473 posts • joined Friday 8th December 2006 19:02 GMT
Npthing to do with piracy...
We hear a lot about piracy, how terrible it is, but I've yet to see a reliable statement of economic impact showing how a media company's been hurt through it. Sure, it will complain that "such and such's sales have been weak due to piracy" but everyone know the real reason is that whatever they're selling sucks.
This is more about control over the net. The media conglomerates want to own it. Its a valuable resource that's owned by the public and these day's that sort of thing is regarded as obscene. Media consolidation also has some very nasty social side effects -- if the media companies can control information flow then they can control thought.
Picky, picky, picky....
Call me an untrained outsider but if a machine I'm operating (or riding in) decides to do things it was neither asked nor programmed to do then this is an emergency. In this case until that plane was stationary on the ground with its engines shut off it it presented a danger to its passenger & crew and anyone in its way.
I design embedded software. Even though I like to think that my software is pretty good I won't trust it in any situation where it could threaten life or property. That requires completely redundant -- and different -- systems, not this "best of three" stuff. I don't trust a lot of coding techniques; what's OK for a desktop application just won't cut it in a machine, the code has to be designed with failure in mind, not as some 'exceptional' event. (Although I'd hope that Airbus's contractors know what they're doing they are obviously making assumptions about what can and cannot happen during the operation of their kit and they're discovering the hard way that you just can't do this -- any input, no matter how unlikely or meaningless, has to be assumed to be valid until proven otherwise and coped with accordingly.)
Light Rail Trains have Brakes, too....
You get collisions between light rail trains and cars when people do dumb things like turn suddenly in front of the train. The train can stop but it can't swerve so you get a collision and by the rule of rail transport the train wins. (....every time)
If you're stuck on light rail tracks then the train operator is going to see you and stop. Light rail works among people so the vehicles are designed to stop quite quickly and they're driven with the expectation that things are going to get in the way. You're not in much danger.
(Now if this was a proper level crossing --- say on a curve with 100mph trains passing -- then, sorry, you're toast....)
Obviously Lightsquared is having trouble making its target numbers so its pushing the modulation so it bleeds over GPS's frequences. That's dumb; their engineers should have seen this coming.
GPS is one of the few services that absolutely has to be kept running. Its not a convenience function for phone users, it provides safety critical data and a high precision time reference. Over time it may be improved and hardened but for now Lightsquared will either have to reduce their product's footprint or move somewhere else.
I know that in modern society the idea of the public good is a bit old fashioned -- nothing must get in the way of making money -- but the idea that you could render a whole bunch of GPS units inoperable just so that companies can push streaming media is ridiculous. Satellites have very limited transmission power and GPS, to be usable, cannot carry dish antennas like you have with satellite TV. So expecting some kind of magic GPS receiver to appear is just not going to happen.
Proceed with Caution
Red lights are a problem in the US because there's no Red/Yellow phase on signals and the green is usually switched on at the same time as the other direction's red. If you just gun it on the green without looking first you're likely to get clobbered by someone who's trying to beat the yellow. We've recently discovered that waiting a second or two before setting the green reduces accidents -- its not as spiffy as a predictive red light warning system but it certainly works.
(If we really want to deter red light jumping then maybe we should install the in-road barriers that are used at Russian railroad crossings.)
BTW -- The official designation of the green signal in the UK is "Proceed with caution".... it really implies that you should look before entering an intersection, not barrel across trusting to the good behavior of people waiting on the red. If you ride motorcycles you very quickly learn to do this....
Obviously British people involved
The libel laws in the US are substantially different from those in the UK. In the UK its easy to threaten someone you don't like because you can't defend yourself by saying "but its the truth, isn't it?". You can't do that in the US and someone obviously got to the Carrier IQ fellow after he'd issued that ballbusting threat and mentioned that just possibly continuing in this vein is not only going to make the company a laughing stock but could cost them substantial amounts of money. Better to just admit it and hope everyone forgets....
But as you all know, where you are, what you do and who you know is all valuable commercial information, its what outfits like Facebook thrive on. So its logical that the phone providers would want to tap into this information.....its good eatin'.
Sharp had a line of pocket computers in the early 1980s. These typically had two line displays, a small alphanumeric keypad and removable RAM packs. The primary programming language was BASIC but it was possible to package programs in such a way that they could be distributed as standalone apps using the memory cartridges. (Those cartridges also stored applications data so with a bit of ingenuity you could transfer this data to and from an early PC.)
