* Posts by bazza

2109 posts • joined 23 Apr 2008

First successful Hyperloop test module hits 100mph in four seconds

bazza
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Re: Snake Oil

@Suricou Raven,

"Half of the southeast UK is becoming a dormitory for London - the city provides a huge number of jobs, but very few people can actually afford to live there."

Yep, it's crazy. That'll happen anyway to some extent whether or not train lines get built. No population / government / state / civilisation anywhere in history has ever solved this problem. I fear that's just how we (i.e. this species) are built.

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bazza
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@TheOtherHobbes,

"Apparently HS2 needs at least £20bn to run a fairly conventional choo choo train all the way from London to Birmingham - which is about a quarter of the distance of LA to SF."

Land isn't cheap in the UK, and the ground is not very suitable (too soft) for building a high speed railway so we may have to lay down concrete foundations for big chunks of it.

But it's still probably worth it. The land in Japan isn't very good either (mountains, mud planes, requiring a lot of tunnels and a lot of elevated concrete track), but it didn't stop them and the resulting benefit to Japan is incalculable.

One big difference in Japan; the rest of their transport network is up to the job of feeding passengers to the Shinkansen lines, airports, etc. The density of metropolitan railways in Japan is unbelievable, meaning hardly anyone needs to drive anywhere at all (at least not in the major towns). Even their buses are really good.

In contrast in the UK the buses are poor and it's only really London that has an widespread metropolitan railway network. The result is a lot of us will have to drive to the high speed train stations. No one wants to spend and hour or two on buses to get a 45 minute train to London. If we have to jump in our car to make the journey time sensible, why not just drive the whole way?

So I think that whilst HS2 is a good idea, there's a hell of a lot of work to do beyond that.

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bazza
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Hyperloop will do us no favours!

@corestore,

"$6bn and that needs government money to fund it?

The biggest technology project of the 1960s was Project Apollo."

The feats of the 1960s were truly amazing and, I think, surprisingly cheap. Considering what they set out to do Apollo came in amazingly cheap I thought, and had incalculable knock on benefits.

I also like the story behind Lockheed's Skunk Works. The F117 was a truly revolutionary aircraft (not just for its stealthiness), yet they got 2 flying prototypes working for only Only Only ONLY $30million (1970's millions), and the cost:benefit ratio for the production version was very good indeed. Even the A12/SR71 was astonishingly cheap for what it did.

It goes to show what you can achieve with government funding and a band of trusted engineers.

Hyperloop Will Do Us No Favours

One of the truly awful things about Hyperloop is that it will do the community of engineers no good whatsoever. There's a bunch of loon engineers pushing a "cool idea" that will inevitably fall flat on its face and will cost investors all their money and deliver nothing. That puts the whole engineering community in a poor light. It makes it harder for us sensible engineers to be believed by investors, etc.

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bazza
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Re: Snake Oil

Another aspect is stations.

If you have a public transportation system that purports to bring economic benefit to towns and cities that it connects, it inevitably brings economic disadvantage to the places it bypasses.

Governments don't like that. It causes them a lot of subsidiary problems.

Trains and motorways and airlines are good because they can easily be made to bring benefit to all. You build a station, or an exit or an airport, none of which costs much and don't negatively impact the ability to operate an express train, drive straight past or run a direct flight. Build a high speed train line between LA and SF, and everywhere in between where there's a station also benefits.

In fact train companies often make more money by buying up unused land next to a small town, building a train line and station to it, and then sell the land off for housing. The train company wins - they make a profit. The town wins - people now want to come and live there. The people moving there win - they've got somewhere to live at an affordable price that's within easy commuting of their place of work in the smokey city.

[This can go a bit too far. In Japan, Nagoya and, to some extent, Kyoto and Osaka are becoming dormitory towns for Tokyo. Business is moving towards Tokyo, people are moving out. They're currently building a bonkers maglev between Tokyo and Nagoya, and eventually Osaka (Kyoto aren't happy at being missed out), which will exacerbate the change. Bonkers, because it's 70% tunnels and it will bankrupt the train companies leaving the tax payer to bail out the scheme.]

In comparison Hyperloop only works at all if it bypasses everywhere in between LA and SF (it's not exactly station friendly). At best it's only ever going be the plaything cool ride for fools easily parted from lots of cash who happen to live in SF or LA. It's never going to be a mass transportation system. So why would the government be motivated to put a single penny into it?

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bazza
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Snake Oil

"Hyperloop may appear bonkers but Musk has a history of Getting Shit Done, and I'd be inclined to throw some R&D money in his direction, just in case."

Musk does not yet have a reputation for getting stuff done. He has a reputation for starting off a lot of stuff that might yet be really good, but it's still too early to tell if it's a commercial success. Both Tesla and SpaceX are losing a ton of cash at the moment (it's early days), and it's by no means clear yet that they can successfully turn a profit. Musk's Gigafactory for instance is extremely vulnerable to be rendered obsolete should someone else invent a battery more practicable than today's lithium-ions.

Hyperloop Passenger Throughput

Hyperloop is completely unrealistic. To be commercially successful public transportation needs high throughput. It doesn't matter how fast it is, if it can carry only a few hundred people an hour it's not going to pay for itself.

Last I heard Hyperloop would carry maybe 20 people per pod. With pods travelling individually (they can't have a set of them joined together like a train), you'd be leaving a gap of at least, say, 2 minutes between pods for safety, so that's 600 people an hour.

That's truly pitiful. A Shinkansen can carry about 1500 people, and there's one every 5 minutes between Tokyo and Osaka. That's 18,000 people an hour, 30 times more people. And they can run them more regularly than that if they have to.

