* Posts by MarkB

63 posts • joined 18 Sep 2009


Check your bits: What to do when Unix decides to make a hash of your bill printouts


Re: Not a Cossie, but...

Didn't the Top Gear team always claim that the fastest car you'd ever drive (or at least the one you'd drive fastest) was a hire car?

Roger Waters tells Facebook CEO to Zuck off after 'huge' song rights request

IT Angle

Re: Pedant alert.

"I much prefer it when bands drop the definite article. It would have caused a few problems for The The however."

I used to play with a band where we couldn't decide on a name, so went out as "The Band With No Name" or "BWNN" for short (I thought the short name looked kind of Welsh).

Takes from the taxpayer, gives to the old – by squishing a bug in Thatcherite benefits system


Re: Language!

More years ago than I care to recall, I worked for Prime (aka Pr1me) Computers.

Their original systems programming language (I kid you not) was Fortran, but later was supplanted by two stripped-down PL/1 variants called PL/P and SPL. I seem to recall that they were actually fairly pleasant languages.

Faxing hell: The cops say they would very much like us to stop calling them all the time


For future reference

If you need telephone numbers as placeholders, it's perhaps worth looking at this page

If Daddy doesn't want me to touch the buttons, why did they make them so colourful?

Paris Hilton

Re: Many years ago...

"... as I went through the tradesman's passage ..."?

You are Julian Clary and I claim my quintuple entendre.

Hey Mister Prime Minister ... Scott! Can you get off my lawn please, mate?


Re: I salute that man!

I'm disappointed in my Google search results for "Koala Trebuchet" - I was hoping for a GoogleWhack.

Any suggestions for who might use it as the name of their next child, then?

Surprise! That £339 world's first 'anti-5G' protection device is just a £5 USB drive with a nice sticker on it


Re: Let them

" I'd rather see ppl buy this then torch down the towers."

I rather hope you meant "than torch down the towers"...


Re: What 5G ?

My dad once produced a nutmeg from his pocket and explained to us kids that he kept it there as it warded off the elephants.

We pointed out that there were no elephants in South Wales. "Shows how good it is, doesn't it?".

Britain has no idea how close it came to ATMs flooding the streets with free money thanks to some crap code, 1970s style


Re: The past is another counttry.

My reaction to the "25p a pint" was to think they were being ripped off.

When I was at Uni, 75 - 78, a group of 5 of us used to have a regular Friday evening at the pub. Each of us paid £1 for a round - 4 of us bought rounds of beer (Hardy and Hansons Kimberley Ale) and the 5th a round of ham (or cheese and onion) baps. I think we even got 5p change each.

Absolutely everyone loves video conferencing these days. Some perhaps a bit too much


"Took quite a while to figure out he was a jazz fan talking about Kenny G."

If he was talking about Kenny G without the aid of extreme profanity, then he clearly was NOT a jazz fan.

Announcing the official Reg-approved measure of social distancing: The Osman


Anti-social distancing

"...Was thinking it'd be a lot easier to manage social* distancing if we were all issued halberds.

*Ok, possibly anti-social, but fun..."

One of my colleagues recently suggested that if social distancing didn't work, we should move to anti-social distancing - it's much the same but with weapons and swearing.


On the other hand

If you were to use the Osmond as a unit of social distancing, it would imply ideally being on a different continent.

Beware the Friday afternoon 'Could you just..?' from the muppet who wants to come between you and your beer


My version of the story

It was an open evening at my children's infant school a couple of decades ago. I was at the time teaching programming on Prime minicomputers. Didn't have a home computer and hadn't touched any thing of that type.

Teacher sidles up to me and says "you work with computers, don't you? Can you have a look at one of ours?". Much against my better judgement, I did so...

They had two BBC model B computers (I think that's what they were) side-by-side, hooked up to a pair of "portable" TVs (remember the days of cathode ray tubes?). One was working fine. The video on the other was all to pot.

Starting point was to find an expert - so I grabbed a passing child to show me how they would normally start up the systems. Rebooting didn't help :-(

OK - I know nothing, but I can see that one is working and one isn't, so how about connecting each to the other TV? Fortunately I swapped the leads at the computer end and hey-presto the first one now worked fine, the other didn't. Swap the other end of the lead, see that the lead was indeed the culprit and tell the teacher they need to get a new lead.

I think I got a cup of tea and a biscuit, but so did all the other parents.

