* Posts by mhoulden

260 publicly visible posts • joined 8 Dec 2009


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".

Local TV presenter shouted 'f*cking hell' to open news bulletin


From the article I see the TV station reported itself to Ofcom. Local TV doesn't have the highest audience figures (BARB reports a 0.02% audience share for the entire Made TV network), so did anyone actually see it?

Reg man 0: Japanese electronic toilet 1


Already been done, and there's already a vulnerability. It does require Bluetooth and to be reasonably close but it's one way to cause mischief from the next cubicle.

Soylent bars farting recall


Re: PEOPLE!!!!

There will be from lunchtime onwards

New Mac candle smell


I understand there was going to be another one that smelt like a new Samsung Galaxy Note 7 until they realised that was just a normal candle.

HP Ink COO: Sorry not sorry we bricked your otherwise totally fine printer cartridges


Re: Sorry to hear about your miscommunication snafu HP...

Most scanners and copiers detect the EURion constellation which is a pattern of symbols on banknotes. On the new fiver it's on the white bit near the transparent window. If they find it, they refuse to copy and come up with a cryptic error. It wouldn't be too difficult for a printer to do a bit of processing and check they're not being asked to print something criticizing the manufacturer.

Two Sundays wrecked by boss who couldn't use a calendar


Re: At least make sure your contract include TOIL

Those free gyms, laundrettes, breakfasts, etc aren't there just to be nice. Breakfast makes sure you're in early and the health and wellbeing stuff is supposed to reduce the number of unproductive sick days. Other things keep you at your desk so you work longer.

Your 'intimate personal massager' – cough – is spying on you


Re: Anonymous sex

Could be worse. A few years earlier the contraption might have used line-of-sight infrared like a TV remote control instead of Bluetooth.

Argos changes 150 easily guessed drop-off system passwords


Re: So how long until...

In a couple of months they'll probably hold a security review and change it to ArgosStore124.

Happy Mappiversary, Ordnance Survey


Re: re: What is the air-line ?

Also known as the Dangleway, which I think is more in keeping with El Reg house style.

Spam King sent down for 30 months


Re: And the difference is ?

That's easy. Wallace didn't pay for it. I wonder how many hacked accounts flogging fake sunglasses and handbags were his responsibility.

Microsoft did Nazi that coming: Teen girl chatbot turns into Hitler-loving sex troll in hours


Re: Tay: A river

Now I want to see a William McGonagall bot.

New Monopoly version features an Automatic Teller Machine


Re: Anyone working on an Ad-Blocker for board games?

There's an idea. How about mixing in a few Cards Against Humanity, or Exploding Kittens cards?

"Why am I sticky?"

"You have won second prize in a beauty contest"


"Go straight to jail"

"Nope. The Pope of Nope has spoken."

You've seen things people wouldn't believe – so tell us your programming horrors


Re: Bad code? Don't talk to me about bad code...

Some code I've seen does similar:

1. Get current date in US format (MM/DD/YYYY HH:MM:SS)

2. Insert record using that date (as a string) as the last modified date

3. Use that date to determine which record was inserted and get the primary key

I'm in the UK so it tends to go funny after the 12th of the month, and this is a complex web app that can have lots of people using it at once, so two people inserting records at exactly the same time is unlikely but not impossible. It would be so much easier if the person who originally wrote it knew about SELECT @@IDENTITY (it's on SQL Server), but I think that's one of the reasons he was invited to take his services elsewhere.

Don't get me started on the section of code that was written in Classic ASP by a team that didn't bother with Option Explicit and liked global variables with names like zotz...

Periodic table enjoys elemental engorgement


Seeing as the marketing department for Despicable Me wants to have them everywhere else, what about Minium? Alternatively, isn't it about time Richard Feynman had his own element?

El Reg picked a pack of ace pic-titlers


There's a new design Etch-a-Sketch!

ICO fines PPI claims firm £80,000 over 1.3m spam SMS deluge


Re: Good

I like the idea of fining them £80K per text, and then banning the directors of the company from running any more claims management companies so they can't do it again.

Terrorists seek to commit deadly 'cyber attacks' in UK, says Chancellor Osborne


Cyber Plan, Cyber Plan, Plans Whatever a Cyber Can

I quite liked this post from the legal blogger David Allen Green, who realised you could replace "cyber" with "spider" and have something that makes as much sense: http://jackofkent.com/2015/11/george-osbornes-national-spider-plan/. Eg: "To those who believe that spider attack can be done with impunity I say this: that impunity no longer exists."

George Osborne likes his meaningless little slogans, like "long term economic plan", "security" and "Northern Powerhouse", and I think "cyber" is the latest one.

NHS IT must spend a fortune to save a fortune, says McKinsey


Has McKinsey ever said anything that can't be translated as "Please give us lots of money"?

Solar panel spammer hit by UK’s biggest ever nuisance calls fine


The fine is a good start, but I think the line:

HELM is part of the Government Green Deal initiative

should be amended to

HELM was part of the Government Green Deal initiative

so they can't pester anyone else to buy their solar panels. It would also encourage other companies to behave themselves.