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* Posts by Peter Gathercole

1925 posts • joined 15 Jun 2007

ARM creators Sophie Wilson and Steve Furber

Peter Gathercole
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Boffin

IBM ROMP vs. ARM

The IBM ROMP chip (aka the 801) was never intended to be a general purpose RISC processor. It was intended to power an office automation product (think of a hardware word-processor like WANG used to sell).

As a result, although it could function as a General Purpose CPU, it was not really that suited for it. It was never a success because at the time, IBM could not see justification for entering the pre-Open Systems UNIX world. RT 6150 and the 6151 were intended as niche systems mainly for education, although they did surface as channel attached display front ends for CADAM and CATIA run on mainframes (and could actually run at least CATIA themselves). This changed completely with the RIOS RISC System/6000 architecture, where IBM was determined to have a creditable product, and invested heavily.

In comparison, the ARM was designed from the ground up as a general purpose CPU. Roger Wilson (as he was then) greatly admired the simplicity and orthogonality of the 6502 instruction set (it is rather elegant IMHO), and designed the instruction set for the ARM in a similar manner. Because the instruction set was orthogonal (like the 6502, the PDP11, and the NS320XX family), it makes the instruction decoding almost trivial. It also made modelling the ARM on an econet of BBC micro's (in BBC Basic, no less) much easier, which allowed them to debug the instruction set before committing anything to silicon.

They had to make some concessions on what they wanted. There was no multiply-add instruction, which appeared to be a hot item in RISC design at the time, and to keep it simple and within the transistor budget, all they could do was a shift-add, (the barrel shifter), which although useful, was a barrier to ultimate performance, but great for multi-byte graphics operations.

It was also simple enough so that they could design the interface and the support chips (MEMC, VIDC and IOC) themselves, achieving early machines with low chip counts.

This is all from memory of articles in Acorn User, PC World, Byte and other publications. Feel free to correct me if my recollections are wrong.

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Software functionality not subject to copyright: EU court

Peter Gathercole
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Re: Am I missing something?

Yes.

What they have said is that you can't copyright something that says (using the example of another recent story) "produce a process that takes sea water as an input, and produces fresh water and brine as outputs" (which is a functional specification).

You can patent the method for doing this (reverse osmosis, for example) but that does not prevent someone from using evaporation or distillation to have the same effect.

I know that this would be a patent rather than copyright in this example, but the concept is the same.

Thus the code you write for your product is protected, but the description of what it does isn't. This has been fundamental in the concept of black-box testing and modular design for many decades, and changing this would break almost all modern industrial processes.

Just imagine not being able to replace Oracle with DB2, because the function of J/ODBC was subject to copyright, or even worse, not be able to port from UNIX to Linux because the interface to the C library was subject to copyright.

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Peter Gathercole
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Happy

Hey Heyrick

Nice reference to the original Dungeon!

It's supposed to take you to Y2 though IIRC, not generate a CRC.

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How politicians could end droughts FOREVER: But they don't want to

Peter Gathercole
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@Roobarb

I always wonder how much of the water that actually leaks from the pipes actually makes it's way back into the ground water reserves (especially in London), and thus is available again.

Anybody any ideas?

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GCSE, A-level science exams ARE dumbed down - watchdog

Peter Gathercole
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AC@16:28

This is a very defeatist attitude. It assumes that all teachers and all students decide in the same year to do next to nothing.

If this does not happen, then all those teachers and students do is to make sure that they will fall behind the ones that do try. As what I was envisioning was competition, this is unlikely to happen.

Human beings are competitive, especially kids. Watch them play. They race, they throw, they compete in games of skill (marbles, conkers, hopscotch, computer games). It's coded into our make-up. You just need to engage their competitive nature in school to ensure that the best can be achieve. You also need to make sure that lesser grades than 'A' still have merit.

On a side note. I heard a news item about a boat builder who was complaining at the number of kids who are now sucked into the academic stream, who would have previously gone into some form of apprenticeship. He said that we needed bright kids to be the skilled artisans of the future, and all he was seeing after the competent ones had gone to university were the kids who were unable to master his skill. Was a very fair point well made.

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Peter Gathercole
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Headmaster

Re: Why do we have a set pass mark for grades?

Marking to the curve is a double edged sword, and I accept that it makes comparing marks year-on-year more difficult, but you have to ask what the point of the exams actually are?

