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* Posts by John Savard

1109 posts • joined 18 Sep 2007

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AWS bins elastic compute units, adopts virtual CPUs

John Savard
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And, of course, there was an old coin called an ecu... and then the European Currency Unit preceded the Euro.

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What's a right pain in the ASCII for IBM? Its own leech-like hardware biz

John Savard
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Brought to You by the Letter Z

It's a pity that the Power PC has not obtained more popularity, but without a popular operating system with lots of applications, like Windows or Android, it's not surprising.

But what about zSystem hardware? If that isn't profitable for IBM, then it might have to follow the example of Unisys, and start building everything from x86 hardware, relying on software emulation. Even given today's efficient techniques of JIT compilation, it would be a sad day when that happens.

It's almost a pity that Microsoft didn't do what Apple did, but in the opposite direction - port Windows over to either the Power PC or SPARC, architectures which are both available to all for free or low-cost licensing, so as to bring about a truly competitive microprocessor market.

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Audio fans, prepare yourself for the Second Coming ... of Blu-ray

John Savard
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Re: 144dB Dynamic range

Well, admittedly it won't help much unless the sounds in question are in different critical bands.

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John Savard
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Re: Cuing the obligatory audiophile discussion regarding sample rates...

Don't forget that the inability of the ear to directly perceive the phase of an audio signal... doesn't mean that the relative phase of harmonics doesn't affect the sound when it encounters nonlinearities. Which the human ear does have, not being designed with 99.9% negative feedback.

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John Savard
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Re: Finally

Given the price of those cables, you're right.

However, I'm not joking when I say that I'm pleased to finally have audio quality to match my Meridian Audio Explorer. Pricey too, but not remotely in that class.

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John Savard
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Unlike DVD-Audio

they're not going to include stuff in the output sound that signals it's from a copyrighted recording... thus spoiling the high fidelity.

So this will succeed, I hope.

Incidentally, SACD can be played on a PlayStation III. And not just as a regular CD.

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Over half of software developers think they'll be millionaires – study

John Savard
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Optimism

A bit of optimism, even if unwarranted, is needed to motivate people to make the kind of effort without which success is definitely impossible.

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ROBONAUT to find feet after Monday ISS supply mission

John Savard
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Good Precaution

One wouldn't want the robot to go crazy and shoot the astronauts while they were engaging in certain bodily functions complicated by weightlessness.

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How Brit computer maker beat IBM's S/360 - and Soviet spies

John Savard
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Even Licensing

I remember that the former Soviet Union actually made clones of the ICL 1900 - under license!

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UFO, cosmic ray or flasher? NASA rules on Curiosity curiosity

John Savard
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One line, one pixel

If the light were in a single pixel, or in several pixels belonging to a scan line, I would have no problem accepting that it was due to radiation interfering with the rover's electronics. However, the image given with the article seems to indicate otherwise, although I suppose that could conceivably be a compression artifact.

However, this doesn't mean Edison on Mars just yet. Perhaps the sun's glare reflected off of a shiny rock on Mars, which could even explain why it only showed up on one of two stereo cameras.

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Drone 'hacked' to take out triathlete

John Savard
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Next step

Well, clearly the next thing to do is to make it illegal to operate a drone unless the control signals to it are encrypted, meeting a standard of security set by the government, so that there can no longer be a question of anyone but the nominal operator of the drone being responsible for its movements.

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'Bank couriers' who stole money from OAP cancer sufferer jailed

John Savard
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Fundamental Question

Has every penny of the stolen money been recovered and returned to the victims?

And, if not, when will they be euthanized so their organs can be sold for transplant to the highest bidder to help raise more money for the victims?

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CERN team uses GPUs to discover if antimatter falls up, not down

John Savard
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Re: Aha!

Of course we know of both ultraviolet and infrared. But we can't use either ray to make air out of nothing, or to fill balloons with antigravity energy, so the Eighth Ray and the Ninth Ray remain out of reach of Jasoomian technology.

