* Posts by Harris Upham

23 publicly visible posts • joined 2 May 2007

'Leccy-starved Reg hack: 'How I survive on 1.5kW'

Harris Upham
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No problem.

My parents have a beach cottage in Massachusetts. No utility service is available, so the whole house runs from a 2kW inverter on batteries with PV solar charging supplemented by a 4kW generator. I re-built the electrical system in the place last summer. Living on limited electricity isn't that hard if you make some smart choices along the way.

We use a gas-fired refrigerator and water heater, the heat is by passive vented gas furnace and woodstove. No air conditioning. Electrical usage is really just for lighting, entertainment gadgets, power tools for constant maintenance in the marine climate, and water pumping from the well.

No winner in Android v iPhone 2011 marathon

Harris Upham

Calling a winner is more obvious than you think!

With this prolonged, intense competition between Apple, Google, Microsoft and the others, it's easy to spot the winner: Us users! We have lots of choices now, even more coming, and the intensity of the development war will serve to keep it interesting.

I hope it stays like this for a good long while.

Apple MacBook Pro 17in Core i7 BTO notebook

Harris Upham

weak ethernet

I recently bought an identically-configured 17" macbook pro. I can agree with just about everything in this article, however recent experience has caused me to notice that Apple cheaped out a bit on the ethernet port. The chipset in this model does not support jumbo frames as previous Macbooks did. Working with large media files as I do, this has a substantial impact on overall performance.

I have taken advantage of the expresscard34 port to install an expansion box which gives me 2 expresscard slots and 2 cardbus slots among other things. I load one slot with a jumbo-capable gigabit NIC and still have another open for future expansion.

It certainly isn't the largest or fastest laptop around, but for my money it's an excellent balance of performance, size & weight.

My next choice would have been a Lenovo w701ds, which is double the price, double the size, and several times the weight of the Apple.... but packs quite a lot more features into a portable frame.

Tiny TV could make billions for FCC

Harris Upham

where are the bandwidth savings?

How would this free up bandwidth for the mobile operators?

If TV transmission moved to lower powered transmitters mounted on mobile phone towers, how could the mobile phone operators use it? There might be less RF energy bouncing around the planet in total, but there's just as much in the bands they want in the local areas they want.

To restate: they want to replace huge, powerful area-blanketing transmitters using frequencies they want for phones with networks of small, relatively weak transmitters operating on the same frequency, in *precisely* the same locations as mobile phone customers?

Or have I missed something?

Adblock developer offers 'please unblock me' tag to sites

Harris Upham


This certainly appears to be a difficult problem. I'm adamant about blocking ads- I don't want to see any. It's already a given that I'll never click through any of them, and I simply don't want the distraction. On the other hand, I do want to support creators of quality reading & viewing material. As it is, I pay a few websites a subscription, never log in and then block the ads when visiting. This neatly solves the problem of preserving relative anonymity while getting the authors paid and keeping advertising out of my household. It's tenuous though- it will break when a site detects blocking and serves different content based on blocking status.

I've paid donations to numerous other sites, again where a system is established for doing so. But many (perhaps the great majority of) sites don't offer any option to sell subscriptions or accept donations.

To my mind, the ideal solution would involve a re-integration of internet access providers and hosting providers. This way, access fees could variably subsidize hosting costs as well as authoring costs. Users would pay an access fee, the access providers pay the hosts and authors, and are well positioned to know how much they need to pay out to each based on what is generating the traffic.

It would certainly upset the ecosystem to switch over to such an arrangement, so I don't expect anyone to implement it anytime soon, but I do think it would create the right break from so much advertising dependence. No more freetards vs. click-hungry zombie marketers.

Apple eats video editing jobs

Harris Upham

transition costs

Speaking as a field mechanic in the trenches of tapeless media, I have helped several of my clients negotiate the transition from tape to tapeless. A common theme is that new, current productions are being done in tapeless formats, but almost nobody has the money to work on their existing tape archives. Some of the biggest media businesses (WB, BBC, Disney, Universal etc) have made fair progress, but most of the smaller players simply can't afford to.

Will we continue to move forward with a gradual transition while the tape equipment and necessary skills remain available? The longer we wait, the more expensive it gets, with old tape machines getting crankier and the necessary support staff aging and needing more compensation to support families etc. At some point, archive holders will decide that the remaining tape based archives simply aren't worth the price of conversion, and something will get left behind. Before long, young people will reject older programming because it's square and fuzzy, ie standard definition. The new black and white. The value of those old archives will be seen to drop further vs. preservation cost.

