* Posts by robin penny

36 posts • joined 18 Aug 2008

Forget Mars: Let's get someone on the Moon – NASA veteran

robin penny

Other reasons the Moon makes more sense than Mars

I agree in principle that going to the Moon makes much more sense than Mars:

1. Do we really want China to have a monopoly on the moon?

2. Astronomy - rather easier to do a Hubble type telescope repair/upgrade if it (and other Astronomy satellites) were at a moon base. You could also use/reuse/adapt them for much longer instead of burning them up in the atmosphere when they run out of fuel.

3. Learning to survive off-planet without going all the way to Mars where you are probably beyond rescue if things go badly wrong.

4. Nuclear waste dump anyone?

But moon dust may be a barrier. It seems to be a bigger problem than most people realize, not sure if Mars dust would also present issues?

Only 1 in 5 Americans believe in pure evolution – and that's an upswing

robin penny

Even Science doesn't support the widely held views of evolution

The THEORY of evolution suggests a "tree of life" where we started from something basic & evolved into more sophisticated creatures. Unfortunately the unpalatable truth for those who want to belive this is that genetic evidence does not support it. As reported in New Scientist some while back, the GENETIC EVIDENCE suggests a "web of life" instead i.e. what you would see genetically from hybridisation - like when you get a cross breed between 2 plants.

I think the article is in the January 2009 issue of New Scientist.

US diplomat: If EU allows 'right to be forgotten' ... it might spark TRADE WAR

robin penny

More EU beauracracy. Business costs up once again

This sounds like a typical EU diktat, that increases beauracracy, puts up business costs. and makes Europe less competetive. Just what Europe needs right now! Shouldn't they be working at reducing beauracracy...

I'm in favour of data protection but given the existing laws covering this area it beggars belief that they don't have other priorities at the moment. Very often these diktats don't deter the bad boys, but penalise those who may already be doing their reasonable best.

P.S. I don't own a business myself.

Chips in spaaaaace: old tech is in

robin penny

SpaceX eXception (using modern chips) - prove the rule

I assume this story was prompted by the recent news that SpaceX had suffered a failure of one (of 3) of their flight computers on the Dragon capsule as a result of choosing to use non radiation hardened, modern kit:

As reported here: www.spaceflightnow.com/falcon9/004/121114anomalies

I was a little surprised to find no reference to this in the text.

British Gas bets you'll pay £150 for heating remote control

robin penny

But will it have a decent GUI?

Currently lots of people struggle to set their CH Programmer, so if this has a decent GUI it could make the process much easier and thus people would be more likely to update the program as their schedule/routine changes. Big savings to be had I think - I reckon an awful lot of people have their heating on full blast a lot of the time when they are out.

What is really amazing is that here we are in the 21st century and this is not already commonly available... The technology must have been available for a very long time. Many people still have analog central heating programmers and plumbers still fit them - shock!

Microsoft takes on tablets with keyboard-equipped Surface

robin penny

Oh another letterbox format tablet - all the rest have tiny market share

So Microsoft have misread the market too and missed the fact that letterbox format (as opposed to 4:3) tablets have been consigned to a tiny market niche, in spite of running the most popular phone O/S. What chance Microsoft can break out of that niche?

Thank goodness for Storage Options giving us at least one alternative to the iPad with the Scroll Extreme.

Amazon drops planned 8.9in Kindle Fire for 10.1in job

robin penny
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A 4:3 Aspect ratio then? Could bust the market wide open!

At last are we going to see a premium competitor for Apple with a proper 4:3 aspect ratio screen?

Storage Options are currently showing the way with the Scroll Extreme/Elite range, which I strongly suspect are selling like hot cakes if the user reviews are anything to go by.

I'm very happy with mine, although looking slightly enviously at the GPS capability available elsewhere, but only in letterbox format, or in the iPad which of course is inferior where the SD slot & USB capability is concerned and costs an awful lot more.

Laptop computers are crap

robin penny

Current laptops are still C**** 1 picture is worth 1000 words.

I wouldn't but any of the laptops on the market at the moment. Although resolutions have improved, the vertical screen size is still too small, it's no good being able to see more lines if you have to strain your eyes to do so. The big problem is that laptops with widescreen displays are cheper to make than the older 4:3 layout, so that's why they are foisted upon us. This is probably also another reason for squashing USB ports together (shorter base).

Unlike the author I think most of us don't use numeric keypads, which on full size keyboards are unergonomic, pushing the Mouse hand too far to the right. A trackpad is fine for me too, particularly if it's a Synaptics one with coasting.

The future is clearly a 4:3 tablet with external keyboard. Well more than that, something like the Asus Transformer with a 4:3 screen/tablet that can be attached in portrait layout (tablet runs Android, or perhaps Metro, Base runs Windows), but how long are we going to have to wait for it?

