* Posts by A K Stiles

786 posts • joined 16 Jul 2010


Insurance startup backtracks on running videos of claimants through AI lie detector

A K Stiles

Re: I have to drive a fucking pile o' shite Aurelis as an insurance courtesy car atm ...

"Is a wookie a bear?"

Interesting postulation - does a wookie poop in the region of high tree-density? Will it attempt to tear your arms off for looking at its cubs the wrong way?

How not to apply for a new job: Apply for it on a job site

A K Stiles

another beautiful bit of prose

Perfectly capturing the joy/nightmare that is third party recruitment and HR services. <shudder>

I may not be in the first thrills of this particular employment, but it sure as hell beats the circus of applying for new ones!

For blinkenlights sake.... RTFM! Yes. Read The Front of the Machine

A K Stiles

Re: late nineties

Had that conversation with a 'little manager' in a previous life -

LM: "You're late!"

Me: "No I'm not - it's 3 minutes to the start time"

LM: "But you should be ready to be working at that time!"

Me: "I am ready to start working"

LM: "But your computer isn't turned on, booted up and logged in!"

Me: "and where does it say in my contract that I should be turning the computer on in my own time? There are several technical solutions to that if it's such a significant problem."

LM: "Buh buh buh...."

Later shifted my hours so I was first one in (before Little Manager) and did the initial post-opening etc. and got everything set up ready for the rest of the team to arrive, which often included a quick 10 second circuit of the team's desks to turn on everyone's PC ready for their arrival, whilst my own machine booted up.

Quality control, Soviet style: Here's another fine message you've gotten me into

A K Stiles

Re: Not a translator

Spent several enjoyable hours in an Irish bar in Amsterdam some 18ish years back.

The barman spoke to us in perfect English with a notable Irish accent then, as new folks walked in through the door, switched to seemingly (to us) flawless Dutch, German and French.

Talking to him between his serving customers it turned out his mother was Irish and his father was Dutch and he'd mostly grown up around there, speaking English and French with his mother and Dutch, German and English with his father. It was very impressive to behold from the sidelines!

Yes, there's nothing quite like braving the M4 into London on the eve of a bank holiday just to eject a non-bootable floppy

A K Stiles

...get them to demonstrate the problem...

I found that, nine times out of ten, getting them to show me what they were doing caused the problem to not be a problem any more. So frequently, the users thought they were doing the thing correctly, but were mis-typing or mis-clicking as can happen when a task becomes quite repetitive and it was the act of my standing there and watching what they were doing that made them be a little more careful and conscious of their actions.

BOFH: Bullying? Not on my watch! (It's a Rolex)

A K Stiles

Re: Walked rather than pushed

Meh, I'll make coffee or sweep up if you're happy to pay me a software developer salary or better whilst I do it.

As far as the "... and reasonable extra hours as required." part of so many contracts - then it gets into debating what is reasonable. A couple of hours every now and then to 'get it done', in exchange for some flexibility over when I start / finish / take the car for an MOT is fine by me.

Additional 10+ hours every week for months because the project manglement repeatedly and completely underestimate how long something would take, again, with no suggestion of additional compensation - nope, sorry - that's not reasonable. I've been fortunate to have line-managers who seem to agree with my general definition of 'reasonable' and are prepared to make the point to the organisation(s) on my behalf.

WhatsApp in India? A probe into Facebook privacy, citizen cyber-cops absolved, and censorship criticism

A K Stiles

because history repeats itself?

A K Stiles

Re: Corrections

Please cross check with local sources

US state AGs: How can Facebook, Google, Twitter say they tackle misinformation when *gestures wildly at COVID-19 BS everywhere*

A K Stiles

Re: The way to avoid 'Idiocracy'!

Your problem there is that maybe they're also too dumb to realise (or believe) that having more kids they and the planet can't afford to support properly is a problem, which just increases the number of poorly-educated people with no critical thinking skills having ever more kids.

Whatever 'normal' is, global CEOs don't expect to see it return before 2022 and are ploughing funds into security

A K Stiles

90% of CEOs expecting return to 'normal' working

Thank heavens the place I work for has taken the experience of the last year and looks to be considering a new 'normal'.

It looks like the expectation is that, for most office staff, normal will be 40-80% home-based working with 60-20% office-based, depending on the requirements of individuals and their roles.

We've managed to grow and, in a lot of instances, be more productive over the last 12 months out of the giant echoing open-plan space. Far fewer people have actually been off sick as nobody has decided they have to soldier on and come to work anyway, coughing and spluttering over everyone and everything in range. Some of our recruitment has been people who do not live within any sort of commutable distance to the physical office and do not intend, nor are expected, to move closer. Some staff have had it agreed and arranged to move home away from the work site.

