* Posts by molletts

58 posts • joined 20 Jan 2016


Das reboot: That's the only thing to do when the screenshot, er, freezes


my young niece (2yo, I think) trying to do pinch-to-zoom on a picture in a book

Reminds me of an occasion in about 2004 when the school's internet connection was down and a Year 8 (12/13 years old) class were in the library to do research (which would normally have been done in the ICT suite by copying & pasting from random websites into their essays then handing it in as their own work without even checking if it was actually relevant). I heard one of the children ask "How do you search it?" while staring bemusedly at a fairly hefty reference tome.

Mirror mirror on the wall, why will my mouse not work at all?


Re: Call in the kids

"A six-year-old could figure this out! Someone fetch me a six-year-old, quick!"


"Remove before use"

Some years back, having gone down to a department at the school where I worked to sort out some issue or other, I suffered a rare attack of generosity (maybe there was something odd in the food that day...) and offered to take the box of empty toner cartridges, which I'd noticed was overflowing, up to the recycling box for them as it was on my way back to the IT office.

As luck would have it, one of them fell out of its black bag as I transferred them to the recycling box and I noticed that the pull-tab seal was still hanging out of the side. This prompted me to check the rest of them - about 80% still had the seal in! (I also emptied the recycling box and retrieved a few more.)

Cue a trip back down to the department and some inquiries about who normally replaced the toners... Goodness knows how long they'd been doing it! (To be fair, the pull-tab didn't actually say, "Remove before use.")

Square peg of modem won't fit into round hole of PC? I saw to it, bloke tells horrified mate


Re: VGA Plug Screws

The designer of that must have been learning his trade before moving on to design my old Western Digital (!!) MyBook external hard drive. He upped his game with that - I had to resort to similar measures just to get one plug in. The eSATA connector is deeply-recessed; the hole in the case through which it is accessed is exactly the same "thickness" (the "narrow" axis) as the the metal shield of the eSATA plug, not allowing for the plastic moulding surrounding the connector. I had to cut the moulding away almost back to the solder joints in order to get the plug to go in far enough to make a connection.

Actually, I think he may have had a hand in designing an MSI (ok, fair enough) dual-Slot 1 motherboard I once encountered. You could only fit one of the two CPU support brackets to the second slot because there was a large electrolytic capacitor positioned between the slot and the bracket mounting post.

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


Man-made vibrations

I'd love to be able to measure the tremors that happen every time a bus passes my parents' house. They're strong enough to make the monitor wobble on its stand, CD cases rattle in the storage rack and dust to fall from the 5mm crack that has opened up between the wall and the coving since the bus route opened about 5 years ago. (For the previous 25 or so years that we/they lived there, there were no buses along that road.)

Where I currently live, the nearest I get is bits of plaster occasionally falling from around the window frames when the Army are playing with their artillery on the nearby range, but I think that's caused by atmospheric pressure waves (which I can sometimes feel if the windows are open) rather than ground vibrations.

Stop us if you've heard this before: Boeing's working on 737 Max software fixes for autopilot, stabilization bugs


Re: Flying less

Or just gargle it twice with some of that trendy liquid soap that everyone seems to use these days.

Real-time tragedy: Dumb deletion leaves librarian red-faced and fails to nix teenage kicks on the school network


Diskless netboot

My secondary school did that with their first suite of PCs. Over 10Base-2. With 1MB of RAM and swap over the network.

If the Design & Tech department wanted to use Corel DRAW!, they had to book the suite for an extra period beforehand to allow it time to load and become (relatively) usable.

I got banned from using them about 5 minutes after the suite was opened because I fired up Turbo C++ from a floppy disk, which Miss Hitler our esteemed and universally beloved technician immediately classified as "hacking". There was much more fun to be had on the old Acorn computers anyway.

Absolutely everyone loves video conferencing these days. Some perhaps a bit too much


Blame that on the "ICT" curriculum, at least as it was 10-12 years ago (can't speak for the current state of play but I doubt it's changed much).

