* Posts by Niall Mac Caughey

44 publicly visible posts • joined 10 Aug 2007

California commission says Cruise withheld data about parking atop of a pedestrian

Niall Mac Caughey

Re: Worrying statement

Don't forget Active Lane Assist!

My car doesn't have it, so I always like to try it out on hire cars and I've tried lots. So far the Hyundai i30 is the one I like best, but I was given a good scare in the summer by a shiny new Opel Corsa that we hired in Sardinia. Lots of narrow, twisty roads, so I wouldn't blame it for failing to step in, but we had the opposite problem. On two occasions I was driving on a straight road when, out of the blue, the car decided to make a hard right turn. The first time it was easy enough to fight the bugger, but the second time it was much more determined. Since we were on a high bridge over a gully at the time, it could have ended very badly indeed.

I decided to dispense with its 'assistance' for the rest of the trip.

Imagine your data center backup generator kicks in during power outage ... and catches fire. Well, it happened

Niall Mac Caughey

Re: I helped fix ...

Many years ago I worked in broadcasting.

Well, OK, many, many, many years ago.

Our studio building was in a rural area and had a diesel genny with a substantial UPS to cover the gap. One day we had a localised power outage while I was on site and everything worked beautifully; the UPS ensured continuous operation and the genny started up perfectly. All was running smoothly and we had lots of diesel, so I hopped in the car and went to our even more remote transmitter to carry out some checks.

There was no interruption in broadcasting because the transmitter still had mains, a backup genny wasn't really practical there, as it consumed the better part of a megawatt at 10kV. The checks went fine and I was congratulating myself on having been well-prepared, until suddenly we lost the studio.

The local record for the 10 miles between the two locations along very narrow, winding country roads was 12 minutes 30 seconds; I made it in 12' 17".

Turns out that the genny was still running, but the UPS wasn't happy with the quality of the power and had never switched from batteries to generator. I had failed to spot this rather critical issue and eventually the UPS shut down when the batteries were exhausted. This oversight on my part resulted in brickbats from the boss instead of the expected kudos.

As you can imagine, my subsequent calls to the electrical contractors and commissioning engineer were not for delicate ears, but it was a useful lesson.

You would expect a qualified electrician to wire a building to spec, right? Trust... but verify

Niall Mac Caughey

Re: Socket Tester Plugs

Chap I knew was a sparks working on a large farm. There was an issue with one of the cattle feeding systems in a slatted shed, so he took out the fuses and got to work. A while later he went to lunch.

On his return he carried on working for about half an hour before he reached for a spanner which slipped slightly and fell across two busbars. As you have guessed, someone had replaced the fuses over lunch hour.

The resulting explosion blew him across the shed and stripped the skin almost entirely from his right hand. Oddly enough they were able to patch him up at the local hospital and let him out the same day. The hand wasn't as painful as one might expect and he had no loss of movement or sensation, but he looked like Freddy Krueger. Later that evening he went to the pub. When he was served he reached out to pick up his pint... and the barman fainted

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

Niall Mac Caughey

Re: the picture in the article

On that note...

A friend of mine was a farmer (no, he's still extant, just not farming these days) and was in the barn using an angle grinder to do whatever farmers do to heavy machinery. After a while he noticed that the sparks had ignited the diesel-soaked crotch of his boiler suit.

It didn't take much thought to conclude that, while extinguishing the flames would be prudent, the 9,000 rpm device he was holding could prove hazardous. The lead was long, so he through it a considerable distance down the barn. Unfortunately it landed disc-first and facing in the 'wrong' direction. The disc dug into the concrete floor and the apparently irritated device raced back towards him, intent on mayhem.

It ran out of steam, but only after reaching his right shin and penetrating to the bone. It took considerable presence of mind to extinguish the flames, make his way to the car and drive himself to hospital without passing out. There were no long-term ill effects, barring a very ugly scar.

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

Niall Mac Caughey

Re: Cars of the day... with good old steel bumpers and side panels

Many years ago I came upon an accident on a narrow, winding, but busy road. It had happened a short while earlier and the police had arrived but not the ambulance.

