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* Posts by mhoulden

192 posts • joined 8 Dec 2009

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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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Russia's post-Snowden spooks have not reverted to type

mhoulden
Black Helicopters

I like the idea of a typewriter having a street price, like dodgy spivs are inviting people to go down alleyways and look at their wares. "For our special customers we have an IBM Selectric, or if you ask very nicely, I might be able to do you a deal on a Smith Corona."

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Jackboot dangled over NSA's throat for US spy dragnet outrage

mhoulden
Big Brother

Re: God I love the Justification....

"Are you a foreigner?"

"No."

"Can you prove it?"

"No."

"Then we assume that you are."

This approach is also a reason why immigration policies really need to be less hysterical. Introduce rules that are "supposed" to be used only on people from abroad and apply them to everyone just in case they might not be telling the truth.

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Only 1 in 5 Americans believe in pure evolution – and that's an upswing

mhoulden
Boffin

Intelligent design/creationism vs evolution is always fun, even if it generates more heat than light. I've never understood who designed the designer and why, if they are so intelligent, my eyes are imperfect and I need glasses.

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Five bods wrongly cuffed thanks to bungled comms snooping in UK

mhoulden
Alert

Re: "Intercept product"???

"Don't fight it son. Confess quickly! If you hold out too long you could jeopardize your credit rating. "

Using another marketing term, if we assume 5 nines reliability, that still means a 0.001% error rate. Some will be innocent people being falsely accused while others will be guilty people being let off. Even if the reliability rate remains the same, the more data is collected, the more mistakes will be made. However the reliability rate seems to be tending more to 9 fives instead as more and more people are required to handle and process oodles of useless information about innocent people just going about their daily business. Quite apart from the civil liberties issues, this is a massive waste of time and money that could be spent on something more useful.

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Ad man: Mozilla 'radicals' and 'extremists' want to wreck internet economy

mhoulden
FAIL

Where does Randall Rothenberg think advertising revenue comes from in the first place? It isn't magicked out of thin air or donated by benevolent companies from some secret store of cash. The money ultimately comes from end customers, and part of the purchase cost goes on trying to get them to spend more money. The advertising industry has a strange sense of entitlement: "we want your attention so we can try to sell you things", but as a consumer I reserve the right to invite them to go forth and multiply if it's something I know I don't want and certainly don't want to pay for.

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T-Mobile to let US customers swap phones twice a year

mhoulden
Holmes

Doesn't that depend what you use them for?

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Rest your head against a train window, hear VOICES in your SKULL

mhoulden
Mushroom

What's to stop some evil-doer hacking into the system and getting the carriage to vibrate itself to pieces by playing its resonant frequency as loudly as possible? Or even the brown note?

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Apple 'iWatch' trademark filing hints Cook's make-or-break moment looms

mhoulden

Re: What's a watch?

Of course the battery life of a watch is usually measured in several years (or indefinitely if you have a windup one or something like a kinetic or solar powered one) whereas most smart phones need charging every day or so. If they could do a smart watch with a battery life of a month I might be interested, but much less than that isn't practical.

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mhoulden
Boffin

Re: Ahh..I see....oops

You mean it isn't a contraption designed to check the value of variables while you're debugging? Disappointed.

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NSA: We COULD track you by your phone ... if we WANTED to

mhoulden
Mushroom

Re: Semantics

On the subject of lawyers, what would happen if enough people brought a class action suit against the NSA and the telcos for breach of privacy? It would probably make Jarndyce vs Jarndyce look like the small claims court.

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CRINGE! Home Office wants to know whether your boss BEATS YOU

mhoulden

Re: What a silly question!

They may not be physically prevented from doing so, but very long hours are expected at some places. Places don't offer on-site facilities like laundries, evening classes or even beds out of the goodness of their hearts. Why not do all that stuff at home? Simple: you won't be going home until it's too late to do much there.

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PM Cameron calls for modern, programmable computers! (We think)

mhoulden
Boffin

Education policy tends to alternate between reformists and traditionalists, and at the moment we've got a load of traditionalists in power. In due course I'm sure we'll get some more reformists with their own ideas of how things should be done.

The current ICT exams were held in the last couple of weeks so I had a look at a few Edexcel past papers to see what sort of things they were examined on. Unfortunately the subject matter is both antiquated and tedious. The January 2012 paper involves basic use of word processors, spreadsheets and databases. The June 2011 short course higher tier paper includes questions on ROM, RAM and CPUs. Important to know, but not exactly the most exciting things to learn. It also includes one question that is downright incorrect: "John illegally copies music from a CD given to him by a friend. He can be prosecuted under [which act]?". The correct answer is none: copyright infringement is not a prosecutable offence.

