They are my oldest and deadliest enemy. You cannot trust them.
If Hitler invaded Hell, I would give a favourable reference to the Devil.

Tuesday, August 20


Daily News Stuff 20 August 2019

Wombats Are Us Edition

Tech News

  • The Cerebras Wombat* is the latest flung poo in the AI monkey war.  (AnandTech)

    It has 400,000 cores implemented using 1.2 trillion transistors, 18GB of internal SRAM, and 9PB/second of on-chip bandwidth, packed into a compact 46,225 mm2, i.e. the size of a small pizza.

    And yes, it's a single chip.

    What does all that hardware do?  8-bit multiplications.  Lots of them.

    And it's programmable in Python.

    It's not that TSMC module with the HBM2 though.

    * They call it the WSE but that's a terrible name so I gave it a better one.

  • On the other end of the scale, UPMEM is adding an 8-core processor to each 4Gbit DRAM chip.  (AnandTech)

    So an 8GB module has 128 cores and a fully-populated 256GB server would have 4096 cores.  The cores are implemented directly on the DRAM die.  No-one does this because DRAM production is very different to CPU production, and the resulting CPU cores can only run at 500MHz.  But with 4096 of them, does that really matter?

    Well, yes.  But for certain tasks - they cite genomics - it can be 20 to 40 times faster than conventional servers.

    Definitely not that module with the HBM2.

  • IBM announced the Power 9 AIO which is an update to the existing Power 9 architecture with a 25GHz memory bus.  (Tom's Hardware)

    This kind of thing has been tried for years and has never taken off, because although it offers more memory bandwidth per socket it has never provided more memory bandwidth per dollar.  Rather the reverse.

    And dollars can buy you more sockets.

    Still not that module TSMC was showing off.

  • Gizmodo's new owners are clueless.  (TechDirt)

    Well, sure.  They bought Gizmodo.

    Lots of great one-liners in the article, such as
    The company still employs some great investigative reporters
    We're still talking about Gizmodo?  Just checking.

  • The Ruby rest-client package got compromised.  (GitHub)

    Time for capability-based programming languages.

  • Why ElementaryOS left Medium and returned to 1993.

  • Julia 1.2 is out.

    Julia is a clean and elegant language for scientific computing.  Fortran done properly.  It has one major problem (for certain users) in that it uses an optimising JIT compiler rather than static compilation.  That allows the language to provide generic functions without eldritch horrors like C++ templates, but means it's a pain to generate distributable binaries.  Not impossible, but a pain.

  • Gmail went down.  (Bleeping Computer)

    I noticed this one because it was during the day Australia time and we use Gmail for work.  And then it stopped working.  Fortunately not for very long.

  • A bug in iOS 12.4 means you can jailbreak your iPhone.  (ZDNet)

    But given the nature of the bug, so can a malicious app.

    But apps can only be downloaded from the App Store, and we all trust the App Store, right?

  • Twitter is banning state-run media organisations from buying advertising on the platform after being criticised for showing Chinese anti-democracy propaganda.  (The Next Web)

    ABC, BBC, CBC hardest hit.  Oh, and SBS.  Yeah, we have two of them.

    I give Twitter 48 hours before they completely fuck up this basically sensible decision.

  • Bill Nye the Chromebook guy vs. Best Buy.  (ZDNet)

    Key takeaway:
    "So who buys that $999 Pixelbook?" I wondered.

    "No one," he said.

Video of the Day

Bonus Video of the Day

Disclaimer: 48 hours is probably FAR too generous.

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Monday, August 19


Daily News Stuff 19 August 2019

And Minecraft Makes Three Edition

Tech News

Retrocomputing Journal

That cheap source of H750s I found is no longer quite so cheap; in fact, no longer cheap at all, having increased overnight from $6.04 to $13.23.  Yech.  On the other hand it looks like DigiKey went in the opposite direction and is now under $10.

