* Posts by Duncan Macdonald

474 posts • joined 20 Mar 2009

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Amazon, LG Electronics turned my vape into an exploding bomb, says burned bloke in lawsuit

Duncan Macdonald
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Mushroom

200W ???!!!

The safe short term discharge limit for 18650 type cells is in the order of 10 to 20 Amps depending on the cell type and quality. This gives under 80 watts/cell. To take 200 watts from a cell implies EXTREME OVERLOAD. Even with very good cells I would not expect a long battery life (possibly 50 cycles vs the 500+ that is possible with sane discharge rates). For anything less than very good cells, I would expect battery failure - possibly safe by blowing the internal protection or else by the battery catching fire.

This person is obviously a complete idiot and should therefore take up politics!!

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Musk: I want to retrieve rockets with big Falcon party balloons

Duncan Macdonald
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Mushroom

Re: Errr.. Why?

In which case the White House is the perfect landing zone (especially if there is still a few tons of propellant left)!!

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Cray snuggles up with AMD: Clustered super CS500 lets in Epyc chip

Duncan Macdonald
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PCIe lanes

As an EPYC 7000 configuration gives 128 PCIe lanes (either 128 from a single package or 64 from each package in a dual socket configuration) only having 2 3.0 x 16 PCIe slots seems to waste one of the main strengths of the EPYC.

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ZTE now stands for 'zero tech exports' – US govt slaps 7-year ban on biz

Duncan Macdonald
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Black Helicopters

Real risk ?

Is there really a risk to users from the products or is the risk that GCHQ has not got a backdoor into ZTE products?

I will only believe warnings from GCHQ when they are backed by facts from non-governmental sources. Like the NSA and the rest of the Five Eyes group, their credibility is near zero.

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Apple leak: If you leak from Apple, we'll have you arrested, says Apple

Duncan Macdonald
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Mushroom

First Amendment ?

Leaks to the press are classified as speech and as such are protected by the First Amendment.

The only "arrest" that Apple could legally do is to get company security to escort the person off company property.

They might have a breach of contract case against a person who leaks to the press but that is a civil action with no right of arrest.

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India completes its GPS alternative, for the second time

Duncan Macdonald
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Re: Why would mobile phones or TV be affected ?

I understand what you said - however that still leaves some questions.

1) With digital TV transmissions - if there is a local station in the multiplex from one transmitter that is not in another then the transmitted signals will be different even if they are on the same frequency.

2) As mobile phone mast are NOT transmitting the same signal (as they are talking to different phones), why do they need the precision timing ?

I am just trying to understand the reasons that require the precision timing.

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Duncan Macdonald
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Re: Compatibility...

However their requirement was for local coverage - not whole world so they could use fewer satellites in geostationary or inclined geostationary orbits rather than a large number in low earth orbit. There is also a military advantage to using GSO rather than LEO in that there is far less chance of a satellite in GSO being taken out by an opponent in the event of a war. The IRNSS also has a feature that could be useful for civilian use - text messages can be sent to a region to warn of problems like a cyclone.

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Duncan Macdonald
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Why would mobile phones or TV be affected ?

What requires precision timing in mobile phone networks or digital TV ?

Stable data timing (within 1 part per million) I can understand but what is the requirement for high precision absolute timing ? As the clocks on mobile phones and digital TVs are low precision devices, they already adjust to whatever the timing is on the transmissions from the phone or DTV masts.

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Happy as Larry: Why Oracle won the Google Java Android case

Duncan Macdonald
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Mushroom

As usual Andrew hates Google

If it had been another firm, he might have engaged his brain and thought what the impact of this ruling would be on software development - instead as usual he gloats on anything that could hurt Google.

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Nine Iranians accused of cyber-swiping 30TB+ of blueprints from unis, biz on Tehran's orders

Duncan Macdonald
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Low value research

If 30+TB of data cost $3.4B this implies a cost of about $1 per kB - not exactly high value. It will probably cost Iran more to read the data than it cost the universities to produce it!!!

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Windows 10 to force you to use Edge, even if it isn't default browser

Duncan Macdonald
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Re: Fucking idiots -AGREED

Norton may not be great - however it seems to be about as good as its competition. The first line of defense that I use is NoScript with AdblockPlus. I also use Spybot Search and Destroy.

If I have to use a site that will not work with these protections then I fire up a VM running Knoppix from a virtual DVD (no HD), access the site from the VM and then shut down the VM. As there is no persistent storage accessible to the VM, any malware on the site is unable to infect the main Windows installation or affect a further use of the VM.

