back to article Bright spark dev irons out light interference

Dust yourselves off, dear readers, it’s Friday once more and time for On Call, our weekly column of reader’s technical triumphs. This week, “Justin” has written in to tell El Reg about the time he worked as the lone software developer at a foundry. By all accounts, it was a dirty job if you ever left the confines of the …

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For a while after I graduated I had an old (even at the time) 486 DX2. The SIMM slots on the motherboard were always fragile and at some point I'd broken one. As programmes got more and more RAM hungry eventually I had to populate the other slots, but the SIMM wouldn't remain upright, one elastic band later I had a stable system. The elastic band remained in place until I bought a new PC and gave the old one away.

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Elastic band RAM retention

Your little hack from years ago is pretty much exactly how Apple keeps the SODIMMS in place in the 2018 Mac Mini. They are held in place with rubber "shoes" that fit over the end of the sockets... Little plastic or metal clips are obviously too much of a stretch on the BOM.

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My dad once ground down the edge of a SIP memory chip (usually only used in printers, but in this case it was for a 386 motherboard that only took SIP memory) with a power-tool to make it fit.

It over-hung the SIP socket and touched a component, so it wouldn't sit in there properly. He literally just took it to the garage and ground it down to the edge of the PCB traces.

Not a big deal, you might think. But we'd paid nearly a grand for that memory upgrade (1Mb to 2Mb!). My brother and I just watched in disbelief as he ground a grand's worth of state-of-the-art chippery to within a slither of the traces with a power-tool...

Worked though. We sold the machine fully-working many years later still with that chip in it. Not sure you'd get away with it nowadays with the multi-layer boards and extreme sensitivity of the chips.

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" Not sure you'd get away with it nowadays with the multi-layer boards and extreme sensitivity of the chips."

You absolutely can because I have done so myself, you just need to be careful.

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"My dad once ground down the edge of a SIP memory chip"

My MythTV box is in one of those really low profile mini-ITX boxes you used ot be able to get. There's no provision for the tuner card to sit upright in the box but there's a mounting bracket for one to fit horizontally if you can get the appropriate right angle adapter for the PCI slot. The nearest adapter I could get is still a bit on the tall side. Cue Dremel and a grinding disk. Like old SIP units PCI connectors were simple single layer boards so no problems.

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Re: My dad once ground down the edge of a SIP memory chip

Way back in the dark ages, IC's were mostly dual-in-line (DIL) and generally mounted on sockets for easy maintenance. The fault on this circuit board was traced to a failed 741 Op Amp, which was in an 8-pin DIL package. We had some spare 741's, but they were all in 14-pin packages. According to the data sheet, the 14-pin device had exactly the same pinout as the 8-pin one, but with extra unused pins at both ends. We needed to get the board working again quickly and the 14-pin device was too long to fit in the available space even if we cut the extra pins off. My colleague Danny Goldburg thought for a few moments. Then he took the chip to the workshop and carefully applied a hacksaw to it, reasoning that the die itself was probably at the centre of the package, well away from the unused pins. He was correct, and within a few minutes the board was working again with the replacement "8-pin" 741. (I should add that we later replaced it with a "proper" 8-pin chip when could get hold of some)

Afterwards I asked Danny how he thought up the idea of fixing something by chopping the end off it. His reply: "Well, being Jewish, that would obviously occur to me".

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Re: Elastic band RAM retention

As far as I could see on the iFixit teardown, the SODIMMS clip in as normal. Those rubber bits may be to "stand-off" the peculiar screwed on metal cage that covers the chips.

The cage may be to reduce interference or (more likely) to discourage enterprising hackers from upgrading the memory themselves at prices less than Apple's $$$$$/Gb sticks.

Mac

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JLV
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Yeah, just shopped a new mini-ITX. The “mini” is stretching it these days: most of the units sold are for gamers. Priorities in cases: thermals, cosmetic LEDS, accommodation of large GPUs.

