* Posts by bazza

2208 posts • joined 23 Apr 2008

Google GPS grab felt like a feature, was actually a bug

bazza Silver badge

"Probably wouldn't do much good, since TomTom provide the basic mapping data for Apple devices already."

Aha, now that I didn't know. I thought they'd gone to Open Street map, and erroneously assumed that'd gone no further. I wonder, did they buy data from TomTom after moving to Open Street Map? There was a time when iPhones didn't know where whole towns in Australia were.

bazza Silver badge

Hmm, except that it sounds like if location services is turned on then Play Services would log your position and pass it back to Google.

Google need to know where people are to i) do location aware adverts ii) make the traffic overlay on Google Maps work. A pernicious Catch 22 for Android users; if they all turn off location services then traffic data on Google maps is not going to be useful.

Once upon a time such perniciousness would be cause for government intervention and a forced company break up.

Other companies do it differently. BlackBerry teamed up with TomTom, who get their traffic data from a variety of sources. They've a deal with Vodafone to get aggregated location data derived from base station tracking of mobiles, some TomToms have a 3g modem in them so can report home, and I think they also use companies like Traffic Master. Just as acquisitive? Maybe, but then TomToms don't show ads to you whilst your driving or once you've got there. Anyway, TomTom's traffic data seems to be much more dynamic than Googles.

I'm slightly puzzled why Apple haven't bought TomTom. Apple's own mapping is slightly rubbish, TomTom have a lot of map data, an excellent and complete service and, these days, a pretty good range of hardware. Their maps aren't quite global (not Japan for example), but that could be fixed with some cash that Apple could throw in for the purpose.

Tesla to stop killing drivers: Software update beamed to leccy cars

bazza Silver badge

Re: Mansfield bars


Of course it likely won't happen here because...corporations...Congress, etc. You know.

Er, I thought it was to do with rail road crossings in the USA. The lorries are much longer than European ones, crossings are very often hump back, and there's millions of them like that.

Mandating Mansfield bars now would result in lots of lorries getting stuck on crossings, which leads to a lot of nasty accidents, especially if there's a collision with an oil train. Mandating them at all will cost a vast fortune in crossing redesign across the whole country. And in Canada, Mexico too.

bazza Silver badge

"Tesla's answer to the height issue is to use its network of cars to build up a database of road signs, bridges and other similar objects using radar to build up a blueprint. The car can then compare that blueprint with the real world as a car travels along the road. If it sees something out of the ordinary, it is far more likely to be a possible obstruction.

"If several cars drive safely past a given radar object, whether Autopilot is turned on or off, then that object is added to the geocoded whitelist," the company notes."

Yeah, good luck with that. With every piece of metal littering the road showing up they'll be going down the road at a snail's pace. Radar data processing is a fiendishly difficult job, and clutter processing especially so. They'll be logging every dropped nail, cats eye, soda can on the road.

Will it see a slab-sided lorry angled across the road as being an obstacle spanning the whole road? Or will it see it as two sets of clutter at either end of the lorry with nothing in between? The F117a is an extremely good example of how flat surfaces don't reflect radio waves back to a monostatic radar if angled just so. The straight metal side of a container lorry (the bit you'll drive into) would have a similar property, but the wheel sets at either end won't.

Crowd Sourced?

As no two Teslas will go down the same road following exactly the same path, they're all going to see the clutter environment differently, and very often that'll be completely differently. That's going to play merry hell with building a meaningful clutter map for every part of every road. The necessary in built pessimism could make the system pretty annoying in real world conditions.

Why not lidar?

Well, its very expensive (in both equipment and processing costs). But at least you get a good 3D map of the environment. In contrast the type of radar Tesla are using is almost certainly not an imaging radar (such as SAR, scanned phased array, etc). At best it'll be getting a set of returns the range to which will be measured quite well, but the angle to which will be pretty vague. In other words, it won't really know whether something is by the side of the road or right in front of the car. It's a poor man's way of attempting 3D scene reconstruction.


Doppler processing (if they're doing that) will allow them to tell vehicles from stationary objects. However even that's full of problems. The spokes on a car wheel at the bottom of the wheel are 'stationary' in terms of speed along the road and therefore have the same Doppler shift as something stationary. So they'll look like a set of non-moving objects that magically appear and disappear all the time. That'll make their processing even harder, especially if the spoke return comes and goes (like when the car in front goes round a corner).

All For Nothing?

To me this all sounds a bit, well, desperate. I don't see how this combination of sensors can ever be used to produce a reliable system that can be trusted, with or without a bunch of crowd sourced data and any amount of processing. Sure, it's probably better than nothing, but it's not "perfect".

And thus we return to the fundamental problem; Tesla are selling a car with a fancy cruise control and being honest in saying what it does and how it should be used, but they've given it the name Autopilot. And most people are reading the word "Autopilot" and then not paying any attention to the system's stated limitations.

This new firmware will also have its limitations, and I think Tesla's tightening up how the car monitors the driver's attentiveness is absolutely necessary. But if that means that people may as well not use it, what's the point of having it in the car in the first place? If it goes badly wrong then it's bad publicity for Tesla. It adds nothing to the car's supposed main appeal (battery powered, stonking acceleration, lots of other tech built in).

