* Posts by ThomH

2507 posts • joined 18 Jun 2009

Is Google's Pixel getting better, or just more expensive?

ThomH
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I've a Nexus 5x that has yet to encounter a boot loop, and have previously had 2013 Nexus 7 on which the screen remained firmly bonded, an iPhone 4 that never dropped a call, and an iPhone 6 that didn't bend.

Either I'm the luckiest consumer in the world, or these issues become newsworthy as soon as they affect a decent number of customers rather than every customer.

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Did you hear? There's a critical security hole that lets web pages hijack computers. Of course it's Adobe Flash's fault

ThomH
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Re: GOAT?

Surely some sort of error? As we learnt from the Adobe CEO's 2010 interview with the WSJ, all Adobe Flash crashes on the Mac are the fault of "the Apple operating system". I'm sure Adobe would use the same bullet-proof code on its other platforms too.

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My organisation's computer annual security training required all employees to enable Flash. It's all contracted out, and I suspect its developers haven't yet discovered an HTML5 way to prevent users from skipping 20 minutes of video per topic of people ostentatiously failing to be either informative or funny prior to taking a quiz approximately as difficult as a weekend television phone-in competition.

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A new Raspberry Pi takes a bow with all of the speed but less of the RAM

ThomH
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Re: New supplier required

Re: switching SoCs, I'm more concerned about the GPU having been essentially in stasis all this time; it still supports only OpenGL ES 2 doesn't it?

I suspect I'm way out on a fringe for caring about the specific version of OpenGL, but it prevents support for the latest WebGL and, well, you know web developers. Something new and shiny through which they can reconstruct less accessible versions of what's already built-in? Yeah, go for it!

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Sudden Windows 10 licence downgrades to forced Xcode upgrades: The week at Microsoft

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Re: Kaizala? @Stuart Castle

I think you've probably hit on the real target audience for Microsoft and Google's annual new chat platform: middle-managers in HR departments, trying to be seen to be doing something.

They're not all independently missteps — my current employer is presently extricating itself from Facebook Workplace, which can only be a good thing — but the churn is tiresome.

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ZX Spectrum reboot scandal firm's original directors rejoin

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The next part of the story should be more interesting

As, the money being gone, it sounds like three out of four board members just want the legal ability to throw the fourth to the wolves?

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ZX Spectrum reboot scandal man sits on Steve Bannon design tech shindig committee

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Re: Absolutely

Yeah! E.g. it's only the far-sighted policies of Bannon et al that have finally saved 94% of those farmers who were exporting soy beans to China from having an income. After a terrible half century of international economic progress and relative peace, Bannon has come to save us!

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I feel like there's a Woody Allen joke to be found here.

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ThomH
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Were it not for the unreliability of tapes and the homework-doing opportunity offered by their loading speed, I suspect I might have exited my childhood essentially uneducated.

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iPhone XR, for when £1,000 is just too much for a smartmobe

ThomH
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Re: "when £1,000 is just too much for a smartmobe"

It's absurd even if you limit yourself to only the other things you could buy from Apple for £1,000 (or thereabouts):

* for £1,049, a complete 21.5" iMac;

* if you already have a screen, the new Mac Mini with £200 in change;

* at £969, the comically-oversized 12.9" iPad (with its fancy 120Hz display);

* two watches with change to spare — give one to your significant other and it'll be twice as likely that maybe one of you can find a use for the thing.

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Wow. Apple's only gone and killed off Mac, iPad, iPhone family... figures for units sold to fans

ThomH
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Re: long lived phones @ Voyna i Mor

> Not when the bloke is conflating the OS it's running, with the manufacturer.

Something which he notably doesn't do: "I will never buy an Android device again ... and it's Samsung's fault, they made the Android phone which so thoroughly annoyed me"; that's a condemnation of Samsung for a bad phone and for scarring him as to a platform, not a generalisation.

