Re: Mouse mats with logos -avoid, avoid, avoid
Am I the only person who doesn't use a mouse mat any more?
Yes, they were needed for ball mice, but I find that optical mice work perfectly fine just on the (literal) desk top without one.
297 posts • joined 13 Jul 2012
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.)
Regarding "blanks", it is perhaps most pertinent to remember that it is also the corresponding word in Afrikaans, where many people have very unpleasant memories of disgusting racist signs at the beach or elsewhere saying "Net Blankes" (I surely don't need to translate what these mean, I hope).
One of my then local kebab shops used to sell, well, I'm not quite sure if they were exactly roast potatoes, but they were sort of similar. Deliciously fluffy and (I'm hoping) a bit healthier than chips, it was a favourite post-pub nosh for me (even better with a bit of grated cheese when you got home). Unfortunately, I moved to another part of town, and the last time I went back there, they had stopped selling them, sadly.
Is anybody keeping track of the rate at which SSD storage drives become affordable?
I was thinking of getting an external SSD to act as my backup drive, but it looks as though prices are still taking a very long time to reduce (as the technology matures and economies of scale start to take effect).
SSDs are still considerably more expensive than spinning rust, and, at the time of writing, the price curve looks to be as follows: up to 500 GB = affordable, but too small to be of much use for many backup purposes; up to 1 TB = not unreasonably expensive, but you still get considerably more spinning rust storage in the same price range (~5 GB or more); and then quite a terrifingly large and disproportionate (in simple numerical terms, although I imagine that a potential higher failed chips in manufacture rate affects this) increase for 2 TB SSDs.
I guess it will still be spinning rust for me for quite a while yet!
IPv4 provides only around 2 billion IP addresses. There are 7 billion people in the world. Do the maths.
Over time, it is likely that the majority of us will have, at the very least, a smartphone of some kind, if not one or more other internet-connected computers. Yes, NAT can help, but it is a bit of a kludge.
@jason_derp: I think you must have been lucky! Yes, Linux mostly "just works" nowadays, but there are still rather too many flakey WiFi or Bluetooth chipsets out there, for example, that can be distinctly unfriendly for new users to try to get working, sadly.
If this means that Lenovo will now be taking care to spec only chipsets that definitely work in Linux, that's
definite good news, as it will hopefully have a ripple effect on crappy chipset makers, getting them to design and test their hardware with Linux properly, for fear of losing all potential business from Lenovo.
Thanks for the explanation, which makes sense, although it does still seem a bit of an unusual usage of the word. I'm used to 'nominal' meaning "in name only", but I can see how it could also mean "as named/defined", although that is rather confusing, being almost an exactly opposite meaning.
It seems that most ATMs, when you insert your card, now say something slightly unnecessary along the lines of "Reading chip card" for a second or two before displaying the menu screen, whereas in ye olden days (oh, hello, USA) they would process magstripe cards silently for a second or two before displaying the menu screen.
I have strong suspicions that the chip card message was added as a debug aid by and for the developers while they were adding chip card functionality, so that they could tell that the ATM was doing the right thing, but that they just left the code/message in afterwards, as it wasn't particularly worth doing the work to take it out (and Murphy's Law would probably result in the chip reading functionality børking itself, if they did).
"Absolutely - I always recommend that people should brick up all the windows in their homes to stop burglars getting in."
You've pretty much described a castle, which is a highly secure dwelling designed to resist external attack and minimise attack surface. If you are at very high risk from such an attack, it's a perfectly reasonable solution. The same reason why many shops have shutters, and some houses have grilles on the windows. The corollary with a web browser is obvious. Determine your perceived level of risk/threat, and take proportionate action. Now, where did I put that boiling oil extension...?
In the 1980s when the tv news was interviewing someone Far Away, we were perfectly happy with the advanced technical solution of a photo of the remote journalist superimposed on a (funky BBC shades of orange) map of where in the world they were, with only their voice coming in over a (crackly or otherwise, usually not, if I recall) phone line.
99% of the time in these webcam interviews that the news persists in doing, having live (but often call-killingly flakey) video of the person being interviewed adds absolutely nothing to the interview. It would be far more bandwidth efficient and reliable just to have an audio-only stream for the interview, and bring back the photo and map overlay!
