* Posts by dvd

173 publicly visible posts • joined 31 Mar 2011


Big tech's discarded techies won't sate the job market, says analyst


Re: If they want to solve the shortage of staff...

Every place that I've ever worked has complained about the difficulty in recruiting engineers. They're being disingenuous. They have difficulty recruiting for the wages that they want to pay.

Elon Musk jettisons Twitter leadership, says takeover was 'to try to help humanity'


Geez ...

... even as someone who thinks that Elon is a major bellend myself, I find this article a bit over partisan.

Manufacturers could be forced to include repair instructions



My Dell laptop (about 10 years old now and still going strong) came with a manual telling you how to completely disassemble the thing. It's a great help if you need to swap a peripheral or keyboard or something.

Rookie programmer's code goes up in flames ... kind of


Halt And Catch Fire

I worked on cheque processors years ago and one of the machines had a device fitted that, if given the wrong value in its command string, would engage all it's solenoids and bust into flames.

It never happened with released code but did a couple of times with beta.

I never really found out why it was beyond the abilities of the writers of the controlware to screen out these problematic commands.

Boffins hunt and kill cockroaches with machine vision laser


Re: Maybe let's wait for the perfection of the lower powered mosquito laser?

I'd idly dreamt about doing this with wasps in the past when they've invaded our kitchen.

It was potential eyeball damage that stopped me, plus the thought of raining down bits of fried wasp on our guests.

Don't want to get run over by a Ford car? There's a Bluetooth app for that


I'm not sure how Toyota can patent danger obscuring tech when Zaphod Beeblebrox was wearing sunglasses that did the same thing 40 years ago.

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


I've experienced the BOFH dynamic from both sides. For years I was in s/w development, then support, and I grew a hatred of users.

Then I threw it all in to be a structures inspector on the trunk road network; an it heavy job but I didn't have God powers over the it any more. I grew to hate the it department.

Then the it department introduced an it problem busting initiative where they went round the offices talking to users and trying to fix problems on the spot.

They fixed a lot of irritations (eg you've got wacom hardware; obviously you need the drivers and not the Microsoft generic crap; we'll sort out the politics later) and got a lot of brownie points and good feelings.

I realised that in a lot of cases the problem was middle management fearful of stuff they didn't understand, not the individuals who in most cases were just trying to do a good job (on both sides).

Security needs to learn from the aviation biz to avoid crashing


Re: Not aviation

Yeah, she's got it wrong. Incident investigation in the air industry doesn't assign blame to individuals, and that's fundamental to how it works. It figures out what went wrong and how to fix it so that it doesn't happen again, recommending training, procedural or engineering changes without blame. The lack of blame is what makes it work, allowing people to honestly open up without fear. There may be criminal proceedings after an incident, but it's a totally separate process.

It's such a good process that is repeatedly cited as a way to fix problems in other industries, particularly medicine for which your think it would be a great fit, but it never works. It needs a total culture change so that individuals know that they won't be scapegoated for failure or punished for whistle blowing. It never happens. It always falls apart when someone in authority wants a quick, easy answer and then someone lowly carries the can.

Bad news, older tech workers: Job advert language works against you


Re: We don't get to chose the language...

There's also the problem that some British universities give you a 'free' masters if you can stay out of prison and pay to come to the college dinner a year after graduation.

Computer glitches harmed 'nearly 150' patients after Oracle Cerner system go-live


Re: Umm…

Well, having worked on, not these but similar systems I have a lot of sympathy for the developers.

They are made up of a bunch of obscure peripheral devices like scales, bar code readers, touch screens, line printers, and payment devices. They will have been selected not on suitability or quality but on price or the size of the kickback to the purchasing department. They will have badly specified and conflicting interfaces. Nevertheless the programmers will cobble them together into a somewhat working system.

When finally sold the pain really starts as the system will need changed to comply with some obscure local 18th century banking regulation that has never been repealed plus one of the peripherals will need to be changed to an obsolete one that the buyer has 10,000 of in the basement of their head office for some reason. And it all needs done in a fortnight or a deadline will be missed and the salesman won't be able to afford his second yacht.

It always amazes me that these things work at all.

British intelligence recycles old argument for thwarting strong encryption: Think of the children!


