277 posts • joined 25 Nov 2006
BBC Micro - best 8-bit computer of all time
Although Apple set the standard years earlier with the Apple II, the BBC Micro trumped it and all other 8-bit computers ever made by having the best hardware, OS and BASIC interpreter of its class. Sort of a "UK Mac" for the early 80's if you will and it wasn't until the Archimedes came out in 1987 that the technical prowess of the BBC Micro was finally beaten (yes, I tried an early Mac, but it felt quite straitjacketed even back then).
I helped out in a computer store in the early 80's and saw pretty well every type of 8-bit micro that was going then. Spectrum had the most games obviously, but its keyboard, graphics and sound were so poor as to be actually embarrassing to use. The Commodore 64 probably came closest in terms of hardware to the BBC, but was hugely let down by its poor OS, BASIC and utterly dismal disk system (so slow, that it was beaten by turbo tape loaders!).
I think that the BBC Micro was a perfect design for going into schools to replacing fairly doddering RM 380Z's and the like - its strength was indeed the OS and BASIC - the built-in assembler was a stroke of genius and you could actually develop commercial code on the same machine you ran it on (note that many Spectrum programmers - think Manic Miner and the like - used TRS-80's to code Spectrum games (downloaded via some clever add-ons) on because the Spectrum itself was a disaster to code commercially on.
The crying shame that was overpriced and never actually came down in price during any time in its production run, which ultimately was fatal to it. A drop of 100 quid would have probably doubled its sales. The Electron was horrendous - who wants a machine with no Mode 7 and half the speed of the BBC, especially when it was launched when pretty well everyone who wanted something in the BBC Micro range already had one.
I also felt Acorn were terrible at marketing - you'd hardly ever see ads on TV or print media for it, whereas Spectrum ads seemed to be everywhere. The Spectrum may have been significantly worse in almost all respects except the amount of RAM (the hardware was shoddy, it was slower, the OS and BASIC were simply dreadful), but Sinclair knew that once he got game developers on board, the cheaper machine would win out, even if it was basically a piece of junk.
My path went BBC Micro A, added RAM, added disk interface and disk drive, added speech chip, added sideways RAM (very handy for, er, running ROMs from disk)...then about 5 years later, jumped to the Archimedes A310, which I never bothered with a hard disk because it booted from ROM and 3.5" floppies were quick enough for me at the time.
Loved the Archimedes hardware, OS and BASIC again - a tour de force of engineering, the ghost of which lives on in most mobile phones as the ARM chip of course. Built-in assembler and a module loading system to add functionality, plus a reasonable WIMP for the time (perhaps not as good as the Mac's, but certainly better than GEM and Workbench) combined to make it a dream ARM development system.
It took many years of Archimedes use before a generic PC with Linux finally overtook it both in terms of speed and functionality - yes, I've never used Windows as a primary OS in all that time, though I do it run it via dual boot or VMs occasionally.
The 80's were the golden age of choice in the UK, but the 90's brought us the "one PC fits all" of Windows 95, the "nice but overpriced" of Macs and very little else (Linux really did take a long time to get the distros to be easy to install and use, but now they are technically by far the best OS to use, particularly if you are a developer).
As long as a distro gives a choice of WM's, then at least we can switch
I recently installed Fedora 16 on a netbook, but chose all available window managers to be installed so that it was easy to use the gdm pre-login options to switch WMs if I didn't like GNOME 3. Sure enough, GNOME 3 was appalling, so I easily switched to XFCE and managed to get it close to the look of my typical GNOME 2 session.
As long as we have an easily installable and switchable set of WMs provided with Linux distros, then I don't mind if the default one sucks donkey's naughty bits. It also gives us a distinct advantage over Windows if we really don't like the default desktop (Windows handling of scrollbar jumps if you drag a scrollbar button and drift left or right is appalling, as is maximising a window if you drag the top of it to the top of the screen - who thought either of those were sensible faults?).
Network needed during install / Broadcom wireless
Whilst they have finally sorted out their kernel mode setting failures with ATI cards (only took about 2 years/4 releases to do so), they seem to insist - for me at least - that a network connection is present during the Fedora 16 installation. This requirement forced up a dialogue box to choose between my network interfaces - and this was even before the repository/package choice was made! I've installed all previous 15 Fedora releases and have *never* required a net connection during any previous Fedora install - this is an extremely poor move on the part of the Fedora installer, IMHO.
What's worse is that the Fedora geniuses have shipped the Broadcom wireless drivers (I was installing on a Dell Mini 9 that has Broadcom) without any firmware, so they are utterly useless in the Anaconda installer - well done, boys! Even when I got the b43 firmware on a USB stick, Fedora's installer provided no easy way to install them (a la "press F6 for driver disk" that the Windows installer uses - I even used one of the virtual terminals to unpack the firmware files, but it still didn't help).
I could only get past the network prompt by wiring up the Mini 9's ethernet interface - once installed, I completed the b43 wireless driver install only to find I was getting 1Mbit/sec speeds and the connection dropping every 30 seconds. In other words, the open source driver for Broadcom wireless on Fedora 16 is shipped totally unusable without ninja skills to enable it and when it is enabled, it's utterly useless. I switched to the closed source "wl" driver from rpmfusion.org, which worked perfectly. I can't believe that in 2011, we've *still* got wireless problems with a major Linux distro.
