* Posts by Richard Pennington 1

298 publicly visible posts • joined 17 Jun 2009

Page:

Programming error created billion-dollar mistake that made the coder ... a hero?

Richard Pennington 1
Boffin

Formal Methodists

There are some in the Formal Methods / Machine Proof communities who hold that code is its own formal specification.

However, it may not correspond with any level of the design as envisaged by the design team...

Richard Pennington 1
Go

Re: Typing

I'm retired now, but I never learned to touch-type.

However, I did - and still do - type in a very unusual manner ... one of my methods for copy-typing was - and still is - to hold the copy in my left hand and to type one-handed with my right, at a reasonable speed. One witness to my (absence of) technique observed - correctly - that I play the piano.

Two signs in the comms cabinet said 'Do not unplug'. Guess what happened

Richard Pennington 1
FAIL

On a rather smaller scale ...

Long, long ago, in a small university-spinoff company in Cambridge, there was a little microcomputer in a basement. It sat there for years, powered on, but as time passed, there was no-one left who remembered what it was, or why it was there, or why it stayed powered up.

Eventually, as is the way of such things, someone decided to scavenge it for parts. At this point, the firm's timesheet system stopped working ... and didn't recover. The firm, by necessity, had to start the timesheet system ab initio on a new-fangled IBM PC (when PCs were new-fangled and were made by IBM).

Man wins court case against employer that fired him for not liking boozy, forced 'fun' culture

Richard Pennington 1

Re: Vibrant and fun loving corporation

What happens the first time a company with such an alcohol-driven culture has an interviewee who is (say) an observant Muslim (or a Methodist, or a Mormon)? Or a recovering alcoholic? Or someone on medication which disagrees with alcohol?

I would just love to be the lawyer opposing the company when any of the cases gets to court ...

Someone has to say it: Voice assistants are not doing it for big tech

Richard Pennington 1
Big Brother

Re: Voice assistants are not doing it for big tech

A couple of years ago, someone actually did come up with (see what I did there...) an internet-enabled dildo, complete with camera and associated illumination ...

Evernote's fall from grace is complete, with sale to Italian app maker

Richard Pennington 1
Devil

Re: It’s a familiar story

You missed one.

4a. Remove or cripple the "free" / cheapest tier.

Go ahead, be rude. You don't know it now, but it will cost you $350,000

Richard Pennington 1

Re: You get what you order

My niece, as part of her PhD studies, travelled out to one of the remoter parts of Indonesia. On the return journey, her first flight (from somewhere out in the jungle to Jakarta) was delayed, resulting in a missed connection for the onward flight out of Indonesia.

Long story short. She telephoned the airline's customer service, who wanted her to stump up for another ticket. She phoned home to explain the position. She phoned the airline again, pointing out that they had left a 19-year-old Western female stranded in Jakarta and that they would be hearing from Daddy's solicitor...

This ancient quasar may be the remains of the first-gen star that started us all

Richard Pennington 1
Coat

Re: "the so-called Population III stars"

Everything looks backwards when you view it in a telescope.

Hot, sweaty builders hosed a server – literally – leaving support with an all-night RAID repair job

Richard Pennington 1

Back in the day ...

I'm retired now, but in my first post-university job (UK, mid 1980s) there was a "machine room" with air conditioning, temperature and humidity controls.

Local rumour had it that by proper (i.e. highly improper) settings of the temperature and humidity controls (presumably something like "temperature all the way down, humidity all the way up") it was possible to get it to snow in the machine room.

I am not aware of anyone having tried it. At least no-one came back the following week to report the results.

Spooky Pillars of Creation snap reveals a dark side

Richard Pennington 1
Boffin

False colours

The pictures are pretty (and indeed imposing), but we should remember that the shots which show all the dust were taken in the infrared, and therefore in colours which we cannot actually see. So the human-visible versions we see here are actually generated by an algorithm which allocates a visible colour to a particular spectrum of infrared intensity as a function of position on the screen.

So it is really a sort of high-tech painting by numbers.

No, working in IT does not mean you can fix anything with a soldering iron

Richard Pennington 1

Some people grow up with soldering ...