If you need a compact, versatile, input device then the obvious choice is a stylus. If you're on a smartphone then you should be able to input text using the same kind of gestures that were used with a Palm Pilot (assuming Apple haven't patented them, of course).
If you can't beat 'em, sue 'em
Well, its nothing like an iPad. Its a bit thicker, it has a different form factor and it works a whole lot better. I'd guess that's why Apple's trying the legal route to kill it,
My wife bought one a few days ago because she wanted a smart phone like thing but not those clunky barphones that everyone's doing their social media on. The iPad didn't figure because its too damn expensive -- it costs more than her Lenovo IdeaStation all-in-one. (Another nice system, BTW.)
I'm torn between getting one myself and getting a new battery for my Motion 1400 and combine it with a pocket hot spot. The Motion is a 12" slab that's about 7 years old that runs XP for Tablets. Its a bit klunky but I think I ought to keep it around just to show the fanbois that tablets, gestures and voice activation aren't something that Saint Jobs created from thin air but rather are ideas that have been around for ever waiting for the right combination of technology and marketing.
Not just lardasses.....
Its not about fat, its about pelvis width --- so this may be related to the ever growing purchasing power of women. One of the criteria for selecting cars in our household is how you fit on the seat -- you can tolerate anything for short runs but if the seat's pressing on bone at the edges you'll feel it big time after an hour or so.
You don't need a big car to get adequately proportioned seats. I was surprised to discover that a modern Fiat 500 can easily accommodate full-sized people even though its city car sized while a friend's brand new Lexus Esomething or another is a hassle to get into and really nasty to sit in. (The Fiat's like a Tardis, its a lot bigger on the inside than it looks from the outside; I don't know how they accomplished that trick but I still can't sell the missus on getting one.)
I wonder how many of these computers will end up runinng Windows?
China is a place that seems to do everything on a large scale, including software piracy. Selling Linux pre-installed would be a good way to get a clean PC out the door without paying the Windows tax. What the consumer does with it afterwards is anyone's guess.
Linux is usable, though. For day to day computing I don't notice a whole lot of difference between W7 and Ubuntu. Linux is a bit faster, that's all.
CB? What's that?
Between cellphones and FRS/GPMS radios CB is just about dead and buried in the US.
The US isn't hypocritical....
....its just rather amorphous, One way to describe the system of government is "organized anarchy". You've got lots of different groups, inside and outside of government, with overlapping and often contradictory agendas. The resulting brew is what we call "US Policy".
What is compiler, anyway?
A typical compiler consists of several programs that are run one after the other, each program performing one stage of the process -- preprocessor, tokenizer, lexical analysis &tc. Most people don't notice this, they just use a top level program such as 'cl' or 'gcc' to start the process off. In theory there's nothing stopping you from interacting with any of these programs but typically the only one that you look at the output of is the preprocessor to see what happened to all of those defines and preprocessor directives.
IDEs are fine things, they're very useful, but all they do is run the tools for you. We've been using them for so long that we seem to have lost touch with the underlying tools.
We're awash with them in the US (at least California). They end up teaching "science" because of the shortage of specialist Physics and Chemistry teachers.
>This is a local curriculum for local people. We'll have no Americanisms here.
The UK's been copying all the worst characteristics of the US educational system for at least a generation. There's probably naff metrics like the GPA in there somewhere.
>I had to switch to a software testing role instead of a developer role because there weren't enough jobs for coders...
Bit of a sore point, that. I'm one of the old school that thinks that testing one's code is an integral part of writing it. Its not very popular among many of the coders because testing can be more intricate and time consuming than actually writing one's masterwork but that, as they say, is showbiz. I have particularly strong feelings about coders who feel that testing is a job reserved for the lower echelons.....
Of course you get less for rape....
The full force of the law is reserved for those who challenge the supremacy of the State. They do the other stuff just to maintain their readiness.
Law is what you pay for
The idea of the law being some kind of absolute arbiter of good and evil is a nice concept but isn't how real life works. Law is a mutable, flexible, thing and what you get is pretty much dependent on what you pay for.