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Re: long lived phones @ Voyna i Mor

The story appears more to be:

Poster had bad experience with phone manufacturer A. Decided to try manufacturer B. Had very good experience with manufacturer B. Decided to stick with them for the next purchase.

You don't think that's logical?

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Re: Sustainable

I don't know about that rose-tinted view; I had a Nokia 6600 in 2003, which other than the better form factor was almost indistinguishable from the Nokia 7650 of 2001, or the N70 of 2005. They stopped innovating a long time before the wheels fell off. The issue is whether anybody else comes along to mount a challenge — Nokia was fine until Apple and Google arrived.

Applying the same test of "essentially the same UI and features", I don't think either Apple or Google has done all that much in at least the last five years. But neither has anybody else.

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US Republicans bash UK for tech tax plan

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"Representative Kevin Brady (R-TX), chairman of the influential House Ways and Means Committee"

... very likely won't still be chairman of the Ways and Means Committee by January.

In the US system, the chairpeople are nowadays always from whichever party has the majority in the House of Representatives (i.e. the part that's a bit like the Commons), which is statistically unlikely to be the Republicans after the election on Tuesday; historically the president's party almost always takes a whipping at the first mid terms and this president seems to be going out of his way to motivate the opposition.

That said, I was wrong in my expectations as to votes twice in 2016.

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Mourning Apple's war against sockets? The 2018 Mac mini should be your first port of call

ThomH
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As I proved recently on another forum, for the same price (of all the models available) I can get a PC that out-performs the Mac for a-half-to-a-third of the price - and that usually a laptop with an HD screen to boot!

By coincidence, I just disproved this, ummm, on another forum. With my girlfriend, but you wouldn't know her, because she's from Canada.

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Bomb squad descends on suspicious package to find something much more dangerous – a Journey cassette

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Re: Escalation

Instead of the usual bomb disposal expert they'd have used the bomb disposal evil robot?

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Roughly 30 years after its birth at UK's Acorn Computers, RISC OS 5 is going open source

ThomH
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Re: Vector drawing

In their defence, the classic Mac OS natively supported PICT files — a merely serialisation of QuickDraw API commands, and therefore usually considered a vector file format — from day one, and it was expected that applications would be able to open and use them anywhere an image could be placed. It just didn't come with a decent editor.

Microsoft did much the same thing in WMF, but not until Windows 3.0.

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Re: Observations

I can't speak confidently as to the others, which is going to make me sound like an apologist, but I know that macOS née OS X spends modern-scale processor cycles on:

(i) using the full set PDF primitives for all desktop drawing;

(ii) the dynamic dispatch that underlies its approach to UI building;

(iii) contrasted with Risc OS, the various context switch costs associated with preemptive multitasking and a full implementation of protected memory*; and

(iv) various things that were historically optional: the file indexing that goes into Spotlight, the background backup of Time Machine, the remote syncing of iCloud file storage, etc.

* if memory serves, Risc OS protects applications from each other, but doesn't protect the OS from applications.

Do you necessarily want these things? Tough, you're getting them.

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SQLite creator crucified after code of conduct warns devs to love God, and not kill, commit adultery, steal, curse...

ThomH
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Re: Not the first piece of absurd preaching to come from the SQLite team

The FAQ doesn't attempt to scope its verdict on threads to SQLite; it does however state an advocacy position, contrary to the norm, citing only a single decade-old paper. Being persuasive is, at best, a fleeting consideration.

But on the whole implementation thing: after the hard stuff of statement parsing SQLite's underlying store is just sorted lists for binary search. So this feels like exactly what readers-writer locks are for: there's a simple, robust, well-documented, well-informed told, widely-implented solution. And then there's just proclaiming a deeply-held conviction.

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Not the first piece of absurd preaching to come from the SQLite team

To quote the FAQ:

(6) Is SQLite threadsafe?

Threads are evil. Avoid them.

