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* Posts by Charles Manning

2848 posts • joined 26 Jun 2007

Plug and PREY: Hackers reprogram USB drives to silently infect PCs

Charles Manning
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I call semi-bollocks

It is generally not possible to "infect" a mouse by plugging it into a computer etc.

You generally have to develop the firmware and program it into the mouse using development tools of some form - at least cracking open the case. Anyone can buy a development board for a few $ and make a mouse that would have Bad firmware built in, but that's a different matter entirely.

There are some devices that start up "naked" and have their runtime firmware injected into them by the host, but then the host is already infected anyway.

There are some development environments that provide a mechanism to easily reprogram the firmware, but those are designed for hobby/development and are not used in production.

Of course there is nothing preventing someone making a bad mouse and selling it on ebay etc, but that's a very different matter from infecting a shrinkwrapped mouse.

Oh, as for your mouse having a tiny OS.... Unlikely. Most mice etc will be bare metal. There is no point in putting an RTOS in a mouse.

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7 Amazing Experiments On NASA's Curiosity v2 Mars Rover – Including Oxygen Generation

Charles Manning
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Aaargh 2.0

What's with the 2.0 thing? Even NASA is trying to trend these days, even though they're a bit late to the party on this one.

At least back in the 1960s heydays NASA tried to look serious: slide rules, ties and black-rim specs all around. Nobody called their vehicles "groovy".

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PEAK LANDFILL: Why tablet gloom is good news for Windows users

Charles Manning
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Good enough is good enough

The computer biz seems to still have their thinking stuck around 10 years ago.

Remember then? Laptops and desktops were changing at a hell of a rate. I was buying myself a new laptop every 18 months for my consulting gig because the old one started to look tired and the new ones were way faster, had more RAM etc, and could compile code much faster.

However in the last 3 years I have not been motivated to get a new one. Why? There's not sufficient improvement to make a difference. I'll only buy another one when my laptop dies.

Result: My laptop consumption has gone from 0.66 per year to 0.2.

The same happened to smart phones. Going from, say, iphone1 to 2 was a major boost. From 4 to 5... not so much.

Tablets came along at a time when the rate of change of utility of chipset capabilities, batteries, screens etc has flattened off.

Pretty much everyone who wants a tablet has already bought one. Tablets have a reasonable lifetime, partly because they are too big to carry about and are thus spared the rough and tumble of phones..

That means that, for the most part, the market is saturated. No wonder the market is tanking.

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NASA boffin: RIDDLE of odd BULGE FOUND on MOON is SOLVED

Charles Manning
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Why send a man to do a robot's job?

Sending a robot with sensors gets you that data cheaply and easily.

You only send people when you want to make political statements.

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Adam Afriyie MP: Smart meters are NOT so smart

Charles Manning
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Do something... anything...

There are two groups of people who think Smart Metering/IoT is great:

(A) Those that are going to make huge money out of it - regardless of whether it works or not. Big engineering companies smell the gravy.

(B) Those that want to be seen to be part of setting up impressive (to the unwashed) clever sounding tech like Smart Meters, Smart Grids etc. These are mostly the politicians who want to be seen to be doing something.

People that actually sit down and analyse this stuff soon realise that we're trying to use a tech hammer to beat something that is not really a tech problem.

The biggest argument behind Smart Metering is that the leccy price will change with demand. The customers will know what the current price is and thus modify their usage to reduce consumption.

Is anyone really going to turn off their appliances when the electricity rate go up a bit?

No, I won't watch TV at 7pm. I'll wake up at 2am and watch then when the leccy is cheaper. Oh, and dinner's going to be at midnight. And I'll skip charging the leccy car tonight... Really?

Most of our electricty usage is very hard to defer without seriously disrupting our day-to-day lives. We want it now - not in a few hours time.

About the only load that is really easy to move in time is water heating. That's been handled - well - by ripple control for at least 30 years.

We all shake our heads at the $100M IT refit projects that don't stack up. Smart Metering is going to be worse.

