* Posts by MrNigel

59 publicly visible posts • joined 8 Aug 2016


Dear Europe, here again are the reasons why scanning devices for unlawful files is not going to fly


Re: The sound of Perseverance

I remember seeing a demo at the Autonomy London office (behind The Ritz) about 20 years ago where they demoed analysis of image/video streams that tagged it with metadata. Maybe HP have still got this software....?

NASA's 161-second helicopter tour of Martian terrain


Re: Outside our original design limits

Ask Elon Musk.....

We can bend the laws of physics for your super-yacht, but we can't break them


Re: Pull the udder one

Look up Saudia Flight 163, the burnt out TriStar was left at the end of the runway for years.

Airtag clones can sidestep Apple anti-stalker tech


Proximity fun

Vaguely reminds of those Bluetooth prox apps from back in the 00's. It was kinda fun playing with them on a busy train - specifically the 17:00 non-stop KX-York - where you could post a msg to any phone within range. Then they tightened up the security and users had to 'accept' the message..... What happened to those Bluetooth prox devices that could capture people walking through a door etc then send them a 'special discount code' for in-store use message?

Who you gonna call? Premium numbers, but a not-so-premium service


BT Digital Derived Services Network - useless facts

As the Bids and Contracts manager at AT&T Phillips Telecommunications UK Ltd responsible for the engineering of the mid-80s BT DDSN and Mondial DISC I can confirm that BT did not include Adult Chat Lines in their revenue projections. The core 5ESS-PRX software was based entirely on the Bell standard 5ESS switches widely used in the USA. What Phillips did was develop the CCITT standard signalling so we didn't need to use T1-E1 converters (although we did install them on the Baynard House trainer which was brought into service to counter the Mercury DMS100 based Centrex service aimed at City of London financial institutions). A small Yorkshire based telecoms company developed the TV online voting service after seeing it in action in the USA and got a revenue percentage for every vote.

One of the biggest issues was the Childline 0800 1111 non-standard number format, there were no other 4 digit numbers on the network so the guys wrote a bit of code that did early routing to the PSTN breakout number when 1111 was detected. The first node was went live in Baynard House and the capital cost was recovered in 12 weeks thanks to £5/min no billing cap Premium Rate lines.


1. The DDSN remote maintenance computer was the first equipment installed in the underground bunker at the BT Oswestry NNCC.

2. I learnt about the Challenger disaster from the BT Clerk of Works who came rushing into our weekly progress meeting to inform everyone

3. I had lunch with that Bryan Carsberg

4. I arranged entertainment for 'a BT exec' at an Atlanta telecoms conference after the contract was signed

5. The Saudi Arabia MOPTT were responsible for the development of the 5ESS-PRX switch because they forced Phillips to find an alternative to their failed PRX-D offering

6. The switches supported three flavours of CCITT #7 signalling - C7, C7-International and C7-BT

7. My BT counterparts came to my wedding

Happy 2022 folks!

UK Ministry of Defence tries again to procure £1.7bn tri-service recruitment system


Tri-service nonsense

I got a tear in my eye reading this article and remembering the tri-service MOD IT contract I worked on 30 years ago. The CHOTS contract attempted to get the three services using a common X.400+X.500 email platform with Uniplex Office Automation to replace the typewriters and Miss Moneypennys. A few weeks in I started picking up negative vibes from my heavy drinking MOD counterparts. They opined "This will never work out because the three services don't talk to each other full stop". 15 months later after a Friday evening board meeting BT withdrew their services as the MOD kept extending the 'trial period' of what was a fully functioning solution costing them £300K/month to run and the MOD £0. ICL got the contract and we all know how that panned out....

Ex-DJI veep: There was no drone at Gatwick during 2018's hysterical shutdown


Re: Drone maker says 'no drone was there'

As someone who has taken part in 'Helicopter Voyeurism' I can confirm such an activity does exist. I spent the Summer of 76 flying around the UK doing helicopter pleasure flights at country shows. My job was to take the tickets, load the passengers (bikini wearing ladies guided to sit next to the pilot) and lock the door.

