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Jim Manley
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Re: Bill Gates backs Raspberry Pi in all but name?

Sat Jun 30, 2012 11:38 pm

obarthelemy wrote:I like the French saying "La critique est aisée, mais l'art est difficile" (criticizing others' work is easy, doing/making something is hard)
I've done the latter for a living (and I'll admit it, lots of fun) for 40 years - you don't last long in SillyCon Valley if you don't, unlike in palaces on the Eastern outskirts of the Emerald City (it rains a lot there, it's green, Emerald ... hey, I didn't make it up, Google it - not sure whether it would come up in Bing, though :) ). We're seeing the results of not responding to a real market and not being able to torque the market illegally being played out right before our very eyes.
Jonathan 'gritz' wrote:I'm sure that the Googlebot (and all the other spamdrivers and autosnoopers) will have already noted your presence and lack of paranoia!

Happy 500th post btw Jim.
I have high friends in low places ... or was it low friends in high places ... inside the Googlebot who look out for me. What people who use handles don't realize is that their posts can be correlated even more easily because their handles tend to be much more unique (and often far more personally descriptive) than their real names, particularly compared with common Anglo-Saxon names (there are a surprising number of us in the Valley). Then, there's IP addresses and other miscellany most people have no idea they're leaving in their wake as packets hop between servers with infinite recollection. That's despite storage medium failures which only happen when there are no duplicates anywhere on the planet, which isn't the case for Internet traffic because of its designed-in redundancy thanks to those smartypants ARPAnet guys ... oh, wait, I'm one of them ;)

500 posts? My how time flies when you're having fun! Thanks! I think I'll celebrate with some nice, warm Pi :D
johnbeetem wrote:Perhaps they -- like me -- have never seen anyone use "bAbble" before and have no idea whom you're talking about :-)
Yeah, right, and I have this bridge formerly in New York spanning from some Florida swamp land to Arizona desert scrub that I can sell you for a mere pittance. CrApple/Crapple seems more than a bit inaccurate, since I don't think anyone would argue they don't have a long history of using the best (or at least the most expensive) materials and don't obsess over the most minute software details (important or otherwise). That's modulo the blunders I listed earlier, although many of those were actually marketing goofs, like Jobs not knowing that executives couldn't type and the disaster that licensing MacOS proved to be. Hey, at least I'm trying to be a little creative here ... so much for the failed French slight about not doing/making anything :P
johnbeetem wrote:I'm very amused by the WART acronym.
That makes at least two of us! It's right up there with Windoze CE ... WinCE (CE stood for Compact Edition or, as developers came to call it, Compost Edition :roll: ), using the Rolling Stones' song "Start Me Up" for one of its OS launches and not realizing some of the lyrics include "It makes a grown man cry-y-y ... ", not knowing that millions of people were on-line not using Microsloth products when developing Windoze 95 (the "Internet Tidal Wave" memo: http://www.lettersofnote.com/2011/07/in ... -wave.html), his product manager wife-to-be's Microsloth BoB (aka "BooB"), and do I even need to mention the word "Clippy"? :lol:

OK, for those in the Equal Time Department, there's Siri (aka Silli), the iOS device user location-tracking debacle about a year ago, the iPhone 4 "Antenna-gate" non-issue (avoided by the 99.99% who put a case on their expensive purchase, and statistically identical to dropped calls on competing smart phones), the awful iTunes-integrated Motorola ROKR phone (one of the reasons Jobs decided to create the iPhone), the $600+ QuickTake 200 camera (no focus, no removable media), the reaction to the iPhone 4 prototype "lost" in a bar (sending goons posing as police to a blogger's home demanding return of it - it's not clear whether it had been lifted from the inebriated engineer celebrating his birthday), the flubbed MobileMe on-line service launch (aka MobileMeh), the suspicious App Store submission review process ... well, you get the idea.

It sure is a good thing that everything is perfect here on Planet Pi though ... :D
The best things in life aren't things ... but, a Pi comes pretty darned close! :D
"Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire." -- W.B. Yeats
In theory, theory & practice are the same - in practice, they aren't!!!

baldboffin
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Re: Bill Gates backs Raspberry Pi in all but name?

Sun Jul 01, 2012 1:24 am

Bill Gates would back anything he thinks he can make money from
but would make damn sure it didn't quite work first time, or second, or third,
so you have to keep buying it over and over and over etc...

obarthelemy
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Re: Bill Gates backs Raspberry Pi in all but name?

Sun Jul 01, 2012 4:55 am

johnbeetem wrote:Here's an interesting article on the recently-announced MS Surface: http://www.tgdaily.com/mobility-feature ... er-surface
A new report claims that PC vendors - including Hewlett Packard (HP) - are up in arms over Microsoft's recent decision to enter the lucrative tablet market with its Surface device.



"Most were debating whether or not to bother with WART (Windows on ARM RT) devices, and struggling to find a reason to do so," says Charlie Demerjian of SemiAccurate.
The article makes some interesting accusations. I am looking forward to watching how this all plays out. I'm very amused by the WART acronym. My favorite comment to the article: "I am altering the deal. Pray I don't alter it any further."
That article is more than semi-inaccurate:
- WART includes Office, I don't see how WART is more expensive than Win/x86+Office, or how Win/x86 does more. Unless Notepad has been sharply upgraded ^^
- I'm not sure it takes much espionage to design a tablet, even if it has a handy stand and useful-looking keyboard. Hopefully it will handle keyboard and mouse nicely, which neither iOS nor Android do, yet.
- I haven't heard of any other WART cancellations aside from HP, who may not be the paragon of coherent/efficient tablet/mobile strategists. Surface looks like a hero device to me, like the Nexuses (Nexi ?), designed to serve as a high-price showpiece. There will be plenty of room below it, and maybe even above it (Transformer ?).

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Jim Manley
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Re: Bill Gates backs Raspberry Pi in all but name?

