* Posts by Alien8n

525 posts • joined 15 May 2007

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US nuke arsenal runs on 1970s IBM 'puter waving 8-inch floppies

Alien8n
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Re: Stuff that woks

There's a good argument for not trying to fix stuff that works...

Old company of mine ran some software written in MUMPS. Software worked for all but one client, turned out the IT manager (who claimed to be vastly more intelligent than anyone else, friends with Richard Branson, was once an Olympic archer, etc) had written some client specific code for handling billing. Turned out he hadn't tested it and it had been running for about 3 years when I arrived there. The bug? Customer makes a partial payment, instead of allocating against the bill and generating a new balance it tries to reallocate against all bills. Result is a random error, plus or minus pennies to thousands of pounds (sometimes tens of thousands). The "fix" wasn't to look at the code generating the error but to manually adjust out the errors in the billing export file as the code clearly couldn't be wrong. I finally found out where the error was occurring and got the vendor to fix the code, which promptly resulted in me leaving the company as the IT manager blamed me for all the fixed bills that hadn't been called due to his code. Needless to say the company doesn't exist anymore.

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Boffins blow up water with LASERS, to watch explosions in slow-mo

Alien8n
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Re: The bit that intrigues me

Once I read your comment I was thinking that myself, short of freezing the droplet to near absolute zero the lack of air pressure should convert the water into gas. However, reading the article carefully it states that the laser and microscope are in a vacuum, but it's possible the water droplets are not. Would be interesting to see the full setup to confirm.

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Gillian Anderson: The next James Jane Bond?

Alien8n
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Re: The future...

@a pressbutton well Bond does seem to become a prisoner in every single film somehow...

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Alien8n
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One film

Casino Royal.

(The original one, not the remake)

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'Acts of war in a combat zone are not covered by your laptop warranty'

Alien8n
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Re: sceptic

@John Brown I had a friend who already worked there so the interview wasn't quite as formal as you might expect. It was actually held in the bar of the health club opposite the offices.

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Alien8n
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Re: sceptic

I once had a job interview at a satellite systems company in London. The interviewer explained I wasn't getting the job due to being married and having children. Something to do with the high probability of having to catch the last flight out of a country under gunfire (this had happened to the guy interviewing me, where they'd had to crash through the fence of the airport to get to the plane that was about to take off while being shot at by a rebel army).

The job was installing satellite communications into war zones for news teams.

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BBC's Britflix likely dead before the ink has even dried on the news

Alien8n
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Re: Expect very little commercial activity

I believe you're right. Not sure where I picked up Will I Am holding a stake from, but it wouldn't surprise me, he has enough money he could buy Endemol if he wanted to. May just be a small stake in the UK production side of things, or some memory of an article that had some misleading "facts" about the show.

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Alien8n
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Re: Expect very little commercial activity

This is exactly what happened with The Voice. From memory the format is owned by an independent company that Will I Am has a very large stake in. From next year the show will air on ITV.

The only hope is that with the shift to ITV the X Factor will finally get dropped...

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Idiot millennials are saving credit card PINs on their mobile phones

Alien8n
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Re: PINs?!

@Captain Badmouth

There was an article not that long ago that suggested the best way to remember a password was to use song lyrics.

So if you really liked Iron Maiden you could pick a verse from a song and transpose that into a password like this:

"Bring your daughter, bring your daughter, to the slaughter"

Becomes "BYDBYDTTS"

Then you add some variable capitalisation:

"ByDbYdTtS"

Followed by some number replacement:

"ByD8YdTt5"

And then add some symbols:

"ByD8YdTt5?"

Hey presto, instant random password that's easy to remember.

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Alien8n
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Re: PINs?!

I can remember PINs for my debit card, the wife's debit card, and my phone. I don't use the credit cards anywhere near often enough in order to remember the PINs for them.

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BOFH: If you liked it then you should've put the internet in it

Alien8n
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Tracking

Reminds me of one company I used to work at that wanted to put swipe card entry on every single door so they could track employees. The excuse they gave was to ensure people weren't spending too long in the toilet...

