* Posts by Richard Tobin

229 posts • joined 13 Aug 2007


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?

National Enquirer's big Pecker tried to shaft me – but I wouldn't give him an inch, says Jeff Bezos after dick pic leak threat

Richard Tobin

Re: I have some questions

Freedom of the press would be a defence against publishing, but I don't see how it's a defence against blackmail.

Influential cypherpunk and crypto-anarchist Tim May dies aged 67

Richard Tobin

Surely you could have come up with a more ambiguous headline reporting the death of T. May?

Vitamin Water gets massive publicity for new flavor: Utter BS

Richard Tobin

Free advertising

And I would never have heard of it if you hadn't reported it.

Baroness Trumpington, former Bletchley Park clerk, dies aged 96

Richard Tobin

A BBC headline describes her as a "Nazi code-breaker".

Mourning Apple's war against sockets? The 2018 Mac mini should be your first port of call

Richard Tobin


"The mini can take up to 64GB of RAM or 2GB of storage." Shome mishtake shurely.

Anon man suing Google wants crim conviction to be forgotten

Richard Tobin

Let me get this straight...

A man who wants to set up an investment business wants to prevent potential clients from knowing that he has a criminal conviction? How can anyone think this is reasonable?

PETA calls for fish friendly Swedish street signage

Richard Tobin

Free advertising

You fall for it every time.

New UK drone laws are on the way – but actual Drones Bill still in limbo

Richard Tobin

Re: Online safety tests!

This is a real question from the UK driving theory test:

You have been involved in an argument before starting your journey. This has made you feel angry. You should

a) start to drive, but open a window

b) drive slower than normal and turn your radio on

c) have an alcoholic drink to help you relax before driving

d) calm down before you start to drive

US websites block netizens in Europe: Why are they ghosting EU? It's not you, it's GDPR

Richard Tobin

Re: Overreach

If US sites want to do business here - and that includes selling advertising - then they have to comply with our laws.

If it's the end of the advertising-based world wide web, then so much the better.

Cambridge Analytica dismantled for good? Nope: It just changed its name to Emerdata

Richard Tobin

Re: Obama

Obama is not a Liberal, or even a liberal. He's just a less extreme conservative.

How much do AI gurus really get paid? And is NIPS such a great name for a conference?

Richard Tobin


In the 1980s Edinburgh University had a Prolog system called NIP. It stood for New Implementation of Prolog. It was a pun on NIL, the New Implementation of Lisp, but in the light of the Japanese Fifth Generation project it was often interpreted as a reference to Japan.

There is no perceived IT generation gap: Young people really are thick

Richard Tobin

"Yesterday a neighbour's kid asked me for an example of a plant that survives salty environments."

The modern answer would be "samphire".

Virgin spaceplane makes maiden rocket-powered flight

Richard Tobin


"Virgin Galactic’s previously said it expects to fly paid missions in 2018, but it’s unclear if that remains a feasible deadline."

Or as the BBC reported in 2008:

"The Virgin system ... has been increased in size to take eight people at a time on a sub-orbital trip, starting in 2010."


Wanna work for El Reg? Developers needed for headline-writing AI bots

Richard Tobin

AI Prof? LOL!


The Register Opera Company presents: The Pirates of Penzance, Sysadmin edition

Richard Tobin

For the biblical philologists among you


Fermi famously asked: 'Where is everybody?' Probably dead, says renewed Drake equation

Richard Tobin

Re: Assumptions

The better compressed a radio transmission is, the harder it is to distinguish it from random noise. A DVB transmission looks more like noise than an analogue one, for example.

We will only be able to detect transmissions from civilizations that have not yet developed efficient compression algorithms.

Richard Tobin

Where is everybody?

... as a native American said in 1491.

It's Pi day: Care to stuff a brand new Raspberry one in your wallet?

Richard Tobin

Re: Dates

22/7 is actually closer to pi than 3.14 is.

HP is turning off 'Always On' data deals but won't say why

Richard Tobin

"No contracts, no commitments"


Chrome adblockalypse will 'accelerate Google-Facebook duopoly'

Richard Tobin

"Unwritten agreement"

"Ad blockers endanger this unwritten agreement between user and publisher". Nonsense. There isn't any agreement, just an attempt to impose advertising, and it's because we don't agree that we use ad blockers.

From July, Chrome will name and shame insecure HTTP websites

Richard Tobin

"In compliance"

Not doing what Google wants doesn't mean you're not in compliance.

Whizzes' lithium-iron-oxide battery 'octuples' capacity on the cheap

Richard Tobin

Re: Oh look, another one.

So how are you supposed to get funding to develop a prototype if you can't publish until after you've already got one?

And why do *you* get to decide what's published?



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