Sun Jul 01, 2012 7:48 am

And people thought there was fragmentation in the tablet market when the number of Android models reached hundreds. Even if MS executes the Surfaces perfectly (and they'd better on the first try - the days of finally getting things working by v3.x are long passed), the hardware partners are going to deviate because they have to differentiate for the completely worthless branding reasons (they're all using essentially the same parts and software). The netbook market proved to be a bust because everyone played the old race-to-the-bottom-on-price game (when will they ever learn?), and this is smelling a lot like the netbook fiasco. No one seems to know what the heck an Ultrabook is supposed to be (high-priced netbooks with fewer players after the netbook market shakeout), but, the Surface Pro sure appears to have the same specs, although, on mostly-unproven hardware (who can tell, since no one can get one, never mind do a tear-down).

That no one was allowed to even touch a keyboard at the Surface announcement (it wasn't a launch - no one can even demo either model, much less buy one) is not a good omen (it didn't help that one of the RT units locked up on the presenter). By the time the beta testers (aka first production customers) get a chance to bang on them in numbers, it will be too late to fix things before the holiday shopping season, and it's already too late for the commercial, government, and education markets to buy significant quantities and take possession before their new fiscal years start.

We're living the Chinese curse/blessing: "May you live in interesting times." :)
The best things in life aren't things ... but, a Pi comes pretty darned close! :D
"Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire." -- W.B. Yeats
In theory, theory & practice are the same - in practice, they aren't!!!

gritz
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Re: Bill Gates backs Raspberry Pi in all but name?

Sun Jul 01, 2012 9:34 am

The "netbook fiasco" happened for no other reason than netbooks were a bad idea.

1) To big to fit in a pocket (unless you wear the kind of pants that MC Hammer would be proud of).

2) Rendered the user immobile when actually interacting with the thing ("let me find a wifi spot, sit down, boot up and google that for you...")

3) Piffling battery life in most cases.

4) They just weren't "cool" (sorry, but it matters).

5) The last one percent of potential users who could live with the above limitations found themselves infuriated by gutless performance and the realisation that applications designed for desktops are actually most pleasant to run on a desktop.

It's obvious now, but the manufacturers just didn't think it through. The netbook blip was also possibly the last hurrah for Linux (of the non-appstore variety) in the wider public consciousness too.

There should be a market for a tablet that multi-tasks, runs (suitably optimised) Windows programs, isn't hobbled by a lack of bloody USB ports and ain't made of cheese, but it's been a long time coming. Perhaps there isn't a market at all. Interesting times indeed. I know a few people (myself included) that could find a use for one, but the uses we have are niche - and we always seem to find ourselves thwarted by that race to the bottom...

Finally Jim, don't kid yourself. In consumerland the end user is always an unwitting beta tester. It's the alpha thing that I object to.

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rurwin
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Re: Bill Gates backs Raspberry Pi in all but name?

Sun Jul 01, 2012 10:22 am

The netbook was the last attempt at what the RaspPi is now -- a low cost computing platform. Unfortunately there are far too many customers that demand a desktop-like experience and far too many executives that are willing to bend over backwards to give them what they think they need. The result was neither low-cost nor desktop experience, just a weak laptop with a keyboard too small to type on.

Microsoft is going the other way; dragging the desktop experience down to match a tablet. I don't expect that to work either, but time will tell.

The fact is that the form-factor defines the usage; different things are suited to a desktop, a netbook, a tablet or a phone. Right now not even Android has noticed the latter distinction and MS admits to none of them, but until the differences are accepted people will keep on complaining that they can't do the same stuff on their phone as they can on a desktop with ten times the power, resolution and memory.

Regarding acronyms, my favourite was the brief moment a decade ago when Microsoft's products were Windows CE.ME.NT.

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Jim Manley
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Re: Bill Gates backs Raspberry Pi in all but name?

Sun Jul 01, 2012 2:30 pm

One of the interesting side effects of the netbook craze (pronounced with a "long" e) period was that a number of decent models did sneak through, especially from Acer. I'm typing this on an Aspire with a 1.6 GHz Core-2 Duo (ultra-low-voltage with instantaneous clock idling mode when user interaction ceases), an 11.6-inch 1366x768 display with a 40 GFLOPS GPU, 4 GB of RAM, 250 MB hard drive, and a 97% keyboard (relative to an average full-size keyboard - the lower limit is about 95% for most folks before they start hitting incorrect keys), that weighs 3.1 pounds, yet has a 6-cell 6,000 maH battery that easily runs over eight hours. They basically took one of their 10.1-inch screen netbook bodies and somehow fit the 11.6-inch display in the lid - the bezel around the edges is barely 3/8ths of an inch wide, but, the desktop seems almost as big as that on a decent 13-inch laptop and the graphics never seem to lag when doing 3-D and video stuff (I do all my WebGL work on it). Even HD streaming never stutters, despite the need to downscale 1080p a bit (I never watch movies on a laptop, anyway - I'm always working when mobile and that's why I bought the honkin' wall-sized display ... and to also help hold up the roof on the house :geek: ).

I got it when the netbook market was collapsing and this baby got flushed out with its underwhelming Atom-based bathwater preemie brethren and it still does everything I need when I'm flitting about without stressing my easily-torqued back muscles. It came with 64-bit Windoze 7 Premium (including the complete Media Center package) and yes, it accommodates booting every OS flavor I develop software for, including one with versions named for various feline species (their original fits-in-an-office-routing-envelope model appeared right after I bought this, which weighs about the same with the same screen size, processor family, and GPU). The display on this "lapbook" is identical to that in the Atrix lapdock I just got for the Pi and with decent GPUs in both the Pi and this unit, I'm happier than a pig in a poke.

When I really need to do some crunching, I just VNC into one of the many high-end servers I work on, all the way up to a multi-thousand core high-performance array in a local lab. I keep a 17-inch monster "notebook" (really a desktop in a clamshell) in my car for the odd times when bandwidth becomes a limiting factor or there's none at all, or I need the screen real estate, but, as WiFi access gets faster and more ubiquitous, and nearly-real 4G is starting to appear (not where I live, naturally), I'm finding that I need it less and less.

