* Posts by Kristian Walsh

1313 posts • joined 10 Apr 2007

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Remember those holy tech wars we used to have? Heh, good times

Kristian Walsh
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Re: "Religion gave way to pragmatism"?

Odd that OSX is user friendly and works just fine with configuration files. No systemd, and no registry.

It's probably truer to say that they don't have those precise names on MacOS X...

MacOS X's "launchd" (since OSX 10.4) is basically the same approach to process management as Linux's "systemd", and MacOS configuration is more like the Windows Registry than it is like Linux /etc files.

If you're configuring all of your "Mac OS" by changing text in the files under /etc, you are not using MacOS features at all, but rather BSD Unix (or tools you've installed that were ported from Linux).

At the disk level, the bulk of OSX configuration is via property-list files, a proprietary (but very simple) binary data format. These are the *.plist files in /Library/Preferences (global settings) and /Users/____/Library/Preferences (your settings). You can edit them with a graphical tool, or use the "defaults" tool to do it in the Terminal, but you can't just open [text editor of your choice] and type new values in. In that sense, it's pretty much the same as the Windows Registry. (There's an XML representation for plists that's also supported, but OSX and most apps ship with, and use, the binary format)

There's really not much difference between the properties collection on MacOS X and the Registry on Windows except that the Windows Registry is much less granular in its on-disk format than the former. That lack of file-level partition is the only thing that makes the Registry a "bad" thing from a technical standpoint compared to plists; and the big problem with Registry isn't corruption, it's application software stomping on settings during install, and then not restoring them after uninstallation (which is why Microsoft's "Store" packaging and deployment system gives converted Win32 applications a virtual, sandboxed Registry that they can shit in to their heart's content without damaging the user's system). Nothing in the design of the OS X system would prevent this problem, but OS X developers tend to not change system settings during install, and when they do, they use the official, Apple, installer, which does manage this properly.

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Memo man Damore is back – with lawyers: Now Google sued for 'punishing' white men

Kristian Walsh
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Re: @h4rmony @Kristian Walsh

You've obviously been following this more closely than I have. I read the original memo, and found it to be an unreasonable complaint, and moved on. It irked me later to hear some people talk about it as if it were a manifesto against "political correctness gone mad". It isn't.

You're dismissing this because you want to, not because it isn't sound.

No, you're wrong there. I didn't mention the details of the leak because I simply wasn't aware of it. Sincerly, thank you for pointing out these circumstances: knowing that this was leaked without his knowlege, rather than published post-facto does change my view on Damore himself (rather than "Damore's memo"). I already said that I'd be surprised if this was the sole reason he was fired, but I'm now happy to accept that it's likely the dismissal may have been orchestrated by people he worked with. For what little it'll help him, I hope that if this turns out to be the case, he gets very well compensated.

I used the word "nerdy" without meaning it to be pejorative, by the way. I meant an office culture where it's considered desirable to spend all hours coding, to the exclusion of other activities.

I will say that when it comes to these arguments that I take the opinion that both edges of the spectrum are equally destructive and stupid. In this case, it's only the conservative, reactionary end that has come up. On the other end, we have Identity Politics, probably the most horrible, divisive concept of recent decades, focussing on difference rather than commonality is not the way to build tolerant and welcoming societies. The hair-trigger outrage merchants like that "dongles" woman you cited (and the cowards who dismissed their engineers without bothering to hear their side of it), are just as obnoxious as the "tech bro" culture, because ultimately they're the same thing: someone who wants everyone else to behave the way they want, but is unwilling to accommodate anyone else's position.

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Kristian Walsh
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Re: "...therefore Socrates is a dog"

I'm very well aware of how serious the matter of suicide is. If you thought I brought it up as a quip, please re-read what I wrote. If you still feel I was being flippant, then I apologise.

We have a serious problem as men about not admitting that we're unable to cope with stress. The macho bullshit about "manning up" and getting on with it makes things worse. I know people who've denied being under any pressure... right until they've had a breakdown.

And I also know others who aren't here anymore. It's not only work stresses, it's everything, but talking helps and if you can, do. It's awkard, and maybe you'll be told to fuck off, but it can help in some cases. Not all, but some.

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Kristian Walsh
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@h4rmony Re: @Kristian Walsh

(I'm male, by the way - I know it's an ambiguous name in some countries)

Yes, I'd urge anyone to definitely read the memo before making a comment - it's not very long. Don't go by my reading of it - make up your own minds. I posted in response to those who appear to be supporting Damore on the basis of a skim-read of the introduction to this document, or hearsay based. Search "Damore memo" and you'll find any number of links to this document.

Before going any further, though, I will say that I find it very hard to believe that he was fired just for writing this document. Dismissing a permanent employee is not something that any company (even an American one) does lightly - it often, as in this case, ends up with both the employer and employee in court. This document is one part of a bigger story, and none of us know the whole story yet, but my suspicions are that it's a story in which Damore may not be the hero.

... and as this is highly likely to be settled out-of-court, I don't think we'll ever know the facts.

I didn't make any comment one way or the other on gender representation, but Damore's point about never achieving a 50/50 balance is a straw-man argument: everyone knows that's not practical with the current pool of available talent, but we all (he included) know that that's not what "diversity" policies are about.

These policies aren't looking to pass over men and replace them with women - that's an example of the "zero-sum" thinking I criticised; they're about making changes to the workplace that make it easier to attract and then retain male and female staff of a wide range of ethnic backgrounds. I believe he is deliberately misrepresenting a policy of preferring minority candidates who meet the requirements for a position, as one where such candidates get the job without meeting the requirements.

At the end of the document, he has his list of "recommendations": this is where he makes his pitch for what the ideal solution will be. And when you look at it, it's just a rollback of measures Google has taken to stop its workplaces being so hostile to people who aren't nerdy white men. If someone is unwilling to see the changes as necessary, what does that say about their opinion of the current situation?

Now, I'm also willing to entertain the possibility that Google's inclusiveness programmes are as cack-handed, insensitive and blunt-edged as you'd expect from a company that truly believes that algorithms can replace human judgement in pretty much all situations. But that doesn't stop this memo being a poorly argued whinge about having to share the the office with people who see the world differently to him.

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Kristian Walsh
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"...therefore Socrates is a dog"

Well I did read what he wrote. It's crap. It's structure is typical of conspiracy theories - the introduction says nothing controversial and concedes some points in an attempt to gain your trust that the author is impartial and acting in good faith. Then the actual argument begins (from the section "the harm of Google's biases"), and logic goes for a beer somewhere.

Even if I agreed with his hypothesis, I couldn't endorse this bunch of logical fallacies that attempt to "prove" that he's being badly treated as a result of some political-correctness conspiracy. If that document is an example of his logical reasoning skills, he's unfit to be a software engineer.

Where to start? How about the beginning. From the get-go, by denouncing every program to change it, he takes as given that the current status-quo is the best possible in the tech industry. Well, I'd just note that there once was a time where every Olympic runner was a white guy. I suppose the only reason it's different now is that about sixty years ago, black guys must have decided to stop complaining about things being unfair and instead learn to run like white men...

Next, anyone who says we need to "De-emphasise empathy" when designing software has made a fundamental error about the reasons why we write software. If it does not make the life of a human being better in some way, there is no point to it. (Sadly, that doesn't preclude things that make one human's life better by making another's much worse, or much, much shorter; but I'm not the one claiming this is an easy thing to "fix").

The only things he writes that are verifiably true are the data-points he quotes in the introduction, but these are ignored by the time he's launched into his argument proper. Just because someone uses lots of facts, it doesn't mean that they're reasoning from them properly. Or should we really combat global warming by becoming pirates?

