* Posts by Steve Kellett

36 publicly visible posts • joined 4 Mar 2008

BT providing free meals to coax its healthy customer support staff back into office as calls rocket amid pandemic

Steve Kellett

I thought all the BT call centres were outsourced anyhow to a company that tends to have very locked down call centres in a country of 1.3 Billion people currently under strict lock-down?

Grab a towel and pour yourself a Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster because The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is 42

Steve Kellett

Re: Time travel

Here I can speak with some authority:

First Pint of bitter purchased under aged in around 1974 in the long gone United Kingdom Pub on Ropergate cost 13p. I reckon we got away with it as we were the only people in there under 60.

By the time I went to University "daarn saarf" in '78 it had risen meteorically to in a range of 17p (Working Men's Club) to 21p (pseudo posh out of town country Pub).

Down in Kent it was an astronomically high 26p to 28p a pint!

It was all rapidly uphill from there. When did Tom Robinson write "Winter of '79"? Sometime in '77 or '78? "A pint of beer. Was still Ted Bob".

Just like having "77" stenciled on the back of your donkey jacket, that was never going to age well.

Steve Kellett

Re: The benefits of working for the company

I had, maybe even "have" if I look hard enough, some second generation copies of the first series taken from the master tapes. A mate at University in '79 or '80 had a Dad who worked at the BBC, and whenever the periodically re-duplicated the master tapes of various radio series a bunch of other recorders would get shoved surreptitiously "on the bus".

Unfortunately the shops had already shut on the day when his Dad came home from work and asked him if he had and spare cassettes, so all he could do was record over a bunch of beat up mix tapes.

Still, it was better than the versions I had taken from the line out of a portable radio into the aux socket of a deeply iffy Grundig cassette recorder

As Australia is gripped by bog roll shortage, tabloid says: Here, fill your dunny with us

Steve Kellett

Yes. What exactly was the point of that glossy-sided nightmare known as "Izal"?

Windows 7: Still looking after business (except when it isn't)

Steve Kellett

Re: Punch to the gut

When I started University back in 1978[1] they had one of the "swap your card for a Tenner" machines embedded in the wall of the Stunted Onion[2] building.

Being from "up 't north" I'd never seen such a contraption and was duly impressed., and therefore had to resort to having my gast flabbered when I discovered the electro-mechanical marvel that was the Barclay's ATM in the High Street. That thing was magnificent. With a (presumably) rubberised canvas belt that whirred back & forth displaying instructions, big buttons you just about had to hit with a hammer to get it to register your intentions, and a serving hatch that opened to dispense piles of wrinkly Fivers. To this day I am convinced that it was operated by a team of handle-cranking clerks while an accountant sat to one side and updated the ledgers in real time using a quill pen...

1) While Pterodactyls wheeled overhead, and Velocoraptors feasted on the bones of Doug McClure[3]

2) Yes. It really said that. Points if you can identify the institute of higher learning in question.

3) If you're going to be anachronistic, you may as well do it properly.

Researchers trick Tesla into massively breaking the speed limit by sticking a 2-inch piece of electrical tape on a sign

Steve Kellett

Re: Sigh.

Surely you mean: "Lucas. Lord of insufficient light and sudden unexpected darkness"?

Another week, another bunch of Windows 10 machines punched by a patch

Steve Kellett

Dead drives...

I have a mate complaining that the most recent Windows 10 upgrade has resulted in none of the disc drives installed on his 13 year old machine being accessible as it removed or disabled the drivers for all older drives.

I'm in the even the work machine dual boots to Linux" camp for primarily this sort of reason.

Built to last: Time to dispose of the disposable, unrepairable brick

Steve Kellett

I've been using the "Put LInux on it and eke out another 5 years" approach to home Desktops & Laptops for year now...

