* Posts by Richard Vivash

17 posts • joined 13 Sep 2007

Apple's iPhone 4 denial: insulting or ignorant?

Richard Vivash

Well, yes...

I do understand logarithmic scales and I understand that +3dB is equivalent to a factor of two increase in signal. In my original comment I said I believe there is a problem that needs to be addressed. I'll admit using the range the way I did is misleading, but let's face it, we don't know what's going on in the new, more sensitive baseband hardware, so a direct calculation based on a dB logarithmic scale may be as misleading as my use of the range. The iPhone 4 seems to make better use of a -113dB signal than other phones, and I'd imagine that this improved signal handling will not be as marked (or needed) at -51dB. So what effect should this have on the bars displayed? Should bars be based on real world usefulness, or strictly the signal dB, even though some phones will work better than others at low signal levels?

If you read the Anandtech analysis you'll see that the problem is that the scale used to display signal bars is so skewed towards the top end that it amplifies any loss in signal drastically. Look here (http://fscked.co.uk/post/754590440/update-i-have-a-followup-piece-about-apples-new) for a neat little graph that shows the Anandtech data. Even given the logarithmic nature of the dB scale, that's a very big skew at the top end. I admit I'm not an RF engineer, but I've read around the subject, and people who are far more knowledgable than me seem to agree that the scale is a bit off. I'm sure that the new scale Apple implements will still not be linear, but I'm sure it won't be so broad at the 5 bar end.

Also read the Guardian piece here (http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2010/jul/02/iphone-4-signal-apple) which points out that a signal of -80dB is displayed as 5 bars on the iPhone 4, but only 2 bars on a BlackBerry.

Yes, a 19.8dBm attenuation when held in a certain way is very big, and bigger than most (if not all) other smartphones. Yes, it's a problem that needs sorting. But the crappy signal scale makes it look far worse than it is, for some people.

Richard Vivash

Problem? Yes. Cover up? Maybe.

From what I read in the Anandtech review it seems that the bars are so heavily weighted towards one end that a small signal drop will display as a massive loss in 'bars'.

The scale goes from -113 to -51, so it has a range of 62 units. The problem is that bar 5 is range -91 to -51 (40 units) and bars 1-4 are range -113 to -91 (22 units). This means that if you currently have a signal of -90 (only just 5 bars) and you drop 20dB (roughly what is lost when using the 'death grip'), you may have lost around 1/3 of the possible signal, but the bars will show a drop from 5 bars to 1 bar (bar 1 is range -113 to -107). You would have a signal of -111dB which as Anandtech points out, is actually usable on the iPhone 4.

The problem is that the iPhone 4 is more susceptible to signal attenuation than most phones (as pointed out by Anandtech), so when you couple this with the weird 'bars' scale the problem appears far worse than it is.

Yes, there is a genuine problem with the iPhone 4 that at first glance could be easily fixed with a coating over the antenna. A lot of people online are complaining about dropped calls, which is a big issue, however I also think that a lot of people are making noise about lost 'bars', which may not be as bad as it seems.

Are Apple maliciously trying to cover up the problem, or do they genuinely believe the issue is signal display and not strength? Personally I think it's a little of both. I'm sure they are aware that their antenna design is more susceptible to signal attenuation than most other phones, however I think they have made a rod for their own back with the dumb scale they used to display signal strength. I also think that with the more sensitive baseband hardware in the iPhone 4 (again, as attested by Anandtech) Apple may well believe that the phone can still outperform others in real world usage, even with lower signal numbers.

Perhaps the software update will weed out all those complaining about bars dropping rather than calls dropping. Although I'm sure they will just moan that they used to have a 5 bar signal when sat in Starbucks and now only have 4.

It will be interesting to see how Apple responds after this update is released and after someone undertakes some serious research into the issue. I will reserve my judgement of the company until then, although they are going to have to tread carefully. Personally I feel they should recall and replace with a version that has a coated antenna. Costly yes, but probably less pricey than the hit to their credibility for not doing it.

Jobs tells iPhone users to get a grip

Richard Vivash

Same here...

I find the same thing. No matter how long I hold the device covering the bottom left, I do not lose signal. However, if I short it with a paper clip I do (unsurprisingly) lose some bars. Maybe my skin is just not very conductive? I don't really suffer with sweaty hands, so maybe that's why it seems OK for me?

I also agree that you have to hold the phone in a very weird way to cover that spot while making a call, however when I am surfing or checking email I always hold the phone in my left hand and always cover that spot, so i can see it would be a big problem if it effected me.