Is Even that Rate Achievable?

To be honest I doubt that they could ever get Hyperloop working that regularly either. To launch it you have to get people into a pod (1 minute), strap them in (5 minutes), put the pod in an airlock (30 seconds?), pump down the airlock (5 minutes?). So that's a launch time per pod of about 12 minutes, meaning you'd need at least 6 launch stations to keep sending them once every 2 minutes. And then with the usual "hang on a mo I've got to kiss the girlfriend goodbye" type delays that schedule could be easily screwed.

If they had a bigger pod they'd simply increase the loading time (more people, more air, more room for screw ups).

And to make that schedule work at all you'd need airline style check in to make sure people are in the right place at the right time, or passengers would have to be queued up to ensure there's a ready supply of passengers to fill pods. Both are bad news for the passenger experience. What's the point of queuing for an hour in the hope of getting a pod, or checking in 1 hour beforehand for a 30 minute journey?

Trains don't have this problem. A train pulls into the station, the doors are open for 1 minute, and you're away. 1500 people have got on and are on their way. It doesn't matter that people haven't sat down yet or put their luggage away because trains don't accelerate at Hyperloop's unnecessarily high rate. If demand increases you simply run longer trains.

Emergency Braking

And getting back to that 2 minute gap; to be able to go from near Mach 1 to stationary in 2 minutes requires a deceleration of at least 0.25G, though probably more given the signalling block sizes, etc.

That's actually quite a lot; along the entire length of the tube a pod would have to be able to generate this much braking force for it to be deemed 'safe' to run a pod once every 2 minutes. Given that a pod has no wheels, or anything else like it, the only tractive force available is electromagnetic.

But the whole point of Hyperloop is that the pods in the cruise phase have very little drive (which makes it cheap), so it would also have very little braking power.

So where does that 0.25G braking come from? Does the tube also have to act as a braking surface for friction pads? Does that wear out? Can it be used again afterwards?

There's so many technical barriers to safe and regular operation I can't see it happening. Increasing the inter-pod time makes the throughput even worse. Installing the necessary braking system makes the tube much, much more expensive.

Just Build the Train

In comparison to Hyperloop, high speed rail between LA and SF works commercially. It's approx 350 miles, which is 1 hour 45 minutes in a standard bullet train without stops. In that time you'd also have WiFi, 4G, a snacks trolley, etc. so the "extra" travel time isn't a complete waste. It's a good proposition for passengers.

Putting any government money into the snake-oilesque hyperloop would be a waste and a travesty. The companies involved are putting forward the "hey isn't it cool" without doing the simple analyses that say whether it's commercially realistic.

I notice that Musk himself isn't actually devoting much of his own money to the project, in effect licensing out the concept to others to do all the hard work. If that isn't a worrying sign about its lack of commercial viability I don't know what is.

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Wasps force two passenger jets into emergency landings

bazza
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Re: Cunning Plan

That's because literally everything in Australia is nasty in some way. To borrow a line from Terry Pratchett, a list of harmless Australian animals would be as follows:

1) Some of the sheep

That's it. In South America there are at least one or two animals that aren't out to get you in some way or other as soon as you're on the same continent.

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bazza
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Re: Cunning Plan

From what I've heard most insects in Australia will happily gargle repellent before coming after you to get breakfast, lunch and dinner. Wanna avoid being eaten alive? Armour plate is nearly thick enough, but don't ever let one of the blighters get in...

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Official: Microsoft's 'Get Windows 10' nagware to vanish from PCs in July

bazza
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Re: Dilemna

So which side did MicroSoft fall into bed with? Assuming it was say Redhat, as I suspect it was.

They've kinda fallen in with Ubuntu. But it's mostly irrelevant; all they've done is implement a Linux kernel system interface (the spec of which is very stable), they just happened to plonk down a bash and other binaries borrowed from Ubuntu's repositories. But you could equally well get binaries from Redhat's repository, or any one else's. Ultimately it's simply a case of which package manager one chooses to use.

But in terms of what you're having to learn, well you're mostly unlearning Debian / Redhat / etc. Apart from choosing from where binaries come from there's no Linux distro as such; no SystemD / init, no desktop, nothing.

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bazza
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Re: @bazza - Dilemna

"So, the present anarchy of Windows is fine but the "anarchy of Linux" isn't ?

You could re-phrase this as "Linux gives you a choice" and you could understand that distributions come from various sources. (think trees), so you pick the one that works best for you.

I suggest you choose something Debian based (Debian, Ubuntu, Mint, etc) and spin up a VM if you want, its trivially simple, you might even LIKE the Linux Things and decide, to take it further."

Er, I don't think that the entire pantheon of Linux distributions comes anywhere near close to being "organised" or "coherent". I'm a long time Linux user and I'm seriously pissed off with the myriad different ways trivial things are done. Want a package manager? Here's 3, maybe 4. Maintaining software packages for all of them is a royal pain in the arse, so many don't and then we end up with the mess that is tarballs. Choice = pain in the neck. I'm sorely tempted to go off to FreeBSD, where at least there is a lack of chaos. And Windows, fragmented as it is at the moment, is in a lot better condition than the entire Linux ecosystem. They can't even agree how processes should be loaded at boot time!

"Linux runtime in Windows 10 ? Let's not be silly, shall we ?

Use any version of Windows you like, a free virtualization software and install a full blown Linux distro of your choice for a complete user experience."

And why not? From the point of view of running Linux software, who really cares whether there's a Linux kernel underneath it? The prospect of running the few Linux programs that I need natively under Windows is a lot more attractive than running a complete and bloated Linux distro in a VM (which is what I already do, several times over), and a whole lot more reliable than getting Office, etc. working under Wine. I could also run Linux software natively on Solaris or FreeBSD (I'd prefer solaris, but the GUI is looking very tired these days).

