* Posts by Kevin McMurtrie

1366 posts • joined 15 Jun 2007

Did your in-flight entertainment widget suck? It's Panasonic's fault, claims software biz

Kevin McMurtrie
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I've always been surprised at how bad in-flight entertainment is. The seatback displays look like they're 20 year old recycled laptops. The new WiFi streaming systems seem to need some impossible combination of modern secure hardware running ancient insecure software. This is why people download movies off the Internet.

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Li-ion king Goodenough creates battery he says really is... good enough

Kevin McMurtrie
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Lithium Ion batteries have a flammable electrolyte that bursts through the safety enclosure and sets everything on fire, then there's a hot sparking core to make sure the fire can't be put out. A glass electrolyte battery could safely hold much more power if it calmly fails as a blob of yellow-hot sparking goo. A bit of glass weave and sheet metal can hold that.

I assume that this technology is the standard 3 to ∞ years away from mass production.

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Java? Nah, I do JavaScript, man. Wise up, hipster, to the money

Kevin McMurtrie
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Re: Crippled C++

Java exists because it has safer memory handling. Desktop app developers can laugh this one off, but C++ memory management is really hard on multi-threaded servers. In Java, a hundred threads can continuously grab references to a shared cached object, a dozen of those threads can throw random exceptions due to GIGO, several threads can stall because somebody is on dialup, and at the same time the cache can be updated without ever a single memory leak or pointer bug. C++ can do that too but it requires a tedious level of manual effort and testing.

It's a double-edged sword. Java can't bulk-allocate structures so it's a mess for image and signal processing where there may be 100 million complex data points.

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Palmtop nostalgia is tinny music to my elephantine ears

Kevin McMurtrie
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Megaphone

Feel the music

I'm still waiting for a cellphone that can use its linear haptic feedback driver as a woofer.

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Amazon S3-izure cause: Half the web vanished because an AWS bod fat-fingered a command

Kevin McMurtrie
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Funny, this should have finished while I was at lunch

$ cd storage

$ rm -rf tmp1* tmp2* tmp3 *

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Boeing seeks patent for mobile device case with built-in fire extinguisher

Kevin McMurtrie
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C02 not so good either

C02 is extremely toxic too. The only reason it's ever called safe is that it's expelled quickly. Discharging a liquid C02 canister in a small area would likely cause the inhabitants to black-out for a moment.

The best bet for batteries is to seal them up with a vent facing outside, but that's ancient technology with no patent money. Lead-acid batteries are prone to spraying acid and lead powder when they fail so this has been around for long time.

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Google devs try to create new global namespace

Kevin McMurtrie
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Meh

Oh, look

Another Google specification that requires a massive translation database. I wonder if any company would be interested in hosting so much personal data?

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Java and Python have unpatched firewall-crossing FTP SNAFU

Kevin McMurtrie
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Fetching an XML External Entity from untrusted XML documents is already losing the game so a trick to make it command other servers isn't headline news. I suppose there are vulnerable places where they keep restarting the API server without bothering to investigate why it's so unstable.

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Oh happy day! Linus Torvalds has given the world Linux 4.10

Kevin McMurtrie
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Re: 808 and 810

Phones used to have a big piece of pyrolytic graphite tape to fix the thermal issues, but that stuff is crazy expensive and customers complained about hot phones when running low quality games. Now phones throttle after a few seconds and people give great reviews about how cool their phone runs.

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Huge if true: iPhone 8 will feature 3D selfies, rodent defibrillator

Kevin McMurtrie
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Might as well

Get rid of that stupid old phone feature. Come on, that's 1849 technology that should be left to the cheap Androids. Do you really want to talk to your boss? Your Mom? Use the laser face scanner to send an emoji and be done with it.

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Why I had to sue the FCC – VoIP granddaddy Dan Berninger

Kevin McMurtrie
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In the perfect world

Turning off POTS should be the right thing to do. Unfortunately, telcos would love to replace it with something much worse. Verizon will tell you to get a cellphone. AT&T will offer their technological nightmare of VoIP over PPP over ATM over IDSL over copper to a giant beige box on the sidewalk. In both cases you're losing: guaranteed pricing, guaranteed phone uptime, continuous Internet access, the ability to run personal servers, freedom from product bundling, and the ability to chose another network provider.