I wasted countless hours arguing with ICT teachers about how images should be cropped before insertion into documents. When working on (for example) a sports equipment sale brochure, the kids would need a postage-stamp-sized image of, say, a rugby ball and would obtain this by scanning an entire page of a sports equipment catalogue directly into Microsoft Publisher at 300dpi then using the built-in "crop" (i.e. "mask off areas") function to select the bit they wanted. A dozen or so of these images would inflate the file to a quarter of a gig or so, instantly accounting for half of their storage quota at the time (not to mention the effect it had on the network when the teachers in both main IT suites, shortly before the bell, would simultaneously call out, "Everyone save your work!")

The teachers' response was invariably something along the lines of "that's how the syllabus says it must be done". My protestations that they should limit the scan area to a little more than they needed then just use the crop function to fine-tune the image were met with, "That's too difficult and anyway, it's not in the syllabus."

Lost in translation and adrift in cloud storage


.. and that, for anyone still wondering, is why, when seemingly everyone else was flocking to the bog roll aisle, I was quietly cleaning out all the local supermarkets' (admittedly rather meagre) supplies of Weissbier.

Got to get the survival priorities right, after all.

PC owners borg into the most powerful computer the world has ever known – all in the search for coronavirus cure


Re: No CUDA No libOpenCL No GPUs :(

Are you running the nvidia official drivers?

Also, a Reddit post here suggests that you need to install the OpenCL client drivers with "sudo apt-get install ocl-icd-libopencl1".

(Disclaimer: I don't use Mint so I can't test this.)

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


Does the Concorde Café have a self-service counter? Is it called the Mach Buffet?

Indie VPN WireGuard gets the Torvalds seal of approval with inclusion in Linux kernel 5.6


Re: That baby seal...

I think it's the seal of approval.

Clunk, whirr, buzz, whine. Shared office space can be a riot and sounds like one too


I might have to give that another go sometime. I'm told modern setups are nearly silent.

I fitted a closed-loop watercooler, some years back, to my office PC to tame the CPU temperatures (they were on offer and cheaper than a good big-air cooler - I think it was a Corsair H100i) and it nearly drove me crazy. Even over the racket of the fans in the servers & switches and the aircon, I could hear the pump go "brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!" every time I put any load on the CPU.

A user's magnetic charm makes for a special call-out for our hapless hero


I wonder what happened to his hard drive...

I had a drive wiped by stray magnetic fields in my first job. Having set up a PC on my bench in the lab with the required software for in-circuit programming of the new-fangled flash-based microcontrollers we were hoping to use in our next product in place of masked ROMs, I was puzzled when I started it up the next morning and found it wouldn't boot properly. I had other stuff to do so I left it "for later" when I'd be able to spend a bit more time diagnosing the problem. When I eventually got back to it late in the afternoon, I found that the picture on the (CRT) monitor was jiggling around all over the place, which naturally aroused my suspicions about what may have caused the disk problems.

It turned out that, on the other side of the wall from my bench was where overnight burn-in testing was run on the high-current motor controllers (hundreds of amps) we produced.

I had a bit of a problem paying for petrol on my way home too... It hadn't crossed my mind that my credit card would have been wiped too, until it failed to swipe, at which point it became pretty obvious and I felt like a right plonker.

And now for this evening's space weather report. We've got a hotspot of satellite-wrecking 'killer electrons' in the outer Van Allen belt...


Re: Reward for each Killer Electron caught and jailed. -------->

You're too late, they've already been charged.

Are you sure? When I enquired if they had been charged, the reply came back negative.

Careful with that Axe, Eugene: Excessive use of body spray causes school bus evacuation


Re: Slight threadjack...

DM: "... Blood and guts just spray everywhere."

Me: "Urrgh...! I hate axe body spray!"

Easiest EP I ever earned!

Would that be an Ewwww Point?

What simultaneously sucks and doesn't? This new robot vacuum cleaner


Re: 2000 pascals, 20,000 pascals

designed to be as noisy as possible

We had one of those at work. (A normal mains one.) It had "1400W" emblazoned across it; I reckoned that worked out at about 1300W of noise and 100W of suction. It couldn't compete with my Miele one from home set to minimum power (300W).

I once quipped that, were it anything other than a vacuum cleaner, I'd say it sucked, but the problem was, it didn't.

