* Posts by David Harper

16 posts • joined 13 May 2006

Gmail offers 'undo' email option

David Harper

Austin would like to recall the message "Dear assmouth...."

My company uses a combination of Linux (in the research and IT divisions) and Microsoft (in HR and admin) mail systems. I'm always amused when one of my admin colleagues tries to use Outlook's "Recall This Message" option to delete an email that they realise they shouldn't have sent. Sorry, guys, it doesn't work like that over here in Linux land. Now, let's see what juicy gossip was in your original email ... :-)

IT admin stole students' nude Facebook pics, cops say

David Harper

@anonymous Hero

"These weren't posted publicly"

They were posted on Facebook, for pity's sake. Only a halfwit would think that something posted on Facebook was in any way private.

UK censors revolt against 'pornalone' ordeal

David Harper

The answer is a penile plethysmograph

Technology can surely provide a solution to the problem of unwanted tumescence at the BBFC.

Simply attach a plethysmograph to the todger of each of the censors, and hook it up to a device that applies a brief electric shock at the first sign of arousal.

Science. Making the world a better place.

Raygun jumbo: 'Long duration' ground blasts begin

David Harper

Blowing up on the pad

"North Korea's Taepodong-2 missile is assessed as being capable of reaching the United States. However when it was test-fired in 2006 it blew up 40 seconds off the pad."

Much like the early test firings of the first American rockets, then. Watch "The Right Stuff" or any good documentary about the early years of the space race to see lots of clips of American rockets lifting slowly and majestically off the pad, then blowing up in a variety of amusing ways.

In any case, the recent successful Iranian satellite launch used North Korean rocket technology, so don't write off the Tadpole-Dong 2 missile too soon!

BOFH-loving botmaster wants life as security consultant

David Harper

Definition of chutzpah

I'm reminded of the old joke about the teenager who murders his parents, and then begs the judge not to send him to jail because he's just a poor orphan.

US woman says Ubuntu can't access internet

David Harper

Re Linux = fail

"It's still pretty much as bad as it was 10 years ago"

And Vista has been *such* an improvement over XP :-)

Ruby, COBOL jump on Amazon cloud

David Harper

What about FORTRAN?

When I can deploy FORTRAN code on Amazon Web Services, then I'll (grudgingly) admit that the cloud may be more than just a bit of fluff with good PR.

That would be FORTRAN 77, of course, the way God -- err, Backus -- intended it.

A crack in the madness of clouds

David Harper
Dead Vulture

Grid computing re-hashed?

"Cloud computing" sounds a lot like "Grid computing" which was being touted in the late 1990s as the next great paradigm in computing.

It seems to me that most of the over-hyped predictions made by Grid pundits never came to pass, but at least they understood the need for shared APIs to ensure interoperability.

Cloud computing = grid computing minus interoperability = dead duck.

Twitter's veracity chewed up by Britney's four-foot vagina

David Harper

Re Proper name for users

Twats, surely?

US only kidding about 'clear to fly' January deadline?

David Harper

Re Customs Form

I'm British and married to an American. We've been flying to the U.S. together for many years, and the procedure has always been quite clear: we complete one customs form, and I go through the "U.S. Citizens" immigration line with my wife. We've never been hassled by immigration or customs officials. But then, we're always polite and friendly and we treat the officials as human beings. You might want to try it sometime.

Microsoft preps IE 8 for the web-challenged

David Harper
Gates Horns

One of thoe WTF moments

"Microsoft said it will "reach out" to sites on the list and tell them what a horrible experience their users are getting when they use IE 8 to access them. Microsoft will then, thoughtfully, explain how the sites can get off of its list."

So Microsoft are going to start advising people to switch to Firefox? Excellent!

MoD kit chief: Blighty unsure of supersonic stealth jumpjet

David Harper

Ha ha ha ha ... Harrier!

Am I alone in finding it rather amusing that our American cousins are struggling to re-invent a technology which Britain pioneered almost fifty years ago? The first flight of the Hawker Siddeley P.1127, the experimental prototype which became the Harrier, was in November 1960.

Maybe the F-35B will finally achieve vertical thrust in time for the 50th anniversary of the first flight of the P.1127. The deadline is 19 November 2010.

Satanic net neologisms - nominations invited

David Harper

Past tense of tweet


The past tense of "tweet" is "twat".

We only use above average programmers here...

David Harper

Why this phobia of floating-point?

Like David Norfolk, I cut my programming teeth in the pre-Java, pre-C#, pre-Perl era. My first language was FORTRAN, and that forced me to understand the difference between integer, real and double-precision, to understand the limitations of each data type, and to know when to use each one. I've carried that knowledge with me for a quarter of a century, and I apply it today when I write in C and Java, because it's equally valid in any strongly-typed language.

I'm no genius. I'm just an ordinary programmer, and I've made my fair share of dumb mistakes in the past, yet I know when and how to use floating-point numbers, and even how to mix them correctly with integers.

So I have to ask: why do so many programmers today seem to have such a problem with floating-point numbers, verging apparently on a phobia?

Perhaps we should require all new programmers to serve an apprenticeship working in COBOL or FORTRAN for a year or two to gain a better understanding of the fundamentals of programming, stripped of the fancy add-ons for GUIs, networking, XML, web programming and the like.

Then, when they truly understand the Tao of floating-point, we'll let them write in Java or C# or Perl.

The trouble with rounding floating point numbers

David Harper

A sign of the times?

At the risk of provoking the wrath of the legions of bright, young Java/Ruby/C#/[insert name of latest fad language] programmers in the audience, I'd like to point out that I learnt about the perils and pitfalls of the limited precision of floating-point numbers when I was a rookie FORTRAN programmer 25 years ago.

Back then, programming textbooks clearly spelled out the difference in precision between "real" (i.e. 32-bit) and "double" (64-bit) floating-point numbers, warned about the kind of rounding errors described by Dan Clarke, and offered sound advice on when one should use integers.

My favourite FORTRAN textbook (Munro's "FORTRAN 77") specifically warned against using any kind of floating-point numbers to represent currency amounts in financial applications.

Programmers had a greater appreciation of the hardware in those days, largely because there was such a variety. The Intel monoculture was far in the future, and each manufacturer had its own internal representation of floating-point, none of them compliant with IEEE 754. When you ported a program from one machine to another, you had to take into account, for example, that single-precision floating point arithmetic on an IBM VM/370 system was only good for about six decimal digits of precision.

Programmers seem to be less aware of such issues today, and more trusting that the CPU will always give them "the correct answer".

Then their Java enterprise application rounds a number in a way they hadn't expected, and their company's accounts are unexpectedly short a couple of hundred million dollars.

Maybe we ancient FORTRAN programmers can still teach them a trick or two ;-)

Is it true my body is not entirely alive?

David Harper

It's nonsense to talk about "living" elements and "non-living" elements

Dr Juan may be an ace anthropologist, but he would fail a basic biochemistry exam if he believes that carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen and oxygen are the only "living, organic" elements.

He labels phosphorus as one of the "non-living, non-organic" elements, and yet it's an essential part of the "backbone" of every DNA molecule. Without phosphorus, Dr Juan's DNA (and that of every other living creaure) would literally fall apart.

Phosphorus has been playing this vital role for four billion years. Surely it's earned the right by to join carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen and oxygen on Dr Juan's elite club of "living" elements?


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