* Posts by juice

556 posts • joined 16 Nov 2010

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Das Keyboard 4C TKL: Plucky mechanical contender strikes happy medium between typing feel and clackety-clack joy

juice Silver badge

Re: No back light on a black keyboard?

> You want me to play Alien: Isolation with the lights on. What sort of wuss do you think I am?

Not wanting to critique your game playing technique too much, but if you need to keep looking down at the keyboard when playing a game in which you're being stalked by something which can insta-kill you, I suspect you might not last too long.

Still, I can remember when playing Doom on the family PC, in the dark, on an early Win95 PC which didn't come with DOS sound drivers. As a result, I'd had to switch the game over to using the beeper for the sound effects. Which is a bit of a brutal downsampling - it's akin to expecting to hear the purr of a well tuned Porsche engine, and instead being treated to the noise of a backfiring tractor.

As a result, after several minutes of quiet wandering around a mostly-depopulated level, I nearly jumped out of my skin when I rounded a corner and came face-to-face with an imp, who snarled and threw a fireball at me, which the beeper translated into something sounding like a bag of nails being used to smash a glass bottle.

I turned the sound off after that ;)

He was a skater boy. We said, 'see you later, boy' – and the VAX machine mysteriously began to work as intended

juice Silver badge

Re: The need for speed

> Also ideal for burning off boy racers at the lights - diesel is unexpectedly torquey at low revs, and I've occasionally seen some very surprised young faces through the clouds of black crud in the rear view mirror.

Yup. This was the 2006 130bhp beast, but I actually had more fun in my previous Mondeo, which had the 115bhp engine; it had a surprisingly fast gearbox and I became pretty proficient at balancing the clutch and turbo-enabling revs when sat at a red light. It definitely came as a surprise to at least one driver of a much newer, more expensive and theoretically faster car!

(OTOH, I did get to take the 130bph machine to the German autobahn and floor it. I hit over 140mph on the speedo (125 according to GPS) before deciding to take my foot off the accelerator, on the grounds that extended high-speed hijinks in a recently purchased second-hand car wasn't particularly sensible. Then too, even at those speeds, I was still getting impatient Audi and BMW drivers pulling up close behind me...)

Sadly, when I switched from the 2006 to a 2008 model, things lost their shine a little. Ford might have boosted the engine power to abotu 140bhp, but they also made it larger and about 10% heavier, so for all that it was still a pleasant drive, it definitely didn't feel quite as responsive.

juice Silver badge

Re: The need for speed

> Queue a boot load of mag tapes deciding to try and move to the back seat for a better view.

Never quite done that, but at one point, I was driving home, via a rather big and steep hill, which has traffic lights at it's foot. As such, when heading up said hill, it's generally best to boot it and hit it at speed, so you don't end up having to faffing around as your car runs out of steam.

However, this particular time, I forgot that I'd just been shopping at BnQ and had about half a ton of wood chippings in the boot.

To be fair, the car responded marvellously to the challenge, but there was an impressive cloud of smoke which came out the rear!

(Said car was a 2005 Mondeo TDCI, which were pretty infamous for having an EGR (exhaust gas recirculator) which tended to clog up and make the exhaust smokey. The general advice for dealing with this was to run the car at high revs for a bit to burn things out. Or as one forum put it: "stick two fat lads in the back seats and go for a raz!"...)

juice Silver badge

Re: Moments of Inertia

> Great until one guy didn't bother to try and stop before reaching the door at the end of the corridor. Lets just say the door came off worse....

In a previous life, the building was retrofitted with tiny meeting rooms at either end of each floor - basically little glass cubes with glass doors, which usually had a table in which took up about 70% of the available space, forcing everyone to sit with their backs literally pressed to the walls.

And as the company grew, these rooms became in greater demand, and more people tried to squeeze into them. And that meant that there was a permanent battle over chairs, as people dragged them from one room to another.

Until one day, someone was a bit too enthusiastic about their chair dragging, and caught the door somehow. I'm not clear on whether they rammed it, or somehow managed to hit a flaw or a resonant frequency, but the door immediately decided to emulate a car window and turned itself into many, many tiny glass cubes, liberally scattered across the carpet...

Samsung shaves 0.1μm off pixels to make new ISOCELL sensor lineup 15% slimmer

juice Silver badge

Re: Pixel binning

> Remind me again, what's the point of a tiny sensor with ridiculous pixel counts?

Because software can take that large lump of mediocre data, and combine it all to produce something smaller and better. Or at least that's the theory...

Personally, I'm not convinced, and so far, Google doesn't appear convinced either, despite allegedly having the best Android photography software going!

Still, I'm probably not going to buy another new phone for at least one more generation. Time yet to see how this race towards uber-pixel count goes...

AI in the enterprise: Prepare to be disappointed – oversold but under appreciated, it can help... just not too much

juice Silver badge

Re: "Artificial intelligence in the enterprise is just yesterday's dumb algorithms rebranded as AI"

> This strikes me as a very poorly phrased debate subject

I dunno - it feels pretty accurate to me.

In much the same way as "blockchain" became the answer to all problems - despite solving none of them - AI has become the current big buzzword for enterprises, and is being very loosely interpreted, to the point where it pretty much covers any algorithm which involves an IF() statement.

Even if you look at neural networks, they're just a tool which is designed to do a single job, and which show no intelligence whatsoever outside of their specialised subject.

E.g. a neural network designed to identify giraffes can't be repurposed to predict the weather. It can't even be repurposed to identify pictures of lions!

And even when you're just looking at it's specialist subject, there's no guarantees it'll do a good job, because you're dependent on the quality of the data which has been fed into it, which may have a bias, or have some other element which the black-box training has decided to give a weighting to.

(There's also the point that once a neural network is trained up to the desired level, it's then "frozen" and shipped out. I'd argue that a key element of intelligence is the ability to change and adapt. But then, we're getting into philosophical-discussion-at-the-pub-on-Friday levels...)

So, yeah. What enterprises call AI is often just a dumb algorithm.

To be fair, we are increasingly entering a zone where the science is almost indistinguishable from magic, especially on a personal level.

E.g. point your phone at a plant, and get a full description. Talk to your phone and it'll talk back. Paint out the background in a video conference, or give yourself virtual cat-ears. Or if you receive a social-media message, you can choose from one of the predefined responses your phone has selected for you.

