* Posts by Kubla Cant

1801 posts • joined 28 Jun 2010

FreeBSD 10.3 lands

Kubla Cant
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Joke

Let me get this straight. Is BSD the operating system advocated by the Judean People's Front and Linux that favoured by the People's Front of Judea? Or is it the other way round?

Joke icon, just in case.

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Bloaty banking app? There's a good chance it was written in Britain

Kubla Cant
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Re: The average lines of code (LOC)

If you've ever spent time mentoring inexperienced developers, you'll be familiar with the "clever way of doing something".

The kiddie manages to compress something into a couple of lines of code, perhaps using undocumented features. At best this results in something that's hard to understand and maintain; at worst, something that's broken in a subtle way that will only become evident after release. In all cases, the LOC is smaller.

Code spends most of its life in maintenance, so anything that makes things clearer is a good feature.

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India orders 770 million LED light bulbs, prices drop 83 per cent

Kubla Cant
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Re: Dull

It's odd, isn't it. You can get ferociously bright LED torches and cycle lamps. I suspect the domestic LED bulbs are dim because they're replacements for CFCs.

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Kubla Cant
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Re: new lighting options

I replaced the unreliable G4 halogen lights under my kitchen cabinets with self-adhesive LED strip. The existing transformers, with the addition of bridge rectifiers, provide a suitable power supply. Being waterproof, they're resistant to many of the problems that bedevil kitchen cabinet lights.

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Kubla Cant
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Unhappy

a sale price of 85 rupees ($1.28)

Meanwhile all the supermarkets and DIY centres in Britain continue to charge £10 (949.93 INR).

(I don't want to appear insular, but if you're converting rupees into a more familiar currency for our convenience, why USD? Why not GBP, EUR or AUD?)

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Kubla Cant
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Re: Who's paying the piper?

Here in Cambridgeshire, UK, there's been an extensive program to replace sodium street lighting with LED. The white light is much more pleasant than the horrible sodium orange, but the light source is slightly more dazzling.

I get the impression that the illumination is slightly more localised, with dark patches midway between lamps. Personally, I find this effect pleasant. It reminds me of the charm of gas-lit streets. (Yes, I am that old, though I was reacquainted with it recently in The Park, a private estate in central Nottingham that retains its gas street lighting.)

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Blighty starts pumping out 12-sided quids

Kubla Cant
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Re: counterfeit pound coins

Counterfeit pounds do seem to exist, if the number of coins rejected by machines is any indication. Then again, a lot of 20p coins are rejected, and I really can't believe anyone's faking those.

It's not just the cost of materials that makes it seem improbable. Assume you have £1000 in fake pound coins - how long will it take you to spend them and get the value back from the change? You'd be lucky to make the minimum wage.

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Which keys should I press to enable the CockUp feature?

Kubla Cant
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Which keys should I press?

We used to have a lot of PCs (Gateway?) where the keyboard included a keystroke macro feature. Essentially this meant that most of the keys could be programmed to do something completely different from what was on the key cap. The potential for pranks was endless, but in fact most of the problems arose from users accidentally programming their keyboards.

The BSOD screen-saver was good for a (brief) laugh.

In the days before computers, desktop phones offered opportunities for pranks. Call person A, then transfer the call to person B and hang up, so they're left arguing about who called who. Sellotape the buttons on a receiver rest so the user can't answer calls. Worst of all, put double-sided adhesive tape on the earpiece of somebody's phone.

Eventually, we grew up.

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Hacker reveals $40 attack that steals police drones from 2km away

Kubla Cant
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The attacker's remote AT commands ...

Police drones use the Hayes AT command set? Do they do the warbling noise too?

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Elon Musk takes wraps off planet-saving Model 3 vapourmobile

Kubla Cant
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Re: Sedan (definition?)

I think a sedan has two blokes carrying it on long poles.

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BMW complies with GPL by handing over i3 car code

Kubla Cant
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Re: Is there still such a thing as a non-outsourced call center?

I think the company I'm working for at the moment has a call centre downstairs. And I've worked for another company recently with an internal call centre. When they're internal, they're less likely to be called a "call centre" and the people who staff them have less of a call-centre outlook, so you don't hear about them.

I guess the hierarchy from best to worst is: internal, external UK based, offshore with good English, offshore incomprehensible.

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'No regrets' says chap who felled JavaScript's Jenga tower – as devs ask: Have we forgotten how to code?