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John Savard
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The Reason

The reason why it seems unlikely that antimatter falls up is because we do have experimental proof that energy falls down, instead of not falling at all. The Eotvos experiment shows that forms of matter with a high energy content still have exactly the same ratio of gravitational to inertial mass.

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NSA plans to FREE YOUR DATA with range of cloud services, analytics

John Savard
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Of Course

this is an April Fools' Day article. But it certainly is amusing.

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Judge rules Baidu political censorship was an editorial right

John Savard
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Re: World Police?

Well, you see, China is a signatory to certain trade agreements with the United States. And suppression of free speech in China may, among other things, interfere in the ability of American companies to compete in the Chinese market.

Otherwise, yes, American courts would have no jurisdiction.

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John Savard
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Re: Nothing new here...

Baidu isn't a forum, it's a search engine like Google that forms the major way in which the Chinese people find things on the Internet. And there's obviously no legitimate reason to take offense to the facts about the Chinese government's suppression of Tibetan culture or the Falun Gong faith.

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John Savard
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Wrong Defendant?

Had they sued the government of China, or the Chinese Communist Party, for issuing orders to Baidu, or for interfering with access to Google, this paradox would not apply. (Incidentally, in the United States, this paradox would actually be good law, liberating cable companies from having to carry "public access" channels whose content might offend some customers.)

Unfortunately, such a suit would not go better for the plaintiff, as in that case sovereign immunity would apply. Nice try, though.

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Nvidia unveils Titan Z: An 8TFLOPS off-the-shelf supercomputer disguised as a gfx card

John Savard
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One Problem

If I wanted a supercomputer, I'd be more concerned about its 64-bit floating-point performance. Nvidia does make special parts aimed at the supercomputer market instead of gamers wanting high performance video, but this doesn't sound like one of them. The Tesla K40 is roughly comparable to the original Titan, but it costs $5,300, not $999.

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ISPs' pirate-choking blocking measures ARE effective – music body

John Savard
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Google's Fault?

Aren't American companies by law required to take action in response to all claims of infringing material? Imposing a limit on the number of claims submitted by a rightsholder, unless specifically authorized by the law, would be a violation which would rob Google of its Safe Harbor protections.

Of course, if the law allows such limits, because of the cost burden involved, the rights groups shouldn't blame Google for making use of them, but should blame Congress.

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BOYCOTT FIREFOX, rage gay devs as Mozilla appoints JavaScript daddy as CEO

John Savard
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Alternatives

I can understand being upset because a company has elevated someone to the position of CEO whom they perceive to be bigoted.

However, it is unclear to me that there are any acceptable alternatives to Firefox. Internet Explorer? Chrome? I can't really take either one seriously; unfortunately, Firefox recently copied Chrome in how new tabs behave, and got rid of an easy option to temporarily turn off JavaScript, but it still is far ahead of other choices in user interface.

However, I've read that Firefox does have a dwindling market share; this surprises me, as it seems far and away the only serious major choice.

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Blighty goes retro with 12-sided pound coin

John Savard
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Phosphorescent

I found a site where this was being discussed, and they seem to have found the patent. (US 20110305919 A1, CA 2801418 A1, EP 2580374 A2, WO 2011156676 A2 and A3) Phosphorescent particles are to be mixed with the brass with which the coin is electroplated, following methods used for putting lubricant particles in certain types of machine part, and so they will remain present on the surface as the coin wears.

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John Savard
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More Info

I was able to find out that the new technology in these coins was disclosed - in a patent. And that patent was issued to a firm in Wales. However, reading about the problem, the 3% of the current pound coins that are counterfeit still get detected in vending machines; the problem is when people get them in change. So an RFID-like magic security system that allows vending machines to detect coins infallibly, while nice, is solving the wrong problem. But the microprinting and fancy milling may help people to recognize the real thing, so the actual problem is also being addressed.

