* Posts by Martin an gof

1441 posts • joined 27 Jan 2010

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Soft press keys for locked-down devs: Three new models of old school 60-key Happy Hacking 'board out next month

Martin an gof Silver badge

Re: Alternatives?

I suppose it depends what you do with a keyboard, but if you are a serious keyboard basher, be it for development work or writing documentation or even just writing your dissertation, you need something comfortable with well-arranged keys, even if you are not a fully-fledged touch typist.

I did make some people scratch their heads when I admitted that I'd spent more money on the keyboard for my children's "homework" computer than I had on the computer itself. Admittedly it was a Raspberry Pi, but I knew there was a lot of typing to come and I have used some absolutely dreadful £10 keyboards.

When I re-arrange the computing workstations and have a bit more desk space I'm very tempted to get a separate "letters only" keyboard and keypad. This one has rather caught my eye, and not just because of the lovely ladies on the web page :-)

M.

LibreOffice community protests at promotion of paid-for editions, board says: 'LibreOffice will always be free software'

Martin an gof Silver badge

Re: "Personal Edition"

With 'personal edition' in the About screen, this isn't going to get installed in schools or colleges in UK

or businesses, who have been conditioned over many years that terms such as "Home", "Personal", "Pro", "Business", "Enterprise" and the like have meanings to do with functionality. There is a great deal of difference between "Home" and "Enterprise" versions of Microsoft's products - though the details vary over the years - and the instant reaction of anyone considering rolling out LibreOffice across a large user base would be that there will be features missing from a "personal" edition that are required for such uses.

Other large Open Source projects are having difficulty navigating this too - OpenSuse has recently had a re-jig of the way it meshes with Suse Linux for example - and while I am perfectly fine if a commercial company wants to "add value" to an open source base product, I am not fine if the commercial offering becomes the basis of the product (i.e., all control is given to the commercial company) and the non-commercial offering is relegated to being a cut-down version, the main purpose of which is to draw people in to paying.

If it ever gets to the stage where to get a "fully featured" product you either need to pay £n to Microsoft or £m to The Document Foundation, bang goes any realistic hope of toppling Office's dominance, due to inertia if nothing else.

M.

Cool IT support drones never look at explosions: Time to resolution for misbehaving mouse? Three seconds

Martin an gof Silver badge

Re: Mouse mats with logos -avoid, avoid, avoid

Problem with cardboard and ball mice is the dust. The best mat I ever had was a 3M Precise Mousing Surface (unfortunate initials) which had tiny plastic pyramids as a surface. Ball mice needed cleaning much less often.

It also had a muted blue pattern under the pyramids which meant that when I swapped to an optical mouse, it still worked just fine.

In fact it's still in use on my main computer, which is currently sitting on a desk surface completely unsuitable for either ball or optical mice. The mat must be at least 25 years old by now.

Thanks to Norwich Computer Services and Paul Beverley who drew my attention to it!

M.

Paging technology providers: £3m is on the table to replace archaic NHS comms network

Martin an gof Silver badge

Re: Pagers v SMS

On the other hand (and I actually think that pagers are brilliant for many uses) since pager receivers are (often / always / usually?) receive-only, there's no return path to guarantee delivery - something that can be done (but isn't usually) with SMS.

I don't know how it works these days but when I had a pager the "whatever you've configured the system for" wasn't a guaranteed delivery time, it was a length of time over which the message to be delivered was transmitted and repeated, and repeated and repeated, on the assumption that eventually the pager would receive it. I think for the commercial networks it was typically of the order of 30 minutes, maybe more.

Another disadvantage of paging on a large scale is that there's no way of "routing" the message. If you have multiple transmitters, any one message has to be sent to all transmitters because you do not know where the intended receiver is.

But, as has been pointed out several times in these comments, it does - generally - just work and the devices are robust, reliable and can run for days and days without charging.

M.

Martin an gof Silver badge

Re: Back in Time Technology Rides Again

That's exactly it. If all you need is a device which is simple to use and can say "person on duty, please attend / call / wake up now", the pager is ideal. I used to carry one and the single AAA battery would last at least a couple of weeks.

If you need more than that, equip people with a basic mobile phone.

Sometimes a particular application has a specific, already-working solution. Why change it?

M.

What's the Arm? First Apple laptop to ditch Intel will be 13.3" MacBook Pro, proclaims reliable soothsayer

Martin an gof Silver badge

Re: Emulation

Maybe they'll take a leaf from Acorn's book, at least for a machine such as the Pro. The RiscPC had two processor slots, and while the "main" processor was always ARM, the other one could be x86. In Acorn's case installing Windows was a bit like installing in a VM ("drive c" was a file on RiscOS's HDD) but it ran on a physically separate processor. The "graphics card" was a driver that passed graphics ops to RiscOS, for example.

One of the arguments people are making for Apple moving from Intel to ARM is cost, and another is power use. If ARM isn't quite powerful enough for full emulation, could you get away with a very low-end Intel processor as a "second processor" for hardware acceleration purposes? When the machine is running OSX the x86 can be completely powered-down unless an x86-compiled app needs to run, when it can be woken up to perform the heavy lifting. If the ARM is running the OS and the x86 is only running one or two apps you'd probably only need a low-end dual-core Celeron (do they do any without integrated graphics?) for decent performance. They could even swap to a low end AMD processor, which would be cheaper.