Kubla Cant
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Re: "Brenna" and "Sarah"

It's striking that women's names are much more common in books and articles about programming than women are in actual programming environments. A similar phenomenon is the way "ethnic" names are used in material aimed at schoolchildren far more than would be warranted by the actual proportion of the corresponding population.

The intention in both cases is to encourage an inclusive attitude to minorities, which is wholly laudable, but the actual effect can be rather patronising.

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Ever wondered what the worst TV show in the world would be? Apple just commissioned it

Kubla Cant
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Re: It could be good, or it could be a barely disguised ad for the App Store..

I found The Soul of a New Machine a strangely unsatisfying book. When you reach the end you feel as if you've read an account of the design and building of a computer, but you haven't learned anything about what they did or how they did it. I've re-read it more than once, but the effect doesn't change. I suppose it's because it's really a description of the personal, social and commercial aspects of the enterprise.

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Kubla Cant
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Re: apple wants to video about computer stuff ?

I think I've read The Cuckoo's Egg about three times, but this is the first time I've seen any mention of it.

The Newtonian Casino seems to be out of print, but I've ordered a second-hand copy at Abe Books.

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London's $40m 'flash crash' trader is to face extradition to the US

Kubla Cant
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Flash Boys

The relevant book here is not The Big Short, but another book by Michael Lewis. Flash Boys describes the extraordinary antics of high-frequency traders. It opens with a description of the speculative construction of a fibre link from New York to the Chicago mercantile Exchange. Speed is so important that they can't even afford to route the fibre round a car park when the owner refuses wayleave.

The story revolves around a trader who finds that his trades are effectively sabotaged by HFT algorithms that manipulate the market while his trades are in flight. He sets up an alternative exchange that incorporates delays so that HFT is denied its advantage.

Read it.

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Tracy Emin dons funeral shroud, marries stone

Kubla Cant
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Re: I love it when the amateur art critics come out to play

Lots of criticism, but it's all directed at a silly cow who "marries" a stone. I see no art, and no art criticism.

Why did she go and marry a French stone? Are our British stones not good enough for her?

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

Kubla Cant
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Re: But the program is error free!

@Version 1.0 My favorite was standing behind one of my programmers ... I gave him his exit interview later that day.

So, the boss hangs over the guy's shoulder while he's working - no pressure there. He lets out a slightly ill-judged expression of pleasure when he gets a clean assembly. So you sacked him.

I think he had a lucky escape.

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PC World's cloudy backup failed when exposed to ransomware

Kubla Cant
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Re: Or she hadn't completed a backup in the previous 30 days

Frankly, this sounds like the most probable explanation. A cloud backup may fail to complete for a variety of reasons. A likely cause is that the size of the data becomes too large for the backup window.

If a professional server backup fails to complete, alarms sound and operators and system managers rush round trying to solve the problem. In a home office environment, it could be easy to miss, or to misinterpret, warnings from the backup program.

Backup and anti-virus software on Windows often seems to suffer from over-engineered UI syndrome: the standard UI isn't flash enough to pull in the punters, so they make it look like something else. After 30 years working with computers I expect to be able to understand most software, but my wife's copy of BitDefender induces a kind of brain-fog.

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Swede builds steam-powered Raspberry Pi. Nowhere to plug in micro-USB, then?

Kubla Cant
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Loop much?

the Pi's greater demand for juice when it boots causes a voltage drop big enough to force the mini computer to reboot

I assume "the mini computer" refers to the Pi*. So what you're saying is that the Pi's demand for juice when it boots causes it to reboot. Whereupon its demand for juice causes it to reboot.

I'll have to stop there, as I can't stand typing "demand for juice" any more.

* Unless there's a PDP-11 or the like in the setup, which rather detracts from its simplicity.

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Jump aboard our load balancing Maglev, Google tells devs

Kubla Cant
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Re: 20 millions line for 900 projects?

a measly 22k lines for each project

“Measuring programming progress by lines of code is like measuring aircraft building progress by weight.” - Bill Gates

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How Microsoft copied malware techniques to make Get Windows 10 the world's PC pest

Kubla Cant
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Mushroom

1. Windows is insecure, so Microsoft has to release numerous security patches. It is stressed to users that they must install all security patches to keep their system safe.

2. Microsoft subverts the security patch system to distribute nagware.

3. Everybody complains.

4. Microsoft tells them they can avoid the nagware by changing their security update settings.

5. goto 1

What part of quis custodiet ipsos custodes don't they understand?

