* Posts by Andrew Garrard

151 posts • joined 29 May 2007

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Oak Ridge goes gaga for Nvidia GPUs

Andrew Garrard
Stop

Nice to know the RSX isn't doing anything...

"Each Cell processor is running at 3.2GHz, and has eight vector processors (which are used to do the graphics in the Sony PlayStation 3, among other tasks the Cell chips were created to do)."

Um, no, they're not (usually). The Cell architecture is a sort of half-way house between a GPU and a CPU, with a hefty dose of Cray thrown in, but it's not a GPU of itself. There's an nVidia "RSX" chip in the PS3 that does the graphics.

The Cell's a bit closer to a GPU than one might necessarily want in a system which has its own GPU - where it shines against a conventional CPU is in the kind of application where one might consider using a GPU instead - which does make me wonder whether the idea for the PS3 was to use the Cell on its own, and the RSX was added when it became obvious it wasn't going to be fast enough. This might explain why the PS3 seems to be a bit harder to program for than the XBox 360 - although I'm not a game developer, so I don't wish to make detrimental claims which may be hidden by the tool chain.

That said, the Cell is a bit more MIMD than most GPUs, so there's a class of problems for which it beats both a GPU-like heavily SIMD architeacture and the relatively-scalar CPUs. Nice to know that you have to get your algorithm right *before* buying a multi-million dollar supercomputer, isn't it?

X-Men helmsman to fly Battlestar Galactica

Andrew Garrard
FAIL

Oh no, not again.

So, after the fuss over the phenomenally bad idea of making a "reimagined" Buffy film in an attempt to cash in on the fans of the TV series, but not using anyone or anything from the TV series at all, they're now trying to do exactly the same with BSG? Clue: the TV series of Buffy and the new BSG were popular because they were good, not because the original on which they were based was somehow guaranteed to drag in a lot of people. At best, the tie-in to the original BtVS or BSG would make people read a review.

Since both reimaginings were vastly more popular than the originals, any attempt to ignore them is going to make fans keep away - these fans being those who were intrigued by the hook to the original the first time round. It's like making a Spider Man film based on the comic series and ignoring the recent films, or making a Batman based solely on the Adam West version (not that this doesn't have its place in history).

Still, at least this time the people involved weren't directly responsible for the original being less good than it could have been. I'm not sure that the fan disappointment at the ending of BSG (TNG) is going to make them come and see this, though.

Now, how about a film of Veronica Mars? A Buffy film actually set after Chosen, in Whedon's Buffyverse? (Even getting Summer Glau to do Fray?) Tie T:tSSC into a Terminator film?

Sadly, I'm betting on Friends: The Movie happening first.

Philips Cinema 21:9 56in LCD TV

Andrew Garrard
Unhappy

Oh no, not again

This is up there with anamorphic projectors as a silly idea. I'm all for extra pixels, but the inability of a 2560x1080 panel to map each pixel of 1920x810 to a single pixel in the panel (when stretched up) is going to make a mess of high frequency content - in the same way that a 1366x768 panel will do a worse job of 720p content than a native 1280x720 set. If you really want widescreen content to look good, you'd be better off making a 1920x810 panel and throwing away the black bars. If it's not very good for 2.35:1 video content and it's (obviously) wasteful for 16:9 content, let alone 4:3, I'm unconvinced. I'm sure it does a very expensive lovely job of upscaling a 2.35:1 DVD, though.

Still, best of luck to them for innovating. It'd have been a better idea than saddling everyone with 16:9 as a compromise format in the first place, but these days complying to a standard is a better idea than any oddball proprietary solution. It might make an interesting gaming monitor, if you can drive it at full resolution.

It's not really an option for my house: the space my TV fits in is limited horizontally (my walls are filled with book shelves), whereas I'm prepared to lose the clock on the wall if anyone switches to a really tall standard aspect ratio.

Toshiba TG01 smartphone

Andrew Garrard

Sounds like they messed up another one...

I'd pretty much discounted this after the trouble I had with my Tosh G900 - while I don't dislike Toshiba as a company (I love my Librettos) I'd like good proof that they can produce a glitch-free mobile before I consider another one. I hope the camera app crashes less this time, at least. I'm not surprised that a faster CPU and a larger screen doesn't help the battery, either.

I like the sound of the drag-on-screen (from the zoom bar) d-pad, though - the absence of one is what's making me nervous about the TP2 I have on order, since a number of (especially Java) apps assume there is one. I have to say I use my G900's hard d-pad a lot just to avoid getting finger grease on the screen. I'll look out for a third-party version.

As for resistive touch pads... they at least *work* with a stylus, which is (I assume) why it makes a difference to the OS what kind of screen you're using. I like capacitive screens for quick gesture work and for their robustness, but if you want pixel-perfect editing then they're not useful. Pick your choice of functionality; I'll put up with the screen being a little less sensitive in return for the extra accuracy, but I completely defend Apple, Palm and Google's right to focus on casual interaction.

Sony Ericsson Xperia drops Windows for Android

Andrew Garrard
Boffin

@W

Well said, sort of. I have a couple of DSLRs (and a selection of 35mm), several grand worth of lenses, a medium format camera and some Leica kit. I'm delaying buying a compact until after my next phone upgrade because the camera on a phone might suit my "always on me/unexpected chance for a photo" requirements well enough that I'd need a decent compact to do much better (and for *decent* compact money, I'd rather have another lens for my SLR); while I'd rather use a decent camera than the one on a mobile, the best camera is the one you remembered to bring with you.

But still, I'd like to know more about this phone than just how good its camera will be, since it's likely to fall into the range "awful" to "passable if necessary in good conditions". I'm tired of people advertising "12 megapixel mobiles" (the camera's 12MP; the bit I care about, the screen, that everyone spends all their time looking at, rarely gets a mention).

Anyway, I'll be interested in seeing whether S-E manage to get it right this time. "Mixed reviews" is being generous to the X1, from what I've seen; here's to some decent graphics acceleration for a start.

Can we talk about something other than the camera? I'm a photography bore, and *I'm* bored.

Andrew Garrard
Gates Horns

800x400? Really?

I *assume* that's a typo, and that it's really WVGA (why it needs an operating system update to support a new resolution is beyond me), although there are phone LCDs out there with oddball aspect ratios and S-E do have a history of 320x208. WVGA would be nice, since the one thing that's keeping me with Windows Mobile is that nobody else offers an 800x480 screen. If Apple, Palm or Google (or even someone shipping a more complete Linux phone than Android offers) had more pixels, I'd be there. I could probably still do with a keyboard, though, so it looks like it's a TP2 for me until my next upgrade cycle.

Acer Tempo M900

Andrew Garrard

@Al

Thanks, Al. I'll look into Mobile Shell. The jog wheel was so useful on my P910i that I ended up playing the chess game more than anything else, solely because you could play it one-handed while carrying stuff around; where possible I still use the four-way controller on my G900 rather than smearing the touch screen with my greasy mits, so the complete reliance of the TP2 on the touch screen bothered me.