Don't touch POTS until IP services have a regulated minimum performance.

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Roses are red, violets are blue, fake-news-detecting AI is fake news, too

Kevin McMurtrie
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Re: Blockchain and Chatbots

What, it's not "Disruptive AI innovations using Big Data and Cloud Computing interacting with IoT?" I might be burning my money on the wrong startups.

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Crack in black: Matte iPhones losing paint at alarming rate, gripe fans

Kevin McMurtrie
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Gimp

Whatever, they'll buy a new one

Nobody still complains about Apple cords fraying even though that general problem was solved over 100 years ago.

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NASA bakes Venus-proof electronics

Kevin McMurtrie
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Re: Kind of a long journey..

That could work. The melting point of lead-free solder shoots up as it absorbs nearby metals, causing it to sometimes harden like crazy glue. A paste of metals could do that on purpose for high temperature electronics. For us here on Earth, it means prying your soldering iron off anything that has a porous copper surface.

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Cattle that fail, not pets that purr – the future of servers

Kevin McMurtrie
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Windows

So you port your app to the cloud. Yay! It works! But the app is dead, missing, or spewing errors an average of 10 minutes a day. The solution is a new distributed and redundant cloud design. Eventual consistency, redundancy, and distributed locking seemed so easier at those cheery developer conferences than now. All the developers start hooking up open source libraries that will surely solve all the problems. That needs just a few more servers to get it working. Add something to sift through the gigabytes of new logs. The app has to be re-designed to eliminate a few features that can't work well with a distributed architecture. As time passes, you start to wonder why code for recovery scenarios is getting larger than the happy path. Ok, it runs! Your app is never dead or missing but it's slow, glitchy, and never stops spewing warnings. You slay bug after bug but there are still some lurking designs needing immediate consistency or singleton tasks to work reliably. You yearn for the days of in-house servers that were fast, lean, simple, and ran for months without a moment of downtime.

PS:

Dear Netflix,

I know when you're running Chaos Monkey. Please stop it when I'm trying to find a movie.

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Google has a canary problem: One clocked off and crocked its cloud

Kevin McMurtrie
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These 50000 documents describe the deployment verification procedure

Google's systems are too complex and arcane - the legacy code and fragmented documentation of tens of thousands of engineers working in an isolated environment. There's a point where more testing only results in more false alarms.

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Chrome 56 quietly added Bluetooth snitch API

Kevin McMurtrie
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Google usually asks for permission to do things deep down in a terms of service agreement. Chrome is essentially a Trojan horse data harvester so it would not surprise me one bit if Google gives themselves continuous Bluetooth access. On Android, Google grants itself such permissions after nagging you to change the Location Settings to "improve performance."

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Comcast staffers join walkout over Trump's immigration crackdown

Kevin McMurtrie
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Windows

Dear nutters,

These protests aren't about liberals, or fascists, or illegals, or whatever you want to call it. Tech companies have a LOT of H1B Visa and Green Card holders. Not only can they not visit Mom, Pop, and Grandma anymore, but the government has vowed to treat them like criminals despite all the hard work they put into the proper legal process. Imagine if the government suddenly declares that 5%, 10%, or maybe even 30% of your friends and coworkers are a terror threat to US citizens. It's a shocking load of bullshit from a powerful orange guy who looks like he's drawing on restaurant menus. Companies know this is highly disruptive to the workforce so they want their employees to vent emotions outside the office until the Judicial branch can bring back some sanity.

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Trump's immigration clampdown has Silicon Valley techies fearing for their house prices

Kevin McMurtrie
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"sell his house and make a profit"

That sums up Silicon Valley housing well - Not buying a house to live in but to make a profit. Investors buy old houses at inflated costs, rent them without performing any maintenance, then sell them at an even more inflated price. Normal people don't buy a $1.5 million dollar fixer-upper shack, so it's just investors selling houses back and forth to each other and telling each other how rich they're going to be. It would make a lot of people happy if this pyramid scheme failed spectacularly.

