Re: not with a bang but a cock-up
331 posts • joined 13 Jul 2012
The problem with some foreign call centres, particularly those that are half a world away and not in neighbouring countries, is that often the connection is over a poor quality VoIP link which certainly doesn't help, and that because both ends are having to try to understand accents that they don't encounter very often in everyday life, it can be harder for us to understand them, and also equally harder for them to understand us.
For that reason, and also because a well designed and coded (hmm) web form is much less likely to mess up than if you get a call centre operator who is less competent, I much prefer to interact with utilities via website customer admin areas than call centres. You also don't have to wait in a queue to access a website, and they are available 24 hours a day at no extra staffing cost. It beats me why some companies spend more on call centres and have poor or no web admin areas, when it would surely quickly save them money,
«Sadly lots of Americans think GMT means "UK time", and have no concept of BST (GMT+1) as daylight saving time.»
Sadly there are also quite a few people in the UK who don't distinguish that specific and necessary difference when they really need to as well, and then wonder why their international videoconference calls are an hour out, and there's either nobody at the other end, or they've missed it…
"How is the ISO format backwards? Or do you think of time in terms of ss:mm:hh ???
Coarse -> Fine is the only sensible way."
Well, right now, where I am, it's just gone twenty-five past twelve, and is nearly half twelve (although that latter can also be rather misleading, depending on which language you are speaking!).
But, yes, that's everyday informal speech, where I might also (but very rarely do) say that it's September the 15th, rather than the 15th of September, so that's perfectly fine and not ambiguous.
In written form, however, ISO format or DD/MM/YYYY all the way.
(It makes me wonder just why the USA puts so much bizarre emphasis on putting the month first. I mean, it's not unusual for any of us, in an insufficiently caffeinated state, to forget what date of the month or day of the week it is, and so need to check, but needing a reminder of what month it is first? You've either had a very long sleep, or are a time traveller (in either case, year might still be a good place to start.))
"email@example.com" was a JANET thing, possibly/probably related to one of the X.something communications standards that I can't be bothered trying to search for just now (OK, I lie: searching Wikipedia for "JANET email address" does, as it so often does, The Right Thing: JANET NRS)
I also had an email address at around the same time, and I dimly remember that email to some friends in some places went through in "internet standard" format (TLD last) just fine, but for some other places, you could see in the mail headers the mail going through a relay somewhere that flipped the addresses back and forth to the previous JANET format as necessary.
Bang paths, as in (not quite) jsmith123@uk!ac!salford were something different: they were more of a routing guide for UUCP showing which network nodes a message had to pass through to reach its destination (I only recall seeing them in some people's usenet postings…).
«"a large US firm I used to work for insisted on this format everywhere"
That's because they didn't know any better.»
Well, they are a US company. They probably also assume that every one of their customers everywhere in the world has a "zip code" (with a specific format), that there is never any need to specify a country code for phone numbers, that said phone numbers absolutely must be able to be hammered into a nnn-nnn-nnnn format, and that producing product description sheets with measurements in squiggles and ozzes would mean anything to anyone else… (It's particularly disheartening to sometimes see that last for products from Chinese companies in their product illustrations on $well_known_international_shopping_sites, which probably means as little to them as it does to the majority of their worldwide customers.)
Either of the 19.x releases would have been one of the intermediate releases (as was 18.10). Those are where they experiment a little with new features and package versions (and you get to test and break them, and report any problems, as part of the development process). They are not intended for use on "production" computers, so you are being somewhat unfair there. That's the price you pay for relentlessly chasing new and shiny.
If you want a (mostly) stable working Linux system, you should stick to the LTS (long term support) releases. The idea is that issues found in the preceding intermediate releases get found and fixed for the next LTS release.
Your comparison is similar to Debian's "testing" release (where some things might break on each package refresh), or even "unstable"/"sid" (where things will quite likely break, as it's basically made from different toy parts just violently thrown together).
First you need users.
Ubuntu originally got a lot of mindshare by being Debian with a bit of extra polish, easier for ordinary users to install and use, and supported by a benevolent dictator. For a long time, things looked good.
But nowadays Ubuntu sadly seems to be getting distracted with things like snaps, which many people have good reasons for disliking.
And so some people start to consider Debian again, which has also become more polished itself. But before any distro can have developers, it needs users.
