Archive for category Technology
OK maybe I should expand on that a little.
All right, let’s break it down: Should Apple and Google pay more tax?
Should they pay that tax in Ireland?
Should they shite.
They ought to be paying the tax in – ooh, I don’t know – the countries where they actually owe the tax? The places where they did the work and made the profit. As opposed to giving it to us for letting them pretend they do their business here. Apple and Google are not the only examples of this of course, and I’m sure that they’re far from the most egregious. They do actually do some stuff here, unlike hundreds of companies that have their brass-effect plaques in the IFSC. But they are immensely profitable and we are helping them keep more of those profits for themselves. For a cut.
There is nothing fundamentally wrong with offering a slightly lower rate of corporate tax to attract business, especially if it’s a loss you’re willing to take in order to compensate for another disadvantage – a fairly peripheral location, for example. It could, and I’m sure it once did, attract people to do real business and create real employment here that they would not otherwise have.
But when the rates are so low that they tempt corporations to just start trucking money through the country, and when we provide them with “pro-business regulation” that doesn’t check excessively carefully to make sure all that money is really being made here, then we are stealing. It’s as simple as that. Those companies should be paying taxes to the people of other countries, but we’re taking it.
And ultimately, it does us no good. Just look. This easy-money attitude helped create a soufflé economy that grew and grew and grew until it wasn’t there. Some people made billions out of it of course, but all most of us have to show is debt, negative equity, unemployment.
To this we can add international pariah status. Did you not notice Eurovision?
So now we begin again. What if we try to rebuild the economy on radical principles – like proper regulation, reasonable taxation, and actual value?
- Apple pays tax rate of less than 2pc in Ireland (independent.ie)
- Apple disputes claims of tax avoidance (telegraph.co.uk)
- Apple tax row: Ireland says its tax regime is not to blame (guardian.co.uk)
- Apple’s Tim Cook gives evidence as questions raised over Irish tax rates (independent.ie)
Another exam this morning. Christ what a paper. Answer three questions out of four; was going to be out of five but they had to cancel a lecture or two so they curtailed our choice to compensate… Which meant that being weak in even one area was a big risk.
And I was weak in one. This paper was Information System Innovation, a strange mix of investment decision-making, Intellectual Property law, and Open Source idealism. At all costs I wanted to avoid a question on business metrics, the tedium of which makes my brain cry.
I got lucky. My favourite area – Open Source Software – came up in two questions. If anyone on the course had been trying to avoid Open Source on the other hand, they were pretty much stuffed and mounted. And this after they told us explicitly that there would be no overlaps.
My only real problem with the paper was that there wasn’t time to say all I wanted to say. So strange to be answering questions about the likes of Richard Stallman and Linus Torvalds, people who before this seemed more like figures out of folklore. Weirder still to think that when I graduated with my primary degree, none of the stuff on this course had happened yet.
So despite the stress I actually enjoyed the exam. This may not be a good sign, as it means I managed to go on at some length about things I have opinions on. Apple versus Samsung, Menlo Park versus Xerox PARC, IP in an age of 3D printing. Did they even want opinion? Did I show I was fully engaged with the material, or rave about stuff that was only tangentially related? Essentially, I can only have done either a brilliant or a disastrous paper.
But I have the whole summer to worry about that.
- Linus Torvalds Announces Release of Linux 3.9 (hothardware.com)
- Happy 60th Birthday, Richard Stallman, Free Software God! (readwrite.com)
- Geek Madness: Nikola Tesla named greatest geek ever after trouncing Torvalds (geekwire.com)
Wow. Doing an exam is like shoving fistfuls of drugs into your face.
Well, doing an exam after…
- Studying frantically in a sort of cold panic for over a week
- Waking up at 3am and not getting get back to sleep until an hour before the alarm
- Rushing out of the house only to find that the car won’t start
… feels like messing your head up with all sorts o’ bad stuff. Stress, with the stress on stress.
