* Posts by Justthefacts

239 posts • joined 22 May 2014


Nominet is back to 'the same old sh*t' says Public Benefit campaign chief as EGM actions grind to halt


Re: "No, Virginia, ..." [Nominet's handing of EGM voting data to a market research agency, Savanta]

Back to topic.....

We are complaining about the .uk domain.

What about the the .eu domain. How’s that going? :)

Intel to put SiFive's latest CPU cores into 7nm dev system to woo customers to RISC-V


Ummm, Intel is having a little joke, people....


The name is *Horse Creek*

Say again *Horse Creek*

Can you, just possibly, think of another word (four letters), that goes with those two words?

Jeez, no sense of humour you guys.

Boeing fined $17m after fitting uncertified sensors to 737 Max and NG airliners for 4 years


This makes no sense at all

Your argument that “the pilot coulda” applies equally to every safety-critical system on the plane.

Literally every other safety-critical system is a) Dual redundant b) Documented c) Has safety procedure defined in case of failure.

Why on Earth is MCAS different? Your argument directly implies to remove all safety redundancy from all systems, because the pilot has to handle the failure case anyway. And since simpler = more reliable, that would actually be better.....

Also, Boeing clearly knew it was wrong at the first design time. When they were forced to put in that redundancy, it has become obvious that there is something really bad screwy with the software architecture, that putting in the cross-strapping causes all hell to break loose. They ended up with software watchdog failures and deadlocks in the first few fixes before getting it right. Just to add one redundant sensor, when there are hundreds already? This is seriously messed up legacy code. Nobody wanted to touch it with a bargepole, and that’s why they didn’t do it right first time.

Help wanted, work from anywhere ... except if you're located in Colorado


Re: Be aware of those who don't share!

No, it doesn’t mean anything like that.

The real problem is the combination of three uncomfortable facts:

#1: In complex jobs, one person is often two or three times as productive as another. Or more. Even when they are doing “the same” job, with the same level of experience.

#2: Those people are fairly rare. But due to Dunning Kruger, most people think they are in the top group.

#3: Companies need the excellent ones, but only a few of them. In fact, companies need 90% of their employees to be about average people. Who all need to be given an above-average salary, with career progression, to make them feel happy and in fact productive.

None of this comes as a surprise to anybody. The secret salary system is an attempt to square the circle, and IMHO not a bad one.

SpaceX's Starlink: Overhyped and underpowered to meet broadband needs of Rural America, say analysts


Re: It doesn't add up

You seem confused as to the difference between capital expenditure and operating expenditure. Capex has a depreciation lifetime, that’s what it does, this isn’t particularly short, nor particularly high.

Radio links and fibre optics require maintenance, replacement of line-cards with each new generation of technology also typically 5-10 years. Each of these satellites provides 30 Gbps for 5 years, at a cost of $0.5m, ie $100k per year. To put this in context: that’s not so different to what many *taxi drivers* depreciate their vehicle at.

Fibre costs maybe $10k per mile, and might easily have to trail 100 miles to the nearest trailhead. Costs $1 million to serve a small rural village. A single 5G tower probably gets you 5Gbps nowadays, depending on sectorisation. You reckon you are going to construct a whole 5G tower including its electronics for under $50k? So, six of those, and double or treble it for TCO including maintenance, power, back haul.

IBM creates a COBOL compiler – for Linux on x86



This behaviour is trivially reproducible in C++, Python, Java, Rust, Ruby, and any other modern language.

Any competent coder can do this by simply defining a new type “BCD”, plus some overloaded arithmetic operators on that type, in a matter of minutes.

Or, more sensibly, just call in the relevant libraries in your language of choice:


Absolutely fab: As TSMC invests $100bn to address chip shortage, where does that leave the rest of the industry?


Re: Formosa

Ummm.....you think the US would defend East Germany against Russian annexation?

Why on Earth would they do that? It’s not 1992 any more you know.....

In the past decade Germany and France have been nothing but a strategic PITA for everybody.

There’s absolutely nothing in it for anybody to “defend” Germany against Russia, when most East Germans vote for old-style communism over Anglo neoliberal capitalism 10:1 any time they are given the choice. Which they rarely are.

X.Org says it's saving a packet with Packet after migrating freedesktop.org off Google Kubernetes Engine


Are the numbers correct?

At the beginning of the article it talks about saving $30 per day.

But later on it becomes over $3k per month, which is 3x. I think it’s the higher number that is correct.

European Commission redacts AstraZeneca vaccine contract – but forgets to wipe the bookmarks tab


Re: the South African, the Spanish, the Denmark, the Brazilian, the Nigerian, etc. strains

“ The available numbers that were to be delivered to the EU has been revised down twice now, leaving almost nothing, while the numbers being made available to the UK appears to have been increased in the same time. If this is correct, then this smells.”

But, it isn’t correct.

AZ originally *offered* the EU vaccine doses made in the U.K., in August, and the EU turned it down. The Commission decided that it was more important to site the vaccine factory in Belgium, than how effective it was at making a vaccine.

. AZ has no manufacturing capability in Belgium. So the EU specified a Belgian vaccine factory (Novasep), and paid AZ to do a tech transfer there. *This* is the current “AZ EU deliverable vaccine”. When you stand up a factory from scratch, not surprisingly it is slower than a fully streamlined production facility in the U.K., which is what we are getting in the UK

It's been a day or so and nope, we still can't wrap our head around why GitHub would fire someone for saying Nazis were storming the US Capitol


Re: And yet for 4 years all we heard was how the Russians stole the election.

> People are being stung for import charges.

No. They aren’t. Remainers not reading the piece of paper they were given with the item.

The items aren’t being delivered *because the seller hasn’t paid VAT*. The difference is crucial.

Since forever, there has been a loophole that EU sellers have been driving a coach and horses through, combining two separate and apparently benign rules. Firstly, VAT, all VAT, not import tax, has been charged at the border rather than at point of sale. It’s called import VAT, but it is just the normal VAT payable, it’s nothing separate or additional. Secondly, there is a minimum threshold of £15 per item where they don’t bother collecting.

The loophole is that if I buy a £10 widget here in the U.K. from a U.K. seller, the U.K. seller has to charge VAT as you would expect. But if I buy the same widget “on the internet”, so that it has to cross the border, no VAT end up payable. And thus was Amazon Netherlands fulfilment born.