The full GCSE paper has questions on graphics using turtles, and designing flow charts. The 1980s called: they want their tedious questions back. I know turtle graphics are suppose to introduce people to the idea of vector graphics and sequences of instructions, but there are better ways of doing so. In most GUI-based languages, if you want to draw a circle or a rectangle, you call a Circle() or Rectangle() function. While it is a good idea to sit down and work out the best way to handle process flows, you certainly don't need all the little shapes used in flowcharts. Possibly the start and stop, database and decision ones, but not the user input, paper output or offline storage ones. I've worked with hugely complex systems with process flow diagrams that cover lots of A1 sheets of paper, but they don't use half the symbols the GCSE ICT flowcharts do.

One problem I think ICT has is that it's trying to do everything "computing". Imagine if lessons in the use of a pen and paper were separate from English classes, or colouring in was separate from Art. Sure there's a place for learning the basics, like handwriting classes before you go on to write stories in English, but after that I think it would be better to use computers in other lessons just as a tool and leave the ICT classes for specific "computing" tasks. Using a word processor to create documents for a fictitious event is incredibly boring, but it has more use if you had to write up something in English or even foreign language classes. Teaching the use and misuse of spreadsheets in maths would help people understand their uses a lot better than budgeting for a make-believe party. As for computer graphics and DTP in art...

Freeing up ICT so it didn't have to cover "applied" uses would make it a lot more interesting. Politician-type "coding" can be pretty unappealing as it's basically algebra. Making programming interesting could involve something like designing a basic game or a web-based library catalogue. Networking could involve a class project to take a collection of PCs, hook them up together to share files, and get them sharing a single connection to the Internet, with appropriate security. Doing databases as simple data entry and form design can be even more boring than having to design Powerpoint slides. With appropriate teaching you could demonstrate when to use a spreadsheet and when to use a database instead, which might even help to get away from the "Excel as a database" idea that's far too common. Explaining IT security in terms of what not to share on Facebook (even more important with Prism) and how to avoid dodgy websites would be a lot more relevant than the idea of being infected by computer viruses on floppy disks

This all takes a bit more imagination than the old "computer studies" curriculums that have been around since at least the 80s. Assuming children start at infant school from 4 and stay on until at least 16, that's a very long time for technology to change. It is important to learn the principles (I see people making the same mistakes on Facebook that email users did when I first got online in 1997), but trying to apply "traditional" values doesn't really work. When I started at school there was one BBC Master for the whole school, and when I finished we had networked PCs running Windows 3.1 and Netware.

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Happy 23rd birthday, Windows 3.0

mhoulden
Boffin

Re: "popular app Notepad"

Notepad also has a weird thing where you can either have word wrap, or the status bar, but not both. I noticed this in Windows 3.1 and it's still there in Windows 7. However, for all its limitations, it is very rare not to have Notepad on a Windows system and it's useful to have as a scratch pad.

My first PC had Windows 3.1 and DOS 5 so I didn't have to use EDLIN when I could use EDIT instead. All that time I spent playing around with QBASIC eventually led to me taking a software engineering degree and the software development job I'm doing now. Even though I've been using Microsoft BASICs for over 20 years, there are still bits that make me wonder what they were thinking of when they designed it.

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Social network bins Beijing's banned buzzwords

mhoulden
Windows

Re: OK, the translation may not be perfect

Another one I got was "Uncle Chen Yingchun". When I Googled that the first link was for a Chinese restaurant just by Pennsylvania State University. Did someone have a bad meal there or something?

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MYSTERY Nokia Lumia with gazillion-pixel camera 'spotted'

mhoulden

Re: I'm in.

Personally I'd be seriously interested to see what they could do if they made the Nokia N8 available with Android, and a bit of a memory and CPU upgrade. Symbian isn't bad but I upgraded from an N8 to a Samsung Galaxy SIII because the app support just wasn't there. Apart from the lack of NFC, the hardware on the N8 is still more advanced than a lot of other phones. Imagine if Androids had a built in FM radio and a separate charging socket as well as the micro USB port

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Not cool, Adobe: Give the Ninite guys a job, not the middle finger

mhoulden
Thumb Up

Re: It's worse than you think.