These were low level 90 second 'experience flights' and when we did the test flights with a stopwatch the pilot (the late, great Dick Meston) always looked for houses with swimming pools so we could fly-by them. The most memorable sighting was in Rhyl where a female house party took great delight in 'exposing' themselves when we flew over, as the afternoon progressed more flesh was revealed due to the consumption of alcohol and out flyover getting lower and lower. As a 16 year old this event is still etched in my mind much more than my BBC Model B activities a few years later. #goodolddays

Oh! A surprise tour of the data centre! You shouldn't have. No, you really shouldn't have


Wired remote call outs

Back in the 70's I worked in Leeds Westgate telephone exchange. To allow for Friday afternoon remote pub working the GPO engineers just extended the SFC phone to the Highland pub next door via a reel of jumper wire. This pub was used in a few episodes of Frost and (allegedly) the phone can be seen in one of the scenes.

UK VoIP telco receives 'colossal ransom demand', reveals REvil cybercrooks suspected of 'organised' DDoS attacks on UK VoIP companies


Re: Calling OfCom and Openreach...

100% correct re "built-in from day one comment". The PRX-205 exchanges installed in Saudi Arabia in the early 80's all had line monitoring built in. Each exchange could monitor 4 lines remotely from Riyadh in a secret underground bunker between Airport and Pepsi roads.

In the UK there used to be a small room in all exchanges with operators/switchboards with a 'Miss Moneypenny' type lady who could be guaranteed to be discrete. Not that it mattered because the GPO used to put interrupt tone on the line....

Not mentioning Menwith Hill and mobile phone monitoring, that is a different thread.

Taiwan president pokes the bear by saying the nation needs to lessen its supply chain dependency on China


"Can't Get You Out Of My head"

I enjoyed this historic explanation of China's political and economic aspirations very much. Great music as well although I guess there are a few El Reg contributors who have a different view of Adam Curtis.... https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p093wp6h

Restoring your privacy costs money, which makes it a marker of class


Re: Privacy is free!

EXACTLY the same here in my Spanish pueblo! Yesterday I popped downstairs to inform my neighbour that I am replacing the roof later in the year, so advised her to mount her new aircon on the side wall rather than on the roof. Needn't have bothered, she already knew who the architect was, which contractor is doing the work and that it will be finished 'before Christmas'. The aircon guys had already fixed the wall brackets and they then removed her aerial from my pole and mounted it above her balcony (ooh err Missus!).

She doesn't speak any English and I speak no Spanish, I wonder what else she knows about me....

IBM's 18-month company-wide email system migration has been a disaster, sources say


Re: More Bullsh*t Bingo!

Was a top BB player back in the day!! Best single use was "chocolate wardrobe" in a Uniplex presentation to the MoD. It was chosen by the MoD PM 1 minute before the presentation started. Best multiple use case was "Reference as many Flintstones characters as possible" which we used on the Microsoft OCS release roadshow.

UK Special Forces soldiers' personal data was floating around WhatsApp in a leaked Army spreadsheet



Would never have happened in the MOD late 80's 'airgap' LANs and put 'Apricot removable HDD in locked cabinet' when heading for silver service lunch in the Officers mess.

Thousands of taxpayers' personal details potentially exposed online through councils' debt-chasing texts


SMS for the few

This is what happens when an engineering tool goes mainstream.....

OVH data centre destroyed by fire in Strasbourg – all services unavailable


Re: Who knew data centres were tinder boxes?

Back in the early 80's when I worked on the KSA TEP4 contract a halon cylinder 'accidentally' discharged and came adrift from the wall it was securely bolted to. It wrecked a large part of the equipment floor where the new Jeddah International Switching Centre was being installed - an Ericsson AXE-10 derivative if my fading memory is correct.


Re: Who knew data centres were tinder boxes?

.....fond memories of the late 70's getting my hands dirty mixing vermiculite to seal the cable holes between the floors in UK telephone exchanges. "SLACK BACK!!"