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bazza
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Dilemna

You see, I don't want Windows 10, quite happy with 7. But I do want 10's Linux runtime - it might be a nice way to do Linux things without having to deal with the madness of Linux distro anarchy. Oh MS, why do you do this?

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'Apple ate my music!' Streaming jukebox wipes 122GB – including muso's original tracks

bazza
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I use JRiver Media Centre on Windows, I think they do a Mac version too.

It's fab.

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Microsoft: Why we tore handy Store block out of Windows 10 Pro PCs

bazza
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Re: Meanwhile Apple piss off professional users

Hmm, thanks for that. I'd actually been considering where to go when Win7 finally becomes not viable, and was wondering about OS X. However given that their designers somehow seem pathologically against the idea of internally mounted peripherals (you know, simple things like HDDs, extra network adapters, etc) and break their USB stacks so that externally plugged in stuff doesn't work, it seems that there's no point going there either.

What the hell is happening to the computing industry? Computers used to be useful tools for engineers, devs, etc. Now they're rapidly becoming unsatisfactory for us folks what make things. It's crap.

I see the way things going is that people who want a proper workstation will end up paying the kind of prices that we used to pay in the old days. Back then if you wanted to do CAD you needed a £30,000 Apollo workstation. We're heading back that way.

(Goes off to mumble into a cup of Ovaltine....).

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Intel has driven a dagger through Microsoft's mobile strategy

bazza
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Re: Logic & Gui

No, its the fact that you have built your code to assume a specific API, like win32, and a specific model for GUI, maybe even worse with assumptions of the size of 'int' or similar instead of using int32_t or whatever options were supported. That makes even a small program an absolute PITA to port. That is what most legacy software is like.

The exceptions are stuff that was written to be multi-platform, even if just two variants of "UNIX" (say Linux and later MacOS) as then you have to write your code with some degree of abstraction for GUI and low-level stuff, and that greatly mitigates the pain for porting because you are probably started using two compilers/dev environments and can never be quite sure of what API consistency will be like, so you learn to segregate from the beginning.

MS have needlessly and artificially made it difficult for themselves. Windows always has been multi-platform (back in the early days there were PowerPC and Alpha versions of Windows - all quite trivially easy really). A few years ago MS pulled the same trick with ARM. They wrote the required Hardware Abstraction Layer, recompiled Win7 and Office2007 for ARM along with an Epson printer driver, and showed the whole lot working satisfactorily at some conference.

To a lot of us this looked like a good idea. It made sense, it built nicely on what went before, there were no big problems to solve. Visual Studio could easily have been made to automatically build fat binaries for x86 and ARM (just like Xcode on OS X used to for PowerPC and x86), and the distinction between an x86 and ARM based machine could have been made irrelevant.

The only thing was that ARMs at the time were only 32 bit and not that fast, nothing that a bit of Moore's law wouldn't solve (which has since happened). An ARM PC? Why not, it'd be smaller, quieter, cheaper, etc... Even back then one could see there being an ARM server running Windows.

But no way was it anywhere near ready for a universal mobile desktop / mobile app. With ARMs as they were, desktop was going to have to remain desktop, mobile was going to have to remain mobile. There simply wasn't enough compute power in ARMs to support a full desktop. MS tried too soon to unify them, but the result was the hideous mess that was WinRT, Windows8, etc.

They probably tried to do it simply to be different to Apple. Whilst the allure of a universal app is strong, Apple had seen quite clearly the advantage of building a completely new ecosystem for mobile (iOS). This advantage was that at that time it would work, and that really devs would cope quite readily with the idea that there was no way that OS X apps would run on iOS and vice versa.

Now the idea of a fat binary application is realistically achievable (at least from a hardware point of view). Many mobiles now have more compute resources than the PCs that were around when Windows 7 first came out. I like the idea of a mobile that can be plugged in to a monitor, keyboard and mouse and becomes a full PC. If only a fraction of the apps work in mobile mode that'd be fine; I'd only want a browser, messaging client and a few specific apps (trains, etc) to work when in mobile mode. If MS put full fat Windows on ARM like they did all those years ago and have visual studio build fat binaries, that'd solve their upcoming server problem, supply software for an mobile ARM desktop, etc.

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Samsung's little black box will hot-wire your car to the internet. Eek!

bazza
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Abd exactly how does that work with cars and trucks that don't have computers built in?

Given that the vast majority do have a CAN bus interface, they'd simply ignore the ones that don't.

I think that the problem is that people would learn that you unplug it and throw it away in the event of a smash. It's too easy a law to flout. When it's all built in it can't be disposed of easily. And governments are unlikely to force people to spend the money; every driver is also a voter, mostly, and an unpopular imposition would be remembered at the ballot box.

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Why has Microsoft stopped being beastly to Google?

bazza
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The Irish Data Centre case has little to do with winning trust. It's all about survival.

MS's entire cloud business strategy (their win or die strategy) is toast if the FBI win that one. There's nigh on 6 billion potential customers who would be adversely affected by the FBI winning and a massive investment in overseas data centres at risk. MS might not be able to even operate those data centres if the FBI win because of the Catch 22 position they'd be in; it would be impossible to comply with both US and everyone else's law.

In contrast there's only a tiny 300 million Americans, of whom only a tiny minority would see an FBI win / MS acquiescence as being an appealing characteristic of MS's cloud offering. MS's only way out is to win the case or relocate their entire business outside the USA. To put it bluntly, if your business case is to put the world online in your cloud, ignoring the US is not utterly inconceivable.

