* Posts by Ed 13

121 publicly visible posts • joined 3 Aug 2009


81's 99 in 17: Still a lotta love for the TI‑99/4A – TI's forgotten classic

Ed 13

Splendid machines

I recall the Extended Basic was something of a must, but ate a couple of K of precious RAM. So you were caught between a rock and a hard place as your program wouldn't work in the standard mode, and wouldn't fit in the extended mode!

Parsec is still one of my favourite games.

They had one at the Cambridge Museum of Computing when I was there. I thoroughly recommend the place, they have lots of kit turned on and you can just play with it.

Autonomous cars are about to do to transport what the internet did to information

Ed 13

The difference is...

... that as the internet grew it created the infrastructure over which it travelled.

However autonomous vehicles have to cope with an existing infrastructure that has evolved over several hundreds of years, with wide ranges of other users.

You don't need an act of parliament to change a switch or router configuration!

Bring it BACK... with MODs! Psion 5 storms great tech revival poll

Ed 13
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I'd buy one, but it won't happen.

I got as far as the 3mx, and never graduated up to the Series 5. It was one of the nicest portable computers I have ever used.

I debugged and configured many systems with the terminal program alone. Playing the Infocom text adventures on it was a great way of passing the time on long journeys.

The power management was at the core of the OS (EPOC32 - became Symbian), so anything other than a custom build wont get you the 20+hr lifetime off two AA cells. If you don't have that then you have a rechargeable battery pack (phone battery), and Psion tried that with the Revo, but we've not been calling for that to come back have we?

Virgin Galactic and Boom unveil Concorde 2.0 tester to restart supersonic travel

Ed 13

Re: No overland

My understanding was that it was the trans-sonic bit (that actually generates the sonic boom) you weren't supposed to do over land. An aircraft at 60,000ft isn't going to going to be heard by anyone on the ground no matter fast it's going (that's over 11miles away).

Basic income after automation? That’s not how capitalism works

Ed 13

Re: Nonsense from the first line

Indeed. The article's argument is from a very narrow perspective and I think misses a few other issues of Basic Income on a population level.

One of this is to consider its effect on publicly funded activities. It achieves a reduction in cost of these activities, as the employees minimum wage requirements are already covered, and the biggest cost of any activity is (almost always) the wage bill.

Turing, Hauser, Sinclair – haunt computing's Cambridge A-team stamping ground

Ed 13
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Re: For the true Sinclair aficionado...

Cambridge Consultants also gave birth to Tangerine Computer Systems who produced the Oric range of computers (although their offices were out in St Ives and later Ely).

Ed 13

Wot no Babbage?

He was the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge (1828-1839).

An otherwise excellent article.

WTF ... makes mobile phone batteries explode?

Ed 13

Negative temperature coefficient

One of the problems particular to Li-ion cells is that their internal resistance has a negative temperature coefficient.

With other battery technologies, if you short the cell the power dissipated in the cell causes it to warm up, it's apparent resistance then increases so the max current through it drops and it self limits.

Li-ion batteries do the opposite. In a short circuit the cell warms up, so the internal resistance drops, so the current can increase, so it continues to get hotter... (see icon).

Apple wants to buy Formula 1 car firm McLaren – report

Ed 13

.... and lights that light up, black, to let you know that you've done it?

Thank you DA

'Neural network' spotted deep inside Samsung's Galaxy S7 silicon brain

Ed 13

Re: Most Surprised

"This is an M1, i.e. from ARM's M (for Microcontroller) range."

No, this is Samsung's naming system and not related to ARM's microcontrollers.

ARM have already have an Cortex-M1 core: http://www.arm.com/products/processors/cortex-m/cortex-m1.php

Pop quiz question: Why is there no ARM Cortex-M2?

'Flying Bum's' first flight was a gas, gas, gas

Ed 13
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It gives you a sense of scale

Compare it to the Air Ship Sheds behind it. R100 and R101 filled each shed and you'd fit several of these in each shed. They were *seriously* big!

Robo-buses join the traffic in Helsinki

Ed 13

Halting the tests over winter?

"The tests will be halted in winter, to resume in the spring of 2017."

Too cold for the batteries, or perhaps in case of the wrong type of snow?

Fear not, humanity – Saint Elon has finished part two of his world-saving 'master plan'

Ed 13

"The wacky technology entrepreneur also wants heavy-duty trucks and buses run on electricity instead of fossil fuels too..."

I think you'll find they are called electric trains, and the French have got one up to 350mph under test, and several countries have then running in service at over 200mph. It's a really well proven technology that have been in development for around 200 years. You don't need wacky ideas, you just need the commitment to use the technology we have.