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She's coming... the Chief Data Officer

Kubla Cant
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Toxic

I know the world supply of TLAs is rapidly becoming exhausted, so we have to recycle old ones. But "CDO" hasn't really had time to shed its toxic associations. The first Google page of results is almost entirely about Collateralized Debt Obligations and how they landed us all in Carey Street,

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Middle-aged US bloke pleads guilty to iCloud celeb nude photo hack

Kubla Cant
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"Celebrity nude photos stolen from hacked cloud" seems to be a story that recurs every few weeks. newspapers could keep the page as a template and just change the names. What I can't understand is the back-story:

Agent Congratulations, Miss X, you've got the part/won a quiz show/appeared in a tabloid story/etc. You're a celebrity!

Miss X Whoopee! I'll rush off home and upload lots of nude selfies to AWS.

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Bloody Danes top world happiness league

Kubla Cant
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Switzerland

It's happiness, Jim, but not as we know it.

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

Kubla Cant
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Re: Visual Basic

I was certainly a grep user at the time, though whether I was judicious I leave to others to decide. Unfortunately, grep doesn't solve this sort of problem.

Your mission is to find cases where a function or procedure that expects a Date (probably along with lots of other arguments) is passed a String or Variant. The first problem is that the argument list is frequently stacked over several lines, because developers have been encouraged to use long variable names. All grep can do is output the line with the function name (current greps can output several lines of context, but this was 2003). Even if you manage to output the complete call with all its arguments, how do you tell what type they are? They might be local variables, module-level variables, values returned from other functions, or expressions evaluated when the call is executed. Tracing each of them back to the point where the type is defined is a non-trivial task.

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Kubla Cant
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Re: Not all of them...

On VMS Ctrl-T displays a line of information about the running process, including, IIRC CPU and IO statistics. It's very useful if you think a process might be stalled or looping.

If you want Ctrl-T to be sent to the program, you can disable this feature with SET NOCONTROL=T.

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Watch six tiny robo-ants weighing 100g in total pull a 1,769-kg family car

Kubla Cant
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Thumb Up

Re: I, for one,

@Steve K

Emphatic upvote for the Waif-o-matic (TM)!

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LG builds a DAB+ digital radio radio into a smartmobe

Kubla Cant
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Re: DAB, DAB+ and Digital Radio Mondial

FM is better. Even AM can be better.

Perhaps. One reason I use DAB at home is because I got sick of fiddling with the tuning on (medium-quality) FM portables. Typically, you'd get the thing perfectly tuned, and it would stay that way as long as you were standing right next to it. Cross the room, and everything turns to noise. It's possibly because my house has thick walls.

With DAB, it's all or nothing, and I've had no signal loss anywhere in the house.

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Microsoft's done a terrible job with its Windows 10 nagware

Kubla Cant
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Re: The Terrible...

The sooner they realise that the old way worked and the new way doesn't

I suspect that the old way isn't working the way it used to. Microsoft has been heavily reliant on OEM Windows sold with new PCs, which produced healthy revenue as long as there was a fairly high churn rate in the PC market. This was driven by (i) people buying a PC for the first time and (ii) people replacing PCs because of poor performance running new applications. Both these drivers have lost a lot of their power over the past 10 years, and will probably continue to do so.

I don't dispute that Microsoft has made mistakes with its new versions and its update process, but that doesn't alter the fact that they have to change their business model.

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Behold, Microsoft SQL Server on Linux – and a firm screw-you to Oracle

Kubla Cant
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Re: More spyware ?

@Danny 14 Our sql server isnt internet facing so it wont be phoning anyone home.

Good point. Anyone who runs a database server that has an open internet connection fully deserves to be spied on.

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Chinese boffins grow new eye lenses using stem cells

Kubla Cant
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Headmaster

Author needs eye treatment

I can't help thinking the author or subeditor needs eye treatment. This article is full of sloppy mistakes. (In the past I've used the Tips and corrections link, but lately it results in no acknowledgement and no correction.)

"... boffins grows ..." - assuming there are several boffins, I think you mean "grow", the plural form of the verb.

"Most

Operation success rates..." - why the new paragraph in the middle of a sentence?

"... the first instance regenerative medicine." - missing "of"?

Unclosed quotation.