Take the quoted excerpt above: when an easily identifiable subset of workers, women, at Google report more anxiety than the majority group (I'll assume that this is a fact), Damore leaps to the one hypothesis that suits his agenda without considering other, likelier causes. Here's his "cause", plus three reasons I'd want to look at in addition:

a. Women are naturally more prone to be neurotic (says Damore)

b. Men under-report the amount of stress they're under at work

c. The raised stress is as a result of the nature of the jobs more commonly done by women

d. The raised stress is as a result of unfair treatment (lack of advancement, lower pay, etc)

A look at work-related suicide statistics should make you stop and consider "b" for a moment (if we want to talk about how men are badly treated by workplaces, this is where we start). Damore himself glides over "c" without stopping to consider that front-end, user-facing development is the most fluid and most subject to customer interference part of a project and therefore one of the most stressful development tasks. And "d" might explain why the shittiest jobs have an overabundance of female engineers doing them, but we're simply told (without evidence to back it up) that "women are better at front-end". Yes, and I'm sure someone told me that Mexicans naturally gifted at picking fruit.

The argument Damore is making is not, as his defenders claim, that men and women have (in general) different approaches to work and problem solving, and that we need to consider everyone's needs in a workplace. That's not even an argument, and as a statement it's so obvious that it's hardly worthy of comment. His argument is the big non-sequitir rant that follows those platitudes: that we should not change anything if it makes white men like him uncomfortable, because white men like him are the best engineers. The problem with that argument is that he defines "desirable" qualities as those which he and other men like him possess, and discounts those skills he lacks as being worthless. He also sees the situation as a zero-sum game, and so creates a false dilemma where measures to help minority participants can only disadvantage people like him.

I could summarise the whole ten pages as "(A) I am a good engineer, (B) I am a man, therefore (C) men are good engineers"

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1980s sci-fi movies: The thrill of being not quite terrified on mum's floral sofa

Kristian Walsh
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Re: Not just technology...

I think Verhoeven had to leave when Hollywood bosses realised that his entire output for American studios had been basically taking the piss out of Americans. Either that or it was Showgirls. Actually, it was definitely Showgirls...

Robocop is a nasty vision of the future not for the visceral gore of its special effects, but for the nastiness of the world it portrays through the TV commercial blips, the incidental dialogue and all the small details that build up to a picture of a world gone to hell. The gore is the least disturbing part of Verhoeven's future Detroit...

I'm also in the small faction that likes Starship Troopers - and that's because of its particular take on "alien monster" movies. I can't say anything else as I don't want to spoil it for people who haven't seen it, but it is very much not what it seems. A faithful reproduction of Heinlein's book would have been indistinguishable from any of the slew of generic "space-marine" movies that came in the wake of "Aliens".

Actually, what I think was a major factor in the Sci-fi boom of the 1980s was home video itself: Not to watch the "hits", but to discover movies that didn't make it big on release.. For studios it meant that if a movie tanked at the theatres, it still had a chance of making its money back on VHS sales, and that allowed projects to be approved that otherwise wouldn't have been. Especially as Sci-fi is a niche interest, with fans who are loyal and will buy on recommendation.

This second chance allowed some damp-squip cinema releases to turn into major successes later. As it happens, Blade Runner was one such film - its global box-office receipts of $33 million in 1982 were a very poor return for a movie with a $28 million production budget, but over the 1980s and 1990s it more than doubled that income again in home sales.

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It gets worse: Microsoft’s Spectre-fixer wrecks some AMD PCs

Kristian Walsh
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Re: athlon

Please don't tell me people *still* think you need secure boot to run Win10.

I think they're the same ones who think UEFI is a boot-locker.

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And we return to Munich's migration back to Windows - it's going to cost what now?! €100m!

Kristian Walsh
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Unterschleißheim is a town in Bavaria, Germany. It is located about 17 km north of the city limits of Munich.

City limits being the operative word here

I suggest you do a bit more research on how regional government and local taxation works in Germany, because that argument is based on a misunderstanding of this. Put In UK terms, you're close to stating that Ealing and Aldgate are not in the same city; a true assertion, but not one that's significant in this context.

Microsoft's move to Schwabing will be a net loss to the local government in tax revenue, as the new offices are in a specially-designated development area, to which lower tax rates apply (for a long introductory period).

There really is nothing odd about this move. Tech companies have been migrating from edge-city office parks to city-centre locations for most of the last decade. Has it escaped your notice how many "Silicon Valley" companies are actually operating from San Francisco now, rather than the actual Valley, 50 miles south of SF? How many UK-based companies have shifted from the M4 Corridor and now operate in London?

The new location is between the two largest universities in Munich. If you knew the city at all, you'd understand why any company that needs to attract smart graduates would jump at this kind of move.

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Kristian Walsh
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No, it didn't "just move". Microsoft's German HQ had been in Munich-Unterschleissheim ( for over three decades. What happened recently was that the company moved those offices into a more central location in Munich (Schwabing), near to the two major universities in the city.

This was an organisational, not a technology failure. Fixating on "Microsoft versus Linux" isn't just juvenile, it's also counter-productive. It won't help address the reasons why this project became such a mess.

And meanwhile, lots of other "serious" organisations have made the same transition that Munich failed to; the French Gendarmerie for instance now uses a Linux-based LibreOffice-based workflow for all its internal IT.

If there's one easy lesson from this, it should be that Linux's proponents really need to stop pitching Linux as a "cost-saving" alternative to proprietary software: this gives the customer the wrong mindset from the get-go. In truth, the software licences are never the big line items in a business process improvement project.

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Microsoft Surface Book 2: Electric Boogaloo. Bigger, badder, better

Kristian Walsh
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Re: glut of these on the second-hand market

First, I don't know where this "fact" came from, but no: no Surface model has ever been boot-locked, except the ARM-based Surface RT. You don't have to take my word for this: just type "install linux on Surface Pro" into your favourite search engine and see the numerous guides on doing just that.

Second, 'sudo apt-get install gcc' will work on a Windows laptop once you install the Windows Subsystem For Linux. I've had some pretty dumb students back when I was a lecturer, but I imagine even they'd be able to open up the app Store icon and type "Ubuntu" into the search-box, install the software and then click the "bash shell" icon on their desktop afterwards.

...and the example is contrived anyway: I've never seen computing students running anything other than Mac or Windows as an OS on their personal laptops. For almost all programming coursework, the BSD tools on a Mac suffice; WSL on Windows goes a step further by giving you the exact same tools as a "real" Linux system, but for compilers building the type of projects that will be done in an undergraduate course, this distinction doesn't really matter.

If you want a plausible reason for Surfaces being abandoned, it'll be the keyboards. The folding keyboards are okay, but for heavy-duty typing, there's no substitute for a real keyboard.

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Kristian Walsh
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Re: I'll pass

Yes, and you can get a pen and paper for a couple of quid. The spec you're citing is for a far less powerful system than the £3k Surface Book, which won't be much use if you're running software that requires a lot of computational power. Compared to giving someone a workstation, plus a laptop, that £3k doesn't look so bad.

But yes, the 1Tb disk option is pure gouging, but with the 512G SSD, it's perfectly in line with what you'd expect to pay for one of the highest-performing laptops you can buy at the moment. The article cites similarly high-spec Windows laptops, and they're priced in the same ballpark. The latest technology always costs a lot more than the previous generation, and this laptop is no exception. At least this time, the advantage of the 8th-generation CPUs over the 7th is clear and measurable - particularly in power usage (can do the same work as the old chips, but at 60% of the power consumption).

Just because, like me, you can't justify spending that much on a laptop, it doesn't mean that there isn't someone who does need it. In my case, I don't use a laptop as my primary computing device - I've a desktop PC that I do my own work on, and that will outdo most laptops, simply by virtue of not being constrained in terms of cooling or power consumption.

