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* Posts by I ain't Spartacus

3184 posts • joined 18 Jun 2009

You’re NOT fired: The story of Amstrad’s amazing CPC 464

I ain't Spartacus
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There were some interesting games.

I've just remembered a World War III game I played on the CPC464. It was called Theatre Europe. You had to fight off the Warsaw Pact hordes, or destroy the imperialist capitalist pig-dogs - depending on your taste.

I remember that when you decided to go chemical or nuclear there was a fake teletype screen, and it told you to wait for launch code authorisation. Then a Birmingham phone number came up, which you were supposed to call for your launch codes. Then the nukes flew.

I once plucked up couraget to dial the number, and was rather shocked when it actually rang. All courage deserted me, and I quickly slammed the phone down. I hope that was the software firm's number, and not some random house, or cab firm. I'm assuming the Prime Minister has already got access to his launch codes, and doesn't have to ring up ABABABABAB Cars in Brummie, in order to get them...

Many happy hours wasted. As well as the arcade style games popular at the time, I'm remember there were quite a few innovative ones, that were a lot more complex. Aliens was probably my first go at a first-person-shooter. If you didn't get to the control room in time, then the lights went out, and you were a sitting duck for the face-huggers.

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Re: History often comes with rose-tinted specs

The quote I remember most about Sugar is that home computers weren't magic, they were just boxes filled with chips.

So Sugar knew his niche. His niche wasn't 'best'. Or state of the art. His niche was affordable. The CPC was that, and ran pretty nicely. It had decent sound and graphics, for the time. And didn't have to use the family telly. You could also use it for more grown-up stuff. Ours was just a toy, but my friend's family had the CPC128 with disk drive. Which also got used for games, but did the family paperwork - and I think his Mum used it to word process. She was a freelance translator. Did russian. I've no idea if you could do cyrillic on the thing, but I'd guess a lot of her work was russian to english anyway.

Price can be its own innovation. The PCW was innovative. Not becasue it could do anything special, but because it was so damned cheap, and was good enough to run a small business on. In a way that the earlier micros barely were. The PCW could do office work, came with screen and printer, didn't take up much space, and was dead cheap. I think under £500 - with some softare. It was also reasonably easy to use, by the standards of the time, and had a brilliant user manual.

One of the comments Sugar made in the manual for the NC100 Notebook (PDA thingy) was that he was rubbish at computers, and he insisted on it being made easy enough for him to use. Now that may just be marketing blurb, but it did have a really good UI, and came with a thick manual - that was well-written. It was £100 in about 1990. My PC at the time came with a similar sized manual, that was much, much worse. And that cost £1,200. I haven't seen a manual on a PC since. Whereas the 3 Amstrad computers I've had - have all come with well laid-out, well written and therefore expensive, documentation. That's clearly down to Sugar. Price and ease of use are pretty good things to aim for, in my book...

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Pirate

If your parents also had the Amstrad Hi-Fi, you could use the twin cassette decks to do your copying too.

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How could I forget Elite on the 464. I wasted far too long failing to be much good at that game. Don't think I even managed Dangerous.

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Re: I remember those 3" Floppy disks

As I recall, my friend had one of the early Amstrad IBM 'compatibles' - well almost compatibles. And it had 3" disks and a turbo mode, or something odd like that. Running Windows 3.0 or 3.1.

Their next model went to 3.5" I think, because I was looking to buy a PC myself at that point.

Although one thing I will say for them, in the 3-4 years I used my PCW, I didn't have a single disc failure. Which I definitely can't say for the decent quality 3.5" ones I had for my later PC.

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Re: History often comes with rose-tinted specs

He may be a git on the Apprentice. And I don't think Tottenham fans recall him all that fondly either. But Alan Sugar did a lot of good stuff back then.

I know people were sniffy about the sound quality of his Hi-Fi kit. But I don't think my parents could have afforded anything better. So the kit I got to use as kid with twin tape decks, radio and record player in glass cabinet was good enough. My brothers could buy a cheap-ish CPC464 that I got to play with. It would have got a lot less use if it had needed to use the main TV. I never did any proper programming on it, but I learned to like computers, and not be worried by them.