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Electrified bird bum bomb shuts down US nuclear power plant

Kubla Cant
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Re: Shouldn't there be something to prevent this?

If a streamer contacts an energized conductor, the electrical current may travel through the streamer back to the bird

I Am Not An Electrical Engineer, which is perhaps why I can't understand this. If the bird's in the air (not specified, but strongly suggested by the reference to takeoff), where's the current going to? It's no different from a bird on a wire.

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Aye, AI: Cambridge's Dr Sean Holden talks to El Reg about our robot overlords

Kubla Cant
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The procedure for creating human intelligences is well-established. It's rather time-consuming and the results are of variable quality, but it's worked well enough to produce 7 billion instances. The only reason to replicate human intelligence in a machine would therefore be to see if it's possible. The expense and difficulty tend to rule out this kind of idle curiosity.

The main aim of AI (at present) seems to be replication of human cognitive capabilities. The payoff is that the machine can then be made to exercise these capabilities faster or more reliably or in situations where meatware has problems.

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If NatWest texts you about online banking fraud, don't click the link

Kubla Cant
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OT: NatWest again

Yesterday I heard a story about NatWest on BBC news.

It seems that they send out password-reset SMS messages for online banking. But it's perfectly possible to persuade the mobile network to redirect messages to another phone. The BBC reporter did this with a colleague's mobile number, whereupon she was able to log in to the account, change the security credentials, and transfer money to her own account. Apparently it's happened to a number of NatWest customers in real life.

When they devised the password-reset scheme, didn't anyone think to ask whether sending to a mobile phone really guarantees the identity of the recipient? Let's hope NatWest don't start running piss-ups in breweries/

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Essex cop abused police IT systems to snoop on his in-laws

Kubla Cant
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Naive

It's surprising that he thought he'd get away with it. I thought it was fairly common knowledge that searches on police databases are logged and audited. I've read about similar cases in the past.

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Everything bad in the world can be traced to crap Wi-Fi

Kubla Cant
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My BT Homehub provides a free WiFi service called BT Fon. As a BT broadband subscriber I get free access to all BT hotspots, including other people's BT Fon. This is a useful facility, especially when connecting from a phone.

Unfortunately, for the past few weeks my phone has decided that it likes the BT Fon connection better than my private home WiFi, so it always connects to it. Worse, it's so thrilled to be snuggling up to its new best friend that it forgets my BT login credentials, so I'm presented with a page that tells me how much I need to pay for using my own WiFi.

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Ad-blockers are a Mafia-style 'protection racket' – UK's Minister of Fun

Kubla Cant
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Unhappy

A look into the future

The present situation is highly unstable. It can't be long before the majority of users are blocking ads. The advertisers, and the sites that depend on advertising revenue, aren't simply going to say "It was good while it lasted" and walk away.

The first change is likely to be a switch to serving ads from the same domain as the main content. It's a lot more fiddly than simply pulling ads from content networks direct to the client, but with computers, once a fiddly thing is solved, it stays solved. This will make ad blocking a lot less deterministic, especially if sites avoid always serving ads from distinctive paths.

If blocking still succeeds, the next step is likely to be the development of ways to embed ads as binary content in HTML pages. I'm not sure how feasible this is at the moment, though it's already possible to embed base-64 encoded images and fonts. If this happens it will be nearly impossible to selectively block content.

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Oracle's JET flies into open source skies

Kubla Cant
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Useful (maybe)

On the basis of a very cursory examination it looks like it could be useful.

The trouble is that the JavaScript world produces a new, exciting, paradigm-shifting framework every six weeks. It's impossible to judge which ones will achieve extensive uptake and which ones will just die in a corner. With Oracle behind it, JET* may be lucky, but there's no guarantee.

This volatility is obviously bad news for someone who makes a living writing software, but it's actually worse from the perspective of people making architectural choices. Get it wrong, and in a few years you'll have a system that's unsupportable because nobody's prepared to learn the technology it uses.

* Odd choice of name, especially from a database company. If it's as good as the late, unlamented JET database engine, it's doomed.

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Dead Steve Jobs owed $174 by San Francisco parking ticket wardens

Kubla Cant
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Re: How did they give Steve Jobs tickets?

Jobs also infamously parked his cars in disabled parking spaces, so in my book he deserved every penny he was fined. No refunds for Dead Steve!

To be fair, being dead is about as disabled as it gets.

