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Saturday, February 29


Daily News Stuff 29 February 2020

Leap Day Edition

Tech News

  • Sony's Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact is almost the platonic ideal of small tablets. 

    The problem I have with mine is that it's the 16GB model and Sony disabled adoptable storage.  If I'd been able to get the 32GB model it would be fine, but I don't think that ever reached Australia, and certainly wasn't available in the half-price sale where I got it.  Or if it had adoptable storage, also no problem.

    I recall now why I put it away in the box last time: The Kindle app couldn't store books on the SD card, and it was perpetually running out of space.  Amazon have fixed the app now - mostly - so I have been able to put my entire Kindle library on it (which is 16GB by itself) plus 52 Kairosoft games, Final Fantasy 1 through 6, and a bunch of other essentials.

    If they kept the exact same form factor, screen, and battery, updated the CPU from the Snapdragon 801 to even a recent low-end chip like the Snapdragon 460, and either put 32GB in as standard or enabled adoptable storage (preferably both), I'd buy two.

    Also, if you happen to be installing apps on your new/old tablet and find that Endless Frontier doesn't pick up your account and instead creates a new one and links it to your Google Play account, and you go back to your other tablet and your account is still there but you pick Load rather than Continue and it overwrites that as well...  Don't Panic.

    Turns out that the developer is smarter than that, even if the UI is a bit confusing.  Next time you open the game, both accounts will still be there to choose from.  In fact, I'm not sure how to get rid of the new one it created.

  • Sonnet has a USB-C to 5Gb Ethernet adaptor for those of us stuck on all-in-one desktops like the iMac or Dell Inspiron 27.  (AnandTech)

    There are a few of these adaptors around, in fact.  They all use the same chipset, and they all seem to be unavailable for purchase anywhere.  I don't know what's up with that.

  • Another day, another leaked video card.  (Tom's Hardware)

    This time it's Nvidia with a card 75% larger than the 2080 Ti.  Probably a Tesla compute board rather than a gaming product though.

  • Finland's Minister of Economic Affairs says the EU needs its own operating system.  (Tom's Hardware)

    If only there were someone from Finland capable of such a task.

  • Hydrogen power is stupid.  (BBC)

    A hydrogen powered train, with a range of 50 miles.

    First, why is the BBC talking in miles?

    Second, the article states that the range is 50 to 75 miles, and then that the hydrogen tanks can run it for three hours, so that is one slow train.

    Without the style.

  • Go is slowly morphing into Node.js.

    Slowly.  The author freaks out about a simple HTTP request timeout function that installs 196 packages.  Node developers would freak out too, because how can anything be that simple?

    Anyway, the whole mess (I'll spoil it because the article is pretty lengthy) comes down to one package with one file that has one useful function with one line of code that - wait for it - simply exports something that is already in the Go standard library but that you can't access.

    Go has since fixed that, but fixed it in a way that is neither forward nor backward compatible nor controlled by Go's semantic versioning, so if you rely on Google's solution you will, sooner or later, be fucked.  And if you import the very simple third-party solution, a hundred other packages come along for the ride.

  • LG has updated its Gram laptop range for 2020.  (ZDNet)

    No major changes, just 10th Generation Intel CPUs.  The top of the line 17" model has a 2560x1600 screen (yes, 16:10), 16GB RAM, 1TB SSD, and a four core / eight thread i7-1065G7 and yet weighs just 1350g - a hair under three pounds.  That would make a pretty nice laptop for software development, though I'm not personally looking for a new laptop at the moment.

  • Freeman Dyson has passed away, aged 94.  (Brickmuppet)

Video of the Day

Found this via My 70s TV which is a great way to waste time.  I fired it up just now and it tuned me in to the middle of this interview with Isaac Asimov:

It does that - tune you in to the middle of things - because it's emulating 70s television where that was kind of your only option if you weren't there exactly on the half-hour mark.

