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* Posts by Jon Green

403 posts • joined 14 Jun 2007

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Amazon Prime hot air drone service goes a-recruiting

Jon Green
Black Helicopters

Nice to see they're keeping it alive!

...the hype, that is. Nothing like posting a job advert to get the media pumped about the vapourware, if it drives sales. (Reputedly - directly from Amazon sources - the Air campaign did astonishing things for their Christmas sales figures.)

Amazon can afford to punt the money for the developer and the PR, and write both down to promotional expenses.

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Venus Express to get final acid bath before crashing to surface

Jon Green
Pint

Re: Great terminology!

Ahhh. I've played with KSP, but it was so unstable on the laptop I used it on (even more so than the ships it created) that I gave up on it.

Perhaps I should give it a second chance...

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Jon Green
Boffin

Great terminology!

Chris North revealed last week that ESA had recently coined a new term for deliberately crashing your spacecraft.

"Lithobraking."

I urge every reader to use it. This is a word we should promote.

(Socknote: my daughter tried lithobraking from her cycle just before the weekend, and she's still got the grazes to prove it.)

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Picture special: LOHAN makes fire in the sky at 15,000m

Jon Green
Boffin

Might be unduly pessimistic, but...

...I'd be surprised to find tech specs going down to 100mB and -77C!

But I can sell you this roll of mil.spec. RSM tape (well, he's the gaffer) for a very modestly extravagant sum...

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Jon Green

....containing a very, very small Playmonaut with a flight manual...

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Jon Green
Facepalm

Oops...

'Ere, why can't sticky stuff on tapey stuff contain a Smoky Sam developing full thrust?

More seriously, you really do need a rigid mount for the end-plate - against which the motors are going to thrust - even if you must hold the motor bodies in to the body with tape! (I'd use a couple of hose clips, or something equally robust, for that job rather than gaffer, but YMMV.)

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Curiosity GOUGES AND SCORCHES Mars with drill and laser

Jon Green
Pirate

Wheeeeee.....*THUD*!

Tell you what, that's nothing to what's going to be done to Mercury, when Messenger "lithobrakes" (love that word - thanks, Chris North!) into its surface at oh-crap-MPH!

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Our Reg reader 'mutt's nuts' dictionary is le chien's biens

Jon Green

Wondering about that Hokkien translation...

...'cos in Mandarin, the same character sequence " 狗胡说八道" (gou3 hu2 shuo1 ba1 dao4) reads as "Dog talks (or "talk") rubbish"!

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Firefox biz Mozilla makes Beard new interim chief executive

Jon Green
Facepalm

Oh, and I was so hoping...

...it was going to be Frank Beard from ZZ Top.

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Jolla entices hardware hackers with free device development kit

Jon Green
Coffee/keyboard

Let's get this right...

...they're kindly and considerately giving you the right to produce any compatible hardware you like, at your own cost...so long as you give it away?

Open Source is great, and all that, but if they want anyone serious (i.e. commercial grade) to develop, they're going to have to find a different model. It's not exactly a well-known brand outside of Finland, and they'll have to work a lot harder if they're to change that.

Development for this platform isn't going to be cheap. I'm sure as hell not going to invest a ton of time and effort, and spin up a 3D printer, and buy a Jolla phone, and buy an NFC devkit, just because I've been offered a patent-free SDK. I'm struggling to think of anyone I know who would.

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Just how solid is cloud storage in 2014

Jon Green

Perfection? No; probably never.

It's not difficult to point to cloud outages and failures. It's going to happen. The hardware routinely fails, and although there are some remarkable coping strategies (Amazon's S3 service claims 99.999999999% durability and 99.99% availability, due to intra-centre and cross-data-centre redundant storage and retrieval), it's a fool who assumes their data and servers don't need a backup and failover strategy.