The iPads have been the salvation of my back - I can fit one in the oversized zippered access to the space between the liner and shell in my favorite Computer History Museum logoed, fleece-lined windbreaker and often forget it's there until I go to ball up the jacket when tossing it into the car or wherever, and realize there's a square foot that refuses to collapse into another dimension. I have yet to buy a single app and haven't even had to bother developing any for myself that I can't get the needed functionality in a freebie, freeing my time up to do app development for fun and profit. The freebies do tend to be somewhat "uglier" than the polished commercial versions, but, when you're doing ssh and VNC, I mean really, how fancy does that need to be?

I have a 4.3-inch 4G Android phone (often plugged into the car to recharge :( ) and an iPhone 4S that are write-offs for my work that I can test on and, if Google and the Android tablet makers ever get their act together and settle on a common infrastructure, I'll bother to snag something being cleared out that's just as shiny and new as the one with the lowest serial number was at roll-out (and debugged, to boot ;) ). I often get goodies from friends at Apple, Google (a half-dozen blocks from the museum), and other Valley icons and we get stuff for the museum all the time that's excess (we even have a number of Apple I boards which work great, except for the car battery needed when in mobile mode! :shock: ) The MS SillyCon Valley campus is a block from the museum, and their folks stop by all the time for lunch in our cafe and to wander through the exhibits.

To (finally) bring this conversation full circle, one of the things Bill and Melinda Gates did do right was have their Foundation put up half of the money for the "R|Evolution: The First 2000 Years of Computing", which shamed the rest of the Valley into contributing, most notably Google, Oracle, Steve Wozniak (Jobs never supported any non-profits publicly, but, did funnel donations through his wife, Woz, and other close friends). We just got the original Google StreetView car in our side lobby along with a bunch of related display panels and working artifacts, next to the Babbage Difference Engine presentation area.

So, there will be plenty to see when we hold our first SillyCon Valley Raspberry Jam at the museum in a few weeks, and I'll have a number of Pi boards running, along with my Atrix lapdock, and whatever other local Pi fans might bring along.
The best things in life aren't things ... but, a Pi comes pretty darned close! :D
"Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire." -- W.B. Yeats
In theory, theory & practice are the same - in practice, they aren't!!!

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Re: Bill Gates backs Raspberry Pi in all but name?

Sun Jul 01, 2012 2:47 pm

Heh, "CE.ME.NT". Never noticed that before. :)

Personally, I feel that you're crediting netbook makers with a little too much altruism, rurwin! Far from being a cheap "halfway house", I feel that it was a cynical cash-in deliberately specced and priced so as not to steal too much revenue from the respective manufacturers' notebook sales. Instead it just showed the folly of trying to scale the x86 paradigm while paying no heed to the fact that the hardware / interfacing OS / application trinity has to be a synergy - not a train wreck, held together with sticky tape.

A more sensible model might be to have complete control over hardware and OS, design a transparent user interface to suit, wrap it all in a shiny case and use it as a promotional item for selling applications in a virtual store. Be sure to vet the applications first for the "best user experience" (or whatever the focus group spiel is these days), charge a 30% fee to the app writers and watch the money roll in. Oh wait, it's already been done.

I really like the idea of small, economical boxes for getting stuff done, but it's clear that if your cpu, memory and power budget is tight then trying to create a general purpose box with a general purpose operating system (albeit with bits snipped out) that is called upon to run grown-up applications may be just too much of a compromise. Ok, sometimes you just have to have a keyboard and / or a big screen, but don't let it (or any other supposed prerequisite) become dogma. Remember that the qwerty layout was created so that the original mechanical typewriters couldn't be operated too quickly, thus tangling the typebars. So, while no-one would want to type out their thesis using a 4" touchscreen, perhaps we should really be asking "why do I have to type the damn thing at all? It's the 21st century! Why can't I just dictate it? And why are all word processing applications so... dumb? Aaaaarrrrrghhhh!" etc. And no, I don't believe that deliberately doing something the hard way makes you smart.

I guess that we're so wrapped up in the tiny details of our syntax and whatnot that the end user's real requirements just don't get a look in. "Oh Lord, free us (your inherently analogue servants) from the yoke that is the keyboard. ;)

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johnbeetem
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Re: Bill Gates backs Raspberry Pi in all but name?

Sun Jul 01, 2012 6:15 pm

Jim Manley wrote:OK, for those in the Equal Time Department, there's Siri...
The latest New Yorker (West Coast subscription print edition) has a full-page Siri advert on the back cover. Someone has asked Siri "What does poison oak look like?" Siri has efficiently and politely responded with a captioned photograph of (you guessed it) poison ivy. In fact, it's the public domain poison ivy photo from Wikipedia. I guess the key phrase is Siri's "This might answer your question".

Or, as the French would say: "La critique de Siri est vraiment trop aisée" (criticizing Siri is way too easy).

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Re: Bill Gates backs Raspberry Pi in all but name?

Sun Jul 01, 2012 6:27 pm

gritz wrote:The "netbook fiasco" happened for no other reason than netbooks were a bad idea...
Here's what SJVN has written about Microsoft and netbooks:

Computerworld (June 2009): Microsoft strikes back at Linux netbook push
http://blogs.computerworld.com/microsof ... tbook_push
Yeah. Right. Sure.

Microsoft, frightened by the sudden rise of new Linux netbooks, is doing it best to make sure that neither you, nor anyone else, get a chance to even see one, never mind buy one.

It's typical Microsoft strong arm tactics. Microsoft doesn't dare compete on quality, so it pressures OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) and retailers to keep people from even realizing that there are other, never-mind better, choices.
PCWorld (May 2010): Has Asus Abandoned Netbook Linux?
http://www.pcworld.com/article/196987/h ... linux.html
It sure looks to me like Asus, which started the Linux netbook movement, has dropped out of it.

Why? Well, it's not sales. Netbook continue to sell well in general and netbooks with Linux has about 32% of the market. And, since Linux costs less than Windows, the profit margin should be higher for Linux netbook vendors.

I'm sure that the real reason is Microsoft has pressured Asus into abandoning Linux. On ASUS' site, you'll now see the slogan "ASUS recommends Windows 7" proudly shown. Never mind that, while Windows 7 is a good operating system, Windows 7 is awful on netbooks.
OTOH, I've heard good things about Hercules netbooks.