And with Apple (a company with $200billion in the bank) dropping their self driving car project I think that's a sign that serious companies are beginning to go off the idea of a self driving car. It seems like

* at best it'll be extremely expensive to develop,

* will likely never be allowed to be fully autonomous, not whilst there's bikes, deer, workmen, dogs, children, motorcycles, pedestrians, etc. on the road too

* will be a very difficult sell to all sections of the general public (who, in owning mobile phones that suffer endless software problems, would be wondering why a self driving car from the same company would be any better, and will be disappointed to be told that it won't drive them home from the pub)

* doesn't generate any more useful data on a person that you can't already collect merely by selling them a cheap Android of iOS mobile phone.

In other words, what's the business plan?

'Oi! El Reg! Stop pretending Microsoft has a BSOD monopoly!'

bazza Silver badge

Re: Linux BSOD on Aircraft?

Penguins can fly, you just need a trebuchet to get them started...

Best to aim at an open body of water though unless you want issues with the landing...

So you're saying that a trebuchet-launched penguin is going to make a splash one way or other?

bazza Silver badge

Re: Linux BSOD on Aircraft?

Oh, but they can. Under water.

Then that'd be a submarine...

bazza Silver badge

Linux BSOD on Aircraft?

Not surprising I suppose, penguins can't fly...

Airbag bug forces GM to recall 4.3m vehicles – but eh, how about those self-driving cars, huh?

bazza Silver badge

Re: "already been blamed for one fatal crash and three others involving serious injuries"


"No they were not, air bags should not go off if you do not have a seat belt on, they will cause greater injury, as in death, if you don't have a seat belt on. They are to reduce neck and head injury caused when wearing a seat belt."

Er, it depends on where you are.

Across Europe and vast swathes of the civilised world it's normal (and a legal requirement) to wear a seat belt. The thing that actually saves your life is the explosive charge in the seatbelt pre-tensioner that goes off as the shunt starts. This hauls you back rigidly into your seat, and allows the crumple zones of the car to absorb your kinetic energy as the passenger cell (and the now firmly restrained passengers) decelerates. The airbag (which is actually quite small) simply goes off to prevent you face being mushed by the steering wheel or dashboard and to take some of the energy out of the head, reducing the whiplash caused by the body recoiling back into the seat (where the headrest takes out the remainder).

Without the belt and pre-tensioner you're simply a 40+mph missile moving forward through the passenger cell, not being slowed down by the crumple zones at all, injuring or killing everyone else you hit along the way.

In the USA, where weirdly there's states where you don't have to wear a seat belt, the airbag takes on the primary job of decelerating the passengers. Consequently they have to be much bigger, needing to fill the space between the entirety of the passenger's body and the dashboard / steering wheel. They go off as the shunt starts, aiming to cushion the blow as the passenger's unrestrained body hurtles inexorably towards the dashboard and steering wheel. Clearly this is an inferior solution, is of no help whatsoever in a side-swipe, and actually leads to people not sat normally in their seat (leaning forward, for example) being killed by the airbags going off in quite minor shunts. An airbag is quite capable of decapitating someone. Nasty.

Why Is it Law To Wear A Seat Belt

This is because an unrestrained body inside a car involved in a high speed shunt can be lethal to other passengers in a car. For example, if you're a passenger in the back seat not wearing a seat belt, you will likely kill the driver in the front if the car is in a fast enough shunt. It's also not inconceivable that an unbelted passenger in one car kills people in the other in a head on collision as they fly through two windscreens. I turf out passengers who refuse to wear their belt; I don't want their stupidity to kill me if some other idiot decides to drive into my car at high speed.

The extra cost of your lengthier rehabilitation courtesy of the NHS subsequent to your more severe injuries in the less likely circumstances of you surviving such a crash is a secondary consideration.

This is also related to the reason why air passengers are told to put things away during landing and take off and put their seatbelts on. Things like laptops, phones, books, etc. all become 150mph+ missiles hurtling through the cabin if the plane crashes. Your ability to get out of a burning aircraft is greatly enhanced if you've not been knocked unconscious by some other idiots laptop. Same reason why they're not keen for people to be standing up during taxiing (might be doing 40mph+), or on take-off / climb or landing / approach; passengers have no warning of how the aircraft will manoeuvre / collide next, and unseated / unbelted they're 80+kg of fuckwit selfish lard just waiting to become a deadly flying object within the cabin. You only have to look at the carnage caused by high altitude turbulence where unbelted passengers cause a lot of injuries to others as well as themselves.

In all transport an unbelted passenger is a prime example of an ignorant and selfish human being. It's notable that the only forms of transport where belts are not generally compulsory is ones that are slow (city buses, trams), or not normally exposed to rapid decelerations (trains, ships, submarines). Of course when a bus or train or ship does have a high speed crash the carnage is immense. For example a sailor unfortunately died of head injuries and 98 were injured when USS San Francisco collided head on with a sea mount at 30+mph.

Trains operate at high speed but in highly constrained environments (the rails), and generally the only thing that is a threat to them is another train, wheel failure or derailment. But even then modern designs are quite remarkable. The seating is designed to help keep passengers more or less in place should a train derail. They're also pretty good nowadays at not coming apart in crashes, saving a lot of life. However, you're still probably better off in a backwards facing seat in the middle of a carriage in the middle of the train.

bazza Silver badge

Re: "already been blamed for one fatal crash and three others involving serious injuries"

I think they are referring to the crash being unexpectedly fatal. It's very easy to die in even quite moderate shunts without an air bag (and seat belts).