And so on.

But these are all individual, highly specialised tools, and it doesn't take too much to blow the smoke away from the mirrors. The fun will come when we do finally figure out how to integrate them into something which is capable of adaptation and evolution...

Amiga Fast File System makes minor comeback in new Linux kernel

juice Silver badge

Re: This will make the soon-to-be-Kickstarted mini Amiga easier

> It's a Linux/AmigaOS hybrid running on a Pi 4 in a Mini-ITX case

That's kinda giving me flashbacks to the old SparcStation IPC machines.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SPARCstation_IPC

At one point, I had a load of those, as the place I worked at the time was having a huge clearout of obsolete tech. Shame it was in the era before even the Epia mini-ITX boards, as they'd have been good candidates for a little "upgrade" project...

When low-balled projects go bad: Scottish pensions agency starts £10m procurement to buy the system Capita could not

juice Silver badge

Re: So...

> Sounds like poor contract drafting to me. No penalties for missing the milestones? No penalties for consequential costs (the £2.4M for the other suppliers)? Not even retention of payments due?

TBH, it sounds like Capita could have literally put zero people on the contract, defaulted on it and still come out of this with a large wodge of pure profit!

juice Silver badge

So...

> "Capita was not able to provide a working system and did not achieve any of the project milestones. This was a main contributor to the project failure

> According to Audit Scotland, the SPPA spent £6.3m on the project and a further £2.4m extending contracts with existing suppliers when the project failed to meet the original timetable.

They spent £6.3 million on a project where Capita both failed to meet any milestones *and* failed to deliver a working system.

And they only got £700k back?

TBH, sounds like Capita were the winners here, especially since failures like this don't seem to have any impact on their ability to bid for future work...

Happy birthday to the Nokia 3310: 20 years ago, it seemed like almost everyone owned this legendary mobile

juice Silver badge

Re: I'll See Your 33xx and Lower You

> 6310i - don't forget battery life! Although mine did start to deteriorate - I was charging it up every two weeks....

Two weeks? Tch.

I owned an Ericsson (pre-Sony-Ericsson) T39.

With the default ultra-slim battery, I think the battery life was 12 days. With a slightly thicker official battery, you could add another week to that. And if you transformed it into it's ultimate form with the chunky wideboy battery, it would comfortably last for a month.

Admittedly, it was nowhere near as indestructible as it's Nokia bretheren, but it did have a Star trek-style flippy bit, bluetooth, GPRS, and it worked in the USA. Oh, and it was smaller, to boot.

That wee beastie lasted me a good long while!

juice Silver badge

Re: I'll See Your 33xx and Lower You

According to Wikipedia, the 3210 reached 160 million, while the 3310 only managed a paltry 126 million - it was even trounced by the Nokia 5230, which was Nokia's low-end touchscreen phone and racked up 150 million.

But these were all trounced by the tag-team efforts of Nokia's 1100 and 1110, which managed about 250 million apiece, or around half a billion in total...

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_best-selling_mobile_phones

UK govt: It's time to get staff back into the office! Capita: Hey everyone... about that...

juice Silver badge

Re: Isnt that good?

As with everything, there's a trade-off.

Certainly on the environmental level, it's a clear win: less travelling, less pollution. There's even some secondary benefits at the city level: fewer traffic jams and less wear and tear on central infrastructure.

And at an individual level, if you're not travelling to work, then you're saving time and (unless you walk to work every day) money. And again, if you commute in a car, then you're putting less wear and tear on it.

But at the same time...

If fewer people are travelling, then that has an impact on public transport infrastructure - e.g. fewer buses and/or trains will run. And that not only means job losses, but has a disproportionate effect on lower-income people who don't have access to private transport.

If fewer people are working in a central office, then that means there's less demand for secondary industries to support them - e.g. sandwich shops, caterers, etc.

And similarly, if fewer people are in the city centre when they finish working for the day, then they're much less likely to want to go out for drinks or meals. So there's a further hit to the hospitality industry.

And both of the above support secondary industries - e.g. the people who grow the produce they server, and the people who deliver it.

Not to mention the secondary office industries, such as cleaning and security staff.

There's also the mental-health costs - social media and video conferencing only go so far as substitutes for in-person conversations, and there's fewer opportunities to meet new people. I know a few people who are worried about the toll that isolation is having on both their mental health and their ability to interact with other people.

And we're in the UK, which the dubious claim of having the smallest homes in Europe[*]. Which makes it even harder to have a dedicated workspare, especially if you have a family. Which in turn impacts mental health.

And then there's the cost of working from home - e.g. heating. I know it's offset for some people by the reduction in commuting costs, and some companies are happy to pay something towards your costs - and you can claim some money back from the IRS relatively easily.

So, yeah. Great for the environment. Great for the companies, who can cut down their cost base.

Otherwise, not so much.

Still, at least some of the above will have relatively short-term impact, and we'll learn to adjust and move to new economic models in the same way as buggy-whip makers did. But there's going to be a lot of pain for a lot of people along the way.

Then too, it's even possible that this could lead to something of a rennaisance for cities: with buildings being released from commercial and/or "student accommodation", we could actually see properties being refurbished and turned into housing, which would then get people moving back into central areas and thereby revitalising at least some of the hospitality industry which has just been decimated.

But I'm not holding my breath on that one!

[*] https://www.pbctoday.co.uk/news/building-control-news/uk-smallest-homes-europe/32902/

[**] https://www.gov.uk/tax-relief-for-employees/working-at-home

[***] Personal bug-bear; around these 'ere parts, I'm fairly sure there's more "student" accommodation than non-student, thanks to the fact that they're not classed as housing and can therefore be built cheaply...

https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2017/sep/11/britains-shamefully-shoddy-student-housing

Techie studied ancient ways of iSeries machine, saved day when user unleashed eldritch powers, got £50 gift voucher

juice Silver badge

That whooshing deadline sound...

Back when, I worked on a billing system which ran daily, and which couldn't be allowed to go past midnight.

And as is often the way with such organically-evolved-over-time things, it was a bit flakey - it was essentially lots of processes which had to be ran in a specific sequence before a final process glued all the bits together and issued the bills.