No it's not ideal in some respects for everyone to be stuck at home, and some folks are really struggling with the lack of in-person 'human' contact, but I don't expect to see a time, whilst I remain in this department (or possibly the entire org), where there is an expectation again that everyone should be in the office full time.

Why yes, I'll take that commendation for fixing the thing I broke

A K Stiles
Paris Hilton

Re: Experience is the best teacher

So many times this.

Change control boards structured to include the entire management tree of the networks division, plus the one poor operator volunteered to be at the meeting this week - none of whom have the slightest clue whether the proposed change(s) to software will actually do what it proposes to do, and none of whom will actually be involved in implementing said changes. "Should we have someone from the software development side involved in these meetings?" "No chance! They'll just sit there complaining the whole time and make the meeting take longer!"

Don't be a fool, cover your tool: How IBM's mighty XT keyboard was felled by toxic atmosphere of the '80s

A K Stiles

Re: people realize that they are more fragile

Half the (softish TFT style) screens in my previous existence were like that - peppered with ink-filled dents. It was incredible that some of them still worked the amount of abuse they got (and the inability of some people to read a thing without pointing at it with a pen).

Just when you thought it was safe to enjoy a beer: Beware the downloaded patch applied in haste

A K Stiles

Re: I haven't seen a good game of Reply-to-All Tennis in years

Come visit our place (you know, virtually, not physically, dear <deity> THE VIRUS!!! ... won't somebody think of [everyone but] the children?!?)

It's still a regular occurrence - sometimes accidental mail to all, "Please let me know if this particular set of circumstances applies to you currently" followed by 270ty-billion replies of "I'm not", "Not me", "Why have I received this?", "I don't need that"...

SpaceX small print on Starlink insists no Earth government has authority or sovereignty over Martian activities

A K Stiles

Re: Remember 1776 ......

Come and see the violence inherent in the system!

UK Test and Trace chief Dido Harding tries to convince MPs that £14m for canned mobile app was money well spent

A K Stiles

Re: WT...

Also, that will be the rate paid to the agency / outsourcing company, not the rate the conslutants were paid directly. That'll be considerably less once all the corporate overheads and executive salaries have taken their slices for the valuable work they will have done...


Back to the office with you: 'Perhaps 5 days is too much family time' – Workday CEO

A K Stiles

Re: mmfh


some of us get micromanaged from home too :(

So much this dear <deity />. Well, not necessarily micromanaged, but soo many Teams-based 'catch-ups' and 'welfare check-ins' and 'quick (30 minute minimum) chats'. It's no wonder productivity feels like it's dropped through the floor some days.

Quixotic Californian crusade to officially recognize the hellabyte and hellagram is going hella nowhere

A K Stiles

Re: K

so when you see a value referred to as 247.35Kgms-1 or 247.35kgms-1 do you know if it is talking about kilogram metres per second and not Kelvin (earth)gravity metres per second? and yes, you may well get some combination of those sorts of units so avoiding ambiguity wherever possible does make sense.

Also, sorry - "except" ... standards to maintain!

Paperless what? Pah! UK government looks to ink £900m in printer deals

A K Stiles

Re: £900M

Many apologies - you are absolutely correct, so a couple of gills over a (nimperial) gallon?

A K Stiles


Wow - that's like, nearly 5 litres of HP ink isn't it?

Pizza and beer night out the window, hours trying to sort issue, then a fresh pair of eyes says 'See, the problem is...'

A K Stiles

Re: Doubtless with the assistance of a baseball bat peppered with rusty nails.

Ah - the trusty clue-stick! In a previous existence we had a real clue stick mounted on a rack on the wall of the IT office next to a sign labelled "In case of emergency". It was taken down and handed to new starters in the office so they could appreciate its impressive heft. That was the only time it was taken down, and it never left the 4 walls of the office, I suspect just in case the temptation to actually use it was a little too strong...

(icon sort of clue stick shaped)

A K Stiles

Nope, never, not me...

Definitely never been responsible for amending a config file then forgetting to reload the config before a weekend / week off causing a system to crumple into a heap and refuse to start when, a few days later, it was subjected to the patching updates schedule. Definitely not me...

(more than once per job role)

Brexit freezes 81,000 UK-registered .eu domains – and you've all got three months to get them back

A K Stiles

Re: This is to punish the UK

That's just you living up to the cantankerous part of your handle, right?