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Duncan Macdonald
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Re: Fucking idiots -AGREED

I dislike IE and Edge so much that I have used the program control feature of Norton Internet Security to block them from all internet access. I can not stop M$ from putting insecure internet browsers on my PC but I can stop them from being used.

Any browser that has Adobe Flash is insecure - and M$ has built it in!!!

(I also use Thunderbird rather than any M$ or browser based email client.)

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NASA on SpaceX's 2015 big boom: Bargain bin steel liberated your pressure vessel

Duncan Macdonald
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Re: the $5 part that blew up the rocket

However it sinks the business - NASA is not a commercial enterprise - if it pays over the odds for a part then it is the US taxpayers that foot the bill. For a commercial launching business, the cost of the launch must be low enough for the customer to use it. If all the parts are stupidly overpriced by insisting on aerospace everything then the company would fail as no one would use their rockets.

In a rocket, the majority of the parts are critical.

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Are you Falcon sure, Elon? Musk vows Big Rocket will go up 2019

Duncan Macdonald
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Depending on the definition - one reasonable way to say 200% better is :-

Human - one accident per x miles on average

AI - one accident per 3x miles on average

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Rant launches Eric Raymond's next project: open-source the UPS

Duncan Macdonald
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The big problem with lead acid batteries is that they are BIG (and heavy). (A Yuasa HSB019 12 volt 100 Ah car battery weighs 23.4kg and is 353x175x190mm). Not many home users would consider such a large battery acceptable. For commercial use, large UPS systems normally use non-sealed lead acid batteries (as they are normally in places with maintenance staff), smaller UPS systems use sealed lead acid batteries to reduce the chance of problems such as spillage and acid vapor release.

Lithium rechargeable cells have a higher power density - but cost much more - to equal the HSB019 battery mentioned above would take about 120 high capacity 18650 cells with a total price several times that of the lead acid battery.

Given the low power density of lead acid and the high cost of Lithium-ion, most small UPS systems come with small lead acid batteries that are only good for 5 minutes or so at full load. (Big commercial UPS systems are usually sized to cover the period between a mains failure and the backup generator starting up and taking the load. They often do NOT supply the cooling systems but rely on thermal inertia and a fast backup generator startup so a very long UPS runtime is not a desired feature in such a configuration.)

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ESA builds air-breathing engine that works in space

Duncan Macdonald
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Re: sustainable? - Air catchers ?

If the solar arrays are in front of the engine and angled correctly they could feed more air into the engine possibly doubling the thrust for a given size of engine.

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EU aviation agency publishes new drone framework. Hobbyists won't like it

Duncan Macdonald
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Re: Home use

It is worse than that - no flying within 50m of any property not owned or controlled by the drone operator (even if you have permission from the other property owners!!).

The current rules for hobby use can be summed up as - you cannot legally fly a drone in the vast majority of the UK unless you own a large estate or farm and confine your drone to that estate or farm.

(See https://www.techadvisor.co.uk/feature/gadget/where-fly-drone-in-uk-3620507/ for more details.)

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Duncan Macdonald
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Home use

What is the reasoning against a home owner using a drone to inspect parts of his/her property that are difficult to examine from the ground (eg roofs, gutters etc)? This is banned by the no flying over residential property rule. In my opinion the rule should be amended to no flying over residential property without the permission of the property owner.

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When clever code kills, who pays and who does the time? A Brit expert explains to El Reg

Duncan Macdonald
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Re: Who crashes a self driving car?

Third party insurance (and possibly first party) is likely to be a mandatory requirement for self driving cars. (In the UK third party insurance is required for all motor vehicles on the road.)

This will provide innocent parties with compensation for damages caused by crashes.

(To start with the premiums might be so high that it would be cheaper to employ a chauffeur !!!)

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Duncan Macdonald
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Re: Specifications

I have never seen a project that has a full set of completely accurate specifications. (Not even when the project has been completed !!!)

All specifications are incomplete, the vast majority have errors (even after review) and then the management tries to cut costs and timescales!! Even good specifications normally include a number of implicit assumptions which if not valid can cause major problems. (Eg the Mars Climate Orbiter was lost due to one system being programmed with newton-seconds and another being programmed in pound-seconds. The implicit incorrect assumption was that all systems would be using the same units so it was not explicitly spelled out in the specifications.)

When engineers are allowed to set the plans, there is always an element called "contingency" to cover the inevitable differences between the original plan and reality.

A big problem with a large software system is that it is normally delivered before it encounters the real world. This results in the sort of rubbish that has found its way into the F-35 software.