I guess my only remaining hesitation is the lack of control key (mostly for cut and paste, occasionally handy for an editor, although maybe you can remap something else), the reports that reception is a bit dodgy on the m900, and whether the memory limitation is going to impact on my web browsing. (My current firefox is sitting at ~1GB, but I probably wouldn't have so many tabs open on a mobile... I don't know because my G900's battery dies five minutes after doing any 3G browsing.)

Andrew Garrard

Obvious question...

So how *does* it compare with the Touch Pro 2?

The Touch Pro 2 has more keys (including a control key), possibly a more responsive touch screen (?) and more RAM - oh, and official WinMo 6.5 support. The m900 has a slightly larger screen, A-GPS, official FM radio support, a better (or at least higher resolution) camera and the jog dial I've been missing ever since I switched to a WinMo phone from my P910i. Also some oddball features on each side - speakerphone on the TP2 and the fingerprint reader on the m900 (I have one on my G900 and never use it).

So: How is Acer's GUI compared with TouchFlo 3D? (Does HTC's greater experience in making WinMo phones lead to any extra polish?) Is the jog dial any good? What's the voice control like? I don't care about the 3.8 vs 3.6", and the lack of control key might be a killer, but Monty's comment about the keyboard scares me a bit. That said, frequent BIOS fixes are a luxury I wish Toshiba had achieved.

Still pondering... (I was going to order a TP2 next week, so this is a well-timed review!)

Asus F70SL

Andrew Garrard
Pint

Utterly pointless screen

There are two points to a 16:9 screen on a computer.

1) To match the aspect ratio of HDTV for video playback.

2) To save money, because a 16:9 screen has less area than a 16:10 screen with the same diagonal.

So what they've done here is charge a reasonably large amount of money for a machine with an inferior resolution to any 1680x1050 screen (let alone WUXGA), that has an inferior aspect ratio for document editing (try fitting two A4 pages on it - 16:10 is much better), and that can't display HD resolutions without scaling (blurring) them.

Personally, I've never found black bars (aka "somewhere off-screen to put the DVD player control) distracting - certainly no more than the screen boundaries. I'll be amused if someone starts doing ambilight-esque coloured borders. This is entirely a cynical attempt to fob off a cheaper panel than a "real" 17" screen would have been, and claim it's superior.

16:9 is not, and never has been, a good choice of aspect ratio. Now it's polluting our laptop screens. Eugh.

Pint glass, for looking at distorted images through.

Triangular buttons key to touchscreen typing success - inventor

Andrew Garrard

Alphabetical

Since the old "the letters are in the wrong order" thing is going round again, even if Frank was joking, people have tried alphabetical modern keyboards (and indeed a lot of touch screen devices do offer them), and they're really no better - and usually worse - than QWERTY. The usual problem is that the alphabet is in order linearly, but that keyboards are split into rows; knowing where to look makes sense only if the row length is standardised (or, admittedly, if you arrange the letters in diagonal stripes so "ABCD" map to "QAZW" on QWERTY). Even if everyone standardised on such a keyboard, it would still require a bit of hunting and pecking for new typists and be awkward (given the mapping of letter frequencies to fingers) for experienced typists.

Other layouts can be at least slightly better - I use QWERTY on one keyboard and Dvorak on another (stops me mixing my computers up) and I really do find Dvorak to be more comfortable and probably faster for some tasks; it was also reasonably easy to learn. Other layouts, like Maltron's, are supposedly better still. However, the (Western) world uses QWERTY (or variants thereof), and it's not that bad - it's probably not worth the hassle of everyone changing. Anyone having a problem with it just needs to practise a bit, like the rest of us had to, and not be deluded into thinking that alphabetical ordering would help.

Back on topic, I can't see that the key shape is going to matter much. If you want typing on a touch screen to go faster, find a way to give some touch feedback (e.g. small bumps where the keys are). Fingers don't see, they feel; a fancy keyboard is no good if you can't see it behind your digits, but something to keep your fingers centred would be a much greater help. I can type on an unlabelled keyboard - I once used a keyboard that someone had swapped the keys around on (into, as it happens, alphabetical order - along with more evil changes such as swapping the numeric keypad from calculator to phone layout) and didn't notice until I looked to see whether the punctuation was in UK or US style - but I crawl on a laser keyboard.

Andrew Garrard

Not hexagons?

Not sure about the dead space. Why not Windows Mobile 6.5-style hexagons for the display, with the edges of the hexagon less sensitive? If you want a space filling shape and you want users to aim at the middle of the shapes, surely a hexagon is the obvious tesselation? Triangles just make the keys hard to read.

4K by 2K resolution, Ethernet-equipped HDMI 1.4 announced

Andrew Garrard
Thumb Up

Re: 30Hz

Tom - I doubt they're targetting HDMI 1.4 at CRTs. My peripheral vision, too, can detect flicker at 70Hz - but that's mostly irrelevant when it comes to the rate at which you can throw images at an LCD. Motion usually looks fairly smooth above ~30Hz (and cinemas prove that 24Hz is acceptable to most, although I'd prefer to see 60Hz). There's always interpolation in the TV, as with most 100Hz+ screens.

Of course, once everything starts using black frame insertion the flicker will come back. :-)

Andrew Garrard
Stop

Wireless rant

Just to join in, *NO* to sucking all the bandwidth out of the environment by trying to drive this resolution wirelessly. If you want a wireless display, use a projector. Otherwise, think of your neighbours (and, if you must, stream the compressed video not the uncompressed full-size image). The recent reports about TV extenders confirmed what I've been saying for ages, and I'm grateful that none of my neighbours seem to have been inconsiderate enough to get one of these abominations yet.

Andrew Garrard
Gates Horns

3840x2160@30Hz

So they've not actually increased the bandwidth at all? You can do 3840x2160@30Hz within the 340MHz bandwidth limit of HDMI 1.3 (type A connector).

As someone with an elderly 3840x2400, 48Hz monitor, and since Microsoft messed up spanning in Vista, I've been waiting for someone to come up with a connection spec which would drive it at full refresh down a single head. A type B HDMI 1.3 connector would do it (dual link 340MHz->680MHz pixel clock), as would the proposed update to the otherwise pointless DisplayPort. A shame the HDMI consortium hasn't forced type B connector compatibility out there as a way of keeping up. It sounds like they've just made these resolutions (more) standard.

Gates of Hell, because a working spanning mode stops this from being a problem.

Andrew Garrard

Re: 4096 x 2160 . . .

EvilGav wrote:

> ...is enough resolution for 4 pictures at 1920x1080, given that both dimensions have doubled in size.

Resolution, yes. Refresh, no. It's enough for 4x1080p/30 (or "just about okay for films but I wish they'd film in p/60 mode as I prefer to call it), but only for 2x1080p/60 (decent gaming refresh which might benefit from 3D).

