* Posts by TSM

99 posts • joined 8 Aug 2007


The perfect crime – undone by the perfect email backups


Re: You just never know...

I've had some old requests. One company wanted an explanation a couple of years ago of ~$10k of due payments that were showing up in a report as not having been paid; we had to restore a system we'd decommissioned in 2015 to investigate what had happened to them, but the payments they were asking about were from the 2008 kind of era, so you'd think they could have asked a little earlier. (The big one that was almost all the total was paired with an equal negative amount which was also showing unpaid; most of the others had been paid, but the invoice had been transferred to from a subsidiary to their main company, so it didn't get picked up properly in the data update that got the payment information out of the old system. I think in the end they technically owed us a bit, but we obviously weren't going to press them for it.)

I was less successful when we had a legal request (for a court case) to recover all payments made to a certain vendor ever. We could give them back to ~2006 OK, but before that payment information would have had to be dug out of our (current - 3) system, which was an Access database with a custom front end. Which I was reasonably familiar with, and which I'm pretty sure were backed up to offline storage (they were backed up initially to our fileserver, and some years later we had a big push to archive unused stuff off the fileserver to offline storage), but neither I nor anyone else I asked who'd been around in that sort of era could work out where those archives actually were now, or if they still existed.


Well, you clearly shouldn't have been stealing cameras in the first place!

How one techie ended up paying the tab on an Apple Macintosh Plus


Re: No convert

Did you know the F8 thing still works, more or less?

Looks like the first press of F8 puts it into an odd selection mode, then subsequent presses select the word, sentence, paragraph, and whole document.

But then you're still in that selection mode, and clicking with the mouse will select from wherever the starting point of the latest F8 selection was to the current mouse position. It's a little odd to get out of.

Switch off the mic if it makes you feel better – it'll make no difference


Indeed, the article on this very site about the wallpaper speakers (https://www.theregister.com/2022/04/29/mit_flat_speakers/) does specifically discuss their potential as microphones, which researchers are actively pursuing:


MIT professor Jeffrey Lang confirmed as much in an email to The Register.

"The same device can work as a microphone," said Lang. "It can be mounted on the surface of any object and used for sound recording. The device itself is passive and generates voltage signal under incident acoustic waves. But we apply a small transimpedance amplifier in order to obtain a large signal-to-noise ratio."

"We actually have an upcoming paper that reports the microphonic performance of the same device. The amplifier is the only part that consumes power. If a standalone design is needed, usually the signal storage/processing and wireless transmission consume much more power than the amplifier itself."

"But we can either use a battery or integrate energy harvesting components to make it standalone without wiring to external power. For instance, our group is also developing thin-film solar cells and it's possible to integrate that with the acoustic thin film to provide the energy."


So we can look forward to a time when our houses really are listening to everything we do all day long.

Your software doesn't work when my PC is in 'O' mode


Around 20 years ago the organisation I worked for had a strict policy of having all computers turned off at the end of the day. This policy was accompanied by a photo of the mangled remains of a computer in one of the workshops whose monitor, IIRC, had decided to set itself on fire one night.

You can buy a company. You can buy a product. Common sense? Trickier


I did once waste a fair bit of my ISP's tech support time trying to figure out why I couldn't access my email, which had previously been working.

After about half an hour of rechecking various settings and trying all manner of things, I realised that I still had my work VPN active from when I'd been fixing an issue remotely, hours earlier. (I already knew that my work VPN blocked my ISP's mailserver, though this is fortunately no longer the case.)

Prototype app outperforms and outlasts outsourced production version


Re: Been there - done that

Sounds like they were indeed a team of tools.

No, I've not read the screen. Your software must be rubbish


Re: penultimate hurrah?

Yes, that's why Win98 was the penultimate (second last) entry in the 9x family. I'm not sure what your point is here. Or are you just riffing on WinMe since it came up?


The dialog in question does have a "Don't show this dialog again" checkbox.

Unfortunately I have to leave it set to show the dialog every time, because if I don't, it doesn't turn off the inbuilt speaker when I plug in headphones. And they're treated as a single "Speaker/Headphones" device in the control panel, so I can't just disable the speaker and leave the headphones enabled, which would be my preference.

Bouncing cheques or a bouncy landing? All in a day's work for the expert pilot


I think you mean "autodetecting external screens, and then deciding randomly whether to use the same settings as the last time they were on this screen configuration, or to turn some screens off at random just for the hell of it."

