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* Posts by Richard Lloyd

262 posts • joined 25 Nov 2006

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Teletext toddles off as licence taken

Richard Lloyd
FAIL

Pictures? What pictures?

"...(adding the ability to show pictures!)" - er, what pictures? The only ones I ever saw on commercial digital Teletext were for banner ads. You'd have thought at least one small pic with each article would have been nice, but nope - text only and often crammed into a column about 40% of the width of the screen (requiring more sub-page flips than analogue teletext!).

I was permanently deeply unimpressed with commercial Teletext - no article pics as I said, quite slow to find a page to load, no page caching (if analogue teletext sets can do this, why can't digital, especially with no pics!) and, to be frank, not much useful content except perhaps to check a live sports score. The Web effectively killed digital teletext before it was born and it's still in a comatose state, even on the BBC.

In my house, the red button has always meant "watch one of the BBC's alternative video feeds", but on Freeview, they've even scrapped much of those (still available as multi-feeds on Sky Digital though!) and often pick the "wrong" one when there's a video feed clash. The other day, Freeview channel 301 was showing a useless Hairy Bikers prog, whilst Sky Digital's equivalent had highlights of the Murray vs. Nadal match - what a clanger to not show the tennis!

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Windows 7 tool gets GPL v2 makeover

Richard Lloyd
Alert

Cnet never took it down...

It's interesting that one of the most popular sites for Windows downloads, download.com (run by cnet), never took down this tool during the whole GPL2 debacle! I'm really quite surprised MS didn't contact cnet to get it pulled - its original posting (23rd Oct 2009) is still up here:

http://download.cnet.com/Windows-7-USB-DVD-Download-Tool/3000-18513_4-10972600.html

I did actually need this tool during the "embargo" period, so I used the cnet copy and it worked, albeit surprisingly slowly. You should make sure you have a fast (for writes) USB key at least 4GB in size.

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Users howl as Fedora 12 gives root to unwashed masses

Richard Lloyd
Alert

Ubuntu is the amateur one and why not try CentOS?

Replying to Carlo Graziani:

I don't think Fedora is amateurish at all - in fact, if anyone is "amateur", it's the Ubuntu team for releasing frankly awful versions (9.04 was poor, 9.10 is a disaster). Fedora 11 is sweet and I'm about to install Fedora 12 (and the PackageKit "fix" hopefully!) and expect it to be just as good.

And if you don't like Fedora's cutting edge nature, get on the "slow train" with CentOS - much more conservative and updated far less often, but no doubt you'd complain that's it's not up-to-date enough! For home desktop distros, you really do want to be following close to the bleeding edge because of all the new hardware coming out.

For me, Fedora is the "best blend" Linux distro out there - it has innovations with every release (far more than Ubuntu does generally), it comes with sensible defaults/packages (this brief PackageKit fiasco excepted) and is updated regularly. I have no problem doing an annual upgrade of my default desktop (yes, I have been known to skip a Fedora release when I didn't like it) - heck, Windows has to be re-installed every 6 months to "clean it up" and at least Fedora major upgrades are totally free, unlike Windows.

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No Freeview HD kit in time for launch, warns telly exec

Richard Lloyd
Alert

Not much in article about the tech angle

The article didn't cover much technical (apart from the HD tuners being MPEG4 instead of MPEG2), so I'll asl a few questions:

* For people setting up media centres, they'll need to purchase an HD Freeview tuner for the machine (PCI card or USB I guess). Are these available already (e.g. sold for other HD digital markets in Europe) and if so, will they work with HD Freeview?

* Obvious question here - with the ludicrously sluggish timetable (both for SD and HD digital switchover), can you buy an HD Freeview tuner/set-top box/TV as soon as they are available and then use it with SD Freeview until your region switches to HD Freeview? It would be a massive technical and marketing mistake not to provide support for both because of the long-winded timetable.

I need to know all this cos I just picked up a cute Acer Revo 3610 for 159 quid and want to know if I should hold off buying an SD Freeview USB tuner for it or not (i.e. wait for an HD version to come out and buy that).

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Hisense 1080p Media Player

Richard Lloyd
FAIL

No N-standard wi-fi = epic fail

I bet a *lot* of people don't have CAT5 wiring around their house, so any box like this that comes without wi-fi (especially N-standard if you want 1080p) is surely a massive failure? Now if the box had wi-fi and only cost 10-20 quid more, I'd be interested, but otherwise this is impossible to put in the lounge next to the TV and I bet that's the case for almost everyone else too.

Also, it would be nice if the box could handle a USB tuner stick automatically and include some sort of timer recording facilities (yes, storing back across wi-fi to a central media server) as well, but I guess I'm asking for too much there as well.

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Windows 7 - the Reg reader verdict

Richard Lloyd
WTF?

Better than Vista, but what wasn't?

It's definitely an improvement on Vista, but there's still some very obvious "flaws":

* The Classic Start Menu has gone and if you customise your Start Menu like I do (i.e. remove over half the pointless space-wasting entries in it), you're left with fugly large blank areas of the double-panelled wastefully-wide menu. Big step backwards there.

* I use the Classic theme in Win 7 and you can't remove the annoying "Show Desktop" icon in the bottom right! It's part of the taskbar notification area, but the config dialogue for that deliberately omits that for absolutely no good reason at all.

* The default taskbar labels for open windows are too large (as is the taskbar itself - 600 pixels on netbooks means you don't want a tall taskbar) and have no text but large icons only - yes, easily changed if you poke around, but the default isn't good.