I've started to move to Debian again, but in some ways, it still doesn't make things easy. Yes, being a developer should have skills barriers to entry, but even as a potential user, it was until quite recently rather hard to find an install ISO image on the Debian website (you are trapped in a maze of sort of download links not especially alike, few of which point to an actual ISO image), and although the minimal net install image is a clever thing, it may or may not work on your particular PC hardware, and the main install image isn't really all that much bigger (and the proportion of people for whom the difference in download size and speed of anything under 1 GB is surely rapidly falling fast, all around the world (not that it's not a good thing to keep in mind)). By all means also offer jigdo and BitTorrent, but those are really for more advanced users, and everyone has to start at the beginning at some point, so why not make it easier to at least get started?
This got me thinking…
Back in the day, much FLOSS software came about because people were working in research labs of some flavour as their day job, and were working on FLOSS either in their spare time, or as some fractional part of the the day job. This allowed things to get done without people having to worry about where their next rent/mortgage payment was coming from (even providing a fall-back if some people, mentioning no names, ended up living in an office in the research lab for a while, when the money did run out).
But then the Linux OS grew and grew and became something that we all depended on and also something that needed more maintenance effort, for each of the distros out of there.
A prominent upstream enterprise Linux vendor solved that problem, for itself, by becoming a fully paid product, and therefore providing an income stream to pay developers.
Debian, on the other hand, is very definitely on the Free side of the fence. This is a good thing, because it makes it available to anyone who wants it, and it is clearly also a big help to all of its child distros which share its virtual DNA.
But are we maybe now getting to the point where managing a whole distro just becomes too big a task to rely on volunteer effort alone? All of those volunteers also have to occupy a lot of their time in some other way to ensure that their rent/mortgage gets paid (and speaking for myself, at least, I seem to have a lot less energy for doing other "brain work" in my spare time than I used to), so quite probably some of those donations do need to be spent on employing those developers, so that they can be fairly recompensed for their labours?
(And it also reminds me that it's about time that I made a small donation to Debian. If even 10% of users donated even £5 a year, that would surely amount to a fairly sizable sum. And it hopefully goes without saying that any companies that make use of it should donate rather more than that.)
The UK has had at least two (or three, depending on how you look at it) world-class (if not always world-renowned) tech companies: Psion/Symbian and ARM.
Those who knew, knew they were pretty good, and, in typical Brtish fashion, we sat around with that feeling of noble satisfaction of a job done well, but didn't shout out enough to publicise them well or to market them strongly, as US companies much more tend to do.
It's almost a miracle that Psion/Symbian became rather successful, for quite a long time, but yet although well known in Europe, apparently neither was particularly well known in the USA (which, at the time, was a market at least as big, if not larger)?
ARM obviously did do a good job of developing a very sizable, and growing, niche, and any sensible UK government and financial investors would hopefully have seen that they were a genuinely world-class company deserving of any necessary support to help their growth, but, as is too often the case, they ended up being bought by a foreign company instead.
Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery. It has to be said that this looks like it would make (in theory) an excellent Hackintosh, and somewhat ironic that it seems to have rather more accessible/upgradeable components than the real thing!
Annoying that they have mimicked the design to such an extent that it's also missing proper Delete/Home/End/PgUp/PgDown/etc keys. That's something that makes me really wish Apple would introduce a size 14 laptop (16 is too big to be portable, let alone the cost), which would have plenty room for that additional column of keys (13 could also do it, if they shifted the keyboard leftwards slightly).
That's a disturbingly accurate description of Pacers, from what I know of them (fortunately they were never inflicted where I live: reportedly the BR sector manager rightly refused to allow anything offering such poor passenger comfort (although basic Sprinters weren't an awful lot better, but when given only the choice of the lesser of two evils)).
From that description, I'm now worried that, somewhere gathering dust in the Awdry attic, there is a whole collection of Railway Series books deemed far too debased, and featuring all manner of wheeled abominations, to ever be accepted for publication or for Thomas or children to ever find out about…
Yes, all of us reading here are, shall we say, somewhat miffed that what used to be a reasonable and efficient domain authority has gradually turned into a rather murky quagmire that seems more interested in lining its own pockets, but we are only us, and not the wider population. Presumably hardly anyone else is really aware of this, which is why it can far too easily continue?
If The Register really wants to make a name for itself in campaigning journalism, why don't you prepare a dossier of the dodginess and present it to appropriate MPs who could be persuaded to take an interest?
(I realise that also requires finding non-dodgy MPs, but there are at least a few, thankfully.)
Don't forget the 5110's changeable pop-off cases , available in a wide range of funky colours, Absolutely killer feature!
 For younglings: this was the phone's actual front panel casing, not a wrap around external case as you get for touchscreen smartphones.