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Re: Bill Gates backs Raspberry Pi in all but name?

Sun Jul 01, 2012 7:59 pm

johnbeetem wrote:
gritz wrote:The "netbook fiasco" happened for no other reason than netbooks were a bad idea...
Here's what SJVN has written about Microsoft and netbooks:

Computerworld (June 2009): Microsoft strikes back at Linux netbook push
http://blogs.computerworld.com/microsof ... tbook_push
Yeah. Right. Sure.

Microsoft, frightened by the sudden rise of new Linux netbooks, is doing it best to make sure that neither you, nor anyone else, get a chance to even see one, never mind buy one.

It's typical Microsoft strong arm tactics. Microsoft doesn't dare compete on quality, so it pressures OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) and retailers to keep people from even realizing that there are other, never-mind better, choices.
SJVN wrote:...The Evil Empire...
:roll:

I guess I've never taken tech bloggers / futurologists / self appointed experts terribly seriously since the "experts" promised us flying cars and cities under glass domes and completely missed the mobile phone and personal computer...

I believe I've said before that the "boo, hiss" stuff is all a bit easy. Is the meteoric rise of Android (as part of a suite of pretty poorly disguised adware) a cunning Microsoft plan? Is the closed "istore" model another Redmond creation? Good grief! Looking at the bumbling of Microsoft over the last decade the whole edifice resembles an elderly uncle that was once "a big player", but is now prone to embarrassing Mel Gibson style outbursts and smells a bit funny.

We can't keep blaming Microsoft for ever.

Regarding the netbook thing - I must move in pretty rarified circles here (in dirt-poor Devon, England). My associates (ever the ones who know a bargain) all seem to have gone for a bit more cpu (at nominal cost), or have kept their ageing desktops on life support. And why not? For everything else there's the (non-Microsoft powered) smartphone in their pockets.

Funnily enough I'm the only guy in my group with a netbook - and I have Linux to thank for it. HP saw fit to ship it with Suse and it was such a car crash that the previous owner practically gave it away. I ran it on Ubuntu (and very good it was too) 'til 9.10 broke the wifi.

Tip: If anyone (especially SJVN) wants a Linux netbook they could do worse than scoring a suitable one secondhand on ebay from a disappointed owner. Then they can install any flavour they choose. I'm serious. Money saved. One less netbook in landfill. Microsoft snubbed.

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Re: Bill Gates backs Raspberry Pi in all but name?

Sun Jul 01, 2012 8:31 pm

I'm generally the first to have a go at Microsoft but while I don't doubt that they did apply pressure, the pressure I saw came from users. Even in the early days of the eeePC there were people madly trying to get Windows onto it and succeeding, albeit on a hopelessly under-performing platform. I can't blame Asus for quietly upgrading the memory and storage and making Windows the standard install simply due to the user pressure to "ditch the stupid Linux rubbish and supply an OS people could use", especially as they were obviously totally unprepared to support Linux as anything other than a cheap alternative to Windows. Once there was a clear market for a device that cost a little more and had Windows, their choice was obvious.

You can see the same sentiment in these forums, but fortunately the RaspPi has the wrong processor and it has support for Linux that the eeePC didn't; on the RaspPi you get real Linux, not some pretty PDA look-alike that you need to hack to get a command line and which runs as root because nobody (not even Asus) understands "sudo".

It isn't any part of the RPF's plan to bring open computing to the masses. Maybe the RaspPi 2 will run Windows, and if it gets more children computing then that is a good thing. But just maybe the two agendas can work together for a while.

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Re: Bill Gates backs Raspberry Pi in all but name?

Sun Jul 01, 2012 8:43 pm

gritz wrote:I guess I've never taken tech bloggers / futurologists / self appointed experts terribly seriously since the "experts" promised us flying cars and cities under glass domes and completely missed the mobile phone and personal computer...
The mobile phone is based on Dick Tracy's 2-Way Wrist Radio (1946):
On January 13, 1946, Gould changed Dick Tracy forever with the introduction of the 2-Way Wrist Radio, having drawn inspiration from a visit to inventor Al Gross. This seminal communications device, worn as a wristwatch by Tracy and members of the police force, became one of the strip's most immediately recognizable icons, and can be thought of as a precursor to later technological developments, such as cellular phones and later watch phones. The 2-Way Wrist Radio was upgraded to a 2-Way Wrist TV in 1964.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dick_Tracy ... _the_strip
The personal computer and especially tablet computers like iPad are predicted by 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968 film):
Attached hereto as Exhibit D is a true and correct copy of a still image taken from Stanley Kubrick's 1968 film "2001: A Space Odyssey." In a clip from that film lasting about one minute, two astronauts are eating and at the same time using personal tablet computers. As with the design claimed by the D'889 Patent, the tablet disclosed in the clip has an overall rectangular shape with a dominant display screen, narrow borders, a predominately flat front surface, a flat back surface (which is evident because the tablets are lying flat on the table's surface), and a thin form factor.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2001:_A_Sp ... gy_and_law
The Internet itself and social networking is anticipated by E.M. Forster's The Machine Stops (1909).
The story describes a world in which most of the human population has lost the ability to live on the surface of the Earth. Each individual now lives in isolation below ground in a standard 'cell', with all bodily and spiritual needs met by the omnipotent, global Machine. Travel is permitted but unpopular and rarely necessary. Communication is made via a kind of instant messaging/video conferencing machine called the speaking apparatus, with which people conduct their only activity, the sharing of ideas and knowledge.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Machine_Stops
Holographic images are anticipated by my avatar in The Carpathian Castle (1892). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Carpathian_Castle

If a predicted technology hasn't happened yet, it's probably that its visionary was ahead of his or her time more than average.

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Re: Bill Gates backs Raspberry Pi in all but name?

Sun Jul 01, 2012 10:19 pm

@ johnbeetem: I'm aware of those (and other) references to some imagined future in popular culture. My point is that the hacks (even the few that have some sort of formal qualification) have an abysmal hit rate.

