* Posts by juice

487 posts • joined 16 Nov 2010

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Das reboot: That's the only thing to do when the screenshot, er, freezes

juice Silver badge

Re: Funny that

> Ah, those innocent days, long before the features facilitating such japes became _recognized as_ security risks...

Bit of both, TBH. After all, these were the days when memory addressing was contiguous, CPUs could safely do branch prediction, and viruses either displayed a rude message or corrupted your hard drive, rather than locking the entire thing up and demanding that you send a bitcoin to a random Eastern European address. And this was at the dawn of the first browser war, so Microsoft hadn't yet managed to push the wondrously insecure Internet Explorer into a position of market dominance.

Or to put it another way: many of the threats we deal with today simply hadn't been invented yet.

Alas, things evolved, and as new attack vectors were discovered or invented, the hardware and software they target has adapted in turn. It's an ever escalating Mexican stand-off, and it's frankly shameful (if equally inevitable) how much of our computing resources have to be used to safeguard our data and activities, rather than doing something functionally useful.

juice Silver badge

Re: Funny that

> That's a hoary old one, points deducted for lack of originality. Up there with plugging their mouse into a different machine, but still on their desk

Back in late nineties, we were working on personal workstations which anyone in the group could connect to and switch to root access.

And we were all running Netscape Navigator on these machines, as we were building a (fairly advanced, for the time) self-care system for an ISP.

And it turned out that Netscape allowed you to send instructions on the command line to the currently active browser process.

And a co-worker discovered this.

And so, one day, my machine started to throw up new browser windows, mostly pointed at playboy.com and the like, while I scratched my head and various team members joked about how I'd clearly been doing some dodgy surfing...

Ah, those innocent days, long before the features facilitating such japes became security risks...

Hooray! It's IT Day! Let's hear it for the lukewarm mugs of dirty water that everyone seems to like so much

juice Silver badge

> That's one of the things he got wrong. The officers liked their tea, but it was too expensive for the common men to afford at the time. A common thing was servants selling the used tea leaves which could be dried and dyed and then resold to people who couldn't afford the expense of full on tea.

Fair point - I assumed he'd researched that!

At a glance, looks like tea usage really started to grow in the mid-18th century, thanks in part to the British empire taking bushes from China and developing tea plantations in India.

I might do some more digging into all this later... once I've brewed another cuppa ;)

juice Silver badge

Re: I'm with you

> Tea is for people who can't handle the intensity of coffee and/or who have a moral objection to things which are enjoyable.

Ooo. Someone needs to settle down with a nice cuppa!

juice Silver badge

> Properly speaking the love affair with tea has a lot to do with the Victorians temperance movement

There's also the British Army's love of tea, which dates back a few centuries - Bernard Cornwall's Sharpe was set during the Napoleonic wars, and the soldiers in that are constantly brewing up.

It'd be interesting to find out the history behind this. After all, it makes sense for the army to push tea as a drink; you have to boil water to make it (sterilising the water and the utensils used to make the brew), and it's a mild stimulant. It's also light and compact, doesn't require any special equipment or tools (unlike coffee) and isn't alcoholic, so something of a win all round if you're trying to keep a large group of men in fighting shape.

Not that it always worked, as happened in Gallipoli during WW1.

Either way, I guess this would have helped to spread it across the country, as the men would come home from t'war with their new habit/addition, and introduce it to their families.

And it's a bit odd that other countries didn't pick up on it to the same degree, though I guess this might have been at least partly due to the fact that the British Empire was consuming as much as could be produced. After all, we literally bought all the tea in the world during WW2...

https://blog.teabox.com/year-britain-bought-tea-world

Capture the horrors of war in razor-sharp quality with this ruggedised Samsung phone – or just lob it at enemy forces

juice Silver badge

Ars took a look

... and came to the conclusion that it's a standard S20 with a different boot-screen image and a "military grade" case. Which naturally comes with a hefty markup, and lots of accessories which also carry an equally hefty markup.

E.g. the case costs $290, and a "hardened" USB-C cable for it also costs $290.

https://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2020/05/the-galaxy-s20-tactical-edition-is-a-shock-and-awe-campaign-against-reality/

To be fair, it does have that funky military design ethos to it; it strongly reminds me of the Fallout Pipboy.

But TBH, I'd probably just pick up a CAT S60. Which may not be cutting edge technology, but they are ridiculously tough. And they have a FLIR camera built in, which means you can do Predator-Vision (tm). Even if the latter feature is probably why they're still relatively expensive, given that people are keen on having the ability to scan people who are running a high temperature atm...

Internet of Tardiness: Microsoft puts on a brave face as IoT boat prepares to set sail

juice Silver badge

Re: Missing the boat

> Okay, there's Azure that's not doing bad now either, granted. But frankly, everything else Borkzilla has ever attempted ended in failure. Might be time to draw some conclusions, don't you think ?

To be fair, the Xbox 360 did pretty well. If they hadn't screwed up with the hardware's heat-dissipation capabilities (aka: the RROD and the billion-dollar charge they took as a result), that would have been a nice feather in their cap.

Admittedly, they then completely screwed things up with the Xbox One by both trying to pivot it into being a living room multimedia center *and* force-bundling it with Kinect, at a point when it was clear that the fad for "movement" controls had long since peaked.

At least it's still ticking along, even if the PS4 has handily claimed the console crown for this generation!

A real loch mess: Navy larks sunk by a truculent torpedo

juice Silver badge

Re: Of course it was going to hit the boat!

> Inevitably the plane hit this fence post dead on, not even a glancing blow.

Back *mumble* years ago at secondary school, we used to play football on some tennis courts, near the back of the school where more truculent pupils would try and sneak off for a ciggy or similar.

One day, someone[*] absolutely hoofed the ball, sending it soaring into the air in a beautifully described arc. And time seemed to almost stop as we all watched it zoom into the air, practically reaching near earth orbit before then unerringly steering itself towards the dinner lady who'd chose that moment to patrol the verges for miscreants.

And then, thanks to one of those million-to-one chances which happen nine times out of ten, the ball came down directly onto the top of her head.

I've never seen anyone topple over like a felled tree before...

Another time at the same school, we had a relatively young and enthusiastic science teacher, who decided that the best way to teach us about something[**] was a practical demonstration with a model rocket powered by a solid-fuel cartridge.

So we all duly trooped outside and stood in the school fields to watch this thing shoot up into the air and then float back down to earth under a little parachute.

But then he decided to go one step further. And so we all stood outside the chain-fence of the tennis courts, as he strapped one of these solid fuel cartridges onto a toy car, which then richochetted across the rough surface of the concrete tennis courts like an amphetamine fueled insect.

Health and Safety officials would have a heart attack at the mere idea these days; I'm not even sure how he got away with it back then!

[*] Not me. I was tall, not particularly sporty and bespectacled, so usually ended up in goal!

[**] Smeg knows; this was a while ago. Might have been rocket science, or it might have just been a sunny day and he wanted to play with a new toy...

