* Posts by Nick London

32 posts • joined 27 Jul 2014

Britain has no idea how close it came to ATMs flooding the streets with free money thanks to some crap code, 1970s style

Nick London

The past is another counttry.

I went to university in 1972

I had a cash card from Natwest Bank

It was a small plastic punch card. You put in the slot with a PIN and got £10

They then posted it back.

By doing this and getting the maximum on a cheque at the counter with my guarantee card,I think £25, I could pay a terms rent.

Tech can endure the most inhospitable environments: Space, underwater, down t'pit... even hairdressers

Nick London

Every time we make it idiot proof they design a better idiot.

I am a steel and concrete engineer, but the one in the family who "understood" computers so I was dispatched to help a retired friend of the inlaws who had always been hard up but had inherited a nest egg and bought a PC.

Problem 1 was no sound which was not unusual - it was a matter of installing drivers.

Problem 2 was that he worried that when he typed in the word processor he would lose what he typed as it scrolled off the top of the screen. I explained how to save and that scrolling would not lose anything and he was away.

What is obvious to you may not be obvious to others.

When I first introduced the future Mrs NL to the hole in the wall cash machine, she typed 10 and waited. I told her to press the enter key. Why she asked. So the machine knows you are finished and don't want £100 I said. Ridiculous she said I would never want £100. I still have to navigate the basket checkout payment for her during online shopping, almost 40 years later. Love sp[rings eternal.

The safest place to save your files is somewhere nobody will ever look

Nick London

Trouble and strife

I am not in IT but did some Basic at school submitted by puch tape/teletypewrier/acoustic modem that took telephone handset. Thena one week Fortran course at university - hand punch machines to submit punch cards etc.

Anyway mid eighties and the trouble and strife works for very big US vendor of missiles etc in a Mayfair representative office and they buy her an IBM PC yes an original with twin floppies and Word Perfect.

Anyway she complains that she gets all her pages repeated so a letter file when opened has multiple copies of the file.

One day she tells me 64 pages, so I deduce a power of 2 involved

Turns out when closing the file it asks "do you want to save a copy" and if she clicked yes, it appended a copy of the open file to itself thereby doubling each time.

Back to the steel and concrete engineering. You know where you are.

Hey, I wrote this neat little program for you guys called the IMAC User Notification Tool

Nick London
Black Helicopters


In 1988 there was a big fire at COD Donnington a massive British Army ordnance store and a shed load (literally and it was a large shed) of stores were destroyed

Refused requests on the Army's stores system were marked FOFAD

I was told it stood for

"F_ck Off, Fire at Donnington" though never found out the real meaning. Can anyone help?

BBC said it'll pull radio streams from TuneIn to slurp more of your data but nobody noticed till Amazon put its foot in it

Nick London


Not to mention BBC Sounds does not work on my iPad because it is 6 Years old. But they are ending iPlayer Radio which has a superior interface and an alarm function.

Apparently the BBC Spent a fortune on the Sounds App (I have it on Android0 but it looks like it was knocked up by a couple of school kids for an IT assignment.

Behold the perils of trying to turn the family and friends support line into a sideline

Nick London

I've had my share.

Not long after we were wed my wife's firm, a major US defence contractor, decided their London office needed a PC so they spent £5,000 on an original IBM PC with twin floppies ( an optional extra), monochrome monitor, a Brother Twinwriter, a modem possibly 300 Baud and the software.

It took a while for BT to install the data line but they did, and She Who Must Be obeyed came under pressure to hook her computer up to use their in house e-mail running on a 1950's redundant IBM mainframe that only understood capital letters.

By the way I am a structural engineer. Concrete steel bricks etc.

Any way the day came and I got the phone call "I cant connect to the leased line" so I asked have you connected all the cables?

Phone socket to modem - yes

Mains to modem -yes

Modem to PC - What cable there isn't one. Why would I need one?

Phone call to supplier "oops we forgot that £40 for parallel cable."

My wife hit the roof and they agreed to supply one in place of some accessory to the Twinwriter ( I think the sheet splitter) that was still on back order.

The funny thing is she only called me after her boss a qualified electronics engineer flogging missiles and radars failed to diagnose the problem.