You could dual-boot as normal, but make do with a low-end processor, or you could boot into OSX and run Windows in something akin to a VM.

Too complicated? Maybe, but fun to consider :-)

And then there's my idea of ditching OSX altogether for a desktop version of iOS :-)

M.

Hey is trying a new take on email – but maker complains of 'outrageous' demands after Apple rejects iOS app

Martin an gof Silver badge

Re: Tops vs Bottoms redux

Isn't that just the old Usenet tradition of "inline" replies? It works really, really well with text-based email clients where the things can indent quotes properly and it really really doesn't work at all with Outlook, which just doesn't understand how to quote.

M.

Martin an gof Silver badge

Re: @Stuart Castle - Email already passé?

In theory signatures, after the dash-dash-space-newline, can be auto-snipped on reply (Outlook doesn't like to do it though), which slows the growth of messages that are replied and passed around. Auto-added disclaimers are a pain in the backside for this, often being longer than the email itself, and in Wales, public bodies are required to write the same thing twice, once in Welsh, once in English.

M.

The bork on the sign goes round and round, round and round, round and round

Martin an gof Silver badge

Re: 256GB for a sign!

There still seem to be plenty of 120 / 128GB devices out there, but the 60/64GB devices we've been using at work for some time are pretty thin on the ground.

CPC's collection

eBuyer's collection

CCL's collection

M.

HTC breaks with tradition to push out 2 phones someone might actually want to buy

Martin an gof Silver badge

Re: I'll take the "small" one

Doesn't mean they have to be physically large though.

I suppose it depends what you mean by "personal computer". In my head that phrase means a device that yes, I can consume content with - websites, videos, music - but also a device which can be used to write emails (tedious on a phone's onscreen keyboard), create documents for printing (and printing them out) and spend serious time doing other forms of "creation" that are often possible on a phone, but tedious at best because of the form factor not - these days - because of the specification of the "computing" parts of a phone. Oh, and something where I don't have to worry too much about power consumption.

That may not be what under 30s think of as a "personal computer" any more. Perhaps if all you do is consume content, with your creation limited to a few short emails or tweets and some cut-n-paste video editing, a 6.5" high resolution touchscreen is all the "personal computer" you need.

Whatever happened to phone docking stations? That's the obvious answer - bung your phone in a cradle and use it to power a monitor, keyboard, mouse.

If Apple really is looking at MacOS on ARM, perhaps this is the way they are heading? Your next "MacBook" might not have (much) capability of its own - it might use your iPhone as its "guts", with the iPhone running MacOS instead of iOS, perhaps with a "small screen" and "large screen" display mode and some power tweaks to reduce battery use when it isn't plugged into the base station.

I realise this has been tried (and failed) before with Android and - to an extent - by Microsoft, but the combination of Apple's A-series processors, the vast amount of RAM in a modern smartphone and the constant rumours that they are working on ARM-based versions of their desktop and laptop computers might just make it work this time. I am no Apple fan (quite the opposite) but if they can pull that off successfully we're going to see an awful lot of other companies struggling to catch up.

Maybe it's also something Planet Computers could be working on. A pocket-sized, Linux-based smartphone would be very tempting. I'd have bought one of their current line-up by now except that I'm rather too cash-strapped :-(

M.

Martin an gof Silver badge

Re: I'll take the "small" one

It might also be worth pointing out that the physically smaller phones also now tend to be at the cheaper end of the market, with restricted RAM and storage, and older, slower processors. This doesn't have to be a major issue, but when apps and even mobile versions of websites seem to be bloating beyond any sensible reason, it can be.

Makers such as Nokia and Motorola are closest, but even they fall in to this trap - their physically smallest phones also tend to be their technologically weaker phones, with Nokia's 1 series (for example) running Android Go in 1GB of RAM and their current 2 and 3 series running "full Android" but sporting just 2GB (or 3 for one variant of the 3).

M.

5G mast set aflame in leafy Liverpool district, half an hour's walk from Penny Lane

Martin an gof Silver badge

Re: What are these modern day Luddites on about?

At the moment, 5G operates within the same frequency bands as 4G, 3G and (to an extent) 2G. Is your delicate body already falling apart after 10 years of 4G signals, 20 years of 3G signals and 30 years of 2G signals? Not to mention the older "1G" analogue systems which also used some of the same frequencies, and broadcast television which has been using large amounts UHF frequencies just below mobile phones (newer phone allocations actually use the same frequencies as UHF TV used to) for 55-odd years and at much, much higher powers than even the beefiest mobile phone transmitters (Crystal Palace, to take a random example, had four analogue TV transmitters, each pushing out 1MW).

As I have pointed out previously no existing phones are able to operate above 3.8GHz (I admit it's been a couple of months since I checked), and as far as I'm aware there is nothing cleared above 6GHz yet, though yes, 5G is expected to use some very high frequencies before too long. If these or the higher frequencies were a problem, perhaps we might already have noticed issues from existing uses such as WiFi (5GHz), PMSE (6GHz), radar, and satellite broadcasts among a huge number of services as can be seen here (click on "SHF" in the drop-down menu).

