I wonder if OK Go are planning a sequel to the "I Won't Let You Down" video...
334 posts • joined 2 Jul 2009
Likewise, 'twas on the university PUMA560 as a postgrad student that I started learning all about the joys of path planning, co-ordinated motion (IIRC - whatever it was called that defined whether or not the endpoint moved in a straight line between points A and B, or whether it moved along whatever path was defined by the joints moving the least amount in order to get there) etc. Not quite as glamorous as the big hulking orange beast of a Kuka sat next to it in the lab, but nice and easy to work with, and with rather less ability to tear up the lab if it all went a bit pearshaped...
The limitations of its controller were also responsible for the path my career has taken me - before I started working with the PUMA I'd never designed a PCB or written any embedded code (hadn't even written any C - the uni still taught its engineering students a mixture of Pascal and 68k asm), but when I realised I couldn't get the thing to move in quite the ways my research needed it to, I started designing my own custom joint control cards to replace the native ones. Ended up getting so engrossed in the hands-on engineering this side of my research required, I never quite got around to finishing off the more theoretical side required to get any sort of qualification out of it. OTOH, the hardware and firmware skills I taught myself went a long way to securing my first job in the real world of embedded systems development, and I haven't looked back since.
As soon as I saw the pic at the top of the article all those fond memories came flooding back to me, and then as I wrote the above text I realised for the first time just how pivotal the PUMA was in determining how my life has turned out. So definitely a +1 from me too.
Re: Sometimes you get what you pay for
Quite, however in this case the original doesn't really sound all that expensive in comparison with the third-party alternative - I mean, sure, it's 50% more expensive, but relatively speaking that's peanuts compared with the 30-400% increase you can expect to pay for an original toner versus a third-party equivalent on some printers.
The cheapest price I've seen for an original toner cartridge for my little Samsung laser is around 45 quid, whereas the third-party cartridges I've been buying for the last 2 years have been consistently around the 10 quid mark, and I haven't noticed any degradation in performance. If I could get an original cart for 15 quid, or if the third-party carts were around 30 quid, I might think twice about using originals, particularly if I also had any concerns about third-party performance. But 10 quid against 45 quid with no concerns about quality... it's an easy decision to make.
Re: @Dr Scrum Master
Not sure what exactly you'd consider fake/false/otherwise not-real about the OS maps provided via Bing... The OpenData site is certainly a useful addition to the online mapping resources we enjoy in the UK, but if you want free access to the Explorer/Landranger map data then the OS isn't the place to go.
Haven't paid any attention to any S7 ads, but is 30 minutes at 5 feet depth *really* what Samsung are claiming for the Active? On its website, the claim smallprint actually says:
"Water-resistant in up to 5 feet of water for up to 30 minutes"
Which isn't quite the same thing at all... If it genuinely was able to withstand immersion at 5 feet for 30 minutes, there'd be no need to bother with the "up to's" in that statement - the presence of those suggests however that it's the specific combination of depth and duration that is important here, e.g. 30 minutes is OK if the phone is only *just* completely immersed in water, and 5 feet of immersion is OK if you fish it out straight away, but both together is a no-no.
Percentages are all well and good if you're comparing like for like. What isn't entirely clear here is whether or not this is actually the case. If the council did indeed buy a swish SD card because that's what was required by the piece of kit being used with the card, but on its passage through their accounting department the purchase ended up being registered simply as "X GB SD card - £Y", then a third-party onlooker with no understanding of *why* that purchase had been made might then think "OMFG, they spent *THAT* much on an X GB SD card, I can get those from eBay for waaaay less"...
And even if you are comparing like for like as far as the actual card specs themselves go, as others have pointed out, some/all of the markup may have been down to it being an emergency purchase that pushed up the total cost due to the use of the first supplier they could find who could provide the card there and then, but where the cost to the council of NOT spending the extra to get the card ASAP would have been even higher...
I mean, yes, it's more likely that it was a genuinely overpriced purchase made for no other reason than it's how the council always does this sort of thing, but let's not rule out the slender possibility that, just this once, the council really did get the best value for money they could in the specific circumstances.
Leaving aside the perfectly valid reasons why a corporate-networked PC might be allowed to access SD cards (or indeed any other type of removable storage), who said it was being used with a PC in the first place?
Re: the retailer
OTOH, if the shoes you're after are already stacked waiting for you in their "shop-floor stockrooms", then getting what you want is often no more taxing or time-consuming than grabbing a box, checking the contents match the label, and heading straight for the tills. That said, the way they then radio ahead to the security goons on the front door to let them know someone is about to walk out of the store with some paid-for stock does always make me wonder just what sort of pond-life they get shopping there such that their security needs to be warned about people *not* nicking stuff...
