* Posts by phy445

100 publicly visible posts • joined 29 Apr 2013


WTF? Potty-mouthed intern's obscene error message mostly amused manager


Open source?

Slightly, off topic, but will El Reg ever open source the Regomiser? Sure it wouldn't too hard to code a system up, but this one has had a good deal on in the field testing - little need to worry about potty-mouthed errors etc.

How is this problem mine, techie asked, while cleaning underground computer


3hrs travel?

Three hours travel time in Cornwall in August - so Doug was based in Devon then?

Arm wrestles assembly language guru's domains away citing trademark issues


Re: It's a bloody word in our bloody language! - pedant alert

I know I'm late to this thread, but I do need to point out that it is X Window not X Windows

Hacking a Foosball table scored an own goal for naughty engineers


Rumour has it that the plastic cups from hot-drink vending machines would fit in the pockets quite nicely. I clearly never had the chance to try this...

Techie wasn't being paid, until he taught HR a lesson


Even name + DoB is not enough

My daughter had issues with the SLC because there was another person with the same name and date of birth.

Given the obscene interest rates they charge you'd have hoped some went on decent system design

This ain't Boeing very well: Starliner's first crewed flight canceled yet again


Re: Rename comimg up

Crapricorn One surely?

Cunningly camouflaged cable routed around WAN-sized hole in project budget


I Was Made for Dancin...

At the risk of revealing how ancient I am, this story prompted me to find out whatever happened to Leif Garret? His picture on his wikipedia page indicates that the gods have not smiled upon him...

Learn the art of malicious compliance: doing exactly what you were asked, even when it's wrong


Dishwasher vs sink washing

Dishwashers vs sink washing was covered on the BBC radio show "More or Less" in 2021: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000zkzq

A full dishwasher was the clear winner back then. Recent Putin enabled energy cost changes might have shifted the balance slightly, but I suspect the numbers still come out in favour of the machine.

Unix is dead. Long live Unix!


Re: Are you ok?

Also, from the readme.md at the XNU link: "XNU is an acronym for X is Not Unix"

The perfect crime – undone by the perfect email backups


Re: "Delete" = "Hide"

Isn't this essentially the same on MS-DOS based systems? My memory is that they just added a character to the start of a filename so that they were flagged so as not to show up in directory listings but remained until someone sent the command to clear space. I'm fairly sure that the clearing process was (is?) just removing them from the record of what is on the disk (hence the existence of undelete utilities).

Know the difference between a bin and /bin unless you want a new doorstop


Trashy comment

Back in the early nineties Macs had a Trashcan rather than a Bin on the desktop - I believe the Bin came along with OS X.

I remember this because I worked out how to change the menu item to empty said space from "Empty Trashcan" to "Delete Thesis" on the lab Mac that several of us PhD students used to write up our magnum opera (Google says this is the correct plural, so it must be so). This made several people very nervous

Beware the fury of a database developer torn from tables and SQL


In the spirit of the story...

Google Translate came up with: Leave all hope, you who enter

Whilst Bing mangled things into: Leave every hope, you who entertain

For British English Deepl managed to get: Abandon all hope, ye who enter in

For US English Deepl went with: Leave ogne hope, ye who enter in

Client demo in 30 minutes. Just what could go wrong?


Re: It was BT for me

I must be confusing technologies because Google assures me that the conference was in '99.

Said search behemoth makes me think ISDN was what I meant and Business Highway rings a vague bell...


It was BT for me

In the late nineties I set up a similar sounding "suite" of computers for a research conference we had organised. It was hosted at a local hotel and the hotel had an ASDL line (with BT) installed for us. Set up was simple, our university IT bods had supplied a router and configuration instructions and all was running well - the academics could all log onto their emails (most had login details written on bits of paper) the day before the conference started. Next morning there was no connection to the outside world. All the connections checked out, the configuration hadn't been changed. The telephone support that BT offered were confident that the fault was at our end.