I can see it taking a couple of years, easy. Unless the dev team is in place, equipped with their original build chain, dev environment and laboratory, it'll take ages simply to get to the point of being able to do anything. And then they have to try and recreate the crash conditions, possibly involving crashing actual cars fully equipped with a substantial diagnostics suite, in the hope of seeing the software failure in action (bearing in mind that it presumably hadn't failed in whatever tests they were doing back when the software was originally developed).

Ford had airbags going off spontaneously years ago, happened to a friend. That's pretty dangerous, fortunately they kept control and made it to the side of the motorway. Ford UK's responses were un-reassuring...

The Rise, Fall and Return of TomTom

bazza Silver badge

Re: TomTom just gets driving more than Google or Apple

Yep, I agree, TomTom get it. I've long since concluded that they're the best at making a useful SatNav.

Currently I've a Go500 which I pair with my mobile so that it gets Internet access, traffic data, access the MyDrive cloud. It's fabulous. I can sit in the comfort of my home, plan a route, and have that ready to go when I switch on the SatNav. The driving experience is then excellent. The traffic data updates pretty fast, and the diversions are worth it. It knows about average speed camera zones, and shows you your average speed through the zone automatically. It's got maps for all of Europe so it works everywhere with very little roaming data. It even switches between mph/miles to kph/km when you get to the continent - handy.

I honestly don't know why car manufacturers don't simply build in TomTom rather than go their own way. They're all rubbish in comparison. Car showroom salesmen don't really appreciate it when, having proudly shown off their inferior integrated satnav, I respond with an underwhelmed "Meh". There is some hope though; most car manufacturers are plumping for QNX for their incar systems. QNX is owned by BlackBerry. Maps on BB10 are provided by.... TomTom! So there is some possibility that TomTom could become the de facto maps installation on cars, by a round about route.

My only bugbear with TomTom is that they don't cover Japan at all, not in any way. That's a shame. When I go there and end up having to use a Japanese SatNav, it's a horrifying experience. It's like there were 20 people in the software dev team, all of whom had to come up with something to be displayed on the screen. And so they did (in Japanese too, though I can't hold that against them). Result - there's too much info, not enough actual map, and it's practically impossible to use it. Solution - Japanese SIM, Google maps on the phone, and try (and often fail) to get around the place with Google's satnav software.

In Japan they do have a unique problem with place names. Some places have obscure names, the Kanji for which is non-obvious. So you can have a situation where someone can say the name of a place (perhaps they're told it over the phone), but have no way of typing that into a SatNav because they don't know the right Kanji character for it. Plus their elevated motorways often have roads underneath, and SatNavs get confused as to which one you're on. Messy!

At least in Roman alphabet languages you can have a pretty good stab at spelling it, and a simple text search works well enough to fill in the gap.

Come in HTTP, your time is up: Google Chrome to shame leaky non-HTTPS sites from January

bazza Silver badge


So why does a news website (BBC, The Register's articles, etc) have to go to https? It's not like there's anything to hide, except for those users in countries where accessing such websites is the problem (in which case https won't help).

And last time I looked the Certificate Authority system didn't seem to be a good guarantee that a website was in fact what it claimed to be.

Tesla driver dies after Model S hits tree

bazza Silver badge

Re: standard operating procedures


"I think the procedure is to say a mass."

da, da, d da da, da da d da, d d d da da d da da d da da d da...

You owe me a new keyboard!

Google emits three sets of Android patches to fend off evil texts, files

bazza Silver badge


Sigh, yes indeed. And with Android's particularly crummy update ecosystem it guarantees that there's a vast fleet of susceptible mobiles out there for years to come. With such a large proportion of mobiles in, say, the UK being out of date Androids, just simple war-texting (i.e. sending SMSs to random mobile phone numbers) is likely to get a lot of hits economically.

bazza Silver badge

Seems that the patches are already being rolled out to BlackBerry Priv and DTEK50 mobiles (provided they're factory unlocked): Crackberry article

Quick work! Not sure when BlackBerry are moving up to Nougat, but they're certainly quick off the mark with updates.

SpaceX blast kills Zuck's sat

bazza Silver badge

This one went further: Top Gear Reliant Orbiter

bazza Silver badge

"However, I think when a satellite is manufactured they usually make two, so there will be a backup ready to fly. Unfortunately."

Depends. A large geosat will cost something near $1billion. You don't build a spare one of those just in case. For such vehicles the launch cost is a comparatively small part of the overall programme costs.

Making us pay tax will DESTROY EUROPE, roars Apple's Tim Cook

bazza Silver badge

Re: I don't get it.

@Bob Dole (tm),

"Then this is something the EU needs to take up with Ireland directly."

That's exactly what the EU has just done. The "attack" on Apple is indirect.

bazza Silver badge


I'm not sure why your post has attracted downvotes, it seems to be a clear and dispassionate explanation of how the system works.

