* Posts by Steve Todd

2509 posts • joined 19 Sep 2007

Fujitsu unveils new laptops 'optimized for remote work' – erm, isn't that what laptops have always been for?

Steve Todd

Re: "laptops that can survive for nine hours on a single battery charge"

Just watching videos these days is a hardware accelerated activity (mainly by the GPU) with little work required by the CPU. You shouldn’t have much problems getting 9 hours of viewing time. There are some hardware based encoders (Quick Sync from Intel for example), but they tend not to be as good as software so editing on batteries would likely be a no no.

Steve Todd

Re: Nope missing an obligatory element

That MAY work for character based systems (heck, when I started out we had an entire team of devs sharing a single 64K link to a remote IBM3090), but dial-up systems are FAR too slow for modern graphical environments. Even a 512K link can be painfully slow for that, and these days I’m happy enough with an 80Mbit link, but that requires VPN, multi-factor authentication etc as it’s just not practical to buy a team of devs their own dedicated lines. It’s the fact that the internet is packet switched and shared that makes this kind of peak bandwidth at all practical.

SpaceX Crew Dragon docks at International Space Station

Steve Todd

Re: this is only half the trip

You don’t think the film bore any relationship to the book do you? About the only thing they had in common was the name of the villain and a vaguely space theme (I read the Fleming original a while back).

This'll make you feel old: Uni compsci favourite Pascal hits the big five-oh this year

Steve Todd

Re: pascal was simply useless.

Don’t forget that Wirth designed Pascal with the object of it being a system language. It was able to compile it’s self on CDC 6000 series mainframes in its earliest implementation, and in Object Pascal form was the system language of Macs prior to OS X.

It was far from useless, and was designed to be fast and efficient to compile on the limited hardware available at the time.

Raspberry Pi Foundation serves up an 8GB slice of mini-computing goodness

Steve Todd


LPDDR4 isn’t a type of NAND flash memory, it’s SDRAM, a different kettle of fish and not to my knowledge implemented on a multi-layer process like NAND flash.

SD cards hop on the PCIe 4.0 bus to hit 4GB/s with version 8.0 of storage spec

Steve Todd

So not full speed on any Intel platform then

Plus there’s the question of power consumption (PCIe 4 isn’t designed with mobile power constraints in mind).

If you're appy and you know it: The Huawei P40 Pro conclusively proves that top-notch specs aren't everything

Steve Todd

People don’t buy hardware

They buy software, and something to run the software on. Any machine or platform that doesn’t run the software the public wants is bound to fail, which is why Microsoft succeeded with Windows and Apple gained second place (due to targeting an affluent niche in the form of the creative and publishing businesses).

Windows phone failed for precisely the same reason (decent enough hardware, but it was third choice for mobile devs as the demand was mostly for Android and iOS apps). It’s a virtuous circle - more machines attracts more devs who write more software which attracts more users who buy more machines.

NHS contact tracing app isn't really anonymous, is riddled with bugs, and is open to abuse. Good thing we're not in the middle of a pandemic, eh?

Steve Todd

Re: One would have throught...

Erm, no.

The Apple/Google approach is not the same, and does not use a central database (or at least not for any data of the uninfected). It uses many independent databases, one per phone. It is up to each phone to check the central database for any matches. Historical data is ONLY uploaded to the central database by someone with a confirmed infection, and the authorities have no idea how many people match against that data or when/where the proximity events occurred.

Once again, the code for this is open and audit-able.The ONLY permission the app needs is to send Bluetooth LE messages, and listen to the same. It logs to its own DB what message it sent when, and what messages it received then. There is nothing that can be inferred about the transmitter from the message, and only they can chose to reveal to the world (anonymously) that they may have exposed others by providing a list of what codes they were transmitting when.

Steve Todd

Re: One would have throught...

It isn't as black and white as "Inside Bluetooth Range". They are using Bluetooth LE, which gives them control over the transmit power level and an idea of the range.

