* Posts by Andy 73

146 posts • joined 9 Jul 2009

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WIN a 6TB Western Digital Black hard drive with El Reg

Andy 73

You went to the lengths of hiring a real meerkat, but you're going to CGI the laptop in? I'm RADA trained, darling, of course I can type!

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Oh no, startup Massive Analytic unleashes 'artificial precognition'

Andy 73

Sorry..

.. my experience suggests that someone has been rather over zealous with the claims here.

The issue here is that most data collection simply doesn't have enough information to draw deep conclusions about end users, beyond simple 'people who like X also like Y' relationships. The problem is that most companies' views of users are restricted to browser sessions and occasional logins, and most interactions are of the form 'looked at X, bought Y'. The restriction here is that you don't know who is actually behind the keyboard at any given time, and inferring the reasons for their choices has to be based on extremely limited information.

Hence I visit Amazon regularly, buy items for niece and nephews' birthdays and occasional needs for my own wife and kids. In a recent list of 'recommended for you' I had a crochet kit and a hand axe besides each other - both utterly irrelevant and not reflecting the actual purpose of my visit that day or even the following year. Worse still, that's for a site that I visit (depressingly) regularly. Most sites suffer from customer loyalty that barely registers on the chart, meaning predictions have to be based on little more than the time of day and the location you logged in from.

Now undoubtedly you can improve the accuracy and timeliness of recommendations (the base level being random guesses from your marketing department), but the vision of precondition and overthrowing governments is far from the truth.

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Google bods reform DEMOCRACY in coconut or vitamin water quandry

Andy 73

Re: No thanks

When it's being used for deciding what drinks to have in the office kitchen, your paranoia is perhaps unjustified. No-one is suggesting we ditch our current system of corrupt politicians, lobby groups and uninformed masses for the moment.

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FBI collars exec who allegedly tried to nick secrets of game fronted by babe Kate Upton

Andy 73

Why do they play?

Because a lot of people have been trained to think that these things aren't worth anything, so why pay for a game?

Because the traditional games developers have found it very hard to monetise social and mobile platforms, so they don't develop decent games for them.

Because the vast majority of gamers are casual players who don't want to invest in a 'real' game.

Because Kate Upton.

Because sadly we're all a bunch of slightly evolved apes and we don't place much value on quality entertainment over a quick fix.

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Lights out for Ada Initiative – women's group closing shop

Andy 73

Re: So, a hotbed of ideologists mixed with Wiki and Scientology

I heard it took a little longer... maybe a minute and a huff.

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Wanted: beta testers for El Reg’s Android app

Andy 73

So...

Just for a short while, my app has more regular users than the total download of the Reg's offering.

Pity I can't get any decent money from it.

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UK.gov wants to stop teenagers looking at tits online. No, really

Andy 73

Thanks, Internet

We seem to be importing US-style prurient outrage wholesale.

Still, it's so much easier to see the world in black and white terms than to actually talk about education, understanding, support, diversity and the human condition.

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Just ONE THOUSAND times BETTER than FLASH! Intel, Micron's amazing claim

Andy 73

Re: A MAJOR breakthrough,

El Reg regularly reports on research, and regularly research goes nowhere, or takes decades to reach the consumer. Much of the excited research announcements turn out to be impossible to turn into a product that can be manufactured reliably, at scale and at a sane cost (see all of the articles on new battery technologies over the last 15 years).

So, the companies that make the money aren't just taking ideas and pressing the magic 'sell one of these' button, but putting in immense product development effort to deliver them to end users.

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Puppet draws back the curtain on devops magic with funky gfx and UI

Andy 73

A picture paints a thousand words..

... so where's the picture in the article?

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Ford's parallel PARCing: Motor giant tries to craft new tech just like Xerox

Andy 73

Times they are a changing

Whilst the step to fully autonomous everything is clearly a step to far for many to contemplate, it makes sense that all the small improvements - from vehicle-aware cruise control to self-parking are steadily changing our relationship with cars. You can understand that we're not just going to wake up one morning and hand the keys over to our smartphone, but the little conveniences are going to accumulate until we only need to take control of the car for the interesting bits.