NHS contact tracing app isn't really anonymous, is riddled with bugs, and is open to abuse. Good thing we're not in the middle of a pandemic, eh?

juice Silver badge

Re: One would have throught...

> You are suffering from 'one-bit mind'. This is where people assume that quantities which need to be represented by real numbers (or collections of real numbers) can be represented by a single bit, which is either true or false. It's a common problem among computing people: I suffer from it too.

I think it's more around the question: how useful is this information, and how many false positives will it trigger?

Class 2.0 Bluetooth theoretically has a range of 10m. Which obviously varies depending on location and device, but hey.

And it apparently takes a minimum of 1.28 seconds to get a response from a bluetooth device in low power mode, and an average of around 2 seconds.

(http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.1015.2811&rep=rep1&type=pdf)

And average walking speed is about 1.4m/s.

So. You have a bluetooth "bubble" around each person, with a 20m diameter. So if two people walk past each other, they'll be in each other's range for around 7 seconds, and the system will record that they were in "kissing" range for about 5 of those seconds.

Ping.

Or if one of the people is stationary, they'll be in range for around 14 seconds, and the system will record 12 seconds.

Ping.

Or if I'm sat upstairs at the back of a double-decker bus, and someone else sits at the back of the bottom of the double-decker bus, we'll be in range until one of us gets off the bus, despite having always had a solid metal barrier between us.

And that doesn't count the people we'll pass while sitting on the bus, especially if it's an inner-city environment where buses often travel at little more than walking pace.

Or if I'm at work, where many of the offices have full-height glass windows and thin partition walls. Yet more people I would have zero physical contact with, but could spend hours in range of their BT devices.

And so on.

I'm guessing there's ways to filter the results from these checks and reduce false positives. But it's a non-trivial exercise, and if the boy cries wolf too often, the usefulness of this application will rapidly dwindle.

Eclipse boss claims Visual Studio Code is an open-source poseur – though he would say that, wouldn't he?

juice Silver badge

Re: Nicely balanced article

> No insult intended, but vim isn't really a development environment that is comparable with IntelliJ (both on 25.4%)

Hey, don't knock vim! ;)

My main dev environment is Ubuntu, running one or more tabbed terminal windows. Generally, most of the tabs have Vim open on a file, alongside a couple which I use to commit/upload changes and tail log files.

And thanks to the power of keyboard shortcuts, I can easily move between tabs and windows without having to use the mouse. And Vim has colour syntax highlighting, and can run commands, so I can easily trigger local builds and syntax validation.

With that said, I'll be the first to admit that a dedicated IDE can offer a lot more - and other people in the company do use their IDE of choice - but for what I do, it works well enough. And almost as importantly, it's a setup which I can use on virtually any *nix environment without having to install or tinker with anything. And it works just as well when I have to log into a production environment to investigate or fix issues.

Perhaps most importantly of all... it's not Emacs :D

Square peg of modem won't fit into round hole of PC? I saw to it, bloke tells horrified mate

juice Silver badge

Re: Fun with power tools...

Not sure what I was running on that wee beast - I've got a feeling it was a stripped down version of Win98 or somesuch. As you might have guessed from the NES case, it was mostly intended to be used as an emulator station.

On a vaguely similar note, I can recall a friend using one of the early media streamer boxes as a house server - some Western Digital thing about the size of a laptop power supply, which ran some ARM chip at around 400mhz and could be easily flashed to boot linux.

Said friend was teaching in China at the time, so this box ended up at his mum's house, sat in a corner and acting as a proxy whenever they wanted to access something the Great Firewall of China wouldn't have approved of...

juice Silver badge

Re: Fun with power tools...

> Did you not know about solvent weld?

I can't comment on what my past self knew (or didn't) - this was about 15 years ago, and there's been a lot of solvents since. Usually in the form of ethanol and served in a pint glass on an evening ;)

What I can say is that when you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail. When you have a soldering iron and a bunch of mangled thermoplastic scraps, everything can be fixed by melting the smaller bits down to the consistency of chewing gum and using them to bodge larger bits into place, with help from the tip of the soldering iron!

juice Silver badge

Fun with power tools...

Way back before the Raspberry Pi was even a bud on the vine[*], I picked up one of the early nano-ATX all-in-one boards. One of the VIA EPIA variants; I think it had a 1ghz processor descended from the Cyrix architecture and an S3 Chrome GPU, or somesuch.

Naturally, i wanted to do something interesting with this new and incredibly small bit of technology. And I had a couple of dead NES machines in a cupboard.

So, one was fetched out of deep storage, stripped down and attacked with a dremel to make room for the board and improve airflow.

Alas, the result was a bit fragile. Fortunately, I discovered that the plastic Nintendo had used was thermoplastic - and I had a knackered old soldering iron to hand.

The smell during the welding process was pretty nasty, and it was far from the neatest set of welds in the world, but hey. What's inside the NES, stays inside the NES!

It did all actually work out pretty well in the end - I managed wire up the power/reset buttons to the m/b, got the OS booting off a CF card, and even found a laptop CD drive which fitted pretty much perfectly behind the cartridge-slot door. Once I'd welded a few more bits of plastic into place to keep it in place, anyhow :)

[*] What I know about horticulture can be transcribed onto a very small pea pod...

Lars Ulrich makes veiled threats of another Metallica album during web chat with Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff

juice Silver badge

Re: Harsh...

> It's not just "reinventing their sound". As the article, and many comments here shows, many listeners of a band's music never seem to move on but the artists *do*. Artists are human and they age, and during that aging their viewpoints and attitudes change. They can't stay angry young men (and women) forever, and both what they want to say on their art, and how they want to say it, grows different with time.

Agreed - everyone and everything changes over time, and it's manifestly unfair to expect artists of any ilk to keep churning out stuff in the exact same style, decade after decade.

But it does feel like there was an inflection point in the early 90s, where a number of acts decided to make a conscious change in style, rather than it being a natural/gradual progression.

The main question is whether it was a case of a genuine desire to experiment, or just "following-the-leader" in an attempt to cash in on a trend - or even just a response to the various changes in the industry (driven at least in part by advances in technology, and the associated drop in production costs).

Personally, I'd tend to lean towards the latter two; big-name established musicians have to pay the bills, the same as everyone else!

juice Silver badge

Re: Pioneers of thrash?

> And no, they didn't sell out after the black album. It was during the writing of the black album. "Thrash metal" does not allow a bloody ballad to show up in the track listing--see Slayer for details.

Metallica had been dabbling in power ballads for years before the Black album - e.g. One, Sanitarium, Fade to Black.

They thought they could handle it. After all, it's just a ballad.

Remember kids, the first one is always free. Just say no!

juice Silver badge

Harsh...

> They unleashed a salvo of landmark albums during that time – Kill 'em All, Ride The Lightning, Master of Puppets, and ...And Justice For All – up until 1991, when they realised they could make even more money if they wrote pop-rock songs and power ballads. That was the eponymous "black album".

Admittedly, the black album was a fairly significant step change from their previous efforts, but it was still loud and nasty. And while The Unforgiven is a power ballad, it followed in the footsteps of One and Sanitarium, from their previous albums!