Personally speaking I think those companies who argue that such practises are "legal" are missing the point. "Legal" (a very objective statement about what's allowed) is not the same as "popular" or "moral" (both very subjective things). The point they're missing is that "unpopular" or "amoral" practise can easily result in new laws that can outlaw such practises. That's democracy, and in these times of shortages it's easy for an ambitious politician to stoke up the populist fires over such issues. That then runs the risk that compliance with future laws might be more expensive in the long run than compliance with what has merely been a "moral" obligation today.

Of course this judgement from the EU doesn't yet represent a change in law and probably isn't going to result in action against Ireland if they choose to ignore it. But it must surely count as a warning sign that the time remaining for such practises is short, and that "normalising" tax affairs now might in the long run be the cheapest option.

And, crudely speaking, €13billion / 4000 staff = €3.25million each. If Ireland lost Apple's business in their country by imposing the tax rate suggested by the EU then they'd have plenty of money to spend on those now out-of-work former Apple employees.

Of course there's far more than just an advantageous tax situation to attract business to Ireland. English speaking, well educated work force, pretty well run country, part of Europe, fantastic weather - there's a lot to recommend the place. Ok, I may have made up the bit about the weather... So extra tax or not I can't see any particular reason why Apple would want to move their European business elsewhere.

It'll be interesting to see what happens next. If Apple start making noises about pulling out of Ireland, the Irish may simply decide that they no longer have anything to lose and change their tax laws. OK, that might not ensnare Apple's fleeing billions but it'd certainly trap Google, Microsoft, etc.

Europe to order Apple to cough up 'one beeellion Euros in back taxes'

bazza Silver badge

Re: Jealousy

Irked indeed, but there's not a lot that Uncle Sam can do about it unless Apple actually repatriates the cash to the US where it will attract an unappealing 40% tax rate. Same with Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Starbucks, and all the other large US owned multinationals that don't want to pay US tax rates on their profits.

With Apple if they repatriated the lot to the US, Uncle Sam would be in line for a most welcome $80billion (or thereabouts). I've no idea how much would be raised if Google repatriated all their profits, or Amazon. Anyway, it's a significant pile of cash, a not inconsiderable number of $100s for each man, woman and child in the US.

Other companies are going to have to start wondering what might happen now that the EU seems to have got their teeth into a theme. Vodafone famously did a deal with UK tax authorities which, arguably, would also count as illegal state aid.

We do have to be careful that this doesn't get out of hand; countries around the world compete on tax rates, and the UK has done very well by being slightly more competitive than the rest of Europe. If the EU suddenly starts overturning favourable tax deals between large multinationals and the UK government then that'd significantly reduce the competitiveness of the UK, and also Europe as a whole.

Not that the EU seems to have a problem with reducing the competitiveness of the European economy. In fact in seems hell bent on making it as uncompetitive as possible. The US too will have to realise that its corporate tax rates are deeply uncompetitive and that cannot be sustained in the long run. The problem for the US is that if the corporate tax rate is reduced, personal taxation will have to be increased to make up for that, and there's many a wealthy political donor well placed to ensure that no politician will ever get elected with that kind of thought at heart.

Windows Update borks PowerShell – Microsoft won't fix it for a week

bazza Silver badge

Re: MS Board Meeting

Haven't they reached their kneecaps by now?

Possibly, but that would require them to stick to a steady and consistent plan with no major deviations along the way.

bazza Silver badge

Re: MS Board Meeting





Ow! That was my foot....


Fixed it for you. The hole is already too big from previous such incidents for the bullet to touch the sides nowadays...

Breaker, breaker: LTE is coming to America's CB radio frequencies

bazza Silver badge

@Charles 9,

"Nope. At least HERE there's a pushback from the aviation industry and aviation regulators"

Exactly. My point is that the very fact that the aviation industry and regulators are having to push back at all is just plain ridiculous.

One feels that at least in some countries political lobbying, public opinion and telco financial clout has more sway with politicians than does common sense and the local regulatory bodies. For example, in a country where the GPS industry managed to steal a whole adjacent comms band simply by producing rubbish equipment and selling it to everyone without the local regulator noticing or being able to do anything about it afterwards, can one have any faith in the politicians and regulators stopping intrusions into bands that are far more important?

bazza Silver badge

3.5GHz? Doesn't sound like its going to propagate well through the walls of buildings...

The best spectrum for mobile comms is around about 900MHz. It leads to sensible antenna sizes in the mobile, it propagates well through buildings, it's high enough in frequency that reasonable bandwidths are possible, an so on. Australia did exceptionally well to put their 3G services there instead of 2G, which is what a lot of Europe is stuck with in that band.

And the higher up the frequency table you go, the worse it performs. 3.5 GHz might be appealing because it's available, but to make a large network with widespread coverage and good performance indoors and out sounds expensive.

Currently throughout the world there is a jolly nice bit of spectrum from 960MHz to 1215MHz allocated to radio navigation aids for aviation. I wonder how long it is before governments come under unbearable pressure from wealthy powerful telcos to give that up ("blah blah everything is GPS these days blah blah").

Oracle reveals Java Applet API deprecation plan

bazza Silver badge

The way things are going we're going to be left with nothing but Javascript etc. to do stuff in a browser. Good thing from a security point of view, probably.

