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Software Patents Are Crumbling, Thanks To the Supreme Court

Forever Wondering Re:Double-edged sword (118 comments)

It already does, but even that can be abused.

In the "Oracle v. Google" trial [regarding Java APIs], Judge Alsup ruled for Google. Google had recreated their software from scratch using the API documents as a reference. That is, they did not use any Oracle/Sun code [except for a rangeCheck function that was less that 10 lines]. Alsup took great pains to write an informed opinion [even learning how to code a little].

However, the 9th circuit appeals court overturned this. One of the worst decisions ever. It's tantamount to saying that a copyright confers patent-like protections.

about two weeks ago

BBC: ISPs Should Assume VPN Users Are Pirates

Forever Wondering Re:So if I... (363 comments)

While the reason given may the true motive of the BBC, it certainly plays into the hands of GCHQ. Either way, it makes the BBC a shill [witting or unwitting] for the surveilance state being fostered by GCHQ.

I can just imagine a goodly fellow from GCHQ going over to the BBC: "You know these VPNs are difficult to spy on. But, the GCHQ can't just say that. Maybe you could help us. Just use some rubbish about copyright piracy. That'll do it"

about two weeks ago

Some Core I7 5960X + X99 Motherboards Mysteriously Burning Up

Forever Wondering Re:Not just one mobo (102 comments)

The problem is not the fix - once you know the problem is power, it's trivial to fix.

ShanghaiBill is correct. Power is the first thing to check/suspect. In our case, the other engineering team members assumed the lead engineer had checked this--because it is so fundamental. He hadn't. He was almost fired for this.

The problem is identifying the root cause. Power problems are highly subtle - and usually very intermittent. The FPGAs may crash under heavy load, but it's one of the "phase of moon" bugs because you can feed in the same test patterns that crash it and it'll work the next time around.

We had no problem generating test vectors that caused the problem to occur once per hour.

And bugs that are impossible to replicate are the hardest ones to fix - especially if it's a new board that requires a new change to the RTL so you're not exactly sure if it's a hardware or software problem. Or even a compiler problem (since half the issues can easily be caused by bugs in the compiler).

We were quite confident that it was a hardware problem because both boards were 100% compatible software [device driver]-wise. My device drivers also would log all access to the board in realtime, so this would be dumped post-mortem and jointly analyzed by myself and the given logic designer for correctness against the hardware spec.

If this didn't match up, either my driver was wrong or the compiler had a bug. In this particular case, if we weren't tracking an intermittant, a hard fail error usually resulted in the logic designer fixing his logic. That is, before involving the designer, I prechecked the post-mortem dump and corrected the driver logic errors [if any] first.

So you have a problem, and the problem can be in the hardware, or the software (both the stuff you wrote, and the vendor's stuff), and even on the software running on top of the FPGAs. And you can't replicate it, either, so yeah, it's going to take a LOT of work to find the root cause.

One of my specialties is finding a way to add a stress mode to a driver or the driving application (e.g. diagnostic program) that reduces a "once a month" intermittant to "once an hour" or, in many cases, force the same fail in 10 seconds.

If you're lucky, you can isolate matters by running the current design on the previous hardware (provided that's possible) which narrows down the list of potential causes greatly. But because of the lead time in hardware, that's generally impossible - you just can't run the current software on the old hardware because too many things changed, just as you can't run the old software on the new hardware.

I've never had a problem writing device drivers that autodetect and work on any and all current and previous generations of hardware. If you had a driver routine that was "perform_xop" and what that had to do changes from v1 to v2 of the hardware, you just create a vtable and call vtable->perform_xop where this is populated with "v1_perform_xop" or "v2_perform_xop". Really, it's not that magical.

In our particular case, we had a hardware "capabilities" register [which I had the logic designers add]. So, our driver would also do things like:
    if (capreg & CAP_HAS_FEATURE_A) ...

about two weeks ago

Some Core I7 5960X + X99 Motherboards Mysteriously Burning Up

Forever Wondering Re:Not just one mobo (102 comments)

Thanks for what you just said. Dead on and I couldn't agree more.