And yes, there's also My 80s TV and My 90s TV.  Press Y at any time to open the current video on YouTube.

70s music is pretty hit-and-miss, and 70s music videos even more so, but there's a simple reason for that: The entire planet spent that decade stoned out of its collective mind.

I was just a kid and had no understanding of this at the time, but I look back now and everything suddenly makes sense.

Disclaimer: Well, almost everything.

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Friday, February 28


Daily News Stuff 28 February 2020

Pulse Coded Packet Switched Digital Headache Edition

Tech News

Disclaimer: That's the Moon.   Accept no substitutes particularly if they're only a couple of yards wide and don't plan to hang around.  (USA Today)

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Thursday, February 27


Daily News Stuff 27 February 2020

Node.js Is Still Cancer Edition

Tech News

  • Spent five hours tracking down a bug that turned out to be the sha3 NPM package doesn't install under the current version of Node,js.  Or the previous version.  Don't know about the version before that, but if you go to the version before that, presto.

    Of course nothing anywhere says that this is the case, but if you dig back through bug reports for the past couple of years, you will find that the exact same thing happened in 2018, only three versions removed.

  • Dug out my Xperia tablet - an Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact - and fired it up.

    After sitting in a box for two years it works perfectly and still had 88% on its battery.

    As it happens, it's the 16GB model, and now that I have it running again I remember that I gave up on it because the Kindle app ate all the available space.  About a year ago the Amazon finally updated the Kindle app to support external storage.

    None of this would be a problem at all if Sony hadn't broken adoptable storage, but they did.

  • If you can't find a good 7" tablet anymore, why not a 6.8" phone?  (AnandTech)

    I mean, Snapdragon 865, 8GB RAM, 128GB storage, 2460x1080 AMOLED display, 64MP main camera, wireless charging, 5G, IP68 water resistance, microSD, and a headphone jack.  Oh, and an optional second screen.

    Price TBA but probably not cheap.

  • SK Hynix says that Radeon 5950X rumour is totally baseless and it will take legal action against whoever leaked their internal documents.  (Tom's Hardware)


  • TechDirt is still drunk.

  • A case of the Tik calling the Tok a parasite?  (Tech Crunch)

    Or are there some things even Silicon Valley won't do for a buck?

  • An overview of that half-height HP MicroServer.  (Serve the Home)

    It has four Ethernet ports which is nice, but they're just gigabit, so eh.

  • Your browser is spying on you.  (Tech Report)

    Unless it's Brave.

Disclaimer: And possibly Stunning as well.

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Wednesday, February 26


Daily News Stuff 26 February 2020

Rabid Cabbages Edition

Tech News

  • The Smithsonian has released an archive of 2.8 million photos into the public domain.

    Specifically a CC0 license.  They're planning to digitise their entire collection of 155 million items.

  • Microsoft can go fuck themselves.  (Bleeping Computer)

    No, I am not going to depend on an online service to log into my own computer.

    I think I ran into this recently when reinstalling my spare laptop, which got stuck in a boot loop after a failed upgrade to Windows 10 1909.  I hadn't configured WiFi at that point so it wasn't possible for me to use an online account, and the installer allowed me to set up a local account.  Apparently that is now the only way to do so at install time.

  • Really want a Nintendo PlayStation?  Got $300,000 plus burning a hole in your pocket?  It could be yours.  (Tech Report)

    It's the real deal and in working order.  (Heritage Auctions)

    And probably the only one in the world, since it's a prototype for a joint venture that never went ahead.

Disclaimer: Or you could just use a Raspberry Pi.

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Tuesday, February 25


Daily News Stuff 25 February 2020

Winking Olympic Vikings Edition

Tech News

  • Microsoft's Xbox Series X will be twice as fast as the Xbox One X.  (AnandTech)

    For graphics, that is.  Four times faster on the CPU side.