[Apple did something similar with the original iPhones; GSM, because it was global whereas CDMA2000 really was not. They chose GSM as the lowest common denominator; they didn't want to completely ignore the USA. When ATT started deploying their UMTS net Apple could justify a 3G iPhone. MS can and will act along similar lines if forced.]

The same goes for Google, Apple, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, etc.

Of those companies, MS, Google, Facebook and Twitter could conceivably move to, say, Canada and almost no one would really notice any difference (apart from the slight problem of .com, .net, .org TLDs being considered by Uncle Sam as being under his jurisdiction no matter where the server is). In contrast Amazon and Apple depend on physical premises to serve their markets, so cannot "leave" the US.

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'Impossible' EmDrive flying saucer thruster may herald new theory of inertia

bazza
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Re: tests in Germany, China and at NASA have corroborated

I gather that groups repeating the experiment are indeed being rather careful about claiming that the effect is true.

The problem with something as 'unlikely' as this is that it's very hard to prove that all sources of experimental error have been identified and accounted for, especially when the claimed effect is small. For example, this thing involves electrical currents, which produce magnetic fields, which in turn will interact with the earth's own magnetic field, etc. etc. There's plenty of room for this being bogus.

However, the groups that have repeated it aren't stupid, and they will have tried their damndest to account for all the stray effects taking place in their experimental set ups. Either we're left with stray effects influencing the experiment that haven't been thought of (a deeply unsatisfactory situation for any hardened experimentalist) or we're left with a real effect that the theoreticians are struggling to explain (an equally unsatisfactory situation).

An in-deep-space experiment would be the only way to adequately prove the effect is real. Which would cost rather than anyone is prepared to spend until there is a convincing theoretical basis for its operation. If there is one.

It would be very cool if it turns out to be true. And hope, as has often been stated, is what drives us onwards!

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All-Python malware nasty bites Windows victims in Poland

bazza
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"You mean like run execute permission in Linux???"

A lack of execute permissions is no barrier. See dot, and indeed source.

This makes scripts positively bothersome to prevent them running. You have to take control of the read permissions too, and that just starts getting irritating...

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Google's 'fair use' mass slurping of books can continue – US Supremes snub writers' pleas

bazza
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All I know is that there are certain technical books that cost a lot of money as bound paper that you can now effectively read (meaning you can read the bit you're looking for, not the whole thing) for free on Google Books. Great for the reader, but it's probably the end of organised scholarly textbook writing, as there'll be no money in it for the author.

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'GPS 2.0' outline calls for open, hackable, interfaces

bazza
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Hmm, sounds like they want things like Skyhook (and Google's equivalent), AGPS, inertial reference platforms, etc. to all be opened up and output NMEA sentences...

Fine, but then those things would then all have to be reintegrated into systems but, frankly, who's going to do that other than the phone manufacturers who are already doing this themselves but in a proprietary way?

AFAIK the only component of such a thing that isn't "open" right now is position from WiFi. But there the only magic thing is having a database of WiFi basestations, and almost anyone can build one of those for themselves these days. Skyhook had the idea originally, Google shamelessly copied it, Mozilla has one, Apple have one, Microsoft has one. Literally anyone who has software being run all over the world (WinZip, Linux, anything) can use the existing WiFi interfaces on computers to get the required data and send it back to a server to build up that data base.

Making that data "open" would be nice though - it'd save anyone having to go to the bother of doing it themselves.

And already most GPS systems can show a constellation map and received signal strengths. And GPS data app on a mobile can do that already.

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Woz says wearables – even Apple Watch – aren't 'compelling'

bazza
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Ah, the ol' function over form thing. He's right though, the iWatch owners I know don't exactly get much out of them, and they look like an over thick square slab getting in the way of their shirt cuff. Yes, I've yet to see a woman wearing one.

The trouble for a wearable is that it can hardly function at all, and really cannot improve on the wearables we already have. An ordinary watch is very good at telling the time and date and a few other things. A phone is meant to fit in a pocket (interesting that the new iPhone is smaller) and does way more for us than a watch can ever do. A specialised sports thing like to heart rate monitor is better for those who take their exercise seriously.

Something like an iWatch struggles to be a jack of all trades but is master of none.

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Apple pulled 2,204lbs of gold out of old tech gear

bazza
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They probably just put the gold straight back into the tanks used to plate new iPhone parts. Why sell it if you're only going to buy more on the market anyway? And if the phone is designed to be easy to recycle then doing so is more cost effective.

I remember reading about a manufacturing technology that helped recycling. Casings were made out a material with a heat triggered shape-memory; bake it a bit and the case changes shape and the whole thing simply falls to bits.

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bazza
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Re: Love 'em or hate 'em...

"You don't make piles of cash by selling stuff that lasts or is easy & cheap to fix."

It's a fine line to tread.

Mercedes Benz once decided that they weren't selling enough cars because the ones they'd already sold were never breaking or wearing out. So they wound back on the quality, over did it and ended up with a bad reputation all of a sudden and not selling enough cars.

What's different about Apple is that iPhones "working" doesn't seem to have been necessary to make them sell in large numbers (Antennagate, etc, though they seem to have been doing a better job of it in recent years). Though it does make one wonder just how disfunctional an iPhone could be before people stop buying them!

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iOS 'date bug' can be exploited over Wi-Fi using NTP

bazza
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So if your RTC or it's battery has failed, that's your device screwed?

Likely as not if the RTC isn't working, it will give a default date way in the past, and the NTP client should bring it back to the present once the network is up.

In such a rare fault scenario it is not unreasonable to ask the user to manually set the time about right first.