Keen drivers might baulk at this, but we have to recognise that most car journeys are dull - commuting, school runs and supermarket trips. Who hasn't set off on an unusual journey and automatically turned left to go to work out of sheer habit? Between Uber, car sharing and cars that can deliver themselves, these boring journeys are ripe for handing over to the machines.

Now, the important question is - how much of this work is being done in the UK? We do some class-leading engineering in the automotive sector, but vehicle IT is a new niche and we're historically more interested in the greasy bits than the wiring. The integrated solutions that are going to be needed will likely have to be developed holistically, so there's a real possibility that we could get locked out of the industry. I'm sure there will be universities looking into this, but are there manufacturers out there ready to move this from theory to practice? It sounds like a great area to be involved in.

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Are you a Tory-voting IT contractor? Congrats! Osborne is hiking your taxes

Andy 73

Add more complexity

Whilst the government bothered to engage with IPSE before the election, and then have delivered a budget that staunchly ignores every point they raised, the biggest disappointment is that the new proposals are unnecessarily complex.

It's taken a long time for many advisors to figure out what they changes are likely to mean, and even then we're left waiting for more clarity. How the various tax bands interact, what allowances will and won't be available and how contractors can efficiently deliver their services has become a mire of paperwork and fag packet maths. This is not a sign of an efficient taxation system, but one that is driven by political positioning.

Where I'm working, there is a serious shortage of skilled workers able to move company IT on to the new platforms and tools. On my team of 12 people, just two are British citizens and the company struggles to find people to expand the team further. This end of the workforce needs highly mobile, specialist workers who take the risks on behalf of the larger companies that bring in their skills and experience. However, the government treats the sector as being indistinguishable from day rate brick layers and offers us similar levels of support - i.e. none whatsoever.

Differences in attitude towards entrepreneurial and small businesses here and across the pond are highlighted by the startup and high tech scenes, but it appears that we're too busy counting the pennies to take lessons from more supportive regimes.

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Don't touch this! Seven types of open source to dance away from

Andy 73

Measure of 'goodness'

The trap this immediately falls into is making the assumption that being open source is some measure of the saintly measure of a project or company. You may as well check whether the owners have made charitable donations or take in sick animals (no, not developers).

The intent behind open sourcing a project, and the actual end effect doesn't sit on some single continuum between 'evil and cynical' and 'advancing the cause of mankind' any more than the actual software itself is purely saintly or nasty.

When you engage with any project, open source or otherwise, the question has to be whether doing so will meet your goals - and you must recognise that your goals and the owner's goals may be many and varied and wildly different. Not good or bad, just more or less aligned. A single corporate committer may be quite acceptable if you simply need their current release to perform a task in a nice stable environment. Equally, a project may be of no use if its' large and active community wish to introduce breaking changes or pursue new developments that don't sit with your specific use case. Some projects open source a component so small that it's useless in isolation - like a new type of bolt for building an oil rig. Others open source the entire world safe in the knowledge that the chances of you being able to replicate a functional environment is nil - like being given the plans for a steam train with a note saying that building the rail network is a task left up to the developer. None of these are necessarily signs of good or bad intent - just different ways projects may be run.

The only consistent warning sign I've come across are those projects where the owner is enthusiastic to point out that the project is good simply because it's open source. Suddenly I get the strong whiff of snake oil.

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Game of Thrones: Where to now for headless Nintendo?

Andy 73

Mindshare

As our boy (age 10) was pretty invested with the Wii, we eventually upgraded to the Wii U. The Gamepad is a boon - he plays on the large screen, then carries on playing on the pad when someone else wants to watch TV. The production values remain as high as ever (he's just rattled through Yoshi's Wooly World, which is beautifully realised).