    The Xbox One X is four times faster on the graphics side than the Xbox One, but unchanged on the CPU, so overall the Xbox Series X is four times faster on CPU and eight times faster on graphics than the Xbox One non-X.


  • Mobile World Conference got cancelled by Corona-chan, but the industry burbles on, even if we sometimes wish it wouldn't.  

    Huawei announced the Mediapad Pro 5G, an update to the Mediapad Pro 4G, now with an extra G.  (AnandTech)

    It's a 10.8" Android 10 tablet, with a 2560x1600 screen and an A76-powered Kirin 990 CPU.

    Starting at €549 with no Gs at all, and up to €949 with 5G, 8GB RAM, and 512GB of storage.  Plus €129 for the keyboard and €99 for the stylus.  So...  Not exactly a budget device.

  • Speaking of Android tablets, I found this one on Amazon Australia.

    It's an older model, but it has basically the same specs as my Mediapad M3 and you can't beat the price.

    However...  The seller has a rating of zero.  100% negative.  And if you search the site for Teclast T8, it doesn't exist.

    For $280 they have a superseded Samsung tablet with specs in between the 2012 and 2013 Nexus 7 models.

    For $941 plus $312 shipping you could get the also superseded Mediapad M5.

    Or for $998.91 you could get the 2019 Galaxy Tab A 8" model with S-pen which matches or exceeds the specs of the 2013 Nexus 7 and has an almost up-to-date version of Android, and comes from a seller with 100% positive feedback.  Which feedback consists, unfortunately, entirely of this single review:
    The Green Elephant Ceramic Sharping Rod Sharpens my knives with ease and gets them sharp quicker than outer Sharping rods
    I spent years wishing Amazon would open an Australian storefront.  Now I want them to go away again.  Amazon Australia sucks.

    Which reminds me, though - I have a Sony Xperia tablet around here somewhere that I haven't been using since I got the Mediapad.  I should dig it out.  I can't remember if it had 16GB or 32GB of storage; if it was 32GB it's high time I swapped out my Nexus 7.  Something weird is going on with the Nexus 7 and its storage is slowly disappearing no matter what I do.  The Xperia tablet has a 128GB microSD card in it which would help a lot with that.

    Come to think of it, the last time I used it was probably that failed experiment to force adoptable storage to work.  Damn you, Sony.

  • Where was I?  Oh, right.  Kvetching.

    Speaking of 8" tablets at unreasonable prices Huawei announced the Mate Xs, the successor to the Mate X which as far as I am aware nobody anywhere ever actually bought.  (AnandTech)

    It also has a Kirin 990 CPU, with an 8" 2480x2200 AMOLED display, which folds and also - an advance over the original model - unfolds.

    It has 5G because why not and pricing starts at €2499.

  • What a tangled web we weave when first we venture to segment the market.  (AnandTech)

    People have been pointing out for weeks that a single $4000 64-core Epyc or Threadripper part can outperform two $10,000 28-core Xeon Platinum CPUs.

    Intel's response is a $2600 28-core Xeon Gold.  It's the same chip - it is literally the same chip - but with some interconnects spiked so it only supports up to two sockets instead of 8.

    There's also a new 26-core part for $1900, 24-core for $1550, and 20-core for $1270.  For Xeons, those are really good prices.

    Still not competitive with AMD, but really good for Intel.

    Serve the Home has further analysis.

  • TechDirt seems to be drunk today.

  • The specs for Big Navi have leaked unless they haven't and I suspect haven't but I could be wrong.  (WCCFTech)

    Supposedly the Radeon 5950X will be an 80 CU card with 24GB of HBM2 providing 2TB per second of bandwidth.  But that would mean four 6GB modules, and while that is certainly possible I've never seen such a configuration.

    Source is, well, Twitter.

  • You used to need a PhD to understand AWS pricing.  Now you need an entire research department.  (Andrew Wray)

    Some Amazon services are fixed price.  Some variable.  Some cost you nothing until a user lands on your page.  Others cost you a fortune even if you have no users at all.

