* Posts by Kubla Cant

2112 posts • joined 28 Jun 2010

RIP 2019-2019: The first plant to grow on the Moon? Yeah, it's dead already, Chinese admit

Kubla Cant Silver badge

Re: Cotton, really?

Being able to grow cotton could help clothe space explorers

I've only an approximate idea of the processing and infrastructure* required to turn cotton bolls into clothing, but I suspect it will be impracticable for "space explorers" to grow their own clothes.

Come to that, how much growing space is required per shirt?

* Cotton gin, spinning jenny, loom, dying tank, sewing machine, and, if you're fussy, an iron. But it might be worth it to hear the message "Houston we have trouble at t'mill".

Computing boffins strip the fun out of satirical headlines

Kubla Cant Silver badge

Re: Was this phrase supposed to be satirical?

I find that a small number of brilliant comedy shows on R4 excuse the drek.

The thing I can never understand is the BBC's belief that a completely un-funny script automatically becomes hilarious if the actors deliver it in Northern accents.

IBM insists it's not deliberately axing older staff. Internal secret docs state otherwise...

Kubla Cant Silver badge

Tom 7 wrote: Number of times I saved smart young employees from making stupid and very very costly mistakes.

BigSLitleP replied: The amount of times i've stopped older members of IT doing something stupid because "we used to do it that way" is a common phrase are too many to count.

Although there's no way to know their respective ages, the opinions suggest Tom 7 is the elder. Tom 7's comment is well-phrased and makes sense. BigSLitleP's reply is ungrammatical and incoherent.


If I could turn back time, I'd tell you to keep that old Radarange at home

Kubla Cant Silver badge

Re: Pesky microwaves

one for use during normal and low tides, the other for high tide

Why doesn't the high-tide dish work at all states of the tide?

CES flicks the off switch on massager award… and causes a buzz

Kubla Cant Silver badge

arrived in a mini to collect a double bed

He doesn't need metadata, he needs basic experience of the world, or perhaps an IQ to make use of that experience. All double beds are the same size (except for the ones that are even bigger) and none of them would fit in a Mini.

Steamer closets, flying cars, robot boxers, smart-mock-cock ban hypocrisy – yes, it's the worst of CES this year

Kubla Cant Silver badge

Disappointed about the boxing robot

I'd assumed it would be like the computer chess programs that always beat you*, and I had a delightful mental picture of idiots paying thousands of dollars for a machine that beats them up.

* YMMV - they always beat me because I hardly know how to play chess and I lack the patience to learn.

Drone goal! Quadcopter menace alert freezes flights from London Heathrow Airport

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Re: At least people can take comfort from the fact that ...

MPs were fighting the government in Parliament, demanding that the government remove 'no deal' as an option

Do these MPs understand that 'no deal' isn't an option (i.e. something you choose)? It's just what happens when you refuse everything else, which is what those same MPs seem bent on doing.

What's 23 times the size of Earth, uncomfortably warm – and has astroboffins excited?

Kubla Cant Silver badge


It's always striking that the names of newly-found astronomical objects seem to be totally random. I accepted long ago that it's because they identify bits of something far more complicated than I can imagine (and the supply of Roman god names is limited).

But I'm puzzled by "Pi Mensae c is the second planet found orbiting its star". Why "c" for the second? Are there known unknowns at work here - we know that a and b exist, but we haven't found them yet?

I'm just not sure the computer works here – the energy is all wrong

Kubla Cant Silver badge

Re: Similar story

Similar but different story. PDP/11; River Thames; destroyer.

We had offices on the North bank of the Thames. Visiting warships would moor alongside HMS Belfast opposite. When preparing to sail they would test their radar.

My 2019 resolution? Not to buy any of THIS rubbish

Kubla Cant Silver badge

Re: You missed one...

Adult scooters of any kind, electric or not. It's an infantile and inefficient mode of transport.

Also, there's something about the posture of scooterists that makes them look insufferably smug. I don't punch people in the face, but if I did, that's where I'd start.

Oxford startup magics up metamaterials for next-gen charging

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Re: Well--

Funnily enough, I wondered whether to cite Park End St as an example of an unassuming thoroughfare. I used to know someone with a flat there.

Kubla Cant Silver badge

Above an unassuming street in Oxford...

I know Oxford moderately well, but I never realised the streets could be rated according to their pretensions. I read to the end of the article in the hope that the unassuming street would be named, but it wasn't, so I'm left speculating.