But for goodness sake, Javascript is just, well, horrible! Surely we as a species can come up with something better than that?!?!?!

Our descendants may look back in wonderment at how rambling and strange our code looks. They may even have a public holiday to commemorate the day the last page of Javascript was deleted.

Boffins design security chip to spot hidden hardware trojans in processors

bazza Silver badge

For the fabless chip company they always have the option of decapping a chip and comparing what they see to the mask designs they'd originally sent off to the fab.

It's a lot of work and needs some specialised kit, but it's a certain way of being sure. Anything like this that gets you a similar result but more automatically sounds like a good thing.

Corbyn lied, Virgin Trains lied, Harambe died

bazza Silver badge

Re: Bah

"...cockwombles ..."

You owe me a new keyboard!

'Neural network' spotted deep inside Samsung's Galaxy S7 silicon brain

bazza Silver badge

Re: Most Surprised


"Decode/microcode: Decode doesn't mean what you think it is; it's an essential part of any CPU design, RISC or CISC, as decode controls things like "what functional unit does this op go to?" and "what operands does this op use?" Microcode was mentioned nowhere. I suspect you're confusing use of micro-ops - ie, internal basic operations in a long fixed-length format - with microcode, ie lookup of certain complex operations in a microcode ROM at decode time. "

Ha! Yes, you're quite right of course. I've read the article in haste. Ta!

Though I'd like to note that I wasn't dissing the value of out-of-order execution, pipelines, etc.

@ Destroy All Monsters,

"I don't understand this at all. VR and we are talking sub-microsecond realtime arrival times ... ON THE FSCKING CPU (yes, the CPU, not the graphgics pipeline)

Not going slightly overboard here? And I mean hanging on a 15 meter outrigger slightly overboard?"

Going overboard? Quite possibly.

Having spent many a year developing many hard real time systems I yearn for dependable execution times, something that seems to be going out of fashion fast. I hate having to deal with CPUs that don't run code in predictable times. To do large (e.g. 50+ CPUs) real time systems these days is a real pain in the arse - all that variation in latency starts to accumulate and we can't quite max out a collection of CPUs like we used to be able to. Intel chips are truly horrible in this regard, but there's not a lot out there to touch them when it comes to average performance so its hard not to use them.

bazza Silver badge

Re: Most Surprised

@Destroy All Monsters,

"Whether CISC or RISC (a useless distinction nowadays, how about simply "ISC"),"

It kinda does matter these days. A consequence of Intel's CISC-RISC translation of x86 to microcode is that there's an awful lot of transistors needed to do that (and everything else that goes with it). Transistors need power, and this was one of the contributors to Intel's best effort at a mobile x86 processor falling short of ARMs on power consumption.

bazza Silver badge

Re: Most Surprised


This is an M1, i.e. from ARM's M (for Microcontroller) range.

It most decidedly is not a microcontroller. Since when did a microcontroller have cache, TLBs, an MMU, and all the other gubbins needed by an application CPU.

This M of Samsung's is nothing to do with ARM's use of M to denote a core intended for use in a microcontroller.

If predictable execution times matter to you,

They matter a lot if you're doing VR. Sloppy latency on scene calculations is a good way of inducing motion sickness. Given that everyone is getting into VR these days this might end up being of concern.

bazza Silver badge

Most Surprised

Hang on a minute, what's going on here?

Instruction decode? Branch prediction? It's as if someone has decided that ARM is a CISC instruction set all of a sudden and needs to be re-implemented. But ARM is already RISC (very RISCy in fact), and even the 64bit version needs only 48,000ish transistors to implement.

How can it be better to add all that rename, decode and microcode nonsense on top? That's surely going to be a good demonstration of the law of diminishing returns. Wouldn't it be better simply to use all those extra transistors as extra cache (which is always useful), or a whole extra core, instead?

3W at 2+ GHz and not quicker than a competing design at single core performance? Well I think that about answers it. I don't know what Apple have done, but I'd not heard that they (or anyone else) had gone down the same microcode route.

Neural nets for branch prediction? Well, why not I suppose, but from a pure CPU design point of view isn't it a kind of surrender? It's a bit like saying "we don't know how to do this properly" and deciding to build something that cannot be mathematically analysed instead and hoping it's better. That's fine if the result is good...

It does mean that this is useless for hard real-time applications. Branch execution time is now impossible to predict.

Systemd adds filesystem mount tool

bazza Silver badge

Re: I am stupid

"Not necessary. Lennart needs to stop fixing things that aren't broken, and really stop implying that everyone in the community he serves is a relic. He's starting to prove people right about calling him arrogant and single minded. In that Reddit thread, he sounds like he's always sounded toward Linux: every developer is stuck in the past. Which he then uses as an excuse to push for changes that really just let systemd take over that little bit more. "

Ah well, that's the problem in these days when so much has already been done. Pottering has a salary to earn, and he can earn it so long as he's fixing "problems". If he were to say something like "nope, nothing needed", then RedHat would be wondering what else to do with him.

Other software houses are similar. Look at MS - they have a team of people whose job it is to scientifically measure "Usability", and design things that are more "Usable". They did pretty well with Windows 7, but should have been sacked immediately afterwards. They weren't sacked, and we ended up with Windows 8, 8.1 and 10 as a result. The Office ribbon came out of the same bunch of people.