* I see the spastic scrollbar behaviour from many Windows releases hasn't been fixed yet. Click on the scroll thumb and drag it down (or up) - if your mouse drifts to left or right of the scroll bar whilst dragging, it jumps huge amounts! WTF is all I can say and this hits me so often, I can't believe other people haven't seen this and complained about it. It's a scrolling UI disaster that's been in Windows for donkeys years.

* Retail Win 7 recognises a Synaptics Touchpad (extremely common on many, many netbooks and notebooks) as a PS/2 mouse, which I find incredible. This is not only a major device identification failure, it means that there is *no* support to disable "tap-to-click" (or "tapping"), which is the most loathsome thing ever. Yep, the default on a retail Win 7 install is to have tapping enabled and with no way to turn it off - cue major frustrations amongst millions of users! Solution is to go to www.synaptics.com and install their driver for the touchpad using administrator and "Vista SP 2 compatibility mode" when running the driver installer. The Synaptics driver has config options to turn off the dreaded tapping feature - no doubt OEMs will slipstream this in on laptops/netbooks, but it's a major testing failure for MS to let this happen on the retail version.

Having said all that, Windows 7 is actually quite usable once you configure it to your liking. I'd say it's a definite upgrade for Vista users and a "maybe" for XP users. If you could pick it up for 45 quid as a pre-order, then, on balance, it's worth the money. I'll stick with Fedora Linux myself, which is better than any version of Windows, including 7, at least IMHO, plus it's free as a bonus, which always helps.

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Microsoft offers stickers to boost Windows 7 64-bit take-up

Richard Lloyd
Happy

64-bit went mainstream on Linux about 5 years ago

Nice to see that Microsoft have finally realised that most new desktops and laptops bought nowadays are 64-bit capable - hey, only 5 years after Linux distros caught onto the 64-bit platform :-) I suspect that even now, Linux still has more 64-bit binaries available than Windows does - MS totally dropped the 64-bit ball with both XP and Vista...it's about time they, oh, hit the year 2004 or so.

Still, the standard 64-bit caveat applies on all platforms - if you have less than 4GB of physical RAM or your apps require less than 4GB of virtual RAM in total, then stick with 32-bit.

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Faster broadband for free?

Richard Lloyd
FAIL

Er, BT shop postage isn't 1.20 quid!

I'm not sure why BT broadband customers pay just 1.20 pounds "postage" for this, when the BT Shop's P&P charges are actually a ridiculous 5.86 pounds! Yes, if you buy this from BT and aren't a BT Broadband user, it's *not* 7.07 pounds (the misleading "Free delivery on BT products" logo on the BT Shop site actually links to a page that only then adds "for BT products over 15 pounds" - I think the ASA should do them for that), but actually 12.93 pounds including P&P.

If you really want one for 7.07 quid, then dabs.com look like the place to go (yes, it truly is free P&P on that site) - I've just ordered mine from there.

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Virtualization rocks - but who cares beyond consolidation?

Richard Lloyd
Alert

Single points of failure / software costs?

Is it just me or are there potentially two critical points of failuire with virtualised setups? One is the base server hardware itself - if that dies, instead of losing one client, you lose 10 or 20 in one go? It basically means you need at least *two* beefy base server boxes *and* have a way to do regular snapshots that be can be restored on either box. BTW, some virtualisation software I've seen cause large pauses when you take snapshots, which isn't too clever.

The second potential single point of failure is the NAS box that everyone seems to mention w.r.t. virtualised systems. What if that goes down? Potentially multiple base servers dead and dozens of sites inaccessible with no way to restore them either. Again, wouldn't you need two identical NAS boxes (and these things aren't cheap!) that are kept exactly in sync?

As for the virtualisation software, licenses can be very expensive for VMware and other commercial VM systems - the money you save on hardware can be partly swallowed up by the software costs. As people have said, if a large chunk of your clients use common software (same Web+scripting+SQL DB+CMS), it's more efficient and cheaper to put them on a single OS than spread them across multiple OS'es (virtualised or not) and in those cases, non-virtualisation wins out.

What I'd like to see is free, good virtualisation software come with server OS'es as standard - it's becoming prominent enough to be considered as part of a server OS. Red Hat are making some strides with KVM (RHEL 5.4 and 6 might finally ship a usable version) - once virtualisation software costs drop to "zero" and you don't have to involve a third party to virtualise, you'll see lot more companies consider it.

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Palm restores Pré iTunes synchronisation

Richard Lloyd
FAIL

Get your first sentence right...

Sean Timarco Baggaley said "Apple aren't in the business of selling operating systems."

Quite a flagrant lie from Sean there and making the rest of his comment less credible because of it. Apple *are* in the business of selling operating systems! You can buy Mac OS X as a standalone retail product either from an Apple store or on various online sites. They also sell the OS as part of an OS+software+hardware bundle and have highly dubiously crafted an EULA to try to stop users from installing the standalone OS on anything other than Apple kit.

I certainly agree that Apple shouldn't have to *support* users who install Mac OS X on non-Apple kit, simply because Apple won't have tested that hardware/software combo. I vehemently disagree that they can force exactly what hardware you install the OS on - that's outrageous and indefensible in my books.

Apple are the only OS vendor in the world who imposes this restriction, certainly on the ubiquitous Intel x86 platform at least (I suspect some mainframe OS'es might have equally dodgy hardware-restricting EULAs...e.g. IBM maybe?) and they have never justified the restriction to the public at large (it's clearly to protect their hardware sales, but they've never admitted that).

