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* Posts by Fazal Majid

160 posts • joined 16 May 2007

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Cisco and friends chase WiFi's searing speeds with new cable standard

Fazal Majid

It's not as if WiFi ever gets remotely close to the maximum theoretical bit rate, even with 802.11ac, so saturating Gigabit Ethernet is still a distant pipe dream.

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Apple, Google take on Main Street in BONKING-FOR-CASH struggle

Fazal Majid

Apple could ban the CurrenC app in tit for tat, but they probably won't bother as it looks likely to be stillborn. The Wal-Mart demographic doesn't overlap Apple's too much, but CVS should definitely be concerned at losing market share to Walgreens.

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‘For the love of Pete, America, learn about decent chocolate’

Fazal Majid

US chocolate stereotypes are 20 years out of date

European expat here, been living in San Francisco for nearly 15 years. Comments about American chocolate are ignorant. Just because LA is a wasteland doesn't mean Hershey's is the only choice available. There are some world-class US-based chocolate makers like Amano (Salt Lake City) or Guittard (Bay Area) that can compete with the best Europe has to offer. The US artisanal chocolate scene is vibrant, as is the bean-to-bar movement. Remember, the US is a huge and wealthy country, and even if the average standard of chocolate is abysmal, a small fraction of connoisseurs can easily sustain quality suppliers.

US chocolate standards are stricter than Europe's, as only a product made with 100% cocoa butter can be labeled as chocolate, whereas in Europe, because of British lobbying "chocolate" can be legally adulterated with up to 5% margarine. Granted, Hershey's is lobbying to water standards down to European standards, but they haven't succeeded yet.

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Time to test your sarcasm detectors: It's the UN's global comms shakeup extravaganza!

Fazal Majid

Re: If the ITU ran the Internet

Nope, we'd be running CLNP over X.25 over ISDN. Or more likely, nothing, since no one would have been able to afford it, assuming any vendor would have been able to implement the spec in the first place. Remember, ATM is actually the forward-looking protocol among that set. In my misspent youth when I worked for France Telecom circa 1996, their R&D Dept. was very proud to have produced an IP-free web browser that used ATM instead of TCP, Because clearly TCP/IP was the main hindrance to adoption of the web...

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Greedy datagrabs, crap security will KILL the Internet of Thingies

Fazal Majid

It's always the public key crypto used for key exchange that is the bottleneck

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Fazal Majid

Re: Industry has had IoT for quite a while

Yes, and those SCADA systems are notoriously insecure despite their high prices and the fact they control critical infrastructure and are managed by professionals . Even air gapping is insufficient, cf. stuxnet. What hope does cheap semi-disposable consumer equipment run by people without a clue have?

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No one wants iOS 8 because it's for NERDS - dev

Fazal Majid

Minor improvements

Apple hyping this release as the biggest ever is ridiculous, as the user-visible improvements are minor. There are 2 I was eagerly awaiting, however: Duckduckgo as default search engine, and reporting which apps are battery hogs.

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Adobe axes R&D lab in China, insiders blame mandarins and pirates

Fazal Majid

Re: Watch this space

Technically, it's mercantilism, not chauvinism (although the two are closely related).

Every major economy did it: the UK against the Netherlands in the 17th century, the US against Britain in the 19th (this was one of the drivers for the Civil War, the North wanted mercantilist policies, whereas the commodities-driven export economy of the South was against), Germany in the 19th as well, Japan after WWII. It's only after mercantilism has succeeded that the countries who used it successfully to wrest economic leadership suddenly turn into ardent free-marketers urging emerging powers not do do the same.

That said, China is close to the shifting point - Huawei's R&D budget and yearly patents are among the highest in its industry, for example, and they have other world-leading companies like Haier.

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Google Apple grapple brings crypto cop block to Android

Fazal Majid

"Google-powered devices will be equally attractive to those who value their privacy."

Google is the #1 threat to privacy, even ahead of the NSA. No one who values their privacy uses their services. The single greatest feature in iOS 8 is DuckDuckGo as a search engine option.

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Bonking with Apple has POUNDED mobe operators' wallets

Fazal Majid

Re: Apple NFC

NFC is for Apple Pay only.

Apple wants you to use Bluetooth Low Energy (BT 4.0 Smart) for all the use cases you describe. You can pair your phone with your AppleTV that way, for instance. They probably put in NFC under duress as that was the only way to interoperate with payment terminals already out there, which support NFC but not BLE.

