* Posts by James McGregor

29 publicly visible posts • joined 8 Mar 2007

BBC storm cockup: Wrong day's shipping forecast read

James McGregor

Island weather

I live on a small inner Hebridean island (that's in Scotland for those south of the Watford Gap) in the Malin sea area and the shipping forecast is frequently the most accurate for determining what the weather is actually going to be like on a given day. Well, how rainy and windy it's going to be at any rate.

It's certainly better than the Beeb's 5-day forecast on their website, which changes so often for a given day it's more like a slot machine. Still waiting for my "five-suns-in-a-row" payout, mind you. :)

Windows 7 kills two thirds of active Vista initiatives

James McGregor
Paris Hilton

Makes sense. But kinda obvious.

There's a recession going on. Considering the enormous expense in upgrading hardware, migrating software and installing, no business is going to move off what they've got (which is mostly XP) unless there's a compelling reason to do so.

Vista was Microsoft's first shot at an OS with user-mode drivers, heap defragmentation and UAC and frankly, it's half-baked and excruciatingly fustrating as an end-user experience, even with SP2. Microsoft learned its lesson and with Windows 7, addresses the usability issues and keeps the good stuff from Vista. Software and drivers that are written for Vista mostly work out-of-the-box for Windows 7, so when the right reins on IT spending have been relaxed somewhat, it makes no sense (financially or technically) to upgrade to Vista and then 7. Why go through the pain twice over? Besides, no business user's gonna thank you for Vista on their desktop.

XP Professional was declared end-of-life in January. When the IT departments get some cash to play with, they're gonna go for Windows 7. Even Paris can see that. :)

Dell Inspiron Mini 10v netbook

James McGregor

"After all, what's 24 pixels between friends?"

Since that screen resolution is 1024 x 576 instead of 1024 x 600, that's actually 1024 x 24 of goodly pixel action you're missing out on. Of course, determining whether 24,576 pixels between friends is a possible issue is rather less easy to quantify.

Mine's the one with the TI-92 Plus Graphing Calculator with the 240 x 128 pixel screen in the pocket ...

First plug-in Prius paraded by car rental firm

James McGregor

Not as green as you might think

Yes, it's zero emission when running on battery power, but for only 35 miles. Plus of course, that battery power has to come from a plug socket, which is mostly sourced from a smog-producing power station up the road.

And when it's on petrol (which given the pitiful range, is going to be most of the time) it produces 107g/km of CO2 and averages 65 mpg - the latter of which is widely believed to be rather optimistic, especially considering all that extra battery lard that it has to haul around with it. Compare that to a Volkswagen Polo BlueMotion which produces 99g/km and delivers 74mpg.

The Prius is nothing more than an eco status symbol for those wanting to make a statement about how green they are without bothering to check the facts first.

The above figures are from Parker's website at www.parker.co.uk in case you want to check for yourself. :)

Carphone Warehouse buys Tiscali UK

James McGregor

Oh, that's just great.

So ... the ISP with the worst customer service record is bought by the one with the second-worst customer service record. This does not bode well! I'm a Pipex broadband user and I noticed a distinct degredation in customer service when Pipex was bought by Tiscali back in July 2007. There's no way I''m sticking around to see how much worse it's going to get!

Mine's the one with the PAC in the pocket ...

Boffins pump out pop-up touchscreen

James McGregor
Paris Hilton

Very nice, but ...

... there's a few things that would need to be addressed. The button layout doesn't appear to be flexible enough to offer different numbers, sizes or types of buttons, as it's limited to the location of the inflatable areas behind the screen. For example, how would you switch between a QWERTY keyboard and a numeric keypad?

It's also prone to vandelism - just imagine the wanton destruction an individual armed merely with a pin could inflict. One prick and it's all over, so to speak.

Paris ... as she knows all about pricks ...

Yes! It's the cardboard PC!

James McGregor

"... all the usual PC components"

... er, no. Where do the PCI, AGP or PCIe cards go? I don't see any holes to get at stuff you've installed. Then again, a bit of modding with a stout pair of scissors might just do the trick. Probably not covered under the warranty, though. :)

NASA will give away old Shuttles for free

James McGregor
Thumb Up


Oooh yes, I'd love an orbiter please! Just thinking of all the fun my son and I could have with it, sitting at the controls making engine noises and pretending we're saving the world from a huge meteor strike. In the unlikely event we get bored of that, it's also the perfect BBQ tool ... I could fetch beers from the fridge with that robot arm thing, keep masses of burgers and buns in the payload area and toast marshmallows with the rocket engines.

