* Posts by Nick Ryan

1653 posts • joined 10 Apr 2007

BOFH: Sure, I could make your cheapo printer perform miracles

Nick Ryan
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Joke

Re: There are times I like my workplace

You allow them to use a USB flash drive they found in the car park?

It would be churlish to liberally leave them around the car park and not allow them to use them...

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Open-source vuln db closes – plenty of taking and not a lot of giving

Nick Ryan
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Re: They woke up

Put simply, it's impossible to create an entirely "secure" development language/environment. All it needs is for an algorithm to be incorrect or not thought through fully and that's security "broken", and this algorithm could be anywhere from the lowest level memory management code to a public access statistics report.

Doesn't mean that we can't improve things though.

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Contactless payments come to in-flight entertainment units

Nick Ryan
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Some ghastly internal US flights. Probably delta, can never remember as the seats are sold on from one carrier to the next.

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Nick Ryan
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Great, even more "incentive" for arsehole airlines to foist (noisy) adverts on you from point blank range. Want to turn this shitting, annoying screen off sir? Just pay $.

I've suffered on a few of these flights and despite repeated thumps, yanks and many, many button presses the bloody things just keep on going unless you wave your credit card at them. Packing in-flight material around them to obscure the screen is frowned upon... I must remember to bring a sheet of cardboard and tape next time (ideally, plastic and superglue but those are harder to get through and even more frowned upon).

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Truly crap exhibition dumped on Isle of Wight

Nick Ryan
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Re: Er, what?

Still less lazy and ignorant than the cat "owners" (a.k.a. staff: dogs have owners, cats have staff) who don't bother to train their cats to go in a litter tray and instead leave them to piss and shit all over the entire neighbourhood.

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Legion of demons found in ancient auto medical supply dispensing cabinets

Nick Ryan
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IIRC the barcode scanners aren't really the problem. The fingerprint reader is much more of a custom affair and that's before you get to the customised keyboard.

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Nick Ryan
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WTF?

Re: Firewall?

there lies your problem: that won't happen. No-one would authorise or pay for an intermediate kludge program that sits between these systems and the drug suppliers own proprietary software. Too many things to go wrong. Besides which, it would destroy the logic of having these machines, where all the stock control is done at "point of sale". Putting another step into the system destroys that ability

Ah, erm. There is an "intermediate kludge" system that sits betweeen these (effectively POS, possibly Point Of Dispense) systems and the hospital patient records system. The theory is that there are two separate network segments, with the system running the "intermediate kludge" software acting as the gateway, effectively the router.

Sensible enough, until you combine this with a couple of issues - this system is rarely, if ever, patched and until a couple of years ago ran one of the least performing AV systems. The windows administrator and other maintenance user passwords for this system are, of course, hard coded.

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Nick Ryan
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Re: RE: Air gapping

Has nobody heard of VLANs? Combine this with network device authentication and even if the wrong device is plugged into the wrong port it won't get anywhere.

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Nick Ryan
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Re: Wonderful options available...

Nope. Hospitals are a regulated environment, which means anything that runs there MUST (by law) be approved by the government (otherwise, any suits as a result of faults default against them).

I can honestly say that this is not the case.

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Nick Ryan
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Re: XP embedded?

These systems are running XP embedded. I know, I was trained on them, ooh, about 6 years ago. AFAIK these models are still being sold.

The bad news is that CareFusion (actually part of the BD group) have an almost comical suicidally backwards approach to technology, in particular computing. At least they had then and I haven't heard of any major strides forwards on this front. And they have a lot of them in place and frankly if they work, then a hospital will shy of replacing them and if CareFusion repair them, they take care to put them back pretty much just as they were.

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How NoSQL graph databases still usurp relational dynasties

Nick Ryan
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Re: Best Tool

A serious problem is where proponents of one technology or another attempt to force use of it in fields where it's not ideal.

Yes, a NoSQL, or unstructured database can represent users and credentials however an SQL database tends to do this better and more efficiently. On the other hand associating arbitrary data with a particular user sometimes lends itself more to NoSQL rather than SQL. Similarly representing an arbitrary tree structure or membership for a field value is something that neither standard SQL nor NoSQL do particularly efficiently which is where the flattened reporting databases come into play, sharing features of both SQL and NoSQL.