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bazza
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Unbelievable. It's such an easy exploit to avoid.

If nothing else an NTP client should never accept a time that's wildly different from what the client' own RTC is saying.

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Bundling ZFS and Linux is impossible says Richard Stallman

bazza
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Re: @Charles 9 - @boltar - Question

It's a piece of cake: no Linux distro is allowed to distribute Nvidia binary drivers. End-user is the one who actually search for, downloads and installs the driver and this is compliance bothe with GPL and Nvidia proprietary licenses. It it inconvenient but GPL crowd also respects other licenses too.

Remember, we're talking about the permission to distribute not the permission to use.

That doesn't sound quite right. No licence can prevent one exercising one's right to free speech. Otherwise i couldn't mix GPL code with, on the same CD, the works of Shakespeare, a list of English words or indeed the file allocation tables off the media itself.. That would clearly be nuts.

Clearly you can distribute GPL licensed software alongside non-GPL files, no matter what the GPL says.

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The future of Firefox is … Chrome

bazza
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Re: How about an explanation

@Nate Amsden,

"Firefox saying it was removing the feature that allows me to selectively accept cookies on a per website basis was another recent example, ..."

I'd noticed too that about:permissions had vanished. However if you right click on a page, View Page Info, Permissions tab, you seem to be able to tweak what happens for a given page. It's clunkier than the old about:permissions, but I suspect it's The Way Things Are Supposed To Be Now.

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NASA gives blacked-out Kepler space 'scope the kiss of life

bazza
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"The telescope has been in operation since December 2009 and was only supposed to last for three and a half years. NASA engineers are experts at interesting hacks to keep hardware going,"

I'll say. They've pulled some good tricks over the years, but using the pressure of the solar wind definitely ranks highly in the pantheon of cunning ideas.

The engineers behind all of the remote probes that have been exploring the solar system have delivered what's got to be the greatest value for money ever seen! Even the Russian missions to Venus count as being "cheap" despite having to try several times before succeeding. I'm continually amazed at just how often these things have worked and how they've never failed to find something amazing in the most unlikely places. BZ.

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BlackBerry boss mulls mid-range Androids

bazza
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Re: Just can't make it work?

It's that they don't get that "tech" doesn't sell, whereas shininess does. Tech only matters to nerds like us and serious corporate buyers. However there's far more consumers out there that couldn't give a damn about the tech. iPhone has succeeded despite at various points in its history suffering hideous and embarrassing tech fails whilst phones that actually worked were significantly less popular in the market place.

Whatever else one thinks of Steve Jobs he certainly knew what would sell and what was irrelevant. Battery life? Pah! Interoperability? Ridiculous! Portable source code? Fuggedaboudit!

The dropping of BB10 will cause certain organisations considerable difficulty. They have for years relied on BlackBerry turning out affordable mobiles which have the requisite security accreditations (their Android-imbued Priv doesn't), and now find that BlackBerry have given up. What price security?

What a lot of users who really care about security have done is go to iPhone or Android and layered on top things like Mobile Iron. Solutions like this have a distinct sticking-plaster feel to them, especially on Android, and the end result is nowhere near as usable as a well sorted BlackBerry set up.

And they have weaker security accreditations which, for certain customers, is a barrier to their adoption. Those users who cannot migrate away from BB10 will soon find out just how expensive security really is. For them they're finding that their mobile strategy has now got a scrap by date, and they either throw it all away and do without or downgrade their security requirements. Afterall, one has to question whether, for example, an iPhone is an appropriate mobile device for people who really have to care about the security of their data on behalf of their citizens. Apparently they can be unlocked quite easily!

Me? They'll prize my BlackBerry Z30 from my cold, dead hands. And then it'll be an iPhone, largely because Android is so shit at integrating with an Exchange server (though maybe the Priv with Hub is different) and because Apple (I'm guessing) aren't quite so acquisitive and exploitative of one's data (a problem that BlackBerry cannot fully overcome on the Priv). If an MS phone were at all viable it'd be that instead.

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SpaceX's Musk: We'll reuse today's Falcon 9 rocket within 2 months

bazza
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Re: Pricing's gonna change...

@eesiginfo,

"My guess is that this will equalise through market forces, with much work being sub-contracted out, and with workforce mobility delivering skills to contract winning teams."

Maybe, but like anything else labour comes at a premium if you have to hire it in a hurry (especially highly skilled engineers and technicians who can build a rocket). If SpaceX ever did (and I don't think they will) part company with a big slice of their staff to convert re-usability into high profit margin operations, then recruiting staff in a hurry and build another booster might be especially difficult. They'd largely be trying to entice back staff they'd previously sacked, and that never comes cheap.

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bazza
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Re: @ bazza - Pricing's gonna change...

Had to pee on the parade, no? Beancounter thinking like that takes all the adventure out of it and will ultimately lead to nobody even trying... No hard feelings.

Not at all. I'm simply pointing out that re-usability, even if it is pretty good, is not going to result in launch prices falling significantly below where they are now. Not unless SpaceX exploit the re-use reliability (assuming it's as high as they think it could be) as a reason to not keep their staff and drop their contracts with suppliers (and I can't see that happening any time soon).

Just because they might be able to use the same booster 20 times doesn't mean launching it is going to be 1/20th of the current price.

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bazza
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Re: Pricing's gonna change...

It will be interesting to see how it goes. One of the things that occurs to me is that if SpaceX do indeed get good mileage out of reusing the first stage the impact would be, in effect, to significantly increase the available supply of launches.

The problem I think they may run into is there not being enough satellite operators out there looking to take advantage. Unless one's satellite is really simple launch cost is already no where near the most expensive part of operating it.

