* Posts by mhoulden

219 posts • joined 8 Dec 2009

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Microsoft did Nazi that coming: Teen girl chatbot turns into Hitler-loving sex troll in hours

mhoulden
Terminator

Re: Tay: A river

Now I want to see a William McGonagall bot.

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New Monopoly version features an Automatic Teller Machine

mhoulden
Mushroom

Re: Anyone working on an Ad-Blocker for board games?

There's an idea. How about mixing in a few Cards Against Humanity, or Exploding Kittens cards?

"Why am I sticky?"

"You have won second prize in a beauty contest"

or

"Go straight to jail"

"Nope. The Pope of Nope has spoken."

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You've seen things people wouldn't believe – so tell us your programming horrors

mhoulden
Boffin

Re: Bad code? Don't talk to me about bad code...

Some code I've seen does similar:

1. Get current date in US format (MM/DD/YYYY HH:MM:SS)

2. Insert record using that date (as a string) as the last modified date

3. Use that date to determine which record was inserted and get the primary key

I'm in the UK so it tends to go funny after the 12th of the month, and this is a complex web app that can have lots of people using it at once, so two people inserting records at exactly the same time is unlikely but not impossible. It would be so much easier if the person who originally wrote it knew about SELECT @@IDENTITY (it's on SQL Server), but I think that's one of the reasons he was invited to take his services elsewhere.

Don't get me started on the section of code that was written in Classic ASP by a team that didn't bother with Option Explicit and liked global variables with names like zotz...

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Periodic table enjoys elemental engorgement

mhoulden
Boffin

Seeing as the marketing department for Despicable Me wants to have them everywhere else, what about Minium? Alternatively, isn't it about time Richard Feynman had his own element?

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El Reg picked a pack of ace pic-titlers

mhoulden
Trollface

There's a new design Etch-a-Sketch!

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ICO fines PPI claims firm £80,000 over 1.3m spam SMS deluge

mhoulden

Re: Good

I like the idea of fining them £80K per text, and then banning the directors of the company from running any more claims management companies so they can't do it again.

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Terrorists seek to commit deadly 'cyber attacks' in UK, says Chancellor Osborne

mhoulden

Cyber Plan, Cyber Plan, Plans Whatever a Cyber Can

I quite liked this post from the legal blogger David Allen Green, who realised you could replace "cyber" with "spider" and have something that makes as much sense: http://jackofkent.com/2015/11/george-osbornes-national-spider-plan/. Eg: "To those who believe that spider attack can be done with impunity I say this: that impunity no longer exists."

George Osborne likes his meaningless little slogans, like "long term economic plan", "security" and "Northern Powerhouse", and I think "cyber" is the latest one.

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NHS IT must spend a fortune to save a fortune, says McKinsey

mhoulden
Facepalm

Has McKinsey ever said anything that can't be translated as "Please give us lots of money"?

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Solar panel spammer hit by UK’s biggest ever nuisance calls fine

mhoulden

The fine is a good start, but I think the line:

HELM is part of the Government Green Deal initiative

should be amended to

HELM was part of the Government Green Deal initiative

so they can't pester anyone else to buy their solar panels. It would also encourage other companies to behave themselves.

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Samsung smart fridge leaves Gmail logins open to attack

mhoulden
Holmes

Re: IoT crazy

Background music to play on the toilet sounds like one of the rounds on I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue. If it starts playing Golden Brown or Raining Blood it might be an idea to see a doctor.

3
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Using complicated electrical devices to curry favour with brats – the new black?

mhoulden
Childcatcher

Taking someone to Currys because of their exam results sounds more like a threat than a treat. "Screw up your A levels and you'll end up working here."

4
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Slippery, slimy find: LEGGY, WRIGGLY fossil shows SNAKES weren't legless. Or ARMLESS

mhoulden
Boffin

I've seen Data Wranglers in the credits of a few TV shows.

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Raising a stink in court: Innocent poo banditry warehousers win $2.2m

mhoulden
Holmes

Re: Please, El. Reg.

Either the picture of a gavel that's there now is a replacement, or someone really needs to go to the proctologist.

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Sunday Times fires off copyright complaint at Snowden story critics

mhoulden
FAIL

As the article mentions, even in the UK "fair dealing" allows limited sections of copyrighted works to be quoted for review purposes. Dave Gorman mentioned this in Modern Life is Goodish when he was told he wouldn't normally allowed to show a magazine cover, but he could put it up to say "what a dreadful cover" because then it would be fair criticism. (He may not have been entirely serious about not being allowed to show it). "We state that we have a good-faith belief that..." has to be a lawyer's way of saying "I think...". If they were sure, they'd say so.

