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* Posts by gherone

26 posts • joined 18 Aug 2009

Ten... freeware gems for new PCs

gherone

Re: Backup - Karen's Replicator - try TeraCopy

Tried Karen's Replicator, Microsoft's SyncToy, RapidBackup, SyncBack, Yadis file Sync, RichCopy from Microsoft, etc. all fail on large data sets (1.5+ TB total size and over 100K files) transferred over a network. The only one which did not quit is TeraCopy - there is a free version, and it is the only copy / sync utility I found which generates CRC 32 for the files it copies/checks and does not quit with very large datasets (NAS to NAS or local disk to NAS). http://codesector.com/teracopy free for non-commercial use only. FastCopy http://ipmsg.org/tools/fastcopy.html.en also deserves an honorable mention for handling large file sets.

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AMD sacks 1,400 to chase 'emerging markets'

gherone
Thumb Down

Grrrrr.....

It is so much easier to just fire and hire new people instead of spending the same severance pay on re-training your existing engineers. In addition, an 11% RIF also greatly enhances loyalty from your remaining work force. /sarcasm off/

Seen this movie before - after a 10+% RIF, whoever was not let go will look around, and jump ship if given an opportunity to do so. Without the RIF, a lot less people would even dream of looking for other positions. And the people who leave, are usually your best performers, not the next in line at the bottom of the barrel, as they are the ones asked to pick up extra work for no extra pay and reduced job security.

AMD already has some nice products - their APUs are in very high demand, and there is a reason for it. So, instead of focusing on what works (like fixing performance issues in "Bull-dozer" CPUs and further improving the APUs, maybe adding ECC memory support to their video engines so they have a better chance of catching up with NVIDIA in HPC applications), they want to go chase a low margin, already crowded market, in which they have no prior experience, like ARM. BRILLIANT! I can now see that the new CEO is really earning his pay....

Re ARM-64 servers - they look more like a solution looking for a problem, given the current state of virtualization and capability of moving workloads on demand across physical nodes, then a highly desirable, high growth and high profit margin market. They will certainly find some buyers, but percentage wise, compared to Xeon or Opteron based servers, I doubt they will amount to much. You need a very compelling $$$ argument for a new architecture, and for ARM, cost savings are questionable - the delta in CPU cost is a very small number compared to the total hw and sw cost associated with a new server, and power savings are largely negated by the advances in virtualization, given the delta in processing power between ARM and Xeon / Opteron CPUs. If you can consolidate 3-5 ARM servers on a single Xeon / Opteron server, I highly doubt there are any price or operating energy savings, and you have more possible points of failure.

AMD making ARM CPUs for phones or tablets - it does not make any sense, it makes a lot more sense to push for even lower power APUs which are x86 compatible (which they already have on the horizon).

The only reason ARM is on the map AT ALL, are low power battery operated applications where you can get by with fairly small computing power (anybody remember RCA 1802 CPU? - low power is a niche market ignored by most CPU makers, with low volumes, at least until smart cell phones exploded) . Intel stronghold on x86 architecture prevented low power x86 alternatives to be developed by others, which gave ARM a chance. This does not mean that ARM is a good chip for high performance computing, and once you get into server territory, you have to use performance enhancing tricks already patented by established players. Cache coherency and parallel out of order code execution have enough patents around them to make life really interesting for anybody new to the field.

Pushing for higher end CPUs is a must for AMD, but the latest CPUs performed poorly compared to their prior generation Phenom II, as they have much longer pipelines (like Intel's Pentium 4). They need to either fix the architectural issue (kind of hard, short of major surgery) or quickly increase the clock speeds. They seemed to have the right focus on this, at least before this news set the organization in turmoil.

I really like AMD, and used their CPUs in all my home computers for 20 years (since their 286 CPUs), but I am highly skeptical of this new direction. They may loose focus as their best people will be shifted away from core products to chase money-loosing propositions dreamed up by marketing drones and a new CEO eager to show that he is "doing something to fix the company" (clue - AMD is not a dog or a cat, and "fixing it" may require a different set of skills).