Needless to say the idea was about as popular as booking Gary Glitter for a children's party.

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Flying Spaghetti Monster is not God, rules mortal judge

Alien8n
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Re: All 'religions' the same

@Mad Mike they don't preach from their library documents though, just the standard bible that anyone can pick up in any book shop. Interestingly it's said that the vatican holds the world's largest collection of medieval pornography. The real reason for secrecy is more likely to hide all the secret deals and financial information from years ago. The Vatican was a major contributor to the war efforts of many a medieval nation. During the middle ages you couldn't go to war without the blessing of the Pope and you can bet the Vatican benefitted after the war finished.

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Alien8n
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Re: All 'religions' the same

@dan1980 while true that the standard path to most religions is to be taught it the vast majority are still very fond of giving out their religious texts for free. Think Gideon bibles. In fact the only one that I know of that expressly forbids letting "non-believers" see their texts for free is Scientology.

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Alien8n
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Re: All 'religions' the same

@dan1980 the biggest difference between Scientology and other religions, even the Mormons, is that they don't allow anyone to see their "sacred texts" unless they pay for them. And even then it costs hundreds of thousands of pounds before you're deemed worthy enough to read the really "important" texts about Xenu and the volcanoes. At least most other religions go "here's all of our religious texts, make your own mind up". This is mainly of course because if you were to read the OT3 texts before being brainwashed you would quite rightly declare it bullshit.

The worrying thing is that celebrities, who get to bypass most of the indoctrination, still endorse this rubbish once they discover what it's really about.

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Prof Hawking to mail postage-stamp space craft to Alpha Centauri using frickin' lasers

Alien8n
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Re: it will not work

@anniemouse I think you'll find the poles still rotate, they just stay in a fixed position relative to the rotation of the rest of the planet.

At the end of the day this whole thing is a technology driver. It's not supposed to work, it's supposed to make people think about the obstacles to making it work. So they'll come up with new technologies while scratching their heads, which will feed back into civilian use. Expect novel ways of creating substances like graphene, new and cheaper superconductors etc. In much the same way the space race of the 1960's gave us non-stick frying pans and velcro.

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That naked picture on my PC? Not mine. The IT guy put it there

Alien8n
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Alien

Been there - twice

Before I went into engineering and the IT I worked for a small electronics firm making gaskets. The boss found out I was a bit of a geek and knew my way around a PC. So I'm on his PC in his office trying to fix whatever it was that he wanted me to fix (it was a very long time ago) and for some reason I needed to minimise all the windows. To find in the centre of his desktop a rather pornographic image.

Shoot forward about 7 years (and 4 OS versions) and I'm now in the IT department (via engineering) at an optical electronics company. 3 instances at the 1 firm:

Case 1) I'm informed that when the company first got internet access a certain IT manager wasn't aware that everyone's browsing history was logged. He acquired the nickname "Mr Wetty" as his browsing history was pretty much just porn.

Case 2) IT is asked to investigate the browsing history on the supervisor's computer in the clean room. Lots of porn is discovered in the browsing history and temp files and the first thought is to sack the supervisor, but something didn't seem right, so we did a bit more investigation. This turns up that the browsing was done at about 2am, while the supervisor who was logged in works days. Turns out the night supervisor was logging in using the day supervisor's account to browse.

Case 3) Mentioned a few times before, a senior manager was complaining that Outlook was running slowly. Immediate suspicion is video and picture attachments (there were lots being sent around, the usual cats and funny jokes). We were half right, turns out one of the production staff had been emailing porn to a senior manager. Not just the odd picture, but hundreds of images. All the images are of a daily innocuous nature, no worse than found in any top shelf magazine so the decision within the team is to delete the offending smut and give him a gentle reminder that as he and the production operative were about 2 months away from redundancy he might want to make sure he avoided any sackable activity. Interesting butterfly tattoo though ;)

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Brexit: Leaving the EU could trigger UK science patent law rejig

Alien8n
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@AC the issue is not the cost to us in prescription charges, but rather the cost to the NHS in rising drug prices. We ourselves won't see any real increase apart from the usual annual increase in the prescription fees. The NHS however will be forced into yet another round of "cost savings" as the cost of running the NHS will increase manyfold.

