* Posts by Neil Barnes

4441 posts • joined 18 Apr 2007

Hubble in another first: Water vapor spotted in atmosphere of Jupiter’s Ganymede

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puzzling questions remain, include how deep and salty the ocean is...

and whether the fish do well in batter with chips.

Exsparko-destructus! What happens when wand waving meets extremely poor wiring

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Less poor wiring than poor building

Working on a studio many years ago in the UN building in New York... while climbing through the ceiling voids looking for cable runs I discovered that the 'secure' wall between the studio complex and the presumably highly secure bank branch who had the next suite, er, stopped at the ceiling tiles.

They were not amused when I told them...

Activision Blizzard accused by California watchdog of fostering 'frat boy' culture, fatally toxic atmosphere

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For the enlightenment of a right-pondian

What's a frat-boy culture? Is it like sour-dough, or yoghurt?

The old New: Windows veteran explains that menu item

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To me as an engineer, the whole document-centric idea is unhelpful. I might have a dozen different programs on the system that can handle the same document, each in a subtly - or not so subtle - different way; different user interfaces, different abilities etc.

Document-centric picks up the nail first, and then allows you to use only the approved hammer; application-centric picks up the hammer first and then looks for something to hit...

But from MS's point of view, in which no-one ever uses anything other than an MS tool, D-C makes a certain kind of sense.

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Re: Always an important consideration

Well yes, that's kinda my point: my Mint menu offers at the top level Accessories, Education, Games, Graphics, Internet, Office, Other (!), Programming, Sound and Video, Administration, and Preferences.

I can't help feeling that while a tagging search might be useful, trying to parse a search for 'that program I used once to modify some sort of electric book, I can't remember which...' is probably a waste of effort on a desktop OS.

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Re: Always an important consideration

An important point. Although UI designers go on about discoverability, how might one ever discover a keystroke combo?

I learned the ctrl-alt-del trick so long ago I can't remember, probably 3.0 days? I learned the taskbar trick in the last year, and I don't recall using it; but I've never heard (to remember) of ctrl-alt-esc... and I've been driving desktop computers since before DOS.

What has irritated me most about Windows is that nothing stays the same, even in concept. Gratuitous UI changes apart - I suppose the designers have to do something, and you can always turn off the special effects when you know how - a new windows version should operate *at least* in the same way as a previous version. Add new functions, sure, but don't take them away because only one percent of the users out there actually use them. When you've got a few billion units out in the world, that's a few tens of millions of unhappy users.

I think that a cascading start menu should always be present, because search is only useful if you know what you're looking for, rather than what sort of thing you're looking for: I might not be able to remember Eclipse's name, but I know that if I look in Menu/Programming there's a good chance that I'll find it, or another editor or IDE, without having to know a name.

Certainly, most users don't use a fraction of the programs on their PC, and probably only need search the name of the browser... and probably have a desktop shortcut for that. But for those who use a computer for more than a browser or a typewriter, a menu is extremely helpful to find a program you might use once in a blue moon.

That said; I'm just ranting. Since I retired, I am no longer required to use Windows in any of its incarnations, and I choose not to.

Gloom-dwelling subterranean robots battle for million-dollar DARPA prize

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Re: Meanwhile, in real caves.

Can't help thinking that I'd rather write the software for a submersible drone than for a bat-analogue ornithopter that can swim! That could be a job for life...

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Re: Meanwhile, in real caves.

I suspect a slight difference in wing size due to the different fluid densities of water and air might cause a problem: I was idly watching a hydrofoil kitesurf board the other day and comparing its wing size - perhaps a tenth of a square meter - to my paraglider, thirty square meters or so. Both lifting the same mass.

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Re: Then we have one legged robot

Pieces of seven! Pieces of seven!

Oh, wait... parroty error.

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Then we have one legged robot

Am I the only one who read that as 'we have a one legged robot'?

Snail mail would be a fool-proof way to inform patients about plans to slurp GP data, but UK govt won't commit

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Re: Letters

I've had a number too - in spite of a conversation with a 'must follow the script at all costs' followupperer to whom I made it very clear that I would not be returning to the UK for a vaccination, if for no other reason that I've had the very same vaccination here instead.

The only difference is that mine comes with a Robert Koch Institute confirmation instead of an NHS one, so apparently it doesn't work as well and I still have to hide away if I want to visit.

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Dear Patient,

This letter is from your health service, to advise you that unless you copy this letter to ten more people, bad luck will unfortunately attend you: specifically, in that your and their health data will be scarfed up to be made available to unknown parties with unknown aims.

You have been warned.

Do not fail to pass this letter on.

Your NHS

Lawn care SWAT team subdues trigger-happy Texan... and other stories

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Bloody hell, nobody told me the police would cut my lawn!

I'm bored with it; they're welcome. I promise not to shoot!