Of course, exactly the same is true of dual-link DVI that's been around for years (to a greater or lesser extent), so this aspect of the spec isn't particularly interesting.

BBC devs Doctor Who movie script

Andrew Garrard
Alien

Could be worse...

It can't be any more of a bad idea than the Buffy remake (without Joss Whedon or any of the TV series cast, done by the people who screwed up the first film). I'd not mind so much if they wanted to film Fray and give Summer Glau a job for a bit...

Fox terminates The Sarah Connor Chronicles

Andrew Garrard
Dead Vulture

Plot

@Shingo: You could see this as an ending, or you could see it as an opportunity for quite an interesting (to me) set of new story lines. Presumably the resistance is less effective in John's absence, in which case John will want to go back and correct the time lines (and presumably put Cameron's chip back in place). If the resistance is doing fine, how would John cope with finding out that he's completely irrelevant after being told his whole life that he's the saviour? Maybe human Cameron is completely vapid. Maybe the "robot resistance" has different priorities than John and Sarah. How would Sarah's health pan out? What is John Henry/Cambot combo doing?

Leaving it to the imagination is one thing, but I don't think they wrapped things up nicely - I think they left a teaser of all the interesting directions the show could go. It didn't feel like a deliberate ending to me, however much the creative team are resigned to it. (I'd still like to see a Peacekeeper Wars style rounding off of the story, so long as it's not as bad as the Stargate bonus shows were.)

@Jonny2284: They took a long time building up relatively subtle plot threads. It's true that you'd get most of what was going on if you missed some episodes, although you'd get more out of it if you saw the lot, and got all the refrences. They probably couldn't move too quickly if they were to have any hope of picking up casual viewers. I'm grateful, because I missed one episode around the new year when Virgin had a break in showing it and didn't advertise that it was back on. The development of the characters of John, John Henry and Cameron (and Riley) was gradual - if you're just looking at what got blown up in each episode then not much changed, but that's not where the long term plot arcs were.

Still, it was never going to be for everyone. I'll miss it. Here's to a Family Guy style renewal (and that got much better after it came back!)

Andrew Garrard
Go

Again with the Fox and the good SF shows...

So, they renewed Dollhouse (with a reduced budget; all hail Joss, but it's still allegedly not very good - find out tonight!), Fringe (unless it got much better in the second half season, awful - I gave up shortly after the giant alien suppository episode) and Lie to Me (appears to be like The Mentalist, but a bit more obvious), and killed this. After *that* season finale? (And Smallville's still going?)

If the second season were out on disc yet over here, I'd have bought it by now; it's going on my blu-ray shopping list as soon as Sony drop the price of the PS3.

I know it got bankrolled a bit by Terminator: Salvation. I'll be very pleased if there's a tie-in moment. I'll be even more pleased if another studio picks it up for another season. Come on Sky, we need a replacement for BSG. I doubt Caprica counts.

I can't understand how this didn't get better ratings. I wish, at least, they'd give these shows enough of a heads-up to finish off their story lines when they cancel them. When you tell a story, you have a contract with the viewer that you're going to explain things - as Lost has found out - and it's really rude to leave things up in the air. Would you cancel 24 after 12 hours? They need to find a better way, or people are going to give up on watching series with long plot arcs (i.e. the good ones) out of frustration.

RIP T:tSCC. (And Veronica Mars. And Firefly. And BtVS/Angel.)

[Go, because it shouldn't have been stopped.]

Rumor rubberizes iPhone 3.0

Andrew Garrard
Flame

@Bob: Yet another flame war

FWIW, I'm not an Apple fanboi, but I don't morally object to the idea of the iPhone. There's plenty it can't do, but there's no doubt that at least some of what it does, it does quite slickly. Equally, there's some stuff that the Windows Mobile phones can do that the others can't, but some functionality is relatively clunky. And I'm not just biased because my Windows Mobile phone crashed repeatedly over the weekend while trying to take pictures of bluebells - maybe the colour makes it think of a BSOD.

I don't suppose there's any chance that we can agree that some people might buy an iPhone for a justifiable reason, or that others might have a reason for an alternative, is there?

I'm obviously a Jobs-worshipping fashion victim. You can tell by the grubby jeans, T-shirt and trainers, and the way my current phone is wedged in a foam-lined canvas case so that it doesn't die when I drop it. (Why does every "stylish" case have exposed corners?) TBH I'd rather buy a Linux phone with decent facility for skinning it to a usable GUI, if one existed with moderately current spec, but for as long as people want their branding on phones it's not going to happen.

Andrew Garrard

Rubber Newton

Really? My MP120 had little rubber feet, but the rest was industrial green plastic. I'm not sure I want something that empties out my pocket when I remove it.

Stuff the camera. The only reason I'm looking at HTC at the moment rather than an iPhone, Android phone or a Pre is that I'm a resolution junkie. Put a WVGA screen on any of these and I'll probably prefer them to an M$-based solution. Of course, they won't do it any time soon because (I strongly suspect) all the software will break, but I can dream...

Excess of cola floors Oz ostrich farmer

Andrew Garrard

As any fule know...

Yes, drinking vast amounts of cola knackers your electrolytes - and dehydrates you, which brings its own problems. I've played enough drinking games as a teetotaller to know this - I average about 8 litres a day at drinking-game heavy events; probably two litres on a work day, or on an all-day pub crawl. (I worked out that a pub crawl on full-fat cola quadrupled a Weightwatchers' daily allowance; fortunately I'd switched to the diet stuff by then, so I could claim the walk was healthy.) Like the beer drinkers, eat plenty and drink some water as well and all should be fine. Do it wrong and your muscles cramp up, which hurts - although fortunately I've not had lunch issues.

I'm surprised he'd not had problems before. Maybe he ran out of water.

Vodafone Magics up a little Google glitter

Andrew Garrard

Carrier branding is damned annoying.

Having seen the reviews on here recently, I wanted to have a look at the various HTC phones to see what they were like. I was curious about the keyboard on the Touch Pro, for example (as a clue to whether the Touch Pro 2's keyboard would be any good). I made the mistake of going into an O2 store and spending forever trying to translate between their own branding names and the HTC versions. If one set were numerical and the other "brand named" I wouldn't mind, but there were two completely arbitrary sets of product names - and the HTC one, if anything, made more sense.

This makes comparing the same phone between different carriers deeply annoying. I've no idea why the carriers think that offering any custom feature set is a good idea. Given the choice of an Orange branded arbitrary phone, or being told that if I got a T68i on Orange then line 2 would work (back in the day), I'd have taken the latter as the better way to push the USPs of the network. I used to spend far too much time printing out the official manufacturers' manuals too, since the network branded ones were usually messed up. (P800 and Orange, I'm looking at you.)