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Samsung plots 3G iPhone, iPad bans in the Netherlands

gherone
Megaphone

Samsung wins only if these are "implementation patents" not part of FRAND pool

Standards covered by FRAND do not include the best or cheapest way to implement the standard - they just show what you need to do to be compliant. How you implement the standard may be subject to additional patents, not part of FRAND pool (additional patents not essential, just bloody useful to implement the standard cheaper, faster, or taking less battery power).

I guess until Samsung makes their case (or submits a list of patents they claim Apple is crossing) we do not know if they are part of FRAND pool or not.

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gherone

Most likely then cannot not, due to contract terms

but it would be great to force apple to keep on buying components they cannot use to make sellable products :)

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Samsung preps anti-iPhone 5 lawsuit before it's even out

gherone

See above....

There are plenty of patents with are not essential, just "bloody useful" to quote a reply from above. FRAND patents tell you what needs to be done to achieve compliance with a standard, not how to do it in the most effective way possible (they just give you a reference implementation). This is where the licensee's design team comes into play, and why you have implementation, performance and price variations between products compliant to the same FRAND standards, and such implementations may have their own patents, not part of the pool.

Typically, once you pay for a chip from company like Samsung, they agree not to sue you for using the chip and the IP incorporated into the chip (it is assumed that the sale price covers all associated licensing). However, Apple is using custom chips, designed by Apple, and without access to the exact wording of the contract between Apple and Samsung, one cannot say what Samsung IP is or is not included in the deal. Now, with Apple deciding to go elsewhere for their custom chips (TMS if I remember correctly), they are likely to loose any access they may have had to Samsung IP, which opens the door for the lawsuits even wider.

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gherone

The old guys have learned about MAD.....

As mentioned above, in today's world every one of the big Companies has a lot of patents which can cripple (take off market) pretty much any other product in the market place (in their fields). We can debate the relative merits of software, design, and business patents, their scope and vagueness, but they exist, and under current US law, they are legal.

As such, you have an inherent Mutually Assured Destruction pact between the really big players in the industry, which know that YOU CANNOT BUILD ANY PRODUCT TODAY without potentially crossing some patents already issued (or about to be issued) to somebody else. They can, and will, find some of your products which cross their patents and take your products off the market if you dare sue them first, negating any wins you may get by suing them.

Motorola, Samsung, Nokia, IBM, etc. have learned early that suing everybody in sight is a loose-loose proposition. They only sue (1) smaller companies with small pool of patents to extract royalties, or (2) when something really big is at stake. They WILL NOT sue everybody like Apple does, because they know the counter-suits will follow, and in the end nobody (except for lawyers) wins. Even when they call in the lawyers, the grown-up guys avoid suing suppliers or customers.

Apple is a new kid, just joining the class of companies listed above, based on sales and stock valuation. They are familiar with lawsuits against mom-and-pop stores, review and fan web sites, and much smaller companies, where they can bully everybody, but have little experience in dealing with huge companies, like Samsung, which can counter-sue based on their own patent pools, and force (at least some) Apple products off the market. It is time somebody teach them a lesson about MAD, and force them to grow up. If iEverything gets banned in a couple of markets, maybe Apple will re-evaluate their legal priorities.

Patents were intended to give the inventor a short-term monopoly in return for sharing the invention with the rest of humankind. They were not intended to cover design patents, like Apple's, specially with plenty of prior work floating around, nor companies with no intend to ever use the patent to make a real product (patent trolls). Of course, the best way forward would be to reform the legal patent system to bring it in line with the original intent, but this is not going to happen any time soon :(

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AMD snags Guinness World Record for clockiest chip

gherone
Happy

Wonder what can they do for production.....

If pushing 8.5GHz is doable with a lot of effort, can they do 4GHz for production, even in limited quantities and high prices?

