* Posts by Laura Kerr

258 publicly visible posts • joined 21 Apr 2015


BOFH: You can be replaced by a robot or get your carbon footprint below Big Dave's

Laura Kerr

Re: Live From Network 23

A Zik-Zak beer, naturally.

World of Warcraft Classic lead dev resigns to protest 'stack ranking'

Laura Kerr

Re: A perfect way to shoot yourself in the foot

Ex (thankfully) BT person here. That's absolutely spot-on. I have not-so-fond memories of being on performance manglement calls where we were all told "we don't have enough people ranked as 'needs improvement'" (or whatever it was called). Everyone who wasn't a sociopathic people manager knew exactly what a 'witch hunt' meant.

I was very glad to get out of there. On my last day, I deliberately nuked my laptop and Blackberry for no reason other than pure spite.

Block this: Using satellites to plaster ads over our skies could work, say boffins

Laura Kerr

Re: what's old is new again

It was part of Arthur C Clarke's Venture To The Moon short stories - it was called Watch This Space, originally published in 1956. The quote you're thinking of is:

Whatever I thought of them, I couldn't help admiring the ingenuity of the men who has perpetrated the scheme. The O's and A's had given them a bit of trouble but the C's and L's were perfect.

What a Hancock-up: Excel spreadsheet blunder blamed after England under-reports 16,000 COVID-19 cases

Laura Kerr

A plague on Excel's house!

Excel has been both a blessing and a curse throughout my working life. A blessing because it's given me plenty of work fixing cock-ups caused by its being (ab)used for data entry and preparation, and a curse because I've had to set about fixing the cock-ups in the first place. Lowlights along the way include Excel outputs breaking batch loads thanks to its 'smart quotes' feature, a major row at a Very Big Bank because the 'test data validation team' were oblivious to the Software from Hell's propensities for arbitrarily reformatting dates, another series of little oopsies caused by the silent conversion of large integers into exponentials and data quality reports going haywire because saved CSV files had loads of empty trailing rows.

If Serco really are using Excel as a main data store, they deserve to be hung out to dry and permanently barred from getting any future government work, considering the money that Spaffer's spaffed on them. That's absolutely unforgivable.

See icon for what I'd like to do to Excel.

China slams President Trump's TikTok banned-or-be-bought plan in the US

Laura Kerr
Thumb Up

Re: This is just thin skin Trump revenge

That astounding suggestion that the President of the United States is just having a petulant toddler tantrum...looks to be right on the money. Props.

What's the betting he only wants control of TikTok so that his Blueshirts can track down the perps if there's a repeat of the Tulsa prank?

Google extends homeworking until this time next year – as Microsoft finds WFH is terrific... for Microsoft

Laura Kerr

Meetings, bloody meetings

"Now, if I can just persuade them to reduce the number of Teams meetings that get scheduled..."

Aye. That's the big bugbear. When lockdown came, we went from office-based to full remote working literally overnight. The number of 'stand-ups', 'catch-ups', 'workshops' and whatnots transmogrified from a minor irritation to a major problem within a couple of weeks. When the manglement did a survey about how well we were all adapting, many of us pointed out that we could do some work or talk about doing some work, but not both at the same time. Meeting discipline was very poor, too. I think it was because a lot of folk weren't used to remote working. It didn't bother me, as I've done it on and off for the best part of twenty years.

To give the manglement full credit, they clamped down on it, and meetings are now back down to sensible levels. One slightly odd side-effect has been that we've got to know people better than when we were all traipsing into London each day and sitting at adjacent desks. All in all, I much prefer it.

Beware the fresh Windows XP install: Failure awaits you all with nasty, big, pointy teeth

Laura Kerr


One of my student housemates had a hamster that he liked to have running around when working. "Had" turned out to be the operative word. One evening, we were all in our rooms working when the power went off.

A glance out of the window showed light still on in neighbouring houses, so yours truly checked the consumer unit. Yep, main breaker off. Maybe it was just a glitch. Shut off the power, reset breaker, power back on.

Clunk. Hello darkness my old friend.

Turned off all individual breakers, reset the main breaker, turned the juice back on and reset each circuit breaker in turn. All good until I reached the upstairs ring main. Clunk, power off again.

You guessed it. The hamster had decided to have a wee nibble on the mains cable on my housemate's PC. We found it behind his desk well and truly kaput with its teeth still embedded in the cable.

