* Posts by irrelevant

237 publicly visible posts • joined 30 Mar 2010


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


Re: Not a million miles away ...

Trying to set up a fediverse instance this week.. Start with a fresh and up to date install of Ubuntu each time.. I tried four different software setups, follow the setup scripts to the letter. Every one failed somewhere along the line. I managed to solve some of the issues, but it wasn't until I tried the very latest version of mastodon, released after I'd started this exercise, that I finally got the bloody thing working, and at that, it had told me to install the wrong version of Ruby than it then required later on.

China's single aisle passenger jet – the C919 – likely to be certified next week


Re: Russian market?

From what I read, around about the time Russia effectively confiscated all the planes they had on lease, as soon as they stop using certified parts or maintenance companies, the whole plane would need to be pretty much torn apart and every part checked and recertified before it would be allowed to fly again anywhere else. The cost of doing this would probably exceed their book value, thus they are effectively worthless already.

Terminal downgrade saves the day after a client/server heist


Re: RAM removal

One customer, they used to do maintenance on mobile cranes. Massive heavy bits of machinery on lots of wheels. Absolutely nothing will stop them if, say, someone hotwires one and drives it into the side of your office building, as they found out one morning...

After losing too many computers too often, they came up with a system where all the PCs we're locked in a room at the back of the site, enclosed in a cage that looked like welded rebar. They then used VGA/keyboard extenders to drive monitors on the desks elsewhere..


Re: RAM removal

Had a break in at work, ~2000. Nicked a load of PCs. So the boss told us to lock all office doors in future. So when they came back couple of weeks later, and kicked their way through every door, the cost was significantly more. This time we get told not to bother locking them...

Issue was solved by new shutters at the front door, and bars at the windows. First few months, the bars were copper water pipe held in place by bits of timber, all spray painted white. Anybody could have broken through them, but they looked the part, so the crims stopped trying.

Doctor gave patients the wrong test results due to 'printer problems'


Re: Anecdote

Same at my GP.

25 years ago, new house, new phone line, asked to be ex-directory. Then discovered from people who wanted to phone us, and had called Directory Enquiries, that there was someone else with the same name half a dozen doors down the road, whom were not XD, and, being the only match on our road showing up, had their number given out instead!

Burger King just sent spam receipts to customers



I got three..

On the plus side, now I know all the emails I registered in their app! (it was purely to access the offers.)

Is handy to have several accounts on these things, to get around the "only one offer per day/visit" limits. Although, for BK UK the code for a cheap whopper meal (APP35) hasn't changed in years, and I sometimes don't even bother loading the app when ordering via the drive through - they've never asked to see it! (Though I'm not sure if anything has changed the with new loyalty scheme they launched a couple of weeks ago.)

A character catastrophe for a joker working his last day


Re: Nothing so severe

Many years ago, when the supermarkets had money to waste on such things, a nearby ASDA had a greeter who would wander about the store with a microphone linked to the tannoy, making announcements about special offers, discounts, etc. If he got called away for something, he had a habit of stashing the mike on the top shelf somewhere.

This stopped after I was in one day and was suddenly greeted by the not-so-pleasant warbling of a very small child doing their best to bash out some unidentifiable song, amplified across the entire store. I can only presume he'd not hidden it well, or it had fallen off it's place, and been found by said youngster!

We've got a photocopier and it can copy anything


Re: Years ago....

I generally put my return address on the back of a letter as simply

"From: <number> <post code>"

The one time it turned out to be necessary, the letter did get back to me successfully. Complete with a sticker with the full address printed on it - presumably the system still relied to some extent on humans needing to parse a conventional address..

Know the difference between a bin and /bin unless you want a new doorstop


Hmm. TRS-80 was the first computer I used, at school. Model 1 machines, linked via their cassette port and a switch box to a model 3 with a disc drive - it could share programmes by using "cload" on the stations while saving on the m3..

First with a floppy I got to handle myself, either an RML380Z, or a Data General Nova, both at dad's work (Tameside College of Technology.)

First floppy off my own, hung from a BBC Micro..

I did try writing my own operating system on the Beeb, though it was more of a task switcher/scheduler, for a second processor equipped machine, with terminal sessions coming from other machines on the LAN. Would have been cool if I'd ever finished it.