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Fazal Majid

Re: Well there you go

Their market share of attractive (i.e. spendthrift) demographics is huge, however, and that's what matters most for merchants.

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Payment security bods: Nice pay-by-bonk (hint: NO ONE uses it) on iPhone 6, Apple

Fazal Majid

Re: Help me out here...

The issue is cellcos, banks and handset manufacturers were all angling for the pie. If they couldn't succeed, they would make sure the others failed. Net result: stalemate. Verizon disabled NFC and the Secure Element in the phones they sell, for instance (they want the SE to reside in the SIM card where they can control it, not in the phone where the handset manufacturer is).

Apple clearly has cut a deal with the banks where they agreed not to take a cut or collect data, so they have a better chance of getting adoption on the merchant terminals because banks won't actively sabotage their efforts the way they did with Google, Samsung or Verizon.

On the flip side, this system is built on a foundation of quicksand, the terminally insecure credit card number. It's not clear how it will handle the 2015 transition to EMV.

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Stick a 4K in them: Super high-res TVs are DONE

Fazal Majid

Yay for 4K

I just bought a 50-inch Samsung HU8550 for $1800 (after $700 instant rebate) to replace the ancient 42-inch analog 720p plasma set that came with my new house (burn-in and crazy pixels galore). This unit is certified Netflix 4K compatible, but I fully expect the primary 4K content will be from projecting photos. A 4K TV has 8 megapixels and is ideal for that purpose. The price is about double what an equivalent 1080p unit costs today, and most likely the price will fall down to the current level within a year or two, at which point no one will buy a 1080p model, just like no one buys SD or 720p today.

The key is to buy a set with HDMI 2.0, HDCP 2.2 and HEVC/H.265, which only became available in 2014. To qualify for the UHDTV 4K label, TVs also need 10-bit color, which is not yet widespread.

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Say goodbye to the noughties: Yesterday’s hi-fi biz is BUSTED, bro

Fazal Majid

Re: "If you want to listen to great-sounding music"

You can buy musician's earplugs like Etymotics to reduce sound levels without altering the frequency response.

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Snowden leaks latest: NSA, FBI g-men spied on Muslim-American chiefs

Fazal Majid

Ghafoor has known about this for a while, and has been at the forefront of exposing warrantless surveillance, hence the retaliation. Here is his lawyer six years ago recounting the Kafkaesque process of suing the government for it:

http://www.salon.com/2008/07/09/alharamain_lawsuit/

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Amazon Prime Music opens – but where's the streaming music?

Fazal Majid

I just tried it

It's like the Netflix of music. Exceedingly limited collection, even for music older than 6 months.

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Fazal Majid

Re: So let me get this straight...

If they have 34% of the market, 34% of $30M is $10M, not $6M or $5M.

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Amazon turns screws on French publisher: Don't feel sorry for Hachette, it's just 'negotiation'

Fazal Majid

Re: whingers

Amazon has 80% market share in eBooks in the US, and higher internationally. Apple is hardly the monopolist in books (the only industry they are one is music downloads).

What Amazon is asking publishers to do is subsidize the predatory pricing it will engage in, to kill off competitors like Barnes & Noble, and thus make the publishers even more dependent on Amazon's monopsony. Kind of how the Chinese government charges the families of executed people for the price of the bullets...

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Beijing to Washington: Ratted-out routers not welcome here

Fazal Majid

Re: bully boy, more like pushover...

"Shows how much you know, there has never been a recent trade agreement that has worked out for the US."

Whether those trade agreements work for the US as a whole is debatable, but they certainly work very well as designed for those in power. Just like how the Iraq war was an unmitigated disaster that will cost anything from $2 Trillion to $4Tn when all the costs are tallied, but helped make Dick Cheney and his cronies billions in war profiteering. The net total is highly negative for the US as a whole, but it's all upside for those who made the decision.

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Nod Labs forges one (Bluetooth) ring to rule them all

Fazal Majid

Dilbert foresaw this

relevant comic strip here.

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Voice-babble-over-Wi-Fi lands in Europe – take that, mobe masties

Fazal Majid

How is this new?

People have been using Skype and other VoIP tools for over a decade and a half from WiFi hotspots. Skype will even let you log on to Boingo and pay for the access using Skype credits.

As for KPN, yes, it is one of the worst telcos in Europe, with rotting infrastructure and a disdain for customers seldom seen West of the former Iron Curtain.

