PC doldrums, Back to BASICs, Google's blog skew

Morning, constutionals

Letters : Life can be Krewell - and MDR analyst Kevin Krewell gets a rough reception for the predictions he made here:-

Intel 'back in the driver's seat'

Nice rosy 'status quo' forecast from Instat/MDR.

Here is an alternative prediction. Businesses, realizing there is no need for 3 Ghz machines that run hot, use a lot of power, and make a lot of noise, start buying cheap computers ($300 ASP for the whole thing!) directly from Via or another Taiwanese manufacture. They either use their existing Windows licenses from older machines no longer needed by their 'downsized' organizations or install Linux. The later of which allows them to keep a few extra IT people that otherwise would be laid off.

Dave Gallo

After reading the total nonsense spewed by Kevin Krewell of In-Stat/MDR there is even MORE reason NOT to trust analysts! Apparently Kevin doesn't get out too much or he would know that AMD has been toying with Intel with CPU speeds just fast enough to maintain a lead for the past two years. By now everyone in the PC industry is aware the P4 seriously under-performs in comparison to either the PIII or Athlon processors. Every time Intel releases a faster clockspeed P4 AMD answers with a faster Athlon, with the 2800+ Thoroughbred having just been released. For all the claims of "shortages" of AMD 2400/2600/2700/2800+ speed CPU's there sure were a Helleva lot of them available for reviewers... I've never seen so many reviews on one processor as there was with the 2700+/2800+ Thoroughbred so there must be a few of these available to someone. Channel folks claim to be building the 2400+/2600+ boxes as we speak for sale in a few weeks so their must be some product available.

The reality is AMD enjoyed a significant performance gain with the ninth metal layer and 333 MHz FSB. As a result they decided to retool and extend the Thoroughbred's life. Naturally this pushed production of faster Thoroughbreds back several months from their original scheduled delivery dates but it also allowed AMD to flush the channel of old inventory. This makes perfect sense in a down economy. As I and other (unpaid) analyst who understand the financial aspects of Biz have written, no one needs a 1.4 Gig. PC. Until such time as the economy recovers or software mfgs. deliver a "need" for faster PC's, new hardware sales will suffer.

Despite what Mr. Greenspan and company perceive, the U.S. economy is in a depression and we haven't bottomed yet. For AMD to roll out it's all-conquering Hammer series in a depression would be financial suicide. Intel is fully aware they have nothing to compete with the Hammer series in either 32 or 64 bit models. Hammer will be faster AND cheaper while providing very nice ASP's. The P4 has already hit the wall at 2.8 Gigs.. and needs a new Mobo design with higher current capacity. If this sounds familiar you may want to revisit the overclocked PIII 600's Intel dumped into the market to try and compete with AMD's superior K6-3. The PIII 600 chips were eventually recalled due to overheating... And it goes without saying that no one wants an Itanic I or II, not even Dell. When Intel's retail store a.k.a. as Dell refuses the Itanic II you know Intel is in trouble and so does Intel.

Intel's strategy is to use "talking heads" to Spin while they dump tons of new chipsets into the marketplace to confuse Mobo makers and consumers alike. If you can't beat the competition on CPU performance then muddy the waters so consumers can't differentiate between brands. While consumers may not be aware of the FUD and Spinning, enterprise buyers ARE aware. AMD is enjoying increased enterprise sales (at Intel's expense) even in a down economy and the major players have all lined up behind Hammer. Even Dell is looking to finally cave in if Intel is unable to buy them off... with "incentives".

The entire PC industry is in the doldrums until the U.S. economy recovers and that doesn't look to be any time soon. Once it does recover, AMD is positioned to do just fine. Loosing a few percentage points in market share in a down economy is no surprise at all considering AMD had won several points each prior quarter for the past two years. The only reason Intel has been able to maintain their dominant position is due to their installed customer base. Now that VIA, SIS, Nvidia and others are producing equal or better Mobo chipsets and AMD is taking the high road on CPU's with Athlon and Hammer, and VIA is taking the low road with their CPU's, Intel's monopoly is crumbling. The World as we know it is changing for the better where competition improves the breed and lowers the ASP's to the reality zone. Intel will learn to live with a smaller slice of the pie and the competition will enjoy a larger slice of the pie. Consumers on all levels will be the winners when the dust settles.

Randy Hubbard
Race-Tech Engineering, Inc.

A correction from the United Kingdom:-

Supremes sympathize in copyright immortality case

Please correct your article to properly reflect the actual wording in the United States Constitution.

