* Posts by Nosher

66 posts • joined 12 Jan 2010


Court orders moribund ZX Spectrum reboot firm's directors to stump up £38k legal costs bill


How the mighty have fallen

It's sad where Levy has ended up - once a respected author, former chess grand master, co-developer of the multi-championship-winning SciSys chess machines and, perhaps most famously, part of the Elan/Flan/Enterprise story - a microcomputer that would have been ground-breaking if it hadn't been nearly two years late. Enterprise/Elan failed in 1986 with debts of £8 million, so maybe the whole thing, way back in 1985, set the pattern for the present day.

The eulogising of The Mother Of All Demos at 50 is Silicon Valley going goo-goo for gurus again


You could go further and say that Englebart invented the mouse in the same way that Edison invented the lightbulb - i.e. both get credit for things that had either been invented before, or at least contemporaneously, somewhere else. In this case, Englebart's Joseph Swan was Telefunken, which had already built a ball-based mouse - this being closer to mice we know today as Englebart's was x-y only - a few weeks before the MOAD

Gigabit? More like, you can gigabet the US will fall behind on super-fast broadband access


Re: Well it seems that fiber optics companies are going to make a killing in offshore revenue

"all the major companies are currently American (Google, Ebay, Amazon, Facebook, Twitter)"

That's a very Western-centric view of the world - without even thinking about it too much I can replace that list with equivalent Chinese companies that are as big (at least relatively, but sometimes even globally) as the US equivalents: Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent and Sina Weibo

Flying to Mars will be so rad, dude: Year-long trip may dump 60% lifetime dose of radiation on you


60% is nebulous as no-one actually knows - it's more-or-less a number plucked out of the air (the assumption being that once you've reached 100% you're immediately going to die?). And, although I could have chosen to say "you'd still be the first people on Mars" it doesn't change the fact that yes - it would be worth the risk on "everyone" - to get even one person onto the surface of another planet, because of how that might change the whole of humanity's outlook - even if it's only temporary - and get people looking up and outwards instead of down and inwards for a change.


I can only imagine where we'd all be if the Polynesians first spreading out over the Pacific, the peoples first colonising the Americas, the Vikings, or the early European explorers had been so recklessly timid and afraid of nebulous risks as we as a species are now. Does it matter if you were to receive 60% of your lifetime's radiation? No, it doesn't - because you'd be the first person on Mars.

Microsoft gives Windows 10 a name, throws folks a bone


That's not real BASIC

Just for a minute there I though that you meant BASIC as in the proper stuff out of the 1970s and 80s. What your "mine's a pint" demo shows is something that I presume is much closer to (or even is) VisualBasic. Objects with accessors and methods?! How disappointing.

Well, this makes scents: Kotlin code quality smells better than Java


Proof reading

Interesting paper and all, but aren't these things supposed to be at least minimally proof-read before publication?

Here's why AI can't make a catchier tune than the worst pop song in the charts right now


Re: I get this completely

"A midi file simply won't contain all this detail, but by programming an AI with raw audio sounds. There is an opportunity for this parts to be learned."

I agree, but I'm not thinking about MIDI (at least not in the play-by-numbers sense). What I mean is - and I say this as a semi-professional pianist - that it must surely be easier to teach AI to play something like a piano like a musician by reading and understanding actual music than it is to try and filter out the useful bits from the huge pile of data that is the raw audio stream of a performance. Even what seems like the difficult stuff, for instance interpretation, is something that most musicians have to learn: when I was nine, I didn't know any of this and just plonked everything out at the same volume, but I learned over time what sounded better.


Looking through the wrong end of the telescope?

Much like a comment above suggests, I don't really get this. Most conventional music has rules - those rules are fairly easy to quantify: start with any note, use that as your base key. Pick major or minor (or melodic, enharmonic, whatever) to give you a scale for that key (the notes to use are rule-based too). Pick 1st, 3rd and 5th of your current scale to give you a simple chord that works with it; add a 7th or occasional minor 3rds if you want to be bluesey, etc. Now and again, change your scale root to the 4th note, then the 5th of your base key - bingo, you've got a 12-bar-style progression - the basis of much rock and/or roll music. Noodle around with the notes in your key and generate some sort of melody. Add in some alternate progressions for variety or as a middle eight (again, there are established patterns for all of this). Does it sound OK? If not, start again and try other combinations. This is pretty much entirely how I learned to improvise Jazz/Blues piano

Hey, Mac fanbois: Got $600,000 burning a hole in your pocket? Splash out on this rare Apple I


To be fair...

