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Comment Re:Probably the home router... (Score 3, Informative) 574

As it stands, your carier does NAT themselves and gives your router one IP address, typically in the address space. Your home router then does another layouer of NAT, and gives internal devices their own IP address range in the 1902.168.1.0/16 address space.

Not where I live, and that sounds quite limiting! Thank ${DEITY}, ISPs here in Finland assign their customers genuine public IPv4 addresses, usually via DHCP. Typically, you can even get several of them – the maximum on a consumer connection could be something like 5. (I’m using 2 right now.) Only something like the port 25 (SMTP) is blocked for inbound connections so you’re free to run a personal web server, SSH box, VPN to your home network, etc.

Finnish cellular carriers – as opposed to the actual fiber/copper/cable ISPs – have a different practice, though: they will usually NAT the 3G/4G customers by default, which is quite understandable, as you generally do not want inbound connections to a cellphone. Still, at least my carrier (Saunalahti) lets advanced customers choose a different APN which will give a public IPv4 address even for a 3G modem or a cellphone, which is quite nice and handy as well for some situations.

Comment Re:By Year... (Score 1) 219

Applications (Office, Photoshop, etc) have a very short shelve life. Anything over a couple of years old is useless. Languages (Perl, PHP, Ruby); throw away after a decade or so. It differs though; old C books may still apply, old Java books less so. Theory (algorithms, methodologies); should be good for a long, long time.

Manuals for old, unique (non-PC) hardware platforms, peripherals, and programming environments may still have relevance to them, though.

There’s always the retrocomputing/historical angle where you’d want to preserve books such as a register-level hardware reference explaining the capabilities of an old 8-bit home computer model for an aspiring programmer, or a system administration guide for an old minicomputer, or programming manuals (entry-level or not) for such systems. Or user manuals for the seminal applications which were driving the sales of such systems.

Also: some people are very interested in preserving old product catalogs with pictures and technical information of what was available for such systems back in the day.

Comment Re:So... no separation between system and userspac (Score 5, Informative) 335

It was also single-user, was it not?

That is correct. Single-user designs were the norm with personal computers of the era. There are some ways around this (, for example) but they're sort of limited.

The lack of memory protection is due to the first models being designed around the plain Motorola 68000 CPU, which lacks a memory-management unit (MMU). Later models were available with beefier and more feature-rich processors from the 680x0 series, some of the including an MMU. You could also buy add-on “turbo cards” (processor cards taking over the functions of the main CPU, effectively replacing it with a faster one.) But by then it was too late. The OS relies heavily on shared libraries and message passing in flat, shared, unprotected memory space.

Otherwise, the Amiga hardware platform and AmigaOS – the first model/version having been released in 1985 – included concepts such as preemptive multitasking, windowed GUI toolkit in the system ROM (no “text mode” at all), overlapping “screens” in different resolutions and bit depths, hardware blitter and DMA-based I/O (including multichannel sampled stereo sound), drivers for devices and filesystems, the “AutoConfig” system for add-on devices (fulfilling the same role as PnP did later in the Wintel world), 8-bit ISO Latin-1 character encoding as standard, windowed command-line shells, shell scripting, inter-process scripting (ARexx), an OS-provided framework of multimedia “datatypes” (handlers/decoders/players for common file types), scalable fonts, clipboard, speech synthesizer as a standard OS feature, etc.

Ignoring Linux and OS/2 for a moment, in some ways it felt the Wintel camp only caught up ten years later when Windows 95 was released to the masses, and at that point, both the OS and the “IBM-compatible” PC hardware platform were still missing some key features and novel ideas that made the AmigaOS so great and elegant in its day.

Comment Re:5 1/4 HD's (Score 1) 195

One of the Compaq mid-tower lines used those drives. Quantum Bigfoot. I worked at Computer City at the time, and every time one of those towers came in for service, it was for a bad drive. [...] I always wondered if the problem was that the size of the platters just made them too unstable, or if the manufacturing process had flaws.

Quantum BigFoots (some early models) had a known data corruption problem which could be prevented (altogether, or from getting worse) by applying a firmware uprage from the revision A01.02 to A01.03, or later. Alas, a later version of the firmware cannot fix a drive which already has corrupted areas on its platter: it can only prevent further damage.