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Billionaire's Babylon beach ban battle barrels toward Supreme Court

Duncan Macdonald
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Bulldozer

Time for the CA government to use a bulldozer to remove the whole fence (no just the gate) and repeat any time that it is replaced.

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UK.gov calls on the Big Man – GOD – to boost rural broadband

Duncan Macdonald
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Re: I may be missing something

A directional radio link to a place with an existing high speed connection. If there is a line of sight then high speed links are easy and cheap (at least compared to laying miles of copper or fiber).

(An example - the Proxim Wireless QB-10150-LKL-WD has a range of over 10 miles and a speed of over 500 Mb/sec with a cost of under £5k for the hardware. (Not a user - this is just one of the first that popped up on a Google search.))

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Apple to devs: Code for the iPhone X or nothing from April onwards

Duncan Macdonald
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Old iPhones ?

So developers can not produce apps for the old iphones or ipads (iphone 5 and earlier can not run ios 11).

Compare this to Android where developers are still free to produce an app for the antique version 2.3 if they want to.

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Astro-boffinry world rocked to its very core: Shock as Andromeda found to be not much bigger than Milky Way

Duncan Macdonald
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Re: If the mass is 800 vs 700...

The escape velocity from an object is normally defined as the velocity required to escape starting from its surface. For two objects of the same mass but different densities, the denser one will be smaller so r in the term sqrt(2GM/r) will be less leading to a higher escape velocity.

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Duncan Macdonald
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Re: If the mass is 800 vs 700...

The escape velocity depends on the size of an object as well as its mass. The black hole left after the collapse of a giant star is so much smaller than the original star that the escape velocity increases from a few hundred kilometres per second to the speed of light. Less dense objects have a lower escape velocity than dense objects of the same mass.

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Ghost in the DCL shell: OpenVMS, touted as ultra reliable, had a local root hole for 30 years

Duncan Macdonald
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Re: Wasn't VMS...

And NT versions up to 3.5 were quite reliable - in 3.51 (and all later versions) the graphics drivers were moved from being user mode programs to being kernel mode. Since then bugs in the graphics drivers can and do crash Windows. The NT kernel (without the graphics drivers) can be seen in the text mode displays that occur on boot when the system needs to do something critical like check the system disk for errors.

Moving the graphics drivers into the kernel increased speed but reduced reliability - the old tradeoff.

Of the many problems in Windows, few have been due to the NT kernel - most have been due to the mounds of crud (much of which is privileged) added over the years. (The NT kernel file ntoskrnl.exe is still only around 8MB in size - a tiny part of Windows as a whole.)

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You're the IT worker in charge of securing the cloud for your company. Welcome to Hell

Duncan Macdonald
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More than one way to copy and paste

If a users device can view the confidential information at home then the data can be copied by a camera pointed at the screen. This totally bypasses any copy/paste restrictions in the software.

Disgruntled employees with home access to confidential data is a certain route to the data being extracted.

Two possibilities.

One - no offsite data access

Two - treat your staff well enough that they do not want to steal data

With most management option 2 is far less likely than option 1.

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You can't ignore Spectre. Look, it's pressing its nose against your screen

Duncan Macdonald
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No shared CPUs

One way to mitigate the Spectre problem (at a cost) for public cloud providers - do not share CPUs between customers. If only one customers code runs on any CPU at a given time then the problem of Spectre allowing reading of data from other VMs is greatly reduced.

For big cloud jobs reserving a number of physical CPUs would not impose very much inefficiency but for small jobs that only need one or two cores reserving a whole CPU (with possibly over 10 cores and hyperthreading) would greatly affect the economics.

It would not surprise me to find Amazon and Microsoft adding the option (at a price) of having dedicated CPUs for customers that are concerned about data security. (Though that begs the question - WHY use a public cloud if you care about data security?)

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Wanna design a chip that talks to silly-fast GDDR6? You'll have to talk to Rambus, too

Duncan Macdonald
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Not really a patent troll

Rambus does its own design work (like ARM). It is not one of the companies that buys patents from other companies then tries to license them,

How many man years did Rambus need to design and verify their GDDR6 PHY and how much would it cost for a user of GDDR6 to do their own design ?

This is the sort of IP that companies will readily license if the fees are not too high.

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Electric cars to create new peak hour when they all need a charge

Duncan Macdonald
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Re: EVs pay more for electricity

Mileage ?

For the same size vehicles - how many miles for the $25 of electricity and how many miles for the $80 of fuel ? (No comparing a Tesla 3 with a SUV!!!)

