* Posts by John Watts

96 publicly visible posts • joined 8 Aug 2007


Mods I have known, Mods I have loved, Mods I have hated: Motorola's failed experiment is now a savvy techie's dream

John Watts

I think that coastal defence in the distance is this: https://www.worldwar2heritage.com/en/page/9069/198/Mulberry-Harbour-Phoenix-Caisson-Thorpe-Bay-Southend-on-Sea

Users fail to squeak through basic computer skills test. Well, it was the '90s

John Watts


The only thing I miss about ball mice is being able to put sellotape over the hole and watch colleagues scratch their heads and crawl under the desk to check whether it was plugged in.

Ex-staffer of UK.gov dept bags payout after boss blabbed medical info to colleagues

John Watts

So he was awarded piles of cash?

Privacy group asks UK politicos to pinky swear not to use personal data for electioneering

John Watts

The worst exemption ever

I really don't get why political parties should be entitled to this exemption when a company selling widgets isn't. A political party is trying to sell you their vision of a brighter tomorrow and the widget company is trying to sell you the best widget for you. At least with the widget you have some rights if you've been mis-sold; with political parties you just get to be disappointed again in another half a decade.

If anything parties should be banned from using personal information more strongly than anyone else. They should succeed or fail on the strength of their beliefs and policies. All this will do is legitimize what was scandalous behaviour by CA. Swing voters are going to be bullied and harassed by all of the parties at every election, not just online with insidious adverts but also on their doorsteps.

One final consideration, maybe you're a young gay male who's keeping it secret from his family who happen to be of a very conservative religious background and the newly formed Gay Party show up on your doorstep to see if they can count on your vote.

Giving parties a right to process personal data so they can tailor their lies to you precisely is just about the worst exemption that could be put on the books.

Blighty: If EU won't let us play at Galileo, we're going home and taking encryption tech with us

John Watts

Re: Fucking Brexit

Thanks for speaking for all of us.

HMRC delays digi tax plans amid Brexit customs woes

John Watts

Re: I hope that HMRC...

"The government offered a referendum that the people wanted"

It would be more accurate to say a referundum that ~36% of the electorate wanted. By the time it happens a few of those will be dead and a few more who weren't eligible at the time but didn't want it will be old enough to vote. Just because most of the people you know wanted to leave doesn't mean everyone did or even that the majority of the county wanted to.

Cambridge Analytica 'privatised colonising operation', not a 'legitimate business', says whistleblower

John Watts

Re: validity of the Brexit vote

>Her decision was based on an understanding that the British people did want to leave,

No, it was based on the understanding that her party would fracture and her majority would migrate to UKIP.

The UK is leaving the EU because of the Conservative Party's internal problems and has nothing to do with "the will of the people". Twenty-odd arseholes in gray suits threatened to throw their toys out of their collective pram and shafted an entire country. Surely that had to be the opposite of democracy regardless of your desired result.

BOOM! Cambridge Analytica explodes following extraordinary TV expose

John Watts

Re: Should be interesting to hear their excuses

I expect gargling 'Russian' nerve agents or zipping themselves inside suitcases will prevent it.

Billionaire's Babylon beach ban battle barrels toward Supreme Court

John Watts

>Plus there are likely other beaches similarly sealed off by private property, meaning he can claim he's being singled out.

I think in this case it's that the previous owner of the land allowed access.

A certain millennial turned 30 recently: Welcome to middle age, Microsoft Excel v2

John Watts

Re: "I have to say Excel is one thing Microsoft got right."

>it starts the whole bloody calculation again

Turn off automatic calculation and then get it to update when you've done what you need to. Just remember you've turned off automatic calculation before you start swearing at the screen ...

John Watts

I once made a single player 'pong' with Excel and VBA.

Do I win the prize for the most inappropriate use of Excel?

BT plots to slash pension benefits for 32,000 staff

John Watts

Re: bollocks

And the reason these pensions which have informed the career choices people have made in the past keep disappearing is because of the "nobody else gets it" attitude.