Ideally I'd like a seamless NoSQL and SQL database where the most appropriate storage method can be used without having to have multiple independent database connections and therefore effectively preventing transactional functionality.

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Nick Ryan
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Re: Someday?

Ironically your example - finding friends' friends - is a fixed two level depth query and therefore easily solved using standard SQL and could be done using Oracle/Ingres/RDB/Sybase/DB2 at least as early as 1985.

I'm glad I wasn't the only one wondering what was so hard about this query.

Finding depth at an arbitrary, programattic, level is a little more interesting on the SQL front but a fixed query of "my friends" or "my friends' friends" is simple - as long as the database hasn't been designed by a muppet of course.

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Error checks? Eh? What could go wrong, really? (DoSing a US govt site)

Nick Ryan
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Re: It could always be worse.

Does this mean you disapprove of Intercal's COME FROM?

You should have asked more politely.

PLEASE COME FROM...

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Nick Ryan
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At least the keyboard not found press any key message has a bit of logic behind it; after resolving the problem you can actually follow the instruction.

That was the theory. Unfortunately most keyboards prior to USB such as PS/2 but also the old DIN connectors which were electrically the same were not hot pluggable and doing so could, but pretty unlikely to in practice, damage the control circuitry.

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Hands on with the BBC's Micro:Bit computer. You know, for kids

Nick Ryan
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6502 registers limited? Pah! We had loads to choose from! A, X and Y for a start. Then we had the status register, a stack pointer (generally best left to the processor itself, but you could have fun manipulating it) and a program counter (current execution address).

It was a dream compared to the Z80.

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Microsoft to add a touch of Chrome to Edge

Nick Ryan
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Re: Internet Explorer

Edge doesn't support ActiveX so can't be used for those hideous older Sharepoint sites.

While I really appreciate the impending death of ActiveX, unfortunately it's not just older SharePoint sites that rely on it. It's used for horibblenesses such SharePoint Excel services integration, although at least this one is being depracated/removed in SharePoint 2016.

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Nick Ryan
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Re: Finally a solution...

Yes, but hiding file extensions is a feature that some fucknut marketing idiot in Microsoft decided to force on users "to make things easy". Or just to confuse the living shit out of a great many users because they now have no clue what a file actually is without double clicking it and seeing what happens. These are the same users that can generally cope with the file extension indicating a meaning and usually, after a few prods, get the idea that to change a file from one type to another one cannot simply change the file extension.

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Nick Ryan
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Internet Explorer

remember Internet Explorer is for businesses

Largely because:

a) Group policy actually does something with it

b) The clusterfuck that is SharePoint relies on it, or more accurately it's bugs, non-standards and Microsoft specific plugins. And MS are still in the pushing SharePoint at everything they can game.

Unfortunately this doesn't stop Microsoft still setting Edge as the default, uninstallable browser in Windows 10 Professional and Enterprise editions (made worse as it has a near identical icon to Internet Explorer as well). Hijacking the default PDF file association is another gem as well.

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Microsoft's equality and diversity: Skimpy schoolgirls dancing for nerds at an Xbox party

Nick Ryan
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Re: Sex is a marketing way to sell stuff? What a news!

Might have gone to a few more tech conventions and a few less lingerie conventions had I known about this.

Might have gone to a few more lingerie conventions and a few less tech conventions had I known about this.

There. FTFM :)

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Labour will create FUD and then abstain on UK Snoopers' Charter vote

Nick Ryan
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I'm all for this bill

I'm all for this bill, with a small provision:

Those in a position of public responsibility, for example politicians, should demonstrate that there is nothing to fear from this domestic espionage by ensuring that all details about themselves, their families, their business acquaintances and their organisation / society memberships are all out in the open.

After all they have nothing to fear if they've done nothing wrong.

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Attackers packing malware into PowerShell

Nick Ryan
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Re: Unconvincing

You'd hope that wouldn't you? Unfortunately the last "finance" company I was in required that macros run in all MS-Word documents, not just the macro enabled versions, due to their normal.dot based MS-Word customisation (aka: unnecessary mangling of standard features).

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Reprogrammble routers axed by TP-Link as FCC bans custom firmware

Nick Ryan
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Re: JG "it's not that simple... ...software"

From what I understand (and I'm far from an expert on this period / electronics), many manufacturers purposefully made it easy to circumvent stupid regulation. Probably partly because if they didn't the hobbyists wouldn't buy and recommend their kit to everybody they knew (a single sale is good, a single sale with +4 following it is better), but also as an act of defiance against stupidity. The kind of stupidity that brought about the US prohibition....