I think that recent events have shown that the authorities really don't spend a lot of time concerned about the children.

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


Re: It's still going on

I used to work somewhere that did a lot of remote support around the world using various remote access technologies. If a special character was needed in a password we tended to use ! as we found that it tended to move around the least on the regional keyboards that we encountered

Tech companies ready public stances on Roe v. Wade


Re: Cheaper than the alternative?

It's be even cheaper to give out rubber johnnies.

Leading Arch Linux derivative Manjaro puts out version 21.3


Re: And yet...

Oh, God, GRUB. I get panic attacks at the mere mention of the name. I can't believe that it's meant to be better than Lilo.

US must adopt USB-C charging standard like EU, senators urge


Re: I miss ...

I've got a roll of little yellow round stickers that I got from a stationary shop years ago. I use them exclusively for sticking over those godawful blue LEDs. It dims them and turns the light a much more pleasant green shade. Really, you'd think that industrial designers would have gotten the message by now.

Atos, UK government reach settlement on $1 billion Met Office supercomputer dispute


Weather Forecasting

A meteorologist once told me that statistically the best weather forecast for 'tomorrow' was 'same as today'.

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


When I learned to type I was trained to put two spaces after a full stop. Even now I can't help it.

Everyone thought that I was weird.

One day we had a strange thing in the office where the word processor couldn't spot a sentence on anybody's machine but mine. Turns out the word processor (I forget what - the standard one on CTOS I think) defined a sentence as a full stop followed by two spaces. Everyone in the office had to adapt or tolerate that the WP couldn't spot sentences.

Vivaldi email client released 7 years after first announcement


Re: Why is it so hard to find a good email program?

I struggled with em client for over a year before abandoning it. It was sluggish, and would periodically hang, sometimes for minutes at a time, doing some sort of mysterious housekeeping. This persisted over multiple installs and multiple versions, and in spite of multiple interventions from support. It was torment.

My suspicion was that the PC was a little underpowered. But, really, how much computer power do you need to talk to a server, download a few files and bung them in a folder structure?


Re: Why is it so hard to find a good email program?

I'd describe Thunderbird as the least worst email client. The OP is right. Email clients all have their own individual ways of sucking.

Seriously, you do not want to make that cable your earth


Re: Of earths

I worked somewhere where there was (IIRC) about 80 volts between the central heating radiators and the cases of the PCs. Not enough to kill you but pretty noticeable.

The building manager refused to believe me but for some reason wouldn't touch the radiators and PCs at the same time either.

I had to get a Fluke to prove it to him.

UK watchdogs ask how they can better regulate algorithms


"Whilst we're on this subject could someone please own up to buying the same thing from Amazon multiple times? Someone must have for that algorithm. I can only use one spatula. Why do I need another?"

I had the same problem when I bought a new toilet seat. I mean, how many arses does Amazon think I have?

ASML CEO: Industrial conglomerate buying washing machines to rip out semiconductors


Re: Rear seat air conditioning

Distributing the controllers around the car and allowing them to communicate on the CANbus was such a huge step forward in automotive technology that manufacturers will never go back.

This network-like approach hugely simplifies automotive writing over an old fashioned electrical loom with a dedicated write for each function. There are huge savings in cost (due to quantity of materials and ease of manufacture), and of weight. Reliability is hugely improved. An old fashioned wiring loom designed to support modern automotive technology would be a truly monstrous thing if it was even possible at all.

Auctioneer puts Space Shuttle CPUs under the hammer


Hah! At least during tulipmania you got a tulip bulb!

Why the Linux desktop is the best desktop


Mint User

I've used mint with cinnamon for a few years now as my main os / desk top. The user experience has been fine.


The brutal fact is that if you are not using 100% conventional hardware then you are in for a world of pain getting it to install

My 3g wan card only works if the wind is blowing in the right direction and my laser printer only works if I install virtual box.

I have no idea why.

It's all stuff that used to work fine under Windows.

You need to be an enthusiast or a zealot to deal with this stuff.

Debugging source is even harder when you can't stop laughing at it


Re: Customer Code Reviews

One of our directors went to South America to demo a system that involved a custom keyboard and driver. A new keyboard driver was installed just before he left for the demo.