I'm still not clear what the Pirate Bay are guilty of (apart from having a cheeky name) and its not clear to me how they could have caused millions of dollars in losses (since there's been no sudden jump in publishing profits since they were closed down). I figure they're getting screwed over "just because" -- they offended the Law of Property and as a principle they need to be slapped down -- hard -- 'pour encourager les autres'.
(The Law of Property says something to the effect that everything that exists is owned by somebody (else) and if you're not paying rent then you're a criminal....or worse...)
I don't suppose it would be possible to just can the punitive rates?
Its a great idea to have these notifications, its way past overdue. But why do we have these punitive tariffs in the first place? There's no rationale for them, they're an echo of a time when companies thought that reaming people was an acceptable business model.
I thought time zone information was public domain
TIme Zones are agreed by international treaty therefore the time zone you're in should be a matter of public property, especially in the US. They first appeared in the 19th century.
The astrology people are interested in siderial time - the exact local time which may (but probably does not) coincide with the local timezone time. They then use this to work out the exact locations of planets and stuff -- or at least what they think are the exact locations. From a computing perspective this is of notional interest at best unless you happen to be a GPS receiver (in which case you've got a far superior mechanism for finding the exact time than looking it up on some astrologer's website).
The only hold that these astrologers have on the fellow is that they can afford to sue him. ICANN have the resources to tell them (politely, but firmly) to go **** themselves.
The US uses a variety of pylon designs but one of the most common is just to stick up a pole with three large insulators sticking out of the side and run the lines on that. This deals with medium voltages -- up to 200Kv or so -- and is utilitarian (you can put lower voltage lines, phones, fiber, cable TV and what-have-you further down the pole. Its actually quite unobtrusive. Cheap, too.
Hardly a whisper outside the trade
The news was -- and is -- still about Steve Jobs but I would venture to suggest that without the work of Richie and his ilk people like Mr. Jobs would be peddling used mainframes or cars or something.
I'm going to be an anti-pedant, BTW. I don't see much point in using strncat when you're copying or concatenating a string that's a constant. User input, that's a whole different game....
Not in the US
>Charge them with perverting the course of justice.
That's England. Things are a bit different in the US. (That doesn't mean that they won't try something, but its difficult to argue about supressing free speech when its intent is to prevent the commission of a crime.)
You can't prevent people from doing this, the best you can do is make it uneconomic. A small transaction tax should fix 'em.
It will be like those fuel economy displays......depending on what you're doing you'll be in the green or red zone, maybe even the noise of the automatic traffic ticket printer.....
Its a nice idea but so easy to abuse.....
GPS is useful, but....
Anyone who sails (and probably flies) knows better than to rely on just one navigation system. GPS is seductive because it works so well but when it fails you find out those people who can't read charts or even look out the window for landmarks.
I expect weekend sailors to have problems from this but professional sailors should be able to cope; it will be an inconvenience (not being able to zero in on a particular lobster pot in the middle of the night) but it shouldn't be fatal. (....and if it is I'm not sailing with them...)
He's right on the money. What's disturbing about the canoization of Jobs is that Apple's marketing machine seems to be able to use Job's untimely death to push their products.
What Jobs did which does deserve praise is that he took the 'bleedin' obvious' and made it corporate police. Somehow the suits always manage to screw up things -- they very nearly took down Apple itself -- because they think that the user should adapt to their product rather than their products adapting to the user. Jobs's success isn't technical innovation but understanding that what users want is just stuff that works.
You only have to compare an iPad with a tablet running XP for Tablets to get the idea. There's also MP3 players; simple things but its amazing how many different ways companies like Creative could screw their design up.
Much of the noise coming from media companies is based on exaggerated notions of how much media a person consumes and how much that media is worth to that person. Trying to squeeze value out of a proposition that lacks value is all the rage in modern marketing. The result's predictable; a protection racket approach to pricing where a sucker -- consumer -- is enticed to buy 'A' only to receive bills for 'B' through 'Z' as well. With content the constant lament is piracy; its just a way of corporate types to explain why their sales aren't where they'd like them to be.
I' ve always thought that all business models eventually trend towards HMRC, the tax people. There is all revenue and collections and nothing inconvenient like product. What the modern business wants is the same thing --- a revenue stream without actually having to make product. This is really what's driving a lot of 'new technology' and why a lot of it never works.
It would only be a matter of time before malware with appropriate signatures turns up. Its the old force/ equal and opposite force thing. The only way you're secure a PC is by burying it in concrete.