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Kristian Walsh
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Re: Great Handware, but!

As someone who makes his living using Linux, I cannot agree with any characterisation of Linux GUI tools as being "intuitive" or "easy to use". Every damned one is different, with its own quirks, and most aren't worth the bother.

This is in complete contrast to the way the command-line tools generally all work in the same manner. It's this consistency of the Linux command-line tools, following principles and examples inherited from Unix, that made it the premier server OS.

...and Microsoft does ship a "Linux" distribution for Windows 10. Or rather, Canonical and Microsoft does. You can get it here:

https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/store/p/ubuntu/9nblggh4msv6

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Last week: Microsoft accused of covering up rape claim. This week: Microsoft backs anti-cover-up law ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Kristian Walsh
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How were these even enforceable in the first place?

"In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, ..."

- the Sixth Amendment of the US Constitution

My understanding of contract law is that you can never be held to a contract that diminishes the rights you already have under the law (unless the law itself allows you to waive them). Nor can you be held to a contract that requires you to perform an illegal act*

Forced arbitration is, in effect, the denial of your right to justice for no reason other than you happen to work for a particular corporation, and "justice" applies to both accused and accuser.

( * yes, that does make a nonsense of the idea of a "contract killer", but to be honest, you're in deeper legal waters than this if that happens to be your business.)

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Ex-Microsoft intern claimed one of her fellow temps raped her. Her bosses hired him

Kristian Walsh
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Re: Kristian Walsh I don't know...

I demanded nothing, and by the dismissive tone of your response, I'm guessing you think I'm female. Guess again (hint: I've one more than Adolf Hitler, according to the once-popular song)

I also never said the accused was guilty, nor did I suggest that accused persons should be considered guilty for certain crimes. He was accused, not convicted, and yes the alleged victim also could have been lying (statistically, though that is just as unlikely as a report of him stealing from her being a lie). However, leaving two employees together who are in such serious conflict with each other is disgraceful behaviour towards whichever of them is the wronged party.

That was my point: idiotic HR practices that exacerbated an already bad situation between two employees.

Microsoft's response in this case was completely wrong for a situation where one employee has accused another of assaulting them. If it helps clear the mental fog, imagine one male intern accusing another male intern of physical assault. Would you have dealt with it this way if the two interns were your direct reports?

But some commenters on this haven't been able to look beyond "woman accuses man of rape", and frame this as another assault on "men's rights" and gone straight to the standard knee-jerk reaction, pausing only to mentally add "(and she was probably lying)" along the way, despite evidence that shows false rape claims to be as rare as false theft or physical assault claims.

That reaction also completely ignores the fact that the woman's specific complaint here wasn't about being raped - that's a criminal matter. Her complaint was about how badly her employer has handled the situation. The strong correlation between those commenters standing up to defend Microsoft for this idiocy and those commenters who normally despise Microsoft and all its works was amusing.

Darling.

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Kristian Walsh
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Re: I don't know...

Microsoft screwed up here, and badly. You're right - the best choice would have been to move both employees, so that they're not meeting each other every day. If the accusation was false, moving both would reduce the accuser's ability to bully the accused; if it was true, being apart would prevent problems at a subsequent trial ("but you spoke with my client regularly in your office? Surely you could not have been as traumatised as you claim ...").

Your question about anonymity has a local answer if you want to look into it further: In Irish law, accused rapists remain anonymous unless convicted, on the grounds that knowing identity of the accused can easily allow identification of the victim (remember that most victims of rape know their attacker). However, this provision often means that convicted rapists are not named either, because in many situations, doing so would remove the victim's anonymity. It's common here for victims to renounce their right to anonymity after a conviction is secured, just to ensure that their attacker is named.

But the Irish law primarily exists to protect the victim, not the accused. The risk of false accusation isn't significant, because the overwhelming number of charges of rape are based on real attacks. To hear some people talking about it, you'd swear every second accusation was malicious, but the FBI's figures in the US put the false claim rate at just under 2% - the same level as for other crimes (of all classes). Bear in mind that this 2% figure is of those cases where a police complaint is made- there are many victims of physical assault who cannot bring themselves to make an official complaint - the reporting rate for rape is believed to be as low as 12%.

... It's also sad to see some regular and vehemently anti-Microsoft commenters lining up to support the company's cack-handed actions in this case. I guess they can overlook "pure evil" when it has the side-effect of keeping uppity wimmen out of a "real man's industry".

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PHWOAR, those noughty inks: '0.1%' named Stat of The Year

Kristian Walsh
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Re: 80% artificial...

First, population density and land use are two different measures. The UK can achieve high density in population centres and low land cover through extensive use of high-rise buildings. Consider the typical "tower block" units set in a large parkland setting - high population density, but low ground cover.

..is easily the most populous and built-up area of its size in Europe

No. Southeast England is one of the most densely populated regions of Europe, but it is not the most densely populated. That distinction belongs to Paris and the Ile-de-France.

"Greater London" (i.e., the area formerly controlled by the GLC) itself is the 13th most densely populated city in Europe, in between Den Haag (NL) and Madrid (ES). Paris again is first, with either Barcelona or Athens second, depending on whether you consider L'Hospitalet to be "in" Barcelona or not for the purposes of ranking.

On a more localised scale, some small Italian and Spanish cities achieve population densities that match the most populous parts of Asia, and Monaco is the most densely-populated country on Earth, simply because it's so small.

It's inadequate mass-transport investment, not density of population, that makes England seem crowded.

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Get ready for laptop-tab-smartphone threesomes from Microsoft, Lenovo, HP, Asus, Qualcomm

Kristian Walsh
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Despite a >2x clock-speed advantage, the first 601 systems only had about 1.5 x the real performance of the 68040/40 it replaced; native code versus native code. Still a considerable jump, but not the "multiple times" that Apple touted. Benchmarks tended to favour the 601 as they could run within the generous 32k L1 instruction/data cache, but real applications running under an operating system never came close to that theoretical speed. Add the effort of emulating over half of the code within the OS, and the performance benefits of PowerPC really looked questionable: Bottom-left of the linked page here shows a benchmark of the 601 Macs against the 68040 Quadra line. Even allowing for an emulation penalty of over 50%, it's not pretty: https://archive.org/stream/MacWorld_9405_May_1994#page/n95/mode/2up

Basically, Apple's customers bought the 601 series on a promise of future performance, but it was one that Apple never delivered, and I think it was the root of the problems that nearly closed the company later in the 1990s. 604 and then 740/"G3" were the CPUs that eventually came good and showed the potential of PowerPC, but by then most people had moved to Pentium-powered Windows 95 desktops. "Fool me once..."

Coming back to Snapdragon, based on mobile benchmarks, the 835 is about 20% faster at integer workloads than the ~2Mhz Intel Core-m3 chips that are commonly used at this price-point. However, that might be understating the ARM chip's real performance potential: a processor running in a phone has a much more restricted TDP performance envelope - especially if the handset is water (and thus air) sealed. Give an 835 access to a bigger battery and the same cooling and ventilation as a laptop has, and I wouldn't be surprised to see it handily outperform the m3.

There should be enough extra processing power to cover the emulation overhead, especially as a lot has happened in this field since 1994. The advent of Java with its bytecode runtime later in the mid-1990s spurred on major improvements in CPU emulation techniques. By the time Apple changed ISAs again in 2004, there wasn't the same gap between "PowerPC" and "native Intel" code, and what gap there was was much less relevant because, this time, Apple shipped a 100% native-x86 OS with their new Intel systems. Microsoft is in that position too - there's a 100% native ARM build of Windows.