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Samsung Story Station 1TB external HDD

Richard Lloyd
Stop

Problem is that USB cripples this drive

When typical SATA internal drives were 50-60 Mbytes/sec read speed, attaching them externally via USB wasn't too much of a penalty. Nowadays though, internal SATA drives (including Samsung's drives) regularly exceed 100 Mbytes/sec - my Samsung F1 1TB internal does 116 Mbytes/sec read for example. USB 2.0 has a maximum throughput of 60 Mbyte/sec "in theory", but I can only get around 32 Mbytes/sec on my external 500GB Samsung USB drive in practice.

All of this means that recent external USB SATA drives are horribly crippled performance wise - eSATA is one possible solution (but not many PCs come with that), but I think we're in "limbo" at the moment until PCs and external drives support USB 3.0. Personally, I've taken the decision to buy no more external USB hard drives until 3.0 is established (so that's at least a year and probably a new PC too...).

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Fedora 11 leaps into filesystem unknown

Richard Lloyd
Stop

Only a couple of F11 snags so far

I've run all the alpha, beta and preview versions as well the final of Fedora 11 and there's only two snags that are very noticeable for me they didn't fix by the final release, neither of which is mentioned in the article, ho hum.

First up is an ext4 issue - no, not the one that was fixed and wrongly accused of having by the article. It's the one that Ubuntu 9.04 sorted out and F11 didn't, namely that grub cannot handle ext4 /boot partitions (or / being ext4 if there's no separate /boot). Yes, if you want your system disk to be ext4 in Fedora, you *have* to create a separate /boot partition *and* that partition can't be ext4 - arrgh! There is a fix for this brewing, but it came too late for F11 :-(

Secondly is the old chestnut of chasing the X server release version beyond what the proprietary 3D drivers support, in particular ATI's fglrx driver (for which, neither radeon nor radonhd are acceptable open source alternatives yet, though the latter may eventually be decent enough).

I always wait until my favourite third-party repository (now called rpmfusion) packages the fglrx goodies up into RPMs and makes them available for download. As I write this, not a sign of the fglrx RPMs in any of the F11 rpmfusion repo trees, so that means no usuable 3D acceleration yet again (same happened with F9 [4.5 months!!] and F10 [1.5 months]) and I'll twiddle my thumbs until the drivers turn up and I can switch to F11. Luckily, ATI have a monthly release schedule for their Linux drivers, so it might only be a few weeks until 3D actually works in F11 at decent speeds.

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Q1 chip sales plunge reveals slowing demand for netbooks

Richard Lloyd
Alert

Netbooks have gone higher spec...

...which means higher prices and, unsurprisingly, lower sales. Trying to find a brand new netbook for significantly under 200 pounds is getting quite difficult, now that 7" netbooks are dead, 8.9" netbooks are being phased out and 10"/12" netbooks seem to be de rigeur at the moment. Never mind the "Microsoft tax" too, now that most netbooks ship with Windows as well.

Got to say that the company going the "wrong way" with this is definitely the netbook trailblazer Asus - they've basically upped the spec so much now, that even a sub-300 quid EEE netbook model is hard to find in their range now!

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Fedora 11 beta bares chest to all-comers

Richard Lloyd
Linux

F11 is good, though some install wrinkles need ironing out

I installed from the 64-bit Fedora 11 beta DVD and it's pretty good, except for three issues I had. Firstly, the Anaconda installer crashes when trying to eject the DVD at the end of the install - no big deal, because it does actually install all packages and adjust the bootloader properly before the crash.

Secondly, my first boot and login didn't start up the networking. I can't say I'm a fan of having the NetworkManager handle networking startup *after* you login anyway, but in this case, I had to click on the network icon in the top panel and it "magically" activated the network, without any further prompting.

Thirdly - and the worst issue of all - the top-level of the DVD has a crucial GPG key missing (the primary one for Fedora 11) and embarrasingly, there's even a bunch of soft-links to it at the top-level of the DVD that go nowhere! This means that by default "yum update" failed every time because of the missing key and I ended up having to switch off gpg checking in the yum config to actually do any updates!

Still, I'm mightily impressed with the speed of booting - even faster than Fedora 10, which was already pretty quick. Nice to see the virtualisation goodies taking shape too - KVM is starting to look like serious competition for VMWare and VirtualBox at long last.

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Skinny, curvy Asus Eee inspired by MacBook Air

Richard Lloyd
Stop

Asus have priced themselves out of the market

It's a pity about Asus really - they pioneer the Netbook phenomenon and then basically abandon it by making every subsequent model bigger, heavier and more expensive! A 10" netbook for 400 pounds? That's at *least* 100 pounds too much, Asus - you're continuing to make the same mistake over and over again.

To top it off, the original 7" Asus has been pensioned off and you're now hard pushed to find any really cheap Asus netbook models. Asus have ceded the market to Acer and Dell and it's sad to see the trailblazer now look like an also-ran.

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Channel 4 fails to open archives to Mac, Linux fans

Richard Lloyd
Thumb Down

I've "no demand" for typical Channel 4 progs

The problem now is that Channel 4 is barely worth watching any more. US shows are available "elsewhere" months earlier, ditto movies they show and the vast majority of homegrown stuff (Big Brother particularly) is pretty shoddy quality. Yes, they might have the odd one-off drama worth watching, but they are so few and far between that if C4 went off-air right now, I just wouldn't miss it one iota.

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Samsung launches not-2TB drive

Richard Lloyd
Thumb Up

1TB drive is great...

