* Posts by Julian Smart

44 publicly visible posts • joined 9 Mar 2008

IBM scraps loyal staffer gifts in favour of... a congratulatory social page

Julian Smart

A culture of feedback to cognitive learning that’s more mobile

Er... What the frack does that mean?

And is there learning that isn't cognitive?

Official: Toshiba pulls out of European consumer PC market

Julian Smart

Re: What to buy?

I've been using Acer laptops for some years, and like them a lot. In 2010 I bought 4 Travelmate Timeline 8371 13" laptops, since they were going cheap after Acer overstocked. Once the noisy fan had been quietened with a custom BIOS, they were a joy to use with a good weight/power/battery life balance. I did a lot of software development with mine, and my daughter is still happily using hers at university, albeit with SDD + Windows 10 upgrade. The only unreliable element was a fault whereby the screen needed replacing a couple of times on one machine, not uncommon with this model.

Last year I bought an Acer TravelMate P645 which I upgraded with a Samsung 1TB SSD and 12GB RAM, and installed Windows 8.1. It's a similar footprint to the 8371 but they squeezed in a 14" display, and it's lighter, and about 2.5 times the speed of the 8371. I totally love this machine, and don't mind the business-like boringness of the design. Well, this is all anecdotal, but my own experience of Acer is good - and I'm fussy about things like fan noise, keyboard usability and battery life. My wife has a cheapo Acer 11" laptop which has occasional touchpad glitches but is otherwise fine.

Even Apple doesn’t mess with Taylor Swift

Julian Smart

Suddenly ethical?

Is it just me, or is it a little odd to suddenly paint Apple as ethical and fab after being forced to reverse their blatantly unethical behaviour by industry pressure? They thought they could get away with being greedy evil bastards, and they should be condemned and boycotted for that. Not praised for their wondrous new-found generosity. They will get away with whatever they can. It could be you or me they try to shaft next.

Streaming tears of laughter as Jay-Z (Tidal) waves goodbye to $56m

Julian Smart

Re: Sign o' the Times

If the title of this comment is a coded reference, I'll make a wild guess that AC = Judy Parsons...

Microsoft Azure goes TITSUP (Total Inability To Support Usual Performance)

Julian Smart

You mean people would literally be executed for it?

Amazon's cloud reign may soon come to an end, says Gartner

Julian Smart

Re: a ways

Indeed, I have to admit I cringe when I hear people saying "Can I get". I did catch myself appending "if you please" to a request for water in Costa the other day, and that's probably going too far...

Julian Smart

a ways

"is a ways back". Wow. How did such illiteracy become acceptable?

Barnes & Noble's Nook freed from Windows, WinPhone apps pledge

Julian Smart


FYI Jutoh does tables :-)

It's true, the START MENU is coming BACK to Windows 8, hiss sources

Julian Smart


If this is accurate, it's going to have us all looking back at Windows 8.0 with fond nostalgia.

So... you have a new Windows Dumb, er Modern touchscreen all-in-one machine, perhaps as a family machine or for an older relative. Want to do some maintenance of the machine in Desktop mode? No joy.

You're a developer creating Modern apps. How the heck do you test and debug them from your (presumably) Desktop environment? An emulator or VM?

You're a developer of WIN32 applications and customers complain they can't run the software any more on their new PCs...

You have a touchscreen laptop and like to run WIN32 applications and occasional Modern apps. No can do, without switching OS.

The fragmentation and confusion will be far, far worse than before. Basically it's Windows RT writ large. I don't know what the answer is for Microsoft, but this is going to be interesting to watch. And stressful for Desktop application vendors like me.

Ellison ditches own cloud keynote for billionaires' America's Cup boat race

Julian Smart

Oh, LARRY!!!

Huawei Ascend Mate: The phondleslab for the skint

Julian Smart

Screen size

Is it just me failing to find it, or is there no mention of the actual screen size? Or should we calculate it from pixel density and resolution?

Microsoft 'poised' to SPAFF A BEELLION on e-book also-ran Nook

Julian Smart


I like my Nook HD (running full Android and lighter and nicer to hold than my wife's Nexus 7). It would be a shame if the line were to be destroyed by Microsoft.

I'm intrigued, will they try to replace Android with Windows 8? Or will they sell Android-based gadgets?