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'Planet nine' theory boosted by Kuiper Belt Object with odd orbit

Alien8n
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@ Marketing Hack We need Flash Gordon to save us from Ming The Merciless

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Alien8n
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Re: Lost

@ Gio Ciampa no, there was an article back in January about a black hole that was seen emitting visible light. Admittedly not from the singularity itself but it's still escaping from the black hole.

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Alien8n
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Re: Lost

@NomNomNom no one said jet fuel could melt steel. It can however burn hot enough to turn steel into a form that will bend and warp. It's a fundamental property of pretty much any metal that has been well understood by blacksmiths for centuries (it's why you don't try and make a sword from cold iron, you have to heat it in a forge first). The forging temperature of steel is around 1000C. To weaken steel you don't even have to reach this temperature, at about 500C the structural strength of steel is about 50% of it's strength at room temperature. The temperature reached in the WTC was estimated to be around 1200C and the jet fuel itself was estimated to be around 900C (aviation fuel wasn't the only thing that was on fire).

While this does not in itself disprove a conspiracy theory, it does fit the evidence at the time. It's more than plausible that the planes were the cause of the towers collapsing, no further interference was necessary and tin foil hats are not required.

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Alien8n
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Re: Lost

With all the advances in science recently I have to think nothing is impossible until proven impossible. A couple of examples:

1. Nothing can escape from a black hole. Except recent studies have shown this is no longer true.

2. The Standard Model is proven. And so far all proven observations do fit the Standard Model of particle physics (up to and including the Higgs Boson). Except recent observations are increasingly breaking the Standard Model, while not to a level of certainty to be classed as proof as yet.

We're at a level technologically where science fiction is just a few years in the future. Anti gravity, teleportation, cloaking devices, all are being shown to be theoretically possible, we just need to advance technology far enough to make it happen.

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

Alien8n
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Haven't used VMS in years. My first "IT" job was report writing from an AS400. I was actually an engineer so would go to the IT team to get queries written, until after a while I realised that I actually understood the system better than the IT guy who I was getting to write the queries.

After that had to support a VAX system (PROMIS, used for wafer fabs). That was the job where we bought a java based GUI for the system that was so incomprehensible (different buttons with random images that had no descriptive text) that I redesigned the entire GUI from scratch. The other flaw was it's "traffic light" warning system. Fine in a standard manufacturing room, but this was specifically for wafer fabs. Wafer fabs have at least 1 room (photo-lith) with orange lighting. You can't see the different colours.

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Alien8n
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I had a reporting database once that mimicked the progress bar. It started off sensibly enough "Copying data to reporting table", "Analysing data", etc. About halfway through the messages would change and you'd get "error found in user", "electrifying keyboard", "deleting database".

I then handed it to one of the technicians to run as a test...

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Oh, sugar! Sysadmin accidently deletes production database while fixing a fault

Alien8n
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Crashed macs

Due to an issue with one of our macs I had to completely wipe the hard drive of the mac and re-install.

Cue the issues with re-installing, for whatever reason it would not accept the apple id and password to re-install. Solution? Time Machine to a fresh portable drive of the new macbook I'd just built and then went over the old macbook with the new Time Machine image. Result! (and as an added bonus meant it didn't have to wait several hours downloading the company data onto the old machine).

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Alien8n
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Haven't done it in a production environment but have trashed my own web server a few times when the upgrade path wasn't being nice and decided a clean install was a safer bet. Did take a backup of one particular table prior to trashing it though as it contained the guestbook for my brother's memorial page (no way I was losing that data)

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What to call a £200m 15,000-tonne polar vessel – how about Boaty McBoatface?

