* Posts by Matthew Harris

7 posts • joined 27 Feb 2007

Mandybill: All the Commons drama

Matthew Harris
Black Helicopters

Steal this comment!

As http://xkcd.com/488/ notes, one of the main reasons for piracy of music/films is simply because it's the easiest method of getting hold of them.

For example, if I "buy" a film via xboxlive, I get a digital copy that I have to watch on that one device, can't transfer to other devices and disappears mysteriously after 30 days or so. The same/similar is true of various other services I've looked at over the years. And even a legitimately bought DVD is an absolute pain to do anything with apart from just stick in a player and have to put up with the noise & waste of electricity caused by the motor.

Ideally I'd purchase all my music & dvds digitally and be able to download them on any machine etc. (a la Steam) or at the very least, be able to do what I wanted with them (short of making money out of them ofc) without the immense hassle of having to circumvent both the deliberate obfustication/drm and the law just to be able to watch/listen to music and films I have bought how & where & when I want to.

It'll be interesting to find out whether they'll (ISPs or OfCom or the police or the record companies or whoever is decided can accuse people) be able to accuse you of piracy on the evidence of using P2P software (like the desktop version of BBC iPlayer, or the updaters for many games or even legitimate bittorrents (yes, they do exist - a lot of large free software (such as linux iso's) is distributed by torrent to keep the bandwidth costs for the publishers low)) and then point at your mp3 player and say: Well, you couldn't have purchased the music using this device so you've obviously purchased it on a computer and copied it to the mp3 player, thereby breaching the "Thou Shalt Not Copy" terms of most music licenses. Or even worse, you've bought the CD or vinyl and ripped it onto a computer and then copied it! At least they can't confiscate your mp3 players (yet) :P

Interestingly, the fastest growing sector of the PC games market is the digital distribution market, and yes, while they do have some level of copy protection, it's not exactly that strong and the ease of purchase/transfer/use wherever/whenever means that "piracy of convenience" is considerably less. Yes, there'll always be people who refuse to pay for anything, but no amount of copy protection or legal sanction is going to change that, so why in the name of the frosty testicles of hades can't the big record/film companies realise that and start making their vast collections of stuff available simply and easily for a reasonable (say 75% of the cost of a dvd or something for a digitally downloadable film) and thereby boost both their profits (more people will buy films if it's less hassle) and go some way towards reducing the vast resentment measures like this are creating amongst the public.

I'm gonna stop there and not mention due process or political corruption or Count Mandeltwat or any of the huge range of other issues tied up in the god-awful process of passing the DE bill, mostly 'cos if I don't I think I'll be typing all night and I've frankly got better things to do than yell about this crap (oops, really stopping now, honest).

Russian rides Phantom to OS immortality

Matthew Harris


So what happens if a program crashes? In a traditional system, as long as the file(s) you were working on aren't actually being written to at that exact moment, they should be safe from corruption (most of the time anyway!)... but if these snapshots are more-or-less continuous, a crash or even a rather sudden application close would presumably damage the file being worked on.

Apart from that, it sounds like an interesting idea... especially for mobile devices or hardware like routers (which mostly seem to run linux at the moment if they have an OS).

Apple unveils larger nanos

Matthew Harris

Re: New Nano - Bigger or Smaller

Corrected for new measurements:

Well it's wider, a third of a linguine to just over a quarter of a linguine.

But it's also shorter half a linguine to two-thirds of a linguine, and also very slightly thinner, 0.045 of a linguine to 0.046 of a linguine.

In terms of volume, it really is smaller than the old nano. Just under 0.05 grapefruit, compared to just over 0.05 grapefruit. About 2.5% smaller.

We can clearly see the advantages of the new unit system over the old, both in accuracy, and in readability!

AVG cries wolf at Adobe Reader

Matthew Harris

Inland Revenue

Slight problem with using FoxIt Reader exclusively, 'cos the Inland Revenue CDs demand that you have *their* version of adobe acrobat (which is buggy as hell - even more so than a normal version) installed. I use Foxit on all my machines, except the one I do the tax on, and the difference really is noticeable...

Burned by a MacBook

Matthew Harris

Not Unusual

...and not just with Macs.