Scare-bnb: Family finds creeper cams hidden in their weekend rental by scanning Wi-Fi


Re: 50/50

" if you accept bookings from someone who has never booked a place before, you're a mug"

So does that imply that as I've never booked an AirBnB place, I can't book an AirBnB place?

Naming your company 101: Probably best not to have the word 'Oracle' anywhere near branding


Pipped to a Coracle comment


You. Shall. Not. Pass... word: Soon, you may be logging into websites using just your phone, face, fingerprint or token

Black Helicopters

Didn't this get discussed by Grace Hopper several years ago?

I seem to remember this being gone over some time ago by Rear Admiral Hopper (originator of COBOL).

If I recall correctly (questionable), she favoured three factor authentication - there should be

* Something you had (key, dongle, nowadays a phone perhaps)

* Something you knew (password, passphrase, some other challenge/response system)

* Something you were (i.e. a physical characteristic, like fingerprint, retina scan, or similar)

Does anyone else remember this or is it a figment of my imagination?

Cut open a tauntaun, this JEDI is frozen! US court halts lawsuit over biggest military cloud deal since the Death Star


Re: Blakes 7

'But as Doctor Who would say, "Live long and prosper"'

A friend of mine (call him Fred) wound up another friend (Joe) by teaching Joe's child to say "may the force be with you" while making a Vulcan salute.

'Occult' text from Buffy The Vampire Slayer ep actually just story about new bus lane in Dublin


Re: a suitable enough clusterfuck of vowels

"Nglsh wrks qt wll wtht vwls, wth sm prctc rdng."

I seem to remember seeing or hearing a suggestion of this approach as an easy alternative to shorthand.


Re: a suitable enough clusterfuck of vowels

"If you take out most of the vowels you just end up with Polish, don't you?"

When I used to take my children to visit their grandparents in South Wales, the wittiest of them suggested the toll booths on the Severn bridge were actually checkpoints to trap vowel smugglers.


Re: In jokes on screen

I'm convinced I remember a Dr Who episode (probably late 70s) with the baddies armed with TV remotes.


Re: pro-Buffy flame war.

'"wuold have" not "would of".'

Nice to see that Muphry is still alive and kicking.


"Something something at the crack of Dawn"

Was that a fanfic (R-rated)?


Re: pro-Buffy flame war.

"as any geek would of told you"

Can we have a pedantry flame war about the correct use of "would have"?

College PRIMOS prankster wreaks havoc with sysadmin manuals


"Anyone remember Primix? Me neither."

Gave your Pr1mos system the performance of the equivalent volume of ready-mixed concrete?

And the "magnet" utility described as something to keep away from tapes at all costs?

(I worked for Pr1me in a previous existence)

Mything the point: The AI renaissance is simply expensive hardware and PR thrown at an old idea


"Changing the temperature of the device changed its behaviour (from working to not working). I'd guess that moving the design to a different device would affect it similarly."

I seem to remember reading about this. If I recall correctly, simply reproducing the design "identically" (bear in mind this was actual physical circuitry) would change its behaviour - the behaviour related to a specific assembly of a specific set of components.


Re: The Joy of AI

"I saw a documentary about AI on Swiss TV a while back. It was about a man in a van who serviced pretty cows in picturesque barns while gnarled farmers looked on."

'documentary' indeed! I'm not surprised you're posting anonymously.

Clunk, bang, rattle: Is that a ghost inside your machine?


Re: Scary ?

You are Albert Campion and I claim my share of the Barnabus legacy.


AI clinician trained to save humans from sepsis – and, er, let's just say you should stick to your human doctor


I'm not sure that word means what you think it does.

"vasopressors, a medication that reduces blood pressure, "

100% wrong - Vasopressors are a group of medicines that contract (tighten) blood vessels and raise blood pressure.

Leaked memo: No internet until you clean your bathroom, Ecuador told Julian Assange


Re: @SVV Please, someone set up a GoFundMe

"But, but, but, how do you pronounce GIF?"

Carefully and competently.

Experimental 'insult bot' gets out of hand during unsupervised weekend


" it was fair game to collect as many PPNs (can you guess which OS?) "

I remember my PPN as 1206,1206 when I worked on TOPS-10 in the late 70s and early 80s, but I have a feeling the PPN concept was used on other DEC operating systems.

Python creator Guido van Rossum sys.exit()s as language overlord


Re: reflecting opinions more than best practice

As ST comments, surely that's always been the case with Python, just as it's the case (as far as I can understand) with Perl - the language enshrines the opinions and prejudices of the single originator. That's part of my issues with both languages, as I'm not keen on some aspect of both Guido's and Larry's opinions and prejudices.

