* Posts by mhoulden

279 publicly visible posts • joined 8 Dec 2009


75% of enterprise coders will use AI helpers by 2028. We didn't say productively


I can imagine the remaining 25% will be trying to switch it off. It's bad enough trying to do something in Power Automate without Copilot popping up all over the place like a hyperactive Clippy.

Trying out Microsoft's pre-release OS/2 2.0


Re: Microsoft Presentation for the 1989 IBM PS/2 forum

“I have written a PM app that hangs the system (sometimes quite graphically)”

How unlike modern times where a PIM app called Outlook does the same thing. I remember Outlook 97 was particularly bad.

Job interview descended into sweary shouting match, candidate got the gig anyway


/me takes Notes...

They call me 'Growler'. I don't like you. Let's discuss your pay cut


Re: Depends on your definition of growler I guess.

It's also a Yorkshire term for a pork pie. Probably best to clarify which one you mean when you say you're going to have one for lunch.

Windows 3.11 trundles on as job site pleads for 'driver updates' on German trains


I have vague memories of watching a British Rail departures board screen booting up in the 90s. Forget Windows 3.1x. This one said "Acorn ADFS". I think they had a BBC Master powering it.

Bank's datacenter died after travelling back in time to 1970


Re: Priorities

One time someone asked me to call round to get rid of a virus on his home computer. He didn't have broadband (this was quite a long time ago) so I had a CD full of security patches and virus checkers. It would have been pretty straightforward if he wasn't looking over my shoulder all the time and sounding like Stan Laurel just after he'd pushed Oliver Hardy out of a window. In the end I sent him away by asking him to get me a cup of coffee and not to rush back. By the time he did return I'd removed the virus and was installing the latest service pack. I also had words with him about the importance of backups that you can use on another computer.

Share your 2024 tech forecasts (wrong answers only) to win a terrible sweater


Grand Theft Auto 6 will actually be released rather than just yet another add-on for GTA Online.

Gauss we've all got a fresh option for a gen AI handheld: A Samsung device


Have they realised that hardly anyone uses Bixby?

Ask a builder to fix a server and out come the vastly inappropriate power tools


Re: Just a quick manicure.

Memories of running Windows 3.1 on a 2 MB 386 SX. That was slow enough, but when the turbo button was pressed...

Scripted shortcut caused double-click disaster of sysadmin's own making


The Sorceror's Apprentice

Reading the article I had an image of a young Mickey Mouse trying to stop enchanted broomsticks from interfering with the laptop.

Lock-in to legacy code is a thing. Being locked in by legacy code is another thing entirely


A few years ago someone got locked in a branch of Waterstones: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/oct/17/us-tourist-locked-inside-london-waterstones-book-shop. The idea of being locked in a bookshop with only sofas and a café for company proved so popular that they ran a charity sleepover a short while later.

Dialup-era developer writes ChatGPT client for Windows 3.1


There's an "evil" version of Eliza called Azile: https://www.cs.cmu.edu/afs/cs/project/ai-repository/ai/areas/classics/eliza/azile/0.html. You ask it questions and it finds creative ways to insult you. Needs a classic Mac (or an emulator) to run.

A toast to being in the right place at the right time


Re: He's toast

A few times we had a fire drill while the regional facilities manager was on site. She made extra sure everyone used their swipe card to get back into the building. They could show their ID cards if they didn't have one. Assuming they hadn't put them in their wallet and left it upstairs...

Microsoft finally gets around to supporting rar, gz and tar files in Windows


I'll definitely not hear a bad word said about 7 Zip. WinZip did stuff that Windows built in zip handling didn't but it's otherwise pretty terrible. I know there are command line utilities for tar and gz files but I can never remember the incantations to use them.

Phil Katz died in 2000. If he hadn't published the Zip file format we might be using something else now. I wonder what he'd be doing now if he was still around.

If you have a fan, and want this company to stay in business, bring it to IT now


One hot summer our office air con broke down. Quite a few people plus a couple of server rooms meant it wasn't the coolest at the best of times. We hired a few temporary free standing coolers to make the place a bit more workable. I was talking to someone next to one of them when it decided to spring a leak. When a cloud of white gas starts coming towards you, you move. A couple of minutes later it tripped the fire alarm and the place was evacuated.

Three seconds of audio could end up costing Fox $500,000


I used to have the Protect and Survive jingle as an SMS alert. Then someone sent me a text when I wasn't expecting it and gave me a nasty surprise. I now have something a bit more neutral.

