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Comment: Missing the wood for the trees, BBC (Score 1) 362

by GrahamCox (#47860627) Attached to: BBC: ISPs Should Assume VPN Users Are Pirates
When the BBC opened 4 digital channels here in Oz on FoxTel, my assumption was that this is an intermediate move to establish the brand and also debug the distribution channels ahead of a time a few years away where everything is an "app" on whatever STB you choose, with a paid subscription model. Foxtel is only being used for now (I supposed) because that's where the technology is at and not everyone yet has an open-ish STB that can support arbitrary channel apps.

This latest shows that the BBC isn't doing this after all, which is a great shame, as it's surely the way TV is going to go (as long as governments have the balls to tell Murdoch to stuff his 80s distribution model up his arse). If there were a BBC "app" with a simple subscription model (in the manner of say, Apple TV) then the BBC would not give a shit who runs a VPN or how the content is accessed. They only have to ensure that the client has paid for the service. I'd go for that, it's a no brainer. Everyone wins - the BBC, the consumer, the box makers. Oh, Rupert doesn't, oh well, boo hoo hoo.

I just don't get it. The BBC is generally quite forward-looking and surely can see the way this is all going? If they truly can't, as this stupid comment seems to imply, then I really hope somebody gets their brain into gear over there soon.

Comment: Re:Broadcom don't deal with little guys (Score 3, Interesting) 165

by GrahamCox (#47797279) Attached to: Update: Raspberry Pi-Compatible Development Board Cancelled
I started out as a hardware designer, specialising in RF. I worked for a medium-sized company at first, but one that was quite important in the UK in its particular market, and I had no trouble getting free samples out of any supplier when I mentioned their name. Later, when I wanted to build stuff for myself without the clout of a larger company, I still found getting free samples was easy enough. The trick was, call them up and ask them to give you a quote to supply the chip with price breaks at 10, 100, 10,000 pieces. Then after they'd gone through that process, throw in a "by the way, any chance of a couple of free samples?" (I wouldn't bother with this charade for basic components, free samples were no problem, but for more expensive items they needed to think you were serious). This was in the 80s so cutting edge at that time meant chips such as the 68HC11 SoC - I even got a couple of free development boards out of Motorola for that one.

A company called CML used to produce codec chips for handling the digital modulation of a baseband signal using GPSK, etc. Getting samples out of them was sometimes tricky because these were highly specialised custom fabrications. But I still got a tube full of free samples out of them which I used in a university project - very much a one-off - using the same BS.

Comment: Re:Too much good content is deleted at Wikipedia. (Score 4, Insightful) 239

by GrahamCox (#47726729) Attached to: Latest Wikipedia Uproar Over 'Superprotection'
Exactly. Originally Wikipedia had a statement that "wikipedia isn't paper", so anything and everything was fair game for inclusion. That was one of its great attractions. I have no idea if that still stands, but if so it seems at odds with the whole notability thing. What they *should* do, if notability is an issue, is to have a little +/- thing on each article that rates the article for notability. Over time that will end up indicating the relative 'notabilty score' of the article, without having to have it actually deleted. Brainless fucks the lot of 'em, it's been years since I've contributed to WP, the attitude was just not worth battling over.

Comment: Re:Header files (Score 1) 427

by GrahamCox (#47675309) Attached to: Interviews: Ask Bjarne Stroustrup About Programming and C++
Header files are great when you are writing code to be used by other people (i.e. most oft he time, for a professional). They allow you to separate the public parts of your blob of code from all the private nasty bits you'd rather they didn't see or use. Headers define your code's contract with the outside world, the rest is implementation detail. I'd hate to have to link against code that didn't use them - it would massively increase the learning curve for arbitrary libraries.

Comment: Re:Remove the Bloat (Score 1) 151

by GrahamCox (#47675185) Attached to: Can Our Computers Continue To Get Smaller and More Powerful?
C=64 1Mhz 6510 with 64k RAM (38 useable), also fast and efficient

It wasn't fast by any stretch (I had the European PAL spec, which was even slower). If you wanted to use "high resolution" mode (320x200 pixels) then it took minutes to draw even simple curves. If you programmed it using the built-in BASIC, anything non-trivial took minutes or more. The only way you could write anything like a useful program was to use assembler, coding directly to the bare metal. Some of the games resulting were impressive enough for their time, but wouldn't look much today.

The problem isn't sloppy coding, but that expectations are higher - people want photographic fidelity for images and video, interfaces that look good, and the ability to download stuff over the internet quickly. All that takes a lot of processor power, and a certain amount of code. A modern PC is hardly wasting CPU cycles to get its work done (except in the trivial sense that it's using a lot of power for things that some people consider frivolous, like blurry translucent window backgrounds), there isn't a way to speed up our devices by 10x and still have them do what they do. The idea that modern code is wasteful and bloated is a myth.

Comment: Re:Obvious (Score 4, Informative) 151

by GrahamCox (#47674343) Attached to: Can Our Computers Continue To Get Smaller and More Powerful?
Then the rate of improvements fell off a cliff

That's only true if you're only judging it by outright speed, height, etc. Things have continued to improve in terms of efficiency, thrust-to-weight ratio, noise, cleanliness of fuel burn and above all, reliability.

The original RB211 turbofan (the first big fanjet of the type that all modern airliners use) had a total lifetime of 1,000 hours. Nowadays it's >33,000 hours. That's an incredible achievement. In 1970, as a young kid with a keen interest in aviation, I would watch Boeing 707s fly in and out of my local airport, all trailing plumes of black smoke, all whining loudly (and deafeningly, on take-off), and understanding where all the noise protesters that frequently appeared on the news were coming from. Nowadays you don't have that, because noise is just not the problem it was, there's no black smoke, and jets slip in and out of airports really very quietly, when you consider how much power they are producing (which in turn helps them climb away more quickly).

As far as computing is concerned, you're right - there's still plenty of room at the bottom. But the current fabrication technology is reaching its limits. Perhaps jet engine manufacturers in the late 60s couldn't see how they would overcome fundamental limits in materials technology to produce the jets we have today, but they did.

Comment: Re:Legal... sort of (Score 5, Insightful) 178

by GrahamCox (#47674217) Attached to: Hemp Fibers Make Better Supercapacitors Than Graphene
Which is nuts, actually. Hemp is a brilliant raw material with hundreds of practical uses which *should*, if people had any sense of balance, far outweigh the small issue of the cannabinoids. It could probably even be selectively bred to eliminate that aspect, but no, concern about a few potheads sends legislators into a tailspin. This is why we can't have nice things.

Scientists are people who build the Brooklyn Bridge and then buy it. -- William Buckley