Price cutting rivals eat into Nokia's market share

James McGregor


I partially agree with you. Nokias smartphones are terrible, quite simply because the Symbian operating system that ships with them is slow, buggy and for all intents and purposes, simply not up to the job. The N95, for example, is Nokia's flagship smartphone and *still* suffers from crashes, instability and bugs that should have been ironed out way before it went into production.

However, Nokia has realised this and bought out Symbian in June this year for £209m, presumably because it recognises that the OS is not up to scratch and wants to have full control over its development. Whether Nokia's design and cash input is enough to rescue its smartphones before its competitors eat up the rest of the market is debatable.

Having said that, a Nokia phone without Symbian is an excellent product. I've got a Nokia 6300 and it's fast, usable and has a great form factor. Nokia know how to make great phones - let's hope it figures out how to get Symbian-based ones working as well as the rest of the range - and quickly!

Windows Vista update 'kills' USB devices

James McGregor
IT Angle


Yep, Vista's a resource hog. However, I've found that the footprint can be substantially reduced by disabling redundant (and in some cases, pointless) services that I don't need.

The worst example is the Tablet Input Service (presumably required if you have a touch screen laptop) which is enabled by default on my desktop PC. How much effort would it have taken to stick in some code to just f*cking CHECK if the system has a touch screen before enabling this service? It's simply bad design.

Other services I disabled are the Diagnostic Policy Service, Distributed Link Tracking Client, IP Helper, Messenger Sharing Folders USN, Journal Reader Service, Network List Service, Offline Files, Readyboost (unless you like slow memory performance), Remote Access Connection, Server, Windows Error Reporting Service (very annoying anyway), Windows Image Acquisition (WIA), Cryptographic Services, IKE and AuthIP, IPsec Keying Modules, IPsec Policy Agent, Network Location Awareness, Program Compatibility Assistant (I can figure it out myself if it didn't install right, thank you!) and Shell Hardware Detection.

The result is that I've freed up memory and CPU and now have more resource to run the things that *I* want to rather than what Microsoft wants me to. And before you ask, everything that I want to use still works fine!

Vista SP1 downloaders bite back

James McGregor
Thumb Up

Well, it worked here ...

I installed SP1 on my Dell Latitude D410 and then on my Dell Inspiron 530 with no problems. No devices fell off or broke, no weird errors, no BSOD ... it certainly took a while to install but it got there in the end.

The GUI definitely feels snappier, file copying is back to a decent XP-like sort of speed, Internet Explorer has stopped crashing and Vista *finally* recognises all of the 4GB of RAM in the Inspiron. This is what Vista should have been like in the first place. It's still not as stable or as quick as XP but at least it's more usable after SP1 has been installed. So, a qualified "thumbs up" but only on the basis that SP1 has fixed things that shouldn't have been broken in the first place.

Microsoft cuts Vista price

James McGregor

Why would anyone upgrade from XP to Vista anyway?

What exactly would you gain? If your PC came bundled with XP, you'll most likely need to shove in more RAM just to get Vista out of bed and start playing. Then hunt around for all the drivers for your hardware that worked just fine under XP and inevitably find that one or more of them isn't available for Vista. And then cope with sluggish performance, crappy file operation speeds, non-responsive interface, frequent UAC pop-ups, the crippled disk defragmenter and a veritable smorgesbord of applications that won't install or work properly. But hey, there's that lovely Aero interface and ... um ... lots of other neat stuff. Yeah, right. Frankly, for home users it's just not worth the effort or expense.

Try completing the following in 10 words or less with something convincing... "I'm definitely upgrading from XP to Vista because ..." Hard, isn't it?

Newcomer punts miniature 'pub phone'

James McGregor
Thumb Down

Wot, no camera???

That's a serious mistake. Half the fun of having a mobile down the pub is so that you can take dark, fuzzy and usually ambiguous snaps of your drunken mates arsing about or chatting up people that they shouldn't. That means that this shiny piece of dildo-like bling has even less reason to exist than it ever did. I'll just be taking my trusty candy-bar Nokia 6300 for public house excursions and illicit photo-grabbing, thanks very much.

FTC and DoJ will fight for the right to rule on YaMicrohoosoft!

James McGregor
Dead Vulture

@ Sir

Good night out on the town, was it? :)

Sun nails four buyers in 15 months with White Trash Data Center

James McGregor

Utlimate optional extra

Would have to be a huge FO truck to pull the trailer about with, so that I can go cruising the streets at night and show off my gigantic periperherals. Preferably a monster truck with neon underlighting, tinted windows, a jacuzzi in the back (complete with bikini-clad beauties) and a bumper sticker reading "My other trailer is an SGI" or similar. And a portable fridge stacked full with Wifebeater, of course. :)

Computer system suspected in Heathrow 777 crash

James McGregor

I can imagine the scene ...

