* Posts by John 110

636 publicly visible posts • joined 10 Aug 2009


BOFH: Get me a new data file or your manager finds out exactly what you think of him

John 110

Infinite loop websites

For a truly insanity-inducing experience, try registering to report Capital Gains in the UK without a passport or driving license (they claim to accept other forms of proof of identity, but don't seem to have anywhere that they ask for them or that you can supply them...).

After wandering round the Gov website in an infinite loop for a couple of days, I finally tried a websearch which pointed me at a user forum (on the Gov website) where countless other people were complaining about the same thing and some kind soul finally posted a Gov.uk address where you could download and print the forms.

NHS England spends £8M to extend Microsoft deals by a month

John 110

Re: Maybe not Linux but Office maybe ditchable

"A threat to move to Libre Office ought to be perfectly viable to carry through with."

Many, many moons ago I provided it support for a diagnostic lab in a Scottish hospital. IT services decided (rightly IMHO) that not every single hospital PC needed Microsoft Office. It didn't go well.

First they chose Open Office, then never updated it (at that time MS compatibility was still being worked on). File interchangeability with those Luddites that still used MS Office was awful!

Second, they listened to those people who "can't do without MS office -- ooh, this new one LOOKS different..ew". (quick sidenote -- this was before ribbons, so there wasn't that much difference between interfaces)

What should they have done? They should have insisted! If they had switched everyone over to Open Office and allowed no substitutes except for proven exceptional cases (we had an analyser that only exported it's results to a PC with Excel on it, and refused if it didn't find it; the supplies department relied heavily on Excel Macros)

Instead, the Open Office installations were quietly dropped from the images used to upgrade desktops to Windows XP (I think...)

I still think they were right to drop MS Office, it was costing a fortune and sitting on (in my lab) 30 PCs where all it was used for was reading the *.doc files that the upper floor aristocracy used to disseminate info via email. And it was the same in all areas of the hospital.

It would be easier now with LibreOffice file compatibility being better than ever, but of course, now we have the "where's the ribbon" crowd...

BOFH: Ah. Company-branded merch. So much better than a bonus

John 110

Re: Mindfulness gifts

@Kevin McMurtie

"Company logo clothing"

My son worked for the software part of an oil industry support company. They were all entitled to free offshore jackets with the company logo embroidered on it. Not survival, but good quality stuff, light and wind- and weatherproof with an inside pocket that can hold an A4 clipboard. I appropriated it when he left the company and was going to throw it out.

Tupperware looking less airtight than you'd think

John 110

Re: wait till they rot

@Ken Moorhouse

Do we need to know why you require space in your freezer for guests...

Starlink opens final frontier for radio astronomers

John 110
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Can I...

Can I upvote the whole article for the Billy Bragg references?

Something to brag about indeed...

Parisians say au revoir to shared e-scooters

John 110

Re: Spin class ...

@skeptical i

"...Ain't hardly a mandate, is it...."

Another way to look at it is that all those who really hate them voted, the rest shrugged...

The Stonehenge of PC design, Xerox Alto, appeared 50 years ago this month

John 110

Re: Smalltalk

Anyone who got their degree from the Open University in the 90's will have used Smalltalk (M206 for the win! -- Frogs anyone?)

I can't do that, Dave: AI drowns top sci-fi mag with story submissions

John 110

Re: To be fair to the AI...

"...Train it on the complete works of Lionel Fanthorpe..."

I find that idea to be luminous, brilliant, incandescent, lucid, lustrous, radiant, shining, translucent and vivid.

A tip for content filter evaluators: erase the list of sites you tested, don't share them on 100 PCs

John 110

They also sell cable management tunnelly thing (or did). I had a bit of a job persuading the boss to order three of them from Rubbermaid...

Thunderbird email client is Go for new plumage in July

John 110

Re: Upgraded interface

I've been watching Epyrus http://www.epyrus.org/index.html which is fork of Thunderbird based on Pale Moon instead of Firefox. Despite it's lack of developers, it promises to keep all that stuff that "modern" users hate but oldies (like me) are used to.