Obviously streets like High St, Broad St, St Aldate's and St Giles are among the most assuming. I suppose the unassuming ones are too modest to have attracted attention.

LG's beer-making bot singlehandedly sucks all fun, boffinry from home brewing

Kubla Cant Silver badge

Re: To brew American beer.....

American IPA and Pale Ale

WTF is "American IPA"? I wasn't aware that America ever had an empire in India or that they exported Pale Ale to India. And what is IPA, if not Pale Ale?

A few years ago no USAtians appeared to know or care about decent beer. Suddenly they're flooding the world with inferior imitations of British beer and trying to suggest they've invented something new.

Doom at 25: The FPS that wowed players, gummed up servers, and enraged admins

Kubla Cant Silver badge

Re: Doom II

We used to spend a couple of hours after finishing time playing Doom II in the office. On the way out, I could never help flinching when the lift doors opened.

The brilliant thing with Doom was the scenarios that required ingenuity rather than just shooting. I recall a room that had two lethal monsters (armoured spider and...) on a platform in the middle. There was no way you could kill them both yourself, but if you ran round the room taking potshots at them you could eventually get them to fight each other. When one was dead, the victor was usually knackered enough to be killable.

Awkward... Revealed Facebook emails show plans for data slurping, selling access to addicts' info, crafty PR spinning

Kubla Cant Silver badge

Re: End Run

...the feral courts...

Red in tooth and claw?

FYI: NASA has sent a snatch-and-grab spacecraft to an asteroid to seize some rock and send it back to Earth

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Re: Careful with that TAGSAM Eugene

Upvoted for the ancient Pink Floyd reference!

Kubla Cant Silver badge

Re: Not actually immortals

population control to be addressed first

You're a bit out-of-date.

The global fertility rate has halved in the last 50 years; the average woman has fewer than 2.5 children today. The reason seem to be modest improvements in prosperity and healthcare, rather than population control, which has rarely been effective.

Of course, the global population continues to grow because of improved life expectancy. If you want to "control" that, you'll have to arrange to kill lots of people.

Reverse Ferret! Forget what we told you – the iPad isn't really for work

Kubla Cant Silver badge

Re: Oh FFS


Not disagreeing with the sentiment. But as a contract developer, I move around more than most, and all the offices I've worked in over the past few years use laptops quite successfully.

The arrangement is usually a laptop connected to an external keyboard, mouse and two wide screens. This makes desk-moves and team reorganisation simpler. It also facilitates working from home - I just take the office laptop home with me and connect it to my own keyboard, mouse and screens. (Fiddling around with the connectors is a nuisance, but much less of a nuisance than commuting.)

The laptops are generally powerful enough for serious development work. If they aren't, it's worth reminding the clients how much they're paying for every minute I spend looking at a wait icon.

Kubla Cant Silver badge

Re: Perspective

The A/C above has mentioned the best feature of these things, namely the ability for a video chat session to start whilst mid dump.

Ugh! How do the people you're chatting with feel about watching you while you defecate?

Laptop search unravels scheme to fake death for insurance cash

Kubla Cant Silver badge

Mail fraud?

I'm intrigued by the way fraud offenses in the USA seem to be categorised by the transmission medium - mail fraud, wire fraud. If you defraud somebody by talking to them, is that 'speech fraud'? Can you avoid conviction by perpetrating your fraud over a novel medium?

IANAL, but as far as I know fraud in the UK is just fraud (or possibly 'obtaining a pecuniary advantage by deception').

Kubla Cant Silver badge

Re: Lesson learned

Very true. Something similar caused 'canoe man' to get his comeuppance.

Microsoft slips ads into Windows 10 Mail client – then U-turns so hard, it warps fabric of reality

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Re: Pissed

No one ever got fired for buying IBM Microsoft.

...which is why every company in the world relies on an IBM computer running an an IBM operating system.

Bright spark dev irons out light interference

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.

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".

Japanese cyber security minister 'doesn't know what a USB stick is'

Kubla Cant Silver badge

It's the usual story. No matter who you vote for, they end up giving the job to a politician.

Politicians: a group of people whose only skill is disagreeing with other politicians.

In news that will shock, er, actually a few of you, Amazon backs down in dispute with booksellers

Kubla Cant Silver badge

AbeBooks specializes in rare books, and provides a marketplace for sellers of expensive tomes dotted all over the world.