UK finds itself almost alone with centralized virus contact-tracing app that probably won't work well, asks for your location, may be illegal

Laura Kerr

Re: Covid jail "prank"

So, what is to stop some joker putting the app on a burner phone, adding in a junk postcode

It might do a postcode lookup - even the likes of Crapita can usually get that right - so you need to use a real one:


Laura Kerr

Re: And what about the people ...

And Matt has joined us too (down 3). Hi Matt.

Oh Hell. Remember the glory days of Demon Internet? Well, now would be a good time to pick a new email address

Laura Kerr

Classic tale of hero to zero. Back in the early nineties, there were two UK ISPs - Demon and the also-rans.

I used to run a big Fidonet mail hub, which included gateways between five different FTNs and also had an Internet gateway. KA9Q with POP3 support found on a now long-defunct BBS calling Demon in the wee hours for gated newsgroups and lovely old plain-text email. It worked well, but as the FTNs shut up shop, Fidonet dwindled, and Usenet filled up with crap after Eternal September, I wound it down before finally shutting up shop in 2003.

Oddly enough, I can still remember the last two newsgroups it was carrying - alt.cow.tipping and alt.swedish.chef.bork.bork.bork.

Things seemed to be freer and more fun back then, but yes, I am getting old and creaky.

Astroboffin gets magnets stuck up his schnozz trying and failing to invent anti-face-touching coronavirus gizmo

Laura Kerr

What a hoot(er)!

He obviously nose his stuff, but remember girls - this is what 'magnetic personality' on those dating sites really means.

Exchange some currency you want to? Guess the BIOS setup keyboard combination first you must, young Padawan

Laura Kerr

"This is not a dare, readers!"

Oh yeah?

UK enters almost-lockdown: Brits urged to keep calm and carry on – as long as it doesn't involve leaving the house

Laura Kerr

Re: Johnson explains things terribly, about as bad as Trump

I’m no fan of Boris, but he’s doing OK in the circumstances.

Upvote and a pint from me. I can't stand Borat, but he handled it like a boss last night. Have to give credit where it's due.

BOFH: Here he comes, all wide-eyed with the boundless optimism of youth. He is me, 30 years ago... what to do?

Laura Kerr

Re: Well done BOFH

I think it's a bit of both. Snake oil sales are definitely on the up, with product lifetimes measured in months rather than years. Crapware's far more abundant than it used to be, too. It came as a pleasant surprise to find that the code I'm currently maintaining was written by people who knew what they were doing. The last lot had more spaghetti than an Italian restaurant and ran about as fast as a sloth on Valium.

I think the rot set in around the time of the dot-com boom, when any dim bulb who could get some flaky HTML code to more-or-less work with an Access database could get away with swanning around spouting buzzwords and calling themselves an enterprise architect. Then, when dot-com became dot-bomb, those bulbs who were most proficient in bullshit were able to worm their ways into more senior positions, and rather than be threatened by talented people in junior positions, filled vacancies with people less able than they were. Classic Peter Principle.

I certainly wouldn't encourage my kids to go into IT. Roll on retirement.

Want to own a bit of Concorde? Got £750k burning a hole in your pocket? We have just the thing

Laura Kerr

Re: Light the fire

They were called guiders round these parts, and old pram wheels with solid rubber tyres were de rigeur. No brakes of course, but who needs a straight nose and their front teeth anyway.

US court rules: Just because you can extract teeth while riding a hoverboard doesn't mean you should

Laura Kerr

Steve Martin is obviously his hero:


Train-knackering software design blunder discovered after lightning sparked Thameslink megadelay

Laura Kerr

Eh? You watt?

Post Office coughs £57.75m to settle wonky Horizon IT system case

Laura Kerr

Obvious to anyone with half a brain

There's the flaw in your argument right there.

Windows 10 Insiders: Begone, foul Store version of Notepad!

Laura Kerr

Re: A good u-turn

"something as simple/fundamental as Notepad shouldn't be out of reach as a result."

'Zackly. I use Notepad for a lot of things, from codding up quick and dirty SQL scripts from CSV files - the find and replace functionality seems to have got better over the years - to transforming online chord charts from gaudy ad-festooned crap into something that's actually usable in a studio.

UK Home Office: We will register thousands of deactivated firearms with no database

Laura Kerr

Re: Why?

Indeed. It's not difficult to make a gun in a home workshop. I'd guess the main challenge would be finding the right grade of steel for making the chamber, barrel and firing pin. Back in the 1980s, my dad made a working model of an anti-aircraft gun that used a cut-down rifle barrel and which could (and did) fire .22 rounds. The plans were published in the Model Engineer around 1942.

