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 …

  1. Korev Silver badge

    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.

    1. blcollier

      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.

      1. cutterman

        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

      2. DButch

        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.

    2. Lee D Silver badge

      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.

      1. Spazturtle Silver badge

        " 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.

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        "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.

        1. Clive Harris

          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".

        2. JLV Silver badge

          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.

  2. Korev Silver badge
    Coat

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

    Better lathe than never though....

    1. A K Stiles
      Coat

      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.

      1. Rameses Niblick the Third Kerplunk Kerplunk Whoops Where's My Thribble? Silver badge

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

        It certainly tested his mettle

        1. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge

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

          At least he ironed out the problem.

          1. Crisp Silver badge

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

            I'm going to steel all these puns.

            1. Stuart Moore

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

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

              1. TRT Silver badge

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

                Obviously made of fe-right stuff.

  3. Martin Summers Silver badge

    So...

    That problem really tested his metal.

  4. Giovani Tapini Silver badge
    Coat

    Have you ever put something apparently useless to good use?

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

    1. A K Stiles

      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.

      1. IHateWearingATie

        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.

        1. Solarflare
          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?

          1. IHateWearingATie
            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.

            1. A K Stiles
              Coat

              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...

            2. Chris King Silver badge

              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*)

        2. smudge Silver badge
          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.

          1. A K Stiles
            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.

            1. Martin an gof Silver badge
              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.

              1. David Nash Silver badge
                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).

                1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

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

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

                  Or prepositions at the end of a clause. Both prohibitions are folk prescriptivism and false elevation, and serve only to demonstrate that their proponents have little understanding of English usage, pragmatics, or sociolinguistics.

                  I think I heard that the origin of this "rule" came about because Latin didn't have split infinitives

                  Yes, courtesy of various Neoclassical pompous asses and generations of small-minded, ill-informed teachers who slavishly followed their dictates. The same is true of the prohibition on prepositions at the end of clauses, the reasoning there being that a preposition must come before an object, because that's what its name means ("in front").

                  As English shibboleths go, those are mightily weak ones. Pedants should really pick something better, like the misuse of "jejune".

              2. Stevie Silver badge

                Re: Split infinitive

                Or simply stop for to read.

            2. Rich 11 Silver badge

              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!

              1. Jeffrey Nonken Silver badge

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

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

                1. Mark 85 Silver badge

                  @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.

            3. Trixr Bronze badge

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

              Dangling prepositions and split infinitives are problems with *Latin* grammar, not English. Good riddance to the stupid rules than the Victorian grammarians came up with.

              Now, incorrect apostrophes and misuse of "whom" are problems with *English* grammar, and your ire would be justified in those instances.

          2. IHateWearingATie

            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.

        3. agurney

          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.

        4. aks Bronze badge

          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.

      2. Kubla Cant Silver badge

        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".

        1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

          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?

          1. Giovani Tapini Silver badge
            Coat

            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...

            1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

              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.

      3. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        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.

      4. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        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.

    2. hmv Bronze badge

      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?

      1. Dwarf Silver badge
        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.

        1. DougS Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          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!

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

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

        What's an "once"

        Try again :-)

        1. Ken Shabby Bronze badge
          Angel

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

          Once is enough...

    3. macjules Silver badge
      Coat

      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.

    4. 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?

      1. Rich 11 Silver badge

        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.

        1. DamnedIfIKnow

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

          This has glottal stop before it goes too far.

    5. Shadow Systems Silver badge

      At Giovani, re: putting the useless to work.

      *Standing, thunderous ovation*

      Well played! Bravo, Bravo, encore, encore!

  5. Suricou Raven Silver badge

    It's called a choke.

    Ferrite choke, used to block common-mode current. It doesn't stop all interference, only high-frequency common-mode interference. Fortunately in this case, that must have been the type of interference causing the problem.

    It works the other way too - if a device is generating interference, a choke in the right place will greatly reduce the strength of that interference. Be nice to your local ham radio operators and just stick chokes everywhere, please.

    1. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
      Paris Hilton

      Re: It's called a choke.

      But don't choke the operator. Unless he's into that sort of thing.