Engineers' Laurel and Hardy moment caused British Airways 787 to take an accidental knee

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Re: Hang on a moment...

Round pins, square holes...

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Hang on a moment...

The maintenance guys are copping the blame here - with some justification - but the fault goes all the way back to the initial design.

What idiot thought it might be a good idea to have a pin-sized hole immediately adjacent to the safety critical hole that the pin *should* have gone into? There is no way that that pin should have been able to fit into anything other than the lockout place it was intended to to go.

This isn't a doh moment. This is a basic design flaw, an engineering review flaw, and oversight flaw and a management flaw. Someone signed off on that design and they never should have.

Our Friends Electric: A pair of alternative options for getting around town

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Re: Yep - And What About All Those Magic Roundabouts

Hemel Hempstead's magic roundabout was the first roundabout discovered by my left-hand-drive partner when she started driving in the UK.

Wasn't a problem, though we did need to stop and get a new tyre...

(the trick is: don't think of it as a roundabout. Think of it as six very short dual carriageways each with a roundabout at each end.)

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Re: The door

It would have been such a good mouse, though, if only they hadn't confused inches and millimetres...

Not only is Hubble back online after outage, it's already taking photos of the cosmos

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Re: NASA Engineers are classic Engineers

Per my comment in an earlier thread: beancounters could never have allowed this; their mindset is if it didn't fail at the expected design lifetime, it was overengineered and therefore consumed too many beans.

---> for the engineers. The beancounters get nothing.

NASA fixes Hubble Space Telescope using backup power supply unit, payload computer

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Re: Congratulations

It is indeed impressive that they were/are able to do this, thanks to careful forethought and disaster recovery planning, particularly so long after its design lifetime.

However, any bean counter worth his salt must be so distraught at all these extra beans that have been unnecessarily[0] to make it possible.

I find it distressing that the bean counter attitude is still so prevalent... as above, so below.

[0] in the view of the counter of beans.

Microsoft adds cloud enablement to 1970s Altair 8800 tech

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Re: 8800?


The Altair 8800 was its name; it used an 8080 processor.

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My word, and I thought I was mad...

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An open-source Intel 8080 emulator lurks under the hood

My (as yet unseen) 8080 emulator on Logisim-evolution appears to run, but hangs up on both Altair Basic and Tiny Basic. It gets a bit further with Tiny Basic - at least as far as the sign on message - so I'll work on that :)

Windows 10 to hang on for five more years with 21H2 update

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Re: okay...

Yes. I've been happy with Mint/Cinnamon for a long time; my desktop is a mix of a few application shortcuts but mostly short-term files, until I tidy them away or otherwise dispose of them.

But the thing I really appreciate is the start menu: applications in relevant groups so basically two clicks from anywhere. There is a search box, but I've never understood the need to have to remember the name of something before you can use it, particularly if it's a thing you use rarely. For me, knowing where things of its ilk are is much simpler.

Multiple workspaces is an absolute necessity, but I think that's par for the course on most Linuxes these days. And a taskbar with writing on it... I'm sure we evolved better solutions than pictograms about four thousand years ago.


Cyberlaw experts: Take back control. No, we're not talking about Brexit. It's Automated Lane Keeping Systems

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Re: And it is not always the car's fault

I very carefully selected the poverty spec version of a recent car purchase precisely because it doesn't have all the technotoys.

Though I do feel that leaving the keyfob button to unlatch the boot but not including the function itself was a bit mean.

Microsoft, Google, Citizen Lab blow lid off zero-day bug-exploiting spyware sold to governments

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A nasty little fish which (allegedly) parasites the human urethra... good name for it!

Annoyed US regulator warns it might knock SpaceX's shiny new Texas tower down

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Nice buildings you got here...

Be a shame if anything were to happen to them, right?

Sweat-sipping wearable aims to charge electronics without couch potatoes lifting a finger

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Green Gyms

I've wondered about that myself... but then, we live in world where people fight for the parking spaces closest to the gym entrance, and use an escalator to avoid the stairs to the door.

And now we are offered a system to generate power from our bodies without lifting a finger... oh, wait, all those keypresses?

Facial-recognition technology gets a smack in the chops from civil rights campaigners

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Re: Nothing to Hide...

You do not know what you have to hide, until it is already too late.

Yes you do. You need to hide absolutely everything you can. The concept of ubiquitous surveillance just on the offchance that you might be doing something that the state doesn't approve of it is in itself an offence to human dignity. That a commercial company should attempt to replicate the same tracking behaviour is even more offensive, and should be terminated with extreme prejudice.


Boffins find an 'actionable clock' hiding in your blood, ticking away to your death

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Re: Thoughts

On his deathbed he was complaining that basically he was bored, and wouldn't something please get a move on...