Then I got my first computer. A PCW. With CP/M, Locoscript and Mallard Basic. Plus Locosoft Logo and Graham Gooch's Test Cricket. Weirdly if ever you brought Gooch on to bowl, he always got a wicket...

Anyway this was great for school work, and probably set me on the road to being decent at computer-y stuff. No internets, and it didn't even occur to me to see if there was a weekly PCW user magazine to subscribe to - so I had to learn to use it myself. But that was OK because they shipped it with a really good, spiral bound, manual. This is the first machine where I gave tech support to a mate.

I even had an Amstrad NC100 - a little AA battery powered PDA thing, that was a mostly full-sized keyboard with a 3 line LCD screen. Rather neat actually.

All this stuff came with really good manuals, decent amounts of software, and all the required peripherals and cables. Plus upgrades available if you needed them. At a time when the industry was full of cowboys, who'd sling any old thing out - finished or not.

Plus I've heard a few stories that YouView was a nightmarish competitive-vendor-argue-fest of backstabbing and horrifically complicated ideas that was still many years from market when Sugar was brought in. And he did a lot of pruning, and by all accounts quite a bit of arse-kicking, in order to come out with something that both works - and seems to have a decent user interface.

He also gave us the Emailer and The Apprentice. Ahem! But despite that, I've still got a soft-spot for the old beardy git.

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All Hail Tony Smith!

Thanks for that. You really got my nostalgia flowing. Ah happy days of youth. The tape machine was incredibly reliable on the old CPC464, compared with my friends with Speccies and the like. It wasn't often that it let you down. Although on about level 87 of Gauntlet it did just that to me. I still remember that game really fondly - but never got past 50 again.

Also played a rather good wargame about Operation Market Garden, the parachute landings around Arnhem. Roland on the Ropes, something with Grand Prix in the title and Ace of Aces. That last one was good because if you didn't shoot the enemy down fast enough, but managed to survive air-to-air combat, it did you no good as they'd bombed your runways. So you just had to fly around until you ran out of fuel and crashed. Don't remember much else now.

Now I have to work for a living. Booo! But computer games start almost insantly, and I can play things on my iPad that make the CPC464 look like a pocket calculator.

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It's a scientific FACT: Online comment trolls are SADISTS

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Devil

Re: stuck in my head

notauser,

I don't know if you're a troll for saying that. But you certainly are a sadist! Aaaaarrrrggghhhh!!!!!

Never gonna give you up,

Never gonna let you down,

Never gonna run around and desert you...

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I ain't Spartacus
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Happy

Re: Love it

Sadist!

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Re: Troll types

A troll used to be a skilled manipulator of a forum's emotional hot buttons.

The speed with which many Newsgroup discussions back in the mid-90s could get hijacked and descend into transatlantic slanging matches astonished me. Usually over why the US turned up so late for WWII vs. you'd all be speaking German without us.

Weirdly I've not seen that particular argument break out for years. Perhaps I hang out in a better class of forum now? Nah, this is El Reg. Can't be...

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Devil

Re: To summarise ....

Well quite.

Also interesting was the finding that the more time that the respondents spent in comment forums, the higher their scores for each Dark Tetrad trait except narcissism.

Checks: 2523 posts • joined 18 Jun 2009

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear...

Although, speaking as a confirmed sadist, I do find it rather annoying that in order to post on here, I have to press the submit button...

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Tinfoil hats proven useless by eleven-year mobe radiation study

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Re: Tinfoil hats proven useless

I knew you were going to say that...

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Rotten to the core: Apple’s 10 greatest FAILS

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Re: Good to remember whenever you hear that "Apple can do no wrong" blah blah

John Smith,

In the spirit of contrariness, shouldn't El Reg do an article on Microsft's brilliant successes. After all, the standard journalistic thing for ages has been to right 'Apple brilliant, Apple visionary, Apple cool' stories. And equally, 'MS rubbish, MS evil' ones.

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Lots of Apple kit looks nice

I don't remember ever hearing of it before, but can I just say that the TAM (Twentieth Anniversary Mac) thing is absolutely hideous. No idea of the technical merits, or otherwise, but yuck. As compared to say the cube or the dustbin Mac Pro - which may be silly, but does look great.

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Rise of the (tiny) machines: US boffins make nanomotor breakthrough

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Re: Optional Functionality

There's a chap at Edinburgh who's done nano-ish neuro-surgery already.