I have a nephew who is seriously "into" electronics. Several years ago, when he was a teenager, I bought him, as a Christmas present, one of those alarm clocks in the form of a mini helicopter (when the alarm went off, the helicopter bit flew across the room and he then had to find it to turn the alarm off. By the time of the Christmas lunch he had managed to put a battery in the wrong way round (resulting in "magic smoke"), and then *opened it up, found the dead component, wielded a soldering iron, replaced the dead component, and fixed the alarm clock*. So ... the electronics were smoked and fixed before Christmas lunch!

Fast forward several years to last Christmas. His daughter produced an ornament in the shape of a Christmas tree, bordered by flashing LEDs in various colours. Each LED was individually soldered into place, and all the solder joints were beautifully executed. She had done all the soldering, and she was just seven years old. I gather Daddy supervised, but that young lady knows how to wield a soldering iron.

Block this: Using satellites to plaster ads over our skies could work, say boffins

Richard Pennington 1

Re: buy Jupiter.

Robert Heinlein: "The Man Who Sold the Moon" (1950).

Jack Vance: "The Face" (1979).

Tetchy trainee turned the lights down low to teach turgid lecturer a lesson

Richard Pennington 1

Re: Old School

I am not going to name the lecturer concerned, save to mention that the name started with "Professor Sir". He was lecturing on integral equations during the Long Vacation term at a well-known university in the early 1980s.

At the beginning of the course, he distributed two 50-page sets of handwritten notes to the class. These notes were, from start to finish, almost completely illegible. He then proceeded to lecture at the blackboard, with his back to the audience, mumbling as he went. The resulting blackboard may as well have been a photocopy of the notes.

A week or so into the course, a gang of students from XXX College, myself included, decided that radical measures were needed. We got together in one of our rooms, went through the notes line by line, and figured out what was written, what was meant, and (on several occasions) what the errors were (did I mention that every member of the group went on, a year later, to get a First?). By the end of the exercise, we each had a set of notes in our own handwriting, with additional explanations where required, and with the errors corrected.

At the exams at the end of the course, none of us took the paper on integral equations: there were easier pickings among the other courses. But we knew the material fairly thoroughly. And we strongly suspected that Professor Sir **** achieved his objective: he didn't have to mark a single exam paper.

FBI: We tracked who was printing secret documents to unmask ex-NSA suspect

Richard Pennington 1

Degree mills

Are second-rate degree mills more prestigious?

Arm founder says the UK has no chance of tech sovereignty

Richard Pennington 1

Re: Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

I'm retired now, but it was ever thus. As a STEM nerd, it always annoyed me that I would join a UK computer company, only for it to morph into a sales arm of a US giant.

I was an out-and-out techie, and was never interested in sales, marketing or management. These days it would be attributed to some position on the autistic spectrum.

Richard Pennington 1

Re: Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

As I have posted before, culture media is what is used to grow bacteria.

Tesla Megapack battery ignites at substation after less than 6 months

Richard Pennington 1
Flame

In other news...

High-grade lithium ore discovered in Monterey, California ...

Backblaze thinks SSDs are more reliable than hard drives

Richard Pennington 1

Sample size of 1 ...

I am typing this on a vintage Apple machine (iMac 15,1 from 2014) which features a Fusion drive. This means that its main internal HD is actually a 1TB spinning-disk HD combined with a 120GB SSD.

About March this year, this machine suffered repeated crashes (at intervals of 1-2 days). Long phone calls to Apple support later, the solution was: [1] all user data was backed up to Dropbox (which I was using anyway in the background to get my various machines to talk to each other); [2] delete the internal HD completely, and reinstall the system from Apple's Internet recovery system; [3] manually recover about 5 days' emails which got lost in the middle but which were captured on other machines.

It turned out that the SSD had failed completely, but the spinning-disc HD was - and is - still in full working order. The machine now runs on just the spinning-disc HD. It has now gone over 80 days (and 3 system updates) since its last crash.

Keeping printers quiet broke disk drives, thanks to very fuzzy logic

Richard Pennington 1

Re: Perhaps, but Shakespeare had other ideas …

William Shakespeare, "Romeo and Juliet":

"O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?".

One of the most famous lines in of the most famous scenes in one of the most famous plays by one of England's most famous writers.

