* Posts by Richard Tobin

251 posts • joined 13 Aug 2007


RIP Sir Clive Sinclair: British home computer trailblazer dies aged 81

Richard Tobin

Re: MK14

The MK14 - a cheap version of the NS Introkit - was more Chris Curry's project than Sinclair's. It's said that Sinclair's lack of interest led to Curry leaving to form Acorn with Hermann Hauser.

Hacking the computer with wirewraps and soldering irons: Just fix the issues as they come up, right?

Richard Tobin

Re: PL/I … "think C with even crappier aesthetics"

PL/M was a language developed specifically for (Intel) microprocessors. IBM's own system programming version of PL/I was PL/S.

It was said that IBM had trademarked all the names from PL/2 to PL/99.

Richard Tobin

Re: I'd hire him...

"He should have reported the hardware as unreliable and got that resolved instead."

When you're an undergraduate working on a project that is not one of your options.

Richard Tobin



Florida Man sues Facebook, Twitter, YouTube for account ban

Richard Tobin

Re: Oy!

No no no. He's an "Aberdeenshire business owner":


Nutanix is finally happy to mention its name and ‘profit’ in the same sentence

Richard Tobin


It's normal to start an article about a company that readers may never have heard of with some background information!

China signals dissatisfaction with gig economy impact on ride-share drivers

Richard Tobin

"Ride sharing"

It's time the term "ride sharing" was abandoned. There's no sharing involved, it's just a commercial transaction.

Tor users, beware: 'Scheme flooding' technique may be used to deanonymize you

Richard Tobin

Re: Pretty unreliable

It gives me different results in Firefox and Safari, and several of the programs were ones I've never even heard of, much less installed.

Namecheap hosted 25%+ of fake UK govt phishing sites last year – NCSC report

Richard Tobin

Filter by registrar

Presumably it should be reasonably straightforward to configure a firewall to block all connections to domains registered with a particular registrar, which would be an incentive to companies like Namecheap to clean up their act.

Facebook Oversight Board upholds decision to ban Trump, asks FB to look at own 'potential contribution' to 'narrative of electoral fraud'

Richard Tobin

Has he been banned from El Reg forums?

At least he can still use Usenet.

George Clooney of IT: Dribbling disaster and damp disk warnings scare the life out of innocent user

Richard Tobin

Sun fun

Back in 80s we wrote a number of programs to do "amusing" things to the screens of Sun workstations. One had a vaguely ant-like creature that would run across the screen and steal a letter. A more subtle one would displace letters up or down by one pixel - if you were actively working you probably wouldn't notice anything as the screen would get refreshed, but if you weren't doing anything after a while all the lines of text would become wavy.

Prince Philip, inadvertent father of the Computer Misuse Act, dies aged 99

Richard Tobin

Re: forthright with outspoken opinions

"The Monarch is the constitutional backstop against a tyrannical parliament" - an absurd fantasy.

Richard Tobin

Seen elsewhere on the internet

It's tragic for the queen to lose her husband and two of her cousins on the same day.

Over a decade on, and millions in legal fees, Supreme Court rules for Google over Oracle in Java API legal war

Richard Tobin

Your starter for 10...

Who said "Oracle will ultimately prevail over Google for a very simple reason: Google is guilty."?

Please stop leaking your own personal data online, Indonesia's COVID-19 taskforce tells citizens

Richard Tobin

No confidential data should be in QR codes

They shouldn't be putting this data in QR codes. It should just be a unique identifier, used only for the vaccination program, that allows the person's data to be looked up in a secure database.

Memo to scientists. Looking for intelligent life? Have you tried checking for worlds with a lot of industrial pollution?

Richard Tobin

Re: Pollution, right

A similar argument applies to radio signals. Human broadcasts from 50 years ago were easily distinguishable from noise. But modern digital transmissions are compressed, and the more efficiently a signal is compressed the more it resembles noise - any regularities indicate inefficient compression.

License to thrill: Ahead of v13.0, the FreeBSD team talks about Linux and the completed toolchain project that changes everything

Richard Tobin

Re: "we don't have one big dictator"

"Isn't it Berkley Standard Distribution?"

No, Berkeley Software Distribution.

Barcode scan app amassed millions of downloads before weird update starting popping open webpages...

Richard Tobin

Re: But which app is the bad one?

Yes, this is a problem. The article says "LavaBird's now-banished Android app shouldn't be confused with ZXing Team's Barcode Scanner that remains in the Play Store." But that app has lots of similar complaints. Does it really have the same problem, or have people just submitted complaints about the wrong one by mistake?