When I was doing my 'A' levels in the late '70s, the primary reason was so that you could be selected for further education. As there were many fewer university places available, the marking was set so that you could tell who was 'the best' from that year's student population. If less that 10% of the students got an A, these people, who would be the most likely to excel in that subject, got streamed to the best Universities. The next tier down could select from the remainder, and on downward through the Polytechnic system, aiming at people who would excel at HND qualifications, but may not be up to a full degree.

It did not matter whether there was grade comparison between years, it would be accepted that the best people would always get better marks than the weaker candidates, so the streaming would still work, and the 'right' people would always get to the establishment that best suited them.

Quite often, it was not the grades that determined what type of work someone ended up in, it was how far they went in the education system. Students who had got to University and completed a degree course had demonstrated by that fact that they were worth employing.

It is only now that the 'A' levels that are intended to give an absolute measure of how someone's worth that this problem occurs. Since schools have been measured by result, and the curve has been discarded, it has completely devalued them as a mechanism for selecting the best students. Governments and schools each have an interest in 'improving' the results.

Part of the problem is also political. Educationalists in the '70s and '80s became convinced that non-competitive grading was the only way to avoid stigmatization of kids (abolition of the 11+ and Grammar schools is an example). Schools were not allowed to say to kids "look, you are never going to succeed in becoming a theoretical Physicist, best do some vocational training". All children are given unrealistic expectations by being told that they can achieve anything, and in order to persist this myth, the exams are set so that they think they are good at a subject, when in fact they could be only mediocre.

This is just dumb. Life is competitive, and that is never going to change. When you go for a job, the best candidate wins (unless the recruitment process is also dumbed down, but that is another rant!) And people not suited or without an aptitude for a particular job will never get it, regardless of how much they want it.

Setting kids up with realistic expectations, and giving them some taste of reaching their ceiling by allowing some of them to experience disappointment is a required life skill that they have to learn at some point, and my view is that it should be part of the school experience, instead of a post University kick in the teeth.

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Moore's Law has ten years to run, predicts physicist

Peter Gathercole
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Re: Doubling CPU cores is also doubling transistors

One of the problems that chip designers have is how to use the vast number of transistors that can be fitted onto the large die-sizes at the smallest scale.

They got to the point where more registers, more cache and more instructions units in a single core was not making for faster processors, so they then started using the still increasing transistor budget to put multiple cores on a single die.

There is a lot to be said for a large number of cores on a single die, but this has it's own problems with access to memory, cache coherency between cores and I/O.

Another avenue is putting disparate processors (like GPUs) on the same die, or even System on a Chip (SoC), where all of the functional elements (I/O, Graphics, memory etc) of a complete system appear on a single piece of silicon (think what is going into 'phones and tablets).

In my view, to make use of the vast scale of integration, it's about time we had a fundamental rethink about how processors work. I don't have any new ideas, but I think that listening to some of the people with outlandish ideas might be worthwhile in coming up with a completely new direction to investigate.

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IBM fires Power-powered Penguins at x86's weak spots

Peter Gathercole
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@Kebabbert Re: Hmm...

I was not clear about entitlement in my earlier post. There were Linux only Power 5 systems back in 2005 or so. What I was trying to say was that they were the same systems with the AIX and the IBM i entitlements turned off. They were also significantly cheaper, and also made it easier to use non-IBM branded disks.

My views about proprietary UNIX being on the downward curve has not changed. I have felt this way for most of the last decade. I still see Power having a place for many years to come.

Intel becoming predominant is much more about them having volume and critical mass in the processor market than speed or technology. PowerPC is still a relatively well architected processor, but for many companies developing products, it makes sense for them to use what is fast becoming a commodity product (Intel) rather than something that they have to put significant design effort into. A high-end PowerPC SoC would be interesting, but I don't think IBM would be interested in creating one of these for the server market.

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Peter Gathercole
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Unhappy

Re: Hmm...

This 'new' ability to only run Linux is not new. If you have access to a Power 6 or Power 7 system, and look in ASMI or on the HMC (and I presume SDMC and IVM) at the entitlements section, there has been an entitlement for both AIX and IBM I for several years. Linux has been an officially endorsed OS by IBM on PowerPC for at least 7 years (they have had agreements with Slackware and SuSE), and there are official distributions of RedHat and Ubuntu from those companies.

