* Posts by Kubla Cant

2794 publicly visible posts • joined 28 Jun 2010

South Korea opens the door for robots to roam among pedestrians

Kubla Cant

Q: What part of the pavement does a half-tonne robot use?

A: Whatever part it wants to.

How wide are the pavements in South Korea? Will these robots force pedestrians into the road?

And what happens when two half-tonne robots meet at 15km/h on a narrow corner?

Inadequate IT partly to blame for NHS doctors losing 13.5 million working hours

Kubla Cant

Why a specifically NHS problem?

Healthcare isn't exactly a local concern. Most countries in the world have a healthcare system of some kind. The NHS is only unique in its funding model and in its monolithic structure. The requirements should be much the same everywhere, and the data sharing problems should be, if anything, greater in less closely-integrated systems.

Most of the other requirements of healthcare seem to be filled globally. The NHS doesn't design and manufacture its own equipment, and its staff is notoriously drawn from all over the world. So why doesn't it use IT systems that are in use elsewhere?

It's not that many years since the last attempt to address all the NHS IT requirements in one gigantic project. The only output from that seems to have been a gigantic bill.

Programming error created billion-dollar mistake that made the coder ... a hero?

Kubla Cant

Re: Worst code I ever saw...


But in most cases the best solution is to refactor the 80 lines of stuff to one or more well-named methods. The only exception I can think of is where it's 80 lines of essentially repetitive code, so there's little advantage in moving it to an 80-line method.

Tech contractor who uses an umbrella company? UK tax is coming after them

Kubla Cant


^H -> He

^H -> H

is -> His

Two signs in the comms cabinet said 'Do not unplug'. Guess what happened

Kubla Cant

Re: Don't forget mischief

The way that human brains are wired, there is focus on a subject, and negation is not instinctively processed

An interesting related phenomenon:

In streets where pedestrians cross, the words "LOOK RIGHT" are often written on the roadway next to a central reservation or pedestrian refuge, because that is the direction the traffic is coming from when you're in the middle of the road. To avoid confusion, or perhaps just to balance things out, "LOOK LEFT" is written in the roadway at the start of the crossing (i.e. next to the pavement).

When you're getting ready to cross a busy road, you don't naturally look just in front of your feet. Your gaze naturally fixes on your destination, the island or reservation in the middle of the road. So you don't see "LOOK LEFT", but you do see "┴HפIɹ ʞOO˥".

There is no well-established convention that inverted text means the opposite of what it says, and most people can easily read two short words upside down without even registering that it's inverted. So they look the wrong way.

'What's the point of me being in my office, just because they want to see me in the office?'

Kubla Cant

Re: Mandates hahaha

It's obvious various roles could never be done remotely, or are difficult at best.

Less obvious than you might suppose. Here's a story about a GP who lives 250 miles away from her surgery and works from home.

KFC bot urges Germans to mark Kristallnacht with cheesy chicken

Kubla Cant
Thumb Down

it uses a semi-automated system to link calendars with national holidays to its content creation process

Seems to imply that Kristallnacht (or, as in the message, the even more explicit "Reichspogromnacht") is a national holiday in Germany. Do they have holidays to commemorate all their appalling actions?

The boss worked in a fishbowl, so office tricks were a treat

Kubla Cant

Re: Pranks and things

we planted cress on the floor of a room and watered it. He was away at the time and came back to a cress lawn

In pursuance of a long-standing* but mostly inexplicable feud between Trinity College and next-door Balliol College in Oxford, a group of Balliol undergraduates turfed the Trinity Junior Common Room with grass from the quad outside**.

* It was long-standing in 1967. I've no idea if it still exists. Today's pranks probably come with trigger warnings.

** I never saw the result myself, and I expect it was elaborated in the telling, with a few sods of grass turning into a wall-to-wall greensward complete with daffodils.

Your next PC should be a desktop – maybe even this Chinese mini machine

Kubla Cant

Re: Get a Used Desktop


At the start of lockdown I was faced with an urgent requirement for a work laptop running Windows. I bought a reconditioned Lenovo from Amazon for about £120. Arrived next day, big, ugly and scruffy, complete with SSD, USB WiFi dongle, numerous USB and video ports, and Windows 10 Pro. Still giving excellent service.