The less said about St Anger, the better, though.

Actually, with my metal-geek studded-leather jacket on, there was definitely something in the water around 1990, as a number of established elder rock gods took a successful punt at reinventing their sound, mostly by bringing in a new producer to shake things up. E.g. Judas Priest/Painkiller, Metallica/Black and Alice Cooper/Trash, Ozzy/No More Tears, etc...

Alas, this then encouraged people to experiment further, which is how we ended up with increasingly corporate efforts to mangle more things together in the hopes of producing a new golden-egg laying goose. Yep, nu metal, I'm looking at you; people like Kid Rock and Fred Durst have a lot to answer for...

Nine million logs of Brits' road journeys spill onto the internet from password-less number-plate camera dashboard

juice Silver badge

Re: Ah, Sheffield

> After circling the streets for around 25 or 30 mins - literally in view of said building - I could find no streets that I could legally drive down to get any closer. I ended up parking in a pay and display.

Admittedly, the area around the cathedral is a royal PITA to navigate around unless you have the local "knowledge". F'instance, it's a 1.3 mile walk from where I live to the cathedral, but if I wanted to drive there, the quickest route would be 2.8 miles...

Perhaps the best bit is by the bus station, which is sat at the bottom of one of Sheffield's many hills; there's a large concrete lump built into this hill, atop of which is an ex-nightclub which is now an O2 Academy venue.

And there's a side road by the bus station called Pond Street, which has a vast swathe of parking which is free at evenings and weekends. And so I directed a friend there one night when they drove over for a gig.

Except... they couldn't find the free parking area, and instead had to park up in the overly expensive NCP car park which is buried in said concrete lump.

Turns out that there's actually two Pond Streets; these were once a single road, but when the bus station was put in place, this was cut into two and a pedestrian zone inserted between the two new (and heavily reshaped) halves.

But no-one thought to rename either of these new roads, and modern GPS systems insist on taking you to the "bus-station" Pond Street rather than the "free parking" Pond Street...

juice Silver badge

Re: No shock

> Can't say as this surprises me about anything run by Sheffield Council. I've lived there most of my life and never seen anything except a string of useless individuals ruin a once great city. This you recall the council that built an airport, but didn't make it quite long enough to be commercially viable, safe in the knowledge that the original deal included the clause that sold the site back to the developers for £1 if it wasn't viable.

There was also Don Valley Stadium; when the council ran out of money in 2013, that was sold off and demolished indecently quickly (announced in January, sale completed and site demolished by November of the same year).

And then there was Park Hill Flats (as seen a few times in recent Dr Who episodes)- a decaying, brutalist lump of social housing which had been hanging around the council's neck for years, partly thanks to the fact that it's grade 2 listed.

Sold to a dodgy company - one of the ones which funds construction work by pre-selling the apartments-to-be. Sadly, this all happened just as a recession kicked in; combined with the fact that repairing grade 2 buildings is expensive, this led to the plans being massively scaled back. This was all kicked off back in 2009; over a decade later, half the flats are still pending refurbishment.

Or the amazing "billion pound" deal with a Chinese construction company in 2016, which completely failed to materialise. Which is perhaps a blessing in disguise, as the same company wanted to purchase Sheffield's central library and convert it into a hotel.

Or the move of Sheffield Market from Castlegate (conveniently next to the bus station and train station, as well as being on the tramline and just off the M1 access motorway) to the Moor (not near to any of the above). Oddly, footfall plummeted after the move!

Mind you, we now have their latest brainwave - a 20-year, £1.5 billion investment for the area around the train station. At the minute, the tram-tracks go behind the station, while the inner ring road goes in front of it; from the renders, the main thrust of this plan is to swap these around.

What the renders don't show is quite how this is going to work, seeing as there's probably a good 4 meters difference in elevation between the front and back of the station, and there's a tramline "hub" sat at the top of this elevation, just a few hundred meters from the station.

Oh, and then there's a lumpen concrete tramline bridge at the far side, which takes trams an extra meter or so higher as they pass by Norfolk Park.

So in this brave new world, trams will somehow have to drop 4 meters so that they can rumble alongside the front of the station. And then once they're past the station, they'll have rise back up 5 meters.

And they'll have to cross the train tracks, at the same time.

Still, with the council's track record, I'm sure it'll all be a blinding success!

juice Silver badge

Ah, Sheffield

Sheffield is a funny old place. At peak, it's the usual nightmare, especially when it comes to the roundabouts over by Sheffield Uni on the inner ring road.

But off peak, it's relatively nice and easy to drive around, partly because the city centre is physically smaller and lower-density than places like Leeds or Manchester.

On the other hand, the council has done it's best to make things increasing convoluted, with a few "carefully" placed one-way systems and bus-only lanes.

West Street is perhaps the best example of this; the top end has had a peak-time bus gate rule in place since 2010. And in 2018, they switched on some ANPR cameras to enforce this rule.

And to be fair, this is next to the aforementioned hot-spot on the inner ring road, so it makes sense to limit traffic at peak.

But... the signage is highly confusing; the first sign appears about 300m before the junction, then there's a second "reminder" sign at 200m and a final "bus gate ahead" sign at 100m.

So at a glance, you'd expect the rule to apply at the 200m - or possibly even the 100m - mark. But no, it starts at the 300m mark; the ANPR camera is actually mounted on the same set of traffic lights which the first warning sign is mounted on.

Better yet, there's a car park just after the 300m mark, down a side road on the left. So to access this car park during peak, you have to turn *right* just before the 300m, then turn left to drive over a *pedestrianised* area just in front of the main entrance to a university building (which as a result is usually rammed with scurrying students) and then turn left again to cross back over West Street to get access to it.

This has also had a not-so-nice economic impact as well; there used to be a number of shops at the top of West Street, as well as a traditional Turkish Spa. And ever since the ANPR cameras were activated, they've taken a huge financial hit and some have had to close.

https://www.thestar.co.uk/news/politics/sheffield-spa-closes-over-bus-gate-fines-cash-scam-row-494323

Equally/ironically, there's a covenant which means the council is responsible for keeping the Turkish Spa open. So between the loss of business rates and the need to subsidize the Spa, it's entirely possible that the council is losing more money than it's gaining from having the ANPR cameras switched on...

(Disclaimer: I was caught out by the above ANPR cameras a while ago, when picking my car up after an MOT. Not that I'm bitter or anything!)

Guess who's back, back again. SE's back, tell a friend: 2020 reboot looks like an iPhone 8 and even shares components

juice Silver badge

Re: It's still the fastest Apple iPhone at the lowest Apple price

Looks like in 2016, the SE accounted for about 15% of Apple's US sales and 30% of their UK sales.

https://techcrunch.com/2016/08/10/the-iphone-se-is-selling-just-as-apple-planned-in-the-u-s-and-europe/

So it was certainly pretty popular, at least for a while. Saying that, it'd be interesting to find out how much of that was driven by the lower price point - a second article linked from the above notes that the SE cost $399 versus $549 for the 6S.