The end really is nigh – for 32-bit Windows 10 on new PCs

Steve Todd

Win32 subsystem

You do know that 64 bit windows can run 32 bit code un modified? It’s even slightly faster running apps that don’t need 64 bit pointers and more than 3.5GB of memory in 32 bit mode.

Now there's nothing stopping the PATRIOT Act allowing the FBI to slurp web-browsing histories without a warrant

Steve Todd

Re: Really?

I don’t think you’ve understood what is meant by “trusting the other endpoint”. Yes, it is hard to impossible to decrypt the message without knowing the cypher key. Once it is decrypted however it becomes vulnerable to theft, and if the recipient has a leaky system then you’ve lost all protection.

Russia admits, yup, the Americans are right: One of our rocket's tanks just disintegrated in Earth's orbit

Steve Todd

Re: Honest question....

Actually GEO satellites are delivered to a GTO, an elliptical orbit roughly between LEO and GEO. They then expend fuel at the top of the orbit to raise and circularise this (expecting the satellite to raise from a circular LEO orbit would be too expensive in fuel). Once on station they use a small amount of fuel per year to hold position, before using their remaining fuel to boost them up to a graveyard orbit at end-of-life. If there’s an issue with the satellite during the GTO phase then all it needs to do is alter its orbit so that it grazes the atmosphere each time. It should then burn up by itself.

The problem with this case is that the launch vehicle was empty of fuel once the satellite was in GTO. You need a larger, more expensive rocket which has enough capacity to deliver the satellite payload to GTO, then dispose of its self by changing orbit to either burn up or park out of the way of anything else in a graveyard orbit.

NASA signs deals to put a rocket under Artemis flights until 2029

Steve Todd

Even during the Shuttle days the RS25 was uprated past it’s original design.

They ran at 105% of rated capacity. The new engines have been improved further, and only have to survive one launch (disposable engines at $400 million per set, who’d have thunk it).

Apple: We respect your privacy so much we've revealed a little about what we can track when you use Maps

Steve Todd

Re: If this worries you...

Only those who have chosen to share their location with you personally, and not in real time. It's also only active when someone in your permitted friends list is actively requesting it You can get an idea of where your friends are, but not a precise fix.

Still waiting for your Atari retro gaming console? You're not alone: Its architect has just sued the biz for 'non-payment'

Steve Todd

You’re making the mistake of thinking that this “Atari” has ever built anything

The name has been passed through the hands of a number of companies, and is currently in the hands of a French company, Atari SA, who have to my knowledge never built anything.

Ofcom waves DAB radio licences under local broadcasters' noses as FM switchoff debate smoulders again

Steve Todd

The government needs to commit to DAB+ first, and not cheap out on the bit rate

The newer standard fixes the weaknesses of DAB by:

1) Adding Reed-Solomon ECC code to correct reception errors

2) Moving to the AAC CODEC rather than the antiquated MP2 format used by DAB.

The newer standard was released in 2007, so most sets made in the last 10 years should support it. Using the improvements to pack even more channels into the bit stream will however undo the advantages.

Real-time tragedy: Dumb deletion leaves librarian red-faced and fails to nix teenage kicks on the school network

Steve Todd

Perhaps it was on JANET, the UK's X25 academic network. I can remember having a lot of fun on that myself.

Well, 2019 finished with Intel as king of the chip world, Broadcom doing OK, everyone else shrinking. Good thing 2020's looking up, eh?

Steve Todd

So the caption should be ...

All but two of the top ten chip designers (Intel and Broadcom) suffer shrinking revenues?

Planet Computers has really let things slide: Firm's third real-keyboard gizmo boasts 5G, Android 10, Linux support

Steve Todd

Re: CEO Dr Janko Mrsic-Flogel

He was responsible for the VEGA+ software (or at least one of his companies were). They took circa £100k for it, and it’s known to be bug-ridden and flakey also.