The Brexit change is the £15 minimum loophole has been removed. That’s it. That’s all.

So, yes, EU sellers are incandescent that they no longer have a 20% price advantage over a U.K. seller for the same cheap widget. And they are trying to get the customer to pay, because they would rather not, and being deliberately confusing in their terminology. But HMRC, god love ‘em, are being straight down the line, and providing all the links you need to read the correct version on HMRC website. But that’s all it is - EU companies trying to avoid paying tax on a loophole they have come to rely on to undercut U.K. companies.


Re: The problem

Three of the attackers on the Capitol were *Republican Congressmen*.

Did you not read that bit?

The collaborators may not have had spears, but their actions included passing Capitol ground-plans to the “terrorists” the previous days, preventing defence arriving, guiding the armed guys to named Democrat congressmen’s doors during the incursion, and removing the panic buttons in offices before time.

This was not a “terrorist plot” by a few malcontents. This was an armed fascist coup attempt.

It failed only because Trump has been so effective at firing anybody competent in the hierarchy, that they literally couldn’t organise it once they were inside.


Re: The problem

The Capitol storm troopers aren’t all Nazis

They are however all Fascists.

Current POTUS is a fascist, because his stated viewpoints include “might makes right; there is no such thing as truth; I am the strong leader that this country needs; the law doesn’t apply to me, or to my supporters; ethnic and other outgroups within this country are to blame for all this country’s ills, and should be imprisoned or killed if necessary”

More than half the current Republican Senators are Fascists, because they share those viewpoints.

I agree, Github guy mis-spoke - he should have said Fascists are on the hunt looking to kill people, rather than Nazis.

He probably chose not to, though, because in the current US climate being anti-fascist (Antifa) is considered an insult and would be roughly equivalent to painting a target on your back.

Does that give a clue as to what the problem is?


Re: Communist = Nazist

Communism is not equal to Sovietism......


Re: Communist = Nazist

Please both pick up some basic economics textbooks, and some history textbooks.

Indeed the Stalinist era is widely agreed to be Evil.

But if you actually read the first Communist Manifesto, Marx (1848) do you know what it’s key demands were?

A progressive tax on *income* (there had never been such a thing before), higher inheritance tax (2-10% at that time), abolition of child labour, free public education, nationalisation of the means of transport and communication, creation of a national bank to provide credit.

If that sounds evil to you.....

Or is it the Fabian manifesto (which became the Labour movement) you have a beef with?

Try this on for size: a national minimum wage “to stop British industries compensating for their inefficiency by lowering wages instead of investing in capital equipment”.

And for balance: “slum clearances and a health service for the breeding of even a moderately Imperial race which would be more productive and better militarily”

The world has changed, indeed.

Communism and socialism are not what you think they are.

Open-source contributors say they'll pull out of Qt as LTS release goes commercial-only


Re: I think we now know

I don’t think you realise how terrible those balance sheet figures are.

Operating margin of 9% is horrific for a tech company.

A more normal operating margin figure is 30-40% - e.g, ARM runs 50%, Microsoft runs 32%.

For starters, operating margin excludes bank and bond interest cost-of-capital, so the real take-home for the company is more like 3%, which is only a bit better than break even in the short term. This assumes you can continue earning at the same level, with the same products, indefinitely, and that’s where the problem is particularly for a tech company.

In the longer-term, you need to allow for depreciation of the business as a whole. With a company like Nokia, if they just decided to stick to 4G and ignore 5G, the entire value of the company would be gone in 8- 10 years. I’m not saying they will, or have, but the inverse of that (10-15%) is the amount of continuous investment they need to maintain their earnings at current levels.

The figures tell us two things:

#1 Their real earnings are less than their investment needs, which means ultimately an investor who held “forever” will lose money in the long term from here - taking income, but losing their stake finally whenever the company dies in 10-20 years.

#2 While they are investing *something*, Nokia investment *needs* are clearly greater than what they have (from operating margin). So, they can’t be investing sufficient to maintain their income. So they will shrink as a company, only this doesn’t tell us how fast.

Note that I’m *not* saying their strategy is wrong - this might be the least-worst from where they are today.

In the long-term, it’s only even break-even can continue earning at the same level, with the same products, for the next 35 years! Think about it - I have £7bn today, and if my business limps along without anything new for 35 years until my products are finally toast, at the end of that my business is worthless. That’s a business depreciation of 3% annually, which needs to be compensated by short-term profit.

The Problem is that operating margin is the day-to-day profit of selling what you make, it doesn’t allow for anything new. There’s no real R&D in there, to produce genuinely new income streams. This company is a cash cow with fast eroding revenue as new technologies slash into it. Finance people often misunderstand this, because the definition of operating margin includes “R&D headcount”. But that’s R&D in name only to gain tax credits. It does include engineers to coding maintenance features - e.g. to add a Release 18 feature

US aviation regulator issues safety bulletins over flaws in software updates for Boeing 747, 777, 787 airliners


Re: It’s not clear whether you understand “free market”

I 100% agree with you.

The problem is that a lot of people think that three different things are intrinsically linked: democracy, free markets, capitalism, whereas they are completely orthogonal. There are plenty of states with one without the others.

The currently fashionable response to a challenge to unfettered libertarian free markets is to claim that it is a challenge to democracy, which it isn’t. And they even sneak that in by claiming it’s against freedom. Most authoritarian governments are democracies. Just we don’t like what their people voted for. Monarchs don’t really care what you do, as long as you pay your taxes and don’t slag them off.


It’s not clear whether you understand “free market”

No, TLDR; if there were an unsubsidised free market, planes would still be made of wood and glue.

The development costs of a modern plane exceed what any unsubsidised company can afford, whether incentivised by competition or not. It’s not even that a (single) totally new body could cost $150bn+ to develop. It’s *where would you find the trained peasants to do the work?*. It’s trivial to see that the world only needs a couple of successful such designs every thirty or forty years. Well, as an employee, hands up if you fancy spending your own money to train as an aerospace engineer for ten years, for a single project that will last maybe ten years at only 50% more pay than any other engineer, after which there won’t be any more work for you for thirty years? Nobody would do that. Governments have to invent endless gravy trains of military projects like F15s, JSFs, to give Boeing any reason to maintain a skilled workforce. There just isn’t any other way to make it happen.