So long as they don't try to push another Toshiba phone on me unexpectedly, I suppose I should be grateful. (I went out of my way to buy a G900, and learnt too late. Over the weekend I discovered that the camera - in addition to crashing the phone if used to photograph the sky - also crashes the phone if used to take pictures of bluebells. I suspect it doesn't like blue. It was fine with the interior of my car...)

LG Arena touchphone

Andrew Garrard
Unhappy

Second opinion

I just had a play with one in a friendly T-mobile store.

Firstly, silly me, it's (I'm told) proprietary not a skinned Windows Mobile - so no competition for the HTC phones from the perspective of third party apps.

Secondly, the screen is nice - but there's no stylus. The flippy gui works a bit better than in the emulator, but still goes chug a little. I'm not sure that the cube effect actually adds anything, and they miss out on some touches (why doesn't the menu button do something useful in the menu screen, like switch to the next one, for example?) A shame, because the pinch multi-touch thing is something I'd like.

I don't get on with the on-screen keyboard either (it's *very* Apple, including the pop-up keys and correction suggestions). This might have put me off a Touch Diamond 2 - I can imagine that the larger screen on the Touch HD might help.

Otherwise, it's quite slick, but does seem to trip over here and there in the functionality. The half-press focus on the camera is nice, but it's not very slick at doing things with the result, for example (first impression only, of course).

Now, if someone would produce a decent WVGA Android phone...

Andrew Garrard

You wait ages for a decent WVGA mobile

And two come along at once. The camera sounds better than the Touch Diamond 2 (I'm actually tempted by the high speed mode), but the keyboard might be worse - hard to tell, because the Touch Diamond 2 review didn't talk about it. The screen sounds nice, though.

Is there a sensible stylus?

HTC Touch Diamond 2

Andrew Garrard

Again, keyboard?

The Diamond 2 looks much like a smaller (if slightly fatter) and cheaper Touch HD, with a smaller battery and otherwise pretty identical features - except that HTC intend it to cope with WinMo 6.5 and it's got the permanent zoom bar.

I've got no issue with the smaller dot pitch - my current phone is a G900 and even smaller - but I wonder whether the shrink would make any difference to typing on it with my fat fingers. It might be the deciding factor between getting a Touch HD (no permanent zoom, bigger screen, no WinMo 6.5?), a Touch Diamond 2 (smaller, cheaper) and a Touch Pro 2 (fat, less good camera, hard keyboard). My G900's hard keyboard is so insensitive that I may be able to convert to touch screen only without much loss, but not if I have to use the stylus the whole time.

As for camera lag, a shame it sounds as bad as the G900's (although not worse). I'll be glad if it doesn't crash the phone when pointed at something bright, though.

Acer debuts thin and light notebooks for the masses

Andrew Garrard
Coat

Okay, so a netbook with a bigger screen, but...

If these are positioned as "like a notebook-not-netbook" (cheap and light) but for people who want a bigger screen, the article does a particularly fine job of not mentioning the resolution anywhere. I'll be astonished if the public is clamouring for a 15" laptop with a 1024x600 screen.

As it happens (rummaging on Acer's site), they all appear to be 1366x768 - so enough either to display 720p content with a black border all around it or stretched content so that it's blurry, whilst being a bad fit for anything but video. Got to love the rush to 16:9.

I'm not grabbed. I'll keep saving for a Vaio P, which doesn't look like costing much more.

(I'll get me coat. Into which a Vaio P would fit, but this won't.)

HP Mini 2140 netbook

Andrew Garrard
Thumb Down

Throwing away their USP

I'm another 2133 owner who bought it solely for the screen. Without it, this is just another machine in a sea of similar devices - no matter how pretty an how nice the keyboard. (I've been happy on a Libretto for years - the 2133's is wasted on me.) In fact, it's *less* than most of them, since it's got even fewer pixels. Who listened to all the "1024x600 doesn't give you enough room" complaints and decided that cutting off pixels was the solution? What's the point of 16:9 if you don't have the resolution for HD anyway?

Having had to reinstall Linux on my 2133 anyway (loose hard disk when shipped to me, trashed the boot sector before I re-seated it), throwing out the Microsoft OS doesn't bother me too much, other than moral objections to Microsoft tax. Given that HP never supported the Linux version anyway (my 2133 came with a note saying that if I had the Linux version, don't bother calling tech support) I'm surprised they can't be bothered to offer it.

Glad to see they've kept the multicoloured nipple illuminators, though. There's nothing like a bright LED shining straight in your eyes to make the screen easier to read in the dark. (The trick is never to take your hands off the keyboard, even if you dare to stop for a drink...)

Brussels: Old-school lightbulbs to be gone by 2012

Andrew Garrard
Alien

Everything in it's place

I have a house full of compact fluorescents (although the sooner they get *more* compact so that they fit behind uplighters properly, the better). The exceptions are a couple of artsy ceiling lights which take miniature bulbs for which - for some reason - LED replacements aren't yet available (I rarely turn them on anyway), and the halogen spotlights in the kitchen and bathroom (tried a compact fluorescent, but they're neither bright enough nor directional enough; awaiting cheaper and better LEDs). Oh, and a filament security light which is only on for a few seconds - I'd switch it to LEDs if full-size LED bulbs weren't stupidly expensive.

I have, fortunately, no dimmers - although last I heard dimmer-based CFLs were becoming available.

Still, banning incandescents is a dumb idea. By all means *tax* the incandescent bulbs to subsidise a switch to something with a lower power consumption, but when I'm trying to colour match a print-out and don't want random metamerism getting in the way neither a fluorescent nor an LED will do: full daylight spectrum or nothing.

As for astronomy (stuff the astrologers - they can make it up anyway) it'd be better if councils would stop using high pressure sodium street lights unnecessarily. Low pressure sodium (the very orange ones) are easy for astronomers to filter out and are more efficient anyway. In a few places I'll buy that having less monochromatic light would help people avoid driving off the road, but most of them are just wasteful.

(Alien, because I'd like to be able to see mars from my back garden.)

Psion countersues Intel in not-netbook spat

Andrew Garrard

I sympathise, but...

Okay, the moment people started calling these things "Netbooks" I thought "huh, that's what Psion called their 7-series form factor devices". (I've never owened a Psion, but I'm geek enough to have been above-averagely aware of them.) They weren't exactly as common as the 5-series anyway.

However, never for a moment did I think that the current Eee-alike devices had anything to do with Psion. I may not have liked the usurping of a product name for a confusing unrelated shorthand for journalists who won't type "budget subnotebook" or something similar (I prefer that the industry tries to come up with unique names for things), but that didn't mean I confused the devices.

I maintain there might be a bit of confusion on eBay in a few years, but that's it. "Hang on, we're using that trade mark" I sympathise with; "you're losing us sales" is another matter.

World's 'smallest, lightest' laptop launches

Andrew Garrard
Flame

@Paul Smith

Hi Paul.