Tor blimey, Auntie! BBC launches dedicated dark web mirror site


Accidental deanonymisation

it means that users can't accidentally not use Tor

Not strictly true. The authorities in a country where Tor is needed to get free access to information could arrange for fake DNS responses to be returned for .onion sites, maybe even routing the requests through a proxy server onto the Tor network so that people might not notice immediately that they had forgotten to switch to Tor. That way, they could easily catch a few users and possibly discover hidden services that may be "of interest" such as sites used to coordinate protests.

This is, in fact, how Tor transparent proxies, used to "torify" an entire network, work. A simple setup will return the IP of the proxy server for all .onion addresses, then extract the required "domain" (.onion address) from the HTTP request, while a more complex setup will return a dynamically-assigned IP address from a large pool for each different .onion address that is requested, with the proxy server, answering on all addresses in that pool via NAT, using either a reverse lookup or some kind of direct IPC with the nameserver to map it back to a "domain".

I couldn't possibly tell you the computer's ID over the phone, I've been on A Course™


Re: He should be proud that of that guy

"... battery contact activated wee..."

Hmm, I guess a sufficiently large battery in contact with the right (wrong?) places might have that effect on one :-P

Dear hackers: If you try to pwn a website for phishing, make sure it's not the personal domain of a senior Akamai security researcher


Re: Well... I was expecting something more

That reminds me of when I tried to report a compromised NHS email account that was being used to send out phishing messages. The headers showed quite clearly that it was being sent via internal Exchange servers at what turned out to be my local hospital (the amount of detail it revealed about their AD server architecture was quite interesting...), so maybe the user's PC had been pwned so, naturally, I did my civic duty and, after some headscratching, managed to find a suitable contact email for the IT support team. (Couldn't find any kind of dedicated "report a security issue" address.)

The next working day (after the weekend), I got back a polite but obviously-canned response giving instructions on how to raise a support ticket via the form on the intranet. Of course, that was of no use whatsoever as I can't log into their intranet, nor was the internal telephone extension number I was directed to ring if the problem prevented me getting onto the intranet.

You're not Boeing to believe this, but... Another deadly 737 Max control bug found


Re: Very uneasy that IAG ordered 200 737 Max aircraft on Jun 18th

My first thought when I heard this was that maybe they figured that the MAX would be the most carefully-scrutinised airliner in recent times by the time it gets recertified, especially if EASA insist on running their own certification process rather than rubber-stamping the FAA cert.

We knew it was coming: Bureaucratic cockup triggers '6-month' delay of age verification block on porno in the UK


"Just plain unpractical"?

Impractical, shirley?

Essex named sexiest British accent followed closely by, um, Glaswegian


Relative accents?

I wonder whether a person's perception of someone else's accent is affected by how it differs from their own. It would kind of make sense - they would notice the bits that are different but not the bits that are the same.

I come from Sahf London. When I was at secondary school in Bournemouth, a lot of people thought I was Australian. (At the time, I was quite offended by that for some reason so I spent my teenage years developing what I thought was a very "cultured" accent, which I used until I heard a recording of it and realised that it was a complete train wreck - RP turned up to about 25 - after which I returned to Bromley post-haste.)

When I was working in Plymouth, however, several people asked me if I was from somewhere near Birmingham. (Bromley -> Brisbane is understandable. Bromley -> Brum... WTF but maybe the difference relative to Plymouth is similar or something.)

I'd love to know what my accent sounds like to someone with a different one. Maybe there might be some way of simulating it (AI? It seems to be a bit of a panacea at the moment...) by "differencing" the two accents at the phonetic level then applying the difference to my accent in the opposite direction.


That reminds me of an occasion, quite a few years ago, when I heard the choir of St. Francis Xavier School, Liverpool sing Evensong at Winchester Cathedral. They chose some fairly demanding repertoire (I think that's why I decided to go along - I figured that they were either quite good or very foolish and it was more likely to be the former given the venue) but the thing that was most memorable was the Stanford Mag in G soloist's Scouse accent! (He was, sadly, a little past his best - one could hear that he was straining to get the high notes - but he did a fine job nevertheless.)

It's never been quite the same since - people often ask me why I look amused at the mere mention of that particular setting...

A quick cup of coffee leaves production manager in fits and a cleaner in tears


Re: Until...