Massive thumbs-up for highlighting the problem of email programs which only show the person's name and not also which email address is actually being used for that person.
Given that many/most people have different email addresses for different contexts, not just work/home, which fucktard ever thought that was a good idea? (And Apple, who generally have quite good UI guidelines, should be especially ashamed of themselves.)
Hiding email addresses also helps enable all those phishing attacks supposedly
From: "Your Company It Service Departement Central"
There's a good and perfectly valid argument that being able to contribute to kernel development should have quite a high (skills) barrier to entry; I know I certainly couldn't do it, for example.
But I do also agree that alternatives to perhaps rather fiddly email processes probably aren't really such a bad idea.
Linux development started in the 90s, at a time when permanently online, realtime, worldwide, internet connectivity was a rare thing, with uucp, relay gateways, and dial-up access (with phone call charges on top) being rather more common. And in the early part of that decade there was no web, of course.
Obviously, this gradually changed, and we now find ourselves in the situation where almost everyone (for some value of almost) now has always-on direct internet and web access, with no per-minute charges. As that happened, we gradually moved from discussion mailing lists to forums, to Q&A sites like StackExchange, to issue trackers (and also to certain eternally scrolling platforms that we will of course not mention here, and which happen to be completely useless for any form of structured discussion).
Is it really such a bad thing to perhaps have a wider variety of tools available in the tool chest, such as the now quite powerful web-based tools that most repository hosting systems now have?
And to give a tiny example (and which probably also serves as another good example as to why I'm not a kernel developer), if I want to diff two files, I don't use 'diff', as I find it very hard to follow, I use 'meld', which suits my way of visualising things so much better. Times change, tools change.
(But having said all that, Micros~1 having the world's worst almost-but-not-quite-email program quite probably doesn't help matters, so, if they want to get more involved, they probably need to take a good look much closer to home first!)
I'm not sure that "modern" is an adjective that I'd really apply to Alpine!
Yes, it still works, and yes, we have a die-hard set of people still using it at work (and, yes, my first email client was elm, and I have also used alpine), but the three-pane folders/headers/message layout that's been a de facto standard in graphical mail clients since the 90s suits me much better.
But, yes, each to their own preferred tool.
We all have accents, and there's nothing wrong, and a lot right, with that. It's one of the charms of our not so vast island that we all sound quite different, depending on where we come from.
It's the folk that think one accent is somehow "superior" or more "proper" than all others that are annoying, although thankfully the BBC sounds a lot more reflective of all of the UK nowadays.
(I'll admit, there are some accents that I'm not particularly fond of the sound of (it would be interesting to work out why, is it just unfamiliarity?), but as long as we can all understand each other, that's the important thing.)
There's a commonality in all of these things: they're all English-speaking countries.
It makes you wonder: are British people, and our colonial descendents, just exceptionally good at screwing things up in a world-class world-beating way (go us!!), or is it just that we don't hear so much about other nations' screw-ups because we generally never bothered to learn other languages and so don't pick up on similar media stories from other countries so much? Research needed!
Oh, I'm surprised to see from the photo that the dish is essentially a giant "hammock" and is suspended a few metres above the ground. I'd always had the impression from somewhere that it was carved out of or cast into a natural depression directly on the ground, sort of like a giant skateboard park. oops!
Regarding "cross platform open source standards", remember that MacOS is a Unix system at heart. It's Windows that is the exception to that these days.
And, speaking of unix systems, my ARM-powered Raspberry PI runs all the usual Linux programs that I would expect quite happily, so I have no doubt that Apple will make it so that pretty much all that developers have to do is kick off a compile for the new architecture. They do have quite a lot of history and experience buiilt up in doing just that, after all.
Yes, with 2G having been withdrawn in some places already, and 3G being better even if your data needs are low, I don't understand why anyone is still making 2G-only phones. 3G is surely old enough by now (but adequate for light users) that the cost of adding 3G support must be fairly negligible?
Also, every internet connected device should have an externally accessible emergency reset button (like most/all home routers do), so that in the event of børkage, the storage is wiped, the device resets to defaults, and it can then safely download any needed updates (well, safely assumes that upstream has fixed the invalid file by then, of course, but the point is that you can happily reset your device once they have done so, and not need it to be sent off for repair).
Or maybe they could just do without this particular pointless telemetry crap in the first place.
The time that trains will save travelling on the first section of HS2 will also result in journey time savings for trains travelling from/to further north, providing an initial journey time improvement for those journeys as well.