Alien8n
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Re: I predict the name will be

The RSS Stephen Fry?

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Alien8n
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Re: This is why everyone thinks students are w*****s

It's this kind of logic that helps Finnish death metal bands win the Eurovision.

Let's face it, when Lordi were announced as Finland's entry that year they were guaranteed 12 points from the UK :)

And we clearly don't want to win, otherwise we'd just get Iron Maiden to enter...

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FBI backs down against Apple: Feds may be able to crack killer's iPhone without iGiant's help

Alien8n
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Re: precedent

@The_Idiot

That looks remarkably like something Sir pTerry would say :)

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Apple engineers rebel, refuse to work on iOS amid FBI iPhone battle

Alien8n
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Re: It's likely I'm missing something.

@Displacement Activity

Apple may very well already have software that will do this but they're not admitting this to the FBI and they have no intention of handing it over. It's more likely that they don't have this capability and don't want to add this capability given the fact that hackers will be all over any vulnerabilities given the popularity and capabilities of the iPhone with Apple Pay etc.

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Subjects! Speek your branes to Parliament on the Snoopers' Charter

Alien8n
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Re: GO! Teresa, GO!!...

At first I was afraid

I was petrified

Kept thinking I could never live

Without you by my side

But then I spent so many nights

Thinking how you did me wrong

And I grew strong

And I learned how to get along

And so you're back

From outer space

I just walked in to find you here

With that sad look upon your face

I should have changed that stupid lock

I should have made you leave your key

If I had known for just one second

You'd be back to bother me

Go on now go walk out the door

Just turn around now

'Cause you're not welcome anymore

Weren't you the one who tried to hurt me with goodbye

Did you think I'd crumble

Did you think I'd lay down and die

Oh no, not I

I will survive

Oh as long as I know how to love

I know I'll stay alive

I've got all my life to live

I've got all my love to give

And I'll survive

I will survive (hey-hey)

It took all the strength I had

Not to fall apart

Kept trying hard to mend

The pieces of my broken heart

And I spent oh so many nights

Just feeling sorry for myself

I used to cry

But now I hold my head up high

And you see me

Somebody new

I'm not that chained up little person

Still in love with you

And so you felt like dropping in

And just expect me to be free

And now I'm saving all my loving

For someone who's loving me

Go on now go walk out the door

Just turn around now

'Cause you're not welcome anymore

Weren't you the one who tried to break me with goodbye

Did you think I'd crumble

Did you think I'd lay down and die

Oh no, not I

I will survive

Oh as long as I know how to love

I know I'll stay alive

I've got all my life to live

I've got all my love to give

And I'll survive

I will survive

[x2]

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Alien8n
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@Jagged I'm fairly sure it's more a case of:

"Home Secretary, there's a gentleman from GCHQ to see you regarding that bill you didn't want to sign"

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Who'd be mad enough to start a 'large-scale fire' in a spaceship?

Alien8n
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Re: Space..... the final frontier...

It's NASA, they've pretty much told the entire world to "watch this" :)

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'Just give me any old date and I'll make it work' ... said the VB script to the coder

Alien8n
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Re: Anyone else remember?

Reminds me of the early days of Demon Internet and their DOS news and email software.

You could update the mail headers to spoof certain things, but the main thing was that it included the computer and drive name within the header. So my C:Drive was renamed Hell and the computer was called Hades

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Alien8n
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That C# code

For some reason a previous employer wrote their own scanning software. It was created as a test project to see if it could be done with no intention of actually being used in a live environment. It very quickly became a live application, scanning batches of coupons and saving the scans in their own individual folders and storing a reference in a database so they were easy to find. The reference was a barcode on each coupon, associated with a campaign and a person. All worked fine, most batches could be upwards of 20 coupons and everything was hunky dory. Except for one client.