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Hardware-happy HP has swallowed a Sun death pill

gherone
Happy

Agilent is doing OK....

HP's test equipment division has been known as AGILENT for quite a few years, and they are doing OK.....

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Googorola versus the Android ecosystem

gherone
Happy

Isn't Motogoo a better name

then googlerola?

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Has Google wasted $12bn on a dud patent poker-chip?

gherone
Megaphone

Do not discount basic radio patents....

There is a lot of IP in how to switch cell towers without dropping calls, how to keep the same audio level when you move around, and how to get around having multiple path for the same radio signal, not to mention antenna designs, variable power output amplifiers depending on distance and propagation to the nearest cell tower, power management in a portable transmitter, etc.

Motorola has been totally inept in protecting its IP - years ago, when my team had clear infringing examples from another major company, corporate attorneys refused to take action because the infringing party was also a customer ("we do not sue our customers - end of story").

There are a lot of patents and other IP owned by Motorola, and there are a lot more patents cross-licensed to Motorola over the years, which need to be examined before anybody can say if Google spent its money wisely or not.

Six Sigma and its successors (Digital Six Sigma, Process Average Testing, Lean Manufacturing) were invented in Motorola - and there are patents associated with them. It is likely that most electronics manufacturers in the world today are infringing some process patent owned by Motorola, regardless of what product they are making.

Do not confuse Motorola Mobility with a software or phone company - it has access to ALL old Motorola IP.

Motorola IP covers from semiconductors (remember Freescale and OnSemi? Moto has rights to all their IP up to the separation moment and a lot of companies would love to make micros for the embedded market compatible with older Moto CPUs), to assembly and test process for high volume electronic products, to MEMS, to automotive sensors and modules, telematics, location technology (the Highway Intelligent Vehicle System was demonstrated before 1994 and is still in the Corporate museum in Schaumburg, IL, afaik - it was a turn by turn navigation system years ahead of its time or commercial GPS units), satellite and space technology (Iridium works, it was just too expensive, but the same technology can be used for regular communication satellites by companies with no IP in the area), not to mention the obvious areas related to handsets and cell tower communication protocols.

It is true that Google needs some time and effort to fully understand and unlock the value of what they are buying, but please DO NOT sell short the value of Motorola IP.....

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gherone
Devil

Do not forget Moto was in the CPU business before SUN....

And Moto Mobility has co-ownership of all old Moto IP, including the parts which are now known as Freescale and OnSemi. There is a pretty good chance some SUN silicon is very close to one or another of Moto patents on memory interface, bus architecture, cache coherency, etc. and somebody at Google may be a lot more motivated to pursue litigation against Oracle then old Motorola or new Freescale ever was....

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Google SHOCK! Snaps up Motorola phone biz for $12.5bn

gherone
Devil

There is more IP in there then listed so far....

Both Mobility and Solutions parts have full rights to the IP of old Motorola. What google is getting is a much larger stash of IP then listed so far in the article or comments. I can say that Motorola did not defend its IP properly, and in most cases the higher ups had no idea how many patents were trampled up by competition. Also, keep in mind that Motorola has/had a huge chest of cross-licensed patents. Let's look at some of what is in there (incomplete list, but is a start):

1/ Process technology - Six Sigma, Lean, Process Average Testing - they all have patents and were invented in Motorola. Pretty much all companies out there making high volume electronics are probably infringing one or more Motorola process or manufacturing / testing patents, regardless of the product. Motorola did not want to sue people for using 6 sigma - Google may view things differently, at least where Apple is concerned.

2/ Silicon IP - Freescale and OnSemi may have been independent for a while, but Moto owns the old IP. Not sure if all of SUN's silicon is so far away from Moto's basic patents on memory interface to a CPU, cache coherency, dynamic clock speed changes, etc. to avoid counter-litigation for past infringement. This may help Google in its ongoing dispute with Oracle. Also, there are smaller guys out there who would LOVE to license the rights to make 'HC05, 68K, 'HC08, or 'HC11 / HC12 compatible chips - they are still used in high volume out there and will be for many years to come.