This. Or at least a few articles. I write software and web applications. I've had to make sure what I do can be used by people with red/green colour blindness and I also have to be careful it can be understood by people whose first language isn't English (most of our main customers are based in Germany and the Netherlands). It would be very useful to have some ideas of how to design things for people with little or no sight written by someone who understands what it's like and has a technical background.

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Is this the first ever web page? If not, CERN would like to know

mhoulden

I'm surprised the first page ever doesn't now have a link farm, a stock photo and "This domain may be for sale" on it now.

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Hey, monkey: Just 'cos your mates eat FOUL corn, YOU have to eat it too?

mhoulden
Boffin

"If all your friends jumped off a bridge, would you jump too?" "Oh Jeez. Probably."

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Crackdown looming on premium-rate phone number internet ads

mhoulden

Re: 08.. numbers

Actually there is a consultation on non-geographic numbers going on at the moment, over at http://stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/consultations/simplifying-non-geo-no/, which among other things expects 080x numbers to be free from all lines, and other 08x numbers to have much clearer charging information. I'm surprised El Reg didn't pick this up as a news story.

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Flash man: Headcount at my company is UP not DOWN

mhoulden

Ah, the crazy world of network storage. When was the last time these people took a holiday? Sounds like it would do them some good.

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I am NOT a PC repair man. I will NOT get your iPad working

mhoulden

I've had the same problem quite a bit myself. Next time someone asks I'm tempted to quote a steep fee so they realise my time is expensive and I generally deal with much more complex corporate style systems. Question is, what's a good place to refer people when they ask you to fix their home machines? I fix my own stuff so I don't need to use other places and don't have any experience of them, but would somewhere like the PC World workshop be a good place to send people?

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Swedish linguists nix new word after row with Google

mhoulden
Facepalm

The danger of trying to control language this way is that people don't always use language in the way that lawyers want them to. A mayor of Paris introduced a law saying that landlords must provide rubbish bins for their tenants as a public hygiene measure. They complied, but then named the bins after him, which is why they're called poubelles. If Google tries to push their luck too much, they may find that "ogooglebar" doesn't mean "unsearchable", but instead something obscene and not particularly complimentary, just as Gerald Ratner did.

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Stop excluding vulnerable Brits from digital agenda - MPs

mhoulden

If the scheme works as well as Universal Jobmatch, the prospect of of queuing up at a post office to renew road tax or get an EHIC card suddenly got a lot more appealing.

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Crack Bombe squad dismantles Reg encryption in an hour

mhoulden
Black Helicopters

Re: Amazing German Technology

Why do you think they came up with wartime acronyms like NORWICH, SWALK and BURMA? Not going to fit all that in a tweet, or get it past the censor.

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Applications to run more white-space Local TV stations invited

mhoulden

Re: US definition of local != UK version of local

Manchester had a local TV station for quite a while: Channel M. In the early days it did have quite a few "local" shows but they were generally pretty poor quality and suffered from the fashion of having moving backgrounds and constantly changing shots. During an interview it would often go out of focus, black and white, and zoom in on part of the interviewee's face. Even with the backing of the Guardian Media Group, it kept cutting back further and further until it showed almost nothing but Euronews. The latest round of franchises cover tiny areas: if Manchester and Salford can't generate enough revenue to be sustainable, how are Kidderminster or Basingstoke going to cope? Setting up a TV station with programming and playout facilities is very expensive so I think it would be better for an existing broadcaster to use the cash to improve their local services rather than a new one setting up shop, showing mostly QVC and eventually going bust. Doesn't have to be the BBC: this is what ITV was set up for in the first place.

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mhoulden
FAIL

I always thought local TV was a Jeremy Hunt vanity project designed to take money and influence away from the BBC. Why not just scrap the silly idea and give the money to an established broadcaster with better resources on the condition that they use it for local TV? Returning ITV to regional identities and sometimes very different local schedules would be a start.

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Six things a text editor must do - or it's a one-way trip to the trash

mhoulden
Boffin

For TADREPs I tend to use, dare I say it, Excel. Obviously there are lots of caveats about getting the formatting right, and its formula edit mode can be very tedious when it tries to be too clever, but a formula something like

="INSERT INTO table (" & A1 & " ) VALUES ('" & B1 &"','" & C1 & "')"

copied down all the rows is a lot easier than typing things manually. Or just use the "import from Excel" option that most database front ends like Toad or SQL Server Management Studio have.

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