* Posts by DougS

12863 posts • joined 12 Feb 2011

Apple to upgrade to '5G WiFi' this year?

DougS Silver badge

Re: Typical fsckin' Apple

It is BROADCOM that has dubbed it "5G wifi", not Apple. If Tim Cook introduces new models having this and loudly proclaims them as "5G", then you can bitch. But more likely he'll just say they have the "fastest wifi ever, with speeds in excess of a gigabit" or something like that.

Ubuntu for smartphones aims to replace today's mobes, laptops

DougS Silver badge

Lack of apps

Yes, lack of apps. Or do you think that all the Linux apps that expect a keyboard and mouse will work just fine on a touchscreen? If that was true, Microsoft's previous tablet efforts from a decade ago would have succeeded.

Intel's set-top TV effort snags on cable

DougS Silver badge

Why would anyone think that INTEL would be the one to buck the system?

Microsoft has been trying to do this for well over a decade, Google has been trying it for a few years, and Apple has been rumored to be doing so (probably since the first AppleTV device was on the drawing board)

If none of these guys, who unlike Intel actually have experience making media deals and selling products to end users, have been successful why would anyone think Intel would do better?

The amazing magical LED: Has it really been fifty years already?

DougS Silver badge

Re: Every one already?

The problem mentioned isn't new, or exclusive to led signals - and if a signal has no lights showing, common-sense plus road rules worldwide say "approach with extreme caution"

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That's great, but only if you see the signal pole and realize this. You may not at night, or perhaps when it is snowing, raining, or foggy.

DougS Silver badge

@heyrick

This problem was solved eons ago on the railways. Red, being the most important signal, goes at the bottom. Cannot be obscured by a heap of snow, unless the snow rises to the level of the signal in which case it is unlikely the line will still be in use.

----

Er...what? Perhaps I'm missing something, but I fail to see how having the red signal on the bottom makes any difference whatsoever to whether it can be obscured by snow. Can you explain why this makes a difference on a railroad?

The issues noted in the US are due to wind blown snow freezing onto the face of the signal. With incandescent bulbs they had enough waste heat to keep the surface of the glass above freezing (except maybe in places like Nome) so this never happened. With the more efficient LEDs, a heavy wet windblown snow can stick to the surface and prevent you from seeing the signal at all, regardless of what color it is or whether red is at the top, bottom or middle.

Making MACH 1: Can we build a cranial computer today?

DougS Silver badge
Trollface

Re: Memory is the second thing to go

Hundreds of years back from today, the fastest anyone had ever travelled was the top speed of a horse

I think you'll find that a few humans had traveled several times as fast as the fastest horse, at least for a few seconds. Terminal velocity, to be precise.

What's THAT, you say? Apple MIGHT be making a NEW iPHONE, iOS?

DougS Silver badge

@Mark - multiple iDevice resolutions

Yes, this is a bit of a problem, but as the devices will older resolutions age they'll eventually no longer need to be worried about by app writers. Would someone developing a high end game that needs the graphics power of the iPhone 4S or 5 need to worry about supporting a 480x320 screen? Nope. Facebook needs to care about it, but at some point iOS updates won't support the 3gs, so if Facebook makes newer versions of their app require that iOS version, the 480x320 devices will keep using the older Facebook app and the newer versions of the app will only need to worry about Retina screens.

So it's unlikely app developers will ever need to worry about more screen dimensions they do currently, as any newer screen dimensions (from say a phablet type iPhone) would come around the time you'd eliminate one of the older ones.

Apple could do a more major update to iOS at some point and have it use Quartz for full resolution independence like OS X does. That they didn't do this when iOS first came out could have been due to battery life concerns from the computational load, but now CPUs in phones are far more powerful and efficient so it may be a reasonable thing to do.

DougS Silver badge

Re: I'm actually interested in the new iPhone

The shiny bits: an upgrade of an OS cloned off an almost 50 year-old OS.

And this will be different from the next upgrade of Android how, exactly?

It's JUST possible, but Apple MIGHT not make an iWatch in 2013

DougS Silver badge

Why would it need a SIM?

OK, first off I have to say I think this rumor is just that. I've said before that if I ran Apple one of the things I'd do is spend a few tens of millions (pocket change for them) on having Foxconn build prototypes of products they have no intention of releasing, and fake versions of iPhones and iPads to stuff up the rumor mill enough that even when information inevitably escapes no one knows which is real and which is disinformation. Let the competition waste energy trying to figure out how to respond to products they won't ever release.

But anyway, back to the main point. If it interacts with your iPhone it doesn't need a SIM itself. The only reason it would need a SIM would be if it needed to access the cell network for voice or data. A watch is too small for a useful display for smartphone apps - you couldn't run a browser, or facebook, or angry birds or very much of anything. It could, however, listen to what you say and respond - i.e., Siri. Since Apple does almost all the processing in the cloud it could run on a watch, and you could use it for placing calls, speaking/hearing text messages, asking for turn by turn directions and so on even when limited to the tiny amount of power that would be possible to provide in a watch.