How one techie ended up paying the tab on an Apple Macintosh Plus


Re: Under construction

I can't remember its name now, but CompuServe had a free "homepage" generator you could use to create your HTML.. It was dire - each paragraph could be either plain text, OR a link or other element. No in-line links here, thank you very much! Front Page was a dream, after that, although even then I realised that the HTML it created was dreadful.

That time a techie accidentally improved an airline's productivity


Re: Easy to miss something trivial

And predictive text is a right pain in the bum, especially when using a phone with a dodgy screen, so I miss the occasional incorrect word. Sigh.


Re: Easy to miss something trivial

Given the lack of punctuation in most online posts I see from the younger generation, I don't gibbous they do manage..

And the number of people I've seen generate capitals by pressing Caps Lock either side is significant..


Re: Easy to miss something trivial

One set of directions I remember to this day. "turn right half way along <very long road>"

Not very helpful if you've never been there before..


Re: Everybody knows...

One memorable support call I got.. "I got an error message when I did <task>." me: "What's the error code?" them: "I don't know, it was yesterday, and it's not happened again." Not much I could do in those circumstances..


Re: Everybody knows...

Argh! Reminded me of early pc motherboard manuals...

Take a cryptically named BIOS option, with just Enabled or Disabled as possible values. No idea what it is, or if it'd be appropriate to use, so look it up in the provided manual. Sum total of help: "Set to Enabled to enable <cryptic name>." Er, yeah, I'd worked that much out already.

Client demo in 30 minutes. Just what could go wrong?


Re: It was BT for me

Yups... Checked my emails: October 2000 I was one of the first 1000 to get ADSL installed by Freeserve. I'm not sure if anyone else was doing it any earlier

JavaScript library updated to wipe files from Russian computers


Re: No lessons learned

Set of temporary traffic lights near me failed just a couple of days ago. Gone are the days of an electromechanical timer and wires strung between them; these have smarts and link via radio. Much more to go wrong. And they did.

At least they failed to all-red. Chaos on the street though. I let the cops know (driving through a red light is still an offence) but some good samaritan decided to push them all over instead..

An open-source COBOL contender emerges



Seconded. I'm another who spent two decades with COBOL on the wrong systems. In my case BOS/COBOL and a database driven variant carried Speedbase running on BOS, a now-obscure cross platform operating system geared up to provide multi-user business applications on commodity hardware. (24 serial terminals on a 286 was one system I supported. It worked well.) I never even came across the Big Iron ecosystems.

(if anybody has any work to offer.... )

Saving a loved one from a document disaster


Re: The joy...

I seem to get a lot of "but before you do that.." when I'm about to go do something. Usually followed by the aforementioned "can you just.."

Beware the techie who takes things literally


Email from me to my ISP, 1997.

Dear Sales,

Received: from upsmot01.msn.com ([]) by mailhost.nwnet.co.uk

(post.office MTA v1.9.3b **** trial license expired ****)

with SMTP id AAA162 for <robert@########.nwnet.co.uk>;

Sun, 2 Mar 1997 00:22:56 +0000

Are you ever going to get a proper registered version of post.office ?

Real-time software? How about real-time patching?


Re: Firefighters

I'm not sure I had a job title, but turn of the century I was working for a small (not-my-)family business, reseller of a now-obscure accounts software suite. I was doing everything from installing serial terminals, Windows networking, general tech support, writing custom software in COBOL, debugging and patching crashed data to reverse engineering third party software to create data extraction tools. No day was the same. Massive variety, loved the work and the customer interaction, shame my boss, MD of the company, was a dick whom took advantage and ended up forcing my hand into leaving.

When forgetting to set a password for root is the least of your woes


Re: Nobody told me I wasn't allowed to do it.

The Great Prestel Hack was, I was reliably informed, because the password for System Manager (the highest level account on the system) was 1234.

Bouncing cheques or a bouncy landing? All in a day's work for the expert pilot


Re: Serial to VGA? All you need is an adapter!