... where a Chinese businessman gets fustrated whilst flying round and round in that eternal Heathrow hold pattern, is late for a meeting, switches on his mobile and texts "Hi, will b a bit l8, just cmng in 2 land - oh sh1t!" ... just a thought. :)

Facebook blocks Secret Crush over adware row

James McGregor

Zango is a POS

I can't believe that 180Solutions is even attempting to convince anyone that it's woebegone crapware isn't adware. Zango is indeed one of the most heinous examples that I've ever had the fortune (or requisite 'net awareness or whatever) to avoid installing. From Symantec's website:

"[Zango] is an adware program that monitors the contents of Internet browser windows. It opens the Web pages of partner sites when certain keywords are detected in Internet search or shopping browser windows."

If that's not adware, then what is? 180Solutions tried to sue PC Tools as their Spyware Doctor software correctly identified Zango as, well, spyware. Luckily, the judge saw sense and KB'd the case on the basis that Zango was unlikely to prevail. Zango also tried it on against Zone Labs and lost. They also agreed to pay the FTC a $3m fine to settle a formal complaint about deceptive downloads.

So, screw 'em, quite frankly. Agressive courtroom tactics won't change the fact that their crapware is indeed adware and they deserve everything they get.

Click here to turn your HP laptop into a brick

James McGregor
Paris Hilton

And the Paris Hilton angle is ...

... what, exactly? Good grief, this is just the sort of inane reporting that gives press hacks a bad name. Who could the implications of Ms Hliton's laptop becoming a brick not be taken into account? It's the incompleteness of your report and the total lack of understanding of Ms Hilton's potential distress that annoys me most! :)

The day Microsoft 'embraced and extended' Java

James McGregor

Java and JavaScript are NOT related

JavaScript is not Java's "little brother". It has nothing to do with Java. Even though they both share a syntax to C, the similarity ends there. Java was developed at Sun Microsystems, whereas JavaScript was developed by Netscape under the name Mocha, later LiveScript, and finally renamed to JavaScript at about the same time that Netscape Navigator implemented support for Java applets, presumably to cash in on the "Java" name. Confusing perhaps, but marketing often is.

Ofcom's 0870 rip-off reforms stumble at the final hurdle

James McGregor

@ Secret Santa

Bear in mind that most (if not all) of the so-called "all inclusive" landline call deals where you pay a fixed sum each month for unlimited calls do NOT include calls to non-geographic numbers. Only numbers starting with 01 or 02 are included. So using an 0845 or 0870 number means that you pay twice - once for the "all-inclusive" deal and again for the phone call itself.

In this event, the saynoto870.com website has proved invaluable. Just stick in the 0845 or 0870 number and get a geographic number that you can use instead, so at least you're not charged any more for sitting for ages in some interminable queue waiting to talk to some lackey in Bangladesh.

I believe that all businesses that use 08 non-geographic numbers should be forced to provide an equivelent geographic number that is advertised with equal prominence to its non-geographic counterpart. In addition, any call to an 08 number should clearly state that geographic number as part of the free warning that states that the call will cost extra. Any business that objects to this would just be highlighting the fact that their 08 non-geographic numbers is simply a revenue-generating cash cow.

Use of 09 numbers for customer services (which Tiscali used to do with their 0970 8505821 technical support number) should be banned immediately and the perpetrators birched forthwith. However, if you're calling an 09 number for any other reason, you probably deserve to get charged loads for it. :)

Sun introduces first Intel workstation in two decades

James McGregor
IT Angle

Re: Looks nice and Solaris is

The Sun 386i (apart from sounding like one seriously fast BMW 3-series) looked like a bog-standard beige tower PC, if I remember correctly. Except with lots of lovely full-length vertical ventilation slots on the front for that "go faster" look. No blue neon tubes or furry dice, though. I thought that Google would be able to dig up a picture from the dusty archives of yore but it has failed me.

Beeb news website goes titsup

James McGregor

Someone had to say it!

No news is good news?

UK gov offers car CO2 rankings by class

James McGregor

Re: Think!

> what about the Tesla or Think electric car?

Yes, each produces zero emissions when they're driven. But have a thought as to the power station that generates the power to charge the batteries. A large electricity bill isn't "green" as it has a big CO2 footprint in itself.

Ghostly plastic bathtoy flotilla nears Cornish coast

James McGregor


What a great story, beautifully told but no doubt told with a thesaurus close at hand. I wonder what significance it might bear in the world of IT? Still, it is positively engaging to hear of these plastic heroes voyaging their way around the world's oceans. I wonder if any have turned up in shark's stomachs.

Microsoft finds good facts to sell Windows Vista

James McGregor

Re: conan (No need to complain)

"If you don't like Microsoft's products, don't buy them."