Thankfully, to speed things up a little, this final process had been retro-fitted with a "multi-threaded" mechanism. Which generally worked pretty well, but the more you cranked it up, the more likely it was that individual threads would blow up and would need manually cleaning up and restarting.

There then came a day when we had triple the usual number of bills to process than usual, and as a result were getting worryingly close to the witching hour.

So, since we were already manually monitoring, I simply cranked up the threadcount ten-fold and cleaned up the failures on the fly, while the finance team hovered nearby and ordered the occasional pizza.

I think we scraped past the finish line with around 30 minutes to spare. Or about 13 hours later than on a BAU day ;)

Um, almost the entire Scots Wikipedia was written by someone with no idea of the language – 10,000s of articles

juice Silver badge

Re: Wee radge bastard

> I think we like to see other nationalities try out kilts etc. They usually start out thinking they're putting on a skirt and doing drag then they feel the masculinity bubbling through the tartan and usually end up really enjoying it

Kilts[*] are great at music festivals :)

Though it's worth noting that as per the font of all 100% reliable wisdom known as Wikipedia, the modern style of kilt was probably invented by a bloke from Lancashire.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kilt#History

[*] Though my black and red leather kilt does tend to make my Scottish mates snicker. Still, it's nice and airy, goes well with Stompy Boots (tm) and it's easy to wash mud off...

Adobe yanks freebie Creative Cloud offer – now universities and colleges have to put up or shut up

juice Silver badge

> True, but so did Hoovering. Nowadays, if you asked someone to name a vacuum cleaner brand they'd probably say Dyson.

True to a degree, but there's a world of difference between a single-use appliance, and a highly complex tool with specific workflows and effects.

TBH, the biggest threat to Adobe - and the people who are employed to use it - is all the "AI" photo enhancement stuff which is now being freely offered on mobile phone photo apps and the like.

There's a huge chunk of the amateur (and the lower end of the professional) market which is rapidly vanishing into thin air, thanks to the way you can just click a button to make someone look younger/thinner, change their hair and makeup or even greenscreen them.

And while the quality may not be as good, it'll generally be Good Enough for most people, much like mobile phone cameras themselves, when compared to DLSRs.

The times, they are a-changing, and Adobe is likely to find themselves with an ever-smaller market to sell into.

juice Silver badge

> The first hit's free but when you want some more, show me the money.

TBH, this sounds like they're demanding that universities pay for the first hit. And said education institutes are a bit over a barrel, since a lot of them are shifting to distance learning, where the student won't have direct access to the institute's systems.

Still, this feels like an attempt to shore up short-term profits while C19 is ravaging the economy. It'll be interesting to see what the long term impact is, since the two most likely outcomes I can see are that there'll either be fewer students, or that universities will look at switching to cheaper alternatives.

(Though equally: are there any realistic alternatives? Photoshopping became a verb for a reason...)

Forget your space-age IT security systems. It might just take a $1m bribe and a willing employee to be pwned

juice Silver badge

Re: A life is worth less than 1Million

> Now you might disagree with the figure I have suggested and think, or know, how much it would cost for a professional hit so use that figure in my hypothesis.

Or you could pay someone £100k to do the hit, only for them to outsource it to someone else for £50k, who then outsources it for £25k, who then gets someone for £10k... who decides they can't be bothered and just goes to ask the victim if they wouldn't mind pretending to be dead.

And this actually happened in real life event, though it involved a total of 5 hitman, and started at ~£250k...

https://eu.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2019/10/25/chinese-developer-five-hitmen-sentenced-after-failed-murder-outsource/4094899002/

This PDP-11/70 was due to predict an election outcome – but no one could predict it falling over

juice Silver badge

Re: The elevator did it

> I once worked with someone whose MSc project was making music from executing code in a similar manner. He might have been brilliant, but did that really demonstrate his coding skill?

Learning how to force the machine to run at specific "physical" frequencies for specific periods of time sounds like it requires at least a bit of skill :)

Then too, things like this probably helped to pave the way for the various "airgap" attacks which are based on monitoring EM disturbances when computers are doing things...

You *bang* will never *smash* humiliate me *whack* in front of *clang* the teen computer whizz *crunch* EVER AGAIN

juice Silver badge

Re: mea culpa - always check compatibility

> When not reading my e-books on my desktop or laptop, i read them on my... PalmOne Tungsten E2

For me, after several iterations of the original monochrome models, it was all about the T3, not least because of the genius "slide down" mechanism, which made it much easier to fit into a pocket.

I had that thing for years, even if the lil watchmaker screws had a tendency to fall out. I've got amused memories of highly confusing the staff at an opticians, from when I wandered in one day and asked if they had any screws which could be used to repair my T3.

(They did. And they didn't charge, which was nice)

I'm not entirely sure what my oldest "active use" tech is. The case for my main PC is probably getting into it's twenties, but OTOH, the old saying about the axe and the axe-handle come to mind.

Might be the Xbox 360, since that's pushing around 14 years and still gets fired up for Netflix and occasional pixel blasting. On the 10-year old TV which it's plugged into :D

And all RROD jokes aside, that's a fair credit to Microsoft, not least for the fact that it's still usefully functional for internet-based activities so many years later.

(Or a pointed reminder on how Moore's law has pretty much come to a halt. Take yer picks...)

SQLite maximum database size increased to 281TB – but will anyone need one that big?

juice Silver badge

Re: Looks like I need to

> Shouldn't someone finally come forth and try to push system memory the same way permanent storage has been?

First: do we actually need it?

My S10+ rarely uses more than 6GB of it's RAM, iOS devices are mostly still happy with 4GB (or less!) of ram and I'd wager that the vast majority of PCs rarely need more than 8GB of ram.

I mean, in an ideal world, we'd have a single unified storage medium, as per the original von Nuemann architecture.

Secondly: in the vast majority of cases, you're only interested in accessing or manipulating a fraction of the available data.

E.g. if you're processing a 4GB video file, then you're generally only parsing 2-3mb of data from that file at any given time. Or if you're playing a video game, then you don't need the level 4 textures if you're currently on level 1.

Far better to stick the "unwanted" data in a low-cost/low-energy storage medium, and retrieve it when needed!

