* Posts by Conrad Longmore

453 publicly visible posts • joined 3 Apr 2008


'AI-written history' of Maui wildfire becomes Amazon bestseller, fuels conspiracies

Conrad Longmore

"machine learning software"

I love the snide phrase "machine learning software", because that's all these AI chatbots are.

Bizarre backup taught techie to dumb things down for the boss

Conrad Longmore

Well I'm not alone...

It looks like I'm not alone.. on several occasions in the distant past I had the same problem, employees storing important emails in the Deleted Items folder in Exchange, which of course is the sort of thing you purge first when their measly on-prem mailbox quota was exceeded. They had apparently been "told" to do it, but when pressed they couldn't say by whom or why. My guess is that they didn't know how to create their own folders. They didn't like it when I asked if they kept all their important paper files in the physical waste bin either. "Of course not, why would I do that?"

I'm glad I don't work in user support any more..

Techie wasn't being paid, until he taught HR a lesson

Conrad Longmore

Re: Someone shopping at Bunnings for Crescent slabs?

At least it's not hardcore-nunporn.com/sexy-latex-nun-threesome-with-two-robots.mp4

Is there anything tape can’t fix? This techie used it to defeat the Sun

Conrad Longmore

Had exactly the same thing, the user couldn't work in the afternoon in winter when the sun came through the window and shone on the desk. I knew what the problem was because I had read about it in Chaos Manor in Byte some time before - for the uninitiated, Chaos Manor was Jerry Pournelle messing around with computers and it was a surprisingly useful source of tips. I replaced the mouse, so the user could work in the afternoon which I think they were none too happy about.. they also had a (for the time) massive 21" colour CRT running in VGA-only mode which looked stupid. After checking that they weren't visually impared, I installed the correct Windows 3.1 SVGA driver and set it to something more appropriate. They made a formal complaint, and I had to set it back to 640 x 480. I honestly don't think that office actually did any work at all...

How one techie ended up paying the tab on an Apple Macintosh Plus

Conrad Longmore

No hiding place

Thanks to the Wayback Machine, it's still all there... and indeed the HTML says FrontPage. Lovely :)

Beware the big bang in the network room

Conrad Longmore

Elfin Safety

Years ago when I was working (mostly) desktop support, facilities wouldn't allow IT to have a trolley because we might break something by bumping into it. So we had to carry everything ourselves, back in the day when desktops, printers and of course servers could be massive. LaserJet IIISi printers were a favourite at over 40kg each. Apparently IT staff were more expendable that the doors and furniture.

After staring over the precipice once before, Kent County Council considers £500m in outsourcing again

Conrad Longmore

Re: Does outsourcing ever work?

That would be the Labour government in 2000 acting on recommendations laid down under the Tories. It did rely on the findings of the Nolan report being implemented in order to ensure that people in public office behaved themselves. I guess that didn't work so well in the long term...

Conrad Longmore

Does outsourcing ever work?

Does outsourcing ever work? Many moons ago I was a county councillor, the ruling Tories pushed through an outsourcing program based more on ideology than any real need. It was a disaster, the contractors messed almost everything up and were in breach of contract. Even so, the council ended paying a considerable wedge to the contractors for them to go away.

It was always obvious to almost all the non-Tory councillors that it would be a disaster. Back in those days the personal surchage still existed where cllrs could be personally liable for negligence. We made sure that every single vote was recorded...

To have one floppy failure is unlucky. To have 20 implies evil magic or a very silly user

Conrad Longmore

Re: The endless story

Ah, a sadly under-rated book.

"Just think of it as evolution in action".

Microsoft 365 tries again at filtering swearing, bad behavior: Classifiers for seven languages offered

Conrad Longmore


Scunthorpe. I'll leave it at that.

Marine archaeologists catch a break on the bottom of the Baltic Sea: A 75-year-old Enigma Machine

Conrad Longmore

Re: Old typewriter

Of course the Germans had telephones too, but in occupied Europe the resistance would keep cutting the lines. This forced the Germans to use radio while the lines were repaired. The Germans thought it was just an annoyance, they didn't understand that they were exposing their communications.

As the Germans were pushed back inside their own borders, then they tended to switch to telephone and teleprinters which meant that the intelligence dried up. This is one of the reasons that the Germans achieved surprise at the Battle of the Bulge in the winter of 1944-45.

Conrad Longmore

Re: Old typewriter

Aye, and it was those mundane reports which could often provide a crib for decrypting the cypher. Some stations sent the same message every day (e.g. "NOTHING TO REPORT HH") - if you knew the message then it's much quicker to find the rotor and plug settings. So in a way, over-use made it weaker.