The IT angle is that the semiconductor fab industry is exactly the same. It *doesnt* make single-company economic sense to design and build a new fab at $10bn leading-edge. And even if it did, the next node or so it becomes irrelevant, because even if it were profitable on a spreadsheet, nobody has the capital to invest $50bn in one lump to get back $70bn in a couple years time. You can’t invest it if you don’t have it. Which is why, of course, TSMC and UMC are in Taiwan, which is state-run capitalism, and Samsung is in Korea which is chaebol. *For the Taiwanese state* it makes them world-leading for TSMC and UMC to exist. The free-market Democratic alternative has been fully tested, and ironically has been unable to compete in the global free market.

Austrian economists are simply wrong, as conclusively proved by global testing of their theories for decades Free markets are *ultimately less efficient at producing complex high-tech goods* than state capitalism. I’m rather unhappy that this is the case, but the evidence is overwhelming. I very much continue to support democracy as the way to run things, because it is the best thing for us as humans. But let’s be honest and admit that it is less efficient, and that we are prepared to pay for our freedoms, rather than prance about insisting that there is no trade off. It just looks childish.

iPhone sales shrink for 2nd year in a row as delay to next-gen mobile launch hits hard


Re: Corrolation?

Genuine question: why does everyone focus so much on *repairability*, as opposed to *reliability and longevity*?

I mean, yeah, if it does go wrong then it would be nice to be able to have it fixed rather than buy a new one. But why are phones so unreliable to start with?

A TV easily lasts 20+ years. “TV repairmen” went the way of buggy whip salesmen a while ago. It seems far stranger that we accept phone build quality with solder joints on power supplies that give up the ghost after four years. Or the Apple charging cables with the too-short strain relief, so that they barely last a year or two. The whole IPhone “screen disease” debacle, caused by an internal push connector that’s just really dodgy.

From my view, it seems like people should be flying the flag of build quality, not repairability.

SpaceX’s Starlink finally reveals its satellite broadband pricing for rural America: At $99 a month, it’s a good deal


Re: Any "fair use" policy?

Love him or hate him, “fair use policy” isn’t Musk’s style. He’ll just say “ok we’ll launch more satellites, put it on my tab”.

You need to understand, Musk just pretends to be a capitalist to stick it to The Man in Wall St. He’s a showman who needs to see his name up in lights, PT Barnum if you will.

He doesn’t really care whether he makes billions or not. For a bit, he will, but I think he fully intends that all these companies will (financially) go down in flames in the end. If they take down Wall Street in the process, that’s a *bonus* to him. Who gets hurt, he doesn’t care. His ideal scenario is for all the suits to lose *their* shirts financing *his* dreams.

He doesn’t care if hundreds of people die in the first wave of Tesla self-driving. But unlike Ford he won’t do it for profit, he does it because he wants to be the guy who changed the world with the first self-driving car.

As I said, love him or hate him.

Braking point: Tesla has had quite enough of Trump's 'unlawful' tariffs on Chinese-made parts, sues Uncle Sam


Re: Good luck with that.

Which other countries have picked up the slack, on which products?

And an actual source please, since an angry TV host doesn’t count.

Future airliners will run on hydrogen, vows Airbus as it teases world-plus-dog with concept designs


Re: “four times more voluminous"

I understand what you’re saying, but the rabbit-hole is a recursive regress below that,

In the modern world, the amount of work you can do is a negligible fraction of what you can leverage out of the primary energy source. It’s all boot-strapped.

Yes, the source of value is human effort, which can be brainpower, but how do you produce that brainpower? First you will have to keep the lights on, power the data centre where your repo is stored, and power your laptop, and you drive to have a meeting with the client to help you understand what the real problem is to be solved, and, and, and.

It all comes back to primary energy consumption. Without leveraging massive external primary energy input, you’re just a ape sitting in the mud, saying uggg, and starving. Your labour ain’t worth s*t


Re: “four times more voluminous"

> On a long enough timescale the cost of hydrogen goes down, cost of petroleum goes up.

Errrm.....no. 100% opposite. That’s a complete misunderstanding of both chemistry and economics.

Hydrogen is produced by electrolysis of water, and “in future” will use “renewable” electricity of some sort. The *amount of effort required to produce a given amount of hydrogen* goes down, as we invent better ways to produce electricity. Yes. Spot on.

But, once we’ve mastered that, light alkane fraction (or petroleum as you insist on calling it) can be produced synthetically too from “renewable” electricity, water and scrubbing CO2 from air. Petrol is a great *chemical storage medium* of energy, not a magical boogeyman of fossil fuel.

Petrol is more energy dense than hydrogen. It is also more easily handleable, and more easily converted at point of use to usable energy. It is therefore intrinsically more valuable, per joule of energy embodied.

In fact, making hydrogen is a monstrous waste of lovely clean renewable energy. Using electricity to make hydrogen is an eco-crime of the first water (pun fully intended).

Finally - economics. “Cost” relative to dollars is a misnomer. The deeper truth is to count everything in terms of our primary energy source. Today, that is fossil fuel, which means *by definition* the cost of a barrel of oil is one barrel of oil. The true cost of a barrel oil was exactly the same in 1950 as 1974 as 2000 as 2020. It costs a barrel of oil. What has changed is that the dollar has become worth less.

And for example, one barrel of oils worth of energy produced as wind power, *used* to cost 100 barrels of oil, and currently only costs 1.3 barrels of oil.

In the near future, something miraculous happens. One of those renewables crosses over that Cost parity point. Suddenly, that becomes the economic primary energy source, and it becomes the new denominator of true value.

At that point, a litre of petroleum is still worth....a litre of petroleum, because it’s a really great means of running engines. How you produce it, that’s another matter. But *hydrogen*......that becomes ever more expensive. Because as we are able to produce more and more green electricity, and plentiful supply of the good energy transfer medium of petroleum, hydrogen becomes relatively ever more costly relative to that synthetic petroleum.

So, no, you got it absolutely wrong. “The hydrogen economy” is neither green nor cheap, it’s vicious environmental vandalism.