And thirdly: it's a trade off. RAM is quick but expensive to manufacture - as is the cost of the infrastructure needed to support larger lumps of RAM. Mass storage devices are generally several orders of magnitude cheaper. So that's what we've built our processes around.

So yeah. You could pick up a high-end workstation and stick 256GB of RAM into it, and then dump everything you're using into it. And it'd generally be quicker. But your wallet would be a lot lighter, too ;)

Samsung slows smartphone upgrade treadmill with promise to support three Android generations on Galaxies

juice Silver badge

Re: Um...

> Given that the 2018-vintage Galaxy S9 has a 3.5mm headphone jack, and the 2020-vintage Galaxy S20 does NOT, I'd say the Galaxy S9 > GalaxyS20. YMMV

Fair ;) TBH, that's part of the reason why I'll probably flip back to LG for my next handset, since they're still including headphone jacks in their flagship models!

juice Silver badge

Re: Who needs a new phone when 2018-vintage kit still packs a punch?

Like I said, each to their own. Again - and equally as anecdotally - I use my phone when travelling; one of my preferred hobbies[*] involves long weekend trips to $random cities to do photography and explore the local beer and music scene. Kinda hard dragging a 32" screen with me for that ;)

Again, though, I'm a bit of an outlier. I still use wired headphones, and have a separate music player (again: travelling and minimising battery drain). When the urge takes me, I'm still blasting things to bits on a 14-year old Xbox 360 plugged into a 10-year old TV, and my main PC is an 8-year old quad-core i7 3770. And I've been reading eBooks since the days of the old toilet-seat Palm PDAs with their 128*128 greyscale screens!

But I do prefer "best of breed" for my mobile phone. Albeit (as mentioned above) the law of diminishing returns has now kicked in and there's currently little or no point in upgrading from a functional perspective.

> So yeah, the bare minimum of phone / music / radio player / torch / navigation / diary / calendar / torchlight / etc does work on my "pre-2018 vintage" handset. And a grand or two left, to spend elsewhere.

If you're not fussed about keeping up with the Joneses(eseses?), then you can generally pick up an older flagship model for under £200. E.g. at a glance on the CEX website, the 2017 LG V30 is available from £110, while the 2018 Samsung S9 is available from £180.

So if you go for a 2-year refresh cycle, then over that 8 year period, you'd be able to have relatively high-end (and supported/patched!) hardware for under £500 - or less, if you keep each handset in good condition and sell it on at the end...

Certainly, that's going to be my approach going forward, unless there's a radical improvement in camera technology.

Though, again: each to their own :)

[*] Admittedly, not so much at present!

juice Silver badge

Re: Who needs a new phone when 2018-vintage kit still packs a punch?

> I'm still using a 5-year-old LG G4 as my main phone. I honestly don't really see what "features" I'm missing from newer phones. Yes, it runs quite an old version of Android and I'm careful what I use it for as a result (certainly no online banking or anything), but which OS features from newer versions of Android are "must-haves"

I had a G4 for a long while, and was pretty happy with it (as was my housemate, when they got it as a hand-me-down). The main reason I upgraded to an LG V30 was for the camera, which was measurably better (and it came with a wide-angle lens, which is pretty useful).

Alas, when I then upgraded from the V30 to an S10+ for much the same reason, I didn't really find the photo quality to be measureably better, despite the rave reviews. And so now I think I'll be hanging onto the S10+ until it either meets an unfortunate end or there's a significant technology change.

> Laptops now last for years, I really don't get this fad with replacing perfectly serviceable and functional hardware every couple of years just because it is a phone.

True to a degree. I've got two laptops at the minute, both made by Toshiba, but with around a decade age-difference between them. And while I CBA to go double-check the exact specs, they both have 4GB ram, and a dual-core CPU somewhere in the 2Ghz range.

Admittedly, I've cheated slightly by giving the older machine an SSD drive - and the CPU has more cache - but there's very little to tell between the two from a performance perspective.

OTOH, the old laptop is roughly twice as thick and twice as heavy as the newer machine. And while I haven't compared the battery life (and it'd be unfair anyway, unless I bought a new battery for the older machine), I suspect the battery life on the newer machine will last longer.

And the newer machine has a few tricks up it's sleeve, likve being able to stream to a wifi-connected TV. Which was useful when I was on a training course down in the Big Smoke a while back.

So, yeah. Moore's Law is no more, and older hardware is generally competitive with newer hardware from a performance perspective. But it's not always just about the speed at which electrons whiz around...

juice Silver badge

Re: Who needs a new phone when 2018-vintage kit still packs a punch?

> I'll share the usual moan: why do I need a 2018-vintage kit to "pack a punch", when my 8year old, positively ancient phone still makes and receives calls (stronger signal, by the way), plays music and radio, all without junk/spyware hard-baked into it?

For better or worse, your use-case is an increasingly small segment of the market.

Personally, I use my phone for emails, social media, web-browsing, online shopping, photography, e-book reading, torchlight, music and remote control for various media devices around the house.

And more besides.

Admittedly, while I could do some of the above stuff on 8-year old phone hardware, unless you've managed to unofficially upgrade the OS in some way, I certainly wouldn't recommend doing anything online with it...

So, yeah. If you're happy to use the bare minimum of functionality on your phone, then I've no doubt that 8 year old hardware is more than capable. But if you want to use it for anything more complex, then you'll probably need something which was made in the last couple of years, if only because newer models will have had at least some security patches applied...

juice Silver badge

Um...

> given that the 2018-vintage Galaxy S9's eight-core CPU at 2.7GHz, 4K-capable 12MP main camera and 5.8-inch 2960 x 1440 screen don't deliver a massively improved experience when compared to this year's models.

That sounds the wrong way around - surely an older phone shouldn't be delivering a better experience than a newer phone?

Though I do fully agree with the sentiment - I can see absolutely no functional reasons to "upgrade" my 2019 Samsung S10+, especially since I saw virtually no performance delta between the S10 and the 2017 LG V30 it replaced.

ZX Spectrum reboot promising – steady now – 28MHz of sizzling Speccy speed now boasts improved Wi-Fi

juice Silver badge

Re: An exercise in ‘what if?’