As for the GNOME 3/Shell interface, it was such a bad user experience, I switched to XFCE and made it look fairly close to a GNOME 2 with a single panel at the bottom - a much more productive setup, IMHO. And, yes, there's a right-click on the background available to bring up "obvious" actions in XFCE, unlike GNOME 3's decision to ludicrously disable such right-clicks.
Not bad, but Sainsbury's did it already...
After checking out various Web sites for my sister a month or so ago, I eventually found a Samsung 15.6" i3 laptop for 285 quid on Sainsbury's Web site. Admittedly, this included 50 quid off the RRP, 50 quid cashback (though done easily all online) and a 15 quid checkout discount code, but it was pretty unbeatable. Told my sis to get 8GB of RAM from Amazon (just over 30 quid!) which is now fitted and the machine really is nice and fast. Probably the best laptop bargain of the year I reckon and clearly beating Asda's price too (even with the extra RAM)...
Still well overpriced
Most of these Blu-ray players seem to be high-end models that only audiophiles would chase it seems, making it not particularly relevant to 95%+ of the people reading this article.
I bought an LG combo drive for my PC in September 2008 for 67 quid that can read and write CDs and DVDs plus read HD-DVDs and Blu-Rays. Where's the equivalent 67 quid standalone Blu-Ray player over 3 years later? Whilst there have been a few special offers (HotUKDeals is your friend) in the interim, most Blu-ray players are still well above 100 quid! Why?
Blu-ray is doomed to fail long term on pricing alone (after over 5 years from launch, sub 100 quid players are still a rarity rather than the norm they should be - plus shouldn't Blu-ray movie discs cost the same as DVD discs by now too?), never mind that movie streaming via a net connection is slowly closing the viability window for Blu-ray too.
Basically, Blu-ray is an epic price fail and unless the prices fall soon, it'll be dodo time for the format.
Epic fail on many fronts
I'm really surprised about this "shoot-out", especially when it's conveniently taken place just after iOS5 comes out, but before Android 4 (ICS) does! Also, as people have pointed out, this was a test of HTC's Sense UI (and possibly some of the apps they add/modify), which is different to Samsung's Android UI for example.
I know the shoot-out was supposed to be about the out-of-the-box experience, but apparently this doesn't include the various app stores/Markets (even if the review would be limited to ease of use of said stores/Markets, rather than mentioning the quality or quantity of downloadable apps), which almost *all* smartphone users would use whereas there's stuff in the review that I've never used on my HTC Desire (e.g. the e-mail app, Facebook or Twitter are three to mention).
BTW, the ratings sections claim there are two sets of "Instant Messaging" ratings (the second one is for the e-mail review - dugh!). Talking of ratings, I'm totally incredulous that the ratings totals weren't provided at the end, so for those who want to know (marks out of 35):
Windows Phone 25.0
So is the reviewer going to have anohter shootout in a month with Symbian and Android 4 included then? Maybe not, because iOS 6 won't be out until next year and we've got to make sure Apple wins...
It'll be as half-hearted by Dell as before...
When Dell was selling Ubuntu machines in the UK a few years back, you had a hard job finding them (a single link something like "Open Source Desktops" - no way was Ubuntu a config option on the same customisation page as Windows).
When you did eventually discover them on Dell's UK site, they were very deliberately never exactly the same hardware (maybe under instruction from MS?), making like-for-like comparisons extremely difficult. In fact, the Linux hardware seemed to be slightly worse, never customisable and in many cases actually more expensive than the closest equivalent Windows machine.
In the end, when looking for a new Dell PC, I ended up with a quad core Vostro 400 business machine, wiped 32-bit Vista Business off and put 64-bit Fedora Linux on instead and it worked well (no, there was no quad core Linux Dell desktop available at all at the time!).
Dell's Linux desktop efforts were deliberately disgraceful for fear of offending MS (and losing their precious volume Windows discount) and then used to justify removing the Linux boxes from the Dell UK site entirely (I believe you could phone Dell UK up to order them after that, but I wouldn't be surprised if that option has gone now too).
If Dell were at all serious about Linux on the desktop, they could at least try this model:
* Certify that all the components work with Linux on a Dell machine (this could almost be automated with a boot CD producing a summary report - would be nice if the CD was made available to the general public too).
* Have a link on their product page to summarise what does/doesn't work in Linux (perhaps getting a Dell penguin "certified for Linux" logo if it fully passes).
* Make it *extremely clear* that installing Linux is not directly supported by Dell and they will only deal with OS/software queries about the pre-installed OS (i.e. Windows). Hardware, however, should not have its warranty invalidated if Linux is installed.
* If they want to put a bit more work into it, they could sponsor OSS developers or third-party manufacturers to write Linux drivers for any hardware components they are shipping that aren't supported by Linux.
If they did all of the above, then the final step would be to re-introduce Dell Linux desktops/netbooks/laptops *properly* this time. Ubuntu should be a pre-install option right next to the Windows OS options and ideally with a cost of 0.00 (no support) or some fixed support fee (e.g. 10% of the hardware cost per year or maybe 25% of the hardware cost for a "lifetime support").