New 'BLOCKBUSTER' APPLE iTHING imminent - billionaire Einhorn

Julian Smart

I will be drinking coffee later this year, and throughout next year.

"Apple chief Tim Cook said last month that the firm was upping its quarterly dividend by 15 per cent to $3.05 per share and was boosting its share repurchase programme. He also said that new products would be coming along later this year and throughout next year."

And then they're just going to stop making new products from 2015, obviously.

Google tool lets you share data from BEYOND the GRAVE

Julian Smart


Unplanned Obsolescence Manager

Tits Up Heads Up

Google Doom


Netbooks were a GOOD thing and we threw them under a bus

Julian Smart

No middle ground at the moment?

I loved my Asus netbook and for a couple of years used it for software development in cafés, along with a clunky Dell laptop at home. Then two years ago I got a £350 Acer 8371 13" Timeline that had already been in the warehouse for a year. After installing a custom BIOS to knock the noisy fan on the head, it's almost the perfect near-netbook - light, matte screen, just enough processing power for my work, very good battery life, now running Windows 8 on a 750GB disk, and I don't need to switch between two machines. Good thing I bought 4 because there doesn't seem to be anything to replace it - ultrabooks are expensive, fragile-feeling, with (usually) derisory storage, and non-serviceable parts. What's the point in shaving millimetres off the thickness if it's going to compromise the functionality? I can't stand hot, noisy machines and Intel CPUs don't seem to be developing fast enough in the right direction.

So, to me at least, there seems to be a gap in the market for a sensible, highly functional, small, light, quiet, reasonably-priced machine that doesn't try to follow all the latest fads. Better than a netbook, cheaper than an ultrabook. So basically an 8371 with just a little more grunt and resolution would do me fine. As it is, I dread having to buy a new laptop.

German ebook firm aims low with cheap 'n' simple €10 ereader

Julian Smart


Less of a gadget ad, more of a short zombie apocalypse movie.

Actually the idea seems quite neat, but only if price is a real issue (or you're always dropping it in the bath or feeding it to the dog).

7 English cities grab £12m for 'cash back' Green Deals

Julian Smart


Oh great. Way to accelerate the destruction of our built heritage with more plastic windows replacing wooden ones. It's a curse. Double glazing can be done in an aesthetic manner - I've just had five large wooden sash windows fitted in a small Edinburgh flat - but will people spend a few quid more to save later (given the unmaintainability of plastic windows) and also vastly improve the appearance of their building? Mostly no. And there's seemingly little encouragement to do so.


HP unzips slim Windows 8 notebooks

Julian Smart

I'm sorry, it may be lovely but I'm never going to buy a laptop named after one of the Seven Deadly Sins, just as I'm never going to buy a tablet from Ainol. (I'm just glad the latter company didn't come up with the Envy, or Lust.)

The Envy is simply screaming about its status as a show-off machine. You may as well call it the Jerk and be done with it.

New broadband minister snubs 'ugly' fibre cabinet gripes

Julian Smart

We used to be capable of designing things of beauty, or at least relatively attractive objects, such as post boxes.

Would it be beyond the wit of today's designers to make them attractive, or otherwise blend into the scenery in some way? Zero imagination seems to have been applied to this problem. A matter of cost, I guess. But perhaps residents could vote on a number of available designs and even pay a small amount, rather than have the annoyance of walking past an eyesore several times a day.

Google Nexus 7 shipping cock-up enrages fandroids

Julian Smart

TNT wouldn't let me correct the broken address (this qualifies as an address 'change' that's prohibited by their contract with Computer2000). So they tell me to contact Computer2000. Who tell me to contact Google. Who are of course impossible to contact. Umpteen more conversations later with TNT staff all end with "sorry, we can't change the address, you could be anyone, you must contact Google". I make a radical suggestion - why don't I collect it from the TNT depot? Yes, that will work, they say, if I bring enough identification. We'll see if they deign to let me take it away, or if the machine is in bits from rolling around a TNT van for 3 days. Wow. If Google don't fire Computer2000 I'd be amazed.