The time a Commodore CDTV disc proved its worth as something other than a coaster

Nick London


The wonderful Steph McGovern is a proud daughter of Sunderland her accent is Mackem.

An Army Watchkeeper drone tried to land. Then meatbags took over from the computers

Nick London

Re: Call that a drone?

Called by the troops the Civil Servant because they did not work and could not be fired.

Nick London


The CES for Watchkeeper should contain card printed as follows.







BT boss warns 16-min walk from current HQ to new London base 'just the tip of the iceberg'

Nick London

Hutber's Law

Patrick Hutber was the City Editor of the Sunday Telegraph IIRR

Hutber's Law states that if a company opens a shiny new headquarter;s building in town it is time to sell the shares.

You have been warned

Controversial American bigwig in London... no, not Trump: HPE ex-CEO Meg Whitman to give Autonomy trial evidence

Nick London

Caveat Emptor Buyer Beware

Whatever became of Caveat Emptor.

HP did not need to buy Autonomy. They chose to do so. For 11 Billion Bucks surely they could have developed their own Program.

Never let something so flimsy as a locked door to the computer room stand in the way of an auditor on the warpath

Nick London
Big Brother

Auditors and auditees.

I'm a structural engineer.

Mid 70;s as a graduate I was inspecting floors in a working office building (Remember High Alumina Cement).

Wearing high vis and safety gear makes you invisible.

I heard two book keepers in the lift discussing an audit and one tells the other not to give them any assistance.

Later I had my head up the ceiling in the office used by the auditors as the visiting partner gave a pep talk to the bean counter who was suffering a lack of cooperation.

If I could turn back time, I'd tell you to keep that old Radarange at home

Nick London

For Boring see also under Civil Engineers (Yellow Pages)

I am a Structural Engineer by trade but family and friends ask my advice when their computer misbehaves.

My brother who needed to access to a professional website could not stay logged in, it defeated both their support desk and his own IT support. He rang me and I remoted in and became puzzled by the dates on some files. He corrected the date and voila.

I deduced that the log in set a cookie with the system date, but as soon as he accessed the online database it deduced that the cookie had expired.

You asked so I told you

A story of M, a failed retailer: We'll give you a clue – it rhymes with Charlie Chaplin

Nick London


Yes 30 years ago visiting a Maplins was an adventure and they were cheap.

Gradually they became expensive and the stock less technical and more retail.

Sad they could not see it coming happens to so many stores.

Don't know if there was an alternative strategy maybe splitting the company to reinforce their USP in regard to the little things and hobbyist without the high street overheads.


IBM memo to staff: Our CEO Ginni is visiting so please 'act normally!'

Nick London

Gosh Takes me back.

As a young structural engineer in late 70s I spent three or four weeks at IBM Cosham preparing the adjacent site so it looked clean and neat for a visit of the IBM board due to hold a meeting at Cosham.

Aggregate was laid for forthcoming construction, but brought forward to make the site neat and tidy. IBM being a single status company coffee was free on the day of the visit, as the board who ate lunch in the canteen might not have British coins, and if it was free for them.....

A particular confusion was that the head of IBM was due to meet the artist whose large painting was on display in the office and both were called R Nixon. No not that one.

The design team played a cricket match against IBM's property department during the time I was on site, but that was in effect the IBM team with a few ringers so we were thrashed. I went in 11 th man was, I think, third highest scorer, 2 runs, and carried my bat.

Batteries are so heavy, said user. If I take it out, will this thing work?

Nick London

Wolftone treat yourself. http://www.ebay.co.uk/bhp/motorola-v3i

Disk drive fired 'Frisbees of death' across data centre after storage admin crossed his wires

Nick London

Ref Razor Blades

55 Years ago I worked between school and University in an engineer's design office and was told to buy my own scale rule and a holder for razor blades. The holder grips the blade down one side and has a hinged cover to secure the other working side of the blade when stored. I still have it. I was never happy with wrapping draughting tape down one side and keeping it tucked into a slit on the backing sheet.

And since people are going down memory lane.....