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Apple stabs Heartbleed bug in AirPort Extreme, Time Capsule gear

Fazal Majid

That's because those devices are based on Linux, not Darwin

And thus probably using OpenSSL as its SSL/TLS stack (the main alternatives being GnuTLS, which has security issues of its own, or PolarSSL).

One of the little secrets Apple would rather keep to itself...

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IBM rides nightmarish hardware landscape on OpenPOWER Consortium raft

Fazal Majid

Re: arm -> low power. POWER -> ?

Better single-thread performance is a valid answer. I'm sure there are algorithms even Google's PhD's haven't been able to parallelize yet, and need the fastest cores it can get. CPU power consumption is only a small part of server power utilization, and I find it hard to believe POWER can match the throughput per dollar of x64, but then again neither will x64 match server ARM64 when it starts shipping in volume in a couple of years' time.

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Fazal Majid

It has to do with the economics of processor R&D and fab investment. Intel (and AMD) server processor R&D rides on the coat-tails of the much larger desktop/laptop processor market with its huge economies of scale. Niche processors like POWER have much smaller shipments to amortize the R&D on, or build a use-case for hugely expensive leading-edge fabs. There is thus a chicken-and-egg effect that prevents them from reaching the price/performance point of Intel processors.

Even Intel is feeling the pinch, as shown by Krzanich's recent moves to open Intel fabs to third-party designed chips. AMD couldn't keep up, despite having invented x64, and had to spin off its own fabs.. Even Intel and HP couldn't make Itanium succeed in the marketplace, despite access to Intel's fab prowess and HP's server market share, it's hard to see how a hollow shell of a company like IBM could achieve that. Google might, but just how strong is its commitment to the platform? Enough to fund ongoing R&D into the platform? Seems doubtful - their hardware investments this far have concentrated on cutting margins and middlemen, e.g. building their own switches from Broadcom parts.

ARM has even higher volumes than Intel, if not fat juicy margins to fund R&D from, and is thus the more likely disruptor, something Intel is keenly aware of, as ARM's strategy is essentially the same one Intel used with great success to kill off RISC architectures.

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Firefox biz Mozilla makes Beard new interim chief executive

Fazal Majid

Another step in the wrong direction, stagnation and irrelevance

Mozilla is rich due to the advertising fees Google pays it for being the default search engine in Firefox. Paradoxically, this comfortable situation means they are not experiencing a sense of urgency commensurate with their slow Yahoo-like slide towards irrelevance as mobile (Webkit/Blink-based) browsing is usurping the desktop.

The search referral wealth is also funding a lot of useless claptrap like Open Badges that are a distraction from the radical changes Mozilla needs to make if it is to survive. The organization will need strong technical leadership to make this happen, and it isn't going to come from wishy-washy liberal arts or marketing types like Beard or Mitchell Baker. Losing Eich is a terrible blow, however unpalatable his opinions may have been, and replacing an engineering-background CEO with a marketer makes it less likely that a replacement will accept the job.

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ICANN boss: 'Russia and China will NOT take over interwebs'

Fazal Majid

ICANN is mostly a failure

They failed to wrest control of the dot-com zone back from Verisign, and have mostly tacked on additional fees on domain name registrations. Indirectly that means the Department of a Commerce has failed in its oversight. The organization is opaque and unaccountable (google "Karl Auerbach ICANN). There are a few bright spots like DNSSEC and IDN, but they are few and far between.

Putin, Erdogan, Iran or the Chinese Communist Party don't need control over ICANN to enforce Net censorship. The only question is about fighting for the gravy train.

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Google wearables: A solution looking for a rich nerd

Fazal Majid

Re: Notifications

That use case makes sense, but getting more notifications is the last thing you should want. Without getting all Zen or Walden-esque about it, interruptions break your flow and hinder your ability to get things done. Frittering your attention onto what your phone or smartwatch thinks is important means you are ceding the control of your most important resource to someone else, e.g. advertising companies and their business need to turn us into Pavlovian dogs awaiting their next hit of notification so we can be exposed to more ads.

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Fazal Majid

Rich nerds wear expensive Swiss mechanical watches

It's one of the few articles of jewelry a man can wear without appearing tasteless, along with cufflinks.

Most of these are automatic and don't need recharging or rewinding.

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Europe approves common charger standard for mobe-makers

Fazal Majid

Micro-USB is too flimsy

The Micro-USB connector was designed by Nokia and is the flimsiest piece of garbage imaginable, being much less robust in practice than the Mini-USB connector it replaced. Interestingly, the USB-IF is now working on a Lightning-inspired replacement (in terms of mechanical design, not necessarily the dynamic pin assignment or DRM).