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Open trucker comms lets Shodan snoops alter routes, tap CANs buses.

Nick Ryan
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Re: Sadly

You may want reasonable security, but every day I still see "professional developers" intentionally/blindly doing stupid. In the last week or so:

Windows service application running using a user account that has domain administrator access. The service doesn't need this level of access, it was just used because the developer was too security blind to understand that they should have used a specific (service) account and to give it only the bare minimum permissions it needed to operate.

A new, public facing Internet system with a hard coded super-administrator password. Because that's never been a daft idea (no sir) even with the "justification" was that it would "prevent the situation where the final administrator account was locked out". Not withstanding the fact that we'd have been able to run database scripts fixing this should the rather unlikely happen.

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Google splats more bad Android security bugs with patches your mobe will probably never see

Nick Ryan
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...and this is exactly why I ditched my old (but just about still working) Samsung phone and got a Nexus. Samsung appear to lost all interest in their devices within 6 months of their release, which coincides with roughly how long it takes them to vomit up their updated software that's already out of date by the time they graciously release it.

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MAME goes fully FOSS

Nick Ryan
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On an aside, I still find it amazing (and often inspirational) how, despite the appalling graphics, so many of these games were fantastic fun to play. Somewhere along the line the mainstream game industry has forgotten this and is churning out multi-million($/£) production titles that look great, in screen shots, but genuinely suck every flavour of balls compared to some of these original games.

Not that all of the "original" or "older" games were good (many were genuinely appalling), just that the good ones didn't cost more than an average Hollywood film to produce.

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Surprise! That blood-pressure app doesn't measure blood pressure

Nick Ryan
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This app sounds about as trustworthy as those apps that claim to measure blood sugar levels.

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Forget data thieves, data sabotage will be your next IT nightmare

Nick Ryan
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It's far from a new problem and just daft that it's being touted as something new. Data has always been subject to accidental or malicious changes.

Encrypting the data itself doesn't make a lot of difference really (except for passwords), it's another fad that while it does have practical benefit for security, the reality is that this is very limited. It's much more likely that user credentials are leaked and through those, and possibly programming and security faults, that data is changed.

For example, I gave myself access to an MS-SQL database because an IIS .net application's web.config file had the credentials stored in plain text and this user was configured on the database server with the System Administrator role. Encrypting the database wouldn't have made a tiny bit of difference to this but it's an example of how easy it is go elevate access with relatively trivial initial access.

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Donald Trump promises 'such trouble' for Jeff Bezos and Amazon

Nick Ryan
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Re: Inherited Wealth #MakeDonaldDrumpfAgain

Us Brits will comment all we like, thank you. We like lampooning idiots, it's a national passtime, please look into our historical documentaries "spitting image" and "yes (prime) minister".

Also, come back when you genuinely have a democracy: Hollywood repeatedly telling the world that the US has a democracy does not make it so. Even the UK is more of a democracy than the US, and the US recognises the UK as being a constitutional monarchy (https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/uk.html).

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Raspberry Pi 3 to sport Wi-Fi, Bluetooth LE – first photos emerge

Nick Ryan
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Re: Missing the point

My thoughts too - SATA would be nice, but let's look to the future. SATA is on its way out, why include something like this just as other systems start to include a different storage media interface?

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Science contest to get girls interested in STEM awards first prize to ... a boy

Nick Ryan
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Re: Discrimination?

It depends on your definition of intelligence. If your definition is the memory of facts and procedures (and the logic that this tends to produce) then yes, there is a greater cross set of those with diagnosed autism and those with this type of intelligence. Some of this is the desire to label every damn personality trait rather than "this person is a bit socially awkward but they are a great scientist" - which if you consider many of what are recorded as great scientists they were known as being a bit socially awkward. Whether this was cause or effect is a different matter altogether (and it could even be a bit of both).

The more labels and hard black/white judgements are made the harder it is to just get on with life. We should be focussing on giving everyone the same opportunities and removing artificial (or social) restrictions on them.

