* Posts by ThomH

2640 posts • joined 18 Jun 2009

Mind the airgap: Why nothing focuses the mind like a bit of tech antiquing

ThomH

Something I found interesting that's only slightly connected: looking at just the laptops, the range of GeekBench scores amongst machines that Apple actively supports and which will receive macOS 11 later this year is something like 566/1139 – 1112/6958 (single/multi).

So the current i9 MacBook Pro is about six times as fast for multi-core workloads as the 2015 Retina MacBook.

Although they might have all felt basically the same for standard desktop tasks for a very long time, there's still quite a performance curve out there.

Apple to keep Intel at Arm's length: macOS shifts from x86 to homegrown common CPU arch, will run iOS apps

ThomH

Re: Rosetta

Depends which PowerPC they were coming from; my Core Duo MacBook Pro outperformed my 666Mhz G4 of five years earlier for PowerPC code. And just when its age was starting to become an obstacle.

In Rust, we lust: Security-focused super-C++ language still most loved among Stack Overflow denizens

ThomH

On the other hand, C++ is one of the few languages to have a genuine standardisation process which tends to mean that additions and changes are thoroughly vetted and which helps to avoid breakages and sudden ideological lurches even if it introduces redundancies and absurd committee linguistics.

If you had to pick between C++ and Rust for a codebase you expect to last, say, twenty years, there might be an argument for being more suspicious of Rust than C++.

Apple promises third, no, fourth, er, fifth time's a charm when it comes to macOS Catalina: 10.15.5 now out

ThomH

I've had only a single issue, with Photos declining to use a library on an external drive.

That said, right now I'm on my work laptop and upon reading this article decided to check for a software update. As it turns out, my work laptop still running 10.14 and I hadn't even noticed the difference despite using both routinely.

So I endorse treating the move to 10.15 as highly optional.

Man responsible for least popular iteration of Windows UI uses iPad Pro as a desktop*

ThomH

Re: Expensive to be a fanboi in general

I think the difference is that you can be a Microsoft fan without buying Microsoft hardware. Those of us that use Apple's software don't have the corresponding choice.

Microsoft drops a little surprise thank-you gift for sitting through Build: The source for GW-BASIC

ThomH

Beta BASIC was the predecessor to the SAM Coupé's BASIC. Ergo the SAM wins.

Other than the regression to a 48kb-style line editor, that is.

For the price tag, this iPad Pro keyboard better damn well be Magic: It isn't... but it's not completely useless either

ThomH

Re: It's a game

Honestly, I kind of wish I'd bought one, but it's a great example of an Apple product with a splashy launch that the market wasn't particularly interested in and which Apple quietly killed relatively quickly.

I think a lot of people overlook Apple's talent for mostly hiding its missteps.

ThomH

Re: It's a game

No, I just don't consider the net total of bosses who force bad buying decisions upon their companies out of a desire for shiny things to add up to a large number of sales.

Remember the official keyboard for the original iPad, which was similarly shiny? Neither does anybody else.

EDIT: it was the MC533LL/B, apparently, to make searching easier. I can't find a launch price, but suffice to say — people buying into the iPad during its first year, surely those who are very easily attracted to shiny things, were offered an official keyboard at a reasonable price and even then they still didn't want it. A decade later I don't see how an expensive keyboard, no matter how much better, is going to fare much better.

ThomH

Re: It's a game

They didn't buy the G4 Cube or the iPod Hifi, and are currently mostly ignoring the HomePod and making the same jokes as everybody else about the wheels.

I don't foresee much success for a £350 keyboard, with anyone.

Apple, Google begin to spread pro-privacy, batt-friendly coronavirus contact-tracing API for phone apps

ThomH

It's an API. It gives you the option of installing an app that uses that API. If you don't want to help out with contact tracing, don't help out.

If you're already walking around with a GPS-enabled, radio-transmitting camera and microphone in your pocket then deciding that using those features to try to help reduce the spread of a once-in-a-hundred-years virus is the line you won't cross feels somewhat askew from a logical decision process.

ThomH

No part of this requires you to trust people to advertise their status, or to trust that everybody go into hiding if they get a notification.

Taking the UK as an example, Apple and Google have provided only an API because the NHS is supposed to supply the app. The NHS then feeds in the individual diagnoses. So: this system asks you to trust the NHS's ability to tell who has COVID and who doesn't.

As to your other concern, exactly the same observations apply as to social distancing in general. The objective is that enough people will act sensibly that the rate of spread will be sufficiently reduced that the health services can cope with the quantity of people who nevertheless fall sick.