Then too, four years later, access to visual media is arguably a lot more important than it was back in 2016.

Anecdotally, I do actually own a SE and use it on a daily basis - I bought one used, since I needed a new music player and it was cheaper than picking up an iPod Touch ;)

For all that it's perfectly functional and fast enough, when compared to the behemoth of my Samsung S10+, it's an ergonomic PITA, especially when it comes to typing.

To be fair, I remember being perfectly happy when tapping away with a stylus on my old Palm 3c. But we've come a long way since then, and I've no desire to go back to smaller or more fiddly user interfaces!

juice Silver badge

Re: It's still the fastest Apple iPhone at the lowest Apple price

> I did a search on a phone database for devices released in the last two years smaller than those dimensions, and 73 results came up. Then I adjusted the list to remove watches and feature phones. Only seven results came up.

I just did a quick search on Amazon for "4 - 4.4 inch" phones, and a few more options came up.

E.g. the dreadfully named Cubot Kingkong phone, which is 119x58mm, 3GB RAM and Android 9 Pie. And released in November 2019, judging by the Amazon timestamp and review dates.

To be fair, it's a cheap and cheerful little number which looks like it was designed by a teenager who'd just watched Bladerunner for the first time, but at the same time, it's new, looks to have reviewed surprisingly well for it's price point and fits your size criteria.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/CUBOT-Kingkong-Mini-Smartphone-Waterproof/dp/B08212KXNH/

https://www.notebookcheck.net/Cubot-KingKong-Mini-Smartphone-Review-Handy-Mobile-Phone-from-China.454083.0.html

Then there's the Alcatel 4034x, released in October 2018, though at £37 new, it's barely a third the price of the Kingkong and the (curiously omitted) hardware specs will probably be trimmed down to match.

Beyond that, the well does seem to run dry on Amazon (barring some older Android and even Windows phones some overly optimistic people are still listing).

But there's a reason for this: the market has moved on from small handsets. Because the vast majority of people now use their handsets to interact with visual media - social media and videos being the two main ones.

They're even increasingly using them to produce media rather than just consume it - my housemate has been producing some impressively professional looking music videos on her iPhone during the lockdown.

And a small handset just doesn't cut it, either for consuming visual media, interacting with it or creating it.

Which isn't to say that there isn't use-cases for smaller handsets - after all, some people really do just want a phone, not a miniaturised networked computer.

But there simply isn't - and arguably never will be - a market large enough to interest the likes of Apple.

Realme's X50m is a decently specced 5G phone – for the price of a 1995 Nissan Micra

juice Silver badge

Re: Not sure how much a bargain this would be...

Yeah - we've come a long way from the days of Lik Sang and their ilk :)

Still, with Moore's law having dropped off a cliff, these days it's usually easier to just pick up something from a generation or two ago, at a fraction of the current-gen prices.

E.g. I used to use an iPod classic for music - great battery life, a headphone socket and the only thing worse for managing large music collections than iTunes is everything else on the market.

(Plus, Android phones generally don't support song rating, which is something I use to purge songs which have outstayed their welcome)

Alas, the hard drive is starting to sound like a metronome, and buying a straight replacement is surprisingly expensive, as they're old enough to have become favored by hipsters.

So instead, I picked up a 128gb iPhone SE for £115, from CEX.

Not only did it come with a 1-year hardware warranty, but it's less than half the price of a new 128gb iPod Touch and more double the battery capacity (probably - Apple don't like quoting battery capacities, but ebay suggests the iPod has a 650mah battery vs the ~1600mah battery of the SE).

(and a better camera and a slightly faster CPU. Not particularly fussed about either, since I've just stuck it into airplane mode and use it just for music!)

Win all round :) And similar will probably apply as and when my Galaxy S10 bites the dust...

juice Silver badge

Re: The thing about a 1995 Nissan Micra is...

Yeah - a quick glance at autotrader shows the 1.4 model goes for similar prices. E.g.

https://www.autotrader.co.uk/classified/advert/202004178979873

Not bad for a twenty-year old car :) It's rare to own a car that actually increases in value over time :)

juice Silver badge

Re: Not sure how much a bargain this would be...

> Banggood will charge you £230 + around a tenner for shipping. You take a gamble on the import tariffs; HMRC stop about 1 in 5 of my packages and I have to pay duty on them; but it's still way cheaper than buying anything here.

True, but there's a big difference between taking a gamble on the grey market and buying something that's going to come with a proper warranty, EU/UK certification and regional customer support/localisation.

Not that that's stopped me in the past :)

juice Silver badge

Not sure how much a bargain this would be...

... given that the £230 price is for China.

TBH, I haven't a clue what the markup would be once you throw UK/EU tariffs, localisation and certification costs atop, but I'm guessing it'll be similar to the old UK/USA pricing delta, where something which cost $100 in the USA would cost £100 in the UK...

Beyond that, given that the mobile phone market is suffering the same shrinkage as everything else, I'm wondering if this is being pushed out as a loss leader or similar - something just to keep the factory ticking over and use up stockpiles which were previously earmarked for higher-margin phones which are now effectively unsellable!

juice Silver badge

Re: The thing about a 1995 Nissan Micra is...

> it's still usable after 25 years and is easily reparable.

... unless it mysteriously vanishes.

At one point, I had a 1.4l Nissan Micra - the four door model and of a 1997/1998 vintage. Purchased for £400 as a learner car for my partner, but it turned out to be a fun little go-kart - nippy, able to turn on a penny /and/ it sailed through it's MOT without a hitch, despite being comfortably over a decade old at the time.

As such, when the time came to get rid of my main car, the Micra was doing a good enough job that I didn't feel the need to rush out and find a replacement. Even if a few friends derived quite a bit of amusement from seeing my 6"2 frame unfolding from the front seat ;)

Alas, I was commuting to work via train at the time, and there was some on-street parking close to the station. And one day I came back to discover a Micra-shaped gap where my car used to be...

Never even had a whisper as to what happened with it, though a friend who's into tinkering with cars later told me that the 1.4l models are popular for banger racing and the like, so the odds are good that it got taken to a garage and stripped for parts.

It's a shame, as it was a fun little drive - and the lowest "total cost of ownership" car I've ever owned, despite the fact that it disappeared in a puff of smoke before it's time!

Elevating cost-cutting to a whole new level with million-dollar bar bills

juice Silver badge

Re: It didn't affect us

Back in t'day, I lived in a victorian house which was in the heart of a large town - less than half a mile from the shopping high street, and on one of the main commuting routes into said town.

(Which handily meant that there was around half a dozen pubs in the immediate vicinity, of which at least one would have live music or a jam session going on a given night. Which was nice, especially when I ended up being paid to not work for a few months. But that's another story...)

And as this was an Victorian townhouse, the front garden was basically a small gravel pit, stuck behind a short and chunky brick wall surmounted by cast-iron railings that had somehow managed to survive the great WW2 melt-all-the-things purge.

