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* Posts by ThomH

2488 posts • joined 18 Jun 2009

SQLite creator crucified after code of conduct warns devs to love God, and not kill, commit adultery, steal, curse...

ThomH
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Not the first piece of absurd preaching to come from the SQLite team

To quote the FAQ:

(6) Is SQLite threadsafe?

Threads are evil. Avoid them.

SQLite is threadsafe. We make this concession since many users choose to ignore the advice given in the previous paragraph.

After I've realised why it's evil not to throw away 75%+ of the processing power available to my application, I'll worry about the other strictures emanating from the SQLite team.

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Happy 60th birthday, video games. Thank William Higinbotham for your misspent evenings

ThomH
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It has: two player objects, either of which can be stretched or automatically repeated a few times. Other moving objects are two missiles (one for each player) and a ball. There's also a background, for which the programmer supplies 20 bits, for repetition twice or so that the right side is a mirror of the left. If memory serves, the player objects can be triggered multiple times in a line. All in a glorious 128 colours (in NTSC, anyway).

The programmer is perpetually racing the beam, i.e. generating state changes in the graphics hardware during the active display to effect immediate changes. Think of the Amiga Copper, or the Atari 8-bit computers' ANTIC but all directly on the 6507. It's not quite as hard as it sounds, as there's an address you can hit to sleep until the end of the line and thereby restore your phase with the frame; you don't need to come up with exact-cycle loops if you don't want, just make sure they're short enough, that you wait at the end, and that you remember to signal vertical sync. Horizontal's automatic, but vertical is up to you.

So Pong is a use case they had directly in mind, as is Combat. Pitfall is starting to get pretty clever, with the actual player, the other player image being the scorpion, alligators and logs, and the sprite and missiles filling in for ropes and ladders, while altering the background every line for the trees and ground. And Solaris is just plain wizardry.

The thinking was obviously that the main thing that defines a video game is, you know, the video part. So the programmable component can do the stuff they used to design circuits for in terms of arranging bits of video. Then there's some time in the border for gameplay. Obviously life gets easier once there's enough storage and bandwidth for a static data structure to describe the display rather than requiring a function that produces it, but there wasn't in 1977. It's actually a pretty brilliant design for the era, all constraints considered.

Like many of us, Pacman may have been a bit of a duffer but his missus was a lot more attractive (albeit slightly less so in that example, where the emulator author or video capture card has decided that the best way to resample a high frame rate is, ummm, to throw a bunch of them away).

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GitHub.com freezes up as techies race to fix dead data storage gear

ThomH
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Re: Cloud based services

For GitHub consumers this is one of the lesser cloud deployments since cloning a Git repository by default involves making a full local copy, and all operations are performed locally and then merely synced to remote.

Git doesn't even enforce any sort of topology — e.g. an international company that used GitHub could have local copies of all repositories that act as remote for all local developers and which sync up to GitHub from that single point; GitHub would then be the thing that permits cross-site work, and the authoritative copy.

What you lose is GitHub's additions to Git: the pull requests, the issue tracking, etc. Or, in this case, I guess you can still see slightly historic versions of those things effectively in read-only mode.

So I don't think I'm ready to jump on the cloud-is-a-bad-thing bandwagon in this particular use case. It's slightly more of an adjunct rather than a full solution, but the downage needn't be an absolute stop to work like it would be if, say, you were in the business of modifying and reviewing legal documents, and were just keeping them all on One Drive/Google Drive/DropBox/whatever, which vanished from sight.

So, ummm, just think about what you're paying for and be sensible?

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Finally. The palm-sized Palm phone is back. And it will, er, save you from your real smartphone

ThomH
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Re: Nothing like trashing a product

My name's Guybrush Threepwood, and I want to be a pirate!

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Does Google make hardware just so nobody buys it?

ThomH
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Re: Another theory

Apple's failure to use any anti-competitive practices to expand its tablet market probably helps too.

Except maybe that time it took part in an illegal monopoly in book pricing. Which was investigated. And led to appropriate penalties.