I manage to still get by on a 12 year old Dell desktop that's on it's 3rd HDD and has even had RAM fail. I had to slot in a cheap used NVIDIA GPU last year because the monitor failed and the VGA/HDMI converter I bought meant that you couldn't ever see the BIOS screens and even 1080p video slowed the refresh rate to a crawl.

Rendering YouTube videos can be time consuming, but you gets what you pays for.

Ah, night shift in the 1970s. Ciggies, hipflasks, ADVENT... and fault-prone disk drives the size of washing machines

Steve Kellett

Re: How to treat newly comissioned mainframes

"Not covered by hardware maintenance".

Yeah. That's what we had to tell one customer after the third disc crash caused by rats gnawing through the cables under the false floor...

Steve Kellett

Re: We don't need no specialist lifting equipment


I'll leave this here then:

General Reconnaissance Of Peripheral Equipment.

Steve Kellett

Oh those old exchangeable disc drives:

40MB, 60MB, 80MB, and if you were very lucky 200MB!

What a revelation when the Fixed Drives came in with their whopping 320MB and 640MB capacity...

Now, as to the "start-up" on thse drives when a new pack had been inserted and someone hit the "go stud":

There was this pantomime on the EDS60's as a set of metal fingers swing in and back again before the read/write heads popped out and started their seek dance. These were originally meant to contain cleaning pads, but allegedly those were found to do more harm than good and everyone removed them, leaving their sad slow swing out and back again as a reminder. We used to call them "dust sprinklers:.

Now these drives, as the original author mentioned, were extremely susceptible to damage caused by stray dust and hair, and as a result all computer rooms were kept stringently clean and aseptic.

Who am I kidding?

The best modification I ever saw to one such drive was the addition of ash-trays to the side to the cabinet. This was because there was no way that the operators could be persuaded to stop smoking in the machine room, so the best that they had managed to do was to get them to take the cigs out of their mouths while they changed the disc packs.

Any guesses as to where this customer site was?

Oh go on, you'll never guess...

Ok then.


This was back in the 80's when as I recall the French tobacco industry was Government owned, and as a result smoking appeared to be compulsory for everyone over the age of 18 months. Although I understand kindergarten age children could be excused if they got a letter from the family Doctor.

It was, as has been said, a different time...

Mourning Apple's war against sockets? The 2018 Mac mini should be your first port of call

Steve Kellett

Re: Macs typically have a longer usable life than Windows PCs ...

Two desktops at home:

A circa 2009/2010 Mac Mini with maxed out RAM, and a Dell Inspiron 540 of similar vintage which has been running Ubuntu since the original HDD died and now sports two hard drives and maxed out RAM. I’ve stuck at Ubuntu 16.04 as I suspect the driver compatibility creeping death for the decade plus old Dell hard ware it getting close, which is incidentally why my equally ancient Dell Netbook has Mint 17.2 on it.

I had to buy a VGA to HDMI converter box for a tenner earlier this year when the original Dell monitor died and I wanted to re-purpose one of the spare HD TVs we had kicking around (they breed).

Keeping this old hardware running is a hobby in and of itself....

Rookie almost wipes customer's entire inventory – unbeknownst to sysadmin

Steve Kellett

Re: And then billed 3 extra hours?

ICL 2905 to 2955 upgrade was to remove a jumper wire that slugged the system performance by making the CPU service interrupts continually.

Later machine families did this in the firmware.

Skype Classic headed for the chopping block on September 1

Steve Kellett

Oh marvelous

Another several massively frustrating hours trying to get my Dad's Skype to work again while hanging on the phone from the other side of the planet.

Open plan offices flop – you talk less, IM more, if forced to flee a cubicle

Steve Kellett

Re: What about disturbing others?

I had a stunned reaction from some 20 something colleagues yesterday when I described a chain smoking colleague from the early 80's who would sometimes during times of extreme stress have three cigs on the go simultaneously. "Yes. People did used to be allowed to smoke in the workplace".

Agile development exposed as techie superstition

Steve Kellett

Re: There were studies ...

