* Posts by The Indomitable Gall

1487 posts • joined 10 Jun 2009

Users fail to squeak through basic computer skills test. Well, it was the '90s

The Indomitable Gall

If you're honest with yourself and think way back, your early mouse experience was probably like mine -- pushing the mouse to the edge of the desk and off the side because the pointer wasn't quite at the edge of the screen yet... then embarrassedly realising that I could just pick it up and move it back without the pointer moving.

We all had problems getting our heads round the mouse when we started.

The Indomitable Gall

Re: Not sure...

He was specifically talking about rosé. And he said he thought the French stuff was rubbish too.

The Indomitable Gall

Re: Mouse balls

For me the issue was rarely the ball itself, but the accumulated crud that had transferred from the ball to the rollers.

One of the PC magazines gave away a free cleaner that I thought was great -- it was a ridged ball on a stick and you just took the ball out then wiggled this in the whole to scrap out the rubbish.

Then I realised it was quicker and easier to use the pocket clip on the lid of a cheap bic biro and just scratch it all off directly.

Want to get rich from bug bounties? You're better off exterminating roaches for a living

The Indomitable Gall

Re: Eh, what...?

(N.B. This is not a defence of bug bounty, just an observation about handling fair recompense.)

The Indomitable Gall

Eh, what...?

"A bounty price can't really exceed what an in-house security person will make."

Ehhh.. what?!? Whyever not? Surely freelancers need to get more money than employees in order to rebalance the risk/reward ratio to compensate for the lack of guaranteed income?

Samsung’s new phone-as-desktop is slick, fast and ready for splash-down ... somewhere

The Indomitable Gall

To really take off, the convertible phone has to have a (near) universal standard, as then you can rock up to a public docking station in a coworking café and do your thang.

The Indomitable Gall


Windows Icons Menus Pointer


Windows Icons Mouse Pull-down-menu

Both had currency, so both are right.

But mixing the two up will always be slightly tautologous.

Python creator Guido van Rossum sys.exit()s as language overlord

The Indomitable Gall

Re: Reinventing a more limited wheel

" There is absolutely no way to ensure that f(x) is idempotent. If you don't understand that, then step away from the keyboard. "

And this is another reason to favour the PEP -- taking the same example

results = [(x, f(x), x/f(x)) for x in input_data if f(x) > 0]

if the function f is not idempotent, then we now have the possibility of throwing a divide-by-zero exception, which would cause the whole comprehension to be binned. (E.g. first call to f(x) returns 1, but in x/f(x), f(x) returns zero.)

In the case of the assignment expression version...

results = [(x, y, x/y) for x in input_data if (y := f(x)) > 0]

... as f(x) is only evaluated once, x/y will never result in a divide-by-zero exception.

The Indomitable Gall


Anyone arguing whitespace vs block delimiters is really missing the point -- these are both compromise solutions for coding in plaintext on memory-limited machines.

Modern computers handle block nesting in much more sophisticated ways -- think XML.

Take a look at Stride, an educational programming language based on Java.

The editor is "frame-based", meaning all the block delimitation is implicit, and it's damn near impossible for a coder to mix up the flow control.

It's also impossible to commit any syntax errors, as starting a line with if, while etc leads to a template being presented with all possible slots presented as text boxes, so you can only put something where it's permissible.

Better still, you no longer have to type full commands, with a single keystroke indicating the line's key function: "=" for assignment, "i" for if, "w" for while etc.

It's quicker to code than standard java, it's less bug prone than standard java, and it's made up almost entirely of keyboard shortcuts, and because it saves as XML, you technically could edit it in plaintext if you wanted. It seems to be everything programmers want... so why aren't programmers picking up on it?

The Indomitable Gall

Re: Futuristic progression of Programming Languages?

I agree that visual programming is very limited.

I think the future of code is in frame-based programming. Check out the Stride programming language used in the Greenfoot and BlueJ educational IDEs. It's designed to let you develop traditional line-paradigm code more efficiently by reducing the number of keystrokes and making syntax errors impossible and scope errors rare.

Every type of code statement has a limited range of possible syntaxes, so Stride turns each statement type into a template where you fill in the boxes. As an educational programming language, Stride maps to a subset of Java, and any Java code can be called from Stride.

It also renders the block delimiters vs meaningful whitespace debate moot, as blocks, scopes and indentation are handled by the editor automatically as the programmer is no longer dealing with plaintext.

I think this frame-based paradigm has real potential to change coding practices in a way visual coding never really did.