At least that's how my work laptop behaves. Plug it in, see whether all the screens come up, and if not (about 10% of the time) go to display settings and put it back to "Extend" rather than "Show only on monitor <whichever one it likes today>".

BOFH: On Wednesdays, we wear gloves


Re: Beyond 2000

I remember when it was "Towards 2000"...

Wi-Fi not working? It's time to consult the lovely people on those fine Linux forums


Re: Always read from the end

Sometimes you need to be more thorough. Particularly on the Microsoft forums, I've seen error message threads which have a collection of five to ten separate fixes, each of which fixes the problem for a distinct subset of users.


I've done the very same thing. Googled for my odd problem, been happy to see there was a single forum thread about it, realised it was an old thread I'd started, read to the end, and left to ponder the "never mind, I've managed to fix it" message I left last time.

If I recall correctly, I managed to nevertheless use that information to fix the problem - by looking in my sent emails from around the date of that last post for any that might be related to the issue. I don't think I got the actual answer, from memory, but enough hints to put me on the right track.

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: are you sure (y/n)

Frankly anyone doing their internet banking at a cyber cafe is putting themselves at significant risk even if their bank does log their session out immediately. From what I've heard the incidence of keyloggers etc (known to the operators or not) at those sorts of venues is rather high.

LibreOffice 7.2 brings improved but still imperfect Microsoft Office compatibility


Re: incompatibility issues

The printer obsession does extend into places you wouldn't expect it.

I recently had to fix an issue where commands like setting the page header and footer in an Excel document (from Access VBA - don't ask) failed, because the print spooler service had been disabled for security thanks to PrintNightmare, and without it the user didn't have a default printer, and without a default printer the very concept of page formatting makes no sense, apparently.


Re: incompatibility issues

Yeah, I had very similar issues in the same era. Going between Mac and PC would screw up a bunch of stuff, in particular all my equation objects were essentially destroyed - as I was doing honours maths this was a bit of a problem, and in the end I had to avoid the Macs and edit it only on PC.

For postgrad I learned how to use LaTeX instead and was able to move seamlessly between Mac, PC, and SGI Indys for my editing - and as a bonus the files were a lot smaller, which was useful when they all had to be stored on floppy disk for transit.

Electrocution? All part of the service, sir!


Re: caught the voltage switch while reaching for the power switch

All the ones I recall seeing on computers (a handful or two, I guess) have just been an exposed rocker switch.

BOFH: They say you either love it or you hate it. We can confirm you're going to hate it


Re: Deja vu!

> Mageia highlights only the file name before the extension when renaming - does Windows still highlight the whole name, including the extension? I am not interested enough to fire up my dual-booting laptop just to check

Nope; from about 7 onwards, I think, it initially only highlights the part before the extension. You can of course subsequently alter the selection as you choose, but if you just go click-pause-type, the extension will be untouched.

And if you do change the extension* it pops up a dialog to warn you that you might be making the file unusable and asking you if you really want to go ahead. Though of course the average user won't read the warning and will just press "OK" anyway.

* except in the case where it didn't have an extension originally

Microsoft made $167m a day in profit, every day, over the past 12 months


Re: The first RANSOMWARE O.S...

Right now I am struggling to get my daughter's old Win 7 laptop (which she uses for university) to activate her copy of Office again - I've tried enabling the TLS 1.2 stuff as per their article, without result - which took some searching to find since, of course, there was no error message, just a silent failure. And yes, Win 7 is no longer supported, but the computer likely won't manage an upgrade to Win10 since it struggles enough as it is. More memory would probably help, but I just don't have the money to keep my kids updated with modern hardware.

But Microsoft's certainly not earning any brownie points with me when it refuses to acknowledge my perfectly valid licence, and won't let my daughter save or edit documents in a few days' time.

So if I can't get this sorted we may have to try migrating her over to OpenOffice / LibreOffice instead, at least until we can afford to buy her a new machine. At which point it's going to be very tempting to burn her a live DVD of one of the alternatives and see how her system performs with it.

Games are the real problem with moving, of course.

Don't cross the team tasked with policing the surfing habits of California's teens


Re: Unions...

I'd have been tempted to retitle the positions as software typists. But that might have ruffled a few other feathers.

Yep, you're totally unique: That one very special user and their very special problem


Did the same on my work laptop, after one too many times of accidentally turning the volume down instead (the brightness controls are apparently Fn-up arrow and Fn-down arrow on this one).