SQLite is threadsafe. We make this concession since many users choose to ignore the advice given in the previous paragraph.

After I've realised why it's evil not to throw away 75%+ of the processing power available to my application, I'll worry about the other strictures emanating from the SQLite team.

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Happy 60th birthday, video games. Thank William Higinbotham for your misspent evenings

ThomH
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It has: two player objects, either of which can be stretched or automatically repeated a few times. Other moving objects are two missiles (one for each player) and a ball. There's also a background, for which the programmer supplies 20 bits, for repetition twice or so that the right side is a mirror of the left. If memory serves, the player objects can be triggered multiple times in a line. All in a glorious 128 colours (in NTSC, anyway).

The programmer is perpetually racing the beam, i.e. generating state changes in the graphics hardware during the active display to effect immediate changes. Think of the Amiga Copper, or the Atari 8-bit computers' ANTIC but all directly on the 6507. It's not quite as hard as it sounds, as there's an address you can hit to sleep until the end of the line and thereby restore your phase with the frame; you don't need to come up with exact-cycle loops if you don't want, just make sure they're short enough, that you wait at the end, and that you remember to signal vertical sync. Horizontal's automatic, but vertical is up to you.

So Pong is a use case they had directly in mind, as is Combat. Pitfall is starting to get pretty clever, with the actual player, the other player image being the scorpion, alligators and logs, and the sprite and missiles filling in for ropes and ladders, while altering the background every line for the trees and ground. And Solaris is just plain wizardry.

The thinking was obviously that the main thing that defines a video game is, you know, the video part. So the programmable component can do the stuff they used to design circuits for in terms of arranging bits of video. Then there's some time in the border for gameplay. Obviously life gets easier once there's enough storage and bandwidth for a static data structure to describe the display rather than requiring a function that produces it, but there wasn't in 1977. It's actually a pretty brilliant design for the era, all constraints considered.

Like many of us, Pacman may have been a bit of a duffer but his missus was a lot more attractive (albeit slightly less so in that example, where the emulator author or video capture card has decided that the best way to resample a high frame rate is, ummm, to throw a bunch of them away).

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GitHub.com freezes up as techies race to fix dead data storage gear

ThomH
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Re: Cloud based services

For GitHub consumers this is one of the lesser cloud deployments since cloning a Git repository by default involves making a full local copy, and all operations are performed locally and then merely synced to remote.

Git doesn't even enforce any sort of topology — e.g. an international company that used GitHub could have local copies of all repositories that act as remote for all local developers and which sync up to GitHub from that single point; GitHub would then be the thing that permits cross-site work, and the authoritative copy.

What you lose is GitHub's additions to Git: the pull requests, the issue tracking, etc. Or, in this case, I guess you can still see slightly historic versions of those things effectively in read-only mode.

So I don't think I'm ready to jump on the cloud-is-a-bad-thing bandwagon in this particular use case. It's slightly more of an adjunct rather than a full solution, but the downage needn't be an absolute stop to work like it would be if, say, you were in the business of modifying and reviewing legal documents, and were just keeping them all on One Drive/Google Drive/DropBox/whatever, which vanished from sight.

So, ummm, just think about what you're paying for and be sensible?

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Finally. The palm-sized Palm phone is back. And it will, er, save you from your real smartphone

ThomH
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Re: Nothing like trashing a product

My name's Guybrush Threepwood, and I want to be a pirate!

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Does Google make hardware just so nobody buys it?

ThomH
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Re: Another theory

Apple's failure to use any anti-competitive practices to expand its tablet market probably helps too.

Except maybe that time it took part in an illegal monopoly in book pricing. Which was investigated. And led to appropriate penalties.

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UK space comes to an 'understanding' with Australia as Brexit looms

ThomH
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@Jess Re: does the landlord refund you all the money you gave to pay the rent?