This makes this a re-announcement of an existing policy, probably to remind some existing PowerPC shops that they can stick with Power rather than moving to another processor, even if they are switching OS. I very much doubt that the product announced will significantly differ from other systems that will still run AIX and IBM I.

This does not give any new reinforcement that policy that you bring up in every discussion about PowerPC or AIX. Both AIX and PowerPC will be here for some time still. That link lookes older each time I look at it.

Now. I'm not going to argue with the fact that AIX (along with all proprietary UNIX systems) is on the downward side of the popularity curve, and I do not think that PowerPC development is in a good place at the moment. It's expensive to build new generations of any processor, and I think that IBM is really thinking hard about what to do with the PowerPC line, at least in high end servers. Sometimes I wonder whether IBM really wants to remain in the hardware business at all (products that have been sold include their printer division, their storage division, the desktop and laptop PC business, and most recently their ATM and PoS business).

This policy may extend to their server systems as well. Power7+ is late according to previous product roadmaps, and there is strangely very little pre-announcement information about Power8. IBM has also made statements that their previously loss-leading HPC work has to become more commercial (probably one of the reasons why IBM pulled out of Blue Waters), which means that future generations of IH HPC systems are at risk.

But one of the effects of there being a creditably competitor to Intel processors is that makes Intel aggressively pursue new processors. Once they are only competing with themselves (remember, AMD need chipfabs like IBM to create their products, because they cannot fabricate processors themselves), then the rate of product development will slow significantly, as Intel would want to get more return on their investment.

I am really not looking forward to a point where the only processor game in town is X86 derived, and that is looking like a possibility within a decade unless ARM moves upward.

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Linux Left 4 Dead port fuels Steam for Ubuntu talk

Peter Gathercole
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Re: @Z Eden - Games should stay on Windows

In theory, DRM is not against the Linux way of doing things. If you are careful to make sure that you only use LGPL (not GPL) code in your DRM system, then you do not 'pollute' Linux by adding a DRM API above the OS, and you don't have to publish the details of your DRM. The rest of Linux works just swell.

The main reason why this has not been done to date is that the content providers do not trust that the OS cannot be hacked below the DRM API to gain access to their content, whether it is a game, music or a film.

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Ubuntu 12.04 LTS: Like it or not, this Linux grows on you

Peter Gathercole
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Re: @DryBones yes, yes, that's all very well

Huh. DryBones deleted their post! Oh well, just as relevant to the OP of the "yes, yes, that's all very well" thread.

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Peter Gathercole
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@DryBones Re: yes, yes, that's all very well

The problem with mp3, the DVD formats and many, many other restricted formats is that they are, well, restricted.

The very nature of Free Software, whether you are talking about free-as-the-air or free beer, is that it is either free of restrictions or free of charge. This means that the distro suppliers won't (in the case of as-the-air) or can't (as in beer because they can't afford it) put the support for restricted formats by default.

Blame the people who foist the restricted formats onto us all for this problem, not the distro suppliers.

Of course, earlier releases of Ubuntu often would tell you exactly what you had to do so that you could make the personal decision to break the licensing conditions or patents on the codecs that the distro supplier cannot make without opening themselves up to being dragged through the courts.

It was not that long ago that Canonical were being slated by the '-as-the-air' community for paying for licences for H.264 just so they could include it for people like you.

I know that this does not help you, but that is the nature of the world we live in. Would you pay for a version of Ubuntu or any other distro (so that the supplier could pay the license fees) that included all the codecs you need?

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Peter Gathercole
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I'll give it a go

I will put this on a partition of my laptop, and boot into it occasionally to see how it is doing. If I can cope with Unity (although from current experience, I won't), I will switch over.

But the problems I had with Lucid stopped me from switching permanently from Hardy until they pulled support from the desktop release of Hardy. Even now, there are significant things that don't work on Lucid, despite defects being open in the Ubuntu fault tracking system.

I have Unity as the presentation layer on a netbook running 10.10, and also on a desktop running 11.10. Later releases may work better than earlier ones, but that does not alter the fact that I believe that it is less suited than Gnome 2 for people who work with multiple overlapping windows on several desktops. I can see it working well for the Mac OSX generation (single application occupying the whole screen most of the time), but that's not me. That way of working is just alien to the way I have worked since twm on X.10 or SunView. I want drop down menus attached to the window I am working on, not up at the top of the screen.