If it needed a SIM, you would want it to be as tiny as possible - so one small point in favor of this rumor is that Apple decided the micro SIM wasn't small enough and wanted and got one that was even smaller. People have guessed that it was to allow them to make the iPhone 5 thinner, but they could have given up a couple mAh of battery out of the 1430 or whatever they have to get the extra room, so that reason doesn't pass the smell test.

However, there are a lot of reasons why this watch rumor wouldn't be true, such as the fact that people mostly gave up wearing digital watches 20 years ago. Watches are worn today for fashion, not for functionality. The silly little watches with tiny buttons that allowed them to be used as calculators are long gone, except maybe for the geekiest of geeks. The only watches sold today for functionality are fitness watches like the Garmin that help track heartrate, distance run/biked and so on. I doubt Apple would try to enter that market unless they could make it do something everyone wanted, not just serious fitness buffs. In order to sell this product Apple would have to overcome the strong trend away from wearing functional watches (or watches at all) by making people want this one.

It's hard to see why anyone who has a smartphone would have any use for a smartwatch, so it would have to be targeted at people who don't have a phone. The only real markets where this is true in developed countries would be pre-teens and the elderly. Basically something to call home, call for help, and perhaps offer tracking of the wearer for the parents of children or the caretakers of the elderly.

NYC mayor pins crime rate spike on iPhone, iPad theft

DougS Silver badge

@Anon 08:42

Why do I have the feeling that if Apple announced that iPhones reported as stolen would be instantly bricked that all the Apple haters would be screaming about how it is just Apple trying to increase their profits by taking stolen devices off the market...

I think it would be good if Apple does it, but only based on a proper police report. Otherwise you'd have people bricking iPhones they could get the IMEI or UUID from (i.e. via access to the computer they use for iTunes or a moment alone with it to view them) as a prank or dirty trick, or revenge for an ex-girlfriend or whatever. At least by requiring the police report such false reports would be much less likely (since making a false report is a crime)

El Reg man: Too bad, China - I was RIGHT about hoarding rare earths

DougS Silver badge

Re: @ribesome

In other words, we Americans have been subsidizing, by default not by design, European and British energy taxes with effectively higher cost per gallon of fuel.

Well, yes and no.

When oil prices were low, the Euro taxes on energy acted as a subsidy helping our economy because by reducing their own consumption they lowered overall world demand helping keep oil prices lower, for longer. This helped the US economy by allowing us to consume more energy (not that being wasteful is good, but cheap energy is good for a country's economic output) It made them weaker economic competitors than they otherwise would be by increasing the cost of exports that were resource intensive.

Now that oil prices are high, because of the relatively much greater increase in prices we see compared to the high tax Euro countries, it is a much bigger drag on our economy. This is the primary reason the US has experienced such low growth post 9/11 - soon after which energy prices started to really rise. We aren't really subsidizing the Euro energy taxes, but by virtue of the US being weaker economically of late we're making it easier for Euro economies to compete with us. Whether the US being a weaker competitor economically actually helps their economies is another matter, as our weakness almost certainly hurts them far more due to reducing what we would otherwise import from them.

As our economy resets to the point we're able to handle $80-$100/bbl oil prices, through greater efficiency and switching more energy use to far cheaper domestic natural gas, we'll be able to resume more normal growth. However, the difference in energy prices between the US and Euro countries will far less than before (unless they have a big increase in energy taxes such that taxes are a similar percentage of prices compared to what they were in the 90s) so the subsidy they were providing our economy will be quite small. In addition the major industrial power in Europe, Germany, has pushed a lot harder on renewable energy and efficiency than the US (and the rest of Europe/UK) so it will continue to punch above its weight export wise, so long as the Euro currency stays together.

DougS Silver badge

Allowing the market to deal with power stations

In the article, Tim writes:

There's only one National Grid: regulate it. There are many power stations and if one tries to rook us then another will undercut it: allow the market to deal with that.

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What you say would be true in an ideal world with true competition, where power stations were all independently owned and operated. But in the real oligopolistic world, it was too easy for a big producer like PG&E to shut down plants simply to reduce supply, resulting in price increases that far outweighed the lost revenue from the plants that were shut down. California learned this to their detriment over a decade ago after they de-regulated electricity, but after the Enron shenanigans which resulted in much higher electricity prices along with the occasional brownout or blackout, they realized the error of their ways and re-regulated, and prices went down and the grid became more stable. So much for market forces.

DougS Silver badge

@ribesome

What we cannot do is to provide a wasteful US standard of consumption to the whole world. This means that the US risks becoming irrelevant as resource constraints require everybody else to depend on European and Asian technology.

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Perhaps you missed the reports that the US is now emitting greenhouse gases at the same rate as they were in 1992. Despite not signing on to Kyoto, the US may become the first major country in the world that actually reaches the Kyoto goal of turning back the clock on emissions to 1990.

The IEA is also now estimating that the US will be the world's largest oil producer, again, by 2020, and by 2030 will become a net exporter of oil by 2030 and self sufficient in energy by 2035.

Market forces don't always work as quickly as we'd like, but they do work. We knew about the problems in the 90s when the world was awash in cheap oil, but as oil prices have surged in recent years it encouraged investment to both increase energy efficiency and look for oil/gas in places that we previously lacked the means of extracting it, or found it to be too expensive to extract. The US developed this technology first, and is using it first. Others are racing to catch up.