I can't in fact remember the last time I've ever had to ask an assistant to go fetch me a pair of shoes from out back, it's only when we're out getting shoes for the kids where this is still a requirement - though as we normally get their shoes from Clarks (where ye olde foot measuring gizmos have been replaced by some slightly absurd combination of tablet and measuring frame, just to keep a vague IT angle here...) the experience is rather more pleasant and well-organised than from the retailer we all know who we're talking about but dare not utter their name.
"Also what was the guy that found this SSID doing with his phone turned on prior to take off.
Well, given that this flight was being operated by a Qantas plane featuring their new wi-fi based inflight entertainment service, and given that this service is advertised as being available "from the moment you board until you arrive at your destination" (see http://www.qantas.com./travel/airlines/wireless-inflight-entertainment/au/en#general), and given that the rules on switching stuff off completely have been significantly relaxed by many airlines in general, there really isn't anything naught naughty about it.
Re: A few splashes?
It's not unusual for the manufacturer of remotely monitored kit to pay at least as much attention (or, in some cases, significantly more) to the status information reported back by the kit as is paid to it by the customer who actually has the responsibility to monitor the kit and act on any alerts it generates.
If you can remotely access status info from customer kit without it affecting the ability of the customer themselves to access the kit, then every installation becomes a source of useful ongoing data to show how your kit performs out there in the real world, and so well worth keeping an eye on.
Re: Sadly not beer
"How does one even get cooked spaghetti into a slot-loading drive?"
Cooked spaghetti is somewhat sticky and has a tendency to adhere quite nicely to pretty much anything it touches. It's therefore not entirely beyond the realms of belief to consider a scenario where some spaghetti ended up being spilled off the plate unnoticed (or, given the state of some student residences, simply ignored and forgotten about) and then at some later date a CD/DVD was chucked onto the table/floor/wherever said spaghetti was now residing, the spaghetti decided it fancied a change of scenery and so stuck itself to the underside of the disc, whereupon it then got transferred unnoticed into the drive...
Re: useless for the colour blind, who use the layout of the lights
To be fair to the previous poster, they *may* be well-versed in the various different types of CVD, and were specifically thinking about the small percentage of CVD people who genuinely do have no colour vision at all, rather than the far larger percentage who merely suffer from some degree of deficiency.
Or, as is more likely the case, maybe they're simply part of that surprisingly large group of non-CVD people who really do believe that colour "blindness" is a binary condition rather than the far more complex spectrum it actually is.
Like you, I don't have any difficulty with things like traffic lights that some people automatically assume I'd struggle with as soon as they find out I'm red-green deficient. My favourite example of where I really do struggle comes courtesy of our Samsung fridge freezer, which has a built in water/ice dispenser and accompanying filter cartridge. On the door there's a small LCD to show the temperatures, dispenser settings etc., and also whether or not the filter needs replacing. Most of the LCD consists of blue on black characters/symbols, however when the filter has expired the symbol for the filter changes to red. Being merely red-green deficient as opposed to completely unable to see red, this isn't the problem.
What *is* the problem is that, in the weeks leading up to the expiry of the filter, the symbol first changes colour from blue to purple (I'm assuming here that Samsung decided not to splash out on a different backlight LED here, and are simply driving both the blue and red ones). However, the only reason I know it changes to purple is because my wife asked me one day what the purple light on the fridge meant - to my CVD-afflicted eyes there's no discernable difference in shade between this symbol when it switches between blue and purple, even though the shade of red used is, on its own, quite distinct.
Unless of course it's something iMac-esque with the display integrated into the main unit...
Re: so, did he backup his consciousness to the device?
Failing to give her the password before he died isn't proof that he didn't want her to have the password, particularly if (as the article suggests) he'd actually bequeathed the device to her in his will - a reasonable third party observer might then consider that, on balance of probabilities, the failure to supply the password along with the device was merely an oversight rather than a deliberate attempt to prevent access to whatever data was on said device.
Let's be honest here, how many of us are now so conditioned into entering a password or some other form of access data every time we use one of our devices, that it becomes something we do without really giving it any further thought? Once the use of passwords etc. become so ingrained into our daily routines, I think it's then quite likely that a lot of people would simply overlook the need to let someone else know what those passwords are in order to allow them access to whatever it is.