(The 1% of interviews where the video actually adds anything is in those few cases where, say, a subject expert's young children decide to invade his study mid-interview... :-D )
And, in turn, the British Rail HST (InterCity 125) was only supposed to be a relatively short-lived interim solution, pending the development of the electric APT (Advanced Passenger Train) and further electrification of the rail network.
First introduced in 1976, they are only just now being retired from many of the routes they operated on, and in fact ScotRail have also acquired some (by now, very second hand, but still with a bit of life in them) IC125 train sets to replace rather more vanilla DMUs on their express routes.
I'm a bigger fan of the electric InterCity 225s (which, in theory, at least, could also operate faster, and had potential for tilt capability), but the HST is definitely a design and engineering classic, and a well deserved tip of the hat to everyone who was involved with them.
"Mine is from 1986, made in Scotland and was rescued from a skip nearly 20 years ago. They really are pretty good..."
Made in Scotland, from girders? That could explain a lot! I suspect that Irn-Bru could be missing a co-branding opportunity here… Bright orange keyboard, anyone?
Wow, infrared connectivity isn't something that any of my phones have had since, let me think, my SonyEricsson T610 (a very very nice phone, in its time).
Although much less of use for connectivity these days (probably not at all?), it would still be a very useful feature to have to let you use your phone as an alternative for tv or hifi remote controls, etc.
Ah, good old usenet, back in the days when it was useful, and was perhaps the original global online social network (possibly Fidonet fans might disagree). A real shame that the gradual increase in spam and gradual tailing off of new users largely put an end to it (I know there are still a few groups that are, somehow, still thriving even now, although most of it is now a spambot-infested post-apocalyptic wasteland, sadly).
Impressed that way back then (wow, the 80s!), Acorn had a domain name and email.
And loving the uucp usenet transmission, too... Wanders off, muttering something about bang paths...
It was a neat feature, and one, along with PDF export, that showed that you didn't need expensive closed-source software to get results.
Admittedly, I think I actually only used it once, to convert a presentation for display on the web (since, at that time, almost everyone had the Flash plug-in, which was more than you could say for either Impress itself or a certain other presentation application that you would have to pay for, with limited platform availability), but I was glad it was there.
But, yes, Flash is now a liability, and it would be great if there was an HTML 5 exporter instead.
Email was running on unix systems before Microsoft even existed, and even though Exchange's non-standard approach to not-quite-like-email messaging (ugh, winmail.dat and drunken .pst files) is horrible, I will grant that the two features they had the sense to include in their system were indeed passwordless account sharing and a calendaring system. Neither of these ought to be insurmountable for a unix-based mail server setup, but sadly it looks as though either the developer itch or the financial support from wherever to combine the necessary components and apply the required polish to make these work well just hasn't happened.
My workplace moved from in-house email to Office 364 a while ago, and Thunderbird + Lightning was working fairly well for me for some time, although the hot potatoes of various Exchange plug-ins and Microsoft continually moving the goalposts (funny, that) meant that I eventually had to give up on the Exchange calendar working.
I then recalled that Evolution (which I had previously disliked for some reason, I think it may have been that for home use way back when it was either impossible for very difficult to use an alternative From address?) was supposed to have some sort of Exchange support. So I tried it, and I was most impressed that It Just Worked. I was expecting to have to do a little bit of fiddling, but, no, it just worked.
It is a bit frustrating that given that most/all of the parts exist (IMAP, LDAP, iCalendar, etc) there isn't an open-standard email server system that does all of the above, but maybe some folk will scratch that itch at some point…
That paper tape setup sounds like the original predecessor to places where the "workflow" is to print out documents, so that they can be scanned in later (but not as an OCR scan, of course, and always at an angle of at least 5° from true), so that they can be sent as an attachment to an email message...
(Extra bonus points if the original document didn't really contain any formatting that couldn't have been adequately conveyed by a suitably laid out monospace plain text email anyway.)
"at least Apple were trying, with the keyboard daisy-chaining to mouse"
Yes, why do so few keyboards not have a USB pass-through port for the mouse to connect to? One fewer thing to have to faff around behind/beneath the desk to connect to the base unit, and less cable clutter on the desk if it means that most of the mouse cable can just remain coiled up instead. Heck, you could even have several ports on the keyboard, and be able to plug low-power devices such as USB flash drives into them as and when needed?