Richard Pennington 1

Re: O Paris, Paris, wherefore art thou Paris?

WS Gilbert and Sir Arthur Sullivan, in "HMS Pinafore":

"Never mind the why and wherefore" ...

Richard Pennington 1

Re: O Paris, Paris, wherefore art thou Paris?

Perhaps, but Shakespeare had other ideas ...

Demand for software experts pushes tech salaries higher in UK

Richard Pennington 1

Discrimination comes in many forms

It's too late for me (I'm now fully retired) but age discrimination continues unchecked, despite being illegal. Anyone over 40 doesn't get a look-in, regardless of qualifications or expertise. Experience, beyond the Kindergarten stage, counts as a negative.

And then the managers squawk about skill shortages!

Disclaimer: I left the IT industry at the age of 51, having been told I was too old. Some years later, I was interviewed by the company which took over a previous employer. They seriously lowballed me on pay, and the interview finished abruptly.

China discovers unknown mineral on the moon, names it Changesite-(Y)

Richard Pennington 1

Changesite

Presumably it's called Changesite because they found it in the second place they tried.

Richard Pennington 1
Boffin

Re: A question

Merrillite Ca9NaMg(PO4)7 not Ca8NaMg(PO4)7

So Yttrium (oxidation state +3) replaces Calcium (+2) and Sodium (+1).

Richard Pennington 1

Re: Curly -- or Straight?

That sounds like splitting hairs to me.

Janet Jackson music video declared a cybersecurity exploit

Richard Pennington 1
Devil

Not the first exploit from commercially distributed media

Hands up who remembers the Sony Rootkit from 2005?

Mouse hiding in cable tray cheesed off its bemused user

Richard Pennington 1
Facepalm

I've posted this before, but it fits the story ...

Many years ago, before I retired, I was working on a project in an outpost in Stevenage. The local IT helpdesk was in the same building, so they could (and did) visit users' desks when needed. They also ran a display wall, back at base, where the least intelligent calls were displayed for posterity.

One such was a call from a user who said that his/her mouse was almost completely unresponsive. A visit to the user's desk elicited the following facts:

[1] the mouse in question was a promotional mouse from some IT show or other;

[2] the mouse in question was made entirely out of plastic foam, with no electrical functionality whatsoever;

[3] the only reason that the user observed any response at all was that sometimes in moving the promotional mouse, the user had accidentally bumped the desk, causing the real mouse to move at random.

Tesla Full Self-Driving 'fails' to notice child-sized objects in testing

Richard Pennington 1

Re: Comparison

Not sure who is downvoting all these posts (or why).

The Gimli Glider is quite a well-known case. They ran out of fuel at 41,000 feet, and flew it like a glider to get down at an old military airstrip.

Also, as a bonus:

[1] They put the plane down at an airstrip which had been closed ... and decommissioned ... and converted for drag-racing ... and which was hosting an event at the time;

[2] They had children on the runway (including two on pushbikes near the end of the runway ... who panicked and tried to outrun a 200mph aircraft ... and eventually took the better choice to go off the side of the runway);

[3] The [human] pilots managed to put the plane down and bring it to a stop without causing a serious injury (let alone a fatality).

Richard Pennington 1

Re: Comparison

Presumably something along the lines of this:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gimli_Glider

Richard Pennington 1

Re: Comparison

Still less would you expect to encounter a child in front of you at 30,000 feet.

Burger King just sent spam receipts to customers

Richard Pennington 1
Flame

Getting grilled ...

They're getting flamed for this

Hospital IT melts in heatwave, leaving doctors without patient records

Richard Pennington 1
Facepalm

In the old days

In the old days, the hospital would take the patient's temperature. Now...

Windows Start Menu not starting? You're not alone

Richard Pennington 1
Facepalm

I've got it...

Now I know what the KB stands for in all these update issues. Known Bork number (whatever).

Browsers could face two regimes in Europe as UK law set to diverge from EU

Richard Pennington 1
Facepalm

Re: Finally

Another reminder that Culture Media is what is used to grow bacteria.

Russian ChessBot breaks child opponent's finger

Richard Pennington 1
Boffin

Re: So how do you ... move a Knight?