Weld can be bored through or ground off. I can't help thinking that the safest way to deactivate a firearm would be to so weaken the chamber that it would explode if the gun was fired.

I see your blue passport and raise you a green number plate: UK mulls rewards scheme for zero-emission vehicles

Laura Kerr

Re: Go Dutch?

"Why does a 2019 Vauxhall Astra weigh ~1.8 tonnes? The 1990's version weighed 900kg. And that's only an Astra - not some monster peasant crusher 4x4."

It weighs HOW MUCH? Sheesh, that's about the same as my Land Rover Defender, which is a monster peasant crusher 4x4. Not even my old V6 Vectra was as heavy as that. Are they casting the engine blocks from depleted uranium, or just piling on the bells and whistles?

COBOL: Five little letters that if put on a CV would ensure stable income for many a greybeard coder

Laura Kerr

Re: Books

BOS COBOL! There's a blast from the past, all right. My first job as a developer involved using it for data migration.

I've often thought that if Windows hadn't come along when it did, it might have faced some stiff competition from BOS Software. Being able to use a humble desktop PC as a mini with terminals attached was quite a thing back in the day.

In Hemel Hempstead, cycling is as bad as taking a leak in the middle of the street

Laura Kerr

Re: I swear...

"And then there's the "I forgot I was crossing the road, because phone" cretins."

Plus the "I'm going to cross on red because female driver" characters. I've had several of these: I'm sitting at the lights with my indicator on waiting to turn left. Lights change, I start the turn and some numpty decides to step out in front of me. Some of them have even looked right at me before doing it. The last one got the full benefit of the Defender's light box and horn. He looked like a tourist; I hope his phrase book included 'you fucking idiot!'

I'm going to ask Santa for a set of bull bars this year.

Laura Kerr



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

Laura Kerr

Re: Self fixing

"If the user wasn't aware that they needed a PC in order to connect it's a safe bet they wouldn't have been able to use the PC itself."

I suspect it might have been quite a common problem. In the run-up to the launch of Windows 95, I distinctly remember radio DJs repeatedly telling their listeners that yes, you did actually need a PC to use it.

Mind you, this was on Radio 1...

Gov flings £10m to help businesses get Brexit-ready with, um... information packs

Laura Kerr

Re: Maybe it's another Boris bluff....

"exactly what is the sovereign power in the UK going to decide to do?"

The logical answer is also the most psychopathic. But I wouldn't put it past Borat "Spaffer" Johnson.

1. Prorogue as planned and then bring Darth Mayder's withdrawal agreement back on 31st October with a simple message: 'this is the only deal available. Vote for it or we leave tonight with no deal.'

2. Irrespective of whether it gets through or not, engineer a reunification referendum in Northern Ireland and use every dirty trick in the book to ensure a Yes result. Spaffer could help things along by insulting the Irish at every opportunity. He's got plenty of form for that.

3. Ireland reunites. Bye-bye backstop / hard border.

And bye-bye Scotland. No way would Holyrood tolerate a referendum in Northern Ireland without our having one here. But both places are a long way outside the M25 and Spaffer might be glad to not have Ian Blackford tearing him a new one every week.

I could see him trying it, but see icon for what would happen in Ireland if he did.

One person's harmless japery can be another's night of LaserJet Lego

Laura Kerr

Anyone remember the eyeball screen saver?

Scene: Yours truly doing some late-night maintenance on our Sun server back in the early nineties. Lights on in computer room, off everywhere else. Each PC was on, as I needed to wander round and test connectivity and printing. I'd turned them all on before getting on with the maintenance - IIRC, it was a SunSolve patch. To relieve the boredom, I'd set the eyeball screen saver going on each PC.

So there I was, alone in a darkened open-plan office with dozens of PCs each showing a moving eye.

Then came a rattle at the door. A particularly obnoxious road warrior had come in late. His hysterical scream was music to my ears.

New UK Home Sec invokes infosec nerd rage by calling for an end to end-to-end encryption

Laura Kerr

Re: Goverment version of bollox bingo:

- Are sovrenty

- Take back control

- see icon

Brexit: Digital border possible for Irish backstop woes, UK MPs told

Laura Kerr

Re: An alternative border is obvious

And an Agile DevOps incremental delivery model :-)

BT to axe 90% of its UK real estate, retain circa 30 sites

Laura Kerr

"Sovereign Street was actually pretty good for the BT estate actually. If you had a problem on the flexi desks there I think you just had problems."

Yup, agreed 100%. If you were matey with the cafe staff and Frank on the front desk, it was a good place to work. I used to have a thing for the breakfast butties - if the staff knew you and liked you, you got freshly-cooked bacon and sausages rather than the old shoe leather given to those less-favoured.