I had to get the hotel management to call in the BT engineer. Said management made it clear we would have to meet the costs if there was no fault. Fortunately the hotel's ASDL contract was sufficiently expensive that an engineer arrived inside an hour. He checked all my wiring, configurations, etc. and could find no fault. He then made a call to the relevant exchange and two minutes and some sheepish looks later the system was working again. It turned out someone had unplugged the ASDL line at the exchange end

UK to splash another £1.4bn on protecting non-existent 'national interests in space'


Re: UK Space Race

I thought you might have been linking to this:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kb0ooQKbflM

Nothing's working, and I've checked everything, so it must be YOUR fault


Bit of a twist to the ending

See title

Boffins use nuclear radiation to send data wirelessly


Re: Can't help feeling

I think you are a little off-beam. The neutrons are only generated when a pulse is applied to the system. That is different to opening/closing a shutter blocking a continuous source.

Trojan Source attack: Code that says one thing to humans tells your compiler something very different, warn academics


C/P from PDFs can be interesting...

On a data analysis course I teach on, we had several students that copy/pasted example python code from the notes to find that it would not run. It looked OK and the original code had been checked so it was a bit of a mystery.

It turned out that typing over the problem lines with seemingly identical text made the problems go away. My conclusion was that the PDF rendering had (presumably unicode) characters that pyCharm (students' development environment of choice) did not display but the python system could see and took exception too.

I would drive 100 miles and I would drive 100 more just to be the man that drove 200 miles to... hit the enter key


Re the dig at the security bods

Those security people were just doing their job. Imagine hosting servers for multiple companies on a system and allowing anyone with admin access for one company's server unmonitored access to all the servers...

43 years and 14 billion miles later, Voyager 1 still crunching data to reveal secrets of the interstellar medium


Re: I hope it lasts until it meets Bender

Good, but surely this one is more relevant? https://youtu.be/dQw4w9WgXcQ?t=42

Boffins stumble upon method to make silicon control lasers


Nice work

Nice work, it brings back memories from my PhD days–different materials similar applications. At a quick glance it does look as though the system looked at could be useful for ultrafast optical switching and/or optical computing. It will interesting to see if/how this develops.

Minor niggle on the reporting: it is not apathy that has prevented the production of silicon lasers, LEDs etc. Rather it is the laws of physics – insert Star Trek quote here...–Silicon is an indirect band gap material and it will always be terrible (effectively useless) at emitting light.

Forget GameStop: Keyboard warriors and electronic trading have never mixed well


The illusion of real time

A good example of how we delude ourselves that we work in real time. In reality the brain issues commands via the nervous system and although we think we move in instantaneous response to said commands the reality is that it takes time for these things to happen and once the commands are issued it is hard to stop them. We rarely come up against this view of "reality" being tested.

What I find really remarkable is that the illusion is so complete we can compensate for it near instantaneously and work out how to catch a ball, or play music together etc

The good optics of silicon photonics: Light sailing serenely down a fibre


Geeks discussion point

Is the point about PCs being successful because geeks got into them first and the world followed correct?

To my mind PCs form part of the office automation process: pre WWII there were electromechanical adder-upper beasts, then main frames came along, then smaller office computers, and finally we got to the PC which put a computer on a desk.

I can see that there is some case to be made based on the development of the microprocessor based home computers which were uber-geeky in the mid seventies, and may have helped drive expectations, but I contend it is the office automation process that is the important factor. Geeks or no geeks we would have had a variation on the PC.


You can drive a car with your feet, you can operate a sewing machine with your feet. Same goes for computers obviously


Sinclair mouse would have worked

IIRC Sinclair had a plan for a "mouse" that was essentially a joystick without a stick. It had a pad that you tilted to move the pointer. I don't think it ever went into production for some reason...

Boffins store text message inside E coli bacteria using electromagnetic signal – and you'll never guess what it says


Not what I'd write...

Given I'm from the generation that took great joy from getting the ZX Spectrums, Acorn Electrons, (even a Jupiter Ace), in WH Smiths* to write something rude on an infinite loop then "Hello world" is not what I would have written into that DNA.

*other clueless vendors of computers are available

Cats: Not a fan favourite when the critters are draped around an office packed with tech


No cats but...

In my unofficial IT "expert" role I was once asked to look at the computer of a friend of the Significant Other – said computer was running very slowly and randomly restarting. I expected it to be full of dodgy DLLs and the like and to have to have a discrete word about browsing habits with the hubby of said friend. Instead it turned out that the computer which was kept on the floor had sucked in so many carpet fibres that the components on the motherboard weren't even visible.

