Archives for: "July 2008"

Partial solar eclipse visible from the UK tomorrow

Just a heads up for those living in the UK or further east. There will be a eclipse of the Sun on the 1st of August, best viewed from parts of Russia and China where it will be total. Only partial from the UK - around 10%.

In the UK this will start at around 0931 local time (0831 UTC), the mid-point of the eclipse will be around 1015.

Safely blurb:

Obviously don't go looking at the Sun directly, you can cause damage to your eyes. Eclipse glasses are one option just make sure they carrying the CE logo and are undamaged - if you're not sure look at a bright light through them - if you can see anything at all throw them away.

Failing that there's pin-hole projection, where you can make a pin hole in a piece of card and project an image of the Sun onto a piece of card behind it.

You can also project an image using binoculars or a telescope like so:

You can bring the Sun into view by using the shadow cast behind the telescope or binoculars. Don't think about using a viewfinder or looking through the instrument itself - it would be bad.

Weather permitting, I'll have some images to share.

Fact check: Windows Vista as fast or faster than XP for gaming

Let's put this bit of FUD to rest.

Fact: Windows Vista on launch was around 5-10% slower than Windows XP for gaming, this was largely due to video drivers not being as mature.

10% isn't even noticeable, I'd happily trade 10% for video drivers which don't take out the entire system when they crash thanks to them running in User Mode in Windows Vista instead of Kernel Mode like they do in Windows XP.

Fact: That gap was closed months ago, and now in many benchmarks Windows Vista is faster.

From ExtremeTech:

They also benchmarked World in Conflict, where the two were dead level.

Conclusion: there's no difference, and if somebody wants to get picky and argue Windows XP must be faster, kindly point them in the direction of some benchmarks.

Should I start using Twitter?

I've been toying with the idea of microblogging for a while now. I'm leaning into the direction of trying to start up microblogging simply because I don't always have time to do a full blog post on a particular topic, but when I'm limited to 140 characters it is much easier to quickly touch on something.

Typically I would just host it myself, like I used to do with my moblog. But Twitter gives a few advantages, a large community of users, plus it won't clutter my RSS feed with tiny little entries. Twitter of course has its disadvantages, uptime being one of them. Twitter also doesn't seem to be on a very fast release schedule, there are loads of features I would want to see added in, but little progress seems to be made.

Two obvious features would be a separate advanced/hidden field to include co-ordinates for latitude and longitude, and an ability to embed an image. There's ways around that such as using shortened URLs and 3rd party services like TwitPic and Live Maps. But in many cases that dramatically increases the amount of work that needs to be done, at least with the clients I've looked at, and fills your posts with ugly looking URLs.

Speaking of clients, if anybody has any recommendations for a good Windows Vista Gadget client, and a Windows Mobile client feel free to leave them below. I haven't touched any Gadget ones yet, but I've got Twitula, Tiny Twitter and ceTwit on my phone at the moment, I'm playing around with all of them. None of them seem to do what I want. I'd like an ability to automatically use TwitPic and include an image. Also I'd like the ability to grab data from a GPS receiver, or if no GPS hardware or GPS lock is available for it to fall back to determining your location by which phone towers are in the area, in many cases that would be accurate enough (usually to within a kilometre or two) and shorten it up and include the link in the entry.

Even technology permitting, there's still the issue of it having any real point to either the blog, or any of my followers on Twitter, which is probably a bigger issue than the technology weaknesses I'd like to see sorted, is there any real point to it? I don't want to start doing something unless I am confident it has a purpose and that I can continue through with it from then on. Feel free to leave any suggestions below (especially on mobile clients that do the above).

Gamercast Episode 126

Just a head's up. Yes I know there's no episode 126 online yet. Adam and myself haven't recorded it yet as the studio was as an oven Sunday evening and having the fans on would create too much background noise, so we're going to be doing an extended episode next Sunday.

Windows Vista haters admit to liking it when it's called "Mojave"

Not surprising.

Spurred by an e-mail from someone deep in the marketing ranks, Microsoft last week traveled to San Francisco, rounding up Windows XP users who had negative impressions of Vista. The subjects were put on video, asked about their Vista impressions, and then shown a "new" operating system, code-named Mojave. More than 90 percent gave positive feedback on what they saw. Then they were told that "Mojave" was actually Windows Vista.

Should get some content posted up on the Mojave Experiment website tomorrow, at the moment it's just:

The
"Mohave"
Experiment

duration: 3 days in San Francisco, July 2008
conditions: Partly Cloudy, 57 degrees
subjects: Over 120 computer users (Mac, Linux, Windows XP and Windows 2000)
hardware: An HP Pavilion DV 2000 with 2 GB of RAM
technical assistance: A retail computer salesperson
description: Subjects get a live 10-minute demo of "the next Microsoft OS" codenamed "Mohave" – but it's actually Windows Vista

The results?