I'm definitely no fan of Apple and its revisionist interpretation of history, and especially the frequent claims that it somehow "started the computer revolution" despite only ever launching products that already existed, albeit sometimes improving upon them (although neither the Apple I nor II were demonstrably better than the competition). But to be fair, the Lisa wasn't so much "horribly wrong" (although it was buggy) as simply "horribly priced" at around £8,000, or about £25,000 in today's money

Tesla crash investigation causes dip in 'leccycar firm's share price


For the love of God, can El Reg's writers please stop putting an apostrophe in front of Leccy? Leccy is a complete, valid slang word - it's certainly not Eleccy, which is what the apostrophe implies (as a contraction, like 'Ello equals Hello).

Half the world warned 'Chinese space station will fall on you'


There's a genuine phobia of this sort of thing: keraunothnetophobia - a fear of falling man-made satellites

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


"An AI set up to do the same job could also have such a scenario built in."

Which nicely sums up where AI is at the moment - there's still no "intelligence" that can realistically consider situations like this, in the way a human can, outside of its programming. What if someone had even thought about this in advance and added a rule like "do not launch counter-attack if missiles <= 5". What then if 6 "missiles" had been detected? Until such time as AIs can really play a hundred games of tic-tac-toe and come to the conclusion that "the only winning move is not to play", then it's just not safe enough to work in this sort of application.


Re: Definitions

Eliza's author, Joseph Weizenbaum (sometimes credited as the father of AI) had strong views on this, suggesting that a programmer who helped fake bombing data in the Vietnam War was "just following orders" in the same was as Adolf Eichmann, architect of the Holocaust. He said "The frequently-used arguments about the neutrality of computers and the inability of programs to exploit or correct social deficiencies are an attempt to absolve programs from responsibility for the harm they cause, just as bullets are not responsible for the people they kill. [But] that does not absolve the technologist who puts such tools at the disposal of a morally deficient society"

Rogue IT admin goes off the rails, shuts down Canadian train switches


Heh, I though at first that this story was a lot more real-world serious than it was: in North America, a "switch" in a railway context is what we would call "points". Shutting those down could have been seriously disruptive!

Universal basic income is a great idea, which is also why it won't happen

Big Brother

Can technologists see the future more clearly?

I would say that technologists have a patchy record at future-gazing at best, with Adam Osborne (of Osborne 1 fame) predicting in 1979 that 50% of jobs would be lost over the following 25 years, or Alvin Toffler suggesting that computers would enhance our mind power. I don't see much of that in the tabloid race to the bottom or a world of uncritically-accepted fake news on Facebook. Even the legendary Dr. Christopher Evans suggested that computers would remove drudgery, increase prosperity (for all, not just a few) and iron out intellectual differences between all people

Rich professionals could be replaced by AI, shrieks Gartner


Nearly 40 years ago almost exactly the same things were being said about AI and computers in general and their impact on people's livelihoods. Phrases like "jobs holocaust" and "the collapse of work" were common. Expert Systems (like Weizenbaum's Eliza) were going to replace doctors and psychiatrists Real Soon Now. Then there were "Fifth Generation [AI] Computers", abandoned after a decade with millions of pounds, dollars and yen spent.

It's still not happened, and whilst most of the other promises of technology posited at the time have been wildly exceeded in ways pundits of the 1970s wouldn't have thought possible (storage, performance, power, price, portability, graphics, etc, etc), general-purpose AI still seems to be only just out of the starting blocks.

There are definitely areas where AI has massively improved, like language and image processing, but a "universal AI machine" still seems to be a long way off.

Why Firefox? Because not everybody is a web designer, silly


Re: The same everywhere...?

Responsive Design is an absolute scam, as the one thing it does little to address is data usage (although it got a bit better since actual pre-download support for different image resolutions was added). Downloading 4MB of content before deciding which parts of it you want to use is completely missing the point and is exactly why I often use The Reg's mobile variant on my laptop on the train and despaired when the BBC dropped its proper mobile version.