A dozy blonde bint (misogynistic? Perhaps. Accurate - definitely) had come around the bend in her fairly new Datsun with her wheels planted evenly on both sides of the solid white line. Travelling in the opposite direction on the correct side of the road was a man in an NSU Prinz - it was vintage even back then.

The Datsun was a mess, driver's side front mangled, car leaking fluids. The woman was sitting on the curb in hysterics. In contrast the NSU was barely damaged and the driver was sitting quietly behind the wheel.

He was quiet because he was dead. The blonde's Datsun had crumpled and absorbed the energy of the impact; the NSU had resisted and transferred the force to the driver, whose neck had broken as a result.

Niall Mac Caughey

Re: "Cars of the day... " Harumph. I owned an original shape Ford Ka from new.

77? Ah yes well, that was your mistake, wasn't it?

'round about 1977 the RNUR decided that their little R5 was selling quite nicely, thank you very much, so how about cutting some corners then?

One brilliant idea was to replace the original pressed floor with a double-skinned version. Now don't ask me why welding two sheets of steel together to replace one should be a cost-cutting measure, but that's what they told me. Either way the early cars didn't seem to have an issue with the floors, but the 77-onwards ones became thoroughly Flintstone-esque after a few years of winter salt. The early ones did have some issues with the sills (I seem to remember almost all 1970s cars did, including Mercedes) and also a special muck trap above & behind the rear wheels that used to rust out the rear wings.

One of the cheapenings was to replace the speedo for one with a plastic needle. After a few years in the sun the needle would bend up towards the 'glass', eventually jamming the speedo completely, although that might not have been an issue in the TS - always wanted one of them *sigh*

I had a few of them over the years and the pre-77 ones were definitely more substantial.

When is an electrical engineer not an engineer? When Arizona's state regulators decide to play word games

Niall Mac Caughey
Thumb Up

Re: So... is he an engineer?

Jim Williams should be celebrated, if only for the title he gave to an application note on a Switching Regulator:

Switching Regulators for Poets

A Gentle Guide for the Trepidatious

Dixons hits back at McAfee's £30m antivirus sueball: Your AV didn't work on Windows 10S

Niall Mac Caughey

Re: PC World

My ex-wife asked my advice about her new laptop. The last one she had chosen herself from Dixons and two years on, was suffering the consequences, so she gave in and asked for help.

I gave her a choice of three with my preference at that price being a Dell (9th Gen I7, 16GB, 512 SSD, etc). She duly bought it and asked me to set it up. I noticed that the model and price matched, but it had only 8GB and the earlier processor. She then admitted buying it in Dixons. I would have minded less if I hadn't sent her a link to the thing on the Dell order page!

When she returned it they told her that her two week cooling-off period only applied if the package hadn't been opened. Fortunately she managed to talk them around. It was educational for both of us as I saw how DSG pad their margins.

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

Niall Mac Caughey

Re: Never Turn up Early!?

I used to be the IT bottlewasher for a small TV network. I would turn up early and, because I needed caffeination after making it into work before 07:00, I used to clean the very large filter coffee machine in the break room. After all, I needed decent caffeination.

One morning (early one morning) I set up the machine for a flush with a sachet of chemical descaler/cleaner before retiring to my office to handle the first few hundred emails. About 15 minutes later I strolled back to sort out the machine when I met someone in the corridor carrying a mug of something that looked vaguely like coffee. I'd never seen him before, which was unsurprising as he was a new hire and this was his first day.

It was almost his last. He greeted me with "This is the worst coffee I have ever tasted!"

Snatching the mug from his hand I dashed into the kitchen to read the safety warning on the packet of descaler. It seems that, other than a potentially productive gastrointestinal flushing, he would be fine.

From that moment on I eschewed tiny Post-Its that quickly fell off for a laminated A3 sign: CLEANING IN PROGRESS - DO NOT USE.

HPE lawyers claim Autonomy chief Lynch knew all about 'revenue-pumping' carousel

Niall Mac Caughey

"If the CEO likes to micromanage, or doesn't give the freedom to do the job in the first place"

In my last 'permanent', pensionable job I had an excellent, competent boss who was so excellent and competent that he got promoted and replaced by a political appointee who was neither. This one was devoted to micro-managing; perhaps he felt that if he looked closely enough he might learn a little about the subject of which he was so woefully ignorant.