I bought a couple of 1TB Samsungs a few months back and they are one of the best purchases I've ever made. 116Mbytes/s read speed, really quiet, run cool and I got them at 75 quid each. Fast, cheap, quiet, cool - Samsung were the first to tick all the boxes for 1TB+ drives, IMHO. Surprisingly, the typical price of the 1TB is now 80 quid - perhaps Samsung can't make them quick enough :-) I hope the 1.5TB version is as good as the 1TB, because it'll be at the top of my next hard disk purchase list if it is.

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LG Super Multi Blue BE06-LU10

Richard Lloyd
Stop

Just buy the internal reader version...

I bought the LG GGC-H20L myself, which gives you much better bang for your buck. Yes, it's the internal model and doesn't write to Blu-Ray discs, but with Blu-Ray movies to be found for 8-10 pounds, who is going to bother trying to copying onto blank media that costs the same as or more than the original?

Ironically, I've not even bought a single Blu-ray movie yet because their average price is still too high for my tastes (particularly for new releases) and I'm still glutted on the dozens of HD-DVDs I bought at 3 quid a pop last year online :-) A shame Cyberlink annoyingly dropped HD-DVD support from their software from version 8 onwards thought- quite premature I thought since you can still buy HD-DVD-capable drives like this one and HD-DVD movies from several major online sites.

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How to upgrade an Acer Aspire One netbook's memory

Richard Lloyd
Stop

This is why I didn't buy an AA1

This 5-page guide (with a link to the video at the end) is one of the two main reasons I haven't bought an Acer Aspire One. Upgrading the RAM on any machine (netbook, notebook or desktop) should *never* be as painful as this! Most machines either have a hatch exposing the RAM or have the DIMM slots easily accessible once you remove (usually only one side of) the case.

The other reason the AA1 isn't worth buying? The pitiful battery life - just about the worst in the entire class of netbooks out there - and the correspondingly expensive replacement battery you have to get to go beyond the 2 hour mark.

A shame really, because with easily upgradeable RAM and a decent battery, the AA1 might have been a contender. Mind you, don't get me started on the AA1's dog slow SSD either :-)

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Unix world braces for geekgasm

Richard Lloyd
Go

You could view it any time...

There was no need to wait for 11.31pm on the Friday or, as an earlier poster suggested, set your clock back after the event, because anyone who bothered - like I did - to view the HTML source of the site would have seen that if you click the word "fun" in the phrase "xkcd fun with..." at the bottom of the page, you get to see the fireworks etc. any time you like.

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Sony demos ultra-expensive, ultra-thin OLED telly

Richard Lloyd
Stop

Yes, too expensive, but also too small?

Is it just me or does OLED tech seem to be in the same place as SSDs right now? Not only is it far too expensive (I'd never pay 3 grand for a TV set, no matter how fantastic it is), but it's also too small (11" isn't even big enough for the kitchen or a small bedroom!).

The tech is great, but we're still years away from seeing this in living rooms - wait until the digital switchover in the UK has finished (i.e. 2012 Olympics) and wake me up again then....

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The Boss bitchslaps Ticketmaster

Richard Lloyd
Happy

I buy from the booking office

If you live close to the venue, then do what I do and buy in *cash* from the booking office at the venue. Yes, they open limited hours, but a) you get the tickets in your hand there and then and b) no extra fees at all (yep, it's the only way to actually just pay the price shown on the ticket itself).

I simply don't trust buying tickets online and the additional fees are 100% a rip-off. These additional fees should be included in the standard ticket price and the *only* extra should be postage (which may have to be several quid because you really want them sent next day recorded delivery).

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Windows 7 'upgrade' doesn't mark XP spot

Richard Lloyd
Linux

Most home users don't upgrade their OS ever

I suspect 95% of home users never upgrade the OS on their machine (or if they have to, they get someone else, be it a nerd friend or PC World, to do it). Can you really see the average Joe Bloggs in the street backing up their data and app installers (if they are downloads particularly), booting from a Windows 7 CD, trudging through a Windows installer (which they'll probably have never seen before) and the restoring their data and running the app installers (some of which may not work). And how do they go back to XP if any of the above fails?

What MS should release is what Linux has had for years - live DVD installers, so you can boot into a DVD-based Windows 7 desktop, check your hardware works and maybe even try to install some of your old apps and check that they work along with trying out some of the backed up data with the apps too, though I'm not sure how easy that would be to do in a live Windows environment.

Basically, what MS are saying is that there is *no* upgrade path directly from XP to Windows 7 at all - the procedure they describe is a clean install. If you're going to go for a clean install, why not play with a live CD of Ubuntu/OpenSUSE/Fedora and see if stuff like WINE will run your Windows apps? If you go ahead and install Linux, you can always keep the XP install, dual boot and not "need" Windows 7 at all...

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US woman says Ubuntu can't access internet

Richard Lloyd
Stop

Buying Ubuntu machines is actually quite hard on Dell's site

Looking at the Dell US site, it's actually quite tricky to buy Ubuntu laptops. Despite the fact it clearly should be, it's *not* a simple radio button option next to Vista when you go to Customise one of their mainstream laptops. In fact, the Ubuntu laptops are in a completely different, well-hidden section of the Dell site called "Open Source PCs" (a tiny link down the bottom left column on the laptop index page). You're taken to a section with different model names, different hardware specs and different prices (all deliberate by Dell to make price comparisons with Windows laptops very difficult).

So either she consciously chose to buy a non-Windows OS (i.e. hard to do it by mistake) or, more likely, she uses a bargain/offers Web site or mailing list that gave an exact URL to the no doubt slightly cheaper Dell Ubuntu laptop. BTW, one thing Dell should make more clear is that when you're in the Customise section of the laptop and hit the "Operating System" section, it should say "note that Ubuntu is not fully compatible with Windows and some Windows applications may not run, especially games.". If you did click on "Open Source PCs", there is some sort of blurb about it not being Windows, but it's not as explicit as my suggestion.