Comment A couple of semi-useful use cases (Score 1) 359

I wouldn't pay much extra specifically for getting a touch screen on an ordinary laptop, but if it's there, I don't mind. (I recently bought an Asus laptop with one but it wasn't a factor in that purchase at all.)

There are two use cases where I've found the laptop touch screen kind of useful:

1) Developing and testing touch screen apps, or ideas for those, for touch-screen based devices which are not laptops. Pretty much a no-brainer. It's kind of neat to be able to do that on a your ordinary, "serious" machine even if you're never actually going to use the app that way, outside testing.

2) One-handed browsing sessions. (Yeah, but no - not necessarily only those. More like browsing something while eating or enjoying a hot cuppa with your other hand holding a sandwich, or the cup.) Actual tablets do this use case better, but if all you've got in front of you is an ordinary laptop and you simply want a new screenful to read, would like to follow a link or zoom in a bit or pan around, poking the screen with your non-occupied fingers is sometimes the most straightforward and effortless thing. Especially if it is also your non-dominant hand which you don't normally use for controlling the mouse pointer.

Comment Re:CG NAT is not new! (Score 2) 338

Your cell carrier doesn't count as an ISP for your smartphone? You don't get a publicly routable address on any cell network I've used.

At least Saunalahti in Finland offers publicly routable IPv4 addresses to their mobile customers. You have to activate the feature in the self-service portal and use the correct APN so generally only those who know what they're doing would do it, but it is all documented on their website. The feature is free of charge.

Comment Similar projects in other EU countries (Score 1) 178

Similar community-driven projects have been carried out in other EU countries, such as Finland.

Here’s one such example from the region that geographically centers around Töysä – a small rural community of 3,000 people – and its neighboring towns/municipalities, some of which are a bit larger, but not much:

Verkko-osuuskunta Kuuskaista (The Network Co-operative Kuuskaista)

6net+ core network (a PowerPoint presentation)

Comment Re:Please include flash! (Score 1) 181

And yes, YouTube's autoplay is very annoying, espescially if you open the video in a new tab. I wish I knew how to just have it disabled globally.

There’s a GreaseMonkey “user script” called YousableTubeFix. If installed, it helps getting rid of many YouTube annoyances – including the completely needless autoplay feature.

Comment Re:Under-appreciated (Score 1) 704

Under-appreciated, you say?

On CP/M:

  • WordStar, one of the most influental word processors of its time. Even today, several character-mode text editors make use some of the shortcuts which originated on WordStar.
  • The CP/M operating system itself, which was quite popular back in the day and gave inspiration to PC-DOS/MS-DOS.

On the Commodore 64:

  • GEOS by Berkeley Softworks. Who would have thought the venerable C64 could host a GUI system almost making it comparable to the first Macintosh models (not quite, but suprisingly close, given the 8-bit processor, memory limits etc.) There was a host of serious productivity applications for this environment.
  • PageFox: a desktop publishing system for the C64.
  • Microrhythm: a digital drum machine based on the undocumented sample playback features of the SID chip.
  • The SID audio chip, which was way more feature-rich than its competitors of the time, and in some ways comparable to a “real” synthesizer, giving actual character and resonance to computer music, instead of just beeps and blips. Its creator, Bob Yannes, later went on to found Ensoniq, a company which designed and manufactured actual musical instruments (keyboards, samplers, etc.) The SID was a unique piece of audio hardware which enabled the musical software of the C64 to do its magic – and its legacy still lives on in the form of numerous emulators, vast sound archives and libraries (such as HVSC), custom-built musical instruments based on the chip (such as the SIDStation), etc. This is one of those cases where a piece of hardware has been inspirational and influental and enabled a number of software applications which would have been pointless if it weren’t for the hardware.

