* Posts by juice

225 posts • joined 16 Nov 2010


'Facebook takes data from my phone – but I don't have an account!'


Re: however there are very few options

Sadly, I'm not convinced that wasting the time of some poor sod on minimum wage at a british high-street shop is going to achieve anything - it's not like they're going to immediately ring up the handset manufacturer or Facebook to report that someone's been behaving like a douchebag!

Back to the subject at hand, and I was mildly disappointed to see that my V30 (bought unlocked from CW on the aforementioned high street) came with Facebook pre-installed and un-uninstallable. As a business-orientated phone, I was rather hoping the built-in cruft would be kept to a minimum...


Xiaomi the way: Hyped Chinese giant begins its battle for Britain


Re: Won't work in the UK...

To a degree that's true - but I'd expect that to be true in any country. Certainly, in an office with a fair percent of tekkies, there's one or two with showcase mobiles (e.g. iPhone X), but there's a fair mix of older models and "second-tier" brands - LG, etc. One person is even actively waiting for the OnePlus 6 launch tomorrow.

Personally, I think the biggest issue is that they're coming into a mature market where there's very little (from a consumer perspective) functional differences between manufacturers or models: barring brand-name bragging rights, pretty much the only two differentiators are "iOS or Android" and whatever camera-enhancement gimmick has been bolted on.

Then too, the second-hand market is flooded with older handsets which are more than fit for purpose - e.g. you can pick up a 2-year old Samsung S7 for around £200 if you shop around, and it's still a competitive all-rounder.

So good luck to Huawei - I think they're going to need it!


Huawei Honor 10: At £399, plenty of bang for buck – it's a pity about the snaps


Re: Fail ?

Things are pretty impressive these days when it comes to mobile phone cameras - I've seen friends making professional-looking music videos on an iPhone, and I had a fairly friendly discussion with someone on here a few weeks ago, about the fact that mobile phone camera-quality is generally Good Enough to occasionally obviate the need for a DSLR camera.

Mind you, there's still plenty which can be done to improve things. The lens is small, the sensor is small, and for all the software tricks that people are throwing at the problem, there's limits to how much more you can enhance the output and compensate for low-light conditions - when it comes to the latter, I don't count things like the P20's "stand still for X seconds" approach to be a valid solution at all!

You can see this in the way that most of the manufacturers are throwing a second lens onto the back, either to provide optical zoom (Apple), wide-angle views (LG), and the variable-aperture mechanism on the Samsung S9.

Or in the extreme case, the 16(!) lenses on the back of the Light L16 (https://www.theverge.com/circuitbreaker/2018/4/10/17218758/light-l16-review-camera-photos)

Still, barring some breakthrough in physics, I'm guessing we're likely to only see incremental physical camera improvements in the next few - it's why Huawei, LG and others are starting to big up their post-processing "AI" software!


Re: Phone or camera?

"Is it a phone or is it a camera or some mixed up intermediate object"

It's a PDA which has a camera, a phone and various other things bolted onto it. And it's been like that for the best part of a decade.

Be interesting to see if anyone's done any analysis on what people actually use their mobile phones for. Given the way that screen-sizes keep creeping up, it's pretty clear that "visual" activities (e.g. social media and photographs) generally take precedence over "audio-only" activities.

Mind you, as regards call quality: there was this part of the article...

"The sound is surprisingly strong, with notifications and ringtones clear and loud


Call quality and radio reception, it is customary to report on a Huawei-made device, are first rate. Both SIM slots support LTE, and the Honor offers to keep your internet data going on one SIM while you talk on the other."

Admittedly, some more detail would be nice, but TBH, does any reviewer cover call quality in any depth these days? Wouldn't be that hard to throw together an app to poll for signal strength/location every X seconds, and then go for a wander through some terrain with various signal-blocking traits.


Fixing a printer ended with a dozen fire engines in the car park


Re: Don't wear high vis

Up to a few years ago, Alton Towers had an annual winter "pirate" weekend at their water park/hotel complex; it basically worked out at 20 quid per person for an day in the water park and an overnight stay.

Since this coincided with a friend's birthday, a bunch of us headed to this.

Meanwhile, in the main bar (which has a pirate ship in the middle - we ended up doing a conga line around it), some of the staff/entertainers were also dressed as pirates.

And while a few of us made the effort to go the full cosplay hog, I just opted for a smiffys hat and a t-shirt with a "pirate shirt" print on it.

And I *still* got asked for directions etc from other attendees...


There will be blood: BT to axe 13,000 employees


Do the numbers actually add up?

I have to wonder how useful their headcount-reduction numbers are, especially if they're looking to recruit more front-line staff at the same time. Potentially, if they carry through with their plan to hire 9,500 front-liners, their headcount is only going to drop by around 3,500 in the next 3 years.

Though this is likely to be scant consolation for the people being shown the door - and I'm guessing the newcomers will have lower wages and fewer financial benefits, to boot!

Anyway, since I had some time waiting on a server rebuild, I did some poking around. An article on the BBC (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/8049276.stm) from 2009 states that their headcount was 162,000 in 2008; they'd lopped 15k from this in 2009 and were looking to drop another 15k in 2010.

However, according to BT's own annual reports[*], the employee headcount in 2009 was 110.6k and they actually /grew/ between 2007 and 2008.

In fact, it looks like BT's headcounts can be roughly divided into 5-year epochs:

1994: 156k employees

1995 - 2001: ~ 130k employees

2002 - 2007: ~ 105k employees

2008 - 2010: ~ 110k employees

2011 - 2016: ~ 90k employees

2017: 106k employees

I.e. they've had a couple of big bloodbaths in 1995, 2001 and 2011; the rest of the time, things are relatively stable - there's even the occasional uptick, presumably from acquisitions. E.g. in 2006, they picked up Plusnet, and in 2016, they picked up 12.8k employees from EE.

Though that said, the 2017 annual report indicates that the EE headcount had already dropped to 9.2k, so I'd guess ex-EE staff make for a relatively easy target for any beancounter looking to trim things down.