.com is non-geographic - there is a .us TLD for localised use. It's just that many/most US entities registered as .com / .org etc. that it has assumed some level of de-facto identity as the US domain

About $15m in advertising booked to appear on millions of smart TVs was never seen by anyone, says Oracle

A K Stiles

Re: Naughty step

I get astounded / annoyed / intrigued by the recent experience of the auto-inserted adverts in youtube videos, pushing for a Youtube subscription - "Enjoy your favourite videos free from interruptions..."

It's barely a sidestep away from "Nice video you're watching here, be a terrible shame if something were to happen to it..."

Windows might have frozen – but at least my feet are toasty

A K Stiles

Cold breeze

It's strange how folks that log helpdesk calls for the computer causing a (depending on the season) warm/cold breeze across their ankles don't really appreciate a response that consists of one word: "Socks".

There are two sides to every story, two ends to every cable

A K Stiles

Re: Been there (sort of)

My mother in law - couldn't figure out why her printer no longer worked, until I ascertained that she'd had a problem with her wireless router a few months previously and they'd sent out a new one so the ssid and password were now different... Ah - okay so the printer needs to connect to the new network settings, but the WPS button approach won't work. Right, connect it to the laptop via USB - "where's the lead for the printer?" "What lead?" "It would look a bit like (describe USB A to B lead)" "Oh. all the leads I have are in this drawer" <opens drawer with three wires in it, none are USB A-B> "There should be another one - it came with the printer" (A fact I know to be true as I used it to set the system up originally). "Oh, I must have thrown it out with a bunch of other stuff I wasn't using"...

Boeing 737 Max will return to flight after software updates, says EU's aviation regulator

A K Stiles

Re: more than software

and what sorts out the electrical looms with the gnawed insulation?

Who knew that hosing a table with copious amounts of cubic metres would trip adult filters?

A K Stiles

Re: Inside joke?

It's not that long ago that a team near me renamed themselves from A(and)SS to S(and)AS instead, for some reason...

Amazon's ad-hoc Ring, Echo mesh network can mooch off your neighbors' Wi-Fi if needed – and it's opt-out

A K Stiles

Just to add that Subject Access Requests don't cost since GDPR came online.

I work therefore I ache: Logitech aims to ease WFH pains with Ergo M575 trackball mouse

A K Stiles

Swapping hands

Yep - another lefty, though I spent a lot of time on shared computers so the mouse was generally on the right. When it was just my machine the mouse was on the left. I originally swapped the mouse buttons but eventually settled on leaving left button as the left button and giving it the middle digit instead.

It is a skill that has come in handy time and again when providing support or giving training and when doing a task that required considerable numeric keypad entry in combination with mouse use (not a great interface design!).

Not sunshine, moonlight or good times – blame it on the buggy

A K Stiles
Big Brother

"It's the system"

"The computer didn't do what I told it to do", "that's not the button I pressed", "Why doesn't it work like it's supposed to?"

to which the answers are generally "Yes it did", "Yes you did" and "It does, why can't you?"

Now there are software flaws that make it through testing, or a random interaction with a lift motor's electromagnetic radiation etc, and there are certainly bad User Interface decisions implemented, but usually the problem arises because the wrong buttons were pressed, or they were pressed in the wrong order because people are careless. It's why the technical aura works so frequently - I come and watch over your shoulder and you just take more care about what you are doing.

Icon because that's when the mistakes are less likely to happen!

When even a power-cycle fandango cannot save your Windows desktop

A K Stiles

Opposite and identical problem

"Help - My screen's gone blank and I've got customers to sort out NOW!"

Brief check, pull keyboard out from under the monitor, press the monitor power button to turn it on again.

"All sorted - try not to jam the keyboard or anything back under the monitor where the switch is..."

Icon for the state of so many of their keyboards. Yeuch!

Reports of one's death have been greatly exaggerated: French radio station splurges obituary bank over interwebs

A K Stiles

Re: French Technology

A TEDRDLE ? Sounds tricky!

Not on your Zoom, not on Teams, not Google Meet, not BlueJeans. WebEx, Skype and Houseparty make us itch. No, not FaceTime, not even Twitch

A K Stiles

I have the joy of regular teams meetings with a colleague who, having asked a question will then persist in muttering "yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, mmm-hmm, yeah" in agreement all the way through a reply (without having heard the detail of the reply), thus causing the audio from the potentially interesting or useful reply to drop out repeatedly.

A K Stiles


I too experienced the 'interesting tingle' of 240V AC, once. That was one more time than I wish I had experienced it and has caused me to be considerably more diligent in making sure I don't experience it again.

Kind of like doing what I can sensibly do to avoid stepping in front of moving vehicles, drinking poisons, cutting parts of me with power tools or knives, oh and catching, or potentially spreading illnesses which might be fatal or life-changing to anybody, let alone the people I know and care about.