So what were you saying again about resource constraints dooming the US to irrelevancy? If anything, being the world's biggest energy consumer gives the US more incentive than anyone to develop these types of technologies, which should allow the US to maintain its lead in this field for many years to come.

The fact that the US doesn't heavily tax energy as most of Europe does was a disincentive to invest when oil was cheap, and the US became more wasteful than Europe as a result. But the impact of rising oil prices has been far greater on the US than it was in Europe for precisely that reason. For example, in Europe, gasoline prices have at most doubled over the late 90s low. In the US, they've nearly quadrupled (creating much of the drag on the US economy in the past decade in their wake) Because of this, and the fact that energy prices are likely to continue to increase as China and other countries move more of their population from a third world to a middle class lifestyle, the US will continue to see energy prices rise at a faster rate than European countries, continuing to drive these investments in technological improvements.

DougS Silver badge

Re: Monopoly on cheap?

They compressed years of profit into one ONLY if you take for granted that the 2010 price was the correct one. Instead of asking why is the price now 4x higher than it was three years ago, ask why the price was so low three years ago?

The answer is, because China's lack of regulation allowed extraction methods horrible for the environment, and the workers are paid very little (they probably make the guys assembling iPhones for Foxconn look like millionaires by comparison)

So yes, China did compress many years of profit into one - i.e. it would have taken them many years to make that much profit at the rock bottom prices they used to be charging, and they were causing hell with the environment as a bonus. Perhaps when prices were 28x higher they considered it back pay for the years of too small profits, and the cost incurred on the environment by their mining practices.

Perhaps the Chinese government didn't do this in an attempt to monopolize the market on rare earths, knowing that this was not possible because they are smarter than Mr. Worstall gives them credit for. Rather they knew that their rare earths industry had raced to the bottom, and the only way they could get the buyers of the rare earths to bear the costs of previous environmental damage and for reducing future environmental impact was to raise prices significantly.

Enter a simple shock to the market that jolted prices upward, and even after falling were several times higher than they previously were. Now with the higher prices they can invest in less destructive methods to extract rare earths. Maybe that's why they closed the large mine, and when it reopens it will produce rare earths in a cleaner manner. Not as clean as Molycorp or other western mines to be sure, but greatly improved over the previous situation.

Apple said to be testing 46, 55-inch big-screen TVs

DougS Silver badge

It really depends on what they sell

A STB is limited in the amount of improvement it can make on the TV's interface, since you still have to deal with the crappy way TVs keep switching between inputs and switching between channels separate.

Consider a TV hooked to an antenna for local HD channels, along with a cable or satellite box, plus several other inputs (Blu Ray player, and game console, let's say) This is not an uncommon setup in the US, at least. So if you use it on the game console and then turn both the console and TV off (standby) when you're done, when you or someone else wants to use it to watch a particular program you must:

1) turn on the TV

2) select the correct input on your TV (perhaps having to ask if it is not your TV)

3) turn on the cable/satellite box (if necessary - knowing that hitting power turns it off if it is already on)

4) know whether the program you want to watch is on antenna or cable/satellite

5) know the channel number of the program you want to watch if it is on antenna

6) enter the channel number or select it from the guide if on cable/satellite

Now for everyone reading this, this isn't difficult. We're Reg readers, by definition among the more technically literate. Even so, if we'd been asleep for 30 years even we would need some help doing this the first few times. Many of us probably have parents who aren't quite so technically capable and the above would be too complicated for them (despite my dad having a PhD from Berkeley and writing FORTRAN programs 50 years ago, he's never quite got the hang of modern consumer electronics and Windows) Fortunately my parents have only cable boxes, so they never need to switch inputs on the TV, and thanks to me cleverly configuring the cable remote for a TV that is the same brand but different model, the cable remote can turn on/off the TV and control its volume, but can't change inputs or change the TV's channel so it is pretty foolproof unless they find the TV remote :)

Let's imagine a TV where when you turn it on you have a little menu that offers various choices to go to "games console" or "Blu Ray" or some of your favorite channels, or a collection of previously recorded programs on the DVR, or a guide which integrates all the channels available from antenna, cable, satellite, Internet, whatever you have, into one place. You select it via a touchscreen remote or possibly your voice) The TV actually uses the HDMI CEC protocol that only Sony seems to know about, so when you go to the games console it turns it on for you, and when you select something else it turns it off for you so you never need to fumble with multiple remotes or teach one remote how to control other things. The TV and remote doesn't have a concept of switching "inputs", or a concept of keying in channel numbers. The end user has to enable a configuration option to even SEE channel numbers. When you are done watching what you wanted and want to go to something else, you go "home" on the remote/voice similar to an iPhone's home button, and you are back at that menu again.

