions do need a third party. In fact several third parties. The miners who create the blockchain. Without the blockchain Bitcoin transactions don't happen. You can't do mining on low-end hardware. Even graphics processors aren't enough now, and they're onto custom designed chips with no other use.

This works until all the Bitcoins have been mined. At which point the miners will stop. And then there will be no further Bitcoin transactions. Well I assume that isn't true. I've read that there's a plan to carry on - I just don't know what it is. I assuming it's that every Bitcoin transaction will have to be paid for. The miners will get a small percentage of each transaction as their reward for maintaining the blockchain. At which point it will be just like using a credit card, or PayPal.

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Re: Bitcoin is strongly deflationary

There's your problem. "Common sense" is not a reliable guide to the functioning of complex systems.

As my economics teacher said to me about once every lesson for half a year... Learning economics is the stupidest I've felt in any activity. Not understanding something when you're tired, or distracted is normal. Not getting complex maths or chemistry, once the equations get too much is normal too. But it took months of trying to catch up, and understanding the odd small piece until there was a eureka moment and things started to fit together.

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Re: Bitcoin is strongly deflationary

but I don't see people criticising Paypal by considering what the economy would look like if everything (wages, taxes, etc) was done using and controlled by Paypal.

Mark. ,

No, but then Paypal doesn't have fans who say that it's the future of currency. And I've also had discussions with several Bitcoin fans who have talked about it as an alternative currency, and mentioned how deflation is a good thing as it punishes borrowers and rewards savers.

Although I suspect that's because many people who push Bitcoin on forums are holding coins, and so hoping that their stock will be the stuff being made more valuable by deflation, as well as more widespread adoption.

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Re: Bitcoin - the new Second Life

Jonathan 29,

You don't need Bitcoin in order to have micro-payments.

It may not even be possible to have micropayments. Maintaining a global payment infrastructure is not free. And is unlikely to become so in the near future.

Remember that anyone who says Bitcoin has no transaction costs doesn't understand Bitcoin. Firstly you need to buy the things. Exchanges and credit cards take their cut. Secondly the value fluctuates so wildly that you can lose 10% holding a Bitcoin for just an hour. Thirdly, the miners get paid in BTC. That's a huge transaction cost. The whole Bitcoin economy is giving money to the miners in order to maintain the blockchain.

What I don't understand is how this'll work after all Bitcoins have been mined. No-one will keep updating the blockchain for free. So presumably there will have to be costs as a reward to process each transaction, or Bitcoin will collapse.

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By this point, I was alone - without anyone to issue the punishment beating. My friend had probably seen the explosion coming, and wisely abandoned me to my fate. Although his reaction must have been similar (though far more polite than mine), because he turned up in the coffee shop about 5 minutes after me. Equally unimpressed.

I've come to the conculsion that the pretentious description by the 'artist' is the actual art. It's not pickling the sheep that's the important bit. It's the persuading other people to accept it as art, and give you large sums of money.

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Re: Bitcoin is strongly deflationary

DanDanDan,

Inflation does punish savers. But there's a remedy. It's called interest. Obviously we have to ignore the problem that you can't get any at the moment. That's because we're in recovery from a once-in-a-century (hopefully) financial crisis.

If savers can make a return which just beats inflation using banks, then the economy has a mechanism which allows for extra growth, by lending. I've seen many people talk about debt as if it's a bad thing. Or savers as morally superior to borrowers in some way.

Bad debt is a bad thing. Good debt can be a brilliant thing. It's what gave us the industrial revolution. It's what allows ordinary people to buy their house - which can be a way to be financially prudent, even though it's the biggest debt they'll ever take on. Innovation often requires money. Some of the most innovative people and companies don't have enough to innovate. So they have to borrow it somehow.

I don't buy the idea of permanent deflation either

Nothing's permanent in economics. But Japan has been in deflation for nearly 20 years. That's as close to permanent as makes no odds. It takes something to break out of deflation because of deflation. If savers can just sit on money and watch it get more valuable, then they have no reason to either spend, or invest. That entrenches the group of people with money even more, because it's even more expensive and risky to borrow - and you just get richer by means of already being rich. This is great for those with money, but not so great for those without, or those who would like to innnovate.

It's also hard for businesses, because they have to drop their selling prices by 1-2% a year (that's what deflation means), but their debt is still worth exactly the same amount of money. And has to be serviced with the same amount of interest.