Is it just me, or does anyone else think of the Simpsons 'Monorail' episode whenever anyone mentions the Hyperloop project?

The Great Brain Scan Scandal: It isn’t just boffins who should be ashamed

Ed 13

Re: Phrenology

Interestingly phrenology caused a delay in the take up of the idea of functional areas of the brain in the early 20th century, as any time anyone suggested it, they were just dismissed as trying to re-introduce phrenology.

However "phrenology heads" do make rather good mantle piece ornaments!

Inside Electric Mountain: Britain's biggest rechargeable battery

Ed 13
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Ffestiniog Pump Storage

There's another (smaller - only 360MW) pump storage in North Wales at Ffestiniog (http://www.fhc.co.uk/ffestiniog.htm), not far from Dinorwig. It's an older design that uses separate pumps and turbines, rather than the reversible pump/tubines like Dinorwig.

The history of both of these are tied in with the nuclear power stations in the area. Ffestiniog was built to complement the Trawsfynydd station, and Dinorwig to complement the Wylfa station on Anglesey.

Rampant robot tries to rip my clothes off

Ed 13


For referencing Christian Wolmar.

Boffins switch on pinchfist incandescent bulb

Ed 13

Delta T

I think there's going to be a fundamental problem here.

From the article it seems that the idea is to keep more of the heat in, which is a path that halogen bulbs started down and why they are more efficient than ordinary super-coiled filaments (which are in turn more efficient than coiled filaments - a.k.a. Rough Service bulbs).

The problem is that you have to keep the tungsten at 2700degC which being slightly warmer than I like my room temperate, you have a massive temperature difference to maintain and any thermal insulator is going to struggle with.

Time Lords set for three-week battle over leap seconds

Ed 13

Until we become a spacefaring race...

...and a significant fraction of the population don't live on the surface of the earth, then most of the race will synchronise their day with the rising and setting of the sun. So keep the leap seconds.

It's the systems we invented that don't quite keep step, so they should be adjusted.

Bosch, you suck! Dyson says VW pal cheated in vacuum cleaner tests

Ed 13

As Colin Chapman observed...

"The race begins as soon as the rules are published"

This applies as much to testing as F1 racing!

Long-memoried boffins re-invent 1950s ferroelectric tech

Ed 13
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Re: What Ferroelectric is

Texas Instruments have a version (I suspect it's a Ramton license, but can't remember) and you can get versions of their MSP430 microcontroller with only RAM and FRAM (no flash) in them.

'A word processor so simple my PA could use it': Joyce turns 30

Ed 13

Logo language and Mallard Basic

A fantastic machine that was extremely well thought out. The single boot to the word processor (that it was really sold for), or the boot to CP/M that then allowed the use of the excellent Mallard Basic (the manual even had a tribute to the locomotive of the same name in the front!).

There was then the logo language that you could use for turtle style graphics, the GSX graphics package and a bunch more on two system disks.

The inspired use of the spare memory as the M: drive, that then allowed you lo keep the compiler there for a much faster build times.

Veedub flub hubbub stubs car-jack hack flap

Ed 13

Re: Alarm? Luxury!

I even heard Roger Moore say that it was his favourite Bond Car!

Jeep drivers can be HACKED to DEATH: All you need is the car's IP address

Ed 13

System design

The fundamental problem is the evolutionary design of systems that takes place. The Uconnect will have been added to an existing design. This has meant that no longer does a hacker have to be physically connected to a car which previously was the mitigation to a lot of these risks.

It's not new for as car system to be hacked via the "information and entertainment" systems. I have heard of specially crafted CDs that when put in the car's CD player will interfere with the car's operation at this sort of level.

I suspect the issue is a problem in the connection between the network the Uconnect is attached to and the ones the engine management and braking systems live on. They should be segregated, but a fault in the design or implementation of this segregation means that they are not and this then allows data from one in to the other.

Something that is also of note in this is that the Uconnect is exposed by a public IP address, which is unusual for cellular system. Although I do know that you can buy SIMs with this feature, it's not common.

Land Rover's return: Last orders and leather seats for Defender nerds

Ed 13

Re: "versions that run on rails"

The Statfold Barn Railway have one that runs on 2ft gauge rails:

Hunslet Rail Land Rover

Last flying Avro Vulcan, XH558, prepares for her swan song

Ed 13

Re: Part of the UKs unique aviation heritage

They are all *fabulous* pieces of engineering, including the Concorde and TSR2, but I do get a reality check when I take my kids round Duxford and when walking under the Vulcan there, one of them asks...

"Daddy, what's that big space for?"

"That's where the nuclear bomb goes."

(see icon)

Bridge, ship 'n' tunnel – the Brunels' hidden Thames trip

Ed 13

Re: Don't Forget....