Tech ambitions said to lie at heart of Britain’s bonkers crash-and-burn Brexit plan


Re: “America, which is not big on state aid”?!!!

I’m not trivialising anything.

I’m pointing out that the USA spends 3.4% of GDP on its military, which is way more than most countries. It’s unarguable that all the money gets spent on *something*, and that something is not economically productive in a classical sense. It may or may not be money well-spent in the wider context.

To take a random point from your list, maintenance and upkeep of military buildings is both *necessary* (in context of the pre-decided size of the military), and is state aid to building contractors. Many of those building contractors would struggle to stay in business without the incredibly long-term predictable flows from the maintenance contracts.

Boeing is the same. Just how many new civilian airframes does anybody really need to design per decade? Boeing just can’t exist at all without steady military contracts. Ditto Airbus, this isn’t a comment about the USA. But surely we still want to have new airframes being developed.

Again, you’re misunderstanding what state aid actually is.

It’s *not* “government subsidising inefficient industries”.

A successful economy consists of companies living in an environment created by government spending. It’s exactly what Obama meant when he said “you didn’t build that”.

The US does a lot *more* of that, relatively speaking, than most other countries on the planet, rather than less as the libertarian myth would have it.

And China is overtaking the US economically, by doing still more.


“America, which is not big on state aid”?!!!

Errr, which America would that be?

To paraphrase Princess Bride: “State Aid....I do not think those words mean what you think they mean”

The US gov that spends $740bn *a year* on its defence budget. That’s $500k per soldier. That’s not per infantryman, that includes the 75% of the army that’s the logistics required to get the infantry to frontline. Unless those soldiers are considerably better paid than one might think, virtually *all* of that $740bn per year is state aid to its military contractors to maintain and develop technology.

Or would that be the United States that has Chapter 11 laws, by which the US government legally protects its tech companies while they are *insolvent* to maintain competitiveness against foreign companies. For example, at this very moment Intelsat is simultaneously a) insolvent under Chapter 11 b) being given several billion dollars to vacate C-band spectrum by the government c) has just decided to buy another company for $400m, and has done so, all the while being in administration.

Or would that be the United States that saw a competitor to its home-grow Instagram (TikTok), and immediately outlawed it purely on the basis of it being foreign-owned, and essentially passed a law that a US company Microsoft shall acquire it.

Not that the US is anything unusual among countries. Both France and Germany have pseudo-private sectors which are about 20% of their GDP, financed by arms-length gov, e,g, COFACE. That’s not even to consider the European Investment Bank that finances well over 2 *trillion* euro of state aid. In fact, it’s the U.K. that is virtually unique among developed nations in not doing state aid to a significant extent.

So long, Top Gun... AI software waxes US F-16 pilot's tail 5-0 during virtual dogfight drills


Generals fighting the last war again.....

Putting an AI drone up against a human pilot is like all those Hollywood movies where the minions politely agree to attack the hero one at a time. Unfortunately, real enemies are unlikely to be so compliant.

The thing to remember is that while dogfighting happens occasionally, almost all combat is Beyond Visual Range. This fatally compromises the case for having a human pilot.

The whole point about a drone is that you can afford to lose it. 99% of the cost of a fighter aircraft is in making it capable enough of protecting its human pilot. For the price of one F35, make a hundred dumb drones, and arm each of them with a single mIssile. The first drone gets shot down in seconds. So does the second and the third. Thing is, how many missiles was the F35 carrying again? After the F35 has shot off its rack, now it’s eighty drones against one F35. The F35 has only short-range gunnery remaining, although it could still take on any three drones in a dogfight. But the drones will just sit fifty miles away, and snipe away with their eighty missiles. Again, the F35 will take out the first ten or twenty with countermeasures. But after that, it’s still facing sixty missiles incoming simultaneously, having exhausted its countermeasures. Then it’s toast, Top Gun or not.

Apple hits back at Epic, says Fortnite crew wants a 'free ride' on fees: Let the app store death match commence


Retail vs wholesale

Totally agree, but this is part of a *much* larger question.

Our economy for at least the last couple of centuries has been built on underlying assumption of 50-60% of price going to retailer. Yes, it really is that high. Doesn’t mean the retailer makes that profit, just that’s the cost of retail. This is for *most* physical goods of moderate price, sold in a bricks and mortar store, doesn’t apply to food or cars, but definitely clothes, household objects, most “stuff”.

Suddenly the internet comes along, and the retailers cut drops to 30%. That’s great, because consumer prices drop. The problem is, because the power of brand is so strong and geographical barriers disappear, the entire retail pie goes to half a dozen companies. This isn’t just about Apple, it’s Amazon, and eBay, and Alibaba, and, and. This is *the* 21st century problem we need to solve.

Psst, you want us to design you an Arm chip? 'Cause we can do that, says RISC-V processor darling SiFive


Re: What 150 million?

Well, if we’re doing *that* sort of market then RISC-V isn’t even a fragment of a fingernail.

There’s 4 billion Bluetooth chips shipped per year, and a third of them were CSR with a XAP CPU in them. So a CPU you’ve never even heard of, ships more every month then RISC-V has shipped in its whole history. Oh, and you can license a XAP IP if you like, and customise it however you like.

Why are we talking about RISC-V again?

Softbank confirms talks to offload Arm as it posts rebound profit


Re: @Stumpy

“Britain's track record of supporting "national champions" really is the biggest argument against trying it again.”

Laughably untrue.

ARM itself exists because the BBC (cue Three Minute Hate from the Torygraph) were innovative enough to decide to fund a national champion computer manufacturer. On their own. For the chump change out of £100 real terms a year. Hence BBC Micro, Acorn, and the rest is history.

You can also thank the BBC for inventing satellite broadcasting, noise cancelling microphones, funding Dolby, one of the Internet-prequels (remember Ceefax). Still all on the chump change from that £100 a year, without breaking a sweat. While we’re on that sort of thing, radar stems from Met Office work. And almost everything you buy is only available because global trade uses cargo ships kept in contact by satellite comms run by......Inmarsat, another ex-quango (transnational but headquartered in the U.K.). Yeah, those public industries are just soooooo rubbish, aren’t they.