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UK space comes to an 'understanding' with Australia as Brexit looms

ThomH
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@Jess Re: does the landlord refund you all the money you gave to pay the rent?

Per the "purpose of annexation, degree of annexation" Holland v Hodgson test, I don't think the law would give you the right to repayment for a bathroom you fitted as it's very hard to believe that a bathroom is a chattel and not part of the property.

Of course, in the case of Brexit the UK is taking part of the property with them, so possibly that's another analogy that's fallen apart upon closer inspection.

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Commodore 64 makes a half-sized comeback

ThomH
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As per the article, this wasn't crowdfunded. The only people who contributed to the project were paid employees. The C64 Mini went on sale in early 2018 as promised, is widely available, and you could order one from your usual online retailer today if you wanted.

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Android Phones are 10: For once, Google won fair and square

ThomH
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That's kind of a limited view; as per the article Android started from nothing in a mainstream market dominated by Nokia and various Windows Mobiles, both already smart enough to offer browsers and cameras and apps. It then won because it was better than Symbian or Windows Mobile.

Apple was never number one by sales volume, and never will be. The 90% of the market that isn't Apple has just evolved from flip phones to Android smart phones.

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Apple's dark-horse macOS Mojave is out (and it's already pwned)

ThomH
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Re: My iMac is too old

I think it's more like subpixel antialiasing being a special case when compositing — i.e. it needs to be disregarded if any sort of transform is applied, or I guess you could give up on GPU composition and re-render the whole thing but that sounds unlikely — and Apple no longer being willing to expend the effort. iOS has never had subpixel rendering.

Excuses being made, those of us that long ago used OS X on a non-LCD screen, also with no subpixel antialiasing, will probably feel nostalgic if presented with a non-retina LCD for the vague sense that somebody has snuck in and applied Vaseline to the screen.

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ThomH
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Re: The pretend hack is fake

Have you any evidence for that assertion?

I'll probably update my machine to Mojave within the next week or so, but not because I imagine it to be the new pinnacle of computer security.

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Remember when Apple's FaceTime stopped working years ago? Yeah, that was deliberate

ThomH
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If you have a 3GS then you don't have a front-facing camera. So FaceTime has never, ever been available to you.

It's really only iPhone 4 customers who have been artificially deprived.

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The grand-plus iPhone is the new normal – this is no place for paupers

ThomH
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As recently as 2016 I was sitting in a Wetherspoons waiting patiently for somebody in an unremarkable part of London Zone 5 when a young man of questionable affluence joined his family and the next table and launched immediately into his big news with a "you'll never guess what. They accepted me!", to much admiration, surprise and celebration.

A couple of minutes later, I finally got enough pieces to work out what he was talking about. He'd been accepted onto a contract plan for an iPhone.

I'm a big fan of mine for reasons not worth relitigating, but it is such a trophy phone for some that it's apparently worthy of going out on a financial limb. I don't claim to understand that. Especially not as recently as 2016, a long way past when Apple was the only consumer premium phone brand.

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Google is 20, Chrome is 10, and Microsoft would rather ignore the Nokia deal's 5th birthday

ThomH
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Re: Maybe...

Not spending the better part of the decade before the iPhone trying to cram the Windows desktop onto a tiny mobile screen for stylus prodding might have been an even better idea. "But, we added an 'OK' button in the title bar!" is not an especially convincing argument that you've seriously evaluated how to provide a usable mobile interface.

Or not engaging in so much effort to tie web browsing, including your browser code, to desktop Windows that you're unable to offer a decent mobile browser.

Or not being so incredibly arrogant that you dismiss new competitors out of hand, based on a paternal attempt to dictate what "doesn't appeal to business customers".

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Do I hear two million dollars? Apple-1 fossil goes on the block, cassettes included

ThomH
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I guess that once there are sufficiently few of an item that only 1% of the potential audience can be served, they'll attract the sort of prices that only 1% can afford to pay?

They're not necessarily investing, they just have enough money that they can.