Used to call it the "cardboard programmer" technique.

It inevitably had two outcomes: A fixed problem and a confused colleague.

So a "win win" then

It's Patch Blues-day: Bad October Windows updates trigger BSODs

Steve Kellett

I had a Windows 10 driver update give me the same BSOD on my “Because the BLE SDK only works on MS” dual boot machine.

Yeah. Inaccessible boot device because of a driver update for a NAS. Glorious. Isn’t being an unpaid unit tester great?

Just how are HMRC’s IT systems going to cope with Brexit?

Steve Kellett

Re: " a member of the IDMSX development team.final release..circa 1994/5."

We had a bunch of people from "the revenue" seconded to ICL working on the systems integration phase of the end to end validationof the entire "Open TP[1]" feature set as they were planning on exploiting the new functionalities for developments scheduled for, i assume, '96 or '97. It might have been the system in question, but a lot of those central government applications were late '80's vintage.

Mine's the one with the SFL reference card in the pocket.

1) Distributed transaction processing for heterogeneous systems, All good fun until someone loses an eye.

Steve Kellett

Re: Yup. It's VME hosting an app in IDMSX

I was a member of the IDMSX development team at the time the final release was shuffled out of the door circa 1994/5.

Prior to that I was part of the 3rd line support team '85 to '92, although I cut my teeth on the 1900 version in the early '80's.

Still got an old diagnostic guide somewhere...

Fresh cotton underpants fix series of mysterious mainframe crashes

Steve Kellett

Re: Humidity control

Long enough ago and far enough away that I can remove anonymity from the guilty...

It would have been in about 1984 and the place was the head office of a company called Locamion in Lyons, France. Back in those days smoking in France was more or less compulsory, and the atmosphere in the office was pretty much opaque. This much was expected, but when I went into their machine room I discovered an unusual modification had been made to the MDS disk drives[1]. Ash trays had been added so that they could convince the operators to remove their cigs from their mouths for the time taken to switch disk packs. That stopped them getting fag ash on the platters and thus reduced the frequency of head crashes.

Otherwise the room was climate controlled and had temperature and humidity tracking, just like all the others. In fact the "Computer Room" used to be the one place you could escape summer heat and pollen.

1) Huge washing machine sized contraptions with on exchangeable disk drive at the top (6 platter 18" diameter beasts with 60MB capacity) and a 640MB non-exchangeable drive at the bottom.

One-armed bandit steals four hours of engineer's busy day

Steve Kellett

My best ever wild goose chase was back in the late 80's.

We had a big customer in Hong Kong who seemed to manage to hit every bug in our DBMS software harder and faster than everyone else. in '87 I'd been out there to track down a particularly nasty little fault that was causing a DB corruption part way through the running of a simulated workload which constituted part of the UAT on a multi-million quid project.I helped track it down and then ended up loafing around Hong Kong for three weeks wearing a pager until the final sign-off was obtained.

Anyhow, when this same site was live in mid '88 they hit another issue. The distress flares went up and my presence was demanded, so I jumped onto a paraffin budgie at Manchester on Saturday morning, landing at Chep Lap Kok on Sunday to be greeted by an old mate who'd been hauled up from Oz who greeted me thus: "About ten minutes after you took off from Heathrow we found that they'd been running an un-patched version of the software. Problem solved. Shall we go to the Pub?".


Gentle readers. If you fall off of a 13 hour long haul into a time zone 8 hours adrift from the one set in your body clock, the last thing you need to do is sink several lunchtime pints and then crash in your hotel room mid afternoon. My body clock obstinately stuck on UK time and the next 5 days until my return flight were a hell of jet lag. Sleepless nights and dozing off at the desk days.

New exploding whale vid once again shows true porpoise of internet

Steve Kellett

Am I the only one...

Who is immensely glad that olfactory information is not yet included in the YouTube video codec?