Razor blades were used to remove ink from the tracing paper on ink drawings.. The characteristic sound from the draughting section was the scrape of the razor blades as drawings were updated.After scraping with the razor blade, the paper would be rubbed with a hard fibre rubber to restore the paper surface which would otherwise have soaked up the ink like blotting paper. It was also possible to use a mains powered eraser instead but had the risk that it would lift the paper and twist it into a crumpled mess in less than a second.

Nowadays when drawings are created in CAD and even BIM, razor blades are deprecated as they permanently damage the computer screens :-)

'Treat infosec fails like plane crashes' – but hopefully with less death and twisted metal

Nick London

Code of Conduct Anyone?

Qualified IT professionals have to abide by the BCS Code of Conduct which in turn needs to meet Engineering Council requirements.

I quote the fist clause

"Public Interest

You shall:

a) have due regard for public health, privacy, security and wellbeing of others and the environment.

b) have due regard for the legitimate rights of Third Parties*.

c) conduct your professional activities without discrimination on the grounds of sex, sexual orientation, marital status, nationality, colour, race, ethnic origin, religion, age or disability, or of any other condition or requirement

d) promote equal access to the benefits of IT and seek to promote the inclusion of all sectors in society wherever opportunities arise."

I think a) and b) set a pretty high bar for anyone who signs off a project that causes loss or harm to members of the public, users or indeed their employer.

Of course many work without a qualification but employers who fail to ensure their staff are adequately qualified could find it difficult to defend a case of negligence. "What proportion of your staff have a professional qualification?", "And the rest we presume are amateurs - we rest our case m'lud"

There got that off my chest.

Android ransomware DoubleLocker encrypts data and changes PINs

Nick London

It only says it is a Flash update.

Updating Flash was a regular chore on my web browser until HTML5 came along. Most people wont have a clue whether Android uses Flash or not. So they are more likely than not to push the update button.

And who worries about permissions except the tin foil in the hat brigade. They should but they don't.

Playboy founder and dressing-gown wearer Hugh Hefner dead at 91

Nick London

Playboy was Part of My Education

I was a teen in the 60's and had an uncle who subscribed.

It was the height of the good writing and the campaigning for social change in US. Also the cartonns and the pictures but never really was that excited by the photographs.

Later it became tacky and sleazy. So sleazy hat one Donald J Trump appeared on a couple of soft-core videos though apparently not with his trousers down! http://edition.cnn.com/videos/cnnmoney/2016/10/05/donald-trump-playboy-video-cnnmoney.cnnmoney

Virgin Media only adds another 127,000 homes to Project Lightning

Nick London

I am a Virgin Media customer is this related to the call from a call centre by a foreign lady whose English was so poor that I could not understand her. She also rang me on my VM mobile and asked my address but I know they have it so I asked her to prove she was from Virgin and she could not so I said e-mail me the information.

No wonder they cant sell their broad band. VM Community Forum has many examples of this way of not selling.

I suspect it is a case of penny wise pound foolish.

Planned Espionage Act could jail journos and whistleblowers as spies

Nick London

It has to cut both ways

If a public servant obtains private information they should also face prison of 2 to 14 years. The law should include the managers as well as the pbi.

RAF pilot sent jet into 4,000ft plummet by playing with camera, court martial hears

Nick London
IT Angle

The report is available online.

The Findings of the investigation can be downloaded here


What I found slightly strange was that the RAF liaison officer at the Turkish airbase at Incirlik was a Warrant Officer with the trade of musician. The inquiry board seem to have been of a similar view.

BBC surrenders 'linear' exclusivity to compete with binge-watch Netflix

Nick London

BBC should not charge for lrgacy programs.

All well and good but since we pay the licence fee why do they charge for old series. Channel 4's All 4 has lots of legacy series for free.

I used to use a program that could download radio iplayer content but BBC forced the writer to stop distributing it. Pity as I liked collecting some of the series.

So I propose that licence payers get a login like Netflix and can then stream legacy content for free which can be shared with 2 or three family members just like Netflix.

Barnet Council: Outsourcing deal with Capita has 'performance issues'

Nick London

Pity the poor ratepayer

Worse services, libraries closing, parking management a nightmare. potholes galore. Barnet Council. outsourced or inhouse, is an expensive incompetent disfunctional waste of ratepayer money..