Facebook's dabblings in TV suggest Zuck isn't actually a genius after all


Re: "either creating great content"

Stuff like "The Missing" and "Sherlock" is every bit as good as US output, and nobody does wildlife like "Planet Earth II". Don't forget that for every popular show that makes it over here, there's a ton of dross that doesn't.

Plastic fiver: 28 years' work, saves acres of cotton... may have killed less than ONE cow*


Re: Pandora's box?

The era when anyone made vast amounts of money thanks to the wool trade has long passed, and whilst it's true that wool might naturally fall from sheep, I suspect you would find that harvesting it by picking it out of hedgerows would not be economically viable (or would mean £500 sweaters). Wool is now financially a very minor part of the sheep-rearing business and, like milk and leather, is strictly a by-product of the meat industry.

Turing, Hauser, Sinclair – haunt computing's Cambridge A-team stamping ground


Re: For the true Sinclair aficionado...

Camputers (builder of the ill-fated Lynx) was also headquartered on Bridge Street. It was related to Acorn in the sense that it was a spin-off from GW Design, a company that had provided some PCB design services for the Acorn Proton/BBC Micro.

There's also Jupiter Cantab - designers of thr Ace - but they were way out in Bar Hill, up the A14 (although that probablly didn't exist in those days)..

Allso worth a stop-off would be the Cambridge Science Park to see Cambridge Consultants, which once counted Clive Sinclair and Robert Maxwell as board members and was something of a nexus of early Cambridge micro companies.


Re: Details, details...

Ah yes, of course it's a court and I should have known that having worked in Cambridge for 11 years, ived there for a bit and having only recently stayed at Christ's (when they let their student rooms out during the summer) with its imaginitively-named First, Second and Third Courts!


There is an IT angle in the Kings College quad: there's a nice photo in August 1984's Acorn User (taken in 1980, with flares and everything) featuring Chris Curry and Hermann Hauser standing in front of the statue holding their new Atom machine - the precursor to the Proton, a.k.a. BBC Micro

The Rise, Fall and Return of TomTom


TomTom just gets driving more than Google or Apple

On a recent longish trip in a friend's van, I became so impressed at just how much better TomTom's phone navigation app was compared to Google or Apple (the latter of which delights in absurd instructions like "turn left in to the B one-thousand-and-thirty-four in 600 feet") that I splashed out the £39 or whatever it was for three years as soon as I got back. Proof not just that you get what you pay for, but that TomTom's navigation stuff is clearly thought through by people who actually drive, rather than - apparently - by people who don't.

New booze guidelines: We'd rather you didn't enjoy yourselves


Re: This is ridiculous it is so out of touch...

Yeah, and I'm not sure what else it says about the target demographic, when the example is lager (clearly the cheapo gnats-piss supermarket own-brand version and the other sort commonly referred to as "wife beater") and neither of the percentages is representative of most draught real ales, many of which are between 3.7 and 4.2%

Tesla production executives depart as 'leccy car maker reports narrowing loss


Please. Stop. Writing. "'Leccy".

It's a slang word, not a contraction

Viglen staff mark CEO Tkachuk's passing with a royal tribute


Atari UK urinals

Not quite the same, but according to Personal Computer World's editor David Tebbutt in 1982, Atari UK's headquarters' gents toilets had Apple's logo "right where you aim"

Robots. Machine learnin', 3D-printin' AI robots: They'll take our jobs – Davos


So, we appear to have come full circle: back in 1979, white-collar/technical union head honcho Clive Jenkins stated "the days when fears of unemployment caused by computing could be discounted have definitely vanished", with his union - the ASTMS - going on to predict an extra 3 million unemployed by 1991, attributable to computers and robots. Jenkins went on to call the whole process a "jobs holocaust" and, together with co-author Barrie Sherman, forecast an imminent "leisure society" with most people being unemployed most of the time. Adam Osborne, he of the Osborne 1 computer, was also in to predictions of gloom in his book "Running Wild", also published in 1979, in which he predicted 50% of all jobs disappearing with 50 million job losses in the US alone, thanks to technology. Even the Socialist Workers Party pitched in with a book published in 1980 called "Is a Machine After Your Job?".

Maybe we should just be more like Dr. Christopher "Mighty Micro" Evans who was far more sanguine, saying in 1979 (not long before he died at the age of 48) "Like it or not, the technology is going to overwhelm us. So, as for some of the eerie futures that seem possible, I don't think we've got much option. Take the case of machine intelligence. It's going to be just too useful for us not to develop it".