3/ Software - has anybody seen Moto's Java license? Until somebody can say for sure, it is a huge wildcard - it may get Google off the hook with Android as far as Java is concerned, at least for the future. Not to mention a lot of other software (Motorola made and sold its own Unix variant ages ago) which may come it handy...

4/ Basic RF and cell phone patents - Nokia and Moto may have had a cross license, but I would be amazed if Nokia had any rights to sub-license Moto's IP to Apple as part of their settlement. In other words, this alone may get Google home free and force Apple to cross-license.

5/ Satellite technology - Iridium worked, and the same basic technology / IP can be licensed to third parties, if Google is not interested in its own satellite fleet :)

6/ Automotive technology - Moto sold to Continental its automotive division in 2006, but it has IP license rights to all products made up to that point - from MEMS and packaging know-how, to sensors and automotive modules (trans, body, engine, powertrain, telematics). Some guys would be quite interested in that portfolio...

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Adaptec adds DRAM cache to entry-level RAID

gherone

Hardware RAID controllers are (mostly) obsolete.....

With today's CPUs and prices, software RAID is running circles around hardware RAID controllers. Not to mention that you can have a couple GB of RAM dedicated to caching, in a software RAID, which you cannot get at a reasonable cost in hardware controller. All the benchmarks I have seen, on the same hardware, show that software RAID is faster then hardware RAID on controllers below $1K.

If we start talking about data center stuff, the equation may be different - but for small, cheap servers (the market addressed by these cards) hardware RAID 5 does not have a business or engineering case.

There may be a business case for hardware RAID, for certain applications where software RAID support is not present, but not for a file server using a current OS with good software RAID support.

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Intel 320 SSD bug causes forum despair

gherone

VW reliability is nothing to brag about.....

As a VW Passat owner, I can say that they rate at the bottom of reliability charts here in US for a very good and well deserved reason - my car was in the shop to fix warranty issues 4 to 5x more often then any other car I owned....

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gherone
Devil

Windows is unstable without a swap file.....

It does not matter how much RAM you have - without a swap file, windows is unstable.... Best to set a system managed swap file on a dedicated partition (together with TEMP, TMP, and browser cache directories) on a regular disk or even a RAM disk :)

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gherone

It is EASY to wipe the disks....

With the right size hammer :) Anybody relying on "secure erase" of any disk deserves whatever comes their way - if you have any really sensitive data, physical destruction of the drives is the only way to guarantee security.

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gherone

Flash reliability is getting better but....

high temp data retention is much smaller than ambient temp data retention - keeping your SSD cool is always a good idea.

I have a little experience with Flash in automotive applications, so your mileage may vary in SSD applications and commercial temp ranges :).

You can reasonably expect data retention to go down as your number of write cycles goes up. Flash memory specs list two separate numbers: max number of write cycles, and guaranteed data retention for a virgin device (less then 10 erase/reprogram cycles). The devices I worked with could do 1M (million) erase/reprogram cycles, and keep the data for 10 years at 150C or 20 years at 125C (die temp, not ambient), but as far as I know nobody lists any guaranteed data retention time for a device subjected to 1M erase/reprogram cycles.....

ECC may help, but if you do not check your SMART counters on a regular basis, of if the firmware does not track ECC correction cycles, you may have failures with no warnings.

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Before 'the cloud' was cool: Virtualising the un-virtualisable

gherone
Happy

Forgot DesqView.....

Running multiple DOS boxes on a 286, each with its own BBS image and serial port / Courier modem (without even mentioning Fossil drivers for multi-port serial cards) could not be done 20 years ago without DESQVIEW, from the guys who brought us QEMM memory manager :)

Back when running a BBS with 4 modems on the same box was state of the art.....

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Intel's Tri-Gate gamble: It's now or never

gherone
Megaphone

Except that ARM does NOT have the same mfg process.....