M.

Martin an gof Silver badge

Re: What are these modern day Luddites on about?

Yes, of course they do.

They also believed it of of 2G phone masts (and this at a time when there was still a lot of "1G" around), they believed it of 3G phone masts (by which time everyone had a GSM phone, so obviously 2G was fine now) and they believed it of 4G masts (sorry, that article's a bit generic - it's difficult searching for stories specifically about 4G, but they are out there). They also believed it of WiFi and any number of other new things.

Don't get me wrong - I'm a firm believer in not accepting something as truth just because someone says so - but I also try to apply at least a modicum of critical thinking. Is this likely? Have we seen something similar before? Is this "new" thing actually "new" or just a variation on a theme we've been living with for 10 or 20 years already?

M.

Martin an gof Silver badge

Re: Digital literacy

This email has failed it's domains authentication requirements. It may be spoofed or improperly authenticated

I have had - for three years or so now - email addresses at ".cymru" and ".wales" TLDs. It is amazing how many companies' online shops refuse to accept those addresses with an excuse similar to the one you quoted, or "this does not appear to be a valid email address" or simply "all fields marked with a * must be completed".

Obviously some ridiculously badly set up spam filter at their end because you can enter utterly rubbish email addresses (joe@sakldjfhakljbg.com) and these sites accept them without problem. Use .cymru or .london or .museum or various other "new" (and >3 character) TLDs, however, and they are rejected out of hand.

I did send a note both to the company looking after the .wales and .cymru TLDs and to the Assembly (or parliament or whatever we're supposed to call it now) but not had any kind of reply.

M.

Martin an gof Silver badge

Digital literacy

If you haven't grown up with the internet, it's often difficult to distinguish fact from fiction online

I think it's more complex than that. Growing up with the internet doesn't make you any less likely to believe fictions in my experience, it's "life experience" in general.

My mum was recently taken in by a "here's how to protect yourself" chain e-mail because it came from someone she knows. Seeing that name in the "From:" header, she disengaged critical thinking that she would have applied had the same thing been printed in the local rag.

But I've known much, much younger people do exactly the same thing. In some cases, obviously rubbish information gets "retweeted" or whatever, without any thought, simply because such a lot of trash appears minute-by-minute.

So far (crossed fingers) my children are working out ok - they have not been exposed to social media from birth and (yes, I know it's not the same thing, but read on) have had to live with NoScript for almost as long as I've been running Firefox. If nothing else, NoScript causes them to pause and think online - "why does this website need to run Javascript from fifteen different sources?" - and they bring that skepticism to daily life. It's quite heartening hearing their reactions to Boris or Donald's latest verbal outpouring if they happen to catch the news!

Perhaps Twitter needs something to make people pause before re-tweeting? "Retweeting this will associate your name with the views in the post. Are you sure you want to do this?"

M.

So you really didn't touch the settings at all, huh? Well, this print-out from my secret backup says otherwise

Martin an gof Silver badge

Re: Looking for liquidated damages.........

People are expensive, but in many cases of outsourcing you are expecting to replace like-for-like. For example, a school replacing its own cleaning staff with outsourced cleaning staff will need (near enough) the same number of cleaners working for approximately the same number of hours, and the outsourced company will use the same quantities of cleaning products and have the same vacuum cleaner maintenance issues.

The only way you can save money by outsourcing this sort of thing is if the people are paid less per hour. You might find a very small further saving if the company can obtain cleaning products at a cheaper rate, but you will not be saving money on anything else - not even HR costs, because you still have to do the HR stuff for the staff that remain directly employed.

On top of that, traditionally some cleaning staff at a school might do double duty as dinner staff or playground supervision staff or even classroom assistants, so you effectively have a permanent cleaning staff on site to deal with unexpected issues. The same isn't the case with contract staff who will be whisked off to the next school, office or factory as soon as the allocated hours are up.

Regarding the £300 per look-at computer contract there are occasions where that isn't the only number to consider. Yes, in-sourcing that kind of maintenance is unlikely to save a lot of money if sending a computer off is a once-a-month or so occurrence, but if it is away for three, four, five days or more and while it is away some aspect of the business is operating at reduced capacity, there will be plenty of "hidden" costs to think about too.

You're right - it's often the people "at the coal face" who can see these things, and the people sat in leather chairs behind Teak desks who either can't see the problems, or won't admit to them.

M.

Martin an gof Silver badge

Re: It went wrong all by itself

Never heard of E-PAL, but I've always been interested in that sort of thing. PAL has quite a lot of variants, do you have a simple reference you can point me to?

The nearest thing I have heard of is PAL Plus which attempted to make a "compatible" signal that normal PAL receivers could use, but which would be "better" (in various optional ways) on a PAL Plus-aware receiver. On a technical level though, much like the squarial was "better" (in some ways) than an ordinary dish aerial, D(2)-MAC was better than either PAL or PAL Plus. It was just expensive and late to the party, and Murdoch cashed in with cheap, existing technology.

M.