Now my main irritation is that when I'm using the laptop keyboard, the trackpad picks up lots of unintended movement / touches and I often wind up inserting text at some randome point because it thinks I clicked the mouse there. I used to have the option set to disable the touchpad when an external mouse is connected (which it nearly always is), but had to untick it when it started refusing to enable the touchpad even when there wasn't an external mouse. (Lots of fun trying to find and navigate that dialog when you don't have any functional pointing device!)

What can the 1944 OSS manual teach us before we all return to sabotage the office?


Re: 404 error

Now on the Department of Homeland Security's site instead, at https://www.hsdl.org/?view&did=750070

Diary of a report writer and his big break into bad business


The trick with that one is to make your Normal.dotm (or whichever template file you're using for that project) read-only.

Yes, there's nothing quite like braving the M4 into London on the eve of a bank holiday just to eject a non-bootable floppy


Makes me feel old

... that it's now considered necessary to carefully explain the circumstances and consequences of leaving a non-bootable floppy in the drive.

Not that I disagree. There are adults now who have never even seen a computer with a floppy drive.

Like Alan Brown, I too used to set the boot order to C: first as soon as I got a new system (though more usually C: D: A: rather than C: A:, as most of my computers had optical drives by then). The 0.05% of boots that you specifically want to boot from a floppy or CD, you can adjust the settings for that boot, otherwise just boot from your primary system disk - if nothing else, it saves you some boot time.


Similar when my ADSL modem/router died. They insisted that I had to swap cables, etc., and even went as far as sending a tech out to check the line, despite my objections that no sort of problem with the line would explain why the power light wasn't coming on, or why it wasn't routing traffic across the LAN.

They did eventually replace it, though initially they were going to charge me full price for it, until I pointed out that they were offering the kit free with new contracts, and as a customer of 10+ years standing I was more than happy to sign up for a further two years...


Re: the one on the telly thing?

In all fairness, I have myself turned up to work with my laptop, sat down at my desk, and pressed buttons on the keyboard to wake the system up so I can log in - before remembering that I need to actually take the laptop out of the bag and connect it to the dock first.

Don't be a fool, cover your tool: How IBM's mighty XT keyboard was felled by toxic atmosphere of the '80s


Re: The 80s were generally a happy time...

For what it's worth, here in Australia I've never been able to get petrol out of an ATM, only money.


Re: Dolores?

Given that it was capitalised, I assumed it was indeed an intentional reference to her.

I haven't bought new pants for years, why do I have to keep buying new PCs?


Re: Mother and Mother in Law

My mother's not too bad. I occasionally get asked to look at her system if there's something wrong, but not very often; and she has pretty basic needs - but firmly committed to Windows because she definitely does not want to learn new interfaces (she mostly uses Word and Publisher on it).

My in-laws have an ancient computer running XP. They manage OK with it, although we did discuss recently that it might be reasonable to think about upgrading a bit. They don't have or want any form of internet (even blocked it on their mobile phone), so it's safe enough as it is. Of course this means that every time they do want to look something up on the internet (parcel tracking, funeral notices, etc), they call us and ask us to look it up for them. But it's not very often, so we're happy to oblige. It's a lot less work for us than training them up on using the internet safely would be!


Re: I hate to say it, as I don't like the way they work...

Here's an experiment for you. Go to your favourite Office app, customise your Quick Access toolbar, and set the filter to "Commands not in the Ribbon". See how many there are? How are they discoverable to the average user?

Of course, most of these are things the average user won't need, or specialisations of general commands that are in the ribbon.

Nevertheless, you're right that the ribbon is a benefit to new or inexperienced users. It usually does a reasonable job of presenting the most useful options for what the user appears to be doing.

However, for experienced users who knew how to find all the features they used in the menu structure, the ribbon slows them down very time they have to change to a new group to get to the command they want. Before the ribbon all the commands were accessible all the time.

I find for example that in Excel (which is the Office app I use the most) I frequently want certain commands from the Data group when I'm on other groups. The solution, of course, is to put all the commands you frequently have to swap ribbon groups for onto the Quick Access Toolbar. If you get the Quick Access toolbar set up properly for your usage pattern, the Ribbon isn't really a problem.

