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Comment Re: Oh Really (Score 4, Informative) 359

I doubt that open source hardware would prevent hardware bugs, but it would provide a way of avoiding backdoors that are intentionally placed. You're absolutely right in that respect.

Use of gate-arrays would make the bugs reprogrammable. And now that we have mobile gate-arrays, performance is actually getting pretty good.

Comment Re:Oh Really (Score 3, Informative) 359

Unfortunately, as you well know, this approach means goodbye to virtually very computing-type device most of us have become accustomed-to.

Maybe you haven't been following gate-array development. There are mobile ones now. They use FLASH to store the program bits. And the rest is CMOS which we know how to power-manage. The gate-arrays of yore were more power-thirsty because nobody cared back then.

Comment There is an alternative (Score 4, Insightful) 310

I have a paper on Open Cars, written with Lother Determann (a Boalt Hall [Berkeley Law] professor). One of the issues I go over is just how fast the hardware in your car goes obsolete, compared to your phone. Manufacturers want embedded net features because they can have a continuing income after you have purchased the car, from wireless fees (the cellular company kicks back fees to the auto manufacturer) and from advertising and content. But you will end up plugging in a phone less than 2 years old instead of the built-in device.

The problem is worse with self-driving computers. Who wants one more than 2 years old? Not even the state authorities who will license them.

Auto manufacturers would like to solve this by having everyone lease their car. An alternative is for the car to have plugs for self-driving and network features, allowing the user more control. The paper has more detail on the social and legal issues.

I have a 2007 Prius, a 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee, and a Trailmanor travel trailer. Obviously I commute in the Prius and save the big SUV for tasks that need it. When I bought the Jeep, I rejected the connected version and went for a model with a dumber radio. I doubt I'm alone in making that choice.

Comment Oh Really (Score 2, Funny) 359

Thank you for this vast work of erudition, anonymous moron.

Someday, perhaps, when you are a pre-adolescent, you may aquire somewhat more knowledge of computers, though probably not enough to make you top-heavy. At that time, you may hear of a miraculous device called a gate-array which makes it possible to craft a running CPU similarly to the way that programmers write software. With this device, someone of greater skill than you will put together a computer that might not be as fast as you like, and might not have as many transistors as you like, and might use more power than you like, but will be capable of running an Open Source CPU with a known-bitstream so that the chance of there being nasties that we're not told about that spy on us built into the CPU die is reduced from today's horrible state (gate-arrays can still have them, but the people who make these nasties don't know in advance where we put the CPU implementation).

The instruction set and currently-fixed hardware features like the MMU and the translation look-aside buffer (a feature implicated today) will be repairable by changing the bitstream.

This will never be as efficient as a fully-custom chip, but it can be good enough. Many of us will be happier using it. And for those of us who require algorithm acceleration (hopefully for better reasons than mining cryptocoins, but that is one example) it will be possible to code it into the system and get the advantages of a hardware implementation without it being so hard.

Comment Just one way to get everything you want (Score 4, Interesting) 359

If you really want an Open Source, after-market bug fixes, and security, the best way to do that is to use not a CPU at all but a programmable gate-array. This also gives you the ability to have evolution in purchased hardware, for example improvement of the instruction set. The problem is finding a gate-array that is fast enough, dense enough, and power-conserving enough.

It would be cool to code your own special-purpose algorithm accelerators in VHDL or Verilog, etc.

This is sort of on the edge of practical, if you have the money to spend. Not as fast, not as powerful, uses more electricity, infinitely flexible. Certainly there would be some good research papers, etc., in building one.

Comment Re:SHOCKED! (Score 2) 177

The one actually somewhat surprising aspect is that it is, apparently, a 3rd party ad machine.

Obviously, Amazon's little surveillance puck isn't in your house as a favor to you; but, unlike other advertising outfits, Amazon also sells a fairly gigantic amount of stuff, some house brand; all presumably more or less profitable for them based on the difference between the price they pay their vendor and the price you pay them.

Given that, it isn't necessarily to be expected that Amazon would offer the ability to buy 'promotional consideration' directly; rather than using the ad space to try to tilt purchases in whatever direction is most profitable in their capacity as a retailer(with vendors being able to buy ad space indirectly, by offering Amazon lower prices; but not to purchase it outright).

With something like Google; it's much less surprising because they have very little first-party demand for advertising: a bit of cross-promotion of the search engine by the browser and vice-versa; a few cellphones and chromebooks you can buy from them; but certainly nowhere near enough to consume all the advertising slots; so 3rd party ads are obvious. Amazon doesn't have too much house brand stuff; but one assumes that its margins on some of what it sells are higher than on the rest; so it could consume its own advertising space by promoting that; or encouraging purchases on Amazon rather than elsewhere.

Comment Re:won't affect "average users" (Score 2) 375

Nobody except the admins care if it gets slower; but I suspect a somewhat broader circle of people will care if it gets more expensive.

A fair chunk of the internet is mostly profitable because VMs are cheap and low commitment; and shoveling out some database backed idiocy is relatively cheap and mature. That's about the worst place you could put an "we have to implement the fix because you could break the hypervisor otherwise; but it takes a nasty bite out of databases and I/O heavy stuff" announcement.

Whatever Intel's carefully curated 'average user' does on their desktop; odds are excellent that they spend their time online hammering on a bunch of moderately database heavy workloads that live in VMs.

Comment Re: Such a shame... (Score 1) 110

Depends on the context: the tech is undeniably cool(I picked one up when I heard they were getting axed just to play with that); but Microsoft was uneven in exploiting those cool capabilities and the device gained a rather tarnished reputation back when it was a mandatory pack-in as part of Microsoft's "Um, Xbox becomes all-things living room dominance hub?" scheme at launch.

If you want what it does it was quite competitive indeed; but otherwise it was pretty much a $100 and mandatory microphone. Given the grim history of failure among optional console peripherals that never cracked the "our game won't support it because nobody owns one"/"why buy one when no games use it? problem it isn't hard to see Microsoft's incentive; but that doesn't change the fact that they failed; and until they backpedaled on the issue it was a pretty substantial increase in Xbox price without commensurate benefit.

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