Box Tunnel on the GWR

Have a look in to the conditions under which it was built. IKB was in a hurry, so rather than just starting from both ends, he dropped shafts down from the hill and then started tunnelling along from the bottom of these. As it took some while to get every one up and down the shaft, they would blast the face of the tunnel with the miners cowering at the other end of the tunnel. In excess of one hundred men died in the construction of that tunnel alone.

The GWR itself

Over long and meandering (the Great Way Round)? I would also credit most of the locomotive achievement in the early history of the railway to Daniel Gooch (Locomotive Superintendent at the age of twenty one!) who managed to knock the original locomotives in to a decent level of reliability and usefulness. Brunel was the man who thought an Atmospheric Railway was a good idea!

Don't get me wrong, he was a fantastic civil engineer (and something the size of the Great Eastern more or less qualifies as civil engineering).

IoT has too many platforms, says IoT platform startup

Ed 13

Obligitory XKCD


Google Nest, ARM, Samsung pull out Thread to strangle ZigBee

Ed 13

Call the fire brigade...

"You don’t want to find out that the fire alarm has lost its connection by having it fail to signal the fire brigade."

I am reminded of a story (from 30 years ago) of a factory that had a fire alarm system installed that would automatically phone the local fire station. However the station became a part time one and so one night when there was a fire, it called up the station and the system there replied with an answer phone message that the station was closed and to call the "Emergency Services". This exchange then repeated until the factory was raised to the ground.

What the world needs now is... a Bluetooth-enabled baby's dummy

Ed 13

Re: No wireless near my baby

"Pacifier transmits 3 milliseconds every 5 seconds, which means for over 99.99% of the time it is not transmitting at all."

According to my calculator 3ms every 5000 gives a 99.94% duty cycle.

Ed 13

From the shop with big windows

...because they saw you coming.

Given a quick check of the boots website indicates that ordinary pacifiers cost about a fiver.

I wonder what happens to them when you put them through the steam steriliser (see icon)?

In space no one can hear you scream, but Voyager 1 can hear A ROAR

Ed 13
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I'm always impressed with the Voyager craft. They have done such fantastic work, and produced such useful science.

I do have stuff that's older and still working, but they all require regular TLC. On the other hand they only cost a few tens or hundreds of pounds, rather than the many millions that the voyagers cost.

Yes. App that lets you say 'Yo' raises 1 MEEELLION DOLLARS

Ed 13

Re: re: Time to create an app called "Meh"

Ah, but think of the money you could make if you still charged them as if they had used the bandwidth!


DANGER MOUSE is back ... and he isn't half a GLASSHOLE

Ed 13

Step away from the animation suite

Really, *really* don't do it.

I had to resurrect the VHS to play the tapes I had of D.M. for my kids, and they love it!

It doesn't need updating, just showing again!

Plucky Playmonaut bails out of smoking Vulture 2

Ed 13

Re: Which bit failed?

"Once I've got the canards rigged, we be firing everything up..."

Given what's just happened, isn't that a poor choice of words?

Ed 13

Re: Which bit failed?

Also the heat dissipation in thinner air is lower (that's how some vacuum gauges work), so it would have got hotter faster at high altitude.

The problem with a zener is that it'll dissipate heat too in a over voltage situation, and excess heat is not something you want in Vulture 2 at altitude. The Lithium cells can deliver a lot of current in to something if it fails (as your late and lamented servo appears to have discovered).

Are you logging the current consumption from the APM?

Ed 13

Which bit failed?

Have you dissected the servo yet, I presume it was the motor itself that let out the magic smoke?

Microsoft's NEW OS now runs on HALF of ALL desktop PCs

Ed 13

Wot no Vista?

or has it been airbrushed from history already?

100% driverless Wonka-wagon toy cars? Oh Google, you're having a laugh

Ed 13

Nice idea

But as an avid watcher of Tomorrow's World since the mid-70's, I have to agree with the principle of the article.

A lot of systems are regarded to be safe as they controlled by a Human that can be trained and tested and assessed. There is a vast amount of mistrust of automated systems controlling safety critical operations.

In theory railways ought to an ideal candidate for automation, but only a tiny number (usually urban mass transit systems) are, and only a small number of those are fully automatic without a human involved at all. All rest have an official present in some capacity to deal with failures and emergencies.

Uncivil engineering: US society skewers self-published science

Ed 13

Re: Legitimate but flawed

"Typesetting is very cheap nowadays"

Cheap != Free.

"..in standard publishing authors get *paid* to give publishers stuff.."

This is supply and demand in action. In science there are many more papers being submitted than being published. However there's only one Ian McEwan to write his books that the publishers know will allow them to ship a lot of copies.