Is this what Apple's TV will be? Probably not, but IMHO it would be better than the interface on any TV I've ever seen. You are free to disagree, of course, as it has some obvious problems. Mainly, that it wouldn't work with every possible piece of equipment you could connect to it like today's TVs do. Not even close. This is the reason why no one sells a TV that works like this, but that sort of thing has never stopped Apple before. If it was successful devices like Tivo, Xbox and Directv receivers would be built/modified to work with it, just like the ecosystem that grew up around the iPod. They'd all still work with other things, and when Google/Samsung inevitably did their own version of this, they'd work with them as well.

DougS Silver badge

Re: Yes, but...

Bragging rights are a major factor - particularly when selling to Apple fanboys.

As opposed to all the Android fanboys comparing Android screen sizes with the iPhone's?

Microsoft to Moto: We'll give you $1m a year for your patents

DougS Silver badge

@Eadon

How are people locked into it? What's the use of FAT32 on Android? Surely it doesn't use it for the internal filesystem (if it does then Apple fanboys ought to be slagging on Android daily for trusting their data to something so crappy) so it must be for SD cards. Which not even every Android phone has. How hard would it be for the phone to refuse to deal with a FAT32 formatted SD card that is plugged into it, or offer to format it?

How does a PC read/write ext3 so you can get data to/from your SD card? Easy, when you plug your Android phone into a PC for the first time, it could make itself appear to be a USB CD-ROM drive, with the CD-ROM containing a Windows ext3 driver installer (or if you don't like ext3, some other non-FAT32 filesystem)

DougS Silver badge

Microsoft getting money from Android OEMs

All you fandroids whining about how MS has it coming to them because they're shaking down the Android OEMs for $5 or whatever per phone are missing the point. Assuming this is for the FAT32 patents (this is the guess but I don't think it has ever been proven) it is totally their fault for deciding to use FAT32. FAT32 is NOT a standard in the same way h.264 and 802.11 are. It is something Microsoft made up and a lot of people use because Windows knows how to read/write it, but since it was never submitted to a standards body it isn't subject to FRAND licensing. Microsoft is free to charge whatever they want for it, or refuse to let anyone use it. Why Android decided to use FAT32 at all I have no idea since it is such a shitty filesystem, but when MS came calling they should have switched to use something not patent encumbered like the Linux ext3 filesystem. It is totally the fault of the Android OEMs that they stuck with FAT32 despite having no reason whatsoever to use it. That bad decision is now apparently costing them a billion dollars a year.

Motorola trying to get 10x as much as the entire MPEG-LA pool (which is way more than 10x more patents than Motorola has for h.264) is ridiculous. I love how shortsighted people who hate Apple and Microsoft are - so long as they are the ones looking to get screwed, they will look the other way and cheer it on. I guess they have never heard of or failed to understand Martin Niemöller.

Instagram back-pedals in face of user outrage

DougS Silver badge

@Alpha Tony

Um.. How about the escape of not putting all your private information up on the internet in the first place?

I'm on Facebook, but don't have ANYTHING I don't want kept private on it. It has my real name and photo, plus a few other photos I've uploaded at various times, but doesn't have my email exposed, or phone number, job info, birthday, relationship status filled in at all (well birthday is, since they require it, but the birthday is the wrong month, year and day so fat lot of good that does them for marketing) It is a good way to keep in touch with people I otherwise wouldn't, and a good time killer. It is quite possible to be on Facebook without "putting all your private information up on the internet".

My concern isn't giving them private info, that's one's choice. I chose one way, others (either less clueful or more trusting than I) have chosen differently. My concern is the kind of crap they tried to pull with Instragram, and even themselves in the past - but luckily had to backtrack both times after a big outcry. I don't want them using my name or photo in ads they show to others. That's just plain wrong, and luckily even the "over sharers" on Facebook seem to realize this, based on the size of the outcry when Facebook tried it the first time and when they tried it again with Instagram.

Whether these ads would say "Doug uses an iPhone, you should too" (which is true, they know because I access FB using the iPhone app) or whether it was something totally random like if I happened to 'like' someone's post about a Dodge Charger, then they use me in a Dodge Charger ad, I don't want it. If Facebook wants to do that, and gives me the choice of ALLOWING them do it and getting paid for it, like everyone else who shills for a product, fine. But they damn well can't just go ahead and do it without my permission, and the minute they do is the last time I ever login to Facebook. And it looks like I'd be far from alone. That type of mass exodus off Facebook (regardless of where people went) has so far been a powerful enough threat in terms of lost revenue that they don't consider it worthwhile tradeoff for "improving" their targeted advertising to those who remain.

DougS Silver badge

Re: Oh, they are everyone's friend

Just like Zuckerberg told us he was on our side, and Larry and Sergei told us they wouldn't be evil. They're all trying to figure out ways to sell our eyeballs and our personal property/data to anyone they can for as much as they can. Google is safe only so long as people dislike Microsoft more than them. Facebook may have everyone on it today, but Google+ or Twitter provide an escape, or people could even go retro and find their way back to Myspace. Certainly Instagram shouldn't feel safe, but none of them really should feel as though they're immune to people dumping them once they've had enough.

Wonder how long it'll take for Twitter to try to pull something like this? Or maybe they already did and I missed it?

Facebook to debut auto-play video ads in 2013

DougS Silver badge

Re: One up for Windows Phone

Yeah, you keep thinking that.