Maybe they do sell rare, expensive books, but that's not my impression. I've bought quite a few books from Abe, and I don't think I've ever paid more than a fiver including postage. Second-hand bookshops are an excellent way to buy a nice copy of anything that's not a recent publication.

My hoard of obsolete hardware might be useful… one day

Kubla Cant Silver badge

Re: I feel the need...

You're not the only person. For me, it's got worse since I moved into a big house. When I measure the chore of searching the place for the tool I need* against the cost of replacing it with something that probably costs much less than the original, the replacement usually wins.

*I wouldn't need to search If I put things away neatly when I've finished with them. But I'm a lifelong believer in "associative retrieval" - I can find anything by remembering what I last did with it. Unfortunately my memory isn't what it was.

Kubla Cant Silver badge

@Alister I'm not a motor mechanic, but I think if I was rebuilding a car engine I'd do it at ground level. How did you get it out of the loft?

Kubla Cant Silver badge

Re: Bin it all.

the "agile" bloke with a toothbrush and a shirt as his sole possessions

That's going too far. Even Jack Reacher has trousers too.

Kubla Cant Silver badge

How about...

Numerous motherboards removed when upgrading my PC and kept in case I ever needed to build a really slow computer.

Even more IDE hard disks, in case I wanted to revert to less storage.

The ISDN stuff that came off the wall when I graduated to broadband, in case I wanted a slow, expensive connection for my downgraded PC.

A Vodafone PCMCIA card.

A Bluetooth dongle.

And tonight's star prize: a Digital Equipment SCSI tape streamer and a collection of DLT tapes, some containing backups from the last millennium.

Windows 10 Pro goes Home as Microsoft fires up downgrade server

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Re: Just install Linux (joking aside)

@Ken Hagan

based on your comment, you haven't got around to trying to put Linux on the host PC and Windows in the VM

As I said in my comment, installing Linux on the host PC was what I tried first.

...since your monitor appears to be so big...you might be interested in virtualising a second monitor on that VM

I'm using a laptop - there is no monitor.

That said, I fully accept that there are solutions to all the problems I've encountered, and that I should stop complaining and get on with solving them.

Kubla Cant Silver badge

Re: Just install Linux (joking aside)


My recent experiences with a new Dell laptop bear this out. I don't like Windows 10, but I'm reluctant to zap the installed O/S completely, not least because of reports of poor battery life under Linux.

So I thought I'd dual-boot. No luck, some infernal BIOS feature means that the Linux installer can't see the disk.

Well how about running Linux in a VM? I read enthusiastic reports (El Reg and elsewhere) about the Ubuntu image Microsoft have created for Hyper-V. So I enable Hyper-V and install it. The VM window is about the size of a postage stamp. Switch to full-screen, and it's a postage stamp in the middle of the screen. Messing around with Grub in the VM got me a slightly bigger stamp. It turns out the maximum resolution of the Hyper-V video driver is a miserable 1920x1080.

OK, let's try VMWare. No luck there, either. It seem W10 has some VM-related security feature that prevents VMWare from launching a VM. There's a solution to this, but I don't like entering commands I don't understand, and I haven't got the time to investigate.

I haven't got around to trying VirtualBox yet.

Which scientist should be on the new £50 note? El Reg weighs in – and you should vote, too

Kubla Cant Silver badge

Re: Edward Jenner, the inventor of vaccination.

I strongly suggest looking up Variolation in 15th century China before bragging too much about which country invented vaccination.

It's a well known fact that absolutely everything was invented in China before we even knew we needed it.

But the important difference between variolation and vaccination is Blossom the cow. Even in backward old Europe it was known that inoculation - a mild dose of smallpox - provided future immunity. The problem was ensuring that the dose was mild enough not to kill or disfigure the patient. Jenner recognised that cowpox, apparently a fairly benign infection endemic among milkmaids, provided immunity to smallpox.

Kubla Cant Silver badge

Re: Astrology??!!

@diodesign Bletchley Park – the code-breaking center

Was that the Bletchley Park in California?

Erm... what did you say again, dear reader?

Kubla Cant Silver badge

Re: "Erm" is for the speech impedimented.

their habit of making so many of their vowels the same as in "her"

The sound in question is called a schwa, and it's the most common phoneme in English of all varieties.

Kubla Cant Silver badge

There once was a theory that Greek roots take "ize" and Latin roots "ise". The OED says "bastard" is from medieval Latin bastardus, probably from bastum ‘packsaddle’ (?!).

Kubla Cant Silver badge

Re: Wittgenstein, eh?