But elsewhere, it was a different story. FM and cleaning was a case in point. After a few years in Sausage Street, I was shunted off dahn sarf to the smoke. Not long after I arrived in 120 Holborn, I noticed my rather expensive 1GB memory stick (this was a wee while ago!) was missing. Naturally, I assumed it had fallen out of my bag or I'd left it on the train, or something.

Well, about two years later, there was some sort of financial hoo-haa and travel was curtailed. I went back to my desk in Sovereign Street, and found nothing had changed, apart from some bar steward having nicked my chair and a thick layer of dust on every surface bar the desk. And lo and behold - my long-lost memory stick was on the floor under my desk. So much for carpet cleaning.

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

Laura Kerr

Re: so easy to get in

Unless you're trying to blag a free gig. Then your weapon of choice is an empty guitar case.

Banhammer Republic: Trump declares national emergency, starts ball rolling to boot Huawei out of ALL US networks

Laura Kerr

"block [Huawei] from buying components from American companies without Uncle Sam's approval."

Causing them to start rolling their own in 3... 2... 1...

It might take Huawei a fair few attempts to clone what they're currently buying from Jesusland, but let's not kid ourselves for a moment that they wouldn't try. And with their kit effectively banned from The Land Of The (allegedly) Free, whatcha gonna do, Donny? Nuke 'em?

Personality quiz for all you IT bods: Are you a chameleon or an outlaw? A diplomat or a high flier? Vote right here

Laura Kerr

Re: Nah. No sexism.

"you might be an old fart of a dudette."

Dudesse sir, dudesse! Really! Have you Americans no sense of decorum?

Laura Kerr

"The hipster clowns would just class you as "Dinosaur" or "Grandad"."

Mr King sir, you are most improper! Have you never heard of the Old Fartettes' renowned pastime of 'setting hipsters up for a fall by playing on their ignorance'? Really, young man, you should apply yourself. There is endless fun to be had.

Laura Kerr

"What about 'the old fart - cynical and experienced enough to just keep their head down'."

Oy, less of the sexism, you. 'Old Fartettes' are a thing too, I'll 'ave yer know.

Cops use bread and riot shields in desperate bid to contain crazed swan running amok in streets

Laura Kerr

Re: "breed"

Guid on ye, pal. A wisnae best pleased masel wi yon hack tryin tae scrieve in Scots withoot kenning the leid. Ye can aye tell - yon ower use o apostrophes gies it awa.

VP Mike Pence: I want Americans back on the Moon by 2024 (or before the Chinese get there)

Laura Kerr

Re: Saturn 5 again?

If it was cheaper to tool up for building them again, and possible to quickly iron out the problems that would crop up due to the loss of knowledge since 1972, that isn't such a daft idea. The Saturn 5 could put 30 tonnes into lunar orbit - that's quite a big chunk of space station per trip. If modules could be docked without needing meatware to bolt things together, it might be possible to build a complete station relatively quickly.

But if you needed to send meatware along, the payload reduces to about 15 tonnes.

Silent Merc, holy e-car... Mflllwhmmmp! What is that terrible sound?

Laura Kerr

Re: Loud speaker mounted on the roof

"QM2-sized foghorn"

I like your thinking. After several near misses in the centre of Edinburgh when dumb tourists have stepped out in front of my Defender I'm seriously thinking about fitting a Peterbilt truck horn, like the truck in Duel had.

You're on a Huawei to Hell, US Sec State Pompeo warns allies: Buy Beijing's boxes, no more intelligence for you

Laura Kerr

Re: That seems like a dangerous stance

"Too much effort was expended on global issues, not enough on European threats. "

Well, with an empire spanning the globe, Britain had to focus on international issues. And though you're right about the financial drain following the First World War, there are a few tricks you've missed:

1. At the Versailles conference in 1919, Woodrow Wilson explicitly threatened a transatlantic arms race, which eventually led to the Washington Naval Treaty. That imposed a level of parity between the naval powers, and was weighted in America's favour, and against Britain. Britain had a huge empire to protect; America did not. It was probably the first time the US successfully flexed its muscles on the international stage.

2. During the First World War, Britain and Japan were allies. That alliance was terminated under American pressure, weakening Britain's position in the Far East and necessitating greater defence expenditure there. There's proof of the rot setting in here - the guns of Singapore could have pulverised an attacking naval force, so the Japanese simply advanced down the Malay peninsula instead.