Maybe if the attitude was "we all deserve a good pension more than shareholders deserve profits" then this shit wouldn't be happening.

The ultimate full English breakfast – have your SAY

John Watts

Bacon - smoked streaky or green back.

Fried egg(s) runny yolk.

Sausages (Lincoln, Cumberland or pork).

Black pudding.

Toast (must be buttered - no marge).


Baked beans (but only if they've been cooked in a sauce pan - no microwaved beans).

The wildcard - kidneys.

The bloke behind Star Fox is building a blockchain based casino. No, really

John Watts

Re: http://provablyfair.org/

Me too!!!!1!

UK PM May's response to London terror attack: Time to 'regulate' internet companies

John Watts

Re: "Does the idiot woman realize how bloody stupid she sounds?"

"If you're willing to credit her with failures in our security when they happen should you not also credit her with successes too?"

Not when you read this: http://johnpilger.com/articles/terror-in-britain-what-did-the-prime-minister-know

Toyota's entertaining the idea of Linux in cars

John Watts

Two things that will happen ...

Somebody will install Debian.

Somebody will run Doom on it.

British prime minister slams Facebook and pals for votes

John Watts

Maybe she should move back a few steps to where the ideas that end up on YouTube come from - Saudi Arabia; the country that's spent $10 billion on exporting its own fundamentalist version of Islam across the world. Now, we all know that nobody's going to upset them because of the oil supply but how is it that Saudi Arabia's two main regional enemies Iran and Syria are supposed to be our mortal enemies?

WWW daddy Sir Tim Berners-Lee stands up for end-to-end crypto

John Watts

Best case scenario - Facebook says "no, we'll just withdraw WhatsApp from UK users"; Joe Public goes mental and tells their MPs they'd rather take the risk on terror attacks so they can get WhatsApp back.

UK Home Sec: Give us a snoop-around for WhatApp encryption. Don't worry, we won't go into the cloud

John Watts

It's entirely possible they found his driving licence in his pocket and tapped in the first four digits of his date of birth when the pin-code came up or traced the greasy geometric smudge mark superimposed on the nine dot grid. You don't always need GCHQ to get past a mobile phone's security.

Once you're in, you just have to open the most recent conversations (conveniently placed at the top of the list). End-to-end encryption is great but isn't much good when someone's staring at one of the ends.

Java? Nah, I do JavaScript, man. Wise up, hipster, to the money

John Watts

Re: Java is absolutely crap for web applications

With Java you can knock up functional form based authentication in a few lines if your application server is set up correctly.

How does that work on PHP? What about LDAP?

With PHP you can knock up a (very) simple RESTful service with a single screen of code (assuming authentication offscreen required of course).

Each have their merits but I'd prefer my bank to use Java.

Linux on Windows 10: Will penguin treats in Creators Update be enough to lure you?

John Watts

Re: I can run Linux and bash and ...

Oh sorry, I hadn't realised your question related only to your own particular circumstances and that you already had the answer anyway.

Can you not imagine a business that has users running Windows desktops and servers running on *nix boxes?

I suspect your original question was rhetoric.

John Watts

Re: I can run Linux and bash and ...

If the business you develop for is a Windows shop then there's a good chance they rely on Outlook for more than just email. This means that you need to run Outlook so the business can invite you to pesky meetings and the like. This pretty much means you have to run Windows. Having something like this would make development on Windows for anything that isn't a Windows app a whole lot less painful and so is a good thing.

Ex-Autonomy CFO pleads not guilty to charges he inflated the company's value

John Watts

Re: You're assuming his claim he followed UK accounting rules is true

I think it is safe to say that HP's case won't be "he followed accounting rules and laws governed by the UK, but did things that would be against such practices in the US so we're suing him here".

What makes you think that? It's a favourite pastime of arseholes to sue people for libel in the UK because UK law will secure a win (or a retreat) when they'd have no chance in their own country.