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Particle accelerator hacked: Boffins' hashed passwords beamed up

Kevin McMurtrie
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MD5

MD5 isn't so bad if the salt tables are stored separately from the hashes. It's all a matter of stalling for time so that the intrusion can be detected before usable data is stolen.

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2016: Snapchat loses $515m... 2017: Snapchat rips veil off $3bn IPO

Kevin McMurtrie
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Beautification filters for the IPO

Losing $514.6 million on $404.5 million profit means they're spending an incredible $919.1 million per year. Making investors happy and covering expenditures would require revenues of at least $1.5 BILLION a year plus growth. That kind of money exists but competitors will pop up everywhere to take a cut. The next startup will figure out how to offer competing products at $100 million per year.

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Ransomware killed 70% of Washington DC CCTV ahead of inauguration

Kevin McMurtrie
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Facepalm

Wait, what?

So you have control over 123 Washington DC cameras and your most inspired idea was to hold uneventful video in their circular buffer hostage? You bore us.

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'Maker' couple asphyxiated, probably by laser cutter fumes

Kevin McMurtrie
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Coat

Inhaling CO2 laser beams, of course.

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Apple eats itself as iPhone fatigue spreads

Kevin McMurtrie
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FAIL

"Hardware is so over"

Hardware is never over. Software is never over. Apple is failing because they refuse to eliminate the premium design prices even though they ran out of premium design ideas years ago. Most of their recent "upgrades" have been frustrating brand lock-in attempts rather than useful features.

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I'm deadly serious about megatunnels, vows Elon Musk

Kevin McMurtrie
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Vacuum

Dr. Phil Mason is why things can't get done. A bullet hole in steel isn't going to create a killer shockwave in a tube so massive. If the tube was lined with fault sensors and periodic emergency vents, even a complete failure would have a short range shockwave. The tube could also have an interior plastic lining that collapses and crumples to diffuse shockwaves. Dealing with expansion is as simple as not making the tube perfectly straight and rigid. Suffocation is, again, solved by sensors and periodic emergency vents.

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How Lexmark's patent fight to crush an ink reseller will affect us all

Kevin McMurtrie
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WTF?

I'd like to sell my car...

This is a nice car; a really nice car. Have you ever repaired or maintained this car? You can't sell it if you've done that.

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Boffins explain why it takes your Wi-Fi so long to connect

Kevin McMurtrie
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Re: Machine learning algorithm

Shanghai Jiao Tong University can use AI to determine whether or not the access point is beautiful.

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It's official: Ejit – sorry – Ajit Pai is new FCC boss (he's the one who hates network neutrality)

Kevin McMurtrie
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Re: There will be Frequencies...

There's healthy competition too. Remember that you can look up a business in a phone book and ride your horse to their address to conduct business. That's an option for anyone who says that their internet service provider is too unreliable and expensive.

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Annoyingly precocious teen who ruined Trek is now an asteroid

Kevin McMurtrie
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Wesley, 7 of 9, Q, The Prophets, subspace anomoly, alien sex

Wesley was one of several plot cheats to keep the series exciting without long-term consequences requiring viewers to watch episodes in order. Only an appearance in a season premiere or finale was allowed to have any lasting impact on the storyline.

That said, I'm a little worried about Trump and Asteroid Will Wheaton appearing in the opening of 2017.

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Seven pet h8s: Verity is sorely vexed

Kevin McMurtrie
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Boffin

Concurrency

Multi-threading has many well developed mechanisms for producing exactly deterministic results in a predictable amount of time. It's a solved problem.

The hard one is distributed concurrency - a large number of machines all solving a single task. The difference is that machines are connected with latency, machines may go silent, and machines may suddenly come back to life after they were presumed dead. Anybody working at a hot startup will quote a bunch of Apache projects claiming to completely solve distributed concurrency with eventual consistency. The "eventual" in "eventual consistency" is normally a short period of time but it also may be infinity, and there might not even be a method of determining when the transient results have finally passed. There may also be eventual failures due to conflicting inputs that could not originally see each other. Such projects are typically poorly documented, not bug free, and may contain features that will not work in realistic conditions.