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'Amazon has destroyed the unicorn factory' ... How clouds are making sysadmins extinct

Fazal Majid

Re: as one of those unicorns

We ran on AWS for about a year, with terrible performance and availability, and switched as soon as we could hire a top-flight sysadmin. The tipping point for where it makes more sense to build than rent is about $20K/month in cloud fees.

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Hey doc, what's the PC's prognosis? A. Long-term growth below zero

Fazal Majid

Other factors at play

In addition to the factors listed in the article, it also has to do with:

1) Moore's law running out of steam in terms of single-thread performance and the fact most software is still not optimized for multicore. Why upgrade when you will hardly get any performance benefits? Swapping out a SSD for a hard drive is the only upgrade that makes sense for most, and it doesn't require replacing the whole PC.

2) Versions of Windows since XP have been more reliable thanks to the NT underpinnings, and thus suffer less from the bit-rot older Windows experienced. They take longer to get unusable, and thus one of the main spurs to replacing the PC has gone.

3) Software ani-piracy measures like activation have made it more of a chore to migrate to the new PC.

4) PCs are not subsidized like smartphones in exchange for 2-year contract lock-in. That leaves less money for marketing and in-store placement.

5) Mobile Internet connectivity has improved (the AT&T LTE I get at home in San Francisco is much faster than the AT&T DSL I have to endure). This reduces the necessity of using a home computer. At the same time, most laptops ship without a wireless WAN adapter, and even when they include one, carriers won't offer plans as attractive as those available on smartphones and tablets, the assumption being laptop users will consume more bandwidth.

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Well done on the privacy lawsuit. Now NSA will keep your phone records INDEFINITELY

Fazal Majid

At some point they will run out of disk space and collection will stop.

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Free space optics gets shiny new snake-oil paint job

Fazal Majid

Latency arbitrage for high frequency trading is leading to a rebirth in microwave vs. fiber, notably between New York and Chicago. Microwave data mom is an exceedingly robust and mature technology, unlike free space optics, though.

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'No representation without taxation!' urges venerable tech VC

Fazal Majid

Perkins is merely describing how the US political system works in practice, if not in theory.

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UK picks Open Document Format for all government files

Fazal Majid

I think in-browser editing means use wiki or HTML CMS to host data in a form directly accessible from a browser instead of using a format that requires launching a separate app like OpenOffice or Word when a browser will do.

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Blame Silicon Valley for the NSA's data slurp... and what to do about it

Fazal Majid

Re: "Optional" sounds just right.

Your smug, narcissistic, self-righteous and self-indulgent generation has caused enough damage already. That's why it's Millennials like Snowden who have to clean house.

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Fazal Majid

Chaff is the solution

The Silicon Valley privacy monetization industry and the NSA/FBI surveillance-industrial complex may be equally dangerous to privacy, but conflating them is simplistic. They are culturally, generationally and geographically thousands of miles apart. If you look at who has been eagerly cooperating with the NSA (as opposed to complying under duress with National Security Letters), it is Telcos, who are centered primarily on the East Coast and Texas.

Curbing the NSA's unconstitutional abuses is going to be difficult, will take years and will require working through the political process - there is no other way, technological countermeasures alone can't make a difference against an opponent whose R&D budget probably eclipses the entire tech industry's.

The way to fight against the privacy-infringement industry is technological: better cookie-filtering software like disconnect.me, along with as-yet-to-be-written big data sabotage tools that poison the well for data brokers by pumping fake data into their user profiles, thus rendering them worthless. I can easily imagine browser plugins that click on random links in the background to obscure what you are really interested in. People tend to overestimate the power and robustness of statistical techniques, they are actually very vulnerable to noise and deliberate info-chaff. Legislative and administrative approaches like Do Not Track won't work because there is no practical way for the government to monitor compliance, just see how Do Not Call failed to curb the most egregious telemarketers.

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Mandatory HTTP 2.0 encryption proposal sparks hot debate

Fazal Majid

TLS needs to be fixed first

TLS/SSL needs to be fixed before making it mandatory, otherwise it's just more security theater.

The NSA can simply order a CA to issue them certificates suitable for man-in-the-middle attacks, or they can order a website operator to disclose their private key, as they did with Lavabit. Given that most TLS cipher suites do not provide perfect forward secrecy, this means they can easily retroactively decrypt your communications.

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Verizon to Intel Media: Hey chip-fryer. Guess who can help you with OTT TV?