Forget Khan and Klingons, Star Trek's greatest trick was simply surviving

Nick London

Pedantic point

For the record

The Bay of Pigs, a disasterous invasion of Cuba by CIA proxies, and the Cuba Missile crisis were two distinct episodes. The first in April 61 and the second in October 62. It is the latter that had Kennedy and Kruschav playing chicken with nuclear weapons.

I'll get my coat.

Technology quiz reveals that nobody including quiz drafters knows anything about IT

Nick London

They got Moore's law wrong.

Moore's Law as stated above by James relates to the rate of change of transistor density; not as the question states "to how many transistors can be put on a computer chip".

As an engineer, not an IT perso,n rate of change and how many are very different concepts.

BT hauled into Old Bailey after engineer's 7-metre fall broke both his ankles

Nick London

Not so funny.

Can't comment on this case as I have no knowledge, but am appalled at some of the above comments.

Falls from roofs are one of the major causes of death and injury at work in the UK and often affect people who would not consider themselves construction workers.

People have died falling less far than this unfortunate person did.

A worker leaving for work in the morning is entitled to return home uninjured, and with their health unimpaired, after their days work.

There are specific Working at Heights Regulations. They apply to all undertakings. (With a couple of exceptions, merchant seamen and caving/climbing instructors) including the self employed.

The Regulations http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2005/735/contents/made

The Guidance http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg401.pdf

So if you don't fancy standing in the dock....

Inside GOV.UK: 'Chaos' and 'nightmare' as trendy Cabinet Office wrecked govt websites

Nick London


The new system is useless. You used to be able to find lots of useful technical advice on the Environment Agencies web site but it is not to be found any more on .gov.uk

Whilst if you know what you are looking for legacy pages can be accessed I don't believe they are being kept currant.

And whilst I am ranting why doesn't the .legistation.gov.uk keep the legislation up to date with amendments. Some regulations have hundreds of amendments.

IT knowledge is as important as Maths, says UK.gov

Nick London

Teaching maths does not lead to a numeracy.

Whilst we teach reading and writing not philology (go on look it up) we still try and teach primary children mathematics. It is a hobby horse of mine as we end up with children who are literate but in many cases innumerate.

I am an engineer by education and calling and it boggles my mind how many people fail to grasp the simplest concepts in arithmetic, geometry and algebra in spite of apparently learning maths for a minimum of 12 years from from reception to GCSE.

We could end up in the same situation with digital literacy, thank you Electron Shepherd for pointing out what the committee actually said.

I suspect that if and when digital literacy is introduced into teacher training, the lecturers will eschew anything "difficult" and choose soft touchy feely aspects as happened with "New Maths" forty years ago.

My better half is a teaching assistant in Year 2 ( 6 to 7 year olds ) and the curriculum currently requires them to cover "coding". I don't believe what they are doing is of any use at all. It is too facile, to early in their intellectual development and as far as I can see fails to provide any insight into programming. Better by far would be to make the foundations of arithmetic rock solid now and build on these foundations to develop numeracy and digital literacy when the children are ready for it.

What should America turn to for web advice? That's right: GOV.UK – says ex-Obama IT guru

Nick London

gov.uk Hutber's Law Better is Worse

I agree about gov.uk; there is a lot of useful information on the archived departmental pages but they don't appear to be updating them.

Patrick Hutber of Daily Telegraph had two rules

If he got a press release saying a service/product was better or improved it would be worse for the consumer and if a company built a spanking new HQ office it was time to sell the shares.

Say goodbye to landfill Android: Top 10 cheap 'n' cheerful smartphones

Nick London

ZTE fan here. ZTE Blade V from Virgin Media

Bought this last year, dual core, webcam, and good battery life > 24 hours normal use.

Good enough for me. Rootable I use Link2sd as they split the internal memory in a funny way and the memory for apps is limited. Jelly Bean 4.1.2 and updates downloadable from ZTE so don't need to wait for VM.

Cost was £70 less VM rewards so really budget level. Seems to have been a short term offer from VM. These things come and go.

Jealous of my son with the latest iPhone from work of course. But OTT for an old'un like me.


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