One key on the keyboard didn't work for some reason.

That key happened to be for a character that contrived to be used for either the userid or password of every single user set up on the demo system, including all the admins.

Colourful language ensued...

RIP: Creators of the GIF and TRS-80



I'm pretty sure that my TRS-80 got me my first job.

I bought it at a bargain price second hand at uni.

During my job interview the interviewer asked if it was a good computer. I told him that I got it cheap so for the money it was very good. I think that he appreciated my analysis.

'IwlIj jachjaj! Incoming LibreOffice 7.3 to support Klingon and Interslavic


Re: Manx should be spoken

I'm going to risk getting downvoted to oblivion here, but here goes.

When a minority language dies I think that we should document it, dance on it's grave and move on.

Why revive it? Why force it on the kids?

Think of the advantage that a young person would have learning Spanish or Mandarin or Russian rather than an obscure extreme minority language that you can only speak to fifty other people in, and fifty people that you could talk more efficiently to in English anyway. And a language whose vocabulary for everything invented since the industrial revolution is English, just badly spelled.

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



Years ago I was in the computer room of the company where I worked and saw the operator drop her steel bodied pen through a hole in the top of the mainframe situated right beside the operators keyboard.

It was an accident waiting to happen really.

In a truly magnificent display of reflexes she whacked the power off before the pen hit anything inside the CPU.

Amazingly there was no damage and no impact other than the couple of hours it took to bring the mainframe up again.

The next time that I was in the computer room there was a spanking new grommet blocking the hole.

Time to party like it's 2002: Acura and Honda car clocks knocked back 20 years by bug


Re: GPS week rollover

The US military is still using B52s that were developed in 1952 (70 years ago) and are currently investigating the feasibility of upgrading their engines to extend their lives even further.

The US military likes to get their money's worth from their kit too.

When you think of a unit of length, do you think of Antony Gormley's rusty anatomy?


Re: Angel of the North, Rusty? not really...

The corrosion resistance of weathering steel is massively over hyped.

When I spent some time as a bridge inspector I had to measure the thickness of the steel used to construct the bridges as an ongoing process to make sure that there was still enough steel left to let the bridges remain standing.

I sometimes had to chip up to an inch of corrosion away from this supposedly corrosion resistant crap before I got down to bare steel to take the measurements.

I still despise the inventors, manufacturers and most particularly the civil engineers that specified the shite.

Say what you see: Four-letter fun on a late-night support call


Re: Reminds me of a message I once got.

I've been on a number of customer sites where workstations were really locked down with accessories like paint just not available, yet for some reason word is.

Users are often being ingenious in using word to get you a screenshot, not bloody-minded.

Google lab proposes solar-powered moisture farming to provide water for billions


Isn't this just the Waterseer again?

Orders wrong, resellers receiving wrong items? Must be a programming error and certainly not a rushing techie


Re: Fun with punch cards

When I was at Newcastle first years had to use punch cards; year two and on could use the terminals.

We reckoned it was to weed out the weaklings.

Fatal Attraction: Lovely collection, really, but it does not belong anywhere near magnetic storage media


Re: Tales from the trenches.

I used to write floppy disk drivers; testing involved being able to cause disk errors on demand. It was a right bugger to do.

The only way that I could find to reliably cause an error on demand was to make a hole through them with a hole punch.

Fix five days of server failure with this one weird trick


Re: SuperGen

Ah, yes, CTOS, Convergent Technology Operating System. When sold by Burroughs, BTOS, Burroughs someThing Operating System.

What was the T supposed to stand for? No idea. The supposition always was that Burroughs wasn't confident enough in their customisation skills to change the length of the strings.


I used to use that B2x B3x kit when I worked for Unisys.

It was actually badge engineered Convergent Technology kit sold by Burroughs/Unisys and a few other big names IIRC.

It had an unusual design in that all the peripherals came in uniform grey box design about the size of a thick book; you stacked them beside each other then operated a plastic lever that cranked them together and connected the buses. It took a few seconds to do; it was really easy.

The thing is, it wasn't really something that needed to be easy; saving a few minutes of hardware install time with that mechanism wasn't really cost effective. What it did do, however, was encourage hardware sharing by penny pinching managers. Things like tape drives would wander round the office daily. What ought to have been a one time operation on initial install ended up happening daily.