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ThomH
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Re: On the bright side...

Jobs' hatred of fans makes some vintage Apple products susceptible to the other type of meltdown.

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Apple leaks rekindle some hope for iPhone 'supercycle' this year

ThomH
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Re: My 6s will keep being my phone

Checking Amazon, Apple's lightning earphones are now hovering around £13; cheap Bluetooth sets are below £20; replacement dongles to give you an ordinary headphone input, which you could glue to an existing pair of headphones to avoid one-more-thing-to-lose syndrome, are there for around a tenner.

So all the less convenient than just having a headphone socket options are at least cheap. I'm also still on my 6s, where the lightning socket is now a bit dodgy but the headphone socket carries on like a champ.

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ThomH
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Re: Can I be an analyst?

I think the next big round of iPhone sales will be whenever an edge-to-edge display makes it into the budget models given the proportion of those surveyed who claimed that the increased cost of the X was what left them where they were. It's also a couple of years or so since the first few edgeless phones arrived, making any with bezels look a little old-fashioned regardless of manufacturer.

I say these things thinking about what average consumers seem to want; I'm not averse to a bezel myself.

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ThomH
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Re: Apple will end up like Nokia

Nah; Nokia-Symbian's issue was complete panic at the first sign of competition ― Symbian is a separate company building a manufacturer-agnostic platform! Well, okay, it's not any more, but the Symbian Foundation will remain the steward of all development, as an independent and community-oriented body, and it'll all be open source! Well, okay, not really, but it'll still do the licensing! No, it won't even do that, and it's not open source any more! But it doesn't matter because we're transitioning via Qt to Maemo! By which, of course, we meant to the Maemo-Moblin MeeGo merge!

Apple is far more persistent/stubborn (delete as per your prejudice) in its endeavours.

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Apple tipped to revive forgotten Macbook Air and Mac mini – report

ThomH
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I want it to be true

With appropriate expectations — that it'll be expensive, and that nothing inside the box will be upgradeable — I would still love a modern Mac Mini, which to me would be a Mac with reasonable performance to which I can just bring whichever keyboard I want, without having to add yet another to the plentiful array of screens my house already contains.

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EU wants one phone plug to rule them all. But we've got a better idea.

ThomH
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Re: Be much more interested in...Power-Outlet-Sockets being universal

The problem with USB sockets in the walls, airports, etc, is trust. Well, either that or buying one of those USB cables that has a switch to disconnect the data pins.

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ZX Spectrum Vega+ blows a FUSE: It runs open-source emulator

ThomH
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Re: Pillage of the Open Source projects @Stabbybob

Apple contributed all changes it made to GCC back to the community from the beginning, as well as redistributing all open source code it modified.

When it stopped using GCC and developed its own compiler, it open sourced that too.

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ThomH
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@Lee D

I had the feeling that case was decided based on a backer of the original Vega receiving a direct email from RCL advertising the Vega+ and enticing him to place an order. The conclusion isn't necessarily transferable to generic backers.

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ThomH
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Re: The Gnome Underpants have arrived! @Oh Homer

It may look like looks a bunch of clueless amateur retro gaming enthusiasts secured capital but RCL delivered the original Vega and its most public face, David Levy, was present and active during the original microcomputer boom — he was part of the team behind the Enterprise, that leading 30 years later to probably his only positive coverage on El Reg.

Whatever the story is that has led to the Vega+, it's not the usual crowdfunded hubris.

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Researcher found Homebrew GitHub token hidden in plain sight

ThomH
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It's not that popular

Especially not with me. By default it changes ownership of /usr/local/bin to your login user. So anything you run from then onwards can install a shim to usurp any binary that ordinarily lives in /usr/bin. Such as sudo.

How often do you inspect which application named sudo is asking you for your administrative password?

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ZX Spectrum reboot latest: Some Vega+s arrive, Sky pulls plug, Clive drops ball

ThomH
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Re: What we need @cream wobbly

I'm not sure it's accurate to say that other micros typically had to live-toggle a bit. Of the successful ones I'm pretty sure that's only the Apple II and the 16/48kb Spectrum.