Inflation reduces the value of debts. But then this can be covered by setting appropriate interest rates. Then everyone can win - savers get a fair return for the appropriate level of risk, borrowers can survive, innovators can get finance, business can borrow to invest. One of the major causes of the financial crisis was interest rates being too low. This was partly caused by large global imbalances. Such as China buying $3 trillion of US government debt in order to artificially keep their currency down. This had the side-effect of stoking a bubble in the global economy, as well as the intended effect of allowing China to grow its manufacturing base more than it would have been able to otherwise, by artifically lowering the wages of its own workers.

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Re: Refunds

Danny 14,

Bitcoin isn't a method of payment, like a cheque or card. It's effectively a separate currency. Also it is so volatile that a £500 TV could lose £100 in several hours. There have been at least 2 days this month where Bitcoin has dropped about $100 in value.

Many retailers buy stock months before they sell it. Bitcoins were worth over $1,000 at one point in December last year. Last week it was fluctuating between $400-$500. So it's unlikely anyone would be paying their suppliers or staff in BTC.

Therefore if they do accept it, it'll be at exchange rates worked out at the time of transaction. And if they've got any sense, they'll want to sell those Bitcoins as soon as the transaction goes through. Refunds will then be processed in local currency, and converted back to Bitcoin at the point of that transaction.

Although I think this is all irrelevant. Personally I don't think Bitcoin will work. It looks like a fad to me. But even if it does, it was designed for international internet transactions - where you've got to deal with currencies and transaction fees anyway. That's not really an appropriate model for bricks-and-morter retail. Except maybe airport shops. Even then, you can get zero-weighted credit cards, which use the market exchange rate with no fees to the buyer. For the seller, the card fee is no more than the fluctuation risk of Bitcoins.

I once looked at the raw data from a Bitcoin exchange. They showed the last 10 tranactions on BitStamp. Now top dog, since deposing Mt Gox. Over about 5 minutes, there were 10 deals, each for either 0.1 or 0.2 of a Bitcoin. The price moved by about $10 (it was about $620 at the time). So the global trading price of Bitcoin moved by nearly 2%, over the course of a few minutes, from about $800 of transactions. What was that you said about not being volatile?

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Happy

Re: Nice piece.

You'd be welcome in many business meeting rooms too. It's always nice to have someone to say the un-sayable. Particularly if it's someone else - given the unpleasant response so often meted out to the tellers of home truths.

You could be a sacrificial-goat-for-hire. Surely there's a Shoreditch business model in there somewhere. Particularly if you're willing to work for Pringles...

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“Whaaaaat?” I heard someone shout in a rough impersonation of Brian Blessed in Flash Gordon. It was me.

Trying to avoid doing this in meetings is a vital business skill. Not doing so is a great way of losing contracts and/or getting sacked.

I can still remember my failure in this area. I went to Tate Modern with a friend. Let's ignore the press stereotypes of modern art, and actually go and see some. It can't all be pickled sharks and unmade beds surely?

So I've wandered around a few galleries. And decided modern art isn't for me. Particularly the conceptual stuff. And as I'm looking at another lot of expensive rubbish I realised that I wasn't the only one wondering about the emperor's lack of clothing. "This is all complete and utter bollocks", said someone in a loud voice. I looked around, but couldn't see who. Then I realised that it was me...

I quickly repaired to Tate Modern's nice cafe. A chastened, lonely figure in search of a reviving cuppa.

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EU: Let's cost financial traders $400m a day, because EVIL BANKERS. Right?

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Re: Here is an idea

PS: I am fed up with the "free market" religion.

Tough. Free markets have made you, and billions of people all over the world considerably richer. All other systems so far tried have sucked more than free markets do. Of course not too free. Free markets don't work without property rights for example - which need government and independent judiciaries. So in fact there's no such thing as a free market really.

What we need is a balance between making markets as free as posible, with governments to hold the ring and stop abuse. Plus the same governments to take some of the profits away from everyone in the form of taxation to do stuff that markets are crap at, like social welfare and defence.

As for "pathetic speculative tricks", a lot of HFT isn't speculative at all. It's replacing arbitrage desks run by humans. So the idea is to find small price differences and make tiny profits from closing them in high volumes. Theoretically there should be no risk at all, if this is done correctly. This is a good thing, as it makes markets work better.