ThomH

Re: Shame in a way it's a closed API

I think the intention is to require that human beings who are politically accountable be in the chain of responsibility for sending out the positive diagnosis alerts. Otherwise the 4chan script kiddies would spam the heck out of it, reducing its value back to zero as people uninstall.

ThomH

The Thunderbolt interface begs to differ. As does the Clang compiler.

Doors closed by COVID-19, Brit retro tech museums need your help

ThomH

Re: The Centre for Computing History

You don’t have to load anything to enjoy BASIC on an Archimedes; hit F12 to bring up the standard ACORN MOS asterisk prompt, type BASIC and hit enter. You’ll find yourself in BBC BASIC V, three versions on from the BASIC II that most BBC Micro Model Bs contained but very much the same thing.

All from ROM, no media required.

Huge if true... Trump explodes as he learns open source could erode China tech ban

ThomH

"Huge if True... Trump [...] learns"

That would indeed be unprecedented.

Donald Trump extends ban on Huawei, ZTE telecoms kit in US companies to May 2021

ThomH

Re: Hopefully

The 1%ers aren't to blame; a late-April survey of US investors with at least $1m of assets by UBS found that 53% intended to vote for Biden, though 52% expected Trump to win.

Simultaneously, Trump was briefly anti-"rich guy" yesterday, though I'm sure that'll be subject to his usual infant-level attention span.

Visual Studio Code 1.45 released: Binary custom editors and 'unbiased Notebook solution' in the works

ThomH

In my company, VS Code is standard issue because (i) it's platform agnostic; and (ii) it has good ssh support — a local instance can use ssh to fetch and store remote files, and to build, run and debug remotely.

So most of us use Macs while developing big server software on big Linux servers. Compared to my previous employer in the same line of work that had us using painful remote X11 sessions from our not-the-server devices, it's an improvement of maybe 10,000%.

Mama mia! Nintendo in need of a plumber after leak sprays N64, GameCube, Wii code

ThomH

Re: Did you know?

That's not too surprising as the N64 is at an awkward spot in history — high-level languages were in heavy use but middleware wasn't, there was no abstraction layer to mediate hardware access, allowing anybody to apply guesswork, though some low-level documentation was supplied later on to closer third parties. Compare and contrast with earlier platforms that were all low-level, all the time, leading to a surplus of exploration and documentation, and later platforms that extend only high-level hardware interfaces.

That said, would a Compaq-esque reverse engineering work with the leaked documentation? I'm unclear on American law — clearly whomever first converted the leaked documents into specifications would be legally at risk, but would somebody who later took those specifications and worked with them be in jeopardy? Is it like a handling stolen goods proposition where the nature by which the original documentation was obtained taints everything down the line?

The iMac at 22: How the computer 'too odd to succeed' changed everything ... for Apple, at least

ThomH

Didn't Jobs actually say...

"The back of this thing looks better than the front of the other guys"?

Being more computery than the average consumer, I remained uninterested in the Mac until OS X when the pitch was a UNIX with a first-class UI (this was in the XP period, recall) that runs Microsoft Office (with bonus nerd points: it's RISC!). I'm still a big fan.

That awful Butterfly has finally fluttered off: Apple touts 13-inch MacBook Pro with proper keyboard, Escape key

ThomH

Re: specs vs. prices

I'm not sure that's completely fair.

The 16" i7 2.6Ghz MacBook Pro today has a list price of $2,399.00. Your i7 2.3Ghz had a list price of $2,799, which is the equivalent of $3,146 today, accounting for inflation.

That said, the newer machine is only 55% faster for single-core work, though it is 106% faster for multicore.

If you instead max out the CPU speed in a MacBook Pro, you get a 2.4Ghz i9 for $2,999.00, still a little cheaper in real terms. But now you get an extra 70% (single) or 160% (multi) processing capacity over the 2012 model.

So I'm not sure the relative value of a MacBook Pro has become any worse.

Suggested new Apple slogan: in terms of value, we're not getting any worse.

ThomH

Re: Apple have lost it

I had a 2011 MacBook Air and grew strongly to dislike its MagSafe; twice in four years I had to source a replacement power adaptor because the cable frays so easily at the computer end, though admittedly the l-shaped ones are much worse for that than the t-shaped. But I think the USB-C chargers are a big win because you can just replace the cable.

Otherwise, the return of the escape key makes me think that Apple are at least now back on an upswing.