> I would think everybody at some point asked ‘what if my computer could run 10x faster, had loads of RAM, had instant program loading?’

TBH, I do occasionally wonder what would happen if someone borrowed the TARDIS and dropped off some modern programming techniques.

E.g. compression, parity and procedural techniques, along with some of the more advanced cycle-counting tricks which were perfected towards the end of the 8-bit era.

Then you could have a game which reliably loaded in a quarter of the time, featured maps with hundreds of screens, full parallax scrolling, multicolour sprites, yadda yadda yadda, all at a time when people were still getting to grips with writing mediocre arcade clones in BASIC, using character-based sprites and movement!

Admittedly, it's debatable how useful this would actually be; in some ways, it'd be like handing a modern Philips screwdriver to a medieval carpenter.

Still, I think we would have all been officially Minds Blown, if we'd been able to see just what could be squeezed out of the stock hardware...

E.g.

https://cronosoft.fwscart.com/BUZZSAW_-_Sinclair_ZX_Spectrum_cassette__NEW_RELEASE_/p5357732_18497926.aspx

https://spectrumcomputing.co.uk/entry/30347/ZX-Spectrum/Pietro_Bros

juice Silver badge

Re: Get an emulator

> Spectrum emulators have been pretty well polished for some time now, and some of them will even play demos which are very reliant on hardware timings

TBH, the Spectrum is probably the best understood and the most emulated hardware in the world. Partly because the design was brutally simple (albeit in a genius way), but also because this simplicity meant that millions of unofficial clones were produced in various third world and communist countries (e.g. Brazil, Russia).

Sadly, for all that all credit is due to the guys making it, I don't really see the point or need for the Next. I mean, it's a wonderful piece of kit, and something in my brain shouts "WE NEEDS THE SHINY" every time I see a picture of that glossy wee case with the little wee Spectrum colours down the side.

*fans self*

But at the same time, from a technical perspective, it's a solution looking for a problem. If I want to get into video game development, I'd be just as well tinkering with pygame on a raspberry pi or somesuch.

If I bought one, it'd just be for nostalgia's sake, and it'd just end up gathering dust after the initial oo'ing and aww'ing [*]. So as much as my credit card keeps twitching, I'm staying resolute.

But still. SHINY.

[*] Fun fact - I actually bought a reproduction ZX 48k case from one of the various Spectrum hardware sites and spray painted it white to match the special one which they made when they hit the 1-million mark on the Dundee production lines. It now has pride of place on one of the walls in my office :)

Clarke's Third Law: Any sufficiently advanced techie is indistinguishable from magic

juice Silver badge

Remote rebooting...

Way back when, the project I was on had a support team over in Wales. Nice bunch of people, too.

There was one server which occasionally needed to be stopped and restarted. And this was all documented and (IIRC) fairly simple.

But for some reason, this process never worked for the Welsh lads. They'd try it, it'd fail, and then they'd call me out. And when I did it, it worked perfectly.

This happened a few times, until eventually they discovered that the restart would work perfectly if they were talking to me on the phone when they pressed the button...

I'm sure there's some boringly scientific reason for this, but I just took it as evidence of my Alpha-BOFH status. And charged accordingly for the call outs :D

I got 99 problems, and all of them are your fault

juice Silver badge

Re: Wibbly

> the thing that had changed under her desk however was the small fan space heater she'd brought in from home and doing unspeakable things at the Hz rating the monitor was set to. Suggesting her fan was causing the issue did not seem to improve the situation

I'm fully aware that sometimes the people you're trying to help can be... recalcitrant[*], but personally, I'd have asked "do you mind if I try something?" and then flicked off the power to the fan heater.

Hard to argue with physical evidence like that ;)

[*] I used to work at an ISP. Every Christmas, posters were put up around the call centre, reminding people that cheapo fairy lights can do terrible things to customer wifi signals...

Elite name on Brit scene sponsors retro video games preservation project at the Centre for Computing History

juice Silver badge

Re: Screenshot

Probably a bit late coming back to this, but Racing the Beam is a good book about how people came up with tricks like this for the Atari 2600 - a machine which was so primitive, it actually made hacks like sprite multiplexing easier!

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Racing-Beam-Computer-Platform-Studies/dp/026201257X

Then too, I seem to recall there was a recent kickstarter to cover similar stuff from the 16-bit demo/crack scene. Really need to see if I can dig that one back out...

juice Silver badge

Re: Screenshot

> Fiendishly clever stuff. Common opinion was that someone must have been counting CPU cycles per opcode /execution path to get that right.

Definitely clever, but I think it was a fairly common trick, at least on the 8-bit Atari and Commodore machines, with all their fancy (but still deterministic) graphical hardware.

And on a slight tangent, people have been doing similar cunning stuff on the ZX Spectrum. This infamously suffered from colour clash since it used a character-mapped display, and you could only have two colours per "text cell" - foreground and background.

However, with some very clever hackery, some people have managed to put together engines which lets you change the colours on each pixel-line. Giving you the ability to set colours in 8*1 or even 4*1 blocks, rather than 8*8.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ZX_Spectrum_graphic_modes#Software_implementation

It's a bit of a shame these were developed after the ol' Speccy's commercial decline. Still, it's a pretty impressive bit of engineering!

Apple re-arms the iMac with 10th-gen Intel Core silicon

juice Silver badge

> The so-called Osbourne effect was a new manager hired by Osbourne

Nope. Osbourne suffered from three issues:

1) Competition from other companies selling cheaper and better hardware, which drove down sales...

2) ... which led to a marketing push for the new machines, which drove down sales of existing kit...

3) ... which led to some bright spark coming up with the idea of trying to refurb and sell off the mountain of obsolete kit they had as a result of 1) and 2)

Without 1) and 2), the company wouldn't have had the unused inventory. And arguably, without the chilling effect 2) had on pre-orders, they might have had the cashflow to pay for the refurb - the $2 million quoted on Wikipedia is a fair amount of cash even today, but it still only works out at about $10 per refurbished machine, which would then presumably have had a retail price somewhere north of $1000.

(OTOH, there's always the chance that if they had completed the refurb, the cheap machines would have flooded the market and depressed sales of their newer models even further. You pays your money and you takes your chances...)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Osborne_effect

Venerable text editor GNU Nano reaches version 5.0 and adds the modern frippery that is scrollbars

juice Silver badge

Re: Cult?