Take a pause, go through the FTSE100 and count how many of the U.K. companies are, or have been in the past, national champions or privatised public sector.

Once you actually list out for yourself, and with the help of Google verify, that *half of U.K. largest companies* are actually ex-public-sector or national champions, perhaps you’ll change your view.

Is it National Grid you hate or United Utilities? Vodafone or BAe Systems? Aveva or AstraZeneca?

Do you think Airbus is entirely....independent? And you know that Volkswagen was started by a well-known person with a moustache, right?

Aviation regulator outlines fixes that will get the 737 MAX flying again


Re: Hmm.

Sure, only a few passengers will bother checking their actual flight. But there is just going to be endless publicity, month after month, year after year, as to “which airlines are flying the dangerous plane”. Airlines just won’t be able to stay in business with that label around their neck.

And why would they try? Not only could they buy Airbus, at perfectly competitive prices, but there is now the largest glut in history of secondhand planes in storage with barely delivery mileage on them. Why wouldn’t one just pick up a handful of those for cents on the dollar?

To be fair, Ryanair have a lot of MAXs already, and will continue using them.

Their big advertising selling point is “ we are so horrifically crap we must be really cheap”. To the point that nobody notices that they aren’t even that cheap. But there’s really only room for one airline with that shtick.

Someone made an AI that predicted gender from email addresses, usernames. It went about as well as expected


Re: @gnasher729 - Define gender!

In context.....

Gender is a (rather imperfect) correlate of consumer preferences. I’m assuming this tool is intended as an input to demographically target ads and marketing. Gender, age, income-level, and education are the usual tickboxes. Google and Facebook “know” your gender, for the purpose of its ads. It certainly doesn’t know your biological sex, how would it. But not only would nobody care, as a marketer you want to know gender rather than sex. It’s not what somebody has in their trousers, it’s which kind of trousers they buy that matters.

There is nothing inherently sexist about this as a tool to generate inputs for a marketing algorithm - although this is clearly very bad at it.

If I sell men’s watches, I would like to target my advertising to male customers, please. I’m perfectly aware that some women buy men’s watches. And some trans men, and some trans women. But given that I’m charged by cost per impression, one way or another, I’ll just divide the population arbitrarily into two, and roughly double my advertising effectiveness, thanks. It’s neither a political statement, nor an imposition of my value system.

However, there very much can be something sexist about the selections that the company doing the marketing uses. E.g. a company selling DIY tools choosing to target men only. That’s almost certainly widespread, and I’m not aware of anyone either checking, nor being hauled over the coals for it. The difference to the men’s watches example, is that the latter is a false belief about what is a statistical correlate, aka stereotype. Failing to be given the chance to buy angle grinders isn’t a real problem in life. However, there are things that could be - e.g. political adverts that run different messages to men and women, or ads offering business franchising opportunities to men only.

Predictably grim Q2 for mobe sales, but iPhone SE proves pretty moreish as gateway drug for Android defectors


Iphones keep the lights on

I always hear how “iPhones are pointless showoff things for people too stupid, etc.....”

There’s an angle that I believe technical folk miss. I run a small business, with website that sells physical moderately high-value retail goods. Analytics tells me:

40% of my website traffic comes from IOS devices.

80% of purchases are made by IOS devices.

85%+ of *transaction value* comes from IOS devices.

Traffic from non-IOS devices actually *lose* me a bit of money overall, because the ad cost-per-click exceeds the revenue they generate. Although I still need to service that traffic adequately, because a household considering a purchase may contain a variety of devices, or someone might surf on their work PC & buy at home on their iPad. That I can’t tell.

My point is: the relevant number for IT people is 40%.... but business owners care about the *85%*.

This is why people are so fussed about supporting whatever stupid features Cupertino deem desirable. You *have* to give IOS users a perfect user experience to stay in business. Everyone else like Android, it’s the electronic equivalent of not putting the phone down because you’re too polite.

Chips for Huawei are fried: TSMC stops shipping parts to Middle Kingdom mega-maker this September


Re: He who laughs last ...

True but....

One of the dirty secrets of CPU design over the last more than thirty years, is that all the clever stuff is actually redundant in the long term. It’s a bunch of insanely clever workarounds that just won’t be needed once a very specific key technology problem is solved: memory interconnect speed. Intel, AMD and ARMs technical lead and “moat” isn’t forever, it’s dependent on that one problem.

Just making a CPU that has the basic execution units, even in whatever parallel microarchitecture, with whatever Deep Learning accelerators, that’s just not that hard. It can be done by any good engineering team with less than a hundred engineers in a couple of years.

Treble that, at most, for really optimised local power consumption.

No. What’s hard is: out-of-order execution. micro-op optimisation to make that efficient. Branch prediction. Translation lookaside buffers. Cache architectures with snooping.

The common theme is that they are all workarounds for the memory wall problem.

Figure out a transport interconnect from external RAM to CPU that’s high-bandwidith without drawing insane amounts of power, and absolutely the first thing that will happen is *removing* all those clever widgets from CPUs, massively increasing core count by replacing the silicon area and power used by the caches, and hooking it straight into main RAM.

Obviously, I’ve got no idea how to solve that problem. Perhaps optical-RAM-to-CPU interconnect. Or spin-wave-transistors (which don’t drive capacitance load). Perhaps in-memory-computation.

But at some point, maybe a decade away, or even two, it will be solved. Then, almost overnight, Intel, AMD etc just own a bunch of IP that consumes 95% of silicon area for little benefit.

Given that owning such CPU IP forms a major part of the West’s strategic advantage and leverage over China, that’s really something to think about. Being only a single brainwave insight away from a major strategic shift that will likely happen within ten or twenty years. I’m not talking about FTL travel here, just a board-level signalling technology that breaks no laws of physics.

Everything must go! Distributors clear shelves of ALL notebooks in Q2, even ones gathering dust over last 12 months


Do you ever change your mind, based on data?t

Most people doing “Real Work” aren’t IT staff or require powerful CPUs for anything much.

It’s very much a minority sport.

And most IT staff don’t need to run large compilation jobs on their computers. Neither do testers.

You’re not going to like this, but *by far* the workforce requiring most CPU power at their fingertips is graphic designers, artists, architects, jewellers, film and TV industry, ad and marketing agencies. Creatives doing image creation and manipulation, basically.