Get some tiny iron filings, and link them to a molecule that likes cancer cells only. Introduce to the brain's bloodstream. Wait. Once the iron has bound to the surface of the naughty cancer, or possibly entered the cancer cells, stick patient in MRI scanner.

Giant magnet makes iron filings zoom around, and heat up. Heated cells are damaged and less resistant to chemo-therapy. Zap.

This allows you to treat inoperable tumours, with low doses, minimising damage.

What's even better, is that the iron stays in place. So if/when the tumour comes back - you just shove 'em back in the MRI, rinse and repeat.

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One good thing from the Flappy Birds crapp flap: It's a handy 'tech' media rating system

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Happy

Go on El Reg. Name n' shame. I can't be arsed to see who did the story about Android devices with it on going on eBay. But I don't mind reading a good snark, in a good cause.

[cue Mrs Doyle]: Go on, go on, go on, go on, go on.

You know you want to...

Did anyone run a story about it no longer working on all the devices it's already running on?

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Break out the scatter cushions: Google rents out NASA blimp hangar

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Hmmmm

Is this hangar big enough to need a monorail, in order to get from one end to t'other? If not, don't worry. There's nothing to see here.

If yes, we need to get an agent inside that hangar as soon as possible, in order to snog the super-villain's girlfriend, find out his plans and then thwart them ruthlessly. After being captured, a nice dinner, a little bit of light torture and so on.

Obviously a giant hydraulically powered hangar door that opens slowly enough for the brass section of the orchestra to get fully warmed up would be a requirement.

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North Korea to switch on the interwebs

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Re: "[N]othing is ever straightforward"

xperroni,

OK, OK. I get it. You don't like Americans. I suggest you get over it.

There's been no Cold War for nearly 25 years. Yet the US has kept forces in South Korea in order to help keep the peace. They've also been involved in negotiations to try to pursuade the North to de-escalate. They've given large amounts of humanitarian aid to help during the famine in the North in the 1990s. They haven't been provoking the North by attacking over the border. That's been the North's job. They've been involved in multi-lateral negotations, including China - to try to settle things down.

Whatever your opinion of US diplomacy and policy in general, there's nothing to see here. The US have nothing to be ashamed of in their Korean policy. Either under, Clinton, Bush or Obama. Possibly Clinton was too generous with aid, given than the North broke the deal and carried on nuclear development - but it was the policy of the South Korean government to try and warm up releations with the North, and it was probably worth a try. And they were having an enormous famine at the time.

I'm not attached to these exercises in particular. I just have some understanding of diplomacy. A lot of it is about framing the question. The government in the North want to try and frame all questions so as to say the South and the US are the aggressors (which they aren't and have never been in the whole history of the 2 states), and so that everything must lead to concessions to the North. Currently it's a sustained attack on military exercises. Every country with a military (including North Korea) has them. You have to have them, in order to have an effective military. South Korea needs an effective military since it's under threat of invasion from the North. Not only do the North spend all available resources on their military, they continually threaten to invade.

Therefore the South cannot allow the North to dictate when exercises will take place. Otherwise it will be never. The North are trying to frame the debate to make normal military activities look aggressive. i.e. use diplomatic pressure to reduce readiness. It would be stupid to acceded to such demands.

Whenever deals are made with the North, they break them. So you just keep on making deals, and hoping some of them go through. And hope the regime eventually changes for the slightly better. Maybe they'll become more pragmatic. What you can't do, is dance to their tune.

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Happy

Re: Maybe/maybe not...

What do you mean, boost efficiency? Giving the staff access to the internet Facebook and personal email will see efficiency plummet!

It's probably a cunning plan. The complex is part of the South's seemingly doomed attempt at de-escalation and negotiation with the loonies in the Nork government. The downside is that it gives them loads of foreign currency to spend on goodies, bribes and military stuff. So by making the workers less efficient, they get the same amount of the former, for less of the latter.

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Re: "[N]othing is ever straightforward"

xperroni,

Those excercises were planned in advance. Probably years in advance, as these things tend to be. North Korea were notified that these exercises would take place - so as not to surprise them. Also many months ago. They're part of annual exercises.