For a decent sized geo comms sat you're looking like spending $1billion building it. The new Iridium satellites are reported to be costing $2.1billion to build, with launch costs with SpaceX of under $500million. After this success Iridium may well be looking for a discount too. If that launch cost comes down to, say, $200million then it will be less than 10% of the build cost and way less than the whole program cost.

And manned flight, to where exactly? They can't launch many payloads to the ISS, there's simply not the need for more than the ones they have already.

So if making the launch cheaper doesn't really dent the total costs of building and operating a fleet of space vehicles, from where is the rush of new operators going to come to take advantage of SpaceX's cheap launches? They may end up with very cheap-to-run re-usable launcher, but not have the regular customer base to really make that pay. We shall see. SpaceX may well end up grabbing a large share of the existing launch market, but growing that market could be really hard.

Of course, that may well be plenty enough for SpaceX!

The space tourism business though, now that could take off in a big way.

Reliable Reusability - Does it Really Bring a Cost Saving?

Musk reported that this was a challenging landing, high wind speed, etc. It will be fascinating to see how reliable it pans out to be in the long run. There could be some difficult consequences:

If they consistently lose, for example, 1 in 2, to landing mishaps then reuse is not really worthwhile. To sustain a launch schedule they'd pretty much have to keep making first stages all the time.

If they lose 1 in 10, that's a bit better but it's still trickier. They'd want to take advantage of that, but they'd still have to have enough of a production run going to guarantee that future launch customers aren't delayed.

If they lose 1 in 30, that then gives them a new problem. Clearly then they'd not be wanting to make a lot of boosters, but they would still have to retain the capability to build them at short notice, just in case.

However, preserving that capability is expensive; all those skilled workers to keep on the books, keeping the facilities together, keeping it all up to date, training new staff, paying into the company pension plan; those costs can never, ever go away.

Those costs currently make up a large portion of the $60million build costs; the raw materials themselves are actually quite cheap; paying the people needed to turn those materials into a launcher is the expensive part.

That will be reflected in the launch cost. The discount can't be too generous because every launch would have to contribute to preserving the launch capability, not just the fuel used and the launch manpower.

Of course they could do the American thing and, having built a fleet of boosters, lay off the portion of the staff that is now idle. Which would make it very expensive and risky to recover from a run of bad luck, and expensive to evolve the design.

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Nvidia's Tesla P100 has 15 billion transistors, 21TFLOPS

bazza
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@ Roo,

"I think it's reasonable to quote single precision (32bit) FLOPS, given the origin of the term - but quoting half-precision figures is taking the biscuit."

You beat me to it!

"If pressed I would speculate that some real-time signal processing app out there can make use of 21 Thalflops, I'd be interested to hear what kind of apps folks think those halfFLOPs will be good for. :)

Not a lot to be honest. To make good use of this chip one would have to load it up with a good chunk of data and then perform a whole cart load of sums on it. Otherwise one would simply be wasting time doing nothing but tiresome transfers across the PCIe bus.

However, the more sums performed, the more significant the arithmetic errors will become as 16 bit half-floats struggle and fail to keep up with value growth that happens in, for example, an FFT. No matter which way one spins it, 16 bits can represent only 65536 different values; it's a bit like Trolls counting in Terry Pratchett books - "one, two, many, lots".

But the 32 bit floats, yeah baby!

I'm still not convinced though - a stonking great compute engine at the end of a PCIe connection is in the wrong place; you still have to transfer the data over to it to get sums done. If one's application doesn't need that many sums done on the data it'd simply be a waste of transistors.

Certainly for some applications I can see the up-coming (or here already?) Xeon-Phi (the one that is a CPU in its own right) beating this chip, despite it maxing out at 6TFLOPs-ish, simply because the data and compute are already in the same place.

China

I expect the US government to be keen to not let China get hold of any of these. I read Intel aren't allowed to sell Xeon Phi to the Chinese, so letting NVidia sell this GPU to them would be a bit inconsistent. I don't know enough about the corporate structure of NVidia to know whether Uncle Sam has the same level of influence as they have over Intel.

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Windows 7's grip on the enterprise desktop is loosening

bazza
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If they'd made Windows 10...

...more like Windows 7 (no slurping, no child-like flat graphics from the bad old days of limited colour pallet, no Metro at all anywhere), it's share would be far higher.

Win 10 is gaining share partly by ripping Win 7 from the grasping, clawing hands (through forced upgrades) of frustrated users who don't want to lose Win 7. Frustrated users are less likely to give MS money in the future than happy users. C'mon MS, what does it matter what license we buy? Stop cocking about and sell what people actually want, rather than forcibly give them something they don't want.

If MS say that Win 10 is on 270 million devices, that sounds a bit like the total PC sales count for the year Win X has been out. Does that mean that PC sales have really bombed, or have most people managed to resist the forced upgrade?

44
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FreeBSD 10.3 lands

bazza
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Re: Who uses FreeBSD in preference to Linux and why?

@massivelyserial,

That's one way to spin it. Another is that Sun intentionally released it under a sketchy assed licence to ensure GPL incompatibility.

Ah careful there, that's a touch of the old licensing-related moralistic rectitude showing through there.

Sun gave their code away under a license of their choosing, just the same as any other open source creator. Being the originator of something gives you the privilege of choosing. That's the way the world works.

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bazza
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Re: Who uses FreeBSD in preference to Linux and why?

A really quick look for market share shows nearly 2% of http servers running a BSD based OS. There is reason to hope that crackers will focus on the mass market.