Software dev teams mostly don’t “develop software” on “their computers”. They use “their computers” as *text entry terminals*, running Visual Studio, Eclipse or whatever frontends. But stuff like source control, continuous integration, compilation, unit testing etc etc....all takes place on company servers. For good reasons. Of course, every company is different, and yes there are exceptions.

What most developers actually need is two high-quality screens, a decent ergonomic keyboard, any old laptop so long as it’s company standard, and a fast network connection to the servers. By far the most CPU intensive thing they do is have ten different Chrome tabs open on the browser for various forums and bits of documentation.

Millions of people doing Real Work find that first laptops, and mostly tablets actually (with keyboard accessory if necessary), are a better match to their work needs than desktops or workstations, and there are now barely a few thousand dinosaur holdouts. How much more Market Data do you need to change your mind?

NASA trusted 'traditional' Boeing to program its Starliner without close supervision... It failed to dock due to bugs


Re: This

No, that’s not the reason:

Share price is two things (simultaneously) - a fraction share of the company value, and a fraction share of the whole company income stream. Share buybacks give investors a bigger share of both, such that the Price/Earnings Ratio remains theoretically unchanged.

The actual rationale is that if you give dividends, investors have to pay dividend tax. Share buybacks are tax avoidance, pure and simple. If they do neither, the cash sits in the companies bank account, earning less interest than (hopefully) the company normal business - the overall margin of the business drops.

Another way to look at it: a company making 10 planes a year, at 10% margin, would be looking to expand that to making 20 planes at 10% margin. But if they can’t, they can leverage up so that half their shareholders get the “user experience” of being invested in the 20-plane company, without any transaction friction. The other half shareholders were willing sellers.

BoJo buckles: UK govt to cut Huawei 5G kit use 'to zero by 2023' after pressure from Tory MPs, Uncle Sam


Re: Is it wrong to be in favour of this?

Yes, it’s wrong.

Because *the whole security design of 5G* (and 4G), divides it into Core Network and non-core. It’s not an arbitrary word distinction, it’s baked into the protocols. Only the Core Network gets to either “have your data”, or know who you are, or subtler things like traffic analysis. Huawei were specifically excluded from the Core Network kit.

Don’t take my word for it, read CESG report (which you know as GCHQ) who have thoroughly analysed, including reading Huawei’s code, and instituting code-signing mechanisms. They came up with the plan for telecomm security encoded in U.K. policy, now being ignored by people trying to look good.

And since our security services decided it was unsafe for more than 33% of kit to be placed with any one company, and now there are only two (Nokia and Ericsson), who is going to be responsible for the inevitable catastrophe of a Denial of Service breach taking down 50% of our infrastructure?

In other news, you know that Trump wants to buy both Nokia and Ericsson right? He is in full strop mode that Finland and Sweden told him where to stick it, and has said officially (ie on Twatter), that if they don’t he will “ask Premier Putin to step in”.He has basically suggested Russia to invade a NATO countries to secure US ownership of global telecom infrastructure, and it’s *China* you’re worried about?

I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Spacecraft with graphene sails powered by starlight and lasers


Re: 1m/s**2

Duh, too early in the morning :)

Nah, none of the solutions of secondary focusing reduce the size of the primary mirror anyway.

As one of the other posters said for solar focusing, etendue is a bastard.


Re: 1m/s**2

First solution of relaying the focusing mirrors doesn’t work: if the intermediate mirrors are 10cm, each one only extends the reach by 100,000 km, which doesn’t reach very far. Plus you’re now playing 10,000 cushion billiards onto cushions that are themselves moving at insane velocities.

The second option is slightly more viable - pre-stationing a large set of secondary focusing mirrors along the 100 million km runway track. If you could position each secondary mirror within 20,000 km of the track, these only need to be 4 meter mirrors, and the primary 100 million km away is similar’ish Requires a set of five thousand Hubble space telescopes, doing an intricate dance - things don’t stay still in space, they’re orbiting the sun, so this needs to be precalculated years in advance for them to be in the right place for only the few minutes of the shot. That’s three orders of magnitude more costly than anything we are capable of, plus unthinkable aiming dynamics, to launch one 4g spacecraft. But yes, it’s slightly better than the more obvious option which was six order of magnitude.


Re: 1m/s**2

If the system you are referring to is a 1W laser-launched system, it would indeed be 54 miles per second. The problem is that the spacecraft turns out to be 2.3 million miles away at this point. And you need to keep your laser focused on that 1cm disc for the whole duration of the day.

Laser spots have divergence inversely proportional to the size of the focusing mirror, and you need to worry about atmospheric twinkle. The system you’re considering requires a focusing mirror diameter 180km in orbit around the Earth, plus means to physically swing it to keep it pointed at that 1cm object flying at 54 miles per second 2 million miles away.

The truth is, there is no way to make the numbers on a laser-launched system ever scale correctly. The Moties didn’t do their full system study correctly.

Solar sailing is actually a great near-orbit technology, in use today to save fuel on satellites. And also a great mid-future in-solar-system propulsion technology. But neither technology works for interstellar.


Re: Thoughts

Surprisingly, you can make something decelerate using light from our end!


No, it isn’t enough to be useful. But it’s just so cool that it’s possible at all!


Re: Calling Isaac Newton...

If you want to go down the route of “magic just takes longer”, the problem is that there is no way to know which of the myriad magical solutions is best and closest to feasible at system-level. If you’d started Michelangelo on designing a CPU, should he work on Babbage’s Difference Engine, or help Newton play with coloured light and prisms (which ultimately turns out to be quite useful for optical resist technology)?

It’s better to set yourself nearer term goals. And frankly, having worked in the space industry, one of the biggest problems is that every project with a timeline longer than ten years turns into a boondoggle. Basically, unless the project completes in a timescale of your current job, nobody has any great interest in either finishing it, or really solving the problems. It’s just an annual budget, and people are “contributing”. They aren’t motivated to make the damn thing work.