      1. Symon Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: It's called a choke.

        Mate from the pub lived about 4km from the local exchange that he got his ADSL from. He had all sorts of problems with it. One day, after a thunderstorm, his modem was dead. I gave him a clip on ferrite and told him to loop the incoming wire to his new modem through it. Common mode impedance = turns squared and all that. All was well for a few years, until his data rate started getting worse. They sent out an 'engineer' who told him to remove the ferrite, because it could affect the signal. As if. Anyway, two weeks later, another thunderstorm, another dead modem. And then they finally fixed the corroded connection up a pole...

        https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/61pzG0wFnUL._SY355_.jpg

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Coffee/keyboard

      Re: It's called a choke.

      Aaargh! Enough bad chokes in this column already.

      1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: It's called a choke.

        Add some paint in an abstract pattern and it becomes an arty choke

        Sorry, couldn't resist. I'd better be going. The one with "Get thee to a punnery" in the pocket please

        1. Jeffrey Nonken Silver badge

          Re: It's called a choke.

          Richard Lederer. Love his books.

    3. Adrian 4 Silver badge

      Re: It's called a choke.

      In fact, it works better the other way. Put them at the source of the problem (the striplights) and you'll solve other problems too. Maybe the occasional mispositioning of that foundry's bucket of molten iron.

    4. ShortLegs

      Re: It's called a choke.

      "Be nice to your local ham radio operators and just stick chokes everywhere, please."

      Many amateur radio operators need choking. Notably the full licence holders who forget to release the pressel occasionally.

    5. swm Bronze badge

      Re: It's called a choke.

      When I worked in research I would use ribbon cable to send high-speed signals from one side of the lab to the other. Never had a problem until I interfaced to a Xerox machine. The interface didn't seem to work but on closer inspection I found it wasn't the 50 foot ribbon cable but the connection from one card to the adjacent card in the Xerox machine. Using a large voltage swing CMOS driver on the card driving the other card fixed the problem. Xerox machines were electrically noisy with an inadequate grounding scheme.

      TTL never liked driving long wires. I always used series termination at the driving end.

  6. Admiral Grace Hopper
    Windows

    Blu Tack

    Those of a certain generation grew up with expansion packs secured with the universal blue fixative. If we'd had Sugru back then we'd have been ecstatic.

    1. IanRS

      Re: Blu Tack

      I was wondering if anybody would bring this one up. You beat me by 16K. Sorry, 16 minutes.

    2. GlenP Silver badge

      Re: Blu Tack

      I recently acquired a ZX81 and expansion pack. Haven't tried it though so no need of the Blu Tack yet.

      1. TRT Silver badge

        Re: Blu Tack

        Ah. The zx81 ram pack. The answer to life, the universe and everything.

        4/2000

  7. MaltaMaggot

    Justin in rusty dusty, er.. adjusty.. un-busty....?

  8. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Happy

    Had a similar experience but with the light itself

    A print detector on a leaflet folding machine checked there was print on both sides of the paper. If either sensor read the wrong number of lines the machine was stopped. This had worked perfectly for several years, then we started getting reports of intermittent false positives. Whichever of us was available would go there and have a look, but everything behaved perfectly each time.

    We started to get some vague suspicions when told the problem only occurred on the late shift and I was the lucky chap ordered to do the overtime. I knew the way to the machine and started poking around but everything seemed OK, at which point one of the operators came along and helpfully switched on the main lights, and the sensor reading the underside immediately faulted. The operator commented that it always seemed to be that one (information that nobody had given us before), then went on to say it only happened after they moved the machine. Looking up, there was a massive 8 tube fluorescent unit directly above.

    I chopped up a large cardboard box to form a makeshift tunnel, and everything ran fine. The production manager laughed when he saw the fix, but still signed off the work, and said he'd get the maintenance crew to make something more permanent, adding that it was about time they earned their pay.

    1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

      Re: Had a similar experience but with the light itself

      Back in the days of Umatic professional video cassette recorders (in the broadcast world), it was common for kind people to offer to 'help' junior to fix one by making sure there was a nice bright bench light shining into the works.