Steve Todd

CEO Dr Janko Mrsic-Flogel

Hmm, he was part responsible for the VEGA+ fiasco, do you really want to trust him with a pre-order?

Asterix co-creator Albert Uderzo dies aged 92

Steve Todd

Loved by folk of all ages

When I was a child I'd get an Asterix book for Christmas. I'd read it, then my father would read it, then my grandfather.

The publishers may try to continue the series, but I doubt that it will be the same.

Microsoft throws a bone to those unable to leave the past behind: .NET 5 support on the way for Visual Basic

Steve Todd

Re: v5?

They are talking about .NET 5 (aka .NET Core).

Other than that you probably should be aware of Microsoft numbering theory:

Version 1: Incomplete and broken

Version 2: Fixed version 1, but still lacking features

Version 3: What users actually wanted

Version 4: Reimplemented (and with incompatible bits to V3), fancy bits added, but broken.

Version 5: Version 4 fixed.

Versions 6 and onwards: Rinse and repeat steps 4 and 5.

Xilinx's high-end Versal FPGA is like a designer handbag. If you need to ask the price, you probably can't afford it

Steve Todd

“ That's enough to simulate your own CPU core, though that's not really the intended use case.”

You can design a CPU with as few as a couple of hundred LUTs, so it’s probably massive overkill for all but bleeding edge designs.

Uncle Sam's nuke-stockpile-simulating souped-super El Capitan set to hit TWO exa-FLOPS, take crown as world's fastest machine in 2023

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It's only a game: Lara Croft won't save enterprise tech – but Jet Set Willy could

Steve Todd

Re: MiSTer is a modest success

The 68008 wasn't ready in time. It wasn't released util the year after the IBM PC was launched, and IBM engineering needed lots of samples of the chosen CPU in order to validate it. The 8088 may have been crappy and slow, but it was available and programatically similar enough to the 8080 that the software world was used to to make it an attractive choice at the time.

Starship bloopers: Watch Elon Musk's Mars ferry prototype explode on the pad during liquid nitrogen test

Steve Todd

Re: Unsurprise.

You do realise that SpaceX is a privately held company, and thus has no need to impress potential stockholders?

Unless you are (a) an engineer, (b) have been watching the feed for the full working day, each day, and (c) have access to feeds from inside the rocket then how do you know what progress is being made and who is doing what?

Famed Apple analyst chances his Arm-based Macs that Apple kit will land next year

Steve Todd

Re: Where are the benchmarks?

Erm, try looking at Geekbench results. The current Apple A13 is slightly faster at single core work than an AMD Ryzen 3800. It loses in multi core, but then it only has 2 fast cores vs AMDs 8.

AMD takes a bite out of Intel's PC market share across Europe amid microprocessor shortages, rising Ryzen

Steve Todd

Re: Is 25% wafer growth genuine ?

Not quite as simple as is made out. Demand is for higher core counts and improved capabilities. Using the 14nm(+++) node then you get fewer chips per wafer (partly because you can fit fewer of these bigger chips on a wafer, and partly because your failure rate goes up as the chip size increases). With 10nm Intel have poor yields to start with, and they can’t match the performance of chips fabricated on the, now very mature, 14nm node.

AMD have been rather smart here, in that their CPUs are fabricated in batches of 8 cores on 7nm chiplets. These are small, so with binning of chiplets that have some but not all cores working, along with the fully operational parts, they get very high yields. They then use cheaper 14nm IO chips to stitch the chiplets together into a seamless whole, letting them scale cores for almost linear incremental cost. Intel are having to compete with 16 core and higher parts, when their fastest parts have to be made on 14nm, and are monolithic so need a huge area on a wafer to get anywhere close.

One man is standing up to Donald Trump's ban on US chip tech going to Huawei. That man... is Donald Trump

Steve Todd

Why does Trump insist ...

All evidence to the contrary, that he’s the best ever on any given topic. As best I can make out, it’s almost always the reverse.