Still, if I need to use two of them due to the pin limitations, it might not hurt to look at other parts.  As long as it has at least 1MB RAM and an LCD controller that can display 960x540 - and supports ARMv7 - any experiments I run with the dev kit I have will port straight over.

The RZ/A1L starts at A$22.45 which is still more than two of the H750s, but has the advantage that it's only one chip to worry about, and has 3MB of RAM compared 1MB on the H750.  Also it has two larger siblings if I should need more memory, pins, or graphics performance.

It suffers from some of the same pin assignment craziness, so if you want to use the LCD controller you can only have a 16-bit external memory bus, but having 176 pins instead of 100 is about 76% less constrained.

Disclaimer: The drink you drink when you're not drinking a...  Wait.

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Daily News Stuff 18 August 2019

Lesnerization Considered Harmful Edition

Tech News

Book Recommendation

Pulled Spat Knocked by Michael McClung

If you're looking for tightly-plotted fantasy noir, you can't go wrong with these, particularly with three volumes at the low price of whatever the hell the price is because Amazon won't tell me.  This collection includes
  • The Thief Who Pulled on Trouble's Braids
  • The Thief Who Spat in Luck's Good Eye
  • The Thief Who Knocked on Sorrow's Gate
Hence the slightly odd title.

Our heroine is Amra Thetys, a minor thief (as you might have guessed) who wants little more than to avoid becoming the subject of anyone's plans, which (as you might have guessed) is exactly what happens to her.

The books are shortish - two hundred-odd pages each - but they're written with the style and pacing of a detective novel rather than epic fantasy.  They don't feel short; they feel exactly as long as they ought to be.

Free on Kindle Unlimited too.  I bought the individual volumes over the past couple of years and just caught up with book five.

Another one I'd recommend is Max Gladstone's Craft Sequence though the price on that collection bounces around like a rubberised squirrel.  The first three novels are great - Three Parts Dead, Two Serpents Rise, Full Fathom Five - but the fourth is a prequel and prequels never work. 

The writing is fine but Gladstone painted himself into a corner given what we already know from reading subsequent events.  Either a key character has to be completely unsympathetic or most of the characters have to be idiots and unfortunately it ended up being the latter.

Skip that one.  It's called Last First Snow.  Read the ones with numbers in the names.

Disclaimer: I have a cold and have thrown out my back again (though not as bad as last time) and every time I sneeze I get shooting pains that start in my toenails and exit out my hair so I'm kind of grouchy right now.

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Saturday, August 17


Daily News Stuff 17 August 2019

Flatflation Edition

Tech News

Disclaimer: Because   that's why.

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Daily News Stuff 16 August 2019

Bipple Bopple Beep Edition

Tech News

Disclaimer: Ow.  Ow.  Ow.

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Thursday, August 15


Daily News Stuff 15 August 2019

International Brain Parasite Awareness Month Edition

Tech News

Disclaimer: Do or do not, that is the question.  Whether it is nobler in the mind's eye to suffer the blaster bolts of outrageous fortunes, or take robotic arms against a sea of troubles...

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Wednesday, August 14


Daily News Stuff 14 August 2019

Imagine Animal Farm Only It's The Chickens Who Take Over Edition

Tech News

  • Google is run by idiots.  (Wired)

    And staffed by lunatics.

    The Wired article repeatedly tries to suggest that some of the problems faced by Google over the past four years stem from outside causes, but the content makes it clear that it is all of their own doing.  One name in particular appears twenty-five times and in any competently run company would appear once followed by a note that that individual's contract was terminated for cause.

    The silver lining is that many of the worst of the lunatics resigned in protest over their idiotic tantrums being given due consideration i.e. ignored.  But the CEO of YouTube is one of the chief offenders, and she's still firmly in place and destroying shareholder value at a truly impressive rate.

  • A 3000-series Threadripper might have leaked out via Geekbench.  (Tom's Hardware)

    It's a 32-core CPU with a base clock of 3.6GHz and 128MB of L3 cache, and there's only one company in the world producing chips like that.  The multi-core score is 15% faster than a 2990WX which is exactly where you'd expect it to be.