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'WHAT THE F*CK IS GOING ON?' Linus Torvalds explodes at Intel spinning Spectre fix as a security feature

Duncan Macdonald
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Re: "neither Meltdown or Spectre is much of a threat to a home user"

NoScript makes this a low level threat. If I used Edge or IE it might be more of a threat but I do not.

Also both Meltdown and Spectre are information disclosure bugs - on a reasonably set up home system there is not much sensitive data that can be extracted. (No banking credentials are stored on my PC - not even my PayPal login.)

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Duncan Macdonald
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The bug is better than the buggy fix !!!

Until Intel get their act together and release stable fixes, I have disabled Windows Update on my home systems (neither Meltdown or Spectre is much of a threat to a home user). It is in my opinion safer to use a slightly out of date Windows 10 installation than an unstable one. (Edge / IE are not a problem on my system as they are disabled with the Norton firewall denying them internet access so their myriad of bugs do not matter.)

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Google sinks cash into more submarine cables, plans more data centres

Duncan Macdonald
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Mushroom

Skynet

Google ensuring that Skynet has enough bandwidth for all its Terminator drones.

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Third NAND dimension makes quad bit bucket cells feasible

Duncan Macdonald
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Endurance ?

The higher the number of bits per cell, the worse the endurance (number of write cycles per cell before it becomes unusable). This effect is readily visible with USB memory sticks that use TLC and have low numbers of total drive writes (often in the order of 100 DW) before the stick becomes unusable.

With QLC I wonder how many total drive writes will be possible before the performance drops.

I personally much prefer dependable memory rather than slightly cheaper memory. (My main system has a 960 Pro as the system drive!!)

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Should SANs be patched to fix the Spectre and Meltdown bugs? Er ... yes and no

Duncan Macdonald
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Safe enough - IF no third party code

If there is no third party code on a computer system (including web access) then there is no need to patch for Spectre or Meltdown. A SAN appliance that is a separate computer with no third party code is safe against Spectre and Meltdown. A SAN appliance that has the capability to run third party code however is not safe.

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Up, up and a-weigh! Boeing flies cargo drone with 225kg payload

Duncan Macdonald
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Re: Other uses

As it has 4 lifting points, it is not suitable for passenger use - the failure of any rotor or engine will send the craft out of control. At least 6 if not 8 separate lifting points are needed to be able to safely land after a failure.

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Duncan Macdonald
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Badlands delivery ?

Drones like this could be useful for cargo delivery in hostile areas (eg parts of Iraq and Afghanistan). At the moment a lot of US casualties occur as a result of IEDs targeting convoys. If some of the convoys can be replaced by drone deliveries then this could reduce the number of US casualties.

It could also be useful for deliveries in areas with poor communications (eg parts of Alaska).

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CPU bug patch saga: Antivirus tools caught with their hands in the Windows cookie jar

Duncan Macdonald
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What is difficult about setting a registry key ?

If the AV supplier does not want to add registry key setting to the main product, just spawn an administrator level command prompt that runs regedit to set the key.

As the key basically says "AV is ok for Meltdown and Spectre patches" - what concern is it of the AV supplier if the system has a third party incompatibility.

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

Duncan Macdonald
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How to delay windows 10 updates

If you do not want to be a guinea pig when new updates are released - disable the Windows Update service for a week or 2 after a new patch is announced to let others be the guinea pigs. Also for any major change - make sure that you take an offline backup.

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Amazon: Intel Meltdown patch will slow down your AWS EC2 server

Duncan Macdonald
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True - But

Optimization done carefully can often get better than order of magnitude improvements. Many years ago (on Oracle 7!!!) we had an isolated batch job that had to do calculations based on a 3 day period of a database with several years of data. The tables primary index included the date and time towards the end of the index definition, The initial implementation did selects and joins based on this large table - and it ran like a 1 legged dog - (over 6 hours per customer - and there were over 200 to process).

Making a private copy of the main table that only had the desired date range (with the same indexes as the main table) and using that instead reduced the run time to under 5 minutes per customer.

My rules of optimization

1) Is the system fast enough as it is - if so do not optimize.

2) Would an affordable hardware improvement make it fast enough - if so then upgrade the hardware and leave the working software alone.

3) If you decide that optimization is necessary - start by instrumenting the system to find out where the bottlenecks are - there is a good chance that they are not where you thought,

4) If there are multiple bottlenecks - do not start optimizing - you probably need a system redesign first.

5) Give the optimization job to the best programmer that you have available - and make sure that the sources have all the optimizations explained well enough that the system can still be supported if the support is outsourced to a third world country.

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You Wreck Me, Spotify: Tom Petty, Neil Young publisher launches $1.6bn copyright sueball

Duncan Macdonald
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Spotify seems one of the good guys!!