I'm sure I'll get marked down for not agreeing with the screaming mob, but I'm just relaying my experience. Do I think it's a big problem? Yup. Will I send my phone back if they issue a recall? Yup. Will I be asking for a refund now? Not sure yet, I'll wait to see if the problem effects me, so far it seems OK.

Did LibCon alliance bring down O2 network?

Richard Vivash

Bit up and down

I'm in Plymouth and service went down around 8pm last night and cam back at 2:45am (I know as I was woken by several text messages all coming through at once).

Service has been a little flaky today, but seems to be stabilising now.

DVLA off-road system seriously off-message

Richard Vivash

Give the guy a break!

I always renew my tax online, which means I would also have been caught the same way Anton was.

I'm pretty sure that if you renew online you can only do so up to 2 weeks in advance (unless this has changed very recently, last time I tried to renew 3 weeks before it refused). This may be to do with keeping the Internet facing database of vehicles down to a manageable number and from a security perspective it's probably not a good idea to have the UK's entire vehicle database exposed to the Internet 24/7, 365 days a year. I know you can renew earlier by going to the Post Office, but if you're planning to renew online I think the two week rule still applies.

So let's take Anton's case….

I guess he was going to renew online (he doesn't explicitly state this, however as he mentions not being able to renew before the 15th I can only surmise he was told this by the renewal website, where else would he have got this date?). He was out of the country from the 5th of April until the 19th. This means it was not possible to renew online before he left the UK. However, he would be back in plenty of time to deal with this, so no problem… or so he thought… Then Iceland exploded… Was he really expected to foresee this?

Now this is his problem. He can't renew the tax on his vehicle while he is not in the UK because he needs the ridiculously long number that is on his renewal form, something that he would not have to hand. It is likely that he only knows his registration number and as the DVLA offer no way to renew your tax with only the reg number, he's out of luck.

OK, the tone of his post was a little hysterical, but give the guy a break. Let's face it, we've all felt like that after dealing with one Government agency or another. How hard can it be for the DVLA? They have the car registration number, the registered address, his personal details and his DOB. If all that matches up with their records then why can't they tax his vehicle? He's trying to GIVE THEM MONEY and fulfil his legal requirement, he's not asking them to send him cash. It really shouldn't be that hard.

If you are caught driving without tax (which is likely these days with all the NPR cameras around) the police can, and do impound your car and issue points on your license. So when he arrives back at Gatwick, how does he get home? He's tried every avenue to remain within the law and has tried everything possible to give the DVLA his cash.

OK, the volcanic ash situation was unusual, which is why he shouldn't be expected to predict and plan for that eventuality, but it really does show how rigid and unbending the DLVA are.

Steve Jobs and governator tout transplant reform

Richard Vivash

Not a queue, more a lottery

"Also how many people were pushed off because they couldn't make the 4 hour window what with not having a jet and all."

I think you've answered your own question here. If they can't make it to the hospital in 4 hours then the liver would be ruined, so they weren't 'pushed off' the list, they were simply too far away to be a viable recipient.

Surely it's better for the organ to be used than go to waste just because you may think a person hasn't been on the list 'long enough' or it's unfair that they have a form of transport that gets them there quicker than other people.

It's a lottery not a strict queue. If a donor happens to die that is a tissue match to you and you are in the vicinity, then you get the organ. Unfortunately many people die waiting for this to happen while others find a donor within a relatively short period of time.

I carry a donor card and personally believe that the donor register should be an opt-out scheme not opt-in.

iPhone: The OS with big aspirations

Richard Vivash
Thumb Up

Horses for courses…

I actually think it's a good idea.

Not that I'd ever buy an iPad or a laptop loaded with the iPhone OS, but the more I see my parents struggle to accomplish the most basic tasks with their new Windows 7 laptop, the more I think something like this would be ideal for them. They had only just got used to XP (after 6 years!) so Windows 7 is a big ask for them.

Their computer is always fully patched and running a fully up to date virus scanner, but every time I visit them I have to clean some form of malware from the machine. And it's not that they do anything more than surf the net and use email (and solitaire of course). It's just that if they have friends with a virus, they are simply not tech-savy enough to spot an email with a virus attached if it's from someone they know. And, to be honest, why should they need to know how to do that? The virus checker deals with that… right? Well… we all know that's not always true.