Martin an gof Silver badge

Re: It went wrong all by itself

the Squareial was consigned to the dustbin of "what were they thinking"

The thing was actually quite a neat theoretical solution, but took a lot of engineering to make it work. Now that the hard slog has been done (and the computing power to make the calculations is trivially available), similar products are plentiful if you just look around. The Squarial may have contributed to BSB's woes, but I don't think it was the only, nor even the major, contributor to them failing.

I earned a few quid pocket money in those days fixing failed PSUs in the built-to-a-price Amstrad receivers used by Murdoch's Sky for friends and friends-of-friends. CPC used to sell kits of parts - ring them up with the model number of the receiver and a couple of days later a little bag of resistors, capacitors, maybe an inductor or a semiconductor part would turn up. Wave the magic soldering iron about for 10 minutes (the simpler ones) or 30 (particularly if there was a multi-leg IC involved) and everything was back to normal.

M.

If you don't LARP, you'll cry: Armed fun police swoop to disarm knight-errant spotted patrolling Welsh parkland

Martin an gof Silver badge
Unhappy

Re: IT Angle?

Just in case someone comes to this late, some spoilsport has now corrected the "Bust Stop"...

M.

Martin an gof Silver badge

Re: IT Angle?

For anyone disbelieving, here's the map.

The lake in question is near the bottom of that map near the railway, and the roads near the top in the pink-coloured industrial area. The names show up as viewed in my web browser, but you may need to zoom in a bit if they don't.

Actually, do try zooming in, to the bit where Fountain Lane joins Fortran Road and... no, tell you what, I'll do it for you. Openstreetmap, eh?

M.

Mind your language: Microsoft set to swing the axe on 27 languages in iOS Outlook

Martin an gof Silver badge

Re: You vill parle Amrecianish Da!

I'd like to see you explain that to the people living in the Gaeltacht

Check my posts - as a speaker of Welsh, known to use it occasionally in day-to-day life (including at work), and living and working among people who live as much of their lives as possible through Welsh, I agree with what you are saying.

There is some kind of logic to dropping minority languages however, particularly if you are not yourself a user of those languages, and posters here (and elsewhere) regularly prove the point - as I see someone has done a little down the thread.

A lack or otherwise of truly "monoglot" speakers (you'd be hard pushed to find monoglot speakers of any language, in many countries other than England) nor indeed of the total number of people who are either capable of using the language or actually do use it regularly should not be a criterion for sidelining any particular language.

I posted because the Urdu thing was actually mentioned in the article. Urdu can hardly be described as a minority language, yet it's still on the drop list. Why?

One possible reason is lack of professional translators. Yes, most fluent speakers of two languages could make a good stab at translation, and indeed many open source projects rely on such people, but "a good stab" isn't good enough for something people are paying for and in some circumstances there are actually rules about this sort of thing.

For example, my wife has been a BSL user since childhood, has worked her entire career with deaf children, holds a "level 3" qualification in the language and has been known to interpret on a non-professional basis. Interpretation, much like translation, when done professionally has to be done correctly, particularly where absolute clarity and accuracy is required. It's one thing for my wife to interpret a church service for any BSL users who turn up, but she would never dream of standing in for a professional interpreter at (say) a court hearing or a medical consultation.

It's a sad fact that languages with small numbers of users have even smaller numbers of people with sufficiently high level knowledge of the language to undertake professional translation work.

Welsh is privileged in that since the mid 20th century there has been a revival in a language that up until then was being actively suppressed. As a result, there are now more speakers than (probably) there have ever been and use in the formerly dwindling heartlands is still relatively strong.

On the whole.

Where half the houses in the village haven't been bought as holiday homes by residents of Birmingham.

So Welsh has a small but steady supply of professional-grade translators, but they are in great demand. There are probably ten times as many Welsh speakers in Wales as Irish Gaelic speakers in Ireland.

Sorry, rambling.

Companies and public bodies should do everything they can to support these languages but particularly with companies there often comes a point where they can't or won't or simply are a bit thick about how bi- or multilingualism works. It's a matter for debate how these companies should be dealt with.

M.

Martin an gof Silver badge

Re: You vill parle Amrecianish Da!

While I sympathise with the plight of Irish, I can (sort of) see the logic of stopping support for a language withe low use levels and for which it must be difficult to find competent translators. Welsh is usually in a much better position but still suffers these things. I not Welsh is not on the list. Does that mean it isn't supported anyway, or it has survived the chop?

As for Urdu, the article specifically mentions it!

M.

Sky Broadband is not the UK's cheapest, growls ad watchdog

Martin an gof Silver badge

Re: B4RN....?

Wondered whether You'd explain more re.B4RN,, please?

Sorry, I know it's a few days late, but quite literally five seconds on DuckDuckGo.

M.

Wanna force granny to take down that family photo from the internet? No problem. Europe's GDPR to the rescue

Martin an gof Silver badge

Re: GDPR is a joke....

The thing is that organisations such as Ancestry.com are actually built on the base of decades of work - transcriptions of parish records for example - done by people like my mother, entirely without payment, entirely on the understanding that others would be able to make use of the data, either for free or for a payment to the benefit of one of the local history societies that had organised the work.

Somebody's profiting.

M.

Hooray! It's IT Day! Let's hear it for the lukewarm mugs of dirty water that everyone seems to like so much

Martin an gof Silver badge

The East India Company?