In our case, we were a small [startup] company, so we didn't have the resources to be second guessing each other. I was doing the device drivers, but I'm also 50% EE. When we found out what had happened, we were struck speechless that the first thing to check [IMO, yours, and the opinion of some of the other engineers] wasn't checked. Sigh.

about two weeks ago

Some Core I7 5960X + X99 Motherboards Mysteriously Burning Up

Forever Wondering Re:Not just one mobo (102 comments)

That's simple stuff to diagnose... 9 months? Is there an engineer somewhere on staff or are you all just designers?

That question was posed at the time. And not calmly or so politely ;-)

about two weeks ago

Some Core I7 5960X + X99 Motherboards Mysteriously Burning Up

Forever Wondering Re:Not just one mobo (102 comments)

You're quite right about all that you mentioned. My example was from a 2004 timeframe.

I can't recall if the faulty design cut back on bypassing/deglitching as well as the VRMs, but my guess would be yes.

Afterwards the engineer [that caused the problem in the first place] added back all bypassing/deglitching, shorter leads, VRMs, etc. that got elided from the [then] new design. The engineer was definitely in the dog house for this: for creating the problem and taking so long to diagnose it.

Personally, based on experiences over the years, it should have taken about two months. The extra time took a great deal of momentum out of the product launch.

To add insult to injury, the same type problem happened two more times. The second time was caused by the same engineer. The third time this engineer got it right, but the PCB layout specialist changed things without telling the engineer. Fortunately, the first engineer, having been burned twice, rechecked the design immediately upon receiving the first PCB sample.

about two weeks ago

Some Core I7 5960X + X99 Motherboards Mysteriously Burning Up

Forever Wondering Re:Not just one mobo (102 comments)

Does Intel have a reference design board for this? Also, how close are the VRMs to the chips they're regulating?

I once worked at a company that had a reference board with 3 FPGAs with 3 VRMs near the FPGAs. When designing their own board, the company reduced this to one VRM for all 3 FPGAs and put the VRM on the opposite side of the board. It took nine months to realize that this caused the FPGAs to reset during heavy logic switching because the single VRM + the greater length of the traces meant that the VRM couldn't keep up with the demand.

about two weeks ago

Some Core I7 5960X + X99 Motherboards Mysteriously Burning Up

Forever Wondering Houston ... (102 comments)

... We've had a main B bus undervolt

about two weeks ago

Judge Lucy Koh Rejects Apple's Quest For Anti-Samsung Injunction

Forever Wondering Re:I don't understand the injunction (30 comments)

The argument gets weaker.

After the "Alice Corp vs. CLS Bank" supreme court ruling which states that "let's do it on an computer", where it is something that is well known, prior art, common practice, etc. is no longer patentable. The court stressed that the ruling was limited to the case at hand, but that hasn't stopped [at least] two lower courts from applying it in new rulings.

Samsung recently tried to apply the ruling retroactively towards the [infamous] slide-to-unlock patent, but was shut down by Koh merely because Samsung didn't raise the argument at trial [they were too late].

But, with the Alice decision, slide-to-unlock is completely invalid, and Samsung [and others] will be able to use this in future proceedings.

about three weeks ago

Ask Slashdot: What To Do About Repeated Internet Overbilling?

Forever Wondering Re:In California switch to (355 comments)

Glad you're getting 6Mb/s. A friend of mine has Verizon [east coast] and barely gets 3Mb/s.

I'm guessing that when you say DSL2 and expect 20Mb/s down, you're meaning ADSL2+ [max is 24Mb/s vs. ADSL2 which is 12Mb/s]. I don't know how long 2+ has been out, but you might give 2+ a try if you're not already on it. Even with the bad wiring, it may help with some extra speed. Normally, if you're too far away, the extra 2+ frequencies don't help because they get dampened out, but your case may be an exception.

A couple of other things to try [with building owner's cooperation/blessing]:
- You can pay to have a telco tech string new inside wiring
- There are bidirectional DSL amplifiers that can go inline [~$100]. Normally, they're used to boost a DSL signal long haul (e.g. if a subscriber is [say] 20 miles to the CO, these are inserted every mile or so]. Putting one of these "in the cabinet" [where the telco wiring enters the building] might boost the signal enough to overpower the bad internal wiring.
- I suspect that sonic already thought of this, but if you've got four wires entering your place, trying the "other" pair [inside vs. outside] might be better. I actually had this happen to me, and the tech changed things (e.g. one pair was bad, but the other was clean).