Of course we all know that breeds distrust and a lack of respect in the subordinates. In my case I asked him in front of an audience if he had ever had a dog. When he agreed that he had, I asked him if doing all that barking himself hadn't made him hoarse. Oddly enough I didn't proceed much further up that corporate ladder.

Mine is the one with the P45 in the pocket.

I'm just not sure the computer works here – the energy is all wrong

Niall Mac Caughey

Back in the 90s I got the job of building a rather substantial set of studios for a radio station. It was fun, but about 18 months some of the on-air Talent started a rumour that the early eighteenth century building was haunted. This is fair game, it's their job to get the place talked about, but there was a genuine issue behind it.

Around about 18:00 every day the lights in the main studio would slowly dim to off and then climb back to full brightness and the process would repeat. Initially I applied the standard logic to technical complaints from Talent, i.e. they were making it up to cover the fact that they were doing something stupid. Once I had seen it for myself I had to exercise my lazy grey cells, but after a while, just like the touch screens, it dawned on me.

One of the directors had insisted - late in the day - that the studios be fitted with remotely controlled lighting. Of course by that stage of the project I had zero wiggle-room in the budget, so I used cheap domestic kit which had infra-red remote controls. It was autumn and at tea-time the evening sun shone through the studio windows at just the right angle to catch the IR receivers. It hadn't happened the previous autumn as there had been a complete streetscape blocking the low sun, but an old factory had recently been demolished leaving a narrow gap in just the right place.

Can't we have a lightbulb icon for those rare occasions that we get things right?

Tesla autopilot saves driver after he fell asleep at wheel on the freeway

Niall Mac Caughey

Re: Defeat devices

Hyundai also have a system that requires driver input when it's Lane Assist is in Active mode. In my experience simply holding the wheel isn't enough, it very quickly spots if you are trying to fool it.

I'm surprised Tesla didn't include some way to detect a cop car, especially as this:


has been available in parts of the US for some time.

Huawei Mate 20 Pro: If you can stomach the nagware and price, it may be Droid of the Year

Niall Mac Caughey

Speaker in the USB port - definitely worse for that!

My Mate Pro arrived on Friday. I'm defnitely not an early adopter, I'm a strict second-hand car man (let some other generous soul pay for the depreciation), but the battery in my trusty HTC One really has given up and I opted for the Huawei at €519 delivered, including the GT Smartwatch and a wireless charger.

It's also costing me an extra €15 x 24 over my existing SIM-only outlay, but I cancelled something else to cover this, so it's not too painful.

Inital impressions are OK. It basically does what it says on the tin and battery life seems promising. Screen is good and the fingerprint sensor works well. The facial scanner seemed to have issues with my outrageously unkempt beard, so I had to give up on that. Definitely an infuriating amount of click-throughs required, but I haven't seen any in the last 24 hours, so we might be over the worst of them.

The transfer utility that came with it sort of worked. It took a bit of fiddling and the HTC said that all transfers were successful , but the Huawei disagreed. Got there in the end.

As far as the speaker is concerned, it's loud for ringing and notifications but, unlike the HTC, if I set it to speaker mode during a call and put it on the table, the volume is definitely too low to hear the caller clearly.

The GT-1FO Smartwatch works OK, but it certainly isn't something I would pay for. The emphasis is very strongly on activity to the point that the App for setting up the watch is called Health. It does seem to track heartbeat and activity quite well and it has a lot of workout options. Battery life is impressive so far, although I haven't worked it hard and it is waterproof, so all good there. My main gripe is with the choice of faces which is very limited. I find the standard faces overly fussy and the GT doesn't use the normal Android watch OS, so there doesn't seem to be a way of downloading extra faces.

Convenient switch hides an inconvenient truth

Niall Mac Caughey

Re: Teradata

The difference in airflow can be dramatic.