No, everyone knows that tea was introduced to Britain in Roman times by Asterix.

M.

Windows invokes Sgrîn Las Marwolaeth upon Newport

Martin an gof Silver badge

Re: Llundain

Oh did you have to?

Not even worthy of a downvote.

Definitely worthy of a late-night ramble :-)

Here, have another silly factoid. In much the same way that English didn't always have a word for "orange" (hence the Robin is "red"), Welsh didn't always have a separate word for green. Instead the word "glas", which these days is mostly used to mean "blue", did double duty. It confuses learners when people talk of "porfa las" - no, they probably don't mean "blue pasture", they are more likely intending "verdant".

M.

P.S. There is quite a lot of evidence that bi- or multi-lingualism conveys cognitive benefits above and beyond the simple fact of having two languages. It does, however, have to be full bilingualism rather than the sort of second language teaching most schools in the UK practice. And it's not just the obvious candidates such as Canada where this sort of thing happens, I recently came across bilingual schools in Australia of all places. Wales is interesting because of its schools which teach through the medium of the Welsh language, even where the children attending come from English-speaking homes. You may argue that learning Mandarin or German would be more globally useful than Welsh, but the cognitive benefits accrue no matter which language is spoken.

Martin an gof Silver badge

Re: Newport is not all that

I visit Newport station on a fairly regular basis and used to before the new terminal. The new building is cold and draughty at the best of times, let alone the platforms themselves. To be honest, I preferred the old layout, but the worst part with the new layout? There are no short-term parking bays around the back. The car park at the rear is large (well, not at the moment but that's another story) and easily accessible if you know which road to go down but it's long-term pay-and-display only, except for a couple of drop-off bays.

The free short-term bays are around the "front", so if I'm picking someone up I can pull in and wait for up to 20 minutes, even smile nicely at the person on the gate and help carry bags, but the front is in the middle of a 20mph one-way system and while from my direction getting in is almost as easy as getting to the back, getting back out again involves about a half a mile around the one-way system, crossing the same two pedestrian crossings twice (once in each direction) and navigating a roundabout where you have to stay hard right to get where I need to go, but the lane markings don't make that at all obvious, so there are always traffic conflicts, cars ending up in the bus lane, or unintentionally heading for a car park.

And you don't get to walk into the station past the slightly unusual sculpture.

M.

Martin an gof Silver badge

Re: Did they miss a station?

Nah, despite Oliver Postgate's distinctly "valleys" accents, the M&LRTCLtd was based in "the top left-hand corner of Wales" IIRC.

M.

Martin an gof Silver badge

Re: Lost stations

Bassaleg, pronounced locally as "Baze-lig". Never quite understood why.

The line is in occasional use for a quarry, but the remainder of the line, which ran from Newport to Caerphilly and Brecon was closed some time ago, with the last section - which ran to the mine and coke plant at Bedwas - turned into a cycle track.

There are some tentative plans to re-open the line, possibly as light rail, which would make commuting from Caerphilly to Newport an awful lot easier, might make commuting to Cardiff easier (via the new Cardiff Parkway station) and would certainly help if the thousands of houses being planned, are actually built to the East of Caerphilly.

As with elsewhere in the country, re-opened lines seem to be very much in demand. The Ebbw Vale branch, which rather inconveniently can't send trains to Newport until a junction is upgraded, has been open since shortly after the steel plant closed and has seen far higher use than initially anticipated.

M.

Martin an gof Silver badge

Re: Llundain

I thought "Londinium" was Roman :-)

In terms of use, placenames in Welsh are interesting because of mutations. "Llundain" might be the full name, but as part of a sentence the "Ll" often mutates into "L", thus "I am going to London" --> "'dw i'n mynd i Lundain". Similarly "I come from [I'm coming from] Newport" (Welsh - Casnewydd) turns into "'dw i'n dod o Gasnewydd".

Or even more confusingly "I live in Newport" mutates in a different way, "'dw i'n byw yng Nghasnewydd".

Don'cha love it?

One lady does.

Of course, half term week should be the week of the Urdd Eisteddfod. Traditionally the organisation sends a "message of peace and goodwill" around the world at the same time. This year's is a little different to the usual:

BBC News story

Adnoddau.

Resources in 57 languages.

M.

Martin an gof Silver badge

Re: Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch

Request stop only, last time I looked, but easily accessible and great for family photographs standing under the sign :-)

M.

India’s contact-tracing app unleashes KaiOS on feature phones

Martin an gof Silver badge

Just in case you're serious, three of these phones run KaiOS and are available worldwide, not just in India.

M.

Huge if true... Trump explodes as he learns open source could erode China tech ban

Martin an gof Silver badge

Re: Spitting Image

Whatever you think of the man himself, Charlie Brooker had a good stab at the satire last week.

The News Quiz used to be good at this sort of thing, but it's suffering both with a "work from home" production model and a less-than-stellar guest presenter.

Have I Got News For You is faring a bit better under lockdown than The News Quiz, and The Now Show didn't do too badly either.

M.

Behold: The ghastly, preening, lesser-spotted Incredible Bullsh*tting Customer

Martin an gof Silver badge

Re: There should be an IT Driving Test

When there are thousands of schools, each one effectively independent of and even competing with the rest, and these days no longer under the control of local authorities

We're in Wales, where this isn't quite the case. Things are a little calmer here.