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Korean vendor launches wearable RPi clone

Charles Manning
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Re: Conspiracy theory much?

That evil hacking tool called dd

dd if=/dev/mmcblk0 of=my-stolen-boot-blob bs=1k skip=$START_BLOCK count=$NBLOCKS

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Secure microkernel that uses maths to be 'bug free' goes open source

Charles Manning
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GPS hacking: I call bollocks

It is easy to go to the supermarket, buy a role of tinfoil and hit the forums claiming that GPS is just a bunch of radio waves and can thus be hacked.

I worked for a about 12 years devloping GPS systems, including some time deep in the analysis and design of the actual GPS tracking algorithms.

Sparing you all the maths and theory, there's so much stuff you'd have to fiddle with and get amazingly precisely right that it makes spoofing GPS almost immpossible outside well controlled lab conditions.

In theory it is possible, in practice rather more likely not!

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Charles Manning
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Is there a Microsoft parallel to Godwin's Law?

No matter what the subject, the thread turns into a MS bash-fest within a few posts...

Not that I don't think MS should be protected from a kicking.... and I am partial to putting in a boot myself.

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AMD dangles 64-bit ARM code developer kit over, well ... developers

Charles Manning
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$3000 ...or...

wait until the end of the year and you'll be able to pick up something Pi-ish based on open source and a cheap board with an Allwinner 64-bitter for under $100.

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Scotland's BIG question: Will independence cost me my broadband?

Charles Manning
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Czechoslovakia isn't the same

Czechoslovakia only existed for 75 years. Much of the national administration remained distinct through the whole period.

Czechoslovakia dissolved shortly after comming out of a communist command economy. That change was much bigger than the dissolution so dissolution was much easier to achive.

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SOULLESS machine-intelligence ROBOT cars to hit Blighty in 2015

Charles Manning
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Why even park?

Just leave the car in the middle of the road.

If plod comes then tell him the car is driving itself and you don't know why it isn't moving.

It brings to mind a whole lot of interesting questions...

Who is going to be fined/charged when a car does not obey a cop and pull over/move on etc?

I'm expecting a lot of engineers are going to spend a lot of time in court explaining why the car did X when people think it should have done Y.

Just look at all the crap Toyota went through due to issues iwth just their accelerator. Imagine what the bunfights will be like when the car is fully autonomous.

One group of people who're smacking their lips are the lawyers and "expert witnesses" who make hundreds of $ per hour either prosecuting or defending these cases.

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Pleased to meet you. I'm Joe Bloggs, MVP, vExpert, Cisco Champ

Charles Manning
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Preschool Diplomas

Now that even pre-schools are holding "graduation ceremonies" with the little juice suckers wearing mortar boards and gowns, anything but fully accredited university/polytech paper is meaningless and even the value of those is waining.

As many have pointed out, qualifications of any type just get you a toe in the door. After that it is ability and word of mouth that matter.

I don't remember when I last showed anyone my degree certificates. It has maybe been once or twice in the last 20 years.

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Canada's boffins need A WHOLE YEAR to recover from China hack attack

Charles Manning
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People that should know better...

Even those with some tech savvy still often are lax and don't do what they should.

A few years ago a large software & electronics firm a few km from me lost their Subversion server. It took them months to more-or-less reconstruct their source.

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Just TWO climate committee MPs contradict IPCC: The two with SCIENCE degrees

Charles Manning
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Re: Tax attacks

Even better:

CO2 is invisible, no taste, no smell and can't be touched, felt or measured except with specialised equipment and everyone emits it as part of daily life.

This is almost like a "sin tax" of old.

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Google to feed machines with evidence of human physical weaknesses – and that's a good thing

Charles Manning
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Surely ist should be Project E

Short for Project Eugenics.

Old fads return.... but eugenics kept its head down due to being closely associated with the Nazis.