Some years ago I worked in a broadcast transmission station with two rather large transmitters - think 30 fet long, eight feet wide and seven feet high. Despite multiple cooling systems we always had issues keeping the kit within temperature limits. Since they were US-made I (eventually) thought of the 50-60Hz difference, but my boss had already thought of that and the moters had been changed.

Being a student of human nature I decided to check for myself and. after some serious contortions wriggling around inside the working machinery I found that my boss was correct - mostly. With the aid of a mirror on a stick I confirmed that the largest blower moter was indeed a 60Hz model. When we pulled the fan manufacturer's specifications we found that the 15% reduction in motor speed translated into a 40% reduction in airflow!

A trip to the local engineering suppliers resulted in two new pulleys and some fan belts - a quick and extremely cheap fix.

Sysadmin misses out on paycheck after student test runs amok

Niall Mac Caughey

Re: Machine names

Back in the 90s I worked in a radio station that had a shiny new Siemens telephone system with a small LCD display on each of the phones. There wern't many characters to work with, so I had to be creative when programming up the system using the VT220 in the cupboard where the PABX lived - no full-screen editor, just a CLI and a PITA to use, if I may be forgiven some TLAs.

We hired two new DJs for the morning show, Mike and Steve. I set up their phones as 'S & M in the AM' and of course the best part is that they never got to see the text as it only appeared on the recipient's phones.

it was a full 10 days before the boss noticed and I was politely asked to think of something less imaginative.

Fixing a printer ended with a dozen fire engines in the car park

Niall Mac Caughey
Paris Hilton


My favourite smoke-but-not-too-many-flames story comes from the time, many years ago, when I was working in a third-level college.

One day a couple of students approached me, rather embarrassed. It seemed that she and he were sharing a flat and decided on a quiet night in. To make the atmosphere a little more romantic they stuck a candle on top of the portable telly. This worked so well that they were obliged to retire to adjoining bedroom to take matters further. In the morning they awoke to a surprisingly intact flat, but with a TV that looked very strange indeed. The question was, could I fix it?

My first reaction was to laugh them out of my lab as the misshapen pile of plastic looked irreparable, but they were so upset and shame-faced that I thawed. It was not an easy job, but after about 2 hours or replacing components and re-wiring missing traces I got video; unfortunately try as I might, I couldn't get the audio working. This was very frustrating, but I finally admitted failure and returned the set , promising to search my box of junk for a decrepit radio that could receive UHF TV audio.

To my astonishment they returned the next day bearing a box of chocolates and effusive thanks for the effective repair as the set was working perfectly! I still don't know how it happened, but it made a pleasant change from other occasions when the opposite was the case.

Paris because, well, that sort of distraction can be fatal!

Sysadmin held a rack of servers off the ground for 15 mins, crashed ISP when he put them down

Niall Mac Caughey

Many (OK, many, many, many) years ago I worked with an ex-Post & Telegraphs engineer. One of his favourite stories was about a newly-extended telephone exchange in a rapidly-expanding suburb south of Dublin. It was a large, shiny new building (late 1960s) with solid concrete floors designed to take plenty of weight; which was a good thing as they had manoeuvred a considerable number of substantial racks filled with crossbar switches (I think) into place on a Friday afternoon.

It was all very neatly done and they headed home pleased with themselves, prior to returning on the Monday to begin the cabling. Unfortunately some bright spark had specified this new-fangled stuff called HAC (high-alumina cement). People of a certain age may remember this.

When they arrived on the Monday morning they found their shiny new equipment a little dusty and worse for wear, as it was now in the basement.

Office junior had one job: Tearing perforated bits off tractor-feed dot matrix printer paper

Niall Mac Caughey

Re: I've had...

Ah yes, wonderful stuff. Back when I worked at a certain third-level institution I never had to buy, requisition, steal, etc. Tippex. I just used to collect the half-full but dried-up bottles the students used to dump in my bin. Pop up to the Chemistry Department and scrounge a bottle of Trich and the job was done.

My attitude was slightly modified after a chat with a Chemistry lab assistant one day. Her late husband had run a dry cleaning business some years previously. It appears that the Trich had dissolved his spine.......

Ah yes, the good old days!