The future of the fondleslab belongs to the Fire

robin penny

People buy the Fire mainly because its from Amazon

If the future belongs to the fire it is only because it is from Amazon. Of course the price is right too, but other vendors have similar priced and similar sized tablets and they don't sell...

I believe there is a place for more expensive Android tablets too - look at the phone market. The problem is that nobody is selling a top quality Android tablet with the same 4:3 layout as the iPad, so this market segment is completely untested. This is also the market segment that most suits owners of digital cameras (Photos are 4:3) who are not already in the Apple camp, but nobody seems to be directly targeting this market segment either! Except possibly Archos who have an 8" 4:3 tablet - unfortunately this falls into the cheap category (flimsy) and only has a micro-SD slot rather than a full size one.

Viewsonic Viewpad 10e tablet

robin penny

This tablet is unique

The 9.7" 4:3 screen + micro SD slot makes the 10e stand out form the crowd, I'm not aware of any other tablet on the market with that spec. With the iPad you have to fiddle with an SD adapter and I understand you can't use SD cards for storage with an iPad (only for copying files across).

Interesting comment from Mike Moyle about some apps not running from SD cards, but I guess you can choose to put those ones onboard till something better appears. How common are these apps I wonder, anyone know?

Viewsonic have the advantage of making their own panels so they can get 4:3 stock, which I understand is otherwise mostly swallowed up by iPad production. As Samsung produce the 4:3 panels for Apple I suspect this hinders them from using them in their own tablets. It would be really interesting if Samsung restricted supplyies to Apple & produced their own 4:3 tablet. Look out for the lawyers!

With ICS this should make a great tablet, provided the comments about performance are correct. Who needs a rear facing camera? Shame the battery can't be swapped out though. I'd really like to see Viewsonic aim at the high end as well as the budget market and produce one of these with a better battery & more memory, oh and a full size SD slot please. I for one would buy that in preference to an iPad and a lot of other people looking for an Android alternative to the iPad might too. I don't hear any Apple users asking for a 16:9 iPad, so why do all the other vendors think we might buy an Android one?

'The new iPad' revealed: Full specs, rumor scorecard

robin penny

A big damp squib

* So no SD slot then - could have been an easy win. No SD slot means I still won't buy an iPad.

* Better camera - seriously who needs a rear facing camera on a tablet. Drop it like on the Viewsonic 10e & cut the price.

* Faster processer - yeah yeah, I'd rather have longer battery life. The current processor is fast enough isn't it?

* Heavier - eek with all the reports of iPad elbow this is another step in the worng direction and another reason not to buy.

Windows 7 squeezed into Android tablets

robin penny

What tablet

What tablet is that in the picture? Not a Viewsonic 10e because of the silver or white border and er um I can't think of any other Android tablets that are not wide screen format...

Samsung admits Android tablet cash haul is disappointing

robin penny

I'm still waiting to buy too - wrong specs

My requirements are fairly simple:

Android tablet: (Bah to the Apple lock in/Lock down)

Fluid Performance

Quality 4:3 screen - same size & resolution as iPad2 (good viewing angles for sharing my photos)

Full size SD slot so I can take the card out of my digital camera & put it in the tablet without fiddling with an adapter.

Despite the Gatling gun approach Samsung have missed the target.

World will stay hungry for tablet PCs

robin penny

Higher resolution? Real growth would be driven by increased supply of 4:3 panels

What the world is really waiting for is an increased supply of 4:3 panels and the existing resolution will do just fine thanks. Asus have admitted privately that they won't ship a tablet in the same format as the iPad because Apple is using most of the available supply of 4:3 panels. Viewsonic do have the VIewpad 10e, but that's because they make their own panels. Unfortunately they have aimed the 10e at the bottom of the market, either because they are afraid of lawsuits from Apple, or because they have misread where the demand lies.

I can't see higher resolution screens driving much growth (although there will be growth anyway), I suspect most of the initial buyers will be people who already own an iPad 2 and further sales will be to people who buy for reasons other than the screen resolution. How about a tablet aimed specifically at digital camera owners with a full size SD slot and that could double as a digital photo frame - now that really would grow the market.

iPad users 'risk shoulder pain', say US gov, Microsoft boffins

robin penny

Widescreen tablets generally not considered very paractical in potrait

It seems to be generally accepted that widescreen tablets are less practical for portrait use and here isn't really the place to go into detail (Google it), but have you ever seen a picture of a widescreen tablet being used in portrait orientation?

robin penny

So how does that compare with reading a book? Portrait orientation not tested.

Interesting. So how does that compare with reading a book? I was considering buying a tablet for ergonomic reasons (to read .PDF files, documents & surf) as I thought it was supposed to be more natural, looking down at something when reading.