As for HUD, I've not played with it. It may be helpful, but it sounds to me like it will tie applications into the Window Manager in ways that will be detrimental to application portability, which can never be a good thing.

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Six of the best ways to mess up IT change management

Peter Gathercole
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Unhappy

Re: I got one for automation

And the sad fact is that the people who are made to leave are often those that understood the automation, so as soon as something changes, the automation breaks and nobody knows how to fix it, so it becomes a manual process again.

About 7 years ago, I was part of a project automating the build of servers (IBM Power 5 servers running AIX) in a server farm. Could deploy an OS image on a virtualised machine with all patches, management and security software (and some frequently used application as well if required) installed and registered in about 40 minutes from bare metal to hand it over to the application installation team. Did all the work from base packages, no Golden Image in sight. Brilliant (and also stunned IBM when they came to see what we were doing!)

Came back to the company a year and a bit later, to find that the people running the process were all low skill process monkeys who had reverted to manual processes when new machine types came along, and they did not know how to tweak the process (even though it was fully documented!).

Broke my heart!

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Ten... eight-bit classic games

Peter Gathercole
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Thumb Up

You needed a BitStik!

Put thrust on the twist of the joystick and had three buttons. Made complex manoeuvres less like shaking hands with an octopus!

And when you ran Elite on a 6502 second processor (if you bought a BitStik, then you probably had one of these as well to run the CAD software), you got Mode 1 graphics and none of the 'mode change' interrupt tear when it switched from Mode 4 and Mode 5 3/4 of the way down the screen.

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Peter Gathercole
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Re: Whatever.

Jake,

Did you have a GT40 and Lunar Lander as well? First McDonalds on the Moon!

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Happy 30th Birthday, Sinclair ZX Spectrum

Peter Gathercole
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If it really does not have an analogue tuner....

you don't!

Or, find an old video recorder (with an analogue tuner), and use that to map tuner to a SCART connector on the TV.

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Peter Gathercole
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What! No mention of the Plus One

This plugged into the expansion slot, and provided the Microdrive interfaces, along with a joystick port, a serial port and some strange network which allowed you to link several similar systems together in a peer network, sharing the microdrives.

My father bought an early 48K system (I had a bought my own BBC model B), and it did indeed have light grey keys like the picture. In addition, it had the 32K add-on board, and also had a heat sink that ran the entire width of the system under the keyboard, leading to a warm programming experience.

I never really liked the Spectrum, it was too slow, had poor sound, the screen attributes just felt clunky, and that keyboard!

My Beeb, although supposedly lacking in memory, was just a class machine, and ended up being used for things you just could not consider using a spectrum for. OK, it was not suited to large dungeon type games, but I would contend that Snapper, Planetoid, Meteors and Arcadians were great copies of arcade games that the Speccy could not hope to match, and Freefall, Starship Command and especially Elite showed what you could actually do even with a supposed lack of memory.

But the Spectrum was an influential machine, no doubt.

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Look back in Ascii: Computing in the 1980s

Peter Gathercole
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@Simon Round

A PDP 11/84 was a single-chip PDP 11 processor (J11?) in a minicomputer rack (it had a UNIBUS rather than a QBUS which made it a proper PDP 11 rather than a micro PDP 11 like the 11/83).

It was definitely *NOT* a mainframe, but a 16 bit minicomputer with address extension. IIRC, it probably was the most powerful of the whole PDP/11 family (I mean real PDP 11 rather than a VAX 11).

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Student's Linux daemon 0-day triggers InfoSec Institute outcry

Peter Gathercole
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Re: where the buck stops - AC

it depends. If you have decided to include a software product that needs escalated privilege (root or admin), then that is not Microsoft, and you must take some responsibility yourself, and should also blame the vendor of that package.

If it is software that does not require escalated privilege, and can get it using the package, then that would of course implicate Microsoft as well.

But in your example, it would be better to ask if Microsoft should take any responsibility for something they include from a third party as part of a windows installation (such as the CD and DVD burning code licensed from Roxio), as this is more like what Linux Distributions do.