The problem is that the Wii U is not seen as a success - it doesn't get talked about the way the PS4 and XBOne, or even tablets do. That's perhaps the effect of Nintendo's attitude to third party developers finally biting them on the backside. The massive number of throwaway games in browser or on tablets and phones only serve to highlight how few third parties develop for Nintendo. Whilst the quality benefits, it means there are only a handful of cheerleaders for the platform. Rovio and the like benefit from network effects that mean in certain circles you only hear about their preferred channels. Our son knows all about every variation on Angry Birds etc. and that keeps him coming back to the tablet for yet more throwaway games as much as he will spend hours on a single game on the Wii U. In our household, the two platforms have parity, but only because we cared to find out about Wii U titles.

On top of that, the positioning leaves people confused - it's neither cheap nor powerful. What are you actually getting for your money besides access to well known Nintendo IP? The other consoles still sell on the idea of 'new stuff' (whether that's genuinely the case or not), whereas Nintendo has fallen into 'same old stuff, but prettier'. The benefits of the gamepad are not obvious when you see it in the store, and they've failed to capitalise on the extra screen where every other platform has embraced 'two screen media'. Every game and tv show has a back channel these days, yet Nintendo fail to provide that on their own platform that's designed from the outset to have a second screen.

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The Great Barrier Relief – Inside London's heavy metal and concrete defence act

Andy 73

Re: Silly Question Time

Concrete sets through chemical reaction, not drying. It'll happily set under water.

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Google's new view of the world takes two pics to make 'DeepStereo' 3D

Andy 73

Microsoft Photosynth

I presume there are patents at battle here...

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Amazon just wrote a TLS crypto library in only 6,000 lines of C code

Andy 73

Re: I applaud this and hope it is clean. However we could have written this in Perl in 1 line.

One line of C code. That's formatted to look like a dog p***ing on a Christmas Tree and with every other word rhyming.

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Smart meters set to cost Blighty as much as replacing Trident

Andy 73

Re: I just dont get it !!!

The number of new build homes is a tiny fraction of the existing housing stock. At the current rate of building, we'd replace all the existing homes in around 160 years. Not only that, but it's the existing (inefficient) homes that most need accurate metering if you accept the argument that accurate metering reduces consumption.

As it is, it's a poorly thought out project, with poor technical specification and even poorer oversight.

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Amazon enrages authors as it switches to 'pay-per-page' model

Andy 73

My book

John thought hard about what he was going to do.. the most outrageous, dangerous and yet romantic action he had ever dared take in his life. He would..

(cont. on page 2.)

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JavaScript creator Eich's latest project: KILL JAVASCRIPT

Andy 73

Re: That picture...

Ha, If you're so clever, YOU tell us what colour it should be.

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Nobel bro-ffin: 'Girls in the lab fall in love with me ... then start crying'

Andy 73

And lo...

..the Twittersphere lurches into action, ready to take major offense and vilify anyone unfortunate enough not to have pre-written and proof read every statement they make in public.

Yes, it was not very smart, or sensitive, or appropriate. However I doubt the sentiment behind it quite justifies the strength of the response.

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Andy 73

As IF they are equal?

Very funny if deliberate. Very embarassing if not.

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Spy: Acres of comedy talent make this smart spook spoof an instant classic

Andy 73

Re: General Theory of Relatively Funny things

I thought that dearth of right wing humour was because they were all out getting jobs and didn't have time to hang around student bars trying to get into the knickers of the cute girl on the Revue committee?

There really is a humour problem for the posters who're trying to prove how sophisticated they are by taking apart comedy on the Register Forums. Take the hint from the original review - you can describe why you find something funny for the benefit of others who find the same things funny. You can't make something 'not funny' because you're simply excluding yourself from the group.

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HP haters: Get ready to rage against THE MACHINE 'next year'

Andy 73

Not server++

Maybe I'm optimistic, but those posters complaining on the grounds that this won't run their web service any faster (if at all, with it's new OS) have missed the point.

In the data crunching corner of the world, most of the innovation is around describing 'non traditional' processing tasks and then mapping those (very painfully) on to traditional hardware. Everyone will tell you that adding another off the shelf node to a compute cluster is cheap and you can expand to build a cluster capable of handling the large loads that big data, inference and graph compute problems throw up. The problem is that big clusters do not scale linearly when it comes to reliability, and network and disk effects mean that at least half of a cluster's energy goes into overcoming the dead weight of having compute resources that don't match the task. We don't actually want a vaster, more manageable cluster of Linux boxes, we want a compute resource matched to the process description.