Plus a bus-stop pole sat directly in front of said brick wall. Which was nice (for a very small value of nice), as the bus engine vibrations tended to hit the resonance frequency of the house's windows. Still, it played a part in what was to come...

In the early hours one morning, I was awoken by some strange screeching noises, followed by some rather crunchy noises.

Staggering out of bed, I went to the window, opened the curtains and blearily peered out.

And then I turned and yelled to my housemate "Oi! We've got a car parked in our front garden!"

Some muppet in a sporty little number (A Toyota MR2 or somesuch) had come barrelling down the slight incline of the road, lost control and put his car into a spin, which only ended when they hit the aforementioned chunky wall.

It was actually quite a neat - if accidental - bit of maneouvering - the townhouses were the standard narrow "single room" design, but he somehow managed to completely avoid the houses to either side of mine, and plant his car squarely in our gravel pit. Atop the remnants of said wall and railings, facing backwards, and with the rear bumper of his car barely a foot from the front room's bay window.

This is where the aforementioned bus stop came in handy, as when the car hit it's steel pole, it helped to spin it into the brick wall!

Still, I can think of nicer ways to wake up...

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

juice Silver badge

Merry Christmas!

A friend used to have a little christmas-fairy-lights app running on his (windows 95?) machine all year round, as he swore it made it more stable.

Which in turn has reminded me of all the other little toys which hooked into Windows and gave you little characters and critters running around the top of your window titlebars.

Such as Sheep. And I'm not sure if I should be amused or terrified that someone's ported said beastie to Windows 10...

https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/p/esheep-64bit/9mx2v0tqt6rm

juice Silver badge

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

> Putting on my programmer hat (snap brim fedora) while I never worked with Amiga I have worked with SCSI and finicky doesn't even begin to describe them.

Way back when, I was fortunate enough to be working somewhere which was having a wholescale purge of obsolete hardware. Mostly generic beige PCs, but there were a few pieces of more obscure and/or esoteric bits of kit being dumped into the corridor outside the office I worked in.

Including a number of bits of SCSI gear. Notable bits I scavenged from this were:

1) An internal CD drive, which used a caddy for it's disks

2) An external CD writer, which wasn't far off the size of the PC controlling it. A whopping 2x recording speed IIRC, too...

3) A SCSI hard drive. But not just any hard drive; this was a Full Height 5.25" beast of a drive - basically the same as duct-taping two CD drives together!

4) An ISA SCSI card. Which was handy, as otherwise, the rest of the haul would have been little more than paperweights!

Surprisingly, this motley collection of hand-me-downs mostly[*] worked, though I did end up having to ring a US phone number to get some tech support, as initially, the internal CD drive would only copy files if you held the space-bar down.

Thankfully, the slightly bemused voice at the other end of the phone was able to diagnose the issue as being an IRQ conflict. And since this Ancient Technology was built long before Plug and Play became a thing, said conflict was resolved (with the aid of a pair of tweezers) by manually shifting a couple of jumpers on the ISA SCSI card.

Those were the days. For a given value of "those"...

[*] I can recall having some successes with the CD writer, but these quickly tailed off and this bit of hardware got relegated to the role of an empty mug corral...

Doom Eternal: Reboot sequel is cluttered but we're only here for the rippin' and the tearin'

juice Silver badge

Re: I prefer the original

> You're right with Doom 3, they did try to go a different direction with it into survival/horror. Still had some good mechanics tho, the touchscreens were a dream to use, showed us how "every game should do it" if you are going force players to interact with in-game computers.

If I remember correctly, someone actually released a mod which let you play the original Doom on the in-sceen monitors. But annoyingly, nothing's showing up when I search, other than a few people who remember the same thing.

> But what's more interesting to me is the number of comments still praising 1 & 2! Yes they are the de-facto standard, but nostalgia is blinding at times. The way people talk here, you'd think they just played an original Doom session last week! I'm curious as to how many actually have it set up in any capacity, or actually played it within the past year

I can't remember for certain when I last fired Doom up, but it was probably in the last 12 months. I've also been having a blast on Duke Nukem 3D, and I'm currently doing an extended playthrough of a heavily modded Fallout New Vegas, since it's a perfect timesink during these lockdown times.

I've also fairly recently fired up games like HL2, and after the recent article about Command and Conquer, that's on the list for a replay as well.

Though to be fair, I'm probably more of a retro-gamer than the average Reg reader ;)

> Slowly, some of the modern game advancements become apparent: tank controls! You can't even strafe, and suddenly the run-and-gun demon blasting "memory", you realize, was really more of a fantasy, of only your best-ever moments mashed together and viewed from a 10 ft. distance with only the rosiest of glasses.

Are you sure you're talking about Doom? Because you can strafe in Doom. In fact, it was safer to continually strafe, as (thanks to a relatively simple physics model and a bit of ol' Pythagoras's theorems), you travelled faster when moving diagonally. And while it was originally designed around keyboard-only control, it did offer mouselook, which pro-gamers swiftly migrated to.

To be fair, in many ways, video games have drastically improved over the years. Controls are more consistent, user interfaces are more intuitive and developers have generally learned a lot about which gameplay mechanisms are actually fun and how to balance gameplay.

But on the other hand, they've also had a lot more stuff bolted onto them, which can often result in an arguably worse gameplay experience. Microtransactions and DLC are two prime examples, but another facet is that games often feature more mechanisms than their older brethren, as well as more complicated gameplay. Jack of all trades, master of none.

E.g. Fallout 4 had a much heavier emphasis on crafting (and settlement creation) as compared to Fallout NV. And compare the gameplay and tech tree for Command and Conquer to more modern clickfest RTS games such as Starcraft II and the Dawn of War series.

Conversely, the original Doom focused on pure run-and-gun gameplay, and managed to pretty much perfectly accomplish this within the limits of the available technology of the time. Run, shoot, press buttons and take on hordes of enemies who could /mostly/ be taken out with a single shotgun blast if you were skillful enough.

Doom 3 was something of a step back from this, partly because iD was trying to make a more cinematic experience and also because 3D technology just wasn't up to the job of combining highly detailed environments with hordes of enemies. To be fair, it was atmospheric and a pretty impressive technical achievement, but it's like comparing the Alien and Aliens films; one's a thriller-horror while the other's an action movie.

Doom 2016? It was a welcome step back to the faster and more brutal gameplay of the original, but at least for me, I just couldn't get into it. Mostly because of the Glory Kill mechanism; having to stop moving to trigger a distinctly repetitive canned animation quickly got old.

So, yeah. There's a lot of games which are best left to gently decay amid the sands of time. Doom isn't one of them.

Real-time tragedy: Dumb deletion leaves librarian red-faced and fails to nix teenage kicks on the school network

juice Silver badge

Re: Let's be honest...

> There was no piracy as Sam owned every game - his group all did - and C&C came with two CDs, one for each faction anyway. :)

I'm sure Sam and his friends owned enough original copies to cover the entire group ;)

As to the tool; I'm guessing it was RA-MIXer, as available from here:

http://ra.afraid.org/html/downloads/utilities-2.html

(Which also suggests that they were playing C&C sometime after June 1997, since that's when RA-MIXer got the ability to update MIX files...)