However, an exception to prove the rule (and my personal favourite) is this from 1901:
After the reading of Mr. Marconi's paper, which was published in full in the ELECTRICAL REVIEW for June 15 and 22, before the Society of Arts, in London, Professor W. E. Ayrton being in the chair, the following discussion took place...
The chairman: Although still far away, he thought they were gradually coming within thinkable distance of the realization of a prophecy he had ventured to make four years before, of a time when if a person wanted to call to a friend he knew not where, he would call in a loud, electromagnetic voice, heard by him who had the electromagnetic ear, silent to him who had it not. "Where are you?" he would say. A small reply would come, "I am at the bottom of a coal mine, or crossing the Andes, or in the middle of the Pacific." Or, perhaps, in spite of all the calling, no reply would come, and the person would then know that his friend was dead. Let them think of what that meant, of the calling which went on every day from room to room of a house, and then think of that calling extending from pole to pole; not a noisy babble, but a call audible to him who wanted to hear and absolutely silent to him who did not, it was almost like dreamland and ghostland, not the ghostland of the heated imagination cultivated by the Psychical Society, but a real communication from a distance based on true physical laws...
A prediction by discussion chair Professor W.E. Ayrton following the reading of Marconi's paper entitled "Syntonic Wireless Telegraphy". Sweet!

http://earlyradiohistory.us/1901ayrt.htm

With the exception of the esteemed Prof. Ayrton I contend that that the best futurologists are not the techies, but those who know a bit about people and society, because the future is generally far more mundane than we ever dare imagine.

Consider a stranger approaching you in the early 1980's and telling you that in thirty years time there would be a pocket sized wireless communication device with a processor some 200-odd times faster than your Z80. You may be thrilled, but possibly not terribly surprised - anything is possible in the future. If he then told you that the device was not utilised for intergalactic communications or promoting world peace, but was merely used by bored individuals to watch amusing videos of cats on a thing called "Youtube" then it's possible you will feel disappointed.

Predicting chaff like that may win you a Booker Prize, but it won't sell much ad space on a tech blog.

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Re: Bill Gates backs Raspberry Pi in all but name?

Mon Jul 02, 2012 12:14 am

johnbeetem wrote:
gritz wrote:On ASUS' site, you'll now see the slogan "ASUS recommends Windows 7" proudly shown. Never mind that, while Windows 7 is a good operating system, Windows 7 is awful on netbooks.
I wonder what the significance is that Asus was chosen by Google to build their just-launched Nexus 7-inch tablet with Android 4.1 Jelly Bean? That's "launched" as in you actually own one if you were one of the ~6,000 lucky enough to attend the Google I/O conference in San Francisco this past week, and they're coming to the public in volume this month, while the Surfaces ... The Asus CEO said that Google only gave them four months to develop the Nexus 7 from scratch to volume production, and that they were on a 24/7 death march between China, Taiwan, and Mountain View for that entire time.

Can you imagine MS and its "proud partners" producing anything in four months, much less new hardware running a substantially expanded/modified OS and ensuring app compatibility with minimal bugs and vulnerabilities? I haven't seen who's producing the Surfaces under contract to MS, but, it looks like it probably isn't Asus. Perhaps it's Acer, since they're most likely the only other end-to-end volume manufacturer that can produce fairly sexy-looking models such as the Surfaces without leaking the details all over the planet (courtesy of industrial spies at Foxconn and other usual-suspect contract manufacturers).

Those are some really nifty quotes I hadn't seen all of before (damn that Marconi not being from California! :) ). A year or two ago, a friend from the Navy helped celebrate the centennial of Marconi's first Transatlantic radio transmissions using hand-built replicas of his designs for the transmitter and receiver (U.S. Naval Academy students participated in Newfoundland on the North American side). The original event of 100 years ago wasn't well-documented from a technical viewpoint (at least in surviving documents) and I'll bet that a lot of the knowledge never made it outside the heads of the participants because they were so busy just trying to make things work, and then improve on the deficiencies as quickly as possible. A major detail that wasn't documented was how the team tuned the transmitters and receivers on both sides of the Atlantic so that they could maximize reception, and it wasn't obvious from the rough schematics how that was done. After building the replicas, they spent months trying various configurations of antennas and components leading up to the anniversary, and time was starting to run short (thank goodness for modern communications to allow for instantaneous coordination across the Pond!).

Then, it finally occurred to someone that the radios weren't tuned at all - they didn't have to be because the background noise from space was minimal compared with the power of their signal, and there were no other radios in existence that could interfere with their transmissions! When they analyzed the circuits in detail, they discovered that they must have been operated in a broadband mode - they just splattered RF power in Morse code across a portion of the spectrum so that the receiver didn't need to tune to any particular frequency! Talk about not being able to see the forest for the trees ... BTW, they did make the deadline and successfully exchanged the same messages that Marconi's team did on the precise date and time of the centennial. The lesson is that, no matter how smart we may think we are, if we don't understand the context of an event, the details that are correctly understood may make absolutely no sense to us in our space, time, society, etc.
gritz wrote:Consider a stranger approaching you in the early 1980's and telling you that in thirty years time there would be a pocket sized wireless communication device with a processor some 200-odd times faster than your Z80. You may be thrilled, but possibly not terribly surprised - anything is possible in the future. If he then told you that the device was not utilised for intergalactic communications or promoting world peace, but was merely used by bored individuals to watch amusing videos of cats on a thing called "Youtube" then it's possible you will feel disappointed.
I often marvel when thinking back to 1976 and the first 3-D real-time interactive system on which I had the luck to do undergraduate engineering work, an Evans & Sutherland Picture System One (serial number 2). It consisted of an extremely high-quality white-on-black 24-inch rectangular deflection screen (vector-draw like an oscilloscope, not raster-scan with pixels like a TV or modern computer display) with programmable analog user input controls (a trackball, potentiometers, buttons, etc.). Additionally, 3-D processing hardware transformed data by translating, scaling, and rotating it as quickly as possible. A Megatek three-foot-on-a-side cube contained a 1 MB static RAM array where the vertices were stored as floating-point numbers in matrices - it was dual-ported to the 3-D processing hardware and the next component. That was a PDP-11/70 connected to the Megatek via the Mass Bus, along with 32KB (yes, kilobytes) of core memory, RP-04 removable hard disk drives, RK-05 removable flex-disk drives, paper tape punch/readers, and a dial-up connection to the campus General Electric 265 mainframe where our permanent student computing accounts were stored on drum drives. The Megatek cost about a million dollars back then (i.e., about a dollar a byte!) and I imagine myself taking a smart phone back to that time and place, pulling it out of my pocket and exclaiming that I had 64 GBs of memory on the device. Of course, I would be scoffed at and if I persisted, I would be sent off to an insane asylum. However, I knew what the reaction would be - why, I would just show off access to the Internet ... for e-mail ... and the WWW ... oh, wait ... over WiFi ... ummm ... or cellular data networks ... uh-ohhhhh :shock: Most people today have absolutely no idea how far we've come with technology in a relatively brief period of time.