If I want to accelerate 4 grams of payload to 15% light-speed, then we could “just” store 0.3g of antimatter in a magnetic bottle and let it annihilate as trickle, using it as thrust. That’s (today) completely infeasible, but theoretically do-able. Obviously, we need a nearly perfect gamma-ray micromirror and collimator. And ultra-vacuum technology decades beyond current, to prevent the antimatter annihilating inside the storage bottle. And ways of cooling the antimatter to keep it confinable, and miniaturised superconducting magnets to confine it without their power usage needing to increase the payload mass. But none of that sounds beyond early 22nd century technology to be honest. And definitely all closer to reality than building an 18km diameter launch mirror in space. Plus it solves the problem of being able to decelerate when we get to where we’re going.

The real point is that technologies a century away usually don’t solve problems in the way they look today, rather by discarding assumptions. Could improved sensor, CPU and comms technology mass micrograms rather than grams? Would it make more sense to scale up particle accelerator technology (which already approaches light speed, with picograms per particle bunch) than scale down rocket technology? Would a solar-system-scale coherent array optical telescope achieve better observation resolution anyway in the target star system than a 4 gram micro-spacecraft zipping through at 7000km/s a million km from any planet (Spoiler: yes it could. 25cm resolution. Tech demonstrator missions are on the horizon, and it really might be feasible within 50 years).


Re: Calling Isaac Newton...

There is a huge problem, just the article doesn’t explain it well.

The sails don’t slow down, but the acceleration drops off quickly, which imposes basic limits that aren’t immediately obvious.

If you start off with a certain acceleration from the Earth (distance from the Sun 1AU), once you get to 1.4 AU from the Sun the thrust and acceleration halves (inverse square law). It halves again @2 AU, plus you spend much less time there so there’s less velocity change. Etc, etc. Almost all the velocity the velocity the sail will ever gain, is achieved within the first 0.4 AU. Light sailing is marketed as constant thrust, allowing ultra-low acceleration to get you somewhere useful, but it really doesn’t live up to that.

Some numbers: to escape the solar system, you need delta-v 12km/s from near-Earth-but-not-gravitationally-bound, on a 60 million km effective runway. This requires 0.0012 m/s2 acceleration, which for a light sail is a high hurdle to jump, but achievable. To get to the nearest star within a century needs delta-v 12,000 km/s. To achieve that on only a 60 million km runway, you need 1200 m/s2. Acceleration 120g is just impossible for solar sailing.

That’s why people want to use lasers, to increase the incident power per square meter, and get the acceleration done on a reasonable runway. These guys are achieving 0.1g acceleration, which is an amazing achievement. The problem is, it still doesn’t scale well. Remember the runway length of 0.4AU? Now you have to be able to focus your laser onto the spacecraft sail at 60 million km distance. Focusing is diffraction-limited, the tighter beam you want, the bigger the mirror. However you scale things, there’s problems.

The Breakthrough Starshot wants to make a sail of 14m2, weighing 4 grams, to reach 15% of speed of light with 8.5 GW lasers. That gives a very respectable 7000m/s2 acceleration. It also requires electronics that can survive 700g acceleration (feasible), and given that you are focusing a *8 GW laser* on it sufficient to vaporise most things, either: 99% reflective sail (feasible) with payload that can survive 2000Centigrade (not feasible), or 99.99% reflective sail (not feasible) with payload surviving 380C (marginal, payload mass <<4g, limited thermal insulation)

But the main problem is that they need to focus the lasers onto a spot-size of 4meter diameter from 1AU distance. That’s the same optics problem as a telescope resolving 4m at a 1AU distance. Atmospheric twinkle distortion prevents you doing that, so it has to be a *space* laser. And fundamental optical diffraction limit requires you to make an 18 kilometer diameter mirror to focus the laser. The largest mirror ever made is a 10 meter mirror, on the ground, even with adaptive optics, and James Webb space will be 6.5m.

An alternative mission concept has the spacecraft sail 4km diameter to have an 18 meter launch mirror. Then, the spacecraft mass x million, and even on the Starshot hyper-aggressive mass assumptions needs an 8 petawatt space laser firing for two hours continuous, which isn’t going to happen. In other words, people are tending to focus (pun intended) on the spacecraft side of laser sailing, which isn’t really the problem.

Contact-tracing or contact sport? Defections and accusations emerge among European COVID-chasing app efforts


Re: Testing! testing!

I pretty much agree with all your points, but “Current death rate in Sweden continues to decline”.

Your source is interesting, and vastly disagrees with this:


Worldometers shows Sweden reporting figures that oscillate repeatedly, reporting hardly any deaths on a weekend/Monday, followed by massive spikes. There are a lot of reporting anomalies in every country - e.g. every single country so far has later “found” at least a thousand unreported deaths arriving in a lump or two. It’s “fog of war”, rather then anybody hiding data, just the systems are being stressed.


Re: Generalised testing

No, it’s really not that simple.

Firstly, false positives are rarely due to the “the test incorrectly flagging”. It’s because real tests are never specific enough to flag only the correct molecule. A small number of people will have had something that the test reacts to. Re-test them, and you get the same outcome. Ditto false negative: if the particular person for some reason has only a low number of antibodies, which the test isn’t sensitive enough to pick up.Re-test them, and you get the same outcome. Any potential improvement from re-testing is already included because they already do two swabs / blood samples.

Antibody tests are blood concentrations in real human beings, and the data varies day-to-day, depends on what and when they ate, can be masked by hormone cycles or another infection.

The PCR swab tests of “have you got it”, are very dependent on whether the tester is skilled enough to get the swab far up enough your nose at the right angle, which is really a lot harder than it sounds, particularly if the patient has dementia or mental health issues. Untrained staff do well to achieve false negatives of 10%, doctors and trained staff achieve about 1-2% false negative.

Simultaneously 99% specific and sensitive is *aspirational* for best-in-class tests after years of development, not on a hurriedly expanded testing service. That’s not happening anytime soon. 98% specific and sensitive would be considered damn good. At the moment, the best PCR tests *anywhere in the world* are barely meeting 98%, and the antibody ones seem to be stuck at 90% which isn’t really any use to anybody.

Nevertheless, we somehow need to find a way to make critical policy based on data we know to be flawed.

Surprise! Plans for a Brexit version of the EU's Galileo have been delayed


Re: Can't we just...

Why the joke icon?