Nexus 7 and Surface: A bonanza for landfill miners

Julian Smart

Giving the Nexus 7 the benefit of the doubt

I've been sceptical about tablets (probably sour grapes because I don't produce any software for them). But it didn't take much decision-making to pre-order the Nexus 7, because it's quite cheap, it looks a lot of fun, and I'm hooked on Android now we all have Ascend G300 cheap-and-cheerful Android phones at home. I couldn't bring myself to order an Ainol tablet (yup, Ainol) though it would have been a conversation-starter, and I expect a lot of people will feel better about buying a Google device than a no-name or downright-strange-name brand. Besides, it looks like the ideal machine for my wife to ogle property porn. The only slight concern is whether it'll do BBC iPlayer - it would be a good machine for that, but there's a question mark over Flash support in Android 4.0+ devices. Surely the Beeb must be preparing for a Flash-less world.

Maybe it'll end up in a cupboard but given the amount of time I spend reading The Register on my phone, I suspect it'll be excellent for second-screening. It'll be interesting to see if it takes over from the Kindle we already own - probably not, the Kindle display still wins over LCD for reading fiction.

As for the Surface, I'm sore from facepalming at Microsoft's antics with Windows 8. I can't see many consumers buying that overpriced, lap-unfriendly reinvented notebook, and Metroised Windows 8 on the desktop could well turn some customers off it. Corporate types will probably buy lots of them to show off.

'When you disagreed with Steve Jobs, you lost'

Julian Smart


"Newton said that 20 per cent of the profits would go to the foundation, and anything left over after production and distribution costs would go to the organisation's charitable works."

Surely "anything left over..." constitutes the profit? So where does the 80% of profit go exactly?

Asus peddles three-in-one smartphone, tablet, netbook

Julian Smart

Erm, what is the point, exactly? You lose the ability to (conveniently) use your phone while it's docked, and in this age of cloud services, surely it would be better to sync everything automatically so you don't need to physically bolt devices together? Weird...

Intel promises '20X' power reduction with 'Haswell' chips

Julian Smart

"Architecting" is still not a flipping word.

Microsoft bans open source license trio from WinPhone

Julian Smart


More news to gladden the hearts of Nokia employees, developers and users.

Wow, the mobile market is in a sorry state at the moment what with Apple lording it over content providers, Nokia going evil, legal threats over Android, and Microsoft living up to their reputation. I'm glad I don't depend on mobile development for a living... yet.

Subdued RM says government cuts challenge its business

Julian Smart


Frustratingly, schools seem very fixated on Windows and MS Office. At a teacher friend's school, when they bought new machines, they took away the old, perfectly serviceable ones and left them with fewer PCs than before. Genius. Is this due to restrictive contracts, good old corruption, or just stupidity/intransigence? Who knows. But I bet if they spent less on Microsoft products, using open source software instead, authorities could afford a lot more machines.

(A RM 380Z was the first computer I used. As a student I worked as a RM technical author - and no, I wasn't stoned. I was however surprised to find that one of my colleagues was an ex-member of the Belle Stars...)

Motorola dual-core Android phone to pull off laptop trick?

Julian Smart


Crazy idea - what happens when you get a phone call? You need to undock or use a headset.

Also, phones tend to have a much shorter life than notebooks, so if you throw out your phone, you've got an extra paperweight to dispose of.

There has to be a better way of sync'ing a real notebook with a phone.

Amazon shrinks books with Kindle Singles

Julian Smart

They used to be called...

essays. Or tracts. Nowt wrong with a pithy communication, not everything has to be massive. I guess the 99-page iOS EULA wouldn't qualify. I wonder what the pricing is going to be; ebook prices are already in a race to the bottom, so selling these things isn't going to make many people rich.

Yahoo! sneak peeks revamped Mail

Julian Smart


Ah, I remember the good old days when things were just "redesigned". Thank goodness that their new technologies[1] have re-embiggened us all.

[1] Y'know, like woodwork, plastic chemistry or nanotech used to be technologies, and now you can invent an entire technology in an afternoon from the comfort of your desk. (ssh, don't tell anyone but it's just more lines of code...)

3 billion have suffered Slade's 'Merry Xmas Everybody'

Julian Smart


This song has 2 effects on me. (1) it makes me want to rip the person responsible for this music selection limb from limb, and (2) it without fail conjures up a huge elephant in the room, namely the billions of people who plainly _won't_ be having fun at Christmas, for whatever reason. So this piece of crassness doesn't bring any cheer whatsoever, it's just brainless and annoying. As it was probably meant to be. (On a par in annoyingness with Live and Let Die with the fabulous line "this world in which we live in". Why aren't people throwing rotten vegetables at P.McC. when he sings this crapulence??)

