February 2007 Archives

The talk of dishonesty in PR reminded me of a bit of news from Intel earlier in February and how you really need to fact-check every little detail in the information provided by a company. At the International Solid-State Circuits Conference (ISSCC), Intel described how its research team developed a chip with 80 floating-point processors on it.

It has good headline performance, as long as you like your floating-point problems to be small, about 3Kbyte small. And it has some neat design techniques behind it, as described in the paper from the digest helpfully uploaded by PC Perspective. I would point people to the IEEE Member Digital Library but, seeing as the institution takes its own sweet time to put the proceedings online, this is the only place you can see this paper (as far as I can tell) right now.

However, what amused me was the list of 'innovations' in the device put together by the PR team at Intel.

"Intel’s Teraflops Research Chip implements several innovations for multi-core architectures:

Rapid design - The tiled-design approach allows designers to use smaller cores that can easily be repeated across the chip. A single-core chip of this size (100 million transistors) would take roughly twice as long and twice as many people to design.

Network on a chip - In addition to the compute element, each core contains a 5-port messaging passing router. These are connected in a 2D mesh network that implement message-passing. This mesh interconnect scheme could prove much more scalable than today’s multi-core chip interconnects, allowing for better communications between the cores and delivering more processor performance.

Fine-grain power management - The individual compute engines and data routers in each core can be activated or put to sleep based on the performance required by the application a person is running. In addition, new circuit techniques give the chip world-class power efficiency—1 teraflops requires only 62W, comparable to desktop processors sold today.

And other innovations - Such as sleep transistors, mesochronous clocking, and clock gating."

That's all well and good but most of these aren't actually Intel innovations. Some of them aren't even all that new. However, the reader could be expected to assume that these techniques were developed by the company based on that wording. This guy seemed to think so: as he writes "Intel calls it mesochronous clocking". Not quite. That name came from somewhere else.

Quote of the day

28 February 2007

"...all they need is the endorsement of Peter Mandelson and that will finish them off completely."

Ian Davidson MP was clearly not enamoured of the stalking-horse website set up by Charles Clarke and Alan Milburn when he spoke to Channel 4 News. But it wasn't all bad for them, he's even less of a fan of the EU trade commissioner.

Martin Moore reported mid-week on a PR Week-sponsored debate that asked whether PRs have a duty to tell the truth. Out of the 260 people present, a small majority voted against: in effect, that they would lie on behalf of their client.

I was a bit surprised, not because I expect PRs to tell the truth all the time, but that the motion was voted down, albeit by a small margin. My first response to reading about it was: how many of the 124 who thought they had a duty to tell the truth about their clients were being truthful with themselves?

I had expected a larger proportion to vote for a better image for PR, with fingers firmly crossed behind their backs as they considered the ramifications of always telling the unvarnished truth about their clients' activities, why an interview got canned or why a competing mag got an early sniff of an announcement. However, as Moore pointed out, the use of the word 'duty' in the motion is important - the first duty of any PR is to their client and I don't think anyone would seriously expect anything else to be the case.

(Via Martin Stabe)

In an industry that gives out gongs almost on a weekly basis it seems strange that there isn't an award for Dumbest Unconventional Promotional Gimmick. You've got to wonder at the geniuses who thought planting a competition prize in a graveyard, let alone one with a lot of historical significance, was a good idea, particularly when there's a great big public park a few yards down the road.

An unnamed minister dismissed the person behind Number 10's e-petitions website as a 'prat'. Having looked through the site and what it is doing, it's hard to find any reasons to disagree. The road-pricing petition has demonstrated what a disaster this kind of site is, not just for the government but for democracy. I can't think of something better placed to convince the voting public that their views don't matter to politicians. All that's happened is that 1.8 million people found out they can't sway the decision simply by putting their email address on a form. This will, naturally, lead them to conclude that the political process is broken.

When interviewed by the BBC about the e-petitions website his organisation implemented for Number 10, Tom Steinberg defended the idea, saying: "Academic research shows people are more willing to sign a petition than engage in any other kind of political activity."

Well that's great. But what good has any petition done in the past, either to influence politicians or make people think about what their request means? They are a publicity stunt, although you kind of lose a lot of the effect by not having people take a wheelbarrow full of paper to the door of Number 10. They are not a reliable lever for influencing political decisions. They are about as effective as writing a letter to Santa Claus, because that is what most petitions are: a wish for something to happen, not something that is even close to being implementable as policy.

On the one hand, we should be thankful that Sam & Maxie's, a bar and eatery on the Stevenage Fun Park, has not descended into pseud's corner menu puff - "goujons of tender breast of chicken permeated with a light saffron-tinged marianade". But the owners of this place, which bears more than a passing resemblance to the diner in Edward Hopper's Nighthawks - and that's during the day - maybe erred a little too far towards the blunt in its guide to how well steak orders will turn up:

Very rare: Cold red centre
Rare: Cool red centre
(Too grades I can't quite remember)
Medium well done: Hot centre, cooked through
Well done: No colour, somewhat dry.

Actually, on second thoughts, I'll skip the steak.