North Korea's satellite a dud, say US astroboffins

DougS Silver badge

Not rad-hard perhaps?

I wonder if NK was not able to get rad-hard chips and tried to shield standard off the shelf ones. Building a rocket is a lot easier than building a chip fab, even one using 20 year old technology. Unless their sort-of friends in the form of China and Russia decided to give them rad hard chips, they might have had to find another solution via the black market.

Perhaps they thought they had acquired some on the black market, but the US secretly fed them ones that wouldn't survive in space after all, much like when they sabotaged the software the Soviets stole and used in that Siberian NG pipeline explosion during the Cold War 30 years ago. Given the NK don't have the resources to build/launch rockets very often, something like that sets them back another year or two as they have to figure out what went wrong and build another one.

Just a theory.

Seagate slips out super-silent 2.5in video hard drive

DougS Silver badge

Re: The most important...

The faster speed of SSDs is irrelevant for DVRs, since you're streaming. True, it does random access when booting or for configuration changes like setting a recording, but any DVR designed recently enough to include this drive should include enough flash on the motherboard to use for the OS and config, and use the hard drive for storing recordings only.

I expect the next generation Tivo will include on-board flash and it'll be possible for the hard drive to die without losing anything except your recordings. If the flash dies you'd be screwed of course, but that's true today since there's already a small amount of on-board flash for the boot/BIOS as in any PC.

'Metadatagate' fails to bring down Oz pollie

DougS Silver badge

Re: I got your time-stamp right 'ere ...

Why are you calling out Australian politicians specifically? I've never seen any particular ability with technology demonstrated by the politicians of other countries.

Well, with the exception of US politicians of course - inventing the Internet wasn't easy, what with all the welding together of tubes and such.

Police use 24/7 power grid recordings to spot doctored audio

DougS Silver badge

Re: Isn't this only for recordings made by AC powered devices?

you clearly have a smart phone - get an app that reads field strength - search your app store for 'EMF', then go play golf and prepare yourself for a shock (figuratively, that is)

Just because my phone's compass hardware can detect EMF fields doesn't mean that recording something with its microphone will result in a detectable 60 Hz hum on the recording. If you claim the microphone is affected by it, why isn't the camera?

I checked the iTunes store for "EMF" and the only app I saw that wasn't intended for detecting ghosts was rated only two stars :)

DougS Silver badge
Stop

Isn't this only for recordings made by AC powered devices?

If I recorded something, I'd use my phone. I'd have to, as I don't own anything I could plug into the mic input on my PC. My phone, obviously, runs on battery.

I am highly skeptical that my recording would pick up a hum from the grid around me in my house and be audible to the extent you could tell a few hundredths of a Hertz variation for this type of forensic investigation. Or audible at all, to be honest.

Even if this worked when I made the recording in my house, what if I'm making the recording in my backyard or on the 14th green? If you're going to tell me I'll get an audible trace from nearby power lines, no matter how "nearby" they really are, I'll be forced to question your sanity.

I'd love to have more details on this, and know what made the recordings they were able to do this with, and where they were located at the time. I don't deny this is possible in the right circumstances, and is smart police work since keeping the record would cost nothing once it has been set up. But I doubt it is applicable very often - less often all the time as fewer grid powered recordings will be made these days.

Wind, solar could provide 99.9% of ALL POWER by 2030

DougS Silver badge

Re: @Doug

I think it's reasonable to assume price drops for technology that is not widespread and should reasonably have some benefit from greater economies of scale, which is true for both wind and solar. Additionally for solar in particular, there is a lot of money being poured into research to make it more efficient and/or cheaper to manufacture beyond those economies of scale. I suppose that's true for wind as well, but the gains from making a better windmill are rather more limited than the gains from making a better solar cell.

On the other hand, I think it is reasonable to assume not only lack of price drops for fossil fuels, but increases in price over time. A considerable amount of money has been applied to it for decades, so there is less chance of a major breakthrough in either finding massive undiscovered reserves, ways to get it out of the ground more easily, or better efficiency from engines, turbines and boilers. There are certainly future breakthroughs possible here, as the fracking revolution demonstrates, but as it is by definition not renewable, it faces continual pricing pressure as every bit you use reduces the amount remaining. It is only if you reduce usage (via efficiency or use of renewable energy) or can increase reserves (by finding more or being able to produce more from existing reserves) that this pricing pressure lets up.

I believe it's safe to make a general assumption that renewable prices will trend down in the future, strongly in the best case and down a little even in the worst case, while non-renewable prices will trend up, strongly in the worst case and down only in the best case possibly due to some major technological advances but more likely simply because we eventually use less of it.

That "using less of it" is kind of the devil in the details for renewable energy. If renewables are "too successful", they make fossil fuels more competitive by reducing their price. We'd need an order of magnitude increase in renewable energy before that even became a possibility, and I think just about everyone except those heavily invested in Exxon or BP stock believes that would be a nice problem to have.