Everybody should pay the tax at the moment
Technically its not a sales tax, its a 'use' tax. Its not collected for small purchases because of the hassle involved but if you buy something like a car the tax will be collected on, and routed to, where you live, not where you bought the car. Its no different than VAT rates in different EU countries.
Internet retailers have had a pass for decades because of the need to built up this business. its now established so it needs to operate on the same basis as the bricks 'n mortar stores. I was very annoyed by Amazon's stance over this; like everyone else I don't like paying taxes but at the same time that money needs to come from somewhere.
There's no guarantee that Amazon's initiative would have qualified for the ballot, much less been approved. California voters have a history of turning down this type of initiative. I think Amazon recognized the negative image this was giving them and sought a deal.
Purely artificial marketing BS, as usual
We all know that getting one program to look like another isn't a big issue. We don't need a signed 'grub', for example, provided we had a signed something or another that knows how to load grub. That signed something or another can also load Windows, except it won't because Microsoft appears to be trying to set up a scenario where the loader will only load their code and only their code. This won't be at all difficult to bypass for a sophisticated user (or criminal -- same thing) but it will deter the average user, someone who would otherwise like to load a Google/Linux/whatever supplied instant on OS that just accessed the 'net.
From what I've seen Windows 8's UI sucks, BTW.
I suppose it wouldn't be the C++?
My experience of C++ -- which goes back to the early 90s -- is that's its a very powerful tool that's responsible for pretty much every large scale screwup in modern software design (plus the inevitable software bloat). I describe giving a typical programmer this tool as "a bit like giving a toddler a chainsaw as a Christmas present". I also think that object methodology is seriously overused; its all that gets taught so we're stuck with the "if all you've known is a hammer then everything looks like a nail".
Now, rather than making the typical programmer statement "its buggy because its got x million lines of code in it" we should be asking why its so big, why it doesn't break down into testable components and so on. Ordinary, everyday stuff that I will admit seems to be elusive to our Windows bretheren (Microsoft doesn't go out of their way to make their stuff easy to work with, IMHO) but absolutely essential if you're doing serious work such as embedded design.
I find professional programmers -- CS majors -- among the worst offenders because they only know their coding abstractions, they see the code as the goal rather than it being a model of some thing or process.
Typical government computing project....
..only 150 years late on delivery this time.....
Figure a minimum of $500 to transport a person to hospital. Hospital ER rates vary from frightening to terrorizing so you can reckon even at a bulk rate the cost per employee would be a couple of thousand minimum. Figuring out who pays is going to be the interesting bit.
The idea of heat index is relatively unknown in the UK because you don't experience the lethal combination of high temperatures and high humidity you can get in some parts of the US -- walking literally feels like you're pushing your way through a wall. If you work in these conditions then you can't get rid of body heat and you're likely to get heat stroke if you exert yourself.
I've bought a lot of stuff off Amazon over the years but what with the California business and now this I think it may be time to look for alternatives.
Its about royalties
Netflix had agreements that allowed them to stream content from content suppliers. When these agreements were concluded a few years back streaming content was a minority activity. Its now common place so everyone+dog wants a piece of Netflx's pie. The content providers -- studios -- have the most leverage so they have been dropping content or otherwise forcing Netflix towards a pricing policy that puts the on-line revenue per subscriber on a par with cable revenue (Starz is the most recent). I daresay the ISPs also want to look at this business as well; my ISP would dearly like me to pay for their FiOS TV service but I'm getting 24MBits download speed from FiOS Internet so I don't really need a separate TV service. (The TV service would add $40-$70 per month to the bill; Netflix is trivial compared to that.)
Netflix are likely to get squeezed. The only thing they can do is pass the costs onto customers.
It depends on your provider and plan
A few legacy cellphone plans and some landline plans still distinguish between local and toll calls. Most don't bother any more. That's why its now common to have people living locally who have cell phones that have numbers based anywhere in the country.
Long distance phone calls have always been a bit of a scam. For many, many, years call routing has been a bit like Internet routing -- the path the call takes to get from source to destination doesn't have any relationship to where the end points actually are -- the route may be quite tortuous but so long as it works the user doesn't care. It really doesn't cost any more to route a call for 3000 miles compared to routing one for (say) 30 miles so the only rationale for charging different tariffs is marketing based - you charge what you think you can get away with.