Samsung N510 Nvidia Ion-based netbook

Julian Smart

Glossy versus matte

If "glossy screens are better for watching video", then why aren't TVs glossy? Or maybe some are? Anyway, glad to see matte screens are back. Now they just need to get rid of the ridiculous nano particles on the keyboard (assuming they're still there).

US start-up punts family friendly netbook appliance

Julian Smart


Very nice to see a quite different take on the netbook concept. However, I'm not sure the easel mode is very practical - one of the good things about a notebook screen is its adjustability, and in easel mode, you can't make the screen vertical, or it would fall over. OTOH you can still adjust it in normal mode. A touch screen would have been nice - or maybe it's not stable enough for poking at it in easel configuration? Still, the remote, wheel, viewing angle, synchronisation, UI, HDMI port etc. really sound like fairly radical steps towards consumer-friendliness, although seemingly at the expense of custom apps. It will be interesting to see how it fares, and whether they'll come out with an SDK...

Fujitsu intros 11in notebook-not-netbook

Julian Smart
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Ah yes

Conveniently they've lovingly Photoshopped massive screen glare into the product artwork so punters don't have to look any further to know what a dumb reflection-magnet this is going to be.


Samsung N110

Julian Smart

Two great reasons not to buy this

...a glossy screen, and a who-knows-whether-it's-toxic-or-not nano silver keyboard.

Come on, a glossy screen on a netbook - it's bad enough on a relatively static notebook, but on something that's going to be used all over the place? I'd really, really, really like to hear the discussions inside computer companies when they make the decision about glossy versus matte. I'd like to know exactly why they think a screen that gives you eyestrain when there's a couple of photons of light behind the user is acceptable. We need some journalists to do a proper investigation into one of the most puzzling aspects of computer design ever! It's damned annoying when the choice of hardware is constantly whittled down, with even Asus starting to make their screens glossy (but confusingly not changing their model numbers so you have to look at the processor number to tell whether the screen is going to be glossy or not).

The hilarious bit is when you see publicity shots and there's a massive reflection lovingly reproduced across the screen, to make the punter salivate at the unutterably desirable shininess of it all. And then there are the product listings on stores such as Dabs that even say "glare-type display". Glare type. They are actually proudly announcing that these screens have glare, as if it's an acceptable feature. What next? Fail-type hard drives? Crackle-type sound cards? Clatter-type keyboards? Whine-type fans??

Finger crossing won't lure iPhone coders to Windows Mobile

Julian Smart
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Give us free tools again

Microsoft had the right idea a few years ago in giving away WinMobile development tools, but now they apparently want to fail by making the tools expensive, and out of the reach of bright but poor independent developers. The sheer idiocy of this is astonishing. Whether the lure of WinMobile+free tools is now enough given its trendier competitors, I don't know, but they're not even giving themselves a chance to compete on apps. Perhaps with WinMobile 7 they'll bring back free tools.

Is this phone app mania just a short-lived fad? It'll be interesting to see whether apps are going to be a critical factor for people choosing their phones.

Pirate Bay loses trial: defendants face prison time, hefty fines

Julian Smart

@Lee Jackson

As somone who lives by copyright material, I quite agree with Lee and the verdict - I don't see why encouraging theft should be condoned in any way. They obviously knew they were stealing, as the name suggests. Still, I guess a lot of not very mature people won't like their illegal toys to be taken away.

What the heck is an IT Architect anyway?

Julian Smart
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If there's an utterance I hate more than "going forward", it's "architected". Do people mean "designed" by any chance? I suspect that this usage, along with IT Architect, is flannel to embiggen the ego.

Asus readies fourth incarnation of Eee 900

Julian Smart

Stupid number of Eee PC models now

I recommend netbooks to friends, and have a couple of Eee PCs, but with the ridiculous plethora of Eee PC models it's becoming easier to recommend one of the competitors, which have better keyboards while being cheaper than the larger Eee PCs. What's with the scattergun approach, Asus? You're confusing and alienating customers now.

Acer Aspire One A110

Julian Smart

Shiny screen?

The model I saw in the local Curry's (Princes Street, Edinburgh) had a very shiny screen - I can't stand laptops with built-in mirrors! No mention of this aspect in the review, so I guess the reviewer either didn't mind it, or is a vampire. The Curry's model was quite dead and I didn't wait around for them to revive it, but it looked quite stylish... apart from that pesky shiny screen.