DougS Silver badge

@MondoMan

Solar dropping in price by 50% is not at all unreasonable. Solar had dropped by much more than that from 1980 to 2005 when interest in it was renewed (no pun intended) due to rising oil/gas prices and there has been a lot of investment in it lately. Prices have fallen enormously thanks to that added investment and economies of scale. According to this, module prices have dropped by around two thirds since 2009. Installation tends to dominate pricing for smaller installations (but not the type a utility would install) but that is now getting more attention and it will eventually be integrated in building materials, at least for commercial/industrial scale buildings.

Is it so unreasonable think solar prices will fall by half again in the next 18 years considering how much they've fallen over the past three decades, and especially the past three years? Wind should benefit from economies of scale if production were ramped up massively as would be required if you wanted to replace all usage with solar and wind. But I have no idea if that helps it by enough because of their size and the logistical issues to transport and assemble them on site.

As for your first point from your list of three: Natural gas prices have a floor, and are already at a place in the US where some wells are shutting down because their cost of production exceeded the cost they could sell the gas for. The US had record gas inventories after last year's warm winter, and there were fears that if production continued at then-current rates, storage capacity would run out and its market price would drop to near zero. That never happened, but the market can't sustain gas prices half of what they are currently in the US. Per unit of energy it is far cheaper than oil, which is what matters for switching parts of the transportation infrastructure from diesel to natural gas (i.e. trucks, trains, buses)

Will prices fall by half in the UK? Definitely, once they get cracking with fracking (pun intended that time)

Happy birthday, transistor

DougS Silver badge
Trollface

Re: Technology advances

Or they all have a look at the same flying saucer wreckage from Roswell.

John Lewis agrees to flog Microsoft's Surface RT tablets

DougS Silver badge

Re: This can only be a good thing

Apple can't reduce the price on their iPad because it will then compete with the iPad mini, they can't reduce the price of the iPad mini, because that will compete with the iPod touch.

WRONG.

Even if they do pretty much the same things and can run many of the same apps, the iPod touch and iPad mini are not substitutes for each other in any way. Even if the iPad sold for less for than the iPod touch it wouldn't take away the iPod touch market. Are you going to strap a tablet to your arm when you go for a jog because it plays music? Likewise, if you want to buy a tablet, you will not be considering a 4" device.

Apple had various reasons for pricing the Mini as they did, but the pricing of the iPod touch was not one of them.

Dying to make greener batteries

DougS Silver badge

Re: Nice for phones, but even better for cars

They use Li-ion batteries, but don't use cobalt for the cathode as is done in phones and tablets.

DougS Silver badge

Nice for phones, but even better for cars

Currently cobalt is only used in Li-ion batteries for small stuff like phones because while it has the best energy density it's not seen as safe enough to use in larger items more subject to damage like power tools and cars. If this has the same/better energy density it could replace the cobalt in phone batteries and reduce the odd cell phone catching fire, along with shaving a few grams off the weight.

But it would really be a big win for electric cars, as they'd get a longer range due to the higher energy density over the non-cobalt Li batteries they currently use, in addition to its lower weight reducing power required (though it's mostly aerodynamic drag at highway speeds) This also addresses one of the it's-really-not-so-green objections to electric cars.

Analyst offers cut-price fondleslab recipe

DougS Silver badge

sub $100 tablets

I saw some Black Friday specials for 7" Android tablets for $70 a few weeks back. I have no idea of the quality, but I'm sure they were pretty terrible using all the compromises listed in the article.

Apple and Samsung mobile monsters: 'We only eat RAW CASH'

DougS Silver badge

Article is misleading

Likely the majority of that capex spending by Apple and Samsung likely has nothing to do with their own mobile products. As the article points out, Samsung's capex is mostly going to chip and display fabs. Those cost a lot, but Samsung's own products couldn't account for it. The capacity required for flash for SSDs and all sorts of non-mobile flash using products and LCD panels for TVs would both consume much more capacity than all of Samsung's phones and tablets.

Apple's recent massive increases are quite interesting, but they may have nothing at all to do with mobile. The only way you could spend anything like that much on mobile is if you were building your own chip fab, which seems unlikely (though a JV with IBM, TSMC or GF in New York using Apple owned production capacity is a possiblity)

You certainly can't spend $3.5 billion in a SINGLE QUARTER on things like datacenters, tooling for cases or any of the other stuff Apple has previously been spending on. It could be related to the TV or might be something that isn't even rumored yet (with Apple able to keep it quiet because they're doing the development work internally instead of working with leaky outsourcers like Foxconn like they do for new iPhones and iPads)

Andromeda home to micro-quasar

DougS Silver badge

2.5 ly distant?

Surely you mean 2.5 million light years?

Goldman Sachs: Windows' true market share is just 20%

DougS Silver badge

Few use the "smart" features of smart TVs

Yeah, I'm sure several Reg readers are getting ready to thumb me down and/or reply because they use these features all the time, but Reg readers are hardly representative of the world at large. People buy smart TVs for the same reason they buy 3D TVs - because these features are included in all but the low end models despite the fact that few would pay anything extra for the feature if were a separate add on (for example, if when you bought a TV you were given the opportunity to pay $10 to enable smart and/or 3D functionality)

TV makers are struggling to find an added-value feature people are willing to pay for. It wasn't 3D, it isn't smart, the next try will be 4K, which will be another miss and back to the drawing board to try to come up with the killer feature no one wants.