If you need just one server, cloud might very well not be for you, unless you're smart about backup. It's more useful to corporates who can commoditise their services into customised server images, and just spin up more servers (maybe in other data centres/availability zones) when things go pear-shaped. The use of edge caches and putting the whole infrastructure behind edge routers that can redirect to still-working centres allows service to continue unabated, in the face of large-scale failures.

Just please don't enter into cloud initiatives wearing rose-tinted specs. Things will fail. You do need to analyse and correct for each possible single point of failure, to maintain backups (ideally including at least one off-provider route), and to manage your cloud server and storage estate actively - so don't go thinking you can sack most of your BOFHs. You still need them; they'll be just as busy managing your virtual estate - but you can reduce your machine room CapEx to a tiny amount, and concentrate on pay-as-you-need OpEx.

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Hot naked Asian racks in Cali: El Reg snaps Open Compute servers for all

Jon Green
Facepalm

"Cheap-as-chips gear"?

Some indication of costs/pricing would have helped us to decide whether it was - or wasn't!

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CERN boffins fire ANTI-HYDROGEN BEAM

Jon Green
Coat

I guess this means...

...that CERN's also invented the anti-prism.

(Mine's the asymmetric one with the charge violation note pinned to the lapel, ta.)

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HP clampdown on 'unauthorised' server fixing to start in January

Jon Green

Re: There is established case law on this...

Ohhhh, I hadn't heard about that - do say more! Links?

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Jon Green
Facepalm

I should say so!

I was speccing out a ProLiant only last night, for ordering in the New Year. Funnily enough, I find myself on the Dell site today. We're moving towards fully cloud, so this was likely to be one of the last, probably the last, server hardware we buy before that transition.

As far as I'm concerned, when I buy hardware, patches and provisioned software updates are part of the deal; part of what I'm paying for with the purchase price. They're not a value-add that goes with a service contract we don't need (we're fully capable of servicing our own equipment, thanks). If that's what HP's doing with their systems now, they just substantially devalued the hardware compared to Dell's et al - but without a corresponding price drop, of course.

My guess is that they're trying to maximise their incomes, in the face of sales slumps due to substantial and increasing rates of cloud adoption. Make the maintenance contract an unavoidable part of the sale, in other words. It makes me wonder how many 12-bore rounds they're going to fire at their own lower limbs before they find themselves without a remaining leg to stand on.

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Jon Green
Facepalm

Apparently, when you buy an HP server, you don't own it.

I guess the last ProLiant server we bought just became the very last ProLiant server we bought.

I've no interest in being railroaded into HP's choice of maintainer, or forced to pay for a rolling contract for the privilege of actually getting patches.

Memo to HP: HP Is Not Apple.

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You've got $60k: So, 2013 sporty Corvette, or a year of AWS's new I2 beast?

Jon Green
Pint

Re: Cost efficiency

Why thank you, good sir, madam or gender-neutral entity! Have one yourself.

The Compute Unit was defined early in the evolution of AWS. At the time, it had a meaning that was measured against specific hardware. Today's Compute Unit definition's a little more complex, but tweaked to ensure you basically get the same amount of compute power as you did originally. Probably the best definition that's actually useful is "the same as you'd get from an m1.small instance".

What an m1.small is hosted upon these days has almost certainly changed, through several machine room refreshes, from what it was originally, but it's tuned so that you'll get almost exactly the same amount of compute power as you always did.

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Jon Green
IT Angle

Cost efficiency

The [$59,743] cost is roughly equivalent to six reasonably well-specced Dell PowerEdge R910 servers with 64GB of RAM and two ten-core Xeon E7-4850 processors

So that's £36,568 at today's exchange rate. And the "medium usage" reserved instance would work out to £17,059.

By comparison, a PowerEdge server with this configuration would set you back £21,230.92. Six of them would be £127,385.52. That's the equivalent of 7.5 years' Amazon I2 "medium usage" RI use. And, as you point out, that's "[...]not including the electricity and other infrastructure bills" - which will be substantial.