Something that would let them surf, email, look at pictures and play a few card games, that is secure and not overly complicated would be a godsend not only to them, but also to me and my brother, who have to explain how to use Windows/clean malware on a weekly basis.

I don't get this whole 'Apple Control blah blah' thing. It's a consumer device, not a desktop computer. I don't hear these people complain about the PS3 or XBOX not being open to any software they want to run. Sony, like Apple also make Laptops, so they do make computers and MS make an OS just like Apple does too (well, not exactly the same ;) ). So why so many complaints when Apple makes a consumer device that has a restricted feature set? Sony, Nokia, Microsoft, Samsung, Nintendo etc. all make devices that could do more than the manufacturer 'allows' you to do. It's a consumer device, not a desktop/laptop computer. If you don't like it, don't buy it.

Designer pitches iPad gaming wheel

Richard Vivash
Thumb Down


Don't you have to use your thumbs on the touch screen to accelerate and brake with these driving games?

With the wheel attached wouldn't your thumbs be too far away from the screen to do this?

Doesn't that reduce this products customer base to those with impossibly long thumbs?

I need answers!

Apple video shows Flashed iPad

Richard Vivash


Anyone else noticed that the video on Apple's site has been edited. Check out 1:15 - 1:18 on the Apple video and the same on the You Tube video. As if by magic, the Flash has gone...

iPhone upgrades - a one-way control-freak street

Richard Vivash
Jobs Halo


Exactly what I was going to say. If you've backed up the app before updating (or just grabbed it out of the trash after updating) it's very easy to roll back to an older version of an app. This is exactly the same as if you've updated an application on Windows or OSX, if you haven't kept the original installer for the older version, you can't go back. Backup is the key.

As for not being able to roll back to a previous OS version, I know it's annoying when you get problems, but as far as I know just about every phone I've updated has not allowed me to revert.

I had a Samsung WinMo phone (which I actually won on El Reg!) and that allowed me to update from WinMo 5 to 6. It specifically told me there was no way of reverting. I've also updated several old Sony Ericsson phones via the USB cable and they never gave the option to downgrade either. Sounds very similar to the iPhone to me!

I think people forget that the iPhone is a consumer device, not an open computing platform. Back in the day when mobile phones were just phones and one of the best phones on the market was the Sony Ericsson K750i, no one complained that they didn't have complete control over the inner workings of their phone. Phones were locked down tighter then than the iPhone is today.

The problem is that phones are now basically mini computers and people believe that just because it's technically possible to do something, that gives them the God given right to do it. Phones are still just consumer devices designed to perform certain tasks and nothing more. Just because they now have more features than they used to (and the hardware could technically do even more) doesn't mean that Apple or any phone manufacturer has to allow you to do anything you wish to do with the device.

I have an iPhone purely because when I purchased it there was nothing to touch it on the market for email, calendar and web. I know other phones could do these things, but they were slow and clunky compared to the elegant way the iPhone handled it. Recently I played with a friend's Android phone and have to say I liked that too, so when upgrade time comes I may well switch platforms. So for me my phone is a 'tool' and when I purchased it no other 'tool' on the market performed the features that I needed (maybe not that you need) as well as the iPhone did.

Come on people, it's only a phone! If it does what you need it to do, great. If not, move along and buy something else.

HP, Dell punters furious over Windows 7 upgrade delays

Richard Vivash

Packard Bell the same

Father has been in hospital for a while and will be in bed for a long time now he's home, so we thought it would be nice to get him a laptop so he can surf, play games or watch DVDs.

Bought a PB (Acer now I guess since the take over) and ordered the free (if you can call £20 free!) upgrade on 20th October. They took the money pretty quick, but no sign of the upgrade. Finally we received an email two days ago (Sunday!?!) saying that the upgrade has been dispatched. Still no sign in the post though.

Funny thing, I ordered Snow Leopard from Apple a few days before its release date and a courier turned up at my door on the morning the OS was released! That's what I was expecting for the Win 7 upgrade... should have known better!

TalkTalk steps up attack on government

Richard Vivash

They can talk about disconnecting people...

The only people responsible for broadband lines being disconnected are TalkTalk themselves! I'm currently at my folks' who are unfortunate enough to have TalkTalk broadband and I'm having post this using a Vodafone USB dongle.

The connection is a joke. The line is capable of about 5Meg (or that's the max it has ever reached) but 90% of the time they're lucky to get 0.2-0.3Meg.