I still don’t know what was up with the car. Yes I had checked it the night before and no, I didn’t leave the electrics on. It was the good new battery that saved me in fact, because as the last desperate throw of the dice I just turned the engine over and kept turning it over until finally, one cylinder at a time, life returned. Perhaps I’d flooded it on the first try.
So now trying to get to my exam through rush hour traffic on very little sleep but oh so much adrenalin. Made it as far as the campus with minutes to spare, knew it would take too long to find a student parking space so threw handfuls of change at a ticket machine. Ran up three flights, downed three cups of water, made it.
This was Java, at once somehow my most feared and enjoyed subject. The course had been challenging – literally half the class had transferred out – but I felt like I was beginning to grasp its rhythms and its symmetries. Some programmers dislike the language; I have little to compare it to but I see a beauty in it.
Java is perhaps the best known example of an “Object Orientated” . If I dare try to explain that in simple terms, it means that instead of being long impenetrable lists of instructions, OO programs are made up of small units that attempt to model real things. A program with cars in it, say, would contain a subunit (called a “class” in Java) to represent cars. It would have its associated variables – colour perhaps, size, top speed – and “methods”, which represent what a car does: accelerate, brake, etc. They can be as elaborate or as simple as you need, but cars will exist in your program as discrete entities that can interact with other entities like passengers or junctions or other cars.
You can define subclasses that have things in common with some cars but not others, like 4x4s. Or superclasses – for example, one of vehicles – that comprise cars and other objects. In this way you clarify the relationships between things; you also avoid having to write the same code over and over, as subclasses inherit features from their superclasses. “Accelerate” for example need only ever be defined once to be used by every sort of vehicle. All these knit together in careful, logical ways to represent and simulate how things in the real world can interrelate. It’s elegant and subtle.
And elusive at times. So I worried that my understanding of the concepts was still quite tenuous and that an unexpected question might blow a hole right through it. But I think the exam went well. One good thing – I started at full speed, and stayed at full speed for three hours. All right, some of the answers may have been a little “Ooh, here’s another thing I remember!”, but I think I displayed a thorough understanding.
Unless of course I don’t understand, in which case I will have displayed a thorough misapprehension. To find out, we must now wait till autumn.
This is all over by 12:30, but the rest of the day is not without incident. Get some things I needed done done, fetch and carry, all in a strange trance of excess energy. I make it home eventually. The idea is to have an early night but I am as wired as I’m tired. It’s one in the morning before I finally – joyfully – go to my bedroom and reach to turn on the light.
And step in something wet.
That is never good. That is never never never good. It’s not much good in a bathroom or a kitchen. But in a bedroom, stepping in something wet is right out.
There is a puddle forming on the floor. The computer I’m building is sitting there powered up to standby, so it’s just as well I “went to bed” when I did. There is a drip from the ceiling. Deftly turning off all electrics and water with a single move, I fetch a ladder and squirm into the attic.
It’s coming from the complex pipework linking the three tanks of water in the attic space (I do not know why there are three tanks of water in the attic space). It is dropping directly onto a box of my personal memorabilia, and from there through the floor. After cutting away some of the nice new insulation I find a weeping joint. I fetch tools and tighten the fitting, squirm out and turn water back on.
Leak much much worse bugger.
Opening offending joint, I find that yet again a pipe has eroded. Don’t know what’s doing this, but it’s maybe the fourth instance of spontaneous dissolving pipe in the last couple of years. What the hell are we drinking? Spend the next hours crawling around in the dusty, glass-fibery, spidery dark doing work almost utterly unlike the pure cerebration of the morning, so tired now that – mercifully – I can’t even feel how tired I am.
Quite a day.
- 10 Reasons to Learn Java Programming Language and Why Java is Best (javarevisited.blogspot.com)
- Why Encapsulation Matters (java.dzone.com)
Done. Just submitted my first ever systems analysis of a real company. It’s an assignment, I think it went OK. We (a team of three) freely admit we could have used more information than we had access to, but I reckon we probably did reach useful conclusions about the dangers this little software company faces – and what they might do about them.