The BBC explains it here.

Wales Online explains it here, though that website is an utter mess of third party Javascript.

M.

Martin an gof Silver badge

Re: There should be an IT Driving Test

My wife is a teacher of the Deaf and works closely with S&L therapists, currently in the paediatric cochlear implant programme of a large teaching hospital. We have this kind of conversation from time to time :-)

She thought she was going to be re-assigned to a nursing auxiliary type role, but it turns out that at the moment (and hopefully permanently if the current fall in cases continues) she is more valuable continuing to follow-up and support implanted children and their parents. They are waiting for the day they can re-start the implant programme because delays in language acquisition lead to delays in learning for years to come.

ToDs and support workers in schools are going to have to re-learn things that have become less important in recent years, now that the majority of deaf children are implanted in the first months of life. They are going to have a bubble of children through the system in the next few years who haven't had the benefit of "hearing" as early as their slightly older peers.

As for spelling, what you say is certainly true of the way I spell and the word I have most trouble with is one which caused me a little trouble aged about 7 or 8 and I was forced to learn it by rote, by a teacher. I still can't type it fluently. It isn't a word I use a lot.

Then again, should anyone ask me to spell a word for them I usually have to say "wuh, o, rrrrr, d' " rather than "double-you, oh, arr, dee". I'd have been useless at one of those "spelling bees".

M.

Martin an gof Silver badge

Re: There should be an IT Driving Test

Ok, point taken, but I could easily turn it around and say that, like the people who are most likely to turn up to your coffee mornings, the people who are most likely to read and understand the notes - and crucially have a clue about how to act on them - are ironically the people who least need the help. I don't have an answer and I know it is frustrating - I have been out of the profession for a long time now but - once upon a time I did teach at primary level.

What I would say is that particularly in primary schools it is very likely that teachers have an excellent idea of the children whose parents might need a bit of encouragement and just as good an idea of the children whose parents don't. Sending blanket "advice" to everyone is likely to be counterproductive to both sets, though you might find a willing ear with some of the "struggling but trying our best" in the middle.

Ok. Here's another one. No, two. This time from the secondary school.

First came a very simple one. Something along the lines of "your child will soon be leaving school and moving on to university or an apprenticeship. Now would be an ideal time to ensure they learn essential skills such as how to cook a simple meal and how to sort the laundry". I mean, really? That's all the life advice they have to offer after seven (well, six and a half) years of schooling?

The most perplexing one however came a couple of Fridays ago; "why not wear red, white and green today instead of your school uniform, in aid of <worthy cause>?"

At first glance this looked like a simple passing-on-without-thinking of a press release by said worthy cause, presumably prepared before schools closed. I went to the appropriate website and read their fundraising media and nowhere was "instead of your school uniform" mentioned. In fact, while the campaign is real, nothing on the website had similar wording to the note sent by school.

Surely the only conclusion can't be that school is expecting pupils to wear school uniform at home while completing the two or three hours of schoolwork they are sent each day, can it?

M.

Martin an gof Silver badge

Re: There should be an IT Driving Test

Talking used to come naturally to most people, but it seems that it doesn't any more. Teachers are complaining that children enter nursery not even able to hold a simple converation. Schools send home patronising notes about talking to your children. Is it because parents have their noses buried in Twitface these days? Is it because children get their first phone aged about 2 and no longer have to negotiate with siblings when they want to play a game?

We have a running joke at home since one such note came home from school some years ago. If ever conversation dries up at the dinner table (aside - it seems we are unusual in insisting as far as possible on at least one sit-down family meal each day), someone will pipe up with "so, who do you think is going to win The Voice this year?"

The school had sent a note home encouraging parents to talk to their children, with suggestions for interesting topics that would engage youngsters. Most of them were irrelevant, but this one particularly so since we have always actively avoided that kind of LCD "reality" show. In fact, if ever anyone wants to interrupt a conversation that might be getting out of hand, "so, who do you think is going to win The Voice this year?" is excellent at killing the atmosphere.

M.

Martin an gof Silver badge

Re: There should be an IT Driving Test

Not just reading, language in general is often considered as a collection of words, people are encouraged to "expand their vocabulary" and comprehension tests are based on lists of words, but I have long had what I call my "cliche" theory of language, that - pretty much as you say, we don't actually learn individual words, instead we learn short phrases, concepts etc. So much so that we often mis-hear what someone says because our brains think, from hearing the beginning of a sentence, that they are going to say one thing, when they actually say another.

Later in life we begin to learn that some complex words are actually made up of shorter word-parts, and so even without an academic grounding in etymology or semantics we can make good stabs at the meanings of new (to us) words by reference to context and words (or word-parts) that we already know.

Phonics - as regards reading and writing, and as I have peripherally experienced it - seems to me to offer precisely what you say - a way of sounding out words that makes it seem as if you are reading, but without giving any tools to real understanding. I feel the same way about times tables to be honest, but about 20 years ago the teaching of maths worked this out and a lot of emphasis was given to using maths and relationships between numbers rather than just learning tables by rote, hence children working on "number bonds", for example. Language teaching should look and learn.