The Battle of Britain couldn't have been won without UK's homegrown tech innovations

Conrad Longmore

Re: Fighter Control & raid plotting...

Indeed, our efficient fighter control was a force multiplier. We could get our fighters to where they needed to be more often, we could prioritise high risk attacks and we knew exactly what resources were available at any one time. All the available data for the battle area effectively got pumped into one location and could be analysed and acted upon.

Like a 1940s version of Splunk..

Fomalhaut b exoplanet may have been cloud in a trench coat: Massive 'world' formed after 'mid-space super-prang'

Conrad Longmore
Black Helicopters

Don't panic

Planet just 25 light years away destroyed by unidentified but powerful forces. Move along please. Nothing to see here.

Real-time tragedy: Dumb deletion leaves librarian red-faced and fails to nix teenage kicks on the school network

Conrad Longmore

Bah, students...

Back in the day when most games ran in DOS mode 13h I worked at a college, I wrote a small TSR that simply intercepted the requests to change graphics mode and if it was 13h the computer threw a generic error and then rebooted. I named it something generic and stuffed it in the DOS folder. I don't believe any of the students figured out how it was done.

I also wrote a wrapper around the FORMAT command because students - either accidentally or deliberately - would do a FORMAT C: which of course would render the machine unusable. If they tried that then it would make the most ghastly alarm noise in the middle of their class and earn them a bollocking.

AI of the needle: Here's how neural networks could detect nighttime low blood-sugar levels using your heart beat

Conrad Longmore

Re: I know when my blood sugars are low at night..

Yup, I think you are exactly right. NHS groups get offered the meters for next to nothing I believe..

Conrad Longmore

I know when my blood sugars are low at night..

I know when my blood sugars are low at night because I will typically have long and very vivid dreams, rather like a fever dream. That having been said, it's hardly a scientific method and other non-invasive techniques are available. The problem with *those* is that the DVLA only recognise a fingerprick test as being accurate enough for driving, so you are stuck with those anyway and it's likely your GP will only pay for one testing method.

Test strips are expensive in the UK - *retail* can be about £25 for 50 strips although the NHS gets them cheaper. This means that many people with diabetes being treated with (for example) metformin or sitagliptin don't get test strips prescribed (or only in low quantities) which seems to lead to poorer overall control of diabetes compared to insulin-dependent diabetics who need to test several times a day. A reliable and inexpensive continuous glucose monitor would be an enormous benefit to many people.

Find these, er, appealing? UK.gov takes red pen to spy court rules, asks for Parliament's OK

Conrad Longmore

RIPA 18?

Just sayin'..

ZX Spectrum reboot latest: Some Vega+s arrive, Sky pulls plug, Clive drops ball

Conrad Longmore

German tank problem

Did they use the German tank problem approach for the serial numbers?

UK taxman warned it's running out of time to deliver working customs IT system by Brexit

Conrad Longmore

Better stock up on supplies then

Well, that brings the time you need to have stocked up on essential supplies forward from March 2019 to the end of the year then. You know, food, medicine, fuel maybe.

It doesn't actually matter if HMRC pull the rabbit out of the hat and make it work on time, we still haven't even started on the rest of the infrastructure needed for the new customs environment.

A year after devastating NotPetya outbreak, what have we learnt? Er, not a lot, says BlackBerry bod

Conrad Longmore
Thumb Down


It didn't matter if your systems were up-to-date with NotPetya or not. It harvested administrator and local administrator credentials via a custom version of Mimikatz and used those, in *addition* to spreading through ETERNALBLUE / DOUBLEPULSAR etc.

I suspect that many of the organisations so badly hit had decent patch management regimes, but were weaker on passwords. It was not the same as WannaCry. No, not at all.

Ongoing game of Galileo chicken goes up a notch as the UK talks refunds

Conrad Longmore
Thumb Up

Re: It'll be worth it

And we'll be getting our Prawn Cocktail crisps back.

IBM broke its cloud by letting three domain names expire

Conrad Longmore

In the old days..

In the old days they would have been even more screwed. When domains expired they used to drop straight away and could be reregistered almost instantly. That changed a bit more than a decade ago. If you think that getting your domain out of REDEMPTIONPERIOD is a pain, trying to get it back from some anonymous domainer who wants a fortune for it is even harder..

Stealth web crypto-cash miner Coinhive back to the drawing board as blockers move in

Conrad Longmore

For example..