BOFH: You might want to sit down for this. Oh, right, you can't. Listen carefully: THIS IS NOT AN IT PROBLEM!

A K Stiles

Re: Office Chairs!

Day zero in March a bunch of stuff (laptops, docs, monitors, etc) departed the office with staff and no particular tracking of who had what.

Day ?? in ??April?? The office was surveyed as to their requirements and then a couple of us went in to the office and arranged a whole bunch of kit for individuals, so I have a load of photos of collections of kit stacked on office chairs tagged with peoples names where we then wheeled them out the door and loaded them in to the back of folks cars. A bunch of other stuff was then subsequently purchased and delivered directly to people. We haven't reopened the office yet since March though we're trying to figure out what needs to happen to allow some folks back in where necessary. Whether anyone actually has all the clues as to who has what kit where, I have no idea!

The day I took down the data centre- I mean, the day I saved the day. Right, boss?

A K Stiles

Takes me back

When I worked in a place that ran AS400 / iSeries / i5 systems, we developers sensibly had our own box for dev work, separate to the live server.

Sometimes a new function or a fix would require a reasonably chunky bit of code to be run and, obviously, we'd try it first on the dev box to check it wasn't going to run wild and destroy all the account records.

Frequently these would result in calls from the sys-admin department calling to complain that "Your job is taking 85% of the processor" or something similar and a request to terminate the job to clear the alert on the big screen. Now obviously as developers (on the dev box) our usual ponder was "what's happening with the other 15% then?".

Various techniques were employed to see if we could get the jobs to run to completion, from being "on a call" (or at least the phone off the hook) when they might phone us, to prolonging the conversation about which job was a problem, to even coding in some 5 second sleeps every 20 seconds or so to reduce the persistence of the notification, just so the job would actually get a chance to run through to completion without getting terminated.

I can only remember a couple of occasions in 10 years where one of the other colleagues actually working on the dev box shouted across the office about not being able to do stuff because of server obstruction, so it wasn't exactly a significant issue!

Let's... drawer a veil over why this laser printer would decide to stop working randomly

A K Stiles

There's normally a roll of old carpet that needs disposing of, but you try claiming for the shovel and lime on expenses...

A K Stiles

Re: Low IQ or low volition?

Exactly - first time, you've demonstrated that

a) there's a power switch

b) it's easy to check / flip

So why is the first instinct, on the next instance, to call support rather than just check? Gah!

You only live twice: Once to start the installation, and the other time to finish it off

A K Stiles

Re: concealed items

Flew UK to Brisbane three or four years back, via Dubai. Boarded the delayed plane in Birmingham no problem. Arrived in Dubai to my connecting flight having already departed so was shunted out to a hotel for the night. Back in through Dubai security the following morning, bit of a bag search but no problem. Arrived in Brisbane and out into the world, no problem.

Heading home a fortnight later, arrive at Brisbane domestic for internal flight to Perth - hold up, what's this in your wallet? One of those metal tool cards with the various size hex holes punched in it and one corner shaped to form a flat-blade screwdriver, with the internal edge slightly bevelled to form a paper knife (maybe 12mm long?) "No no no sir, there is no possible way you could be permitted to take that on a plane. Into the bin it goes!" Roll eyes, shrug and point out that I know it won't make a difference but it's only there 'cos I forgot I'd had it there for maybe 3 years already, so it'd been through several airports without a raised eyebrow...

Virginia voter registration website falls over hours before deadline. The Russians? No, a broken fiber line

A K Stiles
Black Helicopters

Re: A single fibre into a data centre

I suspect (on the basis of no direct evidence) that the choice came down to cheapest supplier / biggest kickback / some flavo(u)r of nepotism. Doesn't it always?

Death of the PC? Do me a favour, says Lenovo bigwig: 'I'm expecting the biggest growth in a decade... for 2021'

A K Stiles

Homeworking / remote working

I'm not so sure at this point. We have acquired a large number of laptop machines to enable home-working for a huge percentage of staff who were, until March, using desktop machines. Some of those desktop machines were certainly starting to creak a bit but I can't see most of those folks getting their desktops replaced when they now have a newer, more powerful laptop that will run a browser and office suite for them just fine. I think, for us, the next refresh cycle has essentially been rolled into the sudden need for everyone to be able to work remotely. At most I can see us needing to acquire laptop docs for the office and extra monitors to replace those people took home in March and will continue to require at home for the foreseeable.