Terraria dev cancels Stadia port after Google disabled his email account for three weeks


Re: I'm having trouble telling which is worse

Bang on with the African support comment. As someone who regularly logs O365 tickets the shift from India to Africa has led to a notable drop in the technical abilities of the guy on the end of the phone. But they are much more chatty/sociable than the Indian guys, so after an hour or so you cannot remember the issue, but you do know the best bars/clubs in Nairobi. Back in the BPOS days it was so-so Filipino support, but the purple patch was when you got Portuguese support for Lync/SfB tickets. Those guys always solved the ticket and also had great info on bars/beaches/surf. One point - all of them speak English which makes me remember my French 'O' level grade F back in 1976.....

Chromium cleans up its act – and daily DNS root server queries drop by 60 billion


Re: hang on

.......which is EXACTLY Microsoft policy for Office 365 new features/functions. We are all unpaid beta testers now - never would have worked in on-prem only days where what you did with their software was your business only.

Perl-clutching hijackers appear to have seized control of 33-year-old programming language's .com domain



It was so much easier when you used to type in IP addresses back in the mid-90s. Anyone remember the name of that weekly subscription printed newsletter that used to list new web sites with a description of their contents? I seem to recall that they were based in Worcester Park.....

Loser Trump's last financial disclosure docs reveal Tim Cook gave him $5,999 Mac Pro, the 'first' made in Texas



Exactly the same when I worked for AT&T Philips Telecommunications UK Limited (or APT...) in the mid-80s. I used to fly out to AT&T Naperville/Atlanta locations to sign PO's in ink (they wouldn't accept faxes) and because I was an 'international guest' they could claim expenses dining with me. The all-time record was 19 people of whom only three were working on the BT DDSN project. Apparently it was a famous fried chicken shack in the pine forests north of Atlanta that was too expensive if paying yourself

The Novell NetWare box keeps rebooting over and over again yet no one has touched it? We're going on a stakeout


Money spinner

Nice to see Knowlsey Council getting a mention. There were a Uniplex client of mine all through the 90's, I used to enjoy claiming 45p/mile for the 400 mile round trip in my Jaguar XJR to play with Tcap/Pcap and hack some uforms.

Not just Microsoft: Auth turns out to be a point of failure for Google's cloud, too


Not our fault!!

Exchange Online service alert: 16/12/2020 00:15

Incident information

Title: Users unable to send email to Gmail recipients

ID: EX230052




Title: Users unable to send email to Gmail recipients

User Impact: Users may be unable to send email to Gmail recipients.

Final status: The investigation is complete and we've determined the service is healthy. A problem didn't occur within the Microsoft-managed environment and is a result of an issue with the affected third-party email provider.

Apple's M1: the fastest and bestest ever silicon = revolution? Nah, there's far more interesting stuff happening in tech that matters to everyone


Re: Headline-whoring

I remember purchasing both the 6502 and Z80 add-on modules for my BBC Model B in the early 80's. Back in the day when I had more money than sense via working in Saudi on the TEP4 contract.

This PDP-11/70 was due to predict an election outcome – but no one could predict it falling over


....and then they ruined it with the VT-220 with those stupid F1-5 keys you couldn't do anything with. Still it did teach me the intricacies of termcap/terminfo hacking.

Putting the d'oh! in Adobe: 'Years of photos' permanently wiped from iPhones, iPads by bad Lightroom app update


Re: Class action suit in 3... 2... 1...

Reminds me of the late 80's when the 72MB disc in my SCO Xenix 386 box started making a loud 'squeaking' noise. After a couple of weeks it died so I thumbed through the local (Chippenham, UK) Yellow Pages directory to find unbelievably there was a Disc Recovery company a short walk from my office. Took it around in person, picked it up a week later and plugged it back in and all my data was there, they had 'replaced a bearing'. I think I bought a DC300A back-up solution to protect against future squeaking....

Clarke's Third Law: Any sufficiently advanced techie is indistinguishable from magic


Softly, softly....