The biggest hurdle we have found in tapeless is interoperability. Balkanization of formats, codecs, and filesystems have made tapeless just as much of a minefield as tape production on multiple tape formats. A high-stakes game of not-invented-here, and it has ultimately raised the cost of tapeless to... something close to tape production levels. Apple has made a few concessions to interoperability, but experience has shown that this to be more of a marketing claim than a design philosophy.

And we still aren't done with tape! Somebody's always got a relevant old home video, or a videographer just managed to get the best shot of the day with his old backup camera pointing the other way for b-roll. So we'll still need decks and techs for a while yet.

Amazon Kindle set to go massive

Harris Upham

no anonymity- too much potential for behavioral monitoring

I'm really amazed that fewer people aren't against the kindle for its potential to figure out what you read, when you read it, where you were and so forth. I imagine that Amazon can collect quite a lot of data about their users through these kindles. I see that as a huge breach of privacy, and I didn't like the idea of the thing even without this flaw.

The books need to be cheaper than the dead-tree editions, there needs to be lending capability to suit traditional libraries and friends & family situations, support for secondhand sales of titles, and a privacy/anonymity regulation system quite possibly backed by harmonized international law before I'll consider a kindle.

Apple pulls posted pulled iPhone modem app

Harris Upham

third biggest strike against the iphone

I use my phone to put my laptop on the net all the time- in fact I'm posting this comment that way now. The lack of this feature on the iPhone is one of the biggest reasons I can't consider one as my next handset.

I pay an extra monthly fee for this service, so it's not as if I'm demanding something for nothing- I love having an option that falls between the costs and luggage space of a dedicated data transceiver and the complete lack of mobile tethered internet service. My Macbook and my sony ericsson flip have performed beautifully in this regard for some years now, and I'm actively looking for a 3G update because well... it's time.

Apparently iPhone sales are already good enough- no need to sweeten the deal with this feature. Our loss.

Japan to fund creation of 40W, 40in OLED TV

Harris Upham

reversal of fortune?

Hey, maybe this initial investment is just to prime the pump- they certainly don't want all of the investment opportunity to be taken up by a gov't program.

Assuming the manufacturing process for these OLED TVs is anything greener than for others (recent gas emission debacle comes to mind) the Japanese can create a major competitive advantage by offering the cleaner greener big-screener and stick the Koreans with an environmental albatross.

McCain taps Fiorina

Harris Upham


Wait, this is the same Fiorina known for spending piles of shareholder money to explicitly break privacy laws in the course of hostile actions against the press?

Someone who is willing to accept a bad business deal on a poorly defined contract to do illegal work against a group that's in the business of keeping score and telling everyone about it?

Yeah, that's EXACTLY what any presidential hopeful needs to shine up their campaign...

eBay gets negative feedback about ban on negative feedback

Harris Upham

I remember ebay...

My ebay login is about to hit its 10th birthday in May, and has seen very, very little use in recent years. The site/phenomenon/culture has just become so big and so complex that I feel left out. I've lost count of how many questions must be answered when listing an item for sale, and it seems like there are so many more things to keep track of and be vigilant for when buying. It doesn't help that it always feels like ebay is desperate to get you to use their other services (paypal for example) in the course of doing something quick and simple.

I always looked at feedback as a minor, optional activity. Sure, nice to read it and get some sense of who I'm dealing with, but I never thought it was a big deal if I forgot to leave it for anyone, and vice versa.

Of course, much of this is easier when dealing in person as I can use all of my senses and intuitions to decide whether or not to make a deal, but on ebay I'm still only given text, images and a cursor to interact with. The workload has increased while the power of the toolset has remained constant, and that leaves me disinclined to shop or list on ebay anymore. The tools only half-work. Ever try and find items offered by non-power sellers who accept payment other than paypal? How do you even search for that?

Something that was fun and interesting (albeit potentially risky) when it was all rolled up into blind trust has now become a chore with far, far too many checkboxes and no real, open automation support to help clear through the clutter. Now we haven't got the same sense of trust anymore, and we still haven't got clear access to live help resources in the event that anything goes wrong.