Re: Missing the point of Arduinos
Considering the first AVRs only escaped into the wild in '97, to have any amount of third-party support by the end of the 90's was no small achievement. I was first introduced to them at the end of '98 when starting my first job, and spent a shade over 6 years really getting to grips with a few of the family and the idiosyncracies of the available compilers. The IAR one wasn't too bad, apart from their forgetting to let us know about an upgrade we should have received as part of our service agreement until *after* I'd submitted a bug report, but the one we needed to use for Tiny15-based projects was so full of weirdness that it became second nature to read the asm output after each compile just to make sure the output code was going to do what you intended it to. ISTR ditching the C code for that project after it got allocated to me as part of a department reshuffle, and just doing the whole thing in asm...
Haven't spent nearly as much time working with PICs, though I can see why they've garnered so much support from both amateur and professional users alike. Going to be interesting to see what comes out of this takeover, and not just from the PIC vs AVR perspective.
Re: 2G Kinda Lingers
Indeed, we're scrambling around to get a suitable 3G solution in place for our Australian business, but as you say it's a bit of a pain given that we're so wedded to 2G over this side of the globe and all of our existing kit is firmly 2G-based. Add to that the rather low likelihood of European 3G kit already having approval for use in Australia and the fun that can then be had getting it approved, and it's all a bit of a spheroid-based pain just below the midsection.
And as if that wasn't enough, they go and start the NBN rollout at the same time, meaning all our landline stuff needs to be re-evaluated/tweaked as well...
So no, simple it most assuredly isn't, not in the world of embedded telecoms gear.
Re: Love the FC (Faraday Cage)!
Quite. One of the places I used to work had a mesh-based EMC test area that was put together in the days before the explosion in GSM/wifi/etc transmissions - it was still a useful resource to have when it came to doing precompliance emissions testing in the lower frequency bands (where most of our emissions were concentrated - the fastest clocks we had on any of our embedded kit were in the 30-80MHz region), but with each year that passed you'd see stronger spikes in the GHz+ region on the spectrum analyser.
Re: Woop ! Woop ! BS Alert !
I wonder if this is a bit of confusion/misunderstanding over primary vs secondary radar systems - the former of which are more likely to be military, and which are also the ones you would need to worry about when setting up a RF shielded area?
Even worse than the ones with fake approvals are the ones where the manufacturer has presented a fully populated "gold-standard" unit for testing in order to gain a genuine approval mark/number for the product, and then proceeds to strip out all the protection components for the units actually manufactured/shipped. Doing a search on the approvals body website will then appear to show the unit meets the required standards, giving even more of a false sense of security than if they'd just skipped the testing entirely and slapped a completely made up approval number (or copied one off a different product - 'ere Mike, the UL site seems to think this charger is actually a microwave oven, what's up with that?) on the unit.
Re: "Back of the envelope" calculation and systems administration...
Indeed. As at least one of my old maths teachers used to say, you should always have at least a rough idea of what the answer should be before picking up the calculator, so that you can sanity check the result it gives you. And in many cases, a ballpark figure is often good enough for you never to need to reach for the calculator in the first place.
Of the 3 PCs that get regular use at home, one is the OH's Win8 laptop (I know, I know, but that's what it came preinstalled with and she seems to like it), one is my Win7 desktop and the last is the Win7 media centre. All eligible for the free update to 10, none updated to 10...
The laptop may end up going to 10 at some point just because that's the one PC where an OS change will have the least effect. The mediacentre will remain on 7 for the reasons mentioned by CLD above. And whilst I'm not in any hurry to switch my desktop away from 7, I did sign up for the update notification so I could get the download and try installing it on a VM. But as someone else mentioned further up the comments, my desktop had been stuck on the "we're validating your update" message for at least a month, so I finally gave up waiting and nuked the updater from my system.
Repeat this sort of thing across households worldwide, and it suggests the takeup rate of 10 could have been a lot better if only MS hadn't dropped the ball first by removing features that some home users find essential and then by using an update mechanism that seems a bit flakey.
Re: "it's unlikely we'll see much return from all this"
Engineering jobs are there for the taking all over the UK. Manufacturing may have largely been outsourced, but a lot of the products pouring out of those offshore factories were designed here. And as wage demands continue to rise in traditional outsourcing locations such as China, bringing manufacturing back home is starting to look more attractive too.