Distributed concurrency is fairly new and not solved as much as people expect it to be. Depending on the type of task, it might produce exact solutions in a known time, exact solutions in an unknown time, or inexact solutions in a known time. The hard part is transforming your task or expectations to match what can be done.

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CIA boss: Make America (a) great (big database of surveillance on citizens, foreigners) again!

Kevin McMurtrie
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Spying on Americans, sabatoging the American tech sector, and murding a whistleblower

Surely, Pompeo, that's the treason against America that is worthy of a death penalty sentence.

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Chevy Bolt electric car came alive, reversed into my workbench, says stunned bloke

Kevin McMurtrie
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Fault between chair and steering wheel

Most garage slabs are simply sitting on dirt without being attached to pillars or the foundation. Heavy rains could have caused the slab to shift slightly so that the car rolls without its parking brake on. That looks like a very slow impact.

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Google loses Android friends with Pixel exclusivity

Kevin McMurtrie
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The Axon 7 claims more features than it has. Daydream, WiFi Calling, and bootloader unlock are not yet released.

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Square Kilometre Array precursor shrinks 5TB of data to 22MB – every second!

Kevin McMurtrie
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This sounds like synthetic aperture imaging. The antennas are receiving exactly the same signals but some components of the signal have incredibly slight phase differences. Those phase differences are the imaging data so the raw samples can be discarded.

What are the odds that re-analyzing the raw samples would reveal new details that are no longer present in the sky? Not good enough to justify archiving 5TB/s with current levels of technology.

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US watchdog sues Qualcomm for 'bribing' Apple to swallow chips

Kevin McMurtrie
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WiMax?

I would attribute the failure of WiMax to Sprint using it.

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Trump fan Peter Thiel 'considering' CA Terminator role*

Kevin McMurtrie
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Did Thiel not notice that California doesn't care much for Trump?

California knows the types of deregulation: 1) Making it easier for new businesses and new technologies to get started. 2) Making easier for big businesses to block new businesses. We know the politicians are trying to dump a #2 on us.

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WD flashes first SanDisk drives: Blue and Green

Kevin McMurtrie
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Re: I've never...

I'm not touching WD again. They shipped with spin down and parking bugs for YEARS across multiple product lines. I know SSDs don't spin down or park heads but there's a mind boggling laziness and lack of dedication to quality when you can't ever get around to fixing a crippling firmware bug.

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Putting the 'Port' in Portal: Old-school fan brings game to Apple II

Kevin McMurtrie
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Secret Applesoft BASIC speed tricks

Mark variables as integers using '%' symbol. Make sure none of these variables ever convert back into floats. It runs 10x faster.

For more boost, learn about the secret '&' command. It jumps to an external handler at $3F5. From there you can pull in arguments from the interpreter, do stuff, then return to the interpreter. I had an entire library of graphics, sound effect, and disk I/O utilities built on that command. It's probably on one of the floppy disks in the garage that I can't read.

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For Fark's sake! Fark fury follows 5-week ad ban for 5-year-old story

Kevin McMurtrie
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Holmes

Missing the point

The legal image contains logos that look like they would advertise or symbolize illegal activity. Google is probably flagging those logos without caring anything at all about the rest of the image.

Google's dream of "the machine does everything" means that Google customers will always have to put up with uncorrectable mistakes like this. Google doesn't like humans providing customer service and that should be factored into the risks of doing business with them.

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Feds cuff VW exec over diesel emissions scam

Kevin McMurtrie
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Re: My car is not up to spec

Lots of smoking cars usually means there is a shop nearby taking bribes for smog inspections and doing cheap oil changes without changing the oil.

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ZTE laying off 3,000

Kevin McMurtrie
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Re: Not a US trade ban!?