The hardest thing ever for a software developer is to admit that, in some respects, software can be "finished", or at least gets to a point where maintenance is needed, not revolution. Fortunately there are bunches out there who are much more cautious with their approach - FreeBSD, Solaris, etc. Even the Linux kernel devs are somewhat cautious - "don't break user land".

The same is true with senior management. Getting a new director in the company is a guarantee that there's going to be a lot of mucking about, regardless as to whether their predecessor had set things up properly or not. Arrrggghhhh! Weirdly this kind of behaviour has generated a whole sub-profession for those who go around cleaning up the mess caused by others who cannot resist making changes for change's sake.

Oracle Java copyright war latest: Why Google's luck is about to run out

bazza Silver badge

"If I remember from long ago & far away, Oracle were only prepared to license ME rather than the full desktop Java. Maybe that's why they didn't conclude a deal."

Hmmm, interesting. Since then Google don't seem to have been afraid of inventing languages, which would have solved that problem.

OpenJDK first came into being in 8th May 2007, more or less, and Android first hit the streets a few months later. I don't know when Google would have been speaking to Oracle, but Sun announced the open sourcing of HotSpot on the 25 October 2006, and it was released on the 13th November 2006. So it was certainly very clear the direction in which Java was headed, and it was always inevitable (the benefit of hindsight) that Android would have to join in as they are doing now. Switching to OpenJDK would have delayed Android a little bit, but would have saved an awful lot of grief now.

I remember back then there was also a lot of discussion about native vs managed runtimes. Apple went with native, and made that work very well indeed. BlackBerry with BB10 also went with native and, despite being late to the party, did eventually succeed in making the OS environment itself work well. Nowadays with languages like Rust from Mozilla available as well, one would have to conclude that there's no real debate, native can be as easy and as "safe" as a managed language like Java, and is probably the way to go on battery powered devices.

Google had Obama's ear during antitrust probe

bazza Silver badge

Google have won? Um, well we'll see about that. With so many legal difficulties around the world not yet settled it's too early to say they've "won".

Microsoft's arena is desktop, office and enterprise servers. Last I looked the bulk of the world was still running Windows, Office and still a healthy number of domain controllers. They're also doing well with Azure and Office365, which are arguably should have been Google's arena. The Surface line of tablet/laptops is also selling pretty well, not bad for the supposedly "dead" concept of a non web-app WIMP user interface. I haven't looked recently but Xbox is still a thing. Sure MS screwed up in mobile, they're doing their level best to irritate their desktop users with Windows 10 and its horribleness and they're in severe danger of losing out in server land as ARM based servers begin to materialise. But MS are far from having lost, and are making money largely by making things they can persuade people to directly part with money for.

Google on the other hand still make all their money through advertising and have grown very fat on the back of that. However in doing so they've engaged in some questionable practises, and the problem they have right now is that various governmental bodies all over the world are now asking the questions, even in the USA.

Plus because they're very aggressive in minimising their tax bills they can't fall back on the old "go easy on us, look at how much tax we pay" plea. Consequently there's not many governments out there eager to give them a break.

The best way to a politician's heart is through healthy tax contributions, but instead Google have relied on lobbying in countries where that works, and have forgotten that in some places it doesn't work at all. For instance, it's hard to influence a stuffy EU official when that official hasn't been elected in the first place. They're basically paid to be bloody minded, not popular.

And whilst the (entirely unjustified) stereotypical view of a French official may be one of a person who'll do anything in return for an excellent lunch, the inquisitorial judicial system there is actually pretty good. Google are on the wrong end of some charges related to tax avoidance in France, and they won't be able to talk their way out of that one if the court decides that the evidence weighs against them. Being found guilty there would also set a precedent around the whole of Europe.

$100m settlement snub: Super Cali goes ballistic, says Uber deal atrocious

bazza Silver badge

"Though the cars will be driving themselves, Uber says a human driver will be behind the wheel to "supervise" the operation of the vehicle and help train their artificial brains."

Frankly I have never heard anything so bonkers as that idea. Come and be a passenger in our beta-test cars whilst some underpaid and bored individual day dreams in the driver's seat? Yeah right.

It's a strategy that stands a very small chance of success, and risks exposing them to some huge liabilities. The end goal can be achieved only if legislation is passed to allow it, and that will surely push the liability for failures onto Uber. If there's even the merest hint that their self driving cars aren't safe, they're toast.

Meanwhile their bored and underpaid "driver" will most definitely be classed as an employee of Uber, and will be a permanent feature if legislation allowing unsupervised cars is not passed (as seems likely), or if Uber fail to demonstrate an adequate level of reliability (as seems equally likely, I doubt they've achieved results any better than Google's cars in California). In which case, why not just have a driver?

There's also the issue that, human nature being what it is, an unmanned Uber-cab will become the transport of choice for the seriously inebriated who can't get any other ride, vulnerable to petty vandalism or careless damage and will therefore not be the most enjoyable of rides. People behave pretty badly even when there's someone else in the car; without that social restraint it'd only be worse.

English Uber alles in London taxis? No way, TfL – taxi app titan

bazza Silver badge

Re: Level playing field

As for Uber, I believe they are covered because they aren't offering a taxi/PH service, their drivers are (individually). They just provide the infrastructure to connect them to clients. So Uber do not need a base in Plymouth, their driver does.

