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Comment Re:Documents shared with Google? (Score 1) 178

That's sometimes blurry though. For older mobile phone operating systems, I wasn't the customer of the software vendor, but the hardware vendor that sold me the phone was. It's not obvious to someone buying an Android phone that the manufacturer is not the customer of the OS vendor, and therefore that they are not indirectly the customer. After all, they're handing over money for the device, they'd expect to be the customer.

Comment Re:But I don't want it. (Score 2) 178

The way Android is structured, some apps are in a read-write filesystem and can be uninstalled, some are in 'ROM' (a read-only filesystem in the flash that is only modified when you do a firmware update) and so can't be uninstalled. As of Android 4, they can be hidden from the UI, but they're still there (and there have been instances where 'disabled' apps still had exploitable vulnerabilities).

I'd love to be able to buy an Android tablet with an absolute minimum of things in the ROM image and everything else installed in an upgradeable form.

Comment Re:Great... (Score 1) 520

That's not really true. Both sides had rifles. The British army had more artillery, but didn't have enough support infrastructure to effectively deploy it. About the only thing that the British did have was better training. And most of the British army was occupied in Europe - the USA was not considered a serious priority until long after it was too late.

Comment Re:Duh (Score 1) 165

When you're talking about completely independent jurisdictions then the tax is covered by trade treaties. You either need to pay import / export duties, or there is a treaty that waives them. Taxes in one jurisdiction don't apply to people in another. The situation in the EU, for example, is that member countries agree to waive all import duties on goods from each other, but in exchange they charge VAT on all sales, even those destined for export, at the same rate, and those rates are harmonised such that they don't differ enough between member states to provide a strong economic incentive to buy things from the cheapest one.

When you're talking about a single jurisdiction, it's somewhat different. The states in the USA are explicitly (by the constitution) prohibited from imposing import duties on things coming from other states, so there's no simple way for an individual states to work around the race to the bottom that happens when one state starts having lower sales taxes than another.

Comment Re:Niche market (Score 1) 390

They haven't made it impossible, but they've made some very large barriers to entry. Amazon can afford to maintain replacements for all of the Google applications, and even its own app store. Few other companies can. Using Google-Android is a lot cheaper than using OHA-Android, because you don't have so much in-house development costs. Google doesn't want to prevent Apple dominance to avoid a monopoly, Google wants a monopoly in mobile phone software.

Comment Re:A bunch of spineless wimps... (Score 4, Insightful) 213

A socialist would believe that all of the workers who contributed to Oracle's success should be allowed to share in the results. A capitalist would believe that all of the investors whose capital made that success possible should share in that success. There are several terms for someone who thinks that the founder should be able to get all of the benefit because he's rich, but none of them are very polite.

Comment Re:And there's a whole series of comments at Ars.. (Score 1) 245

Yes, although 15 years ago they'd probably have spec'd out a 64KB chip and then applied pressure to the software team to trim the code until it fitted in 64KB. But, yes, it's very common to have code that needs to be just over a power of two size and it's cheaper to buy the bigger chip than to to try to squeeze the code smaller. Especially for very small sizes (under about 4Mbit) the cost of the packaging is such a dominant factor in the code of the IC that you may not even be able to get the smaller chips for less money.

Comment Re:And there's a whole series of comments at Ars.. (Score 1) 245

One of the more interesting bits of malware I've seen recently ran in the controller for USB keyboards. These things have 128KB of flash, of which about 10KB was free. That was enough for a keylogger that was triggered by certain stimuli (e.g. power just turned on, 'su' typed) to record short segments, and which would dump its buffer into a special USB device plugged into the USB hub on the back of the keyboard. You could install a load of them in an office somewhere and just have a cleaner come around and plug things into the backs as he went around the room.

For a decade or so, flash has been cheap enough to use as a replacement for ROM and the benefits are obvious to a hardware manufacturer. You can delay ROM programming until after final assembly, giving you a shorter time to market and you can do bug fixes in the field. Both of these mean that you want to have a bit more flash capacity than you actually need, because either you don't know the final firmware size when you spec the device, or you might want to add some features later.

Comment Re:And there's a whole series of comments at Ars.. (Score 1) 245

Firewire yes. Firewire can muck around with system RAM directly.

Well, not exactly. It is possible to configure a FireWire controller's DMA access to have full access to the system RAM. Apple does this so that you can use an iPod to get crash dumps (then disables it because it's a security hole, then reopens it in the next release because sysadmins complain that they can't get crash dumps, then disables it because...). You'll typically have an IOMMU between the FireWire chip and the system RAM though, so it's possible for the host to restrict this access.

USB cannot it all has to go via the CPU.

Modern USB controllers also support DMA. If there's a bug in the controller firmware, then this could be exploited to allow device-initiated, rather than driver-initiated, DMA.

Comment Re:Moore's law died already (Score 2) 156

I work quite closely with various parts of the semiconductor industry, but I've not heard anyone say that Moore's law is dead. Transistors are still shrinking, the problem is not that the number of transistors you can stick on an IC is not changing, but that the number you can have powered at once is not dropping much. Each new generation in process technology reduces the size (or, at least, increases yields or reduces costs), but it only has a small impact on the power consumption per transistor. That is why people are talking about 'dark silicon' - you may be able to have 2-4 times as many transistors as a previous generation, but you can only use 1.2 or so times as many at once in the same power / heat budget. This makes a big difference to how you design chips - now you're focussing a lot more on things that accelerate specific applications, because things that give a big speedup sometimes but are unused most of the time are actually beneficial.

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