If we listen and acquiesce to their demands, also printers for everyone... (I hope not)

Looking for a new tech job? Just browsing? This week's list includes roles for devs, engineers, and Perl maestros

A K Stiles

Re: dream job

PERL with a bit of HTML and CSS through Apache (on RHEL) is exactly what I do in IT these days too, when I'm not sitting through another Teams meeting or other equally productive tasks!

Inflated figures and customers who were never there. Just another data migration then

A K Stiles

Re: Hmm ...

About the level of so many of the things I get;

Them: "How long do you think it will take [you] to do [insert random barely spec'd idea that's only just popped into their head 10 minutes ago] ?"

Me: "No idea - probably somewhere between 2 days and 2 months"

Them: "Huh, you always say that, you need to work on your estimating skills"

Me: "Well it all really depends on what you actually need it to do, how you want it to do it, and how many times, whilst I'm working on it, you schedule in hour long meetings 'just to see where we are', or just want to have a 'quick chat' about how long it might take to do [next random barely spec'd idea that's a result of a conversation you've just had with someone else]"

Them: ...

Also them 2 days later: "How long do you think it will take [you] to do [insert random barely spec'd idea that's only just popped into their head 10 minutes ago] ?"

Me: ...

Help! My printer won't print no matter how much I shout at it!

A K Stiles

Paper loading

I have tried all manner of explanations in the past for how to load headed paper into the main office printer - the most successful, but not infallible was "Headed paper only, Top this end, Face down". It reduced the occasions of having to go and remove plain paper from that drawer or rotate / flip the headed paper to just once a week or so, rather than the several times a day grief it was previously.

My usual response was something along the lines of "Happy to fill the paper for you. I get paid the same whether I do this or develop the software you need to do your job..."

He was a skater boy. We said, 'see you later, boy' – and the VAX machine mysteriously began to work as intended

A K Stiles

Re: Static

Not quite that era, or that extreme!

I do remember buying my first PC (486DX66) and speccing the memory be doubled (to 8MB I think) which cost me something like £160. Around the same time I remember reading an article in a computing magazine that made the ludicrous suggestion that the author could foresee a point in the future where the cost of memory might come down to as little as £1 a megabyte!

That long-awaited, super-hyped Apple launch: Watches, iPads... and one more thing. Oh, actually that's it

A K Stiles

Re: Norfolk (the English county)

I'd always thought that one was "Naaaarch".

IBM repays millions to staff after messing up its own payroll

A K Stiles

Re: Odd practice..

The other one that intrigued me was that my Australian cousins were able to bank leave allowance over several years and then take e.g. a couple of months off in one big run, as opposed to every job I've had in the U.K. where I've been lucky if I've been able to carry 5 or ten days maximum from one year to the next, with anything more than that being 'lost'.

The Aus approach seems like a much better system to me - I keep wondering what the downside is about working in Australia, and I can't find it apart from everything that moves, and half the things that don't, trying to kill you.

Now that's a somewhat unexpected insider threat: Zoombombings mostly blamed on rogue participants, unique solution offered

A K Stiles

Re: How to make the experience worse than Skype

You don't currently need to have a zoom account and password to join a zoom meeting with the meeting code and password.

From the sounds of it, the proposal is to replace those generic (for the meeting) codes and/or passwords with a code and/or password combo that is unique to each invited participant, thereby making the random sharing of login details useless, or at least the sharer more easily trackable.

Brexit border-line issues: Would you want to still be 'testing' software designed to stop Kent becoming a massive lorry park come 31 December?

A K Stiles

Re: Time to up the level of smuggling.

That would be the Scottish Independence referendum that the Tory government of the time spent a heap of money saying "if you leave then you don't get to be part of the EU - you can only have that if you stay in the UK" and then subsequently turned round and said "Well England and Wales have chosen to leave the EU by a narrow margin so the rest of you are coming with us anyway, no you can't revisit your previous decision" ?

Open access journals are vanishing from the web, Internet Archive stands ready to fill in the gaps

A K Stiles

OA publishing

When some of the academic publishers have profit margins to rival Apple, it's no wonder they are trying to cling to the traditional publishing model.

'Gold' open access isn't always (and in the larger publishers OA journals, almost never) 'free', it's just free to the end user to read. It still costs the author, or more often their institution or research funder, a potentially large amount (average around $2500 - $3000, per article), with some of the journals with high perceived prestige charging over $5000.

To fix it would require some rebalancing in the academic institutions to allow the researchers to realise that the 'quality' and 'prestige' of the journal derives from the work they publish there and not from the journal itself, and for the institutions and research funders to realise the same thing, so not judge the researchers (in terms of their career development) on where they publish their research, but on the research itself.



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