Ubuntu to get open-source Java heart implant

Julian Smart

RIP 'designed'

Apparently we don't 'design' things any more, we 'architect' them. Is there a specific reason for using such an ugly word as 'architected'? (Especially if we not talking about architecture.) Ugh.

Phorm agrees to independent inspection of data pimping code

Julian Smart

Re: The conflict of interest issue - our response

It's good to see engagement from a central figure in the controversy on these comment pages - a refreshing change from watching the PR drones on various forums! We have probably been a bit hard on Simon Davies and I totally sympathise with the frustration of not seeing financial reward for good works. As an open source software developer I and my colleagues are in a similar position - people like the product, but don't see the necessity of paying, when it's voluntary. Privacy is even less tangible than software so it must be far more difficult to fund.

Although the 80/20 report is about a specific issue of fact and so technically there may be no conflict of interest, I guess the problem here is the overall perception. When the BBC finally reported the story, the emphasis was on the quotation repeated on 80/20's web site: "We were impressed with the effort that had been put into minimising the collection of personal information." The tone was up-beat and in Phorm's favour, so the public comes away with the interpretation "privacy experts are impressed with Phorm, so we can all relax".

It may not be 80/20's fault that complex issues are simplified (combined with Phorm's massaging of the facts) but it still seems a bit like giving a glowing report to a terrorist's humane killing methods. I may be naive but I would expect a privacy expert to question the sanity of allowing this kind of profiling in the first place, especially given that it could never be adequately audited.

Net think tank: Phorm is illegal

Julian Smart
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Re: "Privacy International" loves Phorm

I think this is fascinating from a psychological perspective. What might be going through Mr Davies' mind, to compaign for many years in the public interest and then seemingly detonate his own reputation by association with a dodgy company intent on riding roughshod over users' privacy?

One, partial, answer comes from the rather sheepish admission from another member of PI that their funding isn't great and they have make ends meet (but that PI distanced itself from the 80/20 report). This was reported in another Register comment page.

Another factor may be the phenomenon that after building up a reputation, a person can begin to feel invincible - and is therefore confident that being wined and dined by this kind of company is fine and his reputation unassailable. He could be justifying himself by arguing that he has the chance to change what Phorm are doing for the public good; while forgetting what this relationship will look like to the outside world, and the fact that tweaking Phorm's processes doesn't remove the underlying dangers.

Another theory is that it's a cunning plan to actually undermine Phorm, at the same time as extracting a fee. The final report might therefore be full of surprises for Phorm.

No doubt we'll get answers eventually. I suspect there's a TV drama to be made out of it, with a healthy mixture of corporate greed, grass-roots campaigning and larger-than-life personalities. To complete the picture, someone just needs to turn up videos of some of the protagonists in compromising situations... happily, these will be much easier to find when BT, Phorm &co have flushed away the online privacy of the nation.

Julian Smart

Keeping it in the public eye

If the ISPs do go ahead with Phorm (and similar systems) anyway, I for one would contribute to the cost of full-page newspaper ads keeping the public informed about which ISPs are spying on them. With 7,000+ signatures on the petition, I think there's the motivation to keep up the pressure for quite some time - which would be necessary to make sure that sufficient numbers of people leave the ISPs for their bean-counters to start taking a different view.

Phorm launches data pimping fight back

Julian Smart


"But what our research shows is that users worry about security online and prefer to have more relevant advertising... Our system gives you advertising that’s relevant to your interests without storing details on your browsing behaviour."

It's good that you're interested in what people want. Now you know that many many ISP users don't want your systems and that you are damaging the reputation of the ISPs involved. Hopefully this will inform Phorm's decisions (and those of the ISPs).

Do we believe that opt-out will be genuinely Phorm-free? It's hard to simply take something that important on trust given the contradictions we hear. But also you have got our backs up with your arrogance, greed and lies to the extent that opt-out may not be enough - we'll simply vote with our feet.

I just want to add my voice and express the fact that I will never ever go with an ISP that does this. The economic argument from the Telegraph and others is pathetic - just add a few quid to my bill, thank you. I guess the ISPs/Phorm are counting on the majority to be too stupid to avoid selling their privacy for a few measly pounds.

Totally disgusted by Phorm and the ISPs concerned. You must have thought we were all mugs. Now you know better.