So no, they can't just postone them to be all nice and fluffy. The North knew the exercises would happen when they agreed the deal. It's more likely that they only agreed to concessions in order to threaten to cancel them again if they didn't get some extra diplomatic sweeties. It's probably their aim to try and make exercises unacceptable, by causing trouble every time they happen in hopes that the South Korean electorate will fall for their bullshit and blame the government of the South for tension over normal military training - rather than the North. If they can find sufficient fools to buy their propaganda.

You have to train troops, in order for them to be effective. You also have to train officers and HQs - which is why you have large-scale exercises every so often.

The South has been pursuing peace talks and de-escalation with the North for the last umpy years. If the North are worried about tension, and too much military build-up they have the answer available to them. Not keeping 10,000 - 20,000 artillery and rocket launchers trained on Seoul might help. Or randomly shelling or sending commandos across the border. Or threatening a nuclear war...

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Boffins hose down fiery Li-ion batteries with industrial lubricant

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Pirate

Re: Splendid...

barnacles accumulating under your laptop.

Aye! That were a painful visit to the sawbones and no mistake.

Shiver me timbers!

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Bitcoin value plunges as Mt.Gox halts withdrawals and Russia says 'nyet'

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Re: Run on the bank? - not quite there yet...

scrubber,

Now you're just being silly.

"But they have far more than £100 in deposits to cover it."

No! That is the whole frigging point, When the financial wizardry stops they have EXACTLY £100 in cash. And a nominal £900 in loans and a nominal £1000 in deposits. But there is only £100 in existence (in this closed system).

and

I deposit 100k, they lend me 90k, which I deposit, they lend me 81k, which I deposit etc. etc.

Firslty no-one ever does that. If I borrow money it's to do something with it. Becuase the bank pays me less interest on deposit than I have to pay on the loan.

It's not a closed system, and money circulates round the economy, doing things.

Example: My bank has deposits it has to pay interest on. So it loans me £100k. I buy a house with this. The person I buy from puts that cash into a bank (probably a different one) - and they can then loan out that cash again. So my bank has a debit on its books (£100k in deposits) and a credit (£100k mortgage backed by my house).

If the cash goes back to my bank, and they lend on another house - the banks books look like this:

Debit: £200k - the orginal £100k of savings + the new £100k from my house vendor

Credit: £200k - made up of 2 x £100k mortgages, both backed by houses.

Banks then need to keep a reserve to cover if we can't pay our mortgages, and house prices fall. This would be a mix of retained profits, shareholder capital from rights issues/IPO and bonds issued by the bank. This to be invested in government and other AAA rated bonds, their account at the Bank of England, plus cash. All the UK banks are currently keeping this at over 10% of assets.

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Re: Interesting

I don't think it's principle so much as "ripping off the wealthy through an inflation stealth tax".

it's what the govt. in the UK is doing by printing mon... er... quantitative easing.

DanDanDan,

As someone else said, I don't think 2% inflation is all that awful. Although admittedly it's higher than it looks, because interest rates are so low. But it's not high by any recent historical measure.

Also QE isn't money printing. At least not yet. In theory the bank of England has bought that government debt with printed money, but must start selling it back into the market as the money supply and inflation rises - when the economy gets back into the hot part of the next boom. Although admittedly the dirtly little secret is that QE had less of an inflationary effect than thought, so they may think they can sneakily cancel it in a few years time, and no-one will complain too much. The alternative view is that there were more deflationary pressures on the economy than thought - and QE may have saved us from them. I gues we'll find out, over the next decade or two. My personal opinion is that it's something you can get away once or twice a century.

The alternative is what the ECB did. They un-wound their stealth QE. The Germans wouldn't let them but government bonds, so they lent over €1 trillion to the banks, via the LTRO. This allowed the banks to buy the government debt instead. They've almost un-wound this now, and this year took over half a trillion Euros out of the Eurozone system (and money supply), which is one of the reasons they're flirting with deflation. Much beloved of many Bitcoin fans, deflation is horribly bad for economies.

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Re: Run on the bank? - read the wiki page

scrubber,

Yes you've sort of got the expansion of the money supply in there - as banks create money. But the banks don't get to print it out of nothing (like Bitcoins) - they have to get lent it first (by savers) and then find someone who wants to borrow it. So although they're creating broad money, via lending, it's not like they're getting to magic it out of thin air - they only make a profit on the difference in the interest they charge to the interest they pay out.