Passengers pay their fare to Uber, so the contract is with them, not the driver. Also if Uber have a set of terms and conditions on their website for either drivers or passengers then that reinforces their status as a service provider, not a service broker.

bazza Silver badge

Re: Do I really need my driver to speak English?

Applause to the TFL - provided that it is _NOT_ discriminatory. All must sit the test (even British passport holders).

Applause indeed, but there is precedent in the immigration rules about exemption from language tests. People from English speaking countries don't have to do the exam as part of the immigration process.

So no need to make British born drivers prove they can speak English, that's already settled elsewhere in laws and rules.

Intel fabs to churn out 10nm ARM chips for LG smartphones next year

bazza Silver badge

"I see this in the same category as Microsoft embracing Linux and the Bash shell, and Microsoft embracing iOS and Android, too."

Hmmm, i.e. we've lost, and if you can't beat them, join them.

Some Windows 10 Anniversary Update: SSD freeze

bazza Silver badge

Re: MS may no longer have a QA department

They needed a calibre upgrade, because the bullets they were firing from their old gun were passing through the existing holes in their foot without touching the sides...

bazza Silver badge

Re: Wow.

This is they've got having skipped Windows 9 as an official version number. Going even, again, was bound to invite trouble...

VeraCrypt security audit: Four PGP-encoded emails VANISH

bazza Silver badge

I was wondering about whether these were accidental malware signature matches. Google scan email for malware, (it's even a service you can buy!), and one could imagine them simply deleting false-alarm emails pretty sharpish and keeping stum about it...

Physicists believe they may have found fifth force of nature

bazza Silver badge

<pedant mode>

Er, wasn't the weak and electro-magnetic forces unified into the electro-weak force upon the discovery of the W & Z vector bosons at CERN back in the 1980s? Which would mean that there are now thought to be 4 forces, namely gravity, strong, electro-weak, and this new one?

</pedant mode>

VMware survives GPL breach case, but plaintiff promises appeal

bazza Silver badge

Define "BSD-inspired code" ... very loose term.

Use of some one else's source code to tell one how a device should be driven, rather than plough through some boring over long data sheet or standards document to learn the same information. Of course I'm not suggesting that Hellwig or VMWARE have done that here.

And regardless of that possibility, if both Hellwig and VMWARE based their code on reading the SCSI standards then it's not entirely impossible for the two code bases to end up looking similar, guided as they are by the SCSI standards itself. That's the thing about standards, they are the result of someone else already having done a lot of the thinking on behalf of the software implementer.

I think there'd be something to learn from the SCF repeating their analysis, but for VMWARE's code vs, say, FreeBSD's SCSI code (they did whole kernel vs whole kernel, not just the SCSI code) to see what similarity scores that generates. If they're wildly different then it's possible Hellwig has a point (though as I say above there's still plenty of scope for common solutions arising from separate readings of the SCSI standard). If they're not so different to the scores for VMWARE vs Linux, then Hellwig definitely does not have a point.

We are talking code-lifting here, as in, I copy 1000 lines of code, change a few variable names, change indentation, and claim the lot is my brain-child.

By the SCF's own analysis that's not what's happened here. There's some similarity between some of the functions related to SCSI, whilst others are very different, judging from their stated "ratio of similarity". Not that they're saying what 99% or 14% means: I notice that the SCF haven't put up the two pieces of code side by side for all to see.

At the time, there were copyright disputes for the BSD flavor of UNIX, so they could not lift the code.

By the time FreeBSD came along it was already almost entirely free from AT&T code, most of the work having been done in 1989/1990.

bazza Silver badge


1. BSD was, at the time the Linux kernel was written, still in legal disputes on the matter of the copyright of its code.

FreeBSD came into being in 1993, about 2 years after Linux first hit the servers. Linux was massively incomplete (compared to today) at that stage, and both have grown up more or less in parallel. FreeBSD itself has earlier origins, 386BSD, etc, which go all the way back to 1976; Linux was just 6 years old at the time and, gifted though he is, I doubt he was writing Linux back then.

2. Linux was written from scratch, mostly ... the kernel, I mean. The userland tools as well ... now, you will certainly find this or that, such as the zfs implementation ...

What, there's no BSD-inspired code in there at all? Not one single line? I don't really care, but I bet you cannot prove that.

Now, how is this any worse than what GPL types do ? I mean, GPL'd code is freely available, provided you stick to the license - it is not. GPL is there so that proprietary competitors do not use the work of a gazillion devs in their proprietary BS.

Are you crazy? GPL is cool with usage in proprietary systems so long as the terms of the license are adhered to. There's no "For non-commercial uses only" clause like there is in some proprietary licenses (eg VMWARE Player, a great proprietary gift to the world). Linus even resisted transfer of Linux from GPL2 to GPL3 to ensure that use of Linux didn't drop off as a result.

China launches quantum satellite to test spooky action at a distance

bazza Silver badge

Hmm, I wonder how they're going to keep the photon carried aloft going without it being absorbed, scattered, etc. etc. It takes quite a long time (relatively speaking) to put a bit of kit in a rocket, launch it, get it stable in orbit.