On the Amiga platform:

  • (The Ultimate) SoundTracker by Karsten Obarski, later followed by the even more popular, more advanced clones or derivatives: NoiseTracker and ProTracker. These started the whole computer music “tracker” genre as we know it today – with four sound channels in a stereo arrangement and digital instrument samples, no less.
  • Audio Master, one of the first digital audio sample editors for an affordable personal computer. Supported stereo sound as well. (Often accompanied by inexpensive audio digitizers attached to the printer port.)
  • Deluxe Paint by Dan Silva of Electronic Arts – the first paint program for the Amiga. Taking a different approach from its predecessors on other platforms (which were mostly toys), the Deluxe Paint was a very powerful bitmap graphics art package, featuring advanced multi-color blitter-enhanced free-form brush handling features and color cycling effects, and used for creating graphics for innumerable games and demos – also when developing for other platforms than the Amiga. Later gained animation features as well. Still a great paint package for creating graphics for any old computer with paletted graphics modes. Also introduced the EA IFF format, which was then adopted to the Amiga platform wholesale as the standard structured format for many types of files. It was later also adopted to Windows in a bit modified form (RIFF – for example, the so-called “wav files” are in RIFF format), but not as widely.
  • Photon Paint: A paint program making use of the photorealistic 4096-color “HAM” mode.
  • Real 3D. One of the first CSG solid modeling ray-tracing packages for personal computers. Supported smooth-curved quadric surfaces (instead of the jaggy polygons of its contemporary competition), calculated reflections and transparency in materials in a physically accurate, realistic way (a lens would actually function as a lens), and made good use of the Amiga’s 4096-color “HAM” graphics mode.
  • NewTek’s Video Toaster: the first studio-quality genlock, video titling / paint box / CGI / visual effects / animation toolkit, and video mixing system, implemented on top of an inexpensive, generic-purpose multimedia computer platform with the aid of the supplied video mixing hardware. (Also gave birth to the LightWave 3D modeler/renderer.)
  • Scala Multimedia – the versatile video titling and info TV application, tightly synchronized with the vertical refresh of the TV-compatible video modes, so you could get absolutely silky-smooth, professional-looking scrolling and wipes. (Unlike in PowerPoint etc. where they will always stutter.)
  • The AmigaOS itself: the first widely available, mouse-driven, windowed, pre-emptively multitasking GUI operating system, which came standard with an affordable personal computer. One of the unique features of the AmigaOS and its supporting hardware was the ability to run applications in multiple different graphics modes (pixel clocks, bit depths) yet display them at same time on the screen.
  • The Amiga platform itself: the first true “multimedia” computer which was released before the term “multimedia” was coined. (Pre-emptive multitasking, multi-channel stereo sound based on digital sound sampling and DMA playback, speedy hardware blitter and a simple co-processor, photorealistic-at-its-best graphics and animation capabilities, compatibility with TV standards, built-in support for synchronizing its video raster to an external video source with the help of a genlock, etc.) On other platforms of the same era, these features would not have been available to the software applications.

Probably forgot to list all too many interesting things, but there you have it. For some applications, I find it difficult to separate the hardware from the actual application. Ground-breaking computer applications often needed never-before-seen groundbreaking computer hardware to support them, which was mostly the case with the Amiga, for example.

Comment Re:If it ain't broken... (Score 1) 160

I can't get over how fast that client is... after sitting through broadcast Teletext and waiting for pages to cycle round, it's interesting to see how much more usable the system becomes when it's responsive.

Many modern TV sets (from mid-to-late 1990s and onwards) and DVB set-top boxes can cache all Teletext magazines – including subpages – which makes browsing the content a breeze.

Comment Re:If it ain't broken... (Score 1) 160

The DVB standard ETSI ETS 300 743 defines a method for transmitting Teletext data over a DVB (MPEG-TS) stream. This method is used in the DVB countries which maintain the old Teletext service alongside with the digital broadcasts. DVB set-top boxes and TV sets with an integrated DVB receiver/decoder commonly include a Teletext browser.

UK has chosen to abolish Teletext in favor of an MHEG-5 based information service – known as the “red button” service by the viewers. However, this does not mean it wouldn't have been technically possible to carry the full Ceefax Teletext service over DVB broadcasts in the UK as well: the local broadcasting companies just chose not to do it.

Broadcasters in some countries – such as Finland and Italy – have experimented with providing a similar information service through the more ambitious, Java-based MHP, instead of MHEG-5. But in Finland, at least, these experiments have failed due to unenthusiastic response from the STB makers and the general public. (The MHP services were probably introduced at a too early stage, and it was partially a PR failure as well.) Instead, regular Teletext service is still being broadcast on many local DVB channels using the method defined in ETSI ETS 300 743.