Incidentally, note that transistors you can see through, made out of materials containing Indium, are printed on active-matrix LCD displays, which are just about all LCD displays these days. So one could have an RFID on the outside of the coin. I suppose with a layer of glass or clear plastic or something so that the coin doesn't become 'counterfeit' as soon as it is scratched.

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John Savard
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iSIS

The iSIS site doesn't say very much about what this type of security is based on. As noted, metal being conductive, one wouldn't think one could put an RFID chip in a coin, but the way they're talking about how secure and quick to validate it is, one can hardly think of anything else that would achieve it.

One sees microprinting from the picture of the coin, as well as fancy milling, and they do say that it's plated rather than really built from two parts in different metals.

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QUIDOCALYPSE: Blighty braces for £100 MILLION cost of new £1 coin

John Savard
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Forty!

If we avoid counting the faces created by the raised lettering on the obverse and the faces created by the incised microprinting, because that way lies madness, such as counting two faces for each milled grove, then I count 40 faces. 12 sides on the edge of the coin. On each face, there's one face with a hollow center. Inside that, there are 12 sloping facets with the microprinting. Then there's the actual obverse or reverse of the coin. So it's 12 plus two times 12+1+1.

However, looking at the picture of the coin lying down in the other article, it may have had another 48 faces that I neglected, since the angled faces seem to have vertical faces above and below them in that position.

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AT&T and Netflix get into very public spat over net neutrality

John Savard
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Net Neutrality

Somebody should pay for the cost of bandwidth sufficient to access services like Netflix.

That somebody would normally be the ordinary Internet surfer.

The only point of debate here is whether he is already paying that cost, and the companies wanting money from places like Netflix just want to inflate their profits. But let's assume that is not the case.

What's wrong with offering consumers the choice of a discounted Internet service that can't handle video streaming? Well, not much; dial-up may have been derided, but it was never controversial.

Cable Internet that only handles video streaming from sources that provide advertising revenue to your ISP... what's wrong with that? Well, the problem is that it looks like a real high-bandwidth Internet service, but it really isn't. It's confusing and deceptive. That's the legitimate argument in favor of (one of the aspects of) net neutrality.

When it comes to torrenting and the like, though, I'm surprised net neutrality got as far as it did, given the level of concern about piracy.

There is an argument for net neutrality, but the arguments that stand on solid foundations need to be put forwards explicitly, instead of expecting everyone to just agree that net neutrality is a sacred principle that must never be abrogated.

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The Reg's guide to cursing in Mongolian

John Savard
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Incidentally, in Canada

What the Yanks call a form W-1, we call a T-4 slip. (Apparently, that's a P60 in Britain.)

And what the Yanks call a form 1040. we call a form T-1. (Apparently, that's an SA100 in Britain.) So one can't search for a Canadian tax return from Mongolia.

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ICO decides against probe of Santander email spam scammers

John Savard
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Sufficient

Certainly it is very strange when absolute proof does not constitute adequate evidence to proceed with an investigation. This type of confusion needs to be remedied forthwith.

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ZEPPELINS to replace Goodyear blimps in American skies

John Savard
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What?

Calling a dirigible a blimp?

Goodyear not making the Goodyear blimp itself but importing replacements from Germany?

Oh, the humanity!

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NASA: Earth JUST dodged comms-killing SOLAR BLAST in 2012

John Savard
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Obviously

We will need to move our entire civilization underground, so that our computers and communications networks will be shielded from this kind of event. Of course, farmers will still need to work on the Earth's surface; perhaps they can keep in touch using fiber optic links!

Keeping electrical lines short will limit how much current can be produced in them by induction from things like solar storms, so we will want to go away from large interconnected power grids.

Here's an idea: the five-year old computers that people are throwing away as junk now, why not bury them in caves far underground, so that we can use them after a solar storm fries all our computers up here while waiting for the computer manufacturing industry to be rebuilt? That would be better than tearing them apart to recover toxic metals or whatever. If we don't have a solar storm, at least this will prove to future archeologists that it wasn't a myth that people had computers in the 21st century.