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DON’T add me to your social network, I have NO IDEA who you are

mhoulden
Mushroom

Personally I'd quite like an option on Linkedin that says "You may not attempt to contact this person by Linkedin, email, phoning his employer's switchboard, carrier pigeon, semaphore, Morse code or any other means of communication invented now or in the future if you are a recruitment consultant trying to earn commission on a job that you can't fill. If you do, you will forfeit your first-born child, be forced to walk down the street ringing a bell and wearing a sign that says 'Unclean - recruitment pimp', and be required to hand over all the commission you have made to the people that you have recruited". Even though I've made it clear on my profile that I'm not looking for a job, some of them still contact me just in case.

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Why voice and apps sometimes don't beat an old-fashioned knob

mhoulden
Alien

Re: Don't panic

Why do you think the marketing execs were put on on the B Ark?

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City of birth? Why password questions are a terrible idea

mhoulden
Boffin

"Hello. You have reached the answering machine of Alexander Graham Bell, inventor of the first telephone. If you've invented another telephone..."

(From the Celebrity Answerphones round on I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue a few years ago)

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Today, the US govt must explain why its rules on shutting down whole cell networks are a secret

mhoulden
Black Helicopters

Whatever criticisms there are of how we do things in the UK, the MTPAS scheme does at least make some of its rules public: https://www.gov.uk/resilient-communications. The rules are a bit out of date and a have a few inaccuracies: for example they refer to BT, Kingston Communications, and Cable and Wireless for fixed line telecoms but not Virgin Media. I'm pretty certain there'll also be a non-public version, but at least this is better than the US version.

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What's Meg Whitman fussing over: The fate of HP ... or the font on a DISRUPTIVE new logo?

mhoulden
WTF?

Presumably the empty minus sign is supposed to signify that there's nothing left when you remove the company's core business. It'll be interesting to see how they trademark it. I know the Bass logo of a red triangle is one of the oldest trademarks around, but these days they have to be a bit more distinctive.

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Give us a week to GUT Superfish, begs Lenovo CTO

mhoulden
Terminator

Wouldn't it be nice if one of the actions taken was dismissing whoever was responsible for signing the contract with Superfish in the first place? I know selling aggregated data to advertisers is one of the main ways some companies make money, but Lenovo should really have found out how they were gathering it.

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Scary code of the week: Valve Steam CLEANS Linux PCs (if you're not careful)

mhoulden

The Adobe Acrobat Reader installer does that as well. Incredibly annoying if there's a chance you might need to reinstall it or run it on another machine later.

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Lizard Squad gang moves from PlayStation, Xbox Live attacks to Tor

mhoulden

Re: Lizard Squad...

Given that the gaming networks attack happened on Christmas Day, I think you can guess how much of a life these people have.

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Heyyy, you seem to be trying to post a DRUNK PICTURE. You know your boss looks at this?

mhoulden
Flame

Personally I'd like something that pops up a warning, "Caution: what you are about to post is an urban myth/has been stolen by an obscure radio station desperate to boost its profile/is a cheesy motivational homily that will make people on your friends list feel nauseous. Do you wish to continue?" At least when these things did the rounds by email people had to put in a bit more effort.

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Facebook's plain English data policy: WE'LL SELL YOU LIKE A PIG at a fair

mhoulden

Before we start the tired old trope of "if you're not paying for it then you're the product", perhaps the advertisers might like to think about where they get their money from. It might sound obvious, but it comes from the people who buy what the advertisers are selling. This can be a high risk game: a poor advertising campaign can kill the product or even the company.

Hoover found that offering free flights was very expensive. New Coke and Dasani quickly disappeared after bad publicity. Susan Boyle's record company could really have chosen a better hashtag than #susanalbumparty. More>Than Insurance were fined for flyposting with their first "Where's Lucky?" Campaign. Overuse of pop up adverts means that almost every browser has a built in pop up blocker.

Using data mining techniques to make adverts more "relevant" means that people who see them are more likely to be better informed about the product, but also more critical. It's not surprising that El Reg doesn't allow comments on sponsored articles because you know people who use the item will just list its shortcomings. If a company's only profits come from displaying adverts, they get a bit stuck if people don't buy from them.

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10 Top Tips For PRs Considering Whether To Phone The Register

mhoulden
Facepalm

Re: Code for London: 020

I had a similar problem in Leeds, with 0113 vs 01132. However the people that got through to me were expecting a newly opened mental hospital rather than a pizza takeaway. After a month or so of calls at all kinds of strange times I eventually got fed up and had my number changed.

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Show us your Five-Eyes SECRETS says Privacy International

mhoulden

Re: "would never have occurred to us" ... Really ??

What are the chances catering is provided by someone like Eurest and the menus are the same bland and overpriced stuff that you get in most staff canteens?