Does it mean tablets need to get lighter, or gain a spine like a book perhaps, making it easier to prop up on your lap, or cup in your hand at a more vertical angle

Actually I notice the study only covers use in landscape orientation (possibly because it wasn't very practical to use the Xoom - widescreen tablet in portrait format?), As a result I think the study misses an important conlusion - in portrait format I think you would be much more likely to hold the screen at better angles. So this seems to be yet another reason why 4:3 tablets are better than widescreen ones.

Ten... high-end Android tablets

robin penny

All use the failed widscreen tablet format so nothing of interest here.

Not one 4:3 aspect ratio tablet amongst them! But thankfully we are starting to see a trickle of these in the pipeline as the manufactureres realise widescreen doesn't work in portrait and the iPad had the right format all along.

We also need manufacturers to realise that some of us who own digital cameras want a full size SD slot. Sony is the only one to see this (although it's slot is really tight). Everybody used to have them on PDAs so why not on tablets?

ViewSonic intros tablet sized to strike at iPad

robin penny
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At last! We finally have an iPad competitor on the market.

Yes, at last!!! We finally have an iPad competitor on the market. 4:3 aspect ratio AND an SD card slot to differentiate it.

My only complaint is that it's not a full sized SD slot, so I'll be forced to buy an expensive microSD card and adapter for my digital camera.

With the wide viewing angles as well as the 4:3 aspect ratio, digital photographers finally have something to replace the photo album or packet of photos that we used to hand round to friends.

Schoolkids learn coding at GCSE level in curriculum trial

robin penny

More than programming required

While this is a huge and welcome step, students also need to learn about other things such operating systems and IT security.

Too few people can only use the applications on their PC (well some of them anyway) and have no idea about the operating environment - creating their own folder structure, setting up backups, scanning in documents, dealing with security issues, reinstalling the operating system.

What virtualisation (plenty of free tools to play with). Virtualisation is very much mainstream now in the business world, but I'm not aware of it being covered in schools at all.

E-book reader demand boom near

robin penny

Boom is upon us already. Not 2013

I have been very surprised to see E-book reders popping up a lot on the train in the last 3 months, and not just with gadget hungry men, I have seen a surprising number of women with them too.

I think the Kindle will sell very well over Xmas in the UK, with huge sales compared to last year.

Falklands hero Marine: Save the Harrier, scrap the Tornado

robin penny

****** Petition *******

Has somebody got the time to set up a petition here:


This is of national importance and the people should have their say.

I would do it myself, but I wouldn't be very articulate with the wording.

John Lewis pitches 80-quid colour e-book reader

robin penny

A digital photo frame/album?

Hmm, clever marketing, but is it really more of a basic tablet?

I see it has a TFT display and TFTs don't generally have comparable battery life or contrast ratios to screens on Ebook readers like the Kindle etc. With a TFT screen however it does have the potential to double up as a photo album/frame which is I think, more of a killer app with much broader appeal, than as an E-book reader. There is a big gap in the market here, but also an opportunity for Tablets. Yes a real use for a tablet... I don't think tablets are at the right price point for this sort of mass market application yet though (£80 is OK). Also many people will prefer the simplicity of something aimed at a more vertical market.

I will be interested to see a review to find out whether Sovos have spotted the potential for this, it doesn't seem to be being marketed as such.

Robin Penny

Steve Jobs in iPhone bitchslap to creationists, Tea Party

robin penny

Common Misconceptions

Charles Darwin didn't actually deal with the origin of new species (in spite of the book's title). It was the evolution of existing species, which isn't incompatible with Creationism.

Relatively recent genetic evidence doesn't actually support the central idea (theory) of Evolution with regard to the origin of new species. i.e the idea of a "tree of life" starting with tiny organisms and evolving into more sophisticated species.

The genetic evidence actually indicates a "web of life" i.e. what you get as a result of hybridisation - if you mate a donkey with a horse you get a mule which is a hybrid. Which no doubt some would say is impossible in a more general sense, as most species can't inter mate, but then creationism isn't considered a possibility either, but if you think how scientists have taken a genetic trait from one species and implanted it in another to create a hybrid, why couldn't God do it?

Of course scientists who have "believed" in the Tree of life idea for so long are reluctant to change their minds in spite of the scientific evidence.

Apple Magic Trackpad

robin penny
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Trackpad in place of numeric keypad

I find a Trackpad so much more ergonomic than a mouse, particularly for scrolling/coasting.

I'm still waiting for a manufacturer to produce a keyboard with a Trackpad in place of the numeric keypad (which I never use). I can't believe nobody has done it yet!

Apple demonstrates how to do touchscreen desktops

robin penny
Thumb Up

Do this with ordinary monitors

At last !

I'm not an Apple fan but this is a much more natural reading position (like reading a magazine)and it is obvious this will be the future with touch screens and maybe ordinary screens too. Normal monitor stands never have sufficiently low adjustment for me although some HP ones go pretty low. I bought an arm instead which allows me to do this already. We may even see indented desks in future to allow better ergonimics.