I have a Toshiba Portege G900, which has an 800x480, 3" screen (~310ppi). The (widely-applauded) Touch HD has the same pixel count in 3.8" (~246ppi). One primary reason I don't want an iPhone is that I don't want something with such a low screen resolution; hence my mention of WVGA. (I'd *like* a WVGA phone that doesn't run Windows Mobile, but that's not an option at the moment.) I have a 204ppi desktop monitor which I'm happy to use for a full desktop.

The only reason I don't put my G900 on a table and type is that it falls over (nice one, Tosh). I'll put it on a table for web surfing, though. 20" is about my comfort range (dodgy eye surgery means I'm a little fuzzy beyond that anyway). My experience with a Libretto is that having a latop on your chest while lying down, or immediately in front of you on a sofa, works fine.

I wasn't intending to strap it to anything. A notebook that fits in the hand can be held close to the screen. Want to type two-handed? Rest it on something handy (e.g. a window ledge), and lean in. I don't see the issue.

But you're right that this kind of thing has been thrashed to death before - I was just hoping that the silence was one of understanding. :-)

Andrew Garrard
Thumb Up

Approval

Hmm. Well, I'd rather have a Lifebook U50 (or Vaio P) for the resolution (1024x600 is a bit low), but I have to say that the price for this one is more appealing. This is significantly smaller than a Libretto - and my 70CT is dwarfed by my mini-note. I'm not sure I like what they've done with the Q and Tab keys, though (or space bar, if you have a Google for a better picture)..

As for "why", because it's a proper PC that genuinely (just) fits in a pocket, or is light enough to leave in a bag the whole time just in case you want it. Subnotebooks are PCs to have with you when you didn't know you were going to need one - if it's small enough and light enough (and cheap enough), there's no reason not to carry one with you. It also appears to have a half-decent keyboard (in as much as I learned to type fast on my Libretto but can't on a phone keyboard). It's not quite a mythical Psion FX (I want an Epson 7.2" 1920x1080 display - the *only* circumstances under which I want a 16:9 display), but it's a good effort. They've also done exactly what I'd do: give it a decent battery and let the USB port handle all the expansion.

I'm impressed that no-one's had a go at the dot pitch yet. It does, of course, have larger pixels than all the 800x480 mobile phones on the market - but normally someone's complained by now. :-)

@Didier - Huh? People know how to type on offset QWERTY keyboards. I have a non-offset Kinesis Advantage, and can only use it in Dvorak mode because it feels weird in QWERTY. Regular grids are okay for thumbing, but if this thing has pretensions of being a "proper" keyboard, they did the right thing.

If only I had any money these days...

Philips prices up 21:9 ratio 'cinema' TV

Andrew Garrard

TV manufacturers stuck in the analogue past

Firstly, I *hope* they're 1920x1080 (or 2520x1080, or - more usefully - 2560x1080). Unlike LG's ultra-widescreen displays (which were even wider):

http://www.theinquirer.net/inquirer/news/304/1017304/lg-stretches-resources-max

If they've gone with non-square pixels or a sub-HD 1920x823(ish), there goes the quality again. Of course, they have to call it 21:9 because 16:7-ish sounds like it's inferior.

As Bod says, any kind of scaling screws up the image anyway - hence my hatred of 1366x768 panels and TVs that won't let you turn off the overscan; I can't understand why an entire industry is so happy to throw away image quality. The ironic thing is the fad for anamorphic lens attachments for projectors - first scale the 2.35:1 vertically (digitally) up to 16:9, then stuff an anamorphic lens on the front to make it wider; a spectacularly about-face way of getting an expensive blurry image...

Re. 16:9 monitors, I agree they're stupid. For fitting most documents on screen they're too non-square - fill vertically and you have big borders horizontally (not, as suggested, a stretched image). A 1920x1080 monitor is *not* better than a 1920x1200 one, and it's debatable when you come to a 2048x1152 monitor (which at least has more pixels than WUXGA). On a CRT the aspect ratio of the monitor is arbitrary, but nobody thought about the numbers which come out for doing computery stuff with such an odd-ball aspect ratio. 16:10, which is at least half the standard SXGA aspect ratio, is much better.

God forbid that anyone would think that sticking to some kind of standard might be important. I'm waiting for people to start producing adverts with black borders top and bottom on 16:9, in case they're viewed on one of these.

Blogger fights Psion's claim to 'netbook' name

Andrew Garrard

Psion FX irony

Actually, I'd forgotten this. Anandtech did a feature on a "Psion FX" concept - a Psion 5 form-factor machine with updated technology, one variant of which would be a very small conventional subnotebook. I remember thinking of it when the EeePC was first launched - although the Vaio P is nearer to it. I always thought the 5 and 5MX were more appealing than the 7/Netbook, although a decent and cheap "always on" internet device to leave by the sofa would still be handy. (Existing laptops and n770-alikes don't quite cut it.)

As for phones, I'm tempted by a TouchHD but would probably wait for the keyboarded Touch Pro 2 to turn up (or for someone to make an Android phone with a WVGA screen). I like my Tosh G900 (and it's why I wasn't prepared to get a 1024x600 "netbook", hence my mini-note), but it's painfully slow - especially compared with a Psion!

Andrew Garrard
Flame

Torn

Much though I wish the Psion crowd well, I have to admit that any kind of ban is a bit overkill; heavy-handedness doesn't make anyone friends.

That said, I have two problems with the name "netbook".

1) Yes, it referred to a Psion product. Seriously, how hard could it have been to find a name that didn't already belong to something? It's only marketing fluff anyway - "budget subnotebook" would have covered it. IT has far too much of names being reused, and it's hopelessly confusing at the best of times; this particular case is reasonably clear at the moment, but in five years' time there are going to be confused people on eBay.

2) People can't even decide what "netbook" means anyway. Sony's new subnotebook gets bashed for being an "expensive netbook". Fujitsu expand a long line of subnotebooks and get accused of producing a netbook. Someone brings out a cheap laptop with a 13" screen and it gets called a "big netbook". If we're going to use the term, at least use it right.

Of course, it's not particularly meaningful anyway. A device dedicated to web surfing would be something more like the Nokia n770 and successors. An EeePC is certainly no better (and mostly worse) at web surfing than the average laptop, cheap and small or otherwise. My "netbook" gets used for programming and photo editing, rarely for web surfing. What netbooks have done is replace the eBay market for old/slow subnotebooks - that's a good thing, but it doesn't need a marketing-fluff name.

Wakefield does a Brum with possessive apostrophes

Andrew Garrard
Flame

Same rant as last time

But now with an extra complaint about text speak. Am I the only one whose phones have had T9, which actually knows how to spell? It takes longer (although admittedly fewer characters) to type an abbreviated word under T9 than the full version. Acronyms for expressions are another matter, but "ROTFLMAAOBPO" predates text messaging - although I can't speak for "LOL"; nobody things "CUL8R" is correct. If you want to blame anyone for bad spelling, blame marketeers ten years ago who thought that a plethora of "X", "K" and "Z" in names looked kewl^H^H^H^Hcool. (WAREZ, D00DZ!)