    The only way I am able to wade through this nonsense and emerge with my sanity mostly intact is a childhood misspent min-maxing D&D characters.

  • Second Sock Syndrome and How to Solve It.  (Sheep Among Wolves)

    The article is talking about actual literal socks, but it works even better as a metaphor.

  • Pinterest is a train wreck.

  • China is hunting down anyone who tries to harsh Corona-chan's mellow.  (Vice)

    Because the Wuhan Bat Soup Death Plague is less of a threat than an informed populace.

  • We apologise for starving your cat to death.  (Ars Technica)

    Only not very much.

  • If you missed out on the excitement of the Sinclair ZX Spectrum due to not having been born yet, now is your chance.  (Slashdot)

    The ZX Spectrum Next, just slightly delayed, is now shipping.  (Kickstarter)

    It includes a 28MHz Z80 implemented in an FPGA, with hardware sprites and 1MB of RAM.  It actually looks quite nice, very professionally designed and manufactured.

    If you missed out on the original Kickstarter due to not having paid any attention to Kickstarter lately, they will be running another Kickstarter soon for a second production run.

Anime Music Video of the Day

Disclaimer: Unless it doesn't not isn't hasn't won't.

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Monday, February 24


Daily News Stuff 24 February 2020

The Pacific Wasn't Terrific Edition

Tech News

Disclaimer: I see you've played knifey-spoony before.

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Daily News Stuff 23 February 2020

Late Late Show Edition

Tech News

Disclaimer: Which is much better.

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Sunday, February 23


Daily News Stuff 22 February 2020

Snake Eye Soup Edition

Tech News

  • So if DigitalOcean is 1% the size of AWS, how exactly is the market divided up?

    Turns out to be easy to approximate, since the total cloud spend for 2019 was on the close order of $100 billion.  (MSN)

    DigitalOcean's share puts it at around 0.25% - and DigitalOcean is not a small company, giving you an idea of just how big this is.

    AWS is the market leader, of course, with 32.4%.  Azure is second with 17.6% - but is growing at twice the rate.  Between them they control exactly half the market.

    Google is a rather distant third at 6%.  Despite the fact that their service works very well and their management interface is light years ahead of AWS - we use both at my day job - I would hesitate to recommend it because their entire corporate culture has brain worms.

    Alibaba has 5.4%.  Both Google and Alibaba are growing at similar rates to Azure.

    IBM's total cloud and hosting revenues are greater larger than Azure, but that's not a pure cloud offering, combining cloud, traditional servers, and services.  Oracle, SAP, and Salesforce are also pretty substantial but are largely service-oriented rather than pure cloud.

  • SLC is back - sort of.  (AnandTech)

    Nobody makes SLC SSDs - that I know of - though you can buy SLC flash chips for embedded and industrial applications.  But most modern SSDs have a pseudo-SLC cache, where instead of using (for example) all sixteen discrete levels on a QLC device, you only use 1111 and 0000.  That gives you much larger margins for error and lets you write data faster.

    So what if rather than making that a cache, you made the whole drive like that?  MEMXPRO did exactly that.

    If the target niche isn't obvious, the drives are also waterproof and rated for -40°C to +85°C.  Transfer rates are around the 3GBps mark for both reads and writes, close to the limit of PCIe 3.0.

  • Speaking of limits PCIe 6.0 is on its way with a final spec due next year.  (AnandTech)

    PCIe 6.0 uses PAM4 encoding, so the signal frequencies are the same as with PCIe 5.0, but with four levels.  I'm not sure what the plan is for PCIe 7.0, though 112Gbps PAM4 encoding is already a thing  (SemiAccurate) and I'd be surprised if they didn't leverage that work.

  • Bethesda has pulled most of its games from Nvidia's GeForce Now streaming service.  (Tom's Hardware)

    I don't know what's going on with this, and haven't seen anyone explain it.  You have to buy the game first - on Steam or Epic or another supported store - so the game publishers already have their money.