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Blighty's mighty tech skills shortage drives best job growth in years

mhoulden
Boffin

Is it really a skills shortage, or is it a shortage of employers willing to train people with the right aptitude? Technical skills are very specific but if someone understands the underlying principles there's no reason why, for example, a decent C# programmer couldn't be trained in Java, or someone with experience of Excel macros couldn't learn the more advanced VB.Net. Of course the problem of training is that sometimes people get trained up and then move elsewhere, but the employer could offer decent terms so that they don't want to leave. Offshoring and short term contracts avoid having to pay for staff training, but they have the risk of knowledge being lost when that particular piece of work comes to an end.

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Yes. App that lets you say 'Yo' raises 1 MEEELLION DOLLARS

mhoulden
WTF?

Why? Oh.

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LEAKED: Redmond not allowed to sell 'Nokia' smartphones after 2015

mhoulden

Re: Sensible of Nokia to keep Here...

Definitely feels like Nokia is missing a trick (and probably quite a bit of cash) by not making Here Maps available for iOS and Android. It obviously wouldn't be free, but maybe a fiver for the app and one map pack and then a pound or so for additional maps would be a reasonable amount. It's certainly something I would pay for.

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100% driverless Wonka-wagon toy cars? Oh Google, you're having a laugh

mhoulden

I'd like to see the "Traffic Droid" on Tuesday's Complainers trying to cope with one of these. Would he scream and wave his rulers and red cards at the offices they're controlled from? I can imagine them retaliating by automatically uploading videos to Youtube of him behaving like a clot to see how he likes it.

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Apple wheels out sueball cannon, again

mhoulden
Facepalm

As ever, I think the lawyers should be locked in a room to work out their differences while the grown-ups can concentrate on doing something productive. I know it's the American way to drag your competitors down with endless lawsuits that cost a fortune regardless of the outcome, but ultimately the money comes from the cost of the product and the people who buy them. It feels like it would actually be cheaper if every handset included a $10 lawyers' levy and a ban on companies suing each other for devices that do the same things and look similar.

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Creepy Facebook urges users to pester friends about their SEX LIVES

mhoulden
Big Brother

As Vincent Hanna said on Blackadder:

'And now for the result of our exclusive exit poll, which produced a 100% result for... "Mind your own business, you nosy bastard."'

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Dixons and Carphone Warehouse confirm £3.7bn MEGA-BORG

mhoulden
Devil

Boring Name

Should have gone for Curry House instead.

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Twitter jitters: Investors turn into quitters as shares hit the sh...

mhoulden
Facepalm

Deja Vu

Twitter's business model reminds me of Deja News from the old days. They also had the idea of trying to make money out of a discussion network (a web front end to Usenet), in their case by trying to turn it into a shopping site with Usenet posts as reviews. At the time "if you're not buying then you're the product" hadn't been coined but that was clearly the idea. However, as they found, a product is only worth what someone is prepared to pay for it. Even with the advanced data mining and aggregation techniques that we have now, there's a limit to how much money you can make by showing people adverts. Eventually Deja News sold off the shopping stuff to one company and the rest of the company to Google, where Google Groups is pretty well hidden unless you go looking for it. Unless Twitter does something different, I can see them ending up the same way.

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Dell charges £5 to switch on power-saving for new PCs (it takes 5 clicks)

mhoulden
FAIL

Money for Old Rope

Windows 7+ comes set up to use the balanced power profile anyway unless you change it, so I'm not entirely sure why Dell charges extra to make sure it's switched on. Actually I think tricks like this are part of the reason why laptops and tablets have become a lot more popular than desktops. Most people just want something for browsing the web, checking up on email, or catching up on work. They don't want to have to connect all kinds of things or be faced with a load of options that they might not understand. Much easier to buy a sealed box that's likely to do more or less everything you want and just needs plugging in to the mains to be ready to use. People with more specialist requirements (like gamers) are more likely to either build something themselves or go to a more niche supplier that lets them specify exactly what they want. Dell's real market is large corporates wanting to order hundreds of machines with maintenance contracts so I think they're trying to discourage consumers by making it as awkward as possible without actually telling them to go away.

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Gay marriage foes outraged at Mozilla CEO flap, call for boycott

mhoulden
Paris Hilton

It's difficult to tell what would keep everyone happy. Maybe if he just worked there part time?

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As WinXP death looms, Microsoft releases its operating system SOURCE CODE for free

mhoulden

Re: Trend?

FAT 16 has a theoretical maximum of 2 GB but it is very inefficient with a sector size of 64 KB (the 32 MB limitation was removed in DOS 4.0). However the main reason RAM and storage space were limited is that in the early 90s they were very expensive. I remember in 1992 a generic SIMM costing about £30 - £40/MB. In 1995 Seagate's first 1 GB drive was $849. RAM manufacturers overestimated the demand for memory when Windows 95 was released, so there was an oversupply which brought the prices down a lot.

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mhoulden

Re: Trend?