Per the "purpose of annexation, degree of annexation" Holland v Hodgson test, I don't think the law would give you the right to repayment for a bathroom you fitted as it's very hard to believe that a bathroom is a chattel and not part of the property.

Of course, in the case of Brexit the UK is taking part of the property with them, so possibly that's another analogy that's fallen apart upon closer inspection.

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Commodore 64 makes a half-sized comeback

ThomH
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As per the article, this wasn't crowdfunded. The only people who contributed to the project were paid employees. The C64 Mini went on sale in early 2018 as promised, is widely available, and you could order one from your usual online retailer today if you wanted.

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Android Phones are 10: For once, Google won fair and square

ThomH
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That's kind of a limited view; as per the article Android started from nothing in a mainstream market dominated by Nokia and various Windows Mobiles, both already smart enough to offer browsers and cameras and apps. It then won because it was better than Symbian or Windows Mobile.

Apple was never number one by sales volume, and never will be. The 90% of the market that isn't Apple has just evolved from flip phones to Android smart phones.

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Apple's dark-horse macOS Mojave is out (and it's already pwned)

ThomH
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Re: My iMac is too old

I think it's more like subpixel antialiasing being a special case when compositing — i.e. it needs to be disregarded if any sort of transform is applied, or I guess you could give up on GPU composition and re-render the whole thing but that sounds unlikely — and Apple no longer being willing to expend the effort. iOS has never had subpixel rendering.

Excuses being made, those of us that long ago used OS X on a non-LCD screen, also with no subpixel antialiasing, will probably feel nostalgic if presented with a non-retina LCD for the vague sense that somebody has snuck in and applied Vaseline to the screen.

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ThomH
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Re: The pretend hack is fake

Have you any evidence for that assertion?

I'll probably update my machine to Mojave within the next week or so, but not because I imagine it to be the new pinnacle of computer security.

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Remember when Apple's FaceTime stopped working years ago? Yeah, that was deliberate

ThomH
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If you have a 3GS then you don't have a front-facing camera. So FaceTime has never, ever been available to you.

It's really only iPhone 4 customers who have been artificially deprived.

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The grand-plus iPhone is the new normal – this is no place for paupers

ThomH
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As recently as 2016 I was sitting in a Wetherspoons waiting patiently for somebody in an unremarkable part of London Zone 5 when a young man of questionable affluence joined his family and the next table and launched immediately into his big news with a "you'll never guess what. They accepted me!", to much admiration, surprise and celebration.

A couple of minutes later, I finally got enough pieces to work out what he was talking about. He'd been accepted onto a contract plan for an iPhone.

I'm a big fan of mine for reasons not worth relitigating, but it is such a trophy phone for some that it's apparently worthy of going out on a financial limb. I don't claim to understand that. Especially not as recently as 2016, a long way past when Apple was the only consumer premium phone brand.

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Google is 20, Chrome is 10, and Microsoft would rather ignore the Nokia deal's 5th birthday

ThomH
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Re: Maybe...

Not spending the better part of the decade before the iPhone trying to cram the Windows desktop onto a tiny mobile screen for stylus prodding might have been an even better idea. "But, we added an 'OK' button in the title bar!" is not an especially convincing argument that you've seriously evaluated how to provide a usable mobile interface.

Or not engaging in so much effort to tie web browsing, including your browser code, to desktop Windows that you're unable to offer a decent mobile browser.

Or not being so incredibly arrogant that you dismiss new competitors out of hand, based on a paternal attempt to dictate what "doesn't appeal to business customers".

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Do I hear two million dollars? Apple-1 fossil goes on the block, cassettes included

ThomH
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I guess that once there are sufficiently few of an item that only 1% of the potential audience can be served, they'll attract the sort of prices that only 1% can afford to pay?

They're not necessarily investing, they just have enough money that they can.

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ThomH
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Re: On the bright side...

Jobs' hatred of fans makes some vintage Apple products susceptible to the other type of meltdown.