Developer mistakenly deleted data - so thoroughly nobody could pin it on him!

Niall Mac Caughey
Paris Hilton

No user input required, but still on the clock

Many years ago, Autumn 1997 I believe, I was looking after the hardware of a radio broadcast network I's built , or more accurately had designed and had built by people who knew what they were doing - mostly.

One of those knowledgeable folks had created something that was still uncommon at the time, a hard disk music playout system. It consisted of a pair of identical, mirrored servers, each running a single 20GB SCSI drive (gasp!) via Adaptec cards with the OS being Win 95 SR2 (sharp intake of breath perhaps?).

The system went in during the summer and performed flawlessly, until 02:00 on an Autumn Sunday morning, when the overnight jock suddenly found himself a little short of material. All of the music on the servers had vanished. He called me and reverted to CDs which, since most of the music was locked in the library, involved the demented jock rushing around a large building trying to find random CDs before the next track ended.

To make a long story boring, it turned out that Windows had automatically adjusted from BST to GMT and simultaneously the MBR on each disk had been erased. At this juncture I can't remember if if was both copies, but the audio data was still there, just not visible to the system.

Once I had put everything back together I started making calls. Adaptec, M$ and the writer of the playout software denied all knowledge and responsibility of course, but when I pointed out to the M$ techie that copies of Win 95 SR2 would soon undergo their first "fall back" in the US, there was a looonngg silence.

The world of Windows 95 didn't end, so I'm guessing it was a glitch in the playout software, but I've always wondered.

Paris because, well, what would I have preferred to be doing at 02:00?

Military techie mangled minicomputer under nose of scary sergeant

Niall Mac Caughey
IT Angle

Re: buttons

Many years ago, back when God was a boy, a friend of mine worked with the Post & Telegraphs (told you it was a long time ago). One Monday morning he was dispatched to a Department Store who had found all of their outside lines were missing.

He found all lines live at the termination point inside the building, so it was a case of tracing the cables. He tracked them upstairs to an office with a brand-new carpet, fitted over the weekend. The 50-pair disappeared into the floor and then re-appeared further down the room. Investigations on the floor below having proved fruitless, he grabbed cable and pulled....

It turned out that a heavy-handed carpet fitter had managed to slice through the 50-pair with his Stanley knife. Being a resourceful chap he had drilled two holes in the floor and pushed the cut ends into them.

'The capacitors exploded, showering the lab in flaming confetti'

Niall Mac Caughey

Re: Isolation

Don't give your PC to undergraduates? Undergraduates I can handle!

In days of old I ran a lab which had a recently-acquired and very expensive robot arm. It was controlled by a very large and complex PCB covered in ICs, all of them soldered in place. It also had external I/O, with optocouplers for the I and relays for the O. The software ran on an Apple II and the pair were connected via a ribbon cable.

I foolishly took a day off and returned to find that a senior lecturer had demonstrated the I/O features to his class by connecting 230V AC to one of the optocouplers.

Suffice it to say that it took me a very long time to fix the Apple and the robot itself became a decorative paperweight due to the prohibitive cost of the replacement board.

Maplin Electronics CEO ups stakes for steak house

Niall Mac Caughey

Re: Hmmmm

Definitely time to check.

The bearings failed on the fan in my wife's graphics card. Perhaps I should say the graphics card in my wife's desktop PC; although she definitely has a very effective sound card.

Anywhichway, I was near a Maplins, so I bought one of their white box fans. Lasted around 15 months.

Telly boffin Professor Heinz Wolff has died

Niall Mac Caughey

Re: A definite genius of a man.

Interestingly, it may not have been a performance - at least not entirely.

I noticed this many years ago when I met a public figure who had grown up in France. Although he had been English-speaking all his adult life, I commented that his French accent was hard to understand. I was told by a bystander that this reversion to one's birth accent with advancing years was a known phenomenon. I have searched (briefly) but haven't found any reference to this.

Anyone else encountered this?

Vanity, thy name is: M1SCO company car reg plates for sale

Niall Mac Caughey

Re: Many

Saw a carpenter's van yesterday: CH 11 PPY

Boss made dirt list of minions' mistakes, kept his own rampage off it

Niall Mac Caughey

Re: Not IT-related

I had a certain moment at college in the heavy machinery electrical lab. I suppose I just wan't paying attention, but it could be a deeper issue!