Tim Cook's answer to crashing iPhone sales: More iPhones

bazza Silver badge

Re: Apple stock is up 20% from the recent low

Agreed, but unfortunately the shareholders kinda expect it, especially if they're not getting a nice fat dividend to make a return on their investment. It is logical that any given market will eventually saturate, but try telling that to the guys who hold the shares.

Practically the only duty of a company board is to increase shareholder value by whatever means possible, and one way to offset falling sales is to pay a bigger dividend on previously earned profits. Though ultimately it's not possible to sustain a share price higher than the true worth of the company. One massive problem for Apple is that it may eventually have to pay a large tax bill if it does repatriate all its profits stashed abroad, unless they can take the borrow-to-pay-dividend to extremes.

But doing that means the Uncle Sam (who is broke and could really do with the $80billion in tax revenue they'd normally collect on profits like Apple's) gets increasingly grumpy about tax avoidance, and becomes more likely to pass a harsh tax law to cover off that trick. The shareholders may expect a return, but the government can pass a law to ensure they get their share first.

Peak Apple? Peak smartphone I suspect. There's simply not any well developed cash rich places left where smartphones haven't already been sold in abundance. Places like India and Africa may not have many smartphones in use, but then there's not that much surplus cash to be milked in iTunes and phone sales either. Apple's next $100billion is not going to come from either continent - they simply don't have that much spare money lying around to be spent on fripperies. And if they did they'd have got it through economic trade with other places, meaning those place themselves then don't have that money to spend on iPhone, etc.

bazza Silver badge

Re: No Sales man then

Any CMOS based camera sensor is already an infrared camera, especially so if you remove the IR filter that they place between it and the lens to stop it being an IR camera.

bazza Silver badge

Re: "India is the new China, as growth in the latter has slowed."

There was an article a few weeks back here on The Register exploring the rise of Android in China. Not Google-Android, but Android spun up by the locals to use local services, mapping, payment, etc. Regardless of what one thinks of the governmental and company set up over there, it seems that they've done a pretty comprehensive job of it over there, and everyone uses it, right down to the QR codes.

So if iPhones aren't glued into that local services infrastructure in China, a lot of people will be thinking "pretty, but useless. Pass me an Android". Which would make it very difficult to get stellar growth in iPhones going in a sustained way over there.

In that respect, both Google and Apple are now shut out of China. Missed the boat, or at least refused to agree to the conditions of passage on that boat.

US extradition of Silk Road suspect OK'd by Irish judge

bazza Silver badge

Re: wouldn't it have been easier...

This case certainly does make the FBI's case vs Microsoft look totally ridiculous. Though I think MS have won that one (thank heavens), at least for the time being.

Russia tells Google to cough up some loose change in Android monopoly probe

bazza Silver badge

Re: Forced to Install Apps

@Richard Plinston,

And BlackBerry. But whilst they either have Android as an OS or and Android-ish runtime, they don't have Google Play Services. And without that it is impossible to run quite a lot of apps. This significantly limits their appeal.

It's interesting to see how the app developers have approached use of Google Play Services.

Lots simply expect to see it and won't run without it.

Some, e.g. Skype will use them if they're there but don't seem to mind if they're missing. Makes one wonder what it gets out of them. I found this out on a BlackBerry. Skype from Amazon's app store runs just fine without Play Services. By then installing a version of Play Services on the phone Skype started trying to use them, but didn't run (apps have to be lightly reprocessed to ignore the lack of a signature on the Play Services). Make those changes and Skype springs back into life.

Some are clearly written with multi platform in mind (eg Nest's app). Yes, Nest from Google doesn't use Google Play Services. Or at least it didn't. I suspect that's because they also want to support iOS from the same code base. Instead Nest and Google can be joined at the server level, where Nest's account can talk to your Google account (which knows everything anyway).

So that's how Google play the Android market. Want to make a usable Android device? You have to install play services, and that comes with a lot of strings attached. Android may be free, but marketable Android most definitely is not. Result: Google monopoly.

Judges put FCC back in its box: No, you can't override state laws, not even for city broadband

bazza Silver badge


The various levels of government, and the courts, are (thank goodness) constitutionally constrained in their powers

Well isn't that part of the problem? If the legal / political machine as a whole is playing silly buggers there's no one who can oblige them to stop it and sort themselves out?

A few years ago I read an article by a retiring constitutional lawyer. The tone of it was along the lines of how America needs something like a monarch or a president in the European style. Basically every other country on the planet has someone whose only real power is to dismiss the government and all the politicians and tell / let the electorate choose some new ones.

Mixing that up with a federation of states is messy, though many other countries don't have this sovereign-state-within-a-federation thing that the US has...

In my lifetime the Queen (well, her governors) have intervened twice, once in Australia and more recently in Canada. In Australia a general election was forcibly called, and in Canada an election was denied. In both cases this successfully resolved a budget deadlock, to the benefit of both. The USA, as things stand, can't do that and this has been to the significant detriment of the country in recent times.

It's never come to that here in the UK, where the Parliament Act basically means we have 5 year dictatorships (so no problems getting things done), but nobody feels that that is undemocratic. The thing that reigns it in is the knowledge that they can pretty well get sacked at any time if the Queen thinks it necessary.

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