Just imagining it brings tears to my eyes...

Google turns Street View into Mountain View

Steve Kellett
Big Brother

Nothing new under the Sun?

They already had to ditch to their cars in Hong Kong for a couple of reasons. Firstly, the average sideways view at car roof level on the roads of Hong Kong is straight into the side of a truck, bus, or delivery van. Secondly, there are a hell of a lot of places on Hong Kong island where you can't drive a car. For example Bonham Road is mostly a footpath.

Cue: The Google Bike ;-)

Apple bars WinXP users from iCloud

Steve Kellett

iTunes on Windows 7 64 bit?

Now if only Apple can get iTunes 10 to work properly on the Windows 7 64 Bit version...

The installer incorrectly identifies the OS as being the 32 bit version, and installs the 32 bit version, which then refuses to run correctly, freezing, corrupting iOS devices, and other fun stuff. As a result the only machine that correctly syncs my family's iOS devices is my ageing XP desktop.

Software validation appears to be a thing of the past...

My lost Cobol years: Integrating legacy management

Steve Kellett

You too huh? (Y2K)

I had to go to work at 8pm on 31 Dec 1999. Midnight saw me standing in a client's IT department next to their IT Manager, both with beers in hand, watching the developers shut down, bring up & test the main on-line commercial system to make sure nothing went "splot".

Unfortunately I was being paid nothing extra for the privilege of doing this, which still rankles come to think of it!

Brits don't want in-flight calling

Steve Kellett

The good news is...

I've been on a total of 6 long haul flights that had Femtocells, and my phone never managed to stay hooked up to the thing for longer than ten minutes, and the "Sent to you from 30,000 feet above Singapore" texts to the Mrs never got through. If they were representative then there's no need to worry.

Oh yeah, the call costs were relatively normal roaming call charges. Expensive, but not in the same league as the usurious in-seat phone charges the airlines usually levy.

WiFi would be nice though...

Home Office unveils new UK passport

Steve Kellett

Only to Paris huh?

Out here in SE Asia our passport renewal hub is Hong Kong. This results in our wandering ID less for a couple of weeks while our documents take an all expenses paid (by us) trip to The Big Lychee.

The fact that not carrying a form of ID in this part of the World is usually a criminal offence of the "bang you up in a detention center for a bit and then deport you, possibly after a prison sentence if they were in a particularly testy mood" is merely a courtesy detail.

Fujitsu staff to vote on strike call

Steve Kellett

Same old ICL huh?

When was the last strike? '84? I recall the picket lines at Bracknell...

I remember well the early 90's with the annual company "kick out" events: "Happy New Year. Everyone's on 90 day's notice".

They were even still pulling that one in '96 when I jumped ship to an overseas secondment.

Linux risks netbooks defeat to Microsoft

Steve Kellett

Then again...

A few weeks ago I took my Asus EeePC 4G which I've converted to the desktop style interface with me when I played a music festival. It ended up being used by several non-IT people for Net access over the course of the weekend (as well as serving as an iPod charging station), and none of them noticed that they were using Linux. One of them asked "Is that Vista? It doesn't look like my XP set-up."

Multi-threaded development joins Gates as yesterday's man

Steve Kellett

Some strange assumptions going on here

Anyone remember ICL's Goldrush machine of the early 90's?

Nope. Thought not.

Multi-threading a process is difficult. I used to work on the internals of a Mainframe DBMS and I'd guess that 40-60% of the code in there was to cope with synchronising shared resources, acquiring resources, waiting for resources to become available, recovering from situations when they failed to become available, releasing them when you'd finished with them, etc.

Surely parallelism should only be used when it is logically possible to break down a given unit of work into sub-units that can be executed with zero or minimal overlap in the required resources? Otherwise there's going to be all sorts of horrendous "Flush the pipe, I'm waiting for someone on another processor node" type interrupts flying around the system. (Been there. Done that. Had to go and patch several dozen instances of a particular order code instruction from the variant that stopped all the nodes in a cluster to make them synchronise their internal clocks to the one that didn't). You stat to loose the power boost you were looking to gain in the first place.