It should be made clear to the purchaser that Ubuntu will not run most Windows programs (yes, Wine could be set up in a nice way by Dell/Canonical, but it's still only a partial solution, particularly for games). Needless to say, MS would go ballistic at the idea of Ubuntu being offered right next to Windows and threaten Dell to scupper their Windows discount I bet...
Use the (ISP) force, Nuke
I, too, made 6 seconds of phone calls on my BT landline in the last 3 months (yes, to ring my mobile phone to locate it!), but if you use broadband on your BT line, they refuse to give you a light user rebate!
By default, they also force you on a useless plan and it wasn't until I phoned them up (from work :-) ) that they actually admitted that you can pay a year's worth of line rental up front for 120 quid a year (10 quid a month) - I've never had any letter about that deal - but they didn't say anything about not being on any pointless plan though.
In the end, I switched to my ISP's 10 quid a month plan for a landline and I suspect that'll save at least 5-10 quid a month compared to BT.
Doesn't work on my (CyanogenMod 7) HP TouchPad
I don't know about other Android tablets, but this app is marked as "not compatible" in the Android Market with my HP TouchPad+CyanogenMod 7 setup. If this applies to other Android tablets too, then perhaps it deserves an "epic fail" rating? I find it a bit difficult to believe that a government app on Android would only work on mobile phones and not tablets, so maybe it's something specific to the TouchPad (e.g. screen res etc.)?
HP TouchPad browser? Why Firefox of course...
phcahill, the decent browser for the HP TouchPad is, of course, Firefox. This assumes you've installed CyanogenMod 7 on your TouchPad first - I did and it's my first experience of Android on a tablet. I'm loving it and live wallpapers actually start to make sense on a tablet too.
A bit of overclocking love via "CPU Master" and my HP TouchPad is flying with pretty well any app, Firefox Beta included. I've barely booted back to webOS, which did indeed have a virtually unconfigurable and therefore unusable browser (proxies? Font size? Cert management? Extensions? Themes? View Source? You're out of luck).
Don't use Fedora at work...
Captain Thyratron, I suspect whoever decided to install Fedora 15 on your work desktop is a pretty clueless admin. Not only is Fedora considered relatively bleeding edge, F15 in particular sucked spherical objects very hard indeed, which a few hours of testing would have shown. It's got a Frankenstein mix of systemd and Sys V init, GNOME 3 that works dismally on many ATI cards (It was only until Ubuntu 11.10 beta that I finally found a GNOME 3 distro that actually works with my ATI card) and even me, as a regular Fedora upgrader, decided to skip F15 due to its quite astonishing suckiness (they may have fixed issues with updates, but since F14 is still getting updates, I stayed with something that worked from day one).
What your IT people should have done was look at CentOS 6 - a free clone of RHEL 6 with 7 years of updates (F15 stops updates after about 14 months of life), GNOME 2 and 100% Sys V init. A much more suitable choice for a corporate Linux desktop than F15, IMHO.
UEFI spec needs to insist on user being able disable secure boot
Wouldn't the furore go away if the UEFI spec insisted that secure boot must always be able to be disabled by the end-user? Without that insistence in the spec, then Microsoft do indeed have a way to leverage their OEM clout to lock out any non-MS OS from being booted.
Also, won't it mean that only MS-signed rescue disks can be used to recover Windows (bang goes all those third-party rescue disks that are generally better than anything MS provides)?
Of course, Microsoft are being quite clever at using the Windows 8 logo cert programme to dangle a carrot at the OEMs to only ship Win 8 keys, whilst using a stick to beat away any other OS from being installed. This way, MS can try to get away with finger-pointing at OEMs from not providing the ability to disable secure boot.
ProxMox VE is good, but could be better
ProxMox VE is a reasonably good way to set up a single server hosting VMs, but it needs some work to make it easy to turn that into a multiple server cluster (which at least gives you live migration, needed for long term admin really). The Proxmox VE Cluster wiki pages are scary reading (but they do ultimate work if you're careful) - they seem to have "forgotten" to extend the ProxMox Web interface for converting two or more Proxmox VE standalone instances into an equivalent cluster.
Another defiency of ProxMox VE's Web admin is that some operations can only be done by hand-editing VM conf files in /etc/qemu-server - i.e. "modify" options are often missing from the Web interface.
Another Web "gotcha" is that the set of buttons to do something with a VM are missing obvious option, namely "Suspend" (and "Resume" when it's suspended). It seems crazy to me that a Web interface to manage VMs can't actually suspend any of them. Also be careful that some changes to VMs require a Shutdown and then a Start (Restart doesn't apply the changes) and the Proxmox VM Web interface doesn't warn you about that. Still, it's free and it generally works, so we shouldn't complain too much :-)
Load times dismal
Whilst they've done a revamp for the 2011 season, is it just me or are the load times when visiting each track even longer than F1 2010 (which was already bad)? I have 12GB RAM, but it doesn't seem to have the concept of caching data for tracks already visited in this session. Perhaps the fact it's a 32-bit app (why? Aren't there loads of 64-bit Windows 7 users out there now?) doesn't help, but the loading times are so appalling that it detracts significantly from gameplay, IMHO.