TV anchor says live on-air 'Alexa, order me a dollhouse' – guess what happens next

John Watts

I got that command to work but half of the nearest supermarkets are the other side of the Thames Estuary apparently - that's another issue entirely but one that should probably be sorted ou before we start relying on computers to do what we ask.

We've been Trumped! China's Alibaba is a 'notorious' knock-offs souk, says US watchdog

John Watts

Maybe Taobao is different but AliExpress doesn't seem to have that much in the way of fake stuff. Unless you want "fake" Lego (which goes under a different brand but is basically a copy). What you can get from AliExpress is a watch delivered for less than it would cost you to buy the padded envelope and post it to the next town using Royal Mail. The straps are rubbish but watch parts are fine. That's where the real risk to American (and Western in general) industry lies - pay the postage and get the product free.

USPTO: Hi, Ask Me Anything. Reddit: Can we trademark 'AMA'? USPTO: No.

John Watts

They've missed a trick - they should have tried to patent the format. They'd have got that no problems.

Toblerone's Brexit trim should be applied to bloatware

John Watts

The equation editor is really useful for me as I'm doing an OU course.

I'm sure it's useful for anyone who wants to put a nice looking formula into a word processed document without having to fire up another application just to create it.

Brexit judgment could be hit for six by those crazy Supreme Court judges, says barrister

John Watts

Theresa May said Article 50 would definitely be triggered. The last time I remember a PM saying something would definitely happen was David Cameron saying he definitely wouldn't resign if he lost the referendum.

The only time a politician says something in black and white terms is when they know it's not true.

Judge orders FBI to reveal whether White House launched 'Tor pedo' torpedo exploits

John Watts

Re: This just got "interesting"....

Slavish devotion to a mantra like that can yield very strange and illogical results.

So, would you be willing to give up your liberty and become a convicted paedophile in exchange for ten actual paedophiles to be given the same sentence as you?

Apple's Breaxit scandal: Frenchman smashes up €50,000 of iThings with his big metal balls

John Watts

Re: A disturbing trend

What a load of twaddle.

Dear sysadmin: This is how you stay relevant

John Watts

Re: Ummmm

"In other words, their use of IT does not differentiate them from their competitors in any significant way."

Leaving aside the obvious differentiation between the mom and pop store with an ebay shop and the one without there are other things that can make an important difference like whether they have voicemail or whether they use caller ID to call back a customer whose call they missed because they were "on the other line" or whether they implement a telephony system that allows queuing and if they do, whether they choose to tell you where you are in the queue or not. Even the way they deal with the humble telephone can affect and effect repeat business.

My local butcher got a card payment terminal recently - that differentiates them against all the local butchers who don't take card payments.

Just because they only have to worry about cooling dead pigs instead of servers, it doesn't mean they're immune to the march of the machines.

John Watts

Re: Ummmm

It's like discussing the difference between a hand and an arm. The hand will have you believe it is a completely separate entity to the arm but in truth, the point where the hand ends and the arm begins is literally only skin deep - wrap a hand around your forearm near your elbow and wiggle the fingers of the other hand if you have any doubts.

The hand is just a specialised part of the arm. The hand would have you believe otherwise but wouldn't last long if it ceased to be part of the arm.

UK.gov issues internal 'ditch Oracle NOW' edict to end pricey addiction

John Watts

Re: remotes

In any kind of normal work environment WordPad is perfectly adequate for 99.999% of users.

Most word processed documents I see have fifteen carriage returns in place of a page break.

John Watts

Re: remotes

r1c1 notation for spread sheets.

Excel does that and OpenOffice doesn't. For me that makes Excel superior. For word processing I find each application equally annoying.

Stop forcing benefits down my throat and give me hard cash, dammit

John Watts

Thus spoke the contractor

Unless I've missed something there's a very big flaw in this idea and it seems that it comes from not thinking outside of the contractor box. For the purposes of planning and workforce management there are advantages to knowing how much leave your staff will be taking in a given year and the ability to dictate at least to some extent when they can take it.