"ARM design based on that same chip making process will win over the x86 design"

The question is if Intel on this new process is faster/cheaper then ARM on the processes available to the rest of the world, not if ARM is better then Intel designs on the same process.

Since Intel is not going to teach the rest of the world how to cheaply implement Fin FETs in production (there has to be a reason why nobody else did, in spite of lab samples being available for about 8 years, per ElReg), ARM chips will continue to be made using existing processes, which puts them at a disadvantage compared to Intel chips.

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Samsung countersues Apple on new ground

gherone
Jobs Horns

Not so easy with second sources....

Apple is using customized parts from Samsung. It is not easy for a third party to jump in, as Apple most likely has only the design rights, with no access to the semi mask set or the manufacturing process details. Having the design done in VHDL/whatever is a starting point for a custom part, and you need to run a lot of simulations and optimizations which are linked to the specific library you are using (process specific, ST and Atmel will give you a separate set of libraries to link your design to, for example, and you start the optimization and critical path analysis from scratch each time you move to a new vendor / fab / library). Even with the mask set in hand, moving a product to different fab for the same manufacturer, it is not trivial and takes time until you get qualification data (minimum of three wafer lots processed all the way, with statistical parametric data fully analyzed before you can turn on the volume at the new plant).

Changing the parts (and PCB) to get something compatible in the same form factor with full software backwards compatibility is not a weekend affair either, and is likely to require new FCC/CE/UL certifications plus internal tests to check for issues (add a couple of weeks at a minimum) before the new rev can go into production.

"Hello, Steve? Sorry to inform you, but we had a contamination problem in our CPU wafer fab, and it will take 10 weeks to resolve...." could be a serious issue for Apple. Steve did not really think this one through - I agree it is time for popcorn :)

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ARM's Intel challenger set for 2012 release

gherone
Happy

ARM is helping Intel

I would argue that as competition from AMD forced Intel to design better CPUs, a little competition from ARM will help both Intel and AMD to design more power efficient chips.

There is too much code already written for x86 architecture to port to ARM, so whenever possible, people will buy the hw to run their existing sw, not the other way around. ARM only got in because Intel and AMD had nothing to offer for that power efficient segment - now that both Intel and AMD have waken up, I expect them to give ARM a hard time expanding into their territory (servers, real notebooks and desktops).

As ARM already has a lot of code written for it, replacing it in existing apps will be a very tough sell fro Intel, but it will not replace x86 anytime soon.

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The 64-bit question

gherone
Happy

Driver issue work around via VMWARE :)

I am in the process of migrating my desktop to Win 7 x64, and I do have a couple applications and peripherals which have no drivers and are too expensive to throw out and replace with newer hardware (film scanner with ICE for example). For me, XP Pro in a VM on my 8GB Win7x64 machine (free VMPlayer from VMWare) has enough performance (I am emulating a 2 core CPU with 3GB RAM on a AMD quad core 2.8GHz with 8GB RAM) and runs the drivers for my Adaptec USB to SCSI USB2XCHG with no issues in the VM (as well as the scanner drivers, of course). I've run some benchmarks inside the VM and directly in Win7x64, and the video performance hit is very small (73fps vs 74fps in furrmark 1.65 1280x1024 no AA, Radeon 6770 video card). It does feel a little slower, but it is quite usable, and not having to reboot in order to use a program or older peripheral makes the performance hit and cost of the XP license worthwhile for me.

It is stupid of MS not to allow XP drivers in some sort of emulation mode in Win 7 and forces me to get the functionality I need using third party tools - there is no tech reason why they cannot do it, if I can do it with free tools. I had to use an XP license for the emulated machine, but I can use all the tools and programs I need (including good old MS DOS programs for my chip burner and in-circuit emulators) in a window on the same Win 7 x64 desktop next to the other x64 friendly programs, and talking to the same shared network resources as Win 7...