Their flagship US product is the Axon 7. It has amazing hardware specifications but ZTE has a fetish of breaking perfectly good software for no reason. The phone is a wreck and they'll have a difficult time selling another one.

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Splunk: Why we dumped Perforce for Atlassian's Bitbucket of Gits

Kevin McMurtrie
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Six of one, half a dozen of the other

I've used both P4 and GIT and my preference is to Perforce. Git does everything, absolutely everything, including things that should never be done. Very common activities become a struggle with Git's cryptic commands and terminology that usually end up like the XKCD comic says. There's nothing like having Git put thousands of conflict markers in your new code because it didn't quite get the right options. Perforce makes easy things easy so screwing it up takes a bit more effort.

The other issue is shared libraries. Perforce can push and pull a consistent snapshot of many repositories at once. Git can't, so it's pure hell when multiple people are refactoring code across multiple repositories at once.

I've seen nasty bugs in both so I have no preference on stability.

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Don't believe the 5G hype! £700m could make UK's 4G better than Albania's

Kevin McMurtrie
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Magic bandwidth

5G will deliver gigabits to everybody...from where? It's the same over here in the US. 5G is a short-range technology so it needs a really fast pipe nearby. If those existed, there'd be quick money selling residential hookups to them.

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Google's Grumpy code makes Python Go

Kevin McMurtrie
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Calling BS

Citing performance is misdirection. This is really because Google doesn't like anything from the real world leaking into its bubble of a parallel universe. Python is slow because of the features it does and doesn't support. Embedding custom sections of C++/Java/Go into Python isn't much of an efficiency boost either because the inputs and outputs are still constrained by Python's design.

A cross compiler allows Google to get rid of CPython and, eventually, create a private version Python that is not foreign matter in Google's parallel universe.

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Busted Oracle finance cloud leaves Rutgers Uni unable to foot bills

Kevin McMurtrie
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It's a feautre

Who can afford to pay bills after buying an Oracle enterprise solution?

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Programmer finds way to liberate ransomware'd Google Smart TVs

Kevin McMurtrie
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Boffin

The service mode on many TVs includes adjustments that may produce X-rays, burn the screen, alter very complicated calibrations, start a fire, or damage your hearing/speakers. Some calibrations require unplugging wire harnesses or monitoring test points before starting. The service mode isn't really secret - it's printed in the service manual that you can order.

The dumb part was LG not having a dedicated reset button on the back of the TV.

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How Google.org stole the Christmas Spirit

Kevin McMurtrie
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The usual

This is a very old and well established tax scam. Donate to a charity that spends its money on your products. Apple was big on this in the 80s and Microsoft followed in the 90s. Now it's Google's turn.

It could be worse. I used to work next to the Kochs' "Bring Me A Book Foundation." From the moments when I could peek inside, it appeared that about 1 square meter was a charity and the rest of the warehouse was storage for exotic cars and boats. People holding books would knock on our door asking why the charity didn't answer the door and I only had bad news for them.

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Virgin America mid-flight panic after moron sets phone Wi-Fi hotspot to 'Samsung Galaxy Note 7'

Kevin McMurtrie
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How about being assigned to work at the Galaxy Note 7 disposal center?

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Chinese boffins: We're testing an 'impossible' EM Drive IN SPAAAACE

Kevin McMurtrie
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Launch it!

Nobody knowing 'if' or 'how' an EM Drive works sounds like the perfect reason to test it in space. At some point you need to stop staring at the testbed and go generate more data. The answer should be useful whether it works or not.

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Apple sues Nokia's pet patent trolls

Kevin McMurtrie
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Re: How is Nokia a patent troll?

All big companies hoard patents for obvious technologies and procedures that everyone uses. They're mostly garbage but it costs a lot of money under the current broken system to invalidate them. It's a weapons stockpiling standoff between the big companies with an occasional warning shot.

Apple believes Nokia partnered with trolls so that lawsuits against Apple come from various companies that evaporate at the first sign of trouble. If Nokia sued Apple directly for infringed nonsense patents, Apple could counter-sue in the same manner.

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