Here's what they need to do w.r.t. HD channels
1. Change "BBC HD" to "BBC 2 HD". OK, this will mean no BBC 3 or 4 programmes in HD, but surely BBC 2 gets more viewers than BBC 3 and 4 combined?
2. Scrap S4C HD in Welsh regions and replace it with Channel 4 HD. How come Welsh regions get Channel 4 (England) in SD, but not in HD? I suspect the number of viewers of Channel 4 SD in Wales massively exceeds the number of viewers of S4C SD.
3. Even though there's virtually no decent programmes (apart from the odd US import) on Channel 5, it seems bizarre that it's now the only one of the "original" 5 terrestrial channels without some sort of output in HD (OK, BBC 2 only gets some stuff via BBC HD, but my suggestion 1 would fix that). Hence, just for consistency, I would allocate the HD channel to C5.
4. When the final region switches over to digital in 2012, do a massive channel renumbering to shift the HD channels to 1-5 instead of 50-54 like they currently are. Yes, I have a Freeview HD box that shamefully can't renumber the channels...
Is it channel 112 or 120?
Logically, it would suggest that the third channel involved is 112, but you mention channel 120 at the start and 112 in the middle - so which is it? I hope my 8320HD (which has Freeview HD, wired and wireless connections) will see this stuff - I presume no firmware update would be needed? I bet most of the free content is going to be rubbish though...
Mozilla is ditching visible version numbers
Loads of moans about the version number I see, despite the major version of Firefox meaning nothing after version 4 was released. In fact, Mozilla is going to remove visible version numbers from its products shortly - look at the download page for Thunderbird at http://www.mozilla.com/thunderbird/ for example.
It's funny how no-one has mentioned the same thing happens with Google Chrome - they version inflate at the same rate: now at version 13 - 7 ahead of Firefox!) and yet what they sneakily do is silent updates (service in WIndows, at job in Linux) and never tell the user they've got a new version. I suspect Mozilla are preparing to do something similar soon with their products.
Also note that Firefox 3.6.X is sort of becoming a long-lived version (yes, it just got another minor uipdate) - something that Google haven't bothered doing at all with Chrome.
The extension version checking is an issue - but once I got everything sorted in Firefox 4, versions 5 and 6 haven't caused me any problems. There is the Add-ons Compability Reporter extension, should you need to override the version check (no idea if Chrome does any similar thing - do they even version check or just leave extensions to break?).
I think one way that users could have been appeased was if Firefox numbered itself with a reverse date format (20110801 or something) - then there's no major version field for people to gripe about.
The worst thing for me with Firefox 6 was the terrible copycat of the stupid URL domain highlighting (about:config, search for "formatting" and double-click it to set it to false to fix this idiocy) - lets show the domain name in normal text and grey out every other remaining character in the entire URL to make it unreadable. Why not bold or colour the domain name and leave the rest of the URL in a normal font/colour? A dumb copy of Chrome/Opera's awful display of URLx and not a clever move at all.
In conclusion, Firefox 6, like version 5, is a relatively minor August 2011 update. The next update (yes, version 7, though I reckon "Sep/Oct 2011" would be a more appropriate version string) will start to see both memory and performance improvements for Firefox and I think that release will be a lot more "exciting" for end-users. Rumours have it that update after that (yes, 8 I suppose) will be very good w.r.t. memory usage in particular - it may beat all the other browsers w.r.t. memory usage/management. It may even bring some ex-Firefoxians back into the fold again...
Sure caddies are the way to go
I got a 3.5" USB 3.0 caddy, slotted in a Samsung SATA drive (ludicrously easy to do, especially since the caddy came with a screwdriver, screws and a USB 3.0 cable) and spent a lot less money than any of these drives reviewed. Caddy 25 quid, 2TB SATA drive 50 quid - still change left over to buy a second (internal) 2TB drive if these prices are anything to go by!
Never mind the UI's, kernel modesetting is even more broken
I've tried both the latest Ubuntu and Fedora releases and both have painful GNOME 3 implementations - considering GNOME 3 was very raw at the time of those 2 distro releases, they should have provided a way to choose GNOME 2 vs. GNOME 3 in the installer, IMHO and leave the GNOME 3-only force-down-your-throat to the following release (by which, some of the worst issues may have been fixed).
Mind you, no-one except me seems to have noticed that kernel modesetting for a fair range of ATI HDxxxx cards has been stupendously broken ever since that "feature" came in (what, nearly 2 years ago/3 distro releases ago?). My HD2600XT and HD4290-shod machines both go to a permanent blank screen within seconds of booting live or install discs of either Ubuntu 11.04 or Fedora 15.
Yes, adding "nomodeset" to the kernel line (or choose vesa/text modes for the installer) fixes the issue, but why do both distros use highly risky kernel modesetting as the *default*, especially for the installer? BTW, by the time I worked around this issue, installed Fedora 15 and added the closed source ATI driver (needed to get all the hardware accel. for GNOME 3), I got disastrous enough artifacts in the GNOME 3 interface to basically abandon that and try other desktop envs!
And don't get me ranting about the half-baked Systemd vs. System V init mess that Fedora 15 ships with (yep, half the services start with Systemd and the other half with initscripts - a totally borked system). At this point, CentOS 6 (which I'm now using at work) is looking like "the last great hope" - 7 years of updates, 100% initscripts and a reasonably recent GNOME 2.