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The END of the FONDLESLAB KINGS? Apple and Samsung have reason to FEAR

Charles Manning
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Here comes Huawei

Huawei, or someone of that ilk, is soon going to emerge as the tablet king.

That any of the existing brands swaps the crown between them for a month or two means nothing in the long run.

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Nadella: Apps must run on ALL WINDOWS – PCs, slabs and mobes

Charles Manning
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Re: So, looks like we'll get Office for Android Tablets

More like Office for XBox.

That might actually work. Johnny gets a reward of playing a game once he's finished writing his book report.

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Charles Manning
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Re: Remember 'universal' Windows apps for PCs, slabs and mobes? Microsoft's Nadella does

> Why didn't they make you CEO?

He probably failed the "50 buzzwords in 1 minute" test.

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Charles Manning
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MS arrogance doesn't change

Back in 1995 or so, I worked for a company doing computer telephony. At the time it was the biggest such company in the world and we pretty much knew all there was to designing computer telephony products and the software architectures needed to drive them.

Myself + a few of the others flew half the way around the world to visit the MS campus to talk to a new "computer telephony" team they were putting together to try to extend TAPI (MS's telephony API) into new directions for computer telephony servers (eg. running 0900 phone sex lines, voice mail,...).

Their most experienced person on the team had "read a couple of books last week" and fiddled a bit with MS TAPI. Between the 5 or so of us visitors, we had about 25 years of experience in designing telephony server architectures. They explained what they wanted to do. We shook our heads and explained, politely, why their ideas were crap and why ours were better.

In the end the "couple of books" guy said something like: "Well it doesn't really matter. People will do it our way because we're MS and we tell them what to do."

TAPI never really went anywhere.

Ironically, or coincidentally (depending on your POV), our meetings were in the same building - a short walk down the corridor - from some people working on MS Bob. We got a brief guided tour and were told some suff about MS Bob, which, they told us, was going to revolutionise the computer experience.... buzzwording us (paradigm, visual metaphore, emotional bond,...) almost as badly a Nadella does now. No doubt if it has been 2013 they would have said "meme".

Some things really don't change.

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Microsoft: We're making ONE TRUE WINDOWS to rule us all

Charles Manning
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One OS

For an OS company these people are pretty daft. They've been at this game so long, yet still they do not learn.

We have had cars, bicycles and horses coe-existing as transport devices for many years. So why have do we not have a consistent UI for these? It turns out that putting reigns on a car or as steering wheel on a horse just does not work.

The same applies to the different computing platforms we use.

When you're holding a small mobile device in one hand then our natural hand-eye coordination makes it increadibly easy to use a touch interface with our other hand, but touch does not work well when you're stretching across a desk.

Microsoft has been trying to shoe-horn all computing into a single UI since the 1990s, hence the start button on WinCE devices. Finally they got the message: mobile devices do not work well with a start menu based UI.

Unfortunately they did not stop there. Once they discovered that other UIs work better on mobile, they failed to see the difference between platforms and pushed the tile UI onto everything.

After spending years trying to sell us cars with reigns, they've switched to trying to sell us horses with steering wheels.

Oh, btw, the cloud changes nothing. Even if you cloud all your data and all your apps, people still want to drive them differently if they are on mobile devices vs desktop/laptops.

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Faced with stiff competition, Facebook just can't satisfy – report

Charles Manning
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They didn't ask the users...

The users of Facebook are the advertisers and people making money from Farmville etc.

The people who think they are the users are actually the PRODUCT.

Since when does a farmer interview the sheep?

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Motorist 'thought car had caught fire' as Adele track came on stereo

Charles Manning
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Imbecile design

It is always easy to rubbish "operator error" from a third-party hindsight perspective, but designers seldom fully consider how the operators will perceive their products in use.

People have a very limited understanding of tech, particularly when under stress.

I have spoken with people who thought you needed to put a fresh battery into a transistor radio every year otherwise you'd just hear last year's programmes all over again.

My brother tried to convince someone that putting Jet-A1 (jet kerosene) in a keosene stove would not make the stove fly like a helicopter.