Think it’s a good team. Funny reading the report afterwards; even edited together you can clearly see the difference in our styles. The others did things like bringing in detail and applying theory. My part is, well, narrative. I’m writing stories. Which is a little weird, but maybe it works. You need all of that in a report. It just maybe needs to be a bit more… blended. The sudden gear-changes from academic to emotive prose are probably more fun than they really ought to be.
Just one question remains. Why am I doing systems analysis again?
The window of McCambridge’s is one of the great places in Galway to have coffee. Looking onto the main shopping thoroughfare, it combines all that’s best about walking around town with all that’s best about sitting inside not doing that.
With our weather – and the last time I was here I watched a wooden forklift pallet being blown down the road – it’s a priceless resource.
The name of that thoroughfare by the way is Shop Street. I’ve always liked the excessive literalness of that. The adjoining High Street meanwhile is full of pubs. All we really need is for the banks to be down Arsehole Avenue.
But I must stop avoiding the issue, I’m here to apologise. This has been one of the longest breaks I’ve ever taken from writing here. What siren has lured me away with her haunted song? I’ll tell you honestly. Flagrant geekery. Part of the time it’s been Java. Not the coffee, the programming language. Part of the time it’s been Linux. All of it, in short, stuff that most people neither understand nor – and here’s the really tricky part – particularly want to understand.
So writing about them in an entertaining way may be a little tricky. But I will give it a go.
In magazines, you have a freedom of design almost on a par with illuminated manuscript. You can set your headlines in any font imaginable, even one where all the letters are little nude couples demonstrating the Kama Sutra, and run them vertically, horizontally, or at any angle between.
On the Web, you’re more constrained. Snazzy design was not a significant priority when it was conceived as a way to publish academic papers. On the contrary, the choice of font was originally left entirely to the reader. That makes a hell of a lot of sense when the priority is conveying information rather than amusing the eye (and in fact any decent browser still lets you override the creator’s intent and choose the font you find most readable), but of course designers soon wanted more control.
One way to insert fancy lettering is to do it as images. But these take longer to download, and directly conflict with important principles of flexibility and accessibility. Worst of all, search engines can’t index the text in a picture. So though they are used a lot for the headers of pages, images are deeply unsuitable when it comes to the body text.
There is some flexibility; the designer can specify what font they want. But “want” is the operative word – the wish will only come true if the user happens to have that font installed on their computer. While this is OK for a handful of almost ubiquitous “Websafe” fonts like Times New Roman or Arial Black, go for anything more imaginative and you’re taking your chances. There are different fonts installed on PC, Mac, Android, Linux, and so on. If the one specified isn’t there, another must be substituted. The result might look OK, or it might be grotesque.
But hey, it’s the Internet – why not just download a font? The idea looks good at first glance but there are a number of problems. A font is a big thing and takes time to download, so you either wait for it to finish before the text can appear, which would be tedious, or switch to it when the font arrives, which would be ugly and annoying.
What’s more, fonts tend to be expensive and proprietary. It’s a profitable industry, and foundries (many still call themselves that) are reluctant to give their high-value goods away. Thanks to this lack of cooperation, attempts to make downloadable fonts part of Web design have sputtered and died several times already in the medium’s brief history.
And that’s the stage we’re still stuck at, as I was telling a friend a couple of days ago. Afterwards though I decided to check on the latest developments – and I found I was dead wrong. Things have moved fast since I’d last looked. There are currently two “Webfont” services actually up and running. Adobe’s, which you pay for, and one from Google that’s free.
Hmm. I do like free.
So I had to try this. I’ve been (sporadically) working on a whole new cutting-edge website using Drupal and PHP and MySQL and all that good stuff. It’s still a long way from being finished though, and the aesthetic stage of the design, when I get there, must start with a clean sheet. So I can’t be doing experiments on that. In the meantime however I’ve neglected my actual working website. In fact it’s dated to the core now. Standards compliant, sure, but not to standards that people remember now. And the newest material on it must be five years old. But it’s all the showcase I’ve got, and I do actually get business from that site. A design refresh might be just the thing.