His last words to me, after holding his breath for a minute, were 'fooled you!' :)

(He died a week or so later; I was not present).

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Re: Thoughts

My late father's thoughts, when told if he did thus and such and didn't eat or drink this and that, so that he might live another year, were:

What? Another year, stuck in this chair/bed and plumbed up to god knows what and with terminal bladder cancer? Why? Sod that, bring another bottle of wine!

UK govt draws a blank over vaccine certification app – no really, the report is half-empty

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DON'T mention Brexit!

I did it once, but I think I got away with it!

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Re: Here in the EU...

And yet, and yet...

My wife and I are both pensioners, both UK citizens, both DE residents, and both with complete AZ vaccinations certified by the Robert Koch Institute app, as well as paper vaccination certificates.

Yet the UK will not - as far as I can see - allow us to cross the border without both quarantine and mandatory covid tests.

We can move freely within most of Europe, but to to a country of our citizenship? Time for some joined up thinking?

South Korean uni installs lavatory that pays out when you spend a penny

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Re: How weird is that

I hope they gave you lots of honey.

Western Approaches Museum: WRENs, wargames, and victory in the Atlantic

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Re: Geeks Guides

This was completely new to me - thanks. I repeat the above plea, particularly as I now live in, er, Germany...

BOFH: Where there is darkness, let there be a light

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Re: Count 1, 2, 3,... ha-ha-ha

But without beans, how can you have chilli?

Richard Branson uses two planes to make 170km round trip

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Uses two planes...

Ten out of ten for this article, Vultures!

Revealed: Perfect timings for creation of exemplary full English breakfast

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Re: add condiments to taste.

Funnily enough, I practice my paraglider ground handling at Tempelhof airport!

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Re: add condiments to taste.

I used to get it in Morrisons in St Albans; a couple of hundred miles south.

UK products are slowly finding their way back onto German shelves, after a year without.

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Re: add condiments to taste.

It's a terrible thing: I'm getting to the end of my last bottle of Henderson's Northern Relish... how on earth do I get more here? It's barely available outside Sheffield, but in Berlin? Not a chance...

ICO survey on data flouters: 50% say they receive more unwanted calls than before pandemic

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Re: No answer

Would you recommend this hospital to your friends?

Well, only if they were dying and in need of immediate medical treatment...

What made you choose this hospital?

The helicopter landed on the hospital lawn...

YouTube's recommendation engine is pretty naff, Mozilla study finds

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Re: You don't say

The big problem is that it has all the subtlety and sensitivity of a brick in a sock... watch one video on how to take an engine to bits, and that's all you see. Watch one on paragliding and that's all you see. Watch one on vintage computers and that's all you see... surely it is not beyond the wit of man to devise an algorithm that assumes that you might be interested in more than one thing (and incidentally, not keep showing you the same video you haven't been watching, as indicated above)?

Or - just speculating here, you understand - is it simply dumping the videos with the highest advert count? I don't see the adverts so I can't really comment. But surely youtube wouldn't be that obvious?

Dell bigwig: Expect another 6 months of supply woes. Oh, hello Windows 11

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It's not just high end parts

I've been trying to get hold of small - hobby - quantities of ARM M0+ chips and there are literally none to be had. Everyone is quoting deliveries in November if you're lucky and in March or April if you're not.

And even commodity op-amps seem a bit thin on the ground.

Not a baaa-d idea: Embracing the eunuch lifestyle slows ageing – for sheep anyway

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El Reg disavows any responsibility...

Oh bollocks! Now you tell me!

Audacity users stick the knife – and fork – in to strip audio editor of unwanted features

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Re: Audiance

I too like the name - but the first thing I thought of when I saw it was my diabetes drug Jardiance...

Kaspersky Password Manager's random password generator was about as random as your wall clock

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I think you need lots of Es, of which fortunately English Scrabble has plenty

The words that spring immediately to mind all seem near anagrams of each other: never ever sever severe veer vent eve vee peeve pervert version... but on the other hand https://wordfind.com/contains/v/ returns 2,992 possibilities.

A large proportion of their list also includes an 'e' though anchovy doesn't. Neither does zyzzyva.

Which is probably why I'm crap at Scrabble and anagrams.

Microsoft struggles to wake from PrintNightmare: Latest print spooler patch can be bypassed, researchers say

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Is this the year

Of the paperless office?

Australian geoboffins have zoomed in and enhanced CSI-style soil analysis: Bung it in a machine, find the crime scene

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Does it go 'bidibidibidibidi' while it's working

And beep when it's finished?


Robots still suck. It's all they can do to stand up – never mind rise up

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Stopped by a blade of grass

It's not looking good for autonomous lawn mowers, then...

Kepler spots four rogue Earth-mass exoplanets floating in space, unbound to any star

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Re: Don't Forget!

"Let there be light!"


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