See for yourself Tuesday, July 29th

Despite the FUD spread around by the press (who don't understand technology), and the anti-M$ brigade, Windows Vista is the best client operating system out there, it is far superior to Windows XP, which after using Windows Vista full-time for over two years now, feels extremely dated.

Losing patience with O2

I must say I am getting slightly irritated by O2, and their complete and utter lack of a product roadmap. As many of you know I've been after the HTC Touch Pro since before it was announced.

Catherine has had the HTC Touch Diamond for nearly two weeks (from Orange). Which when I was in Newport this week obviously checked out quite extensively. The short review: Much better than I had expected.

The Touch Pro, is essentially the Diamond, with a hardware keyboard, microSD slot and bigger battery, which should be released September time. My concern comes about from the complete and lack of information coming from O2 on the Diamond. They announced a new phone in their XDA lineup yesterday, called the Mantle (HTC P6500). But nothing on the Diamond, zippo, zilch.

What do I think is going on? They don't want to release the Touch Diamond because they've got contracts with Apple stating they have to shift X-number of iPhones, they don't want the Touch Diamond eating into potential iPhones being shifted, considering how low the iPhone's sales have been (despite the hype) they don't want to take any chances.

Newsflash O2: Apple will stab you in the back, like they've done to every partner in the entire history of the company.

Hopefully we won't get a repeat when the HTC Touch Pro is around the corner, it is less of a direct competitor. But if O2 don't make any announcements within a couple of weeks after another carrier releases it, it will be increasingly difficult for me to stay with O2. I'd be going crazy if I was a business customer trying to plan our upgrade cycle.

Maybe I'm too used the computer industry, where everybody (but Apple and a handful of other small companies who are too interested in screwing people over) has a roadmap. Windows "7"? Q1 2010. Office 2007 SP2? 1H 2009. It's nice knowing when something new is coming out years in advance, it lets you plan things. And before somebody says mobile phones develop faster (read: tested less). Sure, but roadmaps spanning 6 months ahead is easily feasible, it still takes over a year to develop a phone and carriers can make up their minds if they're going to be carrying something or not in that time.

Roadmap please O2.

Off the Richter scale, and the Glasgow East defeat

Congratulations to John Mason on winning Glasgow East, but I hope he is planning on picking up some science books soon.

Mr Mason described his win as being "off the Richter scale", the only way I can interpret that as being so weak it is undetectable, or that there is no seismic activity at all, and as such it isn't on the scale.

I don't think he meant it in that way, and as such I'll remind him that the Richter scale, which is a base 10 logarithmic scale for measuring the amplitude of the largest seismic wave during an earthquake, has no upper limit, and so nothing can be off the scale.

So Mr Mason, even a win, with enough energy to destroy the entire Earth isn't off the scale.

We need MPs with some basic understanding of science, especially in these times where science is more important than ever.

As for those calling for Gordon Brown's departure. Obviously, I never voted for the bloke, nor would I of if the Parliamentary Party ever gave us the choice, but let's face it replacing Gordon Brown with Miliband (not that he would touch the job with a barge pole at the moment), or Harman, or whoever wouldn't change anything.

What David Cameron calls for; replacing Labour MPs with Tories will change things - for the worse. Fox Hunting? Back. Minimum wage? Frozen. Public services? Sold off faster than ever. Tax cuts? Sure for the rich. Unfortunately, although the Tories wouldn't want to admit it, that isn't the change the public is craving for.

There's one theme I'm coming across more and more often, the public want a party that represents them. They're sick to death of political parties sucking up to the rich and throwing everyone else the leftovers from the table. The first step along that path is retaking our party from the Blairites and bourgeois-entryists.

Look out astronomers - black hole is a racist term

Just a quick post before I head off to Newport, over in Texas it seems the term black hole is now a racist remark, well to some people at least.

Commissioner Kenneth Mayfield (white) seems to of got himself in trouble for saying that the county's collections office behaves like an area of space with an escape velocity greater than 300,000 kilometres per second.

"It sounds like Central Collections has become a black hole"

Anybody with more than six brain cells knows what he means. Documents, records etc end up in Central Collections, and they disappear.

However some people with fewer than six brain cells don't know the astronomical phenomenon, nor how the term black hole is used in everyday conversation.

Commissioner John Wiley Price (black) shouted out in the meeting "excuse me" and said the language was "unacceptable", saying that the collection's office was a "white hole".