Pi-lovers? There are two fresh OSes for your tiny computers to gobble

The Indomitable Gall

Re: noob boot

Not if they're MacDonald's apple pies -- those things will survive the nuclear apocalypse.

JURI's out, Euro copyright votes in: Whoa, did the EU just 'break the internet'?

The Indomitable Gall

Re: News sites should pay the aggregators.

" News sites make money off of the additional traffic driven to them by the news aggregators. "

Which assumes that:

A) aggregator sites drive traffic to content providers


B) the traffic driven is of high value.

Whether A is true or not depends on whether you're interested in unique visitors or page-views. Aggregators increase the former, but decrease the latter. This is where B comes in. "Drive-by" readers are less valuable than brand-loyal "sticky" readers.

Overall, aggregators appear to cost content providers significantly.

What's all the C Plus Fuss? Bjarne Stroustrup warns of dangerous future plans for his C++

The Indomitable Gall

Re: C and C-style C++


" Layer your software - assembler/C at the metal/kernel. C++ at the system level. Dynamic scripting language a the application level. "

Where do libraries sit though?

What do you see as the role for functional programming?

And why would you want dynamic scripting for applications when self-modifying applications are a security risk?

Tesla undecimates its workforce but Elon insists everything's absolutely fine

The Indomitable Gall

Re: sustainable, clean energy

The biggest issue with nuclear is that all current practical economics models emphasise short-term outcomes, and the last thing a nuclear reactor needs is a management team that can't see the bigger picture. This really comes out into play when the reactor hits the end of life, as decommissioning hasn't historically always been budgeted for, meaning the operator goes bust and leaves the cleanup to the public purse.

I reckon nuclear operators should be obliged to buy government bonds to insure the cleanup, and if they can do it cheaper and cash in the bonds, good for them.

The Indomitable Gall

Re: Undecimate?


" It's not an etymological fallacy if it's also used (and understood) in the original sense. It's only the case if the original meaning is almost never used. "

Yes it is, because the previous poster was talking about the etymological argument being used against the modern one. That's fallacious -- just because one version matches the etymology, doesn't mean the other version is wrong.

Machine learning for dummies: You needn't go back to uni to use it

The Indomitable Gall

" The university that I work for in 1996 dropped Computer Science in favour of Applied Computing, realising that industry doesn't need someone who can build a linked list library from scratch but rather knows how and when to use an existing library. "

But this brings up the problem of how to develop the mental schemata to process what you're doing. If all you ever do is work with libraries, you miss out on several levels of abstraction and don't fully understand what you're doing.

The other side of the coin is that if you only ever deal with fundamentals like manually programming lists, you're missing out on several levels of abstraction and can only do real-world tasks within a very narrow domain.

The problem we have is that most courses fall into one of two extreme camps, and few people are discussing the middle-ground. But if you look at things like Stride in BlueJ, we're slowly starting to approach it.

Doom and Super Mario could be a lot tougher now AI is building levels

The Indomitable Gall

Hmmm... while I like the concept, I'm a little bit unsure about how the data is encoded. My understanding is that classic Mario games were all designed as repeated "chunks" of tiles, hence patterns of blocks that recur throughout the game.

This is non-trivial -- part of the learning curve of Mario is the fact that you become more fluent/competent in these patterns as you play, and then adapt your strategy based on the different obstacles before and after.

A machine learning algorithm based on the individual tiles may spot the repeating patterns and implement them incidentally, but not necessarily... in which case the levels would not be "Mario" levels.

If you're looking at generating levels at the tile level, pretty much any platformer of a similar vintage would be more appropriate, as most other games had fully hand-crafted levels. But then again, 2D Mario games were always huge because of how quickly the levels could be generated, and other platformers don't provide the same size of training set as Mario.

Why a merged Apple OS is one mash-up too far

The Indomitable Gall

Re: I dislike the idea of a converged UI...however

" "The problem UWP faced was the fact that it was something new"

I disagree. The main problem with it was that it was an entirely inappropriate interface for people who weren't using a handheld device."

If the existing Windows API had been genuinely abstract, UWP could have been one API with two or more presentation methods, and the problem is gone.

Windows has always failed to decouple behaviour from presentation.

The Indomitable Gall

Re: I dislike the idea of a converged UI...however

" "if there's anyone who can make it work, it's Apple."