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Kristian Walsh
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. Except when running x86 code, it has to do three times as much work for each CPU instruction it's emulating. Doesn't sound like a good idea to me.

No, it'll work fine. Emulation will only happen for user-space code. The kernel and all system libraries/DLLs will be ARM-native. For the majority of productivity applications, 90% of time is either spent waiting for user actions, or executing system library functions, so the perceived performance hit will be minimal.

Now, If you're doing video-coding or protein-folding, or anything that does heavy computation, then sure, you're going to take a serious performance hit, but I think very few people buying laptops at the expected price-point of these devices will expect that kind of performance anyway.

There's precedent for doing this: When Apple moved its systems from 680x0 to PowerPC back in the 1990s, this was exactly how they managed the transition, and for productivity apps, the performance was good enough that you usually couldn't tell a native PPC app (or "fat-binary", one with both 680x0 and PPC code resources) from a 68k one without looking at the resource fork.

Actually, this is likely to be a better experience, as Apple's percentage of PPC code in System 7.x was barely 50% at launch of the first PPC systems. Successive system releases eventually got MacOS up to 100% PPC code, but it took a couple of years (68k MacOS was built in what I would politely describe as "its own special way" and that did include injecting pre-assembled 68k binary code in a couple of places; plus there were some instances of self-modifying code in the OS too for performance reasons).

Microsoft has pretty much all of Windows plus its DLLs as ARM code already. What people refer to as "Windows Phone 10" is basically Windows on ARM without win32.dll, but win32.dll also exists in an ARM build, as this was how they got Office to run on the original Surface RT, despite it not being a "Metro/Modern" app.

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Voyager 1 fires thrusters last used in 1980 – and they worked!

Kristian Walsh
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Re: how is assembler outdated and by what?

General Electric provided the CPU for Voyager, as they had for the earlier Viking system http://www.cpushack.com/space-craft-cpu.html

The RCA 1802 was launched barely a year before Voyager, so could never have been used. It did see use in NASA in the Magellan and Hubble projects over a decade later, which gives you an idea of how long these projects take to design and launch.

The CPUs in Voyager were 18-bit machines with 64 instructions. They seemed to be a one-off custom job for NASA, as GE never commercially offered a CPU, nor did any other GE minicomputer had such an odd word-length (although its 600-series was 36-bit). This would definitely confirm the "obsolete assembly language" part of the story.

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Wondering why your internal .dev web app has stopped working?

Kristian Walsh
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Re: Solution

Best job-interview question I've been asked (and have asked later) in recent years;

What is systemd?

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Tom Baker returns to finish shelved Doctor Who episodes penned by Douglas Adams

Kristian Walsh
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Re: DNA

There's also a Netflix "Dirk Gently" that is nothing to do with anything DNA did. Still quite entertaining and a suitably odd plot, but only Dirk Gently by name.

My impression of the Netflix series was: "there's no way in hell that a man as peaceful as DNA would ever have allowed such a bloody and violent script to be attached to his creation"

It's still worth a watch if you forget about the original Dirk (or the underrated BBC series which captured the tone of the books brilliantly), but I despaired when [without spoiling any plot points] it slipped into the hackneyed big-government conspiracy theory nonsense that ruins so many American Sci-Fi programmes...

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Munich council finds €49.3m for Windows 10 embrace

Kristian Walsh
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Re: AC "if it's C++ or something like it..."

Holy shit. "A simple recompile and rewrite the UI"? I'm not entirely sure if you're being sarcastic.

If not, all I can say is that you've probably never seen real-world, mature vertical-market applications. I once worked in a Fortune500 company whose entire software localisation workflow was contained in an "onClicked" handler on a proprietary forms API. The other state needed to process the job? That was read into other UI controls a priori, and extracted from there as needed.

That might be the worst example I've seen, but in my experience, implementing application logic, and even application state, in the UI layer is sadly the rule, not the exception. Even if the project was deployed with a clear separation of concerns, when bugs arise, changes get made in the lowest impact, most easily-reached piece of code, and developers assume that UI-layer changes are lower impact than in modules with scary names like "Core" or "Master Controller". Over time, functionality in large applications leeches from the centre out to the presentation layers. (I'm sure there's got to be a snappy name for this phenomenon...)

You're right that 80% of the job is thinking about what is actually needed, but show me an organisation that pays for "no code being produced". Misapplication of "Agile" methods (especially the incorrect assumption that no task can close without a source checkin) has made this worse.

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Kristian Walsh
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Microsoft's German operations have "happened to be" in Munich for over thirty years - all through this migration from, and back to, Windows.

The company's move from Unterschleissheim at the edge of Munich into Schwabing in the North of the city is part of a broader trend in tech companies - today's graduates want to work in the heart of a city with good social amenities, not in industrial parks (see how San Francisco has taken over from Santa Clara/Sunnyvale or London's East End instead of the M4 Corridor). The city of Munich also provided Microsoft with a tax-break as part of the move, but nothing that wasn't given to other companies that relocated into this new "techology hub" located near to the city's two major universities (LMU and TUM).

This was the first attempt to do a major rollout of Linux in a large organistion as the only desktop platform. It failed. That should not be unexpected: lots of "first attempts" at things fail. A mature response would be to conduct a detailed post-mortem of the project to see when and why it did not succeed, and address these customer concerns.

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Your next laptop will feature 'CMF' technology

Kristian Walsh
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Re: Cost vs spec

There's plenty of systems like that already for you. Lenovo, Dell and HP's enterprise lines, to name but a few, have models that are bristling with ports, and where you're paying purely for the components inside. I had an office-special Dell 15" at a previous job - it was pretty dull and boring, but the specs were really good and it would survive a fair amount of abuse, and it could connect to pretty much anything.

It's not a zero-sum game: companies are just addressing buyers who have different priorities to yours; but your attitude to purchases is still the prevalent one. If anything, the higher margins from the style-led systems will make the function-over-form models more affordable.

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Kristian Walsh
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Re: Translation :

On the contrary. This focus on aesthetics is because laptops and computers in general have a longer working life than before. There was a time you'd have a new machine every 18-24 months just to keep up with the needs of your software, but now a combination of better silicon and much more remote application hosting means that a typical business user's laptop will see four years or more of use.

It's worth investing a little bit in making something look and feel pleasant if you're going to be looking at it for that long..

Apple isn't the only one with a history of doing this, and it's a mistake to assume that this strategy is only about "high fashion accessories". Gaming brands like Alienware have also had a lot of success investing in styling and non-functional frippery to shift their hardware to their target demographics. But somehow, making a bog-standard PC look like some kind of extra-terrestrial combat equipment doesn't attract the same kind of derision as daring to make a portable computer that a style-conscious woman, or man, would be happy to be seen carrying.

Personally, I'd rather have the burgundy laptop with the fabric inlay, but I'm not going to pour scorn on someone whose gaming rig is their pride and joy.

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Brace yourselves, fanboys. Winter is coming. And the iPhone X can't handle the cold

Kristian Walsh
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I miss the days...

... when mobile phones were designed for use in the wintery depths of the Swedish or Finnish countryside

Never heard of a Nokia screen that didn't work in the cold.. they were the first to bring out a phone you could use while wearing thick gloves, something I'm not sure if iPhones can do even now (the use of fingerprint unlocking forces you to de-glove anyway)

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First iPhone X fondlers struggle to admit that Face ID sort of sucks

Kristian Walsh
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@coolcity - Re: Same as the Lumia 950

Where Microsoft (or rather Microsoft and Intel) did have face recognition two years ago was in the Surface Pro 4, Surface Book and all subsequent devices. I've seen that system in action, and it's really good - I'd go as far as saying it's faster than fingerprint reading, especially if you've just opened up the laptop.