I found an example yesterday, you can see how it works in this URLquery report:


Blocking coinhive.com and coin-hive.com and the associated IPs should mitigate it IMO.

Sci-Fi titan Jerry Pournelle passes,
aged 84

Conrad Longmore

Re: Science Fiction saves the world!

Footfall is probably one of the best and most plausible alien invasion novels, Mote is the best first contact novel I've read. I wasn't so keen on Pournelle's solo works, but when working with Larry Niven there was a good combination of ideas - I guess Niven had the big ideas, Pournelle then made them credible.

And Chaos Manor was always a must-read in Byte. Sure, it was just some guy fiddling around with computers but you'd often learn something. And Pournelle was right about keyboards..

WannaCry kill-switch hero Marcus Hutchins collared by FBI on way home from DEF CON

Conrad Longmore

That damned sinkhole server

I seem to remember him Tweeting that various law enforcement agencies kept trying to shut down or seize the sinkhole server. It seems that a lot of agencies just didn't understand what was going on and were in their own little bubble.

Funnily enough, one of my bosses offered me a trip to Black Hat / Defcon. Didn't fancy the idea much then. Fancy it less now.

Multics resurrected: Proto-Unix now runs on Raspberry Pi or x86

Conrad Longmore

There were five in the UK..

There were five Multics systems in UK Universities as I recall, Birmingham, Bath/Bristol (AUCC), Brunel, Cardiff and Loughborough. Typically these were hooked up to Lear-Siegler ADM3a or similar terminals, ours used British-built Insight VDT-1s (who were eventually bought our by Sanderson Electronics).

Of course, as with probably most 1980s computing students we tried to hack it, but unlike other boxes the security was very solid. Social engineering attacks worked the best. Yes, I got into a lot of trouble in those days..

As an aside, Paul Smee was one of the leading Multicians of the time IMO. Sadly he passed away back in 2006 - http://www.bristol.ac.uk/news/2006/5138.html

Another ZX Spectrum modern reboot crowdfunder pops up

Conrad Longmore

Why not go further?

Why not go further? I understand the C64 has already had this treatment. What about the BBC Micro? Dragon 32? Oh.. yes, maybe that it going a bit too far.

Farewell Unity, you challenged desktop Linux. Oh well, here's Ubuntu 17.04

Conrad Longmore

Good riddance, but..

I always hated Unity, but then I don't use Ubutnu on a daily basis and never "got it" I suppose. GNOME of course was always very simple and easy to get to grips with. And then GNOME 3 came along and it was right back to WTF? again..

Naming computers endangers privacy, say 'Net standards boffins

Conrad Longmore

If you want to start an argument..

If you want to start an argument in IT, propose a new machine naming convention.

Post-Brexit five-year UK work visas planned – report

Conrad Longmore

If only..

If only the EU would offer passports to citizens wanting to get out of this f--king failure of a country..

Nokia's 3310 revival – what's NEXT? Vote now

Conrad Longmore

Cambridge Z88

Just bought myself a Z88 on eBay. Lovely big keyboard, it really could do with a bigger screen, Flash storage and USB though.. but not bad for 30 year old tech.

PDP-10 enthusiasts resurrect ancient MIT operating system

Conrad Longmore

Ah.. Multics

Still have my "Multics Commands and Active Functions" manual somewhere..

UK ISPs may be handed cock-blocking powers

Conrad Longmore

What's the penalty for sharing your ID?

What's the penalty for sharing your porn.gov.uk ID? You could really undermine the system if everyone used the same ones :)

Jingle bells, RM tells, some staff to go away... via Skype

Conrad Longmore


I'm always a bit surprised when I find that Viglen is still in business too. And that Tom Lehrer isn't dead.

No super-kinky web smut please, we're British

Conrad Longmore

Politicians' browser history

Those proposing this law should take their laptops in for independent forensic analysis so that we can see that sort of sites they they like to visit for "research purpose".

User needed 40-minute lesson in turning it off and turning it on again

Conrad Longmore

The mouse that never worked in the afternoon..

One day (in the early 1990s) I was called out to install something-or-other in an academic department of the college I worked in that I hadn't previously been aware of.

Having set whatever it was up, the users casually mentioned that another one of their computers didn't work in the afternoon.. well, *most* afternoons. It was OK in the morning, but after lunch it apparently stopped and the person using it couldn't do any more work. This had been going on for months. It didn't seem to particularly bother them that they spent their afternoons sitting around doing nothing.

It transpired that the problem was that the mouse stopped working, and with no mouse they couldn't possibly interact with the state-of-the-art Windows 3.1 PC. They just accepted that it didn't work in the afternoon.