The Apple that possessed that sort of magic stopped existing a few years back. "

Not necessarily. The ace up Apple's sleeve has been their mostly successful attempts to retain control of look-and-feel in iOS app UIs. The problem UWP faced was the fact that it was something new, and Windows already has layer upon layer of UI cruft -- how many different load/save dialogues are there in the Windows 10 interface for legacy support, for example? Windows never abstracted the APIs enough away from presentation that they could be considered interchangeable.

iOS, on the other hand, was built ground-up on the philosophy "when we change, you change" and "if you don't do it our way, your apps will break. Apple refused to repeat the legacy trap that haunts Windows (and MacOS, to a certain extent) which means they now have an established platform and ecosystem with a high degree of future-proofing. iOS apps that don't rely on specific hardware configurations are already a cat's whisker from being MacOS apps, and it wouldn't be all that hard to rewrite the APIs for non-touch.

Watchdog growls at Tesla for spilling death crash details: 'Autopilot on, hands off wheel'

The Indomitable Gall

Re: Roundabouts in the US

" They seem to like adding them near schools. "

That's quite logical -- roundabouts force drivers to slow down, whereas you can fly over a crossroads at full pelt when the light's on green.

Unless you're suggesting that the only solution to a bad man with a speeding car is a good man with a speeding car, and that all schools should have a NASCAR-trained marshal to nudge speeding drivers out of the way of kids, I think roundabouts near schools are eminently sensible.

UK regulator bans slasher-flick parody ad for OnePlus 5 mobe

The Indomitable Gall

Betty Boop and other cartoons of the era were targeted at adults. A lot of it was about bending adult expectations of reality, and was at best indecipherable to kids, at worst nightmare-inducing (and I think the Pink Elephants On Parade sequence in Dumbo was inappropriate for kids, harking back to the days when cartoons were a pre-feature item at adult cinema).

Hip hop-eration: Hopless Franken-beer will bring you hoppiness

The Indomitable Gall

Re: Happy to be living near Germany

" It's like calling a paramedic a Doctor. "

Hmmm.... There's an argument that those poxy medics have nicked a perfectly good academic research title and given it to students after a longer-than-usual undergraduate degree....

Fermi famously asked: 'Where is everybody?' Probably dead, says renewed Drake equation

The Indomitable Gall

Re: Why hasn't Earth been visited yet?

" So behave yourself. You are under observation. "

Oh dammit! What we didn't want was everyone acting as though they're being watched. Have you never heard of the observer's paradox?

Bugger it all -- the experiment's a bust. Might as well put the whole planet in the autoclave and restart from scratch.

I'm never going to finish my BSc at this rate....

Former ZX Spectrum reboot project man departs

The Indomitable Gall


" I've still got it somewhere, along with an Opus Discovery disc drive that allowed the ZX Spectrum to use 3.5" floppy discs as if they were Microdrive cartridges if memory serves me right (sometimes it doesn't, I think I'm getting old). "

I think all of us who remember Spectrums are getting old....

Murdoch's Fox empire is set to become a literal Mickey Mouse outfit

The Indomitable Gall


" THE, duh "

Ooh, embedded initialisms!

What does T.H.E. stand for?

Millions of moaners vindicated: Man flu is 'a thing', says researcher, and big TVs are cure

The Indomitable Gall

Re: Britishese to Americanese


" "the Britishese** dialect of English"

That would be simply "English"."

You realise, don't you, that the reason many Scottish and Welsh people reject a British identity is that so many English people treat "English" and "British" as synonyms...?

Oregon will let engineer refer to himself as an 'engineer'

The Indomitable Gall

Re: let me guess

" It is always safer to call a Lecturer "Professor" then to accidentally call a Professor "Lecturer" or "Instructor." Most people address faculty as "Doctor" just to be safe as well. "

In most of the universities I've studied or worked in, people tend to call teaching staff by their names.

The Indomitable Gall

Re: let me guess


" Professor is a job title, not a degree. There was nothing improper. "

True. However, in the American system, it's synonymous with "lecturer", whereas in the UK it is reserved for the academics at the top of the tree, and once you become a prof, you are always a prof, just you become a "professor emeritus/emerita" once you're no longer in post. You'll be expected to go back to your old university every now and then to lecture, and to supervise the occasional masters or PhD student, so you never fully retire.

Shady US sigint base upgrade marred by stolen photograph

The Indomitable Gall

Re: @FuzzyWuzzys re. @for_exposure_txt

" At a certain point art becomes bigger than the artist. "

In my case when a work measures more than 165cm in its largest dimension.