There's then a second big use of HFT, which is speculative. That's the idea that the article talks about, sugar has gone up, so sell (or short) shares in Coca Cola, Mars, Cadbury's etc. This is trying to get the jump on human traders who are doing exactly the same thing. It's less good for society - although it's not bad for society so long as it doesn't go horribly wrong. Even when it does go horribly wrong though, there's not as yet any evidence that society has suffered. Knight Capital lost some money due to crapness, but it's unlikely to have had much permanent effect on the prices of the stocks they bid down, so they just moved some money from their accounts to those of other people they bought from. And then got taken over. Hopefully lesson learned.

HFT will have effects. Some bad some good. Not all understood yet, I'm sure. But so will legislation. Therefore legislation ought to be done carefully. Also at national level. The European Parliament doesn't have skin in the game, if it all goes tits up. They know they can pontificate and go for popular gestures on this, because most of the consequences are likely to fall on the UK. With the biggest financial sector in the EU. Yet this legislation isn't accountable to UK voters. So it's doubly bad, from an organisation with a reputation for being rubbish already.

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Re: Investors != Traders

I'm not sure there's anything inherently more 'moral' in investing than there is in trading.

For a start, most investors aren't actually helping companies. If you buy a Vodafone share, you're not giving money to Vodafone to put into R&D, or new infrastructure. That ship sailed when Vodafone floated and got its money off the markets. You are of course indirectly helping, because if no-one was willing to buy shares, then no-one else would be willing to invest in new IPOs (with no-one to sell to) and therefore there'd be much less venture capital hoping to cash out at IPO time. But there's often very little direct relationship between your investment and a good to society. You're investing to make you a profit.

In the same way HFT is about profit to the trading companies that use it. Although also their shareholders, who might be the 'good' investors. But HFT does some good for society in allowing trading to be cheaper. So for example, an increasing amount of cash is saved in tracker funds. As these don't outperform the market, but also aren't as crap as many human-directed funds can be. No chance of being above average, but average is better than around half of the human traders...

This lowers the barriers to stock market investment for ordinary folks. Who can get a shares ISA in a tracker fund with very low fees.

Of course there's an unplanned downside to this. More shares in big companies owned by robot-controlled tracker funds means fewer shareholders who understand the company. Therefore fewer people who just might vote sensibly on CEO pay - or exercise any oversight over the board.

Basically it's all terribly complicated. Of all the bodies that could be in charge of controlling it, the European Parliament has got to be the worst. It's just as unaccountable as the City doing its own self-regulation. But has far less understanding of the issues. So the chances of unintended consequaences zoom upwards. It's also prone to childish political grandstanding. It also sufffers from one of the biggest weaknesses of the EU - which is that there's no reverse gear. There seems to be a phobia in EU circles for revisiting regulation that's gone wrong. This is because the international negotiation process is so long and painful, and subject to vetoes and horse-trading. Sometimes a country with no real interest in the outcome will do a deal to get what it wants in another area, or threaten to block what it doesn't care about in this one. So if the EP or Commission buggers something up, like the recent central banking regulation (in which case they've even admitted it was a mistake) they won't re-open it. This is also fundamentally undemocratic, but then the EP is a bit of a retirement home for failed national-level politicians.

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Re: Utter crap

What have the markets ever done for us. Other than roads, railways, hospitals, the industrial revolution, pensions...

Where do you think all the money comes from to invest in stuff? It comes from savers - who are willing to accept some risk, in return for reward. People who take the smaller risk of government-guaranteed bank savings accounts get less reward. People willing to accept more risk go to the markets. Much of that capital gets mis-allocated of course.

One of the major reasons that the industrial revolution happened in Britain, was because we had well-developed markets to allocate capital to innovation. One of the reasons it spread round the world was that Britain invested much of the profits abroad in doing the same thing. Which reduced the industrial lead, but led to a massive increase in global trade and the growth of the City of London as a global trading hub.

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Re: HFT is just a financial Arms race

Increasing market liquidity is a real-world purpose. There are risks in doing it, market makers will sometimes lose. Therefore market makers need to make profits to offset this. As well as to pay for expensive champagne, cocaine and hookers...

Increased liquidity = increased transparency. It's therefore good for investors. Particularly in niche areas.

HFT may not be the best way to do this, but a tobin tax punishes all market makers. And therefore all pension funds. Because costs will be passed on. As well as pension funds getting stuck with shares they are unable to sell at a good price quickly enough. This will have undesirable side-effects.