As for predicting the future, that's easily done by anyone if the theories about there being infinite parallel universes are correct. The trick is to predict the future in the universe in which we're currently stuck. Like someone once said, you can lead a horse to water, but, if you can get it to float on its back, then you've got something! ;) Future prediction is kind of like the 10,000 monkeys each randomly pressing keys on their own machine - sooner or later the entire works of Shakespeare will be produced. While the Internet has increased the ability of anyone to communicate with anyone else, there's still a random factor concerning people with complementary ideas running across each other. I've certainly learned a bunch from the more erudite posters just in this thread alone, and they tend to pop up in the other more interesting threads, as well.

I only found out about the Pi when the wow factor about the USB stick sized version of Eben's prototype helped punch through the media noise in May 2011, and I started avidly following the progress (one of the reasons I was among the long-term impatient - it was just such a cool idea that I wanted desperately to come to fruition). I didn't bother chiming in until the D-Day operation at the end of February because there was no sense in muddying the waters any further until the boards were going to be available. I could see the coming storm of demand as I've been involved in many product launches over the decades, and it was obvious the Pi was approaching Apple product launch expectations (a religious experience that had swelled well beyond the significance of the technology itself). As it's finally making it out into the wild in substantial numbers in the coming weeks, it will be interesting to see what the real movers and shakers are able to do (the garage-level tinkerers of all ages who don't have established connections to significant resources).

The result of all of this is that I've stumbled across people I never would have met in a million lifetimes before the Internet, and I'm thoroughly enjoying the witty repartee here. It's very refreshing to hear from inhabitants of towns and villages all over the countryside who happen to share a passion for not only this kind of technology, but, knowledge in general. That's become a rarity in the general public here, and even to some degree in the technical communities in SillyCon Valley - people are becoming more and more focused on less and less to the detrimental exclusion of things happening elsewhere, and the Pi is a prime example. Virtually everyone here goes ga-ga over the next CPU with the highest clock speed and number of cores, but, to what end?

Specs are nice, but, how is the technology going to be used? It's why we see so many horrible postulations about use-cases for products that are increasingly being driven by media mania. Just look at how Google felt it had to promote its Glass monocle/headband - tossing perfectly healthy humans out of a dirigible over downtown San Francisco. Top that, Apple, MS, et al - you'll have to play ring toss where the poor devils have to snag themselves around the spire of the Transamerica pyramid!

The one thing that comforts me is the knowledge that we are hopelessly overconfident about what will be achieved in the short term, but, we're equally short-sighted about what will eventually become de riguer over the long term. Here's to the long term ["CLINK!"] :D
The best things in life aren't things ... but, a Pi comes pretty darned close! :D
"Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire." -- W.B. Yeats
In theory, theory & practice are the same - in practice, they aren't!!!

gritz
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Re: Bill Gates backs Raspberry Pi in all but name?

Mon Jul 02, 2012 1:31 am

A heap of good stuff to digest in your post jim. The re-enactment of the Transatlantic transmission sounds a great event and I'll have to have a search for it later - I'm in the next county to (Poldhu) Cornwall, but the history is sadly pretty much forgotten here. You are right on the money about needing to appreciate the context of a situation to make sense of it after the fact btw. Problem-solving anything is about trying to get in the heads of those who were there. I try to do the same when I'm e.g. trying to work out an unfamiliar schematic.

The Marconi transmission has reminded me of the reason I got into electronics. My mum bought me a Gakken electronics kit when I was about ten. One of the experiments was a spark transmitter. Very basically it worked by dumping the back emf from a winding in a miniature audio driver transformer into a ferrite coil antenna. Sure enough it produced clicks in an A.M. radio in the next room - and as I recall it wasn't too fussy about tuning either - wideband indeed! I'd forgotten all about that...

A friend in audioland introduced me to the Pi concept maybe a year ago - we're always on the lookout for anything that we can make noise with. While the selfish gene in me is wailing for a realtime kernel and confirmation that the USB could pipe small enough buffers in / out in a timely manner, for the most part I'm simply cheering on the Foundation to give the education establishment a kick in the you-know-whats and inspire a bunch of young people at the same time.

obarthelemy
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Re: Bill Gates backs Raspberry Pi in all but name?

Mon Jul 02, 2012 7:16 am

I'm not sure Netbooks have been a fiasco. They did sell lots, and still do. I got one and gifted 2 or 3, in all cases a full laptop's price and heft wasn't justified, but a $250 throwaway could pass. Great machines to carry around if you're not sure you won't need Office, and a few hours of movies/cartoons, and somewhere to empty your camera's memory to, and a keyboard to type stuff on. And they still mostly come out cheaper than tablets, for vastly better features and performance. I haven't had reliability problem with them.

I don't mind the race the the bottom that much. As with most things, the big difference is between having one and not having one; which one you do have, and how fast/reliable/shiny it is, is a rich man's problem.

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Jim Manley
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Re: Bill Gates backs Raspberry Pi in all but name?