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Apple leaks rekindle some hope for iPhone 'supercycle' this year

ThomH
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Re: My 6s will keep being my phone

Checking Amazon, Apple's lightning earphones are now hovering around £13; cheap Bluetooth sets are below £20; replacement dongles to give you an ordinary headphone input, which you could glue to an existing pair of headphones to avoid one-more-thing-to-lose syndrome, are there for around a tenner.

So all the less convenient than just having a headphone socket options are at least cheap. I'm also still on my 6s, where the lightning socket is now a bit dodgy but the headphone socket carries on like a champ.

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ThomH
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Re: Can I be an analyst?

I think the next big round of iPhone sales will be whenever an edge-to-edge display makes it into the budget models given the proportion of those surveyed who claimed that the increased cost of the X was what left them where they were. It's also a couple of years or so since the first few edgeless phones arrived, making any with bezels look a little old-fashioned regardless of manufacturer.

I say these things thinking about what average consumers seem to want; I'm not averse to a bezel myself.

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Re: Apple will end up like Nokia

Nah; Nokia-Symbian's issue was complete panic at the first sign of competition ― Symbian is a separate company building a manufacturer-agnostic platform! Well, okay, it's not any more, but the Symbian Foundation will remain the steward of all development, as an independent and community-oriented body, and it'll all be open source! Well, okay, not really, but it'll still do the licensing! No, it won't even do that, and it's not open source any more! But it doesn't matter because we're transitioning via Qt to Maemo! By which, of course, we meant to the Maemo-Moblin MeeGo merge!

Apple is far more persistent/stubborn (delete as per your prejudice) in its endeavours.

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Apple tipped to revive forgotten Macbook Air and Mac mini – report

ThomH
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I want it to be true

With appropriate expectations — that it'll be expensive, and that nothing inside the box will be upgradeable — I would still love a modern Mac Mini, which to me would be a Mac with reasonable performance to which I can just bring whichever keyboard I want, without having to add yet another to the plentiful array of screens my house already contains.

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EU wants one phone plug to rule them all. But we've got a better idea.

ThomH
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Re: Be much more interested in...Power-Outlet-Sockets being universal

The problem with USB sockets in the walls, airports, etc, is trust. Well, either that or buying one of those USB cables that has a switch to disconnect the data pins.

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ZX Spectrum Vega+ blows a FUSE: It runs open-source emulator

ThomH
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Re: Pillage of the Open Source projects @Stabbybob

Apple contributed all changes it made to GCC back to the community from the beginning, as well as redistributing all open source code it modified.

When it stopped using GCC and developed its own compiler, it open sourced that too.

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@Lee D

I had the feeling that case was decided based on a backer of the original Vega receiving a direct email from RCL advertising the Vega+ and enticing him to place an order. The conclusion isn't necessarily transferable to generic backers.

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ThomH
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Re: The Gnome Underpants have arrived! @Oh Homer

It may look like looks a bunch of clueless amateur retro gaming enthusiasts secured capital but RCL delivered the original Vega and its most public face, David Levy, was present and active during the original microcomputer boom — he was part of the team behind the Enterprise, that leading 30 years later to probably his only positive coverage on El Reg.

Whatever the story is that has led to the Vega+, it's not the usual crowdfunded hubris.

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Researcher found Homebrew GitHub token hidden in plain sight

ThomH
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It's not that popular

Especially not with me. By default it changes ownership of /usr/local/bin to your login user. So anything you run from then onwards can install a shim to usurp any binary that ordinarily lives in /usr/bin. Such as sudo.

How often do you inspect which application named sudo is asking you for your administrative password?

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ZX Spectrum reboot latest: Some Vega+s arrive, Sky pulls plug, Clive drops ball

ThomH
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Re: What we need @cream wobbly

I'm not sure it's accurate to say that other micros typically had to live-toggle a bit. Of the successful ones I'm pretty sure that's only the Apple II and the 16/48kb Spectrum.