I'm mildly surprised that C&C would run with missing files; sanity checks on things like that are part and parcel of most anti-piracy mechanisms, and by 1995, the games industry had been embroiled in a hard-fought battle against crackers for more than a decade.

Still, this was 1995, when hard drives were small (the 540mb ceiling had only just been breached) and CD writers were rare and even more expensive (The May 1995 Infoworld issues lists blank CDRs at $8.99 a pop. And if you so much as breathed while writing, you'd end up with an expensive coaster!).

So I guess they might have relied on the fact that the game was too big to fit on a 1995-era hard drive, little dreaming of the fact that their game would prove popular enough to be reverse engineered...

juice Silver badge

Re: Let's be honest...

> taken from ST-Amiga Format, issue 13 (1989), an article on software piracy

I think my knowledge of this came from a similar Retrogamer article from sometime in the last decade, so my memory isn't quite as fantastic as it could seem ;)

Interestingly, a bit of clicking around threw up a forum post which might have been from the cracker in question...

http://www.atari-forum.com/viewtopic.php?t=4113

juice Silver badge

Re: Let's be honest...

> The early games didn't like the 2160p resolution of my monitors without some ini file "hacking" to add the resolution options to the settings.

It's been a while since I've tried playing the original C&C, on an ancient-at-the-time 1ghz Thinkpad, which was still at least an order of magnitude faster than the 100mhz P1 that I originally played C&C on :)

If memory serves, there was a patch-hack to bump the resolution up from 640*480 to 1024*768, which then meant you could see more of the map.

In fact, it was this wee beastie, which did a number of other useful things, such as porting over extra levels from the console versions and making it easier to access the hidden jurassic-park maps:

https://cnc.fandom.com/wiki/Command_%26_Conquer_Unofficial_Patch_1.06

Given that I've got more thumb-twiddling time than usual, maybe it's time to fire C&C back up for another session...

juice Silver badge

Re: Let's be honest...

> Or instead of deleting large image files, simply replace with one with the same name and dimensions, but entirely black so it compresses well. For video, edit down to a single frame.

That'd be tricky - video games tend to merge their assets into a single archive file - often with proprietary code and/or hacks to maximise performance (e.g. fixed offsets), especially back then when disk i/o was far far slower than it is today. Similarly, image and video tended to be in non-standard formats; Bink and Smacker were (are?) popular at the time, and images tended to be in a format which could support alpha channels.

So you'd have to decompile the archive, hack the video/audio/sound files and then glue everything back together, while also making sure that you don't trigger any tamper checks.

To be fair, people did occasionally do stuff like this, especially back in the days when games ran off floppy; especially on the Atari ST, crackers would often use compression and other tricks to cram multiple games onto a single floppy.

In fact, there's a tale about Operation Wulf on the Amiga/Atari ST[*]; the original, commercial release came on multiple floppies. Some enterprising cracker figured out how to squeeze the entire game into a single floppy, much to the amused chagrin of the game's publishers, as if the original developer had managed to do the same, it would have measurably reduced the distribution costs...

[*] Or possibly, it's sequel, Operation Thunderbolt? Again, digging out the exact details is left as an exercise for the reader!

juice Silver badge

Let's be honest...

What this really means:

"With the aid of AltaVista and some freeware tools, he reduced the footprint of the game from a 650MB CD down to a mere 5MB."

... is that he downloaded a nocd crack.

Looks like C&C needed about 30mb of hard drive space - all the video and music (Red Book? I've got vague memories of playing the soundtrack in my CD player!) was streamed off the CD.

And while I haven't checked[*], I'm guessing that there was at least some single-player files you could safely delete if you just wanted to go head to head.

So, yeah. Run the crack, have a few rounds of "does the game start after I delete this file?" and then fire up the shareware version of Winzip and run it in split-disk mode to get the data onto the floppies. Then you'd just have the fun of swapping disks to install onto the school computer, while crossing your fingers and hoping that disk #4 of #5 hadn't spontaneously developed a bad sector.

Time consuming, but not that complicated.

To be fair, we did something similar at university - there was a hidden network drive, which just happened to have a full copy of Doom installed. The weekend when my friend was gifted the knowledge of how to access this drive was a very fun weekend indeed...

[*] C&C, Red Alert and Tiberian Sun are available as freeware these days, directly from EA. Or at least, they /were/; with the imminent release of the newly remastered versions, the link to download ye olde games has mysteriously vanished from their website. Finding the ISOs from an alternative source and testing the above process is left as an exercise for the reader...

COBOL-coding volunteers sought as slammed mainframes slow New Jersey's coronavirus response

juice Silver badge

Re: Despair

> Total cobblers, even my old 1950s car still has its original wires, hell a friend of mine whose car is from the 1920s still has mostly original wiring.. and those wires are subjected to vibration, heat, cold, dirt... all sorts.

Wiring can and does fail. The insulation can become brittle and easily damaged. Moisture can cause galvanic corrosion. Temperature changes can cause the metal to expand, contract and flex.

To be fair, most of these things only become an issue when you want to change something. As anyone who's rewired a house or powered down a PC to replace a component can attest :)

Astroboffin gets magnets stuck up his schnozz trying and failing to invent anti-face-touching coronavirus gizmo

juice Silver badge

Re: More appropriate technology?

TBH, I did think it wouldn't be too hard to build a video-app which monitors your face and watches for any movements which bring your hands up towards your face, and beeps furiously when such happens.

Admittedly, this does mean leaving your laptop/phone camera on and pointed at your face all the time, but...

That awful moment when what you thought was a number 1 turned out to be a number 2

juice Silver badge

To be fair

"Muscle memory" also plays a part - it's all too easy to get confused or break things if something changes.

F'instance, I occasionally get mildly frustrated when tapping at the virtual keyboard on my mobile, for the simple reason that /sometimes/, the keyboard switches to "domain name" mode, in which it shortens the space bar to make room for a "www." button. Which rather handily puts the full-stop button just where my thumb normally hits the space bar.

Sadly, this behavior doesn't seem to be configurable, so I quite often find my browser search terms turning into "how.to do.something"...

Equally, I booked a hire car last year when tootling around Barcelona. So not only was I driving on the wrong side of the road, but I was also sitting on the wrong side of the car.

It's amazing how much muscle-memory plays a part in driving - I'd indicate to turn and then drop my left-hand to change gears, only to have to stop the movement and use my right hand to reach out to the gearstick.

It didn't take too long to adjust, and it helped I was driving around early on a Sunday morning, but there was certainly a bit of cognitive dissonance the first couple of times!

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

juice Silver badge

Really?

As c1ue mentioned, I'm really not sure how the Spectrum Next is a potential example for how to "save" legacy enterprise tech.