(I realise that this would require adding USB hub chippery to the keyboard, but the cost of that must be pretty trivial by now?)
Actually, I suspect/hope that it might be pretty Linux friendly.
The China-produced Ubuntu derivative, Ubuntu Kylin, is introducing a new desktop environment that is very clearly designed to substitute for Windows 10 as far as end users are concerned, and so I wouldn't be surprised if it ships with Ubuntu Kylin by default in China?
With the help of Wine + warez, users might then have access to everything they need, although I'd hope that they'd take the more ethical path of using open source software instead (and so also not have to worry about data lock-in, either).
Yeah, c'mon, is it too much to ask Reg reviewers to plug in an Ubuntu (other user-friendly distros are available) live USB stick while their tea/coffee/whatever is brewing and do an at least cursory 10-minute check that a laptop Works With Linux? (We don't expect a guarantee, but at least a "seems to work OK" can be helpful.)
Perhaps it's much less of an issue nowadays, as most laptop components do seem to work well with Linux (arguably, often with far less hassle than with Windows itself, here's where your real plug-n-play is), but every so often a laptop manufacturer decides to spec a real cheap-n-nasty WiFi or Bluetooth chipset that you have to embark on a long and arduous adventure though many twisty tangled forum threads to seek out the fabled but possibly non-existent driver of power, and, if the brave adventurer finally finds the path to the goal, only the truly blessed can unlock the maze of ever-changing transient download sites, hoping against hope that they chose wisely to have the wayfinding abilities of a ranger and will not turn out to need the deep source knowledge of a wizard should the magical object need compiling before its powers can be unlocked...
Apollo 13 in real time is also incredibly engrossing.
It does what it says on the tin (you can skip to any part of the mission timeline, of course, and key moments are bookmarked), and includes not only the audio recordings between Mission Control and the Apollo, but also the Mission Control specialist desks. It's fascinating to hear the discussions between them and makes you realise just how many sources of information the Flight Controller had to try to absorb in a very pressured environment. The site also contains video footage as it happens, and photographs at the moment in the timeline when they were taken, it's very well put together.
And, similarly, when it asks you to select images of taxis, why can't I see a black cab in any of them?
(Unless some of them are hidden behind those yellow cars that often seem to get in the way?)
PS: I had to re-read "botherders" as I couldn't work out what a "bother-der" was...
And as screen sizes diverge ever more from 16:9 proportions (let alone 4:3 for which the measurement was first devised), "screen diagonal" becomes an ever more pointless and unhelpful way to attempt to describe screen size.
It seems that even Americans can cope with phone thickness being decribed in mm, why don't we just go the whole way and describe screen sizes as x × y mm, which better indicates how wide and tall the screen really is?
When I was a kid (and I suspect age may be a significant factor in our logo preference here), the worm undeniably said Heading Into the New and Bold Future , without a doubt, so I have a particular soft spot for it.
At the same time, the meatball has a definite classic mission patch look to it.
So, may I suggest an addendum to the style guide?
If you can stitch it to something := meatball.
If you can stick it on something := worm.
 Of course, it now looks like a very 1970s version of the future, but the future always does, won't it?
Yeah, we know that Britain pretty much only has "medium speed" lines for the most part, by today's standards, but, given the hassle of air travel and getting to and from the airports, rail travel is still nevertheless a pretty good option if you're near an InterCity line. Even Edinburgh or Glasgow to London is do-able in a day for sensibly timed meetings, and not a few people do actually do that. And quite a number of combinations of cities are within 2 hours' travelling time of each other.
That's not to say that a network of proper high speed lines that could shave at least an hour off the journey time isn't long overdue, however (Long overdue = should have started building in the 1980s like everyone else did. With world-class British organisational excellence, it would be just about ready by now.).
That sounds like the first stage of what normally happens when you power on a Spectrum. The black screen lasts for maybe a second or two (is it checking the RAM or something, somebody presumably knows/remembers?) and then it clears down to the well-remembered copyright message...
It sounds as though it's nearly getting there, but maybe something in the self-test (if that is what it is) is failing. But, as others have said, even if someone can identify the problematic part, best just to leave it in peace.
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