* Posts by A K Stiles

814 publicly visible posts • joined 16 Jul 2010


80% of execs regret calling employees back to the office

A K Stiles

Re: unpopular opinion: no, WFH and WFO are not the same.

When most of the 'benefits' of WFO are essentially down to serendipitous meetings or overhearing a conversation you aren't directly involved in, that seems to be quite a terrible way to have a business function smoothly. Yes, those things can be an occasional surprise benefit but it seems far outweighed by the massive distraction having to filter all of that, normally irrelevant, information by-product has on the task you are actually trying to complete.

Replacing the need for the accidental problem solving with better general communication and change control processes seems like it would be a better solution, but that doesn't help the facilities owner / management or insecure line managers feel like they are serving a useful purpose.

Gen Z and Millennials don't know what their colleagues are talking about half the time

A K Stiles

Re: Suspired

I'll bite - Susurration

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

A K Stiles

Re: Worst code I ever saw...

Umpteen years ago I was working as a data input monkey on an AS400 system. I used to switch my eyes between the paper data and the keyboard with an occasional glance at the screen as it was pretty common for the screen rendering to be lagging behind the input buffer and I could be entering the next screen of data whilst the display was showing the previous page (repetition is a brutal mistress). I could correct typos as I went without ever seeing them on the screen.

Thankfully I now do stuff where the thinking takes more time and effort than the key bashing, but it certainly did wonders for my multi-finger typing, which drifted naturally into touch-typing when I was no longer just re-keying stuff from a piece of paper.

The International Space Station will deorbit in glory. How's your legacy tech doing?

A K Stiles

Re: A strange set of priorities

Given that a bunch (96) of those plastic bags on the moon are full of astronaut poop, it literally is crapping on our own doorstep.

BOFH: Who us? Sysadmins? Spend time with other departments?

A K Stiles

Re: Bullshit jobs

Portable Appliance Testing - is this fan/printer/screen/set of fairy lights likely to electrocute someone or set fire to the drying lump of wood it's been draped over for one month in twelve, after having been unceremoniously bundled into a gordian knot.

Next six months could set a new pace for work-life balance

A K Stiles

Re: WFH or 4-Day week?

That'd certainly be my preference - move from 37 hours across 5 days , probably to 4x7.5h rather than 5x6h, so there is a 3 day weekend.

A K Stiles

You are equating "work" with "hours of attendance" rather than with "productivity".

If you are still providing 5 day support, then not all of your staff work the same 4 days. Business continues with the agreed service to clients, no drop in income. Staff have more personal free time, so are more motivated to work during work hours because clearly their employer actually cares about them rather than how many hours of their life they can bleed out of them.

Prototype app outperforms and outlasts outsourced production version

A K Stiles

Long running pilot

Knocked together a system for a 6 month 'pilot', to help determine if / how processes would best work when converting a manual workflow to a digital one, with the idea the users would note the bits that worked well, what didn't work and what else might be needed to make it quicker and simpler for everyone involved.

That was 2013...

AI-created faces now look so real, humans can't spot the difference

A K Stiles

Re: Fascinating

Shia LaBeouf

Beware the big bang in the network room

A K Stiles

Re: But did he learn the biggest lesson of all?

Well, you then still have the access you need...

NASA's InSight probe emerges from Mars dust storm

A K Stiles

Cost: 2 bespoke balloons, a pump, a couple of valves and a small static charge anode.

plus the fuel to get the additional mass out of earth's gravity well, plus more fuel for course changes en-route due to increased inertia, plus whatever is required to get that additional mass safely to the surface of Mars...

Have you tried restarting? Reinstalling? Upgrading? Moving house and changing your identity?

A K Stiles

Re: Ah the joy of customer service scripts

Surprisingly not one I've ever had the misfortune of having to deal with. Something to do with Fish by the time I left and multiple buy-outs / mergers

A K Stiles

Ah the joy of customer service scripts

I can remember years ago when I was trying to move broadband provider and they (eventually) said they would email me a code (PAC?) to enable the new provider to take over, or something like that. 3 or 4 days later and no email has arrived, so I call the customer services to enquire and they say "We sent you the code 3 days ago", "well I didn't receive it". Confirm email address (that they were providing / hosting) "Okay, I've sent it again just now" "Okay, well I've just refreshed my inbox and there's no email from you, though one from elsewhere". "You need to clear your browser cache", "erm... I'm not using webmail, it's a POP3 client". "You need to clear your browser cache" [repeat for 5 minutes]. I don't remember how it was ultimately solved, though I know I managed to change provider soon after.

Dutch nuclear authority bans anti-5G pendants that could hurt their owners via – you guessed it – radiation

A K Stiles


Do, or do not. There is no try!