Live timing on www.formula1.com preferable...
Having both an Android phone with the official F1 app installed and a Linux netbook with the Java-based live timing app loaded from www.formula1.com using Firefox, the latter is the clear winner.
This is mainly because the "large" window on the Java timing app contains everything I need to see neatly in one screen, whereas the Android app, by necessity, is cramped and involves you constantly switching screens to find the info you need.
Even with my 8.9" netbook screen, a quick F11 for full screen allows the large Java window to fit perfectly and I just glance occasionally at it whilst watching the race without having to press any key/screen at all. The *only* reason I'd ever use the Android app is if I couldn't see the race on TV and I didn't have my netbook with me, which would be highly frustrating (and unlikely) on both counts anyway!
Trivia point: Has anyone noticed that the BBC F1 coverage on Freeview (SD or HD) is often 5-6 seconds behind the formula1.com live timing? Very noticeable in free practice and qualifying where you can compare the TV's session countdown clock with the one on the live timing. It does mean I can shout out fastest laps and pit stops before they get mentioned on TV though :-)
Never liked GoDaddy myself
GoDaddy may be cheap for SSL certs but the last time I used them they had the sharp practice of defaulting to auto-renewing the SSL and taking the money off me with no warning.
After that debacle, I use Servertastic now - the cheapest UK reseller of RapidSSL certs - buying in batches of 10 or more works out at about 6.50+VAT each. Nice to be billed by a UK company in UK pounds for your SSL certs too!
BTW, b166er, StartSSL.com is "offline until 20th June" - doesn't inspire much confidence in them!
Linux Flash player RPM has summary/description = version 7.0!
Just downloaded and installed the Linux i386 RPM of Flash player (flash-plugin-10.3.181.26.i386) and here's what the Summary and Description say ("rpm -qi flash-plugin"):
Summary : Adobe Flash Player 7.0
Adobe Flash Plugin 7.0.68
Fully Supported: Mozilla 1.0+, Netscape 7.x, Firefox 0.8+
Partially Supported: Opera, Konqueror 3.x
It really shows how incompetent Adobe are doesn't it - none of their "genius" programmers have bother updating the spec file for several years it seems. I guess that goes hand-in-hand with their festering code (full screen Flash on Linux = 100% CPU!).
Fedora still broken with some of the AMD/ATI HDxxxx card family
Ever since kernel modesetting came in, Fedora's installer has been broken for me with my ATI cards (HD2600XT and HD4290) if you choose the graphical option (pressing Tab and adding nomodeset to the kernel line fixes this) and F15 is sadly no exception.
Once you get F15 installed, there's still no support for my ATI cards, so it runs in "fallback mode", which provides some Frankenstein GNOME 2-ish 2-task bar environment where you can't seem to right-click at all to change anything!
So I trundle off to rpmfusion.org (a bit of secret that fedoraproject.org don't mention prominently, when they should), only to find that there's no F15 repos there yet and hence no nice Catalyst driver RPMs to use. Yes, I could get the latest drivers from ati.com, but the RPMs are much more convenient.
So if you've got an ATI HDxxxx card, good luck getting GNOME 3 to work out of the box. I can't believe both Ubuntu and Fedora have been broken for years with this kernel modesetting issue!
Needs twin HD Freeview tuners + decent hard drive
I can't say I'm a fan of these media player boxes that are designed to hook up to a TV but actually don't have an HD tuner (most "HD ready" TV sets sold until very recently only had SD tuners remember, so the vast majority of UK TV owners don't have HD tuners in their TVs yet) or a hard drive to record onto.
You probably actually need two HD tuners (one to record one and one to watch) and a correspondingly large hard drive (or at least the ability to attach an external one via a USB port). This drives up the price though, but provides a far more useful box to the average family and mostly negates the need for the poorer quality iPlayer facility (which I only ever use if I forget to record something and even then I'm often better off looking "elsewhere" on the Net for a high quality copy).
I've got a Technika 8320HD which would be a decent buy if it wasn't so buggy - 155 quid delivered from Tesco and does a lot more than this Digital Stream box does.
Why does it have to be Windows host + CentOS guest?
It is somewhat bemusing to see Microsoft announce support for CentOS guests, but since CentOS is basically a 100% binary compatible clone of RHEL, couldn't RHEL be a guest too (or will Microsoft look for CentOS-specific stuff (contents of /etc/issue?) and block RHEL)?
Also, Microsoft is basically admitting that CentOS is a good enough OS to be worth providing VM support for. Won't this make people curious about CentOS (and maybe RHEL if they have the money)? Couldn't it even make people realise they can "flip" their guest vs. host setups (i.e. CentOS as host, Windows and CentOS as guests) since kvm is quite a decent free virtualisation system on CentOS that could potentially save you having to buy a Windows Server licence?
It seems to me that this announcement isn't really a "snub" to RHEL, but actually a rare case of Microsoft admitting that Linux is at least as worthy as Windows to be in the data centre.
Don't forget CentOS can host Windows guests too
Don't forget that CentOS's free kvm can guest virtualise both Linux and Windows OS'es too and the overall solution will be much cheaper (one less expensive Windows Server licence to buy)! Methinks Microsoft forgot about this scenario...