Lumia's system was "iris recognition". Neither my wife nor I could get it to work. We both wear prescription glasses full-time, though, and I think that's the major factor that separates your experience from ours.

For a phone, I think fingerprint is probably the quickest, simply because you can get a head-start on unlocking the phone as you're picking it up or taking it from a pocket. It's not really a surprise that Apple has ditched an ergonomically good mechanism in favour of a much more complex and less useful one that sounds better right up until you use it... it's their modus operandi these days.

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Kristian Walsh
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Re: Same as the Lumia 950

Strictly speaking, the Lumia had iris recognition, not face recognition.

And honestly speaking, it didn't really work. Doubly so if you wear glasses. Even when it did work, the tiny delay between registering and unlocking was far longer than just using a fingerprint sensor, and that's without considering that you can start the sensor's job as you're taking the device out of your pocket.

Some Windows laptops and tablets support a far superior face ID system from Intel which uses a secondary IR-spectrum camera as well as the laptop's front-facing one. In this, it's like Apple's system. Where it differs is that, as far as I have read, the laptop setup works reliably.Hardly a surprise, as Intel and the PC OEMs are using the technology appropriately: you're usually looking straight at a laptop when you want to log in to it, so facial recognition can genuinely save time.

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LTE it snow: Microsoft to punt out LTE-tastic Surface Pro in December

Kristian Walsh
Silver badge

I can't see it either. The Surface division makes money for Microsoft. Sure, it's not the same kind of return on capital as they get from their other divisions, but making and selling "stuff" is always lower margin than selling services or software.

And as well as earning money, the Surface line has done a lot of work to dispel the myth that only Apple can make attractive hardware, and it has given Windows OEMs a benchmark to aim for.

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Footie ballsup: Petition kicks off to fix 'geometrically impossible' street signs

Kristian Walsh
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@Stoneshop - Re: 1st world problems.

Actually, the new German train sign (introduced in 1992) is an "interesting" (depending on how interested you are in graphic design and signage, of course ;) ) example of how to change a design without losing recognition. I cannot find a link to the story I read about this now, sadly, so this is a summary:

This new version of this sign replaces a steam-train design ( https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bild_12_-_Unbeschrankter_Bahnübergang,_StVO_DDR_1964.svg ). Replacing this existing diagram posed problems because first, the old signs would remain in place; and second, other countries used (and continue to use) the "steam" version of this sign, and Germany, being in the centre of Western Europe, has a lot of transit traffic on its road network, so whatever the new one was, it had to be compatible with the other, older ones.

As a result, one of the concerns when drawing the new one was that it should not depart significantly from the dark-light patterning of the old-style "steam train" version when viewed from a distance. This is why the train curls rather than being shown side-on or head-on (which is the norm for pedestrian signs directing people to trains): a side-on view of a modern train would look too similar to the existing "trams sharing the road" sign, and a head-on version would be sufficiently different to not be recognisable at distance to drivers who are familiar with the old sign.

If you squint at the new version, and imagine a steam-train you should hopefully see that the roof and pantograph of the train form an area that could be considered the "smoke", and the view of the carriages curling behind look somewhat like the rear standing area a steam engine (I know nearly nothing about steam-trains, so those are definitely the wrong terms).

It's not identical, of course, but it still suggests the outline and pattern of the old version when seen at a distance in peripheral vision, and that was one of the goals for the new design: A driver who's familiar with the old sign will recognise the new one at distance as being "like" the old one. When they get closer, it'll look like a modern train, but the most important part of road signage is the recognition at distance.

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Kristian Walsh
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Re: 1st world problems.

If your first impression after seeing the sign was "that car has spun around", then the sign has succeeded.

Signs aren't pictures, they're intended to convey an idea quickly, and unambiguously. Some signs don't seem to much sense if you analyse them, but the "odd" choices are there for a reason: "Food available" shows a spoon-and-fork because the more "obvious" fork and knife looks like a crossed-out fork at a distance, or "no food available". The bellows-camera is like that because no other sign looks like it, and it is recognisable as a camera. Same goes for the "choo-choo" train. The skid is missing tracks because showing two more of them adds visual clutter and obfuscates the meaning.

If you want a genuinely dumb UK road sign that needs changing, I would nominate this: http://www.key.co.uk/img/W/KEY/nt/IC/nt-img20070322130940_101357.jpg

If you said "footpath", you're in for a nasty surprise, but it's an perfectly sane assumption to make. Especially if, as a non-driver, you're someone who has never opened a copy of the Highway Code...

It actually means "No pedestrians", and while it is consistent with the rules of the road signage system, it's inconsistent with how people interpret symbols. There's a reason why the "no left turn" and "no right turn" and "no parking" got diagonal bars through their sign designs, but for some reason, this one escaped.

(Ireland uses a slight variation of the UK signage system, but one in which all round, "prohibition" signs have a diagonal through them to make the meaning clear; here's our "no pedestrians": http://trafficsigns.ie/rus-038/ )

My favourite UK sign-trivia is about the "School children" sign used in the UK: In the original international signage design, this sign depicted an older boy is leading a younger girl ( https://image.shutterstock.com/display_pic_with_logo/60395/60395,1217349674,4/stock-vector-warning-children-on-road-sign-illustration-15493621.jpg ), but the UK version has an older girl leading a younger boy ( https://static.independent.co.uk/s3fs-public/styles/article_small/public/thumbnails/image/2016/05/09/08/children-road-sign-new.jpg ) because Margaret Calvert, who designed the signs, used to accompany her sometimes unwilling younger brother to school. That's about as close as a road-sign designer can get to self-portraiture, I think...

(Many countries now mix and match the "big-sister" and "big-brother" versions of this sign, but the UK exclusively uses young Master Calvert being dragged to class by his big sister...)

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How many times can Microsoft kill Mobile?

Kristian Walsh
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Whatever is being denied you can count on the opposite being true.

Well they're doing the opposite of denial here: basically claiming that Windows 10 Mobile is finished, so what to make of that? Certainly, there's still lots of multiply-sourced rumours concerning Microsoft's hardware division, Qualcomm, the Snapdragon 835, and x86 emulation that need to be resolved.

My feeling is that Windows 10 Mobile is "dead" simply because the regular Windows 10 build is going to extend to portable, ARM-based, LTE-connected devices, with third-party Win32 app support through emulation. If it does that, there's really not much else that's unique to the "Mobile" branch of the OS except voice calls, which just an app.

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Kristian Walsh
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Re: Andromeda: Apple

iOS and MacOS were totally different GUIs for different kinds of use/screen. They maybe need to rethink the latest versions of MacOS a little and think harder about the big iPads and the surface like big tablet with pen, keyboard and iOS.

I think what you're saying is that Apple has yet to confront the problem Microsoft was trying to solve back in 2012: how to make a device work well on both touch and mouse input. Windows 8 favoured touch to the exclusion of mouse input; Windows 10 treats both more equally.

They superficially look the same, but Windows 10 is not the same UI for mouse and touch. It's about 80% the same, but things like click-targets and pop-up controls change their size and spacing when you're using touch input. It's also actually pretty easy for app developers to do complementary mouse and touch interaction on controls, once they decide that it's something that should be done (hint: fingers can't generate MouseEntered events).

I think Apple would cancel macOS entirely before they'd make it touch-capable. The only value in iOS is its app catalogue, and running those apps on a Mac will either compromise the security sandboxing that iOS guarantees app authors (if Apple still allows root access), or make macOS a similar low-function proposition to ChromeOS (if Apple blocks root access). The latter would kill Apple's sales to all those trendy tech companies; the former could cause some apps to be completely withdrawn from iOS.