Equally, their 2017 annual report states that of their 106k employees, only 82,000 are in the UK. Given that the statement implies they're targeting UK staff, it'll be interesting[**] to see how well their processes handle a headcount reduction of ~15%, especially when they've been actively trimming headcount for the last 25 years; by now, they've long since stripped any fat and must be starting to catch the bone in places.

[*] Annoyingly unstandardised, but a bit of digging eventually cleared things up somewhat

[**] In the sense that a slow-motion car-crash is interesting, as long as you're not one of the people involved!


Huawei P20: Snappish snaps, but for £200 less than Pro, it’s Notch bad


But as reader "juice" points out

Ooooo - I've been quoted! My 15 microseconds of fame have come at last!

I feel all faint and funny. Perhaps I should go for a lie down. Or, seeing as it's Friday, a medicinal beverage may be in order.

Beyond that, the photos all look decent enough - it's amazing how far we've come since the days of the webcam-quality cameras which were bolted onto the early handsets!


Doom and Super Mario could be a lot tougher now AI is building levels


Garbage in, garbage out

I have to ask: how does the "discriminator" decide what counts as a good level? It's not exactly a "true/false" question, and the most important factor - "fun" - is the hardest to quantify.

Most likely, you'll just end up with levels which score highly by the computer but is completely unfun to play...


More Brits have access to 1Gbps speeds than those failing to muster 10Mbps – Ofcom report



You can get fibre speeds in some parts of Sheffield - I got mine switched on around 3 years ago! And from where I'm sitting, I can see the train station...

Admittedly, Sheffield is something of a special case when it comes to fibre, thanks to the ill fated Digital Region initiative; the aftermath of that failure delayed the rollout for years.

And while BT has recently been making more of a push, they've allegedly hit issues with a failed sub-contractor (https://www.ispreview.co.uk/index.php/2017/10/south-yorkshire-broadband-rollout-hit-main-bt-subcontractor-collapse.html).

Either way, fibre is starting to appear in the city!


Can't log into your TSB account? Well, it's your own fault for trying


> Surprisingly, perhaps, I can't ever recall a piece of software that was a waste of time. I've used good and bad, well-designed and pants, and plenty of painfully slow stuff – every version of Windows ever released, for example – but none of it has impacted on my longevity.

Dunno - all that sitting and watching the spinning hourglass isn't good for your health! Nor does it do your blood pressure any good to sit on hold while some poor tele-support person sits and waits for their computer to say No.

A couple of times in my career, I've reduced response times drastically for some big systems, via simple things like enabling gzip compression on the web-server, stripping down badly written templates or cleaning up badly written javascript.

In the most recent incident, the offending HTML/JS was sat on the main page of a CRM system in constant use by several hundred call-centre staff. Taking a chainsaw to this shaved several seconds off the load time, which then translated to several FTE per day in terms of time saved - and in the process, it made both staff and customers slightly happier as it had a measurable impact on call duration!


Motorola Z2 Force: This one's for the butterfingered Android lovers


Re: I tried using mods with the LG G5

> I have a cousin with a CAT one who lives on a narrowboat and has been known to drop hers in the canal. Not sure there are many that can survive that.

A friend is a sound-engineer/roadie/stage manager, so he spends a lot of time in what can politely be described as a phone-hostile environment - crawling around under stages, clambering around rigging, etc. He's also a rocker and can often be found in physically challenging environments, such as a New Model Army mosh pit ;)

The last time I saw him, he was showing off his Cat S60 (the one with the built in predator-vision IR camera), by dunking it in his beer, hurling it at the floor/wall/bar and stomping on it with a pair of very large and heavy New Rock boots.

It survived completely unscathed.

Admittedly, he's recently posted on Facebook that he needs a new handset, so I'm guessing that he finally managed to find a way to kill it off. Still, if so, it still managed to survive active punishment for a good 18 months or so...


I tried using mods with the LG G5

And it wasn't a particularly successful experience.

Admittedly, the Moto implementation has a significant advantage: you don't have to shut down the phone to swap mods. However, it still has two major issues:

1) With a mod on, it's too bulky/heavy to put in a pocket

2) You can't put a case on the phone when it has a mod attached

Not being able to use a case is the absolute killer for me. I made the mistake of believing the gorilla-glass hype when I bought an S7 Edge - I slapped plastic screen protectors on the front and back, kept it isolated in a trouser side-pocket and figured that'd be enough.

And it was, for a month or so, until I woke up after a trip to a nightclub, to discover that the back of the phone now resembled a very intricate cobweb. Still no idea how it happened - presumably it banged against a table corner or somesuch during the night.

I have insurance via my bank, but there's still a £100 excess. As such, I tend to order a case and screen protectors before the phone itself, and it's an automatic no-go for any phone where I'd have to faff with removing the case *or* not be able to use a case at all.


Europe turns nose up at new smartphones: Beancounters predict 7% sales drop


Price vs demand...

I suspect the mobile phone market is hitting the same issues as the PC, laptop and tablet markets: the market is saturated, improvements are increasingly iterative rather than revolutionary, competition has sliced away at the profit margins, and there's a sizable second-user market. Worse, while Moore's law reduced the cost of PCs and laptops, mobile phones have actually increased in price as more features have been packed in.

E.g. Using Samsung and Apple as easy examples, the launch price for their base Galaxy/iPhone models were:

2012 - S3: £500. iPhone 5 (16gb): £529

2013 - S4: £579. iPhone 5c: £549

2014 - S5: £600. iPhone 6: £619

2015 - S6: £600. iPhone 6 plus (16gb): £619

2016 - S7: £569. iPhone 6s plus (16gb): £619

2017 - S8: £689. iPhone 7 plus: £719

2018 - S9: £739. iPhone 8 plus: £799

There's a few caveats - e.g. these numbers are from a basic Google search and the price of android handsets tends to drop fairly quickly after launch. Still, it does indicate that the base handset cost significantly increased from 2017 onwards.

Admittedly, most people tend to buy a new handset on a contract, but even there, the monthly cost has risen. E.g the article I pulled the S3 pricing[*] from stated that contracts would be between £34 - £46 a month - and most of these contracts didn't have any upfront charges.