None of them is a match for the feature set of the SID, but the 128kb Spectrum and CPC share the AY which is three channels of square wave and/or noise with volume envelopes; the 8-bit Atari has the POKEY which is four channels of more-or-less square wave; the BBC has an SN76489 which is three square waves plus a noise channel, etc.

The SID's killer feature is phase accumulation for pitch selection rather than simple division, giving much finer control — in a SID there's a 24-bit counter, the top few bits of which are used to form the output level, and an amount that is added to it at each cycle. Plus some analogue filters. On the other chips there is the input clock and then there is an integral divider. So you're controlling the reciprocal of pitch, reducing useful precision.

Nevertheless, the other chips don't require active CPU participation as the 48kb Spectrum does, and the musical opportunities are still fairly decent.

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ThomH
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Re: What we need @PeterGathercole

I think you're off by one; the shortest 6502 instructions take two cycles, and the most common ones — those which read from or write to the zero page — take three.

But the issue in a real machine is that a 6502 uses only half a clock cycle to perform an entire memory access whereas the Z80 uses at least two. So pick your clock speed as a function of those constraints and your memory speed.

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ThomH
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Re: It looks a bit... "cheap"

The ZX80 fetches its display in software, but contains only static RAM.

Rather than bother with all that nonsense of counters and whatever for fetching video, the processor just executes the display buffer. Well, it tries to, but the parasitic video steals the opcodes it is actually fetching and forces a NOP onwards. That gives the character code, and hijacking of the Z80's refresh cycle gives it a chance to get the actual pixels for that row of that character.

So most of what the Z80 in a ZX80 is doing is executing NOPs.

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ThomH
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Re: What we need @/dev/null

A NOP takes four cycles because there's no memory bandwidth to fetch anything else until four cycles later; the Z80 spent two cycles fetching the NOP opcode, then decoded and performed it during the two cycles when it was issuing a DRAM refresh. As soon as the refresh ends it can seek out the next thing. That's why it's also four cycles for all the other single-byte instructions that don't imply any other accesses to memory — register-to-register arithmetic and moves, and a few others.

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ThomH
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Re: What we need @DrBed

The Z80 in the Spectrum is not only nominally clocked at 3.58Mhz but also genuinely runs at that speed for as long as you avoid the physical chips that are shared with the ULA. E.g. on a 48kb Spectrum that means that as long as your code is in the top 32kb of RAM rather than the bottom 16kb.

The CPC is nominally clocked at 4Mhz but via use of the WAIT line permits a Z80 memory access on only one in every four cycles, regardless of what you're accessing. The standard fetch cycle is four cycles long, so single-byte instructions that don't cause a memory access run without a speed penalty (once you're in phase, anyway) but everything else is subject to delays. As a result code often ends up running more slowly than it would on a ZX Spectrum.

It depends how often the Spectrum code is seeking to update the display though, obviously. And the CPC's main problem isn't this clocking scheme or that one, it's the annoying large percentage of titles that are so lazy as just to be the Spectrum code plus some extra work at the end to translate the Spectrum graphics to anything that looks sort of right. It's almost a revelation every time you load a game that was converted properly, like Chase HQ, Robocop or Gryzor.

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ThomH
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Re: What we need

Faster at the same clock rate, but slower at the C64's ~1Mhz than at the Spectrum's ~3.58Mhz, which is most of what mattered.

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Apple takes an axe to its App Affiliate Program

ThomH
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Re: What a nice firm

I don't see the issue; review sites that depend upon the revenue of persuading people to buy the apps they review immediately then and there are not on my list of fine upstanding gentlemen. The decent ones already make the majority of their income from running adverts, so that there's no ulterior motivation for positive reviews.

So Apple withdrawing an affiliate programme doesn't really feel like another effort to screw the little guy. Just one ugly profit-seeking corporarion declining furthet to help other ugly profit-seeking corporations.

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