This also depends on your definition of money. M0, which no-one really uses, is what most people would call money. i.e. notes and coins. M3 is notes, coins and bank desposits. But it's not a ponzi scheme, because each time the money gets re-cycled, the bank is sitting on both an asset (the loan) as well as a matching liability (the savings account).

Ideally M3 should grow at the same rate as nominal GDP (i.e. GDP + inflation). As an example the European Central Bank has a stated target of M3 growing at 4.5% per year. That's 2% inflation target, plus 2.5% growth. Although at the moment they've horribly fucked this up and the money supply is shrinking, and the Eurozone may be tipping into deflation - but that's a different kettle of fish. And another huge flaw of Bitcoins...

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Re: Run on the bank?

scrubber,

You should read that Wiki link you posted. It doesn't actually say what you think it does. Or at least not from a quick scan - as it actually seems to describe fractional reserve banking reasonably accurately.

unlike regular banks which not only lend out your deposits to others but engage in fractional reserve banking where they actually lend out multiples of your savings in spite of not actually having funds to cover it.

Banks aren't allowed to lend out money they don't have. So they can't lend out multiples of your savings. Only lend them out once. The fractional reserve bit isn't about lending out money twice, it's about only keeping a small proportion of their assets in cash - and hoping all the customers don't demand their savings back on the same day. Banking wouldn't work otherwise, as there'd be no way to lend on a 25 year mortgage, unless they did this.

But the books still have to balance. In order to lend me £100,000 (that loan is an asset) they have to have 100 people saving £1,000 (the liabilities). Plus another 10 or so to keep around as cash. Then they have to charge me enough interest to cover the savings rates they'll pay to those 110 people.

The assets (loans) have to equal the liabilities (savings) on the bank's books, otherwise they're insolvent. Plus the banks need another class of assets, which can't be loans - which are the operating capital of the business.

So as well as keeping a cash 'float' around, they also have to meet a capital reserve requirement. That is they have to have enough assets to cover some loss on their loans. The Basel process, and various changes in what could be counted as an asset to meet this requirement, was one of the causes of the financial crisis. Banks were holding other banks' CDOs as core assets, but no-one could work out what they were worth, so no-one had confidence in the core capital of the banks. This whole area is a nest of vipers. You may say the banks shouldn't be so greedy, and should just have held boring (lower profit) government debt to meet their Tier 1 capital requirement.

Which is all fine and dandy, until you look at the Spanish, Greek of Cypriot banks, who are currently doing just that. Even government bonds aren't as safe as houses, and neither is cash. Even gold has to be guarded - and fluctuated in value by over 20% last year.

When you look at how complex it is to keep heavily regulated financial trading working safely, it doesn't exactly fill you with confidence about totally un-regulated trading...

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Apple's Hacker Princess dumps fruity firm for Elon Musk's Tesla

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Re: Tesla Girls

If you mount it on a suitable adjustable-height base, couldn't you use your shiny new Tesla coil as a convenient bar stool? Breakfast bars are fashionable nowadays.

What could possibly go wrong...

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WHEEE... CRUNCH! iPad Mini tops list of most breakable slabs, mobes

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Coat

my children 7 and 4

Those are unusual names...

OK, OK. Coat... Getting... Byeee.

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NYPD dons Google tech specs: Part man. Part machine. All Glasshole

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Happy

Re: Haha, why not Robocop?

bounty hunters pretty much fit this description and they are very real.

I know the far superior dark chocolate ones are a lot harder to get hold of than the milk choccie ones, but I didn't realise that the search had gone to this extent! No wonder I can't find them in my local newsagents any more...

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James Dyson plans ROBOT ARMY to take over the world

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Re: In the UK?!

Don't be daft. Tracker bars contain the GPS trackers. whAM bars contain radio transmitters, Wispa bars contain microphones, and Lion bars have the batteries needed to run the others.

It's all in the name...

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Re: In the UK?!

Christian Berger,

You do realise that the stat on how Britain had more CCTV cameras per head than anywhere else in the world was 'extrapolated' from counting cameras in 2 streets in Paddington, don't you?

i.e. it was made up.