Meanwhile, for the S9, the cheapest monthly contract at carphone warehouse is £48 - and that's with £100 paid upfront!

(though to play devil's advocate: you get a lot more bang for your buck these days, and if you factor in inflation, that £34 in 2012 is roughly equivalent to £40 in 2018. Still cheaper, though!)

Equally, if you're happy with a non-flagship handset, there's much cheaper options that are Good Enough for most people. E.g. the HTC One A9S is just £16 on contract with no upfront cost, and it comes with a 5-inch 720p screen, a 13mp camera, 3gb of ram and a octo-core 1.8ghz processor.

[*] https://www.cnet.com/news/samsung-galaxy-s3-uk-price-and-release-date/


> Son (teen) here has a 100Gb/month plan (like wife, two daughters and I have) and HE somehow burns through that in a fortnight

7GB a day is fairly impressive, but it's fairly easy to burn through data if you're using Youtube (or similar) as a music player. Equally (IIRC), Google Play defaults to app updates OTA and Youtube will merrily switch over to data if you wander out of wifi range when uploading a video. I've caned my data limit a few times due to this!


UK pub chain Wetherspoons' last call: ♫ Just a spoonful of Twitter – let's pull social media down ♫


I do find it ironic

That someone who used social marketing techniques to promote their political stance during Brexit (the Wetherspoons Manifesto - https://www.jdwetherspoon.com/tims-viewpoint/the-wetherspoon-manifesto) is now backing away from social media.

In truth, I'm guessing that they've done a cost/benefit analysis of their social media efforts, and come to the conclusion that it's just not worth the cost overheads - it wouldn't be too surprising, given that they're in the high-volume/low-profit-margin.

I've no idea how many people were in their social media team (half a dozen or so?), but I'm guessing the total overhead was enough to make a measurable impact on their balance sheet!

The current hoo-haw around social media just gives them the chance to cut down on costs while maintaining the high moral ground and getting some free publicity. Win, win, win.

So, pints all round?


Re: Wetherspoons promotions??

Hey, those 10%s add up, especially on a Friday night ;)

As to the quality of the beer, I really don't recognise that description. Wetherspoons may prioritise quantity over quality - after all, they are essentially the McDonalds of the pub world. And a friend who works in the trade was very disparaging of the way they handle cask ales.

But generally, I've found the beer quality to be more than acceptable. Which is better than I can say for some of the other local pubs; I got into the habit several years ago of only drinking lager at said venues, as the ale invariably tastes of line cleaner (or worse!), regardless of how busy it is, or the time of day.

Also, at least part of Wetherspoon's success is down to the way they've managed to get cheap beer combined with cheap food delivered quickly - these days, they're even offering free tea and coffee refills!

I go to quite a few urban music festivals, and it's amusing to wander into the local Wetherspoons the morning after the night before, as it's generally rammed with a variety of hungover festival-goers trying to hold a fork steady enough to make an effort at eating a full english breakfast ;)


Huawei P20 Pro: Triple-lens shooter promises the Earth ...


Re: Consumers are dumb

> If you're talking about ye olde Nokia phones, the battery in them could last a fair bit, but only if one didn't do much with them. Ever taken a look at the talk time for those? It's short

To be fair, I used to own an Ericsson T39 - a mildly ugly flip phone, but it would last a fortnight between charges with the extended battery. My housemate had the same phone with a third-party battery and that would last a full month between charges.

Still, like you say, with the small monochrome LCD screen, you were pretty much limited to voice calls, SMSs and WAP text-based pages. Oh, the fun I had, browsing the BBC's WAP site while sitting on the bus, one paragraph at a time...

And yeah, I just bought a new phone - the LG V30. And yeah, it cost me £600. And yeah, I picked it partly because of the highly useful ultra-wide-angle lens and the small improvements in photo quality over the increasingly tatty S7 Edge it replaced.

However, I also use it to browse the web, check emails, jot down notes, keep an eye on the company IM system, log into social networks, navigate around the country, manage my calendar, keep an eye on my bank balance and act as a remote control for my desktop PC and media players.

Sometimes, I even read books, listen to music or watch videos on it.

Oh, and at a pinch, it serves as a torch, spirit level, real time translation tool and occasional DJ mixer.

So yeah: £600 is a reasonable chunk of cash. But it'd almost certainly be more expensive - and a lot more inconvenient - to lug around all of the devices that it's replaced.

Back in the day, I did actually swear by "best of breed" - I carried a PDA for reading ebooks and web-browsing, a compact camera, a mobile phone and an MP3 player. But modern mobile phones have long since become more than Good Enough to handle all of the above.

Except for MP3 playback; I still use an old iPod Classic. Partly because it has a huge amount of storage and superb battery life but also partly because it means I don't have a headphone cable dangling in the way when doing stuff on the phone...


Re: "they genuinely are starting to challenge DSLRs"

> Sure, if you expose people to bad images for long enough, they will start to accept bad images as "normal" - and they'll even believe far better, high-quality images are "wrong" because they don't match those they are used to.

That's... impressively elitist, and possibly even trollish.

We're not talking about "bad" and "good", we're talking about "good" and "better", and the delta between the two is shinking, whether you want to admit it or not.

And as ever, the two most important criteria for a good photo are a) being in the right place at the right time and b) having the skill (or luck!) to get a good composition.

So yeah, keep lugging around your DSLR and your heavy bag of lenses, filters and spare battery packs, and I'll keep waving my mobile phone around. And at times, they'll both produce photos worth sharing!


Re: Smartphones are SOOOO over

> Nobody cares how thick or thin the smartphone camera lens is.

You may not care about the thickness of the camera lens, but the manufacturer does, because it dictates how thin they can make the handset. And like it or not, the thinness of a handset is a major factor in a phone-buyer's first impressions, especially for non-technical consumers who don't realise how much of a compromise this results in, especially when it comes to battery life and physical robustness.

Ironically, this drive towards thin handsets means most people end up buying a case to protect their device, bumping the thickness and weight back up. But again, that's not something people think about when weighing up a naked handset in a phone showroom, and so thinness is a key driver in handset design.