Ended up getting a used Xigmatek case, about 1 foot cube, for $40. Rest is new (Linux on Ryzen)

Gorgeous, very nice build quality, a joy to work with.

But small it’s not.

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Re: Elastic band RAM retention

Shades of Digital Equipment's Rainbow 100 microcomputer - an attempt to get in on the budding small office and home computer market in the early days of "PC Wars". The engineers designing the circuit board also didn't want to add clips to hold in the memory or add-on cards. They just made the slots really tight. They probably should have talked more with the people designing the memory and add-on cards. THEY were very slightly tapered to make it easier to insert them in their slots. If you jostled the system even slightly, it would spit cards randomly out of the slots. When you tried to turn the computer on its side to put it in the upright stand, you were very likely to find every single memory and add-on card in a pile at the bottom of the case.

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I'm pleased he eventually found the cause of the problem

Better lathe than never though....

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Re: I'm pleased he eventually found the cause of the problem

It didn't exactly take some brass ones to sort that problem, just some steely determination.

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Re: I'm pleased he eventually found the cause of the problem

It certainly tested his mettle

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Re: I'm pleased he eventually found the cause of the problem

At least he ironed out the problem.

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Re: I'm pleased he eventually found the cause of the problem

I'm going to steel all these puns.

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Re: I'm pleased he eventually found the cause of the problem

I'm glad he didn't need to resort to forgery

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TRT
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Re: I'm pleased he eventually found the cause of the problem

Obviously made of fe-right stuff.

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So...

That problem really tested his metal.

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Have you ever put something apparently useless to good use?

I got my manager to buy the coffee's once...

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Re: Have you ever put something apparently useless to good use?

"I got my manager to buy the coffee's once..."

I debated between upvote for the sentiment and downvote for the grocer's apostrophe...

You got the upvote.

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hmv

Re: Have you ever put something apparently useless to good use?

What's an "once" and why does the coffee own one? And why did the manager want to buy it?

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Re: Have you ever put something apparently useless to good use?

Nope, downvote for OP and downvote for you as well. Misuse of apostrophe is the only crime I'll countenance flogging for.

And maybe my next-door-but-one neighbours who keep their wheelie bins at the end of their drive but never leave them properly in line with each other.

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Trollface

Re: Have you ever put something apparently useless to good use?

So to summarise, you hate badly positioned apostrophes and badly positioned wheelie bin's?

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Mushroom

Re: Have you ever put something apparently useless to good use?

Extra lashes with the cat o' nine tails for wilful rather than mistaken misuse!

I bet you don't even use your wheelie bins and just leave rubbish sacks next to them.

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Re: Have you ever put something apparently useless to good use?

We only have one wheelie bin (for garden / compostable waste) so I have to just carefully line it up with the kerb edge. The other rubbish goes in bags next to it, where the cats / foxes / corvids can have their way, assuming the waste collection operatives don't achieve the same thing in their attempts to gather all the street's waste into one big heap for when the lorry arrives.

And then they always leave the wheelie bin at some obscure angle in the middle of the drive... or someone else's drive... or the road...

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Re: Have you ever put something apparently useless to good use?

My wife says that she puts put something apparently useless to good use every time I bring the shopping in from the car.

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Headmaster

Re: Have you ever put something apparently useless to good use?

Misuse of apostrophe is the only crime I'll countenance flogging for.

How about ending a sentence with a preposition?

Something that up with which I will not put.

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Headmaster

Re: Have you ever put something apparently useless to good use?

I used to strongly rail against this (and split-infinitives), but it's become so commonplace now that it seems like something against which it is useless to fight.

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Pint

Re: Have you ever put something apparently useless to good use?

split infinitives

I don't point out split infinitives as a rule, but occasionally I go out of my way to avoid their use in my own language. The sentences thus formed may sound convoluted to the modern ear, but also may cause the listener or reader to pay more attention.

M.

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Headmaster

Re: Have you ever put something apparently useless to good use?

There was never a good reason to completely ban split infinitives.