You say:

I think the language of the Constitution defies this reading. It says Congress 'has the power to' (not 'shall' -- we'll get to that in a moment) "promote" creative works. It does not say 'guarantee the optimal production' of creative works, though Lessig seems to be reading it as if it did. He's saying (among other things) that if Congress passes a copyright law that fails to result in a measurable increase of creativity, then that law is unconstitutional. I don't think it is. I would say it's broken, certainly, but not unconstitutional. After all, the United States is plagued by thousands of laws which are both broken and perfectly constitutional. It's the Supreme Court's job to fix the unconstitutional ones; it's Congress' job to fix the broken ones.

The constitution actually says:

Congress shall have the power to....

To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries;

According to Article I Section 8 You will notice the primary clause of this sub-section is "To promote the progress of science and useful arts" and the secondary clause (providing for a means to do so) is: "by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries".

If the laws congress has passed are according to this section of the constitution, Lawrence Lessig is not skating on thin Ice. If congress are acting according the secondary clause, it must be in the context of the primary clause. Please don't mis-quote the constitution then base an argument on the mis-quote. For that matter, please refrain from mis-quoting anything or anyone then basing a misleading argument upon it.

Nick Hill

Real cure for the vileness of Visual Basic
Visual Basic's vileness haunts MS .NET
[your letters]

In our last letters round-up we declared the great Visual Basic debate closed. So it's with the greatest reluctance that we must heave open the coffin lid, one more time.

Your defender writes:-
In B.A.S.I.C. integers have been 16 bits since FOREVER!
The BBC Micro, with 8bit 6502 processor, was introduced in 1982 (just 20 years ago) and used "BBC Basic": an improvement on all its predecessors and most of its sucessors (including VB!).

BBC Basic uses 32 bit integers.
See BBC Basic.com for more information.

Martin Ward

I must say I agree with your sentiment. What I found particularly odd however is that Verity Stob does not refer to any of the *REAL* issues that I have to deal with from day to day with Visual Basic.
Here're my list of Top 10 favourites:

  • Option Explicit is switched OFF by default, causing most people that are new to VB, or simply poor programmers to cut even worse code than they otherwise would. Lovely.

  • Lack of support for null terminated strings (making any API call involving a string a nightmare). Ditto for (typed) pointers

  • Lack of polymorphism, inheritance and other grown-up OO features. No, VB classes are NOT OO

  • Inability to compile a console application (despite the underlying compiler actually supporting this feature)

  • Why use strongly typed variables when you can have slower and more error prone variants?

  • Lack of support for Function pointers. Thou shalt statically link thy DLL's

  • Lack of VB function declarations in the SDK, plus numerous errors and inconsistencies in the APILOADER

  • COM support limited to IDispatch interfaces

  • Your process may have one thread, and one thread only

  • Kindergarten error trapping

Plus the bonus

  • Insistence by Management that VB is the only development tool that shall be used.

Supposedly this is because development time is faster, it's cheaper to maintain, and code more re-usable. Yeah, right.

Ivan Jones

"And so we must declare this thread closed. (r) "

Ha. :)

1. The arrays, as far as I'm aware still use round brackets.
2. The checkbox is *not* a boolean control. It makes *no* sense to treat it as such. It has Mr Mitchell points out, *three* states. Checked, Grayed and Unchecked. How, pray tell, would Ms Stob prefer these to be represented in a boolean fashion?

I would like to believe that I'm the only person drawing your (her) attention to these points, and I would also like to believe that you will pass on this information to her.
I'm also a realist.
Geoff Bennett.

Yeah, yeah. The thread's closed. I know. But I thought it might be interesting, in a geek kind of way, to know that the venerable language Ada used () for function parameters and array indices. Why? Because military terminals, of which much programming was done, and owned by the people that paid for Ada (the DoD) didn't have [ and ].
So the poor sap (i.e. the compiler writer) had to work out what
X := F(3)
meant. It could be an array, with index 3. It could be a function with parameter 3. It could even be (get this), a parameterless function returning an array, subsequently indexed by 3.

Ken Tindell

Let me start by saying I'm not a programmer. I've played around with writing program ever since I had a ZX81 with a flakey 16kb expansion pack in the early 80s. I've used Greywolf BASIC on a 128Kb SANYO PC, BASIC on BBC Micros and Acorn Archimedes, and various iterations of Visual Basic. I've also tried Delphi C++, PERL, and I even occasionally manage to write JavaScript routines that do more than create an error message.

Visual Basic, in all versions up to version 6, was a god-send. Finally, there was a programming language where the syntax was simple to learn, the concepts easy to grasp and the editor easy to use. The help file was pretty damn good too. It has been described to me by my coder friends as programming for morons. I agree entirely. It does allow people like me to write pretty good programs, evolving by guesswork as much as skill, and have them perform very useful tasks by the end of it.