Surely the way to utilise multi-processor systems is to throw mixed workloads at 'em?

You know, like we used to do with multi-node Mainframes?


Fake subpoenas harpoon 2,100 corporate fat cats

Steve Kellett

Only 10%...

I guess that means that 90% of them still have their PA's print off their email each morning.

Kent bloke buried under 3,000 congestion charge receipts

Steve Kellett

I love these...

Back in '95 I received an automatically generated summons for non-payment of Council Tax from Derbyshire County Council (or whatever it and they were called at the time). It clearly stated that I owed them something like -0.23 pounds. Yes, I'd mis-read the amount due and over paid them by 23 pence. Their badly-written Council Tax system had then duly hit a dealine and churned out who knows how many summons for anyone who had a non-zero balance.

The person who answered the phone when I rang up to say "WTF?" sounded extremely bored with the whole thing. There must have been thousands of us.

Awed fraudsters defeated by UK's passport interviews

Steve Kellett

Typical leaky application....

Ah yes, yet another "anti-terrorism" measure that achieves nothing towards achieving its stated aim but yet manages to increase the level of stress and hassle in the everyday lives of innocent parties.

Another example is that of measures that have been introduced in an attempt to prevent "dirty money" moving around the World. A mate out here in Malaysia recently tried to move some money from his bank account here to his account in the UK. That's the account he opened about Thirty years ago when he was still at school and has been active ever since. The bank refused the deposit unless he could show where the money came from. "I work here" he replied, to be told that they needed a certified copy of his passport & work permit to prove that he worked here. "Get one from the British Embassy" they said. Well, we dn't have an Embassy here, we have a High Comission, this being a Commonwealth Country, and they don't certify copies at High Comissions. In a Commonwealth country you can get that done by any Tom Dick or Notary Public.

Here's hoping fro a 100% record of non-amenability to pecuniary considerations from all those lawyers around the World then.

Sweet, sweet smell of comments in code?

Steve Kellett

Au contraire. Shotguns are too quick & painless

Having spent the first half of my career tracking down and fixing bugs in the guts of a DBMS that had been incrementally developed since the early 70's[1], my reaction to uncommented code is about the same as my reaction to the idea that a hierarchic object model is sufficient documentaion of an API[2]: The desire to hunt down the perpertator and put them out of my misery using only a blunt pencil and a set of kiddy-safe scissors :D

I can read the code. I can see what it's doing, but I need to know what it was trying to achieve so that I can work out how to fix the obscure bug that's been hiding in it for ten years and has only just come to light...

1) Including a couple of source code conversions for good measure.

2) Rather than clear examples of how to use the parameter options.

iPhone may sidestep rubbish caller ID suit

Steve Kellett

Caller ID & poorly configured phone systems

I have occasional frustrations here when I get a missed call on my mobile or at home only to check the caller ID and find something like "0323" or "0301". These seemingly random numbers are the ones attributed to International calls and seem to be fairly constant dependant upon the country of origin of a particular call.

This is a vast improvement on a few years back when the mobile phone system would allocate a local mobile number that was not currently being used for a call to incoming International calls. Many times I'd call back the number stored for a missed call and get some confused rice farmer in Kelantan, and then later get a call from my Dad saying "I tried to ring you earlier..."

Microsoft codes leap year bug into Exchange 2007

Steve Kellett
Dead Vulture

Not just Exchnge

My iPAQ with Windows Mobile 2003 went haywire after midnight on 29th Feb as it suddenly decided that it was 1st March 2035. It then reminded me of 27 years worth of overdue appointments. It took me two soft resets with accompanying date changes before it finally came back from the future. A friend with a Windows Mobile powered phone had a similar experience. It makes you proud to serve doesn't it?