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Atom challengers poised for 2009 debut

Richard Lloyd
Stop

Are these dual core chips 64-bit?

I'm a bit surprised that the article didn't mention whether any of these new dual core chips will be 64-bit. I'm holding off buying a netbook until there's one available with 4GB RAM, dual core, 64-bit and doesn't eat battery life. Why should the small form factor mean lower spec - if one crops up for 300 quid or less, I'll be the first in line...

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TVonics DTR-Z500 500GB Freeview+ DVR

Richard Lloyd
Thumb Down

HD Freeview is coming...

Is it just me or is the fact that in a year's time, regions start rolling out HD Freeview and if you want see HD channels, you have to buy at least a new set-top box (negating the SD tuner nicely built into your "HD ready" TV or DVR) or completely ditch the old equipment if you don't like set-top boxes. If I was considering buying a new Freeview TV or recorder with an integrated tuner (try finding one *without* an SD Freeview tuner nowadays!), I'd hold back a year and wait for HD Freeview versions.

It's the "dirty little secret" that's brewing for Q4 2009 onwards - "HD Ready" equipment with integrated SD tuners should really be investigated by Ofcom or someone because you have to apply an external HD source to get HD! As for this TVonics unit, a total thumbs down because of the SD tuner and lack of HDMI...

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Group Test: Blu-ray Disc players

Richard Lloyd
Stop

Or get an LG Combo drive for 70 quid...

I bought an LG combo Sata drive for my PC from Ebuyer earlier this year for less than 70 quid - reads/writes CDs and DVDs and will read both HD-DVD and Blu-Ray. It even came with Cyberlink PowerDVD 7 that can play HD-DVD and Blu-Ray movies on the PC. How come a relatively cheap PC add-on like this wasn't reviewed? Heck, you could probably buy an entire PC *and* the LG drive for the cost of one of the pricier Blu-Ray decks you reviewed!

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Open source fanciers finger Beeb's Win 7 'sales presentation'

Richard Lloyd
Thumb Down

Deja Vu - anyone remember The Money Programme?

This reminds me of the 30 minute promotional video for Vista that BBC 2 made - via "The Money Programme" - for the launch of Windows Vista. There was virtually no balance in the programme - the only negative statements in the entire show were that it missed a Christmas launch and they had a brief vox pops at the end where 2 punters claimed it was a) not much different from XP and b) too expensive. Read more on the blatant 30 minute ad for Microsoft here:

http://www.tv.com/users/rklrkl/profile.php?action=show_blog&entry=m-100-24878447

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Freesat gets Five

Richard Lloyd
Alert

And what about old Sky Digital boxes?

Five, Fiver and Five US have never been broadcast in the clear on Sky Digital to my knowledge (the same was true of Channel 4, E4 and More 4 until very recently), so I'm guessing that this Freesat change also means that the Five channels will turn up in the clear on Sky Digital boxes on 18th Nov. Amazing that it's taken 11 years (i.e. since the launch of Channel 5 in 1997) for Sky Digital finally to broadcast all 5 main terrestrial channels in the clear! Is that pathetic or what?

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Wikipedia dumps Red Hat for Ubuntu

Richard Lloyd
Alert

Wouldn't CentOS have been easier?

If they'd mainly been on Fedora (and I'm guessing RHEL too) before, then wouldn't a migration to CentOS be the more obvious choice? Not only is it free to install, but you get 7 years of free updates matching those released by Red Hat for RHEL. At work, we've moved virtually all our Linux servers and desktops to CentOS now (previously they ran Fedora) and apart from having to track a few desktop apps manually (e.g. Firefox 3, OpenOffice.org 3), there's very little difference in the day-to-day admin of Fedora vs. CentOS - far less so than Fedora vs. Ubuntu.

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Red Hat: Go support yourselves, Fedora users

Richard Lloyd
Alert

Fedora 8 (and 9) updating now...

In response to the "what's happened to Fedora 8 updates" question, the Fedora team have issued a new signing key and associated "fedora-release" transition RPM - this updates your yum update repos to point "updates-newkey", in which there are indeed a shed-load of new Fedora updates now.

Sadly, on my system, the fedora-release RPM appeared at the same time as some broken package updates and "yum update" fell on its backside! I had to "yum install fedora-release" and *then* do a "yum update" - all was well after that. It appears the livna repos for Fedora 8 got hit by the same breakage - F8 has had a new kernel for 10 days or so and no fglrx RPM updates from livna for the new kernel (they usually do it within 1 working day). It means I can't go to F8's new 2.6.26 kernel yet and hence no UDF 2.5 support (so I can't mount HD-DVDs for example on my new LG combo drive - yes, HD-DVD format is dead...nice to see that Linux can finally mount them 6 months after the format is 6 feet under...).

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Richard Lloyd
Thumb Down

Support for Fedora is pointless really

Fedora moves too quickly really - its release schedule is typically 3 times faster than RHEL's - so unless either you plan to upgrade your entire distro at least annually or Fedora's release schedule radically slows down *and* they keep supporting more than the latest 2 releases, then paid support for it is a total non-starter.