Mon Jul 02, 2012 8:25 am

obarthelemy wrote:I'm not sure Netbooks have been a fiasco.
Talk to the executives, particularly the finance officers, in the companies participating in this low-brow arms race and they will tell you (behind the curtain, of course) that it's been a disaster for the industry. They've never been profitable, most models have proven to be PR and support train wrecks because of poor performance and reliability (when you use cheap parts from unproven bottom-of-the-barrel suppliers, guess what happens to reliability). At best, they were originally seen as a way to woo new customers (particularly young and old first-time budget buyers) with the idea that they would want to move upstream to their profitable real laptops ASAP. The bad experiences people had with some models/brands put a sour taste in the mouths of the unsuspecting dupes that all netbooks were therefore garbage, tarnishing the whole market.

With tablets, people were generally moving up from smart phones, or even so-called low-end "feature" phones (I have yet to figure out what "features" they're supposed to tout, other than maybe spelling stuff out in Morse code on the keypads) and were surprised and delighted when tablet functionality morphed from mostly media consumption into actually being able to do moderate information/media production (Evernote and Google Docs are excellent examples that span all platforms, including laptops/desktops). Adding a lightweight Bluetooth keyboard with a built-in trackpad to a tablet has resulted in some people ditching laptops/netbooks altogether, because they mainly do light e-mail and web browsing (much to the consternation of MS and its partners). A lot of netbook buyers couldn't understand why a tiny laptop wasn't just as capable as a larger version - things have been shrinking yet getting more powerful for less money for decades, right?

As usual, technophiles can't understand how "normal" people see the world, but, they make up the vast majority of the market, and are growing. They don't care about specs, they just want to do fairly straightforward things, and if someone makes a device with buttons (app icons) that do exactly those things, they're going to beat a deep trench to those companies' doors (and even stand in line). This is where Android has really fallen down - the plethora of menus, options, utilities, and features are no problem for obsessive-compulsive geeks, but, the vast majority of people would just as soon tear their hair out as navigate six levels deep in 100 menu hierarchies just to try to figure out why their battery power keeps evaporating in a couple of hours - and the next model that comes out has a completely different user interface because the developers can't just leave bad-enough alone. It's a variant of trying to shoehorn Windows on mobile devices all over again.

At least those of us in the know can bang on the rock to hone it into a nice, sharp, effective spear point - the less technically inclined ... not so much. As John Wayne said, "Life is tough, but, it's tougher if you're stupid."
The best things in life aren't things ... but, a Pi comes pretty darned close! :D
"Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire." -- W.B. Yeats
In theory, theory & practice are the same - in practice, they aren't!!!

poing
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Re: Bill Gates backs Raspberry Pi in all but name?

Mon Jul 02, 2012 9:05 am

I'm a happy netbook user, bought an Acer 1,1 kg one at a sale, pried it open and put 2(!) GB RAM in it and a 60GB SSD while I replaced Windows 7 starter with Home Premium I had left from a family pack. I use it mainly to tether my DSLR to it and that works pretty good, although slightly slower than the full fledged 2,5 kg laptop I had before and gave to my daughter. I have to wait 2-3 sec to see the full screen image instead of 1-2 sec. It's usable and saves my back when I carry the gear.

As for predicting, do you guys remember the start of the Internet? It would free the individual, world wide 'villages' would arise and power would be given, finally, to the proletariat as information could be shared freely across the globe. Although some of that may be true in a sense (the villages), in reality the Internet is turning out to be the final thing Big Brother needed, apart from the new Samsung TVs that have a camera and microphone built-in.

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rurwin
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Re: Bill Gates backs Raspberry Pi in all but name?

Mon Jul 02, 2012 10:22 am

Every silver lining has a cloud, poing.

The villages exist -- we're sitting in one now. The free information sharing exists; just a decade ago if you wanted to learn something, you bought a book or visited the library.

And look at all the video footage getting out of Syria.

Way back when Marx was writing, society was stratified and fixed. That is not true any more -- there are still layers, but they are not fixed. It used to be that the intelligentsia were the bored sons of merchants and doctors or the younger sons of nobles. That whole class simply does not exist any more as such, or rather it is composed of anyone that wants to be part of it, and thanks to the leveling power of Internet anonymity, anyone that wants to be heard can only be judged on the value of their words and deeds. A proletariat that thinks is an intelligentsia. On the Internet, anyone who has something to say that is worth listening to, will be listened to. We are not dependent on media tycoons telling us what to think.

The question is, when I have all this free information, can I form a balanced opinion, or will my village go to war with your village over an interpretation of an event that each has seen reported differently? I have to choose which information to trust, and the only way to do that is a web of trust; I trust people who say what I believe and who are recommended by people I trust. If the Fox News is in my web of trust, then my world view will be very different from someone with Al Jazeera in theirs, and as big media becomes less relevant, the whole thing will fragment further.

rasbeer
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Re: Bill Gates backs Raspberry Pi in all but name?

Mon Jul 02, 2012 12:11 pm

rurwin wrote:Way back when Marx was writing, society was stratified and fixed. That is not true any more -- there are still layers, but they are not fixed.
I think social mobility has probably been decreasing for decades; wealth & income inequality have been increasing for decades, and there are good reasons to think there's a relationship between social mobility and equality. (eg see this)

My suspicion is that in the UK, Maggie T's defeat of the unions, the end of the grant, the introduction of tuition fees, and financial deregulation were all significant drivers of income inequality with concominant ill-effects on social mobility.
We are not dependent on media tycoons telling us what to think.
Sadly to a large extent I think people are. When I say things to people that are contrary to accepted wisdoms, many of them reject the conclusions (because they're inconsistent with what 'everyone knows' - largely via mainstream media). But they're also often unwilling to evaluate the evidence.

OTOH, I actually do this myself. eg: I didn't have much time for the 911 'Truth Movement' when I first heard about it. And I still don't. But since then there have been numerous cases where government agents have been so tied up with terrorist groups that I can't help wondering just where the motivation for planning attacks is really coming from.

And otherwise I can't understand why most Americans* think their society is basically a meritocracy when there's so much evidence to the contrary (also here). Media manipulation or at least self-censorship seem to be part of the problem. (*No offence meant to Americans - this is just a citable example that sprang to mind.)