3. By 'German ambition' I'm assuming you're referring to the rise of Hitler. The Nazis weren't a serious threat until after the Wall Street crash of 1929. Fear of a return to the hyper-inflation of the 1920s stoked by a nationalistic demagogue helped to persuade more people to vote for the Nazis in the elections up to 1933. And after Hitler became Chancellor, it didn't help that the US had retreated into isolationism.

You could argue that Clemenceau and Lloyd George should have told Wilson to sod off back to the ranch, but that's looking back with a hundred years of hindsight. The war-weariness of Britain and France helped to accelerate their decline, while the US, who had not suffered anything like as much, slowly but surely pushed them aside.

Laura Kerr

Re: That seems like a dangerous stance

"this sounds like it would hurt the US more than anybody else"

'Zackly. And to put the old tin lid on it, it might be quite some time before Lord Dampnut's cabal realised the impact that would have. The days of American hegemony are slipping away, and just like the way empires throughout history have disintegrated, the people in charge will be the last to know; and they'll find it out the hard way.

It's probably far too late for America to recover its dominance, anyway. Lord Dampnut's just presiding (for very small values of 'presiding') over a great power in its death throes. Some time in the next few decades, future historians will point to a date between December 1972 and November 1989 as the end of the American empire.

It was the same on this side of the pond. It's a popular belief that the British Empire ended on 15th August 1947 with Indian independence, but the first nail was hammered into the imperial coffin on 21st January 1906, with the election of the last Liberal government. By the time India gained independence forty years later, the British Empire was rotten to the core.

Britain had its day of glory. So did the United States - and to an extent it still does - but the sun's sinking towards the horizon. I might not live to see it finally set, but my kids probably will.

What did turbonerds do before the internet? 41 years ago, a load of BBS

Laura Kerr

Re: Ahm the days of non-resume..

Out of interest, which side of the pond are you on? The term that used to get bandied about in region 25 tended to be 'leeches'.

Laura Kerr

Re: Hairnett BBS

So do I!


I still have it all archived away; in fact I dug it out a few years ago. Ah, the joys of the phone ringing in the wee hours as the midnight line delivered the mail, and awaiting the next Night Owl CD in the post.

Granddaddy of the DIY repair generation John Haynes has loosened his last nut

Laura Kerr

Still have the ones for my old bikes

Including the one for the BSA A65, complete with its deathtrap brake maintenance instructions.

The manual was spot on for the engine, but the cycle parts were a different matter. The Haynes manual blithely stated that the brake shoes were interchangeable. They weren't, as I found out after nearly going under a bus when the brakes suddenly faded. I couldn't work out WTF was wrong with them.

Then I found an original A65 handbook at a swapmeet. There was a whole section devoted to maintaining the brakes, including diagrams that showed the brake shoes had offset liners. Once I'd found a set of original shoes, they worked just fine.

Good manuals generally, though. Saved me a fortune back in the day.

RIP John.

One click and you're out: UK makes it an offence to view terrorist propaganda even once

Laura Kerr

Re: Easy get-out?

"if you are of the girly persuasion then I guess you don't commit an offence"

Sadly not. Every Act of Parliament has two sentences at the start:

Reference to the masculine includes the feminine


Reference to the singular includes the plural


NHS England digital boss in hot water over 'puff piece' written about her future employer

Laura Kerr


"make sure it can deliver what we want it to without costing billions."

You're new to the world of government IT, aren't you?

Big Red's big pay gap: $13,000 gulf between male and female Oracle staffers – reports

Laura Kerr

Re: Equal Opportunity cars

Depends if he swings both ways.

Are you sure your disc drive has stopped rotating, or are you just ignoring the messages?

Laura Kerr

Re: Favorite prompts

"It's all gone horribly wrong. You should not have seen this message. Press OK to continue"


NHS England's chief digital officer goes full digital, ditches health service for GP app biz

Laura Kerr

Re: Moving away

"they no longer understand that there are such things as patients."

Quite correct, there aren't. They're called 'service users' now.

I'm deadly serious, BTW.

Laura Kerr

Moving away

"We need to move away from the paternalistic, clinician-led culture, to using a targeted mix of partnership approaches and encouraging personal responsibility for health where appropriate."

What exactly is wrong with a 'clinician-led culture' in healthcare? Call me old-fashioned, but when I need healthcare, I think I'll take the advice of a doctor over a beancounter any day of the week.

Hubble 'scope camera breaks down amid US govt shutdown, forcing boffins to fix it for free

Laura Kerr

Re: Easily solved

We can hope, but how can you be certain he won't be re-elected?