The SN has been a labour of love which has arguably been achieved thanks to two things:

1) The fact that the ZX Spectrum is arguably the best-documented computer every made, thanks in no small part to it's incredibly simple/cheap hardware, the millions of kids who played on it and the fact that millions of clones and variants were produced in places like Brazil and the USSR, long after it's commercial death in the UK

People have spent decades researching the quirks of the ZX Spectrum and the many unofficial variants and peripherals, and have then documented them and built *software* emulators to handle them. The SN team have done a fantastic job of both producing their new hardware and successfully bringing it to market, but they had a very strong base to build from.

2) Nostalgia

Arguably, people aren't buying the Spectrum Next for compatibility, save ancient processes or develop new ideas in their shed. And I'd guess that most aren't buying it so that they can fire up TR-DOS and try out some of the wierd Russian games and demos, or even the modern multi-colour "Next-exclusive" titles. They're buying it because it has a case which looks like the original, and because they're old enough to splash out a bit of cash on a bit of kit they can plug into their TV and use to bore their grandkids with tales of how amazing video games were back in the day.

I very much doubt there's anyone out there who has the same love of enterprise systems, or who would want to splash out a lump of cash for the chance to sit at a desk and relive the "good old days" of sitting in Accounting. For instance, you don't see anyone making an effort to bring ICL's One Per Desk (perhaps ironically, powered by a Sinclair QL) back to life!

And even if by some chance there is a group of people who are obsessed with their enterprise hardware, said pool of devotees will be far smaller than for the ZX Spectrum, and the amount of documentation and research that's available to build on will therefore also be far smaller.

As such, no-one's going to want to build hardware systems to replace or simulate enterprise systems, except possibly a bank or other FTSE-100 company with a few billion to spare and a desperate need to maintain a critical legacy system which for some reason can't be ripped out and replaced with a Raspberry Pi.

Instead, a better example of how legacy enterprise systems might be saved would be something like MAME, where people are striving to emulate as much legacy hardware as possible; it's arguably driven by nostalgic in the same way as the SN, but there's equally also a desire to both strive for accuracy and cover as many systems as possible. Gotta catch 'em all...

S20 Ultra 5G: Samsung unfurls Galaxy flagship with bonkers 108MP cam, 6.9-inch display

juice Silver badge

Re: 108 Mpix?!

To quote the official page:

https://news.samsung.com/global/introducing-the-samsung-galaxy-s20-change-the-way-you-experience-the-world

====

With a larger image sensor available on the Galaxy S20 series, camera resolution is significantly increased [...] S20 and S20+ have a 64MP camera. S20 Ultra has 108MP camera [and] takes things a step further with the option to shift dynamically between a high resolution 108MP mode and a 12MP mode, thanks to nona-binning technology which combines nine pixels into one at the sensor level

====

I.e. you only get the 108MP lens on the Ultra, but if you do, you can choose to shoot full-resolution photos if that's your thing. Personally, I think I'd stick with the downsampled images!

Presumably, this also means that you don't get the 9-pixel binning technique on the S20 and S20+, given that they've got a 64MP lens and hence would spit out a ~7MP photo if this was enabled.

As ever, I guess we'll just have to wait and see what the reviews say!

juice Silver badge

Re: SFail

To be fair... as the owner of an S10+, I'm not particularly seeing a reason to upgrade, and I'm not convinced that's likely to change in the run up to the March 2021 release date.

Camera: looks interesting, but I'll wait to see how successful the pixel binning is - and the folded optics on the Ultra

Screen size: the S10+ is already at the limit of how big I want a phone to be; once you slap a protective case on[*], the S20 Ultra is going to be ridiculously big

Screen resolution: meh. it's the same as the S10+ - and I ended up dropping mine down to 720p, in an effort to save battery life. Hasn't really made any visual difference - but then, it's seemingly not really improved the battery life any, either...

RAM: what's the point? Looking at my phone, it's using 4.1GB of ram, of which 2.5GB is flushable cache. Any RAM above the 6GB limit (unless playing video games, maybe) is just going to sit there and waste electricity!

And then there's the headphone jack, or lack thereof. I like my wired headphones - they're cheap, easily replacable, don't require recharging and aren't fitted with tiny, non-servicable batteries which are likely to fail completely after just a year or two [**]. And I'm not that keen on having to carry around a USB-C adapter; it's something else to lose or break and makes it even harder to safely cram this massive slab of expensive technology into a pocket.

So, my current verdict is a resounding "meh".

Still, who knows? The 2-year contract on my S10+ will run out around March... I might give it a few months for the price to drop (and for the reviews to come in) and then go for one!

[*] I learned the expensive way to always keep my phone in a case, after an incident with a caseless S7+ several years ago!

[**] Apple Airpod batteries are expected to have a 2 year lifespan...

AI snatches jobs from DJs and warehouse workers, plus OpenAI and PyTorch sittin' in a tree, AI, AI, AI for you and me

juice Silver badge

AI Radio DJs?

Not entirely convinced about how well "AI"[*] playlists will work on the radio; a key part of this medium has always been the presence of a human voice inbetween the songs, talking to and occasionally interacting with the listeners. Without that, you might as well just fire up Spotify and let it feed you some algorithmically selected tunes...

OTOH, when it comes to nightclubs and pubs, DJing was always a job based more on physical scarcity than domain knowledge (Vinyl was heavy, bulky and fragile; CDs only somewhat less so).

Physical scarcity is no longer a factor, and while domain knowledge can still be important when it comes to genre-specific events (e.g. a DnB night, or whatever the hip kids are listening to today[**]), for a generic pub or club night, you might as well play the same playlist that you've been using for the last decade or two. If you're feeling generous, you could maybe even hit shuffle!

Still, there is a worrying aspect to this automation; as the number of humans in the process drops, so too does the chance that new songs will be given airtime.

We'll probably end up with something similar to the Youtube Kids TV debacle, where AI bots pick songs which are only listened to by other AI bots, causing a death spiral which only ends when all radio stations all over the world are endlessly looping the same Ed Sheeran song...

[*] ALL THE THINGS ARE NOW LABELLED AI. Sadly, "iTunes became sentient and took over the world by playing bad music" doesn't have quite the same ring to it as "Skynet became sentient and nuked everything..."

[**] Witchhouse, filthstep, ... oh look, another half-dozen new genres have popped up while I was typing this...

BT: UK.gov ruling on Huawei will cost us half a billion pounds over next 5 years

juice Silver badge

Poor BT

I suspect they're now regretting not throwing at least some of their infrastructure contracts at Marconi...

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2005/apr/29/business.onlinesupplement

Ever wondered what Microsoft really thought about the iPad? Ex-Windows boss spills beans

juice Silver badge

I'm not entirely convinced by his claims...

To quote that 100% reliable font of all knowledge, Wikipedia...

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

===============

Apple re-entered the mobile-computing markets in 2007 with the iPhone. Smaller than the iPad, but featuring a camera and mobile phone, it pioneered the multi-touch finger-sensitive touchscreen interface of Apple's iOS mobile operating system. By late 2009, the iPad's release had been rumored for several years. Such speculation mostly talked about "Apple's tablet"; specific names included iTablet and iSlate.