Yes, that's all very well (since no-one in their right mind would upgrade their existing PC to Vista themselves) but bear in mind that Dell and HP won't ship their PCs or laptops with anything *but* Vista. So you have to buy a licence bundled with your new computer whether you like it or not. Of course you can install whatever you like when you actually get your PC but that's not the point. What *is* the point is that Dell and HP are forced by Microsoft to ship an operating system that frankly is half-baked and not up to the job. So as a result of corporate arm-twisting the OEMs have to support an operating system that isn't even finished yet and is causing their customers a lot more grief than XP.

Luckily, you can currently specify XP instead of Vista on Dell's website (because customers asked specifically for it) but for how long will that last? My guess is until Vista SP1. I sincerely hope that Microsoft's Vista guys are working round the clock to fix their operating system and that they have a reasonably flexible delivery date for SP1 so that it's only released when it's ready - unlike Vista!

James McGregor

Not just lack of driver support

Lack of driver support, incompatible software and hardware aren't the only things that are wrong with Vista. Don't forget the pitiful performance, the frequent and eternally annoying UAC dialog boxes, the dramatic slowdown in file copying and moving (due mostly to checking for DRM bits), the gigantic hardware footprint (needs at LEAST a P4 and 1GB of memory to be even borderline useable), the intensely irritating network management interface that requires more clicks than ever before it actually does anything useful, deliberately removed features that were present in XP like telnet, a decent disk defragmenter (now crippled) and thumbnail view in Explorer ... I could go on but frankly I just can't be bothered.

Microsoft has obviously released some half-baked operating system that the customer will be forced to use as manufacturers such as Dell and HP won't ship their new PCs with anything else (Dell currently permit customers to choose XP instead of Vista on some PCs but that option is steadily disappearing). So in short, get ready for a rough ride as Microsoft beta tests its premature baby on consumers and hope that Vista SP1 (or Vista's successor) finally fixes things enough to make your PC useable again.

Dell Linux is go

James McGregor

Crapware for Ubuntu?

I wonder if Dell's software engineers are currently figuring out how to port all the bundled Windows crapware to Ubuntu. For example, Dell's insidious Support Tool, the invasive Network Manager, the useless wireless management tools, the crippled versions of Corel Paintshop or Snapfire, all of the crummy ISP preloads and, of course, the bloatware that is McAfee/Norton Internet Security. Or worse still, Google's Desktop and Toolbar. All crapware that the end user didn't want and has no option to specify whether or not it is installed on the computer that they've just forked out good money for.

Dell, please take note. Don't bother porting anything. The first thing that any user with half a brain will do is slam in the OS CD (assuming that Dell supply one, which often isn't the case), flatten the box and build a nice clean crapware free one, which is what should have been shipped in the first place. Personally, I'd be willing (though not happy) to pay an extra tenner just to tick a box on the Dell website to state that I want just the OS and drivers installed on my new PC. Whether it be Ubuntu, Windows or whatever.

Electric cars may not be solution to all world problems

James McGregor

The 250-mile range is NOT an issue

Well, for normal drivers at least. Just think, how many miles would the average punter cover in a day? Assuming that your travelling salesman type drove it every weekday right up to the 250 mile limit, that works out at over 65,000 miles a year. Given that the average yearly car mileage is supposedly more like 10,000 miles, the average daily mileage is under 28 miles. Admittedly, we're not all average drivers and yes, we may need to drive more than 250 miles in a day once and again but the fact is that for the average driver, I believe that 250 miles would be more than enough.

And yes, the Tesla is expensive. $100K is a lot for a sports car and the competition at that price level will beat it. But remember, the Tesla is the first to provide this type of performance in a battery car. There will be others. The technology will be patented, copied and will appear elsewhere in cheaper cars. The cost will come down and the technology will improve. For a start, lithium-ion batteries have only been commercially available for 16 years ... imagine what battery chemistry will be around in 2023, especially when the need for more efficient batteries becomes more pressing due to lack of fossil fuel.

Don't be so short sighted! Think outside the box once in a while, you might enjoy it.

Carmakers tout green motors in Geneva

James McGregor

No electric cars with petrol performance? I think not!

Haven't you heard about the Tesla Roadster? Does 0-60 mph in about 4 seconds, 130mph top whack and does 250 miles on a single charge. Admittedly, it currently costs rather a lot (50k) but it shows that the technology is already here for a viable electric car. It looks hot as hell too, so you can be green and still drive like a twat. I want one!

Have a look at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tesla_Roadster for details or better still, check out http://news.bbc.co.uk/nolavconsole/ukfs_news/hi/bb_wm_fs.stm?news=1&nbram=1&nbwm=1&bbram=1&bbwm=1&nol_storyid=6191957 to see one in action on the road.