Aside from that it was good, if expensive, kit. And the OS was way ahead of its time. But when the PC came along, it couldn't complete.

Now that bus clip together design already wasn't quite robust enough; it would flex along with whatever it was sitting on. Repeated operation of the connection mechanism swapping kit around just made things worse. The things ended up becoming really sensitive to the evenness of the surface and how much it flexed. It got to the point where someone sitting on the edge of your desk could cause errors.

I was sure that it would turn out to be that damn bus connector.

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


No, not even close.

It's not it's intended use.

I believe that you can just about put an rtos on it.

Verified: UK.gov launching plans for yet another digital identity scheme



Need to dig out my t-shirt.

BT to phase out 3G in UK by 2023 for EE, Plusnet, BT Mobile subscribers


Re: Shame, but inevitable

Or your laptop's built in modem only does 3g...

Updating in production, like a boss


Re: re: My-Handle

Never had this conversation?

Boss: Know anything about <technology>?

You: No.

Boss: You're the expert now. There's no money for a course, online training or even a textbook. Read up online. You're giving a presentation on Monday.

Gov.UK taskforce publishes post-Brexit wish-list: 'TIGRR' pounces on GDPR, metric measures


Universal Credit

In defence of IDS (and it really pains me to have to do it), IDS had gone on record to say that the Universal Credit system, as implemented, bore no relation to the system that he proposed, and that it was ruined by ideological political interference.

FTC approves $61.7m settlement with Amazon for pocketing driver tips


Re: Tip fuckery

I must admit I thought it was common knowledge that if you put a tip on a card then the employee is unlikely to see it. I always tip cash and never tip a penny electronically.

The policy of truth: As ransomware claims rise, what's a cyber insurer to do?


Nothing male about any of those statements these days...

It took 'over 80 different developers' to review and fix 'mess' made by students who sneaked bad code into Linux


Re: People who whine about systemd..

The problem with systemd is that it was a fundamentally sensible idea implemented in a heavy handed way with a massive amount of over-reach by the most arrogant arsehole on the planet.

The future is now, old man: Let the young guns show how to properly cock things up


Re: Regomised

My immediate thought was 'Ted' then it would have been Two Ton Ted from Teddington and Ernie The Fastest Milkman in the West.

Terminal trickery, or how to improve a novel immeasurably


Re: Novel interference

I remember a period when I was on pain medication for my bad back. It wasn't anything really strong; just stronger than over-the-counter stuff.

I was a programming god. I could bash out elegant code that worked flawlessly. It seemed to release the imagination and damp down the self doubt.

The dosage was critical, though. To little and I was just my normal level of day to day idiot. Too much and I would turn out a really special class of gibberish.

Something went wrong but we won't tell you what it is. Now, would you like to take out a premium subscription?


Re: Cool dude

I remember seeing the error message "Wank" pop up on a customer site.

The post mortem revealed that we were using a customisation tool that insisted on an error message for all conditions, even those that could not throw errors.

At some point someone threw together some test customisation for a purely internal error test, was sick of this requirement and put rude words into all the unused error fields.

Someone else picked up the customisation, tweaked it, didn't notice the rude words, and deployed it on site.

George Clooney of IT: Dribbling disaster and damp disk warnings scare the life out of innocent user



The first time that I saw the BSOD screensaver was on the Microsoft NT 4 roadshow. The two Microsoft guys were doing a demo of the new NT 4 using a massive projector screen (it was in a cinema IIRC) when it BSOD'd on a screen 20ft high.

Everyone laughed then the Microsoft guys grinned and moved the mouse and NT sprang back into life. They got a round of applause.

Linux Mint emits fix for memory-gobbling Cinnamon – and future version may insist on some updates



Weirdly I could never get XFCE to work with my NAS, but Cinnamon was fine. And I could never figure out why.

Linux Mint users in hot water for being slow with security updates, running old versions


I'm on Mint 19.2...

...and that won't change for a while.


Because it took over a fucking week to get the printer working and I'm still not sure what it was that fixed things. I'll not be going through that again for shits and giggles. That's assuming that it's even possible in 20.x