* Posts by John Miles

14 posts • joined 22 Jan 2008

Skype to give away wideband audio codec

John Miles
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About time for high quality codecs

Greater availability of wideband codecs is a very welcome development - the quality improvement is like comparing speech on a regular telephone vs. FM radio, and helps greatly with intelligibility and naturalness of communication. Even better if Skype can do this at bit rates of 40kbit or lower and good packet loss resilience.

What is remarkable is how long it has taken for high quality telephony to take off. Basic high quality codecs with a bandwidth up to 7kHz at 64 kbit/s data rate were available more than 20 years ago, and would have been usable over early ISDN lines even before widespread adoption of Broadband. Anyone who had used them would wonder why people put up with poor quality telephony speech, particularly on loudspeaker phones. I suppose the awful quality of many mobile calls has made people think that telephony speech on advanced systems will always be lousy.

Last Xmas for CDs, please, researcher tells music biz

John Miles

Quality that endures

Perhaps when one can download tracks at much higher quality I might switch from CD's.

But I have 40-50 year old LPs that still sound great and 20 year old CDs that still play fine - yet my oldest working hard disk is about 5 years old - I'm not sure I would entrust 100's of albums to that.

Still, one could always back it up to CDs...

Google sponsored links caught punting malware

John Miles

Google does take down bad ad-links

Several years ago I inadvertently downloaded some malware via a Google ad-link ( a premium line rogue modem dialer - that dates it). In high outrage I complained to Google and within 24 hrs the link had gone. I've not had a similar problem since, but given the scale of their operation and resourcefulness of offenders some must slip through.

Google releases serialization scheme

John Miles

Good Article, Bad Language

Interesting and amusing overview of the subject, but why the swearing.

Criminal record checks: More often wrong than right

John Miles

Postfacto selection

One can't simply judge the effectiveness of the process just from the true and false 'detection' rate.

The very fact that the CRB process exists will inhibit a lot of unsuitable people from applying for a position since they know that the CRB check is likely to identify their past record.

This number (whatever it is) would also have to be added to the number actually detected in order to judge the effectiveness of the process in screening applicants - the problem is I doubt that anyone really knows how many people are deterred by CRB.

AMD's new Firestream chip tops 1 teraflop

John Miles

Single precision float is often enough

It all depends on what you are doing - there are many applications where single precision is sufficient. Or with a bit of thought the computations can be re-arranged to avoid requiring extreme precision e.g. avoid taking small differences between two large numbers.

In the old days when FPUs were about 1/1000 (or less) of todays speed and C would only compile to double precision floating point ops I had to resort to writing a small set of C-callable assembly language single precision routines for vector arithmetic.

It was worth it, reduced run times from 4 hours to just over 1hr !

Firefox 3 Download Day falls flat on face

John Miles
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FF3 No problem

Whats the problem - loaded it fine to two machines - 7Mbyte at 250k/s.

Runs very snappily.

Becta asks EC to probe Microsoft school deals

John Miles
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Schools force students to use MS Office at home as well

An unstated consequence of the use of MS Office at school is that the parents implicitly have to provide it at home

One of our children is doing the GCSE IT Course (i.e. MS studies) at school with homework at home. We use Open Office at home, but it is not provided at school. Therefore she is expected to convert all homework files when she wants to take them to school (and to learn two different systems). If she accidentally saves in ODF format, or there is a conversion limitation, she is stuffed and cannot submit her homework.

In other words, there is an implicit requirement that the parents should provide MS software for homework (yes, we can afford to do so, but do not see why we should be forced to pay MS for our child's education).

The school would never be allowed to announce "In order for your child to work effectively and have equal opportunities to their peers you must purchase MS Office software for use at home, if you fail to do this there is a chance that you will disadvantage your child".

But that is implicitly exactly what is being required. This is wrong !!!

(Fortunately not every school is like that. our other child's school takes a much more open approach and even provides Open Office downloads from its students website - but I suspect they are unusual).

BSI faces High Court challenge over OOXML U-turn

John Miles

@Chris Miller - read the article

Whether or not lawyers understand the internet is neither here nor there (and some do very well indeed, see Pinsent Masons 'Outlaw' newsletter).

The point of the legal challenge appears to be to examine whether BSI followed procedures - something lawyers are very adept at assessing. (they are also quite good at reading what an article actually says).

ISO puts OOXML announcement on ice

John Miles

OOXML Voting and Zimbabwe Elections ?

Interesting that the ISO OOXML voting and Zimbabwe election results should both be delayed at the same time.

One would like to think that this is just an accident of timing, and similarities did not extend to dubious vote counting or unexplained about turns in votes, but then again...

Creative threatens developer over home-brewed Vista drivers

John Miles


Sounds like a good reason not to use Creative or Vista

Mozilla plugs 10 security holes in Firefox

John Miles

@Not Again

Why not just decline the security updates?

Do that consistently for many months and you could be in a similarly insecure as state as using IE now.

Nortel widens telecom tubes with 40Gb/s optical cards

John Miles

Hard part is 100mtr -> 1000 km at 10 and 40Gb.

Going 100m is easy, 50km at 10G has been around for a long time.

The really hard part is getting 10Gb and 40Gb to go further than ~100km.

10Gb pulses of light start to merge together after 100-200km because of dispersion (some components of the pulse travel faster than others).

Up till now you had to put in expensive optical delay compensation filters to correct the dispersion.

At 40Gb the problems get 4 times worse - i.e. the light gets mushed after 25-50km, or you had to go through power hogging electro-0ptics every so often (very un-green).

The Nortel approach cleverly gets round this using techniques similar to those formerly applied to radios and modems - (i.e. Quadrature transmission, dual polarization and line compensation), except scaled up many times to operate at Optical line rates.

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H3 'superzoom' camera

John Miles

Nice camera - but wider zoom would be useful

I'm puzzled why this, like some other 'super zoom' cameras, extend the 3:1 (35-105mm) zoom range of basic compacts at the "long end" only e.g. 35-380mm. (The Panasonic FZ50 is another such example 35-420mm).

Possibly designing a short focus zoom lens is harder than an long focus one, but an effective zoom range of 28-280 or 25-250 mm would seem much more useful.

For the odd shot where one wants something just a bit longer than ~250mm one can always zoom the image by a 20-25% (and make use of those millions of pixels) without loosing too much resolution. But there is no 'post processing' way to get the part of the frame not included in a 35mm shot.


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