Soooo.. as Mars shots go, this could make some sense. We're starting to describe processing in terms of directed graphs of actions, which can be mapped to both batch and real time work loads. An architecture that starts with the premise of many actors consuming a vast store of messages in a robust and scalable way would potentially outperform today's clusters by orders of magnitude. Given the cost of provisioning and maintaining a modern cluster, the exotic nature of the Machine may be a small price to pay.

I'm reminded of the early introduction of NUMA machines, which suddenly introduced capabilities that allowed tasks that used to be done by a building full of mainframes to be done by a box that sat under your desk. This architecture could potentially do the same to clusters - and not by virtualising thousands of machines into one box.

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Celebrating 20 years of juicy Java. Just don’t mention Android

Andy 73

I waited...

I waited for the comments to come in after this article arrived. On my score card I got points for "language is verbose", "Desktop sucks" and "Java security is terrible". I'm quite surprised not to have got "It runs too slow" and "the VM is too big".

Despite all the revisionist history, Java got in there because it solved a whole bunch of problems that no other platform quite managed. For a start, outside of Delphi, it was just about the only 'platform' that you could get hold of. Sure you could mix up a nightmare brew of C, x-windows, sql libraries and so on, but that was so painfully vendor dependent that each and every project required a fresh start. In contrast, you could knock up a Java app with a gui that talked to the network, database and file system of your choice and not have to re-build it every time you needed to run it on a different machine or for a different client. The browser integration promised (but never delivered) that those apps would eventually be able to be delivered automagically by the internet, but even without it, software houses could deliver tools and demos and apps far more easily than they had before.

Things like the standard runtime libraries, easy dependency injection, automatic documentation generation and very consistent approach to API behaviour meant that picking up Java to do a job was an order of magnitude easier than the equivalent in just about any other language at the time. That's nothing to do with CS students or managers' preference - it was a handy tool that also happened to scratch the itch that most developers have to learn something new (which has since benefited Ruby, Python, Scala et. al.).

The Java guys have never really got UI development, and that pretty much killed off browser integration and desktop apps, despite repeated attempts like JavaFX. It's funny therefore to see Android use Java for a UI-heavy platform. (it's also probably worth mentioning that Minecraft seems to have done fairly well for a little game written in Java). Meanwhile, web development and now big data have absolutely thrived on the ability of Java to evolve into new areas.

Whilst Scala has been an interesting diversion, the small size and relatively limited resources of the development team have been a constraining factor - resulting in painfully slow tools and weirdly inconsistent core libraries. With Java 8 making useful inroads to functional styles, and the solidity of things like the collection classes, I'm not sure that the 'other JVM language' will ever get out of it's niche.

So - thank you Java. I still remember evaluating it for an early project (and having to wait for it to be delivered by post on a CD) and twenty years later, it's still relevant to my clients and still evolving into new areas. It's far from perfect, but it does a lot of jobs pretty well. Long may it continue.

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Get another loan, fanbois, the new MacBook Pro and iMac are here

Andy 73

Nothing like it

I use Windows, Linux, Android, OSX and a host of other operating systems in the course of my work - I'm fairly platform agnostic, but avoid the Apple consumer products as I'm not keen on the lock in. That said, I've been using an MBP for two years and it's a fantastic developer's machine - powerful, fast and mechanically robust. It gets dropped in a backpack at the end of each day (no sleeve) and bounced around on the commute and (touch wood) remains in perfect condition. Compare this to any other windows laptop and it's head and shoulders ahead in terms of longevity and utility.

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Back to the Future: the internet of things as imagined in 1985

Andy 73

Been there, done that..

My FIL was developing home automation, switches and sensors back in the 80's - you could switch on your kettle from across the Atlantic, answer your door with a remote control and all of the 'not quite useful' concepts that the IoT brigade are currently getting over-excited about.