YouTuber cements head inside microwave oven

The Indomitable Gall

Re: They might consider

@Yet Another Anonymous Coward

[ Re: pursuing compensation for the emergency services. ]

" What's the cut-off? "

I would say that performing a stunt in a professional capacity without a completed form signed by a suitably qualified risk-assessor and without the requisite safety equipment on-site is already illegal. And not warning the emergency services and/or the local council in advance of a potentially dangerous stunt too... but as the notification would have needed to include a risk assessment form, they wouldn't have been able to do that anyway.

The problem here is the way the so-called "gig-economy" takes amateurs and pays them, but still treats them as amateurs.

Sunday-league football, skiing, skydiving and cycling are mostly amateur affairs. Professional sports, on the other hand, are generally expected to have medical and crowd-control staff on-site, and are generally expected to pay for that.

Road racing on open roads is illegal, so I'll assume you're referring to closed-road events, where the organiser is again responsible for maintaining suitable response provision just in case there's an accident.

Rocket-powered cars for TV... well, again, TV has health-and-safety obligations. However, I do believe it's a bit of a different question whether you're talking about a competent professional racer like Guy Martin or a hyperactive middle-aged-"lad" TV-presenter like Richard Hammond. Top Gear was highly irresponsible letting Hammond go in that thing, and really the show should have been closed down permanently at that point.

The Indomitable Gall


" Now I'm wondering why the YouTube rocket scientist didn't bake his head with the plaster. Better heat transfer with the head's large blood supply? "

No -- he's lucky that he picked Polyfilla, which doesn't heat up with curing.

More than half of GitHub is duplicate code, researchers find

The Indomitable Gall

Re: The mote in thine eye

The purpose of the research was to inform other research that says "Language X is the most popular language (according to Github)." Analysing Github for patterns that bias other research is completely valid, and identifying patterns is part of that.

This is perfectly scientific, and in fact continuing with their original plan would have been the statistically worthless option, as modified file copies are at least an order of magnitude less common than verbatim file copies. The originally sought data would be valueless without this file-level data, so there was no point in pursuing the original plan.

The Indomitable Gall

I only see Java used to refer to Java and Javascript used to refer to Javascript. The figures being different for the two languages shows I'm not reading it wrong.

SurfaceBook 2 battery drains even when plugged in

The Indomitable Gall

Re: Meh....

" ...people have done calculations and you would have to run an intensive at full belt for about 10 hours solid for it to be an issue. "

No, it's not only an issue when it runs out during plugged-in use, it's an issue as soon as you unplug with the intent to use it on the go, but find it's got no bloody battery left.

People expect laptops to be at a higher state of charge when you unplug them than they were when you plugged them in.

So... problem.

Aussie Catholic School forced into hasty cover-up over suggestive Saint

The Indomitable Gall

" You come down to earth and realise it's a religious statue, no one's likely to deliberately make a rude statue in church grounds and you simply need to grow up a little bit and see it for what it really is, just a statue. "

It's for a school. Yes, the people looking at it and seeing it as rude need to grow up -- that's why they're called "children".

Remember the 'budget' iPhone SE? Apple plans an update – reports

The Indomitable Gall

Headphone socket...?

I've been considering getting an SE or a 6s as a "last iPhone I can use my VideoMic Me with" before they disappear off the shelves, so I'll be interested to find out whether this SE2 will have a headset socket or not...

Baaa-d moooo-ve: Debian Linux depicts intimate cow-sheep action in ASCII artwork

The Indomitable Gall

Re: I don't wish to complain, but

What you consider "wasting time" appears to me to be something called "user feedback".

The Indomitable Gall

Re: Hmm

" I’ve looked hard and I’ve no idea what you’re on about. "

Tux looked hard too -- that's the problem!!

The Indomitable Gall


" No, that's a plain dependency. There's nothing recommended about them. If something requires a dependency to install, it will be automatically selected. And that method isn't restricted to the Debian-esques... it's a method use by all distros."

Did you read the article? It clearly points out that the issue arises because Debian installs recommended packages silently out-of-the-box. You have to specifically configure it not to do that. You can criticise the OS makers for their choice, but "recommend" is semantic metadata, and I don't think there's any specific suggested action.

" Debian user Felicia Hummel installed a package called "cowsay", [...]. But with default settings of "install suggests" enabled, a controversial second "recommends" package called "cowsay-off" was also installed. "

The Indomitable Gall

Re: Closed: By Design

" Ascii 'art' was funny for about 10 minutes in 91 "

No, I'd say it was funny after 10 minutes... once you finally finished downloading it.

Borat creator offers to cover mankini fines. Is nice!

The Indomitable Gall

It takes a man with a certain je ne sais rien to wear one of those!