I had to get out my box of miscellaneous serial adapters just a couple of weeks ago... Bit of second hand* network kit wasn't talking on the default IP address, and I couldn't immediately work out what IP it was on. It wasn't asking for a DHCP address anyway, plus I had suspicions that if I did find it, it'd be password protected. But, it had a DE9 on the back. Connected the breakout box via an adapter, and it had lights in all the right places for a serial port. Plugged in the other side to a USB>RS232 adapter, again via an adapter and a quick crossover adapter, and was able to talk to the thing. Single user mode was easy by just interrupting the boot process, and I managed to factory reset it.

* eBay "seller refurbished, fully working." Hrmph. I didn't even power it up until I removed one of their asset stickers that completely covered the air vents at one end..

Google sours on legacy G Suite freeloaders, demands fee or flee



I've seen a lot of coverage on this, on the tech sites, twitter, etc,, but nobody has admitted to receiving any notice. I've not.

I'm in same boat, used it since 2006, as do my entire family across multiple domains on two Google Apps for Domains.. It was marketed at us! And because its easy, I have extra accounts for seldom monitored things, not just one per person. Pay-per-account will hit us hard. I'm paying per month for extra storage on a couple of the accounts, but nowhere near that much.

I'm dreading losing the android logins, though I think most stuff the Mrs has bought has been against her Hotmail.com Google account thankfully. If I can't migrate the workspace based accounts to such a third-party-address based Google accounts I'll be pissed!

I'm already hosting some services in house, and was looking at dropping my paid Web hosting, using the savings on a second Internet link for resilience, so this is making me think quite hard about running my own mail servers again too. Anybody got any suggestions on that side.

To err is human. To really screw things up requires a wayward screwdriver



About 20 years ago now, I was installing some new data points in the office area of a client's factory. Cheap job, nothing hard, bit of cat5 from a panel at the other side of the office across a false ceiling and down some mini trunking to a new socket at skirting height. It was late in the day, all the staff had gone home bar the client's Financial Director, whom we were doing the work for. I was working on the last socket, crouched on the floor, simultaneously texting my girlfriend (now wife) as to why I was going to be late home, when there was a bang, a sharp pain on the top of my head, and some bright flashing lights behind my eyes.

It transpired that the FD, keen to help, or maybe just wanting to get home quicker, had hopped on a desk and tried to reposition the ceiling tiles that I'd moved to string the cable. Unfortunately, these were old, large and heavy, possibly asbestos or some sort of fireproof cement things, rather than the more usual soft sort, and he promptly dropped one. Right onto my head.

He ended up taking me to the local hospital where they applied stitches and checked me out for concussion. My boss turned up to collect me and take me home; I can't now remember who collected the van. My gf was worried sick because I'd suddenly stopped replying to her texts, and didn't arrive home for hours..

A time when cabling was not so much 'structured' than 'survival of the fittest'


Re: They had it coming.

Bloody hell, I remember that. I was taught how to lace up a wiring loom, 1982, Ferranti Training Center, Moston. When I finished the year there, and moved over to Cheadle, everything was already using plastic cable ties.

You've stolen the antiglare shield on that monitor you've fixed – they say the screen is completely unreadable now


Re: Shameless repost, but it fits :)

First PC I had, an Amstrad PC1512, came with my now ex-, got destroyed by cat pee.. Claimed on the household insurance as accidental damage.. It's surprising quite how devastating the stuff can be.


Re: Cat litter

We had a customer that moved into an ex-cat litter plant. I think they just had the warehouse, but even there, every surface was covered in the stuff. You dare not lean on the walls, even. Only place I've been that had a wheel-wash for the departing lorries. They, rather sensibly in my opinion, put the office staff and thus most of the IT in a portacabin in the car park.

Worst PC for contamination I had to fix was in the windows 3 days, an early Dell desktop from a furniture factory. It had a good half inch of sawdust inside - you couldn't even see the motherboard. Thankfully machines those days didn't need quite the level of active cooling as nowadays, but they did need some.. I think it only failed because the small fan on the processor got submerged. From the stories above, I guess I got off lucky!

Wi-Fi not working? It's time to consult the lovely people on those fine Linux forums


Re: oh...