The only real problems I see are with reflections and dust.


VMware removes bare-metal virt from View

robin penny

So I will have to buy a server.... 8-(

I can't tell you how disappointed I am. I have been waiting for this for years. It looks like my only option is to buy server hardware.

Microsoft unveils – wait for it – another mobile OS

robin penny

Windows Mobile reincarnated

So Windows Mobile is being reincarnated under a new name, while Windows Phone is being marketed as the latest version of the Windows Mobile line. Marketing gone mad.

Not surprising they still need Windows Mobile" as "Windows Phone" is aimed at consumers, not the hand held type device that you see Ticket Inspectors and Store Employees using. Those devices will need updating/replacing at some point as they wear out.

Are you suggesting that the current iPhone O/S could also be used in this space as a replacement?

Ten free apps to install on every new PC

robin penny

Not iTunes.. Want to slow your new PC down?

I prefer to take iTunes off as it's so bloated and wouldn't have it near my PCs, but then I'm not really a consumer of this sort of media. Surely there is a more resource friendly app out there... Any suggestions?

Spirit rover clocks up six years on Mars

robin penny


Of course they have tried everything already: - I don't see any evidence of stones piled by the left wheel...

robin penny

Use those rocks

There seem to be quite a number of small rocks in the picture. How about using the arm to push these in front of the left hand wheel. Hopefully the spin would cause these to sink under the wheel and provide grip, perhaps even lift if the wheel ridges catch on them. It might also create an additional obstacle..., but it seems like they have nothing to loose from trying it. Maybe a few at a time.

Market tempts Micronyx to get in the ring

robin penny
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Micronyx already exists

Micronyx used to produce plug in security boards for PC's. The idea was to have a 2 state computer where the board couldn't possibly be tampered with by software installed on the computer and users required physical tokens to log in.. Marryl Lynch were so impressed they bought the company. I wonder what happened to them (not Merryl Lynch - Micronyx)? Perhaps the TPM chip took over some of their territory. They also had a software based version called Triumph! which could be easily bypassed by using Norton Utilities to "repair" the boot sector.

Actually I see there is a software company running under the name of Micronyx nowadays.

Japanese chap sets paper plane flight record

robin penny

This record was beaten in the 1930s

My Father beat this record in the 1930s during his school lunch hour. I think the plane must have caught a thermal and was still flying when lessons resumed at the end of the lunch hour. I reckon I did better than this too when I was a child, using the same design as my Father (hmm, it's the desigh where you tear off the end of the sheet for the tail, so perhaps that doesn't count as a single sheet?).

Windows 7 gets built in XP mode

robin penny

Sounds like MED-V

Hmm, sounds rather like MED-V - one of the newer components of MDOP (The Microsoft Desktop Optimisation Pack), but normally only available to SA customers.

Is Microsoft at last accepting that we should be able to virtualise multiple copies of Windows on the same PC without having to pay for extra licenses?

VMware's ESX Server 4.0 lost in the clouds?

robin penny

A client Hypervisor - whoopee at last!!!

This is an announcement I have been hoping for - to overcome the Windows, Use, Slowdown, Rebuild, Use, slowdown, rebuild..... cycle.

Currently I have several task based VMs I run on top of Windows to try & help with this. One with all my Digital Photography software on, another with development type tools & so on, but a Hypervisor approach is so much better. It will also allow me to run a home web server (to provide an intuitive interface for the rest of the family to find all that useful stuff on the PC (Instructions for various appliances, Recipies etc) without the overhead of a 2nd PC.

I will even be able to run a dedicated PC for surfing that can be trashed & replaced if it gets any malware. Yes I know I can do that with a VM appliance, but the perceived coplexity & overhead of booting it up means that solution won't wash with the rest of the family.

The only thing that worries me is that the hardware support might be limited to business PCs. Oh well at least I don't have to go out and buy a server now as I would for ESX or Hyper-V.

A third of Vista PCs downgraded to XP

robin penny

Small changes, big benefits

I have been avoiding Vista like the plague, but heard yesterday that Vista does provide at least one useful feature that I can't get anywhere else - using F2 to rename a file, no longer selects the extension by default, just the filename. It's this sort of usability improvement that provides real benefit & makes IT literate people consider upgrading, rather than battery sapping 3D Uis.

Microsoft may lift VM licensing restrictions next week

robin penny

Shucks, I hoped it might be the crazy Vista VM restictions being lifted

The other VM licensing issue is that MS don't allow you to use the basic versions of Vista in A VM.

As VM's are usually single purpose, obviously you want the smallest most nimble image that supports that purpose. You don't want to be forced to use an all singing & dancing version... Just another reason to stick with XP I guess.


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