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The Hardware Hacker's Guide to Home Automation

Peter Gathercole
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Am I alone in remembering Red Box...

a company formed by Hermann Hauser in 1985. I know it's since disappeared, but it marketed a through-the-mains control module solution.

I can find almost no references to this in Google, Wikipedia etc. It's amazing how something used to be able to disappear almost without trace before the Internet.

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Thin-client giant Wyse gobbled by Dell

Peter Gathercole
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Dell and terminals

"never made a machine that needed a dumb terminal" - this is untrue.

Dell had a brief foray into the UNIX on Intel world in the late '80s and early '90s with systems running SVR3 and SVR4. These systems were shipped with multi-port serial cards, so would have used terminals of the type produced by Wyse.

I can't remember what they used to call them, but I attended an interview for their UK support team. I also can't remember what the outcome of the interview was, but bearing in mind that the team was wrapped up not that long afterwards, it was probably better that I did not work for them.

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The Facebook job test: Now interviewers want your logins

Peter Gathercole
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Re: Surely this is illegal

Illegal? No, certainly not under the Data Protection Act. The employers are asking their prospective employees to volunteer their facebook account details. If they agree, then it is a private agreement between the individual and a company. This is exactly the same as a loan company asking for copies of your bank statement before offering a loan.

It may be counted as discrimination if it can be proved that the individual did not get the job because they refused to hand over details, but that would be a completely different issue.

I immediately thought that the employers were going to turn an applicant down if they actually DID give their login details over, because that would indicate a lack of understanding about on-line security! Ho hum.

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Windows 8 tablet freezes in Microsoft keynote demo

Peter Gathercole
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@Chemist Re: So what /should/ have been done?

Reminds me of the old IBM PC error "Keyboard error - Press F1 to continue"

The old ones are the best!

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SUPERCOMPUTER vs your computer in bang-for-buck battle

Peter Gathercole
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Re: Units

11/780 was the base.

When the IBM PC was launched, remember it was a 16 bit processor in an 8 bit system (8088 had an 8 bit multiplexed data bus needing two cycles to store a 16 bit word), and was only clocked at 4.77 MHz. In the Personal Computer World BASIC benchmarks, the BBC micro could whip the ass off the IBM PC in performance terms, although this should not be a suggestion that Linpack results would be the same.

I always regarded an original 6MHz PC/AT as about the same processing power as a PDP 11/34, although that was only on a subjective feeling, and a VAX 11/780 was much more powerful than my 11/34.

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Peter Gathercole
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Yawn

A real supercomputer is a lot more than just processing power.

The current systems I am working with (still on the top 500 - just) are split (very approximately) equally cost-wise between processing, networking and storage.

The interlink is important for massively parallel jobs, and there is no point in crunching numbers if you can't store the results. Linpack can be a very misleading benchmark.

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From server to end user: What's coming up for NFS?

Peter Gathercole
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Re: Re: Server-Side Copy

Yes, if you are able to make one NFS server talk directly do another, without using a client computer. But I think that if you use SCP with two remote locations, the data still travels through your local machine, in-and-out.

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Trusted computing: It's BACK, and already in a pocket near you

Peter Gathercole
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Shudder!

That's all.

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It's game over for pinball pioneer

Peter Gathercole
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Pinball.....

I miss being able to go into an arcade and spend an hour or so bashing steel balls around a table. It's a great way of letting off steam. I used to be able to get a replay on my regular tables almost every game, which made it quite cheap! Oh, the feel of the flippers and the buffers and kickers...

Every now and then I will find a table in good enough nick to be worth playing, and I still have some of my skill. I went into a pub a few years ago with some friends, saw a table that I had never played before, and still managed to get two replays from the 50p I put in. Pissed off my mates who thought I must have been in before.

I live in a tourist oriented seaside town and I cannot find a single table worth playing here. It's sad really.

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Court rejects Tesla’s latest libel spat with Top Gear

Peter Gathercole
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200 miles per day

I used to commute 96 miles each way daily for over three years. It's not that unusual. I currently have a 'short' commute of about 45 miles each way. And when was the last time that you left on a journey without any means of refuelling with less that a 25% margin or error? Who knows when you will get stuck in traffic/diverted? I certainly would not want to do more than a 150 mile journey in a car with a maximum range of 200.

Also, 200 is when it is new. How will it work after a years worth of daily recharging?