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'I bet Russian hackers weren't expecting their target to suck so epically hard as this'

Nick Ryan
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Re: endianness @#define

Somehow or other I'd never actually noticed the disparity in L-R languages compared to the (arabic?) number layout system (the common alternative Roman numbering system available at the time [AFAIK] was just a work of art of almost purposeful obfuscation with an intention to be useless). It would genuinely make more sense if one hundred and twenty three were represented 321 (and read as three twenty hundred).

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Nick Ryan
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Re: Yes, but....

Interesting trick (always handy), but it does depend on the language and the handling of actual NULL values. In poxy MS T-SQL it'll wind up as a nasty combination of RTRIM(), LTRIM() and NULLIF() which always leaves a horrible taste in the mouth. I could take the combination of NULLIF() and a TRIM() but the lack of a proper TRIM() (i.e. both start and end of a string) always feels bloody annoying. Almost purposefully so. But then n/var/char values are the bastard end of useful and performant in MS-SQL anyway... best compared to glaciers.

As for Access, I guess so - past a certain version when MS pillaged the FoxPro database format, before which MS-Access was a total train wreck of a mock database, it became at the very least stable and useful for small projects. However in most instances rather than leaving (end) users to implement a database in MS-Access I've always found it considerably more efficient to build, or have built, a proper database system even if it's still in MS-Access but at the very least where the data and interface are separated into different files but usually in something else, again the lowest form of usefulness being an MS-Access front end to an MS-SQL database. On the other hand, it's considerably better than shared spreadsheets that have been bastardised into pretending that they're databases. These still underpin far too many companies and as much as I hate to promote it, even MS-SharePoint is better than this situation. However it's worth bearing in mind that the psychiatrist fees that substantially add to the overall cost of any MS-SharePoint development project should be compared to the legal costs defending assault and battery charges typically incurred when "training" users not to use shared MS-Excel "databases".

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Nick Ryan
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Re: Yes, but....

My guess here would be that the set of values comes from somewhere else that isn't too clever at nulling strings of whitespace......maybe written by the same person.....?

That'll be anything that has any form of implementation descending from Microsoft Access (which includes the horrible mess of ODBC) where depending on various arcane client settings (as in as a developer you couldn't really guarantee the settings) you may receive a NULL, an empty string or a string consisting of a single space when expecting a NULL.

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Continuous Lifecycle Early Bird: Less than seven days left

Nick Ryan
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Am I the only bored of these adverts. Er, advertorials. ???

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What we all really need is an SD card for our cars. Thanks, SanDisk

Nick Ryan
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Re: Options for idiots

Vehicles are horribly noisy electical environments - partly from just the power feed but also from EMF which interacts with anything vaguely antenna like such as wires and circuits...

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Good thing this dev quit. I'd have fired him. Out of a cannon. Into the sun

Nick Ryan
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Re: Coding by geniuses

I first encountered this when working on an industrial placement as part of my Uni course.I was given the task to take over code from the resident genius. His code was concise, fast and didn't work.

It was so concise there were often no, or few validation checks with error messages. If something didn't work it was often ignored, and this "something" could have been any one of a dozen things in a single compound logic statement. Every bit of code worked like this, therefore when something didn't work it was next to impossible to work out why.

Needless to say I simplified things and logged every damn error message so we knew exactly wasn't working, where and when which gave us a start as to why.

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Is this the last ever Lumia?

Nick Ryan
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Typical Microsoft marketing. Lumia => Surface. Take a known and established that's almost well thought of... and replace it with something else that's either unknown or is known but has a poor reputation among those that know it.

They'll be replacing Skype with Lync or Hotmail with live/outlook.com next...

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Computer Science grads still finding it hard to get a job

Nick Ryan
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Re: The point is not to match skills: It's attitude

I've had plenty of experience on both sides of the interview process, however what is usually genuinely important can be summed up something like this:

When you're interviewing for a position, your primary concern is to ensure that the candidate's personality is a match for the company and the team. Knowledge and skills can be taught, attitude can't.

Interviewing for attitude isn't as easy as interviewing for skills but it can be done and when you're a candidate it's often your responsibility to "sell" your attitude.

The problem with (IT) graduates is that they are in a wide, and widening, industry and the technology they'll have been taught at University will often not match what an employer requires. This isn't helped when many employers are ludicrously specific on what skills they "require" and while this is reasonable to help filter out the sometimes deluge of applications, being too specific will reduce the available candidates with exact matches down to zero.