25 years of Delphi and no Oracle in sight: Not a Visual Basic killer but hard to kill

Steve Todd

Re: Interpreted?

In design/debug mode it was fully interpreted. Compiling to pCode isn’t vastly more efficient than pre-tokenising the source, and it falls well short of native binary speed.

Steve Todd

C# is syntactically similar to C, but more closely related to Java (which in turn was derived from C), and is basically Java with the faults fixed.

Steve Todd

Re: Interpreted?

Yes, the pCode was interpreted. It may have been compiled to an intermediate code, but it was still way slower than a native binary.

Steve Todd

The problem with Delphi

Wasn’t the language or IDE, it was Borland marketing. I was a fan of Turbo Pascal, and used Delphi for my own work. The company I was working for at the time got Borland in to demo Delphi as a possible replacement for VB, but they didn’t understand the product they were competing with (one of the senior devs asked “how do you do control arrays”. These aren’t needed in Delphi as the instance of a control that is clicked passes a reference of its self to the selected event handler, which makes it simple for many controls to share the same event code. The rep didn’t understand this). The second problem was that Interbase, the SQL backend of choice, had to be paid for whenever and however a product was shipped (even a limited user demo copy of an app). Microsoft let you ship a limited version of the backend database for free, and pay licensing costs only when you needed to scale it.

The result was that it was sidelined and the rest is history.

You'll never select all and mark as read again after this tale of peril... Oh, who are we kidding? Of course you will

Steve Todd

Re: transgenic mice

Many moons ago I wrote a dating program for transgenic mice. Scientists want rodents that are prone to particular diseases (cancers in this particular case), so they could use them when developing treatments for the disease in question. I thus had to create software that tracked individual animals, their lineage and which other(s) they had been bred with.

Best buds? Apple must be fuming: Samsung's wireless earphones boast 11 hours of listening on a single charge

Steve Todd

Or for a tad less than £100

You can get a set of cambridge audio melomania wireless earbuds that provide HD Audio (APT-X and AAC, so both Apple and Android camps are catered for), which have a 9 hour battery life and are pretty much guaranteed to sound way better.

Things I learned from Y2K (pt 87): How to swap a mainframe for Microsoft Access

Steve Todd

Re: A System/38 aint no mainframe, boy!

No, it’s a mid to large sized mini. IBM mainframes were descended from the venerable 360 range (which became the 370, which became the 3090, and these days I believe is called the system Z). The S/38 was designed from scratch as a Mini back in about 1978.

The 3090 (from about the same period) was designed to handle hundreds if not thousands of users. The S/38 would top out at a couple of dozen.

Steve Todd

Re: Not really a situation in which Access worked

You have my sympathies. It took rather longer to get a replacement written than I would have liked in my case also (Access, while in some ways being a complete pain in the butt, does give you a lot of functionality out of the box).

Steve Todd

VB6 is long gone (more than 20 years now since Microsoft released a compiler that handled it, and out of support for many years), but VBA is so different to VB.NET that I suspect that they have to keep it for backwards compatibility. The problem is that Office would need to be rewritten into .NET (with the associated slowdowns) in order for a .NET based scripting language to make any sense (in general Win32 apps can only access .NET components if they have been exposed via COM, and these are in the minority)

Steve Todd

Not really a situation in which Access worked

But I was working for a large American bank who used Access to track their commercial client’s advanced requests for foreign exchange transactions (if they booked the request in advance then the FX desk could arrange better rates).

The problem was that this was one Access database replicated to multiple foreign branches (because Access databases do NOT work well across a WAN), and every time someone at one branch exited the system in other than a controlled fashion (by crashing, or by simply just turning their PC off for example) then they would break replication at their local branch copy. I had to hold this steaming pile together while a proper solution built around .NET and SQL server was built, and I’ve never forgiven it since.