Imagine you run a call centre and you can in theory at least forecast the number of calls you expect to take and by some mathematical jiggery pokery determine the number of bums on seats you need to answer an arbitrary percentage of those calls. If you know the figures you know how many staff you need to employ and if you know how much leave they're entitled to you can work that into your equations.

Since you're paying for the leave you can set limits on the number of people that take leave at any one time so that you can still meet your target for the percentage of calls you want to answer by ensuring that you will always have enough people to take those calls.

In Worstall's-World everyone's a self-employed contractor and so can chose when they want to work as long as they accept that they're not going to get paid for it. When the school summer holidays arrive as they do every year your contact centre is going to be empty because 90% of the women that work there (which is usually well over 50% of the workforce) take the six weeks off to look after their children or their grandchildren. For the parents especially, not being paid isn't a massive problem because the cost of childcare is on a par with what they earn every day. Most people will decide that the small effective decrease in available income is worth taking given that you get six weeks off work. Work seven hours a day for an extra £20 a day, £8+ of which is spent on travel or parking or whatever or have those seven hours plus travel time to yourself? For most people in a household with another income it's an easy enough choice to make.

So if we want to run our contact centre efficiently we're going to have stipulate the days we want our contractors to work when we agree the contracts and given that we'll be using the same criteria for deciding that we'd be using if we were allowing paid annual leave, the employee is in pretty much the same situation as they were before but they now have to set aside the money they need to take holiday out of their normal income. That's easier said than done when you're on a contact centre wage. Not a problem when you earn two or three times as much as a contact centre worker but not easy when that extra 10% you'll be getting paid isn't that much. Add to that, that the contractor will have plan their leave in advance when the contracts are agreed and the so called freedom of the contractor is gone. The employee loses flexibility and so does the employer; if the forecasts were wrong and it's actually quieter you can relax the leave limits and people will take the leave reducing the chance you'll be paying them for being at home when you needed them at work.

The other option is that contractors come to work when they feel like it which is no good for a business that needs to plan its staffing levels. If as a business you pay people for leave then you're generally buying yourself some workforce stability; most people take some leave before they've accrued it and so if they leave employment they have to pay it back. If Joe Bloggs owes two weeks' leave then Joe Bloggs is less likely to leave on a whim because Joe Bloggs will only get half a month of wages when he does.

If we also consider the school summer holidays again (and the easter holidays and all the others) then what about teachers? They don't have a choice about when they take their holiday so how does being a contractor benefit them in that respect?

Being a contractor is great if you get paid a contractor's wage but for the average person on an average wage it's not as great as a contractor thinks it is. For most people it would mean either less freedom and flexibility or intolerable uncertainty.

Festive post-pub noshtastic neckfiller: HEARTY HOG MAW

John Watts

Maybe this would be a viable alternative to pig stomach:


Apparently it's ideal for making haggis.

Netflix: Sacre vache! French resistance from the vestibuleurs de consommation

John Watts

Thank you

Thank you for an interesting and informative article.

'Snoopers' Charter IS DEAD', Lib Dems claim as party waves through IP address-matching

John Watts

won't somebody please think of the children!

"For example, it can be used to identify a child who has threatened over social media to commit suicide."

I'd argue the information on their profile would be a better and quicker way to identify them.

WIN a RockBLOCK Iridium satellite comms module

John Watts


Kill The Payload Reliably In Case of Emergency

or, if we're being strict ...

Kill The Payload Reliably In Certain Emergencies

Beam me up? Not in the life of this universe

John Watts

Re: Compression / healing

I think we can consider a different planet to be analogous to a different partition (possibly on a different device).