This is particularly true for non-technical users, but is often true for well trained non-dunderhead users too.

Look at AF447: Three pilots managed to ignore obvious signs of being in a stall, including a stall warning (cricket + "stall stall"...), and flew a perfectly airworthy plane into the sea.

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Forty-five years ago: FOOTPRINTS FOUND ON MOON

Charles Manning
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Re: Complete non-news

Giving the news channels the benefit of the doubt...

Since when has 45 been a significant anniversary?

Give it 5 more years and there will no doubt be a bit more of a knees up... as well as embarrassed looks about wtf has happened in the last 50 years.

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Chrome browser has been DRAINING PC batteries for YEARS

Charles Manning
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I doubt the sleep issue too

I really doubt that most CPUs are really sleeping the full 15mS anyway.

Every time there is an interrupt (mouse wiggle, network packet, end of video frame,...) the CPU has to wake up to process it.

If the timer is just being woken up to service Chrome, then it should be going to sleep again fast.

Sure there are some corner conditions (ie. no network, no mouse activity) when this bug might have been causiung a few % change in power usage, but that would be the exception and you can understand why the developers would give this a low priority.

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Stephen Elop: 'Hello there' (and goodbye to 12,500 of you)

Charles Manning
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Surely only the dumbest are surprised by this?

The writing was on the wall when Elop joined.

It was on the wall in BLINKING FULL CAPS when MS started their buying bid.

Frankly, if you were then surprised to be losing your job you're brain dead.

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MYSTERIOUS Siberia CRATER: ALIENS or METEOR not involved, officials insist

Charles Manning
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Re: Not an explosion

>Anyone got any ideas ?

The Russians think it has been there for 2 years, so it is feasible that other ejecta has been eroded/disolved.

It is also feasible that this is a sink hole and the crud around the side is due to materials that have precipitated over the last two years (eg. gases coming out, reacing with the air/water and precipitating.).

Not sure I but the explosion theory.

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Dude, you're getting a Dell – with BITCOIN: IT giant slurps cryptocash

Charles Manning
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Thermodynamics is a bitch

Step 1: Buy Dell.

Step 2: Mine BC.

Step 3: Mortgage house to pay leccy bill.

Step 5: Repeat step 2 & 3 until house equity <= 0

Step 6: Foreclosure

Step 7: Ruin

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X marks the chop: Microsoft takes axe to Nokia's Android venture

Charles Manning
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Buzzword bingo

It looks increasingly like Nadelle is reading from a pot of simmering alphabet soup.

The barrage of buzzwords almost sounds plausable and soothing to share holders so long as it is kept up for long periods (3000 word essay/memos). As soon as you pull out individual sentences and apply any analysis them make so sense.

Windows Univerval Apps is a broken concept. People want their PCs for different purposes than their phones.

Microsoft already tried this, but the other way around. The early WinCE mobile devices and phones had start buttons.

Finally the message got through that nobody wanted start buttons on phones, but MS didn't stop there - they tried to make PCs look like phones too.

Microsoft are so used to setting, nay, forcing, the direction that they have forgotten to consider the most important aspect - what works for the custiomer.

Until they get the basics right they will continue to slide.

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UN to Five Eyes nations: Your mass surveillance is breaking the law

Charles Manning
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Big deal

I am opposed to mass survelillance, but surely UN has bigger rights issues on it's plate than this?

Women/gays being stoned to death, soccer playing Palestinian kids being straffed by Isrealies,...

The 5 eyes nations are all reasonably democratic, with citizens who are reasonably empowered to act. It is not like they're in dictatorships where the citizens have no control over the issues.

It is far more important that the UN help those who lack the power to help themselves.

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Accused! Yahoo! exec! SUES! her! accuser!, says! sex! harassment! never! happened!

Charles Manning
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Playmobil logic

Playmobil or it didn't happen.

No Playmobil, therefore it didn't happen.