No thanks! Just not a deal worth doing anymore- I'll let the powersellers keep peddling to each other, and find some other marketplace that operates without as much hassle.

DRM in latest QuickTime cripples Adobe video editing code

Harris Upham


as a freelance video engineer currently working on a broadcast that ends Sunday, I'm really, really glad I neglected to update my quicktime software.

I have long been bothered by the idea that there is very little separating my usage of video media for professional purposes and anyone's usage for piracy purposes. Many of the same techniques are used, although for different reasons and clearly separated by legal rights. The plain fact is that in the digital world, there is no practical way to isolate lawful media manipulation from certain acts of piracy, and this sort of thing is bound to get in my way from time to time. I've adopted a policy of lagging behind the moment for all software updates, and it pays off time after time in my line of work. This is at least ideologically antithetical to the always-current mindset of software development and system security, but it's easy to embrace when one's paycheck depends on it.

So long as DRM is used to prevent any playback and transcoding in media, people like myself will have to spend more time (and charge more fees) to circumvent these methods to suit the commercial needs of lawful, rights-holding productions, while possibly compromising the security of such media precisely when it is in its most vulnerable and valuable pre-release state.

Stop the madness already!

Jobs: Blu-ray wins HD format war then loses to downloads

Harris Upham

one last spin

I think network bandwidth constraints will allow blu-ray at least modest success in the entertainment market, but I think it's likely to be the last physical format in widespread use. By the time we see blu-ray as old and busted, the combined forces of network speed-ups and more advanced compression will make electronic delivery a compelling offer.

Moving forward, I think the trick to successful blu-ray consumption is in getting a low cost player and never buying a disc- stick to the rentals. There isn't likely to be a good resale market as there was with VHS and DVD, and most people who are in the market for home HD playback already know this.

Apple TV goes to the movies

Harris Upham

getting away with what?

Doing post on an HD feature right now, and I'm surprised to hear that this actually worked out. I'd think that the H.264 playback would be way too chunky for a big screen blowup. At least, I know I would personally hate the experience, getting distracted by video artifacts all evening...

We've been recording and editing in the pana dvcprohd format with some encoder tweaks to substantially reduce our storage bandwidth, and we maintain excellent image quality throughout.

It's still interesting to learn that we might not need to go to all that bother...

appletv may have a lot of terrible shortcomings as a home media appliance, but it does seem to be the one file playback device any cinema house can actually afford to standardize on- and we never had that before.

Privacy advos demand 'do not track list' for websites

Harris Upham

help from IAPs

This is an area where internet access providers can distinguish themselves. It's not terribly difficult to block or deliberately corrupt some forms of web tracking traffic. There are already a fair set of tools available for end-users to install, but they aren't easy to use effectively. Earthlink, AOL and other providers currently offer arguably advanced spam blocking services- it's natural for consumers to expect them to develop anti-tracking systems in the interest of gaining a competitive edge.

North American cities go green under LED street lights

Harris Upham


New York installed them a couple of years ago, very fast rollout. Street lighting is still sodium-arc, though. Zero dent on light pollution; that's not exactly the point in this town. However, with the sheer quantity of traffic signals and pedestrian signals now sporting LEDs, there's got to be an enormous power savings, maintenance savings and huge kickbacks and political favors for such a large deployment. The icing on the cake- the new signals seem to work just fine.

Google, Intel and Sun save the world!

Harris Upham

transcripts and monitors

For Kamilion- I've seen and used literally dozens of LCD panels which accept plain old 12v input. Obviously, there are plenty of other selection criteria I'm not aware of for your situation, but I wanted to mention that they do exist.

Also, I'm curious to learn if the register ever posts transcripts of these audio feeds- sometimes the content appears interesting, but I don't like to spend time listening rather than reading.

Windows update brings down TV newscast

Harris Upham

worlds unreconciled

Much of TV technology is suffering from being stuck in a no-man's land stuck between the worlds of IT, TV engineering and TV ownership and associated finance.

Many of the old world TV engineers initially rejected the early production control arrangements which were built on general purpose computers. In fact, they rejected pretty much anything which hadn't been built with massive redundancy and well-documented, graceful failure tendencies. So many of them never gained any experience with these platforms until they were forced to, late in the game.

Meanwhile, station owners and managers have been desperate to trim costs, and the last 10 years have created many ways to replace expensive dedicated hardware or humans with general purpose computers. For the people making these computer systems, they cut costs to be competitive with one another by using off-the-shelf windows and other components, just like the rest of the IT world.

