Saturday, November 19, 2005

Marketing speak

I saw an advert on the telly last night, from PC World. The advert was pushing their latest PC bargain which had a Pentium "P4 with HT technology" apparently. They seemed very pleased with themselves that they could offer HT technology at £899 or whatever.

So, hands up any non techy who knows what HT technology is. Keep your hand up if you have any idea at all how it might make your computer better.

As far as I can see, this "includes HT technology" line is cynical marketing speak to blind ordinary people with techno-babble. There was no attempt made to explain what hyper-threading is and why it is better or even that HT means hyper-threading.

Htper-threading means that your CPU is divided into two logical processors and can handle two threads of execution simultaneously. You might think that this makes it twice as fast, but that's not necessarily the case. For one thing, both logical CPUs have to share all of the chip's resources including, importantly, the cache. The cache works on the assumption that recently used memory locations are most likely to be the ones used next so these memory locations are copied into extra fast memory on the processor chip. If you have two threads running on that chip, this will compromise the efficiency of the cache unless those two threads are working on the same data. In some circumstances, hyper-threading will slow your computer down.

Don't believe the techno-babble of PC World. If you want a faster computer, concentrate on memory bus speed and disk IO and cache size - the power of the actual processor is less important than you might think.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Kings and Cabbages

The rumours are false. I don't really know all of the Kings and Queens of England, only the ones since William the Conqueror, and thinking about it, the previous two to that.

In order we have:

Edward the Confessor
Harold Godwinson (who won the Battle of Stamford Bridge which stopped the best lager in the World from being brewed in England)
William the Conqueror (also known as William the Bastard because he was illegitimate)
William II (who died in a hunting 'accident')
Henry I
Stephen (who had a civil war with Matilda)
Henry II (accidentally had Thomas Becket murdered)
Richard I
John (who signed Magna Carta at the bottom)
Henry III
Edward I (hammered some Scots)
Edward II (rumoured to have had an unfortunate 'accident' involving a bottom (not the same sort as John signed) and a red hot poker)
Edward III (Mel Gibson's son)
Richard II
Henry IV
Henry V (slaughtered a French army at Agincourt)
Henry VI
Edward IV
Henry VI (no, not a typo, there was a disagreement as to who should be in charge)
Edward IV (which was eventually won by Edward)
Edward V (murdered in the Tower, possibly by...)
Richard III (who lost his horse)
Henry VII
Henry VIII
Edward VI (protestant)
Jane (for 9 days and it might not count technically)
Mary I (Bloody, catholic)
Elizabeth I (protestant)
James I (and VI of Scotland)
Charles I (who lost his head)
Oliver Cromwell (well not a king but in charge)
Charles II
James II
William III and Mary II (beat James at the Battle of the Boyne)
George I (Elector of Hannover)
George II
George III (went mad and always ended every sentence with the word "penguin")
George IV (Hugh Laurie)
William IV
Victoria (who was not amused but was Judi Dench)
Edward VII
George V
Edward VIII (definitely not with Marge Simson)
George VI
Elizabeth II

It's actually quite easy. There are several sequences that are easy to remember and then you can figure out the rest by logical deduction.

For instance there are four Norman kings which start obviously with two Williams and end with Stephen but I can never remember who the third one is. But then you recall that the Normans were displaced by the Plantagenets of whom Henry II was the first. That means the missing person must be Henry I.

The Plantagenets are easy because we start with Henry II and go on into Robin Hood territory. John's successor is tricky. You have to remember that these Plantagenets weren't very imaginative about names so it seems likely that John would name his son after either himself or his father. There was only one King John so it must have been a Henry next. Then we get a nice memorable sequence of three Edwards. The king after them is tricky but we are not far from Richard III now. This is our last opportunity to fit in Richard II.

Then we start on the Lancasters with Henry IV, V, VI. Incidentally, it was only during the reign of Henry V that English began to be spoken in court as opposed to Norman French.

Henry VI swapped thrones a couple of times with the next Edward (IV) who was the first king of the house of York. The next person after him to actually rule was wicked uncle Richard but we have to squeeze in Edward V somewhere because Edward VI is not far off. Edward V was the elder of the Princes in the Tower and the son of Edward IV, so we wedge him in just before Richard III.

After Richard III we get the Tudors. I did them in history at school and David Starckey is always banging on about them, so they are easy (you can get away with forgetting Lady Jane Grey).

Everybody knows James I followed Elizabeth. Sometimes I get confused at this point and try to insert James II after James I, but you have to remember that William of Orange had to beat somebody at the Boyne. Once you've got James II right, the Stuarts are easy.

Following the Stuarts we go into a period of importing kings from abroad and it gets a little messy. We get William III and Mary from Orange. Anne's got to in somewhere, so here seems a good point. Then we imported George I from Hannnover followed by a nice sequence of Georges and the last William (so far). Then we get Victoria and we are on safe ground again because everybody knows it was Edward VII after that. George V was in charge during the First World War so he must be next and then Edward VIII must come before the present queen's father.

Oh yes, and everybody knows about 1066 and all that so sticking Edward the Confessor and Harold on the front is a cinch.

I don't know anything about cabbages except that one was king Edward, or is that a potato?

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Cabbages and Kings

Today I edited a Wikipedia page for the first time ever. It was a small but fundamental change as I'm sure you'll agree.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Don't buy CDs from Sony.

This is a cautionary tale. To summarise the article: if you buy a copy protected CD from Sony and play it in your computer, it will install "root kit" software i.e. software that hides itself and the DRM software. furthermore there is no way to uninstall this software easily and it also takes up a small percentage of your CPU all the time.

Sony should be sued to death for this.

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