Thank you, FAQ chatbot, but if I want your help I'll ask for it

A K Stiles

Re: Mobile Phone Companies....

Those "Please rate your recent experience on a scale of 1(bad juju) to N(blessed by a holy being)". Actually the interaction was straightforward and my relatively basic question/request was handled efficiently and appropriately, so I give it a rating of n-1 - perfectly adequate but it's not like you've just given me the winning lottery numbers (or a discount for future business etc.).

Next question: "We're sorry our performance was so poor, please explain below what the problem was with our service". The service was fine, your bloody survey is ridiculous and the scale doesn't match your expectations!

Microsoft gives Notepad a minimalist makeover to match Windows 11 style

A K Stiles

Re: Dark?

I can still be found changing the default colours of terminal sessions to be varieties of black background and white, green or amber text, depending on what I'm trying to do on the other end.

I just find the dark background much less harsh on the eyeballs for a day of staring at the screen.

Sheffield University scales back student system after Oracle integration stumbles

A K Stiles

Re: Final Year Project

I suspect many do, on a regular basis, but how is that going to help with a database system?

BOFH: You'll find there's a company asset tag right here, underneath the monstrously heavy arcade machine

A K Stiles

A little power

often seems to go to the head of the recipient (preferably via insulated gloves).

As for the blooming asset tags - why oh why do they have to put the asset tag in the least convenient place so often? In this instance it's on the lid of the laptop, by the hinge but orientated to read with the lid closed. Shame that there are procedural reasons for me to know the asset tag id on a semi-regular basis so I end up having to try to shut the lid to read it, but not shut all the way or it'll turn off the machine. Literally anywhere else would have been more useful and no less convenient for asset management purposes. Inside next to the keyboard, where I can read it whilst using the machine, or even on the bottom next to the model and serial numbers where I could read them all easily enough with a little tilt. Gah!

You want us to make a change? We can do it, but it'll cost you...

A K Stiles

Re: Lines of Code - negative defects

Getting what you ask for (or at least what you measure). Always a joy with KPIs.

The other joy is when it comes time to devise the next set of KPIs:

"We have to have KPIs otherwise how will we know if we're doing well!"

"So, what constitutes doing well then?"

"Erm, doing stuff on time or doing more stuff, no wait doing less stuff... erm... well it depends on what we're doing..."

"Yes it does doesn't it, also, half of that is target-setting, not performance indication..."


A K Stiles

Re: Less than one character per week

So often I get asked "How long will it take to fix this issue?"

They really don't appreciate that the answer is almost as often "probably about 5 minutes, but it might take a couple of weeks to figure out where to do the fix." (or an hour, or a month, etc depending on my current familiarity with and the nature of the system in question)

NASA postpones spacewalk as it would be too much of a pain in the neck for astronaut

A K Stiles

Frequent occurrence?

I wonder how common things like pinched nerves are for astronauts in orbit, as their whole physiology has developed to deal with 1g and is now essentially not having to do that, it might be a regular thing... hmmm, where did I leave that academic paper search?

Magna Carta mayhem: Protesters lay siege to Edinburgh Castle, citing obscure Latin text that has never applied in Scotland

A K Stiles

Re: The average IQ of a population is always 100

Oh gods! You've reminded me of the time I paused in some soldering to use both hands for a task and held the fully-functioning soldering iron sideways between my teeth for a second. Hard to escape the smell of scorched hair and flesh when the source is within a couple of inches of your nostrils!

Learned a lesson well that day!

Microsoft to require proof of vaccination from on-site staff, pushes back full reopening

A K Stiles

How about

vaccinated = less likely to catch disease thus less likely to pass it on.

vaccinated = reduced symptoms (e.g. coughing & sneezing) = less likely to pass it to other people.

mask wearing = fewer (potentially contaminated) droplets and reduced velocity of droplets escaping from you and contaminating other people.

based on pretty much every vaccine programme ever.

A K Stiles

But you're making statements that you see no relationship between you (and most other people) being vaccinated and other people not getting covid, yet if you actually look at the numbers and the dates, it does provide (for me) some confidence that the correlation between the vaccinations and the hospitalisations / deaths and even in connection to transmission if considered alongside the relevant periods of lockdown.

You seem to be taking the approach of "I'm not doing anything until it is proven beyond MY doubt that it has a beneficial effect for me / society" but then not accepting that sometimes the correlation does show causation. Otherwise, what is making the difference in hospitalisations / deaths and even the case numbers in the current peak?

You reject the hypothesis that vaccination is responsible for the reductions but haven't provided any suggestion of what alternative might be responsible.

A K Stiles

and the gov.uk data...?

Maybe, just maybe, take a bit of time and make the effort to do some of your own analysis and investigation rather than just demanding other people put the answer right under your nose.