      There are a surprising number of IR sensors to tell the mechanism where it is, and quite fascinating things happen when they get confused...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Had a similar experience but with the light itself

      I went to check the accuracy of a speed sensor on a rotating shaft. My handheld noncontact tachometer was going nuts - readings in the thousands of RPM and bouncing around like crazy when the actual speed was maybe 100 RPM and steady. Turned off the overhead fluorescent lights - worked perfectly.

    3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Had a similar experience but with the light itself

      "said he'd get the maintenance crew to make something more permanent"

      Did they ever get a round tuit?

      1. Will Godfrey Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: Had a similar experience but with the light itself

        Actually, yes they did!

        It was a work of art. A double hinged sort of cabinet top with gas struts, and nicely balanced so you could easily lift it up and back with one hand to make adjustments, then when closed, switching the folder in to 'Run' locked it in place. Apparently the HSE wonk almost wet himself with pleasure and insisted that a similar guard was fitted to the other folders - quite unaware that it's primary purpose had nothing to do with safety!

  9. Tigra 07 Silver badge
    Devil

    "Have you ever put something apparently useless to good use"

    Every door stop at work (and we have a lot) is upside down. For some unknown reason they work better that way, with the ridges facing down. Any other products like this, that work better when used incorrectly?

    1. PickledAardvark

      Almost everyone seems to put kitchen knives into knife blocks resting on the blade. If you put them in the other way, the knife block isn't damaged and the blade stays sharper.

      1. defiler Silver badge

        Kitchen knives

        Also, sweeping chopped food from the chopping board into the pan using the sharpened edge of the blade instead of the back...

        1. phuzz Silver badge

          Re: Kitchen knives

          "Also, sweeping chopped food from the chopping board into the pan using the sharpened edge of the blade instead of the back..."

          Plus the back of almost all kitchen knives are straight (for optimal contact with the chopping board), whereas most have a curved sharp edge which doesn't scrape as well.

          1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

            Re: Kitchen knives

            Use it as you would a shovel, not a rake... then the sharp edge isn't damaged, and you're holding the knife the way the handle suggests.

            1. ROC

              Re: Kitchen knives

              Yeah - might keep a few bits of finger out of the pot that way...

      2. MrBanana
        Pint

        Knife blocks

        "Almost everyone seems to put kitchen knives into knife blocks resting on the blade. If you put them in the other way, the knife block isn't damaged and the blade stays sharper."

        Genius comment of the day, have a pint.

        1. ROC
          Boffin

          Re: Knife blocks

          My wife pointed that out to me long ago when we got her first kitchen knife block. I always thought it safer to keep the sharp edges down, and not worry about any dulling that a bit of contact with wood could do (and sharpen as needed if such a silly thing could happen...).

      3. stiine Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        holy smokes

        That's novel. I'm going into the kitchen to reverse the knives right now.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "knives into knife blocks resting on the blade"

        My knife block has the blades held sideways, blade either to the left or right. This is probably why.

      5. Dwarf Silver badge

        @PickledAardvark,

        Except of course those with the sharpener built into the housing. They rely on the blade being the right way up, or you'll soon end up with a double-headed knife with one sharp side and one dull side.

      6. herman Silver badge

        ...and did your mother tell you to trim your toenails so your socks will last longer?

      7. Mark 85 Silver badge

        Almost everyone seems to put kitchen knives into knife blocks resting on the blade. If you put them in the other way, the knife block isn't damaged and the blade stays sharper.

        Won't work on all knife blocks. Many have a "sharper" inside that the act of inserting or removing the knife hones it a bit.

    2. Kubla Cant Silver badge

      Any other products like this, that work better when used incorrectly?

      Road sweepers, who must be assumed to know a thing or two about brooms, always seem to use them upside down.

      That sounds as if they hold the brush and sweep with the handle. What I mean is that they use the brush end with its bristles parallel to the pavement so that the wooden back scrapes the ground. I'm beginning to wish I'd never mentioned it.

      1. Tigra 07 Silver badge
        Pint

        If a road sweeper replaces the brush head multiple times, and the handle multiple times also...Is it still the same broom?

        Points for anyone who got that reference...