The idea that "you cannot run 16 bit programs in a 64 bit OS" is just marketing BS - you can run whatever you want / need, DOS, Linux, Win98 programs, XP, etc. all side by side, with a common clipboard between OSes and VMs - and ***THANK YOU*** VMWARE for making your great VM player/creator available for free :)

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Asus Eee PC 1215N 12in netbook

gherone

Thank you!

My bad - I missed the table on page 2 :)

Re the touchpad - does it have dedicated scroll bar areas or any support for gestures? Other eee notebooks have some gestures support (two fingers used for zoom and scroll for example instead of a dedicated area for scroll). Is there mechanical or audible feedback when the trackpad buttons are pressed? The HP mentioned before had tactile feedback that the buttons were pressed, but you had to push well past that point for the "click" to matter, to the tune of hurting your fingers. Pressing both buttons to open a new tab (standard in IE8, FF, Seamonkey) was a hit or miss proposition (mostly miss) - it it working reliably on the Asus 1215N?

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gherone
Alert

Missing data.....

Is the screen glossy or not? This is the primary gating factor for my purchase decisions...

Second, it is mentioned that the trackpad buttons are too stiff - care to elaborate? I had to return a HP notebook due to excessive force needed to press the buttons, as well as the trackpad buttons clicking before making contact; is this Asus any better? I tried the 10" eee notebooks and the buttons were OK, except for missing the third button in the center (and emulation software for the third button which did not work reliably).

Third, how is the trackpad in real use? Getting back to the HP I had to return, the trackpad was simply an area on the palm rest, so while typing you had a high probability of touching it my mistake, and moving the cursor randomly - no indentation, no demarcation you could feel with your hand and avoid unintended mouse movements.

I see more and more ergonomically challenged notebooks and El Reg is a great source of info on which ones to avoid - please do not skimp on details :)

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Google sets Android on pirates

gherone
Stop

Will not buy app which includes this technology

Any app with a "dial home in order to work" schema will not be installed on my phone. As listed by others, roaming and data charges are a big concern, but the bigger issue for me is the longevity of the developer. What happens if the developer is no longer around to provide authorization tokens? How will I get a refund for the application and my time spend to learn it when I can no longer use the application I paid for?

I tend to keep my apps around, and I have a VERY BIG issue with "I just fixed the help file, it is now a new version, please update / upgrade for only 50% of the original purchase price" which seems to be the trend in the industry. I have no issues with developers being paid, but I do have an issue with forced upgrades or mixing up a SALE (can use the software forever once I paid the license) with a TIME LIMITED RENTAL (until next rev comes around, 6 to 8 month down the road, then only the newer version gets tokens).

I still use once in a while my WordStar on a Kaypro 4 CP/M computer, and it still works, although none of the companies involved are still around (Digital Research for the OS, WordStart Corp. for the program and Kaypro for the hardware). If Google gets its way and this dial home for token schema takes off, you are SOL when, not if, any of the companies involved in the authorization chain goes out of business or decides to stop supporting the older versions of their software.

I've run into DRM issues with critical pieces of software which are no longer supported (vendors out of business, huge expenses to move over to a competitor) in the CAD and CAM world, and I see no reason to buy with my personal cash into the same problem on my cell phone.

Hope Marketplace clearly marks the apps which dial home in order to work, so I can avoid them like the plague....

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Communist car given electric overhaul

gherone
Happy

30 years on the rod AVERAGE LIFE for the original

I hope they keep the old Trabi's body panels and undercarriage - I owned the "combi" or wagon version, and I did carry 830Kg of cargo + 2 people in a car which was only 630Kg empty. Not fast, mind you, but I carry that cast iron stove for over 60Km in one afternoon. I doubt my current Subaru Forrester would make it out of the parking lot with 830Kg of cargo + 2 people inside. There is something to be said about a suspension system which can take such abuse. Average life on the road of a Trabi, per a documentary on History Channel is over 30 years - how many other cars can claim this?

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