One client decided instead of a tear-off coupon, or a small complimentary slip sized coupon they'd have full sized A4 coupons. The scanner would fail after 8 or 9 scans. Because of the way the batches were processed they couldn't be split into smaller groups for scanning. They'd been having this issue for several month before it was decided to hand the issue to myself as a "learning exercise" to familiarise myself with C#. So I build in some logging into the code, as it runs it drops a line of text into a text file, the idea being the last line of text should give a clue as to what it's doing when it crashes.

It crashes at the same point each time, at the point it opens the scanned image and tries to save it. The exact same thing it's done over and over again for every other client's coupons. On the PC we run the code and turn on system monitoring and see a spike in memory usage at the same point it crashes.

Turns out it's saving the images into an array before saving to file and can't handle the memory usage. A quick re-write and it now scans and saves individual images. It still crashes. A final re-write and some extra code to garbage handle the now orphaned image memory and it's all fixed (and runs a lot quicker due to no longer hogging the PC's memory). For some reason, despite C# supposedly automatically handling memory allocation it wasn't doing so.

More worryingly for me was why the issue was allowed to continue, then get handed to a complete novice at C#, when they employed a team of 4 experienced developers. That said I could never understand why they were coding entire SQL queries into their code instead of passing parameters to a stored procedure.

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Alien8n
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Re: People Love to hate VBA

My complaints aren't about VBA, when I write VBA it tends to work fine (barring typos, etc). I like that it's (fairly) logical and easy to read (as opposed to C# which to a beginner is a nightmare to debug. I once had to track down a memory leak in C# which none of the actual developers seemed to care about despite it actually being their jobs on the line, quite literally as it happened). My complaints are that they can't keep VBA code consistent between different versions of Office (such as completely changing the way it treats the folder structure on a mac between versions 2011 and 2016) and how they can introduce new bugs in later versions that require putting in pauses in the code to allow the code to work.

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'Microsoft Office has been the bane of my life, while simultaneously keeping me employed'

Alien8n
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Re: The purpose of reports is not what you think it is.

My first Excel report. Ran on a 486 laptop and took 20 minutes to run. The manager resisted all attempts to shift the report onto one of the (then) brand new pentium machines. Reason being, once the report was kicked off it gave him just enough time to sneak a full english breakfast with the production shift in the canteen. I eventually moved the report onto the new PC, but continued with the traditional breakfast break on the grounds I got to chat with the production staff and hear what issues they were having in an informal setting prior to the main engineering meeting (that the report was being run for).

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Alien8n
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Re: The worst think about office

It's even worse when you also get a call to SQL procedures and have to then trace that through a labyrinth of SQL views and tables. Remembering not to refresh certain views as for some reason someone coded triggers on every single table and updating one single field in one record creates a cascade effect...

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Alien8n
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Re: Difficult to describe this one

At one company I worked at their entire print and control system was written in Access and ran on a timer overnight to print thousands of letters each night. The macros built into the Access database would open a form, show or hide images embedded into the form (creating client's company logos for the letters) and then a bespoke printer driver would select the printer for the letter to be printed on.

Along with that there was a reporting database (again Access) which would also run overnight producing the reports. The VBA code for that one would open a Excel spreadsheet, write the results of an SQL query to it and then send it via Outlook to a list of people.

Invariably something would go wrong every day.

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Alien8n
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Re: The deep mysteries of VBA bugs

I'm fortunate that I have no coworker to come after me for that fudge, in the event that I ever leave the report will revert back to someone physically having to copy and paste data manually.

It's also a fudge that works but has no discernible detrimental effect on the remaining code.

Ironically MS Office on a Mac does have one huge advantage that the Windows version doesn't have. You can work on other applications at the same time the macro is running. Which is great if the macro is still running at lunch time as it means it'll continue running in the background even while you're reading El Reg.

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What a pair of ace-holes: Crooks bug gambler's car with GPS tracker, follow him and rob him

Alien8n
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Re: Which one is it?

Never mind the movies, I'm playing Saints Row IV at the moment, I swear I'm going to be scarred for life by that game...

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Come on kids, let's go play in the abandoned nuclear power station

Alien8n
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Half-life

Looking at the timestamps on the comments it would seem the half-life of a Reg article would appear to be about 3 - 4 weeks...