        1. JulieM Silver badge

          About the baby

          If it's a girl, they're going to call it Sigourney, after some actress. If it's a boy, they're going to call it Rodney, after Dave.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          "If a road sweeper replaces the brush head multiple times, and the handle multiple times also...Is it still the same broom?"

          Is it still the same road sweeper? Panta rhei, said Herakleitus, everything flows and you cannot step in the same river twice.

        3. Symon Silver badge
          Paris Hilton

          Triggers broom = Ship of Theseus

        4. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Tigra 07,

          Your 'Road Sweeper' comment 'Triggered' a vague memory ;)

          BTW, shouldn't your name be 'Triga 07' ....... :)

      2. Mage Silver badge

        Road sweepers

        The supervisor occasionally accused less active sweepers of breastfeeding the broom.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I've never seen that. We have messy roads.

    3. Shadow Systems Silver badge

      At Tigra 07, re: using it upside down.

      I tried that once... She told me to stop. *Cough* =-)p

  10. spellucci
    Headmaster

    Office 365 Slogan

    I had the devil of a time parsing the Queen's English title to this story. Yes, I'm from the other side of the pond.

    "Bright spark dev irons out light interference"

    What is the verb in the title? Spark? No, sparking a dev iron doesn't make sense. Out? Better, in the sense of exposing or "outing" something. But what does it mean to have a dev iron expose light interference? Light? No, too far into the sentence. Iron, as in iron out? Ah, now we're getting somewhere. But what is a spark dev, and what does it mean for a spark dev to iron out something? I think I need to go back to school to study English at Cambridge on the River Cam instead of Cambridge on the Charles River.

    1. David Nash Silver badge

      Re: Office 365 Slogan

      He was a dev (-eloper) who was clever, ie. a bright spark.

      So a bright spark dev. And he ironed out (removed the problem) the light interference, as you figured out.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Office 365 Slogan

      Don't worry, I'm on the west side of the pond, too.

      "Bright" as in smart/brilliant/quick-thinking.

      "Spark" (also "Sparky") as in electrical/electronics engineer (or similar). Used derogatorily by those who deal with hardware above the scale of electrons (sparks). I've been called this a few times by mechanical engineers.

      "Bright spark" together can mean the same thing as just "bright", also referring to that lightning flash of inspiration (the proverbial light-bulb thought).

      "Dev" as in developer (or engineer).

      "Iron out" as in remove the wrinkles / fix the problem (or as these Reg Brits often say: "sort out"), but has double meaning with the iron choke.

      Full version: "Quick-thinking electronics/software developer sorts out interference from the lights using iron choke." But not nearly as humorous.

    3. Adrian 4 Silver badge

      Re: Office 365 Slogan

      If you want to parse Reg headlines, you need to learn to read from the tabloids, not Cambridge.

      Not that el reg is down in their cesspit - it's a kind of journalistic joke. I think.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        >If you want to parse Reg headlines, you need to learn to read from the tabloids, not Cambridge.

        I did actually go to Cambridge and that's why I can parse el Reg headlines.

        The average tabloid reader wouldn't have a clue.

        1. Nick Kew Silver badge

          Re: >If you want to parse Reg headlines, you need to learn to read from the tabloids, not Cambridge.

          I did actually go to Cambridge and that's why I can parse el Reg headlines.

          I did actually go to Cambridge, and it has nothing to do with my ability to parse Reg headlines.

          I guess it's all about cultural context. Not a binary thing, just usages that are a little less familiar in forn' parts. Our perplexed 'merkin friend finds himself, like Eliza Doolittle, with the language but not quite the nuances.

        2. Geekpride

          Re: >If you want to parse Reg headlines, you need to learn to read from the tabloids, not Cambridge.

          "The average tabloid reader wouldn't have a clue."

          About parsing the headlines, or just in general?

  11. deanb01

    Spark plugs on old Vauxhalls

    Back in the day, when you got a mono MW/LW radio thrown in as a luxury item on Vauxhall Nova's standard equipment I noted on mine that there was a connector between the HT leads and the spark plugs. According to my dad (who was a Vauxhall mechanic) this was a choke to reduce radio interference from the HT wiring.