It's still not v...

Dammit!

esc:wq

Gone in 15 minutes: Qualcomm claims new chargers will fill your smartmobe in a flash

juice Silver badge

> Why would you need to charge your phone at 85%?

Believe it or not, I used to leave my house! For hours at a time!

And while I'm a great fan of living on the edge - I'll often buy a pint of a beer I've never tried before *without* a taste test - life is a lot easier when you're not trying to ration the electrons in your phone to make sure it lasts until you stagger back through the door.

juice Silver badge

> Imagine being that vapid that waiting an hour or two for your phone to charge is the worst thing in the world and you need a full charge after 15 minutes so you can carry on being vapid on Instagram.

The problem is that modern handsets can drain batteries like crazy if you're actively using them.

E.g. if I'm lounging in bed on the weekend and spend a bit of time checking social media, emails, etc, it's not uncommon for my phone (S10+) to drop from a fresh 100% overnight charge to somewhere in the mid-80s.

Which means that once I do haul my carcass out of bed, one of the first things I need to do is to plug it back in for a recharge.

And I've tried various things, like downgrading the resolution, downclocking the CPU, tweaking the brightness down, etc. Sadly, none of the above really seem to make much of a difference to the battery life.

Mind you, they also seem to make little difference to the actual user experience, either. So methinks my next phone will be a mid-range machine with a large battery, rather than a high-range device with all the bells and whistles!

Chinese tat bazaar Xiaomi to light a fire under Amazon's Kindle with new e-book reader

juice Silver badge

Re: Is there a point to eReaders that I'm missing?

> You and other people annoy me by missing the e ink screen though. That's seriously the greatest difference.

Is it really that great a difference?

I read books on my Samsung S10+. The screen's big enough, the resolution is high, and I can happily read for hours without worrying about battery life. And it's one less device to carry around, when (in pre-lockdown days) I merrily rode around various forms of public transport.

Though TBH, I generally prefer white text on a black background, partly because I often read while settling down for the night with the bedroom light switched off. Then too, theoretically, it reduces the battery drain.

Admittedly, I'm pretty flexible when it comes to e-reading - I started using ebooks back on Palm handhelds, starting with the Palm IIIxe.

eInk? Colour? Pah. We had a 160x160 greyscale LCD screen, and we'd have to resync the entire device if the batteries died. And we were lucky... #yorkshireman

That was then followed (for a long, long, long time) the T3, though that was eventually phased out in favour of a Nokia N800, and from there, I've generally just used AIReader on whatever mobile phone I had at the time!

So, yeah. I don't really see the point in dedicated eInk readers. But I acknowledge I'm a special case :)

Though if someone can make a sensibly priced A4-sized Android tablet, I'll be all over it like a kitten on catnip. There's a lot of magazines I'd love to re-read, but most tablets are either a bit too small or have a "cinematic" aspect ratio (e.g. 16:9) which makes reading 3:2-ratio content a PITA.

(It's also mildly entertaining to see some of the more... optimistic prices for the T3 on Ebay. 200-odd quid? Yer having a giraffe!)

Capita's bespoke British Army recruiting IT cost military 25k applicants after switch-on

juice Silver badge

Re: I get it...

> isn't there also an argument for saying that the Armed forces simply aren't an attractive career option for a lot of people, hence the lack of applicants?

Monday: we sold 200 ice creams from our old truck

Tuesday: we introduced our new ice cream truck. The speaker doesn't work, and there isn't a window, so we have to open the passenger-side window to give out ice cream and get money We only sold 100 ice creams..

Brit telcos deliberately killed Phones 4u, claim admins in £1bn UK High Court sueball

juice Silver badge

Re: A few things

> Why would I wipe it? It's an emergency backup phone, in case the current phone has a problem. So, yes, there could well be older phones still around.

I'm completely the opposite - once I've bought a new shiny and finished configuring it, I dig the packaging for the old device out and slap it onto Ebay.

It helps to offset the cost of the new device, reduces clutter, and in the event of anything going wrong, I'd rather just buy a replacement - if I need something cheap and in a hurry, there's always places like CEX.

On the other hand, once I find something which Just Works, I tend to hang onto it for years, and then spend months bemoaning that there's nothing suitable to replace it.

Such as my 160gb iPod Classic, which I begrudgingly "upgraded" to a 128gb iPhone SE when the HDD developed a click of doom. That worked well for over a decade, and I still miss the physical buttons, dammit!

(Though I suppose technically, the iPhone does now act as a backup for my main phone...)

A volt from the blue: Samsung reportedly ditches wall-wart from future phones

juice Silver badge

> I mean, you can buy decent multi-port high-wattage USB charger warts for fairly cheap

I agree to a degree - and with the fact that you can buy a charger separately, if you so desire. And I fully agree on the environmental impact; I don't think I've even taken the charger out of the box for my last few handsets, since I've got wireless Qi chargers sat next to my bed and work desk.

On the other hand...

We're seeing an ongoing evolution in battery technology - both in terms of capacity and charging. E.g. as the article points out, Apple is moving to offer 20W chargers, which probably have more processing power than a Commodore Amiga packed into them, to monitor and optimise the charging flows.

Meanwhile, most generic chargers top out at 11W, and are unlikely to have all the fancy optimisation tricks.

Put simply, there's going to be a lot of people who'll find their big, powerful phones to be always on the edge of running out of juice, since they can't keep them topped up when using generic chargers.

Personally, I think the environmental win is still more important, and anyone with technical nous will be able to sort themselves out.

But I can see a lot of disgruntlement around this, and a lot of next-generation phones getting a bad reputation for poor battery life!

Cereal Killer Cafe enters hipster heaven, heads online: Coronavirus blamed for shutters being pulled down

juice Silver badge

> The £6.5m is what they officially filed, I doubt if their accountants work on beermats. A million bowls of cereal over 5.5 years is more than 300 a day

Someone didn't read the article properly. Or the bit of the article I quoted. Or my beer-mat calculations :)

As Androgenous Cupboard pointed out, all we know is two things:

1) they claim to have served a million bowls over 5.5 years

2) For 2018, they filed abbreviated accounts, which indicates that turnover for that financial year was less than £6.5 million.