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Haunted Empire calls Apple 'a cult built around a dead man.' Tim Cook calls it 'nonsense'

John Savard
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I saw a book that had accounts of things like the ghost of Elvis appearing before a woman and curing her of illness. I don't think anyone has claimed this sort of thing about Steve Jobs, so I don't think we're dealing with that kind of cult here.

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John Savard
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Doomed

Apple was doomed before Steve Jobs came back to take its helm. Now, the Macintosh is still doomed, but even if I'd never buy an iPhone, iPad, or iPod, I have to admit they're doing well for Apple. While Steve Jobs was alive, it was fair to call Apple a cult built around him.

So now since nobody else in Apple is likely to be the genius Steve Jobs was, or would be trusted to come up with any "insanely great" ideas on his own, I would tend to imagine that people at Apple are still asking themselves WWSJD - What Would Steve Jobs Do - a lot. Hopefully, though, they're not letting this tendency lead to paralysis.

Since Steve Jobs' passing, they have released new versions of the Macintosh and of the iPad which seem credible enough. Can they do something so spectacular as to prove to everyone they're not just coasting on their success under Steve Jobs? I think it's best for Apple if they take their time before making such attempts: even some of Steve Jobs' ideas flopped in the marketplace, after all.

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Imagination brings real-time hyper-realistic ray tracing to mobile kit

John Savard
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Appropriate

Since the chip is aimed at mobile devices, it's quite understandable it's specialized for doing calculations in single precision and half precision. But I'll be more excited if the same technology gets applied to better parts for doing double precision calculations.

Which reminds me. When the IBM 360 replaced the IBM 7094 and friends, there was a lot of complaining that while 36-bit floating point was good enough for a lot of scientific work, 32-bit floating point was almost a dead loss from that point of view. IEEE 754, with a hidden first bit, and a base-2 instead of base-16 exponent, tries to improve matters for 32 bits as much as possible, but changing 29 bits (32 minus 3 for the smallest hex first digit) to 33 bits (32 plus 1 for the hidden first bit) doesn't get you to 36 bits.

So parts with faster 36-bit or 48-bit FP than possible for 64-bit FP might please some boffins.

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Feds charge three in brain-ache $15m Pentagon payroll pillage plot

John Savard
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Location

I'm pretty sure that now they'll be found quickly if they're still in the Ukraine. Belarus was a center for viruses that dialed 900 numbers there when it was ruled by a corrupt pro-Russian leader, and so under Yanukovych they probably thought they were safe. So they're very likely to be in Russia by now.

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Romanian 'ransomware victim' hangs self and 4-year-old son – report

John Savard
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Pity

It's unfortunate that in a circumstance like this, the fact that deaths resulted from the illegal ransomware activity won't result in a murder conviction for those responsible. The laws need to be tightened up.

Of course, as long as Russia remains in possession of nuclear weapons - which got into its hands as a result of illegal espionage activity against the United States - it won't be possible to really deal with all these types of crooks.

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Windows hits the skids, Mac OS X on the rise

John Savard
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Re: In Other News, Linux Is Still A Nonentity...

The benefit of a low market share for Linux, security, even if through obscurity, was mentioned.

The drawback of a low market share is, of course, a more limited availability of third-party software. There's a reason why Windows sells so well, and it isn't anything written in nice, friendly letters on the box either. (Mind you, it would be helpful advice for when you see a blue screen...)

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John Savard
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Re: "free" OSX - what are we smoking today?

Well, OS X upgrades are free. And one's original copy of OS X comes bundled with a computer, so it doesn't have an explicit price, even if that computer clearly bears a premium price tag.

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John Savard
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Obvious

There's an obvious way for Microsoft to arrest this decline. Unfortunately, it won't make them any money.

Continue support for Windows XP indefinitely.