Firefox points the way to eradicating one of the rudest words online: PDF

Kubla Cant

"Please print out this form, fill it in, and send back a scan."

Even worse, "Please print out this 20-page contract, sign the last page, scan all 20 pages back in, and email it to us".

So I try to add a scanned signature to the original PDF. Not allowed.

Maybe I can just print the final page, scan it and replace it in the original document. Not possible.

Libre Office can edit PDFs, but the result never looks quite like the original document.

The only solution seems to be to print the thing to 20 single-page image files, edit the final one to add a signature, then assemble them all into a new PDF. But life's not long enough, so print'n'scan it is.

20 years on, physicists are still figuring out anomaly in proton experiment

Kubla Cant

Why the gratuitous disrespect for the River Ouse*? It's just across the road from my house, and I can confirm that although not fast-flowing, it's quicker than a slug.

*I appreciate that there are several rivers called Ouse, but the other Ouses are generally subject to a geographical qualification. Ours is the Great Ouse, and therefore the defining instance.

Too bad, contractors: UK government reverses decision to axe IR35 tax reform

Kubla Cant

Re: Critical correction

… or like everyone else their ability to investigate (and prosecute as required) has been hampered. by Government funding cuts

Not true.

When the original IR35 was introduced in 2000 there was a certain amount of panic among contractors. Then it was pointed out that HMRC (Inland Revenue as it then was) has hardly ever won an employment status case, including the odd one where they tried to prove somebody was not an employee.

Good news for UK tech contractors as govt repeals IR35 tax rules

Kubla Cant

New IR35 rules were introduced for businesses in April 2022...

Funny, I could swear I've been subject to IR35 since 2020.

Using the datacenter as a dining room destroyed the platters that matter

Kubla Cant

"big old Winchester-style disk machines, the ones that looked like spin dryers and took platter disk packs, one active and one backup."

If it has disk packs, it's not a Winchester. I believe Winchester was the name for the first disks that ran in sealed containers.

Terminal downgrade saves the day after a client/server heist

Kubla Cant

Back when VAX was a thing, someone smashed a window and broke into our machine room. The only thing they thought worth taking was a MicroVAX. Presumably they thought it was a PC. Good luck selling that in the pub.

Japan to change laws that require use of floppy disks

Kubla Cant

guillemets to stand in for the greater-than or less-than characters

I've tried using guillemets, but they always fly away.

In a time before calculators, going the extra mile at work sometimes didn't add up

Kubla Cant

No question that £sd was an inconvenient system and nearly impossible to automate.

But there's no doubt that having to spend a lot of time at primary school practising arithmetic in £sd and Imperial units was very good training. Perhaps it was time that could have been better spent on other aspects of maths (though to my limited knowledge the subjects included at O Level, as it then was, were more advanced than those in today's GCSE maths).

Kubla Cant

Re: Of course, Britain went decimal shortly afterwards!

I believe barristers fees were quoted in guineas, with the clerk taking the shilling commission. I know nothing of the Bar, but as with auctioneers, I'd be surprised if it hasn't risen above 5%.

Kubla Cant

Re: The d in £sd

There's a regiment of the mealy-mouthed, mostly on the BBC, who insist on calling the delimiter in a URL "stroke". This is apparently because they think "slash" is a rude word. I feel bound to point out that if they haven't heard anything ruder than "slash" on the BBC, they haven't been listening.

I thought that if they don't like "slash" they should call it a solidus, so it's a disappointment to lean that the gods of Unicode consider them distinct characters. That said, I'd be surprised to learn that even the most fastidious metal fonts differentiated them.

Kubla Cant

Re: Bank Accounts

"You wonder how they remember to breathe" seems harsh.

"Reforming" the telephone number system implies that there was an old, bad system that was reformed to the new, good system that we shall use for ever more. Phone numbers have been subject to sporadic modification since the phone was invented. The largest change I can remember was the conversion to all-figure numbers, more like 50 years ago than 30. I suppose the 1992 change must have been the additional digits required because of the unforeseen size of the address space.

Who bothers to memorise numbers in the age of mobile phones? I can recall several numbers that I haven't used for 50 years, but I don't know my wife's mobile number.

Mouse hiding in cable tray cheesed off its bemused user

Kubla Cant

Many years ago we installed a Sun server in a machine room that was otherwise entirely populated with VAXes. It came as an unpleasant surprise to find that the Sun machine would crash if you disconnected the serial console.

