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Comment: Re:Mediocre? How about godawful? Terrible? (Score 1) 193

by david.given (#48120183) Attached to: A Critical Look At Walter "Scorpion" O'Brien

For me it was Nicholas Montserrat's The Cruel Sea. A brilliant, brilliant book, but it was clearly written as therapy after a hellish time on the WW2 North Sea convoys, and by god it shows.

Peter Grant books: awesome, waiting for Foxglove Summer to show up. The Expanse: pretty awesome, although the authors have definitely been reading their Neal Asher; who these days pretty much defines the cheerful big-things-exploding-in-space genre.

Never heard of Scorpion. Never heard of the guy in the article. Sounds like I haven't missed much. And if you'll excuse me, I need to get on with Ancillary Sword...

Comment: Re:Disabled (Score 4, Informative) 427

Android devices have a read-write partition and a read-only partition. Out-of-the-box apps go in the read-only partition. There are several reasons for this, one of which is safety --- you can nuke the entire read-write partition and be sure of (a) getting a working factory reset phone and (b) that all user data has been deleted.

If an app's in the read-only partition, then it obviously can't be removed. (Although you can install updates --- the new versions go in the read-write partition and override the read-only one.) All you can do is mark it disabled.

(Of course, if you've rooted your phone, you can remount the read-only partition as read-write and tinker with it to your heart's content. I do this to move updated apps into the read-only partition to save space in the read-write partition. But that only works on rooted phones.)

Comment: Re:BASIC vs. Z80 assembly language (Score 3, Informative) 167

by david.given (#48010685) Attached to: Why the Z-80's Data Pins Are Scrambled
If you're interested in Z80 operating systems, go look at CP/M (seriously: get an emulator, some tools, and write programs for it). It's a fascinating look into just how minimal you can make an operating system and still have something that's not just functional but which spawned, back in the day, a vast ecosystem of tools and software. You suddenly realise just how much fat there is in a modern system (and also why modern systems have all this fat).

Comment: Re:Slashdot Hate Machine (Score 2) 65

by david.given (#47959727) Attached to: New "Crescent Bay" VR Headset Revealed and Demo'd At Oculus Connect
I rather like the StackOverflow moderation system, where it costs _you_ karma to downvote someone else.

In general, I don't think Slashdot's moderation system is effective at promoting interesting discussion. I think the bulk of the problems are the moderation cap at 5, which means there's a very limited dynamic range of interestingness; and there's no visible karma score, which means there's no point in taking the long view --- StackOverflow's system of gamifying karma so that people deliberately try to post good stuff so as to improve their score is total genius.

Plus, of course, the now-ingrained culture of ultra conservatism and whiny hate which permeates the comments section, but that's largely an artifact of the above. Sheesh, even Youtube comments can be better.

I, too, miss the old Slashdot. [sad face]

Comment: Re:The local paper had this tidbit (Score 1) 819

That's happened to me. I have a Macbook Air; it's kinda sharp on the front. The person in the seat in front dropped their seat back really abruptly, with the result that I ended up getting guillotined in the gut by the edge of the laptop. It was painful.

I forget which airline it was --- possibly Swiss; I doubt it was Easyjet, as their seats don't recline.

Comment: Re:One of the most frustrating first-world problem (Score 1) 191

by david.given (#47666437) Attached to: Reversible Type-C USB Connector Ready For Production
You can actually get cables with a USB A connector on both ends. Yes, they're abominations of nature that make about less electrical sense than a mains cable with a plug on both ends, but you can actually buy them. They're typically only needed one some idiot who doesn't know what they're doing designs a piece of kit with the wrong socket. See, for example:

I have one right here on my desk. It connects a cheapo (but effective) battery charger to a USB power supply. The charger has an A socket, and it connects to a standard charger via an AA cable.

I keep meaning to superglue it into the charger to prevent someone connecting two of my computers together and something horrible happening.

Comment: Re:Solaris not well supported by OSS toolchain (Score 1) 183

Because this never works.

What happens instead is that people latch on to some irrelevant detail in your context and the discussion gets instantly derailed in that direction, thus ensuring that your question never gets answered. It's particularly fatal to mention motive, because that's completely subjective. The only way to actually get useful answers to questions these days is to trim the context as ruthlessly as you possibly can.

One day someone needs to write a "How To Answer Questions The Smart Way".

Comment: Re:Write your name with a pen? (Score 1) 82

I think that's the point.

I suspect the reasoning is that one physical copy == one license. By having the physical copy tied to you, by putting your name in it, they ensure you can't pass it on to anyone else, which means the license becomes non-transferrable. That means it's safe for them to give you a digital copy of the book, covered by the same license, in the knowledge that nobody else can claim a digital copy from the same physical book, without buying a new copy.

I would also be entirely unsurprised if each ebook was personalised, containing the image of your signature, so that if you gave a copy to someone else they'd know. I also see no mention of DRM (but the FAQ mentions using Calibre to convert ebooks, which suggests they don't use it).

Comment: Not actually sou (Score 5, Interesting) 77

The Videocore IV on the Raspberry Pi (which totally kicks arse, BTW, it's a beautiful, beautiful processor. Did you know it's dual core?) currently doesn't have an open source compiler that's any good[*] which I'm aware of. I have tried porting gcc, and got a reasonable way into it, but ground to a halt because gcc. I know another guy who's similarly about half-way through an LLVM port. And Volker Barthelmann's excellent vbcc compiler has a VC4 prototype which makes superb code, but that's not open source at all.

Without a compiler, obviously the source isn't much good, although the VC4-specific code is really interesting to look through.

In addition, having done a really brief scan of the docs they've released, this isn't what the article's implying: what we've got here looks like the architecture manual for the QPU and the 3D engine. The QPU is the shader engine. Don't get me wrong, this is awesome, and will allow people to do stuff like compile their own shaders and do an OpenCL port, but I haven't seen any documentation relating to the VideoCore IV processor. The binary blob everyone complains about runs on that.

It does looks like the source dump contains a huge pile of stuff for the VC4, so maybe they're going to release more later. But even incomplete, this is a great step forward, and much kudos to Broadcom for doing this.

[*] I have done a really crap port of the Amsterdam Compiler Kit compiler for the VC4. It generates terrible, terrible code, but I have got stuff running on the Raspberry Pi bare metal. It's all rather ground to a halt because there's still a lot of stuff to figure out in the boot process, but interested parties may wish to visit

Comment: Re:Watch out (Score 1) 99

by david.given (#45694459) Attached to: SpaceX Wins Use of NASA's Launch Pad 39A

Even better --- they've just demonstrated the ability to go to GEO, which is about 14km/s from the Earth's surface. Lunar orbit is only another 2.4km/s, and the moon's surface another 1.6 on top of that!

Chances are that with the technology they have right now, that is, using a modified F9 with the GEO upper stage, they could send a probe on a free-return trajectory to the moon. Or even easier, an impactor. I suspect they won't; Elon Musk appears to have his sights firmly set on the upgraded F9 Heavy and the rocket-landing Dragon, and with that setup you could probably remote land a complete Dragon capsule. I'd be really interested to know what sort of delta vee the Dragon's internal rockets will have...

God made machine language; all the rest is the work of man.