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Microsoft's foray into phones was a bumbling, half-hearted fiasco, and Nadella always knew it

Kristian Walsh
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Re: "That's not a technical issue, it's something the developers need"

Yes, it's not technical - it's not many developers want to share 30% of their revenues with Microsoft - it's a model that can work for mobe indie developer selling apps for 4.99, won't work for applications sold for hundreds or thousands by not so small companies...

Certainly. There definitely should be a "flat-fee" or at least a capping of that 30% amount. Even $50 a copy would be good value for some of the $600 software packages. That, and finer-grained pricing control would make it possible to get the big-name packages onto the Store.

But, there's also the existing mechanism of putting the software up on the Store as a free download, and selling the activation key through your own channels. This is very close to how Adobe manages its products right now. The software just a client for using an existing subscription.

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Kristian Walsh
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Re: And yet

Let's keep some perspective here. Windows 10 S turns into Windows 10 Pro with a mouse-click and reboot. You're prompted to make this change the first time you try something that's not allowed by "S". If you need the features of "full" Windows, that process is not going to be beyond your abilities.

But if you don't need PowerShell, the Linux Subsystem or Visual Studio, then 10 S is the way things should be done on Windows, or any other OS aimed at non-technical people. "Store" applications install and run in isolated containers, which makes it a hell of a lot easier to manage what's on the computer - deleting an application no longer leaves old registry settings, services or libraries hanging around; and you don't have twenty "update assistant" processes all running in the background - the Store manages the updates. No more needing to periodically "nuke" a system just because it's become filled with old software that was never uninstalled properly.

10 S also can't be given that un-removeable manufacturer bloatware that makes home Windows PCs so painful to maintain.

There's no no technical restriction on the vast majority of apps being in the Store, and no legal restriction on FOSS software binaries being there either. Inkscape and VLC are already there; others like LibreOffice (of course) and Gimp are holding out for political reasons ("we don't agree with app stores") rather than doing something that would actually make life better for their users.

Shipping Surface Laptop with Windows 10 S was a way of raising awareness of the existence of Windows 10 S. Unless you work in Education, you or I would not have heard of it except for the Surface Laptop launch.

The only problem with 10 S for the vast majority of users is that the software they might want to install is not yet available from the Store. That's not a technical issue, it's something the developers need to look at. And yes, Microsoft also needs to delete the 80% of what's already on the Store that's fake. Nobody cares about "number of apps" anymore, so it should be about the quality of what's there.

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Kristian Walsh
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Re: Awwww shut up and quit your whining.

That strategy assumes that app developers are rational actors. It is not a safe assumption to make.

Famously, the owner of Snap, Inc refused point-blank to port Snapchat to Windows Phone, even when Microsoft themselves offered provided the necessary engineering. When third-party clients appeared on the platform, they were threatened with legal action. For an application that required a wide user-base, the decision was bizarre.

Google also refused access to YouTube via an app on Windows Phones; but at least here there's the explanation of a company engaging in anticompetitive practice to protect its marketshare. The Snapchat decision was purely "I don't like Microsoft".

Now, I have no use for Snapchat, but it's a "must have" app for a lot of users, and its absence from the Nokia/Microsoft phones prevented their combination of low price and smooth performance gaining traction with younger buyers at a time when Android and iOS could not offer this.

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Microsoft Edge shock: Browser opts for Apple WebKit, Google Blink

Kristian Walsh
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Re: Seriously.

Arrow was not acquired, it was developed in-house by Microsoft: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/garage/profiles/arrow/

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Hollywood has savaged enough sci-fi classics – let's hope Dick would dig Blade Runner 2049

Kristian Walsh
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Re: For me the moment of Roger Batty's death is extraordinary and deeply moving.

Saw a documentary on this (on one of the many, many, Director's releases), and surprisingly, his version is no shorter than the originally scripted part. The scripted piece was pretty flat and in Hauer's words, "opera speech", so he dumped almost all of it. Ironically, given that "opera" description, it was he who brought in the famous "Tannhäuser Gate" phrase that had been in an early draft of the script but was later cut.

The closing lines, with "... like tears in the rain" were entirely Hauer's, and he got an ovation on set after the take.

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Kristian Walsh
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Re: Hollywood being moribund

I know it's a typo, but "Marvell Comics" gave me a smile. You'd need superpowers to get that damn NIC to show up in Linux....

But, on your point, the problem is that studios are businesses, and a business can't drop a quarter of a billion dollars on something that might return their money. The days of releasing a wide range of pictures to catch a cult hit are largely gone in the big studios. Whatever your views on torrenting etc, one thing it has done is dramatically shortened the earning life of the average movie (and mega-budget movies often turn out to be very average movies). Now, a picture has to make back its costs on the first three or four weeks of theatrical release - if it doesn't, disc sales and streaming won't rescue it.

Marvel's endless movies are successful because the generations of Americans who grew up reading those comics provide a ready-made audience for anything they put out. People hear the title and most will know what it's about without the studio having to spend a cent on publicity, so the hundred million or so they do spend has a much greater effect in getting as many people buying tickets in that brief window before the thing shows up on every torrent site.

Streaming TV services are the only place you'll see slow-burners like the original Blade Runner getting commissioned now. The charging model there at least allows a story that doesn't have instant appeal to be commercially viable over time as more people get into it.

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Shock: Brit capital strips Uber of its taxi licence

Kristian Walsh
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Re: 40,000 drivers out of work

EGR blanking and rechipping for economy and high NOx is perfectly legal.

No it's not. "You probably won't be caught" doesn't make something legal. If it was perfectly legal, the cars would ship without EGR from the factory.

The car has to be certified as legal to use in the United Kingdom (or any other country with laws). In the UK this is the Vehicle Type Approval, and is separate from your MOT, which is a roadworthiness and safety test. Part of the Type Approval lists the exhaust emissions standard that the vehicle complies with. The current standard is for passenger cars is "Euro 6", and it sets strict limits on NOx emissions among other things. (Which standard you need to comply with depends on when the model was introduced, although if you're Mercedes or Volkswagen, it seems you can bribe your way into complying with the old type approval rules...)

If an owner modifies the emissions controls such that their car is no longer compliant with the emissions standard on its Type Approval documents, it will be illegal to operate that vehicle on public roads. End of story.

Whether you'll be caught and punished is a different matter, but of all the things that come out of a car's exhaust pipe, Nitrogen oxides are the most dangerous to long-term human health. They are the major cause of urban smog, which causes respiratory illness in children and the elderly. You're free to not believe in global warming safe in the knowledge that it'll take decades before you're proven wrong, but NOx pollution is much more immediate and direct in its consequences.

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Kristian Walsh
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Why Uber was stripped of its licence

Uber lost its licence for not adequately following up on reports of passenger assault and rape, and not providing evidence of adequately screening drivers for prior violent offences.

It doesn't matter what they charged. It doesn't matter that "Black cabs are too expensive". Uber operated a company where a driver could attack a passenger and get away with it, and so it lost its licence to operate in London.

It doesn't matter that you, personally, never had a rapist driving any time you booked an Uber. It mattered that in the cases when people did, Uber didn't follow up on the police reports, and didn't take action against the drivers.

If someone else started an Uber competitor tomorrow that did everything Uber did, but obeyed the actual laws of the land, properly screened its drivers and co-operated with police investigations of assault on passengers, they would not have their licence revoked by TfL.

The usual suspects are, of course, free to assume that "Uber ignored cases of rape and battery" isn't really a reason to have a licence revoked, and that this is all a smokescreen to stop the "exceptional" people achieving their birthright as rulers of the world.

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Uber sued by Uber for tarnishing the good name of Uber

Kristian Walsh
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Re: Trademarks...