There's no place like GNOME: Project hits 25, going on 43

Kubla Cant


These days, GNOME Shell itself is written in JavaScript

JavaScript has its strengths, but it's a difficult language to write safe, unambiguous code in. It also suffers the inevitable performance penalty of interpreted script, even when JIT compiled. The reason that's always given for the persistence of JavaScript in web apps is that it's installed on billions of browsers so using anything else will be swimming against the stream.

The idea that a project that installs its own runtime environment and can therefore use any language it wants, would choose JavaScript, has me gasping for breath.

Yeah, we'll just take that first network handshake. What could possibly go wrong?

Kubla Cant

Re: The guiding principle

You'd have thought that a company the size of Google would have thought to strip formatting characters out of the data being formatted, but no.

A list of top 10 search keywords might terminate a comma if there are only 9 keywords. If no keywords, it might be all commas.

The thing that's really weird is sending a delimited list in a JSON response, when an array would be appropriate.

Enough with the notifications! Focus Assist will shut them u… 'But I'm too important!'

Kubla Cant

Because I live near a road junction, I get to hear a lot of lorries warning people that they are turning left. What puzzles me is why the manufacturers decided to have the warnings voiced by Donald Duck.

Incidentally, I thought Dabbsy lived in France. If so, it's odd that his "neighborhood" is in America.

Lapping the computer room in record time until the inevitable happens

Kubla Cant

Re: Green energy

Use the energy they generate to power the computers.

"It's the month-end invoice run - pedal faster!"

I paid for it, that makes it mine. Doesn’t it? No – and it never did

Kubla Cant

Re: Physical media is still the best

There's a Thunderbird setting to leave downloaded messages on the server.

Kubla Cant

Re: You know you're old when...

stale 12-hour old water

I've got bad news for you. That water was probably delivered to Earth by a comet millions of years ago. It was probably zooming around on the comet for a while before that. I don't think an extra eight hours by your bed will make it much staler.

We've got a photocopier and it can copy anything

Kubla Cant

Re: Bank of England going to trade show

if the copies were good enough - they changed the bank notes to make it even harder

Up to a point....

The average improvement cycle for copiers, taken across all brands, is probably less than a year.

Bank of England notes get redesigned much less frequently.

Dev's code manages to topple Microsoft's mighty SharePoint

Kubla Cant

Include an option to hide\show disabled features

And wait for the support calls complaining that lots of menu items have appeared/disappeared for no apparent reason.

FYI: BMW puts heated seats, other features behind paywall

Kubla Cant

A pricing model similar to that used for IBM mainframes in days gone by.

This is the military – you can't just delete your history like you're 15

Kubla Cant

"They don't like it up 'em" - but in this case it seems that "they" were the senior officers, and "'em" were the ladies in the videos.

BTW spent the rest of their tour doing hard labor - were they sent to America to do it?

Visual Studio adds ability to edit code in All-in-One Search

Kubla Cant

Sounds rather like the default behaviour of IntelliJ's find in files. If so, it's pretty intuitive - anywhere we show you code, you can edit that code.

BOFH: HR's gold mine gambit – they get the gold and we get the shaft

Kubla Cant

Re: ah, the HR other shoe scenario

We just wanted you to feel like you're part of the process

Especially galling when you have no interest in the process and think it's a complete waste of time.

openSUSE Leap 15.4: The best desktop on the RPM side of the Linux world

Kubla Cant

Re: OpenSuse is a good distro, with a few bugs

SuSE looked like it could be a really great Linux bistro

That's a problem when you're looking for a distro.

It's fun to speculate on what a Linux bistro would be like. A menu offering thousands of dishes, many of them similar. If you don't like your food, you are welcome to set up in a corner of the kitchen and start cooking a variant menu. In the middle of the kitchen, a group of chefs are fighting over the right way to make stock.

Kubla Cant

I wholly endorse your admiration for Tom Lehrer.

But it's worth pointing out that the quotation dates from 1953. According to the US Census Bureau "The median income of men with money incomes in 1953 was estimated at $3,200", so $3,000, while modest, is not as derisory as it now seems.

Whatever you do, don't show initiative if you value your job

Kubla Cant

Backout procedure?

It's not rocket surgery. A simple plan on one sheet of paper would suffice, even when working with Windows XP.