Comment Re:Small Market (Score 2) 284

I wouldn't think there would be a big market for movies subtitled in Finnish - even in Finland I think most people can understand other languages (like English, or French, or German or the other Scandinavian languages)

Nearly all foreign TV shows and movies which are shown on Finnish TV channels are subtitled in Finnish – that’s the norm here. (Dubbing is normally never used here except for the content intended for kids under reading age. Also, the narrated sequences in some documentaries are sometimes re-narrated in Finnish whereas their on-screen dialogue remains subtitled. But those are pretty much the only exceptions.)

The same practices go for actual movies seen in a movie theater, and the shows and movies released on DVDs or Blu-Rays.

DivX Finland is mostly providing subtitles for the purposes of watching shows and movies which are not (yet) made available in Finland through official channels, or – as it might be the case with some more obscure foreign TV shows, for example – never will.

Some individuals who are fluent in some particular foreign language – usually English in the Finnish context – take pride in watching shows or movies of that language without subtitling. Yet, the norm here – which is also reflected in the default settings of the set-top boxes and TV sets – is that subtitles for translation are always on and visible. (The local TV channels show a lot of foreign content which specifically calls for translation. It just wouldn’t fly if they tried to provide it to the Finnish-speaking audience “as is”, with no effort to translate. People expect the translations to be there.)

Some Finnish-language shows may also have subtitles in Finnish for the benefit of the hard of hearing. But these subtitles, which are not about translation but transcription, are never seen by the normal folks as you need to fiddle with the settings of the TV to receive them. And only those who have the need will want to see them on their screen anyway. (There is also no legal requirement to provide such Finnish-on-Finnish transcription service, so the availability of such special-needs subtitles is pretty much limited to some select shows produced by YLE, the local public broadcaster.)

Comment Computers in Finnish schools (80s and early 90s) (Score 1) 632

I was born in 1976 so I got to experience the rise and fall of inexpensive mainstream 8-bit and 16/32-bit microcomputers during my school years. Perhaps more significantly, I also got to experience “home computing” as a hobby, rather than as daily necessity. Also, I belong to one of the generations which were – already before entering school – significantly more knowledgeable about computers than their parents. I suspect this is a condition which may no longer necessarily hold true with the more recent generations...

I entered the first grade of elementary school in September 1983. I also got my first computer, the Commodore 64, for the Christmas of that same year. It was not my first experience of personal computers, however: during the previous year, I had already got my feet wet on my friend’s VIC-20. (My friend was an enthusiastic home computer hobbyist and he had taught me some BASIC programming, so I knew a little bit about that, too – even before entering the school.)

As far as my school was concerned, computers didn’t really exist. They where nowhere to be seen in the lower grades (1–6). They just didn’t belong to the curriculum for the smaller kids. Most adults – including school teachers – were only trying to come to terms with the rather frightening prospect they will yet need to learn about these devil’s machines before retiring... The kids of my generation, though, were eager to get a home computer for themselves during those years, which was in no small part because they filled roughly the same spot as game consoles today. But home computers were also favored by hobbyists and tinkerers, of course, and I had the hobbyist/tinkerer mindset about it. Games were only of secondary interest.

After a few years, my C64 setup had grown to include the Commodore 1541 diskette drive (I started out with the Datasette), the MPS-801 dot matrix printer, and a copy of the GEOS graphical desktop environment – even a Commodore 1351 mouse, which was a rather rarely seen peripheral for the C64. Beginning from the 3rd grade, I was actually using geoWrite (the standard word processor which came with GEOS) for some of my school work. The teachers were a bit baffled at receiving dot-matrix printouts on fan-fold paper from a 3rd grader but generally their response was pretty good. On occasion, though, I was not allowed to use the computer because the teacher insisted typing would not serve the secondary purpose of the writing assignments: honing ones skills in cursive handwriting. This was somewhat irritating considering I was rather more inclined to write in block letters, anyway (and continue to do so to this date...)

Our class was assigned a class magazine project both during the 5th and the 6th grade. I brought my entire Commodore 64 setup in school to make it possible to design the layout of the pages (partially) on a computer. My Finnish teacher – who has now sadly passed away – was so excited about getting this primitive form of computer-based desktop publishing in her class she called the local paper and they made a story about it, with a picture and all. The second year I did this I also brought in an Osborne I and another dot matrix printer which my dad had salvaged from getting binned at his workplace. I let another kid type in articles using WordStar on this other computer.