If it pays 60% of its revenues to the artists and 10% to songwriters then it is returning far more of the money to the people that make music than most RIAA members ever do.

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Kernel-memory-leaking Intel processor design flaw forces Linux, Windows redesign

Duncan Macdonald
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Intel playing bad boy again ?

According to HotHardware.com (see https://hothardware.com/news/intel-cpu-bug-kernel-memory-isolation-linux-windows-macos) the linux page table isolation is being applied to all x86 CPUs not just the intel ones with the problem - and according to the linux kernel diff log the patch was submitted by an Intel engineer (see https://git.kernel.org/pub/scm/linux/kernel/git/torvalds/linux.git/commit/?id=c313ec66317d421fb5768d78c56abed2dc862264)

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Nest's slick IoT burglar alarm catches crooks... while it eyes your wallet

Duncan Macdonald
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Way overpriced

For anyone who can read and follow basic instructions one of the many wireless alarm systems on eBay is much better value.

(For example "HOMSECUR Pet Friendly Wireless GSM Autodial Burglar Alarm System+720P IP Camera" at £197.49 has 4 PIR sensors, 9 window/door sensors, smoke sensor, video camera, inside and outside sirens and battery backup.)

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Bit price drop + compute-storage closeness = enterprise flash use boom

Duncan Macdonald
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NVMe bottleneck

Most PC systems are severely limited in the number of available PCIe lanes which limits the number of NVMe drives that can run at full speed. For an ordinary PC adding even one NVMe drive to the PCIe 3.0 bus limits the graphics card to x8 connectivity instead of x16 without NVMe

(EPYC, Threadripper and the more expensive Xeon chips do not have this problem with PCIe lanes. EPYC has 128 PCIe lanes, Threadripper has 64, higher end Xeons have 28-40.)

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China may stick to its own DRAM memory soon – researchers

Duncan Macdonald
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Re: Self-sufficiency

It is not just the Chinese military. In my opinion China is (and has been for many years) considering the possibility that the US economy might collapse (see the US Debt Clock for reasons). China wants to continue even if the USA collapses. This requires that it does not depend on outside high tech suppliers that may well cease trading if there is a US economic collapse.

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Social network smacks back: Accusers say it helps recruiters target age-groups in job ads

Duncan Macdonald
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Without Safe Harbor - then what

Without "Safe Harbor" or its equivalent, almost all social media would be impossible. Not just the giants like youtube and facebook but smaller sites such as the register forums would not dare operate due to the chance of being sued out of existence.

As Youtube has over 300 hours of video being uploaded every minute, it is unreasonable to expect that all illegal content be detected and removed immediately. Its processing algorithms are good and remove much but inevitably some gets through the automatic filters and is only removed when a complaint is made. (To have a human watch each of the Youtube videos for illegal content would require a full time staff of over 100,000 - and how many of them would still be sane after watching their 1000th cat video!!! ).

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Merry Xmas, fellow code nerds: Avast open-sources decompiler

Duncan Macdonald
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Intel ME

How long until someone produces a full decompile of Intel's secret ME code (for the embedded god mode CPU in current x86 chips).

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Brrr! It's a snow day and someone has pwned the chuffin' school heating

Duncan Macdonald
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Force disconnection from the internet

If the manufacturers wanted to there is an easy way to stop these devices from being connected to the internet - have them check periodically if it is possible to connect to Google - if so then the installation has been connected incorrectly so disable the network connection. This would require the system to be administered from its front panel but would stop malicious attackers on the web.

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Disk drive fired 'Frisbees of death' across data centre after storage admin crossed his wires

Duncan Macdonald
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Re: What no-one has mentioned yet... - DRUMS

Less common than disks were drums - metal lumps about the size of washing machine drums coated with magnetic oxide and an array of fixed heads - one per track. They were faster than disks because there was no seek time.

Some of these could weigh 60lbs and rotate at 3000rpm. A story that I heard (but could not verify) was that on one of these a bearing failed and the drum departed from the mechanism at speed and left a trail of destruction before it finally came to rest.

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Looking through walls, now easier than ever

Duncan Macdonald
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At these frequencies a traditional faraday cage made of mesh will probably not be effective unless the mesh is very fine (under 0.5cm wire spacing). A cage made of sheet metal (eg aluminium foil) would be a better bet. Include some moving corner cube reflectors in the room to swamp the desired target (human) reflections with spurious reflections.

Of course if you want to keep something secret you need your own underground bunker - ten feet of damp earth will completely defeat this technique.

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