In your face short sellers! Tesla goes two quarters in a row without losing money

Steve Todd

You do realise that Driver Assistance systems are something you have to deliberately turn on? Depending on the level you want then they are even optional extras on the Tesla. Don’t like them then don’t use them. Other than that, have you actually tried driving one rather than reacting on instinct?

Steve Todd

I think you’ve rather over-estimated the charging time there, and ignored the increasing speed of Superchargers. It’s 30 minutes to 80% charged. 10 hours driving implies something like 650 miles, and two stops. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t want to drive more than 2 or 3 hours without a rest stop and refreshments, so the actual extra time added is going to be rather less than the 1 hour charging required.

Steve Todd

Nope. Look at power used per mile. The Porsche for example has a battery about the same size as a Model S, but manages less than 2/3 of the range.

If you order the available electric cars by Wh/mile then Tesla cars are all at the top of the table.

Caltech takes billion-dollar bite out of Apple, Broadcom for using its patented Wi-Fi tech without paying a penny

Steve Todd

If it’s part of the WiFi standard then it should be covered by FRAND terms

$1bn doesn’t sound like FRAND to me. How exactly did this get to be part of the standard without the licensing being well known and easy to obtain?

There are already Chinese components in your pocket – so why fret about 5G gear?

Steve Todd

“A country torn apart by nationalism, corruption and warring factions”

Sounds pretty much like a definition of the US today, as does much of the rest of the first two paragraphs.

It's been one day since Blighty OK'd Huawei for parts of 5G – and US politicians haven't overreacted at all. Wait, what? Surveillance state commies?

Steve Todd

Interestingly the US has a history

Of intellectual property theft also. When they were a new nation they refused to acknowledge European patents and outright stole much of the IP that got them started as an industrialised country.

In this case there has been much posturing and wringing of hands, but little to no proof of their allegations. That combined with a failure to offer a viable alternative has landed them where they are now (with most of Europe coming to the same conclusions), looking like bully boys into the bargain.

Remember when Europe’s entire Galileo satellite system fell over last summer? No you don’t. The official stats reveal it never happened

Steve Todd

It’s not yet a production system

It’s in test, in order to find the bugs and qualify the system. As such it doesn’t need 5 or more 9’s reliability. Once it goes live THEN you can scream about any outages.

How do you like them Apples? Cook drops 'record' 30 times* on conf call as iPhone sales up, services up, wearables up

Steve Todd

Re: 480 million services subscribers

You need an Apple ID to use an iPhone or iPad, and there are considerably more than 480M of those in circulation, so I’d guess the former.

AMD really, really wants you to know its chips are doing OK without any help from Intel and its supply issues

Steve Todd

Re: For once, its not just spin

Erm, nope. If you’re looking at a single core then Intel parts can clock higher, but guzzle power when they are doing so. AMD IPC is higher, but their lower clock speed makes it about a wash for most benchmarks (some higher for Intel, some for AMD, but not much in it either way). The EPYC line is however much more power efficient and offers the option of many more cores (64 core, 128 threads in the top-of-the-range 3990X), which Intel can’t get close to, and what they do have has crazy power and cooling requirements (400W for a 56 core Xeon Platinum 9200 vs 280W for the 64 core AMD part). The Xeon part is also so expensive that Intel will only tell OEMs the price (rumoured to be circa $25k each, vs $4k for the AMD).

Ever wondered what Microsoft really thought about the iPad? Ex-Windows boss spills beans

Steve Todd

Re: Microsoft Foundation Classes

I think you will find that the VCL is still sold as part of Embarcadero C++ Builder and Delphi. It’s 25 years old and counting. It’s also what the .NET framework was based on, since Anders Hejlsberg designed it before he was poached by Microsoft to work on .NET.

Steve Todd

Re: I'm not entirely convinced by his claims...

Erm, the iPhone price was as subsidised on a contract, not the RRP of an un encumbered device. The iPad price was, for an Apple device, quite low. Yes, you could find cheaper laptops, but that wasn’t what was stated.


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