ThomH

I looked up Apple's official warranty; it states that it "is a voluntary manufacturer’s warranty. It provides rights separate to rights provided by consumer law", so I guess you get the 'good' warranty for a year, then whatever else is required by law?

Either way, I tend to keep my Apple computers running for about five years before an upgrade tempts me, my current iPhone is a 6s from 2015 and it's still going strong (heavy caveat: I have replaced the battery), and I've a first-generation iPod that still works fine for the 45 minutes its battery holds charge for.

I've had two Apple computers fail on me in less than five years — a MacBook Pro that ended up being involved in the Nvidia recall of about a decade ago, and a 2015 Retina MacBook that failed without any connection to a recall programme. In the latter case there was some sort of thermal issue, but they fixed it for free despite being quite far out of warranty.

Those two contrast with another ten or eleven Macs that I've either owned, or been given possession of through work, due primarily to my bad habit of almost always changing jobs after two years but also because a couple of my employers have allocated multiple Macs to me. They're pretty much pervasive throughout US tech.

Additionally, I had every iPhone through to the 6s and never a failure, though I separately had a fourth-generation iPad at some point that failed. My first-generation iPad is still going strong, though for that matter so is my Nexus 5x and my Nexus 7 2013, both of which have famous issues, so probably my anecdotes in net aren't that valuable.

ThomH

Apple's warranty period in the UK is one year. In your imagination there is not a single piece of functioning Apple equipment more than one year old?

Happy birthday, ARM1. It is 35 years since Britain's Acorn RISC Machine chip sipped power for the first time

ThomH

I'm pretty sure some of the design ethic did; my understanding is that a visit to MOS by Acorn provided the necessary evidence that you can design a processor on a shoestring with a tiny group of people.

ThomH

Re: Zarch

Yet, check out [url=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xrN2soK60bA]the Zarch optimisation project[/url], which extends the landscape to fill the entire display and a large distance further back. All while still running speedily on an original 8Mhz ARM2.

Wall Street analyst worries iPhone is facing '2nd recession' after 2019 annus horribilis

ThomH

Re: Too bl**dy expensive now to upgrade every 2yrs

Yeah, a quick fact check: Apple's own trade-in pricing will offer "up to" $420 for an iPhone XS (i.e. last year's model) and lists this year's equivalent, the iPhone 11, as _starting at_ $699. So that's presumably 60% if you wanted to exchange a mint condition example of last year's phone* for the entry level this year.

* though some non-Apple companies have slightly higher headline figures; you might be able to get as high as 69% value back assuming you never took the thing out of the box.

In case you need more proof the world's gone mad: Behold, Apple's $699 Mac Pro wheels

ThomH

Re: The longer I live, the stranger things get...

They're for the Mac Pro, Apple's only full-size desktop, which seems to be primarily for the Los Angeles set. Cost of entry is $6,000; these wheels are Apple's way of eating further into media budgets.

Started from the bottom, now we're near: 16 years on, open-source vector graphics editor Inkscape draws close to v1.0

ThomH

Re: Mac support is hugely important

BTW, Inkscape really benefits from having multiple mouse buttons.

Oh no, what will all the people who are still using Macs from the 1990s do? Still, good on you for avoiding "the idiot tax". That'll show Thatcher!

Stepping away from engaging with the platform warrior, I'm pretty optimistic for the new native port of Inkscape; another error that most half-hearted Linux ports make is acting as though only a discrete 1d scroll input is available and — top of the sins list — using that to control zoom level. Inkscape was always great to use in its native environment, I have a lot of faith in its developers.

ThomH

Re: Should move to Qt

Speaking as someone who downloaded Qt Creator a week or so ago and has played around with the samples, Qt on the Mac also isn't especially well-integrated. Widgets mostly look native, but act oddly — e.g. the scrolling in Qt Creator's own list of available samples responds to two-finger swipes and shows a scroll bar that looks about right and can be grabbed, but has its own completely unique sense of scrolling speed and momentum, entirely distinct from that of every native scroll area.

Most obviously terrible was the MDI sample, which obviously was always going to be pretty painful because the Mac doesn't normally do MDI, but it looks like they sort of gave it a shot about a decade ago and haven't looked at it again since. It tries to recreate child windows as though the Mac had them, but allows them to be resized only from the lower-right corner (which macOS as a whole did... until 2011) and lets them be resized so small that the menu bar is no longer even fully drawn (which macOS has never done, on any window). I mean, hopefully that's a reflection of nobody actually still writing MDI applications, but it's a maintained sample provided in the current version of the SDK.