So, yes, it's about the cost of a Cadillac, if you were daft enough to use a year's worth on pay-on-demand - which you should be sacked for if you even considered as an option. It's slightly less than half of a Caddy if you bought the Reserved Instance. Compare that to four Caddies if you were to buy the hardware yourself. Plus a Mini or two to cover the electricity, housing and network costs.

As far as I can tell, the article's subtitle should be, "Big numbers scare me." Because anyone who's deeply involved in corporate computing works with these kinds of numbers daily - and to them (and me) the Amazon proposition looks like good value, unless you're desperate for capex tax write-down...and a P45 (or pink slip, for our American readers) too.

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Mars One's Red Planet foray is still on – but not until 2018

Jon Green
Boffin

Re: What will Planet Earth's attention span be?

You ask, "[What] is going to happen to those poor bastards when [...] the necessary endless succession of re-supply ships stops rolling in?"

That's entirely the point of establishing pilot Mars colonies: that they become self-sustaining. The intent is that the need for constant resupply reduces to the point of occasional shipments providing things like medical supplies, raw materials not easily available on Mars (many can be scavenged from the lander) and extending the equipment manifest to improve autonomy.

Much of the current research and mission design is targeted around what is needed to achieve this.

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Jon Green
Boffin

Great news

Delighted to see Surrey Satellite as the TV relay partner - a great bunch of people.

The proposed water collection and purification experiment may possibly be the most important ever done on Mars. We can learn all we can about whether there's some form of primitive or microbial life now, or in the past, but these tests will tell us the most profoundly relevant fact of all: can humans survive there?

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Mexican Cobalt-60 robbers are DEAD MEN, say authorities

Jon Green
Coat

So...

...come up to the lab and see what's on the slab.

I see you shiver with antici...pation.

But maybe the brain is really to blame.

So I'll remove the cause but not the...radiation...

-- Señor Frank N Furter (on a bad night)

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Astroboffins spot HOT, YOUNG GIANT where she doesn't belong

Jon Green
Boffin

And let's think about the planet for a moment...

That supergiant - assuming it's a gas giant, which seems reasonable - is about a seventh of the mass necessary to collapse and undergo stellar ignition, according to a recent research paper, which puts the tipping point at about 75 Jovian masses.

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Need an internet antidote? Try magic mushrooms

Jon Green

Re: Are there any guides in electronic format?

I'm afraid it doesn't work quite like that, Austhinker! There's a number of groups of fungi types that are visually very similar, and can only really be distinguished by spore print, and microscopic examination of spores. (To get a spore print, leave a cap, minus stipe, on a piece of card that's half-black, half-white, under an upturned bowl, overnight. Then carefully lift away the bowl and cap, and you can see the spore print on one half or other of the sheet - so long as you've made sure there's no breeze to disturb the spore pattern.) The problem is that, in several of these groups, there are both eaters and deadly poisonous mushrooms.

A portable guide would be handy to help novices identify the most easily distinguished eaters - the ones that can't be mistaken for harmful fungi - but it would be no good for taxonomy of the majority of look-alikes, and could lead to tragically incorrect identifications.

In France, every pharmacist has training in mushroom identification, and provides a free service, checking trugs of fungi for safety. Sadly, here in the UK, we're not so blessed.

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Jon Green

Welcome to the ranks of foragers!

Hey Lester - delighted that you decided to give foraging a go, after we'd nudged you a bit. :)

A few years ago now, my wife and I were visiting some ancient monument in Derbyshire when we spotted a gap in a chain-link fence nearby. Well, you've got to explore, haven't you? So we did, and ended up in a narrow defile of a valley. It looked like one of those improbable pictures in a mushroom textbook! All it needed was little numbers next to each clump of mushies. We counted about 35 different varieties, of which six were definite eaters, and a couple were delicacies. Oh, and one or two that would have sent you to your own private world for a few hours...which is why we reckon the chain-link was beaten down...