Back in the early 80's I worked in Saudi commissioning Phillips PRX/A 205 telephone exchanges. One exchange (RMR2 - Riyadh Mecca Road 2) used to randomly reboot, this was a very rare occurrence so a lot of resource was placed on solving it. Long story short: the outgoing trunks all went via a microwave hop to RIPX, an Ericsson AXE10 exchange. These were newer exchanges compared to the SPC analogue 205 so were probe to restarting individual processors when in trouble. These restarts could take a couple of minutes or so anyone dialling outside RMR2 got routed to a voice announcement telling them "All trunks busy", this announcement could only take 10 simultaneous connections so when the 11th person was routed to it the exchange crashed..... "Cause and Effect! :-)

You weren't hacked because you lacked space-age network defenses. Nor because cyber-gurus picked on you. It's far simpler than that


Re: Too hard, too frequent, too unreliable

Reminds me of a project about 10 years ago from the early days of BPOS. One of the first actions was to clean up on-prem AD before implementing the schema updates. Reported back to the CTO - Do you realize your PDC failed over 11 months ago? His reply: "Speak to IT to find out why!"

At historic Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Google CEOs hearing, congressmen ramble, congresswomen home in on tech market abuse


Anyone remember the Baby Bells?

I worked for AT&T in the 80's when it was broken up into the regional USA Baby Bells. Very successful as they reaped the profits from the existing network infrastructure, but 30 years of mergers have resulted in them once again being known as AT&T. What comes around, goes around - a bit like jeans.....

Raytheon techie who took home radar secrets gets 18 months in the clink in surprise time fraud probe twist


Re: Secure Bag

Reminds of back in the day when the IRA were bombing mainland UK. I worked in telephone exchanges and one day we noticed that the PO had removed the raised lettering on the side of the building clearly leaving an outline of un-faded brick and paint that somehow emphasised the words TELEPHONE EXCHANGE. Besides you could just look in the ground floor windows and see those racks of Strowger clicking away. The exchange in question was Leeds Westgate on Rutland Street just off Burley St, next door to the Highland Pub where we ran some 2-wire to extend the "Bat Phone" to the taproom..... #GoodOldDays

Is it Patch Blues-day for Outlook? Microsoft's email client breaks worldwide, leaves everyone stumped


Back in the day....

In the 90's I used to resell HP OpenMail (UNIX X.400/X.500 based) and the newly emerging Microsoft Exchange running on NT. I vividly remember doing a presentation to a Warrington based chemicals company when we got to the acetate about the upgrade process. We explained how to update both products including the bit where you had to reboot the Exchange Server. That was the point where we were reminded that they were a 24/7 manufacturing company and it was not acceptable to install products that required 'rebooting' when a patch/upgrade was applied. HP OpenMail got the order. #GoodOldDays

One map to rule them all: UK's Ordnance Survey rolls out its Data Hub and the juicy API goodness that lies therein


Email postcodes

Slightly off topic, but I remember being in a meeting back in the early 90's where the GPO/PO/Royal Mail were considering giving every household an email address based on their postcode along the lines of housenumber.postcode@domain.co.uk. I think this was dropped because it didn't identify individuals, just a property. It was the early 90's thinking, you know - blue skies, out of the box, paperless office etc etc.............

Finally, a wafer-thin server... Only a tiny little thin one. Oh all right. Just the one...


Re: Almost IT...

....reminds me of 1978 when I worked for British Relay Special Services Division. As an apprentice part of my initiation was to test if a 100 volt line circuit was live using my tongue. Oh, how the engineers laughed at me.

Boeing brings back the 737 Max but also lays off thousands


Re: isit737max.com

@Dave - yeah like the info you find via a Google search of "Ryanair" is all true.... Flew 48 times to/fro my home in Spain in 2019 plus several European business trips all on FR. Guess what? I am still under the illusion that I am alive. Why do I choose to fly FR? Because you only pay for the services you use, unlike every other airline that add "free hold baggage", "free reserved seating", "free hand baggage" etc to the price of your ticket. BTW, it is Ryanair, not RyanAir.

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


Re: Saws

I did my apprenticeship at British Relay Special Services division, my first brush with a trade union. Apparently the union had an agreement that only two people could carry a colour TV set, but only one to carry a B&W set. Guess what? Eager me carried a colour one solo into the workshop and was severely ticked off by the rep. The same rep that taught me a Golden Rule that I have never forgotten to this day. "Don't drink out of damp glasses" he always reminded me when we had our lunchtime pints of Tetleys in the local.