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Met Office wants better supercomputer to predict EXTREME weather

Peter Gathercole
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Re: make greater use of probabilistic information in their weather forecasts

The way the weather is presented in the media is controlled by the media, not the Met Office.

It's true that some, like the BBC, actually use Met Office forecasters, but the presentation style is normally controlled by the broadcaster, not the forecasters.

If you want to see isobars, look at the Met Office web site (try the link http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/weather/uk/surface_pressure.html directly), not the forecast on the telly.

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Peter Gathercole
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Re: Helps if you actually forecast

Try the localised detailed forecast from the Met Office's web site, rather than relying on some summary forecast where the poor forecaster has to cram some approximation of the weather for a region the size of several counties into a few 10's of seconds.

You might as well try to describe the colour of London as seen from Google Earth in 10 words or less.

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IBM puts AIX 5.3 on extended life support

Peter Gathercole
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Version numbering and catchup

I agree with your comments on version numbering. There is not that difference in the outward appearance of AIX 5.3 and AIX 7.1. Under the covers, there have been quite a lot of changes, including dynamic partition migration, more control of WPAR isolation, support of more logical CPUs, USB storage support and up to 4 threads per core.

A lot of the changes are targeted to the very largest systems, but this is not really a problem because what features that you need are not in AIX already? I'm not including things like Gnome and KDE, because they are not really part of the OS. DBUS maybe? Remember that AIX has never really been a desktop OS, and much of that Linux innovation has been in things that are really applicable to personal systems rather than servers.

I don't rate your comparison of AIX and Ubuntu LTS. In the same time I have been working with AIX 5.3, I've gone from Ubuntu Dapper Drake (6.06), Hardy Hedgehog (8.04), and Lucid Lynx (10.04).

IBM have always clear about the lifetime of it's OS products. End of marketing is always announced at least a year before it is actually withdrawn (and normally soon after the +2 version is announced), and there is normally at least a year of support from End-of-Marketing to End-of-Support, and then there is always extended support for customers prepared to pay. And after that, the mature AIX product (which after so long in support is likely to have had all of the serious problems fixed) will have the fixes available on fixcentral for a couple of years more.

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Peter Gathercole
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Re: Related to ongoing contracts that are late and run on AIX 5.3 perhaps

PTF stands for Program Temporary Fix.

AIX 5.3 was actually released in 2004, and the product lifetime cycle published on Fix Central has indicated that TL12 would go out-of-general support later this year as early as this time last year.

This means that AIX 5.3 will have had a lifetime of over seven years, and if you take into account extended support, will be more like 9 years.

TPM's article has several errors in it to do with dates and functionality of earlier versions of AIX (like LPARs being introduced in AIX 5.1). I've sent a correction, so we will have to see whether the article is fixed.

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Now Proview seeks ban on ALL iPads coming out of China

Peter Gathercole
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SciFi got there first

Larry Niven based the whole of one of his literary universes around a society who 'harvest' body parts from convicted felons. His conclusion was that eventually people would end up being broken up for offences as serious as jay-walking and tax evasion.

Look up "Flatlander" or "Gil the Arm" if you are interested in reading the stories.

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iPads seized from shelves by Chinese officials

Peter Gathercole
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@Svein

Only those destined for the Chinese internal market. Anything sold in other countries would be subject to cases in each country in question.

Of course, in China anything could happen, given that their legal system is very different. But I think that many companies would re-consider using China as a manufacturing base if the Chinese authorities were to start confiscating goods destined for sale outside of China.

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CSC confirms $1.5bn NHS IT write-off

Peter Gathercole
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Money going back?

Who said anything about money going back?

This is all about money they have spent that has not resulted in payments coming from the customer. Still a quite good thing from the NHS's point of view, but I'm sure everyone really wanted a working, applicable system developed within the budget.

Still, not sure whether that was ever possible.

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EFF helps MegaUpload users claw legit stuff back from Feds

Peter Gathercole
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@Ogi

Not sure if you are still reading, but I am a sysadmin using LTO tapes in my daily life.

Even if the tapes are still readable in 30 years time (debatable), are you still going to have a device that will read them reliably in 10 years? In my time as an admin (~30 years), I've used 1/2" mag tapes, DecTapeII, QIC cartridges, 1, 2, 5 and 20GB 8mm Exebyte, 4mm DAT, DLT, IBM 3840 and 3570 cartridges, and even Sinclair Microdrives. All of them are now obsolete, and I would expect that of all of them, you would probably have better success finding someone who could read 1/2" tapes than any of the other formats. LTO says that it will read and write current generation and last generation tapes, and read one previous generation, but that is all that is guaranteed.