The next problem is what graduates are taught and how. Pre-graduate education is currently largely mired in the process of being taught to pass an exam which doesn't give the Universities much to work with and is a perpetual gripe for them. Many Professors will complain that the first year of University is now wasted having to teach students how to learn and often to teach the basics of the subject they managed to pass exams for. Universities have previously been under an enormous amount of criticism for not teaching using environments and packages that are in common use in industry, their reaction to this has generally been either to switch to more modern environments (which given that most employers are not cutting edge isn't a problem) or to switch to cutting edge environments that aren't industry proven.

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Flash flushed as Google orders almost all ads to adopt HTML5

Nick Ryan
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Re: The root of the problem?

As much as I like to hate Windows (in all of its incarnations), I agree with Jess above that comparing it to Flash is a trifle unfair.

Microsoft, to give them their due for once, have managed to cut out a lot of crap from Windows 10. That's not to say that it's all gone, or they haven't replaced it with other crap... FFS - Candy Crush, Minecraft, everythijg Xbox and zune and a host of other shit that you'd only expect on a shovelware inflicted phone on Windows Enterprise by default. Not that you might not want these apps, but they really shouldn't be inflicted, repeatedly, on Professional or Enterprise versions of an OS. However a pile of the legacy nonsense is no longer there and while I've personally found this annoying, crappy win32 code that relied on equally crappy win16 code really does deserve to die (looking at you Corel).

The Win10 interface is somewhat less retarded that Win8 and it breaks a few less of the fundamentals of good UI design. It's not to say that it's great, often the only way to do something useful it to find the underlying Win7/Vista/XP/2000 dialog and set the options there. However compared to the "mystery meat" navigation and the enforced brain fuck disjoint of Metro vs Desktop it's pretty much wonderful.

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Virgin Media spoof email mystery: Customers take to Facebook

Nick Ryan
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Re: Reliance on broadband provider for email

I've just logged into my Virgin email account. Went past some crap about "if you don't login regularly we might disable your account" (which obviously wasn't being applied to my account) and admired the long stream of "important" messages from Virgin Media. All unread. Apparently I can upgrade my Internet speed from 150Mb to 100Mb, although they forgot to mention "up-to" and the small points that the upload speed will still suck balls and if you attempt to download something during "peak time" (i.e. anytime until 8pm at night) your entire account will be throttled to buggery.

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What’s new in Hyper-V in Windows Server 2016?

Nick Ryan
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The registry, while having some advantages, is one of the single most ill-conceived ideas that Microsoft vomitted out and embedded into the heart of Windows. I'll admit that some of the plus points such as search are reasonable but compared to the overall inefficiency, instability and unmanageability of the registry pale into comparison.

Can you imagine the deployment and management pain if IIS web applications stored their configuration in the registry instead of files such as web.config? Suddenly you move from files that can be version controlled and managed to storage in an amorphous blob registry file that when the operating system fails you can't (easily) recover from - and it's often a fair bet that when a system really goes down that something upleasant will have happened to the registry database file, if not the file structure itself but what passes for referential integrity.

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Samsung sued over 'lackadaisical' Android security updates

Nick Ryan
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Re: disgrunted owner of an original Nexus 7

I have the 2nd Gen Nexus 7 (Nexus 2013?). I was pretty happy when it received the latest updates, although I'm pretty sure that these are the last major updates it'll receive. It's still recognised as one of the best budget tablets even now.

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Five technologies you shouldn't bother looking out for in 2016

Nick Ryan
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@Yugguy

1. IoT will go mainstream

I don't know ANYONE who really gives a toss about smarting their house up. I know I don't.

It really depends on what you mean by smarting their house up, for example:

I'm quite happy having fitted a light above my front door with a sensor that automatically turns the light on when it's dark and motion is sensed - both the darkness threshold and sensitivity can be adjusted slightly which was a nice touch. In many ways this is "smarting my house up", what it lacks is any form of network connection (I don't give a rat's arse about an Internet connection, just connectivity of some form).

What I'd quite like is an automatic curtain opening and closing system. Smart enough so bedroom curtains are either only opened manually or at a specific (later) time in the day if they're not open already, but otherwise to open curtains based on sunrise and a configured fallback time of day. This level of smart is pretty much hopeless for locally managed devices (e.g. physical access with buttons and dials - you can image just how disgustingly awkward these would be to configure) , however being able to manage all of the devices using an intuituive interface would be useful. Again, I don't give a rat's arse about this being "Internet" enabled, local network controlled is just fine thanks...