Play the Snowden flights boardgame: Avoid going directly to Jail

John Watts
Black Helicopters

Re: Airspace

An excerpt from:


For the Libyan raid, the United States was denied overflight rights by France, Spain and Italy as well as the use of European continental bases, forcing the Air Force portion of the operation to be flown around France, Spain and through the Straits of Gibraltar, adding 1,300 miles (2,100 km) each way and requiring multiple aerial refuelings. The French refusal alone added 2,800 km total, and was imposed despite the fact that France itself had been the target of terrorism directed by the Gaddafi government in Libya. French president Mitterrand refused its clearance because the United States refused to give to the French army all details about the operation and he did not want to authorize any foreign operation that couldn't be analysed by French authorities.


Some bombs landed off-target, striking diplomatic and civilian sites in Tripoli, while the French embassy was only narrowly missed.

Probably just an unfortunate coincidence.

Ubuntu without the 'U': Booting the Big Four remixes

John Watts

Re: Exactly

But history is written by the winner.

The healing hands of guru Dabbs

John Watts

I know the fairy dust effect.

A friend of mine would have computer problems that he'd ask me to fix (being a self-employed tradesman he knew the score so there'd always be a drink in it for me - I wouldn't always accept if as it's the thought that counts as much as anything).

I'd get there and get him to show me what he was doing and it would work. He'd always swear blind that he did the exact same thing before and it didn't work.

After a while, instead of me going to his we'd go over it on the phone and again it would work and he'd swear he'd done the same thing.

The last 'support call' I had from him was a text message to say he'd been having computer problems and was thinking of ringing me when it started working.

I think he was almost convinced I had magic powers by then.

Ten... highlights from 40 years of Atari

John Watts


I had an 800XL with the floppy disk drive that was so noisy I could never get away with playing any games when I was supposed to be in bed.

I also had one of the graphics tablets it had which made a great substitute paddle for playing breakout. I used to engage cheat mode on the higher levels by resting a book on the space bar (which was the pause button and would produce a jittery half-speed with the key-repeat).

Those were the days.

The IBM PC is 30

John Watts

Start as you mean to go on ...

I notice MS BASIC was available in three different versions from the start.

I suppose they'd have done it with DOS if there'd been any functionality that could have been taken away without leaving it unusable.

Oracle sues Google over Java in Android

John Watts

Alternatively ...

Oracle do databases.

So do Google.

Oracle would like to use some of Google's technology or patents.

Oracle will shut up if Google lets them do x y and z.

That is all.

'Eternal' sun-plane still aloft after 7 days, aiming for 14

John Watts
Thumb Down

missing the point

"There's no doubt that the current flight is a significant achievement for Qinetiq. However, as with Zephyr's previous unofficially record-breaking flight one can't help noticing that the firm has chosen to make the attempt in uniquely favourable circumstances.


If the sun-plane is generating a large surplus above what it needs to stay airborne, well and good: Qinetiq are offering no details at this point. If it isn't, though, its claim to be the first useful "eternal plane" will look rather unfounded. ®"

It's about claiming it to be the "first useful 'eternal plane'" when adding a couple of webcams and a radio might take its endurance down to 14 hours.

I got the impression the author understood science and engineering from the last paragraph. I also got the impression he understood PR talk.

IMHO of course.

Do Google's search warrant police run IE6?

John Watts

Perhaps Google has little choice?

How about thus - Google have to give access to some data to some US authorities.

The authorities are able to directly connect to whatever server provides this data using http. The authorities insist on using IE6. Google use IE6 to access the server as the web-application has been coded specifically for IE6 as that's what the authorities insisted on at the time.

You'd imagine that Google would be able write code that operates on more than one browser so the conclusion then is that Google are running software that they can't control / didn't write - presumably provided by the previously mentioned authorities.

Blogger outs back-end Google tech

John Watts

It all becomes clear

So that's where they get all the shit to fill the 600 pages of search results that you don't need once you've tried the first five results.

Wi-Fi Beeb viewing may break law

John Watts

It's not just us

Every country has a state run TV channel don't they?

So the people in those countries must pay for it. The difference is that here you can choose not to.

I think it's fair to say that the money that the BBC gets paid benefits the country more than the cost in straight taxes, even if you don't watch telly.