Take a look, but don't swamp the poor guy...

Dear Stupid, I write with news I did not check the content of the [Name] field before sending this letter

John 110

Re: This would be the flip side...

Scottish versions:

ATL = aff the legs

ATH = aff the heid

(Usually found on geriatric patients' notes)

It's been 230 years since British pirates robbed the US of the metric system

John 110

obligatory George Orwell quote

can be found here...

Version 5 of the Endless OS enters testing

John 110

Re: Another interesting project!

Seen on a T-shirt (in my drawer...)

Let's eat Grandad

Let's eat, Grandad

Commas save lives!

Scientists tricked into believing fake abstracts written by ChatGPT were real

John 110

Peer reviewers eh? What are they like?

I think that says more about the quality of peer review in modern academe than it says about how good chatGPT is at generating papers.

(Alternatively, I worked as IT support in a joint NHS/University department for years and watched the quality of writing in the papers drop year by year. I blame the quality of teaching in schools, now that they don't teach grammar and stuff any more...)

Mixing an invisible laser and a fire alarm made for a disastrous demo

John 110

Re: Dunno if I terrified him, but he about crapped himself ...

Xylene's the solvent of choice for cleaning oil off the oil immersion lenses. (Pity we weren't allowed to use it when I worked in the lab)

When we asked how you crashed the system we wanted an explanation not a demonstration

John 110

Re: ... half a brain

I'm Scottish. Teachers weren't allowed to throw things at us. They did have the Lochgelly though...

Server installer fails to spot STOP button – because he wasn't an archaeologist

John 110

Re: Renovations

"...They had obviously redecorated by adding another layer each time...."

Isn't that how you're supposed to do it...?

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

John 110

Re: Explosive demonstration

"W0t? You don’t have a self balancing centrifuge?"

Not in 1973 we didn't. It was another 5 years before we had centrifuges that you couldn't open while they were spinning.

(NOTE: The preferred method for bringing a slowing a centrifuge to a full stop back then was to press a rubber pipette teat onto the hub. Not recommended if you want the buffy coat.)

John 110

Re: Explosive demonstration

I once rescued a trainee who had been backed into a corner by a rampaging centrifuge into which she had placed only one tube (NB my pet TV peeve is people only putting one tube in a centrifuge then not having to chase the beast across the lab.(my second pet peeve are these "naked" centrifuges -- yes I know they're cinematic, but they'd been phased out before Queen's College became Dundee University)). I could reached the power switch and just flipped it off...

--> labcoat

Government by Gmail catches up with UK minister... who is reappointed anyway

John 110

Re: Plus ca change

"An election that they won, handsomely."

That's only true if you're English...

The boss worked in a fishbowl, so office tricks were a treat

John 110

wasn't this about phones?

I once switched the cordless handsets round belonging to the Infection Control nurses that I shared an office with. Oh how we laughed... Almost as funny as when my mate switched round their keyboards...

Mask gizmo wirelessly transmits data on wearer's health

John 110

Re: Let me guess, this was funded by tax payers via some kind of handout?

And you need to remember that your personal death is not the only outcome of carrying covid. It can be passed on to people who may die, or pass it on to people who...etc. And that's not even thinking about long covid (which is actually scarier than they would have you believe)

John 110

Re: Let me guess, this was funded by tax payers via some kind of handout?

Oh, and


John 110

Re: Let me guess, this was funded by tax payers via some kind of handout?

What made you think this covid malarky was over? It'll never be over. And even if in whatever cloud cuckoo land you're living in, you're told it is over, then monkey pox and ebola are just waiting in the wings.

-->the labcoat with "I'm a Microbiologist and I'm wearing a mask" on the back...

Liz Truss ousted as UK prime minister, outlived by online lettuce

John 110

Re: Free speech, duh

That's cool, Jake

Senior engineer reported to management for failing to fix a stapler

John 110

Re: Really?!

I once passed on a previously loved PC to a new Junior Doctor in the lab. As it had been previously used by her predecessor, I told her to just delete any files that weren't hers. Well, she didn't need that folder marked Windows, did she...