Web pages a little too style over substance? Behold the Windows 98 CSS file



....in the same way the VT220 ruined the VT100. what were they thinking with those F-keys?? Taught me how to hack termcap/terminfo though....

A paper clip, a spool of phone wire and a recalcitrant RS-232 line: Going MacGyver in the wonderful world of hotel IT


Re: Proper lash up

Reminds me of when I worked for 'British Relay Special Services Division' back in the 70's. We did loads of 100v line stuff in Central London and part of my 'initiation' was being forced to use my tongue to see if a circuit was live. Back when 'men were men' and snowflakes were something you only saw in February...

Zoom adds Choose Your Own Routing Adventure to keep chats out of China


Re: Video voyeurism gone mad

My first yoghurt end-point memory would be those pyramid shaped Ski pots from back in t'60s when I used to bathe in front of t'coal fire in Granny's parlour.


Video voyeurism gone mad

As someone who first started video calling/conferencing when it was in B&W running over a private wire (or ISDN 2B+D) from a PO studio by the Thames, I am wondering how Zoom has suddenly become a noun in the same manner as Google and Hoover. Aside from the presenter-audience use cases of Teacher-Pupil and PM-Cabinet where has the seemingly mandatory feature of seeing a thumbnail of everyone picking their noses come from? I can only guess it is from social notworking video calling users who have been forced to use video conferencing for WFH reasons for the first time in their short working lives.

Social VC and Business VC are two different worlds and watching Microsoft trying to turn Teams into a consumer product is not a pretty sight. Given that Skype underpins Teams, why not point all those free 'A' subscriptions over there and let them loose in the playground? I am currently working on a contract with a project team from India, UAE, Europe and USA and have daily Teams conf calls with 10-50 users. The only video we need is the mandatory PowerPoint and Excel screen sharing with the main presenter bravely showing us their lounge wall. Everyone else has a lo-res 2 character tag which moves to the main screen when they speak. No one bothers to switch on their video unless they are showing off their new Teams Custom Background as it rolls out globally.

Never mind, the world will return to a new normal next year when Zoom usage will go the same way as hand sanitizer and facemask sales and social VC users go back to TikTok and Snapchat on their mobile as they return to physical schooling. Not so sure about Boris and his Cabinet though.....

OK brainiacs, we've got an IT cold case for you: Fatal disk errors on an Amiga 4000 with 600MB external SCSI unless the clock app is... just so


Re: My favourite timing bug

When I worked at AT&T Philips in the mid-80's we had the second biggest Amdahl in the UK. The biggest was with the Royal Navy. Taxiiiiii!


Re: My favourite timing bug

Reminds me of when I used to fault find TXE4 telephone exchanges in the early 80's using a 4 channel Tektronix oscilloscope. The final part of acceptance testing with the PO was a call load test. You would program a run of say 50,000 calls (depending on the size of the exchange) and you were allowed a very small failure rate. The tester used to print out the routing info for the failed calls (in BUMCLK or was it MUKBUL format?) and I got pretty good at finding a link between them.

One such fault was down to a batch of cards in the SPU (or was it the B-switch?) that had a transistor with a specific YY/MM manufacture date. It was flip-flopping 'too slowly' which I proved by having two traces side by side with a good/bad card. Out with the soldering iron, replace it, then fill in a Form 308 and claim the time back from the STC factory in New Southgate. Millennials have no idea what the term "Job Satisfaction" really means....

COBOL-coding volunteers sought as slammed mainframes slow New Jersey's coronavirus response


Re: No so much COBOL as the tools

......and who knows what future damage is being caused by today's "citizen developers". If ever there was an oxymoron....

Boeing 787s must be turned off and on every 51 days to prevent 'misleading data' being shown to pilots


Re: How long does it take to reboot a 787 ?