That sounds a lot like the setup I inherited in the school library at one of my former employers: an island of low-view desks (the ones with glass panes in the top and monitors beneath) with 12 ultra-cheap self-build PCs and CRT monitors, plus a mono laser and a colour laser printer on a table at one end, powered via a daisy-chain of 4-way power bars which all went back to a single bar with a very long cable that went under the carpet to a socket on the wall.

I discovered this arrangement a month or two into the school year when the mornings started to get colder and the big whack of power drawn by the cold PCs & monitors as they started up began to cause the 30A circuit breaker on the ring-main to trip. We used to fire them up by scheduled Wake-on-LAN so that they were ready for use at the start of the school day (they took ages to boot - WinXP in 128MB RAM). Although there was a short delay from waking one PC to the next, it wasn't enough to allow them to finish booting and warm up the monitors so they drew less power.

On complaining about the arrangement to the management and asking that proper dedicated circuits be installed, I was rebuffed on the basis that the school site team included a qualified electrician who said that it was fine and that therefore the fault must be with the computers. I was told to stick to my area of expertise and do my job which was to "sort out the problem with the computers". (In case you were wondering, I didn't stay there very long.)

I ended up having to start the power-up sequence at about 4:30am and allow 15 minutes for each machine to get going to (mostly) prevent circuit trips. It was generally fine as long as nobody got in early and woke one of the printers or the photocopier which was on the same ring-main before the computers had all fired up.

Techies take turns at shut-down top trumps


Re: minor in comparison

I have a vague recollection from many years ago of an oddity involving an APC (of course) UPS where, if the serial cable was connected while the server was starting up, it would cut the power during boot at the point where Windows NT initialised the serial ports.

The workaround was to plug the cable in after the system had started up. I can't remember what I did to fix it properly, or whether the problem simply went away after a service-pack or something.

Swiss electronic voting system like... wait for it, wait for it... Swiss cheese: Hole found amid public source code audit


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


Re: Whatever they do, it will make sod all difference

When I was at college, I sometimes used to see a guy doing that on a unicycle at the lights on Exhibition Road. The first time I saw it, I was so busy staring at him in amazement that I nearly walked into the lights myself :o)

Cycling in London looks hairy enough on a normal bike; doing it on a unicycle takes balls of steel.

UK's beloved RNGesus machine ERNIE goes quantum in 5th iteration


Re: Did anyone else notice?

I would think it's mainly a result of the slow (relative to the machine's operation) shutter speed causing several "counts" to be displayed during the time the "shutter" is "open" (i.e. the sensor is gathering photons prior to being read out and reset - its integration time) but there could also be a (small) element of afterglow from the ionised gas in the tubes - they don't quite extinguish instantaneously when the current stops (nor, indeed, is the switching speed of the circuits driving them infinitely fast).

Long phone is loooong: Sony swipes at flagship fatigue with 21:9 tall boy


Re: Ratio for video masochists

If you are the type who has to watch landscape videos in portrait, or portrait videos in landscape, one would have to ask why?

I know I should probably upgrade to the latest all-singing, all-dancing gear but my TV dates from that primitive, dimly-remembered era before TVs came with automatic motorised swivel-stands that rotate the screen into the right orientation whenever they show mobile-phone footage on the news.

Windows 10 Insiders sent on quest deep into Registry to fetch goblet of Reserved Storage


One possible improvement

"we have thus far been unable to persuade Windows 10 that it should shove temporary update files anywhere else" [other than the system drive]

That's a complete reversal of the behaviour on some previous versions of Windows which would randomly throw update-related folders at any writable drive whenever they felt like it. Cue non-safely-removable backup disk cartridges, USB drives, etc.

Amazon Mime: We train (badly) an AI love bot using divorce bombshell Bezos' alleged sexts to his new girlfriend


Damn clever, those Chinese

"I want to be shiny ways to be can want to get a brand in

You work to be worst girl"

Sounds like an extract from the manual for a cheap Chinese sex toy.

Maybe they have had top-secret "advanced AI" for decades, using it to generate English documents, perhaps blissfully unaware of how impenetrable its output can be (or maybe they just don't care as long as we keep throwing money at them), and we're only just rediscovering the technology for ourselves.