Anyway, compliments to the villagers - this is a very interesting thread. :)

poing
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Re: Bill Gates backs Raspberry Pi in all but name?

Mon Jul 02, 2012 1:27 pm

rurwin wrote:Every silver lining has a cloud, poing.
Sadly the cloud is usually much bigger than the lining :lol:

That said I'm one of those 'have nothing to hide' people, but still I can't wait to see the invention of the quantum phone that makes instant worldwide device-to-device connections possible. At least I think that's one of the quantum computer promises, not really sure though.

obarthelemy
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Re: Bill Gates backs Raspberry Pi in all but name?

Mon Jul 02, 2012 5:59 pm

Oh, so you mean netbooks have, mainly, been a fiasco for suppliers because they were too good a deal for customers ? Me want more such fiascoes ! I've not heard of any particular reliability issue, nor observed any around me. Sources ? I understand some users are disappointed because the things are slow, limited, and uncomfortable, and that nerds bemoan the lack of expandability, but that's part of the initial deal, not a surprise.

Also, I disagree strongly about your alleged android's ergonomic shortfalls. I'm currently setting up a tablet for my elderly parents, and after much mind-searching I went with android even though, for some not-so-obscure IP reason, Scrabble is not available in France. Reasons for that choice:
1- cost. the Acer A200 set me back 250€, which is about half what an iPad whould have cost me. And the hardware is superior to a 1st or 2nd Gen iPad (front cam esp., they do skype a lot with the grandkids.. or is that at the grandkids ? ^^)
2- I know Android better, so I felt more at ease messing with that than with an iDevice
3- ergonomics. Android has lots of widgets, which are a very visual way to access features and content. Once set up, there's really no need to go into any menus at all, and my parents, which I've been supporting for years, are so inept (love you!) that any set up at all would have been above their ken. I'm missing even bigger widgets, I'd actually like large (quarter-screen) app miniatures, but still, what I get is better than an iPad's screenful of icons.
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Jim Manley
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Re: Bill Gates backs Raspberry Pi in all but name?

Mon Jul 02, 2012 9:07 pm

We are witnessing, living in, and if we're paying attention, participating in what is the greatest shift in power in human history. However, it's just beginning and it will take years for the results to propagate to the point where they affect the average person in a net positive direction. There is a natural inertia in people that causes them to hesitate and not make a leap from the known (as bad as it may be) to the unknown, despite perceptible advantages.

People have to exercise some discipline though, and not spend their on-line time just watching videos of cats in various predicaments, idiots doing stupid things with vehicles and/or trampolines, etc. Top-level universities are putting their entire curricula on-line with free access by anyone on the planet, news sources abound on any subject, classical books out of copyright are free for downloading onto devices we can take anywhere and read anytime, etc. There is eventually going to be an entire computing education curriculum built up around the Pi where nearly every aspect of the science and engineering associated with it will be openly available.

As for meritocracy, there is no reason that someone who pursues an education in computing fundamentals using the Pi can't become a software developer and, with additional work, a designer of hardware that's compatible with the Pi, with other systems feasible after experience is gained. That's one purpose of the project, but, not the only one by a long shot. It's entire possible that a product ecosystem may develop, just as has been happening for Apple iOS and Google Android devices, as well as other device-oriented markets. It takes a lot more than just software to create a popular/effective app these days, with everything from information content, to artwork to user interface psychology contributing to the overall experience.

Disintermediation of gate-keepers has been one of the most pervasive features of the Internet. This has eliminated middle-men and allowed many more people to have a voice in public than ever before, which is both a good thing and a bad thing. Although that's also raised the noise floor, over time people with messages that resonate do percolate up regardless of what the media moguls want. However, they can try to amplify the messages and promote the messengers they feel can earn them revenue (that's been going on since before the first gathering around a fire in a cave). The exposure of bullies victimizing a school bus monitor all the way up to the dictators directing atrocities against their populaces is happening with daily regularity, and good-news stories are making it into the public consciousness that would otherwise never see the light of day.

Sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo are bringing capital to creative people who would never make it through the doors of an angel investor, much less a venture capital firm or investment bank. This phenomenon has led to legislation to make it easier for investment in smaller ventures, and microfinance through sites like Kiva is doing the same thing at the level of family farmers and craftspeople in the developing world. This would never have happened before the Internet, and it's expanding exponentially.

Sooner or later, there are going to be some embarrassing (if not lethal to someone) slip-ups by sites like Facebook that are going to find that they can't risk disclosing information that people want kept private. It's the nature of such companies that, as widespread revenue becomes more important, they're going to have to become extremely conservative in handling private data, no matter how cavalier the founder may feel about the subject. The rise and fall of companies that aren't careful about what they're doing is accelerating, and the barriers to entry are getting lower every year with increasing bandwidth penetration, exploding free and low-cost commodity server capacity, etc. The more companies like Google and Facebook screw up privacy, the sooner someone is going to come along and do social really right with respect to individuals.

The Internet is like weather on a tropical island where it can rain at any time - if you don't like the way things are, you won't have to wait very long until things change (for better or worse). If you're too impatient for that, then you can just get your butt in gear and move to where it's sunnier by implementing something useful or just cool. There's a lot that can be done with the Pi in that regard BTW, since they're 3-D graphics and network-intensive, which is exactly what is found to be interesting on the Internet.

The bottom line is that achieving good things requires effort, that's been true since long before the Internet existed, and will continue to be true forever. One of my favorite quotes is from Piet Hein, a Danish philosopher, "Problems worthy of attack prove their worth by fighting back."
The best things in life aren't things ... but, a Pi comes pretty darned close! :D
"Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire." -- W.B. Yeats
In theory, theory & practice are the same - in practice, they aren't!!!

obarthelemy
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Re: Bill Gates backs Raspberry Pi in all but name?

Mon Jul 02, 2012 10:43 pm

"We are witnessing, living in, and if we're paying attention, participating in what is the greatest shift in power in human history"

Is there any generation who hasn't thought that ? Is the net really more important than christianity, democracy, printing, electricity, medicine, universal education, women's lib, abolition, the industrial revolution... ?

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