None of them is a match for the feature set of the SID, but the 128kb Spectrum and CPC share the AY which is three channels of square wave and/or noise with volume envelopes; the 8-bit Atari has the POKEY which is four channels of more-or-less square wave; the BBC has an SN76489 which is three square waves plus a noise channel, etc.

The SID's killer feature is phase accumulation for pitch selection rather than simple division, giving much finer control — in a SID there's a 24-bit counter, the top few bits of which are used to form the output level, and an amount that is added to it at each cycle. Plus some analogue filters. On the other chips there is the input clock and then there is an integral divider. So you're controlling the reciprocal of pitch, reducing useful precision.

Nevertheless, the other chips don't require active CPU participation as the 48kb Spectrum does, and the musical opportunities are still fairly decent.

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ThomH
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Re: What we need @PeterGathercole

I think you're off by one; the shortest 6502 instructions take two cycles, and the most common ones — those which read from or write to the zero page — take three.

But the issue in a real machine is that a 6502 uses only half a clock cycle to perform an entire memory access whereas the Z80 uses at least two. So pick your clock speed as a function of those constraints and your memory speed.

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ThomH
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Re: It looks a bit... "cheap"

The ZX80 fetches its display in software, but contains only static RAM.

Rather than bother with all that nonsense of counters and whatever for fetching video, the processor just executes the display buffer. Well, it tries to, but the parasitic video steals the opcodes it is actually fetching and forces a NOP onwards. That gives the character code, and hijacking of the Z80's refresh cycle gives it a chance to get the actual pixels for that row of that character.

So most of what the Z80 in a ZX80 is doing is executing NOPs.

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ThomH
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Re: What we need @/dev/null

A NOP takes four cycles because there's no memory bandwidth to fetch anything else until four cycles later; the Z80 spent two cycles fetching the NOP opcode, then decoded and performed it during the two cycles when it was issuing a DRAM refresh. As soon as the refresh ends it can seek out the next thing. That's why it's also four cycles for all the other single-byte instructions that don't imply any other accesses to memory — register-to-register arithmetic and moves, and a few others.

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ThomH
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Re: What we need @DrBed

The Z80 in the Spectrum is not only nominally clocked at 3.58Mhz but also genuinely runs at that speed for as long as you avoid the physical chips that are shared with the ULA. E.g. on a 48kb Spectrum that means that as long as your code is in the top 32kb of RAM rather than the bottom 16kb.

The CPC is nominally clocked at 4Mhz but via use of the WAIT line permits a Z80 memory access on only one in every four cycles, regardless of what you're accessing. The standard fetch cycle is four cycles long, so single-byte instructions that don't cause a memory access run without a speed penalty (once you're in phase, anyway) but everything else is subject to delays. As a result code often ends up running more slowly than it would on a ZX Spectrum.

It depends how often the Spectrum code is seeking to update the display though, obviously. And the CPC's main problem isn't this clocking scheme or that one, it's the annoying large percentage of titles that are so lazy as just to be the Spectrum code plus some extra work at the end to translate the Spectrum graphics to anything that looks sort of right. It's almost a revelation every time you load a game that was converted properly, like Chase HQ, Robocop or Gryzor.

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ThomH
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Re: What we need

Faster at the same clock rate, but slower at the C64's ~1Mhz than at the Spectrum's ~3.58Mhz, which is most of what mattered.

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Apple takes an axe to its App Affiliate Program

ThomH
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Re: What a nice firm

I don't see the issue; review sites that depend upon the revenue of persuading people to buy the apps they review immediately then and there are not on my list of fine upstanding gentlemen. The decent ones already make the majority of their income from running adverts, so that there's no ulterior motivation for positive reviews.

So Apple withdrawing an affiliate programme doesn't really feel like another effort to screw the little guy. Just one ugly profit-seeking corporarion declining furthet to help other ugly profit-seeking corporations.