Fake 'U's! Phishing creeps use homebrew fonts as message ciphers to evade filters


"I think that even the most gullible phishee would spot that."

Hm, I fear you overestimate our species.

¡¡¡soopıɹɐןןop uoıןןıɯ uǝʌǝs ʎʇɟıɟ puɐ pǝɹpunɥ ǝǝɹɥʇ¡¡¡ ɟo sƃuıuuıʍ ʇodʞɔɐɾ pǝǝʇuɐɹɐnƃ ɹnoʎ ɯıɐןɔ oʇ pɹɐɔ ɥsɐɔ ɹnoʎ ɹoɟ ǝpoɔ uıd ǝɥʇ puɐ ǝpoɔ ʇɹos puɐ ɹǝqɯnu ʇunoɔɔɐ ʞuɐq ɹnoʎ 'ʇɹodssɐd ɹnoʎ ɟo uɐɔs ɐ ɥʇıʍ ןıɐɯǝ sıɥʇ oʇ ʎןdǝɹ ʇsnɾ ¡ʎɹǝʇʇoן ɐƃǝɯ uɐıןɐɹʇsnɐ ǝɥʇ uoʍ sɐɥ ssǝɹppɐ ןıɐɯǝ ɹnoʎ ¡suoıʇɐןnʇɐɹƃuoɔ

Techie was bigged up by boss… only to cause mass Microsoft Exchange outage


Re: RE: Then came the Linux crowd where there were no such applications

"...try the Gentoo installation process. ... the number of dependencies required to get a *lightweight* functioning desktop with a suite of useful applications which use your hardware properly is scary."

At least Portage deals with all those dependencies for you automagically, even if you do need to type a few package.use incantations to keep it all clean & tidy and free of unnecessary cruft and avoid filling the OCD-pleasing 4GB partition. (I'm afraid I had to cave in and resort to allocating 8GB on my desktop systems some years ago.)

Getting a fully-tricked-out Windows system requires downloading Mammon knows what from Baal knows where (they'll give you hints if you bribe them with shares in your soul), then trying to install it all in the right order without accidentally letting any of those packages install the bundled spyware, take over a bunch of file associations that you would rather stayed with some other package or replace your preferred media player with SuperVideoMediaDoober Plus Max (Cloud Edition). Then you find that one of the things you need only works properly if you install .Net Framework 1.1 _after_ you've installed .Net 4 but before you install .Net 2, unless you install .Net 3.5 first, in which case you have to install the Visual C++ 10,11,12,13,14,15,16,17 and 18 runtimes in an order determined by consulting a medium, after slaughtering a goat at New Moon.

(Oh wait, I'm getting confused. The bit with the goat is from the NetBSD install procedure.)

Julia 0.7 arrives but let's call it 1.0: Data science code language hits milestone on birthday


You missed one there. Rsters? Why not R-souls?

Blast from the past: Boffins find the fastest exploding non-supernova star


Re: Holy cow that's an awesome photo!

That's the real thing.

I remember the first time I saw a picture of Eta Carinae (or, rather, the Homunculus Nebula around it). I was about 8 or 9 and the picture was in a book I'd been given for Christmas (I think it was probably "The Natural History of the Universe" but I don't have it to hand right now to check). It completely blew my mind, being used to seeing colourful but otherwise rather flat-looking clouds of ionised gas.

I still think "holy cow" every time I see it.

Grad sends warning to manager: Be nice to our kit and it'll be nice to you


Re: what the fuck does PC LOAD LETTER mean?

I remember scaring the wits out of a kid who was thumping the old LaserJet 4 in the IT suite, impatiently waiting for her document to print (it was the usual "The bell's about to go, everybody print your work before you go home!" situation, inevitably leading to 30 kids all hitting print simultaneously). I was logged into the Linux print server from one of the PCs and used a little utility I had for generating PJL commands to make the printer display "OW THAT HURTS"..."PLEASE STOP".


Re: what the fuck does PC LOAD LETTER mean?

I once persuaded a particularly dipsy teacher who had brought her class up to the IT suite that it meant the printer had run out of letters to put on the page. I took the print cartridge out, took it into my office next door, quickly logged into the printer's admin interface to set the A4/Letter equivalence option (which kept clearing itself for some reason), cleared the print queue then returned with the cartridge ("refilled with a fresh supply of letters") and reinstalled it, magically fixing the problem.