Not that Britain doesn't have loads and loads of CCTV cameras. I just suspect that it's no more than many other wealthy economies.

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STRIPPED DOWN and EXPOSED: Business kit from the good old days

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Re: Sir

Alistair Dabbs,

Just call Special Branch, and tell them that you've found a bunch of gas masks and a mysteriously locked safe. I'm sure they'll pop round right quick and open it for you.

You may wish to take the precaution of moving all your valuables to a safe distance first...

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Black Helicopters

Don't listen to him! He's an FBI agent provocateur!

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Happy

Re: Sir

Oi! Dabbsie! Don't take the money. Open the box!

If there's something scary in there, we'll be right behind you. Several miles behind you...

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BOFH: Attractive person is attractive. Um, why are your eyes bulging?

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Re: Did I just read a thinly veiled mysogynistic rant or what?

What you're saying is, bitches is bitches.

Nope. What I was doing was replying in a semi-jocular fashion to a piece of comedy writing. But if you want me to be a touch more serious, then people is people. And I was quite tickled by the comic suggestion that everyone has a core of crazy in them, which it would be inadvisable to awaken. Lest ye be destroyed by floods of errupting wrath.

The BOfH seems to hate people, not women - so it's mysanthropic rather than mysoginist. Should you feel the need to dignify it with such analysis... An equal opportunities bastard. Every other episode suggests that all men are curry-munching, beer-swilling, lecherous pornaholics. Myself I'm no big fan of curry...

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Re: Did I just read a thinly veiled mysogynistic rant or what?

Basically anything that touches on this type of man's enormous but fragile ego.

Corinne,

I was thinking about men's bizarre release of the CRAZY over football. But obviously map-reading/asking for directions is another one.

Thinking about it: family + car journey = high probability of CRAZY criticality

There are many subjects which are unisex-CRAZY-inducing, but a surprising number which only seem to wind up roughly half of us.

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WTF?

Re: Did I just read a thinly veiled mysogynistic rant or what?

Did I just read a thinly veiled mysogynistic rant or what?

Good God man! You're reading the BOfH, and you ask a question like that!?!?!?!

Even odder, given that the CRAZY is the pure distilled truth. Some people's CRAZY is well buried, and you're unlikely ever to see it. Some people can be set off at the slightest provocation. Because it's a weird emotional thing, it gets even more tangled when it comes to relationships between the sexes. As, in general at least, women and men tend to emotionally invest in different things. For example, I've had discussions with other men about what to wear to an event, concentrating on what social or professional impression you're trying to make. But they've never lasted longer than 2 minutes. And I don't know any man who's spent several months planning what they're going to wear to a wedding, or major party, having at least one conversation a day about it. And commenting on the absurdity of that much effort put into dressing for one event is a guaranteed way to wake the CRAZY.

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Re: Bad answers.

Not just the colour of the kettle, which is bonkers enough, but whether it went with the curtains! I wouldn't know what colour went with what anyway. Let alone care. Still at least it was easy to answer. I'm not going out with her, so no lying diplomacy required, I was simply able to state that I don't care.

"Yes! That is exactly the point! Do people want fire that can be fitted nasally? ... OK Mr Wiseguy, if-you're-so-clever what colour do you think it should be?" etc.

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All questions about clothing with a partner risk waking the CRAZY. It's a situation designed to test even the most experienced of UN diplomats. In fact, they should use that as the interview test when they pick their next Middle East peace envoy.

For goodness sake woman! I don't even know what wallpaper colour goes with which. Don't ask me what colour dress you should be wearing. When I was a kid, and was asked what colour contact lenses I wanted, I said yellow! I was 4 years old at the time, but my point still stands. I should be excused from all discussion on the matter.

My sister-in-law genuinely asked me what colour kettle I was going to get, and whether it would match the accent colour of my curtains. She may as well have been speaking Klingon.

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CERN outlines plan for new 100km circumference supercollider

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Happy

Re: Unlikely.

IanRS,

Could be, could be. Let's do the calculations:

e = mc2

Where: e = expenses; And mc = an after-dinner speaker who's eaten so many banquets, and drunk so much port, that his original weight has been multiplied by itself - and he's now pretty much cube shaped.