Failed to install 11.04...
Just tried to install 11.04 this morning and here's a quick rundown of my failed experience:
* ATI blank screen bug (also in recent Fedoras) not fixed for 2 years now - for my Radeon HD4290, had to put "nomodeset" in the kernel command line.
* Open up a terminal window in the installer and the (traditional) scroll bar button is virtually invisible because it's pretty well the same colour as the rest of the scroll bar - UI fail there.
* If you customise your partitions like I do, you can't actually manually specify a mount point (you can only use a pop-up listr of fixed mount points like /, /home and so on) - terrible!
* The migration utility failed on my setup, whether I picked a distro to migration files from or not - it couldn't umount a partition (several partitions had all been mounted on /target it seems).
* When the migration utility failed, it claimed it would continue, but that was a lie - it actually incredibly skipped the installation of files into /boot and the modification of the MBR. Massively epic fail there.
So that's a epic fail upon epic fail, resulting in an unbootable 11.04. Geniuses not at work, methinks.
Vertex 2? Now an old model...
As an earlier poster said, this review of SSDs dropped a clanger by missing out the Vertex 3, which has just arrived on UK shores albeit not at a cheap price (240 quid for 120GB? Pull the other one). However, not only is it SATA 3, but it has sensational read and write speeds (550Mbytes/sec and 500Mbytes/sec respectively). It's now the performance king for consumer SSD drives and if only it wasn't 2 quid per GB, I'd have bought one right away. Epic fail for missing it from this SSD roundup!
Still no USB, SD card slot or HDMI - ridiculous!
To me, this is a small improvement over the iPad - mainly due to its dual-core CPU - and still a major fail when it comes to removable media. USB Is *essential* - think 2TB external drives, keyboards, printers and many other peripherals that would be useful for a tablet to temporarily use. If you buy the non-3G model and are on the move, how do you get files off the thing (unless you're lucky to find one of those mythical free Wi-fi hotspots [no, not open home ones!])? Answer that obvious question, Steve!
The reviewer virtually dismisses USB, SD cards and HDMI at the end, despite these being highly desirable features (almost standard nowadays?) on almost all forms of computer, not just tablets (heck, even mobile phones have a form of USB - why not the iPad 2?!).
I'm not saying the iPad 2 isn't a nice bit of kit (it is), but yet again the hardware is underspec'ed and overpriced for the umpteenth product from Apple - only getting rescued by the slick user interface really.
More to the point, where's CentOS 5.6?
The CentOS team have already released 4.9 and are working on 5.6, but sadly this seems to be going at a glacial pace. CentOS 6 will be released some time after 5.6, but how long after is anyone's guess.
Apart from their slow pace, it's worrying that some security updates to 5.5 aren't get a timely release (they should always be near or at the front of the porting queue surely?) and the disappointingly closed build system makes it hard from anyone outside the CentOS developer "elite" to help out.
There's also been a dearth of communication from the CentOS developers about their progress, though they've finally started to actually give progress reports on the developers list at long last. Some users are already jumping ship to Scientific Linux because of all of the above, but I'm remaining patient - it is a free distro after all and I'm willing to wait.
Countdown site with no countdown - MS idiocy again
OK, so Microsoft put up an official IE6 Countdown site and then actually fail to provide any sort of countdown. You'd expect it to be a countdown the end of support for IE6, which is tied to the EOL of XP SP3, but this is so embarrassingly far away, there's actually no mention of it on the countdown site!
For the record, IE6 loses support in an outrageously long time - 8th April 2014 - see:
(it's the XP SP3 "end of extended support")
So there should be a countdown timer on the site of 3 years, 1 month and a few days, but this would garner so much negative PR (just *why* are XP and IE6 supported for almost 13 years?!) that Microsoft have predictably chickened out from putting up that countdown.
It is indeed amusing that Microsoft is officially admitting that one of their own products - that they are still officially supporting remember - is a total piece of garbage: "friends don't let friends use IE6" indeed! I thought that was a given for the years 2001-2014 inclusive :-)
Expensive for what it does
When looking at various Freeview HD DVRs last year, the Icecrypt model looked interesting, but I've got to say it seems under-featured for its quite high price. Lack of DLNA support and no wireless (not many households have CAT 5 in their lounge!) are both major minuses in my book. The EPG does look badly designed (far too much space for the Picture-in-Picture and programme description) and the format support for video playback seems average.
Althouigh it's still got bugs to fix, the Smartbox 8320HD from Fetch TV at 190 quid still seems to offer the best bang-for-buck in the Freeview HD arena - a shame Tesco just ended their distribution deal for it though. It *does* have DLNA, wired and wireless and supports an awful lot of video formats. No mention of iPlayer or Sky Player (both on the 8320HD) in this Icecrypt review, so I can assume they're no-no's too?
You can buy desktops without an OS, but not from the major OEMs
This issue would be solved if the major OEMs were "allowed" to sell machines with no OS pre-installed. Fear of losing their Windows volume discount from Microsoft keeps them generally in line, but they'd also have to make very clear (every step of the purchasing process on their Web site *and* include a leaflet with the machine) that there is zero OS or software support for a no-OS machine they'd sell.