A few weeks later, I heard her explaining it to someone else in the staff room, sounding very authoritative, after they had encountered the same problem.

Trainee techie ran away and hid after screwing up a job, literally



I was once turned down for a job, despite apparently being the preferred candidate of everyone on the panel except the "technical consultant" who had been brought in to advise them on IT-related stuff, and therefore had a veto over the appointment, because I'd listed Linux as well as Windows experience and knowledge on my CV. He said that I was therefore not a "Windows specialist" which was what he said they needed (their previous IT manager had been a Windows-only guy so their network was all-Windows, including the firewall and web servers - not an ideal situation in the mid-2000s).

Sysadmin wiped two servers, left the country to escape the shame


It replicated. What more do you want? :)

I once had a similar thing happen when I added a new server to an existing DFS Replication group on Windows Server (two words that I've always said don't sit comfortably together). DFS-R very quickly and efficiently replicated the nice, capacious new storage volume to the other servers. (Hey, I could save some money on disks! No need to buy several new ones when we run out of space: just buy one and replicate it! Why didn't I think of that before? :-P )

Thankfully, the data on that particular replication set was not mission-critical (it was mostly multimedia content) so it was merely inconvenient for the day or so it took to restore from the previous night's backup and re-replicate to the group.

Since then, I've always pre-seeded new servers using Robocopy. DFS-R still insists on replicating the whole lot in one direction or the other (exactly which way seems to be totally random) when the server joins the group, causing massive fragmentation (this is NTFS, after all, where writing a 1MB file to a freshly-formatted 1TB disk will probably result in at least 60 fragments), but at least the losses are, at worst, limited to any changes saved to an existing server since the files were copied over to the new machine.

I should have done this anyway the first time, just as I would have with NTFRS, but DFS-R was shiny and new and supposedly much more reliable (my a**e - there's a reason I held off migrating SYSVOL from NTFRS to DFS-R until Server 2012R2 migration forced my hand) and I thought it would be kind of cool to be able to just "set it and forget it" and watch it sort itself out without me having to lift a finger. Why did we bother upgrading to Server 2003R2 if not for the greater ease of administration? (Of course I'd also forgotten that, even if replication had gone the right way, the new server would immediately start advertising itself as a good place for the clients to find their content, despite most of it not yet having been copied over.)

Software update turned my display and mouse upside-down, says user


Re: Every day's a school day

Ah yes, the Intel hotkeys. I had a setting in group policy to disable the entire hotkeys/tray icon thing on classroom PCs, of course, but didn't think it was necessary to do it on staff laptops... Until one senior teacher came in one Monday morning during the school holidays with his laptop screen turned through 90° by one of his tween/early-teen sons (who, to be fair, had probably done it by accident while playing a game or something - they were nice boys and would have fixed it for him had they known what to do) and had been struggling with using it that way since Friday evening!

On a similar note, I used to leave A3000 computers at school with negative mouse-speed settings... That, of course, simply inverted it and couldn't be saved to NVRAM (although you could save a ridiculously-fast setting).

The award for worst ISP goes to... it starts with Talk and ends with Talk


Given that they're the same company as far as I'm aware, I've never been able to figure out how TalkTalk can be so consistently rubbish while Utility Warehouse, equally consistently, manage to fare pretty well.

Behold iOS 11, an entirely new computer platform from Apple


Re: Aww

> For comparison, how does Android Marshmallow run on a 4-year-old tablet (if at all)?

Can't answer for a tablet but it ran OK on my 2011 Galaxy Nexus (came between the Galaxy S and S2 for those unfamiliar with it), until I upgraded to Nougat (which also runs OK).

It's happening! Official retro Thinkpad lappy spotted in the wild


I shall reserve judgement...

... until I can get my hands on one, as to whether it is truly a worthy bearer of the ThinkPad name.

My first ThinkPad (a 240 with a PII Celeron [Mendocino] CPU and 192MB RAM) still works although I struggle to find a use for it these days. (I don't recall it being anywhere near as slow back in 2000 and yet I was doing basically the same things on it back then as I need to do today.)