So what we can see is that for every year in office, the energy costs of accelerating our eurocrats to near the speed of light are multiplied by themselves - according to a ratio of how many banquets they have spoken at. With 700 Euro MPs, plus 30-odd commissioners (both numbers expanding), the energy required to do this is growing exponentially.

Worse, as you accelerate them towards the speed of light - their expenses approach infinity.

I suspect the CERN scientists would be better approaching this from the other direction. They could use their collider portal to another dimension to summon foul creatures - and use them to rob banks / blackmail a bigger budget out of the Commission. Or they could put an accountant in the radiation backscatter from one of their eldrich machines and get him to create the Special Theory of Disaster Area Accounting - where he proves that spacetime isn't merely curved, but bent. And siphon all the expenses payments into their budget...

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Devil

Re: Build it somewhere else

I was just thinking of replacing the M25 with it. Traffic would only move marginally slower than now. And if it does happen to form a black hole, we'll probably only lose London...

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New Forum Wishlist - but read roadmap first

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Drew,

As I recall, the comment text has just got bigger - but the handle text smaller? Or maybe it's just the handle not going up with comment text size - and it now looking smaller?

I think one thing I missed was the varying thickness grey bars you used to have on the left of posts, to indicate indentation. Which I thought was nicer than your swirly arrow thing. Although that arrow is a link back to the post it's replying to (which is often helpful).

Also, there used to be nice thick lines between posts. And everything seemed a bit more separated, and less 'flat'. It seems to be the current fashion in UI design that everything should either be white, or pale grey - and there should be as few separators as possible - presumably in order to make minimalis designers feel all gooey inside. Use of colour, lines, shading and shadows does seem to be going out the window. Grey and white seems to be the biggest contrast that modern UI aesthetics will allow. It's a trend I entirely fail to comprehend.

On the subject of links that have gone (or at least I'm sure used to be there), in the non-article forums I'm sure you used to have a nested formum titles link at the top of the page. In something like the format:

You are in: User Forums > El Reg Matters > New Forum Wishlist

Where each was a link, so you could move around within the forums more easily. If I'm mis-remembering, and that wasn't there before (and my memory is playing tricks) - well this is the Forum Wishlist thread...

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I ain't Spartacus
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No braille for me. 5x magnification all the way baby.

I think there's some pretty snazzy braille and screen-reader kit out there now. Like smartphones, it's pretty good at re-streaming the main article text, and just giving you that. So many ads are image-based (with no ascii elements), that I'd imagine they just get dropped.

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I ain't Spartacus
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This change also makes the link to the post, in context of the forum, smaller - and even less obvious than it already was.

To be grumpy, I must say that I think your web designers keep making changes to these forums, that make things less obvious and easy to read at a glance.

In your pursuit of minimalism, readability seems to suffer at every turn. Text size gets smaller, links are removed, along with dividing lines, shading and colour. Have you secretly been taking refugees from Microsoft's Metro team?

This is in marked contrast to the articles\main pages, where you have a few too many elements for clarity. I've no objection to adverts, but because you have so much stuff, mixed in with ads, jump-lists and menus, all the stuff on the side-bars sort of merges into one.

Not to play the disability card (he says as he's doing it), but as someone with about 5-10% of average vision, I value clarity extremely highly. And I call down curses upon all web designers who choose dark brown text on a light brown background!

I admit I'm an edge-case, and discrimination legislation notwithstanding, I believe you should concentrate scarce resources on catering to the majority of your customers. But I struggle to accept that any user would prefer a lack of clarity to the alternative. I'm not saying things are bad, by any means, just that several changes in the last year or so, have been for the worse.

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Apple cash stash dash results in Icahn v CalPERS bitchfight

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Re: Are these numbers correct?

He's effectively steering the board of Apple because he's basically right. However unpleasant and noisy he is.

If the pension funds would do their fucking job, and hold company boards properly to account on behalf of their investors, then we wouldn't need these activist shareholders.

I guess it's because the pension execs don't want to rock the boat. As they're hoping to be on the same gravy-train perhaps? But anyway, they've done a piss-poor job of overseeing the renumeration committees - and in fact the boards in general. They've allowed too many CEOs to also be chairmen, so they can control the board, instead of the other way round.