The FCC had to specify that the EBS test should be spoken with no background music because at least one radio station did it as a catchy jingle: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6YRHAro1iTE.

If your Start menu or apps are freezing up on Windows, Microsoft has a suggestion


Re: Wait, what?

I remember the Active Desktop they introduced with Internet Explorer 4. Very early way of enabling it.

This can’t be a real bomb threat: You've called a modem, not a phone


Story I read ages ago somewhere...

In among all the university buildings on Oxford Road in Manchester is (or was) the National Computing Centre. It was a fairly high profile building and an occasional target during the Troubles in the 70s and 80s. One day someone went past, dropped a bag full of batteries and wires, and ran off. They called the police and got the bomb squad out. After a brief investigation they were allowed back in. It wasn't someone trying to blow the place up, but a shoplifter who had nicked a load of stuff from Maplin just up the road.

Swatting suspects charged with subverting Ring doorbell cams and calling cops


Of course the culprits deserve punishment. But why is it so easy to get an armed response unit out on the strength of a single phone call in the first place?

WhatsApp boss says no to AI filters policing encrypted chat


Re: Let's start

Whatsapp is already used quite heavily by MPs. Degrading the encryption would make it much easier for their group chats to end up somewhere like Pastebin. But I'm sure they've got nothing to hide from public scrutiny.

Being declared dead is automated, so why is resurrection such a nightmare?


Re: The title is optional

British Gas has form. In 2009 someone sued them for stalking because their billing system wouldn't accept that she didn't have an account with them any more and didn't owe them money: http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2009/46.html.

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


Re: Zero Knowledge

In the days before the UK had a Freedom of Information Act someone asked the local police force for details of their internal computer systems. They refused. However all the details were available in a job advert that anyone could ask for.

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


Over summer 2000 I had a temp student job where I had access to the Windows API reference. Hungarian notation was quite a big thing back then. A variable with a name like intCounter was no big deal. A Windows structure called shItemID on the other hand...

You want me to do WHAT in that prepaid envelope?


It's a good idea to make sure you don't have any other envelopes around when you're parcelling it up. Don't want to mix it up with Christmas cards or something similar.

Next day delivery a bit of a pain? We have just the thing... nestled deep in the terms and conditions


I've worked in office parks where that would be an understatement.

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


Re: Hanlon's razor

Hugely expensive, increasingly irrelevant as time goes on, and seen with a certain sense of nostalgia by people who didn't experience it? That sounds about right.

First impressions count when the world is taken by surprise by an exciting new (macro) virus


Re: I Love You

I got sent a copy when I was at uni. It seemed a bit odd that a lecturer I didn't know very well would send me a personal note in a Javascript file so I just ignored it. I spoke to a friend about it a bit later. He promptly turned white, ran back to his room and emerged about half an hour later looking pretty shaken. He used email a lot more than I did and he had a lot of contacts.

Flying taxis? That'll be AFTER you've launched light sabres and anti-gravity skateboards


Re: What we need are

Just step in and whoosh you get sucked up and blown out at your destination.

I think that was a service they offered around Kings Cross station in the 80s.

Huygens if true: Dutch police break up bulletproof hosting outfit and kill Mirai botnet


I think it's where the syadmins drink vastly overpriced coffee mixed with butter instead of cream.

Dry patch? Have you considered peppering your flirts with emojis?


Re: Why can't we use emojis when...

Whose personal erotica site is it then? I think we should be told.

Bulb smart meters in England wake up from comas miraculously speaking fluent Welsh


Re: default language

They don't make many, but it's not unusual.

The Windows Terminal turns up in the Microsoft Store


I was disappointed to see it wasn't the old Windows 3.1 Terminal. A version of Macro Recorder that spat out Power Shell scripts would definitely be worth having.

Planes, fails and automobiles: Overseas callout saved by gentle thrust of server CD tray


Re: airport security

A while back I read about someone who travelled with an electronic metronome. It decided to switch itself on just as she was passing through Customs.

Thank you, your DNA data will help secure your… oh dear, we've lost that too


Re: Hotel Security

If your key card gets nicked, it makes it easier for the thief to find where your room is. I'm not sure how many times you can use a key card on the wrong door before it's deactivated, but it helps to narrow it down.