Security through obscurity may get laughed at, but it's difficult to pull off a convincing laugh when oneself has been hacked and the weird guy with the what-in-the-hell-is-that OS is running quite happily totally unaffected.

In Ian M Bank's series of Culture novels the Mind-run spaceships are described as having written their own OSes specifically to ensure that they're all different to make the fleet as a whole unhackable. Seems like the world of technology is gradually catching up with that good idea!

16
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Tesla books over $8bn in overnight sales claims Elon Musk

bazza
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Re: Great looking but...

My country's National Grid hasn't got the capacity to generate or deliver enough electricity to run the nation's cars if they were all electric.

5
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Furious English villagers force council climbdown over Satan's stone booty

bazza
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Re: Technically the stone is an obstruction in the public highway

Indeed, I bet if they removed it they'd be putting in traffic calming speed bumps within the year.

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bazza
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I like my brick.

(obligatory Father Jack reference)

5
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Bash on Windows. Repeat, Microsoft demos Bash on Windows

bazza
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Re: It will have the same limitations

@AC,

"VMS can do lots of UNIXy things, and used to be able to do more. Things like fork() aren't so easy because of the process+memory model on VMS, but lots of stuff worked well enough back in the days when VMS Integrated POSIX was around. Sufficiently well for VMS to get X/Open branding as a UNIX compatible OS.

Then VMS Integrated POSIX was withdrawn. The tales about customers wanting vendor independence through open systems were just that - tales. What lots of customers really wanted was cheap to buy (and never mind the lifetime costs)."

Of course a big driver of all that was the US Department of Defence, the organisation to whom a lot is owed for their mandating of open standards for defence equipment. On the software front it was POSIX; you couldn't sell to the military unless it supported POSIX or was written for it. [On the hardware side it was things like VME, and equipment is still available even today]. That forced vendors to support these standards, and now we all simply take it for granted.

This has been genuinely useful. Code for, say, radar systems written around POSIX has been recompiled several times over the last few decades on newer hardware. Indeed some of the better equipment vendors have carried over the idea of API stability to their own specialised libraries, and this has done very well for them in the military equipment market.

That was an absolute, inviolate requirement for a while, until the DoD relaxed a lot. For example desktop PCs in offices were never likely to have to support running a ship's radar processing, so a POSIX runtime in Windows became non-essential for DoD desktop sales. [And then they did Windows for Warships, but that's another story...]. I'm surprised the POSIX runtime survived in Windows as long as it did...

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bazza
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Re: Microsoft (re-)Invents Mingw32 and Cygwin

No.

If anything, CYGWIN merely replicated the old Services for Unix.

This is a system call shim, not a runtime environment. I presume the loader has also changed so as to recognise ELF binaries. A system call shim is a much thinner layer than a whole runtime, and (depending on the number of system calls they've implemented) means that an entire Linux userland could be plonked on top of Windows and run unmodified, unrecompiled, etc.

System call shims aren't new. Solaris has had a Linux system call shim for a long time, and QNX also has one. Though in their cases it's much easier - the underlying OSes aren't so very different to Linux (e.g. they implement select() properly - Windows doesn't).

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bazza
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Re: How complete will it be ?

Arrrggghhh! What a horrible thought! How am I supposed to get that mind worm out of my brain now?

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bazza
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Right?

"So what they've basically done is resurrect Services for Unix and change it to Linux?"

Wrong. SFU was a Unix runtime. To use it you had to compile software specifically for it, and it was primarily focused on making unixy services (nfs, etc) available on Windows.

This is a system call shim, something completely different and is aimed at allowing userland applications to run unmodified.

Linux system call shims have been done before. Solaris and QNX both have one.

Now what I want to know is do Linux process limits still apply? In Linux you can typically open 1024 file descriptors in a process. I understood that the equivalent limit in Windows was rather less.

And how have they emulated select() and epoll(). The way cygwin had to do it was very poor - a polling thread per file descriptor. This was because the Win32 API they had available just doesn't do a select() properly, and that's because fundamentally the OS and it's device drivers cannot do it. So how have MS changed that?

5
2

Microsoft's Brad Smith on encryption: Let the politicians decide

bazza
Silver badge

It could be that if the US legislators get it wrong it may be impossible for some sorts of American tech companies to do global business. Companies like Google, Apple, Facebook, MS, Amazon.

For Google and Facebook and maybe MS they have the option of leaving the US altogether. MS are even conveniently by the Canadian border... But Amazon and Apple rely on physical premises, meaning they can't completely 'leave'.

The first iPhone was GSM, mostly because that met the global market whilst CDMA/CDMA2000 didn't. So at least one of these companies has form in ignoring the US market.

4
0

Apple's fruitless rootless security broken by code that fits in a tweet

bazza
Silver badge

Re: Not clear

@AC,

"Hang on a second - are you genuinely stating here that Apple does not protect consumers? As far as I can tell, they still offer the safest platform out there right now for people who are NOT experts or deep digging technologists. A bug has been found in SIP, fine, that needs fixing. But a Unix + SIP is still a level up from a Unix *without* SIP, unless you want to hold Apple to a different standard as the rest."

Er, I think that the point really is that whilst SIP in theory has some benefit in looking after a non-technical user, in practice making that protection bullet proof is very difficult and, consequently, the advertised protection is illusory. It may be effective in stopping a user accidentally cocking things up even if they try quite hard, but that's a different use case to stopping malicious code causing havoc.

As I understand it, as the article points, out it took years for the Unix crowd to get it right, and all they were doing was trying to lock down the single binary that would elevate your privileges to root if you knew the password. All it had to do was one thing, and it took ages to get that right. Finding the bugs was like looking for a needle in a sewing box.