When it becomes normal for the typical smart TV owner to fire up the built in browser to check a web site or use it to check their Gmail or work Exchange account, I'll agree with Goldman Sachs that smart TVs are as disruptive as the tablet. I won't be holding my breath. BTW, before someone claims that streaming Netflix makes a TV a "smart TV" I'll preemptively disagree. That's just giving the end run to the high prices/small selection your cable/satellite company charges for on-demand, not actually adding any new functionality - you're still using your TV as a TV.

GE boffins build micro-lungs to cool PC innards

DougS Silver badge

I wonder if it makes noise?

115 Hz is in the range of human hearing, but it doesn't necessarily mean the noise is audible. If it sounds like breathing, I would if it be similar to listening to a hummingbird breathe?

Facebook adding new privacy control tools for your 'stuff'

DougS Silver badge

Facebook likes to make frequent changes to privacy settings

As each time they further break down the settings from more general to more specialized, they can set defaults to something no one in the right mind would want. The people who are paying attention will lock down their settings each time, but some will miss/ignore/not care and their settings get more open as time goes on, which is what Facebook wants.

I think I'd have more respect for them if they just said "you're using our service for free, if you want more privacy tough, no one is making you come here". That's the outcome they're trying to attain but they go about by wearing down people with their constant changes to how settings work. It's not like everyone is going to go back to Myspace.

Top-secret US spaceplane sets off on another classified mission

DougS Silver badge

Unlikely given that the NK launch was delayed

Unless the US launch was originally supposed to take place last week or whenever it was the NK launch had been previously scheduled, it would have been too late for that.

However, it is possible that the NK decided to launch today before the US can get the X-37B into place to do...something. Not sure exactly what (that we couldn't already do with our existing satellites and missile shoot down capability) but I'm sure NK's generals have a capacity for paranoia that far exceeds my capacity for imagining paranoia.

Apple TV demand may drive Samsung-sapping sales

DougS Silver badge

Apple TV UI

If Apple was going to reinvent the TV, do you really think they'd let their competition know their great new UI idea by putting it on the Apple TV. The Apple TV STB isn't what Jobs was talking about when he said he "cracked it". It remains to be seen if his idea is a great one or not, but you can be sure the Apple TV is not representative of it.

Netflix names Google Fiber the fastest ISP in the US

DougS Silver badge

I'm with you guys, I don't get it

Surely there's a hard limit to how fast a Netflix stream goes, there may be a bit of buffering at the start but at some point it is just what the video requires.

I'm assuming those top figures are about 20 Mbps (=2.5 MBps) which seems like a lot for an h.264 HD video stream. Whether someone has 20Mb or 200Mb is probably not going to show up in Netflix's figures.

People who subscribe to a lower cost lower bitrate plan would skew these numbers. I have a 20Mb/5Mb plan from 13th-ranked Centurylink, but where I live I'm eligible for 40Mb/20Mb. I just don't see the point in paying more for it, as what I have is fast enough for anything I do with it.

It would be more interesting to see how many people are ELIGIBLE for a certain speed of broadband, rather than who actually has it. Everyone with FIOS (maybe not all, but most) can get 300Mb/65Mb, but who really needs that enough to pay whatever Verizon charges for it? What real world benefit is there for a residential user to have 300Mb/65Mb versus 100Mb/65Mb, or the cheaper options, for that matter? Outside of being a P2P supernode, that is.

Bio-integrated circuitry melds man and machine

DougS Silver badge
Pint

Re: Now this *is* clever

Couple it with a nice electric shock powered by their car if they tried to start it up while over the limit and they might :)

Microsoft notices Xbox gamers actually slack-jawed TV fans, adds 43 new apps

DougS Silver badge

Microsoft has been trying to do TV for almost 20 years

Remember when they bought WebTV back in the mid 90s? They did media editions of Windows even back in the XP days, have done two versions of XBox, partnered with cable companies to put some of their software into set top cable boxes and where has it got them? Yes, people are using their XBox as a set top box. Something PS3 owners have been doing since day one thanks to taking the risk of being forward thinking and including a Blu Ray drive built in, so it's not exactly earth shattering.

This is like the situation with tablets, which they had been messing around with for a similarly long time (remember Windows for Pen Computing back in the 3.x days?) They never got any traction, then Apple showed them how to do it, and Google and their OEM partners showed them how to do it cheap. They're left looking like fools trying to play catch up.

Nobody knows what Apple is cooking up, and there are no guarantees it will be successful, but if it is, Microsoft will again be left looking stupid as they do an about face and follow Apple, but once again being 2-3 years too late will mean that Apple and Google own the market, and Microsoft is left fighting for scraps.

Boffins spot 7 ALIEN WORLDS right in our galactic backyard

DougS Silver badge
Thumb Down

Re: sorry but ain't ever gonna happen

Thanks for the Rare Earth screed, but all those "unlikely" circumstances merely resulted in intelligent life exactly like us being here. Implicit in your diatribe is the assumption that we're the best case scenario, and no other set of circumstances could have resulted in complex or intelligent life appearing sooner than us, or being smarter than us. That's quite a wild assumption to make, given that we have direct knowledge and experience of exactly one world Earth-like world where life has arisen, and exactly zero Earth-like worlds where life has not arisen.

