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LTE Upgrade Will Let Phones Connect To Nearby Devices Without Towers

Chelloveck The Cellular Industry (147 comments)

Now celebrating 25 years of pushing location-based services nobody wants!


Why the Z-80's Data Pins Are Scrambled

Chelloveck Ob. War Story (165 comments)

I worked at Motorola in the late '80s in the Cellular Infrastructure Group. Moto's cellular switch was Z80 based, but it was a helluva hack. The thing had six Z-80s arranged in three nodes, each with an active processor and a hot standby. We had a custom MMU that extended the address space to 24 bits and could be mapped in 4096-byte blocks. Of the 16MB address space, 4MB was shared and simultaneously accessible by the active and standby processors.

It was mostly programmed in assembly, but we did have a "high level" language called MPL (Motorola Programming Language) which was little more than a big macro set around the assembly. It was very naive, had no optimization, generated crap code, and was buggy as hell. I always called it a pessimizing compiler. There was a newer, less buggy version available but we didn't use it. We had too many hacks and work-arounds that depended on the buggy behavior in the original.

All the code was, of course, linked into a single monolithic executable and loaded from tape. It took about 20-30 minutes to load the program. The processor board had a serial debugger terminal which could be used to poke changes directly into running memory. Each memory page had some space reserved for patches. I sometimes had to patch live customer machines by entering an assembly routine byte-by-byte into memory via the serial terminal and finally patching a CALL instruction into the appropriate address in main executable memory. And hoping really hard that I hadn't made any typos.

Later in its life peripheral boards were being built that were 68000 and PowerPC based and much more powerful than the main Z80 boards. The Z80 software was so crufty by then that the peripherals had hardware hacks to work around weird software behavior just because it was too damned hard to change the software.

Ah, memories...

2 days ago

It's Banned Books Week; I recommend ...

Chelloveck Any of them, really (402 comments)

Specifically for Banned Books Week I'd recommend Fahrenheit 451, just because of the subject matter. In general I'd recommend 1984 due to its continued relevance. Probably Brave New World too, but it's been so long since I've read it I really don't know if it still holds up.

A Clockwork Orange is a good story and a fascinating linguistic study. I love both the book and the movie, but I don't see it being nearly as socially relevant as the others. Recommended, but lower priority.

His Dark Materials is a toughie. The first book was absolutely fabulous, the second was pretty good, and the last was weird. Recommended with that caveat. The series usually gets placed in the juvenile section because the protagonist is a kid, but I don't consider them kids books. The subject matter (especially in the third book) gets to be hard to follow. (Not that I'd want to keep it away from kids, just that I don't think it would hold their interest. If they read it and like it, more power to them!)

I've never read The Handmaid's Tale, so I can't comment on it.

(Side note: I live in the US, but happened to be in Oxford when I finished reading His Dark Materials. If I'd realized at the time that Philip Pullman was living there I'd have beaten down his door and demanded to know just why he ended it like he did!)

4 days ago

The Great Lightbulb Conspiracy

Chelloveck Re:I dunno about LEDs, but CFLs don't last (595 comments)

I don't like CFLs at all. They're fine right at the beginning, but after a while they get slow to start (starting very dim, and brightening to full over the course of several minutes) and the max brightness is reduced over time. This may be due to the orientation of the fixtures, the temperature, or a dozen other environmental variables that CFLs seem sensitive to that incandescent aren't. I also haven't noticed their lifespan being any longer than incandescents, though I wasn't keeping records so it's admittedly subjective.

I started trying out LED bulbs a few years ago. I specifically wanted long-life bulbs for the ceiling fan that's 14 feet off the floor and a royal pain in the ass to change. I installed three of the standard "long life" incandescent appliance bulbs that I use, and one LED with an equivalent lumen rating. The quality and intensity of the light was the same in the LEDs and the incandescents. Time passed. The quality and intensity were still the same. More time passed. The incandescents burned out. That fixture is now all LED and still going strong a couple years later, even the original test bulb.