Fedora is very useful to install on the desktop (or a spare non-production server) so you can "play" with the new bleeding edge technologies and see what's going to be in the next RHEL release, but it's painful if you want to run it in a production environment (updates stop less than 18 months after its release for one thing - what about security fixes after that time? We got burned by Fedora Core 2's kernel simply dying on a busy mail/firestore server - we had to hand-roll a much newer kernel to fix it because FC2's updates stopped quite a while ago. Needless to say, we've moved that to CentOS 5 now and the kernel's been rock solid on that platform).

The best compromise is to use CentOS - being a free clone, it's released on the same slower schedule as RHEL and has updates for multiple years (at least 5 usually - enough to last the lifetime of the hardware at any rate). I've actually switched our work desktops away from Fedora to CentOS 5 - the essential apps (OpenOffice/Firefox/Thunderbird) have to be hand-maintained because CentOS 5 is too far behind, but I leave most of the rest of the stuff to standard (and one or two select third-party) repos to be updated.

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Richard Lloyd
Linux

Fedora 9 is a botch-up - F10 should be much better

Anyone who's used Fedora for a while knows that it's best to a) wait a little while for the rush of updates immediately following a version's release to subside and b) install the new version on a separate partition and test it first whilst keeping your original older Fedora install intact. I did this for Fedora 8 (old) vs. Fedora 9 (new) and soon realised that F9 was a release disaster.

The number one problem with F9 was that they incredibly irresponsibly shipped the final version with a beta release of the X server. Yes, part of the blame should go to the treacle dev speed of the X.org folks (it took 4.5 months *after* the final release of F9 for the final version of the X server to come out!), but it does appear that the Fedora team were unwilling to roll back to the previous X server at all (which would have suspended a fair chunk of work they'd done for 4.5 months after the release, plus put X back to the same place as F8 had already been 6 months earlier).

The upshot is that F9's "radeon" open source driver is a joke with my ATI HD 2600XT card when connected to my analogue Philips CRT. It flickers like crazy and has the screen boundaries 100 pixels too far to the left! ATI don't release driver support for beta X servers either, so I couldn't even switch to the ATI 3D driver. The F8 stable X server works fine with both the "radeon" and "fglrx" drivers, so I was hugely miffed about this. Fedora 10 alpha hasn't fared any better, but at least they have a chance of proper driver support for the final release of Fedora 10 now that the stable X server is out. Yes, I have F10 alpha on another partition too...

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The Google-isation of all the net's access points

Richard Lloyd
Stop

Google Chrome download blocked for non-Windows users

Let me see, a vague commitment to the Mac and Linux platform isn't a good launch for Google Chrome really (Google are hugely notorious for releasing on Windows first and then waiting many months before bothering with other platforms).

What's even worse, if you want to try Google Chrome on a non-Windows platform (e.g. via emulation/virtualisation such as VMWare, WINE etc.), then good luck, because whoever decided to *block* (yes, BLOCK) non-Windows users from downloading the Windows version of Google Chrome ought to be hung, drawn and quartered! User Agent Switcher on Firefox got me a little further, but even that stopped me at "Accept and Install" on the EULA page. What the freak are Google playing at?!

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Acer Aspire One A110

Richard Lloyd
Unhappy

No mention of the RAM upgrade nightmare....

Apart from the totally foot-shooting decision of Acer to ship the Aspire One with a 3-cell battery and no option to ship with a better battery as standard, the other thing I really *hate* about the hardware is that there's no easy way to upgrade the RAM!

It's all well and good saying "buy the cheapest model", but 512MB RAM isn't a lot nowadays and you have to take the machine apart - voiding the warranty along the way - to add any extra RAM, thanks to Acer ridiculously not having a RAM access hatch and burying it well inside the machine.

Fix the battery and RAM issues, sell it for under 250 quid and I'm there. Acer Aspire Two anyone?

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1&1 botches Microsoft Exchange update

Richard Lloyd

Changing IP address? Listen on both...

If the new IP address for the Exchange server was in the same subnet as the old IP address, then what they could have done is listen on both the old and new IP for a while until the DNS change had propagated. BTW, someone suggested lowering the DNS TTL when changing IP - sounds good in theory, until you realise that many ISPs cache DNS according to their own rules (often hours) and lowering the TTL actually has little immediate effect (i.e. it's ignored more often than not).

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Dell hits all the wrong keys – again

Richard Lloyd
Alert

I prefer US layout myself

Having used US layout here at work in the UK (out of choice - happened to have some machines that came with them), I actually prefer the layout to the UK one (the only snag is no pound key, so I have to spell it out or cut'n'paste it), especially for UNIX/Linux systems. Trying to find cheap US keyboards here in the UK is next to impossible though - I buy 3 or 4 of them at a time whenever they appear on UK retail sites...

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Xandros buys Linspire, says bruised ex-CEO

Richard Lloyd
Stop

Will Ubuntu Netbook Remix steamroller Xandros?

It seems to me that the only significant revenue stream that a non-server commercial Linux distro can create is if they get their distro pre-installed on a big-selling desktop/laptop/sub-laptop. Ubuntu is already pre-installed on a few Dell desktops/laptops (though horribly hidden on their site and often pricier than Windows versions because they don't get any special offers) and none of the other big OEMs seem to be prominently selling Linux pre-installed on the laptops/desktops.

This leaves the rapidly growing sub-laptop market and Xandros have done a clever deal with Asus to get it on the EEE PC. But where are the other sub-laptop deals for Xandros? Seems like Acer is going with the obscure Linpus Linux and I suspect Dell are hanging back for the Ubuntu Netbook Remix - see http://www.canonical.com/netbooks/ - before releasing their model. If Ubuntu Netbook Remix takes off, it might sway other OEMs and if Asus decided to jump ship, would that effectively kill Xandros?