I got so frustrated with this that instead of choosing Dell again this time around for a machine I run Linux on but has to be shipped with Windows (Dell's well-hidden Linux offerings are often more expensive or only available on low-end hardware that I don't want), I just bought a new custom-build PC from a fairly well known online vendor *without* an OS pre-installed. This saved me enough money to get a 6-core CPU instead of a quad core, so I'm pleased that I didn't pay the Microsoft tax...
7 minutes and 30 seconds per month
If you could max out your 3G T-Mobile connection at 7.2Mbit/s (highly unlikely - who ever gets that?), then their monthly limit would be exhausted in 7 minutes and 30 seconds! So there's no chance of streaming a high-def movie to your phone via T-Mobile any more then...
Why can't these mini-SSD's go in desktops too?
Why is that SSDs seem to be exclusively aimed at laptops, when surely desktops could do with some SSD-love too? Why is almost impossible to buy an OEM PC with an SSD drive included (unless you go to the very top-end gamer models that cost 1000+ quid)? Surely the combo of an 80GB SSD and 2TB hard drive is cheap enough for OEMs to put them in their mainstream desktop ranges now?
World's laziest year end review?
This was a pretty poor year-end review for two very obvious reasons:
1. Hardly any prices quoted in the article itself. Instead you're expected to follow each link to old reviews which may not have current price information anyway.
2. No re-review of the equipment at the end of the year. I bet all the equipment featured had firmware updates during the year and would have fixed bugs and maybe added a few features too. They all need re-reviewing as to their state now, not 6 or more months ago! My 8320HD just had a massively better firmware update that may have added another 10% to its rating for example.
Er, most new large TVs are flash upgradeable
Most new large TVs are flash upgradeable. My 32" LG, for example, has a USB port and runs Linux - throw in a stick with the new firmware on and it'll upgrade the set for you. Amusingly, someone leaked the engineer backdoor sequence to get into the service menu for an older firmware release (it was blocked after the leak though) and the menu lets you enable features in more expensive models - whoops! So a quick downgrade, enable features and upgrade again got my set playing movies, music and photos from the USB port, which it couldn't previously do.
What about servers shipped with no OS?
Although the article briefly mentions that - shock, horror - servers can actually be bought without an OS, how come there's no figures from IDC for such servers? If you think about it, most server deals that come with an OS (usually Windows) offer a discount on the server+OS combo compared to buying them separately. Hence, anyone who buys a server without an OS is either going to be a pirate (unlikely in the server room) or be putting on a free OS (since a paid OS would cost more than the combo deal version).
Since the most popular free OS on servers is Linux, we can therefore deduce that the vast majority of OS-less servers will be running Linux. I bet that adding those OS-less servers to the paid Linux servers would close the gap considerably to Windows, but without any IDC figures (or did they quote them and the article ignored them?), we can't do the maths on this.
Why not annual releases and maybe a 6-monhly update roll-up release?
I think what all Linux distros should do is have an annual release (e.g. 2011.0 for release in the first 6 months of 2011) and then do "rolling updates" for a year. I would also suggest a year.5 release 6 months in that is just the annual release with 6 months of updates rolled in for easier deployment (i.e. no double downloads - one for the ISO and another set for hundreds of updates).
And, yes, you need a major new feature in each annual .0 release that the previous year's release didn't have, otherwise there's no incentive to install a later annual release. Support the latest 2 annual releases on the desktop and the latest 5 (at least) on the server and then drop the pointless "LTS" releases (all annual releases become LTS releases in other words).
How come all these "budget" players were 25+ quid?!
If you must buy a budget MP3 player, then sure you want one that's "throwaway" (e.g. works for 1-2 years and you chuck it away and buy the same or similar for a really cheap price). It surprises me that at least 20 quid is considered a "budget" price - surely we're talking 10 quid or less here.
Sumvision are the total kings of sub-10 quid MP3 players, but I guess El Reg's snobbiness wouldn't stoop to review such a brand. There's a red Sumvision 1GB MP3 player for 7 quid out there for example, but nooo, that's too cheap apparently. I bet you 5 of those Sumvisions would last longer than any of the players you reviewed by a long, long way.
Nice idea, but why a full major CentOS release behind?
SME Server is an interesting idea, but I wonder why they are basing the current stable release on CentOS 4 and the current beta release on CentOS 5, when CentOS 6 is less than 2 months away?
Also, wouldn't SME Server be better implemented as a CentOS 5 (or 6 for beta) repo, so that you install the standard CentOS 5/6 and then do "yum groupinstall sme_server" or something like that to convert your CentOS 5 vanilla install into an SME Server install. It then allows SME Server to get all the CentOS 5 updates (kernel, C library, Apache, PHP and so on) and allows the easy downgrade back to CentOS 5 vanilla again "yum groupremove sme_server".
Status bar is now an extension....
If you want the status bar back, it's now an extension:
You'll need to eanble the Add-ons bar and then use Customise... to drag stuff like Progress Meter, Download Status and Status Items. What I like about the extension is that it has loads of prefs that give you a lot of control, *plus* remove the hover URL from the location bar *and* get rid of the horrendous bright green thin progress meter at the bottom of the location bar. In other words, much like Firefox 3's status bar was, but even more customisable.
Two things not covered in the article...