> Have you seen a photograph produced by a recent DSLR or Mirrorless with a high-quality professional lens such as SIGMA or Zeiss?

Probably - but I'll have viewed it on a laptop monitor or my phone after it's been downsampled by whatever website or social-media network I'm viewing it on, so the finer details will have been lost on me.

Therein lies the rub: phone cameras have been "good enough" for around 80%[*] of general photography usage for several years now. I'd even go so far as to say that they've been superior to traditional 35mm-compact cameras for over a decade and encroaching on digital-compact territory for the last five years.

Now, as one of the few technological features which manufacturers can use to differentiate their handsets, mobile-cameras are making another push which may push them up into the 90-95% range. I.e. they genuinely are starting to challenge DSLRs!

Certainly, we're getting to the point where you'll have to spend a significant amount of money to have a measurable improvement in photo quality - and even then, you'll probably need to have at least some experience and training to take advantage of the improvements.

[*] Number generated by the traditional WAG; feel free to use your own RNG here...


I do have to ask...

Judging by personal experience and facebook posts, the main things people take photos of are:

a) Cats

b) More cats

c) Food with occasional cats

d) Drunken mates in pubs, optionally with cats

So, how well does the P20 Pro do at the spur-of-the-moment, moving-subject (and/or swaying photographer in the latter scenario!) photographs?

Granted, I do like playing with long exposures (f'narr!) - I recently got some great photos of fire poi and led hula hoops by tinkering with the manual settings on my phone (e.g. https://www.instagram.com/p/BhC2KA8n586/). But most of the time, I want the shortest exposure possible, especially when photographing a moving subject!


My PC makes ‘negative energy waves’, said user, then demanded fix


Re: Apple Mac wireless mice are fun...

> Upvoted, but the JREF $10e6 Challenge is no longer offered to psychics, dowsers and other Credulous Saucer Loons.

Not quite - the summary implies they've outright stopped, but if you read the full thing, they've just tightened up the process. To quote from yon link:

"We plan on continuing the Million Dollar Challenge as a means for educating the public about paranormal claims, but the process for consideration of claims has been changed effective September 1, 2015 [...] JREF will no longer accept applications directly from people claiming to have a paranormal power [...] We anticipate providing minimum required protocols for the preliminary test early next year"

Admittedly, I've not dug any further to see if they did actually develop these new protocols, and even if they did, I suspect that a lot of charla^H mystics will claim that the new processes are invalid.

"Of course I can't tell the difference between these two healing crystals when blindfolded - it blocks my chakras!"


Apple Mac wireless mice are fun...

As they're bluetooth and can connect to two laptops at the same time. This can occasionally cause some confusion...

I've also got a friend who swears by a long list of magical/religious concepts, drawn from a melange of occasionally contradictory sources; crystal-energy, reiki, dragons, demons, ghosts, telepathic messages, curses, tarot cards, scrying, etc, etc, etc.

In fact, they swear that many of these things have a measurable physical impact, but oddly, any time there's an opportunity to check this, there's some obtuse reason why they can't be tested[*]

It's especially strange since they're usually flat-broke and James Randi still has a 1 million dollar reward outstanding for anyone who can produce evidence of ESP and telepathy, crystal energies and Reiki would all seem to fall very firmly in that category...

[*] Or, as happens with increasingly annoying frequency "Oh, you don't understand because you're a muggle". I didn't particularly like Harry Potter *before* people started using that term as a put-down...


Are meta, self-referential or recursive science-fiction films doomed?



The book opens with a set of soldiers in mecha suits being launched from a spaceship inside giant pods (which then shed layers of ablative metallic heat shields, partly to confuse ground-based radar), before then merrily leaping over buildings, lobbing mini-nukes and talking grenades at things and generally having a good time until the retrieval signal comes.

It's not the dullest introduction to a book I've ever read ;) As previously mentioned, Games Workshop thought that the concept was so good that they outright stole it for WH40K. Along with the Navigators from Dune and large chunks of Judge Dredd and Nemesis the Warlock from 2000AD, but I digress...

To be fair, I first read ST as a teenager in the late 80s, long before Japanese anime popularised the concept of robotic armour, and I was young enough for much of the political elements to zoom over my head. However, even as an embittered and jaundiced adult, and with a (hopefully) better understanding of politics, I still think it's a good book.

And as to why people like me slam the film? A film based on an unrelated script, filmed by a director who hadn't read the book and who was more interested in ramming home an anti-military message?

It's crude, clumsy and deliberately ignores most of the key elements of the book. I really can't see any good reasons to like it!

And that's despite the fact that I absolutely love Robocop ;)


Re: "written at the height of the Cold War by a veteran with a fascism fetish."

I was going to write a long rant about this... but it turned out long and ranty.

Suffice to say that Heinlein wasn't a front line war veteran; he was a naval officer between 1929 and 1934 on ships which look to have mostly performed exercises and maneuvers. And at the time he wrote Starship Troopers, the USSR had just annexed Hungary (and in the process killing 30,000 civilians and carrying out executions after secret trials) and made the first of several attempts to oust the Allies from Berlin.

As for Heinlein being a fascist: he described himself as a libertarian, and it's certainly something that comes through in his later books - Stranger in a Strange Land in particular. Though it's worth noting that he did become increasingly right-wing (and generally wierder) as he got older [*].

Still, you'd have to do at least 5 minutes research on Wikipedia to find out the above - and you might even have to read some of his books!

[*] A quick dig turned up this article, which revealed some details not mentioned in most of Heinlein's biographies - he was blacklisted by the navy in WW2 for being too left-wing(!), he was in several poly relationships (including with L Ron Hubbard!), and while he was actively anti-racist, he does seem to have become obsessed with overpopulation in Asia... https://newrepublic.com/article/118048/william-pattersons-robert-heinlein-biography-hagiography


Re: Ready Player One

> "Pixels" was ok though, surprisingly.

Pixels was surprisingly enjoyable, though it would have been better if they'd cut out all the scenes involving Adam Sandler ;)


Re: The thing is..