Duh, well yes, any U.K. company who wished to actually *pay* for Galileo Commercial Service is fully entitled and enabled to do so, at the identical price to a French company. And exactly as if you are based in the Philippines, or the Cote D’Ivoire. Have you not actually, ummm, *read* the Galileo Terms of Commercial Service?

Of course, why any company or individual *would* choose to buy the service, I have no idea at all. And nor it seems, does anybody else. When the EU put it out for RFI, they got lots of interest from companies who thought the EU was going to pay *them* to test-drive the service. But not one single expression of interest from anybody prepared to pay for the service themselves. Not A Single One.

The EU’s current best plan is to legally require EU member states to “purchase” the service, so that they can give it away for free to resident companies. And, as above, the problem with *that* plan, is that companies are actively refusing to get it for free. They expect to be paid to use it. And that’s where everything is stalled at the moment.


Shame we aren’t in Galileo?

Shame we aren’t in Galileo.....that’s due to launch Full Operational Capability in July.....

Hahaha. Only joking :) The EU assumed everyone knew that their schedule was purely “aspirational”, and was certainly never meant to be taken seriously.

Actually the next launch (for FOC-FM23 on Ariane6) has been delayed until Jan21st 2021, but because of in-orbit failures that’s not sufficient. Marginal service should be achieved in September 2021 launch, but anyway I wouldn’t hold your breath. For reasons of redundancy within the three orbital planes, they won’t be able to actually offer a guaranteed Commercial Service until at least 2023-2024, and that’s with rose-tinted specs on.

More realistic estimate, based on historic launch and in-orbit failure rate, is that they actually *never* reach the point where they launch fast enough to replace failed spacecraft, and never achieve Commercial Service. At least, not before 2030 which is when the next tranche of boondoggle contracts are due to let.

Researchers trick Tesla into massively breaking the speed limit by sticking a 2-inch piece of electrical tape on a sign


Re: Sigh.

No. And while you aren’t going to listen to any of us, perhaps it would take some of the heat out to take some Advanced Driving lessons, and listen to what the instructor tells you.

Put simply, if you are travelling at 40mph on a 60mph road, as *your* assessment of the speed at which *you* can safely go in those conditions, then I’m going to take you at your word. You *would* be unsafe to go quicker than that. But if 99% of other drivers are managing to drive at 60mph quite happily, then they are clearly correct too. Otherwise, you would observe other cars in the ditch every few miles, and that’s just not true.

So I’m afraid you need to be honest with yourself and ask - how you can improve your driving skills on roads that you clearly aren’t comfortable with (training). Or, be prepared to re-organise, and avoid those roads. Other road-users exist, and you shouldn’t be putting their lives at risk.

Cache me if you can: HDD PC sales collapse in Europe as shoppers say yes siree to SSD


Most consumers just don’t want the hIgh HDD capacity any more.

Picking a random shop (John Lewis ;) , they have 154 laptops.

The middle of the market is 256-512 GB, and tops out at 1TB. I’m preparing for a bunch of downvotes from people saying “yeah, but How Can I Do My Video Editing / Proper Work”. To which the correct answer is “YMMV, there are a few of you, but most of everyone else just doesn’t do that so much”.

Point is, if most people decide that 512 GB is enough for them, the cost differential between SSD and HDD just isn’t enough to worry about. Ditto for desktop at x2 capacity

Remember when Europe’s entire Galileo satellite system fell over last summer? No you don’t. The official stats reveal it never happened


Re: Isn't it amazingE

“ The full constellation is expected to be available by 2020.“

That’s what the Galileo website says, but it’s the most hilarious nonsense.

The facts are: Currently, Galileo has 22 working spacecraft. Full Operational Capability requires 24 satellites *plus 6 orbiting spares, otherwise the next satellite failure loses service until the next launch*. Each orbital plane requires a separate spare (too much fuel required to change orbital plane), and they are sent up as pairs in each launch which have to go to the same orbital plane (fuel again).

Hence, the constellation isn’t reliable until there are 30 up there. We are eight spacecraft short of a full deck at the moment.

Unfortunately, the launch schedule only allows for four satellites per year, and only one launch (two satellites) by end 2020. And by the way, because of satellites already failed in different planes, it will be end of 2021 before there is a proper constellation up there at all. At the planned launch cadence, they won’t be able to declare Full Operational Capability (resilient to failure), until end 2024

Except that it gets much, much worse. By 2024, the first satellites ever launched will be end-of-life (12 year lifetime!) and retired. So we will need the 2025 satellites to replace those.... and then the next satellites will be end-of-life and retiring....so we need to wait until 2026, and.....well I think you get the picture now.

The launch cadence schedule simply isn’t expected to catch up with the older dying spacecraft any time during the current so-called “transition” series of Galieo spacecraft up to 2030. The situation is due normal project delays, which have consequences when you are trying to keep up with aging satellites in orbit.There’s another series of 12 spacecraft supposed to go up post 2030 or sometime, but that’s not fully planned or budgeted yet.

Now, that’s the *optimistic version*, where the spacecraft achieve their 12 year planned lifetime. Actually, there are systemic onboard clock problems, which means that we expect two or three of the spacecraft already up there to fail several years earlier than lifetime. And, historically, sometimes satellite launches sometimes fail, as one of them already has, and that’s *also* not included in the plan.

EU declares it'll Make USB-C Great Again™. You hear that, Apple?


I don’t see how USB-C solves the charger-zoo problem......

The real problem is that USB-C negotiates power delivery in 0.05A and 0.05V increments.

Absolutely nobody is going to read the side of the charger plug, to check that it meets the minimum requirement of your specific phone. This is determined by detailed measurement of each brand of battery, and its thermal performance. If it doesn’t, it will still charge, but at dog-slow speed.

Almost everyone will still buy the one supplied by Apple, as that is guaranteed by a massive sticker on the packet to be exactly big enough to charge the iPad at maximum speed, but exactly small enough to fit into the case that comes with it.

Look at this another way. The only charger that can serve *everything* maximally is the one that can deliver the maximum USB PD of 100W. Which is going to be a giant. It would be crazy to have a 100W charger for every appliance. So, once again, you’ll have a proliferation of USBC chargers - a little one for the the phone, a medium size one for the iPad, a big one for the laptop, etc. This solves nothing at all for e-waste, just makes it look good on paper.



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