Ed 13

Legitimate but flawed

It's an example of the controlled distribution world meeting the internet.

The ACSE make their money from having people subscribe to their journal. A researcher submits their manuscript, without having to pay a fee, and then the society have it peer reviewed, typeset and published (all of which cost them money). It's a valid model and has worked ok for some time, but has a few flaws.

One issue is that if your paper isn't in the journals area of interest it'll be rejected. This means that areas of research go in and out of fashion, so if you're doing good quality science outside those areas, then you can't get your paper published.

Another is that if your paper is a negative result, it'll be rejected. This means that other people are doomed then to keep repeating that bit of research, which is a waste of effort, as they don't know that someone else has looked in to the same idea.

A better model seem to be the Open Access one, such as PLOS ONE, where you pay to submit papers, and then the access to them is free. The fee isn't vast, and is generally factored in to the grant money that you get to do the research. The funding body in turn saves the money from not having to subscribe to yet another journal.

Quick Q: How many FLOPPIES do I need for 16 MILLION image files?

Ed 13

3.5inch disks? Still use 'em!

One of my very useful bits of RF analysis kit, made by Hewlett Packard in the days before they were HP, which is before they became Agilent, has a floppy drive as the only viable way to get data off it. So I have a small collection of floppies and USB-Floppy drive (as in Alistair's picture).

Vinyl-fetish hipsters might just have a point

Ed 13

The accoustics of the Royal Albert Hall

"Yesterday I saw Yes at the Royal Albert Hall and I struggled at times to follow the intricacies of Close To The Edge as they were drowned in an overall wall of sound."

That's largely due to the R.A.H. being an acoustically horrible place. It's the wrong shape (round) and too tall. I understand the baffles they have hung from the ceiling have made it less bad, but given the starting point they could barely make it worse!

Today's bugs have BRANDS? Be still my bleeding heart [logo]

Ed 13

Re: Workmen and their tools


There are lots of different tool for lots of different jobs. Using the tool in the wrong way or for the wrong job will result in a poor job or failure.

Bjarne Stroustrup did say ""C makes it easy to shoot yourself in the foot; C++ makes it harder, but when you do it blows your whole leg off" and adds the footnote that this really applies to all powerful languages.

Bay of Tweets: US sought to disrupt Cuba with covert social network

Ed 13


The site for the Naval base is rented from the Cubans, so every year the US Govt. have to write out a cheque to the Cuban Govt.

Rumour has it that all the cheques for the last 50 odd years are in a desk drawer in F. Castro's office!

Inmarsat: Doppler effect helped 'locate' MH370

Ed 13

Re: 19th Century Physics Fail.

I have to agree.

The Doppler effect is 0.83ppm (not 830ppm) if the relative velocity is 250m/s.

From the article's link to the Malaysian Ministry of Transport report, there is a nice graph at the bottom of the measured shifts of the different pings. The maximum shift is 250Hz for the last ping. At 1GHz this is 0.25ppm indicating a relative velocity between the satellite and aircraft of 75m/s.

As the satellite isn't quite stationary relative to the earth, the Doppler effect going north would have been slightly different to that measured if it was going south. See the graph, again.

USB cuts the cord, again, with WiGig-derived wireless spec

Ed 13

Oh no, not again...

What exactly does this give us that WiFi and/or Bluetooth doesn't, both of which are established technologies, which can be implemented, with antenna, in about the area of a thumbnail?

On the plus side, perhaps someone will want the USB-UWB test gear I have here!

Obligatory xkcd cartoon: http://xkcd.com/927

Shuttleworth: Firmware is the universal Trojan

Ed 13

"Great, you give him an F because his solution is too complex to implement yet you cannot come up with a better one ..."

He was just pointing out that complexity == cost, which doesn't go down well in a capitalist free market economy, so people will go with proprietary as it cheaper.

LOHAN chap brews up 18% ABV 'V2' rocket fuel

Ed 13

No Duty on Brewing

As Jim 48 said, there's no restriction on home brewing for personal consumption, which is in part the cause of these high alcohol yeasts that have been developed.


You do need a licence to run a still, which is in part a safety precaution as there is a significant risk of you taking the wrong fraction out of the process and giving yourself and your friends methanol poisoning.

Spam, a lot of it: Bubble tea is the Seoul of wit

Ed 13

Next week, I’m going to the office in a pink-and-blue jumpsuit.

In a helicopter, I trust?

Thundering gas destroys disks during data centre incident

Ed 13
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Nice demonstration

It's an impressive video, but I am rather concerned he ought to have been wearing some ear protection in that sort of background noise level.

He did seem to have to shout quite loud just to be heard!