I still use my X40 (Pentium M 1200, 1.5GB) from time to time, though. It's quick enough for doing network diagnostics and other not-too-demanding tasks - or playing UT Classic when I'm bored! It's survived being pulled off of desks by wayward children several times over the last 13 years.

Both have run Linux from day 1.

Science fiction great Brian Aldiss, 92, dies at his Oxford home


Re: The AI ending

>> Aldiss ... wasn't keen on the happyish ending...

> I've only seen the film once ... I said much the same thing at the time

Yes, I felt that too - it should have simply faded to black with the solemn narrator voiceover. The tacked-on ending feels like gratuitous added sugar.

That said, when I saw the film again some years later, the epilogue seemed less "jarring", but maybe that's just because I was expecting it. Watching it "without prejudice", it didn't feel quite as "empty" either, although I still don't think anything would really be lost by simply truncating the film (and arguably the whole might be improved as a result).

I suppose we should just be grateful Disney didn't get their hands on it. I don't even want to think what the result might have been like after they'd finished dumping truckloads of sugar into it.

Photon scattering puts a shine on CERN ATLAS boffins' day


Re: Heavy Metal?

> "Photon Scattering" sounds more like an Indie band

They would probably play an interesting mix of heavy metal and light music.

Programmer's < fumble jeopardizes thousands of medical reports


Sadly, nothing new here

I've encountered similar lack-of-escaping bugs on a pretty regular basis for years, in part because of my persistent habit of working in schools with apostrophes and/or ampersands in their names.

Some websites totally crap out when you try to submit the name to register a product or download companion software. One even had a hyper-sensitive "hacking detector" that admonished me then locked out the county's outbound IP address for a minute each time I submitted the offending text. (They probably thought they were being really clever by detecting attempts at SQL/script injection or something. Maybe I should have set up a script to submit it automatically every minute to see if they noticed the sudden lack of business coming their way from an entire county.)

One major technology retailer's site accepted the address but munged it on the shipping label, which isn't disastrous but is rather ugly - "St. Brutus&apos;s School &amp; Deranged Orang-Utan Containment Facility".

Another completely omitted the address line containing the name of the school which is a little more troublesome - it took several failed (i.e. not attempted) deliveries before someone at the courier's depot thought to phone the contact number on the label (apparently, the drivers aren't allowed to carry phones) to find out exactly where in Snafu Road the parcel should be sent.

Some would say I should just omit the non-alpha characters as a matter of course but I like to break systems then see how (if) the companies' tech support folks handle the bug report.

LHC finds a new and very charming particle: the Xicc++ baryon


Re: XICC - how do you pronounce that?

I must admit that I read it as "Xi (as in the Greek character Ξ/ξ)-double-charm-two-plus" but I'm no expert on this kind of stuff.

That said, "chic-plus-plus" has a certain ring to it (and is a darn sight easier to say). Doesn't sound sufficiently particley to me, though. New programming language with a focus on style, perhaps?

Fighter pilot shot down laptops with a flick of his copper-plated wrist


He'd started up a retirement job selling magnetic "health" bracelets. But also a magnetic doodah... He was a mechanical engineer.

There's a difference between making a profit selling such things to people who believe in them and believing in them oneself ;-)

I remember a discussion in class at school just after the (UK) National Lottery started up in which someone asserted the old Gambler's Fallacy that because all the numbers have equal probability of coming up over a long interval, ones that haven't come up for a while are more likely to do so in the next draw. After much, increasingly mathematical, discussion which resulted in the teacher proving conclusively that, on average, it is impossible to do anything other than lose money on the Lottery, I shocked everyone by asserting that I knew a guaranteed way to profit from it. My method? Write some software that took as input a log of all draw results then spat out random numbers after much on-screen number-whirling à la computers in Hollywood movies (hell, I could even have gone to town and used the draw history as a seed for the RNG) then sell the software to people wanting to make a quick buck by actually playing the Lottery.

Meteor swarm spawns new and dangerous branch


Re: I welcome our new meteor overlords

"... if they can flash cook a pizza for me!"

I'll have heaps of pepperoni, spicy beef, ham, salami, chicken, basically all the ones for carnivores.

The meteor the better.



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