* Posts by mtp

129 publicly visible posts • joined 27 Sep 2009


Just follow the instructions … no wait, not that instruction to lock everyone out of everything


Re: Bah!

I bought a trivial low power 12V plug in from Maplins (RIP UK supplier of electronics kit) about a decade ago. I plugged it into my wall outlet and there was a big bang and the main 32A breaker tripped. I removed it and there was a notch missing from the copper so proving the well known truism that fuses blow after the damage has happened.

I took it back to Maplins for a replacement and insisted that they plug the new unit into the wall there before I accepted it. She did so with notable hesitation and a worried look but it was fine


Re: Poor flake

Lets raise a pint for Lester Haines. The special projects bureau is much missed and Lohan seems destined for a life without the airborn glory (and probable disaster) that it was born for.



I was thinking the same. The wild west of IT has passed and we are now in a stable state where most things are done using established tools so the possibility of a bad command is greatly reduced. Clicking SnazzyExpensiveBackupSolution on the deskop is going to have fewer routes to disaster than a mistyped dd command.

I still do my backups with dd though so maybe there will be a post from me in the future but as I am careful then nothing can go wrong!


OK this one was feeble but in general I enjoy these and on a Monday my acceptance criteria is low so please keep posing them and I am willing to take the good with the bad.

I don't have any stories myself but I do know of someone who blew up the electronics of a significant instrument when at a antarctic research station at the beginning of winter with no possibility of repair for 10 months. This would have been a great Who? Me? but it is not for me to tell.

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


Overhead projector rolls were the worst

I was at uni in the era of overhead projectors. The single sheets were bad enough but one of our lecturers (I think it was thermodynamics) used the continual strip on rollers and slowly wound it on as he talked. He gave out no notes so every lecture was just frantically copying the content including graphs into our notebooks. It was basically impossible to keep up so the notes were very poor. He was explaning the content as it was passing by but we were far too focussed on copying to listen to a word he said.

In hindsight it might have been better to ignore the visuals and just listen to him but I really don't know as I never had time to find out what he said.

Our lecturer in stellar dynamics had the opposite strategy and on day 1 handed each of us a copy of the notes. From then on we listened to everything he said and annotated our notes as appropriate. Thank you Kaz Krynicki - you were great (sadly I just googled him and he died in 2019). No idea who the thermodynamics lecturer was.

Large Hadron Collider experiment reveals three exotic particles


Re: inverse femtobarn

I have genuinely used barn megaparsec as a unit!


Imagine you are the person at CERN who decides to send releases the press. CERN and the high energy physics community in general are very excited about the discovery of a X (such as pentaquark or splitting the thaum) with all the implications for the standard model / theory of your choice.

This person knows that they will be asked by the press to elaborate on the significance and maybe even give interviews about it.

Would you want to be the person who has to explain quantum chromodynamics to The Sun? It must be a tough job!


Re: Ever get the sense...

Got to have a xkcd even if this is only a feeble 90%C. At least the ball only destroys a city not a country.



Re: Ever get the sense...

OK I accept the challenge.

Grand piano is about 500Kg. Lets skip over the messiness of colliding 2 of them and just throw a single piano to the ground at 99% speed of light. It hits with about 2.7E20J of energy which is about 67000 MT or 1350 times as big a bang as the biggest nuclear bomb ever exploded.

Putting it another way a piano at 99%C hits roughly as hard as a 2E12 Kg asteroid coming in at a modest 15 km/s or about 0.0001 as much bang as the dinosaur killer of 65 million years ago.

The Raspberry Pi Pico goes wireless with the $6 W


Re: While the Pi 4 Model B remains resolutely sold out at time of writing...

I did not know about that shop. Going there tomorrow!

Running DOS on 64-bit Windows and Linux: Just because you can


Re: if you just want to run some DOS productivity app

Remember the anticipation for Duke Nukem Forever and it did appear eventually so there is hope .... oh .... hmm .... just collect my coat.

Brute force and whiskey: The solution to all life's problems


Re: Why a "retired farmer"?

Beaker and proud of it. Froze my fingertips a few times though - nasty blisters :-(

NASA's 161-second helicopter tour of Martian terrain


Re: So gullible

Don't feed the trolls

South Yorkshire to test fiber broadband through water pipes


Re: fiber installed inside water pipes can be used to help water companies detect leaks

I think the idea is this is just to link towns not branch off into every house

Second Trojan asteroid confirmed to be leading our planet around the Sun



I think they mean Carbonaceous chondrite

Crack team of boffins hash out how e-scooters should sound – but they need your help*


Re: 30mph?