When Emirates introduced the first A380's I was on a flight where self-loading cargo was on-board, doors shut then Captain announced "Sorry Ladies and Gentlemen we are going to have to reboot the aircraft". This was after ground power was disconnected so no air-con. I can tell you that it takes a sweaty 18-20 mins before engine start.

Planet Computers has really let things slide: Firm's third real-keyboard gizmo boasts 5G, Android 10, Linux support


Psion theft

Back in the 90's my office was broken into. It was a pro job, they did the entire office park - cut BT wires, foam in the alarm boxes etc. They forced the lock to my office and the lock on my desk. What did they steal? My Psion Organizer which I replaced with a Palm Pilot..... #GoodOldDays

Thought you'd go online to buy better laptop for home working? Too bad, UK. So did everyone. Laptops, monitors and WLANs fly off shelves


Upvote for Ryanair

Ryanair don't do freight - 25 min turnarounds don't allow for it and neither do most of their routes. They have just refunded 100% all my booked flights through to end of April

Microsoft, Google, Slack, Zoom et al struggling to deal with a spike in remote tools thanks to coronavirus


Re: Remote working hype cycle

As a Goldmine consultant in the 90s it never struck me as dangerous and I was quite happy with £750/day

The Reg produces exhibit A1: A UK court IT system running Windows XP


Re: Is this as ususal software related?

Reminds of the work I did at MOD locations in the early 90's when the base networks were 'air-gapped'.

We had Apricots with the lockable/removable hard discs that were removed and placed in a combination locked filing cabinet whilst eating silver service lunches in the Officers Mess with the Major. Could never get used to drinking brandy during daylight hours. Then DIGITS ruined everything......

In deepest darkest Surrey, an on-prem SAP system running 17-year-old software is about to die....


'National Government initiative' misty eyed memories....

I have only worked on one - the MOD CHOTS contract in 89-90. This was a wonderful initiative to get all three of our armed forces to use a common email and desktop infrastructure. I was the Uniplex (MS Office features/functions for UNIX on a Wyse 60) solutions expert and spent a happy 18 months working with Air Commodores, Air Vice Marshalls, Miss Moneypennys and lower ranks in pipe-smoke filled, oak lined offices at an MOD location in Central London.

The biggest issue in that time? We introduced automatic document labelling that put Classification/Caveat in the page footer which caused outrage as letters to bank managers and golf clubs had UNCLASSIFIED stamped on them.

Beware the trainee with time on his hands and an Acorn manual on his desk


Riyadh Winter Darts League 1983......

.....was my Model B finest hour. I had a B maxed out with all the add-ons (Z80, CPM, EEPROMs, speech synthesizer etc) and they all came together in one magnificent solution - A Darts Scoring Program That Spoke Your Shot-outs. I could only use it for home matches as it was too bulky (with an Epson FX-80 printer) to take to away fixtures, but what fun it was although I must admit all my older colleagues didn't quite share my enthusiasm. Still it was the foundation for a stellar career in IT consultancy...... ;-)

Take your pick: 0/1/* ... but beware – your click could tank an entire edition of a century-old newspaper


Re: Talking of paper...

Back in the mid-80's I worked for AT&T Philips Telecommunications based in Malmesbury where we did all the software dev for CCITT#7 BT for the DDSN. The system running the exchange hardware engineering ran on a DEC in Hilversum and as a part of my multiple day trips between both locations I used to bring the 'green and whites' back in specially constructed grey suitcases that held two stacks of fanfold paper. My record was seven suitcases in a single trip, LHR Customs took an interest in me that day - "Why is this your third trip this week Sir?"

The good old days when you could arrive at T4 an hour before a flight and still have time for a pint and sarnie, as a non-smoker I used to sit in Biz Class Smoking because it was empty, you were last on/first off the plane and beat the hire car desk queue in AMS.

Are you sure you've got a floppy disk stuck in the drive? Or is it 100 lodged in the chassis?


Re: One, OK, hundred, I have my doubts

....when I worked for STC in the late 70's it stood for "Standards Travelling Circus" or "Sack The C**t" depending on whether you were management or a worker. I still miss my TXK3 commissioning days in the Glasgow area, character forming stuff!