In Philosophical Investigations, Wittgenstein famously* said that "the meaning of a word is its use in the language". So "erm" has a meaning determined by how it's used: as a nonce-word.

*for small values of famously.

Kubla Cant Silver badge

Re: Forsooth!

Ask Norman where, in the time line of the English Language, he would prefer us to weigh anchor.

@msknight: I agree utterly with the sentiment of your post, but I'm bound to point out that to "weigh anchor" is to raise the anchor from the sea bed and, by implication, sail away. I think "drop anchor", or just "anchor" would make more sense in the context.

Silent running: Computer sounds are so '90s

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Re: Wonderful Nostalgia

And before Windows sounds, Novell had a command called FIRE PHASERS that made the standard PC speaker make a sort of 'Pew pew' noise.

I think the PHASERS part was (appropriately) phatic - FIRE CARRONADES would still result in a weedy 'Pew pew'.

Kubla Cant Silver badge

Re: Ringtones are cringworthy

Before they became cringworthy [sic], I had the opening bars of The trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised from Messiah. The message seemed appropriate.

Is this cuttlefish really all that cosmic? Ubuntu 18.10 arrives with extra spit, polish, 4.18 kernel

Kubla Cant Silver badge

Ubuntu's decision to put the menus at the top of the screen was a usability disaster.

Too true, but it's a disaster shared by Mac OS. It gets even better when you install Excel on a Mac: you have the ribbon, a menu at the top of the window, and another, subtly different menu at the top of the screen.

I thought there were people who actually study the ergonomics of user interfaces. Do they keep their results secret?

Chrome 70 flips switch on Progressive Web Apps in Windows 10 – with janky results

Kubla Cant Silver badge

MS spend a lot of time on their UIs and compared to the amount of time most Web designers spend it shows.

If anybody spent a lot of time designing the Windows 10 UI, it must have been a team of psychopaths.

My least favourite bit of Microsoft UI is their penchant for providing a fixed-size dialog for editing long text values, such as the environment tool in Control Panel.

Take my advice: The only safe ID is a fake ID

Kubla Cant Silver badge

Re: Are you Sue?

In the 1970s a teacher friend discovered her new class had a Yvonne. But pronounced Wy-von-knee, her parents saw it written down...

But the fact that you write "a Yvonne" rather than "an Yvonne" makes me wonder which consonant you start the name with.

Microsoft deletes deleterious file deletion bug from Windows 10 October 2018 Update

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Re: After 43 years in the business ...

Businesses seem to regard IT as a cost and nothing else.

Maybe. But it's an odd attitude when IT is what the business sells.

On the first day of Christmas my true love gave me tea... pigs-in-blankets-flavoured tea

Kubla Cant Silver badge

Re: Sprouts

the secret is to not overcook them

Quite right. They're ruined by people who put them on to cook on Christmas Eve. 05:00 on Christmas morning is plenty early enough.

Microsoft liberates ancient MS-DOS source from the museum and sticks it in GitHub

Kubla Cant Silver badge

We still have to wonder why modern keyboards have "Break", "Pause", and "SysRq".

And, of course, the key labelled "Scroll Lock", which doesn't.

Kubla Cant Silver badge

Re: - and /

NT had Unix style sym links, then the interface to set them vanished on a later NT

Reappeared in recent Windows versions as mklink, but for some unfathomable reason you need system privilege to use it. I can create and remove directories and files, map network drives, map a drive letter to a directory, and do all sorts of other stuff, but creating symlinks is only for the big boys.

Kubla Cant Silver badge

CP/M looked a bit PDP-8-like

Except that one is an operating system and the other is a computer. Perhaps it was a bit like RT-11, RSX or RSTS? I recall that CP/M and RSTS both involved extensive use of a command called PIP.

Why are sat-nav walking directions always so hopeless?

Kubla Cant Silver badge

NCN Signposts

A similar experience is available to anyone who has a bike, but no smartphone.

Try following the National Cycle Network signposts. If you're lucky you'll encounter nothing worse than a rough track with massive flooded potholes. I finally gave up on NCN when my route was signposted across the middle of a ploughed field. It would have been impassable even on a mountain bike, and I didn't fancy arriving at work caked in mud.

Kubla Cant Silver badge

it gives you an immediate indication of which direction you are walking in

I'm sure I remember that Google Maps used to do that, but they've upgraded it so it doesn't. The only way to tell which way to go now is to walk 200 yards in a random direction to see which way the pointer moves (usually the wrong way).

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