* Posts by James Wheeler

35 publicly visible posts • joined 22 Aug 2011

Stallman's final interview as FSF president: Last week we quizzed him over Microsoft visit. Now he quits top roles amid rape remarks outcry

James Wheeler

Ah yes, caused me to go back and revisit Verity Stob's piece on Stallman. Thanks for keeping it around. https://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/11/21/verity_stob_mr_stallmans_parrot/

We talk to Tron artist Syd Mead: On the other side of the screen, it all looks so easy

James Wheeler

Early CGI

The "Bit" was one of Tron's CG characters, rendered as a morphing 3-D solid, and was coded in APL. Judson Rosebush of Digital Effects arranged to use late night CPU cycles on STSC's mainframe APL time sharing service, at an extremely deep discount from normal rates. APL's matrix operations made 3-D transform calculations very straightforward to code, though hideously inefficient in those pre-GPU days.

Chelsea Manning sentence slashed by Prez Obama: She'll be sprung in the spring

James Wheeler

Julian's Hollow Promises

The United States has never charged Assange with a crime, much less filed an extradition request. So it's easy enough to say these things. Even in the highly improbable event of a future indictment for the Manning affair, he will have grounds for defense by arguing that he is (a) not a citizen and (b) a journalist. Not a case the government would expect to win.

RIP HPE's The Machine product, 2014-2016: We hardly knew ye

James Wheeler

It's more than memristors

I believe there's still great potential in turning machine architecture "inside out" as HP envisioned, making machines that are memory-centric where processors are a resource that's applied to large data stores that permanently reside in high speed storage. If not memristors, then DRAM, or whatever new non-volatile memory does catch on. Bring the computing to the data, rather than scrape the data off a disk and feed it to the processor. Columnar data stores like HANA and others could really benefit. Or so my thought experiment goes....

Russia MP's son found guilty after stealing 2.9 million US credit cards

James Wheeler

Re: Kidnapping vs international arrest warrant

@Mr/Ms Coward: Not trying to make a point really, just trying puzzling over the intricacies of international law enforcement in an era when it's possible to commit a crime in country X without ever setting foot in it.

Any Interpol member nation can use a Red Notice, as I understand it. How this applies in practice is a topic for further study.

James Wheeler

Kidnapping vs international arrest warrant

If Seleznev had been chloroformed and stuffed in the back of a car, it would have clearly been kidnapping. What happened here is much more of a gray area.

The Maldives is a member of Interpol. Interpol "Red Notices", informally called international arrest warrants, provided the legal basis for Maldives officials to detain Seleznev at the airport. It's not clear what legal process, if any, took place in Maldives before handing him over to US agents. Nor is it clear what Maldives law requires in such situations in the absence of an extradition treaty.

The judge in Seleznev's federal trial did not permit his attorneys to argue that his detention and transport was unlawful, so his defense had to use the strategy of casting doubt on the evidence of his cybercrimes. This was ineffective, leading to conviction on nearly all charges.

I expect that the judge's decision now leaves the door open for Seleznev to appeal his conviction. The story is not over.

Hello, Barclays? Why hello, John Smith. We meet again

James Wheeler

Whoa now, fellow commentards

If Barclays have been testing this for several years before deciding to roll it out, then give them a little credit for having cause to believe it will work. An authentication session that takes two minutes might well require the customer to repeat random phrases, so DVR recordings of subject being spoofed would be useless.

As for voiceprint corruption from VOIP losses, etc: Even if this does turn out to be a problem, the effect will be a false negative, and worst case you'll have to authenticate some less convenient way.

I for one am quite interested in hearing of alternatives to passwords. If this does actually work, we'll probably see a lot more of it.

Memory and storage boundary changes

James Wheeler
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It's all about I/O

Nice analysis of a subject that gets too little attention. Whether the new technologies live up to the promise or not, everyone who cares about performance should study the table of relative speeds that scales an L1 cache access to one second.

Hospital servers in crosshairs of new ransomware strain

James Wheeler

Hospital attacks in US

MedStar Health, a hospital chain in the Washington area, appears to be the latest victim. Washington Post story (link below) describes the situation. The writing is technically illiterate, alas, and the headline is misleading.