The point has to be that we build our environment to suit the simple needs of a simple bag of flesh - simple light switches, the front door not so far away from the rest of the house, the heating more or less able to keep the temperature within tolerable bounds and so on. Sure, you can impose multi-zone ultra-precise control and feedback on all that, but (a) we don't naturally think that way and (b) we don't actually care. Do I want complex lighting schemes controllable from a smart-phone? No - I switch the light on when I walk into the room, and off when I walk out. A bit brighter, or a bit dimmer occasionally, but none of that justifies spending several hundred pounds to make a job that is already pretty convenient more complex and more prone to problems.

I don't doubt that someone will come up with something interesting eventually, but unless the device makes a significant difference to the way you live your life, there's no reason to spend so much effort and money when there are simple alternatives in the depressingly analogue world.

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Failure to launch: Hadoop will be 'anaemic' for years, says Gartner

Andy 73

Re: Java too inefficient, unstable, and information design is wrong

Oh dear.

Java's actually very good for this sort of stack - portable, robust and flexible enough to embrace the steady shift of development frameworks as we better understand the problems we're trying to resolve. It's far from inefficient and the tooling around it is excellent. If you're still comparing your iPhone sized database with the sort of thing we're doing with Hadoop, you need to re-read the part of the manual that explains how not all databases are the same. The system I'm currently working on consumes about a terabyte of data a day and retains that indefinitely. Not only that, but it delivers value - we're talking eight figure sums annually here for a single use case, but that is a long, long way from the sort of thing you'd achieve with SQLite.

What is the problem is the issue of wrangling a cluster of a few hundred machines and providing production level SLAs on processes running on that cluster. The tooling is catching up, but we're working from the ground up on technology that is still desperately immature. There are a LOT of moving parts in a typical deployment, and whilst Hortonworks, Cloudera and the others are getting better at bringing a working system up, there is much to be done to ensure BAU services are business as usual, not a series of experiments. It doesn't help that there are dozens of different frameworks and approaches to implementing a given solution - nearly everyone I talk to has found a new combination of tools to use and that's preventing companies from focussing their efforts on making one particular toolset feature complete and robust.

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Don't shoot the Messenger: NASA's suicide probe to punch hole in Mercury

Andy 73

Ooopps

So when it turns out we have accidentally declared war on the peace loving Mercurians, we'll know who to blame.

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AUTOPILOT: Musk promises Tesla owners a HANDS-OFF hands-on

Andy 73

Re: They'll get burned by these updates eventually

And yet Microsoft, Apple, Google, and the Linux community all survive with automatic patching and no-one has managed to hold the entire world to ransom.

That's not to say it can't happen, and of course updates have caused problems in the past. However, I think most companies understand their exposure.

When it comes to terrorist plots, stopping middle class managers from getting to their meetings on time is hardly going to have the impact they'd want.

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BBC: We'll give FREE subpar-Raspberry-Pis to a million Brit schoolkids

Andy 73

So... where's the spec?

As above.

The only reason I can conceive for not using a general purpose device like the Pi is if you can make it significantly cheaper. Given the low cost of the Pi, I'd be interested to see the specs of the MicroBit.

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The BBC wants to slap a TAX on EVERYONE in BLIGHTY

Andy 73

Do I want the dominant nation (America) to completely dominate the media I watch? No.

Do I want advertisement and (expensive) subscription rates to be the only way I pay for my media? No. (and whichever way you cut it, the monthly charges for Sky, Netflix etc. are easily as high as the BBC when you consider the range of content they provide).

Do I think the BBC has innovated in the digital space? Absolutely. Whilst the US argued over content rights for streaming media, and fought patent battles, the BBC delivered iPlayer and made swathes of quality current and historical content available.

Do I use the BBC news, weather and other sites on a regular basis. Yes.

Do I listen to Radio Three, or Six? No - but I'm glad they're there to support artists who'd otherwise have to fight angry tigers on "I Have X-factor Get Me Out Of Here" in order to be heard.

Do I think the BBC is biased? Probably, and it varies across channels and programmes, but so is every other media outlet.