Also think of floppies. Remember 8" floppies? I still have some (out of nostalgia because I can't read them). 5.25", 3", 3.5". All dead. Jazz drives and the others. Gone and mostly forgotten.

Disks are no good either. ST506 Shugart is dead. ESDI is dead. Older SCSI is dead, IDE and EIDE are dying, even the older SATA disks will not be able to be connected at some time in the near future.

My view is that CD and DVD still have some life left in them as backup. I just wish I could trust them more.

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Revealed: Apple's plea for fairness in mobile patent war

Peter Gathercole
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@AC re: "Perfectly useable"

I still power my Palm Treo 650 up and marvel at how much easier it is to do so many of the day-to-day things than any of the smartphones I have had since. Granted it is not as powerful, and is not a 3G device, but it does (with some added apps I admit) 80% of what I do on my current Android. And the battery lasts close on a working week with light use, even after 7 years.

So much so that it is still in my bag, charged, with a PAYG sim in it as my backup phone.

Shame it does not run Angry Birds, though!

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Quarter of Wolfram Alpha brainteasers come from Siri

Peter Gathercole
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@Marvin re:R is an emulation of S

If there are any R proponents here, I'm sure they will dispute this. R is indeed a re-implementation of S, but it has evolved hugely. AFAIK, development in S stopped sometime in the mid 1990's (I was using it in about 1987). I don't even know if S is in the AT&T Toolchest any more.

Of all of the tools listed in the OP, R/S is about the only tool that covers a significant proportion of what Mathematica can, and is the only one that can (creditably) claim to have pre-dated it. All of the others have been produced for part of what Mathematica can by those who could not afford it.

The only other thing that I came across that was used to do similar things was SPSS, but that was originally not a package in itself, but allowed you to do data manipulation more easily from inside other programs. I think that it has changed since I used it in 1980!

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Has Microsoft finally killed off Windows 8 Start button?

Peter Gathercole
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There's other problems here

Many users will transition from XP directly to Windows 8 when MS finally convince people that older versions of IE are insecure, and they nagware that is Automatic Update starts shouting that there are no more fixes even to SP3.

So what some commenters here are seeing as incremental change XP->Vista->7->8 will appear like a big-bang.

I personally cannot abide any interface where I have to drill down to what I regard as the root window in order to open something new. I want and need something that gets out of my way when I am not using it, but can be called up when I do. I tend to set autohide on any/all UIs that I use, and run with several overlapping windows on multiple virtual desktops obscuring any 'tiles' or desktop icons. This is one of the main reasons I don't like Unity and probably won't like Windows 8 if this article is correct.

Looks like I am condemned to be a technical dinosaur, at least as far as mainstream UIs.

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UK gov rejects call to posthumously pardon Alan Turing

Peter Gathercole
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@AC re: House of Lards - A heriditary house?

Probably not, but a second chamber, quite definitely.

But most of the hereditary peers were removed from the house by the last administration. Those peers that remain are selected life peers who have been elevated for their contribution to the country, and society as a whole (or at least that is the aim). As a result, they are supposed to be respected, and as such are given some power to ask the government to reconsider prospective legislation, which is a good idea.

The real problem is that although a second house is a thoroughly good idea, it must be disconnected from the House of Commons by having a completely different selection mechanism. There is no point in making it elected in the same time-scales as the lower house, because it then becomes just a rubber stamp body, reflecting the same issues that were in vogue when the election was held.

I for one feel that a house selected by merit is a suitable system. Maybe there should be a time limit on how long members of the Lords should be allowed to remain, but if the AC actually bothered to watch Lords debates on the BBC Parliament channel, then I think that they would be surprised about how interesting and well informed some of the speeches are. I was particularly impressed by a seemingly old foagy (can't remember who it was, I really should find out) standing up in the Lords during the ID card debates and making one of the most reasoned and interesting 20 minute contributions to the debate that I have ever heard. Changed my perspective completely.

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Colorfly Pocket Hi-Fi C4

Peter Gathercole
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@Fats

I read the sentence about Beats and Bose, and just had to hit the upvote!