    1. Martin an gof Silver badge
      WTF?

      Re: Spark plugs on old Vauxhalls

      a choke to reduce radio interference from the HT wiring.

      Still a common reqirement. Not quite sure what's going on in the 2006 Kangoo we own though. LW is occasionally useful for Radio 4, but this radio has some very interesting interference if you drive over (say) a speed bump. In time with the rear wheels going over the bump there's a "chirp" from the radio. Every time. Why?

      M.

      1. Adrian 4 Silver badge

        Re: Spark plugs on old Vauxhalls

        Lots of vibration-sensitive parts in even a modern radio, from bad joints to air-spaced inductors to crystals and capacitors. Give it a jar and the frequency synthesizer tuning it to that station will briefly go a little off, then be dragged back by the rest of the electronics.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Spark plugs on old Vauxhalls

          "Lots of vibration-sensitive parts [...]"

          Amateur radio 160 metre transmitters were low powered - so could get away with using small valves being over-driven. Apart from the pretty blue haze inside the valve - you could also produce Amplitude Modulation on the transmission by talking (shouting?) at the valve.

          1. Anonymous IV

            Re: Spark plugs on old Vauxhalls

            > Amateur radio 160 metre transmitters were low powered

            Is Top Band still used?

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Spark plugs on old Vauxhalls

              "Is Top Band still used?"

              It would appear so - and the allowed power is apparently much higher than the 10w limit in my youth. The noise from LORAN has probably been replaced by the EMI from household appliances across most of the MF/HF bands - although some TVs in the 1960s did put out a lot of spurious signals.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Spark plugs on old Vauxhalls

                This is a long shot but nothing ventured nothing gained. I ask here as we seem to have some radio types on the forum. Back in the late 80s (I was so tempted to put an apostrophe there), 88 I think, whilst twiddling the knob on my TV I stumbled across a channel broadcasting the Film Rocky. By shear chance I caught the exact moment the broadcast was started as I saw the white fuzzy disappear and heard the words test broadcast and then the opening credits started. The broadcast didn't stop till the film ended. The same thing happened again the next day at the same time (6pm ish if my recollection is correct).

                Has anyone ever stumbled across such transmissions? Is this something well know in the radio world?

                1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

                  Rocky Channel. Nothing but Rocky. Unless you tune over to Rocky 2.

                  One suggestion... I won't say a date but equipment existed, probably not legal to use but I may have, er, seen it, which would transmit a signal between your home video equipment for a short distance. The legal issue is that the distance might be outside the owner's actual home. So one theory is that your neighbour was watching Rocky on something like that. But presumably it didn't look like a VHS picture, which is lesser quality than most broadcasts. I suppose laser disc would be better, or was it?

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Spark plugs on old Vauxhalls

            "Apart from the pretty blue haze inside the valve - you could also produce Amplitude Modulation on the transmission by talking (shouting?) at the valve."

            Proper valve designs had spring loaded metal retaining caps. They did pretty much stop microphony.

            But it was a known problem of poor quality EF86 pentodes with no caps, where the grids could wobble, especially if someone moved the amplifier.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Spark plugs on old Vauxhalls

        " if you drive over (say) a speed bump. In time with the rear wheels going over the bump there's a "chirp" from the radio"

        So it's mechanical movement making electromagnetic radiation directly or electric currents in wires. That made me think of a Faraday & Maxwell how moving magnets can induce electrical currents in wires which can then emit radio waves. There are some long straight wires in a car going front to back (rear lights) so good for inducing current in and transmitting RF. But I can't easily explain what in the suspension movement would induce electric fields in them.

        I would try the ferrite core fix - if there is slack, loop the brake light assembly cable thru one although I doubt there is slack and they have big connectors on the end.

        1. Martin an gof Silver badge

          Re: Spark plugs on old Vauxhalls

          mechanical movement making electromagnetic radiation directly or electric currents in wires.

          Not convinced it's a problem in the radio itself (suggested by someone else), as it only happens when the rear wheels go over the bump, not the front ones. Something being induced into the aerial lead sounds possible, and the noise really does sound to me like a "data burst", but the Kangoo (2006 vintage) is a fairly simple car. Yes it has anti-lock brakes, but that's about it, all lighting is bog standard wiring loom, and it doesn't happen when I indicate or brake or turn the lights on. What on earth could be sending the data burst?