If things had been different, we wouldn't have been here, but it says nothing about the possibility of other intelligent life being here in our place. Given the range of possibilities and how soon it is on geologic timescales since our intelligence arose, sure, changing some might have killed the chances of complex or intelligent life, or delayed it by hundreds of millions of years. But changing others might have resulted in it happening much more quickly, and whoever lived here now might have flying cars and interstellar travel that would have spread them to a few of these Earth-like worlds.

Who's to say whether the particular set of circumstances that resulted in us happening now was good or bad luck, measured against the question "how soon does intelligent life arrive?" We have no idea whether our appearance on the scene now is extremely good fortune unlikely to be repeated again throughout an entire galaxy, or just about the worst case scenario and intelligence is a billion years late on the scene compared to the expected average for an Earth-like world. Maybe we're the smartest life in the history of the visible universe, or maybe some of those who inhabit our galaxy have pets more intelligent than us.

Kiwi archaeologists cook up a record of Earth’s magnetism

DougS Silver badge

Re: Not quite sure what the excitement is about...

Even over a 500-700 period the poles slowly drift, and there are also magnetic anomalies that randomly appear in certain areas that are believed to be linked with the local flow of material (liquid iron in the core, magna in the mantle, whatever) under the crust. So there is something that can be learned even when we know the poles haven't reversed over human timescales.

US drops ‘net regulation bombshell, threatens WCIT exit

DougS Silver badge

Re: US Strategy of Negotiation: Our Way or the Highway

if the Chinese ever ca;l;ed their loans in the US would default.

It's not possible for the US to (involuntarily) default on its obligations, since they are denominated in dollars and the US can create dollars in any amount at any time. The idea that the US (or Japan or the UK) can default is ludicrous. There is no economic difference between the US issuing $15 trillion in debt over the past however many years and the US printing $15 trillion itself during that time to come up with the difference. The main reason it is done this way is historic and because theoretically knowing money is being borrowed limits politicians desire to spend (though it's hard to see evidence of that over the past 30 years in the US)

The demand for a currency is created by things that can only be paid in that currency, so anyone who has to pay taxes in the US, wants to trade with the US, or buy assets in the US needs dollars even if they live elsewhere and conduct all their other transactions in another currency. The US still has the world's largest economy and is close behind the #1 ranked EU and #2 China in export value per year.

Another reason to issue debt rather than just printing money is because T-bills are the safest way to store dollars and are thus in great demand. There was actually a lot of concern in the late 90s when it looked like the US was going to be running surpluses for years to come that fewer T-bills being issued would create a lot of problems in financial markets. It would be nice to go back to worrying about that problem again!

Republican staffer fired for copyright reform suggestions

DougS Silver badge

Re: Republicans are about Campaign Cash from Big Business and the Rich

Want to know why Republicans politicians do what they do?

Republicans Politicians are about Campaign Cash from Big Business and the Rich.

Period.

----

There, fixed that for you.

Tim Cook: Apple to manufacture Macs in US in 2013

DougS Silver badge

Re: Compared to Ballmer

Compared to Ballmer, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad seems quite rational.

UK climate expert warns of 3-5 degree warmer world by 2100

DougS Silver badge

Re: The other elephant...

Why shouldn't carbon capture be possible? A lot of the carbon comes from large fixed sources like power plants, where the carbon leaves via the smoke stack. You can't capture the carbon from the tailpipes of all the cars, but electric cars are certainly feasible and even if their electricity comes from a coal burning plant its carbon can be captured far more easily than from the tailpipes of a half billion cars.

The problem is that no one ON EITHER SIDE really wants to do it because it is a middle of the road solution which pleases no one. The oil/coal/electrical industry thinks it goes too far and is too expensive, with some believing regulation already went too far with the Clean Air Act 45 years ago. The greens think it doesn't go far enough as it doesn't force greater use of renewable energy, and some of them wouldn't be satisfied until everyone is using a bicycle for transportation and taking cold showers.

IDC: Windows tablets won't hit 10% market share until 2016

DougS Silver badge

I wish I could get paid for doing what they do

They just look at the current market share, give a bit of weight to current trends, and top it off with a generous helping of what their clients want to hear.

Their clients are corporations, all of whom are far more heavily invested in Microsoft than they are in Apple or Google. So of course they'll overestimate Microsoft's share.

These guys are the ones who two years ago were predicting near double digit growth in the PC market as far as the eye could see, and kept adjusting their predictions each quarter as it turned out the PC market was actually SHRINKING. This year's shrinkage was blamed on Europe this spring and on people waiting for Windows 8 this summer.

I haven't seen their updated predictions since the PC market shrunk by more than double digits in the past quarter, they are probably busy figuring out what to blame that on - my money's on the US fiscal cliff. Who knows what the next quarter's shrinkage will be blamed on? Hangover from the world not ending on Dec. 21, perhaps?

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