PS that's when I discovered how to retrieve a working Windows install from it's own recycle bin

PPS I could have had the machine re-imaged, but hospital IT were sarcastic buggers and she was too nice to expose her to that -- and I didn't want to face the "how could you let her" speech

Fixing an upside-down USB plug: A case of supporting the insupportable

John 110

Re: Outrageous

The rule of thumb is "saunter to the people who piss you off, hurry to the people who really appreciate you"

BOFH: You want presentation layer, but we're physical layer

John 110


I always helped personal issues especially when malt whisky or "I'll owe you a favour" was involved...

Datacenter migration plan missed one vital detail: The leaky roof

John 110

Re: Architect Smartitect

When we had our microbiology lab refurbished I suggested (wearing my IT support hat) that we have plenty of network sockets installed, ideally a double every 18 inches. I knew that Computer Services didn't have node capacity for all those, but at least we'd have easily accessible structured cabling*.

As each socket added a couple of £ to the cost, the suggestion was ignored.

Three weeks after the lab re-opened, the suppliers of one of our analysers (that we had three of in two labs) insisted that we'd need another PC attached to the analyser for further interconnections. There were no node points. Three had to be run from the node cabinets at £300 per point. (by the time I retired, each of these analysers had a further PC added to facilitate it's connection to the MALDI-TOF -- yes, they need new points)

A year later we went paperless** each bench needed two additional PCs -- and node points.

*Diagnostic Micro labs have to work round specimen flow. Equipment has to be put where it's needed, not where it's conveniently adjacent to a node point.

**Diagnostic Bacteriology labs generate a lot of interim data before a result is arrived at. Paper is by far the most efficient way to achieve this, "but it's so 20th Century"

Chinese researchers make car glide 35mm above ground in maglev test

John 110


I'd like to see the braking distance on one of these...

Doctor gave patients the wrong test results due to 'printer problems'

John 110

In my experience some users (yes, even doctors!) don't want to listen to sensible explanations. I was even told once "why should I keep a dog and bark myself?"

Lapping the computer room in record time until the inevitable happens

John 110

Re: Obligatory XKCD

Anti-virus running...

UK government refuses public review before launch of NHS data platform

John 110

Re: I hate to be pedantic but...

"...Scotland barley voted to remain..."

No I think you'll find that Scotland's barley is fully employed being malted for our national drink...

Seriously though, the UK-wide vote to leave was hardly clearcut. 52% is not a decisive vote by anybody's standards (anybody sensible anyway.)

John 110

I hate to be pedantic but...

NHS England only runs the NHS in England. The bit of the country that actually voted for Brexit. NHS Scotland is separate (and sited in a bit of the country that voted to remain...)

Not sure about NHS Wales or Ireland, maybe somebody could chip in.

Resurrected Dundee Satellite Station to host quantum Optical Ground Station

John 110
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"In Dundee, offshore oil rig workers have to wait in hotels for their helicopters to carry them to the oil rigs for their month long shifts."

I don't think that's true. Oil workers get their helicopters from Aberdeen. The hotels may be over-priced (I couldn't say, I have a rather nice room in my house...), but they're not oil-worker hotels.

Have you ever been to Dundee?

Open source 'Office' options keep Microsoft running faster than ever

John 110

Re: Options are always good


Anything's better than Office (i assume you meant MS Office) if you don't have the cash lying about to buy/rent a fully licensed copy of MS Office.

Apple scraps 3-day return to office amid COVID-19 cases

John 110

Re: At What Point...

How did that kool-aid taste?

--->labcoat with "I'm a microbiologist and I'm wearing a mask" on the back

September 16, 1992, was not a good day to be overly enthusiastic about your job

John 110

Re: my early bird antics cost them over 40k

@alan brown

currency traders were at it like gangbusters...

currency traders were at it like gangsters.

There fixed that for you...

Apple seeks patent for 'innovation' resembling the ZX Spectrum, C64 and rPi 400

John 110

Re: Single input/output port

No it didn't have a fan, just a heatsink and a bottle of milk straight out the fridge.