Just to be clear: never had a mac, never want a mac... but I had a very similar problem to Emily with a 'normal' laptop. Nice shiny new Acer one, bought it specifically for 64bit processor and an NVidia GPU. Within about two months of purchase the DVD drive utterly died (and it had hardly been used). I didn't send it for repair as I was too busy to be without it at the time. However, within six months the whole thing was dead, seems that something inside it had melted (looks like they'd not realised that a high spec processor produces more heat, and hadn't tested it properly). As 'twas well within the free support/replacement etc. period I sent it off to them (by courier). Everything seemd OK. Then I heard nothing for a month, contacted them, they said that they were waiting for parts and it would be ready in a couple of weeks. Tried again in a couple of weeks, and they said they no longer had the parts because they didn't make that model any more so they'd send me a new one. Heard nothing for another few weeks, got in touch with them again and they promised to send me another one. The new laptop turned up a week or so later. Took one quick look at it and sent it back. No 64bit processor (the new one was a low-end centrino) and no GPU (onboard intel crap instead). I sent it back as it wasn't fit for purpose and actually worked out nearly £200 cheaper than the original. They then sent me another one about a month later. This one retailed at about the same price as my original machine, but still didn't have the specs I required - 32-bit processor (dual-core though), and a low-end ATI graphics card. So after about a year, two replacement machines & a phone bill I really don't want to think about (bloody premium rate support lines with never-ending hold...) and bought a new laptop from ASUS, who seem to have a much better record on support.

What I'm saying is that Emily's experience seems to be standard practice for a number of major laptop retailers - unlike a standard desktop (or desktop mac), you can't normally take a laptop down to your local family-run computer shop to get it fixed, and are therefore locked in the neverending support battle with a company that really doesn't give a damn about the poor suckers that buy their products. Not that I'm bitter or anything ;)

Physics GCSE: 'insultingly easy, non scientific, and vague'

Matthew Harris

Worse than useless

As someone who has relatively recently passed through this system (GCSE in 2003, A-Level in 2005), who is now studying for a degree in Physics, I can quite honestly say that both the GCSE physics and A-Levels are worse than useless for anyone wanting to enter the field. As universities have to maintain a standard of teaching on par with other (including international) institutions, they cannot afford to dumb down the courses - the easiest place to recruit new lecturers and researchers is from the student body...

I sit on the Staff-Student body for the department, and they are having to bring in a heavily revised first year syllabus because the standard of knowledge of those entering the university is not up to scratch, and basic maths & physics (which should be taught in schools) is not present, despite these pupils getting high grades on their GCSEs and A-Levels. This change puts pressure on the lecturers, as within the first year or so they have to bring the students from having no knowledge, to having the required skills for the more complex work in further years, whereas the students should have at least some grounding in Maths (such as matrix algebra & ODEs) as well as a good knowledge of at least Newtonian mechanics and electromagnetism.

I'm not sure how much of this was on the 'old' A-Levels, but as far as I can tell from seeing the syllabuses (syllabi? I'm a physicist, not a language student!) used by the university over the years, it does seem that the amount of knowledge a modern physics A grade requires would barely be sufficient to pass an O-Level.

Asus Lamborghini VX2 laptop

Matthew Harris

Overpriced for what it is

Asus already offer other laptops of similar spec for far less... around the £1k mark in fact. A quick bout of googling uncovered G1-AK005C, which is available for £1095 on the site I looked at. The processor is clocked at 2.0Ghz rather than 2.16, but the difference isn't that immense, and although it has only Vista Home Ultimate, the upgrade cost isn't going to make it worth buying the Lambo.

All the other specs looked pretty similar, except the G1 lacks the rather pointless fingerprint reader... does anyone actually use those things anyway?

Performance-wise I'd expect them to perform reasonably similarly, especially if you trashed Vista and installed XP (which despite hogging vast areas of your machine, hogs less than Vista), or dare I say it... Linux ;)

One thing to be aware of with Asus laptops though is that they don't seem to care if the processor is 64bit... mine (an A6Km) had XP Home 32Bit installed, despite having a 64bit processor. I'm not quite sure whether the core-duo is a 64bit as I've not used an intel processor for years, but it may be worth taking into account that you will have to buy a new version of windows to get the full potential out of the machine.

Holy cow I ramble don't I?

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