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Alien8n
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Re: I visted here in 1988

@anothercynic do we? I used to work on the Harwell site, didn't know about any tours. There is however a section of abandoned road that looks like it could be used for filming a post apocalypse thriller. Also, several WW2 pillboxes scattered around the countryside.

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Spanish cops discover illegally parked flying car

Alien8n
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Re: Rag Week?

Same thing happened at my old school as an end of year prank. One of the students had a mini and it was "transported" bit by bit onto the music hall roof by some of the upper 6th form. A few years after that someone broke into the art block and bricked up the doorway to the art teacher's office. Best bit was even the teachers knew who did it but the art teacher was so disliked by everyone that no one would tell him who the culprit was :)

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Bruce Schneier: We're sleepwalking towards digital disaster and are too dumb to stop

Alien8n
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Re: History repeats itself

I recall being told when I was an engineer that a certain aviation company had an automated test. When auditing the test software it was found that one of the parameters being tested had a random number generator creating a number within spec as they didn't actually know how to measure the parameter, but as it had been measured previously it had been carried on with the new tests.

The point was, once you start measuring CPK data there's no procedure for stopping measurements, regardless of how useless the measurement is. At the time we were measuring the temperature of plastic moulding compound. All well and good, until you realise it was being stored in a shed on the south wall of the building with a tin roof. There was no point in measuring the temperature as there was no way you could control the temperature within the shed.

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$17 smartwatch sends something to random Chinese IP address

Alien8n
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Re: I will worry

Watch the TV series Continuum. In that you get implanted if you can't repay your debt to whichever company owns you turning you into a slave making more implants to enslave the next people who can't repay their debts. It's actually a very good satire of capitalism hiding as a science fiction show.

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Alien8n
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Re: Optional

@Bowdie Lettuce hope so

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

Alien8n
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Re: RIGHT!

My first foray into asp resulted in the following conversation:

My boss : "Can we get some software for one of our engineers"

IT boss : "Why?"

My boss : "So he can code the department's intranet page, he's writing the pages in asp"

- to explain, the code was checking a particular folder and creating on the fly an indexed and searchable list of engineering reports. It was quicker than adding the new reports to a static page *every single day*.

IT boss : "WE HAVEN'T AUTHORISED ANY CODING SOFTWARE! WHAT"S HE WRITING IT IN!"

My boss : "He wants to know what you're using to write the intranet in"

Me : "Tell him I'm writing it in Notepad"

IT boss : "... oh"

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D&D geeks were right – their old rule books ARE worth something now

Alien8n
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I still have my 2nd edition books, used to love the little cartoons in it.

"Well, either it allows a magic-user to throw the various Bigby's hand spells, or it's a +2 backscratcher. So far we're not sure which . . . ."

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Helpdesk? I have a software problem. And a GRIZZLY BEAR problem

Alien8n
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Falcon

At the fulfilment job I had we had a falcon (from memory fairly sure it was a peregrine falcon, too small for a kite and too big for a kestrel) that decided it liked the warehouse so much it too up residence in the rafters for several hours.

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Pilot posts detailed MS Flight Sim video of how to land Boeing 737

Alien8n
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Not as difficult as you first think

Admittedly my experience is limited to *one afternoon and the weather patterns were set to "fine" but the 737 is actually quite easy to fly and land. It's certainly a lot easier in a real flight trainer than it is on console or PC.

*A friend of my father-in-law built flight simulators for training pilots. Many years ago I was invited to "test" a new 737 simulator at Gatwick airport prior to shipping to Seattle. Within 2 hours I was able to land the plane quite safely with fairly limited instruction (by which I mean instruction that could be given over the radio if necessary). That said I'm fairly certain my "passengers" would be a ball of flames had the weather been set to JFK in midwinter. Interestingly even back then the capability existed for programming the plane to take off and land on autopilot, it's just people for some reason trust having a human doing the take-off and landing more than a computer.

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