Trademarks are granted within domains. Uber-the-dickhead applied for a mark in the domain of "transportation services" (not sure that's the exact name, but they are all quite vague), whereas Uber-the-Floridian applied and got one in the domain of IT.

This happens a lot: For instance, there are two entirely independent companies using the trademark "Kenwood": a UK one, making kitchen equipment, and a Japanese one, making electronics and radio communications equipment. An American butter company also trades freely as "Finlandia", two aisles away from the better-known vodka brand.

Canon EOS cameras are in a different domain to Volkswagen's poor-selling EOS Golf-with-a-metal-roof, so both names were granted. "Dove" is granted to Mars and Unilever for a chocolate bar, and a range of soap products, respectively - to further avoid confusion, Mars uses the "Galaxy" name for the chocolate in countries where the soap is popular, but "Galaxy" is also a trademark of Ford, although not for chocolate... meanwhile "Puma", one of Ford's other names, is also a globally-known brand of athletics gear, and so on. Basically, without domain limitations, there'd be very few good trademarks left by now.

The problems happen when a company that starts in one domain, then grows into another, or when a company gains such a bad rep that it defames the name of everyone else using that name.

Uber is that second type, but a famous example of growing into infringement is Apple: the trademark "Apple" was given to the computer company, despite already being held by a record label (The Beatles' "Apple Corps") because in 1976 (and now), these were different domains of business. In the 1980s, when Apple added audio recording and playback to their products, the record company secured a legal agreement preventing the computer company operating in the music business, which didn't seem like a problem for Apple until they started selling music on iTunes.. In the end, lots of money changed hands, and everyone is sort-of friends now, as evidenced by the availability of all the Beatles' albums on iTunes, but Apple-of-Jobs did need to get permission from Apple-of-Beatles for the right to use the name "Apple" in connection with selling music.

[Trivia: the Mac alert sound, "Sosumi" is a reaction to the original, 1980s-era spat between these two. The name of the somewhat Beatles-like organ chord was originally called "Let it Beep", and then changed to "Sosumi" in reaction to complaints from Apple's Legal department. The developer passed it off as being a Japanese word, but it's actually three English ones ]

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Google sued by Gab over Play Store booting

Kristian Walsh
Silver badge

By calling themselves "conservatives", they're eroding the traditional conservatives' rational ideas: that you should earn your living through work; you should understand why things are as they are, rather than blindly change them; that you should be personally responsible for your actions; that you should be charitable, and that you should actively help to look after the less fortunate in your own community.

[contrast the socialist/liberal position that the state should support those who are not working without question; that many of societies structures are outdated and need to change; that poverty, upbringing and societal deprivation can explain away some crimes; that the state should provide for the less well off, with taxation replacing charity]

The first mistake people make about the "alt-right" is that they're conservatives at all: they're actually radical Libertarians. They don't want to conserve anything: like the radical Left, they want to destroy what's here now (and just like the radical left, they can't come up with anything that wouldn't be at least a thousand times worse that what we've got).

Forget work-ethic and personal responsibility: these dickheads want the whole pie and they want it now; they want to destroy any kind of authority so they can do what they feel like without thought for consequence; and when they screw up, they'll blame "the media/the left/the deep-state/bias/positive discrimination" - basically anyone except their own dumb self. They're the spoilt brats of the 1980s generation that idolised Ayn Rand's philosophy of "I've got mine, so fuck you", but without the benefit their grasping parents had of growing up in modest circumstances, during a period of history where "right on" socially liberal causes were strongly in fashion.

Conservatism is almost the opposite of the "alt-right" in many respects, but in the US, the name "conservative" has been pretty much co-opted by the radical Libertarians, to the point where it's hard to separate them anymore.

(For what it's worth, my own personal politics are left-liberal: socially strongly progressive, but fiscally mildly conservative)

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Unloved Microsoft Edge is much improved – but will anyone use it?

Kristian Walsh
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Re: The interface is terrible

Each to their own. I like the fact that there's so little "interface" around the content I'm trying to read. I actually wasn't aware of the F11/Full-screen trick, but I'll be using it more.

As for Chrome, I've pretty much resolved to never install it again now. It's habit of grabbing all my CPU cycles was bad enough, but a couple of days ago, I logged in to the gMail website on a new (Windows) system, and of course I got the standard "we've seen a new sign-in, was it you?" mail afterwards from Google, but now they've added a bit at the top saying "you were using Edge; why not use Chrome instead? Get Chrome here." No thanks; I don't react well to coercion.

Google has become the Old Microsoft: whatever you like or don't like about Edge, it is a standards-compliant browser, as is Safari, as is Firefox.. so why do so many Google services (Meet was this week's example...) tell me that I need to install Google Chrome to use them?

Isn't that behaviour exactly why Microsoft was sued by the U.S. Government ... and lost?

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Five ways Apple can fix the iPhone, but won't

Kristian Walsh
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@John Robson- Re: Sound

" one you complained that at the nyquist frequency you can lose signal - which is never in question

For another with a band limited signal there is no loss of phase information from sampling."

But both of those "complaints" are real things.

Okay, the Nyquist frequency is the maximum frequency component that can be reproduced by a sampling system. Obviously this will be 0.5fs, because two samples are required to capture the positive and negative cycles of a sinewave. Anything above that frequency can't be adequately captured. That's Nyquist's Theorem (and Shannon's)

But, and this is the bit I think you've missed, this assumes that the sampling clock and signal component at 0.5fs are phase-coherent. Nyquist describes the theoretical maximum information capture, which requires an assumption about phase.

Consider a signal with only a single sinewave component at exactly 0.5fs of amplitude ±1.0, sampled at fs. If the sampling clock and the signal are in the appropriate phase, the samples will be obtained at the peak and trough of that waveform, resulting in a train of +1.0, -1.0, +1.0, -1.0. Perfectly captured, perfectly reproducible. That's the situation Nyquist described.

But: shift the phase of that signal by 90 degrees. Now the sampling occurs at the zero crossing points, and the output is a train of 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, ... How is that distinguishable from silence? But there was a component at the Nyquist frequency in the input. The thing is that Nyquist's theorem assumes that the phase of the components are compatible with the sampling clock.

90 degrees is the worst case, but at other phase offsets, you lose amplitude accuracy. If you were to shift that input signal to be 45 degrees out of phase with the sampling signal, the signal will be present, but as +0.7071, -0.7071, +0.7071... right frequency, wrong amplitude.

As you shift the phase of an input signal that's close to fs, the recorded amplitude will appear to change - this is loss of information (The amount of error depends on how close your component is to the Nyquist frequency) That is not a controversial or "wrong" position, it's a fundamental property of sampling, and it's the main reason why signals with a 20kHz bandwidth are sampled at 96k and 192k.

I do agree with your other points: final mastering has done a lot to ruin the reputation of CDDA (although lousy DACs that weren't linear to 16-bits did their damage before then), and yes, the differences are marginal at the end. I don't think that the higher rates are very useful in themselves, but rather in the way they give adaptive reproduction equipment more "real" information to work with, so that when they've finished mangling and munging the samples, what's left is still as good as 44.1/16.

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Kristian Walsh
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Re: Sound

and demonstrates confusion over things like nyquist frequency, and the accuracy of phase information in a sampled signal...

I can't see how you came to that conclusion - the problem of phase affecting the recorded amplitude is well known and pretty easy to demonstrate, and it is significant when your goal is fidelity of reproduction, rather than simply producing an intelligible signal. Phase differences in high frequencies between the Left and Right signals are the whole reason stereo recording works at all, so it's a very important factor.

But really the point I was making was that there's nothing special about 44.1k / 16 bit, and that without the particular constraints that existed at the time, the industry would have gone with higher bitrates. Particularly, that 44.1k sampling rate was a result of the need to create masters affordably, rather than any solid engineering analysis of the problem. It's telling that every subsequent format has used a base rate of 48kHz or a multiple thereof.