Back to the Fuchsia: The next 10 years of Android

The Indomitable Gall

Re: Smartphone rather than the OS

" Smartphones do more or less the same thing. Does anyone have a killer app that can only be used on one OS? "

How about "all the apps that I've already bought and don't want to have to pay for replacements for"?

For several iterations, iOS was the best option for video and realtime audio, because the abstraction layer in Android made syncing massively problematic. Even a simple drumkit app in Android could be useless because of the unpredictable lag between the user's finger making physical contact with a hotzone and the device playing the sound, which would differ across devices.

Major audio software and hardware producers refused to support Android because they didn't want the blame for the OS's weaknesses.

Now that's a thing that's firmly in the past, and all major audio device manufacturers support both platforms, but it has left me very dubious about Android support even this far on. (Plus, I'm tooled up with iOS apps, as I say, so I'm reluctant to leave the ecosystem and start afresh...)

Chainmail tires re-invent the wheel to get future NASA rovers rolling

The Indomitable Gall

Re: Terrestrial uses ?

The design spec is very different.

Help desk declared code PEBCAK and therefore refused to help!

The Indomitable Gall


" It's more worrying that people presumed to be logical ( as in techie minded) don't see that. "

While at a transistor level, computers are about logic, everything above that level is a baffling mess of arbitrary decisions, and any minor variation results in complete failure.

If PEBCAK was an assembler opcode....

The Indomitable Gall

" Why the hell are there multiple helpdesks that can't pass a ticket between resolver teams? "

The clue's in the title of the software in question: OS/2.

Corporate thinking on helpdesks (and the architecture of the software supporting them) has changed a lot since the 90s....

The Indomitable Gall

@Spacedinvader Re: daily i wish

" Remote connection request. I actually asked one of my HD guys if anyone clicks "deny" on Tuesday. "yeah, ALL the time!" O_o "

Interesting... I wonder what's so special about Tuesdays that makes them do this...

The Indomitable Gall

Re: Corporate systems

Indeed, and that is why they came up with the notion of the generic service desk that logs calls for every IT problem as well as all facilities problems from a broken coffee machine to a crack in a supporting wall.

There are two problems that have crippled the notion of "service desk":

1) A truly generic service desk rarely resolves problems on first call, which irritates some users and looks bad against a key performance metric of the services it replaces: calls resolved on first contact.

2) Many companies create their service desks by simply rebranding the IT helpdesk; giving them extra work and no extra staff. This leads to a longer backlog of calls, and it's the desk staff that get it in the neck, as their performance goes down against key performance metrics... including calls resolved on first contact as while they can reset user passwords online, they can't exactly unblock the third stall on the right in the gents lavs over a phone call....

So yeah... service desk is a dream. I'm sad to live in reality.

Pastry in a manger: We're soz, Greggs man said

The Indomitable Gall

Re: I ain't Spartacus

" The one true doughnut is an irregular globular shape and filled with jam and covered in sugar. All others are impostors. After all, it's called a doughnut, not a doughring. "

Go grab a metal bolt, and that metal thing that goes on it... what do you call it? A sort of ring thing, with a hole in the middle? Oh yes, a nut.

(I'm well aware that this is false etymology, but then again I'm pretty certain that the original doughnuts were unstuffed fried doughballs not much bigger in size than a modern "doughnut hole".

The Indomitable Gall

I think the best way to think about religious offence...

I think the best way to think about the offence taken by religious people is this:

How would you feel if this was your mother?

I mean, even if there is no god (I'm an atheist myself), religious people genuinely feel filial love for their figures of veneration. Thus, think about whether you would insult someone's mother that way.

Now before anyone says "it's a delusional feeling", well yeah... I personally agree with you, but it makes no difference: they feel it, and making them offended doesn't free them of the belief -- it just offends them. So what is the purpose?

So let's get back to the sausage roll.

If someone replaced my mother with a sausage roll, how offended would I be? Not very. Unless it was presented explicitly as an insult. So I do think it's a bit of a silly overreaction, but guess what...? A handful of Twitter users is nothing. You're talking about the overreaction by a tiny number of people... so aren't we also guilty of overreacting.

Fake-news-monetizing machine Facebook lectures hacks on how not to write fake news that made it millions

The Indomitable Gall

Re: Good idea

@Big John,

There certainly is some quality journalism left, but you can see how quickly it has been forced to move towards clickbait-ism to compete with the fake news crowd.

I suspect most journalists would be very pleased with reductions in clickbait, as right now they're all being forced to dumb down and would like to be able to do more good stuff.

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