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HD TV in the UK

Richard Lloyd
Thumb Down

HD TV 100% useless if you can't freely record it in HD

There's very little I watch "live" (live sport and maybe news if there's a massive story just breaking) - movies, drama, comedy, documentaries - I record them all for later viewing at a time that suits me and not the broadcaster. So to me (and possibly a fair number of other people), being able to record in HD completely unrestricted is totally crucial to the introduction of HD TV in my household.

The bare minimum I'd expect is an HDMI input to the recorder (or a built-in digital HD decoder of a rooftop aerial input if you're looking for an "all in one" box) and an equivalent HDMI output to my HD TV. No copy protection or loss of quality should occur and recordings should be stored on as large as hard drive as possible (with USB and/or ethernet/wireless for further import/export of HD material). So where is this device that many people would consider crucial to HDTV viewing? Well, absolutely nowhere in the UK as far as I tell. Anyone got any idea when the first such box will turn up? The article claims Xmas, but will this be a true unencumbered HD in -> HD out recorder or will it be ludicrously crippled and not worth buying at all?

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CentOS updates Red Hat Enterprise clone

Richard Lloyd
Unhappy

Broke our CentOS setup...

Looks like updates to nss_ldap and the kernel/X server broke our LDAP setup and also the RPMforge (sadly closed source) Nvidia 3D graphics driver when the 5.2 RPM updates hit us (luckily, only on one desktop machine that we apply a week ahead of the rest of course). I'm investigating it and will report back to the Red Hat and/or CentOS folks (and possible RPMforge too) about the issues. Temporary fix is to simply avoid the troublesome new RPMs for the moment...

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BBC Micro creators meet to TRACE machine's legacy

Richard Lloyd

Best 8-bit machine ever?

In my opinion, the BBC Micro Model B was probably the best 8-bit machine ever made. It had a very good keyboard (virtually every other rival machine of the day had a far worse keyboard), tightly written OS, a good sound system, a superb BASIC for the day (far better than the Spectrum or C64) and ran faster than pretty well any other 8-bit machine of its time. The US 8-bit equivalents (Commodore 64 and Apple II) were quite poor in comparison really.

It's only downer - and one Acorn never fixed in its lifetime - was the price. It just never budged from 399 pounds for the Model B (yes, 399 pounds can buy you a quad core 64-bit monster desktop nowadays). The UK market was very price sensitive and Acorn just put the blinkers on and never dropped the price, not even when sales began to fall. It's why it was never as popular as the vastly inferior Spectrum (which was a pitiful machine really, but it was very cheap, which attracted a lot of users and hence a lot of games for it - a virtuous circle indeed and one Acorn never cottoned onto).

Yes, I moved onto the Archimedes afterwards and that, again, was a stunning machine for the late 80's (the first mass-produced 32-bit RISC-based machine in the world) - again a superbly written OS, but yet again overpriced and ultimately unable to compete on both price and speed once the PC world caught onto 32-bits in a big way a few years after the Archimedes launched. The Archimedes did have one lasting innovation though - the ARM chip, which is now ubiquitous in mobile gadgets everywhere. A great RISC chip to program on, IMHO.

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Redmond puts key Vista update on ice

Richard Lloyd
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Not true - SP1 can be installed with *no* Windows Updates!

I just got a new Dell PC and put 64-bit Vista and 64-bit Service Pack 1 on it without even having a Net connection, never mind running Windows Update and everything seemed to work fine. So where this "without it, the operating system’s full service pack can’t be installed" fallacy comes from is anyone's guess.

Of course, it is possible that something could have been broken by SP1 that needs a post-SP1 Windows Update - judging by how poor Vista is (and the same "unwanted stepchild" attitude from OEMs and software vendors towards 64-bit Vista), then I'd actually *expect* SP1 to wreck something!

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OnlineTV recorder TVCatchup.com shut down

Richard Lloyd
Thumb Down

They never really 'perfected' the site in my books...

I complained several times about major issues on the tvcatchup.com site, but they never fixed any of them, so I eventually gave up on it. A shame really, because it was a nice idea if it didn't have so many issues (their team spent more time redesigning the Web interface than actually fixing serious issues).

Examples of things that never got fixed:

* Loss of start and end of programmes, because of the lack of a concept of "auto-padding" that's in all modern PVRs.

* Bad scheduling data losing recordings of programmes (they should be saved with a dummy name and then renamed later to their correct title).

* Excessive CPU usage of Flash player on Linux platforms (mainly Adobe's fault admittedly).

* Every Web UI design they had (3 or 4 of them?) broke worse and worse if you used large fonts to surf the site (e.g. 16 points).

* Didn't cover all FTA Freeview entertainment channels, which is completely inexplicable (e.g. no Virgin 1, More 4 or Film 4).

* Allowing "sharing" was a huge copyright violation and should never have been on the service - it might have survived if they'd never offered it. However, the material "recorded" just by a single user is still copyright and stored on a central server not at the user's home, so any domestic recording rights don't apply here - it was basically always doomed because it never had the permission of each of the copyright holders to store the material.

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It's official! DVD plus/minus war ends in a draw

Richard Lloyd
Unhappy

At least DVD+R(W) doesn't need finalising...

I personally prefer the plus format because there's no finalising involved and the prices equalised with minus format disks several years ago. BTW, one of the comments claimed dual layer blank discs are expensive - they were a few years ago, but they're now around 40p each!