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Coding: 'suitable for exceptionally dull weirdos'

Jon Green

Coding's an essential life skill

Sounds unreasonable? Not so much. You can't understand how web pages work without at least a basic comprehension of JavaScript. You can't set up anything more than the most basic web site without PHP or Python. And without understanding some elementary programming principles, you can't do much more in Excel than your daily expenses.

Sure, if burger-flipping - or, apparently, writing clue-deprived op-ed pieces in the Torygraph - is your bag, that won't matter. But here's the thing: we teach our kids chemistry, geography, history, and much more like this. How many of them will become professional chemists, geologists or archaeologists? They're far more likely to end up doing some degree of coding at some point than any of these professions: programming is becoming a life skill. And yet - chemists need to create molecular simulations; geologists model stratigraphy for minerals discovery; archaeologists work with and understand geophysics plots, and process aerial images for suitable sites. If we don't train children to treat programming as a natural go-to skill (pun unintended) for solving problems, we tie one hand behind their back, and put a mitten on the other.

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Mark Shuttleworth labels Mir opponents 'the Open Source Tea Party'

Jon Green

It seems ironic to call an Ubuntu distro "Trusty"

after Canonical started having Dash send its local search results back to the Mothership for monetisation...without bothering to let anyone know first, or get an opt-in.

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NASA Juno probe HOWLS past Earth - and goes into HIBERNATION

Jon Green

Re: Move along, nothing to see here!

@AC - I work in satellites. As I'm posting under my own name, I can't discuss details like specced SEU or safe mode event frequencies, except to say that we certainly do a lot of defensive coding to prevent disruption, and to recover from more serious events without more than minimum downtime.

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Jon Green
Boffin

Move along, nothing to see here!

Going into safe mode is nothing unsual for spacecraft. In a harsh radiation environment, they're subject to frequent "single event upsets" (SEUs). Well-written flight software detects these, and either repairs the damaged data if possible (by "voting" between redundant copies), power-cycles the affected system if not, or - in more substantial cases - having the safety processor drop the whole system into safe mode, from which the subsystems can be brought up, one by one.

As I think I predicted in an earlier posting here, the Sun's rather weedy "solar maximum" in this 11-year cycle has turned into a double-peak, with a lot of activity in the past few days. Click on this link to see an animation of the GOES X-ray images for the past 24 hours. It's quite impressive at the moment.

I wouldn't be remotely surprised if Juno hit the edge of a small solar storm and was briefly incapacitated. I'd be astonished if it was due to the efforts of the radio hams saying "Hi!", though!

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Bling, bling, it's HTC here: Clear us a place on the gold phone bandwagon

Jon Green

Re: Brilliant!

Steve said:

> > [ ] Great signal reception

> > [ ] Excellent data rates

> You may want to have a word with your network provider about these.

Thanks, but when other models on the same network have no problems acquiring and retaining a good signal, have less drop-outs in conversation, and can sustain a higher and more stable data rate, the numbers speak for themselves. I'm an Android developer. I routinely carry three, maybe four, phones (from the roughly ten I have) when I travel, so that I can do comparison tests. The comparisons don't favour the HTC One.

> Since when has any mobile phone come with a headset worth talking about (or with, for that matter)?

The HTC One comes bundled with a Beats by Dr.Dre headset. It's one of their selling points. Whilst it was working, it was the best-sounding bundled headset I've ever used, by a country mile.

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Jon Green

Brilliant!

So all that's left to tick is:

[ ] Great signal reception

[ ] Excellent data rates

[ ] Compass that doesn't fail after two weeks

[ ] Headset that has more than one button

[ ] Headset that survives having the cable rolled over once by an office chair

Because mine certainly hasn't got ticks in those boxes, I'm sorry to say. It's a great device in all other respects, but they forgot the "phone" part of it when they were designing.