Amazon’s Snowball snowballs as Google's clone gets real and IBM's comes to Europe



What more is there to say?

Tech rookie put decimal point in wrong place, cost insurer zillions


Lira and Y2K in one place

COBOL on PDP-10 systems allowed for 10 digit numbers - you could choose where the decimal point lay. In the system that I worked on, we had S9(6)V9(4) fields for unit prices, but if the country code indicated Italy, we had to use S9(6)V99 instead.

Dates on this system were held in 4-digit YYMM format - my first task as a fresh-faced programmer (in late 1978) was to change all the code (and the data) that regarded 7912 as an indicator for (e.g) cancelled orders - we couldn't take any more room, so just used 9912 as the new indicator. The system presumably died before Y2K, I'd moved on a couple of times by that point.

Nominet throws out US corp's attempt to seize Brit domain names


Did anyone else immediately expect something about hotels?

I wasn't thinking lubricants - though perhaps you might want them when staying at a Trust House Forte establishment. To keep your bicycle functioning well, of course...

Did you test that? No, I thought you tested it. Now customers have it and it doesn't work


Soldering irons

Funnily enough this topic came up in a different forum recently. Many decades ago (about half a century) I discovered the hard way that if you drop a soldering iron, you should NOT try to catch it.

Programmers! Close the StackOverflow tabs. This AI robot will write your source code for you


Anyone remember "The Last One"


Nearly 40 years on, I'm still earning a crust writing code, so clearly it didn't do what it said on the tin.

User stepped on mouse, complained pedal wasn’t making PC go faster


Re: If somebody does not understand... Children and relativity


Apple's 'shoddy' Beats headphones get slammed in lawsuit


Re: hearing

I thought the post was rather short of exclamation marks actually...

UK prof claims to have first practical blueprint of a quantum computer


Re: Each chamber is 4.5 × 4.5 m2 large

Surely if you multiply 2 2-dimensional values together, you get a 4-dimensional one.

The object will be a 20.25 m4 tesseract...

Super-cool sysadmin fixes PCs with gravity, or his fists


It goes back a fair way...

My father did national service as a radar fitter in the RAF.

He claimed that "the apprentice knows it needs to be hit; the engineer knows where; but only the fitter knows how hard"

Milk IN the teapot: Innovation or abomination?


University Hall of Residence late 1970s

Two huge pots of tea on each table in the dining room.

Both contained a catering tea bag, hot water and milk.

Pot at one end had sugar, pot the other didn't...

My group of friends used to aim to be in for meals fairly promptly, so that we could drag the tea bag out of our pot before it stewed to undrinkability.

Good thing this dev quit. I'd have fired him. Out of a cannon. Into the sun


"Isn't the rhetoric 'always use {}' the same as suggesting that we do not make use of operator precedence and 'always use ()'?"

No - why do you think it is? Not that I'm averse to additional parentheses to improve (my perception of) clarity of code.

Bracing single statements in "if", "while" etc is an aid to readability, and (probably more importantly) gives some protection against bugs introduced by the inevitable addition of further dependent statements.

Blood-crazy climate mosquitoes set to ground Santa's reindeer


Surely it's mind-controlling parasitic wasps <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fortitude_%28TV_series%29> we need to be worried about, isn't it?

Viper sinks fangs into unwary Indian farmer's todger


May not be totally misadventure

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-india-34173532 - workers on tea estates might not have much choice where they relieve themselves. Quote - "Many families have no toilets and say they have no choice but to defecate amongst the tea bushes."

Sorry, Californians, you can't have this: Asus to build WATER COOLED notebook


It's so fast...

That it's got into the news a full 7 months early - it was planned for April 1st 2016...

Google's new parent Alphabet owns abc.xyz – and, yup, there's already an abc.wtf


Just for completeness - alphabet.com is owned by BMW as Alphabet is their leasing company.

Psst.. Wanna Android all-in-one PC? We have the chip tech, says Intel



"such systems will ship for between $300 and $400 (£189-£253) "

Surely you mean "such systems will ship for between $300 and $400 (£300-£400) "...

Google buys parcel storage service for Christmas


Crucial question

Who has the patent?

Windows 8: An awful lot of change for a single release


Digital Research?

I thought Mr Cutler came from Digital Equipment Corporation, where he'd been developing DEC's VMS operating system...

Adele's Skyfall poised to fall from sky


Just tell me...

that she's not letting her robot pianist play on it...



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