So I gave it the Google Webfont treatment. You might find it displays the old sensible face first before the fancy handmade-looking one appears, but once it has loaded you wouldn’t know it’s not a normal font.
The range Google has is still limited, at least when it came to my specific need for an all-cap, comic-lettering style font. The best I found is called “Walter Turncoat”, for some bizarre reason. It might remind too many people of MS Comic Sans, but it bears a surprisingly good resemblance to my real hand-lettering.
It’s true that it seems a little rough. In the illustration I’ve inflated one up to some ridiculous size (350pt!), and you can see that in spite of it being a real vector font the edges are bizarrely complex and jagged. This I guess is an artefact of the compression that makes them load at such an impressive rate.
I’d like to see the roughness improved upon somehow – or perhaps it will be less important as screen resolutions continue to increase – but even with it I think the font gives the site a personality and friendliness that simply would not have been possible otherwise. We are on the threshold of a new era here.
- How to Use Webfonts in Blogger (asserttrue.blogspot.com)
- 3 Simple Tips That’ll Have You Customizing WordPress like a Web Design Pro (managewp.com)
- Responsive Typography in Web Design: Understanding and Using (designmodo.com)
- Rethinking On Typography with Google Web Fonts (zoho.com)
Going back then to my guide to making your own computer, it’s at this point that I’m supposed to say something wise like: “Before choosing the parts for your PC, ask yourself what you’re going to be using it for”, or “Decide now how much you really want to spend”. To my mind however, the only sensible answers to these questions are:
A) Everything! And
B) As little as I can possibly get away with.
PCs are meant to be flexible, inexpensive and upgradeable computing machines, so let what you can get be the guide to what you should get; what happens to be available at a good price now. Perhaps memory is really more important than that crazy amazing video card, but if the card is on sale at a great price now, memory can always be upgraded later. Seek bargains, go with the flow. Though bear in mind that by a bargain I mean something that’s cheaper than it usually is, not the kind of part that’s always cheap. Reliability is everything in a computer, so quality is worth paying – or at least waiting – for. Look out for brands with a track record, read all the reviews you can get your hands on.
So you could say that the place to start is wherever you’re at. See a bargain? Start! But from another point of view, your real starting point is the motherboard. Virtually everything else slots or plugs into it – as you may guess from the photograph – so more than any other it’s your motherboard that will define what components you’ll be able to use. It’s crucial therefore to have a nice one. But what goes into the choosing?
One choice is between the two major makers of processors, the chips that sit at the heart of a computer. Intel you will surely have heard of; AMD perhaps not, though they offer the chip design Goliath some degree of rivalry. Indeed – though l may be lynched for saying this – I suspect their David status may help explain their lasting popularity with system builders. Their image is not so sleek and corporate as Intel’s.
AMD have been technology leaders from time to time – producing the first 1 GHz processor, developing the 64-bit architecture that Intel themselves later adopted – but I think Goliath has it all over them just now. Processors have to fit into a socket on the motherboard, the design of which usually changes with the technology. Intel however have just introduced a new generation that are largely compatible with the socket – known as LGA 115 – used by the previous. That means these boards can use processors ranging in price, to go by Dabs.ie, from €35 to almost ten times that much. That is a hell of a range of options.
And that means you can get a cheap one now and upgrade at least once, perhaps more, over the lifetime of that motherboard. Which is exactly the route I chose, purchasing a dual core, 2.7 GHz Celeron G555 – a processor that could by no means be described as feeble - for only €50. So you may have a particular reason to prefer some other family of processors, but to my mind that LGA 1155 socket is the thing to look out for in a motherboard right now.
But there’s more…
- The Leviathan Takes Form (i.doubt.it)