Plus ça change!

OK Google? Firefox to nibble Chrome extensions from 2016


Re: why do I stick with Firefox?

Same here really: I think it will be a very dark and sinister day for the internet if Google gets to own (and control) the entire stack, from the entry point (search) through the content (YouTube, etc) to the client used to access it all (Chrome).

Netscape gave us a choice against Microsoft's dominance. It's not just for nostalgia that its progeny Firefox - for all its warts - should be supported and improved to ensure that some choice remains in a Google-dominated world.

Rounded corners on Android phones cost Samsung $548m: It will pay up to Apple after all


Re: The difference between Apple and Samsung

And Telefunken had already produced a ball mouse (unlike Englebart's x/y-only wheels) several months before that famous demo.


The iMac was essentially a copy of the 1984 Ontel C/WP Cortex - same all-in-one/built-in-to-the-monitor design and available in different colours; the iPhone was a lot like a Visitor data device as seen in 1985 TV sci-fi series "V", in the episode "Reflections in Terror" - same rounded corners and everything.

POLAR DINOSAURS prowled ARCTIC NIGHT, cast doubt on COLD BLOOD theory



Vegetarianism is a lifestyle choice/ethical position. Herbivorous is the word you're looking for.

Fourplay frolics: Vodafone launches landline broadband


Behind the curve?

If 76Mbps is "behind the curve", then wtf is the 1Mbps that I'm still on? And that's with Vodafone (after they bought Demon)!

EE's not-spot-busting small cell trial delights Cumbrian villagers


Opposite of NIMBY

I propose either

IWOOT - "I Want One Of Those"


IHOOT - "I'll Have One Of Those"

Apple iPhone 6 Plus: GORGEOUS FAT pixel density - but it's WASTED


Value for money?

£790 for a phone? Are people that insane? I've bought a *car* which I got 50,000 miles out of for less than that.

Want to buy a Woz-made Apple I? If you need to ask the price, you can't afford it


Woz was clearly not a layout artist

I'd heard it said somewhere before that Woz was not considered to have been that brilliant an engineer, and the layout design for the Apple I seems to prove it. The chips are laid out in about the worst way you could think - it's almost like getting the longest tracks imaginable between everything was a design objective!

FEAST YOUR EYES: Samsung's Galaxy Alpha has an 'entirely new appearance'


The iPhone was a copy anyway

In the episode entitled "Reflections in Terror" of TV series "V" (1984-1985), one of the Visitors attempts to extract the DNA of Elizabeth the "Star Child" by "accidentally" spiking her with a rose thorn. Prior to this, she checks Elizabeth's identity with a device suprisingly similar to an iPhone, complete with rounded corners, an LCD-like display and touch capability. That looks like prior art to me!

Say goodbye to the noughties: Yesterday’s hi-fi biz is BUSTED, bro


What am I missing?

What I don't get about Bluetooth or other wireless speakers is... don't they still need power? If they need power, don't they need wires? If they need wires then, er, why not just wire them in to the source and solve power supply and latency in one go. I suppose I get that some people might prefer to plug in a power brick locally for each remote speaker (with all the wasted stand-by energy that implies) rather than having wires run all around the house, but unless you happen to have pre-wired mains sockets right next to where the speakers want to be then you still have a trailing wire problem.

Apple, Beats and fools with money who trust celeb endorsements


Whilst I agree with a lot of this article, I wouldn't totally diss re-releasing old recordings. I think it's right to argue that it would make no difference just going from CD to SACD (or Pono) in and of itself, but taking original source recordings, cleaning them up and remastering them for a CD audience can make a huge difference. For about 20 years I assumed that the instrument on After the Ordeal, off Genesis' Selling England LP was a guitar, but the Nick Davis 2007 remix (although controversial to many fans) does at last reveal it to be the mandolin it's supposed to be!

Apple stuns world with rare SEVEN-way split: What does that mean?


It would be vaguely amusing if some automated (and slightly dim) trading system woke up on Monday and detected this as a price crash, dumped a zillion shares in response and triggered a real share collapse.