> Wether or not Fanboys is crap has no effect on the definition of cult movie , so Dave is correct to say "That almost sounds like a textbook definition of 'cult classic!' ",

True - I should have maybe clarified that the /audience/ Rotten Tomato reviews generally damn it with faint praise, but I'd already typed more paragraphs than can perhaps be justified in a lunch break, and I'm sure someone would point out that negative audience reviews are also common for cult movies ;)

Either way, perhaps the greatest criteria for a cult movie is that people care for it, and in Fanboys case, that doesn't seem to be the case: people watch it, comment that "it's alright if you're a Star Wars fan" and move on.

Anyhow, that's enough elitist ranting for one day!


Re: The thing is..

> That almost sounds like a textbook definition of 'cult classic!'

Ish. Except...

> I've seen it, it was alright, I'm wouldn't go out of my way to watch it again.

For the above!

The general definition of a cult movie is something that didn't do particularly well at release, but which has developed a devoted fanbase over time who love it despite it's flaws, and enjoy rewatching it.

E.g. Rocky Horror, The Room, Withnail and I, Tron, Bladerunner, Evil Dead, Clerks, Blues Brothers, Monty Python (Holy Grail/Life of Brian), Big Lewbowski.

If you watch something once, and have no desire to either re-view or discuss it, then it's not a cult movie, it's just crap ;)


The thing is..

I am the target audience for RP1. I was born in the late 70s and spent my formative years immersed in video games, comics and sci-fi books from the local library, before magically transforming into an adult and spending a measurable percentage of my wages on more video games, comics, books and pop-culture memorabilia.

And for better or worse, I already knew pretty much every piece of pop-culture trivia in RP1 - I've even managed to get an article published in Retrogamer, as well as running a vanity video-game review site for a few years.

However, I absolutely hated the book. It's clunky and blatant wish-fulfillment by a middle-aged man who a) wishes the rest of the world thought his OCD hobbies were important and b) wants an attractive teenage girl to fall in love with him.

I'm sure Earnest is a nice person, but I do think he was just in the right place at the right time; it's perhaps telling that Armada (the successor to RP1) has received much more of a critical mauling, even by people who loved his first book.

Admittedly, I'll still watch the film, because it's got the Iron Giant in, and you can never have too much of that ;)

Beyond that...

"The cult classic movie Fanboys": I've never seen it, and only had a vague memory about it's existence, despite the fact that I have many friends who are obsessed with Star Wars and discuss it frequently when down the local cantina. Looking at the Wikipedia article, it absolutely pancaked at the box office and has been heavily savaged on Rottten Tomatoes. So I'm not sure it really counts as a cult classic ;)

"Wachowskis, who polarised opinion with their fragmented, bloated cinematic adaptation of David Mitchell's novel Cloud Atlas,"

To be fair, it was always going to be tricky following up on the Matrix. It's a shame they never got around to making any sequels ;)

Though if they had, I'm guessing they would have been just as fragmented and bloated...

"Starship Troopers. Critics slammed it on release, but this film is now considered, in retrospect, a satirical and comedic sci-fi masterpiece."

No, it's still shite. I absolutely love Robocop, but ST just felt clumsy by comparison. This may be because the script for ST was pretty much finished before they slapped the name on it (http://starshiptroopers.wikia.com/wiki/Starship_Troopers_(film)#Comparison_with_the_original_novel) and the director didn't read the book. What a great combination...

"Verhoeven [...] amplified the disturbing propaganda and brutal militarism of Heinlein's novel, resulting in a self-aware satire where shallow characters still uncomfortably defy cinematic convention"

He amplified things from a book he hadn't read? That's a good trick - especially since I'm struggling to think of examples of "brutal militarism" in the book. There's some instances of military discipline - the hanging of a rapist and a whipping for disobeying orders, but they're not excessive within the context.

(As regards "disturbing propaganda": the entire book is fairly right wing and revolves around the idea that society would work better if everyone had to do military service. But even then, Heinlein provided reasoned arguments and debates within the book; it's nowhere near something as polemic as Ayn Rands writings, for example.)

Still, the thing which annoys me most about the ST film is that it butchered the key concepts in the book. Both technologically - Heinlein was talking about orbital insertions of soldiers in mecha-suits, a concept gleefully picked up by Games Workshop a few decades later for Wh40k - and philosphically; whatever other faults the society in the novel has, it pretty much epitomises the "no man left behind" creed exposed by the US Marines and other military groups.

Anyhow. Rant over ;)

"Dune's sequels are equally dense, but have never been tackled – maybe their time is now"

The SyFy tv series attempted to cram all three of the original books into two miniseries, though as other people have noted, the results can politely be described as varied. And I'm not sure the later books would work well at all - at that point, Frank's writing was getting further out there.

"There is hope and the future of the meta sci-fi movie seems hopeful with Neal Stephenson's Seveneves"

I've not read Stephenson for a while; after bouncing off the Baroque cycle, it felt like his writing had become too self indulgent. Still, the Wikipedia summary for Seveneves looks reasonably interesting, so I may dip in again.

TBH, it'd be more interesting to see Charles Stross's Accelerando (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Accelerando) being made. Admittedlly, it'd be nigh-on impossible to fit in even a fraction of the high-speed BOFH and IT in-jokes, but it's a scarily plausible view of the next X thousand years of human civilisation, and Manfred's family provides continuity across the entire arc. Plus, there's a cat. Well, a robot cat. Well, a weakly godlike AI in a robotic cat's body...


The best outsourcers fire themselves


Outsourcing reminds me of Danegeld...

In that you pay lots of money for something that's meant to be a one-off (maurading vikings or a new platform), but inevitably, you find that you have to keep out paying more.

Outsourcing a project can work well when you're dealing with something relatively immutable - a new phone system, a new building - something which will sit there and Just Work after completion.

Software by definition is mutable, especially these days when you're often integrating with external systems which are subject to change according to someone else's whims and priorities.

Fundamentally, if you find yourself using outsourcers on a long-term basis, then you're generally better bringing the process in-house. It may cost more on paper, but it gives you a lot more flexibility and facilitates better support and change processes - no more arguing over what's covered by the contract!