You do owe sales tax...
Strictly speaking its not a sales tax but a 'use' tax and it will be collected on larger purchases (over $5K in value). Its not been collected because of the cost of administration and because it was thought at one time that Internet based businesses needed the tax break to help them get off the ground.
Amazon are in the wrong here. Like everyone else I don't like paying tax but at the same time I do like to live in a functioning society so I grumble and pay up just like everyone else. Evading sales tax not only is unfair to the State but it's also unfair to the bricks and mortar companies that Amazon competes with.
They also need to think a little outside the box. Evading state taxes like this is paving the way for a Federal VAT. You're already getting screwed over big time by VAT in England -- 20% on everything, its a serious rip-off -- and the last thing we want to do in the US is encourage government to fix revenue shorfalls by national tax collection strategies like VAT. Its bad enough keeping spending under control at the local level. (...and how much of your hard earned money disappears into the EU, never to be seen again?)
The wheel.....the wheel
Have a look at what was going on under the hood of early ATMs....
This fashion for pretending that the client system "doesn't need a processor" is pure marketing BS.... people who come out with this sort of thing obviously do not know what a processor is.
Rather a complicated way of doing coin-slot meters
The aim of these meters is to be able to price power in real-time, a bit like the way that parking meters in the center of Los Angeles vary their tariff depending on how many people are trying to park. ("Yield management" is a polite term for this sort of thing.)
The logical end point of this is a coin-slot meter. Obviously they're a bit old school so I'd expect the meter to be tapped directly into your bank account....
>Or are Brits too cheap to shell out a few quid to sponsor their favorite station?
I don't like to add up all the money that gets conned out of me and the missus for various PBS stations. It makes the TV license bite in the UK seem great value for money.
You forgot the bribe (sorry, "gratuity"
Local people, local customs.....
Eighty Five Pounds -- that's a steal!
I renewed by UK passport recently and it cost me $232. It wasn't fast tracked -- I sent the application off on May 24th and got the passport back July 28th.
I have a friend that tests these sorts of thing for a living. He showed me an earlier version of the switch. Each port really can deliver the watts. Loading all of the ports ends up with a rather hot switch (it was a small one he showed me -- only 2Kw.
This is an example of "just because you can do something doesn't mean its necessarily a good idea"!
They're trying to do science.....
....in a world where saying or even hinting at the wrong thing can put your funding at risk.
American scientists are becoming masters at dodging the outside world. You can't argue rationally with belief, especially belief that has little to no scientific training*** and is congenitally innumerate.
(***After all, we all know that science is just another belief system, isn't it?)
NASA Hacking all too easy
I was looking for a document referenced on another site yesterday that was supposedly hosted at a NASA site. I ended up at a page which had stuff like "All your IP addresses and keystrokes belong to us" on it. On reading the fine print I discovered it was a stern warning to hackers along the lines of those "FBI investigates piracy", I was at some unauthorized webpage.
Oh dear. I must have just hacked NASA. Except that this page is supposed to be public and it had better be because as a taxpayer I have the right to access it unless its national security related (FORTH? National Security?).
I think NASA's got the same problem as GCHQ. Anybody who knows what they're doing has long decamped to somewhere that pays a lot better.
Same thing seems to happen in London these days....
I was just reading in the UK newspapers about the fines and stuff for the student loans protesters. That'll teach them to make a noise.
As ever, its only bad if its their guy that's doing it. If its our guy then they're just preserving Peace and Freedom.
As for the change in politicians I think we're all past this now -- we now know for sure that no matter who we vote for, the (same) government always gets in. Places like Belarus and Syria are just more honest about it.
A web search for ICL generates all sorts of results, nothing in the computing line. Alas, like every other engineering venture in the UK it either generates overnight profits or its gone -- in this case, to become Fujiitsu, a name I associate with laptops and incredibly overpriced government software.
Even the Manchester bit is just a nod towards history. Manchester used to be at the center of computing but.....whatever, the future's all marketing, financial services and the like, isn't it?
Radio's moved on
You don't need exclusive use of frequency bands any more***. The idea's old school and it only persists because people think its some kind of valuable real estate that can be traded back and forth to make windfall profits.
(***Except for older radio systems -- AM/FM broadcasting, H/F radio like amateurs use that propagate globally. I'm thinking more about UHF and beyond -- line of sight stuff.)