I'm slowly replacing other bulbs in the house as they fail with LEDs. They look great. I have no idea what the effective lifespan is because I have yet to have one fail.

4 days ago

Ask Slashdot: Is Reporting Still Relevant?

Chelloveck Why is this even a question? (179 comments)

It's simple. Your clients are asking for emailed reports. Therefore, emailed reports are still relevant. If you think there's a better alternative by all means, show them. If they still prefer the reports then the reports are still relevant. Q.E.D. Geez, why is this even a question?

5 days ago

It's Banned Books Week; I recommend ...

Chelloveck Re:anarchists cookbook? (402 comments)

What a shame. I've been blowing shit up with my kid since he was three. I still remember him gleefully running up to me saying, "Daddy, I not on fire!" He's 17 now, has a healthy respect for (but not fear of) explosives, and still has all his digits. He's considering majoring in chemical engineering in college.

5 days ago

Ask Slashdot: How To Avoid Becoming a Complacent Software Developer?

Chelloveck Re:Embrace the burnout (275 comments)

Wally is my role model.

about two weeks ago

Science Has a Sexual Assault Problem

Chelloveck Re:Is there a single field that doesn't? (460 comments)

I can't think of a single profession which doesn't seem to have a "problem." Makes one wonder.

It tells me that the definitions are too broad to be useful. Oh, crap, I said "broad". Now I'm guilty too!

about two weeks ago

Apple Edits iPhone 6's Protruding Camera Out of Official Photos

Chelloveck Re:Parallax. (425 comments)

[...] it's very likely it was a computer generated image and not even a photograph to begin with.

QFT. A friend of mine is a graphic artist who does, among other things, product catalog illustrations. It's standard practice for him to create a 3D computer model and render a photorealistic version of *that* instead of actually photographing the product. The time it takes him to create and texture the model is nothing compared to the time to set up lighting and everything for a photoshoot. That's especially true when you consider the time for retakes because the marketing manager decides the image would look better with the product rotated another 3 degrees counter-clockwise.

I'd be surprised if the close-up pictures of any new product were actually photographs. Model it, then churn out renders from any angle with any lighting effects you want. Yes, even an angle that manages to hide an embarrassing bulge here and there. It's nothing that hasn't been done by marketeers ever since... well, ever since advertising, really.

about two weeks ago

Say Goodbye To That Unwanted U2 Album

Chelloveck Re:Misleading links (323 comments)

When you select the link in the text "tool to make it possible to remove the album from your iTunes library in a single step." wouldn't you expect to see an article about the tool and actually have a link to the tool?

I clicked the link and got a Philadelphia NBC affiliate site. The article is titled "Apple Releases Tool to Remove Free U2 Album", so I'm definitely seeing an article about the tool. Within the article, in the first and last paragraphs, are links to the tool.

So what the hell are you bitching about?

about two weeks ago

AT&T Proposes Net Neutrality Compromise

Chelloveck Let's compromise... (243 comments)

Let's compromise. I'll only punch you in the face a little, and you get to decide which side I hit. That's fair, isn't it?

about two weeks ago

Ask Slashdot: What To Do After Digitizing VHS Tapes?

Chelloveck Nothing to do with video (268 comments)

The underlying question has absolutely nothing to do with video, digitized from VHS or not. The question is, "How can I securely back up a shitload of data that I don't want to lose?"

Now that you've forgotten about the video aspect and just think of it as bytes, the problem is reduced to one that's been solved a zillion times over. Google "offsite backup".

Personally, I use RAID on my home NAS, and rsync the really important stuff daily to an encrypted 1.5TB drive sitting on my desk at work. If you don't have the bandwidth you could do essentially the same thing by carrying your external backup drive back and forth to your office (or friend's house, or safe-deposit box) weekly or monthly. Have a couple backup drives and just rotate them.

about two weeks ago

Comcast Allegedly Asking Customers to Stop Using Tor

Chelloveck Re: So-to-speak legal (418 comments)

The TOS only restricts you from running a proxy service, not for using a proxy service as a client.