That plus the absence of various other ordinary OS window control features — I tried to reproduce the native 'constrain window contents to a certain aspect ratio' feature provided directly by NSWindow and ended up with a feedback loop responding to window resizes with more window resizes giving an inevitably jumpy mess — makes for very ill-fitting applications.

EDIT: that said, I sampled the XQuartz version of Inkscape probably about five years ago, and nothing can be as bad as that. There's a box in the lower right of the main window in which you can just type a zoom level, rather than trying to hit one manually. And under XQuartz it is sized just about large enough to fit one and a half digits. And this was a general pattern; anywhere I was allowed to type a measurement for exactness I wasn't allowed to see what I was typing.

OK brainiacs, we've got an IT cold case for you: Fatal disk errors on an Amiga 4000 with 600MB external SCSI unless the clock app is... just so

ThomH

Re: The real mystery is how Paula discovered the clock work around ...

Gary wasn't in the Amiga 1000, so I guess it depends how strict you want to be with the 'O' in OCS.

Watch out, everyone, here come the Coronavirus Cops, enjoying their little slice of power way too much

ThomH

Re: petty power

Across the Hudson from NYC in commuter-belt New Jersey, the police are also to be spotted parked next to various parks, all of which are cordoned off, and patrolling the riverfront but I've yet to see them do anything much, really. Several weeks ago when all this was first kicking off a friendly sheriff warned me that I was strolling through a park they had just come to seal up and helpfully suggested an open exit.

I guess they're ready to spring into action if they spot a bunch of people forming a spontaneous social event rather than just getting out of the house for a half hour.

Bose shouts down claims that it borked noise cancellation firmware to sell more headphones

ThomH

Similar experience here; my QC15s are still going strong, though the fake leather on the original pads is starting to flake a little.

From Amanda Holden to petrol-filled water guns: It has been a weird week for 5G

ThomH

Re: Who'd have thought

I've spent a lot of time trying to understand those I disagree with so that I can blend in to any Wetherspoons across the land:

But surely the metric martyrs gave their lives so that Brexit could save us from 5G? At least we've got that extra £350m a week for the NHS now that we really need it. 150 years ago we had an empire, therefore we do not need cost-effective trade with Europe now. Freedom of establishment is health and safety law gone mad, and peace in Northern Ireland is just more red tape. Thank goodness those Eurocrats can't stop me from labelling my bananas as chocolate now.

We're number two! Microsoft's Edge browser slips past Firefox in latest set of NetMarketShare figures

ThomH

Re: Why the decline of Firefox?

I think it's just that most people use only one browser, and every visit to a Google site comes with a 'this'd be so much cooler if you used Chrome' pop-up. I wouldn't be surprised if some people download just because pop-ups are annoying.

ThomH

Re: Firefox blocks tracking

Google is incentivised to allow tracking, but I don't see the argument for Microsoft or Apple. Indeed, Apple started enabling anti-tracking by default in 2017 and has beefed it up periodically since then.

ZX Spectrum prototype ROM is now available for download courtesy of boffins at the UK's Centre for Computing History

ThomH

Re: 16KB

The ZX80's is 4kb, but its version of BASIC is integer-only.

Internet Archive justifies its vast 'copyright infringing' National Emergency Library of 1.4 million books by pointing out that libraries are closed

ThomH

Re: Make hay while the sun shines?

It's either: view through your browser, or if you want a PDF e.g. because you use screen reading software, then you've to download some sort of Adobe special that will manage a temporary licence on your behalf. I naturally declined that offer.

That said, using my browser's developer tools I did notice that every page I viewed in the book I checked out to explore* was downloaded individually as an unencrypted, high-resolution JPEG. I dare imagine my cookies were being verified, but one assumes you could steal a book, without OCR at least, pretty easily once logged in.

* the original 'Peter Norton Programmer's Guide to the IBM PC', because I was kicking it old school. If I want a permanent copy then they're about $5 on Amazon, so I'll do that.

Adobe PhoneGap falls between the cracks thanks to new Apple requirements, developers fume

ThomH

Re: Migrate?

Apple has sold Apple login as significantly more private than Google or Facebook — if you sign in with Apple's mechanism then the receiving company gets only: confirmation that your sign-in was successful along with your selected user name and a service-specific randomised email address that Apple will forward to your real email address.

So good luck to you starting a rebellion against that. Your company thinks it's completely unacceptable that Apple is forcing your developers not to harvest your users' email addresses, lists of all the other apps they're signed into, etc? It's political correctness gone mad!