I don't have to learn an arcane syntactical law like C++. I don't have to try to write an entire routine to determine what type of data I'm going to receive from an API call prior to receiving it so I can declare my types accordingly. [Can't you just cast everything to a void pointer, and hope for the best? - Letters.Ed]I don't have to ensure I put a bloody semi-colon in at the end of every line because the compiler is too daft to treat a CRLF pair as an end-of-statement indicator.

By contrast, I've found Visual Basic .NET to be obfuscating in the extreme. The single biggest way that MS could have converted the legions of people like me, would have been by writing help files that did not require an MSc to decode and by ensuring the "convert from VB6" function worked correctly.

Your reviewer, Verity Stob, might dislike Visual Basic. That's fine. Everyone has a right to their views. I hate Chihuahuas. However, she should not take credit away from what actually is an extremely good introduction to coding, and an extremely powerful tool used by hundreds of thousands of people.

The similarity between her last name and the word 'snob' might not be just coincidence.

Dan Halford

Thanks Dan. It's no coincidence that it also rhymes with "Shut Your Gob", so that's enough, please.

.Mac is .Not .So .Bad. Here's an novel reason why .Not:-

I wound up paying the US$50 for a .mac subscription, not because I want or use the mail service, any of the iPhoto stuff (hah! you can't use it in Australia *anyway*), or iDisk (which is slow enough to be useless from this side of the Pacific).
No, what made me pay up was iSync. I have Macs at work, and Macs at home. At the moment the only way to use iSync to keep iCal in sync between them would be to carry a supported device around or to pay for .mac.
I don't have a T68, and I don't want to take my iPod to work.
So .mac was really the only choice there.
Hopefully I'll figure out how to con iSync into syncing to any random DAV server, and then I can drop the .mac subscription when it comes to renewal time.

Matt McLeod

On the other hand, the pressure for a price drop is growing:-

I predict that:

1. By Macworld SF 2003, if not before, the introductory .Mac sub price of USD 49 will have become the standard price.

2. As this will not help boost the number of subscribers significantly, by Macworld NY 2003 .Mac will be taken out the back and quietly shot (along with every Apple exec, aside from Steve of course, who thought it was a good idea in the first place).

Another attempt to inveigle consumers into renting software instead of buying it will have been defeated, hooray. Alas Apple will have lost a valuable customer database and pissed off a bunch of loyal customers in the process (there are many opportunities for cocking up the the inevitable rebates required for .Mac subscribers who are prematurely terminated when it is killed, these will undoubtedly be taken advantage of by Apple, as usual).

David Shanahan.

Google explains new page rankings

Google's skew persists - but readers have found more substantial issues than downgraded diaries. (What we used to call blogs, back in the old days).

Interestingly enough, I also have a journal in which a relate a small tale about Flintstone Vitamins. If you do a search for "Flintstone Vitamins" using Google.ca, the 'official' site comes in sixteenth while my journal entry comes first.
Ridiculous? Yes. Amusing? Absolutely!

Rick Pali

It doesn't look like they're totally fixed. My site comes out #1 on a search for "henry the horse dances the waltz" (due to the fact that I've got a script that inserts a random song line at the top of my pages, and I guess that was the one being used at the time google did its spidering) - This will replaced by a hit for some other lyric next time the spider goes over my site
The 3rd result onwards gives sensible returns
Richard Munn
"Help me! I'm turning into a grapefruit!"

Your article on Google's page rank changes is very disappointing.

There are lots of tech outlets that re-write press releases and take tech company statements at face value. I expect more of the Register. Look into some of the complaints about what is broken in google's page ranking that were in Wired's article, eg here or here

Google's reworking DID push blogs down, who cares? It also greatly degraded some results, there are a LOT more Spam and keyword traps are appearing high in the rankings. 15 minutes of testing would have shown you that there are some problems. Here are the ones Mark found:

- Searching for reservation hotel brings up an empty sub-page of a hotel reservation company in Italy as the first result. This seems unhelpful, and unlikely to be relevant to the average US-based consumer (and Google absolutely knows I‚m in the US based on my IP address).

- Searching for news observer nc (the News & Observer is a Raleigh, NC newspaper) does find The News & Observer, but it also finds an Internet betting spam page at #7 and a non-existent page at #9.

- Searching for Eminem gives us two generic portal pages, a non-existent site, and a site that redirects to a site that continuously redirects to itself (I am not making this up). And this is just on the first page. Good thing I didn't care that much about Eminem to begin with, because Google just isn't that helpful.

Jonathan Peterson®

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