By the time I entered the 7th grade (1989), I found out the upper level elementary school had two computer labs for teaching “automatic data processing”. These were the only classrooms with computers in them in the whole of school. (Later on, the music class and the art class received a computer each as well.) The older one of the two computer labs was already considered obsolete as it was only equipped with Apple IIs. The current focus of the computer classes was on MS-DOS and IBM-compatible PCs. The typing class, however, used the Apples for typing exercises. Otherwise they just sat there unused. (The problem was, how do you gracefully get rid of a couple of dozen of old computers which were bought with taxpayers’ money? It was a bit delicate question – even politically loaded – so the Apples remained there for the time being.)

The primary computer lab was equipped with Amstrad PC1640s. There was even a LAN built on LANtastic and Artisoft’s custom network adapters. It was all moderately OK for a basic MS-DOS teaching environment but these PC/XT clones were also quickly becoming obsolete, and they were nothing to write home about. Especially as by that time I had purchased an Amiga 500 which run rings around the computers in school in just about all respects (it had a better OS, better graphics, actual sound instead of beeps, multitasking, 3.5" microfloppies instead of 5¼" floppies, etc.)

Continuing the trend set in the lower grades I brought the Amiga to the school for a few weeks to display its graphics and sound capabilities. The teacher was impressed – especially about the sound and music.

So what was taught to us in these elementary school computer classes? The course started out with the teacher explaining the basic theory pertaining to the operation of the computer. This was basically done in a fairly traditional way, utilizing a block diagram and arrows which explained the roles of the processor, memory, instructions, input, output, storage, etc. After this introduction, we moved on to practical use of computers, which was... MS-DOS commands. There was a bit of programming, too (I guess it was in QBASIC), but only a bit – it was already deemed quite unnecessary for an ordinary computer user. Quite a lot of time was assigned to learning the basics of the spreadsheet and the word processing components of Microsoft Works (this was the text-mode MS-DOS version.)

The MS-DOS versions of Deluxe Paint and Deluxe Paint Animation (originally an Amiga paint program) were also available and used in these classes. Because me and my friend already knew pretty much everything taught in the course and could easily figure out the parts we didn’t, we actually spent most of our time designing animations in Deluxe Paint. So those classes were sort of useless for us. But it was fun times anyway since otherwise we would have had to sit in some other class... and of course there were some new things I picked up about IBM-compatible PCs in general, as I was an Amiga user at that time and didn’t have much hands-on experience on them.

The teacher also run weekly computer club nights for those interested in computers. Many attended, yours truly included. One of the highlights of these club meetings was when the teacher made us carry one of the PCs to the school library. We were then instructed to make a phone call from one of the computers in the lab to the computer in the library, using modems and terminal emulators. This was the first time I was chatting away in real time using mere text, with another person typing on a different computer at the other end. That other person happened to be someone who owned a modem himself. After a quick text-based chat we discussed some more face to face, and he introduced me to the world of BBSes. I was soon a modem-owner myself, which was perhaps the most useful thing which came out of those club nights and the computer classes in general.

The primary computer lab had a separate walled office for the teacher. There was a curious thing sitting in that small room, taking up lots of space. It was a large machine the size of a refrigerator. And there was this larger machine behind it which resembled an overly tall chest freezer. And to top it all, there were these strange displays and keyboards scattered around the tables the back of the class room, gathering dust in there. They were definitely not PCs but we were never told to switch them on during the classes. So what was that all about?

Turned out it was an IBM System/34, with a refrigerator-sized line printer and half a dozen IBM 5251 display terminals. The teacher explained to me the school had received this setup as a donation from the local asphalt company. This was some time in the beginning of the 1980s. Then he pointed at the wall. There was this picture hanging on there – a yellowed cutout from a local paper documenting the happy event. In the picture, the manager of the said company was shaking hands with the school officials, smiling. So... the local company got good PR and a place where they could dump their obsolete hardware (for free). The school got a truckload of (old, obsolete, difficult to manage) computer equipment. What could be a better deal? ;)

Needless to say, the System/34 was a rather demanding environment to operate for an elementary school teacher. Even booting it up (from an 8" floppy, no less) took some 15 minutes. And the skills ordinary school kids could learn on those terminals, using with the left-over software originally used by the asphalt company, probably weren’t easily transferable to the modern PCs. So, rather unfortunately (but understandably), there was not too much love for it in the school... it was just sitting there, taking up space.