  • TechDirt is talking nonsense today.

  • Twitter says fuck you and your fucking edit button you fucking fucks.  (Paraphrased.)  (Tech Crunch)

    Meanwhile, Twitter announced a new feature that would sing users' timelines to them in three, four, or five-part harmony.

  • Why Medium sucks for programming articles.  (Medium)

  • Netflix is fucked.  (The Hollywood Reporter)

    That's what "inflection point" means, right?

  • Ethereum lagged in dapp users in Q2 but its price doubled.  (The Next Web)
    Despite price increase, it wasn't all plain sailing for Ethereum in Q2.
    No, you idiots, the problems were caused by the price increase.  If the price of Ethereum doubles, the cost of running a distributed app on the Ethereum blockchain also doubles.  How the hell is anyone supposed to absorb that?

  • Inside the world of "terrible" 3 cent microcontrollers.

    Which are actually pretty good.

Retrocomputing Journal

Microchip's A5 range, which is available for A$15 with 16MB of built-in RAM, has a rather nice display controller.  It supports a base layer, which is not just a fixed colour but a full frame buffer with up to 32-bit RGBA pixels, two overlays also with up to 32-bit RGBA, a high-end overlay with up to 32-bit RGBA or 4:4:4 YCrCb and colour space conversion, and a hardware cursor. 

The hardware cursor, it turns out, can be the full size of the screen and supports 32-bit RGBA.

All layers support alpha blending and chromakey, and the three overlays can be rotated, upscaled, and downscaled as needed.  And there's a post-processing unit that can take the resulting blended output and write it back into RAM for you - although the video output is turned off for one frame while it does that, so it's fine for screenshots but terrible for streaming gameplay sessions.

It also has a built-in Class-D amplifier for 16-bit audio.

What it lacks, though, is a blitter (the H750 and RZ/A1 have that), a JPEG encoder (which both the others also have), or a 2D GPU (which the A1M and A1H have, though not the A1L).

Also it's only available in BGA which makes prototyping extremely painful.

So the chip of choice to build a New Amiga remains the RZ/A1M (or A1H), except that it's rather expensive at around A$45.  The only reasonably priced source is Avnet (under A$30) and they're out of stock most of the time because they're the only reasonably priced source.  Update: Oh, yeah.  A$39.  The A$45 version is the automotive grade; I only really need that if I'm planning to run at an ambient temperature of 125C, in which case all my users would be dead.

The development kit is also pretty expensive.  It's aimed at building automation and automotive use, not hobbyists.  The H750 developer board was the price of a nice lunch; the RZ/A1 kit is the price of a month's worth of groceries.  Update: Found a developer board that's the price of a week's worth of groceries.

I'll be continuing with the H750 as a first project - it's much cheaper and much simpler - and if that succeeds will look at the RZ/A1M as a second system.  Which means it's doomed.

Disclaimer: Two legs good, four legs bad.

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Daily News Stuff 13 August 2019

Freezer Tetris Edition

Tech News

Retrocomputing Journal

I wonder if I can find an excuse to put eleven microcontrollers on a single board.

Disclaimer: That's one louder.

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Monday, August 12


Daily News Stuff 12 August 2019

It Doesn't Do Nothin' Edition

Tech News

  • The mClassic "plug and play graphics processor" is an is an HDMI-to-HDMI adaptor that probably includes an upscaler / colour-correction chip.  (Tom's Hardware / Indiegogo)

    Which your TV already has.  If you have an older console with HDMI feeding into an older monitor with 2560x1440 native resolution and a linear upscaler, this might be what you need to improve the picture quality.  Otherwise it's likely useless.