Even English does have some rules, but I offer "ghoti" as an example of where is all goes horribly, horribly wrong.

M.

Martin an gof Silver badge

Re: Yes the users are bad

Might be looking for an ISP before too long. Just went to visit Zen's website, but it's one of those where unless I agree to all the cookies - including the tracking and analytics cookies - it keeps an intrusive pop-up on the screen. I'm sure this isn't correct behaviour. Some websites seem to get it right - even ElReg's recent updated cookie policy allows me to stop all except "essential" cookies.

Zen has just fallen down my list of possibles :-(

M.

Martin an gof Silver badge

Re: There should be an IT Driving Test

decades of evidence that "Phonics" is not how we actually read

How many upvotes would you like?

Fortunately my children worked that out fairly early on and the particular scheme used in their school soon became known among them as "Read, Write, Stink".

Reminded me rather forcefully of my own early education. My parents (and my grandfather in particular, who moved to live with us shortly before I started school) made the mistake of letting me learn how to read before I went to school. Since reading was about 75% of what that school did with its early years classes, I found myself bored to tears at the back of the class, having completed the reading scheme (why did the red lorry have to go up the hill?) independently.

I was tasked with running errands during reading lessons - collecting dinner numbers, that sort of thing.

It all came to a head when the school made the mistake of bringing my mother in as a supply teacher to a reception class. She had been trained at the Montessori school in London and was not only displeased with the curriculum, but thoroughly outraged to see me - aged about 6 - up on the stage in the school hall, reading a poem or something and being held up by the head as "an example to all you bigger children who are about to go to secondary school but still can't read this well".

Or somesuch.

My father had always been an advocate of education through the medium of the Welsh language, but my mother was wary of it and had insisted I go to the local English school as neither she nor my father were fluent in Welsh. After that incident, however, she moved me to the local Welsh school saying something along the lines of, well, he won't be able to sit at the back of the class there!

Teaching reading is an emotive subject because everyone has pet theories. Mine? Get the children interested in the content of books (by reading to them) and they will soon want - and learn - to read for themselves. Of course there can be problems such as dyslexia to get around, but personally I don't think phonics is the be-all and end-all that government has seemed to think it is for the last 10+ years, certainly not for more than very, very basic English (I think it teaches bad habits which are difficult to shake off), though it has to be said that other languages (and I only have particular experience of Welsh) are much more amenable to phonetic decoding than English.

M.

Martin an gof Silver badge

Re: There should be an IT Driving Test

I looked at one when they first came out, and laughed. I imagine the same is true of other qualifications. For example, I have an IPAF licence. It qualifies me to operate certain types of access equipment (cherry pickers, scissor lifts). I've taken the test several times, the first in 2000.

After a hiatus of six or seven years and a couple of job changes, my new job needed me to re-qualify. The test consists of a written (mostly multiple-choice) exam paper and a practical test. I've re-taken it twice since, and each time the examiner (a different one each time) likes to make you take the paper before you've done the study, find out where weaknesses are and make sure you know the answers before taking it "for real".

I can't remember my scores back in 2000 (can't remember any problems), but on that unprepared first-take after a 7 year break? 100%. And 100% in the for-real paper, and 100% and 100% five years later, and (oh dear) 98% (one missed question) and 100% five years after that. I've never been a straight-A student, mostly Bs and Cs...

M.

Total Eclipse to depart: Open-source software foundation is hopping the pond to Europe

Martin an gof Silver badge

Re: A long time coming

Don’t get me started on not allowing a normal 24h clock

Our printer has a clock on the panel display. It can be set to 12h or 24h.

In 12h, ten past two in the afternoon displays as 2:10pm

In 24h, ten past two in the afternoon displays as 02:10pm

Wut?

M.

The iMac at 22: How the computer 'too odd to succeed' changed everything ... for Apple, at least

Martin an gof Silver badge

Re: The full-blown Apple formula

I think the early mice did indeed only have one button. Context menus could (still can) be brought up by <ctrl>-clicking (or whatever passes for ctrl on a Mac keyboard...

Acorn's three-button mouse is still the best ;-)

M.

Martin an gof Silver badge

Re: Don't forget...

Oh yes, the notch. I'd forgotten that. Even when third party USB devices did come out you needed a blasted adapter because standard USB plugs wouldn't fit into Apple's notched sockets. Talk about lock-in!

M.

Martin an gof Silver badge
Boffin

Re: So near, yet so far

And thanks to everyone for the EQ suggestions

If Susan isn't afraid of tech, personally I'd feed the sound into an external device and fiddle a few knobs. Either directly from the headphone socket or via a USB connection to an external interface or into a proper mixer with USB input:

Tiny mixer, bigger mixer.

M.

Martin an gof Silver badge

Re: The full-blown Apple formula

People — the people for whom the iMac was designed, consumers — flocked to the iMac when it was introduced.

I never said that they didn't.

the machine ditched bad interfaces in favo[u]r of better ones. SCSI had never been anything but problematic on the Mac...

If that's the case then it was the fault of Apple, not of the standard. The way SCSI worked was pretty easily understood and seemed to work in other systems, most of the time. Terminator voodoo notwithstanding.

and ADB (the loss of which caused far more complaints in the Mac user base) was already well past simply "showing its age."