Darwin awards would rapidly sort out the 50 MPH escooter riders. Shame about the collateral damage though.


Clop - clop - clop - clop - ....

Horse (or coconut shell) noises. Lets go full circle to before cars.

Come on and admit it - this would be fun.

50 US airports to be surrounded by 5G C-band-free zones


Which 5G?

There is so much confusion in the press between 5G the communication protocol (which is about as significant as talking in french instead of german) and 5 GHz the RF frequency. They just don't get it.

Whisper - no one tell them that 5G phones might run at well above 5 GHz - they might panic even more especially if they discover that the screen they are looking at emits radiation at 50000 GHz!

When product names go bad: Microsoft's Raymond Chen on the cringe behind WinCE


Low quality

About 10 years ago there were big signs for a furnature shop proudly saying "50% off quality"

Macintosh Classic II and triceratops skull on auction: One's a dinosaur, the other has three horns on its face


Got excited for a moment - I am sure that I still have my Mac Classic II somewhere. Sadly not signed

Fortnite banana can appear in court naked says judge in Epic vs Apple legal footnote


Fruity sexual discrimination

Every banana you see in shops is sterile so this is a unacceptble intrusion into their unfortunate sexual status. Shame on the lawyers.

This drag sail could prevent spacecraft from turning into long-term orbiting junk. We spoke to its inventors ahead of launch


Re: designed to operate even if the host spacecraft is inactive

That is the only way for this to make sense. Thrusters require control but if this is a passive watchdog that eventually triggers unless a widget is powered up every day then it would work on dead spacecraft.

China's Mars rover assigned extended mission after exceeding life expectancy


Re: "China's Mars rover assigned extended mission after exceeding life expectancy"

The faster / better / cheaper triangle. Space engineering is right on the tip of the better side.

Wireless powersats promise clean, permanent, abundant energy. Sound familiar?


Sahara is the long term renewable energy source - just stop fighting and get it sorted!

If a sahara country builds a megascale solar plant then they would become the next saudi arabia but with better long tern prospects. There will be nutters who want to blow things up for no good reason but this is always the case and solar is more resiliant to this than oil.

Basically the only thing holding them back is the culture of coruption in these countries (look at Venezuela for a example). If they can get things stable then sub sahara will be the super rich of the late 2000s and will leave saudi in the messy dust but sadly I am not optimistic. Corrupt countries seem to be very hard to reform. The sahara is the engergy source of the future but sadly politics and religion look like holding it back for many decades.

UK's National Museum of Computing asks tunesmiths to recreate bleeps, bloops, and parps of retro game music


Re: Captain Pugwash theme was the best

Happy memories of tweaking BBC games to make them more convenient to load or to give infinite lives. There was a ROM called EXMON? Something like that and I disassembled everything!

OK now I am getting over enthusiastic - I have found the manual for EXMON, how can this still exist!


I think it was Frak that had some more complicated mechanism with self modifying code - but 'patching' the game was at least as much fun as playing it.

I remember a bit of 6502 that I did to allow me to play games with to the limit RAM requirements despite the space lost for the disk drivers (that was floppy disk!). It intercepted the system calls and copied the relevant bit of game RAM to video until the floppy call was completed. Level 9 adventures - anyone remember them? The only one I completed was snowball but the resistor colour codes set me up for my future career. I was totally blown away when it played Vivaldi during the long long tape load times.

Tech support scams subside somewhat, but Millennials and Gen Z think they're bulletproof and suffer


Re: "recent accident"

I normally start with

"Accident - it was not a accident..."


"It was terrible, so many bodies, limbs, blood, ...."

We don't know why it's there, we don't know what it does – all we know is that the button makes everything OK again


Re: Dummy thermostats

I have given up on explaining this to some people. The concept of a thermostat is totally alien, they visualise it as a heat more / cool more control and nothing can persuade them otherwise.

NASA's Mars helicopter spins up its blades ahead of hoped-for 12 April hover


Re: What's to stop...

The wind force on mars is tiny. It is has only 1% of the pressure that we experience so it would be like being blown over by a enraged butterfly

Prince Philip, inadvertent father of the Computer Misuse Act, dies aged 99


Re: No TV

Get yourself a robo vac (mine is a neato). Had it 5 years and I still find myself being impressed at how good it is at mapping and efficiently vacuuming a floor.

Stray shoes with laces dangling are a nemesis though.


Re: No TV

What it if was a Kardashians vacuum cleaner? Top story!

