Author Archives: pappp

Rereading: The Soul of a New Machine by Tracy Kidder (2017)

Source: Hacker News

Article note: Oh neat, modern notes for Soul of a New Machine. It's a little weird in modern times, but a delightful read of the history of the culture.
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Comic for November 27, 2022

Source: Dilbert Daily Strip

Article note: It's not even parody. This is a well-known problem at major tech companies, especially Google.

Dilbert readers - Please visit Dilbert.com to read this feature. Due to changes with our feeds, we are now making this RSS feed a link to Dilbert.com.

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Mac OS 9 on an unmodified Wii

Source: OSNews

Article note: That's a delightful dumb hack. It's properly "MacOnLinux on Linux on a hacked Wii" which isn't exactly native, but since it's a PPC750 it's native-ish.

Via Hackaday:

We’re used to the so-called “Hackintoshes”, non-Apple hardware running MacOS. One we featured recently was even built into the case of a Nintendo Wii. But Dandu has gone one better than that, by running MacOS on an unmodified Wii, original Nintendo hardware (French, Google Translate link).

How has this seemingly impossible task been achieved? Seasoned Mac enthusiasts will remember the days when Apple machines used PowerPC processors, and the Wii uses a PowerPC chip that’s a close cousin of those used in the Mac G3 series of computers. Since the Wii can run a Linux-based OS, it can therefore run Mac-on-Linux, providing in theory an environment in which it can host one of the PowerPC versions of MacOS.

So it’s not really running MacOS 9.2.2 directly on the hardware, but it’s close enough. Impressive work.

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Rclone is 10 years old today

Source: Hacker News

Article note: Rclone is the FOSS magic that makes all the absurd proprietary storage services usable.
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Intel on Demand

Source: Hacker News

Article note: I'm kind of excited to see how people are going to hack the unlock scheme for CPU features. Both because the hack will be technically interesting, and because it might bring about an era like the Celeron 300A in the late 90s where the hobbyists buy a chip from "the wrong market segment" because it has _potential_.
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Head of Intel Foundry Services resigns just as chip biz gets going

Source: The Register

Article note: That's probably not good.

Randhir Thakur led Intel’s big bet to take on Asian foundry giants TSMC and Samsung

Exclusive  The head of Intel's revitalized contract chip manufacturing business plans to step down, The Register has learned, creating a setback for the x86 behemoth's big bet to take on Asian foundry giants TSMC and Samsung as part of its comeback plan.…

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Amazon Alexa is a “colossal failure,” on pace to lose $10 billion this year

Source: Ars Technica

Article note: Voice Assistants/Voice Control are an attractive nuisance for tech companies, and have been into at least the 80s. They have quite limited application, and they can only be monetized by making them horrible for the user. I've been hoping the "useful subset" of simple tools that are basically handsfree basic control (dialer, calculator, media player type things) and TTS tool that can read notifications will get eaten by simple local features, and it will squeeze out the fancy "Hey, wiretap, what's a recipe for pancakes?" shit. This is a promising development in that direction.
echo sphere

Enlarge / The fourth-generation Echo device is a cloth-covered sphere with a halo at the base, contrasting with the squat plastic cylinders of earlier-generation Echoes. (credit: Amazon)

Amazon is going through the biggest layoffs in the company's history right now, with a plan to eliminate some 10,000 jobs. One of the areas hit hardest is the Amazon Alexa voice assistant unit, which is apparently falling out of favor at the e-commerce giant. That's according to a report from Business Insider, which details "the swift downfall of the voice assistant and Amazon's larger hardware division."

Alexa has been around for 10 years and has been a trailblazing voice assistant that was copied quite a bit by Google and Apple. Alexa never managed to create an ongoing revenue stream, though, so Alexa doesn't really make any money. The Alexa division is part of the "Worldwide Digital" group along with Amazon Prime video, and Business Insider says that division lost $3 billion in just the first quarter of 2022, with "the vast majority" of the losses blamed on Alexa. That is apparently double the losses of any other division, and the report says the hardware team is on pace to lose $10 billion this year. It sounds like Amazon is tired of burning through all that cash.

A division in crisis

The BI report spoke with "a dozen current and former employees on the company's hardware team," who described "a division in crisis." Just about every plan to monetize Alexa has failed, with one former employee calling Alexa "a colossal failure of imagination," and "a wasted opportunity." This month's layoffs are the end result of years of trying to turn things around. Alexa was given a huge runway at the company, back when it was reportedly the "pet project" of former CEO Jeff Bezos. An all-hands crisis meeting took place in 2019 to try to turn the monetization problem around, but that was fruitless. By late 2019, Alexa saw a hiring freeze, and Bezos started to lose interest in the project around 2020. Of course, Amazon now has an entirely new CEO, Andy Jassy, who apparently isn't as interested in protecting Alexa.

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HPC’s lost histories will power the future of tech

Source: The Register

Article note: This has been Hank Dietz's (My advisor through grad school, one of the first-causes of commodity clusters) argument for years: when clusters took over riding on economies of scale, they sucked all the air out of the field for other innovation, and we've been getting stupid making commodity clusters bigger and denser instead of investing in architectural innovation for years. Ideas about disrupting that paradigm had more traction at SC22 than I've seen in recent years, it's nice to see reporters picked up on it.

If you thought the '80s were cool, wait for the revival

Opinion  The first hints of an empire falling are only clear in retrospect. At the time they happen, they can look as if they are just part of existing trends. Crypto chaos as FTX falls apart like a giant rotting peach? The whole scene stinks. Everyone knows it, except the marks.…

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Liquid and immersion is the new cool at Supercomputing ‘22

Source: The Register

Article note: They aren't kidding, easily over 1/3 of the show floor was cooling vendors, cooling parts (tubing, fittings, etc.) vendors, and OEMs showing off their cooling systems. The quest for bigger denser clusters of commodity components has eaten the entire field. Money is not a limiting factor. Power in is not a limiting factor. Alternative designs are pushed to the fringes. It's all about extracting heat from machines that are only a hair different than gaming rigs, so they can be built denser for their networks.

With next-gen chips pushing 700W, thermal is the hot topic

SC22  It's safe to say liquid cooling was a hot topic at the Supercomputing conference in Dallas this week. …

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A secret Apple Silicon extension to accommodate an Intel 8080 artifact

Source: Hacker News

Article note: This is pretty cool, Apple has a mode to automatically compute the two 8080 arithmetic flags that ARMs don't. A setting enables computing the “adjust flag” (AF) and the “parity flag” (PF) exactly as an 8080-family part in bits 26 and 27 of the flags register. In combination with a setting to switch to x86 style memory ordering, it's suddenly much less surprising that Rosetta2 does such a good job compared to other x86-on-ARM schemes.
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