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

Richard Tobin

"Trust but verify"

How, in practice, is this different from "don't trust"?

Realme 7 5G: Parents, this is the phone you should have got your kids for Christmas

Richard Tobin

Re: A Tecnical Editor is sorely needed here.

I'm very doubtful that most people can tell the difference once the resolution is over about 200ppi. Things like contrast and colour gamut are much more important. Just being able to read the display in bright sunlight would outweigh any amount of resultion for me.

Richard Tobin

Not cheaper than Moto

"We'd recommend it over more expensive models, like the OnePlus Nord and Motorola's Moto G 5G Plus." But the Moto G 5G Plus is actually cheaper, at £249.99.


Reports of one's death have been greatly exaggerated: French radio station splurges obituary bank over interwebs

Richard Tobin

What's the problem?

For printed news it makes sense to publish a description of someone's life when they die. But on the web, why not just have them there all the time? I suppose it would lead to more libel suits, though.

Um, almost the entire Scots Wikipedia was written by someone with no idea of the language – 10,000s of articles

Richard Tobin

Scottish census

"While very nearly all Scottish people speak English, the Scots language was apparently still spoken, read, or otherwise understood by nearly 30 per cent of Scotland's population according to those responding to a 2011 census."

The authors of the 2011 census realised that many people in Scotland would not know whether they spoke Scots, so they provided a number of recordings of people speaking it. If you could understand any of them, you could reasonably say you understood Scots. There was a great variation between them, and I think that most people in England would have been able to understand one of them, so I'm not convinced it was a useful question.

Chinese State media uses new release of local Linux to troll Trump

Richard Tobin

Re: Google Translate at its best...

"Galaxy" can refer specifically to the Milky Way - it comes from the Greek "galaxios" meaning "milky". It's only in the last hundred years that we have known that there are other similar structures (though it was conjectured before).

Are you sitting comfortably? Then we'll begin. Hang on, the PDP 11/70 has dropped offline

Richard Tobin

Re: Core memory in Canada

I've probably mentioned this before...

We had a PDP-11/40 which had originally had 32k (words) of core memory, but had been upgraded to 128k with semiconductor memory. One day some decorators accidentally pushed the big red button. When we powered it back on, the operating system came back because it was in low memory - which was core - but each process crashed in turn as it got parity errors in the semiconductor memory.

If you want to design and make your own 5nm high-end system-on-chip, Marvell's offering ASIC-as-a-service

Richard Tobin


... Intel can use it.

Smile? Not bloody likely: Day 6 of wobbly services and still no hint to UK online bank's customers about what's actually wrong

Richard Tobin

No technical information

There is “no technical information to share at this stage”. That is, we are choosing not to give you any technical information. Presumably because it would be embarrassing.

Not the Wright stuff: Bitcoin 'inventor' loses bid to sue YouTuber who called him a liar

Richard Tobin

Re: "neither side was short of a few shekels"

Well done to El Reg for accepting they made a mistake.

Richard Tobin

"neither side was short of a few shekels"

Is that really a phrase you want to use?

Microsoft drops a little surprise thank-you gift for sitting through Build: The source for GW-BASIC

Richard Tobin

The worst Basic ever

Even emulated on a modern processor, it's going to feel slow.

Openreach tells El Reg it'll kill off copper sales in 118 UK locations next year

Richard Tobin

75% FTTP penetration?

What does "FTTP penetration must reach 75 per cent" mean? 75% of customers have FTTP? Hard to believe that's true of any exchange, or likely to be in the near future. And if it just means it's available to 75% of premises, what will they do about the other 25%?

I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Spacecraft with graphene sails powered by starlight and lasers

Richard Tobin

'Such a laser system could be used as a weapon'

Cf the Kzinti lesson https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/WeaponizedExhaust

We lost another good one: Mathematician John Conway loses Game of Life, taken by coronavirus at 82

Richard Tobin

Pennies and coat hangers

That's old wire coat hangers. He'd bend one into a diamond shape, then hang it from his finger with the hook at the bottom. Then he'd balance a coin on the tip of the hook, and start to spin the coat hanger round, with the coin staying balanced there. While doing this, he would fetch a broom or window pole, and balance it on his chin and walk around the lecture room. The point was - so he said - to illustrate the difficulty of finding a basis to simultaneously diagonalize two matrices.

Call for netizens to demand scraped pics from Clearview, ML weather forecasts, and Star Trek goes high def with AI

Richard Tobin

Can't trust them

Would anyone seriously provide a copy of their driving licence to a company like that? They'll just add it, and the information it contains, to their collection. They must be laughing their heads off.