The diagram showing how to connect a VTX5000 (modem and Prestel adapter) for the ZX Spectrum omitted to include the Spectrum's power lead... Despite presumably having had it connected at some point before they bought the modem, as I'd not expect people to buy an expensive addon without having a previously working computer, we (Micronet 800 Technical Help) still got occasional calls for which the answer was, after some diagnostics, "plug it in"..

Log4j doesn't just blow a hole in your servers, it's reopening that can of worms: Is Big Biz exploiting open source?



I've written lots of odd bits of code in my time; those which I've felt might be useful to others I've shared on github or other places. It's usually on a BSD licence, because it's simple, and these releases are more of a fire-and-forget thing. I have no expectation of making money off them.

The one big project I've been working on has, so far, not seen a public release. I'm in two minds about this, though. It's been a lot of work, but as a commercial venture I've probably got less potential customers than I have fingers on one hand.

Serves me right for mostly concentrating on stuff to support really obscure (these days) retro-tech I suppose! But it's fun, and makes me feel good, knowing I'm helping in some small way with preservation of our digital heritage.

(compared to if anybody needs some freelance BOS\COBOL support, I'd be happy to revisit my old day-job to help, but I'll need some pennies throwing my way to get the same level of enthusiasm!)

How to destroy expensive test kit: What does that button do?


Re: "More magic"

See also "the engineers finger" in the original BBC Micro. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/BBC_Micro

I would drive 100 miles and I would drive 100 more just to be the man that drove 200 miles to... hit the enter key


Oh god, the memories...

Not quite in the same league distance wise, Stockport -> Liverpool and back, but same issue. And these speakers WERE colour-coded. And in the wrong coloured socket. Argh.

Computer shuts down when foreman leaves the room: Ghost in the machine? Or an all-too-human bit of silliness?


Cubucle Lights

Mrs Irrelevant spent a considerable portion of 2019-2020 in the local hospital, and thus so did I. The corridor nearest the ward she was in had a set of four toilets, in each of which was a motion-sensitive light. During the day, when they were busy, the lights ended up staying on pretty much all the time. Not so at night.

It took me some time to work out, but I finally worked out what was so iffy about the light in cubicle 4... It would often fail to come on at night, whereas in the daytime it was fine. It turned out that if you activated the light in cubicle 3, then the one in 4 would work too. If 3 had timed out and turned off, then nothing you did would make the light in 4 come in. Obviously someone had wired it's feed up to the output of the motion sensor in 3, rather than having them all in parallel...

I did try to report it to maintenance, but I don't think they understood; it certainly never got fixed whilst I was visiting, and is probably still like that to this day.

How to stop a content filter becoming a career-shortening network component


Re: Keyword filtering

Worse, I used to live in Chorlton-cum-Hardy ...

Typically referred to as "The Scunthorpe Problem" ..

Electrocution? All part of the service, sir!


Re: Self-electrocution

Decorating my bedroom with Fairy Lights bought from a jumble sale, I'm not sure how old, but before I was ten.. Got several shocks from those before I learned to be more careful! One doesn't initially realise that even though the bulbs are rated at 12V or whatever, break the circuit, the ends are at the full 240V!


Re: I had a similar "shock" once

Mid 90s, I was doing a house re-wire as a favour for friends of my now-ex. The previous occupant of the house had done some 'interesting' modifications to the electricals, such as a pair of thin "bell wire" wires sticking out high up a wall, with a label "for clock" attached. (Judicious testing identified them as live, so I went looking for the source. Under the floorboards of the bedroom above, the ring main cables had been stripped back to bare copper, and this thin stuff *wrapped around them* then the boards replaced - nothing to secure the joint, no insulation, nothing...)

To try and make sense of this mess wasn't going to fly, so I was replacing everything. That evening I was in the kitchen and had already pulled every fuse bar a 32 or 40A fuse for the cooker - the cooker had one of the old isolation switches with a regular 13A socket built in, into which I plugged a table lamp to get some light. I'd been working my way around the kitchen pulling the old sockets and just cutting the wires behind because they were not going to get reused. Got to the last socket, squeezed my cutters, and got a large flash of light, a loud bang, and total darkness as the lamp went out. Followed by a hesitant "are you all right?" from the freshly terrified woman who had been watching from the doorway.