Should the BBC be funded to continue to punch way above it's weight on the global stage? Absolutely, though how I have no idea.

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NO ONE is making money from YouTube, even Google – report

Andy 73

Re: No one making money from YouTube

I wouldn't suggest YT just puts up a paywall - and of course most visitors cannot or will not ever pay.

At the same time, whilst you say you won't put your credit card into your son's play account, you probably did to let him play Minecraft. If you could 'charge up' his YT account with a one-off payment of, say £2 and that would then let him watch 2000 videos free of advertising, would you find that so onerous?

YT already distinguishes between monetised and non-monetised videos, it wouldn't be a stretch to identify 'premium' video channels that require a subscription, or to specify as a content producer that you will accept a specific combination of free/paid/advert-laden views.

None of this stops YouTube from carrying on exactly as it is, but would open up a more concrete revenue stream for people who don't want to only watch/produce hilarious cat videos.

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Andy 73

Re: No one making money from YouTube

Zoella and a few others are exceptions rather than the rule. Given the vast number of videos and channels that get posted to YT, a small set of outliers getting large amounts of attention (and therefore money) is to be expected.

However, if you only get a 'normal' amount of attention (say, the sort of viewing figures that many BBC programmes get and are happy with), the revenue is dramatically smaller. Typically smaller than the production costs of even a modest 'proper' video.

The economics seem to mean that unless you're pushing out something new on a near-daily basis, and your production costs are nil (ie. you're a vlogger), you're basically not going to make money.

If Google implemented something like micropayments and paid content authors a tenth of a penny per view, the economics would change dramatically - and the skew away from a tiny handful of mega-stars might allow for better quality content. I suspect a lot of viewers would gladly pay that sort of money just to view videos with no interruptions.

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Renewable energy 'simply WON'T WORK': Top Google engineers

Andy 73

Re: I seem to remember

I think the issue is that you may indeed heat your house with a GSHP (nice big garden?), but I bet you still have lights, washing machine, dishwasher, tumble-dryer, wifi, tv and a dozen other electronic gizmos plugged in or on charge. I would bet you travel to work in a car (or rail, bus) and fly abroad at least once a year. I imagine your house is relatively new to be efficiently heated by GSHP - so the materials are likely to have high carbon cost.

The cost of moving to renewables is not just magically switching on the GSHP we all have hiding in our gardens, but building them, delivering them, ensuring the housing stock is sufficiently energy efficient to use them. On top of that, some huge percentage of the population are not in locations where GSHPs can be installed. Even if they were, they would still commute, use modern tech and fly abroad on holiday. You can airily wave away the needs of the third world countries ("let them all use solar!"), but beyond nice, very low powered (and not very bright) LED lights, the moment they start pulling themselves up to a better standard of living, they'll need massively more energy too.

Your personal heating is a gnat's testicle compared to the steaming pile of energy we all use all the time. This is from someone who has a low energy home, heats it through solar and on-site biofuels (logs!) and has looked into the options for off-grid and renewables.

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FALL of the MACHINES: How to KILL the Google KARATE BOT, by our expert

Andy 73

Re: Every time...

Yes, but have you heard how *loud* it is... you'll hear that coming from a mile away

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What kind of generation doesn't stick it to the Man, but to Taylor Swift instead?

Andy 73

Quality of our society

There's some ideal that, for a culturally healthy society the talented creators should be encouraged (and let's not kid ourselves that these are plentifully available, we've all seen X-Factor trying to find a single talent from a pool of tens of thousands). As such, I'm all for elevating those few to a point of wealth and success. Those that argue that historically musicians used to have to roam the country to earn their crust miss out the fact that historically we lived in mud huts and the majority of the population were illiterate.

Both extremes of the argument (big music corps v.s the music should be free) are exactly that - extremes. I'm all for the current system being realigned, but to go to the other extreme and destroy the incentive to create is just foolish. Arguing that people will create anyway also misses the point - why should we restrict our culture to only those who happen to have the rare combination of talent and dumb pig-headedness needed to create when they are punished for doing so?