Does it really matter for a bus that essentially only had to deal with keyboard and mouse? By the time of the iMac, it would have cost Apple a very few cents to add an ADB connector to each machine and it would have made migrating existing users much less painful.

But it didn't fit with the "design-led" approach. And it wouldn't have enabled Apple to squeeze every last penny out of a buying public who were lustful for something that not only worked, but actually looked pretty.

I think my point is that while there were a lot of really good ideas in the iMac, it was its marketing that really won and Apple knew that with the correct marketing they could play as fast and loose as they liked with their existing customers. They didn't have to ditch every previous standard, particularly when:

third parties were selling USB to serial adapters within year

Given the sheer number of peripherals which relied on a serial connection, there should have been serial interfaces on day one. There should have been alternative keyboards and mice on day one, there should have been a portable information transfer medium on day one, but that didn't matter because by not providing those things, people were forced to accept Apple's own solutions. These days we forget what a sheer amount of hassle it was because whenever Apple changes the connector on an iPhone it doesn't take a year for third party devices to appear, they are out within a few weeks.

Still causes me hassle though, because every time Apple (or these days, Microsoft) changes the ports on a laptop I have to explain to the hip-and-trendy yet again, that our very nice projectors have standard HDMI and VGA interfaces and won't talk to their Air or Surface without an appropriate adapter. No I don't have one because up until now, no-one has needed one.

I've told the story here previously of a trade show we held where one exhibitor insisted on wired internet rather than our WiFi, and then complained when I presented her with an RJ45 as it was "the wrong type of plug". Her Macbook didn't have a standard network socket. I assume she left the adapter she normally used on the desk at work. Maybe she didn't realise it was an adapter.

Yes, of course, everyone with any kind of sense recognised even before the iMac came out that USB would eventually supplant pretty much all other low- and medium-speed interfaces and the fact that USB actually worked in the iMac when Windows struggled even to run a USB desk fan certainly helped. But in the early 2000s USB wasn't anywhere near being a replacement for external SCSI though of course, there was Firewire for that. Shame that even though it had been available for several years, very few devices had swapped from SCSI to Firewire. Perhaps if the PC market had taken it up a bit more enthusiastically :-)

Rambling, sorry.

M.

Martin an gof Silver badge

Re: The full-blown Apple formula

In Yorkshire?

Seemed to be standard(ish) in South Yorks. Put it this way, when I married, my wife - a teacher in Doncaster and Rotherham - had never used a GUI other than Mac OS. The few primary schools that I knew well in the area all had Macs, I suspect there were at least some Windows machines in the secondary schools, but up until the early 2000s, Macs were favoured by the education authority.

M.

Martin an gof Silver badge

Re: And that means Apple is now 44.

I just really wish Woz had won the argument.

Which particular argument?

M.

Martin an gof Silver badge

The full-blown Apple formula

Make it "desirable" - this machine looked different, in a good way, to anything else on the market.

Make it familiar - it ran Apple's OS. In the 'states and in Yorkshire (oddly), Apple was standard in schools*

Give it some useful features that few other devices have - even in 1998, networking was an "extra" for Windows machines (certainly those destined for the home) - very few motherboards (did any?) came with a port as standard and consumer machines often didn't include the add-in card. Installing a network card on Windows was far from plug-and-play even once W98 was out but here it was, already built-in and working in the iMac.

After all the good stuff you then make it incompatible with previous and other systems in clever ways.

The machine had a CD drive, but IIRC it was read-only, not a writer, so the only way to get information out of the machine was by network or by "something" that plugged into a USB port. Of course, Apple had such devices ready.

Unceremoniously ditching the external SCSI bus and the Apple Desktop Bus meant that anyone already invested in the system had to buy new peripherals (they couldn't bring the keyboard from their old Mac with them), and with Windows's USB stack being somewhat fragile at that point (from what I remember) the market for third-party USB peripherals was quite small.

So Apple made a desirable machine, the buying of which was only the first part, and also made a lot of money from the add-ons.

It's a formula that worked for them for many years after that (as witnessed by the sheer variety of adapters I have to carry at work in order to be able to connect Apple machines to projectors), but seems to have fallen apart more recently, or maybe the PowerMac's monitor stand and case wheels are just someone trying to see how far they can push the punters.

M.

*I understand the point about the clones. Apple saw Microsoft and thought they could emulate them, completely forgetting that while Microsoft had always been purely a software company (that has failed time after time in hardware), Apple had always been a software *and* hardware company. What most people forget with the clone debacle though is that it introduced a lot more people to MacOS who would otherwise have ignored it on cost grounds alone. When the clone market was shuttered, these people had often already invested time and money in MacOS software and were either going to have to start from scratch with Windows or would be compelled to buy new Apple hardware. I would contend that while in the short run the clones were (very) bad for Apple, once Apple had blocked the clone makers, the larger userbase became an asset - people who would in future buy Apple hardware.

QUIC, dig in: Microsoft open-sources MsQuic, its implementation of Google-spawned TCP-killer QUIC

Martin an gof Silver badge
WTF?

Ok, I have to ask...

what is an "internal dogfood environment"? Sounds smelly.

M.

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