===============

If Microsoft were really completely blindsided by what Apple produced, then there should have been a full housecleaning of their strategists and espiona^H research agents.

Also....

> It was priced starting at $499, low for Apple hardware

It was still relatively expensive. For instance:

* Netbook: ASUS Eee PC 1005HA (1GB ram, Win XP, 160GB HDD) - launched in 2009 with MSRP of $389.99

* Laptop: Lenovo Thinkpad L412 (2GB, Win 7, 160GB HDD) - launched in 2010 with a MSRP of $599

* iPhone 4: released in 2010 with a MSRP of $199 (16GB) or $299 (32GB) - the same pricing as per the iPhone 3GS, released in 2009

Obviously, I've just pulled a couple of easy-to-find numbers off the interwebs, but the iPad was at the lower end of laptop price ranges at the time, and pretty much double the cost of an iPhone.

> Jobs dismissed Netbooks as "slow... low quality... just cheap laptops." History has proved him correct

I won't argue this one (much) - but at the same time, I'd note that they showed there was a demand for smaller, low-powered devices with limited capabilities. I'd be highly surprised if Apple didn't study this phenomena and factor it into their decision to launch the iPad

> Sinofsky said, "what it did, it did so much better. Not only did people prefer it but they changed what they did in order to use it

Did they? Really? Any citations for that?

iPad sales peaked in 2013, just three years after release, which is around the time iOS and Android devices started to hit the sweet spot in terms of processing power, capabilities and form factor, not least when it came to screen size. It's perhaps telling that Apple finally launched a 4.7" display in 2014 on the iPhone 6, to try and compete with Android manufacturers, some of who had already moved towards 6" screens a year or more earlier (e.g. HTC One Max).

If there were any shifts in how people did stuff, it was driven by the evolution of phone technology, not tablets.

Which isn't to say that tablets aren't good at some stuff - I've owned a mix of Android and Apple tablets since 2010, and for my needs (basic social media, reading, iPlayer, etc), they work more than well enough. But their use-cases are limited, and after the initial surge of interest, they've never set the world on fire...

Rockstar dev debate reopens: Hero programmers do exist, do all the work, do chat a lot – and do need love and attention from project leaders

juice Silver badge

Oddly...

People who spend more time working on a codebase are more familiar with it and therefore produce fewer bugs.

Whodathunkit?

Equally, if you have lots of people working in parallel on specific bits of codebase, it's quite likely that Person A will do something which will have unexpected consequences and/or will conflict with changes Person B is working, unless you have really good communications.

Whodathunkit?

Really not sure what the point of this article was, nor why it made such a big fuss about the term "hero". Why not just call them the Primary developer and/or Primary communicator? Or is that too simple a solution?

Beware the Friday afternoon 'Could you just..?' from the muppet who wants to come between you and your beer

juice Silver badge

The joys of family tech support

These days, we're all scattered across the country, and only tend to get everyone together for birthdays, Christmas, etc. And while some of the younger generation have picked up the simpler family IT tasks, anything more complicated tends to pile up for the next time Yours Truly visits.

As such, I did find it funny one year, when my sister (who moved into IT about a decade ago, thereby making her a prime Family Tech Support Target) made the mistake of getting to my Dad's house a few hours before I did

By the time I landed, she just looked at me with a mixture of horror, exhaustion and awe.

"I never realised just how much stuff you get mugged for..."

Under construction: CAT lobs bargain-basement rugged mobile that will take a kicking and keep on clicking

juice Silver badge

A friend had a Cat S60...

He's a roadie/lighting engineer, so spends a lot of time literally crawling around, above and under stages with varying levels of H&S rules being applied.

After a pint or two, he had a habit of showing off how tough it was - throwing it against the wall, stomping on it with New Rock[*], dunking it in a pint glass, etc.

I think it did finally give up the ghost, but it was certainly an order of magnitude tougher than any other handset I've ever seen - even a Nokia 3310!

In fact, there's even a Russian video which goes some way to prove this...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZHmIHyptD68

[*] Goth/punk/biker boots - about a quarter tonne of leather and steel mashed together by an Spanish shoe company...

From Soviet to science fiction icon, the weird life of Isaac Asimov 100 years on

juice Silver badge

> Asimov's prescience does bring out the goose pimples

In this case, he may have been riffing on something in the book Childshood End, written by Arthur C Clarke in 1953.

I don't have a copy of this close to hand, but to (badly) paraphrase: aliens land and attempt to steer humanity towards the next stage of evolution. As part of this, the aliens provide viewing machines which can display any event from any period of human time. This causes a huge fuss from various parties (celebrities, politicians and people with criminal connections), so they end up slapping a lock on it to prevent people viewing events from the last century...

juice Silver badge

Re: He certainly wasn’t misogynist in his science fiction..

> I thought that the Lensmen series by EE 'Doc' Smith were not as bad as some of his output, as there were some very strong female characters (Clarissa in "Second Stage Lensman" and the two sets of twins in "Children of the Lens"), and they were not the typical maiden in distress that you often saw in Science Fiction.

Yeps - for all that there's a few damsels in distress with heaving bosums and minimal clothing, he did have a few strong characters, and even made a point of making Clarissa (as the only female Red Lensman) actually more powerful than pretty much any of the male lensman, primarily because she was better at multitasking ;)

Equally, he was one of the first pulp sci-fi writers (Triplanetary, which was retrofitted into becoming the first Lensman book in 1948) was written in 1934, and all of his books were originally serialised in magazines, so had to fit the design briefs by the editors.

Then too, he actually broke the fourth wall in Children of the Lens, and parodied the traditional space-opera template in a scene when Kinnison pretends to be a writer...

======

To stay in character Kinnison actually wrote a novel; it was later acclaimed as one of Sybly Whyte's best.

"Qadgop the Mercotan slithered flatly around the after-bulge of the tranship. One claw dug into the meters-thick armor of pure neutronium, then another. Its terrible xmex-like snout locked on. Its zymolosely polydactile tongue crunched out, crashed down, rasped across. Slurp! Slurp! At each abrasive stroke the groove in the tranship's plating deepened and Qadgop leered more fiercely. Fools! Did they think that the airlessness of absolute space, the heatlessness of absolute zero, the yieldlessness of absolute neutronium, could stop QADGOP THE MERCOTAN? And the stowaway, that human wench Cynthia, cowering in helpless terror just beyond this thin and fragile wall . . ."

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juice Silver badge

Re: frustrating genius

> I always thought the 3 laws where really a sort of "locked room" detective thing, set up the laws and then have a story figuring out why the robot broke them. I never (even in 1960s & 1970s) thought they were serious suggestions about what humanoid robots would be like.

IIRC (and again, this is straining brain cells which haven't been queried for a while) - that's pretty much exactly right: each of his 3-laws stories was an attempt to find and document loopholes in the laws. As it would be pretty boring to read about robots which behaved exactly as expected!

In some ways, and as with Sir Conan Doyle and Sherlock Holmes, he was a victim of his own success, as he was pushed into writing a lot more Robot stories than originally planned.

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