US Marines kill noisy BigDog robo-mule for blowing their cover

James Wheeler

All Terribly Silly

For the price of one of these toys the military can buy hundreds, maybe thousands of actual donkeys, which move relatively silently, forage for their own fuel, pick themselves up when they fall down, heal when injured without tools and, worst case, are edible.

Nice advance in robotics, though.

Password-less database 'open-sources' 191m US voter records on the web

James Wheeler

Re: address, phone and DOB aside ...

The short answer is that voting is still secret. The database does NOT contain a record of who someone actually voted for.

However, registering to vote in the US involves claiming membership in a political party (or none, if you choose to be "Independent"). This party affiliation is a matter of public record and accessible to aggregation in databases such as the one described in this article. It determines which party's primary election you are allowed to vote in, and it also impacts which candidates will hound you for campaign fund donations.

The real issue, I think, is that aggregation of personal information is lawful (and extremely profitable - see Google, Facebook, mailing list vendors, etc.).

The Steve Jobs of supercomputers: We remember Seymour Cray

James Wheeler

Tried Porting to a Cray Once

It was in the mid 80s, and the Cray salesman thought he could sell a machine to a certain 3-letter agency if only it had an implementation of the APL language. We had an APL system written in C, there was a C compiler that more or less worked, so Cray set us up with their porting center.

Once the code was running we eagerly fired up our benchmark suite, only to discover that the Cray ran them slower than a Sun workstation. The Cray salesman was crushed. Apparently the machine was really designed to run Fortran, and really only got going if you used the vector instructions. The cost of adapting our technology to fit the machine was much larger than we'd ever recoup in software licenses, so that was the end of that.

No intent to knock Cray here, only to reflect that to get value out of a "supercomputer" you really have to understand what that architecture actually is and what must be done to exploit it..

JetBrains refuses to U-turn on subscriptions (but sweetens the deal)

James Wheeler

It's never been easy...

... to make a living as an independent developer tools vendor, and in today's world it's harder than ever. I've found JetBrains' products to be very good, and if the subscription model is what they need to stay afloat, we should support them.

Jeremy Corbyn: My part in his glorious socialist triumph

James Wheeler
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Thank you for the Orwell quote, which led me to read his brilliant and timeless essay.

Also thanks to Steve for one of the best Bong hits yet.

Just ONE THOUSAND times BETTER than FLASH! Intel, Micron's amazing claim

James Wheeler

Exciting, but...

I recall a conversation about 25 years ago where a colleague and I agreed that flash memory was going to make spinning rust obsolete. It's happening now, but took a lot longer than we expected because rotating drives kept getting smaller, denser, cheaper and more reliable. The adoption curve for post-NAND technology may be similar, though I hope not.

Driverless cars banished to fake Michigan 'town' until they learn to read

James Wheeler

Re: Scotland?

Tunnel vision? I suspect the researchers are well aware of the complexity of real world driving outside the US, but one must start somewhere.


James Wheeler

Great example of what ALMA can do

30 milli-arcsecond resolution of 1mm wavelengths is very impressive. That's better that Hubble's highest resolution, as I understand it, and of course Hubble has no instruments that can see at 1mm wavelengths.

In effect, the closer elliptical galaxy is the objective lens of a really big refracting telescope, and ALMA is the eyepiece. Too bad we can't point it in a different direction.

VOTERS! This Election: Vote #Smart, Vote #Digital

James Wheeler

Priapic half-man / half-goat Russell Brand!

That earned an actual laugh out loud. Thanks, Lord Bong.

Judge denies retrial for 'Dread Pirate' Ulbricht in Silk Road drugs case

James Wheeler

I wonder...

Appealing on the grounds of incompetent counsel might have been a better strategy.

The Nokia ENIGMA THING and its SECRET, TERRIBLE purpose

James Wheeler

I like the Reg staff's ideas better, but...

... it might be a "personal cloud" server.

Russian MP fears US Secret Service cuffed his son for Snowden swap

James Wheeler

Re: Hate to spoil the snarky paranoia...