I think the problem is that, whilst it was pretty obvious that we used to do a lot of engineering here back in the days when engineering and manufacturing were combined on the same sprawling industrial-looking site, these days your average R&D centre looks just like any other anonymous identikit office building on a commercial estate somewhere. So whilst there are still a hell of a lot of very talented people (not to forget the rest of us digging out quite comfortable careers in engineering :-) doing a hell of a lot of world-class engineering work here in the UK, we mostly just look like ordinary office workers heading off to ordinary looking offices each day, rather than proud pioneers of the brave new technological future we're helping to create for the good of humanity *fade-in inspirational orchestral theme*
As to why we're getting someone else to build our new atomic kettle, maybe it has something to do with it being close to 3 decades since we started building the last one in the UK, so unless we've been running a very hush-hush project to continue building nuclear power plants and maintain our national experience in that field, I'm not really sure who you think we should have asked to build this one?
Re: They didn't seem familar to me as a UK company
Arduino may be the most public-facing use of the AVR family, but there are thousands upon thousands of other companies out there using AVRs in their own commercial products, so I'd say the likelihood of this sale having the slightest effect on AVR end users is somewhere in the region of zero. Maybe Dialog will start phasing out the Atmel brand and start slapping their own logo on the chips and datasheets (just as Atmel themselves have done in the past), otherwise I imagine it being business as usual.
Re: Stylus is a bit understated
It's common, when discussing the Wacom-style of stylus implementation as used e.g. on the Samsung devices, to refer to a digitiser layer seperate from the capacitive touch layer, as it's this seperate layer which the system uses to detect the stylus.
However, as Nvidia showed with the stylus implementation on their digitiser-less tablets, it is possible to provide palm/touch rejection without needing that seperate layer, so if the new iPad is similarly digitiser-less, it suggests they've also come up with a way to use the capacitive layer for both stylus and touch inputs.
Re: You can rest on the screen
Assuming you're correct about being able to touch the screen whilst using the stylus, and the other commenters above who've said this isn't possible got the wrong end of the stylus...err...stick, then no, it's really not an innovation, as that would imply no-one has done it before, which they have.
"I love how the police have decided that this is a “malicious attempt to disrupt services” despite admitting that “It isn’t a security breach, and it doesn’t affect our operational capability”."
It isn't a security breach, nor does it affect their operational capability, because it wasn't targetting their internal network. However, it clearly is a malicious attempt (not sure what, if anything, would qualify as a non-malicious DDoS attack...) to disrupt a GMP-provided service - namely their public-facing website. So those two statements seem quite reasonable to me.
Re: I wentthere in the 1980's
I have some rather fuzzy memories of visiting in the 80's as well - I think it'd featured in one of the Blue Peter annuals around then.
Re: It won't be the car companies
The act of negotiating controlled airspace might be trivial compared with the act of negotiating un/partially controlled roadspace, but the act of keeping an airliner airborne is ever so slightly more difficult than the act of keeping a car on the road, and the consequences of getting it wrong are in another league entirely. So I'm not sure the cost or complexity of driverless vehicle software will be any greater than that of airliner software, it'll more be a case that the complexity occurs in different areas of the software.
Re: The end of any driving pleasure
Would a chard module be for those people who think electric propulsion isn't quite green enough, and demand a vehicle that is actually powered by greens...
Conventional cars can, however, be driven better via a combination of realtime observation of the current road conditions *plus* prior knowledge of the route ahead. I don't think Google et al are intending to produce driverless cars that rely solely on driving to a historical snapshot of the road ahead, but the mapping data they're producing/importing could be very useful as part of the overall driverless ecosystem.
Consider also that, even if their driverless cars do rely solely on what their onboard sensors are able to detect in realtime, training those sensors to detect things like road signs and markings would benefit from the real world footage collected by programmes such as StreetView.
Re: Ah, spirit copiers.
That was one of them, and there was also a bigger desktop version you used like a bandsaw.
Re: Ah, spirit copiers.
My mum was a teacher and consequently a sizeable amount of my childhood consisted of getting to play with all the neat stuff teachers had access to but which pupils normally never got to go anywhere near, or at best only under close supervision and for limited periods of time. Not only did this mean having ready access to the BBC Micro and Archimedes, it also meant being able to mess around with things like those hotwire polystyrene cutters and the Banda copier system. Oh yes, there's a smell to conjur up many happy memories of a simpler age...