Perhaps a more interesting question would be how does it accomplish a pawn promotion (possibly also including a capture on the promotion square)? Remember that the pawn can promote to something other than a queen if the game position suits such a move.

Also interesting: en passant captures.

Just because you failed doesn't mean you weren't right

Richard Pennington 1

Re: Basic QC

That reminds me of the driver who got off a speeding charge when his lawyer pointed the speed gun at the wall of the back of the courtroom. The wall that was doing 35mph in a built-up area.

Cruise self-driving cars stopped and clogged up San Francisco for hours

Richard Pennington 1
Facepalm

Re: Autonomous Vehicles all simultaneously updating their OS

Either that or Cruise have invented the first fully-automated flash-mob.

FYI: BMW puts heated seats, other features behind paywall

Richard Pennington 1
Big Brother

Re: I don't really see the problem

That sounds like Prague before the walls came down. There are people who reminisce over the old days.

Hive to pull the plug on smart home gadgets by 2025

Richard Pennington 1
Devil

Hive branching out?

I hear that Hive is also a ransomware gang. Are they branching out, or are there two separate Hive minds? And which does more damage?

Smart homes are hackable homes if not equipped with updated, supported tech

Richard Pennington 1

Update

Hive will support their kit only up to 2025. After that you're in the cold.

Large Hadron Collider experiment reveals three exotic particles

Richard Pennington 1
Mushroom

Re: Ever get the sense...

I thought the particle physicists' idea of how to work out the composition of the universe was to collide it with another universe (terribly fast) and see what comes out of the collision.

I hear they are starting by experimenting with Teslas on autopilot.

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

Richard Pennington 1
FAIL

The first Mac I came across ...

... was in my first post-University job (1985-1987). It had no hard drive (but two floppy drives, one of which was for the operating system), and it had MacWrite, which we used to produce documentation ... well, sort of. It performed fine until it got to the bottom of the second page, then ran out of memory.

At least that was an improvement on what went before. The office boasted its own typing pool. I sent one - and only one - document down there for typing. It came back with more than a hundred typos on the first page, at which point I stopped counting. The combination of technical content (including mathematical formulae) and my handwriting essentially transformed the entire document to version 0.1 of the infinite-monkey edition of Shakespeare. Plonking that (and my annotations to the first page) in front of my manager was what had prompted the purchase of the Macs in the first place.

You need to RTFM, but feel free to use your brain too

Richard Pennington 1
Black Helicopters

Many years ago (before I retired) ...

... I was called on to write a set of Security Operating Procedures for the <ahem> system at <redacted>. These procedures went through - line by line, in mind-numbing detail - every operation available to a user or to an administrator (at any level) in the system. In terms of structure, there was a main document, and annexes A, B, C, ... up to about M, and finally Z.

Annex Z was so titled, so that it would always be the last annex, and could be pulled off the rest of the document and issued separately. It contained a summary of the rest of the document, filleted so as to include only those instructions relevant to users without specific security or system-administrator responsibilities.

BOFH: Tech helps HR investigate the Boss's devices

Richard Pennington 1

Re: Inspirational!

For when the recording has suspicious gaps in it.

Password recovery from beyond the grave

Richard Pennington 1
Coat

Ouija 10 is obsolete ...

... but most existing boards do not satisfy the hardware requirements for Ouija 11.

Have you ever seen a Ouija board with an "Intel Inside" sticker attached?

Vivaldi email client released 7 years after first announcement

Richard Pennington 1
Coat

Everything in its season ...

Or in the case of Vivaldi, four seasons.

Microsoft accidentally turned off hardware requirements for Windows 11

Richard Pennington 1
FAIL

Legendary quality control

Where quality control is in the land of myth and legend, a fable from the long-distant past, a tale which may once have had some basis in a historical event ... in other words, fabulous.

ServiceNow ordered a year's worth of hardware to avoid supply chain hassles

Richard Pennington 1
Boffin

The Tragedy of the Commons

"The Tragedy of the Commons" - look it up.

Thinnet cables are no match for director's morning workout

Richard Pennington 1

Re: Full names please.......

My great-grandfather was named William Cockburn Dick.

Page:

SUBSCRIBE TO OUR WEEKLY TECH NEWSLETTER