The task was to alter the load on a motor-generator combination and measure the parameters. To do this we used a load box, which is basically a very large panel covered in knobs to allow heavy wire resistors to be shunted across the generator. The knobs had ascending numbers which - according to a very small label at bottom right - represented the load in Watts at 110V DC. For some reason I decided the numbers represented ohms.

I gradually adjusted the machine down to zero ohms - as I thought - but naturally failed to raise the current as I wished. After scratching my head for a while I decided there was an issue with the circuit and I should short out the load box to check this. Holding a heavy cable with a brass spade lug on the end, I tapped it across the terminals.

It was very impressive. There was a huge explosion and the large brass lug disappeared in a blinding flash of green light, the very large room full of students were stunned into silence and immobility while the big motor was thrown out of sync with the grid and began to oscillate violently on its mounting skid, making a very alarming noise. It seemed like an age before the lecturer manged to leap to the nearest Big Red Button. It was a lot longer before I was able to see properly.

That was more than 30 years ago and I'm told that it is still used in that laboratory as an example of What Not To Do

Support team discovers 'official' vendor paper doesn't rob you blind

Niall Mac Caughey

Re: I first heard this story back in the early 1990s.

Yeah, I can go along with that.

Back when I was a self-employed plumber, a customer asked me to fix an overflowing close-coupled Saniflo behind the toilet in a tiny bathroom. Having removed the toilet and disconnected several pipes for access, I dragged the offensive article outdoors and removed the top. Joy oh joy.

For those who are not acquainted with these gems, the Saniflo has a fast motor with a stainless blade just like the one in a blender. It chops up the poo into bite-sized chunks and pumps it -with some pressure - up a 3/4" pipe. The theory being that you can install a toilet (and/or shower, bath washbasin, sink, etc) in an awkward spot, such as below the level of the main sewer. It's an excellent idea....in theory.

In this case I connected up some power and observed that the impeller wasn't rotating, although it didn't seem to be blocked and the thermal cut-out hadn't tripped. Using a screwdriver I gave the impeller a gentle nudge and it instantly spun up to high speed. This meant that the pump immediately discharged the contents of the tank straight up into the air above. Unfortunately that particular space was occupied by me.

Let's just say that it was an educational experience.

Vibrating walls shafted servers at a time the SUN couldn't shine

Niall Mac Caughey


I once designed & built a rather substantial radio station - a long time ago. One of the more artistic directors demanded remote controlled dimmers in the studios, so I obliged. All was well for about 18 months and then the rumours of a ghost started. The building was a couple of restored Georgian townhouses c.1740s and the stories started to gain a little traction. Turns out the rumours centred around the behaviour of the lighting in one of the studios, specifically the circuit with the remote dimmers.

The lights would fade up an down mysteriously at certain apparently random times and some folks had mischievously associated this with the topics being discussed on air. Took me a little while to catch it in the act, but eventually I tracked it down. The remote controls were infra red. The studio faced West and just at that point in late autumn the sun would set between two buildings across the street. If it was a clear sky then the low evening sun would trigger the dimmers to ramp up and down.

It hadn't happened the year before because the autumn sun had been blocked by a large factory building that had recently been demolished. I was pleased to find the answer, but it was a shame to spoil a good rumour.

You can't dust-proof a PC with kitchen-grade plastic food wrap

Niall Mac Caughey

Re: Maybe metal dust...


Reminds me of the time I offered to fix the CCTV system of the small shop across the road. Can't remember the fault, but I do remember that I fired up the monitor on my workbench and was surprised to see a pretty good image of the off-licence. It was so clear that it had me looking for unseen inputs for about 10 seconds until I realised it was screen burn.

Here's a great idea: Let's make a gun that looks like a mobile phone

Niall Mac Caughey

"Like most in the USA I prefer to carry a firearm with more capacity, and can easily conceal a Glock 43. This is really a novelty, as for a 'two shooter' you could as easily carry a small derringer in a pocket.