Skipping apostrophes is confusing - it hides meaning from place names that are otherwise ambiguous. Software should only need names to be distinct, not meaningful, so stripping punctuation at comparison time should be harmless; that's not the same as mangling the official names of places.

That said, I work in "Meadlake Place", which is opposite "Medlake Road", so maybe I should pick my battles.

Birmingham drops the possessive apostrophe

Andrew Garrard
Dead Vulture

You say that...

> Mullaney rested his case with: “It would be tragic if the ambulance couldn’t find your street if you forgot to use the possessive apostrophe.”

Could I suggest that this point is debatable? It would be the best scheme I've yet heard for encouraging good grammar.

Besides, if this took off everywhere it would be harder to spot tourists - for example those who, in Cambridge, don't know the distinction between Queen's Road and Queens' College. Think of all the students who would be run over.

Speaking as someone who followed a florist's van this morning with the slogan "Wer'e bloomin' good" on the back of it, I despair for humanity. Thank goodness for programming languages, which usually insist on correct punctuation.

(Not a member of the APS, but I have been known to correct the label on the front of the Cleaners' Sign-In Book.)

REG^H^H^HThe English language.

Hands on with Sony's Vaio P netbook

Andrew Garrard

At last, a useful subnotebook

As people keep saying, this isn't a netbook (Psion or no). It's a subnotebook. This has been the asking price for subnotebooks for a long time, and that fact that there's a recent and welcome fad for producing cheaper subnotebooks with low-end components and calling them netbooks doesn't mean that this one is suddenly over-priced, even if it's surprising to those attracted to the netbook market.

It's got a unique selling point. Apart from being smaller than most netbooks, it's actually got a usefully-sized screen. Yes, it's the wrong aspect ratio for playing most video content (unless you get a 2.35:1 cinema release) - although at least 1280x720 fits on the display, unlike most netbooks - but some of us want to use their laptops for doing work, not playing videos. Multiple adjacent web pages and multiple emacs windows visible would make this very appealing to me (for the same reasons as I have a 2133 Mini-Note, only more so). If, admittedly, I could afford it. I'd make it dual-boot into Linux as soon as I could, though.

That said, I've heard conflicting reports about how fast the processor is, including from some sites that have benchmarked it. Definitely 1.6GHz? (For Linux I don't much mind, but it's nice to know.)

Asus Eee keyboard opens CES

Andrew Garrard
Thumb Down

Chuffing daft idea

It's like having a small machine behind your screen and a wireless keyboard. Except:

1) It'll cook your legs and/or sound like a hair drier.

2) It'll suck all the wireless bandwidth in the area (I'll keep mine for networking, ta).

3) Its battery will go flat much faster.

4) It'll weigh much more.

5) It increases the likelihood of someone snooping your screen.

6) You don't get to choose your preferred style of keyboard.

7) It's size-limited when it comes to adding hardware.

If people really care so much about having a cable running from a computer to

their screen that they want to use wireless video, best of luck to them. I'd rather

stream everything that's *not* the high bandwidth uncompressed video signal.

Seconded about the projector, though.

DisplayPort revision to get mini connector, stereo 3D

Andrew Garrard
Flame

At last...

Okay, when this rolls out (and people use it) I'll finally stop complaining that DisplayPort is pointless. I'm assuming that they'll keep the connector compatible, rather than shooting themselves in the foot like the HDMI consortium did with the type B connector that nobody uses. (Yes, a double bandwidth DisplayPort connector is only slightly more capable than a type B connector with HDMI 1.3 340MHz transmitters, but since there's noone using them I can't really say it's a better "standard".)

Fingers crossed this hits the shelves soon and we stop pushing the old technology as the next big thing. (If only HDMI 1.3 had taken off a bit faster.)

Flames in honour of the IO that can run at 7.2GHz. A dongle would actually make a T221 useful under Vista!

HTC prepping Palm Pré, Apple iPhone rival

Andrew Garrard

On the plus side...

A Touch HD with a keyboard (if it's not too thick) and Android? I'm there. My G900's due an upgrade, preferably to something which I can't out-touch-type.

Sony intros 8in notebook-not-netbook

Andrew Garrard
Flame

To pre-empt the ranting...

...yes, it's a very high resolution screen (although not as high as, say, the Touch HD) with an odd aspect ratio. No, it's not the obvious choice for playing videos, and if you try to read it from three feet away with default font sizes, you may struggle. This does not make it pointless, it makes it exactly what I was looking for when I was struggling to program on a mini-note 2133 recently (I couldn't fit a useful amount of code on the screen).

I'm plenty not-fond of Sony as a company for many things, but kudos to them for producing something that a small proportion of the market would find damned useful. I'll be saving up.

M&S to sell Elonex netbooks

Andrew Garrard

Not a netbook

I'm sure it's a lovely bit of kit (and I've been mildly tempted ever since seeing Maplin selling them), but it's not x86-based, which means there just isn't the software availability for it that there is for "real" netbooks. ARM have the same problem with their attempts to get on the bandwagon - not that there haven't been non-x86 large-pda-with-keyboard devices for a long time, including the original Psion netbook. Essentially, a MIPS-based "netbook" is only slightly more compatible with x86 Linux software than a Windows Mobile-based phone is compatible with a Windows Vista laptop.

I wish journalists would make a point of distinguishing similar-looking bits of technology that are different in important ways. The Elonex and various ARM devices are cool kit with price and battery life on their side, but the public ought to know what they're getting; I suspect M&S are setting themselves up for a lot of tech support calls. Otherwise I have three touchscreen mobile phones and an n770 all of which I'm going to start describing as netbooks (and I'll go back to calling my mini-note a subnotebook, like my librettos).

Sony Ericsson Xperia X1 Windows Mobile smartphone

Andrew Garrard

vs Toshiba Portege G900?

I'd be interested in how this compares with a G900 (same screen resolution, Windows Mobile 6.0). I jumped from my P910i to the G900 because Symbian weren't offering a decent screen resolution, only to find the G900 to be painfully slow and unstable. (Don't try, for example, taking a photo of anything with too much contrast, or the phone crashes.) Opera is incredibly slow, but I have to admit that the resolution for web browsing and reading PDFs is amazing.

The extra features are obviously a step ahead of the G900 (more memory, GPS, better camera), but decent responsiveness and reliable keyboard input are more important to me.

I'm tempted by the iPhone, but I'd be more tempted if Apple made an 800x480 version. Since my G900, which listed about the same as the X1, actually cost about the same as an iPhone when bundled, I'd expect the X1 to be priced competitively.

Dawkins' atheist ad campaign hits fundraising target

Andrew Garrard
Gates Horns

Well, now I'm torn...