Huawei joins Android elite with pricey, nocturnal 40MP flagship


Re: Current Huawei owner

As with computers, internal storage (and RAM, to a similar degree) is increasingly pretty much the only thing which can be trimmed by OEMs looking to cut costs. Still, the march of progress has meant that even budget Android phones have a relatively decent amount of built in storage.

Over in Apple land though, it's still overly expensive to upgrade iPhone storage. Looking at mymemory.co.uk, branded 64GB cards cost around £17 while branded 128GB cards cost around £25.

Meanwhile, it currently costs £150 to upgrade from 64GB to 256GB - or roughly three to four times as much as the same amount of storage on SDXC cards.

Admittedly, it's not an exact comparison - interestingly, it looks like most of the major Android OEMs have stopped offering multiple storage-size options, at least on the CW website. But I doubt that there's any technical reasons which justify such a high markup!


Features or gimmicks?

1) A night-photo setting where you have to keep the camera (and the subject(s)!) stationary for 8 seconds.

2) 960fps slo-mo filming at 720p.

Are those really useful features, or just gimmicks that'll be used once or twice and then forgotten about?

Equally: a 3x optical zoom feature on a dedicated 8MP lens. Is this really needed? You'd be able to get nearly the same level of "optical" zoom by cropping the 40MP image, as Nokia did with the Lumia 1020[*]

It does feel like phone "innovations" are increasingly shallow, and driven by marketing rather than actual technological developments.

That said, I did just pick up an LG V30, precisely because it has an 120-degree ultra-wide lens. And this weekend, I was in London indulging in two of my preferred vices - drinking beer in obscure pubs and hunting down interesting street art.

So, lots of photos. And while I haven't done a scientific comparison, a rough breakdown would be:

* 60% with the 16mp main camera on the V30

* 30% with the 13mp 120mm lens on the V30

* 5% with the Nikon at 1x zoom - it has a slightly wider FoV than the 16mp main camera on the V30

* 5% with the Nikon at a higher zoom level

So yeah, in an urban/social-drinking setting, the wide angle lens was definitely more useful than optical zoom. In fact, I'm mildly surprised that other phone companies haven't gone down the ultra-wide route, especially for the "selfie" front camera!

[*] a quick beer-mat calculation indicates you're going from ~8000x6000 to 3200x2400, so it'd be the equivalent of ~2.5x zoom. And yes, I know the two lenses have differing f-stops, and there's other factors such as bokeh, etc. But it still feels like an overly expensive solution looking for a problem...


I suspect you'd be pleasantly surprised...

"One thing I have noticed with most phone cameras is that they do extreme jpeg compression, thus rendering those megapixels almost useless. My photos from ca 2003 taken with an EOS 300D still look better than mobile phone images."

Apple iPhones and most Android flagship phones now offer the ability to shoot in RAW.

Between the sensor size and the quality of the lens, DSLR will always have the edge over a phone camera, but even so, the gap is narrowing. E.g. https://www.phonearena.com/news/Galaxy-S8-vs-2000-mirrorless-camera-and-DSLR-Ultimate-camera-face-off_id94035

Generally, we're at the point where mobile phone photos are generally Good Enough, especially a) the truism about "the best camera is the one you have with you" is definitely true and b) these days most photos are uploaded to a social media platform where they'll be downsampled to 2MP and then squinted at on a mobile phone's screen.


User asked why CTRL-ALT-DEL restarted PC instead of opening apps


The warm glow of nostalgia...

Until you realise how much easier life is these days.

Back in the early noughties, I was working for a large telecomms company which was having a major kit clearout. I acquired a few things from this, such as a nice SCSI card and a caddy-based CD-ROM drive.

Sadly, while it all powered up after installation, the CD drive would only work if you held down the space bar - a DIR command would slowly spit out the contents, line by ponderously slow line. After a painfully expensive phone call[*] to the US support line, it transpired that this indicated some sort of IRQ issue; somehow, the keyboard handler was blocking whatever was holding onto the IRQ long enough for the CD-ROM to briefly burst back into life.

A bit of dabbling with jumpers later, and I finally had a working system. So sometimes, holding a key down can be useful ;)

Beyond that, I can remember visiting a friend's house once; they were a fairly extreme tekky and had a monstrous PC setup with a drive on pretty much every letter of the alphabet. And on the wall, a piece of graph paper, on which they'd hand-drawn their 640kb memory-map, to show exactly where all the drivers and TSR data was held.

I've never been sure if I wanted to aspire to that level of tekkiness, or whether it was better to back away slowly...

[*] Albeit still cheaper than buying a new SCSI card and CD-ROM drive...


A ghoulish tale of pigs, devs and docs revived from the dead


Re: Lesson

Ha. Haha. Hahahahahhaaa...

I was talking to a friend recently, who's working for a company which is about to switch some Very Important financial infrastructure into the cloud.

However, the people doing this work have decided to not tell anyone about this, to prevent the usual "the sky is falling" claims which tend to abound when any changes are made. After all, they've cheerfully proclaimed, everything should Just Work after the changeover.

Oddly though, the list of people who haven't been engaged in the handover process includes the internal QA team. Nor is there any evidence of a contingency or rollback plans.

Overall, it does seem like an appropriate time to order some popcorn and get comfy on the sofa...


Back in the 90s...

There was a demo for some of this newfangled internet technology.

However, as the technology was still a work in progress, the demo involved a certain amount of smoke and mirrors. And the person doing the demo had been given clear instructions about where the smoke and mirrors were placed.

Alas, said person was nervous and strayed from the script. Cue some furious hackery in the background as the tekkies supporting the demo had to try and fake up the S&M elements in realtime.

The main tekkie in question is not a small chap; he'd have made a fine rugby forward or viking berserker. As such, when the demo-presenter cheerfully came over afterwards and proclaimed "well, that all went well, didn't it!", he very nearly got throttled...


Your mouse can't reach that Excel cell? Buy a 'desk extender' said help desk bluffer


Re: Wendell should have offered

Alas, that joke won't mean anything who only started using computers in the last 15 years or so

I have (un)fond memories of having to delint mouse rollers on a regular basis, especially at university. To paraphrase the old joke about household dust, I was essentially evicting the last prevoius user...