So the new shape of hell involves old-school video engineers who don't trust the new kit and don't want anything to do with it and often refuse to take responsibility for it while retreating back to specialties not yet replaced by general purpose equipment. Management solves that problem by tossing IT whiz kids into the mix, and they typically have no understanding of a production schedule or the impact of a mis-timed update.

There you are, with the near-perfect storm where management literally can't afford to do it the old way with reliable dedicated gear and quality human talent. Yet it stumbles forward with two (often hostile) classes of engineers with different mindsets and operational priorities working to er, patch it together. Toss in a "free" installation of new robots by the vendor's own team and you can guarantee that the resident crew left to deal with it won't understand the cable markings or operational control.

As for the parking lot broadcast? It feels safe to guess that the studio had installed robotic cameras in the newsroom, and without a working control system or trained/rehearsed operators on staff, it probably made more sense to activate their emergency remote broadcast plan. Note that this would also clear the studio to give engineering more time to clean up for the 5pm.

Apple to dial x86 for iPhone?

Harris Upham

missing the point

Hobson- the popup that says "contact (any) vendor" is exactly what Apple is trying to sidestep. They are clearly trying to raise the usability bar. They want a phone that doesn't throw confusing questions at grandma. Only computers do that. Perhaps artificial, but I think that's what they're shooting for. It may not make a better product on an absolute scale, but it will be improved enough to increase sales.

Let's face it- they could handle the portability thing IF 3rd party applications were the goal.

They could also add rotating blades, extension grip and a 6hp gas engine, if tilling the garden were the goal.

Thing is, the goal seems to be making a phone that's super easy to sell because it never confuses users with any kind of popup about contacting anyone.

787 unsafe, claims former Boeing engineer

Harris Upham

interior plastic

The interior furnishings on present airliners, namely the passenger service units, overhead luggage bins, seats and headrests are made of plastics which generally produce very toxic smoke in fires. I don't imagine this is going to change with the new plane. So even if the hull adds to the problem, it may not be by much- and if other properties of the plastic hull make such a crash less likely, the benefit could still outweigh the disadvantage. Both the plastic hull and the plastic interiors were selected for weight/mass savings, which translate into fuel & money savings.

On the other hand, I am worried about a compressed 6-month test schedule. By definition, they're missing a couple of seasons, which strikes me as important to an all-weather aircraft. (Anyone know about a southern hemisphere test?)

Crypto boffin: writing is on the wall for 1024-bit RSA

Harris Upham

web security

Aren't our browsers still doing 128bit RSA? Obviously web hosts won't want to switch to anything deeper because of the electrical costs, but if it's getting to be that easy to factor larger keys... when will e-commerce catch up?

Freeloader portable solar energy charger

Harris Upham

No chance!

I'm not an electrical engineer, but I've done enough with solar panels to tell by looking at your pictures that this thing has almost zero chance of working as a practical solar charger. Not in England, not in Greece, not even Arizona or Oz will give you enough rays to use this thing on a charge-per-day basis. The portable battery pack idea is nice enough- they should chop off the panels and focus on the part that does work right.

Ballmer: Apple's iPhone will be a niche player

Harris Upham

iPhone misses the magic

A large part of the iPod's success came from the iTunes music store- a revolution in music retail. I bought an iPod in January 2002 (still works fine, thanks!) thinking that they weren't going to take off, and I wanted one before they disappeared. Glad to see I was wrong, but the more I think of it, that disappearing act certainly could have been the reality without the easy access to the iPod's consumables- tracks.

I can't really see the iPhone duplicating the iPod's success until Apple shakes up the airtime sales system and cavalierly informs the network operators of their new pricing scheme. That doesn't strike me is being very likely, but one can hope.

Another idea- much as iTunes had the ability to rip CDs, perhaps the iPhone will (eventually) have the ability to bypass the mobile network operators and gain phone network access via VOIP or similar technology.

Bottom line- the lack of an advanced technology music player wasn't the problem; the lack of a technologically savvy music industry was. The iPod couldn't fix it alone without a dramatic change in the industry as represented by the iTunes music store.

While improvements are always welcome, we don't currently lack technologically advanced handsets. We could all benefit from the iPhone Airtime Bazaar, if you will....