As to the author's dislike of Americans and firearms. No worries, you aren't required to visit."

As an example of missing the point, it would be hard to beat this.

Niall Mac Caughey

Re: "Absolutely no one can make sense of the United States' infatuation with firearms."




Definitely not.

Threatening fauna, sure!

Pure and simple?? By no means.

Thee are no conceivable (rational) circumstances under which a firearm is appropriate in a junior/primary school. If you have altered your perception of reality to permit such an outrage to be worthy of rational consideration, then you need to to sit down and spend some time considering the kind of world you seek to create for your children.

Vendor rep 'Stinky Sam' told to wash and brush teeth or lose job

Niall Mac Caughey

Fragrant colleagues

In days gone by we took on a new hire who seemed to have all the technical qualifications required, but had some ... personal hygiene issues. Eventually the office staff approached me to get it resolved. I wasn't his boss, but perhaps that's why they went to me, because I wan''t his boss.

Subtle hints failed to work; suggestions failed to work. Eventually I went to the stores, got a bar of soap, put him in my car; presented him with the soap and told him that I was taking him home and he wasn't to come back until he had learned how to use it. I then drove him the eight miles back to his house.

This wasn't martyrdom on my part, it was a sunny day, and I had a convertible.

Toaster cooks network and burns 'expert' user's credibility to a crisp

Niall Mac Caughey

This is one I didn't get blamed for, but possibly should have.

Back in the day I was Head of Engineering (for want of a title) for a national broadcast radio network. I planned studio layouts, tech spec, etc and supervised construction and installation. I specified that the studios and news booths would have a panel at the end of the mixing desks to allow the connection of (theoretically obsolete) reel-reel machines. Each panel had two XLR connectors and an IEC socket for the mains. Simple stuff, although there was a rush on at the end of the install to get everything ready for our on-air launch.

About nine months after we went on air, I was in the main recording studio, chatting to the recording engineer who was leaning with his back to the desk and both hands on the edge. Suddenly he screamed and leaped into the air, which was very entertaining, if a little surprising.

Recording studios are traditionally dimly-lit, so perhaps that was the reason we hadn't spotted that the installer had fitted a chassis-mounted mains PLUG instead of a socket. Three pointy pins in the perfect spot where someone could - and did - idly stick their fingers. Obviously I should have looked more closely before signing off. Oh how how we did titter!

DEAD MAN'S SOCKS and other delightful gifts from clients

Niall Mac Caughey

I was called out once shortly before Christmas to a large fruit & veg growers to look at a packing machine that was giving trouble.

It normally dumped a kilo of sprouts into a tube of plastic netting, clipped it top and bottom and then cut it neatly. However while it was doing all of that, it was also intermittently striking twice, breaking up the bags and the veg. Unfortunately when I arrived they were using the machine to make up a shortfall in bagged onions. Every time the machine went wrong, it would spray mashed onions on anyone in the vicinity. The production manager and I had tears streaming down our faces.

When I fixed it they were so relieved they gave me enough sacks of miscellaneous veg to fill the boot of the car, including cabbages, sprouts, any amount of those blasted onions and enough Satsumas to turn me orange. We'll gloss over the effect on the bowels.

Spirit of the Ghost: Taking a Rolls-Royce Wraith around France

Niall Mac Caughey

Is there a book on how Solingen captured the swords of the British Army?

There really should be.

Free markets aren't rubbish – in fact, they solve our rubbish woes

Niall Mac Caughey


It still isn't an effective system unless it is applied to all containers.

It's a long time since I spent time in the US of A so I don't know if it still operates, but there was a system in (I think) five states in the NY, CT, etc area whereby all disposable drink containers carried a 5c deposit. Most supermarkets had machines in the lobby to accept the returns, the only catch being that the barcode had to be legible as some of the nearby states weren't signed up.

The machine would crush cans but shred PET bottles to small pellets. I used them a lot, especially when broke - which was most of the timet.

The most noticeable effect was cleanliness; it was very rare to see a discarded drink container anywhere.

Hi-torque tank engines: EXTREME car hacking with The Register

Niall Mac Caughey

Using wheel-spin to control the power delivery...