Which scientist should be on the new £50 note? El Reg weighs in – and you should vote, too


I'd go for Caroline Haslett. She's done lots of good stuff but the one that most people will have heard of is that she designed the 13 amp plug and socket.

Spent your week box-ticking? It can't be as bad as the folk at this firm


Re: “were quoted a ridiculous price and told it would take four months”.

I thought it was more a classic example of mushroom management: keep the customer in the dark and feed them horse manure.

CIMON says: Say hello to your new AI pal-bot, space station 'nauts


Are you sure it isn't Yes Man from Fallout New Vegas?

Agile development exposed as techie superstition


Re: Bad example

If she knew anything about Newton she'd have known that he was a deeply religious and superstitious man who dabbled in the occult, alchemy, prophecy, Biblical chronology and interpretation, Rosicrucianism....

Or Windows API programming as it's known these days.

Department of Work and Pensions internal docs reveal troubled history of Universal Credit


Re: Hmm

I'm happy for someone to tell me why I'm wrong, but isn't it just a glorified payroll system with a heavy dose of the workhouse test and the old Victorian attitude of the undeserving poor? A good start might be to use a company that specializes in doing such things rather than the usual suspects, and ditching the political condescension that makes it so expensive.

So you accidentally told a million people they are going to die: What next? Your essential guide...


Anyone can make one mistake. However, if one person kept making the same mistake over and over again on a life-critical system like this, I'd want to know how they were put in a position where they could do so. Why was no one supervising him when he sent the incorrect alert? Did no one check it before it was sent? Did anyone else try using the system to make sure it was foolproof and fail safe? If someone else made the same mistake, what actions were taken to stop it happening again? Scapegoating one person is easy but it looks like there are serious management issues that they'd rather not go into.

Engineer named Jason told to re-write the calendar


Re: Not IT related, but on topic ...

I heard about someone who was tasked to get a long weight, so he went to the local ironmongers, had a bit of a laugh with the staff there, and came back with a sash weight charged to the company's account.

O Christmas wreath, O Christmas wreath, thy potent skunk's in bunches


Re: Note to self...

A few years ago a girl set up a stall selling Girl Scout cookies outside a pot dispensary. She sold 117 boxes of cookies in 2 hours and to had restock 45 minutes into her shift.

A certain millennial turned 30 recently: Welcome to middle age, Microsoft Excel v2


30 years on...

...and Excel still won't let you open two documents with the same name. I know why (VBA uses the name as a reference) but it's still incredibly annoying if you're trying to compare two files. And as for whoever decided to implement copy & paste in a completely different way to other apps...

Microsoft faces Dutch crunch over Windows 10 private data slurp


Re: Too Late....

I've sometimes wondered what would happen if you played the Windows 95 Microsoft Sound, a bit of dial up networking and then the AOL "You've Got Mail" sound at them. They're all on Youtube so they're easy to find. "Sorry about this. I don't use my computer very much."

User left unable to type passwords after 'tropical island stress therapy'


Re: One week at Bigger Blue.

Most places have an induction process where the boss sits down with you and explains things like where the toilets are, what the arrangements are for lunch, stuff about health and safety, and so on. I'd be very surprised if dress code wasn't also mentioned.

50th anniversary of the ATM opens debate about mobile payments


Searching for PPRO Group brings up this as the description for the top link: "PPRO is a full-service partner for PSPs and payment providers in the e-payment environment as well as an e-money specialist for corporates and consumers." They also issue a lot of press releases saying how their products will replace cash, including the one quoted in this article.

I still haven't found what I'm malloc()ing for: U2 tops poll of music today's devs code to


I wonder what % of developers would like to work in silence but can't because they're in an open plan office with a noisy project manager holding conference calls at the other end. Add in the relatively high incidence of autism spectrum disorders among developers (which can include a tendency to be distracted by things like background noise) and it's not surprising people sometimes want to put some music on.

Faking incontinence and other ways to scare off tech support scammers


One of my favourites is still the person who put the phone next to a radio tuned to the Today Programme and let the caller have a long conversation with John Humphreys. Bonus points if you can do it during Thought For The Day and get them to have a discussion about religion.

India to world+dog: Go ahead, please hack our elections ... if you can



I'd have thought the easiest way to hack them would be to slip the returning officer some cash for the admin password.

My fortnight eating Blighty's own human fart-powder


The name "Huel" is supposed to be a portmanteau of "Human" and "Fuel". However I prefer Dave Gorman's suggestion that it's actually "Hipster Gruel".