She also used to be in charge of typing up and duplicating the church magazine, so at home we had an utterly gorgeous Imperial typewriter (looking through Google Images, the Model 58 looks very familiar) on which I entirely failed to learn how to touch type but did gain an appreciation of mechanical engineering. With the stencils prepared we'd then relocate to the church itself where the sacred Gestetner machine was housed. Prise open the stencil clamp, line up the locating pegs with the appropriate cutouts at the top of the stencil (I seem to recall it being a rather psychedelic pattern of holes seemingly designed to work with about a million different peg layouts), pop the clamp back down, make sure the stencil is smoothed out over the ink transfer band, top up the ink tank from the squeezy tube of evil smelling thick black goop, load up the paper feed tray with a fresh ream of A4, run a handful of copies through by hand to check everything's OK, then dial in the number required, flick the switch and sit back to be serenaded by the wonderful click-clack-thwooosh noises it made as it ran off copies at a seemingly blistering pace (though by todays standards it was probably quite pedestrian).
Given how calming I now find the sound of a laser printer running at full chat, I wonder if this is down to my subconscious remembering these similar sounds from my childhood...
Anyhoo, thanks Peter for reminding me about Bandas, and thanks also to The Reg for yet another article encouraging me to reminisce about the good old days :-)
Syntax Error, as someone who used to share a similar opinion of home CCTV to yours, all it takes is for a change in the nature of your neighbourhood to give you serious cause to reconsider those opinions. If you've never been placed in a situation where having a CCTV system could have discouraged something unpleasant from happening in the first place, or at least captured the evidence required to get the police interested in pursuing the matter further, then consider yourself very fortunate and pray your good fortune continues.
However please refrain from describing those of us who have been in such situations as being "a bit mental". Most of us are just ordinary people who'd love nothing more than to be left alone to get on with our lives in peace, and who'd never have considered installing CCTV had our home environments remained as they were.
Did someone at Brinks see a copy of XP being booted into safe mode and get the wrong end of the stick...
Re: That is a really idiotic design choice.
Who said anything about *watching* the satnav? Or are Garmins unique in the world of satnavs in not having a voice guidance ability?
So are you suggesting that if someone develops navigation software which has access only to map data containing verified width/height/weight/etc restrictions, and which is programmed to generate routes accordingly based on the vehicle parameters entered into it, it'd rebel against its creators and still send truckers off down inappropriate side roads just because it happens to be running on a phone rather than on a dedicated unit?
Re: take up was also poor due to...
Never had any difficulties in shifting recordings from the mediacentre (originally XP, currently 7) onto other devices and still have them play, although I've only ever used the tuner side of WMC with FTA channels, so maybe things are a bit different (as you might reasonably expect them to be) with paid-for channels.
Being able to run for decades from whatever battery Atmel had in mind when working out that it could run for decades from it is just one way of looking at things. Another way is to realise that the lower your power consumption gets, the smaller your power source needs to be to maintain the same runtime, which may open the door to power sources other than a battery...
"the SAM-L21 is not particularly powerful"
That all depends on what you're using as a comparison benchmark...
Re: bbc pi is 8bit amtelmega 32u4
As someone who spent the first 6 years of his embedded systems development career pushing various members of the AVR family to their limits (and occasionally beyond... oh dear, there goes the magic smoke again), I feel sufficiently clued-up on the capabilities of Atmel's little wonder to say quite categorically that you have no idea what you're on about. One of the great things about the AVR is that it's really very easy to write code for, even down at the assembler level. Indeed, your mentioning the 68000 is quite apt here, as one of the things I loved about the AVR was that writing asm code for it felt a lot like writing asm code for the 68000, to the point where I'd often end up writing chunks of asm code simply because it was as easy as writing the equivalent in C. Try doing that with an ARM-based system and see how far you get...
Also, whilst ARM (rightly) grabs much media attention for all of their design wins in the mobile sector, and is undeniably a UK success story we should all be proud of, don't think that ARM is the be all and end all of the embedded processor story. I'd hazard a guess that for every ARM-powered device out there, there are probably 10x as many devices powered by other types of embedded processor - AVRs, PICs, 8051's etc. So even leaving aside the argument that it's better to ease youngsters into embedded coding using a simpler, easier to understand processor core than the sprawling beast that is the typical ARM-cored device, it's also no bad idea to introduce the next generation of embedded system developers to a core which, in itself, represents a not insignificant number of embedded devices out there right now, and also, as a representative of lower-powered narrower bit-width devices in general, is also a damn good introduction to what the majority of embedded systems development is all about, and still will be by the time they leave academia and take their first tentative steps into the world of employment.
Re: Can they bring back 68k's
"The 68k architecture was abandoned by Motorola over 20 years ago now."
Did someone forget to tell the Coldfire dev team?