1. This is how I propose to apply the change.

2. This is how I will verify if the result is as expected.

3. This is how I will back out the change if it didn't work as expected.

Note that the correct answer to 3 is not "Phone the software suppliers and wait for them to send us a reinstallation disk".

Failed gambler? How about an algorithm that predicts the future

Kubla Cant

If I asked them what this algorithm might look like in its final form, they'd probably say: "Er… brown?"

Well, the eponymous Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi was from Iran.

Logitech Pop: Stylish, portable, but far from the best typing experience

Kubla Cant

Just what I came to say. "salubrious" means "health-giving; healthy" (OED).

OpenVMS on x86-64 reaches production status with v9.2

Kubla Cant

Re: I wonder how many people still remember how to use it?

I was working on Rdb systems when it was sold to Oracle. We all went to a presentation at the local Oracle office. There they cheerily told us that future support contracts were going to be very, very expensive, because that's the only way they could fund development. This may be a software fact of life, but only Oracle would boast about it.

Switch off the mic if it makes you feel better – it'll make no difference

Kubla Cant

There's quite a bit of discussion of the problem on Apple-related fora. It seems likely that it's because the monitors are identical. Possibly the MacBook can tell the difference between two £4k Apple monitors, but it can't be bothered to distinguish between cheapo Samsung ones.

Kubla Cant

Not just Windows. I have to WFH on a MacBook. It's a reasonable computer, but I can't understand why they're supposed to be a panacea for the technically challenged, as the O/S is like a cheese dream.

I use a USB webcam with its own mic, but the MacBook randomly decides to use its own mic even when its case is shut. It's worse with the camera: not only does it randomly choose one, but sometimes it shown nothing from either camera and has to be rebooted.

And then there's the screens. I have two monitors plus the so-called Retina Display (Why? Retinas are for seeing things, not displaying them - it's like calling the TV a camera). When the MacBook boots, or even when it wakes from sleep, it randomly jumbles the screen positions so I have to crank up System Preferences and drag them back into the right order.

But it's achingly cool, of course.

Clustered Pi Picos made to run original Transputer code

Kubla Cant

Re: Transputer?

17, 33, 45 and 72 rpm records

Not 17, but 16⅔ - half 33⅓.

Despite living through the entire cycle, from 78 rpm onwards, I have never seen a 16⅔ rpm record.

It is possible there were portable valve radios

Indeed, my grandma owned one. ISTR it contained a huge Ever Ready battery that didn't last long and couldn't be recharged, so listening to it was probably an expensive activity.

Robots are creepy. Why trust AIs that are even creepier?

Kubla Cant

Re: True AI

So you're saying Dabbsy is actually Marvin?

No. Marvin wouldn't use the USAian misspelling of 'axe'. He's been replaced by Clippy.

"hack it to pieces with an ax"

Buying a USB adapter: Pennies. Knowing where to stick it: Priceless

Kubla Cant

Re: Lost dog pictures

I won a full 2 dozens of Duvel beer bottles

I think I'd prefer to get the beer.

Unable to write 'Amusing Weekly Column'. Abort, Retry, Fail?

Kubla Cant


One for the traditionalists

Half of bosses out of touch with reality, study shows

Kubla Cant

Re: I don't know about anyone else

Interesting that the malaise known as "presenteeism" doesn't go away when working from home.

Kubla Cant

Re: And the other half will follow...

Yes you are and although no one company can erase that experience, if enough return to 2019 but you're not willing...

I'm perfectly willing to return to on-site working* as long as I'm paid extra for four hours commuting, subsistence, exposure to infections (not just you-know-what - I've been free from the annual colds and flu since I started WFH).

* not really, it's just a figure of speech

Kubla Cant

Re: Employees hold all the cards, it’s too late…

True, but I don't see eating lots of sandwiches in order to boost my pension as a reliable retirement strategy.

Microsoft proposes type syntax for JavaScript

Kubla Cant

Re: I'm in two minds here

I hate to go in to bat for Microsoft, but they did a lot of good with TypeScript and VSCode.

Deutsche Bank seeks options as sanctions threaten Russian dev unit

Kubla Cant

My experience is that all Deutsche Bank devs work on Citrix virtual desktops, so even when checked out the code stays on the servers.

edit: ninjad by Steve Channell