Obviously, not knowing what a black hole is means this guy doesn't have much chance of knowing what a white hole is. Using the term white hole wouldn't describe the situation at all Mr Price. Instead of losing documents, the office would be creating documents and spewing them everywhere in a big mess.

But hell. Why bother making any sense, or describing something when pretty much anything anybody says could be interpreted by the PC-brigade as being offensive, racist or whatever? You won't win anybody to your side by irritating them with such petty nonsense, if there's a need for a change in language it will happen slowly over time.

Not content to keep his ignorance to himself, Judge Thomas Jones (black) also waded into this demanding that Mayfield apologise for the "racially insensitive analogy".

Mayfield has refused to apologise. Good, there's far too much stupidity on the march these days, what with religious fundamentalism, and "alternative" (read: unproven) medicine to retreat on things like this.

"I prefer black furniture" isn't racist, "there's a black hole in Cygnus" isn't racist, "that star over there is a red giant", or "that one over there is a brown dwarf", isn't racist. "We should paint fire hydrants white" isn't racist, "that office is a black or white hole" isn't racist.

To borrow something from Gandhi: "A general belief seems to prevail in the colony that the Indians are little better, if at all, than the savages or natives of Africa. Even the children are taught to believe in that manner, with the result that the Indian is being dragged down to the position of a raw Kaffir." (Kaffir meaning people of southern Africa). That is a racist remark.

Can we keep things in perspective please.

MobileMe, push e-mail, Microsoft and ignorance on the blogosphere

Apologies for not blogging lately but I've been a little busy over the last couple of weeks. Anyway I want to touch on a bit of Apple/iPhone/MobileMe/Exchange stuff.

So as I'm sure most people are aware Apple announced "push" e-mail with their MobileMe service launched a few weeks ago which costs $100 a year, of course everyone, well those in the Apple Cult anyway, were raving about it. Apple dubbed it "[Microsoft] Exchange for the rest of us".

However "push" has recently been completely dropped, which has added to the continuing failure that is MobileMe.

Some on the blogosphere though are asking where Microsoft's consumer level Exchange is?

You see, somewhere along the lines of Xbox breakdowns, Vista problems/negative PR, and chasing after copying Apple with Zune, Microsoft completely missed the boat. For a nominal fee to the user, Microsoft should have created "Exchange Hotmail": a paid-for part of Hotmail that "brings your data with you at the speed of *push*" (my marketing tagline).

Microsoft already offer push support for Hotmail, and custom domains that use Hotmail as their backend, and they offer this for free, and have done for a year or two.

You see, somewhere along the lines of buying into the anti-Microsoft fanboy nonsense, this blogger forgot to actually check what they were talking about.

Exchange Hotmail would have been a perfect play for Microsoft. So in the end, Microsoft is left with a very popular online mail solution (Hotmail) yet has not made a significant effort to monetize it.

Yeah I think it was a good move for Microsoft. It's just unfortunate people like yourself either don't know it exists, or pretends it doesn't so you can claim that Apple were first.

But it wasn't to be. Apple brought it first because Microsoft was too busy defending its "server plays".

It also runs on more than just Windows Mobile phones (which have ten times the marketshare of the iPhone), but also on Blackberrys, Symbian and any other phone with the full Windows Live client.

Less of the reality distortion field please.

Randall Stross proves he should stop writing about technology

What a rubbish article, I'm very disappointed at the New York Times for allowing this to go to print. Almost as much as the BBC giving the Free Software Foundation free access to write technology articles on their website, the equivalent of letting Microsoft have their marketing department write for the BBC.

Windows Could Use a Rush of Fresh Air

Ohhh that's new-age sounding, it's gotta be good.

Beginning as a thin veneer for older software code

Yup Windows began as a GUI for DOS.

it has become an obese monolith built on an ancient frame

Wrong, there's nothing of the "ancient frame" remaining in Windows today. It's completely different. More details below.

Adding features, plugging security holes, fixing bugs, fixing the fixes that never worked properly, all while maintaining compatibility with older software and hardware

Oh yeah all very good. Let's stop doing that, we won't add any new features. Then of course you'll be complaining because the new version of Windows doesn't have anything new. Security holes, OK we won't do anything about those, patching bugs, meh we'll just sell you the new version instead like Apple do. Compatibility, ah nobody needs that, we'll just stop worrying about that so you can buy all your hardware and software again every time a new version is released.

What planet is this guy on? Anything as an excuse to bash Windows.