@unitron: If that's what happened here, I believe it would be a treaty violation. But so far only the elder Seleznev seems to be claiming that this was a kidnapping by US agents operating in the Maldives. I would think that might jeopardize his detention, if not their entire legal case, if it's what occurred. Need more facts from more neutral sources on this point.

James Wheeler

Hate to spoil the snarky paranoia...

... but Guam is part of the United States, its residents are US citizens, and the rights guaranteed by the US Constitution are in full force there. The US Secret Service's mandate includes investigations of financial crimes of the sort Seleznev is accused of committing. Seleznev appeared in US District Court in Guam, and is expected to face federal charges in Washington State, where he was indicted back in 2011. When and if he comes to trial, the trial will be held in federal court, where he will have the same rights as any defendant, citizen or not. Maldives is a member of Interpol, and cooperates with the law enforcement agencies of many nations, not just the US.

Strategy Boutique ultimate 'tech'-gasm: 3D printer drone GoPro vid stream QR code

James Wheeler

Why in Oz and not in Shoreditch?

Steve Bong must be spinning in his sensory deprivation tank.

AMD's 'Revolution' will be televised ... if its CPU-GPU frankenchip Kaveri is a hit

James Wheeler

Actually a very important development

AMD seems to be pitching these chips at consumer gaming devices, which I guess makes sense if you're showing at CES. But I'm much more excited about the potential for this architecture to solve the fatal flaw in today's GPU model - the need to copy data onto and off the GPU in order to take advantage of its vector architecture. When the GPU and main CPUs are on the same die, with direct access to the same memory (and the same on-chip cache?), the potential uses for vector-assisted number crunching expand from just big scientific/math tasks to things like BI and business analytics. I could care less about having this in a game console, but put the architecture in a data warehouse and analytics server and it could be a very bid deal.

Ten classic electronic calculators from the 1970s and 1980s

James Wheeler

Casio CM-100 Programmer's Calculator

I bought one of these for everyone on my team in 1986. Solar powered with binary, octal, decimal and hex conversions and arithmetic, Does bit shifts, XOR, AND, etc.. Still the only calculator that I regularly use.

Douglas Adams was RIGHT! TINY ALIENS are invading Earth, say boffins

James Wheeler

Occam's growing a beard...

Readers are advised to check the Wikipedia entry on the Journal of Cosmology immediately after reading this piece.

El Reg Playmonaut soars to 113,000ft

James Wheeler

Affinity for treetop landing?

Not much forest in the landing zone. It's uncanny how it seemed to be drawn to the trees.

British computing pioneer James Martin found dead in Bermuda sea

James Wheeler

Re: Where did folks hear of him?

Must be a generational thing. In the 70's and 80's, James Martin was inescapable - a visionary rock star in the computing industry. He charged huge sums for this futurist "training", and businesses cheerfully paid.

AMD reveals potent parallel processing breakthrough

James Wheeler
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About time

This is going to make GPU coprocessing useful in many instances where it isn't now.

IBM embiggens iron with System zEnterprise EC12 mainframe

James Wheeler

48GB L3 cache, really?

"L3 embedded DRAM cache is now 48GB, double that of the z11". Is that a typo?

Nokia's fontastic Pure wins 'design Oscar'

James Wheeler
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"... amid much whalesong and joss-stick fug."

Best sentence I've read all week. Thanks for the smile.

Vote now for the WORST movie EVER

James Wheeler

Re Bootnote: "My Wedding Video"

Here's the pitch: Daniel Radcliffe as the Groom, Emma Watson as the Bride, Rupert Grint as Best Man, Directed by Ben Stiller from a Shaylaman script. Oh yeah, Hugh Grant as the Priest with Alan Rickman as the Rabbi.

Here lies /^v.+b$/i

James Wheeler



where the "<-" is meant as APL's left-pointing arrow (inexpressible in plain text but readily carved into granite) signifying the assignment operator. With no name to the left, the operator simply absorbs the value of Stob into the bit bucket. This is useful because to speak a name in APL, a la


is to summon its value to be displayed on the output stream, even if said value is an array with 93 dimensions and 111 levels of nesting and requires more than available memory to format.