  • Intel's Phantom Canyon NUC will have 10nm CPUs when it arrives in 2021 unless it doesn't.  (WCCFTech)

  • Multi-threading is still hopelessly broken: A Python retrospective.  (ZDNet)

  • Lenovo's new 1U Epyc server offers room for 16 hot swap 2.5" U.2 SSDs.  (Serve the Home)

    10 at the front, 2 at the rear, and four...  At the sides?  Or something.  So hot swap once you've dismantled the rack.

    Also worth noting that Lenovo are concentrating on single-socket models, not the usual dual-socket.  Exactly how much of the market needs more than 64 cores remains to be seen; I expect a lot of dual-socket servers are sold with two 12-core Xeon Silver CPUs (or their earlier counterparts) and could easily be replaced by even a low-end Epyc now.

  • Samsung just announced a 108-megapixel camera module for smartphones.  (

    It's a lot bigger than most current camera.  It would have to be, because current camera pixel sizes are close to the wavelength of visible light.  Make them much smaller and they won't actually work.

  • Custom Radeon 5700 cards are arriving.  Do they solve the issues with the reference design?  Are they worth the extra $10?

    Yeah, pretty much.  It's not a lot faster, but it is quieter and cooler and doesn't really cost any more.

Video of the Day

Okay, very nice, but what does it actually do...  Oh.  Be right back re-doing the bathroom to be fractally annoying.

Disclaimer: ALVIN!

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Daily News Stuff 11 August 2019

One Meg Good Two Megs Bad Edition

Tech News

  • Cisco to Cisco customers: You don't own nothin'.  (iFixit)

    Cisco software licenses are now bound to the original purchaser, not to the hardware.  And devices will phone home to check that their current owner has the appropriate license.

    This takes second-hand Cisco gear from being a highly-desirable commodity for people building home networks to basically rack-mount rust.

  • One Law for Big and Small Alike, which prohibits you from saying naughty words if you have fewer than a million followers.  (Ars Technica)

    YouTube moderators, who couldn't tell which side of their bread was buttered with a gas chromatograph and an easy-print copy of the Chemical Rubber Company's Buttered Bread Handbook, were shocked and appalled that a hugely popular channel wasn't immediately and permanently banned for tasering a dead rat.

    Also, it appears that tasering a dead rat is against YouTube's community guidelines, so there goes my new channel before it even got started.

  • Apple is now the fourth largest smartphone maker by volume.  (Yahoo News)

    Samsung, Huawei, Oppo, then Apple.

    Profits are a different story; while Apple has been weakening on that front as well they are still the industry profit leader by a significant margin.

  • P++ is a strongly-typed offshoot of PHP for people who can't grasp the concept of DON'T USE PHP YOU IDIOTS.  (

  • SQLite can be used as an attack vector  (squints) if you have permission to overwrite another app's database files.  (ZDNet)

    So if you already have the key, you can open the door.  It's a sneaky vector to make a security hole persistent, but not a security hole in itself.

Retrocomputing Journal

I'm increasingly thinking that the solution for the limitations of the 100-pin version of the H750 is just to use two of them.  Everything else is more expensive or more complicated, and often both.

This means I can allocate 512K to user code on one chip, and 512K to graphics on the other.  And that means I can generate the native resolution of 960x540 in 256 colours with neither hardware nor software hacks.  The other (smaller) memory banks can be assigned to audio, sprites, fonts, and the operating system (which doesn't require much space at all).

The link between the two chips will be 50Mbps SPI, which is dreadfully slow by the standards of modern internal buses, but for comparison is more than enough to stream 4K video.  Not that this hardware can get anywhere near 4K video.

In qty 25, it's now about A$30 for parts and A$20 for PCB printing, assembly, and shipping.*  (Not counting shipping parts to China for the assembly.)  For comparison, the case I like is A$70, and the custom keyboard I want is A$230, though those are qty 1.

* Oops, not quite right.  Have to recalculate that again, will probably need a few more units to make that price break.

Video of the Day

Disclaimer: Solar roadways
Making solar roadways
Took some solar
And I put it in a roadway.
Solar roadways
Making solar roadways
Solar road-ways...

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