There, FTFY

IT advice fuelled by beer is the best IT advice of all, right?

John 110

Re: He is very bright

My wife trained as a Secondary School teacher after her degree. She spent a year on how to teach and how to use the equipment she would be expected to use when she taught (science teacher, so complicated stuff).

I worked at a University Lab where this year's PhD students became next year's lecturers, without any teaching training other than what they remembered from being lectured at by the last lot (who had been trained "on the job" same as them...)

Your app deleted all my files. And my wallpaper too!

John 110

Re: Even Worse

Oh, did you know our infection control nurse? When she complained that her email "was full", the office manager solved the problem by emptying her trash folder. Cue screams of anguish and a sheepish call to Computer Services (who did restore the stuff, but kept it for a week without giving it back)

I'd like to think that IC nurse (who knew nothing) and office manager (who thought she knew everything) learned a lesson, but realistically I had to accept that they didn't.

John 110

Re: Concepts are hard to understand

When I first got my IT support job (sole computer literate person in a diagnostic Microbiology lab with a university component), I was asked to give our Honours students a brief talk on how to use a computer and especially Word for Windows. (at the time, we had three Windows 3.11 pcs for the use of 6 students and some staff).

I chose instead to do a talk on file handling and how not to lose your work when you take a floppy out of the drive before Word was ready to let you.

I decided to do this after I checked the pcs after a couple of weeks of a new term and found all sorts of crap on the root of C:, in spite of everyone having a network login and storage space to themselves. I also had to separate two guys fighting over a machine which had somebody's files on root.

The ones who paid attention never came to me with corrupted files on floppy, the guys who fell asleep -- well...

File suffixes: Who needs them? Well, this guy did

John 110

"(all binary files should have a specification which mandates the use of a magic number)..."

What like AmigaOS back in the 80s...?

Dido Harding's appointment to English public health body ruled unlawful

John 110

Re: Guilty of not doing a equality report

You've got to view it as equivalent to Al Capone getting done for taxes. You've got to get them where you can.

UK pins hopes on 'latest technology' to whittle down massive National Health Service waiting lists

John 110


"...Providing better working conditions for nurses, giving them the pay rise they deserve,..."

Providing better working conditions for nurses etc, giving them the pay rise they deserve,

Fixed that, by the way, I agree and also upvoted you.

[disclaimer: I worked in a lab for 48 years -- yes I am old, why?]

John 110

Re: Oh FFS

It's a party political issue, because as soon as a party needs a big stick to hit the current incumbent with, they grab the NHS's "failures" irrespective of whether or not those "failures" were their fault the last time round...

Bouncing cheques or a bouncy landing? All in a day's work for the expert pilot

John 110

Cables and connectors have a life of their own

Connecting a lump of diagnostic equipment in a medical lab to it's associated computer and a second computer that fed the signals to a database for storage (don't ask me why it needed two, you'd have to ask the manufacturer (to protect the innocent, they weren't called Costello...)) was carried out using an octopus of cables with identical connectors on the ends, some of which were serial (small RS232) for the PCs, some were propriety to fit the sockets on the analyser. They were identified with these little shrink tabs on each end which was frickin useless when you were crawling behind this thing (space is always tight in a Microbiology lab which was designed before we progressed beyond Pasteur and into the machine age) to determine which plug goes into which socket. Phone support from the company tried their best, but each installation in the country had a unique set of connections depending on Lab systems and other ancillaries... Took me three days per machine. (we had three analysers)

Then just before I retired, they added a new technological identification system that required yet another PC and connection, two of which had dual serial cards and one had a USB-serial converter...

And don't ask me what IT services said when I explained the need for yet another node point...for three analysers...

Tesla driver charged with vehicular manslaughter after deadly Autopilot crash

John 110

Traffic lights?

seems relevant

Not looking forward to a greyscale 2022? Then look back to the past in 64 colours

John 110

I didn't think BMWs had turn signals...

John 110

New Year

This year was the first year I've been First-Footed with hot cross buns (from Asda with a reduced sticker)