What Apple have apparently done is to imbue whole swathes of the OS's binaries with super-root powers, and unless they're all completely locked down too then they represent a hole in SIP's defences. That's not impossible, but just the shear amount of effort involved in ensuring that they're all bug free makes it unlikely that they've got it completely right. Finding all the bugs is going to be like looking for a needle in a hay stack, and Apple have gone and installed a whole load of haystacks.

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bazza
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Re: Not clear

@diodesign,

"Holy shit, some of you haven't read the article or understood it."

Oh come on, splutter splutter splutter (that's the cuppa tea gone south), how long have you been writing for El Reg?!?!? "Commentards on public forum fail to comprehend article shocker"?

Besides, it's theregister.co.uk, which means there's going to be a high background level of ironic humour, some of it possibly found in your own post :-)

Really we're just all playing nicely, nodding wisely, and gratefully absorbing the sage wisdom of this esteemed organ's journalistic output (sorry - getting all Private Eye there), and putting off the moment when we really do have to go and do the washing up. We are all really most very grateful :-)

4
0

Love our open API? Talk to our lawyers, says If This Then That

bazza
Silver badge

Re: Seriously?

Well if they can't raise cash somehow from their service then they may very well fuck off and die. Then they won't be there anymore, and we all lose something then.

Free to use isn't the same as cost free, and without funding who's going to pay their bills? This isn't necessarily a good way of monetising their business, but I can't see a paid for service working commercially for IFTTT either.

The way things are going our data will have been scrapped for advertising hints by so many outfits on its way to us there'll be little point in it being private. Might as well send it en clair and let commercial advertisers tap our home Internet connection... Would that really be any different to how we use and pay for Google, IFTTT, Facebook, etc, etc?

Amazon, Netflix, etc are different - there's a good reason to give them actual money. Thus they could offer Google-like or IFTTT-like services as a fringe benefit without any of the nasty intrusion. That sounds pretty appealing to me.

0
4

US govt says it has cracked killer's iPhone, legs it from Apple fight

bazza
Silver badge

Re: Why is it not a good outcome for Apple?

@Doug S

"Had they appealed up to the Supreme Court and lost, they (and many other US tech companies) would be in a bind. If they won, they would be in no better position than they are today."

Depends on one's point of view. The possibility that the FBI will make a similar request in the future is quite high (and getting higher, if Apple's security really does go up), and the matter is currently unresolved. Nobody wants that prospect lurking in the background forever, it'd be better for everyone if it were settled one way or the other.

As things stand the next time this case comes up it might be impossible for Apple to resist; the FBI may have far stronger reasons next time than they did this time. And then the precedent would be set not in Apple's favour.

If Apple were ever to take a chance to settle the matter in the way they wanted, this was the best opportunity. Everyone seemed to think the FBI had a weak hand. But they now cannot do that, even if they wanted to; the case is shelved.

"The fact that the FBI got at the data doesn't really hurt them. Basically from the public point of view, the FBI had a LOT of trouble getting at the data so the phone is more than secure enough for their needs, since most of us wouldn't have the level of resources directed at breaking into our phones that the FBI was putting forth for this one."

Well there's an odd thing. If as you suggest people are happy with the idea that FBI can get into their phones so long as there's some kind of barrier, why wouldn't they be happy with Apple being that barrier to access? They already are for iCloud accounts. It feels like a contradiction. Has Apple actually gone and asked any of their customers if they'd be OK with Apple being a gatekeeper like the one they already are?

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bazza
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Re: Do as we ask...

This is not really a good outcome from Apple's point of view.

15
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Intel tock blocked for good: Tick-tock now an oom-pah-pah waltz

bazza
Silver badge

Re: Beginning of the end for Intel?

Hello Ken Hagan,

"Intel's original floating point model hasn't seen light of day for about a decade, having been superseded by SSE2. Both integer and floating point arithmetic models have been evolving since the mid-90s with MMX and various other TLAs. A modern desktop chip also devotes more than half its area to an integrated streaming processor that owes nothing to x86."

It's OK now, but the evolution of SSE has been a bit rubbish. It took them absolutely ages to include some fairly fundamental instructions like a fused multiply-add.

MMX / SSE was for a long time an ever changing thing and was consequently very hard to develop for. About the only way to use it was to use Intel's IPP/MKL libraries, where Intel had put in the effort to account for the different versions of SSE that your application would encounter in the field. And this costs money. To not use it meant taking on the huge job of writing versions of your software for SSE2, SSE3, SSE4, SSE4.2, etc. Unsurprisingly, very few did.

In comparison, Altivec (the equivalent to SSE on PowerPC and POWER processors) was right first time. Motorola put the right instructions into it and didn't keep changing it. So people actually wrote software to use it. For example, in the overlap between PowerPC and Intel Macs, Photoshop was far quicker on PowerPC because Adobe had actually exploited Altivec pretty well.

<u>Itanium</u>

Itanium was slightly popular in the high performance computing world because it always had a fused multiply-add in it. I saw the addition of FMA to X64's SSE as being the signal that Intel had truly given up on Itanium; there was absolutely nothing left to recommend Itanic over x64.

"To be fair, everyone else's chips are the same. x86 lost the ISA wars against the RISC chips, but Intel responded with the ISA-less Pentium Pro and ISA hasn't mattered since then."

Almost, but importantly, not quite everyone. ARMs are ARMs, there's no microcode (at least not in the same sense as x86's). You get 48,000 transistors running the ARM op codes, and there's no real instruction translation.

It's important because of the transistor count - only 48,000. An equivalent x86 core needs several million to get the same performance (translation, pipelines, etc. etc), so it's not surprising that ARM wins on power consumption.

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