Related is the issue of trying to find a command that you know is in the program, but don't know which ribbon group (if any) it is in. (Though trying to find an obscure option in the menus wasn't necessarily any better.) This is compounded by the fact that a bunch of stuff is shoved off into the weird File menu structure - there's nothing more fun than hunting through the ribbon for an option which turns out to be buried somewhere in the File menu.

It took me quite a while to work out how to open another user's mailbox in Outlook. (It's *not* File > Open and Export > Other User's Folder). And in fact "work out" is overstating it, I eventually managed to find it in the help files. And because it's something I do very rarely, every time I need to add another mailbox I spend time hunting for it (and usually having to resort to the help to find it, though at least now I know the keywords to use in my query).

(File > Info > Account settings > Account settings > Change > More Settings > Advanced. At least for now.)

Takes from the taxpayer, gives to the old – by squishing a bug in Thatcherite benefits system


Re: Language!

I mean, that is the entire point of HLLs.


If you happen to be cooking something in your microwave when the rollover hits, it might decide that it's never time to turn off.

I built a shed once. How hard can a data centre be?


Re: "Right," said Fred.

The line immediately before it links to the video on YouTube that it is referencing.

Cruise, Kidman and an unfortunate misunderstanding at the local chemist


Re: Is no one going to mention...

That would be redundant.

When even a power-cycle fandango cannot save your Windows desktop



Because, of course, there was a lot of software that relied on PROGMAN.EXE rather than bothering to check what the user's shell actually was (which even in the 3.x days didn't *have* to be progman, but usually was)

Worn-out NAND flash blamed for Tesla vehicle gremlins, such as rearview cam failures and silenced audio alerts


Re: Uh-huh

This bit certainly implies it:

> These all use an infotainment system powered by Nvidia's Tegra 3 system-on-chips that include 8GB of eMMC NAND storage, which is typically found in phones and cheap laptops.

The revolution will not be televised because my television has been radicalised


Re: Why not get a dumb TV?

Fortunately the last two TV replacements I've done have been because friends or family were upgrading their TVs and offered us their old ones. So I've managed to stay on the dumb TV wagon.

I do expect that the next time I have to replace one it will be very difficult to find one that isn't supposed to be connected to the Internet. But since it definitely isn't going to be connected anyway, I'll just have to try to find one that won't whine about it.

Actually I'm more worried about replacing the DVR, whenever that dies. Already years ago when I bought it it was not easy to find one that would actually burn to DVD. I can't quite work out what you're expected to do with shows or movies you want to keep permanently if you can't do that.

Plus of course the replacement will definitely want to be connected to the Internet. Ugh.

Not on your Zoom, not on Teams, not Google Meet, not BlueJeans. WebEx, Skype and Houseparty make us itch. No, not FaceTime, not even Twitch


Re: La la, no one can hear you

Yep, Teams does this. We've been having a fortnightly address from our CEO (during which the rest of us are muted, naturally) and it's amusing to see Teams helpfully remind me that my microphone is muted whenever I happen to cough or blow my nose while that's going on.

BOFH: You might want to sit down for this. Oh, right, you can't. Listen carefully: THIS IS NOT AN IT PROBLEM!


Re: Office Chairs!

In the first few days of our WFH period, I was just using one of our dining table chairs. But my back pretty quickly told me that wasn't good enough for 8 hours a day. I did start using my home office chair, but that meant my wife couldn't use it for anything she had to do on our computer.

Fortunately we were allowed to come in and pick up our office chairs (as well as monitors and monitor stands) so that I could set up a space with the same gear that I had in the office. My office gear is generally rather better than what I have at home, so that was necessary for a prolonged WFH stint.

And no, not everyone can afford to go and buy a bunch of equipment on essentially no notice - and if we had tried to, we might not have been able to; my boss was unable to get a monitor at half a dozen different places in the early days of the restrictions. You mention second hand furniture, but such stores would likely (I didn't actually check) not have been considered essential businesses, and would therefore have been closed. The nearest furniture store to me certainly was closed while the heavy restrictions were on.

The day I took down the data centre- I mean, the day I saved the day. Right, boss?


Exactly what I was thinking!


Re: That's interesting

From the documentation page that was linked in the article:

> Some people love -T5 though it is too aggressive for my taste.

Granted, that's not very specific, but apparently it is useful for some.

Let's... drawer a veil over why this laser printer would decide to stop working randomly


Re: Low IQ or low volition?

> changing "Default Printer" in Windows 3 times a week and then telling me they didn't do that, a phenomenon that I do not understand to this day, (Does anybody know why users do that so much?)