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Facebook's React Native web tech not loved by native mobile devs

ThomH
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I read this story entirely differently.

Bosses spot that divergence in platforms costs extra money. Decide to introduce mediocre middleware to minimise cost. Developers are upset that they'll have to work in a poorer environment, working on a worse product. Money is saved, so bosses use their platform to write the first draft of history: that everything they wanted is definitely a success, and everybody else was wrong.

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♫ The Core i9 clock cycles go up. Who cares where they come down?

ThomH
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Re: Fake news.

Right now it seems to be Youtuber versus Twitterer* as far as data points go. Which person you've never heard of, publishing their results via the internet's various platforms for the attention hungry do you most prefer?

I think Ars at least has pushed back its review of the new Apple machine in order to test the claims and provide something like an evidenced conclusion; I hope other outlets are doing the same.

* to save everyone the reading: he seems to allege the problem is in the use of Adobe Premiere Pro for benchmarking, by posting figures that show it takes almost 2.5 times as long as Final Cut Pro X to perform the same task on the latest MacBook Pro. I think he's suggesting Premiere isn't well-adapted to modern processors. It's Twitter though, so mostly the word-based version of a Rorschach test.

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Fork it! Google fined €4.34bn over Android, has 90 days to behave

ThomH
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Re: I would like to ask a question

The allegation, including your quoted part, says nothing whatsoever about including Google Play on FireOS phones.

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ThomH
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Re: Fining someone for 'breaking' unclear law. @pɹɐʍoɔ snoɯʎuouɐ

So your argument is: Google's alleged placing of terms into its contract to effect penalties if the other side ships anything that competes with a Google products is not "clearly" anticompetitive? And that the main reason anybody here might think a legally-enforceable contractual term that prohibited competition was anticompetitive... is pro-EU bias?

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ThomH
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Re: what about Apple?

Because none of that is contrary to competition law.

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ThomH
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Re: Fining someone for 'breaking' unclear law.

Per the article, Google to phone manufacturers: "if you try to market even a single FireOS phone, we will withdraw your licence to ship fully-functioning Android phones".

Your definition of what is and isn't "clearly a violation of anti-trust rules" must vary from mine.

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ThomH
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@Julian 8

Show us where Microsoft is threatening to withdraw the availability of Windows to any manufacturer that dares to ship a Chromebook and it'll be equivalent behaviour.

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ThomH
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Re: Choice on Apple? @tiggity

Competition law protects markets from distortion, for the benefit of consumers.

So a company with only a small slice of a market can do whatever it wants, because it does not strongly influence market.

When the company with 90% of a market prevents manufacturers from considering diversification, that's textbook anticompetitive behaviour, and it should be obvious why that's a substantial detriment to consumers.

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ThomH
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Re: Meh ... (@David 164)

From the article, Vestager said:

[Google] dominates licensable mobile operating systems ("over 95 per cent"), app stores ("over 90 per cent") and mobile search ("over 90 per cent in most European countries").

iOS is relevant to exactly one of those categories, and 90% is the correct number if you're factoring in iOS. Further:

The commission objected to three practices in particular: the requirement to preinstall Google Search and Chrome, payments to phone makers to make Google Search the default, and restrictions on creating "forks" of Android.

...

[Vestager] said manufacturers were interested in licensing Amazon's FireOS Android. But by making even one FireOS phone, the OEM would have lost the ability to include Google Play Store on its other devices.

The allegation is that Google's 90+% of phones mean that the anticompetitive terms it imposes on other companies — e.g. barring them from including Google Play if they offer any product featuring FireOS — is an illegal distortion of the market.

Do despite the appeal of bad-guys-on-both-sides whataboutism, I really think Apple's contribution has already been factored in here.

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ThomH
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I think the objective — realistic or otherwise — is more to replace an ecosystem controlled by Google with two ecosystems that are only half the size, one controlled by Google and one by Amazon, each working to try to persuade users to switch camps.