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Stallman's GNU at 30: The hippie OS that foresaw the rise of Apple - and is now trying to take it on

Jon Green

Some corrections

The article isn't differentiating between the GNU Hurd kernel and the GNU Toolkit (the Unix-compatible command-line programs and gcc compiler). Together they comprise GNU. The distinction between the two is important. Hurd itself - which promised much, and delivered little and far too late - is now more-or-less rendered irrelevant by the upstart Linux, but the GNU Toolkit runs on Linux and many other systems.

And a little historical point: the article says: "By 1991, the GNU team had written enough useful stuff to encourage volunteer developers to port the GNU sources to Linux". This is not incorrect, but, in fairness to Stallman and the FSF, the GNU Toolkit was mature enough as far back as 1986 that it was a complete and usable product. At Acorn, I did the world's first ARM port of the GNU Toolkit, onto the BSD Unix kernel. It wasn't exactly trivial, not helped by some truly dumb coding techniques* in parts of the Toolkit, but the result was eminently useful. Fortunately, the code quality in the GNU Toolkit has improved a lot since then!

(* For C fans: using chars as negative indices from the ends of buffers in EMACS didn't work out so well when ANSI allowed the signedness of chars to be a compiler writer's choice.)

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Web Daddy Berners-Lee DRMs HTML5 into 2016

Jon Green
Facepalm

Don't worry about it!

The NSA and GCHQ will ensure that the crypto's flawed and, as soon as the weak points are discovered, it's back to the usual free-for-all. See, they are working for our benefit after all!

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Mars boffins: You fools! That's no CRATER – it's a SUPER VOLCANO

Jon Green

Re: Not a huge surprise

No, they're maintaining life-critical services. And if Yellowstone goes pop, it's going to be critical for quite a lot of life...

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Jon Green

Not a huge surprise

Mars' surface has had a pretty turbulent past - and I'd always thought that "crater" did look more like a caldera than an impact site - and not just that region, either. Orcus Patera looks to me like an eroded rift caldera.

A lot of reports mention Yellowstone as being an ancient supervolcano. That is is, but don't presume that ancient means extinct. It's far from that, and by most measures it's overdue another eruption.

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Feds smash internet drug bazaar Silk Road, say they'll KEELHAUL 'Dread Pirate Roberts'

Jon Green

Doesn't need TOR-cracking abilities

It's easy to make woo-woo noises and be scared of the NSA for tracing the server, but that's probably not how it happened. Once the Feds had enough information to identify Ulbricht - and he certainly doesn't seem to have been too discreet about it, if the testimony's accurate - they would have subpoenaed his financial records, worked out to whom he was paying hosting fees, and then followed due process in/with the host's country to track down the server itself. This is standard policing, not über-spookery: "Follow the money."

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McAfee the man launches 'NSA-thwarting' $100 privacy gizmo

Jon Green

"Good value on a night out down the pub"?

Certainly lively enough. If he offers to shoot pool, ask which gun he's planning to use!

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Jon Green

Amusing...

...and how can we - or McAfee, for that matter - know that the devices haven't been government-compromised during production? (By China, USA,... take your pick.)

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Thorium and inefficient solar power? That's good enough for me

Jon Green
Facepalm

Re: Commercial fusion may not be as far away as you think

I could probably generate 100mW with a few lemons and a handful of zinc and copper nails! Don't think that'd need a shipping container, though!

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Jon Green

Commercial fusion may not be as far away as you think

In rather a surprise move, Lockheed Skunk Works has announced a demonstrable 100MW fusion plant (the article mistakenly writes "mW") , shipping container-sized, in four years' time, with commercial production within another four years. That means they've already solved the big problems, and they're going after the final tweaks. Now, we all remember Fleischmann and Pons, and all that, but this is genuinely promising: you don't get to make an announcement like that without Board buy-in.

If - and I emphasise "if" - they have pulled it off, this changes everything. The amount of radioactive waste generation will be orders of magnitude less than fission, it uses comparatively cheaply-obtained hydrogen isotopes, and it's fail-safe.

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BOOGIE BALLMER: Steve Dirty Dances at tearful Microsoft leaving do

Jon Green
Megaphone

"We love you, Steve!"