Are you aware that current Windows, by default, manages the default printer setting for you? It does this by setting it to "whatever you last printed to at this location", so that every time you print to a non-default printer, your default changes.

I'm not sure who came up with this idea, but it seems like a bad solution for most users; I suspect most people follow the pattern "print to this one printer 95+% of the time, but once in a while somewhere else", rather than "print exclusively to this printer until the next office reorg, then print exclusively to the printer nearest my new location" which is the only scenario I can come up with where this makes sense.

Did I or did I not ask you to double-check that the socket was on? Now I've driven 15 miles, what have we found?


Re: Do I have to put my hand through the flames

But I left all my request forms on top of the monitor!

The engineer lurking behind the curtain: Musical monitors on a meagre IT budget


Re: All Hail.....

For games.

Depending on how the game was programmed, it might run properly in Turbo mode (if it used timer interrupts) or it might run in "everything happens blazingly fast and you have no time to react before you get killed" mode (if it used CPU timing loops). The Turbo button allowed you to play the latter sort of games by reducing the clock to the speed the game was designed for.

Obviously, using CPU timing loops fell out of favour as higher speed CPUs proliferated, but for a while there the Turbo button really did have a useful purpose.

There ain't no problem that can't be solved with the help of American horsepower – even yanking on a coax cable


Re: soo...

> an additional bit of PPE was a long willow wand. Procedure was to sweep that around the tunnel ahead, and if it suddenly got shorter, there was a high-pressure steam leak. Dowsing for steam I guess.

Shades of CMOT Dibbler's patented dragon detectors.

Help! My printer won't print no matter how much I shout at it!


"Something like a Panasonic KX-P6100?"

I had one of those! Well, actually two, after someone relieved us of the first one and some other computer kit after entering our house via a window they'd jimmied open. Lovely little machine with a very simple paper path so the occasional jam was very easy to correct. Did have a limited lifespan though. The one that got nicked was approaching its end, so getting it replaced on insurance wasn't the worst thing that could have happened.

These days I use a Canon MX870. Yes, it's an inkjet, and quite chunky, but apart from the cost of feeding it I have never had any issues of any kind. It just sits there and does its thing day in, day out.

Now if I could just stop SWMBO from making pointless copies of any form we send to anyone [if you REALLY need to keep a copy, just scan it on the very same device and we can always print a copy out if we ever need to], plus printing out random web pages which she almost never refers to again, we could cut the fodder bill quite a bit...

Funny, that: Handy script for wiping directories is capable of wreaking havoc beyond a miscreant's wildest dreams


Re: My contribution...

> I would point out that evisceration = disembowelling cannot commonly be done with vitriol = sulphuric acid...

I dont really see why not. I mean, yes, you'd have to be careful, and it would take a while. But you could get there in the end. Much sooner if you weren't worried about a bit of collateral damage, which if you're disembowelling someone is quite possibly the case.

A tale of mainframes and students being too clever by far


Re: Memory protection

Oh God so much this. I run with data off a lot of the time (because many of the games I have on my phone are only playable in this state; turn data on and they spend so much time retrieving and displaying ads that they forget about the game part) and this frustrates me every time I turn it back on.

A moment's thought would lead one to the conclusion that if the user has just turned data services back on, it's probably because they want to DO something that requires data, and therefore care should be taken to prioritise the thing the USER wants to do and not the fifty background apps the user isn't trying to use that all see the connection go back on and decide now would be a really good time to use it.

> Google Play Services I'm looking at you

And GMail. Those seem to be the top tier, then after that all the other background apps get a go, and at some indefinite point in the future it might deign to consider the app you're actually opening.

> It's only a brief hiccup on 4G.

Oh how I wish. Even on 4G, turning data on pretty much locks up my phone for a few minutes. You can try to do other things but there's no guarantee anything will work, and I struggle to access any data until after GMail at the least has had its fill. Most of the time, after GMail I also have to wait for Slack et al. to finish looking for stuff before I can do anything.

Oh sure, we'll just make a tiny little change in every source file without letting anyone know. What could go wrong?


Re: Early 2000's

I once reported to our helpdesk that I wasn't receiving new emails. They worked out what the problem was -- and emailed me the instructions to fix it.

Oh what a cute little animation... OH MY GOD. (Not acceptable, even in the '80s)


What kind of floppy was 40 MB?



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