London, Birmingham, it's not just about you…
The next stages would then result in further time savings for further destinations, and, who knows, maybe eventually high speed links will be completed to Newcastle and Edinburgh/Glasgow as well, making train travel a properly competitive alternative to almost all internal flights.
(But don't get me wrong, building many HS2 stations as terminuses, rather than through stations, is completely stupid.)
The way MacOS makes accents and special character input easier is quite nice, although some of the keystrokes are rather unobvious and obscure, and there are some commonly used characters that it doesn't seem possible to type directly in plain text (eg, ², ³). I am personally more comfortable with the compose key idea which is common in Linux: does anyone know if there is a way to do this in current versions of MacOS? (I did try to look this up a while ago, and it seemed that there were a couple of possible solutions, but they seemed to be somewhat MacOS-release-specific, and I ran out of time to hop around the rabbit burrow to find out where the path eventually led…)
But it is particularly ridiculous that there really is no easy way to enter special characters on Windows, however (alt+number isn't particularly friendly)!
"Low-voltage DC is just USB now."
How many home electronics gadgets (apart from, perhaps, TVs, and I wouldn't be surprised if you could even power LCD TVs over USB-C) actually need a mains voltage supply these days?
I bought a small desk fan recently that runs off a USB-A socket rather than mains directly (so I could even run it off my computer, if I wanted). With the extra power that you can get from USB-C, it should really now be the universal power supply for everything that it can handle. I'm sure we all have assorted gadgets, from shavers and electric toothbrushes, to clock radios and bedside lights, etc, all of which would probably work fine from USB-C supplies. And we wouldn't need to festoon our rooms with huge and ugly multi-way mains plug cables (yes, UK plugs, I am especially looking at you), you could fit about a dozen USB-C ports into the space of one or two mains plug sockets on the extension cable, and then only need the one mains plug to actually plug into the wall.
I dare say that things are often done differently in the USA than in the UK. The USA has a lot more surviving native forestry, to start with. I know that the (UK) Forestry Commission now aims to plant more mixed forests (not that there won't be sizable dollops of conifers within them) so as to get both economic and environmental benefit from them.
"And no bad thing, because fast growing conifers grown as a monoculture are really not the kind of tree we want. We need varied deciduous woodland."
Forestry as a business is coming to realise that as well. Not only does it look nicer (forests also support additional businesses such as cafes, cabins, etc for people walking, hiking, cycling or mountain biking), and support a more diverse range of wildlife, but (I understand) a mixture of tree types is also much better for soil health and stability.
Road signs in Ireland went fully metric in 2005, but newly-erected distance road signs had been switched to km some time before, so that there were would be fewer signs needing converted by the time of the final switchover, canny! (And to think that Britain likes to think that it's the Irish who are the daft ones?)
"While we're discussing old stuff, what the hell is with prices on old books written something like 1'4/-?"
[You are, I hope, kidding that you don't know what this means? We got taught about it, in passing, in history lessons at school (hehe).]
It's (just) before my time, but it's slightly horrifying to realise/learn that £sd was the currency system of the UK (and, correspondingly, Ireland), and previously also other members of the British Commonwealth (who had the good sense to convert (and go metric) sooner), until "relatively" recently, "only"(?) 50 years ago next February.
If you're young enough, it's extremely surreal to dredge around online video archives from just before "decimalisation" and chortle at (some) people being confused by the "new money", when instead it's the bizarre "old money" that confuses our brains instead! I doubt that anyone old enough to have lived through it would want to go back, however, which makes it all the more strange that the conversion to metric stalled and has dragged out for sooo loonnngggg…
Genuine question: how does (picks arbitrary numbers out of the air) 220 × 8 make any "sense"?
A measurement system which seems to have as many different conversion factors as there are units, and which are mostly seemingly chosen at random, is just too confusing.
Whereas a system where the only conversion factors are powers of 1000 (with logically extrapolated 10s and 100s thrown in at the human scale to be friendlier) is just nice and easy.
I'm pretty sure I have (either mentally or out loud) sometimes referred to spaces as blanks, as in the idea of (say) padding an indent with some blank spaces (OK, arguably a tautology) to make multi-line comments line up, etc. I've certainly referred to blank lines, which are another type of whitespace.
(But, as noted previously, if someone regards the entirely neutral and no-values-implied use of "whitespace" as problematic, then "blank" probably isn't a good replacement, not that one is needed in this case. We still refer to "leading" in typography, even though the technology no longer uses lead (Pb) spacers, so we can surely still use whitespace, no matter what colour setup our terminal/window has.)
Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2020