In addition to all of your thoughts, I'm pretty worried about what pocket lint will do to the volume slider after a few weeks.

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Android dominates first-time smartphone buyer biz

Peter Gathercole
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The upgrade stats will be skewed

because there are more users of older iPhones who will probably want another iPhone, and rather fewer Android users from the same generation who are actually be in the position to upgrade.

It may also be that the users of Desires et. al. are still happy with their phones, and see no reason to upgrade.

Run the survey again in a year to 18 months when more of the older Android phones become obsolete (not able to run beyond FroYo), and see what it says.

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IBM bit-twiddlers want point releases for big iron

Peter Gathercole
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PCIe 3.0

Interesting thoughts about PCIe, but by exposing the GX+ bus on almost all of it's models, IBM has had the ability to side-step some of the bottlenecks associated with slower I/O buses.

Of course, this does require having suitable adaptor cards, but if you look at the P6 IH (P6 575) supercomputer nodes that IBM sold three years ago, the main interconnect was provided by 2 quad Infiniband cards plugged directly into the GX+ bus to give these systems the required grunt without having to use PCI or PCIe cards.

The downside of this is that you are forced to buy whatever offering IBM has, because very few third party hardware vendors will actually be interested in the investment required to produce such cards.

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The Register Comments Guidelines

Peter Gathercole
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I doubt

changing your handle will make a difference for moderation. The mods will identify the account by the login name, not the handle.

I don't know what their policy is on registering two accounts against different email addresses. I thought I read somewhere that it was either discouraged, or maybe that it was enough to get the accounts suspended.

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Peter Gathercole
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@madra - Hope this was meant in a light-hearted manner!

So you're wanting to ban some of the non-English first language commentards, as well as those not as educated as yourself?

Whilst I find it difficult to read some of the comments written in poor English, I have known many people with very valid technical information and comments who do not have English as their first language. I think I can put up with poor grammar so long as the comment has substance.

I think that those who use bad grammar as a reason to shout down a comment they don't like is just as bad as gratuitous use of poor English.

If your comment was tongue-in-cheek , then might I suggest that you use the Joke Alert! icon, rather than the Troll icon.

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Peter Gathercole
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I feel the registers forums have lost something

I just wanted to point out that I had a visible (on the forums) conversation with the The Register's then most celebrated moderator about having the reason for comments being rejected made known. What has been detailed in the new rules may go some way to getting what I asked for. IIRC, Drew was also in on the exchange, which should still be visible.

I didn't have to mention The Moderatrix's name, but I wanted to express my continued feeling of loss of the witty banter that typified us the commentard's collective exchanges with her.

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Peter Gathercole
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At last

Does this mean that we may get some feedback about why some comments are deemed unpublishable.

I had a long exchange with Sarah on the last comments rule article about wanting to be told why some comments were rejected. I try to self moderate, but I do have comments rejected on an infrequent basis.

I know that what you have said here is not quite that, but it's a step in the right direction IMHO.

I miss Sarah. It's just not the same trying to bait the rest of you to jump into a comment trail!

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Court defies Apple demand to ban Samsung tablet

Peter Gathercole
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Funnily enough

I have temporary custodianship of one of these while I try to get the calibration of the screen correct for Ubuntu.

It uses the FinePoint driver (which has, unfortunately, been pulled from Xorg's source tree now), and I cannot get the scaling and offsets to make the pointer accurately follow the touchscreen. And no, the documentation about the values to put in the xorg.conf and the sample calibration utility do not work as the documentation says (at least for this system). I can get the offsets set correctly for the top left of the screen, but the scaling makes the pointer fly off the right and bottom sides with minor movements regardless of the numbers in the configuration file. It looks like there may be an overflow or a divide by zero in the offset calculations in the driver going by the errors in the xorg.log file. I've not had the chance to look through the source yet. If anybody has any ideas, I would be interested. Ubuntu 10.4 (the last release with the touch screen driver in Xorg) also cannot drive the nvidia display correctly with hardware acceleration turned on.

Unfortunately, even if I get it working, it's still unreasonably slow, with the example I have it's got a 1GHz Transmeta Crusoe processor (which is another interesting point about this machine), so even when loaded with the maximum supported memory, it's still not going to be very usable.

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