Scottish biz raided, fined £500k for making 193 million automated calls

Richard Tobin

Lock 'em up

It's the only language they understand.

Brit brainiacs say they've cracked non-volatile RAM that uses 100 times less power

Richard Tobin

I'm still waiting...

... for bubble memory.

In the red corner, Big Red, and in the blue corner... the rest of the tech industry

Richard Tobin

Protocols. not APIs

"The common language that defines the Internet is its APIs". This is not true at all. The internet is defined by protocols - TCP/IP, SMTP, HTTP - not APIs. C, Java, Python, Javascript, ... they all have their own APIs implementing the same underlying protocols.

Remember the Uber self-driving car that killed a woman crossing the street? The AI had no clue about jaywalkers

Richard Tobin

Re: Jaywalking ...

It's a term that was popularized by American car manufacturers in order to shift responsibility for crashes from drivers to pedestrians. Expect to see it a lot more as the producers of self-driving software try to do the same.

One person's harmless japery can be another's night of LaserJet Lego

Richard Tobin

Printer jam

Old April Fool's joke:

Get a sheet of Letraset letter transfers (remember them?)

Cut it up into individual letters

Stuff them into the serial or parallel connector on the printer

Simulate a printer fault.

When someone reports the fault, tell them it's probably a printer jam. Take them along to the printer and pull the plug out...

NASA trumpets Orion completion as India heads to the Moon

Richard Tobin


If the UK won't use some of our taxes on going to the moon, I'm glad that India will!

Internet imbeciles, aka British ISP lobbyists, backtrack on dubbing Mozilla a villain for DNS-over-HTTPS support

Richard Tobin

English, not UK laws

Several of these are not governed by UK laws. In particular, the requirement to stay in some sort of education until 18, and for parental consent to marriage if under 18, do not apply in Scotland (I haven't checked on Wales and Northern Ireland).

Let's talk about April Fools' Day jokes. Are they ever really harmless?

Richard Tobin

Easy enough to replicate in C (sorry, I don't know how to make it come out in a reasonable format here):

#include <stdio.h>

int main(void)


double nan = 1.0/0.0 - 1.0/0.0;

if(nan > 0)


else if(nan < 0)


else if(nan == 0)





A Register reader turns the computer room into a socialist paradise

Richard Tobin


"We had one mainframe terminal room and one room of PCs" ... "Vax and Unix terminals"

When did Vaxes become mainframes? They were mini-computers!

Hate your IT job? Sick of computers? Good news: An electronics-frying Sun superflare may hit 'in next 100 years'

Richard Tobin

Re: Carrington Event

The superflares described in the paper are about 100 times more energetic than estimates for the Carrington event.

Idle Computer Science skills are the Devil's playthings

Richard Tobin

I did something similar...

.. as a schoolboy in the 1970s. We were allowed to use Birmingham University's ICL 1906A, mostly for Fortran and Algol 68 programming. I wrote a macro (= shell script) that recursively created subdirectories, just to see how many could be created. Apparently the operating system only allowed a limited depth of directories - 64 perhaps - and the macro exited with no harm done. Until the overnight accounting program ran, which had a much smaller limit on the level of nesting it could handle, and crashed.

When I got to school the next morning I was summoned by a teacher who had been contacted by the university, and was sent to the university computer centre to explain myself. Their main interest seemed to be in why I had done it, and they accepted my explanation of innocent curiosity.

Intel unveils Project Athena: Chipzilla tells lappy makers how to build their own kit

Richard Tobin

Not to be confused with...

... the real Project Athena


May Day! PM sacks UK Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson for Huawei 5G green-light 'leak'

Richard Tobin

What's the security issue?

All he did was leak something that would have been announced later.

Microsoft's Edge on Apple's macOS? It's more likely than you think for new browser

Richard Tobin
Thumb Down

Don't want it

It will mean that web developers can get away with building Edge-only sites.

That's the way the Cook, he crumbles: Apple, Qualcomm settle patent nuclear war – as Intel quits 5G phone race

Richard Tobin

More likely the other way round

"with today's deal with Qualcomm in the bag, there isn't much point in Intel continuing". More likely Intel gave Apple advance warning that they were going to pull out of 5G modem development, and that's why Apple settled so suddenly with Qualcomm.

Netflix wants to choose its own adventure where Bandersnatch trademark case magically vanishes

Richard Tobin

Rounded corners

Wait, isn't it Apple who have patented rounded corners?



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