Re: Change of venue
"The company's presentation of the blueprints to industry analysts and press this morning in Budleigh Salterton"
And heeeeeeeeeeeeeeres your host, Giles Wemmbley-Hogg...
...no, on second thoughts, hosting it in San Francisco is probably safer.
Re: Very nice exercise in minimalist programming
Indeed, embedded development is an area where old-school programmers can thrive, particularly if you stay within the lower-spec end of the business and avoid any contact with embedded systems which, based on their hardware spec and runtime environments, could easily be mistaken for a full-blown PC. I've spent my entire career so far in this area, working on systems varying from the positively luxurious (72MHz Cortex M3 with 128KB of flash and 20KB of SRAM) down to the wonderfully insane (1MHz Tiny AVR core with 1KB of flash and no SRAM whatsoever), and every time I get really stuck into a bit of embedded coding I end up having flashbacks to my formative years bashing out code on a Spectrum.
Learning how to work within the limitations of the hardware (and, if you're also involved in designing the hardware environment itself, how to reduce the number of limitations without increasing the BOM cost or PCB size), knowing how to eke out a few extra bytes of memory, or shave a few cycles off a particularly time-sensitive bit of code, and then seeing the end result working nicely in a device which might be expected to run unattended for years on end without being reset, is a particularly rewarding experience.
I gave up on sending knackered drives back for warranty replacement several years ago, after realising that the cost to send the drive back to the warranty centre somewhere in mainland Europe was, by the time the drive had failed a year or so after purchase, not far short of the cost to buy a replacement drive of the same capacity. And since, in this particular instance, I had to buy a replacement drive there and then anyway in order to continue whatever project I was working on at the time, I decided from that point on not to bother.
So now when I'm looking for a new drive, I tend to wait for some deals to come up on external enclosures and pull the bare drives out of those. Even paying the high street premium to pick up the enclosures from a bricks and mortar supplier, it still usually works out cheaper than ordering the same capacity drive as a bare unit online, and every now and again you end up with a nice surprise when you crack open the case - e.g. opening up a WD Elements enclosure to find a Caviar Black inside, at a time when the online price for a bare Black of that capacity was significantly higher than the high street price I'd paid for the enclosure... Being able to add to my collection of spare USB cables and DC adapters is a bonus too.
Re: Seagate 3TB
Seagate might not have the best reputation, but we can't blame them for *every* drive fubar ever perpetrated... IBM were the ones responsible for giving people something other than large spherical orbital weapons platforms to think about whenever they heard the name "Death Star".
Re: Push-button gear change? Really?
"The other issue with button (or electronic) handbrakes are that they fail."
As do ye olde fashioned ratchety lever type.
IMO the real issue of your story is that the other car owner was a muppet - if you're driving a car with a known issue in the parking brake system, then you really ought to be taking additional steps (e.g. leaving it in gear or chocking the wheels) to mitigate against any failures in that system, especially if you've experienced such failures on several occasions and know the cause still hasn't been identified, let alone resolved.
Re: Was plastic really so bad?
Plastic was fine in the days before touchscreens, but as soon as you start requiring the user to touch, tap, swipe etc. the screen pretty much every time they want to do something with the phone then the higher resilience to scratching you get with glass becomes a very welcome property to have.
It's also worth remembering that back in the days of plastic, the underlying LCD still had a glass front panel, and it was only the protective lens/resistive touch digitiser in front of the LCD that was plastic. So although it was damn near impossible to break the plastic by dropping a handset, the same could sadly not be said of the LCD glass - the *only* phone I've broken was one of my older touchscreen devices, where the plastic resistive touchscreen remained intact after the drop that caused the LCD glass to crack quite impressively.
The VectorMap District data mentioned in the article is freely available as part of the OS OpenData collection of goodies.
Re: Checking in and out with Oyster
"Previously at unfamiliar small tube stations it is genuinely difficult to find an Oyster machine to check out at"
Unless you're interchanging to another mode of transport without passing through the station gateline, or have found a rare station (not even sure if there are any left now, there were precious few around in the years just prior to Oyster being introduced) which still allows exit to the street without passing through a gateline, then you don't need to find the Oyster validator (the ones with the pink reader pads) to touch out, you just touch out as normal on the yellow reader when you leave the station via the gateline, even if the gates are already open.
"How about a better system like in most capitals of the world - prepaid zonal tickets!"
You mean like a Travelcard?
It's almost correct - the standard TfL fare for a single bus journey of any distance is now £1.45 (certain concessionary discounts aside).