Tobin taxes will stop some 'unwanted' trading. Although unwanted by who is a fair question here. But it will also penalised market actors who are definitely fulfilling a social good, and damage the econony. Even the European Commission's own report into its own Tobin Tax proposals said that it would reduce European GDP by much more than it would raise.

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Re: Article sounds like a rant

Your pension fund will definitely lose from a decrease in high frequency trading. Precisely as the article points out. Transaction costs will be increased, thus costing your pension fund more when it trades. As a certain portion of your pension pot is likely to be in tracker funds, these have to trade in order to reflect the current state of the market. That's the whole point of them. They will have to charge higher fees.

There is a valid argument to be made that HFT is a risk to the overall functioning of the market, and therefore even the real economy. In which case they might also be a risk to the value of your pension. But the next point the article is making is that the legislators are not in the best position to make this argument, given that their legislation has shown itself to be ignorant of the biggest benefit of HFT to the market and economy overall. Which is its effect of decreasing transaction prices. A good that the legislation is directly attacking, by setting minimum increments.

There's another valid criticism to be made of HFT. In that it improves liquidity in the good times, but may not do so in worse times (for example liquidity has collapsed after a couple of the 'flash-crashes').

Firstly it competes with the market makers, taking away their profits, but HFT isn't necessarily being done in order to provide a market making service. Therefore the traders may withdraw it at no notice, removing normal liquidity from the market. Whereas the whole point of a market maker is to keep liquidity going, so that it's always possible to trade. So there might be an argument to regard the market makers as part of the market's infrastructure, and therefore offer them some protection from competition that's taking the easy profits, but fewer of the risks.

Another argument is about refused trades. This is where HFT will offer trades and then cancel them before they can happen - as the algorithm spots the opportunity another trader has seen - and basically nicks it. This might be a good area to legislate on. Or markets could set rules themselves. As I understand it this used to happen in open-outcry markets, the old style ones with a trading floor where the guys in blazers shout the deals. But a trader who people noticed "didn't hear" the bad deals would find that others wouldn't trade with him any more. Maybe the markets need to learn from this practise themselves, to avoid the need for regulation.

As a summary, it's bloody complicated. Greedy self-interested and short-sighted incompetents shouldn't be solely in charge or regulating such important matters. Which is why I think the European Parliament should be kept well away from anything really. Not that I have a high opinion of the markets at the moment. They need to have a long hard look at themeselves and start learning some lessons and being less shit. But I can think of few organisations I have less regard for than the European Parliament.

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Japanese boffin EYES up big bucks with strap-on digi-glasses

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Devil

Re: Good thing we've..

monkeyfish,

Of course he does. If he worked harder at making robot bodies, then we could be brains in a jar, strapped to giant killer robots already! What's he waiting for!

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It's a done deal! Microsoft-Nokia merger to close on Friday

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Re: Nokia's Elop had $25 M personal stake in Microsoft deal ..

Nokia could have tried the Android route. I don't think they stood a chance of getting anywhere with any of their in-house stuff. By the time they got desperate and hired externally (Elop) that ship had sailed. See Blackberry for details.

Personally I still think Windows Phone was a better bet than Android, as only Samsung have managed to make any money from Android handsets in the last 4 years, and they were already dominant by the time Elop could have got a decent range of stuff to market. Back when he took over there was a chance that Windows Phone might have taken off quicker. There's still a decent chance that it might prosper. It's still growing in market share - even if most of that is at the bottom end of the market.

Had Nokia gone Android I think their phone division would now still be losing money, although on higher sales, but they'd have had no-one to foist a loss-making bits on. But they'd also be struggling to make any money out of their mapping division (which they've kept and is profitable), becasue you couldn't ship a mainstream Android phone without Google maps and therefore couldn't charge for their own on top.

Failure to bring their innovation to market had screwed Nokia before Elop took over. Crap management since the middle of the last decade. Makes a nice fit with Microsoft really, about whom you could say exactly the same thing. Windows Mobile 5 and Symbian were OK, for the hardware of the time - shame they didn't bother to replace them, until the competition had shat upon them from an enormous height.

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Re: Elops Job

John P,

Also don't forget Nokia senior management's descent into incompetence in the decade before Nokia's senior management hired Elop. They had all that lovely, shiny tech - and did close to bugger-all with it.

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