Vista is the equivalent, at a minimum, of Windows version 12 — preceded by 1.0, 2.0, 3.0, 3.1, NT, 95, NT 4.0, 98, 2000, ME, XP. After six years of development, the longest interval between versions in the previous 22-year history of Windows, and long enough to permit Apple to bring out three new versions of Mac OS X, Vista was introduced to consumers in January 2007.

Oh here we go Apple must be nimble and quick because Microsoft didn't release anything new for six years. Wrong.

Microsoft shipped two server releases, four versions of Media Center, and at least two Tablet PC Editions, without counting Windows Mobile and Embedded that's eight versions of Windows right there. I should also mention Windows XP SP2, which could of been sold quite easily as a new version of Windows - Microsoft put pretty much the entire Windows team on SP2 for a year, pushing Windows Vista back so they could give you a free upgrade. I suppose you'd rather of seen a Windows XP R2 or SE in the shops for $200 though right?

The internal code name for the next version is “Windows 7.” The “7” refers to nothing in particular

Wrong, the seven refers to the next major version of the NT kernel, which in Windows Vista and Server 2008 is version six.

Yes version six (with four major releases), so your twelve versions of Windows is junk too. Why? Because there was a version of Windows started up from the ground up. It's called NT, which is why your ancient frame comment in your first sentence is utter nonsense. In fact Microsoft did it so well that apparently Randall doesn't even know they pulled it off.

the company should take heart from Apple’s willingness to brave the wrath of its users when, in 2001, it introduced Mac OS X. It was based on a modern microkernel design

Completely different. Apple took an existing operating system, FreeBSD (based on Unix) and built on it. So on the one hand you're proposing they "borrow" somebody else's operating system, and on the other hand you're telling them to start over fresh. Which is it Randall?

Asking Microsoft to chuck compatibility in the bin and start over new would be the biggest disaster ever in the technology industry, and no doubt the most expensive undertaking in history. Do you have any idea of the scale of forcing a complete overhaul for over a billion computers? Apple only had to worry about the backlash of a few million of their strongest supporters. Microsoft have to worry about a billion computer users, the largest companies in the world and everyone else. Talk about letting Microsoft give ammunition to people like you, who in next week's article would be attacking Microsoft for hurting backwards compatibility.

Windows Vista represents the biggest leap forward in changing the system since Windows 95, huge aspects of the operating system were thrown away and written from the ground up, NT security measures were enforced. That hurt compatibility, and Microsoft spent a considerable amount of time working on using visualisation to keep the impact to a minimum (something I believe they were extremely successful with). Something the scale of change we saw in Windows Vista was really as far as Microsoft could push it. Don't get me wrong, I'm one of the people who say we need to move forward, and that ensuring compatibility does hold things back. But what you're saying a completely re-write of the entire system from scratch, with modern ways of building a system is so far out of the real world. The press and blogosphere have a field day with Windows Vista already because it was so much of a change (completely unwarranted in my opinion Windows Vista is the best OS to date), what you're suggesting would amplify it a hundred times over. But I've got a feeling that's what Randall wants to see, or at least the people he got all these crazy ideas from.

They believe that problems like security vulnerabilities and system crashes can be fixed only by abandoning system design orthodoxy, formed in the 1960s and ’70s, that was built into Windows.

Now he's talking utter crap. Mac OS X you keep going on about is based on Unix from the 1960s!

Windows NT comes from the early 1990s, it was based on VMS which was created to address all the problems with Unix. You've got things completely upside down Randall. And even if they were right, it's not like you can use old or modern in this space to assume an operating system is good or not.

A MONOLITHIC operating system like Windows perpetuates an obsolete design.

What? Oh you're using a technical term to the general public so they think monolithic means bloated and big, and even that is 10 years out of date. This strikes me like creationists calling evolution a "theory", knowing full well how the general public understand the word, and how scientists use it are completely different. Windows NT uses a hybrid-kernel, not a monolithic kernel. He seems to be brushing over the fact that internally it is extremely modular, and not at all similar to something like Windows 95 or Linux, which use a monolithic kernel.

We don’t need to load up our machines with bloated layers we won’t use. We need what Mr. Silver and Mr. MacDonald speak of as a “just enough” operating system. Additional functionality, appropriate to a given task, can be loaded as needed.

What you mean like Windows? When you need to load something, you load it up and when you're finished you close it so it's not using any resources. Jeez.

I can't even be bothered talking about the rest, this guy just has absolutely no clue, everything he says is wrong, it started off completely wrong, and he just went further and further towards cluelessness. He's got so many concepts just completely backwards, and he's propagating so many myths straight out of the Apple/Linux crowd like Microsoft didn't do anything for six years between Windows XP and Windows Vista.

You're wrong Randall, totally wrong.

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