Apple's M1: the fastest and bestest ever silicon = revolution? Nah, there's far more interesting stuff happening in tech that matters to everyone


The games console model

Isn't what Apple are doing essentially the same as Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo do with their games consoles? A lot of people like this approach – a machine you can just turn on and it does pretty much what you expect and you will probably want to upgrade to a new model every 3-5 years. Come to think of it, that sounds like most consumer products from cookers through to large format TVs. Its almost as though Apple want to appeal to consumers...

DeepMind's latest protein-solving AI AlphaFold a step closer to cracking biology's 50-year conundrum


Nice, but the problem still stands

This is nice work, it gives useable results in a few days rather than a few decades - which is super, but it doesn't really solve the protein folding problem. Its a black box that gives a pretty good stab at structure of the proteins.

What biophysics has been trying to work out it how do the proteins fold so quickly (and so reliably)? They form those structures that have been splashed all over the articles on this system way to fast – this is the protein folding problem. Solve this and you will be the next Watson and Crick (hopefully without all the racism, etc.).

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


Nearly got away with it

I once got sign off for a website with the grand title: Polymer Engineering Near Interfaces & Surfaces

The only thing that stymied me was that the IT team who set these things up used a site’s initials for the home folder name on their system...

Big IQ play from IT outsourcer: Can't create batch files if you can't save files. Of any kind


Couldn't happen now?

I'd like to think that HMG had learned from issues like this over the years. This weekend's IT 'glitch' hints at this not been the case

The power of Bill compels you: A server room possessed by a Microsoft-hating, Linux-loving Demon


Windows boot power draw?

So Windows takes more power to boot than Linux? Why is this?

Genuine question.

Steve Wozniak at 70: Here's to the bloke behind Apple who wasn't a complete... turtleneck


Re: What people remember you for...

Time will tell.

Whilst Jobs bashing is fun, he probably should get credit for pushing to bring to market things that we all now take for granted:

WIMP interfaces – not invented by Apple, but they got it right enough to transform the computer experience

Intuitive touch interfaces (even my aged parents can work their phones)

Glass screens with capacitive sensors rather than plastic ones that need a sharp stylus that is so sharp it scratches the screen.

WiFi as standard (and USB and bluetooth in computers which worked most of the time – I'm still scarred by the trauma of using USB devices with NT4)

The iPod – Apple didn't invent the MP3 player, but their implementation transformed the market.


Now, there's a bunch of stuff that Jobs got wrong:

Lisa disk interface

Killing off the PowerMac clones

That iMac mouse

G4 Cube



If the Solar System's 'Planet Nine' is actually a small black hole, here's how we could detect it... wait, what?


Indeed, but El Reg appears to have misread* the paper that speculates that it might be a black hole. That paper discusses Primordal Black Holes which are very different beast to those formed by collapsing stars and the mass is in the same range as that of the speculated Planet 9.

* I know there's a way to report this, but I can't remember what this is

Ooo, a mystery bit of script! Seems legit. Let's see what happens when we run it


Not a script but...

A long, long time ago in an East London outpost of the University of London I took a Fortran 77 module (course). The computers used were BBC Micros with 32 bit coprocessor attached via the Tube (interface, not the mass transport system or TV show). It ran a multiuser system with some sort of per user access privileges. One day I noticed that someone who should have know better had left without logging out–or rebooting, which was the quicker option in those days of ROM based OS's. I couldn't resist "playing" with the higher access privileges...after a bit of tinkering I discovered "add student" did what you might expect and a couple of "test" users with mature, innuendo free, names such as Ivor Biggun were added. At the end of the session I decided to undo my actions and tried "delete student" unfortunately it turned out that this deleted the login credentials of students. Queue swift exit...

'We're changing shift, and no one can log on!' It was at this moment our hero knew server-lugging chap had screwed up


Not so much a "Who, me?" as a "Who, you?"

See title

Elevating cost-cutting to a whole new level with million-dollar bar bills


Re: Cars of the day... with good old steel bumpers and side panels

Yes, but in those days a lot more people were killed / seriously injured in car accidents. Those crumpling effects are deliberate – they take a lot of energy out of the collisions. For an IT angle they take a lot of computer power to work out how to do.

Disk stuck in the drive? Don't dilly-Dali – get IT on the case!


At the higher education where I spent the early nineties nearly all of the Macs (SE/30s and the like) had neat craters a couple of centimetres in diameter burnt into their tops. It took me a while to realise that these were not some eccentric security marking - rather they were caused by angle-poise lamps sagging down so that the hot bulbs touched the cases of the computers...