  • Every melody in the world is now in the public domain or something.  (TechDirt)

    Well, every possible short melodic phrase within a normal harmonic scale, anyway; 68.7 billion of theme.  You can still copyright a song, of course, but you might need more than that if you want to sue someone for sounding similar in the future.

  • The first benchmarks for Intel's upcoming ten core Comet Lake Core i9-10900 ES have leaked and they don't even rise to the level of meh.  (WCCFTech)

    It's unlikely to reach the performance of AMD's 3900x, but so far it's struggling to beat the 3800X.

  • Twitter has suspended 70 pro-Bloomberg accounts.  (LA Times)

    Apparently they've finally found a Democrat they don't like.  Admittedly Bloomberg's viral efforts have been pretty amateurish.

  • Is fusion finally less than 20 years away?  (New Atlas)

    Maybe.  The new approach fuses regular hydrogen with boron-11 using 10-petawatt chirped pulse amplification lasers.  Boron-11 is the most common isotope and is stable, but boron itself isn't particularly abundant, since it's not part of any of the regular fusion pathways in stars.  Still, you don't need a lot of it - and it's more plentiful than uranium.

    The research is going on at the University of New South Wales and elsewhere, and I found a published paper but even so it seems rather heavy on the speculation and light on the results.

Disclaimer: No doubt about it, I gotta get another hat.

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Friday, February 21


Daily News Stuff 21 February 2020

Quintarian Heresy Edition

Book News

  • Lois McMaster Bujold's Penric stories finally have a proper print edition, having been collected in Penric's Progress and Penric's Travels, the latter out in May.  These form volumes four and five in her World of the Five Gods series.

    If you enjoy well-written, tightly-plotted fantasy with relatable heroes and complex villains, you can't go wrong with these.  The first two books, The Curse of Chalion and Paladin of Souls, form a trilogy where the first volume doesn't exist. Instead, the history of those events comes out naturally as the characters discover it. 

    I call the hypothetical Chalion trilogy Ista's Fall, Ista's Redemption, and Ista's Glory.  That's a minor spoiler but nothing you wouldn't get if you read the blurb for Paladin before reading Curse.

    The remaining books in the series are actually set earlier chronologically, but work fine because they're not prequels, just stories that happened in the past of Curse of Chalion.

    If you prefer science fiction and haven't read the Vorkosigan Saga, pick up either Shards of Honor or The Warrior's Apprentice.  My own experience started with The Vor Game, which actually comes after The Warrior's Apprentice, and that works too.

    They are absolutely brilliant military SF with a focus on the people rather than the battles, though there are certainly battles.

    Bujold's other major series is Dag and Fawn Go on a Boat, otherwise known as The Sharing Knife.  Which is very well written and engaging but doesn't have the same impact.

  • Repairman Jack uses DuckDuckGo.

    The latest Repairman Jack book - The Last Christmas - is a sort of sequel to the Ice Trilogy, which happens during the events of the Repairman Jack series, which happens during the events of the Adversary Cycle.

    F. Paul Wilson started out writing the Adversary Cycle, found he had a hit with Repairman Jack, the main character in the second volume, completed the Adversary Cycle first, then circled back and added in 15 books in the chronological middle of the main series, plus six additional prequels.

    And then updated the original six volumes to fix up the chronology a bit, because the last volume of the series by internal chronology was published in 1992, and the second last in 2011.

    These are all well worth reading.  The two starting points are The Keep - first book of the Adversary Cycle, or The Tomb, the first book of Repairman Jack.  The Keep is set during WWII and The Tomb in present-day New York, and it takes a while for the events to link up, but they do.

Tech News

Disclaimer: Do not taunt Happy Fun Ball.

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Daily News Stuff 20 February 2020

Twos Complement Edition

Tech News

Disclaimer: I will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed, or numbered!

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