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El Reg mulls entering Robot Wars arena

Nick Ryan
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Re: Web of Death

They didn't mention vibrations... (could be visible)

Grab hold a robot and proceed to blast it with a variable range of vibration frequencies until you find the one that causes it the most problems. Then lock onto that one and turn up the power...

OK, there's the possibly downside that you come across a really well built robot or you shake your own robot to pieces, but, whatever!

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Nick Ryan
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Re: Acid.

Last I checked (which admittedly was a long time ago), tethered projectiles were acceptable. Unfortunately corrosives or other liquids weren't, nor were flame throwers (the house robots are built to different rules).

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Nick Ryan
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Coat

Re: Deadline

Thanks - I already spoke to them, and they said it kicks off in early March. That's why it's too late to get something together from scratch.

That's not an insurmountable problem. El Reg should just call on the services of Captain Cyborg, arm him with a variety of plastic spoons and perhaps a tooth-pick or two if we're feeling generous and drop him into the arena. Possibly from a great height?.

It's a win-win situation.

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HPE's London boozer dubbed the 'Hewlett You Inn?'

Nick Ryan
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You missed a bit regarding the 'instructions'. They should be in every language imaginable (except English of course), prefaced in as much legalise 'it's not out fault' boilerplate as possible and should fold out to at least a few square metres. The exact same 'instructions' (as in nothing instructional, just legal disclaimers) should be on a sealed CD that's also marked 'instructions'. Safe packaging of these is expected of course, along with picking and packing slips for each.

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'You're updated!' Drupal says, with fingers crossed behind back

Nick Ryan
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Lots of hate here...

And I understand the hate. However Drupal itself is very flexible and can be very good.

Unfortunately there are some serious problems, a lot stemming from the core developers who can often be politely termed "asshats" who in the past have been so blinkered and elitist that they didn't care for suggestions or improvements unless they came from within. This has improved but there's still far too much of it...

Documentation - the general response is "go read the source code". Erm, if I wanted to do that I wouldn't be looking for documentation would I? While there is some good documentation, unfortunately most of it is utterly appalling and you're left having to a global source search to find usage of the methods/functions and guess from there. And that's if the method/function is actually used in the source you have, or hasn't been obfuscated through the module system. Basically unless you're an expert in PHP then you'll find the documentation mostly useless but you'll be left admiring where all the CPU cycles have gone to perform very little of real benefit (Drupal 8 is an improvement on this front).

Without turning this into a rant, I've found that the best way to work with Drupal is:

1) Try to do everything "the Drupal way" - even if it's not quite the way you'd like to do it, it will save you a huge waste of time fighting it. Working out what "the Drupal way" is in a given situation is not always easy though given the pathetic documentation but often it does come with a lot of benefits.

2) Use as few modules as possible. It should be very obvious that the more modules you drop in the worse site performance will be but this doesn't stop some folk from doing this. As posted above, it's often that you find a module does 90% of what you need but lets you down on the other 10%. Sometimes this isn't a problem, others you may need to put some custom functionality in and a moderately experienced PHP developer shouldn't have a problem with this. This doesn't help hopeful end users though but in reality this isn't any difference to WorkPress modules except it's slightly easier to resolve with a PHP developer.

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Newspaper kills 'what was fake' column as pointless in internet age

Nick Ryan
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Re: MSM can Blame Themselves

Do these people not realize that this devalues everything that they publish?

No, because they are absolute morons(*). Any little extra bit of cash dredged in, no matter the source, is considered a "good thing". Very similar to the morons who think that having placing adverts on your own company's website is a good thing (unless that's the business you're in of course).

* Only outclassed on the level of being a moron by those that believe any of these "stories". Unfortunately repetition is a key part of brainwashing and the more that the gullible see these "stories" and see them repeated on other websites the more they believe them.

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Google chap bakes Amiga emulator into Chrome

Nick Ryan
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Re: Deuteros..

Same here, I loved the game.

However the biggest disappointment was the consistent crash at the end of the game when you completed it on the hard(est) game mode. Unfortunately like many games it involved learning the AI and countering it using and abusing it's actions and responses.

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