Hey, fatso. If you're standing desk-curious, the VariDesk Pro Plus won't break the bank


Had one and hated it

I had one of those for a while – the main issue for me was that even light typing would cause a slight wobble of the monitor and it was just too distracting. I stuck with it for a couple of months but could not get used to it. In the the end I spent about £500 on a standing desk with a motor to do the lifting. This is much better – some colleagues have a manual raise version, but they struggle with the raising unless the weight is evenly distributed on the desk.

The advice on getting a standing mat is good. Until you are used to it, even standing on a carpeted floor is hard work.

Tearoff of Nottingham: University to lose chunk of IT dept to outsourcing


What could possibly go wrong?

Reaches for pop-corn...

Our hero returns home £500 richer thanks to senior dev's appalling security hygiene


Low quality coding

I had to write some quick and dirty, single use (after debugging), code that needed login credentials recently – I couldn't bring myself to hardwire in said credentials. You have to wonder what other corners were cut and whether poor quality code contributed to the downfall of the company...

The best way to screw the competition? Do what they can't, in a fraction of the time



The first (and I think last) time I came across 10Base5 cable (the 0.5 inch coax) was in the mid-90's at a university that had committed to 10Base2 (the thin coax). In one physics lab a networked computer needed to be installed at the other side of the room from the 10B2 port and the total length of that 10B2 line was at the limit of the specification. The solution was a 10B2 to 10B5 converter then about 5m of the over-size coax to the AUI port on the computer.

Shortly after I arrived we rearranged the lab so the the computer was next to the 10B2 junction, but we had to carefully coil the thick coax as there was a multi-month lead time on cable changes. Not too much later 10BT came in and all was well with the world.

With sorry Soyuz stuffed, who's going to run NASA's space station taxi service now?


+1 for heating due to compressing gas.

Good to see the right explanation for a change–not all university courses, let alone option pieces get it right.

The Register's 2018 homepage redesign: What's going on now?


Desktop front-page should be three stories wide

The front page view appears to default to being four stories/boxes wide. I think this is slightly too wide to take in at one glance–especially if you prefer larger typeface sizes. Its a bit like the wide margins in LaTeX documents are disconcerting to someone used to Word documents, but once you get used to it, it is easier(quicker) to read as the eyes do not have to move back and forth as much.

The tech you're reading these words on – you have two Dundee uni boffins to thank for that


Re: TFT patent?

Prior art. There were plenty of TFT papers published in the sixties.

The real breakthrough with this work was getting the amorphous silicon to perform well enough. The older TFT designs used materials like Cadmium Selenide as the semiconductor.

Sysadmin’s worst client was … his mother! Until his sister called for help


Re: Retro computing...

Given that venerable means worthy of respect, I'm guessing that you missed the <irony></irony> tags off your post.

I seem to recall the plus 4 was often referred to as the minus 60...

We sent a vulture to find the relaunched Atari box – and all he got was this lousy baseball cap


Reliable Atari

It’s good to know the Atari brand has retained its air of incompetence that characterised it’s fall from grace in previous incarnations.

Office junior had one job: Tearing perforated bits off tractor-feed dot matrix printer paper


Re: My foreign body story

When I worked at certain UK academic institution – which had probably better remain nameless, but it is in a city that fancies that its northern (but isn't really) and there is currently a bit of an issue with trees – there was a cupboard full of those cards. The technicians used to like them because they fitted nicely in lab-coat and overall pockets and were just the thing to jot down measurements etc on.

SurfaceBook 2 battery drains even when plugged in


Re: Remember back when Apple did the same thing?

I don't recall their power supplies failing to deliver enough juice. I do recall that the wiring in some of the connectors would eventually fail due to the strain generated when unplugging them. I don't think that is the same magnitude of problem as this one.

Full disclosure: I have multiple laptops at home, both Apple and several Wintel variants. In the last ten years one Apple power supply has gone TITSUP, I've lost track of the number of repairs and replacements for the windows machines' power bricks (the ThinkPad being the worst).

Microsoft says Win 8/10's weak randomisation is 'working as intended'


Nothing to do with article but...

The google ad in the right hand column where there is usually some IT related ad or a link to a wallet that will change my life currently shows a lady in a swim suit and is mildly distracting. Is this a side effect of blocking cross-site tracking or google's AI mocking me in some way?