Notably the same argument goes for any intellectual work - we've mentally downgraded it's value as the supply suddenly seems so plentiful, but in doing so we're making a strong economic case for lowest common denominator work rather than brilliance. If we restrict the supply (or flood the market from a single source) we lessen the likelihood that outliers can crop up that produce something amazing.

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A drone of one's own: Reg buyers' guide for UAV fanciers

Andy 73

So... where's the list?

This article has a certain amount of stating the obvious, and could have been written at any time over the last couple of years. How about actually comparing some of the current kit available to buy/build?

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Andy 73

Re: For kids - gyro stabilised small quadcopters

Agreed. We have a Hubsan X4 - it's cheap, it records acceptable video, it's easy to fly and it's a good introduction to all the things you have to consider when owning a drone: maintenance, repairs, batteries, planning flights and so on.

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Our Vultures peck at new Doctor Who: Exterminate or, er ... carrion?

Andy 73

Story arcs and episodes

I like PC, like the one-liners and the darker approach.

What doesn't work so well for me is the harsh line between story arc and episodic format. Moffat seems to have fallen into the rhythm of one-concept per episode (too often borrowed from a film), which gives little time to explore an idea before they have to leap to a quick conclusion (*cough* shooting a spaceship with a gold arrow). The heavy handed teasers that something else is going on do not constitute a story arc, so much as build to a series end that cannot possibly satisfy once you've got past the "so that's what it meant" discovery.

A little more continuity between episodes would help, as would one or two properly identifiable baddies that the doctor can bash up against rather than simply not understand before producing a rabbit from his hat. At the moment, it's like watching a pin-ball machine: individual events are exciting, but the lack of any flow makes it a bit exhausting.

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Bring your spade: The BIG DATA Gold Rush has begun

Andy 73

If analysis leads to actions

There are some companies who use big data systems solely so they can tell their clients that their services need big data systems. Equally some use the technology because if their employees thought they were working in yet another low-end service shed, they'd go and find somewhere more CV positive to work.

On the other hand, you can find yourself working on a project where the company behaviour is sufficiently well characterised (MVT et. al.) and the product sufficiently data-led (e.g. large volume online sales) that you can plot a straight line between insight and action, and then close the loop with feedback on sales uplift. At that time, yes you can realise value. If you are unable to identify what you are going to change as a result of the vague insights you hope you might get, or if you are unable to measure the difference between your approaches, then big data (however you define it) is not going to pay its way.

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Microsoft splurges 2½ INSTAGRAMS buying Minecraft maker Mojang

Andy 73

Not sure about the price but..

How many companies have tried to build a persistent online world that builds communities and has interest outside of the hardcore gaming community? How many companies successfully support 100m users? Clearly there is service knowledge and technical understanding that is of value to any company wanting to scale online environments. Add in a large user-base and it makes some sense.

From another perspective, this sort of success isn't something you can produce to order. Notch was lucky to hit the right combination of elements and skilled enough to respond to the early community to fine tune the recipe. Having got there, Minecraft has successfully seen off many imitators. At the same time it's been clear for a while that Notch himself has been far less comfortable managing the expectations of a global audience, so his exit is understandable.

My understanding is that a lot of the costs for Mojang are in maintaining a global server infrastructure, so you could imagine that being brought under Microsoft's wing could result in savings and hence more easily reached profits.

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HAMR time for Google's MapReduce, says not-so-startup

Andy 73

Re: Next please

Crunch - why not Cascading or Pig? The point is, there are a lot of options in this space right now, most of which are moving/already run on the new execution engines. I'm glad you feel you can call the 'winner' on this, but from where I'm sitting we're back in the era of fighting over which text editor to use. It all generates plenty of work for the 'serious' end of the industry (yeah, and our production cluster is bigger than yours), but jumping from framework to framework to keep up with the latest trends is not ultimately productive.

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Andy 73

Next please

It's fairly clear that we can see beyond Map/Reduce to more sophisticated distributed processing. There are quite a few contenders for the next generation platform and it looks like this is yet another.