I'd commend this kind of thing, but the involvement of Dawkins (whose belligerent criticism of anyone who might dare to believe is probably strengthening the beliefs of a generation) means I'm not going to donate. Having a discussion with someone about how the basis of their belief might be faulty and rationally persuading them to reconsider is one thing. Telling them their belief system is evil and that they've been brainwashed seems highly unlikely to work, not least because people stop listening around the time they realise you're not prepared to start with a rational debate.

I believe those who believe in (a) god are wrong; I don't believe that all that's done in the name of religion is "evil", nor that a fallacious belief in something is necessarily harmful. (Think of the "lies to children" approach of vastly oversimplifying subjects in school.)

Initially, I liked "There's *probably* no God", on the basis that at least it was slightly less aggressive than the recent pro-atheist publicity, but in retrospect it's probably true that it makes the authors sound unsure of themselves. I'd prefer a phrasing that - while acknowledging that there's no proof that there isn't a deity - better presented the viewpoint that there's no reason to believe in one.

Dawkins is probably doing better than most (by being obnoxious) at persuading religious types that all atheists are inherently evil. I was recently in a very christian community in Australia, where they suddenly got very wary of me when I indicated that I was an atheist. Ralph B's comment is a good one: atheists can have a highly-defined moral code for very good logical reasons other than that their god told them to do something. That many with religion have been convinced that, without faith, mankind cannot behave in a civilised manner is a great bolster to their belief - and says much about their innate maturity. This suggests that gently leading people to a rational viewpoint would be a better idea than demolishing their belief system without providing a substitute.

Anyway, standing up for the atheists is a good thing, and providing some balance against religious propaganda is definitely something of which I'm in favour, but I hope they work on the slogan. (Above all, don't let Dawkins re-write it, or we'll get "repent, sinners!")

ASA slaps down Vodafone 'unlimited' data claims

Andrew Garrard
Paris Hilton

Me too

I, too, recently got told that my "unlimited" 250MB/month plan with Vodafone was "now unlimited" (at 500MB/month). Fascinating, but as soon as my contract expires (had to go with Voda to get a phone subsidy) I'm still jumping to T-Mobile, whose "unlimited" is 1GB for the same cost.

At least I know to read the small print. What annoys me is that the shop staff don't. I jumped between various phone stores before choosing the contract on which to order my current phone, and in several places I got very blank looks when I asked what the limit on "unlimited use" was. I'm in the club that would be quite happy to pick a contract based on a predicted data use, but having to dig so hard to find it out is annoying; the term "unlimited" is offensive. The concept that I couldn't possibly hit 250MB in a month ("because you're not using the 'real' internet, sir" - hmm, let me show you my browser options and the reason for my choice of phone) is particularly silly; I don't, but only because I try not to.

Paris, because it's traditional.

Has your shifty foreign neighbour got 16 mobes?

Andrew Garrard
Pirate

Well, I'm in trouble...

I've still got all the mobiles that my partner and I have ever had. I took five of them with me to Cambridge last weekend: one for making calls, four as convenient portable java-capable devices for running a custom timer midlet that I wrote for a tiddlywinks tournament. Thank Allah I'm caucasian, because I wouldn't like to explain that to the police. (I also had three cameras on me, so I *must* be a terrorist. *And* one of the phones had a PAYG SIM in it, for lending to people.)

My other half's just flown to the US with one of my phones as a back-up to hers, so that she can make technical support calls with her normal SIM if her international SIM plays up while she's trying to register it (you have to be in the US first, apparently). Maybe I should warn her?

Beeb censors Fairytale of New York

Andrew Garrard

Censoring by word, not meaning

As has been said, of all the lines to censor...

Mind you, it's not just the BBC. Virgin are currently playing "Rock star" with the lines "Hire eight bodyguards who like to beat up assholes" and "I'm gonna dress my ass in the latest fashions" beeped, but no issue with "Everybody's got a drug dealer on speed dial" or "Gonna pop my pills from a Pez dispenser".

They might, quite rightly, assume that the people who are going to object to this kind of song are those who aren't listening to the lyrics properly - and are almost definitely objecting on the basis that they imagine someone *else* will be offended.

I've given up on predicting sensibilities after someone called in a radio show to complain that the Cadbury's advert with a gorilla playing the drums was on just after a black guy won Big Brother. (I've never watched Big Brother, and I'd always assumed that , if anything, the gorilla ad was a dig at Phil Collins being bald, but in a million years I'd not have thought it was racist.)

Any port in a storm: the display tech battle

Andrew Garrard

I'd love to agree with you, but...

De Zeurkous - I approve in principle of a SCSI/1394-based protocol, but the re-tooling to produce this from the existing displays is significant. Likewise, I approve of a subset of displays running with display commands (in the manner of X terminals), but it gets difficult to do this when the whole display is being updated - short of lossy video compression, the amount of work required to produce an arbitrary image on the screen (e.g. during the playing of a game) easily exceeds the memory requirements of sending the image in its raw format. For a point-to-point protocol, there's little benefit in reducing the bandwidth some of the time at the cost of complicating the protocol; nothing will be using the spare bandwidth. Obviously the situation is different if the display is streamed over a shared network.

Something supporting higher total resolutions/colour depth and multiple displays, better connection distances, better connectors and a more flexible protocol *would* be a good thing, but the trick is to achieve some of these without making any of the others worse than we've got already - and *enough* better (or future-proof) that the consumer both has a benefit to upgrading and evidence that they won't need to do so again immediately after. If this isn't the case, the benefits of a new connector don't outweigh the costs of switching. I don't say that we should stay with HDMI (or DVI) forever, just that we should wait until the replacement is worthwhile - and I don't think that's true of DisplayPort. I'll reserve judgement on a 1394-video connector (not the existing compressed scheme) until someone comes up with a detailed proposal, but - much though I like the idea of a more elegant standard - I won't advocate it unless there's actually an end-user benefit. Matching the capabilities of DVI with a "cleaner" protocol isn't enough.

A J - I sympathise (especially about the patent rant), but I really think a digital connection is a good idea. There are real problems with running a CRT through a switch or longish cable at much over UXGA resolution, and VGA inputs on LCDs have to do a lot of work to convert the signal back to digital (before, admittedly, making it analogue again). SCART isn't universal (at least in the US), and I have to admit that - nice though it is on a TV - it's a bit bulky for the back of a PC (I've no idea what its signal quality tolerances are). I think it's too early to throw away analogue completely, and certainly too early to throw away a signal that can be converted to analogue easily (as DVI-D and HDMI can), but keeping digital from the frame buffer to the display does seem more practical. There are reasons for going with YCrCb (better use of the bandwidth), even if it requires some conversion at both ends, but for computer displays I suspect we're mostly talking RGB for *any* standard these days.

A fibre-optic standard would be nicer, and I'd hoped that DisplayPort might go down this route (or UDI, for that matter), but having copper *and* fibre is the worst of both worlds. We're back to fibre being useful only for the minority with the need for longer cable runs, just like dual-link DVI is useful only for the minority with high resolution/colour displays, and not making it the default will result in incompatibility, confusion, and unnecessarily high prices. Again.