The speed isn't the biggest problem though, the constant disconnections is the real issue. It's impossible to download anything over a few MBs as you're lucky if the connection stays up for more than 2 minutes. Some days the connection will be good for a few hours (generally at about 3am!) so I'm sure it's not the line that's the issue, it's TalkTalk's network being over-stressed or just useless. 3 different modems, 3 different filters, modem directly into the master socket, no other phones plugged in anywhere, nothing helps.

I'll pay 50p a month if it improves things as currently TalkTalk is a complete waste of money. Mr Dunstone should spend more time getting his house in order before setting his sights on a political career.

And don't get me started on TalkTalk's technical 'support'….

Microsoft claims IE8 is 'a leap forward in web standards'

Richard Vivash

Still Broken

I've just finished coding a site for a client and can tell you that IE8 is still broken.

I have a simple containing DIV with an internal DIV floated right. The internal DIV has width, padding and margin set and a background image that is set top and right. All browsers display this image in an identical place, except IE. Each version puts it somewhere a little different. IE8 is the best of the MS browsers, but it's still out by several pixels, and it needs to align perfectly for the site design to look right.

So it seems even the basics aren't right in IE8. Surely a box with a width, padding and margin should always be the same total width? I'm not sure if it's the background image that's not in the right place in IE8 or the box model that's screwed, but somethings broken.

My development process normally goes like this. Code the site. Check browsers. Firefox - Check, Safari - Check, Opera - Check, Lynx - Check (should never be a problem with good semantic markup), Screen readers - Check, IE6 - BROKEN, IE7 - BROKEN (in a different way). Now you can add IE8 - BROKEN (in another different way).

The site I've just finished has one CSS for all browsers but MS ones, then three conditional statements. If IE6, If IE7 and If IE8. So now I have to maintain 4(!) different code bases! Thanks MS, keep up the good work.

Mozilla hangs fire on Firefox 3.5 till June

Richard Vivash

Safari 4

I think Firefox has a long way to go to keep up with other browsers these days and I wouldn't be surprised if they've looked at what the competition are doing and thought "whoops, we need to work a bit harder on this one". Until recently it has always been my browser of choice, but since the Safari 4 beta arrived I've been using that exclusively.

I've never been a fan of Safari and always found that it lacked features, however I think Apple have pretty much hit the nail on the head with version 4 (provided you install adblock of course). The new coverflow history is truly useful and makes locating that one page in 1000 so much easier. The tabs in the title bar is neat and the top sites 'wall' display is cute eye candy, although not exactly a must have feature.

But for me the one killer feature Safari 4 has is the developer tools. I'm a freelance web developer, so the ability to inspect elements, see computed styles, trace inheritance and switch selected styles on and off in a way that is truly integrated into the browser is a brilliant time saver. I really don't know how I've managed without these kind of tools before. I've always used the web developer plug-in for Firefox, but this takes it to a new level of integration and ease of use. Excellent. I can't wait for the final version!

Firefox are really going to have to pull something out of the bag to win me back.

Just my opinion, ymmv.

Cambs cops podcast 999 timewasters

Richard Vivash

Short back and sides?

Many years ago I worked in Ambulance control. We had regular callers who would phone 999 almost every night for various non-existent problems. Granted they more than likely had mental issues, however this probably says more about the lack of support they received whilst living in the community than anything else.

My favourite call however was from a young mother, who although obviously not the brightest girl, I don't believe had any real mental issues. She called in a complete panic saying that she urgently needed an ambulance. On asking what the problem was, she exclaimed that her son had chewing gum stuck in his hair... I suggested a hair dresser...

PC superstore unhinged by Linux

Richard Vivash

Not Only Linux

What a crock. Every machine I've dual booted XP/Ubuntu has run twice as fast in Ubuntu.

It's not only Linux they don't like though. I recently purchased a MacBook in PC World (it was the only place with them in stock - honest!) and the salesman spent all his time trying to persuade me that I really wanted a Vista laptop.

He explained how unreliable and prone to problems the Apple was, that the software was difficult to maintain and if anything went wrong with the OS I'd be stuck. He basically said that PC World would wash their hands of any support responsibility once I'd left the store.

I then explained that even if I did buy a Vista machine it would be reformatted to Linux within half an hour and that as I've managed perfectly well to run Linux on home built machines for the last 7 years, I could probably cope with the BSD core of OSX.

At this point he raised an eyebrow, passed me off to the nearest Saturday lad and walked away... Nice.

There's service for you!


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