          M.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Spark plugs on old Vauxhalls

      Many years ago, on my mom's 1964 Chevelle Malibu, the radio died. My dad pulled it out of the dash with the intent of taking a look at it later. They went to go somewhere, and discovered that nothing in the car worked right. Turn on the headlights, and the overhead light turns on. Turn on the windshield wipers, and the gauges go back and forth. My dad eventually figured out that all the grounding was done through the radio, and reinstalled it. Many years later, when my brother was driving it, we bolted an aftermarket radio to the bottom of the dash - leaving the original, nonfunctional radio in place.

  12. IJD

    Spark plugs on not-so-old cars...

    On one of the early CAN-bus cars (Fiesta?) the recommended fix when the rear wiper stopped working was to fit new spark plugs...

    As the spark plugs wore out the engine management system upped the juice to maintain a good spark, which caused more interference, and the rear wiper was at the far end of the CAN bus and had the weakest signal, so stopped working before anything else did.

    I have respect for whichever engineer figured that out, but can imagine it must have been difficult convincing customers that they weren't being ripped off by a garage installing expensive parts for no good reason...

    1. Gene Cash Silver badge

      Re: Spark plugs on not-so-old cars...

      If spark plugs are expensive parts, you're going to the wrong garage...

      1. ROC

        Re: Spark plugs on not-so-old cars...

        Depends on the labor required to change the plugs - some seem to have been designed to keep mechanics paid for lots of their time.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The comms front end processor for a mainframe service had problems. Something about one customer's Remote Job Entry terminal kept finding esoteric holes in the software.

    This was in the days when network protocol monitoring consisted of whatever could be stored on one screen. Even at low line speeds that was not a lot - and not enough to allow for the delay in the customer ringing to complain.

    A new home toy was a luggable VHS camera and recorder - so it was set up to video the line monitor's screen. I taped my analogue watch to the side of the screen so that we had wall-clock time on the recording. This worked well - and a bonus was that the ringing of the telephone was caught on the soundtrack.

    Using fast forward/reverse and slow motion allowed me to see what had happened at the point of failure. It became clear that there were often prolonged bursts of corrupted packets - the protocol struggled to get some useful throughput.

    It transpired that the RJE terminal was connected to its modem by line drivers. These were interconnected by a long piece of unshielded cable - that was laid across the floor of the arc welding workshop.

    1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

      Camcorder trick

      Well improvised!

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Have you ever put something apparently useless to good use"

    Only some of my former co-workers. Sometimes you need to establish a lessor 'pour encorager les autres'

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

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

      "Only some of my former co-workers. Sometimes you need to establish a lessor 'pour encorager les autres'"

      I feel the need to point out that Voltaire was, as usual, being ironic/sarcastic. He wrote that from time to time the English executed an admiral "pour encourager les autrres", because executing Bing was basically a cover up for political incompetence. Voltaire wasn't in favour of executing anybody. Read Candide.

      He was using the phrase in the sense of "beatings will continue till morale improves".

    2. Dennis

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

      I was expecting some comments about repurposing managers and bean counters. Something useful like a doorstop or counterweight or in true BOFH-style, compost heap.

  15. Ian Emery Silver badge

    I just jealous of his hardware

    When I worked at a foundry (Cosworth), most of the foundry stations were running using BBC B micros in custom stainless steel cases.

  16. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
    Stop

    Founderies

    I advised my bosses to walk away from a support contract at a foundery,

    As the sporadic support calls to attend, usually came in at peak times of other (& more profitable) revenue streams.

    As the contributor states "You only had to go to the shop floor briefly to spend the rest of the day stinking of dust and metal," not only that but feel the "tang" of it in your mouth & keep the feel of the metal dust on your skin. So one hour into the working day, you felt like you needed to go home & start afresh for the rest of the day.

    They were using locked down builds (No they wouldn't give us the Admin password) that were tighter than the later builds I encountered in the pharmaceutical world I later encountered.

    It was domestic grade computers & printers, that really didn't like accumulating metal dust on it inside or out.

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