Which raises the question... why was it still there? The same reason why there was that other computer lab full of Apple IIs! Back in those days it was not politically easy to get rid of once-expensive, still impressive looking computer equipment without rubbing some people the wrong way. Especially as the system was originally given to the school as a generous donation. (The teacher finally managed to make the system disappear some years into the 1990s... a bit of a shame really. I only saw it running once – during one of those computer club nights when I specifically asked the teacher to boot it up, just to see how it works. But once we got to see some life on the terminals, the teacher couldn’t find the folder where he had written down the login password... so we never got to see anything more than the login prompt. For the better or worse, that was my one and only experience of the System/34...)

Once I graduated from the elementary school, I started the upper secondary school (grades 10 to 12, which prepare students for university.) This school shared some of the resources and facilities with the local elementary school and used the same computer lab and even the same teacher – despite being located in another building a couple of kilometers away.

The computer labs were now upgraded a bit – the old Amstrad PC1640s were being replaced with generic 386 PCs with SVGA cards and the Apples were gone, being replaced by the PC1640s. During this time I was an active user of dial-up BBS systems. One thing led to another, and soon I was also one of these three guys running the school’s semi-official dial-up BBS... which we founded once we got a permission and some funds from the principal.

We based the system on an advanced messaging board software called BBBS. It was also accessible from the school-wide LAN (the school now had computers in the lobby and in the library). It soon attained a handful of active users – among them also girls who were a couple of years younger than my age. This was a somewhat surprising development for the time. Or then again, not so surprising – it was the discussions and the social side of it all, not so much technology and tinkering, as it was for the guys. These were the first generations of girls naturally drawn to online discussion boards right at the school age.

The computer lab classes were not compulsory in the upper secondary school, either but I took them to fill the schedule. This time, we were actually made to program in the class – even using a “proper” compiled language: Borland Turbo Pascal. But with some negotiation I managed to change this to C for my part and did my project in that language, instead, just because I thought it was a more interesting and capable language. Another one of our assignments was simply about figuring out a project which would somehow involve using the computer and writing a detailed report about it – which had to be done on the computer as well, of course.

During my last couple of years in the school (1993–1995), the younger school kids had been granted access to the Internet during their computer classes using a dial-up modem connection. As it turned out, this was the beginning of the end for the dial-up BBS online world and the hobbyist computing which were both to be replaced by the Internet and a generic mainstream interest in computers as communication tools.

Comment Re:Similar story about Commodore? (Score 1) 307

I recall a rumor that Sun Microsystems was once interested in purchasing Commodore. Sun was supposedly interested in the home and entry workstation marketplace, and wanted the Amiga line for themselves. I wonder if there was any truth to it.

Just to complete the circle, according to Brian Bagnall’s book On The Edge – The Spectacular Rise and Fall of Commodore , Jobs and Wozniak were, at one point in 1976, negotiating with Jack Tramiel about Commodore buying out Apple (and the Apple I design) to serve as the technological basis for what would later become the Commodore PET; Commodore’s first foray on the personal computer market. But the deal fell through because Tramiel wanted a bargain and he felt Jobs was asking way too much money for his garage company. At the same time, Mike Markkula started investing to Apple so things never got any further on that front.

Chuck Peddle and his team were already working on the PET at that time but Commodore wanted to have something to show on the January 1977 CES so they were short on time. Hacking their vision of a personal computer on top of a pre-existing 6502-based design, such as Wozniak’s Apple I kit, would have bought them some more time. In the end, Peddle’s team managed to put together a working prototype for the CES and Commodore was the first company to announce a personal computer for the mass-market. This created tremendous interest in the field and it was quite a breakthrough for personal computing, but according to the book, the January 1977 CES prototype was barely working and they only got it boot up properly on the very last day of the show. They still had a lot to do before it morphed into the actual production model for which they would start taking in orders later that year.

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