ThomH

Good riddance

As someone who once struggled through maintaining once such project, PhoneGap/Cordova is an absolutely terrible framework — it's a web view with a bunch of half-hearted JavaScript emulations of system UI components, plus a random grab bag of other components you might remember from desktop computers in the 1990s, with a bridge into Objective-C that occasionally works to some limited extent. Good luck to you when it doesn't, since there is no way to attach a debugger.

If you want to provide your UI via the web, just do that. Your tools will be better, the user experience will be better, everyone will be happier.

If you've ever wished Visual Studio Code could be more open source, the Eclipse Foundation would like a word

ThomH

I head that the reason Eclipse is so incredibly and irredeemably awful is that its developers are hamstrung by their use of Eclipse.

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

ThomH

Re: Arent' FPGAs only re-programmable a finite number of times?

I hate myself for taking the time to say this, but: Galaxian was a Z80, and Defender a 6809.

ThomH

Re: Arent' FPGAs only re-programmable a finite number of times?

In the next it's a Xilinx Spartan 6 which does indeed "store the customized configuration data in SRAM-type internal latches ... The configuration storage is volatile and must be reloaded whenever the FPGA is powered up." per its data sheet.

But even if the FPGA itself isn't a concern, surely that just moves the failure to the external flash memory that contains the FPGA's bitcode? There is an update procedure for a Next with a progress bar so I don't think it's streamed from the SD card at every launch.

This is a shame, as I own a Spectrum Next and self-justified that on wanting to play around with FPGA development. "I promise, it's for school" I told myself.

Atari would love to ship its VCS console but – would ya believe it – there's yet another delay. This time, it's the coronavirus's fault

ThomH

Re: Still have a 2600

Pedantically, horizontal sync is automatic; only vertical sync is programmatic. But you have to cycle count anyway if you want to be able to do things like place sprites because they’re not located by telling the TIA e.g. “place at x=27”, they’re located by telling the TIA “reset their circular counter so that from now on they appear at wherever the raster is now”. At least for coarse placement. You can ask for adjustments on the clocking if their counters during horizontal blank in order to shunt them a small amount left or right.

Trivia fact: those blank lines you see intruding into the left edge of the display in many VCS lines are where the machine has extended the border because the programmer requested a sprite shift; making the border slightly longer gives enough time to do that.

ThomH

Re: Oh how I used to love Atari...

Whether rightly or not — don’t ask me, I’ve no idea — Apples have a reputation for being reliably low-latency audio sources. Not low like an Atari ST, but better than elsewhere.

ThomH

Re: "Atari hotels, where you go and play games."

Shower, without the price.

Somewhere, Google's financial bods are playing on repeat... What do you want from me? It's not how it used to be...

ThomH

Re: $162bn in revenue for 2019

Profit is an issue only if paired to some other offence; in AT&T's case it was cross-subsidising — using profit from one subsidiary to distort competition in other markets.

That said, the Wikipedia link you provide says AT&T had $3bn revenue annually "in the 1950s and 1960s". Let's take the absolute worst case and say it had that revenue in 1950. That's still 'only' $31.82bn today. So $162bn is somewhat frightening.

Universal Woe Platform: Microsoft shows UWP support – by yanking ad monetisation

ThomH

Re: One API to rule them all

Microsoft is to desktop frameworks as Google is to messaging.

WebAssembly gets nod from W3C and, most likely, an embrace from cryptojackers online

ThomH

It's Java, but with non-malicious competing implementations.

Apple: Mysterious iPhone 11 location pings were because of 'ultra-wideband compliance'

ThomH

Re: "We do not see any actual security implications,"

If you don’t trust separation of processes then you should first decline to use any sort of online banking or commerce — stealing your credit card number is more easily valuable than stealing your location, and is therefore of interest to a greater number of malicious actors.

When you’ve passed that level of paranoia, then it may be appropriate to worry about this sort of unshared location information.

And after that, you might wonder whether it’s actually safe ever to type a password in to anything. And if you don’t trust your phone to hide data behind a password, whether you can use one at all.

Bad news, developers: Apple Mac App Store tells cross-platform Electron apps to get lost

ThomH

Re: Private APIs - not learning from history?

As per replies to the previous poster, Microsoft got in trouble for reserving functionality for itself that was exposed only via private APIs that allowed its office software to do a better job of OS integration than its competitors. The fact of private API was the mechanism but not the offence.

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