Bloody idiot had only wired that socket into the cooker circuit! I was fine; cutters had a decent insulated handle, but they now had a nasty gash out of them, after passing god knows how many Amps at 240V, before the fuse blew, and were pretty much ruined.

I'm especially careful these days!

Scalpel! Superglue! This mouse won't fix its own ball


Re: Ball crud

My daughter asked me for a mouse pad the other day; it seems her desk is too shiny for the optical mouse, and the bit of paper she was using was falling apart!!! Not having one to hand, I had a dig through my workshop and found her a promo one I'd liberated from work some time previously. Still in good condition, it was from a local-ish motor company and promoted the BMW 328ci, which a quick google dates it to the late 90s, about ten years before she was born! She went away happy..

So the data centre's 'getting a little hot' – at 57°C, that's quite the understatement


Re: That reminds me...

Thank you for that explanation!

Early 1980s, I was an apprentice for Ferranti Computer Systems and spent a stint in the department that looked after the computers that work was done on, rather than the ones that we built. Big room, couple of VAX 11/780s, an 11/750 (or might have been the other way around) with the associated tape drives, and a smattering of MicroVaxen to round things off. All linked to terminals all over the various buildings...

I remember coming in one morning to a panic as one of the three 8' high air conditioning units had failed, causing the other two to ice up, and the room temperature to skyrocket... It's nice to know the mechanics of what happened, after all these years!

Elevating bork to a new level (if the touchscreen worked)


In an emergency..

Mrs irrelevant was stuck in one hospital or another for most of 2020.. I won't say which one this happened in, but the block her ward was in at one point had two lifts, one at each end. The lift nearest the main entrance was of of order, so it necessitated a fairly long walk through the ground floor labyrinth to reach the other lesser-used lift. This was a trip we got used to, her needing to step outside for "fresh air" occasionally, and me coming in to see her but not officially being allowed on the ward.

Anyway, taking her back up one evening, secondary lift is sat on ground floor with its doors open. We go in, press the button, doors close, pause, and open again. Reasoning that it might be a sensor not registering a proper closure, we try again, and I give the door a helpful extra shove just as it closes, and it works, and keeps on doing so.

Couple of days later, same problem. Except no amount of shoving or banging the door helps. As she's in a wheelchair, the stairs were not an option.. Phoned the ward, who called maintenance, who promised a visit next day.. In the meantime, they had to find her a bed on another ward she could get to.

It was maybe just as well it failed while she was downstairs, rather than up, though I did wonder about the fire safety implications - it took them over two days to get it working. They eventually fixed the main lift, too..

A hotline to His Billness? Or a guard having a bit of a giggle?


We had similar results emailing the chairman's office of Powergen some years ago over an issue that the regular customer "service" bods couldnt get their head around and kept kicking to the kerb. (Due to a sequence of takeovers, the company we had originally signed up with were no more, and nobody had sent us any bills for about 18 months, then powergen sent us an outrageous one. By quoting their own letters and procedures back at them, and with somebody dealing with it who actually had power to make decisions, it was reduced considerably, then compensation for all the errors reduced it still further, to the point where it was cheap!)

Thanks, boss. The accidental creation of a lights-out data centre – what a fun surprise


Re: A&E light switch

The senior consultant I saw walk up to an external door with a prominent bright red sign "emergency exit only - door is alarmed" and push it open to the sound of a very loud buzzer.

To be fair, I heard her on the phone to security shortly afterwards apologising; she'd just arrived back from leave and prior to her going away it had been an allowed easy way out to the car park.. I can only assume that familiarity made her not notice the new signs.

Congestion or a Christmas cock-up? A Register reader throws himself under the bus


Re: 10,000,000 3" nursery pots

Back in the distant past, when I was an apprentice at Ferranti Computer Systems, one dept I was seconded to (SSG I think) they had boxes and boxes of very wide rainbow ribbon cable all over the place. It seems somebody had needed 100mm for a project, but had ordered (from RS!) 100 boxes (each of many meters.)

I'm still chipping lengths off the portion I was allowed to take, nearly 40 years later..

Global Fastly outage takes down many on the wibbly web – but El Reg remains standing


The first twitter post I saw was someone querying github as a dependency was broken.