"Employees were shaking hands with Ballmer and screaming “we love you” through the routine, we're so reliably informed."

Where did I last read something like this? Hmmm. Not sure whether it was Xinhua or the North Korean news agency.

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Microsoft to execs: Please don't leave us. Here, have some shares

Jon Green

Re: uh...

I was going to post almost exactly the same thing. I should imagine that the haemorrhage of seniors will stop just as soon as Ballmer and his "kill-the-rivals" strategies are out of the building. Some of the more talented ex-MSofties might even consider returning, once his death-grip's off the tiller, to help direct the ship off the rocks to which she's presently bound.

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Nokia Lumia 1020: It's an imaging BEAST... and it makes calls too

Jon Green

It's a phone

So what're the call quality and signal strength like? Is Windows Phone well-implemented, or are there glitches? How responsive is it? What are the bundled apps? (Other than imaging ones.) Is it something that you'd be happy using as a phone all day, or is it just a camera with some RF attached?

This is not a phone review, it's a camera review. OK, it's got an interesting camera. Got that. Given that I'd be using it for taking pictures maybe once a day, and as a phone *all* day, I know little more about what it's like in practice than before I started reading the article.

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Dog bites man: Apple's Macs trounce all Windows PCs in customer love

Jon Green

Parochial

Perhaps the article's title should have mentioned that it's what Americans - and only Americans - think.

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Amazon cloud goes down in Northern Virginia

Jon Green

Re: Boo-boo?

To be fair, IT Hack, the full answer might involve commercial secrets. AWS does try to be as open as possible about outages and their causes, particularly when the information might benefit the wider community, so that's the only reason I can think of - apart from embarrassment - why they might not want to spill the details.

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iPhone 5S: Apple, you're BORING us to DEATH (And you too, Samsung)

Jon Green
Coat

One little typo fix, by the way.

I meant to type "My Little Jony", but Ive no way to fix the original post.

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Jon Green

Re: What is left to do?

Well, how about:

1. One-charge-a-week battery duration under normal workloads. I'll accept two charges at a pinch;

2. Highly reliable signal reception - because modern smartphone makers seem to have forgotten that phones rather rely on getting a signal;

3. A slimline pop-out keyboard, so that (a) you don't lose half your screen real estate when typing; (b) you can actually use your phone/phablet as a laptop replacement for a lot of the time;

4. The return of the microSD slot.

And, yes, some of these will mean the case will no longer be razor-thin. I can live with that. I never needed to slice cheese with my mobile anyway.

When - and only when - manufacturers get these things right, it'll be worth returning to the added-gewgaws arguments.

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Jon Green

Should have called it iPhone5TDS

...because retreads of the iPhone4 with little tweaks (fingerprints; My Little Pony-inspired UI) are getting seriously TDS. (Say it out loud!)

Apple - you used to be innovators! You used to be exciting! I used to respect your market-leading engineering and ideas generation, but now you're just monetising what you've got, without adding much in the refreshes.

C'mon Apple, you can do better - far better - than this. Even the die-hard fans are getting bored. No queues around the block this time for the iPhone5, I suspect.

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Apple’s iOS 64-bit iUpgrade: Don't expect a 2x performance leap

Jon Green

Performance?

Let me get this right: Apple claims 64bit apps will run more efficiently than 32bit apps. But that also admit 32bit apps will run more slowly because of the 64bit framework. So, when Apple compares 32bit to 64bit, are they doing so on the same platform? After all, if you slow down 32bit enough - whether or not deliberately - 64bit will be quicker.

My question, cutting through the smokescreen is:would a 64bit app running on a 64bit processor under 64bit iOS run more efficiently than a 32bit app running on a 32bit processor on 32bit iOS? Because without that, we don't know whether the shiny new A7's worth getting.

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Vulture 2 autopilot reports for duty

Jon Green

Budget?

Just wondering, Lester - what's the budget looking like now?

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