For blinkenlights sake.... RTFM! Yes. Read The Front of the Machine


Re: The Agony and No Ecstasy

I just sat down on a chair. It was a extra unexpected 10cm of drop but it has blighted me for years. I really do have a chronic injury caused by a overly soft cushion.

You can never be too paranoid about your lower back!

Airline software super-bug: Flight loads miscalculated because women using 'Miss' were treated as children


Re: Not necessarily.

Sadly the countries at the bottom of the BMI rankings are exactly those you would expect although some of this might just be genetics.

UK terror law reviewer calls for expanded police powers to imprison people who refuse to hand over passwords

Black Helicopters

Not just XKCD that is obligatory


How embarrassing: Xiaomi and Motorola show up to high school prom both wearing remote-charging tech

Thumb Down

It will never happen

Let EEVBlog tell you


What can the 1944 OSS manual teach us before we all return to sabotage the office?

Big Brother

Re: Which country are we at war with?

You are mistaken. We are at war with Oceania and always have been. EastAsia is and always will be our ally. Rejoyce in the increased chocolate ration..

Adiós Arecibo Observatory: America's largest radio telescope faces explosive end after over 50 years of service


End of a era

Such a shame but lets hope that FAST can take over the role. Maybe some of the instruments could be moved there.

Remember when the keyboard was the computer? You can now relive those heady days with the Raspberry Pi 400


Re: Marketing has the final say

Or this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg

Former antivirus baron John McAfee collared, faces extradition to America on tax evasion, securities allegations

Black Helicopters

Re: Parallels

Servalan for supreme ruler - no compromise!

Co-inventor of the computer mouse, William English, dies


Clear evidence that it was invented hundreds of years earlier :-(

Prior art from the middle ages


Doctor, doctor, got some sad news, there's been a bad case of hacking you: UK govt investigates email fail


Re: If the Tories General Election pledge was to NOT sell of the NHS

I refer you to this documentary from the 80s


If you think you've got problems, pal, spare a thought for these boffins baffled by 'oddball' meteorites


Re: Weird objects showing signs of being both Melty and Non-melty origin?

Rocks fall through the atmosphere far too quickly to melt. They come in at a minimum speed of 11 Km/s and usually much faster but the atmosphere is only a few 10s of Km thick, more if they come in at a glancing angle but even then they don't spend enough time in the atmosphere to get hot and certainly not enough time for the middle to even get warm.

Barclays Bank appeared to be using the Wayback Machine as a 'CDN' for some Javascript


Re: I'm smarter...

Just look for your data in PI - it is in there somewhere then store the index and size for ultimate compression

GitHub to replace master with main across its services


Knock on effects

How many thousands of scripts will this break?



SDI and SDO were always poor terms from a technical point of view and undoubtedly will have caused plenty of V2 PCBs to be made. MISO and MOSI just work better in every way,

Nothing to do with SS (slave select) lines though.

Must check the mastercopy of my datasheets.

Big Brother


This kind of thing has been done before. Thomas Bowdler produced versions of Shakespeare which fitted the morals of the time


Also see


Widely regarded as laughable and pointless a few generations later


In Hamlet, the death of Ophelia was referred to as an accidental drowning, omitting the suggestions that she may have intended suicide.

"God!" as an exclamation is replaced with "Heavens!"

In Henry IV, Part 2, the prostitute Doll Tearsheet is omitted entirely; the slightly more reputable Mistress Quickly is retained.

I can easily see demands for exactly the same happening now.

Dutch spies helped Britain's GCHQ break Argentine crypto during Falklands War


Re: Pilots carrying comprising material

I highly recommend "Most Secret War by R.V. Jones's". A fascinating insight into technical skulduggery during WW2

UK finds itself almost alone with centralized virus contact-tracing app that probably won't work well, asks for your location, may be illegal


Should be open source

This is a obvious case where it should be written once and released as open source. It is bizarre (but sadly predictable) that every country is reinventing the wheel and creating loads of apps all of which are trying to do the same thing.

We all know how well government mega IT projects work out.

Iran military manages to keep a straight face while waggling miracle widget that 'can detect coronavirus from 100m away'


Pink tipped item at 1:00

I get the unobtanium shield and the divining rod but the device on the table at 1:00 looks to come from a entirely different (and more biological) industry.

That awful moment when what you thought was a number 1 turned out to be a number 2


Re: To be fair

I forgot a important password recently. After a few days of panic I decided to ignore it and wait for my fingers to type it in all by themselves and it actually worked. Luckily I was watching my fingers as they did the magic.

Sometimes just let your lizard brain take care of the problem.