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Can nothing trip up the runaway cash monster that is Intel? Well...

Charles Manning
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Intel is getting a huge lift from mobile...

All those mobiles hauling stuff from the interwebs are backed by servers and show up in the Intel books as servers chips.

What must be really frightening for Intel is that mobile and even this IoT stuff are both growing fast but Intel is not reflecting that. Even if Intel's revenue is increasing, their market share is declining in these areas. It does not help to show tiny growth when everyone else in these sectors are going gangbusters.

Worse still for Intel is that they have already played all their trumps and aces in mobile and IoT. What more magic can they come up to slow the bleeding? Let alone stop it and turn it around.

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Charles Manning
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Re: " we believe that over time we can make [mobility] a profitable business,"

"Microsoft has pretty much done this already with the Surface 3 Pro being the only Surface 3 in town."

And nobody noticed or cared....

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Programming languages in economics: Cool research, bro, but what about, er, economics?

Charles Manning
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Well duh

Engineering is the art of compromise.

Different problems need to be tackled in different ways.

If you're building millions of something then it pays to spend a 100k or more optimising the code so it can run on a 20cent CPU vs a 50cent CPU.

If the code is going to be run once then speed of writing the code and being confident in the output is far more important.

Hence actuaries doing one-off calculations us APL or matlab or such while embedded programmers use assembler, C or whatever.

Call cost/benefit supply/demand analysis economics if you want, but to an engineer it is just normal decision making.

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Airbus promises Wi-Fi – yay – and 3D movies (meh) in new A330

Charles Manning
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Bunch of bloody whiners

I'm 6ft6 and I have size 14 feet and a crook knee. I can wedge myself into an economy seat without too much fuss or discomfort and without disturbing my seatmates.

Tall people are used to living in a world designed for gnomes, so aircraft are really no more uncomfortable than sitting in a BMW (where by shoulders touch the ceiling) or sleeping in army beds (where my feet + ankles stuck out the end).

It seems to be mid-sized people that whine the most.

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Charles Manning
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Re: Entertainment on board

They're wasting all the outside surfaces of the aircraft.

Climbing walls, bungy jumping, kite flying... with outdoor dining and bbq!

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Charles Manning
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Re: did a flying customer *ever* get the chance to select an aircraft to fly in

Yes

Well at least with Air NZ you can. The online booking system tells you the plane types.

For example, NZ0008 on 24 July is a 777.

Sure, there might be times when they have to make changes, but 90+% of the time you'll get what they say.

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Mobile, cloud, social? Data? Nadella strings sexy words together

Charles Manning
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Stuff in their labs

They might have some AI stuff in their labs, but do they know how to get anything to market any more?

MS don't need more distractions either. They need to figure out what is important, then shed the rest and refocus their energy on doing the important stuff right.

What MS need is a Jobsian reformation, but that can't happen with Nadella or the way MS is run.

Jobs had been thrown out. He was full of resentment and when he came back he was not afraid to put in the knife - hard. He was blunt.

Nadella, like Ballmer, is a big Gates fan and friend. Thus we see no knife come out. Instead we just see the same basic "plan" wrapped in different verbiage.

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Microsoft's anti-bug breakthrough: Wire devs to BRAIN SCANNERS

Charles Manning
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If the developer is stressed

They're probably reading some rather hairy code

or

they're under excessive management pressure to get the work done

or

they're trying to use Visual Source Safe.

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Native Americans KILLED AND ATE DUMBO, say archaeologists

Charles Manning
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But... native people have an affinity with nature

The Native Americans lived in peace and harmony with nature for tens of thousands of years, just killing enough to survive and always being respectful of nature and saying prayers of thanks. It was only the evil white man and his destructive ways that damaged USA.

The same too of the NZ Maori and Aboriginal Australians.

Gotta love PC revisionist history!

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D-Wave to bust 1,000-qubit barrier with new quantum compute device

Charles Manning
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Re: If it looks like a charlatan...

it's probably a spider in drag.