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Speaking in Tech: Holy SiT! It's our 100th ep. Time for a video-podcast

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NZ bloke's drunken poker bet ends in 99-letter name

John Savard
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Llanfair P. G.

This being a British web site, I was expecting a certain Welsh village to get mentioned in the comments...

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Bugger the jetpack, where's my 21st-century Psion?

John Savard
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Akibahara is where

In Korea, as well as Japan, they had computers with perhaps the sort of form factor being sought well into the Windows XP era; here are some random examples my search turned up:

Fujitsu Windows 7 F-07C Mobile Phone

FlipStart

Sony Vaio UX

Viliv UMPC

Everun Note

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Blighty teen boffin builds nuclear reactor INSIDE CLASSROOM

John Savard
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Fusor it is

And a device of this type was on display at the 1964 World's Fair. So this isn't something like the case of the Radioactive Boy Scout. which would have been likely to lead to an arrest; instead, this is a legitimate science fair type of project.

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Massive new AIRSHIP to enter commercial service at British dirigible base

John Savard
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Re: Question to someone sciencey.

Simpler would be to use a balloon with hydrogen that can be easily generated and cheaply disposed of to provide the marginal extra lift required to allow the ship to land. But flammability is a concern as the Hindenburg demonstrated - could a small balloon with the hydrogen be isolated from everything else, as opposed to the big helium balloon, so as to reduce this to tolerable levels?

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Who earns '$7k a month' but can't even legally drink? A tech intern!

John Savard
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Unsurprising

If someone who wasn't an adult was earning a large salary, that would be surprising. But in the U.S., adults between the ages of 18 and 20 cannot legally drink.

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How a Facebook post by blabbermouth daughter cost her parents $80,000

John Savard
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Well, then the legal action should simply be restarted, since presumably the school is still guilty of ageism. This time, though, it would have to go through to the end, with an in-court award.

An out-of-court settlement is a contract, so we can't fault the courts for enforcing contracts, but it shouldn't be a way for miscreants to escape justice.

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Microsoft chairman John Thompson: Redmond looks 'like IBM in 1990'

John Savard
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Apple

Apple makes premium priced products, the way IBM does. Microsoft Windows is, on the other hand, used by nearly everybody. Microsoft is in danger of being abandoned, but that's because of the functionality of Windows 8, imposed for a specific marketing reason (getting an App Store cut from everyone, not so much selling tablets).

Of course, there are similarities. IBM and Microsoft both profit from lock-in. Dialing back the extent to which one exploits one's market, though, is not the same as an upheaval in corporate culture.

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First 'production-ready' EUV scanner laser-fries its guts at TSMC. Intel seeks alternative tech

John Savard
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Alternatives

Extreme ultraviolet poses serious challenges, but it seems to me that all the alternatives are even worse. So we might just have to endure a departure from Moores' Law. That would not be the end of the world.

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Another U.S. state set to repeal rubber duck ban

John Savard
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Re: Bah!

It's true Canada has a Federal system and not unitary government. However, unlike the United States, the criminal law is in Federal hands, so the laws against murder and theft, for example, are not local ordinances which vary from one jurisdiction to another.

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Microsoft asks pals to help KILL UK gov's Open Document Format dream

John Savard
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Format

Open Office is perfectly capable of saving documents in Word 97 format, and that is a format more people are likely to be able to read than ODF. Not spending money on Microsoft software is one thing, but forcing people to get bigger computers is quite another.

Actually, the standard should really be the version of .doc used with Word 2.0, as Windows 3.1 had already reached adequacy, and all the upgrades since then were but gimmicks designed to extract money from people.

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Muslim clerics issue fatwa banning the devout from Mars One 'suicide' mission

John Savard
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Re: They'll build two ships, of course. One copy secretly made by the Chinese.

The suicide bomber blew up the one made by the Americans, the one the Russians made had inferior parts and didn't work, and the third one secretly made by the Japanese was the one that sent Jodie Foster on her way.

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