Back to the beer mat, and let's KISS and average it to 200,000 bowls per year. Which, since they had two cafes, means 100,000 bowls per site.

Which works out at about 280 bowls per day, per cafe, if you assume they were open 7 days a week.

Throw in the fact that most people will probably buy more than just a single bowl (e.g. a drink), and rounding that up to 300 per day/cafe seems pretty reasonable.

... and that's what I scribbled on my beer mat.

Game, set and bowl of sugar-filled e-numbers to me, I think ;)

juice Silver badge

Now you're just milking it...

juice Silver badge

> Cereal Killers Cafe Ltd filed abbreviated accounts for the year ended 30 November 2018, meaning at had a turnover no more than £6.5m, fewer than 50 employees on average and a balance sheet totalling no more than £3.26m. Maybe there isn’t a pot of Golden Nuggets at the end of this particular rainbow.

I'm all for snarking, but really: how much money would you expect a company running two cafes to earn? And how many employees would they need? I'd guess no more than 5 or 6 per shop, tops.

Beer mat time: assuming they had 300 people a day wandering into each cafe, and each person bought a £6 bowl, that works out at about £1800 per day/cafe, or a total annual turnover of around £1.3 million. To bump that up to £6.5m, they'd need to have around 1500 customers a day, which'd make the cafe a standing-room-only experience!

So, I'd guesstimate they probably had a turnover in the range of £1-3 million per year. Which might not raise them to Apple/Microsoft revenue levels, but still isn't to be sniffed at, especially given how low their overheads were (barring central London rent and business rates, natch): no fancy ingredients or expensive chefs here!

And now they're gone, though given this was central London, there'll probably be some new Hipster-tastic organic-locally-sourced-hand-crafted-food-experience up and running in their place, probably before I even finish typing this paragraph. And the odds are good that the people behind the counter will be the same people who were pouring milk into the Cereal Killer bowls...

When a deleted primary device file only takes 20 mins out of your maintenance window, but a whole year off your lifespan

juice Silver badge

> I am cursed with having to work with people who, when a filesystem goes full, go gzip happy.

Nah. The fun one is when someone deletes a log file (or similar) which a process is still hanging onto.

At that point, you're left with a large chunk of space which can't be reallocated, and which will resolutely stay as-is until you find and kill/restart the parent process.

It's the dark-side equivalent of the little trick used to save the day in this article :)

juice Silver badge

Re: Read and understand the instructions first

It is mildly worrying how many things are resolved thanks to someone having a copy of the data sat in their personal filesystem.

At one point, I had a minion sheepishly come up to me (while I was talking a new minion through their first day of the job, entertainingly/ironically) and sheepishly announce that they'd deleted something which Really Shouldn't Have Been Deleted.

And while there were daily backups, the data was being constantly updated, so would require a fair amount of work to rebuild from the "last known good" state.

Thankfully, someone had just that very morning cloned the data for testing purposes, so we were able to use that to restore 90% of missing data, leaving my very subdued minion with just an hour or two of hard graft to finish the cleanup.

Fun, fun fun! Thankfully, it didn't scare the new minion off :)

UN warns of global e-waste wave as amount of gadgets dumped jumps 21% in 5 years

juice Silver badge

Re: Blame...

> Making their phones and other kit as unrepairable as possible. And also fighting right to repair.

It'd be nice if things were as simple as Apple being an evil corporation intent on maximising profits at all costs. And I have no doubt that at least part of the problem stems from Apple wanting to protect their revenue streams.

But at the same time, things aren't that simple.

First, there's the point that if something breaks under warranty, the manufacturer is under an obligation to repair or replace. So it's in their interest to juggle the bill of materials until they end up with something which means that $high_percentage of the devices will last until the warranty expires.

Admittedly, there's various other aspects to that calculation, as there's always natural wastage (broken/lost/resold) along the way, and some people will just shrug and buy a new device if the old one fails, rather than going through the hassle of getting it returned/replaced.

But we're a long way from when (not-yet-sir) Clive Sinclair used to punt electronic devices with components pushed to - or beyond - their tolerances, and factored a high return rate into his business plan. These days, we expect things to Just Work when we buy them, and it's a lot easier to kick up a fuss if they don't.

Then too, technology keeps getting smaller and more integrated. E.g. compare the ifixit teardowns of the iPhone 3G versus the iPhone 11.

https://www.ifixit.com/Teardown/iPhone+3G+Teardown/600

https://www.ifixit.com/News/33016/iphone-11-teardown

And part of the reason for that is because the people want their devices to be lighter. But also faster. But also with better battery life. But that also don't overheat. But which are also waterproof. But are also rugged. But but but...

It's increasingly impossible to produce devices which are user-serviceable, on top of all the other demands as per above. And even then, you'd need specialist tools for many things, given how physically small so much technology is these days, especially when it comes to soldering/unsoldering.

So yeah. It's easy to point a finger at Apple. But mostly, the decline in user-serviceability is being driven by the increased complexity and integration of the components within all the devices we use - you can also flag things like cars and TVs in much the same way.

When one open-source package riddled with vulns pulls in dozens of others, what's a dev to do?

juice Silver badge

True, but...

> Validating inputs isn't defensive coding. It should be standard practice. If you, as a software developer, are not rigorously validating 100% of your user inputs, your computer access rights should be revoked.

I'd agree with this, but the problem here isn't *your* code.

It's the code in library A which you're pulling in. Which is then pulling in libraries B and C. Which are then pulling in libraries D, E, F, G, H. And so on.

No matter how rigorously you're validating your own code, there's no way to verify that the pyramid of "external" code you've pulled in is safe, unless you're going to manually review it all.

To use a recent personal example: I needed to compile some javascript using gulp. And after much failed faffing with nvm/npm, I gave up and grabbed a tarball of the required libraries from somewhere else.

My code: a few hundred bytes, atop a few hundred kilobytes of existing in-house code.

The code needed to get gulp working: 174 megabytes.

To be fair, there's probably a lot of legacy cruft in the compilation system. And I'd guess less than 1% of that code actually gets fired up when compiling my code. But even so, it would take weeks or months to verify the pyramid of code which is being used, and I'd then have to repeat this exercise whenever a library is updated and/or a new dependency added.

