Scor­pio News


April–June 1988 – Volume 2. Issue 2.

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If £ <> $ then we are being done.

Well, in spite of the Prime Monster’s efforts, the Pound is not worth the same as the Dollar. But when you compare prices of programs and hardware offered for sale on both sides of the Atlantic, you will find that the number is the same, only the sign in front changes. Modula 2 for the Amiga is $99 in the States, and £99 here. Somebody is doing very nicely for themselves out of this, with the most annoying example being Metacomco, who are actually in Bristol ! They sell their stuff more cheaply to Americans than they will to us.

So what can we do to combat this phenomenon ? Well, it is obvious, really. Import things. I was initially quite worried about this, but the easiest way is to pay by credit card. You just tell them the number, and that you want airmail, unless you do not mind waiting six weeks. The catch is that you may end up paying Customs duty. So far, I have only bought a book this way (Sp*c*tch*r, if you must know) which the Customs kindly ignored. Perhaps no duty is payable on educational material ? However, I plan to obtain some Amiga software soon, and will let you know if this leads to any problems.

One thing it is easy to forget is that a any hardware is is going: to expect entirely the wrong sort of mains supply, and you will blow things up if you give them 240 volts when they want 110. Less obvious is the fact that Modems from America don’t understand our phone dialling system unless you are on System X exchanges and are able to use tone dialling. No doubt this is dealt with in the “Hackers” Handbook”, but I haven’t got round to buying that yet.

Oh gosh, not benchmarks again !

Well, only briefly. I benchmarked: the Open University’s VAX cluster the other day, using the UCSD Pascal they have on there for one of my courses, and got a quite accurate answer back in about 5 seconds. I have no way of knowing how many other students were using the machine at the time, so it may be an ordinary time, or it may be excellent. One catch I found was that the UCSD system has arctan, but does not have tan. Just divide sin by cos, obviously, but why on earth did they leave it out in the first place. Paddy Coker tells me that the Acorn Archimedes takes about two seconds, which is very nice if you can afford that sort of thing and don’t mind writing everything yourself, using dear old BASIC…

Book – Algorithmics, The Spirit of Computing.

This was written by David Harel, published by Addison Wesley, and found in a sale at New Year, marked down from £15 to £1.50; and is an up-to date survey of algorithmic methods. The author is clearly not a C fanatic, as he takes all his quotes at the start of the chapters from the Old Testament rather than anything by Lewis

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