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My devil-possessed smartphone tried to emasculate me

Kubla Cant
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WTF?

WiFi calling

Mobile reception inside my house is non-existent, so when I saw the reference to WiFi calling I passed the term over to Google. The top result was from EE, my current mobile network, which looked promising. Then I read:

WiFi Calling is supported on iPhone 5c, iPhone 5s and later models. Android and Windows devices bought directly from EE in one of our stores, online at ee.co.uk or through our telesales team are also compatible. Android and Windows devices bought from other retailers won't be able to support WiFi Calling.

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German mayor's browser tabs catch him with trousers down

Kubla Cant
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Re: language

Seems odd that all the tabs in in English yet he's a German.

Boring answer: "GRATIS" suggests that the xHamster tab isn't in English, else it would probably say "FREE". The other tabs were probably launched from xHamster and show the titles of the videos. I don't think porn video suppliers are big on localisation.

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Loved one just died? Pah, that's nothing

Kubla Cant
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Did they also measure the same response for the death of a spouse/child/parent? No?

I don't think you'd find many volunteers for a study that involved killing a subject's spouse/child/parent just to measure how much stress it causes.

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The paperless office? Don’t talk sheet

Kubla Cant
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Contracts etc

Once upon a time you could start a new contract with a minimum of paperwork and fuss. These days, I'm emailed about 50 pages of contracts, NDAs, declarations and affirmations by the client, the agency, and often some Stasi-like company that does background checks. All these have to be printed, signed (usually on one page out of the 10 I've printed), scanned and emailed back. So I'm left with a thick wad of paper that may be important in some way, and therefore can't be thrown away.

Sometimes I'm tempted to short-cut the process by editing a scanned signature into a document then exporting it direct to PDF, but I'm haunted by the possibility that I'll be accused of "not really signing".

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Brits unveil 'revolutionary' hydrogen-powered car

Kubla Cant
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Re: I guess beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but...

Why does every mad concept car have to have gull-wing doors?

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

Kubla Cant
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Flame

Re: Ah, VB ... "variants"

Another VB horror I had to sort out.

A developer writes a critical routine that takes a datetime parameter. This routine eventually gets called from hundreds of locations all over the system. Often it's actually passed a datetime value, but sometimes it gets a variant and sometimes it just gets a string. VB says "that's cool, just pass any old thing and I'll make it work".

Years pass, and it starts to become clear that there are some bad dates in the system. It turns out that VB's way of turning strings into dates is to ignore the system locale and try to guess what the format might be. Pass in "25/12/2015" and it correctly assumes DMY and returns 25 December, but when it sees "10/12/2015" it returns 12 October! Finding the bad calls is more or less impossible, given the lack of VB code analysis tools.

The cause of this problem is a thing called cdate() that lives deep inside the run-time infrastructure. It turns out that the only way to fix it is to add code that patches the run-time after it's loaded into memory, not something you really want to do on a mission-critical server.

Thank you, Microsoft.

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Kubla Cant
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Always use braces

The confusion introduced by brace-less code with misleading indentation is a staple of the Java Certification tests, and of the IKM Assessments that an increasing number of employers expect you to take. Whenever you see indented statements with no braces, it's safe to assume it's a trap.

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Kubla Cant
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Re: Ah, VB ... "variants"

iCount, dblPrice, strName etc.

Aaargh! The abominable Hungarian notation!

It's just about excusable in a language with few data types, where it provides some sort of validation, if anybody bothers to read it. The trouble is, nobody does.

Then the type gets changed, but the Hungarian remains the same, because development environments where Hungarian notation is used rarely support refactoring. At which point it's actively misleading.

Then developers who don't know how it's supposed to work start devising their own Hungarian prefixes, often to indicate the usage of the variable, eg domNumber because it holds the day of the month.

(Apologies to any actual Hungarians reading this.)

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'Hobbit' heads aren't human says bone boffin

Kubla Cant
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Re: Sigh. Dwarves, not hobbits.

That's Princess S White to you.

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UK to stop children looking at online porn. How?

Kubla Cant
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Re: Pornography Legal Definition?

If you're not sure whether it's porn or not, you should try another site.

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Ordnance Survey unfolds handy Mars map

Kubla Cant
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Re: Those damn Martians....

OS hasn't been taxpayer funded for years.

Does that mean that in the event of invasion the Ordnance will have to go down to W H Smith and buy some maps? Or do they aim their guns using Google these days?

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