And therein lies the issue.

In theory, that's the beauty of open-source software, in that you have access to the source and do have the ability to review it. And since everyone else can do the same, all code should be perfect and bug-free!

In practice, many open-source packages only have a small number of contributers (assuming they haven't been abandoned/forked/etc), and the amount of oversight is limited.

Beware the fresh Windows XP install: Failure awaits you all with nasty, big, pointy teeth

juice Silver badge

Re: There's a rat in mi kitchen...

> Various mouse-catching suggestions

The wee blighter ended up hiding behind a wardrobe sat in a chimney alcove; it was fascinating watching it explore ways to get out of this area which didn't involve confronting the big and increasingly cranky ape standing guard in front of said wardrobe.

E.g trying to do a chimney climb up the gap between the wall and the wardrobe.

I then got an old motherboard box, cut a "doorway" into one corner and set it in front of the wardrobe, and the beastie did venture into it. But every time I moved to seal the doorway, it heard me and bombed straight back out to behind the wardrobe again!

Eventually, more by luck than judgement, I managed to capture it inside a canvas bag, and took it outside. Only to discover after the event that mice have a very strong homing instinct - and shortly after, one appeared on the attic stairs, though thankfully it froze in horror and I was able to trap it under a towel. After which it was driven to the hills and released far, far, far away from my house!

juice Silver badge

Re: chewed wires

> Some friends of mine had Guinea pigs and some tropical fish. They explained how whenever they went away for the weekend a neighbour would stop by and check on their pets

I own[*] a corn snake, who's incredibly placid and well behaved, and has given very little trouble over the last decade or so.

Except for the time when I was working down south and got a call from my partner, as said snake was no longer in their vivarium. Cue a long and slightly panic'd drive home, during which I tried to rehearse what to say to the neighbours. Fortunately, she'd only gone a short distance before deciding to curl up under a wash basket!

Then there was the second time a few years later. Which just happened to be the same weekend that I was looking after a friend's gerbil - the first and only[**] time I've ever looked after someone else's pet. Cue another stressful trip home, with visions dancing in my head of a happy looking snake with a gerbil-sized bulge in their belly...

Thankfully that time, she'd just curled up in the shoe cupboard, but I doubt the gerbil was impressed!

[*] passed over from a relative, when their partner started dropping strong hints about not wanting exotic pets in the house...

[**] Certainly, that friend never asked me to look after their gerbil again ;)

juice Silver badge

There's a rat in mi kitchen...

Never had anything particularly bad happen to my kit, though I once spent a fruitless evening chasing a mouse around the spare bedroom. Those wee beasties can move surprisingly quickly and can do some impressive acrobatics. Just wish it hadn't been at 3am, and in my house ;)

Saying that, a friend was once overjoyed to discover that a local tomcat has gotten into his house and sprayed his PC (which had the lid off to help keep it cool) with musk...

Another time, I bought my dad a hammock for his birthday - big wooden frame, nice canvas hammock. As his birthday's in October, this was duly admired and then stashed in the garage.

Come summer, Dad went into the garage to bring the hammock out, only to spy a mouse running out of the box. Turned out they were rather partial to the canvas, which now looked like a ragged old fishing net. Cue lots of cursing and a trip to BnQ to buy some traps...

Eventually, I bought him a new hammock, and the frame was duly assembled, the hammock put into place, and my dad leapt onto it with a big grin. Only for one of the wooden beams to snap, sending him spilling to the ground.

He's never touched a hammock since...

Big Tech on the hook for billions in back taxes after US Supreme Court rejects Altera stock options case hearing

juice Silver badge

> It'd raise nothing. You're assuming we won't just avoid it, when it should be obvious by now that we would

I think you missed the point. The USA had an income tax rate of over 50% for top-earners for over fifty years - and it was over 70% for twenty of those years.

And that period just so happened to be one of the best periods of economic and social growth for the USA. And I've not heard of any enclaves of American ex-pats, who sit around bemoaning about how they had to move out of the country because of the high taxes.

Nor have I heard of any significant numbers of rich people fleeing other countries which have a higher income tax rate than the UK.

In fact, many of the countries with higher income tax rates (e.g. Ireland, Germany, Slovenia, Israel, France, Sweden, etc) are generally considered to be highly prosperous and to have an overall better quality of life than countries with lower income tax rates.

It's almost as if paying taxes helps to maintain and build the country's infrastructure, and therefore create more opportunities for wealth generation...

> Let me give you a very simple example of why cutting taxes works. Do away with the tax free earnings withdrawal, and instead of getting 67% of nothing, you'd be getting 40% of another £25k.

So... cutting taxes by introducing a new tax? Either way, I don't know enough about taxes to know whether that would be a viable approach, or whether that'd just push people into using a different mechanism to avoid the tax. I'm generally inclined towards the latter, but that could just be because I'm cynical ;)

Sad to say, the empirical evidence to date indicates that if you cut taxes for rich people or corporations, that money just gets salted away and doesn't come back into the economy.

E.g.

The tax holiday for US companies bringing cash back into the country - https://taxfoundation.org/repatriation-tax-holiday-hangover/

"Trickle down" tax cuts - https://www.theguardian.com/business/2012/jul/21/offshore-wealth-global-economy-tax-havens

Reducing costly regulations to "enable" job growth, only to find the jobs were cut anyway, and the "saved" money ploughed into stock buybacks - https://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2020/01/att-slashed-billions-from-network-spending-cut-tens-of-thousands-of-jobs/

And so on. I could try and dig out some British samples, but the USA does tend to provide bigger examples!

Money handed to the rich stays with the rich. Money distributed further down the chain goes back into the economy and helps to spur growth.

> my current tax rate is around the low 30's and my projected tax rate with professional advice would be around 7% with another 20% lost in fees ... the state will lose over £30k in taxes annually

That suggests that £30k is around 5% of your annual income, which in turn implies that you're earning around £600k per year and paying around £200k per year in taxes while having around £400k - or over £1000 per day - to spend on your lifestyle.

And without wanting to sound like I'm trying to be negative or score points, I genuinely do have a question: does your lifestyle actually needs that extra £30k in annual income, or is this all purely a matter of principle?

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