Fazal Majid

The question is, what value does Intel really bring to the table? It sounds more like Brian Krzanich cleaning house and divesting himself of a money sink on one side, and Verizon on the other hand making an acqui-hire:

http://www.mondaynote.com/2013/11/04/intel-is-under-new-management-and-it-shows/

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Mavericks Mail's spam-spewing 'flaw' was scripted by red-faced user

Fazal Majid

I wouldn't be too hard on Fastmail. IMAP is a spectacularly poorly-specified protocol, and it doesn't help when some like GMail implement it in an even more spectacularly crackpot way. It was a fairly plausible assumption that changes in Mavericks Mail.app's IMAP implementation was causing problems.

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NSA slides reveal: iPhone users are all ZOMBIES

Fazal Majid

Re: Android @Version 1.0

Within living memory, J Edgar Hoover tried to blackmail Martin Luther King into committing suicide, by threatening to expose MLK's extramarital affairs.

No one can be entrusted with this unfettered power, unless we want our democracy to turn into a Putinesque siloviki state.

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Steelie Neelie calls for TOTAL BAN on EU mobe roaming charges

Fazal Majid

Re: Good thing I live in the USA!

The US has a total area and population comparable to the EU. The whole point of the Single Market is to make intra-European commerce as streamlined as the US so it can gain similar economies of scale. Of course, language barriers won't go away any time soon, but telecoms and financial networks need to be made geography-neutral for that vision to be achieved.

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UK parliament presses for pardon for Alan Turing

Fazal Majid

Quash it, don't pardon it

A pardon implies admission of guilt by the pardoned. Turing did nothing wrong to begin with, it's the law itself which was wrong. A pardon would semi-legitimize the law by implication. In France, for instance, Captain Dreyfus was pardoned in 1899 as a matter of expediency to free him from prison, until his conviction could be quashed in 1906. Accepting the pardon implied admission of guilt, and he only did it because he was exhausted by 4 years of hard labor. In the case of Turing, there is no such practical or humanitarian consideration, and thus the principled thing to do is to wait until the conviction itself is overturned.

The proper course of action would be to abrogate the law he was convicted under, with retroactive effect, and cancel his conviction. Not sure how that would work in UK law, in the US the law would be found unconstitutional by the Supreme Court and any convictions under it vacated.

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A simple SSL tweak could protect you from GCHQ/NSA snooping

Fazal Majid

Re: Was this news?

If a tinpot dictatorship like Iran does this regularly (google "comodo iran" for more details), you can rest assured our benevolent voyeurs do so as well.

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HGST: Enough of those MUTANT HYBRIDS. We'll do an Apple, thanks

Fazal Majid

Better done at the OS level

The semantics of block devices are not rich enough for them to do a good job of caching. This is better done at the OS' filesystem layer, as with ZFS' logzilla/cachezilla hybrid storage pool approach, Apple's Fusion or Microsoft's ReadyBoost.

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Industry execs: Network admins an endangered species

Fazal Majid

Given the dismal failure of the network management software industry (I'm looking at you, HP OpenView) to solve even basic network management problems, I doubt they will ever deliver on the vision. They will, however, be successful at selling boatloads of overpriced shelfware to clueless & gullible IT managers.

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Hm, disk drive maker, what's that smell lingering around you?

Fazal Majid

Not surprising

The book "The Innovator's Dilemma" by Clayton Christensen, which describes how incumbents get disrupted even though they know it's coming, was based on case studies from the hard drive industry.

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How smart does your desk phone need to be?

Fazal Majid

Yes

Is “as dumb as possible” the best answer to the question “how smart should the office phone be?”

Yes, because business phone UIs are terminally horrendous (I have a Polycom unit at my desk, that is blinking red, I have no idea why, nor can I be bothered about fixing the darn thing, even though I am a Telecoms engineer by training).

Of course, the real answer, as any Millennial can tell you, is the best office phone is no phone, you should be using IM (or email for this old fogey) instead.

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CURSE you, EINSTEIN! Humanity still chained in relativistic PRISON

Fazal Majid

There's a name for it

It's called the Dunning-Kruger effect.

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Are you being robbed of sleep by badly designed servers?

Fazal Majid
Boffin

Remote PDUs + serial console won"t help if the system is aborting in the middle of the boot sequence, e.g. due to fsck.

The reason Google, Facebook and other hyperscale companies don't provision LOM on their servers is not so much cost as the fact their ops model treats individual servers like cattle vs. pets. If a server dies it is automatically failed over and the FRU is the server itself.

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