Don't worry. They reserve the right to change the terms of service at any time, so that can change as soon as it becomes convenient for them to do so.

about two weeks ago

Apple Outrages Users By Automatically Installing U2's Album On Their Devices

Chelloveck Re:First world problems. (610 comments)

I don't like U2. It didn't auto-download, but I'm annoyed it's in the list at all. Sure, it's just one album. Easy to scroll past, right? No reason to complain? How about when publishers decide this is a really good way to advertise? Release a band's album or a single as a free sample and get it listed on everyone's phone. Brilliant! Except that now I have tons of songs that show up in my "purchased" list that I never purchased, will never listen to, and don't want. They get in the way of the songs I actually *did* purchase and want to listen to.

That's what the complaint is about. Yeah, one album is no big deal. But the precedent's being set, and if we don't complain they're going to decide this is a good idea and keep doing it.

about two weeks ago

Link Between Salt and High Blood Pressure 'Overstated'

Chelloveck Re:I can simply ignore all health and diet advice (291 comments)

but at one point "research" showed that jeans were responsible for higher risk of cancer

I honestly can't tell whether you misspelled "genes" or there's actually a study that shows there's a correlation between cancer and wearing denim trousers.

about three weeks ago

Ask Slashdot: What Are the Strangest Features of Various Programming Languages?

Chelloveck The C pre-processor (729 comments)

The C pre-processor. The whole thing. The CPP is without a doubt the biggest WTF in language design. Hey, this C language is neat and all, but how about if we make it so that before you compile it you have to run it through a whole separate language processor with different syntax designed to do string substitution? And let's use that language to implement comments. And hey, how about using it to import common files? But since it's really just a string substitution, the import really just dumps a verbatim copy of the common file into the one being processed. If you have two identical include lines you get two copies of the common file inserted. Wouldn't that be *great*!?

Okay, I understand the historical context and why it made sense at the time. I really do. But from a modern perspective it's definitely not in any way the sane way to do it.

And for an honorable mention, how about the use of leading whitespace in Makefiles? Not only is leading whitespace significant, starting a line with spaces has a different meaning than starting a line with tabs!

about three weeks ago

E-Books On a $20 Cell Phone

Chelloveck Re:Sounds uselesss to me (116 comments)

I have a phone with a 3.5" screen. It's just about useless for e-reading. Also, the idea that if all the troubled youth were just given books they'd read them is bogus. They *can't* read and if they could they still wouldn't want to.

I know I'm a dinosaur, but I was reading ebooks on my Palm III with its grayscale 160x160 pixel 3.3" screen. It's certainly not a "useless" form factor. I even preferred it to reading paper books, just because I could carry more around with me. Of course, I like to read. I agree that there's no way a crummy ebook reader is going to convince non-readers to hit the books.

about a month ago

Invasion of Ukraine Continues As Russia Begins Nuclear Weapons Sabre Rattling

Chelloveck It's Clear (789 comments)

It's clear that Russia has weapons of mass destruction. The US has no choice but to invade and force a regime change before Putin can totally destabilize an already volatile region. Who's with me?

about a month ago

New Computer Model Predicts Impact of Yellowstone Volcano Eruption

Chelloveck Re:Do they know more than they let on? (121 comments)

I just heard Phil Plait talking about coronal mass ejections wiping out satellites and the power grid, and possibly small electronics as well. That's my current favorite non-asteroid doomsday scenario. No direct danger to life or limb, it just takes out everything that makes modern civilization work. Hilarity ensues.

about a month ago

New Nigerian ID Card Includes Prepay MasterCard Wallet

Chelloveck Re:Excellent move for the government (62 comments)

When buying something expensive (like a home solar array) the salesman wants a credit check up front to know that you actually have some chance of paying for it. If you can't afford it he's not going to waste his time talking to you. If you can afford more he knows to push hard for an upsell. It's a shitty way of doing business, but that's how it's done.

about a month ago


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