IBM PCjr STRIPPED BARE: We tear down the machine Big Blue would rather you forgot


AMD and Intel

AMD had been a second-source of Intel chips since their first (reverse-engineered) 9080A - a clone of Intel's 8080 which was released at the end of 1975. By 1976 they had a licence, enabling them to become an official second-source, which they did right up until they were stiffed over the 386 in 1985. See http://www.cpu-world.com/CPUs/8080/

The Mac at 30: Hardware and software wars – again and again and ...


"seeing as how the iMac was quite unlike anything that the personal computer market had seen before"

Oh, apart from maybe 1983's C/WP Cortex - released some 15 years before: http://www.nosher.net/archives/computers/az_personal_computers_1984-10_001 (with apologies for pimping one of my own pages but it's the only advert reference I could find. old-computers.com also has a small article on it: http://www.old-computers.com/museum/computer.asp?c=899&st=1)

BROADBAND will SAVE THE ECONOMY, shriek UK.gov bods


Frankly, all this hand-wringing about BT having a monopoly on rural broadband is utter bollocks. We - the potential recipients of said broadband - DON'T CARE as long as *someone* rolls it out before we all die. Perhaps then we in the sticks can finally get something a little faster than 1mbps DSL...

Do not adjust your set: TV market slows, 'connected TV' grows


Re: My house has 3 TVs, 2 "connected"

Why would you do that? I bought a Pure Evoke Flow DAB radio at least a year ago (for less than the price of even a cheapo telly) and it's one of the best gadget's I've ever purchased. It obviously does DAB, it can access BBC Radio catch-up services, plays all my DNLA stuff from the local network, does loads of other internet services and, most importantly, sounds exceptionally good for a small radio.

Bill Gates again world's richest, tops in US for 20th straight year


Net worth only doubled?

Given that the cost of things, at least since the 80s, has roughly doubled every ten years (that £200 VIC-20 from 1981 would cost about £800 now if nothing else had changed), then a 2x increase in net worth in the same ten years is only keeping pace with inflation. I'd consider that quite disappointing for the individuals concerned (although clearly some of them have outrun that by quite a margin).



I'm now waiting for the first reported case of someone who has their finger chopped off by the mugger stealing their iPhone, just like the Malaysian dude who had his finger chopped off when thieves car-jacked his fingerprint-secured Mercedes (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/4396831.stm). Thief-magnet gadgetry that requires an easily-removable physical part of me to work? No thanks.

Win XP alive and kicking despite 2014 kill switch (Don't ask about Win 8)


Re: More likely its the survey is trying to provide too many decimal places

"I highly doubt there are any new Windows XP installs happening"

You say that, but only a few days ago I installed a new Windows XP instance (activated and everything, the licence for which I've had kicking around for ages) on VirtualBox so I could run some Windows-only camera raw-converting software to process some photos I'd taken on a brand-new Pentax MX-1 the format of which AfterShot Pro (running on Linux) doesn't know about yet. OK, so large businesses are hardly rolling XP on thousands of desktops, but enough people like me doing the odd install to get something working /could/ bump up the figures a bit now and again...

Crack Army pilot to be first PROPER British astronaut IN SPAAAACE


"Inspire the Next Generation"

The phrase "inspire the next generation" really bugs me, because by implication it's writing off the /current/ generation of children. Even at the age of ten I've heard that it's possible to learn new stuff.

Microsoft Xbox gaffe reveals cloudy arrogance


Always Connected my arse

I have a two-day-a-week 1.5-hour-each-way commute to London during which I work (as part of my working day). Even though the Greater Anglia Inter City train has fairly good WiFi (considering it's a train and all), I find that unless it's *perfect* then all these Google Drive apps are a waste of time as *everything* they do (even just adding text) depends on some AJaX backhaul. Using them is tedious beyond words, so I find myself still using LibreOffice and such to create docs and spreadhseets whilst on the move. So much for the liberation of The Cloud: it'll probably be a generation before the cellular/radio/LTE/whatever network is good enough /everywhere/ between Diss and London, whilst travelling at over 100mph, for this to work practically and seamlessly.

Infinite loop: the Sinclair ZX Microdrive story


An actual 8-track floppy/tape implementation

1977's Compucolor 8001 had an /actual/ 8-track cartridge tape system (which they called "Floppy Tape Memory") available for it. It was capable of storing 1MB (that was a lot of storage back then) which could be read at 4800baud.


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