It appears that the display industry is too busy trying to work its way through the standards messes that it makes for itself to learn not to do it again. I'd like to think that the consumers could put their foot down at some point, but I suspect they'll be too confused by now to have a chance - all that's happening is that everyone's holding off buying *anything*.

Cheery, innit?

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Fluppeteer

Andrew Garrard

Why we should care

I'm not suggesting that we can't gain from a digital standard - there's a clear advantage to using a digital connection over an analogue one, I'm just pointing out that single-link DVI (or even dual link) wasn't universally better than the VGA technology available at the time, and that this harmed its market penetration. I'm not against progress, just against the introduction of standards that take backwards steps because the high end of the old standard was considered irrelevant - future-proofing has a way of redefining the "high end". As an example, UDI appears to max out at 36 bits per pixel (although I'm not sure I'm reading an authoritative source); dual-link DVI can handle 48bpp, 8 bits per channel per link. The Canon 1DMk3 has a 14-bit image sensor; if this technology gets into video cameras, UDI requires downsampling where DVI wouldn't.

The DVI digital signal is a direct equivalent of the analogue one (regardless of whether an analogue monitor would cope with the signal, in the case of reduce blanking). This both makes it easy to combine analogue and digital output (the graphics card can throw the same pixel data at a common output component and have the data transmitted in both forms, rather than needing to scan the frame buffer twice) and makes it relatively easy to convert between video connectors. While I'm a fan of the SCSI protocol (and various networking protocols that have proper error correction), even once sufficient bandwidth has been routed to the display (3.2Gbit/s is quite a way under single-link DVI) there's still a need for a frame buffer to reconstruct the image; not a big problem in a monitor (remember to triple-buffer everything) but expensive in a display format adaptor. As I've said of DisplayPort, would it be a nicer spec? Yes, from my point of view. Would it gain us enough to be worth replacing the existing video stream approach? Personally, I doubt it.

It's true that neither UDI nor DisplayPort have any current market penetration; the concern is that, once they do, one of six things happens:

1) The new monitor you want is DisplayPort only, and you have to upgrade your graphics card/the new graphics card you want is DisplayPort only, and you have to upgrade your monitor, otherwise they won't talk to each other.

2) Devices gain yet another port on the back, which adds to the cost and space but essentially gains us nothing.

3) People use an unnecessarily expensive DVI/HDMI/DisplayPort adaptor.

4) The ports are multi-mode, which limits them to single-link support (AFAICT).

5) Graphics cards start being able to run all the standards down a set of pins, and we end up with an octopus dangling off the back of the computer (see some VIVO solutions).

6) Other connectors start to go missing. As someone with lots of CRTs, this lacks appeal.

It does not appear to be the case that DisplayPort gains us anything (except being marginally easier to plug in without seeing the socket, allegedly); in return, it possibly forces an upgrade cycle and definitely causes unnecessary incompatibility and confusion. And this is if all devices talk to each other perfectly (because that worked so well with HDMI and DVI). It seems unlikely that a new connector will make anything cheap, because there'll be years of backwards compatibility requiring *both* connectors.

Other than a few companies, I don't see who DisplayPort helps. Having re-read a presentation on the subject, the bandwidth appears to be slightly greater than HDMI 1.3 single-link, slightly *more* greater than dual-link DVI (assuming dual-link DVI is 330MPix/s, which is not actually a limit but the expected minimum because, for dual-link, one link should be capable of at least 165MPix/s), but substantially less than HDMI 1.3 down a type B connector. It is not, for example, enough to drive a WQUXGA T221 at full refresh on its own (whereas a dual-link + single-link DVI connector *is*), and the "next smallest" common display size (the WQXGA 30" panels and QSXGA medical panels) are well-catered for by existing DVI. Even if increasing bandwidth is not a significant aim for DisplayPort, it seems that a greater step should be taken in this direction.

All this assumes that four DisplayPort lanes are available. Although cables have to support this (kudos for avoiding the "it's a dual-link DVI cable" "so why are there pins missing?" debacle) there's no requirement that devices themselves do. I'll be interested to see how long after devices get the "DisplayPort" tick box it takes for the number of lanes to be labelled, because I bet - just as dual-link DVI took a while to appear - the first batch of products will be castrated to the common range of monitors. One lane can do 1080i; two lanes can do 1080p, and I'll be pleasantly surprised if four lanes are considered necessary just for the happy minority with decent resolution displays; that said, I'm a cynic (can you tell?)

On the plus side, (new) larger monitors are, I believe, obliged to have HDCP support in the US now. I suspect that higher resolution displays will be limited to HDCP over DVI for a while (when nVidia don't break dual-link support), but the HDMI type B connector might turn up eventually, you never know. (For so long as most protected content fits in a single link, if you don't mind your 30" screen running at 1280x800 and you didn't want to view in a window then single link support might not get replaced.)

I can't see how adding another standard to the mess improves matters. If the industry would concentrate on making an existing standard dominant, and maybe improving it in a backwards-compatible way, I'd have more sympathy.

Turns out I had more ranting left in me. :-)

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Fluppeteer

Andrew Garrard

Re: USB connectors

I've already had a long rant, but wanted to chime in on the USB debate, specifically about the "way up" of the cables.

Yes, they're (usually) stamped, and you can work it out by peering in the end of the cable anyway. This helps not a jot when you're reaching under the cosmetic flap on the front of your computer (thanks, Dell) and have to remember that, even if you *could* feel which way up it is from the outside of the connector (thanks, USB consortium) it has to go in upside-down (thanks, Dell) and at a 45 degree angle (thanks, Dell) in a socket that feels a lot like the air gaps next to it (thanks, Dell).

It's possible to design connectors so that you can feel which way up they are. The same applies to sockets. It's amazing how many connectors are designed by people looking closely at them in a CAD drawing, irrespective of how they have to be used by someone fumbling blindly down the back of a desk/television. (Even with SCART, I can feel which way up the cable is, but can never work out the socket even if I run my thumb nail around the rim.) About the only connectors that I can give credit for this are the power sockets (kettle lead and UK 3-pin mains). It used to be possible to connect PS2 and (especially) AT keyboards blindly by rotating the plug until the socket accepted it, but that doesn't work for USB, which I usually end up plugging into a spare ethernet port.

Not that any of the proposed display standards are particularly better than others for this. (I can tell which way up an SVGA socket is by running my finger around it, but often get it wrong; I can tell a DVI plug by the analogue pins, but can't feel the slots in the socket easily. 9-pin VGA, like 9-pin serial, is easier to identify, which is another backward step.)

It's almost an argument for wireless connectivity, if I didn't have such strong feelings about reducing the available bandwidth of everyone within 100 yards.

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Fluppeteer

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