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Apple gives MacBook Pro keyboard rubber pants

ThomH
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Re: Maybe so

Yeah, it seems odd to me to focus on the SSD. The trend in soldered batteries is more a concern to me; that's the only part of a laptop I've ever replaced.

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They grow up so fast: Spam magnet Hotmail turned 22 today

ThomH
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Re: Useful in a willy waggling competition

I've got both <myrealname>@gmail.com and <myrealname>@outlook.com; you'd be amazed at how many other people think they do also. Most recently: one of my Irish namesakes filed their Form 12 tax return, apparently.

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Relive your misspent, 8-bit youth on the BBC's reopened Micro archive

ThomH
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Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs was still one of the favoured introductory textbooks when I got to university at the turn of the millennium. I took a Scala course a few years ago and thought I was doing really well until I realised that all of the problem questions were just direct adaptations of SICP originals so I'm not sure I was coming up with solutions so much as regurgitating them from some deep recess of my memory with different syntax.

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ThomH
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Re: Coding inspiration

... and it took me a while to find but Elite's source was transcribed to C and made available for then-modern platforms back at the turn of the millennium by Christian Pinder, but then taken down at the request of Elite's other coauthor, David Braben.

Nevertheless, that conversion remains available thanks to the persistence of anything ever put onto the internet, and Github. It's probably easier to digest than the original assembly though the games library it relies on to access the display, read the keyboard, etc, has introduced significant breaking changes in the interim. It shouldn't be a big job to replace though.

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ThomH
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Re: Coding inspiration

Ian Bell, Elite's coauthor, has been offering the source for download for years, along with what was produced as to ship designs for a putative sequel.

If memory serves, they used the assembler built into the BBC's BASIC. So it's a few different files that when run produce parts of the whole.

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US Supreme Court blocks internet's escape from state sales taxes

ThomH
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It's still really hard to complain

It's a bit more likely I'll bother to go somewhere physical, I guess, but the sales taxes here really aren't that much.

I ordinarily pay sales tax of about 7%. If I drive twenty minutes I can get to a shopping centre in an incentivised tax zone and pay just a bit more than 3%. If I drive for two hours I can get to a shopping centre in one of the states where the sales tax is 0%. And here in the US the petrol is less than 60p a litre*, even after all the hand wringing over recent rises, so it's really a time and boredom calculation.

At least that leaves lots of spare money to try to deal with the awful healthcare system?

* okay, it's a shade below $2.90/gallon.

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Atari accuses El Reg of professional trolling and making stuff up. Welp, here's the interview tape for you to decide...

ThomH
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Re: Oh how the might have fallen... @ Jack of Shadows

I don't think she did. GEM was available only for x86 and 68000 machines. Are you sure you're not thinking of the completely unrelated GEOS? Both start in 'GE' and inherit a lot from the original MacOS but are otherwise unrelated.

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What's all the C Plus Fuss? Bjarne Stroustrup warns of dangerous future plans for his C++

ThomH
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Re: Design by committee @parperback parper

I'd read that more as "if the element was found before reaching the end" rather than inflecting it with negatives, but I agree with your point in the main part. C++ is a lot of really useful stuff and good ideas, hiding behind syntax kludges.

SFINAE is possibly an even better example. If anybody here isn't already familiar, look up std::enable_if, then calculate the ratio between the amount of time it took you to understand the purpose and utility and the amount of time it took you to be able to produce the syntax.

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Now Microsoft ports Windows 10, Linux to homegrown CPU design

ThomH
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Re: Computer says "No" @bombastic bob

Benchmarking is a fools' game, of course, but the ARM at introduction was sufficiently faster than the then high-end x86, the 386, that for a while Acorn sold it on an ISA card for use as a coprocessor.

The marketing puff is here; a PCW review is here, though it fails to come to a definitive conclusion on ARM v 386 it makes statements like "The 8MHz ARM processor is one of the fastest microprocessors available today" and "A fairer [price] comparison would perhaps be with other fast coprocessor boards for the IBM PC, such as the 80386, the 68020 and the Transputer boards" which certainly seems to bracket it with those others.

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