Apple have no business holding on to over $100 billion! They don't do big acquisitions, so they only need enough for a fat reserve, plus Tim Cook's cleverly used supply-chain slush-fund. $30bn at most, should be enough. Holding on to any more is just willy-waving, and rather suggests that the board have forgotten it's the shareholders' money (and in fact company) - not theirs.

Sorry about the rant. ...And breathe...

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Twitter shares tank as blabbergasm implodes in full glare of unforgiving investors

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Looks like they timed the IPO perfectly then!

Actually according to the figures I saw somewhere, they actually did turn a tiny profit last quarter, for the first time ever. If you strip out the one-time IPO costs. So who knows, they may actually start making small amounts of cash. At which point they'll move to the ludicrously over-valued group, along with Facebook - for companies that make money but nowhere near as much as their share price demands. But that's better than being in the outrageously over-valued group of dead-beats, along with Zynga and Groupon...

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Video thrills the Google ad star: Susan Wojcicki becomes YouTube chief

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Trollface

Re: I don't upload to Youtube any more

My mind struggles to encompass the possibility that Youtube comments could get any worse. You'd have to come up with some truly mind-bending laws of commentard dynamics to allow that to be possible, enough to make a quantum physicist go "Huh? What? No! That can't make sense."

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How many keys can one keyboard have? Do I hear 200? 300? More?

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Re: That's progress!

I do it positionally. I have Excel and Word next to each other on my desktop, a row below Outlook, with the different browsers above that. Security tools at the top of the screen, admin stuff to the left, etc. I also have the labels turned on with icons wherever posisble, the Office ribbon, Firefox, GMail...

It's one of my least favourite features of iOS and Metro, that the UI designers stupidly won't let you have gaps between groups of icons. Or even give you divdiders. The simplest way to make it clear what things are is denied to the users by fuckwits who seem to have no conception that different people use their tech in different ways. So I have my iOS icons split into groups of similar apps, spread out over many homescreens. Which works fine until it comes to something where I can't remember how I categorised it.

Big old seas of icons are no more user-friendly than huge walls of text.

I was trying to assemble some flat-pack furniture the other day. And to save money (i.e. translation costs), the instructions had no text whatsoever. It was all diagrams, with pretty pictures to tell you what to do. These were shit. Sometimes a picture may paint a thousand words. Other times, 5 words make far more sense than a thousand pictures drawn by total numpties on grey re-cycled paper, in light brown ink.

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Syrian Electronic Army: We hijacked FACEBOOK ... honest, guv

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Re: So they didn't actually hack Facebook

It's annoying when the normal news gets it wrong, but the Reg should be getting it right!

The Reg did get it right. They cover what happened in the article, including who exactly did get hacked (as far as we know the details), and with what effect. i.e. none. And why FB didn't get hijacked.

Even the headline is pretty clear. Obviously headlines are advertising, they're trying to get you to read a story, so they can be a bit sensationalist - so long as they aren't actually lying. This headline has what the SEA claim, followed by "... honest, guv". Which is a pretty clear indication that the SEA are telling porkies. Which the article then covers. What's to complain about?

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Twitter shares plummet as first-ever earnings show weak growth

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Re: IPO-related overhead, including a $521m charge for stock-based compensation expenses

I assume that's not the fees, so much as the giving staff loads of shares so they don't instantly leave expense.

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Android users running old OS versions? Not anymore, say latest stats

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It's partly a numbers game

When version 2.x of Android was out, 'only' 200 million smartphones a year were selling. Now it's a just hit 1 billion a year. So the new is bound to outnumber the old. Plus there was that rather weird gap with Android 3, which was the emergency tablet version, that barely made it onto any phones. So there was quite a big gap between 2 and 4, and therefore a jump in hardware requirements.

I don't follow Android as closely as I did, but hasn't 4.4 been out for about 6 months now, and only has 1-2% of the market? So there's still a slower uptake of the newer OS versions. But it probably doesn't matter as much, as improvement is slowing down.

However, fragmentation was only one criticism. The more important problem is security updates. Are Google still issuing secruity updates for 4.0? And whatever version you're on, even if Google are still fixing bugs and security holes - what good is that, if you're manufacturer and telco can't be arsed to pass them on to you?

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