The problem was a daft one.. the early optomechnical mouse had optical sensors internally which were being flooded out by the sunlight shining on the plastic. Putting in a better mouse fixed the problem. But what got me was the laid-back attitude to not doing any work. Maybe not surprising in that environment.

(The same department also had a then-massive 21" CRT monitor on another system that they insisted on running in VGA resolution despite there being no reason to do so. They went ballistic when I tweaked it to 800x600 pixels).

Conrad Longmore

In one lab installation we put a box file under the monitor to raise it up a bit, because the PC was a tower system under the desk. For a laugh, I printed out an icon of a floppy disk drive and glued it onto the box file. On more that one occasion we had baffled users who didn't understand why the disk didn't go in. Hmm.

AI gives porn peddlers a helping hand

Conrad Longmore


I think CFCM is going to be one of the government-approved types of pornography going forwards.

What should the Red Arrows' new aircraft be?

Conrad Longmore

Textron AirLand Scorpion

Projected to cost less than $20m..


It seems that there has been some real interest from countries looking for inexpensive fighter aircraft. You can buy about five of them for the same price as an F-35.

Is Google using YouTube to put one over on Samsung?

Conrad Longmore

Lumen Database

Oddly, I can't find the DMCA complaint in the Lumen Database (lumendatabase.org) which has plenty of other recent DMCA complaints submitted to Google and YouTube..

Lessons from the Mini: Before revamping or rebooting anything, please read this

Conrad Longmore

I had one of those too. But it wasn't really a German car (despite the Daimler ownership), it was a French car with all the fun and unreliability that goes with it. Electrical gremlins, leaks, ECU failures, steering rack faults, fractured aircon pipes. Not really reliable. But fun to drive when it wasn't being fixed.

Conrad Longmore


That's a pretty impressive portfolio of designs - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_Stephenson

On the Mini.. well, it a contentious one amongst car fans. Issigonis was trying to design something cheap, small on the outside and big on the inside all while using as much from the BMC parts pin as possible. The fact that it was cute to look at and fun to drive were rather pleasing secondary factors.

When *Rover* tried to redesign the Mini in the late 1990s, they came up with a number of things which were closer to the Issigonis idea of efficient packaging (some looked like the Daewoo Matiz), where BMW was more interested in the cuteness factor. In the end, BMW won and the Mini was a huge success.

There's an interesting and more detailed story about the development of the Mini and the prototypes that never made it here: http://www.aronline.co.uk/blogs/cars/mini-bmw/mini-2/the-cars-mini-development-history/

Smell burning? Samsung’s 'Death Note 7' could still cause a contagion

Conrad Longmore

Remember the iPhone 4. Or maybe the Ford Pinto.

Remember the iPhone 4 and antennagate? People wondered how Apple could regain the trust of customers after messing that up, and yet they fixed the problem and moved on. There's no real reason why this should turn into significant long-term damage for Samsung

If no other models start to blow up. If their PR machine gets back on track. And their competitors don't capitalise on the problem.

People still buy cars from Ford too, despite the beancounters deciding that it was cheaper to let people die in the deathtrap they called the Ford Pinto rather than fix the underlying problems. Consumers can be surprisingly forgiving with companies that they trust.

Private equity ownership produces an improved Arcserve, apparently

Conrad Longmore

The dead hand of CA

CA buys good products and then ignores their development while creaming off the profits. Eventually the product dies, then they just buy something else.

Spoiler alert: What Oracle is going to announce today

Conrad Longmore

What Oracle is going to announce today..?

Something I do not give the tiniest shit about. Oracle is a great lumbering mess that only still has customers because it is too difficult for those customers to extricate themselves from their engagements.. and what choice is there? SAP? Just as bad.

Skyscape rebrands to UKCloud following legal challenge by Sky

Conrad Longmore

Next on the list..


They already had a go at No Man's Sky..


What Brexit means for you as a motorist

Conrad Longmore

Passport, driving licence validity

Where your driving licence will be valid in the UK, there's a possibility that it will not be valid in Europe. Even more likely, the EU-style passport may not be valid for travel to EU countries at least, because travellers will no longer have the rights and privileges of being an EU citizen.. that will be something the EU will have to decide.

Brexit: More cash for mobile operators or consumers? Pick one

Conrad Longmore


Please don't confuse the BREXIT debate by bringing facts and logic into it.

Lester Haines: RIP

Conrad Longmore

I has a sad

Thank you Lester for making the world a funnier and more interesting place. You will be missed.