If 44.1k at 16 bits had been "perfection", there wouldn't have been such an immediate jump in bitrates so soon after its introduction. For comparison, it took nearly 30 years for 24-bit RGB to be challenged as a display system; consumer DAT recorders were already at 48kHz less than ten years after the introduction of CD.

I take your point about adjustment to high sound levels, but it's not just the absolute dynamic range, it's the non-linearity of that range, and everyone's hearing is different. It's generally accepted that 16-bit PCM divided over 96 dB (okay, 110 with dithering) isn't quite good enough to deal with the peak sensitivity of the ear. 24 bits is definitely a touch of overkill, but it comes out as a nice multiple of bytes, and gives more headroom for mixing and signal processing that is becoming much more common in reproduction equipment.

Dithering the LSB is simply overlaying a 15-bit PCM signal with a PWM signal - you get the downsides of PWM in exchange for a lower noise floor over a part of your frequency range. It isn't adding any information, just hiding the errors in a different place.

I didn't say a correctly upsampled signal would lose information; I said that common methods of upsampling a signal cause information loss, especially from 44.1 to the 48/96/192 rates.

Now the non-technical advantages:

One of the plus points of high bitrate audio is that it has resulted in better quality DACs. Just as CD's higher dynamic range caused an improvement in the quality of amplifiers... that were then used to play vinyl; so the requirement for affordable parts that can handle "24-bit at 192kHz" results in much better reproduction of the 16-bit at 44.1kHz sources we mostly have. Paradoxically, it's only the spread of high-bitrate audio that allowed people to see how marginal its advantage is.

(another non-technical argument is that because 44.1/16 is so wedded to those metal discs that gets played in anything, such recordings have recently been mastered to utter mush just so that they will sound "loud" on cheap equipment; the other formats tend to escape this last step in the process)

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Kristian Walsh
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Re: Sound

"16 bit, 44.1kHz isn't an arbitrary playback standard. It's chosen to match the capabilities of the human ear - the complete capabilities of the perfect human ear."

Nope. It was chosen to match the vertical-blanking insertion period used by 60Hz U-Matic videotape equipment. In the late 1970s, it was the only affordable recording medium with the bandwidth to hold a CD master, so it dictated the sampling rate. ( https://cardinalpeak.com/blog/why-do-cds-use-a-sampling-rate-of-44-1-khz/ )

So, that gives a maximum reproducible frequency of 20.05 kHz. While it's true that few humans can sense audio signals over 20kHz, there are many steps in the chain of reproduction that make 44.1kHz not quite good enough to reproduce the full audio spectrum, especially if you wish to provide a stereo signal.

First off, Before you can get any kind of digital signal, you need to encode it. That means sampling. However, before you sample a signal, you need to remove any signal components whose frequency is too high for you to sample. If you don't do this, you get aliasing, and a worthless digital input (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aliasing). Thing is, the analogue filters you need to do this removal of un-sampleable signals do not have a perfect on/off response - in effect, if you want a filter that will pass frequencies of, say, 16 kHz, you may also have to allow allowing frequencies as high as 25 kHz through too, because they're still within the tail-end of the filter's "pass band". You can make that cutoff sharper, but it can create "ripples" in your pass-band, and/or allow higher frequencies through again (analogue filter design is a special kind of hell...). But, if you were to raise your sampling rate to 48kHz, then you've got at least 4kHz of headroom above the highest frequency you need to preserve.

Down-converting a multiple of 48kHz to 44.1 kHz is possible, but if it's not done correctly (and it often isn't), it introduces similar artefacts to the aliasing problems during sampling.

The second reason for higher rates is for better preservation of signal phase. The human auditory system uses phase differences between higher-frequency signals to determine spatial positioning of sound source, but phase and amplitude interfere with each other in digital sampling systems as you approach the maximum permitted signal frequency. The extreme case is that a signal with a frequency of half your sampling frequency will not register at all if it is 90 degrees out of phase with the sampling signal (the sampling points would fall on the zero-crossings of the input, so you get 0,0,0,0,0... as your output). With mono, phase isn't usually an issue, which is why most sampling tutorials gloss over it; with stereo, phase accuracy is very important.

The third reason is that most modern replay equipment processes its signal before converting it back to analogue. Equalisation, driver response correction (as used in "direct digital" speakers and headphones), room parameters, delay, noise cancellation and dynamic compression all happen on the digital signal, but all take their toll on the output. If you start with more information, even if that information is not audible, the accumulated errors from DSP will still be in the inaudible part of your signal (you don't get the same benefit by simply "upsampling" to 192KHz/24-bit before processing, because upsampling itself cannot add information; in fact, it removes it).

Finally, your hearing isn't linear, but PCM audio is. 16 bits is about 100 dB of dynamic range, but your hearing has about 130 dB of dynamic range, albeit with a non-linear response. You could use non-linear PCM to extend the same 16 bits over a wider range of amplitudes, but that means non-linear DACs, which are much harder to make than linear ones (and it can increase audible distortion where high-amplitude, but very low frequency, tones are overlaid with higher frequency tones - as often occurs in music). It's easier to just use more bits, and capture the full dynamic range of human hearing.

With lossless coding, high bitrate audio doesn't take very much more space than 44.1/16 (mainly because of the signal is only 0-24 kHz), and as it makes improved reproduction much simpler to implement, there are plenty of reasons to prefer it to 44.1.

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The future of Python: Concurrency devoured, Node.js next on menu

Kristian Walsh
Silver badge

Re: Trivial ?

You could have made that objection without coming across as a condescending git, you know.

I was discussing the type-enforcement features of the language itself: Enumeration types and swich-case illustrate an advantage of time-of-compilation ("static") type knowledge, versus time-of-execution ("dynamic") type knowledge.

As I was talking about the Python language, it's entirely correct to say that there's no enforcement of data types, because the language itself has no concept of expected types for function arguments. And, while you are also entirely correct that the Python runtime enforces datatypes, that's too late for any feature, such as enumerations, that requires compile-time type knowledge.

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Massive iPhone X leak trashes Apple's 10th anniversary circus

Kristian Walsh
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Re: Facial recognition

Intel had a much superior face-ID technology to that of the Lumias, and Microsoft used in some of its Surface products. It made use of an additional front-facing infra-red camera beside the existing visible-spectrum one. Having two cameras provided depth perception, while the IR one allowed the system to distinguish between a warm-blooded human face and a wax/plaster/plastic model of one.

I guess there wasn't space for yet another camera in a phone, but it does work much better than relying on a single visible-light camera.

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Node.js forks again – this time it's a war of words over anti-sex-pest codes of conduct

Kristian Walsh
Silver badge

Agree. Neurologically atypical people can unintentionally cause offence by saying the wrong thing, but being told "I was offended by that" usually resolves such issues. And at least in written communications, it's easier for that message to be conveyed; many or the problems around Aspergers particularly are due to an inability to pick up on tonal or facial-expression cues in face-to-face or verbal communications - the things that convey the real meaning to negative responses like "ooo-kay..." and "yeah, thanks for that".

Knowing that a behaviour is offensive to somebody, and then choosing to continue with it in their presence cannot be excused on the basis of being neurodivergent. "Choosing" is the key word; people with Tourettes cannot choose; those with Aspergers most definitely can.

I've worked in software a long time. Long enough to meet many people who'd be described these days as "neurologically atypical". Of those, the percentage of assholes was pretty much in line with the percentage in the "neurological normal" population... If there is really a particular cluster or clusters of neurons that makes someone a dickhead, it's not those ones.

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