Administrator PwC chops Maplin staff


I've not been keen on Maplins for a few years...

First, their marketing and store-layout strategy seems to focus on overpriced gadgets and tat: the actual useful and interesting stuff is shoved to the back of the store where it languishes under dust and cobwebs.

Then, even their bread-and-butter stuff generally has a heavy markup.

And finally, their staff training manual looks to have been derived from the old Window Salesman manual. If I've gone into the store, then it's because I'm either mooching while bored, looking to see if there's anything interesting or buying something specific. It's therefore counter-productive to have some sales-minion (who generally doesn't appear to have any domain knowledge) jump on me as soon as I walk in the door - it actively deters me from even contemplating a visit!


"> 1) the stuff is not available on the internet

Actually, it probably is."

It may be, but (especially if you're not an expert in that domain), finding it can be tricky if you don't know the actual name for it. I've had that a few times and it can be easier to just nip down to the shop and look in the most likely aisle/ask a staff member, rather than hunting on Google to try and track it down

"> 3) the staff are key to the selection process

I take you haven't actually been in a store recently"

Depends on the store - there are still people who are knowledgeable about their wares and are happy to provide assistance.

"> 4) buying across internet is otherwise impracticable - DIY materials (pots of paint, length of 2 by 4)

DIY and builders merchants do online sales and they deliver"

Yes, but delivery costs can be prohibitive for larger/heavier/small-volume items. F'instance, BnQ charges £5 for orders under £50, and won't deliver bulk-material orders (e.g. bricks, wood) under £100.

And you have to be at home to accept the delivery, unless you have very accepting neighbours!

"> 5) browsing is fun (allegedly) - garden centres etc

I refute that allegation"

Fun is relative... sometimes it's just nice to get out! This also ties into point 2) which you skipped - it can be useful to gauge physical properties (e.g. the way the fabric feels, the weight, etc) and/or look at potential alternatives.

There's a reason a lot of warehouse retailers have cafes :)

"> 6) I need it now!

... so I order online instead of having to wait until the store opens? (Maybe you closer to that particular store than I do, though.)"

That's a funny definition of "now", especially if you're in the middle of a highly exciting Cunning Plan or dealing with a crisis (leaking pipes, blown PSU, broken window, etc).

Ordering online generally carries at least a one-day delay penalty, barring certain special cases such as the limited selection available on Amazon Prime. Or, y'know, where you order online and then go to collect it... at the store. Which, y'know, has to be open.

Anyhow, BnQ is open until 20:00 weekdays [*], 19:00 Saturdays and 16:00 Sundays, and as nice as it is to play with hammers and powertools at midnight, the neighbours generally don't approve. And much like cockroaches and politicians, you're generally never that far from one - there's half a dozen within 15 miles of where I live, the closest of which is ten minutes walk.

Similar applies to other warehouse stores - and if you're near to a shopping mall, these are often open until 21:00 or 22:00 (e.g Meadowhall/Trafford Centre); many Asda/Tesco supermarkets are 24/7.

And while it can be a tad eerie, it's definitely a nicer, quicker and quieter shopping experience at midnight, even if you do have to dodge around the shelf restockers!

[*} I swear they were open until 22:00 for a while - guess there just wasn't the sales volume!


AI racks up insane high scores after finding bug in ancient video game


Re: Not the real thing

But even that's not particularly exciting. Back when I was tinkering with Palm development, there was an app called Gremlins which would randomly hammer all the buttons to try and trigger a failure[*]. This is just a variant on that, albeit with a guiding hand to steer the button-hammering towards a specific desired result.

What they've essentially proved is that if you set a specific and limited goal in a deterministic system and then throw infinite monkeys at it, you'll probably get some wierd outlier results. Which has already been proven, time and time again.

[*] Looks like variations on this theme are still available - e.g. https://css-tricks.com/intro-monkey-testing-gremlins-js/


Re: Not the real thing

At a glance, it looks like the Atari 2600 version - i.e. it's a cut-down and simplified port.

Oddly, that's pretty much the same as happened a while ago with Microsoft - they made a similar fuss about how amazing their AI training was, because it was able to beat the Atari 2600 version of Ms Pacman ...



Not that exciting...

This sounds like a variation on the standard AI training technique: start off with a set of random choices, pick the ones with the best results, mutate things a little and repeat until you reach a given level of performance.

It's infinite monkeys poking away at an infinite number of keyboards - except that since we don't have an infinite supply of monkeys (no matter how it seems when I glance at newspaper forum posts), we take a finite set of monkeys and nudge them in the direction we want them to go.

It wasn't new when I learned about it at university *ahem* decades ago, and it's not new now. The only real difference is that we can throw more monkeys at the problem than we used to be able to.

Still, it's a good reminder that "life"[*] will always find a way to game the system - from memory, one of the best examples of this type of experiment involved building an oscillator with the fewest parts possible - however, instead of building a timing circuit, the "AI" built a radio receiver and piggybacked onto the signal from a nearby computer...


Though by the same token, this also highlights the issue with "evolutionary" approaches like this; if the the computer was further away or switched off, the circuit would have failed. Similarly for this experiment - a different ROM version or a different map would likely cause this "hack" to fail.

It's not AI, it's mechanical single-action optimisation, and as such is highly susceptible to Darwinism if conditions change.

[*] Life, scammers, investment algorithms; if there's a way to get an advantage over your competitors, then sooner or later it'll be used!


EE: Data goes TITSUP* for Brit mobile customers


Not just in the UK...

My EE internet access went down while I was walking around Berlin yesterday morning. Thankfully, the A-GPS on my S7 kept working, so I was able to navigate (with occasional muttering) across the city.

Does make me wonder what the cause of the outage was, given that I was in a foreign country and on someone else's network at the time!


Batteries are so heavy, said user. If I take it out, will this thing work?


Showroom laptops can be misleadingly light...

A few years ago, I was wandering around various retail parks, looking for a new laptop. Since I wanted to use it while travelling, weight was something of a concern, but all the laptops I saw were surprisingly light.