I think I heard that the origin of this "rule" came about because Latin didn't have split infinitives, ergo, English shouldn't. I know pretty much nothing about Latin but, the way I heard it, Latin can't split infinitives, whereas English can. So let's do so with abandon (well, when it makes sense anyway).

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Re: Have you ever put something apparently useless to good use?

downvote for the grocer's apostrophe

It's usually a greengrocer's apostrophe, as in "potato's" and "tomato's".

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Re: Have you ever put something apparently useless to good use?

You say potato's, I say potatoes...

Anyone else old enough to remember Keith Waterhouse's Association for the Abolition of Aberrant Apostrophes?

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Re: Split infinitive

Or simply stop for to read.

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NXM

Re: Have you ever put something apparently useless to good use?

I love greengrocers' apostrophe's. How the hell el'se are we going to get rid of the EU apo'straphe mountain?

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Re: Have you ever put something apparently useless to good use?

I used to strongly rail against this (and split-infinitives)

It's incorrect hyphenation which really gets my goat. And then my goat eats it. Good goat!

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Re: Have you ever put something apparently useless to good use?

After Brexit there wont be enough apostrophes to go round. Well never be able to contract words and we wont be able to use glottal stops anymore. Its all the Brexiters fault.

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Re: Have you ever put something apparently useless to good use?

@Smudge

Good point. I shall mildly chastise myself (after all, it's not an apostrophe crime) next to the perfectly aligned wheelie bins forthwith.

Hopefully the next-but-one neighbours are watching and take note of the good example I'm setting.

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Re: Have you ever put something apparently useless to good use?

I apologise for the dodgy apostrophe but I couldn't edit the post by the time I noticed it.

I shall remove myself for commentard quality self flagellation forthwith...

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Re: Have you ever put something apparently useless to good use?

grocer's apostrophe

AKA "feral apostrophe"

Or that's what we used to call it in my Usenet days.

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Re: Have you ever put something apparently useless to good use?

"I debated between upvote for the sentiment and downvote for the grocer's apostrophe"

Maybe the manager had to go to a grocer to buy buy the coffee so it fits.

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Re: Have you ever put something apparently useless to good use?

"I bet you don't even use your wheelie bins and just leave rubbish sacks next to them".

Or he just puts his rubbish in other peoples' bins, just like everyone else does (so I'm told *whistles innocently*)

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Re: Have you ever put something apparently useless to good use?

I used to have a pet peeve, but it died of overfeeding.

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Trollface

Re: Have you ever put something apparently useless to good use?

B'l'o'o'd'y g'r'a'm'm'a'r n'a'z'i'''s

Yes, I know I've got a couple of extraneous little tick things in the above.

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At Giovani, re: putting the useless to work.

*Standing, thunderous ovation*

Well played! Bravo, Bravo, encore, encore!

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Re: Have you ever put something apparently useless to good use?

This has glottal stop before it goes too far.

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Re: Have you ever put something apparently useless to good use?

Nope, downvote for OP and downvote for you as well. Misuse of apostrophe is the only crime I'll countenance flogging for...

I'm surprised you didn't give up at the first sentence ..

".. our weekly column of reader’s technical triumphs.

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Based on his name

I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt that English may not be his first language, and thus excusing the apostrophe. Even if I spoke his native tongue (Italian?) I'm sure I'd commit far, far greater grammatical offenses!

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@Jeffrey Nonken -- Re: Have you ever put something apparently useless to good use?

I used to have a pet peeve, but it died of overfeeding.

Mine was picked for peeving in a public place.

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aks

Re: Have you ever put something apparently useless to good use?

Ooo, naughty people. Must get spanked. Fancy not aligning your wheelie bins. Hope the colours are in spectrum order.

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Re: Have you ever put something apparently useless to good use?

What's an "once"

Try again :-)

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Re: Have you ever put something apparently useless to good use?

"I apologise for the dodgy apostrophe but I couldn't edit the post by the time I noticed it."

I just assumed you were following the MS QA model of testing it on your audience and would issue a bugfix sometime next October.

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