The FT article is clearly demonstrating how the vaccines, at their indicated efficacies, are translating into the related percentages of hospitalisation we are actually seeing in vaccinated vs unvaccinated, as correlated by the data from the government site, which is from the ONS, which is where any data analysis basically starts

If you are wilfully ignoring the evidence available then nothing I can give you will convince you of a different viewpoint.

A K Stiles


and in particular, this graphic


from this article


Also, look at the official cases vs hospitalisation vs death data e.g. from https://coronavirus.data.gov.uk/details/cases and overlay that with the vaccination figures from the same source - the correlation between reduced hospitalisation and deaths in relation to increasing vaccination is pretty clear.

A K Stiles

And being vaccinated does appear to reduce (but not eliminate) the potential for you to spread Covid-19. As does you wearing a mask (help protect others from you more than help protect you from others, but a bit of reciprocity makes it better for everyone).

What demo group is that, if you pardon the personal question, 'cos there still seem to be people dying or suffering with prolonged issues in every age group as far as I can see?

Right to repair shouldn't exist – not because it's wrong but because it's so obviously right

A K Stiles

Re: Y 'all forgetting one thing

We recently had our Fridge-freezer compressor die. It's about 8 years old and was quite expensive when we bought it.

Repair quote was about a quarter of the original purchase price, so we opted to have it repaired (with effectively a 12 month warranty on the repair work).

It now works properly again, having had the compressor replaced along with a whole bunch of control wiring, and obviously it had to be re-gassed.

But that all took about 3 weeks what with a couple of tech visits and waiting for parts, whilst we could have had a new one delivered and the old one taken away within 24 hours. Thankfully we had helpful friends nearby who could give us a bit of fridge/freezer space for the duration, but what price is the (in)convenience. If it happened again out of warranty, I'd certainly be thinking twice about whether to repair or replace the thing.

Happy 'Freedom Day': Stats suggest many in England don't want it or think it's a terrible idea

A K Stiles

"reports that almost always ignore that the number of hospitalizations ate a couple of orders of magnitude lower than they were last time infections were spreading at this rate"

except if you go and look at the data yourself that isn't the case. (data for the last three weeks still tweaking by a few instances, last week-ish are not complete datasets)




The deaths and hospitalisations peaked initially around 1st April 2020, with cases clearly massively under-reporting, then cases peaked again in wave 2 around 29 December 2020 with hospitalisations peaking around the 12th January 2021, and deaths peaking about a week after that, around the 19th Jan.

Daily cases are rising again, though hospitalisations are running about a quarter of the number they were with the similar case rate in December, which is certainly better, but not a "couple of orders of magnitude lower".

Death rate is currently about 1/10 that compared to the December equivalent, which is certainly a good thing and shows the vaccines appear to be doing a good job, or most of the most vulnerable have already succumbed in the previous 18 months...

Have we seen any official stats yet relating cases to attendance at major sporting events like the euros final given it was a trial event to see if these things could revert to the previous state, or Silverstone (give it a couple of weeks) ?

BOFH: Where there is darkness, let there be a light

A K Stiles

Definitely pick which battles you want to fight...

Mice, keyboards, headphones, cables - all consumables. I did once work somewhere where they wanted to 'inventorise' every last patch cable and VGA lead...

They also wanted to know which monitors were on which desks / with particular people, and would get shirty at stuff being moved around, but also didn't have the resources available to come and shift kit around for us with the regularity the business would want to tweak the team structures etc.

Even if they did come and move kit for us, the folks that came to do the moves were definitely too hard pressed to be bothered trying to record asset numbers as they went...

BOFH: Here in my car I feel safest of all. I can listen to you ... It keeps me stable for days

A K Stiles

Re: The obverse also applies in some cases

University maths lecturer told the class something like "When you get a question in the exam that asks you to e.g. "derive the quadratic formula from first principles" and you get stuck, go to the last line and write the final formula, then work backwards until either you get to the finished answer or fill the available space, then write "therefore" in between both chunks of proof. Chances are the skim reading marker won't spot the line where the previous doesn't actually lead to the following and job's a good 'un.

This always-on culture we're in is awful. How do we stop it? Oh, sorry, hold on – just had another notification

A K Stiles

Expecting someone to respond to an email immediately at ANY time is nonsense. Email is not a synchronous communication method. Even during normal working hours I only check email between bits of 'actual' work, and make sure there are no notifications enabled as otherwise there would be no scheduled work done due to constantly answering all the "can you just..." messages, or even just the checking that the latest email isn't something that requires immediate attention.

Still baffles some of my colleagues though - I get a phone call - "What do you reckon?" "to what?" "about the XYZ" "what about the XYZ?" "In the email I sent you" ""Oh, haven't seen it - is it on fire?" "Oh no it's just that I was talking to A about it and we wondered whether...."

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?