1. Will Freeview HD receivers/recorders require a retune or does the Freeview+ standard mandate regular monitoring of the channel list and alerting the user that new ones are available (I bet they forgot to spec this one!)?
2. Will BBC 1 HD transmit with no onscreen logo, a logo for native HD content only (ITV 1 HD does this) or a logo all the time? I guess I'll find out tonight then...
Link to the app world Web site would have been nice!
Neither the article nor the link to the instructions in the article actually bothered to include the URL of the app world Web site. To save you searching for it, here it is:
The free stuff looks pretty wretched to me - I bet all the decent stuff costs money...
It's a shame that the Freeview HD standard for set-top boxes doesn't insist on wireless being compulsory as well as a wired Ethernet connection. Since these boxes will mainly go in the lounge and often often in a different room from the main desktop PC and wireless router, then I'd thought wireless is almost a "must have" surely?
Mind you, this TVonics box just seems almost ignore its Ethernet (used for firmware updates [maybe] and "possibly" Youview in the future), so I guess it's no wonder it's not got wireless. I think people are looking more from a box that is capable of going on their home network (streaming to another machine, iPlayer, Sky Player, ITV Player, firmware updates, Youtube, PPV [TV progs, movies, live sports]).
A box that's 250-280 quid had better do *something* more than just record TV programmes and playback a few JPEGs from its USB ports! It's what my Technika 8320HD can do and that's 200 quid...
Partitioning gripe is nonsense
In the graphical installer, you're given the choice to "install Ubuntu side-by-side with other OS'es" (which, er, requires shrinking of an existing [probably Windows] partition and, yes, a new partition is created), "erase and use the whole disk" (thankfully not the default!) and "manually partition" (which I always do myself because I have multiple Linuxes on the same drive). If you're just installing Ubuntu and no other Linuxes on the hard drive, then technically you don't need separate partitions, but in reality, you probably want the OS to create a swap partition at least equal to your physical RAM.
Anyway, apart from the total lack of innovation of anything actually useful in 10.10 compared to 10.04, I'm surprised that the disastrous ATI kernel modeset problem *still* hasn't been fixed in 10.10. I have an ATI HD 2600XT and the graphical installer for Ubuntu just goes straight to a blank screen. Sure, pressing F6 and adding "nomodeset" to the kernel boot line will fix it, but who will know to do that?! Recent Fedoras (even including F14 beta) have the same catastrophic bug and no-one seems to be fixing this kernel modesetting issue in the upstream kernel.
I think Fedora 14 is going to be a far more interesting release than this near-pointless 10.10 release - there's actually new stuff going into F14 that looks useful, unlike, oh, a new Ubuntu system font which they don't even make the default!
Will Oracle improvements reach the free version?
I guess that's the big question - if Oracle keep their enhancements for the paid version only, then I could see a fork happening for the free version (I believe that's already happened a few times, but none of the forks seem to have gotten any traction). Maybe Red Hat should fork it - people might sit up and notice then!
BTW, one example of MySQL deficiency that Oracle really should look at first is the poor performance of MySQL Cluster with certain types of queries on ndbcluster tables (we're talking 8-10 times slower than standalone MySQL). It was so bad, we had to ditch MySQL Cluster and use a master-master replicated scenario with MyISAM/InnoDB tables instead, which virtually lost no performance compared to standalone MySQL.
It's also about time that MySQL Proxy was worked on and finally brought into the production release family - it's been stuck as a 0.X release (with some nasty flaws) for years now. It's needed if you're trying to use MySQL in a balanced DB server environment and yet little attention seems to be paid to it.
Reminds me of the SCO vs IBM case, with a twist?
This sort of reminds me of SCO vs. IBM (SCO claiming to have infringing code, but then not actually producing any). However, if someone buys both the bulletin boards, is the PHP source code for both unobfuscated (i.e. not byte-coded or run through a source obfuscator)? If it isn't, then surely it's just a question of someone going through both and comparing the source code?
Software patents could be another issue - is any part of vBulletin patented? I guess the only other thing I could think of is clauses in the "defectors" contracts stopping them working for a rival firm for a certain period, though I don't know if those are enforceable or not.
Wot, no links?
There seemed to be a distinct lack of links in this article, so here's a couple:
http://www.documentfoundation.org/ - Web site of the new Document Foundation.
http://www.documentfoundation.org/download/ - Download page for LibreOffice. Note the lack of a final version - all the downloads are for the 3.3.0 beta 1 version. A shame they launched the fork without actually having a stable version to download (something missed by the article....).
BTW, am I the only one who doesn't like the LibreOffice name because it's a French word mixed in with an English one, which is very clumsy indeed for an office suite containing a word processor whose English spelling checker rejects the word "libre"...
Might be first time the case housed a decent OS
No mention of what OS it runs, but even if it comes with Windows 7, I bet you'll be able to run Linux on it, which will be first time a C64 case actually housed a decent OS. Lets face it, the C64's OS and BASIC were both awful and it was only saved by having good audio and hardware sprite support which, if you avoided using OS or BASIC calls (both of which were utterly dire as I said), did lead to some good games.
A better exercise might be to put a modern PC's innards inside a case that originally housed the best 8-bit OS and BASIC of all time - the BBC Micro! And one of the boot options would, of course, just boot into a BBC Micro emulation environment....
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