Actually 6.0 was pretty buggy as well. The combination of DoubleSpace and SmartDrive could cause a lot of problems with data loss. They got it more or less right with DOS 6.22, but it was supplanted by Windows 95 (and DOS 7.0) just over a year later. MS-DOS 8 came with Windows ME, which should have been a warning.

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Mozilla takes Windows 8-friendly Firefox out back ... two shots heard

mhoulden

Re: TWO shots?!

From what I've seen in a few online forums, Firefox Metro is about as popular as Microsoft Bob, so I'm surprised there weren't more.

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Battle of Bletchley Park: TNMOC chief calls for review of museums' Mexican standoff

mhoulden
Mushroom

Re: Oh the irony

"Gentlemen! You can't fight in here! This is the War Room!"

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Margaret Hodge, PAC are scaring off new biz: Treasury source

mhoulden
Meh

Nothing to hide, nothing to fear? I'd be very interested to know which companies have said "We would like to come to the UK, but that nasty Mrs Hodge might make us look silly." I have a feeling they could be counted on the fingers of one foot.

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El Reg preps relaunch of Cash’n’Carrion online merchandise emporium

mhoulden

I remember El Reg used to do a mug that said "My job was outsourced to India and all I got was this lousy mug", and it was slightly alarming to see a very similar one appear on the BNP website. It might be an idea not to bring it back to avoid exciting the loonies.

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Lyrics upstart Rap Genius blacklisted by Google for Justin Bieber SEO scam

mhoulden

How about blacklisting every lyric site that has a pop-up inviting me to send a song to my "cell" as a ringtone? I thought the ringtone industry died in about 2005 with the advent of phones that can use MP3s, but it looks like they haven't quite gone away.

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Facebook to BLAST the web with AUTO-PLAYING VIDEO ads

mhoulden

Re: Thank you Facebook

I'm sure the advertising and marketing companies would like people to believe that they're all powerful and the people they advertise at are the product, but this isn't strictly true. For a start, advertising costs money. Places like Doubleclick or Facebook generally charge one fee to display the advert in the first place, and then another for the number of interactions or "conversions", which might be views ,replies, likes, retweets, favourites or clicks. They get charged even if the reply is "Get this claptrap off my timeline. I'm never going to buy it and I'll tell all my friends not to bother as well".

The money to pay for advertising comes from the companies being advertised, and ultimately from the pockets of the people (or products) being advertised to. You can analyse, data mine, aggregate and intrude until you're blue in the face, but if the "product" doesn't buy what you're trying to sell them, the subject of the advert generally doesn't stay on the market for very long. If a platform relies on advertising for most of its funding, it can have serious problems if the advertisers decide to withdraw. ITV found this a few years ago when advertising budgets were massively cut during the 2008-9 recession and a lot of their income disappeared.

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Twitter's shock block unlock deemed cockup, gets a lockup

mhoulden
FAIL

Twitter didn't like people blocking those promoted tweets then? I know there's a mindset of "you are the product if you don't pay", but there's a limit to how much you can irritate people with new methods of advertising before they get fed up and go elsewhere.

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So, what is new in SQL 2014, exactly?

mhoulden

Re: That's SQL *Server* 2014

I can't help wondering if the author is one of those people who complains that "Microsoft" isn't working when he has a problem with Word

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Smut-spreading copyright trolls told to return cash extracted from victims

mhoulden
Windows

Re: Prenda law would appear to not just be guilty of fraud.

The judge who came up with the Star Trek judgement also advised investigations by the IRS Criminal Investigation Division and for possible racketeering under the RICO Act. I think they're waiting for the civil cases to finish before criminal investigations take over, but it's probably safe to say they're not done yet and it's not going to end well.

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New! Yahoo! logo! shows! Marissa! Meyer's! personal! touch!

mhoulden

That took a whole weekend? I'm guessing 2 minutes in MS Word Art and the rest of the time doing whatever Silicon Valley execs do instead of going to the pub. Nice work if you can get it.

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Windows NT: Remember Microsoft's almost perfect 20-year-old?

mhoulden

Re: Mythology

I remember a story in Personal Computer World in about 1993 where someone was pleased to see "NT Magazine" on the shelves. It was only after he got it out of the shop that he realised he'd bought a copy of the Nursing Times.

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Microsoft adds Visual-Studio-like text editor to SkyDrive

mhoulden
Megaphone

Re: With or without..

Don't forget THE POINTLESSLY SHOUTY MENUS.

Actually I found you can switch that off. For Visual Studio 2012, go to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\VisualStudio\11.0\General in Regedit and add a new DWORD value called SuppressUppercaseConversion with a value of 1. In VS 2013 it should be at HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\VisualStudio\12.0\General. Or there's a few all caps menu option extensions you can install. Once it's been tamed a bit I find VS 2012 is actually quite good.

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