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Can it be true? That I hold here, in my mortal hand, a nugget of PUREST ... BLACK?

Charles Manning
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Yup

I'm going to the lab at around 6 for a few pints...

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Chinese biz bloke builds his OWN 3,500-mile Tesla charger network

Charles Manning
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So...

80 hours of charging and 50 hours of driving to travel the 5000km route.

Seems insane when the cities are probably already connected by China's amazing rail network that whips along at 350km/h and does the same distance in 15 hours.

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Female! ex-Yahoo! coder! says! female! boss! fired! her! for! refusing! sex!

Charles Manning
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Anything! to! keep! Yahoo! in! the! news!

Bugger the PDFs...

Playmobil or it didn;'t happen.

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Canuck reader threatens suicide over exact dimensions of SPAAAACE!

Charles Manning
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But he's Canadian

S-P-Eh-Eh-Eh-Eh-Eh-Eh-Eh-C-E

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No need to worry: US blows $174m on new Cray to simulate nukes

Charles Manning
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Re: Newspeak, we can haz it!

" This includes a billion dollars to add new tail fins in order to raise the intelligence of the things"

You have to hand it to Obama and his stratagists, this is brilliant. He keeps the gravy tap open for the military indsutry and still doesn't offend his Huffington post supporters: "Our prez doesn't make bombs, he's just putting tail fins on the old ones so they cause less collateral damage."

"Smart bombing" high yield devices like nukes is pretty pointless. A hit or a 100m miss and you're still going to have a bad day.

Of course there are also the "bunker busting" nukes that would need steering, but as DAM points out, these would move nukes from being defensive weapons of last resort to the everyday use racks.

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Get ready for LAYOFFS: Nadella's coma-inducing memo, with subtitles

Charles Manning
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Dear Pedant MrNed

Thank you for your delightful lesson on the correct pronunciation of azure.

I had always said "A-SEWER".

I shall try to mend my ways.

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Charles Manning
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Microsoft's productivity challenge

By Office 2003, people had pretty much figured out what was needed in productivity tools to make them function properly.

Like screwdrivers have only had mild innovations since 1800, MS should have pretty much stopped fiddling in 2003.

Unfortunately they want to make stuff look new. Then Microsoft also forgot their place: to listen to customers and serve.

Finally, the people who actually worked on Word from the 1980s to 2003 during the battles with other word processors have long gone. Under competitive pressures they had to listen to customers and understood what it takes to build a productivity tool.

Fast forward 10 years and we have a bunch of designers who favour cute UI features ahead of prime purpose.

It is no suprise that productivity with "productivity tools" takes a hit. Features like ribbons make it harder to navigate. They make help desk support a lot harder.

Nadella needs to figure out that unless you are serving the customer and adding value to the customer, then fiddling with the frilly bits won't help your business survive.

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Charles Manning
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Here's! a! bucket! of! Yahoo!s !!

You're! probably! allergic! to! those! too!

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USA to insist on pre-flight mobe power probe

Charles Manning
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Re: And what about electronic items WITHOUT batteries?

They'll say that you don't need it on the flight so you better put it in the hold.

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MonkeyParking FLINGS AWAY San Francisco service

Charles Manning
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Our Mission

is really to make money!

The real challenge is that they cannot sell the actual space itself, they can only sell the info that there is a space.

That means the current parker has no legal claim to the current parking spot and cannot choose who he sells it to.

If a third party sees a person about to pull out and wait for the space, they can have it even if someone else has "bought" it.

Since only the information, and not the spot, can be sold, that introduces a whole opportunity for parking trolling. As you walk along the sidewalk and see someone about to pull out, you could "sell" their spot. There is nothing limiting the seller to being the current parker.

That means there is nothing stopping multiple people selling the same spot, nor is there anything stopping someone selling non-existent spots or selling a spot that someone else occupies.

Net result: lots of pissed off people, road rage, fights,...

SF are doing the right thing nipping this in the bud.

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