The BBC posted a link to a breaking news item that I couldn't see because of the errors, 503 and connection failed. But after a brief "bbc.com does not exist" it started working. Someone said they'd switched away from Fastly, so I guess they had fallback measures in place, unlike most other places.

I loved the verve using a Google Docs page to get the news out, and forgetting to disallow editing....

Ganja believe it? Police make hash of suspected weed farm raid, pot Bitcoin mine instead



The photos in other reports all show banks of machines, not one plugged in to the mains, but still connected to everything else. Did they really just unplug each of them, rather than just switching off the supply, then take the pictures? Seems an odd point to do so. I'd be less surprised to find it was still being set up, hence the lots of visitors.

Copper load of this: Openreach outlines 77 new locations where it'll stop selling legacy phone and broadband products



I've got a DECT base station that talks IP. Ported our main BT number to A&A VoIP years ago, on dropping one off the two phone lines (One for dial-up, one to chat on. Remember those days?) so now I can use whatever Internet access I want, and not have to worry about keeping numbers or technology, or even staying in the right part of the country! Not had any issues with call quality or reliability, and it's been totally transparent to callers and family.

Can't get that printer to work? It's not you. It's that sodding cablin.... oh beautiful job with that cabling, boss


Re: Blame the Cable

It was indeed keyed but could (normally) fit in two ways round. Designers missed a trick totally by not having it wired so that turning it over acted as a cross-over.

Reminds me of one time I got called to a top floor office where someone had tried to set up a BBC Micro and CUB Monitor, and only had a screen full of solid colour. On investigation, they had managed to find a cable that had the 5-pin X on one end, connected to the R423 port, and a 5 pin 180degree on the other that fitted the monitor perfectly .. Swapping the modem cable for a RGB one worked much better...

You want a reboot? I'll give you a reboot! Happy now?



Back in the mists of time, I was working as a programmer at a reseller of accounts software. This was based on a varient of COBOL and ran multi-user on comodity hardware. (the OS was "BOS"..) you could easily support a couple of dozen users on a 286, assuming you'd bolted on enough serial ports - everything ran on serial dumb terminals. Mostly Wyse.

We'd just got this new trainee in at the office, and for lack of anywhere else to sit him, had plonked him at the console of the box running the dev dept. It offered the exact same user interface as the terminals, but usually wasn't used except when somebody needed access to the floppy or tape drive and didn't want to walk across the room twice.

Anyway, we were all beavering away when every terminal in the room froze.. Looking towards the "server", it transpired this new hire had got himself stuck, and spotting he was sat "at a pc" had simply hit the reset or power switch to reboot. We had to educate him gently into the implications of what a "multi-user" system was... I'm fairly sure he didn't do it again, though this might be been achieved by escalating provision of an extra dumb terminal!


Re: "It's the database the police use" ...

I actually got a letter from the local police late last year, "your car was spotted driving without insurance. We expect this was a mistake, fix it." or words thereabouts.

As it happens, it was a mistake, and not even mine. It's a lease car, and they do the insurance, and it seems something had gone wrong when we extended the lease, six months previously.. As it was a weekend I got the letter, and the insurance firm was shut, and now we all knew, I wasn't allowed to drive it. The leasing firm gave us an unlimited taxi account to use until it was sorted out. Nice, if inconvenient..

I'm still amazed that it both took so long for the cops to spot, what with most of my driving being city-centre pottering about, and that they simply wrote to us rather than stopping us and hauling me away in irons.


Re: Hands up, intentional mixup

Ah... The time the bean counters at one client decided to have a purge of all the unused telephone lines coming into the building. Unused determined by "having no call charges."

All the incoming-only fax lines for each department, top floor executives, etc., I would have thought could have been forseen. The kicker was their killing off the ISDN line that was the sole Internet connection for the company. (1990s, so mostly just used for email; only the higher-ups had web access.) It was on some bundle tariff so there were no individual calls listed.

To have one floppy failure is unlucky. To have 20 implies evil magic or a very silly user


Re: Labels

Posted to us by putting it into a Jiffy Bag (padded envelope) because "fragile and valuable"... Then stapled closed...