What I really miss - and what the article fails to mention - is that after all these years, you still can't buy dual layer DVD+RW's (not at the places I buy from, e.g. SVP). I know there were technical issues, but you suspect that Hollywood pressure (just too easy to clone an original DVD and then wipe it when you've watched it) and the emergence of HD-DVD/Blu-Ray (don't want DVD+RW/DL raining on their parade!) basically killed the final "missing format" of the original DVD family.

The somewhat bemusing thing, though, is that optical media is basically on its way out - it's prone to errors (scratches/fingerprints), not particularly high capacity (especially rewritable discs as I said), not particularly fast (basically, DVD reading and writing has now maxed out and physically can't go any faster without destroying the disc) and it's only advantages now are cheap drives/media and the ubiquity of DVD drives out there. SSD and hard drives at ever increasing capacities and lowering prices are clearly going to dominate in future years w.r.t. storage, along with Net downloads replacing shipping physical media.

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HP plunks 16GB SSD drive into slim business PCs

Richard Lloyd

OEMs still using the FreeDOS 'workaround'?

OK, I know Dell were one of the first of the major OEMs to ship their machines with the (worthless for anything other than BIOS flashing!) FreeDOS "workaround", but why does this bizarre situation still exist, this time with HP? As far I can remember, machines shipped with FreeDOS because a certain Redmond company (possibly illegally) insisted that every machine comes with an OS.

So the question remains - why can't the major OEMs ship with no OS nowadays (and hence no OS or software support of course)? That's what I want (and I'm sure most companies would too) since I want to put my own OS (Linux) on it (and many companies have a volume licence for Windows, negating the need for a pre-install OS). It's a shame that even El Reg isn't questioning this every time a major OEM releases a business PC without the option of no OS.

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Adobe plugs multi-platform Flash vulns

Richard Lloyd
Unhappy

Old news?

The yum repository for the Flash plugin 9.0.115.0 for Linux has an RPM dated 1st December. Heck, I thought I was slow installing it on 7th December, but I guess El Reg journos don't update their Flash plugins very often and just sit back and wait for an Adobe press release (clue stick here - there's a Linux Flash blog that's worth checking out at http://blogs.adobe.com/penguin.swf/ - it seems to be regularly giving us development updates that are quite informative).

BTW, the vulnerability fixes are certainly newsworthy, but no less so than the fact that 9.0.115.0 now has support for H.264 and AAC codecs, plus XEmbed support for Linux. Mind you, they still refuse to release a 64-bit version of Flash for the platforms they currently support and until they do, I'd say it's not truly cross-platform.

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Choice breeds complexity for Linux desktop

Richard Lloyd

Legacy library support is often poor

One thing that's bugged me for a while about Linux is that all the major distros seem to have a policy of only providing current libraries and "legacy" (old) libraries going back only one major release!

With the speed of Linux development, this can mean that installing a Linux a mere 18 months later can mean that some of your older software will at the very least need recompiling or at worst (no source code?) won't work at all.

Although now very much a niche player, HP's UNIX (HP-UX) had it right - if they ever shipped a shared library with an OS release, they would *always* ship that library in future releases, even if only a few apps from 5 or 10 years ago used it (yes, you even get X11R4 shared libraries with the very latest HP-UX).

I think this is one of the big issues for Linux ISVs and why they are indeed hesitant about entering the Linux market. Yes, one workaround is to link against archive libraries, but you'd be surprised how few apps out there do...

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Red Hat haunts Ellison's Linux dream

Richard Lloyd
Alert

If you're going to switch from RHEL, it ain't to Oracle...

Oracle's dubious "Unbreakable Linux" might have had some merit if it wasn't for that fact that there's a far cheaper (and some would argue significantly better than UL) clone to RHEL already out there, namely CentOS.

For businesses, there's only 2 sensible choices - ether buy RHEL and get proper support/cerification or get CentOS for free and use the community for suport (or your own in-house expertise). Oracle's Linux is a half-baked mongrel that deserves no-one's time or money, IMHO.

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OFT hammers auction sites on consumer info

Richard Lloyd
Unhappy

And add a VAT indicator too please...

Concerning the point about whether you're buying from an individual or a company, why does it appear that eBay (and maybe others) have no "excluding VAT" or "including VAT" indication on their Website (preferably with the VAT calculated and an including VAT grand total included for you)?

It makes a 17.5% difference to the total price (yes, the company will add VAT to the postage too remember) and yet the only place it gets mentioned is often 3/4s the way down a long description of the item...

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Free-market think tank urges EU to unbundle Windows

Richard Lloyd

Just offer no OS or Windows pre-installed...it's that simple

Taking Dell as an example, they already do this on their PowerEdge server line - you can choose no OS, Windows Server 2003, RHEL or SuSE Enterprise when you buy the server - all just a simple radio button OS choice (one model of machine - not separately "hidden" like their Ubuntu desktops/laptops).

And yet we *still* don't see the same OS choice on the desktops Dell sells, not even a simple "no OS" vs" Windows Vista" radio button. I don't agree with the "insert a DVD and install Windows" idea - I think that if you are going to sell a desktop with Windows, too many people are clueless to install an OS without help (unless MS and the OEMs can literally provide a "foolproof" install DVD, which the current Vista install DVD certainly isn't - in oher words - insert DVD, click on EULA, then click on *nothing else*...watch the OS install and the machine reboot and you're ready).

It's a real shame that the major OEMs still refuse to let you buy one of their desktops or laptops with no OS. If it can be done by whitebox shifters (many have a config tool on their website where you can get no OS pre-installed with the desktop) and Dell can do it for servers, then why can't major OEMs supply no OS options for desktops too?

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