Reminds me of this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5qanlirrRWs

Not quite the same thing of course, but interesting in itself.

Doctor Who trashing the TARDIS, Clara alone, useless UNIT – Death in Heaven

Niall Mac Caughey

Drivel too far

I have two children, a boy of 14 and a special needs girl of 16; originally both dedicated Whovians.

He has become increasingly discontented with the Moffat series. I have been absolutely non-committal on the basis that, as a thoroughly cranky critic who watched the very first episode of Dr. Who, it would really be best if I kept my mouth shut and let them form their own opinions.

My daughter is devoted to Dr. Who and has been immune to the dreadful plot holes and idiotic scripts, but the finale was too much, even for her. She was bitterly disappointed and furious at the nonsensical nature of so many plot details, not least of which being "come closer and I'll whisper in your ear" I mean, WTF?

Seriously, if a devoted special needs teenager is disgusted with the show, it has definitely lost it's way. We can simply accept it as normal teenage behaviour that her younger brother has vowed to find and kill Steve Moffat.

New DVD discs claim 1,000 year life

Niall Mac Caughey

& the glue?

The polycarbonate may be long-lasting and the pits may be almost immortal, but what about the glue that holds the layers together?

How long before that goes nice & yellow?

'Bitter' priest blows $1.3m of church funds

Niall Mac Caughey

Really? Evidence please

I'm likely to be one of the last people to rush to the defence of the Catholic Church, but I have to draw the line here. My own education was carried out by a missionary order and the Biology curriculum was pure Charles Darwin.

Similarly, I know some folks who went on the missions, misguided though they may have been, but they certainly didn't refuse treatment to anyone, simply because they didn't subscribe to their beliefs. Others of course may well have done.

If you know of specific cases, then by all means Name & Shame my man. If not, then you may simply be airing your unpleasant prejudices here because you feel that you have an uncritical audience. If so, kindly shut the fcuk up!

Pluto still a planet, says Ronald McDonald

Niall Mac Caughey

Personally I blame Tom Paxton for this.

As you can see (and hear):


NASA works on robo-podcab scheme

Niall Mac Caughey

Wht is,eels


Tram wheels are expensive wear items. They have a specific composition (nope, I can't remember what it's called) and they have to be replaced very frequently, in some cases they last less than 12 months.

When you take into consideration the energy required to cast a tram wheel, the maglev alternative makes sense.

Gamer embezzles virtual cash to settle real debts

Niall Mac Caughey

@ Steve Roper +(Adam52 + Alan 39)

I think Steve's analysis of the man's charcter is pretty good, however fajensen is correct. Where have you been for the past year Steve?

By displaying a complete absence of any ethics or moral compass he has demonstrated that he is perfectly qualified to work at a high level in a financial institution. His only motivations are pragmatism & self-interest.

The scary part of the above is that every word is true.

Mine's that rather nicely tailored crombie being brushed down by the lackey - sorry, bank porter.

Florida cops taser satnav lake plunge woman

Niall Mac Caughey

Heavy sigh....

Oh Gawd,

Indeed what IS the world coming to when more than half of the posters believe an April Fool's gag without even the most basic checking? Like the Ocala 'Gator??

Oh, wait, I was forgetting, it's not the World, it's the internet.

Forget the above; carry on, I'll get my coat.

'Portable' CD player puts MP3 into a spin

Niall Mac Caughey

Brilliant, but not entirely unprecedented

I like it, a little lateral thinking is always worth a whirl. But something similar was done before. Hiding in a dark cupboard somewhere I have a tiny record player made by Mullard (I most of you old enough to remember the name thought they

only made transistors).

It's about the size of two of the original Nokia 9000s side-by-side and only a fraction of the size of an LP; remember them, 12" in diameter & made of vinyl?

The pickup was off to one side and the player could be opened out to reveal a small spindle and a little rubber wheel which ran on the underside of the record to rotate it. The audio came from a 3" speaker driven by a small transistor amp with the whole thing powered by a couple of D cells.

Very portable, but back then playing LPs in your pocket didn't really arise.