However, I don't think we're there yet. Most options are about reducing the pain of M/R when you've got iterative jobs and more complex work flows, but a lot of arguably unnecessary pain remains. At some point I'd expect a generic way to describe such work flows to emerge and to become the de-facto standard. For now, none of the proposals are so compelling that developers are stopping coming up with proposal n+1.

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Boffins attempt to prove the UNIVERSE IS JUST A HOLOGRAM

Andy 73

Gotta love physicists

To paraphrase: "A positive result will mean we come out of this experiment knowing less than we started!"

Working out we're holograms from within the hologram is cool. When it gets interesting is when we work out a way to do something about it.

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Not so Instagram now: Time-shifting Hyperlapse iPhone tool unveiled

Andy 73

Re: the hyperlapse

I think that's a gross misunderstanding of MS's technique - unlike digital image stabilization techniques where you move successive images around to minimise 'shake', MS are generating 3D geometry along the entire path of the movie and using it to back fill missing segments.

So rather than aligning images, they're creating a completely artificial camera path and using images and computed geometry to render that path. I'm not aware of F/OSS doing that, and maybe you need to take that chip off your shoulder?

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Brit kids match 45-year-old fogies' tech skill level by the age of 6

Andy 73

Good

We're desperate for good Hadoop engineers, with solid Java, web services and Nosql experience..

Foolishly we were looking at people who'd been in the industry for a few years, when we should be interviewing 6 year olds.

There again..

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Robot snaps on yellow RUBBER GLOVES, preps to invade Canada

Andy 73

If they did that in the UK, pranksters would have put it on the Eurostar by now and be partying with it in Ibiza within the week.

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Nintend-OH NO! Sorry, Mario – your profits are in another castle

Andy 73

Just got a Wii U

Our boy has just had his birthday and we got him a Wii U to replace an aging Wii. With Super Mario 3D World and Mario Kart 8, he's delighted. It's a nice system and the fact that there are few games doesn't matter to him because the few that do exist are outstanding and games he plays for years (literally, he restarted Mario Galaxy recently and played it through, missing nothing).

Nintendo have never played well with third parties (Rare were the one exception and they played a clever political game to get in there), so they've always been more dependent on their own titles. It makes the consoles look more limited compared to Playstation and XBox, but doesn't hurt the owner if they're happy with the Nintendo 'style'.

As a techie, of course I'd love a system that gives photorealistic graphics, real online environments and so on, but as a Dad I play casually and cannot see the point of investing in the Xbox or Playstation ecosystems when the vast majority of games are just cannon fodder and very expensive for the limited time I can put into them. We bought the Wii U knowing there were enough games to 'last until Christmas' and the upcoming releases look like they'll go far beyond that. I enjoy dipping into Mario and if I want something more 'sophisticated', it'll go on my PC.

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Adam Afriyie MP: Smart meters are NOT so smart

Andy 73

Good article, Smart meters overhyped

We've had smart meters in our energy-efficient home for five years now. As has been pointed out, usage goes like this:

1. Install meter

2. Gasp at how much power appliance X uses

3. Get used to it and do nothing, as we need appliance X and a replacement costs hundreds

The really hungry appliances are easily matched by 'background' kit (lights, things on charge, fridge, broadband) any one of which costs a lot of money to make a relatively small cost change.

For homes where it would be possible to make a bigger saving (e.g. electric hot water), there is often a reason why the expensive option is there (no gas, family can't afford boiler replacement etc.), so a meter isn't actually going to make a difference either. Of course consumer education is a good thing and some will make the switch, but you could achieve the same thing with a TV campaign explaining how expensive it is to heat your home via different routes.

I heartily applaud an MP who has considered these issues and realises that Smart Meters are an expensive commitment in a rapidly evolving field - but the question then is: What should we be doing? I quite like the Smart home hub (e.g. OpenDCU) idea where instead of putting in a closed bit of kit, we support an adaptable smart home infrastructure and standards that allow many to use it in interesting ways. Much like France introducing Minitel it could have a much bigger effect than just measuring our energy bills.

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