We both forgot to mention that because of the no datacap, sonic also lets you run a server from home 24x7 [which is a TOS violation for AT&T]

about three weeks ago

Ask Slashdot: What To Do About Repeated Internet Overbilling?

Forever Wondering In California switch to (355 comments) has no datacaps and no "artificial" speed limits. [Note: I'm not affiliated with them--just a very happy customer since I switched in March].

Of course, I'm assuming that when you said "CPUC" that means California PUC. If so, go to and enter your AT&T landline number. They will tell you how many feet you are from the sonic CO. Then, go to to see what your likely speed with sonic will be.

I'm 5000 feet to the sonic CO, so I got 1.3 megabytes/second [2x AT&T's elite service]. sonic is also cheaper. And, tech support couldn't be more pleasant or helpful.

In fact, when you post a tech question to a sonic tech forum, you might just get a response from Dane [Jasper]--the CEO

about three weeks ago

Magnitude 6.0 Quake Hits Northern California, Causing Injuries and Outages

Forever Wondering Re:In the south bay... (135 comments)

I'm in Sunnyvale and I was awake at the time. I could feel it [for 3-4 seconds], but nothing fell. Dining room light hanging from ceiling swayed. Feeling here was less than a 4.3 in Carmel when I was in Cupertino. I've felt worse before. I was shocked to learn it was a 6.0 up north [And I hope the severely injured people recover quickly].

about a month ago

Slashdot Asks: How Prepared Are You For an Earthquake?

Forever Wondering I felt the California Quake (191 comments)

I was awake and felt the Californina quake [I'm in Santa Clara county]. It's probably the 7th or so quakes I've felt over the last 30 years. Where I was it was a small sway for 3-4 seconds. I was lucky [my heart goes out to those more deeply affected]. In the 1989 quake I was in Europe, but came back to find my place had stuff flung everywhere.

My prep [not great]:
- 20 cans of spam [survival rate: one can/day]
- Bottles of water
- Bleach [1 drop per gallon of water from the toilet tank]
- Flashlights with batteries
- Landline phone (with old trimline so that it works w/o power)
- Try to keep my gas tank at least 1/2 full
- Car charger for cell phone
- USB thumb drive on my key ring with copies of all my important documents [*]

[*] Had a fire that gutted half the building near mine once. I had HD backups of data, but they could have gone up in smoke. After that, I got the thumb drive. Now I scan in as much as I can [or print receipt/confirmations to .pdf files]

about a month ago

Correcting Killer Architecture

Forever Wondering Re:Wind turbine array (98 comments)

Why not instead of baffles construct an array of wind turbines to take the energy out the wind? Fix the deadly gales problem and power the building at the same time.

Yes, you could provide power for the death ray when the sun isn't shining.

about a month ago

Vint Cerf on Why Programmers Don't Join the ACM

Forever Wondering Re:"For Computer Programmers" (213 comments)

But, "staunchly" is--it was [probably] a typo. A synonym for staunchly is "strictly" [which flows better, IMO], but "staunchly" would still be acceptable.

As to "it's" vs "its", it's often a toss up for many people as its usage isn't always clear cut [even among scholars and academics]. Consider the coin that might be used. In particular, if it's possessed by its own demons :-)

about 2 months ago

Programming Languages You'll Need Next Year (and Beyond)

Forever Wondering Re:So much Fail. Ignore. (315 comments)

And the whole riff about GC. It makes out like it's superior in all cases.

It does mention refcounting as a subset [which perl does just fine with]. But, even with GC/refcount, you still have to break cyclic links in a tree (e.g. parent node has a list of children and each child points to its parent) when you're done or it will never GC. Also, sometimes you have to do something explicit to release resources (e.g. files) at a given time, rather than some arbitrary time later.

Further, GC is the bane of anything that must provide a constant semi-realtime response. With refcounting [can be done even in C/C++ if designed that way], you've got a "pay as you go" system [when refcount goes to zero, you free immediately]. With GC, you're "piling up debt" [of reclamation].

I've got a friend who is working on a java based web server system. When GC reclamation [finally] kicks in, the entire system goes "offline" for 35-45 seconds at a clip. He claims that particular system can be ameliorated with better programming practices (e.g. be mindful when a given construct will produce large amounts of GC), but is hard pressed to convince his colleagues of the need to do so.

about 2 months ago


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