It took me a while to realise that this was because Currys/Dixons/PC World/Comet/whatever all remove the battery in their display models, presumably to cut down on theft and/or minimise power-cycling the batteries. The fact that it also halves the weight of the laptop when people are playing with them was just a fortuitous coincidence...


A print button? Mmkay. Let's explore WHY you need me to add that


I'm not sure what the point of that article was...

There's definitely merit in checking to see if what's wanted is actually what's needed - as the author notes, in this scenario, the user may just want to have an audit trail, or would be happy with an electronic copy.

However, what the author didn't note is that these options may require infrastructure changes, and are likely to require significant extra resource to implement, leading into a Dilbert-esque spiral of ever-increasing requirement bloat which chews up time and resources and adds little or nothing of value to the end user.

And indeed, that's sometimes the actual objective, as it means that some other department has to find the resources to deal with the implementation and/or argue with the end-user about it.

Not that I've ever seen that happen, nor am I still bitter about it ;)

Beyond that, and tucked away under the smug hipster-baiting fluff which padded out the word count, some of the statements in the article are potentially misleading. E.g.

"[a study] found that only a third of the features in their software were used as intended, or used at all"

This may well be true, but generally, each user uses a /slightly different third/ of the features; if represented as a Venn diagram, you'd end up with hundreds of overlapping circles.

Also, having lots of features makes sense from a marketing perspective; it shows your software is keeping up with the Joneses, and people like to know that if they ever did want to do <incredibly obscure thing>, there's an option to do so.

Then too, there's an old quote about how a good tool is something that can be used in a way that the original designer never dreamed of. It may not neither optimal nor cost effective, and it may offend your tender Eloi sensibilities to see your precious designs being casually violated, but if it's Good Enough, then people will use it. And therein perhaps lies a deeper lesson about the art of design...


When Samsung reveals the S9 at MWC, at least try to act surprised


Still need more detail on the S9+ cameras

Aka: what is the purpose of the second lens?

The Note 8 uses it's second lens to provide a 2x "optional zoom", but personally, I'm hoping it offers a fisheye wide-engle view - the latter is a lot more useful when it comes to the stuff I photograph[*].

Still, the contract on my S7 Edge doesn't run out for another 6 weeks or so yet, so I've got plenty of time to debate the merits of either picking up the S9+ or switching back to LG and their V30...

[*] Graffiti/street art, if anyone's interested, which by it's nature is often in awkward places - narrow alleys, behind parked cars, etc. There's distinct limits to how effective perspective correction and/or panoramic shots can be for this!


Stephen Elop and the fall of Nokia revisited


Re: Why can't Elop take credit for his achievement?

Wow, that was a lot of downvotes :)

Anyhow, I did debate clarifying my point about "linux on a mobile" - I was thinking of the various efforts such as Firefox OS and Ubuntu Phone, where the OS is/was a lot more front and centre. But my lunchbreak was nearly over and I didn't figure it'd be that controversial ;)

Beyond that, I don't think I've said anything above and beyond what jillesvangurp has expanded on.

Maemo (and the hardware that went with it) was a nice idea, but popped up at the wrong time and in the wrong place; Nokia simply had too much financial and emotional investment in Symbian to do anything significant with it. And as a result, it suffered from the traditional commercial open-source fate of being dumped on the community once the official funding runs out. I remember having much fun filing bug-reports/support requests while trying to find the right combination of drivers/config to get an external bluetooth keyboard working - and I still get emails about the Maemo community elections, to this day.

Also, if memory serves, I did debate buying an N900 at the time, but decided against it; between the smaller screen and clunky physical keyboard, it felt like a step back from my trusty N800. Instead, I think my first touchscreen phone was an LG Cookie, since it was ridiculously cheap (at the time) on PAYG; by the time I migrated onto Android via Sony and HTC, the writing was very much appearing on the wall for Nokia's eco-systems.


Re: Why can't Elop take credit for his achievement?

Not sure I agree with that one.

The N900 (and the earlier models, such as the N800, which I used as an ebook reader for years) suffered from the same issue as their consumer models, such as the 5800 (which I also owned): Nokia thought of the mobile phone as a shrunk-down PC, and the UI reflected that with scrollbars and Windows-style scrolling - albeit with a stylus instead of a mouse.

I even remember nokia adverts at the time promoting this as a good thing!

Meanwhile, Apple, Google and their ilk had taken lessons from the PDA market - make things simpler, make them finger-friendly.

Also, the N*00 range was never really intended to be a world beater - Maemo was a skunkworks project and never really received much love, no matter how nice the hardware it ran on was. Plus, it was based on Linux, and to date, no-one's really been able to make that work on a phone - at least, not for the mass market.


Elon Musk offered no salary, $55bn bonus to run Tesla for a decade


Sounds like Tesla's standard Smoke and Mirrors approach...

If you announce enough new and interesting things, they tend to help distract people from the old and potentially broken things. All you have to do is to keep finding ways to produce more of the new & shiny...

After all, Elon Musk doesn't need any more money from a personal perspective, and I'm guessing that it'd be just as hard to funnel more money into new pet projects, given how many he's already got on the go.


Why did I buy a gadget I know I'll never use?


I hate throwing things away...

Not because I'm an excessive hoarder[*] - I actually quite like the feeling of dumping large quantities of obsolete tech in the local rubbish dump's skip.

However, from long experience, I can pretty much guarantee that as soon as said tech is definitely beyond all possibility of rescuing, I'll find a need for it. Similar applies to the various bits of craft junk stored in overly large tupperware boxes.

Admittedly, the opposite applies to needle-nosed pliers and stanley knifes. No matter how many I purchase, these will always vanish into thin air at even the merest suggestion that they could be useful...

[*] Well. Not hugely. Ish. Much. *ahem*


Hot chips crashed servers, but were still delicious


Laptop function keys are fun...

Pretty much all models have special actions assigned to the function keys - volume controls, external screen controls, etc. Usually you have to press a key (e.g. "Fn") to activate these special actions.

However, on one particular model, these "alterative" actions were enabled by default *and* one function key controlled the wireless functionality.

I'm sure you can guess the rest. "My laptop isn't working - it's the end of the world!". And then I reached over and tapped the function key...




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